As I view the images following Japan's 9.0 earthquake, each more heartbreaking than the last, the sober realization that many folks are cut off from food, water, medicine and adequate shelter is becoming greater by the hour. As someone who lives in California, I've grown up with the reality of earthquakes and the fear of "the big one." But, the simple fact is, many of us aren't prepared properly, if at all.
Sitting half a world away, all many of us can do is donate money towards the relief efforts in Japan. But we can all do something to prepare ourselves and our families for possible disaster. Be it earthquake, hurricane, fire, tornado or flood, there are simple steps each of us can take to ensure a basic level of preparedness.
I gathered much of the following information from Ready.gov, which is a campaign from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (better known as FEMA). It is a good idea to have a kit not only at home, but in your car and at your office or school. As we can see from other recent disasters, food and water become scarce very quickly.
Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:
• Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation. Water purification tablets or The Lifesaver Bottle.
• Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Canned foods, dry goods which are properly stored. Believe it or not, Costco even offers a Vegetarian Emergency Food Supply Kit.
• Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio.
• Battery-powered or hand crank flashlight. I would also include an LED headlamp because you may have to use your hands for other things during an emergency.
• Extra batteries, or better yet, a solar charger.
• First aid kit. Don't forget prescriptions that you can't do without.
• Heat reflective "Emergency" blanket. Made of mylar, they reflect your body heat back to you.
• A whistle. This will help you signal for help if you're trapped.
• Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shore up existing shelter or create a makeshift shelter.
• Moist towelettes, garbage bags, feminine items and plastic ties for personal sanitation.
• Basic tool kit, including a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
• Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food).
• Local maps, in case you have to take unfamiliar roads to evacuate.
• Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger.
Other items to consider packing:
• At least one change of clothes. Think layers so you'll be prepared for any type of weather.
• A solid pair of shoes or boots to protect your feet in dangerous conditions.
• Copies of important family documents. I generally save copies of my passport, insurance documents and contact lists in google docs. There is another service called Evernote that would certainly be helpful if your computer or hard drive were damaged.
• Camping items such as a sleeping bag, tent, waterproof matches, candles, mess kit.
• A supply of food and water for your pet(s).
• A fire extinguisher.
• Emergency flares (especially if you are keeping this kit in your vehicle).
For any of you who are like me and can't get your mind off what's happening in Japan, here are three of the many worthy organizations you can donate to:
(Image: The Examiner / Robert Thomson)