I dread the thought of going through a power outage during the winter months. How will I keep the house warm? How will I keep the pipes from freezing? How will I manage? Fortunately I know the answers to these questions. I’ve been through it all before and, fortunately, I have an emergency preparedness plan to fall back on.

I know that if the power goes out, it won’t take long for the house to cool down. I’ve recently changed from propane heat to natural gas, but the fireplace has not been changed over yet, so heat must come from an outside source. I have a propane space heater that works with a small canister of propane attached. I’ll have to add a warm sweater, but I’ll be warm enough. I have candles, flashlights with extra batteries, a camp stove, and an extra power pack for my cell phone.

I lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for 13 years in my younger days, and winter up there was always a lesson in survival with temperatures dropping below zero many days each week. It became habit to leave the water dripping in the sinks during the coldest weather so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. I would get up every hour or so in the night to flush the toilet so the water would keep flowing through the pipes. When they did freeze one night, I had a small generator that allowed me to run my hair-dryer and I was able to thaw the pipe by holding the hot, blowing air on the pipe for a short while.

In the event of a power outage during the winter, I’ll manage. I have a plan to fall back on that includes a small generator, an alternate heat source, and a plan to keep the water flowing. If the power fails, I’ll get by. Will you?

I have a Go Kit at home that’s packed and stored in a handy spot in my closet so I can get to it in a hurry. I keep in it a change of clothes, towels and hygiene products, a small amount of cash, garbage bags, copies of my important papers, a mess kit, waterproof matches, and many, many other items. I like knowing that if I had to evacuate in a hurry, I would be able to just grab the bag and head out knowing that I’d have the basics to survive wherever I ended up.

The nice part of having the Kit is that I’ve been able to use items out of it when little emergencies have come up too. When a friend cut his hand and needed antiseptic cream and a bandage, when I ran out of cash before payday and needed a few bucks to get by, when I had to find a quick copy of my insurance paperwork, and in several other small ways, having this information handy has been a real help to me.

I encourage you to create a Go Kit too. If you aren’t sure what to put in it, go to Ready.gov/ for a list of items to keep in your Kit. A little bit of prevention work now may save you a lot of headache down the road!

It’s the dawn of a New Year and time to make those resolutions and plans for what you want to achieve during this next year. I’m off work for the rest of this week, so I decided there is no excuse for not revisiting my emergency preparedness plan and updating it. After all, the goals I had when I first wrote the plan are vastly different from the ones I have now.

I know that writing down your goals makes it much more likely you’ll achieve them, and it helps me to focus and gain more perspective too. As my life circumstances change, my plan must change to reflect it. This seems to me to be a good time to assess what I want to have on hand in the event of an emergency.

I hope you’ll consider making a plan of your own too. Knowing that you have some back up available may bring you some peace of mind, as it has for me. Whether you make an emergency preparedness plan or not, I wish you the very best for this New Year and hope it brings you peace and prosperity. Happy New Year!

It’s always a wise idea to include some information about your health conditions and requirements in your emergency information. You wouldn’t want to be without your prescription information or you physician’s contact information. Keeping a few notes on what your special needs are and planning for how you’ll stay healthy following a disaster just makes sense.

Your emergency plan might include a list of the medical equipment you use and where you could get replacements. A list of your prescriptions and over-the-counter meds would be handy, along with dosage, how often you take them, and contact information for your pharmacy. It might even be beneficial to keep a copy of your prescription and write down the reason you are taking those medications.

Add a copy of your insurance card and keep it with other health information in a sealed plastic bag so it isn’t destroyed if it gets wet. Keep important contact information in the same bag: telephone numbers of your doctors, pharmacy, insurance contacts, etc. You may also want to list surgeries you’ve had, blood type, and any other important health information.

Keep a copy of the information at another site too so you can access it if something happens to your home. Being prepared for an emergency means having some peace of mind in the event a disaster occurs.

It is helpful to be prepared for disaster before it happens so you aren’t scrambling as you try to adjust to whatever new circumstances you are facing. For instance, if you have extra food stored up, you won’t have to stand in long lines waiting to purchase critical supplies that you need after a disaster.

Store up some extra food and water, enough for a week, so you can get by without having to run to the store.

Make a kit and have it packed and ready to go. Keep it in a place where it is handy to get at and you can grab it in a hurry.

It might be helpful to keep your kit in a container that has wheels, such as a suitcase or a plastic container strapped to a small dolly.

Make sure your kit has identification on it, and label any equipment you need such as wheelchairs, canes, walkers, etc. with your name, address and phone number.

Periodically go through your kit and update it. Shift your food so you’re using it up before it expires and you have fresh food in your kit.

Make sure your batteries are replaced with fresh ones periodically too.

Have extra medications on hand to get you through. Although the Government has plans to insure that controlled drugs will be available, you don’t know how long it will take them to get things set up and get the drugs moved to a location close enough to you so you can get to them.

Have copies of your prescriptions, the reason you take each drug, and the name and phone number of your pharmacy.

A little bit of preparation now may save you a great deal of grief down the road. Start making a plan now for how you will cope with disaster!

When disaster strikes, even people who didn’t have mental health issues may become depressed or overly anxious. Those who do suffer with mental illness may find their condition becomes much worse. Mental health issues are not unusual in the U.S.  It is estimated that almost 20% of adults have a mental illness of some sort. That’s why planning for mental health support is so important to have in place for when disaster strikes.

Some of the issues to consider include:

  • The number of mental health professionals available following a disaster. As there are likely to be more people suffering with the after effects of an emergency situation, having mental health support is extremely important.
  • Access to medication. Many people rely on medications to manage their mental illness. In the event of a disaster, medications may be much more difficult to get. Withdrawal may become an issue. Plans must be made to ensure the drugs are available and those who need them can get them.
  • First responders need training to recognize the difference between mental illness and other issues such as low blood sugar. Otherwise, those with mental illness may be mistakenly thought to be trouble-makers.

Mental illness is a hidden disability, so first responders must look at each situation on an individual basis. Increased stress, anxiety, and depression will become worse, and the need for professional treatment will be more important than ever. We must plan ahead for meeting the needs of those with mental illness following a disaster.

You may wonder why you should put the time and effort into making an emergency preparedness plan. How likely is it that you will find yourself facing disaster? Is it worth it?

  • Almost 50 million Americans have one or more disabilities.
  • Over 32 million Americans are age 65 or over.
  • Over 6 million Americans are age 85 and older, and the numbers are climbing all the time since we are living longer.
  • 70% of all Americans will, at some time in their lives, have a temporary or permanent disability that makes climbing the stairs impossible.
  • 8,000 people survive traumatic spinal cord injuries each year, returning to homes that are inaccessible.
  • 32.5 million Americans have serious hearing disabilities.
  • 31.3 million Americans have heart disease and subsequent reduced or limited mobility.

While you may not be disabled right now, you may well be disabled at some point in your life. You may even be affected by more than one disability that would make it difficult for you to cope with disaster. Everyone needs to have a plan.

There are five categories of disability to consider during disaster:

  • Mobility impairments
  • Visual impairments
  • Hearing impairments
  • Speech impairments
  • Cognitive impairments

Each category will require special planning. Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at each of these categories and what you will need to take into consideration when developing your plan.

I’ve heard it referred to in many different ways: “the big one,” or, “when the bat meets the ball,” etc. What it is referring to is when disaster strikes, what will happen then? I’ve thought about that a lot. I’ve researched it a lot, not because I’m a prepper, but because I’m one of those people who likes to do their best to keep things on an even keel whenever possible. I’m an “ounce of prevention” type of person!

So, what do I worry about? Not a great deal, as I have made advanced preparation for what I would need in the event of a disaster. I’ve learned more and more about it as I have experienced emergency events in my life, and I’ve learned from those events that never happened, but that I feared were inevitable, such as being stranded on a dark road in the middle of a winter night. I’ve taken the time to think through what I would need to get by and how I’d survive.

The one I’m finding most interesting now is called an EMP: an electro-magnetic pulse. This is the disaster the government predicts is the most like scenario to happen if we are attacked on a country-wide basis. An EMP happens when a nuclear bomb is detonated in the stratosphere and it sends out an electro-magnetic pulse that will take out all our electric and battery operated devices.

Think about that…all of the things we depend on daily that use electricity would no longer work. That would include the garage door opener, your car, (I guess the garage door opener won’t make a difference!), the source of heat in your home if you don’t heat with a fireplace. Your ability to cook food, get water, run medical equipment, etc.

I’ve thought a lot about that. What if I were at work when it happened? How would I get home if my car wouldn’t run? How would I get water without a pump to pull it out of the ground? I’ve tried to think through all the scenarios and come up with ways to get around each of them. That’s my emergency preparedness plan.

I don’t live in fear of disaster dropping on my head every minute of every day. I do try to be reasonable in examining the possible things that could go wrong, and designing a plan to give me the best possible chance of survival should something happen.

Yes, it’s that time again. Freezing cold weather, snowy roads, and icy sidewalks…all the things I don’t look forward to about winter! Here are some tips to surviving winter’s storms and extreme cold. Before winter arrives, add the following items to your Go Kit:

  • Rock salt to melt ice on walkways
  • Sand to improve traction
  • Snow shovels and snow removal equipment
  • Sufficient heating fuel
  • Adequate clothing and blankets to keep warm

Check over your communications plan. It’s important that it addresses how you will contact other family members, how you’ll get together if you are separated, and what you’ll each need in the event of a disaster. Having a weather radio on hand that is powered by a hand crank is also helpful. Check NOAA Weather Service or other local channels for information from the National Weather Service. Be alert to changing weather conditions.

Check what the forecast is before you travel, and keep a disaster kit in your car. Be sure to bring your pets indoors during bad weather, or move them into sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

 

In the event of a disaster, it may prove helpful to have a “Stay Healthy” kit made up in advance. If an emergency occurs, first responders may not be able to get to you right away, and you may not be able to get to the local hospital or clinic. Contagious disease may become a consideration as limited hygienic practices may expose you to more diseases. Simple preventive measures can help you avoid getting or spreading disease.

For your “Stay Healthy” kit, collect a week’s supply of your medicines and put them in a plastic bag. Label the bag with your name. Include any equipment you need such as a glucose meter or diabetic test strips. Have dental supplies on hand, a pair of extra glasses or contact lenses, hearing aids and batteries, and other similar supplies.

Include a list of prescription medications you take, copies of your medical insurance, Medicare/Medicaid cards, and a list of your medical conditions, allergies, etc. Place tags on specialized equipment such as oxygen tanks or concentrators, feeding pumps, etc. including operating instructions so that someone with no experience can provide help if needed.

Include first aid supplies in your kit: bandages, cotton washcloths, soap or hand wash, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol wipes, antiseptic cream, and aspirin. Pack all these items in plastic bags or a container to keep them dry and airtight. Store in an easy-to-reach location.

In my kit I also keep the topical medications I use for pain, a dental kit in case I develop a toothache and can’t get to the dentist, and miscellaneous items such as eyewash, mouthwash, disinfectant spray, extra soap, tissues, and wet wipes.

Having a Stay Healthy Kit can make it easier on you if disaster strikes and you are cut off from medical services. It would be helpful to have a booklet on basic first aid in the kit too!