The Price of Preparing for a Disaster
If you’re not prepared to face an emergency or natural disaster, you’re not alone. Over 60 percent of Americans aren’t ready either, according to a survey released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But whether you’re facing the wrath of Mother Nature or huddling in a fallout shelter, your chances of survival increase exponentially if you keep your wits about you, have a plan in place, and aren’t scrambling to locate emergency supplies.
Just ask Lisa Bedford, author of Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios. Bedford lives in an area directly affected by Hurricane Harvey. “It was nerve-wracking because the flood waters were getting closer and closer,” she said of the storm and its aftermath. But even though Harvey was her first hurricane, she was able to keep a relatively cool head thanks to advanced planning.
“In the days and hours leading up to it, I couldn’t think of anything [else] to do,” she admits. But like her neighbors, she rushed to the grocery store anyway. Her foray into the local supermarket was eye-opening, most of the shelves were already empty. It would have been more dismaying to her, “But I didn’t have to be there,” said Bedford, who was already well stocked at home. “Just to know that you aren’t part of the panicked horde is a good thing.”
To achieve this Zen-like state, Bedford recommends getting into the right mindset well before crisis mode kicks in. Take a deep breath, she suggests, and plan the basics first. Start small. Think about everything you may need for a seven-day period (government agencies generally advise a three-day period, but better safe than sorry!), focus especially on any special-needs family members or pets.
And don’t forget your health. Daisy Luther, also known as the Organic Prepper and author of The Prepper's Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource, points out that in times of crisis you will need all the energy you can muster, and healthy food is an important asset.
“A lot of people are stocking up on horrible processed food and thinking that they are going to ride out the apocalypse on that,” says Luther. “But it's not going to provide them with the energy that they need and they are going to end up feeling like crap.”
Having clean water or a way to purify an existing water source is also one of the most important things you can do. “If a disaster won’t get you, bad water will,” she says.
In any case, it’s important to be proactive in dealing with an emergency situation. “No matter what your situation is, you need to be able to handle things on your own,” says Luther. “The only person you can 100 percent rely on is yourself. Bedford agrees: “Assume no help is coming.”
While maintaining your own supplies is relatively simple and affordable, you can purchase 3-day emergency preparedness kits online for around $100. For the DIYers, the following are lists of recommended supplies to help you deal with specific disasters.
For a basic emergency kit, the Department of Homeland Security suggests the following, sorted in individual plastic bags, then grouped together into a couple of easy-to-carry bags or containers, and stored in a cool, dry place:
● Water — One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation.
Price: about $3 per person
● Food — At least a three-day supply of non-perishable/shelf-stable food (make sure you check your food regularly for expiration dates).
Price: You can buy pricey emergency ration kits online, or you can stock up on inexpensive basics like nut butter ($5-$10 for a 40-ounce jar), jerky ($5 a package), granola bars ($3-$5 a box), dried fruit ($6-$10 a pound), canned vegetables, fruits, and soups ($0.50-$3 a can), and powdered milk ($1-$4 a package). Just remember, for three days you’re ideally providing 9 meals and 6 snacks per person.
● Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
Price: Battery powered radio: $14-$75
Hand-crank radio: $16-$90
NOAA Weather Radio: $25-$60
● First aid kit
● Extra batteries
Price: Varies on your needs, but generally $2-$10 for a package of standard batteries
● Whistle to signal for help
● Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
Price: towelettes: $3-$10
Garbage bags: $5-$10 a box
Plastic ties: $2-$7
● Manual can opener for food
● Local maps
Price: $8-$20 for an atlas (your state, county, or city may also offer regional paper maps for free upon request)
● Cell phone with chargers and a portable charger
Price: Special emergency cell phone: $10-$120
portable chargers: $11-$50
Honorable Mention: If you’re into essential oils as a natural tool against germs and diseases, make sure to add tea tree oil in your first aid kit. Tea tree oil is known for its antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, and insecticide components. Remember, a little goes a long way.
Price: $10-$40 for a 4 oz. bottle
The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention recommends people not only create a comprehensive medical kit, but also prepare kits for their home, car, and workplace. The following comprises their home earthquake kit, which is also a good guide for tornado preparedness:
● Axe, broom
Price: Axe: $5-$40
● Screwdriver, pliers, hammer, adjustable wrench
Price: $17-$25 for a basic tool kit
● Rope for towing or rescue
● Plastic sheeting and tape
Price: Plastic sheeting: $6-$30
Duct tape: $1-$5
● Sturdy shoes that can provide protection from broken glass, nails, and other debris
Price: $30-$50 for basic work boots
● Gloves (heavy and durable for cleaning up debris)
Price: $2-$15 for basic work gloves
● Waterproof matches
● Change of clothing
● Garden hose (for siphoning and firefighting)
● Recreational supplies for children and adults
● Blankets or sleeping bags
Price: Blanket: $10-$30
Sleeping bag: $15-$30
● Portable radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
Price: Battery powered radio: $14-$75
Extra batteries: varies on your needs, but generally $2-$10 for a package of standard batteries
● Essential medications and eyeglasses
● Fire extinguisher — Make sure it’s a multipurpose, dry-chemical type.
Price: $15-$40 for a 2 lb. or 5 lb.
● Food and water for pets
● Toilet tissue
Price: $2-$4 for a package of 4
Price: $100 is generally considered a good amount.
Honorable Mention: If you’re faced with pile of rubble and tasked with a rescue effort, a shovel could be essential.
Price: $7 to $60
We’re not trying to alarm you, but if Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump’s dynamic is weighing on you anyway, there are worse ways to work through your anxiety than preparing for the aftereffects of a nuclear conflict. At a minimum, aim to bring a three-day supply of any or all of the above-mentioned essential items, including your portable radio, to a fallout shelter or other safe space. Some sources say survivors should stay sheltered for at least 48 hours to avoid radiation exposure. Ready.gov recommends planning to stay sheltered for two weeks.
Here’s hoping that cooler heads prevail, but if circumstances heat up here’s what else you’d need to combat the impending doom and gloom:
● Eye protection (UV sunglasses or safety goggles)
Price: Sunglasses: $10-$40
Safety glasses: $1 - $7
Lots of extra clothing — Make sure you’re able to cover all extremities, think scarves, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, hats, etc.…
● Radiation Detector
N95 Mask — These are more hardcore than a standard surgical mask, but still affordable
● Puzzles, books, magazines, board games
● Wine — Because you if you’ve come this far, you at least deserve a glass of wine.
Price: Varies, but make it a good one.
Honorable Mention: Sometimes extreme times call for extreme measures, people. Consider adding a hazmat to your arsenal, which can provide protection from radiation and pandemics. Price: $150-$1,240