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  Saturday January 31st, 2015    

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Disaster! (01/06/2013)
By Frances Edstrom

January and February can be slow months for many people, especially those who don’t ice fish, ski, skate, snowshoe, snowmobile, or shoot coyotes. And darkness can curtail most of those activities.

But there’s a small town in Massachusetts, where my father grew up, and where my sisters and aunt now have homes, that is prepared to solve the problem of winter boredom. They have issued—delivered with property tax bills—a “Family Disaster Supplies Calendar: A Checklist.”

It just so happened that the checklist came in the mail right after I had watched a documentary on Icelandic volcanoes that are getting ready to blow and destroy life in the northern hemisphere, or at least all the old and sick people. (This could be the answer to the Social Security problem facing our children!)

I wasn’t very worried after seeing the documentary, though, because it showed all the scientists and the movie crew standing right on the edge of the volcano’s crater and driving all over the glacier in jeeps, which told me it will probably be a while. When the checklist came in the mail to my office, Mel put it in my in-basket. I threw it away. Then I started thinking. Winona is about 3,600 miles from Iceland, but Ayer, Massachusetts, is only 2,400 miles from the volcano. Perhaps, I thought, they know something we don’t, being so much closer.

I took the checklist out of the wastebasket. Wow, this could take 6 months! Maybe I could accelerate the process. I am supposed to have all these things ready to take with me when I evacuate to a shelter, wherever that might be. I looked at the list more closely. It says, “Items marked with an asterisk should be purchased for each household member.” I apologize in advance for the odd capitalization of the items.

In the first four weeks, I am supposed to gather: 1 gallon of water*, 1 jar of peanut butter*, 1 large can juice*, 1 can meat*, Manual can opener, Instant coffee, tea, powdered soft drinks, Permanent marking pen. Use to note dates on cans and water. Also: Pet food, diapers and/or baby food. Photo with you and pets for future identification. (What if I’d be just as happy if he found another home?) Crescent wrench, Duct tape, Heavy rope, 2 flashlights (LED) with batteries, Matches in waterproof container. Also: Leash and carrier for pet(s), extra ID tags, litter and pan, pet care emergency plan.

Make a family plan. Encourage neighbors to do the same. (My neighbors either already have a tote full of stuff, or will think I’m nuts.) Locate gas and water shut-offs and attach a wrench near them. (Which one is the wrench, which one is the pliers?) Use permanent marking pen to date water and perishable items. (And what if they expire while I’m in my underground bunker?) 1 gallon of water*, 1 can of meat*, 1 can of fruit*, paper and pencil, map of the area, sanitary napkins, video tape. Also: 1 gallon water for each pet. (Yeah, well, maybe.) Plumber’s tape, Crowbar, Smoke detector with battery, Signal Flare. Also: Extra medication or a prescription marked “emergency use.”

In the next four weeks, it’s more of the same, with the addition of 1 can of fruit*, 1 can of vegetables* (I’m supposed to buy a couple cans of food every week for 25 weeks.), 2 rolls toilet paper, Extra toothbrush, Travel size toothpaste, Laxative. (Really, laxative and only two rolls of toilet paper?) Videotape the contents of your home for insurance purposes. Store videotape with friend/family member who lives out of town. Install or test your smoke detector. Have a home fire drill. Aspirin and/or acetaminophen, Compresses, Rolls of gauze or bandages, First aid tape, Band-Aids, assorted sizes. Also: Extra hearing aid batteries. 1 can ready to eat soup* no concentrate. Also: Extra plastic baby bottles, formula and diapers. (Just in case of what?) Scissors, Tweezers, Antiseptic, Thermometer, Liquid hand soap/sanitizer, Disposable hand wipes, Sewing kit. Also: Extra eyeglasses. Check with your child’s day care or school to learn about their disaster plans. Establish an out-of-state contact to call in case of emergency. (And who do you know in the southern hemisphere?) Keep shoes and flashlight under your bed. Liquid dish detergent, Plain liquid bleach, 1 box heavy duty trash bags. Also: Saline solution and contact lens case. Waterproof portable plastic container with lid for storing important papers, Portable radio with crank and/or batteries. Also: Blankets or sleeping bag*. (Good, I won’t be sharing a sleeping bag.) 1 box quick energy snacks, 3 rolls paper towels. Also: Sunscreen. Anti-diarrhea medicine, Rubbing alcohol, 2 pair latex gloves, Ipecac syrup and activated charcoal (for accidental poisoning). Also: Items for denture care. Send favorite photos or copies to out-of-state family. If blind: Mark emergency supplies in Braille; store extra white cane and talking clock. Whistle, ABC fire extinguisher, Pliers, Vice grips. (So, take everything in the tool box, and I’ll sort it out later.) More canned goods, 2 packages of paper plates, 2 packages eating utensils, 2 packages paper cups. Extra flashlight batteries, Masking tape, Hammer. Take family trip to gas and water meter shutoffs. Take a first aid/CPR class. Make a plan to check on a neighbor who might need help in an emergency. Back up computer on flash drive. Purchase battery powered cell phone charger. 1 box heavy duty trash bags, Kleenex, 1 box quick energy snacks, Dried fruit and nuts. 1 box graham crackers, Assorted plastic containers with lids, Assorted safety pins, Dry cereal. Child-proof latches for cupboards. (And just where are these cupboards going to be?) Purchase NOAA weather radio. 1 box large, heavy duty trash bags, 1 box quick energy snacks. Join your neighborhood safety organization. Arrange for a friend or neighbor to help your kids if you are at work. Pack a “go-bag” in case you need to evacuate. Have an emergency drill at home. (I can’t get the dog to “come.” I’m not sure about this emergency drill.) Camping or utility knife, Extra radio batteries. Also: Purchase emergency escape ladder.

Then, to finish this off, 1 pair of heavy work gloves, 1 box disposable dust masks, Screwdriver, Plastic safety goggles. Hand-operated can opener, 3 rolls paper towels. Battery powered camping lantern (LED) with extra battery. Extra flashlights (LED). Large plastic food bags, Plastic wrap, aluminum foil. Learn about your workplace disaster plans. Copy or scan important papers and store safely. Make copies of pet medical records, make sure vaccinations are up-to-date. If you use a generator, DO NOT run it inside your home. Generators must exhaust to the out-of-doors.

I hate to be cheap in the face of annihilation, but how much is all this going to cost me? And this is supposed to fit in a plastic tote you can carry with you. Then the worst part hit me: all this, and only two rolls of toilet paper!



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