When it comes to emergency preparedness, the single woman is often at a distinct disadvantage. All too often, women are not taught the same emergency and survival skills that men learn by helping their fathers as little boys. Due to the traditional division of gender roles, boys are more likely than girls to learn things like how to change a flat tire, where the fuse box in the house is located, and how to start a campfire. Many adult women find they are lacking some of this basic emergency survival knowledge, leaving them unprepared for situations that can become very serious, and even deadly.
The time to take charge is today! If you haven’t learned emergency survival skills as a child or on your own, don’t wait for an emergency to strike before you prepare. Even if you have roommates or close neighbors, you should be able to independently navigate an emergency. As a single woman, especially if you live alone, you may not be able to depend on family, friends, or even the local or federal government being there when a disaster strikes.
The first step to surviving an emergency, whether large or small, is having the knowledge to make good decisions based on what is happening. Start to build your knowledge base now. Think about what emergencies you might face in your local geographic area. For example, think about weather patterns such as streets that commonly flood during heavy rain, roads that are especially icy after storms or trees that loose branches in heavy winds.
Think about typical emergency situations like frozen pipes in the home, a citywide blackout, or a dead car battery, and begin to build your knowledge base now. Start with the people you know. If you’re currently living with roommates who take charge of these things, get involved the next time there is an emergency. Even if it is just a simple fuse being blown or problem with the plumbing, ask them about what they are doing, how you can help, and why they do what they do. Offer to assist them and learn what you can.
In addition to learning from friends or relatives, picking up a book or reading websites about emergencies can be very helpful in bringing you up to speed. Some books that cover a wide variety of common emergency situations are National Geographic Complete Survival Manual and the American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook. Two websites that are must reads are the American Red Cross website, redcross.org, and the federal government’s preparedness website, Ready.gov.
After you have begun to build your knowledge base, the next step is putting together an emergency kit. When you look at lists from the American Red Cross or FEMA about what to include in your emergency kit, it can seem daunting at first, so start small, with the things that seem most important to your situation and fit your budget. A flashlight with some extra batteries and a small battery-operated AM/FM radio are the most important things to get first. Light will help you find your way to or from your home, and information from the radio will allow you to make informed decisions. After those two items, water and food are probably the next most important things to have. Don’t worry about having to stock up three days worth of food right away, just pick up an extra large bottle of water and a granola bar or two the next time you go to the grocery store and keep them in your cabinet. As you begin to build your emergency kit, you may realize that a lot of what you need you already have in your home – first aid kit, extra warm clothes, list of important contact numbers. Consolidating these things into one area will allow you to get to them quickly in an emergency situation.
After you have some basic emergency knowledge and you have started an emergency kit, you should next think about what your emergency plan will be. Think about the most likely emergency scenarios for your home, office and travel route, and make a plan for how you will deal with them. Think about the things you learned as a child – how to get out of your bedroom if there is a house fire, for example – and apply that kind of thinking to other emergency situations you might encounter. Some starting questions you might ask yourself are how to escape from a fire, where you will go if there is a tornado warning, what public transportation is available if your car dies while at work, and how you will contact your family or friends after a disaster to let them know you are okay. You should think about this for your home, workplace, school, or other places where you spend a lot of time (for example, your gym or where you volunteer). Finally, think about what special needs you might have – for example, special medications, a pet to care for, or other family members who may need your assistance.
Preparing for emergencies does not need to be a daunting task, nor does it have to take a lot of time or money, but it is something that every adult should devote a few minutes of their time to doing every year. While it is unlikely that you will ever be in a life or death emergency survival situation, nearly everyone will have the occasional power outage or weather situation at some point in their lives. Empower yourself now!