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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Task #8- Make Your Environment Comfortable Even During Emergencies

Today I would like you to think about what you and your immediate family will need to stay comfortable during a time of crisis.  Heat, cold, lots of humidity, excess dry air, sleeping accommodation quality...what will influence how comfortable you can be even without power or possibly even running water in your home?  If you're in your own home, then at least you'll be in your own bed when you sleep.  However, if you have to sleep in your car or in someone else's home, would you still be comfortable?  Do you need a sleeping bag, blankets, extra pillows and/or a tent, if you were stuck in these circumstances? 

Assume that it's a very hot summer day and your power has gone out.  Do you have battery-operated fans that can help keep your house manageable to live in?  This is a good time to dunk cooling bandanas in some cold water and pass them out to prevent heat stroke, too.  If you are allowed to do so (I know renters often aren't allowed), do you have curtains up or high-quality blinds at the windows which can be closed fully to block excess hot air and sunshine from warming up the place too much?  If you have shutters on your windows, are they in good working order so that you could use them to further prevent hot air and excess sun from coming in?  Alternately, what if it's super-cold outside?  Do you have a heater that you can use indoors, which doesn't rely on electrical power, in the event of a cold snap during a crisis?  If you have a wood-burning fireplace, do you have plenty of dry firewood at the ready for the cold weather?

If you still have a home telephone line- Do you have at least one corded phone in the house?  Remember that cordless phones don't work (at least in the U.S.) during power outages?  Are you in the habit of keeping your cell phone(s) charged fully?  If not, you need to start doing this.  Pick a schedule to charge your phone and stick to it.  I have a Smartphone and have to charge it once or twice a day.  I charge it while I'm showering and grooming for bedtime each night, then take it off the charger to conserve power.  Depending upon how much I'm using it that day, I often need to charge my phone once again in late morning or early afternoon to keep it perpetually above 50% charged.  I look at my cell phone's charged status like a car's gasoline tank- I never want it less than half-full.

If it's at all possible, a generator is wonderful to have on hand during an emergency.  However, many apartment dwellers, renters and condo owners don't have the option of relying on a generator.  So we must be able to utilize alternate sources of energy, heat, cold, cooking, etc.  Thankfully, in this day and age many preppers have written about this topic and many products are offered to get this done.  Again, know that you don't have to do all of this today.  Just begin to think about it, purchase items as your budget allows and keep them ready for use at all times.  If you spend even five minutes a day on prepping, you'll be in a much better position should an emergency strike.

It should go without saying, but it case there's a need to say it...keep your home de-cluttered and clean.  Clutter and emergencies are like oil and water.  A really dirty house and sudden disasters don't mix.  Period.  Remember the possibility exists in extreme cases that you could be without trash service for several days (or even longer).  Don't keep trash in the house more than a day.  Common sense has to reign here- NO PROCRASTINATION IS ALLOWED. I try not to be hardcore with my readers, but I'm not budging on this rule!

This is all another reason to keep your laundry washed, dried and put away.  Emergencies don't often give us much notice before they come up!  Make sure that your blankets, sheets, towels and more are kept clean and ready to use in the event that you need them now.  Purchase a small drying rack or some hangers with special clips on them that will allow you to air-dry laundry, as well, should your dryer go out.  This is a good idea even if your power is working fine because obviously appliances can and do break down or just die completely without warning all the time.  Keep up your daily and weekly household routines no matter what happens.  Being prepared in advance will help you to continue performing those rituals which maintain your home and life well, even in the midst of a crisis.  Write up a checklist for needed repairs inside and outside your home. When you notice something as you're trolling about that needs work, write it down and get to it ASAP (and as funds allow).

The questions to perpetually keep in mind when doing this kind of planning: Considering the events that frequently or have been known to hit my geographic area with at least some regularity (more than every twenty years), am I ready to protect my home and family to the best of my ability?  Have I stocked up on everything possible and affordable to secure windows and doors in the event of such a disaster?  This includes tarps, duct tape, working locks, etc.  Are all of my doorways and windows free from clutter that makes them inaccessible?  Are any doors, windows or other major parts of my home's structure in need of repairs?  If a fire got started somehow and I was on the second floor, do I have an emergency ladder that I could use to get out should the first floor become impossible to get through and get out of?  Are my gutters clear, bushes and trees trimmed back from my home, leaves raked (as the season warrants)?  Is all of my insurance paid and are my policies up to date?  Have you done your research on what insurance you should have and/or are required to have by law for your home, even if you're a renter?  You cannot be dedicated to emergency preparedness and constantly going on a wing and a prayer with practical issues like this.  If an intruder came along in the midst of such an emergency, do I have any skill or plan or equipment whatsoever to deal with them?  Do I have enough food and water to last me and/or my family at least three days?  If evacuation plans are already in place by my local government in the event of fairly commonplace problems (floods, tornados, etc.), am I aware of what they are and how to follow them?  If I would need to go to the basement in the event of an emergency, is it clean, dry, de-cluttered and does it have an emergency exit to the outdoors?  Are the basement stairs, whether they're indoors or outdoors, safe and not all rickety?  Do all stairways have proper railings to help prevent falls?  If an ice or snowstorm hits, do I have melting fluid, rock salt or kitty (something for tread), a shovel, etc.?

For those who are in any position of leadership (clergy, business owners, politicians, etc.,)- Have I done everything for my business and/or community to help prepare for commonplace disasters that I possibly can?  Have I made use of all local resources and those online to help me prepare mentally and emotionally (not just physically and in supplies) for blackouts, weather-related emergencies, unexpected emergency room visits, etc.?  Are all of my warranties, appliance and electronic handbooks, insurance papers and so on easy-to-find and organized?  Does anyone know the emergency preparedness plans in my head or have I kept them entirely to myself?  It usually takes a whole family, group of friends or community to turn emergency situations around and rebuild, so it pays to keep a strong network of educated-about-preparedness people in your life.

Here are some articles to further help you protect your home from specific weather-related disasters:

http://www.weather.com/activities/homeandgarden/home/hometips/severeweather/hurricane_prepare.html

http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/improvement/interior/8-ways-to-protect-your-home-against-tornadoes-and-hurricanes#slide-1

http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/improvement/security/7-ways-to-protect-yourself-from-a-home-invasion#slide-1

Being calm, cool and collected in a crisis is a major asset, and rarely do unprepared people feel this way should said crisis come up.  Typically, it is the well-prepared and those with backup plans who are able to maintain their emotional stability in the midst of some sort of trauma.  Emergency preparedness helps build coping skills- it isn't just about having a set of supplies.  This is not a skill set that should be underestimated.  Planning for emergencies doesn't lead to a fearful attitude about life unless it's taken to extremes- planning for them actually reduces the amount of stress that you feel about such events, so long as it's kept in balance mentally.  I don't believe in sacrificing the joys of today for a possible problem tomorrow, to be clear.  We should enjoy what we have today and set aside a little bit extra so that tomorrow will also be as good as it can be no matter what happens.  

Here's to being a prepared organized minimalist,
Liz

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