While that title can be virtually impossible to actually do, there are steps to take to be at least minimally prepared for disasters common in your region. No one is comfortable with the idea of a disaster. Just as no one is comfortable with a disaster when it happens. We can’t all bury our heads in the sand and hope it goes away. In most cases, it won’t be as simple as picking up the phone and dialing 9-1-1.
Basic preparation to any disaster, man-made or natural, is not something to take lightly. Nor is it something to dwell on constantly. What should be done is to sit down with your wife, husband, domestic partner and/or children and plan on paper what would be needed to handle a disaster. FEMA has several recommendations on their website and through their workbooks, usually readily available via free download or through your local library. As we all saw with Hurricane Katrina, Sandy and other disasters, emergency services and FEMA cannot manage a disaster of that magnitude and taking care of yourself and loved ones becomes your responsibility until assistance becomes available. That means you need to be able to provide for yourself and family until that time.
Using the Boy Scout motto ‘Be Prepared’ and taking that line of thinking one step further, anyone can become moderately prepared for disasters. This is known as ‘mitigation’. Mitigation is preparing for an event in an attempt to lessen the impact be it financial, emotional, physical or all the above. Mitigation is also a really professional sounding word that the alleged ‘experts’ like to toss around to make themselves more important. To mitigate or prepare for an event requires no special training just basic common sense. No one is telling you to go out and spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on equipment, water, or freeze-dried foods. What is being asked of you is to be aware of some simple procedures that you should know and practice. If you live in a house, find out where your water shutoff is, your gas shut off and how to turn off the power at the electrical (breaker) panel. In a disaster, such as an earthquake, water, natural gas and electricity are not things that mix well together. A non-sparking universal wrench can be purchased at most home improvement stores. If you are an apartment dweller, locate your unit’s electrical panel and know how to shut off the power. Also be aware of the emergency exits. No matter where you live you should find a rally spot close to your home that all family members and friends can find and meet at.
There is no need to stockpile food in great quantities when you first start out (see the 24 Weeks of Preparedness). Look for case sales, closeouts, and markdowns. If you’re concerned about storage space, use the dead space under your bed or at the bottom of closets. While having canned food is a handy item to have, the key to remember is rotation or FIFO, First In, First Out. Check your stocks and inspect for dented, swollen or expired items. Rotate accordingly.
That brings us to the storage of water. Water is heavy and can cause problems with storage. Having 55 gallon barrels in your home can be quite cumbersome. There are several manufacturers that make what is known as a ‘water bag’. This ‘bag’ can hold up to 70 gallons and lays flat, ideal for storage under your bed. Originally designed for use in the back of pickup trucks servicing farms and rural areas, this water bag can be useful in a disaster when utility service will be interrupted. Again, with storage of any perishable item, date, climate and place of storage are very important. Never store your emergency water in an area that is subject to extreme temperature fluctuation or with paints, solvents, or gasoline. Make sure that the container is rated for potable water and keep it out of heat and direct sunlight. Follow any safety regulations and suggestions before using your stored water such as boiling and filtering.
This information in this post is very basic and general. More details about specific information will follow in future posts. It becomes your personal preference on how far you want to take it and how much you want to spend on it.