Monday, September 8, 2014

My 'Cover your bases in case disaster strikes' Checklist

A few years ago, my husband was approached by our pastor and asked to be the parish's liaison to an Emergency preparedness community group.  The collection of pastors and city officials met and discussed the cities response plan, and worked to formulate some unofficial procedures to pass along to the various faith communities, in case of either natural disasters or those more along the 9/11 type.  This post is not intended to freak anyone out, but rather to give you a little guideline so that IF you were say without water (like those in Toledo, Ohio was last month) for days on end, your domestic situation would not suffer needlessly.

The fact that the city and the various faith leaders thought it was important to prepare, motivated me to get my house in order just in case the unthinkable happened.  I felt like they were basically saying "hey don't rely on us for the first few days/weeks".   Plus, my husband brought home all sorts of resources so I had a guide.

And that is what I hope I can provide to you.

The first step in all of it, is actually to think about the unthinkable.  What would you do, and how would you respond?

Assess your possible crisis events and responses

Identify the threats specific to your area
- nuclear station, flood plain, tornados, hurricanes, tsunami, something else?

General threats
- EMP attack, Electrical grid compromised, bioterrorism, dirty bomb, suicide bombers, compromised water system, gas leaks, something else?

If you live right near a nuclear station, or in the middle of tornado alley, you need to prepare differently.   In Arizona,
we have little need for tornado shelters, nor do I need hurricane shutters, or an up to date Tsunami evacuation route.

Side note - my kids have their first official weather-related school closure today due to a hurricane. - yes I said we live in Arizona.   We are 6 hours from the coast. That is close enough to dump lots of rain in an area not accustomed to rain, so we get flooding. This is a minor issue but it brings home the point  that we don't always know when or what our day will bring.

Back on message...There are some general, common things, that we should all do.  The most likely non-natural disaster is actually a suicide bomber or an EMP attack.  Yeah.  I know. Sounds crazy.  But that is what the experts (like FBI and CIA) are saying.  Just to clarify, the experts aren't saying it is crazy, they are saying it is highly likely.

So first, think about where you would go for/during each possible or likely situation.  Have a meeting place, have a back up meeting place.  If you need to get out of town, who would get the kids from school? Who would go home to pack the car? Where would you go?  Have a few evacuation routes mapped out in your mind.  Print out some maps for your area in case your smart phone isn't working.  Assume your cell phone won't work and be ready to act.

Get your house in order
Pack your bags 
- pack a bag for your family that has just the essentials for a quick grab.  I love spy books - they call this a 'go bag'.  The US government calls it a 'ready bag' I guess because that is less scary.   It has copies of documents, cash in small bills, whistle, flashlight, whistle, matches, chlorine bleach, wipes, gloves, mask etc.  See here for a comprehensive list of stuff to have in your 'go bag'. If you want the FEMA list here it is. 

- pack a bag for EACH member of your family who can carry a bag.  This bag that has a change of clothes or two, a pair of shoes and socks, extra toothbrush, something personal (doll, blanket etc), diapers if needed).  We have a boy bag and a girl bag because two backpacks is better than four.  We also have a bigger bag for our grown-up stuff.

-make a list of extra items to grab.  I wear contacts and glasses. I don't have an extra pair of glasses to pack in a bag, neither do I have an extra cell phone and charger.  Instead I have my list of things to add to my bag.

The idea here is that if you have to bolt, you want to have stuff relatively together already. It takes us at least 10 minutes to get out of the house once everyone has told me "I AM ready mom".  If you have some stuff laid aside at the bottom of the closet then that is one less thing to think about.  I re-evaluate the bags seasonally because my kids are at the age where they grow SO dang fast!

Keep your stock up
When the threat level increases (like now) it is a good idea to buy just a little more if you can.  Don't let your cupboards run bare.  If you loose power, you are going to loose your refrigerator so focus on buying non-perishables - canned foods, canned meats, rice & beans.  Seasonings store well and don't take up much space, so make sure you have those too.
Have lots of water on hand. Government suggests 1 gallon per person per day.  The US government suggests 72 hours worth - or 3 days worth.  They suggest it would take 3 days to get any emergency systems (like FEMA or Red Cross) mobilized to respond.  They also write on their website that it could take weeks to get services streamlined.   Many in the preparedness community suggest keeping 2 weeks of food and water on hand.  If we planned for 2 weeks our family of 6 we need to keep 84 gallons on hand.  That's a lot of water!

Other things to make sure you have on hand if there are storms (actual and metaphorical) on the horizons:  Prescriptions, extra cash, duct tape, flashlight batteries, manual can-opener, household bleach. 

Be smart
-keep your gas tank near full. Don't let it run down past the 1/2 way mark.  

-Don't put off purchases.  If you son needs new shoes (mine does) don't procrastinate (like me).  Get them.  You have to buy them eventually, so even if it means eating hotdogs and beans for the week, try to get the shoes into your budget.  If things change in your area, you don't want your poor kid walking around with his toes all curled up because you decided pull a Scarlet O'hara and think about it tomorrow.

-Do your maintenance work.  If your car is due for an oil change then do it.  Again, if you don't have to wait then don't.

Talk to your kids
Hopefully your older kids have some clue about current affairs.  The events in the Ukraine coupled with the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, topped off by the emergence of ISIS have given our kids quiet a lot to talk about around the dinner table.  Although the conflicts we are seeing now are taking place across the globe, it can raise concerns for kids about their own safety.   JR is 8 and he wants to know how far away things are.  He asks "can this happen here?".   He shows a general interest, but also a healthy fear.  Knowing that their parents are in charge, and the family has a plan should anything bad happen, gives all kids an added confidence rather than making them more scared.   The kids know where the go bags are - they actually helped pack the bags.  Don't be overly dramatic about the preparations.  You prepare diligently for birthday parties and Christmas and vacations.  This shouldn't be much different on the 'anxiety' level for you or your children. It is definitely not fun, but is doesn't have to be a big deal.

Talking about the events of 9/11 with your kids is also very important.  Gina over at Someday they'll be Saints (click here) has a nice post this week reviewing some books on this and even providing a beautiful printable prayer to use with them this week.

Act Now
Is all this something you need to do now?

 The Manhattan Institute has our threat level at the highest level - Severe.  The UK has also elevated their level to Severe meaning a terrorist attack is highly likely.  What are you waiting for? Long lines and empty shelves? Taking care of it now is just smart.

Am I loosing sleep over all this? Should you?  No.  I basically know what I would do, and now I can rest easy.  My kids will have clean water to drink and food to eat.

If you want more information, you should go to the cheery and upbeat '' website where they make planning for the unthinkable seem like planning a vacation.  It is a good site with links to various checklists and formats for your emergency plan.  If you like this post and want a more detailed one in the future let me know and I can find a guest blogger who can provide it for us.

In the morning sow your seed, 
and at evening let not your hand be idle; 
For you know not which of the two will be successful, 
or whether both alike will turn out well.  
Ecclesiastes, 11: 6

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