Some people call it hoarding. I just call it smart. Devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the Asian tsunami, and the catastrophic earthquake in Japan have awakened many to our vulnerabilities. Add to that a teeter-tottering housing market, jittery economic climate, and large swaths of unemployed Americans, and it’s no wonder there’s growing interest in emergency preparedness (and stocking up on emergency disaster supplies) among families.
Here are four emergency disaster supplies you should store up — hoard, if you like — to better face the unexpected:
Whether for cooking, driving or heating, a backup supply of fuel sources is a necessity (if you have a generator, you know how vital a fuel supply can be). According to the American Petroleum Institute, gasoline can be safely housed in approved containers of less than five gallons each and rotated through every few months. Gasoline should be stored in capacities of 25 gallons or less, should be stored at room temperature, away from sources of heat and ignition, and in a building separate from the house or place of occupancy. Diesel fuel is an even safer option when it comes to storage. If you have a propane-powered grill, good news: Propane is one of the easiest and safest fuels to store. A supply of seasoned wood is also a necessity if your emergency plans include the use of a fireplace, wood-burning stove or cooking over a campfire.
Emergencies and gourmet meals aren’t exactly compatible, but you can still eat well when the power goes out or grocery shelves are bare. Just store foods that do not require refrigeration: items like tuna, dried fruit, granola bars, peanut butter, jerky and vegetable juice provide energy without any preparation. Few people feel up to the challenge of cooking hearty meals when a crisis hits, so the simpler the better.
A few additional items to consider: pudding cups, seeds and nuts, packets of instant milk, and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), which can be purchased online and in emergency supply stores. By the way, if you store canned food, don’t forget to also keep at least one manual can opener at the ready!
It’s surprising how many emergencies bring power outages with them. Earthquakes, thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes are just a few ways that nature can take down power lines, plunging homes and businesses into darkness. Have a supply of flashlights (LEDs provide the longest battery life), headlamps and lanterns along with plenty of batteries.
You can also bring solar pathway lights indoors when the sun goes down. Be careful about using candles with open flames as a light source, though, especially with young children around.
The most basic of the basics, clean water becomes more precious than gold when it’s unavailable. You’ll need stored water for drinking, cooking, sanitation, bathing, and, at some point, laundry. (Yes, neither storm nor sleet nor dark of night will put off the need to do laundry for very long!)
Store plain tap water in cleaned out 2-liter soda bottles and stock up on cases of bottled water. If space allows, larger water containers can be store outdoors.
In addition to water, be sure to also have at least two ways to purify water. Unscented bleach is a good option: it takes just eight drops of bleach to purify a gallon of water, 16 drops if the water is cloudy. But be forewarned: bleach has a shelf life of just one year, and begins to lose potency after just a few months. Buy a new bottle every six months and begin using the old one for laundry and cleaning purposes.
Another easy way to purify water is to boil it, but this requires a fuel source. Plan ahead if you choose this option. A third easy alternative is a portable device that uses ultraviolet light to purify water, a system that has long been used in hospitals.
Lisa Bedford, author of Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios, also blogs at www.thesurvivalmom.com. She believes there is power and peace in being prepared.