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72 Hour Kits

This article was written and submitted to us by Bruce C. Ramsey.

Bruce says, "I am an EMT, Search, and Technical Rescue volunteer. As part of my personal preparation for my volunteer activities as well as my family's disaster preparedness, I have broadened my research to include such topics as wilderness survival, backpacking, and wilderness emergency medicine. Knowledge is power empower yourself."

Selecting Equipment for 72 Hour Kits

As a Search and Rescue volunteer, I am expected to carry a pack to support myself for up to 72 hours unassisted. Ideally, I should have enough supplies to treat minor medical problems and support a rescued subject until additional assistance can arrive.

When selecting equipment, I look at weight, size and function

Commercially available disaster kits contain the functional components you will need in an emergency, but usually with little regard for weight or transportability. If you have to leave the area due to fire, flooding, hazardous materials, or any other reason, how far can you carry your emergency kit before you give out? (I recommend reviewing backpacking and wilderness survival information sources for ideas on how to reduce weight while maintaining functionality.)

All of us have carried luggage from satellite parking to the airport gate. Duffel bags hold a lot of stuff but are not much fun to lug around. Sure the military uses duffel bags, but they put backpack style shoulder straps on them. Look at the container your kit is stored in. How far can you carry it? How difficult would it be to get some web straps and design makeshift shoulder straps and waist belt?

One of the best ways to reduce weight is to replace multiple items with a single item which performs all the functions. Instead of carrying a plate, a bowl, and a cup, carry only the cup. A cup works well as a bowl and is serviceable as a plate. The military has a cup with a folding handle that fits around a 1 qt. canteen; both fit inside an insulated cover. The cup is large enough to hold a pint of water but takes up very little space. And it's metal so you can cook with it. Now you no longer need a plate, bowl or a cook pot.

One alternative is the "Sierra Cup," a shallow metal cup which can also be used as a frying pan, or pot.

Why are you still carrying matches?

Today's disposable lighters take up about the same space as a 25 match carrying case. A match can be used only once; you can certainly get more than 25 lights out of a typical lighter. Even after you've used up its fuel, the lighter will continue to generate sparks which you can use to light tinder. Unlike matches, a lighter is unaffected by water. It can also light again if extinguished by wind. Today's lighters even come with safety catches so fuel cannot accidentally discharge in your pocket.

Rope can be used for many things.

In reviewing disaster kits for my family, I have seen everything from clothesline to 1/2 inch rope. I recommend "550 cord" or "parachute cord". It is made from nylon so is not affected by mildew, rot, or water. It has a breaking strength of 550 lb., hence the name, but is only 3/16 inch in diameter. It is the perfect size for shoelaces but has enough strength to support serious loads. It is constructed of a sheath surrounding 7 inner cords. The sheath can be removed and the inner cords can be used for things like fishing line. The sheath can be pulled apart and the fibers used for sewing thread. 50 ft. takes up as much space as a pack of cigarettes and weighs about the same. $3 at the local military surplus store. Get two 50 ft. pieces.

Do all of your battery-operated devices use the same size battery?

All my flashlights and radio use the same size battery. That way my spare batteries are always the right size. I can also steal batteries from one device to make another work. If I know the weather/news is on once an hour, then I can put batteries in the radio during the broadcast and use them for my flashlights the other 55 minutes.

Speaking of flashlights, one of yours is a headlamp isn't it? Have you ever tried to do something that takes two hands and hold a flashlight at the same time? A headlight always points where your eyes are looking.

The military style angle head flashlights have clips on the back side. Clip the flashlight to your shirt or belt, the light shines ahead, and frees up your hands. And of course you have an extra bulb for each and every flashlight. Most flashlights today provide a storage space inside the flashlight for an extra bulb. Make sure you have a bulb in there.

And what about those bulbs? Should you be using the brighter halogen and krypton bulbs or the standard bulbs? In my headlamp, I get 5 hours of light when using the halogen bulb. With the standard bulb, I get 17 hours of light (according to the manufacturer). I have replaced all my bulbs and spares with the standard bulbs. My batteries last longer, extending my self sufficient time. If I need more light, than I use multiple light sources for that task. Since I use AA flashlights, I can carry three or four in the same space and weight as one 2 D cell flashlight. Redundancy, versatility, sharability.

And of course you have at least three different sources of light. Cavers always take three sources of light with them knowing that at least one will fail: 1) Flashlight, 2) Chemical light sticks, and 3) Candles. Flashlights are great for directing a beam of light in one direction for specific tasks, but poor at general lighting. Bulbs fail and batteries wear out. (Flashlights can also generate sparks and should not be used around gas leaks.)

Alternate light sources

Chemical light sticks are great around water and hazardous environments.Unfortunately they can't direct light in a specific direction. Nor can they be turned off, nor can they be reused later.

Candles not only produce light but heat. They are superior to flashlights for general room lighting, like when you are playing cards waiting for the disaster to end. Candles are also a great way to "store" flame while trying to get a fire going. Instead of using several matches trying to light a fire, use one match to light a candle. Then use the candle to light smaller pieces of wood to use like a match to light a difficult fire. Obviously candles need to be monitored due to the open flame hazard or the potential for being extinguished.

Hopefully these comments will help you to start thinking about weight, function, and versatility. Is there something else I can use which fulfills my first need and meets a second need as well? Disaster Preparedness is more than simply stockpiling a lot of water, food, and gear. It is the ability get those supplies to the correct location and the mental preparation to use them in whatever way necessary to help you thrive, not just survive.

-- Bruce Ramsey

Note from Many of the items that Bruce discusses in his article are available on our website.

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