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First Aid and Emergency Kits

How to create your own first aid and emergency kits so you can be prepared!

One thing about living, you never know what will happen next. Good or bad. And, drat it all, bad things do happen. My axiom is simple-if you are prepared for it, it probably won’t happen. Then where are you? Mother to a lot of useful stuff that will come in handy-eventually.

We are not immune to disasters, no matter where we live. Consider tornadoes, hurricanes, wild fires, earthquakes, floods, chemical evacuations, not to mention just downright vicious storm systems-among various threats. Anything can happen in your neighborhood at any time. The wise are prepared.

Beyond Band-Aids®

Basic first aid kits are essential to keep around the house. I once found one of my kids hoarding Band-Aids®! Takes after Mom. Prepared.

Here is what the experts have to say. The American Red Cross recommends this collection as the basic first aid kit:

  • Sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes-tiny to large
  • Assorted sizes of safety pins
  • Cleansing agent/soap (technical speak for a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and basic soap-no smelly stuff)
  • Latex gloves (2 pairs)
  • Sunscreen (not the whimpy, cute kind either)
  • 2-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)
  • 4-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)
  • Triangular bandages (3)
  • Non-prescription drugs
  • 2-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls)
  • 3-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls)
  • Adhesive tape-the kind you can tear off
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Needle
  • Moistened towelettes
  • Antiseptic
  • Thermometer
  • Tongue blades (2)
  • Tube (or plastic jar) of petroleum jelly or other lubricant
  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid (for stomach upset)
  • Syrup of Ipecac (use to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center)
  • Laxative
  • Activated charcoal (use if advised by the Poison Control Center)

    For the Long Haul—Getting Serious

    Face it, the chances of this happening to you are slim at best. But, if it should happen, think earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, violent storm, Mother Nature on a rampage, survive it! You may be on your own for awhile. What if you get stranded in your car in a snowstorm? Will you be able to live in the car, or hike out? These are not unreasonable events. Especially in the north.

    In winter, you want to pack winter appropriate gear. Likewise in summer. But summer gear doesn’t cut it in winter! Those cute hiking sandals are lousy for winter treks.

    My friend, Bob Leary, taught survival in the U.S. Army for years, as well as lived it. Here is what he recommends:

    Backpack and Fanny pack—Get a sturdy, tough (not bookbag) backpack or rucksack. These can be purchased from Army/Navy surplus stores or catalogs, as well as through sportsman’s and outdoor shops. In an emergency, you will be carrying this load yourself and you don’t want it falling apart! He has two kits. The really down to basics kit that fits in a fanny pack, and the backpack version. With another set in his vehicle. All these goodies can be found in outdoors and camping shops, hardware stores with camping supply corners, and surplus stores.

    In both packs—the minimum

    Most of this stuff is quite inexpensive, except the knife-don’t get a cheap one! It won’t work, nor last.

  • Knife-Swiss Army-type knife with lots of goodies: sharp blades (serrated is excellent), can openers, tweezers, magnifying glass (start fires with this and a bit of good sunshine), the more goodies the better
  • Match box and matches/compass/whistle combo-little and versatile (use strike anywhere matches!)
  • Space blanket-the small compact version about the size of the palm of your hand-keeps you warm, very warm, if needed (also good to have a spare in the car for keeping your frozen groceries frozen in the summer until you get home)
  • Poncho-there are the emergency and quite functional kind that are packed to fit in the palm of your hand
  • Water in canteen-he carries a 2-quart job in his backpack, a smaller one in the fanny pack
  • Water purification tablets
  • Garbage bags (2)-great quick shelters and ponchos
  • String saw-this is about a 3' long wire that acts as a saw when you pull it back and forth across tree limbs, great for cutting firewood
  • Energy bars or small food packets
  • First Aid kit-one of the small compact ones

    In addition, in the backpack:

  • Sleeping something, as a lightweight bag. Combine this with a space blanket for more warmth. It crinkles, but hey, it works.
  • Dehydrated food packs (from the outdoors/camping shops)-lasts forever and they are good food and lightweight
  • Sturdy boots and/or shoes and a spare pair of socks
  • Change of clothing, appropriate for the season
  • Knife-bigger

    Now that you have your kits

    Right, you think, what do you do with them? For starters, keep a kit in your car. Somewhere accessible from the inside in case you get trapped.

    In your house, for quick evacuations-place the bag(s) where you can grab them on the way out. They may not look cool or fit your decor, but they could save your life.

    Prepare Your Own Disaster Survival Kit

    Note: The text on this page is in the public domain. It is from “Disaster Supplies Kit” developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross. You can get your own copy from their website,, as downloadable PDF format or by calling their local chapter phone number.

    Review the checklist below. Gather the supplies that are listed. You may need them if your family is confined at home. Place the supplies you’d most likely need for an evacuation in an easy-to-carry container. These supplies are listed with an asterisk (*).

    There are six basics you should stock for your home: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items. Keep the items that you would most likely need during an evacuation in an easy-to carry container-suggested items are marked with an asterisk(*).

    Possible Containers Include:

  • large, covered trash container,
  • camping backpack,
  • duffle bag.

    Store water in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles. Avoid using containers that will decompose or break, such as milk cartons or glass bottles. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot environments and intense physical activity can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers, and the ill need more.
    Store one gallon of water per person per day. Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person (two quarts for drinking, two quarts for each person in your household for food preparation/sanitation).*

    Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water. If you must heat food, pack a can of Sterno® and a Sterno® stove. Select food items that are compact and lightweight.
    *Include a selection of the following foods in your Disaster Supplies Kit:

  • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables-dehydrated “camping” foods are terrific, too
  • Canned juices
  • Staples (salt, sugar, pepper, spices, etc.)
  • High energy foods
  • Vitamins
  • Food for infants (if you have one)
  • Comfort/stress foods
  • Tools and Supplies
  • Mess kits, or paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils*
  • Emergency preparedness manual*
  • Battery-operated radio and extra batteries*
  • Flashlight and extra batteries*
  • Cash or traveler’s checks, change*
  • Non-electric can opener, utility knife*
  • Fire extinguisher: small canister ABC type
  • Tube tent
  • Pliers
  • Tape
  • Compass
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic storage containers
  • Signal flare
  • Paper, pencil
  • Needles, thread
  • Medicine dropper
  • Shut-off wrench, to turn off household gas and water
  • Whistle
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Map of the area (for locating shelters)
  • Sanitation
  • Toilet paper, towelettes*
  • Soap, liquid detergent*
  • Feminine supplies*
  • Personal hygiene items*
  • Plastic garbage bags, ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Plastic bucket with tight lid
  • Disinfectant
  • Household chlorine bleach
  • Clothing and Bedding
  • Include at least one complete change of clothing and footwear per person.*
  • Sturdy shoes or work boots*
  • Rain gear*
  • Blankets or sleeping bags*
  • Hat and gloves
  • Thermal underwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Special Items
  • Remember family members with special requirements, such as infants and elderly or disabled persons
  • For Adults*
  • Heart and high blood pressure medication
  • Insulin
  • Prescription drugs
  • Denture needs
  • Contact lenses and supplies
  • Extra eye glasses
  • Entertainment
  • Games and books
  • Important Family Documents

    Keep these records in a waterproof, portable container:

  • will, insurance policies, contracts
  • deeds, stocks and bonds
  • passports, social security cards, immunization records
  • bank account numbers
  • credit card account numbers and companies
  • Inventory of valuable household goods, important telephone numbers
  • Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)

    Store your kit in a convenient place known to all family members. Keep a smaller version of the Disaster Supplies Kit in the trunk of your car.

    Keep items in airtight plastic bags.

    Change your stored water supply every six months so it stays fresh. Replace your stored food every six months.

    Re-think your kit and family needs at least once a year. Replace batteries, update clothes, etc.

    Ask your physician or pharmacist about storing prescription medications.

    General Disaster Preparedness Information
    “Your Family Disaster Plan” (ARC 4466)
    “Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit” (ARC 4463)
    This information is available through your local Red Cross office, or via their website: under Publications, Community Disaster Education Materials.
    Visit the FEMA website or office nearest you for plenty of information on preparedness and prevention.

    As a homeowner, Kitty Werner (daughter of home improvement columnist Henri de Marne) has over 30 years of practical on-the-job training--starting with an old Vermont ski lodge that ran out of water the first day. She has fixed electric wiring, replumbed fixtures, finished off a bathroom, added a large addition, dealt with lightning storms blowing out the water supply, electric lines coming down, days without power and water, and all manner of exciting events.

    Please click here to orderThe Savvy Woman's Guide to Owning a Home, How to Care For, Improve and Maintain Your Home. For more information, please visit

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