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Emergency Preparedness for Independent Living: A Guide for Solo Dwellers


Living independently is a growing trend across various age groups, particularly among the elderly and those seeking a minimalist, self-sufficient life. In this light, emergency preparedness becomes an integral part of the independent living narrative. It’s about being proactive, equipped, and informed to handle any unforeseen situation that life may throw your way.

I’ve been living alone since my divorce 7 years ago and I’ve watched my 86yo mom holding onto her own house as long as possible before moving into an independent living complex. While we’re in very different stages of our lives, some of the same concerns exist in terms of being prepared for emergencies and just having day-to-day peace of mind.

So, whether you’re a young adult living alone for the first time, a senior citizen cherishing your golden years in solitude, or anyone in between, this guide is designed to help you navigate the often overlooked yet essential aspect of independent living – staying safe and prepared for emergencies. Let’s embark on this journey towards a safer, more resilient life.

Essential Emergency Planning

Creating an Emergency Plan:
The first thing to consider is why you want an emergency plan. If I go through most of the points I’m going to mention below, I’m sure I can answer them or deal with them without a plan. That’s not the point, the point is to stay calm under pressure. You want to work on autopilot and not forget stuff.

Important Contacts and Networking:
As for contacts, get yourself a laminated list of personal contacts (family and friends) and emergency services numbers. If you have special medical needs, then keep your doctor’s name and number on there as well.
As for networking, we live in a world where people don’t talk to their neighbors anymore, but it definitely is worth it. Build a relationship with your neighbors, you won’t regret it, in good times and in emergencies. The other side of networking is to talk to your friends about emergencies, make sure that there’s somebody who will check in on you.

Building an Emergency Kit

My emergency kit is a bag that I can grab quickly if I need to leave my house in a hurry. I don’t care about comfort, I just want the bare minimum and make sure it fits into a single bag. The reason for this is that I have taken other measures for bunking down at home during an emergency. You’ll have to decide how you want to cater for an emergency where you have to leave your house vs one where you have to remain self sufficient at home for an extended period.

Essentials for the Kit:
Water. I keep 3 x 600ml bottles of water in the bag. I’m just using coke bottles at the moment, but an interesting thing I read while researching this article is to have wide mouthed bottles. I’m not quite sold on it yet, but you might want to decide for yourself if you’ll get extra use out of a wide mouthed bottle. Quantity is another consideration. I have these 3 smallish bottles inside the bag, which will just be enough for one day, but it does leave some space in the bag for other stuff. Next to the bag I have a 10L water bottle, which, if circumstances allow, I’ll grab and put in the car with the bag.
Food. Not sure I should tell you what I keep in my bag for food, but here we go… Sardines!! I have energy bars and tins of sardines in my bag. Why sardines, because a tin of sardines is very efficient in terms of the nutrition you get for the amount of space they take and they will last for years. I can also pull the tins open without a can opener. And the energy bars also last for a long time and are space efficient. I don’t have any, but my next options would be nuts and dried fruit.
Medication. I keep 2 weeks’ supply of my blood pressure medication, some pain killers (Panadol and Ibuprofen) and Imodium (for diarrhea)
Other First Aid Supplies.
Medical equipment. I use a CPAP machine to sleep with. I don’t have a spare one of them, but what I do is tie the CPAP’s carry bag to my emergency bag. That way when I grab the emergency bag I am definitely reminded of the CPAP and can decide whether I have time to pack that or not.
Toilet paper. Say no more…
Toiletries. Tooth brush, tooth paste, shampoo. I don’t keep separate soap in my bag as I think in an emergency shampoo can be used as soap and I just don’t want the extra weight and space.
Clothes and towel. I keep the bare minimum. some undies, shirts, tracksuit pants, jumper and a very thin, water-proof rain coat. It never gets too cold where I live, but of course you should adjust you bag according to your conditions. I don’t keep an extra pair of shoes in my bag, but you might want to.
Phone charger.
Sleeping bag.
Practical tools. I only have a pocket knife and torch in my bag, but other things you may consider are: can opener, cooking utensils, Duct tape, gloves, Tarp for cover in the rain.

Special needs items for Independent Living:
I’ve already mentioned my CPAP machine and you’ll need to think of your own personal circumstances. What are you going to need in an emergency that others might not need?

Stay-At-Home Emergencies

As I mentioned, I have a fairly lean emergency kit – really just a bag with the basics to see me through a day or two. But here’s the thing, in my 52 years on this planet I have never needed to use such a bag. It’s there for peace of mind and it’s really, really good to have that in place. It’s one of those things that you hope you never need it, but you’ll be really glad you do have it if ever you do!

What I have needed on a number of occasions is the ability to survive at home for a period of time when I haven’t been able to leave home. We all know the pleasures of lock-downs during the pandemic. Those were certainly not fun, but I’ve also had other emergencies and situations where I was stuck at home and didn’t know how long it would be before I’d get supplies again. So it’s important to think about those kind of emergencies as well, the ones that will keep you at home and make sure you have enough supplies to sustain you for at least a few days.

I’m not going to spend too much time on this, I’ll just tell you briefly what I have.

Water. First and foremost is enough water to sustain you for a few days. Personally I have the space, so I have 6 or so 15 and 20L bottles of water stacked around the house. Earlier in 2023 we had some floods where thousands of people were displaced from their homes and a few people died. Our neighborhood was mostly unaffected, but we did lose both water and power for a while and I was surprised at how many posts there were on Facebook about neighbors who did not have any emergency supplies, especially water. It’s such an easy problem to solve, just keep a few bottles of water around the house and you’re sorted. I’m going one step further now and connecting a 1000L IBC tank to my roof so that I have even more water for a longer state of emergency. And I’ve positioned it in such a way that I can add more such tanks on to it with very little effort.
Food. Don’t need to say much about this, just keep some non-perishable foods around the house at all times and if you consume it, replace it.
Medical Supplies. I keep one extra month of my prescribed medicine on hand.

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