The Bird Flu. The Pandemic Flu. World Wide Chaos. The Avian Flu. Whatever it might be called, it looks likely that some nasty bug is going to come crashing in on us someday and cause a little disruption in our lives. Normally, Christmas letters are cheery things, filled with light and happiness about new jobs, new cars, and lofty raises – but this is the Phelps Christmas letter, where just about anything can happen – so we’ve decided this year to make our holiday greeting into a public service announcement about Home Emergency Planning. Not very cheery, but pertinent to the times.

If you check out the web sites for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) you’ll find tons of information on how to prepare your self, your business, and your community for the possibility of some kind of pandemic event. It will take you quite some time to sort though this information but here are some of the key preparation steps with our personal commentary – we give you… The Phelps Emergency Preparation Advice:

The CDC recommends storing several weeks worth of water: Sure how hard is that? Do you have any idea how much water you use?? Get this – approximately 183 gallons of water are treated each day for your personal use. Each one of us! There is the 8 glasses a day we drink, the 3 gallons used each time we flush a toilet, the 2 gallons needed to properly wash your hands for 20 seconds every time you do that flush, 25 gallons for a shower, 30 gallons used on your behalf at stores and facilities processing or packaging food and goods, and then the water on your lawn, the city park lawn, and don’t forget what it takes to do dishes and laundry. Even at 2.5 gallons of water per person, per day for 2 weeks, water for a family of 5 is 175 gallons. Where do you begin to put that?

A simple sneeze can spread germs up to 15 feet: No kidding, 15 feet. The average bed is less than 6 1/2 feet long. That means you spread your sneeze more than the length of most bedrooms. Consider how many sneezes you have in your nose when you are sick. Makes sense that they are now teaching everyone to cough and sneeze into your elbow doesn’t it. Just don’t go rubbing your elbows all over people now. May we also recommend you invest heavily in Kleenex – the kind with lotion embedded in them may be more expensive, but your tender nose will thank you every time. And washing your hands, seriously, major important skill, learn to do it well.

Have spare batteries on hand for emergency use: Again, have you really thought about what that means? Have you ever needed a specific battery, looked for it, and couldn’t find it in your house? We aren’t going to have a Katrina here in Minnesota, but what if you really had no electricity for several days, a week? What runs on batteries and what kind? Flashlights: D, maybe C, and at least 2 per flashlight and you get about 80 hours of life for that. That’s 2 weeks, 6 hours a day. How long are the lights in your house on per day? And how many lights? What else uses batteries? How about that laptop battery? How long is it going to work? What radio has batteries? How long does your cell phone hold a charge? How about the kids – the I-pods, the Game Boy, the Leap Pad, the remote control car? What doesn’t have a battery back up? The can opener. The garage door opener. The dishwasher. The washing machine. The TV. What could you live without?

A supply of non-perishable foods that can be stored ready to eat is advisable: Consider the shear diversity of tastes, likes, and dislikes in your immediate family alone. Say you decide to lay in a supply of crackers. I personally could live several weeks on Wheat Thins. However we have a Triscut connoisseur, a Chicken in the Bisket addict, and a plain Saltine freak at our house. How do you plan to compromise that? Same goes for canned fruits, vegetables and meats. Will everyone eat green beans, kidney beans, or canned carrots, or will you be stuck getting a case of peas just to make sure everyone will eat it? Will you ever eat peas again after that?

Garbage collection could be interrupted in the event of a community emergency: Why yes, it could. And then what are you going to do with those empty pea cans? Think of the things you use every day that relate to keeping you and your surroundings clean. Not only will you miss those garbage bags terribly if you ran out of them, but what do you use to clean the kitchen counters? The bathroom? How about paper towels and toilet paper? How about baggies and saran wrap used on leftovers? Do you use one of those on a daily basis? While we’re on the daily theme – how many kinds of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, toothpaste, and lotion are in the bathrooms in your house? Personal preferences play into that for sure, but you use it daily and if you couldn’t get to a store, you might be forced to use shampoo for dry, color treated hair when you really needed extra body and frizz control. Oh no! A crisis and bad hair!

Consider the needs of pets and neighbors in your planning: You’re certainly not going to forget the dog’s needs are you? He needs his couple gallons of water, food, and does he take any medicine? You’ll need to make sure he’s fed and watered every day because he’s your dog. Your neighbors might need some checking up on and they might even want to share your peas. Are you really going to say no? Of course not.

Yes, it is scary to think of something bad happening to our community, our country, or our world. People have lived though tons of crises over time. Wars, illness, attacks, terrible storms – but they survived though preparation, perseverance, advances in technology, and maybe a little luck. But though it all, you have to believe that they wanted to make it though. They wanted to get through the storm or the illness and be back with their families and friends. And when they did, they probably vowed to make their lives better; to be better people, better moms or dads, better neighbors. Why wait? We can be better people every day. We can do better things for our families, our neighbors and our communities right now. Volunteer to give a hand, give out more smiles, reach out when you see that someone needs it – and stock up on those extra cans of peas.

Peace, Health, and Happiness from the Phelps:
Chr’s, Julie, Hannah, Elizabeth and Shannon December, 2006

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