Let’s Play Disaster Scenario

Heather says:
Yesterday’s headlines on Swine Flu reminded me it was time to ask, are you prepared for an emergency? Please understand that I’m not trying to be a fearmonger. Don’t turn to your spouse and say, “Heather says we’re all going to die from pandemic swine flu!” Understand that I’m a total geek,  fascinated by viral behavior, organic or not. The current batch of headlines simply reminded me it was time to self-audit.

Each spring, I go through our supplies to ensure we won’t be involved in the panic runs when a hurricane threatens our area. It makes sense to be reasonably prepared for an interruption of basic services for other reasons, earthquakes, and tornadoes for example.

As I suspected, the guidelines for individual pandemic preparedness are fairly similar to those of any emergency. The pandemic plan suggests a two week supply of food, water, and medication for each family member and pet.  This is slightly different from most plans which suggest a 72 hour supply.  Interestingly the government checklist reminded families that schools and childcare centers may close for an extended period of time.

Several items to note:

  • Practice excellent hygeine: wash your hands, cover your mouth, disinfect surfaces.
  • Eat well and get plenty of rest.
  • Talk to your employer about options such as telecommuting if a widespread outbreak develops.
  • Check on disabled and elderly neighbors, friends, and family. This is especially important if they rely on services to provide basic needs.

If you were told to stay home for two weeks, could you manage?

(Sources: Xark, Pandemicflu.gov)


  1. […] says: Late last week we played a game I referred to as Disaster Scenario. It’s a quick way to check your own preparedness level when rumors of disaster are hyped in […]

  2. Becca on April 30, 2009 at 5:55 am

    Would like to say that I went and did a little “disaster scenerio” shopping yesterday. We officially have enough food to make it the next 3.5 weeks, if we had to. We’d be living off some powdered milk and a lot of pancakes and canned goods if we had to go beyond 2 weeks, but I am happy.

    The cool thing is knowing that I don’t have to buy as much in two weeks, should some financial burden come down upon us. Plus….it is super nice to see so much healthy food when I open up the pantry and fridge.

    Meanwhile….grandma’s candy has been combined and placed in a large gift bag. This will be the “emergency stash” should we have to go longer than 3 weeks, I suppose.

    Hope everyone feels A-Ok and that no one is suffering from the Cough Cough Oink Oink.

  3. Tracy on April 28, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Now that its just me and 2 dogs, stock pileing has become alot easier. I saved all gallon plastic containers, food grade, and fill them with water. I have about 20 gallons. I have a stash of cases of pre-made pasta and meals in a can. I also have 3 big boxes of powdered milk, instant mashed potatoes and rice. I also have “personal clothes” for toilet paper and 2 dozen cloth diapers for monthly pads, if I need them. I also have a 5 gallon bucket that I can put water in and use for a toilet if needed. Then there is the huge collection of batteries, flash lights, and candles. If the power goes out I can eat my meals right out of the can, cold if need be. I put alot of thought into my planning. I have about 2-3 months worth of supplies if something goes wrong. I make all of my own cleaners so I wont run out of laundry detergant, and I can use borax to wash dishes if need be. Vinegar is another thing I keep, I have 3 gallons right now. Great for disinfecting and general cleaning.

  4. Carye on April 28, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Correction…I should have typed ” my PANTRY/stocked items.” Boy did I mess that one up!

  5. Carye on April 28, 2009 at 7:36 am

    With the exception of water, we have enough for 2 weeks or more, if need be. I’m a couponer and sales shopper and I could always *purchase from my panty/stocked items. I would probably also get a few more non perishable meat items (canned, vacuum packed) just to be comfortable, but we could make what we have stretch beyond two weeks if we tried. I like that you are discussing this. It is important, be it for a possible pandemic outbreak, natural disaster, etc.

  6. Tara on April 27, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    What are the kids going to do? Heck, what are *you* going to do, if stuck home for 2 weeks, to keep from going stir-crazy? I’m asking, knowing that not too long ago we had just the one board game, one deck of cards, and the backlog of books. I think. Now, we have two stashes (it outgrew the first one), I have a small craft stash – yes really it’s small I swear! *grins*- and a backlog of books (that never changes).

    For food – other than perishables, I believe we have a week or so worth. I’ll need to stock soon; I really prefer to have a few weeks worth. I don’t know where I’d put more than that in this place.

  7. LittleMissKnowitAll on April 27, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    I’ve been pondering blogging on this as well. Stockpiling really helps us be ready for these unexpected events. I was watching the news today and decided to go take stock. Looks like if I stock up on some milk and a few more meats in my freezer, we’d do pretty well. Though I might add jelly, and pasta to my list as well.

    We love to backpack and camp so we have those little stoves that run on rubbing alcohol around in case we need something to cook on. And maybe making sure the grill tank is full is a good idea too.

    We don’t know a pandemic is coming, but when the head of the CDC says that he’s not reassured by the mildness of the current cases that there won’t be one, then I think preparedness doesn’t hurt. Two week supply? Okay, I’ll work on that.

    Thanks, from one Heather to another!!

  8. thatbobbiegirl on April 27, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Speaking of “cash on hand” — I was at the store today to pick up some produce on sale…and the cashiers were telling people they could take CASH ONLY. For some reason the credit/debit card processing AND their ability to take checks was completely out.

    So, I only bought $10 worth…

    If you stock up on food, don’t forget to buy only stuff your family will eat, make sure you ROTATE it so it doesn’t go bad on the shelf.

    Right now, heat is not a problem, but one of the things I ask my friends is how they’re going to keep their family warm if they lose electricity, because ours goes out more than average where we live. Most home heating systems require electric to function – which is why we have a woodstove. It does have a fan, but that’s only for circulation – it can still burn wood and warm us if the fan doesn’t work. Bonus: I can cook on it, too!

  9. Melissa on April 27, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I’ve got a solar oven and a good stock of dehydrated food and canned and dry goods. Even if the water goes bad, it can be sterilized in my solar oven. I live on the Texas Gulf Coast, so I usually start to prepare a hurricane kit this time of year. Make sure to have 1 gallon of water per person per day. Fill up the bathtub if you have to.

    Don’t forget to have your important papers and CASH on hand! Credit cards don’t work when there’s no power.

  10. Lucy on April 27, 2009 at 8:35 am

    I would have a problem with the medications. My insurance will only refill presciptions when they are within 4 days of running out! Even under normal circumstances this is a pain as I drive 24 miles to the pharmacy. The mail-order prescription service offered by my insurer is 30 times more costly that the regular pharmacy, so that isn’t a realistic option, either. I’m immune-suppressed, so this whole thing has me on edge.

  11. Heather on April 27, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Carol re: interruption of basic services,
    Part of the mentality is prepare for the worst and hope for the best, but you must remember that basic services are brought to you by normal people. The people who run your power and water are normal individuals with families and fears of their own. If a pandemic situation were to occur a certain percentage of those people would put their family’s safety ahead of our needs for clean water and electricity. The same is true for hospital workers. Frankly, I couldn’t blame them. The disaster scenarios are set up with an assumption that people will focus on their own personal safety before any altruistic efforts.
    They are humans, not government drones.

  12. Heather on April 27, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Becca, Carol is right, strains of flu that become pandemic have different characteristics from those of seasonal flu. The strangest part of the virus is that it is the infected person’s strong immune system over-reaction that seems to be more deadly than the flu itself. Instead of the normal V diagram where only the young and elderly die, the diagram is disturbingly W shaped.
    Again, I’m not saying we need to freak out. What I am saying is these headlines serve as a reminder to do a quick inventory and make sure IF things were to go badly, would we be prepared?

  13. Carol on April 27, 2009 at 12:48 am

    This flu, like that of 1919, seems to target the young and healthy, at least in Mexico.

  14. Becca on April 27, 2009 at 12:45 am

    I just think it is bizarre that such a big deal is made out of the flu. I know it is bad for the elderly, really little and folks with weaker immune systems…..but it comes around every year and every once in a while a really bad one comes down the pike.

    Make sure you are eating right and not being flip about possibly exposing yourself or loved ones to germies…..and you should be okay.

    One has to wonder if the whole Mexican angle is a coincidence given the recent press on the Mexican cartels and their “America’s need for drugs is the problem” statement. Nothing like a pandemic to hit them in the tourist pocketbook??

    I’m just saying…..

  15. Carol on April 26, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    why, in the case of a pandemic, would you assume that water would turn off, and/or power? I’m sure the flu epidemic of the early 20th century didn’t stop basic services such as trash removal and gas lit street lamps or even public transportation.

  16. gracie on April 26, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    your water heater is a great source of water, learn where the shut off valve is to prevent it from filling with water (this is a worse case scenario — if the water is contaminated), learn how to turn the gas off it’s a gas heater, and how to turn the water heater its self off — mine has a siphon at the bottom for cleaning out the water in the bottom every so many months — this siphon is how i would get water out to drink, wash hands, prepare food and do dishes

    and don’t forget SOAP!!!

    and read up on this page:

    or here:

    I warned my children that if it gets bad, their summer camp might be canceled — sigh, paranoid or wanting to avoid problems later — i can’t decide

  17. Jenn on April 26, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    What other options are there for water? The obvious would be buying gallons or smaller bottles of water and storing it. But I’d prefer to fill my own jugs from the tap and maybe work out some system of rotation. And knowing me, having a few extra gallons of purchased water as back-up. Any tips?

  18. gracie on April 26, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    if the fridge and freezer go bad, you could try to eat/preserve as much of that food as possible, —- that is if you have the supplies on hand to can the food (of course you would need a gas/wood powered stove for this)

    —– and if any of it could be used as pet food i would feed it to the pets and save their dry food for later.

    i have lots of ‘dry’ goods on hand — flower, sugar, beans, rice, popcorn (not the microwave stuff), canned foods (corn, beans, peas etc….) some home canned foods from last season, spices, cooking oil, other cooking basics

    ** and some good cookbooks!!!

    I’ve two propane tanks for the grill — you can use a gas grill like a gas stove if you have too

    don’t forget to add vitamins pills to your storage, they will cover the basics for a short while, but watch those expiration dates — and keep a supply of medications you use regularly

  19. Becca on April 26, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    And this is when a fear of can-openers really plays in, isn’t it? Fear of can-openers = possession of manual can-opener. How many folks have a manual one in their utensil or junk drawer should the power go out? I have this, so “check”.

    I think we have enough calories, if that is all we really need. My step-sons grandmother (their mom’s mom) sent 17 pounds of candy to our house for Easter (and, and big old back of cookies, too….almost forgot!). Pretty sure we could support the entire neighborhood with the amount of calories currently sitting in bags on the floor of my pantry. (Thanks boys’ grandma…..”check”)

    What we WOULD need: Easy fix items. Ramen, soup, canned fruit, bottled water, peanut butter (almost out), honey, crackers, dry-roasted peanuts and flour.

    What we do have: Some pre-packaged camping food and meats…enough to get us through a weekend. A lot of tomato sauce (it was on sale last week…bought four cases). A lot of pre-packaged pasta sides, cereal, canned vegetables, pancake mix, rice and yeast.

    Bring on the pandemic, I say….my family is prepared to eat Snickers and Jelly Beans and Pepperoni and Rice a Roni until the coast is clear!!

  20. Mom of three on April 26, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Don’t know if I could manage today, since I haven’t been to the store in weeks, but I certainly would love a two week vacation to try. LOL

    Tomorrow I plan on stocking the fridge, pantry and freezer and we’ll be good to go again.

    Really though prepared for a real emergency, not really. The fridge and freezer would go off, ruining all the food, and we’d be left with canned goods that really only I eat. The rest of them would starve before they’d eat green beans.

  21. Heidi @ CarolinaDreamz on April 26, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I took a food storage “class” presentation, last month. It urged us to start with 72 hours and work to 3 months, of just what we eat, everyday. The class “teacher,” was living on hers.. and has been for a couple of months, since her husband was unemployed, suddenly, and having trouble getting a new job.

    Its scary to think that as prepared as I am.. I’m really not prepared, at all.

  22. Heather on April 26, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Angela, first I think we need to differentiate between eating and eating well. When storing food in case of disaster the point is to ensure there are enough calories to keep people going. An emergency isn’t a time to overly worry about a balanced diet.
    So, when putting together a preparedness kit, it’s OK to keep storage and space in mind. You’ll be emptying your fridge before you break into the ramen, tuna, and peanut butter crackers. However, if things were to get that bad, it’s unlikely that variety will be high on your list of priorities.

  23. Angela on April 26, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    I think I would have to move into my parents house. Where do you put such food and supplies? I can hardly hold enough food in my house for a week let along enough food we can not use that would last two weeks. Yikes!!!! I guess I have enough boxes of cereal, I think that might last that long:)

  24. Rebekka on April 26, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    To add to your excellent hygiene: wash your hands AFTER covering your mouth! Better yet, sneeze and cough into your elbow, because then you won’t spread stuff around by touching things.

  25. gracie on April 26, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    i was just thinking about this as well, i need cooking oil, some more wheat flower, and dog food, we can make it for two weeks other wise…. but i could manage if i were told right now we couldn’t leave the house for two weeks

    but my children will go nuts not being able to play with the neighborhood children, and my youngest always has problems with croup, so i’ll try to get her a flu shot this week if i can find one —– yes i know it won’t protect her from the swine flu but it will help with secondary illness (i hope)

  26. Mrs. Petrie on April 26, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I got my wonderful beef cookbook. I posted something on my blog about it: http://casapetrie.com/blog/?p=745.

    Thank you both for all the wonderful and thoughtful posts on a daily basis.

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