Itís an Emergency! Are you prepared?
By Jennifer Zeitz

Itís October. Itís snowing. Thatís okay. We have seen an occasional wet snow in the month of October. It keeps snowing. The snow is heavy. Thick, wet snow piles up on the leaves of the trees. The branches canít take the weight. Bang! Whoosh! Thump! Limbs begin to fall. All around huge chunks of trees are falling. The power is out. How long will the power be out? Where are my candles? Where is my flashlight? Does my radio have batteries? What is going on?

That is the start of an emergency. It was an surprise October snow storm that left many in my area with out power for over a week. In your area natural disasters will come. The disaster may not be snow, but something will come your way. A natural disaster is the most common emergency that any of us will face whether it is an ice storm, flood, hurricane, tornado or something else. How prepared are you?

I thought I was prepared. In many ways I was, but I could have done better. I did not have extra supplies in one easy to locate box or tote bin. I would highly recommend that, so you are not scrambling around in the dark to locate candles, flashlights, etc. What should you put in your bin? Well the experts tell us many things. Here is what I found lacking. I hope my experience will help you. Itís going to be dark, and you are going to need to see. I would highly recommend some battery-operated camping lanterns with extra 6 volt batteries. We had one of these, but a couple more would have been great. Flashlights! You will need flashlights. I would recommend one per family member. Get yourself a economy pack of D-cell batteries or C-cell, if you have smaller flashlights. In an emergency these will gone from store shelves, if you can even find an open store. Also, you should have extra bulbs for your flashlights and lanterns. Now there are those flashlights that do not need batteries. You shake them to charge the light. I donít have experience with those, but I understand that they are good. Another light source can be candles. They do not produce a ton of light, but they do make you feel warmer especially if it is cold as well. According to Carla Emery, the author of The Encyclopedia of Country Living, you can never have too many candles. I would suggest safe candles such as jar candles, 3Ē pillars or votive type. Taper candles just do not seem as safe to me. Get lots of candles and put them in your emergency bin.

Now that you can see how are you going to stay warm? If you are in a northern state like I am, this is a very important consideration. Ice storms can hit and leave you in the dark with sub zero temperatures outside. In our case, we were not prepared in this area. We did not have dry firewood for our fireplace. It had been raining for weeks in our area. All our wood was outside and very wet. Fortunately, my father had enough wood to keep us for the days that we needed. Fireplaces do not produce good heat, but that is all we had. There are fans and such that you can get for a fireplace to help heat the room more efficiently. A wood burning stove is much better. So, if you could choose between the two, pick the wood burning stove. Obviously, if you already have a fireplace then you have to live with it unless you are planning to invest in a change. In a southern state this might not be a concern in October, but it might in January.

How is your water supply? When there is no electricity, water pumping stations cannot operate. Therefore citizens are in danger of losing there supply of fresh water. This is another area that I am not well prepared in because I could never settle on a good way to store water. Water keeps better in glass than in plastic. Large glass jars are not easy to come by plus they weigh more to store. In our case, as soon as I learned that we could lose our water, I rallied my troops, I mean children, and we filled pitchers and canning jars full of filtered water. I got up to about 5 gallons, and we used about half of it because there was a boil water advisory and also a no unnecessary use of water advisory at the height of the storm. I also filled a large 5 gallon bucket with water for flushing toilets and so forth. You could also fill a clean garbage can or a bathtub with water.

Our plan is coming together. We have lights, heat and water. Letís turn our attention to food. Food in a refrigerator will only last about 24 hours without electricity. A freezer will keep longer. By the end of the 3rd day, even a zero degree upright or chest freezer will get too warm to hold the frozen food. You need to eat up the food in your refrigerator first, but you canít keep going in there. Also, how are you going to cook this food? In our case, we have a gas stove. I can use the stove top, but not the oven to cook just about anything. The ovens in newer stoves have an igniter box instead of an open pilot light. Actually, I think this is a shame because it renders them useless in an emergency. If you have an electric stove in your kitchen you may want to invest in a camp stove for your cooking needs during an emergency. A grill can be used to cook on, but it might not be practical in January in New England. I was able to make hot oatmeal, cream tuna and biscuits, black beans, etc. Hot food warms the belly and the soul when there is no heat. Just donít make more than you can eat up at one meal because you have no place to store leftovers. Whatever you use, be sure that it can be used indoors if that is where you are using it. Carbon monoxide poisoning becomes rampant after a natural disaster.

Lastly, letís consider a generator. In our case, it was a must. We have a sump pump in our basement. Our sump crock was full of water. The first night we bailed out the well every hour by hand with a bucket and a measuring cup. Our house is situated at the bottom of a hill. Lots of water flows through our property. We were blessed to get a generator from my father by the end of the first full day without electricity. Even with the generator, David still needed to wake up about every 2 hours through the night. I told him it was like having a nursing baby. He was not amused. A generator is not a small expense, and it is an expense that is best assumed before the emergency strikes. Generators were no sooner delivered to the local home improvement store and they were gone. People would get in line at 6:00 AM or earlier if word got out that a store would have generators by 8:00 AM. There are many options in generators including permanently installed generators that are hooked up to run certain circuits during a power outage. These are usually run on natural gas or LP. There are also gasoline operated generators. These are considerably less expensive than the permanently installed type. Again, caution needs to be exercised in using a gas powered generator. Carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, lethal gas, is produced when operating these generators. They need to be run away from the home in an open area. We did have two fatalities in Western NY as a result of improper generator operation.

Natural disasters occur regularly in our world. The best defense is a good offense. Begin planning and preparing now. When a long term power outage strikes your area, you wonít need to panic. You will be ready.

Jennifer Zeitz lives in West Seneca, NY with her husband David of 15 years and their four children: Jonathan(12), Natalie( 10), Carolyn(7), and Brianna(7). Jennifer has been home schooling since 2000. She spends most of her days learning along side her children as they sew, garden, cook, and manage their home together.


Back to: