Pennsylvania is not always the first target of natural disasters, but receives its share of extreme weather, including rain and winds from hurricanes, floods, ice and snow storms, and the occasional tornado. Proper emergency preparedness consists of planning for survival needs, including water, food, shelter, and escape routes.
Hunker down or Flee
First decide whether you should stay home or seek a safer location. We keep our cars gassed to leave if needed without fighting gas station lines. Just as expectant mothers keep a ‘hospital bag’ ready for when labor pains hit, keep a ready bag containing medications and other necessities. You want to avoid searching throughout the house for supplies during an emergency.
Your body needs water more than food for short to medium term survival, so maintain a guaranteed supply. We keep 18-24 gallons of drinking water on hand to handle any outages, including power outages, since well pumps need electricity to run. We also have a water filter for long term needs and a rain barrel that can refill toilets.
While most people have a few days’ supply of food, larger emergencies can consume a normal shopping trip quickly. Maintain fuel for your grill (we use charcoal) for emergency cooking, but always keeping your grill outdoors to cook. Canned goods last a few years under normal temperatures. We store emergency backpacks with two weeks supply of food for longer term disasters, or to grab quickly and flee our house. You can purchase emergency food at www.foodinsurance.com .
Be sure your house is safe to stay in during a natural disaster. We keep flashlights with good batteries for power outages, and a kerosene lantern for longer outages. If you have a land telephone line, save a simple phone that does not need electricity. These phones will work when the power is out and you cannot recharge your cell phone.
Like the Boy Scouts, Be Prepared
While most natural disasters will last only a few days, the occasional large storm can leave homes without power for weeks. A backup power source, such as a generator, can provide power to necessities during extended outages. The Complete Survival Manual contains chapters on surviving at home and during storms and disasters. Our family enjoyed together time during blizzards, cooking meals in the fireplace and playing board games. The key to surviving and even thriving during natural disasters is planning ahead.
Source: Complete Survival Manual, by Michael S. Sweeney, National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 2008.