Disasters seem to be the order of the day on Planet Earth. On any given day, earthquakes big and small are going off around the globe, triggering tsunamis or landslides. Storms bring floods at increasingly frequent rates. Wildfires can reduce neighborhoods and millions of acres to ashes in the space of a few days. Winter storms can close roads and knock out power to whole communities. Indeed, we live on an unpredictable and often dangerous planet.
Although we are helpless to stop these events, we can be prepared for when they occur. We can plan ahead and make sure we have the bare necessities stocked up and close at hand. It won’t guarantee that we won’t be hurt or otherwise affected, but it will help us be ready to take action.
To help you prepare for a disaster, here are 5 things to get you started. Having these things won’t guarantee complete immunity from harm, but they are a really good start. Also, keep in mind that you never know if you will be at home or in the car when disaster strikes. So keep a full-blown version of these items in your home and a small, portable version in your car:
1. Food – Hurricanes and snowstorms have been known to disrupt the food distribution networks that bring food to our grocery stores. Earthquakes or other disasters can leave you stuck in traffic, sometimes with your kids. And nothing can elevate stress and anxiety levels like hunger.
To make sure you and your loved ones stay calm and fed during a crisis, keep at least a few days worth of food in your house and a day’s worth in your car. If you can afford to, build up a well balanced food storage of three months or more. When disasters stretch beyond a few hours, food is the one thing you and your loved ones cannot do without.
2. Water – If there is one thing humans need more than food, it is water. The body can go a few days without food before it shuts down. After a day without water, however, the body simply quits. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that water will always be as widely available as it is now. Earthquakes can shut down water lines. Hurricanes and floods can contaminate water supplies.
Realistically, you want to have a week’s worth of clean fresh water on hand. If you can’t afford a huge 50-gallon barrel, consider reusing milk jugs or 2-liters. They will take up some room in your house, but you will be glad you did.
3. Warm gear – Especially in the wintertime, the human body needs warmth to maintain it s vital systems. Recent snowstorms in the Northeast and Northwest showed just how dangerous the cold can be. Residents without electricity or heating oil froze to death in their homes. A father froze to death in the woods trying to find help for his family who was stranded on a snow-covered mountain road. His wife had to burn the car’s tires to keep the children warm.
During the fall, winter, and spring months, be sure to keep some extra jackets and blankets handy. Windproof and waterproof shells can be especially effective at keeping in body heat and keeping out the cold.
4. Communication – Nothing can be as frightening during a crisis as not knowing what is happening or where your loved ones are. Luckily, most of us carry cell phones, giving us near immediate access to them.
Just remember that in the event of a disaster, too many cell phone calls will clog up the cell networks and render them useless. Using text or IM features can help you get through quicker to the ones you are concerned about. More advanced families may consider using long-range walkie-talkies, which do not depend on cell networks to function.
5. First aid supplies – In the event that someone is hurt, you want the tools on hand to treat their wounds and keep them stabilized until professionals can arrive. Disinfectant, anti-bacterial ointment, bandages, gauze, cotton swabs, aspirin, and burn spray are a good start, and you can usually buy these items together in kits at any big box retailer. Having actual first aid training is a big plus.