Monday, February 1, 2010

A Lesson on Emergency Preparedness

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to teach a brief lesson on emergency preparedness for a Relief Society activity where we made personal 72-hour kits. Emergency preparedness and self-reliance have always been some of my favorite topics, so I was really excited to do some research and expand my knowledge on these subjects.

Thomas and I decided that since the 72-hour kits my ward made were mostly food, we'd put the "recipe" for them on this blog rather than our Lotsa Oxen blog. The instructions will be below, but I also wanted to include some of the information I taught about, so please read through everything! :o) My words are not meant to inspire fear of the future or anything of the sort; I just believe it's important to consider possible dangers and to prepare ourselves to better rely on ourselves should a need arise.

"Ye hear of wars in far countries, and you say that there will soon be great wars in far countries, but ye know not the hearts of men in your own land. I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear." (Doctrine and Covenants 38: 29-30; revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith just before the saints were commanded to go to Ohio in 1831)
Just as the Saints in the early days of the Church were commanded to prepare themselves against disastrous times, the prophets in our day have counseled us to "take responsibility for our own spiritual and temporal welfare" (Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; January 2010 Ensign). Like our pioneer forbears, problems we may face could be due to the wickedness of men; but, as we've increasingly seen in recent news, our chances of facing emergencies due to natural disasters are growing, too.

Potential emergencies we could face include:
  • Severe storms causing flooding, avalanches, tornadoes
  • Fire - structural or wildland
  • Earthquake
  • Water Supply Contamination
  • Pandemic
  • Unemployment
Consequences of these events range from being stuck at home for a few days to needing to evacuate. Widespread panic could lead to depleted resources at nearby stores. Destroyed infrastructure (communication, roads) could make evacuation by car impossible.

So what is there to do? Well, it's important to plan ahead! I don't think any of us expect to or want to face any disaster situation, but it's wise to decide ahead of time what you would do if something bad were to happen.

As mentioned above, my ward decided it would be prudent to create 72-hour kits.

"Why 72 hours?... Such organizations [as the government or emergency disaster agencies] perform marvelous services, but when large populations are relying solely upon them, it is virtually impossible for them to meet all individual needs... Most relief organizations would need approximately three days to mobilize and be able to help you." (Emergency Essentials' Tips for Preparedness)
If a disaster area is large, volunteers and resources would need to be brought in from surrounding areas. It takes time and money to move people and things!

A useful 72-hour kit takes into account the most basic human survival needs: FOOD, WATER, and SHELTER. The kits we made provide the needed food; in addition to the items listed below, it is recommended that you have 2 liters of water to prepare the food in the kit PLUS 1 gallon of water per person per day for drinking and hygiene. When it comes to shelter, as you may or may not be able to stay in your home or car, it is wise to invest in an emergency blanket to keep you safe from the elements.

Just in case you are stuck in your home for longer than 3 days, and your tap water is not drinkable, it is good to know the following:
  • You can purify your water by boiling it, treating it with iodine tablets or liquid bleach, filtering it, or creating a "solar still"
  • Other sources of drinkable water found in your home include: the water heater, ice in your freezer, water in the toilet tank (but NOT the bowl, people!)
In addition to all of the other things I've mentioned, please consider the importance of including these things in a kit for yourself or your home: eyeglasses, prescription medication, spare keys, cash and checks, toilet paper, soap, a first-aid kit, Chapstick, a toothbrush & toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, light (flashlight with extra batteries or an emergency candle), a map of your region, identification

Other HIGHLY recommended things to include:
  • A battery- or hand crank- operated radio
  • Copies of important records: birth certificates, social security cards, marriage certificates (make sure they are laminated or otherwise water-proofed)
  • A hard-copy of PHONE NUMBERS and ADDRESSES that may at the moment only be in your cell phone..... Especially important would be addresses of people that live nearby but not necessarily in the same town, in case you need to rely on their hospitality in case of an emergency.

For our Relief Society activity, we put together these awesome kits that fit into a gallon jug! These kits are waterproof, light, and easy to carry - exactly what you would want if you had a short time to evacuate.

What you'll need for one kit:
  • 1 1-gallon jug, not previously used for milk
  • 2 granola bars
  • 1 12-oz jar of peanut butter (I could only find 17-18-oz jars; they will work)
  • 1 box of Lipton soup mix (with 2 packages inside)
  • 3 small packages of raisins, fruit snacks, or fruit leathers
  • 3 small beef sticks OR some jerky of your choice OR small cans (with pop-top lids) of ready-to-eat meat or beans (I included 1 can of Beanie Weenies, 1 can of chicken, and 1 can of tuna)
  • 1 can of single-serving stew or pasta with a pop-top lid (I bought ravioli)
  • 3 small cans of fruit (lunchbox size, with pop-top lids)
  • 2 hot cocoa mix envelopes
  • some Tang mix (we just put about 2 scoops worth into some Ziploc baggies)
  • 2 oatmeal envelopes
  • 10 pieces of gum
  • about 10 pieces of hard candy or suckers (I used Werther's Originals candy ... yum!)
  • trail mix
  • a few crackers
  • 1 small box of matches
  • 3 plastic spoons
  • 3 small plastic cups
I won't say it's EASY to fit all of this into a gallon jug, but it is POSSIBLE! I did just realize I did not include any crackers, which might make eating the peanut butter ... difficult. To assemble, you'll have to use a knife to cut the jug open. I cut a semi-straight line about halfway up the bottle, along the 2 sides across from the handle. Then, following the contours of the jug, made the line into a flap by cutting vertically toward the lid.

It would probably have been easier to use beef sticks as opposed to the cans of meat, as the cans take up A LOT of room. I put the cans and the peanut butter jar in the bottom through the flap and tried to utilize the remaining space as best I could. I had to remove the dry soup from the box (but I did write on the package how much water the soup would need). Once everything was in, I sealed the jug using clear packaging tape.

As noted above, the food in the kit requires 2 liters of water to prepare. You'll also want to store 3 gallons of water for drinking/bathing to go along with what is in your kit.

The suggested meals go like this:
  1. Breakfast: Tang, 0atmeal // Lunch: Beenie Weenies, fruit snacks // Dinner: granola bar, beef jerky, hot cocoa mix // Snack: 3 pieces gum, 3 pieces candy
  2. Breakfast: hot cocoa mix, granola bar // Lunch: Lipton soup, raisins // Dinner: stew, fruit snacks // Snack: 3 pieces gum, 3 pieces candy
  3. Breakfast: Tang, oatmeal // Lunch: Lipton soup // Dinner: jerky, fruit snacks // Snack: 4 pieces gum, 3 pieces candy
Lucky for us, the kits we made seem to have been created using a couple different lists so these kits have more food in them (peanut butter, fruit cans, trail mix, ...) than what is accounted for in the above meal list. It is encouraged that cans are saved to heat other foods if other containers are not available. Also, you should try to rotate the food in your kit yearly.

For more reading, see the following:
"Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady" - by Elder Henry B. Eyring
"Principles of Temporal Salvation" - by President Marion G. Romney
"Prepare Every Needful Thing" - by Victor L. Brown
"All is Safely Gathered In"
Provident Living website
Be Ready Utah

Good Luck!! oxox

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