Last week I found myself trying to decide between finishing unpacking the house and wishing the hurricane would just blow the rest of the unpacked boxes away! As if PCSing to a new area isn't enough of a challenge, our family is living a somewhat modified geo-bachelor type lifestyle, which could be an entirely different post!
As Fay moved closer and closer to the state of Florida, it was beginning to look pretty serious for the airstation my husband is attached to. He remained at the station, while the hurricane preparations for the rest of the family and our home became my responsibility. With multiple different catastrophes popping up in our life these past couple of months, I don't even have half of our kitchen unpacked, let alone an emergency kit pulled together. I was able to scroll back to Amber's post she previously made (and thanks for putting it back up there, again!) and pull together a small emergency kit.
As I went down the list of suggested items, it occurred to me that with my three kids (boy 6, girl 4, boy 2 1/2), some of those items just weren't going to work out for me. So I give you my version of our survival kit:
*Flashlights - everyone's going to want their own, so thank goodness for the cute bug lanterns that were on-sale in the camping section of Target. My 6 year old loved wearing an old head lamp out of Dh's toolkit. Along with the headlamps and bug shaped lanterns, we also have dinosaur, pig and cow flashlights that roar, oink and moo when squeezed to light up - this made the darkness fun for the smallest member of our crew.
*Water - we try to be eco-friendly, and instead of purchasing individual bottles of water, we purchased big gallons of water and some extra refillable sports bottles to keep topped of for the kids. No power means no air conditioning which means hot, tired, thirsty kids.
*Food - let's face it, my kids aren't going to eat tuna, uncooked beans, and crunchy granola bars. This isn't the time to buy what's on sale, this is the time to buy what you know they will eat. We had 2 days warning that the storm was coming. I had time to bake up some muffins, pre-wash some fruits and veggies and pack some picnic style sandwiches (no mayo - think camping food). We were prepared for the worst, but had good wholesome foods that fit nicely in a cooler. In the event that we don't have warning - our grab and go emergency kit has snack packs of mandarin oranges, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of nutella, crackers for the pb/nutella, raisins, cashews and a few other shelf stable foods. It's good to have food, just make sure it's food your kids will eat, or you will have fussy kids on top of an already stressful situation.
*Hygiene - water might be on a boil-alert so be certain to keep an extra bottle of water in the bathroom for teeth-brushing. We use baby-wipes for "spit bathes". Also keep a bottle of purell handy for clean hands. For the few hours that things were sketchy for us, I had all the kids wearing their sneakers, knowing that if we had to get up and go somewhere I wanted to be ready, but also wanted their feet safe from debris.
*Safety/Calmness - those go hand in hand. When Mom has to be in charge she better have her stuff together. If that means throwing a bottle or two of Starbucks into the emergency kit for the extra caffeine boost, then go for it! Safety first is our family motto. To stay safe, the person in charge of the situation has to stay calm. For me, what keeps me calm is to visualize what could go wrong and think the situation through. What would I do if X,Y or Z happened? The county next to ours had tornadoes popping up all over the place. I walked around our not-yet-unpacked house to evaluate where the safest area of our home was. I settled on a hallway that was secured from outside walls. We have some mattresses that are not being used, so as the tornado warnings got closer, I dragged the mattresses into the hallway letting the kids know that we might make a fort later. I also visualized and planned out how we would sit if a tornado was coming this way - is it possible for me to hold and console all three of my children at once?
Being prepared is scary real stuff. As we sat without power for a little over a day (half of which it was just the kids and myself until my husband foolishly drove in the storm to come home to us), one thing that really helped me tremendously was to go to Google Maps and print out a county map of my state. This helped me to locate myself when the radio personnel were talking about locations of the storm and tornadoes.
Above all, don't forget the fun stuff. Toss in a deck of cards, or a couple of puzzles, or a new stuffed animal (because chances are in a hurry I won't have time to grab everyone's favorite snuggle item). Keep the emergency kit near where you will be seeking shelter (we store ours in a closet, but I pulled it out into the safe hallway for the duration of the storm).
Overall, we were lucky. We lost half of a tree in our yard, but other than that sustained no damage to our property. We count our blessings that we made it through okay. At least this next time, we are prepared with an emergency kit that meets our specific family's needs. As I continue to see items popping up on sale in the camping goods section, I've been picking up more and more "comfort" items. It's not necessary to have a battery operated personal fan in our emergency kit, but boy it sure would be nice. It gets pretty darn humid once the storm finally passes.
Stay safe, stay calm and be ready!!