Preparing For Hawaii’s ‘Katrina’

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - September 14, 2005
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There will be plenty of time for the “post mortem” on the city of New Orleans’(and the rest of the Gulf Coast’s) before/during/after response to Hurricane Katrina. As the president said, we can sort out responsibilities for “what went right and what went wrong.” And given the emotional heat of the moment, some delay (not too much) in this respect will result in a more objective and useful assessment.

But one thing that shouldn’t be delayed is our personal reassessment of our own and our family’s readiness to face Oahu’s own “Katrina” at some inevitable time in the future. If the grim 24/7 TV news coverage of the storm and flood victims’ plights hasn’t piqued our survival instincts to new highs, I guess nothing will. And nothing has been more obvious than the need for pre-planning.

Personal preparation is the first step to personal accountability for our own survival, and that translates to organizing our own family or household survival kit to sustain us for a minimum of three days without water, electrical, gas, telephone or sewage service. This is so important that I want to save you, my readers, the trouble of looking it up.

Water: Store a gallon of water per day per person. This leaves a little extra for minimal hygiene needs. Nursing mothers, special medical needs, or warmer temperatures may require more. The most ready source is commercially bottled water in plastic gallon containers, but tap water in thoroughly cleaned soda or juice containers is fine too. Consider other sources of water for nondrinking needs; a swimming pool, water catchment tank, or a nearby stream can provide water for cooking, washing or filling a toilet tank for judicious flushing.

Food: Make out a prospective menu for a minimum of three days just like for a long three-day weekend of camping. Focus on foods that need no refrigeration, water or cooking: canned foods, tightly sealed whole grain cereals, prepared backpacking meals, MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) from Army/Navy surplus stores (check expiration dates), and trail mix-type snacks. Avoid salty foods that will make you more thirsty. If you have a gas barbecue, keep a spare tank of propane on hand for sterilizing water and the luxury of cooking. Consider any special dietary needs. And don’t forget Fido and Tabby! They’ll need food and water, too. Include a manual can opener.

Miscellaneous: Battery-powered radio and extra batteries, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit and manual, sanitation and hygienic items (moist towelettes, T-paper, etc.), matches in waterproof container, small fire extinguisher, whistle, cooking and eating utensils (think camping), a knapsack, extra clothes, light bedding, and walking shoes (you may have to walk to the nearest shelter), candles, plastic sheeting and duct tape, prescription meds and special needs such as extra eyeglasses, contact lenses and solution, hearing aid batteries; photocopies of I.D. and credit cards; games, toys, playing cards, reading materials; infant needs like diapers and formula, cash and barterable coins, and any other special needs unique to your family. Plan on the possibility of having no access to your normal household goods or belongings.

Maintenance: Update your kit as kids grow and family needs change. Inventory every six months or so to check expiration dates, damaged cans and containers. Unless water is commercially bottled, change water in containers at least every year. Store everything in tightly sealed plastic storage bins available at most “big box” stores. If you have prepared a “safe room” in your house, store your kit in it or nearby.

If you are serious about survival (do I hear a “duh”?), consider the above kit for a one to two week stay. As chairman of the State Civil Defense Advisory Council, I know firsthand there are plans in place to address any natural disaster or foreseeable terrorist attack, and dedicated professionals to implement them. But there are variables which could isolate Oahu from the outside for long periods, and those who plan for that eventuality have the best chance of not only surviving, but in playing a leadership role in facilitating the survival of family, friends, and neighbors nearby. Take it from an old Boy Scout: “Be prepared!”

See and click on “Are You Ready?”

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