Civil Defence - tips for a cost effective kit

With all this weird weather we've been having resulting in floods and power cuts, many of you may have been thinking about a civil defence kit. Here's an easy guide to putting one together on a budget.

A civil defence kit is a collection of items you keep in your home to help if there is some sort of public emergency. This could be anything from a power cut to war - but in this long, thin, isolated country we call home, it's mostly likely to be weather related.

As we move into cyclone season, the north of New Zealand has to accept it is vulnerable to the tail end of Pacific storms that could cause floods and power outages that may last a few days. Buying a civil defence kit can be a costly exercise, but not having one could cost you more in the long run. Here's a quick, cheap family kit you can put together on a budget.

What you need:

Water - it's recommended you have three litres of clean water per person per day. You can buy bottled water in the supermarket and provided the bottle isn't opened, it lasts a long time. Countdown sell 10l of spring water for $6.50. A family of five will need 45 litres of water for three days. You could add a bottle on to your shopping list once a month until you have the required amount. Another option is to keep your old plastic bottles and fill them up with water from your tap. This water will not last as long, and you should replace it at least every week. Should you need to use it, it would be good if it could be boiled first.

Food - again, you need food for each family member for three days. Remember, if you are on piped gas or electric only, you may not be able to use your stove. Think about how you might cook this food. If you have a BBQ, make sure you keep a spare gas bottle or a bag of charcoal handy. You may want to invest in a cheap camping stove for emergencies. The food you chose needs to be tinned or dried, but it shouldn't take too long to cook. A dried split lentil soup mix might only be $1.50 a pack, but it can take three hours to cook and use lots of water. The best choices are tinned ready meals, like sausages and beans or chilli, and packets of dried fruit. Here is a suggested shopping list for a family of five:

1 x bag quick oats

5 x 1l UHT milk

2 x bag dried fruit

2 x pack rice cakes

1 x meat spread jar

1 x chocolate spread jar

1 x marmite

1 x penne pasta

1 x pasta sauce

1 x 5pk instant noodles

3 x tin mixed veg

1 x family pack rice risotto

1 x bar chocolate

1 x toilet roll

The approximate cost of this is $50, and we suggest you just add one item to your shopping list each week. If you have pets you will need to have food for them too, and spare formula for a bottle fed baby.

Battery powered radio - In order to get information about the weather, emergency messages from local authorities, school closures and whether you should stay in doors you will need a radio. The AA sell an emergency battery powered radio and torch for $39.95

Candles/Torches - It's a good idea to have some candles and matches and a torch for at least every adult in the house.

How to collect and store

Although it's possible there could be an emergency event soon, it's unlikely. Add these items to your shopping list and pick up one or two a week until you have the set. If an emergency event happens before you've finished the list don't panic, remember you will still have food and other items in the house.

Store the torches by your bedside, and the candles and matched in a sealed plastic bag out of the reach of children. Store you food in the bottom of a pantry or other cupboard, but don't be tempted to dip into it at other times. It should be reserved just for civil defence occasions. 

Remember to keep spare batteries handy for the radio and torches. If you have a camping stove, keep this accessible too. 

Should an emergency situation occur, you should eat your fresh food first, then your frozen food, before starting on what is in the defence kit. Use your bottled water for drinking in case the mains water is contaminated, unless a message on the radio says otherwise.

Most importantly, don't panic. Whatever the emergency is, it will pass in a few days or sooner, or help will come. Keep calm, stay inside and stay occupied with boards games or telling stories. Listen to the radio every couple of hours to keep up to date on what is happening.

For more information on civil defence, visit