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The Emergency Circle

From left: Freda Foh Shen, Karen Huie, Jeanne Sakata, Amy Hill, Emily Kuroda.


Do you have an emergency survival kit?

Hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled the Caribbean, Florida, Puerto Rico and the southeastern seaboard. Fires broke out in both Northern and Southern California, torching houses. People, if they survived, are still trying to recover. Southern California gets earthquakes and power outages.

This summer we had two blackouts in one week, lasting ten hours and two, respectively, a wake-up call that a flashlight and some candles aren’t going to help me. I’d be at the mercy of and a burden on others. I needed to put together my emergency kit.

I called friends and six of us committed to putting our kits together: Amy Hill, Emily Kuroda, Jeanne Sakata, Freda Foh Shen and Jack Phelan. What would we do? What do we need? Our circle relieved some anxiety and made us feel less isolated and helpless. How much more informative, thought-through, and fun it is to make your kits with a few of your friends.

As others heard about our circle, they asked how we did it. I’m happy to share what we did.

Pick friends in close proximity. It’s easier to get together and for drop-offs and pick-ups of emergency kit items. It’s more efficient for each person to buy multiples of a few items on the list, than everyone having to purchase all the items on the list. Also, when you buy in bulk, there’s often a discount and free shipping! If there isn’t, ask! Designate one home to which all the items would be brought or sent to for “divvy-up” day!

We shared lots of emails with emergency articles and settled primarily on the one Freda Foh Shen recommended, where items have been vetted. reviews/emergency-preparedness/

At our first meeting, I printed out a culled list of the items we might want to get from the Sweethome link with a brief description, where to get it and the cost. Freda printed out sheets with the items and spaces for notes and tallies for who wants which and how many. Emily Kuroda made a spreadsheet morphing all the information! There are lots of items to discuss, so each sheet has its usefulness.

The final spreadsheet is important so each person knows what they are responsible for purchasing, who gets what in what quantities on divvy-up day and who owes how much money to each person!

Divvy-up day is like Christmas morning! We oohed and aahed over how pretty a blue the pee and poo buckets are, our particle masks with the breather hole, the red gas container…. And with all the organizing, it’s still took all of us to remember who bought what and how many. But in the end, everything went to its rightful owners!

Some considerations:

You can buy ready-made kits, but articles reveal they may not have things you need and have things you don’t need. For the price, you can put together a kit specifically for your needs for less money.

Determine which items you need for your area: earthquakes, blackouts, fires, hurricanes, floods.

Consider how long you want to prepare for. A week is a good start.

Do you need it or already have it in the closet or somewhere? Dig it out!

Who buys each item? Someone may frequent Home Depot or Costco, has Amazon Prime (free shipping) or a coupon, or belong to a rewards program.

How many of each item for each member of your family and in your car?

If you have a pool, you can get water tablets to purify water and don’t have to get such a big water container. If you do get a big water container, make sure there’s a pump so you can get the water out without having to pick it up and pour it!

Buy and measure your items before buying the container to put everything in. I opted for one with wheels in case I need to move it. It’ll be heavy once it’s loaded up! The Container Store has one for $29 (as of this writing).

Plan on 2 to 2 ½ hours for your meetings. They’re your friends, so you shouldn’t mind spending time with them. Just potluck food and drinks!

While this sounds daunting, we often had side conversations to catch up, discuss pros and cons about each items, ask who baked the muffins (Jeanne Sakata), salad and watermelon juice (Amy Hill) and gave demos of items they already have (Freda Foh Shen). I introduced everyone to my go-to cookie for when I have to write: Nutter Butter wafers. Not the peanut-shaped ones. The wafers. I gave one package to each friend on divvy-up day because she was now hooked on them too. Jeanne gifted each of us with two emergency whistles. She bought a bunch as stocking stuffers!

As we moved down the Sweethome list, conversations devolved:

“This headlamp doesn’t hurt my forehead, like the other does.”

“Let’s see. It doesn’t hurt my forehead.”

“Maybe it’s because I have a pointy forehead.”

“Oooh, I like the red gas container!”

“Look at the blue Aquatainer. Aqua(con)tainer, I get it!”

“What about pee and poo buckets?”

“Pee and poo buckets? Ewww!”

“If there’s a blackout or an earthquake, we’ll need somewhere to —.”

“Oooh, and they also have toilet seats that fit on the buckets!”

“I WANT my creature comforts!!”

In two meetings, with lots of email discussions as ideas evolved, we discussed the relevance of each item, how many we should get, researched the best deal, chose who would make which purchases, divvied up our items and paid each person for the purchases. We came away sharing fun times, learning more about each other and knowing whose house we’ll go to for water (the ones with the pools!).

These are basic necessities and not an exhaustive list. Each of us will tweak our kits, of course. But we agreed we never would have done all this alone! The research, considerations, scenarios, where to get items cheaper and weighing pros and cons of each item can be daunting! So find your friends and do it! We feel so much better knowing we’re more ready should something happen. You owe it to yourself and your families to be prepared.

We are so pleased with our accomplishment that we talked about shooting some PSAs to help others through this process. We’re all actors — all wonderful, accomplished actors, I might add — three of us are also writers and three also photographers, so that’s on our radar! Are you listening, Sweethome, Nutter Butter, Aquatainer and 3M?

Karen Huie is an actor, writer, photographer and filmmaker currently acting in “Little Women” by Velina Hasu Houston and writing a play about film director Akira Kurosawa.

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