As Hurricane Florence promised to hit our town this summer, I casually asked a mother of four what she had done to prepare for a possible, extended power outage.
“Nothing!” she replied.
She then hastily went on to explain that since the path was uncertain, she would wait until it was here to do something. “I don’t have time to get done what I need to get done each day, let alone do a lot of work for something that may not happen” she said.
While I cringed inside to hear her say these things, I have to admit, I agree with her. I understand how she feels. There was time when I was so drowning in child care and elder care and homeschooling and soccer practice and dance lessons that getting the dishes and laundry done each day was a victory, if not a miracle.
What is the solution?
That started me thinking about how many other people have the vision to prepare their homes for disasters but not the time or resources to invest in the project.
If you know families like that, perhaps you may want to consider doing what I am planning to do this year. I am going to theme my Christmas gift giving around preparedness. As I was thinking about this, I came up with a short list of things that would be helpful and inexpensive. Another nice thing about these gifts, is that they would be useful even without a crisis.
Here is what I came up with:
In a crisis event, communication is one of the most important but most difficult issues to solve. If a family has members who are away from home during the day, either working, or in school, or travelling, having working cell phones will not only enable the family to strategize about safety, but also help them to reunite with one another.
Related to this is access to social media. I have a friend who lives near the fire in northern California. I have been watching her face book posts as she and other concerned citizens try to reunite pets with their owners. They are having so many success stories that it underlines the importance of having a working phone to access the internet.
Additionally, just being able to let extended family or friends know you are safe relieves a lot of anxiety. Even in the event that your teenager runs out of gas, knowing that they have the capability to keep their phone charged until help arrives is priceless. If you have hikers or hunters in your family, a working cell phone is an extra piece of safety equipment if they should become disabled while in the woods.
In my opinion, this is the most important prepping item for those who are away from home. And since no one wants to have to use their car to recharge their phone in the event of an electrical outage, it is fantastic for use in the home.
A lot of people get information about the outside world from TV or internet. If the electricity goes off and the internet goes down, you could quickly become isolated from the outside world.
A hand cranked radio would prevent you from getting cut off from information about what is happening around you.
If the event the crisis was weather related, a NOAA Weather Radio would keep you updated on that particular weather event, allowing you to plan. But if the crisis were civil or nationwide, NOAA would begin transmitting emergency information pertinent to the disaster. The AM/FM stations will provide you with local information.
For around $20, you can not only keep yourself informed, but have a light source that needs no batteries.
When power goes off, the world outside may become a very scary place. The outside lighting that you rely on for home security is gone. During an extended emergency, societal changes may take place and you will want to be able to see very clearly what is happening around your home at night. These lights are powerful enough for you to see clearly and at a great distance so you can determine if your dog is barking at a deer in the field or a stranger approaching your home.
These lights also enable you to do outside work with safety. Even though I use my porch and driveway lights to take the trash out at night, or walk the dogs before bedtime, I take my spotlight with me. If I hear a noise I want to know if I need to be alarmed or not. This would be even more important without any back up house lighting.
I love the multi packs of small LED flashlights. Whenever we had power outages when my children were young, they struggled at bedtime. They were used to the sounds of the TV and the light from the hallway as they fell asleep. A completely quiet, dark house can be intimidating to a child who is trained to fall asleep to the comforting noises and lights of their home. Just having their own flashlight, which they can turn on at will, makes them feel far less vulnerable at night.
I also use these flashlights all over the house - in the pantry, in cupboards, in the garage - where ever I need just a little boost in wattage. This makes them an excellent gift for older people as well.
I can’t say enough about these lights. They are perfect for young children as well as older people.
- They are safe, presenting no fire hazard. You can leave them on all night long.
- Need no batteries, easily recharged during the day.
- They are bright. I mean REALLY bright!
- They are inexpensive.
- They are lightweight – only a few ounces.
- They have a handle that makes them easy to carry. Ideal for a person who uses a cane or a walker to ambulate.
- They are unbreakable
These lights would be such a blessing to families with children or to elderly people living alone during a power outage.
I know of homes that do not have such an item. While they may have canned tuna, soups and fruits and vegetables available in their cupboards, they would have a difficult time accessing them.
Long shelf life foods are expensive. You aren’t going to invest in them lightly. But if you are buying for your children and grandchildren, you may want the peace of mind for yourself as well as them.
Fortunately, there are a variety of sizes that will fit into your budget. We usually purchase a 32 serving size box and add to that every year. You might choose to do the same, making it a recurring gift every Christmas until an adequate supply is built up.
There are other companies that have shelf stable foods, but Mountain House is the gold standard in the industry in terms of taste and food safety. It is the only brand we keep in our pantry.
#7: Non-Electronic Entertainment
We live in an age when most children and adults spend recreational time using electronic devices. Even books are now electronic. I have no complaints about this…I download books and play solitaire on my computer. But it these are not available (and winter nights are very long even with electricity), you are going to need alternatives. Books, puzzles, board games, crafts and card games are great gifts for families with children.
These have the added benefit of providing more relational opportunities for a family. Reading to children during a long winter evening or playing a lively marathon game of Monopoly well into the night may make beautiful memories for a family.
Christmas can be an expensive season, but if you feel that the gifts you have given are thoughtful and useful, you feel a whole lot better. I think the items on this list go one step further; they are necessary items in a disaster.
It is my hope that you bless some members of your family, or a family in your community, or an elderly person with some of the gifts from this list that will truly help them during an emergency. The more resources that each family has, the stronger the whole community is during a time of trouble.