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Commercial home disaster emergency kits, an honest opinion // Should you buy one? Yes.

Should you buy a commercial home emergency kit? My answer: Yes.  Read on to see why. I think it’s a great way to get your emergency and disaster preparedness started. Chose a solid kit and improve it from there. Learn to identify your risks, your needs and your solutions. Get started!

1.    What Does the Preparedness Community Think of These Emergency Kits?

Do a quick Google or YouTube search on store-bought home emergency kits and you will find a diverse range of opinions.  Fair enough.  Consider their perspective, though. 

Some argue from a post-nuclear war, zombie apocalypse, or meltdown of society perspective.  In that case, being equipped with a fully-stocked nuclear shelter may be your choice.

Based on my view of the world and where I live, I do not share that level of impending type of catastrophe.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I see preparedness based on the risks I have identified, and those risks are much more mundane such as a home fire, fall from my bicycle, a medical incident, vehicle breakdown/collision, rare earthquake, extended water/electricity outage, …  If you believe in the first meltdown category, by all means, please plan for that, as well. 

I will view this topic from the more mundane and plausible risks perspective based on where I live, my household, my commute, and my lifestyle.  I see there being value in buying a home emergency kit and I will tell you why and also acknowledge that one kit cannot do all. 

Please read on to see my reasoning.  If you disagree, please add your respectful opinion in the comments section below.

2.    There is No Home Emergency Kit That Does It All

Let’s get this out of the way.  No kit does it all.  It does not exist!  If you find one kit that works for every crisis or disaster scenario, and that will always be accessible, please let me know.  Life has too wide-ranging crises to deal with. 

If it did exist, it would cost thousands and thousands of dollars, would be too cumbersome, and it would not be with you where and when you needed it.  So, don’t believe that buying one kit will do it all. 

You have to start somewhere, though.  For many people, a commercial kit can be that starting point.

3.    For an Example of a Commercial Home Emergency Kit, See this Better Preparedness Article

In my following article and episode, I looked through a sample kit and showed you what came in it.

What’s in a Mayday Home Earthquake 4-Person Emergency Kit? A Helpful Illustrated Guide

I think it’s a good starting point! I like some of the less common items available in these commercial emergency kits like the prybar, the water/gas shut-off tool, the wind-up radio, and don’t forget the portable toilet with bags and toilet chemical!!!  If your minor crisis is a broken toilet system, this emergency toilet could do the trick for a day or two or more.

Before you buy a kit, always look through the list of contents and see if the contents fit your needs.

See the Better Preparedness article and episode for the full run-through of this kit.

4.    Remember all the other emergency-relevant items you have at home or in your vehicle

Remember, you have other items in your home or vehicle that will likely be required such as your larger 1st aid kit, your fire extinguishers, your warm clothing, your camping equipment, your home repair tools, maybe your garden hose, headlamps, battery packs, proper cables for your devices, … 

5.    Always Think About What You Have and Where You Will Need It Most

There are many crisis or disaster scenarios.  The speed of those scenarios deteriorating from normal life to serious situation or life threatening will differ greatly.  In an earthquake or un-alerted tsunami scenario, your life situation can go from normal day to catastrophe in seconds.  Same for a house fire that has caught you by surprise (sadly, because your smoke alarm batteries were dead or because your smoke detectors weren’t interconnected). 

Conversely, in many other scenarios, you may have heads-up time that a potentially serious situation was developing, such as wildfires in your general region or slowly rising floodwaters and being alerted by authorities that your house could be at risk within 1-3 days.  Perhaps that “short” power/water failure is now extending to 2 or 3 days, perhaps your heating system has failed or a mega snow storm is occurring and you are seeing that your roof is increasingly struggling due to the weight of the snow.

What the examples show is that the time to act and find your critical kit and items will vary greatly.  In the sudden crisis, you may have seconds to react and it may be difficult to reach items that are in a completely different part of your home.  If you were asleep during an earthquake and walls are shifting and the ceiling is collapsing, you may only have what is immediately around your bed area or greater bedroom.  Where’s my headlamp?  If you need a tool to pry open your bedroom door due to your home suffering structural damage, you’ll need that pry bar close by in a bedroom closet or under your bed.

Same for fire extinguishers.  What good is it if you only have one extinguisher in your home and it’s inaccessible when you needed it?  If you have extinguishers in many parts of your home, you’ll hopefully have one where and when you will need it.  (Tip: Remember to learn ahead of time how to use it!)

Many of these kits contain items of use and value for sudden and unfolding crises.  The prybar, crank flashlight, emergency gloves,…, maybe needed suddenly while the toilet, food rations, water, … will be needed once the “dust had settled”.  Plan your kits accordingly.

No kit, let me repeat, no kit can do it all.  No first aid kit.  No home emergency kit.  No vehicle emergency kit.  The kit you need is the one tailored to your life, your environment, and your risks, and accessible when you need it.  As with MacGyver, you may need to be creative and use a certain tool in a creative way to save the day!

6.    The Food is Rarely to Your Liking, So Upgrade it!

If we look at the Mayday Industries 4-person deluxe emergency kit, the food, to be very honest, is what you turn to if life or death is the situation as you are lost at sea and it even says it is “U.S. Coast Guard approved” on the packaging, so this is no surprise.  Although it’s pretty yucky, it might also keep you alive for a few days if you are trapped in your structure and that’s all you have! 

Our 4-person kit had four of these. If they have not expired, keep them but you can do much better.

There are far better food options, so take some action and add to your kit or replace what’s in it.  I highly recommend you add far more edible food.  Keep in mind that you may or may not have the means to cook food such as packages of ramen noodles or soup so have a variety and stock that includes ready-to-eat items.  In the military world, you’ll see reference to MREs, or meals-ready-to-eat.  This could be very simple food or some complex chicken cordon bleu with sauce. 

Just keep in mind if it requires cooking, it’s cost per unit, the quantity you have available, and expiry dates.  If you stock food you normally eat, you can rotate your food supply and eat that food before it expires and buy a new stock.  If you only stock gross survival food, it’ll eventually expire and be wasted because you will never eat it in regular living.

Ensure you have a supply of food for your family size and family needs (allergies or dislikes), and for at least 72 hours.  These days, being self sufficient for at least 72 hours (3 days) is the bare minimum.  Authorities may have larger priorities over your household for the first 1-3 days (or more).

7.    Water, water, water!!!

Yes, there are small water pouches in some of these kits and that’s great.  It also expires and will likely not be enough to last more than a day or two at a maximum.  So, stock up with far more drinking water.  Have a stock of at least a gallon (or 3-4 litres) of water per person per day.

Our 4-person kit had four pouches of six mini bags of water. Better than nothing but way too little!

8.    Like any 1st Aid Kit, you Need to Augment What you Get in a Commercial Emergency Kit

I suggest you also read my BetterPreparedness.com article on “10 Easy Steps To Building Your Ideal 1st Kits”  I argue that you should always tailor things to your needs.  Assume this is the case if you purchase something like the Mayday Home Emergency Kit. 

If it says “Deluxe” on the item, that may just mean that it has a wider range of items.  It doesn’t usually mean it has the top grade of each item.  Buy quality items when you feel it’s warranted.

Our Mayday kit came with this mini 1st aid kit. While it might help in some ways, this is not enough to carry you through a disaster.

9.    Remember that for Some Crises, You Will Stay Home, For Some You Might Flee

It may be a personal judgement call to remain in your home or whether to flee, or it may be authorities ordering you to vacate your home.  Your emergency kit may therefore either be used in your home for an extended period or you may have just minutes or hours to vacate your home and then live out of your car for a week or two.  A home emergency kit like this could therefore be used in your home or taken with you.

10. Do your Research: National and Local Authorities Provide Packing Lists

This is a whole major topic in itself. Google your municipal, state/province, and national emergency agencies for lots of great emergency kit list recommendations and guidance.

Those agencies may alert you to many natural disaster, technological, and human-made risks present in your area. They should also be in line with your climate and seasonal needs.

11. Go Bags

“Go bags” or “grab bags” are the already-packed bags of clothing, equipment and special needs items that you keep in your home or garage.  The more likely you are to have to flee your home due to high vulnerability to disasters, for example, the more you should have these bags packed for everyone and any pets in the household. 

Go bags are a completely separate topic and let me know in the comments section below if you’d like some material on them.

12. These kits are a great starting point! Get the ball rolling!

I want you to open up any commercial or home-made kit and look through what there is.  Be critical and look at the quality and quantity of what’s there.  Are there items you absolutely need to replace?  Are there cheap grade items you can live with and you are confident they will be able to do the job you need?  Are there things you need to buy at the store and add to you kit?  Perhaps you have a supply of certain things at home and you can add some of that supply to this kit?

13. Certain Emergency Kit Items Expire, Accept It and Update as Required

If you look through any commercial or do-it-yourself kit of any type, certain things have a limited lifespan, such as water, food, medications, certain 1st aid kit items,…  Make a list of what expires when and replace it if you feel you still want that type of item.  Maybe take the opportunity to upgrade the quality as you replace the item.

If you take a commercial kit such as the Mayday Home Emergency Kit minus the expiration-sensitive items, I still think you have a useful collection of items.

It’s a personal judgement call but I feel some items are still pretty usable after they expire but that will change the farther out of date they get. 

14. Involve the Family in Your Crisis or Disaster Planning

I do not want to see only one person in a household being the only informed person about your kits and preparations.  I call this spousal knowledge imbalance.  Involve all adults or children in your discussions and in looking through the kits.  Talk about where the kit is stored and under what circumstances you access it. 

Remind people that this kit and items are not for general use and that any items used must be replaced or returned to the kit.  Leave a pencil and paper to record what has been removed or used up. 

Consider labelling the location of your kit so that someone doesn’t need to search all the cupboards or search the home in a time of urgency.

15. Get Started on What Ever Route You Feel is Best!!!

I like some of these kits as starting points.  Maybe you want to build your kits from scratch. 

Whatever your approach, get started today.  Make a list of items to buy over the coming weeks.  Build your preparedness in line with your range of risks, environment, location, family needs, and approaches.  Just do not wait until a crisis to start your preparedness.

Share your experiences in the comments section below. Have you bought kits before? Have you used them in an emergency?

What are Some Kit Suggestions?

Oof, you need to first establish what the goal of that kit purchase is going to be.

As you do your kit research, keep in mind those kit goals and difference styles of kit will be better suited to different locations, such as at home, on the road, at work, and even when travelling.

I’ll highlight some types of end goals and provide some suggestions below:

  1. Mayday Emergency Kit with Honey Bucket – as featured but this is a 2-person version: https://amzn.to/2O6qWNp
  2. 4-person Disaster and Emergency Kit more aimed at staying in place but also vehicle-transportable: https://amzn.to/2VYD1qs
  3. Earthquake bug out (go bag) 2-person emergency kit: https://amzn.to/2O4V3Vg
  4. Emergency roadside kit: https://amzn.to/2W42kro
  5. Long-term emergency food supply to add to your kits, requires hot water: https://amzn.to/2W10V4H
  6. Mayday Industries Port-a-Pottie toilet seat for 5-gallon bucket. Note: Only the seat, not the bucket, bags, or chemical: https://amzn.to/2Y1dC1o
  7. Bucket toilet with seat: https://amzn.to/2O5bEs1
  8. Example of a dog or cat survival emergency kit: https://amzn.to/2O5eFbJ

Also see:

How to choose the tools for child bike emergency repairs

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