Transcript of Get Ready Report Podcast, episode 35

This is the American Public Health Association’s Get Ready Report, coming to you from Washington, D.C. Today’s episode, “Get your emergency stockpile ready,” interviews Cheryl Kravitz, director of communication at the American Red Cross, National Capital Region. She is interviewed by Get Ready team member Lavanya Gupta.

Well Cheryl, thank you so much for joining us for this interview. My first question for you today is: We know that food and water are essential items for an emergency stockpile. What kinds of food should we keep on hand?
Well, the American Red Cross suggests that you keep a lot of non-perishable items on hand, and absolutely check those expiration dates every six to 12 months to make sure things are fresh. The kinds of items we suggest to keep in your pantry or on your shelves are peanut butter, whole wheat crackers, nuts, trail mixes, cereals, granola bars, dried fruits — of course, things like canned tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey. And when I say that, make sure that you have a can opener that is manual. Old-fashioned, manual can openers are what you really need to open those.

What are some other healthy food options that we can include in our stockpiles?
Well, certainly things that are free of sodium, and that would include canned vegetables — you know, green beans, carrots, peas. Even canned soups, because you can eat those cold. So in case the electricity goes out, and you couldn’t warm them, if there were low-sodium soups or chili for instance, you can open those with a manual can opener.

You mentioned low-sodium, or sodium-free, foods. Are there any other considerations we should make when putting food in a stockpile for family members who might have dietary restrictions due to diabetes or high blood pressure?
Absolutely. And again, individuals who have high blood pressure or diabetes, or any kind of difficulties with whatever sorts of foods they are eating, (need) to make sure that those items are stocked at home. Beans are a good choice. Crackers that are salt-free are a good choice. Anything that is low sodium. Fruits in their on juices — canned fruits in their own juices — that would be another thing to have on hand.

Great. How many days worth of food and water should we keep in an emergency stockpile?
The American Red Cross suggests that you have at least three days (worth) of food and water on hand. And when I say that, make sure that those things include — if you have children in the house or elderly individuals who have special diet, that there are items that you have on hand that would be good for them as well.

And how often should we rotate out the food and water when we’re maintaining our emergency stockpile?
The American Red Cross suggests that anywhere from six months to 12 months to take a look at those expiration dates. You know, I have my own stockpile, my own “go kit” at my house and I happened to look at one of my health bars that was in the kit, and I realized that there was an expiration date, so I needed to toss it out of the kit. It’s really easy to ignore those expiration dates. Make sure we look at those all the time. And I would say, you know, when you change your smoke detectors, for instance, that may be a good time to take a look at your emergency kit.

What else should we keep in a stockpile? Is it a good place to keep a copy of a family emergency plan?
I think in a stockpile…the American Red Cross has a list of what should be in a stockpile on our website,, there are things that you need, for instance like, blankets, kitchen accessories and cooking utensils in case you do have power and can cook.

I would really suggest that individuals have on hand cash and coins, because sometimes when the electricity goes out, and say you’re able to go and get gas — you’re able to pump gas — and they don’t have the ability to use credit cards, cash is something really good to have. Sanitation and hygiene items, prescriptions — make sure you have extra prescriptions in that bag.

If you have a pet, I would strongly encourage that pet food is available for that pet. One of the things that the Red Cross has that is really wonderful is our apps, which you can download on your iPhone or your Andriod. They’re free, and if you go to iTunes or to Google, those can be downloaded, and that includes a first-aid app. And in case there is some kind of emergency at home or at your office, you can just download any app and find out what to do. They’re really, really important.

That’s great. What is a good location to store an emergency stockpile for yourself and family?
I have three stockpiles, and the Red Cross really encourages that. I have one…it’s in my front closet by the front door. There is one at my office and there is one in my car. And, I think that way — it’s important because, say, for instance, there’s a snowstorm and you get stranded on the road, it would be really awful to be stranded on the road without having a blanket, or without having food, or without having the necessary items to survive in your car for eight or 10 hours. And we’ve all heard of people who have had that happen to them.

That’s a really important point. So how can we encourage our friends and family to keep an emergency stockpile at home, or in their car, or other key locations so they don’t get into a mess like that?
That’s a really good question. The American Red Cross really encourages everyone with the phrase of “get a kit, make a plan and be informed.” And getting a kit — I tell everybody, anybody I can talk with — to make sure that they have what they need to be able to survive in case there is some kind of emergency. Not only at home, but in the office or in their cars. So actually, on the bottom of my emails, I have something on there that encourages people to download the Red Cross first-aid apps, just because it should be top of mind for all of us, all of the time. You never know when an emergency is going to happen.

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Posted: March 6, 2014