April 14, 2011

Are You Prepared?

It's Severe Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin and wouldn't you know we had some crazy weather to get the week rolling! Today is the statewide tornado drill so your school-age kids might come home today thinking about severe weather and emergency plans.

The bottom of this post has links to both state and national sites that recommend all families have a basic emergency kit. We take emergency preparedness pretty seriously at our house and over the past couple years I've put together a decent emergency kit without spending a lot of money. A few of the items I've listed below aren't necessarily a "deal" but you can't put a price on the safety of your family!  Here are some of our basic emergency kit items:

#1 Weather Radio: This is our main weather radio. There are cheaper weather radios out there, but I like that this one could be programmed for our specific county and we could chose which alerts make an audible sound. I only want to be awakened out of sound sleep if there is something serious going on. This radio is not just for weather, it will also sound an alarm for any community issued alerts (like the need to evacuate for a chemical spill). It plugs in but has battery backup in case of power loss.

**Today is ReadyWisconsin's "Radio Ready Day" at the Green Bay Fleet Farm store on Main (9am- 8pm). They are offering weather radios on sale and there will be staff on hand to help you program them.

Until the end of April you can enter to win one of 20 weather radios from Ready Wisconsin here.
#2 Emergency Radio: We also have this smaller, more portable emergency radio. Even though this radio is small it's very multi-purpose! It tunes regular radio as well as the NOAA weather band. It has a flash light. It can also charge a cell phone. Best of all it is solar or hand-crank powered so there is no need to remember to store batteries! It won't replace a weather radio though because it won't alert you to any severe weather.

#3 Oil Lamp:  We bought ours at Walmart for under $10. They sell the oil to burn there as well. When the power goes out, this is one of our most used emergency items. Flashlights are nice, but honestly I'm cheap frugal and I hate how they drain (expensive) batteries. Candles are great but one of these little lamps can light up a room better than several candles.  If you want even more light put it in front of mirror! If you have small children you'll want to be extra careful with one of these with just as you would with candles. Don't forget to keep some water proof matches in your kit to light the wick.

#4 Water: All emergency preparedness literature suggests you have a 3-day to one week water supply on hand. How much water is that? The experts say 1 gallon per person per day is enough for drinking and hygiene. When we first started our emergency kit we just used 2 liter bottles or recycled juice containers because they were free. A really easy (but more expensive) way to do it is using these Aqua-Tainers. They each hold seven gallons. So just get one for each member of your family and you'll have a week's supply of water! You can buy them online but they are cheaper locally at camping stores. We got ours on sale at Fleet Farm for around $10 each. We try to empty and refill them at least once a year. My husband carries them up and we use them to fill the washing machine for a load of laundry, refill them, and put them back in the basement. These are not really portable since they are super heavy (well over 50 lbs.) when full! So we try to keep at least one case of bottled water in the house too.

Twice in recent years we've had friends without water due to a water main break. These containers can come in handy for a non-emergency water situation like that too! Even if your neighbors don't have water you'll still be able to flush your toilets for a few hours with these on hand. Just don't forget to refill them when you're done.

I also keep one bottle of regular (plain) chlorine bleach in the basement. If for some reason we had a long term water emergency you can treat water by using 16 drops of regular (not scented or color safe) bleach per gallon of water.

#5 Wrench: Even if you aren't the handy type keep a wrench on hand that fits your gas and water valve shut offs. Don't turn off your gas unless absolutely necessary because the gas company will have to be called to turn it back on.

#6 Large Bucket with trash bags and toilet paper for "sanitation": Thankfully we've never had to use this! But we have it on hand just in case. You can get five gallon buckets from grocery stores or bakeries for free or very cheap. Ours is actually a large laundry detergent bucket. You can also buy buckets with toilet seats (like the Luggable Loo) but I figure why pay for something you can rig up for free. Toss a bottle of hand sanitizer in the bucket to be extra prepared!

#7 First Aid Kit: This can be as simple as a store bought one or you can put together on your own (we chose to put our own together). Either way it will need to be cleaned out and restocked every year or two. The dollar store is a great place to find inexpensive items for your kit. I also recommend getting a first aid book of some kind to put in the kit. You can almost always find a few copies of the Red Cross handbook at St. Vincent de Paul thrift store.

#8 Food: How much food you store is up to you. The emergency preparedness literature suggests you "store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food". And that you select foods that "require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water".

Canned food is good because it can be eaten right out of the can, just don't forget to keep a manual can opener in your emergency kit. We don't have special food set aside for an emergency but since we have a stockpile we would definitely not starve! The menu might be strange if there was an emergency but we wouldn't go hungry. One of these days I would like to get a "grab and go" food pack together for an emergency that would take us away from home, but I haven't gotten around to it... mostly because the thought of it overwhelms me! 

#9 Extras: If you have babies or pets you'll want to store extra items for them. This is a good use for those formula samples that you get after you have a baby or free samples of pet food you can sign up for online.

Here are some resources for more information:
Ready Wisconsin
Ready Wisconsin Facebook page

To help your kids prepare:
Ready Kids (site for older kids)
Let's Get Ready (video and printables for little kids)
FEMA for Kids

Forgive me for the extra long post. This post is an edited version of a post from my personal blog, but it I thought it was good information and want all GB Savers readers to stay safe during Wisconsin's upcoming storm season!

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