If a major natural disaster strikes your community, local infrastructure could be out of commission for a while. Without electricity, running water or natural gas, you may find yourself living out of your disaster kit and essentially camping in your own home. Many of the outdoorsy skills you learned on camping and hiking trips will be essential to your family’s safety and comfort.
Most disaster kits include a few days’ supply of nonperishable food. If you have a charcoal or propane grill, you can easily turn survival into a backyard cookout. Camp stoves make a great alternative in case your grill fails to weather the storm. You can pick up a simple, single-burner propane camp stove for about $20 or, if you are really serious about outdoor cooking, you can get a full-fledged outdoor oven and stovetop for around $350, and there are a range of options in between. Most modern camp stoves run on propane, so make sure your disaster kit includes enough fuel for a few days. If than runs out, you may need to fall back on another outdoorsy skill: starting a fire.
You should have plenty of clean, bottled water on hand for a few days. If your supplies run out, though, you will need to purify your family’s drinking water just as you might on a hiking trip. Heat your water to a full, rolling boil for at least a minute to kill most micro-organisms. Make sure that the containers you use for boiling and storage are clean, and always make sure that your hands are clean when you handle your water containers. To supplement the boiling and help protect your clean water against contamination, you might want to add some water purification chemicals to your disaster kit. Most of the options these days are chlorine-based, and you can find fairly inexpensive tablets or drops.
Public health becomes a major concern for many communities in the aftermath of a disaster, because germs can spread easily when no one can take a shower or flush a toilet. Your challenge is to stay clean and healthy without pouring too much of your potable water supply down the drain. Flushable camp toilets sound like a cushy option, but they require water — potentially more than you will be able to spare. For a more expedient option, just dig a hole about six inches deep in your backyard, as far as possible from your home and water lines. Cover the bottom of the hole with dirt or sawdust after every use. After that, you will need to wash up; make sure that your disaster kit contains plenty of sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer. These options are not as comforting as a hot shower, but they will be better than nothing.
Hopefully, your family comes through the disaster unscathed, but you should be prepared. Even once the dust settles, anything can happen, and your community’s emergency resources will probably have their hands full. Whether your family faces injuries like cuts and sprained ankles, or illnesses like fever or nausea, you may need to know how to handle the situation yourself for a little while. Make sure your disaster kit contains plenty of first aid supplies and that everyone in your family knows how to use them in an emergency. Sign up for a first aid and CPR course through the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.
If you were a Boy Scout, you learned to be prepared. You probably also know that being self-sufficient is the first step toward making sure you are in a position to help others. When disaster strikes your community, take care of yourself and your family, and then find ways to lend a hand to your neighbors.