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Low Income Emergency Preparedness Guide

November 16, 2010

Low-Income Emergency Preparedness Guide

An emergency kit and emergency supplies may be critical to your survival and comfort after any emergency or disaster. Although most of us are aware of this we still priorities other wants and needs above our own disaster safety. Preparing for disaster can be both overwhelming and expensive. This simple guide should get you started and is designed to help low-income and income struggling citizens in a place of self sufficiency with little to no effort or expense.

Preparedness Planning

This can be both the easiest and hardest part of this venture. Make this simple by brainstorming and collecting important key information on a blank piece of paper. When you have it all ready make a few photocopies you can post inside your home and leave with trusted relatives or friends so your family will have access to it no matter what happens. Talk about it with your family and make sure even younger children understand the basics.

A few things to get you started:

1. Photocopy everyone's Birth Certificates, SSN Cards, ID's, Diplomas/Certificates, Insurance Documents, and List of Important Phone Numbers. Choose at least one place inside your home and two places outside your home where these copies can be stored safely. Consider making at least one of the places outside your home outside of your state.

2. Program everyone's cellphones with a list of a minimum of five contact numbers that can be used o reconnect if you are ever separated in an emergency. Also print these numbers and encourage members of your family to carry this hard copy in their wallet or purse. You never know when a cellphone will stop working. Post a copy on your refrigerator or cork board so babysitters will have this information as well.

3. Choose meeting areas in case of disaster. Have a location inside the house, near to the house, far from the house but still local, and far away like another state. This will cover a wide range of disasters and threats. Make sure the whole family is aware of these meeting locations and talk about different ways members can get to the places you choose.

4. Choose a safe word. If a member of your family is ever in danger but cannot speak out a safe word will alert you to their situation. Make sure it is a word that can be worked into a conversation without suspicion but is not so common as to create misunderstandings.

5. Keep a list of account numbers and phone numbers for your utility companies. Keep this list in plain site so if any utilities need to be reported down or shut off it is easy to contact the professionals. Repair numbers are not a bad idea either.

6. Ready your body. In a post apocalyptic situation the availability of transportation will be limited. There will be no buses and and running a fuel based car will be limited. Encourage your whole family to get in shape and do a lot of cardio, not just weight training. Do not waste your time and money with a gym membership either. Hike through the woods, walk around your neighborhood, even start walking to school and/or work. This type of activity is much more realistic to a disaster situation then running on a treadmill.

Types of Preparedness:

Home -Your disaster supplies kit should contain essential food, water, and supplies for at least three days.

Keep this kit in a desig­nated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.

Additionally, you may want to consider having supplies for sheltering for up to two weeks.

To further prepare you can begin creating both a 3 month and 1 year long tern emergency supply kit depending on you situation and means.

Work - This kit should be in one container, and ready to "grab and go" in case you are evacuated from your workplace.

Make sure you have food and water in the kit. Also, be sure to have com­fortable walking shoes at your workplace in case an evacuation requires walking long distances.

Car - In case you are strand­ed, keep a kit of emer­gency supplies in your car.

This kit should contain food, water, first aid supplies, flares, jumper cables, and seasonal supplies.

Alternate Location - This is not an option for many people on a limited income. Although some families have pulled together to purchase a piece of land or small cabin outside of the cities to go to in the event of an emergency or civil chaos. Another alternative might be a 24/7 storage unit facility, or a camping location where things could be buried and left undisturbed.

Supplies kept in these alternative locations should consist of long term food, medical, water, weapons, and comfort supplies. While these are an excellent resource you should not expect to be able to have these things right away. Do not get discouraged with this. Having this kind of resource takes a lot of time and money, but there are many alternatives that we will cover later.

Types of Disaster to Prepare for:

Depending on where you live certain disasters are more likely to affect you then others. Figure out what emergencies you will be most likely to experience so you can better tailor you plans and emergency kit to fit any special needs you may have.

Natural Hazards

    * Floods
    * Tornadoes
    * Hurricanes
    * Thunderstorms and Lightning
    * Winter Storms and Extreme Cold
    * Extreme Heat
    * Earthquakes
    * Volcanoes
    * Landslide and Debris Flow (Mudslide)
    * Tsunamis
    * Fires
    * Wildfires
    * Pandemic

Technological Hazards

    * Hazardous Materials Incidents
    * Household Chemical Emergencies
    * Nuclear Power Plants

Terrorism

    * Explosions
    * Biological Threats
    * Chemical Threats
    * Nuclear Blast
    * Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD)

Disaster Checklist and Where to Get the Items on the List:

There are a lot of great ways to obtain and/or store the supplies you might need in case of disaster. Many guides all over the net will provide you with lists and examples. The following suggestions are for low to no income families looking to prepare. Not all the suggestions that follow will work for everyone, but this guide is meant as a starting point and not a list of things you have to do.

Water - You should store at least one gallon of water per person per day. A normally active person needs at least one-half gallon of water daily just for drinking.

It is suggested that for drinking purposes you keep three one gallon containers of unopened bottled water or water jugs per person. This will provide you with a three day supply.

Keep additional water in containers filled from your tap to use for washing and other situations. If planning a longer or larger supply need keep a large empty container that can collect rain water for drinking.

If you choose to use your own storage containers for drinking water, choose two-liter plastic soft drink bottles – not plastic jugs or cardboard containers that have had milk or fruit juice in them. Milk protein and fruit sugars cannot be adequately removed from these containers and provide an environment for bacterial growth when water is stored in them. Cardboard containers also leak easily and are not designed for long-term storage of liquids. Also, do not use glass containers, because they can break and are heavy.

If storing water in plastic soda bottles, follow these steps:

Thoroughly clean the bottles with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse completely so there is no residual soap. Sanitize the bottles by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Swish the sanitizing solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing the bottle, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water.

Fill the bottle to the top with regular tap water. If the tap water has been commercially treated from a water utility with chlorine, you do not need to add anything else to the water to keep it clean. If the water you are using comes from a well or water source that is not treated with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to the water. Tightly close the container using the original cap. Be careful not to contaminate the cap by touching the inside of it with your finger. Place a date on the outside of the container so that you know when you filled it. Store in a cool, dark place. Replace the water every six months if not using commercially bottled water.
 
Food - Using online food calculators to figure out how much food you may need is a great resource, but often not realistic. You have to remember that you may have as many as three separate supply kits that need to be stacked and that can get pricey.Lets start with some basic rules of storing a food supply.

The following are things to consider when putting together your food supplies:

* Avoid foods that will make you thirsty. Choose salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals, and canned foods with high liquid content.
* Stock canned foods, dry mixes, and other staples that do not require refrigeration, cooking, water, or special preparation. You may already have many of these on hand. (Note: Be sure to include a manual can opener.)
* Include special dietary needs.

Food for Car and/or Work Kits: For each person keep power bars and/or unsalted granola for a three day period. Check the shelf life and calorie count before storing. You want to make sure you are able to consume 2k calories a day whenever possible.

3 Day B.O.B.: This is a portable supply kit and should be kept light in case of travel. Power bars, tuna pouches, and high protein snacks are good to store in these bags. Again store for three days of food supply.

3 Day Home Supply: 3 cans per person per day is the minimum. Sterno for warming the food and silverware is convenient but not a necessity. Choosing non condensed soups or full meals like raviolis are best. These cans store for a long shelf life, taste decent, and pack a lot of nutrition.

2 Week Home Supply: Again cans are the best option counting 3 cans per person per day. Eating the same thing all the time can be boring though and lower moral. Keep some comforts in addition to your cans like hard candies and pie fillings for desserts. Also include canned vegetables that can be used as side dishes which will create the illution of eating full and balanced meals.
 
1 year Home Supply: When planning a years worth of food a few cans just is not going to get you through. Meal plans need to be simple and easy to prepare. Buying and storing large amounts of sugar, salt, and flour are some of the best staples. It is important to plan a long term method of cooking as well. Assuming your microwave and stove will not work creating a grilling pit or campfire like setting might be useful. The most important thing to remember if you choose to store this much food is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! It is better to burn things now rather then later when it cannot be replaced.

Alternative Sustainable Supply: Now we are looking far beyond food itself. To create a sustainable diet you will have to grow food and learn to harvest seeds to regrow for the next year. Learning to preserve the food you grow to last throughout the winter is also important. Start small by reading books at the library and watching videos on youtube. You can collect supplies at thrift stores and often times get supplies from restaurants for free.

You may be feeling very overwhelmed again. All this math and food storage can seem daunting. Add in the thoughts of where to put all this stuff even if you do get it can make your head spin. Just remember to start small and take it one step at a time.

Start by clearing off a shelf in the closet or getting a plastic container bin and when you get a supply of any kind add it to the shelf or box. Before you know it it'll be full. We will address cost again coming up, so don't give up yet.

Medical Supplies - Unless you are a surgeon or other medical professional many recommended supplies are really just overboard. Basic first aid like neosporin and ibuprofen is really the extent of what you will need. If you have medications  you take on a regular basis it's good to have extra on hand. Tums, gause, and band-aids are also wise. Just use common sense and don't worry about items you are likely to never use.
 
Comfort - Blankets, candy, tarps, tents, and other comforts are always great to have on hand. Many times we already have this stuff in storage somewhere and don't even realize it. Don't spend money on these things when you or others around you may have this available for no cost. Check thrift stores, garage sales, and auctions for these items at little to no cost.

Now you are ready for anything! Well, almost anything. You never know what is around the corner but if your prepared for it it'll be a lot less scary when it decides to jump out at you. Remember that just because you are not rolling in cash does not mean you cannot be ready for the hard times. Everyone is deserving of safety, and it starts with you.

Lets review the basics and talk a litle about where thses items can be obtained at little to no cost.

    * Three-day supply of non-perishable food.

We already covered much of what and how much food you should be storing above. Now lets look at a few ways to get these items at little to no cost:

* Using coupons and monitoring sales can be a great way to pick up food at little to no cost. If done right the store may even pay you to take their food home.
* Food banks. Swallow your pride and realize that if your income falls in the right guidelines to qualify for food banks you should be using them to your advantage. Trade food you and your family will not eat with others that will. Save foods with long shelf lives in with your emergency kit.
* Apply for food stamps. Again, you may not want to take a hand out from the government, and I don't blame you, but if you qualify for the assistance and you need it you can use these funds to stock up a great reserve of food for the future.
* Buy food and food stamps from people who need the money. Not the most ethical choice but very profitable. Many low income people sell their food or food stamps to others to pay for everything from rent to drug addictions. This is a very advantageous way to stretch a dollar.
* Collect money from multiple families and buy supplies in bulk. When buying large amounts from retailers you often can get a much better deal.

    * Three-day supply of water - one gallon of drinking water per person, per day.

Keep and sanitize your own two liter bottles for water storage. Make sure you ask your friends, family, and neighbors to keep theirs for you as well. Ask grocery stores for their expired sodas so you can use those bottles as well. Don't forget to keep bleach in your emergency kit as well.

    * Portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries.

I always raid the 99 cent stores for these. Another cheap alternative is filling out applications for places like AARP that will send them out for free just for filling out their paperwork. Your age does not preclude you from these offers, they only require you are over age 18.

Weather radios that wind up instead of using batteries are a cheaper and better all around option. These can be a little harder to find at a low price but saves you the hassle and expense of batteries in the long run.

    * Flashlight and extra batteries.

Again these are better when purchased as wind ups instead of battery powered. Keep an eye out at 99 cent stores, thrift stores, garage sales, and auctions. Also many GI and hunting stores give these away for free as promotional materials. Also if you have a gun show come through town these are great places to collect free samples and promotional materials that will be good additions to your supplies.

    * First aid kit and manual.

You can get these free by signing up to take a first aid course at your local fire department. The 99 cent stores carries these as well, but are not very high quality. Piecing these together are not hard with supplies from emergency room drawers (be careful, your not supposed to take that stuff), 99 cent store finds, other peoples left overs, and free samples available all over the net.

Ask your doctor too. Medical companies and big pharma drug suppliers are always smothering doctors with needless promotional items. Just take a look at the pen cans on the secretaries desk! Don't be afraid to ask your doctor if they have samples they are willing to share with you.

    * Sanitation and hygiene items (moist towelettes and toilet paper).

I cannot stress to you how imperative the 99 cent store is in collecting little things like this. Good BBQ restaurants also have large supplies of these on hand that they hand out with every order no matter how big or small. These are also items that your doctor probably has an abundance of.

    * Matches and waterproof container.

This is one of the cheapest items you will buy for your kit. Available almost anywhere, even ebay. A flint can be purchased at a very low price at your local gun show as well. Make sure you keep the lint from your dryer in a baggie in your kit to make fire starting even easier.

    * Whistle.

99 cent stores and childrens birthday parties always carry these in large supply. Just remember you want a loud noise maker and not a kazoo.

    * Extra clothing.

Simple, easy to clean, and warm. Discount stores sell sweat pants and sweat shirts for as little as five dollars. Store all your mismatched socks and use them because you will go through a lot of pairs if you have to walk long distances or wade through water. Ugly, but comfortable, tank tops and t-shirts can be picked up at thrift shops and garage sales for pocket change.

    * Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils, including a can opener.

he 99 cent store is the best place to start. Many people sell off swiss army knives with built in utensils. These can also be purchased cheaply at military bases, security/pd shops, pawn shops, and boy scout stores.

    * Photocopies of credit and identification cards.

This is addressed in more detail above.

    * Cash and coins.

I collect small pieces of precious metals and stones on ebay. These are handy but so are small bills, no one will have change for a twenty if the banks close. The more denominations of cash you have on hand the better bargining position you will be in if you have to use it. A large amount of cash is not as important as a variant of bills and coins. Practice your negotiation skills by frequenting flea markets and swap-meets.

    * Special needs items, such as prescription medications, eye glasses, contact lens solutions, and hearing aid batteries.
    * Items for infants, such as formula, diapers, bottles, and pacifiers.
    * Other items to meet your unique family needs.

Every person is different and all families have different needs. Take stock in what you use and keep a supply in your kit.

Also consider adding these items to your emergency preparedness kit:

    * Jacket or coat.
    * Long pants.
    * Long sleeve shirt.
    * Sturdy shoes.
    * Hat, mittens, and scarf.
    * Sleeping bag or warm blanket (per person).

Additional Tips:

    * Keep canned foods in a dry place where the temperature is cool.
    * Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers to protect from pests and to extend its shelf life.
    * Throw out any canned good that becomes swollen, dented, or corroded.
    * Use foods before they go bad, and replace them with fresh supplies.
    * Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in the front.
    * Change stored food and water supplies every six months. Be sure to write the date you store it on all containers.
    * Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family needs change.
    * Keep items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers, such as an unused trashcan, camping backpack, or duffel bag.

Now to move past this basic supply list lets make an advanced list we can all work toward. Long term security is always a smart decision. The following list is not meant to be obtained overnight. It is meant to be a goal to work towards.

First Aid Supplies

Adhesive bandages, various sizes     
5 " x 9 " sterile dressing     
Conforming roller gauze bandage     
Triangular bandages     
3 " x 3 " sterile gauze pads     
4 " x 4 " sterile gauze pads     
Roll 3 " cohesive bandage     
Germicidal hand wipes or waterless, alcohol-based hand sanitizer     
Antiseptic wipes     
Pairs large, medical grade, non-latex gloves     
Tongue depressor blades     
Adhesive tape, 2 " width     
Antibacterial ointment     
Cold pack     
Scissors (small, personal)     
Tweezers     
Assorted sizes of safety pins     
Cotton balls     
Thermometer     
Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant     
Sunscreen     
CPR breathing barrier, such as a face shield     
First aid manual     

Non-Prescription and Prescription Medicine Kit Supplies

Aspirin and non-aspirin pain reliever     
Anti-diarrhea medication     
Antacid (for stomach upset)     
Laxative     
Vitamins     
Prescriptions     
Extra eyeglasses/contact lenses     

Sanitation and Hygiene Supplies

Washcloth and towel     
Heavy-duty plastic garbage bags and ties for personal sanitation uses and toilet paper     
Towelettes, soap, hand sanitizer     
Medium-sized plastic bucket with tight lid     
Tooth paste, toothbrushes     
Disinfectant and household chlorine bleach     
Shampoo, comb, and brush     
A small shovel for digging a latrine     
Deodorants, sunscreen     
Toilet paper     
Razor, shaving cream     
Contact lens solutions     
Lip balm, insect repellent     
Mirror
Feminine supplies                

Tools     

Tube tent         
Compass          
Work gloves     
Paper, pens, and pencils          
Needles and thread     
Battery-operated travel alarm clock
Portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries     
NOAA Weather Radio, if appropriate for your area     
Flashlight and extra batteries          
Signal flare     
Matches in a waterproof container (or waterproof matches)     
Shut-off wrench, pliers, shovel, and other tools     
Duct tape and scissors     
Plastic sheeting     
Whistle                
Small canister, ABC-type fire extinguisher          

Kitchen Items

Manual can opener     
Mess kits or paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils     
All-purpose knife     
Household liquid bleach to treat drinking water     
Sugar, salt, pepper     
Aluminum foil and plastic wrap     
Resealable plastic bags     
Small cooking stove and a can of cooking fuel (if food must be cooked)

Comfort Items

Games     
Cards     
Books     
Toys for kids     
Foods     
          
Food and Water

Water     
Ready-to-eat meats, fruits, and vegetables     
Canned or boxed juices, milk, and soup     
High-energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, low-sodium crackers, granola bars, and trail mix     
Vitamins     
Special foods for infants or persons on special diets     
Cookies, hard candy     
Instant coffee     
Cereals     
Powdered milk     

Clothes and Bedding Supplies

Complete change of clothes     
Sturdy shoes or boots     
Rain gear     
Hat and gloves     
Extra socks     
Extra underwear     
Thermal underwear     
Sunglasses     
Blankets/sleeping bags and pillows     

Documents and Keys

Personal identification     
Cash and coins     
Credit cards     
Extra set of house keys and car keys     
Copies of the following:     
Birth certificate     
Marriage certificate     
Driver's license     
Social Security cards     
Passports     
Wills     
Deeds     
Inventory of household goods     
Insurance papers     
Immunization records     
Bank and credit card account numbers     
Stocks and bonds     
Emergency contact list and phone numbers     
Map of the area and phone numbers of places you could go

Protection

Rifle with extra ammunition
Hand gun with extra amunition
Machete
Pocket Knife
Tear gas
Smoke bombs

Please feel free to include more ideas, tips, tricks, and informational links in the comments below. We all need to help each other through this if we are going to make it. Don't give up, prepare.

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