Disaster Preparedness: Five Lessons Learned by Yvonne Ventresca, author of Pandemic

The end of the world or apocalypse-inducing pandemics might seem like just the stuff of fiction, but natural disasters happen surprisingly often—would you be prepared if disaster suddenly struck? Since September is National Preparedness Month (no, we’re not kidding), Yvonne Ventresca, the author of Pandemicdropped by the blog to share her top five disaster preparedness tips. 

During my research for Pandemic, I learned about emerging infectious diseases and the concept of sheltering in place. The more I read, the more I became convinced that my family should have decent emergency supplies in the house, just in case of a disaster. You know how right before a hurricane, grocery and hardware stores will run out of flashlight batteries? I wanted to be prepared ahead of time.

I made lists of what we needed, bought supplies, then neatly stored everything. I thought we were ready.

That October, New Jersey was hit with a freakish ice storm. The ice broke many large tree limbs, causing widespread power outages. And I realized that we were not prepared after all. I lasted three days before packing up the kids, their Halloween costumes, and our dog to stay with family who still had electricity.

Here are a few lessons learned:

  1. Pretend you don’t have electricity for an evening and analyze your preparations. Can you find the flashlights in the dark? Do you have a way to prepare food without power? Can you easily access vital records if you need to leave? Also, test any new gadgets ahead of time. I wanted to throw our inexpensive hand-crank phone charger across the room, because one hour of tiresome cranking resulted in a miniscule battery charge.
  2. Keep supplies on hand for pets. Make sure you have extra food available, as well as pet medicines. If your dog frequently throws up, for example, having some extra anti-vomiting tablets is a good idea. Driving to the vet during a disaster is best avoided, if possible.
  3. Stock up on over-the-counter pain relievers, rehydration drinks, broth, and crackers. It doesn’t require a pandemic to be grateful for these. A bout of stomach virus or food poisoning will do the trick. (Also, if you’ve written a novel about contagious diseases and don’t keep these items in the house, your family will be understandably bitter.)
  4. If there is a possibility of losing power, hold off on using the washing machine. If the spin cycle can’t complete, you will need to wring out all of the laundry manually and find a place to let it air out (like in the shower or bathtub). Otherwise, you will end up with moldy, smelly clothes.
  5. Books make everything better. Stock up on easy reads, suspenseful novels, funny ones. Have books on hand that the whole family can enjoy. You’ll want something to keep you distracted from the puking dog, the stomach ache, or the laundry stench. And don’t forget to buy extra flashlights batteries to read after dark.

Pandemic_cover_with_sealEven under the most normal circumstances, high school can be a painful and confusing time. Unfortunately, Liliana’s circumstances are anything but normal. Only a few people know what caused her sudden change from model student to the withdrawn doomsayer she has become, but her situation isn’t about to get any better. When people begin coming down with a quick-spreading illness that doctors are unable to treat, Liliana’s worst fears are realized. With her parents called away on business before the contagious outbreak, Liliana’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread illness and fatal disaster.

With friends and neighbors dying all around her, Lil does everything she can just to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.


Yvonne Ventresca Author PhotoYvonne Ventresca’s debut YA novel, Pandemic, won a 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. School Library Journal called Pandemic “an engrossing apocalyptic story.” Her next young adult novel, Black Flowers, White Lies will be published by Sky Pony Press in October 2016. Her other works include the short story “Escape to Orange Blossom,” which was selected for the dystopian anthology Prep for Doom, along with two nonfiction books, Publishing (Careers for the 21st Century) and Avril Lavigne (People in the News). You can learn more about Yvonne and her books at YvonneVentresca.com.

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  1. #1 is a great idea. Nothing makes you aware of what could go wrong like going an evening without electricity! Last winter, we had a couple of snows and power went out in some places. The roads were completely undriveable. I said then that we needed to get our gas fireplace tested so that we can use it if we lose power when the ground is covered in snow. We still haven’t done that!

  2. Thanks for sharing these great tips. I like using ‘fake’ battery candles for reading during power outages. They seem to last quite a while and give off good light. And most important, like the flashlights you mention, they are so much safer. Hard to picture all those burning candles of days gone by. I think I’ll add a carton of vitamin water (with far ahead expiration dates) to my next grocery list. 🙂

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