Tuesday, September 12, 2017

12 Cheap Tricks for Disaster Preparedness

Like most of the nation I was glued to the TV watching the hurricane disasters unfold, first in Houston then in Florida.  While many of the people caught in the disaster areas were prepared (yeah Cajun Navy!), many others weren't as prepared.  Those were the people crowding into almost empty stores, hours before the hurricanes hit, arguing over the last case of water or gallon of milk.  Here are some inexpensive ways to prepare for a disaster:

  1. Shop loss leaders and use coupons.  We recently bought a case of water for 99 cents with a coupon at our local grocery store (24 bottles of water for the price of one an a convenience store!) and a case of canned soup for $8.  Milk is often a loss leader (and can be frozen), and the Dollar Store has lots of canned and shelf-stable items that can be eaten during a disaster.  Just remember to rotate your stored food and/or donate the stuff you don't eat before it expires to a food bank then restock again.
  2. You can buy a fancy first aid kit full of items you may never use or you can make your own for cheap.  Again the dollar store, Walmart, even Amazon can provide individual items for your first aid kit for very inexpensive prices (100 bandaids for $1, a box of alcohol wipes for $1, aspirin and Tylenol on sale, etc).  You can Google a list of first aid kit items such as this one.
  3. Empty the change in your pockets into a jar (roll and exchange for cash as it adds up), add random bits of cash to the jar, stick unexpected money in the jar (like birthday gift money, rebate checks, etc)...eventually you will have a good bit of cash to use during an emergency.
  4. If you have a way to store gasoline (such as in your boat, or in containers to use in your lawn equipment), do so.  Many people who were trying to evacuate found that gas stations were out of gas so having extra on hand and topping off your tank at home is a good way to ensure you can actually evacuate if you need to even if there is no gas to be found in your area.  Remember to rotate your stored gasoline so it doesn't deteriorate.
  5. If camping or backpacking is your usual hobby, you will be extra prepared for a disaster.  Your camping/backpacking gear (stove, tent, sleeping bag, etc) is a boon when it comes to needing to evacuate or live outside of your home due to damage.  Note that you can get great quality outdoor equipment for cheap during REI sales, at www.steepandcheap.com, at Amazon and even at Walmart and Target.
  6. A great place to find low-cost disaster gear--everything from wool clothing and work gloves to work boots and cast iron cookware--is at the Goodwill or other thrift stores.  I mean you can pay top dollar for this sort of stuff but so many of these things get donated that it pays to be patient and pick up things you can for a fraction of the price of new.
  7. Buy things for your home that can do double duty.  A patio gas grill is great for summer parties but it is also an excellent place to cook when the power/gas is out to your kitchen stove during a disaster.  We buy $1 plastic tarps at the Dollar Store to have on hand and they can be used for everything from paint drop clothes to covering outdoor equipment during a storm to pitching a tent with during a disaster.  And those solar patio lights that you have outside can be brought in during the evening to provide light when the power is out.
  8. If you want some excellent free training that will be useful during a disaster, volunteer in your community.  EMTs, Red Cross volunteers, Search and Rescue volunteers, CERT team members--there are many community organizations that provide free disaster-skills training to their volunteers.
  9. If you have ever had the power go out for a while, you know that the family usually gets that "now what am I supposed to do look" as they try in vain to get their non-responsive electronic gadgets to work.  Buying a car charger for your cell phone and gadgets is a good idea as is having board games and books on hand to keep people entertained during long power outages.
  10. Think long and hard about buying expensive disaster equipment.  Based on where you live, having a chainsaw on hand can be super useful or not useful at all (we don't have big trees here in Las Vegas so we don't need a chainsaw; my sister, on the other hand, has so many huge trees on her property that without a chainsaw they could be stuck at home for days if they don't have a way to remove the trees that fall across her driveway themselves).  Ditto generators.  We don't have disasters here where we can expect the power to be out for a long time, but our family in New England often get power outages during the winter that can last for a week or longer so all of them have generators.
  11. Put together a list of disaster supplies that you need and add to your supplies a little each week.  Buying all of these items at once can be a financial hardship for many but if you pick up a couple of things each week (box of wooden matches and a couple of lighters this week, a tarp and flashlight next week, etc) you will eventually end up with a very comprehensive disaster supply cache with minimal financial impact since the things are bought over a long period of time.
  12. Knowledge is free and knowledge is probably the most important thing to have during a disaster.  Hit up your local library and do some research online and learn as much as you can about what to do during a disaster.  Basic first aid skills, how to pitch a tent in the back yard, how to start a fire with a myriad of household items, how to survive a financial disaster, what to do before, during and after a hurricane...there are hundreds and hundreds of survival skills that you can learn to be better prepared for a disaster in the future.
The bottom line is that you shouldn't have to race to the store hours before a disaster is set to strike and spend thousands of dollars on over-priced emergency supplies.  Start today to build you disaster supplies cache, a little at a time, as the items come on sale, and you will be all set when--not if--disaster strikes your area.

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