In Case of Emergency

be prepared

A few months ago,  the strangest thing happened one Wednesday evening:  my apartment lost power, my cell phone couldn’t get a signal, my home phone doesn’t even exist, and I was left alone in the dark.  I felt around for my one source of emergency light: a half used scented candle.  I lit it and found myself sitting in the tiniest flicker of light for hours.

I was alone, unable to contact anyone I know and love, and I was sitting in a mostly dark, overly fragranced house.  You’d think I’d learn from this.  You’d think I’d go out and buy myself a flashlight and some back-up batteries.  Nope.  I went to the store for a new scented candle and that was that.

Last month I found myself in a hurricane.  Luckily I was staying with friends who had more than just a scented candle to keep us going.  It got me thinking… what if the light were to go out again?  Would I be able to survive with a scented candle?

Listen… there isn’t really any good or easy time to talk about this.  Do you have what you need should things turn upside-down?  Weather is real.  Earthquakes are real.  Zombie apocalypses are (hopefully) not real.  Crazy things happen in the world and it’s really important to be prepared for them… to help ourselves and to help the people around us.  Cute and funny with a scented candle only goes so far… a headlamp and freeze-dried food go a lot farther.

Let’s talk about this.

A well-stocked First Aid Kit was at the top of my be-an-adult-and-be-ready-if-life-gets-really-real-emergency-bag.  This kit is full of sterile bandages and gauzey things… and I totally saw George Clooney give some dude a chest tube on ER in like… 1997… so between that and this first aid kit, I’m set for emergency procedures.

be prepared

Now… if you’re a survival enthusiast… right on for you… and please feel free to mock this list.  This is just the beginning of my humble attempt at preparing myself for things I don’t want to think about.

So wait…. the power is out!?  You mean this light switch that I always take for granted is no longer working!?  Whaaaat!?

When the lights go out…  that’s really unsettling.  A headlamp goes a long way in dark situations.  incidentally, this little gem is also great for bedtime reading and deep closet searching.  I also have a Mini Solar Lantern with a hand crank.  No batteries needed, just solar power or wheel spinning.  These 100-Hour Candles  are also in my kit should I need a romantic light source.  With the right apparatus, these candles can also be cooked over.

I’m hungry and I’ve already eaten all of the cookies.  The real emergency starts now.  

These Freeze-dried meals are great for backpacking and totally have a long enough shelf life to live in my emergency kid.  I’m also going to need some bourbon… because if I’m eating freeze-dried meals, it means that things are rreeeaaallllyyy hitting the fan.  And… because I am also responsible for a pet cat animal, I have a stash of cat food in my emergency rations as well.  These are the essentials.  Think on it!

What do you mean I can’t charge my cellphone and read Twitter for all my news and information!?  This emergency is totally cramping my style!

This is a big deal.  You know it’s a real life emergency when you can’t Tweet or Instagram it.  I’m equipt with this American Red Cross Emergency Radio.  It has the capability to verbally tell me the news, it’s powered by the sun, batteries, and a hand crank, and… it also has the ability to charge my cellphone!  I’ll be back on Twitter in no time.  Thank heavens.

be prepared

What do you mean the heater isn’t going to work?  Don’t you know that my thin California skin can’t tolerate temperatures below 70 degrees F!?

I have never had the cause or opportunity to use one of these body heat reflecting Foil Blankets for warmth.  Should I find myself in a situation where these are necessary… praise God, I’m be glad I have these.

be prepared

This faucet that has always dispensed clean water no longer dispenses my awesomely clean water!?  Madness!

I have a few gallons of bottled water on hand.  But I can always make questionable water drinkable with these tabs.  This is totally normal.  Don’t freak out.  Ok… freak out a little (that’s why I also packed bourbon).

Batteries are also totally important.  I have back-ups and I’m totally willing to share.

be prepared

I also have a few personal items in my oh-crap-things-just-go-so-real-right-now kit.  I have a picture of my family.  I have an old ID.  I have a little change purse filled with coins and cash money.

I have tiny bottles of shampoo, wet wipes, toilet paper (let’s be real), lotion, and chapstick.  I have a fog horn (in case it gets REALLY foggy), a pair of walking shoes, socks, and a sweatshirt.

I also have a plan.  My parents know that if things get nuts, I’m putting on my walking shoes and walking the 8 miles away from my house (which is sooo weirdly in a tsunami zone) and to their house high on a hill.

But I don’t even want to deal with any of this!

I know.  Neither do I.  Seriously.  I’d much rather buy a cute sweater than freeze-dried food.  The deal is, no matter how comfortably in control we think we are, sometimes things change.

Life is so good.  I don’t want to be afraid of it.  I do, however, want to feel like I can handle myself if the lights go out and I have to pack up my cat and hit the road.

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, I just wanted to give you something to think about.  We have to take care of ourselves.  We have to take care of the people around us if they can’t take care of themselves.  It’s an agreement we all have with one antother, and I’m just trying to find my little space in that.  The American Red Cross is an excellent source for Emergency Preparedness Information.

From here on out, scented candles are for luxury (not emergency) purposes only.

95 thoughts on “In Case of Emergency

  1. I just finished your emergency post and thank you for doing this. I started reading your column when I found your tomato cobbler recipe. Love it! The funny thing is that I love to cook but I hate..well maybe not bake. But I signed up for your posts because I love your writing and every now and then get a recipe that takes minimal baking????

    Also just watched the video about your book tour and visit to the French Laundry. I’m going to order your cookbook because even though I hate to bake, I know I’ll find something to make and I can also give a copy to a wonderful baker friend for Christmas.

    May your days be filled with the joy you spread through your wonderful writing.

  2. Great list! Think about adding a stash of Ziploc bags. They are key for protecting things you don’t want to get wet, and also isolating things that are icky. Ziploc bags, incidentally, are great iPhone cases, as you can still use the screen through the plastic! (think: texting from the pool)

  3. Ha! Durning that same hurrincane I was sitting in my house with only scented candels too. This being an adult thing and buying those kind of things is not fun.

  4. I just love your wit. You’ve taken a serious subject which I probably would have quit reading a third of the way through, and pulled me right through the end, smiling. Terrific post.

  5. Great reminder. One year ago, I wrote a list of items that we need for our emergency kit. Those items remain on paper. Perhaps this weekend I will pull on my big girl panties and do some shopping and organizing. Thanks for the nudge, Joy

  6. Great post, Joy! This is something I really have to do. Despite living in an area that isn’t prone to many natural disasters, human error or human malice are also things that can put us in situations where the services we rely on for survival become jeopardized. With Sandy, we were warned to have at least 72 hours of food and water on hand. As someone who only eats direct from farms and non-processed food, I realized how detrimental this was to “survival”…. Well, at least enjoyable survival… my freezer IS packed full and raw potatoes would just have to do. But even keeping water on hand–the most important item for survival, is something a lot of us don’t do. So thanks again for the reminder!

  7. Reading this in the dark, power outage for 4+ hours now. Should be back on soon, but we’re prepared if not. Great post!

  8. Great post! I live in Central Europe where survival-kits are not part of usual public discussions as well as earthquake or flood survival strategies are not. But they should be, it just seems that we do not learn anything from the news because we try to think news are about “other people”, not us.

  9. I’m an American living in North Africa. Power cuts, internet and cell phone outages–even the country running out of sugar for a couple of weeks or no one having any running water for days–these are pretty standard things here. I deal with it fine, but I know I wouldn’t cope quite as well back home. Way to be prepared!

  10. Yesterday I would have thought ‘Meh! I live in Germany, we don’t have Tsunamis or earthquakes.’ But then I woke up today and all the power went out. And the internet. So I had no idea what was going on and had no way to check except for my shower radio which is battery powered. At least that headlamp seems like a really good investment now. Let me tell you, applying make up with only your cell phone flash light – NOT easy. Also a very good investment: a camping stove. Or else there’s NO COFFEE in the morning. Smeared makeup and no coffee – I cannot deal with that at 7:30 on a Thursday.

    So thanks for the post!

  11. Thank you thank you for being real. I really need to organise myself something like this… Back at home I always had something like this (NZ is like, earthquake, tsunami, volcano central…) but here in Austria it seems like I’m so safe from natural disasters (in comparison!) I hadn’t really thought it through….


    1. Hi Sera, I’m also in Austria! Where are you? I’m in Vienna. There are natural disasters in Austria!! The Danube has this crazy tendency to flood Lower Austria just about every year and just this fall there was a huge mudslide somewhere that took out homes–don’t hold me to it, but I think it was in Corinthia. Then there’s Vorarlberg where it has been known to snow so much that some of the mountain villages get cut off for a few days until someone can clear the roads out. Hmm now that I think about it, I don’t think my little first aid kit, the candle by the electricity meter and the one flashlight are really enough :)

  12. Funny thing – I was just comtemplating emergency situations yesterday, thinking that getting some emergency food supplies would be a good idea. Because emergencies never happen – until they happen.
    Also, I want a woodstove. Because combinng cooking and heating seems so efficient, even in other than emergency situations.

    1. I use my wood stove as my primary source of heat in the winter, even with central heating available. The wood stove provides us with heat and a way to cook and heat water if the power goes out. We usually experience one or two days of a power outage each winter.

  13. I’m from the Czech republic, which – in the middle of Europe – is quite distant from tsunamis and earthquakes, though… I really like this post of yours. It feels so ‘responsible yet human’ – everyone can make a mistake, we all might panic a little… But the main thing is not to forget that candles are great just in specific situations. :)
    You’re taking it from a different perspective than eveyrbody else and that’s what I love about your blog and words. Keep going and hopefuly without a need of the first aid kit!

  14. Joy this is a great post – no one likes to think about this stuff, the what if’s, or dwell on the scary things but better safe than sorry.. We lost power randomly in San Diego two summers ago for about 48 hours and losing power when it was just me was one thing, but with a small child, it was so scary and my mama bear survivalist mode came out. This post reminds me to get my ducks in a row!

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