Article by Stephen Robinson

It’s not a stretch to say that the lockdown in december caught many of us by surprise, especially with the speed that it was activated. one day you are walking around; the next day you are stuck inside. and while we’ve mostly made it through mostly intact, it was a bit of a wake-up call that asked the question, are you prepared if something bad happens?

Preparedness is not something that we often think about in our modern world, as under normal circumstances it is easy, if not incredibly convenient to get what you need at the touch of a button, whether it be food, clothing, or anything else for that matter. But so much of what we find as a convenience relies on logistical systems that, while typically very fast and efficient, can be shut down or simply stop working in the event of a natural disaster or pandemic related event that closes the doors that bring us what we need.

Xi’an is generally a very safe place, but the city has also been subject to disaster in the past, and there is no telling what newer strains of COVID or as yet unknown issues might do to the fragile security that we have. So what should you do in order to be prepared for the worst? Here are a few things that you might look at in order to be better prepared.

Have Long Lasting Food
Stocked and Ready

Supermarkets are so ubiquitous in Xi’an that it is hard to think of a life without them. For many locals, daily trips to the market to buy fresh meats and vegetables is part of a daily routine, so the idea of buying canned or otherwise preserved foods is often far from their minds. However, in the event of a lockdown or other disruption, getting to the supermarket may not be an option and even if you do, there is no guarantee that the fresh food will have managed to get there. Those who are unprepared may be left with little or nothing to eat, especially as panic causes people to buy more than they need, wiping out supplies further.

The best solution is to have a supply of food that last for a long time on the shelf. Canned good are the typical go-to for preppers, but even canned food has a limited shelf life, depending on the type of food contained within. Canning tends to be best for fruits and vegetable, though occasionally you can get some canned meats that are ok, if a bit salty. Dried foods are also an option, and tend to have the longest shelf life. Things like rice, dried beans, and other grains can be kept for a very long time if stored properly. Dried just-add-water meals, like instant noodles or similar pre-packaged foods can be great for those that lack the means or ability to cook, though they tend to be very high in sodium. The last preservation method is freezing, which tends to have the shortest shelf life, but is the best for things like meat, fruit and vegetables. Freezing though, comes with limitations, mainly space limitations, but also requires electricity, which brings us to the next point.

Know What to Do When
the Power is Out

So far, we have been lucky that there have been no interruptions to the basic infrastructure, and any power outages that we experience have been brief, usually due to maintenance on the electric grid. But a lot of modern life is dependent on electricity. From entertainment to basic necessities, electricity makes modern city life go. So what happens if the power does go out?

First, obviously, is lighting. Candles and flashlights are the kinds of things that you only think about when you need them, and often when it is too late to go and buy them. Apart from decorative scented candles, most people haven’t even seen a candle outside of a tea warmer in ages. Emergency flashlights, the type that have a crank for electricity on the side, are also a good thing to have around, as candles do pose a bit of a safety risk. Though, you can potentially cook with candles, though very poorly.

Elevators in most buildings will have a back-up generator in case of emergency, but in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster, you’ll need to leave on foot. Kind of make you reconsider those apartments higher up, doesn’t it?

When the power is out, your refrigerator will also stop working. Generally, modern refrigerators are insulated enough to keep things reasonably cool for several hours afterwards, though that ability is reduced every time you open the door. If you have ice packs in the freezer, moving them to the fridge can extend the life of your fridge food, but the reverse is not true. Generally, if the power is out for an extended time, work your way through the fridge ingredients first, then move to the freezer ingredients as they begin to melt.

If you have electric cooking pads instead of gas burners, you might also consider buying a portable gas stove or other type of non-electric cooking device, so that even in the event of a power outage, you’ll still be able to cook. It might be a good idea even with the gas burners, as pumps that bring gas into buildings may be down. Speaking of pumps…

You Need Water

Water pumps also run on electricity, so in the event of an emergency, you might be without running water. Even if running water isn’t an issue, you will still want drinking water, and tap water in Xi’an needs to be boiled before consuming, and it’s better if you also filter it. Having some kind of water filtration device, as well as a store of water, both for drinking and for other uses, is always a prudent idea. Water for brushing your teeth, having a sponge bath, cooking and flushing toilets.

So how much water should you have? The general recommendation is around 5L of water per person per day. The amount that you need for drinking will depend on the outside temperature and your activity level. You can also buy water purification tablets, which will allow you to make other water sources potable in an emergency.

A Few Other Things

Medicine can be difficult to come by in an emergency, as pharmacies may be shut or restricted due to the situation. For example, during COVID outbreaks, some pharmacies will not sell acetaminophen, better known as ibuprofen or paracetamol, without a Chinese ID card (or sometimes even with an ID card) due to its fever-reducing ability. Likewise any essential medication that you need should have a ready supply, in the event that you cannot get to a pharmacy or hospital. With this you should have a stock of bandages, isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs, and ace bandages.

In an emergency situation, cash is king. Most people nowadays don’t carry cash at all, as digital payments are the easiest way to get around. But the fact of the matter is that in the event your phone doesn’t have power, or internet networks are down, you’ll have no way of accessing your funds. You can’t always expect that ATMs or banks will have electricity or reserves to give you your money either.

Aside from cash, the most valuable thing that you can have is knowledge. Knowing what to do in an emergency is vastly preferable to flailing around or waiting for someone else to solve your problems. Things like cooking, basic first aid, and knowing the area around your home, especially emergency exits, are all essential to successfully navigating any situation that you might be put in. There are plenty of guides and videos that can run you through any number of basic or more advanced skills that you might need.

As always with this kind of article, we hope that it is never necessary to apply the knowledge within, but the reason an emergency is called an emrgency is because it requires quick action, and preparation is just one way to be ready in the event of the worst.

Stephen grew up in the natural disaster magnet known as Florida and also is the editor-in-chief of XIANEASE. If you have any questions about this or any other topic, feel free to contact him at