An Ounce of Prevention: Emergency Preparedness

It’s still September for a few more days, however sad I will be to see it go. Besides being birthday month, September is also National Emergency Preparedness month. Now don’t go bugging out (at least not until you follow the instructions I’m about to give you) just because this has the ring of a PSA. I’ll tell you right now why I’m doing this.

A few years back I took a multi-week CERT training (Community Emergency Response Team) where I learned a lot of cool things like how to splint a broken anything with…well anything. I also learned that irrespective of whether I signed on for active CERT duty at the conclusion of the classes, the county felt investing the time in regular citizens like me was worth it if I had also taken to heart the importance of having basic emergency supplies and purchased them. In their eyes, an informed/prepared citizen decreased the odds of my becoming a victim during an emergency situation. And one less victim, hopefully, meant one less person that first responders had to risk their own lives to save. Getting my family and I prepared then was both a rational move and a selfless one at the same time.

So be a selfish hero and get yourself and your family prepared! You don’t have to be a doomsday prepper and dig a 1-mile tunnel  from your back door to your bug-out hummer. (Seriously, I watched a reality t.v. show once of a guy who had done that.) There’s actually a really handy website-– that has tons of cool resources, and checklists that will help you a) plan for your risks and b) figure out what the basic supplies are for your family. (Don’t forget your pets, too!)

The basics include:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Some additional supplies you might consider are:

  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks and change
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit – EFFAK (PDF – 977Kb) developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.
  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or free information from this web site. (See Publications)
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Advice to Minimize the Madness: When it comes to supplies, my advice is to look around your house first and see what you already have. Clean out one or two readily-accessible, water-resistant cabinets, shelves, or storage boxes and place the items there, letting the rest of the family know where it is. (Limiting the space you are devoting to supplies will help you from going overboard.) Then just keep an eye out for sales/deals at stores that you already frequent for some of the other items you don’t have. If, after all of that, you find that there are items that you can find along your regular shopping routes, that’s when you should start taking a look at sporting good stores or specialty websites that focus on emergency supply merchandise. And no, you probably don’t need a full complement of zombie-eradication weaponry. Probably.

Like I said, try not to overdo it. Water does eventually go bad (especially if stored on cement floors, the lime in cement leaches into the bottles), and at the end of the day you have to live your life and you can’t do that if you are in living it in fear of every possibility. Or digging tunnels in your backyard. Take care and happy prepping!


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