When Disaster Strikes -- Being Blind and Being Prepared
Revised March 2007

Introduction & Contents

Preparedness is an intriguing subject. Thankfully, many of us will make it through life without experiencing a disaster of any kind. While I personally feel empowered by knowing that I have taken some basic steps to be ready for many common emergency situations I strongly agree with the philosophy that if you live in the constant fear of such an experience you are giving too much energy to the fear and not enough to living. So please glean from this guide what seems useful to you but do not let it distract you from the true pleasures of life.

This guide includes in condensed form the meat of several seminars and dozens of articles on this subject and it only takes about 20-30 minutes to read.

In the paragraphs below I describe how as a person who is blind you can take some basic steps to be better prepared for natural disasters, acts of terrorism or pandemics. These kinds of serious emergencies isolate and threaten all members of the community but as a blind person if you have not made any advance preparations you are likely to be more severely affected by the resulting loss of normal transportation, communications, shelter, food and health services. This guide is designed to prepare you so that you can effectively respond and hold out through major emergency conditions until support services are again available.

A fairly standard recommendation is that each household make preparations to be able to sustain themselves independently for a minimum of 72 hours and unless otherwise noted this will be our assumed target. There is a lot of powerful emergency response advice summarized in the following paragraphs. Even if it is not possible for you to execute every one of these preparedness measures you should at a minimum assemble in advance a disaster kit that includes most of the items on basic lists 1 & 2 and learn the appropriate measures to take in emergency situations that require an immediate response. You should also print this guide out in Braille or record it in some form that you can refer to after the power goes out since it is generously sprinkled with a healthy amount of just plain practical advice for dealing with emergency situations.

The contents include
1: Disaster strikes -- what to do first
2: Emergency power and Radio Receivers
3: Family communication & Awareness
4: Shelter & Staying Warm
5: Water and Food
6: Clothes, Medicine, hygiene and other items
7: Pandemic
8: money and reestablishing identity
9: Other resources and references

1: Disaster strikes -- what to do first

Here in the northwest the four emergency situations that you are most likely to experience which hit with no advance warning and require a spontaneous immediate response are fire, earthquake, toxic chemical release and volcano eruption. We will address these situations first. The other natural disasters--hurricanes, wildfires, floods and tsunamis should give you some advance warning if you listen to the radio or have a weather alert receiver, but of course, even these emergencies can take you by surprise. Only a pandemic comes on slow enough that you should be able to depend on hearing about it far enough in advance to take preventive measures.

In the case of fire unless it is very minor and localized and you have already prepared to deal with it forget putting it out and get out of the building as fast as possible. Being blind and possibly being alone means that even in your own home you need to take extra steps to be Adequately prepared for immediate evacuation. Take the time right now to confirm that you can open windows in all rooms and take the extra effort to learn what to expect on the outside were you to jump through such an opening. If the distance to the ground is too great and your living situation does not provide close and convenient fire exits you should seriously consider investing in a roll up escape ladder. They are available in lengths to accommodate from 2 story up to 6 story dwellings. You should learn to use it in advance and store it near the window (more about price & availability in references) If you need to evacuate through smoke keep low and crawl under it. If you come to a closed door feel it first and if it is warm fall back and choose a secondary escape route. When you stay in a hotel or spend time in buildings other than your home take reasonable precautions to identify the quickest path to follow to independently evacuate. Other fire prevention/survival measures include Always sleep with a spare folding cane beside your bed. Replace all of your household smoke alarms every ten years -- they become less sensitive with age. Clearly display your name and address at your driveway entrance. Treat the outside of your house with fire retardant chemicals. Install freeze proof exterior water outlets on at least 2 sides of the house and again 50 feet from the house. Have lawn sprinklers readily available to soak the roof and the area around any exterior fuel tanks.

In an earthquake you will need to quickly decide whether to jump and run or dive for cover. Unless you are standing within a couple of steps of the door and you live in the middle of nowhere your best plan is to "drop, cover and hold on." This means stay inside & immediately get under something substantial and grab it so that when it moves you move. Stay away from heavy appliances that are not well anchored. If the nearest thing that you can quickly get under is of relatively weak structure such as the dining room table then instead lie down next to something very strong like a load bearing wall or the kitchen counter and cover your head as best you can. If you are in bed when a quake hits roll out of it and lie beside it on the floor rather than try and get under The bed. In all but the most powerful quakes Conventional stick built construction buildings will probably not completely collapse but even inside you are in serious danger of being hit by flying objects. If you live in a particularly quake prone area it is a good idea to have actual latches installed on all kitchen cabinets. This can prevent a lot of dangerous flying objects during a quake and a lot less broken glass afterwards. If possible avoid running outside. Remember, outside tremendously large heavy objects which you cannot see will be falling, flying through the air and sliding or rolling across the ground independently and they are not likely to go around you.

In a volcano you are simultaneously subjected to several disasters at once. Eruptions result in Mud flows, flash floods, Landslides, rock falls, tsunami's, earthquakes, acid rain and Ash fall. For the most part your physical location will determine which of these will be of the most immediate concern to you and your emergency radio should provide critical evacuation specifics. If you are in the path of any of the first 5 you should of course evacuate. In the case of the last 2 you will probably b able to at least temporarily shelter in place. In your home close all windows, doors, and dampers. Put all machinery inside a garage or barn. Bring animals and livestock into closed shelters. Listen to the weather alert radio and follow directions from authorities. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect your skin from the acid and ash that may be in the air. Use a dust mask or If you have no mask hold a damp cloth over your face to help protect your breathing from ash fall. If you live within 50 miles of a volcano, either active or dormant, invest in a pair of goggles and a throw-away breathing mask for each member of the Household. Have an evacuation plan prepared and be ready to put it into action. Your plan should avoid areas that are downwind and river valleys that are downstream of the eruption.
To further protect your family from the possible air pollution created by a volcano and also from certain other airborne chemical agent related emergencies you should identify in advance a room in your home with doors and windows that seal well. It is best that this not be a basement room. If authorities instruct you to shelter in place until the toxic material disperses you will close all household windows and vents such as the fireplace damper, turn off all Fans heating or cooling systems and retreat with your family, pets and disaster kit to this room. After the door is closed seal the large crack under the door with a wet bath towel and use duct tape and plastic bags to cover outlets, heat registers, windows and seal up any other obvious cracks. Remain in this room until you hear the all clear on the radio.

In the northwest the month of November seems to bring the worst winds. Consider Taking the following steps to reduce the possibility of damage to your home from high winds. In stall movable shutters on the windows of your home. Precut Pre drilled pieces of plywood might be prepared and kept on hand that as a reasonable substitute could be installed in an emergency. Each year remove any dead limbs from trees and prune each tree to cut down on its overall wind resistance. If you have a manufactured home, travel trailer or storage shed insure that tie downs are installed and check them each season.

Tsunami's are rare but you live with an increased risk from a tsunami if you are in a designated tsunami area, are below 25 feet above sea level and within 1 mile of the shoreline. When it comes It will usually be preceded by an unexplainable and very noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal water level. Once it hits the wave crests can be spaced from 5 minutes to 90 minutes apart and you can expect that the first large wave will be followed by even larger ones. Despite their infrequent occurrence when you visit in a designated tsunami area it is a good idea to take the time to note the posted emergency escape routes. Your emergency destination should not be longer than 15 minutes from the shore by foot, be at least 100 feet above sea level and be a minimum of 2 miles inland.

If you are caught in a tsunami or flash flood do not depend on your car for safety. If it no longer moves immediately leave it and proceed to higher ground by any means available.

If you are at home and the disaster has resulted in serious physical damage to your home and surroundings there are several immediate changes you should be prepared to make in your household utilities. The more serious the damage the more important these concerns become.

In order to be able to promptly react as a blind person you will need to be familiar with the operation of these controls ahead of time so take the trouble to learn them now. Locate the main water shut off for your house or apartment so that you Can quickly isolate your dwelling from the water supply. This will prevent possibly contaminated water from getting in to your plumbing. It Also can be used to stop a leak. If it makes sense and circumstances permit try it fill the bath tub first. If you plan to use the hot water tank for an emergency water supply you should also locate the valve usually on top of the tank and close it.

If your home uses natural gas or l.p. (propane) gas you should learn how to shut it off. Natural Gas meters usually have a valve with a rectangular place for a wrench to fit. It only takes a quarter turn to close the valve but sometimes it Turns very hard. Store the appropriate tool near the valve -- you will not have time to go looking for it. Natural gas services should only be turned back on by a professional. LP gas systems usually have a valve at the propane tank and it should already have a handle on it.

You Should learn how to turn off the electricity too. This is easy using the master switches in the breaker box. Again, know where this switch is ahead of time. If you need to do it from outside the house get very careful instruction from a sighted person first. The high voltage contacts in the inside box are covered from accidental touch but in the box that is outside they are normally not protected from probing fingers. In the event that only the electrical power to your home is interrupted and there is no structural damage leave the master switches alone and just disconnect the electrical power to everything in the house except for a single light.

Keep the refrigerator and freezer closed. However, perishable food will only safely keep for 2 hours in a turned off refrigerator. It will keep in a half full freezer for 24 hours and in a full freezer for up to 48 hours. If you have ice available you can extend the life of food in the refrigerator by removing it and putting it in a portable ice chest. If you have an accessible digital thermometer available the rule is to throw out anything perishable that has been held above 40 degrees F for over 2 hours.

If you are a parent, don't assume that you will always be with your children in an emergency. Make sure They know how to protect themselves if you are not available to help. At the beginning of the school year, take time to study the school or day care center emergency protective action plan and discuss it with your children and their babysitters.

Basics List #1--Essential emergency supplies to keep on hand

Flashlight, radio and extra batteries
First aid kit & backup supply of essential prescription medicines
Emergency food and water for 3 days
manual can opener and/or Swiss army knife
Bleach and/or water purification tablets
Garbage bags and closures
Change of clothes, coat & rain poncho
Heavy gloves & Sturdy shoes
Spare glasses, watch, extra house & car keys, cash
Canned Sterno and 100 hour candles
matches (in waterproof container)
Roll of duct tape
Safety glasses/goggles
Dust or surgical mask
germicidal hand wipes, toilet tissue, Feminine supplies
blankets, For infants: Formula, Diapers, Bottles, Powdered milk, canned food/juices, pacifier, soap and baby powder,
Duffle bag or large back pack to store and move all of the above

This list might be expanded to include less essential:

Tube tent and sleeping bag
Food, water and restraint (leash or carrier) for pets
Fire extinguisher: small canister ABC type
Aluminum foil
police whistle and Signal flare
Paper, pencil
Needles, thread
Medicine dropper
Shut-off wrench, to turn off household gas and water
Digital thermometer for testing perishable foods
Map of the area (for locating shelters)
Soap, liquid detergent
Plastic sheeting
Plastic storage containers
Plastic bucket with tight lid
Thermal underwear
Denture needs
Contact lenses and supplies
Roll up fire escape ladder (if you live no higher than the 6th floor)
potassium iodine tablets, for radiation related disaster, non-prescription, more important for children than adults
Games and books

2: Emergency power and radio receivers

NOAA Radio Weather alert is probably the most valuable informational tool Currently available that can provide you with advance warning for a high wind, flood, wildfire, tsunami or any other emergency condition that is not a complete surprise. However, this automatic feature is only available on specially equipped receivers. When the weather alert feature is engaged this kind of receiver stays in standby mode (no sound from speaker) until it receives a special activation signal from your local disaster emergency service. When this signal is received the radio "wakes up" and you hear emergency broadcast information that is specific to your community. When you shop for an emergency radio for your disaster kit you should be careful to select one with this feature. Many of the popular crank emergency radios do not have the NOAA weather band and even some that have the weather band do not have provision for weather alert. Look for the specific feature "weather alert or public alert certified. Another term that you may see is NWR SAME. This stands for NOAA weather radio specific area message encoding and it means that you have not only the audio alert feature but also a digital text display. I know of no way of making this display accessible to persons who are blind but it could be of great benefit to a person who is deaf.

many of these radios have the additional advantage that you can use their crank or solar cells to charge double a batteries or your cell phone. I particularly recommend you Take a look at two models produced by Elgin for the red cross, the FR300 and FR400, $50 and $60 respectively. Note, many of the Motorola family band walkie talkies available at most discount stores also include the weather alert feature. You can buy a pair at Cosco for $40.

If you do not have a radio with The automatic weather alert feature the next best thing is to have any kind of battery powered radio that can be tuned to pick up NOAA weather information. Most newer AM radios will now tune in additional channels at the bottom and top of the standard AM band. In my community a couple of these frequencies have been reserved for the NOA weather/emergency information broadcasts. Of course such a radio is not equipped to respond to automatic weather alert but after you know about the emergency it can still provide you with crucial up to date information and guidance including evacuation plans. The emergency channel frequency should be clearly labeled on this radio and everyone in your family, including the children, should know how to operate it. If necessary find and label the emergency channel yourself. Keep such a radio stocked with fresh alkaline batteries. Such a unit should play for hundreds of hours on one set of batteries particularly if it uses analog (not digital) electronics. If a member of your family is deaf or hard of hearing a battery powered TV might be a better alternative for receiving emergency broadcast information.

Many of the items in your disaster kit will be battery powered. standardize as much as possible on one size of battery. I recommend double a cells. When you buy your next radio, flashlight or scanner or whatever select a unit that takes this standard batteries size. Keep several different technologies of your standard size on hand. You should have at a minimum a couple dozen alkaline cells. They have an extremely long shelf life and may still be usable after being stored 5 years. Of course, for maximum performance, you should still replace this supply at least once a year. pick up 3 dozen Duracell alkaline cells at Cosco for $11. (their Kirkland brand are even cheaper). . If you are making preparations to hold out for a period of weeks rather than days take the trouble to also stock up on rechargeable batteries. Alkaline batteries will not recharge, however rechargeable batteries have a very poor shelf life and in an emergency you cannot count on them being charged when you need them. Be careful to purchase a rechargeable technology that is compatible with all of your chargers. You can purchase a solar yard light at Harbor freight for about $5 that is a very inexpensive way to charge 2 double A cells. If you go this route be aware that they will only properly charge nickel cadmium cells so forget stocking up on the more advanced technologies like nickel metal hydride.

You can pick up a crank charger made specifically for your cell phone From Independent living aids for about $20. Do not forget the automobile cigarette lighter adapters for your battery charger and cell phone. Even after the family car is out of gas there is still a whopping amount of energy in your car battery. Same goes for the 12 volt storage battery in your motorcycle, boat and your computer's uninterruptible power supply. Radio Shack sells a number of products that permit you to convert the output of these 12 volt emergency power houses into many other voltages to power cell phones, radios, etc. Speaking of the car, make it a family policy to never let the car's gas tank drop below half. Remember gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps and always having a slight fuel reserve could keep you from being stranded and unable to return home during an Emergency situation.

Keep in mind that when your household power fails your home telephone may still function since it will operate on just the small amount of power that it obtains through the telephone lines. Of course this is not true if you use an answering machine or a set of cordless phones distributed around the house as your only household phone -- such units are dependent on local power. So, confirm that somewhere in your home you still have at least one standard non-cordless phone connected to the phone line.

If you can afford it purchase a small gas powered generator. This is likely to be the most expensive item in your emergency supplies and the Least essential and practical because of its dependency on fuel but if you are really serious about being prepared you will run out and buy one. Typical 1200 watt units start under $500. With such a power source you can operate a small pump, a microwave oven, a ham transmitter or keep a small refrigerator running. This can be important if you use a powered wheelchair or are dependent on any kind of refrigerated medication or power dependent life support systems. Always make provision to operate the generator out of doors then run extension cords from outside to inside. Never attempt to connect the output of a generator back into the wall outlet to distribute the power throughout your home. If you have special life dependent power needs call your power utility service and bring this to their attention. They may have special emergency power alternative services and/or plans that they activate in the event of a disaster.

3: Family Communications & Awareness

Your family should identify a previously mutually agreed on central meeting location where you will all meet any time there is a chance that an emergency could separate you. What if you all came to the county fair on the bus and there was an earthquake. How would you find each other? In a serious emergency cell phone communications may not be an option.

In addition, your family should identify 1 or 2 friends or relatives who will be a central point of contact in case you get stranded or separated for an extended period of time. If you have a brother or sister out of state this is ideal particularly if you already know the phone number. Do not make the mistake of selecting a relative who happens to have an unlisted number in case some family member needs to obtain it from information.

If you are alone and leave your home leave a note telling anyone who finds it when you left, where you intend to go and of your intentions to return. It can be print, Braille or tape but leave something.

Telephone voice communications will likely be either congested or down during a disaster and if your cell phone has text messaging capability and you know how to use it this alternative can be a powerful tool -- Its actually proven to be more effective than the cell phone voice channel in an emergency. Almost all modern cell phones have this capability but most of them are not accessible to a person who is blind. If you want to be able to rely on this feature you need to take the trouble now to obtain a phone that offers accessible text messaging and learn to use this feature before you actually need it.

If you have a cell phone and have made provision for emergency power to keep it charged then you have really done about as much as is technically practical to Provide for external communications.

You can purchase a set of The Motorola family band walkie talkies often on sale for between $15-$40 a pair. They have a usable range of a couple of miles (for get the claims on the packaging of 6-12 miles) and its possible that they could be useful in an emergency. However, its not likely that they will help you stay in contact with the outside world. A portable public service band scanner is another possibly useful but non essential item. You can find one on sale at Radio Shack that operates on double A batteries for about $30. Make sure that they preprogram it for you with the local public service frequencies before you leave the store.

Probably the single most powerful external emergency communications tool you can have is ham radio capability. You must pass a test to obtain a ham license but training classes and materials are readily available. This test previously included morse code proficiency but this requirement is being dropped as of February 2007. A great resource for accessible Ham license training materials is http://handiham.org Ham radio capability combined with an independent source of power could make you a major resource for communicating with the outside world for your whole neighborhood.

this brings up a very often neglected preparedness communications consideration. As soon as possible take the trouble to make friends with some of your neighbors. In an emergency you can come together to share resources and even band together for protection if that becomes necessary.

4: Shelter & Staying Warm

If a very serious disaster leaves your home unlivable you could be without shelter for several days until emergency services either moves you or supplies you with emergency shelter. Depending on the extent of the damage to your home you may also be without the emergency supplies Stocked in a closet or basement. Consider the alternatives and if it makes sense in your circumstances keep an inexpensive emergency tent and most of your emergency supplies outside of your home in a small shed. Even just 4x5 or 5x7 feet is adequate. Such a shed should be a light enough structure so that if damaged by an earthquake you can get to your supplies without special tools. If it remains standing and is large enough you can put its contents in the tent and live in the shed.

You may have to completely depend on your sleeping bag for warmth so purchase a good one rated down to below zero. A good sleeping bag is one of those things that will be used from time to time for non emergency purposes and so is in general a good investment. You can pick them up at good will for between $6-$10. Pick up a roll-up foam sleeping pad while you Are at it. Your emergency supplies should include several layers of clothing including something that is windproof and water proof.

Hand warmers are now available that involve no lighting or burning. When the seal on them is broken they warm up and they keep putting out heat for 4-6 hours. Cosco sells a box of 80 such warmers for $15. The best emergency treatment for hyperthermia is to directly apply localized heat to the brachial (arm), femoral ((leg) and carotid (throat) arteries. This heats your body from within rather from the outside and is most effectively applied with hot water bottles or hand warmers.

If the electrical power is out and thus you have no heat in your home only an exceptionally large gas generator will permit you to plug in a portable electric heater. However, you can purchase a small Butane powered heater for about $40 which could be useful if you wind up living in a tent. Its not safe to use one of these heaters in a modern energy efficient home because of carbon monoxide emissions. If you have a gas oven that is still functional it is ok to use it to cook but it should never be used to attempt to warm up the room. The charcoal based or Gas powered barbecue from the deck should never be drug indoors as a source of emergency heat for this same reason. Only a properly vented wood stove or fireplace is a safe indoor source of heat. If you have a wood fireplace or even if you only have a fireplace for looks You should stock up on wood because it is safe and for emergency heat there is nothing to match such an incredible emergency resource. and Oh yes, don't forget matches.

One last warning on the carbon monoxide issue. Conventional household fire alarms will not warn you of the presence of carbon monoxide. An unexpected headache may be the first thing that you notice from such poisoning. If you use a butane powered space heater even just in a tent or your garage you should also invest in a battery powered carbon monoxide detector. I have seen them at Cosco for about $25.

5: Water and Food:

Different lists will give you different recommended numbers on how much water and food to store. If you live in an apartment 3 or 4 days worth may be all that you have room to keep on hand. Most of the emergency situations that we can anticipate are likely to draw outside assistance within a few days. But it could take up to a week and there are more terrible things that can happen which might disrupt everything around you for hundreds of miles and delay normal services for an extended period. One of the major church organizations recommends that each family keep a 6 month supply on hand. You should do what is functionally and economically possible for you and your family but 3 days is an absolute minimum.

Anyone can store 3 days or even a weeks ration of water using cleaned 2 liter soda pop bottles. Larger more durable containers capable of holding many gallons are available at Fred Meyers and similar discount stores. Allow 2 quarts of water per person per day to drink and another 2 quarts per person per day for food preparation/sanitation.

You will be dependant on what water you have stored and what you can get into the bath tub before the power goes off. If you have a shallow well on your property get a backup hand pump for it -- a nice alternative resource for you and your neighbors. For between $50-$90 you can get a pump that will pump water from 22 feet. Any deeper than this and the pump will cost several hundred dollars.

Be prepared to purify your drinking water. It has been mentioned in other references that distilled water keeps better than tap water. This is probably true but most people are not going to change out their emergency water supply every 6 months as is recommended. Chances are that in an emergency you are going to be drinking water that has sat around in jugs or carboys for several years and is of questionable quality. Therefore, whether yu store tap water or distilled water you should be prepared to take at least minimum purification measures.

The most basic method of purifying from biological contamination is to boil your water for 1 minute. Since after most disasters the heat source necessary to boil will not be available the next best method and the most convenient is to use water purification tablets. The two kinds of tablets that are available are the iodine based and chlorine dioxide based technologies. I recommend the chlorine dioxide product. It is twice the price of the iodine but iodine should not be used by pregnant mothers, women over 50, by persons with thyoroid problems, or with seafood alergies. A package of the chlorine dioxide tablets made by Portable Aqua costs $30 and will treat 30 quarts. Whichever product you buy Braille out the application instructions in case you are alone when you need to purify. Generally the effectiveness of these tablets goes down if the water is colder than 60-70 degrees. Complete safety is reached 4 hours after application at this temperature and longer if it is colder. All tablets have an expiration date printed on the package and after opening they should be used not put back on the shelf.

If you are caught without any stored water on hand and have available basic household bleach you can make most questionable even contaminated water reasonably safe to drink by applying the following extreme measures published by the Red Cross. Filter it through a coffee filter, bring it to a rolling boil for 1 minute, let it cool for 30 minutes, add 16 drops of liquid bleach per gallon or 8 drops per 2 liter bottle, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. At this point if it smells like chlorine you can drink it. If it does not yet smell like chlorine add more bleach stir and let stand again for 30 minutes. Repeat until you get the smell. Note the bleach should have sodium hypochlorite of about 5% as its sole active ingredient no fragrances or soap should be on the list of ingredients. (a little sodium hydroxide is ok)

For your emergency food think first of high energy, long shelf life items that require little or no preparation. Examples are nuts, crackers, peanut butter, dried fruit, jerky, canned meats, powdered milk, other powdered drinks, energy bars and candy. Most of the material in the freezer will not be of much use unless you can eat it as soon as it thaws and even then much of it may require cooking. Remember That canned food from the store doesn't keep as long as freeze-dried or dehydrated foods, and canned food is much heavier to carry. Think about how you would heat water to make coffee or hot chocolate, reconstitute soup etc. A small gas or LP camp stove, back packing stove or canned Sterno can be great for this purpose. Again, only use it outdoors.

If you can afford them meals ready to eat (MRE) are the most convenient way to keep a store of emergency food. They have a shelf life of many Years and the new high tech MRE packages have built in chemical heaters. A case of 12 meals costs about $5. If possible store MRE rations at 5560 degrees to optimize their shelf life. Note the standard MRE production date code on them as follows. A code of 1296 means 2001 and the 296th day of the year.

A good source of MRE rations in bulk at reduced rates is your local periodic gun show. A couple of on line sources are provided in the references.

Do not forget to stock comfort/stress food items--The sweets can be a real morale booster.

Do not forget your infants and pets they need emergency food supplies as well.

Basics List #2--Essential Food & water

The American diabetic association recommends the following for an emergency food cache.
Suggested Food Supply for 7 days for 1 person, Put these food items in a rubber tote or duffle bag. Replace yearly.

Large box of crackers
1 jar of peanut butter
Small box of powdered milk
1 box dry, unsweetened cereal
1 jar soft cheese or 2 packages of 6 cheese crackers
6 cans regular soda
6 cans diet soda
6-pack canned orange or apple juice
6-pack of Parmalat milk
6 cans lite or water-packed fruit
1 can of prepared meat
1 gallon of water per day
eating utensils mechanical can opener disposable cups and plates

You might augment this list with nuts, dried fruit, jerky, energy bars, sweets, salt, sugar, spices and other items from the above paragraphs.

6: Clothes, Medicine, hygiene and other items

Put aside in a small duffle A couple of changes of everything but stress warmth and water proof. Include a hat and coat and raingear. very important -- After an emergency that results in physical damage to structures there will be broken glass and other sharp material everywhere. You should have available Boots and heavy socks and heavy work gloves for you and foot protection for your dog. It is likely that you will need the foot protection immediately and you should consider keeping an old pair of boots and a folding cane easily accessible under your bed.

If you have on-going prescription dependencies you should be purchasing 90 days at a time. In addition if you explain your emergency preparedness concerns with your doctor they can write you an extra prescription to sock away in case you cannot get to a drug store for an extended period.

Don't forget that if you are human you will probably have to go to the bathroom during your ordeal. A port-a-potty is a nice addition to your supplies. Even more often overlooked is tissue. Hey, its cheap! Stock up.

Learn as much about first aid as you have the time and interest to absorb. Every 5 or 10 years in my community we organized special first aid and CPR classes specifically for our members who are blind.

Buy a big first aid kit. Spend at least $15-25 on it. Now take it home open it up and look at its contents with a sighted friend. Label in Braille items that you believe need it. If you are not familiar with the contents of the kit before an emergency they will do you little good when you are alone and do not have someone to read the labels on all of the little tubes and bottles.

Basics list #3--Emergency first aid kit
(recommended by American Red Cross)

(20) adhesive bandages, various sizes.
(1) 5" x 9" sterile dressing.
(1) conforming roller gauze bandage.
(2) triangular bandages.
(2) 3 x 3 sterile gauze pads.
(2) 4 x 4 sterile gauze pads.
(1) roll 3" cohesive bandage.
(2) germicidal hand wipes or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
(6) antiseptic wipes.
(2) pair large medical grade non-latex gloves.
Adhesive tape, 2" width.
Anti-bacterial ointment.
Cold pack.
Scissors (small, personal).
CPR breathing barrier, such as a face shield.

Basics list #4--Non-Prescription Drugs
(as recommended by American Red Cross)

Aspirin or no aspirin pain reliever
Anti-diarrhea medication
Antacid (for stomach upset)
Syrup of Ipecac (use to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center)
Activated charcoal (use if advised by the Poison Control Center)

Basics List #5--Medicine cache recommended by the American diabetic association:

Have at least a two-week supply of medications available
(the pharmacy may not be open, or may have been destroyed).

Syringes, alcohol swabs/anti-bacterial wipes, cotton balls and tissues
glucose meter, test strips & blood glucose log,
lancing device and lancets - Sharps disposal container (hard plastic detergent bottle)
urine keytone sticks,
insulin pump supplies (if a pumper)
Basic first aid kit
quick-acting carbohydrate (glucose tablets, hard candy, OJ) - glucagon for above kit

7: Pandemic

Covered separately here because it is so different than all other natural disasters a pandemic is the one emergency that should provide you with the most advance warning. Still there is important general information that will benefit you to learn in advance. The following notes are taken from a op ed piece in the cot 25 new York times titled "face facts -- respirators and masks can control a flu pandemic"

In a true pandemic there will not be enough anti viral drugs to treat The majority of the population and in any case a truly effective drug will Probably not be available until the second round of the virus. Initially, non pharmaceutical interventions will likely be the only means of controlling the spread of the virus. These include limiting social gatherings, closing schools, sleeping in separate rooms, working In separate offices, increased hand washing and the use of protective masks

It is pretty clear that the major method that the flu virus uses to spread itself is airborne droplet/aerosol transmission which is easily slowed down by the effective use of a mask. Also masks work against all forms of the virus and do not have to be changed as the virus changes. Yet the government is not stockpiling masks the way it is vaccine.

There 2 types of face protectors m95 respirators such as those worn by construction workers and surgical masks like the ones worn in hospitals and dental offices. The respirators cost roughly $1 a piece and the masks cost about a dime apiece. While the respirators are slightly more effective in their ability to filter out viruses surgical masks are plenty effective enough and since they fit looser and thus are more comfortable they are more likely to be worn more often. This makes them an excellent choice. Also, although it looks odd, in a pinch nylon hosiery can be worn over the surgical mask to make it fit tighter .

Although these same masks are disguarded daily in normal hospital usage, the flu virus does not survive more than a few hours on the mask material. and since a pandemic might last as long as 3 months it is more practical to keep using the same mask and only replace it after it physically deteriorates.

8: money and reestablishing identity

Basics List #6--Personal Records Documentation

Another separate but related issue associated with being prepared is how to recover from losing your basic financial and identification documentation. Sit down and make a list including the following and Keep copies of these records in a waterproof, portable container that is part of your disaster supplies:

Will, insurance policies, powers of attorney, contracts & deeds & stocks and bonds,
Copies of drivers license, Passports, social security cards,
copies of all of the other cards in your wallet.
Bank account numbers
Credit card account numbers
Inventory of valuable household goods,
Important telephone numbers
Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)
List of medical providers, insurance numbers, and Pharmacy numbers.
Family Immunization records
Service dog veterinary records and several copies of a good photograph of it
Dog tags should include both your phone number and the phone for an out of town contact
Keep a list of essential medications and doses
Keep a list of model numbers and serial numbers for insulin pumps, pacemakers and other special life support equipment

After a disaster situation you may have lost all identification and bank cards. Contact your local bank and see what they can do for you. They may b able to assist you even if you have no identification. You can replace ATM cards just by calling the following numbers:

Discover card 1-800-Discover
Visa card, 1-800-VISA-911.
American Express card at 1-800-964-8542.

Need a new ID. Remember the department of motor vehicles already has your photo in its data bank. You should be able to get emergency SSI payments from your local social security office. To find nearest local office call 800-772-1213.

9: Other Resources & references

About half of the above material was gleaned from the American Red Cross internet site. This is a wonderful resource and more detailed information on most of the above subjects is available from:


Pre-assembled disaster kits, first aid kits and probably the best emergency radios with weather alert can be purchased from the red cross at


A fairly complete selection of other radios with the weather alert feature is available from the following web resource:


One good web-based supplier of emergency food & products is Emergency Essentials. They list over 300 different items including many preassembled kits, water purification products, the special gas turnoff wrench, 100 hour candles, MRE rations, masks, respiraters and an escape ladder. Their website is


The best prices I found on Escape ladders was
2 story ladder $35 or 3 story ladder $60


An "upper end" ladder product is available from the following source.
Prices range from $80 for a 2 story ladder up to $216 for a 6 story ladder.
(this brand is also available from home depot. )


Hand pumps are available from several sources. I have seen the $50 units at Ranch & Home and at Home Depot. One source that offers a wide variety of sizes of pumps as well as many other preparedness supplies is:


You can apply for disaster assistance through FEMA, state your needs as clearly and specifically as possible and identify your disability.
800-462-7585 TDD/TYY

Or on line:


In many states you can Dial 211 for health and human services referrals