Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Food

If your area was hit by a disaster today, do you have enough food to survive for three days?

Remember, the power is out. The food in the fridge is starting to get warm. Electric stoves, microwave ovens, and electric can openers are useless. Natural gas is usually a little more reliable (as a source for your gas stove and gas water heater), but let's not count on it. You have no running water.

What'll you eat?

This is why it's important to think ahead and have a few extra supplies on hand, especially if your area is prone to disasters during a certain time of year, like Hurricane Season.

Here's what I have in my cupboard right now:
  • 5 cans of potted meat
  • 5 cans of chunk chicken
  • 1 can of Vienna sausages
  • 1 Clif Bar
  • half a bag of tortilla chips
  • half a bag of Baked Lay's
  • a partial can of Planter's Mixed Nuts that have been in the pantry for a long time. Do nuts go bad?
  • ditto a half a box of Girl Scout Cookies, which are still sealed in their individual portion bag.

We won't starve, but it would get pretty boring after the first couple of meals. Especially if the mayo and other condiments go bad. As we get closer to Hurricane Season, we'll start increasing the variety of non-perishable foods we have on hand.

A SHOPPING LIST
  • Ready-to-eat canned fruit or fruit cups. Don't buy the jumbo-sized cans unless you're feeding a very large family or sharing with the whole neighborhood.
  • Dried fruits - sometimes shelved in the produce section, sometimes in the baking aisle.
  • Nuts - eat alone or make trail mix with nuts and dried fruit. Avoid pre-made trail mixes that are spicy (make you thirstier) or have candy in them (easily melts without air conditioning).
  • Compressed food bars or granola bars.
  • Whole grain cereals such as oatmeal and low-fat granola. Can be eaten dry if you don't have shelf-stable milk.
  • Canned vegetables - I grew up eating green beans straight out of the can. Whole kernel corn and some kinds of beans are often included in cold salads.
  • Dried meat products like jerky.
  • Canned fish and meat.
  • Peanut butter - read labels and look for one that doesn't require refrigeration after opening.
  • Whole grain crackers - These are good replacements for bread.
  • Shelf stable milk that doesn't require refrigeration - I've seen Parmalat on the shelf at Sam's Club, and Bordon's and Hershey are among the companies that also make shelf stable milk products.
  • Fruit juices in single-serve cans, bottles, boxes, or foil packs.
  • Electrolyte drinks, such as Smart Water, Gatorade or Powerade.
  • Snack-packs of pudding or Jel-lo.
  • MREs and Heater Meals - Meals Ready to Eat are used by the armed forces and are typically distributed by the National Guard after a disaster. They include a just-add-water chemical heater for your main course, so you can get a hot meal in minutes without utilities. MREs and the civilian version, referred to as Heater Meals, are available through camping supply stores and internet retailers.
    WARNING: Each MRE pack contains enough calories and protein to keep a muscular and physically fit serviceman or woman going for hours as they burn thousands of calories lugging heavy packs and weapons for miles in a war situation. A normal person can make three meals out of one box. Seriously.
DON'T FORGET YOUR PETS


I should mention that we have about 15 cans of regular cat food and about a dozen cans of Indy's diabetic cat food, plus a partial bag of their dry food. It's important to plan ahead for your pets, too.

AVOID THE "PANIC SHOP"

You don't have to break the bank and buy $500 worth of food when a disaster is imminent. Make out a three-day menu based on the size of your family and buy a few items every week. Be aware of the expiration dates (canned goods will often last for over a year), and once you're stocked up, just rotate the older items out as part of your regular meals and replace them with new products. This way, you can take advantage of sales and coupons, you're spreading out your cost over time, and you're avoiding the "panic shop." That's when you're maneuvering your cart through crowded aisles, searching increasingly bare shelves and buying everything you can lay your hands on without thought of how it will fit your family's needs.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Stock Your Emergency Kit


A couple of years ago, I won an Ice-Qube emergency kit in a blog giveaway. It's a little box that contains all sorts of useful stuff, from a rain poncho to a water bag to rubber gloves.

I've never needed to use anything out of it, thank goodness, and I decided to look through it today and see if I could find some things that I don't need, because I already have them outside the kit. I picked out a couple of items, and I'm going to give them away to someone who can use them.

This handy device will help you stay informed and brighten your way when the power is out.

It's a Flashlight with 5 superbright LED bulbs. You can turn it on full or you can choose a lower light option, which is great if you're looking for something at night and everyone else is sleeping and you're trying not to disturb them. It also conserves battery power.

But that's not all!

It's also an AM/FM Radio, so you can tune in to local emergency coverage and weather updates. After a disaster, you need a way to get information. You'll need to know about curfews; debris pick-up; where and when you can get ice, water and food; the status of utility services; who to call if you need help; and so much more. You'll be able to get that from local radio stations.

But wait, there's more!

It has an Emergency Siren to help rescue workers or neighbors find you if you're trapped. Of course, you have to have the device with you at the time that you get trapped. It's fairly small and will fit in the pocket of a raincoat or housecoat. It also comes with a wrist strap, in case your hands are full.

The best part is, it doesn't need batteries! Everything is powered by a Dynamo Charger. Wind it for just one minute, and you'll get a half-hour of flashlight time (according to the package), and probably 5-10 minutes of radio time. Will your arm get tired? Probably, but it's better than sitting around in the dark because your batteries are dead. 

The other part of this giveaway is a Multitool. It has a knife blade, can opener, bottle opener, Phillips-head screwdriver, flat-head screwdriver, ruler/file/saw, pliers/wirecutter, and a couple of other things that I'm not sure what they are. I think it has at least 13 functions, and it comes with a case that has a belt loop on the back.

This is great to have in a disaster kit. Here are some examples of how you could use this multitool:
  • open your canned goods at mealtime;
  • cut rope when you're tying down tarps;
  • open screw-down battery covers on radio or lantern.

I have a really good battery-operated radio, rechargeable batteries, and a gas generator, so I don't really need another radio, although the siren and the fact that it charges by dynamo did make me think twice before offering it up. My husband has a ton of tools, including a multitool or two, and I have a Swiss Army Knife, so we're covered in that respect. I should mention that I received no compensation or incentive to host this giveaway.

Now's your chance to win both of these really useful items.

FIRST ENTRY:  Leave a comment here explaining why you would like to add these items to your disaster kit.

Please be sure that I have a way to contact you, in case you're the winner. The form asks for your email address, but that's just for logging into Blogger; I can't see it. Be sure that your Blogger profile shows your email or include your email addy with your comment.

EXTRA ENTRIES: For each item you complete, leave another comment here and be sure to include a link to your comments and tweets.


*follow this blog on Google Friend Connect (+1)
*leave a relevant comment on any non-giveaway post on this blog (+1)
*follow Auriette on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway (+1)

You can earn a maximum of four entries per household. Eligible comments must be made no later than 11:59pm ET on Friday, April 8, 2011. Entrants must be 18 or older, with shipping addresses in the United States or military APO/FPO addresses. One winner will be selected by random drawing no later than Sunday April 10 and notified by email. Winner must respond to the email with mailing address within 72 hours or another winner will be selected.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Keeping Things Clean

Keep an eye on this blog for a chance to win a new sanitizing product. The makers of Prefense say their foaming hand sanitizer won't dry out your hands like alcohol-based sanitizer products can. It also helps shield you against germs longer than most other hand sanitizers.

The company is sending me a small bottle of Prefense to try, and I'll post my review here. They're also giving one of my readers the chance to win a large bottle of Prefense. I'm really excited to offer you the chance, because this sounds like a wonderful product to have in a disaster kit.

Disasters can be very messy. Think about it -- hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires, they can leave behind a lot of damage that you have to clean up. They can also knock out the water supply and electric power that can be instrumental in keeping clean and germ-free.

One of the company founders, David Reusswig described Prefense as "an invisible glove" because it lasts for hours, reducing your risk of getting sick or developing an infection as well as eliminating the need for constant reapplication.

Can you tell I'm excited to try it out? Keep watching for my review and the chance to win your own bottle of Prefense!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Water

We're just a few weeks away from the start of the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Week by week, I'll be covering one or two of the supplies coastal residents should have on hand, just in case. If you follow along, by the time the season begins, you'll be mostly prepared. If a storm does head your way, you'll be ahead of the game and can easily handle all the last-minute details.

Our first topic is WATER, for drinking, washing and flushing.

I've been through a number of hurricanes, and only once was there any serious widespread issue with plumbing. Let's consider some of the reasons why your tap water may be unsafe or unavailable for use.
  • During a hurricane, trees may be uprooted; the high winds may even spin the tree around in the ground. If tree roots run anywhere near the water line, the line could be breached.
  • Flooding and overloaded drainage systems could cause problems.
  • Electrical power outages may affect sewage lift stations and water pumping and purification operations.
If you have any doubt about the safety of the water coming out of your tap during or after a storm, do not drink it!

SAFE DRINKING WATER

The federal government and many other emergency response agencies recommend keeping bottled water on hand for an emergency. The rule is one gallon per person per day, and you should be prepared to live for three days without any assistance.

3 Gallons Per Person/Pet Per Day

So, you need 3 gallons of water per person in your household. Add 3 gallons per pet as well. You may need more if anyone in your household has a medical condition that requires they drink more than average, if you have a really big dog or a horse, or if you have non-perishable food that calls for adding water.

Depending on where you shop, you can get drinking water (purified, distilled, drinking water, spring water) for 75 cents to a dollar per gallon. There are 128 ounces in a gallon, so here's how it breaks down (roughly) for a few common sizes of bottled water.

20-ounce bottles = 7 per person/pet per day
16-ounce bottles = 8 per person/pet per day
8-ounce bottles = 16 per person/pet per day
1 Liter bottles = 4 per person/pet per day
half-liter = 8 per person/pet per day

If money is a concern for you, remember:

You don't have to buy all that bottled water as long as you have clean, sealed, human-consumption containers to store the water.

Maybe you have something that you use for camping or sporting events. That big Gatorade-orange cooler/dispenser can be thoroughly cleaned and filled with water from your tap before the storm hits.

If you buy juice or tea by the gallon, wash the containers and fill them with water. You might need to let them sit with baking soda in them for a while to get out residual scents from the original drink.

Do you have plastic water bottles that you use when you're out walking or that you take with you to work/school? Use them, too.

Be creative. Just make sure that all those small containers add up to:

3 Gallons Per Person/Pet Per Day

WASHING AND FLUSHING

You'll want to wash up in the days after the storm. You'll be out picking up limbs and trash in your yard. You may be repairing damage. It's summer, so it's usually really hot. You'll sweat. You will want to be able to wash your hands and bathe a little.

This is why we fill our bathtubs with water before a hurricane.

I don't remember who it was, but I still laugh at the person who, in an article or a blog or something, was ridiculing the practice. She wanted to know what good it would do to fill a bathtub with water.

This is the water that you'll use to wash hands or take a sponge bath, rinse dishes (if you're not using disposable), and flush the toilet if pressure is low (more on that later). Keep the bathroom door closed to keep pets and small children out of the water.

You could use the water for drinking or cooking, in a pinch. Be sure to purify by boiling or adding bleach - add 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach per gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. I wouldn't recommend tub water for drinking, but it's better than nothing.

After Hurricane Ivan, when the waterfront sewage treatment facility was flooded and damaged, and with many damaged or flooded drain lines throughout the county, water pressure was practically non-existent. In addition, county officials requested that no one flush their toilets to back up the already overloaded system. Once they okayed flushing again, the pressure was still really low. You'll need extra water for flushing the toilet.

It takes about a gallon of water to flush. Don't open your tank and pour it in, though. One gallon won't do it that way. Slowly pour the water directly into the bowl. When it reaches a certain level in the bowl, the toilet automatically flushes. Cool, huh?

SOURCES OF WATER

Three or four days after the storm, the National Guard, various relief organizations, and some businesses will provide free ice and bottled water. You usually have to go pick it up. There will be a line. At some point, the supply will run out. It is, however, a source of ice and water. Stay tuned to local information sources (primarily radio) for times and locations.

Unless you have a tankless water heater, you have a source of water. The tanks usually have a faucet on the outside, so it can be drained for cleaning or replacement. Be sure to turn your water heater off before draining! You don't want it trying to heat an empty tank, and you don't want it to fill with contaminated water, especially if you're using it a gallon or two at a time. As long as the tank filled before the storm, it's clean and safe.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you have a family of four and two average-sized pets, you need 18 gallons of drinking water on hand if a storm strikes. This can be water you collect in containers you already have or bottles that you buy. You should be able to purchase this quantity for $18 or less.

You will also need water for washing your hands, bathing, rinsing dishes, and flushing the toilet. Fill your bathtub or collect tap water in containers.

Store purchased water in a dark place, such as under the sink, pantry, closet or linen cabinet. If you use bottled water regularly, rotate older bottles out and new bottles in throughout the season. Wait to fill your own containers until a storm is brewing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Buy an Emergency Kit and Help People in Japan

Now's a great time to prepare for a disaster.

Why now?

If not now, when? Don't put it off until a catastrophe is imminent.

Here's a little extra incentive:

Ready Set Go Kits is an online store specializing in ready-made emergency preparedness kits. They have kits for several different types of disasters - hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, etc. - plus special kits for children, pets, and workplaces.

I compared the earthquake kit for 1 person and the hurricane kit for 1 person. They contain exactly the same things. I'm not surprised. The basics of an emergency kit are pretty much the same, whether you're facing a natural disaster or a man-made event. I suppose some people wouldn't buy a generic "disaster survival kit" where they might buy one that's supposedly specific to the kind of disaster most likely to hit their area.

The dog and cat kits are also pretty similar. The dogs get a bonus of 2 chew sticks. I assume that the included food would be specific to a dog or a cat and not just "pet food."

You can buy all these things separately, and it may even be a better deal to do so, depending on what's included (are they plastic bandage strips or flexible fabric, for example). What's great about these kits is they save you time. Click on the buy button, and when the package arrives, you just put it in your hall closet or wherever you'll remember to look for it, and you're done for at least a year. Some of the items, like the boxes of water, have a 5-year shelf life, but eventually you will have to replace the food, water and batteries.

You may be wondering how all this can help people in Japan or maybe you think I'm going to suggest buying a kit and having it sent to the tsunami zone. Not at all. Just buy yourself an emergency kit in March 2011, and 10% of the purchase price will be donated to the Red Cross for disaster relief in Japan. Simple, huh?

If you don't have an emergency kit, do yourself and the tsunami victims a favor and order from Ready Set Go today.

In case you're wondering, I receive no compensation for this post. I read about the kids and the donation to Japanese disaster relief, and I thought it was appropriate for this blog.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Disaster preparedness must be a priority!

Have you seen the photos and video from Japan? Have you heard about the millions of dollars in damages in Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast?

What would you do if you had 30 seconds warning that disaster was about to strike?

Let's look at the disasters that have unfolded over the past few days:
  • Earthquakes: more than one, plus violent aftershocks
  • Tsunami: Affecting at least two continents
  • Nuclear Plant Explosions: Radiation dangers plus the threat of a meltdown
  • Freezing Temperatures: Japan is experiencing winter weather while millions are without power
  • Fire: Damaged infrastructures are causing fires and explosions
Any one of these situations is bad enough on its own. Together, they are catastrophic.

I haven't thought much about tsunamis where I live, but take a look at the map. I live inside the area marked in orange. As you can see, we're surrounded on three sides by large bodies of water. I never realized how close our home is to the bays and bayous.

A visit to the U.S. Geological Survey website shows me that a 5.8 quake occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in September 2006. It was centered several hundred miles south southeast of my home. This past weekend, a small quake took place in Alabama, about 300 miles north of where I live.

All those little spots on the map at right are the epicenters of earthquakes over the past week. You can see the cluster of events in California and Alaska. Wow. Visit the USGS site for updated information on recent seismic activity and for historic reports on your state. Every state has had at least one quake reported. It may have been a hundred years since the last one, but the history is there.

The world seems so uncertain right now. We have economic problems, civil unrest, religious strife, and so many disasters, both natural and man-made.

Take the time to prepare for the worst. If you never need to use your emergency supplies or the map of your evacuation route, great. Terrific. But which would be worst: preparing a disaster plan and emergency kit and never needing it or finding yourself in the midst of a calamity with no supplies, no plan, and no idea where you can get help?

I'd rather be prepared than unprepared. Wouldn't you?