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Sunday, March 1, 2020

Practical Preparedness for your Heroine Facing a Pandemic

The following article is adapted from Molly McKew, Writer. Information warfare expert. Foreign Policy and Strategy Consultant. 

@MollyMcKew on Twitter

Here is a practical preparedness guide for coronavirus.

My point in this: crisis comes from panic and uncertainty.

Don’t inflame fear. The best way to do this is to focus on yourself, your readiness level, your behavior — what you can do.

This will help you think this thru:

First a caveat: you can and should read,

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)CDC is closely monitoring an outbreak caused by Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. other official sources of information for more.

I am also reposting here the (updated) home preparedness list from Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency, which is handy to review:

The info I offer comes from my own experiences: growing up in Red Dawn country (the expectation that in crisis, you rely on yourself); from working in difficult/post-conflict countries; & from studying prepper culture as a component of building informed resistance strategies. 

This is meant to help you wrap your head around preparedness if this is something you don’t think about a lot.

Second, an important point: you PREPARE so you can be a better citizen during potential emergency.

This means needing fewer resources from the state if something happens.

It means being a neighbor who can support + aid others in the community if you can.

Compassion first. 

So, then: where COVID-19 cases are numerous, self-& soft-quarantines have been implemented. That’s the contingency to prepare for.

I will include info on several topics:

- supplies you should consider
- other planning to consider
- what to do in public
- what to do at home

This is different than preparing for a hurricane earthquake etc because your power, refrigeration, lights, heat, connectivity, and water will likely NOT be disrupted. That’s good news.

You’re preparing for potential supply shortages in case of either panic or serious outbreak

So first, what SUPPLIES do you need to have AT HOME so you aren’t making a last minute run when things get bad?

- medical
- food & provisions
- cleaning & hygiene
- other

If you’re organized, you can get all of this with one smart Amazon order and grocery run.

MEDICAL supplies to have at home: consider daily, sickness-related, and emergency needs

DAILY - if you take prescription or over-the-counter medications, have an extra month supply on hand. (You may have to pay out of pocket for prescriptions.)


Have a supply of basic medicines that help with symptoms of flu or COVID-19. This includes: 
  • Mucinex/similar for lungs
  • cold/flu medication of your choice
  • fever-reducer (Advil/Tylenol or generics). 

How much do you need? I have enough for every member of my household to be sick for a week to 10 days.

If you have kids, be sure to get kid-appropriate medications.

Ordering these as “value packs” online is typically much cheaper, or else Costco/Sam's Club bulk generics etc. 

Plus-up your kit add:
  • a thermometer
  • cough drops
  • vitamin/electrolyte tabs that you can add to water to stay hydrated. 

EMERGENCY supplies

This is a good time to check your first aid kit. Be sure you have supplies to clean and dress cuts (bandaids, keep a roll of duct tape), plus super glue as emergency stitches. Never hurts to add blood clotter. You don’t want an unneeded trip to the ER. 

FOOD & PROVISIONS to have at home as emergency rations.

Your approach here: you want a stockpile of HIGH-CALORIE, HIGH-NUTRIENT, DURABLE foods that can sustain your household if there is supply disruption or soft-quarantine. Plan for 3-4 WEEKS, based on what we have seen.

Now, many American homes have enough food around that you won’t starve in an emergency. But there is real value right now in building a kit and storing it in a cool closet or spare room (so you aren’t using it). Then you know it’s there, unused. 

What goes in the emergency box?

For purchasing purposes, per person per day, you want approx 1 can of something, plus a breakfast item, plus a fruit item.

You also want a supply of coffee/tea, treats, and vitamins to cover you all.

(Plus formula/long-life milk for kids)

On canned/shelf-stable goods: this isn’t the time for low-cal stuff. You need calories and nutrients: soups/stews with meat or beans + veggies.

My dad’s apocalypse go-to is Dinty Moore beef stew, plus Progresso tomato soup. I def have both. 

For variety, be creative about what a “canned good” is. For example, you can get shelf-packaged Indian meals with lentils or chickpeas or paneer. They are also easy to heat and eat when you are sick.

Boxed Mac & Cheese with the squeeze packets is also a decent comfort pick.

On buying canned goods: there is no need to break the bank. Shop sales. Something is always buy one/get one free etc.

If you can afford fancy stuff, great. If not, sales & Costco! If really not, you can get a long way on store brand soups or Campbell’s ($1/can), oatmeal, ramen 
Since in this case we’re planning for a situation where we can cook, also add to box some handy pre packaged soup kit mixes that have dried beans, peas, onions, carrots etc (Manischewitz makes good ones you can find at any grocery). Cheap, easy to store, one pack feeds many.

** a note on your stockpile. Most canned goods have a shelf-life of at least a year. If you can afford it, every 6 months-1 yr, donate the whole kit to a food bank and replace your store. If you can’t, eat/replace stuff on rolling basis every few months, but keep stocked! 

For breakfast items, pick things that come portioned so you know what you have. Some kind of breakfast or granola bars, packets of oatmeal/hot cereals are good picks. If a box of pop-tarts ends up in your box, oh well! 
Fruit items: have canned/packaged fruit you like, dried fruit in the kit. You don’t want to be the idiot who gets scurvy.

Speaking of vitamins: have a supply of daily multivitamins and vitamin c for everyone in the box. Emergen-c also has B vitamins which make you happy!

What else goes in the box?

COFFEE. More than you think you need. Those big old cans (like chock full o’ nuts) store forever! But also have some instant. Just in case. Hopefully you just drink black coffee; if you don’t, have powdered fixin’s

If you’re a tea person, tea. 
CHOCOLATE or other small treats. We aren’t monks. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is also very nutrient rich and really good emergency rations. (Be sure to rotate your chocolate supply every few months; things like m&ms store well over longer periods) 

If you have babies or kids, you should have enough powdered FORMULA or shelf-stable milk (which you can often buy in convenient single servings).

You could also go full-compound and have some powdered milk stored. 

BOOZE. Still not monks. Just one bottle of something. Whiskey cleans cuts well btw.

Some CRACKERS (if you have space). There was a lot of soup. Sometimes you just need a cracker. 

If you like things like PEANUT BUTTER, you can add a large jar. It’s caloric and has protein. You can always eat it on your soup crackers.

If you are caring for elderly, you may need softer foods (like applesauce) or squeeze-pouch smoothies. Ensure or other protein/nutrient drinks can be a good addition for this purpose also.

If you want to go full dry goods (rice beans etc) because you’re pretty sure you’ll be able to cook/have water, that’s fine. I hate rice, so, this is never my preference. Also, canned goods are edible without a lot of prep if you do get sick 

If you want to have food of last resort — fine. I’ll still have pop tarts.

And you could totally go full prepper and have MREs stocked in. But 😬. That’s for a different kind of emergency.

PET SUPPLIES: if you have pets, have a supply of their food and meds for same expected duration of time.

So, that’s the box of emergency provisions you store outside the kitchen or at least separate from regular goods.
Now, since in this case the fridge still works: you can stock some extra frozen fruit, veg, meat, also have extra eggs and butter in fridge. Never underestimate eggs as cheap, durable protein that is dense on nutrition! 
You can also have extra supplies of durable produce that keeps for weeks in fridge or pantry. Onions, cabbage/collards/hearty greens, carrots, celery, citrus.

This is a nice supplement to your emergency box goods and other dry goods in your kitchen. 
I have a good stock of large spices. I use powdered ginger/turmeric/cayenne tea as a general analgesic for everything. Great for many things, especially flu-like relief. Have your version of this on hand, if not this. Yay for honey. 

Revisiting booze for a sec, same with nicotine: stock what you will need. Be realistic. Don’t be the person detoxing during a time of high stress. 


This is pretty simple. If you might be stuck in the house for weeks or supplies get disrupted, you need to be able to clean yourself and your stuff. So have a separate stockpile supply of necessary items. 

Hygiene: soap, shampoo, toothpaste. Tampons, prophylactics, if you have kids in diapers, enough diapers. Most importantly: TOILET PAPER and paper towels.

Cleaning: dish soap, laundry soap, disinfecting cleaner/wipes, plastic garbage bags, disposable gloves. 

Don’t run out of toilet paper. Don’t.  

OTHER supplies to consider for home:

Cards, games, etc.

CASH. Don’t go nuts. It’s not time for a run on the banks. But if you can manage it, have extra cash at home, just in case. 
One last supply: if you have cats, have enough litter. Seriously.

Ok, that’s it for supplies & provisions for home.

Now, it’s time to talk about other PLANNING you made need to do.

The idea of PLANNING is to think through:

1) what you will do if daily work/life routines are disrupted
2) what you will do if there is an epidemic in your area/you get sick
3) how you can help others

Helping others/good citizenship is really important.

On 1: it is not too early to think about what your plan is if your kids school gets closed, if your trips get canceled or if you need to cancel them, how you will work if work is shut down, or if you want to start working from home.

Talk it through. It’s important. 

I’m not saying to panic. It doesn’t help. Plan and prepare. Ask your employer or school for guidance. Not everyone can just stay home & still pay bills.

News will evolve rapidly in the coming weeks. Hopefully we look back and laugh.

But now, be smart. 
On 2: outbreak happens/you and others around you get sick.

For now, please plan your comms.

If you, like me, live alone, know what your network will be. Make a network that will do daily wellness and sanity checks if there a soft-quarantine situation. 

Who is going to help you if you need help? Who knows what is going on with you? Plan now. 

Now, enough about you: If sh*t gets bad, how can you help others?

In this time of divide and derision, it’s easy to think isolationist when faced with crisis.

But remember: society endures because of community in times of crisis. 

As I mentioned above, preparedness is about doing everything you can to be ready for a crisis so you do not need the emergency resources of the state when they will be stretched really thin.

But if you have the resources/are able, you can help others for the same purpose.
Have supplies you can share if you can afford them. Know who might need them.

Think through your neighborhood & community. Who is going to need help if things don’t work the way they are supposed to? Older neighbors, young families/single moms, others.

What can you do? 
  • Make sure they are aware. 
  • Offer a ride. 
  • Suggest getting supplies. 
  • Make sure they have your number, that they can call.

It will all be less bad if we aren’t in isolation. If we help each other. We’re Americans and this is what we do. Don’t forget it.

Ok, a few quick notes on what to do in public and what to do at home in the time of scary virus (assuming what we know about coronavirus transmission remains the same).
First, lemme just say: don’t with the masks. They are an Asian obsession; they don’t need to be ours — because they make you feel like you are doing something, and maybe keep you from sticking your finger in your nose, but don’t stop virus. Leave the supply for hospitals. 
Really. Don’t. Unless you want them to evade facial recognition — but then there are much cooler gaiters you can get.
So, some tips for moving around in public during contagion fears:
  • Travel with the right kit: hand wipes or sanitizer, eye drops, face wipes, tissues (maybe disposable gloves)
These items are meant to keep your hands clean + stop you touching your face w/ your fingers

You’ve heard a lot about not touching your face. But seriously — retrain yourself not to touch your face so much. (this is also really good for your skin, bonus)

I had to learn this working in places where touching your eye ever basically meant an eye infection.

In fact, start thinking about it that way. “If I touch my eye, I’ll have a gross eye infection soon”

Or that scene in 28 Days Later where one drop of blood falls from a crow beak into someone’s eye and they turn into a zombie

(This is just for mental training, don’t panic) 
Your eyes & membranes in nose & mouth will happily absorb the virus. Don’t help it get there.

Hence carry stuff so if your face itches or you have something in your eye, you can use a clean tissue or eyedrops or wipe.

Always have eye drops. Sounds dumb, will totally save you.
An important note on your hands. Whether it’s soap, hand sanitizer, or a wipe —

Remember, soap or whatever is mechanical.

Soap and sanitizer works because you scrub it. You can’t just slop it on. Mechanical.

Yes, I have my nerd badge right here. 

In public, distance is important. You can keep safe distance from visibly sick people without being rude/confrontational.

Just keep in mind not all people shedding virus are visibly sick, and who knows who touched/coughed on that 10 min ago (see above re hands/face) 
Returning to theme of compassion: Having extra tissues etc is a kind way to encourage good hygiene.

Also it’s not a zombie plague. You can still offer a hand to people, help carry the stroller up steps, treat everyone with respect. Then clean your hands politely. 
Finally, some tips at home

- don’t wear shoes inside
- don’t wear outside clothes inside

This may sound excessive. But getting in the habit of changing your clothes when you get home isn’t a bad idea. The world is gross (especially in cities); don’t track it onto your couch.
I started changing as soon as I got home when I lived in London because everything you wore outside was coated in diesel soot, who wants that on your bed? It translated well to work in countries where burning stuff is a major part of agriculture (ash and smoke all the time)

If no one is sure how long this coronavirus hangs around on surfaces, yet — nice clean PJs or leisure wear at home, yay!

It’s up to you. I prefer this.
Additionally, get in habit of thoroughly washing your hands, drying them with a paper towel, and wiping off your face with a different wipe or damp paper towel when you get home —before you touch the remote and the kitchen etc. 

And yes, I know, the environment. But using a paper towel is the most hygienic way to dry hands etc. 

Keep disinfecting wipes where you have to see/walk past them, not under the sink or something. It reminds you to wipe down your phones, doorknobs, faucets etc every now and then. 
Finally, get fresh air in the house. Get some sun when you can. 

So that’s all for now, for wrapping your head around practical coronavirus preparedness. Be ready, then you aren’t adding to panic.

Do it now before you’re the people fighting over antiseptic wipes and TP at Costco. Ordering for delivery as much as possible spares this. 

Again, this isn’t because it’s a zombie plague or something — but because people panic, supply chains get disrupted, & if you are prepared you will not siphon emergency resources from real emergencies if something happens. This will improve any govt crisis response that may be needed.

Thank you to Molly McKew for putting these thoughts together and allowing me to share them with you all. 

Be safe and be well,
~ Fiona

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