Tag Archives: emergency supplies

Emergency Preparedness IV; Storing supplies/Hosting

I have heard from a number of people, (some commented here), on how they had not realized how unprepared or vulnerable they are. We don’t need to panic or live in fear, I’d just like to see everyone be a little more comfortable in a power-outage, with or without extenuating problems,(extreme cold or heat, for example).And many of the extras I suggest can be very handy when you have guests.

I have practiced what I preached, as we had a major thunderstorm and tornado warning last week. It was dark and I was alone. I placed a large candle-in-a-glass in the middle of my table and a flashlight next to it. Twenty minutes later, when the lights went out, I could find my way to the flashlight, which led me to other candles,(see the previous post on candles and safety).I lit enough to allow myself to read until my husband came home 40 minutes later. When we retired, I left one candle in a jar burning in the bathroom, in front of the mirror to reflect and so, magnify, the light, on the porcelain, away from anything flammable,(and where the cats would not jump up).

I am going to suggest more things to have and put aside for such a possibility but the first questioning your mind may be where do I put it? Even though I suggest that all of the food and other items be what you do like and usually eat or use, you should put the ones that you store for emergencies where they are easily found, especially in low light. If you have room, you can dedicate a shelf or two in your kitchen cabinets, linen closet and/or utility room. OK, now that you have stopped laughing, we’ll find the room, even in a small apartment.(You wouldn’t believe how stocked I was in a tiny apartment we once had in a charming little Gingerbread-House, a converted farm building.)
Even though my kitchen cabinets here are crowded, I found room for small boxes in the back recesses. I don’t understand the people who built this house; there are deep corners where the cabinets fit in next to each other and those sections are useless except for storage. As a certified, (or certifiable), ‘foodie’, I have most of that space occupied with extras found on sale and things I don’t use very often. Perhaps you have a cabinet that is hard to get to, like over the refrigerator? That’s a good place for storage.

If you have little space in your cabinets, look up. Do you have an open area between the cabinets and ceiling? No, I don’t suggest that you stack up cans there, but you can find attractive, square baskets, fabric boxes or cover your own cardboard boxes with contact paper, fabric,(glue it), or decoupage them and store extras there. However, avoid putting your stored foods just above or next to your oven. Avoid heat when possible.
For small packages, boxes, tea candles, etc. I use these decoupaged cans; I have made larger boxes for storage in the same manner:decoupage cans

I also use them for pasta and grains, flours and nuts, tea and coffee, (those that come in packages, such as beans that I grind.) I store small holiday items in some, nightlight bulbs in another. I made some for my family. One has airplanes and I have small military items my son has stored from his Air National Guard service.
These are simple to make. I do them when watching TV or movies on the computer. Cut out pictures from catalogs, books, magazines, calendars or greeting cards, use simple white glue on the front and back of the papers. Overlap the pictures and allow them to dry. Spray them with clear spray paint and allow to dry. Spray the bottoms of the cans to stave-off rust. (You can use decoupage medium such as ModgePodge and/or spray the cans afterward with acrylic craft spray, but these are more expensive.

Storage boxes 006

How about your closets? I have small closets with even smaller doors. There are difficult recesses and they have space on the high shelves that can only be used for storage; you can store boxes there, but if it gets hot, store the food on the floor. If you get low boxes, you can even put your shoes on top of them. Put other essentials,(which I will talk about soon), on the shelves.

Have your essentials easy-to-find, but out-of-sight!

Have your essentials easy-to-find, but out-of-sight!

Mix and match boxes and baskets.If you buy any used, please make sure they can be thoroughly cleaned before you use them.

Consider low boxes that fit under your bed, or even under a sofa. (Make sure they slide out for cleaning purposes.) Consider using old, hard-sided suitcases. I have plastic ‘flats’ for plants that I have cleaned that slide under my beds. I use them for smaller boxes and shoes; they slide out easily.
Thin boxes can go behind doors. Better yet, thin cabinets or shelving can go behind doors and you can use the suggestions for over-the cabinet, pretty boxes to store there.

You can find inexpensive over-the-door canned goods shelving for utility rooms or that can go inside of closets. If you have a laundry room, or laundry area, think about where you can add a shelf, or standing shelves and bins. Again, look up. There is usually wasted space there before you reach the top.
Use medium to large plastic storage containers and stack them, even in plain sight. You may have a corner that you overlook every day, and you’d never miss the space.
If you don’t have shelving in your bathroom that goes over your toilet, you are cheating yourself. You should have a vanity under the sinks or put ‘skirts’ up around them to create storage…not for your food, but for a few extra cleaners, paper products, toiletries and first aid supplies.

an extra shelf in your bathroom can hold supplies

an extra shelf in your bathroom can hold supplies

Easy storage in my bathroom

Easy storage in my bathroom

 

You don’t need to set yourself up with a mini-clinic, but do keep first aid supplies in your home and make sure they don’t run out. Anyone can afford to stock up slowly at dollar-only markets, at your local, major discount store, or in your grocers with sales and coupons. Have adhesive bandages of several sizes, some gauze and medical tape. An ‘Ace’ bandage is a good idea, as well. Keep antibiotic ointment and another ointment, such as vitamin A&D ointment for soothing.(I have always had to keep them on hand as one of my sons is allergic to topical antibiotics), and an anti-itch cream,(like Lanacaine). Have a bottle of alcohol and I suggest, witch hazel. Rotate bottles of peroxide and iodine-based wound cleaners,(‘Betadine’-type), often and keep them out of sunlight as they both break down rather quickly, which is why peroxide comes in dark bottles. You probably know that water ‘s formula is H2O,( two hydrogen atoms, one oxygen atom). Hydrogen peroxide’s formula is H2O2, and it beaks down to water in short order when exposed to light and after a certain amount of time.
Have clean cotton and swabs on hand. Keep some antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, pain relief and aspirin. Antiseptic mouthwash,(‘Listerine’ and knock-offs), can double as wound cleaner.
Make sure you have plenty of soap, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, extra tooth brushes, deodorant, body powders, and anything else that you may use. This is always a good idea. Unexpected or unprepared, forgetful guests would be thrilled for you to be able to supply their needs, especially if their mistake isn’t spotted until it is very late or a very inconvenient time to rush out. I once found myself suddenly keeping 3 extra boys under 9, (plus my own two), for a weekend. Their mother, who had planned on them going with her, had packed their toothbrushes in with all the toiletries and took the bag with her. Fortunately, I had enough extras. Keep a few on hand; I have had other children come to stay overnight and boys are notorious for forgetting toothbrushes…and you or your guest could always drop yours in the toilet.
(I keep plastic shoe boxes with the extras in the bottom of my linen closet. They are neat and they stack.)
I know it is often difficult with insurance policies, but try to keep ahead of prescription medications and if you need other supplies,(like diabetic supplies), please don’t run low, you never know. The same must be said for feminine hygiene, incontinence supplies and disposable diapers.

Please consider always keeping extra pump-spray cleaners, disinfectant spray and wipes on hand. With low water supplies and a long wait for utilities to be restored, you will be grateful to have them.

You might take a moment to consider what would happen if you could not do your laundry for a few days. That reason alone makes me try never to let my hampers get too backed-up. I certainly never let anyone’s underwear supply get low!

Another thing I beg you to make room for is extra toilet paper and paper towels, and I suggest, some paper plates, cups and plastic cutlery. These can be stored up high,(they are light), or where it gets too warm to store food and medical supplies, (even in a crawlspace, attic, garage, outdoor storage that doesn’t leak.) You don’t need a lot, a little goes a long way in an emergency and to be without is…well, not good. And you don’t want to use up your possibly limited water supply by cleaning dishes. And keep extra heavy-duty trash bags to dispose of the used paper products. A little extra in the landfill because of an emergency will not ruin the planet.(Please use disposables responsibly at other times. Try never to use foam and I usually wash and reuse plastic cutlery.)

I hope you have zipped through my previous Emergency Preparedness posts and have gotten an idea or two. Please don’t be caught unaware and unprepared. You just never know.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Next time, we’ll talk about where to put extra guests!

Emergency Preparedness III heating/lighting

So far, we have been talking about being prepared for an emergency food-wise. I’d like to continue that thought today and segue into heating and lighting. In previous posts on freezing foods,[September 2012 Archives], I mentioned that I have been pre-cooking most of the foods I place in the freezer. It makes for easier, quicker meals and it is very convenient for unexpected guests, including my sons and grandkids, who each have specific tastes in food. It is handy for when I am unwell or we get unexpectedly busy. But the best reason is that if my power goes out, the food will not spoil as quickly, we would not have to either heat up an already hot house to much to cook it thoroughly, or waste fuel reserves when it is cold, and we could easily share it if problem went on long enough.

Cooking food in a power outage is a major problem, unless you have a natural gas or propane stove and you have no electric circuitry in your stove. Even so, you have to consider safely thawing your foods to prevent bacterial growth and any clean-up, which may be difficult if your water supply is compromised. People who have fireplaces in their houses or apartments could conceivably cook in them, or if they have places with patios or balconies, they could cook on a grill or hibachi. But please be careful.
Here are some drawbacks:
#1. It may be hard to maintain cleanliness
#2 . You must ALWAYS keep doors and windows shut to keep the smoke and carbon monoxide from entering your living area; this will be hard because in the heat, you may need the airflow or in the cold, because, well, you’ll be cold
#3 You must NEVER burn charcoal inside. You can not see or smell it, but carbon monoxide is a killer and any open flame produces it .Charcoal is the worst offender, but one night my husband closed our fireplace before the compressed logs we had been using were completely burned out; they were just smoldering embers. One of my sons woke me up about 2 AM and I thought I was getting stomach virus because I was nauseated. I passed out in front of my husband, (who had been upset to have been awakened)…and I never felt it coming. Afterward, he passed out in front of me,(and he never felt that coming). I had enough presence of mind to realize that we had carbon monoxide in the house. I brought him to, then crawled to the windows, flung them open and breathed. I went to our sons’ room, (where the CO had not entered), and woke them again. I opened their windows. My husband made his way downstairs to open every door and window…and the chimney flue. I did not know then that we should have called the fire department, who would have not only administered oxygen to us, (as we felt bad for two days; the boys were untouched), but they also would have ventilated our house with their huge fans. We had a really close call. Had the boy not gotten me up, we’d have died in our sleep.
You also must be certain that your fireplace flue is not only opened, but that snow or fallen branches have not blocked the chimney and the upward draft is unimpeded.

We do have a nice, large kerosene heater that we pull in from storage every year by November and usually haul back unused in May. It sits in the corner of my dinning room,(unlit, of course), with a tablecloth thrown over it because it isn’t pretty, but it is beautiful when the power is out in Winter for days at a time. We put it in the middle of the room when it is in use, and we NEVER leave it going without someone in the room. We also have a carbon monoxide detector on the wall; it is the only use for it, as we have an all-electric home. My son has the same type of heater. During a long, massive power outage several winters ago,( due to a huge ice storm), my son called and said that they were doing well and that his wife had mastered cooking over the heater. I called her the next day and asked her how she did it. She stopped dead on the phone for a long pause. “Wait a minute; I have to relish this. YOU are asking ME for cooking advice!” She told everyone she knew, (and I think she still tells new people she meets).

But the heaters are not necessary. Have ready-to-eat foods, preferably in easy-open containers, single serving sized for anything perishable, and have zipper-lock bags for boxed crackers, cereal, etc. (See previous Emergency Preparedness posts.)

I had oil lamps, but I feel that they are not worth the danger. In emergency situations, the last thing you want is an extra emergency like fire or injury. Emergency personnel may be tied-up rescuing others or unable to reach you because of bad, blocked , broken or flooded roads. Water lines may also be cut off or frozen and pumping stations may be down.

I have flashlights and keep extra batteries in a box under my bed. Buy good batteries, (alkaline), on sale if necessary and keep them in a cool spot. I also have a flashlight that you shake to create the current to run it. I have found flashlights that are run by hand-crank; they have radios in them and even a charger for a cell phone. I have given them as gifts. They are not expensive and can be found at major discount stores. But beware; in a major outage cell phone towers could lose function and cordless phones do not work without electricity. I keep one direct landline phone in my house.

Back to lighting, I like to have candles around so I can see. Tripping over the cats, (who don’t understand that we can’t see them as well as they can see us), and breaking an ankle is not an option. However, I have NO OPEN FLAMES; a candle can go over at any time, a piece of lit wick can break off or a draft can blow a flame into something flammable. Here are examples of what I use:Candles 002

Most of these are part of my décor, so they are easy to find. I have more candles handy in a convenient box. I usually buy them on clearance.(I found bags of 100 apple-spice tea lights at my grocery store for 50¢ a couple of months ago). I also have wooden matches which I keep in a tin or aluminum box. This keeps them from becoming damp and useless, and if they are ‘strike anywhere’ matches, it keeps them safe from accidentally striking and causing a fire. (Mice have been known to start fires by gnawing them.) Keep these in one, handy place and always in the same place. If I move things after they have been in one spot, I am hard-pressed to remember where the new place is. You don’t want to be hunting for them in the dark with a flashlight between your teeth.
As you can see some of these candle holders have chimneys; I put most of them there. They can be picked up cheaply at discount stores or not-new shops. I frequent charity thrift shops. I feel good giving them the money and reusing items, but I have been known to stop off to donate bags of what I have decluttered from the house only to walk out with more than I came in with.
The brass lantern was Mother’s Day gift from one of my sons some years ago. You can reuse large candle glassware,(large devotional candle-type), by standing tapers or thin pillar candles in them. Any not-too-thin glass can double as a tea or votive candle holder; I have used brandy snifters. Remember to keep candles on thick, preferably ceramic, surfaces, like a plate, or on Formica or granite/marble table-tops; the heat of the burned-to-the-bottom candle in a thin-bottomed, (usually glass), container can start a fire on wooden tables or any type of table covering. Please keep any burning candle away from edges and where no one will try to reach over them. Even if no fire starts, tipped-over, hot wax can cause deep burns.

We have several of ‘boom-box’ radio-CD players in our house. One is dedicated as our emergency radio. We usually keep it plugged in but we have fresh batteries that are in a box in a drawer right under it, not to be used or borrowed for any other use, no matter how fussy a kid might be when a toy wears its batteries out, (hence the box of batteries under my bed!)

Remember, even if you are alone and you may think that you need only a candle or two, or a little bit of food, think: what if you had a guest and an emergency developed?

 

Next, as promised, we’ll find places to store our extra supplies.

 

Do you have any ideas that I might have failed to mention? Any Questions?

Emergency Prepareness II

I hope you have at least scanned through the previous post, as we are discussing being prepared for any emergency, but especially power outages. You never know when they can strike, but with a little pre-thinking, they can be much less stressful.
And we’ll talk about finding room for these even in a small apartment next time. I promise that you have more room than you know. We are certainly not talking ‘fall-out’ shelter here! Besides, if you put good, useful items aside, you can be equally as ready for a ‘guest emergency’.
I stress that I am not trying to be an alarmist, nor encourage you to be a food hoarder. Many people listen to those who would play on their fears and be pressured into making unnecessary and expensive purchases; don’t do it. Buy only a few extras at a time that you will use anyway and rotate them by using them before they have stayed untouched beyond their usefulness. Sure, you can buy MRE’s,(military ‘meals-ready-to-eat’), that will last for years, but, are you ever really going to eat them? I doubt that straits will ever get that dire for you,(let’s hope not.) If you buy food that you would never ordinarily use, (thinking that, if things were bad enough, you will use them), then you will end up throwing them away. It is terrible to waste not only money but food,(I find it particularly so with meat and animal products.)

Anyone on any budget can put away a few things at a time and be ready for trouble.
Buy what you and your family like; that is essential. If things are stressful, choking down unfamiliar and unliked food only makes matters worse. (In other words, if your kids like Spaghettios, put several cans away.)

Remember to keep all foods in as cool and dry an area as possible; no attics or garages. They must not freeze or be exposed to excessive heat.

Try to keep a number of protein-based cans or packages, plus fruits and vegetables. Ready-to-eat soups are good, and a good choice for vegans, as they will have their protein ready in them. Nuts and peanuts, shelled, roasted or in butters, are also good protein choices for anyone. I will caution you to keep them in their original containers and original seals and as with all the foods, keep an eye on the expiration dates and enjoy them before they get too old. You want to buy replacements and eat what is close to expiring, which is another good reason to stagger your purchases. You won’t find all of your stored foods needing to be eaten or replaced all at one time; that is inconvenient and can be expensive.

Processed meat products should be kept only if the people in your household like them.(Don’t load up on Spam if no one has ever tried it or can’t stand it.) Watch out for fat content in them, too. My choices lean toward canned chicken and tuna, although I have corned beef as well as deviled ham and roast beef spread.(OK, so it’s a little on the fatty side; they are only a couple of cans, honest!)

As for fruit and vegetables, unlike most of my shopping advice, I will tell you to buy small or even individual serving-sizes. They are usually more expensive, but in a power outage, you will have no way of preserving ‘left-overs’. Even if the weather is cold enough to put unused potions outside, you will want to conserve the warmth you have indoors by not opening doors and windows more than you need to.( More of heating options in an upcoming post.) Pick up a couple of boxes of zipper-close bags, small and larger, and put them aside; you’ll need them.(More upcoming on such necessities.) Raisins and dried fruit are some of my favorites and kids usually like them. They are good and they keep, unopened, for years.

The hardest part of preparing is trying to find a good source of carbohydrates; nearly all will become stale if kept for any time, so your best bet is to use what is in your cabinet to supplement your emergency rations and to rely on canned corn and beans.
(If your kids like cereal, look for a small box with a late expiration date.) DO NOT try to rely on dried beans, rice or legumes! I know people who did just that and found themselves unable to use them for two reasons:

1.Even though beans seem to store almost forever, they don’t. They continue to dry and become nearly impossible to cook, even in a slow-cooker.[See my post: “You Know Beans” in the August 2012 archives.]

2.And even if the beans or legumes are split, or the rice is ‘instant’, it will take boiling water and a heat source, both of which may be scarce.[Do not try to store par-boiled or “converted” rice; it spoils easily and is prone to become ‘buggy’.]

Keep at least a couple of bottles of, (or a number of boxed), fruit juice, fruit/vegetable juice and milk products. Milk, either dairy, rice, soy or almond, come in aseptic cardboard boxes that will last well over a year, (maybe more), on your shelf. Powdered milk goes stale and will use your water reserves. Water is a must and the only bottled water I have found whose containers do not degrade is Deer Park; I keep their ‘pods’. If you try to bottle your own water, you will find,(as I did), that it may very well grow mold inside the cap, making it unusable and unsafe. Even if your water remains on, it may have been shortly interrupted by the power outage and when this happens, it may be unsafe for a while or it can pull up rust and sediment that has collected at the bottom of the water mains,(mainlines), to where ‘boil water’ advisories may be in effect. (If sediment and rust are in your water, you may not even be able to use your “Pur”,”Britta” or other filters. Strain though cheesecloth or even a laundered, bleached white cotton cloth, such as a thin towel, a white sheet, pillow case or white tee shirt; a cloth diaper is perfect.) If you keep an extra bottle of chlorine bleach, (regular, unscented), you can follow direction on the bottle to kill nearly ever germ and bacteria that may have collected in the water. Read the labels; some of the ‘bargain brands’ are diluted to one-quarter strength or less. Many of the ‘name brands’ and some ‘store brands’ are now highly concentrated and available in much smaller containers which are more easily put away. Chlorine in the bleach dissipates leaving a bit of salt behind when exposed to air, so if you treat your water with it,(as you municipality does in your water supply), and let it sit open to the air, the water will be safe to drink. You may want to store away a favorite powdered drink mix to make it taste better, such as fruit-flavored, lemonade or instant tea.

If you foresee a storm, or other emergency, you might want to do what many used to do; fill your bathtub. If nothing else, if your water supply gets interrupted you can have some cleaning water and water to flush the toilet, as most work on gravity.(You’ll thank me later.)
If you have your own, learn to turn the water intake to your water heater. You will have that water to work with, but if whatever supplies your heat remains,(such as propane or natural gas), or comes back on,(electricity), and your tank is empty, it will break or perhaps explode or cause a fire. If you can’t turn the water supply to it off, simply do not empty your water heater. Tape or cover the hot water taps in every sink or tub as a reminder.

Any questions?

Next time we will talk about other necessities and, importantly, finding room to store them.