Snowpocalypse 2012 - did you learn anything?
Seattle is legendary in it's response to snow. Seemingly, anything over an inch of accumulation and the city shuts down, school is canceled, no one goes to work (except CPR Seattle - we don't cancel CPR & first aid classes due to the snow), and we turn the streets into SHOCD (Sledding Hills of Certain Doom). This is generally attributed to the facts that Seattle is very hilly, slight changes in altitude result in dramatically different snowfall in certain neighborhoods, and that the City of Seattle has one snowplow, which is made out of LEGO® bricks and powered by trained harbor seals.
Usually, a few days are all it takes for the rain to return to Seattle and the snow to melt, allowing everyone to emerge from their home/caves and greet the glorious grey skies. But there's often a little bit of panic that sets in when the snow starts - What if we need food? What happens if falling tree limbs down the power lines? What if I run out of hand-picked, organic, fair trade coffee beans?
Sometimes, the major problem is a few hours without power, as seen here in Seattle last month. In those cases, you'll want to at least have a few charged flashlights with backup batteries, a functioning phone, crank or battery-powered radio, and a cooler with ice packs for perishable food and medicines (unless it's colder outside). Candles will also provide light; be careful of drapes and flammable materials getting too close. Also, if you must leave the house, be on the lookout for downed power lines - and stay well away from them.
Most of us aren't really prepared for longer term self sufficiency resulting from disaster or other causes; it's one of those things that most of us will get to "when I have the time". Well, the time to prepare is now. CPR Seattle offers the following information on making sure you're well-prepared should such emergencies arise.
First of all - have a plan. Everyone in the family needs to know what to do should an emergency arise. Develop a plan, make sure everyone is familiar with it, and practice implementing it. That will help tremendously should it need to go into action. For those Seattle residents, a good place to start is the Office of Emergency Management (link below). Family disaster planning resources can be found at http://www.seattle.gov/emergency/prepare/personal/family.htm.
You'll also want to lay in some supplies for longer-term emergencies. The following list should serve as a start for your preparation:
Basic Needs Supply kit
- Water - Basic human survival needs must be accounted for first. Make sure to have enough water on hand. Both FEMA and the City of Seattle recommend one gallon per person per day, at a minimum three days worth. This is not only for consumption, but hygiene as well. Storing tap water is fine; use food grade containers for storage.
- Food - again, three days supply. Food should be able to handle long-term storage; canned items are good (don't forget the manual can opener), camping food and/or dehydrated food may store well (but will require water to prepare). Utensils and plates will also be useful.
- First Aid kit - this subject will be the focus of the next blog post; however more is better than less. We suggest looking into kits usually used in outdoor or wilderness situations; they are more complete than the basic kit you might find a drugstore. Make sure all enclosed medications, like aspirin, are not expired. Of course, a CPR & First Aid class manual from CPR Seattle will come in handy!
- Flashlight(s) and batteries - should always be kept fully charged. Remember - rechargeable batteries or plug-in flashlights won't recharge if the power is out. There are many models of hand-crank flashlights and lanterns available, which obviate the need for batteries, but both kinds should be available.
- Radio - again, battery-powered and/or hand cranked, or even solar-powered (yes, this will work in Seattle). Will be needed to keep in touch with news reports. CPR Seattle suggests that It's a good idea to have a radio that can access the NOAA weather service.
- Cell phone & charger - there are many low-cost solar or crank chargers available for use; many phones now also provide Internet/email access.
In those cases where evacuation of the house or surrounding area is required, the following items will also need to be stocked in a safe, accessible place:
- Plastic sheeting, duct tape, and utility knife for patching broken windows or for creating shelter. Blue polyethylene tarps will also be very useful for sheltering. These tarps are sturdy, come in many sizes, and often spontaneously generate out of thin air in many American backyards.
- Clothing/blankets - seasonally appropriate attire; this may be cycled through the year. Don't forget rain wear. Emergency/Survival blankets will be helpful. These are the same "shock blankets" used in CPR Seattle's first aid training classes.
- Tools - a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, possibly crowbar, staplegun, hammer and nails for rebuilding or shelter construction.
- Plastic bags & buckets - heavy duty bags, plastic ties and a bucket for sanitation and disposal of waste.
- Signaling devices - should have audible and visual signals, for day or night use. Whistles, air horns, smoke signals, strobes, and flares are all available.
- Important documents - personal/medical info, maps, phone numbers, bank accounts, insurance, etc. CPR Seattle recommends the use of services such as Dropbox and Spideroak to maintain an online backup of important personal and business information.
- Medication/Special needs - any prescriptions, medical gear, etc. that is vital to the health of a family member. Remember to keep all stored medications up to date. Don't forget the pets and children - pet food, diapers, infant formula.
The above list surely won't cover every possible eventuality, but it does provide a good start. Extended emergency durations may require the ability to purify water, construct more durable shelter, or require methods of cooking food. The links below may help start your research; and you can also contact local preparedness groups for information particular to your neighborhood.
There's no such thing as too much preparation. We at CPR Seattle encourage you to look further into the subject, and to begin gathering your emergency kit(s) as soon as possible. We're hopeful that you will never need to use it.