Thinking About Family Survival

As a husband and father, when I consider buying or putting together a survival kit, I think of my wife and kids and try to envision the times in which I'll need to call on the kit. In my area the natural disasters are earthquake, tornado, or flood. I need to also prepare for car trouble, or any natural disasters that might occur while in the car. On top of these issues, one must consider the dangers that man poses to himself -- I mean here to speak of riots and large scale disruptions of public services.

Thinking About Family Survival

Thinking strategically, I know that I need three kits: one for each vehicle, plus a more extensive and long-term home kit. The home kit is a huge subject and I will leave it for a later article, so let's look at the car kit.

First, signals. I recommend a cell phone and a car adapter kit installed by professionals. The longer range and better installation, the better chance you can call for help. Something like On-Star should be standard on any vehicle in which your family rides; just one use in a real emergency would more than make up for the added cost. I also highly recommend getting a military style strobe light and stashing it in the glove compartment. If an accident occurs and the vehicle leaves the road way, an injured occupant could activate the strobe light and draw attention to the wreck site. There have been cases where vehicles have left the roadway in a populated area and not found for days while an injured occupant is trapped inside or too injured to move to the roadway. The strobe light could prevent this. A hand-held CB radio can be useful in populated areas, and might allow you to call for help if your cell phone does not work.

Second, tools. In addition, I recommend a standard AAA certified roadside assistance kit. These will include basic hands tools and some basic repair parts as well as a roadside warning device (flashing light or reflective triangle). The best ones include a tire pump or electric compressor, jumper cables, and a tow rope. Consider adding some other tools, such as a heavy-duty hydraulic jack and 4-way tire iron, a folding shovel, saw, and a camp hatchet. You'll want to be able to clear the road if required. A full size spare tire is also something to consider. Each of your vehicles should have this type of equipment for two reasons. First, it allows you to get yourself out of trouble. Second, it allows you to help other motorists. A hand-cranked AM/FM radio and a light source are also important. Grundig makes a great survival radio. Lights can include the cheapo shake-a-lights, chemlights, or rechargeable lights that are kept plugged into the car's accessory power. Let your budget decide here, but make sure you have at least one good, rugged flashlight (such as a 3D-cell Maglite) and change the batteries whenever you change the vehicle's oil.

Third, medical. Add the most expensive and professionally-constructed medical kit you can afford. I suggest the larger variety of Adventure Medical Kits. They are top quality, both in selection of items in the kit as well as in the quality of the items themselves.

Fourth, food/water. A couple of one-gallon milk jugs or three-liter soda bottles (all cleaned with bleach and then thoroughly rinsed) will suffice for water. If you travel on long trips away from civilization, a water purifier is a must. For food, purchase enough of the Mainstay food bars to feed your whole family for at least three to five days; these will hold up to the hot storage conditions in the vehicle for years. However, if you need to skimp, food is really at the bottom of the needs list. You'll be hungry, but you can live for several days without food. On family car trips we carry food enough food in the way of snacks to get by for a long while anyway. If you are packing food for this eventuality, keep in mind that comfort food (cookies, candy bars, granola bars, etc.) and hot food (military chemical heaters and Campbell Cup of Soup packs) are great morale boosters! It goes without saying, of course, that if you are going to warm up your food, eating utensils are needed.

Fifth, shelter. In addition to a vehicle repair kit, a sturdy medical kit, and food and water, you need to consider shelter for the vehicle occupants. A car or truck cab provides no insulation. It will cook the occupants in the desert or freeze them to death in the winter. Consider an emergency tent or tarp for shade in hot weather conditions; rope and poles allow the tarp to be lashed to the vehicle to form a makeshift lean-to. In winter, the vehicle occupants can shelter inside, but they need to stay warm. A Thermolite bivvy sack would be an excellent choice here, though the Heatsheets Two Person Survival Blanket would be an excellent second choice. A handful of Heat Treat Sleeping Bag Warmers could make things a lot more snug for those waiting for rescue.

Sixth, entertainment. The family kit should contain items that will keep the kiddos (and adults) busy. Coloring books and crayons, crossword puzzles, story books, etc. Novels for mom and dad would not hurt. And of course, a hefty survival skills and auto repair reference book might be a godsend.

Once the kit is put together, your job is not finished. Check and maintain the kit each time the vehicle has an oil change. Check your water to make sure it has not leaked out. Make sure any food or medicine is not past expiration. See if any items have been used up, and replace if necessary.

Most importantly, however, sit down and explain and demonstrate the items to your family. Make sure the wife and older kids can change a tire, and make them do it in the driveway until the feel comfortable about doing it safely.

Explain how to use the chemical water heaters, talk about a family communication plan, and review any changes in family medications that might need to be included in the medical kit.

Remember, survival is not a hobby, it is a mindset. Include your family in the selection and preparation of this equipment and watch as you instill in them one of the greatest gifts you can give -- the will to survive.

-S.A. Fisher

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