Be Prepared

 Yesterday I went by the grocery store and was met by a rush of people clamoring for salt. The shelves were empty but customers pleaded with the manager for more. They were hoping to buy salt for its iodine properties in hopes of blocking any errant radiation coming from Japan.

 Not able to buy any or wanting to suffer from high blood pressure from consuming large quantities of it, I ran to the pharmacy where iodine tablets were still in copious supply. With all the cash on hand, I was able to buy a couple dozen boxes. They now rest in the cupboard with the other dozens of 3M face masks I hoarded from the SARS outbreak along with the now-expired doses of Tamiflu from the avian influenza (H5N1) scare which I survived, but any further notion of getting a pet parakeet didn’t.


This panic run on salt made me check our emergency supplies where cans of Spam from the Y2K alarm sat neatly in a row. Feeling a bit peckish, I opened a can and like a good burgundy, a decade did seem to improve on the taste. Thirsty, I pulled out a pouch of dried milk and mixed it up with some water, it would unfortunately take a real emergency for me to drink that again.


In a disaster, preparation makes all the difference. For all the stuff we pack in our homes, a carton of emergency supplies is well worth the space it takes up. From the mad scene at the grocery store, it’s wiser to have things on hand now then to fight the mobs when you need it. There are many web sites that list essentials items, but a basic kit recommends include:


  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation

  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food

  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • First aid kit and book

  • Whistle to signal for help

  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place

  • Packaged wet wipes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

  • Can opener

  • Local maps

  • Cell phone with chargers

  • Prescription medications and glasses

  • Infant formula and diapers if needed

  • Pet food and extra water for your pet

  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container

  • Cash

  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person.

  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes.

  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.

  • Matches in a waterproof container

  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels

  • Paper and pen

  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Also, take a moment now to think which items are invaluable to you. Use an afternoon to copy those photos and files on a portable hard drive and toss it in with the emergency supplies. We may not be able to avert a disaster, but we can surely prepare for one. Just don’t forget the Spam.


Dinah Chong Watkins has been around since the age of Methuselah – oh no wait, that’s her husband. Still a child bride (it’s all relative), she escaped the cold, snowy winters of Toronto for the cold, smoggy winters of Beijing. She likes Pina Coladas, long walks on the beach and is counting on her husband’s 401K to provide all that. In the meantime, she hopes you’ll get a chuckle or two out of her writing because laughter is priceless or at least that’s what her editor said when she asked for a raise. Enjoy more of her writing at

2 responses to “Be Prepared

  1. i had to laugh when i saw the title and intro paragraph, as just a few days ago, my ayi brought me 2 extra bottles of soy sauce, and tried to explain that the salt in it is important for our health because of the nuclear fallout. good article, yes, something we all should do, especially in a foreign country.

Comments are closed.