Benjamin Franklin said: “Diligence is the mother of good luck”. As our children and grandchildren head out the door and off to college or to live alone in a new city, we all pray everything will be well with them and they will be safe. Our diligence can help assure that they will be prepared in the event of a natural disaster.

Several years I researched the preparations all of the BYU campuses were making in case of a disaster. The following week there was an earthquake in Hawaii. I quickly sent an article to Meridian Magazine explaining the preparations which had been made, and what was happening on campus. I was amazed how many people contacted me to say thanks, because they had not been able to contact their student. Your diligence now will help relieve your fears if your student faces an emergency situation.

Although all three of the BYU campuses have great emergency plans in place, it would be impossible to meet all student and staff needs during a crisis. Many other universities, colleges and vocational schools do not have wonderful plans. Likewise, life in a strange place while starting that first job includes no safety nets except those we create, making our diligence even more crucial. There are three things we can do today to help prepare our loved ones for the unexpected events on life’s journey. 

First: Emergency Survival Kit

We used to call these “72 hour kits” but we have learned in every disaster since Katrina that these kits should be “120 hour kits”, at least. Seventy-two hours is just the starting point for a big natural event, so lets call it what it really is, a “Survival Kit”. Whether you prepare for 72 hour or for the 120 hours that is now recommended, the important thing is to prepare.  All the campus emergency coordinators I spoke with agreed that every student should have their own kit. For those who may be driving back and forth from school to your home (such as in the dead of winter) I suggest you design a kit that can double as an auto kit and be kept in the car.

All great survival kits begin with a great backpack. Make sure it is large enough for everything on your list. Your pack should have padded shoulder straps for comfort and should be supported from the waist when it is carried, for optimum support. A pack with several compartments will allow you to separate items and organize your kit, enabling you to find things quickly. Purchase a backpack that is a bright color – easily found in a cluttered closet or car trunk.

Water: The most important item in your pack is water. Three gallons of water per person is optimum, however it is impossible to carry this amount. Purchase mylar pouches or boxed water which has a five year shelf life. Remember that having too much water is better than not enough. You can purchase a great sports bottle from the store – it includes a filter that will purify over 100 gallons of water filtering out “99.99%” of impurities. This is a great way to “store” water, since even a polluted or muddy water source can be made safe to drink after using the filter.

Food: The best food choices are those specifically designed for survival. These have a minimum shelf life of three to five years, which allows you to forget about them for longer periods of time – MREs, energy bars or carb bars are all good choices. For students, forget granola bars, nuts, trail mix, foil packed tuna, individual servings of canned fruit.  Be realistic, your son or daughter will not rotate them.

Multi-function tool or pocketknife: These will provide everything from can openers to knife blades, pliers, saw blades and screw drivers. A must-have tool that can be found in the big box stores, auto parts, or discount tool chains.

Flashlight and Communications: Store flashlight and batteries separately in your pack on the top or in a front pocket where they can be accessed quickly. Also, glow sticks are a smart choice. I love glow sticks because they will provide light all night long without running down the batteries in a flashlight, they are safe in all situations including gas leaks and auto accidents when a flame and even a spark from a flashlight battery could be dangerous. A crank radio/flashlight provides not only battery free light but also communications.

Mylar survival blankets: These have dozens of uses including warmth and use as a signaling device. They are inexpensive and lightweight.

Whistle: A must if your student should become stranded and rescue workers are looking for them.

First Aid Kit: Be sure the kit includes a first aid guide, or purchase one separately. The guides are usually less that $2.00.

A few more tips about Survival Kits:

1. Kits should be kept in a location near an exit door but away from water heaters and furnaces. Also keep a pair of comfortable walking/work shoes with your pack.

2. The best container for you pack is one that allows your hands to remain free. You are then more able to carry critical items that must go when you go – like your laptop, backup hard drive, medications, journal or family history.

3. Your extra keys and a light source should be kept in an outside pocket or at the top of your pack for easy access in an emergency.

4. Go through your kits before an emergency occurs to familiarize yourself with all the items and how to use them. Two examples:

  • A mylar blanket can be used during a winter power outage – tape it up to cover a window and keep out drafts.
  • A solar/crank radio must have a solar charge before it will work so it should be charged before an emergency.

5. Rotate the food and water in your kits. Never add food to your kit that will increase your thirst, such as jerky. If you are in doubt, eat the item and see if you get thirsty shortly thereafter. At the end of the year, eat the food and replenish before next year, or only add food to your kit that is rated for five years.

6. Check your kit yearly for expired batteries, prescriptions and other medications. Also check clothing items to make sure they still fit.

7. Never store batteries in your flashlights or radios, as batteries can leak and ruin them.

Second: Food Storage

Every student should have a two week supply of food on hand – not to eat but for emergencies.

A two week supply should include: 10 (14oz.) cans of fruit, 10 (14 oz.) cans vegetables, 6 pounds protein, 6 pounds grains, 1.2 pounds dairy and the equivalent of 128 oz. of 100% juice. All these numbers are based on a balanced diet as outlined in the food pyramid.

Food should include some items to be eaten without heating just in case there is no power. These might include peanut butter, tuna, crackers, even soups that do not need water added. Of course you can send the kids off with directions for making a “stove” out of items around the apartment, but just in case, plan for meals that will not be cooked.

Canned foods provide an additional “water” source.

As you stock your student’s shelves, remind them the water from green beans can be used to cook pasta and the juice from canned peaches can to used to make oatmeal. Naturally, you will want to also leave them with several containers of water.


Protein may include beans, nut butters, tuna and canned meats. Canned chicken mixed with a little mayo makes a great salad for a sandwich.

Grains may include pasta, rice, oatmeal, pancake mix and muffin mixes. All these need to be cooked so also add crackers, cold cereal and even pretzels.

Dairy is not as hard to store as it may sound. Store boxed milk or soy milk, evaporated milk, powdered milk and a big brick of cheese. Cheeses which have been waxed will last on the shelf for years. You may want to add a bottle of chocolate syrup to add to the powdered or evaporated milk if your student does not appreciate these.

Finally, don’t forget condiments to go with all this food. Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, jelly and even pickles make eating the same menu over and over more appealing.

Impress upon your son or daughter that these are emergency supplies and should be replaced as they are used to ensure they will have what they need should an emergency arise. If your student is attending one of the BYU campuses, a natural disaster is very possible during their time at school. There is earthquake potential in Provo and Hawaii. Blizzards with power outages can happen in Provo and Rexburg. Flooding is possible at all three campuses. Hurricanes, volcanoes, and tsunamis are inevitable in Hawaii, and wildfires have troubled even Y mountain in Provo.  No matter which college your student will be attending anywhere in the world, be sure they have food and water. No campus can supply these essentials to all their students for more than a day or two at most.

Third: Spiritual Preparedness

I loved stepping into a classroom at BYU for the first time and seeing a picture of the Savior. That first venture out on your own is a difficult time for all of us. At this stage of life we are trying to decide what we believe, who we are and how we want to live the rest of our lives. It is a time when the adversary is busy trying to dull our conscience and lure us away from truth.

Prepare your child with picture images of sacred things for their apartments. Temples, family photos, and inspirational quotes are all great additions. Subscribe to the Ensign for your student. Consider a phone app. Really. The standard works are now available for various phone platforms. Why an app? What a perfect way to help your child reflect on the spiritual each day. You can also text them with a scripture each morning or each night as they prepare for bed.

For example, if you know your child is having a difficult time making a decision, text them: D&C 9:8. They can then go to their copy of the standard works and read: “But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”

For a trial of faith you could text Alma 32:27 and they could then read “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.”

There are answers to all our questions and solutions to our problems in the scriptures. Be sure your child has the scriptures with them wherever they go. No child would be caught without their phone, and these days that means they never have to be without the scriptures. Why wait until they leave your home – give them the gift of the scriptures today.

As your children and grandchildren leave home, they need more help to prepare for the temporal and spiritual challenges ahead than they realize. They will need help from someone who has been down that road before – someone like you.

For students, and everyone else who drives a car, check out Carolyn’s book Totally Ready for the Road, a must have for every glove box. To reach Carolyn: Ca*****@To**********.com or at

***In my last article I challenged readers to Vacation Like a Pioneer. I received a note from a reader about an opportunity to Trek like a Pioneer. If you are the descendant of the Martin Handcart Company  or their rescuers consider this great opportunity.