Would you be ready if a disaster struck tomorrow?

Would you be ready if a disaster struck tomorrow?

I’m not a conspiracy theorist.  I don’t have a running countdown for the end of the world.  I don’t even believe in the zombie apocalypse.  I do believe in preparing for disasters.  I live in a condo, without a garage, shed, or other storage space.  However, I have found a way to stay prepared in a small space and on a small budget.  Here is how I did it.

Fire Drill

First things first, you will need to make sure that your smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are in working order.  You can check the first section of the Fall Back Home Maintenance Checklist for more details on this.  I just learned that there are now smoke alarms available with extra long battery lives, which I plan to install in my house pronto since our home has 18 foot ceilings and changing those batteries can be quite the chore.

In addition to your fire safety equipment, the National Fire Protection Agency has a worksheet on how to create a Fire Escape Plan.  We have built into our fire escape plan rules around getting Tom Jones the cat out of the house safely during a fire as well.  Her kitty carrier is always in the easy to access area near a fire extinguisher.  It is also important to make sure that everyone in the household knows how to call for help.  When I was little, and I was learning my numbers, my aunt put the emergency phone number, which was different than 911 in our rural community, on a half-sheet of card stock cut lengthwise.  She used this as a way to keep us safe and help us practice our numbers.

If you are in an area where there are earthquakes, tornadoeshurricanes, or floods, then you will need to set up plans for these as well.

Prepare for a Small Disaster First

Once I had escape plans out of the way, I started my emergency preparedness by preparing for a small disaster.  The disaster I used as my muse occurred about five years ago.  High winds during the winter months toppled power lines and left hundreds of thousands without power for a day and tens of thousands without power for a week.  We were really lucky that our power was restored within a 24 hour timeframe, but this was still a struggle for us because we were not prepared.

My first quest in emergency preparedness was to ensure that I had what I needed for a 72 hour time period.  I started slow and gathered the items you see listed below over time as my budget allowed.  Planning for a 72 hour timeframe is important because it is the amount of time that it takes FEMA officials to get to those in need during a disaster.  Sometimes it only takes a matter of hours, but sometimes it could take days depending on the size of the effort.  Here is your 72 hour list:

  • Water: You will need one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days.  We also add an extra gallon of water for Tom Jones the cat (assuming 1 liter or so per day for her).  We replace the water every six months.
  • Food: This was an interesting one for us because I’m vegan and my husband is vegetarian.  I opted for  emergency food bars because other options require heat, precious water, or they took up too much storage space.  I figure if we are in an emergency we won’t really be too sad that we can’t have a full course meal.  I found that the 3600 calorie Datrex Emergency Food Bars have a five year shelf life, and one block of 18 bars is sufficient to sustain one person for 3 days. The ingredients say Wheat Flour, Vegetable Shortening, Cane Sugar, Water, Coconut, and Salt.  I got a pack of 2 for my husband and I for $13.99 on Amazon.  If you choose other emergency food, then you will need to consider things like can openers and heat sources as required. If you are storing canned food, then my emergency preparedness guru friend Alaina told me that you never have to heat canned foods in order to eat them.  We also have food for Tom Jones the cat.  If you have babies in the family, you will need to prepare for them as well.
  • Radios: FEMA recommends a battery powered or hand crank radio along with a weather radio.  You should put extra batteries for both in your kit.  FEMA doesn’t mention this, but I highly recommend having battery operated cellphone charging devices on hand.  Phones become a communication lifeline but they also provide a gateway into social media, which I have found to be a superior way to get emergency updates more quickly.  We have these Energizer instant charger for iPhones.  Batteries are your friend during a disaster.  Have lots of them on standby and switch them out regularly.
  • Let There Be Light: You will want a flashlight and extra batteries (did I mention extra batteries?).  We got a couple Energizer rechargeable LED lights because we can use them as night lights that illuminate the path towards safety and as flashlights as well.
  • IMG_8132First Aid Kit: We just ordered a first aid kit as part of a fundraising effort for war veterans.  Operation: I.V. provides specialized one-of-a-kind managed care treatment programs for PTSD & TBI combat veterans through their innovative VIP (Veteran Intervention Plan). They work with other non-profit organizations, private medical care providers and other needed professionals to provide all services at no cost to our brave combat veterans or their families.  You can find the first aid kit, and other great fundraising merchandise, in their Gear Store. Thank you to my good friend, and army wife, Angelina for informing me of this great cause.
  • Whistle: This can be used to signal for help when you see a rescue team and they do not see you.
  • Dust Mask: Oftentimes disasters can damage infrastructure, and crumbling infrastructure typically means a lot of dust.  Remember back to pictures on 9/11 where all of Manhattan, and all of its inhabitants, were covered in a thick layer of gray dust.  You can pick these up at your home improvement store.  One thing to remember is that once you put a dust mask on, you need to pinch the top around your nose for a better fit.
  • Personal Sanitation: Keep moist towellettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties on hand.  I also found a disposable kitty litter pan that comes pre-filled with litter.
  • Map: Have a map of your city on hand.  Your radio will tell you where emergency shelters are located.  Your map will tell you how to get there.
  • Medications: This is particularly important for those that are on long term medications as both my husband and I are.  You can also keep some multi-vitamins or other supplements in your kit as well. When I upgraded my glasses recently, I put my older pair in the emergency kit just in case.
  • Family Planning: There are baby booms 9 months after disasters for a reason.  Put some condoms in your kit.
  • Entertainment: Speaking of ways to have fun while passing the time….add some books and card games for kids (and adults too) so that there are activities available at the shelter or while you are sheltering in place.

All told, we are able to fit this 72 hour emergency kit on one shelf in our condo.  We work to rotate batteries, food, water, medications, etc. so that items in the kit don’t go bad or get wasted.

Disasters During Work Travel

I travel a lot for a living, and I was working on a project in New York City when Hurricane Sandy struck Manhattan.  I was lucky that I had flown home a few days early at my company’s request.  However, it really made me think about how prepared I would be if I was traveling during an emergency.  I asked around, and here is how I now prepare for emergencies that could take place while I travel:

  • Shoes: The first piece of advice I received was to make sure to always pack comfortable walking shoes and an outfit that you can walk comfortably in.
  • Cash: Someone I work with that is a bit of an emergency preparedness wiz advised me to carry cash with me while I travel.  Being a woman traveling alone I didn’t feel awesome about this though I definitely understood the reasoning.  Let’s just say I have a special hiding place for my “travel emergency kit”.
  • Protein: This one was easy for me because, as a vegan, I always want to have extra protein on hand in case I can’t find it while traveling.  Vega brand protein powders can be added with water for a great punch of nutrition.  They don’t taste super awesome without being blended with frozen fruits and the like, but I’ll live and that’s the point.  I  also love these lemon coconut protein bars from Simply Protein.  They are small so they don’t take up a bunch of suitcase space, they taste like fancy rice krispie treats, and they have 15 grams of protein per bar.
  • Water: This is where the travelers would really struggle in a disaster because, as you know, we can’t carry water past security.  I’m not sure when this instinct developed, but my first task when I land anywhere it to get a good supply of water to take to the hotel with me.  I never know what the water quality out of the faucet will be, and its easy to get dehydrated while traveling.  I also carry a Takeya glass water bottle with me for the same reason.  I’ve never had it confiscated during security as long as I make sure it does not have water in it.

Preparing for the Long Haul

There are plenty of survivalists out there that have prepared for something Big.  You can too if you would like, but the trick to not becoming overwhelmed, or giving up, is to start small and then build on from there.

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Melody grew up in poverty, and she was homeless throughout most of her childhood. Even after the hard work of getting out of poverty was accomplished, she still lived in fear of the next bad thing that could happen. She knew that, without the security of a safety net, one misstep would mean certain disaster. It was not until this safety net was established that she truly felt liberated and free from the anxiety of living in poverty once again. She is now motivated to share this sense of freedom with all women.


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