Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Emergency Preparedness

Nothing like a minor disaster to bring into clear relief the weaknesses in one's emergency preparedness. I thought I'd jot down a few of the things I noted during our most recent disaster, so as to remember and carry out in the future.

The biggest concern I noted was simply that, well, my food storage really isn't meant for emergencies. All of my past experiences with needing food storage haven't been emergency situations -- they've always involved longish periods of time with no, or little, family income where eating from your food storage is a monetary issue, not an emergency. So that's how I've prepared.

In a short term emergency, though, I found there are a number of things I hadn't prepared for.

1) The biggest eye opener was the simple fact that in an emergency situation, we are not going to be alone. I am not just preparing for my family, I am preparing for our family + 5 to 10 guests. We nearly ended up having both our neighbors (family of 4) AND the Rosens (family of 5) over for a few days, and that would have been a challenge indeed. I'd read the little shpiel about "preparing for others outside your family" a million times in those pamphlets but this really brought it home.

This came up to bite me a few times. Yes, I had plenty of frozen leftover soup. But it was all in quantities for 2 1/2 people, and thus useless in a situation where I need to feed 8 with one stove burner. etc. etc. etc.

That being said, I did feel like we were pretty prepared in other ways. We had tons of TP, plenty of blankets, the blow up mattress that uses the car battery, an extra high chair, and a few other things that would have been challenging without. Considering we lived in a teeeeny weensy apartment this past year, we did pretty darn well.

2) Closely tied to the above, all of the food I have saved up is for our family. We probably could get by for 3 months on what I've saved up. But... we do not eat a normal diet. Michael, Jed and I could happily eat on lentils and wheat berries with brown rice for weeks on end, because we do that anyway! But other families don't. The Rosens were incredibly polite, but I felt bad that I really didn't have much food that the kids would like. I blessed my lucky stars that on a whim I bought a little bag of white rice at the store the day before, otherwise the poor dears may have gone hungry at least one night. I mean, of course if things got REALLY bad and they were starving to death we would all have survived on whatever there was. But in a short term emergency situation (say, less than a week), I really would like to have... comfort food. Stuff that kids are familiar with -- creamy peanut butter, mac 'n cheese, fruit snacks, apple juice, etc. They don't need it to survive but kids get super stressed in such a situation anyway, and having to eat chunky peanut butte on whole-grain pancakes really wouldn't help.

3) Diapers. My cloth diapers are brilliant for a long-term financial crunch, or for a devastating, long-term emergency, but they really aren't much help for a 3 1/2 day power outage in 5 degree weather. I had some disposables, but just barely enough to make it through (used my last one right before we made it out to Walmart.) If we had another family with a kid in diapers there who hadn't brought some, we would have been toast. Definitely need to stock up.

4) I should have some entertainment for older children on hand. We're very well stocked for 1 toddler. But three or four older kids... we've run into this problem with last minute babysitting, too. We need to buy some animated films or something. Games for kids. I hvae accumulated a few art supplies and some playdough, but that just isn't enough.

5) A few "do's." We usually have 24-48 hours notice before a really bad storm around here. During that time, make sure to:
- Shower everyone
- Do my hair
- Clean the house
- Do ALL the laundry
- Run to the store for a week's shopping
- Prepare a menu that can be made on a stove top
- Fill the car and extra cans with gas
- Trial run with the generator

I know many of your reading this were either through the same thing we were, or have been through other emergency situations. Any other ideas?

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Great tips! I try to have a 72 hr. emergency kit and then long term food storage. In my 72 hr. I have coloring books, crayons, paper, stickers, and the comfort food for the kids.

In my long term--it's really just food. I think for my family of 5 I have a good 6 months. But, I have a gas stove and oven so even if the electric was out, I could still prepare a meal.

Our problem is water. We don't have drums because we keep moving!! I save all my juice bottles and we have gallons of water stuffed in the closet, pantry, under the bed, ect. It wouldn't be enough though.