Doomsday Preparedness: What Do You Really Need For an Emergency?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Doomsday prepping seems to be bigger than ever before. Your neighbors might not be stockpiling beans for the impending apocalypse, but television shows like "Doomsday Preppers" and books like The End of the World As We Know It have brought that lifestyle into mainstream consciousness. But what about those of us who are less concerned about the end of the world and more concerned about being at ground zero when the next Hurricane Sandy-level disaster strikes? Read on to learn how you can prepare your home for disasters.

The Basics: Food and Water

“People should prepare to be on their own for at least three days,” says Lisa Janak Newman of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, with a week being a better goal. This means that you need enough food and water for that long, as well as enough food and water for your pets. You and your family need one gallon of water each per day, and that’s just for drinking. If you plan on bathing and cooking, you’re going to need more.

More than just sustenance, it’s also good to have comfort foods on hand to keep people’s spirits high. “Chocolate is always good to have around,” says Newman. If you and your family have favorite snacks, keep an extra week’s supply hidden.

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Finally, make sure that you have extra medication on hand. If the roads are impassable due to flooding, you’re not going to want to be without insulin or other medication until transportation is clear again.

Equipment Requirements

It’s not just about food and water, however. Scott Humphrey, director of service and risk control with Travelers Insurance, says that for those who plan to shelter in place, what you have on hand might not be enough.

“You’re going to need a radio and a flashlight,” he says, preferably ones that are going to run even when the power grid is down. The good news is that your car can act as a charger for a lot of things, provided that you have the equipment to do so. “The power might be out, but your car can still run,” he said.

A manual can opener is an absolute must according to Newman. She also points out that camping lanterns are a better option than candles. “There’s a serious risk of fire when relying upon candles to light your home,” she says.

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And comfort doesn’t just apply to food. Humphrey recalls a woman at a shelter who held it together because of her curling iron. Games, activities and other forms of entertainment are absolutely essential, especially for families with kids.

Preparing Your Property

While insurance is important to get before disaster strikes so that you’re not financially ruined, Humphrey points out that’s not the only thing you need to prepare your home for disaster. “You want to prepare your home to be able to withstand whatever happens,” Humphrey said. This can include big things like outfitting your home to withstand an earthquake, but it can also be as simple as clearing storm drains or caulking windows.

Communication Is King

Newman recommends that every family have an NOAA weather radio with battery backup to keep abreast of developments. “You can generally get half an hour warning before a tornado touches down,” she says, “which can be critical.” However, in the 21st Century, we have additional options to stay just one step ahead of natural disasters.

For its part, GEMA has its own app, as does the federal equivalent, FEMA. She also sites the Red Cross app as another must-have for families looking to be one step ahead of catastrophe.

More than apps, however, both of our experts agree that you need to communicate a plan before an event strikes.

“When Hurricane Sandy comes, you need to know where you’re going to go, how you’re going to get there and how you’re going to find each other once you do,” says Humphrey. What’s more, Newman points out that families with pets should prepare to go somewhere other than a shelter, as most shelters do not accept pets for the health and safety of their inhabitants.

While the prospect of planning for a hypothetical disaster may seem daunting, Humphrey believes that preparation is the key difference between a disaster and an inconvenience. “You’re much more likely to react calmly if you’ve planned in advance," he says. "This will make it easier to get back to your regular routine, which is what we all want.”

--Written by Nicholas Pell for MainStreet

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