September is National Preparedness Month. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month aims to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.
The last time I seriously looked at our level of preparedness for an emergency was back in 1999. I was working in the IT department of a major bank, managing a team tasked with testing the PC-based applications for 4-digit date compliance. And while I knew that the bank I worked for was definitely still going to be fully functional at the stroke of midnight January 1, 2000, that nagging “what if” drove me to put together some of the basic items recommended by preparedness experts.
FEMA recommends the following in your emergency kit:
1. Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
2. Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
3. Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
4. Flashlight and extra batteries
5. First aid kit
6. Whistle to signal for help
7. Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
8. Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
9. Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
10. Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
11. Local maps
A .pdf file of the FEMA brochure on what to include in an emergency kit can be found at http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1390846764394-dc08e309debe561d866b05ac84daf1ee/checklist_2014.pdf
Fast forward fourteen years. All the water I had stashed has long since been used. The 72 hour emergency kits we put together in 2007 haven’t been opened at since then. What was inside? A 12-oz bag of raisins. Three each of the following: granola bars, cereal bars, instant oatmeal, hot chocolate mix, hot cider mix, and M&Ms. The only package with a date was the raisins – and it said “Best before” 9/2009. Keeping it. Sadly, I found no Twinkies. Rumor has it that they keep forever.
I opened one of the cereal bars. It looked OK. It smelled OK. I took a bite. It tasted OK. Keeping them, and assuming that the preservatives contained in the rest of the items were working just as well. I laugh because we have worked very hard the last couple of years to get preservatives out of our diet. Still, I think even Dr. Oz would agree that, in an emergency, food with preservatives is better than no food at all.
Fortunately, we live in the food storage capital of the world. Also fortunately, we own a generator and lots of camping equipment. And most fortunate of all, our neighborhood has put together a preparedness plan that includes knowing who has what so we can pool our resources in case of an emergency.
I bought a case of bottled water and put it downstairs with the emergency kits. Hey, it’s a start.