Living a gluten-free lifestyle can be complicated enough some days, however when it comes to natural disasters it is critical that your gluten-free family be prepared for anything that may occur. Whether it is hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, or tornados, having a disaster preparedness plan can help keep your family safe and well fed throughout times of unrest.
I know a lot of you out there may be saying “oh well this could never happen to me,” or “Oh well there are organizations like the Red Cross that can help us out if this occurs,” but what a lot of people do not realize is that the Red Cross and other aide organizations do NOT accommodate for people with food allergies or sensitivities. They are aide organizations that are designed for the majority of the population, thus if you are stuck unprepared in a disaster without food and you have a severe food allergy or sensitivity it is up to you to provide food for yourself. My family found this out personally after Hurricane Ike hit the coast of Texas back in 2008. While my mother’s family has experienced dozens of hurricanes and tropical storms in their day having lived on the Texas coast for over 100 years, we considered ourselves well prepared, but nothing could have warned us about the chaos and unrest that Ike brought. Through this series of posts I will discuss some of the basics of creating your own disaster preparedness plan covering equipment, food, essentials for family and pets, as well as steps to prepare your home when disaster strikes.
Tonight I’m just going go through a few basics for organizing for disaster awareness and the posts in the next few days will be far more detailed.
So, what should you do first when you decide you want to put together a disaster preparedness plan?
- Clean out and organize your pantry. This may sound a bit silly, but this is the most important step you can take for disaster preparedness. While cleaning out your pantry throw out any old items that have expired and mark items that are close to going out of date. To efficiently check dates and reorganize, this involves removing everything out of your pantry and then placing everything back in an orderly fashion. I tend to do this about 2 times a year and over the years I keep getting more efficient with the ways that I organize (we will go into this more in a later post). Having an organized pantry will allow you to be able to assess what food you have on hand and if you need to purchase any food if you know of an emergency before hand (like a hurricane) or it allows you to “grab and go” and throw items into reusable grocery bags if you need to evacuate immediately.
- Know your usage. What does this mean? It means you should know approximately how much water you drink per day as well as each member of your family (which will vary). An average adult should drink a minimum of 2 liters of water a day, this is approximately 4 bottles of water. If you are stranded without access to stores for several days a family of 4 will go through a case of water rather quickly so make sure you plan on purchasing enough. I like to go buy my water in bulk, with a combination of 5 gallon jugs delivered to my home as well as your traditional bottles of water (to take with me to work) this way I have some of both left on hand.
- Make a written plan of what you are going to do and where you will go. This is a great tool that you can make for your family and share with your relatives. For instance, if you live in an area prone to wildfires have an “Evacuation list” with everything you want to make sure you do to protect your house before you leave as well as a checklist and where you will go depending on what type of event. This is something we have always done in my family for hurricanes, based on the category of storm my family evacuates to different locations and we have maps of where everyone will be with the landline phone numbers of those locations.
- Remember: Cell phones rarely work. In times of emergency cell phone towers get overloaded rather easily. I live in a town that is one of the main hurricane evacuation centers for Houston, whenever we get a hurricane do not expect to get a call out. For times like this texting is far more effective than calling, so do not waste your cell phone battery if you are not having much luck. Also make sure you have chargers for your cell phone, kids electronics, and anything that needs to be charged that you cannot live without. This will allow you to be able to charge these during 8 to 10 hour evacuations. Speaking of 8-10 hour evacuations…
- Be prepared to wait and do NOT panic. During a hurricane evacuation, if you can get 100 miles out of Houston in less than 6 hours you are doing great. Think I’m joking? I’m not. Long evacuation lines are normal for major cities that are evacuating. This is why it is important to have car games, movies, easy to access snacks, and a full tank of gas when you leave. During Hurricane Rita, my roommate’s family in Port Arthur was attempting to evacuate to College Station, however it took them more than 14 hours to get here. They made it as far as Huntsville (which is less than 30 miles away) before one of the cars ran out of gas and every gas station for 20+ miles was sold out due to the I45 corridor being located there. Thankfully the person whose house they broke down in front of saw the Texas A&M University Alumni sticker on the back of there car, and being an Aggie, they gave the stranded group 5 gallons of gas that they needed to make it here to College Station. If they had thrown fits or become enraged with the locals because no gas was available, they probably would not have been gifted those 5 gallons of fuel. It is definitely important to remember to “Stay Calm and Carry On” during emergencies for the least stressful evacuation.
Well everyone, that’s all for tonight. I will be back with more tomorrow with more tips on gluten-free disaster preparedness! Hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day Weekend!