Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The (Not Such an) Emergency Kit

Far be it from me to use this forum to prescribe ways of living (except when I do), but sometimes I think we get the wrong idea about emergency preparedness. The point isn't that the world is about to end and we all need several 75 lb bags of wheat in our basements. The point is that we better be careful and prepared to be self-sufficient.

My brother-in-law once gave a genius talk about how there are 3 kinds of emergencies:
1) the world is going to end and, honestly, your wheat probably isn't going to save you, so better focus on being spiritually prepared to meet your maker
2) you're in a tough economic place for a long time and really what you need is money and good credit (and probably also some food storage, clothes, gardening and handiman skills, etc.)
3) something unexpected happens and it takes 2-3 days for Red Cross to show up and in the meantime, you and your family needs food, water, diapers (depending on age) and depends (depending on age).

This is pretty clever advice, but I'd like to talk about emergency level 4: when you're just too lazy and cheap. I've stocked the back of my VW Golf with a backpack and a half case of water for convenience, and, frankly, I've gotten a lot more use out of my 72-hrs kit than I would have if I had planned only for emergencies. In fact, I've probably gotten 72 hours of use out of it. Here's what I pack:

1-Food. Sometimes it's not the end of the world, but you did forget to pack a lunch. I like to pack nuts and dried fruit because they hold me over, are reasonably healthy and can withstand heat and cold pretty well.
2-Water. Ditto, really, but I mostly "rotate" my water because I don't like the way Austin tap water tastes (I'm sorry! I just haven't gotten use to it yet!).
3- Money. Yes, sometimes I drive my car and then realize I left my wallet (and license) at home. I pack a little cash ($10-20), a credit card and some valid, but rarely used, ids (my ISIC card, for example) just in case the lady at the donut shop wants to check on my credit card. Rarely happens. But the cash often comes in handy for a donation at the dinosaur museum or photobooth pictures.
4- Clothes. I used to just pack scrubbies, but under the non-emergency guidance, I now only pack what I would wear in public. Still, I pack jeans and a t-shirt for situations like when I used my emergency pants when I wanted to trim hedges, but was wearing a skirt. I've on-again-off again packed PJs, too, because sometimes sleepovers happen, but I often don't change at sleepovers. Instead, though, I do like to have...
5-Workout clothes. In case I have a couple hours and the gym is right there and
6-Shoes. Sneakers, usually, what with the workout clothes, but I've had hiking boots back there in the winter in Utah. Well, in the summer, too, when I might want to go for a hike after teaching in heels.
7-Leatherman. Man, I use this all the time. Screwdriver, knife. Some might say that usually when I use it I need it in my home, but then I ask: when am I home but my car is not? Now I always know where it is and don't have to search for it and if I ever need a can opener at school, I'm set.
8- Medicine. Day-quil, ibuprofin, baby aspirin, Pepto... I've made a lot of sick people happier and I've helped myself many a time.
9-Medical miscellany. Band-aids (used often) to CPR kit (thankfully never used), I have a lot of small random first aid stuff. I feel good having this, but I also like having my Red Cross handbook to refer to in case I do have to do something about a jellyfish poisoning. Oy, and my epipen. Important and relevant to a funny story I can never repeat.
10- Pen and paper. Important for leaving notes. Also for taking notes when you forgot to check for a pen in your bag this morning. Business cards, too, are useful to have so you can give someone your number in a hurry.
11- Kleenex and hand wipes. Tre useful.
12-Rope. I once wished I had rope in my car when we were sledding and trying to get back up a hill of solid ice. Ever since then I carry a roll of thin, strong rope. I haven't had much occasion to use it, but it feels pretty useful.
13- Toiletries. Should go along with the exercise stuff, but I often need to use a little emergency make up when I was in a hurry to get out the door and then arrive with a few minutes to spare. Again, try to pack stuff you'd actually use. And soap and shampoo from hotels works great for this. And lady products are super useful, too. Also, toothpaste and a toothbrush for sleepovers.
14- Playing cards, scriptures, mad libs. Because sometimes boredom is the enemy.
15-Gas. Okay, so this isn't in the kit, but it's a standard emergency preparedness thing that's also great for non-emergencies. If I always have a half tank of gas, I can always get down to 6 Flags (but not always back). I don't have to worry about if I have enough gas for something. If this seems like a weird thing to keep up, just make one day a week your "gas up and clean car" day. I make it Friday so I'm ready for adventures.
16- Flashlight. From Raid-over-Russia games to exploring a cave to taking a night walk by a busy street to finding an earring back, very, very useful. I like the windup kind so I don't have to worry about batteries.
17- Standard, wilderness-y things. Poncho, emergency whistle, matches, compass. You might never use them, you might find reasons to use them (the matches came in handy lighting New Year's fireworks a few years ago), but you'll feel better and smugger having them.
18- Blankie. Sudden cold spell at a star party or sudden urge to picnic, a good t-shirt-and-jean quilt is pretty useful in the back of the car.

After you build a not-so-emergency kit, keep thinking about what you wish you had in a certain situation, and then add that. I like to listen to music, so I keep a cheap, beat-up iPod shuffle and headphones in my trunk. I sometimes have random temple urges, so I keep my temple bag in the trunk. I sometimes for forget people's birthdays and holidays, so sometimes I keep a few note cards and cheap gifts, like pencils and yo-yo's, in my kit, too.

If you believe it, everything here fits into one backpack, minus the temple bag, half-tray of water, blanket and gas. (And hiking boots, when that's what I have.) Once you set it up, though, you need to keep it. It's a good rule of thumb to pull everything out and see what you need to restock, rotate or throw out every 6 months. I like to do it at Conference time, between sessions. This also works well because you can stock up on warm socks and herbal tea packets around October conference, and Clariton and flip flops in April.

I find that I not only make up for my absent-mindedness, but I actually live life better carrying around this bag of stuff. I do more because I can do more. I live life more abundantly.


Jennifer said...

When did you get a swanky VW Golf? Does it have a name?

mlh said...

I call it Cricket. My old car couldn't make it down to Texas, not least because its air conditioning was shot.

Makayla said...

Texas water... from San Antonio to Austin to Houston and back to Dallas... is nasty. Forever.