Image: Kristin Belz
With a little effort and organization, your emergency preparedness kit will include more than just a few scented candles.

In Portland, we tend to be proud of our DIY skills and our progressive steps toward sustainability. We bike, we take the MAX, we drive hybrid cars. We even install electric vehicle charging stations at prime Portland State University campus parking spots. But unless we’re from California, do most of us have an emergency preparedness kit?

Maybe I’m just revealing my East Coast urban roots (and slacker personality), but I was pleased I even knew where I had candles and matches on hand when the power went out one night not long ago. I used the light from my iPhone to guide my way to the candles. Boy was it dark, inside and out, all through the neighborhood.  Superstorm Sandy; the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami that keeps washing debris onto the Oregon coast; seemingly weekly blizzards in the northeast and midwest – there are too many reminders that seriously crazy, terrible, unexpected things can happen in any region of the world

Acknowledging that, is there an easy way to get prepped for a major earthquake, flood or other disaster? The answer seems to be no. But, like having a legal will and up to date insurance, there are basic steps to take to be ready for an emergency. And its better to take a few small steps than no steps at all. To grow your emergency kit beyond a couple tins of tuna, cans of Coca-Cola, and a few candles and matches (not that I know anyone like that personally), start with putting together a 72-hour emergency kit.

Prep Oregon has the answers. "PREP" stands for "Planning for Resilience and Emergency Preparedness." It's a web-based organization of several city, county and neighborhood groups including the City of Portland Bureau of Emergency Management. They recommend getting organized, coordinating with neighbors, being confident by practicing with neighorhood or household drills, and other common sense efforts that are easier to do if someone else tells you what to do in the first place.

The basics, from the PrepOregon website, include making an emergency kit:

  • Start stockpiling enough supplies for everyone in your household for at least a week including one gallon of water per person per day, canned or dried food (including for pets), flashlights and batteries, and medications.
  • Make a stash of useful items at home, including a first aid kit; battery or crank radio; camp stove (with fuel) and other camping gear; tools and supplies for home repairs; and emergency toilets.
  • Make a personal “go kit” for each member of the household in case you need to evacuate, as well as kits for work, school and the car in case you’re not at home when disaster strikes.

To do all the above is daunting, but PrepOregon's website has detailed checklists (in downloadable PDFs) of what you need for a "GO" kit and a "STAY" kit. They also have a 16 week calendar breaking down all the steps you should take to be prepared into a manageable number of tasks per week. For instance, week 1 adds a few items to your grocery list; week 2 entails a trip to the hardware store. Washington County also has a helpful site, "Take 5 To Survive", reminding us that even just taking five minutes here and there, to do specific five-minute safety preparedness improvements, will help.

Most of us aren't completely ready for the "Big One," whatever it may be, but we can take those small steps to get there. Step one: go get water for everyone in the house, three days worth, a gallon a day. It doesn't have to be Perrier.

There's also a store on NE Glisan, the Portland Preparedness Center, that focuses on exactly these issues. And see the article in Neighborhood Notes, listing resources and ideas for food preparedness.

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