Today I have eight emergency preparedness hacks for you–but I didn’t come up with them!
Instead, I’ve invited my friend Colette from My Computer is My Canvas to share her emergency preparedness hacks with you. As you probably know if you’ve followed me for very long, I very rarely have guest posts. I personally don’t like reading websites where the author changes all the time, so I don’t want to do that to you.
But today is different. Colette is not only a good friend, incredibly talented, and someone I admire in many ways, but she is also someone who has lived through multiple natural disasters. I’ve lived through some mini ones, but nothing like her experiences.
As such, I believe she has a unique perspective that I cannot offer. She is just as much an emergency preparedness expert as I am–maybe even more so with her extensive experience. However, she doesn’t teach about emergency preparedness online. She creates adorable printables online (and has talent I only dream of having in that arena). So, I thought it would be fun for her–and for you–to have her share some of her emergency preparedness hacks and experiences here.
Note – Within this post, I (Misty) link to products I have created that may help you with some of Colette’s suggestions. Colette offered this information with no compensation of any type. Learn more here about how I am (and am not) compensated, and thank you for your support of me and my family!
Hi, there! My name is Colette – I’m the blogger/designer behind My Computer is My Canvas… and although printables are my love (next to my family, of course), emergency preparedness is pretty high on my priority list!
We had lived on the East Coast for several years and were still new to hurricanes and widespread blizzards – but it was Hurricane Sandy that really woke us up! We had watched the forecasts for days, we knew it was coming, and we felt pretty confident in our preparations, but as the days without power went on, we realized that we were not as prepared as we wanted to be.
We had no heat, no running water, no access to gas, stores were closed, gas stations were empty and crime was on the rise. Through that, and many other experiences with blizzards, Nor’Easters and LONG power outages, we decided to take a serious approach as a family to preparing and in the process learned some easy hacks that have made other emergencies a little bit more bearable (if that’s even possible).
Today, I’ll share my 8 best emergency preparedness hacks + I’ve made a free printable assessment so you can evaluate where you are and where you can put some focus!
Emergency Preparedness Hack #1: A 24 Pack of 16 oz Water Bottles = 3 GALLONS!
Experts recommend storing one gallon of water per person per day. This is as simple as storing one 24 pack of water bottles per person in your family because when added together, these water bottles equal 3.17 gallons – or water for 3 days! Start there, then add more as you are able.
I like to choose several different types of bottles. My first layer of water is the package of 16 oz bottles. Next I store 2 one-gallon jugs per person, then I have two 2-gallon jugs (with spigots) per person, and a 5-gallon water cube for each person. Added together, this is enough water for 14 days per person.
Having water stored in various types of bottles is nice. The larger ones can refill the smaller ones, spigot jugs are great for washing, and smaller bottles/jugs are good for drinking and easy handling for cooking.
Beyond 14 days you should at least have a plan. We also store 55 gallon water barrels (one per person) which extends our fresh water supply to over two months. After that, we have filters and could collect water from a nearby stream if necessary.
Emergency Preparedness Hack #2: C Batteries are your BEST FRIEND!
During an emergency (and I’ve been through several), bread, water, and batteries are the first things to disappear from store shelves, AND what you might not know is they take a while to replenish even after the lights come back on.
One thing I began to notice was C battery bins were always full–before, during, and after an emergency. Why? Well…C batteries are typically used for toys. Flashlights, lanterns, and radios use D’s, AA’s, and AAA’s.
So, I went on the hunt for C powered emergency items. There aren’t a ton out there, but if you look, you can find lanterns, flashlights, radios, etc.–and since NO ONE ELSE needs toy batteries in an emergency, you’ll have all the batteries you need!
Emergency Preparedness Hack #3: Solar Walkway Lights Make Great Lanterns!!
Even though you now have your secret stash of C batteries, you’ll be SO SURPRISED at how fast you’ll go through them.
Prior to one particular emergency, we wanted to up our game and go solar but found out it’s expensive!! To improvise, we bought inexpensive walkway lights, charged them outside during the day, then brought them in at night to use as lanterns! Just put them in a tall vase or fill a quart jar with a few rocks to add weight and help them balance.
They aren’t super bright, so you might need a few to dimly light a room, but it’s a great way to preserve batteries!
Emergency Preparedness Hack #4: Have Plenty of Shelf Stable Recipes (and the Ingredients to Make Them)!
One thing I learned the hard way during one of our first REAL emergencies was that spaghetti gets REALLY boring when that’s all you can make! By day three or four of an outage, you’ve most likely lost your fridge…which means no more milk, eggs, cheese, butter, yogurt, sour cream, etc. A day or two after that, the meat in your freezer, if not eaten already, is going to go bad as well.
I was naive and had no idea how many of my recipes needed those items!! I had a reasonably stocked pantry, but I was TOO reliant on refrigerated items to make most of my recipes. I fed my family so much spaghetti during a two week outage that to this day they whine if I even suggest I might make it!
After the lights came back on, I went on a quest to make sure I had plenty of shelf stable recipes and found shelf stable substitutes for some of those fridge items that I just can’t do without. Trust me, food plays heavily into people’s attitudes and morale. Do not feed them the same meal nine days in a row or you may just have mutiny on your hands!
Emergency Preparedness Hack #5: Speaking of morale…STORE CANDY!!
For real. Store your family’s favorite sugary treats. You’ll thank me if you ever need them!! Hurricane Sandy knocked our lights out a few days before Halloween, and THANK GOODNESS I had already bought my candy!
With the power out for 13 days, we were hauling in water, chopping fire wood, and eating boring food. We were cold, and everyone was edgy. Tempers were short.
Our family of six had hunkered down in the family room near the fireplace, and when the temps dropped into the 40’s, we had to put quilts up in the entry way, hallway, and windows to keep the heat in that room. Saying it was stressful is the understatement of the year!
But…every night, once we were settled in and had a fire roaring, we passed around a bucket of candy. Everyone took a few pieces, we chatted as we ate our treat, and for a few minutes, everyone forgot our dire circumstance.
I seal my candy in jars with a food saver and add oxygen packs for good measure. I opened this jar to take a picture. It was sealed over two years ago, and it tasted like it was fresh out of a bag. I’ve also done Mike and Ikes, jelly beans and LOTS of chocolate chips. I would avoid anything that has peanuts and would rotate it every year or two.
Emergency Preparedness Hack #6: Get a Portable Power Source!
In this day and age of devices, you’ll need a way to keep them charged and a small portable power source works like a charm. They are about the size of a car battery and you can find them in the automotive department of any big box store. Some have jumper cables (which is a great thing to store in your trunk on a regular basis anyway), but look for ones that also have plugs and 12V outlets–some even have USB ports!
You can plug in a small lamp and keep your phone charged. I had to charge mine at a friends’ house or fire station every few days – but it was nice to have my own little source of juice… even for charging the kids’ DS’s. There are solar ones out there as well, but some are pricey!
Emergency Preparedness Hack #7: Get Lots of GOOD Fire Starters!
On Day 10 of one of our outages, I’d heard that a Burger King in a neighboring town had power and had reopened. I was thrilled, and the kids cheered when I told them we could grab some hot hamburgers and fries for lunch.
As we sat there (enjoying our fast food like it was a 5-star restaurant), I looked around and realized I could use all of our paper wrappers to start my fire that night. For real. In 2012, we lived in one of the most advanced metropolitan areas in the country–and there I was in Burger King–quietly folding my garbage, packing it in a kids meal box because that’s how I was going to start my fire that night.
Why was I burning garbage? We had plenty of fire wood, but had already run out of kindling and fire starters. I had been burning cereal boxes and old notebooks to get my logs ignited! I’m here to tell you, in a real life situation, wax covered makeup pads and dyer lint in toilet paper rolls DO NOT burn long enough to ignite a log. You’ll have to use about a dozen of them to start a real fire if you don’t have kindling.
After tons of experimentation (once the lights came back on), my teens and I figured out an easy, cheap solution–and it actually burns long enough to light your bigger logs. It’s simple. Put a good handful of wood chips and a good handful of paper shreds in a brown paper sack. Shake it up, and tie the top off with twine. When it’s time to burn, break it open in three or four places to create good air flow, light it, and it should burn for almost five minutes–plenty of time to light your bigger logs!
Emergency Preparedness Hack #8: Good Sleeping Bags Are Worth Their Weight in Gold!
It took more than one outage in the winter before we figured out we needed to get everyone Zero Degree rated sleeping bags. You can only burn a fire so long and can only pile on so many blankets–and can still feel chilled to the bone.
One particular night I was miserable. I just could not get my feet warm, and lack of sleep is not ideal in an emergency situation. You need good sleep to handle the stress! In the dead of winter, in an outage when the house was cold, we’d have fared SO MUCH better with proper sleeping bags. We could have burned less wood, relied less on the fire keeping us warm, and woke up feeling rested, ready to tackle another day.
Free Printable Emergency Preparedness Assessment
Not everyone has had the “fortunate” opportunity to practice their emergency skills and put their supplies to the test–which is why I love Misty so much!! She has AMAZING resources on her blog to help guide you in your quest to get prepared for whatever may come your way.
No one plan or list works for everyone, but to get started, take lists and recommendations that have already been organized and adapt them to your needs, your family size/ages, and your location and go from there. I created a Basic Assessment as a free download that you can use to evaluate where you are in six primary areas and hopefully make a goal or two to advance in each one!
A huge thank you to Misty for inviting me to share some of my favorite emergency hacks! If you liked this post, you might also like a similar chart I made to help you build your food storage (here).