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Hollywood seems delighted to scare us with the doom and gloom of far-fetched disaster films. And we seem to enjoy them, if box office numbers are any indication. Films like Armageddon, which pitted Earth against a possible asteroid strike, Dante’s Peak, which dealt with a fictional volcano eruption, Twister, which detailed the misadventures of some made-up storm chasers in Tornado Alley, and San Andreas, which provided an imaginary account of a massive earthquake in California, have terrified and delighted millions of viewers all over the globe. In fact, these movies grossed $665 million in the United States alone, which would certainly suggest that we have a fascination with the possibility and consequences of natural disasters.
While Hollywood has entertained us with extreme (and unlikely) scenarios for some time now, the reality is that we are likely going to face some type of natural or man-made disaster at some point in our lives.
While Hollywood has entertained us with extreme (and unlikely) scenarios for some time now, the reality is that we are likely going to face some type of natural or man-made disaster at some point in our lives. Depending on the geographic region in which you live, you’re likely going to encounter a hurricane, a tornado, flood, wildfire, ice storm, or earthquake at some point. Even without any natural interference, extended and rolling blackouts have plagued parts of the country from time to time, interrupting the food supply in some areas, due to a lack of refrigeration. These events can range from minor inconveniences to major calamities affecting large areas.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently launched www.ready.gov to help people be prepared for any emergency that may arise. To help raise awareness, the agency has dubbed September “National Preparedness Month.” But what is “Preparedness?” It is about evaluating and planning for these potentially life-threatening situations before they occur. Being prepared doesn’t mean you need to change your lifestyle. It’s about making a plan for potential issues you could likely encounter at some time in the future, and having a few basic supplies on hand to aid you in that event.
Where you live plays a major role in the type of emergency for which you are preparing. Most of us have seen one or more of these events in our past, so you have an idea of what you can be up against. Hopefully, you gleaned some insight from those occurrences that you can apply toward future events to help yourself and your loved ones through a potential tragedy. Being prepared is taking the lessons learned from these experiences and applying them to future similar catastrophes. Taking the time now to plan and organize basic supplies on hand can make life a lot easier when the need arises.
So what are the most probable “events” for which you should be prepared?
Structural Failures (building collapses)
The question to ask is: What are the basic things I’m going to need, or want, in a preparedness kit?
There are the obvious necessities like water, shelter, and food. The human body can only go about three days without water before life-threatening dehydration begins to set in. And in some extreme environments, it’s only hours. People often overlook shelter as a necessity but in temperature extremes of hot or cold, the human body can reach irreversible hypothermia or hyperthermia in as little as three hours, on average, and sometimes even less. While not as high of a consideration as the other two, most people can only go about three weeks without food for sustenance; after that it can become a medical emergency. Those are the bare minimums for survival. There are also some items that you might not normally think of that could make things easier to cope with in an emergency.
Communication can be crucial in the event of an emergency. Most of us have some sort of cellular device on us at all times, so we are more connected now than we ever were before. However, those devices require batteries to operate; and batteries must be recharged, which may not be possible if something interrupts the power grid. Having a way to extend the working life of these devices is always a great idea. A USB charging device like the Juicebar Hurricane Travel Charger has the ability to charge both smartphones and tablets, extending your ability to communicate, or just keep your kids entertained during an extended blackout.
Being prepared doesn’t mean you need to change your lifestyle. It’s about making a plan for potential issues you could likely encounter at some time in the future, and having a few basic supplies on hand to aid you in that event.
Cell phones rely on a complicated wired- and wireless-network infrastructure, which can fail. In addition, the telephone network is usually overwhelmed in an emergency, and should be kept free for emergency services to use. In times like this it is best to send only a text message to anyone you need to communicate with, as this puts a much smaller burden on the phone network. Another way to stay in contact with your loved ones is with a two-way radio. Models like the Midland LXT118VP are simple to use, and feature multiple channels to help you establish a clear line of communication. While these do have range limitations, they can be invaluable in an emergency situation.
The ability to receive news and alerts is also very important. The authorities often transmit instructions on commercial FM radio frequencies. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, commonly referred to as the NOAA, is responsible for issuing weather alerts across the United States. For these reasons, a valuable communication device you would want to have is a good AM/FM/Weather Radio, capable of picking up NOAA signals. Many models, such as the Eton FRX1, come equipped with a hand crank that can be used to power itself so you don’t need to worry about batteries. Having contact with the outside world can be very assuring in emergencies, and can provide a welcome distraction.
One of the first things that we can count on after any disaster is, at some point, the sun will set and it will get dark. You’re going to need a way to avoid potential hazards or simply signal to others. A flashlight is an essential part of any preparedness kit. Today, there are many models that are small, powerful, and have substantially longer run times than the flashlights of just a few years ago. Models like the NITECORE EA21 Explorer LED Flashlight have variable power outputs of up to 360 lumens and a run time of up to 30 hours on the lowest setting. Mankind has an inherent fear of the dark; help resist that with a quality light.
You’re probably going to have to travel at some point after an emergency, maybe just locally, but potentially much farther. While you might be very familiar with the area you’re traversing, in an emergency situation your usual route may be blocked or impassable. Washed-out roads, disabled bridges, or downed power lines and trees can make forward progress difficult. For these reasons, I’d suggest having a compass, like the Brunton 9077, and a map of your local region. You should become familiar with it and have a few alternative escape routes planned ahead of time.
The last item I will cover is the most important. During an emergency, even a minor injury can become a big deal. Many times the authorities are overwhelmed and are spread too thinly to help everyone. In situations like this, it is imperative that you have the ability to clean and dress your own wounds properly. Even the most minor wound can easily become infected and cause life-threatening complications in post-disaster environments. Kits such as the Ultralight & Watertight .7 contain a fair number of supplies to handle simple injuries and don’t take up a lot of space. Aside from the materials themselves, the knowledge to use that kit effectively is extremely important. It is highly recommended that you look into taking—at least—a basic first-aid course.
You should now have a general idea of what you might want to include in an emergency preparedness kit. These kits are fairly easy to assemble yourself, but there are plenty of pre-made kits available on the market, as well. These range in scope from simple kits intended to get apartment dwellers through a few hours without power to more comprehensive models designed with longer intervals in mind, with more people involved. We have put together a selection of kits that range from very basic to more complex.
Our Basic Blackout Preparedness Kit is intended to help get one person through short-duration blackouts. Included is a (1) Mini Maglight Flashlight with spare (2) Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries to help you maneuver safely in the dark. An (3) Aluratek Portable Battery Charger keeps your smartphone powered when the grid goes down. To help stave off hypothermia, if the heat goes out, a (4) Survival Blanket is included. It comes with a (5) Dri-Sak Waterproof Bag to keep everything contained and protected until it is needed. The waterproof pouch also doubles as way to transport water if the need arises.
Moving up in complexity is the Basic Preparedness Kit, intended to help get two people through a 24-hour emergency. This is a more complete kit, notably adding an (1) Eaton FRX1 Radio with NOAA capabilities to help keep you informed. The battery charger is upgraded to the (2) Juicebar Hurricane Travel Charger, as well as the flashlight, which was changed to the (3) Pelican 2350. A set of (4) Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries provide power. An additional (5) Survival Blanket keeps another person warm. A (6) Brunton 9077 Lensatic Sighting Compass is included to help with navigation. A (7) Gerber Diesel Multi-Plier helps you perform repairs if needed. The first aid kit, (8) Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight & Watertight .5, helps deal with injuries, should any arise. A pair of (9) Bear Grylls Survival Paracord Bracelets is included, due to the usefulness of cordage, and they contain a whistle for emergency signaling. A pair of Nalgene Wide Mouth Water Bottles lets you take water with you on the go. Again, a (10) Dri-Sak Waterproof Bag keeps everything contained.
The 72-Hour Basic Preparedness Kit offers many improvements, though it is still designed with two people in mind. Building on all of the equipment in the 24-hour model, it contains many added extras. (1) The Brunton 9077 Lensatic Sighting Compass, (2) Juicebar Hurricane Travel Charger, (3) Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries, and (4) Gerber Diesel Multi-Plier remain. The flashlight has been upgraded once again, to the (5) NITECORE EA 21 Explorer LED model, with greater output. The survival blankets have been exchanged for (6) Thermal Bivvies’ for better protection against the elements. In addition to the (7) Eaton FRX1 AM/FM/Weather Band Radio, two-way communication is added with the inclusion of a set of (8) Midland LXT118VP Radios. A set of three Nalgene Wide-Mouth Water Bottles adds to your hydration capabilities, and a 12-pack of (9) Clif Energy Bars provides nourishment. In case there is an injury, the (10) Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight & Watertight .7 First Aid Kit will help you patch things up and a pair of (11) Bear Grylls Survival Paracord Bracelets is placed in the kit due to their general usefulness and the fact that they contain a whistle for signaling help. On top of all this, a (12) Bear Grylls Survival Series Fire Starter will be incredibly useful in a pinch for getting a fire going and roaring for warmth and cooking. Finally, a (13) Dri-Sack Waterproof Bag is bundled to hold everything you are receiving in this kit.
The most important thing to do when you get your kit is to familiarize yourself with the contents and know how to use them properly, as during an emergency there is no time to “learn” how something works for the first time. Another very important consideration is that your kit be kept in a safe and easy to access location. Make sure that family members also know where that location is and that they can all access it in an emergency. Remember, whether you buy a pre-made kit or make it yourself, having any kit is better than not having one at all. If you want to make your own, or supplement your existing kit, we have some helpful suggestions listed here.
Disasters happen. It is a fact of life. If you search recent memory, you will quickly come up with a number of examples. Some of these events have effects that linger to this day. Whether you blame global warming, plate tectonics, or the butterfly effect, these unfortunate occasions will continue to happen. Planning for them can help make the effects on yourself and your loved ones much less significant, and in some cases, maybe even help save a life.