Ask the Builder | Here are the tools and supplies you’ll need in a natural disaster

July 24

My daughter had asked me to make a list of emergency tools and supplies in case a big earthquake struck. I’ve decided to share the list with you. Millions of people here in the United States are susceptible to a large-scale natural disaster, and if one happens where you live, you may not receive timely help from first responders.

Here’s why. Less than two years ago I completed training that spanned eight weeks. I’m now a member of my local CERT team – Community Emergency Response Team. The first week of class was taught by our local fire chief, and he talked about the community pre-planning list of assets he and his department maintain.

This list is ordered from most-valuable to least-valuable community assets. In the event of a large disaster, the fire department will protect and defend the most valuable assets first so that when the disaster is over, these assets will be there for the community survivors. Guess what’s last on the list? Your house and mine.

To understand why, stop and think about the number of first responders in your community. For every thousand citizens, you might have one first responder. How many fire trucks are there in your community? Ten, 20, even 100? How many homes are there in comparison?

It’s not that the first responders won’t want to help you in the event of a large disaster; it’s just they might not show up for days or weeks. You need to realize you’ll be on your own — as will all your neighbors. It’s time for you to start thinking like my daughter and son-in-law.

The tools I’d want in a storage box would all be hand tools. Forget about power tools, as you may not have electricity for days or weeks. All I have to do is go into my garage and start to pull tools down off my metal pegboard or my shelves. Here’s the short list of what I’d grab:

• Plumb bob

• Two or more tape measures

• 2- and 4-foot levels

• Compact hand saw

• Framing square

• Razor knife and spare blades

• Hammers (20- and 40-ounce)

• Pry bars and crow bar

• Carpenter’s pencils

• Mason’s string

• Hatchet and axe

• Sharpening files

• Curved pruning saw

• Fire piston

As for supplies, I’d have the following stockpiled:

• Various sizes of double-laminated waterproof tarps

• Two rolls of strong duct tape

• 200 feet of 1/4-inch rope

• 20 pounds of 16 d sinker nails

• Three rolls of 30-pound felt paper

• Dryer lint and other dry tinder

• 5 pounds of 1 1/4 inch roofing nails

I could go on about other tools and supplies I’d love to have, but soon I’d need a warehouse or small building to store them. As we discussed how close my daughter will be living to the infamous San Andreas Fault, I mentioned that it would be a good idea to store all these things outdoors. When the big one comes, the last place you want supplies are inside your house or garage. These valuable assets could be buried under tons of debris and you’ll not be able to get them as you need them if an earthquake destroys your home.

Yet storage solutions vary with the anticipated disaster. When Hurricane Sandy struck months ago in New Jersey and New York, the last place you would have wanted to store tools and supplies is outdoors. The storm surge would have ruined or carried them away.

If you’re friendly with neighbors, you may want to have a simple neighborhood meeting and work together on assembling tools and supplies that could be shared by a small group.

If you think this is all nonsense, just go back and watch the news coverage of the long lines of people waiting for supplies and things after Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. Talk to people who have experienced large disasters and they’ll confirm that you’ll be on your own for days and weeks, and it may not be 72 degrees and sunny during that time period.

As we used to say in Boy Scouts, “Be Prepared!”

Tim Carter is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. Contact him through his Web site: www.askthebuilder.com.

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