Sunday, August 26, 2012

. . . Emergency Preparation Kits

Today's post was created to support my August 28th Digital Grind Column in the Cape Cod Times on alternative personal power, and among other things offers a deeper look at creating personal emergency preparation kits with useful tips, as well as strategies.  If you ended up here by following  a link other than the one from the paper or the online version of my column which is published on the Times' award-winning website you can find the column at this link to the Digital Grind landing page at the paper -- and I encourage you to read the column first before you continue reading this admittedly long and detailed post...

Before we move on I want to thank you for reading my column and for reading the paper!

Supporting Digital Grind: Emergency Preparation Kits

When I sat down to write this week's Digital Grind I was aware that there would be no way to include all of the information that I wanted and needed to include -- and in particular that there would be no room for discussing the items that you should have in your kits, so here is an in-depth look at the different types of emergency preparation kits and the different elements that you can use to improve the kits you already have.

Please bear in mind that the following are suggestions, and that I accept no responsibility for the effectiveness or lack thereof with respect to these resources and how you use (or misuse) them...  This is free advice and it is worth what you paid for it.

In addition to the basic resources that are listed below I strongly recommend that you take as much specialized training as you can manage, and at a very minimum at least one adult member of your household should take the following training as soon as possible and keep their certification and skills updated by taking refresher courses annually:
  • Red Cross Disaster Training Course
  • Red Cross Basic and Advanced First Aid Course and Certification
  • Red Cross Adult and Child CPR Course and Certification
  • Red Cross Pet First Aid Course
  • Basic Firearms Safety Class
  • NRA Personal Protection in the Home Live Fire Course
  • NRA Basic Pistol Class (Live Fire)
  • Fire Safety Course
  • HAM / Amateur Radio Courses and License Classes
You should be able to obtain the firearm safety and training courses through your local police department, and of course the health and first aid courses are available via the American Red Cross.  Many Municipal Fire Departments offer basic fire safety courses, and some Coast Guard Stations offer a variety of training and safety courses.   Your local Amateur Radio and HAM associations will offer basic and advanced courses to prepare for the license exams, and if you plan to buy and use a radio that requires a license this is pretty much a requirement.  Having a HAM or Amateur Radio and License is a really good idea, since when all other communication fails, that is the one form that will not.  Plus you can ask the astronauts on the International Space Station what the weather looks like from up there...

All joking set aside, knowledge is power, and the skills that you can obtain as a result of the training above is invaluable.  You may also want to consider taking personal defense courses or training in one of the variety of martial arts that are offered in your community.  Not only will those classes teach you how to defend yourself, they can help you to obtain the confidence to actually defend yourself when you need to!

Basic Home Emergency Preparation Kit (BHEPK)There are a umber of items that should be considered basic and necessary components to the Home Emergency Preparation Kit, and those include:
  • An envelope with $100 in small bills tucked away in your kit for emergencies
  • A book with printed contact information including phone numbers and addresses for family and the other important people in your life.  If you keep all of that information on your computer (like most people) bear in mind you may not have access to either your computer or the Internet during an emergency...
  • Battery-powered radio and/or digital hand-held television with NOAA Channel.
  • Handheld CB or HAM Radio (If you are licensed for HAM)
  • Camping Gear (Sleeping sacks, gas lantern, cook stove)
  • Canned and tinned food of sufficient quantity for a week per person minimum
  • Additional pre-packaged survival food, preferably military-grade MRE's (Meal, Ready to Eat) of the high-caloric-count type.  Three meals per person for a week; meals can be broken up and eaten as needed for nutrition/energy requirements and used to subsidize canned and tinned foods as well as fresh foods.
  • Candles, preferably high-quality low-smoke beeswax
  • Cell phone with working service and spare charged batteries.
  • Chemical light sticks
  • Drinking Water (64 ounces per day, per person)
  • Entertainment items - books, magazines, battery powered DVD player and DVD's - you know what you like.  Board games, playing cards, handheld battery powered video game systems and games.
  • Personal water filtration kits
  • Advanced First Aid Kit
  • Regular Medications for all family members
  • Fresh Water for bathing/cleaning/cooking (as much as you can manage)
  • Water purification supplies to create additional potable water as needed
  • Flashlights with multiple sets of fresh batteries and a set of book lights with batteries
  • Matches, Lighters, or other fire-starting devices
  • Portable heater (oil or gas based) 
  • Handgun and full box of ammunition (50 rounds).  You should take and pass a handgun safety course, properly register and legally purchase your firearms, and maintain a lockable secure gun safe for their storage and to prevent them being diverted by looters or handled by children. 
  • Toilet Kit - several empty 5-gallon "pickle" or painter buckets with toilet seats attached plus extra buckets with seal-able lids and a supply of double-ply small trash bag/liners.  The extra buckets are used for storage of human waste inside the liner bags; after each use the bag is tied closed and stored in the spare buckets with the lid sealed on. 
  • Spare fuel canisters for your cook stove, lanterns, beverage wamers, and other devices that you have put in your kit that use them...  Obviously keep these ina safe storage spot as per the instructions that come with them.
  • Manuals for all your kit and devices
Portable heaters should be used with caution, and only in a properly ventilated space.  You should NEVER use open flames or rigged fires indoors unless you are doing so in a proper fireplace, again with proper ventilation.

Prior to the emergency conditions setting in you should, at a minimum:
  • Fill the petrol tank on your autos completely
  • Fully charge all of your consumer electronics and safety kit before power goes out if you can
  • Stock up on potables and food stuff in advance of the event, with an emphasis upon fresh fruits, veggies, and drinking water.
  • Obtain additional cash money in low-denominations if you can as ATM's will not likely be available when the power is out, and most merchants will not be accepting credit cards.  All the same though use common sense with this -- you will not likely need thousands of dollars and having that sort of cash could easily create more problems than it solves.  A few hundred dollars in addition to the $100 that should be part of your Basic Kit should be sufficient.

Additional Recommended Kit Elements

Your advanced first aid kit should contain, at a minimum, the following items and be packaged separate from your BHEPK:
  • A 30 day supply of personal prescription medication
  • Extra pair of prescription eyeglasses or contacts
  • Bandages
  • Band-Aids / Sticky Plasters
  • Sterile combine dressing, and gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape, and gauze tape
  • Medical tweezers
  • Surgical razor or scalpel
  • Disinfectant pads
  • Latex gloves (rubber if allergic to latex, to protect first aider against infection)
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Epinephrine and antihistamines for allergic reactions, primarily to insect stings
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Suture Kit or Sterile Disposable Surgical Stapler.  In a pinch Super Glue will work, so will Duct Tape.  You can get suture kits cheap at veterinary supply houses without prescriptions or official documentation that will work for humans as well as animals...
  • Oxytetracycline tablets (for diarrhea or infection) and Z-Packs
  • Aspirin
  • Salt Pills / Salt -- an essential mineral for health. Salt containing potassium chloride, sold widely as low sodium salt, can be used to prevent dehydration from diarrhea and can save most cholera deaths.
  • Multivitamin and Mineral Supplements. Zinc supplements are useful in treating diarrhea intestinal tract infections, especially in children.
  • Sunscreen (where appropriate, above 30 SPF)
  • 100% UV protective sunglasses ("UV 400") (protects eyes from harmful UV radiation.

Basic Mobile (Auto) Emergency Preparation Kit
A Basic Mobile EPK is really more insurance than anything else, but of course if you end up caught in an emergency situation in your car it is an incredibly valuable and useful form of insurance!  While you can assemble your own kit, the trick with these is that they need to be well-sealed so that the contents are preserved over long-term storage in the boot of your car...

Check out the website at Are You Prepared? which includes an app to help you build an EPK for your car(s), or you can go with the commercial versions linked below (which is what I did):
This is basically a 5-person kit in a pickle bucket with enough supplies to make being stranded a lot less inconvenient.  Note that in addition to this kit I also keep a Rubbermaid tote with a variety of food and convenience items in it, and rotate the items once a month into the house so that they are consumed, replacing the supply in the van.  The extras consists of five gallon fresh drinking water container, packages of cup-a-soup, granola bars, fig newtons, hard candy, a large jar of peanut butter, and a box of Ritz Crackers.  Bags of Smartfood, fruit roll-ups, and assorted other grindage intended to keep the kids happy, and a basic first aid kit.  Books, some coloring-in books and crayons, and an assortment of books on tape.

Additional Recommended Kit Elements
Bog standard first aid kits of the sort you can obtain from military surplus and camping stores will be sufficient and as long as they remain sealed you can stow them in the boot of your car and not have to think overmuch about them.

Most of the items that you include in your kits are common-sense elements whose function is to either make you safer or more comfortable, but there are elements that you cannot put inside your kits, you have to bring them yourself, and at the top of that list is self-confidence and common sense.

Staying safe during emergency situations is always a paramount concern, and the health and safety of yourself and your family should be your primary concern.  Even under the worse conditions imaginable when you have set aside the core elements and compliment them by obtaining the proper training and skills, the situations in which you need your kits should end up being little more than uncomfortable and hopefully brief interruptions in the conveniences of modern life.

One of my favorite recreational activities is reading detective novels and mysteries from the previous century --and when a book also happens to include Cape Cod as its setting that is all bonus as far as I am concerned! -- and my relatives know this and do what they can to help me by bringing me interesting books to read.  My wife's mother is a librarian in Greenwich, and so enjoys the enviable (to me) position of having the choice of any books that are sold as overstock or donations to the library that are not needed for the shelves and lending collection.  The librarians get first-choice to purchase the books in that category, and the result of that is a steady stream of great adventures that result from her thoughtful consideration of my reading preferences -- thanks Mom!

During their monthly visit this weekend among the literary treasures that were packed into the bag of books that Mom brought me to read was a paperback by Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Death Lights a Candle, which is one of the books in the Asey Mayo Cape Cod Mystery Series -- which is totally new to me, this being the first title I have read in the series or by the author...  Originally published in 1932, the series encompasses 22 books that span the Cape and its small towns, all of which feature the unique settings and characters for which it seems they are rightly renown.  

So far my happy place with respect to 1930's fiction of the sort was largely restricted to the Nero Wolfe series, so this is all bonus as far as I am concerned, but I bring this all up because the first part of the story in Death Lights a Candle relates the experiences of the central characters who are snowed-in during an unexpected severe weather emergency, with the author going into some detail with respect to the emergency preparation kits that they had available to them, which illustrates for me just how fortunate we are to be living in the times that we live in  -- with the Internet, green alternative power like solar and wind energy, and all of the modern conveniences of  miracle drugs and reliable packaged foods.

Count your blessings -- but be sure to include a few books like Death Lights a Candle in your kits so that you have some entertainment with which to keep your mind and imaginations occupied during your time without power...  Just saying...

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