Moving to a new area can be frightening, especially with all the recent reports of disasters that have flooded the media. For people living in Idaho, emergency preparedness is not a foreign idea and even in this tranquil part of the world, you need to be prepared.
NOTE: The following article is not meant to replace thorough and more in-depth emergency preparedness training. In no way do we guarantee that, by following these steps, you will not be harmed in the event of a disaster, but that you will have better luck when they occur.
Our world is constantly in motion, there are riots, epidemics, and earthquakes that shake our world almost every day—much of the time without warning. News reports may cause one to wonder things like ‘Could something like that happen to me?’ or ‘Should I prepare for such a disaster?’. These are perfectly proper questions, especially when moving to a new area. Boise, Idaho is a relatively safe city, compared to other metropolitan areas in this country. In Boise, you don’t have to worry about tsunamis or hurricanes, and seismic activity is pretty low, but it is important to prepare while it’s sunny outside. It is like the old store of the grasshopper and the ant, the ant worked hard all summer to have food to eat and the grasshopper did not. When winter came, the ant was happy, safe, and not hungry, but the grasshopper was not. If the ant had not gathered his food while the days were good, he would not have had sufficient supplies to last the winter, and so it is with us. If we want to survive the possible calamities, we need to prepare while the sun is still shining.
First, let’s talk about the basics. There are a few general things that you will want to have in case of an emergency.
It is recommended that you first have a sufficient amount of money saved for an emergency. There are hundreds of differing opinions about how much money you should have saved up, but for simplicity purposes, we will use the amount that Dave Ramsey suggests for an emergency fund. Dave Ramsey, a financial expert, suggests that everyone should have at least 3 – 6 months’ worth of salary saved up for a rainy day. Some of this can be saved in the bank and some of it can be saved in the house. It is not recommended that you keep too much money in your home, but enough to get you buy until you can get to a bank. It would be wise to hide this money around your home in different locations so that if someone breaks in and finds it, they will be less likely to get it all.
How do I Start an Emergency Fund?
Emergency funds can be started by just setting aside a little bit of money each week or month (depending on how you get paid). At first, it won’t look like much, but it will surprise you how fast it will accumulate. One way that some people supplement their emergency fund is by putting their spare change into a jar. This can be a great start, but not many of us use cash anymore; however, there are some banks that have found a solution to that. Idaho Central Credit Union, a credit union you will become very familiar with when you move to Idaho, has a program called the Central Cents Account. What it does is that if you buy $15.60 worth of anything, the bank will charge your card $0.40 and put it into a separate account, just like if you paid in cash.
Food storage is a complicated topic, one that has been highly debated and analyzed over the years. If you want more information about it, there are more in-depth guides online. The simple version goes like so: it is recommended that you keep at least a three month supply of food in your home at all times. This should be food that you eat on a regular basis. So, for example, if you eat a bowl of cereal every morning, a tuna fish sandwich for lunch, and fettuccine alfredo for dinner, then you will want to have enough cereal, tuna, bread, and pasta to last you three months without going to the grocery store. It is recommended that you use what is called the FIFO technique with any kind of food storage. FIFO stands for first in, first out, it is the act of taking new items and putting them on the shelf behind old items. This means that your 3 month supply will not just sit there and rot, but rather you will rotate your food so that your food remains fresh.
Once you have your three-month supply down, experts recommend that you store at the very least a years’ supply of staple foods like sugar, beans, rice, and flour. This is so that if you have prolonged financial hardship, you can still make basic meals or supplement the meals you do have. (It is recommended that you use the FIFO technique with your years’ supply of food as well.)
How Do I Start My Food Storage Supply?
Just like with the emergency fund, it is suggested that you buy a little bit of extra food each time you hit the store until the supply is built up. For example, instead of buying one months’ worth of cereal boxes, buy twice as much until you have all the cereal you would need for 3 months.
Bug Out Bags (72 Hour Kit)
The bug out bag, or 72-hour kit, is a backpack, duffle, or bucket that has everything you would need to survive if you were lost in the woods for three whole days. It should have supplies for a shelter, food and water for three days, clothes for all kinds of weather, a first aid kit, a radio, and general survival tools. The reason it is called a bug out bag is because it is supposed to be portable enough that you could grab it and leave at a moment’s notice in the case of an emergency, if necessary. The term bug out originated with the military as a phrase to mean get out as fast as possible and is a phrase commonly used among preppers and emergency preparedness professionals.
For your shelter, you can pack a backpacking tent, a tarp to make a small shelter, and/ or an extremely durable sleeping bag (not recommended unless you don’t have access to a tent or tarp). This is critical because if you have no way to shield yourself from the elements, you could run the risk of illness or death.
Food and water are the next most important thing to have in your bag, for obvious reasons. You have many options for food to put into your kits. Most camping stores and department stores will carry dehydrated food for backpacking, which will be the lightest and most space efficient foods to take. They are designed to give you a lot of energy in a short period of time so you won’t need to take a lot. If you have access to military MREs (meals ready to eat) those are also good for your bag.
As far as clothes go, be sure to have clothes that will keep you safe in all different kinds of weather. In your bag, you will want to have pants, long sleeve and short sleeve shirts, socks, sturdy footwear, a jacket or two, gloves and, if you have the room, a coat. Considering the fact that disasters can strike at any time, it is best to be prepared in case a disaster occurs during the winter.
First aid kits can be found in all shapes, sizes, and capacities, and which one is best for your bag is completely dependent upon you and your needs. A basic first aid kit will have band aids, bandages, antiseptic ointment, tweezers, alcohol wipes, basic medications like personal medications, pain killers, cold meds, etc., and a snake bite kit. You can find already made first aid kits at most sporting goods stores. However, if you want a heavy duty first aid kit, you can go to an EMT supply store or the Boise Army and Navy store.
A radio is an important part of the bug out bag because it allows you to receive communication from the authorities about a disaster. Usually, the government will use the radio to send out news for anyone that is still stuck or stranded about where refugee centers are being set up or how much longer they should stay put, etc. (Be sure that it is a crank operated radio, or that you have extra batteries for it—just in case. However, don’t store the batteries in the radio, the will last longer that way).
When it comes to your general survival tools, your basics are a knife of some kind, flint and steel, matches, a compass, maps of the area, some kind of water filtrations system (LifeStraws are inexpensive and easy to use), emergency blankets (The metallic ones that look like tin foil), 50 feet or more of rope (a popular cord to use is parachute cord for their lightweight and space efficient qualities; they can be found at most army surplus stores and craft stores for about 75 cents a foot), flashlights, extra batteries, medicines, quick food like granola bars, and duct tape. Most of these supplies can be found at sporting goods stores and army surplus stores.
The Kinds of Disasters and Emergencies
Before we get into ways to prepared for an emergency, it is important to understand what kind of disasters can happen, and how they can affect you. There are four different kinds of disasters: Natural Disasters (earthquakes, storms, etc.), Medical Disasters (epidemics), Social Disasters (war, riots, etc.), and Financial Emergencies (loss of a job, car breaking down, etc.).
Natural disasters can be devastating. They can cripple communities and cause untold pain and misery. The thing that makes them the most deadly is their unpredictability. If you are to properly prepare for a natural disaster, please do more research. www.ready.gov/natural-disasters is a great resource for those wanting to learn more. However, here are a few basic tips that can get you on the right track.
It is important that you have some sort of plan in place if there is a natural disaster. The only problem that presents itself in this case is the fact that each natural disaster is different. An earthquake will pose different problems than a flood will and preparation for a tornado is completely different than preparation for a house fire. So, it is vital that you have a plan in place for the most common disasters for you area. In Boise, they are fires, flooding, severe storms, earthquakes, and tornados (not super likely, however).
Many times, knowledge of proper procedure is all that is needed during the time of a disaster. However, having practiced that procedure can be a priceless asset to you. If you only know in theory what to do in the case of an emergency, you will have less of a chance of coming out on top.
A house fire can be the fault of several different things. For instance, they can start because of faulty wiring, a kitchen mishap, or a lightning strike. They can be devastating even if they are controlled as soon as possible. An example plan for a house fire would be to get yourself and everyone else in your home out; and if it doesn’t risk your life or another’s, grab your bug out bags. (It is common knowledge that you should not go back into your house during a fire, or try and take anything with you because it will cost you precious time. So, it is recommended that you keep your bug out bags by the exits of your home, or by your bed, that way you can grab them and go.) It is also advised to have an assigned rendezvous spot for those living in your home so you can all find each other easily in case of a fire. (It is best to make your rendezvous spot close to your home so the fire department can assist you while the put out the flames). Also, be sure to call 911 as soon as you can so your home can be salvaged and to prevent the fire from spreading to other homes.
Practicing what to do in a house fire is not a new idea. Anyone who went to public school most likely had to participate in fire drills multiple times a year. Practice your fire escape plan once you have it in place. Just make sure that your neighbors are ok with you using their lawn as a rendezvous point before you do.
In Boise, there is the possibility of a severe storm; they are not likely, but there is still possible. For the most part, during a severe storm, you will want to stay in your home and not leave, unless you need to until the storm is over. The only problem with this plan, however, is that if you don’t have any food storage, you may be in predicament. Also, during a storm, it is imperative that you keep a radio or TV on so that you can hear updates as they happen. If the storm is going to get worse, or changes course, you will want to be able to act immediately.
In the case of a flood, you will probably want to have a similar plan as with a house fire—especially if there is a flash flood. When there is a flood you will want to grab your bug out bag or 72-hour kit and get to high ground as soon as possible. If you have time before the flood gets to your home, it would be a good idea to put as much of your stuff up high so the water cannot get to it. In the case of furniture, it would be advisable to put them on cinderblocks so the water can pass them by. When you plan for a flood, however, it is important to get in contact with someone, a family member or friend, who is out of the path of the flood, and ask them if you can go to their place for a while.
Medical emergencies and disasters are scary. We are most likely never going to experience a zombie virus outbreak, but the threat of contagions like Ebola and swine flu are ever present (as everyone experienced back in 2010 and 2014). There are several things that you can do to prepare yourself for a potential outbreak and they are to first, stock up on food and water so you will have a clean source to drink; second, get any vaccinations that you think are necessary; and third, have masks and gloves to wear when you have to go outside—if it comes to that.
In the last year, two large riots have erupted in the United States. The likelihood of one happening in Boise is very slim. However, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. The first part of preparing for an episode of civil unrest is to have your food storage, emergency cash, and bug out bag or 72-hour kit ready. For the most part, it is advised to stay inside during a time of unrest seeing as the streets are the most dangerous place to be. Do whatever you have to do to stay inside. If you need to leave, do it quickly and in parts of town that are not affected by the unrest.
If you find that staying inside is not an option for you, you may want to consider having a secondary or tertiary location that you can flee to. This can be a relative’s home in a different city, a cabin, or just another city in general. If you do leave, bring your 72-hour kit or bug out bag with you so you will have all the supplies you will need.
There are many things that could induce a financial disaster in a person’s life. For instance, unemployment, unexpected sicknesses or surgeries, and inflation, to name three. To prepare for these types of disasters, all you need to do is to follow the steps explained earlier—the basics: build a financial reserve and build up your food and waters storage. With a three to six months’ supply of money and food, any financial disaster can be endured. (The goal of preparing for a financial disaster is to prepare yourself so you don’t need to rely on your credit cards and possibly get yourself into debt.)
Now, it is important to know that these are not, by any means the only tips that you can follow. Continue to do your due diligence and research and prepare. Boise is a safe place, but it is always advised to have some sort of preparations in place.