It is always time to prepare for the next disaster, whether it is flood, fire, hurricane or some other disaster. Waiting for the last-minute results in increased cost, time in ‘line’ at the store, and risking the inevitable supply shortages that routinely occur. The purpose of this Article is to help you prepare for the disaster from a medical viewpoint. Not as a primer on first aid, but more from a practical point of view, that is, what can a reasonable person do, with reasonably limited resources, and somewhat limited available space.
Here is what you can do to prepare for the next disaster. These will help build up your Emergency Kit in case of a natural disaster.
Supplies to be purchased well in advance:
Liquid Dish Soap: 3 gallons.
This is particularly useful for hygiene, cleaning clothing, bedding and household utensils. Generally non-toxic, it has a long shelf-life, and is very inexpensive.
Most importantly, liquid dish soap can be used in a routine ‘garden sprayer,’ attached to a hose. By spraying down the lawn, shrubs and foundations near the house, liquid dish soap will kill mosquito larvae, which multiply quickly, spreading disease. Apply liberally to areas of the house, up to 200 feet out, and this will reduce the spread of mosquito born disease.
Bleach: 3 gallons.
Useful as a sterilization chemical for bandages, bedding and as a wound irrigant, Bleach has a very long shelf life, and is very inexpensive.
Bleach can be used, in small amounts, to sterilize water for food preparation, oral consumption, and bathing. It can be poured into swimming pools to permit a more sanitary bathing location, and bleach can be used to clean kitchen utensils.
For the most part, liberal use of bleach should be limited to well-ventilated areas, and areas outside of the occupied area of the home.
Bar Soap (12)
Bar soap will last decades
Useful for hygiene and first aid, bar soap takes up very little space.
Hydrogen Peroxide: (2) pints
This can be used, carefully, as a wound irrigant, most useful for puncture wounds, but it can be used to treat complex injuries, in the event that medical help is not immediately forthcoming.
Hydrogen peroxide can be poured over a wound, sterilizing the area.
Isopropyl Alcohol: (2) pints
Isopropyl alcohol is most useful as a sterilizer for first aid instruments, needles, scissors. Anything that comes in contact with blood or other bodily fluids can be safely cleaned with isopropyl alcohol.
Isopropyl alcohol is safe to use indoors, but it is flammable.
First Aid Kit with Instructions
Useful for small problems, but the greatest asset is in the instruction book.
It may remind the user of basic first aid techniques, and as the internet/books and telephone may be inoperable, these kits serve a purpose.
Get additional Cotton bandages, tape, disinfectant and topical anesthetics, as the kits are very limited in content.
Obtain a copy of a first aid manual. The Boy Scout Manual works well. Store in a zip lock bag.
Mosquito and insect repellant
Limited shelf-life, unlike the rest of the list.
Should last -3 years, if kept cool.
These have 10-year shelf life.
Buy a sealed package of different size batteries, as they discharge fairly quickly.
Do not go cheaply or short on supply of these essentials.
Get an old-style analogue thermometer. Electronic ones become useless, fairly quickly.
- Maintain a 2 week supply of prescription medications
- This takes time to prepare, as the legal restrictions on some medications does not permit early refill.
- Prior to most weather-related disasters, we have some warning. Use the time wisely to arrange having your medications in hand.
- Keep a list of current medications with instructions. The package inserts from the medications can be maintained, as well.
- Aspirin, naproxen, acetaminophen are available over the counter. Again, long shelf life, these items can be rotated with supplies that are used for routine, daily use.
- Anti-histamines, emetics, and cathartics can be included as well. If you do not know how these are used, these are best omitted from your kit.
Cash: sufficient for 8 weeks
- Understand that the internet will likely become impaired, and this will result in cash being the only useful form of exchange for commerce. That is, have enough cash on hand to run your household, understanding that health insurance benefits run on the internet, and you will be paying cash until internet service is restored.
- The recommendation for ‘8 weeks’ results from the general underestimation of what it takes to run a household, and for expenses that generally accompany disasters.
- Hiring help during an emergency will come with a steep premium. Be aware and prepared.
Zip Lock Bags, multiple sizes.
- These are used to segregate the supplies, above, keep things dry and organized.
- Important papers should be safeguarded, in zip lock bags, as well.
Blankets, sheets and towels
- Use your old linens to supply this need.
- Keep segregated in one large, plastic bin.
Large Plastic, water-tight bins.
- Use these to keep all of the above supplies together, identifiable with a label.
- Red containers seem to make the most sense, if available. These can be seen among other supplies, the red color identifying them as safety supplies.
- Put the bleach, soap and solvents in one bin, the rest in another bin.
Empty 5 gallon Gasoline cans: (4)
- Caution in the use of these cannot be understated.
- Having sufficient additional fuel for your automobile may enable you to evacuate the area.
NOTE Well: This is not a comprehensive list of necessary supplies. Sufficient food, water, and fuel must be considered. Refer to the FEMA official website, or other governmental agencies for suggestions. No single source ever gets it entirely perfect.
Stay safe and dry.
David Stephen Klein, MD, FACA, FACPM