Red Cross promotes 72-hour kits for National Preparedness Month

BYU students gather items for 72-hour kits. Students are encouraged to start preparing their own 72-hour kit with foods high in protein, and extra items they have in their home. (Camilla Stimpson)

A few years ago, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.1 struck the southern island of New Zealand. After the earthquake 75 percent of Christchurch, New Zealand, had broken sewer lines, buried pipes, water contamination and no power. Many local businesses were shut down, including two universities and their housing units.

For nine days, the housing units were deemed unsafe and students were not allowed to enter. Because of this, many students were left without everyday essentials, as they failed to grab anything before evacuating.

“They couldn’t go back in and get their coat, or their car keys, or their medication,” said Tamie Harding, BYU assistant emergency manager. “It created quite a problem. If they had those things — even a change of clothes, even just some medication that they could’ve taken with them when they evacuated the building — that could’ve been pretty helpful.”

September is National Preparedness Month, a big part of which includes creating a 72-hour kit. In honor of this month, Red Cross has a page on their website dedicated to preparing for national disasters and items needed for a 72-hour kit.

“There are statistics out there that show if you can make it for 72 hours or even maybe 96 hours, that’s about the time frame when outside help can come in and set up and start delivering resources,” said BYU emergency manager Ryan Rasmussen.

Some of these items include a gallon of water, nonperishable food, a first aid kit, manual can openers, extra cash, phone chargers and even pet supplies.

Rich Woodruff, representative of Red Cross disaster relief, said people should ensure the food in a 72-hour kit is high in protein, and they should keep an electronic copy of important documents.

“We call this an electronic emergency kit,” Woodruff said. “Put a flash drive with a copy of your birth certificate, marriage certificate and other important documents in your pack — even with pictures. This way you can make sure to have a copy of them if they’re damaged in an emergency.”

Seventy-two-hour kits are also useful for small emergencies, such as power outages and local floods. While located at BYU-Idaho, Rasmussen experienced a few winter storms that knocked out power and heat for many of the students.

“That’s probably more common. Power can get knocked out for a couple days,” Rasmussen said. “You can use a 72-hour kit for just that short period of time, even if you’re not using all of it. You’re still in your house, but you might be able to use the cooking (supplies).”

Rasmussen said to switch out items in 72-hour kits frequently to make sure everything is still good, including prescription medication, which should always be in a 72-hour kit. Rasmussen also encouraged students to keep enough cash on them in case they need to make a sudden trip home after an emergency.

Seventy-two-hour kits are also simple to make for students on a budget. Rasmussen recommended students either buy one thing each month or each paycheck or gather whatever is around the house.

“Start with what you can do. If you have an extra bag laying around, that’s a start. So you start with a bag and maybe you take just one pair of clothes … and throw it in the bag,” Rasmussen said. “Most students have stuff like that where it’d be nice to wear it every day, but it’s extra; you can get by without it, so throw it in a bag.”

Another inexpensive option Rasmussen recommended is to purchase items at Deseret Industries or

“Look for sales, look for deals. There’s lots of ways to even find things for really cheap or free,” Rasmussen said. “It’s not expensive in the long run, but if you don’t have all the money, do it one at a time.”

Rasmussen also reminded students that church leaders have counseled us multiple times to be prepared physically and spiritually.

“We are part of BYU and the LDS Church, and the council from our ecclesiastical leaders is to be prepared, and we encourage our students to follow that council,” Rasmussen said.

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