Be Prepared….it’s a Boy Scout motto, but whether you are a scouter or just an ordinary person, it’s definitely advice worth taking. It’s National Preparedness Month and since this is a topic I feel very strongly about, you get to hear from me a few times this month on the subject. Living in New Jersey over the past few years, we’ve had our share of disasters, hurricanes, Super Storm Sandy, and major blizzards to name a few. I think I read somewhere that every natural disaster could occur in our home state. That’s a little bit scary if you think about it. You can’t sit and worry about bad things happening, but you can be proactive about your approach when it comes to the unpredictable. In 2011, we were hit with a freak snowstorm in October. I’m on well water and septic, so when the power goes out, there is nothing left working. Not even running water. I didn’t know that storm was coming and was actually in the middle of cooking a very big meal. Dishes were everywhere and there was major cleanup to be done, which I was planning on doing as soon as the prep for the meal was done. My laundry also hadn’t been done and was piling up from not doing it for a few days (6 people x 3 days= a lot of dirty laundry!) It was something that I was going to get done on this very day. When the lights went out, I honestly figured it would come back quickly….um, I was very wrong. Instead, we endured 10 days without running water, electricity, or heat (it was very cold!) I had just gone on a major shopping trip the morning of the storm, filling up both refrigerators with food for the meals I had planned over the next two weeks. Well, all that food went to waste, as the food went bad without refrigeration. We cooked what we could the first couple of days on the grill, but pretty soon we could no longer do that. There were no generators to be had anywhere within hours of our home, or we would have tried that route. My husband was about to start a new job and it was Halloween, and we were living day-to-day not knowing when school would start-up again (they were out of power, too) or when our power would come back, so we went to a hotel about 1.5 hours away, as that was the closest available one. We had to be able to shower and have some heat! The two days we spent there were wonderful, we had warm water, heat, a stove, basic things you take for granted on a daily basis. As many people in our state were in a similar situation, the hotel was booked beyond those two days, so we went back home to face another 6 days without power. We tried to make the most of it with the kids, who were actually having a pretty fun time. We spent a ton of time together as a family, talking and playing games. Being unplugged in some ways was so nice. Other ways, not really. It was so cold, it hurt to be home without any heat, so we would go to the mall or book stores to stay warm and go to restaurants to eat. This got really old, though! At night, we would come home throw on as many layers as we could while it was still relatively light outside and we could see and all come into our living room with all the blankets in the house and huddle together with a lantern. I remember telling ghost stories, funny stories from our childhoods, and bonding with the kids. That was a great memory that came from this experience, for sure. My kids were troopers, though, and I have to say, they never once complained. They were enjoying the snow days and our time together. My house was trashed, there was mud all over the place from the melting snow, I had tried to clean up dishes the best I could but there was still a huge mess. Laundry was out of control. As neighborhoods around starting getting their power back, there was a glimmer of hope that ours would come back, but ours happened to be the very last group that was turned back on a couple of days after the majority of our town was back on. When it did come back on, I started crying. So very thankful that I could go back to living my normal life. Never had I been so overjoyed to do housework! I went on a cleaning frenzy, dishes, floors, bathrooms, laundry, refrigerators, you name it, it all got done that night! Since that time, I have been crazy about checking the weather and being prepared for upcoming storms. If a storm is approaching, you had better believe that my dishes and laundry are caught up! I think actually I am a bit compulsive about it now, but if you had to do that for 10 days with a messy house, you would know where I was coming from! In addition to that, we put in a set up for a generator, purchased a generator and made sure that we are ready to use it in case something were to happen. At the very least we have heat, running water and running refrigeration. Basic things that mean so much! Some things we found to be so useful, I always have on hand now. Always! Some of these things were items we had around the house, others we acquired knowing they would be essential if this were to happen again.
- Flashlights and lanterns: LED is best for bright lighting. If the power goes out, you need to be able to see. My favorite brand, by far are Gerber. The flashlight and lantern we had never ran out of power through ten days of continual use.
- Candles/matches or lighters
- Paper plates and utensils–if you don’t have water, you can’t afford to waste it on things like dishes and you don’t want plates piling up. If you have a way to eat at home during an outage, you can just throw these items away.
- propane for a grill if you have one for cooking
- Generator if you can get one
- Extension cords for the generator if it isn’t hooked up to your electrical panel.
- A 5 gallon container (like the orange jugs that have at soccer games for the kids). This was essential for filling up before the storm and setting by the sink. This container has a spout so you can use it to wash your hands!
- water jugs or bottles for drinking
- Clorox wipes–disinfecting and cleaning
After that storm in 2011, I have never been without any of those items at any time! Which is good because the following year (around Halloween again!) we were hit with Hurricane Sandy and left without power for 15 days! That’s a story for another day, though! We learned even more with Sandy, but we were so much more prepared than we were when the other storm hit us in 2011. So much more, in fact, that we were in a position to help lots of other people who were not prepared. There is a serious amount of peace that comes with being prepared, even in the most difficult situations, that I highly encourage everyone to take stock of what they would do if they were to be in a similar situation and how they can prepare now to get ready for such an occurrence. I am already gearing up for another power outage, because I truly feel like it will happen again. After Sandy hit, we found in addition to those basic things I mentioned above, we needed more tools to be able to help ourselves and others. Chainsaws, axes, hatchets and knives became essential items that our family used to help others clean up their property (and our own) after such bad damage had happened. With this in mind, I am so excited to have received some great new items from Gerber to help us get on the right track and be prepared. We’ve already put them to test and am very impressed with their performance. They have earned their places in my must have essentials for emergencies. Check them out as you will want to have them in your possession should something come up. Gerber Freescape Hatchet–You may laugh that I think it is great that there is a bright green handle, but in an emergency, it’s nice to be able to easily spot the item you are looking for. This hatchet is the perfect weight, hits accurately and gets the job done. We love using this for splitting logs for our fire (also a great thing to have when you have no other heat source!) I also love that my 12 year old can handle it so well. There is a great safety feature, too, a cover built into the hatchet to protect the blade. Gerber Freescape Large Lantern–I mentioned already how essential it was for us to have light. With a lantern like this one, we can place it in one room and see everything very clearly. The LED light works so well and lasts a long time. It runs on D batteries, easy to have on hand at home. I love there is actually a power gauge below the power button that indicates how much battery life is left. So no surprises when it just dies, you will have been given more than fair warning. It, too, has the green outline making it easy to spot when you need it. Gerber Bear Grylls Survival AO— I think a good knife is a must-have for emergency situations. You never know when you will need one. Camping especially, this is something that will serve you well. We were surprised at how often we used knives in Sandy to free debris or branches or for loading items into our car for disposal. This particular knife is nicely designed, easy to use, and safe thanks to the safety lock employed on the blade. It is easy to open one-handed, should the need of that arise. It’s a really terrific knife at a great, affordable price point. Gerber Freescape Flashlight--Yes, you definitely need both flashlights and lanterns in an outage. Keeping a lantern in a central location where everyone is makes it nice. Having a reliable flashlight to use when you go away from where the lantern is very important. I love this particular flashlight as it goes above and beyond. It has a great design so that it can’t roll away from you if you drop it or set it down. It also can adjust the lighting and use night vision–how cool is that?! It also easily attached to you with its lanyard at the bottom of the flashlight, so you can hook it onto your jeans or backpack (if you are in a camping situation). You can purchase all of these great items online or in sporting good stores. Whether you take my advice and use them for disaster preparations, have a camping fanatic in your home, have a Boy Scout, or just even want to plan ahead for the holidays, you will definitely want to check them out! *products were received to facilitate a review, all opinions are my own.