Chapter 4: Keeping Your Emergency Kit Current
Now that you’ve purchased or built your emergency kit, and your whole family is covered, you may be wondering how to keep your emergency kit current. It’s one of our top FAQs and favorite questions to answer.
You know us - it’s all about the Preparedness Mindset. The most important action you can take is before an emergency ever occurs. Develop habits that will support you during an emergency or disaster, the same way you keep a spare tire in your trunk or a rainy day fund - just in case. The more prepared you are, the more confidence you have, the more available you’ll be to help those who rely on you.
Your next step to stay prepared is keeping emergency kit supplies current. Supplies may expire, or maybe your family has grown with newborns, pets, or helping a dependent parent. We’ve done the research, and here’s what to do:
- Familiarize yourself with your emergency kit contents - all of them, in detail, including ingredients that may cause trouble for those with allergies.
- Create an inventory sheet for your kit, including the name of each item and its expiration date (if any) in pencil.
- Set a consistent date to scan this list monthly, then reorder expiring supplies and increase supplies if your family has grown.
Here’s Redfora’s list of Commonly Expirable Items:
- Most emergency foods last 5-10 years.
- MREs (Meal, Ready to Eat) and other freeze-dried meals will be good for five years
- Bulk emergency food has a shelf life between 15-25 years.
- Water pouches are metalized, so they can withstand extreme temperatures and situations better than a bottle.
It is imperative to have a stored supply of medication you take regularly in your emergency kit.
- Discuss a 30-day backup supply with your doctor.
- The FDA recently performed a study of over 100 medications that were at least 15 years old and over 90% of the test drugs were perfectly good, despite being well past their expiration. However, if you require medication that is working at its full potential, it’s best that you check dates and restock monthly or quarterly.
- Food near its expiration date can be consumed, donated, or discarded if it is damaged or inedible.
- Expired emergency water is not drinkable, but can be used for bathing, cleaning, and washing clothes and dishes.
- Medication disposal is regulated by the FDA and has strict guidelines. If you have medicine that is not expired but you no longer need, some organizations accept donations. Learn more about all the approved options on the FDA website
Regularly check your emergency kit for damage. Water, cold, heat, and humidity can damage a lot of materials. Start by storing your kit in a dry location, away from extreme temperatures. Redfora’s Preparedness Mindset tip is to add a monthly visual scan of all your supplies. Items to consider carefully are:
- Batteries: Use a battery tester and store batteries in a plastic Zip-Loc-data-style bag.
- Note: Redfora always recommends items that are solar powered, as battery life won’t be as reliable in an emergency.
- First aid items: Ointments and creams lose effectiveness over time, so follow the expiration dates closely.
- Light sticks: Examine them carefully to ensure the contents haven’t been disturbed. Hold the light stick up to the light. Flip over the light stick to watch the air bubble rise to the top of the stick. If the air bubble rises in a straight pattern, the light stick is unused. If the bubble rises in a jagged pattern, the light stick has been damaged or used.
- Water purification tablets: Inspect packaging for water damage. Bubbled labels, wet or damp cardboard, and a musty smell are all indicators of potential water damage.
Emergency Evacuation Plan
- Pick a day each month to discuss your family’s plan around the dinner or breakfast table, where your family is already together and focused.
- Detailed plans for evacuation, including meet-up locations, and communication plans should be printed and stored in each of your emergency kits.
- Start a group text, which will be easily accessible and usable in case of an emergency. Use it to keep everyone, including out-of-town contacts, updated.
Emergency Contact Cards
Finally, keep updated emergency contact cards in each of your emergency kits and children’s backpacks.
- Include both in town and out-of-town contacts’ phone numbers, email addresses, and social media handles
- Contact cards should be updated every time a phone number changes.
All this can be covered in 15-20 minutes, once a month. All the habits above are designed keep you and your family well prepared to navigate emergency or disaster situations with more simplicity and confidence, which will give you more mental and emotional space to support those around you.