This Christmas, give the gift of preparedness

DOWNEY - Brrrrrr. The cold winds from last week and some rain in November have been convincing. Winter is just about here. Christmas is only a couple of weeks away. Perhaps it's time to consider some specialized purchases for our families, friends and colleagues.Emergency preparedness gifts may not be the tastiest or in some cases the warmest. However, they could be some of the most thoughtful purchases we make. They may also be priceless if they are needed in an emergency. Please consider adding one or more of the following items to your Christmas shopping lists: Flashlight - These items come in many sizes and price ranges. Most are battery powered but many can now be powered by a hand-crank or by shaking. Flashlights are great for home use but are also helpful when something goes awry in your vehicle. They also provide some light (and comfort) when placed in a backpack. Some hand-crank units have a radio included as well. Portable Radio - These items are similar to flashlights with their various sizes, shapes and power options. Radio units offer more than music. A number of AM radio stations broadcast 24/7 news immediately after an emergency. Many radios also have weather channels. When we must make decisions on staying or leaving the area or planning on what we can expect of the weather, information from the radio can be priceless. Portable Fire Extinguisher - It's not easy to find a substitute for this item when you really need it. Consider the use for the device then choose between several sizes and types of fire extinguishers. These items are always more helpful when stored 'ready for use' instead of being buried in a garage storage cabinet. When carried in an accessible place in the trunk of a vehicle, they are ready for action when the need arises. Emergency Contact Cards - You can download these from the website or make your own. The purpose of the cards is to provide phone numbers, meeting places and out-of-state contact information for each family member. This type of item is free but priceless if it is needed after an emergency. It can be left in a zip-lock baggie in a backpack or purse and takes up very little space. Coupled with any operable phone or text message device, the information on a simple emergency card may be all that is needed to re-unite a family or ensure a parent can speak with a child in another city. Smoke Detector or Carbon Monoxide Detector - These items save lives and property from the minute they are installed in a living space. There are many types (photo-electric smoke detectors are becoming more popular) and sizes. Prices vary as well. Smoke detector units should be replaced every 10 years. So this may be a great gift for that person on your list who has everything (including older smoke detectors!). Don't forget the batteries! Even the electric powered models use a battery for a back-up. First Aid Kit - Every family and workplace needs one of these. There are many kits on the market. Kits can be larger back-pack types to the small kits that easily fit into a pocket in a back-pack. No matter the size, the kits are almost always used for something during the year. Whether it is for a band-aid or a splinter or something much more serious, first aid kits are very helpful for all of us. Kits can also be hand-built to save costs and/or for specialized applications. What grandparent wouldn't appreciate a hand-made first aid kit with an assortment of band-aids and anti-septic solutions in a customized gift box ? Whistle - This item is available in lots of sizes and shapes. The costs vary as well. A good whistle is invaluable when there is a need to communicate with others during an emergency. Normally, phones are likely the best method of contacting neighbors and checking on their situation. However, a good whistle will get a neighbors attention from one house to another. This is another item that a child, teacher, parent or relative could use that shows thoughtfulness. Emergency Planning Book - There are many sources and formats for emergency plans for home, family and workplace. The website has several downloadable documents for this purpose. There are also emergency planning notebooks available on websites for home and personal use. A standard notebook could serve the same purpose. The real issue here is the process of writing things down. Where will the family meet after an emergency? What are the means of communications? Who should everyone call to check-in? All of this information should be shared among family members. This activity could be a very inexpensive but thoughtful gift for our seniors. I have found many seniors don't care to use the internet, hence they would really benefit if one of their neighbors or relatives sat with them and a laptop computer and developed a simple emergency plan from the free down-load at FRS Radios - These small walkie-talkie radios are available from most electronic stores and some sporting goods stores. They offer surprising performance when used around your neighborhood with a charged up battery. With a pair of the radios (or more) you can develop a small network of communications for your block. These radios have a multitude of uses immediately after an emergency, especially when phone service is interrupted. When we tested the FRS radios earlier this year, two Neighborhood Watch block captains struck up a conversation proving the radios value immediately. Remember to keep extra batteries on-hand even though the radios are rechargeable. If you have comments or questions about this column, please send them to

********** Published: December 8, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 34