Are you prepared?

by Liz Beavis
I guess there’s something about this time of year that gets me thinking about disaster preparation.  In summer in QLD we either have hot dry weather, perfect for bushfires, or wet weather, storms and floods. Either way, we are at risk of losing power for up to a week, being isolated, or being forced to evacuate. No wonder being prepared is on my mind as we come into summer!

The most important to thing is to be aware of your risk. I grew up in New Zealand, and I was very aware of the risk of earthquake, and most people there will be prepared with food, water and supplies to survive weeks without services. We don’t have an earthquake risk here, so our needs are different. Know what could happen in your area, and when it is likely, and from there you can figure out what you might need. This also dictates whether you would need to shelter in place or evacuate, or if both are a possibility for you.  Our state has a website called "Get Ready Queensland" which explains how to prepare for the main risks in our area.  Check if your state or local council has similar information available.

Next you need to gather supplies in an “emergency kit”. The amount that you need will depend on how long you may be isolated or away from home. I have seen three day’s supply recommended, but that is really a minimum, particularly in a rural area, where help may take some time to arrive. I would think aiming for enough to last a week or two would safer. Start by stockpiling water in large bottles, and collecting non-perishable food. Remember that you may not have electricity to heat up food, so unless you have access to gas or can light a fire outside, you will need to plan to eat cold food.

A first aid kit is essential, for everyday use, not just for disasters! I have a kit in each car and one in the house. The main thing is to remember to refill as you use things out of it. I also include matches, a small torch, and a pencil and paper in our car kits. It would be a good idea if at least one person in your household has basic first aid training. Although most of it is common sense, in an emergency, it helps to have some training to help you respond appropriately.

You will also need a number of torches for the house, and know where they are. The last you thing you want when the power goes out in the middle of a storm is everyone crashing around in the dark looking for torches. Candles are a good idea too. A battery powered radio will help you keep you updated with the situation. Remember in a disaster you may not be able to use your mobile phone (and the battery won’t last long either). Speaking of batteries, make sure you have a stockpile to keep the torches and radios going.

Cash is an important item that is often overlooked and many people I know don’t carry cash at all. In a disaster, the ATM won’t work and neither will EFTPOS or Paywave. You will have to pay cash, so it will help to have some tucked away with your emergency kit, just in case. Last time our power went out and we drove in to the service station to get more fuel for the generator, I was able to pay in cash because we always have cash in my bag (its more common to use it in rural areas) and other people had to keep driving because they only had cards. Of course, it would have been better to have the fuel prepared as well, that is something we need to work on! If you had a generator or know that you may need to evacuate, keep your car topped up (don’t drive until the empty light comes on!!) and keep fuel cans full as well.

This is the absolute basics, if you have particular medication needs, young children or elderly family members, you will need to consider additional items in your kit. You may also need to consider how you would care for animals. We had to plug the incubator into the inverter on our campervan solar panels to keep it running one night when we lost power. You need to have a back-up plan for all eventualities!

Ohio Farmgirl has some really good tips on her blog, mostly around storm preparation, but that it pretty extreme and can be adapted to most other natural disasters. And there some good information on Modern Homesteading too.

So are you prepared? What are you prepared for?

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