Being Vigilant

While many of us don’t like to think about it, boring things keep us safe. Things like checking your mirrors and blind spots before you swap lanes. When you first begin driving a good teacher will emphasize this. The longer we drive though, the more complacent and distracted we can get. That is until one day we side swipe a SUV because we failed to look. The same principle applies in disaster planning. When we start, we check off all the items we bought and preparations we made. We keep up a good rotation of things like food, medicine, and batteries. The longer we go, the more apt we are to slip on that. If things go wrong that can render part or all of our plan useless.

The first item that most people refer to when talking about rotation is food. All food has expiration dates. It could be argued these are suggestions, but do you really want to gamble on that when things go wrong? It is wise to set up a rotation using a First In, First Out policy. This simply means that you use the oldest items first. This prevents some of them making it to the back of the shelf and expiring before you realize it. It is also a good idea to keep some kind of list of what you have including expiration dates. This gives you a good way to plan meals to use up items BEFORE they expire. Plus, different kinds of food have widely varying expiration periods. Some people also write the expiration dates in large clear text on the front of the container. That is much easier than reading the sometimes-tiny dot matrix style printed expiration date that is somewhere on the package. One other thing to keep in mind with food rotation is that you need to routinely look for spoilage in your stock of items. It is possible that there was an issue with the item causing it to fail, such as a can not being sealed fully and swelling or cracking open. Another possibility is that there have been pests in your supplies. Sometimes things like weevils will come in with your rice or grain. They can hatch and destroy additional supplies such as pasta. Other times you will have rodents compromise your supplies both by eating and soiling them. Finding this quickly can help minimize your losses. You can then take steps to keep it from happening again. The same precautions need to be taken with water. While it does not “expire”, it may be best to rotate it out. This prevents accidents related to degraded retail bottles and risk of contamination.

Another item that should be on rotation is medication. This applies to over the counter and prescription alike. Each has expiration dates based on when it loses potency. It is best to abide by these so you get the full benefit from them. In addition, you should review any new medical conditions that may have come up. That way you can evaluate if any new or alternate medications needed to be added. You may even find that some of your preferred OTC medications are no longer healthy for you to mix with your condition or other medications. This hopefully will assure that you have what you need when things happen.

The last item you should review is your plans themselves. Some plan and sit on that same one for years without thinking how changing conditions may affect it. Things constantly change. The plan you set up when you children are toddlers may be very different than the one you would if they are now teenagers. Things to look at can include who is included in the plan, what supplies are you including, where this plan is implemented, and when this plan should be implemented.

Let’s start with the who. Since your plan was last evaluated you may have had additions, such as new baby, or subtractions such as adult age children moving across the country for work. These not only change the number of people, but may also shift responsibility around. A new baby may mean that the person caring for them is not free to do other things. On the flip side, a child that is now a teenager may be able to take on much more responsibility than they did as a preteen. Also, anyone that is no longer part of the plan may have had skills that you depended on. You will have to decide how to deal with that.

The next thing to review is the supplies you need to include. Changes of circumstances may require alterations. In the instance above of a new baby, you may need to add formula, diapers, and baby specific medications. You may also have added someone that needs specific items such as medications or mobility aids. They could also have specific valuable skills such as ham radio you need additional equipment for. In addition, you may have things you have found that are better suited for your needs. You use them to replace whatever supplies that filled that gap before.

Third, you will need to review how your location affects the plan. Maybe you moved to a new apartment 5 miles from your old one. This might mean you have to draw up new routes for evacuation or to get home from work. There may be streets that flood in your way, where there were not any before. Your new location may also be more susceptible to certain emergencies. If you moved from Florida to Colorado, you will need to worry more about blizzards now than hurricanes. There may also be environmental changes that affect you. It is possible that the bridge you planned to use is no longer there or a new housing development near it means it is much more likely to be backed up like a parking lot. You could also have new stops to make such as picking up your child from daycare or having to go across town to the high school instead of the middle school down the road. Also, this could affect how you deal with supply storage. If you lived in a 2-bedroom apartment alone and then move to a 3-bedroom ranch with a basement with your spouse, you will be able to store far more supplies easily. If things are the other way around, you may have to get creative in order to fit the same amount of supplies. So not all changes may be negative, but you have to evaluate that routinely to keep from getting surprised.

Lastly, you will need to see if your triggers for enacting your plan have changed. This can be affected by the above items too. For example, if you now work 50 miles from work instead of 10, you may need to react much quicker in order to make it home before the 12 inches of snow come down. It could also be that you now have additional people to include, so a faster reaction ensures everyone has time to grab their gear and go. Alternately, maybe you have finally moved to your dream location with a mountain of supplies, solar and generator backup power, 10 acres of garden, and all the farm animals you could ever want. In this case, you may not need to trigger anything or go anywhere. Sadly, most of us are not in that boat and we have to walk the line between jumping for nothing and acting too late. Taking an honest calculated look at this can ensure you know when it is appropriate to enact your plan for that scenario.

So, while rotating boxes of pasta and reviewing maps may not be the most exciting thing, it can be a very vital part of your planning. By keeping your supplies and plans up to date you avoid being surprised and having everything fall apart right when you need it the most. I have often referred to this review in my September posts related to National Preparedness Month, but depending on the situation yearly may not be often enough. In the end, as with all this, you must be your own judge on this. Just don’t allow yourself to become complacent and let all your planning be for naught.

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