When disaster strikes how much warning will you need? How much warning do you think you’ll get? Warning time could be anywhere between a couple of days to minutes. Will you be prepared?

Experts recommend preparing to be ‘on your own’ for a minimum of 72 hours when disaster strikes. Do we truly understand what that may mean? Imagine... no electricity, no gas, no water, no telephone, no MTV. Businesses are closed.

If you had to evacuate in the next 15 minutes, as in the case of a wildfire, could you do it?

In a disaster situation every little bit of planning or preparation you’ve made will pay off big dividends in getting you through. Don’t rely on someone else to save you.

In the case of evacuation you and each member of your family will need a ‘go bag’. Even your pets will need a go bag. A go bag is just a 21st century name for an evacuation kit. There are many websites available with lists of what you will want to include in your go bag, plus questions to get you thinking about special go bag needs for the members of your household.

Think ahead. Plan your escape. Know your evacuation plan ahead of time. If members of your household are away from home during an emergency do you have a meeting place or methods of contact? Remember that local telephone service and cell phone networks can become overwhelmed in an emergency (like 9/11) - while long distance communications may still function. Have you gone completely cellular or web based in you communications or have you kept a land line (telephone that does not depend on electricity or batteries to work) available?

Who may be able to help? Do you have friends or family out of the danger zone that may be able to take you in or assist you in other ways? If you have family in other locales make a list for each household member. An additional idea from relatives of Katrina victims is to be sure that you have contact information for the neighbors of your relatives, including their next of kin.

Most experts also recommend accumulating an emergency fund in preparation for disaster situations - whether natural or man made. But how much would you need? Again, preparation is the key. Start early.

Determine in advance a reasonable amount of money for your situation and family circumstances. Don’t forget any special needs you or your family may have. For example, with a power outage the needs for your family may be different then your neighbor, especially if a family member makes use of refrigerated medication, like insulin or electronic medical equipment such as a nebulizer.

Remember too, you’re going to need cash. Banks aren’t open during disasters and ATM machines may not work. Since many of us already live on a tight budget – possibly paycheck to paycheck this may take some extra effort.

Once you determine the amount you will need to have on hand, make a practical plan to collect the funds. If you find you need to make substantial budgetary changes to gather the funds, it may make it more manageable if you set a time line – a one month push to come up with $200, for example.

Here are some ideas you may find useful:

  • Take your lunch – save $5 a day or more
  • Make your coffee at home – save $1 a day or more
  • Make a change jar – each day when you return home empty your loose change into the jar – less predictable than some methods but can add up more quickly than you might think

While designing your method to come up with the funds you will also want to establish a secure location – secure from others and you (you know what I mean – missing a sale at your favorite store is not the kind of disaster these funds are for). For cash or traveler’s checks you will want to keep your emergency funds on hand in a location where you know if you access it you are dipping into your family’s emergency funds. Inside a fire/flood resistant canister kept inside your go bag or emergency kit may be one idea.

Research any cards you use (credit, charge, secured, or gift cards), making sure to avoid those with extra fees or non-use charges. Some useful examples might be gas cards from a national chain; gift certificates, for example from Target or Wal-Mart (once you evacuate or relocate you can purchase food, medicines, clothing and so on until you’re able to return home).

A less sophisticated method of safe storage for these – keep the cards you’ve accumulated in a plastic bag in the freezer. Remember it’s your plan, being creative is ok.

Finally, the point is preparation. No one ever complained after a disaster of being too prepared.

The words listed were borrowed from the articles in this edition of Defeat Debt and can be found in this month’s Word Search. Try your hand by revealing them all within the puzzle.


Country Brunch Pie

Served with muffins and fruit, this egg pie makes a great brunch dish. Or try tossed greens and Tuscan style bread as an option for lunch or a light supper.

  • Pastry for single crust pie (9-inches)
  • ½ lb bulk pork sausage
  • ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup half & half cream
  • 1 can (4 oz.) mushroom stems and pieces, drained
  • ¼ cup chopped green pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion

  1. In small skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink, drain.
  2. Spoon sausage into crust, sprinkle with cheese.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, cream, mushrooms, peppers and onion.
  4. Pour over cheese.
  5. Bake at 375° for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
  6. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Yield: 6-8 servings for less than 60 cents a serving.

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