It seems like every day in the news you hear about one catastrophe or another happening in some part of the world. From floods to tornadoes to blizzards to earthquakes, there is no end to what might go wrong.
CNN.com reported that a survey by RealtyTrac found that "55 percent of homes in the U.S. are either in 'very high' or 'high' risk zones" in terms of natural disasters. With odds like these, even the most skeptical or complacent individuals might start to wonder what they would do should disaster strike them.
The disaster might not even be weather related. What if you or your spouse should lose your job, leaving you suddenly short on cash for the essentials? What if the electricity fails or you can't pay your utility bills?
Making contingency plans in case the worst should happen isn't just smart, it's essential to making sure your family remains safe and healthy with food and a roof over their heads. If you're wondering how to get started, here are some tips on the life-saving supplies you should always have on hand.
Carbon monoxide detector
The best way to prepare for a disaster is to prevent it entirely when you can. Most households have smoke detectors installed already, but Forbes.com reported that the CDC has found that "only 30 percent of American homes have functioning carbon monoxide alarms."
Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, colorless gas that leads to over 20,000 poisonings and 500 deaths per year. Potential sources might include gas heaters, fireplaces and grills. It can also pass through drywall, so it can spread easily between apartment units, meaning you might be at risk even if there are no gas-powered devices in your household. A carbon monoxide detector will alert you when CO levels in your home's air rise above what is safe, giving you time to get out of the house before it's too late.
An emergency radio
In the event of a regional or national emergency that might knock out power and cellphone grids, how do you plan on finding out what's going on in the outside world? Keeping an emergency radio on hand will enable you to stay up to date on weather and news, and possibly save your family's life.
When choosing an emergency radio, Lifehacker.com says to stick to the basics. The more features your radio has, the more power it will consume, and this can be a problem if you don't have a stash of batteries on hand. So either choose one with a hand crank that will allow you to charge it manually, or get one whose main function is to pick up AM/FM frequencies. AM frequencies are longer range and are most commonly used to spread the news in the event of a disaster. For instance, they are used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to send out weather and disaster alerts.
Other features to look for when choosing an emergency radio might include being waterproof or having a flashlight, solar panels or on-board battery packs for charging cellphones or tablets.
Though people most often think of food storage in connection with widespread disaster, it can also serve as a buffer in case you're having difficulty making ends meet. A good rule of thumb is to have a three-month supply on hand, which amount will vary depending on the size of your family. If you can afford more and have room to store it, a year's supply of food is even better.
According to About.com, a year's supply of food storage for a single adult should include 300 pounds of grains (i.e. flour, rice, pasta), 60 pounds of sugars (i.e. honey, molasses, cane sugar), 13 pounds of fats and oils (i.e. shortening, vegetable oil), 75 pounds of dairy (i.e. dry milk, evaporated milk), 60 pounds of legumes (i.e. beans, peas, lentils), and 14 gallons of water. Beyond this, there are also options for adding more variety and nutrition to your diet by purchasing specially packaged foods that often have a shelf life of up to 25 years.
It might sound like a lot, but you don't have to purchase it all at once, and should you ever need to use it, no cost could outweigh the benefit of knowing your family will be provided for.
Emergency cooking source
How do you plan on cooking food in the event of a power outage? All the food storage in the world won't be worth much if you have no way to prepare it. This is where an outdoor grill comes in handy, assuming you have the necessary supplies to use it several times a day. You could also look into options for fire starters that are safe to store and easy to use. For instance, there are such thing as "green" fire starters that are safe for the environment, for storing around food, are easy to light and that don't release toxic chemicals.
Emergency heat can be especially important if your water supply gets contaminated and you need a way to purify it. The Washington State Department of Health says water can be purified by filtering it through a cheese cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter and then bringing it to a rolling boil for at least one minute.
A cash reserve
There are two types of cash reserves a well-prepared family should have. One is cash on hand that you can get to without needing the aid of a computer or debit card. This is just in case the electricity goes out and stores don't have another way of accepting money. The amount you have in cash is up to you, the main point being that you don't spend it on nonessential items in the meantime or forget where you've hidden it.
The second form of cash reserve will likely be held in a savings account separate from the accounts you draw from on a day-to-day basis. To decide how much that should be, Business Insider advises, "The most basic emergency fund, for a healthy person without dependents who lives well within their means, is three months of living expenses."
Of course, this is just the minimum. If you have a dual-income household or a lot of expenses, you'll want to save away even more, between six months and a year's worth of income.
"When calculating your month's living expenses," Business Insider continues, "you'll want to include costs like your child's tuition, any debt payments you need to make, or any other expenses you'd have to cover should your income be interrupted." Be sure the money is in a liquid account with easy access, so you don't have to pay fees to withdraw it early.
For more ideas on how to prepare your family for whatever challenges life throws your way, visit Relieffoods.com and find out how easy it is to build up your food storage and emergency supplies.