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Disaster Preparation Basics

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Disaster Preparation Basics

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There is something about fall and winter that sets our disaster preparedness minds in action.  Perhaps it is due to our reflection on years past when wind, snow and ice kept us indoors.  Or perhaps it is due to a single, violent winter storm, power outage or hurricane that left a path of destruction and many families without food, water and supplies.

Whatever the reason, short term emergencies do happen and my guess is that there is not a single one of us that that’s wants to suffer the consequences of not being ready to bug in for a few days or more when mother nature misbehaves.  And most certainly, none of us wants to rely upon the government to take care our needs.

Disaster Hurricane

Today on Survival Friday I am going to get down to some emergency and disaster preparation basics as defined by a reader shortly after Hurricane Sandy in November 2012. Tom in Hawaii posted this article on his blog to help others come to terms with the need for emergency and disaster preparedness.  I share it with just a few minor edits made for clarity.

Emergency & Disaster Preparation Basics

“…most of the people who should read and take heed probably won’t get by the first paragraph. The rest of us will read it to see what you forgot or what you add to their lists.” by G.B.S.

“Hopefully, some will read and heed. Otherwise, folks generally get what they deserve.” K.A.F.

“Think of it as evolution in action.” Oath of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

All you living in hurricanistan, blizzardistan, and earthquakistan?

Have you noticed that a lot of people on Long Island are still basically screwed? Lots because they didn’t high tail it from Hurricane Sandy when they should have, but a lot didn’t need to skedaddle. They did need more preparation than they made, though. Maybe they thought the government would soon be there to help them.

You could rely on FEMA’s promise to help you someday, or do something yourself about your impending doom. You might slyly forward this to your ancestral units with an appropriate note like: “Oh, Mater! Oh, Pater! I say, Christmas approaches! Ahem!” They may mutter darkly about devolution versus evolution, but at least you’ll have given them the opportunity to declare themselves cold, uncaring wretches more concerned with their next round of golf than with preserving the bloodline.

Why stand in long lines to compete with the unprepared neighbors for the last moldy donut within six miles?

Some of them may be armed. That little tube which connects us to makes it easy to prep for a natural disaster. When the larder is full and disaster strikes, you can sorrowfully gaze out the window as the neighbors stagger through the frozen night in search of a crust of bread. As your windows reverberate with their wailing and gnashing of teeth, you will be able to put up your feet and kick back in comfort with a cup of hot cocoa, reflecting that “There, but for the grace of Amazon, go I.”

Sooooooo….. I’ve written a long blog post with suggestions, complete with Amazon keywords for ease of finding stuff. It’s about basic preparing for short term comfort during relatively short term emergencies. Prepping for a couple days or even a few weeks is pretty simple, and the only difference between one day and some weeks is largely just adding more of the same stuff.

If you have absolutely nothing on the list already (not likely), the total should run less than $400 for the whole maximal shebang, not including food, which is pretty much free. More about that below.

All you grandparents and parents of young adults: Do you want to see too late the breathless news reports of little Ethelbert wrestling the family cat for a drowned mouse, only for him to watch with tear-filled eyes as Mummsie sautéed it in her chafing dish and popped it into her own mouth?  Keep in mind: there isn’t much meat on a waterlogged mouse. “Oh, Ethelbert! Oh Bertie! Come to Mummsie, Dear. Yes, a little closer…”

The veneer of civilization hangs thin on some of the Mummsies of the world. Why tempt them? Just remember: It’s for the bloodline.

And by the way, the idea that being prepared means cooking on a chafing dish is from the FEMA site. Someone over there has a sick sense of humor.


You may have a lot of this on hand already. The rest you can fill in. It isn’t even a pain to shop for: most of it can be gotten with a few clicks at Amazon. The food is nearly free because you need merely to buy ahead, rather than as you need it.


Rock bottom minimum is one gallon per person per day, for as many days as you contemplate being without city water. If you live in a high rise, think about having to carry jugs of water up the stairs. It’s easy to avoid.

A 5 gallon water fountain jug from Home Depot or similar place, carried up in the elevator and stashed in a closet, is a lot better than nothing, and the plastic jug will last for years. You can find heavy duty water jugs smaller than 5 gallons. They are lots lighter, especially if you carry them up empty and fill them at home. If you are a bottled water junkie, inventory more.

You can also get collapsible water jugs which you fill when you have warning of a storm. They don’t do any good for sudden emergencies like earthquakes, or even a burst water main, but if your concern is storms, you will have notice. Sporting goods sections sometimes have them. Amazon keywords: “collapsible water jugs “.

There are also lightweight bathtub liners available which let you store a tub full of water without it getting dirty from the tub or from windblown debris. They are very light plastic because they rely on the tub for support. A tub full is a lot. Amazon keywords are “tub liner “.

Heavy duty juice jugs (like cranberry juice) can be washed thoroughly, disinfected with a cap-full of unscented chlorine bleach in water for an hour, then emptied and filled. Stash in a dark place. Milk jugs are not so good because they are designed for short term storage of perishable milk. They self destruct in a few months and soak everything under them. They work fine for short term storage when you get a storm warning though.


The emergency food supply costs next to nothing because all you need to do is store more of what you normally use. The trick is in building up your stock of food, using the oldest first so you never have to throw away out-dated stock, and in not letting it get run down before an emergency. Keep an inventory of food which will last for as long as you think is appropriate: a few days to a few weeks. Think of it as an insurance policy which you will eat.

Buying weird survival foods in nitrogen packs, or military MREs is not only expensive, it isn’t even optimal for a couple days to a few weeks on your own. Switching to weird food during an already stressful time is just adding stress, especially so for kids. Stock what you and they normally eat, just more of it. If you have kids who are used to cereal, make a game of occasionally practicing for storms with canned milk.

Buy more of all your canned goods and pasta, all the standard foods you use but which do not need refrigeration. Figure out what you use frequently, and stock up. Instead of a couple of cans of this and one of that, buy a couple cases at Costco or Sam’s. Stack ’em up, and when you open a new case, buy another or maybe two and put them on the bottom of the stack. That way you are always using the oldest first. The bigger the stack of each food, the longer you are prepared for.

This costs nothing except the small opportunity cost of not having the purchase price in the bank earning money. You are going to spend the money on the food anyway: better to do it before a problem. That reduces stress: you aren’t standing in long lines, competing with other last minute buyers. You have less stress, the unprepared neighbors have more food. Win/Win.

A gallon of water per person does not leave any for washing dishes, so paper plates, cups, bowls, napkins, paper towels, and disposable cutlery are very handy. Also, don’t forget a good supply of trash bags. You can throw all these in a plastic storage crate, put them in the closet so they are all together, and they don’t get used before an emergency. Costco and Sam’s Club are great places for all that.

Don’t forget some Wet Ones. They are great for waterless hand and face washing. You can also use them for washing pots and pans after using paper towels to get the gunk out.

Don’t forget a manual can opener. The electric one may not work well when the lights go out.

Cookbook: “Apocalypse Chow” by Jon Robertson and Robin Robertson does a good job with recipes designed for cooking during power outages. I liked it enough to write a review on Amazon, so if you are curious, go there and plug in “apocalypse chow” for all the pro and con reviews.

If you see a hurricane coming, and you have some freezer space, thoroughly wash out milk jugs or similar, fill them nearly full with water, and freeze them. Leave some space for the water to expand as it freezes so they don’t burst. Each gallon jug makes a 7+ pound block of ice, and they won’t make a mess as they melt. Cardboard milk cartons work too. It will keep the food in your refrigerator usable longer, maybe even until the electricity comes back on. Ice is good stuff. When it passes its Use By date, you can even drink it.


I would add one very important thing which is frequently overlooked in preparation lists: a two burner propane camping stove. There is nothing which will stress out kids -and adults, too, for that matter- more than several days of eating room temperature canned food, especially in the northern states in winter. A stove will also let you cook food which has to be cooked, like rice, potatoes or noodles. Hot food and drinks are really important physically and for morale, and you can have it for about $70, several fuel canisters included.

For another ten or twenty bucks, get one with push button ignition, but store a box or two of matches in it just in case. Also, of course, several of the small propane canisters. You can currently get a two burner Coleman at Amazon (keywords: propane camp stove ).

You can shave five to ten dollars by getting a single burner stove, but unless storage space is really tight, the two burner versions are far superior for stability and ease of use. You do not want to tip over a pot of very hot food on yourself or a kid during an emergency. Get a two burner. Keep it simple: no need for the dual fuel models. We have a Coleman, and love it for camping three or four times a year. They are very easy to use.

Added comfort and reduced stress during an already stressful time is important, especially if you have kids to care for. Cook your food.


At least one good flashlight per person, and I suggest at least one spare. LEDs are far better than bulbs: they don’t burn out or break if you drop the light. Maglites are no longer state of the art by a long shot, but if you get a good deal on a twin pack (usually a 3 D cell and a AA Mini Mag) at Costco, Sam’s Club, or Sears, I think they are a best buy. They are very sturdy lights. Just be sure someone doesn’t stick you with old stock using bulbs. They are around, even on Amazon. If it doesn’t say LED, it isn’t.

Much better, but more expensive, are Coast flashlights. We have several models and they are great lights, both the pocket/purse models and the bigger ones. They are machined from aluminum, with lenses which throw an even beam with no dark spot or dark rings. Unlike some other very good high end lights, they run on D, C, AA, and AAA so you can get batteries at pretty much any gas station if you are so improvident as to run out. Coasts are startlingly bright. Plug “Coast flashlights” into the search field at Amazon for the best prices. Maglites will do a good job though.

Get at least one battery powered lantern. Again, I prefer the LED models for durability and longer battery life. Ideally they run on the same batteries as the big flashlights: D cells. Two lanterns are better than one, of course, but if you are on a budget, get the flashlights, then a lantern, then another. Amazon keywords: “LED Lantern “. Coleman and Coast both make good ones for $25 to $35. No need for the $90 variety.

And don’t forget batteries! Sam’s Club and Costco have very good prices for the big packages, and that is what you want for a week without electricity. If you have room in the refrigerator, batteries will last longer there. Not in the freezer, though.

I have a very low opinion of every hand cranked flashlight and radio I have tried. Some work great for a few months but then the batteries refuse to take a charge which lasts more than about three seconds. I think they are worse than a waste of money because they are a false promise. They claim to take care of you, but they won’t. Instead of spending money on them, buy either extra batteries for radios and lights, or some liquid paraffin candles for light. (see UPDATE III at the bottom for a source)


You should have this already, so mostly you need to review what you have to be sure you aren’t running out of stuff like band-aids, triple anti-biotic cream, square bandages, tape, and peroxide, Betadine, or other disinfectant.

If your concerns are with hurricanes or earthquakes, you should be thinking about responding to much more serious cuts than usual, so consider more and much bigger bandages, too, as well as some pain pills. A couple of ace bandages and some anti-diarrhea medicine would be nice. So would a good first aid manual.

Also, of course, you should have several days of medicine for anyone who needs daily doses.


Rolls of toilet paper, stashed where they will not be used in daily life. Also tampons or pads. If you don’t need them, someone else might. The pads are also excellent expedient bandages for major wounds- say, after a hurricane or earthquake crunches a house. A five gallon plastic bucket with a top on it can serve as a toilet, especially if you line it with a couple plastic trash bags. You can even get toilet seats for them at Amazon if you like: plug “bucket toilet seat ” into the search field.

The $12 variety are just fine. Home Depot has wonderful hideous orange buckets with covers for less than $4.00, and you can store emergency supplies in them, labeled with a felt tip marker if you want to get compulsive.

Again, don’t forget some Wet Ones or a couple bottles of disinfectant gel.


Several rolls of it if you are in a hurricane zone. You want to put big X’s on every window so if they get hit with debris you are less likely to get a face full of fast moving shattered glass. Consider fiberglass filament reinforced strapping tape for the same purpose. U-Haul carries it if your store doesn’t. So does Amazon. Clear packaging tape is worthless: it tears at the slightest nick. Forget it.


We almost never use a radio, except in the vehicles, but if you want to know how things are going around you, you need a battery powered AM/FM radio. Better to store it without the batteries in it, because they can leak and wreck the radio.

Cell phones may or may not work. A cell phone car charger doesn’t cost much, though.  Neither do inverters, which let you charge a laptop or tablet from the car. A landline with one of the old fashioned rotary phones will work as long as the lines are up, as the phone company lines supply the power needed.


How much money do you spend in a couple weeks? Consider having some cash on hand, in small bills, in case the stores are open but the ATMs and credit/debit card machines aren’t working. Again, anything is better than nothing.


Extra food, a transportation cage for pets if you need to evacuate, and tranquilizers for same. Our cats freaked when we put them in a tent in the front yard while having the house tented for termites. They were too stressed to eat or drink. Kitty tranks (acepromazine), saved the day. Your vet should be happy to provide some if you explain why. Don’t forget extra kitty litter.


If the phones aren’t working you will have a tough time calling the police. You will be on your own if a problem person or persons show up. How will you deal with him, her, or them if they are violent?

If you are not a gun person, you probably shouldn’t get one unless you are willing to use it on someone who desperately needs shooting, and willing to spend the time, effort, and money to really learn how to use it, the laws and morality of using it, and stay in practice.

One option to consider is pepper spray. It isn’t as effective, but it won’t kill anyone, either. Also, it is available and legal to carry in some jurisdictions where guns are hard to get and impossible to carry legally. Check local laws before getting it though. The penalty in DC for unregistered pepper spray is the same as for an unregistered gun. And DC is ugly about unregistered guns, or even ammunition. Felony ugly. Check the law.

Barring pepper spray or a gun, an aluminum baseball bat is a fearsome weapon, but you have the same moral and emotional issues as guns, without the effectiveness. Still, a bat is a lot better than poking an assailant with a mop.

If you are a gun person, you probably have your own opinion about what to use.


For many natural disasters you are better off sheltering at home. At some point though you may need to leave. If your house or high rise is on fire, or you are in the path of a wildfire, you may need to leave in a hurry. Think about what you want to take ahead of time. Some things you may decide to keep ready to go in a small duffle, rollaway suitcase, or backpack.

A printed list of things to grab in an emergency evacuation, and spare car and house keys, attached with a sturdy safety pin to the outside for quick access if you wake up to a fire, will be a huge help if you are under pressure.

Things to keep inside it are a spare pair of glasses. The pair you just replaced should be good enough, and free. Also a supply of your important medications, with the prescription bottles so you can re-supply. Contact information for family, friends, and insurance agents could be very useful. A flashlight can come in handy.

If there is any reason to think you might have to evacuate, fill the car’s gas tank early on. You do not want to be in line with the people who waited until they were sure they needed to get out of town. Plan ahead.

Think about evacuation routes in advance. This does not have to be a big hairy military exercise: just consider alternate routes to safe areas in case your regular route is closed. You should have a good local map anyway, so get one and keep it in the car.

Strictly speaking, if you have a few manual tools, you may not need a pocket knife or multi-tool at home, but I like Victorinox Swiss Army Knives enough to wear one on my belt daily. They are useful for a host of things, including food prep if you have to leave home. They include a can opener which, once you have practiced a little, is easy to use. They also have a lot of other tools which come in handy although some of the models have too many tools for my taste. The Spartan and the Climber models are basic, no frills models, and I’d be strongly inclined to consider one for about $22 to $30.

The Amazon keywords “Victorinox Swiss Army knife ” will get you the whole panoply to peruse. They are high quality tools.

Alternate possibilities are Leatherman or Gerber multi-tools. They are heavier duty, and you can get them in a bewildering array of configurations. They also are more expensive than Swiss Army knives, but for some are worth the expense. If you are interested in looking at them, the Amazon keywords are “Leatherman multi-tool ” and “Gerber multi-tool “.

If you have no routine use for a knife or multi-tool, just toss it in your Go Bag. Then you’ll know where it is.

All of this may seem like a lot to do all at once, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Just start, and plug away. Anything we do is better than nothing, and will help the relief crews who are helping others.

Grandparents: What better gift can you give the grandchildren than hot food, water, and light during an emergency which lasts a day or twenty? Help Little Ethelbert. Help Mummsie.

Other Information

I’m not wild about the clarity and ease of navigation of the Red Cross site, but it is worth checking out here.

FEMA also has some decent lists. They don’t seem to think hot food is important enough to include a camping stove, either. I wonder if they have ever tried living on cold canned food for a couple days, much less a week. Stoves and charcoal grills are mentioned, along with candles and fondue pots, but not listed in the supply lists.

A site with lots of disaster preparation supplies is Emergency Essentials. It caters more to people who are preparing for situations which may last a great deal longer than two or three weeks, but it has a lot of interesting stuff, including handy interactive map iconfor preparing for standard emergencies to expect in each state.

They also have first aid kits, liquid paraffin candles (lamps, really) and folding sheet metal stoves which run on canned heat. The stoves may be more difficult to use than twin burner camp stoves, but they are quite a bit cheaper and they can be stored forever. If you visit the site only for the disaster preparations map, it will be well worth a few minutes.

Gaye Levy aka The Survival Woman has a good post on how to prep over the course of a year. If you are interested in helping yourself prepare for emergencies but feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the stuff above, you might check her out. See 12 Months of Prepping – The First Year.

Here is a link to our experience in the Hawaii earthquake of October 15th, 2006.We made out fine, but we did modify our emergency supplies by adding three 5 gallon water fountain jugs of water so we always have at least some in stock.

Plan to Bug-In in Comfort

One thing Tom did not mention is the need to have some books, games and other forms of entertainment to keep you occupied until the disaster is over.  Keep that in mind as you set aside emergency supplies and remember, amusements are important for adults as well as the kiddos.

The other thing is that by now, you should realize that for most emergencies, bugging in (also referred to as hunkering down) is the most practical solution to waiting out a disaster.  The exception is when the local authorities mandate an evacuation.  When that happens, grab your stuff, avoid the crowds and the chaos, and be the first to go!  Remember, bugging out holds no glamour except on television.  Instead, focus on maintaining a safe and secure environment in the comfort of your own home. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you will be just fine.  For the remaining one percent, keep a well-stocked bug-out bag accessible and ready to go.

The Final Word

I am very fortunate to be on the receiving end of insightful and useful information from a variety of sources, not the least of which are Backdoor Survival readers.  More and more, I plan to share this information so that you, too, can gain a perspective from someone who is walking the walk, right along side you.

For more about Tom, visit his blog at Blogospherical Ruminations.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Facebook which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Pinterest.

In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Bargain Bin:  Today’s selection highlights the items mentioned in today’s article, including some of the Amazon keyword searches suggested by Tom.

5 Gallon Water Bottle/Jug Hand Pump:  This is a manual pump that fits on top of a 5 gallon jug of water.  I have used one of these on our boat.  These work great and allow you to easily get to the water that is stored away at the back of a closet.

waterBOB Emergency Drinking Water Storage:  Have you considered storing water in your bathtub?  The Water Bob is a bladder that you can use in your bathtub to store water if you know that a storm, flood, or hurricane is brewing.

Coleman Two-Burner Propane Stove:  This stove is equipped with two 10,000 BTU Burners and runs about 1 hour on a single propane cylinder with both burners set to high.  The nice thing about a Coleman is that spare parts are always available for DIY repairs years down the road.

Streamlight Protac Tactical Flashlight:  Considered some of the best tactical flashlights out there, Coast flashlights will take your existing light supply up a notch in terms of ruggedness and reliability.  This model is one of their highest rated.

Rayovac Sportsman LED Lantern:  With optimized beams, rubber grips, and tactical switches, this lantern is ideal for use inside and out, whether you’re heading for the hills or camping out in your home during a power outage. Nicely compact and ultra-portable at just 7 inches tall and under 3.5 inches wide, it provides an incredibly bright 240-lumen light that makes it a useful resource for outdoor adventures as well as for emergency preparedness.

Victorinox Swiss Army Climber II Pocket Knife: This is the Swiss army knife that both Shelly and I carry.  It includes the following: large and small blades, two standard screwdrivers, bottle and can openers, a corkscrew, a wire stripper, scissors, key ring, reamer, and parcel hook. In addition, there is a tweezers and a toothpick that pull out of the end.

GI P38 & P51 Can Opener Combo Pack (Made in the USA):  This is one of the army’s greatest tools. Can be used for dozens of jobs. Makes a great can opener, cutting edge, groove cleaner, screw drive, clean finger nails, open seams and many, many more practical uses. Now you can have one of each size. with free shipping.

Pepper Spray:  It is always good to have some form of defense that will temporarily halt a bad guy that is in your face.  An alternative but equally effective tool for defense is wasp spray.

Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials

The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.

Emergency Essentials Potty

This month, the Tote-able Toilet with 2 Enzyme Packets is on sale for $14.95.  I priced purchasing the bucket and toilet seat lid separately and found that it was more economical to pick up this kit.  I am planning to fill the bucket with other sanitation supplies plus, of course, plenty of TP.

In the food department, the best sale item this month is the Freeze Dried Chicken Breast Dices with Rib Meat.  The price for a #10 can is $24.99 which represents and amazing discount of 42%.

These are just two of the items on sale this month at Emergency Essentials.  Click on the link below for more great deals from Emergency Essentials.

Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials

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19 Responses to “Disaster Preparation Basics”

  1. Wow! Thanks, William, for your story.

    That is the kind of info from experience which can help people plan.

    I remember noticing in the TV news coverage that a huge number of people were walking around in the wreckage either barefoot of wearing flip-flops aka slippers. I also noticed reports that there were many cases of severe foot infections. That reminded me to be sure heavy boots and socks were on our hurricane prep list, along with gloves.

    Getting an infected wound when there is no hospital around could be fatal.

    Thanks again. Tom B. aka Penrod

    • Tom – I will be sharing William’s story in an article next month. As you say, our best learning opportunities are based upon the experiences of others.


    This is the story of my experience during Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines that hit November 8, 2013. The story is a combination diary and tips on what to do during a storm / disaster. I have collected many good ideas from others on the Internet about survival / camping. Now it is my turn to share my experiences, for you to learn from me. I am retired, and have lived in the Philippines for over five years. I purchased a Philippine house, and added some improvements to bring it closer to American standards.

    We have lots of typhoons in the Philippines. Usually it means three days of rain, not really a storm, just rain. They shutdown the ferry service because of high seas. I only found out the day before the storm, that this storm would be different. So I did buy extra batteries. The weather service and government got complaints because of lack of warning. Although in the Philippines, I do not know how much good it would have done.

    The storm arrived in the morning. It was much better in daylight. It would have been very scary at night.The storm had 315 km sustained winds and 380 km gusts, which is 228 mph gusts. WOW!!

    We (my wife and son ) stayed in the doorway of computer room away from the ceiling fans in living room and kitchen which were bouncing. In the attic rain was being blown in under the tin roof at the roof peak. My seven year old son was scared. I was just thinking dollar signs to replace it all. The walls of the house were concrete so I was not afraid.

    As the eye of the storm was passing over, the wind stopped. I walked 100 feet to the neighbor’s house. I told them we still have part two ahead. I think each part was two hours. How many people have walked in the eye of the strongest storm to ever touch land!! The price of that was a third of my roof and other damage. Part two of the storm was much worse!! Almost no damage was done in part one of the storm. Part two of the storm did the damage to our house and most other houses. Water was rising around the house. I did not know when it would stop rising. We moved electronics and papers to higher shelves in the house. The roof over the attic was gone so that was not available.

    We have an all concrete shed with a flat concrete roof / balcony, and stairs to the top. The flat roof is about 12 feet by 20 feet in size It is used for small parties. After the rain and wind stopped, we put two backpacking tents on top of the shed. The shed roof is about 12 feet above the floor of the house. The water went up till it was about a foot from getting into the house. Our neighbors did get about 6 inches of water in their house from flooding. We also had life jackets for all, in the ents and a long rope available. The roof / balcony also has a very strong steel pipe railing. So we might survive more than 12 feet of water above the floor of our house. The rain and wind stopped in the late afternoon and the water also stopped rising.

    I was not worried about food and water. I had two 55 gallon drums full of water, 4 – 5 gallon containers of water, and 5 – 6 liter sealed containers of distilled water, and water filters to purify three thousand gallons of water. A stream is walking distance from our house, to use the water filter. A key advantage of having food and water was that I did not need to worry about finding food and water. Peace of mind is great. Plus I did not need to spend time in a line getting food and water.

    For food, I had enough freeze dried food in cans to last five months. We also had 100 pounds of rice in water proof containers. I had a case and a half of military MREs ( meals ready to eat ). They taste fine. The advantage of MRE is in saving time preparing a meal, when there are lots and lots of other things to do, after the storm. These are the MRE entries only from MRE Star on the Internet. They are not a full MRE which has a dessert, and coffee. We ate MREs for the week after the flood. By end of week I was tired of macaroni or rice meals. Since the stove did work, I could have prepared more elaborate meals. I did not have the time to do that.

    One very useful freeze dried food is freeze dried eggs. They taste like the real thing. I also had freeze dried onions and freeze dried cheddar cheese, so I could make an omelet. The freeze dried eggs are easy to cook. Just add water and salt and cook like scrambled eggs. This was breakfast, many mornings. The brand is Ova Easy Whole Egg Crystals from

    For preparation have lots of paper plates, plastic cups, plastic silverware, trash bags, and perhaps tarps. We did not have enough. Washing dishes is work, and time is at a premium. Very important things like cleaning out debris, fixing the roof, and drying items soaked by the storm, needed to be done. Washing also uses water, of which we had a limited supply.

    The kitchen stove survived with no damage at all. The fuel is propane, in a canister like used for an RV camper. Each canister lasts about a month. We have two canisters and swap when one is empty, so should always have a month supply. The canisters are outside the house in a concrete box, so no damage to the tanks.

    We slept in the tents, ( two Eureka Apex II tents ) on top of the shed, for many nights, (actually, a month until I got back with a generator from Cebu). It is about 12 feet about the level of the floor of my house. Because it is up high, you get a nice breeze, so it is cool enough to sleep after 10 pm. Since there was no electric, there were no fans and no AC. I discovered that my older tent leaked, so I needed to use a tarp over it when it rained. It is only 10 years old and not used a lot. I was unhappy about that.

    The roof was about a third gone with many other spots leaking. The kitchen and the computer room were the only completely dry places. Every time it rain there was a half inch of water on the floor of the kitchen that needed to be mopped up. The kitchen was lower so water flowed to there even with no leaks over the kitchen. It rains almost every day in the Philippines! The house is on a slab with a tile floor. The water table does not allow a basement. Eventually we got tarps over the entire roof. Someday it will be replaced with a real roof.

    We saw lots of helicopters and prop cargo planes. I saw more helicopters in two weeks than I saw in five years living here.

    I need to burn trash, as no longer have trash pickup.

    I get tired of room temperature water to drink. Tang is the one drink I like best at room temp. The refrigerator takes 3 hours to feel, even a little cold. I would guess 6 hours to cool to operating temperature. It usually takes overnight to make ice. Therefore to make ice the refrigerator would need to run for 14 hours to make ice. The generator only runs for 6 to 8 hours a day. I am not going to run generator for 14 hours just to make ice! (After we got electric back, I discovered refrigerator was low on Freon and had it repaired. )

    The storm had 315 km sustained winds, and 380 km gusts, which is 228 mph gusts. WOW!!

    I had lots of preparation, but not prepared for 228 mph winds.

    I have been camping for 20 years. Much of what is called survival gear is just camping gear. So I had lots of gear for an emergency. I had tents, flashlights, stoves, sleeping bags, fire making gear, rain gear, etc. The best quote I heard was that preparation and or a survival kit

    “Preparation will turn a Survival Situation into just Camping”.

    The difference is that my camping in the past has been for a weekend. This situation has been over a month, and still going.

    Some websites have suggested camping as a way to test gear. I would strongly agree with that. You need to test and practice with the equipment you will use. It also needs to be tested in summer and winter.

    I had started ordering freeze dried peas from America. You cannot get good peas here. My food ordering had expanded some toward a survivalist / prepper scale. When the storm hit I figured I had canned freeze dried food for three people for five months. Plus I had a hundred pounds of rice in two sealed containers. We would get very tired of rice and beans but we would not starve. If you really want to plan for five months on being on your own, you would need more canisters of propane. So for five months we would need five canisters of propane, to cook all that rice and beans. Also need all the spices, sugar, salt, Crisco cooking oil, etc. That you need to make the freeze dried food more enjoyable.

    The power went out with the storm, November 8, 2013 (Electric power was restored March 7, 2014 ). The city water also stopped for several days. After a couple days we sent our worker ( labor is cheap in the Philippines ) with a 5 gallon container to get water at a nearby well. We filtered all the water for drinking and cooking through a backpacking water filter. The filter takes out everything, even viruses! The downside is that it is not fast. It takes 10 minutes to pump 6 liters of water. One filter can filter a thousand gallons. I had several replacement filter cartridges, so could filter thousands of gallons of water. If you ever get one it is the First Need Deluxe water filter by General Ecology. Get the deluxe model, it costs more but the ease of use is much better and you will appreciate the improvements after you pump 10 gallons of water. Also it is very useful to have a gallon container with a valve at the bottom to dispense water. Water was filtered and then put in a six quart insulated water container with a push button water dispenser at the bottom. Much better than pouring a gallon container to fill a glass.

    If you plan to store supplies for a disaster, you need a tough cabinet with a domed top to shed water. If a flat top on cabinet, the water will soak through eventually. Good to have some supplies stored in separate shed / building separate from the house. If house collapses or burns your supplies are not lost also. Problem with this is that now you need duplicate or triplicate of some camping / survival items, so the cost increases. For still more security have a cache buried off of your property. A different location is good for two reasons. One is, if the government decides that you are a threat. Then going home is not a good idea. Two, home maybe destroyed or inaccessible due to flooding or brush fire hazard, or evacuation. Put cache of supplies in location that should not have same dangers as your home. If your house is in a low area put the cache at a higher elevation.

    The supplies in town that disappeared were Chlorox bleach, disinfectant soaps, tarps, fresh meat, and roofing supplies. Gasoline costs more than before and there is a several hour wait to get your gas at the station. Carpenters are also unavailable! First the carpenters are working repairing the building material supplier’s buildings (I was told that the largest building supply / hardware store (which is out of town) was totally destroyed). Second they will work on the politically connected, the mayor and congressman. Third the really rich people in town. Fourth they may get to me. It will be a very long time before proper repairs are done! There is no electricity so no ice, no refrigeration, and no fresh meat, in the entire city. People go to bed early now, since there is no electricity.

    Also very important to note that taxi service ( motorcycles with a sidecar like structure able to hold three Americans plus driver ) was not available for three days after the storm. The taxi drivers were all home taking care of their homes. I would expect similar problems with other workers in a disaster that effects almost everyone. So maybe only half of the doctors, nurses, and workers even arrive at your local hospital. In our case very few people were injured. So the hospitals were not overrun.

    Washing clothes without electric is tough! I used to change T-shirts 6 times a day to keep cool. Now I still change them 6 times a day, but I do not wash them. I just hang them to dry and reuse them later the same day or the next. At last count I had 42 colored T-Shirts.

    Years ago, (I am 61 now) I used to work 30 minutes in very hot weather and take a 10 minute break. Now I work 10 minutes and take a 30 minute break. Without electric it is hard to cool off as no fan or AC. So I will take a cold shower, several times a day. It is my only way of cooling off. So keep temperature and your physical ability in mind. If you are not young and strong, it will be much tougher.

    Amazingly, few people were killed by the storm in Ormoc! The reported death toll in Ormoc was 68! The population of the city is listed as 127,000. In Tacloban the death toll was 10,000 or more. Still the storm warning did not make clear the strength and severity of this storm. So people were not as prepared, as they could have been. I calculated that with the population of about 127,000 that your odds of dying were about 1 in 2000. So the unprepared did survive. However, preparations will make the event easier to endure, fewer worries, and make it like camping.

    Sunday November 17,( nine days after storm ) the tap water is running slowing in the evening. We are filling lots of water containers. It saves lots of work, walking to get water with a 5 gallon container. November 24, water is flowing even better ( sixteen days after storm ). I replaced the old water filters under kitchen sink. ( I had inline water filters installed when I bought the house ) Water pressure is now high enough in the evening to push water through the fresh water filter in the sink water line. I no longer have to hand pump filter to get drinking water!!

    On Monday November 18, ( ten days after storm ) I got into bank with no wait and no with withdrawal limit! By “Philippine Standards” I am a big customer at the bank. The bank manager and the regional bank manager know me by name. It is nice to be a big customer and know the bank manager! That would never happen in the USA! I would be lucky if the teller recognized me. Note – should keep more cash at home, in car, in cache, and lots of small bills. Even in America, an ATM will run out of money. That is if the electric is still on!

    Wednesday Nov 20 ( twelve days after storm) went shopping and to get cell phones charged. In town people had small generators running charging cell phones for 20 pesos ( 50 cents ) a charge. I would recommend an excellent quality solar cell panel and charger connected to a marine 12 volt battery designed for a trolling motor. The big battery will hold enough power to charge cell phone, flashlights, and radios. It would hold enough power to last through a rainy day or two. You would need a larger solar cell panel to power it. Still a hurricane or in the USA a snow storm could produce cloudy weather for several days. A universal adapter goes from the big 12 volt battery to whatever you need charged. We have since purchased a universal adapter to charge cell phone from car cigarette lighter. Access to a wireless internet connection would also be very useful. Seven months after the storm I do not have a landline phone. I have purchased a wireless device the size of a cell phone that connects to the internet, and then via wifi to my computer. The access is paid by a prepaid card. It is not fast for videos but I can get news.

    In Tacloban, the storm damage was much worse. They had a storm surge, so they had flooding in addition to the wind. Thousands were killed. The damage was more severe. They did not have any food or water. There was also looting and robbery. The people were desperate. There was much less of that here. However, one friend of mine, here in Ormoc, whose house was severely damaged, then had it looted while he was living at his parents!

    I am somewhat prepared for civil unrest. I have two shotguns, one is American made. I also have a 9 mm Glock pistol with six 31 round magazines. The shotgun has a flashlight and a laser on it. I also have lots of ammo. So if worse comes to worse, I can fight back. I also have three bullet proof vests, one for each of us. When sleeping in the tent, I slept next to the loaded shotgun, and had the Glock pistol at my feet. Expensive homes in the Philippines are made for security! All rich people have a two meter high concrete wall around the house, with broken glass on the top. All the windows have a steel grate to prevent entry ( sure would not pass USA fire code, for safety). All homes have several dogs. I expect that all the rich people also have loaded guns in the house. I also have a dog, a Rottweiler. Most Philippine people are very afraid of large dogs. That is very good for me. I would not have the mess of a dead body to clean up. One good thing is that the legal system here allows killing robbers. In the USA, the legal problems of shooting someone, could ruin you.

    Most of the foreigners have left the city. Most were renting, so no house to protect, and house had no roof. I would leave also except that we own the house. Some foreigners went to Cebu, some to Manila, and some back to their home country. Ormoc will be a mess for a long time. There is no reason for them to stay.

    Wednesday November 27, I went to a birthday party at neighbors, and ate spaghetti. That was a mistake! I got diarrhea. With no rest because of the heat and the diarrhea, I was not doing well. I needed to get out of the heat to recover. I knew of no hotels in town with generators and air conditioners, that had rooms available. So I decided to go to Cebu by myself. Relatives stayed at the house with my wife and boy and dog to guard the house. Thursday November 28, I took ferry to Cebu. There was a long wait in ferry waiting area with no fans. Toward evening it was getting dark in the room as no lights ( no problem for me as I had a battery powered headlamp in my pocket) At least the AC on ferry was OK. At 9 pm I was finally in a hotel room with an AC. I ate all my meals in the hotel room the next day. I never knew if I would need to make a rush trip to the bathroom.

    Saturday November 30 ( 20 days after storm), I bought a 6500 watt 13 hp, gasoline generator. It is supposed to be big enough to run an air conditioner. The generator cost 41, 000 pesos about $ 1000 dollars. It is Navigator brand generator made in China. I could not find any known brands, like Honda or Yamaha. Note – phone book Yellow Pages are not used much in the Philippines. Cebu has a population of over a million. The Yellow Pages phone directory is only about 1 /4 inch ( one fourth inch not not a misprint)! A city the same size in the USA would have a Yellow Pages two inches thick!

    On December 4, I took the 10 pm slow ferry, to Ormoc, as other ferry will not handle a 200 pound generator. I arrived in Ormoc around 5 am.

    Friday December 6 ( 28 days after storm), I started generator at 8 pm. I shut it off at 1 AM as neighbors complained about noise. The next two nights I shut generator off at 10 PM so neighbors could sleep. I moved the generator to the far corner of the yard and made a fiberglass lean-to against the wall to keep it dry. The distance away reduces the noise a lot. I normally run it from 5 pm to 10:30 pm. I run the washing machine till about 7 pm and then turn off washing machine and run the AC till 10:30 pm. I use about 1000 pesos ( $22.53 ) of gasoline a day. The cost of gasoline for running a generator adds up. If you get a generator check fuel usage and plan to have enough fuel on hand to run it. Now that I have the generator I plan to build a sound insulated shed for it. Generator shed will be built after house is repaired.

    I have seen some relief agencies around town. The Korean Emergency Response team had two tents setup in a parking lot. A group of 10 young, 20 to 25 year old men and women from various countries were together cutting down a tree with a chain saw. I was told that the USA Navy was helping rebuild a school. Norwegian Red Cross, had two women in town. They were staying at the best hotel in town. There was a private individual from Manila that was giving out a truck load of supplies. Supplies were a 2 kilo bag of rice, cans of sardines, and bottled water. They delivered twice to the people on our street. I was told the US Navy had a carrier group off of Tacloban delivering aid.

    Electricity was finally restored in the evening on March 7, 2014! Power had been out for four months! The roof was correctly replaced by May 15, 2014.

    So that is my story. For me it was mostly an inconvenience and financial expense.
    Hopefully it will be useful to you in planning for an emergency.

  3. I live with the threat Hurricanes ever year (South MS.)
    The duct tape on the windows is a total FAIL. It will take you months to get it off afterwards. Your better off covering them with plywood or heavy curtains on the inside (that can be had cheap at the thrift store). The idea about the ice in the frig and freezer works great. In 1969 when Camille hit our freezer still had ice after 2 weeks with no power.
    Thanks for your great Blog!!

  4. Costco has LED flashlights in store – not on their website (for some reason) – that are 250 lumens and use AAA batteries at 3 for $20 and 500 lumens that use C batteries at 2 for $25. I have been nuying LED flashlights at Costco for about three years – the earlier versions were 150 lumens and then 200 lumens – and they have worked reliably. The pricing compared to others is sensational and the packages include Duracell batteries. Costco also has packets of 3 “headlamps” for $7.50, batteries included. The price of batteries – including the new Duracell “Quantam” models (which I am testing) – is very reasonable compared with most other outlets.

    I live in the Colorado mountains and the Costco stores here and in Utah (cannot speak for other states) have seasonal selections of clothing that includes great pricing on synthetics – remember that “cotton kills.”

    • Ed – I have seen those flashlights at Costco during trips to the mainland. I tend to pass by that section quickly because I have a flashlight fetish and would buy a few packs if I stalled around and looked LOL. Now you have convinced me to pay attention and pick some up for testing purposes.

      Warning to everyone: Get the Duracell batteries. The Costco/Kirkland brand tends to leak.

  5. Really good info here. My own advice is always focused on three things:

    1) GET A KIT. Stock up on water, perishables, first aid supplies and anything else you might need if you lose access to food, water and electricity. Some items to include: hand-crank radios and flashlights, medications, a multipurpose tool, copies of important documents, family contact information, blankets, extra clothing and activities for children.

    2) MAKE A PLAN. Make a plan with family and friends in case you are not together when disaster strikes. Determine where you’ll go, how you’ll contact each other and possible scenarios you may encounter. It is a good idea to have a family “point person” — someone who lives in a different location that all family members can contact if separated during an emergency.

    3) BE INFORMED. Pay attention to different kind of media (online, TV, radio) to find out what to do in the event of an emergency, and to understand what is happening locally, nationally and globally.

  6. I agree, John. I wear a small Coast flashlight on my belt, and use it several times a week. An alternative would be a very small flashlight on a key chain. You can also get a flashlight app for cell phones if it didn’t come installed.

    I’m a big believer in the concept that the adequate tool you have with you is far better than the excellent tool you left at home because it was too big or heavy to shlep around.

    One of the largely unnoticed improvements in our population’s preparedness may be cell phone flashlights: They are not very good lights, but they are adequate, so now everyone with a phone can have a flashlight in their pocket or purse. And, of course, a handy pocket communicator.

    Same thing with Swiss Army Knives. Few people would argue that any of the tools on them are superior examples of their type, but they are all adequate for their jobs, and you can carry one in your pocket or purse.

  7. A couple helpful hints. – Flashlights. I keep small AAA LED flashlights accessible for immediate use at anytime. Others, I keep the little plastic piece or make a new one and place at the end inside the battery compartment. This will keep your batteries from going bad. Even in the dark, you can unscrew the cap and pop out the plastic piece and screw it back on. Much cheaper & easier than looking for new batteries.

    Security – Although I do have my gun at all times in my home ready, pepper spray is good, but only up close. In a home invasion you don’t want it to get to that point. Have a couple cans of bear spray and/or wasp spray close by. They can spray 20 – 30 feet, and are just as debilitating.

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