September is National Emergency Preparedness Month. Let’s take a look at some of the situations you might want to prepare for and how to create a plan to suit your own family.
I first started getting serious about preparing for emergencies in the late 90s leading up to the Y2K “crisis”. As we all know that turned out to be a non-issue but I learned a lot while reading and researching the possibilities. I printed out all sorts of information on how to survive without electricity or other modern conveniences and still have that huge 3-ring binder.
I wasn’t convinced anything would come of it but at most, there might be some short-term problems. Still, as one who grew up watching Little House on the Prairie and reading about pioneers, it was kind of fun to think through various possibilities and how we might handle them.
We moved to the country in 1998 and by the time 2000 arrived I had a well-stocked pantry, lots of bottled water, a good supply of first aid supplies and a number of other items I thought might be handy in an emergency.
Y2K was a bust (thank goodness!) but the ice storm of December 2000 convinced me that being prepared was worth the effort. We were hit with a severe ice storm that took out electrical lines all over our area. We live 8 miles out of town and are not the first priority when it comes to restoring power. Our electricity was out for a week and with temperatures remaining in the teens that whole time, trust me when I say it was no fun! But we did survive.
Now, you may be thinking – “but I don’t live in an area with ice storms”. Awesome! I’m envious. But what about hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes (we get those, too), wildfires, earthquakes or droughts? Potential illness or loss of income are additional reasons to consider some basic preparations. A well-stocked pantry can be a huge help if you miss a couple of paychecks for one reason or another.
The key to being prepared is to give careful consideration to your own particular circumstances and prepare for the things that might reasonably occur. If you live on a California beach you can safely skip ice storm prep. Although you might want to have an earthquake emergency plan.
Topics of Preparedness
Here are some major areas to consider when creating your own emergency plan:
FEMA recommends maintaining a two-week supply of food. Every time they predict ice or snow here, everyone rushes to Walmart or Braum’s (regional ice cream and dairy store which also carries basic groceries). The shelves are quickly stripped bare of milk, bread and eggs. Apparently everyone is preparing to make French toast.
The folks at Oklahoma Mesonet actually use this graphic to portray winter weather storm severity:
Again, FEMA recommends a two-week supply. An average person requires half gallon of water per day (more for nursing mothers and people in hot climates) plus additional water for food preparation and hygiene.
If winter storms are a concern in your area it is wise to consider means of staying warm. Our house is all electric so when we were without power for a week it got COLD. We do have a fireplace which helped but it was still freezing. Fortunately we had warm sleeping bags, extra blankets and quilts, warm clothing, hats and gloves.
If roads are impassable it’s especially important to have a means of communication. Now that many no longer have landlines and rely on cell phones, it’s vital to have a means of charging your phone if the electricity goes out.
There are various types of portable cell phone chargers and it’s wise to have one or more. Also be sure to have a cell phone charger for your vehicles. We make a point of filling up our tanks before a winter storm strikes so we can charge our phones in a car if necessary.
A battery, solar or crank-style weather radio is also a good idea.
If the possibility of evacuation is a concern (hurricanes, wildfires, etc.) consider having a backpack with a few essentials for each family member. Keep papers and documents that you might need to take in an easily accessible place.
Lack of electricity
We are now so accustomed to electricity that it’s important to consider how to handle basic needs in its absence. Even a gas cookstove usually has an electric igniter. We have an outdoor propane grill with a side burner so we keep a couple of extra propane tanks on hand for it. It takes quite awhile to boil a pot of water outdoors when it’s 16 degrees but when you need coffee or hot tea it’s worth it.
If you have pets, children, elderly family members or anyone with special needs, carefully consider what each would require in an emergency. Diapers, formula, pet food, prescription medications, medical supplies, etc. should be kept on hand in reasonable quantities.
Entertainment and Comfort
It’s worth considering the emotional impact of emergencies, especially for children. Stock a few favorite food treats, for instance.
Also keep in mind how much most of us rely on our phones, computers and televisions for entertainment. A few board games, a deck of cards, a huge jigsaw puzzle and some “real” books could be important diversions for a family snowed or iced in for a few days.
What if money is tight?
For those living on a very tight budget it might not be easy to purchase emergency supplies. Make a list of the most pressing concerns and keep an eye out year round at thrift stores and sales. Perhaps you can request one of these items as a gift for a special occasion. Food banks might be a source for stocking a small emergency pantry.
No matter if money is an issue or not, I believe in the power of community. Get to know your neighbors. Help one another when you can and accept help when you need it. We are better together.
What about you? Do you prepare for emergencies? I’ve only barely scratched the surface of this topic but I hope it encourages you to consider your own needs for emergency preparedness.
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