Copyright © 2019
by Ralph F. Couey
Spring and summer are often times when strong, even violent storms occur. Such events are not unique to tornado alley or hurricane-prone areas, and it is prudent to make some preparations in advance. Earthquakes, of course, don't require any season. They just happen.
Basically, there are two scenarios. One, if situations force people to flee their homes, such as floods or approaching hurricanes. The other is if situations develop where people are going to be trapped or otherwise isolated for long periods of time due to disruptions of civil services. Again, the aftermath of hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes, or if flooding isolates an area, effectively cutting people off from the outside world. Regardless of where one lives, either scenario could occur.
Here in Hawai'i, the concerns center on hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. And the odd nuclear missile threat. People are continuously advised to prepare, but because people are people, almost nobody heeds those advisories. After perusing some of the excellent publications available through Civil Defense and Emergency Management, I thought a discussion on how to prepare might be appropriate.
Let's first think about a situation where you might have to flee your home on short notice, for a number of very excellent reasons. There won't be enough time to put your "Go Bag" together, and you could find yourself leaving behind items vital to survival. While the term Go Bag might connotate a backpack, you might also think about a medium-sized wheeled suitcase. As to what goes inside, here is a list courtesy of any number of government agencies.
-- Identification (ID card or driver's license.)
-- Credit cards, and a separate document listing the account numbers and security codes.
Bank account information. Don't rely on your cell phone alone. During an emergency, those towers could go dark.
-- Medical insurance cards
-- Advanced healthcare directives
-- Certified copies of property deeds, titles, and copies of the relevant insurance documents.
-- A two week supply of any prescription medications, and copies of the prescriptions themselves.
-- If you wear glasses, a copy of your lens prescription
-- A change of clothes (for rough wear) and sturdy shoes or boots. If you have to walk through debris, tennis shoes will not last long.
-- Poncho or some other kind of rain gear
-- Portable battery or crank-powered radio, and extra batteries
-- Flashlight and extra batteries
-- Non-perishable food, such as energy bars, beef jerky, nuts, etc.
-- Water. Under normal circumstances, a half-gallon per person per day for drinking. In hot and/or humid regions, a gallon per person per day. This, by far will be the bulkiest and heaviest item. A gallon of water weighs nearly 8.5 pounds. It is also the most vital item. Experts say that a person can live for up to three weeks without food. Without water, three to four days at most, less than that in hot and/or humid conditions. Packing five gallons of water can keep you alive, but means you'll be hauling over 40 pounds everywhere you go. If you can devise a way to put those containers on wheels, it will ease your burden.
-- Hygiene supplies. Keeping yourself as clean as possible under the circumstances will stave off disease and prevent contaminating your supplies. Also, toilet paper and wipes, some cleaning supplies, and extra diapers for the babies.
-- Comfort items. Not sure what this entails, but off the top of my head, perhaps a treasured toy for a child. What brings comfort to an adult is a personal decision.
-- Whistle. At any outdoors store, you can purchase a hiker's whistle for less than $10. These are designed to generate an ear-piercing sound detectable at as much as a mile, depending on terrain and conditions. This is valuable if you find yourself trapped in debris, or someplace where searchers may not readily see you. Also, it can be useful for family communication buy designating a code (like two long and one short blasts) so those who are separated can locate each other. Again, don't plan on any cell phone service for several days or weeks.
-- Sleeping bag
--Tools. Not an entire box, but a few useful items like pliers, knives, hammer, a manual can opener, one of each type of screw driver, and an adjustable wrench. If there's room, perhaps a small pry bar as well.
-- A small comprehensive first aid kit, consisting of bandages, wraps, gauze, antiseptic, alcohol, and medical tape. Even a small cut left untreated in a disaster situation could result in a major medical problem.
There are other items peculiar to your situation that you might include, but remember that whatever you put in there, you'll have to carry. People who hike the back country can certainly provide some guidance here.
This collection should be gathered, packed and available for you to grab and go if an evacuation order is issued. Some experts advise working people to have one at their place of employment as well. Once you have your stuff, leave quickly. Like Lot's wife, looking back can be fatal.
The other situation involves being trapped or isolated in your home. You will have shelter from the elements, which is a real good thing, but to survive, you'll need more.
You should plan on providing for yourself and family for at least two weeks. There are a wide range of situations that could put you in this situation, but there are a few certainties you can count on. First of all, there will be no power, so anything powered by electricity will be useless to you until power is restored. It sounds silly, but there are those who have a lot of canned food in their pantries, but only have electric can openers in their homes. Second, while commercial radio stations will likely be operating, cell towers might take longer to restore. We love our smart phones, but everyone should have either a battery-powered or crank operated portable radio, preferable one that can receive National Weather Service broadcasts. Spare batteries are a must. If your area has been isolated by flood waters, debris, or damaged roadways, it might be days before rescuers reach you. During that time, your only source of information will be through that radio.
Food. You should plan to consume about 2,000 calories per day, per person, and your menu choices should be from non-perishable sources. Canned food, as long as the cans are not rusty, is usually the best choice. Focus on protein sources, and vital carbs from vegetables and fruits. We've already covered water, so don't skimp when laying in that particular item. If you plan to cook, make sure you do that outside of the house. Don't risk burning your only shelter to the ground.
Medications, again at least a two-week supply. Coolers and a way to keep them cool will be necessary if your meds require cool storage. Lay in a supply of basic vitamins as well.
This is far from a comprehensive list, and there are likely some items I've missed. Visit Ready.gov for a more comprehensive list. But disasters are by definition impossible to predict, and the aftermath will be too late to prepare. Now this not the stuff of the tin-foil-hat crowd, but a prudent and responsible way to make sure you and your loved ones can survive if the worst happens.