Bad-day box will aid family during disaster
Hurricane season and those satellite images of storms spinning off into the Pacific definitely heighten awareness of the need to prepare for a potential disaster. Similar preparation is needed for nonseasonal natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes or pandemic viral infections. There is no better time than the present to put together a "bad-day box" or revise what you might have organized a year ago.
Question: What is a bad-day box?
Answer: The bad-day box should be one or more easy-to-carry containers with three to five days' worth of emergency rations. The items included should meet basic family needs if you need to go to a shelter or live without electricity. Preparing for food needs can be especially challenging.
Q: What types of foods should go into the bad-day box?
A: Foods should meet short-term nutrient and calorie needs. The most critical nutrient is water. Plan for at least a gallon of water per person per day. Depending on the weather and availability of other beverages, about half of this daily gallon of water will be needed for drinking and the other half used for personal hygiene. Change stored water every six months.
Store foods that do not need to be refrigerated or cooked. Canned foods that can be eaten straight out of the can are easy to store and convenient to eat. Especially store higher-protein foods such as tuna, meats (even Spam), beans, peanut butter and higher-protein soups.
The only problem with canned foods is that they are heavy to carry in large quantities if you need to leave your home. A lightweight option for a high-protein food is jerky. Just three to four ounces of beef jerky meets daily protein needs for the average person.
Include high-calorie ready-to-eat foods like energy bars, dried fruit, nuts, crackers and pretzels. Foods that need no preparation are best, but if disaster recovery is prolonged, it can be helpful to have foods that require minor preparation without cooking. For example, powdered milk is a concentrated lightweight food that just needs water. Pre-cooked dried bulgur wheat, like the type used to make tabbouleh salads, only needs to be soaked in water for a half an hour to be ready to eat.
To avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms, coffee drinkers can include caffeine pills or drink cold instant coffee. Of course, remember to include essential medications and a first aid kit. Cash is especially important, since credit cards are unlikely to work in a power failure.
Extensive checklists of all items to include in your bad-day box are available from state civil defense agencies and their Web sites. Finally, consider including a bit of chocolate in your bad-day box. It can help to meet both calorie and emotional needs.
-Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S., and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S., are nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii-Manoa.
Dobbs also works with University Health Services.
Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. are nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii-Manoa. Dr. Dobbs also works with University Health Services.