Thursday, May 5, 2011

Open it up, try it out

A couple of years ago, a storm blew over our home in Georgia, ripping down trees and power lines.  Large branches fell from the trees in our yard, and some landed on our electrical wires, completely ripping them from where they were connected to our home.

In short, the power went out, and it was nighttime.  Perfect, I thought, this will be a great opportunity to try out some of our emergency preparedness stuff! 

We had recently gotten one of those nifty crank flashlight/radio/cell phone charger thingies, and I was excited to try it out for the first time.  When we had received it, I carefully placed it (still in the box) into our 72-hour kits, keeping it brand-spanking-new so that it would be in mint condition in an emergency.

Umm... bad move!  Once I finally found it (after digging around in the pitch black for a while), it took a really long time to get it open because it was in one of those packages that takes knives and scissors and jackhammers to get open (you know what I'm talking about, right?).  So, I finally got it open (a few curse words later), and I expected that I would just have to crank it and it would just work right away, right?

Wrong.  It kinda had to be put together.  And there were lengthy directions about how to use it, what not to do, etc.  And guess what.... I couldn't read those directions because it was too dark and I had completely run out of patiences.  I gave up.

Moral of this lengthy story?  When you get new things for your 72-hour kits, or for anything relating to food storage/emergency preparedness, open it up and try it out before the emergency occurs!  Emergencies are stressful; don't add the stress of having to learn a new concept/skill on top of that.

So, what kinds of things should you try out in advance?  Everything!

-Open up flashlights, make sure they work.  Put them in easy-to-grab places, so you won't have to dig around for them in the dark.

-Try out any cooking methods you have (camp stoves, etc)

-Try out your water purifying method of choice, or at least read up about it so you know what to do when/if the time comes

-Take the plastic wrap off your first aid kit.  Familiarize yourself with the items inside.  Figure out if anything more is needed.

-This idea also extends to food storage.  Do you store a lot of wheat, but never cook with wheat?  Start practicing now!  You don't necessarily have to cook with wheat all the time now, but you should know how to do it if you are storing it.

Basically, just open things up, read over any directions, and make sure things work!  Also, take off any extraneous packaging that takes up extra space that you might need (like in your 72-hour kits, which are often tight on space).

Any of these things could be fun family activities to do together.  Designate an emergency preparedness night, and practice using all your gear.  Eat some food storage food to round out the activity.

Is there anything major that you should do that I've missed?  How do you prepare your preparedness items?


Shreela said...

Hi, here's what I usually do when the power flickers:

1. Grab my phone from the side table if it's not in my pocket - use the light from the phone to find the flashlight and/or lantern (we kinda always know where the lantern is, but it's not always filled LOL).

2. If DH is away from the home, text him ASAP before my phone runs out of power, because I don't know how to charge it without power, unless I'm in the truck that he currently has. Remind him to bring home ice, in case other areas still have power.

3. Cover the fridge/freezer with blankets sandwiched with bubble wrap, just in case all local areas don't have power and ice flies out the store's ice bins.

4. Either go outside, or try to nap, knowing my full freezer is insulated and will hold onto the temp long enough to wait out non-disaster emergencies, so distract myself from stressing (ok, other than when lightning struck our transformer - that took almost 3 days before power was restored! They had to order more, what? In one of the largest 5 cities in the US that always has outages somewhere in town every year? DOH! Well at least I didn't have to hustle to find ice, for everyone else had power.)

5. I don't worry about meals, because I always, ALWAYS have many things that are easy to prepare over a campstove with white gas or butane stove. I've dabbled with thermos cooking, but as long as I ride out a disaster at home, I'm not too worried about fuel to cook with with so many trees around.

But, getting so used to mini-outages made me complacent, so when we decided to evac from Rita instead of riding it out like we originally planned (thanks to panic-mongering media reports!), it took a pretty long time to pack the vehicle (I didn't pack for 3-10 days away, I packed like we might not be allowed back in for quite some time - remember that Rita was about a month after Katrina, and we still had evacuees living in our Dome! So I packed like we might have to restart our lives, which if it had been an unexpected disaster, I would have failed!)

So I'm very set to shelter in, but still weak on bugging out, sigh.

Sharron said...

LOL Living in AZ we have dealt with sudden power outages a lot during the summer. We have cute little lanterns in key, easy to reach spaces all the time. I always know what condition of the batteries is, thanks to grand kids! <:-D

We also divided up large packages of jerkies between the 72 hour kits, BAD . . they all molded.

My kids have eaten the foods in theirs for a special family activity (for rotation purposes) and found that they needed to rethink some of their choices.

Great post BTW.

Diggity Dog said...

Good post. I'd extend your recommendation of opening packages for items like flashlights to recommend that you lightly use them for a month or two. If there is any design defect that will cause the tool to break it's better to find it out now rather than when your life depends on it.

Diggity Dog

StrivingSimply said...

I got a flashlight like you're talking about two years ago for Christmas. I took it on a camping trip before using it, and it did absolutely nothing. I couldn't get it to work to save my life. I was bummed, but didn't take it back and couldn't throw it out.

A few months later, I was bored and started playing with it. Wouldn't you know, it lit right up. We use it all the time now.

Anonymous said...

Great post, and great additions from others. I wanted to add to your comment about cooking/eating long term foods, especially wheat and beans, on a fairly regular basis, because if you don't and your body isn't used to eating foods with that much fiber, your body won't know what to do with the fiber and you will be very uncomfortable. I've heard of people needing to go to the hospital for medical care because of this. Changing a few eating habits now will save you a lot of pain later. Not to mention, if you have children who are used to eating white bread, they may not be too excited to eat wheat.

hamyheadmp said...

Just a quick note. I have solved this problem,a light at night, with this. On the knob side of the door, at every door inside my house including the exterior dors I have mounted a mag light on a clip. That way all you have to do is find a door. The switch on the light is always facing out so that if you need to one can turn the light on while leaving it in its clip. I do that so that my grandsons can see their way around the house. Hope that helps someone.(remember to change the batteries twice a year ) mwp