Judging by the run on water purification tablets at the Army Navy Surplus store in Hollywood and the number of pharmacies fielding potassium iodide requests from residents who fear radiation exposure, many Californians are thinking the same thing: Time to get ready.
Although the epic tragedy of Japan's earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear crisis poses no threat to the West Coast, experts said, the disaster has served as a reminder of simple steps that the public can take to prepare for the next one. The American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have issued guidelines for assembling an emergency kit, but many people never get around to making their own. So we looked at premade kits: practical designs at a range of prices. Five promising options:
REI Emergency Kit
It's all here in a no-nonsense backpack that leaves hands free so, for example, a parent could tote supplies and still hold a child. The sturdy nylon pack has three days' worth of emergency gear for one or two people. Supplies include not only a first-aid kit, packaged food and water packets, but also a tent, waterproof ponchos, blankets, hand warmers, dust masks, a hand-crank radio and flashlight, a 50-foot nylon rope, work gloves, light sticks and emergency candles. Price: $165. http://www.rei.com
This backpack provides battery-free tech support thanks to a flashlight that illuminates by shaking it, a crank radio and lantern, and a crank cellphone charger. Five color-coded pouches (first aid, protection, light/power/communications, tools/supplies/food/water, personal) keep supplies organized. Fully loaded, the pack weighs 13 pounds and has additional room to store personal documents, prescriptions or whatever else you might need. Price: $149.95. http://www.readyfreddy.com
Vintage-Style Emergency Preparedness Kit
Inspired by the Red Cross Vintage Tee collection, this retro bag is actually functional. It's equipped with battery-powered flashlight and radio, food bars, work gloves, light sticks, duct tape, plastic sheeting, a whistle, a first-aid kit and more. The greater Long Beach chapter of the American Red Cross sells it. Price: $65. http://www.redcrosslb.org
4 Person Economy Emergency Honey Bucket Kit
Mayday Industries' design stores basic supplies such as food, solar blankets, water pouches and a 54-piece first-aid kit inside a bucket that can double as a toilet. Price: $59.95. http://www.amazon.com
Personal Safety Emergency Pack
This compact kit would fit easily in a car or office drawer. It contains basic first-aid for treating minor injuries, as well as poncho, blanket, light stick, face mask, whistle with neck cord and water. Price: $9.95. http://www.redcrossstore.org
It's important to remember that no one kit is perfect. The best ones will be tailored to individual needs. The kit may include a spare set of eyeglasses, a seven-day supply of critical prescription medications or medical supplies such as syringes, diapers for infants or a cane for seniors. One feature that many commercial packs overlook is a stress reliever or diversion, such as a deck of cards or coloring books for kids.
Among the materials that residents of earthquake- and wildfire-prone Southern California might want to consider packing in an emergency kit:
— burn gel and dressings
— pet food and can opener
— phone numbers of emergency contacts
— a spare cellphone charger
— small personal item that provides a sense of security
FEMA recommends keeping a kit in three places: home (where all household members know the location), work (preferably a grab-and-go kit that includes walking shoes) and the car (include flares).