From food shortages and natural disasters to political unrest and economic uncertainty, the world is not a predictable place. Recent surveys show that a quarter of the U.S. population have done nothing to prepare for a significant emergency, with much of this inactivity due in large part to a lack of knowledge about how to get started. There are five essentials that can help anyone withstand an emergency, whether a natural disaster or the financial short-fallings that come with unemployment.
The new year is a perfect time to get prepared. There are five essential things to think about:
- Stock Up on Food Store food you regularly eat, that tastes good. Make sure you store a variety of foods with a long shelf life. Include freeze dried foods that only require boiled water. Make sure you have an alternative way to cook your food should power go out, like camp stoves, solar ovens, and the like. Some experts recommend having up to 3 months of food on hand, but everyone should have 3-10 days on hand for routine hurricanes, blizzards, and other weather-related issues.
- Store WaterFEMA recommends starting with storing one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, but you can never have too much water. Bottled water does expire, so keep an eye on dates, and rotate your supply annually.
In addition to storing water, it’s also a good idea to store water purification tools. There are a variety of convenient and inexpensive water purification systems, from water bottles with built-in filter straws to gallon-size water pitchers. Other options are to use water purification tablets, apply the bleach method (16 drops of regular household bleach added to a gallon of water), or simply to boil water vigorously for 1-2 minutes. All of these methods should purify most types of contaminated water.
- Put Away Fuel Fuel is essential in emergency situations for heating, cooking meals and powering tools, generators and household appliances. There are a variety of fuel types to choose from, some more difficult to store than others. Gasoline, for example, must be stored according to strict regulations depending on your area and has a relatively short shelf life. Propane lasts for long periods of time but is fairly expensive to buy in large amounts. More traditional fuel sources like kerosene or firewood can be good options but require a little more knowledge and creativity. Many people fin it convenient to store quick-lighting fuel discs or fuel cans to use along with their camping stoves, and these can be purchased through some emergency food companies or outdoor suppliers. Some only burn for 20 minutes; others will burn for up to 4 hours per cell, so do your homework well in advance to decide which type of fuel will work best for you (and your budget) – and stock up.
- Gather Emergency Kits FEMA offers a detailed list of basic emergency supplies, including practical items like batteries, flashlights, first aid supplies and other emergency essentials. Ideally, everyone should have a comprehensive emergency supply kit that stays at home with their other emergency items, a kit that is more portable for taking with them if evacuation becomes necessary, and smaller supply kits in the trunks of their cars, in school backpacks, and in work desks so that emergency supplies are available even if disaster strikes when not at home, which it often the case.
- Make a Family Emergency Plan This plan will help eliminate stress during an emergency, and should include specific procedures each family member will follow in case it happens when you are apart. Decide how you will contact one another to let each other know that you are safe and where you will be. Consider designating an out-of-state family member that everyone should call. Also, discuss how you will reunite when the disaster is over. Designate meeting places in your neighborhood, outside your neighborhood, and out of town, and make sure everyone is clear about when to meet where. In addition, try to keep your car tanks at least half full of gas at all times because you might not be able to refill during an emergency.