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Being prepared means you are well equipped with the proper supplies needed for an emergency. If you have been following the Gallatin Fire Department’s 2020 Preparedness Plan, you should now have some drinking water stored and an emergency plan created. Remember, you can always call or email the Gallatin Fire Prevention Division if you need any assistance in helping with your preparation.

Weather-related disasters such as flooding, tornados, or severe storms can happen at any time here in Tennessee. Our goal is to have households in our community prepared to survive for the first 72 hours after a disaster strikes. By following some simple steps, by the end of this year, you and your family will be well prepared. We cannot prevent natural disasters, but we can be better prepared to increase our survival chances when they do happen.

Two vital needs for survival are water and food. We have already discussed water needs: have one gallon per person per day for  three days. I like to also keep some single-use flavor packets in our survival kit, especially the ones with electrolytes in them. Also, a case of Gatorade is good to have for electrolyte replacement. The key to storing Gatorade in my house is keeping it hidden from the kids!

Food needs can be a little more difficult to prepare properly. It is recommended that you have a 3-day supply for evacuation and a two-week supply for home. Let’s focus first on evacuation foods that you will need to carry, likely in a backpack, and may not be able to warm or cook. The best options for this will be protein or granola bars. You want to look for a product that is high in protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Stay away from bars that are mainly sugar because this will not give you the long term nutrition your body will need.

Other great options to add to your kit include jerky, peanut butter, dried fruit, fruit bars, ready-to-eat canned meat, and comfort foods. If you have children, remember to pack the food they like too. I am pretty sure my children would be fine with a jar of peanut butter and crackers for a few days. Also, when it comes to comfort food, I choose Jolly Ranchers because they last a while, are light to carry, and the whole family loves them.

I will go into more detail in the next article about your survival backpack, but a rule of thumb is to have a backpack for each person who is capable of carrying one. The above-mentioned three-day food supply will need to be ready for evacuation situations.

Food storage for two weeks in the home is something that you can easily work on each time you go to the grocery store. First, you must decide where you can store the two week supply of food. If you have a large enough pantry or cabinet space, you can use this area, just make sure you always keep your non-perishable items well stocked.

When I grew up, it was customary to store food in a cellar or basement area. My father made a small room in our basement with shelves for water, soda, and food storage. On a regular basis, we children would be asked to bring up some food items and each time my father went grocery shopping, he would refill the shelves downstairs. My father also grew up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, and like many of you who may have grown up in rural areas, food storage was second nature.

If you decide to keep extra food in your kitchen area, or in a secondary location in the home, the important point here is that you have it for an emergency. Have you ever been in a situation where you had no utilities to use for cooking? Look in your pantry today and try to imagine that you need to cook dinner for you or your children, and you have no water, no electricity, and no gas.

You will first eat all of the easy food, such as cereals, crackers, or any perishable items in your refrigerator. If you have a grill with propane, you can start grilling any meat you may have too. But after a few days, this food will run out and you are stuck with the canned and dried foods. Do you have the means to start a small fire to warm food up such as canned ravioli or soups? Let’s not forget about coffee!

Some people regularly camp or cook outside over a small fire pit, and these folks will be fine. If you are not this person but are interested in this, there are lots of YouTube videos you can watch to learn easy steps for cooking over fire. Just please don’t do this under your porch or close to your home. If the thought of starting a fire and cooking making you laugh out loud, then you need to store more foods that you don’t need to warm up or cook.

Remember infants and pets when storing extra food. If you have an infant, make sure you have ready-to-feed formula.

As we head into the tornado season in Tennessee, now is the best time to create an emergency food supply. Check out your pantry today and the next time you are at the grocery store, grab a few more of your favorite non-perishable food items and start stocking up!

Stay safe and start building your food supply!

Elizabeth Bednarcik is the fire marshal at the Gallatin Fire Department – 615-452-2771;

Elizabeth.bednarcik@gallatintn.gov.

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