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Eugene Residents Share COVID-19 Emergency Prep Lessons

April 29, 2020

Emergency kit with food, water and other supplies

Since 2019, more than 2,200 Eugene-area residents have joined EWEB's Pledge to Prepare—a step-by-step program for getting "2-weeks ready." This is based on recommendations from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management that residents prepare to be on their own for a minimum of two weeks following a natural disaster or other emergency. 

We asked participants to share emergency preparedness lessons and tips they have learned during the coronavirus crisis, in the hopes their experiences may help others get prepared.


Since we have water and power (thank you EWEB!), the only thing in my emergency supply I have used is the dry milk. I am 71, live alone, and am having my groceries delivered. The only things I have had trouble keeping supplied are yogurt and fresh milk and soy milk. I ordered a case of the aseptic-packaged soy milk online, and Imperfect Foods sometimes has yogurt. Friends and neighbors have offered to shop for me which is very kind. 


I have been using some of my emergency food. I'm sheltering at home (because my daughter can shop for me and she thinks 79 is old!) and have been changing my eating habits to help minimize her exposure and time commitment. When I'm able, I will restock the food I've used and buy more items such as canned tomatoes and canned and/or dried milk which can be used to make meals out of whatever is available. I will also have more detergents and household supplies on hand. I had been imagining weeks of no water or electricity rather than months of isolation when I would still be cooking, washing dishes and clothes, and keeping my house running. I'll definitely get more propane after this experience. Please use any of this information which might be useful for others. I've been thinking a lot about these issues!


I have not been to the grocery store or ordered groceries since March 9, except for Dari-mart for milk and eggs a few times. We had a good supply of canned goods and our chest freezer was at least half full when we started the quarantine. We have used some of the canned vegetables and fruits, as well as toilet paper, from our emergency supplies. It did help remind us that our stock of supplies is not as complete as it should be.

Sharon & Bob

We got right into the program when it started in January and actually cheated a bit by looking up the full 12-month summary. It made it easier for us to pick up items when they were on sale as we're retired and on a fixed income. We've especially had fun finding good foods to put away:  canned salmon, turkey jerky, dried asparagus, dried apricots, peanut butter, etc. Then the pandemic happened! It has thrown us a bit off our monthly preparedness planning as shopping for items has become trickier, but we're thrilled to have put away what we already have. In addition to feeling like we're getting prepared for a disaster, we know we have food put away and even emergency toilet paper. We have every intention of continuing with the program for the rest of the year, so we are prepared for the eventual natural disaster.  Thanks for doing this.


I now have seen the need to have more toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, candles and homemade masks in my Disaster Supply closet.


I have used a few food items from my emergency food box. In so doing, I inventoried what was adequately stocked, what I need to replace or buy in larger quantities, and what is NOT in the box that should be. This has been good practice for an emergency where we can't rely on buying more food.


Glad we were prepared; no worries when toilet paper and cleaning products were out of stock after the COVID-19 lockdown. We will need to do a little restocking next month. We keep instructions for turning off our natural gas just inside our garage door. The wrench is close by too. We've already practiced how to turn off the water and have turned off the electricity many times when there were power outages. We have a fire extinguisher in every car, one under the sink, and one in our utility room. My husband and I have both been trained on how to use them at our workplace. We have a "suitcase" ladder upstairs for use in an emergency. We also participate in the Great ShakeOut every October. We have months worth of food on hand (with recipes to keep it interesting), water stored safely, and cash in our safe. Thanks for helping our community become prepared.


I have used some of the supplies I gathered for emergencies, and I'm really glad I had them! For one thing, my son lives out in the country with no electricity, so I've given him my hand-crank radio so he can stay up with the latest news. Also: toilet paper! I have not been worried that I will run out, and have not had to contribute to the shortage by stocking up. Having followed the EWEB program over the last year made me aware of what I would need in order to stay home for 2 weeks. When news of the coronavirus started, I was easily able to shop for perishables and then stay home and stay safe before there was a run on groceries.  Thanks EWEB!  


We are using some supplies from our pantry stock. Just mostly we are thankful for this program and giving us a head start on planning. We were well stocked with most necessities when this pandemic took hold. Thanks, EWEB for the year-long plan and pledge to prepare!


The home quarantine has made clear how dire a  period of true isolation from others would be. We find it hard to keep the quantity of fruits and vegetables that we as a family of three vegan/vegetarians know we require to be healthy during a time of illness. Yes, growing your own is great, but what if disaster hits in winter? We make it a practice to connect to a CSA every growing season, but how do we keep these vital food routes open all year? Must we all have freezers full of food? But what happens when the power goes out? Hmmm, preparing for emergencies must mean preparing to become a different sort of human, more survivor, and less optimizer.


The State of Emergency we're currently in has given me reason to really evaluate where we're at with our emergency preparations. One thing I've always taken for granted is a safe supply of water. I'm not talking just a 72 hour supply, but knowledge and ability to supply myself and my family with many weeks of safe drinking water without storing pallets of water. Additionally, I'm taking note of the items that were first to disappear from shelves and items that are still hard to come by, and pledging to keep a little extra of those items on hand for next time.


I am not the most organized person but while people ran to stores, I opened my 'preparedness' cupboard! Clorox wipes, bleach, toilet paper, even N95 masks suggested by my physician for dust/smoke protection. Well, they work for viruses too. I would make a suggestion on food: watch the expire dates and a few months before food expires, donate it to a food pantry. I inventory my cupboard frequently.  I also have worked with my insurance company to make sure I have 90 days of meds which are in a separate grab and go bag. My car has a change of clothes, a pillow,  a sleeping bag, bottled water, and energy bars.  Never have less than a half-full tank of gas and count the bridges you cross even driving through town. You never know where or when.  Thanks, EWEB for caring.  


The COVID captivity experience has validated for me the usefulness of having a backstock of toilet paper, kleenex, and Clorox wipes.  Just today, my husband was finally able to snag a 30-roll package of Costco TP.  But, with the reserve package I keep on hand in case of an emergency, we were able to supply ourselves without resorting to any retro toilet-plugging options and also had enough to help family members who ran short because they do not have the storage capacity we do. Being able to help family and neighbors is part of our motivation in building a supply of emergency preparedness supplies.  Thanks, EWEB, for your helpful Pledge to Prepare program.  


In the food pantry, we realized we need more canned milk, evaporated milk, flour, yeast, sugar, cookie mixes. Those items provide comfort foods and entertainment. In supplies, more paper goods, and cleaning supplies. In entertainment, more puzzles, and puzzle books, postage stamps. My husband and I followed your program each month and thought it had lots of good suggestions. Thank you for putting it together.


Because it's difficult to store water long term and we don't have the space to do so, we have invested in multiple ways to purify water. Bleach (if used properly) is one way. Second is tablets and those are very portable. Additionally, there are water purifiers and sanitizers. We did some research and purchased what we thought would be best for our family, including spare filters. This isn't the type to screw onto a faucet, but a portable water purifier that you can take wherever you go, including tossing in a backpack. It doesn't require electricity or batteries. There are many types but we chose one that we could use with fresh water, but also less than ideal stagnant water if needed.


I am so grateful that I started preparing my family's emergency supplies last year during the Pledge to Prepare campaign.  We still have a way to go.  Adding to our supplies a little each month made it affordable and helped us realize the space we would need available.  The pandemic added new thoughts about what we would need and how much.  Our new goal will be to drastically increase the amount of supplies so that we can be self-sufficient for months not just days.


The 16.9 oz bottles of purified water from Winco have shrunk after a year or two of storage.  I assume the water is able to evaporate even though they are sealed.  The gallon jugs of water have done better and are easily refillable so that I can refill them with fresh water every year.


We participated in the preparedness challenge last year, and while we didn't manage to complete every month on time, this emergency made us very glad for what we did accomplish. When the stay-at-home order went into effect, we didn't even need to go shopping as we were already used to rotating through the food stored in our pantry. We even had a few dust masks stored in the back cupboard. On our first trip venturing out, we just topped off the few supplies that were on the low side. I got caught with very little dry yeast but have been enjoying learning more about sourdough baking, so we're really not missing the yeast. We're still making choices about eating the foods with earlier best by dates but our rotation system on the shelves makes this fairly easy to do.  I think the only thing we have learned that surprised us, is how much we like not grocery shopping and how much money we are saving eating all our meals at home. We're glad we've had power and water through all this, though there's a comfort knowing we're prepared for that as well. 


In talking with my wife, we realized:
1. We didn't have enough toilet paper. Laugh if you want, but if it had been more of a sudden crisis—say an earthquake—we wouldn't have had time to stock up. We would be better off having a large supply that we constantly replenish.  2. Yep, we could store some more water. We have enough to last about four days, plus whatever we could recover from the toilets and water heater. But if it was summer and water was cut off for weeks, we'd be filtering river water.  3. Don't underestimate the importance of mental health. If the power had gone out, I'm not sure we had enough things to keep us occupied, or at least entertained. We have a fifth of 12-year Scotch in the kit, but really we could use two. We have one set of cards, but everyone needs their own set for Solitaire. And how about enough books to read? That sort of thing.   4. We realized we didn't have any pet food in our emergency kit. We ended buying about 100 lbs of kibble. Other than that, this is a good reminder to improve our financial health, restock the earthquake kit, and just be grateful for what we have.

Learn more about EWEB's Pledge to Prepare and join the program.