Back in December, residents of a few Massachusetts towns went without electricity for weeks because of an ice storm and the ineptitude of a local electric company. I would venture to guess that most of these people were not prepared in the least, seeing as how the majority of people never think about long term needs in case of a disruption of everyday life. Are you prepared for an event like that? So many things stop working that you think you can depend on when things are not as they usually are:
No more phones if all you have are cordless ones.
No more charging cellphones.
No more cooking if you have an electric stove.
No more water if you get yours from a well with an electric pump.
No more charging rechargeable batteries or flashlights.
No more refrigeration or freezers, so cold food goes bad.
No access to the internet.
We all have experienced the power going out for a few hours or a day even, but what about a few weeks? Could you survive if all of a sudden you found yourself at home with no power, or even living in an entire town with no power such as those people in Massachusetts? That would mean gas stations could not pump gas and ATM’s would not work – could you deal? Eventually even the grocery stores would run out of generator power, meaning there might may be lack of food available even if you had the cash to pay for it. After living in California for so long, I got pretty dedicated to making sure we had enough supplies of all kinds on hand just in case. Living amongst earthquakes, mudslides, flooding, and wildfires will do that to you. But now that we have moved to a small rural town in New Mexico, about 65 miles from the nearest big town, I think it is even more important to have plenty of supplies on hand for most emergencies. A big winter storm would keep the food and gasoline from making it up the hill to town! So keeping in mind both short term (a day) and long term (3 weeks, like in MA), I have started working on getting our emergency supplies straightened away…and this is what I have so far.
Cash – We do keep cash on hand in the house in case the ATM’s or credit card machines stop working.
Food – This is where I have been very diligent on stocking up. I have all sorts of canned soups, chilis, sauces, packets of Ramen Noodles, pastas, energy bars, condensed milk, and even a few MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) thrown in for good measure. Right now I estimate that the two of us could easily last a few weeks on what I have stored. I also have a giant bag of cat food for the little guy (and us, if necessary)!
Water - This is even more important than food, really. I have 20 gallons of water stored in the garage and another 3 frozen in our freezer. We also have a 1,500 gallon cistern buried in our yard that collects all the rain and snow melt from the roof. (Cistern was here when we moved in, but so glad to have it) The water for our house comes from a well that has a solar powered (electric backup) pump. There are also water purification tablets for if we need to clean up dirty water.
First Aid Supplies – In the house we have the normal stuff – Band-Aids, aspirin, Neosporin, gauze pads, wrapping tape, etc.. But in the garage I have stored more of it along with ice packs, ace bandages, sewing needles, razor blades, antibiotics (they last a long time, just ask your doctor. The expiration dates are made by the pharmaceutical companies), extra prescription medicines (if we are on any at some point), and assorted other items.
General supplies – Tons of candles, waterproof matches and lighters, glow sticks, 2 wind-up shortwave/AM/FM/flashlight combo units, an extra cellphone for dialing 911, a solar battery/cellphone charger, heavy blankets and extra winter clothes. Also have an axe for cutting firewood, several knives, heavy duty gloves, rain jackets, rope, emergency tent, and of course all of our camping gear as well!
Personal Documents – In our house, we have a small safe filled with paper photocopies of our driver’s licenses, birth certificate, marriage certificate, social security cards, a few of our credit cards and a contact list.
So do you keep an emergency kit or supplies in your house? Are you prepared for the worst? I am not talking about civil unrest or war, really, but rather just being able to be comfortable in the event that things go haywire for a bit. Let us know in the comments. And yes, I know – this post is not directly related to personal finance, but it is related to your life and it is important!