Thursday, March 17, 2011

Emergency Preparedness on a Budget

With all of the natural disasters flooding the news in the last weeks, I have been motivated to take inventory of our family's emergency preparedness. If you're on a tight budget, this can feel overwhelming, but just like saving money, you can reach your goals by taking small and simple steps.

As I began to go through my 72-hour kit, I realized that many of the items I had stocked were items I already on hand, and anyone could take a few moments to create a very basic emergency kit with items already in their homes.
  • Extra clothing- If you don't keep much extra clothing, this is a great thing to get cheap at thrift stores. Ladies, if you're still growing your family, be sure to include pants with an expandable waistband. (Tip- store clothing in an extra pillowcase. This will keep it organized and can serve as a pillow in emergencies)
  • Small towel and/or washcloth
  • Basic toiletries- I actually keep a toiletry kit stocked with travel-sized versions of products I normally use, extra toothpaste and a toothbrush. Whenever I travel I just toss this in my suitcase, then I refill it when I come home and keep it near my emergency kit so that I can easily pack it if I have to evacuate.
  • First Aid supplies- even just band-aids and some pain medication will work. At least it's something!
  • Plastic bags
  • Pen and paper
  • Contact Info- List of family members' names, phone numbers, and photos, plus an agreed-upon emergency action plan (meeting locations, etc.).
  • Tissues- just put a few in a plastic ziplock bag.
  • Toilet paper- individually wrapped roll, if you have it
  • Matches- put these in a plastic ziplock bag also
  • Water- fill a water bottle with tap water and store it. If possible, store enough for 1 gallon per person per day, but even if you only have one bottle in an evacuation kit, that's still something!
  • Food- granola bars, canned food, etc. While these are not necessarily ideal, they are still something!
  • Baby Wipes- I just heard one of the guys on one of the professional emergency response crews on CNN saying that baby wipes are one thing they never leave home without.
  • Flashlight- You might not have an extra, but you can get these at the dollar store and they're essential.
  • Backpack or bag- You will need some kind of portable container to hold all of your emergency supplies. While a backpack is ideal, even a cardboard box or grocery bag(s) will do.
  • Shoes- In case of a sudden evacuation, you might not have a chance to change shoes or even put on shoes. Find an old pair of sneakers or maybe a pair of hiking boots you don't wear often- just something sturdy and comfortable- and stuff a pair of socks in the toe and use the shoelaces to tie them to your emergency kit. If you need them in the meantime, you can still access them easily.
  • Grab-and-Go List- If you are fortunate to have more than a moment's notice of an evacuation, you may have time to grab a few sentimental/useful items along with your emergency kit. Go around your house and make a list of items- photos, computer, kids' special lovies, journals, important documents, etc.- that you would want to take with you if evacuated. When possible, try to keep these items grouped together for easy packing. Decide now what kind of container you will use to pack them- maybe a container currently being used for winter clothes or a cardboard box- making these decisions now will save you panic and chaos later on!
These are just the basic basics. My purpose in this post is simply to show you that you don't have to run out and raid your local camping supply store in order to assemble a decent emergency kit. Remember- when an emergency strikes, some preparation is better than none at all.

When it comes to improving your long-term food and water storage, I believe that the best method is to just do it a little at a time. Wash out empty soda and juice bottles and fill them with tap water. Dedicate $1-$2 a week, if that's all you have, to increasing your food storage. That $1 can buy you a gallon of water and a can of vegetables. Continue to increase your supplies by just a little each week and you will see your storage grow!

I will say it again: When an emergency strikes, some preparation is better than none at all. I challenge you to DO SOMETHING TODAY to become better prepared!! You don't want to find yourself saying, "If only..."

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