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Emergency preparedness: Build up two week supply of food Print E-mail
May 04, 2011 04:00 am

This is part three of a continuing series about disaster preparedness on the Southernā€ˆOregon Coast. The first part, published on March 26, focused on water storage; the second part, published on April 6, focused on prescription drugs.


For the next few months I will be purchasing one item (or set of items) on the Red Cross Disaster Preparedness list, or finding the one I already have in my home. Then I will put it in a designated disaster kit storage area.

I challenge readers, to do the same.

Each week I will choose one item from the Red Cross list, with alternatives and tips.


Food supply

The American Red Cross recommends a two-week supply of food. Because of Curry County’s remote location, I’m planning for three weeks, and assuming no availability of food from area grocery stores.

To survive a disaster a person can live on half of their normal caloric intake for a few weeks. In fact, during times of stress, most people eat less.

During backpack trips of my youth, crossing the Sierra Nevadas and into the foothills of the Coastal Ranges, I found that I rarely had much interest in food. I found myself snacking on high-protein items, but was rarely “hungry.”

It’s the body’s natural reaction to stress, my doctor told me. My body was shutting down my desire to eat in order to get me out of the situation.

But that’s not ideal in a disaster.

Healthy teens and adults will likely be working hard in the aftermath of a disaster in Curry County. They will need extra calories, similar to what’s found in an athletic diet.

Those who are injured or ill will also need extra calories to survive until help comes and, if the disaster happens in winter, it takes calories to keep warm.

A disaster isn’t the time to be worried about keeping to a lifestyle diet. It’s also not a gourmet experience. A disaster diet may be boring, tasteless and maybe even a little distasteful. Food that stores well and efficiently provides calories isn’t going to be the most exciting.

During disasters, it’s all about survival.

My husband, Mike, and I have been collecting food items as we find them on sale. We try to buy two or three items each time we go shopping, more if we can afford it and find a good deal.

Our bin of emergency food includes:

•canned meats, including Spam, tuna, and chicken

•sugar (in a can or otherwise sealed container)

•canned fruit

•ramen noodles

•condensed milk (canned)

•beef jerky

•individual drink flavor packets and tea bags (to encourage water intake)

The Red Cross recommends including the following items in your kit:

•protein bars

•dehydrated soup

•oatmeal

•rice

•powdered beans

•powdered eggs

•powdered milk

•beef and chicken bouillon cubes

•peanut butter

Store your food in a pest-resistant bin or designated clean trash can with wheels, so that you can transport it easily if you need to relocate.


Don’t forget your pantry

Even in the worst earthquake, most homes are expected to remain standing, according to Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) Earth Sciences Information Officer James Roddey.

In a January public meeting, Roddey said that in a Cascadia-type rolling quake – the type most likely to occur on the Oregon Coast – most buildings tend to remain standing.

Even those who cannot live in their homes may be able to retrieve most of what they had in the kitchen.

Also, in the first day or two after a disaster, use everything in your freezer and refrigerator. If you have a large supply of frozen foods, get together with your neighbors and have a neighborhood potluck.

Whatever can be eaten from an existing supply of perishable food means more  food will be available later.


Food preparation

My family used to have a barbecue, which we often used to cook or heat water during power outages. Keeping an extra propane tank meant we had weeks worth of outdoor cooking abilities.

We gave up the barbecue and replaced it with a countertop camp cook stove that uses mini propane bottles. It’s not as fun as grilling burgers or sausages, but it works. Do NOT use barbecues or camp stoves indoors, including tents. They produce carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.

Don’t forget, you will need a set of kitchen tools such as:

•a pot for boiling water

•a frying pan

•can opener/bottle opener

•plasticware or camp silverware

•plastic or camp bowls and plates

•knife


Pre-prepared emergency meals

One option we considered, then abandoned due to the cost, is lightweight, pre-packaged military meals, called a “Meal, Ready to Eat” (MRE).

MREs have little relation to the C- and K-rations of the past. MREs are small, mostly balanced bagged meals (24 choices of entree, with vegetarian options), desert, a drink or drink mix, and a heating element to warm the meal.

MREs are prepared for controlled nutrition – just right for a body under stress, whether it’s in a war zone or a disaster zone.

Along with medical supplies and assistance, MREs are often among the first items that arrive in a community after a major disaster.

My family and I had the chance to sample MREs. They were being given away at a camping expo we attended. Each of us got a different meal. To our surprise they were actually edible. I wouldn’t want to eat them on a long-term basis, but for a few day’s to a few weeks’ time I wouldn’t complain.

A four-day supply of MREs for one person can be found for $60 online, or a month’s supply is available for $500.

Don’t forget a replacement cycle. Even canned foods go bad. Use food from your kit regularly, and replace used items and those more than six months old with fresh supplies.

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Next week’s item: clothing and warmth/emergency shelter items.

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For those who prefer to  buy a ready-made essentials kit, go to www.redcrossstore.

org, where they have kits already packed into backpacks or duffle bags.

A complete list of items recommended for a disaster supply kit can be found at www.redcross.org

 

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