So there’s now talk again of bracing for a new “supertyphoon” to hit our beloved country (PAGASA will not officially use the super-typhoon classification until next year, according to its administrator Vicente Malano, as they will raise awareness on such first – although the US Navy already classifies it as such), comparable to 2012’s Typhoon Bopha (locally known as Pablo) (as per the first link).
Meet – or rather, pray that we are avoided by – Typhoon Hagupit, known in the Philippines as Ruby (the chance of it making landfall is as high as 75%). And she’s already in the Philippine area of responsibility, having entered so this early morning, and is packing maximum sustained winds of beyond 220 kph (the threshold for the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center’s classification of supertyphoon), with gusts of almost 300. Southern Luzon, all of Visayas, and Northern Mindanao are expected to be hit the most with heavy to intense rain of 10-22 mm/hr, with Metro Manila and the immediate south thereof predicted to be lashed by moderate to heavy rains.
Our home has a record of having electricity get cut in ferocious winds, and when the floods come in, while our home itself is not affected – thank God – the area outside is, and everyone suffers nonetheless. As such, it’s the mark of a good citizen, a good practitioner of sustainability, and a socially responsible individual, to always be prepared. Jesus taught his disciples in the Gospel of Mark (13:24-33) to always be prepared for His return – as He preached constant vigilance (thanks, Mad-Eye Moody, for the phrase) regarding the Second Coming, so too, must we practice such for things that can affect us significantly, natural disasters being one of them. They’ll come and go and can’t be controlled – much as God the Father is the only one who knows when Jesus will return.
We need to prepare for ourselves as well as for others – our loved ones, for example. Once we’re geared up and can face the day, then we are in a better position to help other people who may not be as prepared or have become victims in one way or another.
With that said, I plan to prepare and stock up on eleven things this week and weekend in anticipation of Ruby. Here they are, in no order of priority or prominence:
1. Power Banks
There is no doubt that in today’s increasingly digitized and hyper-connected world, communication via mobile phone has become a “basic need” (though on a lesser rank then food, water, clothing, and shelter – nothing but God can change that). And it’s also common knowledge that today’s high-tech smartphones don’t usually bear “battery longevity” as one of their features. That said, if power gets cut and your mobile’s battery gets dangerously low that you won’t be able to contact loved ones or authorities, you’d be stuck in an unpleasant situation.
There’s a fair number of low-cost but reasonably efficient and effective power banks in the market today (around Php1,000.00 or less for 6,000 to 8,000 mAh), so having two on hand should be enough. A typical smartphone’s battery runs between 2,000 and 3,000 mAh, so a standard power bank would take two or three full charges before it itself needs to be charged. If you’re willing to cash out a little bit more for quality, durability, and more power, I recommend Momax’s iPower Go, which has an offering of 11,200 mAh (four charges is comfortable for it, and it can charge two devices at once – good for a family).
Of course, it’s also highly recommended to use traditional wall socket chargers when your home’s still powered with electricity, and make sure that your important rechargeable battery-operated devices – phones, tablets, laptops, pocket Wi-Fis – are always charged, especially at night.
2. Transistor Radios
In the event power does get cut out, and you lose all Internet access in the process, how will you listen to the news for updates? A lot of transistor radios are operated by adapter and by battery, and it’d be wise to have one on hand. The last time power got cut off at home, thanks to Typhoon Glenda last July, the only reliable way for us to get news was to switch on the radio in one of our cars – which means that precious fuel is used up slowly but steadily (and the radio can’t be carried around). We learned our lesson after that and my mom bought a stack of radios the following week. Now, it’s poised and ready on my side table.
3. Rechargeable Batteries
But how will you power said radio if you have a power out? Growing up, I never felt that single-use nickel-cadmium alkaline batteries were socially responsible (though my desire for long-lasting power, also known as Energizer and Duracell, overshadowed my concerns), and I was glad my brother had metal-hydride rechargeable ones of all sizes. (I miss them now.) It also gets cheaper in the long run due to economies of scale.
The important sizes for me are C and D, followed by AAA and AA. Emergency appliances like radios and flashlights (but I’ll get to the latter in a bit) tend to run on those larger batteries – ours do – so it’d be advisable to have batteries of those sizes more than the smaller, “penlight” ones. The charging station itself becomes worthless once a power cut takes effect, so if it were up to me, I’d have two or three batches of batteries ready, just as I’d have two power banks ready.
In our house, whenever night fell and we were in the middle of a blackout, our manangs would light candles and station them in strategic locations around the house. I prefer flashlights for three reasons: they’re safer (much lower risk of fire), they’re portable, and I never really liked the idea of a candle that would melt itself and get discarded afterwards (especially in things like birthday cakes).
But for similar reasons, I was very glad when my mother discovered, and bought for the house, several crank-powered flashlights. Supposedly, they’d never run out of power, because they’re mechanically-powered – the turning of the crank provides the energy. However, two things made them go sour in my eyes: One, both hands are kept busy, making productivity of any sort much more of a challenge. Two, as it turns out, they have a rechargeable battery inside that, like all rechargeable batteries, will eventually run out of power.
So it’s not as sustainable as a dynamo torch, also known as the squeeze flashlight. The mechanism is similar but different at the same time: instead of winding a crank, you squeeze the thing, or more accurately a handle that in turn spins something inside that provides the power. This is my favorite variant of torch, and I have one by my side all the time when the weather gets rough.
I’m not saying this because I love boots and wear them everyday. But having been a university student in an infuriatingly humid tropical country (the Philippine academic year avoids specifically the driest months of the year, April and May, at the expense of including the rainiest ones – and yes, I hate tropical storms), I very quickly learned to appreciate the utility of my footwear of choice rather than just the aesthetic value.
A pair or two of Wellingtons, as is such in our home, would be a great investment – and if it’s a fashion statement in Britain, why can’t it be so elsewhere? Timberland, though more expensive, is another fashion-forward brand of outdoor clothing and footwear, their latter’s signature of which is known and famous for being a waterproof leather boot – and they’re made from sustainable materials.
My mother also always warned me to take care when walking in rain and flooded areas (even when said flood is only ankle-high), because one can’t tell if the rainwater would already have been mixed with other dangerous things such as rat waste, which can pose a health hazard especially if one has just had a wound. So whatever people say about it being all right to wear sandals in rain as it’s like a shower without socks, I don’t buy it, and I always feel smug inside when marching on in the rain with dry feet while people around me worry about getting their socks and feet wet. (Don’t judge me, I am in a teasing mood sometimes.)
If boots are for the feet, raincoats are for the upper part of the body and the head. Carrying around an umbrella is fine, but using it usually takes up a hand that could be used for other purposes such as carrying other essentials. But with a jacket that comes with a hood, especially one made with waterproof fabric, the need for an umbrella is lessened or even negated. Plus, it keeps your arms and inner clothes dry as well – less risk of catching a cold.
Some jackets today in established clothing brands are sold in two-sided variants, one side being a jacket for cold weather and the other a waterproof raincoat for wet weather. They also come with hoods, so it’s a nice case of fashion-meets-purpose.
7. Canned Goods
Yeah, yeah, canned goods have a reputation of being loaded with preservatives to the point that they acquire a reputation for ranking lower on the scale of healthfulness. But in the event of an emergency, if you’d choose between a foodstuff of compromised nutrition and nothing at all (when the market is closed or your crops are gone, for example), I’m sure you’d choose the former – after all, we’re talking about surviving, not becoming a health guru. Plus, they’re easy to bring around, so in the event you need to move out and take shelter somewhere, it won’t create a mess.
If I had to choose just one type of canned goods, I’d go with soups. As you may have inferred from my cooking posts (such as this and this), I love soups and their concepts of being hearty meals-in-a-bowl. Campbell’s is the most well-known, of course (say Chicken Noodle Soup, Minestrone, or plain ol’ tomato soup), but Amy’s Kitchen is also fantastic. As are Cup Noodles, and you don’t even need to cook them! Furthermore, typhoon weather is usually cold, and a nice bowl of soup is the best way to feel warm and comfy in that kind of weather.
For “instant”, no-cook foods that are less of junk food than chips, I recommend having a pack or box of crackers on hand. It’s instant carbohydrates to provide needed energy to be constantly alert and make wise decisions – and you can decorate them with toppings of your choice if the luxury is still there, providing for a potentially healthy meal (think Greek yogurt, legumes, or freshly chopped tomatoes).
A good alternative would be a nice loaf of sliced, ready-to-eat bread, though it doesn’t last as long as crackers do. (I’m getting hungry…)
9. Portable Stove
Not something I’d be in a rush to prepare unlike the aforementioned items, but if you can get your hands on one and prepare it, it’s worth it. We use a portable stove running on canisters of butane gas whenever we go to the cemetery and offer food to our ancestors – I’m Chinese-Filipino, so alay (offerings) are very important to us; plus, we have a mini-fiesta afterwards – but we don’t use it much elsewhere. But if all else fails, a portable stove would be great to prepare those canned goods, or even the hot water needed for instant noodles. (Not so instant, after all. Go ahead, slap me.)
Another alternative would be to make your own stove and use denatured alcohol as fuel, though it takes considerably longer to heat up (and you should be careful when handling the said fluid!). My good friend from high school used to make such little stoves out of empty soda cans – if only I could find mine…
Indeed, the Bible says that you cannot serve both God and wealth (Mt. 6:24, NASB). Instead, wealth should be our servants, all with the intention to serve God. Translation: we should always have some cash on hand in the event of an emergency – for unexpected hospital bills, groceries, fuel, and the like. Credit cards do not count here, because the credit card terminals can also be affected by power cuts, rendering them worthless on the spot. And since storekeepers aren’t likely to issue IOUs even for emergency goods, again, it is wise to be ready with cash.
My mother always admonishes me to have emergency cash on hand wherever I go, that I would never touch except in dire moments of need; for me, this amount is Php2,000.00, or roughly US$40.00 to 50.00. Keep it in a separate container or compartment, preferably somewhere harder to reach, from the rest of your money. For example, I put it in a zipped-up compartment of my wallet.
Above all, have faith and constantly pray. Pray that we are spared from devastation, pray that we are kept safe and sound, pray that we are granted the wisdom to prepare well nevertheless.
“Leaving it all up to God” has the potential to be turned into an excuse for not preparing well; the story of a woman who died in a flood because she prayed to God three times to save her, as she foolishly didn’t see that the boats He had sent her way was Him in action, comes into my mind.
But the point is that God grants us the know-how to arm ourselves, and become wiser as a result. Through the people around us, He teaches us to be more mature, more independent, that we can become true stewards of His creation.
What other things do you always have on hand in preparing for a calamity like a huge storm? Comment below!