Preparing for a Dental Emergency Reply

Emergency-Dental-Repair-dental-first-aidDisasters can become an even greater disaster if you are coping with the pain of a broken tooth, particularly if it is severe pain such as is caused by a broken tooth with an exposed root.  Since a trip to the dentist may not be feasible in an emergency situation, it’s a good idea to include a dental repair kit in your at-home emergency supplies.  You may also want to add a small 1-tooth repair kit to your GO-Bag, and your vacation or business travel bags, too.  Dental problems seem to frequently happen at inopportune times, so we need to be prepared for this potential problem.

The basic components of a dental repair kit can be bought online.  A complete (1-tooth) kit can be purchased for under $15, or you can build your own for $7. 

Since dental emergencies take various forms; a broken tooth, a lost filling, or a crown (cap) that has fallen out, it is important for your emergency dental kit to be both universal and reasonably complete.  At a minimum, it should include: pain killer, dental glue, compact cotton balls (pellets) or gauze, round toothpicks, dental floss, dental wax, and tooth-filling material.  Optional but valuable additions include: medical gloves, a small mirror, magnifying glass, and a small, lightweight flashlight.  (In a bind, you can use Super Glue to reattach a crown).

Inexpensive dental repair kits may not have all of these supplies but they can be a great place to start; augment your pre-packaged kit as necessary.  Emergency repairs of dentures and partials requires additional materials made specifically for this purpose.

At a minimum, GO-Bags should include dental wax which can be used to cover a broken tooth that has an exposed root.  Tooth pain is not just inconvenient; it can create a life-threatening distraction.

In addition to the other obvious problems, tooth pain (or any other pain) will drain your body’s energy reserves at a much faster rate.   You may be able to cope with the pain, but it can nevertheless become a serious impediment to safety at a time when you need to be focused and attentive to problem solving. 

Pre-packaged dental repair kits are not all the same, and professional-grade repair materials are a must, but you don’t need to purchase an expensive kit to get what you need.

Emergency_Dental_Repair-Dentemp-CustomThe 1-2 tooth repair kit illustrated in the photo (DenTemp Custom) was purchased online for $4.85.  It is not complete, but it does have two critically important items, so it can form the basis for building your own kit.  The DenTemp package contains Zinc-Oxide and Eugenol putty, a material which can be used to repair or replace a missing filling or cover the void of a broken tooth.  Zinc oxide forms the putty and the Eugenol reduces inflammation and protects the nerve of the tooth. These are the same materials that many dentists use to bring temporary relief to their patients.

Thankfully, application of these tooth repair materials not only doesn’t require a dental degree, it doesn’t even require any experience.  A good kit will include diagrams and all the instructions needed, so being trained by your dentist in how to use the kit is helpful, but not necessary.  If you are building your own kit, make sure you include printed instructions which relate to the materials contained in your kit.  These instructions can often be found on the product manufacturer’s website.

Since it is difficult to accomplish dental repairs when you can’t see what you are doing, in most dental emergencies it’s easier to have someone else do the work on the damaged tooth.  However, it’s certainly possible to do it yourself.  Many people have accomplished the task alone, with excellent results.

Most dental repairs can be accomplished by touch, but a mirror is helpful if you find yourself alone.  If you have the benefit of having the help of another person, you will find that a lightweight, small flashlight and magnifying glass (or a magnifying glass with a built-in light) will be a great help.

How do these detail repair kits work?

Emergency_Dental_Repair-Kit-DentalMedic-byAdventure_Medicine-2Pre-packaged dental repair kits are not all the same in regard to how complete they are, and what materials are used.  The inexpensive dental repair kits found in many drugstores are typically inferior for emergency use, especially when you many not have access to a dentist for many days.  The first aid kits made by “Adventure Medical Kits” are reasonably complete yet relatively inexpensive, so it’s no surprise that their emergency dental kit is similarly useful (DentalMedic Kit by Adventure Medical Kits, $15).  Be sure to check the contents list of the kit before you make your purchase decision.  Just because the package is larger or more expensive does not mean that it contains a larger quantity of useful supplies.

All the better kits utilize a similar process.  Here is how they generally work:  The area of the tooth which needs to be treated is first dried as much as possible using dental cotton pellets or gauze.  If you have electricity and a hairdryer, consider using it on the lowest setting to thoroughly dry the tooth which needs repair.  Be sure to test the hairdryer first to make sure the air isn’t too hot or forceful.  (Keep the hairdryer at least two feet away from the mouth to avoid problems.)

A completely dry tooth will make it possible for you to achieve a better bond between the broken tooth and the tooth repair material, so take the time needed to thoroughly dry the affected area.  Have all your supplies at hand and everything ready to go before starting to work on the tooth.  If possible, wash your hands with disinfecting soap before starting.  Medical gloves are best, but many people end up removing the gloves once they get into the task–dental repair work requires all the dexterity you can muster.

Once the tooth is dry, the tooth putty from the kit is applied.  Gently tamp it into the damaged area of the tooth with a damp cotton pellet.  Or, use a rounded toothpick after removing its sharp point.  Rather than break the toothpick which will splinter the wood, use a knife to carefully cut the sharp tip from one end of the toothpick.  Next, remove any wood debris from the toothpick surface before proceeding.  Now you can use the flat, non-pointed end of the toothpick as a tool to tamp the tooth repair material firmly into place.

To fill the void of a lost filling, or to repair a broken tooth, the putty should be mixed fairly dry, making it possible for you to roll it up into a ball that doesn’t stick to your fingers.  Place the ball of repair material onto the broken (dry) area of the tooth, and then shape it to cover the entire region of the break, being careful to keep it off of the smooth, undamaged area of the tooth.  (Since the tooth repair material will not bind as well to the smooth, undamaged surface of the tooth, extending excess repair material onto this area can result in the repair being less durable, and not lasting as long.)

The filling material can be shaped using rolling action on the little cotton ball or gauze roll, or with a round toothpick or even your finger.  Make sure that the filling material is level or lower than the tooth above or below it, as even after the material is cured, you don’t want chewing to add unnecessary pressure on the temporary filling.  When in doubt, make the filling lower than the surrounding teeth.  The filler material does taste bitter, but it’s not toxic in these small quantities.  The bad taste will go away in less than an hour.

It is important to keep excess pressure off of the repair for the first 20-minutes.  With most of these kits it takes 60-minutes to achieve a complete “cure” of the filler material, after which you can resume drinking and eating.

Emergency_Dental_Repair_Travel_KitSee the manufacturer’s directions on how to use their products.  The instructions incorporated into this article are generic, and are provided simply to illustrate how easy it is to use these do-it-yourself dental repair kits.

The dental repair materials contained in kits such as these are for temporary dental repairs, so the repair material is designed to not fully bond to the tooth, thereby making it easy for a dentist to remove the temporary repair.  So it is easy to understand why these kits do not provide a durable long-lasting, long-term repair.

Emergency dental repair kits were originally designed for people who travel to remote areas of the world, or regions without easy access to competent dental care.  The objective of the manufacturer is to temporarily solve common emergency dental problems, giving you time to return home to your dentist, or at least to an area where you can get professional dental care.

Since these materials do not provide for a permanent bond with the tooth, temporary repair materials can soon fall out if there are no undercuts on the tooth, or if the broken tooth does not have a rough surface to help the materials adhere.  Yet in optimal conditions, these temporary dental repairs can last 3-months or longer.

Longevity of the repair is best achieved by completely drying the tooth before making the repair, by proper mixing of the repair material, and after the repair is made, by careful eating.  Avoid chewing on ice, foods which contain seeds, hard or sticky candy or other hard or sticky foods, and in other abuses of the repaired area.

Emergency_Dental_Repair-Kit-FieldtexIf you are preparing emergency supplies for a family or group, it is a good idea to have a more elaborate emergency dental kit, or at least several of the  smaller kits.  Keep in mind that an inexperienced user can easily need two of the small, basic kits to accomplish the repair if the initial effort was not successful.

For those wanting to prepare for longer-term emergencies, sailing adventures, jungle treks and other activities which may prevent you from visiting a dentist for an extended period of time, more kits or a larger kit will be needed.  If longer-term care is your preparedness goal, it is best to consult with your dentist and get their help in preparing a kit specifically for your purpose and expected duration.

A 2-week GO-Bag and all in-home emergency supply kits need to contain at least one dental repair kit per person.  These kits are small and lightweight, but since space in a GO-Bag is a premium, you may choose to not include a dental emergency repair kit.  If this is your decision, at least include a small piece of dental wax.  Like duct tape, dental wax can be used for many emergency and repair purposes, in addition to providing relief to a painful, broken tooth.

Portable Personal Records for Emergency Situations Reply

Micro_SD-CardOne aspect of disaster preparation which never seems to get any attention is access to important personal records.  These may be urgently needed during a time of disaster or emergency, but without advance planning you may not have what you need.

Basic records which are critically important include basic identification such as copies of your driver’s license and passport, as well as proof of insurance, basic medical records and copies of prescriptions.  You should also have photos of each family member, as well as emergency contact information for family and friends.

Copies of essential records should be kept in three places:

1.  Secure protection in your home or place of business;

2.  Off-site in a safe deposit box of a financial institution; or, encrypted electronic ‘cloud’ storage with a company that has its servers in a different state; and

3.  An ultra small portable data-storage device which is kept in your wallet, pocket or purse.  Since most people are well aware of the needs in the first two categories where there is an abundance of information, this article focuses on the third category which is essential but often overlooked.

Photocopy IDA few pages of photocopied documents such as your driver’s license, medical cards, and passport, can (and should) be kept in a Ziploc bag stored in your emergency essentials knapsack (Go-Bag). This is a good start, but it isn’t nearly enough.  Since we live in a data-dependent world we also need a digital data storage solution which makes it possible to safely carry dozens, or even hundreds of pages, of truly essential records.  To do this, we need an ultra-small and durable mobile device.

For many people, low-cost is also important, so this article provides both our recommendation as to the best option, as well as the best low-cost solution.

Whatever data is essential to your everyday life and well-being needs to be backed-up and securely stored on a portable device which you keep with you.  (Examples of these types of documents are included at the end of this article).  Since size and weight are factors which limit practical implementation, this article explains how to responsibly meet this need with minimal inconvenience.

These same documents, and more, should be kept in a safety deposit box or uploaded to cloud storage in a different city or country, but it is still advisable to keep a copy of essential information with you at all times.  Disaster often strikes unexpectedly, so access to stored data can be terminally interrupted.  For example, if a bank is destroyed in the same storm as your home or place of business, the documents stored at those locations might be gone forever.  Similarly, cloud (Internet) storage of data can be damaged or lost, or it can be inaccessible when you need it.

Thankfully, the miniaturization and low-cost of data storage and advances in data security, now make it possible to carry this essential information with you at all times.  Even if your house or office is burned in a fire, damaged as a result of flood or storm, or otherwise inaccessible because you have fled the area to escape from turmoil, or simply because you are on vacation, important records can still be quickly accessible as long as you have access to a working computer.

This article provides ideas on how you can safely and securely store essential records in a small lightweight package, so that you can keep this important information with you at all times.  Various tools can be used to accomplish this, but this article describes what we consider to be the two most viable solutions.

The process starts by using a scanner to copy your important records, transforming them into PDF documents which can be opened with any computer.  At the end of this article you will find links to free software for making and reading PDF files, and for the products mentioned in this article.

Ultra-Small Data Storage Options

For many, they see their laptop computer or smart phone as the place to store this vital information.  That’s fine, but since these tools are prone to theft and damage, and security of the data is iffy even if you use security apps, this isn’t sufficient.  Keeping this data on an encrypted memory card or USB device is far more secure and even more portable.

Micro SD CardOption #1:  Memory Card (Approx. Cost, $10)

Memory cards such as those used in digital cameras are relatively inexpensive and ideal for data storage as well as photo storage.  Card readers for these memory cards are abundant, but adding an extra-small USB card reader to your GO-Bag is nevertheless a good idea.  In an emergency situation the data contained on your memory card can be accessed using almost any computer—as long as you have a card reader along.

At little more than ½-inch and less than the weight of two aspirin, the ultra small memory cards like the SanDisk ‘micro SD card’ (15 mm x 11 mm x 1.0 mm, 0.5 grams), is a portable data marvel. These tiny cards can store from 8 GB-32 GB of data or more, so they are ideal for this purpose.  Be sure to buy a well-known brand card like SanDisk as quality is important.

Transport and Packaging of Your Memory Card:  After you’ve added data to your memory card you need to protect it.  To protect the card from moisture and damage and still keep the package small, insert the card into a tiny Ziploc bag such as those used for electronic components or jewelry.  For added protection, consider adding a piece of rigid plastic to keep the memory card from flexing, and then wrap the plastic bag with a small piece of tinfoil to shield it from static, etc.  When you are finished, this little package can still be smaller than ¾-inch (20mm) in size and less than one gram in weight.  Using a piece of duct tape, secure the tiny package to the inside of your wallet for safe storage and ready access, or to the underside of your wristwatch or some other item you wear daily.

Total cost of this project (depending on the storage capacity of the memory card you select), can be as little as $10 (USD).  Note: Remember to always encrypt confidential data; see the below section on “Data Security is Essential” for suggestions.

IronKey USB DriveOption #2: ‘IronKey’ Encrypted Flash Drive (Approx. Cost, $37+)

Designed originally for the U.S. government, defense contractors, and to meet the needs of those who transport secret corporate data, an IronKey flash drive (aka/ ‘USB drive,’ or ‘thumb drive’) is the most secure portable data storage method available to the general public.  And, it’s small enough to carry on your key ring.

An ‘IronKey’ data storage device requires a password to open it, and the data stored on the drive is fully encrypted.  Even the least expensive IronKey model, the D80 (4GB $37; 32GB $116), automatically encrypts anything you add to the drive.  Since it uses the high industry standard of 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption, it is very secure.  At only 3 x 3/4 x 3/8-inch (75mm x 19mm x 9 mm) in size, and designed to ‘plug and play’, you can insert it into the USB drive of any computer to quickly access your stored information.

If you want an even higher level of protection, select the IronKey S250 or D250 USB drives (capacities range from 2GB-64GB, $109-599).  These have an even higher level of encryption, 256-bit AES Cipher-Block, chained-mode (government-grade) encryption, plus an impressive tamper-proof design of the drive itself.  For routine daily use of your personal computer, as well as during a disaster situation when you are using someone else’s computer, these models include the IronKey ‘Identity Manager’ which provides a safe and quick method to store and retrieve all of your passwords.  In regard to durability, all of the IronKey USB drives are water resistant, but the S250 and D250 drives are waterproof and extra durable.  Follow the link at the end of this article to compare the different IronKey models.

ironkey-KeyRing2Summary: When kept on your keyring, your IronKey USB device is available for daily tasks such as routine data transfer between computers, as well as for recovery of your personal records after a disaster.  Though not as compact as a Micro SD card, the IronKey USB data drive (models S250 or D250) is the option which provides the most durable and secure, portable data storage.

For Info on the D80, visit: http://www.ironkey.com/en-US/secure-portable-storage/d80.html

For Info on the S250 and D250, visit: http://www.ironkey.com/en-US/secure-portable-storage/250-personal.html

*** If convenience, ease of use, and easy-setup are important to you, a ‘IronKey’ flash drive is your best choice.  If cost or small-size are your most important consideration, then use a Micro SD Card to store your important records.

Data Security is Essential

If you are storing your data on a memory card or anything other than an IronKey USB drive, confidential data needs to be encrypted.  This is essential for keeping your data secure even if your storage device has been lost or stolen.  Identity thieves would have a field day if they got their hands on your personal records, so all confidential data needs to be password protected and encrypted before you make it portable.

Some manufacturers of USB drives have models which password protect the data.  In our experience, this is inadequate.

At the very least, use the encryption software which probably came with your computer.  With both Microsoft and Apple computer operating systems there is an encryption option built into the software.  Though far from ideal, this software can be used to encrypt the data on a memory card or portable drive.  This protection is far better than nothing, but there are better alternatives.

To learn more about the software that is built into your computer’s operating system, use the “help” feature of your operating system to learn how to access and use the tool.  On PC’s running the various versions of Microsoft Windows operating system, the file encryption feature is referred to as ‘EFS’ (Encrypting File System).  If you are using a Mac computer, you will find the encryption software by searching for the term ‘FileVault’.  Keep in mind that if you utilize either of these methods to encrypt data on your portable drive, you will only be able to access your data by using the same type of computer (PC or Apple), and in some cases, the same version of the operating system.  This might seriously limit your ability to access your data after a disastrous event.

To achieve a much higher degree of data security, use the free encryption program, ‘TrueCrypt’ on your memory card or portable storage device.  This free software provides true 256-bit encryption, and it will also run on nearly all desktop and laptop computers.  For more information and to download TrueCrypt encryption software, visit: http://www.truecrypt.org/.

TrueCrypt encryption software provides a very high level of encryption, plus it makes it possible to hide encrypted files, so even a hacker who has accessed your memory card won’t be able to find the files.  On the TrueCrypt website, be sure to read the ‘Beginner’s Tutorial,’ which is part of the TrueCrypt User’s Guide.  In it you will find instructions on how to set-up the software in ‘portable mode’.  This method loads the TrueCrypt encryption software onto the memory card (or flash drive), and lets you partition the drive.  This makes it possible for you to run the encryption program on nearly any computer, and lets you store both encrypted and unencrypted data on the same drive.  The minimum size for a memory card used for this purpose is 8MB, but a larger memory card will be needed if you plan to store much data.

Whether you use a memory card such as the SD Micro Drive or a flash drive (aka/ ‘USB drive,’ or ‘thumb drive’), remember that you must routinely have it with you, so that your data is available to you when disaster strikes.  An encrypted drive that is left behind may not be a security risk, but the work of preparing it will have been wasted if you don’t have the drive with you when you need it.

What Records to Store and EncryptWhat Records to Store: Encrypted and Unencrypted

Even the most basic personal data such as your driver’s license should be encrypted.  However, you may want to make some information, such as photos and your address book, accessible without entering a password.  At the very least, an unencrypted text file which includes your contact information will make it possible for a lost or stolen drive to be returned to you, and emergency contact information available to authorities, so that they can notify your loved ones if you have been seriously injured.

Remember to add PDF ‘reader’ software to your memory card or USB device, too.  You may need to borrow a computer which does not have this software installed (see links at the end of this article), and the owner of the computer may not want you to download software onto their computer.  Or, the Internet may be down making a download impossible.

It’s up to you to decide what records you store, and what you encrypt, but don’t let a lengthy list delay implementation.  It is much better to have an encrypted drive with just a little information stored on it, than to have nothing at all at a time when it’s needed.

Start with preparing your memory card or USB drive’s encryption.  Then, use a scanner to make copies of your most important ID cards and documents, perhaps starting with what you carry in your wallet.

These scanned records should be stored in PDF format, so that your documents can be read, and even printed if necessary, using any computer.  The below list isn’t your list, it’s simply included to stimulate your thinking, to help you develop your own list of important documents.  If your list is long, don’t let the enormity of the task prevent you from starting right now.  Store your wallet documents now, and get started with the project today.  Continue it as soon as you can.

Consider, too, that you might want to include the same records for your spouse, children, or other close family members or trusted friends.  It’s a simple task to make two identical sets of emergency records, and two identical portable drives.  You might even use the same password on both drives so that you and your spouse can both access either drive.

When you make two identical memory cards or USB drives, your spouse will be able to carry a backup of this same essential information.  If you are separated by circumstances, each of you will have what you need.  And, if one or the other is lost, damaged or stolen, you will both have what you need on the surviving device.

Records to Consider IncludingRecords to Consider Including: 

  1. Driver’s License
  2. Company or Employee ID
  3. Concealed Handgun License (CHL) and Firearm Records
  4. Passport (The two page spread which includes your photo)
  5. Social Security Card
  6. Medical Insurance Cards
  7. Dental Insurance Cards
  8. Organ Donor Card
  9. Pharmaceutical Prescriptions or Prescription Medicine Labels
  10. Medical History & Immunization Records
  11. Copy of your Last Will and Testament
  12. Vehicle Insurance
  13. House/Office Insurance Documents
  14. Titles for Vehicles and Property
  15. Property Descriptions with Serial Numbers
  16. Professional Licenses or Certification Documents
  17. Credit Card Numbers & Contact Info for Card Companies
  18. Banking Information, Including Account Numbers and Passwords
  19. List of Other Access Codes and Passwords
  20. Important Membership or Affiliation Cards (Particularly those which give you permission to occupy facilities and property which you might want to access during an emergency)
  21. Letters of Permission to Occupy Land or Facilities
  22. Address Book (Contact information for family, friends and colleagues)
  23. Photos (Be sure to include close-up, passport-like images of yourself, family members, key friends and colleagues that you might want to find during an emergency situation.)
  24. Physical Description (Yourself, family, friends, and colleagues)
  25. Fingerprints and copies of dental x-rays
  26. Maps and Directions

To download a PDF copy of this article for printing, click here:   Portable_Personal_Records_for_Emergency_Situations.

Links to Products Mentioned in this Article: 

– Free PDF Maker Software:  Girdac  http://www.girdac.com/Products/PDF-Converters/Free-PDF-Creator/Info/Features.htm

– Free PDF Reader Software:  Adobe http://get.adobe.com/reader/

– Free Encryption Software:  TrueCrypt http://www.truecrypt.org/

– Cloud Storage:  Dropbox is one of many options https://www.dropbox.com/

– SanDisk Micro SD Cards, General Information: http://www.sandisk.com/products/memory-cards/microsd/   These cards and card readers are readily available online, as well at electronics stores, and many other retailers such as Costco, Target, and Walmart.

– IronKey D80 Datasheet: http://www.ironkey.com/en-US/resources/documents/Ironkey_D80%20Hardward%20Encrypted%20Flash%20Drive_Sellsheet_Letter.pdf

– IronKey products are not readily available from retailers, but they can sometimes be found at online stores such as Amazon.com.  The below links are to the IronKey official website:

– IronKey Purchase Info for D80: http://www.ironkey.com/en-US/secure-portable-storage/d80.html

– IronKey S250 and D250 Datasheet:  http://www.ironkey.com/en-US/secure-portable-storage/250-personal.html

– IronKey Purchase Info for S250 and D250: http://www.ironkey.com/en-US/secure-portable-storage/250-personal.html

– IronKey Products by Type: http://www.ironkey.com/en-US/resources/documents/IronKey_Product_Diagram_Apr2013.pdf

– IronKey S250 and D250 Comparison Chart:  http://www.ironkey.com/en-US/resources/documents/IronKey_S250_vs_D250_SellSheet.pdf

Food for Emergencies; a Summary of Your Best Food Options Reply

L-to-R: Grocery store canned goods and foil packaged food; military MRE meal; freeze-dried food; and lifeboat rations.  All of these have a place in a properly stocked emergency food larder.

The internet is full of advice on food for emergencies and long-term food storage, but what is really the best?

This primer on food selection is designed to help you select the best types of food for your emergency food supply.  This article will help you understand the pros and cons of each category of food, so that you can make informed choices.  The topics of how to store these foods, water storage and sanitation, are not part of this summary but are equally important.  This post is just a primer on food; a great place to start planning your food supply for emergency situations.

Getting Started

The simplest way to get started is to increase the quantity of canned food and dried foods (beans, rice, pasta, wheat, etc.) that you maintain in your pantry, making a deliberate effort to store a variety of food.  For those who live on a tight budget, purchase a few extra cans of food each week until you have enough to sustain your family for at least two weeks.  If you can afford it, go to a big-box store like Costco or Sam’s Club, and purchase canned meats and other staples by the case.  It’s less expensive; often better quality than low cost grocery-store brands, and the box or shrink-wrap packaging helps you store it more compactly.

Ideally, purchase the type of foods that you normally eat, so that you can keep your meals during an emergency as normal as possible.  This is especially important for children who might be finicky eaters.  Be sure to give particular attention to storing the foods needed for both variety and a balanced diet.  This will typically include canned foods such as meat, beans (protein), vegetables and fruit, as well as dry goods such as pasta and rice.  Don’t forget the supplementary foods such as sugar, salt, and flour, as well as the condiments and spices you will need to make your food tasty.  There is a tendency to not eat enough during a high-stress emergency situation, so palatable food will help, particularly with children.

Keep in mind that fresh food such as milk, butter, eggs and bread, will likely be unavailable to you in an emergency.  Therefore, it makes no sense to stockpile a food such as breakfast cereal unless you are prepared to eat it with water rather than milk.  Similarly, prepackaged foods which require fresh or frozen ingredients to complete the recipe, are useless.

For those food cans and packages without an obvious “use before” date, use a Sharpie pen to put a date on the lid/package, and rotate these items so that nothing gets old.  Swollen cans, leaking jars, or contents which smell odd, are indications that the food has spoiled and should not be eaten.  Food poisoning is far more serious than being hungry.  An adult can live for nearly a month with almost no food as long as they are able to consume plenty of pure water.  So don’t get panicky just because you are hungry.

Even if you are breast feeding an infant, be sure to stockpile baby formula in case your milk dries up due to stress, or for some other reason.  If you don’t want to use the formula, donate it to a food bank before the expiration date.  If you have pets, be sure to sore food for them, too.

In addition to stockpiling food, don’t forget that you will need a liquid-fuel or propane camp stove, along with sufficient fuel. In an emergency, you will probably not have electrical power or natural gas, so you will need a method to cook your food.  Heed warnings about only using the stove in a place with adequate ventilation.  This is essential to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.  Since you will be without refrigeration, food products which will spoil without refrigeration should be purchased in 1-meal size cans or packages.

As you expand your inventory of stored food, purchase airtight, insect and rodent-proof food containers for dry foods, and add other types of food (freeze dried, dehydrated, retort packaged, vacuum packed, etc.) to your larder to store a long-term food supply.  Manny canned goods only have a shelf-life of a year or two, but dry beans, rice, grains, and a few other staples will last more than 30-years if properly stored.

For storm and emergency events which are not severe, it may be best to stay in your home.  However, you need to always have a GO-Bag for each family member, and box(es) of food ready for immediate evacuation.  Be sure to practice fitting your evacuation supplies into your car now, in advance of an emergency situation.  When an emergency situation strikes, you may only have a few minutes (at most) to load your car and flee.  Be ready.

Increasing the quantity of canned goods and foil-packaged grocery store food is your first step in emergency food preparation. You need a minimum of two weeks of canned goods and water stored in your pantry, and a way to cook without using electricity or natural gas.

Canned Foods and Foil-Packed Foods

Pros:  These foods are inexpensive in comparison to MREs and freeze-dried food, and quality canned good tend to taster better.  And, since many of us routinely eat canned food, this makes it possible to keep your diet fairly normal during an emergency situation, which makes it a simple task to keep your stored food fresh.   (As long as you routinely eat the oldest items first).

Cons:  Canned foods which contain acidic items, such as a soup which contains tomatoes, usually have a shorter shelf because the acid interacts with the metal of the can.  Though glass jars are not as durable as a metal can, they are better for storing acidic foods — as long as they are stored upright and the contents are not in contact with the metal lid.  Also, canned prepared foods, such as chili, contain a lot of water.  Keep in mind that prepared foods which include a gravy or sauce will be much heavier than solid-packed foods.  Test the various brands of canned vegetables and fruit, and select those products which have less liquid which you will discard.  If you are including canned food in your GO-Bag or evacuation supplies, this added weight and waste becomes a very important consideration.

Dry Food (Rice, pasta, dry beans, wheat, flour, etc.)

Pros:  When considered by weight and space, dry products generally represent a lot of food per dollar, and they require little space for storage.  When stored in airtight, food-quality, insect-proof and rodent-proof containers, most dry foods have a long shelf-life.  Stored using air-removal techniques and the proper containers, many dry foods can be safely stored for 20-30 years or longer.  Bought in bulk, dry foods can be repackaged at home using food-grade 5-gallon buckets, which you seal with Gamma lids after inserting oxygen-absorbing packets.  This is by far the most economical way to prepare a long-term food supply, but the food alone is uninteresting, so you need to get a cookbook with recipes which are designed to make these bulk-stored foods more palatable.  These recipes use a small quantity of freeze dried meat or vegetables, with a sauce made from dehydrated condiments, to transform a mundane meal into a savory feast.

Cons:  Since these dry foods require water to hydrate and cook, you must increase your water supply accordingly.  Having sufficient water for drinking is more important that using water for food preparation.  Consuming dry foods, including cereal, without first hydrating them will cause health problems.  Once water has been added to dry food it must be eaten soon.  It will spoil quickly without refrigeration, so only prepare what you intend to consume for your meal.  Additionally, most people eat dry foods with a sauce, gravy, or spices to make them palatable, so don’t forget to include these food supplements in your planning.  Some dry foods, such as Raman noodles, provide bulk and quell hunger but have no nutritional value.

Note:  When planning for a food supply designed to last more than a month, additional planning and other dry goods are required.  Whole grains such as wheat, corn and oats will require a hand-crank grain mill.  Baking soda and yeast are important for baking.  Salt has many uses including preserving foods and a number of medical uses, plus it can attract game animals and it’s useful as a commodity for barter, so you should store a large quantity.  Honey and certain spices have medicinal benefits, while a number of other spices meet other needs such as encouraging animals to stay out of your vegetable garden.  Fats and oils are essential to health (annually, 96-pounds, which equates to about 17-gallons per person), yet most freeze-dried and dehydrated foods contain almost no fats or oil, so you need to make provisions for this need.  Medicines for diarrhea, and especially natural laxatives such as Metamucil, are vital dry goods because a change in diet often upsets your body systems.  Vitamin C is useful for healing after an injury.  Comfort foods like coffee, tea, sugar, and chocolate syrup are not technically essential, but nevertheless important.  Aluminum foil has scores of uses.  If you do not know how long the emergency will last, be prepared to plant a garden to augment your food supply.  This will require sprout seeds (short term), and heirloom seeds (long term) and gardening equipment.  And the list goes on and on.  The point is this; long-term food storage requires extra planning.  This article is only an introduction.

Home-Canned Food

Pros:  Same benefits as for manufactured canned foods, but often far less expensive and food can be fresher and spiced prior to canning, making it more palatable as well as more nutritious for you and your family.  More types of food can be stored safely in glass than in a metal can, and glass is a safer canning medium and makes it possible to inspect the food prior to opening.

Cons:  Food cleaning and preparation is time consuming, and sanitation and proper canning methods must be strictly monitored to insure safety and stability.  Home canning is generally accomplished using glass jars, so the food supply is more susceptible to breakage, so proper storage is essential.  Transportation of food canned in glass jars is problematic.  When opened, jars should emit a distinct sound indicating a release of the vacuum seal.  If the jar opens silently, the food may be spoiled.

Retort-Packaged Food

Pros:  For milk which more closely resembles fresh milk in taste, ultrahigh-temperature pasteurized milk stored in retort packaging, is the answer.  Non-fat cow milk stores better than low-fat milk, but rice and soy milks have a longer shelf-life.  Since many grocery stores do not stock these items, they must be purchase from a vendor such as Walton Feed (WaltonFeed.com) or Ready Made Resources (www.ReadyMadeResources.com).

Cons:  Though the taste of these milk products is better than powdered milk, the taste is nowhere close to its fresh counterpart; so many people will not want to use these products routinely. For most people, these milks will work in recipes, and perhaps cereal, but will not be suitable for drinking.  Unfortunately, the shelf-life is only six-months, but this can be extended slightly if refrigerated.

U.S. military “Meal, Ready-to-Eat” food, more commonly referred to as MREs, are available in the civilian market.  These quick and easy meals meet the need for a short-term emergency food supply, and the 24+ menus offer variety, however they are bulky and have a limited shelf-life. But with MREs, a hot meal is available in minutes using the water-activated disposable heater.

Military MREs; Meal, Ready-toEat

Pros:  Extensive research has been done by the U.S. military to develop the optimal food for combat troops operating in the field.  Civilian versions of these pre-packaged meals are available from the same manufactures that make these meals for the government.  Each MRE contains approximately 1,200 calories of food which has been fortified with vitamins and other nutrients.  Each MRE is a complete meal, including condiments, desert, powdered drink, and even a hand wipe and bit of toilet paper.  Since these meals are already hydrated and precooked, they can be eaten direct from the package without any food prep.  Disposable flameless-heaters which are water activated (often purchased separately), can be used to quickly heat the meal.  With more than two dozen menu selections, including vegetarian, MREs have become popular for emergency food storage.  MREs is what the U.S. government generally distributes to disaster victims in the country and abroad.

Cons:  The full MRE meal packet is bulky and far heavier than dehydrated or freeze-dried backpacking food, but since they don’t require any food preparation, they remain popular.  Soldiers and civilians seeking to reduce weight and bulk, often separate the entrée and flameless heater from the other contents of the heavy plastic envelope, and carry only the items from the meal which they like.  However, though you can purchase just the entrée and heater on the civilian market, utilizing only part of the meal represents a substantial reduction in calories and nutritional value.  Further, when consuming the entrée only for multiple days, constipation is likely so these entrees need to be augmented by high-fiber food supplements such as high-fiber meal-replacement bars.  Though MRE meals are extremely convenient, they are expensive.  When purchased in a case of 12-meals, average cost is around $7.50 per meal (for true military-specification MREs).  Though an MRE may be safe to eat for 20-years, shelf-life is only listed as 3-years.  Many MREs purchase on “sale” in the civilian marketplace have expired dates.  For more on MREs, search in our database for MRE.

Freeze-dried foods are available in single-serving size (recommended for evacuation and GO-Bags), in #10 cans (recommended), and in 5-gallon buckets (ideal for large families or groups).

Freeze Dried Food

Pros:  Using a process originally designed by NASA for the Apollo space missions, freeze dried foods are flash frozen and then vacuum packed.  These foods do not require refrigeration or special handling, but water does need to be added to rehydrate the food.  Once reconstituted with water and cooked, these foods retain much of the fresh taste, color, and aroma of frozen food.  With nearly 98% of the water removed, the weight of the food is reduced by 90% compared to fresh food.  Since quality manufacturers vacuum pack their food in Mylar or foil packets, or specially designed cans, the oxygen can be removed from the food.  This stabilizes flavor, texture, and nutritional value.  Quality manufacturers such a Mountain House boast a shelf-life of 7-years for their backpacking meals, and 25-years for food which they factory pack in special #10 cans.  Freeze dried food has long been a favorite of wilderness backpackers, so manufacturers such as Mountain House routinely package their foods in small quantities, or as complete meals, which is particularly handy when used in a GO-Bag.  Eggs, and even ice cream, can be freeze dried so this process offers a great deal of food variety.  Five-gallon buckets lined with Mylar bags containing freeze dried food, is also available from vendors such as:   However, once the package is opend the storage life drops quickly.  The freeze drying process coupled with enamel-lined cans, and oxygen removal and nitrogen flushing processes, also retains the nutritional value of the food better than any of the other processes, so the #10 can option is the best for most situations unless the food is being prepared for a large group.

Cons:  Food packages labeled as “Serves 2” are generally only sufficient for one person.  Pound-for pound, freeze-dried prepackaged meals are generally more expense than any of the other emergency foods.  Since hydration and cooking is required, a stove (and time) is required for proper preparation.  Individual meals can often be prepared using the foil packaging of the food, but bulk foods require cookware.  Like MREs, freeze dried foods have a reduced shelf life if exposed to temperature fluctuations and high ambient temperatures.  Single-meal packaging is generally not durable, so when transporting in a Go-Bag the foil packet should be protected by a zip-loc plastic bag.

Dehydrated Food

Pros:  Less costly than freeze-dried foods, and sometimes even cheaper than fresh food, dehydrated foods are a cost-efficient alternative to freeze dried.  Like home-canning in jars, dehydrated foods can also be produced at home with minimal equipment.  When a home-use dehydrating machine is used along with a vacuum-packaging machine, reasonable shelf life can be attained.  However, dehydrated food made by a quality manufacturer, reconstitutes better and more uniformly.  Commercial dehydration works better on some foods than others, so experimentation is advised before you purchase any food item in quantity.  Dehydrated mashed potatoes, puddings, peanut butter, pancake and bread mix, and vegetable and fruits designed to be added to a meal as a supplement, are the most popular dehydrated foods.   Visit Walton Feed (WaltonFeed.com) for more information.

Cons:  Generally a far shorter effective shelf-life than freeze-dried foods.  Only experienced amateurs or professionally manufactures can usually produce dehydrated foods which have a reliable shelf-life.  Homemade dehydrated foods are often snack foods such as apples, bananas, and apricots.  Over time, the nutritional value of dehydrated food declines, textures change, and taste diminishes.  For those dehydrated foods requiring reconstitution with water, some do not fully rehydrate, which makes the food less palatable.  However, dehydrated foods such as potato flakes make savory mashed potatoes after many years if repackaged into suitable airtight containers with oxygen absorbers.

Note Regarding Long-Term Food Storage:  Due to the lower cost, most families will want to store nearly all bulk grains, legumes, peanut butter, honey and other bulk foods in dehydrated form.  These foods should be stored in food-grade buckets with Gamma lids (or at least Mylar bags), and the packer should have used nitrogen to remove the oxygen prior to sealing the container.  This is best accomplished by a reputable supplier who specializes in food for long-term storage.  However, for those who are more budget minded, home methods using food-grade buckets with Gamma lids (or properly sealed Mylar bags), and inserting oxygen-absorbing packets or chips of dry ice before sealing, can be nearly as effective.  To make this stored food more palatable, store a smaller quantity of freeze-dried vegetables, fruits and meats, in addition to spices.  Use these as supplementary foods to make your meals more interesting and nutritious.  Review the recipes in cookbooks designed for these foods for suggestions on what supplemental foods and spices should be included in your larder.   

Lifeboat rations are not suitable for long-term use, but they are a valuable addition to your GO-Bag or for storage in a vehicle.

Lifeboat & Emergency Food Rations (Brand must be U.S. Coast Guard Approved)

Pros:  Lightweight and very inexpensive, these are the most compact of all the emergency foods, and yet these food-bar rations are an amazingly complete nutritionally-rich on-the-go meal.  Unlike most sports bars and meal-replacement bars, these rations do not increase thirst.  For many years, these rations have continued to be a standard component in the survival kit packed into the lifeboats of large ships.  These compressed food bricks are vacuum packed in foil, which gives an unopened ration a 5-year shelf-life.  Unlike other emergency foods, these rations retain most of their nutritional value even after exposure to temperature extremes.  The most popular and palatable brands are: “Mainstay” and “Datrex.”  The manufacturer of Mainstay claims a formulation designed for more active, land-based survival needs.  A 9-meal packet of Mainstay costs about $7, yet it is only the size of a paperback book, and weighs only 24-ounces.  Each pre-measured meal cube offers 400 calories of nutrition (for a total of 3,600 calories per packet).  Whichever brand you purchase, make sure it is fresh, and that it has been approved for use by the United States Coast Guard.  (Coast Guard approval is like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for this type of food ration).  At least one packet of these rations is a prudent addition to every GO-Bag, to be eaten if you’re on the run, or when other provisions have been exhausted.

Cons:  Taste and texture are unappealing, and these bars (or cubes) are not stomach filling, but they do provide short-term emergency sustenance far better than energy-bars or meal-replacement bars.  Per-meal cost is incredibly low.  Though the taste is acceptable, these meal cubes will not make you look forward to your next meal, so you may need to discipline yourself to eat because you must.  If given any other option, these rations are not suitable for long-term use.  True, they have kept many inactive sailors alive after more than a month on the sea, but these rations lack many essential micro-nutrients and fiber which are essential for an active life and robust health.

Each type of emergency food has its place in your emergency food supply.  Some, like canned foods purchased from a grocery store, are easy to use in everyday life, making these a good choice as the first level of emergency food storage.  But MREs and lifeboat rations are clearly better for food-on-the-go as will be needed for traveling by vehicle or on-foot with your GO-Bag.  For long-term food storage, it’s hard to beat the great taste of freeze-dried food, but it is expensive, so augmenting it with bulk-packed 5-gallon buckets of dry food will save you money.  In short, it makes sense to have a combination of all of these types of emergency food in a well-planned emergency food larder.