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Friday, August 26, 2011

Preparing for Emergency Disasters

This post is being sponsored by Hurricane Irene (not really but it was inspired by Hurricane Irene).

It seems like this year has brought it fair share of extreme weather this year. In our area we had a bonafide blizzard. Followed by a second snow storm. Then the temperatures dropped to the lowest they have ever been here.  This spring saw strong storms with tornados that ravaged parts of Oklahoma and of course Springfield MO. This summer we had grass fires that caused the evacuation of whole towns.  Now we have a category 3 hurricane, Irene, headed for a collision course with the North East. Of course, there is plenty of time for the hurricane to change its course, and they often do, but it is better to be prepared than not be.
So how do you prepare for weather events that are forecast or disasters, ones that just happen, like the grass fires? It helps to have a plan in place with your family before disaster strikes. Though it seems like everyone in Oklahoma know about the impending blizzard we had been out of town the weekend prior, when we left it was 70, in January. It had been a mild week, all week long. When we came back to Oklahoma was the first we heard of the impending storm, was I worried? No, not really. You see, one of the tenants of being prepared it to be prepared at all times.  I keep a stocked pantry here at my house, I had ordered more firewood to be delivered while I was out of town.  Now because I was prepared all I did need to go get was some milk ironically. We were out. (and bird seed for the birds). So what does a stocked pantry look like?

So what do you need to do to prepare for a weather related disaster?
Water water
Water is absolutely necessary. You need to keep some available in your house. It is recommended that you have 1 gallon a day per person for at least 3 days. This is important should you lose power. In many parts of the country if you lose power you lose your access to water. We are lucky in that we have a cistern and a pond. But in order to ascertain that the water is safe we keep iodine tablets on hand. Another option is to do what my mother always did  during a hurricane. Fill the bathtub. We grew up with a well, but  losing power meant losing our pump. While had access to an open well it was a laborious task, So my mother would fill the bathtub and any water jugs and buckets she could get her hands on. If the water was non-potable she would use it to flush toilets.

Food IMG_7534
We personally keep about a months worth of food on hand at our house. I have built up my stores slowly and deliberately. Now we might get tired of eating the same thing after a month but we could make do with the food we have on hand.  Now I realize that if the power goes out some people may lose the food in their freezers, for this reason I have dried and canned beans as well as some cans of meat. I keep broth on hand as well as make my own. We have plenty of grains, flour and yeast to make bread.   It is important that you have a manual can opener. When the power goes out you will need it. We also keep some box milk on hand for such emergencies. Believe it or not it is aseptically packaged and keeps very well. I find mine at, of all places The Dollar Store. This milk comes in handy when you run out unexpectantly too. Keep in mind that in certain types of natural disasters, the grocery stores will be decimated. During our recent blizzard, the stores were hit hard the weekend before. That Monday, the stores did their best to restock, but after the blizzard the highways were near impassable for several days and the delivery trucks could not get through. Even if we had gone to the store there was nothing to buy.
Fuel – Not only do you need food for everyone in your family you need a way to cook your food. If you have an electric stove what will you do? I am lucky, we have options, I have a gas stove, a grill, a wood fireplace, and a camp stove. But I must remember to have fuel for all of these. I need to make sure my propane tanks are full. All of the gas stoves use a different type of gas tank. I need to make sure I have firewood. While we are talking about fuel, don’t forget to fill your gas tank. If the power goes out, gas stations can’t pump gas. I personally will take this time to fill one of my gas cans too.  It can always be used in the lawnmower or the chainsaw, which you may very well need.

Cash In a situation where the electricity gfreebies2deals-saving-moneyoes out, you won’t be able to use credit or debit cards. If a store can even open all that they will be able to accept is cash. Today a friend wrote me that the last time a hurricane went through her area she was with out power for 9 days. About three years ago an ice storm crippled the state of Oklahoma and many people where without power for more than 10 days. Electric companies had to go house to house at one point as they restored power. The point is if you lose power, so does the bank in a major weather storm. So how do you get cash?  Some people will go withdraw cash before the storm arrives. My mother was a good one for hiding cash in the house. Not a lot but enough to get through a long weekend if need be. (When I was growing up there were no such things as atm’s). I like to accrue my emergency cash. I will add my ones to my bank bag each week when I clean out my wallet. Any cash left over in my wallet at the end of the week will go to my emergency cash stores. This does not impact my budget. I leave that money in there to have on hand, should an emergency arrive.
Family One important step that is overlooked is discussing with the family what to do and what will happen. Depending on your child’s age and maturity level, they don’t need to know all the details, But children often more secure when they know what is going on and what to expect.  Each disaster has its own contingencies and it is important to know that not one plan fits all cases.  Winter weather, such as blizzards and ice storms, need a different plan than tornadoes or floods.  It is recommended that you have a contact number for out of state because if you can do have phone service, the local circuits may be overloaded but for some reason, out of state calls tend to get through. If you rely on your cell phone, be sure it is fully charged. Having a car charger comes in handy when you lose power.
These ideas are not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a starting point to get you thinking. FEMA and The American Red Cross have great checklists of what you need to be prepared for a natural disaster or a weather related event . Hopefully for everyone involved this will just be a minor event and something to tell the kids about some day.

How do you prepare for an emergency? What are your must have items?


Melissa Naasko said...

My husband is a financial planner and he is always telling people to keep a small amount of cash on hand for emergencies. You might want to consider a first aid kit. We live in Colorado and frequently there are storms that leave us isolated for a few days at a time. If someone gets hurt, you need to be able to address it in case you can't get to the hospital and the ambulance can't get to you. We keep one and some blankets in the car in the winter just in case we are trapped somewhere in the snow. Oh, and in an emergency you can drink the water in your hot water heater. That is 40 or 50 gallons right there!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Ubermom, absolutely, you do need a first aid kit. We have one in each bathroom and one in my car. That may be an idea for a future post. Our first aid kits have many of the standard items, but we have customized them for our needs. I would also add having your medicine that you need.

Growing up in New England I learned to keep blankets and boots in my car in the winter time. When the kids where younger, fleece blankets were always more convenient in a car seat than a big jacket.

I did not consider the hot water heater as a source of water, but what a great idea. I know that our hot water heater has a valve for emptying it so the water is easily accessible too. Thanks for sharing.

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