Would you know what to do in an emergency? Do you have emergency supplies stocked just in case? Time to think about it.
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One of the things that has been on my to-do list for a very, very long time has been to create a 3-day emergency supply for our family. This weekend I finally got it established.
It was almost twenty years ago that the Northridge earthquake shook Southern California. While I lived in Santa Barbara at the time, just a little north out of the range of serious effects, my parents and siblings lived just 14 miles from the epicenter. Their lives and the infrastructure surrounding them was in upheaval for months.
In the early days after the earthquake, my family pitched a tent in the front yard, barbecued all the thawing meats from the deep freeze, and otherwise, made the most of a quite out of the ordinary event.
For us here in Southern California, our emergency risks include flood, fire, earthquakes, and tsunami along the coasts. Your risks for natural disaster may differ, including tornado, hurricane, and blizzard, in addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned. Unfortunately, modern times have brought us the risk of terrorism as well as, on a lesser note, interruption of power and utilities.
While none of us really expects it to happen to us, we know it pays to be prepared.
But are we complacent about emergencies?
Recent results of the 2012 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey showed:
- 71 percent of Americans are unsure or unaware if their community has a personal alerting and notification system for public safety issues
- Less than one half (47 percent) of Americans would take action based on a potential severe weather warning
- A shocking 1 in 12 Americans said that nothing would cause them to care, including sirens or nearby reports of damage
I admit that living in a low-risk area for natural disasters leads me to be a little complacent. Despite the regular earthquake drills we had when I was a school kid, I don’t really give much thought to potential emergencies.
I don’t have personal experience in living out a serious emergency situation, but one day’s power outage last year gave me a glimpse of how challenging it would be to ride out a storm, especially while caring for six children.
This year I bit the bullet and decided to get better prepared. Here are some of the things I’ve done so far:
A few months ago I pulled some cash from savings so that we would have small bills on hand in case infrastructure was damaged to the point when we couldn’t make purchases easily. Small bills allow you to buy food or water without worrying if the store can make change. I stored it in a fireproof file box and made sure hubs and the older boys know about it.
We call it the “earthquake money”. An interesting side note was that the bank teller was too young to remember the last big earthquake and did not know about having some cash on hand.
Go Bags for the Kids
Earlier this month I made emergency evacuation bags for the kids. Each child helped with his own bag, but I spearheaded the operation to make sure it was completed. We have a few things to upgrade as finances allow, but I feel comfortable that in case we had to leave our home in a hurry, the kids would have some comforts to get them through the first 24 hours.
The 3-Day Emergency Supply
Most emergency personnel would advise that you store 3 days’ worth of food, water, and other useful items in case of an emergency. You may already have more than three days’ worth of food stored in your cupboards. But since we don’t know when a disaster can strike, it’s good to have a separate supply designated for emergencies only.
Where you live and the risks specific to that region will determine what you store and where you store it. If we still lived in Kansas, I would have placed my 3-day kit in the basement. Since we live in California where few homes have basements, our kit is in the garage in a closed cupboard. In this way if we were camping in the front yard, we’d have easy access to our camping supplies as well our 3-day supply.
(And yes, I borrowed the cupboard idea from this post over on Organizing Junkie. It’s been inspiring me all year long to get more together in this area.)
My mom and I also chatted about her own experiences in an emergency situation with kids. And I quizzed my dad who has given workshops on emergency preparedness in his role as a volunteer for the sheriff’s department.
Here’s what I included in our kit. (Be sure to consider your family’s specific needs when you create your kit. Our camping supplies, such as sleeping bags, camping dishes, stove, and lantern, are also located in the garage, so I didn’t need to include them here.)
- 24 gallons of water – 1 gallon per person per day
- bottled juice
- 3 days’ worth of non-perishable food and a can opener
- individual condiment packets
- paper plates, paper towels, and plastic flatware
- kitchen sponges and dish soap
- flashlights and batteries
- candles in glass holders (I couldn’t find emergency candles, so these were a cheap alternative)
- toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soft soap, bleach, sanitizing wipes, trash bags
- basic toiletries
- first aid kit, extra ace bandages, extra cold packs
- feminine hygiene products
- NOAA weather radio and batteries
- extra propane
- a whistle
On stocking food:
I resisted purchasing boxed items due to the bug issue. Recently, I returned to the store a dozen brand new boxes of pasta that had itty bitty bugs in them. All the food we stocked in our supply is canned or bagged in plastic to prevent this.
I didn’t buy anything that would expire in the next 8 months. I plan to rotate everything in June.
If we experienced a significant loss of power, we would probably eat up the freezer contents first. The freezer is in the same garage as this cupboard, making it easy to access. There is regularly a ton of food in there. That said, I didn’t spend a huge amount of time planning fancy emergency meals or buying complete meals.
Our emergency meal plan:
- fruit: canned pineapple and applesauce
- sunbutter, crackers, and jam
- canned chicken noodle soup and crackers
- chili (made from canned ingredients)
- asian noodles with canned chicken
- pasta with red sauce
- beans and rice
On paying for all this:
Unless you can find very cheap sources for these items or already have a large stockpile of non-perishables, this could become a pricey venture. I took a lot of things from other places in the house. I bought the water bottles over several months’ time. But, these things still added up. I tried to choose things that we would use anyway, so that in June when I change them out, we’ll have no trouble eating them up.
A frugal alternative is to work on acquiring a few items on the list every month until you consider your kit complete. Keep in mind the expiration dates on the food items so that you can rotate them before they have expired. You don’t want to waste the investment. If you see a good sale on batteries, stock up and store some in the emergency kit.
To really be prepared, we need to think about these supplies at least twice a year. Consider doing so when you change the clocks for daylight savings at the same time as you change your smoke alarm batteries.
I plan to file this in the back of my head to add or improve our supply cupboard as time and finances allow. In the meantime, I think we could weather the storm.
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