Frugal and Prepared: Emergency Supplies

With the recent earthquake in California and the oncoming winter here in Iowa, I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss how to properly prepare yourself so that if an emergency strikes, you’re well-prepared to handle it. Winter storms regularly take out the electricity in rural Iowa, for example, and if you live near a fault line, an earthquake can happen at any time.

While I’m far from a survivalist, I do see the utility in having a small number of items on hand in case of a natural disaster or other unforeseen event. Here are some guidelines to make sure you and your family are prepared for a significant crisis.

7 Items to Consider Having in Your Basement

1. Flashlights

If the electricity is out and it is dark, flashlights can come in handy for verifying that everyone is safe and for finding food, water, blankets, and other equipment. If you can find one that operates via winding, that’s the best option so you don’t have to ever think about batteries.

2. Bottled water

Normally, I’m not much of a fan of bottled water, but if you’re in a situation where the power is out and your tap water is unusable, this can be a life saver.

3. Packaged food

A couple days’ worth of packaged food is also worthwhile. If your home is struck by a tornado or an earthquake and you’re trapped, for example, some packaged food can really come in handy. Most of our food is just canned vegetables and fruits and the like, but a friend of mine keeps a case of MREs on hand at all times – just in case.

4. Blankets

Keep a number of blankets in a known location, even if the weather seems quite warm where you are and especially if you live in a colder climate. Blankets are always useful: emergency bedding, warmth, comfort, and helping with shock, just for starters.

5. Cash

A small amount of cash can also be useful if you’re trying to acquire supplies in the wake of a disaster. The local economy will quickly revert to cash and if you’re unable to get out of the situation, you may need to rely on the cash to acquire food and anything else you might need.

6. A radio

A battery-powered radio can be essential for getting weather information and all-clear information. At the very least, this should be battery powered – the best option is one that has a wind-up handle so that it can be charged and used even without batteries.

7. First aid kit

A simple, prepackaged first aid kit with tips on how to treat common injuries is another useful thing to have in case someone is hurt during a natural disaster. Being able to treat a flesh wound, a burn, or a broken bone can make a huge difference in a serious situation.

How to Acquire Them on the Cheap

Many of these items can be acquired whenever you have an opportunity to get them on sale, as it’s not entirely necessary to run out and immediately purchase all of this stuff. However, there are a few useful tips you can use to make this easier.

1. Stock canned goods for food to start with

A few days’ worth of canned tuna, vegetables, and fruits is a good start and it can be done relatively cheaply. Just put them in a box in an interior room or basement and don’t worry about them. I suggest rotating these once every few months by buying fresh, then using the ones in storage.

2. Watch for sales and coupons on bottled water

Since bottled water can keep for a long time, just wait for an opportunity to get it really cheap with a coupon or with stacked coupons.

3. If you decide to buy MREs, get ones with heaters

Why? If they don’t include heaters, the food will be cold if you don’t have a method of warming them up. Most complete MREs with heaters aren’t too bad, especially in a pinch.

4. Make sure your first aid kit has a guide on how to treat injuries

The basic prepackaged Johnson and Johnson first aid kit has a solid guide inside the box, useful for explaining how to treat many common injuries, and the kit itself is well-supplied for a baseline purchase.

5. Request some of these items as gifts

Quite often, relatives will ask for gift ideas for me for Christmas. This year, several items on my list are along these lines, as they’re gifts I can actually use. A wind-up radio or a shakeable flashlight are good gift ideas. Remember, gifts that have a productive use are much better than gifts that just sit and gather dust, so look for things you might actually have a real-world use for.

In a nutshell, having emergency supplies on hand is always worthwhile, but you don’t need to make an emergency out of getting the stuff. Be patient, pick up the items frugally, and store them away so they can be there for you when you need them.

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