It’s a wake-up call. One humungous wet, windy wake-up call. When hurricane Harvey blasted into southwest Texas leaving extensive damage and flooding, the scale of which is all most beyond comprehension. Then hurricane Irma took the spotlight unleashing her fury on the Caribbean and Florida. This is very sad and horrible on so many levels of loss and human suffering and now people who decided to ride out the storm in the keys are stranded, cut off from the world without food, water or power. I’m sure when most of you heard that, you said to yourself, “Really need to put that survival kit together.” A fabulous thought that will unfortunately fade along with the coverage of the epic catastrophes until it becomes “Texas, Florida a year later” and then again you’ll say, “Really need to put that survival kit together.” and then one day, the dam breaks, the fires burn rampant, the earth shakes, rattles and rolls. No kit!! Now, did you have a plan B?
Did you notice how fast conditions on the ground changed, from dry to chest high water and did you also notice how with a slight change in direction, Irma hit areas that thought there were originally safe? That’s how natural disasters work. No warning, no how do you do, no pleased to meet you, just HERE! If you think I’m going to use these disasters to motivate you to prepare and give yourself the advantage to survive something like this, well, you would be correct! You never know when an earthquake is going to hit, you don’t know how bad it’ll flood, you don’t know where the twister will touch down, you just don’t know. That’s why we buy insurance, hoping to never need it, but very happy that it’s there and by preparing an emergency chest/barrel/kit will give you insurance to be able to survive the first week of an event, but hope you’ll never need it.
A lot of cities, of all sizes, struggle daily with their budgets and the cost of firefighters, police, infrastructure repair & maintenance, parks, and recreation, public transit, administrative staffing, courts, pensions, and lawsuits. The level of city services are not what they once were and that includes the number of police and fire on duty at any given time and in the event of a natural disaster they would be immediately tied up responding to the hundreds of calls they would receive in the first few hours, (In Houston area alone they had over 75,000 emergency calls in the first four days). They will triage the calls and handle the most serious including bleeding and severe trauma first, those with minor injuries will have to wait or treat themselves. Depending on the conditions of the roads in and out of town, additional off duty first responders could be greatly delayed if at all able to report to work in the city or town they serve.
That’s why a survival kit comes in handy especially if you are able to stay in your home after the event. After checking on those in the household the first thing you’ll do is a walk around your property and check to make sure it is still structurally safe to stay in and there is no smell of gas. Now you can stay put and you have supplies to wait the few days until power and water come back online and life come back to normal. Putting your survival kit together can be a fun family project and learning experience. It’s also a great opportunity for a team building exercise for a company or safety committee.
My Survival Chest – This is what I used and put together for our home of two adults and one dog. I was able to purchase just about everything on Amazon.com. Use your imagination when it comes to the container and what you want to stash for an emergency.
A Rubbermaid 50 gallon capacity container, waterproof and made of sturdy plastic, it’s durable and on wheels, in case you have to move. Yellow so it can easily be seen.
Now, what items and how much of each do you need to put into your survival chest? Base the amounts to store on a worst-case scenario for your location and take into consideration how isolated is your location, are you within city limits and are there bridges and or tunnels to cross? Next, how many people and pets are you planning for? ie: Two adults and one dog? Plan on 5 – 7 days of supplies since that’s about how long it may take before all utilities and services are restored.
WATER – Plan on 2 gallons per person per day. One gallon for drinking and one gallon for hygiene, sanitation and other. Multiply 2 gallons with the number of people in the home and don’t forget to include water for your pets. I have a mixture of bottled water and packaged sterilized water. I would also add one or two of the straw water filter tools just in case things don’t get back to normal right away and you begin to run low on bottled water. You can also boil water to sterilize it and if a fire isn’t possible, keep a small bottle of bleach in your kit. It can be used for purifying water for drinking, 8 drops for a gallon of water, shake and wait thirty minutes.
FOOD – Any combination of what you enjoy of prepared camping meals, fruits and canned goods (make sure to include a can opener) as well as some of your favorite snacks, power bars and chocolate which will come in handy to help with the stress. Don’t forget to store emergency food for your pets as well.
RADIO/CHARGER/BATTERIES – There are several radio choices but the ones that come with a hand crank/battery/solar powered are fabulous. You can leave it in the sun all day to charge or use the hand crank. It also can be used to charge your phone. The radio is both AM and FM as well as shortwave.
Flashlights/batteries/Candles and matches/fire starter – With no electricity, you’ll have to rely on flashlights, candles, and lanterns to illuminate the area. This is very important for everyone’s safety especially if there is debris on the ground. Never leave candles unattended. Check the battery size requirements of all your items and store extra batteries in your kit.
First aid kit/nonlatex gloves – A first aid kit can help you greatly for treating minor injuries. If you need to treat a neighbor or stranger, the non-latex gloves will help protect you.
Sleeping bags/tents – If your home is not safe to stay in but you have a large yard in the front or back you may want to set up tents for protection from the elements. Even if you can stay in your home, to help get the kids through this, set the tents up and pretend you’re on a family camping trip. Also keep a tarp in your kit as well to help protect from rain or use to keep you off the ground or help move someone who can’t get around on their own.
Blankets/warm clothes – Natural disasters don’t care what time of year it is so be prepared and keep some extra sweatshirts, jackets in the kit along with blankets to those chilly nights.
Make sure to keep an inventory of what’s in your emergency kit along with the expiration dates of those items so you can replace them when needed. Also, designate a meet area so you know everyone who was in the house or apartment is out. In the event of an emergency, phone traffic will be crazy as people call 911 for assistance, family members calling to say they’re fine and family members calling to find out if loved ones are fine not to mention the possibility of downed cell towers. I suggest you designate a family member who lives in another state as the contact person you can call to say you are fine and then let them contact everyone else about your status.
You can get more information about how to prepare for a natural disaster or other emergencies by going to the FEMA web site at fema.gov and get stuff like an Earthquake Safety Checklist and other great information. Check it out but don’t wait too long as it’ll be hard to research and prepare when you’re in the middle of a disaster. Really, do it now!