Are You Prepared For An Emergency? 5 Steps To Be Sure

Emergency Supplies

Proper preparation can make the difference between surviving and being a victim.

USA Today records 2011 as the Costliest Year in World Disasters. What were those disasters? A tsunami (Japan), earthquakes (Turkey, US East Coast & New Zealand), tornadoes (Central U.S.), typhoons (Japan & Philippines), a volcanic eruption (Southern Chile), flooding (North Dakota, Thailand, Brazil, El Salvador, Australia, Pakistan, & Spain), a hurricane (U.S. East Coast), drought (East Africa, Somalia & China), wildfires (Canada) and winter storms (Europe). If any of these disasters happened in your area, would you be prepared?

If you had to leave your home suddenly (perhaps because of a natural disaster, chemical spill or even an explosion at a nearby business), would you be able to grab and go quickly?

A USA Today Gallup Poll showed that 42% of people don’t have enough food and water stocked in case of an emergency, and 27% don’t have an extra supply of medications. In addition 40% do not have a central contact person in case of a disaster, and 18% don’t even have a first-aid kit. These are all steps that the Federal Emergency Management Agency says are “basic disaster preparations.”

Where do you fall in those numbers?

Fortunately, creating a basic emergency kit and plans for what to do in an emergency are not that difficult and really don’t take an inordinate amount of time compared to the tremendous benefit they can provide in an emergency. Take the following 5 steps to make sure you and your family are prepared for an emergency.

  1. Believe you are at risk. The American Red Cross says that the main reason people fail to prepare for an emergency is because they fail to believe they are at risk. Emergencies can happen anywhere and at anytime, so be proactive by preparing for an emergency.
  2. Be aware and share. As with safety in any area, from wearing safety glasses to following safety procedures, awareness is a key component of being prepared. The American Red Cross provides a variety of emergency-specific checklists as a way to have and share preparedness information.
  3. Prepare to be self-sufficient. Create a basic emergency kit that is waterproof, easily accessible and mobile. In addition, create a Go-Bag to hold additional necessities.
  4. Maintain your preparedness. Check your supplies every six months and reassess your needs yearly. Maintain your kit regularly so it is safe to use when needed.
  5. Consider preparedness for other locations. While workplaces, schools and daycares are responsible to a great extent for employee safety and safety of those in their care, this is not a fact that should be depended upon should a large-scale natural or other disaster happen. Create emergency plans for the places where you and your family spend the most time (school, work, daycare, etc.) in addition to the site-specific plans that should already be in place.

Not only does lack of preparation for an emergency affect you and your family in significant ways, it also affects an already-taxed emergency response system. And 2012 does not appear to be improving over last year; if anything, 2012 will eclipse 2011 with natural disasters. (In January and February 2012, Australia experienced severe flooding, Mozambique a typhoon, and Europe severe winter weather with over 600 dead). While no one can prevent natural disasters, almost everyone can be prepared. The steps above are the starting point for doing just that.

Note: See a related article Everyday Carry for the Car to find out how many people prepare and what experts recommend for vehicles in emergencies. Also related are Everyday Carry for Men and Everyday Carry for Women, which reveal what men and women feel are essential items to always have with them.

Everyday Carry for the Car

Car Safety Equipment

Keeping your car stocked with the right supplies could one day save your life.

Combining the list provided by five different expert sources (MSN Autos; Better Homes & Garden, February 2012 print edition; The Simple Dollar; MSNBC; and Consumer Reports), there are about 50 unique items that most people should carry in their vehicles at all times. Weather conditions and trip length are the main factors that alter the list of items needed.

The top 10 items the experts agree that everyone should carry in their vehicle are as follows: Bag of cat litter or sand (for traction when a vehicle gets stuck on a slippery patch), bottled water, first aid kit, hand cleaner, jumper cables, road flares (or hazard/warning light of some sort), blankets, food (non-perishable such as energy bars), hat/scarf/gloves, towels (for laying on when repairing a tire), and a flashlight.  (Click on the above links for complete lists of recommended items.)

In an email survey of 15 individuals, the top 10 items to always carry in a vehicle include: CDs, GPS, map, phone charger, spare tire & jack, sunglasses, tissues/napkins/paper towel/Kleenex, windshield scraper (most of these people live in Michigan), blankets and jumper cables. With the exception of CDs, all of these items were on the experts’ top 50 list.

Also based on the survey, there are about 50 unique EDC items that people feel are important to carry in their vehicles. Only about half of those items are ones that the experts say everyone should carry. The other half, well, brought up some unique ideas for what’s important to carry in a vehicle.

Some of the items that the surveyed individuals carry in their cars regularly but that did not make the 50 items listed by the experts include various items for kids (books, diapers, toys, movies, etc.), a trash bag, recyclable grocery bags, hunting gear, dry cleaning, a gun, a phone book and a lint brush.

Winning the top spot (there’s no prize, sorry) for being the most prepared AND having the most unusual items in a vehicle is a 60-something man hailing proudly from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This U-per always has the following items in his vehicle in addition to most of the top 10 items in both lists above.

  1. Food for 2 people for 2-3 days. Remember, he is from the UP.
  2. Lantern. Not a flashlight, a lantern. A lantern can keep a person warm too, a flashlight can’t.
  3. Snow boots for 2-3 people. Wants everyone to be warm.
  4. Toilet paper. There aren’t a lot of options north of the Mackinac Bridge.
  5. Tie downs & canvas. Always wants to be prepared to carry home a deer if he hits it with is car.

He also doesn’t carry just one blanket, but 4-5 blankets as well as several umbrellas, folding chairs, and hiking gear for a couple of people. Additionally, he keeps something that apparently goes in a gas tank if the wind is blowing so hard that snow gets inside the tank. (Did you even know this could happen?) Few people are this prepared for sure.

This U-per, who has experienced extreme weather first hand, provides a valuable lesson for everyone, a lesson that the experts also stress is better to learn from others than from personal experience. That lesson is to avoid being caught in the middle of nowhere when something goes wrong with your vehicle. The end result can be wasted time, a large towing bill, and possibly a very cold and hunger-filled night in a ditch.

While packing all 50 items listed by the experts is probably not practical with regard to space, taking half of them will certainly go a long way in making an already unpleasant and sometimes downright uncomfortable situation go at least a little more smoothly. There are also road and travel safety kits that include the essential items and don’t take up a lot of space. Take the time today to assess your readiness for a roadside emergency.

DISCUSSION: After reading what the experts recommend and what some individuals keep in their cars, do you feel prepared for the road ahead?

Everyday Carry for Women

Everyday Carry for Women

Women tend to carry a great deal more with them on a regular basis.

As Everyday Carry… for Men confirms, men carry the basics with them. What men carry usually fits into their pockets or clips to their belts. On the other hand, Women tend to carry a great deal more with them on a regular basis. The fact that a popular shower game is to see who has the most of 20 items on a list in her purse says a lot about the eclectic nature of the contents of most women’s purse.

Men and women have some of the same items that they carry in common with each other. For example, most carry a wallet (or some version of a wallet and the usual contents like driver’s license, credit cards, money, etc.), cell phone and keys. In addition to these items, the majority of women also carry a highlighter and/or pen, gum and lip gloss or lipstick with them.

Beyond these items, women not only carry vastly more than men carry, but what women carry varies a great deal from one woman to the next. A woman’s purse/handbag, it seems, is more than just a carryall for necessary items. It serves as a one-stop destination, kind of like the mall. A woman’s purse, in addition to being a convenient way to carry the bare essentials, also serves as a:

1.)    Coffee Shop. One woman claims to carry the makings for coffee along with the creamer and sweetener necessary for her to enjoy her coffee. She did not say if she carried a cup to hold her coffee too.

2.)    Medicine Cabinet. From a variety of painkillers (Motrin being the most popular) to Kleenex to contact supplies to antibiotic ointment, many women carry the “just-in-case” items often found in a medicine cabinet. Interestingly, the items considered essential and worth always carrying is not the same for every woman.

3.)    Convenience Store. Everyone has stopped at a convenience store while traveling and grabbed something to drink, a snack and perhaps a magazine. Some women have decided that carrying these items with them is more convenient. (It’s definitely cheaper than buying them at most convenience stores.)

4.)    Beauty shop. As already mentioned, the large majority of women carry lip gloss or lipstick with them at all times. In fact, many usually have more than one color with them. In addition, women also carry a variety of other beauty oriented items such as a nail clipper or file, mascara, lotion, floss and a brush or comb.

5.)    General Store. When children are babies, a diaper bag serves to carry many items that might be needed. When children grow out of diapers, some of those items make their way into mom’s purse. For example, some women regularly carry a change of underwear for their little one, wipes of some sort and toys to occupy the kids. Many women also carry items such as a book, reading glasses, sunglasses and a hand-held fan. And not to leave out the men, some women carry items that their husbands might need but don’t want to carry. In fact, one woman said she always has a pair of reading glasses for her husband. Note that the men did not admit to carrying those with them regularly. Another woman said that her husband wants her to carry a “mom purse” (meaning, a large purse or bag), so she can have more items with her that he thinks she should always have.

Women carry an amazing amount of items with them regularly, and the variety of those items is certainly intriguing. Even with the large number of items listed above, there are quite a few items not yet mentioned. (Some of those items include larger electronics (iPad for example), inhaler, jewelry, note pads, business cards, etc.) The large variety of items that women carry in their handbags/purses seems rivaled only by the large variety of different sizes, shapes and colors of handbags/purses available. This carryall has gone well beyond being just a convenient storage place for the bare necessities.  No wonder there’s a game related to revealing what’s in a woman’s purse.