Winter Storms are Coming. Are You Ready?
Traditionally, September is a glorious and beautiful time in the PNW. But, this September has been different. Super wet, stormy, windy, and all-around gross! We have brought the generator from the garage for a tune-up and fuel-up much earlier this year. Since it’s not just ourselves we have to worry about anymore, Dear Husband and I have been taking preparedness way more seriously. I have collaborated with someone who has experience putting together a prepardness kit to walk us through the steps.
My organized, brilliant, and very sweet friend, Ivy has agreed to share her knowledge with us on how to prepare for a major or minor disaster. She has put together a basic, yet highly functional 72-Hour Emergency Prepardness Kit.
Admittedly, I have much of these recommendations on hand, but, it’s not well organized. It would take me a while to gather it all up. When time is of the essence, I may as well have nothing… Agree?
How To Build Your Own Emergency Preparedness Kit
By Ivy Hammond
I think we have all heard that it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit of some sort. Our local governments, the federal government, some community and church groups and of course non-profit organizations have ad campaigns that encourage preparedness. But what does being “prepared” really mean? What do we prepare for? It all sounds so dramatic and kind of negative to assume that some catastrophic event is going to affect our lives. The reality is, although it is unlikely that you will face a major catastrophic life threatening event, you are likely to experience smaller inconveniences due to weather, acts of God and maybe even economical hardship due to unemployment or bankruptcy. Being prepared physically and economically for life’s setbacks brings a peace of mind and if nothing else, saves you a frantic run to the store before a major Seattle snow storm (of two inches), when the supermarket is a dog eat dog place at 11 PM before the snow starts falling…
I like to think of our emergency kit and food storage similarly to car insurance. You hope that you will never need it but you are glad to have it when you do. So, where do you start? My suggestion is to start small and build in increments. I first decided that I wanted an emergency kit when I was newly married and living in a small basement apartment. We had turned on the evening news and saw the devastating destruction of the Tsunami’s in Japan. We lived in the city away from our families and it occurred to me that we were in big trouble if there was any sort of natural disaster or even a power outage. After all, we barely had a box of Mac n’ Cheese in our pantry let alone a flashlight and some batteries; I knew I had to try and put something together. Since it was a tiny apartment I had no room for a huge stockpile I decided to start with the recommended 72-hour kit. I went out and purchased a big orange duffle bag and started to fill it with basic supplies, stuff that I could use if our power went out. I looked up recommended lists from the American Red Cross and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and I built up slowly. We were also on a tight budget at the time so it was not an overnight accomplishment– it took me several months of purchasing items ad hoc to build our 72-hour kit. I figured if something happened before I finished, I was still better off than I was before. Once I completed our kit, I made it accessible so that it could be easily found and transported at a moment’s notice. We now refer to it as our “go bag.” Basically I was imagining I was packing to go and live in a Red Cross communal shelter. What would my family really need in an emergency and could it be reasonably transported without help?
With that in mind here are the basics of our “go bag:”
- Change of warm weather clothing for all family members, including spare pair of sturdy shoes
- Crate of water bottles
- 72 hours worth of prepackaged food, three meals a day for each family member*
- Phone numbers of family emergency contacts
- 3 hand-crank flashlights
- 2 headlamps
- Hand-crank radio with built in cell phone charger and NOAA weather stations
- Emergency blankets (mylar thermal)
- Emergency whistle
- Glow sticks
- Waterproof matches
- Sanitary supplies and diapers/wipes for our toddler. (Jerica recommends packing cloth diapers and wipes so in the event of a longer emergency, these items are washable for more sustainable use).
- First Aid Kit (Jerica recommends including a few essential oils in your first aid kit and learning how to use them. Pack at least a four thieves blend, and/or lavender, tea tree, thyme, oregano and peppermint— See the “Notes” section of this post for more info.).
- Hand sanitizer (four thieves blend can be used diluted with water in a spritzer bottle for this).
- Liquid Soap (Jerica recommends that castile soap would be the best choice. It is multi-purpose for body and clothes, and it can be safely used in rivers and lakes).
- Card Games and coloring books
- Swiss Army Knife or multi tool
Consider adding these extras to your kit for making-due at home until the power and other utilities have been restored:
- Emergency flares
- Water purifier or purifying tablets (Berkey is the best–no contest).
- Battery-powered lantern (safe for indoor use)
- Gas-powered lantern (for outdoor use)
- A way to heat food. This can be a small backpacking stove, a bbq, turkey fryer, fire pit, outdoor kitchen; whatever you’ve got around. Make sure it works and has gas before the inclement weather hits.
Some things to consider that I learned as I went along:
- The most important thing you can do is to properly assess the needs of you and your family. No two emergency kits are alike, we all have needs unique to our family. If you are caring for an elderly parent or grandparent, your kit needs to include necessities unique to them. If you have children with special needs or medications you will need to assess what their necessities are. Start making a list of things you think you would NEED in an emergency situation, list each family member and identify their necessities. Once you have laid out everything, start pairing down to the absolute basics: heat, food, water and necessary medications.
- There is no wrong way of approaching emergency preparedness. Having something is better than nothing.
- Once you build a basic 72 hour kit, keep going. Buy extra non perishable food each grocery shopping trip and stock up your pantry. We even have dried milk so that if we get snowed in at least we have milk for a few days (and no, dried milk isn’t that great but it’s also not too bad).
- Make inclement weather preparedness kits for your cars. Include heavy blankets, emergency flares, first aid kit, food, water, and tools.
- Start saving MONEY. Not all disasters are physical in nature. Having a nest egg will help bridge the financial gap between jobs , illness or injury. We try and take ten percent of our income off the top every month and sock it away. After awhile you adjust your spending and don’t even notice the difference to your monthly budget, you will however notice a huge rise in your savings account.
- Have some emergency cash on hand, preferably small bills. Who really knows what you will need after a major disaster but a little money can’t hurt. Plus when it’s Girl Scout cookie time, you’ll be ready with cash in hand. 🙂
- Pick a time every year to update and refresh your kit. September is National Preparedness Month so we use this as a reminder to check everything and replace any clothing and expired food and water. This is especially important if you have children since they probably won’t fit in the same clothes they wore last year.
- Safety first. Do not plan to use open flame heat and cooking sources if you live near gas lines and mains even if it’s just a power outage, use flashlights and glow sticks instead. Also, never use outdoor grills or cooking appliances inside.
- Take video or picture evidence of all the belongings in your home. This does not need to be overly detailed but having a basic inventory of your household items will aid your homeowners or renters insurance when filing a claim. Place the video and your insurance contact information in a safety deposit box or with a trusted family member or friend.
- Have a basic family emergency strategy. Plan a place to meet if you are separated and have a common emergency contact to check-in with, this person should be somewhere where they are likely to be unaffected by the same regional disaster.
There are several more tips out there, and the important thing is to start small and keep building. Preparedness is not a linear process. You will need to update your kits and information as your situation in life changes. Don’t get discouraged and try not to get overwhelmed, it can be a fun family activity and bring peace of mind to you and your family.
*Ivy notes that…
…you will notice that all of our food is processed, packaged food, which we hardly ever eat. The tricky thing about emergency food supplies (especially short term) is that it needs to be easy to open, prepare, and have a long shelf life. So most of the aisles that I skip in the grocery store, the ones in the middle, have the best food for emergency kits. I brought this concern up in an emergency preparedness meeting before, because I had a really hard time stocking our kit with foods we never eat and that were unhealthy. It was explained to me that in an emergency situation the important part is sufficient calories per person and the availability of food in general. So, like I mentioned in my post, I view this like I view car insurance, I don’t really expect to use it, but if I do, it will only be temporary. In the meantime, at least we have a plan. You might consider putting this out to your readers and seeing if they have any suggestions for healthy food storage options that are easy to open prepare with minimal resources and are high in calories and have a long shelf life.
What about you? What are your ideas for healthy food storage that are easy to open, prepare, and requires minimal resources to prepare?
(Aside from home canned food, which not everyone has access to, big bins of oats, rice, and dried beans are all good choices).
If you are able, Jerica recommends to pack as much wool clothing for your family as possible. Wool is breathable and water resistant, will keep you warm or cool, and can act as makeshift rain gear. And don’t forget to pack a hat or two for everyone!
If you’d like to learn more about essential oils for first aid, check out these links:
If you see their benefits but still aren’t confident in their applications, Jerica recommends to pick up a book and keep it in your kit:
–Herbal First Aid and Health Care
—Dr. Mom’s Essential Oils First Aid
—Heal With Essential Oil: Nature’s Medicine Cabinet
—A Beginner’s Guide to Assembling a Natural Medicine Cabinet: Simple Remedies for Common Ailments at Home and on the Go (Kindle Edition)
**If you are keen on being prepared, but not too keen on gathering the supplies there are some good options available for purchase here.
What other tips do you have for preparedness? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or visit Sustain, Create and Flow on facebook.
Don’t forget to this pin this post as a reminder to “be ready!”
Ivy resides in Everett, Washington. She is married to her husband Michael and they have a toddler son. She has a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Washington and she is an online instructor for a private university in Idaho.
Her interest in emergency preparedness has turned into a hobby. She does not consider herself to be a hardcore “prepper” or an expert on the subject, but rather an enthusiast.
Other interests of Ivy’s are photography and travel. Her blog is not currently public.
Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that provide a small commission to me when purchases are made through that link–-at no extra cost to you. I only affiliate with companies whose products I personally use and can whole-heartedly recommend. Thank you for supporting Sustain, Create and Flow.