Preparing for Emergencies

I love rain. Especially how everything seems clean and bright after.  When I see rain clouds coming, I get excited, because I love to stay home when it’s raining.

Rain clouds

I don’t usually think about hurricanes or other emergencies.  I remember when a few days of heavy rain put Houston under water a few years ago.   The floods in the Midwest.  And of course all the news coverage from Katrina.

I’ve been procrastinating doing any real planning for emergencies.  I had lots of reasons to wait.  Then I decided this month I would make it my goal to better prepare my home for emergencies.  I couldn’t settle for my excuses anymore.

So here they were:

  1. No Time – This is my favorite reason for most of the things I don’t do.  Even though I considered preparing for emergencies to be important, it didn’t feel urgent, so I never got around to it.  I needed to make time for this, and not wait for it to be urgent.
  2. No Money – I didn’t feel like spending a lot of money shopping for supplies, and I thought it would be expensive to buy a bunch of things to store.  It turns out I’ve spent less than $30 for bottled water and extra food.  A few days’ worth of canned food is not expensive after all.
  3. No Room - I had in my mind that storing food was what people did only if they had a basement or a tornado shelter.  In our apartment, we don’t have a lot of room for storing our regular groceries, not to mention an emergency supply.  We made some space at the bottom of a closet for canned goods and water.  More water is stored up above the cabinets in the kitchen.  If we really didn’t have room, maybe it was time to get rid of something less important to make the space.
  4. No Need – My plan was that if there really was an emergency, I would have enough notice that I could go buy the things we needed.  Then I realized thousands of people in my neighborhood have the same idea too.  I don’t even like to shop at after-Christmas sales, so I don’t know why I’d want to struggle through the last-minute crowds.
  5. No Risk – I’ve  never had to live through a real emergency, so the risk doesn’t seem as real.  I guess most people don’t perceive a risk, but let’s prepare anyway.

Supplies:

I’ve found a helpful resource for emergency preparedness.  I looked through the list of recommended supplies, and it had good ideas.  Fortunately, I already had some things on the list, so I just needed to find and organize them.

It could be easy to get overwhelmed by all the suggestions, but doing a few is better than none at all.  So let’s just start with the basics:

  • bottled water, food, first aid, prescriptions, blankets
  • useful tools like a can opener, flash light, and matches
  • gas in your car  (Our gas stations ran out of gas during Hurricane Rita even though our area wasn’t hit by the storm.  With so many oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, a hurricane could easily disrupt the supply of gas.)

What do you think?  Does this seem hard, or worth it?  Does seeing news events make you want to be more prepared?  Do you have ideas for being better prepared?

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Great post Rach……

    I remember a story I heard about people in the New City blackout a few years ago….they needed cash! ATM’s were down……This guy wanted a bottle of water so his 7 mile WALK home would be easier…..it’s easier to get home with a subway than without one……….

  2. Great article! I was overwhelmed when I decided to start, but really, it’s as simple as a bit of planning and buying two instead of one at the grocery store.

  3. Anyone who doesn’t think it’s worth it has never been through a natural disaster. I’m in Central Florida, where we got hit with hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne back to back in 2004. Now here comes Fay! Have cash on hand; have a full tank of gas; have a gallon of water per person and pet per day; have plenty of things to do that don’t involve electricity (books, games); fill up freezer bags and/or leftovers containers with water and stack them in your freezer. Have enough to get you through for at least three days without going anywhere. And have flood insurance!!!!

  4. Worth it all the way. Even though Rita didn’t affect us directly weather-wise, the aisles of the grocery store were swept clean of bread and water the day before it made landfall. The day after that, almost every store and even fast food place was closed because the trucks didn’t make it through. Oh, and my folks were w/o power for two days. A little preparation goes a long way.

    (Now to actually get it together. I am loving this month’s theme!)

  5. We have been through a couple of hurricanes and a lot of winter ice storms (the joys of living in NC). We keep bottled water and food on hand at all times. The tools you mentioned are also in our house along with a healthy supply of batteries and a propane camping stove. If we have notice of bad weather coming then we make sure to run errands like picking up prescriptions, filling up gas tanks, filling up propane tanks for the grill (so we can cook if the power is out – learned that lesson the hard way) and stopping by the bank machine for cash. Believe me, cash is not something you want to be without when the power is out for an extended perioud of time. Stores can often open back up with no power but they can’t run credit/debit cards.

    One other thing I would add – make sure you have at least one old fashioned corded phone in your house. Your cordless phones won’t work in a power outage and if phone service still works then you will be happy to have a phone that works too. Of course, if you have digital phone this doesn’t really apply since the digital phone won’t work without power either.

  6. While gathering supplies is a must-do I found sitting down with my husband and mapping out meet-up spot very useful. He works from home and I commute. If something happened suddenly where would we meet up? If something happened at our house? on our street? or in our neighbourhood? It took us 3 minutes to decide on these locations (across and down the street by the mail boxes, front doors of the nearby school, parking lot of the nearby Tim Horton’s) but if something ever happens I’m glad we’ve spoken about it.

  7. Good list. Very doable.

    I hadn’t thought about prescriptions! Now that hubby and I are getting…uh hem… less young… we do have a few Rx’s that we take regularly. I wonder if our insurance would let us have an extra refill to keep on hand in case of emergency? (Typically they only dole it out to us one bottle at a time.)

  8. We rarely have natural disasters here–so the thought flies out of my mind as soon as the news program is over. But that’s not very responsible of me. I need to get a supply ready and put in the storage room. I just might do it soon.

  9. We have a 72-hour kit, yet we live in an are where the chances that we would need to use it are slim. I too originally used cost as an excuse, but it really wasn’t that expensive to put together. I now rotate it every six months (pull the food out and put in the pantry to eat and replace it with new food), which means I’m essentially just buying food we’ll definitely use in the near future and makes the cost seem like less of an excuse. I left it for several years at first, and ended up tossing a lot of stuff. Many non-perishables will last forever, but some won’t.

  10. Natural disasters and calamities still are night mares. I remember how much loss I had to bear in 2005 mumbai floods. I used to live on ground floor and my whole house submerged under water. I almost lost everything and thanks to my neighbours, they saved some of my important documents.

    Yes I agree with you that be prepared for a disaster, emergencies strike and spares no one. Its good be at least prepared.

    Thanks for reminding again. :)

  11. These are great comments!

    Scott, I remember when the blackout in New York happened too. My brother was there and told me what it was like. I remember he said everyone was pretty considerate for others.

    Mrs. Mordecai, I agree, it was easy to just buy extra of our regular food that would store well.

    Wise words, Alex. I’m amazed by the way the people in Central Florida have weathered all of the storms and hurricanes each year.

    Meg, you are getting things done! I’ve seen the photos of your beef jerky and bottled water. :)

    Leslie, good points about the propane stove and the phone, and I’m going to refill our envelope of emergency cash.

    Great idea Karen! Especially if mobile phones are down like Leslie mentioned.

    Jill, your drug provider probably won’t deviate from the written prescription, but maybe your doctor will write one for an extra month’s supply. If not, see how early you can purchase the next refill. If you can get it after two weeks instead of having to wait a month, then that’s two weeks you can keep for emergencies.

    Deb, I know, it’s out of sight, out of mind. I think hearing about other people’s personal accounts helps me to focus more.

    Alison, great idea for food rotation to keep costs down.

    Pooja, I can’t imagine losing everything the way you did, and then starting again. (I think you should write a blog post about it.)

  12. We are in the process of building a root cellar right now!
    Stock piling is part of our plan for the future, and for emergencies. I am saving to buy several buckets of wheat berries to store as well as all my preserving from the garden. I feel like a good steward when I plan and prepare.
    ~Chas

  13. Too funny! I have made September my month to finish all of my emergency supply and 72 hr kits. One thing I noticed is that no one has spoken of a grab and go box which would include copies of important papers, birth certificates, etc that you would want to have with you incas you had to leave your house quickly.

  14. funnyaboutmoney1 says:

    Great (scary!!) photo. And nice post, too.

    Mercifully, the area where we live is not prone to tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, mudslides, or wildfires. If we had a real emergency, it would be man-made: a major terrorist attack, for example. I doubt there would be much you could do in the event of a nuclear bomb, a gas attack, or germ warfare.

    In general, I try to keep at least a half-tank of gas in the car and an extra canister of propane in the back yard. I have a couple of three-gallon water bottles that can go in the vehicle. And I’d never cancel the land line: it works even if the power is out, & you don’t have to recharge it. There’s really not enough room to store a lot of dried or canned food; besides, you have to eat that stuff regularly and restock it, and I wouldn’t…so it would probably be dead stale by the time I needed it. I probably should get more into the habit of stocking and eating beans and rice, and a few cans of fish and vegetables would be useful.

    Remember that the water heater contains 40 to 60 gallons of water. And if you’re forced to leave your home, remember to bring toilet paper! :-)

  15. Stephenie is totally right on the money.

    While a 72-hour kit is essential if you’re stuck or stranded without water and electricity, you also need a “grab and go” kit – this has copies of your insurance policies, birth certificates, mortgage papers, house deeds, etc.

    Many Hurricane Katrina survivors had a hard time getting FEMA assistance simply because they couldn’t prove that their house was indeed their own.

    Here’s another great resource for you – a site called WhatHappensNow.com. They have more than enough info to help you get ready for any disaster, including grab and go kits: http://whathappensnow.com/articles_show.cfm?id=243&cat=4&sub=4

  16. Marta and Stephenie, I couldn’t agree more, and a go bag is something I’ve had on my to-do list for quite a while. (Look for a post on it next week.)

    Funny, you’re doing a great job of being prepared!

    Chas, I think a root cellar will be a great addition to your home!

  17. An excellent post and some great comments! I wrote a similar post (9 Simple Ways to Prepare for an Emergency – http://snurl.com/3lb6t) that covered a few of the same points.

    In addition, I heard of a trick you can do to contact people locally when “all circuits are busy” – try calling someone out of the area. Much of the time the local lines are jammed but calling someone long-distance will allow your call to go through. By having a contact person (in our case, my parents in Oregon) we can call to check in and make sure everyone is OK, as well as coordinate our next steps.