Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Elation of Preparation... Are you Ready for Disaster?

One year ago (on our wedding anniversary no less) my husband and I were jolted awake at 3:00AM by our very first California earthquake. First, we were terrified, then we laughed hysterically, and eventually fell back to sleep.

The next morning,as the novelty wore off, the reality of the situation sank in. We live in an earthquake zone. Should we be more prepared?

I did a quick check with my locals friends. Yep, they had bottled water ready to go. And blankets. And kits. One friend is so prepared she's got 3 kits-- in the car, at work and at home. Another friend poured over geological maps of the area to ensure her "family meeting spot" was on solid bedrock. Gulp. Turns out my family "spot" was on landfill. And nowhere near public transportation. Oh, and we'd have to drive through a tunnel and over a fault line to get there. Whoops. My friend tactfully suggested I pick another spot.

There have been several other little tremors since our first on July 16, and with each one, I kept reminding myself to put together a kit. But then the quake would pass, and school and work and life would get in the way. Somehow, preparing for disaster kept falling off my "to-do" list. Thinking about Armageddon just didn't seem to be a pleasant way to spend a day off. However, since finishing school in May, I've had a little extra time on my hands. And today was the day I decided to tackle this task once and for all. You know what? It feels GREAT to now be prepared.

You may not live in an earthquake zone, but disasters come in all shapes and sizes. All of us are potential victims of hurricanes, tornadoes, fires or power outages during heat waves (a very big hug to my DC friends and family currently dealing with this situation.) While I normally blog about food for fun, today I was reminded that clean water and food aren't for pleasure...they are required for survival. It's not a pretty thought, but what would you do if disaster struck?

I urge you to take a day to gather together your kit. Below, I've compiled a list of helpful food items that store well, and provide what you need in an emergency. For a full list of ALL the items one should keep in a kit, check out the American Red Cross website or ready.gov. I hope you never have to use it, but luck favors the prepared.

 - Drinking water is by far the most important item to have on hand. Store enough for 3 days, keep a minimum of 1 gallon per day per family member. (We have 8 gallons for 2 adults and a cat.)

- Once drinking water runs out, water can be purified using plain, unscented chlorine bleach. Keep Clorox in you kit and tape this recipe to the bottle: Add 16 drops per 1 gallon of water. Shake vigorously.

- Store stable foods. Any canned fruits, veggies, meats, pastas, chilies or fish are good options. Include a few cans of beans. Also consider UHT pasteurized foods liked boxed milks and soups, or vacuum packed shelf stable meals like lentils, rice and ramen noodles. Don't forget to keep a manual can opener in your kit.

 - Choose high protein, calorie-rich foods. Store peanut butter, nuts, dried fruits, granola bars, protein bars, Laughing Cow cheese wedges and beef jerky. Also consider packaged whole grain crackers and cereals, but avoid salty snacks... they'll just make you thirsty. Also avoid foods that might melt, like chocolate.

- Yes, you can buy emergency rations from camping stores or military surplus outposts. But remember your 3rd grade school field trip? To NASA? That freeze-dried space ice cream tasted like crap. Buy what you know you and your family will eat.

- Got kids? Be sure to store formula, powdered milk, and a few "comfort foods." Will that Oreo make it all go away? No, but it might hold back tears for a little while.

 - Consider adding camping basics like waterproof matches, a utility knife, and mess kits.