The Phaserl


Disaster Preparation Basics

by Gaye Levy, The Sleuth Journal:

There is something about fall and winter that sets our disaster preparedness minds in action. Perhaps it is due to our reflection on years past when wind, snow and ice kept us indoors. Or perhaps it is due to a single, violent winter storm, power outage or hurricane that left a path of destruction and many families without food, water and supplies.

Whatever the reason, short term emergencies do happen and my guess is that there is not a single one of us that that’s wants to suffer the consequences of not being ready to bug in for a few days or more when mother nature misbehaves. And most certainly, none of us wants to rely upon the government to take care our needs.

Today on Survival Friday I am going to get down to some emergency and disaster preparation basics as defined by a reader shortly after Hurricane Sandy in November 2012. Tom in Hawaii posted this article on his blog to help others come to terms with the need for emergency and disaster preparedness. I share it with just a few minor edits made for clarity.

Emergency & Disaster Preparation Basics

“…most of the people who should read and take heed probably won’t get by the first paragraph. The rest of us will read it to see what you forgot or what you add to their lists.” by G.B.S.

“Hopefully, some will read and heed. Otherwise, folks generally get what they deserve.” K.A.F.

“Think of it as evolution in action.”Oath of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

All you living in hurricanistan, blizzardistan, and earthquakistan?

Have you noticed that a lot of people on Long Island are still basically screwed? Lots because they didn’t high tail it from Hurricane Sandy when they should have, but a lot didn’t need to skedaddle. They did need more preparation than they made, though. Maybe they thought the government would soon be there to help them.

You could rely on FEMA’s promise to help you someday, or do something yourself about your impending doom. You might slyly forward this to your ancestral units with an appropriate note like: “Oh, Mater! Oh, Pater! I say, Christmas approaches! Ahem!” They may mutter darkly about devolution versus evolution, but at least you’ll have given them the opportunity to declare themselves cold, uncaring wretches more concerned with their next round of golf than with preserving the bloodline.

Why stand in long lines to compete with the unprepared neighbors for the last moldy donut within six miles?

Some of them may be armed. That little tube which connects us to makes it easy to prep for a natural disaster. When the larder is full and disaster strikes, you can sorrowfully gaze out the window as the neighbors stagger through the frozen night in search of a crust of bread. As your windows reverberate with their wailing and gnashing of teeth, you will be able to put up your feet and kick back in comfort with a cup of hot cocoa, reflecting that “There, but for the grace of Amazon, go I.”

Sooooooo….. I’ve written a long blog post with suggestions, complete with Amazon keywords for ease of finding stuff. It’s about basic preparing for short term comfort during relatively short term emergencies. Prepping for a couple days or even a few weeks is pretty simple, and the only difference between one day and some weeks is largely just adding more of the same stuff.

If you have absolutely nothing on the list already (not likely), the total should run less than $400 for the whole maximal shebang, not including food, which is pretty much free. More about that below.

All you grandparents and parents of young adults: Do you want to see too late the breathless news reports of little Ethelbert wrestling the family cat for a drowned mouse, only for him to watch with tear-filled eyes as Mummsie sautéed it in her chafing dish and popped it into her own mouth? Keep in mind: there isn’t much meat on a waterlogged mouse. “Oh, Ethelbert! Oh Bertie! Come to Mummsie, Dear. Yes, a little closer…”

The veneer of civilization hangs thin on some of the Mummsies of the world. Why tempt them? Just remember: It’s for the bloodline.

And by the way, the idea that being prepared means cooking on a chafing dish is from the FEMA site. Someone over there has a sick sense of humor.


You may have a lot of this on hand already. The rest you can fill in. It isn’t even a pain to shop for: most of it can be gotten with a few clicks at Amazon. The food is nearly free because you need merely to buy ahead, rather than as you need it.


Rock bottom minimum is one gallon per person per day, for as many days as you contemplate being without city water. If you live in a high rise, think about having to carry jugs of water up the stairs. It’s easy to avoid.

A 5 gallon water fountain jug from Home Depot or similar place, carried up in the elevator and stashed in a closet, is a lot better than nothing, and the plastic jug will last for years. You can find heavy duty water jugs smaller than 5 gallons. They are lots lighter, especially if you carry them up empty and fill them at home. If you are a bottled water junkie, inventory more.

You can also get collapsible water jugs which you fill when you have warning of a storm. They don’t do any good for sudden emergencies like earthquakes, or even a burst water main, but if your concern is storms, you will have notice. Sporting goods sections sometimes have them. Amazon keywords: “collapsible water jugs“.

There are also lightweight bathtub liners available which let you store a tub full of water without it getting dirty from the tub or from windblown debris. They are very light plastic because they rely on the tub for support. A tub full is a lot. Amazon keywords are “tub liner“.

Heavy duty juice jugs (like cranberry juice) can be washed thoroughly, disinfected with a cap-full of unscented chlorine bleach in water for an hour, then emptied and filled. Stash in a dark place. Milk jugs are not so good because they are designed for short term storage of perishable milk. They self destruct in a few months and soak everything under them. They work fine for short term storage when you get a storm warning though.


The emergency food supply costs next to nothing because all you need to do is store more of what you normally use. The trick is in building up your stock of food, using the oldest first so you never have to throw away out-dated stock, and in not letting it get run down before an emergency. Keep an inventory of food which will last for as long as you think is appropriate: a few days to a few weeks. Think of it as an insurance policy which you will eat.

Buying weird survival foods in nitrogen packs, or military MREs is not only expensive, it isn’t even optimal for a couple days to a few weeks on your own. Switching to weird food during an already stressful time is just adding stress, especially so for kids. Stock what you and they normally eat, just more of it. If you have kids who are used to cereal, make a game of occasionally practicing for storms with canned milk.

Buy more of all your canned goods and pasta, all the standard foods you use but which do not need refrigeration. Figure out what you use frequently, and stock up. Instead of a couple of cans of this and one of that, buy a couple cases at Costco or Sam’s. Stack ‘em up, and when you open a new case, buy another or maybe two and put them on the bottom of the stack. That way you are always using the oldest first. The bigger the stack of each food, the longer you are prepared for.

This costs nothing except the small opportunity cost of not having the purchase price in the bank earning money. You are going to spend the money on the food anyway: better to do it before a problem. That reduces stress: you aren’t standing in long lines, competing with other last minute buyers. You have less stress, the unprepared neighbors have more food. Win/Win.

A gallon of water per person does not leave any for washing dishes, so paper plates, cups, bowls, napkins, paper towels, and disposable cutlery are very handy. Also, don’t forget a good supply of trash bags. You can throw all these in a plastic storage crate, put them in the closet so they are all together, and they don’t get used before an emergency. Costco and Sam’s Club are great places for all that.

Don’t forget some Wet Ones. They are great for waterless hand and face washing. You can also use them for washing pots and pans after using paper towels to get the gunk out.

Don’t forget a manual can opener. The electric one may not work well when the lights go out.

Cookbook: “Apocalypse Chow” by Jon Robertson and Robin Robertson does a good job with recipes designed for cooking during power outages. I liked it enough to write a review on Amazon, so if you are curious, go there and plug in “apocalypse chow” for all the pro and con reviews.

If you see a hurricane coming, and you have some freezer space, thoroughly wash out milk jugs or similar, fill them nearly full with water, and freeze them. Leave some space for the water to expand as it freezes so they don’t burst. Each gallon jug makes a 7+ pound block of ice, and they won’t make a mess as they melt. Cardboard milk cartons work too. It will keep the food in your refrigerator usable longer, maybe even until the electricity comes back on. Ice is good stuff. When it passes its Use By date, you can even drink it.


I would add one very important thing which is frequently overlooked in preparation lists: a two burner propane camping stove. There is nothing which will stress out kids -and adults, too, for that matter- more than several days of eating room temperature canned food, especially in the northern states in winter. A stove will also let you cook food which has to be cooked, like rice, potatoes or noodles. Hot food and drinks are really important physically and for morale, and you can have it for about $70, several fuel canisters included.

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