As the crisis in the northeastern United States unfolds in the wake of hurricane Sandy, residents of many states, and especially New York and New Jersey, face days of power outages, flooding, disruption in communication services, shortages of food and essential supplies, and widespread infrastructure damage. By mid October 30, nearly 3 million people were without power, with outages expected to last up to 4 days to 2 weeks in some areas especially as rain, snow and wind storms continue.
It is common that we often think of emergency preparedness when it’s too late, when the grocery stores are already out of bottled water and batteries and are running low on essentials such as milk, canned foods and bread. For many Northeasterners, there is no power, the roads are flooded, debris litters the streets, and hence it will be difficult to reach shelters, emergency centers or stores, or fuel up on gas, even though many are likely to remain closed and low on needed supplies.
Perhaps now is a good time to discuss your family’s preparedness plan, and give some thought to what your role will be in the community should a natural disaster affect where you live. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) outlines what you should have on-hand in case of an emergency:
Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water. If you must heat food, pack a can of sterno. Select food items that are compact and lightweight. Avoid foods that will make you thirsty. Choose salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals, and canned foods with high liquid content.
- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables
- Canned juices, milk, soup (if powdered, store extra water)
- Staples–sugar, salt, pepper
- High energy foods–peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, trail mix
- Foods for infants, elderly persons or persons with special dietary needs
- Comfort/stress foods–cookies, hard candy, sweetened cereals, lollipops, instant coffee, tea bags
There are many storable food companies that allow you to stock up on some of these essential food items, and allow you to store these foods without having to be concerned about expiration dates, as many storable foods are freeze dried and good for up to 15 years. Storable food such as milks, meats and ready meals also do not need refrigeration, which allows you to store these essential items without the need for additional freezer space giving you edible food even when you’re affected by power outages. Furthermore, many storable foods are sealed in airtight containers and mylar packaging, preventing contamination from flood waters and exposure. Suppliers are also starting to offer gluten-free and GMO-free storable foods.
Here’s great video on how to take care of perishable foods during power outages.
Many Americans put their trust in government and emergency authorities, expecting they will provide help and assistance during natural disasters. But in situations such as Hurricane Sandy, the reach of the disaster is so widespread, emergency resources are likely to be slow and focused on the most affected areas, leaving many communities and neighborhoods to fend for themselves.
Days of warning have given the US government plenty of time to coordinate a response to hurricane Sandy. It is unlikely that we will see a repeat of the failure that was the startling aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when 80,000 people were trapped in the flooded city of New Orleans with virtually no food, water or sanitation, however many people are already complaining that the government is not doing enough to help.
There will certainly be many other crises during which the government’s response to disasters is inadequate and limited. And Earthquakes and tornadoes strike with much less warning.
What responsibility do you want to take for your family? What role do you want to take in your community emergency response? Take some time and put some thought into these topics, and don’t be caught off guard.
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