lofilolo / Can Stock Photo
lofilolo / Can Stock Photo

Dave Robinson: Essentials to survive disaster

Major earthquakes occur every year all over the world, usually in places like India, Bangladesh or some other faraway place. We watch our news thinking, “those poor people.” The news girl goes on, “Thousands injured, hundreds missing and the death toll is rising!” If this had occurred closer to home, one thing is certain, those who have prepared in advance for just such an event have a huge advantage over those who keep putting it off. A 72-hour kit would be just the ticket. No trips to the store, no worries about water to drink, and your only concern would be to make sure your neighbors were looked after.

Disaster preparedness doesn’t need to be expensive. Many of the things we need can be incorporated into our weekly shopping routine without breaking the bank. Food supplies can be slowly increased without shredding your budget, and if you’re watching carefully, other things can be gradually added as well. There are, however, at least five items you should be sure you have that aren’t cheap, but necessary to survive a disaster.

1. A means to cook your food when the power goes out. Hot food is more nutritious, a morale booster and just plain better to eat than cold food. If you don’t own a camping stove, get one. A new Coleman (or similar brand) starts somewhere in the neighborhood of $50. There are more expensive, fancier models on the market, but if you just need a basic, heat-your-food stove, that will do the trick. I picked up a near-new condition, still in the box propane stove at a citywide garage sale sometime back for $15.00. Of course, there are solar ovens, rocket stoves and all manner of food-cooking devices, but the point remains: Get one!

Guest Writer

Guest writer Dave Robinsonis postmaster in Bandon and author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us.” He may be contacted at disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.

2. Have the capability to purify your drinking water. If you live in the country and normally get your water from a well or spring, this may not pertain to you. Either your water has been tested and meets health criteria or you already have a self-contained means for purification. Although I live out of town, my water comes from a municipal water source and is filtered and chlorinated by the city. If for some reason the city ever loses that capability, many of us are on our own. If water still comes out of the tap, it may not be purified. I recommend a stand-alone filter such as the “Big Berkey” or a variation. These filters require no electricity. The impure water is simply poured in the top half, and trickles down through a filtration system into the lower half of the unit. The ceramic filters remove the smallest particles (down to .02 microns) of anything that will make a person ill. Boiling and bleaching are also recommended method of purification. Boiling is the safest methods, but filtering the water through a stack of coffee filters, or some cheesecloth, then adding 1/3 teaspoon of chlorine bleach (unscented) to a gallon of water is an accepted method of purification. I recommend storing water, but it is impractical to think you can store enough water to get you through a prolonged period. Still, a stack of cases of bottled water in your back bedroom is good insurance and brings some peace of mind. Just remember to rotate your supply every few months.

3. Battery powered radio. Keep in mind the three basic rules of disaster preparedness are: Get a kit, make a plan and be informed. Keeping informed is made possible with a battery powered radio. There are some pretty cool radios on the market. Some have built-in solar panels, hand cranks and also run off standard batteries. Most models have AM/FM bands and several channels capable of picking up the NOAA weather alerts. Cost will be in the $50.00 range for a good quality radio.

4. A backup light source. Everybody knows about Coleman lanterns. (There are also other brands, but Coleman is the most popular.) They are propane (or liquid fuel) powered and put out not only a very bright light, but a significant amount of heat as well. The drawback is anything that puts out light requires either fuel or batteries, so be sure to include those items in your plan. Battery powered devices come in either the rechargeable type or regular version. Either way, when the power goes out, it’s pretty handy to be able to lay hands on a flashlight or lantern within minutes of the failure. Another suggestion is to pick up a few of those little flashlights you see at most checkout counters. Keep them together in a dresser drawer, and during a power failure, give one to each family member. That way, if they need to leave the room, they don’t have to take the primary light source with them.

A word on candles; I’m a big fan of candles, but they are an open flame, so use appropriate caution. If you have propane or natural gas plumbed into your home, don’t be too hasty to light a candle. In an earthquake, those fuel lines can rupture and if you strike a match it could have disastrous consequences. Next trip to the store, pick up something that makes light. And batteries. You can never have too many or too much variety of batteries.

Lastly, No. 5 isn’t something you can go out and buy, but you need some on hand. Cash. With widespread power outages comes widespread inconvenience. That debit card you carry in your wallet is worthless. Same with the money stored in your savings or checking account. When the power is off, ATMs aren’t going to be working. Neither are credit card processing machines. One day last week, I visited a local bank, or should I say I tried to visit. The doors were locked. A helpful employee directed me to the drive-through (I was on foot). It seems someone somewhere had inadvertently snipped a fiber-optic cable and their computers were all down. I was still able to transact my business, but if there is no electricity, you’ll need some cold cash. How much you keep on hand is up to you and your budget. I recommend small bills and keeping them in a secure location.

There are many other items you will want to add to this list, but these are the starters. Get these on the shelf and you’re on your way to being prepared for a disaster.