The world has watched in horror as the crisis in Haiti unfolds, as we did a almost five years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Haiti and Katrina have two things in common, both that we can learn from. First, if the event is not extremely localized such as a tornado or chemical plant explosion, you can not expect help to come for 72 hours at the earliest. Depending on where you are located and the severity of the damage, it might take much longer. Second, the only person you and your kids have to depend on until help arrives is you. The vast majority of people showed themselves as unprepared in the wake of Katrina, despite having several days notice and access to running water in their homes and the grocery store. Many did not even fill their tub with water or fill some bottles to have on hand to drink. The stores were cleared of frozen food, with people giving no consideration to how they were going to keep that food frozen in the heat of August or cook it when the power would undoubtedly go out. And it will go out, since most power companies shut it down purposefully to minimize damage to the grid. And while you think, “I’d never be so dumb as to behave that way,” the fact is, your friends, family or neighbors might be. And when they see that you have and that have not, they will expect you to share.
Natural disasters for most people represent a frightening unknown. You probably know what is likely to occur for where you live, such as earthquakes, ice storms, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, or severe weather. Most of these emergencies can strike with no warning. Earthquakes, tornadoes and flash flooding can give little to no notice of their terrifying arrival, especially if you are asleep in bed when it strikes. Weather predictions are wrong all of the time, and people can get caught unawares. For a hurricane or ice storm, you have short notice to make a decision to evacuate or hunker down and prepare to stay. No matter where you live, a wildfire or a man-made disaster such as as over-turned 18 wheeler carrying dangerous chemicals is a possibility.
Having resources in more than one location becomes critical in an unexpected disaster. Having supplies in each car becomes critical when you either have to evacuate with no notice, are away from home when disaster strikes or something happens to your house that renders your items inside unusable or unreachable. There are a number of things you can keep in a storage container in the trunk of your car to make your life much easier in the event something happens to your house or you get caught in a disaster away from home. Here’s a list of things to consider:
- Water for each family member.
- Three days of high energy food that does not require preparation and can be eaten out of the container.
- A can opener if any of your food is canned.
- Disposable forks and spoons for each family member.
- A multi-purpose tool, such as a Leatherman.
- Hard candy or other small treats that will not melt.
- A change of clothing that is seasonally appropriate for each family member, with an extra pair of undies for the young ones. A button-up, long sleeve shirt for each member of the family in case someone gets cold in Spring or Fall. Extra socks for everyone, since wet feet can make you cold and miserable.
- Rain ponchos for each person. Disposable ones are cheap and tiny.
- Three days of disposable diapers and wipes if you have an infant. If your child is on raw milk formula, a back-up can of powdered formula and extra water.
- Seasonally appropriate aids such as hand and foot warmers, silver blankets or battery operated fans.
- A small amount of tissue or toilet paper and baby wipes for personal hygiene.
- Emergency flares, compass, glow sticks and a whistle. Maps of the area you live in, and if you’re out of your own location, always pick up a map in case you need it. Even the free tourist maps you get at rest stops along the interstate can be a big disaster preventer if you’re away from home and need alternate travel routes. Don’t rely on GPS alone here, in case it goes out, the battery dies or you have to leave you car on foot if it breaks down.
- Water purification pills, available in the camping supply section.
- A candle, firestarter and water-proof matches.
- If you have room, inflatable pillows or neck supporters, a pop up tent and a foldable shovel. In winter, you need a way to dig out of snow if you’re stranded in your car overnight.
- Bug spray or essential oil mix, sunscreen in case you’re going to be outside all day with no breaks, tylenol. I don’t normally recommend these products, but we’re talking about an emergency.
- Umbrella, jumper cables, small gas can, kitty litter (for traction if your car gets stuck) and other emergency on-the-road supplies.
Disease spread in emergency situations can be rapid due to polluted water, vermin and mosquitoes. Drinking from a stream without appropriate filtration is asking for disaster. Giardia is a deadly killer even when you have access to a hospital and antibiotics. When I was a teenager, I watched my mother battle it for six months, becoming seriously ill and dropping a lot of weight, on and off of antibiotics. She picked it up from tainted water that was splashed in her face and the doctors told us she had a mild case and was lucky. Drinking untreated water is risky, since you can not see what the water passed through upstream, such as a dead animal, dead person or human waste. And you don’t have to drink it, just getting it into your mouth can suffice, such as washing your hands or a dish in it or being splashed in the face with it. Being prepared with food that doesn’t need preparation, dishes that don’t need to be washed and baby wipes and hand sanitizer for cleanliness can go a very long way to minimize your chance of exposure if you only have access to untreated water.
In addition to a car kit, you should also keep a Bug-Out Bag (BOB) packed and ready for each family member in a grab-and-go location of your house, such as the hall closet or near the front door. This allows you to evacuate with only enough time to walk out of your house should the police arrive at your door to make you leave NOW because an 18-wheeler carrying dangerous substances overturned on your street, there’s a wildfire headed this way, the local chemical plant exploded or a train overturned on the railroad by your house. You should include a number of things not in your car kit that would help you in emergency situations. This also took place to those who had chosen to shelter in place through Katrina, as the local law enforcement came through after the storm and forced them out of their homes and confiscated their guns, giving the people no time to grab supplies. For children, a small back-pack is appropriate, and adults can carry a duffel bag, larger backpack or a small rolling suitcase. This is meant to be a self-contained unit so you have everything you need for three days without any access to your house, so this will be a larger amount of stuff to carry. This is in addition to your car kit and is not a replacement for it. Items to consider include:
- Three days of food that does not require preparation, and a can opener if needed. Comfort food for your children. Extra salt. People doing manual labor require extra calories and salt.
- Several bottles of water to supplement what you already have in the car. Three days of water if at all possible.
- Disposable forks, spoons and plates if needed.
- Copies of all important paperwork (birth certificate, SS card, your wills, marriage certificate, passport, insurance paperwork, bank account numbers, doctor contact info, copies of medical records and prescriptions for medically necessary health issues, list of next of kin, contact info and account numbers for all utilities) for your family and an emergency phone list sealed in a ziplock or other waterproof bag.
- A spare set of keys to your house, each vehicle and the homes/vehicles of close family members.
- At least three changes of seasonally-appropriate clothing and shoes plus extra socks and undies. There is nothing more miserable than wet feet or a raw backside from not having extra undies, especially for kids.
- Entertainment and comfort items for each child. Coloring books, crayons, cards or travel-size game, a small stuffed animal and the like. A small container of bubble-solution with a built-in wand can buy you an hour of peace. Wrap tape around the lid and seal it in a ziplock to make sure it doesn’t spill and damage other things.
- Cash in small bills and coins, a usable copy of one credit card in the name of each adult in the family.
- Work gloves and a multi-purpose tool different than the one in your car for each adult.
- Seasonally appropriate items such as winter gloves and knit hats, space blankets.
- Two wash rags, baby wipes and a small towel. A different color for each family member.
- Travel size shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, comb, toilet paper and feminine supplies for each person. A small container of liquid laundry detergent so clothing can be washed anywhere.
- Hand sanitizer.
- Extra batteries, matches, duct tape and a flashlight.
- Any essential prescription medications for your family members. Spare glasses for each family member, or any other needed medical devices and their accessories (hearing aid batteries, etc.).
- If you can not sleep in your vehicle because it is too small, consider a tent just big enough to hold each member of your family if you do not have one in your car kit.
- Pen, pencil and paper.
- Thumb drive or CD of important files on your computer. Or your computer hard drive if it’s a pop-and-go.
- Cell phone charger.
- Small first-aid kit.
- Small Bible.
- A few heavy-duty trash bags.
- Needle and thread.
- Pet needs and carriers.
- Pepper spray or another form of defense.
- Entertainment- paperback book, yarn and knitting needles, crossword puzzle book, craft kit.
If disaster strikes in the middle of the night, you can be better prepared to respond quickly once the shaking stops. Sleep with sturdy shoes and a flashlight within reach. This allows you to see and to be able to walk over broken glass or other hazards to get to your children and check on them. We take our outside shoes off at the door and we each have a pair of sturdy house shoes that we wear inside the house and have beside our beds at night. My children each have their own flashlight beside their beds on their nightstands. We have taught them that they are tools, not toys, to preserve the battery life.
Next time, we will look at strategies to help you get through a crisis when you decide to shelter in place.
KerryAnn Foster runs Cooking Traditional Foods, the longest running Traditional Foods Menu Mailer on the internet. KerryAnn has over nine years of traditional foods experience and is a former Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader. Founded in 2005, CTF helps you feed your family nourishing foods they will love. Each mailer contains one soup, five dinners, one breakfast, on dessert and extras. You can learn more about our Menu Mailers at the CTF website. For a free sample Menu Mailer, join our mailing list. You can also join our forum to chat with other traditional foodists and learn more.