Help your College Student Prepare for Emergencies

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

Back to school season is in full swing, and these last few weeks were spent preparing kids for the first day of school.

We have a couple of nieces and nephews who are going away to college in a few weeks.  This got me thinking what can be done to at least get them prepared for emergencies.   I’ve listed a three layered approach, with the third choice is the most extensive but also the most encompassing.  It all depends on your relationship with the teen, the extent of their involvement with prepping, what you want to prepare for and how much you wish to spend.

I.  Give a prepping themed “going off to college” gift that will be useful in an emergency or at least get them started to think about being prepared:

  • solar cell phone charger
  • multi-tool or Swiss Army Knife
  • paracord bracelet

II.  Assemble a Power Outage/Earthquake/Hurricane Emergency Kit

Include in a small decorative box or basket, items that they will be able to use for a variety of emergencies such as power outage, earthquake or hurricane.  Include the following:  at least three days worth of water bottles, water purifier, easy to prepare foods (canned foods with can opener) or food bars such as Mainstay Energy Bar, high energy snacks such as peanuts, flashlight/radio/charger and batteries, and pocket sized First Aid kit.  Remember most dorm rooms or off campus apartments are small:  everything has to be reasonably sized and efficiently packed. The items have to be simple to use and do not require special preparations.  They may be in a panic when the emergency happens, so include a note with some instructions.

III.  Assemble a Get Home Bag

In the movie Zombieland, the beginning scene showed one of the main characters getting attacked by a zombie in his dorm room.  After this horrible experience, his first instinct initially was to just get home.  This is fiction, but in a real emergency, anyone would want to get home as quickly as possible.  I think the most efficient way to prepare in a dorm would be to assemble a Get Home bag.

In a backpack, include the following items:

  • personal water filter or set of Hydropacks
  • food bars
  • cash (to be used for transportation)
  • First Aid kit
  • a change of clothes and underwear (weather appropriate)
  • good wool socks
  • comfortable shoes
  • rain gear (umbrella and rain poncho)
  • flashlight/weather radio
  • solar charger
  • utility knife (check campus guidelines) or multi-tool
  • signal mirror
  • whistle
  • lighter or matches
  • tarp
  • self protection such as pepper spray
  • small hygiene items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, floss, toilet paper (with cardboard removed), liquid hand sanitizer or wipes, contact lens solution etc.

Adjust the items according to the student’s needs and situation. Have a conversation about what is included in the backpack and situations where it may come in handy.  Include them in your texting tree and explain how it works as well as plans where the family can meet in case of extreme emergency.  As with any emergency preparations, we hope to never have to use them, but  good to have just in case.

© Apartment Prepper 2012






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  1. I would love for my kids to be able to have a get home bag with them or even just in their locker, but I have a hard enough time getting them both to wear a jacket when it’s minus 30 out lol

    1. Hi Jason, This is so true, it’s mostly beyond our control. All you can hope is they remember some of the stuff we try to drill into them 🙂

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