As the panic spreads, with an infection rate 1000 times that of COVID 19, two things have become increasingly clear. One the average American is not prepared for a minor emergency that might leave them shut in and/or out of work for two weeks. Two, when asked to prepare for two weeks at home, many don’t even know what to get to prepare for such an event. As a New Englander, both of those facts baffle me. Growing up in the rural North, I can’t imagine not being ready for an emergency like this. With severe winter weather that sometimes lasts for weeks and power outages that have stretched as far as 3 or 4 weeks in some cases ( Ice Storm 1999), we are used to the idea that our stores might not be open or accessible any given morning. We know that power is not a given, nor is access to the outside world. Sometimes it dumps so much snow or ice you are stuck where you are. It leads to a social climate of resilient preparedness.
So, imagine my surprise when, even here in New England, the order to prepare for 2 weeks to 30 days at home resulted in wiping out of “essentials” nearly overnight. Surprise that quickly turned to amusement when I noticed they are not stocking up on bread, milk, canned goods, vitamins, or any of the things they may really need to SURVIVE if forced to stay at home, nope, their only real concern seems to be how they will wipe their bum! There is not a single roll of toilet paper to be had online or in stores. Not one. A fact which alarms some members of my household as we are down to two rolls. Looks like we may need to use backup bum cleaning methods. Luckily, those new England preparedness skills came along with a lot of knowledge about getting things done, old school. So, while the rest of the nation squabbles over the next shipment of toilet paper, we have focused on the things we know we really need if we are going to be stuck here for a while.
1.) Water- One item I was shocked to see hasn’t flown off the shelves is bottled water. Hands down the most essential item for staying alive, you cannot go more than 3 days without water. If you have potable tap water, you are likely all set, if not, water should be on the top of your list no matter the emergency. If you live in an area with frequent power outages, filling jugs and containers with water should be part of your standard emergency prep.
2.) Food- The next most essential item for surviving a potential emergency is going to be shelf stable food. Canned goods, dry goods like rice and pasta, and frozen goods should be on your list of things to have on hand. In this case, where its not a winter outage but a germ you are battling in your confinement, I recommend stocking up on healthy foods most of all. Fruits, vegetables, and good proteins should be at the top of your list. They will keep you not only fed but nourished and ready to do battle with germs.
3) Medications- The medications you need vary based on your health. It is always a good idea to have a few weeks’ worth of any essential medication on hand, especially during times of the year when emergencies are likely to strike. That blizzard or tornado might interfere with your ability to replenish them. You will also, in this case, want to have whatever you use to treat a cough on hand, as that is the primary symptom of COVID 19. You won’t need decongestants and antihistamines, both of which are mysteriously selling out nearly as fast as toilet paper. You will want an expectorant. This is also a good time to check your stock of first aid supplies, as accidents still happen, even when we are quarantined at home.
4) Vitamins- Not as essential to survival perhaps as the first three, I was tempted to put this at the top of the list, because, though not necessarily always 100% essential for survival, vitamins can and will help you avoid and/or fight this nasty little bug. A healthy immune system is your first defense against infection as well as your ultimate ally in battle should you become infected. Vitamin C, D, B Complex, Zinc, Selenium all help your immune system to fight off colds and flus. Stock up, but more importantly, start taking these vitamins daily to fortify yourself.
5.) Disinfectants- To prevent the spread of germs and protect yourself and other healthy members of your household in case someone becomes sick, it is important to have household disinfectants on hand. No need for an industrial sized bottle of bleach, a diluted bleach solution will effectively kill all of the germs in question.
6.) Personal hygiene items- Yes, this includes toilet paper! Notice how it is not at the top of the list? There is a good reason for that. Other than soap and water, few of the items in this category are actually “essentials”. Most have simple alternative options that, while maybe a bit more gross and certainly more work, are doable in a pinch. Wash clothes and rags can be bum wipes if necessary. They are also a substitute for feminine hygiene products and can be fashioned into a diaper in a pinch. In a perfect word, you could easily stockpile enough toilet paper and diapers for two weeks, at the moment, you may need to be a bit more creative.
7.) Entertainment- While certainly not necessary for staying alive, stockpiling whatever keeps you entertained may help to preserve your sanity if you are stuck at home for a few weeks. Being entertained will also help reduce your stress about being stuck at home, missing work, getting sick, whatever this has you worrying about. Stress has been proven to impact our health and ability to fight off sickness. Books, puzzles, games, projects, movies, whatever it is that you do when you have downtime, gather it. Nothing makes a week stretch longer than boredom, be prepared with a stockpile of distracting boredom busters.
Gathering the things on this list will help you be more comfortable and increase the chances that you get through a quarantine with your health and sanity intact. Food, water, and medications are by far the most important things on the list, followed by disinfectants. Hopefully the current pandemic pandemonium has taught us to be more prepared in the future. It has certainly reminded us that we need to be.