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“Emergency!” New Era, Mar. 1977, 25


Marlene Harris was ironing a skirt for the Halloween dance planned later that night when a knock thundered at the door. “Quick, get out, the building’s on fire!”

Her first reaction was, “Just a Halloween trick.” Then she smelled smoke. “Fire! Fire!” she yelled to her four roommates. The five began madly scrambling in seven directions as they scooped up various items to rescue from the flames before stumbling through the doorway and down the stairs.

Moments later Marlene, a bundle securely in her arms, was standing in the cold with 50 other college students. “At least I saved something,” she thought to herself as the firemen arrived. A chill wind caused her to shiver; she’d forgotten her coat.

Walter Steele, who lived in one of the basement apartments, stood next to her, apparently toasty warm in his overcoat, gloves, and winter hat. He was munching on pieces of a large bar.

“At least you’re prepared,” she commented, envying his coat.

“Yeah, it runs in the family. My great-grandfather used to hitch his mules each morning facing east, just in case he got the call for Jackson County. Have a bite?”

“What is it?”

“Survival ration bar, made for emergencies. Quite good, really. Here.” He broke off another chunk and handed it to her. Marlene shifted her bundle and took the piece. She mumbled her thanks as she nibbled the concoction.

“Made from oatmeal, powdered milk, sugar, honey, and flavored gelatin,” he commented. “Good emergency ration, about 1,000 calories, in one of these,” Walt added as he tried another bite. “Not really hungry, but this is the first time I’ve been in an emergency, and I’m going to make the most of it.”

“Not bad, I mean the bar.”

“Part of being prepared.”

“I guess you got that from your great-grandfather,” she answered, trying to break his smugness.

“Naw, I even flunked Scouting.”

Marlene smiled.

“It’s true, though. I’ve been prepared for emergencies for years. I have a couple of bundles of food and supplies on the closet floor. They’re good for three days. Then I have a two-week supply stashed under the bed. Now I’m working on my year’s supply. I’m ready for fire, flood, earthquake, famine, and just about anything else.”

“A flood here in these mountains?”

“Never know; it only takes one. Look at Idaho and Colorado. Anyway, I also rehearsed what I would do in case of different emergencies, and when the alarm came tonight, I was able to calmly evaluate my needs for this situation. I had enough time for my overclothes, this bar, and this knapsack of legal papers and genealogical research.”

Walt looked around at the crowd. “Nobody else here is prepared. Even the landlord failed to install product-of-combustion alarms in the complex. Fortunately I had a smoke detector with me, and I put it in my room. That’s how we learned of the fire.

“Look at that girl in the bathrobe, slippers, and wet hair. Then there is Art over there shaking in his shirt-sleeves, but he rescued his skis, boots, and poles.”

Marlene joined in the inventory. “My roommate there has all her books for the semester, Laura brought clothes from her closet, and Becky’s holding her record collection.”

“A real help in an emergency,” he commented dryly. “By the way, what’s in your arms?”

Marlene looked down and took stock for the first time. She blushed. “Ironing.”

He laughed, then apologized, unslung his knapsack and pulled off his coat. “Here, wear this until we can go back inside. I still don’t see any flames.”

“That’s fair enough,” she replied, mollified, “if you’ll wrap these around your bare feet.”

The fireman came out of the downstairs laundry room. The cause of alarm had been a pile of clothes left against the gas water heater. Marlene, Walt, and the others were able to return to their apartments and continue preparations for the evening’s activities. The emergency was over.

Preparing for the unexpected can range from something as elementary as the bar Walt was munching, to a complete year’s supply of food and other necessities. Some simple steps will help uncomplicate the disasters of fire, flood, high winds, or earthquakes.

It is recommended that in case of sudden evacuation, the three things to take with you are the other people in the building, your legal papers, and your book of remembrance. These generally cannot be replaced, but stereo tapes, skis, stamp collections, textbooks, and other such items can. Do not return to the home until you know it’s safe.

Should you have several minutes before leaving, a wise thing to do is to have emergency supplies ready to take with you, as well as a plan for determining the order in which you would want to rescue your other possessions.

It is advisable to keep an emergency kit in a place where it would be easy to grab should you have to evacuate. Some keep the supplies in a closet near the door. Others have them in the garage or in the trunk of their car.

Pamphlets for emergency preparedness are legion and detailed. They can be picked up at civil defense offices, fire departments, and other emergency centers, usually at no cost. Those who study these pamphlets and prepare for the various emergencies have a good chance of minimizing the effects of a disaster, whether individual or general.

Adequate food is necessary in case of emergency and must be planned for in advance. You might wish to concoct some nutritious bars such as Walt did. You will need 3 cups of rolled oats, barley, or wheat, 2 1/2 cups of powdered milk, one cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of honey, one-half package of citrus flavored gelatin, and 3 tablespoons of water.

Place all dry ingredients, except the gelatin, in a bowl. Add the water to the honey and bring to a boil. Dissolve the gelatin in the honey-water mixture; then add it all to the dry ingredients. After mixing well, add water a teaspoon at a time until the mixture is barely moist enough to be molded. Shape into two bars.

Each bar will be about the size of a large match box and will be sufficient food for one day. The bar can be eaten dry, or cooked in about a pint of water. It may be dried in the oven under low heat, wrapped in foil, and placed in a covered container for indefinite storage.

A more comprehensive approach to emergency preparedness is to assemble a kit that contains sufficient food and other items for three days. You will want to include accessories, tools, and miscellaneous items. Civil defense and other organizations have suggested the following.

Two Persons—Three Days



Cereal (dry)

6 individual size


6 small cans

Milk (dried)

1 small can

Beverage (hot)

1 small can or jar


6 small cans


6 small cans


3 small cans (Vienna sausage, beef, corn beef, ham)


3 small cans (tuna, salmon, sardines)

Baby foods (strained)

2 cans for spread

Pork and Beans

1 small can


1 small can


1 small can

Colored Vegetables

3 small cans (peas, beans, corn, asparagus)


3 cans


2 one-pound packages (sodas, grahams)


1 pound

Chocolate bar (sweet)

1/2 pound

Hard Candy

1 pound, tight jar


1/2 pound


1 ounce

Invalid supplies

If illness exists

Water (boiled)

3 gallons


Canned heat

3 cans


In small mustard jar or tin



Soap (dual purpose)

1 large bar, package, or liquid

Towels (bath and dish)

2 each

Paper plates and cups

1 dozen each

Knives, forks, spoons

2 each

Paper napkins

1 package

Toilet tissue

1 roll


1 small package

Paper bags

1 dozen, large

Cooking pots

2 small, lightweight

Can opener


Personal items

As required



First aid kit

Gloves (heavy)

Battery-run radio—extra batteries

Blankets and other bedding items

Flashlight with extra batteries and bulbs

Warm clothing

Scout ax, shovel, pliers, and pinch bar

Success in handling an emergency depends on being prepared, both in acquiring the necessities and in gaining knowledge. Classes in first aid and other emergency measures are also available through community agencies.

Illustrated by Ann Gallacher