If you're in this section, then it's a fair bet that you are married with at least one child. You might not have children, but much of this section still applies. Whatever the case, it's not simply you, and that means that it's a whole different ball game.
Consider: A single man or woman can prepare an emergency system without much expense and be pretty sure that it will be there when they need it. A family, on the other hand, has to multiply everything in their kit times the number of people in their family. If you have six kids, this can be a real problem. Most of us can spring for a few extra cans of beans every time we go to the grocery store, and it's enough. It's not going to bust our budget. But a big family can't just add a couple of extra items on to the bill. What good is a three month supply of water if you only have two days worth of food? If you need to cut back on something in your budget so that you can put more into "dad's crazy survivalistic hobby," they're going to resist.
So what do you do? Step one is simply, talk to them!
Try to let them know what you want to do. Get their opinions. Get their ideas! Kids especially, see things in a completely different light. They will point out stuff that makes you go, "oh yeah, duh..." Also remember that your kids may be going through their own stresses (junior high school... remember the jungle of teenage life?) and may be highly resistant to anything that poses a threat to their carefully orchestrated lifestyle. Be patient. Try to get them involved, but don't be angry with them if they don't want to help. To do so is to acknowledge the horrible possibilities that you are presenting. If you can't get them to participate directly, get them to help as though it were part of the household chores. "Don't forget to wash out that Coke bottle, dear..." Once it's routine, you can step up the "education."
One major point that you need to work out early is to agree as a family on how "fanatical" you are going to be about this whole fatalistic business. Everybody has to have a fair vote (with mom or dad carrying veto power of course) and no complaint should be ignored. No teenager wants their dad to be known at school as Mr. Y2K. Decide if you are going to talk to others about your "survivalist attitudes," and maybe even give the whole thing a code name so that your kids don't have to say, "Mom, can we get some of this cereal for the Y2K food stockpile?" Personally, our family uses the word, "Stuart", taken from the movie entitled, "Stuart Saves His Family." That way we can say, "Hey, how about a couple of cans of this for Stuart..." Get it? It works to take some of the edge off as well.
Once you have your kids accepting the idea of emergency preparation, work in some practical applications. These are things like:
- A plan in case they are at school or out on a date during a major earthquake. Do they come home right away? Do they stay put and try to contact home first? What if they don't have a car?
- If they have their own car, does it contain an emergency kit? (Blankets, water, a little food, a flashlight, etc...) Should it?
- Can "Bobby" come over to our house if his family runs out of food? You better hit this one as early as possible, because your daughter's current flame is certainly going to be as important to her as anything in your life.
- How about carry-out packs? These are usually a small bag or bedroll with a short-term emergency kit that is handy in case a person has to get-up-and-go. It has things like a simple but warm change of clothes, a little water, maybe some food, a small medical kit, a flashlight, a ground cloth, everything that they might need if they had to sleep out for a couple of days. It sounds basic, but this kind of thing in a family is pretty advanced stuff. Tread lightly.
At the very least, have everyone in your family keep a pair of shoes near the bed so that they can put them on in the event of an earthquake. Debris on the floor can be a real problem, and just getting to the front door can be nearly impossible in bare feet if your windows shatter. There are lots of ways to "earthquake proof" your home, but this one change in habit stands a better chance of saving your life than almost anything else you could do. One side note: Many California families have adopted the "Hawaii rule" of taking off your shoes and leaving them by the front door. This is fine, but at least leave a pair of flip-flops near your bed. Shoes at the front door won't help anyone but the firemen, to figure out how many bodies to dig out of the ruins of your home.
- Do all your children and your significant other know how to turn off the gas, the water, the electricity? If not, show them. Turning off the gas main after an earthquake can save your home from fire. All it usually takes is a crescent wrench. Have a cheap one hanging in the closet, or in the kitchen drawer. Don't plan on using the one in your toolbox, as it might not be handy. Better yet, have one chained to the gas shut off valve itself.
- Compile a list of tasks that need to be done after an emergency like a quake or tornado. You might be a little out of it, or even unconscious, and your children may have to take charge. It should have things like turning off the gas, finding the pets, making sure everyone really is okay, checking your neighbors... See the section called "The Checklists" for more help.
My wife mentioned to me one night that since we might not have access to medical facilities for a while, we should stock up on condoms. "Oh, duh..." I replied. Normally, we use other forms of birth control, but almost anything other than a condom has to be given to you by a doctor. If one isn't available, this could be a real problem. Condoms are cheap, easily stored, and a whole lot safer than being pregnant without a doctor. Sex is a cheap form of entertainment that doesn't even use electricity. If you're smart, you'll show your kids where the condoms are as well. Your teen-age daughter and her boyfriend are going to be just as bored as you are. Better to be safe and not ask any questions when one or two (or ten) show up missing.
As a side note to the above, you and your soul mate might consider another possibility... Sterilization. If ever there was a time to decide not to have any more children, the possibilities that might have arisen at the turn of the millennium should make you seriously consider this as an option. It could become difficult if not impossible to have such a simple operation after a global disaster.
Individual Family Member Needs
These are things like diapers and formula for your baby, or candy for the kids (or yourself for that matter). Below are a few things that you might also want to consider.
My wife takes several medications that may or may not be available for quite some time in an emergency situation. If we can, we will try to get a three month's supply. With some medications, such as blood pressure moderators, you can sometimes get by with "homeopathic" remedies and "stress reducing exercises." But as was recently pointed out to me, you must be very careful not to abruptly cut-off the use of certain medications, as the side effects can be quite damaging.
Also, many doctors may be hesitant to prescribe more medication than is immediately needed, which means that you can either switch doctors until you find one that's more lax with their prescriptions, or "order out," which is to say, order over-seas. Neither option is a very good one. To make matters worse, most insurance companies have caps on how much and how often you can get prescription drugs. For the budget-minded individual, this could pose a real problem. As of this writing, I have yet to find a good solution.
Glasses and Contacts
Obviously, if you wear glasses or contacts, you should try to have an extra pair around just in case you set that 50 pound bag of wheat down on your primary pair. Contacts are a little more difficult, especially of you use the disposable kind. Again, cost is a real issue here. If your prescription is so strong say that without your glasses you are legally blind... then getting an extra pair is quite an investment. In the end, however, it seems to me that it would be a good idea no matter how you look at it. (Doh!)
Get a couple of extra batteries for that hearing aid now, while they're as easy to pick up as dropping by your local drug store. Even getting to a store during an emergency might be impossible, and Murphy's Law dictates that your hearing aid will fail on you precisely two minutes after a major earthquake or tornado.
No personal experience here, but it sounds to me like you might want to have an extra stock of all the necessary cleansers and whatnot.