Marvin Olasky

As comedienne Joan Rivers used to say, "Can we talk?" Now that the networks have done their Katrina anniversary Bush-bashing, may we (I'm avoiding the grammar sheriff) say something about individual responsibility?

The thing is this: Some folks who suffered at the Superdome or Convention Center were there not because their homes were flooded, but because they were foodless. Had some of these individuals kept a week of food, water and other supplies at home, they might have spared themselves much misery.

The politically correct police are on my tail: I'm "blaming the victim." Well, some folks victimize themselves -- and not just in New Orleans, and not just poor people. When Hurricane Rita in September seemed about to hit Houston, many who evacuated by car and found themselves in multi-hour traffic jams had not brought with them grab-and-go backpacks with food, water, medicines, personal-care products and cash.

So how should we prepare? Heads of households should keep in mind that:

-- The average person should drink at least two quarts of water or other liquids per day. An additional gallon per day is typically used for washing, food preparation and washing clothes and dishes. The best way to store large quantities is in 55-gallon drums, which can be cleaned of bacteria by the addition of 10 teaspoons of scent-free bleach. Other water can be stored in two-liter soda bottles, with freshening by four drops of bleach. Water from clean bathtubs and hot water heaters is also usable.

-- Wise people stockpile food; fools rush in to supermarkets when a crisis occurs and shelves may be empty. The key is to buy some extra food that stores well, especially if kept in a cool, dark place. Canned meats and vegetables, protein or fruit bars, dry cereal or granola, peanut butter, nuts, dried fruit, crackers and canned juices all require no refrigeration and little preparation. Those with camp stoves or other non-electric means of boiling water may add rice, beans and pasta, kept in a rotation system so that new purchases are put at the back.

-- Health supplies should include not only prescription medicines and basics like vitamins and aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol, but also moist towelettes, cleansing agents such as isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic, cotton balls, scissors, tweezers, needles, bandages, thermometers, medicine droppers, tongue depressor blades, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids, laxatives, syrup of ipecac, burn ointment and various sizes of sterile gauze pads, bandages and dressings.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of the national news magazine World. For additional commentary by Marvin Olasky, visit
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