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Comments

Brooke

I doubt most people have flood insurance. It is hard to get and VERY expensive.

shirky

I just read a neat book called "The World Without Us" about what'll happen if/when people aren't around to do whatever it is we do every day. The author specifically addressed NYC's pumping issue. Anything more than 2" of rain is a guaranteed flood situation in the subway, and even without rain, 3 days without electricity floods the subway because the constant pumping ceases (just from the normal water leakage).
I actually spend a bit of brainpower on farfetched scenarios like what if the river washed out the Longfellow while I was at work? (answer: steal boat from boathouse). I was also wondering if those hand-crank cell phone chargers really work. Anyone know?

Cathy

We stock up every May/June for hurricane season here, making sure we have: batteries of various sizes, radio, battery operated lanterns/flashlights food that is non perishable (DH likes to make sure we stock up on Spam, a childhood favorite of his) and/or easy to cook on a camp stove, fuel for the camp stove and grill, plywood for any windows we would need to board (and fasteners), phone that doesn't have an electric plug, a good box for "important papers" - any birth certificates that are floating around, homeowner's insurance, car insurance, etc. When there's news of an actual hurricane, we set about freezing water in whatever containers we have on hand (tupperware bowls, milk jugs) to make sure the freezer stays as cold as it can if the power is off for a few days, fill up the cars' gas tanks, charge the cell phones, pick up any small loose stuff from the yard/porch.

We've also picked up a weather radio which will give you notice in the middle of the night if there is a tornado or other bad weather news.

Catherine

My understanding is that flood insurance is only necessary/available if you actually live in a (federally-designated?) flood plain. Which we don't, thank goodness.

Sadly, our emergency preparedness is somewhat haphazard. We have a fair bit of non-perishable food stocked up; we'd like to have a month's worth but we're somewhat short of that now. We have some bottled water, and containers to store up tap water if we have advance warning that the municipal supply may be compromised.

We're inland, so hurricanes aren't an issue, but tornadoes definitely are. We've learned over the course of this summer that we need a battery-operated radio and a fairly detailed state map in the basement (so we can track storms while hiding out); do we have these yet? No, no we do not.

We have a variety of old-timey cooking implements that could come in handy in an extended power outage; I refer to these as my collection of "cooking supplies for when civilization collapses" and I'm only mostly joking. What we DON'T have, and desperately need, is "go bags," especially once the baby arrives. I can't even imagine the chaos of trying to assemble the necessaries for a quick evacuation with a wee one in tow. We'll also be keeping a can of formula on hand at all times, despite our intention to breastfeed, in case of emergency. The last thing I want my husband to have to deal with if anything happens to me is having to go out and buy formula. If we never need it, great, we'll donate it to the homeless shelter.

lolismum

Oh dear. My emergency plan is well, to freak out and yell for help. You think it's enough? Maybe I should think more about this. I do have 2 small children and 2 cats.

Julie

In CA we talk a lot about emergency plans. After the Northridge quake in '94 my mom typed up emergency cards with phone numbers that my sibs and I are REQUIRED to carry with us at all times. We have a family evacuation plan to meet at our cabin in the mountains if anything shoud occur (this includes terrorism)....any (significant) threat to LA and we all are to get in our cars and head to the mountains. Sadly, with earthquakes, there is no warning so you just have to ride it out and hope for the best. I read a report that says that all the training to get under doorways and/or tables is the worst place to be in an EQ....both can collapse easily. In fact you should get next to something solid (like a couch or a bed) and hunker down right next to it on the floor as close as you can get w/o being under it. If anything falls from the ceiling it will create a "triange" of space where you will be safe. Sounds good in theory........but after 37 years of EQ training in schools to cover and duck...I"m not sure I will be able to go against the grain. The last EQ we had (2 weeks ago) I ran into my son's doorway from a dead sleep before I even knew what I was doing. Even instinct kept me from waking up a sleeping toddler unless ABSOLUTELY necessary.

I used to keep water in my car until that report about how keeping bottled water in your car can actually cause toxins from the plastic to seep into the water and cause cancer. So now we keep it in our garage.

Our challenge: Go bags for my DH and myself are easy to pack and keep....but it's challenging to remember to CHANGE our son's go-bag frequently due to his growing out of clothes. He's now 22 months and wearing 2T and 3T clothes, but sadly I think if I were to go check it now it would have size 2 diapers and clothes to fit a 4 month old.

The can of formula is a great idea for everyone to keep regardless of age.....who knows when/if you will be able to get milk (or even food) for your little one?

Karie

Here in Orlando, we have to re-evaluate our prep every H Season. (Don't even like to say the H word!)

We are the high ground, so we wouldn't evacuate, but we need to be ready to be self sufficient for a week or so without power, water, phones. Luckily, we have never lost all 3 at the same time. But this is the reason we keep all of our utilities on separate systems ie, no internet phone.

We always get LOTS of warning before a storm, so we stock up on food, water, snacks, cat food, batteries, paper plates, trash bags, clorox wipes, start making lots of ice, (ditto Cathy's filling the freezer w anything that will hold water) gas up the cars, fill up the propane tank for the grill, wash all the laundry...
They always tell you to fill your bathtubs with water so you will have it to flush your toilets. The first time I did this, it all leaked out-- what a waste. And DUH I have a pool full of water.

I try to think what would I need if I had a mess to clean up, and no power or water. During Charley, our house leaked and we were able to stay ahead of it with the wet vac and lots of towels. Luckily, we didn't lose power, but it was not a fun task at midnite 8 months pregnant. (We've since had the house sealed and repainted) Our insurance papers, birth certs, etc are in a box in top of the closet.

A tip from my insurance agent-- take pictures of every room now and store them with your papers.

Eve

I'm from New Orleans, so I know my flood insurance. Basic homeowners' insurance and renters' insurance does NOT cover flood damage, as thousands of Katrina victims know. You only NEED flood insurance if your mortgage company says you do -- that is, if you live in a designated floodplain. But most of New Orleans, surprisingly, is not a designated floodplain, so it's a good idea to have it no matter what -- again, as thousands of Katrina victims found out. And if you live in a low-risk, non-mandatory area, it's actually not all that expensive. Better to have it and not need it and all that. The main tip I would give has nothing to do with safety but is still important: If all of your family photos aren't already digital, make them so. It sounds schmaltzy, but flood insurance can help you replace your sofa or your TV; nothing can replace pictures of your son's first birthday or your great-grandparents' wedding. Of all the things my friends and family lost in Katrina, it's the family photos that they were saddest about. And yes, of course we were lucky that we lost family photos and not family MEMBERS, but still ....

Lisa

We're in San Francisco, so earthquakes are the big threat.

We have a big rolly suitcase and a big backpack, which (theoretically) I update every 6 months, on T's birthday and half-birthday. (Damn - I'm a month late...).

One tip for kids' go-bag supplies: Clothes, shoes, diapers in there should be a size or so too big, so if you do forget to update for a bit it's OK.

We also packed a change of warm clothes/hat/shoes for each of us; a 2-day/4-person box of those little water packs you can get from emergency-kit websites; a bunch of Clif bars and the like; a can opener; a hand-crank radio-flashlight, a first-aid kit, tarp, work gloves, tape, scissors. Plates, utensils, cups. A list of other stuff (food, etc.) we might want to grab if we have to leave quickly.

Stuff we should have but don't: $500 in 20s and 1s. At least a half-tank of gas in the car.

Stuff I used to have when T was under a year old: 3 days' worth of baby food and formula (the latter in case he and E. get separated from me).

It feels a bit paranoid, but nice to know it's dealt with.

Pollyanna

Out here in the Seattle suburbs, we aren't on a flood plain but we bought flood insurance anyway to the tune of $138/yr. Believe it or not we used it last year when we had a crazy amount of rain. We weren't surrounded by water, but severe runoff from the hillside we are on flooded our basement. In order to pay out, there must be "2 flooded dwellings within and acre" or some such nonsense, but since others in the neighborhood had basement flooding problems, we were covered (I am assuming that is how we qualified...I left it to the adjuster).

As for an emergency kit, we have all the basics: food, water (not nearly enough though), camping supplies, etc. And CASH. Don't forget the cash. Depending on the emergency situation, electricity may be out, so cash will be king.

We also have an auto-start generator on propane in case of an earthquake and the gas lines are disrupted (yes, my anxiety is out of control), but it is most often used when the power goes out as I just don't enjoy "roughing it" anymore. Lame, I know.

A guy on another blog posted his plan and supplies: http://miserlybastard.blogspot.com (search for Emergency Preparedness, Part 2: In the Home). I apologize if that link has been posted here before. I read such great stuff on great blogs but then can't remember where I read what!

Kelly

We live in the Poconos, in a very rural area, and on the side of a hill so floods aren't at all a problem for us. Power outages in winter can be, though (thankfully we have the best/fastest linemen in the area), and we know we need to get a backup generator at some point. We don't have "go bags" since I take a goodly amount of meds and my insurance won't cover me having backup. I've got two boys (3yr & 8mo) that both fit in the same sized clothes right now so we could do diapers/spare clothes but if worse comes to worse I'm not going to care what they're wearing (the diapers I care about, though, so maybe...).
Otherwise we have lots of flashlights (large, heavy blunt-object kinds) and a non-electric phone (though we're on VOIP now, so as long as we have cable/internet). We have a large pantry and a chest freezer full of food, so that helps. We're on a well, so once we have the backup generator we're all set.

deezydubya

Re: keeping precious things like computer contents, baby photos, etc safe...

I work in the archival field. Archival institutions save important born-digital items (digital photos etc) to hard drive. If they don't use hard drive, they save to gold compact disks, which are projected to last >100 years.

Unless you regularly convert your digital photos to newer formats, though, you may be in trouble if you simply scan or save to disc/memory stick/etc. The technology becomes obsolete a lot faster than the physical media (disk/memory stick) wears out.

An alternative for the average person (who isn't armed with room to store obsolete computer hardware and software, climate and humidity-proof vaults, etc) might be to save some of your digital photos to a photo-sharing site like Flickr, especially if you live in a place that's flood-prone. I wouldn't recommend it for actual archival storage, but to save your kid's baby pictures, sure. Their servers are probably miles from your potential disaster area.

Another alternative is to keep copies of important papers, negatives, disks, etc. in a safety-deposit box or at a family member's house in addition to keeping it at your own house. Hey, grandma'd probably like the doubles you just had made of Madyson's birthday, and if something happened you'd be able to reconstruct those old albums by copying grandma's album. (Archives do this too; multiple copies are your friend.)

Finally, if you do have a flood, but you find your albums/important papers/etc - if the stuff's really important and worth saving, GET IT TO A FREEZER WHILE IT'S STILL WET. Even photographs can sometimes be salvaged when they get wet if properly handled. If nothing else you may be able to scan them. But if they dry out, the emulsion on the photos get wrecked, the paper starts to mold. So you want to freeze them ASAP. If you have time, take them from the gross water/sewage/etc and put them in distilled water to rinse them, then toss them in a deep freeze.

Down the road you may be able to pay someone to do proper conservation on them. You may even want to try separating the frozen sheets yourself to scan. But if the stuff molds you're hosed, so keep it wet, treat it gently and then freeze it.

(Obviously if you separate them before you freeze them the sheets/photos etc will be easier to work with later. But if you can't, freeze them anyway and worry about it later.)

hedra

Our insurance company just notified us that we may qualify for flood insurance, despite not living in a federally identified flood plain.

We're going to be looking into that. Our house was built on an old seasonal creek bed that they just sorta filled in. Thaaaanks. Water table still runs in that creek bed, right through our yard. The tree guy we have was really impressed - in a good rain, our entire yard is a creek. He recommended we just put a deck over half the back yard, and stay above the water. In the wet season, parts of the yard have water table so high that bulb holes fill with water half way as soon as they're dug (joy). Cement doesn't cure. And our basement has a french drain with two sump pumps, despite our house being tiny.

Plan, so far, isn't perfect. My mom's house is nearby, so we know where we can go. My brother is the call-first person (lives in the least risk zone for most crises of the lot of us). We have a grab-n-go book with routes out of town for major emergencies, but we're variable on the stocked up stuff. Nothing is stored where it can get water damage under normal (floodish) conditions, and our first floor is (thank heavens) about 3 feet above ground level. Serious papers are in the safe deposit box. Photos would have to be scavenged, but we could do that. We don't have enough backup water supply at the moment, though we have enough food stores in general.

Ah, well, better safe, yes?

Lisa

My husband, who inherited his mother's paranoid prepared mindset, did a lot of research into online photo archiving. The winner was Smugmug. It also has the benefit of being well-designed and free/cheap.

For backup, we back up to external hard drives regularly: him nightly, me monthly. (I store work in progress, of which there's little these days, on a keychain thumb drive. He keeps the crucial family files on his machine.)

At the end of the year we copy everything minus pix, music, and movies onto DVD-Rs and throw them in a drawer at my parents' house. Pix are on Smugmug; E. backs up movies (family stuff and his short films) to DVD as they're finished.

Most recent year's discs go in a small firesafe in the closet, along with passports, birth certificates, etc.

I figure if that level of preparedness fails, we'll have much more important things to worry about.

Lisa

Um, that "paranoid" should've appeared as a crossout. Lame attempt at humor, foiled by HTML.

Amy

I live on the Texas Gulf Coast and my only emergency/hurricane preparedness is in my head! Bad, bad mommy. In theory, I'd keep batteries on hand, a box of candles, matches, couple of flashlights, several gallons of water, lots of non-perishables, a bag packed for each family member, cat carriers handy, documents organized, etc. In truth, the only think I have mentally organized is that I know exactly where the two bigger kids' baby books are so I can grab and go if I have to get out of the house (baby #3's book

Christine

For the pet owners out there, don't forget food and water for them. I'd keep a copy of their vaccination records, too. And in the event of something big happening and they need to be left in a temporary shelter, a microchip is your best bet to be reunited later.

Amy

(oops, didn't mean to hit "post" yet)

I was saying that baby #3's baby book's pictures are all still on Shutterfly, so if his book gets lost in the emergency, I can replicate it.

Anyway, surely making sure the baby books are saved is more important than gathering canned goods. No?

SarcastiCarrie

We have an inverter to run the sump pump off of the car during a power outage (which we used last night here in Chicago during a 7-hour power outage). A battery back-up, generator, water-powered back-up or an invertor is necessary if you have a sump pump.

kelli

We bought a first aid/basic survival kit from Target/Red Cross for each car and the garage. It's got basics (battery radio, flashlight, batteries, etc.) and you add your own water & food (and a few other things) which are listed on a handy page which is included. It was a great kickstart for us.
http://tinyurl.com/3chxxm
$30 and until the end of August $10 goes to the Red Cross. (We bought ours in store.)

megan

Whoa. I am seriously impressed with the level of preparation by some of you. And feeling woefully underprepared myself. We don't live in an area that's regularly hit by any natural disasters (do 100% humidity and cicadas count?), but we should do something, I'm sure.

My question is, haven't any of you been tempted to dip into that reserve of emergency cash when you needed some petty cash? Unimaginable to me to think there was $500 in cash hidden in the house. But maybe that's just me.

Pollyanna

Megan-

Yep. Done it. Recently, in fact. Needed some cash for the sitter this time. Needed tips for the cleaning people the other time. Both times I have replace the money within 2 days. For me, the anxiety of NOT having all the money there is worse than knowing the money is there to spend.

Catherine

Megan - I've dipped into the "emergency" food stores more than once when I needed a can of tomatoes (or whatever) and forgot to buy one at the store. I think of it as a feature rather than a bug, actually, since one fewer can of tomatoes isn't going to make a huge difference to our overall preparedness picture, but it IS going to make a huge difference in tonight's dinner. I do restock at the next grocery run, though.

Thanks for clarifying the flood insurance issue, folks - we may very well look into it if we can get decent protection for little $ due to not living in a flood plain. You never know.

pnuts mama

so i dug out my NYC OEM guide to preparedness for emergencies and here is their list for a "go bag" (found at http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/ready/prepared_gobag.shtml):
Copies of your important documents in a waterproof and portable container (insurance cards, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.)

Extra set of car and house keys

Credit and ATM cards and cash, especially in small denominations. We recommend you keep at least $50-$100 on hand.

Bottled water and non-perishable food such as energy or granola bars

Flashlight

Battery-operated AM/FM radio and extra batteries

Keep a list of the medications each member of your household takes, why they take them, and their dosages. Medication information and other essential personal items. If you store extra medication in your Go Bag, be sure to refill it before it expires.

First-aid kit

Contact and meeting place information for your household, and a small regional map

Child care supplies or other special care items

and here are their recs for having in your emergency supply kit
(http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/ready/prepared_supplykit.shtml ):

One gallon of drinking water per person per day

Non-perishable, ready-to-eat canned foods and manual can opener

First aid kit

Flashlight

Battery-operated AM/FM radio and extra batteries (you can also buy wind-up radios that do not require batteries)

Whistle

Iodine tablets or one quart of unscented bleach (for disinfecting water ONLY if directed to do so by health officials) and eyedropper (for adding bleach to water)

Personal hygiene items: soap, feminine hygiene products, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.

Phone that does not rely on electricity

Child care supplies or other special care items

pnuts mama

i meant to add that right after 9/11 i had all this stuff ready to go- and since then i have gotten lax, for a # of reasons. plus, we have a safe deposit box, but i question the ability to access it in a time of crisis, you know? maybe it would be better to get a small safebox to keep here.

weather-wise, we are lucky to be in an area that doesn't flood, thank god. they predict a big hurricane will hit NYC one of these years, but there is so much warning that if we needed to leave we could.

as far as human-caused catastrophies are concerned, well, i have sort of come to terms with the fact that i live on an island that is large and populated by over 4 million people, and when the big one happens (that is the pragmatist in me, i suppose) just west of us in manhattan, we are trapped here. if we survive the initial incident, we'd drive as fast as we could to the nearest bridge and hope to get over it, or as far east as we could to find a water route north, but with all the people here, it's unlikely we'd be able to escape, let alone leave our general area. either way, if the catastrophy is significant enough, we probably won't survive (i googled the heck out of this about 5 years ago), and yes, that is a very difficult thing to accept. part of me hopes to move from here before anything like that happens, another part of me can't bear to imagine living somewhere else and losing everyone/place/thing i know here.
so there ya go. sorry this turned into a real downer- it's not my normal approach to life. maybe i'll be optimistic and go pack my go-bag now.

Sharon Silver

I’ve lived through 2 major floods, several earthquakes, a tornado, an ice storm, and a gas leak. I don’t know what it is with me and the weather! All kidding aside, during each one of those events the same question came up, “If we need to leave at a moments notice what would we take with us?”
In our panic, could we remember it all? The following list is what we use as a guide. Some things are packed ahead of time, for the rest we each have assigned items to grab from this list and go! My list won't be what your family needs, but it's a great starting point.
This is our "We have 10 minutes to go" list.
Pets and food, medications, water, cell phone and charger
documents and personal files, passports and birth certificates,
computer and back ups, snack food, diapers or pull-ups, pillows and blankets, toilet paper and soap, fork, knife spoon, flashlight for each person, band-aids and first aid kit, photo's, sweater or coat, more warm clothes, jewelry, favorite stuffed animals or comfort objects, books that are not replaceable.

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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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