Emergency Preparedness: Will You Be Ready When the Lights Go Out?

Last week’s snow storm and subsequent power outage reminded me that I am a bona fide electricity addict. Admittedly, 20 hours of life unplugged seemed like an eternity… which undoubtedly was exacerbated by a sick baby and temperatures that fell to 53 degrees…inside. Nevertheless, after fumbling around our house in the dark…looking for a flashlight (while carrying a crying toddler), I also decided that our household deserved a big, fat D- in emergency preparedness. Fire wood? Nope. Battery powered radio? Nope. Generator? Nope. Kerosene heater? Nope. Husband home? Nope, stuck at work. Candles? Yes (the only reason we didn’t get an F), however hand-held fire doesn’t do much good with a toddler in tote. Aaaaaah! Just don’t panic.

Needless to say, I used to laugh at “those crazy people” who run out to the store and strip the shelves of bread, batteries, and duct tape at the slightest announcement of inclement weather. However, it seems that we are hearing about a new urgent situation or natural disaster every few weeks – Winter Storms, Floods, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Thunderstorms, Earthquakes, Mudslides, Wildfires, and other man-made spills, hazards, and outages.  So why not be better prepared?  There is tremendous upside to gain, with very little effort required. So here are some suggestions recently compiled from friends, family, and FEMA (feel free to pick & choose what is appropriate for you):

Recommended Items for a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:
– 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
Flashlights and extra batteries
– First aid kit
– Whistle to signal for help
– Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
– Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
– Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
– Cell phone and charger (remember to charge before any announced storms)
– Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container

Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:
– Prescription medications and glasses
– Infant formula and diapers
– Pet food and extra water for your pet
– A generator
– A kerosene heater, for cold-weather climates
– Laptop computer and charger (for potential communication following storm)
– Cash and change
– Emergency reference material, such as a first aid book
– Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding 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
– An axe, especially if you live in a flood or fire prone area
– Utility knife
– Matches in a waterproof container
– Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
– Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
– Paper and pencil
– Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
– A charged iPad. Your Wifi may not work, but a few games of Angry Birds might get you through a dark night (trust me on this one).

For a printer-friendly Emergency Preparedness checklist, click HERE.

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