In the previous installment, I wrote about the five absolute necessities: water, light, food, first aid/medical supplies, and medications. I suggested ways to deal with these needs ahead of time and efficiently, based on my own experience in emergencies of several kinds, including direct hits by five hurricanes.
In Part 2, I’m adding to the list those things that, while not necessarily essential for survival, can help make your experience much less traumatic.
A battery-operated radio and extra batteries is a must. Consider the kind that will generate its own power. It should be able to tune to the automated weather broadcasts, AM and FM bands at a minimum (in the USA), this may be your only source of accurate information about what is happening. You will not be able to depend on phones, cell phones, or other infrastructure-supported appliances, and portable TVs are too hard on batteries.
Tools: An adjustable wrench to turn off gas or water if necessary, a manual can opener, a good screwdriver, hammer, pliers, a good knife and sharpener, duct tape, plastic sheeting, garbage bags and ties. The popular “multi-tools” (Leatherman, Gerber) are good backup, but are inconvenient for primary use. If you have room, take a hand saw and small ax, but make sure everyone knows how to use them safely. If family members wear eyeglasses, take along one of the cheap sets of small, hollow-ground screwdrivers (RadioShack and similar outlets) to keep screws tight and effect repairs if needed.
Clothing: Include a complete change of clothes for everyone, appropriate to the weather, including sturdy shoes and gloves. You can assume that you will need the gloves (if only to keep your hands relatively clean). Each person should have a hat with a brim.
Personal items: Remember eyeglasses or contact lenses and solution, plus spares, copies of important papers including identification cards, insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, etc., and comfort items such as toys, books, religious materials and so forth. If you use birth control pills or condoms, don’t forget to take a supply. Disaster babies are the clichÃ© that lasts a lifetime.
Sanitary supplies: You’ll need toilet paper, towelettes, feminine supplies, personal hygiene items, etc. Don’t forget toothbrushes, paste and dental floss. Pack spares of all this stuff; don’t depend on picking them up off the bathroom shelf. In a crunch, you might forget to take them with you, and a week without brushing your teeth is no fun.
Take a jug of chlorine bleach. It is useful for disinfecting surfaces, at a strength of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, and can be used to purify drinking water, clean dishes, etc. Go here to find out more.
Money: Take cash. ATM’s and credit cards won’t work if the power is out. If you know in advance that you might have to evacuate or live without power, go get the money as soon as you can. Everyone else will be hitting the ATM too, and banks may close early to allow employees time to prepare. Divide it among the responsible family members so that if some is lost — or robbed — your finances won’t be destroyed.
Contact information: Carry a current list of family phone numbers and email addresses, including people out of the area — who may be easier to reach if local phone lines are out of service or overloaded. Don’t depend on the list in your phone, laptop or PDA. If it dies, you’re out of luck.
Emergency Contact: Designate a person out of the area as a central point for exchange of information in case family members become separated. Make sure they know they have been chosen, so they will be on the lookout for emergency communications. Make sure every member has the number and knows when to use it. If possible, keep this person informed of your circumstances so that they can relay to other concerned family and friends.
Pet supplies: Include food, water, leashes, litter boxes, litter, plastic bags, pet medications and vaccination information. Catnip is a good idea for the kitties, chew toys for the pups. When planning, allow for the bulk of the carriers, and keep the animals in their carriers while traveling. An escapee could really mess up your evacuation.
Map: Take a large map that’s easy to read, with evacuation routes clearly marked on it from your local area. If you may have to travel into adjoining areas, make sure you have maps for them as well. Maps are cheap — and nearly impossible to find under emergency conditions. Remember that with traffic lights and street lights and signs possibly down, navigation may be really difficult. Be familiar with your route, and assign a navigator to backstop your decisions. Be familiar with available alternates, including surface routes, in case your primary route is blocked or out of reach.
Vehicle: Fuel your car, and check the tires, oil, windshield washer fluid and belts well ahead of time. Lines are likely to be long, and if power is out, you won’t be able to get gas at all.
I guarantee that if you meet these standards you will fare better, in the event of a disaster, than 95% of the other people who will be affected. If you assemble your kit ahead of time and keep it in order, you will have more time to attend to details when the fertilizer hits the propeller. You can get a big plastic container that will hold most of the stuff and keep it safe and ready to go for a few bucks. Bulky items such as water and clothing can be added later.
Note: items recommended are either things I’ve used myself or researched with reasonable care. Specific brands mentioned have been tested by the writer. Others may serve just as well.
Finally: MAKE AND USE A CHECKLIST for preparations. Mark each item off when it is completely taken care of. See your local newspapers, TV stations, emergency preparedness departments, police and fire departments for detailed information on how to prepare for specific kinds of emergencies.
Be careful out there!