What did our 48-hour rehearsal teach us about how to prepare for a real emergency, especially an extended one?
Lesson #1: Water!
Even with a fairly thin pantry, we weren’t going to starve. Not in a couple of days. But there’s no question that having enough drinking water was going to be the major problem. If we follow advice from the experts, we should have one gallon of drinking water per person per day stockpiled for an emergency. So, there are two of us. To prepare for just a week without power, that’s 14 gallons of drinking water. If we were the standard “family of four,” we’d need to double that to 28 gallons! You can buy large jugs of water at the grocery store or fill your own. All that water needs to be properly stored (dark, cool) and rotated (at least every six months) to keep your supply fresh.
Second, water for cooking and hygiene. Experts suggest another five gallons of water per person per week for cooking, cleaning up and personal hygiene. That’s another 10 gallons for the two of us, bringing our total for just a one-week outage to 24 gallons of water — 48 gallons for a family of four! And I’ll add that if you’re using water for your toilet tanks, you might need even more. As we ran out of fresh water, I started to eye the hot water tank as a water source. If you happen to have rain barrels or a swimming pool, that would be a great source for toilet flushing water. We have neither.
Lesson #2: An Alternate Stove?
If we had a couple of big bags of charcoal (or propane tanks) in reserve or a camp stove/hot plate with plenty of extra fuel, we certainly would have eaten better. Much better. We had boxes of pasta, bottles of tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic and plenty of spices; we could have had a wonderful dinner. And other meals, too. Plus, we could have heated up our ready-to-eat (RTE) meals. Had a hot cup of coffee. Now that’s living!
Lesson #3: More Ready-to-Eat Meals!
We would have loved to have a week’s worth of ready-to-eat meals in vacuum pouches, cups or bowls. But RTE meals are fairly expensive. If you’re going to stockpile these, you might want to do so when they’re on-sale at the grocery store.
Lesson #4: A Deep Pantry
Especially if you don’t have an alternative stove or plenty of RTEs, a deep and broad pantry will be at the heart of your emergency planning. It might be useful to think in terms of food groups.
Where’s Your Protein? Think: canned chicken, fish and beans, energy bars, peanut butter, bags of nutritious nuts.
Dairy and Beverages? Think: powered or boxed milk, or milk substitutes. Plus, instant breakfast shakes, boxed juices.
Vegetables and Fruits? Think: canned corn, carrots, peas and tomatoes. Canned peaches, pears, pineapple or ready-to-eat fruit cups. Applesauce!
Boxed and Packaged Foods? Think: boxes or packages of pasta, rice, cereals. And bread substitutes like shelf-stable tortillas and taco shells.
Treats? Think: boxed dried fruits like raisins, prunes and puddings, chocolate bars, jams and jellies, honey, sugar. And, O.K., chips and pretzels for snacks.
Don’t Forget? Coffee and tea. Condiments like bottled salsa, ketchup and mustard, and a shaker of Parmesan cheese. Olive oil, salt and pepper, spices and seasonings.
Your preparations will need modification if you’re planning meals for an infant or anyone with special dietary concerns or food allergies.
Lesson #5: Disposable Dinnerware — and Personal Hygiene Products
Having paper plates, cups and plastic utensils would have been extremely helpful. Plus, consider about how you’re going to clean up and maintain a high level of hygiene. Do you have enough napkins, paper towels and cleaning supplies? Garbage bags? Extra toilet paper? And a generous supply of hand-cleaning products, too.
Although this experience has been challenging at times, it has taught me two important lessons: 1) a manual can opener is a great invention; and 2) we all should seriously consider a backup generator for our homes! After all, with a backup generator, we’d have had no story to tell because our life and our meals would be no different than any other day.
Our friends at FLASHand the Great Hurricane Blowout encourage you to dine in the dark like I did. To reward you for being prepared for a severe weather emergency, you can enter to win a trip to Kohler, Wisconsin for a luxurious stay at The American Club Resort, a Forbes Five-Star Resort Hotel and the Midwest’s only AAA Five Diamond Resort Hotel. You’ll dine (in the light!) with one of our world-class chefs. Learn more.