Prepare Yourself Completely
Expect The Worst
Expecting the worst does not necessarily mean that you have a pessimistic outlook, it just means that you have taken a realistic look at what could happen to you and your family and are taking steps to protect everyone. The time to worry about emergency supplies and how to survive is not after a disaster has struck, but before. If you take the time and effort to stockpile vital necessities, if the worst does happen, the chances of survival will be much greater than if you leave everything to chance.
There are two ways to approach emergency supplies – by purchasing premade kits, or by putting your own supplies together. Both methods will work, although assembling your own supplies will take more research, work, and time than will buying kits. You can always combine the two approaches, too, and add items of your own to augment and personalize kits.
Decide What Will Be Needed
You and your family should sit down and make a list of what could possibly be needed to see you through an emergency. What you assemble will depend in part on where you live, but some things are universal regardless of location. Consult survival books and online websites to help you make your list as complete as possible.
No one can survive for long without water, and a disaster or emergency can often disrupt your water supply; either through loss of electricity or rupture of water mains. Although there may be water in the surrounding area, there will be no guarantee that it will be clean, and waterborne diseases can be serious. You should count on needing about one gallon of water per person, per day. Bottled water can be purchased for this, but as this can prove costly, you can also bottle your tap water for later use. The containers you use should be clean and water bottled in this way is usually good for about six months.
If you want a fairly unlimited supply of clean water following an emergency, consider purchasing a countertop water filter. As long as there is water available, you will be able to filter an adequate supply for your family. Quality water filters will remove just about every conceivable contaminant, biological or chemical, and can prove a life saver when safe water is not available.
The Bread of Life
While most people can go a day or two without food without any trouble, longer times without adequate nutrition will begin to affect health. Weakness, difficulty in concentrating, anxiety, and increased susceptibility to illness and infection all accompany hunger. Making sure that your family will have enough to eat, for several weeks at least, following a disaster or emergency will go a long way to providing peace of mind. You will not be able to count on the food in your refrigerator or freezer lasting more than a day or two should the power fail, so nonperishable food is a must.
Probably the easiest way to provide for an emergency food supply is by purchasing food kits. These kits have a very long shelf life, up to 25 years, and will provide food for basically any length of time. Some kits will supply food for days or weeks, while some can be counted on to see you through several years of trouble. You must always remember to store this food properly, however. Emergency food kits should be kept cool, about 55 degrees F, and away from the light. Higher temperatures and light will cause the shelf life of your supply to deteriorate quickly. Storing the food in the basement, preferably in clean galvanized cans to prevent rodent and insect infestation, will make certain that your food will be available when you need it.
Food kits are the easiest way to provide for an emergency food supply, but they are not the only way – it is quite possible to put together a good supply on your own from grocery store food. Canned food is probably the best thing to stockpile in this case; it generally has a long shelf life of several years. Besides canned food, you can also keep items such as flour, beans, rice, and other dry, packaged goods. You can even make your own emergency supplies by dehydrating or canning produce that you grow or purchase. You should be aware, however, that food you prepare yourself will not have the shelf life of commercially prepared food.
Heat, Cooking, and Light
Those who live in a tropical or semi-tropical area will not have to worry inordinately about heating, but for those who live in a temperate zone, this should certainly be a consideration. Hypothermia can be life-threatening, and if a disaster occurs during cold weather, this can be a real possibility. There are several ways to prevent hypothermia, and the best is to provide for an alternative source of heat. A wood burning stove would be ideal, but a kerosene stove or propane stove will work very well to keep a room or two warm during the coldest weather. Make sure you have adequate fuel stored, so that if the emergency continues for a long period of time you will be prepared.
Even if you have a gas cook stove, an earthquake can break the gas line, making the stove impossible to use. However, there are quite a few emergency or camp stoves that can be used to prepare warm meals. If you have purchased freeze dried prepared meals for your emergency food, you will definitely need some way to heat the food. These stoves take up little storage space, but as with the kerosene stoves above, you will need to have fuel.
Sitting in the dark is surely one of life’s worst miseries. Any emergency or disaster can be made that much worse by a lack of lighting. Unfortunately, one of the first of our modern conveniences to go during a disaster is the electricity. You and your family will feel much more secure if you have a source of light available. There is a wide range of emergency lights, some that are fine for a day or two, and some that will provide light indefinitely, as long as you have fuel for them. Battery powered lanterns will give up to 150 hours of light, but for the long run, a kerosene or gasoline lantern is your best option. These lanterns will usually burn for about 8 hours before they need to be refilled.
Besides lanterns, you should also have several flashlights. Some of these should be the rechargeable type that you keep plugged in until they need to be used, while others should be the kind that will charge by being wound up. These are handy, but most are impractical in the long run because you will probably have to keep winding them nearly continuously to provide light. Light sticks are another source of illumination, and a box of these should be kept with your other emergency supplies.
Your Emergency Kitchen
If you have provided for a supply of emergency food, and have the means of cooking it, you will still need the means of preparing it and eating it. It is unlikely anyone is going to want to eat semi-liquid food with their fingers, so have some plastic eating utensils on hand. If you have the means of washing them, you can use them over and over again, but if water is in a short supply, you can just throw them out when they are soiled. Likewise, a supply of paper plates and disposable cups will save on precious water. Unfortunately, as mankind has not yet figured out a way to make paper pots, you will have to have several saucepans available to cook in. A box of baggies, and some trash bags will help to keep everything more sanitary, too. Make sure, if some of your food is in cans, that you have a can opener available that does not rely on electricity. Matches, both regular and waterproof, should be stored with your stove.
Practical Odds and Ends to See You Through
While the amount of items you may need to weather an emergency in some comfort may seem daunting, these things will all come in handy during unsettled times. A selection of basic tools will be needed in almost any survival situation, and you should have a hammer (and some nails), small saw, duct tape, scissors, staple gun, shovel, utility gloves, and dust masks on hand.
Plastic sheeting and a tarp or two can help to make a damaged home more livable until such times as permanent repairs can be made. It might also help to have a tent, or at least an emergency tent put by in case your home has been damaged so badly that it is uninhabitable.
It would also be a good idea to have a ‘honey bucket’ in your emergency supplies. When there is no electricity, there will be no water, and you will not be able to flush the toilet. A ‘honey bucket’, which has a lid, is an alternative way of dealing with this problem. However, you will have to find some means of disposing of the contents of the bucket at least once a day. The best solution will be to dig a hole away from water sources, food, and living areas and bury the contents; backfill to keep animals away. Pre-moistened hand wipes are a necessity here.
First Aid and Sanitation
Scrapes, cuts, and sprains can happen at any time, but the lack of regular facilities may make treating these more difficult during an emergency unless you have a good first aid kit prepared. There are a number of excellent first aid kits available that will allow you to treat most simple injuries. Most of these come with a simple first aid manual, but you might buy a more complete one, so that you will be familiar with a wide range of injuries, illnesses, and their treatments.
As water may be in short supply, you should have towelettes in your first aid kit, both for cleansing a wound, and for cleaning your hands before treating an injury. Preventing infection during a disaster is important, and the cleaner you are able to keep a cut, the more likely it is that it will heal up without problem.
Women will need sanitary products to deal with their monthly cycle, and if there are any babies in the family, several extra packages of disposable diapers will be needed. If prescription medications are being taken by anyone, you should ask your doctor to prescribe extra to be stored in your first aid kit. You should also get a copy of the prescription, too.
A Change of Clothing and a Warm Place to Sleep
During an emergency when there is no electricity, it will be impossible to wash clothing. Dirty, damp clothing can contribute to hypothermia, so having some extra items on hand is a good idea. Be sure that everyone in the family has several changes of underwear, and if the weather is cold, extra scarves, hats, and gloves are a good idea. Footwear adequate for the season is necessary, and it would also be advisable to have rubber or vinyl ‘mucking’ boots for everyone, too. These will keep your feet dry and safe from possibly dangerous, contaminated water or mud.
Even if you do not anticipate having to leave your home, it is always good to have a bit more stored away, just in case. Extra blankets can help warm family members, and a tent can provide emergency housing in case your home is too severely damaged for you to live in.
Sometimes, you will only have time to grab a bag when an emergency strikes. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes sometimes call for immediate evacuation. A bug-out bag, which will contain a few days’ supply of essentials, can make a real difference in how you survive the first critical 72 hours of an emergency.
There are prepared bug-out bags available or you can assemble one yourself. The first thing you will need is a quality backpack, large enough to carry all that you will be putting into it. You should have a few containers of bottled water, some non-perishable food like granola bars, a flashlight, emergency blanket, emergency tent, first aid kit, poncho, waterproof matches, any medications you or family members are taking, map, personal information, multitool, flashlight, coil of light rope, and light sticks.
For Those With Special Needs
Children, older people, and pets will all need more attention and care during a disaster than they might otherwise. Older people are often on prescription medication, and you should have an extra supply of any prescriptions, as well as a copy of the prescription, in your emergency supplies. Any special things that children might need, such as entertainment, or a favorite toy, should also be kept available.
Pets should not be neglected during disasters, either, and food for them, as well as extra water should be stored with your emergency supplies. Make sure that you have collars, harnesses, and leashes for use with dogs, and consider that you will need a crate for a cat. Litter will also be needed for a cat’s sanitary needs. Pets should never be allowed outside unless on a leash during a disaster.
People who are disabled either mentally or physically will need more care than usual during a disaster. If prescriptions are being used, make sure you have an adequate supply and provide information that details the nature of the disability, the doctor treating it, and emergency services numbers. A small emergency bag, containing vital information and prescriptions, can be attached right to a wheelchair. Make sure to keep a firm grip on any service dogs, as the conditions may make them nervous.
For the Work Place
It is unlikely that you will be marooned at your place of employment for a long time during an emergency, but it is still wise to have some supplies on hand in case it’s a few hours before you can leave for home. Several bottles of water and something to eat will help to make you more comfortable if you must stay for a while. An emergency blanket can keep you warm if the heat goes out. Being trapped in a dark building, unable to find your way out, will not be a problem if you have a small flashlight in your work emergency kit. If you ‘dress’ for work, keep a pair of comfortable shoes at your work station. Even if you usually have some money in your wallet, keep a twenty dollar bill in your kit, in case you must take a taxi.
Assuming that you have prepared carefully for nearly any emergency, you can get on with your life. If a disaster is going to strike, there is little or nothing you can do to avert it, so enjoy your family and relax. Knowing that you have done everything possible to prepare for the worst that can happen will enable you to enjoy the present more.
Elderly Emergency Kits