Friday, April 22, 2011

Preparedness eases stress when the unexpected strikes

A few weeks ago, I awoke at 5 a.m. to a peculiar humming sound. I trundled out of bed to investigate, but I already knew that something was amiss. The sound was caused by a problem with our water system; our cistern wasn’t filling, and we had no water.

While I waited for a reasonable hour to call for help, I contemplated making my morning coffee. Without running water, the small carafe of water in the refrigerator became precious, and so did the notion of being able to flush the toilet.

Thankfully, I had a couple of five-gallon containers of water stored in our crawlspace. They became necessary for preparing meals and for priming our pump when the water was finally restored. Being without water for half a day was a minor inconvenience, but having a source on hand eased the frustration of not being able to use the faucet.

The situation reminded me how important it is to be prepared for the unexpected. Preparedness isn’t needless worry or frenzied stockpiling; it acknowledges that disruptions in normal services can and do happen. A little bit of advanced planning can reduce the stress and discomfort of these disruptions and can make it easier to cope with unusual circumstances.

When you make preparedness a habit, instead of a reaction to bad news, you can make sensible choices that can protect you in case of a disaster. You can also keep your budget intact when you gather supplies over time, and when they are readily available.

The most successful way to build a preparedness plan is to start with a few small goals. I suggest you start by creating a simple communication plan. Knowing the answers to a few key questions can help you make contact with your family following a disaster.

In the event that you cannot contact your family after a disaster, have a plan in place to meet at a specific location. Where will you meet if you cannot go home? Who will pick up the kids if you are faced with an emergency? If your children are old enough to be left alone, what should they do if they are separated from you?

Once you have a plan to ensure you know how to find one another, a good second step for preparedness is to create a financial binder. By gathering your most important personal and financial documents, you have a set of data that can help you restore order following a disaster.

Next, consider how you will ensure that you have enough food and water if you aren’t able to get to a store or if supply chains are disrupted. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises that individuals and families should have enough food and water to last a minimum of 72 hours.

FEMA recommends that you store at least one gallon of water per person per day. For our family of six, this means that we should have 18 gallons of potable water on hand. As for food, what you store will depend on your family size and any specialized needs you may have. If you have an infant, or any dietary restrictions, then you should plan accordingly. If you have pets, they will need food and water, as well.

A well-stocked first aid kit, flashlights and batteries, a basic toolkit, a hand-crank radio, and weather-appropriate clothing for everyone in your household are other essentials you should have readily available.

Disasters and disruptions are never easy, but being prepared can relieve some stress until life returns to normal.

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