Blue Girl in a Red State stopped by to read the posts on emergency preparedness, and posted a very good article at her blog about what sort of things one should have around the house for emergencies. I’d like to add a few suggestions.
First, the most important thing to have is knowledge. If you’re going to be on your own for three days to five days as FEMA suggests, here are some things you should know:
- First Aid and CPR: People are injured in disasters, that’s a given. A basic 9-hour First Aid/CPR class can enable you to save a life – your own or that of a loved one. Classes are available through the American Red Cross; click on the link to find your local chapter. The course costs approximately $65.00.
- Fire Extinguisher Use: Get at least one extinguisher per level of your house (including the cellar or basement). Make sure you get the kind with a metal valve assembly (they can be refilled; the ones with plastic assemblies cannot). KNOW HOW TO USE IT SAFELY. Instructions will be included with the extinguisher; read them. Your local fire department may offer training in the proper use of extinguishers. OSHA and the National Ag Safety Database also have information on their websites.
- Utilities Shut-Offs: Know where the main shut-offs are for gas, water, and electricity, and know how to turn them off. Most residential gas services can be turned off using an adjustable wrench, but there are special tools available to make it easier. Once you have shut off your gas service, ONLY a licensed gas technician may turn it back on. Being able to safely turn off a gas main is critical in trailer parks and densely-populated developments and subdivisions.
- CERT (Community Emergency Response Team): If you want to get some really good solid training in basic disaster response, Citizen Corps is coordinating CERT training (in cooperation with FEMA). Their website has more information.
- Additional Training: Yeah, I bitch about FEMA a lot, but their Emergency Management Institute offers free on-line training courses. Take a look at the full course list, but I’d recommend the following: IS-22, Are You Ready (with the caveats from Taylor’s article); IS-55, Hazardous Materials for Citizens; IS-111, Livestock in Disasters (if you’re a farmer); IS-317, Intro to CERT (this does not substitute for CERT training, but it will help you decide if you want to pursue it); and IS-394A, Protecting Your Home From Disaster. The Red Cross also has a number of training courses available through their Disaster Services unit. You can also check with your state or local emergency management agency for training and guidance.
Second, you need equipment and supplies.
- Food: As Blue Girl points out, “Tuna fish and soda crackers and granola bars can get really old really fast”, but there are lots of other options. Pretty much any canned food will work in an emergency (just ask the Boy Scouts): Spaghetti-O’s, chili, fruits and vegetables, even Spam (the meat product, not the email). Badtux ran a series of reviews a while back on MRE’s (Meals, Ready to Eat) and similar fare (you’ll have to search his archives). MRE’s are available through camping stores and mail/Internet order. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE AN OLD-FASHIONED MANUAL CAN OPENER.
- Water: Figure at least 3-5 gallons per day, per person (and don’t forget pets and livestock) for drinking, food preparation and sanitation. Most grocery stores now have bottled water in the large 5-gallon jugs; those work fine.
- Medications, etc: Make sure you have additional supplies of prescription drugs or other medications that you use regularly (aspirin, etc). Your doctor may be willing to prescribe additional supplies for an emergency kit.
- Tools: You should have at least basic hand and rescue tools stored in your emergency shelter: hammer, regular and Phillips screwdrivers, pliers, prybars, hard hat, work gloves, safety goggles, bow or limb saw, etc. If you can get your hands on one of the old-fashioned bumper jacks (the kind with the cup that goes under the bumper, not into a slot on the bumper) that would be handy, too.
- Sanitation: As Dr. Taylor pointed out, FEMA’s recommendations for personal sanitation in disasters leaves much to be desired. A camping or chemical toilet is a much safer and much more effective solution. Camping stores and recreational vehicle (RV) dealers can provide equipment and supplies.
- First Aid Kit: You can buy prepared first aid kits everywhere from grocery and drug stores to Lowe’s and Home Depot, and, of course, at your local Red Cross chapter. A simple kit should cost less than $20.00, but you can spend lots more, depending on your individual needs. Make sure it includes non-latex gloves and a breathing barrier (for performing CPR).
You should have scaled-down emergency kits in each vehicle in the family. Remember to add blankets and reflective triangles or flares (fusees), and remember to check all fluid levels, tire pressure, and condition of your spare regularly.