Questions and Answers

Question: I want to be prepared for emergencies but I feel overwhelmed! What can I do to get started?

Answer: Great question, and yes, it can seem overwhelming at first! Why not try the 5-5-5 approach? Here are 5 simple things you can do to get ready for a 5 day emergency (which is the average time it takes for some type of help to arrive in a major disaster) and—if you do one task a week—you can complete in 5 weeks. Please note that purchasing references are not endorsements for stores or products.

  1. Store drinking water.
    • Buy one 5-gallon water storage container for each person in your household PLUS one or two extras for sanitation and cooking needs. If 5-gallon containers are too heavy for you, buy several smaller ones.
    • Make sure the containers say “BPA Free” and are suitable for drinking water (also known as “potable” water). Most of the Water & Ice stores carry a good selection of these containers, and you can fill up the bottles right in the store. You can also find containers like this in stores like Target and Walmart and any camping or outdoor store. (See our handout on Water Storage).
  2. Have a good flashlight and extra batteries handy.
    • A bright, sturdy flashlight is important! Find one that’s waterproof and keep a good supply of fresh batteries on hand.
    • Consider purchasing a headlight flashlight so you can keep your hands free when walking around. (We recently purchased a package of 3 headlight flashlights for $10 at BigLots discount store in Tempe). (See our handout on Emergency Lighting).
  3. Buy a single burner portable butane stove or a sterno stove with matches or a lighter. You will probably have packaged food at home that won’t take much to prepare, but you do need a way to heat it safely indoors. (And if you don’t have a packaged food supply, like soups, canned tuna or salmon, peanut butter, crackers, energy bars, etc., then buy some!) (See our handout on Cooking Without Electricity).
    • Butane Stove: A butane burner is like having an extra stove burner. You may have seen stoves like these in breakfast buffet restaurants where the chef makes omelets to order. Each burner runs on a can of butane gas that easily inserts into a side pocket of the stove. (Cost: $20-$25 and usually comes in a carry case – readily available online or stores like Walmart and any camping store. Coleman has a “Camp Bistro” model.) Buy extra cans of butane fuel to fit your burner; an 8 oz. can of fuel will provide about 1.5 hours of cooking.
    • Sterno Stove: This is a small unit that provides a frame and grill to fit over a can of sterno. Sterno has put together a “Sterno Stove Kit” that includes two 7 oz. cans of Sterno Gel Fuel, one portable folding aluminum stove, can opener and waterproof bag. It’s available through WalMart for about $14, and you can check camping stores. Be sure to buy extra sterno, because each can of gel is only good for two hours of cooking. And don’t forget the matches!
  4. Set aside a 5 to 7 day supply of medications you take regularly.
    • Pharmacies may not be operating, and if they are, they may be undersupplied, so be sure to set aside a supply of medications you need to take regularly.
    • If necessary, ask your physician to write you a prescription for a one-week “vacation supply” of medication and then rotate that supply regularly.
      NOTE: If you use some type of electronic health device, see if you can get a battery operated version or consider purchasing an emergency power generator.
  5. Prepare a “grab and go” set of important documents.
    These documents should be retained in paper copies in a waterproof bag (like a ziplock) and, if possible, on a computer disc or flash drive.
    • Driver’s License and other Identification Cards (Military, School, etc.)
    • Emergency Contact List
    • Passport, Social Security Card, Vaccination Records
    • Birth, Adoption and Marriage Records
    • Bank Account Numbers
    • Credit Card Account Numbers and Companies
    • Medical Documents
    • Insurance Documents
    • Will & Trust Documentation
    • Contracts, Deeds, Securities
    • Household Inventory List (if you don’t have one, taking and printing pictures of what you own is an easy way to do this, and sometimes better than just a written description!)
    • Other Contact and important Telephone Number List

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