Countdown to Survival
Top Ten Items For Your Emergency Plan
If you think you are already prepared, use this list as a quick check. If you suspect you’re missing a few things, use the list to fill in the gaps.
Food the Means to Prepare It and Eat It . . .
Water, Food and Medicines – Enough for the entire household including pets, to last for a minimum of 3 days . . . up to one or two weeks if possible. Best to stock up on the canned soups, staples and packaged foods you normally eat, and then rotate to keep supplies fresh. (We have enough sardines and packages of instant latte coffee to survive for a month!) Don’t overlook a 14-day supply of important medications (think customized first aid kit) for you, your children and your pet.
Prescriptions, Medical Devices, etc. – In a serious event, electricity, running water and plumbing facilities may not be available for hours or days. Without power, ATMs, computer systems and electronic cash registers will be inoperative, making the renewal of prescriptions challenging if not impossible. Likewise, life-sustaining devices such as oxygen machines that require power may have to be run on “inverters” (alternative power devices that convert the direct current of a car battery to alternating current). Inverters or small solar panels can also power small appliances, laptop computers, etc. and serve as a recharging source for smart phones, iPods and other electronics. In all these, wattage requirements will determine if the system works for you. Test everything in advance! Note: Power generators are both expensive and unwieldy and are not practical in most residential settings.
Camping Stove, Hand-Held Can Opener & Eating Utensils – Disposable plates & eating utensils may prove satisfactory but keep in mind that if the emergency continues, leaving you without power, water or garbage disposal or pickup, you will need to think outside of the box to survive. We recommend a propane-powered camping stove even if you have an outside barbecue.
Communications Are Your Link to Friends, Family and the Reality of the World Around You.
Emergency Radios that Receive NOAA and Local Government Broadcasts – With TV and internet out, the only sure way you will know what’s happening is via emergency radio transmissions. Have at least one full service radio for the home (two or more for larger, multi-story homes or community residences) and one smaller hand-held model for each family vehicle.
Walkie-Talkies – These hand-held multi-channel, battery-powered communicators will work regardless of a power outage. They are the best way for your CERT Teams to communicate with volunteers and for you to keep in touch with your neighbors following an emergency. We have extra units strategically placed throughout our house and a pair in each car.
Emergency Contact Numbers – When local telephone circuits are down or overloaded, you may be able to use out of state relatives or contacts as a way to relay messages to family members, employees or associates. But this works only if all parties are in on the scheme before a disaster strikes.
You Will Need Light and Heat When There is No Power.
Flashlights and Battery-Powered Lighting – With the widespread availability of LED (light emitting diode) devices, we use far fewer batteries than we used to with incandescent bulbs. Flashlights are cheap; have more than one. Keeping a small 250+ Lumen flashlight in a handy location in each room in the house ensures you can safely navigate in the dark. But you will also want a couple larger, more powerful (500+ Lumens) flashlights and possibly even a headlamp or two that leaves both hands free. And you’ll appreciate some LED table lamps or lanterns for general lighting needs.
More on Batteries From Our Experience – We need batteries for everything from radios to flashlights to smart phones and other devices, typically AAA, AA, C & D sizes. Most batteries manufactured under the Duracell and Energizer brands are guaranteed to have a 10-year shelf life. In our experience, this is misleading. Ten years may be possible under ideal conditions . . . whatever those are.
With few exceptions, we have found the batteries to lose some of their power midway through this period, and many start to corrode. The basic “copper top” Duracell batteries seem to deteriorate more rapidly than the standard Energizers – 3 to 1 in our experience – but the new (and more expensive) “red-top” Duracell batteries seem to perform better. We only have a few months experience with them.
The bottom line: Whatever brand batteries you use, don’t leave radios or electronic devices sitting for long periods of non-use with batteries installed. Take the batteries out and look at them carefully before reinstalling. If you have devices with corroded terminals, they can sometimes be rejuvenated by using a cotton swab to apply a water & baking soda paste (which will absorb the corrosion) and removing the resulting dry crust with a wooden toothpick or a single prong of a broken plastic fork. This works about half the time, seemingly depending on how bad the buildup or corrosion was.
Clothing You Can Count On to Keep You Warm – Even in moderate climates nights get cold. Your emergency kit needs to contain at the very least a warm coat and sturdy shoes. It’s easy to add a space blanket and rain slicker. (A large plastic garbage bag is better than nothing.) Blankets in the car will be welcome when you’re stuck trying to get home.
Take Care of Personal Needs.
Hygiene and Sanitation Items – From brushing your teeth to disposing of trash, garbage and body waste, a world without electricity or running water presents several significant challenges. The bigger the household (including pets), the greater the problem. In addition to trash bags, toilet tissue, cleaning and disinfectant supplies, you’ll want heavy-duty “compactor bags” to insert in toilets for collecting solid human waste. If you’re part of a community that includes elderly or frail residents, you may be faced with managing deceased humans. As distasteful as all this may be, pre-event planning will yield big dividends in comfort.
Who Will Be Turning To You?
Most Important Preparation of All is Your Neighborhood &/or Workplace – Take a moment and think about what a major calamity will mean to your immediate environment. If you are the only one who is prepared, your circumstances will be little better than your neighbors or co-workers. In the Tsunami that caused widespread devastation in Japan, it was neighbors helping each other that saved lives and made community survival possible.
While hard-core, serial “survivalists” devote considerable (often inordinate) resources to building “bug out bags” and even acquiring arsenals of weapons to protect themselves, the reality for most of us is not likely to be something out of Mad Max. Major roadways and potential escape routes will probably be congested, unnavigable or even impassable. Where would you go and how would you carry what you need to survive? For most of us, “survival in place” is the most realistic option. What can you do to help your co-workers and neighbors focus their energies on emergency preparation . . . for their sake and yours as well?
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team
Virginia Nicols, CERT graduate living in Southern California, has helped lead her local neighborhood emergency team for over a decade. Her website, http://EmergencyPlanGuide.org, reflects much of what that award-winning volunteer group has struggled with and accomplished over the years. This month, El Niño tops the preparedness agenda.
Get a weekly reminder about emergency preparedness for family or workplace. Subscribe below to our Advisories. They are free.