Thursday, September 19, 2013

Be Prepared for Emergencies - It Could Save Your Life

No matter how old or how young you are, are you prepared for an emergency?  In particular, are you prepared for the most likely type of emergency that could happen where you live?  For example, if you live in coastal areas in the southern and eastern states, are you prepared for a hurricane?  If you live in California, are you prepared for an earthquake?  If you live in a heavily forested area, are your prepared for a forest fire?  And, if you live near a river or other waterway, are you prepared for flooding?  If not, you need to take action now.  Your life, and the lives of your loved ones, could depend on it.

Our retirement community has regular emergency drills.  In addition, we also have representatives throughout the community who are willing to go door to door to check on people in the event of an emergency.  These volunteers attend periodic trainings so they know how best to help their neighbors, especially those who are weak or injured.

However, it is also a responsibility for all of us to be as prepared as possible if we should become the victims of a hurricane, flood, tornado, blizzard, earthquake or other disaster. In a widespread emergency, it may take a few days before emergency personnel can find and help everyone who is is injured or displaced.  Our local authorities recommend that everyone be prepared to take care of themselves, if possible, for up to three days.  If you live in an area where you could lose your electricity and be snowed in for a week or more, you may need to make even more extensive preparations. While this may not be necessary for everyone, better safe than sorry.

Covering Your Basic Needs

Experts agree that we should make sure we are prepared to take care of our of certain basic needs, including:  food, shelter, water, light, personal hygiene, medicine, communications, and money. 

How do you prepare?   Take a chest or plastic storage bin and put in some essential supplies such as canned food and a can opener, a radio and flashlight with extra batteries, soap, eating utensils, a solar phone charger, a small amount of cash, a first aid kit, blankets, a change of clothing for each family member, and small quantities of important medications (which you should rotate out every few months).  Inside or next to your storage bin you should also put at least a five gallon container of water or more, depending on the size of your family.  If you have pets, you will also want to include zip lock bags containing their food, as well as enough water to satisfy their needs for a few days.

Next, you need to decide where to keep your storage bin.  Here in Southern California, where the biggest danger is earthquakes, I know of several people who keep their emergency kit in a protected area of their backyard.  They do this in case their home should be so badly damaged that they would be unable to go back inside to retrieve the items they would need.  We keep most of our supplies just inside the door to our garage ... although I must confess that I am not good about keeping everything up-to-date and gathered in one place.  One of my reasons for writing this post is to encourage me to practice what I preach!

I have already purchased a combination flashlight and phone charger for my husband and each of our children for Christmas this year.  I thought it would be a thoughtful gift and could be really helpful to at least one of them in the coming years.

Items You May Wish To Purchase

When you are putting your emergency kit together, there are certain items you may wish to purchase.  In addition to food, clothing, blankets, 5 to 10 gallons of water and your medications, here are some additional items you may need.  If you don't have them on hand, purchase them in advance:

A well-stocked First Aid kit that includes bandages, antibiotic cream and alcohol wipes
A back-up phone charger -- either solar, battery powered or wind-up
A battery powered camp lantern
A battery powered radio that will pick up emergency announcements
A propane stove with extra cartridges
A whistle so you can signal rescuers
Plastic tarp to protect you if you must stay outside in bad weather
Metal dishes, cups, eating utensils
A few pots and pans
Dishsoap and moist towelettes
Garbage bags (which can be improvised for use as a toilet in an emergency)
Toilet paper
A wrench or pliers that can be used to turn off utilities.  (Make sure you know how to do this before an emergency occurs.)

You may also want to have items like sleeping bags or a tent stored with your emergency supplies.

Why We Need to be Prepared

As we get older, it is easy to assume that someone will come rescue us if we are in danger.  However, as we saw with Hurricane Katrina and many other disasters, it can take quite a while before our rescuers are able to reach us.  If at all possible, we want to be able to take care of ourselves and not wait to be rescued.  Being prepared could save your life.

If you are retired or thinking about retiring in the future, you may be interested in reading some of the other posts from this blog.  They are all listed and linked in the index articles below:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

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Photo of hurricane damage is courtesy of

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