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What’s in Your Emergency Kit?

Plus: What FEMA Won’t Tell You About Disaster Preparation

Posted by JT Hats

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Photo by NASA

New Orleans... Haiti... and now Japan... These places ring out with grim recognition of their recent natural disasters and the grueling aftermath. In the case of Katrina, local residents and rescue workers had ample time to prepare for the impending emergency but were overwhelmed when the scope of the disaster became apparent. In Haiti and Japan, rescue and recovery efforts will continue to stretch into the months, if not years.

In the United States, we rely on the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to educate us, to provide guidelines for emergency preparation and, in many case, to rescue us when things get out of hand.

And so FEMA seemed to us to be a logical starting point for researching the best rescue and survival gear for review and potential recommendation to our readers.

Unfortunately we found that, while there's tons of great information on FEMA's website, they still skip a few very important concepts. FEMA's emergency tool kit, for example, includes a map and compass but makes no mention of an axe. This despite the fact that many New Orleans residents, seasoned with the experience of previous hurricanes, used an axe to save their own lives — cutting themselves free from their attics as Katrina's flood waters rose through the ceiling beneath them. Many others, who didn't keep that basic tool handy, drowned in their homes.

FEMA also recommends that we stock enough emergency provisions to last for three days — after which, presumably, help should arrive. So what are we to do when the three days have passed and the provisions are gone? FEMA's mum on that topic.

We don't buy into that logic. Instead, we've decided to create recommendations for surviving disasters — earthquakes, large storms, power outages and long-term disasters — that allow readers to wield an axe, to build a fire, or to cut through fallen debris in an effort to survive. And without sitting idly by waiting for the cavalry to march in.

Read more about where we found fault with FEMA's emergency advice

Below you'll find links to survival tips for each type of disaster that we've addressed. Accompanying each set of survival recommendations is a checklist of gear necessary for assembling a complete, long-term emergency kit.

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