Monday, March 4, 2013

Make yourself useful and...prepare an emergency kit

 Those of you who know me well enough know that I'm a pretty big fan of The Walking Dead. I started reading the comic books when I was pregnant with my daughter, and pretty near went into shock when I found out that AMC was making a TV show some time later. The show is my Sunday night, meaning nothing else exists during Walking Dead season. I've always had a thing for zombies (I wish there was a less creepy way of saying that, but I can't think of one), as they are by nature terrifying, somewhat realistic, and completely unsettling to a girl who read too many horror novels as a kid and horror comics as a grown-up (and no, I didn't reverse that). They also constitute a "real" emergency, one for which it's good to have a plan, and maybe a plan B too.

The kinds of emergencies that generally befall my family usually require staying indoors. Things like hurricanes, blizzards, torrential rainstorms, etc. don't require us to leave our home, since we are in a reasonably secure area. We live in what is technically a "valley" between two mountains, but are at a high enough elevation that flooding is certainly not a concern for us. If our house ever flooded, you could kiss all of NJ goodbye, because it would be under water. The same is not true of all of my neighbors...even a few houses down, they have seen more "50 year floods" in the past few years than I'd care to count, and many of these have caused significant damage. But despite our relative security, we are by no means safe from all disasters, and the house's proximity to a weapons testing area is a constant reminder that something scary and devastating could happen at any moment. 

For quite a while I've been tossing around the idea of making a family emergency kit, just in case. During Hurricane Sandy last year, my family was without power for almost 2 weeks. We though we were prepared, but we had no idea just how unprepared we were for a storm of that magnitude. We learned the hard way, but thankfully, we learned in time to keep ourselves safe, at least. 

Here are some resources to help you to make a basic emergency kit for you and your family:
It is pretty much agreed that you'll need a first aid kit, a good supply of non-perishable food (things like peanut butter, granola/protein bars, dried fruits, crackers, etc. are good bets), water (rule of thumb is 1 gallon per person per day...I know because during Sandy, we ran out after a week), flashlights, a radio, extra batteries, cash, matches, a manual can-opener, and toilet paper and sanitation supplies. It's also good to have a complete change of clothes for everyone, bedding, and some activities to keep everyone busy. Some other things you might think to include are basic tools (in case you need to shut off gas or water service), a fire extinguisher, dry shampoo, hand sanitiser, baby wipes, multivitamins, a fire extinguisher, and (gasp!) disposable plates, cups, and silverware. You should have enough of all of these items to last the whole family for THREE WHOLE DAYS, and even longer if you expect the emergency to last longer. Remember to plan for everyone in your family, including pets, infants (formula, diapers, wipes), and the elderly. Include any medications you will need and food for special diets, as well as doctor and insurance company contact information and policy numbers.Think of the things your family uses every day, and plan accordingly. After almost two weeks without power after Sandy, I was SUPER glad to have a battery-powered portable DVD player. Was it strictly necessary? No, but it sure helped pass the time. So after you've covered the necessities, think, what would it be nice to have?

You can also purchase ready-made kits with all the extras at many websites, including the Red Cross Store online. Some are MUCH, MUCH more in-depth than others and include a lot of things that you might not need.  Again, tailor it to your family's needs, and the types of disasters that are likely to befall you and your family (like, we don't need flood-specific items, but we sure do have a lot of power outages, so...).

Here's to hoping you're better-prepared than I've been in the past, and to keeping you and your family safe!

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