Today I’d like to talk about emergency preparedness. It’s always been a subject near and dear to my heart, and I thought it something worth sharing. Emergency preparedness is something that all of us can look a little more closely at. With the tumulus economic times and the uncertainty I thought this would be a pretty appropriate topic.

First of all, what exactly do I mean when I say “emergency preparedness.” You’re all smart people (after all, you’re reading my blog…kidding!) so I’m not going to go into detail – but I am going to say that being prepared for an emergency doesn’t just mean being prepared for a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Let me give you an example.

Growing up we lived in a small town in California, and one of the things in our town (amongst the canning factories, the ammo plant, and the multiple farms) was a railroad station. You name it; we hauled it through our city. If there was a spill, leak, or accident, we had to evacuate – quickly. Dad developed some emergency packs for us to take if we had to evacuate.

Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking “Oh, that’s a neat idea for people who live near that type of hazard…”

Let’s stop that type of thinking. Almost everyone in the United States are near potential hazards, hazmat incidents and various other types of spills/contaminations. If you don’t think you’re in a potentially dangerous spot, consider the 18-wheelers that drive past you on a daily basis. You know those ones with the diamond placards on them to let you know what they’re carrying? Look it up sometime. Some of the craziest, deadliest chemicals could be cutting you off on the freeway on a daily basis. A quick search of “HAZMAT” on Google news search shows chemical and hazmat concerns in Sioux Falls (SD), Northwestern Ohio, and Great Barrington (Mass).

So by now I hopefully have got you thinking. Hey, maybe there is a risk to me and my family. Hey, maybe I should do a little bit of preparation. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea. But what should I do? How should I do it?

I’m going to give you another illustration, one that I don’t mind sharing publicly now that the “threat” is over. Do you guys remember Y2K? My Dad bought into the whole thing. And when I mean he bought into it, I mean he REALLY bought into it. We had enough dried food and emergency supplies at the house to last us a year on our own. A year! We had gas stored and hidden. We had water bottles after water bottles hidden away.  Dad went a little overboard. I was in college at the time and I remember doing a presentation in speech class about Y2K, the threat it posed, and what ordinary citizens could do to help (told you I was a bit of a prep-fanatic). It was my persuasive speech, and I remember afterwards the teacher going “Huh. Maybe I should buy a few extra bottles of water… you know, just in case.” It was a big moment for me.

I’m digressing. My argument is not that we should follow in my Dad’s footsteps and have tons of dried chocolate pudding and dried potatoes on hand. But some middle ground between preparing for the immediate-evacuation and preparing for a long-term situation is probably a good idea for individuals – and absolutely essential for families.

So where do you start? That’s really for your family to decide, but I’ll share with you the backpack my Dad made 14 years ago. Some of the ideas he had were great, and some didn’t end up lasting very well. I recently went in and inventoried mine, so I’ll share the updates I made.

Food:

  • 4 32-ounce water bottles
  • 4 MREs (different flavors if he could manage)
  • 8 Power Bars

Supplies:

  • 1 plate
  • 1 cup
  • 1 set of plastic silverware (good stuff, not disposable, but plastic nonetheless)
  • 1 flashlight6 AA batteries (2 for the flashlight, and 4 extra)
  • 1 heat-conserving aluminum blanket
  • 1 poncho
  • 4 travel packages of travel Kleenex (handy toilet paper in a pinch)
  • 10 strike-anywhere matches in a waterproof container
  • 1 mini-first aid kit with bare essentials in it
  • Swiss Army Knife

Extras:

  • New Testament

Ok, now, here were the problems I found.

  • The extra batteries were rotted away completely unusable. He didn’t put them in any sort of air-tight container, so I think that was why. The main batteries were still in the package with the flashlight, and they were fine.
  • The power bars were disgustingly out of date – I don’t even know if they sell those anymore, but I remember them being gross back in the 90’s!
  • The water, even though it stated “expiration 5-1-99” still tasted great. Yes, I drank an entire bottle and it was still delicious. The strike-anywhere matches didn’t strike-anywhere. Actually, they didn’t strike at all. The magnesium appeared to have gone bad.

So to fix this kit, I replaced the water bottle I drank with a larger Ozarka bottle – it’s a little bulkier than the 32-ounce bottle my Dad initially got, but the backpack has become my emergency kit for the back of my car, and you never know when the car will need water too. The Power Bars will be replaced with modern day energy bars (not sure which kind I’ll be getting, though Millennium bars look good, despite their silly name). I haven’t gotten to get any yet, but with several MRE’s in the kit already I’m not in too much of a hurry. And the matches? Well, I was going to go to the store and buy more strike-anywhere matches, but my husband had the brilliant idea of sticking a BIC lighter in the backpack. They last forever and take forever to run out of fuel. Amazing how sometimes we can overlook the most obvious things!!  Ideally, I’d also like to add some sanitizing gel, pencils, paper and some light sticks.

A kit like this or something similar for each person of the family is a GREAT idea. You can customize it to your families needs. If you have toddlers, you can certainly pack their food along with yours. If you have babies, maybe your kit will include powdered milk instead of just water. You can get a disposable camera for the photographer that might need to document something. Maybe you can’t bear to live without something to read – so throw a cheap paperback in there. Put some spare glasses in there. It’s YOUR bag – make it something that will be helpful to you.

But do have an emergency plan in case you have to leave your home suddenly, with absolutely no money and no way to buy food for yourself.

There are some amazing resources out there, and I’d like to write again on this topic if this was helpful. Let me know by leaving a comment, and feel free to ask any questions or tell me about a particular aspect of emergency management and preparedness that you’d like covered.

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