It Only Happens to Other People
This is one of the biggest myths when it comes to natural disasters. It is likely we act like floods, hurricanes, fires, and other unforeseen events will never happen to us because we don't want to deal with the unpleasant reality that they may.
If you are a person with a disability, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has an excellent preparedness guide. I'd like to propose some additions for those who try to make good physical and emotional health a priority as well. Having been through a flood in which I lost about 90 percent of my possessions, I learned quite a lot. My hope is that things I have experienced can be of help to others. I'm not suggesting that your emergency kit contain a set of weights or something similar, but that you consider all aspects of your health.
You may find yourself in an emergency shelter, a hotel, or an unfamiliar home. If you're used to being active, you may want to have ways to continue remaining active as a way to minimize stress. Consider buying and packing an extra cane. If you work with a guide dog, your emergency kit could include extra toys and chews to help your dog de-stress as well. You'll also want to have a pair of comfortable, sturdy shoes or sneakers. If you're in the middle of a clean-up effort, it is important to protect your feet from contaminants and sharp objects.
Sometimes, living through the aftermath of a natural disaster is harder than actually going through it. You may find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings, being unsure of what possessions survived and what did not, and just generally not knowing where anything is. Try today to stand in the shoes of your future self. Think about those things that give you comfort or that are particularly useful. Maybe you have a bag that you love and use all the time, or an item that has sentimental value to you. For me, it was a bag clip my mom gave me, and that I lost in the flood. It's silly, but I was sad about it's loss. It was shaped like a potato, and it felt like one too. It had feet on it, and two eyes. It was nothing special as a bag clip, but it always made me smile because it was so quirky. I'm happy to say that just two months ago, nearly five years after the flood, she found not one, but two of these. I have a matched set now, I smile twice as much, and if I evacuated, I'd grab one and put it in my bag.
I know that having a few items like this may sound frivolous, especially when space is limited. However, I talked to others who have been through similar situations, and often the items that are most mourned are insignificant from a monetary standpoint. Another item I'll never get back is a cassette album with recordings of my grandparents and my trip to Africa. I meant to get them digitized, but I did not. I could get pictures of my grandparents from family members, but they won't help me. If you're the only person in your family who keeps audio records, consider either making copies, digitizing them, or somehow protecting that piece of history for yourself.
Another thing to consider taking with you is your music. Even five years ago, digital music wasn't as ubiquitous as it is now, but I can't express how important this was to my overall well-being. It was a constant when I felt like a chasm had divided my life into Before Flood and After Flood. About three weeks previous, I had finished extracting the audio of my entire CD collection to my computer. I transferred this to a portable hard drive, which I took with me.
The things you may need for good health, the things that will not just help you survive but thrive, may be completely different. Additionally, the most important things aren't things -- they're people, so make sure you have a way to stay in touch with those who are important to you. A little planning now may have huge pay-offs in the future.
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