Sunday, January 24, 2016

From the Archives: The Disaster Supply Room

This is not my basement, but this is the idea.  This particular basement comes from

I first wrote this post in February of 2013.   I have had numerous requests for a reprise of the original post.


     It is no secret that one of the rooms in my basement is a Disaster Supply Room or DSR for short.  (No, a DSR is not the most advanced nursing degree which will be required by all new nurses after 2018)
My DSR is a small room with wooden shelves all around the periphery of the room, and a locking closet.  You would think that having gone from a single emergency supply shelf in my first apartment, to an entire closet in the next house, to a large walk in closet for supplies in the suburban house before, that I would know what I am doing by now, in terms of design and set up.  In 2005 when we finally moved our emergency supplies into this new DSR, we ran out of space very quickly.  My original vision had been the locking closet for peroxide, and alcohol at the bottom, and over the counter (OTC) meds on the shelves above.  I planned to put evacuation kits, evacuation bedding, and other supplies on the shelves in the periphery of the room to be grabbed easily.  Then, I added a place for preparedness books. Afterward, I added a place for the Evacuation Notebooks, including medical evacuation notebooks etc..  After that, I added a place for communications equipment and it was full.  There was nowhere for bottled water, freeze dried or canned food.  With a large family there are lots of DSR needs.  I decided to keep the room set up as is, and to buy three of the very sturdy shelving units sold at Sam's Club which have wheels.   This allowed me to cluster them, and move them when I need to create an aisle through which to walk when I need something.  Now I have freeze dried food, some water, toiletries, and I keep some unopened veterinary oral meds there for our farm animals.

             The idea behind the Disaster Supply Room is that in an emergency, anyone could enter, obtain the emergency item they need, and then use it. It is therefore very important that it be orderly and preferable that it be inventoried, and the stock regularly rotated.

             In August of 2011, we had a 5.8 or 5.9 earthquake, depending upon which authority you ask, which was centered not too far from here.  Houses broke in half, two  schools, a middle school and a high school were eventually demolished as a result of the damage they sustained that day. Many houses were reduced to being worth only their land value, when the foundations were irreparably damaged.  Historical properties lost chimneys as if they were legos.   We were fairly lucky in that we had less damage than most people.  We built this home using a full basement with thick and tall walls made by Superior Walls.  This and a fair measure of good luck limited the damage we had.  We had no real damage to the house itself, although the well had slightly muddy water for a couple of weeks.  However, the pantry in the kitchen did throw contents to the other side of the room.(I apparently left the door unlatched that day)  A large  sealed plastic bucket of ketchup which came from Sam's Club which I use to add a half a cup of ketchup to a large meatloaf on occasion, fell from the top of the frij, rupturing leaving abundant ketchup far and wide. It looked like a crime scene !  This took time to clean up, but we were thrilled that the farm and it's outbuildings did not sustain more damage. I also lost an antique piece of cloisonne as it fell from the mantle.

I have multiple steel shelf units such as these which are filled and stacked against each other.  They can be pulled out sideways to remove or to load things we need.  There is an incredible amount of space in such a set up. Sam's Club also sells longer units than this, and some that do not have wheels for heavier articles. 

These are the size metal shelves I use in the center of the DSR, leaving a clear aisle to walk around them to access the items of the peripheral wooden shelves built in to the finished wall.  (Picture: )


            About this time, I was aware that things had fallen from some of the shelves in the DSR.  I was concerned about a lot of other things, and so I resolved to get back there later.  I have used some things from there since that time, but things here have been busy. Since the earthquake, we have built an additional animal storage building on the farm, so that everything animal can be in one space. I wrote two books, and we helped our daughter locate and clean up a home she bought as a government repossession. Let's face it.   I didn't really want to go through everything which had fallen down in some of the areas of the DSR.    This week I finally got to it.  I started by picking up all the things which had fallen on the floor from the Sam's Club metal shelves.  I found bottles of Apinol.  I found bottles of liquid soap. I found a large package of Omeprazole.  I found a six pack of D-Mannose. 

              A couple of hours later I realized what I had suspected originally, which is that although the heavier items remained secure on the built in shelves in the periphery of the room, the tall stainless steel shelves with wheels shook during the quake and many light items, packaged gauge, vinyl gloves, and all the aforementioned articles fell and many different places in the room. The only reason things didn't get destroyed, is that there was relatively little activity in that room, and therefore no one to inadvertently step on them.  In fact, until I got the room reorganized and the set up repaired, I have been stacking other large cans of freeze dried food elsewhere.
             The reason I wanted to relate this to all of you is that there is some learning that all of us can do here, myself very much included.

 1. To prevent things from shaking and falling from these tall steel wheeled shelving systems a la Sam's Club, if you have them,  simply buy whatever color and brand bungee cords you like.   On each shelf, front and back, select the size that will hold things securely when there is shaking, or even simple normal moving. Simply hook a bungee on each side to provide a stretched guide which prevents bottles and other items from falling forward off the shelf in the front. Do the same to the back.  These are simply unhooked if needed, and most times, they can remain intact when I collect something from the shelf.

2.  Try to stock more freeze dried food than canned.  The canned food does age and need to be used within 5-10 years and some of the freeze dried really is good for 25-30 years. Also canned food is being made with thinner cans, and some of these items I would not trust as long as 5-10 years.  Freeze dried food is also a lot lighter and so long as you have access to water when it's time to reconstitute all of it, freeze dried food is MUCH LIGHTER than canned when stored.  This has all sorts of benefits, including when it's time to rotate stock.

3. Place smaller medical supplies like wrapped roller gauze and elastic bandages in square plastic open topped baskets. This way, fewer things tumble out when you take one.

4. Make liberal use of freezer bags.  Many of these things store much better in freezer bags than they do in the boxes in which you bought them. They also occupy less space. I have fifty pairs of all different types of shoe laces, all in a freezer bag which takes up next to no space.

5. Group like things together.  This sounds obvious, but it doesn't always work in the manner in which you initially cluster.  I tried grouping all oral meds together, and all topical meds together.  What I found is that it worked far better to group things in like categories.  For example, I now have a shelf for everything related to cold and flu. This includes oral meds, and vitamin C, along with things like vaseline and Vick's vapo-rub generic.  In the old system, vaseline and Vick's would have been groups separately with topical medications, leaving someone searching through several different DSR regions, paper, topical, and in the closet for OTC meds..   Now, everything from masks, kleenex with lotion, etc. are all grouped together for the ease of the person, who might actually be ill while entering and gathering supplies for themselves.

6. Mark true emergency supplies differently.  I have a rack where I hook packaged Epi-pens,  Glucagon kits, Snake Bite Kits etc.  My family is very likely to grab emergency supplies and not so likely to go digging looking for some of the obscure things I stock, like the tool to remove rings when there is a hand injury.   Another area has cyalume lightsticks, for quick and easy distribution to the family.

       My next task for the DSR is to install some better lighting.  Presently, there are two bright lights in the tall ceiling in the finished room.  However in numerous parts of the room, where one might need to read tiny writing while making a selection, there are shadows as the supplies are stacked very high on metal shelving units.  I am thinking that LED lighting in chair rail fashion, around the periphery of the room might be an economical and safe way of lighting all the supplies when needed.   Tying up one hand while holding a flashlight while looking for a particular item, has not worked very well.

This is an example of the type of LEDs I plan to use in the room.  Mine came from Harbor Freight. These can be a big help in lighting up a DSR.