Emergency Supplies

In light of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans I’ve been thinking about emergency plans for the Jones family. My main concern is being caught in a blizzard like the one we had in 1994, with the potential loss of power, heat, and telephones. There’s also a remote potential for an earthquake. East Tennessee is on a large, but largely inactive, fault line. This should also encompass even more common occurrences such as medical emergencies, fire, car breakdowns, power outages, etc.

This is me thinking out loud. Any advice appreciated.

What we have now

  • Propane grill, 1 cylinder, propane heating attachment bought two winters ago UPDATE: replaced the radiant heater with a Mr. Heater Buddy from Lowe’s as a Christmas present. 2008 update: we now have three 20 pound propane cylinders.
  • Lots of candles and flashlights (mostly StreamLight TwinTasks) and lots of batteries bought in bulk at Home Depot or Lowe’s.
  • Battery-powered radio for AM/FM/UHF/Weather Band (the UHF TV is actually more useful than the FM/AM – local TV news has great, almost non-stop reporting during bad weather). 2009 update: with the move from analog to digital TV the UHF option no longer works. It’s worth remembering that in many areas a local TV station broadcasts the audio portion of their programming near the bottom of the FM dial.
  • Cell phones. Charge them in advance of a winter storm and have DC/cigarette lighter chargers handy. In a prolonged power outage the batteries in the cell phone towers will give out, meaning you’ll need other means of communications.
  • First aid kits in backpack and house, though both need re-thinking/replenishing UPDATE: added all-new OSHA-approved kits from Beprepared.com.
  • Plenty of guns, ammo, holsters, etc. if the SHTF. Plan is to take a couple of concealable handguns and a long gun for basic self-defense.
  • Pocket knives, sheath knives, and Swiss army knives and multi-tools on person, in car, and in house, compact shovel in car
  • Tarps and ropes UPDATE: added ratcheting tie-down straps (4 for $15 at Home Depot) which make it easier to tie down loads tightly
  • Tools and gardening tools
  • Arkansas credit card (gas siphon hose) UPDATE: it turns out the cheapie model I had didn’t work well at all when one of our cars ran out of gas because the hose was too wimpy to force into a gas tank; I’m going to get a better model with a more substantial hose and handpump)
  • Fire extinguishers in cars, house, bedrooms
  • New FirstAlert OneLink smoke and CO2 detectors with wireless links and voice alerts LATER: these turned out to be overpriced junk. I replaced them with more-conventional smoke/CO2 alarms.
  • Computer backups & important documents offsite in bank safe deposit box (cheap at $38/year) with pictures and MP3s backed up to DVDs stored at work, LATER: We still use those backup options, but now also use Mozy online backup, which is easy, automatic, and cheap at $5/month. If you’re just starting your backup plans skip everything else and go directly to online backup.
  • Car emergency kits (road flares, booster cables, tow cables, blankets, tire inflater, etc.) and a large synthetic blanket in the trunk.
  • Lots of backpacking equipment (tents, sleeping gear, water treatment, packs, lightweight stoves and mess kits, flashlights and LED headlamps)

What I know we need off the top of my head

  • Emergency baby food supply
  • Emergency pet food supply
  • Hurricane lanterns UPDATE: got them in the camping section at Wal-Mart for $4.50 each; they burn lamp oil, kerosene, and tiki torch fuel, which is handy since we always have a few gallons around for the patio torches.
  • Multiband crank radio (and I’m not talking about Art Bell) UPDATE: got the Coleman Outrider model, which works very well with minimal cranking, and also runs for 20 hours on the internal rechargeable battery.
  • Propane-powered stove burner and spare propane cylinders UPDATE: got the spare propane cylinder as a birthday present, and got a propane turkey fryer (which is basically an outdoor burner) at an after-Thanksgiving sale for 50% off. UPDATE 2: we now have a third propane cylinder.
  • Spare butane cylinders for the backpacking stoves UPDATE: got them
  • Power inverter (for running small AC electrical equipment off of car’s DC cigarette lighter – also handy for car camping and other things) UPDATE: we got this Xantrex model from Amazon; it isn’t clear in the Amazon photo, but it can connect to either a cigarette lighter adapter, or directly to the car’s battery posts (which is necessary for higher wattage appliances); both cables are included. Also got this Husky power box which contains a car battery, inverter, a compressor to inflate tires, and cables for jump-starting a car.
  • Information for bank and insurance accounts and other important info.
  • Gasoline containers UPDATE: got three five-gallon cans ($6 each at Wal-Mart) and a spare spout
  • Utility trailer for evacuating (I want one anyway for moving furniture and such) UPDATE: I may ditch the utility trailer idea and get a receiver hitch rack which is less expensive, takes less space when not in use, and is easier to maneuver; we now have a Honda Odyssey, which makes for a better bug-out vehicle; it has a GPS nav system, roof rack, trailer hitch, and much more room and seating capacity; we also keep a state atlas in the van
  • UPDATE: we now have an appliance dolly (“hand truck”); along with ratcheting tie-down straps this is a great way to stay mobile if we run out of gas
  • Pair of hand-held ham radios; will need to get trained and licensed; also useful for hiking, backpacking. UPDATE: Bought a set of inexpensive FRS/GMRS radios for $10 each, and a Cobra Road Trip CB radio. UPDATE 2: Snagged a CB radio with a cigarette lighter adapter and magnetic antenna at a yard sale for $10.
  • Water storage and treatment strategy (have iodine and household bleach, may get one of these MSR units – also useful for backpacking) UPDATE: got extra iodine tablets ($3 a bottle in Wal-Mart camping section), three seven-gallon potable water containers ($7 each at Wal-Mart), and two flats of bottled water ($4 each at Home Depot) that we keep on top of the kitchen cabinets and rotate once a year.
  • Decide on a place to keep emergency supplies for easy access in a hurry UPDATE: using overnight backpacks we use for camping
  • Create a supply check list
  • LATER: Cash. In an emergency without power credit card readers won’t work and you won’t be able to withdraw money from ATMs. We keep rolls of quarters and a pack of 1 dollar bills in the cars for emergencies. If you routinely travel outside your county keep enough cash to pay for enough gas to get home as well a few meals and a night in a hotel.

Inexpensive Alternatives to Emergency Generators
Emergency Communications over Two-way Radio
Government recommendations (Ready.gov)
Doc Russia’s recommended first aid kit part 1, part 2
Countertop’s thoughts
Preacherman’s lessons learned from his New Orleans bug-out
Water supply and storage
Storing gasoline
Head’s experience evacuating from Hurricane Rita

14 Responses to Emergency Supplies

  1. Mike says:

    You’re in pretty good shape so far. A few suggestions:

    Lose the candles and replace them with a few hurricane lanterns. They run nicely on liquid paraffin, and they can use vegetable oil in a pinch. Candles are dangerous.

    LED flashlights last much longer than regular ones. Amazon sells an LED replacement bulb for maglights (I have one on order now, I’ll tell you if it works).

    Talk-about radios are cheap and don’t need a fancy license.

    Don’t underestimate the supplies you will need to keep a child safe and happy. These needs will change as the child grows.

    Consider a small kit for your car, with enough gear to get you (and child) home safely.

  2. Les Jones says:

    “They run nicely on liquid paraffin, and they can use vegetable oil in a pinch.”

    I didn’t know that until just the other day when I was reading about disaster preparedness. That’s pretty cool, since we buy cooking oil in big quantities, and it’s less flammable than other lighting oils. We’ve got a decorative lantern like that, but I’ll pick up some metal ones. I’ve seen them for $8 or so.

    I’ve thought about the talkabouts, but I like the idea of being able to use the hams for backpacking. As I understand it, ham radios can even make calls to telephone lines, though I don’t know all the details.

  3. Addison says:

    Keep the candles. 🙂 They don’t break, unlike the lanterns – get them, too, but also have the candles, is my take. I’ve got lots of candles, some lamps (non-hurricane, for now).

    Girlfriend and I sat down and wrote down the SHTF bag lists, she organized totally differently from I. She also is a nurse, and had a laundry list of medical items. 🙂

    Intially, I break it down 3 ways. 1) Hiking 2) driving away, 3) stationary. If 2 or 3, well, pretty much the sky is the limit. I’m seriously considering a popup camper as a minimum for 2, as well. Or building something like that on a cheap $300 trailer.

    In the worst case, you’re walking out. So I’m working on what’s the minimum I can haul in a backpack, and tow on a cart of some sort. So, no worries with food, but water, purification, that sort of thing. I haven’t gone and gotten an MSR yet, that might be better than my plan – have a Brita filter, put water in gallon jug, toss in the purification tabs, let the brita strain out the other stuff.

    How could you forget duct tape? Also, women’s hygene products, combined with duct tape, don’t make bad emergency first aid in case of bleeding.

    If I’m mobile, then I need gas most of all. I’ve got the current capacity for 30 gallons in cans. Right now, that’s plastic containers, and 2 boat tanks. I think I’m going to upgrade those to metal, for more durability, not having to worry about gas fumes pushing them out… If I’m stationary, then I’ve got lots more canned goods, water, worrying about generators, etc.

    The Inverter: make sure you understand what kind of a pull you’ll need, and the inverter (and whatever you’re hooking it to) can handle it. Also, plan on putting it straight to the battery (that lighter fuse is probably only 5A, my inverters are minimum of 30), and not getting a lot of runtime. If you’ve got a baby, you might want to consider a 12v fridge for the vehicle – most trucking places will have a number of 12v items.

    I’ve got 2 aviation handheld radios that are in the bag – lot easier to talk to rescue choppers/planes if you can get on freq with them. 🙂 But then again, I’m a pilot, so they’re usually in my flight bag. http://www.sportys.com/pilotshop/pages/transceiver.cfm?trackingId=731
    I also have 12v chargers for all those, or the cell phones.

    And I see you’ve forgotten the MOST important thing – buckets. You *really* want at LEAST 1 5 gallon bucket. I’ve got one, I drilled a hole, and put a spigot on it, sealed with marine caulk – and with a small hose, it’s a usable shower, or water dispenser – or scoop for water, put a trashbag in it, with a 2×4, and it’s a usable toilet, invert it, it’s a seat. Most of my supplies are either planned to be in that, or a icechest.

  4. cube says:

    “Tools and gardening tools”

    How many of your tools run off of electricy. Like drills.

    “Computer backups & important documents offsite in bank safe deposit box (cheap at $38/year)”

    What if the bank and your house are destroyed (most likely will happen in a natural disaster). I would store important info in a thrid (way off site)

    Also food – the length of the disturbance. I did not see food.

    Do you have a fireplace, some wood and firestarting materails might be in order?

    Also do you have a pet, if you do you will have to plan food for that?

    The list looks good, and you should surive most disurbances, excepct for the NCB ones.

  5. Kent says:

    List sounds good. As my wife and I are into camping and hiking, I have found that rather than pack everything up from scratch every time, consuming time that could be spent outdoors, we made a list of all the “must have’s” and packed all of that into one big rubbermaid box that fits in the trunk. I did the same for my daypack, filling pockets with the minimal survival stuff I want in the event that I am stuck out for a few days unplanned.
    *** Now for the interesting part ***
    After 9/11, when reviewing needed kit items for house, 95% of the items were either in the daypack or the camping box already. Pretty easy to put the other 5% in a smaller box in a closet somewhere. For me, the other 5% is stuff that I use daily anyway. . . Ham radio HT, for example.

  6. hellbent says:

    I think of my MSR water filter as my most indispensible survival tool. Definitely get you one.

  7. Formerflyer says:

    Ditch the propane stove and switch to a multi-fuel. Propane bottles are hard to find in a pinch as everyone will scarf them up, and they run out of fuel fast, extraordinarily fast if you’re purifying gallons of water, and you will be purifying gallons of water. Don’t forget that, unless you can find a totally isolated place to wait it out, you will probably be in some kind of group situation for mutual support, comfort, convenience and defense. An MSR or Coleman multi-fuel stove can run like a blast furnace for hours on a quart of fuel, and more fuel can be found in your friendly neighborhood gas can. (Unleaded is fine, no need for premium.)

    I’ll second the call to ditch the HAM radios, too. Motorola Talk Abouts ($20 each at Cabela’s last year, don’t know the price today) are good for miles. Cristal clear communications between cars, easy to use, cheap, etc. If you really want one, get a HAM as a separate item for communicating outside, but use those small, lightweight, bombproof Talk Abouts instead.

    Keep a few candles, but not many. Don’t use them for illumination except as a last resort. They’re dangerous as all get out, more so in a strange environment with babies running around, etc. They make great fire-starters though.

  8. Les Jones says:

    Formerflyer: these are the big propane tanks, not the little ones for camping. I’m using them because I have to have them anyway for the gas grill, and they’re a good solution for heating, which is one of my biggest concerns.

    Addison: thanks for the tip on the inverters. Sounds like I need to do some more research.

    Cube: I don’t have a food plan, and you’re right, I need one. Tools are hand tools. Need to pack nails and screws, too. The important docs are mostly one-offs like deeds and titles, so I can’t keep them in two places. Since we’re not in a flood zone, I’m not too worried about the house and the bank both being destroyed. Thanks for reminding me about the pets.

    Sounds like my next step after collecting some of this stuff is to make a checklist for it like the one I use for backpacking so I’ll remember all this stuff. I also need to organize the emergency supplies into one place, and preferably in containers or packs.

    Thanks for the advice, all!

  9. Emergency Supplies

    Les Jones and Countertop Chronicles are blogging about the contents of an emergency kit for your home.

  10. cube says:

    “Need to pack nails and screws, too. The important docs are mostly one-offs like deeds and titles, so I can’t keep them in two places.”

    So. Make copies, when your house and your bank are both destoryed the copies will have to suffice.

    Secondly, i find it hard to belive that you cannot get certifed copies of even important documetns (i know you can of you birth certificates, though I did not own a house or land, so you could be right). I would check around and see what you can do. Ask a public notary, they might know.

  11. Dr Bob says:

    Great resource, thanks for the post–and the comments are useful as well.

    Here’s a post on my blog on items for the emergency medical kit:

    The Doctor Is In

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  13. Found your post via Instapundit. Great list.

    Keep the ham radios and get your Technician’s class license. See http://www.arrl.org for info. It’s not hard or expensive, will help you learn proper radio procedure, and gives you much better communications capabilities than FRS, GMRS, or CB radios. E.g., a typical handheld ham radio can transmit at 5W, while the others are much less. Further, the ham radios will allow you to connect to a repeater (essentially a very powerful radio that retransmits your signal), allowing you to communicate long distances. Some repeaters have what’s called a “phone patch,” which allows you to connect and make a telephone call.

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