Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. IAO The Emergency Kit

Emergency Kit

So, you might ask yourself “what does this has to do with Thelema? Thelema, in my opinion, is about being independent and self-reliant as possible. During emergencies there are two kinds of people: Assets and liabilities. And I don’t mean this in financial terms, but in terms of life and death. If one is not prepared to share the burden with the rest of the community they become a liability, using up the community’s resources but unable to contribute much in the way of easing discomfort.

In other words, your Reiki and tarot reading skills will not help you here, and people trying to stay alive are not going to rely on you for those. No matter how adept you may be.

Furthermore, if you are a tight-knit group of magicians, you will want to look out for your Brothers and Sisters in Thelema.

This is how I have put together my own Emergency Kit. Keep in mind that I did this during Katrina. Consider how emergency agencies handled more recent events.

Preparing Your Emergency Kit

Hurricane Katrina: An Eye Opening Experience

Surviving catastrophic events like hurricanes is anything but easy, and given the climate changes which are well under way, it would be a good idea to have a general survival plan just in case one should find themselves in a situation like the people of New Orleans did. When Hurricane Katrina struck on August, 2005 it caused major damage and loss to human life. If there was a lesson in Katrina, it is that citizens cannot, and should not count on local or federal government to assist them during these emergencies. Only by revisiting the chain of events which led to that fateful day can we get a full impact for how badly prepared US emergency forces were to deal with the situation and the politics involved.

Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005, and became a Category 1 hurricane as it crossed southern Florida. It caused moderate flooding there, and also took lives. Later, while in the Gulf of Mexico it became a category-five event: one of the strongest hurricanes on record. By the time it made landfall once again on the morning of August 29 on the Mississippi/Louisiana state line, Katrina had actually subsided to a category-three.

It was six days from the time it first began to form until it made landfall. Six days. Every one had their eye on the hurricane, and yet during those six days, federal and local government couldn’t evacuate those poor people. It is a little difficult to believe the response time considering how quick to act our government is in other, more profitable endeavors over seas. To be fair, the hurricane was unpredictable, gaining and loosing strength and even changing directions on a couple of occasions, but here we are – almost 12 years later and the people of New Orleans has yet to recover. Homelessness, crime, poverty and poor living conditions are a part of the course there even now. Surely, the richest country in the world should be able to provide assistance quickly and effectively to its citizens.

The Politics of Emergency Response

If you don’t think that politics enter into domestic emergency relief efforts, or believe that politicians would put politics aside during an emergency to help out people in trouble, you should consider this: During Hurricane Katrina, Cuba and Venezuela (third-world countries) were among the first to offer the U.S. assistance in the form of $1 million dollars, over 1,000 doctors, 26 metric tons of medicine, two MASH units, 10 water purifying plants, 18 generators, 20 tons of bottled water, 50 tons of canned food and 66,000 barrels of heating oil, but their offers were refused by the U.S. government. It doesn’t make sense, does it? I mean, why would our own government turn away their help when so much suffering might have been avoided with those supplies? Assistance by Russia and France was also offered, but once again the U.S. government declined, only to request for it later.

While government plays politics, people were dying of hunger, thirst, lack of medical care and shelter. At least 1,836 people died in Hurricane Katrina. I say “about” because some bodies will never be found. It was the deadliest, costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, costing over $81 billion in damage. Two years later, there was still a large number of homeless people, or folks without electricity, running water and other basic services. The lesson is: don’t expect help from anyone. Be prepared to help yourself.

The Emergency Survival Kit

Survival is usually only necessary for about three days – five days at most since the idea is to survive long enough to get to a safe place. However, given the example of Hurricane Katrina given above, one may want to prepare for several more days. My personal survival kit will sustain a family of three for two weeks. The larger the family, of course, the greater the kit will need to be.

Also, remember that you may need to become mobile. Your kit should be practical for home use, as well as on the road. Keep a small kit in your car.

Large kits can be stored in 5-gallon paint buckets available in any hardware store for a few bucks. Smaller kits can be stashed inside 4” PVC pipe with a glued on cap on one end and a threaded lid on the other. These float and are relatively easy to carry. I don’t recommend using totes or backpack kits unless they are waterproof.

The following is a list showing some items which you may find yourself needing during a natural disaster. Many of these items can be purchased at “dollar stores” all over the country.

Obviously, make sure that you have plenty of your required medications on hand since the supply of medical items will likely be disrupted.


The most obvious need will be adhesive strips (Band-Aids) for minor cuts. Butterfly adhesive strips will hold separated or recently sutured skin together.

Super Glue or Crazy Glue will hold flesh together until you can get stitches and is good on minor cuts as well.

Sutures: you don’t need to be a doctor to use these. Remember that this is survival. Clean the wound, saturate it in iodine and sew it closed. It may become infected, and if it does treat it with antibiotics until you can get to a hospital.

Gauze bandages and gauze tape are a must for your kit. Kotex are not sterile, but they are clean and make absorbent bandages that can be used to stop bleeding.

Have a couple of ace bandages for sprains and to hold bandages on. Hot and cold packs are a must, and bungee cords can double up as tourniquets.

Ointments, creams, and repellents

Bactine or any other topical spray containing lidocaine makes a great pain killer for damaged skin. Remember that it is difficult to perform at your best if you are uncomfortable, so comfort plays a big role in how well you survive.

Use Iodine on larger wounds and before suturing.

Calamine lotion for insect bites and poison oak: again, not necessarily crucial for life and death situations, but comfort maximizes your overall chances.

For burn ointment try to get something with silver nitrate. Never use a petroleum or oil base cream on burns.

Rubbing alcohol is a good and cheap disinfectant.

Eyewashes are unbelievably valuable when you have something in your eye and your survival depends on seizing opportunities.

Peroxide is awesome for cleaning small wounds as well as helping to prevent trench mouth.

Bug repellant – go for something unscented. A scent will give you away when you are trying to escape a crime zone.

Tiger balm will help with sore muscles and comes in small, easy to carry tins.

Orajel contains benzocaine which numbs. Use it for tooth injuries, and it can also be used on minor injuries to relieve pain temporarily. They also sell tooth repair kits over the counter these days, complete with temporary fillings. Better safe than sorry.

Keep some anti-fungal cream to treat and prevent athlete’s foot, ringworm, and other skin parasites. The active ingredient in Lamisil works best.

Bacitracin is a good thing to apply to cuts and wounds as it helps to speed up healing; Vaseline and A & D cream are good to hydrate skin or create a waterproof barrier over wounds but these should never be applied to burns because they are oil based products. Diaper rash cream will prevent jock itch better than jock itch medicine will. Don’t forget sunscreen to prevent burns during exposure.

Cleaning & Hygiene

Wet wipes, like the ones used on diaper changes are awesome to have around for just about anything. Get unscented ones.

Instant waterless hand sanitizer like the kind that is available in plastic dispensers are useful to sterilize ones hands before dealing with a wound that requires stitching.

A cleaning syringe is good for cleaning dirt and other debris from wounds by squirting it with sterilized water or iodine.

Q-tips are useful for ear and wound cleaning, as well as serving as applicators for various ointments.


On the top of the list are pain relievers and fever reducing meds, such as aspirin, Aleve and Tylenol. Aspirin is the best pain killer bar none. However, do not use aspirin is you are bleeding, are healing from a bleeding wound, or are having a menstrual period. That will only delay healing by preventing the blood from coagulating. It will increase the blood flow and the need for bandages. In those cases use Tylenol or Aleve instead. If you have children, make sure to pack pain and fever reducer for them as well.

Imodium AD: you may be forced into drinking unsafe drinking water that could cause diarrhea. People often die from the dehydration caused by diarrhea. Try to keep at least 30 tablets in your First Aid Kit. Rice and rice water are excellent binders and may relief diarrhea in a pinch if there is no Imodium, but rice requires water, and water is what gets one into this mess in the first place. Young babies with diarrhea may get temporary relief from drinking water in which rice has been cooked since the starches help bind stool.

To treat diarrhea caused by Giardia and other bacteria you will need antibiotics and parasite drugs. The best antibiotic is Ciprofloxacin, and you should take it for 5 to 7 days. Metronidazole (Flagyl) is a parasite killer. You will need to take both of them at the same time. To get these, you can ask your doctor. As a matter of course, they readily prescribe these two medications to patients who plan on visiting South American countries.

Hard alcohol such as whiskey, vodka and pure grain are great for pain killing and anesthetizing in a pinch. But be careful because they also incapacitate people. Never use it if your life will depend on picking up and moving to another location.

Have heartburn medication as well. A teaspoon of baking soda in a full glass of water will work in a pinch.

Note: You should always include medications you may need. For instance if you are asthmatic put an extra inhaler in your first aid kit. If you suffer from heartburn include the heartburn medication you are taking, or Allergy medications if you are allergic to anything.


Again, for fluids think in terms of 1 person = 1 gallon of water per day. Drinks with electrolytes in them such as Gatorade, or Pedealite will help in the event of dehydration. Ginger ale and 7up are both great for replenishing your body with the necessary sugars after diarrhea or vomiting. Have some of this around if you have babies for sure.


Latex gloves are good for handling bio-hazardous materials and for treating wounds. Safety goggles will protect your eyes during bad storms or while working. An Exacto knife makes a good emergency scalpel if it is properly sterilized. In fact, medical grade scalpels can be purchased at many plant stores. Tweezers are needed for removing splinters and thorns as well as for removing debris from open wounds. Small syringes with needles make it easy to drain infected wounds without reopening them. A thermometer is especially handy if you have kids.

Emergency Foods

Fluids and Drinks

Again, try to guesstimate one gallon of water per day per person. Adding five drops of bleach per one gallon will preserve the water for up to six months. Store canned juices – not frozen. Frozen juices require water, whereas canned ones do not. They are bulky and some times heavy to carry around, but water may be impossible to find. Furthermore, they will spoil if not kept frozen. Again, think of drinks with electrolytes, powdered milk, instant coffee, and teas of your preference.

Canned foods

Look for protein rich foods such as canned and potted meats. Tuna, chicken, and beef can all be bought in cans. Canned vegetables of all kinds come packed in their own water so you wont have to use your drinking water for cooking. Beans such as kidney, garbanzos, black beans, and refried beans are also good sources of protein. Canned soups are a good idea if they are not the kinds that require adding water. Chile and beans are good camping food, and so is peanut butter. The downside, of course, is the weight should you need to leave your shelter.

Dry and Dehydrated Foods

Top Ramen is the ultimate urban survival C-ration. It is cheap; last for a loooooong time and it isn’t that bad if you are starving. It does require water, but the noodles are precooked, and can be eaten raw in a pinch.

Minute rice is good in emergencies provided that there is water. Beans, pasta, couscous, dehydrated vegetables; barley, wheat and bouillon can be combined dry into easy to use zip-lock bags. You just toss the contents into some boiling water and you have soup. If you have no water, toss in a can of vegetables and used the fluid as the base for your soup. If you have an inexpensive food dehydrator, you can dry vegetables before they spoil in your fridge for this purpose.

Nuts, cereal, crackers and dehydrated fruits make for good in between meals if you are in the move and unable to stop to eat right away. Chocolate is a natural laxative, and if you have ever been in the field for longer than a week you will know how valuable having chocolate can be.

Flower and yeast can be used for making bread provided you are at home. Try to avoid anything in glass since it can break. Plastic containers work best, are lighter than glass and float.


Matches and waterproof matches. You can make your own emergency waterproof matches by dipping the tips of striker anywhere matches into wax a couple of times until the wax covers the match head. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a completely waterproof match. If the stick is exposed to the elements moisture will travel up through the wood ruining your match, so keep them in a waterproof container. Also, don’t think that you can get around the moisture problem by dipping the entire match. If you do that, the entire thing will catch fire when you light it and you will burn yourself. Make them, and stick them into a waterproof container – such as a film container.

Sterno is a wonderful survival product. Comes in an aluminum can, it is light and burns for a long time. Charcoal briquettes are good to have around if you are surviving at home with a small BBQ. If not, you will want to have some lighting fuel. In a pinch you could use your rubbing alcohol from your First Aid Kit. A thing to keep in mind about fire is that it will almost always disclose your location, and this might not be desirable if crime is an issue.


Flash Lights (3), extra batteries, and citronella candles. You can make your own candles from the left over wax of old candles you have now. Better yet, you can buy battery-less flashlights which just require a few shakes to charge up for a few bucks.


Have a battery-operated radio, extra batteries, and CB radio. Before you laugh at the idea of a CB radio, you should know that the letters CB stand for “Citizen’s Band” radio, and they were designed specifically with emergencies in mind. They cost about $40 and you can run them in your car or at home with an adapter. They have a range of about 5 miles. Handheld units can be purchased to keep track of the family. Cell phones do not always work during an emergency. Ask anyone that survived Katrina.

Sleeping Gear

All weather sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows. Emergency blankets are a must. They are light, fit in your pocket and really do work. They can be stored in those vacuum-sealed storage bags in advance. Shove them in the bag and use a vacuum cleaner to suck the air out. They are waterproof, easy to carry, they float and will hold a surprisingly amount of material.

Other Essentials

Nylon tarps make good shelters, but they can be seen at a distance which may or may not be desirable depending on the circumstances. Nylon rope is indispensable.

Silverware, pots and pans, and dishes are extremely important: don’t use throwaway eating utensils. They take up too much room. Use a good set of metal ones that you can reuse. You would be surprised how easy it is to clean with dry dirt. Don’t forget the dammed can opener! You can pick up a serious military one called the P-38 for under a buck. It gets sharper the more you use it. I have had mine since 1983 and have used it intensively. It is still with me today.

Pocketknife: get one of the cheap ones with the serrated blades. They are very, very sharp and provide good protection. You can do without bulky tools if you get yourself a utility knife and Leatherman Tool.

Water containers. Plastic is good when you are on in the move. Glass is best for storing water at home.

Bleach is indispensable for cleaning, disinfecting and preserving water. Bleach can also be used to decontaminate biological and chemical agents from ones containers and cans. You can even use it in water to get rid of many chemicals, such as pesticides, from vegetables and fruits.

Toothpaste and toothbrushes: Remember, the length of ones ability to survive is proportional to ones comfort. Use hydrogen peroxide to avoid trench mouth.

Air and watertight containers for storage: use your imagination. Think of items you throw away without even thinking about it. How handy is an empty 2-liter soda pop container (empties can be used as floats), or a jar of baby food? A film container will easily hold your waterproof matches. Zip-Lock Baggies can store pre-made dry meals such as soups, and they can hold bandages and other things that should be kept dry.

Trash bags will serve as an emergency seal to prevent body heat from escaping in the cold. Punch holes for your head and arms and wear it under your jacket. Worn outside of your jacket it can help keep you dry in the rain. Gloves for working and for keeping warm. You can make your own custom-made containers by using 4” PVC pipe in whatever length you may need, capping of one end and gluing an O-ring sealed lid on the other.

Many, many things can be repaired or created on the fly with rubber cement, Crazy Glue and duct tape. Dish washing soap can be used on anything from your hair to your skin. It can also help separate pollutants floating on water sources. Anti bacterial soap will come in very handy should you need to sterilize your hands. A folding shovel, sewing kit, thread and extra buttons, safety glasses, and respirators are a huge plus.

Some Tips Which Might Come In Handy

If your house runs on natural gas or propane: TURN THE GAS OFF RIGHT AWAY!

Do NOT flush your house toilet. The water in the tank may be used for emergency purposes. It is the same water that comes out of your tap.

Your water heater contains many gallons of life-saving water. The water may be emptied from the water heater by opening the valve at the bottom of the tank. BEFORE YOU DO THIS turn off your gas at the meter, or shut off the power to your water heater to prevent serious damage. After the emergency is over, and water service has been restored, make sure that your water heater is full of water before restoring power to it.

Panty liners can be used as bandages in an emergency.

If you have solar powered lights outside to mark the driveway at night, bring them inside or take them with you. These will provide some light during the night and they don’t require batteries.

Lining a bucket with a trash bags can make a simple emergency toilet. After each use, you can reduce odors by liberally sprinkling carpet cleaner, baking soda, or lime, over solid waste and closing the lid. Use dirt if nothing else is available. Change the bag when the bucket is 25% full to prevent bag from breaking or leaking. Take bag to an outside location until emergency is over and then dispose of properly. If possible, only use the house toilets for liquid waste and the emergency toilet for solid waste. This will reduce the chances of leakage while changing liners.


Dogs are incredible resources during an emergency. They provide an early warning system, are good scavengers for food and will protect you against others. It is smart to prepare a small backpack for your dog. You can even buy commercially made ones, but there are two things to remember: make sure that the backpack is waterproof, and don’t weight down the dog unnecessarily. With a good fitting backpack a dog can carry his own food rations, and/or a first aid kit. What your dog can realistically hold will depend on the size and breed of the dog.

The Last Word

My first aid/survival kit is waterproof for several obvious reasons. The least obvious reason is that if the disaster occurs far away from my kit, or in the event that I have to abandon the kit because it is no longer practical for me to carry it, I want others to be able to use it. This may be a radical notion these days where we have learned to ignore the ethics of “looking out for number 1,” but during these difficult times we will only have one another, and will likely have to rely on the kindness of others to watch our backs.

We can all do our part to help one another, and if your kit is of no good use to you, then perhaps it may help some person you don’t know and will likely never meet to survive rather than rotting under several feet of unclean water.


Gerald del Campo

Gerald Enrique del Campo (b. 1960) is a poet, musician, song writer, photographer, magician, philosopher, author, Bishop and lecturer on occult and religious topics. He was born in Córdoba, Argentina on January 14, 1960.

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