A Kit in Time

  • 18 October 2010

SYDNEY, Australia

What We Don't Know

Recent earthquakes and floods around New Zealand emphasise the need for being prepared. Some events will be out of the blue, like the Canterbury Earthquake. Others, like flooding, may allow for some warning. Being prepared will pay dividends in any emergency.

The Government will not be able to fully sustain the majority of people during the first hours or days of an emergency. This is not a criticism; it simply takes time to stage relief efforts. We can and should be prepared to sustain our own family when an emergency happens. We don't know when the disaster might occur. “If it's going to be, it's up to me” is the attitude we need to ensure we are safe, healthy and intact during a natural disaster or other emergency.

What To Expect

You may be pretty sure where you keep things in your house but in an emergency, in the dark, in a shaking or flooding house those torches, matches, candles, shoes, jackets might be harder to locate. Even if your actual house is fine, your cupboards and drawers may have opened and spilled their contents or furniture may have moved or collapsed. Doorways could also be blocked, making getting about and finding things very difficult.

A couple from Christchurch shared their experience from the earthquake. The fact that they had survival kits ready meant they were able to concentrate on comforting their children rather than scrambling to find important items. Having a torch in their bedside cabinets also helped as they had lost electricity and had to navigate their home without lights.

In an emergency you could be asked to leave your house by authorities and be evacuated to a welfare centre. Time will be of the essence and if you aren't prepared, you can easily find you and your family are without important items you need.

Preparing 72 Hour Kits

Being prepared for any disaster is important. By planning ahead and organising a bag of essential items, you can rest easy knowing you've taken a step in the right direction. 72 hour kits will help with whatever emergency that may arise, not just for when you need to leave the house. Your kit is really a central depository of the things you may need during an emergency or if you need to leave your home in a hurry. A list of suggested items for a 72 hour kit follows. You should thoughtfully consider the particular needs of your family when preparing your kits.

Check your 72 hour kit every six months – checking on batteries, food, and medications in case they have perished or been damaged in some way. Create an inventory list of each bag so you can check each item off and double check 'borrowed' items have been replaced.

Make sure the load is fairly spread between the bags. Adults can usually carry more than children or elderly so spread the load. Have young adults take responsibility for their own 72 hour kits.

It's very important to include activities, games and books for children. Emergencies can be long with lots of waiting time. Without electricity, inside entertainment is not available. Playing outside is not likely to be safe. Keeping your family's minds occupied is important when there is much to worry about.

Beyond The Kit

Slippers or shoes should be by your bed. The Canterbury Earthquake struck at 4.35am in the dark, while people were in bed. There are numerous stories of families escaping their houses with injured feet. Many people had breakage of vases and windows as well as brick walls that had collapsed blocking exits. Some had to jump out of smashed windows as the doorways had twisted and couldn't be opened. You will already be in a bad situation; don't make it worse by injuring yourself.

People have different reactions and reaction times. After a disaster event some people may be sitting dazed, some may panic, and some will be calm – you won't know how you will react until you are in the situation. Make a plan and have practice drills getting out of your house. Also know the safe places in your house. In an earthquake the standard advice is to stand in a doorway. Make sure each member of your family knows where you will meet if not at your house.

Keep cell phones charged. Having a corded phone that can be used during a power cut is useful.

Suggested Contents for a 72-Hour Kit

Food and Water

  • Have a three day supply of food and water, per person. Include items that do not need refrigeration or cooking.
  • Muesli/protein bars
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Crackers and cereals
  • Canned tuna, baked beans
  • Powdered cordials
  • Lollies or sweet treats
  • 9 litres of water per person (3 litres per day)

Fuel and Light

  • Torches – a wind up torch is best
  • Batteries
  • Candles
  • Lighter
  • Water-proof matches

Personal Supplies and Medication

  • First aid kit
  • Toiletries (roll of toilet paper- remove the centre tube to easily flatten into a zip-lock bag, feminine hygiene, folding brush, etc.)
  • Cleaning supplies (mini hand sanitizer, soap, shampoo, dish soap, etc. Warning: Scented soap might “flavour” food items.)
  • Medication (panadol, ibuprofen, children's medication etc.)
  • Prescription medication (for 3 days)


  • Bag(s) to put 72 Hour Kit items in (such as duffel bags or back packs, which work great). Make sure you can lift/carry it!
  • Infant needs including nappies and bottles
  • Games & books
  • Scriptures

Bedding and Clothing

  • Change of clothing (short and long sleeved shirts, pants, jackets, socks, etc.)
  • Undergarments
  • Rain coat/poncho
  • Sleeping bag
  • Large plastic bags
  • A plastic sheet


  • Can opener
  • Dishes/utensils
  • Shovel
  • Radio (with batteries)
  • Pen and Paper – have a permanent marker, if you leave your house you can leave a message on the outside wall.
  • Small axe
  • Pocket knife
  • Rope
  • Duct tape

Copies of Documents and Money

  • Place these items in a water-proof bag
  • Contact phone numbers of relatives and close friends
  • Genealogy records
  • Copies of legal documents (birth/marriage certificates, wills, passports, contracts, etc)
  • Copies of any urgent medical papers
  • Insurance policies
  • Cash (in case ATMs aren't working)
  • Bank account and credit card numbers
  • Photos of family members. Attach a homemade photo ID of the owner of the 72 Hour Kit with important information in case you are separated or injured or lose your pack.

To download a pdf of this article please click here.