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?
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.
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.
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.)