Preparedness Poll Reflections

Though many seemed to view this poll as a test, it was not intended that way. If it got you thinking, though, all the better. I was really trying to answer the question, Is what I’m writing about worthwhile? Am I addressing a need? Let’s see.

The following are the poll questions, the most common response(s) to each and brief reflections:

1) I view preparedness as…something I’m actively working towards—55%

I’d be curious to know whether 9/11, Katrina or other disasters have had any impact on this. Though this isn’t an overwhelming percentage, people are at least thinking about preparedness and believe they’re working towards it. This is good. Based on the responses to the rest of the poll, however, there’s room for improvement. (I include myself in the category of Those-to-Be-Improved, by the way.)

2) I have this much drinkable water stored: None—45%

One gallon per person per day. That’s the recommended amount of water you should be storing. Though three days’ worth has been the conventional wisdom, it is now suggested that four days to two weeks is a better bet. Only 25% had more than three days’ worth stored. If you are new to preparedness, water storage is a very good place to start. Check out this previous post for tips.

Those of you who are not apartment-dwellers may very well have more water than you realize; the typical water heater has a reservoir of roughly 30-60 gallons which can be used in an emergency. Whether you own a home or live in an apartment, filling the bathtub will give you at least 25 gallons of water (possibly much more for those with “luxury” bathtubs). It’s probably wise to treat this water before drinking it, but it can be a great source for hygiene and other cleaning needs.

3) I keep a flashlight within reach of my bed: Yes—55%

Most do but a fair number don’t. I’d ask the latter group, Why not? They’re cheap and could save your life in the event of a fire, break-in or other emergency. Any reliable flashlight will do, but a sufficiently bright flashlight can be used to temporarily blind an assailant if needed and will cut through smoke more effectively. A headlamp can be valuable if you anticipate having to carry anyone or have exit doors that require two hands (like I do--not ADA-approved). Recommendations: SureFire G2 , Maglite C- or D-cell or a Petzl headlamp.

4) I have the means and know-how to make drinkable water: No—65%

You may not realize it, but you do have the means to make water drinkable. If you can boil water or have plain, unscented chlorine bleach, you can treat a lot of questionable water. Water with chemical contaminants will require a still or filter suited for that application, but most of what you’ll run into are biological contaminants, such as bacteria, viruses and parasites. Here is a handy resource for boiling times and chlorine bleach treatment. A good water filter can be a worthwhile investment, too. I have a portable version that can treat 500 gallons with a single filter cartridge. Camping and backpacking suppliers are good sources for easy and portable water treatment.

5) Thinking about preparedness makes me feel...unprepared, I know I should prepare but haven’t—50%

Both those who’ve done nothing and those who have done much may feel unprepared. Ultimately, you can’t address every possible scenario, nor should you. You have to do some sort of risk assessment and determine what you might encounter and what you can do about it. Start small. Stock up on water, buying a couple gallons a week for a couple months. Then make a small list of bulk non-perishables and watch for sales. Buy $10 worth a week for a couple months and stow it in a designated spot. Although reading this blog and other preparedness resources may make you feel as though you have a mountain to climb, it is easy and necessary to start with small steps and just keep at it. Will you be a blessing or burden in a time of crisis?

6) I have this much non-perishable food stored…not sure, whatever’s on my shelves—65%

Fortunately, food is not essential. And you may very well have many days’ worth of food in your kitchen and just not know it. It is prudent to stash some away for a snowy day, though. Even if you are willing to go on an unanticipated fast, your family may not be so amenable to the idea. An extended power outage or blizzard could quickly leave you with non-perishables as your only foodstuffs. See this prior post for some ideas on storing food for emergencies and this one for a look at Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).

7) I carry some basic preparedness items (Swiss Army knife, small flashlight, First Aid supplies, etc.), other than a cell phone, daily: Yes & No—50%/50%

“Be prepared.” It’s not just for Scouts. I’m going to look at Every Day Carry (EDC) very soon on this blog. There are numerous factors to consider, but there are some very fundamental items that I think everyone should have on them. Those of you who do carry some basics, I’d be curious to see your list. Those who don’t, I’ll try my best to convince you.

8) I try to fill up my car’s gas tank…when the tank hits half full (half empty?)—65%

I was pleasantly surprised by the responses to this question, but I fear that the positive responses may have been partly due to my lack of a “quarter tank” option. Filling up at half tank is a discipline that doesn’t come naturally. My grandfather was a state trooper in Indiana and always filled up at half a tank, because he never knew when he’d have to take off on a chase or drive partway across the state. Living in Chicago, the possibility of a mass evacuation is very real, but there are plenty of non-End-of-the-World scenarios that would warrant this. Just being able to keep your car idling for heat in the event of a winter accident could make the difference between life and death.

9) I have an evacuation/get out of town bag ready to go: No—85%

The responses to this one didn’t really surprise me, but I’d love to know what you thought when you read the question. It’s not a nice thing to think about, I know. We’ve already looked at “Staying Put” but will examine the far more intimidating option of “Heading Out” in the near future. A pre-packed bag of gear is an essential element, and I’ll try to lay out some basics for putting your own together.

Thanks again to all who weighed in and to those who've just stopped by. It would seem that there is an interest in and a need for practical preparedness. Faith, politics and culture comments are thrown in for free! I’ll do my best to make your visits here worth your while.

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