Evaluating your home preparedness in the event of a disaster

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FEATURE — It may seem like a long time ago, but how prepared were you at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic? Did you have enough toilet paper or did you use those spare socks instead? Did you wish you were more prepared, and if so, what have you done about it?

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Why should I be prepared now?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” We cannot always rely on the government or even our community to meet our personal needs. Government services quickly become overwhelmed with responding to large disasters and emergencies.

Led by emotions and social influences, panic buying is often a result of fear caused by a lack of preparedness. We witnessed that as the pandemic approached, when thousands of people rushed out to buy toilet paper, bottled water, cleaning supplies and baking products. But it wasn’t just that. Large quantities of daily necessities and medications became limited or unavailable. This meant that vulnerable individuals were prevented from accessing what they needed. 

The disruption of national supply chains exacerbated stockout situations and resulted in an increased shortage of consumer products. Sooner or later, shortages and panic buying could happen again.

What is home preparedness?

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72 or 96-hour kits have been a common recommendation when it comes to home preparedness. However, in a pandemic where a two-week quarantine after being exposed is not uncommon, a 96-hour kit will only last four days. The current recommendation is a minimum two-week supply of necessities. 

This is a shelter-in-place situation versus an evacuation scenario, so your items don’t have to be in a portable bag or even all in one place. You just need to know where they are.

With a quick Google search, you can find lists specific to your needs of recommended items to have on hand. Besides the basic necessities of food, water and shelter (and chocolate, for some of us), a few other things to consider would be:

  • Pet supplies.
  • Toilet paper – to last two weeks, not two years!
  • Feminine hygiene products.
  • Baby needs (diapers, wipes, formula). 
  • Extra medications.
  • Games or other activities to fill the time.

This is obviously not a complete list. The following websites have additional emergency preparedness checklists and ideas: Be Ready Utah, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Ready.gov

The best thing about home preparedness is that you get to decide what you need and how prepared you want to be, whether it’s for two weeks or two months, or longer!

Preparedness isn’t always physical

There are two other areas of preparedness that are important: financial and emotional. Looking at the first three financial “baby steps“ from money guru Dave Ramsey is a good place to start:

  • Save $1,000 for a starter emergency fund.
  • Pay off all debt (except the house).
  • Save three to six months of living expenses.

Can you imagine the blessing of having six months of finances saved? Millions of Americans have lost their jobs during this COVID-19 pandemic. Those who were prepared were able to take a vacation, collect unemployment as a bonus and still have money to live off of!

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When it comes to emotional preparedness, it is important to learn and start practicing good mental health. You’ll be able to use those developed skills to help you cope better during disasters. Some basic steps include:

  • Practicing stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation and walking.
  • Developing an attitude of gratitude by sharing a positive thought or something you’re grateful for each day.
  • Stopping unhealthy coping behaviors such as smoking, drinking, binge eating, etc.
  • Making time for yourself to enjoy the things you like to do.

COVID-19 won’t be the only disaster

It’s no mystery that much of the world is in chaos. We’ve seen an increase of earthquakes, tsunamis, wars and civil unrest around the globe. COVID-19 is not the only disaster that has occurred this year. 

We are not immune from other disasters just because we are currently in the middle of one. Maybe it won’t be a 5.7 magnitude earthquake like Salt Lake City experienced in March, but what if you lose your job, have major flooding in your home or experience a zombie invasion? (Just joking on that one.) 

Whatever the case, we can use this pandemic to evaluate our personal preparedness and take the necessary steps to be more resilient for when the next disaster strikes.

Written by EMILY DAVIS, Southwest Utah Public Health Department Healthcare Preparedness Program Coordinator.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of HEALTH Magazine.

Copyright © Southwest Utah Public Health Foundation, all rights reserved.

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