For years, conventional emergency preparedness wisdom suggested residents store enough food, water and other essentials to last three days.
Today, we know that’s simply not enough in the event of a large-scale disaster, says Michelle Boll, Snohomish County/Department of Emergency Management Program Coordinator.
The four-day Cascadia Rising exercise showed that due to potential damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure, residents must prepare to survive on their own for at least 14 days.
“A large-scale earthquake will really take a toll on infrastructure and you need to be prepared for that,” Boll says.
“Emergency response will be very busy and it will take time to get to basic commodities.”
While people often point to walking or driving to neighborhood grocery stores after a disaster to pick up more food and water supplies, there’s no guarantee those stores will be accessible. Plus, most stores have limited stock on hand, so supplies may be gone by the time you get there.
The good news is that basic preparation isn’t difficult. Here’s what you need to know:
Food – Residents have three food choices: pantry-style storage, MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) or freeze-dried, each with pros and cons.
Freeze-dried products are light-weight, with a long shelf-life, but less tasty, more expensive and require boiling water. MREs require no water and have a moderate shelf-life but are more expensive than standard food.
For many, “pantry-style” preparedness is easiest. Your regular groceries are easily available, familiar and more affordable, but are heavier, and with a shorter shelf-life, so require rotation through your regular groceries.
Place older items in the front of your pantry so food doesn’t expire, add to your pantry when food is on sale to reduce costs, and add items you can prepare without power. Include foods high in vitamins and protein such as cereals, nut butters, canned meats, beans and vegetables. Generally, canned food can be eaten straight from the can with no preparation.
Don’t forget supplies to prepare and eat food such as a manual can opener, scissors or knife and disposable plates, cups and utensils.
Water – Residents often think they can rely on their hot water tank to supply water in the event of an emergency, but what happens if that water has been contaminated or has back-flowed out of the water tank due to a leak in the outside waterline? The recommended minimum water allowance is one gallon per day per person, accounting for drinking, cooking and sanitation needs, Boll notes.
To build your water supply, think about adding water barrels, water jugs and bottles, and consider keeping water treatment materials or filters on hand.
You can also incorporate other liquids in your food supplies, such as juice and non-refrigerated milk or soy drinks.
Medications and other essentials – Over-the-counter and prescription medications, with hard copies of your prescriptions, should be included with your emergency supplies.
And don’t forget your pets – 14 days of food and water plus a crate, medication and a leash are important for them, too!
Collection and Storage – Use air-tight, pest-proof containers, and divide resources into several different parts of your home, in case you can’t access one area. Smaller-sized containers or containers with wheels are helpful if you need to evacuate your home and take supplies with you.
For more tips on preparing your family for an emergency or natural disaster, visit snohomishcountywa.gov/719/Personal-Preparedness