Being Prepared


While I don't mind reducing plastic in other areas of life, I think a plastic-free survival kit is unreasonable. Kathryn expressed it perfectly when she said, "There is a time and place for plastic, and emergencies is one of them. Don't endanger yourself in the name of zero-waste. That helps no one." Despite multiple warnings, I never got around to stockpiling food and supplies in case of emergency, but finally did some research and prepared my home. Here's what I'll try to do to minimize environmental impact without compromising safety:
  • Choose clothing thoughtfully. When facing fire or smoke, long sleeves, long pants, or a long skirt are best because they shield skin from flames and heat. Clothing made of natural fibers offers good protection, while synthetic materials and leather are not recommended because they often melt or shrink with heat, potentially bonding to skin and causing severe burns. Wool socks and clothing in particular resist flames, cool, and insulate better than other materials. Layers of clothing offer more protection than one big layer, and light colors reflect heat. Try to always have a pair of flat shoes, preferably laced ones, nearby to enhance mobility and protect from cuts and burns. 
  • Travel light. When on a plane, limit hand luggage as much as possible, because a recurrent hazard for passengers is items falling from bins. On the street, heavy bags or purses can be unnecessarily burdensome, though in a survival situation, I'm guessing most people just leave their stuff behind.
  • Assemble a “go bag.”  It should be durable, accessible, and easy-to-transport, with copies of important documents in something waterproof (many experts recommend light, steel-reinforced nylon carriers). Officials advise including an extra set of keys, credit cards, cash, large bottles of water, nonperishable food, a map, a flashlight, extra batteries, radio, emergency cell phone, medication, first aid kit, child-care supplies, sturdy shoes, and a rain poncho. We also have a stainless steel lighter. Some prefer melt-resistant military canteens to bottled water. I personally stock gauze, which provides more breathability and protection, instead of Band-aids in our first-aid kit. If I thought of it, I'd probably tuck a cloth bag of lambs' ear inside, for a natural antimicrobial agent.
  • Ensure a safe water supply. Of all plastics, polypropylene (#5 plastic) is the safest, though it can still leach chemicals. Military steel jerry cans, fiberglass, or enamel lined containers are also options. Since activated charcoal and other water purification techniques don't remove all contaminants, water purification tablets, such as those used by Navy Seals, are the preferred last resort. Ashley recommends a stainless steel Berkey filter, which purifies rain or ditch water. If confined to a home, it's also possible to drain the hot water tank (as long as it remains upright and the valve from the water main is shut off first). 
  • Stockpile non-perishable groceries. Apples, potatoes, and other long-lasting fruits and vegetables that can be eaten raw or uncooked are good choices. Citrus fruits last up to three months, provide vitamin C, and can be turned into an emergency candle if necessary (fill the peel with oil before lighting). Dried fruits and nuts in cloth bags are easily transportable, and canned fish, dried cured meats, and beans are good sources of protein (don't forget a small manual can opener). To some extent, there are things people are able to can, dehydrate, and forage, but in case of a flood or earthquake, industrially packed foods are safer and more reasonable.
  • Invest in pure wool blankets. Wool is durable, lightweight, flame retardant, and can be soaked in water to use as a shield, block smoke, or put fires out. A wool blanket warms, wicks away moisture, and absorbs odors. Does anybody know if knitted wool blankets are okay for emergency situations? This is probably a stupid question, but I want to know if it matters if the wool is knitted, felted, woven, or whatever.
In cities where apartments and refrigerators are smaller, storing lots of food and emergency supplies isn't always possible. I think that's why our neighbors preferred daily trips to the boulangerie, market, pharmacy or grocery store, buying as needed; otherwise, provisions just took up space and went to waste. Now shops are packed. People I normally see toting one baguette and a bit of cheese have two or three carts full of canned foods. There needs to be a balance, ensuring preparedness for situations when we need to stay inside and help others seeking food and safe shelter. From now on, I'll never let our groceries dwindle to nothing. I'll always have at least a few days' provisions on hand, just in case. 

Paris to Go

21 comments:

  1. Hope you're still able to get what you need.
    Just keep in mind that nuts and dried fruits in cloth bags likely won't store long term very well and nuts can go rancid. Either be sure to put them in your "actually eating" rotation and replace regularly or just buy something that is sealed (not zero waste obvs but as you say, safety first.) I was about to say store them in glass jars but in the event of them falling and breaking, you'd lose your food supply. Maybe a great way to reuse plastic containers that would otherwise be sent to a land fill? In bag inside container? I know for me, remembering to eat nuts etc wouldn't be very practical but that's bc my stuff would be stored out of sight (house basement not apt.)
    Just guessing that in terms of wool, knit vs felt etc would have more to do with the density of the weave than anything. Felted is SOLID so if using for fire extinguishing, more suffocating affect. Knit wouldn't be so dense.

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    1. Thank you for your help Darcy! That explanation about wool makes a lot of sense. The last time I was in a situation the emergency department had people knitting blankets and mittens and hats and I got confused (I think it was more to relieve stress and get people to connect with each other than anything else). Most of the survivalist blogs I read link to the flat, pure wool blankets because they don't take up a lot of space and insulate while wet, whereas knitted blankets would definitely be hard to put in a backpack and lug around...

      FEMA says the same thing as you about the jars actually. I have a brochure from them that said to open the store package and put it into an airtight jar to keep them fresher longer and keep pests like rats, mice, or squirrels from biting into the plastic packaging. The idea was to have them on hand so you can transfer them to a bag (they actually recommended Ziploc, I'm guessing because it's waterproof) in the event of an emergency, when you need to go. I buy them in their shells, too, so they will last an even shorter period of time. A lot of survivalists recommend vacuum sealing such foods though. I asked a few zero waste bloggers what their emergency kits were like, and they save and reuse old plastic containers.

      How often do you replace your emergency stash? The police here recommended replacing the stock every three months or so, so I plan on eating the food and drinking the bottled water before restocking. I think this is because of the lack of space though, because in NYC they recommended every six months up to one year. For now I have plastic water bottles that I'll refill and I might invest in the metal containers later... we'll see!

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    2. Honestly, I've only started researching it, but never pulled the trigger on establishing it which is bad. I'd say the best option would be plastic bags inside plastic jars. And of course, a can opener if you have canned food. I, too, have heard every 3-6 months so it would behoove me to have foods in the stash that I would actually eat (i.e. no spam.) This is an excellent reminder that I need to finish that project. I do have some emergency drops for water purification (if you refill bottles with tap water to store, it's recommended that you add a drop of chlorine to non-chlorinated water- i'd do it regardless: If the water source is not chlorinated, household bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite) should be added. Regular, unscented bleach is best but brand does not matter. No bleach is needed if you are storing chlorinated water from a public water supply...Add 1/4 teaspoon (16 drops) of bleach per gallon of water if the water is cloudy and 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) if the water is clear.)

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    3. I read that too about the bleach. Paris water isn't chlorinated and the prefecture recommends adding two drops per liter for storage. Some of my friends said in their home countries they had to do that anyway to prevent getting cholera. I think they got well or river water though.

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  2. Peanut butter and beef jerky are also must-haves in case of emergency. Believe it or not, cheese is another great source of protein for your bug out bag. It just needs to be sealed in wax and you can keep it for years. We have about a month stockpiled, divided between the basement and pantry. You might want to consider including fruit juices on your list, particularly ones that contain vitamin C.

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    1. I hadn't even thought about that with cheese, thank you! People here leave cheese out of the fridge forever too. And milk, eggs, etc. A lot of people include vitamins in their emergency lists, I noticed. It's definitely something I'll need to consider, since access to whole foods would likely be very limited.

      I have seen peanut butter on just about every survivalist list, it's a great recommendation. Thank you!

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  3. We have two camping backpacks that we take on travel. One small and one medium sized. When we are not travelling, they are stocked for emergencies. All our camping gear ( portable tiny stove and fuel tablets), a nylon sleeping bag, dried powdered food like eggs and potato, oatmeal and peanut butter powder, canned beans and chocolate sit in the backpack. Along with a set of clothes. And water purification tablets. Extended camping taught us a few lessons on whats needed and whats not.

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    1. You have it down to a science! Do you have a recommendation for water purification tablets? I didn't even know peanut butter powder existed. I think I'd like some...

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  4. Wonderful post! I did not know all of that about wool blankets. I am definitely adding one. We had a main water line break in town. We were without water for 48 hours. We were unprepared and gladly accepted large plastic jugs. Then we decided we should probably prepare for the future. Thanks for the shout out! I love your blog!

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    1. Thanks Kathryn! And thanks for all your help. During Hurricane Sandy I was unprepared too and took the plastic jugs- this time I'll be ready!

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  5. Ariana, I'm a big admirer of your writing and perspective. Thank you for your posts about your beautiful, strong city. I'm glad you've checked in on your blog.

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    1. You are so sweet. It is a great city! Thanks for this comment, I really appreciate it!

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  6. Excellent reminder about preparedness. Thank you for sharing how you and your community are responding to the terrible events you've experienced.

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  7. Also, a few other things to consider for an emergency bag:
    -extra pair of eyeglasses and/or sunglasses
    -travel sized toiletry essentials. Just a toothbrush, comb, perhaps lip balm or moisturizing balm, some wet wipes or a cloth to use as a wash cloth and a travel sized bar of soap, and whatever you use for deodorant, along with spare undies and socks, can make civilization possible. Also, sun block and/or a cap.
    -a list of contact names and numbers (your phone may die or be lost)
    -copies of important documents like insurance policies, passports, bank account info, etc.
    -medical history, medications list - with copy of prescription label from pharmacy if possible, allergies, doctors
    -solar charger and/or external batteries for electronic devices
    -small comfort item for each person (favorite small book, notebook, playing cards, small toy for a child, etc.) to help with long, boring, stressful periods like in evacuation shelters when electronic entertainment isn't an option for long
    -flavor packets for bottled water (I don't know of any that are particularly healthy, but they probably exist. I do know that in an extended emergency, plain warm bottled water becomes so stressful to drink that it can be difficult to stay hydrated even if you have plenty of water. This is true even when you are used to drinking almost solely water on a regular basis. It's a hard phenomenon to explain, but it's a real one. Just a little flavor of some sort can make plain water palatable again.)
    -those little metallic fold up "space blankets" are tiny and supposed to be good for warmth when you can't carry a blanket

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    1. One of the things to be aware of with the space blankets is they rip. And burst into flames. Quite easily, I might add. If you bring them camping, you can't stand too close to a grill, smoke, or fire for fear of burns. After too many close calls with friends, we bought a stack of wool emergency blankets and have several in our car. They may not fold up as tiny as the other kind, but I prefer them for warmth and they are rather light and fit easily in a backpack. Another thing to remember is to have a set of emergency supplies in every vehicle, including flares. You never know when you might be stuck on the road somewhere.

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  8. One last thing. Pet food, at home and in evacuation kits. And leashes, copies of vaccination records, whatever is needed for pets.

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    1. Thank you Deanna! I didn't realize that about water! I have seen evacuation kits for pets, we do have that together for right now, with copies of their passports, medical records, and leashes that I doubt they'll ever use. It's all in their emergency carrier. My relatives in Korea and Japan were the ones who alerted me to the need for these kits, they are used to earthquakes so they prepared things. In Japan you can even buy evacuation kits with travel sized kitty litter in it!

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  9. You will also need emergency supplies at work. Likely for an earthquake or if your building is locked down. (So it's not always about an evacuation but about being stuck somewhere without supplies). That should include at least 3 days worth of food, a set of warm & waterproof clothing (particularly in the Winter) and a warm sturdy pair of walking shoes or boots (if there is an earthquake you may be walking over some broken glass or have to walk a good distance to your home). They keep reminding us about this at my work place but most people don't have this kit. Oh, but I do.
    - Patricia

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    1. That's a great idea, I never even thought of keeping food there. During the tsunami in Japan my friend only had high heels at work and had to walk two days to get home, ever since then she keeps flats with her at all times. I do keep walking shoes with me for that purpose but, again, never thought of the other stuff. Thanks for sharing Patricia!

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