Sunday, March 13, 2011

Always Be Prepared. No wait. That’s the Boy Scouts.

Do you have an Emergency Preparedness Kit?  I do not.

Now, you might think this is a new thought in my mind based on the recent devastating earthquake activity along the western Pacific rim.  But it's not.  Emergency Preparedness is something that has been in my mind for a very very long time.  I know I should have water and food and plastic sheeting and rope stashed away in my garage.  I don't.  I know that we should keep shoes suitable for walking over debris in our storm closet and spare clothes in a plastic bag and emergency medication.  I don't.

(Ok, fine.  I keep the shoes in the closet.  I am not allowing my children to walk for blocks over broken glass and splintered wood in bare feet.  We have a lot of tornados here.  Usually at night. Having to walk through broken glass and splintered wood isn't remotely beyond possibility.)

A few days ago a reporter commented on how well-trained Japanese children are for a vast variety of types of natural disasters, beginning at a very young age.  It made me think of the types of disaster training I received as a child.  And the types I didn't.

I spent my junior and senior high school years in North Dakota during the early- to mid-80's.  It was the height of the Cold War and, while it seems almost unbelievable now, nuclear tensions were high.  The running joke was that if North Dakota were to secede from the Union, we would be the largest nuclear superpower in the world.  We had a big target on our backs that said, "Russians: shoot here."  And we knew it.  Because we were reminded all the time. 

The other running joke was, "Well, it's a good thing we live 150 miles from Grand Forks AFB.  That's totally in the blast zone.  We'll die instantly.  Those poor bastards in the Twin Cities are screwed."  Neato.  That is so what you want to be thinking when you're 14.  And by the way, we knew where the blast zone and the primary radiation zone and the secondary radiation zone and the tertiary radiation zone was, because they told us in school.  With graphics and charts.  And statistics and stuff.  Double-neato. 

No "duck and cover" for us.  We were "You'll have less than two minutes.  Hope that you're not gonna know what hit you."

Why do I mention this?  Not sure.  Other than I’m amazed at how things have changed in the past thirty years.  I'm definitely amazed at our ability now to bring such vivid and instantaneous pictures of horrifying destruction into our homes.  And I've come to the conclusion that natural disasters are heart-breaking beyond belief, but there's something steadying in knowing that they are beyond our control and that having to tell 14-year-olds they should hope to get incinerated is not.   Now, if I could just think of a way to control the uncontrollable....

I'm still not putting food and water in my garage.  I'll probably be sorry some day.

What's in your kit?


  1. There isn't a thinkg in my 'kit.' I'm playing ostrich. Sad, right? g

  2. We have food, but forget the water. We even bought fancy water containers, but have we hauled out the hose to fill them? No.

    As an Army brat, I grew up with all those blast zone diagrams, too. I'm not sure still what all that was supposed to teach us. Resistance is futile? I learned that from the Borg.

  3. I'm embarrassingly unprepared, considering I live on a remote island, beside an active volcano, in a town that has been devastated twice by tsunamis in the not too distant past, and we've had a few hurricane scares since I've lived here. I did move uphill out of the tsunami zone two years ago, and to me that counts as taking precautions! I used to have an emergency cash stash, but raided it weekly for farmer's market funds rather than drive another half mile to the ATM, and now it's empty. I'm making my list though, and will be going to Home Depot this week.

  4. French friends of mine in San Francisco had an earthquake kit (a net bag hanging on the back door handle) which included pate and a good bottle of wine "because if we're spending the night in the backyard, we're damn well having something good to compensate". Admirable principle. My own kit improved drastically after I heard that :-). Unfortunately, they were away when the big one hit in 89, but we all thought about them.

    I'm now in France, in a town built of bricks, with a less-active fault nearby and a couple of nuclear power plants to boot. Sadly, I haven't done a thing about a kit. Time to think about it, eh? I do live on the right bank, not the one where hundreds of people were swept away by a flood in 1875. I did use to consult geological maps before taking on a job or new apt, it does put chances on your side.

  5. that video is bananas. we were told to get under our desks, and forbidden to watch "the day after".

    i'm loving marie-christine and-friends improved kit. i was thinking, i have NOTHING, but after reading about theirs, i so want one.

    actually, i lie. i did put one together in the blackout after 9/11. apparently i needed more nudging. it didn't stick though, probably because-- like you said-- it was for a preventable event rather than a natural disaster. and i didn't like seeing that reminder by the front door.

  6. I've usually considered living in the centre of a continental craton to be a pretty smart precaution against natural disasters (about all we get up here is the odd tornado). But then, I wasn't thinking about nuclear fallout (and Saskatchewan borders right on SD)

    We do carry an emergency kit in the car---rope, snow shovel, candles, blankets, those hand-warmer thingies. I should add chocolate, but we all know that won't stay there. That stuff's pretty standard up here, although not as critical in the age of cell phones.

    I remember in high school one day feeling what I thought was an earthquake (aka a very mild tremor, see above about cratons). The next day I learned it was the Canadian army at the local base destroying its land mines. A much better feeling than learning about the prospect of nuclear war...

  7. Apparently I'm in good company in my unprepared state. Putting together a basic kit is on my to do list for today though. As a kid I was in charge of the snow emergency bucket o' supplies that we kept in the car.

    Crap, there were just two things I could have used for my "seven things you don'T know about me" post!

  8. I live in cyclone territory, and we're always prepared during cyclone season. When category 5 cyclone Yasi was heading straight for us, I added extra cat food, dog food and kitty litter to the emergency supply cupboard. It's a good time to identify priorities!

  9. I need to get myself one of those nuclear blast resistant picnic blankets!

  10. I grew up with the "duck and cover" drills in the '60s. It never occurred to anyone that hiding in the school hallway wouldn't protect anyone form radiation fallout.

    Our emergency kit consists of snow shovels, oil lamps and whatever's in the cupboards. We just aren't in any disaster area here; even the last hurricane, which dropped 6" of rain in a day, didn't affect me. Spoiled rotten, I know.

  11. I grew up in Southern California and my mom made me carry a bottle of water, granola bar, and space blanket to school every day. Embarrassing. I have no emergency kit now, except incidentally in the form of food in my pantry. I live on the third floor so if we get a real earthquake (we've had a few bitty ones in DC since I've lived here) I'll go down in a pile of rubble.

  12. I grew up in Southern Ontario, halfway between two nuclear power plants. I don't remember much about disasters, just watching "The Day After" and being horrified. Then I moved an hour north-west to Ontario's Tornado Alley. Suddenly, I had to learn about tornado drills as a substitute teacher! I was more freaked out than the kids! I'm now back between the nuke plants.
    I know I should have a kit too--there was the black out of Aug 98 while my inlaws were looking after the kids for a week, and we realized our phone wouldn't work without power. I just figure if we had to make a quick exit, I'd swoop up everything from the "snack cupboard" as none of it requires cooking, LOL. But keeping large plastic bottles of water just seems gross. We used to have our 'camping gear' box which we could grab if needed.
    But really...what are we going to get here? Not near any large rivers, no tornadoes, no earthquakes over a 4.5...just snow.
    (I thought it was cool that so many people in Japan seem to have their own safety helmets! Do they actually carry them around with them?).

  13. Wow! No one is prepared. We have months of food stored, water, soap, toothpaste, etc., how-to books, a generator, first aid supplies. I could go on. I still want a Big Berky water filter, good sleeping bags, tent and cook stove. We do have four propane tanks for outdoor BBQing if needed. I have quite a list of more to get!

  14. A little bit to the east of me there is a train derailment right now and residents are being told to pack basic clothes, medications, etc for "a few days absensce". I live very close to train tracks (never have before) and I guess this would be a good thing to plan for! We may not get tornadoes, hurricanes, earth quakes here, but train derailments and industrial disasters DO happen!


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