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
is a lot of powerful emergency response advice summarized in the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
ahead of time. If you need to do it from outside the house get very
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
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
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
Tube tent and sleeping bag
Food, water and restraint (leash or carrier) for pets
Fire extinguisher: small canister ABC type
police whistle and Signal flare
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 storage containers
Plastic bucket with tight lid
Contact lenses and supplies
Roll up fire escape ladder (if you live no higher than the 6th
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
You may have to completely depend on your sleeping bag for warmth so
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
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
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
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
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
degrees to optimize their shelf life. Note the standard MRE production
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Antacid (for stomach upset)
Syrup of Ipecac (use to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison
Activated charcoal (use if advised by the Poison Control Center)
Basics List #5--Medicine cache recommended by the American diabetic
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
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
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
times titled "face facts -- respirators and masks can control a flu
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
Probably not be available until the second round of the virus.
Initially, non pharmaceutical interventions will likely be the only
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
It is pretty clear that the major method that the flu virus uses to
spread itself is airborne droplet/aerosol transmission which is easily
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
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
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
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
(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
You can apply for disaster assistance through FEMA, state your needs as
specifically as possible and identify your disability.
Or on line:
In many states you can Dial 211 for health and human services referrals