Plan for the worst; expect the best

September is National Preparedness Month. Throughout the nation, various agencies like the American Red Cross, Extension Services, Federal Emergency Management Agency, local fire departments and emergency medical services staff, churches, and utility companies are partnering to sponsor “Get Ready” events.

These Saturday events are designed to highlight local resources available in communities to help residents prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters in their region.

Our local OSU Extension Service was invited to participate in events this month to highlight ways that families can prepare for disasters in the Columbia River Gorge. Being the healthy eating/food preservation advocate that I am, my take on disaster preparedness focused mostly on food.


OSU Extension will also appear at the next Get Ready event in The Dalles, Sept. 28 from noon to 4 p.m. at Water’s Edge, 551 Lonepine Blvd. Below are other helpful resources for more information on building a kit and preparing for disaster:

<p> (FEMA) (American Red Cross)

<p>http://eden.lsu... (Extension Disaster Education Network)

I’ll be the first to admit that even I was dragging my feet preparing for disaster; sure we have lots of canned, dried, and frozen goods throughout our house, but none of it was packed up and ready in a single place in the event of a serious disaster or evacuation. I decided that if I was going to be hosting a booth on developing emergency food kits, I better have one myself — even if I had to make it before the night of the event.

I had always assumed preparing for disaster was a fairly painstaking and time-intensive practice. There are so many overwhelming lists of things you need to have packed up and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Who really does that, aside from “preppers” and “hoarders”?

What I learned was actually pretty shocking. It took me one hour and $100 to prepare a food kit for my family. There was no excuse not to have a kit.

I chose to develop a three-day (or 72-hour) emergency food kit that fits nicely into a see-through tote that is now labeled “72 Emergency Food Kit.” This corresponds to the American Red Cross recommendation to have a three-day kit ready in the event of an evacuation.

Most evacuation notices only happen in very serious circumstances — impending fire, flood, explosion, nuclear waste, tsunami, etc. — so you don’t have much time to get out. When you are stressed, it’s easy to forget the water but remember the photo albums, or throw in the canned foods but not the can opener, or remember the dog food but not the copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates and other important documents.

When you try to prioritize what you need out of your home for an unknown amount of time and you only have 15 minutes, it’s easy to forget some really important stuff. Having at least your food ready in a single location and anything else you need to open it, prepare it, and eat it means you have a few extra minutes to grab some clothes, the photo albums, and the important documents.

So what’s the first step? I made a simple menu with foods that I know our family would like and would be comforting in the event of disaster — oatmeal for breakfast, macaroni and cheese with tuna packets for lunch, pasta with marinara sauce and canned vegetables for dinner, and some snacks — even a bag of peanut M&Ms — one has to keep their spirits up, after all!

The key is to choose foods that you normally eat so that you can cycle new foods into your kit at least once a year. You want things to be at least relatively fresh when you need them and also be somewhat nutrient-dense. I chose whole-grain pastas, low-sodium canned foods, and lots of dried fruits to snack on and add to oatmeal.

The last thing you need in a disaster is digestive upset because you are suddenly eating MREs three times a day or other things not normally in your diet.

The next step is to go shopping. As I mentioned, it took me about an hour to prepare the kit — 45 minutes at the grocery store and about 15 minutes at home to pack it all up into the tote. The next step is to store it someplace that will be easy to get to — for now, ours is in the basement so the foods won’t freeze in the winter or get too hot in the summer.

The on-going step is to open it up every now and then, eat and replace the food so it is fresh, and update the kit as your family or needs change. Don’t forget children, elderly parents or grandparents, long-term guests in your home, or pets that you may need to prepare for.

Here in the Gorge, we have some type of disaster at least once a year. This summer Goldendale and The Dalles were affected by fires that required some of our neighbors to evacuate their homes. During the winter, it is not uncommon for I-84 to close or for some communities to lose power for extended periods.

The geography and weather of our region as well as its location mean we are at risk for any number of potential disasters and history has shown that they’ll happen at one point or another. Luckily, they don’t affect every single household, but we’re only as prepared as our neighbors.

In serious emergencies, the households that are prepared are often times called on to support, willingly or unwillingly, those households that aren’t prepared. So make a kit, tell your neighbors to make a kit, and be ready.

Here is my sample menu and shopping list to help you get started:


Lauren M. Kraemer, M.P.H., serves on the Extension Family and Community Health Faculty at Oregon State University/Wasco and Hood River County Extension.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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