Over at Wizbang there was a discussion on the best foods and equipment to use in an emergency kit. Some favored one food or storage method over another. Those who lived in Alaska or the Northeast recommended hand-warmers, candles, and matches, those who lived in sunny southern California recommended taping a pair of flip flops to the bottom of every family member’s bed, because broken glass in the middle of the night was more likely to be an immediate danger than freezing to death.
One commentor said that it appeared to her that this emergency kit business was far more complicated than it seemed, and she appeared to think this meant it was best handled by ‘experts’ working for the Federal Government. In fact, she said, “If FEMA’s policy is every man, woman, child, infirmed, elderly person for himself, then please spend FEMA’s tax money on said survival kits and send them to every man, woman, child, etc.”
It will not be a surprise to our readers that I disagreed. The basics of everybody’s preferred emergency kit was the same- food and water, some emergency first aid supplies, a can opener, and some way to protect the body from the elements, whether those elements were frost, broken glass, heat, or water.
What varied were the details- and that is as it should be.
Some people will prefer (or find cheaper) spaghettios, some would prefer cans of Dinty Moore stew, some like oats, instant potato flakes, and dehydrated carrots- that doesn’t make an emergency supply kit complicated. That makes it flexible. The point is you look at your particular region and consider carefully what sorts of dangers you are most likely to encounter. A hurricane is very low on my list, living inland as we do. However, we do live near a creek that does flood, so we need to consider that as well as blizzards. In our last location drought was far more likely than flooding. Those who live near a highway should be prepared to evacuate quickly in the event of a toxic spill on the freeway. Your emergency kit will contain some items specific to your location, just as how the kids dress for school in November depends partially on whether they go to school in Arizona or Alaska.
You need to buy what is available to you in your area, and what is most economic in your area. In some parts of the country you are more likely to be able to grow figs in your backyard than others (and thus, could dry them for your disaster kit at almost no cost). The wild foods available will differ from one region to another as well. If we lived in a warm area where palm trees grow, we would know that broken palms provide a delicious food sourd in the heart of the palm tree. Here we are more likely to be chewing licorice root and drinking sassafrass tea.
Your emergency supplies will also differ from your neighbor’s because it should contain foods that your family will eat, foods your family likes on a regular basis. It really isn’t helpful to have food you hate in the survival kit, especially if you have kids. A child’s appetite will already be deadened by the trauma of some disasters (variable by child and disaster, of course)- and they won’t eat much if they hate it. They won’t even feel hungry, and quite young children will quickly become dehydrated or suffer low blood sugar for this reason. You must include foods the children like.
This is also important because you must rotate your supplies, replenishing the emergency supply with fresh foods and incorporating the older foods into your daily menu. You’re going to be eating those foods whether you have a disaster or not.
So the specific food stuffs in my kit will be different from the food items in your kit. I do not have a baby, so I won’t have diapers, but I do have an incontinent disabled child, so I will have extra large disposable training pants. We have six daughters, so we will have supplies necessary to meet the unique needs of young ladies that a family of boys would not. Again, this is the beauty of personal responsibility for your family’s own emergency kit- it’s flexible, individual, and tailored by and for the family that puts it together, unlike a government bureaucracy approach, which typically has to be a “one size must fit all ‘coz we’re too big to do it any differently approach.”
This is a HUGE country and FEMA is not God (neither is the government). It cannot be every where all the time. They have to have time to mobilize resources and shift them in the right direction- unlike the individual, local and state officials who will already be in the vicinity of their own local emergency. FEMA’s policy has always been that individuals and local and state officials are to understand that FEMA cannot be there for at least 72 hours. They are not first responders. I know I’ve said this before, but it simply must be understood.
This does not mean that it’s necessarily any particular person’s fault when that person suffers an emergency situation. Quite often preparations go awry- they are washed away in a flood, or, as happened to us once, shattered on a Kansas highway and forgotten as family members are busy bleeding and in need of medical attention- and air lifting out to a better hospital. This is nobody’s fault, not even FEMA’s. Because some people cannot prepare is no reason most shouldn’t. Because sometimes your preparations will go up in smoke, or wash away in a flood, or get flattened in a horrific car accident is no reason to avoid preparing at all. My heart aches for those who suffered in this disaster, every one of them. I am sure that some were unable to prepare, and that others did prepare, but events overtook them. I do not believe, however, that every person who suffered dreadfully from this disaster had a disaster kit that just washed away.
Those too young, too old, too disabled did pay a price- but they suffered the cost of their local and state officials refusing to implement their own disaster plan- and those officials knew, they have always known, that FEMA has told them they won’t be there for 72 hours. Anyone may know this who reads FEMA’s website, or reads the copies of LA’s and NOLA’s disaster plans, all of which are online.
Do not depend upon the behemoth of large government to turn itself on a dime and find its way to your door within hours of an emergency. Do what you can to prepare so that you will be able to help others and be a blessing instead of a liability.
Click here to read FEMA’s suggestions for your family’s disaster plan.
A table of contents to our previous posts on disaster preparation is here.