Saturday, November 3, 2012

Be Prepared

Ok, so not this.
But kind of this?

While I technically missed National Preparedness Month (September), it's never a bad time to check in on disaster preparedness. With Hurricane Sandy terrorizing the East Coast, and the ever-present threat of earthquakes in my homestate of California, we could all use a reminder now and again, right? And apparently, October is Earthquake Month (and National Cyber Security Awareness Month? Does everything have a month?), so my timing is...not too late?

I was lucky enough to receive an emergency kit/backpack back in the day when I worked at Google, as part of their Oprah-like distribution plan (YOU get an emergency pack! And YOU get an emergency pack! Emergency packs for EVERYOOOOOOOONE!) .

My pack contains:
  • rope
  • thick gloves
  • battery/solar-powered radio/lantern
  • those shiny silver blankets
  • a tent/tube
  • ponchos
  • glow sticks
  • a wrench (for shutting off gas valves)
  • a whistle
  • kleenex
  • a military can opener 
  • a swiss army knife
  • first-aid kit
  • matches
  • duct tape
  • emergency candles
  • water purification tablets
  • out-of-state contact info
  • expired water (oops)
  • expired MREs (oops)

This, combined with our drawer full of water bottles, our always-packed pantry, and our extensive collection of camping/backpacking supplies (including several freeze-dried entrees) means we are pretty well set for a long as our house is pretty much intact. If the house were to burn down or collapse and we couldn't go inside, we'd be in a little bit of trouble. has information on what to do in cases
of all kinds of emergencies...including setting up
your family communication plan, finding shelter,
and stocking your home with supplies.
That's why I finally put together a "Go Bag" as well, something that's easy to grab and contains the essentials. We have the Google Pack, but it doesn't have everything. Like food, for instance. I grabbed an old backpack that I never use anymore, and filled it with canned goods (fruit, vegetables, beans, and spaghetti o's - things I wouldn't mind eating cold if necessary!), candy bars, and crackers that don't expire for a long time. It's a good idea to re-check your expiration dates once a year, just to make sure everything's still good! We each threw a rarely-worn sweatshirt in the bag as well, just in case, and I added some additional items like, um, feminine products and disposable utensils, and I'm considering adding some Clif Bars as well.

I do keep our important documents (marriage/birth certificates, social security cards, etc), my backup external hard drive, and some of our more "valuable" jewelry in a fireproof safe (documents and electronics in heavy duty ziplock freezer bags for water protection), but it's a good idea to also keep copies of the documents (especially insurance/marriage/birth certificates) in your Go Bag as well. Note to self: make copies and put in the Go Bag.

One thing that could prove useful, that I never think about, is a reliable source of fire. If your power goes out, you'll want a flashlight (and spare batteries), of course, but you also might want to light candles. You might need to light a fire for warmth, or to cook food. And in that case, a reliable fire starter will be pretty handy. I would usually just suggest a box of matches (in a waterproof container!), but there are other options too.

I recently had the opportunity to try out the Zippo Emergency Fire Starter, and I highly recommend it as an addition to your Go Bag. I'm not great with lighters, to be honest (I think I'm always afraid of burning myself), and if you don't have matches around (or your matches get wet), this would be a good alternative to have on hand. The waxed tinder sticks light quickly and easily, and stay burning for a good amount of time - definitely long enough to light a fire, I'd say! You can buy them online, or at various sporting goods stores...but one lucky reader is going to get one for free!

Leave a comment below, telling me what you have in your Emergency Kit -- if you don't have one yet, what will you put it yours when you make one? ed note: This contests closes for entries on Sunday, 11/11, at 11:59pm PST.

Seriously, everyone should have one. Don't be caught in a disaster without provisions. Stay safe out there.

Ed note: I actually started writing this post before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, and with the stories of devastation over there, this post just seems all the more relevant now. Please help yourself by being prepared -- and if you want to donate time or money to those in need on the East Coast, head on over to the Red Cross website to see how you can help.

Official FCC Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with, and I doubt they even know I'm writing this post. I just think their site is extremely useful. Red Cross Bay Area (with whom I am also not affiliated) pointed me to them a few years ago. Neither company has provided me with any compensation, and my opinions are my own. Zippo sent me a free firestarter (and refills) to try and review, but I was not otherwise compensated, and they did not require that I write a positive review. This is my blog, and my opinions are mine, yo!


  1. Tyler would have to have juggling balls shushed in our emergency "go" bag. For a) self entertainment and b) entertaining displaced families with children. :)

  2. Good and timely post Kim. When I was a "Super Commuter" (very long distance daily), I had $10.00 in quarters in my emergency pack in my car. These days when the power goes out, many functions are not ATM's. It's a good idea to have some cash on hand. Also, I kept an old pair of tennis shoes. Sturdy shoes can be important if things are broken and therefore unsafe. Lastly, since it is the daylight savings time switch tomorrow...and it is always suggested to check the batteries in your smoke/carbon monoxide detectors on that day (once or even twice a year) gives me a good idea that this would be a good day to also check your emergency supplies.

    Thanks for posting. Now I just need to take your...and my own advice!!!
    PS I'm not wild about lighters...or matches either! :)

  3. Random: I totally went to Lion King before I followed the link to your post. No need to watch the video. I choreographed my own dance to that business.

    Kit: We don't actually have one. We have a couple of cases of water bottles in the garage - specifically for emergencies - and we're pretty well stocked with canned foods, plus I have this amazing spark maker from my soldering days, but we were just talking about this. We need to be better organized, have all the important stuff in one place to grab and go if need be.

    I don't know the technical name for it, but this is a picture of a sparker like mine:

    I got one at home depot.

  4. I have to admit we're pretty low on the emergency-preparedness ladder. We don't have a pantry, a garage, significant closet space, a car or access to a bulk-item retailer so the idea of buying or storing pallets of water is just not feasible. We have lighters, plain candles, wellies, rain jackets, big woollen hats and anti-itch creams, which are solutions to typical British emergencies, but aside from Ben keeping a dumb-phone that can last a week on a single charge and a battery-op radio in a drawer we're kinda pathetic. We do keep stores of batteries around though--for x-box controllers. But in an emergency I'm sure we could spare a few for the news. And I keep all of my baking supplies in airtight Tupperware--we're proactive against the threat of rodent invasion.

  5. That's a good idea, Nancy! Having some cash on hand (in a waterproof bag) is a good idea! I'm going to throw some old tennis shoes in my bag (though I do always have them in an easy-to-grab location), and gotta remember to check our smoke detectors tonight, too!

  6. That spark maker is crazy! I had forgotten about your soldering days :) We always have a fair amount of canned goods and stuff in the house, but it's the "having it all in one place" thing that worried me. If we were trapped in our house for a week without power or something, we'd be fine...but if we had to evacuate quickly? I'd be frantically grabbing photo albums and clothes, and wouldn't have time to put things from the pantry into bags. Better to just have a few easy-access bags of things to grab.

  7. What kinds of disasters are you at risk for out there in England? Besides threats of rodent invasion, that is...

  8. Don't forget a few changes of undies/socks. Just imagine having to wear the same stuff for 3 days - ewww. I like Nancy's idea of having some money and quarters. Must add that to my list...

  9. Oh, that's a really good idea, Janet! I feel like I should include extra sweats too, cause what if I'm wearing uncomfortable clothes when something happens? At what point do you just have TOO much stuff in your Go-Bag, I wonder...

  10. I also have playing cards, which probably belongs in the TOO much stuff category. I actually have a Go-Box, though, and therefore have plenty of room. I probably do have way too much in there, but hey, one can never be too prepared for a disaster, right?

  11. I'm packing a whole lot of disposable diapers in mine! Yes, they're mostly for baby Dylan, but you can also use them as heating pads (wet and microwave for 10 seconds). If lacking power, you could use them to start a fire (in an emergency). They're super absorbent and insulated. You could dress a wound with one or make a diaper blanket! Also, I'm packing a lighter, canteen and reusable coffee filter lined with several layers of fabric in order to filter water (if necessary). Packing a large blade and a bottle of alcohol is necessary.... I've been watching too many episodes of "I Shouldn't Be Alive."

  12. Cards are actually a good idea. Might be some boredom around in an emergency!

  13. Ha! Those survival shows are sure to put ideas into your head...I didn't know disposable diapers were so useful! Those are some good tips.

  14. I have a backpack I keep in "ready to camp" condition. So it is coincidentally also everything I need to go off the grid for a few days.

  15. Brilliant. Does it contain food too? I love "ready to camp" condition...that's our "camping box" - not super easy to grab and run with though.

  16. There was a hurricane that made landfall here in 1989, and the Lake District is prone to flooding. London used to be at high risk for fires until the Great Fire of 1666 encouraged the city to change the building code (there are very, very few wooden or wood-framed houses here now). We get rain, rot and rodents, the occasional foot of snow, and we of course all live under the constant threat of gentrification, but in general what passes for 'extreme weather' around here is a sunny day in February.

    The Isles get tremors now and again, usually light enough that no one notices (or assumes its a HGV on a nearby street) but once every five years or so one will hit a coastal area and cause some damage. The most recent one was in 2007, a 4.3 in Folkestone, Kent (about a two-hour drive southeast of here) that rendered uninhabitable or badly damaged nearly 200 buildings, knocked the power out, caused a thorough inspection of the Channel Tunnel, may have caused a 950-foot long crack to appear in a chalk cliff, and gave one woman a painful bump on the head. Incidentally, I realize a 4.3 wouldn't interrupt a basketball game in CA but we don't really build for earthquakes here (hell, we haven't built anything here in 120 years) so a lot of old brick houses that were already held up with wallpaper and hope after the Blitz came down like historic sites in Mecca to make room for Hiltons.

    Er. Where was I?

  17. I think there is a limit--if all of your possessions are divided into 'vital' and 'expendable' trunks, if you find yourself stockpiling more canned foods than you could conceivably consume in a year, if you find yourself constantly oiling and cleaning your hunting rifle and have turned your guest room into an ammunition cabinet--there madness lies. Excessive disaster preparedness is like excessive awareness of one's mortality. After a point it just seems like people spend their lives waiting for the next disaster to happen.

  18. heey frnd how are you??????????????

  19. For someone who thinks about the apocalypse on a daily basis, I surprisingly do NOT have an emergency kit. However, I definitely have thought about what I would stuff into a backpack just in case: small bike pump, enough granola/dried fruit for a couple days, bottled water, fire (I think there is still some oil left in my kitchen torch...), underwear, socks, cash (currently have ~2,000 in Mexican pesos), a paring knife (for skinning food after I have hunted it), a large chef's knife (for stabbing), a gun (zombies), and extra ammo (duh).

  20. Have you seen that show? There's a whole show about these people!

  21. Oh that is terrifying. But plausible enough.

  22. It is so amazing to see how different cultures react to their environment. The first time I heard about an emergency kit was when I moved in to Los Angeles, CA. People explained me they thought one day, in one huge earthquake, California would be separated from the continent and would become an island. And I was like WHAT?! you are all expecting that and are ready for it?? I come from Chile, THE place where THE mayor earthquake there is knowledge about took place, a 9.5 Richter in 1960. In 2010, we had an 8.8 that went through almost 1000km with several epicenters and mayor tsunamis, yet we do not have any sort of emergency kit. We just run to the hills if we are by the sea... What we do have is a very complex way of building, so our constructions really resist mayor earthquakes. But still no emergency kit. I'll think about having one. But it has to be light enough to grab it and run... Thanks, Kim, great entry!

  23. Oh how interesting! Houses here are definitely not made to withstand an earthquake that big...and I'm sort of paranoid anyway, and err on the side of overpreparedness :)