Family and Household Preparedness Tips: How to Prepare for a Disaster

Preparing for a disaster is a little bit like buying life insurance. You hope and pray that the day when it will be necessary to use it is far off, but are reasonably sure that someday it will be a necessity. Thus, we grudgingly buy smoke detectors, safety ladders (for getting out of a second story room in a fire situation) and canned food hoping that all they will ever really do is gather dust. Having these items is a great start to a disaster prepared household, but are you really prepared, or have you simply done the minimum necessary so that you will be forced to depend on a government who is not going to be there to help you? Anybody who saw the aftermath of hurricane Katrina knows exactly what I’m talking about. I don’t know about you, but come the big California earthquake, I’m not going to be waiting in the Staples Center for Governor Schwarzenegger to drive up in his Hummer and hand me a cookie. And I don’t think you ought to be either – so here are some tips to be sure that – in any disaster – you are completely prepared.

First of all, water – water – water – water. You can buy cases of it from anywhere and it’s very inexpensive. A normal person goes through about two gallons of water per day in a survival situation (from washing to drinking to cooking), so be sure that you have enough for your entire family (animals included) to survive a minimum of one week. More than that is, of course, better, but any less than that and you’ll be pushing your luck if disaster ever truly hits.

Secondly, think smart when you think food. Think about what your family currently eats and what your needs will be in a survival situation. Try to buy lots of cooked, canned meats (like ravioli) that you can rotate out as the expiration dates approach. Protein and carbohydrates are going to be used in amounts that you never thought possible when you’re trying to survive, rather than comfortably making it from day to day. Replacing that protein and those carbohydrates is extremely important. Make sure you have canned vegetables, yes, but make sure they’re ones you can eat if you don’t have any way in which to cook it. Remember, if you’re in a disaster situation, you probably won’t have gas or electricity with which to cook anything. Remember too that anything in your refrigerator, for this reason alone, will need to be consumed immediately. You cannot waste food in this type of situation, and should eat the most perishable food items first.

Third – have a survival bag. Survival nuts call these “go bags,” “bug out bags,” and “hit it bags” among several other names. You should keep one in the trunk of each of your vehicles and one for each member of the family in your home – including one for the animals. The survival bags in your vehicles should carry crackers (but no canned food, as these have a tendency to explode in vehicle trunk temperature ranges) or a few MREs if you can stand eating them, water, a change of clothes (including a comfortable pair of shoes), a blanket and a travel pillow. The ones in your home should include all of the things that your vehicle bags have in them with more than one full pair of clothes, significantly more water, a manual can opener, a knife, a water purifier if possible, a camping set of cutlery (you can buy these attached on a keyring at Wal Mart), several books or boxes of matches, a light pan or small pot to cook in, bandages, wraps, Neosporin and rubbing alcohol (in case of injury)and several days worth of non-perishable food. If you have to get out of your home and get out fast, you don’t want to be stuck with the clothes (or lack of) that you have on your back and nothing to eat or drink. Make sure that if you have children, that you keep their knives, cutlery and other sharp or dangerous items in your bag and not theirs. The same goes for the rubbing alcohol and neosporin. Their bags should be accessible to them at all times, and there should be nothing dangerous or off limits about their survival bag. You don’t want to be worrying that your children are going to hurt or poison themselves if they decide to grab their bag and play with it. Check all of your bags often to be sure that survival items are secure, that nothing has been removed and that all food items are – in fact – non-perishable. Rotate items out as necessary, but be sure to refill the bags whenever you take something out. Your animals’ bags should have a full weeks worth of food at least, an extra collar, a harness if possible, a carrier if necessary, a couple of leashes, the all important water, a travel set of food and water bowls and a few long cable tie outs. If anybody in your home (including your animals) has medication that they must take, be sure to have an extra bottle of that medication in an adult’s bag without child access. Going without medication can be dangerous (even life threatening to some) and it can be impossible to get to the medicine cabinet if there is a fire or flood in your home.

Fourth – Have a plan. Make sure, if you have children, that they know this plan by heart and will stick to it no matter what. If you can avoid it, do not ever, ever switch the plan up. Make sure that everybody knows that if they are not home, that they will meet in one specific place. As easy as it would be to always meet at home, sometimes (like during a fire) the point is to get out of the house. Knowing that the plan is to meet by the old oak tree (and you look out the window and SEE your children running to the old oak tree), can save you precious time in an emergency like a fire where most families would scramble throughout the house looking for one another. Don’t ever assume, though, that your children will awake to a fire alarm. Be sure that they are up and out before you do the same. And don’t forget your survival bags. They will be crucial in getting you through the next few days if everything else you own is gone.

Becoming prepared is never fun – but it can save your life in a serious emergency or crisis. Help yourself and your family by realizing this and becoming prepared. If you ever need it, you’ll be forever grateful that you have done it.

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