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Disaster Preparation: Part II. Considering Emergency Preparation Kits

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  • Disaster Preparation: Part II. Considering Emergency Preparation Kits

    Disaster Preparation: Part II. Considering Emergency Preparation Kits

    Developing a disaster preparation plan is a complex process. Once you have an understanding of the kinds of disasters that may affect you and your family you can begin to create an emergency survival kit. Prior to developing an emergency kit, you need to determine how many people you need to provide supplies for, just you, your family, a large extended family, or maybe even your family and a few neighbors.

    You also need to understand that preparation of a survival kit is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process. Food and supplies will need to be rotated. Batteries will need regular replacement, even if they are not used. Personal documents, as discussed below, will need to be updated on a regular basis. The following categories should be carefully considered when preparing your own unique emergency kit.

    Access to shelter and protection from the environment

    Protection from extreme environments is one key to long-term survival, depending on where you live, as discussed in Part I. For example, caught off guard without appropriate clothing in an ice storm or blizzard, in the scorching desert sun, or in frigid lake waters can lead to a life-or-death situation in a short time. By understanding how environmental conditions might affect you and your family you will be better prepared to provide access to shelter and protection from environmental extremes in the face of a local disaster.

    Access to potable water

    Potable water is fresh clean water without disease-causing bacteria and viruses or toxic compounds. In any longer-term disaster, potable water will be the main key to survival. Depending on the health of an individual, three to seven days is as long as anyone can survive without water. Under extreme environmental conditions this period could be much less. You and your family need to consider whether you have access to fresh potable water from a lake or well or need to store a supply of water until public water supplies are safe to drink again.

    Stored food

    Having stored food or access to food for the period of the disaster is the next most important task for survival. The Internet is full of recommendations of what kinds of food people should store in case of emergency. The quantity will depend on how many people you are storing the food for and for how long you think the disaster will disrupt the food supply chain in your area. Issues such as personal tastes among family members, caloric needs, the length of disaster, etc. need to be considered when accumulating your food stores. The complexity of managing food, water, and shelter at the outset of a disaster needs to be considered when developing your plan. For example dried food stuffs are convenient for storage and longevity, but if you do not have access to a large supply of potable water, dried foods are not a good solution for emergency use.

    First-aid supplies

    Depending on the nature of the disaster, your family may suffer injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones to life threatening trauma. Having adequate and appropriate first-aid supplies will allow you to manage minor injuries and stabilize the seriously injured until trained professional help is available.

    Access to communication capabilities

    Older guidelines for disaster preparation included a battery-operated AM/FM radio and extra batteries to monitor the progress of disaster relief efforts. Today, we have multiple communication avenues to monitor how the disaster is evolving and when relief efforts can be expected. We now have hardline telephones, cable television, satellite radio, VOIP internet communications, cell phones, and satellite phones. All of these means of communication today rely on complex networks and a functioning electrical power grid. During a major disaster the power grid may go down and along with it will be most of these communication systems including fiber-optic and cable services. Disaster preparations need to take into consideration that digital communications may not be available for some time. It is worth noting that historically, ham radio operators are usually the first to be back on the air with emergency radio messages before other communication services are up and running.

    Stock of hygiene products

    Hygiene products are important to stock for a longer-term disaster. During disasters affecting large populations, infectious diseases can have life threatening consequences because of poor hygiene resulting in the dispersion of germs and viruses and disease carrying insects. These items include toilet paper, feminine products, tissues, disposable gloves, facemasks, eye protection, bug spray, etc. This category of stored items is important to prevent diseases from transmitting among you and your family members during periods of isolation.

    Stock of life-saving medications

    In our world today, many people are taking critical daily medications for their health. Any families that have members who rely on these medications should have an ample supply of prescription medications to carry them through a disaster until additional medications can be procured.

    Hardcopies of medical records

    In a larger scale disaster, people with complex medical histories should keep or have hard copy medical records that can be shared with healthcare personnel in the event of emergency or disaster. There should be no expectation that during a major disaster you will have access to your electronic records either online or through a doctor’s office.

    Hardcopies of bank accounts

    If you are in an area experience a long-term power failure or a network outage, you or your bank may not be able to electronically access your banking and investment accounts. It would be wise to have backup copies of your account information in order to access your accounts in person at your financial facilities. Of greater concern is that if regional networks are inoperable, your local financial institution will have no way of verifying your account balances and even with hard copy records you may not be able to withdraw cash for emergency expenses.

    Copies and/or original identification documents

    During a disaster you may have to confirm your identity for many reasons, accessing bank accounts, recovering you children from a relief center, etc. Having copies or original identification items such as passport, driver’s license, identity card, or social insurance card will help you quickly confirm your identity during a disaster.
    Within our electronic age, usernames and passwords are the keys that unlock our access to many different accounts and services. If you can memorize and recall all your usernames and passwords, you are one of the lucky ones. The rest of us have these passwords scattered around, some forgotten, some not. It is an individual decision whether you need to have hardcopies of these usernames and passwords in the event that infrastructure failures last for a significant period of time. Hardcopies of this information could be lost or stolen and used by non-authorized persons after the disaster is over.

    Stockpile of cash - small bills

    Finally, disaster preparation should include a stash of small bills to pay for items with cash when electronic transactions are not available. Whether cash transactions will still be viable in future disasters with a disrupted infrastructure is uncertain. There have been incidents where computer networks in grocery stores have malfunctioned, and the store was not willing to sell items for cash because they could not determine the price of the item at the checkout counter. Nor could cashiers make change because the cash register drawer was electronically locked. Nonetheless having a supply of small bills may be very useful in a disaster. For an extended disaster, any extra stockpiled items, such as food, water, hygiene products, first-aid supplies, could also be used to barter for other items that you or your family may need.

    This is not an exhaustive list of categories that should be considered for preparing a survival or emergency kit. Each family’s needs are different; therefore each family should formulate its own unique emergency kit based on its own specific circumstances.

    Disaster Preparation: Part I. The Dimensions of Disasters

    Disaster Preparation: Part III. Planning for the Next Worldwide Disaster