Disasters are like accidents. They can happen any time, anywhere. You don't often have much time to respond. In the event of a hurricane, the authorities will tell you to evacuate, but if you have to leave your home in a hurry, what will you do? Where will you go?
If you're thinking that this doesn't apply to you, think again. A disaster can be anything from an earthquake, flood, tornado, or even an tanker spill on the freeway. Any of these things may cause you to lose your gas, water, electricity or ability to communicate with others.
In 2000, we had flooding in Houston. I ventured across town to attend a friend's wedding, confident that if I got into trouble I could use my cell phone. What I didn't realize, until much later, was that the storm had knocked out all of the cell phone towers and there was no service.
Everyone should have an emergency kit. If there are five of you in the house, then you need five kits. Each kit should have the basics. Don't rely on dad to carry the bulk of the load. You never know when you might be separated from one another.
Here are a few things to think about:
1. Have a plan. If you were to have to evacuate, where would you go? You may not all be at home when you get word. Spend some time with your family discussing where you would meet.
2. You may not have to actually leave your home. Maybe you just have loss of power. It's still important to have enough to survive. What will you eat? If you don't have power, how will you prepare it? Good idea to have food you can eat right out of the bag or can.
3. Remember that if you have lost power, it's likely that your entire area is out. Don't depend on the grocery stores to have enough to supply all of you. Be sure to always have water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies in your home. Make sure you have the medication you need. Get in the habit of refilling things before you're completely out.
4. Anticipate having to leave your home. Prepare an emergency kit. Place the items you need in something that's easy to carry. You might use a backpack or duffle bag. You might use a rolling carry-on suitcase for little children, but remember that you may not even have the option of rolling it. Better to have something you can carry.
5. Keep some cash at home. I save my change, and when I turn it in for dollars, I put that money in my emergency kit. The week, during the aftermath of Katrina, Wal-Mart allowed those who had cash to buy off the shelf. With no electricity or phone lines, they couldn't process credit cards.
6. Store your kit in a convenient place that is known by all family members so you can grab it and run. Keep a smaller version of supplies in your car.
7. Remember to review your kit once a year. Update water, food, and batteries.
8. Keep your cars full of gas for emergency evacuations.
9. Consider scanning old photos to your computer and putting them on a disk. If you're faced with flooding, the original may be destroyed, but you've got a better chance of the disk surviving, and it will also take up less space. Better yet, use a program that allows you to upload your photos to the Internet. That way you can access them from any computer.
10. Have a change of clothes and put the items in Ziploc bags or seal them with a Food Saver. I have a pair of knit workout pants, a clean shirt, socks, and a change of underwear in my kit.
11. Include scriptures, paper and pen. Put them in bags to keep them dry (Ziploc or Food Saver).
12. Be sure to have a first aid kit with the basics.
13. Carry three bottles of water. One for each day.
14. Include MREs (meal replacement bars) or packable food. Think about what you'd take if you were going hiking. Include foods for energy. You're going to need it.
15. Include toiletries. Tooth brush, tooth paste,soap, toilet paper.
16. Small radio with batteries. Check often to make sure batteries are still good. It will be important to know what's going on if you have no way of communicating with others.
17. Flashlight. There are some available that you can wind up and use. No batteries needed.
If you've got a lot of money you can buy a pre-packaged emergency kit, but I prefer to pack my own and put those things that I know I will use. This kit works on the same principle as insurance. You hope you never need it, but just in case you do, you have it.
Make it a fun family night project. Talk to the family about the importance of putting the kits together, and set a budget, if necessary, for purchasing the things you need. Add a few things each time you go to the grocery store, and in no time you'll have your kit ready to go!
Joyce Moseley Pierce is a freelance writer whose works have been published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She's sold over 20,000 copies of All They'll Need to Know," since establishing Emerson Publications in 1989. She's the Emergency Preparedness Expert for Ideamarketers.com and publishes the Family First ezine with articles on many areas of preparedness. Visit www.emersonpublications.com to sign up for her newsletter or to learn more about how you can be more prepared in all areas of life.© 2009 Joyce Moseley Pierce
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