Over the last few years, we have been in the path of several major storms that have resulted in us having to shelter in place. Sheltering in place involves preparing for an event that will not allow you to leave your home, or where it would not be advisable to vacate the immediate area. No matter what the reason, you should be prepared. There are many circumstances where prior notice may not be provided, so now is the time to prepare and be ready for any situation that may come your way.
When preparing to shelter in place there are nine key categories of to consider:
1. Water. You cannot live without it. Dehydration is a very real danger when it comes to survival, whether it be potable (drinkable) or for daily needs. Fortunately, water is one of the easiest supplies to acquire and store. Keep in mind that when you rely on a well for water, when electricity goes out, the flow of water stops unless a manual pump has been installed.
It is recommended that a minimum of 1 full gallon per person (and pet) per day will be needed. Keeping in mind, this is for both consumption and sanitation. In my opinion, you can never store too much water. It is better to have more than you will ever need, then to not have enough.
Options to consider: a) buy bottled water b) gather containers for long term storage such as 5 gallon buckets (food grade with handles) or clean and empty soda or juice bottles. Fill, seal, and place them in a basement or a cool, dark storage area. Empty milk jugs are NOT advisable for use as they are not designed for long term storage and may deteriorate. c) If there is advance warning, fill tubs and sinks with water.
In the event you find that you need to purify water, strain with the use of paper towels, coffee filters or cloth. Boil water to a rolling boil for a least 5 minutes to ensure you have killed any bacteria. Another option is to use non-scented plain/regular bleach by adding 16 drops for every gallon, stir and let sit for 45 minutes. If the water does not retain a slight bleach smell, add an additional 16 drops per gallon.
2. Medical/First Aid. When an emergency occurs, make sure you have several extra days worth of prescriptions on hand,
especially for major health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.
First aid kits are incredibly important. Most basic first aid kits have limited supplies that only address the most basic of injuries, and usually for only one or two people. An option would be to make your own kit that could be inclusive of the following:
– Various sizes and types of bandages and Band-Aids
– Rubbing alcohol
– Antibiotic ointment
– Aspirin and pain relievers
– Burn cream
– Sterile gloves (several pairs)
– Cotton balls/swabs
– Constipation/anti-diarrhea medicine/antacids
– Sanitary napkins
Once you have all the first aid supplies, it’s highly recommended that you learn how to use the supplies via a first aid course or similar. Having a booklet to refer to is not enough. While in a middle of a crisis, that is not the time to try and skim the booklet for information and figure things out. Learn the life skill now so you will be prepared later.
3. Food/Cooking. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Storing food supplies is key to survival and to maintain health. When composing a list of food items to acquire, make sure you follow the rule “store what you eat, eat what you store”. This is not the time to try out something new. Limit storing items that will require lots of water for preparation. Also try to minimize or avoid foods that would require cooking. Food items like nuts, crackers, peanut butter, dried fruit/jerky, canned soups (not condensed), pasta, rice, beans, meat, spices and honey are great options. Another key factor to consider is food for those on dietary restrictions. The best way to stockpile supplies is to buy a little extra every time you go shopping.
Many people think they will be able to cook using a grill or campfire, in the event of an emergency. Don’t count on it. Always prepare as if those options are not available. Your options may vary depending on the emergency.
Supplies for food preparation and consumption will be needed to avoid using a lot of water.
– Paper plates, cups, bowls
– Disposable utensils (forks, knives, spoons)
– Moist towelettes
– Aluminum foil (heavy duty)
– Cooking utensils
– Dutch oven, frying pan and pot(s), cast iron if possible
– Manual can openers
– Small grill
– Fuel for cooking
4. Pets. Always make sure you include and prepare for your pets. When sheltering in place, outdoor pets should be brought inside out of the elements. Provide them with as many comforts and as much normalcy as possible. They will also be under considerable stress.
I recommended having a minimum of 7 days of pet food, dry and/or wet food. Be consistent with what and when you feed them. Make sure you have plenty of water included in your stockpile for each animal. As part of your planning process, make sure you have litter and a little box for your regular indoor animals and puppy pads for animals who are used to going outside to go to the bathroom. Some situations may not allow for them to go outside for a period of time.
Blankets, bedding, toys and a carrier for them to hide in will help to protect and calm them as much as possible. If there is any daily medication, have some extra on hand so they retain as much of a normal routine as possible. Remember that what they may want the most is you!
5. Children’s Supplies. If you have young children, make sure you include items specifically for them. Items such as formula, diapers, a special blanket, stuffed animal, toys or games to entertain. Remember that digital electronics will need to be limited or will be non-existent, so ‘old school” options will need to be considered for their sanity, as well as yours. They will be stressed and worried, so anything such as coloring or activity books, books and toys will be a distraction for them.
6. Hygiene. A proper hygiene regimen is not only healthy, but will provide a routine let along a morale booster. Basic supplies such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, mouthwash, soap, and feminine hygiene products are items that should be stockpiled. You will want to ensure that you have plenty of toilet paper, towels, wash cloths readily handy. It is highly recommended that you store toilet paper in a waterproof storage container or place them in separate plastic bags that can be zipped shut to ensure they do not get wet.
Give some thought to what you will use for shower and toilet facilities if there is no functioning toilet or shower. Well water users fall into this scenario. Baby wipes can be used for freshening up. For a camping style shower, fill milk jugs with water. Poked holes on the bottom of the jug will simulate a brisk shower.
When it comes to toilet facilities, there are a few options. The first is to keep a bucket a water handy to pour into the toilet to automatically flush. A second option is a portable toilet used for camping or obtain a 5 gallon bucket, garbage bags, powdered Lyme, and a toilet seat to construct your own. The powdered Lyme is used to keep the smell down. Remember…. do not forget the toilet paper!
7. Shelter & Comfort. Consider the different scenarios that can take place. If you are sheltering in place in the middle of Winter with no electricity and heat, what would you do? If you have a wood stove or fireplace, how much wood do you have? Will it be enough to warm the area for which you are sheltering? If you do not have a wood stove or fireplace, then limiting the area in which you shelter into one room will limit the amount of space for which you need to heat. Make sure you have a stockpile of blankets for everyone. Hand warmers are also an option to provide some temporary relief.
If you are sheltering in place in the middle of Summer with no electricity or air condition, what would you do? If you have a basement, that may be a cool location to retreat from the heat. When that is not an option, use a room that does not get direct sun, but plenty of windows. Consider using battery powered camping fans. When you are in the high 90’s with high humidity, you will be ecstatic for the relief provided.
Lighting is an absolute must when there is no electricity. Have at least 2 flashlights per person and make sure you have plenty of batteries on hand. Light/glo-sticks are another great option for providing lighting for a slightly longer timeframe. Candles and oil lamps can help preserve flashlights and batteries. Just remember to have waterproof matches, lighter, and oil. Having a combination of each of these above items allows for greater flexibility.
With everyone under considerable stress, having some items to help relax and distract from what is going on around you will be of some comfort. Having a deck of cards, some board games, a couple of books will be a nice distraction. Also consider having some notepads and pens/pencils on hand.
8. Tools & Equipment. To prepare for the unexpected, you should have the following items on-hand:
– Fire extinguishers
– Hand tools, a variety (hammer, nails, wrenches, etc.)
– Work gloves
– Candles, waterproof matches/lighters
– Duct Tape
– Flashlights and batteries
– Gas powered chain saw
– Bolt cutters
– AM/FM radio
– Solar chargers
Having a variety of tools listed above available will assist in addressing immediate repairs or clean-up.
To ensure that you know what is going on within your community and to hear emergency announcements, an AM/FM radio that receives NOAA reports is crucial. Just make sure you have plenty of batteries on hand or get a crank powered combination radio/light.
9. Important Extras. Have cash on hand. Keep a few hundred dollars made up of $1’s, $5’s, $10’s and $20’s stashed with your supplies. In past hurricane’s, banks may not open and ATM machines will more than likely be empty of cash or non-operational.
Having important information handy (copies will work), such of insurance policies info, titles, medical information, proof of identification (birth certificates/passports), credit card information is crucial and will save you additional heartache and stress. I have and Emergency Information binder that has copies of all our business, financial, identification, auto, house and property information. Information such as contact numbers, account numbers, user names and passcodes are included and readily handy. If insurance claims need to be processed, I have all the required information and documentation needed in order to submit applications.
Another option would be to keep copies of important documents in a sealed plastic container or bag to prevent the information from getting wet. Try to maintain copies in more than one place, in case of fire.
Precious and treasured memories are at great risk when a disaster happens. Review your photos and pull out or scan the photo’s that are the most treasured. Please photo’s in one photo-book, place on a thumb-drive or place out onto a cloud storage file. If you are keeping aside a photo-book of thumb-drive, place them in a plastic waterproof container or bag to prevent them from getting wet. This way if something should happen to your home or shelter, you still have the most treasured photo’s.
And last but not least, make sure you have phone numbers for your family/emergency contact. When a disaster happens, if phone lines are still available, call or text your emergency to let them know where you are and that you are safe.
There is a lot to preparing for a disaster/emergency. You will be relieved once you know you have taken the steps toward being prepared. In an emergency situation, many times the best place to be is at home. Home will bring comfort. Remember that it is better to be prepared and not need them than to need them and not have them.