August 17, 2003

Emergency Preparedness

Canada used to have a government office called Emergency Preparedness Canada, which is now the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness/Bureau de la protection des infrastructures essentielles et de la protection civile. I don't know why, but that "emergency prepardedness" thing always struck me as funny. It sounds like such a parody of the bureaucratic impulse.

Nevertheless. The lesson learned from the blackout: we (meaning our little nuclear family of three) need to get our act together in the emergency preparedness department.

A battery-operated radio is a good start, but how about lots of extra batteries conveniently stored in a readily accessible area? Having to search through layers of junk piled (or rather, carelessly tossed at random to create something like piles) in a deep and dark utility cupboard -- and with a toddler who wants to help -- is not good emergency prepardedness. Anyway, our radio takes 6 batteries. This is not such a good idea: if one of the batteries dies, how are you going to know which one? you may not have time or you may not have enough light to check all possible configurations in order to isolate the dead battery. Wouldn't it better to have a radio that required only two, or maybe four, batteries?

We need a serious flashlight, not some some piece of junk that looks and acts like a children's toy. And of course more (readily accessible) batteries for the serious flashlight. And we should have more canned food on hand. Some of that UHT milk that you can store without refrigeration for up to 6 months might also be a good idea (yes, it sounds weird, and it probably is, but we're talking emergency here; which would you rather give your child: strange heat-treated milk or no milk at all?).

We have a bottle of acetaminophen and a bottle of ibuprofen in our medicine cabinet -- and the dates have expired on both bottles. Please. There is no excuse for this. We do have bandages and gauze and rubbing alcohol and antibacterial ointment (though not all in one place), and I think we may even have a pair of those small scissors that you're supposed to have in your first aid kit. Not that we have anything that could fairly be described as a first aid kit. And I couldn't tell you where those scissors are, which means that, for emergency purposes, we may not have a pair of those scissors. So we need to make up a first aid kit, with all essentials stored in one (again, readily accessible) container.

In fact, and fortunately enough, we didn't really need any of the above (a few minutes after losing power I quickly stored enough cold milk in a cooler pack so that my son could have milk that evening and the next morning; I did find 6 radio batteries in the deep, dark utility cupboard; and we didn't need painkillers). And we were without power for only 13 hours, which was an inconvience but not an emergency (though my husband was seriously inconvenienced: he had to walk home from work, it took him over 3 hours). But what if we had to go several days without power? or perhaps without water? As I was frantically searching for the cooler pack and the batteries and etc, I realized that we really were not organized in the emergency preparedness department. I'm not talking duct tape, here. Just a few commonsense preparations and precautions.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at August 17, 2003 12:22 AM

even though you are in canada, you could still use sure it lacks the francophile appeal, but it does have really really bad illustrations

two things that i recommends are:

a radioshack fm/am/sw radio, that takes 2 aa batteries, it picks up the bbc, etc. they have one called the emergency radio that also has a hand crank, but it takes 4 aa batteries.


mag-lights and mini-mag-lights: both of which you can take off the lense and top and they become candle-like, which will fill a room or provide enough light to read by.

Posted by: jeremy hunsinger at August 17, 2003 10:14 AM

I'm from Canada, but I'm in New York (which is why, when the power first went out, like just about everyone else in this city, I was thinking of 9/11). Maybe I should compare and contrast the two governments' emergency preparation lists to see if there are any subtle or significant differences. I like the idea of a mag-light.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at August 17, 2003 10:23 AM

Well, "emergency prepardedness" probably strikes a lot of people as funny, and slightly retarded too. My own favorite mistype was when I told someone that I didn't want to get "invloved" with a certain person. Definately those careless invlovements can be costly.

Posted by: zizka at August 17, 2003 06:18 PM

"My own favorite mistype was when I told someone that I didn't want to get 'invloved' with a certain person."

Sounds like you got your point across :)

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at August 17, 2003 10:31 PM

Glad you and your family were okay. I just heard a story from a friend (another academic family) who got stuck with her two kids in the Museum of Natural History.

Posted by: Laura at August 18, 2003 01:55 PM

Mini-Maglite AA less than 4 oz. less than 6 in. throws an amazing amount of light costs about $8 at most hardware type stores. Runs on AA's

However. All little boys go through a flashlight phase. So you can't let him know where the good ones are. We bought our little boy a cheap flashlight and some rechargable batterries.

Also. there are flashlights that will plug into a spare wall socket and go on when the power goes off.
Very usefull.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 18, 2003 09:02 PM

"All little boys go through a flashlight phase."

I think my son may have entered this phase. Thanks to the blackout, his new word of the week is "flashlight."

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at August 18, 2003 09:23 PM

What would Freud have said if he had known about flashlights? Would postmodernism be what it is today? Sounds like a job for an alternative cultural historian. (What is the female counterpart of a flashlight? A parasol? Sunglasses?)

Posted by: zizka at August 19, 2003 12:47 AM

Zizka -- my little boy is now 16 and is 6'1." He is no longer in the flashlight stage, but he does take 45 minute showers:-)

IA -- Matches. I forgot matches. Didn't think about it. One thing about being Jewish is that you always have candles and matches around. But if you have a gas stove or candles you need matches. Those of you, like IA, who have toddlers may not keep matches in the house. No. No. No. No matches. Anywhere. No Guns. No Matches.

Fortunately, Scripto makes a lighter that has a long nozzle for lighting gas stoves and the like and which is to difficult for many adults to use, let alone toddlers, as you must push down hard with your thumb on the lock while pulling the trigger with your forefinger. About $4.00 and well worth it.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 19, 2003 02:29 AM

Don't worry about matches in the house. My four younger brothers and I all came close to burning the house down, but God watches out for stuff like that. Nothing to worry about. My earliest memory is burning myself when I burned a hole in the couch stuffing. Pain enhances memory and was used extensively as an educational technique, before PC took over.

Posted by: zizka at August 20, 2003 09:07 PM