"Be Prepared... the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise." -Robert Baden-Powell
_Oh Sh!T Kit
You only have to be awakened in the middle of the night to an awful trauma ONCE before you suddenly become interested in being prepared in case it ever happens again. After being rocked out of bed on a sub-zero night by a train wreck, I decided to make sure that if it ever happened again, or if I were ever rocked out of bed by an earthquake on a sub-zero night, I wanted to have certain key items instantly available at my fingertips without having to stumble around my house in the darkness in order to find what I need. So I made up what I call my “Oh Sh!t Kit” and keep it under my bed at all times. Now, if my house falls apart while I’m asleep, all I have to do is to reach under my bed to find the items I need. This will give me a head start in coping with whatever trauma has occurred.
Here is a list of what’s inside my “Oh Sh!t Kit.”
I keep a pair of shoes under my bed at all times. They are extra shoes that I never wear, but they fit me well, and they are very sturdy. They never leave that spot under my bed. If windows break, mirrors shatter, pictures fall off the wall – I don’t have to jump out of bed and have my feet land on glass shards right off the bat. Jumping out of bed is the worst possible thing you can do in an earthquake for this very reason.
Inside the shoes I tuck a spare pair of eyeglasses. I am legally blind without my glasses, and I don’t want to face a disaster blind. If my glasses fly off the night stand in a quake, I sure don’t want to have to crawl around on the glass-strewn floor trying to find them. If you know your prescription, you can get a spare pair of glasses for $25 to $40 at ZenniOptical.com
Inside the shoes I also keep a flashlight, and every few months I check the batteries to make sure they’re still good. If the power goes out in a catastrophe, how much time do I want to spend digging through drawers in the dark, trying to find a light? None at all. Now I don’t have to.
I also keep a spare set of keys inside one shoe, so that I can escape to the safety of my car in an instant, without having to wander through wreckage to find my purse. My car offers heat, light, shelter, a radio, as well as helpful stuff I’ve stored in a duffel bag in the trunk-- not to mention transportation.
The final item I keep inside that emergency pair of shoes is a wrench and a pair of pliers so that I will be reminded to turn off the utilities in the moments following an earthquake. This will prevent my overturned gas hot water heater from filling the basement with natural gas, which will then explode and burn my house down.
In a drawstring pouch, I keep my “Oh Sh!t” tool kit which contains several extra flashlights as well as spare batteries; a headlamp so that I can have light while also having my hands free; a couple bottles of water; a loud whistle; an AM/FM radio that clips to my belt; a phone that plugs directly into the wall jack; a pair of walkie-talkies pre-tuned to the same channel; a pair of sturdy leather gloves; a stack of paper air masks; and a really high quality multi-tool.
OK, I admit to being a bit OCD when it comes to being thorough, so I added a few extra items for my husband and myself, which are stored inside pillowcases. There’s a pink pillowcase for my stuff, and a blue pillowcase for my husband’s stuff. Inside each pillowcase is a complete change of clothing: jeans, sweatshirt, undies, warm socks, another pair of shoes, wool hat, leather gloves, and a pair of knee pads and elbow pads in case I have to crawl through rubble to rescue pets, tenants, or neighbors. Inside the pockets of the jeans I tucked a wad of paper towels (to be used as toilet paper or a bandage), hair barrettes to keep my hair out of my face, a roll of Lifesaver candies, a hanky, a bandana, a chapstick, and a cigarette lighter.
For good measure I included his-and-hers fire extinguishers flanking either side of the bed. My house has only been on fire once, but that was enough to teach me the extraordinary importance of a well-placed fire extinguisher.
This kit is enough to get my on my feet and moving out the back door, where I have a more extensive Search and Rescue kit stored under the back porch. If I am ever again awakened in the middle of a sub-zero winter night to find my world in chaos, all I need to do is to grab my shoes, my tool kit, and my pillowcase to be girded for disaster. It only cost me a few dollars and an afternoon’s labor to pull my Oh Sh!t Kit together. Being prepared to handle a crisis: Priceless.