Environment

How to Prepare for a Disaster No Matter Where You Are

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Everyone Needs to Prep for Disaster

No matter who you are, recent disasters across the world have likely made you wonder how well-prepared you and/or your family would be for a similar unexpected disaster situation. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help us gain the knowledge we need to prepare for and survive such events. We’ve compiled a few of the most essential aspects of disaster preparedness here, as well as a few with regard to the unique needs of different life situations.

What You Need to Consider First

When disaster hits, it’s likely we’ll go without at least some of the everyday luxuries we typically enjoy. Among them may be running water, electricity, cold/frozen storage for food and beverages, and our usual transportation methods and routes. In more severe cases, we may go without them for several days to even weeks. Those who’ve survived similar days in the past are the optimal source of information on how we can also survive, so we consulted sites offering extensive preparedness knowledge, but trimmed it down to the basics for our purposes.
If interested, you can read the full, more comprehensive preparedness lists hereherehere, here, and here.
For starters, we all need to cover six basic areas to ensure each home’s survival: water, food, first aid, clothing/bedding, tools/supplies, and other necessary special items. The top most essential of these should be kept in an easily transported container depending upon the size of your family’s needs (think: backpack, duffle bag, covered garbage container, covered storage container, etc.)

Water

Without access to safe, clean drinking water, we can face life-threatening thirst quickly, especially in warmer climates. Experts like Wellness Mama Katie suggest keeping 3 days of water per person stored up (consider the daily amounts needed by animals in your care also) as well as personal water filters for each. You should also consider a larger portable filter for filtering several gallons at a time and an additional multi-purpose storage container. The recommended amount of stored water breaks down into an average of at least two quarts or a gallon of drinking water per person per day, and at least two quarts or a gallon of sanitation or food preparation water per person per day. Choose containers that won’t break or disintegrate easily.
For those with bathtubs in the home, experts recommend items like water bob storage bags be kept for quick access near each, which can be filled with clean water to the size of a bathtub and sealed in the event of an emergency. This is ideal if you have the space, as it enables your family to store a large amount of water. You may wish to store some (empty) in your easily transportable container as well.

Food

Experts suggest getting in the habit of keeping at least 3 days of extra non-perishable food in the house (although Wellness Mama suggests at least a week) since losing power usually means most of your refrigerator/freezer’s contents will go bad shortly. Non-perishable foods can be eaten without the need for cooking and require no refrigeration. Ready-to-eat items are best, like canned soups, juice, beans, and pasta dishes, as well as high protein or nutrient-dense foods like nuts or trail mix, peanut butter, crackers, granola or energy bars, and vitamins. If you’ve got babies or elderly folks in your care, be sure to store up at least 3 days of their foods too. (It’s wise to keep a manual can-opener (although many cans come with a handy pull-top nowadays) and a can of sterno on hand in case you do need to heat some items. More experienced campers recommend a camp stove for more extended periods without power.) Wellness Mama recommends the Be Prepared website for an optimal life-sustaining non-perishable selection as well as supplies.

First Aid

 First Aid kits should be kept in the home and vehicle. Each kit should include sterile adhesive bandages like Band-aids, safety pins, soap, hand sanitizer, latex or vinyl gloves, sunscreen, gauze pads of various sizes, aspirin/pain reliever, antacids, Syrup of Ipecac to induce vomiting, anti-diarrhea medicine, laxatives, various sizes sterile roller bandages, petroleum jelly, tweezers, a needle, scissors, an antiseptic, a thermometer, activated charcoal, and tongue blades.
Additionally, you’ll need to pack a month’s supply of prescription medications, toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs/brushes, deodorant, shampoo, and any other special needs or natural medications you use. Stainless steel cooking necessities, knives, rain gear, equipment for making fire, towels, and blankets are also recommended for both short and long periods without power.  (It helps to go through the workings of your day mentally in each room while jotting down each item you use from rising to going to sleep in order to make sure you’ve fully considered your family’s needs.)
If you don’t want to bother with making your own first aid kits or bug-out bags, they do come pre-made on certain sites like this.

Light, Shelter, Communication and Heat/Warmth

If your home becomes untenable, alternatives will be necessary. Without funds for a motel (or a way to get there), the authentic lack of shelter from the elements can become a frightening possibility. A secure vehicle or out-building can temporarily do the trick, or a local evacuation shelter should be sought. Wellness Mama suggests also investing in a head flashlight, small LED flashlights, or other larger LED lights to ensure you can see once nightfall hits. She also keeps long-lasting beeswax candles for light and tarps on hand to cover damaged areas of roofs or other buildings. For those who can afford it and understand the safety issues, a portable generator is recommended. For communication, consider a solar cell phone charger and a weather radio (solar or battery-operated). Other sites recommend a hand-crank radio. Keep good quality warm and dry towels and blankets stored up at all times to cover wet, cold family members if the need arises.
Other sites suggest storing up a few self-defense, personal protection devices or weapons like mace, pepper spray, long-distance wasp/hornet spray, or knives, etc., but we recommend searching those out according to what you feel is best for your family.

Documents Bag/Box

If you’ve got a lock box handy (preferably a lightweight one with an easy-to-grab handle for carrying), be sure you’ve stored your necessary documents inside. You’ll need every family member’s birth certificates and passports, immunization records or other such health documents, bank account, credit/debit card, or insurance info, and a reasonable amount of cash for the near future.

For Those with Kids

If you’ve got kids at home, you may want to run over a disaster plan with them ahead of time, just like you probably reviewed tornado drills or fire drills with them. Make sure they know the basics of what to do if for any reason you cannot be there to help them. Getting them familiar with camping-related knowledge and some of the elements of survival prepping isn’t a bad idea. They should be involved in at least some of the preparedness packing and know what’s in the first aid kits/bug-out bags/extra food and water storage bins and where they’re kept.
If you’ve got elderly folks in your care, be sure you’ve got them prepped with this site. For those who rent or live in an apartment, look over these considerations. Finally, don’t forget to prep your pets using this site — and never ever leave them behind in a disaster zone.

Kristen lives in the Michiana area, where she enjoys lake-effect weather, apple orchards and occasional South Shore rides into Chicago. She can probably tell you more about apple cider vinegar than you'd ever want to know. You can reach her at: http://lakesedge.wix.com/lakesidewriting