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MetroDad

We just got Vonage because we were sick of getting a $50 phone bill every month from Verizon. However, we have the problem that you mentioned. Every time it rains, our Road Runner goes kaput and we lose phone service. However, for $14.00/month, it's a good trade-off. I will warn you that Vonage's customer service is terrible and I've heard that Skype's is pretty bad too.

Bethany

I have just recently been thinking about putting together an emergency kit. I'd love to hear what's in yours. We've found ourselves in a brownout a few times, looking dumbly at each other wondering where the flashlights are (and if they even have batteries). Plus with the kids, I just want to make sure we're taken care of.

Summer

I should be a little more prepared than I am. I've got tons of canned food, flashlights, radios and such. I used to always have gallons and gallons of bottled water on hand, because our water supply came in from lead pipes and was otherwise untrustworthy. But since the lead service pipes have been replaced and our lead levels test well below the EPA recommendations, and since DC seems to be getting it's act together on keeping the water sanitary, I've switched from buying water to using a Brita filter. I should pick up a few gallons for emergency use... you never know when we'll get the next "boil water" alert.

The emergencies I have in mind when I think about preparing are primarily power outages because of bad thunderstorms, hurricanes, or snow/ice storms. Because we're in DC, terrorism is always in the back of my mind, but if it happens we are either A) totally fucked, or B) fleeing the city. We keep the car gassed up, and have several possible places we could go to shelter.

Susie

My husband was in the WTC on 9/11, so he's always got alternate plans for just about any event, although I'm embarrassed to say that we don't have an emergency kit. We have always had one phone that doesn't rely on electricity, though, in case of blackouts. I was pretty grateful for it during the big blackout.

Oddly enough, considering my husband nearly died in a terrorist attack, I'm not a tremendous worrier -- I should really be more prepared. We've talked about putting a kit together, but we never do it. I think I'll put it on my To Do list.

Oh, and for the record, my friend in Brooklyn has Vonage, and her service sucks.

How are your ankles?

Carrie

My husband has many "shake to power" flashlights and hand crank radios. We have batteries, canned food, a non-electric can opener, tons of pantry food, a corded telephone on a land line, bottled water, first aid kit, several days-worth of non-prescription medecine, an emergency stash of diapers, etc.

Even in Chicago, terrorist attack is not the first thing that comes to mind. I am preparing for a tornado or possibly a blizzard. We don't have a well, so we still have water even if the power goes out, but when I lived somewhere with a well, I kept far more bottled water on hand than I do now.

I rely on the systems being redundant and independent. If the power goes out, we'll still have phone, gas, and water. If a boil order is in effect, we'll have gas and electricity. All of our utilities are underground to our home, so the only way I can foresee them all going out at the same time is an earthquake that ruins the underground transmission lines for phone, water, gas, and electricity or a planned terrorist attack designed to do just that. A bad ice storm could knock out the phone and power at the switching areas, but we'd still have gas and water.

KidKate

I think it probably comes down to kids vs no kids. We were also in NYC for both 9/11 and the blackout but we unfortunately haven't given emergency preparedness very much thought. We have an idea of what we'd do (particularly with the pups) in the event of another terrorist attack etc but haven't haven’t gone as far as preparing a kit or anything. I think that might change once we have a kid, though.

Nikki

As a former Angeleno, I am shocked that people aren't prepared for emergencies. We couldn't wait for the weatherman to tell us to go get stuff.

We had a big and thorough first aid kit, canned food, hand crank can opener, black garbage bags, canned juice, vitamin c, water for 3 days per person, a flashlight in every room, $200 in cash--most of it change, a shakeable flashlight in case the spare batteries don't work. In LA we also had a duffle bag packed with undies, tshirts, sweaters, sneakers, jeans and a deck of cards. That, from the riots.

We have no kids, so that's not it. When Reno came to USC and did her bit about 9.11, she was going on and on about "who's prepared for emergencies???" I was thinking, "I am."

Jill

Um... I have a couple gallon jugs of water. Maybe I should work on this?

Dee

Oh boy, seeing as how our county took direct hits from both hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 and then by Wilma last year, we've long been big fans of the emergency kit. Eight days without power (or water since we're on a well that runs on electricity) will make you a believer, fast.

For us, a well-stocked emergency kits means plenty of bottled water, canned goods, a manual can opener, a first aid kit, antibacterial wipes, batteries, flashlights, LED headlamps, important papers (insurance, car, SS, passports, etc.) in a watertight 'dry' box, extra dog food, cash, a generator to power the entire house, 5 ten gallon gas cans, plywood...you name it, we're ready in a matter of a day or so. I'm sure I've forgotten to mention some other essentials in there.

Of course, now that we've got a little one in the family, we've got a whole new 'sub-list' of items to include but it's a small price to pay for being safe when (not if) another strong storm comes our way down here in south FL.

elecriclady

We have bottled water (in both gallon jugs and smaller portable bottles), canned food and energy bars, batteries, flashlights, battery-operated radio (I need to get a hand-crank), candles and matches, cat food, non-cordless phone connected to land line, and I think some other random stuff. Also, embarrassingly, duct tape. Not sure why. At one point my husband had this plan to buy bags of sand--to fill the tub, for us to use like a human-sized cat box, in case the plumbing went out completely. But I feel that if we are reduced to pooping in the bathtub we probably ought to be trying to leave Manhattan, by car or foot or dinghy or whatever means necessary. But I think that and the duct tape are part of my husband's epidemic preparations (i.e. we don't leave the apartment for a month and a half for fear of contagion).

What we don't have but should: the aforementioned crank radio, a first-aid kit (we have first-aid supplies but not organized in any way), extra cash on hand, extra cell phone batteries or hand charger, important documents ready to go.

As you might have guessed, our emergency supplies were assembled with a passel of free-floating anxieties in mind--blackout, terrorism, epidemic, Armageddon, etc.

Katie

We need to think about a kit. My mom has the hand crank radio, but last time the power went out at her house, she couldn't find it. This was slightly hilarious to me. I'd like to get one too. Otherwise the main thing I'd like to get is something where we could figure out how to get water out of our well when the power goes out. I don't want a whole house generator; I just want water. I think cash is a good thing too. My partner bought a fire-proof safe thinking we could store things like this in there, but I just asked her if anything was even in there right now and she emphatically said No. We used to have food stocked in the garage that included a Very Big Bag of Rice, but the mice found that fairly quickly, so now we'd be reduced to peanut butter with no water. Oh well. Maybe I should take this post as a wake up call.

Nikki

Electriclady, tell your husband that's what the black garbage bags are for...just check the Red Cross site. I have friends who used this method for weeks after the Northridge quake. :(

Brooke

We were affected by the blackout too (although we were on the very Western edge, the county next to us had power). After that we keep water on hand since we are on a well and no power = no water.

But that's about all. I can't imagine we'd ever need to evacuate without enough warning to grab our basic supplies. My biggest concern is losing power. I would like a battery operated radio, but so far we've just used the car radio. We do have a flashlight and we (almost always) know where it is. I try to keep at least half a tank of gas in the car and we have firewood.

Shelley

Not sure how you get your Inernet service, but if you get it through cable (we have DSL and basic cable) you may also be able to get your long distance service through the cable company as well. We've done that and it saves buckets of money -- unlimited long distance, and it doesn't go out if the Internet's out. Not sure how it works, but it's not the same thing technically as [email protected]

Lisa V

We have a really limited one that my uncle convinced us to assemble before Y2K. We (extended family) even had a plan how we could rescue my grandmother if that happened. It makes us look like survivalist nuts now.

When Phantom Scribbler started posting about the bird flu apocolypse, I got some more canned food. But realistically we would be hosed.

Her Bad Mother

We're working out Skype here, too.

About emerg prep? We were all over it after 9/11 and the blackot (which knocked out Toronto for some days), but have really backslid. A blackout is the likeliest issue, and we have a flashlight, but, um, pretty much nothing else.

jen

My husband was raised Mormon, and the LDS tradition is big on tons of canned goods. So we have quite a bit of bottled water and canned goods, some first aid stuff, batteries, etc. We're in Chicago and here I'm mostly worried about a blackout driven by bad weather.

Love the recommendation of having extra cat food on hand! Hadn't thought of that.

Gus and Moms

We have emergency backpacks that have flashlights, glowsticks, luna bars, water bottles, whistles, formula, and some other things in them. We envision that these are "grab and go" type things. We have water and food supplies in the basement, for staying put. We are preparing more for the Katrina type emergency situation, where we need to leave the area or need to hunker down without supplies getting in or out, and basically are trying to address food, power, and water concerns. We live outside of DC, so figure that even in a terrorist event, the most we can prepare for is that kind of stuff.

At work (downtown DC) we have gas/smoke masks, emergency first aid with food rations and water, and all that stuff.

Mia

Cincinnati is just in route to "better" cities so I doubt anything will happen to us here...although folks here still freak out every winter in fear it will be a rerun of the blizzard in '79.

Living on the coast or in larger cities, though, I would understand the need for a kit.

I like Gus and Mom's idea of grab-n-go items.

FishFace

Don't have an emergency prep kit, but I am a 911 operator so let me get my 2 cents in on that topic at least.

In Texas all apartments are required to have what's called express dial - even if you don't have phone service you can plug a phone into the wall and call 911. Your address may or may not show up but the phone number will, and if for some reason you hang up before the operator answers we can still get an address from the phone company. Don't know how things are in New York, since apartments here in Texas are all rentals, the rules are probably different but you could check with your local 911 center.

Second, the VOIP technology has been a huge pain in the ass for us. The user provides their address info to [email protected], or whichever company, but there is no attempt to verify if it is correct. It is up to the customer to keep it up to date. VOIP or cell phones will get you 911 but more than likely 911 will have no idea where you are, so be prepared to supply your address if you call.

And I know this is common sense, but everyone should make sure your children know their address in case of an emergency, and especially if you don't have a land line. "Mommy's laying on the floor and I can't wake her up" is a horrible thing to hear right before "I don't know where I live".

Robin

We live in the Twin Cities, so our usual threats have just been weather-related. After a tree fell on our house last summer, I put more effort into emergency preparedness. In our safe, I have a waterproof pouch (from REI) with a pad of check blanks, $500 in cash (in a variety of bills) copies of our auto/home/health insurance information, emergency contacts on a laminated sheet passports, copies of birth certificates and marriage licenses and health care directives (living wills). I also have a large plastic tub with various canned foods, bottled water (gets cycled through with fresh every three months) hand crank radio and flashlight, first aid kit (after the twins are born, I'll add a can of powdered formula).

In each car is a listing of insurance providers and policy numbers, contact details for each insurance agent, contacts for doctor and dentist, contacts for utilities and banking. There is also a list of who to call first if my wife and I cannot get in touch with each other. We have agreed to leave messages for each other through those people. We also have pre-defined rendezvous points if an evacuation of the city is required along with our own evacuation plan.

We've had [email protected] for about 18 months and have had good luck with it. I think the 911 issue is going to fade a bit now that they have been forced to work so hard at getting it up to speed. We have a battery back-up for the router and cable modem and will use our cell phones if the power is out for an extended period. (If the power failure outlasts the battery backup, then chances are we won't be spending the night at home anyway)

Elise

Skype rocks - we use it to talk to my sister in Mexico and it is awesome. Also if you have a webcam, you can let your kids make faces into the cam so the lucky people on the other end can see them and laugh. Our daughter loves to do that. And she looks so cute with the huge headset on, it's fun for everyone.

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