Hurricane preparedness. Anything preparedness, all year long, from brush fires to tsunami, depending on where you live. Here, hurricanes, dock strikes, and tsunami, as well as the periodic black-outs from HECO ineptitude or sabotage (Army runs tall equipment into wires; someone in Waipahu throws a chain across the lines).
• Emergency light sources in every room, because there’s nothing like being stuck on the toilet in your pajamas when the neighborhood goes dark. Mini LED flashlights are good, tucked in drawers or hung on little plastic hooks. After that you break out the wind-up-to-charge lantern, the candles, the oil lamps, whatever else you plan ahead on. Learn how to make “water candles,” jars of water with cooking oil floated on top and a wick. These are one of the safest forms of flame lighting because if they spill the water usually douses the flame. The others require people be careful around them.
• Food that will store without refrigeration. MREs only keep about a year, so plan on restocking when you can use the old ones, either when camping, or hiking, or you don’t want to heat up the kitchen with cooking. They’re a different form of brown-bagging. Freeze-dried foods can be great (I’ll eat some brands as treats), but pricey. Canned and bottled foods are the default. Because its shelf life is limited, usually 12-16 months, get things you will use up in ordinary cooking, or give the old stock to the local food drive (they won’t have it but a couple of weeks, and the recipient needs it right then). This includes pet food. Make sure a decent proportion are things you can eat without heating them. The local canned survival kit is vegetables, Spam, corned beef, sardines, pork and beans, chili (w/wo meat).
• A manual rotary can opener to open canned food. It’s terrifying/hilarious how many people forget this, and only have an electric can opener when there’s no power. You may be the hero of the neighborhood if they can bring their cans to you. Let no one borrow it. It’s too likely you won’t see it again.
• Metal pans, dishes, and utensils. Ceramics break. Plastics can’t take heat. Eating equipment may have to double as cooking equipment if you have to evacuate. Buy some 4/$1 stainless steel flatware to keep with the other emergency gear rather than taking and losing the good stuff.
• Wood or charcoal for cooking, and a fireplace or grill to cook in. Hibachis are good in that they are small and don’t use much fuel. Propane is dangerous to store in quantity, and it will run out, but you can always find more wood or rolled paper to burn in a real grill. You can also stock a lot of charcoal in plastic jugs. If the emergency runs more than a day or two, as we once had no electricity for a week after a hurricane, you will need to boil water. If you had meat in your fridge, you need to remember that cooked meat can be kept at room temp longer than raw meat. You may want to cook starches to eke out the canned food: rice, potatoes (instant is good), noodles, grits, oatmeal.
• Prepackaged dry foods can be kept in water-tight plastic jars, in the envelopes but not the boxes: instant oatmeal, potatoes, ramen or udon, cocoa, drink mixes. Bulk dry food like rice, dried peas, dried beans, and such can be stored loose in the jars, which won’t break like glass would, and are lighter to haul if you evacuate.
• All the stored emergency food should be put in styrofoam boxes to insulate them from extreme temperatures, breakage, and creatures. This sounds expensive but most doctors get their serums and vaccines in small styrofoam coolers. Check in with the ones near where you work and play the card, “the highest form of recycling is re-use” to get theirs. When you get enough, share your takings with family and friends. With the cooler usually comes chill packs of various kinds. I have one cooler dedicated just to storing these. When we get a hurricane alert, I freeze them.
• Cash, because if the electricity is out, so are the card readers at the store.
• A wall safe or security cabinet to lock up your cash safe between emergencies. Don’t tell anyone about it if you don’t have to, including your kids. Kids like to boast, and not everyone in hearing isn’t a thief.
• You should try to keep a month ahead on prescription medications, but sometimes you can’t. My husband’s prescription plan, HealthSprings, allows a person to have nothing ahead. Complaints about the danger of this are a waste of breath.
• If you have pets: pet carrier that doubles as cage, harness, leash, bowls, food, medicine, and water.
• A flashlight that you power by pumping the handle, so not all of yours are battery-dependent.
• A battery-powered radio, and find out now what stations are most likely to carry weather alerts. If you can find one with a crank to recharge it, even better.
• Changes of clothing and shoes. You may be away for a few days, and it’s going to be wet. Stay up on the laundry and know what to grab. Make a list for the older kids.
• In case of evacuation, it’s convenient to have summer sleeping bags, but the covers can be rolled up on the beds, tied with a couple of towels, and there you have it.
• Toilet paper. It keeps forever, and you will be so sorry if you didn’t. In this town, a good sale on TP triggers mob shopping. This town has been stuck TP-less on account of dock strikes, let alone natural disasters.
• Painter’s tape to tape the windows, unless you store plywood covers you screw over your windows. Masking tape left on 24 hours is beastly to get off. Painter’s coloured tape is designed for people who tape one weekend and paint the next and pull the tape on the third weekend.
Some people will try to keep all this in a couple of big plastic bins, and if you have an insulated garage with space in it, that’s good. Otherwise, you always have plan for all the days and years you won’t use these things but keep them handy, because I hope you never have to. But when you need them, you know it’ll all be gone from the mobbed stores. Get it now.