Friday, November 14, 2008

The Bucket List

No, nothing like the movie. I'm talking about actual buckets. Five gallon food-grade buckets with gamma-seal lids, to be exact. Six of them.

Maybe you've heard of the concept of a bug-out bag. It's essentially the bag you grab to take with you when the hurricane is coming. Or the wildfires. Or the zombies. It's an emergency kit. But instead of a duffel bag, ours are in buckets. The bucket itself is pretty useful in an emergency, for anything from water storage to a stool or table to a makeshift toilet. Or even a drum, if you get bored enough. I often hear that after the initial rush, emergency situations can get unspeakably boring for those affected.

The bucket is also watertight, or very nearly so, and rigid, so the contents don't risk getting smushed. And you'll be amazed at how much can fit in one. The gamma seal lids make it wonderfully easy to get into the buckets without using any tools or four-letter words. The last thing you need in an emergency is to be wrestling with your bug out kit to get at its contents.

Why six buckets? We've got one for each family member (two adults, three kids), and one "communal" bucket with more general supplies. Overkill? Maybe. But there are all kinds of scenarios that could require us to leave at different times, or take two vehicles, or otherwise split up. Having one container per person makes it easy to make sure that spare glasses, medications, clothing, diapers, or comfort items stay with the person who might need them.

What kinds of emergencies are we trying to cover? Who knows. It's the old Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. The idea is to cover a wide range of possibilities. In an actual emergency, you may not have time or you may be too stressed to think of all the things you might need. By planning ahead, you are thinking and acting in a calm and rational state, so that if the worst happens, you only have to grab and go.

Does this sound like paranoia? Two words: Hurricane Katrina. Two more: September Eleventh. But really, bad things happen on a smaller scale all the time: Housefires, floods, chemical spills, tornadoes. Your odds are low, but don't assume they're zero. And with as crazy as things seem to be getting in the economy, where "biggest _____ since the Great Depression" is gradually getting replaced with "bigger _____ than the Great Depression", predictability is kind of going out the window.

Now I should say that not everything you might want in an emergency can fit in a bucket (sleeping bag), and for some things it's not practical to store them there (birth certificate). So I've also made a "Grab List" to be kept with the buckets. The Grab List is just sort of a brainstorming tool that you can scan during an actual emergency, to jog your memory. On it are anything from the practical (cooler, boots, water filter) to the sentimental (wedding photos, baby pictures) to the more frivolous (books, MP3 player, favorite toy). The list should be ordered from most important / most likely to be missed down to the trivial, so that if you only have a few minutes, you can just stop reading before the end of the list. And when making the list, remember that your future self may not be thinking clearly when reading it, so put things like "cell phone with charger" or "wedding album (top of bookshelf)."

The contents of the kids' buckets are much different than the adults'. They'll need less stuff to begin with, and less of their stuff is likely to be critical, so you can always throw in some extra goodies to get them through what is bound to be a stressful time. (Don't neglect the adults in this regard either, but remember the kids are just kids.) If you have kids, imagine the difference it might make to their mental state - and yours - if the scary emergency is suddenly a cross between a slumber party and a holiday.

By the same token, imagine the difference it might make for you in an emergency, to be calmly grabbing a few buckets rather than scampering around frantically trying to get your brain to figure out ten things at once.

In deciding what goes in the adults' buckets vs. the communal bucket, it often comes down to practicality. If it's cheap and / or easy to build in redundancy, go for it. Remember, we're trying to cover, at least to some extent, the possibility of having to split up, because you just never know. In some cases, I had the same item in both the adult buckets and the communal bucket because it was trivial to do so. That way you're not thinking, "So who gets the bucket with the toilet paper?"

Oh, and one thing not included is First Aid items. I have two pre-assembled First Aid kits stored with the buckets. I also included a very basic printed First Aid Booklet with each. On my Grab List is "Where There Is No Doctor", which can be purchased or downloaded for free here. or purchased new & used here.

So on to the actual lists. These are examples, and you can always adjust to suit your needs or the types of emergencies you feel susceptible to.

Kid's Bucket (Example):

Medications
Spare glasses
Children's Tylenol
Children's multivitamin
Bowl, Plate, Cup
Silverware
Activity books
Crayons
Pen & Paper
Poncho
Towel / cloth
T-shirt
Sweatshirt / sweater
Jeans
Underwear (x2) (or diapers / pullups)
Socks (x2)
Toothbrush
Toothpaste
Scarf
Hat
Mittens
Sports drink (for hydration)
Baby formula & bottles
Snacks (non-perishable)
Toys / Games

Adult's Bucket (Example):

Atlas & state map
Addresses, phone numbers, & directions to places you might need or want to go
Compass
Bowl & Plate
Silverware
Thermal coffee mug
Multi-spice shaker
Bug spray
Can opener
Cards
Dice
Cash, including coins
All-purpose folding knife
Knife sharpener
Duct tape
Electrical tape
All-purpose glue
Super glue
Emergency blanket (mylar)
General purpose soap (like "camp soap")
Hand sanitizer
Cough drops
Dental floss
Deodorant
Toilet paper
Toothbrush
Toothpaste
Lip balm
Headlamp (or substitute flashlight, but I like the headlamps)
Medications
Vitamins
Nail clippers
Spare glasses
Pens & Paper
Scissors
Screwdriver
Towel / cloth
T-shirt
Sweatshirt / sweater
Jeans
Underwear (x2)
Socks (x2)
Poncho
Hat, Scarf, Gloves
Work Gloves
Water purification drops
Waterproof match case w/matches
Lighter
Magnesium fire starter
Candle
Whistle
"Girl stuff" (*)
Condoms (**)
A distracting paperback
Snacks (non-perishable)
Sports drink (for hydration)
Cash, including coins

(*) Menstrual pads can be used as emergency bandages.

(**) Besides their intended use, condoms have other uses in an emergency. If they are not lubricated or otherwise treated, they can hold water. You can also use them to waterproof something (like a bandage). Or there's always balloon animals.

Yes, it all fits. Tip: Put the clothes in first. You probably won't need them right away, and that way you can smash 'em down as much as you want without fear of crushing anything else. And pick compact snacks, or keep them in a separate bag for easier rotation.

You'll notice the clothing choices are kind of specific. Jeans are more durable than, say, sweats, and a sweater can go over a t-shirt when it's chilly, and be removed when it's warm. You'll also notice the snacks are not at all specific. Don't worry about nutrition. Worry about calories and comfort. Remember this is for short-term emergencies, not long-term.

Communal Bucket (Example):

AA batteries
AAA batteries
Emergency blanket (mylar)
Emergency radio (crank or similar)
Filtered water bottle
50-foot cord
Folding shovel
General purpose lotion (Curel)
Hand sanitizer
Cough drops
Anti-Diarrhea medicine
Decongestant
Anti-inflamatory / pain reliever(s) of choice
Laxative
Mouthwash
Camp shower
Lighters
Matches
Candles
Mirror
Pens & Paper
Folding mini-scissors
Duct tape
Sewing kit
Scissors
Hammer
Pliers (needlenose)
Pliers (slipjoint)
Screwdriver (with multiple tips, or else multiple screwdrivers)
Wrench (adjustable)
Zip ties
Cable saw
Trash bags (small)
Trash bags (large)
Clock (manual-wind)
Cash, including coins

I primarily used two books in putting this all together (The Crisis Preparedness Handbook, and When Technology Fails), though I did glance at a few other lists and add in my own ideas. Remember, this is not a definitive list: Feel free to add, omit, adjust, and rearrange as you see fit. If you have any suggestions for things that are missing, feel free to say so in the comments.

Compiling all this stuff can be spread out over time, and as budget allows. That's the advantage of advance planning. Now that ours are just about done, I have to say that I worry a little less about Bad Things. And that by itself is probably worth the money spent.

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7 Comments:

At 11/15/2008 9:11 AM, Anonymous margaret said...

Thanks for this post. I've been procrastinating this for some time. This makes it feel less overwhelming.

 
At 11/15/2008 10:49 PM, Blogger e4 said...

Wow, what a day to post this. California wildfires are suddenly spreading like, er... very quickly. One of the big ones is about 5 miles from a relative's house.

Here's a link to the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles.

 
At 11/16/2008 6:34 PM, Blogger Morgan said...

ok now I'm paranoid

 
At 11/16/2008 7:28 PM, Blogger e4 said...

Morgan - Welcome to the Club. We don't have membership cards or jackets or anything because that's how they find you!.

 
At 11/17/2008 11:11 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Umm, I think I'll just add a package of ballons rather than put a condom on my mouth to blow it up...

:-)

 
At 12/01/2008 3:05 PM, Blogger risa said...

A good list! I thought of the buckets decades ago but then forgot. Maybe it's time to update our dinky little bags ...

 
At 8/14/2010 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should see the back of my uplander. I have one of those rolling craft carts with SO MUCH in it you wouldn't believe, a tub full of water and MREs, a double stroller and several skooters, a suitcase of blankets and extra clothing, and a mesh backpack in a tiny case to carry it in. I figure having a bug-out bag at home isn't gonna help when I'm five children and twenty miles from home... and if I need it while home, it's there when we are. OTOH, if we need to actually bug out, it doesn't need packing - it's already in the car.

-aNNa

 

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