By Mike Lavelle

Organizations as diverse as The Boy Scouts of America, the Center for Disease Control, and FEMA all recommend that Americans have a basic level of preparedness for emergencies, disasters, and disease outbreaks. Although we are less prone to natural disaster than many locations, there are still some emergencies that might catch us off guard, such as a wildfire, contagion, or other disaster. If the unexpected occurs, there are special considerations that you might want to take to keep yourself and your family safer.

A basic level of preparedness includes having a home kit, a car kit, a travel kit, a hiking and camping kit, and an evacuation bag (which is just a bag containing those items you would want with you if you had to leave your home quickly, for at least 3-4 days).

To get you started preparing your family for the unexpected, here are several kits that you can put together. With these, you can make living in the desert a little bit safer in an emergency.

Home Kit: For your home preparedness kit you want food, water, and basic toiletries for at least two weeks, if not more. Part of your home kit could be as simple as items you have on hand in your bathroom and medicine cabinet, with selected additional items like basic medical supplies for minor injuries and sicknesses (include prescription medications for two weeks), batteries, external charged cell phone battery (solar chargers are available) flashlights, and candles. One recommendation for home preparedness is to have not only a stocked pantry, but also the storage of additional foods that replace the food in your pantry as they are used. By doing this, you will avoid having food going bad over time (although storing some rice and dry beans is not a bad idea as they last a very long time).

Car Kit: In addition to a first aid kit, a car kit should contain items for the car itself like a tire repair kit, radiator tape, and such items. You will also want to include additional water for possible consumption, as well as a cigarette lighter, cell phone charger, and other items related to travel. When traveling the distance away from Vail, don’t forget essential jumper cables, blanket, and such. For local travel, it is not a bad idea to have a hard copy of the addresses and phone numbers of the local fire department, police stations, and hospitals. These are good to have on hand if your cell phone fails due to signal reception or battery. You might also want to put an old pair of prescription glasses, which is better than nothing if your glasses became broken. Depending on the length and duration of your trip, you might want to consider also supplementing your kit with either your hiking or camping kit.

Hiking/Camping Kit: For hiking and camping, one could have a lightweight hiking kit that has a simple first aid kit, supplemented by moleskin, sunscreen, some rope, duct tape, whistle, signal mirror, LED flashlight, insect bite/sting kit, water purifier, and a water filter. When camping, take the hiking kit, and add the additional elements of a camping kit, that might include a mosquito net, bivy bag, lightweight bag, larger camp LED light, solar charged radio, and other items related to camping.

Bug Out Kit/ Evacuation Bag: While some might think a bug out kit is extreme; you never know what sort of emergency might require you to rapidly leave your home. In recent years, there have been multiple events, from the Boston Bombing to the recent hurricanes (four and counting), where people had to quickly leave their home. A bug out bag or kit is simply those supplies that you can quickly grab that have all those items (that you generally can carry), that you would like to have with you, where ever you might be, (a friend’s house, a shelter, or a motel).

Such a kit would include not only a first aid kit, but food and water. Water is heavy, and the amount you carry depends on your need and destination. You’ll also want to pack layered clothing, a wind up or solar powered radio, an LED wind up flashlight, basic medications and prescriptions, utility knife, lightweight sleeping bag, tarp, thermal under garments, wide brimmed hat, sunscreen, personal hygiene items, items to help pass the time (book, deck of cards, and such), a wind-up, solar or battery powered charger to power a cell phone and other micro-USB powered devices. If the time came where you had to leave quickly, you could simply grab your hiking and or camping kit, and your advanced travel kit supplemented by items from your food storage, along with additional items, like those just noted, and this becomes your bug out kit.

One critical item that is often not thought of would be important documents. While it is not feasible to carry a large folder of selected documents, it is possible to have a USB flash drive that has such items scanned, such as social security card, driver’s license, marriage license, deed to home, insurance documents, DD-214, will, power of attorney, medical advanced directives, and a document that has the information of your various financial accounts, as well as contact phone numbers. If you are worried that this information could be compromised, it is very easy to encrypt the information so that only you could supply the key to decrypt the information.

There is lots of information available online to help you prepare your kits. Some of them are:


When I was a member of the Citizens Emergency Response Team and reserve deputy in New Mexico, one of the items that we were planning for was responding to a pandemic coming out of China. As I recall, it was mentioned by those in the know, that it “was a matter of time” before this happened. It may be just coincidence, but the time has come and is now upon us.

While it is true that we do not need to panic, it is good to always be prepared with the items you need before you will need them, meaning having a stock of stored goods. In February, I considered adding a can of powdered eggs to my supplies (I remember them, as do some of you, from my days in the military), and put it in my watch list. Later, deciding to buy it, I found out it is not available and there is no indication of when it will be restocked. A lesson relearned, if you think you might need it, get it. Also, if time passes and you don’t need it, you can (possibly – do check) donate it, if it is unopened and unexpired, to a food bank.

The best way to stock your pantry for the time you choose (a few weeks to months), is to as many already know, is to rotate your existing grocery stock drawing upon your stored goods and replacing them. Some items, like tuna, have a shelf life of 3 years. Many canned goods have a long shelf life, and if replaced as used, will allow you to keep your stock current. Of course, it is important to do the same for pet foods. For those who live in apartments or are “space challenged” there are online sites that offer suggestions on what you can do to store items in your house or apartment.

Other pantry items might last longer and some, of course, are shorter. Some items can be stored for a very long time, like beans and rice, by putting them in air sealed containers (like quart or half gallon mason jars) and throwing in an “oxygen removing packet,” which can be found online at many stores. You can then use draw on your beans and rice stores when you want to cook some up, and later refresh your stores. There are many sites that indicate various procedures on what you need and how to do this, (also for pasta and oats).

There are a few companies that specialize in freeze dried foods, and recently, I decided to open one pack of chili macaroni that I bought in 1999 to see if it was still good, and it tasted great (and I had no ill effects).

Many preparedness items have a very long storage life, for example, water stored in 6-7-gallon containers, toilet paper (who knew?), N99 masks (they were very easy and inexpensive to buy in 2008 – and I suspect buying a few in 2021 will be easy), and you can even buy something called “The Survival Tabs” which provide basic nutrition, and have a use by date of December 2047 (the ones I recent bought – 96 tabs for 8 days). These are good to supplement with other food items, and you can get them in smaller packets to be put in a car or taken on a trip.

It stands to reason that over the counter medications for flu and colds are always good to have on hand and depending upon your circumstances and health conditions, there are other items, aside from normal medications, that you might want to consider to add to your supplies, like a nasal spray, thermometer, vaporizer, and disposable gloves for instance.

While it might be overwhelming to try to ramp up with various kits and supplies, especially at this time, the key is to do it gradually, perhaps one kit or project at a time.

Finally, I have spent lots of time reading, listening to the news, and talking with people (and some from around the world, using VR googles! Which by the way is a great way to visit with friends, meet new friends, and spend time if isolated, playing games, exercising, or watching movies), and there is lots of contradictory information regarding what might work, should work, doesn’t work, is needed and not needed, and such. However, my take is that I would rather have something like a mask and gloves and not need it than find out that I need it and cannot find it. What somebody chooses to buy with their money, over time, is their business – especially if purchased long before there is a shortage (masks, and toilet paper, apparently. However, I would suggest buying a bidet adapter. You will use lots less paper). To be clear, I do not endorse cleaning out the shelf of what you want, rather, when this is all over, and you want to stock up on something (let’s say toothpaste), just add it gradually – then if there is a mad rush for it, you are good and might even be able to help your family and friends).

I am sure there are those with more experience and knowledge regarding storing food, preparedness, and ideas (like mixing aloe vera and isopropyl alcohol to make your own hand sanitizer – and there are lots of other good ideas people have) and I invite those people to offer their suggestions on The Vail Voice Facebook page.

About author View all posts

Guest Author