When Disaster Strikes, Are You Ready? by Elizabeth Brown, MS, RD

Always be prepared

The earthquake was not a big deal to most people, but for me it was terrifying. I had never experienced one before. It was my greatest fear when I lived in Northern California.

I was working at a hospital the day the earth shook. I felt my chair move. Then the building began to shake and I couldn’t believe it. “Oh, my god,” I said, as I stood up and moved toward the stairs.

Some of the nurses were standing in the doorways when one nurse said, “We have to get the patients.” Yes, a lot happened during the few seconds of rumbling. When it was over that one nurse asked why we didn’t all run to the patients. I said that we have to make sure we are safe first. If we get hurt, then how will we be able to help anyone?

Think about the airplane speech. You are reminded that when the oxygen mask drops you must put it on yourself first and then your loved one. It takes less than 15 seconds to lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. If you’re out cold, what good are you to anyone?

I use the airplane scenario when educating people about nutrition and fitness. When someone says they don’t have time to eat right or exercise because they have too many obligations, I say to them, “What good are you if your health is failing?” You have to take care of yourself first so that you are better equipped to take care of your loved ones.

I admit that I can not tell you how to spend your time. I offer suggestions. There are no excuses for lack of effort. You have to try. Some things will work and some will not, but ultimately what you learn are survival skills.

Be more active in your daily life. I don’t have a car so I walk or ride my bike everywhere. Some days, that is my exercise. You don’t have to go to a gym to be fit.

Eat more whole foods. Vegetables, lean proteins, fruits and whole grains. I buy the majority of my food at the farmer’s market. My weekly food bill is about $50. Vegetables and eggs are the greatest bang for your nutritional buck. It is not expensive to eat nutritiously.

In a day and age where technology and convenience are a way of life, people simply are not prepared to meet most basic needs. If a disaster of any kind takes place, what will happen to those ill-prepared individuals and their families?

It’s my civic duty to help everyone who crosses my path to make informed choices. You have to learn to take care of yourself first and foremost.

Here’s a list of nourishment options to keep on hand in the event of an emergency. Keep these items separate from your daily foods and beverages. Please remember to label and date your inventory and rotate out annually.

Water is the most important nutrient of all. There is always a debate about the “ideal” amount per person. It’s about one half of your body weight in ounces. A 120 pound person needs 60 ounces per day. The recommended amount during a disaster is two gallons per person per day. Maintain a four day supply. That is, ideally, eight gallons per person.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: toilet tanks (not the bowls) have a fresh supply of water. If you are uncertain about the safety of your “other” water supplies, it is best to boil the water for five minutes in a covered pot. If you can not boil water, then add bleach: 1/4 tablespoon per gallon of water. Let the water sit uncovered for 60 minutes before using.

Emergency Inventory:
WATER: eight gallons per person
Canned vegetables, fruits and juices (low sodium)
Canned protein sources: salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, anchovies, chicken and beans
Soups-canned or “dried soups in a cup”
Smoked or dried meats like salmon, turkey or beef jerky
Dried fruit
Milk-powdered, canned, or shelf-stable brick pack
Protein powders: whey, egg white or brown rice & pea powders
Nutrient dense sweeteners: black strap molasses, maple syrup, honey, barley malt syrup
Seasonings: sea salt, pepper, Nutritional Yeast Flakes (fortified)
Ready-to-eat cereals and instant hot cereals: shredded wheat, bran flakes, Grapenuts and Kashi
Crackers: Ryvita or Wasa crisp breads
High energy foods-Nut Butters, jelly, nuts, trail mix, granola bars, Green Protein bars
Super Green powders
Reputable brand names: Amy’s Organic, Healthy Valley, McDougall, Fantastic Foods, Eden, Nile Spice, Westbrae, Simply Organic, Bob’s Red Mill, Arrowhead Mills, Lundberg and Stone Ground Farms
Can opener
Disposable utensils, plates, bowls and cups
Portable butane burner
Pot and skillet for cooking

In case of an emergency, stock up and hunker down! In the meantime, move your butt around town!