The residents of the Puna district on the Island of Hawaii are still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Iselle. While we—thankfully—have had only minor inconveniences due to the storm, others have been devastated. Watching things unfold for our neighbors to the south has been nothing short of inspirational. The community has pulled together to weather the aftermath, clearing roadways, pooling resources, and helping one another. Of course, there’s frustration, too. In the weeks after Iselle, certain requests from those hardest hit have been repeated over and over. I think it’s smart to take a look at those requests and figure out how they fit into our emergency preparedness plans. Are any of these things items that you’ll need in an emergency? Is there a way to be sure you’ll have access to these things instead of being at the mercy of overtaxed relief workers?
This seems to be the number one request from the people who are still waiting for electrical power. Requests for ice are a bit frantic feeling, and while residents from outside the affected region are working to fulfill the requests by freezing and delivering blocks of ice, it’s been tough for aid workers to get it to those who need it. I have to admit, I’ve been surprised by the call for ice. Our plan for lack of refrigeration in case of emergency is: Eat refrigerated items first, followed by freezer items, then move to food that does not need refrigeration.
Ahead of the storm: Know a storm might hit? Dig through the recycle bin and fill clean plastic containers or milk cartons with water and stash them in the empty spots in your freezer. These blocks will help you keep your perishables cool until you can use them.
After the storm: After several days without power, you may be faced with some perishable food that’s threatening to go south. This would be a stellar time to fire up the barbecue and invite the neighbors for dinner. You’ll prevent food waste and help to create a sense of community. If you’ve got a freezer full of meat that you’re going to lose without power, instead of trying to keep it on ice, go old-school. Your emergency stash includes some salt, right?? Instead of waiting and hoping for someone to arrive with ice before your steaks go bad, use an old-fashioned salt curing method to cure them. If the weather is quite warm, you can slice your thawed meat and dry it. Beef jerky is common, but turkey and fish jerky is possible, too. My friend Angela was caught with a freezer full of perishables when she lost power for a week. She pulled out her pressure canner and saved them that way using her gas stove.
This is—in my mind—the most crucial aspect of surviving a disaster. Water is necessary for hydration, of course, but also for hygiene and cooking some of our staple storage foods like rice and beans.
Ahead of the storm: The recommendation for emergency water storage is one gallon per person per day. Don’t succumb to the long lines at the supermarket in order to buy bottled water, though. Your money is going to be better spent on collapsible water containers that can be filled right from your tap before outages occur (and used in subsequent emergencies).
Think about it. If you know ahead of the game that an emergency situation might arise, you’ll still have access to water. It’s the containers that so many people are waiting in line to buy. If you’ve got a collection of canning jars, pull those out and fill them. And speaking of containers, is there a way for you to capture storm water? A big barrel, maybe? Of course, you’ll want to fill your bathtub with water for dish washing, toilet flushing, and bathing. You’ll also want to consider adding a LifeStraw to your emergency gear. This allows you to turn questionable water into drinking water.
After the storm: If you’ve filled your freezer with clean jugs of ice for chilling, once thawed, use those for drinking water along with any other water you’ve managed to store. If you’ve got access to water but aren’t sure of its purity, pull out that LifeStraw.
D batteries in particular are in short supply after Hurricane Iselle, though I suppose batteries of every shape and size would be useful. As people are entering week number two with no power, flashlight batteries are running out.
Ahead of the storm: Within reason, you can stock up on batteries. The trouble is, batteries in long-term storage tend to go dead (as we discovered last week). Instead of hoping that batteries in storage are still viable, though, a better option might be to invest in a solar battery charger. This means batteries are available for powering a variety of gadgets. The other option is to switch over to solar gadgets. There are solar flashlights, solar lanterns, and even a solar powered radio/flashlight that will also charge a smartphone.
After the storm: If you find yourself without power for an extended period, limit your use of battery operated gadgets to only what’s necessary. Sun goes down? Time for bed.
Mommas and daddies are worried about their babes in an emergency, of course. But don’t panic, folks. While jarred baby food is part of our modern tapestry and it may be all some parents know, it’s a fairly new invention.
Ahead of the storm: Stock up on potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, apples, and carrots. These items will keep for weeks (or months) without refrigeration and can be easily transformed into “baby food.” Simply peel and cook until they’re very soft, then mash with a fork.
After the storm: If you’ve stored grains like oats, rice, and barley in your emergency stash, these become excellent baby food replacements. Fresh produce like bananas, avocados, mango, and peaches are also easily mashed. And if you’ve got chickens or ducks, don’t forget eggs as a source of food for your little one.
Disposable diapers are bulky to store, not to mention expensive to buy. It’s no wonder that people have run out already. And really, there’s no easy solution for this dilemma.
Ahead of the storm: If you use disposable diapers on your babe, you’ll want to pick up at least a few extra packages of diapers. You should also think about getting some diaper pins. If you run out of disposables, you’ll need a way to secure makeshift diapers in place. If you use cloth diapers on your babe, you’ve got a different problem: washing dirty diapers when water is scarce. One thing you can do is to have a box of diaper liners on hand. These allow you to lift away and flush big messes, leaving you with a diaper that’s easier to clean.
After the storm: If you find yourself out of your usual disposable diaper stash, it’s time to get creative. While not the ideal solution (we’re talking about emergency situations here, after all), old kitchen towels and t-shirts can be pressed into service as cloth “diapers” as long as you’ve got pins to secure them.
After a couple weeks without power, people are itching for a hot meal.
Ahead of the storm: Consider making up a big pot of soup or stew or beans that can easily be reheated. Then, of course, make sure you have a way to warm food. We have a small gas barbecue and a gas burner to use in case of emergency. You’ll also need to make sure that you have several small propane canisters or that your larger propane tanks are full.
After the storm: In a pinch, you can use a gas barbecue to heat food and water in pots, but it’s probably not as efficient as a simple gas burner. If you’ve got the materials, you could also cobble together a solar oven.
Equipment and gear:
The admonition to fill your vehicle’s gas tank before a storm hits is a good one. It gives you the opportunity to be mobile as the roads allow, but with a simple siphon, that gas becomes a valuable commodity for filling chainsaws to clear roads.
With so many trees down in the hurricane, chainsaws have been hard at work. It’s no wonder that the blades have dulled and people are putting out the call for chainsaw sharpeners.
These have been in high demand to protect damaged homes from further inclement weather. (It stands to reason that bungee cords would be useful in conjunction with the tarps, too.)
This is by no means a complete emergency preparedness list, but rather an observation about what people are asking for in the aftermath; the things they neglected to have on hand or prepare for. It’s something we can all learn from, I think. If you need ideas on how to create a thorough DIY emergency preparedness kit, I suggest you check this one out.
Have you weathered an extended time without services? What was on the top of your “Wish I’d thought of ______” list?