Garbage BagsSure, you can use them for garbage, but they also double as ponchos if you cut slits for your arms and head. Slit them down both sides and you have a ground cover to block moisture. Wrap them around your boots and you have temporary water-proofing. Be careful putting any kind of food in them, as some of them come with pesticides permeated into the plastic.
Hurricane LampsThese are those cool oil lamps that have an adjustable wick and a bulging glass shield to block a breeze and regulate oxygen to the flame. You typically see them in movies where some 300 year old dude is carrying one into a dark abandoned gold mine. They often have wire handles so that you can move them around easily, although I have one that has a ceramic base and a handle like a mug. Knowing what a klutz I am, I wanted the durable kind, made of metal and with a wire protector for the glass, so I ran right out to Home Depot and fully expected to be able to buy a dozen. Nope. They just looked at me funny and suggested I try a candle shop. They didn't have them either, in fact nobody did. So I went online and found them in abundance... for $250 dollars apiece. Seems they are antiques. I was completely dejected until I found the perfect source... Williams-Sonoma. They mostly sell kitchen stuff, but for some reason they also have these lanterns as an $8 item! I was so giddy that I picked up three. I may just go back and get a few more on principle. Get these while you can. Who knows when some corporate wizzywig will crumple his brow in confusion that they seem to be selling out of these babies and cancel the product thinking it has to be a marketing mistake.
1/25/99 - Hallelujah!
If you haven't been to a WalMart recently, then do go. Make a day of it. Take the kids and have a good time... And be sure to check out the... You guessed it, Hurricane Lamps! They carry a line called, Lamplight Farms. They're not durable, they're not easy to carry, they're not even attractive (well, I don't think so). But they are six bucks! What a deal! And they have a great price on lamp oil. Look for the half gallon bottles, not the dinky quart size. It may not be as cheap as Kerosene, but let's face it, no matter what anybody says, Kerosene makes your house smell like a yuppie lighting a barbeque. (WAY too much lighter fluid...)
Feminine hygiene productsMy wife brought up an interesting point that as a male, I would never have thought about. During an emergency situation, where water and bathing are a problem, tampons should be used instead of pads to deal with menstrual bleeding. The reason for this is simply a matter of cleanliness. It is much more difficult to clean up after using a pad, which stops a flow once it has left your body, rather than a tampon, which stops a flow on the inside. Of course, she also pointed out that one should be careful with tampons, especially if you use them a lot, (and in less-than ideal living conditions) to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Hot water bottlesThis is an item that has been a standard in every home in america up until about five years ago when they were replaced by various high-tech heat packs that you drop into the microwave and nuke for about five minutes, thus giving you ten-twenty minutes of heat. Nifty... unless you don't have power to run your microwave. A hot water bottle, on the other hand, has a thousand and one uses, including but not limited to:
- A makeshift canteen.
- A seat cushion.
- A pillow.
- Draw on it and it becomes a wiggly puppet.
- Give it to your baby to teeth on.
Specialty FlashlightsThese gems include the crank kind (to generating power) and/or the LED kind. Sometimes they are both. The advantage to a crank flashlight is that you will never run out of batteries. Give it 30 seconds of cranking and you can usually have light for 45 minutes or so. The LED flashlights use Light Emitting Diodes in place of regular bulbs, and so use far less power. Many of these lights will run for thousands of hours. Of course, these kinds of technologies are still coming into the mainstream, so they cost a bit more. There are good crank and LED lights on the market for $20 or less. It's a good investment if you can afford it. If not, just make sure you have a good store of batteries (which is a good idea anyway).
USB Flash Drives for electronic document storage.I first heard about the use of these on the New York Times website. The idea is that you scan and store your important documents (birth certificates, medical records, financial info, bank info, credit info, insurance info, contact lists, etc...) onto a cheap USB flash drive. They are small, portable and lightweight, will hold a ton of stuff if you're careful, and often come with encryption for security. If you can't afford a flash drive, then consider just burning them to CD. While not as durable as the flash method, they're cheap, easily duplicatable (both a plus and a minus) and readable on most people's computers. You can even include a visual inventory of your possessions. Just walk around your home with a digital camera. This will become especially helpful when it comes time to file an insurance claim.
The problem with something like this is that when you depend on technology to save you, that is precisely when it chooses to fail. CD's break or scratch. USB drives may or may not work after getting wet. You can improve their likelyhood of survival by dropping them into a ziplock baggie or keeping the CD in a study case (or even duplicating them a couple of time and placing copies in different places), but when they die, you usually loose the whole ball of wax. Pop! Gone. Just like that. So be careful. The best thing is still a hard copy or even the originals, but you may not always have time to gather up all your important documents as you run from a burning or collapsing house.