Preparing for Disasters in Your Home - Today not later!
What should I Buy and what to skip!
Even a Bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey may save you and your family's life. You see it in all the Disaster shows - Think about life in a world without electricity, the local grocery store or access to your vehicles. Sound far-fetched, but all it takes are a couple of days without electricity for this to become reality. An earthquake, hurricane, tornado or a big ice storm can cause this to happen. Extreme heat can even turn into an emergency in the right conditions. Because Mother Nature is unpredictable, want you to know how to be well prepared for an emergency. Here’s what you need to buy, and what you can skip as you prepare your home for an eventual emergency situation.
First Aid Kit—What to Buy, What to Skip
One of the most important things you can pack for a disaster is a first aid kit. During a true disaster, you will need to take care of injuries on your own because the health care services, if you can get to them, are going to be overrun with people. Keeping your first aid kit ready to go ensures you can meet the needs of your family, even if you can’t get to a medical facility. Here’s what the Red Cross recommends you have in a first aid kit for a family of four:
- Absorbent compress dressings (2)
- Adhesive bandages (25 or more)
- Adhesive cloth tape (1 roll)
- Antibiotic ointment
- Antiseptic wipes or spray
- Non-latex gloves
- A blanket
- Disposable thermometers
- Instant cold compress
- 3-inch-wide roller bandage
- 4-inch-wide roller bandage
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Breathing barrier for CPR
- Triangular bandages
- First aid instruction booklet
- Emergency phone numbers
- Flashlight with working batteries
- Hand sanitizer
- Any prescription medications your family must have
This list is pretty exhaustive, so what can you avoid buying for or using in your first aid kit? Don’t worry about these:
- Pre-made first aid kits, which typically have insufficient supplies
- Medications your family can’t use due to age or allergies
- Any bandages, medications or other items that are open
Food—What to Buy, What to Skip
It’s hard to imagine a time when you can’t run to the grocery store for food, but in a true disaster when power goes out across the city, roads are flooded or buildings tumble, this could happen. Would your pantry be able to feed your family for long without a weekly trip to the store? What would you do if your water supply were contaminated?
Disaster preparedness requires food and water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates you need to have a three-day supply of food for each family member, including your pets, to be prepared for an emergency. If you are going to err on the side of caution, you can have even more on hand.
However, not all foods are created equal. As you well know, many foods spoil quickly, no matter how you store them. Unless you buy enough to rotate your food supply and just keep enough on hand, you’re going to need to shop carefully.
As you buy food, consider preparation. If you have no gas or electric service, would you be able to cook oatmeal? Canned nuts and peanut butter and jelly on crackers may be a better choice. Of course, you could create an outdoor fire, if the disaster did not cause too much flooding, but make sure you have some types of food that are easy to make or ready to eat as they are.
Here are some items you should buy for your emergency food supply, and the length of time they should last if stored properly:
- Boxed potatoes (six months)
- Dry crackers (six months)
- Powdered milk (six months)
- Dried fruit (six months)
- Canned foods (one year)
- Peanut butter and jelly (one year)
- Cereals that are unopened (one year)
- Dried corn, pasta and rice (many years)
- Coffee, tea and cocoa (many years)
- Bouillon products (many years)
- Beef jerky (many years) ask your friends about how to make it.
- A bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey - good trading item - could be worth a bag of groceries.
Also, don’t forget water. If your area is hit by a hurricane, tornado or earthquake, you may lose access to clean water. You will need at least 1 gallon per person for a minimum of three days to protect your family. Keep in mind that children, expectant women, sick individuals and those living in a hot climate are going to need more.
When packing your food items, make sure you avoid:
- Foods that will deplete water in your body (caffeinated or highly salted foods)
- Foods that expire quickly (fresh fruits and vegetables)
- Foods that must be frozen or refrigerated
- Foods that require a lot of prep
- Foods with little nutritional value (candy, fruit snacks, chips)
Power—What to Buy, What to Skip
It might sound funny to talk about “buying” power, but you have to assume that you will lose power during a true emergency. You will need a way to power your cell phone, radio or other important electrical devices, so you can stay in touch with what is going on, call for help and take care of some basic needs.
So how can you power your necessary items in an emergency? Consider buying these:
- A generator – Although costly, a generator can keep your home up and running if the emergency did not do structural damage to your home. This can buy you time while you wait for electricity to be restored.
- An emergency weather radio – Make sure you know what is going on with the weather and any disaster recovery efforts with an emergency weather radio. Consider a hand-crank type, so you are protected even if you can’t get batteries. Look for one with a “public alert” feature.
- Hand-crank emergency cell phone charger – Make sure you have a way to contact people, and keep the phone charged, with a hand-crank emergency cell phone charger.
- Propane – If you have a lot of propane-powered items, consider keeping some extra propane on hand to keep them powered.
As you’re considering power for an emergency, know what to avoid as well. You probably won’t need:
- Tons of batteries – Batteries have a limited shelf life. Consider buying a few, but relying on recharging generators for the majority of your needs. If you do add batteries to your emergency preparedness kit, make sure to check them regularly for signs of corrosion.
- Anything that must plug in or relies on fuel – Electricity and fuel may be in short supply. Look for manually or solar-powered sources of power rather than those fueled by electricity or gas.
Packing a Go-Bag—What to Buy, What to Skip
If you have to evacuate in an emergency, you aren’t going to have much time to hit the outdoor supply store and pack. One way to protect your family is to keep a go-bag packed for these events.
A go-bag is similar to your emergency preparedness kit, but on a smaller scale because you need to be able to grab and go when an evacuation is called. It will contain first aid items, tools and emergency power, among other things. This should be always packed and ready to grab at a moment’s notice.
If you’ve never packed a go-bag, figuring out what you need in it may feel overwhelming. Here are some tips on what you should buy:
- Flashlight with fresh batteries (check them regularly)
- Emergency weather radio
- Spare batteries (check them regularly)
- Emergency stash of cash in small denominations, including quarters for phone calls at payphones
- Pocket knife
- Butane lighter or matches
- Toothbrush, toothpaste and trial sizes of personal care items
- Permanent market, tape and paper
- One to two bottles of water per person
- Non-perishable snack foods
- Extra house and vehicle keys
- Food and water for pets
- Sturdy shoes
- Change of clothing (consider changing climates)
- Local maps (Internet-based maps and GPS service may be disrupted in an emergency)
- Dust masks
- A small first aid kit
In addition to these items that you will buy, make sure your go-bag has a list of any medical conditions or allergies your family members have. Also, pack any special-needs items for people in your family who are disabled, young or elderly. Finally, add in all important paperwork. This includes copies of your driver’s license, bank account information, passport, children’s birth certificates and emergency contact numbers. Print paper photos of all family members to put in the bag in case you are separated. Remember, you may not be able to pull up a recent photo on your phone to help first responders locate your lost loved one.
As you pack your go-bag, you need to be careful not to make it too full because the goal of an evacuation is to get to a safe place, so you shouldn’t need to be on the road for too long, here are some things you should skip:
- A food stash – Pack snacks, but don’t worry about tons of cans of food, as your new destination should have food available.
- Large bills – You don’t want to be a target for a thief, and in an emergency, some people will have trouble making change for a $100 bill.
- Electronics – Your laptop and electronic gaming devices aren’t necessary in your go-bag. If you anticipate you will have electricity at your destination, pack these separately, but you can survive without them in a true emergency.
Tools—What to Buy, What to Skip
No matter how carefully you pack food and medical supplies, if you don’t have some basic tools, you can’t survive in an emergency where all supplies are cut off. You don’t need a lot of tools to get through a disaster, but you should have some on hand. Here are some tools that are great for most emergencies:
- Tools for food – Make sure you have a manual can opener and utensils, preferably disposable, you can use to eat the food you have stashed.
- Pocket knife – Make sure you can pry open items and cut through small debris with a pocket knife.
- Scissors – They’re easy to forget about until you don’t have them, but make sure your emergency preparedness stash has some scissors.
- Non-electric fan or heater – Protect your family in extreme weather, but make sure you can power the fan or heater you purchase.
- Basic tool kit – You never know when you will need a wrench, hammer or screwdriver, so stash a small, high-quality tool kit in your emergency preparedness area. Consider an adjustable wrench for most applications
- Rope – From rescues to tying down supplies, a rope is handy to have on hand.
- Collapsible shovel – From digging latrines to digging out of rubble after an earthquake, a shovel can come in handy in an emergency.
- Fixed-blade knife –Sometimes a pocket knife or scissors aren’t going to cut it, but a sturdy fixed-blade knife can get you through an emergency.
- Tent – If you can’t stay in your home due to safety, a tent gives you some shelter.
- Fire extinguisher – A dry chemical fire extinguisher can protect your home if fires pop up after an emergency.
- Tarp – Use this to cover broken windows or holes in the roof.
Of course, some tools are simply not necessary. These include:
- Tools that require electricity to operate.
- Power tools
- Extremely large tools
- Multiple sizes of screwdrivers or wrenches
Personal Care Items—What to Buy, What to Skip
Sure, a shower may not be the first thing on your mind after a hurricane, and it may not even be possible, but you are going to want some personal care items in your emergency supply kit. It’s easy to overlook some of these, so having a checklist will ensure you have everything you need. Here are some must-haves that everyone will need:
- Feminine products
- Toilet paper
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Eyeglasses (even if you wear contacts)
- Safety pins
- Needle and thread
- Baby wipes
- Changes of clothing and undergarments
Some things, however, are not necessities. If you’re buying for an emergency preparedness kit, you can probably skip vanity items, like:
- Shampoo and conditioner – You can clean your hair with soap in a true emergency.
- Hair spray and other hair products – You don’t have to look great in an emergency.
- Makeup – No one’s going to be looking at your mascara in an emergency, so leave this alone.
Disaster Preparedness for Children—What to Buy, What to Skip
If you have kids, you need to make some additional considerations when preparing for a disaster. From specialty food items, such as baby formula, to something for the kids to do while waiting for help or restoration of services, you need to be creative. Here are some must-have baby care items:
- Baby formula – Even moms who are nursing should stash some baby formula, just in case they are not able to continue breastfeeding after an emergency or are separated from their babies.
- Baby feeding supplies – Baby food, small spoons or a manual baby food mill to grind up canned food are important.
- Diapers and wipes – Consider three-days’ worth of diapers or cloth diapers you can re-use, and a similar stash of wipes. For children who are not far past the toilet training stage, consider diapers even if you think they are trained. Disasters can cause regression.
- Something to do – While you aren’t going to pack the entire toy room, you should consider some games, coloring books or other small playthings to keep the kids occupied.
- Something to eat – While it’s true that most kids will eat anything rather than starve, you don’t want your child languishing because he’s refusing to eat canned beans. Try to get creative and find some food items that your child would be willing to eat.
- Special stuffed animal or other comfort item – Do you have a spare of your child’s favorite comfort item? Put it in the emergency box, just in case.
Of course, there are things that aren’t helpful for children. These include:
- Non-nutritious snacks
- Large toys
Disaster Preparedness for Seniors or Disabled Individuals—What to Buy, What to Skip
Senior adults and those with disabilities have unique considerations in an emergency. Lack of mobility, for instance, can make getting to help difficult. Also, these individuals may have more medications and medical needs than others in your family. Here’s what you need to consider when packing for them:
- Extra doses of all prescription drugs, with details about how and when to take them.
- Extra water
- Mobility assistance devices (like a cane or walker)
- Batteries for hearing aids or other assistance devices
- Incontinence pads
- Special food to fit any dietary considerations
- List of needs, limitations and capabilities for the individual
The list of what not to buy is not really any different for seniors or disabled individuals than it is for others, but use common sense to ensure you aren’t putting too much in your emergency preparedness kit.
Disaster Preparedness for Pets—What to Buy, What to Skip
Finally, when packing for your family, don’t forget your pets. They are just as much part of the family as you are. That’s why the Meigs County Humane Society recommends you plan for their disaster kit as well as your own. Here’s what it should have:
- A recent photograph to help get your lost pet back
- Pet food and water for three days minimum
- Medical records
- Sturdy carriers, harnesses or leashes
- Cat litter supplies
- Garbage bags for collecting waste
- A safe bed
Here’s what you don’t need to buy for your pets:
- Extra toys – They will take up space and are not necessary for pets who will likely be scared anyway.
- Grooming items – You aren’t going to have time to groom your pet until the emergency is over. You can wash your pet with your soap and use scissors to cut out matted fur if needed.
- Extra treats – Focus on the necessities, not luxuries, during an emergency.