Fire, Flood, Storm, Heat, and Cold!
As residents in South Eastern Ontario and South Western Quebec learned this winter, no region of the world is immune to disaster. I'm afraid we were probably all too complacent - floods? Well maybe in Bangladesh, or along the Mississippi, but not here. Fire? Well, may in California or the Austrialian outback, but not here. Tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, monsoons, volcanoes, earthquakes? Oh, not here.
It began quietly enough, just an unseasonably warm spell with freezing rain instead of snow. After 12 hours, branches, trees and other structures began to collapse under the weight of the ice. And still it rained. The freezing rain fell for six days. In some places the ice accumulation was 30 cm thick. High-power electrical towers and telephone poles crumpled and fell, wires arced and transformers blew up. At one point, 10 percent of Canada's population was without electricity, up to a third of Canada's dairy producers and hog farmers were without power.
Driving was hazardous, blackouts were common, telephone service intermittent, and everywhere the sound and sight of branches breaking, their ice coat splintering into thousands of noisy shards, and falling to the ice coated snow. All normal services ceased. No heat, no light, in some places, no water, no telephone, no food, no gasoline.
We all learned a hard lesson - one that those who live in 'Tornado Alley' or flood plains already know. That is that part of Stewardship, part of being responsible for the smooth, efficient and safe management of a household includes being prepared for crisis and disasters. We can't assume that anything will be available when we need it. By the time I was able to get to a hardware store, all the propane lantern mantles were long gone - even the lantern packages had been rifled through and the mantles removed.
How long could you and your family safely manage without electricity, or running water? What if the water supply was unsafe to drink? How would you heat, or cook? What would you do if your home caught fire? What should you do if a tornado hits? Or a hurricane? Or an earthquake? Fortunately, with a little creative planning and organization (the mainstay of Stewardship!) it's quite easy to prepare for almost any emergency.
Find a place in your home where you can begin collecting the following emergency supplies. Try to keep them separate from your regular household supplies, or they'll be whittled away before you know it! In the back of a closet, or under a bed might work. Keep a running list, collect a few items each shopping trip, and check them off. In very little time, you'll be ready for your very own natural disaster. The following is the list I've used, when drawing it up I assumed 2 weeks without services - I hope it never goes that long!.Heating and Cooking:
|2 barbeque sized propane tanks, full
|charcoal briquettes is an alternative - DO NOT use a habachi indoors!|
|20 small propane tanks for cooktops and lantern - use in a well ventilated room!|
|2 cords wood at all times, for fireplace or woodstove|
|replacement handle for ax|
|camp saw, folding camp saw|
|replacement blade for camp saw|
|wooden strike anywhere matches
|14 large fat (long burning) candles (placed in a glass jar, we use them as night lights)|
|50 votive or tea lights (placed in a glass jar, they are a safe source of light)|
|20 candles and candle sticks (a non-liturgical use for your Advent wreath)|
|propane lantern, use in a well ventilated area|
|3 sets spare mantles|
|flashlights and batteries (lots in different sizes)|
|at least 1 sealed 18L container of water
|empty 18L container for water|
|clean empty milk jugs|
|water purifier system; filter or iodine|
|As soon as you can, before a storm hits, or before you lose water, fill your washer and tub. This can be used for flushing toilets, and washing dishes.|
First Aid and Health:
|tampons and maxipads|
|Vitamin C tablets|
|Multi-vitamin tablets, adult|
|Multi-vitamin tablets, children|
|Aspirin or Tylenol|
|First Aid Kit (see separate list)|
I have bought quantities of these food items to provide enough for 8 people at 2 weeks at high caloric need. I will use the same food for our canoe and camping trips.
|biscuit and dumpling mix|
|oatmeal, cream of wheat|
|brown sugar, white sugar|
|juice crystals, canned juice|
|canned milk, dried milk|
|hot chocolate powder|
|canned soup, dried soup, dried sauce mixes|
|canned vegetables, dehydrated vegetables|
|canned or bottled pasta sauce|
|macaroni and cheese|
|vacuum packed hard cheese, salami|
|instant mashed potatoes|
|instant pudding mix|
|hard candies, chocolate bars, jujubs, jelly beans, gum drops|
First Aid Kit:
This topic will be covered in a future Health Column entry, written by our nurse-contributor, Jacqueline Todorov.Miscellaneous:
An electric generator is VERY expensive! But if your house has and needs a sump pump, or a family member has a medical condition requiring refrigeration or machinery, it may be a reasonable investment. If you decide to obtain a generator, keep a supply of gas on hand to power it and be prepared to chain and lock it up, or guard it 24 hours a day - some of the less admirable incidents during our ice storm involved people stealing generators from farmers and nursing homes.
Alternatives to an electric generator include:
|gasoline or propane powered water pump (for sump)|
|gasoline or propane to run pump|
|bilge pump and car battery, as alternative to a sump pump.|
Other miscellaneous items:
|battery operated radio,|
|CB, or cell phone and spare car battery to run CB|
|hand-operated can opener|
|decks of cards|
|board games,coloring books, easy crafts|
|heavy sheet plastic|
|paper plates, cups, silverware|
|old pans (for use on grill or open fire)|
|stove top coffe percolator|
|a camping cookbook|
|Cash stashed away.|
|Ice chest (cooler) and several bags of ice in the freezer.|
In The Car:
Emergencies and crisis can hit when you're in your car too. Knowing what to do, and having the tools to do it, can make the difference between life and death (I'll never forget the time Peter and I came across a hysterical mother whose daughter was having her first epileptic seizure.)
Carry in your car at all times:
|old throw rugs or carpet samples(for extra traction under car tires|
|sand for extra weight or traction blankets|
|1/2 full bottles of water (allows room for freezing)|
|first aid kit|
|3 way lantern|
|heavy duty gloves|
|long handled tire tool(easier to work with in cold)|
|cell phone or PCS if you are travelling long distances or through sparsely settled areas|
|spare oil, windshield wiper fluid, coolant, transmission fluid|
|small candles and matches|
|Full tank of gas in vehicles
|blankets in winter, sun hats, sun screen and drinking water in summer.|
Talk to your local fire department - they often have pamphlets to hand out that give many useful tips on fire prevention and safety. In may areas, a fire fighter will come to your home to inspect it and make recommendations on how to improve your fire safety.
Obtain, install and regularily inspect smoke detectors. Keep passages and entrances free of obstructions. Have a fire escape plan and rendevous point. Have regular fire drills.
This topic will also be covered in a future Health Column entry, written by our nurse-contributor, Jacqueline Todorov.
Again, the police departments have pamphlets available to help you make your home less crime-attractive. They will also advise you on what to do if your home is broken into, what to do if you surprise a criminal in the act, and many other important facts.
From personal experience, I'd advise that you know your area's 'response-time' it may help you decide how soon to call when a 'situation' is developing.