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A survival kit is a package of basic tools and supplies prepared in advance as an aid to survival in an emergency. Civil and military aircraft, lifeboats, and spacecraft are equipped with survival kits.
Survival kits, in a variety of sizes, contain supplies and tools to provide a survivor with basic shelter against the elements, help him or her to keep warm, meet basic health and first aid needs, provide food and water, signal to rescuers, and assist in finding the way back to help. Supplies in a survival kit normally contain a knife (often a Swiss army knife or a multi-tool), matches, tinder, first aid kit, bandana, fish hooks, sewing kit, and a flashlight.
Civilians such as forestry workers, surveyors, or bush pilots, who work in remote locations or in regions with extreme climate conditions may also be equipped with survival kits. Disaster supplies are also kept on hand by those who live in areas prone to earthquakes or other natural disasters. For the average citizen to practice disaster preparedness, some towns will have survival stores to keep survival supplies in stock.
The American Red Cross recommends an emergency preparedness kit that is easy to carry and use in the event of an emergency or disaster.
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The general contents of an emergency survival kit depend on the location. Basic components in a survival kit address the needs of first aid, food, water, shelter, navigation, and signalling.
A variety of materials are recommended for emergency shelters, and vary between geographic regions. Options often included in survival kits may consist of:
First aid kits will often include a combination of the following:
Most survival kits involve sustenance for short periods of time, to be used and replenished before contents spoil.
Since the primary goal of a survival kit for lost or injured persons is rescue, this part of the kit may be considered the most essential. Key elements for rescue include:
Survival kit tools emphasize portability and versatility. Tools recommended for many types of survival kit include:
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Lifeboat survival kits are stowed in inflatable or rigid lifeboats or life rafts; the contents of these kits are mandated by coast guard or maritime regulations. These kits provide basic survival tools and supplies to enable passengers to survive until they are rescued. In addition to relying on lifeboat survival kits, many mariners will assemble a "ditch bag" or "abandon ship bag" containing additional survival supplies. Lifeboat survival kit items typically include:
Survival kits for military aviators are often modified according to the environment of operations:
The US Army uses several basic survival kits, mainly for aviators, some of which are stored in carrying bags. Aviators in planes with ejection seats have survival kits in a vest and the seat pan, the survival vest worn by US helicopter crews also contains some basic survival items.
Astronauts are provided with survival kits due to the difficulty of predicting where a spacecraft will land on its return to earth, especially in the case of an equipment failure. In early US space flights, the kit was optimised for survival at sea; the one provided for John Glenn on the first American space flight in Friendship 7 contained "a life raft, pocket knife, signaling mirror, shark repellent, seawater desalting tablets, sunscreen, soap, first aid kit, and other items". A survival kit was provided for the Apollo program which was "...designed to provide a 48-hour postlanding (water or land) survival capability for three crewmen between 40 degrees North and South latitudes". It contained "a survival radio, a survival light assembly, desalter kits, a machete, sunglasses, water cans, sun lotion, a blanket, a pocket knife, netting and foam pads".
The kits provided for Soviet and Russian Cosmonauts are optimised for survival in the temperate and sub-arctic mountains, forests and grasslands in the east of the country. Soyuz spacecraft kits include "food rations, water bottles, warm clothing, rope for making a shelter using the capsule’s parachute, fish hooks and miscellaneous other survival gear". A specially designed pistol, the TP-82, was provided to defend against predators such as wolves or bears. It was able to fire conventional bullets, shotgun cartridges and flares; the folding stock could be used as a shovel and it also had a fold-out machete.
"Mini survival kits" or "Altoids tin" survival kits are small kits that contain a few basic survival tools. These kits often include a small compass, waterproof matches, minimum fishing tackle, large plastic bag, small candle, jigsaw blade, craft knife or scalpel blade, and/or a safety pin/s. Pre-packaged survival kits may also include instructions in survival techniques, including fire-starting or first aid methods. In addition, parachute cord can be wrapped around the tin. The parachute cord can be used for setting up an emergency shelter or snaring small animals. They are designed to fit within a container roughly the size of a mint tin.
Other small kits are wearable and built into everyday carry survival bracelets or belts. Most often these are paracord bracelets with tools woven inside. Several tools such as firestarter, buckles, whistles and compass are on the exterior of the gear and smaller tools are woven inside the jewelry or belt and only accessible by taking the bracelet apart.
Lightweight survival kits are generally seen as a backup means of survival; however, these can kits can be extensive, and have come to include tools that are generally found in larger kits as survival technology advances. Some examples of these tools are high power flashlights, rapid use saws, signal devices such as mini signal mirrors, and water purification methods.
Another level in some preparedness plans are Vehicle Kits. In some cases, supplies and equipment may be loaded into vehicle such as a van or truck with bicycle racks and an extra “reserve” gas tank. Some survivalists also carry a small (e.g., 250 cc) off-road-capable motorcycle in the van or truck.
Food supplies in a bug-out vehicle include hundreds of pounds of wheat, rice, and beans, and enough honey, powdered milk, canned goods, bottled fruit, vitamins, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, salt, pepper, spices, and oil for several months. In addition, the kits often contain high-calorie energy bars, a cooking kit, utensils, liquid soap, and towels. The water supplies may include bottled water, filtering kit, bottles, collapsible water containers, and chlorine bleach for water purification. Food preparation and washing equipment may include items such as a grain grinder, a bread mixer, a strainer, a manual can opener, a steam canner with canning jars and O-rings, cutlery, knives, an electric 12-volt cooler icebox, kerosene lamps and heaters, kerosene or propane stoves, extra fuel, a clothes wringer, a foot-operated treadle sewing machine, and an electric hot plate (which would require an inverter to operate off a car battery).
The medical supplies may include a blood pressure gauge, stethoscope, scissors, tweezers, forceps, disposable scalpels, two thermometers (oral and rectal), inflatable splints, bandages, sutures, adhesive tape, gauze, burn ointment, antibiotic ointment, aspirin, rubbing alcohol, ipecac syrup, sterile water, cotton rags, soap, and cotton swabs.
The transportation items may include bicycles with off-road tires and suspension, emergency tools and spare auto parts (e.g., fuses, fan belts, light bulbs, head light, tire pump, etc.), and an inflatable raft with paddles.
In addition, the kits may contain typical individual "survival kit" items, such as nylon tarps, extra clothes and coats, blankets, sleeping bags, matches or other fire starting equipment, a compass and maps, flashlights, toilet paper, soap, a pocket knife and bowie knife, a fishing kit, a portable camping stove, a power inverter, backpack, paper and pencil, a signaling mirror, whistle, cable saw, bleach, insect repellent, magnifying glass, rope and nylon cord, pulleys, and a pistol and ammunition.
The communications equipment may include a multi-band receiver/scanner, a citizens band (CB) radio, portable "walkie-talkies" with rechargeable batteries, and a portable battery-powered television. The power supplies may include a diesel or gasoline generator with a one-month fuel supply, an auto battery and charger, extension cord, flashlights, rechargeable batteries (with recharger), an electric multi meter, and a test light. Defense items include a revolver, semi-automatic pistol, rifle, shotgun, ammunition, mace or pepper spray, and a large knife such as a KA-BAR or a bowie knife.
Tools may include cutting tools such as saws, axes and hatchets; mechanical advantage aids such as a pry bar or wrecking bar, ropes, pulleys, or a 'come-a-long" hand-operated winch; construction tools such as pliers, chisels, a hammer, screwdrivers, a hand-operated twist drill, vise grip pliers, glue, nails, nuts, bolts, and screws; mechanical repair tools such as an arc welder, an oxy-acetylene torch, a propane torch with a spark lighter, a solder iron and flux, wrench set, a nut driver, a tap and die set, a socket set, and a fire extinguisher. As well, some survivalists bring barterable items such as fishing line, liquid soap, insect repellent, light bulbs, can openers, extra fuels, motor oil, and ammunition.
The US government's Homeland Security website provides a list of in-home emergency kit items. The list focuses on the basics of survival: fresh water, food, clean air and materials to maintain body warmth. These basic survival items comprised into a kit are known as a Bug-out bag. The recommended basic emergency kit items include:
Below is list of commonly recommended items for an emergency earthquake kit:
The term "survival kit" may also refer to the larger, portable survival kits prepared by survivalists, called "bug-out bags" (BOBs), "Personal Emergency Relocation Kits" (PERKs) or "get out of Dodge" (GOOD) kits, which are packed into backpacks, or even duffel bags. These kits are designed specifically to be more easily carried by the individual in case alternate forms of transportation are unavailable or impossible to use.
These bags contain supplies such as food, water purification equipment, clothing, medical equipment, communications gear, and tools.
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