What’s in your emergency backpack? Mine got organized last year, when the northern California wildfires ravaging neighborhoods a half-hour’s drive from my house were sending soot to dust my front porch.
Whether smoke is in the air or you live in a region with stormy weather ahead, now is a good time to organize emergency essentials so they will be ready to grab and go.
Photography by Mimi Giboin, except where noted.
To get started, I consulted the checklists at the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In addition to a bag filled with the recommended basics—such as water, food, and a warm blanket—I packed a lightweight backpack with a first aid kit, cash and essential documents, and an emergency lantern.
Luckily I didn’t need my emergency kit this time. It’s hanging on an entryway hook, it’s ready to go.
My leather wallet is big enough to hold a spare set of keys and cash. It also can accommodate important documents—passports and insurance cards—and keep my cell phone safe.
When you’re headed out the door fast, it’s helpful to have one wallet that can hold all these essential items so you don’t have to scramble around and look for them later. In one spot, they’re less likely to go missing later than if you toss keys into one pocket and cell phone into a side pouch and passport into…well, who can remember?
Add color-coded keys to keep track of all your house keys, car keys, office keys, and any other sets or spares in your backpack.
First Aid Kit
In addition to any medications you take regularly, it’s a good idea to pack antibiotic ointment, sterile swabs, different sizes of bandages, cotton swabs, safety scissors, surgical tape, and tweezers.
You may not have access to electricity in an emergency. Pack a lightweight battery-operated camping lantern (in a weather-resistant finish). For a simple model with a rechargeable battery, consider the Barebones Forest Rechargeable Lantern with a lithium-ion battery that can also be used to charge a cell phone; it’s $49.95 at L.L. Bean.
Candles and Matches
Soap and Bleach
FEMA recommends packing household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper in an emergency kit: “When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color-safe, or bleaches with added cleaners.”
Deck of CardsNow that you’ve seen what’s in my backpack, tell us about yours. What is in your emergency kit?
N.B.: This post is an update; it was originally published on November 30, 2017.
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