Nine things you need in your emergency kit
Emergency kits can save lives but having one that’s packed and ready to go before the threat of a bushfire is vital.
When putting a kit together, think about who you care for or might need to prepare items on behalf of, think of children or your pets, what do they need? Food, toys, bedding? It’s also important business owners think how their kits might look different.
Remember, emergency kits come in all shapes and sizes and are likely to look different from neighbour-to-neighbour as every household will require different items. However, there are some essential items that your kit needs – and it’s possible it’s missing one key item.
A good kit is one that can be used for all hazards (not just bushfires), but the best kit is the one that’s ready.
1. 100% woollen blanket
Wool is naturally a flame retardant fibre and can help shield from the effects of radiant heat. The structure of wool fibre requires it to have more oxygen than what’s available in the air to become flammable. For this reason, it’s important the blanket in your fire kit is 100% wool – synthetics can melt and burn easier.
WHERE: Camping/outdoor stores.
2. Water and snacks
Three litres of drinking water per day is the recommended amount of water you should keep in your emergency kit and while it can make your bag heavy, hydration is vital. Consider putting in a few drink bottles and keeping a box of water in the car or next to your emergency kit ready to take, to refill them. Ensure your kit has food for at least 48 hours and enough for the people who you’ll likely be with.
WHERE: Ensure you check the expiry dates of your food each year. Dried fruits and packaged foods are best suited. If you’re including canned products, ensure you have packed a can opener or multi-tool.
3. Waterproof torch (and spare batteries)
Bushfires can happen at any time of day and can impact power services. It’s recommended a battery powered torch, or even a wind-up torch is packed and easily accessible. Ensure you check and test your batteries every year.
WHERE: Hardware stores, camping/outdoor shops.
4. Battery powered radio (and spare batteries)
The importance of a battery powered radio is often overlooked. In fact, this is likely the one missing item from many emergency kits, as people believe they can use their mobile instead. However, it’s important to have multiple communication options ready because mobile phones can’t be relied on in an emergency. Make sure you have a battery powered radio and spare batteries in case your electricity and mobile service go down. Listen to the weather and know your total fire bans. Ensure you check and test your batteries every year. Try looking for one of the hand-cranked radios, some of which don’t even require batteries or only have them as a fail-safe.
WHERE: Hardware stores, camping/outdoor shops.
5. First aid kit, any personal medication and sunscreen
Include a bottle of artificial tears to help flush ash and provide relief from smoke in your eyes. Also include a P2 (dust) face mask, ensuring there are enough for everyone and spares in your kit. Think about the people you care for; do you need any specific medication? Allergy medication or regular tablets?
6. Protective clothing and overnight bag
Despite the heat, wearing protective clothing including long-sleeved collared shirt and long trousers made of natural fibres will increase your chance of survival against radiant heat. Ensure this clothing is loose enough to allow for sweating and cooling but strong enough to protect against radiant heat. This is important whether you are leaving early or staying to defend your property. Ensure you’re also wearing sturdy boots, suitable for walking across burnt ground.
7. Mobile phone and charger
No form of communications should be solely relied on. While you may rely on being able to make calls or on accessing apps, websites, and social feeds to receive updates during emergencies and natural disasters, remember that these could become unavailable without notice. Consider packing a portable charger for your mobile.
8. Emergency contact numbers
Think about your bushfire plan and who you might need to contact. Have these numbers written down on a list as well as stored on your phone, in case you run into trouble with your own phone and need to use someone else’s. Think of numbers for places like your children’s school, council, doctor, vet, or power company.
9. Personal documents
It’s easy to forget these documents when you’re in a hurry, try to organise the items you’re going to need to take with you and have them packed or in a place where they’re easy to collect. Think about items like your passport, insurance papers, jewellery, will, medical prescriptions and drivers licence/photo ID. It can also be helpful to upload important files onto a USB or hard drive.