Give the Gift of Preparedness

True confession: I’m not a big fan of Christmas. No, I don’t come from a nutty family (relatively speaking) and no, I wasn’t traumatized by a sketchy mall Santa as a kid. I grew up in a loving home and every Jolly Old Soul I encountered was legit, although some did smell a little funky.

Why the aversion? Somewhere along the way I lost the meaning in my merry. The season was just too long and too commercial. But I've found a way to get it back. My family donates to local charities and when we give gifts, we make them count. Presents with an emergency preparedness theme fit that bill perfectly. They keep on giving long after the tree has been mulched and that New Year’s gym membership is collecting dust. Here are some of my favourite picks.

Headlamps: These are fabulous for impromptu dance parties, as well as power outages. They’re hands-free, which means no more holding the flashlight in your mouth while you fiddle with the emergency kit. I can guarantee your kids will love them too. My daughter has one for camping and one for her room in case of emergency. Just make it clear it has to stay in your child’s room in an easily accessible place. A headlamp won’t be of much use buried under a mountain of stuffies in the closet.

Phone adapter: Hard to imagine someone not having one in their car, but hey, it happens. This little gadget will ensure your loved ones’ phones are always charged in case of emergency. 

Handcrank phone charger: If you don’t have a generator or back-up battery, a hand-crank charger ensures you can communicate during extended outages. But be forewarned, these aren’t for hour-long “hey girlfriend” catch-ups. These provide short bursts of talk time, enough to make a critical call or get a text through. While we’re on the subject, it’s also a great idea to teach all family members (namely grandma and grandpa) how to use text messaging, since it will often get around network disruptions when a phone call won’t.

Car emergency kit: These are ideal for a spouse, parent, friend – you name it. You can buy pre-fab ones or build your own using a gym bag or backpack. There’s no need to break the bank, just make sure they’re stalked with water, high-octane snacks (like energy bars or raisins), a flashlight, blankets, warm clothes, booster cables, and depending on where you live, a shovel. I also keep a pair of walking shoes in my trunk, since my fabulous but painful office heels won’t cut it if I ever need to do some trekking.

Wind-up Radio: Who needs batteries? These handy, hand-crank devices will help you stay informed during an outage or emergency.

Batteries, batteries, batteries: Okay, I lied. You do need batteries because just about everything else you use during an outage or emergency requires them. A gift basket of assorted types is a great gift. And here’s an extra tip: When buying emergency devices, whenever possible, make sure they take the same type of battery so you don’t have to stock a wide variety. For example AA batteries last longer and are a lot cheaper than AAAs.

Earthquake & power outage lights: Think runway. These plug-in lights automatically come on when the power goes out. Place them strategically in hallways and stairways so they mark a safe path out of the house if you need to leave in a hurry. Some varieties also serve as rechargeable flashlights.

Battery powered lamps or lanterns: Can you tell I’m a titch afraid of getting stuck in the dark? Yes, this is my third lighting-related suggestion, but I’ll tell ya, there’s nothing worse than trying to keep a family calm in the pitch black. Lanterns cast a cozy glow. They give you a place to gather around, play cards, talk, and generally be as normal as possible in less than ideal circumstances.

First Aid & CPR Classes: This is one gift that’s on my own wishlist. Infant CPR courses are also great for any new parents on your list.

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors: These are a must have. Research shows nearly 70 per cent of houses that catch fire in B.C. don’t have functioning smoke alarms. More working alarms could reduce annual fire deaths by as much as 32 per cent.