Friday, November 13, 2009

Y'All Ready For This?

Last Sunday's episode of 60 Minutes had a segment that made my skin crawl. No, I'm not talking about that old creep Andy Rooney complaining about ... whatever he was complaining about. I'm talking about the story they did on the very real possibility of computer hackers being able to disable the power grid, eradicate all bank records, or wreak havoc we haven't even imagined yet. That "tick,tick,tick..." never sounded more ominous. I mean, I live in Manhattan (where Godzilla could strike at any moment) and last year, my parents were evacuated from their house in California due to forest fires, so the thought of emergency preparedness has crossed my mind before. But now, in addition to worrying about the kind of disasters nature can throw at us, I am also now freaked out about the kind that malicious computer geeks can create. Great.
But, more importantly, it made me think about how truly unprepared we are in event of an emergency. Seriously, if the ATMs were out, the only cash I would have access to is the $32.00 in my wallet, and whatever change I can find floating around the bottom of my purse — hardly enough to barter for a Luna Bar on the post-apocalyptic black market. Not good.
So this weekend, I am resolved to equip our apartment in case we have to hunker down and put together an emergency "go bag" kit that will get JM, Skipper, and me through any disaster — man-made or natural — and I strongly suggest you do the same. I have compiled this information from the City of New York,,, and the ASPCA to be the most ultra-prepared I can be, but you should check out the individual sites, and those specific to your area (I'm not really going to stress too much about tornadoes, for example, so you may need to do your own research there).
I'm not suggesting we all become like those Y2K people who stored decades' worth of canned goods in their basements, but sometimes being a little uptight and ornery can be a good thing. Just ask Andy Rooney.

Get Your House In Order:

Keep in a safe and accessible place that all household members are aware of (but don't be tempted to poach from it, just because you want some raisins or need a band-aid for your blister — this is for emergencies ONLY):

• Water: At least three gallons of water per person, for drinking and sanitation (and more if you have pets). For reference, a large water cooler jug is 5 gallons.
• Food: At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Try to choose things you like, but that require no cooking or preparation. Try energy bars, dried fruit, nuts (but avoid very salty ones), peanut butter, crackers, canned juices and fruits and veggies, Gatorade, and GU. Include a can opener too, smarty.
Flashlight: You should have at least one in your home kit and in your "go bag" (as well as extra batteries), and one in the nightstand by every family member's bed.
• Phone: If you have a landline (and you should) a phone that doesn't require electricity in your home emergency kit.
Sturdy Garbage bags and Duct Tape: to maintain sanitation and to use to seal off windows and doors in the event of air contamination.
Moist towelettes: for personal sanitation.
Wrench or pliers: to turn off utilities
• Bleach and an eyedropper: For sanitation and water purification. When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
• Pillar candles and a lighter: Come on, you don't want to be stuck in the dark. Most of the websites don't actually suggest having candles in your emergency kit, probably because they don't want you knocking them over and creating another disaster. But just be safe and don't be an idiot about it, and you'll be fine. Which brings me to:
• Fire Extinguisher.

And If You Have Children:

• Supply of formula or baby food
• Children's versions of medicines.
• Books, games, puzzles or other activities.

In Your "Go" Bag:
Each Household member should have their own, in the event that you are evacuated from your home and must leave quickly.

• A Bag:
I suggest a backpack, or something else that can be carried easily.
• Food and Bottled Water: The same non-perishable items listed above, but try to stick with the lighter things, like dried, rather than canned fruits.
• Sturdy shoes, a change of clothes, and a warm hat.
Money. Make sure you have plenty of cash in a variety of denominations and a couple rolls of quarters (for using payphones or laundromats).
Lightweight Rain Gear.
Local maps: if the New World Order takes out the power grid, you probably won't be able to access GoogleMaps.
Documents: photocopies of each household member's driver's license, social security card and passport, insurance policies and cards, credit cards, bank account records, medical records and prescriptions, recent color photos of family members and pets for re-identification purposes, list of emergency phone numbers, in a waterproof, portable container. (Doubled-up heavy-duty Ziplock bags should do the trick).
• Radio: Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both.
Flashlight and extra batteries: You should have these suckers stowed everywhere, but particularly in your bag.
Swiss Army Knife. Obv.
• Whistle: to signal for help.
Dust masks: a couple for each member of the family, to help filter contaminated air.
• Toothbrush and Toothpaste. Prescription Medications. Feminine Hygiene products. Extra Contact Lenses and Solution. Extra Glasses. I mean, it's not like you are going to be able to stop by Walgreen's on your way.
• Paper and Pencil. When don't you need one?
• First Aid Kit: It should contain the following.
- 2 Pairs sterile gloves
-Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
-Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect
-Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
-Burn ointment to prevent infection
-Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
-Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant
-Tweezers and Scissors
-Petroleum jelly
-Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
-Anti-diarrhea medication
-Antacid (for upset stomach)

Your Pet's "Go Bag":
• A Traveling Bag: or a crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet.
• Extra harness and leash
Pet's Records and Medications: Photocopies of medical records, vaccination history, adoption papers, and recent photographs of your pet and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless.)
• Blanket or large towel: Can be used as a bed, or for scooping up a fearful pet.
Supply of 3-7 days; worth pet food and extra water for your pet.
• Food bowls, and a can opener (if needed).
Pet first-aid kit and guide book (ask your vet what to include, or visit the ASPCA Store to buy one online).
• Toys and Treats.
Litter and disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect).

Some Additional Tips:
-Even though it's totally not fun to think about, being prepared today could save your life down the road.
-Check your kits a couple times per year (like the days Daylight Savings Time begins and ends), and swap out any medication or food that will expire.
-Make two "meeting place" plans with your family- one close to your home, and one (such as a library or community center) in another neighborhood.
-Designate someone out-of-state to be your emergency contact and coordinator: long-distance phone service is frequently restored before local service.
- Go to the following sites to learn more: (or your own local government's disaster information website)

photo credit: Houston Chronicle Online


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Just saw the movie 2012. Talk about reasons to think of disaster preparedness. said...

Interesting! I should really do some of this stuff, but some of it is honestly just not going to happen in my house - I'd have nowhere to keep the stuff!

(Though I do wonder sometimes how we'd get by in a time like the Great Blackout of ... 04? Or the Eastern Ontario Ice Storm of a decade ago.)

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