The American Red Cross, FEMA and other emergency agencies suggest every household keep a minimum of 72 hours of emergency stores per person on hand at all times. History has proven that it often takes a minimum of 72 hours for these agencies to deploy and arrive on scene. Preps will vary depending on the climate for your region and the location of your home. For instance, I no longer need sheets of plastic and duct tape for windows and doors because I no longer live near chemical plants where airborne disasters may, and have, occurred. But I do need to have a plan for alternative non-electric heating source(s) due to the potential threat of long, severe blizzards. We stored emergency preps even when we lived below the poverty line, therefore, I firmly believe that anyone from any income level is capable of preparing. When we lived below the poverty line, I did not have the resources to gather all our emergency preparations at the same time. I had to add to our stores over a period of time as our resources allowed.
Nowadays, we live isolated on the Montana prairie. Tropical storms, hurricanes, torrential thunder storms, severe flooding, and accidents from chemical plants are no longer a threat to our serene and peaceful existence. But, however isolated and peaceful our life is out here, we have not been fooled into believing that we are insulated from disasters. We simply face new ones such as prairie fires, blizzards, wind storms, etc.. We can't prevent disasters, but we can prepare to survive while waiting for emergency rescue personnel.
As mentioned above, emergency stores for each home will vary based upon region and the health of persons living in each home. But there are some basics that EVERY family needs, regardless of location or health.
Potable water for drinking and cooking is an essential element in any emergency kit. Without water the life expectancy for healthy human beings is only 3 days (72 hours). The American Red Cross suggests every household store a minimum of 5 gallons per person. Although we are now blessed to have the resources to store a couple weeks worth of water in a homemade storage system, when we lived below the poverty line, I washed and filled empty milk jugs for water storage. Make sure to "rotate" stored water every six months by emptying, washing and refilling the container(s).
Living in a region where winter temperatures can plummet to -30 degrees, a non-electric INDOOR heating source is a necessity. Make sure any non-electric heat source is approved for indoor use. If it is not clearly stated on the heat source that it is approved for indoor use - DO NOT use it. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and silent killer.
Electricity brings so many conveniences to our lives. It powers all sorts appliances and tools that help make numerous daily tasks quick and easy. During a power outage, none of those appliances and tools work and we suddenly find that daily tasks take longer when done manually. It is probable that one will find themselves trying to prepare a meal or tend to infants and children after dark. Evening lighting is necessary to move about during power outages. We keep a supply of battery operated lanterns and flashlights, kerosene lamps w/ fuel and candles. NEVER allow children to use candles and kerosene lamps. NEVER use candles or kerosene lamps in children's bedrooms or near draperies. Our children are only allowed to use battery lanterns and flashlights during power outages. We do not carry lit kerosene lamps or candles from room to room. They are placed on a sturdy table or counter in the room we desire to use BEFORE lighting.
Again, the American Red Cross and FEMA suggest storing for each person in each household at least 72 hours of NON- PERRISHABLE foods. Since we live in a very isolated region and grow/produce, preserve and store much of our food, we usually have a well stocked pantry, especially during autumn and winter after canning season. However, when we lived below the poverty line a well stocked pantry was not always possible & since we lived with the convenience of nearby grocers, a well stocked pantry was not the necessity it is now. Even with our limited resources and the convenience of nearby grocers, we ALWAYS had at least 3 days of non-perishable foods on hand. Our stores were humble and included instant oatmeal for breakfasts, canned soups and saltine crackers for suppers. We stored enough for each person to consume 2 meals per day for three days. Please remember to "rotate" dry goods such as instant oatmeal and crackers every six months and canned goods annually by consuming the stores and replacing them with new.
A non-electric cooking source for preparing meals and boiling water is also a necessity. Since I prefer to cook over gas, we have a propane range, thus we must be vigilant to ensure the propane in our tank doesn't get too low. For those who do not have a gas or propane range it is important to acquire a non-electric cooking source. If a bar-b-que grill or camp stove is the cooking source of choice, NEVER use them inside your home. Both emit carbon monoxide and, again, it is the odorless, silent killer. If using a grill or camp stove be prepared to cook and boil water outside. Also, NEVER cook over a gas fireplace. They are not designed to have any type of obstruction over or near the flames. Any obstruction from an attempt to cook over a gas fireplace could result in an explosion causing severe bodily injury or death. If living below the poverty line, constructing an inexpensive non-electric cooking source is as simple as placing an old wire refrigerator shelf over a small fire pit in the back yard. Dig a shallow hole, line the outer edge of the hole with rocks. Use briquettes or salvaged wood as a fuel source. When finished cooking make sure your "campfire" is completely extinguished before leaving the fire pit.
With so many people "wired" nowadays, we often fail to realize how board our children will get when the power goes out and their computers, i-pads, cell phones, etc. don't work for a significant length of time. Keep a few games, books and puzzles on hand to help youngsters pass the time. If your family doesn't have a supply of board games and other non-electronic games, the dollar store is a great resource for inexpensive card games, puzzles, crossword & word search books, etc..
Kerosene lamps, flash lights, indoor propane heaters, grills and camp stoves are useless with out fuel sources. After determining your choice for lighting, heating and cooking make sure you purchase and store appropriately sized batteries, lighting or heating oil, propane or bbq briquettes. Remember to stock matches. We also suggest never allowing your car's fuel tank to drop below 1/2 full and store an additional 5 gallons of fuel for your auto. Remember, during extended power outages, gas stations do not have electricity to pump fuel, preventing fill ups from any nearby locations. After hurricane Ike, our area was without power for more than three weeks and we found ourselves having to drive over 100 miles one-way for gasoline and diesel. Those 1/2 full gas tanks and extra gas stores were more than valuable. Please remember to NEVER store fuel sources near open flames such as furnaces, water heaters, stoves, etc. "Rotate" stored auto fuel every six months by adding to your vehicle and refilling the storage container.
Most important - stock first aid and PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS, especially if anyone in your home is dependent upon daily dosages. The American Red Cross and FEMA recommend maintaining a TWO WEEK supply of any necessary prescription drugs as part of your home's emergency preparedness kit. Although emergency rescue personnel may be able to reach your area within 3-4 days, they may not have immediate access to certain or specific daily prescription medications. Mr. B and I also suggest that everyone in your family is up-to-date with his/her tetanus vaccine. There is often extraordinarily large amounts of debris following a disaster. One little scratch, one little poke is all that's needed to transmit the deadly tetanus bacteria. Tetanus vaccines last 10 years. So, if anyone in your family is due, please make getting one a priority.
When I lived down south I always conducted an initial check and rotation of our emergency preparedness supplies each spring, right before the onset of hurricane season, and re-stocked after each emergency. I would again check and rotate stores each autumn. Now that most of our emergencies are likely to occur during the winter months I take initial inventory and rotate in the autumn before possible blizzards. I continue to re-stock if needed and always check and rotate at the beginning of summer.