I live in a part of the country where our usual emergency preparedness includes being ready for hurricanes from June until the end of November, small tornadoes in the spring, and extremely rare earthquakes. 2020, of course, threw in plague and civil unrest. Your home may have other risks, including some that you didn’t expect—looking at you, Texas, and praying for your safety and sanity, I know things are miserable.
I don’t talk about my former marriage a lot, but my ex-husband was and is into the prepper mindset, and some of the useful points stuck with me on how I live my life. I want to be very clear that there are things associated with that mindset that I do not embrace and it’s not up for discussion.
It’s time to go back to the basics and talk about emergency preparedness that can benefit anyone no matter where you live. Please remember to slowly build up these assets over a matter of weeks, months, or years. Each step you take helps.
Do not spend your rent money doing this, you need your place to live, that’s step one.
A certain, very popular financial advisor talks about having an emergency fund of one thousand dollars. 2020 taught many that this only works in good times and really only if you have other safety nets to fall back on. With that said, that emergency fund is still a good idea and one that is a good thing to work toward but know that it’s not enough for anything beyond what will end up being a minor inconvenience once you’ve experienced an actual crisis or disaster.
What do you need for basic emergency preparedness?
This list is mostly in order of priority
- A quality first aid kit
- A fire extinguisher, in your kitchen.
- Safe water storage or purification for 72 hours minimum for each member of your household, optimally, a week.
- A blackout pantry
- A “go bag.”
- Common sense
First Aid Kit
Yes. Accidents happen, knives slip, kids fall, people get hurt all the time. It’s important to be able to at least be able to patch up a wound before getting real medical attention, especially if there will be any delay. That laceration that needs six or seven stitches? It ranks pretty far behind the person with chest pain and the vehicular accident.
Yes, a fire extinguisher, keep it in your kitchen.
Think of it this way, if the roads are icy and emergency crews can’t get to you, exactly how are they going to help you if your cat knocks over a candle and your couch is now on fire? While you are at it, learn how to properly use the fire extinguisher and make sure it is not expired and replace it if it is.
Also, remember, if you are cooking and start a grease fire. Smother it. Do not use water, which will spread the fire. Yes, you can use a chemical fire extinguisher, but if you hadn’t gotten around to it yet, you could also use baking soda or salt. Do not use flour, which is highly flammable.
Water storage gets tricky as your household expands. This post goes into detail on an innovative solution for larger households.
Blackout pantries, what do I mean by this?
Well, it’s a combination of things and it’s not just the literal closet right off of your kitchen. It’s food you can eat without cooking. It’s the food you consume as it thaws from your freezer if you still have ways to cook.
Please remember, never use a charcoal grill indoors.
Also remember that if it is below freezing and your power is out, the entire outside world is a freezer.
Put your food on your porch. Yes, some wildlife might get into it. It’s possible… You could also figure out ways to try to prevent that. A laundry basket with something heavy on top. (A pot filled with other heavy items would be a good example).
When I was college-age-ish and we had a party, we would put beer out in the snow to chill it faster. It’s a thing. Utilize what you have available, be creative.
Everyone, lean in, this is vital. Get a little closer. Listen to me:
Get a backup one, too. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
Additionally, if you are one of those wonderful people who donate to the little pantries and blessing boxes that have sprung up all over the place. Occasionally leave those with your canned food donations. You have no idea how much people need these to use the canned food.
Back to your preparedness…
Not counting the food you can use from what is currently in the refrigerator and freezer, you should have a minimum of 72 hours worth of food for your household members. That’s at least nine full meals and plenty of snacks that do not take electricity or power of any kind to prepare.
Why snacks? Because stressed people eat and eat and eat. Just watch Twitter while people wait for a hurricane to hit.
Take a look at what people have been doing during 2020.
Food is comfort—have comfort on hand.
What else should be in your blackout pantry? Batteries, flashlights, matches, candles, and a weather radio at minimum. If you have kids, make sure you have items that will entertain them while the power is out. TRUST ME.
You know them best, make sure there are goodies hidden away for them. Treat whatever is happening like an adventure and they will be okay.
The “Go Bag”
I hate this term. I hate it because it conjures up a mental image I don’t care to visit, I will happily replace this term if any of you have a better term that people will immediately recognize.
Each individual needs a bag and this bag needs to contain at minimum:
- A change of clothing
- Two pairs of socks
- Two pairs of underwear
- Sturdy shoes
- Non-perishable food for 48 hours —This can be a mixture of camping food/granola bars, etc
- A couple of water bottles, maybe a Lifestraw if you feel fancy
- If it’s a child’s bag, contact information for relatives in case of separation, any medication they have to take daily, if necessary.
- In an adult’s bag, a copy of their critical information—Insurance information, IDs, cc info, some cash, and if possible, maintenance medications. This will have to be rotated regularly.
- *During COVID-19: alcohol-based wipes or gel and cloth or KN-95 masks
This bag then lives under a bed, in a closet, or in the garage, anywhere it can be grabbed in a hurry by the individual it belongs to.
Will you ever need it? I hope not, but:
- if you ever have to leave your home for a hurricane
- head to a storm cellar for a tornado
- there’s a wildfire
- you receive a call that a family member is critically injured and you have to go now
You don’t have to think, you just grab, and you go. Not all of it is needed for each situation, but in others, you’ll be glad you have it. The less thinking you have to do in high-stress situations, the better. They will certainly make things like staying in a shelter or hospital rooms more comfortable.
This is the one that is out of order because it’s hardest to itemize and make a checklist for.
It’s different for everyone’s situation, but some things are the same.
Minimize your risk.
Don’t do stupid things, especially when resources are limited. Has there been a hurricane? Don’t drink beer and run a chainsaw. Has there been an ice storm? Don’t run on the stairs.
A simple thing that can make a big difference, keep your car, if you have one, as full as possible at all times.
If you have young kids, run a couple of drills.
Make them very, very random and gentle. DO NOT SCARE THEM. Kids are under enough stress right now. Take them for ice cream or some other treat if they get to the car or out to your designated point in good time with everything they are supposed to have. Don’t do this for one week and never again. It needs to be done enough that they know it by heart. If you move, do it again and again until they know it again.
If you have teenagers, it’s even more important, because they often think they know everything and have all the answers and know that nothing bad will happen to them.
Take them to random points of the town and make them navigate home. No, they can’t use their phones. For that matter, can you navigate home, without your phone?
Make them recite your phone number. No, they can’t look at their phones.
Make them recite their address. No, they can’t look at their phones.
You might be surprised by what you assume they know or what you assume you know.
When things are safer, if you live in a smaller city, like we do, take them somewhere with a functioning public transportation system and teach them how to use it. I was an adult before I learned. In fact, it was when I started traveling for work with Home-Ec101 and it was very intimidating.
Yes, it’s easier now with smartphones, but what if your kid and you have a fight or if they get caught up in some dumb kid thing and change their mind and want to get away and come home. Help them know how to find their way back to you. Assume they’ve had the worst day of their lives and the battery of their phone is dead or their phone got stolen.
Teach them to handle situations so they aren’t scared when they have to deal with life’s little emergencies. A flat tire on the interstate, fender benders, etc. Will they handle it well or have a meltdown?
Emergencies come in all shapes and all sizes. At that moment, what matters about an emergency is whether or not it affects you or the ones you love. The powers that be often can’t or maybe won’t be able to help. You need to set up a system to ensure you have a safety net in place.
What would you add to these very basic starting points?