It’s not really a coincidence that September was chosen as National Preparedness month since it comes right near the peak of hurricane season. Gulf coast and Eastern Seaboard residents should already be prepared for the inevitable hurricane strike. Following Katrina and Ike, there has been a resurgence of awareness about the need to have a minimum of three days food and water for each individual in your home along with batteries for flashlights and radios or a generator to provide power while electrical lines are restrung.
What Is National Preparedness Month?
National Preparedness Month (NPM) is sponsored by the Ready Campaign in partnership with Citizen Corps and the Advertising Council. NPM is held each September to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and communities. We are encouraging all Americans to join the readiness team and truly help themselves, their neighbors, and their communities be ready.
- NPM Coalition membership is open to all public and private sector organizations. Groups can register to become an NPM Coalition Member by visiting ready.gov and clicking on the NPM banner.
- In 2009, nearly 2,700 organizations joined the Ready Campaign in promoting the readiness message across the country in homes, schools, businesses, and communities to highlight the importance of individual and community public emergency preparedness throughout September.
- During NPM, Coalition Members share preparedness information with their members, customers, employees and communities. Members spearhead activities that encourage specific steps for individual, neighborhood and community preparedness.
- Throughout the year, the Ready Campaign promotes individual emergency preparedness. Ready is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign, produced in partnership with The Advertising Council, to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.
- The Campaign’s websites (ready.gov and listo.gov) and toll-free numbers (1-800-BE-READY, TTY 1-800-462-7585 and 1-888-SE-LISTO) provide Americans with free emergency preparedness information.
- Citizen Corps is FEMA’s grassroots strategy to bring together government and community leaders to involve citizens in all-hazards emergency preparedness and resilience. Local Citizen Corps Councils enable collaborative planning between government and civic leaders and provide localized support for: outreach and educational efforts to the public; training and exercises that effectively integrate all sectors of the community; and volunteer programs that augment the full range of emergency response services. For more information about Citizen Corps, visit http://www.citizencorps.gov/.
Getting the Supplies
Preparing for a disaster is not difficult. With a little bit of planning and a minimal investment into some rudimentary supplies and equipment, you’ll be ahead of the game when disaster strikes.
The Canned Food Alliance says that the minimum amount of food you need is two cans of food per person, per day and one gallon of water per person per day. Dr. Judy Harrison and Dr. Elizabeth L. Andress, in “Preparing an Emergency Food Supply: Long Term Food Storage” write that we need to eat at lease one balanced meal a day. There are many resources on the web that will help you decide how many pounds of essential bulk items you need per person for a year. Your food supply should consist of:
- Non-perishable food items
- Pre-made complete meal boxed foods
- Canned goods
- Whole grains
- Peanut butter
- Evaporated milk
- Sugar and storable fats, such as olive oil and vegetable oils is a good place to start.
Choose a variety of foods and pick ones that you and your family already like. You would be surprised at all the different varieties of rice, beans and noodles you can find.
You will need to store plenty of water, too, for drinking, cooking, washing, food prep, dish washing, laundry, teeth cleaning and other wash-up needs.
- Tap water is fine to use for long-term storage. 14 gallons of water per person will give you a two-week supply, or another suggestion is to buy 55 gallon plastic food-grade water drums.
- You may also purchase commercially-bottled water. If you go this route, make sure you use the water by its use-by-date.
- A cheap way of storing water is reusing 2-liter plastic soda bottles. Once you are done with the soda, give the bottle a good cleaning and sanitizing and fill with tap water. Disinfect tap water using household bleach, a water purification tablet or a water filtration system.
- You can also get water from your hot water heater or the toilet tank.
- Replace your stored water every six months. For more details on water purification, please see our articles on preparedness and water purification.
For any household, a first aid kit is a must. If you do not already have one, you can build your own first aid kit or purchase pre-assembled kits such as the STOMP Portable Hospital Extensive and Intensive Medic Care kit. Inspect your first aid kit yearly and discard and replace any old, damaged, used, or expired items in the kit. Don’t forget to include in the kit…
- A supply of any prescription medications taken in your household.
- Materials to care for a sick or injured pet.
- If you have infants or pets, you may need to make sure that you have a supply of formula and diapers, or a stockpile of pet kibble for Fido.
- If possible, generate at least a 30-60 day supply of medicine over and above what you usually have on hand. This is especially important for critical prescription medicines, such as insulin or heart medication.Most doctors are willing to write a larger prescription, especially prior to hurricane or storm season, if you explain to them that you want to have a 60-day supply that you can rotate through. Your prescription insurance may not cover a large purchase like that, and it is well worth the money spent. Once your supply is established, continue to rotate new prescriptions through the supply, using the oldest dated medicine first.
- Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, burn ointments, and instant glucose are all examples of over-the-counter medications to consider including in your first aid kit.
- Also consider including over-the-counter Benadryl and an EpiPen. These can be used to quickly arrest what might otherwise be a fatal allergic reaction.
It is important to address how waterproof your first aid kit is. If the bag itself isn’t waterproof, the individual containers in it should be. In an emergency situation, the bag may be exposed to adverse weather or moisture, and that can ruin many of the items inside if they are not properly protected.
Much of what we consider hallmarks of a modern society are predicated upon the cheap abundance of electrical energy. What happens when that electricity is no longer available? Many of us have been without power for a few minutes or hours. We’ve huddled around a battery-powered radio or played Monopoly by candlelight while we waited for a storm to abate and the power to be restored. Yet, sometimes, it can take days or weeks for a power grid to be brought back online. Hurricane Katrina and Ike are two examples where the power was not restored to some areas for more than a month. Without electricity, refrigerators and freezers begin to defrost in a couple of days. Food that once may have been available is now rotten. Most gasoline pumps are non-functional without power, making fuel shortages a distinct possibility. Without air-conditioning the heat can become unbearable and even deadly. Generators are one solution to an extended power loss, and if you have a generator you must also have a fuel supply for it. Stored gasoline and diesel fuel can go bad in less than a year if left untreated. There are numerous products such as Sta-Bil for gasoline and PRI-D for diesel. Such products can extend fuel shelf life anywhere from 5-10 years, depending on storage conditions. Other fuels such as propane and natural gas do not go bad, although can be more difficult to store. Propane and natural gas-fired generators are available too, and are usually larger, not easily portable and meant for use as a standby generator. Other solutions for generating power, such as photovoltaics or windmills, can be expensive and inefficient. In addition, such installations may not be permitted in urban areas. Cities often have maximum height limits on structures, and winds closer to the ground are weaker. Home owners associations also have strict rules that often prohibit wind generators or solar panels.
Flashlights, candles, and a battery-powered radio are just the beginning of a power-loss kit. Food preparation is something else to consider. Without electricity, microwaves and electric ranges don’t work. In some situations, natural gas may not be available to run a gas stove or oven. Barbeque grills are one option for cooking food, and they can only be used outside, and may require copious amounts of fuel to be used for extended periods of time. Propane ranges, Sterno kits, and white-gas camp stoves are a better alternative. These systems use fuel that is safe, easily portable and very efficient at generating heat.
Hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes aren’t the only threats that people should prepare for: terrorist attacks are still a threat to the safety of Americans. Owning and learning to use a concealed handgun can provide personal defense wherever you are. Most states issue concealed carry licenses to any law-abiding gun owner. Check your local laws for more information. Mossberg offers a “Just In Case” shotgun combo that comes in a waterproof tube with a green cover. This design is more suited for a wilderness survival scenario, although is easily be adapted and customized for home defense. The shotgun has matte black finished furniture, blued steel, and synthetic pistol grip stock. Mossberg includes a “Survival Kit in a Can,” manufactured by Coghlan’s of Canada with the shotgun. This rudimentary survival kit includes matches, basic first aid supplies, emergency rations, basic fishing kit along with various other useful items such as a razor, duct tape and safety pins.
Have a Plan
The most important part in being prepared is to have a plan for every situation. This may be as simple as thinking through various “what if” scenarios in your head (what if I lose my wallet or have a flat tire?), to something as elaborate as having a written escape plan and bug out bag in the case of a house fire. Have a family meeting to discuss the plans you make. Other family members may have ideas or concerns about your plans. Make sure that everyone in your household knows what the plans are for each situation, and share your plans with other friends and family so that they know where you are and what you will be doing in an emergency.
Have you ever been without power for an extended time or had to dig into your stored supplies? What tips do you have for the CheaperThanDirt readers to be prepared? Share your thoughts in the comment section. Read more on survival and preparedness here.
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