Unless you are forced to leave your home due to a disaster, bugging in (sheltering in place) is much more preferable to evacuating/bugging out if you have prepared to survive. If you have to leave your home you can only take so much with you and the costs of travel and temporary accommodations can be expensive. The inconvenience of being away from your home and the things you use every day can be especially tough for seniors. In this post I am going to discuss a few of the main things to do to start preparing to bug in.
Although this series on preparedness for seniors will apply to the smaller 2- or 3-day power outage or minor disaster, it is primarily about dealing with long term preparedness. Please see my previous posts on Concerns with our Power Grid and Effects of a Prolonged Power Grid Outage to get a sense of what I am talking about. If you are not a senior but have elderly family and friends, this should help you in thinking about talking to them about getting prepared.
Learn About Potential Threats
A lot of the things you need to do to be prepared, like storing food and water, apply to almost all disaster scenarios. But it is important to understand what the potential threats are to your geographical area because some preparations will be different. Are you susceptible to hurricanes, tornados or flooding? Are there chemical facilities near by where an accident could mean you have to bug out? This post will not discuss those specifics so find out which kind of disasters could hit your area and then research some of the specific things that you need to do to mitigate the effects.
- Contact your county or city emergency management
department to see what resources and help is available to senior citizens.
- Discuss your concerns with other seniors to see how
they are planning and if they want to work together.
Taking Care of the Basics – Food and Water
Food and Water are at the top of the list when it comes to preparedness. It is even more critical for seniors that may have physical limitations that prevent them from driving or walking long distances to a FEMA Distribution center in a long-term disaster scenario. The more prepared you are at home the easier it will be on you until normalcy returns.
The government and relief organizations will tell you to make sure that you have food and water for three days for each person in your household and they recommend 1 gallon of water per person. Although three days of food and a gallon of water a day is better than nothing, it is not near enough to survive a big disaster as we know from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. It took the government 2 to 3 weeks to restore electricity and other services after those storms.
In December 2018 the Department of Homeland Security released a report on the vulnerabilities of our nation’s power grid and concluded if there was a regional or national catastrophic event to our power grid, it could take 6 months or longer for the government to restore power and for the related utilities and other services to recover. It is time to start preparing.
The following outlines some things to do and think about for food and water.
A favorite preparedness saying is store what you eat and eat what you store. If you generally cook fresh vegetables and meats and use a lot of dairy, this will not work for long term food storage. You need to think about shelf stable pantry food that has a decent shelf life such as rice, canned and dry beans, tuna, canned chicken, pasta and pasta sauce.
It is easy to get started with food storage.
- Set aside a shelf or two in your basement, pantry, utility room etc. where you can start storing extra pantry food.
- Every time you go to the grocery buy an extra (or two) can or box of the food you are going to prepare for the coming week and set this aside on your shelves.
- Think about a weeks’ worth of meals that you can cook with this pantry food and work towards buying the ingredients. After you have a weeks’ worth, start again with the same meal plan and work towards a second week of food. Before you know you will easily have 2 to 4 weeks’ worth of shelf stable food for emergencies. Check out these great training videos from Todd Sepulveda called Easy Food Storage Guide and Food Storage Tips for Preppers. He covers this meal planning topic and a lot more.
- A quick and easy way to jump start your food storage is with long-term freeze-dried food from Legacy Food Storage. The shelf life is 25 years and you can quickly add a month’s worth of food to your storage. I am reseller for Legacy and can get you a better price that what is on their website. Check out their website to see what you want and fill out the contact form on our website to get a quote.
- If you are on a low salt diet, pay attention to the canned and processed food you are considering for your food storage. You will need to drink more water when eating some of these foods.
- If you are used to electric can openers and struggle with manual openers, you should purchase a battery operated can opener like this Procan. It is only $19.99 and has really good reviews. It is cheap enough that you can buy two to have a backup.
- Using a camping stove to cook on is a great idea but having to bend over to cook will be harder for seniors. It would be good to have a folding table that can be put on your porch, in your kitchen, or garage to make it easier to set up the grill and cook. If cooking indoors make sure windows or doors are opened so that the fumes do not build up.
- Have a generous supply of paper plates, bowls and plastic utensils that will minimize your cleanup work and save on water.
- Use pots and pans that have two handles that help in lifting so that you don’t spill and waste food or burn yourself.
One gallon a day? Have you every looked at your water bill to see how many gallons your household has used in a months’ time? It is likely several hundreds of gallons per person. Now in a disaster scenario where the power is out you are not going to be able to run the dishwasher, clothes washer and fill up the bath tub with hot water but you really will need more than 1 gallon a day. Besides drinking you will need to cook, wash your hands and dishes and keep cooking and bathroom areas clean. I think it is better to have 3 gallons per person per day and if you have to start backing off to one or two gallons as time goes on you can.
There are several ways you can store water but you do need to ensure that the water has been filtered and purified. I will dive into this topic in detail in a later post but I want to throw out some ways to start thinking about storing water.
- Your local box stores are likely to have 5 to 7-gallon water storage containers that are less than $20. These can easily be stored in the bottom of your closets.
- Cleaned and sanitized 2-liter bottles can be stored in smaller spaces where larger container won’t fit. These are cheap and easy to obtain from friends or neighbors if you don’t drink soda yourself.
- waterBobs are a great way to store water in an emergency. You set them in your bathtub and fill them up when a disaster has happened and there is risk that the water will stop flowing. This gives you 100 gallons of drinkable water. It comes with a pump for you to easily get water into a smaller container.
- Purchase water filtration equipment and learn different ways to purify water.
- If your strength is not what it used to be consider smaller water containers that do not weigh as much. The downside is they don’t store as much but a larger container doesn’t help if you can’t lift it. Check out the Hudson Exchange 2.5 Gallon Container. You can stack these and the caps are on top to prevent leaking like some other brands.
- Use 2 wheelers to carry water and other supplies to prevent back and other injuries. Your local box store will have a few but you have a lot of options on Amazon as well.
- If you have larger water containers use a hand siphon or pump to get water out of the large heavy container into a smaller one that you can carry. There are simple hand siphons you can use and a wide variety of manual and battery powered pumps that do the job as well.
Living Without Electricity
As your eyes get older it helps to have a lot of lamps and ceiling lights in your home but that won’t be available when the power is out and it is unlikely you will have enough fuel for a generator for an extended period of time. You need to think ahead and purchase several ways to provide ample lighting.
- Have multiple flashlights and plenty of spare batteries. You should have at least one headlamp flash light that will make things a lot easier when you need to use two hands. There are some really good lantern type flashlights that put out a lot of light and are easy to carry.
- Think about solar power to charge batteries and keep a small refrigerator running for medicines and left-over food. This technology is getting better and there are some portable options that are not that expensive.
- Have candles, lighters and flashlights in every room that you use often. Have them out and ready so you don’t have to find them and dig them out of a box.
- Use Solar Lights that can sit near windows or on your deck during the day. You can bring them in at night to support other lighting.
- Have a box on your nightstand that holds hearing
aids, glasses, and a flashlight and use Velcro to attach to the furniture so it
won’t fall off accidentally or in an earthquake.
- Keep older prescription glasses accessible in case your current ones break or need fixing.
- Knowledge is very important during a long-term disaster. Make sure you have some good first aid books and take the time to read them. Joe and Amy Alton have a great book that I highly suggest called The Ultimate Medical Survival Guide – Emergency Preparedness for Any Disaster.
- I’m not sure if you can have enough medical supplies like wound dressing and gauze. One laceration on a limb or your torso and you could go through all of these supplies in only a few days. You can get very good deals on medical supplies online.
- Spend time organizing things into containers and bags that are clearly marked. Keep an update inventory of what you have.
- Stockpile medications. Refill your prescriptions 3 to 5 days early each month. After 4 or 5 months you will have an extra month’s worth. Make sure and use the oldest first.
- Start researching medicinal herbs that could
help treat medical conditions if you were not able to get refills.
- Exercise more and research diet changes that
could lesson your dependence on medications.
- Purchase medical alert tags or bracelets that
will help first responders understand your medical needs.
It could take a while for the water to stop flowing and the sewage to stop being pumped away from your neighborhood but you should have a backup plan on how to deal with human waste.
- Consider using DIY toilets made from 5-gallon buckets and commode seats. Your local box store usually sells the buckets and you can find the seats in the camping section. With heavy duty trash bags and cat litter you have a simple and cheap method to dispose of waste.
- If the water has stopped flowing you can still flush your commode by simply pouring water fairly quickly into it. Keep buckets of water near the commode. You can use grey water from washing your hands or doing dishes for this purpose.
- Although a DIY Commode is simple and cheap, for some seniors it may be hard to site on these since they are low to the ground and have no support mechanism to get up or down. If you would struggle with a DIY commode consider using a foldable bedside commode that has had rails for support. The Drive Medical Folding Commode is a good option due to its larger bucket.
- Think ahead of time about working with neighbors to help dig holes to bury the waste. This can be hard work so it would be good to share the work.
- Think about having a supply of sanitizing wipes to supplement your toilet paper supplies. They work well and do not take up as much space.
A lot of preparedness is the same no matter what your age but seniors have several things to think about based on their own physical limitations and needs. If you are a senior or have a loved one that is, please take the time to research and think about the things that are needed to help seniors so that they can survive and thrive after a disaster.
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Have a blessed day!