One of the easiest and cheapest things to do in preparation for a short-term or long-term emergency is to collect printouts. Information on how to do things around the house—like simple repairs or food gathering in your area—is valuable in emergency situations. Remember, you may not have Internet access to Google or Bing during an emergency, so it’s wise to print instructions for water purification now. Also, if you wish to prepare for a long-term emergency, you may want to print out lists of edible plants in your area or instructions on how to build animal traps from household supplies.
Lack of water is one of the scariest situations for people in an emergency. People can die of dehydration within a couple of days without clean water. Running out of water is a scary idea, but don’t fret too much—it’s actually easy to purify water. There’s also no reason to buy ridiculous amounts of prepackaged water. Simply save a few milk jugs around the house and have bleach on hand. A few drops of bleach (5-10 based on the water source) in a gallon of water will purify water within a few hours and make it okay for drinking. Bleach is relatively cheap, and if you have a dropper in the house, you’re all set. If you’re truly scared of messing this process up, purchase a relatively cheap portable filter straw that’s small and allows you to simply stick it in a stream and take a drink. These cost about $20 online.
3. Canned food
Cans of food will save you in a short-term emergency. Use coupons to create a stockpile of nonperishable foods and organize items by expiration date. Tuna, canned chicken and dry cereal can also be purchased and have long shelf lives. I’m sure your family wouldn’t mind eating dry cereal for a few days in an emergency. Peanut butter also keeps well and can be used for sandwiches.
If you wish to prepare for a long-term emergency, store seeds. If you have a few bucks lying around, you can certainly purchase seeds; many companies store them in containers meant to last five years. However, if you already have a garden, you can use some seeds from current produce and save them. For example, if you are a green bean gardener, you can pick current green beans and wait until they dry out. Open the shell and get the beans out. These seeds can be used for the next time you garden. It’s easy to print out directions for doing this, but if you have a black thumb, pick up a gardening book at Goodwill or a secondhand book sale.
5. First aid
A first aid kit may be necessary if someone in the household gets hurt or requires medical care during an emergency. You should always have three days’ worth of medication in an emergency kit in case of disaster—especially if you’re diabetic, have high-blood pressure, or have another serious disease that requires medication. Otherwise, make sure to have bandages, disinfectant, cotton balls, thread, anti-diarrhea medication and pain relievers/fever reducers for adults and children. Watch for sales and use coupons for these items. You can also get bandages, cotton balls and alcohol for a disinfectant for under a dollar at most places. Use a dollar store plastic bin instead of spending money on a fancy first aid bag.
Make sure to pick up some batteries with coupons and sales. Flashlights can be purchased at a dollar store for short-term use. You may also want to invest in dollar store glow sticks as they can light up dark rooms as well as provide comfort to children. It may also be a good idea to put glow sticks on children if you’re in a big area with lots of people being evacuated. They can help you keep an eye on children and belongings. Emergency hand crank radios can be purchased for relatively low cost, but you can also search garage sales for radios that people are trying to get rid of. I recently scored one at a garage sale for under $5. If you want to prepare for long-term emergencies, pick up some matches for cheap in case you need a fire to cook food. Or, simply purchase a flint for under $5 online that will allow you to start fires at any time.
Have children? To keep your sanity so that you can think about purifying water, or finding food, or to just alleviate boredom, make sure to have plenty of activities that don’t require electricity or fuel. Pick up a few books, puzzles or board games at a garage sale or thrift store. A deck of cards goes a long way!
This is a guest post by Victoria from St. Charles, MO.