Prepare Every Needful Thing

"If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear"

Emergency and Disaster Response–May 2015

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Protecting Your Supplies in a Natural Disaster

I recently read an account of a woman who had spent a great deal of time, energy and money to build up her supply of food and other essential supplies only to have a large percentage of her things destroyed in a plumbing-caused basement flood. It was not that she was careless, but her situation revealed weaknesses in her storage systems that she had not anticipated. Fortunately, her disaster was very localized—she saved what she could save, worked on rebuilding what was lost and learned from the experience—but in the case of a widespread natural disaster, we may not have the same luxury of a do-over. Below are some steps you can take now to preserve your preparedness investments.

  • Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket. Divide your food storage and supplies and cache them in various places around your property. This decreases the likelihood that everything will be lost. It might not even be a bad idea to store some things offsite in a storage unit, cabin or even at a friend or family member’s house if, particularly if you have arranged to evacuate there in case of an emergency.
  • Use wooden bars, straps or bungees to keep items on shelving units. Many of this woman’s losses could have been prevented if items had not fallen from the shelves. Also, use non-slip liners on shelves and baby locks to keep cabinet doors closed.
  • Anchor free-standing shelving units into wall studs.
  • Package items to withstand both water infiltration, falls and abrading and crushing forces. For instance, vacuum sealing is great waterproofing but it is quickly compromised by a run-in with a sharp or rough object. Placing several vacuum-sealed items together in a five-gallon bucket or large plastic tote will provide more reliable protection. Filling the empty spaces with newspaper or packing peanuts will provide even better protection. Other tactics to consider include clear-coating metal cans to improve water resistance and purchasing plastic JarBoxes to contain and cushion your canning jars.
  • Consider below-ground or safe-room storage if you live in a tornado or hurricane prone area. Underground storage may also be a good option for wildfires.

If you have flood-damaged food storage items:

  • Throw out any opened packages; any permeable packaging (even if it appears dry); any metal cans that are rusted, bulging or have dents along the seams. Also, throw out any item with one-piece screw on lid that does not have a sturdy interior metalized vacuum seal—mayonnaise, salad dressing, and peanut butter are often packaged this way. Dirty water will seep up into the threads and cannot be decontaminated.
  • Thoroughly check home-canned food with two piece lids. If seal is good—decontaminate, if broken—discard.

Decontamination after flood:

Products properly sealed in cans or foil pouches can be used after the container is rinsed with clean water and immersed for 15 minutes in a freshly made solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of clean drinking water.  The containers should be completely air-dried before opening or storing.  If you lack bleach, you can submerge the cans in boiling water. (from

For more information, see:

Dealing with food storage post-flood

Earthquakes and food storage

Fire and food storage



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