Many recognize the value of storing food and water for emergencies. The following list is intended to jar your memory and increase awareness of a few other items that you might easily overlook when developing an emergency storage plan.
1. Emergency light - The old standby light source is a supply of utility candles and waterproof matches. While any light-source will be welcome in a dark and uncertain night, there are some better alternatives to traditional lighting. You may want to consider having some longer-life candles, usually known as "100-Hour Candles," which burn much longer than traditional wick candles. These small containers of liquid paraffin ,a refined lamp oil (kerosene), are a great option for use in the home. Hurricane lamps (or kerosene lamps) are also useful, although the smell may bother some people, especially those with asthma. The illumination power of a kerosene lamp will be enhanced if you place a mirror behind the lamp. Store your extra kerosene or lamp oil in a safe place away from heat sources, children, and pets. Don't forget to store extra wicks! You may also want to consider propane lanterns or hand-cranked lanterns and flashlights. For the hand-cranked options, simply crank the handle and depending on the model it will yield light for various times with no flame, odor or noise. For short-term use, there are devices that stay plugged into your power source, but only activate and give light when the power goes off. Purchasing any type of light that uses LED (Light-Emitting-Diodes) is wise because they require less energy, the bulbs (diodes) last longer than traditional flashlight bulbs, they are lightweight, versatile and most important have no filament to break. You simply do not have to replace a bulb, ever! A cheap and easy-to-use light source is the colorful light stick which is similar to what children often get at carnivals or parties. All you need to do to activate them is to snap a portion of the stick, which allows the chemicals to combine and produce light. In a home, if an earthquake occurred, these light sticks would be safe to use where anything requiring a flame or spark could be disastrous due to broken gas lines. They also can substitute in a pinch for emergency road flares. (See beprepared.com as a source for light sticks and several excellent flashlight options.)
2. Cooking - options when gas or electricity is unavailable, there are still many options for cooking. Charcoal or propane grills come in very handy at times like these--as long as you have fuel! Store your charcoal in a dry place, such as a plastic bucket or metal trash can in the garage. Make sure to store lighter fluid and lighters, as well as windproof and waterproof matches. Gasoline should be stored in a red container which is generally recognized as dangerous or flammable. Do not attempt to use either of these cooking methods indoors! If weather and conditions don't permit outdoor use, you may be able to use them in a well-ventilated garage (with the door open) or on a covered porch or patio, but be very careful. You may want to consider the versatile Volcano II Collapsible Stove, which can use charcoal, wood or propane. (See a video about this product at beprepared.com/volcanovideo.) Dutch oven cookery is excellent if conditions are good and a place is available for an outdoor fire. One good investment for short-term cooking would be a flat-folding stove which opens to proved one study burner that is heated by a heat cell fuel canister. Our ancestors knew how to cook in an indoor wood fireplace, but that requires some special equipment--heavy cast iron pots and a device to move them onto or away from the fire, tongs, heavy potholders--as well as some know-how. If you live in a rural area that often experiences long power outages, you might want to search out and install a wood-burning stove like grandma used. Learn to use it ahead of the need and don't forget to store wood! Always keep safety on your mind as you use anything that uses oxygen to produce heat.
3. Hand-operated can openers - How frustrating would it be to sit looking at all your cans of carefully-stored food, yet have no simple and safe way to open them? Keep a hand can opener in your kitchen and another with your stored supplies, just in case.
4. A basic tool kit - Think about including at least one hammer, several screwdrivers (Phillips and flathead), nails, tacks, and screws of various sizes, pliers, an adjustable wrench, glue (super-glue, wood glue, fabric glue, craft glue), tape (duct tape, electrical tape, masking tape, transparent tape), a utility knife, an awl or ice pick, a scraper, hoses and clamps You may also need outdoor tools such as hoe, shovels, ax, wheelbarrow, and hand saw. Think through your needs and the tools that would help.
5. Yeast - We know that storing wheat (and some kind of grinder) is good sense, but if you forget yeast, you'll be eating unleavened bread! Don't forget other baking supplies such as soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, dough enhancer and spices.
6. Sleeping bags - Make sure you have one for each family member. If you have to sleep outside, in your car or in an unheated building, you'll be very glad to have these. "Space" blankets or bags are also an excellent idea for warmth, and can easily be carried in your car. They can be a "heat preserver" because they reflect about 80% of you radiant body heat.
7. Tableware - Paper plates, cups, bowls, and plastic utensils are often forgotten when thinking about preparing for an emergency. If safe water is in short supply, you'll be happy to not have to waste any of it washing dishes and the ease and convenience of disposable dishes will be appreciated.
8. Health and sanitation supplies - Items such as toilet tissue, soap and shampoo, toothpaste, feminine supplies, infant needs, your usual prescription and over-the-counter medications (pain-killers, antibiotic ointment, anti-nausea medication, stool-softeners or laxatives, anti-diarrhea preparations, Benadryl or other antihistamine preparation), vitamin and mineral supplements, band-aids, tape and gauze, Burn relieving gel, aloe vera gel, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, 1% cortisone cream, small scissors, safety pins, tweezers, disposable gloves, cotton swabs, elastic bandages, and contact lens cleaning supplies.
9. Drinking water - We can live weeks without food, but major health problems including death are possible if we are without water for a long period of time. In addition to storing drinkable water, include a way to purify dirty water.
10. Water containers - An empty gallon jug or other container can be used to transfer and store treated water. How essential to have a way to transport much needed water in case of an emergency.
11. Storage bags - Plastic bags of varied sizes and heavy-duty aluminum foil.
12. Pet supplies - Remember food and supplies, including collars and leashes, medications, litter, and carriers for cats and small dogs or other pets.
13. Cash - Make sure you have some cash tucked away where you can reach it quickly. Include small bills and don’t depend on ATM’s since they won't work during many emergencies.
14. Radio - A hand-cranked or solar powered radio will be especially useful to keep updated on news and weather reports.
15. Entertainment - A collection of non-electric games, books, coloring and activity books, crayons and pencils, puzzles, and board games for you and your children. Make sure to update items as your children grow.
16. Cell phone - Including the charger and a car charger.
17. Notebook and pens - These can be used for leaving notes to let others know that you are okay or to keep track of events during the emergency.
18. Laundry - A hand washing machine or washboard to scrub clothing will help keep morale high. Also have a supply of laundry soap and liquid dish soap.
19. Copies of your important documents - Have them packed in plastic, ready to grab and go if need be. Birth certificates, marriage certificate, wills, deeds and titles, insurance policies, passports, visas, social security cards, contracts, financial documents, diplomas, important medical information, and a list of important phone numbers, addresses, and account numbers. If you have your family history or other precious records or pictures on a computer, keep an updated thumb drive ready to take along with your documents. If you have a large amount of data on your computer, such as business records or manuscripts you might consider using the services of one of the internet companies that saves material for you on their servers.
20. Auto kit - If you are required to evacuate your home, your car may literally be your lifeline and should be kept in good repair and ready to go. A good basic repair kit should be kept in the car at all times and include items such as a spare tire, jack, tire iron, duct tape, a gallon of water, hose clamps, road flares, ice-scraper with brush, at least one can of oil, windshield washer fluid, engine coolant, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, a magnetic key holder to place under your fender (in case your keys get locked in the car), a sack of kitty litter or sand for traction on slick or icy places, a pry bar (in case you need to pull a fender away from a tire after a minor accident) and an empty gas can, siphon and funnel. It is not wise to carry around a full can of gas in your vehicle due to varying temperatures and conditions.
21. Education - A few good books on emergency preparedness and cookbooks for using your storage food could make all the difference in how self-reliant you ’re able to be in a difficult situation. Check out the selection available through beprepared.com.
22. Household products - Plenty of baking soda, white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, as these items have multiple uses, both in the kitchen and for cleaning and personal care.
These essentials can make the difference in any long or short-term emergency. Think outside-of-the-box and then place those commonly missed necessary items in a box, backpack, and pantry or storage area. You will be glad you did!