Emergency preparedness sounds big and scary, and therefore hard to get going on. (How does one buy a bunker, and can you put anything in it that you’d really want to eat anyway?) But you can get pretty far with some advance thinking and buying supplies a little ahead of time if you can.
You might not live where there are hurricanes or wildfires expected now, thankfully! But there is some kind of emergency that can happen in any location. Like maybe some of these:
- Severe storm (rain, hail, snow, tornadic, etc.)
- Too much or not enough rain (flood/drought)
- Fire (just a regular old house fire)
- Extreme cold or heat
- Loss of power or water
- Job loss/loss of income
- Illness/injury in household
- Transportation failure (car totalled, bus strike, etc.)
- Pandemic lockdown (again)
So think about what is reasonably likely to happen to you, and then think about what you would have to do to handle everyday life under those circumstances, for the people and animals in your household. If emergency X happens, will you be physically safe? If not, how can you fix that? Will your household be able to breathe, eat, drink, keep clean, handle (er) bathroom waste, maintain your medical condition, treat illness/injury if needed, attend work/school as needed, keep your home intact and safe, entertain yourselves…? And if not, how can you adapt to the situation or what can you do to be able to overcome the problem? How can you make life easier if this ends up happening?
So let’s say you have kids to feed and the power goes out before dinner. So maybe Taco Tuesday isn’t happening with no power to the electric stove, but you can feed the kids PB&J from the pantry if you have the supplies, or make a what’s-going-to-go-bad-in-a-few-hours-without-power-to-the-fridge charcuterie board. Or if the kids are spooked, you could take them out for Chick-fil-A in an area with power for a treat to cheer them up. (I have done this pre-pandemic. The play area was a lifesaver.) Or if you have some extra flashlights and batteries somewhere they can be found (admittedly a challenge with kids), maybe they can play flashlight tag and run around screaming in the dark until bedtime (while you sample a calming beverage and wish you could find the earplugs). As you think about this, you might realize that you need to add a few things to the shopping list, for when there’s room in the budget (batteries, earplugs, adult treat beverages, extra pantry food the kids will eat). For example, we keep peanut butter, crackers (will keep longer than bread!), raisins, and Capri Sun pouches as all-purpose, shelf-stable food for the small, somewhat-picky eaters in our house.
Then maybe think about overlapping challenges - one of your kids gets hurt and needs minor medical attention, or it’s really cold (or hot) and you’re uncomfortable, or your well water won’t work without power so now you’re trying to manage without that, too. There are lots of scenarios to think through.
In 2020, I’d particularly highlight: What if you needed to evacuate to stay safe, for whatever reason? Where could you go? What would you pack? What would you need?
The “buying supplies ahead” part particularly means that you try not to run out of anything you really must (or want to) have. Can you refill that important prescription early and work on getting some extra days’ padding? Can you get an extra box of diapers or can of formula to put on the shelf, if those are things you need, and buy more when you get down to that extra, pretending that “one is none”? And if you do run out, can you think of a way around it? (Do you know how to fold a raggy old T-shirt into a cloth diaper? Gonna try that commando potty training weekend method you heard about? ) If that sounds awful, maybe keep a little more extra on the shelf? We also discovered during the shutdown that Walmart delivers reasonably priced diapers quickly, if you get caught short.
There are a few emergency-specific supplies you probably do want on hand: a decent portable radio that can get weather band broadcasts, a decent first aid kit, some decent flashlights and batteries … the government has a good list of basics. There is a lot of information out there on the internet about getting ready, from all kinds of people. I like this one as a starting point.
Also, your phone can help you out with some of this. FEMA has a weather alert app that will let you track multiple locations for watches and warnings. The Red Cross has a first aid app. Your utility companies may have text alerts you can sign up for. Your community may have a text warning system you can sign up for, too. There are emergency services scanner apps. People post local specifics on hazards to social media. Data is nice for all kinds of situations.