by Suzanne Wiley, American Red Cross Volunteer Contributor
Some might think that having a disaster supply kit is a waste of money. Due to our human psychology, more than half of us think, “it won’t happen to us.” Risk analysts and psychologists have been studying this phenomenon for years with shocking results. Ann Gordon, an associate dean at Chapman University surveyed people living in Tornado Alley—including north Texas—and found that the majority were not prepared for a natural disaster going without a basic survival gear, such as batteries and fresh drinking water.
Professor and co-director of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, Robert Meyer, did extensive research on people’s responses before and after Hurricane Sandy. His research found that only 23 percent of those who were living on the coast along the hurricane’s path were prepared to respond appropriately if mandatory evacuations were put in place. Only 16 percent of those surveyed actually evacuated. Meyer says, “People tend to think that others are more likely to have bad things happen to them than themselves.” And this can have dire consequences. Natural disasters cost us more money when we aren’t prepared.
You can’t put a price on life and unless you are preparing for a Walking Dead-style apocalypse, putting together a family emergency kit and preparing for a disaster doesn’t have to break the bank. As someone who has taught people how to prepare for emergencies for over 12 years, I have explored all the options from basic to extravagant survival kits for a wide-range of budgets.
First, let’s establish what an emergency kit consists of. The basic kit, which is the minimum number of items you need to store, are emergency lighting, batteries, a first aid kit, weather-alert radio, drinking water and essential prescribed medications. Other items you can include are tools, non-perishable foods, fire starters, blankets, breathing masks, gloves, signal whistle, hand warmers, duct tape, helmets and other safety equipment. In this case, I’m going to help you build a basic kit. You can also prepare your own water storage with items you already have around the house.
Here are six of my favorite tried and true frugal and free ways to have your family prepared for the worst.
- Garage Sales. Spend a few early morning Saturdays searching area garage sales for blankets, camping equipment—which doubles as survival supplies—children’s clothing, shoes and sports helmets.
- Dollar Stores. Dollar stores are an excellent source of cheap emergency lights, glow sticks, batteries, and first aid supplies. Pre-packaged first aid kits gets expensive. Build your own from the dollar store.
- Local Grocery Store. Take advantage of 10 for $10 or equal sales, clip coupons, and search the clearance section of the stores you frequent often. You can find non-perishable foods, money off batteries, and end-of-season sales for flashlights, as well as cases of water for cheap.
- Craigslist. Craigslist is the place to go when you are looking for things on the cheap, but did you know it has a free section? Take advantage! You’ll be surprised what people are giving away.
Download the Red Cross emergency apps!
The American Red Cross has plenty of free apps that help you be ready for a disaster that send out alerts and lets you quickly let others know you are safe. Apps include first aid, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, wildfire, flood, among others.
Download the free Red Cross Fire Escape Plan!
Practicing your family’s fire escape plan is free. Depending on your living situation, designate at least two ways out of the house. Teach your kids to check for heat or smoke coming from each exit. Practice leaving the house safely through all alternative exits. Have a meeting point outside the home. Practice this fire drill several times a year. The Red Cross provides a free fire escape plan you can download and print. After you and your children fully understand your escape routes and the seriousness of the situation, start challenging your family to practice the drill in two minutes or less.
To learn more about how to develop a fire drill, read “A Home Fire Escape Plan Can Save Your Life.”
Have you found some great deals and bargains for your emergency disaster kit? Tell others about it and provide your tips in the comment section below!