Children are a special consideration when planning emergency/evacuation type kits. They obviously cannot carry as much as an adult, yet require enough of their own stuff to make it impossible for the adults to carry the supplies for the entire family. Our solution was to make abbreviated kits for the kids. My idea when putting these together was that if my children were separated from me for some reason, I’d like them to be able to get by for a while on their own until we could find them.
I started with the school backpacks with wheels. This is my son’s pack. On the outside is a whistle and a clippy LED flashlight. Make sure if you’re using one of these squeeze type of LED lights that the one you give your kids is EASY to squeeze and I prefer one that has a switch on it to keep it on so they don’t have to keep squeezing it to have light. I had one on my keyring that was a bugger to get light out of–you had to squeeze in just the right spots and quite hard–not kid friendly. There is also a name tag that identifies them, their family, any allergies/medical conditions, our religion, our phone numbers, etc. I have also put in a family photo that needs updated. Each of your kits should have this in case you are separated. It’s much easier to get help finding someone if you have a picture rather than just a description of the person you’re looking for.
I packed them some clothes. A couple of pair of socks/underwear, pants, a T-shirt, a sweatshirt with a hood, and some thermals. I vacuum packed it all to make it fit in the kit better. My kids all have red shirts in their kits–makes it easier to see them or find them in a crowd. I don’t have to think about what they are wearing, it’s all the same. IF you have a bed wetter, pack some pullups even if you don’t normally use them at home. These vacuum pack nicely as well. You’re going to want to keep dry as you’ll have limited changes of clothing to work with.
Now the food and water. We have utensils and a stainless steel cup that can be used for cooking as well, bottled water (small size), a tuna/cracker pack, one MRE, Power Bar type bars, and hard candy (suckers, smarties, candy necklaces, etc.) Try to pack them foods they will eat. I’m guessing the MRE will be the last to get eaten here, but maybe I’m just being prejudiced because I don’t like MRE’s. Don’t put peanut butter power bars in your kid’s pack if they don’t like peanut butter. Don’t put tuna in if they don’t like tuna. You get the idea. Food and clothes will need to be rotated, so do not put together a kit when your kid is 4 and let it just sit until the emergency happens when he is 14. These kits need checked and rotated at least once a year–better every 6 months.
Now the sanitation and miscellaneous. Baby wipes, hand sanitizer, assorted rope/twine/wire, flagging tape, pencil/paper, compass, handwarmers, emergency blanket, rain poncho, scissors for opening their clothes/food/etc., mirror, basic first aid kit, candle, matches, firestarter sticks, lightsticks. Some of these things came from a Coghlan’s “survival kit” I got at Walmart some time back. I’ve added and subtracted from that kit for inclusion in my kid kits. I like the flagging tape. If they are separated from me, I want to be able to find them and that will help.
I’ve added toothbrushes/toothpaste, a deck of cards for go fish, and a small stuffed toy (you could go new here or one from their past might be nice). Used to have a vacuum packed fleece blanket as well, not sure why I took that out. They are going to need something comforting and distracting–get creative, and I’d love to hear any other ideas you might have!
That’s pretty much it as far as contents. It’s too heavy. They could carry it for a while, but then would be using the wheels. Trouble with wheels around here is that there are no sidewalks and the paved roads only go so far, so in reality we’d need all terrain wheels on the pack. A wagon is a good thing.
My kids are 10, 8, and 5. They each have a kit. When we first made the kits, they would frequently get in them and eat their candy. I stressed to them that if there were an emergency and they needed their kits, they’d really be happy to have that candy in there. Now they leave them alone. Yes, even the 5 year old. In fact when I had the kits out this time she had a friend over. The conversation went like this:
friend: “What’s that?”
daughter: “It’s my emergency kit, there’s candy in it, but don’t eat it!”
friend: “Why not?”
daughter: “Cause it’s for my emergency kit.” See? They can be taught.
When I rotate the kits, sometimes I do it with the kids around and we discuss what is in their kits and why it’s there and how to use it. It is far more hectic of a rotation when they help, so I don’t do it every time, but it’s important enough that they know what they have and why that I’ll put myself through that stress about every other rotation. They know if the house is on fire they do NOT stop to grab their kits, but if we need to evacuate for some reason, they DO grab their kits.
When I checked my 5 year old’s kit this time, I found a couple of items I didn’t put in it, but that she had picked up at the last preparedness fair we attended:
Cute that she made the connection between the preparedness fair and her emergency kit. I left them in. You never know when you’re going to need a Smoky Bear card and a pencil ;)