Emergencies have a tendency to happen when least expected. If we had more of a warning we would of course be able to prepare for them better, but in general what you have on you is all you have to deal with whatever life throws your way.
This is why every day carry items (EDC) are so important. More often than not, whatever you bothered to carry that day will be all you'll have at your disposal to deal with problems.
There are three main characteristics that define an effective EDC setup:
Regularity: Occurring with normal or healthy frequency. Your EDC must be carried, and carried every day. The day you don’t carry it with you will be the day you need it the most.
Capability:The capacity to be used, treated, or developed for a specific purpose. Within reason, you must have the basic tools to cover some of the most likely and most crucial scenarios. A phone will be carried and likely used every day, but you may also need it for making a life-saving emergency call. A gun may be carried for years and never using it on the streets, but the day you do use it, it wil most likely save your life. A flashlight can be used for searching under a desk, walking in a dark parking lot or finding your way through a dark building after a disaster.
Adequacy: Your ED should besufficient to satisfy your requirements and meet your needs. The tools you carry should be capable enough. A 22LR derringer is better than no gun, but I’d rather carry a Glock 357SIG. A $1 button cell LED light is better than no light, but a +200 lumen torch with different modes can perform better in more demanding scenarios. A Victorinox Classic can be used for opening mail, but a larger multitool can be used for prying doors open, cutting wire and various other tasks beyond the limits of a smaller tool.
So as to cover a broad specturm of possible scenarios, both everyday use and emergencies, you should carry the following items with you:
If you don’t have comms, then you have nothing. Its as true in the military world as it is in the civilian one. A working cellphone alone is a valuable enough asset as it is, but smartphones basically give you a mini computer with various other tools such as the ability to use wifi signals where available, go online, make bank transfers, hotel reservations, buy plane tickets, and carry important data just to mention a few. The latest Samsung Galaxy S5 is both water and dust proof, IP67 certified. The Moto G 4G LTE is a fantastic option if you're on a tighter budget and also has some water resistance.
Recommended: Samsung Galaxy S5- Moto G 4G LTE
Cards, cash, ID. These alone should be reason enough. Small survival kits can be included as well, just make sure you don’t end up with a wallet that is too bulky.
Recommended: Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Wallet - Columbia Men's RFID Security Shield
House keys, car keys, work keys, you pretty much wont leave your home without them if you want to open your front door when you come back. Keychains can also be the core around which you can build and lightweight EDC system, covering the basics with minimalist tools. I use Lobster Clasps clips for quick access to my keychain tools.4)Multitool
This is the first item most people don’t usually carry even though they should. It can be something as simple as a Victorinox Hiker to a more full size mulittool such as a Leatherman Wave. Most quality multitools will include a folding blade of some sort, so it can double as a pocket knife as well. The multitool is perhaps the most useful tool you can carry outside the first three basic staples no adult is ever without.
Recommended: Leatherman Charge Tti-Leatherman Wave-Leatherman Sidekick
Leatherman Charge Multi-Tool TTi
In average, you need artificial light to see 12 hours out of the 24 hs per day. Still, so few people carry a flashlight. Utility use, emergency signaling, lighting after disasters, tactical use, you simply should carry one. With lights becoming more efficient, more powerful and more compact there’s no excuse left to not carry one.
Recommended: Surefire Defender E1D -Eagletac D25C
Although multitools will usually include a blade of some sort (in some cases very good ones) you should also carry a dedicated folding knife. A larger more solid folder will be suited for tougher tasks, maybe even prying and defense use if called upon. The knife is the quintessential survival tool, so it makes sense to have two of them.
Recommended: ZT Zero Tolerance 0561 - Cold Steel Vaquero - Spyderco Endura 4
Maybe one of the least carried items among non-smoking modern survivalists, the ability to make fire is generally more associated to wilderness survival. I still believe that it does have an important place in your EDC setup. Like the knife, the ability to make fire has always been one of our greatest achievements and every once in a while I find it very useful, one of those things you take for granted and don’t really appreciate it until you need it.
Recommended: Clover Zippo with thunderbird insert
Hopefully you will never have to use it, but in an increasingly unstable world, it makes sense to be armed. My advice is to carry a Glock and spare magazine, either 9mm or other bigger caliber you’re capable of controlling well. When firearms are not an option, OC spray can be very effective for controlling violent confrontations.
Recommended: Blade-Tech Phantom IWB HolsterAlthough these are the basics you should strive to cover, everyone being different and having difference personal requirements and limitations there can be variations within each tool to have, but these should be the basics you should look to address.