Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Being Prepared for a Natural Disaster

As I sit here marveling over the fact that we just felt an earthquake in Upstate NY, I decided it's crucial to do a post on emergency preparedness. It's timely considering we are in the early stages of hurricane season. If you've been following the weather reports, you'll know that Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the Carolinas right now.

My husband and I lived in North Carolina through a few hurricanes, including Hurricane Floyd in 1999. We typically don't have too much to fear from hurricanes or earthquakes in our current location, but we do have the occasional ice storm or snow storm to contend with.
Ice Storms Give Us Breathtaking Beauty and Broken Power Lines

No matter where you live, it's crucial to have an emergency stash of supplies.

Emergencies can run the gamut from a water main break that leaves your neighborhood lacking fresh drinking water for several days to an ice storm that leaves you without power for a few weeks. In some instances, you many not be able to travel to a grocery store to stock up on supplies.
Here's what everyone should have on hand for emergency supplies:

1. Drinking water - Store a couple of five gallon containers of drinking water. There are many situations that can lead authorities to call for a boil water advisory. In some cases, if the power is out, so is the water. Remember that gallons of water stored in plastic containers do have an expiration date. Check the date and replace the water with new bottles as often as needed.

2. Canned food - Canned soups, tuna, peanut butter and other easy-to-prepare foods are essential emergency fare. Keep a box stocked with at least a weeks worth of food for your whole family. If you've got an infant and you're not breastfeeding, make sure you have formula in your stash, too. As with water, check the expiration dates and replace as needed.

3. If you have a baby, breastfeed. - I cannot stress this enough. This is an important reason, along with the many others, to breastfeed your babies. We all think that natural disasters are not going to happen to us, but the reality is that most of us will be involved in some sort of weather-related emergency. Breastfeeding ensures that your infant will have a safe, reliable food source for the duration of the emergency and beyond.

My youngest son was 11 months old during our 2008 ice storm. I had no worries about feeding him since I was still breastfeeding. There were many stories of people risking their lives to get infant formula to flooded, hurricane affected areas after Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. If fresh water isn't available, it becomes a double problem. Mixing infant formula with tainted water is a recipe for disaster.

4. Full tank of gas - If you have the luxury of knowing a storm is coming, fill your car up with gas. Meteorologists usually give us plenty of notice for things like hurricanes and snow storms. Though, they can't always predict the magnitude of the event in your area, they typically can let you know if the potential is there for it to be severe. Take a few minutes and fill your tank up before your area is hit. That way, you'll be all set if you need to evacuate or if the power is out at local gas stations for several days.

5. Flashlights and radios - Working flashlights and radios are a must. You'll also need to have extra batteries on hand. A radio may be your only source of news for a few days, so it's crucial to keep one in your emergency kit.

6. Candles or lanterns - If the power is going to be out for several days, it's nice to have a stockpile of candles and a lantern (and the fuel to use it). When ours was out for three days in December 2008, we used candles every day. I was thankful we had plenty, especially since it gets dark at about 4:30 in the afternoon in December.

7. A heat source - If you live in a cold climate, it's a good idea to have some sort of alternative heat source just in case the power goes out in the winter months. For us, that's a wood stove. We were quite cozy during the ice storm. Others might find a kerosene heater more practical. Without heat, you'll likely have to go to a shelter during a winter emergency.

8. A first-aid kit - You should have a first-aid kit on hand anyway, but it's especially important to include one in your emergency preparedness kit. Know where it is so you can get to it quickly if you need it.

Of course, there will be regional and familial differences in what people keep in their emergency stashes. Some families may need to have supplies on hand to board up windows if a hurricane is bearing down on their town, others may need special medical equipment or medicines.

A few, basic supplies can help your family make it through an emergency without having to go to a shelter. However, don't hesitate to find a shelter if you are in an area that's under serious threat or if you are out of crucial supplies. As with all things, health and safety come first!


  1. Great post! Informative, current, and a perfect checklist.

  2. I hought of one additional thing from my experience with hurricanes. People will want to know you are okay. If you can get through on your cell phone to someone, have that person then call other relatives for you. Also, you can charge that cell phone in the car if needed later when the electricity is out. Some land lines don't need electricity.


  3. Carol - That's an excellent point! That's one of the reasons I'll never get rid of our land line. We used it during our power outage to call my mom, who I knew was worried about us.

    A widespread power outage could mean that there's no cell service, but it's good to have a charged cell phone so you can get through to loved ones as soon as possible.

  4. Great article and it can't be emphasized enough to be prepared in case of any emergency. Thanks for the reminders.