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Send Your Student to College Prepared

Several years ago I had the opportunity to discuss preparedness with all the BYU campuses and Southern Virginia University. My question, how prepared are you to care for students during an emergency? I found all campuses have plans in place, but all agree they are not prepared to care for students more than a day or two. Everyone I spoke with expressed the need for students to arrive at school with kits and knowledge so they can care for themselves. I’m sure other campuses are even less prepared. How prepared will your student be to survive and thrive during a disaster.

Several years ago it became necessary to evacuate an apartment building at BYUI when there was a broken pipe and flooding in the building. A friend’s daughter stood outside in the cold waiting for word that it was safe to return or for directions as to what to do next. A young man stood next to her with a hat, coat, backpack and looking very comfortable while he munched on a granola bar. The friend asked him how he was so relaxed, and he responded his mom sent him to school prepared with a kit and information so he knew what to do.

We have learned there is no place free of disasters. The east coast experiences hurricanes, nor-easters, flooding and tornadoes. Utah and Idaho have earthquakes, blizzards, landslides to name a few. Hawaii, earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes. As we have just seen in Hawaii firestorms can happen anywhere, and they do.

Benjamin Franklin said: "Diligence is the mother of good luck". Our individual diligence helps to assure that for ourselves and our students, a little preparation ahead of an emergency will secure the safety and confidence we will need in a bad situation.

First: Expand your Five-Day Kit to a full-fledged Survival Kit

We should all understand by now that 72 hours is not enough time to provide for our needs in a severe emergency scenario. Help may still be a day or two off, after three days, or students may need to share those limited resources with friends and other students. Whether preparing for 72 hours or for the 120 hours that is now recommended by many authorities, the important thing is to prepare, and then to do a little more. All the campus emergency co-coordinators I spoke with agreed that every student should have their own kit. Design a kit for your student that doubles as an auto kit for those summer and winter drives from campus to home and back again.

Backpack: All great survival kits begin with a great backpack. Make sure the pack 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 which can easily be 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 in a backpack. Purchase mylar water pouches or boxed water with a five-year shelf life for inside your pack, and use storage bottles for an additional supply (not the cheap jugs from the supermarket, but something much more durable). Remember that having too much water is better than not enough, even though most of your water supply will be stored separately from your backpack. Better yet, purchase a reusable water bottle with a filter, they weigh very little and allow you to drink almost any water. The fault line in Utah goes right across the water lines.

Food: The best choices for food are those ready to eat. For students, purchase granola bars, nuts, trail mix, foil packed tuna and chicken, individual servings of canned fruit and powders that can be added to water. Being realistic, your student will not remember to rotate them, so restock at the end of every school year. Don’t forget forks and spoons.

Multifunction tool or pocketknife: These provide everything from can openers to knife blades, pliers, saw blades and screw drivers. Must-have tools.

Flashlight and Communications: Store flashlight and batteries separately in packs on the top or in a front pocket where they can be accessed quickly. Don’t forget glow sticks as well. I love glow sticks; they will provide light all night long without running down the batteries in a flashlight. Glow sticks are safe in all situations including gas leaks and auto accidents when a flame or just a spark from a flashlight battery could be dangerous. A crank radio/flashlight provides not only battery free light, but also broadcasts information in a power outage.

Mylar survival blankets: These have dozens of uses including warmth, shelter from sun and weather, and as a signaling device. They are compact, inexpensive, and light weight. See: Survival in Your Pocket-The Amazing Mylar Blanket

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

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

For a list of items to include in kits visit

Second: Food Storage

Every student should have a two-week supply of food on hand. Those who are living outside a dorm should have at least one month. That would be a great graduation gift, a one-month supply of food. If done correctly, this would cost about $200.00, and would be well worth the peace of mind for mom and dad, assuming it is not eaten before a real emergency arrives.

A two-week supply should include: 10 14oz. cans fruit, 10 14oz. 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 using the familiar food pyramid. If students are not in a cooking dorm substitute canned and dried meats or peanut butter as proteins and crackers or instant oatmeal for grains. Shelf stable milk and chocolate milk can be substituted for dairy. Plan for all food groups and if space is limited store as many days of all food groups as space allows.

Food should include those which can be eaten without heating just in case there is no power. Of course, you can send them with directions for making a "stove" out of items around the apartment, but just in case, plan for no way to cook.

We talked about the importance of water… having canned foods in stock provides another "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 be used to make oatmeal. Naturally, you will want to also leave them with several containers of water.

Protein may include 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, and muffin mixes. All these need to be cooked, so also add crackers, cold cereal and even pretzels.

Dairy is not as hard as it may sound. Store boxed 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.

Remember, these are emergency supplies and should be replaced as they are used to ensure they will have what they need should an emergency arise. Be sure your students have food and water. No campus can supply the needs of 10,000 to 30,000 students for more than a day or two at most, under emergency conditions.

Third: Spiritual Preparedness

The first time we leave home is a difficult time for all of us. At this stage of life we are all 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 we wrestle with doubts and are busy fending off temptations that would lure us away from true principles.

Along with the popular images from their world, students want symbols of sacred things in their apartments as well – things that inspire. Temple pictures, family photos, framed scriptures and inspirational quotes are all great additions.

If you know your child is having a difficult time making a decision or with a class, or a relationship text them. Encourage them to pray, send them an appropriate scripture, or share a story of a time you struggled and how Heavenly Father helped you.

There are answers to all our questions, and solutions to our problems in the scriptures. Be sure that along with the many clever, useful, and amusing apps on the phone, they have the scriptures with them wherever they go. Most of us would not be caught without our phones these days, and now that means we don’t have to be without the inspiration of scripture, thru the tools APP.

Prepared in all things, both temporal and spiritual

The scriptures teach that as we are faithful in keeping commandments of God we are blessed in both temporal and spiritual ways and will qualify to live in happiness both here and hereafter

. If our small steps at preparedness create some temporal security for the college student away from home for the first time, or just leave an impression on them that endures until they establish their own homes and families, we are laying the groundwork for important blessings and family traditions that may plant seeds of preparedness in the next generation.

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