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The Better Emergency Kit


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Better late than never


The Smarter Emergency Kit
Melissa Miller Email 04.24.07 | 2:00 AM

When the next world-crushing disaster strikes — tsunami, quake, dirty bomb, whatever — one thing is certain: You're on your own. As hurricanes Katrina and Rita showed, help may not arrive for 72 hours. Don't fret. Wired has your back with these shopping lists for your DIY emergency kit. Because when everything goes to hell, you'll want gear that gives you an evolutionary advantage over your less-prepared neighbors. Clip and save; lock and load.

The House Kit

Store all this gear in a sealed plastic trash can or containers. It won't cost as much as you think: You probably own most of this stuff already.

A. First aid You could buy the $25 kit from Red Cross. Or you could build your own: bandages, alcohol, cotton balls, antidiarrheals, anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, and prescription meds.

B. Clothes A full change, including warm outer layers (wool or synthetic) and sturdy shoes, for each person under your roof.

C. Plastic sheeting Fiber-reinforced, laminated polyethylene film, 0.006 inches* thick. You can buy 1,200 square feet of Dura Skrim DS2 for about $100. Or get a tarp — for covering broken windows, roofs.

D. Zip ties Handy when you have to make splints, compression bandages, or tourniquets.

E. Water A gallon per person, per day. For a family of four, that's 12 gallons. If you have the space for that, great. If not, keep as much as you can manage. Have unscented bleach on hand, too — 16 drops in a gallon and you've got potable H20. Tea bags make it taste OK.

F. Food Raid the pantry: dehydrated soups, canned tuna and veggies, nuts and candy. Peanut butter is high-calorie and has a long shelf life. You can also buy freeze-dried camping meals.

G. Flashlight We like the Inova X5 — it's water-resistant, aircraft-grade anodized aluminum and uses LEDs. But a cheap drugstore version and some batteries will do just fine.

H. Protective wear Waterproof and cut-resistant Kevlar gloves and N95 face masks.

I. Tools A crowbar to pry debris that might stand between you and a loved one. An adjustable wrench. Screwdrivers. A staple gun. Rope.

J. Matches You're probably not a Boy Scout. Get the kind marked waterproof and windproof and store 'em in a ziplock bag. In another bag, hoard some dryer lint for kindling.

The Go Pack

Keep these items in a backpack that's readily accessible — you know, in case you have to bail at a moment's notice. One bag per person.

K. Radio A cheap transistor set with batteries is fine. Or you could get something that'll pick up TV and NOAA bands and that has a hand crank, like the Eton Grundig FR300 — it comes with a cell phone charging jack and built-in flashlight. If you want to splurge, see page 95.

L. Cash $500 in small bills. ATMs won't work when the power is out, and neither will credit card readers.

M. Documents A copy of your home insurance policy, plus contact numbers, medical insurance card, passport, driver's license, bank records, and photos of family members. (A local map and spare keys may come in handy, too.)

N. Mylar space blanket It's a super-compact means of both keeping warm and reflecting heatstroke-causing rays of sun.

O. Clothes Put spares in a waterproof bag. Remember a hat. Toss in a few basic toiletries, too, like a toothbrush and toilet paper.

P. Food Make room for sports nutrition or candy bars. Nuts and trail mix are good options, too. Include a bottle of water.

Q. Essential medicines Whatever you've been prescribed, plus sunblock and ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

R. Duct tape Well, duh.

S. Signal devices Roadside flares will do. Or you could get Greatland Laser's Rescue Laser Flare — two AA batteries and you have 72 hours of 20-mile-visible brightness. Also try the Fox 40 whistle (115 dB!).

T. Multitool Whether you come down on the Swiss Army side or the Leatherman side of the greatest debate of our time, just have one with you. Make sure it has a can opener, a good knife blade, and both Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers.