Despite widespread furor over the devastation in Puerto Rico and seemingly untameable wildfires in northern California, most Americans remain woefully ill-prepared to deal with catastrophes — natural or otherwise. Nearly two-thirds of American households, according to a 2016 report by The National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute (NCDP), “do not have adequate plans for a disaster or have no plans at all.” Worse yet, over half of Americans are “not very confident or not confident at all that the government will be able to protect their community from a terrorist attack.” So, what does all this mean? It’s up to you — not FEMA, not the National Guard, not volunteer firefighters — to prepare yourself and your family for unforeseen disasters.
“Disasters can strike at any time,” says Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director of the NCDP. “Some simple steps to preparedness can be the difference between being able to care for yourself and your family, or being a victim of the disaster.” Clint Emerson, a retired SEAL Team Six Operator, author of the best-selling 100 Deadly Skills series and founder of Escape the Wolf, a crisis management company, agrees that Americans must become better prepared. “We are all first responders, whether we like it or not,” Emerson says. “Everyone needs to decide what kind of first responder they are — the one calling 911, the one stopping bad guys or the one stopping the bleeding. Survival is a byproduct of action, but proper action can’t take place without education and preparation.”
One of the simplest paths to improved disaster preparedness is to invest in proper gear, whether that’s the ultimate bug-out bag or just a handful of small, simple survival products. Below, Schlegelmilch and Emerson share a few of their most essential recommendations, as well as mainstays in their own disaster kits.
Midland ER310 Emergency Crank Radio
Emergency Radio: “The LED flashlight is powerful and good for moving around, and the solar panel is perfect to avoid having to frequently crank the charger during the day,” Schlegelmilch says. “In addition to the information you can get from the radio, having some music on in the background can really break the sheer silence that comes with a loss of power.”
Victorinox Hercules Swiss Army Knife
Multi-Tool: “Whichever brand you decide on, don’t cheap out,” Schlegelmilch said. “Having all of these tools on your belt gives you a lot of options for whatever you may encounter.”
MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter
Water Filter: According to Schlegelmilch, “A small water filter is also a good thing to have. Not the table pitchers with the PUR or Brita filters, but something you would take backpacking that is rated to filter out biological contaminants.”
Goal Zero Venture 70 Recharger
Battery Charger: “There are also portable solar chargers and crank chargers you may want to consider,” Schlegelmilch says, “but I find a spare battery works well in between, charging in a car or somewhere where there is power, like a shelter.”
Garmin Rino 750
Handheld GPS: Yes, phones have built-in GPS systems, but they still eat up a ton of processing power and drain battery. If you’ve ever failed to send a crucial work email on the go because you sapped your phone looking up directions to a lunch spot, imagine what can happen during an actual disaster scenario. Emerson recommends a burly, rechargeable, satellite-enabled GPS unit like the Garmin Rino 750. In addition to GPS satellites, the Rino 750 can also receive a signal from GLONASS satellites, which increases your chances of an accurate reading. Provided the sky isn’t blotted out by an impenetrable cloud of nuclear fallout, it’ll work just about anywhere.
SureFire Aviator Flashlight
Flashlight: Emerson says that a small LED flashlight like the SureFire Aviator is visible from up to a mile away, and that makes it an exceptionally capable SOS signal. It also emits both white and red light; red is ideal for nighttime traveling, when sharp eyesight is vital.