An article that would have been useful weeks ago, but I just know what to write now after knowing firsthand what this can be like, and the last couple paragraphs would hold most true now. A real Shelter-In-Place order is when you pick the innermost or most sheltered room in a house because a truck crashed releasing chemicals within a few miles, for example, unless you’re just directed to evacuate. When you’re just having to stay home, it’s more like the scenario of a snowstorm, maybe one not so much it collapses roofs, but definitely blocks the roads. In the South US, it’s more along the lines of tornadoes and hurricanes, the West Coast has earthquakes, and many places can flood, especially those in bowls. Some of those situations are more necessary to evacuate in advance.
When it comes to having to stay home, however, considering those who have homes, it’s important to have a buffer of supplies. These supplies should be bought intermittently, and preferably during sales, questionably on clearance for perishables, as can be afforded. If someone’s actually not able to afford spare supplies in advance, that’s a different situation regarding income and poverty and many other societal and economic factors, with different root solutions. However, if someone’s willing and able to buy massive amounts of things during a panic, they were likely able to have planned in advance.
Panic buying just creates shortages for those who need it and a most likely a surplus following, which means sales, which means benefits for the planners, as well as those just doing their daily or weekly groceries. Provided the panic buyers aren’t just hoarding everything in a basement to rot and are using what they bought, it balances out eventually. The question is if they realize the benefits of having said supplies after buying them en masse.
When it comes to using said supplies, rotation is necessary, especially for anything with an expiration date, but even non-perishables can degrade over time. Canned items, homemade or store-bought, are especially important to watch and must be rotated. It may be a good idea to write purchase dates on some items in addition to the sell-by date. Sell-by does not necessarily mean expired, after all, as some things in the clearance section are past the sell-by but still perfectly edible, maybe slightly stale. Clearance perishables should probably not be intended for long-term storage and may be moved ahead in the rotation. If you really cannot use all of your supplies in a timely manner, and ideally they’re not about to expire, donation is a good thing to consider. Try to avoid dumping things that should be thrown out on shelters, and try not to toss anything still useful in general.
Supplies aren’t just food, water, and paper though. First-aid kits are a necessity, but also mind that any drugs or medicinal treatments in the kids are also rotated as necessary. Tools are also a good idea, such as matches or knives and other things you might bring if you went camping. Crank radio flashlights and so on are also nice to have if things get very bad, namely if there’s no power. Flashlights, of course, help in the dark, as do lanterns. LED ones can be power-effective and oil lights help when there’s no batteries. Radios help to check on how outside conditions are proceeding and if there’s a response from authorities or workers, or some music to calm down with. Even some pre-charged portable battery chargers can help. Use phones smartly in emergency conditions, so don’t just always browse social media or play gacha games, but it’s important to keep some sanity for morale. Networks may be down or congested anyway, so streaming may need to happen much less frequently.
Things to keep the mind occupied are typically books. Definitely have plenty of books if you can. An e-reader can help keep the bulk down, and a well-designed one, put into any airplane non-network modes, can last quite a while. Look for e-ink readers if you intend to get one of these. They do still need charge, though. If you have portable games, those can still be useful, but don’t blow the whole battery budget on those either. There’s also music (battery or crank if you have that sort of player), card games, and campfire activities, but avoid setting open fires indoors if you can help it, due to smoke and possiblity of burning the shelter. Fireplaces are very useful when the powered heat is out in a cold situation, just know if it’s wood or gas, and that gas appliances can be dangerous following an earthquake or another disaster which has shifted or broken pipelines. Know the added sulfur smell of gas and know where shutoff valves are. Also make sure the maintenance is up to date to avoid leaking or blockage, even for wood fireplaces and their intakes and chimneys.
If you find yourself in an emergency situation and don’t have enough supplies to last whatever amount of time (anywhere between 2 weeks to a month in many situations), count what you already have, note what’s absolutely necessary to your imminent survival and how much of it you will need, and seek those items out as soon as you’re able to. This isn’t exactly immediately, but soon, if you can manage to find an early gap in the crowd where the store isn’t closed for restocking. Don’t argue over price but avoid blatant scams if you can help it, especially scalpers. Also don’t be picky on what you find, but don’t settle for things you outright refuse to eat due to taste, indigestion, or especially allergy if you have one. Larger stock warehouse-type stores such as Costco or Sam’s Club or others that don’t require a membership are probably the first hit. Smaller grocery stores may have more stock of essentials. And try to keep a sense of humanity. Don’t panic, avoid conflict, treat the overworked grocery personnel as people. It doesn’t hurt to have some of those fabric or netting reusable bags as well, as those can hold more groceries than a typical plastic or paper disposable. If you’re already in a place where those cost extra, it’s likely you’ve got some.
It’s also important to note that stores may still remain open even after everyone panics to empty the shelves, but before the actual state of emergency begins. In that case, feel free to top off a few things during a gap in traffic when they’re restocked as necessary, as if you were doing normal grocery shopping, which you may just be. Just be ready to head home (or out of there in general) as soon as you need to. Doesn’t hurt to have some supplies in the car too, just be careful when it comes to food as that doesn’t do so well in cars long-term. Maybe focus on first-aid and roadside assistance and tools for the vehicle kit.