Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Urban Disaster Preparedness

Below are some simple stockpiling suggestions to help city dwellers survive a disaster. 

Why should I stockpile food, water, and other supplies? 
Because bad things can happen. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, or severe storms could force you to survive on your own for up to two or three weeks. Flu pandemic, terrorist attack by nuclear / biological /chemical /radiation, or economic collapse can breakdown society for several weeks or months. Grocery stores may be empty. The power grid, water/gas lines, transportation, fuel, and highways may all be broken or shut down. If you wait until you need it, it's a sure bet others have beat you to it.

Won’t the government provide for me in an emergency? 
Nope, FEMA clearly states it's your responsibility to provide food, water, and other supplies for at least the first three days of a disaster. In extreme cases, you could be on your own for up to several weeks or even months.

Isn’t stockpiling costly or wasteful?  
Nope. It's good insurance for surviving a disaster, and inexpensive if done right. 

Tier 1: How do I cover basic 2-3 day stockpile needs? 
Food shouldn't be a concern because most people typically have more than 2-3 days worth of food on hand, and could go that long without eating if necessary.  The biggest need is having sufficient water on-hand.  Use tap water in Walmart six-gallon water containers ($9), or use buckets with lids.  To purify, either boil the water or add 8 drops of bleach per gallon.

Tier 2: How do I cover 6-8 week stockpile needs for more severe disasters? 
For food, the simple approach is to buy bulk items having a long shelf-life.  You could buy and store your own rice, beans, pasta, and other dry or canned goods; but Costco makes it easy.  They have an Emergency food supply ($90) with a 20-year shelf-life that provides 275 meals (feed a family of four 2 meals a day for one month).  They also have emergency rice ($50) and pinto bean ($60) buckets. 

Costco offers a solid emergency supply kit ($140) that should cover most basic needs.  It includes 90 servings of food, a water filtration system, hand crank flashlight/radio/cell phone charger, and typical survival supplies (matches, cord, space blankets, water pouches, compass, multi-tool, etc.).  This can be your "go-bag." 

Tier 3: What other stuff might be worth stockpiling?
* Fire: lighter; matches
* Fuel: extra propane tanks; kerosene; gasoline; wood
* Light: flashlights (hand crank?); candles; lantern; wicks
* Cooking: vegetable oil; cook stove; cast iron pans
* Flavoring: salt; sugar; honey
* Protein: tuna/chicken cans; boxes of oatmeal; dry milk
* Carb's: dry pasta w/cans of tomato sauce; crackers; dry cereal
* Toiletries: buy large Costco quantities for everyday use, always have spares
* First-Aid¹: band-aids, vitamins, iodine (f/radiation), rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide
* Drugs: aspirin, analgesics, antibiotics, antifungals, antihistamines, antivirals, and steroids
* Water: buckets w/lid; bleach; filter (Britta?); identify local source 
* Power: batteries; rechargeable batteries; solar recharger
* Weapons: (for defense) shotgun, pistol, rifle, ammo, bat, machete, sword, nun-chuks...
* Shelter: tarp; stakes; rope; twine; sleeping bag; blankets
* Seeds: if extreme TSHTF then start your own vegetable garden
* Help/Barter: buy more of the above than you need to help neighbors and for trading

Other Information and Planning:
* Family Communication Plan²: who to call out of state, etc.
* Utility Shut-Off³: where and how to shut-off the water, power, and gas
* Escape Plan²: when, where, and how to bug out to if the city becomes too dangerous
* Safety Skills: how to provide CPR, dress a wound, properly prepare water, etc.
* Literature: keep books and paper copies of disaster-specific survival tips (no internet?) 

How do I store it?
In a cool, dark, place with low humidity and an ideal temperature of 60°F.  I like buckets and lids (~$4) from Home Depot or Lowes because they stack well, seal well, and are portable.  Ziploc bags inside the buckets keep contents air tight for a longer life.  Use 3" mailing labels and a black felt pen to label buckets and ziploc bags.

¹ First Aid: Ready.gov or 72hours.org
² FEMA Emergency Plans
³ Utilities: 72hours.org, FEMA