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How much should people prepare for disasters on an individual level?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on November 7, 2005

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Photo of Taylor McDonald

“I don’t think we need to worry that much in Kansas. Besides tornados, there really isn’t much to prepare for.”

Photo of Sierra Slavin

“They should keep a flashlight with batteries, a first aid kit, some canned goods and maybe a plan to evacuate.”

Photo of Barbara Archinal

“I think they would need at least a battery-powered radio. It wouldn’t hurt to have some extra drinking water, but it depends what the disaster is.”

Photo of Ted Peterson

“Live somewhere with a basement. That’s the most important thing to do in Kansas. You should also make sure you have adequate disaster insurance.”

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thunderbuns 12 years, 7 months ago

None. I want FEMA to hold my hand thru every disaster and if they fail me I'll have another reason to blame Bush for everything that goes wrong. The batteries in my flashlite went dead. It must be Bush's fault. The tornado in Indiana? Bush's fault. Paris riots? Bush. Cornhuskers loss? Bush. My wife snores: Bush. Pansy OTS questions? Bush. The Big Bang? Bush.

heretoday 12 years, 7 months ago

lol em....ill lend u mine or we can loot the nearest walgreens when tragedy occurs.

heretoday 12 years, 7 months ago

TB ur a riot...yah people seem to blame the W for all sorts of reasons..... To the question..what I would do to prepair (much analogous questions on OTS...why do they keep asking this over and over and over?...) I would duct tape my windows, stalk up on canned spinach, water and the like, and tell myself over and over that i was not being an over-paranoid individual.

sweatpeagj 12 years, 7 months ago

after having gone through 4 hurricanes here in the keys I think I can honestly say there really isn't a good preparation for disasters. We did all the, by the book, preparations and it still was a complete shock to go through. Heck, we don't even have a place to loot to get things after the fact. Sad, isn't it? LOL

neopolss 12 years, 7 months ago

Each person should prepare a few statements for any post-disaster CNN interviews. People also needs to carefully weigh each situation so as to assure that the proper blame is passed around.

italianprincess 12 years, 7 months ago

Coming from Cali where the earth shakes, rattles and rolls you don't have any time to prepare so this question if asked there wouldn't do any good.

Since moving here and knowing I can prepare....... I have an emerg kit in the basement for my family. There is enough food to last at least five days along with all the things you should have. I even have my daycare parents each supply their child with an emerg kit.

I feel for those here in the midwest as that tornado struck them at 2 am and they had no idea it was coming. How scared they must have been to know they truely couldn't do anything because they had little time.

Its not even tornado season they say, but I guess Mother Nature can strike when she wants too. If I didn't have children to take care of I would go there and try to help out as much as I could.

trinity 12 years, 7 months ago

e_m, ya beat me to it; i'd have to say that a dictionary would be vital for some of these posters, god love 'em!

as for the event of an impending disaster i will be sitting on top of my cases of Spam and bottled water with my ought-six in my lap. oh and prepping for the inevitable interviews for CNN-have my Bud Lite, my Marlboro hanging out of my mouth, and practice saying "it sounded just like a train" while bouncing a grandbaby on my hip. ;-)

of course that is if there'd been sufficient warning of the disaster-in which case i'd be long gone from the area.

beatrice 12 years, 7 months ago

I already have secret tunnels dug to Mormon pantries around town. I'll have no problem living off their supplies for years.

And you are right thunderbuns: George walks on water! If he wants to put a bowl of green jell-o or a man who runs horse fairs in charge of FEMA, I don't see why that should be anyone else's concern.

juscin3 12 years, 7 months ago

Trinity, LOL as I was reading the part about the interview, I was actually picturing someone doing that! too funny. Happy Monday everyone! As for me, preparing, I leave that to the hubby! lol, wait, I better do it, he might forget something..

sweatpeagj 12 years, 7 months ago

trinity..very great interview style...cause you know the news are going to look for the redneck to give an interview...while living in Lawrence I never was prepared. When the tornado hit in Lawrence I was actually at Brandon Woods visiting my client so I spent the time trying to make sure the residents there were safe. Some natural disasters just aren't feasible to plan for. By the Way, duct tape will do no good to prevent glass from breaking. Just a thought..get something that would help.

badger 12 years, 7 months ago

I know where, in under a minute, I can get to my ID, Social Security card, money/credit cards/checkbook, cellphone, and keys. I have a pair of slip-on shoes and a warm, sturdy robe where they can be found in the dark in a hurry, as well as regular street clothes where I can identify them and grab them. There's a 3D MagLite within four feet of the bed, and the batteries get checked every couple of months. There's never less than 1/4 tank of gas in the car, which works out to at least 60 or 80 miles of driving at my usual 32 mpg.

Translation: in under three minutes, I can be reasonably dressed to leave my house and be running out of it, with shoes on and a change of clothes, and can get to a shelter or evacuation center if necessary, with my ID, the cellphone on which my friends' and family's numbers are stored, a reasonable amount of cash, and (unless the national economy has collapsed) access to the rest of my money as soon as the local power grid is back up. I've spent the last six years teaching the cat that if she comes to me when sirens or alarms go off, she gets a treat, so collecting the cat takes less than a minute (I've tested the theory under stressful conditions). Stopping for the laptop, which has copies of all my financial data, all my personal information, and my writing, only adds about thirty seconds. If I don't have four and a half minutes, then I just do what I can and hope for the best.

As far as the larger scale of disaster, the kind that lasts for weeks, I am an avid camper and hiker. The garage has a couple weeks' worth of dehydrated food and bottled water, as well as a portable water purification setup, propane stove and propane, mylar blankets and sleeping bags, batteries, a french press coffeepot, and frame packs (should the roads be impassable, we can load two week's worth of supplies on our backs and make twelve to fourteen miles a day as a sustained pace).

I've thought about it, and in general I just keep handy the means to have food, water, coffee, and identification, and figure the rest will work itself out. My SO takes care of arms and ammo.

nlf78 12 years, 7 months ago

TOB - That just cracks me up! But I'll add plastic to that list. We'll be sitting on our gun safe with a case of Natural Light armed with duct tape and guns! There's no way a tornado or hurricane can get through the plastic and duct tape. But we actually have an underground storm shelter were we live, so there is a battery operated radio, some water and canned goods along with some blankets. We'll just have some fun trying to get all the guns and duct tape down there ;)

ku_law 12 years, 7 months ago

Badger, I think you thought about and took this question a little too seriously.

badger 12 years, 7 months ago

Not really, ku_law.

Just about a month and a half ago, there was a hurricane pointed at my head. Rita was originally forecast to drive through Houston and Galveston and then slam hard into Austin. City officials were advising us to plan for three to five days with no power, phone, or water service. Rita shifted course, so it didn't happen, but that doesn't mean it couldn't again.

I lived in Tornado Alley for all but four years of my life, and the first half of my life was spent within ten miles of various first strike nuclear targets (when there was still a Soviet Union to have FS targets). I have, quite literally, been thinking about where to go and what to take for the last 25 years or so. It's second nature. I actually can't not take this question seriously, because I think it's one I may save my own life or the lives of others by being able to answer without panicking.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 7 months ago

OMb: ya' been out rustling cattle again this weekend?

bearded_gnome 12 years, 7 months ago

I was pleasantly surprised by how intelligent all the printed answers to this question from Mass st. generally pretty good.

Badger, you're well prepared...I only wish you lived next door!

here, always have several gallons of emergency water, lots of various battery power for various radios, emergency food...etc.

if you are one of these people who have only a cell phone and no hard-wired phone, under some disasters you could be up a creek without a cell phone...or whatever. it is still a good idea to have at least one hard-wired phone.

any of you ever heard of electromagnetic pulse? it could kill a lot of electronics. also, commonly under many different emergencies, the cell phones go down first and stay down the longest.

now, twist the OTS question:

what would surprise some one if they knew it was in your emergency preparedness kit/planning?

for me, answer, no flashlight necessary.

Janet Lowther 12 years, 7 months ago

Out of all these responses, only two serious ones???

Badger & the Italian Princess sound like they have it together.

I wish I were half as organized as Badger. . . I usually have a quart of water, first aid kit, FRS radio, VHF amateur radio, flashlight, a good knife and a summer sausage in my briefcase, and a pocket tool, tiny first aid kit, IDs, credit cards, flashlight, cell phone and cash in my belt pack. And a set of tools in each vehicle including a set of wrenches (22 of 'em going up to 1" in US sizes and 22mm in metric), pliers, hammer, screwdrivers, cheater pipe etc.

I don't much worry about food, since the only sort of disaster that might make that a problem around here would be if the New Madrid fault turns loose with a quake like it did in the early nineteenth century. . . and even that would be unlikely to cause serious disruption this far away. A nuclear strike could be a serious problem, but. . .

Most of Kansas's disasters have been tornados, fires, and much more rarely floods of comparatively limited scope. (Most of Lawrence's grocery stores were open regular hours right through the 1951 flood. The highway through Grantville was open by the next day after the recent flood there.)

Now, a years worth of food has proved handy for people I am aware of who have become unemployed: They paid the bills with their unemployment check and ate their reserve food.

ms_canada 12 years, 7 months ago

Have you got all your important papers like insurance policy, will, deeds to property etc. in a brief case by your door and copies in your bank safety deposit box? If not do it today. My good friends Doris and Jim had the by the door. One very wicked cold Jan. night a fireman knocked on their condo door and said to evacuate immediately. They did. Went out front of building and firemen said they could go back in in 30 minutes. Minor fire in basement. They went to Tim Hortons for coffiee with another neighbour. Left the brief case by the door. You guessed it. The whole building burnt dowm completely. Sixty families lost everything. Every thing gone except clothes on backs. Jim is a Pastor and had shelves full of books as most pastors do. All gone, family pictures, all gone. Well, after 18 months they are back in their rebuilt condo with lessons learned the hard way. Be prepared for anything.

ms_canada 12 years, 7 months ago

in the midst of all the stupidity over the Millennium scare in 1999, my good man decided that there may be something to it and just to be safe, he had the hot water heating systems in his apartment building all filled with barrels of antfreeze and drove out into the country to get a truck load of wood for our little stove. Made plans for our kids to come over and sleep on the floor in the living room near the stove. :o)
It can get mighty cold here on a Jan. night.

avhjmlk 12 years, 7 months ago

Being hot water heater uneducated, what the heck good does it do to fill your hot water heating system with antifreeze? Are you showering in antifreeze?

(If I sound like a complete moron, it's ok. I'm willing to admit it regarding a certain very few topics...)

thunderbuns 12 years, 7 months ago


Nope, George doesn't walk on water. You're getting him confused with the only other person who was able to walk on water. I make the same mistake sometimes too.

"A bowl of green Jello"? Wha....?

Next stop: the Twilight Zone............

ms_canada 12 years, 7 months ago

Heh guys - I respect your lack of knowledge of hot water heating systems and I will explain as succinctly as possible. In the furnace room is a large, large tank of water which is heated by gas that is operated electrically. Pipes run from the tank to all parts of the apartment building. Hot water runs through the pipes to heat the rooms. This water is not used for showering. That system of pipes is entirely separate. In any case if the power went off, the water in the heating system would not be heated and the pipes would freeze solid and burst. Can you envision the cost of replacing that system in 3 large buildings? Better to be safe than sorry. We were warned that the power could go off if the computers were affected by the Millenniunm change over. It all seems so stupid now, of course, but at the time it was sort of scary. If you have never been out at night when it is 40 below and even the moisture in the air freezes and visibility is reduced, it is very scary. If your car quits, what are you going to do? So, you are always prepared with extra clothing in your car plus blankets and lots of candles and candy bars

ms_canada 12 years, 7 months ago

OMB I would then presume that your buildings are heated electrically. That is very costly here in the north. Our electricity bill for one month in the winter, and that is just for lights and electric kitchen stove runs about $4000 - 5000 for a 24 suite building.

sunflower_sue 12 years, 7 months ago

Ms_C, We are all electric and it does get pricey.

What I do to be prepared: Make sure I watch the news to know when to go to the liquor cabinet. Seriously, we don't do anything. If they are calling for 'nados here then we will clean out a spot in the basement under the stairs to hole up in...but usually we just go outside and watch the show. We should own a generator but don't.

avhjmlk 12 years, 7 months ago

I think gas heat is definitely more popular here in the midwest than electric. My mom always says that electric heat just isn't as comforting somehow.

We actually still have the original gravity furnace in our house. Not too efficient, but almost silent, and will probably continue running long after we all are dead.

avhjmlk 12 years, 7 months ago

Granted, our heater has only been on for a sum total of 48 hours so far this winter...knock on wood.

avhjmlk 12 years, 7 months ago

ms_c--do you make the tenants pay their electricity?

badger 12 years, 7 months ago

Natural gas heating is pretty common in the Midwest, but it depends on where you are. A lot of people are moving to all-electric houses. I think that's silly, because gas stoves are vastly superior, but that's just me.

As to 'how much' I think about my preparations, I don't unless something reminds me, like today's question did. I thought a great deal about them when I made them, I am confident in them, and I am aware of them. I don't have to worry, or fret, and when something like an impending hurricane or a Y2K scare comes along, I take half an hour to check what I've got in place, and then go back to what I was doing. I'm not that person out scouring the shelves of the HEB for bread and water and beef jerky, I'm not stockpiling things. I keep camping supplies handy because sometimes we wake up on Saturday morning and think, "Hey, let's go camping tonight!"

I just recognize that certain elements of my lifestyle serve double-duty as emergency preparedness, and so I keep things stocked ahead of time instead of buying my camping food and water when I need it.

enochville 12 years, 7 months ago

Quite a few posters said there is no point in emergency preparedness because there are some disasters you can't prepare for or there are other disasters in which you have no time to react. In those cases, your supply of food, first aid, money, etc. will help you survive the aftermath of the event.

People have mocked that the food storage of the Katrina victims didn't do them any good, well it was a good thing for some of them that the people in whose home they stayed at after the storm had their food storage. Granted that was only a fraction of the people who fled their homes, but some of the Latter-day Saints had theirs.

Others have said that they can't afford food storage, etc. Well, if you are living that close to being broke, it won't take much to put you there and the food storage can help a lot. Very few people can afford to just go out and buy everything in a single weekend. That is why one only buys one or two extra items of food each time you buy groceries. If you buy the things you normally eat that can be stored, you can simply rotate out of the pantry the oldest canned or boxed food. That way the food stays usable.

I don't think I've told this forum before, but I am LDS (AKA Mormon) and I have seen many examples of emergency prepardness making life easier for families. My childhood family had to use our water storage when a flood made the water treatment plant in our city unusable. I'm just saying don't knock it. You may need it someday. But, there is no need to panic or be weird about it. Just start slowly and build up your supply gradually.

Here is a great site for info about food storage and emergency prepardness:,11677,1706-1,00.html

ms_canada 12 years, 7 months ago

enochville - that is very sound advice and I hope everyone takes heed and tries to practice at least some of it. I have a fairly larged pantry that I keep well stocked with non-perishables. I do rotate them to keep them fresh. Not so much for emergency but I just like to have stuff on hand. And as you say, one or two items to store can be purchased when shopping weekly so as not to strain the budget. It is a good idea. For me it is a convenience, but it could also be a money saver if one were to purchase sale items in quantity. That way if the fancy takes you to bake a cake or make a certain casserole, you will save on gas money by not having to run to the store for one or two needed items.

ms_canada 12 years, 7 months ago

e_m - I sort of duplicated part of your post. Great minds think alike, I have heard. But then again I also heard that fools never differ. :o)

canyon_wren 12 years, 7 months ago

Although there are rumors of potential quakes in Utah and Salt Lake experienced a relatively minor one a few years ago, there aren't many disasters that could occur where I live. Though I'm not Mormon, I live among many of them and have picked up some good ideas about food storage, etc.

I think the only thing we in the part of the country would have to worry about is the possibility of a national disaster, where transportation of goods was halted, so for that reason, stocking up is still a good idea.

It's kind of comical that folks grouse about the triviality of the questions, but when someone like Badger actually responds in a reasonable way, a poster says he/she is taking it way too seriously! Of course, I realize we're talking about two different groups of posters.

I do have a question--does anyone know if it is a bad idea to save water in empty Clorox bottles--is there a chance that the plastic they are made of is harmful for human consumption?

ms_canada 12 years, 7 months ago

avmhjvlk - most apartment tenants have their own electricity meters but one dumb city council that we had here in 1977 decided that all apartment be on one meter. That was when we had the misfortune to build one of our buildings and that is the one that has the $4000 electricity bill each month. But thanks to the diligence of my husband in hounding the city commissioners, that bylaw was changed. Our other building have individual meters. One thing about only one meter per building, the nutty tenants leave lights on all the time as they don't have to pay. Of course we have to jack the rent a little higher in that building and we also have plug ins for their cars in the parking lot. Most cars here have block heaters. One unthinking tenant kept his car plugged in even on days that were not freezing. Sometimes it gets so cold here that we even plug the car in while it is in the unheated garage.

lunacydetector 12 years, 7 months ago

i will wait for the final word of impending doom from the douglas county emergency lady who has the $5,000 television to watch the weather channel.

canyon_wren 12 years, 7 months ago

OMB--thanks for that site. I will save it. I guess I am safe enough with the Clorox bottles. They are so handy for that. I guess they're not "sealed," as recommended, but if that's the most serious problem I run into, I won't worry!

sunflower_sue 12 years, 7 months ago

growing up in St. Joe, MO...we often were w/out water when the river got too low (before the new water plant was put in). Anytime we heard of the river getting low, my Mom would fill up every jug she had and also the bathtub (just in case). She only did this a couple of times but they paid off as we were the only ones with enough water to wash our hair. The situation wasn't desperate, but we didn't have tap water for 1 or 2 weeks. Washing my body was a luxury and I found out that you really can get clean w/out too much waste.

Now, don't laugh! I'm such a water miser today that I make my kids set the timer when they are in the shower. I even turn off the water while I'm shaving my legs! Want to hear me scream...leave the water on while brushing teeth. (OK, I'm a freak. I need help.) Just never got over those "water shortage" days, I guess.

Also, still haven't turned the heat on in the house except for the kid's bedrooms and the bathrooms.

Ms_C, my pantry is always full. Us country gals just can't make a quick run to the store when we get an urge for something.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 7 months ago

OMB: yeah, sure, the big book of Stalin...can any one help you account for your whereabouts during the weekend?

also, saw where the Texas escapee was caught...drunk...outside of a convenience store chatting on a payphone...and he started out so smart!

bearded_gnome 12 years, 7 months ago

Jrlii was writing while my first post was coming I guess mine was his "third" serious answer.

Badger, you have nothing to're doing a good thing...I just wish I were your neighbor.

I should add that I have lots of battery power, including a car battery (vented) which can operate amateur radio (ham radio), scanner, and commercial am/fm radios for weeks. cycle it down deep and recharge fully about once a month.

yes, bottle the water. a tiny bit of lemon juice or bleach works to protect it in storage.

MSC I'm glad you explained the "water heating system" is actually heating the buildings by water. the antifreeze sounded a little odd to me too.

okay everybody, anything in your emergency preparation which would surprise some one else?

bearded_gnome 12 years, 7 months ago

yeah, and to think, instead of Shreveport, he could've headed for lawrence instead.
and found a bed, and covered his head, to be heard of nevermore!

started out with so much promise.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 7 months ago

wow, 1899 Swedish still fire that, and what does it fire have to get that ammo special? and, how does that fit into your emergency plans...use to shoot 105 year old swedes?

l_eustacy 12 years, 7 months ago

Each roundabout could be designed to hold supplies and weapons.

oldfashiongirl 12 years, 7 months ago

Hurricane Donna in 1960 struck Norfolk, VA area and electricity was off for days. The thing I missed most was having a manual can opener to open cans of coffee, fruit , etc. I found a neighbor who lent me hers and I was pleased to make her coffee on my gas stove. Wish you all wouldn't talk about the New Madrid fault as I live directly above it Have little rumbles now and then. The worst fear I have is that terrorists will damage the Ky. Lake dam, about 25 miles away and would spill billions of gallons of water in my path. There is no security that you can see, as you can drive over the dam and no one stops you or monitors it.

Ref the apartment complex with the $4000 to $5000 electric bill, I used to manage the accounting office of a large one and we discovered that some Vietnamese women were taking in washings and dryings, using large amounts of electricity and gas. We evicted them as we furnished water, electric and gas.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 7 months ago

YO, One_MORE_Bob... what do you load in that antique mauser...and how does it figure in your emergency planning?

bearded_gnome 12 years, 7 months ago

manual can opener-essential.

*if we load up the roundabouts with arms and stockpiled supplies, they then cannot serve as points for the atavistic postepochalypse dancing [see letter to the editor, today.].

killjoy 12 years, 7 months ago

we need to learn to accept death as a natural process. Quit fighting it.

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