Note: This is day 27 of National Preparedness Month . Follow this year’s campaign on Twitter by searching for the #NatlPrep hash tag.
This month, as part of NPM15, I’ll be rerunning some edited and updated older preparedness essays, along with some new ones.
There is a mistaken belief that prepping is both expensive and time consuming, and that it is of little value unless some apocalyptic event strikes without warning. But the truth is, a few simple preps can make life a lot easier even during a minor emergency.
For example, I keep about a dozen 4-gallon plastic containers filled with potable water around the house, enough to keep me and my cat going for more than a month if need be. Here in Florida, hurricanes don’t happen often, but when they do the power can be out for a week or longer.
For many people, no power = no water.
But in my case, earlier this summer my neighborhood was without running water for about 36 hours due to a pump problem. About 100 homes were affected, and while others were running to the store to buy bottled water, I was already set, and in fact, able to lend some pre-filled water containers out to neighbors.
It’s a small thing, and it involves taking a couple of hours twice a year to dump and refresh the stockpile, but it provides a lot of comfort knowing I can drink, bathe, even flush the toilet when the water is off.
Over the years my first aid kit and LED lanterns have been employed for a fair number of short term, relatively minor, emergencies as well.
Long time readers will remember that three years ago, a 30-foot limb off an oak tree landed across my roof in the middle of the night, and for number of hours I thought I might have to evacuate my home. Luckily, the roof held, and the next day several neighbors and I managed to remove the massive limb without further damage.
While my bug out bag went unused that night, I was prepared to leave quickly if need be. Other preps, including ropes, work gloves, and eye protection (when using the chain saw) came in mighty handy. I’m happy to report that my first kit remained on standby, and was never required.
Despite my penchant for preparedness, there have been a few times I’ve been caught short, and when that happens I try to learn from it, so that it won’t happen again. And eight years ago, when I was living alone for literally the first time in 3 decades, I learned an important lesson.
One night I felt a bit unwell (feverish and tired) and laid down quite early. The next 24 hours were lost in a feverish delirium as I came down with a brief, but violent, viral infection. Although the bathroom and kitchen were but a few steps away, I was too weak, and too delirious, to even fetch myself a glass of water.
My cell phone was in its charger in the living room, twenty impossible steps away, so I couldn’t call for help.
I remember laying there knowing I should be taking some acetaminophen to quell the fever and forcing fluids . . . but I was simply to weak to do so. Luckily, I recovered enough that by the next evening I was able to get up and rehydrate myself. A few days later, I almost felt human again.
This episode left me with a new understanding of the challenges facing the roughly 32 million Americans who live at home, not to mention the millions of other single adult caretakers of minor children or elderly parents. Whether we live alone by choice or by happenstance, we all share a common vulnerability.
If we get sick, or injured, there may be no one around to notice, or to help.
As a paramedic I saw a significant number of people who lived alone who either died, or spend miserable hours or even days incapacitated and unable to call for help, due to an illness or accident. Of course, I never thought it would apply to me . . . until it did.
I made some immediate changes, not the least of which was to move my cell phone charger to the nightstand beside my bed. A simple change, but one that could be lifesaving. Second, I made a simple under-the-bed flu kit . In a small plastic box, I keep:
- A couple of pouch Sports drinks (rehydration)
- A bottle of acetaminophen
- A bottle of expectorant pills
- Imodium pills
- A thermometer
- Throat lozenges
- Surgical masks for me to wear in case I have to call for help or have visitors.
As a result of this little `flu-life adventure’, I also began to promote the idea of having – and being – a `flu buddy’ in this blog. Particularly for those who either live alone, or are the sole adult caregiver in a household.
A `Flu buddy’ is simply someone you can call if you get sick, who will then check on you every day, make sure you have the medicines you need (including fetching Tamiflu if appropriate), help care for you if needed, and who can call for medical help if your condition deteriorates.
About 5 years ago, after the 2009 pandemic was ended, I reworked this `flu buddy’ idea into a more generic `Disaster buddy’ concept (see In An Emergency, Who Has Your Back? ). The idea of setting up a `mutual aid’ agreement with a friend, relative, or trusted neighbor is the same – just expanded to cover more than just an illness.
We live in uncertain times, and frankly, I can’t imagine not having a disaster buddy or two. No one likes to impose on a friend, of course. But if you’ve already established a `disaster buddy’ relationship – one that is fair and reciprocal – it shouldn’t be considered an imposition.
Now - before a disaster occurs - is the time to sit down and talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about how you will help one another during a personal or community wide crisis.
You’ll notice that none of these `tiny preps’ took much in the way of money, or time, to put together. Some, like moving my cell phone charger to the bedroom, or arraigning to have a network of disaster buddies, were essentially free.
Sure, I’ve a well stocked pantry, a couple of (really) good first aid kits, a bug out bag, some specialized gear (water filter, LED lights, NWS radio) - but my investment in preparedness is pretty minor, and I consider it cheap insurance.
While there may indeed come a time when the earth beneath your feet moves abruptly, the lights go out, or hurricane winds howl - and your survival might even depend upon your being prepared - the truth is that relatively minor, everyday emergencies are much easier to handle when you have the right knowledge, skills, and supplies.
For more on you and your family (or business) can become better prepared, you can find more than two dozen 2015 #NatlPrep posts on this blog by clicking this link.