Building a Family Emergency Kit for Surviving Everyday Chaos

Not only am I a health educator by training, but I live near a metropolitan area, am a mother of two children, and have a family with health complications.  If ever there was someone who was going to get stuck in traffic for hours and hours, have an ER visit turn into a marathon week at the hospital, be unexpectedly required to entertain children at a meeting/appointment/event, or be called upon to help someone else in need, I am that lady. I quickly learned that I needed an Emergency Kit for surviving every day family chaos!

This is not meant to be an all-encompassing Roadside Emergency Travel Kit, but rather a collection of items that will help you out in a bind.  If you are looking to build a full-on emergency roadside kit for your car, I encourage you to check out this blog from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

As I began preparing my first Family Survival Kit, I approached it like a recipe… ingredients, directions, and outcomes. Hopefully this will be useful for you as well.

Family Survival Kit Ingredients

Below are my recommendations for what should go into a well-equipped everyday Family Survival Kit:

  • change of clothes for each family member – think thin, wrinkle-free items, so they easy to roll-up plus and extra pair of undies and socks per person
  • blanket – doctor’s offices and hospitals are often cold, plus this can be laid on hot asphalt if you need to administer care in the summer
  • wipes, hand sanitizer, & kleenex – keeping germs at bay is important and can be difficult on the go without supplies and you’d be amazed at the problems you can solve with a Kleenex
  • non-perishable food and water – plus empty re-usable water bottle– remember to occasionally eat these and replace them, as even non-perishable food has an expiration date
  • book for each family member – to read or that can be read aloud
  • coloring book and colored pencils – these can help pass time or serve as a distraction for old and young alike
  • deck of cards – many games can be played with a basic deck of cards from simply matching colors or numbers, to building structures, to more complex games with rules
  • sample size of basic toiletries – shampoo, soap, deodorant, disposable toothbrush and toothpaste seem inconsequential until you have a surprise overnight stay and don’t have them
  • basic first aid supplies and critical medicines – band-aids, tweezers, Benadryl, latex gloves, alcohol wipes, and life saving medicines that apply to your family, such as an inhaler, Epipen, etc.
  • Pad of paper, pencil, and black marker – for taking down directions or a license plate number, leaving a note on the car window, writing a quick thank you, writing to do lists, taking notes at a medical appointment, sketching, playing games like hangman and more
  • Flashlight- extra light can be handy for everything from a power outage, to needing extra light to remove a stinger from someone’s skin, to signaling to attract attention

Directions for Packing your Kit

Almost as important as WHAT goes into your kit is HOW you pack it.

  1. Find a tote, backpack, bag, or box that can easily contain all the items in one space.  You don’t want these supplies rolling all over in your car or scattered throughout your house.  Plus, in the event of an emergency, you only have one thing to grab and all the supplies you need should be inside. Think about how you will use them to decide what your big container should be.
  2. Store clothing items in large bags that can be zip-closed and labeled with each person’s name.  This helps condense them down in size, make them easy to find per person when needed or to update sizes as people grow, and keep the items inside clean.
  3. Store first aid supplies, toiletries, and non-perishable food in their own zip-closed bags or reusable, zipper closed pouches. Again, keeping like items together makes finding what you need faster. I prefer to either have bags I can see through or clearly labeled, especially for the first aid supplies, so I can find the items I need quickly.
  4. Keep entertainment items grouped together. Coloring books and pencils, reading books, and cards should also go in one pouch together.  You may want to add to this stickers, puzzles, brain teaser books, car bingo, wiki sticks, or other items that can keeps fingers and brains busy in a pinch. When my kids were little, I would toss this into my purse when we went into doctor appointments, a restaurant, or even the bank.  These supplies kept my little ones happy through traffic jams and car purchases.

Outcomes – Where to Store Based on Likely Use

The age of your children or family members, frequency of car travel, and whether or not you also have an Emergency Roadside Kit will help you choose where you store these items.

  • If you are often on the go and either often don’t use a car or bounce from car to car, you may want to store your items in a backpack that you can keep in a convenient location – like your coat closet, by the backdoor, in a mudroom cubby, or on a hook in the garage.  The goal is to make sure the items are easy to grab and are in a place you walk by on your way out the door.
  • If you typically travel in the same car, you may want to keep them in the trunk, back end, or even backseat.  When we are heading out on the freeway, I seat belt mine in the empty middle seat in the backseat, as it gives the kids easy access in the event of a traffic jam, but also keeps it safely in place in the event of an accident.

I have been able to share clothes with a friend’s child who had an accident, change my own top when my child got sick all over me, kept us fed in a four hour traffic jam, entertained the kids for hours at appointments, and more.  The most important thing about our family’s survival kit is the peace of mind it brings me when an everyday emergency strikes.  I know we will be fine, because we are prepared – and that peace of mind is enough to give me some grace under pressure. I hope these ideas will be useful for you too, and that you never need your kit. But in the event an everyday emergency strikes your life too, I hope your Family Survival Kit will take a little edge off the moment so you can have a great “survival story” to share afterwards.

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