Although I’ve been a volunteer with the small, fun-loving Madison Park Emergency Hub team for a few years, before that I spent many years putting off my own household emergency preparation. Something always seemed more important and, really, I thought to myself, what if I gather emergency supplies and none of my other neighbors do? How would that work out?
In recent years, I’ve upped my game, not only getting plans and supplies in place for our household, but also volunteering with the MP team to become more educated and prepared to work together. I appreciate the growing neighborly connections and friendships this involvement has brought. Friends and family members sometimes tease me when I suggest that they might want to prepare.
“You’re retired! The rest of us are too busy keeping our lives and jobs afloat.”
“We don’t have time.” Or, they’ll tell me “we don’t want to think about something like a catastrophe that might not really happen.”
For this past December holiday season, I again considered gifts for emergency preparedness, but guessed those might end up lost in the shuffle of busy lives. Pushing myself to get creative to counter this possibility, I pulled out four of those empty shoe boxes taking up storage space in a closet. How could these small boxes become a starter kit for emergency supplies in a car or under a bed? What if I gathered a few items from three local stores and then included the Emergency Prep Checklist our MP Team created for posting on a fridge? I took the recommended supply list and headed off to REI, our Madison Park Hardware store and new Madison Park Pharmacy and Wellness Center for supplies.
CHOOSING EMERGENCY STARTER SUPPLIES
Selecting items for a starter emergency kit that would fit in a shoebox required some prioritizing. Obviously, it couldn’t include adequate water, shoes, or power sources, but what might still serve as critical until those kinds of items could be gathered? What miscellaneous open-ended supplies might serve critical for hacking together needed clothing, shelter or a human waste management system? Along with some guide sheets on first aid, sanitation, managing utilities, our out-of-state contact list, a family photo, and some cash (see chart)
INVENTING A GAME
Discussing this gift idea with my spouse, we knew we needed more than a shoe box full of these items to motivate the gift recipients to expand their emergency supplies. Our family often enjoys playing games when we get together. What if we created a game to play before we offered our shoebox starter kit gifts? We wanted a game that could be simple to play, but more complex than Bingo or Candy Land. It should also be less time consuming than Monopoly, Risk, or Clue. An ideal game would simulate aspects of why doing advance planning would be rewarding. It would offer insights into oneself as well as useful supplies. The game would also provide practice with quick decision-making and offer insights into the value of cooperating with others.
We used our computer and printer to make the game pieces: a game card for each player and 200 supply slips, which we printed on card stock paper. These Bingo-like game cards have categories of critical items for emergencies. Each supply slip names a supply like a flashlight, pair of leather gloves, or a gas shut-off tool. Some supply items are goofy, like eyeliner, chewing gum or deck of cards that could be valued but also stimulate some creative solutions. Other game pieces include paper clips for attaching supply items onto the game cards, a bag or box to hold the supply slips, a pen for each player to write in a bonus category, and one timer.
Six of us played the game from perches on chairs or seats on the floor. We gave each player a printout describing the game’s goals, rules, and process, which consists of three rounds of play, decreasing in time from five minutes, three, then two minutes. Before we started, we brainstormed the most important qualities for people to have in an emergency.
Our list reflected family humor:
• Even keeled
• Physical strength, flexibility, and endurance
• Outdoor experience, ideally Eagle Scout skills
• Willingness to compromise
• Some medical knowledge
• Leadership skills
• Appearance of confidence and competence
• Small eater
When round 3 ended, we discussed thinking behind our quick choices. We heard some surprising creativity, like putting eyeliner in the “Communications” category because it could be used to write with. Hefty garbage bags got put in the “Clothing and Footwear” category because they could be used for waterproof protection. Imagine aluminum foil in the “Supplies: other” category, combined with hand sanitizer in the “First aid” category, and matches in the “Tool” category to create a fire starter!
The game ended with one final question: “What did you learn about yourself and your qualities for handling an emergency?” One of the most insightful comments came from our young adult grandson who self-identifies as an introvert. He said, “Some of the items in the Entertainment and Comfort category might not seem like a priority, but they could help you get along better socially in an emergency.” Think ‘’gum” or “a deck of cards!” This seemed like a good time to bring out the shoebox starter kit gifts.
It was a fun December '23 gathering and our hope is everyone went home with a mental note on where to put the supply box and next steps for expanding emergency preparedness. How perfect that the next morning we woke up to the news that a 4.1 magnitude earthquake centered fifteen miles from Poulsbo was felt from Bremerton to British Columbia. It wasn’t a serious quake with any damage, but perhaps the next one will be.
You’re welcome to contact us for a PDF file of our full game instructions, with templates for the game card and supply slips. Perhaps it could come in useful at your next condo or workplace meeting, or a family gathering (email@example.com).