Everything I Know About Being Prepared for an Emergency

Everything I Know About Being Prepared for an Emergency | Writing Between Pauses

On February 24, around 12pm, it started snowing.

It snowed for the rest of the day without stopping. By the time it got dark outside, we had 2-3 inches. My husband and I excitedly talked about a potential snow day (he is a teacher after all and sometimes, they do get excited to have a snow day!) as we got ready for bed. However, our lights started flickering on and off around 8pm. They kept going off, then coming back. Twenty minutes later, it would repeat. We went around unplugging things, sure that if they went off, they’d be on within a few hours like always. We started a fire in the wood stove and left it for the night.

We climbed into bed and fell asleep. At midnight, the lights went out for real. At 2am, Forrest woke up, terrified in the dark. I brought him to our bed and as he went to sleep, I realized I could hear strange sounds outside. Crashing sounds. I shrugged. i hadn’t looked out a window. I didn’t know then that it was still snowing.

It snowed into the next morning. We got up at 6am and got the wood stove going again. As I let Remus out, I realized that branches were falling off the trees. Those were the crashing sounds. When we stood outside, we could hear not just branches falling, but entire trees. The cedar tree right next to our house was swaying. As it got light outside, we saw how bad it was: multiple large branches had fallen off the cedar tree.

I got dressed in a snow jacket and gloves, pulling on my boots. My mom and I had been texting all morning; their driveway was blocked and my dad had gotten his truck stuck trying to find a way out. I started down our driveway, slightly terrified by how many trees were falling around me, to find that we were also blocked in. 4-5 trees had fallen across our driveway. The snow was almost up to my knees then and still coming down.

Throughout the day, I packed up our emergency supplies: a suitcase of clothes, our box of important documents, things for Remus. If we needed to leave, I told myself, we would be able to. I kept repeating that to myself, even though I knew our car couldn’t get down our driveway. The cedar tree outside our house lose 5-6 large branches, but none hit our house. By the time it stopped snowing, everything was a mess: our internet satellite dish was snapped basically in half, our backyard was a mess, we had no power and very little food, and we couldn’t leave.

That was Monday, February 25. The next day, my parents were able to help us clear the driveway and we were able to go to their house. The day after that, we were able to get to town and buy canned soup and extra water. And the day after that, my parents’ power was restored. Our power wouldn’t come back until Sunday, March 3. It was such a relief when it did.

During the week of the snowstorm, Oregon’s Governor, Kate Brown, declared a state of emergency. All the power companies were completely overwhelmed; the road I live on, for example, had almost every single section of power line damaged by a falling trees. On the road just beside my house, all the trees had fallen into the road, blocking on lane on a tight corner. The roads were covered in snow and ice, almost no one could get down their driveway unless they had a larger truck, and as I live in a rural area without city water, none of us had access to running water.

Before the snowstorm, Danny and I had often talked about being prepared for emergencies. We talked about things we needed to get, how we should have some batteries saved up, but we never did it. I did have about 6 gallons of water saved in our pantry, but that was it. When our power went out, we weren’t ready—and we definitely weren’t ready to be without power for 7 full days.

When we finally got our power restored, I got so many questions about being prepared for an emergency on Instagram that I knew I had to write about it. But I do want to start with a disclaimer: I’m definitely not a doomsday person at all. I think being prepared for an emergency is something we all have to account for; we never know when a big storm will hit, leaving us all without power for a long amount of time. It never hurts to be ready, even if it never happens.

With that out of the way, here’s what I learned during the big snowstorm.

1. You’ll Need Way More Water Than You Think

When our power went out, I had maybe 6-7 gallons of water saved up. For reference, most people say to be prepared, you need 1 gallon of water per person in the house (as well as any pets) for each day. That means if we were to be prepared for 2 weeks without water, we would need 4 gallons of water per day for 14 days. That’s 56 gallons of water! For the average person, it’s just not possible to store that much water, so my advice is: keep as much water as you are able to store. For us, the floor of our pantry is now dedicated to water storage: every time we use up a thing of juice or a gallon of milk, I clean the container out well, sterilize it, and fill it with fresh water. I have about 20 gallons right now, which is much better than 6!

One more note on this: some people think if they have city water, they won’t need to worry about this as their water will still run even if their power goes out. However, many people further into town during the storm did not have access to water as the sewers became backed up. Whether you have city water or a well, you should stockpile clean water no matter what, just in case something detrimental happens to the water supply.

2. Have Lots of Food On Hand

Because we were without power for so long, we had to throw away everything in our fridge and freezer. It was all unusable and went bad fast. (More on this later.) That meant, we only had a little bit of food available. I tend to prefer to eat fresh foods: fruits and vegetables, meats and cheese. You know, the basics. We survived on oatmeal and peanut butter sandwiches for the first few days, until I got some cans of soup at the grocery store.

My stash of canned food was shockingly low. Because we have a wood stove, I was able to cook food like oatmeal or make soup, but I didn’t have much. My advice is to always have a supply of good canned food available, as this will stay good the longest, as well as things like canned milk and canned broth. We also were able to make coffee with a French press, which sounds like a luxury, but it was often the one thing I looked forward to!

3. Make Sure to Empty Perishable Items

If your power goes out and there is no estimate for it to return (by the second day of the storm, our utility company was saying to be prepared to be without power for up to two weeks), you’re going to want to throw away your perishable items ASAP. This will save you a huge headache, as it means you won’t have anything rot or drip all over your fridge or freezer. It will also make clean up once power is restored a lot faster. It feels awful to throw away so much food—as an example, I had to throw away a bunch of Costco freezer items I had literally just bought, including a $20 box of chicken nuggets. I nearly cried. But trust me, it can’t be saved. It can’t be saved.

4. Keep a Large Cooler Available

Well, ok: remember when I just said, it can’t be saved? Well, that’s kind of not true. Some stuff can be saved.

If you’re in the middle of a winter storm, my advice is to get a large cooler and fill it with snow; put it outside; and put as much perishable food inside as you can. This is how Danny and I saved our milk and coffee creamer. We could at least keep that routine for Forrest (having milk ASAP in the morning), which was good. In the summer, this wouldn’t work obviously, but it made me feel better to at least save even 5% of our fridge.

5. Everything You Need a Stockpile Of

I don’t need to explain this at all, but here’s a list of everything you need to have a stockpile of:

  • Flashlights (probably one big, sturdy one; one lattern; and several small, easily portable flashlights)

  • Batteries (of all kinds)

  • Candles

  • Matches

  • Medical supplies (any medications you take, as well as you’re preferred pain reliever, bandages of all kinds, gauze, tape, scissors, antiseptic ointment and wipes, soap to wash wounds, and more)

  • Pots and pans that can be used over direct fire or on a wood stove (that means, no Teflon coating or plastic handles/lids)

  • Blankets and towels

  • Antibacterial wipes to wash hands

  • Gasoline or diesel fuel for your car and/or generator

  • Wood (if you have a wood stove or fireplace)

  • A power pack to charge phones and any communication devices

  • A hand power or solar powered radio

6. You Need an Alternative Heat Source

We were incredibly lucky to have a wood stove, as it kept us from being too cold and we were able to cook on it. Even during the summer, we would be able to use our wood stove to cook and boil water to clean with. It goes without saying: an alternative heat source is incredibly important for any emergency preparedness.

If you aren’t able to add an alternative heat source into your home, investing in a generator is another option; there are lots of generators available these days and they are relatively easy to set up (you just need a specific outlet on the outside of your home).

Whew! That’s it (at least for now). There is a lot more about emergency preparedness that I could write about—and I definitely haven’t covered everything you need to be prepared for an emergency. But these were all the notes I kept track of while we were without power.

Have something to add? Let me know in the comments!

My Favorite Blogs

I've been reading blogs longer than I've been maintaining a blog--and considering I started writing, seriously, on the internet in 2007, that's a long time! I've found lots of wonderful blogs over the years, but I always have my favorites. 

1. Girl Next Door (Charlotte) 

I feel like I’ve been reading Charlotte’s blog approximately forever... but I think I actually started in December 2009. Which is a really long time! I have this really embarrassing ability to track Charlotte's life from what outfits I remember her wearing. 

We’ve both changed our blogs so much since then, but we’ve remained blog friends through it. I still love her outfit posts, but I think I especially love her posts about running and lifestyle. I’m always jealous of how good her food looks on Instagram! (When I try to take pictures of food, it ends up looking like mush. Why is that?!) 

2. Rebel Angel and Big Cup Little Cup

Sian is another blog friend that I’ve been reading for what feels like ages. I actually think I found her through Charlotte’s blog! She has great outfit posts and I love reading about her life. She travels so much and I love her vacation posts... because I live vicariously through them! Sian also runs a lingerie blog that I love: I’ve learned more about bras from reading Sian than from anywhere else. 

3. A Beautiful Mess 

This is one blog that I read (and love) without actually knowing the people behind it. Emma and Elsie are insanely good at what they do... and what they do is create gorgeous content that people just want to share. I bought and am currently reading their Blog Life e-course and I’ve learned so much about marketing, blogging, and photography already. 

hat are your favorite blogs? Share with me on Twitter

My Writing Routine

Do you ever wonder what other people do at work? When they get in, what's the first thing they do? 

I spend so much of my time writing -- and thinking about writing, and researching writing -- that writing dominates my thought process and my routine at work. But when it comes to other writing, what's the routine? When I'm not checking my email, researching, or writing work-related material, what do I do with my writing life? 

I research (a lot) & make lists (a lot). 

About 65% of writing for me is researching & planning. I have successfully kept notebooks since my freshman year of college and while I haven't been as organized about it as I wish I was, I still have a vast amount of information I've collected throughout my life. Lists of quotes, ideas, stories, authors, books I want to read... I've written down basically every idea and thought I've had since 2007 and that's pretty awesome. 

It's something I still try to do today. I read; I research; I make lists. These things inform my writing in ways that are obvious and not-so-obvious. 

The Little Things

I write best under very specific circumstances. Early mornings where I have the house to myself. A cup of coffee. A candle. My notebook. My favorite pen. And good music and/or a good movie. I can write for hours like this. 

My house also has to be clean. Before I can write, before I can really get any work done, my house has to be in order -- at least the part of the house I'm in (whether that's my office or my kitchen working area). That usually means I organize and tidy up my desk area, wipe down the counters, clean the floors, and set up some flowers or a candle. I just like a cozy, clean vibe before I can get down to work. 

I mean, why work in a messy place when I can work in a clean place? Plus, less cluttered surroundings leads to less cluttered thoughts. 

Actually Writing 

When I actually get down to writing -- and I mean, really writing -- I lose track of time; I can't pay attention to anything else. All noises blend into one that lulls me into my task. My notes are there only to glance at and perhaps add to or reference, but I don't spend more than 30 seconds looking at them at a time. 

Writing is an all-consuming task that can either be immediately time consuming or can be like picking pills off a sweater (that is, dull, useless, and painful). Everyone has their own unique writing routine -- things they like to have, things they have to do before they can write -- but this is mine. And it's worked so far. 

Doing My Taxes Makes Me Feel Grown Up

As an adult, you have to take the highs with the lows. Nothing exemplifies this quite like doing your taxes. 

If you've ever used TurboTax, you've experienced the joy, and the heartache, of watching the amount of your refund (or the amount of taxes you owe) change as you enter W2s. By the end of entering your income, you're at the bottom of the barrel, the dredges: if you owe money back, the number looks huge, monumental, unfair

But then, the roller coaster changes and you aren't aimed down anymore. You enter deductions. Student loan interest. Mortgage interest. That number changes again -- it soars with each deduction, each business expense. You're elated, your overjoyed. 

Ok, maybe that's just my experience with taxes. The last few years, I have had teeny tiny refunds and then owed state taxes -- an experience I don't really enjoy. This year, however, I made more money, paid a mortgage, and helped pay Danny's student loans. My taxes were a much more roller coaster experience -- but the end result made me ecstatic. 

More than anything, I realized how old I am: how much I enjoy putting in numbers and learning more about the tax system, the amount of money I should owe and the amount I overpay. I enjoy the process of this learning and, more than anything, I like feeling like an adult who does her taxes herself (well, kind of -- thanks for the TurboTax, Mom!). 

Now, post-taxes, I can uncork a bottle of wine and wait for my refund checks to roll in -- so I can plop them right into savings again. 

The Things I Don't Miss Anymore

  1. College. If you asked me a year ago if I would transport myself through space and time to redo my last year of college, I would have said "YES" without a second thought.  That time is gone though; I would respond with a quick "please God NO" now. 
  2. My childhood. This is in line with college, too. A year ago, I was very nostalgic for my childhood; I wanted to revert to that time of limited responsibility and easy fun. Not anymore. 
  3. Paying Rent. "Having a house is so much woooooork," I whined last March, three months into owning my own home. Now, as I rearrange my pictures on the wall for the fifth time, I'm really thankful that I don't rent this house. I mean, my security deposit would be gone
  4. Not traveling more. I'm a contrarian. Lots and lots of people say they love traveling and it seems like a very popular mindset to have. Unfortunately, it's not one I have and for a long time, I felt "less than" because I had no interest in traveling the world. I'm interested in other countries, but I hate the process of traveling. And honestly, I don't regret my choice not to travel anymore. I'm really glad I stayed true to myself. 
  5. Changing/"Improving" my wedding. I think lots of brides look back on their weddings and see it as the perfect day. Some look back though and see all the things they wish they could change -- I think this is all related to their personality. I'm a person who naturally picks apart everything I do in hindsight and in the moment. For a long time, I wished I could redo my wedding, change my decisions, make it better. But I'm finally in a place where I love my wedding and I wouldn't change a thing. 

How the Kindle Changed My Reading Habits

I was a book purist for the longest time. "I only read paper books,"I sneered to coworkers, friends, and family. I hoarded my thousands and thousands of books (taking up a stupid number of bookshelves in my house) and prided myself on their covers, their contents. In 2012, I started an endeavor to reread every book I owned -- which I successfully did, thankyouverymuch -- and found myself, well, bored.

I bought more books to read, but that got expensive. I started going to Goodwill to buy books for cheap -- somedays, they offered buy one, get one free or for 50 cents days, which is irresistible to book lovers. But in a small town, the book selection was slim. They had, easily, about 20 copies of all three Shades of Grey books and hundreds of Stephen King novels, as well as a surprising number of Harry Potter books, but that was about it alongside a multitude of cookbooks from the early 1990s and self-help books featuring women with shag haircuts on the front.

Occasionally, I would find well-worn copies of great books I'd always wanted to read -- like Possession by A.S. Byatt or Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Usually, I walked out empty-handed, wondering if I would need to reread Harry Potter for the 72nd time. 

Then, in November, I got a Kindle. It's not a fancy kind -- it only downloads and stores books, not movies or anything else. It's black and white only. Simple. I expected to use it occasionally. 

I did not expect to use my Kindle as much as I do -- which is nearly every day. I've ready over 20 books on my Kindle since I received it, a truly insane amount. I now read every night for at least an hour. 

Mostly, I find myself reading books I normally wouldn't read. When I buy physical copies of books, I'm often buying paperbacks of books I've always wanted to read. On my Kindle, I read books I can't find in stores, old books I've wanted to read forever, and new releases for less than the copy of a hardcover. The variety of books I read is greater, which makes reading much more fun. 

I'm not 100% sold by the Kindle though. It's definitely improved my reading habits, making it easier for me to read on the go or at the gym. But there is still something about opening a physical book, the feeling of the spine, the pages. I like writing in books, underlining and highlighting and taking notes. The cover art and font choice lends to the book; it's a piece of physical art to hold a beautiful book in your hands. So what about a Kindle? 

Using a Kindle isn't as much as physical experience as a physical book. But a Kindle lets most people read more books easily -- and when it comes to reading, more is always more, you know? 

When It Comes to Strengths, I'm Most Interested in My Weaknesses

I recently took a strengths test. It was recommended to me by my boss -- and, in fact, all of my marketing coworkers took the test as well. We had a meeting to discuss our strengths, and weaknesses, and what they mean for the department. 

Here's how the test worked: when taking the test, I was asked to rank statements on a Likert Scale (0-9, disagree to agree). The statements included phrases like "I enjoy meeting new people," "I enjoy starting ice breaker conversations," and "I like to find solutions for problems." At the end of the test, it ranks 34 characteristics on a scale with a score (out of 100). 

My top ten (including my score) were: 

  • Structurer (100) 
  • Information Excavator (100) 
  • Thinker (100) 
  • Fixer (98) 
  • Solutions Finder (96) 
  • Historian (93) 
  • Believing (91) 
  • Student (91) 
  • Prudent (89) 
  • Visionary (89) 

Some of these were really surprising to me. I was not surprised that Structurer was one of my top strengths -- I follow patterns and regiment my life to an almost insane degree. I desire structure and routine. I like doing the same things everyday, eating the same things, watching the same TV shows. I like repetition. Information Excavator and Thinker didn't surprise me either; both traits recall a curiosity and a love of research, which is something I definitely love and find myself very good at. 

I was surprised by Fixer and Solutions Finder in my top 5. I do not often think of myself as someone with very good problem solving skills, but I do spend a lot of time researching how to fix my problems, fix problems I experience in my work, or improve anything I'm working on. In some ways, it make sense. 

However, when it came down to it, the traits I ended up paying the most attention to are those I scored the least in. My lowest scoring trains were Charismatic (40), Flexibility (40), Motivator (38), Confidence (38), and Foreman/Commanding (36). Basically, I don't like meeting new people, I am not flexible, I am not upbeat, I lack confidence in my talent and abilities, and I cannot lead people. 

Wow, that says a lot doesn't it! 

All of those traits are important for some jobs and in general, are skills that are good to have. There are things I know are not my strengths. But looking at these traits, I realize something: I may be a good problem solver and researcher, but my lack of confidence, and inflexibility, make it difficult for me to implement and lead people towards my ideas. 

That's kind of a bummer, of course, when I really think about it: I have many positive traits, but if confidence ranks as one of my greatest weaknesses, it seems to invalidate my abilities otherwise. 

It's possible to learn a lot about yourself by identifying your strengths. You can determine what kind of leader you are and how to properly focus your energy. However, I learned the most by evaluating my weaknesses and deciding how to make them strengths instead. 

With a test like this, it's very easy to get bogged down by what it says about you: oh, I'm not very confident. Aren't I the worst? It's difficult to fight that impulse, to let the test tell you that that is inherently how you are. However, strengths and weaknesses are flexible and they have the ability to change. You shouldn't feel constricted by learning your weaknesses -- you should feel empowered to change. 

If you'd like to take this test, you can here.  

5 Perfect iPhone Wallpapers for the New Year

Who loves new iPhone goodies? I do. I love them. I have a folder on my iPhone of all my wallpapers and it's embarrassingly full. Whenever my phone (frequently) needs more storage, I immediately turn to this folder with a sigh. I just like backgrounds, guys. 

In celebration of the New Year, I thought I'd share my favorite New Year's wallpapers -- ones that I myself have saved and to use this month. To download, just click the link and follow the instructions.