In case of emergency, don’t follow my lead

Sadly for the author, "panic" isn't among the helpful tips for dealing with an emergency.

“Are you prepared for an emergency?” asked a message I received last week. Thinking this was going to be a quiz, I read on; only to realize that according to the press release, I am not only woefully unprepared for an emergency, I am probably fortunate just to get through my day-to-day life successfully.

I looked to see if “Panic, run aimlessly around the house for a minute, then subside into a heap on the floor and cry helplessly” was an option, in which case I am fully prepared to deal with any emergency you care to throw at me. My hopes were dashed, however, as I saw that the advice was a good deal more pragmatic than that, involving as it did such things as “back-flow preventer valves”, “sump pumps”, and “basement sewage drains”, which are, if I may be frank here, the last things I plan to think about in the case of an emergency (behind “When did I last water the plants” and “I hope the milk doesn’t go bad”).

Now I realize that one of the intentions of this advice is to make me see to my sump pump before an emergency occurs, but in order to do that I’d need to a) know what a sump pump is, b) figure out whether we have one and if so where it’s located, c) learn what it does, and d) take steps to make sure it keeps doing that in case the worst occurs, which is more commitment than I care to make to a piece of hardware. Sorry, sump pump (if we have one): in case of emergency, you’re on your own.

Many of the other suggestions seem more do-able, such as preparing an emergency evacuation plan (I have a feeling “Women and children first” won’t cut it) and cleaning gutters to allow for proper drainage (which we do at least once a year anyway, after the first big rainfall of the season turns the gutter at the back of the house into a passable imitation of Niagara Falls). But “create a detailed inventory of all of your belongings”? All of them? That strikes me as a tad excessive. Is it okay just to detail the valuable items, or is there some reason the insurance company needs to know that I have 19 pairs of socks in the top drawer of my dresser (not counting the three odd ones I’ve hung onto just in case their mates turn up, even though they’ve been missing since the Clinton administration)?

And then there’s the “emergency preparedness kit”, which should contain “all supplies required to survive for 72 hours without help or electricity” (which sounds a lot like my last camping trip, and I managed to survive that, so perhaps there’s hope for me yet). I nodded my head as I went down the list of what the kit should contain—food, water, warm blankets, cash—but stopped when I got to “a flashlight (with spare batteries)”.

Flashlights? No problem; we must have more than a dozen in the house. But spare batteries? Of those flashlights, approximately one has working batteries (and even then you have to keep banging it to make sure the light stays on). I can’t keep spare batteries in the house at the best of times; as fast as I buy them they disappear. Come an emergency there’s no hope of finding any.

Still, I guess I’ll see if I can rustle a few up and hide them somewhere, just in case. Maybe I can put them near the sump pump, if we do indeed have one (and if I can find it). Wish me luck.

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