Preparing for disaster

I’ve never been in a major natural (or man made) disaster, thank goodness. But taking a nudge from the recent disasters in Christchurch and Sendai we decided to use this past spring-forward Sunday making a emergency preparedness kits for our car and home. They’re not perfect, but they’re a step in the right direction.

We approached this in two different ways. Hubby is interested in manly arts like fire starting, so he’s been building a fire kit since I got him a Swedish fire steel for Christmas. He got instructions for making petroleum jelly cotton balls, and collected cedar shavings in a tin for tinder, and has some strike anywhere matches in an old film canister (with sandpaper as a striking surface on the base). I added a neon green whistle to his mini kit. We went to Value Village and picked up a “fanny pack” (“bum bag” in the Southern hemisphere) for a couple of dollars to hold all his survival essentials.

We also hit up the store for things for less woodsy emergencies.

I was planning for the most common natural disasters around here – earthquakes and volcanic ash fall. Yes, I know, they’re hardly common-place events. That’s why we’re being fairly casual about this. Power cuts are very rare and short lived in our neighborhood because of our proximity to a military base, and we are on high ground. I am assuming we might need to evacuate our house and go to a safer place, like a nearby school or shelter, and it might be at night or on foot.

First aid kits often have more than you need (or less) but we picked up two nice little kits that seemed to have a good selection of supplies – one for the car and one for our go-bag (called a “bug out bag” in survivalist parlance, apparently). We picked up bright orange duck tape to make things more visible in low light conditions (yes, survival means making everything ugly, unfortunately) and gallon sized zip lock bags, heavy duty trash bags, space blankets, flashlights with led lights that run on 2 basic AA batteries, bright orange rain ponchos, and some hand warmers. (Do you like our survival color scheme – orange and blue?!)

The plan is to have one bag that we could grab in an evacuation emergency that has first aid and basic essentials in it, plus room for a steel box with very important documents, and room for some clothes. I added a lot of stuff we already had – an empty water bottle, two bandanas, a small mirror, a few gallon-sized zip lock bags, a couple of toothbrushes, a spare house key…

In the car we have car related emergency supplies like jumper cables, tools, bungee cords and tarps, plus space blankets, hand warmers and a first aid kit. We also have some dog food, some old clothes and a can of Mountain Dew (caffeine emergencies are common around here).

At home in the basement we have water in gallon jugs (I fill any empty jugs we happen to have, so we have about 5 – we rarely buy a gallon of anything!) for non-drinking water needs, plus a case of bottled water. We have food in the house, but nothing special for survival – just our usual supplies. We could cook on our grill if we didn’t have power. I set aside a bucket with a lid with some heavy duty trash bags after I heard that Christchurchers had to use those items to make temporary latrines after their sewer lines broke… not a pleasant thought, but better to have than not. There are plenty of other uses for them too.

We’re ordering a lock box for our important papers. It will live in a locked file cabinet and hopefully offer some measure of fire protection but also be light enough for us to grab and go if we need to.

Perhaps most importantly we are in decent shape and in good health, and not inclined to panic.

Honestly we’re nowhere near prepared, nor do I think we ever will be. Planning for the unthinkable is extremely difficult and you have to consider that most things don’t go the way we expect them to. In some scenarios having your identity papers wouldn’t matter a damn, in others it could be essential. Evacuating by car might be the best decision or the worst, and you likely wouldn’t know until the choice had been made. The most important thing is to do what you can.

Yesterday I read some more good advice (in the comments of this post) that I need to put into action – to establish 3 meeting places with your housemates. One would be for a home emergency like a fire – maybe the park across the street. The next would be if something happened to cordon off the block or the neighborhood – maybe the grocery store or the bus station. The third would be for big emergencies, maybe at a relative’s house in the next town over. Seems sensible, especially if phone service might go out. And it reminds me that not every emergency is a widespread catastrophe.

Do you have a plan like that? Do you think you should?

Is the thought of a massive disaster paralyzing you so you don’t even think about preparing for any kind of emergency? Or does it just not seem urgent?

food for thought…


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1 Response to Preparing for disaster

  1. Elizabeth says:

    We are no where near prepared. Anytime something big happens we always talk about putting together some sort of emergency kit and stocking up on water/food supplies. But it is just talk. I guess since nothing has every really happened to us we don’t take it as seriously as we should. We never even prepared for Y2K (though that was more because we were broke then anything else).

    The car is the only thing with any type of emergency kit since Skye was having to drive to work in the snow at 4am.

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