With Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy hitting much of the east coast a couple of weeks ago, followed last week by a strong Nor’ Easter that hit most of the same areas, it’s a good time to remember that all homes and autos should have an emergency kit.
In the western parts of the country, many areas experienced (and some still are dealing with) wildfires. And, no matter where one lives, floods, earthquakes, and/or tornadoes unfortunately also are real possibilities.
Here is a list of things, many taken from FEMA.gov and www.Ready.gov, which has lists of what an emergency preparedness kit should include, as well as pointers to prepare for and deal with for hurricanes, earthquakes. and tornadoes. (Other pages discuss everything from floods to wildfires to landslides and hurricanes.)
As we were preparing for Sandy, we noted (as we did last year when wrote about hurricane preparedness), FEMA and many state emergency management agencies are adding solar flashlights, emergency lights and solar chargers to the list of things that can help. While it’s true that you can’t always depend on the sun, it’s also true that you won’t always be able to depend on gasoline for generators, as far too many people have learned over the past couple of weeks.
No matter what you do to prepare, the smartest thing to do is to keep the news on and be on alert for any evacuation or stay away orders. Your local news, the Weather Channel and local radio stations will all keep you informed. You should also know the difference between a Hurricane or Tornado Watch, which means that one of these storms may be in your area, and a Hurricane or Tornado Warning, which means that a storm is on its way.
While hurricanes are devastating, unlike earthquakes or tornadoes, people have days to prepare. This is the time that you should be doing the following:
- Filling up your gas tanks in case an emergency evacuation order is issued; you do not want to be stuck in a line at the gas station.
- Make sure that you have all medications and basic necessities in a bag ready to go. Most pharmacies will let you refill prescriptions a few days early during emergencies
- Get your emergency kit ready.
The Very Basics
In addition, remember that while you should have your cell phones charged, that cell phone towers may be damaged. Similarly, if telephone wires stay up when the power is out, you should have an old fashioned phone as cordless phones will not work.
For that reason, a batter or crank radio is vital. Many people rely on their vehicles radio; if you do so, remember to only turn the engine on when there is adequate ventilation. And in the middle of a storm, you SHOULD NOT be leaving your house to go to a vehicle parked in a driveway.
A full list suggested by FEMA is included below, but here are the necessities
- 1 Gallon of water per person for up to 4 days, which is how long it could take for water systems to be cleared from sewage pollution at best, or for help to reach your location at worst
- Fully stocked first aid kit, as well as all medications for acute or chronic conditions
- Battery powered or crank radio
- Flash lights or other emergency lights, as well as batteries. Solar products and rechargeable products are also good, particularly for people who “forget” to check on batteries. Many solar flashlights and emergency lights can retain charges of between 80 and 100 percent for a year or more.
- Candles or lanterns
- Cash, because if the power is out ATMs won’t be working and many banks may be closed (even if open, all of their systems may not be working properly)
- Emergency contact list for your family in case everyone is not home (including extended family, particularly seniors) and the non-911 number to your local fire and police stations
- Non-perishable food for four days (including that for pets)
- Public water supplies may be disrupted for days, and well water is often pumped by electricity. Fill up your tubs to flush the toilet, and flush only when necessary.
- You are likely to have to remove trees and branches after a storm, so make sure that you have access to a chain saw and that it has a sharp blade in addition to gas and oil; a dull blade can often jerk and cause serious injuries.
- It’s a good idea to put that chain saw to use before the storm to cut down any dead trees or limbs that overhang cars or property, or that look unhealthy
- Know where all of your gas, water and electrical switches are and how to turn them on and off.
Let’s face it: many people have generators (or will be buying them in the next couple of days). So, in addition to making sure you have oil and gas for them, make sure that you know how to properly use them properly. It can’t be repeated enough that generators should only be used outside to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Equally important, you should know how to safely hook them up to your house without damaging your generator, make sure oil and gas for generator and chainsaws, also full gas in your tank in case evacuation is required.
Contents of An Emergency Kit
According to FEMA, “You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least three days. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours, or it might take days. In addition, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for days, or even a week or longer.”
FEMA’s “Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit“
Prepackaged kits are available for purchase over the Internet, but you can also prepare them on your own. The kits are very convenient, particularly to keep in vehicles, but can take up to a week or two to be delivered to you home after ordering them.
So, here’s what you should have in your house at all times. Some things are repeated from above, but that is because they are extremely important.
- “Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger.”
Note the above list is taken verbatim from FEMA.gov, as is the following:
“Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:
- Prescription medications and glasses
- Infant formula and diapers
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler’s checks and change
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
- Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – 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.
- Fire Extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children.”
Above all, use common sense. As noted above, you must follow evacuation plans and after storms, stay away orders. Keep in touch via a radio and use care with fireplaces (gas or wood), as well as care with generators and other emergency items.
While many of the above items are for sale at www.SolarFlairLighting.com, this is not an advertisement; as noted above, the items would not arrive until the pending storm has long passed.
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