There are many layers of disaster preparedness. Being prepared for an evacuation is much different than being prepared to shelter in place. Both are equally important, and though there is some crossover, different types of planning are required to increase your chances of staying safe during an emergency. Disaster preparedness tips for evacuation include knowing the routes to the closest shelters or arranging to stay with a friend or family member away from the emergency zone.
Packing an emergency bag that includes candles, extra batteries, prescription medications and a few days-worth of food and water could be helpful in either situation. But what if you are forced to live without utilities or services for more than a few days? Consider setting aside one shelf on your pantry that’s just for emergency rations—items that will last for several years and can be eaten with little or no preparation. The following suggestions may not be anyone’s idea of a gourmet meal, but they can provide much-needed nutrition when cooking and proper sanitation are an issue:
Canned tuna or chicken or meat products such as Spam have an extremely long shelf life if stored in a dry, cool place. Spam is considered to be good indefinitely, while tuna and chicken can be counted on for at least three years, longer if stored properly.
Beans and Legumes
Dried beans and legumes have no expiration date as long as they are kept completely dry. However, it takes a large amount of water to cook them, which may not be practical in an emergency situation. Canned beans are safe on the shelf for about two years and may be a better option for emergency preparedness.
An unopened jar of coconut oil has a shelf life of at least two years. We especially recommend keeping a few jars of virgin coconut oil with your emergency rations because it has so many uses. Not only does coconut oil provide a much-needed boost of calories and healthy fat, its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties make it a helpful addition to your emergency first-aid kit.
Though the shelf life of peanut butter is only about a year, we recommend it as an emergency ration for two reasons: It does not have to be refrigerated after opening, and it is high in protein. Purchase natural peanut butter without added oils or sugar for the longest shelf life.
Honey is a natural preservative, it inhibits the growth of microbes and bacteria cannot grow in it. In fact, archeologists have unearthed 3,000-year old containers of honey that were still completely edible. Like coconut oil, honey can be used as an emergency first aid ointment to treat minor wounds. It is also soothing for sore throats. A spoonful of honey provides about 100 calories which can be helpful in an emergency situation.
More Disaster Preparedness Tips
The most important thing to consider when planning emergency foods is to stock things you and your family will eat. Focus on foods that are high in calories and can be eaten right out of their containers if necessary. Proper storage is also a factor. Keep food dry, and discard any food that’s been compromised. The last thing needed in an emergency is a case of food poisoning. Vacuum sealing items will give everything an extra layer of protection. And don’t forget to rotate your emergency supplies. Pay attention to the expiration dates, and consume foods before they go bad. Just don’t forget to replace them. And don’t forget to pack a manual can opener along with disposable utensils with your emergency rations.
How much food and water you set aside for an emergency is up to you. FEMA suggests a three-day supply for each member of the family, but in a disaster you could be without power or clean water for much longer. If your budget and storage space allows, consider storing extra food and water for neighbors. Your foresight and generosity could literally save lives.