Playing “What If…”
In light of the recent storms and consequent power outages and deaths, it would be prudent to examine your preparedness levels and play a little game with yourself.
Being prepared for disasters, and other life changing events really all boils down to playing “what if” with yourself.
Now, as strange as it sounds, if you have played the “what if” game, and played it well, you have examined every potential scenario. You have also thought of the things needed to address that scenario, hopefully well in advance. If you are like me, you look at the worst possible case scenario and play “what if”. If you are prepared for the worst case scenario, then the lesser emergencies life throws at you will be easy to handle. A “cake walk”. A “breeze”, if you will.
For example: you are fully prepared for a hurricane knocking out the power, water, and other basic services for a month or more. A severe storm blows through and a tornado touches down, knocking out the power for a couple of weeks. You are easily able to handle the lack of water (water is pumped to your house using electricity), electric power, even telephone. If you prepared for a long term outage (in our example a hurricane knocking things out for months) you easily have enough food, water, a way to cook, a way to heat your house (if there is cooler weather outside), light sources for night time, and plenty of basics (anything you may buy from a store from toilet paper to toothpaste) for just the couple of weeks that the power is out.
It also works in reverse. If you have followed the US Government’s minimum guidelines for disaster preparedness (and only those minimum guidelines, no more, no less) you have enough food, and water for 3 days. You may not have a way to cook that food (they make no such recommendations). They do however, (if you do enough research) recommend methods for cooking food, such as using your charcoal grill, chafing dishes, candle warmers, fondue pots (assuming they are the non-electric variety), even a fireplace (assuming you have a: wood and b: skill enough to cook over open flames). Do you have a chafing dish and enough gelled alcohol fuel? A non-electric fondue pot and an adequate supply of gelled alcohol fuel? A fireplace and an adequate supply of wood? Heck, do you even own a grill, charcoal or gas, and do you have adequate fuel to last for weeks, if not months of multiple times a day use? These specific items are not addressed by our loving Government.
If you are following the Government guidelines, you will also have the following minimum of equipment (my questions and comments in the parenthesis at the end of each item):
A battery powered or hand cranked radio, a NOAA hand cranked or battery powered radio, extra batteries for each (how many batteries are enough extra batteries? They do not say).
A (single) flashlight and extra batteries (again, is ONE flashlight enough and how many extra batteries should you have?).
A first aid kit (ah, the first aid kit. How extensive? What kind of injuries will the first aid kit treat? Does it have enough supplies – pain relievers, burn gels, triple antibiotic creme – in it to last at least for 3 days worth of treatment and wound care?).
A whistle to signal for help (good idea, especially if you get buried in rubble. Uses less energy to blow a whistle than yell over and over again).
Dust mask(s) to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to assist with “shelter in place” (OK one of my biggest beefs with the US Government recommendations. A dust mask does exactly squat against real contaminants. The same with duct tape and plastic sheeting. If it is contaminated dust, no worries, but you better have several dust masks to swap used for new. They get clogged, and become useless).
Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and bag ties for personal sanitation (really? I mean really? You are better off with keeping a large plastic garbage can – never used for anything – in your garage or in a spare closet. Heck, store your kids stuffed animals in it. If you have warning of when the storm is coming, pull it out, fill it with water while the water is still running, and use it to fill and flush your toilet. Toilets are gravity flush operated. Just use a 2 quart pitcher to refill the tank from the garbage pail. Always remember the Florida “hurricane rule”: if it’s yellow let it mellow. If it is brown flush it down. You can also use the water from the garbage can to give yourself a sponge bath. Just fill your bathroom sink with some water, clean your important parts, and drain. Save the moist towelettes and the garbage bags for if the sewer system is backed up or backing up. Oh and you better have a “disaster toilet” – a specially designed toilet seat that fits over a 5 gallon bucket – and some kitty liter on hand. You line the 5 gallon bucket with the garbage bag, toss a little kitty liter on the bottom, and place the toilet seat on top. After each use, spronkle with a little kitty liter. This helps reduce the odor. When the bucket gets half full, remove the bag, seal it well, and place as far from your house as possible).
A wrench or pliers to turn off the utilities (seriously, if you do NOT know where the shut-off valves for your water and/or natural gas are, or how to operate them, you better learn NOW. The same can be said for electric. If the power goes out for any period of time, turn off the main breaker. This will keep your expensive electronics and appliances from taking a surge when the electric service is restored. You will know it is restored when your neighbor’s AC compressor kicks on, or street light come back on).
A manual can opener for food (better yet, have 2. If one breaks or you lose or misplace one, you have a spare. They are cheap and worth their weight in gold when you have to open a can to feed yourself).
Local maps (yeah like you do not know the local area you live in. These are actually handy, I was being sarky. If there are trees blocking roadways, or bridges are washed out you need to know any alternate routes you can take to get to where you may be going).
Cell phone with chargers, inverter, or solar charger (I say all three. An inverter charger is one like you plug in to your car 12V power port. No power and a regular charger is pretty worthless. A solar rig to charge your cell phones are not a bad idea, but you must understand they are limited and slow. It may take days to fully charge your cell phone. Days. All of this is, of course, assuming that the cell phone towers are still operational – they run on electricity too).
You would be pretty hard pressed to stretch 3 days of food and water out to a week, or even 2 weeks. You could well be in dire straights by day 5. Remember the rule of 3′s? 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food, 3 months without hope.
Do you see where I am going with this? If you have the minimum recommended by the Government, you have exactly 3 days of water on hand. You have to have water more than you have to have food. If the water systems are down in your area for 14 days, and you only have 3 days worth in your place of residence, how are you going to survive the other 11 days without water? You will not make it past 4 days without any water.
The FEMA guidelines are a good place as any to start, but they are just a start. You are not prepared if you have just the basics.
Got preps? Pray for the best, prepare for the worst.