Monday, September 12, 2005

OK, Who Wants the 13-Year Old Granola Bar?

Irony:  Downtown Los Angeles experienced its power failure at exactly the moment our office was circulating an email about how we could all pick up individual emergency preparedness kits.

No lie.

Recent events -- both the hurricane and our little blackout this afternoon -- have prompted me to take a look at my own Emergency Preparedness Kit.  I bought it back in 1992, when I first moved back to California and got a place of my own.  Because, y'know, this is Earthquake Country and all.  Better be prepared.

Although I've experienced earthquakes and power failures, it has never dawned on me to break into the kit, which is living under my bed.

Here it is.  Observe the happy family of four surviving on the contents of this box for three whole days!

OK, the good news is there's a load of water in here.  Tons of packets which would keep me and the cat alive for several days.

The bad news is that itty bitty print on the bottom that says they were packaged in August of 92, and the warning that these things have a five-year shelf life.  So I'm looking at water a good eight years past its expiration date.  Anyone know a good chemist?  I'd love to find out exactly what's growing in these packets. 

Next up is the food.  I've spread it all out, so you can see what our hypothetical family of four is going to live on for three days.  (Jasmine seemed quite interested in it.)

That's six packets of oatmeal, six packets of cup o' soup, three granola bars, one bag of powdered milk, and a bag of hard candies.  And how I am supposed to cook this?  Well, they got that covered...

That's right.  A pie tin balanced on some wire mesh over a can of sterno.  (And yes, I know not to try to light that thing on carpeting.)  Can you imagine what a bag of 13-year-old oatmeal mixed with 13-year-old water cooked in a pie tin over a thirteen year old can of "Choice Heat" is going to result in?  A science experiment, that's what.

Oh.  And because the people who made my "Great Shakes" kit have a sense of humor, they added this warning:

No risk of THAT, trust me.

Now, if you look really closely at the top of the box, you'll see they've supplied our family of four (for three days) with a roll of toilet paper.  (Highly optimistic given all that whole grain they'll be eating.)  In any event, the box that I received did not even contain a single roll -- instead, I got these two little packets -- which I've photographed next to the flashlight, for scale.

Oh, and the world-famous "31-piece first aid kit" -- which is, like, a gauze pad, some medical tape, and 29 band-aids.

And finally, for warmth (photographed next to the candles for scale) the special tin-foil blankets, which allegedly reflect 90% of your heat back at you.  So you can wear one of these and warm your hands over the tea-lights while you're snarfing down your cup-o'-soup.

So, what have I learned from this little exercise?  Well, first I've learned that maybe I don't want to be sleeping on top of a thirteen-year-old can of something that says "flammable" on it, not to mention the water supply which would require a phone call to the CDC if anyone happened to drink it.

But in all honesty, and rather more seriousness, I learned that I'm glad I opened this thing now, rather than in an actual emergency, when I would be seriously disappointed by how cheap, worthless, and out of date most of this stuff is.  I learned that I don't want to trust a pre-packaged kit to have everything I'd need in the event of an emergency, and that I'm much better off putting my own kit together.  And rotating out the food and water regularly.  Cause even if the granola bar is still good after 13 years, it's gotta be nasty


dklars said...

There were no eating utensils in there?!  I remember making up our hurricane box in NC before Fran hit.  I kept thinking of other things I needed.  I think there's still a four pack of toilet paper in our hurricane box, all these years later... and we live in Phoenix now! LOL


rgwindland said...

LOL, the people who made that kit were optimistic - how do you spell that?? Anyway, don't forget the radio and bug spray if you make your own kit. Waas without power for 2 weeks after Charlie, and they both were a hot commodity!  Rhonda

onestrangecat said...

Glad you had a power failure!  If you didn't die in an earthquake that kit would do you in!  lol


annalisa135 said...

It's hard to believe they will sell that kit with a clean conscience.  Those supplies wouldn't last us beyond a couple hours (if that).  UGH!  I'm glad you discovered this now, instead of when you really need it.

andreakingme said...

I read this one today while in prison (work) and couldn't stop laughing. This is one of your best, Z Girl. So glad you took the time to do it! Ohhhh, man.

morandcel said...

I think it is a shame that it takes a catastrophic event to remind us how critically important it is for everyone to have an emergency kit at home. I guess the problem is that people are either complacent, they don't know what to get or, they wait until the very last minute and do not have the time to go to all of the stores to get what they need. Yesterday, a DECA business high-school student knocked on door and told the family about the fundraiser for their high-school club. They were selling a 72-hour emergency kit called the Ready Kit from American Family Safety. I don't remember everything that the kit had but, it was designed by the department of homeland security and had three days of water, food, radio, flashlight batteries and a first aid kit and a lot of other stuff all in an orange backpack. Talk about convenient. The student was selling it for $49 and a portion went to the neighborhood DECA club who was raising funds for Red Cross. The product gets shipped right to the house from UPS too. I think it is a great idea to educate everyone about the need for these products. The fundraiser is from and it's a lot better than buying the chocolate bars or cookies.

chittarabunny129 said...

This was such an entertaining entry. - Fat and Sassy over at The Egg is Cracked.

monponsett said...

That's an amazing kit...

but did I see deydrated water? "Just add water."