Authors note: I want to thank all of you who have been sharing the Totally Ready Facebook posts and my articles here at Meridian. We now have several fire departments sharing our Evacuation Checklists, and well over 170,000 lists downloaded. Fire season and Hurricane Laura have once again proven the need for an evacuation plan. Many wards in several countries are using our food storage and other plans to help their wards prepare. Thank you. You are making a difference as you share.
September is National Preparedness Month in the USA, and there is no better time to help our families start on the goal of becoming self-reliant and prepared people–ready for any challenge.
It has been a crazy year with the disaster most believed would never happen—a global pandemic. However, masks and isolation from family, friends, and school are only part of the challenges many have faced. Tornadoes have struck from Texas to Maryland. Flooding is troubling the United States, Greece, China, and Australia. Dozens have died from heat waves in North America and Europe, hurricanes, and massive wildfires in Argentina and California. There was a 7.8 earthquake in Alaska—and of course many have suffered job losses and pay cuts. Is there anyone still unconvinced of the need to prepare?
If you would like to get your emergency plan back on the rails, the following calendar is similar to one we did several years ago. It is intended to give you a plan for the month of September that is easy, inexpensive, and effective. This time we are focusing on evacuation, rebuilding and re-thinking food and other essential items to store, as well as having cash on hand. Hopefully after practicing and thinking about preparedness for the month, you and your family will be prepared and feel confident facing the next challenge that comes your way.
Find a binder and plastic sheet protectors to begin your family preparedness resource manual.
Have a family meeting—Meet with your family and tell them of your intention to spend the month of September preparing to be more self-reliant in case of an emergency. This will involve purchasing new items so some sacrifices will have to be made. Get a coin bank and tell everyone that you will be placing your spare change and any other extra income in the bank every night, and they can do the same. Tell them any family member contributing will get to help decide what to purchase. This will help your children feel included and empowered and help teach them a little about money management. Extra income may include gifts, cash from selling items you no longer need or use, a tax return, the repayment of a debt someone owes you, and so on.
Find something to hold your evacuation kit—As I write this, I am having difficulty breathing and my eyes itch. Is it allergies? No, smoke. Last night there were thunder and dry lightning strikes in a neighboring county. As I prepared for bed, I realized even though we are far from the fire danger itself, lightning could affect our neighborhood, not just the communities in the mountains currently burning.
I gathered items I would want to take if I awoke with the need to evacuate immediately. For the next few days, we will work on a grab-and-go plan for such an event. Your 5-day kits, formerly known as 72-hour kits, already have many valuable items, but there are a few more things we may need.
Today, find a small backpack, large purse you no longer use, or plastic box to hold the items we will add over the next few days to your nighttime evacuation kit. These should fit in a closet or bathroom in the room where you sleep. This is a good exercise for your children, so take time to explain the purpose of the kits.
Gather items you want access to everyday and would not want to lose if you needed to evacuate quickly—I have a ring I love that belonged to my grandmother. It reminds me of her and is my most prized possession. I would not want to lose it, but I don’t want to put it in a 5-day kit because I want to wear it. You may have small items like that as well—an item you want easy access to and would be crushed if you lost. Place those items in your nighttime evacuation kit today.
Add cash to your nighttime evacuation kit—If you prefer to keep your cash hidden away, create a place for it close to your kit so you can grab it quickly. Now you are ready to evacuate and pay for items needed then. If the power fails and banking and credit card transactions are not available, cash is king. It’s also needed at fruit stands, farmers markets, or when purchasing from farms or neighbors. All bills should be small: $1, $5, $10, and maybe a $20 bill or two, but mostly small bills. During a crisis change may not be available, and you could end up paying more than you need to if you are caught without small denomination bills.
I am often asked how much cash to have on hand. Please check out the post on my Totally Ready Facebook page for help answering that question. I know you won’t be able to add all the cash needed in one day, or from one paycheck, but begin today. Start with enough for a day’s worth of meals eaten out or a night at a hotel.
Put light sources in every room—A few years ago, we experienced a power outage at our home. I have plenty of candles, flashlights, and glow sticks but we had to fumble in the dark to find them. I decided then that we would keep glow sticks in every room in our home. I was thrilled when we used them, as they brightened the entire room. Purchase only white or yellow sticks—they shine the brightest. Glow sticks are the safest and least expensive lighting method for use by children. Make sure your children know these are for emergencies only. Purchase or order glow sticks today.
Start a habit to charge your laptops, cell phones and tablets in your bedroom at night. That way the devices and chargers can easily be grabbed as you evacuate. Make it a habit to place your car keys and wallet by your bedside or in your kit each night. You would not believe how many people evacuate and forget their wallet. No wallet means no credit cards and no identification.
Check with the rest of the family to see how they are doing assembling their own nighttime kits.
Place a few items under the bed. In case of a fire, earthquake, tornado, or other unexpected nighttime emergency you will want a pair of shoes easily available. Place a pair under the bed. Do the same for each family member in their own room. Also, add a flashlight or glow stick under the bed. These are essential if the power fails at night and the kids need to find you or the bathroom, or you need to check on them. Remind your children that these are for emergencies only.
It’s Labor Day! Take this opportunity to share with others your plan to work this month, and every day, on becoming more prepared.
It’s time to think about medications—Place a week’s worth of all prescriptions and any over the counter meds you and the family use often in your kit. I have stockpiled a couple weeks’ worth of prescriptions which I rotate out as I renew them. Ask your doctor for samples and use those instead of the prescription for a week. Explain to the doctor what you are trying to accomplish. Especially now with the pandemic, they should understand you may not want to make frequent pharmacy trips if the pandemic worsens again. They may not understand a nighttime kit, but they will understand that.
While you are at it, grab a few feminine hygiene products for your kit.
Purchase some mesh laundry bags that fold flat and keep them with your nighttime kit—You may get the message to evacuate when you are all in your pajamas. (If you are encouraging family and friends to prepare these would make a great gift.) During the firestorm in Paradise, California, a dad was driving to work when he had the impression to return home. Upon his arrival home it became evident why—He had just moments to put his kids in the car and flee. Before leaving he grabbed the laundry basket. He lost his home, and that dirty laundry was the only clothing they had. If you have laundry drawers in your bathroom or hampers that are bulky, it will just take seconds to transfer your laundry to the mesh hampers and flee.
You may decide not to bother with grabbing laundry and decide instead to have an outfit, including under garments, on a hanger ready to grab. I would not want to be without at least one change of clothing. It would not be fun to stand around at a friend’s home or a shelter in my PJs.
Be sure to keep a coat and sweaters where they can be grabbed without having to run to another room to gather them.
Start to place your eyeglasses in your nighttime evacuation kit each night—If you don’t wear prescription glasses but need readers, purchase a pair to be kept in your kit. Add several days of contact lenses to your kit today. Add a one-week supply of vitamins to your kit. I have purchased pill organizers that hold one week’s worth of vitamins. I have several, so I don’t need to refill often, and it is easy to keep one in my kit.
Purchase a food you were craving while confined to your home—Mine was, I confess, chocolate. Chocolate freezes very well. You may want to stock up on brownie mixes, chocolate syrup, cocoa for baking or hot chocolate mix if you were also craving chocolate.
Evaluate your preparations to care for your pets.
- Have you assembled 5-day kits for your pets? These should include water, food, medications, vaccination and other medical records, a collar and leash, toys, food and water dishes, and sanitation disposal bags.
- Find someone who will care for your pets, outside of your immediate neighborhood, if you need to leave your home.
- Make a list of foods and medications you need for a 1-month supply for each pet.
- Make a list of items you need to gather or purchase.
Gather or purchase the items on your pet lists. If you don’t have pets, add cash to your nighttime evacuation kit.
Make a list of handicapped or elderly neighbors, friends, church members, and family members who may need help in an emergency—print out their phone numbers and enter them into your cell phone contact list. During an emergency, even a power outage, it is important to check on those who may not be able to take care of their own needs. Place this information in your emergency binder.
Contact the people on the list you compiled yesterday—Discuss with them their plans in an emergency and their preparations. If they do not have an emergency kit, ask them if they would like your help to purchase or create one. If they are not prepared, consider adding a few extra items to your kit that you can share with them if the need arises.
Add $10.00 to your coin bank for spending on emergency needs—This is to spend on food and other preparations.
Shop for any items you still need to include in your nighttime evacuation kits.
Move your 5-day kits (formerly known as 72-hour kits) to your bedroom near your nighttime kits or store them in your car.
Using a permanent marker, date all the cans and boxes in your pantry and food storage with today’s date—From now on you will date everything you bring into the house with the date you purchased it, so you are always using the oldest first. If this seems overwhelming have your children help, or finish tomorrow. This is the best way to use foods and not have to toss it out later. Also remember the use by date is not necessarily an expiration date. Canned food can be good years longer than this date.
Gather items and food needed to cook off-grid tomorrow—Foil dinners are on the schedule for tomorrow as they are fast, easy and fun. If you would rather cook another off-grid method or need directions for foil dinners check out the article Cyber Attack? No Problem: Off Grid Cooking.
Make foil dinners—These are fun for the family and a great way to cook after a natural disaster when power or facilities are unavailable. You can prepare these in a fire pit or barbeque. (It’s another good reason to have a Scout Handbook.)
Take time to discuss with the family their favorite meals—Take notes to determine breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack favorites. Gather recipes for each food item.
Using the recipes you gathered yesterday, determine how many times a month you would like to serve those foods. Calculate the ingredients you will need for each recipe. For example, if you would like to eat chicken casserole three times a month, you will need to purchase nine times the ingredients in that recipe to have a three-month supply.
Create a shopping list—Use the number of cans, boxes, etc. you calculated yesterday. This week, as you shop, purchase several items from the list for food storage. Watch for the ingredients that are on sale and get those first. Remember it is better to have a one-week supply of everything, than a three-month supply of only a few foods.
Go to Totallyready.com and print these articles: Dollar Store Gold Mines, Don’t Forget the Birds and Evacuation Checklists. Add them to your binders and use for discussions with the family. Make a list of items you will look for when visiting your local dollar store and plan a visit to look around with a more informed and critical eye.
Gather all over-the-counter medications and check the dates—Discard any that have expired. Make a list of those you need to purchase and post it in your kitchen. Read through the weekly ads and replace the items on the list when they are on sale.
Post emergency phone numbers next to each phone (or in a highly visible area)—Remember the police and fire departments, hospital, doctors, poison control, schools, out-of-state contact, friends, family, and your own phone numbers. A babysitter may need to call your cell phone, or a child may forget phone numbers during an emergency. Be sure to include your street address on this list. If a friend or babysitter has to call for help from your home, they will need to be able to tell rescuers the address. In case of an emergency you may even forget your own phone number and address. It is not at all unusual.
Check all battery-operated items around the house and record what size and how many batteries are needed for each—Buy or replace batteries today.
Plan for tomorrow. Print these articles for your binder: Tips for Dealing With Summer Heat During a Power Outage and Emergency Preparation For A Power Outage During Winter.
The power is out! Practice having no electricity today—If you are still Zooming church meetings please Zoom your meetings, but the rest of the day the lights are off, devices put away, cooking is done off-grid, and there are no fans or air conditioners. The entire day should be no power.
As a family review your power outage experience and make a list of things you need to do to be better prepared for the real thing—Create a shopping list of things to purchase. Review the power outage articles in your binder.
At breakfast ask for any last contributions to the emergency fund. Count your money and decide what items are most important to purchase with it—Remember you promised that anyone contributing could help decide. If they should decide on brownie mix…that’s important too. Now go spend the money. Come home and place everything on the table where you can all enjoy what you have accomplished. Why not keep the fund going and do the same thing next month?
Decide as a family how you can help others prepare and who those families may be—So many are struggling right now with disasters, the pandemic, civil unrest, and they are feeling hopeless. I hear from so many who have felt calm because they were prepared temporally.
Being prepared is as much an attitude and a lifestyle as any good habit that becomes part of who we are. Children will want to be part of something they see as exciting and valuable. Teach them now to be preparedness minded so when they are away from home, in college, or married with children, they will be prepared for unforeseen emergencies.
I was told of an evacuation of the dorms at a college. The students were standing outside on a very cold and stormy Idaho night, all except one. This student had his shoes and coat on and was munching on a granola bar. When asked about his comfortable condition he replied, “it was my 72-hour kit”. He had been taught to prepare for the unexpected. He was calm and warm while others were fretful and freezing.
“When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.” –Ezra Taft Benson