Getting a kit together is a lot like planning for a camping trip. Let’s see, we’re going to be gone for six days so we’ll have to take food for 18 meals, plus snacks, s’mores ingredients and drinks. Then comes the sleeping bags, extra clothes, tent, camping stove and on and on and on. The only difference between packing for a camping trip and preparing for a major disaster is with the latter, we really don’t know how long to plan for. When Hurricane (Superstorm) Sandy hit the northeast a few years ago, some folks were still without some services up to 60 days following the arrival of the storm. By that time F.E.M.A. had arrived and other services, including food were brought in from outside the area.
I have read that grocery stores in the region were sold out within three to four hours, there were similar reports from other stores dealing in camping gear and supplies. Someone recently approached me and asked about food resources locally. Although there are a few food banks in the area, they really are not set up to serve our entire region in the event an earthquake strikes our region. My local neighborhood is not unique. Go ask your local city hall or county emergency management folks how much food they have stocked up for disasters. I’m thinking you won’t be comforted by the response. The food banks receive supplies either from donated sources and program funding from various agencies which can be affected by the ebb and flow of available money or the generosity of local food drives and private individuals. These food banks routinely provide groceries to families in need in our communities on an ongoing basis. There is no cache of groceries in our county set aside specifically to be distributed in the event of a disaster.
Back in the Civil Defense days of the 1950s to 1960s, there were some resources on hand to be “activated” in case of enemy attack. Situated around the country, there were entire military field hospitals in strategic locations. These units contained everything, with the exception of medications and staff, needed to set up a Mobile And Surgical Hospital (M.A.S.H.) . Those units have all been dismantled. Besides the supplies and equipment would be close to 70 years old by now. There are currently no government (or private) warehouses full of food in our area to be distributed in case of disaster.
So now we’re back to the Y.O.Y.O. scene. You’re On Your Own! Building a pantry doesn’t require a huge extra outlay of funds. Start by watching the sales. Take advantage of the ‘buy one get one’ bargains. One lady wrote to me and bragged she had saved $7,000 in a year’s time by using coupons, online bargains and shopping the sales. The side benefit was she had built up a very tidy stockpile of groceries as she did so.
If money is no object there are literally hundreds (or more) websites selling disaster preparedness food supplies. You can order freeze-dried, dehydrated, canned or a combination of all the above. Some even offer free shipping. Costco is one of my favorites. Go to Costco.com, type “emergency” in their search box and you’ll find they offer anything from a three day supply to a year’s supply of freeze-dried fare for an entire family. It’s a great place to build up your emergency food supply if you want to do so in a hurry. Also you’ll find they offer free shipping. A word of caution, all the experts recommend storing food that you are accustomed to eating. During times of emergency, your body is already stressed and introducing an entirely foreign diet could result in some unpleasant gastric distress.
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Dave Robinson is a retired postmaster, and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com.