Be Prepared Month: Getting the basics sorted

As part of Be Prepared Month Open2view is bringing you some useful hints for how to get ready for an emergency. I had another introduction written for this, but after the madcap events of Tuesday I threw it out. After all, what could be a more unsubtle nudge to get prepared than flash flooding in Auckland, followed by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake felt over most of the country?

Auckland flooding

In light of all this I posed this question on Facebook: ‘Have you stored away at least three days of food and water in case of an emergency?’ At last count, with nearly 500 responses, nearly 42% reckon they’re prepared. Nearly 30% have some stuff but not three days worth, 13% are planning to get onto it tomorrow, and a further 16% don’t need to because they’re “like MacGyver”. To these people, I’d like to point out that even MacGyver has the occasional off-day.

MacGyver can't fix car

The great thing about Facebook polls is, other than the fact they’re so totally scientific, is people can elaborate on their answers. One guy mentioned he has 8000 litres of water and a ‘genie’ to filter it. At the other end of the spectrum, one of our mulletless MacGyvers plans to “just go fishing”.

The rest of us should all definitely check out the official Civil Defence site and their ‘Get Thru’ campaign.  You’ve probably seen the ads on TV, where Peter “Rex Redfern” Elliott pushes the need to survive on your own for at least three days after a disaster.

The official stats suggest we’re not prepared yet. If Tuesday’s quake had been a lot less deep, four out of five of us wouldn’t have had enough stored away to get through to Friday. Which is not to say we’d all be dead – but we’ll have enough to deal with without being hungry, thirsty and malnourished.

To qualify as ‘basically prepared’, in the eyes of Statistics New Zealand, you need three days worth of water and food, and an emergency plan written down. Let’s look at the fuel side today.


The water should be the easiest part, as it’s, well, water. Get Thru recommends storing three litres of water per person per day. So that’s six sterilised 1.5 litre Coke bottles per person.

Of course water’s not just for drinking. You also (and I hope you’re sitting down for this) need it for washing and cooking. Civil Defence says to have another three litres of water per day – one for cooking and cleaning food, one for dishwashing, and one more for human-washing.

If you’re filling a bottle rather than buying bottled water, sterilising your water supply should help keep it safe for a few years. Clean your bottles with hot water and fill them to overflowing. Then add bleach. No joke. Five drops of bleach per litre of water will do the trick. Don’t drink the water within 30 minutes of bleaching. I’m sure you’ll resist. Check the bottles every 12 months, and if they’re no longer clear then throw them out and start again.

If you get tired of plain water, you can always dilute it. No, just kidding. You can however pack some other things (to supplement, not replace) in your kit including powdered milk, juice boxes and electrolyte drinks.


Right, now who’s hungry? You’re going to need a bit of food to get through/thru. Clearly this won’t involve fresh meat and produce – you need stuff that’s going to last a while. A friend likes to check out those daily deal websites and buy things like beef jerky when they’re going cheap. Just check the use-by date before clicking ‘buy’.

Searching the web and surveying other friends found the following good food suggestions:

Canned food – fish, meat, vegetables and fruit – all cover the three main meals nicely. Canned tuna and salmon are good for protein and omega-3. Also, pack a can opener. Use these within a year, or by the best before.

Dried food such as fruits (such as raisins and dates), and meat like the aforementioned, and delicious, beef jerky.

Nuts, crackers and granola/muesli bars are filling and have important nutrients. Cereals can last up to a year also, as can peanut butter, which goes well on crackers. A few things that will last for pretty much forever include soybeans, instant coffee, white rice and dried pasta.

Final notes

Multivitamins can fill in the gaps left by missing nutrients.

Once you’ve worked out how much food you’re going to need, pack a bit more. You’re going to burn through the calories so don’t leave yourself short.

Chances are you’re not going to have any electricity for a bit, so get a small camp stove for cooking. The Warehouse has them pretty cheap.

Speaking of cheap – putting all this together doesn’t have to cost the earth. Do the water first, as that’s the most important and very low cost, and every time you do the shopping chuck in a couple of extra cans for the kit.

Finally, if you haven’t entered our competition for an emergency food kit, go for it – we’ve given away four and there’s still plenty more here in the office. (Update July 2013: no there isn’t. This competition was SO 2012. But you can buy some from our friends at efoods at a fairly decent price.) 

9 thoughts on “Be Prepared Month: Getting the basics sorted

  1. Survival
    What do you need?

    The Rules of Survival,
    1. Shelter
    2. Warmth
    3. Food
    4. Water
    5. Protection
    Let’s us Deal with these Rules one by one
    Shelter, you are going to need shelter from the sun, the rain and the wind,
    You will need shelter to cook under, and to store food etc. in
    The best form of shelter is a tent, one that can fit all your family members in or a number of small tents 2 or three man tents are good,
    These tents need to be water proof and strong enough to withstand the elements
    Some web sites to look at are.

    If you do not or cannot get a tent then tarpaulins are the next best thing,
    If using a tarpaulin then remember to get one that will fold down the sides and at the rear, you can always have one more smaller one to seal the front at night or during heavy wet weather, remember also to make sure that you have some covering on the floor, the cold comes from the ground up, not from the air down, always have a cover on the ground,
    Find someone that can show you what to do, and practice as a family, the more practice the better

    You need to ensure that you have adequate clothing to ensure that you maintain body heat; you must remember that your head and feet will lose more heat than the rest of your body,
    Some ideas of what you may need,
    • Sleeping bag, a good quality one, if you cannot get one then use two blankets and make a blanket bed, (shown at the last page)
    • Changes of underwear, change before bed, the sweat in them will dry cold during the night so with fresh clean ones you will be warmer
    • Pyjamas these if worn at night will help you stay warm keep them dry and air daily if you can
    • Sweater ,pull over or some such piece of clothing.( I prefer wool, wool if wet retains heat, but it is individual choice)
    • Warm trousers track pants or similar clothing
    • Shorts
    • Socks (keep them clean, your feet will be most likely the most important part of your body, it is better to wear wet clean socks then dry dirty ones,
    • Foot wear, boots, sand shoes or similar, no jandels sandals etc., keep your feet covered, and make sure you have more than one pair, one for camp and one away from camp
    • A raincoat or parka
    • Handkerchiefs 5 or 6 of these
    • Something to read, bible and book of Mormon
    • A deck of cards or games for the children, nothing large.
    • Some money, efpos machine will not be working most likely
    The above is a recommendation for one person; I consider it the bare minimum
    For those that have baby’s, or small children you will need to adjust quantity’s
    To suit the age of the child. It is also a good idea that you have cloth nappies for babies, at least 12,
    Again ensure that the ground you sleep on is covered, I cannot stress this enough, and dig a drain around the outside of your shelter

    You as adults must remember that you and your children are outside your comfort zones; the more you can maintain some normality to yours and your children’s day to day routine the better, this goes for eating,
    Try to get meals on time, keep them simple, you will most likely have no power, and may need to cook on an open fire,
    This can take longer than normal for food to cook, children being children can and will moan if hungry, so meal planning is very important, both to you and your family,
    Prepare your meals early, keep them covered, and remember a few spices and herbs can do wonders in making the food taste just a bit different, even if the same as the night before ,
    Do not waste any food; it will be in short supply,
    Just one idea for meals,
    Breakfast, weetbix or porridge,
    A hot drink
    Lunch fruit, cabin biscuits, cheese, Jam, soup, dried fruit
    I have said cabin biscuits because unless you have made bread
    There will not be any
    Dinner mashed potatoes (dried) add butter, salt and pepper to better
    the taste,
    Mixed veg’s, dried
    Whatever meat you have, (you can buy dried meats; salamis tin meats Etc. for your storage boxes
    It is worth noting that you can purchase dried meals these however are reasonably expensive, may be, just one or two for a treat,
    You need to add to the above Salt, Pepper, Milk Powder, toilet paper is a must 1 roll for 36 visits to the toilet, as a rough guide. Dish washing and cloth washing powder,
    It is recommended that you have enough for 72 hours, but plan for a week, if your life out of town plans to be able to live for at least one month,
    Food quantities per person per day
    This is just a rough idea of what you might need, there is more than one meal in this list, you can use it to make a menu
    • Soups, canned, pkt, or homemade , 1 cup
    • Meats 1 item per meal
    Meats Canned 125g
    Luncheon sausage 125g
    Fish canned 125 g
    Chicken canned 125g
    • Vegetables
    Potatoes 225g
    Peas, beans, dried 150g
    Carrots 125g
    Cabbage, cauliflower 125g
    Tomatoes 125g

    Onions (a good source of natural salt) as required
    • Cereals
    Weetbix 3 per person
    Cornflakes or similar 75 g
    Porridge quarter cup
    • Fruits
    Canned /dried 150 g
    • Beverages
    Milk 240ml
    Cocoa/milo 225g packets
    Cordial 25g

    Cabin biscuits,
    Jam, little pots
    Eggs 1 or 2
    Macaroni 70g
    Cheese 30g
    Baked beans, or spaghetti 225g
    Cooking oil,
    Sugar sachets
    Custard powder
    Powdered milk
    Soap/steel wool/dish washing mop,
    Barley sugars (or similar)
    Matches, lighter,flint,
    Lantern and fuel
    Insect repellent
    Toilet paper

    You will also need the following,
    1 torch, preferably a wind up one
    1 plate per person, flat,
    1 pudding plate (if you are planning on having pudding,
    1 knife, fork and spoon
    1 cup
    I tea towel
    Tooth brush
    Tooth paste
    A repair kit, needles cotton
    A first aid kit, (the women need to ensure that they have sanitary items)
    Your personal medication
    A water proof folder with all your most important documents in them

    You will need a pack or bag to carry all of this in; it is a good idea to pack your food in a separate bag, or trolley, that you can pull along with you, make sure the trolley has larger wheels than normal, for ease of going over rubble ,
    When you leave your house, leave a note saying that you are, when you left and where you are going to, this will help anyone searching the wreckage ,
    Report into any emergence shelter that you have gone to,

    We need water to live; the experts say 6 to 8 glasses of water per person per day,
    From pasted experience I know that you can get by on 600 mils of water per person per day,
    I took my daughter and two grand kids to the beach during summer I took 100 litres of water, just using the water for cooking and drinking, we used 20 litres in 10 days, (just something to think about,)
    Our personal washing was in the stream; teeth were cleaned using stream water,

    Water in New Zealand can be very easily obtained, and here are some ideas
    • From streams (just boil and treat first you can buy purifying tablets at all good out door stores, and if the water is muddy put two or three pairs of ladies stocking together and let the water drip though them, then purify )
    • From your hot water cylinder, all hot water cylinders have a drain plug some where,
    • If you get a chance, and your house is not badly damaged full your bath tub, washhouse tub with water, use them before the hot water cylinder,
    • Your prepared source of water

    When there is no need to steal, and burgle there are elements in this country who believe that what is yours is theirs, they have no guilt, they will just grab and take,
    In an emergency situation it gets no better, and can get a lot worse, some people who normally would not hurt a fly turn into looters, and takers.
    If people are hungry, and cold and they see that you are warm and feed and have food etc., some will try to bully you to get it, some will just take it, it can become a world of the strongest survives all, sometimes the strongest are just bullies, and will not take on a number of persons when they can find a easier target,
    However there is normally safety in numbers, get a group of you, move together, and help each other,
    There is safety in the children playing together, watched over by one or two adults,
    It is easy to work as a team to prepare meals, do washing and other chores
    Again though the choice is yours,

    Blanket bed diagram

    Lay one blanket on the ground (Flat) fold the second blanket in two, and lay it in the middle of the first blanket, along its shorter length, now fold A over the flat blanket, then fold B on top of A then fold c over the top of them all, turn the whole lot over, then crawl into the two layers of b, and stay warm and sleep well
    Just because you are not at home, that there is no hot water, or very little water does not mean that you and your family cannot stay clean, it is very important for you and your family’s welfare that you all wash daily, if there is no running water, nearby, then have a flannel wash,
    Get a damp flannel, put on a little soap, and rub over yourself, at least to the waist, then clean flannel and wash of the soap using a soap free damp flannel,
    If there are a number of you it is worth warming a little water in a bowl, and you all using it from a damp wash,
    Keeping yourself clean will, do your moral great
    Now just some advice,
    • Never have a fire or naked flame in your tent or shelter.
    • Always have a part of your tent or shelter open just a little bit, fresh air is good for sleeping if there are a number of you in a tent,
    • Never keep food in your sleeping tent
    • Make sure you stay warm and clean,
    • Always help each other, (we all have different skills use each other’s skills)
    • Remember your prayers, daily, family, individual, and couple,
    • Remember to read your scriptures
    When and if you need to light to cook, please try to follow the following
    • Always use untreated timber, (treated timber is full of chemicals, that you do not want in your food, the smoke will carry these chemicals)
    • Treated timber should not be used at all, even to keep warm
    • Do not build a large fire, you only need a small one to cook on,
    • Keep any wood that you have collected under shelter, and preferably of the ground,
    • If you need to cut fire wood, make sure that the axe, machete , are used in such a way that you can not cut yourself by accident,
    (they can bounce of the wood or slide into you )
    • Keep your lighters matches etc dry but away from children, they are not toys
    • There are different types of fires some of these you will find drawn later in this book.

  2. I live in quake affect ChCh and we found out the hard way, you really need to have at lease 4-6 weeks of supplies as a emergency. Also don’t expect ATM Bank Machines to be operating. Have a money tin stock up too, Because there will be no power to operate them to get money out. Your are really on ur own for at lease 3- 4 weeks as we found out here. There was and is a lot of ppl who were and are running around here like headless chooks. Not everyone was given a handout, so you really have to defend for urseleves.

  3. Good list and comments, I already have most of those and are accumulating the rest, piece by piece, but nobody has mentioned toilet facilities. A shovel or spade, rubbish bin with a plastic rubbish bag inner [ you can use the bin as an emergency storage container in the meantime] amd a tarp to place around area for privacy. This is for a start. Also do people realise that you have up to 9 litres of water in your toilet cistern, as long as you haven’t put those blue thingys in them. Hope these comments help 🙂

  4. Also remember the power will be off, but if the house isnt damaged, you can keep your fridge and freezer closed and eat off the fridge stuff first, and the freezer stuff second. That will save your dried and tinned things, and last you for quite a few days. in an EQ you may have or want to camp outside, but be able to use lots of stuff from your house, like toilet rolls, bottles of wine lol!

  5. Pingback: Be Prepared Month: Tonnes of readers’ advice | Open2view

  6. Pingback: Be Prepared Month: Putting an emergency plan together | Open2view

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