Still Living Prepared on the DC Metro

You never know when you are going to need one of the 10 Things You Should Never Leave Home Without.  Today, my trusty swiss army knife saved me time and hassle while navigating our nation’s capitol’s metro system.  Entering at the Foggy Bottom metro, my card became stuck upon being inserted into the slot.

It was inserted almost all the way, and it was impossible to pull back out and wouldn’t push in further and through.  Exasperated, and pressured by the commuting hoards behind me, I expected to have to yell to flag down a Metro employee for assistance.  But I’m always prepared, right?  So, I reached down to my belt, pulled out my swiss army knife and extended the pliers.

It did the trick.  We arrived at our destination on time.  And a good time was had by all.

 

 

 

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Traveling Prepared – Part 2

I closed the previous post with a checklist of items to take with you when traveling by plane.  I think it is worth discussing some of these items in a little more detail.

The Ten Things You Should Never Leave Home Without:  This is a given.  Whenever you leave home, you don’t want to be without these items.  This is especially true for any trip that requires air travel.  For example, you definitely don’t want to be staying in an unfamiliar place without a flashlight with you when the lights go out.  A couple of these items (Swiss Army knife/multi-tool and Res-Q-Me/vehicle escape tool) need to go in your checked baggage; the rest are best carried in your carry on bag so you have them at hand.  I also usually pack my stainless steel water container in my checked baggage, although you can take them as carry on as long as they are empty when you go through security.

Backup Photo ID – as discussed in the previous post, personally, I carry my passport when I travel as a second ID and in case I need to travel overseas unexpectedly for professional or personal reasons.  This comes up often in my field.  I recall working with someone a few years ago who lived in Minnesota but was on a personal family vacation to Texas when the Ica earthquake in Peru struck.  A decision was made to send him to Peru to assist in the response.  Poor fellow was late arriving two days because he had to fly back home to collect his passport before being able to depart for Peru.  In the disaster and emergency response business, days can definitely mean lives.  So personally, my passport is always at hand when I travel.  And if you live or are traveling anywhere near a US border, you might elect to evacuate (or be evacuated) from a disaster into a neighboring country.  But in any event, having a second photo ID card, carried somewhere other than where your primary photo ID is carried (your wallet) is prudent in case your wallet is lost, stolen or misplaced.

A full change of clothes in your carry on bag – I promise you will never regret having the ability to change your clothes before your reach your destination and retrieve the rest of your clothes from your checked luggage.  Have you ever spilled a drink (or had one spilled) all over yourself on an airplane?  Or worst case: Have you ever had your kid (or someone else’s) throw up in your lap?  This is all foreseeable.  And if your checked luggage does not show, you will have a clean change of clothes with you until it does or you can replace it.

I always travel in what I call my traveling outfit.  I don’t find travel a good way to keep myself or my clothes clean and presentable.  Airplanes are hot before they take off; and cold afterwards; cabs and other forms of public transportation taken to and from the airport are often dirty.  Airports themselves are often dirty – especially baggage claim areas.  It is hard to eat and drink on flights without spilling a bit on yourself – especially in cramped coach seats. So by carrying on a clean set of clothes in my carry on bag, I am assured of being able to change out of the soiled-on-arrival traveling outfit into something more presentable, even if my checked baggage is lost or delayed in arriving.

A Pack Towel in your carry on bag – I must admit that I first got the idea to always pack a towel in my carry on bag from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  But it was a good idea.  A towel, like an empty bag, has literally hundreds of uses – especially while traveling.  It can be used to help wipe up those nasty spilled drinks that fall onto your lap.  It can be used to provide a clean place to sit.  It can be used to dry your hands if the airplane restroom runs out of paper towels.  It can be used to dry your body if you need to wash more than just your hands (see spills, vomit, etc.).  It can be used to help staunch bleeding in the event of an accident.  A good pack towel almost deserves to make the list of things you should never leave home without!

MSR Packtowl

MSR Packtowl

And by a pack towel, I mean one that is designed for camping or travel – is quick drying, folds up small.  The one I carry is an MSR microfiber Packtowl Personal made of polyester and nylon and comes in a convenient pouch.  I am also a huge fan of the As Seen on TV ShamWow and typically pack a large and small one in my bag as well.

ShamWow !!!

ShamWow !!!

An Extra Empty Bag – We start from the premise that you should always have an empty bag with you.  But when you travel, you should bring an extra empty bag with you – something to serve as a day bag for excursions that you put things in that you want to take with you (camera, extra clothing, towel, etc.).  When we travel, we carry more with us when we go out because we are not at home and often do not have access to our things that we are used to having around us.  So we need a bag to carry these things in – and this is usually distinct from the bags that we pack in.  But once we put things in a bag, it is no longer an empty bag… so we need to remember to take two empty bags when we travel.  A backpack is perfect for this purpose.  So one of our empty bags that we take when we travel should be a backpack.  The one I take with me is one of the Lands End foldable backpacks.  My second bag is either an eco-tote or a kivu keychain backpack.

Medications and Prescription Drugs for the duration of travel plus at least one day – like clothing, packing medications and prescription drugs that you take regularly is something that you obviously need to pack.  I always try to bring with me at least one day’s extra supply, because you never know when you might miss a flight, or find your flight – the last of the day – cancelled.  It might be wiser to bring even more with you in case you have to delay your return home for longer, but I’m not prepared to set this as a rule.  If your return home is delayed for any reason more than a day, it is likely you will have the time to visit a local drug store and get your medications or prescriptions refilled as needed.  But having one or two extra days with you allows you to be prepared for these simple delays without causing you to miss a regular dose or having to make an extraordinary trip to a pharmacy.

Thus ends this second part of Traveling Prepared that focuses on travel by air.  The third part will focus on travel by car.

Traveling Prepared – Part 1

I have been doing a lot of traveling the past few months, both by plane and automobile and I’ve found that each poses different challenges to Living Prepared.  And I’ve been on different kinds of trips – from simple business trips (powerpoint and projector in hand) to disaster response exercises in semi-austere environments to a family camping vacation.  I thought it would be a good time to review some lessons learned from these experiences and to see how I am measuring up to the standards of this blog.

Airline travel

Airline travel poses significant challenges – especially if you are carrying on all of your baggage – to keeping the 10-12 items you should not leave home without with you – because of airport security.  I’ve gone on a couple of day-trips or quick overnights and haven’t needed to check any baggage – actually, I didn’t want to check any baggage because of the additional time (and expense) it takes to check domestic baggage.  And there are some items on the list of items you shouldn’t leave home without that aren’t going to (or shouldn’t) make it through the TSA security checkpoints – namely a Swiss Army knife/multi-tool and the vehicle escape tool.

Carry on only flights

I lost one of my Res-Q-Me’s that I have perpetually attached to my key chain at one checkpoint.  I forgot to take it off my key chain and leave it at home and the TSA screener asked what it was when I emptied my pockets and placed my keys in a bin was going through security.  Odd thing… I had to stop and explain to him what the device was and that he should confiscate it from me – both because of the blade (though shielded, it could easily be taken apart to become a weapon) – and the window shattering punch – which – although I don’t know whether it would break an airplane window – I would not want to find out.  He somewhat remained unconvinced, but I reassured him that he should indeed put it in the bin of confiscated items and that I wasn’t worried about it as it was only a $10 item and I had others at home.

Second odd thing – on two other occasions, I have successfully gone through security with a Res-Q-Me on my key chain, which I put in my carry on bag to go through screening (including, at this very moment! Yikes!  I promise to put it in my checked bag on the way home from this trip).  I don’t want to comment further on the state of screening at the nation’s airports, nor do I intend to continue to test these procedures informally or unintentionally.  But I hate being without my Swiss Army knife especially when away from home; I find that I still use it daily for both the mundane and creative tasks.

I have seen mailers at airports such that you can mail yourself items that you can’t carry on a flight.  This is a great solution if you plan to be somewhere for several days and don’t want to check a bag.  But personally, I have actually become a great fan of checking one bag – especially if I have a connection to make.  This allows me to take with me all those items that I can’t carry on – Swiss Army knife, Res-Q-Me (when I remember to stick it in there), a decent bottle of hand sanitizer, and depending on the purpose of the trip, some other tools that are prohibited from carry on baggage (more to follow).  This also avoids having to lumber around the airport and on and off planes with bulky luggage.

Packing for a plane trip

When flying, let’s start with these premise: you will always have a carry on bag, and in that carryon bag should be not only things you need/want with you on the flight (books, snacks, iPod), but also everything that you can’t afford to be at your destination without.

This actually should not be a long list.  I’ve had a couple of experiences with lost checked luggage and have learned a lot from them.  Let me share those with you.

Just over 10 years ago, I was working as the emergency communications officer for UNICEF, based at UNICEF’s global headquarters in New York.  I was part of a team of instructors who were going to be training 100 UNICEF staff from around the world to be a part of their rapid response team – ready to respond to humanitarian disasters wherever and whenever they took place.  The training was to take place at an abandoned facility outside Bamako, Mali, on the border of the south Saharan desert.  My checked luggage never, ever, arrived.  In that bag were 100% of my clothing (beyond what I was wearing on the plane) and all of the training materials that had been prepared for the trainees.  Fortunately, I was able to borrow a couple of changes of clothes from other UNICEF staff, as well as personal supplies (sunblock, etc.), and bought some t-shirts in the local market.  We conducted a hands-on training and all ended up okay, but most of my favorite expedition clothing and my camera and my personal travel kit were lost forever.

After that experience, I resolved to always carry on:

  • At least one full change of clothing
  • Valuable personal possessions (e.g. computers, cameras)
  • Anything you absolutely need to have at your destination for professional reasons (e.g. presentations, handouts)

So, I should have learned from that experience… and for a while, I tried to live by that rule.  Unfortunately, that often made my carry on bag a bit on the heavy side, and I do have chronic lower back problems, so I found myself relapsing into a check-the-maximum baggage mindset.

Just a few years later, I was caught out again.  I was sent on a mission to Dili, East Timor during that country’s process of independence from Indonesia via Darwin, Australia in 1999 on behalf of the U.S. Government.  I arrived in Darwin after 36+ hours of coach middle-seats on full planes with less than an hour to run between connections in Los Angeles and Sydney.  I made it.  Needless to say, my checked bag was three days behind me.  Being on such a long trip, I had carried on a couple of changes of clothing, but did not have the tropic-wear required of the 100+ degree heat of Darwin and Dili.  A quick trip to the local surf shops in Darwin got me some t-shirts and shorts that I still like to wear to this day.

Lesson learned again.  Maybe for you the solution is to try to carry on everything you take with you on a flight.  Personally, I find it annoying to watch people get on planes with enormous wheeled bags that take up an entire overhead compartment (which need to accommodate the bags for at least two or generally three persons each), plus a large “computer bag” plus a third tote or plastic bag – truly stretching the limits of what should be allowed on a flight.  And all that baggage doesn’t include a good Swiss Army knife or multi-tool!   Sometimes packing light enough to carry on only a small bag is possible but I find it challenging.

Right now, I am on a flight to the Midwest where I will be for the next four days.  I took a fairly large computer bag on wheels as my carry on bag.  It has four large pockets on it, but it will still fit under the seat in front of me if it has to (and it had to on the small jet I took on my connecting flight).  One pocket has a full change of clothing in it – including a pack towel and an empty bag (a Lands End folding backpack – it is always good to have a backpack with you on any extended trip away from home).  One has my computer in it.  One has reading material for the flight and files I need for this trip. The fourth has my iPod, power cords for computer & phone, pens, business cards, sunglasses & sunglass case, flashlight, and keys (including whistle, photon freedom flashlight, and Res-Q-Me [doh!]) and other small items.

I also carry my passport with me when I travel domestically – as one never knows when one will be called voluntarily or involuntarily out of the country.  My passport is also carried in a zippered pocket within my carry on bag.  In general, it is always good to have a second form of picture ID carried with you when traveling by air – and carried in a separate location from your primary picture ID (generally a driver’s license carried in your wallet) – such that if your primary is lost, you will have another that will enable to continue your travels until you get home.

Checked Luggage

Annoyingly, a lot of airlines are now charging extra for even a single checked bag.  Boo!  I prefer to fly always on direct flights – these are often cheaper – and usually not much more expensive than flights which require connections – and will get you to your destination a minimum of two hours – usually more – faster than a flight that requires one or more connections.  Living in the New York City metropolitan area, I fortunately have an awful lot of choices where airlines and airports are concerned – and can usually find a cheap direct flight that goes where I want to go and when I want to go on an airline that does not charge for the first checked bag.  [My favorite airline is JetBlue, in case you are wondering, which I take whenever possible. Four reasons:  comfortable seats, clean planes, friendly staff and DirectTV at every seat.  Beats the crap out of the major airlines which are more expensive, more uncomfortable, less friendly and with no free/no choice of entertainment (you know who you are)].

So, today, I am flying one of the major airlines, have a connection to make, and I had to pay $15 to check a single bag.  While I am on this rant, I understand that airlines have real costs associated with handling baggage, and by charging for second or each bag that passengers check, they are passing these costs on to those passengers using those services, which certainly seems reasonable on one level.  But just a couple of years ago, in part because of the stricter security screenings taking place at airports, airlines were actively encouraging passengers to check as much baggage as possible while only carrying on a single small bag.  This greatly sped the process not only of getting through security screenings at airports, but also in getting on and off of airplanes.  And that all made the process of flying so much more comfortable and reduced conflict between passengers, without overstuffed overhead compartments and bags consuming everyone’s foot-space, and it taking 20 minutes or more to deplane while everyone gathered all of their items.  All I can say is:  what happened?  This was great.

A checked bag carries all the things I’d like to have with me for the trip.  This includes clothing, toiletries, my Swiss Army Knife, Res-Q-Me (heh heh hee!), other tools as appropriate, and other obvious items.

In August, I traveled to California for a week to take part in a disaster response exercise.  I made a detailed inventory of everything I packed – both in my checked and carry on baggage.  I was going to share it here but don’t think it really adds a lot to this discussion.  In part 2, I’ll go over some of the specific items that you should be packing with you in your carry on and checked luggage, and that should be informative.

Here’s a preview:

Essential Things to Take With You on A Trip by Plane:

  • All of the things you should never leave home without
  • Backup photo ID (passport preferably)
  • Full change of clothes on your carry-on bag
  • Pack Towel (carry on)
  • An extra empty bag (min. 1 backpack)
  • Medications/prescription drugs for duration of trip + min. 1 day (carry on of not easily replaceable)
  • First Aid Kit

Much more to follow in Part 2

Continue reading

Household Emergency Supplies: Food & Water

Food and water are the most essential of your household emergency supplies.  And many disaster scenarios will threaten the availability of consumable food and potable water in your home and from local merchants, including anything that impacts the power utilities infrastructure (see hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc.).

For example, here in New York City, much of the electrical power infrastructure is located below ground and close to sea-level.  In the event of a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, storm surges could reach the height of 20 ft around much of the City, which would flood electrical vaults with sea water.  ConEd rightly has plans to shut down the power supply throughout the City before the storm surge reaches the City to avoid severe damage when the conductive sea water inundates the power infrastructure.   And they admit that it will take weeks, if not months, to pump out seawater from the vaults and dry them out and then to restore regular service throughout the City.  So without power, how long do you think fresh food will be available in your neighborhood?

Other disasters have similarly foreseeable impacts, which is why everyone from FEMA and the American Red Cross to Living Prepared™ recommends that everyone store two weeks of food and water in the home for “shelter-in-place” scenarios where you may remain in the home after a disaster – and 3 days ready for your evacuation kit (or go-bag).

Strategies for Food and Water Storage

So…  as I noted in my previous post, I believe in keeping your emergency supplies accessible, isolated and safe – and as far as food and water storage is concerned, do keep it separate from your regular household consumables.  Generally, I believe that there are two main strategies for emergency food and water storage:

Strategy #1: The Costco Solution: Buy in bulk and rotate.  This is the strategy I used to follow and for many, it may work out best.  For food – buy cases of canned foods that don’t require refrigeration or cooking/heating before you eat them.  Some examples:   baked beans, chili, tuna, peas, corn, fruit and most of all – soups.  You will find lots of other options at your local warehouse store.

Despite the long shelf life of many of these products, I would recommend replacing them annually and consuming the old stock rather than trying to stretch their longevity until the expiration dates near.  It also avoids having to track the expiration dates of many different products – some may be five years or longer – others only a year.

Many cans are self-opening, but you may need to stock a good manual (not electric!) can opener or two with the supplies.

For me, the problem with this solution for food was that I hate eating canned vegetables and prefer fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins.  I didn’t want to have to consume this stock regularly in order to rotate it.  I suppose I could have regularly donated it during holiday food drives.

For water: buy cases of bottled water in the largest bottles available (12 x 1 gallon bottles at my local Costco costs under $5).  You may elect to buy the smaller bottles (3/4 liter size or smaller) and use them as drinking water.  These clear plastic bottles are not designed for long-term water storage, so you should constantly use and rotate this stock of water.  Personally, I found that during the hot summer months, I was constantly poaching my emergency storage supply of bottled water.  I used a filtered water pitcher on tap water for drinking (and now have a filtered cold- and hot-water tap on my counter, so large storage bottles never got used – except to rotate them.  This wasn’t a sustainable, economic or green solution for me but it may work for you.

The advantages to the Costco Solution to emergency food and water supplies are cost, convenience and variety.

The negatives are mostly that it is a high maintenance solution – you need to rotate or check for differing expiration dates.  It is also an extremely excessive and un-green use of plastic bottles for water storage.

For me, these negatives made me turn to:

Strategy #2: The Living Prepared Solution: Buy dehydrated or other food designed for long-term storage and store water in large storage containers.  This is the strategy I follow now for my family.

Many suppliers of camping supplies have recently repackaged and remarketed a lot of their foodstuffs for emergency and disaster preparedness.  This is good because it has increased the options we have for long-term food storage.

These items have extraordinarily long shelf-lives – up to 30 years – and are designed for weight and storage efficiency.  Again, you will need to store a good manual can opener or two with the supplies, and in the case of dehydrated food, an extra allotment of water.  And mixing them with hot water is recommended, which could honestly be a challenge in a post-disaster environment.

I am counting on being able to heat some water – either through electrical means (hotpot, microwave) off of mains or generator power – through my gas range or propane grill with its own tank (and I should always have an extra filled tank on hand – but I don’t yet) – or even by building a small camp fire if I have to.  Time to consider a solar cooker as well.

Honestly, if I can’t heat some water after a disaster, I’m probably going to have bigger problems than eating cold meals!

You could also stock ready-to-eat food bars; these provide a balanced diet and lots of energy and require no cooking or preparation.  They are the true survivor’s solution.  I stock some for evacuation and emergency purposes.  But I decided that if my family had to eat emergency food rations for a couple of weeks, I wanted to have a little bit more variety and something resembling the food they are used to.

For water, I decided to purchase 5-gallon food-grade plastic water containers designed for long-term storage.  I tried out a couple of different models that are available online.  My favorites come from the Ready Store – they are rectangular, stack really well, and have a lid that really closes tightly.  Be wary when looking for water storage containers online – some merchants chart a ridiculous shipping charge (I know that water containers are large – but Amazon.com manages to ship with Free Supersaver Shipping and The Ready Store has free shipping on all orders over $100 – so shop around for the best buy.

8 of my 12 5-gallon Water Containers in Storage

8 of my 12 5-gallon Water Containers in Storage

5-gallon containers made the most sense for me.  They are light enough to be able to tip and pour, load into the car for evacuation, and carry up and down the stairs – but still hold a decent amount of water.  30-gallon drums are also available which are not going to be as portable, especially once filled, but may work for you and your home..

Don’t forget water saver – which will extend the shelf-life of your stored tap water for at least 5 years!  This is absolutely necessary for any planned long-term storage of water.

Date of Filling Written in Sharpie on Water Container

Date of Filling Written in Sharpie on Water Container

Is Mark Living Prepared?

I feel pretty good right now about my food and water preparedness, though I still have some ways to go.

For food – I purchased a 45-day supply of dehydrated food from the Ready Store – that’s for one person.  To cover my family of four, I supplemented this stock by ordering additional cans of food to ensure 3-meals a day for four persons for at least two weeks, as follows:

  • Breakfast – 72 servings (that’s 18 days x 4 persons)
  • Lunch & Dinner Entrees – 122 servings (that’s 15.25 days x 4 persons)
  • Vegetables – 120 servings (that’s 15 days x 4 persons)
  • Sides – 72 servings (rice – 18 days x 4 persons – once per day)
  • Fruits – 120 servings (that’s 15 days x 4 persons)

Assuming that my kids probably won’t eat a full portion, we’re in good shape for food.  (I have not yet planned for my poor 20 lb cat, however… although I think having an extra 20 lb bag of his diet “lite” cat food and keeping it rotated every few months will probably cover the poor little guy for a couple of weeks).  For my sheltering-in-place, I am assuming that I have access to my home – including plates, cups, pots, etc., so am not storing those with my emergency food supplies (though I am storing an extra manual can opener with it).  I will need to consider this for evacuation preparedness.

I also stock some ready-to-eat food bars – enough for more than 3 days for my entire family – that is suitable for go-bag/evacuation purposes as it requires no preparation and is rich in energy and nutrients.  These came in a transportable case with a handle so it is ready to go when needed.

For water, I have stored 40 gallons of water in 12x 5-gallon containers.  At one gallon per person per day, that should provide water for drinking and sanitation for 15 days for four people.  But that’s actually not enough.  I forgot to plan for the water I need to reconstitute my dehydrated food (or for my cat).  I am going to need almost 15 gallons of water just to reconstitute the 29 cans of food I have in storage, so I will need to order another 3x 5-gallon cans from the Ready Store.

For portable water, I am considering purchasing some packs of water designed for long-term storage – then I don’t have to worry about cups or drink containers, but for now, I plan to take 4 of the 5-gallon containers with me in the car should I need to evacuate my family.  The round ones come with dispensing spouts so those are the ones I have designated (but still need to separate and label as the evacuation supplies).  Our family is pretty attached to our stainless steel drink containers, so those will be designated as part of our evacuation kit as well.  (Part of what you never leave home without).

The water has been treated with water saver and is stored in my cellar – and labeled with the date or storage.  In five years – or probably in a little less, I will replace the water.  The food as long as it remains sealed in its cans, has a 30-year shelf life.

Hey – I know it is August already, and the Atlantic Hurricane season – quiet so far – is about to hit its peak for the year.  The summer in New York has been mild – and the wettest I can remember.  This is the first year I haven’t had to water the plants in our window boxes since I planted them in May.  The pendulum will swing the other way and we could be in for a hot and humid August and September, which brings its own risks of utility and infrastructure challenges and potential failures.   I’m going to continue to get my home and my family prepared for any disaster and I recommend you do the same.

Remember it’s never too late to start Living Prepared™.

Hurricane Preparedness: Household Emergency Supplies

The current tenets of emergency preparedness – as espoused by FEMA (Ready America) and the American Red Cross is:

  • Get a Kit
  • Make a Plan
  • Be Informed

Not a bad way to organize things, though I know there are some dissenters out there.  In getting ready for this year’s Hurricane Season, we’ll start with the Kit – what I call your “Household Emergency Supplies”.  These are the things you should be storing in your home – set aside for emergencies – not used or consumed on a regular basis.  They don’t need to be put in a bag (a go-bag is a different animal – more on that later), but should be easily transportable should you need or want to take (some of) them with you.

Is this practical?  Depends on where you live, how much storage space you have, and how disciplined you can be about not pilfering your emergency stash of granola bars and bottled water.

Household Emergency Supplies

So… where to start?  Ready America says:

“When preparing for a possible emergency situation, it’s best to think first about the basics of survival: fresh water, food, clean air and warmth.”

So while this sounds like good advice and simple enough, but these categories don’t cover several items on their recommended list (health and sanitation) and no items on their list actually cover “warmth”.

So in putting together the Living Prepared list of essential household emergency kit items, I’ve recategorized items into groups that are inspired by my background in international humanitarian relief and assistance, namely (alphabetically):  clothing, communications & power, documents & information, food & water, health & sanitation, pet care, shelter, and tools.  And what’s critical is that you set aside a 14-day supply of all consumables.

The Living Prepared™ List of Household Emergency Supplies:

Clothing

  • Complete changes of sturdy clothing (including footwear) for all seasons and all family members

Communications & Power

  • Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio
  • NOAA Weather radio with tone-alert
  • Flashlights & Light Sticks
  • Extra charger for your cellphone(s)
  • Extra batteries for radios & flashlights
  • Solar chargers or generator

Documents & Information

  • Maps of the local area (including neighboring states or areas that are part of your evacuation plan)
  • Copies of all important documents (including property deeds/proof of residency, photo ID, insurance and bank information)
  • Cash ($400 in small bills / nothing larger than a $20)
  • Paper, pencils and pens
  • Copy of Household Emergency Plan
  • Emergency guides and reference materials

Food & Water

  • 14-day supply of water based on 1-gallon per person per day
  • 14-day supply of non-perishable food
  • infant formula (14-day supply with additional water ration as required)

Health & Sanitation

  • First Aid Kit & First Aid Guide
  • N95 Dust Masks
  • Moist towelettes / hand sanitizer / disinfectant wipes or spray
  • Garbage bags
  • 14-day supply of prescription and non-prescription medications
  • 14-day supply of feminine hygiene supplies
  • 14-day supply of personal hygiene items (including a toothbrush, paste, soap, toilet paper)
  • 14-day supply of diapers (if required)
  • Chlorine bleach & medicine dropper
  • Bug repellent
  • Sun block

Pet Care

  • 14-day supply of pet food, medications, & extra water ration as required

Shelter

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Sleeping bag / emergency blankets / bedding
  • Mess kits – including paper or plastic plates, cups, utensils
  • Towels (cloth and paper)
  • Books, games, puzzles

Tools

  • Gas shut off tool / crowbar
  • Ziplock bags in various sizes
  • Manual can opener (if needed for food)
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Waterproof matches or matches in a waterproof container
  • Multi-purpose tool

You can also find two very good and similar standard lists of recommended household emergency supplies from Ready America and the American Red Cross.

Where to Store your Household Emergency Supplies:

  • Somewhere accessible – the top shelf of a closet – the cellar (if you have one and as long as you can expect it to remain dry/flood free after foreseeable hazards depending on where you live).
  • Somewhere isolated from regular consumables (not in your kitchen pantry)
  • Somewhere safe – think earthquake safe – not in a detached garage or storage shed that may be damaged by wind/rain/flood/debris.  Someplace likely to survive an emergency or disaster impacting your home.

Exceptions may be made for particular items (for example, flashlights, light sticks and fire extinguishers which should be distributed throughout the house so they can be easily grabbed when needed).

In the next series of postings, I’ll go through the details of each category of the Household Emergency Supply lisy to give some practical advice on what to get, where to get them, and how to store these items such that they will be accessible, isolated and safe for your use after an emergency.  And I’ll document what I am doing in my own home to get these items together.

So put together your Household Emergency Supplies.  If you do, you will be Living Prepared™.

A Note on Go-Bags and Evacuation Kits

If you are single and living alone, it is easy to prepare a go-bag with everything you need to evacuate and be self-sufficient for three days that fits into a backpack or small duffle bag.  You can keep it in your coat or clothes closet or under the bed.  Simple and compact.  Now try fitting everything you need for yourself, a spouse, two kids, a cat and two parakeets into a backpack – including food and water for three days.  Forget it!  Your go-bag probably doesn’t fit in the trunk of your car.  I know when I pack the family for a long-weekend at Grammy’s, we fill the back of a mid-sized SUV with all the stuff we think we need; and that doesn’t include life-sustaining consumables beyond snacks and sandwiches for the ride.

So while I like the concept of go-bags for individuals, I don’t think they work for families all that well.

So what should families do?  Multi-task.  I’m going to be storing 15 days worth of drinking water in my cellar based on the standard calculation of 1 gallon per person per day – in 12x five-gallon containers.  If I need to evacuate, I am taking three days worth of water with me – I grab three of those five-gallon containers and put them in the back of the car.  Same story with non-perishable food.  Keep one stock for what you need in the home – but store it such that it is easily transportable and will be taken with you as part of your evacuation kit.  Keep the supplies that are part of the evacuation kit together and labeled so there is no confusion at the time as to how much or what items you should be taking with you.

I’ll come back to Go-Bags and Evacuation Kits after this series on Household Emergency Supplies is finished.

Living Prepared™ for the Atlantic Hurricane Season

NHC Current Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Activity

The Atlantic Hurricane season began officially on June 1.  But even a few days before, Tropical Depression One formed off the coast of the Carolina’s, pretty far north for a TD this early in the season.   Although we’ve already missed National Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 24-30), it’s never too late to be Living Preparedfor the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

I attended a webinar today entitled “2009 Hurricane Preparedness for Critical Infrastructure” run by the Department of Homeland Security.  While this was geared towards a briefing on how the national authorities have planned to respond to major events like hurricanes to protect critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR in government acronym-speak), it provided some useful insights on the threats of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season.  Here’s some tidbits I wanted to pass on:

  • “All incidents are local incidents” – so reach out and know how to make contact with your local first responder agencies.  Good advice.
  • The 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Forecasts for an average season.  The National Hurricane Center predicts there will be 9-14 named stored; 4-7 hurricanes with 1-3 major hurricanes.  The University of Colorado has predicted 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes (category 3+).
  • The frequency of hurricanes peaks around September 10th, with most hurricanes and tropical storms occurring between mid- to late-August and the beginning of October.

peakofseason

There are a lot of great resources online about hurricanes, hurricane preparedness, storm warnings and alerts.  As I’ve done for H1N1, we’ll post a lot of these links in the right and left columns of this site for ease of reference and also let you know where to find them so you can follow them yourself directly.  For now, I recommend the following:

Living Prepared for the Atlantic Hurricane Season

This next series in Living Prepared with focus on the practical steps you should take to ready yourself, your home and your family for a hurricane impacting your area.  It will include advice for building stocks of emergency supplies in your home, readying your home to survive in a storm, and preparing for evacuation.  And I’ll track my own preparations in our newly renovated house in Brooklyn, NY.

But as recommended by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, Living Prepared will take an all-hazards approach to emergency preparedness.  What this means is that the your household emergency supplies, go-bags and other steps you take to prepare yourself and your families for emergencies and disasters will be effective against all possible emergencies and disasters – whether an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, fire or chemical hazard.  So the preparations we go through for this Hurricane Season will carry us throughout the year.

The topics we’ll cover are:

  • Household emergency supplies – what you should be storing/stocking in your home to take you through an emergency
  • Personal and Family Go-Bags – what you should be preparing to take with you should you need to evacuate
  • Vehicle Preparedness – what you should be doing to make sure your vehicle is prepared to evacuate you and your family
  • Developing a Household Emergency Plan

And I’ll try to document my own progress at practicing what I preach.  As we’ve recently moved back into our Brooklyn house after six months of renovations, I have to build up my own emergency stocks.  My personal goal will be to be preparedand have everything in place by the time hurricane season opens for New York City on August 1.

Thoughts from Day Two of Long Island-NYC Emergency Management Conference

I attended the Long Island – New York City Emergency Management ConferenceDay Two – today.  Here’s a few thoughts I wanted to pass on that are relevant to Living Prepared™:

Weather: A major focus was on the weather today.  Lots of lessons for the summer and hurricane season, including:

  • Excessive heat was the #1 killer in NYC for all weather hazards in 2008 – 10 deaths – from 2 heat waves in July.
  • Rip currents – 9 deaths in July – all deaths in unprotected areas (no lifeguards).  So don’t swim in unprotected areas – especially when rip currents are forecasted (and they are – I see them on the local news weather reports all the time).
  • Trees falling on cars – from high winds – causes untold deaths every year.  Remain alert at all times when high winds are forecast.

Earthquakes: Did you know that there are 9 fault lines in or near NYC?   The big quake of record here was a Magnitude 5 (M5) in August, 1884 whose epicenter was over ocean south of Sandy Hook.  According to a HAZUS run, an M5 would cause over $4.4 billion in damage.  Still…. a M5 shouldn’t cause significant building collapse or loss of life given the building codes… but who knows?  A larger quake is not really foreseeable.  I’ve been through a lot of M5 aftershocks and can’t see one doing major damage to NYC…. maybe broken glass, utility disruptions, water main and gas line breaks…. but no major loss of life.

NYCfaults_map_800

Hurricanes: predictions for 2009 similar to average – maybe above the average for named storms (9.6) – 6 hurricanes – 2 major according to the forecasts.  The NYC area hasn’t had a hurricane hit since 1985’s Hurricane Gloria.  Tropical Storms – including Hannah last year – are more common.  Certainly – a big storm (cat 3)  is foreseeable for the NYC area and will eventually occur.  Historical hurricane/tropical storm tracks show the entire East and Gulf Coast get hit.  Hurricanes are something to this and every year.  Note that Public Advisory for Tropical Depression One was issued at  11 AM by the National Weather Service today (storm tracks also released).  NYC OEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno noted that it is highly unusual that we have a numbered storm this far north (off the Carolina coast) in May.  The 2009 Hurricane Season has started a few days early this year – it starts June 1 for the Atlantic region and August 1 for NYC.

Tropical_Storm_Map

Beware of complacency.  Again, the last hurricane here was 24 years ago.  People have bravado about weather… In addition to (and because of) public complacency, evacuation from low-lying areas – especially special needs population – is the biggest concern of the region’s emergency managers.  So be prepared to evacuate.

It is time to be Living Prepared™ for Hurricane Season.   I’ll be posting on this over the next month to help you with your household emergency and evacuation planning.

H1N1: Commissioner Bruno noted that there are 1.1 million kids in New York City schools and that the Department of Education (DOE) not only educates but feeds a lot of kids who otherwise don’t get good meals outside of school.  When considering school closures, we need to look at the impacts on the children beyond just continuing their education – and other agencies and programs may need to get involved beyond DOE and Department of Health.

The final session was a fascinating case study of how the crash of Continental Airlines Flight 3407 in Clarence, New York (February 2009) was handled by first responders, State and federal authorities.  Good ICS (Incident Command System) and NIMS (National Incident Management System) principles were followed by all; there was good coordination between federal, state and local officials; even the media was mostly well-behaved.   Well done.

That’s a wrap from the conference.