By Rob K12
Disaster can strike at any time of year, and you may find yourself in an emergency situation. Your home is your first line of defense against catastrophic events. There are ways to prepare your home to protect you and your family. Keeping the “Priorities of Survival” in mind, here are ways to ensure that all of you will maintain as many comforts of home as you can until normalcy is restored. View our Home Preparedness Checklist.
The Safe Room
Develop a plan before an emergency situation arises. Find a “safe room” within the house that will provide you safety and security. A storm shelter or basement is best, but if you do not have those options, find a room on the lowest level of your house that doesn’t have windows or has only a few. Securing boards on the outside of windows will give you more protection from flying debris. Minimize the amount of possible flying debris by tying down or storing indoors all outside furniture, toys, umbrellas, and anything else that might potentially become a dangerous projectile.
The Emergency Kit
Assemble an emergency kit that contains survival essentials, and store it in a waterproof container, such as a plastic tote, in the safe room or other easily accessible area. The kit should be equipped with items to sustain everyone likely to be at your house for a minimum of 72 hours.
Include a first aid kit and any medications you require. Some first aid kits contain gels, creams, and ointments that have expiration dates. Periodically check your first aid kit to ensure none of the supplies have expired. Include toilet paper, anti-bacterial wipes, and plenty of hand sanitizer. Practicing good personal hygiene during an emergency will help prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and viruses that cause illness.
Your kit should contain enough water to provide a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person per day. Emergency situations demand more activity, so you’ll need to stay hydrated. If you have warning of a possible emergency, you can fill your bathtub and every container in your house to increase your water supply.
Two methods of purifying non-potable water are boiling and bleach. Bring untreated water to a rolling boil for 5 minutes to kill all living waterborne pathogens. Cover the pot when boiling to capture all the evaporation. When using bleach to disinfect your water, make sure that it is unscented household bleach. Place 2-4 drops of bleach per quart of clear and temperate water. Shake the container, loosen the cap and turn upside down to let water run over the threads, and then let it sit for 30-45 minutes. After the 30-45 minutes, the water should still smell like bleach. If it doesn’t, then repeat the process.
Look for other water sources around your house, such as streams, ponds, creeks, reservoirs, and swimming pools. Use swimming pools for bathing, not drinking. Installing rain barrels on your gutter system is an excellent alternative means of water collection. Check with your local water authority for any regulations.
There are many freeze-dried emergency food options that have a long shelf life. Stock up on food you would normally eat. Eat the food in your refrigerator first. When the refrigerator temperature goes above 40 degrees F for over two hours, perishable food will spoil and should be discarded. If cooking is required and you have a barbeque grill, light it up! Camping stoves are also a great way to improve your situation. Just use the grill and camping stoves outside the house.
Using paper dishware will minimize washing dishes to help conserve needed water for drinking. Another benefit of using paper is that you can burn it in a fireplace for heat.
Lighting & Communication
Emergency lighting, flashlights, extra batteries, and candles all need to be in your kit. A wind-up emergency light-and-radio combo device will also provide you with information from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In a pinch, an alternate method of providing light to use vegetable oil in a flameproof container, such as a tuna can, with a wick. The wick can be made from cotton string or a piece of twisted paper towel. Solar charging devices would be a bonus to keep your electronic devices running.
Have a communication plan with your loved ones. Cell phone coverage may be spotty or non-existent. It takes less bandwidth to send a text message than it does to make a voice call. Texting should be your primary means of communication. Set up designated times to communicate with each other, then leave the phones off the rest of the time to conserve battery life.
Other Important Items
Have cash in small bills available. Just because you lost power doesn’t necessarily mean the other side of town did too. You might have opportunity to purchase needed items, but using debit or credit cards isn’t an option. And in a true emergency situation, people may not be able to make change for a large bill.
Scan all of your important documentation onto a memory device such as a USB thumb drive, SD card, or CD, and protect that in its own waterproof container. Include documents such as birth certificates, banking information, marriage certificates, wills, Social Security cards, and other documents you feel are necessary.
Have a means of entertainment. Waiting for things to return back to normal can be long and boring. Including games, a deck of cards, and books in your kit can be a great way to pass the time, especially with kids.
Lastly, have an escape plan. Have backpacks available to transfer your emergency kit, or assemble a dedicated “bug out" bag and have it ready in case you have to evacuate your home. Obtain maps of the area and designate multiple routes to get out safely. Test the routes before you need to use them in an actual emergency situation.
Rob K12 is the owner and chief instructor at K12 Survival Solutions . He is a 20-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and has extensive experience all over the world. He is a graduate of the “C” level SERE school and earned his Wilderness First Aid certification from the Wilderness Medical Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School.