Prepared to Administer Hypothermia and Allergens

(This happened a month ago. I am just now calm enough to blog the carnage.)

So I was sitting in a soggy tent in my back yard for three hours with 2 children under 4, no socks and a mother lode of nut-based products during the worst rainstorm of the year. So what? At least I learned something.

We’re big on emergency preparedness and food storage in my church and I’ve been kind of sort of a little bit working on it for as long as I can remember.

A few months ago, the leaders of a large group of congregations in the Seattle area announced that we were going to have a disaster drill, a “mock” disaster. Just about every Sunday from that time until now someone has mentioned emergency preparedness or disaster plans. I now realize they meant for us to plan what we would do IN a disaster, not plan how to create one.

Dan and I did the basic stuff. We picked an out of state contact we’d both call if we were separated and could only call out of state. From what I hear, this is common. During a major disaster, it’s often impossible to make local calls, but more likely that you can call your grandma in Wichita.

We built up our food storage. We bought a giant tent. We made 72-hour kits… sort of. We bought batteries, water storage containers, hand crank radios and flashlights. The day before the drill, one of the preparedness gurus in our women’s group got up and made everyone close their eyes. “No, I’m serious. Everyone close them now. If anyone still hasn’t put together their emergency kits, put up your hands. Keep them up. I’m still writing down names. Okay, keep them up. Okay, you can open your eyes now.”

I laughed my good natured, hair tussling laugh. Silly people. Like, helloo-ooo, we’ve been planning for this mock disaster for months. If you’re not ready yet, you are like, so totally LAY-AME.

Monday morning, I decided to “double-check” my supplies. My food seemed to be in order but I had no clothing, rope, radios, waterproof matches…um any kind of matches or pretty much anything but food in the kits. I bought the food. I bought the backpacks. I bought some pretty stuff to go in them. Where was the pretty stuff? I started to freak out. We were supposed to open a letter at 5:00pm telling us our fate and giving us specific tasks to carry out. I WAS NOT READY!!

So I called Guru lady. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it had something to do with not being prepared enough to tell her I was unprepared the day before and me being one of the 5 foolish virgins except I had 2 kids, but no oil and no baby wipes in my backpack.

She talked me down off the forget-this-stupid-drill ledge and told me I could get a “complete” kit at the fire station. She explained that “complete” did not include full-body waterproof suits with coated seams for all of my children. I’d have to buy those separately if I wanted them. “HA! Um, yeah. I think we can get by without those. Thanks.”

4:30: I pull into my driveway with the small red backpack, pack changes of clothes for the kids, 3 diapers for 3 days (I was thinking numbers), matches, camp stove (oh, for the LOVE! I should probably have thought of buying camp dishes. For the drill, I would just have to pretend I kept my regular pots and dishes in the disaster kit.), soup for dinner, sleeping bags, blankets, small flashlights in the backpacks.

4:45: I fill our giant water barrels and realize I have no way to get the water out of the barrels. Guru lady informs me that there is a store in downtown Seattle where I can procure a siphon sometime. Good thing I won’t be needing it today.

5:00: I call Dan to ask him what the letter says because I can’t find mine. We have had a major earthquake (something we look forward to any day now in Seattle), our homes are unstable so we need to find alternate shelter. All phone lines are down and power is out. If we can find a way to call out of state, we are supposed to call our out-of-state contact. Bridges are out.

5:05: We both call Dan’s parents to tell them we’re okay. Dan begins the long drive home, trying to get to me without using any highways or overpasses. I take the kids outside in their warm fleece jackets and place our emergency luggage in the doorway of the house so it won’t get sprinkled on. It’s beginning to rain.

5:10: The deluge continues at a rate I have never before witnessed in the state of Washington. Clearly, God is smiting me. I hate getting smit. It seriously seriously bites. The kids are soaked. I am soaked and the bottom of our gigantic 4-room mesh-ceilinged tent is filling with water. Magoo falls in the water face-first and begins to choke and sputter. Then he laughs. Ha ha. This is hilarious. I’m laughing on the inside. I hope DCFS is laughing when our neighbors call to tell them that I’ve taken my kids outside in the worst storm of the century to conduct an experiment in hypothermic insanity.

5:15: The tent instructions are destroyed except for the part that says it requires at least two adults to construct, preferably one with a masters degree in architectural engineering. I begin to think I should have gotten it out of the box some time before the drill.

5:30: I beg Noah to open the door and let me on the fetching ark. “I’m sorry I laughed at you, dude. I’ll sleep with the rhinos. We’re drowning. ACK! HELP!”

5:45: I abandon the canvas palace of watery doom and watch it sink to Davy Jones’ locker. Risking my life, I re-enter the unstable house to retrieve our small 4-man tent. I set this up in 5 minutes, sop the water out of it with half our emergency blankets, strip my children nude and throw them into the tent with a pile of damp sleeping bags and our 72-hour kit backpacks. Magoo verbally informs me of his mounting displeasure.

6:00: I dress everyone in fresh clothes in the soggy little tent and realize that I have forgotten socks. I again risk my life to go into the unstable building and retrieve footwear.

6:15: Upon opening our emergency rations I realize that nearly every item in my carefully packed food pouches is nut based — trail mix, protein bars, crackers with peanut butter in them. Magoo is not supposed to eat nuts until he’s two or I think his head will detonate. That’s what my sources tell me. I let the kids slurp down some canned mandarins and call it dinner. Laylee spreads nuts throughout the tent at approximately the rate I can fish them out of Magoo’s mouth. It works out nicely.

6:30: By this time I have realized that the single most important thing to pack in an emergency kit is something to occupy the children. I have bupkus. They are bored out of their minds and are driving me out of mine. If I had to go three days with them like this, I would have to be committed to the non-existent mental hospitals that had most likely been toppled by the earthquake.

By the time Dan got home around 7, it was dark, we were freezing and I had learned several valuable lessons, including but not limited to:

1. Don’t put off procrastinating till the last possible second. Procrastinate right away so you can get down to business before it’s too late.
2. Pack age appropriate food in your emergency kits. If you have a nursing baby, you may want to pack formula, rather than steak in her backpack.
3. Children wear socks. Think of the whole body when you’re packing extra clothes. If it’s winter where you live, pack gloves, hats, etc.
4. Seattle is a very wet place. I have not yet purchased full body rubber-wear for my kids but I’ve gotten a lead on where I can buy it from Guru lady, who I now spend as much time with as possible.
5. An emergency is all fun and games till you realize you didn’t pack any fun or games. For the love of CHEESE, save yourselves and pack a deck of cards or at the very least a roll of scotch tape.
6. Learn how to use all of your emergency equipment in advance.
7. Do not store all of your flashlights in the only room in your house with no windows.
8. Leave Noah alone. Maybe even hand him a mallet or something. You may need his help someday.

Walk yourself through a fake disaster sometime. See what would happen if you had to rely on your emergency supplies to get you through. I think you’ll be surprised at how much work you have to do. Prescription meds? Feminine hygiene products? Toilet paper? Not a nut? Cash in small bills? Know how to shut off your gas and water? Hand crank NOAA radio to listen for broadcasts about why the sky is suddenly green? An ounce of sanity?Š

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