A few weeks ago we were driving home after a day at the zoo when we noticed a fire burning across the lake. It was already huge and we could see the flames creeping up the mountain. I thought, "Surely someone has that under control." The next morning, smoke drifted over our house and it smelled like a campfire outside. The fire had spread even more, going up and over a small mountain, and news was reporting that 2900 people had been evacuated. Within a week the fire had burned out, people were let into their homes and very few had any damage. Reported in an article I read was a man quoted, "I never thought that would happen to us here. I didn't know what to do." Famous last words, right?
At the same time, fire erupted in Colorado and this one WAS destroying homes, evacuating people, and burning out of control. Add 65 mph winds, and it claimed more ground than any human could keep up with. With 10 minutes to grab what you could and evacuate, I'm sure panic and fear clouded judgements. Some people just didn't have time to get what they needed.
I found a website, Active Fire Maps, that showed the current status within 6 hours of all the fires in the U.S. I started checking it obsessively. It has been so dry and all it took was one spark, and a whole mountain went up in flames. I realized we were in a very vulnerable position. We live 4 blocks from the base of a mountain. If we had to evacuate in 10 minutes, we were not prepared. Our 72 hour kits had been raided by hungry 4 year olds, the clothes 2 sizes too small, diapers had been used in other "emergencies", flashlights were gone, nothing was left but the bag!
I woke up one morning with a urging thought that we needed to have our 72 hour kits ready. We may not need them, but at least I would have peace from the nagging thought of, "WHAT IF?"
The following are pictures from one of my kids' 72 hour kit. The thing is stuffed, but I got it all in there. For my two youngest that wouldn't be able to carry their own bag, I did pack one small suitcase that has wheels that contains their food, formula and diapers. Shoulder bags for them contain family info, clothes, and emergency supplies. I figured those can be slung across one shoulder while your own backpack is on your back. Ammon at age 4 could roll the suitcase.
3 pairs socks
3 pairs undies
3 t shirts
1 pair jeans/sweats
1 pair dollar store flip flops
Small kit with shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant
Sticky notes, pen, crayons
Laminated family picture
Copy of birth certificate
First Aid kit
Whistle/compass/match case/reflective mirror
Face masks, one is bio-hazard/sterile
Pocket knife (kids over 8)
Lighter (kids over 12)
Flashlight and Batteries (separated)
4 bottles water
3600 calorie block (not gluten free)
5 packs of almonds
4 fruit snacks
Applesauce (these vary in each pack because I added a few extra for older kids/adults in the event they needed more because of exertion or to help younger ones that may have lost theirs. I also tried to make it so utensils were not needed for anything.)
The week after I made all these packs up, a fire broke out in Draper, UT. This one evacuated 500 people and spread quickly up the mountain and into a canyon. It had burned within 4 miles of our house. That is a little too close for comfort.
Since we have a 15 passenger van, I wanted to test if we could camp in it, if needed. I realize that in the event of evacuation they usually have you go to a school or church, but out of morbid curiosity, I wanted to see if we could live in our van. So, one night, in our driveway, we spread out sleeping bags, hooked up our portable DVD players and opened the windows. We were cozy, but it could be done. With all these things in place, it was nice to know we were prepared, and I did actually sleep pretty good that night.
One more thing I did was pack a large bin on wheels. It is heavy, but we could fit it in the van and it holds other supplies that I couldn't fit in the packs.
5 gallon bucket
Dish soap and sponge
Extra tent poles
Medications (Allergy Relief, Tylenol, Children's Tylenol)
Old sheets (for privacy, rags, etc.)
Cooking utensils (knife, spoon, cutting board, large pan)
Water filters (I put two straw filters in the adult packs)
The boys have large camping packs and they have those stuffed with sleeping bags and tents. All of these are stored in one closet so we know where they are when they are needed. We have a sleeping bag for each member of the family, also stored in the same closet.
Just remember to check your bags every six months to change out expired foods or clothing that is too small and dead batteries.
The 3600 calorie bars I got have a shelf life of 5 years. They are divided into cracker size amounts so one could ration it out as needed easily. The dollar store has a lot of things you can get for the packs that are 2 for 1 or low priced to refill food supplies.
I put jeans in some of the packs, but my younger kids have sweats. You can cut the legs off to make shorts if it's too hot and sweats are pretty inexpensive to replace.I made a checklist to put on the refrigerator that we could use quickly and find the stuff in the house quickly, like an important documents file, external hard drives, medications, and shoes.
Emergency Essentials had the whistles and 3600 calorie bars.
Build Your 72 Hour Kit
Balkan War Survivor This is a Reddit post that is very long, but very interesting. He talks about life in a city when war breaks out and what they did to survive. It is on the extreme side, as we don't think about war breaking out in the U.S. like that, but anything is possible. There was another similar post written a few years ago by a South American man when their economy collapsed and it mirrored the Balkan man's story, but I can't find it or I would post it here. Survival starts to trump safety. If you have nothing better to do, this is a good story/link to go through and very interesting.