Emergency Supplies

I love this phrase, created by the American Public Health Association. So simple, and yet such a potent reminder. For me, it always prompts guilt that despite my disaster fascination, I am never  as well prepared at home as I should be. As a result, every 6 months, my guilt makes me do a little more. This time, I will finally take the step of putting museum paste on my crystal collection and bug my husband to investigate and install cabinet latches. (You can check in a month to see if I followed through on my goal!)

The phrase reminds you to check for expiration dates and rotate your current supplies. In reality, it is more valuable as a prompt for those who have not yet set aside stores. How many that represents is anyone’s guess. A quick look at the numbers suggest that around 40% of the population report storing supplies, but only about 10% really have adequate stores when questioned in detail. Who knows – this year you might have more success in encouraging your friends and neighbors. Just use the gazillion web images of empty grocery shelves and gas lines from Superstorm Sandy.

Kit Favorites

There are so many sources with information on emergency supplies, including governmental (FEMA’s http://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit), non-profit (Red Cross’ http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/get-kit), and commercial, for those who would rather buy a kit (emergency Essentials http://beprepared.com/). But what are the favorites of emergency preparedness geeks? We all have a few things that we wouldn’t be caught without. Here are my personal preferences:

1)      A backpack or waterproof bag tied to the bed frame containing shoes, a flashlight, and warm clothes. Why? In an earthquake, drawers and cabinets empty out and furniture moves all over. Trying to find your emergency supplies in the dark mixed with the mess on the floor isn’t an easy job. My way, I just have to find the bed (hopefully I’m in it), and voilà – there are my flashlight and shoes. Why do I care? Well, just look at the picture from my parents’ kitchen after the Northridge earthquake.

Do you want to walk through here barefooted in the dark?

The stuff on the floor is several feet deep, and mixed with broken glass. Tiptoeing barefoot in the dark is not how I want to start my disaster response. (I also cringe a little when I go in a house where you have to take your shoes off at the door!)

2)      Fire Extinguishers – think San Francisco earthquake! Or think Queens, New York THIS WEEK. Things start on fire in disasters – gas leaks, downed power lines, electrical shorts (even when the power goes out). Fires often cause more injury and damage than the original disaster. Curtis Ryan, RN from the Emmanuel Burn Center stated in a recent lecture that 1/3 of injuries in natural disasters are burns. But if you can catch a small fire in your house (or your neighbor’s house) and safely extinguish it yourself, you may prevent your entire neighborhood from going up in smoke.

3)      Car Emergency Supplies – if I had to choose, I’d take my car kit over my home kit. After all, how much time are you away from your house? In a major disaster, it may be a long time before you see home sweet home again. Roads and bridges are out, and those that are open are for emergency vehicles. If you hike your way home, by the time you get there, your family may have gone somewhere else. With a car kit, I have supplies anywhere, including at home. If two cars are at home when the disaster hits, you have a good start on your family’s needs.

So what are your favorites? As you set your clocks, will you also set a goal?  If disaster response is a community effort, leave a comment on your plans, and follow my blog. Let’s form a disaster preparedness community.

Keep safe,

Sheila

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