Spring’s uneven temperatures can bring more than its share of sudden blizzards, ice storms, tornados and hurricanes. And every time this happens, people often moan about being unprepared.
Don’t let this happen to you! There are plenty of lists on the Internet, geared toward the special problems of wherever you live. (Here’s FEMA’s list, to start with.) But it’s not a bad idea to take some general steps, as well:
*Buy groceries you use, anyways. Make sure they can be stored on shelves or in cupboards — buying extra frozen foods just means you run the risk of losing them when the power goes off. These foods are then available for regular meals, as well as emergencies.
*Don’t forget the house’s needs. Husband grew up near Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, and has vivid memories of his dad nailing up plywood to protect the windows during Hurricane Donna . If your home is near the coastline, keep enough sheets on hand to protect your glass — that plywood won’t be in the stores when you need it. A few tarps come in handy to cover bare spots (lost shingles) on roofs. And a snow shovel or regular shovel is a must for keeping mud and/or snow at bay. (We keep a wet/dry vac handy, for the same reason — our basement is prone to water leaking in during heavy storms.)
*If you can’t afford much, buy a little at a time. Your favorite canned soup is on sale? Purchase a few extra cans.Do this every other week, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your stash adds up.
*Don’t forget items you need for the basics — a gas stove or fuel tablets for cooking (or a grill), water for drinking and food prep, moisturized towelettes for tidying up, and keeping clean, extra batteries for flashlights, radios and such. Buy extras if the items are ‘can’t-be-gone-without.’ You’ll thank yourself when you can’t find the originals you put away, “just in case!”
*Keep an area that’s easily accessible, if things go bad quickly. (Bonus points if it doesn’t get in the way of your regular life.) A basement cupboard, a box in the back of a closet, a bottom drawer…these are all possibilities. They won’t do you any good, though, if you can’t reach them.
*While you’re at it, figure out the best place for you and your family to shelter. Basement, bathtub (or bathroom), a windowless room or closet — these could all work. (Go here for more possibilities.)
Here in Colorado, we don’t have to deal with hurricanes, like our Southern friends. (Donna Freedman’s done her share of talking about it, too, in Alaska — she’s focusing on earthquakes.) We do, however, have more than our share of snowstorms, especially around this time of year. And boy, can they be doozies. One year, an ice storm during Spring Break shut everything down — including the power — for nearly a week. And in the case of last year, neighborhoods less than an hour north and south of us endured flooding. Lots of flooding.
Here’s what I keep in our laundry room closet. (A secondary stash is under the bed in the master bedroom.)
THE BRICK LIST FOR EMERGENCIES
*A variety of flashlights, from maglites to big hand-held flashlights. Extra batteries, too. A number of thick pillar candles, plus a supply of matches. (More matches are kept in the secondary stash, in a waterproof bag.)
*A solar-powered/hand-crank radio.
*Wipes, bandaids, tylenol and Pepto-Bismol stomach tablets. (During the summer, we also add allergy meds, as well.) A gallon of bleach will sterilize things, and in a pinch, make water drinkable. (This method’s approved by the American Red Cross.)
*Water jugs. These get filled when the situation threatens…so do the bathtub and all available sinks. (We also kept a 50-gallon barrel of water on hand during the millenium “crisis”…but after that bust, it became a rainwater collector, instead.)
*Camping stove, plus extra fuel. (We also keep enough wood on hand to fuel our two fireplaces, in case the power goes out. It may not keep the temp comfortable in the house — but it will keep the pipes from freezing.)
*A small cooler, plus reusable ice packs. If the power goes out, odds are good that the contents of our freezer would only last a few days...unless the door isn’t opened. (We have heard plenty of horror stories about thousands of dollars’ worth of food lost. Not to mention the mess cleaning it out.) Better, if the chance of power being restored soon is a good one, to keep the freezer closed. It would certainly increase the chances that food inside would remain chilled, if not frozen.
We would, however, be able to use up in time any food kept in the refrigerator, as well as the small freezer next to it. And if some of that spoiled…maybe we’d host a neighborhood barbecue with every piece of meat in the freezer.
*Enough food for at least a week, including items that can be heated quickly — or just eaten as-is: canned stews, soup, canned chicken breast, vegetables, plus packages of crackers and cookies. (These are rotated in and out of our regular eating shelves every few months, to keep them from going bad or stale.) I also keep 25-50 pounds each of beans, popcorn and rice. They keep well in long-storage…but the beans take a long time to cook, especially at our higher altitude. I generally keep at least a month’s worth of food on hand, sometimes more.
Lemonade mix and bottles of fruit juice give us the possibility of cool drinks. We also keep coffee and tea always on hand, as well as a few boxes of hot chocolate mix.
I have also learned, out of hard experience, to stock some dry milk, a can of dried egg…plus an extra can opener that stays on the emergency shelf. (One awful winter of snowstorm after snowstorm, fresh milk, produce and eggs disappeared from grocery store shelves in a matter of days.) Canned ham or bacon is an added plus.
One final thought: decide where you’d go, if you needed to leave suddenly. Where would it be? Your mom’s house in Poughkeepsie, your brother in Denver or Atlanta, Aunt Sadie’s down in Albuquerque? (After all, that’s where Bugs Bunny always seems to make a wrong turn!)
Got the place? Now figure out, based on mileage, how much gas your vehicle would need to get there. Stock at least that much gasoline in five-gallon cans — plus an extra five gallons, for insurance. Make sure you keep enough cash on hand to cover expenses, like food, on the way…plus some to help out, once you’ve arrived.
It never hurts to be prepared.