Financial preparation may not be enough during a disaster

Chris Keane/Reuters - Residents looked at a tree that fell on to a home in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday.Tornadoes raveged the land from Oklahoma to Virginia in April, killing hundreds of people, bulldozing homes and big-box stores[1], and knocking out power to tens of thousands of households.  California hasn’t been spared from its own natural disasters in recent months. 

Heavy rain and wind storms in March flooded homes and businesses, knocked out power, and caused other damage to 17 California counties.  Tsunami waves slammed into California's coastline, causing some frightening times in places such as Santa Cruz and Crescent City[2].  Governor Brown wrote a letter to President Obama last Friday (April 22) “requesting a Presidential major disaster declaration for the state", stating:

Since January 2010, California has received four major federal disaster declarations, had six fires declared under FEMA's Fire Management Assistance Grant Program, endured twenty events for which funds under the California Disaster Assistance Act were issued, and received four disaster designations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and ten U.S. Small Business Administration designations. More than 75 percent of California’s population is covered under at least one of the recent federal disaster declarations.[3]

With numerous tragedies striking close to home, what's the key lesson we should learn from Mother Nature?  As the Boy Scouts would say:  “Be prepared.”  And being prepared extends beyond financial vigilance.  Sometimes, no matter how well you've saved, money may not be enough in a state of emergency or natural disaster.   Storage of food, water, and other emergency supplies may be more crucial for survival.

Today, industries, especially the food industry, run on just-in-time inventory levels.  Even wholesalers and distributors strive to keep lean inventories in warehouses to lower costs.  Both before and after an emergency situation, basic food necessities and essential survival items can vanish rapidly from shelves as people storm the stores[4].  Staples like milk, eggs, flour, water, flashlights, batteries and toilet paper can disappear in just a few hours.  If roads and public infrastructure are damaged during a disaster, preventing timely shipment of products, then the time it takes stores to restock their shelves could be prolonged even longer.  During extreme shortages in dire situations such as these, money is of little help.

Prepare now by building up an emergency storage of food, water, and important survival gear.  Clean water in your food storage is a vital, and often overlooked, aspect of emergency storage.  During disasters, fresh water for drinking and cooking can be contaminated or cut off.  

Do you take prescribed medications that are vital to your health?  Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to discover what your options are for having a reserve.  At the very least, refill subscriptions a week before you run out, rather than waiting until the day before.

Building a few months worth of emergency storage all at once can be overwhelming.  You can start with a basic three day emergency kit and then work up.   What's important is to begin.

Natural disasters and other catastrophes happen every day all over the world.  There is no telling if, or maybe even a matter of when, you will fall victim to one and have to rely on what you have on hand (knock on wood).  Here are a few web sites that have more information on what an emergency storage should contain and how to prepare for the worst:  72hours.org, Ready.gov,  CGCOhealthdept.com

[1] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704889404576276743530939406.html

[2] http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110311/ap_on_re_us/us_japan_earthquake_pacific

[3] http://imperialvalleynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10160&Itemid=1

[4] http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2010/02/worried_washingtonians_clear_o.html

If it’s all overwhelming, try putting an extra bottle of water or two the next time you shop, or begin with a basic three day emergency kit and work up.

What’s important is to begin.