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Are You Prepared For A Big Natural Disaster?

by retirebyforty on March 15, 2013 · 54 comments

in expenditure, fun stuffs

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disaster preparedness earthquake pacific northwest

I just watched the first 2 seasons of The Walking Dead. Hope our freeway won’t get clogged up like this.

I was going to write about the 401(k) today, but I thought I’d better go with something else because I have been writing about the stock market too often lately. Earlier this week Mrs. RB40 went to a seminar on disaster preparedness and she proceeded to tell me that we are woefully unprepared. Yes… I know that… It’s quite bad really. Portland is along the Cascadia subduction zone and we are due for a big 9.0 earthquake any day now.  OK, that’s an exaggeration, but we do have a good chance of getting hit with the large earthquake over the next 50 years.

Unprepared for the worst

Why aren’t we prepared? It is just so much trouble to get prepared for something that might never come. We are all so busy with our day to day lives and there is no time left to prepare for a natural disaster. Just thinking about it already gave me a headache. We live in a small condo in a tower so as soon as the electricity cuts out, we will be in serious trouble.

  • No water (electric pump)
  • No heat
  • No stove
  • No elevator. Lugging relief supplies up 10 flights of stairs will not be fun at all.
  • Food will start spoiling
  • Electric garage door stuck shut (?)
  • Only one grocery store in walk able area and it will probably be looted very quickly
  • A lot of nuts in the downtown area

That’s just a few things off the top of my head. I’m sure we would encounter a lot more problems in a real disaster. It’s just easier to put off disaster preparedness for later. We also don’t have much space in our condo for a disaster kit. That’s why I want to replace our hot water heater with a tankless water heater. Then I can put a kit where the hot water tank is. If we build a kit now, it would have to sit in a corner in our bedroom. Anyway, here is what you would need in a 72-hour kit.

A Plan

The first thing you need is a plan. Where would you meet after a disaster? For us, it’s at home. Now that I’m not working anymore, we are mostly around our home. Mrs. RB40 can walk home and she’d be here within the hour. If something was wrong with our building, our meeting place would be a local park nearby.

Water

Ready.gov suggests 1 gallon per person per day so we would need about 10 gallons. Mrs. RB40’s class suggested Datrex 4.2oz water pouches. That’s a pretty good idea because it’s good for 5 years and you won’t lose all your water if a large container is punctured. If that hot water tank is still around, we would have plenty of drinking water for a few days. Emergency filters and household chlorine bleach are backup solutions.

Here is a quiz. How much bleach should you add to a gallon of water to make it safe to drink? Who the heck knows? I looked it up and you need 5 to 10 drops per half gallon. I guess we could go down to the river and get some water and use bleach to clean it up, but that’s really going to be a last resort*.

*Note. I just found out that the sewage plant will dump the sewer into the river if something goes wrong. That’s not going to be good.

Food

You need a way to cook food and boil water if your main stove goes out. We have a propane BBQ and a small butane camp stove. I should pick up several canisters of butane for extra fuel. For food, the class suggested Datrex food bars which taste like Elven bread from Lord of the Rings. They must be a sponsor for this class or something. It is good for 5 years though, so it’s easy. I’m pretty sure we have enough food in storage to survive 3 days so I’m not going to worry about this too much. Maybe just add a small box of food bars for back up.

Light

A hands free headlamp is the best option for light source in any situation. It leaves your hands free to dig around or move debris. We have a headlamp and a few flashlights. The class also suggested some snaplights.

Sanitation Option…

This isn’t going to be fun for us. Like I said before, we live in a tower so once the electricity goes out, the toilets stop flushing. The class suggested a collapsible toilet or a 5 gallon bucket with lid. Either way, it’s not going to be pleasant.

Others

  • Medication
  • First aid kit
  • Personal items such as sunscreen, tooth brush/paste, chapstick, extra glasses, etc…
  • Extra batteries, sewing kit, zip lock bags, rope, multi function tool, notebook and pencil, duct tape, cash in small bills, gloves, dust masks, map/compass.

We can grab most of these from home…except right now, they are not all in one place.

To Buy

Supposed to taste better than Datrex.

OK, this article is starting to run long. Anyway, here is what we need to pickup from Survivor Joe’s. Once we get these items, we would be a lot more prepared for at least 72 hours. This small list should cost less than $100 so it won’t affect our monthly expense too much.

Get out of Dodge

If we survived a big 9.0 earthquake, my first impulse would be to get in the car and drive to my brother’s place in California. It’s a ten hours drive and it should be out of the disaster zone. Gasoline might be an issue though. Then again, California might have its own problems. The freeway also might not be in the best shape with an earthquake that big.

Now that I went over the emergency supply list in more detail, it’s actually not that daunting. The supplies aren’t too expensive and we probably could find an out of the way spot to store them.

How about you? Do you have a disaster kit? How prepared are you for a big disaster?

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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea March 15, 2013 at 12:20 am

I updated my disaster kit last year after a tornado hit my son’s school. We have tornadoes all the time (making it easy to slack on preparedness) but that was a good reminder that my kit needed an update! I keep all my supplies in a wheeled outdoor garbage can – that way it’s easy to move and doesn’t take up a ton of space.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:26 pm

That’s a good way to store your supplies. We don’t have any room for that.

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Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank March 15, 2013 at 12:43 am

We are also woefully under prepared for a disaster. I think we could live for about a week or 2 providing it had just rained prior to the event (that way our water tank would be full).

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My Financial Independence Journey March 15, 2013 at 2:36 am

I don’t have a disaster kit, but I did recently last through about a week of no power after a disaster. Where I was, the damage was minimal, but the power outages were lengthy. I actually did pretty well with only a week of no power.

Food and lights are the easy ones to remember. If you have some indication that the disaster is on it’s way, top off your car with fuel in case you need to leave the area. I should have had more cash on hand, for some reason I didn’t think that no power would also translate to no credit card processing.

In the case of our extended power outage, the hardest part for most people was mental. Just being able to survive for a week without electronics, power, heat, and in some cases hot water (depending on if they had an electric or gas water heater). Having spent a lot of time camping, I just figured this was going to be similar to that and adjusted my lifestyle accordingly. A lot of other people spent time running their cars to power their iphones to watch movies.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:27 pm

A week with no power would be pretty tough for us. We might have to go stay with our friends or check into a hotel. No power is a big deal for us since that means no water.

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nicoleandmaggie March 15, 2013 at 6:01 am

I was just at a talk on this. No, we’re not prepared. The money in $5s was stressed, though some in the audience thought bullets might be more important(!)

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:30 pm

We usually only have about $100 lying around the house. I’ll stash some money in $5 with our disaster kit. Gun & Bullets might be nice for a zombie apocalypse, but I think we’ll probably do ok without one in a natural disaster.

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Kevin @ RewardBoost March 15, 2013 at 7:17 am

I have a year worth of dehydrated food, pool shock for cleaning dirty water (which is way better than regular liquid bleach), and plenty of stuff in my garage that I keep specifically for burning in case I need heat or to cook with it.

My next steps are to get some 55 gallon food grade barrels to store water in and get more ammo for my shotgun so I can hunt birds and squirrels if necessary.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Good idea about the pool shock. I’ll check it out.

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Michelle March 15, 2013 at 7:30 am

We are not prepared at all. W really wants us to buy things, but I just can’t bring myself to. I know we need to though!

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:31 pm

You’re terrible. (just like me.) :)

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sin camisa March 15, 2013 at 7:38 am

Unlike in the Southeast, where we used to get 5 days warnings for Hurricanes, etc; here in the West Coast we get nothing in advance of earthquakes. But the apartment is too small for stocking up. Cans of V8 (from my daughters lunches), bbq with propane, flashlights, and wood will have to do.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm

That’s the problem with living in small spaces. Boiling water on the propane BBQ is going to suck…

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Rich Uncle EL March 15, 2013 at 8:12 am

I live in a building as well, and most recently after Hurricane Sandy we lost power for three days. It helps to be prepared with the essentials.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Did you run into any unique problems? Water?

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Alexa @ travelmiamor March 15, 2013 at 8:52 am

We live in Houston, TX and are prone to hurricanes. We have a generator (and the gas to run it), propane, always have about 6 gallons of water on hand, we buy bulk items of things such as peanut butter and instant potatoes. We also have an A/C window unit that can run off the generator so we can keep at least one room cool. We also keep a very large first aid kit and a “go-bag”…

But if a hurricane were to take out the city for longer than a day or two we would head out to family in San Antonio or Arkansas.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Heading out to families is probably the go to plan for a lot of people. It’s the easiest thing to do in a prolonged disaster situation.

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Pretired Nick March 15, 2013 at 9:07 am

Hi Joe, just discovered your site recently. Very nice work.
We just purchased a Honda generator and left it in the box in the basement. It’s a pretty small one, we figure we just want to keep things refrigerated and certain devices charged up. Now we want to get some sort of solar-powered charger for phones and other electronics. We are not in the best shape from a food and and water perspective, though. And we have a new baby at home! Yikes!

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Welcome! It will be tough with a new born. You have to take so many things along if you have to leave town. Now that our kid is 2 years old, I’m not as worried. We can just go and find stuff at the grocery stores.

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Mike March 15, 2013 at 9:26 am

Don’t forget that you might also want to look at maybe some alternative energy sources (I am not saying to go completely green but maybe a basic solar panel or two or something) might help with some of the basics like keeping food cold or lighting. I guess that’s just me though. I probably struggle more in terms of planning than anything else.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Those solar light stick might be good. I’m already thinking about getting them just for a night light.

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John S @ Frugal Rules March 15, 2013 at 9:28 am

We’re not prepared really at all. Being in Nebraska we can tend to get tornadoes fairly regularly, but have not had one in our area for a while. We know that we should but just have never made it a priority.

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Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce March 15, 2013 at 9:33 am

Great points, and definitely something to consider. Thanks for this. Great post!

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Nick March 15, 2013 at 10:17 am

We are just starting to build up food storage and other emergency kit essentials. I think it is very important!

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Kurt @ Money Counselor March 15, 2013 at 11:48 am

We’re also in the risk area for The Big One from the Cascadia Subduction Zone. When we first relocated here, I got pretty worked up about the risk and did all the recommended preparations. I guess that’s made me feel a bit more relaxed, but the thing is, if we get a 9+, I’m not sure any preparation is going to matter a lot. Life’s going to be real ugly afterward, no way around it.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Truthfully, if we get a 9+, our building probably would be one of the first to collapse. We’ll head to the stairwell and hope for the best.

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Greg March 15, 2013 at 11:59 am

One of my friends got me watching the Doomsday Prepper episodes
during the past year. I watching using iTunes, but I think they’re
also available on Hulu and/or Netflix.
People doing some extreme stuff out there – underground bunkers,
million dollar underground condos, etc… Way beyond whatever I’d do –
but it’s a lifestyle for them.
It did get me thinking more about emergency preparedness, which I’ve
never done in the past.
The city I live in also helped give me a reminder a couple weeks ago
when I forgot pay my water bill, so they shut if off for a day.
No toilet flushing, no tap water, no shower, etc…
And I had let my 3 x 3 gallon water jugs go empty.
So me and my pooch drank from the datrex water pouches. Had a box of
64 count pouches. Those 4.2 oz pouches sure aren’t much, though.
I plan to get a decent, portable water filter and also get a rain
barrel going in the back yard.
I also started on a bag to keep in the truck with some basics that
I have never done before – glow sticks, flares, nylon paracord, a
dozen or two of the water packets, jumper cables, and will add to
that with additional things over time.
Started to get some food that is packed for long term storage –
freeze dried potatos, zuchini, and various others. I’m actually eating
those on an intermittant basis to see how they are first. If you’re
okay with veggies in frozen dinners (texture a little off) – then
they’re fine. I’ll buy more and keep for long term depending on which
ones are best after testing them.
I also just bought last week a 5 gallon bucket of black beans and
another of oatmeal. For me, those will just be things I get and forget,
but know they’re there if needed. Supposed to last if left sealed for
25 years. They’ll probably outlast me :-)
Where to put this stuff, I actually just started thinking about
that this week. My house is pretty tiny – 930sqft, but yard and garage
are good size. I was looking to make a bed frame and also a day bed
for a small room in the next year. And I realized those are prime
pieces for storage under them. As long as I make the base at least
16″ high, the compartment under them can be a good place for storing
these food containers and water jugs.
For power, I’d love to get solar going on the roof, but too many
financial needs before that will happen. Would also love to get a solar
generator, but still to pricey for me right now.
So for power, fire, etc… I’m on the cheap side right now.
Got one of these little butane lighters at Home Depot – about $8 for
the lighter and an additional 3 butane cartridges.
Nice little consistent flame.
http://www.homedepot.com/p/Bernzomatic-Flex-Stem-Plus-Lighter-with-Refill-328644/202292028
I left it out in the rain one night to see if it worked after getting
wet – yep still works. I also have 3 d.light solar lanterns. Can’t read
with their light, but come in handy during power outages. I just keep in
the window sill, and will probably get a few more.
And got a couple ‘100 hour emergency candles’ that can be re-filled,
but didn’t by the refiller bottle yet.
One of the areas I’m working on now is getting my workstation doing
backups to a remote backup service. So many disasters lately seem
to be more regional in nature. So I’m looking to get my system backed up
to somewhere outside my local area.
A guy at my work says he’s prepared by just having bullets. He can then
get whatever he needs. I told him I don’t have any emergency supplies yet :-).
I also just toss a couple extra cans of soup in the basket while shopping,
and then just put in a cabinet in the garage.
Not quite sure what to do about the money side of things if ATMs, gas
stations, etc… quit taking cards. But I figured there might be a time I
need cash, so I started sticking an extra $100 bill in my wallet
intermittantly. Makes it hard to spend them on impulse, but there if I
need them. I hear of people buying silver and gold coins these days
instead of keeping cash on hand. Probably makes sense, but it’s not something
I’m looking to do right now.
My friend that got me watching the Doomsday Preppers episodes… he bought a motorcycle as his way to get out of Dodge
quickly if needed, and he seems to focus a bit more on the medical
side of things for what he gets in case of emergency.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Wow, you did a lot of work already. Great job!
You probably should keep some small bills too. If the disaster isn’t too bad, it will be tough to get change for $100 bills.
A motorcycle sounds good for a single person. That’s not going to work for us though. I’ll have to check out the show.

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Caesar F March 15, 2013 at 12:44 pm

How big of a disaster are you talking about? Because that sounds like you’re preparing for the apocalypse of sorts.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:42 pm

A 9+ earthquake would a huge disaster. Other than that, I don’t think we have another type of big disaster locally.

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krantcents March 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I survived the Northridge earthquake and realize firsthand what can happen. You don’t have utilities or water for days. Drinking water is the biggest issue and food. an emergency plan for contacting people is important too. A battery powered radio is essential.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I went to Jr. High in Northridge! By the time the quake hit, I was at the university and our family relocated a bit further north. I’ll pick up a hand crank radio too. Forgot about that one.

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Pauline March 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I live by a lake so could drink the water from there, there is enough wood around to cook with fire, and I own over 50 heads of cattle that should last for a while. Hoping to grow the garden this year to have veggies as well. We stock gasoline because we just bought a boat, so would be able to evacuate if needed. I would be most worried about other people starving and killing my animals if things really went bad.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm

You live in a rural area so you’ll do a lot better than city folks like us. There are just too many people here and who knows how they’ll be have after a big disaster.

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jim March 15, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Coincidentally I just bought a 72 hour emergency food pack at Costco for $60. It is supposed to have a shelf life of 20 years.

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retirebyforty March 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm

That’s not bad. It’s gotta taste like crap though… 20 years… :)

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Felix Lee March 17, 2013 at 7:59 pm

I used to not care about being prepared with disasters until we were hit hard by a storm. It was really tragic and I promise to myself I won’t be complaisant again.

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Little House March 18, 2013 at 6:57 am

I live in CA and survived the Northridge earthquake. I’m not really prepared for another earthquake, but we do have camping gear. It’s water that would be an issue for us. We probably really need to get on this because if Oregon was hit with a 9.0 earthquake, I’m pretty sure CA would feel a little bit of the ripple effect. Or maybe not – the tectonic plates don’t always move in unison.

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retirebyforty March 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I think the San Andrea is a different plate. Hopefully they don’t all go at the same time. It would be quite horrible. Water is essential so you should stock up a little.

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Darwin's Money March 19, 2013 at 7:47 am

We’re not as prepared as we could be, but certainly more prepared than most. We saw this during each of the recent major storms. I’m astounded by the number of people that had their basements flooded now a few times and yet, still haven’t bought a generator or put in a backup sump pump. What are they waiting for?! As far as food/water, we could do a little better in the water department; thinking about buying some gallon jugs and just leaving them in the basement. But aside from that, we’re not looking to live the “prepper” lifestyle and take it too far.

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retirebyforty March 19, 2013 at 10:33 am

I read about your generator last time and it’s good to hear you were prepared. I don’t like the gallon jugs. The water taste bad only after a few months. I don’t want to cycle these things out.

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Trevor March 19, 2013 at 7:48 am

This is a good starting point, and I hope it gets people thinking about this seriously. People today seem to think that bad things can’t, or won’t happen. I try to get people I know on board for emergency kits. I would like to address some points that I would modify about your tips, and add some of my own if I may. I am not a great writer, so I am just going to make a list.

I see no benefit of water pouches over bottled water, it costs more, and can not be reused for other purposes as easily.

If space is a premium you may consider using your car as additional storage. While not practical for everything, some things are great to keep in the car, if for nothing else but life’s small emergencies

You can flush a toilet by filling the tank with water. I wouldn’t use drinking water, but if you fill up a 5 gallon bucket from a pond/fountain etc you can flush a toilet at least 5 times.

Those datrex bars are a bad idea for food storage. You don’t want to try new foods when you have enough other things to worry about. Being constipated, or having diarrhea on top of having an earthquake would suck. Cans are best if you plan to stay put.

Small bills are good, keep it in a small binder along with important docs, such as Pictures of family members, ss numbers, birth certificates, phone numbers, medical issues/allergies etc. It’s free, and could really help if you are hurt or separated from loved ones.

You should be able to use all the stuff in your kit BEFORE you are in a stressful situation. The aftermath of a disaster is no time to learn how your stove works.

I could go on for hours, but you get the point. Just try to do one small thing a day, and you will be well on your way. At the grocery store? Buy an extra few cans, or bottled water. Throw that extra $5 bill into your binder. It just like getting rich, start now.

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retirebyforty March 19, 2013 at 10:35 am

Good tips. That’s why I’m only getting 2 boxes of water pouches. It’s just for drinking. We have can food the pantry already so we should be ok there.

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Greg March 20, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I’m interested in hearing more input on this topic…
Mainly because I’m such a procrastinator, and trying to do better when it comes to preparing for local disasters, whether they be earthquakes or fires (my area). I’m guessing the people watching this are very cost-conscious? So I’m curious how you balance convenience, cost, and preparing for emergencies?
I bought a 5 gallon bucket each of oats, black beans, and rice recently.
Maybe $150.
Supposed to last unsealed for 20+ years.
I really don’t plan to ever use any of them.
And I’m a techie, not an insurance salesman…
But it feels a bit like buying insurance.
$150 one time purchase for some peace of mind that in an emergency I will have some basics needed.

I’m sure I could’ve gotten those three buckets cheaper if I were an extreme prepper and doing it myself – but that’s not me.

Do you see $150 of 20 year beans/rice/oatmeal that will likely just sit in a cold cool location as a waste of $150?

We made it past the Mayan calendar :-), so I’m not preparing for the end of the world anymore :-)

But I am curious on what people think is reasonable for this kind of thing, as well as what they think is beyond reasonable.

These days, if you had an extra $150, would you put it into a tech startup company stock, or into 3 x 5 gallon buckets of beens, rice and oatmeal?

Greg

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retirebyforty March 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm

The 3×5 buckets of dry food is a great idea. That’s what I would do if we have a garage.
Do you have a camp stove to cook these things?

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Greg March 22, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I don’t have a camp stove yet – it’s on the prepare-for list, but I haven’t gotten to that point, yet. I’m looking to balance my paranoia with living a normal life, so I got rid of the Jacuzzi 2 weeks ago, and I’m turning that into a BBQ area, and I’m thinking that’s a good place to have a dual fuel cooker – natural gas and propane.
That obviously won’t help if the place is burned down, and I need to leave.
The two most likely problems here are earthquakes and fire.
But I’m finding I need to balance that with making my place a place that I’m comfortable inviting friends over. So I think a dual fuel BBQ is first for me.
That should still work after the big one earthquake.
So many things to consider, and not just essentials, but digital stuff too – my mom has invested much time/effort into genealogy info, but I think I’m probably rambling now and off on tangents…

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retirebyforty March 24, 2013 at 10:59 am

A grill is good for cooking food, but how long will the fuel last? A camp stove with butane canister can boil water pretty easily and should last a while.

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Cherie March 25, 2013 at 11:10 am

I would like to suggest a rocket stove ( cooks with very little charcoal or wood) and a Berkey water filter. With those two things you would at least have access to hot food and gallons upon gallons of clean water. I read the book “One Second After” recently and it really got me thinking. I know I’m not going to be able to defend my family if someone comes to our home with an arsenal BUT I know I can feed them for at least a month and hope the worst will be over in that amount of time. It’s near to impossible to plan for every possible scenario but I feel it’s my duty to give my kids a fighting chance.

Greg April 11, 2013 at 12:32 am

I came across this lady’s web site on ‘preparing for emergency’ today, and she’s got some good info there I think.

http://www.backdoorsurvival.com/important-skills-for-preppers/

She’s probably more extreme than most, including me, will commit to.
But I like her style of posts – bulleted lists of things to do – easy to skim/scan.
And many links to more resources if you want.

Most sites that I come across seem focused on doom and gloom prep work for major chaos. I like her gentler, and more strategic, approach in how to prepare for problems in a long-term way and with a bit more effort in planning towards that as well.

I was never one to really pay attention to personal blogs until I came across the RB40 blog for HARP 2.0. But it kind of stuck with me.
I now have a second one I think – http://www.backdoorsurvival.com.
I get no commission, affiliation pay, etc…
I just came across it today, or yesterday if you like to be technical after midnight.
I think I can learn some good stuff from her site.
So just wanted to share it on the emergency preparedness post.

Greg

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Sam June 7, 2013 at 11:05 am

Do you have a water heater in your apt? Ours is 50 gallons so I don’t worry about extra storage.

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retirebyforty June 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm

We do have a water heater, but I’m planning to upgrade to a tankless. I won’t worry about water for now.

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[email protected] June 8, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I don’t know how the whole water delivery system works…
But in a natural disaster, or man-made for that matter, situation, if the water supply was contaminated, would that affect the water in the water heater, too?
Might have to ‘cut the cord’ between the water meter by the street and the house?
I only bring this up because I had a leak in the line about 2 or 3 weeks ago.
Had to do some digging, more than I like doing :-), to find the leak.
Once I found it, I figured leaving the valve turned off at the meter by the street would make the area dry in a day once the water soaked into the ground around the leak.
Something was still trickling water into that trench where the leak was.
Not sure if it was the house side, or the meter side.
So I’m not sure if it was backflowing from the water heater side, or getting through the water meter at the street, even though closed as much as I could close it.
I guess the take-home aspect for this post… if you’re depending on the water heater for water – maybe cap it off in some way (after a disaster, not now :-) so that you don’t lose it, and it doesn’t get contaminated.

This is actually a question, more than a statement, I think.
Does that make sense?
And I don’t mean to hijack RB40’s blog, but he’s got good, logical, reasonable minds listening in :-)

Greg

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retirebyforty March 25, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I’ll add a water filter to our list. That’s a good idea.

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