This article will be a little different. I have been asked by readers if I would compile a list of essentials that would be needed for a medium duration disruption of community services. After the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe, this appears to be a timely request. If someone were to find their family and themselves isolated for more than a couple of days, existing FEMA and “Safety and Preparedness” lists are woefully inadequate.
FEMA, the American Red Cross, even the local media all promote ‘Emergency Preparedness’ lists. These generic lists brush upon obvious items that individuals would need for local, short term disruption of municipal services. ‘Short term’ disruption is the key concept. Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes are tragedies and the resulting death and destruction can be immense but these are local incidents. These types of events do not affect entire regions so the areas outside the immediate event location can concentrate all their efforts in the event area. The nation will immediately mobilize to begin to bring first responders and emergency relief to the event location. The dislocations will be short- term because recovery efforts will begin immediately. These generic FEMA and “public service” lists are complete enough to represent basic necessities for short term disruption of police and municipal services, but are woefully inadequate to assist survival of a longer lasting regional catastrophe. Try to imagine living for weeks or months after a Katrina in New Orleans, a Hurricane Hugo in Homestead, a 1906 San Francisco or Haiti Earthquakes, an Atlantic basin tsunami, a power grid collapse, an act of biological or nuclear terrorism, a pandemic or other unthinkable catastrophe. As unthinkable as these events are, as we are seeing in Japan, the unthinkable does happen. Some might not realize that the Turkey Point nuclear power plant is less than 100 miles from Naples. Living in denial is not a rational strategy.
There are potentially dozens of types of very rare events, natural or man-made, that can affect entire regions of the country. These catastrophes are all as different as night and day, but they all share one crucial characteristic in common. The one commonality between all catastrophes, the one universal truth learned after living through a couple of such events and close examination of many others is this:
YOU WILL BE ON YOUR OWN!
The individuals who will suffer the worst are the ones who depend on the government the most. This is not to malign the responding local, state or federal government agencies and their employees. They are all manned by unquestioned heroes risking their lives to protect us. They are the ones who run up the stairs during a fire while everyone else run down, to safety. “You are on your own” just recognizes the nature of large catastrophes. The response effort will be overwhelmed for some period of time. The greater the catastrophe, the greater the lag time will be in emergency response. Resources and personnel have to be mobilized from across the nation then transported to site. First responders must be located, coordinated and supplied with the necessary resources before they can even begin doing their tasks.
Local fire, police and emergency personnel have their own families and will probably be just as affected as any civilian in the disaster area. They will do their best with what they have to work with but you will be on your own for some period of time. Days, weeks, possibly months without fresh water, electricity, routine police protection, medical attention, communications with the outside world are all dependent on the extent of the damage to the infrastructure. The government and aid agencies will do their best but it will be up to you to survive until the situation can be stabilized.
After an approaching storm or disturbance is announced in the media, the items on the following list will become unavailable within a short period of time. Large stores use an inventory system called ‘just in time’. The average store only stocks enough inventories for a two to three day supply of normal sale activity. As inventory is tracked through computerized sales registered, replacement stock is ordered from off-site regional warehouses.
After the catastrophe, between disproportionate sales of certain items, coupled with damage and looting, there will be absolutely nothing left to purchase. You will be on your own until rescued, however long that will take. If an event transpires without warning, say an earthquake or a major hurricane, many of the stores that are not destroyed will not re-open, if for no other reason than there will be no electricity and the employees will be tending to their own.
For those who want to prepare and not be left to the tender mercy of random fate, the following is a starting point based on personal experience and extensive research.
List of Items Necessary if Municipal Services are Unavailable for an Extended Period:
• Bottled water
• Propane tanks-Not only for cooking, but also for gas ‘camp lamps’
• Camp fuel- Runs Coleman type cook stove and camp lanterns
• Gas camping stove
• Gas camping lantern-Get lots of extra mantles now
• Slow burning candles
• Insect spray-Highest DEET content available
• Sun screen
• Batteries-all sizes
• Portable radio- Battery and/or solar powered and/or crank powered
• Portable Short Wave radio---Local broadcast might be out for weeks
• Sun Glasses
• Portable camp toilet
• TOILET PAPER, TOILET PAPER, TOILET PAPER!
• Chlorine bleach-
"left">o Do not purchase bleach that is scented or has any additives
"left">o A small amount of chlorine will help purify questionable water
• Potable Aqua tablets
• Berkey water filters are used by the Red Cross.
• Coffee filters to pre-filter water
• Clean water containers
• Good high top hiking/walking boots
"left">o High tops are necessary to help protect ankles from injury
"left">o Danner has a good reputation and can be purchased used but like new online for 20% of the new price
• Zip Lock type bags-all sizes
• Plastic trash bags-all sizes
• Notebook, paper, pencils, pencil sharpener, pens, etc.
• Insulated ice chest
• Work gloves-Imperative for someone who works 9-5 in an office
• Rain gear
• Work shirt, under-wear, socks, work pants, belts
• Sewing supplies-Scissors, needle, thread, etc.
• Aluminum foil-heavy duty
• Keep your car’s gas tank full
• Have some cash at home-ATMs will not work and banks closed
• Carbon monoxide detector-Suffocation is possible when open flame heat, gas lighting and cooking is done inside a structure
• Rat and mice traps
• Home defense insect spray
• Gas pump and siphon- To pull fuel out of abandoned cars and trucks
• Sewing kit
• Hiking backpack- For transporting items from one location to another
• Pull wagon/cart- To transport items over short distances
Personal Hygiene and Personal Supplies
• Baby supplies, wipes, diapers, baby food, medicine, etc
• Female supplies-hygiene, hair, skin supplies, etc.
• Anti-bacterial and waterless soap
• Spare glasses and reading glasses
• Bandages, tape, antiseptic, gauze, medicine kit
• Tooth brush, tooth paste dental floss, etc
• Hand towels
• Tylenol, aspirin, ibuprofen
• Cortisone cream
• Rubbing alcohol, etc.
• Prescription Medications
• Cold Medications
• Sleep Aids
• Five gallon buckets-
o To transport water to fill toilet for flushing
o To transport general supplies
• Clothes line and clothes pins-Dryer will not work!
• Duct Tape
• Flashlight- Battery or crank powered
• “Strike Anywhere” wooden matches
• Small engine oil-Gas may be available but not small-engine oil mix
• Selection of hand tools. You will need to repair damaged items.
• Chain saw-Extra engine oil, chain, chain sharpener, chain saw bar oil
• Hand operated kitchen appliances-Egg beater, wisk, etc.
• Generator-To power fans, lights and small appliances.
Be careful with generator location.
Carbon-monoxide poisoning is possible from the engine fumes
• Approved gas containers-
Store in location where fumes will not be dangerous DO NOT STORE FUEL ANYWHERE NEAR A HOT WATER HEATER!
• Multi-function knife (Swiss Army knife)
• Bolt cutters-Universal ‘skeleton’ key
• Bicycle and bicycle pump
Games and Entertainment
With no electronic communications, children (and you!) will need to be occupied
• Packs of playing cards, dominos other games and a rule book-‘Hoyle’
• Books-Romance and fiction to occupy free time
• Dominos, checkers, chess, board games
• Puzzles and Sudoku books
food and can openers
• Tuna, spam, canned chicken, pasta, powdered milk, chili, etc.
• Bullion, gravy, etc, etc.
• Bulk rice /beans-Can be stored in clean 5 gallon buckets in Mylar bags
• Cooking oil and powdered gravy---A “must have” or cooking will be very limited
• Canned fruit, vegetables, candy and gum, etc.
• Spices, pepper, salt, powdered garlic and onions, etc.
• Trail mix, jerky, popcorn, peanut butter, etc.
General Rules for Storing Food
All canned food has a ‘use by’ date. It is stamped on every can or box.
Undamaged cans stored in a cool, dry area can last much longer than the ‘use by’ date.
• Rotate the food stock thru your home meals or donate items to food banks before ‘use by’ date expires.
• Store extra because in times of stress, the body will need more calories
And finally, self defense. Although most of us would never want to believe that these would be necessary, to ignore the possibility would be naïve. Keep in mind that the police are a reactionary force. For the most part the police’s job is responding to a crime, not to prevent a crime. The 911 system could be down or overwhelmed for a substantial amount of time. If the police don’t happen to be parked in your front yard for the duration, it will be up to you to protect your family and yourself.
• Pepper spray- Self-protection (Check with local law enforcement)
• Shotgun- Pump 12 gauge for home defense
• Pistol- Revolvers are easier to operate but semi-automatics can carry more cartridges.
• Long gun-Semi-automatic in 223 or 308 caliber
o These are common calibers and used by the military
• Ammunition-properly stored ammo can last for decades
• Magazines and gun cleaning supplies are a must
• Stay with common calibers and a caliber size you are comfortable with
• Talk to a licensed gun store operator for advice, training and licensing requirements for all firearms
• Sling and extra magazines
• Gun cleaning supplies are a must.
• A holster and belt
• Bullet proof vest-
o Purchase online (Ebay) from retired police or military.
o Level IIIA will stop a 357 magnum bullet.
o Front and back trauma plates offer additional protection
And most importantly, create a family plan and location plan in the event communication is lost:
1. What to do
2. How to contact family/friends
3. Where to go after an emergency
4. Establish a single plan that everyone in the family follows
A great many of the items on the lists above can be purchased used, but in like new condition, online. Sites like Amazon and Ebay are a good place to start. It would probably be a good idea to prioritize the items above. This list is a starting point, a guideline only. Your list should be customized to your personal situations. But do it now. Do it today.