If you've got kids you need to bulk up your emergency kit
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As a born-and-raised Californian, I'm pretty laid back about earthquakes. In fact, I slept through one of the earthquakes that marked the July fourth weekend here in Southern California. While I'm certainly not one to panic about the Next Big One, I also probably shouldn't be quite so laissez faire about having an emergency kit on hand, especially now that I'm responsible for the health and well-being of two small children.
So, where does one begin when preparing for a natural disaster—earthquake or otherwise? Our resident safety expert, Seamus Bellamy, put together helpful guidelines for creating your own survival kit and we tested all of the ready-made emergency kits available for purchase. However, many of the commercially-available emergency kits are designed for one or two adults.
When you're preparing for the worst with babies or kids in tow, you also need to take into account the items they'll need in order to stay safe and relatively comfortable in a scary situation.
Here are 10 items to add to your basic emergency kit if you have babies and/or kids:
It's a good idea to have a can of formula and a few bottles in your emergency kit, even if you're nursing. Traumatic events—as well as a significantly reduced caloric intake—can affect breast milk supply, so having a back-up option for your babe is a must. The amount of formula your baby will drink depends on his or her age, but a good average to work from is 20-25 ounces per day, so one can of formula should last you about five days. Be sure to check the expiration date of the baby formula when you do your yearly emergency kit inspection, and replace it as necessary. Keep in mind that you may not have access to clean water in which to wash a lot of dishes, so opting for a bottle with a disposable liner, like the Playtex Baby Nurser, reduces the amount of dirty bottle parts you'll need to wash with your limited water supply.
Don't get caught in a natural disaster without diapers and wipes. I suggest stocking your kit with a variety of diaper sizes, so that you aren't having to contend with too-small diapers that don't contain the blowouts. Children who have been potty trained will sometimes regress when faced with a scary situation, so adding some larger-size night diapers in your emergency kit is a good idea. Wipes come in handy for more than just diaper changes—they're an easy way to sponge bathe when water is limited (as are our favorite wipes for grown-ups)
I keep an extra set of clothes, warm jackets, and close-toed shoes for both kids in my car and my (new) emergency kit. Don't forget to include extra underwear and socks in your kit, either: In the heat or wet, having dry pairs of both can go a long way towards keeping kids comfortable and healthy. You don't have to spend a fortune on these "just in case" items—see about finding a kids consignment shop in your neighborhood—since it's very likely that they'll never actually get worn. If you prefer one stop shopping, and high-quality items, Primary's basics in solid colors are an excellent choice. For close-toed shoes that can take a beating, I'm a big fan of Natives. Keep in mind that children grow quickly, so you'll need to stay on top of updating the sizes every six months or so. It's also a good idea to add a package of child-sized disposable ponchos to protect your little ones from the elements.
The standard emergency kit fare of protein bars isn't going to work for babies who are only able to eat purees. Baby food pouches are much lighter to carry than glass jars, and you can even purchase a disposable spoon attachment that screws onto the neck of the pouch to make feeding easier. A one year old baby eats about 1000 calories per day, so you'll need to order at least two multi-packs of Plum Organics pouches to ensure that your baby has enough food to last her at least three days (each pouch has 100-110 calories).
When disaster strikes, you may only have seconds to escape; don't run the risk of being stuck in an emergency shelter with a child wailing for his blankie. Whatever your child's preferred method of self-soothing—security blanket, stuffie, or pacifier—add an identical one to your emergency kit. I realize that the newer, less-loved version won't have quite the same aroma or appeal, but a back-up will do in a pinch. Plus, it's an invaluable tool for helping to reduce your child's anxiety during a time of immense stress.
Don't count on electronic devices to occupy your kids when the next big quake hits. If there's no electricity, your trusty digital babysitter won't be available. Put together a bag of no-need-to-charge activities, including coloring books, simple card games, and small toys that can be used for imaginative play. Plan to dole out one activity at a time so that your kids spend longer with each specific item, and if you want to make it especially fun for them, wrap the items in tissue paper so that they feel they're receiving a present each time. Keep your emergency game stash in some big ziplock bags so they don't get wet if you’re evacuating your family under severe weather conditions.
While most first aid kits contain basic pain relieving medicines, the dosages are for adults, not children. Bulk up your emergency first aid kit with a selection of any of the OTC or prescription medicines you give your children on a regular basis. I put together a big ziplock bag with kids Tylenol, kids Melatonin, our favorite cough syrup, a homeopathic remedy I use for tummy troubles, and a tube of Calendula cream that I can use on diaper rashes, bug bites or burns. Be sure to include a dosing spoon or syringe to ensure that you administer the correct amount of medicine.
Kids are, for the most part, incredibly picky. While it can be tempting to think that one's children might be willing to eat anything when faced with starvation, the odds are that your kid will simply whine, cry, and sob about being hungry rather than try emergency food rations. A natural disaster is traumatic enough without forcing your kid to eat something he wouldn't normally touch, so avoid any hunger-related meltdowns by stocking your emergency kit with non-perishable snacks that your kids love. Nut butter pouches are a great choice for something that's kid-friendly but also has protein (not so, tuna fish).
Babies and kids have incredibly sensitive skin, so prolonged exposure to the sun can be extremely dangerous. Living in always-sunny Los Angeles means that we never go anywhere—including Armageddon—without sunscreen and hats. Throw in a bottle of Dermatologist-recommended sunscreen, as well as wide-brimmed hats, to keep kids protected from the sun if you get trapped outside.
Kids love flashlights. Get them involved in your doomsday preparations by letting them select the flashlights they'd like to have if disaster strikes. Whether it's our top rated flashlight or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle version, there's no wrong choice. A shopping expedition is a good opportunity to discuss your disaster plans with older kids, but it's also a chance to tell little kids any basic, age-appropriate information about what to do in the case of an emergency. Kids who need a light source to feel safe sleeping will love the Goal Zero Crush Light Solar Powered Lantern; it runs for up to 35 hours on a single charge, and can be charged via a built-in solar panel or USB.