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DIY: Building an Emergency Prep Kit

By: Jessica, U.S. Coast Guard Spouse


Being from the Midwest, I’m always ready to take on a tornado should it head our way. From the moment I walk into our homes I access what’s the best central-focused closet, sturdy door frame, and/or tub to take shelter in for hours should we have a tornado visit our abode. Know what I didn’t have a clue about prior to being a Coastie milspouse? Hurricanes. When I married my husband I “slightly” knew what the military life would be, but never in my wildest dreams would I think 13 years into marriage I could say I’ve solo evacuated twice with three children under the age of seven.

Evacuation one was the toughest, due in part to the young age of my children at the time. That first evacuation I learned a ton, primarily because I evacuated with a milspouse who is a mix between Mary Poppins and MacGyver. It wasn’t her first rodeo, and it’s safe to say I learned from her throughout every single moment of the madness.

Allow me to share with you the “must-have” and “worth considering” recommendations Milspouse Mary/MacGyver taught me:

Must-Have Standard Prep Kit Items

  • Flashlight (including batteries)
  • Hand-crank radio
  • First aid kit
  • Water (one gallon per person per day)
  • Nonperishable food
  • Prescription medications (Fill prescriptions ASAP if something is brewing that might force you to evacuate.)
  • Blankets
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Copies of all important documents (e.g., deed, birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, insurance policies, etc.)
  • Cash (Note that ATMs might not be working and/or readily available.)
  • Cell phone chargers
  • Baby items (formula, diapers, etc.)
  • Pet supplies and records
  • Manual can opener
  • Scissors
  • Bleach and Clorox wipes
  • Baby wipes
  • Garbage bags
  • Wrench/pliers to turn on/off utilities


Prep Kit Items Worth Considering

  • Games
  • Swim gear (If you get evacuated to a hotel, don’t forget to pack swim items!)
  • Movies
  • Coloring and craft supplies
  • Books
  • Laundry detergent
  • Laundry bags (Trust me on this one. Our last evacuation I was in a hotel for six days. We were on the third floor and the laundry room was on the first floor.)
  • Room freshener
  • Nonprescription medication (Tylenol, allergy, etc.)
  • Baggies, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap (You won’t have your typical cabinet of Tupperware for leftovers, so plan accordingly.)
  • Paper plates, napkins, plastic cups, plastic utensils
  • Feminine hygiene items
  • Sound machine
  • Blankets from home


Milspouse Mary/MacGyver Additional Tips

  • Assign a family/friend who will serve as your main point of contact and whom family and friends can get regular updates from. The quickest way to drain your phone battery is to update tons of people every day. Have a key person who will relay your updates.
  • Try to reserve a room that has a kitchenette.
  • If you’re in an area where the military is evacuating you, make sure to wait for official orders, or you will have to foot the bill for the days they didn’t approve. (Note: Both times I left a day early to beat traffic, and we just covered the cost.)
  • Have a person on standby to help with putting shutters up and taking them down.
  • Pay attention once you’re evacuated to special “evacuation deals” companies might be offering in the area. Most times communities embrace evacuees and run specials.
  • Stock up on wine boxes if needed. Here’s the scoop: People panic when evacuations are on the horizon. During the last hurricane, our town ran out of ice packs and ice. I froze boxed wine. The wine catheters served as amazing ice packs.
  • Clean out your fridge prior to leaving so you’re aren’t welcomed home to funky smells.
  • Take quick pics of your entire house so you know the state it was left in.
  • Unplug items from your walls prior to leaving.
  • Secure all outside items (trash cans, rockers, flags, etc.).
  • Take a plastic glass of water and freeze it. Place a quarter on the top. Once you get back, you’ll know if you’ve lost power based on if the quarter is still on top, or if it’s shifted within the frozen water.
  • Phone a friend. Before you venture back to your home after the storm, see if a neighbor can pop in and check on the status of your home. In the event your home has some serious damage, you might want a plan B instead of heading straight home.


Being a Coast Guard spouse, I have to be ready for my husband to deploy and move the ship out of harm’s way well before a hurricane arrives. That means often I’m left to fend for myself and littles. The more I plan ahead the easier the evacuation is. My kids still talk about the last evacuation as our “vacation in Georgia.” I assure you, it was far from a vacation, but we did make the best of it and memories were made.


You’ve got this! Hopefully now you’re prepared to take on an evacuation and MacGyver the heck out of it.