A few years ago we had a strong line of thunderstorms roll trough our region. There were wide spread
power outages that lasted for days in some areas. To some this may be only a minor inconvenience, but for others it can be a real challenge. Aside from the obvious food spoilage issues, if you live in a rural area and are dependent on well water you will not have any water without electricity. This also means you can’t flush! Gas stations can’t dispense fuel, ATMs won’t work, credit transactions may not be able to be processed, and cordless phones are reduced to paper weights. What can you do to prepare for unexpected interruptions of our daily conveniences? There are a lot of things.
1. Keep your car from falling below a half tank of gas. If the power goes out for extended periods you may need it! And once the power is back on be prepared for long lines and shortages.
2. Keep some basic supplies in your vehicle. They are:
- Water (at least a gallon)
- Food; something with dense nutrition and long shelf life that is not affected by heat or cold
- Flashlights…and remember to replace the batteries annually
- Blanket/shelter. You could be stranded for extended periods in cold weather.
- Basic tools; you should have a hammer, flat and Phillips screwdrivers, a knife, plyers and/or adjustable wrench and a lug wrench at the bare minimum. Consider adding a small hatchet and/or bow saw to that. Also a small or folding shovel is a good thing to have.
- If you live in a colder climate carry some cat litter or sand with you to help with traction if you get stuck.
- Matches (waterproof is best) and/or flares
- A backpack is advisable to keep these things together and useful if you need to hike to safety. A change of clothes is not a bad idea either.
- Fire extinguisher
- Some form of personal protection
- A first-aid kit
3. Keep some basic things in your home:
- Water – you can use empty milk jugs (cleaned of course) or other things to store several gallons of water. If there is flooding in your area there may not be potable water for a while.
- Candles/oil lamps/battery powered light sources
- A generator if you can
- Canned food and dried food that is not dependent on refrigeration. Also consider if you will be able to cook…is your stove electric? Do you have a grill? Do you have plenty of charcoal or gas for that grill?
- A heater that is not dependent on electricity
- A corded phone if you have a land line
- Extra batteries for your cell phone…that are fully charged!!
- A manual can opener
- Fire extinguishers in the kitchen, garage and bedrooms
- Chain saw/bow saw if you live somewhere where there are trees around your house
- Emergency battery powered radio with weather radio function. A two way radio is also not a bad idea.
- Some form of personal protection
- Medical supplies and if you take prescription medications don’t let them reach critically low levels.
These are not an all inclusive list, by any stretch, but they are some of the bare necessities to ensure you will get through an emergency with minimal problems. The one other thing you need is a plan. Especially if you have family, you should have a meeting place, an alternate meeting place, and some planned escape routes. If your family lives elsewhere you may designate a meeting place or a way to let each other know you are okay. Communications may be interrupted or jammed.
One other thing to consider is protection. I choose to carry a pistol with me wherever I go and I take the time to stay proficient with it. It is not the right choice for each individual and there are other options available including knives, pepper spray, tasers, collapsible batons and more. Some of these may or may not be legal in your area. This is a personal choice, one to be decided by each individual. But be aware that in a catastrophe, like Katrina or Sandy, law enforcement may be days away, not just minutes. Criminals will take advantage of this and looters may not hesitate to take a life. Again, your safety is ultimately your own responsibility. Have a plan to defend yourself and your life-giving stash of supplies! This includes getting proper training, practice and safeguarding your defensive tools from unauthorized access.
There are many web sites, classes and books on the subject of emergency preparedness. I suggest doing some research, educating yourselves and taking positive steps to prepare for what could happen. Think of it as a “self insurance” policy against potential disaster. If you think it couldn’t happen to you, think again! It can happen to anyone.
If you want to know what could happen in a real life situation, one book you can read is Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. It is a true story about a man who rode out Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I offer this information because I have been through both summer and winter storms that disrupted power and caused potentially life threatening situations. We were prepared and came through fine, but had we not been ready thing could have been very different. Sharing this with others can perhaps help them be ready in the event a disaster hits their region.