Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Kathy Harrison: A Readiness Review

Does your old preparedness plan still pass muster?

Hurricane Sandy New York Blackout 2012
Photo by David Shankbone (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been a tough few weeks. Terrorism is dominating the news and prime time TV is going along with the theme. A book about the threat cyber warfare poses to our power grid is a best-seller, politics is nasty, and a feeling of unease comes with each new economic downturn. It seems the world has gone mad.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, don’t be scared. Be prepared. The world will likely not stop turning any time soon but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take steps to ensure our families’ comfort and safety in the event of a not-so-unexpected event.

It’s best to take things in manageable chunks. Pull out that preparedness notebook you created years back. Are you still in good shape? Has your life changed such that there are parts of your plan you need to update, or even eliminate? For instance, I no longer need to plan for diapers. Yippee!!! Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself for each of the major systems you’ll want to consider.

Let’s start with your car. It’s imperative that you commit to a couple of things. If the power goes out you will not be able to purchase gas so you always need a tank that is — at minimum — half full; if you commute long distances, three-quarters full is better. In the event that you get stuck, you need a bag with sturdy footwear (you really don’t want to be walking in those 3-inch heels, do you?), appropriate outerwear, a bottle or two of water, and some non-perishable food (dried fruit, nuts, and crackers will stave off hunger pangs). Keep that cell phone fully charged and check the batteries in your flashlight. You have a flashlight, right? I also keep a paperback book on hand in case I get stuck in traffic, as well as a blanket, an emergency flare, and my contact list. Be sure you have enough supplies for all members of your family.

Now look over your home. How will you manage for water? It’s cheap insurance to fill up gallon jugs with water and a drop or two of bleach. Date them and rotate out the older jugs. You will always have a supply to get you through a few days. An easy next step is to check out local sources for water and learn how to filter and disinfect it. Let your kids help and they can earn a scouting badge for their effort.

What about lights? Flashlights, light sticks, hurricane lamps, and hand crank lanterns are all good choices. Candles are not optimal. They can be dangerous and the quality of light is poor. Make sure you have matches, lamp oil, and batteries on hand.

What about food? It is pretty easy to toss in a couple of cans or boxes of one-dish meals in your cart when you’re buying groceries. Dried fruits, hard cheeses, eggs, and powdered milk do not require refrigeration and will add a lot to mealtimes. Oatmeal, pasta and sauces, canned meat, and spices are necessary. How will you cook? Do you have a camp stove or other emergency stove?

How will you keep warm? A wood stove is great but you can keep pretty warm dressed in layers, as long as you stay dry. Make sure you know how to drain your pipes to keep them from freezing and bursting.

How will you keep busy? Books, art supplies, crafts, games, and puzzles will take the place of tablets and TV and may become new family favorites.

Of course, real preparedness is both a family and neighborhood affair. Be sure to check on those in your community who might need assistance. Perhaps you have a civic organization that might sponsor a preparedness seminar.

Being prepared does not require a bunker. It’s just the opposite. The time to buy an umbrella is before it rains.

Kathy Harrison is the author Just In Case. A national spokesperson for both foster parenting and family preparedness, she has appeared on The Today Show, on Oprah, and in NPR interviews. She lives with her family in western Massachusetts.

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