May 8, 2012

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Disaster Prep: Have you checked your supplies recently?

This post is part of a series on disaster preparedness. Each entry will cover one part of the preparations I’m making a “disaster kit”, along with why I’m including the items, how important they are, and how much they cost. See the initial posting for more details.

Roughly two years ago I posted a series of entries about preparing for a disaster (natural, man-made, or otherwise). Those posts covered a number of topics and while not all inclusive, did cover a number of the major items that are important to have in case of emergency. There is one critical point in any disaster preparedness plan that I haven’t discussed previously, and that is vigilance. It’s been two years since I first put together my emergency boxes, have needs changed? Have supplies gone bad?

First a refresher. A list of the previous entries in the Disaster Prep series.

If you’ve read my posts, you’ll notice that in nearly every section I talk about expiration dates or shelf-life. When I built my boxes, I labeled every single item with either an expiration date or a purchase date (if it doesn’t necessarily “expire”). This was so that during yearly inventories, I could easily determine what needed to be replaced and what didn’t. In the best conditions, it isn’t recommended to store water for more than 5 years. Even MREs which seem to last forever, max out their recommended shelf life at 10 years (or as little as 3 years, depending on environmental conditions).

Look in your fridge, just about everything store bought has a “Sell By”, “Best By” or “Expiration” date of some sort. Mostly this is for your own benefit, no one wants to buy stale chips — right? In some cases, this is for your safety. If your milk is 2 weeks expired, you wouldn’t drink it would you? Of course not! So, why would you let your emergency supplies go bad? You need to check your disaster supplies (for expired goods) at least once a year.

While you are digging around in your disaster supplies for its yearly checkup, consider if your needs have changed. The disaster box should contain everything a person or family needs for at least 72 hours. Maybe you’ve got a serious significant other who stays at your place now. Or maybe your family has grown in size over the last year. Don’t forget Thorgi and Lolcat, pets tend to want food and water too! Having some supplies is better than nothing at all, but you’ll be kicking yourself if “The Big One” hits (hurricane, tornado, earthquake, World War, whatever) and you forgot to toss in another 3 gallons of water and a couple more MREs.

Why not just make a note on your calendar (paper or digital) to check your emergency supplies every January? It shouldn’t take more than an hour to check the supplies.