(Ed Note: We're checking in again with our mom in Japan, Emily. She and her family weathered the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami, and aftershocks. She found this list of items essential in the dark days following the tragedy--items we can all procure to make sure we're prepared--an especially timely reminder with the recent terrible Midwest weather. You can read more at her blog Acte Gratuit.)
Have you ever researched recipes for "dry" shampoo? Or scoped out your backyard for possible latrine locations? These are some of the things that have been on my mind since the March 11th earthquake we experienced here in Japan. Fortunately, I only had to go two days with nasty hair and our toilets continued to work the entire time. But the "what-ifs" were pretty scary.
One thing that helped us get through our experience with slightly less stress, was the fact that we were mostly prepared. We had candles and flashlights with fresh batteries, we had plenty of stored food in the pantry, and we had 72-hour kits for 5 out of our 6 family members. We made it through 3 days with no power, eating and sleeping well. Not everyone was so lucky.
Since March 11, many people have been curious to know what we had or wished we had had. Lists of essential 72-hour kit items are all over the Internet, but for us, this list comprises the top 6:
Some people have ginormous water barrels. We have a few small flats of water bottles. Our water was fine, but the water supply off-base was contaminated with sewage and--obviously--unusable for a few days.
Flashlights are fine if you have fresh batteries. Candles are fine if they wont tip over in an earthquake. After 3/11, I decided to buy some Coleman LED Lanterns and tape good-quality batteries to the packages.
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Normal food that your family will eat. Food that is instant or easy to prepare.
Aside from the granola bars, it's nice to be able to make and eat something warm. This requires a camp or cook stove of some sort and enough propane to use it--possibly for days. We had both and were able to make hot chocolate, oatmeal, mac & cheese, and pancakes. We even used our outside BBQ to make salmon the first night the power was out. Warm meals are very comforting. And speaking of comfort...
Whether this means a gas powered heater or a down-filled sleeping bag for everyone, this is important. The first night our power was out, the temperature dropped to below freezing. Luckily we had plenty of blankets to pile on everyone so we stayed warm over night, but we were scrambling a bit.
Battery operated so you can find out if you need to evacuate in a hurry. And speaking of communication, it's not a bad idea to have neighbors or friends you can check in with if there is some sort of disaster.
If this all seems overwhelming, don't worry. There are plenty of companies out there that will put everything together for you. (We purchased our 72-hour-packs from BePrepared.com.) Throw in an outfit for each family member and you're ready to go.
What ever you decided to do, just make sure you do something. Trust me, the more prepared you are, the better you'll feel!