Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I'm such a good Girl Scout...

"Be Prepared!"  Did you know it's the Girl Scout motto as well?

Remember Hurricane Sandy (or SuperStorm Sandy or Frankenstorm - really, does the name of the storm matter if your house is washed away)? It hit me like a ton of bricks.  Thankfully, not literally.  Safe and dry here in OK (but having just been in New York City the week before), I heard stories from friends about family members being trapped in an apartment building ("It's okay, we're on the eleventh floor.  The water won't get this high," they said.  Hello?  Did you consider that the stairwell would fill completely with water, making it impossible for you to get out or for rescue crews to get in?)  and watched footage of water rushing through the subway entrance I used just the week prior.

My backpack from Our Chalet, the Girl Scout World Centre in Adelboden, Switzerland, now my car emergency kit.
Have you thought about what would happen if you had to "bug out" from your home?  Families who live in hurricane-prone locations (Florida, I'm looking at you) routinely pack up and leave home.  I'm sure they have checklists and are well-prepared.

Here in Oklahoma, we kid ourselves into thinking we'll never have to evacuate like that.  After all, tornadoes are short in duration, and we'd be in our shelter, right?  Hmm.  Tell that to the Oklahoma families who had wildfires surrounding their homes last summer.

I'm thinking a case could be made for everybody to have an emergency kit ready to go, and in fact, over the last few weeks, I put together four (FOUR) kits for our cars and for each of my kids' cars.  (The kits went under the Christmas tree.  I couldn't publish this post until after we opened our presents!)

This list is not the typical "in case you slide off the road into a ditch or have a flat tire" emergency list.  This is designed to be a 72-hour emergency kit that could keep you alive in the event you needed to evacuate your home (but boy,  it would sure be helpful if you did slide off the road and had to wait a day or two to be found, which happens.  I know, 'cause I've read about it in the newspaper.)

You can outfit your car for emergencies for around $100.  Backpacks and tote bags are great thrift store items; all of the following can easily be tucked into a backpack:

Emergency Kit for your car

Here are basic safety items you should keep in your car:
  • first aid kit
  • flares and/or a roadside triangle
  • jumper cables
  • cell phone charger that plugs into the lighter
Also very important to do:
  • always keep the gas tank half-full 
  • always keep 1 or more 2-litre bottles of water in the car (beware; gallon water jugs eventually leak.)
  • in the winter, put a tub of kitty litter, a shovel, and a blanket or sleeping bag in the trunk
  • always keep your cell phone charged
Finally, the backpack full of good stuff:

  • AM/FM radio; the one I bought can charge itself using its solar panels or you can wind it up.  It will also charge your cell phone if you have someone willing to wind it.  (I will try that one day and report back. You can also get battery-powered radios, but you should store extra batteries.) I bought this one (isn't it adorable?  The red one is for Tory's red car, and I got a blue one for Robin's blue car!) for $30.57 on Amazon:   Etón FR160R Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger (Red) by Eton.

  • Flashlight (after changing a tire in the dark of a winter New Mexico night with several people huddled around the tire holding book lights, we realized the best flashlight is the hands-free variety)
  • work gloves
  • duct tape
  • ten-in-one tool (pliers, knife, screwdriver, etc.)
  • road flares (can be used to light a fire, too.)

  • hand warmers ("Hot Hands")
  • rain poncho (it'll be raining when you have to change a tire, trust me!)
  • Mylar thermal blanket (to my surprise, these cost less than $1.00 each.  I bought a pack of 10 for $8.95).
  • Whistle.  If your car goes off the road, eventually someone will come looking for you.  You can make their job much easier by blowing your whistle.  Remember the SOS sounds:  Three short, three long, three short.  Pause.  Repeat.  Way more effective than screaming.  (You should never take a hike without a whistle, either.)
  • Ready-to-eat, non-perishable food items:  protein bars, packages of nuts, dried fruit, candy bars, pouches of tuna or chicken, canned food items with pop-open tops, etc.  Store in  waterproof containers.  Think about the number of people likely to be traveling with you and pack enough food!  (And, yes, you do see a toothbrush and toothpaste - my family members are a little obsessive about dental care, and it's a comfort thing.)
  • water purification tablets (You already have water containers in the car, right?  You can use those to collect water and add the purification tablets. You can also boil your water for one minute to purify.)
  • (not really necessary but so nice to have) Glow Stick.  Conserve the flashlight batteries at night.  Plus the glow might attract help.
  • and for those uncomfortable moments when nature calls:  a roll of toilet paper in a plastic bag, some handwipes and/or disinfectant gel, and a package of facial tissues.

  • matches, lighters, or other firestarters (a medicine bottle holds three cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly.  Shred the cotton ball, place some tinder nearby, and your fire will start much easier.  Twine can also be included for the same reason.)  After this photo was taken, I found waterproof matches in the camping supplies aisle.

  • For heat, cooking, and sanitizing water, my car kits include two kinds of stoves.  I will test them and report back.  First is a coffee can stove made with a clean quart-sized paint can, a roll of toilet paper, and a bottle of 70% isopropyl alcohol.  (Burning alcohol as a fuel does not emit toxic fumes so it is safe to use indoors, however, it does consume available oxygen, so you'd have to have a window partially down.) The directions for making and using the stove are here (I prepared the stove only, not the pot holder shown in the photos):
  • The other stove is better for boiling water or cooking food.  I bought small saucepans with lids at the thrift store.  An example of an easy backpacking-type stove is here:   The fuel for this stove is denatured alcohol (the easiest place to get it?  At the convenience store:  HEET gas-line antifreeze is already packaged in small plastic bottles!)

    Evacuating Your Home

    In the event you are evacuating your home,  there are some other items you will want to grab before you leave.  I plan to print this list, laminate it, and attach it to the car kit.  I've also heard of people keeping the list inside the garage near the door into the house.
    • copies of important documents:  marriage license, home mortgage, insurance policies, drivers licenses, passports, automotive (and trailers, boats, etc.) ownership/titles, wills, bank account numbers, a list of online passwords, address book and phone numbers, phone numbers of neighbors
    • credit cards and cash
    • extra food in sturdy containers; can openers; fuel for the stoves; cooking/eating utensils/equipment
    • extra water
    • sleeping bags or blankets, pillows
    • extra clothing, toiletries (toothbrush!), shoes
    • extra glasses/contacts/contact solution
    • any medications required
    • PET CARE ITEMS:  food, water dish, meds if needed, litter
    • INFANT/CHILD CARE ITEMS:  formula, more water, diapers, etc.  Meds? Spare clothing.  Games, books, toys.
    • Lock your house and shut off water, gas, and electricity as needed before you leave.
    • Let others know when you left and where you are going.
    Much of this information is available on a handy-dandy printable tri-fold brochure at

    Growing up in Montana, every fall we threw a few bags of sand, a shovel, a blanket, and some candy bars in our trunk.  The emergency kits I made last week make me feel much (MUCH) better about my daughter driving across rural Nebraska.  I am breathing a little sigh of relief.  

    It feels good to be prepared, and it feels GREAT to have made certain my kids are ready, too.

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