When disasters strike — and after they pass — poor communities and communities of color usually suffer the most.
They are typically underserved, and often located in areas that expose them to the most risks, such as in low-lying land in active flood areas, industrial zones that often store toxic and hazardous materials or in poorly maintained structures that cannot withstand the high winds, buffeting rain and other dangerous conditions that disasters can produce.
As we saw six years ago when hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans and the Gulf-Coast, the price for being unprepared for disasters is too great. This is why we must begin to prepare ourselves for not only Hurricane Irene as it approaches, but future disasters that may equal or even eclipse the damage that Irene could potentially produce.
You can begin by having special equipment in your home that can help you to prepare for the disaster before it arrives, respond to it, and when it is over recover rapidly.
Outside of the most common items that most folk already own, like hammers, rain gear, and other similar tools and equipment, I’m going to give you a list of the top 10 items for your home that I recommend we own to help us survive Irene and future emergencies.
1. Emergency water
An emergency water supply is one of the most important things you can have in your home during and after a disaster.
Oftentimes, blackouts prevent water treatment facilities from operating properly and having an emergency clean drinking water supply can help you stay-put and ride out a disaster at your home without worrying about where your next drink will come from.
Dehydration is common during disasters and having a supply of emergency water can prevent this from occurring. This is especially important for those of us who have medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
Keep a supply of emergency water in your home, and your car. One gallon of water per person per day is best, but in a pinch, a five to seven gallon container can usually get you by until you find a clean water source. Use clean water bottles and containers. If you must, clean out your bathtub and fill it up with water!
2. Emergency water filter
Mini water filtration/purification units are now available at low cost, and some are small enough to be carried in your personal toolkit.
You never know where you might wind up after a disaster and the safety of your source of water may be questionable. A small water filter/purifier can solve this problem by allowing you to always have safe drinking water. The following links describe some of the best portable filters available:
- SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Handheld UV Water Purifier
- SteriPEN Prefilter,
- Katadyn Hiker PRO Water Microfilter,
- MSR SweetWater Microfilter Water Filter
- MSR Miniworks EX Water Filter,
If you don’t have the cash for a filter, always remember to boil all questionable water before drinking.
3. Emergency food
You need to have at least a week of emergency food to ride out a large scale disaster. 72 hours is NOT enough. Most of the Katrina survivors I encountered in 2005 needed emergency food rations nearly two weeks AFTER the event.
Buy non-perishable canned items, preferably food you don’t need to cook but is high in nutritional content. Freeze dried hikers meals are a bit on the expensive side but delicious and easy to prepare. Military Meals Ready To Eat (MRE’s) are also another option. You can also learn how to dehydrate and can your own food too.
A first-aid kit is another essential item. It should contain band-aids, antibacterial cream, antiseptic /disinfectant wipes, Tylenol, Motrin, Asprin, tweezers, a small roll of medical tape, small dental emergency kit, gauze and other items that can help you to treat scrapes, insect stings, splinters, small eye injuries and a number of other minor injuries. If you are allergic to insect stings, your first-aid kit should also include an Epi-pen Auto-Injector (epinephrine) to avoid anaphylaxis. Adventure Medical Kits makes some of the best available. If you need prescription medication, you should keep extra refills in your kit.
A good multi-tool is an item that you should “never leave home without! Most models contain a strong pliers, folding knife, small saw, metal file, hole punch, Phillips and flat head screwdriver, wood saw, wire cutter – and for some scissors. They range in price from $10 dollars (less in some $.99 cet stores) to $120. Whatever you pay, recognize that it is worth the price. During disasters, a good multi-tool is an indispensable item that cannot be undervalued.
6. LED Flashlights (preferably hand crank, solar or shakelight)
You should own one or several LED flashlights. I say several because they are now so inexpensive and readily available that there is no reason to only own one. Make sure you purchase lots of extra batteries when you buy them. It should be durable, and non-incendive meaning simply that it cannot spark an explosion.
Non-incendive flashlights are typically waterproof and they are typically rubberized and sealed with “O” rings to prevent the accidental ignition of flammable gases and vapors by static charges or electrical sparks generated on the outside or, inside of the flashlight. Some of the best L.E.D. lights available are manufactured by BoGoLight favorite), Inova, Fenix, and Streamlight.
Even better are the hand crank models. They don’t need batteries & only a few winds on the crank will power them up to operate. They are easily recharged by winding the crank. The only drawback is that the hand crank models are not waterproof or, non-incendiary. They are also more delicate because of their mechanics. The magnetic shake lights are great, but must be kept isolated from credit cards, I-pods & computers due to their strong magnetic fields. The easiest way to balance this is to carry both types! Their compact size low price and light weight makes it possible. I carry two at all times with no problem.
7. Personal hygiene kit
Personal hygiene is one of the first things to go in a large disaster, and maintaining YOUR personal hygiene during disasters and emergencies is of the highest order. You CAN survive without it but … why try if you don’t have to? Toothbrushes, travel-sized tubes of toothpaste, deodorant bottles or, cans along with hand sanitizer and wipes can all be carried in small pouch. In addition, you should have a generous supply of wipes on hand, feminine products and whatever else you need to keep yourself fresh and clean.
You never know when you’ll need to light a fire for warmth, to cook, boil water, or even sterilize medical equipment. You should also carry some extra “fuel” for your fire in the form of what is called “tinder” and a sparking device (magnesium) just in case your lighter malfunctions & your matches don’t work. Cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly work great! place them in a small plastic bag, squeeze out the air, roll or flatten them up and you are good to go. I carry a small “tea” candle and special trick birthday candles that can’t be blown out.
9. Emergency hand crank radio
When disasters strike, you will need to stay informed. Your cellular phone may not work due to downed towers or high levels of traffic but a radio will. Hand crank multi-band radios are best.
9. Duct tape
You may laugh if you recall some of the crazy things people did with duct tape after the anthrax attacks of 2001, but it is truly one of the most useful items in your kit.
550-pound test paracord is a must own item. It allows you to have the ability to tie down or hang items with high strength line that won’t break.
Grab and go
In addition to the above items, you should also own a “Grab & Go” bag. In many cases, emergencies and disasters produce extreme conditions that may require a rapid evacuation of your home, and if you are at work, your office. When this occurs, you will need more equipment and material that can be carried in an E-kit. This additional gear must be stored in a large backpack called a Grab & Go or, G&G bag for short.
What a G&G bag should contain:
A G&G-bag contains all of the items (food, shelter, first-aid etc.) that you and your family would need to survive a disaster for a basic minimum of seven days (hence 72 hour kit). Many emergencies extend well beyond seven days. This is why we suggest that you pack enough supplies to last for a longer time period (one to two weeks). This will increase the weight & size of your bag – but, the extra food & other items will more than make up for the added size & weight.
Also, as time passes, the weight of the bag will reduce with the consumption of the food and other perishable items in the bag. You will also need to include duplicates (or originals) of all your most important records (insurance, will etc.) and even valued pictures.
NEVER BUY PRE-ASSEMBLED G&G BAGS -They should ALWAYS be assembled by the user. Pre-packaged bags are designed for people that are too lazy to take the time to learn how to construct their own personalized pack. Most of the time, they are usually stuffed with low-end equipment and useless filler items like flimsy, faux Swiss Army knives and flashlights that are designed to trick the consumers into believing that they have actually purchased something of value. Do yourself a favor – take the time to design and pack your own.
THE BEST TYPES OF G&G BAGS – Without question, backpacks are the best type of bags for 72-hour kits. You must choose a high quality bag to secure your survival materials. They should be selected for strength & durability, storage capacity, weight, function and, water resistance. A rain cover can be purchased to protect your gear. A good strong large trash bag can also do the trick in a pinch. For an additional edge of protection against moisture, waterproof bags used by white water rafters and special ops in the military called dry bags such as the Armor Bags dry backpack shown at screen left can also be purchased. They are completely waterproof. The downside is that they are usually either very expensive or, they are constructed from vinyl and sacrifice strength for waterproofing.
G&G Bags for the physically challenged or, injured – Your choice of backpack or bag for your G&G bag is determined by your specific needs. If you are physically challenged or injured, you will not be able to use a backpack. If this is the case, there are a number of alternative ways to carry your gear. You will need to use a combination of different types of bag to substitute for a larger backpack. With the right mix, you will be able to haul quite a bit of gear and supplies. Not as much as a backpack, because of weight limitations, but more than enough to help you in an extended crisis.
Your first bag should be a large messenger bag. They can be slung over the shoulder and placed on the lap for easy access to your essential items such as flashlights, tools, water or medicine. The next bag should be a wheelchair bag. These bags have straps that can be slung around wheelchair seat posts. Adaptable designs Inc. sells a great model called “Jazz” It has deep multi-pockets and room for more important gear.
These are the things we must begin to collect to help make our households and community safe and prepared for any emergency. There is no longer any time to wait.