Written by Fiona Raymond-Cox
I have a long-standing New Year’s resolution but am not always successful in keeping it! Does this sound familiar?
Living in San Francisco, we face the ever-present threat of a catastrophic earthquake and so acknowledge that keeping the family’s emergency go-bags current is important but takes time. Time that I could be doing something much more fun, but NOT less critical.
SF72.org offers a wealth of information if you’re starting to make a plan, assemble supplies (you likely have much already in your home), and want to stay informed about a range of hazards including COVID-19, poor air quality, power outages, fire, heat, severe storms, tsunamis. Another great resource is San Francisco’s Neighborhood Emergency Response Team checklists for the home, workplace and car which also helped me when I started.
But once you’ve got “everything”, how do you maintain it?
It always amazes me how so much can change in the span of 12-24 months. A family member updates their email address, friends we had relied on for shelter if we have to evacuate move away, medical insurance providers are replaced, kids grow up and now go to different doctors and dentists, we buy a new car and with that comes a new auto insurance policy, a key advisor moves offices, and so the plan needs updating.
With this in mind, and with plans to be away for the holidays, I set about updating our emergency preparedness form back in November 2021. (Reach out if you’d like to use this template as well.)
When our family decided that the risk of international travel was not worth the effort of repeated COVID testing, contracting it, and the increasing prospect of getting stuck overseas, we decided to stay home. Suddenly I had time on my hands. I set about replenishing our go-bags.
Given Food Banks will take food items with an expiry date of up to one year, I see no reason not to keep those items. And, having read a fascinating article entitled The lie of “expired” food and the disastrous truth of America’s food waste problem: Stop throwing your food away, it reinforced the fact that we don’t need to replace every energy bar past it’s sell-by-date. In prior years, I purchased oat bars, and energy bars and we either ate them or took them to the Food Bank, but the cost adds up. So, this time, I made a point of looking for longer shelf-life bars and stumbled across this pack of 18 flavored energy bars with a 5-year shelf-life from Freccia (note: while some reviewers were not satisfied with the flavor selection, I did receive a variety of different ones). For good measure, I have thrown in a chocolate bar or two! Having some comfort food on hand will be much appreciated. And can always be eaten when updating the go-bags next year!
When it came to looking at the first aid kits, it was clearly time to replace certain items but per the FDA, Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medications. I love that when you originally purchase a good emergency first aid kit it comes pre-assembled with a small supply of aspirin, Tylenol, burn relief cream, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment and so on. But no-one seems to offer these in sensible replenishment sizes, and I was not about to replace the whole kit. The challenge was finding small quantities. (The saving grace is that it didn’t take long to find friends who also needed to update their first aid kits and I was happy to share the surplus.) But what to do with those pesky expired medications? The FDA’s Drug Disposal: Take Back Locations site was a good starting point to identify where I could safely dispose of old medicine. However, when I called a local pharmacy, I was advised their branch does not take them, but pointed me to one that does. Given my experience, be sure to call ahead before setting off.
In addition to our food and first aid kits, our go-bags contain many of the items listed on the SF72.org and NERT websites. But with new hazards comes new needs. It dawned on me this year, that with COVID we’re going to need to wear face masks. Be sure to add these to your go-bag if you haven’t already considered these as essential items. I found one of the benefits of the emergency first aid kits that we own is that they contain a pair of scissors! By all accounts, I am going to need them when the time comes to open and eat those Freccia bars!!
Suffice to say, that getting everything in order is not a 5-minute job to keep our go-bags in order, but there is a great feeling of satisfaction that we’ll be better prepared when we need our emergency kit. My goal is to be able to turn my attentions to supporting family, friends, and clients who will need help. But I’d rather they had taken the steps that I take annually (or thereabouts) to be more resilient.
For those interested, there are lots of opportunities to support your community. If you live in San Francisco, become a Neighborhood Emergency Response Team member (NERT). If you reside elsewhere in the US, join a Community Emergency Response Team.
On a related note, here’s another suggestion. Have you ever considered what personal possessions you’d lose in a fire, flood or earthquake? I recommend inventorying furniture, artwork, electronics, contents of drawers, cabinets, etc. Post the list and photos to a folder in the cloud. If ever you need to put in an insurance claim, you’ll have a current record of what you lost and may want to replace.
If you have any questions about this article and how to be more prepared, then don’t hesitate to reach out to email@example.com.