My mother is really big on being prepared for emergencies. She’s constantly talking about needing to have at least a month’s supply of food, have an emergency bag, and just be prepared for emergencies in general. Blah, blah, blah. She lives in the middle of nowhere with the nearest store, and only store, almost an hour away. And she has a summer home she stays at all summer long that she has to truck all her food there with her…no stores. Her situation is different from mine, so why should I stock up on supplies, have emergency bags, etc? I live in a big city with several grocery stores close by.
She became quite insistent I follow her advice after I had my first child. So, to console her, I threw together an emergency bag, put it in the basement where we hide during tornado warnings, and then promptly forgot about it and left it to sit there for the next 6 years. I ignored the rest of her suggestions.
I now think differently and have followed her advice. Read on to find out why.
What emergencies can I expect?
Well, barring some remote chance of man made disasters or pandemics, the most likely disasters in my area are tornadoes and flooding. What disasters could happen or have happened in your area? It doesn’t just have to be tornadoes and floods. It could be forest fires, earthquakes, or ice and snow storms that shut down your area. (My kids just recently got a full week off from school and many people couldn’t leave their driveways for a couple days due to ice and snow storms. Ice/snow storms are not a common emergency for this area.) *The picture at the top of my blog is from the ice/storm that came through here. I thought the dandelion tuft encased in ice and surrounded by snow was so pretty I had to take a picture.
Flooding is always a possibility here. We get flood warning alerts on our phones all the time.The warnings are from the weather app called WeatherBug (it also sends out tornado warning/watch alerts).
My city flooded in 2010. It was a 1000 year flood (meaning that a flood like that doesn’t happen here but maybe once every thousand years). I have friends who’s houses flooded to the rafters. They lost everything. Other friends only had flooded basements and lost what was stored in there.
Luckily my house didn’t flood. Actually, it wasn’t luck. When we were looking for houses one of the things I did was check the local flood maps. My mother had bought a house in a neighborhood that was being built by a developer. But before the house was finished a 100 year flood took out the whole neighborhood. (As a side note: That developer didn’t learn their lesson and started to rebuild in the same location. Guess what happened again two years later? Uh-huh.) So that was on my mind when shopping for house of my own.
Unfortunately tornadoes are quite frequent here. Happening year round now, it seems.
We’ve had many instances over the years of having to hide in the basement during tornado warnings. It’s so common that we became pretty lackadaisical about getting to the basement when the warnings went off. The first thing we’d do when we’d hear the sirens was to turn on the TV to check the weather. And if it seemed like a tornado, or possible tornado, was headed towards our neighborhood we’d go to the basement.
Here’s a little story (you can skip it if you want and go to the next section ;)). Two years ago a tornado went right over my house, with me and my family hiding in the basement. At around 2:30 am, in January of all times, the tornado sirens went off. My husband and children didn’t wake to it, but I did. I went to the living room and turned on the TV to check the situation. After sitting on the couch for a minute staring sleepily at the TV I saw that there was a possible tornado headed our way. I woke my husband. We got the kids out of their beds and into the basement. Then we went back upstairs to get our phones and laptop and back to the basement to wait out the warning. Same routine as every tornado warning.
Not long after getting back down into the basement the storm front hit. We have a window near the area we hide in during tornado warnings, so we could see when it hit. There was a loud “boom” and a bright flash of light (we thought it was a very close lightning strike). That “boom” and flash of light was the most exciting event we’d ever had during a tornado warning. Shortly after that the kids fell asleep and we waited until the warning ended. We didn’t think anything more of it and went back to bed.
The next morning we woke up and got ready for work and school as usual. But when we stepped outside we saw that something had happened during that storm. Both mine and my husband’s cars were trapped by a huge tree that had fallen down. There were trees down the whole length of our street as far as we could see. Our neighbor’s upstairs’ window had been pulled clean out of its casing. There were roof shingles on the ground. And a power pole down the street behind our house had been snapped in half (luckily it didn’t supply power to our house).
Turns out we had been struck by an EF0 tornado. That is a weak tornado that mostly just pulls shingles off roofs. Though it was rated an EF0 it still did quite a bit of damage. As I walked to my son’s school to pick him up after school that day (a friend was kind enough to swing by that morning to pick him and and take him to school for us) I could follow the path the tornado took just by seeing the damage it did. Roofing, siding, and windows pulled off houses. Trees down everywhere.
I know that my tornado experience is nothing compared to what others have been through. Seeing first hand the damage an EF0 did makes me truly realize the horror those who’ve gone through worse must feel.
Floods and forest fires
If ever there were a threat of flooding or forest fires. I’d evacuate, but that’s just my feeling about it. I’ve seen too many instances of people who tried to stay and wound up getting trapped in (or on) their house or worse. I have a list of important items to grab in an evacuation right by my emergency bags. The list includes where things are and lists them in order of importance. (Only get lesser important items if you have time…that kind of idea.)
My husband and I can’t agree where we’d go when we evacuate. We don’t have a second home or cabin anywhere. Our closest relatives are a several hours drive away. We’re still working on this part of the plan. So, our evacuation plan isn’t complete.
For an earthquake, you get under a table, desk, next to your bed with a pillow over your head . If driving, pull over and stop in an open space, not under a bridge or on a bridge or next to a tall building, if possible. Growing up in an active earthquake area we learned to always stand under doorways, but I’ve heard that it isn’t the best place anymore. I think if you live in an old(er) house you still might be able to do it. Sadly, newer construction standards just aren’t what they used to be.
What can I do to prepare?
Well, I’m no expert, but I can tell you what we’ve done.
- Prepped a safe area for our family to hide during a tornado. Stocked with comfort items (pillows, blankets, and sleeping bags), chairs (you could also use those interlocking foam floor pads so no one has to sit directly on a cold concrete or dirt floor), whistles, flashlights, water, snacks, emergency bags, etc. You can stock with whatever you think will make you feel better prepared if you happened to get trapped in that area.
- Made emergency bags.
- Have 1 month of food and water in our house. Never know when we might not be able to go to the store to get food due to unforeseen happenings. And I don’t know about you, but having to shop last minute when a storm is on the way is not fun and a lot of staples disappear quick off the shelves.
- Made an partial evacuation plan. We put together a list of important items to grab during an evacuation. Then put that list next to our emergency bags so we know where it is.
Sheltering during a tornado
I have an area in my basement that is almost completely underground (right next to where the crawlspace area is). I decided on there because if the house were to fall on us we’d have some protection from the crawlspace area keeping things off us, kinda like the Triangle of Life idea for earthquakes. At least that is my thinking.
In this area I’ve put:
- water storage
- all our stored camping gear
- a wind up/solar flashlight/lantern/weather radio gadget
- camp chairs
- emergency bags
- sleeping bags
- 5 gallon bucket stuffed with a bag of kitty litter and toilet paper and hand sanitizer (for doing our business…you never know how long you might be stuck there)
- hiking boots
- work gloves
- 72 hour emergency food bucket by Wise Foods
If you don’t have a basement, look around your house/apartment. Is there an interior room/area away from windows (a closet or pantry) where you could hide? Many houses in my area don’t have basements, it isn’t a requirement since the frost line is so shallow (almost non-existent). Some lucky people have a shelter separate from the house dug into their yard (like in “Wizard of Oz”).
After we were hit be a tornado I started to think about what my mother was saying about being prepared for emergencies. I went through the old emergency bag in the basement, took out very expired items, and updated it. Then I made an emergency bag for each member of my family. Specializing one for each member. They now sit in the tornado shelter area in our basement on top a Rubbermaid tub containing our sleeping bags.
I might make a post later about emergency bags since I’ve been thinking about updating ours. For now, I’ll tell you that I put in each bag:
- a change of clothes
- snacks (Cliff bars, fruit leathers, trail mix)
- games (each bag has a different game)
- small first aid kit
- wind up flashlights with radios (a good way to keep kids entertained, they love winding those things)
- wet ones (hand cleaning wipes)
I was so inspired by making emergency bags, and listening to my mom’s suggestions, that I made one for my car. We use it every time we go hiking (even short 1 mile hikes) in the woods (which is pretty much once a week since I love the woods).
In the car bag I have:
- change of socks for everyone (it seems for my family that socks are in most dire need of changing during some hikes)
- snacks (trail mix, Cliff bars)
- water (one water bottle per person (gonna change this out for one refillable canteen per person))
- small first aid kit (used more often than I’d like with my boys being boys…)
- facial/hand wipes
- whistle, compass
- flashlight (hand cranking type of course)
- Swiss army knife with scissors and tweezers (used many times for pulling out splinters)
- hand warmers (winter time only)
- Sawyer mini water filter
In September 2014, when the ebola epidemic was going strong and several people with the virus came to America, I got really scared. I started thinking about what if it spread and we had to be quarantined. I took the advice of my mother, again, and started building up a pantry (just in case). At first I bought a Wise Foods survival bucket I found in a sporting goods/camping store (it now resides in the tornado area of our basement). And I panic bought lots of quick oats, cans of beans, cans of fruit cocktails, etc. Not really thinking about meals.
After my panic died down I realized I couldn’t make meals with what I’d bought (anyone want beans with fruity oatmeal to eat…again? :)) And that I didn’t know what we’d need for a month of meals. After talking to my mom I learned about making a 1 month meal plan made of, roughly, 7 meals a family usually eats. What you do is write down the ingredients for each meal. Multiply that by however many times that meal shows up in your 1 month menu plan. And then buy the ingredients.
For us I made a list of 10 dinners, 4 breakfasts, and 3 lunches we regularly eat. I used those to fill in a month on the calendar. Then I bought the ingredients, slowly buying an extra one or two of an ingredient (and buying a gallon or two of water) every time I went grocery shopping. Six months after the ebola scare, and starting to build up my pantry, I now have 1 month of meals and water. Since they are meals we regularly eat, we rotate through our supply and I’m not worried about things expiring. Here’s a bonus, I’m replenishing only when they’re on sale so I’m saving money. Woo-hoo!:)
Unfortunately, some meals, four of them to be exact, in my meal plan have ingredients that need refrigeration, mainly cheese. Everything else is from canned food, shelf stable food (honey, sugar, salt, etc), and produce that could be stored in a cellar and/or hopefully grown in my yard. I would take out the meals that have cheese, but my family really loves those meals. I’m still thinking about what to do to remedy this without having my family rebel.
I am happy to say that just recently, when a couple of ice and snow storms pretty much shut down the city for a couple days, we didn’t have to go to the store for anything. Though I admit wanting to go just to watch the spectacle.
Other ways of being prepared
First aid kit: I have a nice big first aid kit for the house. With my constantly rough housing, wrestling, dare-devil boys I need one. I bought a tackle box and filled it with:
- bandaids (strips, squares, knuckle, fingertip, blister, steristrips, etc)
- gauzes (all sizes, self stick and non self stick)
- bandage tapes (1″, 2″, and 3″)
- wound wipes
- allergy meds (kids and adults)
- activated charcoal
- hydrogen peroxide
- cotton balls
- witch hazel
- rubbing alcohol
- nail clippers
- tylenol (kids and adults)
- ibuprophen (kids and adults)
I feel much better prepared for any typical local emergencies (even non-typical ones like the recent ice and snow storms). And I’m grateful to my mom for her insistence that I get better prepared. I hope this helps you get better prepared or at least thinking about it.