A word about waiting for the power to come back on (especially in the summer)

When the power goes out, there are a few things you need to do (or not to do.)

1) Turn off your air conditioner.  (Turn it to "Off" at the thermostat or throw the switch at the breaker box.) When the power comes back on and everyone's AC pops on at the same time, you just may throw it off again.

2) If you're using a generator -- Make certain you leave it outdoors.  Understand the wattage of the generator and the items you're plugging into it.  And DO NOT connect it to your whole house (via the dryer plug or any other method), pay an electrician to do it correctly.  (When linemen work to repair lines, they need those lines to be electricity free!  When you rig a generator improperly to power your whole house, you're sending excess power out on the line!)

3) Unplug and turn off as much as possible in your home or business.  This prevents power drain on the circuit when it's restored and reduces the chance of damaging your appliances with a power surge.

4) Leave your porch light switch ON.  Then power crews, neighbors, or emergency workers can identify homes and neighborhoods with restored or lost power in the middle of the night or when you're not home.  I leave mine on 24/7 during a storm or other emergency.

5) Do not open your refrigerator or freezer even one time unless you are ready to take all the food out.  The insulation in appliances can hold the cool for a long time, but opening the door even once greatly shortens the time your food will stay cold. 

6) Unless you have a reptile, bird or exotic, your pets can generally stand temperatures at least as hot or cold as you can.  Keep the calm and cool in the summer and active and warm in the winter, and they'll likely be fine as long as you are.  Never leave a pet behind when you leave due to disaster issues.

7) Don't count on buying anything in an emergency.  Many stores will be closed at first, then they will sell out immediately of staple emergency items.  Research now and stock at least two (sets) of critical emergency items.  I keep two sets of batteries for each flashlight.  The first set I use initially, and the second set is for when I'm surprised at how fast the first set was used up. 

8) While we're talking about flashlights, always store the batteries out of the flashlight (to preserve the battery charge).  Rechargeable batteries must be recharged routinely so follow manufacturers instructions to keep them ready for the moment you'll need them.  Use one flashlight at a time, when possible, to extend the total time you'll have light.

Case in point... Emergency Services

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
Friday night, a tornado touched down very near my home.  Actually several touched down in various places around St. Louis, but that's actually fairly typical and is not the point of this post.  One even touched down at the Lambert International Airport - blowing windows out of the main terminal and moving planes of passengers around on the runway.  Many people were affected by wind damage, significant rainfall and power outages, but none of that is the point of this post either.

What is the point?  A friend of mine who works in local emergency services called me at 9:00 pm to check on my family and home.  He told me that no ambulances were available in my city.  In fact, city police had waited at one (tree attacks car) accident scene for half an hour before officers finally allowed a family member to take an injured person to the hospital. 

Thankfully, no one was killed by the tornadoes.  Some have called it a miracle.  I heard the catastrophe at the airport only had a few injured going to the hospital.  Our rescue personnel were serving - being brave and strong and helpful.  But in one hour of (relatively minor) storm-related emergencies, we were left vulnerable. 

We are accustomed to having the help we need at a moment's notice.  But I encourage you to think for a moment how easily those services could become overwhelmed or restricted during a disaster.  Although, money and politics certainly allow more police, fire, rescue, and medical personnel and services are routinely available to us, we must not depend solely on their availability.  Each person, each household, each neighborhood, and each community must plan and prepare to care for one another as well.

Take a first aid class.
Have a flashlight ready.
Know your neighbors, and check in on them.
Keep gas in the car.
Make your go-bag and home emergency kit.
Keep preparing for the best, in every situation.

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Functional Friday: 10 Things You Can Do To Save the Earth

If you are anything like me, you're approaching this 'environmentally friendly' article with a small degree of cynicism. So let me start with my point of view, which may help you ease up a bit. I believe humans have a God-given obligation to practice good stewardship of our planet and resources. We are responsible for taking care of this beautiful planet. I believe many "green" initiatives are trendy but hardly helpful. I believe that we can live in harmony with nature, and that we possess much of the knowledge and technology that we need to do so.  Keeping our world clean and productive is protecting our future and planning for the best.  Here are a few ways that I believe we can preserve the rich and beautiful planet we live on.

#1 Remember the mantra: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? There is a reason that reduce is first. We are a society of mega-consumers. Production and transportation of all the products and packaging we "need" uses massive amounts of energy and creates a lot of waste and pollution. Try to simplify your life, use products as long as possible and bring home less from the store.

#2 Buy local products whenever possible. Reducing the distance a product is shipped will greatly reduce the energy consumed and pollution created for each item. Whether you need dinner or furniture, find local artisans that source local materials.

#3 Get thee to thy local farmers market. Organic or conventional, locally grown produce tastes better and is often more nutritious. And many small growers use heritage varieties and use fewer pesticides and fertilizers. (And you reduce fuels used and pollution created from shipping, storing, processing, and packaging.)

#4 Drink out of glass and ceramic. Using disposable paper and plastic cups increases the amount of trash going to a landfill. Many coffee shops let you bring your own cup, too.

#5 If you use them every time you shop, those reusable shopping bags really do help. Fewer plastic bags are manufactured, shipped and sent to the landfill. Many reusable bags are also made of recycled plastic or natural fibers.

#6 Use fewer harsh chemicals. Cleaners and household chemicals end up going down the drain or in the trash at some point. Use the safest and mildest ones you can to get the job done. You'll be amazed what baking soda or vinegar can do.

#7 Dress for the season and match your activity to the weather.  Dressing warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer lets you use less energy to heat and cool your home.  Saving money on fuel costs is a great perk as well.  And don't forget to change your air filters every month, it keeps the air in your home cleaner and reduces your energy usage even more.  Turning your water heater down can help too.

#8 Eat less fast food.  Saving the environment can help you be more nutritious conscious and cost effective.  The production, packaging, storage, preparation and wrappers of much fast food creates an enormous amount of trash.  A nicer meal in a restaurant that uses fresh ingredients (and maybe even local ones) will produce significantly less trash and pollution.

#9 Dispose of dangerous items safely!  Don't ever throw batteries in the trash.  Consider buying rechargables.  At least, drop off used batteries at your local battery store or check with your local government office for alternatives.  And keep chemicals out of the storm drain.  If you wouldn't dump it in your pool, don't put it down the drain.  Take advantage of hazardous waste collection dates and locations to keep our wildlife and water sources clean and healthy.

#10 Consider the impact your small contribution could make.  Start small, then if you like it, you can build on that.  Routinely purchasing one recycled or refurbished product, planting a tree, using one package of fluorescent light bulbs, taking shorter showers, or growing your own vegetables will make a difference, even if you can't see it.

Keeping it simple...

I'll admit it, my home was spinning out of control.  Family, home, career, and other assorted distractions left me worn out and frustrated.  The blogosphere is full of cute ideas and valuable suggestions for how to spend my time, decorate my house, enjoy my family, preserve family history, and a million other things that I never found time to do. 

But three things let me to the here and now...

1) No matter how hard I work, I cannot keep up with all the great ideas and the influx of stuff that bombards my life and my house.  We live in a stuff filled society, and it all seems to make it's way to my house.
2) Acte gratuite's revelation that a clean and orderly house would be a huge asset in a disaster.  I don't want to trip on the way out the door in an emergency.
3) My emergency management training has me thinking about what's important (people) and how quickly we can lose the rest.

So, I've had it up to here! (Imagine a dramatic gesture of my hand marking point on my body somewhere above the shoulders and occasionally above the head.)  And here's what I'm going to do...

1) I love the idea of a place for everything, and everything needs to have a place in my house, meaning if it doesn't fit here -- maybe I don't keep it.
2) If it's not irreplaceable, then it must be replaceable.  (Not brain surgery, I realize.)  If I don't use it, get rid of it.  If I find I need it someday, I'll leave my clean and orderly house, go to the store, and I'll get another one.
3) I recently made a list of words that should describe the items I'm keeping: immediate, far-reaching, uncluttered, plain and simple, useful, enhancing, sustainable, and valuable.
4) No more "Wouldn't it be cool if..." or "I'll keep this just in case..."  If I'm not using it now, it's probably not going to happen.  (Emphasis on replaceable items, not necessarily antiques or photos.)
5) I'm trying to teach my kids about setting boundaries, and something Dave Ramsey (financial guru) said hit me between the eyes.  Much of the junk (furniture, old clothes, etc.) that I need to get rid of, Goodwill won't even take.  It's junk, get it out of my house.

I'll share a few revelations that I've made...
1) We don't need more that two sets of sheets for each bed.  (And maybe a flannel set for winter.)
2) Four flour sifters is too many.  (Even though these were different sizes and styles.)
3) I'm never gonna use my old cell phone on a float trip. (Like the man at the cell store suggested.)
4) Someone else may actually need that thing.  I places two car seats, a microwave, and a bunch of other junk at the curb and watched each item find a new home. 
5) If I ever lose that stubborn 20 pounds (or more) I'll want new clothes to celebrate.  Give the old ones away.
6) Space costs more than stuff.  Don't believe me? Ask a builder about the cost per square foot for construction.  Very few places in my home does the value of the clutter exceed the cost of that space.
7) My attachment to my stuff lasted until I put it in the trash can, then I usually feel freed.  And I glory in the space I have reclaimed.

... a time to keep and a time to throw away... Ecc. 3:6

Functional Friday: 10 Ways to Cook (or just heat food ) Without Utilities

A power outage can be a fun time (or at least tolerable), if you're prepared.  Make a plan for three back-up ways to cook.  Shop and store some easy and delicious shelf-stable food.  Then wait for the fun to begin.  (As soon as the power goes out, light the tiki torches in the back yard, go knock on the neighbors door and make it a party.)  I know it may not be a party every time, but we're planning for the best in every situation, right?  These solutions will work if it's freezing cold, pouring rain, or otherwise unpleasant.

Gas Grill - Keep an (extra) full tank of propane. It simplifies switching in the middle of grilling those steaks on Sunday, and it ensures you can eat a great meal if the power goes out.  A gas grill can bake and boil as well.

Charcoal Grill - You should keep an extra bag of charcoal around, just in case.  Remember to keep stored charcoal dry.  Use precautions to stay safe, remember you're 'playing with' fire.

Wood Fire - If you don't routinely enjoy a recreational fire at home, this might not be the best solution for you. Although it might be a good excuse to go buy a fire pit and start "practicing" your emergency plan.  Use precautions to stay safe, especially in dry and windy seasons.

Sterno -Especially if you already own a chafing dish, this can be a great way to serve hot food.  Heating the food (or water) from a cold start can take a while, make sure you practice starting from cold food and that you understand the time and temperature requirements for keeping food safe to eat.

Camping or Backpacking Stove (propane, white fuel, butane, pellet fuel, etc.) - I have two camping stoves, and I've used both in an emergency. I have a Coleman Dual Fuel that runs on white fuel or gasoline (although I've never used gasoline in it). I also a have a single burner stove that uses one pound cans of propane. If a camp stove is your back up plan, make sure you keep extra fuel on hand.

Candle/Fondue Pot - A better solution for heating (not cooking) food. My family has had some really memorable and entertaining meals in the dark. Keep the foods you need on hand to make this possible (cheese, chocolate, oil) and have fun.

Self-heating meals - MREs and Heater Meals are two types of self-heating meals I have made and enjoyed. If you have the money and the space to buy and store these meals, they really are pretty good and super easy. Read the nutrition information is you have dietary restrictions (especially calories and sodium).

Solar Power (solar cooker, pizza box oven, hot car in the sun, eggs on a sidewalk, hot tin roof) - You must practice this in advance.  And you need to understand the minimum and maximum times and temperatures for food safety.  The last thing you want in an emergency is a case (or a family) of food poisoning.

Portable Generator (microwave, crock pot, Foreman grill, etc.) - If you plan to use a portable generator in a power outage, consult an expert (an electrician) to know how much power your small appliances require to cook your food.  Also remember to perform routine maintenance, to do frequent test runs, and to keep plenty of fuel on hand.

Eating Out - For a very localized emergency (just your neighborhood) there will be restaurants close by that will be able to take care of you.  People need to be taken care of during an emergency, and a few indulgences are good for your emotions in a stressful time.  If you've planned ahead and saved (and stashed) some cash at home, this would be a great time to enjoy some good food that someone else made.  (We often pick things we would never make at home like: Thai, smoked ribs, or fried chicken.)

Other Notes: Never cook indoors or in a garage with an outdoor grill (gas, charcoal, wood, or other).  Raw foods must meet a minimum temperature before being consumed.  The food also needs to meet that temperature quickly, or you might be growing a colony of bacteria.  (Yuck!) Heating up food (soup) will be simpler than actually cooking.  Boiled and one pot meals are also easier and more fuel efficient.  (Smaller pasta takes less time, thus less fuel.  Try angel hair.)  Watch your sanitation and nutrition in an emergency.  An upset routine and a far jump from your normal diet may cause unpleasant complications you don't want during an emergency.

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Scheduling tasks

I remember vividly a conversation where the other person revealed that they chose to use a daily medication instead of a single monthly dose (which was truly cheaper and safer) because they might forget it once a month, but they could remember it if it was part of their daily routine.  I was dumbfounded.

Then I had kids.  Since having children I have forgotten many things that used to seem second nature.  My time, my stuff, and even my mind are not my own anymore.  Little voices and little hands routinely derail my plan for the day.  (Don't get me wrong, I love my family and appreciate many perks to parenting, but that's a later post.)  I lay a bill in an obvious place to remember to mail it, and someone lays their art project over it.  Forgotten bill!  I make my way downstairs in a ratty t-shirt to get my work shirt out of the laundry, and WWE erupts in the living room.  Forgotten shirt! I absolutely must make cookies for the meeting tonight, but a sick kid has to be picked up from school.  Forgotten cookies!  And if you're like me, some mornings you forget to brush your teeth.  (This is not a routine occurrence, of course, but it's happened more than once.)  So remembering to do routine maintenance on everyday items is not usually going to happen unless it's scheduled and on the calendar.

I've been working on a list that I'll share with you.  If lists are not already your best friend, get to know a good list and see if your can build a healthy relationship.  I'll bet you get along just fine.  I'm just starting. And I would appreciate any suggestions and additions you might have. 
  • Daily Medications - I put daily medications in a plastic days of the week medication box.  Then I add refilling it to my weekly 'to do' list.
  • Pet veterinary appointments - I make the next appointment at the office and put it on my calendar.  It's easier to move than to remember.
  • Pet grooming appointments - Some groomers will set up your appointments for the year.  You may be able to get a standard day, too.
  • Pet monthly medications (heartworm, flea & tick) - Give these on a memorable day or date like the 15th or the first week-end.
  • Replace furnace/air conditioner filters - Do this every month for the health of your family and to keep your unit working efficiently.
  • Pay bills - Set up auto payment through the bank or the company itself.  Pay bills twice a month on a schedule and a plan.
  • Change the oil in the car - Most of us drive a routine number of miles a month.  Determine how often you need an oil change and put it on the calendar.  Make your next appointment when you have service performed.  Make sure they are checking other fluid levels, tire pressure, and safety issues as well.
  • Have furnace/air conditioner cleaned - Have professional service done once a year, or according to the manufacturers recommendations.
  • Renew computer virus protection - Pay for upgraded software annually, but remember to do included software updates at least monthly or as often as updates are available.
  • Family and Friends' birthday cards and gifts - Start a birthday calendar, or enter dates in your digital calendar to renew each year.  Shop for all the cards you'll need once a month.
  • Test smoke/fire alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms - Test these using the test button or with a smoking match once a month.  Replace batteries annually.
  • Refill routine prescriptions - I refill all my household prescriptions at the same time once a month.  If you have a smart phone see if your pharmacy has an app for this.  I scan mine and it's done.
  • Balance your checkbook - Do this once a month.  If you've never balanced your checkbook, learn how. It's a great time to check in on your budget as well.  Saving up, keeping cash on hand, purchasing gear and stocking up on food and supplies are an important part of preparedness.
  • Write to your sponsored child every month - If you don't currently sponsor a child in a developing nation, I urge you to consider it.  Almost every one of us can afford the $1 (or so) a day to redeem a child from dark hopelessness of poverty.  I hope you'll consider sponsoring a child and starting a friendship that will certainly last that child's lifetime.  Click to Compassion International or World Vision to learn more.
  • Call a long distance friend - I tend to get busy with every day things and forget to reach out to important people that I don't see every day.  Make a phone (or Skype) date - pick a day and time to call a special someone.
  • Have lunch/dinner with friends - I try to have lunch with a friend once a week.  But if I don't schedule it, it doesn't happen.
  • Walk exterior of home looking for maintenance and safety issues - I try to do this at least once a month and after every storm. 
  • Check home and garage interior - Look for the dreaded electrical octopus and other fire and safety hazards.  Make sure there are adequate clearances for walking through.  Rearrange furniture and appliances or have an electrician install a needed outlet.
  • Schedule family haircuts - You know those people who take a picture every morning?  You'd laugh at me and my kids if we ever did that.  Our busy schedules often leave us looking shaggy.  If I make the next haircut appointment, we're taken care of.

    What would you save?

    In emergency management, there are three priorities for every incident. Listed in order, they are - life safety (victims and responders), incident stabilization (getting the problem under control), and property preservation (saving what can be saved.) As we delve into preparedness, these priorities hold true as well. But in this very moment, you have the benefit of time to spare. Until the first crisis hits, you can prioritize, plan, and organize to our heart's content. At Everyday Providence, we spend a lot of 'real estate' on life safety and incident stabilization.  Let's take a look at some steps we might take to save some important items during a disaster. 

    What would you save, if you could? Old photographs? The family bible? Jewelry? Your kids 'art' collection? Your wedding dress (or Mama's)? A hope chest? Your Pez dispenser collection? Books? An antique? Power tools? Your computer? A bottle of wine? And what about information lost? How easily could you compile financial, medical, insurance and historical details? Although fire is the most common household disaster, don't forget the damage caused by flooding (flash floods can hit any area), storm and wind damage, backed up sewers, theft (looting and vandalism), or sudden evacuation.

    Take a minute to consider what and how you might save important and precious items in a fire, earthquake, flood or evacuation. Keep copies of legal records in a fire safe, at a bank safety deposit box, in another location, or on a flash drive. Scan photos, albums, and scrapbooks and save them on online. Anchor large items to walls to prevent them overturning in an earthquake (or onto a mischievous child.) Prioritize antiques and irreplaceable items now, so that you aren't forced to think it through under the pressure of an evacuation. You may also consider home safety monitoring, home fire suppression (sprinklers), and a talk with your insurance agent about coverage needs.

    Talk to your family (and neighbors?) about these needs and desires.  You may not be home when disaster strikes.  Your husband, children or babysitter may not value the same things you do.

    Always keep safety first and never re-enter an unsafe building. Fire, earthquake, major structural damage, water, hazardous fumes and gas may all prevent you from safely entering your home.  I know a woman who, after assuring that her family was safe, returned inside her raging, burning home to rescue old photos and grandma's handmade quilt. Her house was a total loss, and these are basically all she has left. But what a terrible price she could have paid.

    Functional Friday: 10 Things You Should Know

    School House Rock taught me at an early age that, "Knowledge is Power!"  (Apparently the phrase was coined in latin (Scientia potentia est.), and is attributed to Sir Francis Bacon.)  Anyway... I believe that planning for the best often involves more knowledge than elaborate stockpiles.  Here are a few things that I think everyone old enough to be home alone should know.

    1) Know how to administer first aid.
    2) Know the signs of a heart attack, how to do CPR and how to use a defibrillator (AED).
    3) Know how to build a fire (without a bottle of lighter fluid and maybe without matches) and cook on it.
    4) Know how to make a cell phone call, send a text, and send an email.
    5) Know how to use a car jack and change your car tire.
    6) Know how to make/use a siphon (for water, gasoline, etc.)
    7) Know how to turn off your utilities (natural gas, propane, water, electric, etc.)
    8) Where and how to transport your pets in an evacuation.
    9) Where your family plans to meet in, out of, and away from your house during and after an emergency.
    10) Know your out of state contact name, address, phone numbers, and email 'by heart'.

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    Help! How Do I Keep 90 Days of Supplies at Home?

    We get it.  Trying something new is difficult.  We're just regular people like you, and we stumble and falter at this storage stuff, too.  If you're not sure why you need 90 days of 'stuff' in your house, click hereStart small.  Here are three ways that we, at Everyday Providence, keep everyday supplies on our shelves at home.

    #1 Buy an extra one.  If you have items that you don't purchase frequently,  try buying one extra to keep on hand.  If you have room, just keep it with or close to the package that's in use.  My shampoo lasts me about two months, so I keep an extra new bottle in the bathroom linen closet. Bam! I have 3+ months stored.  I buy a new bottle when the first one is low or gone.  (Or when it's on sale!) 90 day goal achieved! Other ideas: household cleaners, over the counter medication, some cooking items (baking soda, etc.) or school supplies.

    #2 Keep a back-stock.  In order to keep a 90 day supply of some household items, I need to store several packages somewhere.  I have shelves in the basement, but a closet or some other nook in your house will do.  (We don't have a garage, but that works well for some items.)  There are some items that I buy every time I shop, until I get a large (pre-determined) number on my shelves. Batteries, toilet paper, paper towels, laundry and dishwasher detergent are a few items I store this way.  You can also take advantage of coupons, good sales and bulk pricing using this model.

    #3 Auto-ship!  Amazon.com* now has a "Subscribe & Save" functionality to receive regular shipments of an item. Diapers? Soap? Trash bags? Most of these household items can be set up on subscription to arrive at your door at regular intervals. Check your local pricing, consider the cost of gas, and the add in value of convenience.  You should continue to keep a 90 day stock of these items at home.  (Remember a materials shortage or transportation delay could still leave you short and desperate.)  And you can still use sales and coupons locally to save money on these items.  As we juggle our insanely busy lives, a few gimmes just might save us if we're 'in a pickle.'

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    *Other retailers may offer automatic shipments.  Amazon.com is the one we happen to use.  We receive no consideration from Amazon.com.

    One Day Without Shoes

    Tomorrow holds a favorite annual event of mine.  One Day Without Shoes is coordinated and promoted by TOMS Shoes to promote awareness that millions of children worldwide grow up without ever owning shoes and are at risk of infection and disease. Each pair of TOMS shoes sold ensures that another child will receive a pair of shoes as well.  One for one! (They work with World Vision, one of my favorite poverty fighting organizations.) How many pairs of shoes do you have? Do you even think of wearing them to protect your feet? (I don't. I consider them a fashion accessory.) Where can you go today without shoes to help raise awareness that this problem can be solved?

    Functional Friday: 10 Things to Keep in Your Emergency Supply

    Not long ago, we highlighted 10 food items to keep in your pantry for an emergency. This installment of “10 Things” is gear you might need for an emergency. These are basic items to help you and your family cope if everyday routines are interrupted. No light or heat (storm power outage), no water (water main break), backed up plumbing (flooding), no cooking gas (earthquake). It’s certainly not going to return life to normal, but having these items can help out.

    1.) Flashlight. A must for your nightstand, put an extra in your emergency bag. Keep new batteries with it (not in it!) and select something that has the potential to run for long periods of time, like an LED bulb light. I have a little flashlight in my purse that I keep by my bed at night. I also have a flashlight at each entrance to our house. Flashlights aren't that expensive.  Consider the number and style of batteries required when you buy them.  For $20, you can get a couple of LED style that take AA batteries.  You'll need extra batteries!  Get the required number, then catch a bonus pack on sale.  Be sure to dispose of them properly (Take them to a battery store - not in the trash, a landfill or incinerator).

    2.) First-Aid Kit. I don’t believe you need to stockpile antibiotics, but having bandages, antibacterial wash and cream, and analgesics is important. Furthermore, if you take prescription medications, buy a month ahead and keep a stash in your first aid. Tweezers for splinters are good. Children’s medication is another consideration. Salves or balms. There are lots of resources out on the web for what to keep in a first aid kit. You can buy a prepackaged one fairly cheaply, or build your own with stuff you already have.  Routinely check the expiration dates and follow them.  It's true that some drug products can degrade into nasty things after a few years. (ready.gov, redcross.org, about.com)

    3.) Fire. Well, maybe that means two items – a firestarter and fuel. It doesn’t make sense to start a fire, unless you can keep it going. Matches, a lighter, a 9-volt battery and steel wool, and/or, a magnesium firestarter are options. (I don’t recommend relying on finding a flint stone sitting around, or being able to rub two sticks together. Besides, in an emergency, lighting a fire caveman-style is energy you don’t want to expend if there are other tasks at hand.) Also stash away something to keep it going – some charcoal in the garage, a newspaper, snuggle wood. And I have little smokey joe grill that I like to burn in. We tend to throw medium sticks from our yard into a bin and let them “season” over the winter. In the spring, sometimes we’ll have a weenie roast with them. If we lost the ability to cook in our house, this would be a great option to use.  The lighter is cheap, and the fuel might be cheap as well, but it might take some thinking for storage.  It takes up some room, but it's worth it.  Make sure you practice starting and cooking on these fires before you count on it in an emergency.

    4.) Blankets and tarps. You might not need to huddle under a blanket for warmth in the heat of July in Texas, but a blanket or tarp can also be a bed, shade, rain shelter, improvised stretcher, or ripped up and used for something else – a splint for an injured leg, perhaps?

    5.) Disposable Tableware. I’m not normally an advocate for disposable paper plates and plastic forks, but an emergency is one situation where you’ll want to save your water for drinking and cooking. Disposable plates and bowls, paper napkins, disposable cutlery, and some aluminum cooking dishes (pie tins, roasting pans) will be useful. Some plain old aluminum foil is a good item to have, too.  All this can be found on sale, especially around holidays and at the beginning of picnic season (now!).

    6.) Sanitation Supplies. If the plumbing isn’t working correctly, you still need a place to go to the bathroom. There are lots of ideas out there: trash bags, 5-gallon buckets with toilet seats, a shovel. Whatever your toilet is made from, don’t forget some toilet paper, baby wipes, feminine supplies, diapers, etc. Also don’t forget some hand sanitizer and extra water for washing.

    7.) Tools – a multitool with pliers, screwdrivers, simple stuff and a nice, medium length fixed blade knife. You’ll need these to improvise for your individual needs, and you won’t want to skimp on them.  Also a wrench for turning off your natural gas.  In the event of a tornado or earthquake, you may need to turn it off.

    8.) Rope, or cordage, as the survivalists call it.  Tent support, clothesline, fastener, leash, whatever you need it for, you'll have some.  The die hards out there call for Paracord, which seems to be extremely versatile.  I just have about 10 feet of plastic rope from the dollar store.  I can upgrade later.

    9.) Overnight stuff - full change of clothes and basic, basic toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste & soap).  If you're at home, this may not be a big deal, but having this at work or in the car is a must.  Consider some work gloves and a hoodie.

    10.) Entertainment. Deck of cards, book, game, coloring pencils. Keep something that will bring a little joy to the situation at hand. Remember that DVDs and CD’s are not going to work in a power outage situation and your iPod will eventually die.  Time to teach the kids how to play something that doesn't require a game controller!

    Extra Credit: A simple tent.  In the event of compromised home (backed up sewer, earthquake, gas leak, tornado damage) and you don't have a hotel to run to, a tent can do the job.  You can always sleep in your car, but camping is fun.

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