If the recent windstorms that hit the Southland taught us anything it was how quickly a weather event can turn into a potentially life-threatening emergency.
Thousands were left without power and some residents in areas of Los Angeles County were told to conserve water when utility pumps were impacted by the outages caused by the powerful windstorms.
Let’s face it, California may be a great place to live, but it’s also filled with a variety of dangers, including earthquakes, powerful windstorms, fires and even the threat of civil unrest. Sounds like the plotline to a Hollywood thriller, but given the right set of circumstances anything can happen.
The threads that bind a society can come easily untwined when calamities strike, leaving those who are unprepared exposed to numerous hazards. However, much like surviving in the wilderness, surviving in an urban setting relies on the same principles, preparation and improvisation.
Let’s start with the most basic and important items for survival—food and water. Okay, before we get into what types of foods can be stored, let’s start with what’s already in the refrigerator.
Keep Cool—Your Food, That Is
Once the power goes out, try grouping everything in the freezer together so the items retain the cold longer and more effectively. Remember, a full freezer will keep everything frozen for about two days and a half-full freezer for about one day. Move foods from the refrigerator to the freezer. Try keeping meats and poultry chilled to 41 degrees or less. Also, separate meat and poultry from other products because once they thaw their juices could contaminate other foods.
During this time, do not place unrefrigerated or cooked foods in the refrigerator; it will only increase the temperature inside. Use blocked ice to keep food cool when available. Do not refreeze thawed food and discard or use foods that have been thawed below 41 degrees as soon as possible. Thawed food that has been left at room temperature longer than two hours should always be disposed of and not consumed.
The Survival Pantry: Beans, Rice and Other Goodies
Try storing lots of high energy foods such as peanut butter, crackers, granola bars and trail mix. Anything in a can is great, such as ready-to-eat canned meats, vegetables and fruits. Stock up on chili, tuna and other foods. Don’t forget canned liquids, too, such as evaporated milk, juices and soups. Important note: most canned goods have shelf life of about 3 to 5 years.
Building or purchasing a rotating shelf system for your canned products is a great way to keep foods up-to-date and edible. Another good addition to the pantry are freeze-dried foods, but they do get a expensive. For more affordable solutions, try storing rice, beans, pickled products, wheat and flour. Don’t forget to store items for those with specials diets, such as infants and seniors. Also, try packing some comfort foods like candy and cookies.
For long term storage, use a food calculator to figure out how much you need for the family. Click here to see a food calculator.
Water is Life
When disaster strikes, store as much water as possible by filling bathtubs, sinks and any empty plastic bottles you have around. If you have a pool, great, just remember to cover the pool so the sunlight doesn’t dissipate the water’s chlorine levels and treat the water before drinking. Boil it no matter what, purify with tablets or bleach and check the water’s chlorine level, too. According to the FDA, water with a chlorine levels at 4 parts per million is safe to drink.
For already stored water, forget about long-term storage in plastic bottles. Purchase a water storage system, which runs from $60-$80 depending on where you purchase it. The storage system is basically a 55 gallon water barrel that is made from a food-grade polyethylene, which is usually BPA free. The kit comes with a siphon hose, lid opener and purification tablets.
When the situation lasts longer then you planned for, you have to improvise. Remember other sources of water, such as the hot water heater tank. Turn off the water, let it cool down and place a container underneath the open drain valve.
Okay, now a last resort—toilet water. The water in your flush tank (not the bowl) can be drunk if properly treated and free of chemicals. Keep purification tablets and a water filter as part of your core survival gear whether outdoors or in the home.
Here is the formula for purifying water with bleach:
- For 1 quart water use four drops of bleach.
- For 1 gallon of water use 16 drops of bleach.
- For 5 gallons of water use a teaspoon of bleach.
Shake and stir container after adding bleach and remeber to let the water sit for at least 30 minutes before drinking.
Staying updated with the latest news and information regarding the events impacting your environment can be as vital as having food and water. However, receiving news may not be the easiest thing during a power outage or other emergency situation, which is why investing in a hand cranked radio or portable solar panel is not a bad idea.
News can warn you about an incoming storm, give you an idea about how long a power outage is going to last or even give you directions to the nearest shelter. There are various products one can use during an emergency for electric power from hand cranked radios that can charge a cellphone to foldable solar panels used to charge laptop batteries.
Have a Plan
Make a plan of where to meet loved ones during an emergency and have at least two to three different scenarios prepared. For instance, during a large earthquake perhaps meeting at a park or open area would be the best place. Make sure every member of household memorizes the plan.
Time to Get out of Dodge
Okay, resources are running low and staying in your home has been deemed unsafe—it’s time to bug-out. Each member of the family should have one backpack filled with enough emergency gear and rations to last around 72 hours. Make sure to keep the bag where you will need it the most, such as under the bed, at the office or in the car. I personally keep mine in the trunk of my car because I figure if there is an earthquake the bag won’t do me any good buried underneath a ton of rubble.
Typical items in the bag include food rations, water filters, boxed water, a medical kit, a fire-starting tool and more. Click here to learn more about what items should be stored in a bug-out bag.
For a complete emergency guide print out of the Los Angeles County Emergency Guide attached to this article. Also, check out the attached videos for some more tips from one my favorite survival experts, Cody Lundin.