September is National Disaster Preparedness Month

Not all of us live in areas where we are going to be hit by tornadoes, tsunamis, or flash flooding. But most of us will at one time or another experience a situation where our comforts that we expect living in the 21st century, are stripped away.

Maybe just for a day or two, but our level of preparedness can make the difference between having an “adventure” or being a complete embarrassment to our pioneer ancestors. I’ll admit it right here, it is a good thing that I was born during the century that I was.

I am a wimp.

I live in an area where winter storms frequently knock out power for extended periods of time. I am furiously knocking on wood as I type this because it has been a few years since we have lost power for an extended number of days.

In the winter, the icy cold frigid winter, of 2003 we had a snow storm that knocked out power to our entire area for 6 days. Six long LONG days.

You have heard it said that what doesn’t kill you, teaches you something. Oh, let me share my wisdom:

When there is a widespread power outage, none of the gas pumps will be working. So if you only have a small bit of gas in your car, a usual occurrence here at my house, you will be stuck at home.

If you have a well, like our house at the time did, you will not have running water. You will, however, try to turn the water on several times a day as well as flush the toilet.

Your electric stove won’t work. (Duh.)

Your outdoor grill might be buried under a couple feet of frozen snow.

You will not be able to find matches. And going out to the car, starting it, pushing in the cigarette lighter so that you can light a rolled up piece of paper to light your camp stove, will NOT be fun. Especially when it burns down to your fingers and you have to drop it before ever lighting anything.

You will gladly trade one of your small children for a small percolator so you can make coffee in the morning on your camp stove.

You will need that coffee and wine more than ever before. Maybe simultaneously.

Have a corkscrew handy.

When there is a storm brewing, make sure that you have batteries for all of your flashlights. Lighters or matches, and candles are also very good.

What have we done to prepare?

1) We bought large kerosene heaters and make sure to always have plenty of kerosene on hand during the winter.

2) When there are storms coming in we make sure that our cars are filled up with gas.

3) Camp stove and camping gear (sleeping bags) are easily accessible. (And fuel for the cook stove so you aren’t eating dry raman noodles)

4) Fill up all tubs with water, for washing, flushing toilets

5) Make sure that we have food to eat that does not require cooking or refrigeration. Things like those individual cups of Raman are always good to have on hand since you only pour boiling water into the cup and it cook right there.

6) Get some disposable plates and silverware. Since you may not be able to wash anything, do you want to have it piling up? I don’t.

7) I JUST bought a crank battery operated weather radio last winter. So that when our power goes out and there is three feet of snow on the ground I can turn on my radio and find out that there is three feet of snow on the ground.

So those are my tips for small disasters, though that is probably too strong of a word to describe the times when my power is out and I can not access the internet or vacuum for 36 hours.

FEMA has a disaster supply list of things that every family should consider having on hand. Most of these things I already have in my first aid kits. But look over their website, it is chockfull of information that might be appropriate for you and your family.

Asiaing has a disaster preparedness coloring book for children that you can download and print.

Last year Daring Young Mom and her family took part in a mock disaster to see how prepared they would be in the event of a true disaster.

Walk yourself through a fake disaster sometime. See what would happen if you had to rely on your emergency supplies to get you through. I think you’ll be surprised at how much work you have to do. Prescription meds? Feminine hygiene products? Toilet paper? Not a nut? Cash in small bills? Know how to shut off your gas and water? Hand crank NOAA radio to listen for broadcasts about why the sky is suddenly green? An ounce of sanity?

Her post is hilarious, but also eye opening. How many of us think that we are prepared, but really aren’t? Or how many of us know we aren’t really prepared, but don’t fully realize the extent of our unpreparedness. (Yes, that is totally a word.)

Next week I am going to have an interview with a family that lived through Hurricane Katrina. They thought that they were as prepared as they needed to be.


13 Responses to “September is National Disaster Preparedness Month”

  1. Kamrin Says:

    Yeah, we have a kit, but we are in tornado alley. they problem with having a kit is that it also can be blown away with the house. The biggest lesson we learned through Katrina (we had 28 family members displaced) and through tornadoes, is to have a safety box at a bank. Passports, copies of IDs, birth certificates, and any other valuable information (hello credit card numbers and insurance papers) should be in there. If your house disappears in a fire, tornado, flood, hurricane the chances are that your bank vault might still be there. Also prescriptions kept at a national chain can be accessed from anywhere there is a chain so if your local drug store is under water, you can still get your meds. Sorry so long, you just inspired me to share!

  2. Wendy Says:

    What I learned from Katrina was to have an emergency fund that can be easily accessed. My husband is self-employed and the equipment that brought in the money was under several feet of water. We were stuck in Houston and couldn’t get in touch with our finiancial advisor to transfer funds. We didn’t think to get cash and considering we are in the ATM business…If it wasn’t for the check from our insurance company and FEMA we would be stranded on the side of the road somewhere.

    My advice if your disaster calls for you to evacaute, make sure you have plenty of cash on hand. You never know if you will be able to access your bank accounts, credit cards or even get to an ATM. Besides, why would you want to worry about all that when you are getting out of dodge.

    I am interested in your interview, please let us know where and when it will appear.

  3. Scott Says:

    Remember to put a large square of plastic wrap over the drain of the tub. Many tubs slowly leak over time and the plastic wrap pretty much stops that from happening.

  4. Mslil65 Says:

    Make sure you have some extra batteries stored for the flashlights! During our last power outage, we had plenty of flashlights but none of them worked because our boys had routinely played with them and left them on until the batteries wore out. When we actually needed a flashlight, no luck. We now keep a wind-up-needs-no-batteries flashlight along with a stash of batteries (for the other flashlights)in our closet. And this year both our boys will receive their very own flashlights to play with…yes…I’m giving flashlights as gifts. Ha!

  5. Mslil65 Says:

    Oh forgot to mention….if you have an automatic ice maker, pull your ice out of the freezer and dump it in your tub…otherwise it just melts and drips and ruins your wood floors.

  6. Ln Says:

    We lost power once for about 10 days. Thankfully the weather was mild, but what I learned from the experience was #1 It’s nice to have a sideburner on your grill, #2 It’s good to keep a corded phone someplace that you can find when the power is out #3 If you have a child who is afraid of the dark, give them their own small flashlight, and expect to change the batteries often #4 It’s good to know your neighbors.

  7. Homestead Says:

    Our power goes out fairly often as well so we have a standard system…..

    1. Get out the corded phone and plug it in.
    2. Make sure everything is powered down & lights are switched to “off.”
    3. Get out a big spoon and eat ice cream directly from the carton…. what? You don’t want that stuff going to waste do you?

    We have (due to an unfortunate incident involving the physics of flying freezers) a freezer that has to be full to work properly so most of the time the bottom half is full of gallon milk jugs of ice which are also my emergency water supply. Please tell me that is clever and DON’T ask about the flying freezer, ok?

  8. Susan Getgood Says:

    We are utterly spoiled in our “regular” house in Mass. as we have a municipal light and power that serves only 3 towns so the power is rarely out for more than a few hours. Important in an all electric house :-)

    We also have a vacation home in central vermont which lost power for 24 hours 2 weeks ago, when we happened to be there. And experienced the joys of no water :-) Luckily it was the summer, so we weren’t snowed in or anything and my husband went on a water run. But, we realized that we’d better put in a backup propane generator for the frig and the well, at a minimum, should it happen when we aren’t there.

  9. ChristieNY Says:

    Thank you for the great info! :)

  10. Brigitte Says:

    Our frugal method: Make sure you have good neighbors with generators and wood-burning stoves!

    We do have plenty of flashlights, and gas and oil lanterns for light, and I do the fill-the-tub thing, but I’m sadly unprepared in other ways.

  11. Susan Says:

    We have some self-charging flashlights, from REI or the Bass Pro store, I forget which; they have a copper coil in them that recharges the battery when you shake them. We’ve got two, one medium size and one small, that the kids play with all the time, but in an emergency there they are. You know, under all the crap in the playroom.

    But! Rechargeable! No batteries or electricity needed! Available in many sizes and brightnesses! And if you were really responsible, unlike me, you could put them in a Safe Place for an emergency. Maybe right next to the wine and coffee.

  12. Maddy Says:

    Thank you for that very informative post, I will be checking out the battery, match and camping supply situation today, you just never know when disaster may strike.

  13. LG Says:

    They mention flashlights and batteries on the FEMA site (and on so many other sites), but they almost ALWAYS fail to mention spare lightbulbs for those flashlights. The batteries and flashlights are utterly useless without lightbulbs.

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