What is a Survival Kit? Preparing for Emergencies

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We live in a world that can be cruel and unrelenting. Unpredictable weather, natural disaster, the threat of world war not to mention the increase of crime on our domestic soils.

These are all reasons to ensure we, the public and our loved ones are safe and we are prepared as best we can for any unforeseeable emergency.

It emphasizes the importance of having an action plan and a survival kit. Familiarity and training with how to use its contents is also just as important. What is a Survival kit?

A survival kit is a package of basic tools and supplies packed in advance to promote survival in an emergency.

Many facilities have survival kits. Civil and military ships and airplanes are equipped with them, it is also not uncommon to see them in schools, carried by bush rangers, adventure tour companies, and in various critical security environments.

Now more than ever households realize their importance and have adopted them. Its almost irresponsible not to have one.

Who uses Survival Kits

In particularly critical security operations, this level of preparedness is standard practice. It has to be, when you consider the environments and circumstances we may be working in.

As security operators providing armed security at sea. We are working around hazards including heavy machinery with heavy sheet metal and barbwire. Then of course there was activity around working with firearms.

But there was also the threat of being injured or wounded or stranded while being in the middle of nowhere. Of course there were procedures for different type of incidences but being prepared for any eventuality was imperative.

On one occasion, my security team was tasked with protecting personnel and equipment from protestors. This entailed being in dense remote bush. There was no cell phone coverage and it was the middle of winter season.

We were also working helicopters, heavy machinery and hazardous substances. Needless to say, it was important to have best practice operating procedures in the event of an incident that might force us to be in the bush for longer than expected or an emergency. Having a survival kit was essential.

Familiarity and being able to use the survival kit is equally important. Can you imagine being in a situation where you have the best survival kit yet zero capability to use the items within it. It would defeat the purpose of having one.

What’s in a Survival Kit?

Survival kits, come in a variety of shapes and sizes, contain supplies and tools to provide a survivor with shelter and warmth against the elements, meet health and first aid needs, provide food and water, signal to rescuers, and have items to help find a way back to help.

Supplies in a survival kit normally contain a knife or a multi-tool, matches, tinder, first aid kit, medicines, fishing and hunting kit, and a flashlight.

Let’s have a closer look at a basic kit:

  • The bug-out bag – multi compartments, sturdy and wet proof
  • Fire starters and tinder for making fires – fire stick or flint, matches, magnifying glass
  • All weather blanket – light but effective protection from cold and or the heat
  • Metal canteen or water bottle – a good size vessel you can both cook and collect water in
  • Food rations – freeze-dried, noodles or energy bars
  • Parachute cord – can be used for anything from tying stuff down to fire tinder
  • A knife and small machete or saw – for cutting wood and protection from predators
  • Head lamp or lantern – working in the dark and need your hands free
  • Navigational tools – compass, maps, GPS
  • Signaling implements – Signal mirrors, flares, chem lights, a whistle
  • Solar battery charger – If you have sun you will have power
  • GPS and Sat phone –
  • First Aid – comprehensive kit to take care of any scenario imaginable

Your survival kit list can be added to or modified to accommodate your needs. In my opinion it is important that you only carry what is necessary. It should be compact and easy to carry.

Further to my above story to ensure we were prepared for anything there were other items added to our survival kit. These included, axes, shovels, wheel chains, fire extinguishers, extra clothing, tow-ropes etc. Obviously this was kit that was mostly carried in our heavy-duty 4 X 4 vehicles.

During this operation it so happened that a helicopter was landed due to a mechanical problem. It was forced to land in the middle of a clearing accessible only by helicopter. The mechanical part that it needed was going to take 24hrs before it could be flown in with an engineer to repair.

Due to the nature of the threat our client was not prepared to leave the helicopter overnight. A team of two were briefed and their kits packed accordingly.

Our operators were flown to the landing site via another helicopter. What was supposed to be an overnight fix became 48 hours. The team encountered winter weather conditions. However were prepared and well-equipped to handle the situation.

Emergency Survival at Home

With the unpredictability of weather conditions and frequency of natural disasters, a home survival kit is paramount. It is important to have your kit prepared and constantly replenished or replaced. Here is a list of basic items I have in mine. It is stored in a room I have designated as the safe room.

  • Torch with spare batteries – candles are not that great in an earthquake and kerosene lanterns are not designed for enclosed areas creating poor ventilation
  • Radio with spare batteries – you will need to listen to civil defense messages and any news
  • Wind and waterproof clothing, sun hats, and good outdoor shoes
  • First aid kit and essential medicines
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Antiseptic wet wipes – great as toiletries and hand wipes
  • A large bucket with rubbish bags for your emergency toilet
  • Anti septic lotions like Purell
  • Food and water for at least three days – including canned or dried food. Formula and drinks for babies and small children
  • Water for drinking, washing and cleaning
  • A gas cooker or gas barbecue to cook on
  • A can opener, utensils

Check and replace food and water every twelve months. Consider stocking a two-week supply of food and water for prolonged emergencies such as rampant outbreak of disease.


The whole point of having the kit is to effect survival. With that said, no amount of quality equipment, tools or knowledge is the most important to guarantee survival.

The combination of these things will ensure a better chance of survival but the most important thing is being focussed and stay positive  get yourself out of your situation alive. That comes down to a positive attitude and optimizing the use of your kit to ensure a greater success of being found or until you can reach help.

2 Replies to “What is a Survival Kit? Preparing for Emergencies”

  1. Wow, I’m not sure it’s a good or a bad thing, but we pretty much have all of the home survival kit here at hand… simply because we live in South Africa and face regular black-outs and water shortages for days at a time! At least I know we’re pretty much ready for more serious situations, thanks for this!

    1. Hi Isabel, you hear of different types of emergency situations all over the world. We should always be prepared. We have a duty of care to our loved ones and to ourselves to ensure we are.

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