Don’t wait until an emergency strikes your home


From hurricanes to earthquakes to fires, the recent disasters in North America have taught us a lot.

We’ve seen how neighbor reached out to neighbor and, stranger to stranger.

And we’ve seen the stories about multiple organizations bringing in food, supplies and volunteers to help rescue stranded homeowners, take care of pets, and begin the arduous process of cleaning up the damage.

Even more, we have seen how important it is to prepare for disasters — large and small.

In fact, we usually think of preparing only for the “big one,” those natural disasters that overwhelm us on a large scale.

But an emergency also could mean being stuck on an impassable road, losing your job, enduring high gas prices, or even an injury or illness that keeps you from working, shopping and cooking.

At a mid-summer emergency preparedness event held at the OSU Extension Service in Lane County, Katya Davis spoke about becoming so ill that she couldn’t get out of bed. She joked about “the food under her bed” being her only source of nutrition for several days. She was making light of the situation, but it was a serious example.

Davis learned that she needs to keep foods on hand that are easy to eat, that don’t require cooking, and perhaps most importantly, that she enjoys eating.

Master food preserver Nellie Oehler spoke about how she grew up on a farm “in the boonies,” so preserving food and being prepared for lean times was something she grew up doing. After the scare of Y2K, she started up again in earnest, making sure her household had plenty of food and emergency supplies on hand.

Oehler achieves that by growing a large garden and canning her harvest. She stores water treated with a few drops of bleach and keeps foods on hand that don’t go bad.

Keep your stashed food in a cool, dry place, she says, where bugs can’t get to it. And keep some food in more than one location, such as in the house and a shed, for instance. She keeps some alternative cooking sources on hand, such as a propane stove (with back-up propane).

She demonstrated another cooking source: A large metal can with a flap cut out and bent up. A small fire can be built under that and something warmed up on top. “You can fill a tuna can with rolled up cardboard and pour some wax over it and a wick set in,” Oehler says. “That’s enough heat to cook a dozen eggs and then some.”

Other tips: Use coffee filters to get clean water. Keep cash on hand. And don’t forget extra supplies for your pets.

Each of the speakers at the Extension event stressed the importance of having an emergency kit in your car. Pat Patterson recommended an extra pair of reading glasses in the car, along with a Kindle loaded with books. “The idea is to have some fun while you’re stuck someplace,” she says.

The car kit shouldn’t be so heavy that you can’t carry it, but do include basics such as a first aid kit, plates, eating utensils, a medical history, and a strong knife.

Avoid canned food in the car kit or your backpack because they’re heavy. A signaling mirror can help, and trash bags and duct tape has myriad uses.

Mylar blankets can keep you warm by reflecting back most of your body heat, and they are small and light.

There are two different models for emergency preparedness. One is to “bug out” or leave wherever you are to go to a safe place. The other is to “hunker down” and stay in place to ride out the emergency. Try to be prepared for each situation. Have extra supplies that you can use at home, as well as a pack for each person (and pet) in the home and car, that you can grab and take with you if you must leave.

Your bug-out kit should include clothes, extra medicines, batteries, lights, reflective blankets and a knife. The basics are food, water, fire-starting supplies and a way to filter water if you can’t boil it. With those things, you can survive a long time until help can come.

Patence (pronounced “Patience”) Winningham, Eugene’s emergency management program coordinator, has lots of tips and resources on this topic.

“We are encouraging the recommendation to have on hand two-weeks-worth of food and water for every family member including pets,” Winningham says. “If you had to go to a shelter you would have to eat the food provided and it may not be what you or the animals are used to. We call that an incident within an incident.”

Have a plan for where to go if you can’t stay in your home. Involving other family members in your plan can help. Will you escape to your children’s homes, or will your children try to get to your house, if staying at home is not an option? How will you get there?

“It’s important to keep an accurate list of medications and consider switching to the three-month supply program for medications that most mail order programs offer,” she says. “Medicare does pay for the mail order prescriptions. Not all insurance programs will cover a 90-day supply but some do.”

Winningham says to get involved with your neighbors and neighborhood associations. “That’s an important piece,” she says. “Those are the people that can help you in time of need.

A graphic and a pic of an emergency kit – no cutlines/credits

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