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Are you Prepared for an Emergency?

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Like many people living on the Ring of Fire, we found ourselves faced with the threat of a tsunami awhile back.

We’re on high ground here, so we weren’t in imminent danger from the tsunami, but there were other possibilities.

Damage to our harbors would impede the delivery of goods via barge.

An interruption of fuel deliveries would mean the island’s electric plants wouldn’t be able to run (no, Hawaii’s energy plan isn’t the greenest).

Water supplies could be impacted for people on municipal water services.

coffee mugs on a grill for survival camping

Would you be ready in case of disaster?

Thankfully, the damage on Hawaii Island was minimal in the grand scheme of things and none of these came to pass.

But I did spend some time last night assessing our situation.

  • While we do depend on city water, we’ve recently added a 55 gallon water catchment barrel and gutters, so we had a fair amount of water at our disposal. Even so, I filled containers with another 10 gallons just to be safe.
  • We have two methods for cooking if our electric stove stops working: A wood fired BBQ and another that works on propane.
  • We had plenty of flashlights in working order.
  • Our food pantry plus our emergency food would last us for at least a couple of weeks without putting a crimp in our style. Beyond that, we’d be able to survive on some less desirable meals (think beans and more beans) for at least another couple of weeks.
  • We have cast iron pots and pans (fine for cooking on open flames) as well as a manual can opener, meaning that we’d be able to actually use the food we have stashed in the emergency kit.

While many folks were making mad dashes to the grocery store to stock up on bottled water and supplies, and waiting in long lines at the gas station, we were pretty comfortable just sticking it out at home, knowing that we’d be okay.

That’s not to say that there’s not room for improvement.

  • I would really have liked to know that our garden would provide fresh veggies in case of an emergency. We’re not there yet, but we are moving in that direction.
  • A little more water on hand would be better for a longer-lasting emergency.
  • Our medical supplies are pretty sparse. I need to work on that.

Here is what I was not worried about: toilet paper.

I’m always flabbergasted at the run on toilet paper that happens in an emergency.

Toilet paper takes up a lot of space and if I’m spending money for disaster preparedness, I’d much rather that money go to good food.

In a pinch, telephone books and old newspapers would do the job just fine.

So, what about you? Are you prepared?

Would your household sustain your family for a week or so if there was an emergency?

What if the emergency lasted even longer?

I highly recommend that you visit Frugal Kiwi to learn how to create a do-it-yourself emergency preparedness kit.

Melanie has compiled a comprehensive list of what you’ll need to be ready for an emergency, with an eye on doing it inexpensively. Smart girl.

If you’re trying to figure out how to boost the amount of food you have available for an emergency, go read How to Start a Food Storage Plan on $10 a Week at the kitchn.

Good advice there.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

19 comments… add one
  • merr Mar 11, 2011, 1:38 pm

    Thank you for this – I’m bookmarking it as I work at beefing up our emergency supplies.

  • NoPotCoooking Mar 11, 2011, 2:40 pm

    I live in the Buffalo NY area and whenever a big snowstorm is forecast the grocery stores are mobbed with people buying milk, bread, veggies, etc. It always amazes me. I can manage without milk for a few days if necessary (and I always had a supply of canned milk when I had babies that were drinking cow’s milk). I don’t want to have to run to the store every time a storm is coming, so I am pretty well supplied here. Drinking water is one thing I do not have a large supply of, but in the winter we can always melt snow:)

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 14, 2011, 9:32 am

      I naturally keep a pretty decent sized pantry, so the rush to the grocery store always shocks me. Glad I’m not the only one!

  • Alexandra Mar 11, 2011, 3:29 pm

    On Cape Cod, we have hurricanes. There hasn’t been a big one in years, so we are due. Every hurricane season, I try to stock up just in case.

  • sheryl Mar 11, 2011, 4:43 pm

    All good, smart tips. We’ve had a horrible winter here in CT., and we made sure we always had enough water and food in the house this winter. Hope all is safe in your part of the world!

  • MyKidsEatSquid Mar 11, 2011, 5:34 pm

    I have my 72-hour kits in framed backpacks ready to go but I also keep enough food on hand to last for quite awhile. I need to be storing more water though. This is a good reminder. The devastation in Japan is just mind-boggling, but little emergencies happen too. A water main recently broke in our town so we couldn’t use ours for awhile. I was grateful for my bottled water supply.

  • Michele Mar 12, 2011, 6:32 pm

    This website has a ton of info on it: https://www.pazumpa.com/ they do regular segments on the Chicken Whisperer’s show on blogtalk radio. Last Christmas we had a house full of people and we were without electricity all day. I cooked our entire Christmas dinner on the metal ledge of our fireplace including a loaf of bread! It was also a good thing I didn’t buy the kids only electronics. Turns out they were super excited to help feed the cows and go on tractor rides. They thought it was like how the pioneers lived and they loved it!

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 14, 2011, 9:28 am

      What a great Christmas memory that must be for your family!

  • Susan Mar 13, 2011, 7:46 am

    After Boston’s “Aquapolypse” a few years ago, I’ve learned my lesson about keeping extra water on hand. (The irony was that after I spent a TON of time boiling water to drink over several days, it turned out that the water was safe to drink all along.) A fridge runs more efficiently when it’s full, so we keep several extra gallons of water in there for that reason, too. We also have flashlights and first aid kits but no alternative way to cook, so I’d have to rethink that.

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 14, 2011, 9:27 am

      The same can be done in the freezer, if you’ve got extra space in there. Plus, you’ll have ice to help keep perishables cool if the electricity fails.

  • Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi Mar 13, 2011, 9:49 am

    Thanks for mentioning my DIY kit. Everyone really should have a kit. Disasters can happen to any of us at any moment and that extra bit of preparation can make all the difference.

  • Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart Mar 13, 2011, 2:14 pm

    Well, we’re working on our plan, but for a minor emergency, I think we’d be OK. Longer than about 2 weeks … that’d get iffy.

    Because we have a well … no power means no water, so that’s something to consider in a rural area.

    Your TP comment made me laugh. My grandma was always obsessed with that, even in good times. I must have inherited that TP gene because I keep a good stockpile all the time thanks to Costco. Who knows? Maybe in a real emergency, I could use it as currency. :o)

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 14, 2011, 9:25 am

      Based on the TP mania that happens here when there’s threat of an emergency, I think you COULD use it as currency!

  • Jennifer Margulis Mar 14, 2011, 11:52 am

    We are not prepared for an emergency. But this post is a total motivator. It’s time for us to get with the program.

  • Ruth Pennebaker Mar 14, 2011, 2:54 pm

    When the blizzard warnings went out in
    Virginia when we were living there, we always headed to the liquor store first.

  • Jane Boursaw Mar 17, 2011, 1:44 pm

    Sometimes we’re more prepared than other times. It really makes you think with all of these natural and man-made disasters happening around the world. Ok, yeah, we definitely could be more prepared around here. Thanks for making me think about it, and for the shout-out for Frugal Kiwi’s DIY Emergency Kit.

  • jenjenn May 31, 2011, 1:53 pm

    Am a longtime CA native, and never could (but wanted but on low-budget) get an “ER Box” together. Now, I have lived nearly ten years in “Hurricane Central” FL, and surviving one Hurricane that left our neighborhood without electricity or water for 5 miserable days, having our ‘box’ together, as much as possible, each season is a must! Some people have no choice but to wait last minute to stock up on batteries and water, due to budget contstraints. There are some ‘musts’ that we do now throughout the year. Must haves for this very hot and humid climate, are, preferred, one battery-operated camping fan that can be purchased for $10. We conserved, running ours at night, and helped us sleep and go to work in a humane and comfy fashion of life. We have ones that also run on electrical power, and double throughout the year to provide more cooling comfort per individual use. Taking large laundry liquid soap containers, for starters, I add water and use as cleaner on our apt linoleum tiles. After the soap appears totally ‘rinsed’ out and used up, when the first tropical storm/hurricane approaches for the year, I can add water in, and use as ‘wash up’ water, for personal use or dishes, or adding for toilet water. Plastic kitty litter containers also work well. We do buy small drinking size bottled ‘safe’ water, and freeze off to add to the portable ice chest/cooler along with bagged ice. My DH and I had different opinions, and he won. No longer will I place costly 7-8 bags of ice in the fridge/freezer to ‘save’ our food. His small cooler held plenty and kept foods/drinks ice cold for much longer! He has his own with his own work needs and organization, and I will with mine, to keep the lids on, keeping everything cooler. As for cleaning out the fridge, from 1-3 days is the recommendation. I use this time to finally clean out the fridge (DH has a habit of stocking it constantly full, and in this heat a real chore to clean and ‘save’ food). Now, if needing to toss out food, one takes the food and names it, tossing it in the bag, and one w/write down if we need to go to the store, wanting to restock the item. Great for condiments…Flashlights are a must…In May, I start my “ER Box” restock for the season. Placing items temporarily in my portable cooler/ice chest. When it gets closer to a storm threat, I review the items, and the initial list I made the first year I got here, for review. As experience dictates things, of what did and didn’t work for us (in spite of the recommended ‘lists’). For starters, in this area, it is way too hot to want to eat. Our first ‘heated’ meal from a grocery store running on a generator, brought us a meal home, and ‘heat with heat’ is totally disgusting. Will eat yucky mac-n-cheese, ravioli canned before another ‘heated’ meal, in this area…Again, back to the frozen bottled ‘safe’ water, it can get stale after a few months, so be wary of storing tons of this stuff ahead of time…As for gas and perhaps possible evacuations, always try to keep the gas tanks 1/2 t0 3/4 full! As I did not heed this, was low on gas, and watched outside my apt window during an impending serious storm threat, an unusual sight for me, with my normally quiet street of cars coming and going, that this week with cars backed up into oblvion gassing up. My check didn’t come until the end up the week, when this ‘convenient’ gas station was one already ran out of gas. I made up my mind to visit three other stations, and in order not to burn anymore gas, just go home. With luck, the third gas station had gas–but I had to pre-pay with a warning from the cashier that she was ready to run out and couldn’t guarantee me any gas (this after waiting about an hour in line for gas, some people ‘cutting’ in)…Fortunately, I got the last of it, enough for 3/4 of a tank. The vehicle behind me was a large RV and totally was out of luck at that station…also, if a impending serious storm starts threating ‘the other coast’ (here in FL), they can evacuate to ‘your side’, and there is also another run on gas. Gas runs are also for those that need it for backup generator power. To make it easier on yourself and everyone else, try hard and keep the gas tank filled up. If ‘stuck’ home, in a multi-complex, as a newbie, I discovered, no parking stalls ’emptied’, but full, in a solid line of parked vehicles. Unusual without a strong storm. For a storm, this ‘heavy’ line is the best insurance if the winds blow strong, the ‘strength’ of the united vehicles, is less likely to pick up a single vehicle on its own and ‘sling’ it around. This ‘united line’ is more of a barrier, with the weight, to stop, cut, and/or slow down, the possible damages the wind might bring to the cars…Comfort food is a must. We try out during early spring, different types of ‘snack foods’, usually on sale. Usually beef jerky and granola bars. If it gets a ‘thumbs up’, then we go back and add into the “ER Box”…If one can afford it, we were able to purchase two portable tvs recently at RadioShack (both different brands) and are happy with the local coverage. Being able to visually see the storm approaching, the maps and time estimates, and also the aerial hellcopter/plane coverage afterwards, is a big comfort. We did switch to our MP3s, using two different tv stations reporting on the upcoming hurricane, to block out scary noise (my first hurricane) when the tv stations were forced to switch to radio coverage. That was a big comfort, especially for me! As the tv’s might be sucking up large amounts of battery power, we used them conservitavely during the news hour. A portable radio uses much less battery power, and this was our backup for local coverage…As for the battery supply, I make it easy by gathering the electronics we plan to use, and reviewing the ‘original’ list, and with masking tape, on each gadget, mark how many and which size batteries, ie “8 C” and marking into one grocery trip shopping ‘for batteries’ list…Too easy…I don’t fear the “ER list” anymore as much as I used to. Some storms have turned the other way or lessened up (thankfully) and it is a ‘prepare for the worst but hope for the best’ for each time I need to review the list…A hurricane, in my mind, is ‘one big storm to get through’. We might not have all on our very small budget list when a storm gets too close, but we do have comfort that we have prepared for the best, and hoping/praying nothing worst will happen…Also, as for food, we opted out of peanut butter and jelly, and instead put in honey, needs no refrigeration, and the use of a ziploc plastic bag keeps the ants out…Hope this helps the ‘newbies’ have peace of mind in their preparation, and keeps a lot of the ‘you HAVE to be prepared 100% at all costs) which is not possible with a lot of people. Just do as much as possible, listen and heed the warnings as given by emergency personnel and let life take care of the rest.

  • April Aug 9, 2011, 6:13 pm

    This is what my blog is about. Not only putting together a plan and accumulating it, but how to rotate and use your food storage. I divide it into good times food storage, which is the food we rotate and eat, and that includes my garden, pantry, freezer and fridge, and my store it and forget it food storage.

  • [email protected] May 3, 2015, 4:03 pm

    This is a great resource for emergency information. Tsunamis are devastating – it’s good to know people are preparing themselves! Thank you!

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