Emergency Preparedness on the Homestead

Emergency Preparedness on the Homestead Part 4

For this segment of emergency preparedness, I will be focusing on the personal 72 hour kits, which we keep in backpacks. We each have a backpack with everything we need to be okay for 72 hours. If a tornado destroys our home, a wildlife destroys the property, or a snowstorm/ice storm knocks out the power, we are good to go for 72 hours.

I realize that 72 hours doesn’t seem like a very long time, but we have a storm kit, plenty of food in the pantry, which can be cooked on the grill, camp stove, or using the double burner hotplate, plugged into the generator. This kit is specifically for that first 72 hours before you are able to get yourself and your family situated a bit more permanently.

We have used our kits on multiple occasions for ice and snow storms. Three winters ago, we were without power for two weeks. This is a long time to be without central heating, a working stove, microwave, and oven. That first ice storm, we were not really prepared for so, having those 72 hour kits helped immensely. The kids had hot meals until we figured out how to set up the generator to keep a single room in our home warm and livable. This room just happened to be the master bedroom. We took the kids queen size mattresses and put them on our floor. We had an electric space heater, the dish receiver, and our television hooked up to the generator. Everyone was warm, comfortable, and not bored to tears. We have since purchased a kerosene heater, which has the ability to heat the entire downstairs of our house, which frees up a spot on the generator for the internet.

We have also been looking into whole house generators, which hook into the breaker boxes somehow, I am not completely certain how this works and an electrician will be the one doing that aspect. We have experienced two weeks without power so, we have been able to plan for this situation far better than before and we have experienced it twice since that first storm.

So, without boring you further these are the items in my personal 72 hour kit. (These items are not an end all list. They are a good starting point for creating your own 72 hour kit.)

I have 4 MREs (Meals Ready to Eat, also known as military rations.) I purchased these in cases at the commissary on the base near us, but these can be purchased here or at military surplus stores. You can also make your own and purchase the heaters separately. You can also substitute backpacking meals, which can be found at Walmart (Mountain House is a major brand of these type of meals)

I have an entire box of granola bars and another box of single serving trail mix pouches. I tend to snack when stressed.

Chocolate (I have a bag of fun size mix chocolates)

A change of clothing (jeans, thin long sleeved shirt, 3 tank tops, hoodie, 3 pairs undies, 3 pairs socks, tennis shoes, beanie hat, gloves.)

I have some bottles of water, but I also have a filter bottle and a life straw. I wouldn’t be able to physically carry 72 hours worth of water. We have a ton of bottled water in the house, a few gallons I each vehicle, and we fill empty plastic kitty litter buckets with water for flushing toilets (we have a well, which needs electrical to run)

I have a small hygiene kit, which includes bath wipes (these are intended for invalids and are much larger than a baby wipe) baby wipes, a small kit for my contacts, 3 days worth of all of my medications (I asked my doctor for this and I swap out the medication each month) a folding brush, a toothbrush, flosspicks, toothpaste, chapstick, dry shampoo, a travel size roll of toilet paper, and a travel size deodorant. (I also have a small feminine hygiene pouch with supplies)

I have 4 garbage bags and one heavy duty contractor bag. The garbage bags can be used to keep the contents of my backpack dry and to keep soiled items away from clean items. The contractor bag can be used as a makeshift shelter, a poncho, etc. I also have ziplocks for holding water, holding garbage, holding small items, etc.

I have a small first aid kit, we have larger ones in the house, in every vehicle, and in the storm kit.

A cell phone charger, earbuds, and a power brick

Flashlight and headlamp

Hand warmers (these are single use items, which warm up when opened and exposed to air.)

I have a thumb drive with important documents and another with photos.

Cash. I keep $100.00 in small bills because power outages and emergencies affect businesses as well as homes.

A Gerber multi-tool (I have several of these and it is my favorite tool because it has almost everything I usually need all in a single tool.)

My knife, which clips to my belt and I usually have it on my belt because I use it constantly for opening boxes, cutting things outside, etc. This does not stay in my bag.

A spare set of everyone’s keys. House keys, car keys, safe keys, tool box keys, trailer hitch keys, trailer keys, etc.

550 cord (parachute cord) I have this woven around the straps and handle so, it doesn’t take up any room.

Duct tape. I have approximately 10 feet wrapped around the 3 Bic lighters, which are in different pockets.

Waterproof matches and a magnesium fire starter. (I have multiple ways to start fires simply because heat is essential and being able to boil water or heat food is really nice.)

Sterno. Sterno is heat in a can/ cube. I have both forms. (I do not recommend using the cubes indoors. They smell awful.) These are great for Heating water for tea or heating soup because they are easy to light and heat quickly.

An aluminum cup (I can boil water or cook in this.) A set of camp utensils (it’s a fork and spoon, which fold up and fit inside a small zippered pouch. I found these here. (I bought these for backcountry camping trips years ago and found a small zippered pouch for them to fit in perfectly. These are NOT necessary, but some form of eating utensils are needed if you don’t use MREs with the accessory kits.)

Sunblock and Bugables Mosquito Bands

Finally, I have my backpacking tent, and sleeping bag tied to my backpack. These are very lightweight items and rather costly if you are on a budget. If you have a tent great, if it’s huge, keep it near an exit so you can grab it and go. Keeping blankets in your trunk omits the need for sleeping bags (unless its below zero, then have them close to an exit or easily accessible.) Hubby keeps pillows and blankets in his truck so he can nap during his lunch hour. My youngest enjoys fishing and camping so these things usually go with him, when he leaves the house for a fishing trip so they are easily accessible for him if needed. I am the only one in the house who has a tent and sleeping bag because mine are lightweight enough for me to be able to easily carry them. Each of these items weighs less than 2 lbs.

I have another bag, which is for the whole family, which I grab along with my backpack if anything happens. This bag contains comfort items, more food, medications for every situation (basically a sampling of the household medicine cabinet.) A larger first aid kit, and extras of some of the items listed above.

This is my personal 72 hour kit. I have a few other items, which I am not listing because they are personal items. I have comfort items, which I strongly recommend for anyone. For little ones, pack a diaper bag with 3 days worth of supplies and keep an extra can of formula on hand if possible (even if you breastfeed, having formula may be a good idea in case you get separated for any reason. In natural disaster situations, it is possible that you may be separated.)

I also recommend writing your cell number, name and address on your child’s arm and then, paint over it with liquid bandage to make it waterproof. You can also have custom made temporary tattoos made or wristbands (the kind made from a waterproof material, which stick to themselves.) This company makes both wristbands and temporary tattoos. These are also great for trips to theme parks, the zoo, or anywhere your little one may wander off. It can get them back to you safely much faster.

Pack what works for you and your family. The main things are food, water, first aid, heat, and shelter. Until next time…

Journal Style Posts

I Knew It Was Too Good To Be True

Upstairs ac is definitely NOT fixed. Woke up to the upstairs being sweltering HOT. The unit is still freezing up. I have no idea why either. I talked to the company and they will be back out next week to get this thing fixed properly. We thought it was just low on freon. He added 3 pounds of freon so it was definitely low, but it is still freezing up and that’s NOT good especially since it will be 105° and possibly higher this weekend. We will be letting it thaw every couple of hours and turning it back on in order to keep it cool enough upstairs to be comfortable.

The downstairs unit is working perfectly. No complaints there. We are going to inspect a riding mower tomorrow to use while waiting for the new deck to arrive. It’s an older model mower, but not ancient. As long as it runs and cuts the grass, I don’t care. It’s cheap enough to lay out the funds without having it hurt our budget. Also, having two mowers means two people can now at the same time, making 10 acres worth of mowing happen MUCH faster.

I honestly don’t mind mowing. I put in my earbuds and play music while mowing. I zone out and the only negative is the possibility of sunburn I wear pants and long sleeves because mowing makes the bugs angry and I don’t enjoy mosquito bites. Plus, the long pants and sleeves protect me from projectiles like pebbles or small sticks that were missed. I have been hit by pebbles wearing shorts and it’s not fun.

I am trying really hard to not stress myself completely over this whole air conditioning issue. It’s not easy since I thought it was fixed and it was no longer an issue. I seriously hope this is the end of the breaking spree. I will probably start smashing things myself if anything else breaks.

Another lovely thing happened today. We set up an appointment with a company that sells and installs water softeners and whole home filtration systems. We have well water, which means we have hard water and even with a really good carbon filter, we still get sand when filling the tub sometimes. (usually after heavy rains)

Well, the appointment was for 5:00 pm because this company would only make the appointment if my husband was home, even though I handle the finances and I am the final say for all expensive purchases. (Only because I make the budget and know whether something will cause us to struggle financially if purchased at that time.) Well, Hubby was home, he was a bit irritated by the sexism exhibited by this company, but he agreed that it was worth looking into a different option for filtration and softening our water. 5:00 rolls around and the technician is now late. 5:15 and the technician is now a no call-no show. So, I call the company and they had canceled the appointment yesterday without informing us. Um…. okay….

The representative starts to ask me about rescheduling, but another technician won’t be in my area until December. Then, this was the kicker, they wanted me to mail a copy of the deed for our property to prove we owned our home. I started laughing at the representative. I went ahead and told her to remove ALL of my information from their system to include my name, phone number, email address, and my address. I told her we would DEFINITELY NOT be rescheduling this appointment and that this was both unprofessional and highly discourteous of their company to cancel an appointment without contacting the customer to inform them. I also told her that there was no way in hell I was sending a copy of the deed for our home, especially when that information is a matter of public record and can be pulled up on the internet in less than 5 minutes. Proving ownership by providing a copy of the deed to our home is absolutely ridiculous and I sincerely hope people don’t actually do that.

We found out about this company from one of those scratch off game mailers. I didn’t care about the mailer, we actually wanted to see what we could do to improve our water quality. I drink the water from our well daily. It tastes amazing and I filter it a second time through the fridge. (I don’t want to have sand in my cup.) This company offered to test our water at no charge, which was a major bonus considering that test costs anywhere from $150.00 to $350.00 depending upon the number of contaminants they actually test for and if you test both before and after filtration. Our well was tested last year and aside from minerals and sand, it is safe to drink, it’s just hard water.

In case you live in Oklahoma, I don’t recommend this company at all. I started reading reviews online after the technician never showed and apparently this is common practice for this company. It’s just shady and unprofessional in my opinion. So, we will purchase the kit to test our water, then, we will find a water softener and maybe another option for a whole house filtration system at Home Depot or Lowe’s, the small hardware store in town, or even the Co-Op. We have a whole home filtration system in place and I just purchased a new type of filter for it, which is supposed to filter all solids, bacteria, and contaminants. We will test the tap water and the water from the well prior to filtration. I want to know if the well is contaminated in any manner because it isn’t difficult to decontaminate a well. I have to pour chlorine or bleach into the well every time we have an extended power outage or when the well has broken in the past to decontaminate it so, I know exactly what decontamination consists of. The bleach or chlorine is flushed through the lines and the well pump by opening all of the faucets after allowing the chosen form of chemical to sit for a specific amount of time, which is based off of well diameter and depth, and then letting the water run for like 10 minutes. So, not only is the well sanitized, the plumbing for the entire house is sanitized at the same time. We test the well every year just to be safe. Our neighbors have a well that is not as deep as ours and they have dealt with contamination multiple times since moving in. Ours is over 100 feet deeper than theirs. So, flooding does not affect our well as much as it affects theirs. That is definitely a bonus. We also do not have a well house, everything is in the basement. We have not had any issues with pipes freezing up or anything of that nature because the basement isn’t as cold as it is outside in a well house. I did teach my awesome neighbor my pool noodle trick (they work rather well for quick pipe insulation and are much cheaper than the black ones at the hardware stores) she also knows how to avoid a burst pipe in case it does freeze. They are new homeowners too and have never dealt with these issues either. We learned these tricks from the guy who has fixed our well when it broke in the past and from simply talking to people about having a well.

In case I never specified, this is the first home I have ever owned. For hubby, this is home number two. However, even his first home did not have a well, a propane hot water heater and an electric one, multiple ac units, and acreage. So, this is all new to him as well. We are learning as we go. When I registered our basement as our storm shelter with the city, they handed me an entire packet with well decontamination instructions (including a chart for determining how much chemical to dump in and how long it needs to sit and be flushed through the lines.) numbers to call after a tornado for assistance in removing fallen trees or other debris, radio stations to tune to during tornado weather for regular weather updates, television channels, web pages to visit if you still have internet, resources for clothing and food if your home is destroyed or damaged during a storm, and all sorts of useful information. They had an option to donate to continue producing this packet, I donated. I was amazed at how much information was included. One of the best things was a map that shows the topography of the surrounding areas (it is a county map) it shows low lying areas, higher ground, water sources, etc. As someone who is constantly trying to be better prepared for every possible scenario, this map is amazing. I have several maps of Oklahoma and one is a topographical map, but having just our county, enlarged, is really nice.

I registered our basement because I want to make certain that emergency services knows that we may be in our basement after a tornado. They keep a list in ambulances, firetrucks, and police vehicles. All emergency response vehicles have a copy of the registry. Because there is an old storm shelter just behind our home, which floods, and is NOT safe to use as a shelter, I registered our basement because I don’t want to be trapped and they are assuming that we were not home because the other dilapidated shelter is empty. That would suck.

As it is tornado season, hurricane season, and monsoon season in different areas of the United States, I would like to remind anyone who is reading, that having a storm kit, 72 hour kit, or a grab and go bag, can save your life. I highly recommend having all three, with 72 hours of supplies for everyone who lives in your home, including your pets, as well as an extra kit or two for anyone visiting your home when an emergency happens. Even if you don’t have visitors, these extra supplies will come in handy during an emergency situation.

If you don’t know where to begin, I have written three posts on emergency preparedness and they can be found at the links below:

Emergency Preparedness Part 1

Emergency Preparedness Part 2

Emergency Preparedness Part 3

It is always a good idea to be prepared for every emergency situation that happens in the area where you live. Those emergencies may be different than they would be here in Oklahoma, but a majority of the supplies are the same. Seventy-two hours worth of food, water, and clothing, sources of light, warmth, ways to cook, things to beat boredom and to ease anxiety, a source for news and weather reports, and first aid. Specific items for different emergencies such as ways to stay warm during a blizzard or severe ice storm are definitely necessary. Pay attention to the seasons and make sure that you swap out children’s clothing often as they grow quickly. I recommend using clothing that fits loosely for children just in case you forget to change out the sizes. For example sweat pants for winter, two pairs can be layered for extra warmth with a pair of tights/long John’s for girls or long John’s/baseball compression pants for boys. Do your best and starting somewhere puts you one step ahead. I began with my storm kit. Then, I made 72 hour kits for everyone, including our animals, then, I made those 72 hour kitsch into grab and go bags, which have everything already to go in case of emergency evacuation. Don’t forget the sunscreen year round and bug spray in summer.

I realize I tend to start my posts talking about one subject and tend to end up on a completely different subject by the end of my post. There is a reason why this happens. I write a blog post the way I would speak to someone. I write in a conversational manner. Some posts will stay completely on subject, but others will fall under journal style posts and they will go from subject to subject because I am writing them in a specific manner. I do hope this doesn’t deter you from reading my blog. Until next time…

Emergency Preparedness on the Homestead, Journal Style Posts

Emergency Preparedness on the Homestead

The past week has been absolutely crazy. We have been under a severe thunderstorm watch since Wednesday morning. We were under a tornado watch for most of the evening and it was upgraded to a warning on several occasions. One touched down about 30 miles from our homestead. We are of course safe and sound, as well as fully prepared for tornadoes, ice storms, winds in excess of 70 mph, earthquakes, extreme temperatures <both hot and cold>, and blizzards. I grew up being prepared for hurricanes so being prepared is second nature.

I am a huge supporter of being prepared. I give basic preparedness kits as housewarming gifts. I keep a grab and go folder filled with all emergency paperwork. In this post, I am going to do something different and explain step by step how to make a basic emergency kit. This kit is for any emergency involving sheltering in place, in a storm shelter or basement, a reinforced safe room, or an interior room with no windows on the lowest floor in your home. Everyone should be prepared for emergency situations and preparedness does NOT need to be expensive.

For the basic kit, the very first thing you will need is a container to house all of your supplies. I use a plastic storage tote. (Sterlite and Rubbermaid make these and they are very inexpensive) However, a sturdy box, a laundry basket, or even a rolling suitcase will suffice. I keep my tote in the basement, which is where we take shelter for tornadoes.

The following is a list of supplies kept inside the tote:

A hand-crank, solar-powered, and battery-powered weather radio (This radio also charges our cell phones with the hand-crank)

A second weather radio, which runs on batteries (because I get tired of winding the other one)

A basic first aid kit (This is a hard plastic pencil-case with things like bandaids in all sizes, butterfly bandages, super glue in single use tubes for closing wounds that cannot be closed with a butterfly bandage because of location such as finger webbing) antibiotic ointment, burn cream, tweezers, small scissors, gauze pads, medical tape, over the counter pain relievers, over the counter allergy medicine, over the counter sleeping medicine (It’s difficult to sleep during storms whether they involve ice or tornadoes) an ace bandage, latex-free gloves, a spray bottle of sterile water for cleaning wounds, and some benzocaine spray.) Remember this is a basic first aid kit and every home should have a larger kit that has far more supplies than this one.

A change of clothing for everyone in the house as well as a pair of closed toe shoes and socks. I check the fit of this clothing for children once a month as they grow so quickly. The clothing includes a pair of jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, a change of underwear, and socks. The reasoning behind the change of clothing is simple, storms often happen in the middle of the night when everyone is in pajamas and barefoot. This is not how you want to be dressed during a tornado or during the aftermath of a tornado.

Snacks, hard candy, and some ready to eat foods such as Vienna sausages, tuna salad kits, and cans of soup. (This is NOT our 72 hour kit, this is a storm kit)

Work gloves for everyone in the house and one extra pair

Dust masks for everyone in the house and extras (I have a pack of 20 in the tote)

Flashlights (I keep about 5 small ones in the tote and another at the top of the basement stairs) a phone charger usb cable for everyone’s phone and one for an iPhone just in case (sometimes the kids have a friend over when the sirens go off) . I keep a few power bricks charged and these are grabbed as we head to the basement as well.

I have a key chain that is supposed to be for defense as it makes a high-pitched screech and is meant to ward off attackers, this is kept in case we are hit by a tornado. The sound will alert emergency workers and is much louder than us screaming. I have also registered our basement with the town as an emergency shelter so they will know where to look after a tornado.

I keep two waterproof picnic/beach blankets in the tote. This provides something so cover up with if anyone gets cold or a place to sit.

I keep a small towel in the tote for multiple reasons. I have been in the shower when the sirens started going off. I was able to grab a towel, but I was soaking wet and had nothing to dry my hair (I normally wrap my hair in a towel) Another reason is for injuries, another reason is in case of a visiting baby, a cloth diaper can be made from the towel if necessary.

A deck of cards, travel board games, and other amusements to pass the time. (I have a stash of chocolate in the basic kit as well)

Finally, I keep food for the dog and cats as well as leashes, harnesses, treats, and a favorite toy. (Their paperwork is in the grab and go folder I mentioned earlier and we keep travel crates in the basement and in the mud room)

On top of the tote, because it won’t fit inside, I keep a case or two of bottled water.

This is a basic kit and the United States government has a wonderful website, which has further instructions on building a preparedness kit. Their kits are more along the lines of 72 hour kits and I strongly recommend building a 72 hour kit as well and keeping it with your small storm kit. A 72 hour kit is meant to get you and your family through 72 hours in case of an emergency. I have a basic kit and a 72 hour kit because I would rather the kids take snacks and whatever else they need from the basic kit instead of opening an MRE because they want something to munch on. Tornado shelters are often only used for an hour or so until the threat passes, which is when a basic kit is needed. If a tornado hits, you want to be ready to be stuck in your shelter for 72 hours or even longer. This is where a 72 hour kit is needed. Information for emergency preparedness kits can be found here https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit

Please remember, you can add any additional items you think your family may need as every family is different. If you have prescription medications, keep them in a container near your shelter and keep your grab and go folder next to your medications so they can be grabbed together.

Another tip I have is for much smaller children than my own who are teenagers. If your child has a toy, stuffed animal, or blanket, that they are attached to and panic without, this is for you. Go find a duplicate of this toy. When you wash the original, wash the duplicate at the same time, hand the duplicate to your child, when it’s time to wash the toy again, hand the duplicate and wash the one that needs washing. Both toys will wear out together. Keep one of these toys inside of your kit. This way, when you Have to grab your child at 3am and run to your shelter, their security object is NOT missing. It’s right there in your shelter. If the security object is ever truly lost, you have a backup so, this is a win-win situation for any parent. I have also found it easier to keep a backpack by the basement door, on a wall hook for any child under the age of 5. They grow when you blink so, this bag can double as a diaper bag or day bag for little ones. You know everything in the bag fits and you have diapers/pull-ups, wipes, formula, children’s Tylenol, etc already packed and nothing will be too small or outgrown.

Hint: Have a 3rd duplicate for when the toy is destroyed and hide that one somewhere. When they have a child of their own, give them the 3rd duplicate for their own child.

Being prepared brings peace of mind so, please, take a few moments to pack up a basic kit and then, work on a 72 hour kit because sheltering for storms is always unnerving and it’s much nicer to be prepared for an emergency situation than rushing around wasting precious time trying to quickly grab what you think you may need. Tornadoes move quickly and the more time it takes to get yourself and your family sheltered, the higher the risk to your safety becomes. I will delve further into this subject in future posts as it is currently tornado season and hurricane season is creeping up on those of you in hurricane prone areas.

Always prepare for emergency situations before the emergency occurs.