So after a couple of posts motivated by current events, I’ve returned to my series on the supplies you need to have for a disaster.
This article will be focusing on the need to maintain quality personal hygiene in a disaster situation. Now, please, don’t misunderstand that statement. By personal hygiene, I’m not simply telling you to remember to grab a toothbrush and stink-stick (deodorant) when you run out the door.
The term personal hygiene refers to all of the work we do to treat our outsides as well as we do our insides. Just like you wouldn’t stock up on beer and pretzels in our disaster food and water reserves, you have to make sure that, should a catastrophic incident occur, you have all of the supplies you need to maintain our external body in a healthy manner.
Incidentally, if you are planning on storing nothing to eat or drink besides beer and pretzels, you might want to rethink your plan, and send me your address so I know where to send the cadaver dogs.
In addition to the normal shaving kit type equipment (razor, toothbrush, comb,etc.,) you need to have a reserve stock of everything that keeps you from looking like an artist’s rendering of Neanderthal or Cro-Magnons.
Clothing: Whether sheltering-in-place, or evacuating, when wide-spread power outages result from disasters, it’s going to be very difficult to run the washing machine. Now, I’ll grant you that if you’re sheltering-in-place, you’ll have a closet full of clothes to change into, however, if you anticipate a significantly long-term scenario, you might want to bag up those jeans that’ve become a little too snug. If there’s no power for several weeks, chances are your dietary intake will also suffer, and you’ll lose that extra layer of fluff.
For those planning to evacuate, however, you’ll want at least one full change of clothes. Additionally, make sure you have a rugged pair of shoes or boots able to handle walking through broken glass, metal, and wood debris. A pair of canvas dock shoes, or Converse low-quarters, are NOT an appropriate choice for post-impact footwear.
Also, I cannot stress enough a mantra that every soldier and Marine learns in Basic Training. If you take care of your feet, your feet will take care of you. Make sure your disaster footwear fits and is broken in (not to be confused with broken down.) I would recommend that in addition to wearing them around the house for a few hours a day when you first get them, that you take some long walks. It is important to identify potential problems before crisis arrives. If your neighborhood, post-disaster, looks like a national forest threw up in it, or that a concrete plant was dumped in the middle of your street, you won’t be driving to replenish food and water supplies right away. Start with walking around the block for at least a mile. If you develop blisters, you might need to examine your choice in shoes (are they REALLY the right size) or socks (cotton socks which get damp can increase friction over snug spots, exacerbating into serious blisters.) If your feet start aching, especially in your arches, consider picking up some cheap insoles to provide additional support. If your legs and knees start hurting before your feet do, you probably need to work on conditioning. Gradually increase the distance of your hikes until you can manage 3 miles without a break. (If you live in a rural area, continue conditioning until you’re able to walk at least five to ten miles, or the distance to the nearest town, which ever is less.)
Make sure that your disaster supplies include no less than half-a-dozen pair of socks which you’re able to hike in. You’ll want to change them whenever they get saturated, or daily. Even if you are simply rotating them, and unable to wash them, starting the day with dry socks will go a long way to maintaining foot health.
Anti-funk Supplies: In a crisis situation, especially one with basic utility outages, being able to maintain a certain modicum of cleanliness is important, both to morale and to your health. The simple ability to clean up after a long day of sweating your butt off hauling debris out of your yard can restore a measure of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic period of your life. I’d recommend that any disaster kit contain a brick of baby wipes. These can be used to clean your face and hands, wipe your pitts, or clean off dirty dishes. If you’re using stick deodorant, grab one that is powder-free. That powder can, when you’re spending all day sweating, cause clogging of your pores, which can be quite uncomfortable. A toothbrush can be used to get that pasty coat of grime off of your teeth, even if you don’t have toothpaste.
Hand-sanitizing liquid is an absolute must-have in a disaster. A large percentage of the nasty diseases which can be contracted in a disaster situation are the direct result of cross-contamination, which simply means that you accidentally injest something containing harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera, E. coli, or ghiardia. When cleaning up before a meal, you should wipe all of the dirt and gunk from your hands with a baby wipe, then use the sanitizer.
The vast majority of remaining types of diseases contractible in a disaster are insect-borne. When you have no power for A/C, your home becomes an oven, as the building materials absorb heat during the day, and then release it when temperatures drop. You’re not going to want to sit in your house, meaning you will need some sort of insect repellent to keep the flies and mosquitos away. The final item in this list is sunscreen. Again, if you’re spending 12-16 hours a day cleaning up the mess outside, you’re going to be susceptible to lobsteritis, aka sunburn.
Finally, any medication which you require for normal behavior should be stored up. Some, like insulin, can be temperature sensitive, but medications for heart, psychiatric, or blood-pressure could quite literally mean the difference between life and death. You can probably operate without your pill to control your cholesterol, but diabetics shouldn’t push their luck.