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The cost of being prepared

By JEANNE MALMGREN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2002

Did you see the Hurricane Guide we published the other day? It comes out every year on or near June 1, the beginning of hurricane season. Along with a lovely multicolor map of evacuation routes and a fun list of 2002 hurricane names (Dolly? Teddy? Wilfred?!), it's packed with advice on how to prepare for a natural disaster. You know, all that stuff you don't want to think about. Like plywood and bathtubs full of water and nonfunctional ATMs.

Perhaps the most alarming part of the guide, aside from the thought of having your house leveled, bears the heading "Disaster Supplies Kit." This is a shopping list for things you'll need when big winds start to blow.

The only problem: If you actually go out and buy all this stuff, you might be broke before the storm takes your roof off.

To see whether we can afford to be clobbered by a hurricane, we went shopping for a Disaster Supplies Kit at Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie. We shopped for enough stuff to supply a family of four, including one infant, for two weeks. The eyebrow-raising total (minus tax) appears below.

Maybe we could have scrimped on some things. Do we really need all those batteries? And come on, is anybody actually going to eat that canned corned beef?

On the other hand, if the power is off for two weeks and you're spending every day sawing fallen trees, every night cooking over Sterno, and you have no air conditioning, people are going to get cranky. So let us suggest one extra item for your Disaster Supplies Kit: the Comfort Massager, a nifty little handheld unit that only needs two AA batteries. Sells for $4.96. Soothes tense muscles in minutes.

Might as well be comfortable in the wake of a disaster.

Disaster supplies kit for a family of four

Two-week supply of prescription medicine $30
Drinking water                             6.96
2 Flashlights                              5.94
Portable radio (AM/FM/TV sound)           15.97
Mosquito repellent                         6.92
2 Citronella candles                       6.92
Fire extinguisher                         10.46
First aid kit                              9.96
Instant tire sealer                        4.97
Whistle                                    1.46
2 coolers                                 26.94
Plastic sheeting                           3.96
Hammer                                    12.97
Nails                                    88 cents
2 boxes plastic trash bags                11.88
Water purification kit                     9.92
Diapers                                   19.97
Canned formula           (3 cans per day) 78.96
Bottles (Gerber 5 oz.)                    14.80
Mop                                        3.87
Bucket                                 97 cents
Towels                                     7.98
Disinfectant                               7.68
Camera and film                           14.44
Nonelectric can opener                     2.97
2 16-packs AA batteries                   17.92
5 8-packs D batteries                     32.35
Bucket for emergency toilet                2.96
2 packs toilet paper                       9.96
Paper towels                               2.98
Premoistened towelettes                    5.61
2 packs juice boxes                        5.98
Peanut butter                              3.39
Jelly                                      2.69
Chocolate chip cookies                     2.69
Fruit cups                                 7.16
Applesauce cups                            5.07
Canned tuna                                7.96
Canned chili/beans                         5.72
Canned beef stew                           6.36
Canned corned beef                         3.76
Breakfast bars                             7.50
Ramen noodles                              2.00
Canned green beans                         3.16
Canned corn                                3.16
Canned soup                                2.52
Canned stew                                3.98
Canned soup                                3.98
Canned peas/carrots                        3.56
Instant mashed potatoes                    1.98
Macaroni & cheese                          3.96
Canned baked beans                         2.38
Instant fried rice                         2.37
Canned ravioli                             5.97
Canned spaghetti and meatballs             5.98
TOTAL:                                  $492.81

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