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August 28, 2011
I came across a blog post (on Miss Minimalist, actually, kind of weighing the cons of keeping stuff "just in case" versus being prepared for an emergency), and I decided I'd like to have some level of emergency kit, especially for cat-related items. I'm in Portland, OR, so there aren't many natural disasters here – far enough inland to not have earthquakes, although they're possible, no hurricanes or tornados, if we have wind storms, power can easily be knocked out due to so many trees around to hit power lines, but I've never had it out for more than 12 hours or so (although I've heard about the occasional 2 – 3 day outage in the area). 2 1/2 years ago we had a massive snow storm (3 feet – that's unheard of here!), and if it'd been any worse I would have been even more uncomfortable driving in it than I was.
So, how to store nonperishable food and water for at least 6 months? My plan is to update the kit at each daylight savings time spring forward/fall back, so (1) the food needs to last 6 months, and (2) it should ideally be something that I would normally eat anyways, so if it's about to expire at DLS time, I can replace it and use about-to-expire food.
Cat food: Dry food comes in a plastic-lined paper bag, but I do always keep some on hand for when I'm traveling (larger quantities sitting out for backup in case cat-sitter can't come over), so it is plastic I'd use every once in a while anyways. She doesn't often get wet food, but I'd be ok with the occasional metal can. The staple of her diet is actually the most plastic-ridden – frozen raw food – but reusable, easily-recyclable is the lesser of the evils. But harder to store large quantities, and definitely not an option in case of evacuation for some reason.
Water: I'm going to save gallon-size vinegar bottles (which I use for cleaning) so it's not new plastic, and I'm assuming there's something you can mix with water to keep it for going stagnant? At least I think I've heard something like that. Or how easy is it to find metal 1 – 2 gallon storage containers that are water-tight?
People food: The most preservable and lightweight I can think of is Luna bars. But plenty of plastic there. Maybe dried fruit? But I don't want glass jars in a bag I might have to grab and run with or whatever. What else seals tight enough to preserve for longer periods of time?
When planning for emergencies, I find it helpful to think of them in two categories: evacuation and hunkering down at home. If a snowstorm blocks the roads and leaves you stranded without power, food in glass jars can be a lifesaver.
If you're evacuating, where would you go and how long would it take you to get there? Can you live off dried fruit and protein bars for that long? I'd look into airtight stainless steel containers for storage.
There are so many different types of emergencies. We just had a major blackout for about 12 hours and it was soooo HOT! We spent most of the time outside and ate leftovers from the fridge heated up on our gas range (just had to light it manually). We had camping gear easily accessible and life was good!
We've had to evacuate due to wild fires -- twice. We already knew the only important items to us. One parent grabbed the laundry basket and tossed the important items in while the other parent rounded up the child and cat. Meet at the car in five minutes and go. The faster one is ready to leave, the less likely one is to get caught in traffic.
[Side note: Yesterday, I was with our child and my husband was at work. As soon as he heard our area was without power in addition to his area 22 miles away (5 min after power went out), he left work. He was home in 30 minutes, which is five minutes faster than usual. One neighbor had to walk 3 miles home due to gridlock. Another neighbor was stuck in traffic for two hours to go two miles (to the freeway) and then came 8 miles home.]
In all cases, knowing people was the key. Strengthening social ties is very, very helpful in all emergencies. Checking in with neighbors. Having friends in various areas. Leaving a key with trusted people, especially someone who knows you/your family/your pets well.
Fill the bathtub with water as soon as you hear anything. We are still in a "boil water" zone.
To each their own, but we live in a small home and storing food for the sole purpose on an emergency doesn't make our priority list. By the same token, we don't let our food supply dwindle to nothing before buying groceries. Our cat eats a raw food diet and she is good for food for quite awhile.
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