With graduation and wedding season around the corner, and for every gift-giving season, perhaps you would like to get your loved ones something that will leave them better prepared and motivated to think about preparedness. Where do you begin and how do you figure out what to get them? People can be hard to shop for anyway, and if they’re already skeptical, you will want to start out slow. You can increase your chances of creating a thoughtful, practical, and well-accepted gift by taking a few of things into consideration.
First, consider the location of your recipients, including weather and likely challenges. Then consider their lifestyle, perhaps including skill level, experiences, or interests. And finally, consider any unique needs they have. When I did this exercise for my family members, I discovered that survival-minded gifts would look very different for each of them!
For my family in Texas
For this region, the weather is generally above freezing, but tornadoes are frequent. They also deal with heat and floods. The loss of electricity is a real possibility with any of these events. With several major cities in this state, civil unrest is also a potential issue.
For this gift, buy flashlights and extra batteries for the power outages. Add enough canned food (with a can opener!) to last 2-3 days. Duct tape, plastic sheeting, and hammer and nails might be useful in case of storm damage. In that part of the country,most people don’t have basements, so storage is typically a garage. Packing these items in a tub for the garage or a truck might be the best bet.
Special Consideration: Children
For kids, I would suggest packing something in each these categories. (Pack something from each category in your own emergency kits!)
• Treats: Something individually packaged so their parents can bribe or distract them. For example, I keep fruit snacks in my tornado kit in our basement.
• Warmth: Making sure kids’ physical needs are met will go a long way towards meeting their emotional needs during a scary time. Pack a small fleece blanket or cozy sweatshirt (a size too big) for each child.
• Games & Books: Again, distraction is going to be key. Consider a read-aloud chapter book, like Stuart Little or one of the Chronicles of Narnia. Many board games, such as Life and Yahtzee now come in card varieties that would pack very well in an emergency kit.
• Light: Glow sticks, flashlights, headlamps and fun, colorful finger lights are kid friendly. Allowing kids the ability to control the light and what they see (especially Mom and Dad) can be a comfort to them during an emergency.
• Soft things: Even the toughest teen or pre-teen will feel better clutching something soft. A few small stuffed animals for the younger kids, or maybe some foam stress balls for the older ones.
• Sanitation: Baby wipes and more baby wipes! If your tiny relatives might still be in diapers, include a package of next-size-larger disposable diapers or training pants, too. Ziploc type bags will also be valuable for putting dirty diapers in.
The single loved one in Colorado
This region experiences significant weather swings in hours — 50 or 60 degree swings in the same day are common. In winter, blizzards with several feet of snow can result being stuck at home for a few days. And wildfires can mean evacuation is a real possibility. Nearly every summer somewhere in the state, there are people to need to leave at a moments notice.
The lifestyle there tends to be outdoorsy, so portable is key for this gift. Everything should fit in a backpack. Add a waterproof poncho for unexpected weather and consider a including a pair of hiking socks. A colorful Swedish Fire knife would be a great versatile tool. It is lightweight and takes up little space. Some Cliff bars and powdered sports drink mix would easily fit too. And here is the perfect opportunity for a Life Straw, too!
Special consideration: family far away
For the family member who is “isolated” in another state, away from the rest of the extended family, you might consider making them a special evacuation kit. Pack a compass, and paper maps with several exit routes marked out. Make a written communication plan for them, perhaps including your Ham Radio call sign or some other alternative way to contact you. Include a written list of family member addresses and phone numbers, too. Tossing in a photograph of everyone together, in happier times would be a nice touch. This book provides the best information about planning an emergency evacuation and includes numerous checklists.
Housebound in Minnesota
The upper Midwest region is famous for snow and cold. It also gets its share of tornadoes in warmer weather.
Most people in the Midwest have basements, so space usually isn’t an issue. Pack everything in a brightly colored waterproof tub for storage. It will likely be stored in a basement. In the tub, add duct tape, a small collapsible shovel (high quality only!), and one or more fleece blankets. If you have the budget, a small household tool kit would also be a good idea. For the colder months, hand/foot warmers would be essential. Extra wool socks and knit gloves would also be a good idea, and in this article, Survival Mom details the perfect cold weather clothing choices from her family trip to Iceland. Include some canned soups, a can opener, and hot drink packets. For quick heating, include some fire starters or sternos.
Special consideration: dietary restrictions or medical needs
There are a lot of emergency supplies you can provide for your loved one that will help, regardless of their unique dietary or medical needs. For a family member with dietary restrictions, your best bet may be to avoid food altogether. Instead, include a list of food items or quantities they should have on hand, and maybe they will be able to add those themselves. Add a brightly colored note to encourage your loved one to stash away some of their medications or medical supplies.
TIP: Might you or a loved one qualify as a “special needs” prepper? Don’t miss the Survival Needs Prepper series right here on this blog for ideas to prep for the elderly, physically handicapped, those with mental health challenges, and even single moms!
Retired in Arizona
It’s hot, and water is a real concern any time of year, but it is also dry, and the nights can get cold.
Space is an issue in many of the retirement communities. Most residents in these areas have recently downsized, so the thought of adding extra “stuff” doesn’t appeal to them in the least. A very small tub, or even a backpack might be the best bet to hold a selection of useful, compact supplies.
Water is the primary concern. This is another great opportunity to include a Life Straw or a filtering water bottle that combines the filter and a handy container. If you have the budget, you might even consider including a reverse osmosis tent. Tarps and bungee cords would be useful both for shade and collecting water if it did rain. A rechargeable flashlight and solar charger would work well with the often sunny days. Some lip moisturizer, sun screen, as well as some hats or bandanas can help protect the face. Pack dried fruit or space bars for snacks, and a thermal blanket for each person for those unexpectedly cold nights.
Special consideration: Pets
If your loved one has pets, you might consider including some basic items for their pet. If you don’t know what the critter needs, just include a list with your tub or backpack gift. A great list can be found right here at on the Survival Mom’s site.
• Water: A collapsible bowl like this one would fit well in an emergency kit.
• Food: small packages of treats or canned food would mean at least Fido or Fluffy could eat something if their owner was stranded.
• A leash and collar: Normally, the owner probably wants something specific, but including these could mean the difference between being able to keep the animal or not if the pet owners end up in a shelter.
• Packet for documents: A simple office-meeting ID pouch would work to keep the animals paperwork. Again, this is something the owner will have to provide, but a brightly colored note inserted where the documents should go can be a great reminder.
Your goal is not to make preppers out of your family members overnight. Rather, show them you care by making sure they’re taken care of in the event of an emergency that is common to their area. Getting them started might make make it easy for them to take the next steps on their own.
To help them further, you might print out and include a general list like this one from FEMA’s website of suggested items every household should have. Or include the fun-to-read Survival Mom family survival manual. That way, if they want to work on being prepared, it’s easy to take the next step.
Even if they don’t turn into preppers overnight, at least you can worry a little less. If something does happen, they’ll be better off next year than they were this year.