Saturday, March 19, 2011

Just in case

There has been some email traffic and "talk" on my local single mom lists over the last week or so about emergency preparedness. It made me realize that what I used to have in place isn't organized in a fashion to be readily useful in a true emergency and as a single mom to three young children wouldn't have been adequate anyway.

After a late start, then a mad dash to walk the dog and get to Max's first T-ball game, home to throw together a quick lunch, then change and get the twins ready for nap*, my mom watch the kids and I attended a free emergency preparedness class.

It was worth the time. I figured I'd share my take aways which will also help me organize my notes and think about my "goals".

One of my biggest takes aways was a comment that if we took nothing else from the class, we should think about and write out our "goals" of what we wanted to get done/prepared. Clearly, it is a mindset and a process. He suggested making a goal for the week, the month, the year.

Example 1: One of his suggestions is to have a 30 day supply of canned food at the ready.

To reach that ultimate goal, he suggested that you make a list of what your family would need for a day, create a menu of sort, and that maybe one of your goals was that every time you go to Costco or the store you pick up a day's worth until you build up to a month supply. So, one of my goals for this week is to make up a menu for a week based solely on canned food and then get a week supply of food within the month, with a mini goal to get a days worth of food in a week to build up.

Example: One of his suggestions is to scan all of your important documents like insurance, birth certificates, car titles, house titles, mortgage information (and I'll add medical records and copies of ID's) you might need and put it on a USB. Keep one copy in your emergency kit, one in a safe deposit, and one with a family member.

I have several USB's already just around so my mini goals would be to 1) find them 2) start scanning and adding a bit at a time (or maybe take a vacation day and just get it done?...will have to think about that). But, I'm not going to try to tackle that until I get my taxes done.

Example: Keep cash on hand and in small bills like 1's and 5's. In a true emergency, cash is king and credit card authorizations won't be possible and banks wouldn't be open. He didn't say and I didn't think to ask what amount is recommended. I've heard an amount before...maybe at least $500 or $1000 (or more?)?

One of my goals is to slowly add $40 dollars a month with $10 of it in $5's and $3o's in $1's.

I asked the instructor in order of priority what is the hierarchy of needs. Maybe kind of obvious, but my take away ....

1) Water
2) Food
3) Lighting
4) First Aid
5) Comfort items like toiletries such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, a change of clothes, a blanket.
6) Communication items

1) Water: Recommendation was to plan for a gallon a day per person. Because of the breakdown of plastic, he did not recommend bottled water, but boxed (like the juice boxes) or bags for cars and a bin (is that what you call it?) for the house. I had always assumed that I could use the pool water, but that isn't advised apparently. I bought eight servings of water (4 boxed and 4 bagged) for now for each of my kits (which I decided would be one for the house and one for each car). I would have gotten more, but I had to park WAY down the street and knew I couldn't carry everything back. One of my goals and probably my first big purchase would be price out and get a 50 gallon water supply (which lasts up to 5 years) for the house, then a 3 day supply to keep in the car.

2) Food: Long term, as already mentioned, was to have a 30 day supply of canned food (and maybe even boxed milk like rice milk?) on hand and a 3 day supply of grab and go ready in an emergency. Today, I bought a 3 day supply of mainstay energy bar's/food that has a 5 year shelf life for each of my 3 kits. His recommendation was once a year, he does it in September right after the kids go back to school, was to go through his 3o day supply and replace it. He said they donate their whole supply to charity and rebuild it once a year. Since some canned food can have a shelf life of several years, I'll probably keep it sorted by expiration date or something and swap out anything expiring within the next year.

Start of my food list: Canned tuna, chicken, (other meat/protein?). Canned vegetables. Canned/jarred fruit. Maybe some soups. Beans? I was thinking about those small packages of condiments like mayo that wouldn't need to be refrigerated. Maybe some rice or other boxed milk and cereal. Probably some crackers. I'll have to give it more thought and come up with a menu that I could keep with it.

The other somewhat of a food related item I bought today was a butane stove with 4 butane tanks as I had been thinking about getting one anyway for camping. The butane is safe for indoor use.

3) Lighting: Basically, the recommendation was to have flashlights all over the house, light sticks, electricity fail lights throughout the house (that charge when plugged in and if the electricity fails, will come on, and can also be used as a flashlight), camping lanterns. The biggest point on lighting was battaries, batteries, batteries. Keep a good supply on hand as you just can't find them in a true emergency and that light can keep you safe and bring comfort and calm.

My sister got me a LED lantern for camping (and without knowing, I had gotten her one as well:) so I had that and Santa and the Easter bunny bring flashlights every year so I we have quite a few, but they do need to be found. Today, I bought a few light sticks because they were cheap (under $2) and 4 electricity fail lights (one for each bedroom and one for the main part of the house).

4) First Aid: They have a lot of kits from the basic to the elaborate. I decided to not buy a kit for now, but to better organize what I have in the house and figure out what I need so that I can have a small first aid kit for each of my emergency bags. I did buy a total of 12 emergency blankets @ $1.30 each so I could put 4 in each of my emergency bags. Figured it was a cheap insurance, just in case. I have one or two in the messy hall closet that I used to keep in my hiking kit that I should find and add as well. He also mentioned keeping a supply of needed medication on hand and things like Excedrin or Tylenol.

5) Comfort Items: For myself in my travel days, I had a good toiletry, personal hygiene, that could be grab and go. I need to get one organized for the kids. His recommendation was to use the hotel soaps and shampoo's and giveaway type items to keep it small and light. Since the children leave their toothbrushes around for the dog to chew on a regular basis, I've been picking up spares as I find them on sale. I'm going to continue to do that and build up a small set for the house first, then the minivan, then the other car (which I plan to "sell" to my mom in the fall to my mom when the twins go to school full time as without a nanny I don't really need to run with 2 cars).

6) Communication items: He didn't spend too much time in this area, but interestingly enough did recommend that if people didn't have facebook or twitter, they may want to set up an account because in the last few disasters, people have been able to use it to let people know where they are and that they are safe. He also recommended an emergency radio that can run by hand crank, AC adapter or batteries that could also charge cell phones (if you have a USB to phone adapter). He mentioned that texting was also a primary communication method in Japan and gave an example recently where cell service went down, but texting still worked. The most basic recommendation was to have a phone for the house that doesn't need electricity. I actually have one that I kept in my room, but the twins kept walking off with it and taking it off the hook, so I need to find it or replace it.

I bought a cheaper and more basic emergency radio that could operate by hand crank or battery. Part of the reason is that I think I'm going to invest in a portable solar powered system that I could use to charge the cell phone and laptop, but more importantly to me a neubutlizer...just in case. R's lung issues have gotten a lot better, but an earthquake or fire will likely degrade air quality.

7) Tools: This is a section I'm going adding as I made notes on some things I need to pull together or get. The one tool I purchased today (actually got two, one for each car), was a cheep little gadget that could break glass and cut a car seat belt in emergency if needed. I'll add sanitation type items. He talked about keeping 10 gallon heavy duty bags on hand to line the toilets, with either some chemicals or kitty litter to help keep the smell down, in case you don't have running water or the sewage system isn't working.

Bigger Ticket Items on my list:
- 50 gal water system
- Portable solar system

Smaller items:
- Large plastic bins to store 30 day food supply, camping gear
- Backpacks for under each of our beds to include whistle (so that kids/people) can whistle if they are trapped or hurt), flashlight, light stick, hard sole shoes, a set of clothes, and toys, books, crayons/paper, something to keep each child entertained (the recommendation is to have older kids pack their own/have input)
- Crow Bar (to help pry open a door if needed
- Tools to add to my camping supply/emergency bin (like screwdrivers, pliers, a mallet)
- Portable toilet (have already been looking at for camping and would put in my camping supply/emergency bins.
- Fire extinguisher for house and car

- Emergency kit for the house and each car.
- Store 30 day supply of food and grab and go emergency bag by the front door.
- Camping/emergency bin in the garage that is easy to get to.
- Side of house water system, bin with basic supplies

Other recommendations:
- Have an evacuation plan ready with a checklist of what you would grab if you had 5, 10, or 15 minutes to get out of the house.
- Remember your pets and have food, supplies, any medication for them including leashes and a crate.
- He touched on smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors (which apparently sometime this year are going to become mandatory for each home in CA), which I already have.
- He talked about safety ladders and how to use them and practicing with the kids by having them go up first and then eventually down.
- He talked about strapping things down and that most injuries happen from broken glass cutting up hands/feet (recommends a pair of leather work gloves and hard sole shoes in each emergency kit). I bought a strap to anchor a bookcase today, which was already on my to do list.
- He recommended keeping in the nightstand a flashlight, whistle, and non-electric phone (that could just be plugged into a jack. I asked how one kept toddlers for keeping them there. :)

Emergency Kits

House - Water, Food, Flashlight and/or light stick, shoes, gloves, emergency radio, wipes, toilet paper, non-water hand cleaner, whistle, crow bar, basic tools, first aid supplies, emergency blankets, toiletries, coffee if you are a coffee drinker

Backpack for each person under bed - Flashlight and/or lightstick, shoes (that fit), whistle, clothes such as socks and sweats, toys such as legos, books, paper/crayons

Car - Water, Food, Flashlight and/or light stick, wipes, toilet paper, first aid kit, emergency blanket, potentially a portable toilet/bags for disposal, emergency radio? basic tools?

Hope this can help help someone else think through what they might need or not. It has given me many things to think through and get in place.

* which reportedly they did not do, but did play quietly in their rooms for awhile. The good news with that is that I was able to put them to bed early-ish/on time (with the time change) and we may finally be almost back on track schedule wise.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Debbie! Thanks for posting this! I can totally say that I am now officially freaked out b/c, not only does this seem overwhelming, but I have nothing anywhere near this done! I do have furniture tacked down but that's it! My TV could fly across the room at night (saw your post on the other mom's thread). Really freaked now! I need to get on this! You should post this on FB. Thanks again! -Cindy

Jen said...

Hey Debbie! Well I guess I should get on this now because....I'M PREGNANT! Yes, I'm finally pregnant! I have followed your blog for years and I hope to continue to do so.

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