Guest Post by: Jeffrey Obrien
Colorado is having its most wicked wildfire season in over a decade. At least six wildfires are burning across the state, threatening homes and businesses. The latest one, near Colorado Springs, forced more than 32,000 evacuations. The fires have also forced evacuations in California, Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico.1
Considering hurricane season looming in the Atlantic, and tornado season underway in the Midwest—not to mention that California seems perpetually poised for biblical earth shaking—we think some basic, all-purpose, survival tips may be prudent:
Consider keeping the pantry supplied with disaster friendly foodstuffs. You don’t necessarily have to stockpile like these guys, because if we’re facing an apocalyptic, collapse-of-society disaster, even they won’t be well prepared.2 But disasters like snowstorms, blackouts, hurricanes, and fires can leave you trapped in your home for a few days, and are worth prepping for. If you usually prepare fresh food, consider stocking up on nonperishable items as well: canned meats, canned vegetables, dry goods like cereals, grains and beans, and dehydrated foods. Frozen food is good, but remember that you may lose electricity. Depending on your climate, the food in the fridge could spoil in less than 24 hours. 3
If you already buy bottled water, you may not need to do any thing different. Do you buy a week’s worth of water at a time? We’re betting you won’t be trapped for more than a week, so kick back and use the extra time to shame yourself for your offense to mother nature. 4
If you drink tap water, you may have problems if a disaster strikes. Floods, earthquakes, and fires can all result in polluted municipal water supplies. You’ll want the ability to boil water in these kinds of emergencies.5 If you have a gas stove, you may be able to light it even without electricity. Keep matches on hand. If your stove is electric, you’re out of luck during a power outage. Consider buying a small propane burner, the kind for camping, and several spare cans of propane.
If society has well and truly collapsed, you might as well burn that duffle bag full of cash for warmth, but we’re betting that won’t be the case. In non-Hollywood disasters, cash is still a welcome resource. You could buy food from a neighbor, or pay for a ride to safety. It turns out your grandma’s advice still applies: keep enough cash around for emergencies. For the price of plywood and screws, you might just save your house from a hurricane. And know where your cash will come from once the disaster is over. Do you have adequate savings? Are you sufficiently insured? Will you apply for loans? Cash can make the difference between a quick recovery from disaster and a painful uncertain trial.
Use common sense here. If we’re talking winters in Fargo, you’re going to need more than just extra blankets. Does your house have a fireplace? Keep some wood around to burn in it. Don’t try to burn the couch cushions, or anything made of plastic—they’ll just melt and fill your house with smoke. Don’t forget to open the fireplace’s flue or you’ll also get a smoke filled room. If you don’t have a fireplace, DO NOT burn anything indoors for warmth. You could die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Do keep warm clothes, a cold weather survival kit, and blankets around, in case of a power outage. And if you have a car, don’t forget about it as a resource. If the roads are clear, consider driving to safety. If not, you can at least warm up via the car’s heater.
The best disaster preparation is simply having a plan. If you run into a medical emergency, do you have the money to deal with it socked away, or will you have to apply for loans to cover the expense? In the case of a fire, do you have an escape route mapped out? Know what disaster scenarios you are likely to face, and have a plan in place to react. Find disaster-specific information here, buy the supplies you’ll need, and batten down the hatches.