Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Emergency Preparedness

Lately, Shawn and I have been spending some time discussing the many scenarios where emergency preparedness would be life-saving. First I have to admit that, while I write this post hoping that everyone seeing it will glean information from it, my primary reason for writing this is so that my own friends and family will be better prepared. I love them. I worry about them. So, I want to take this time and try to save them from discomfort, pain, and grief.

We became really motivated to start preparing for an emergency after the Ice Storm of 2009. After about the third day of the storm, Shawn made a trip in to Wal-Mart. What he saw in the store made us change the way we prepared for emergencies. He noticed that, after only three days, the shelves were already extremely bare. There were customers in the store openly crying because they were so overwhelmed by not having electricity for three days. He overheard a conversation where a lady was telling a friend that she'd heard a rumor that one neighborhood in town had power. The lady's family was trying to figure out if they knew anyone in that neighborhood so they could go stay with someone that had electricity. This lady was desparate to find someone, anyone, with electricity. One of Shawn's co-workers told him that most people in his neighborhood left to stay with others. He was pretty much the only person that stayed in their home. Shawn's co-worker personally had to run off a carload of men that were driving up and down the street looking for empty houses to loot. All of this happened after just a few days during the ice storm. We know some people that were without electricity for more than two weeks.

After that incident Shawn and I really started to work through what we would do if we were put into a desparate situation. I would really like it if my family and friends would start asking themselves the same questions and take actions to ensure that their families are taken care of in an emergency. As much as I would love to say, "If something bad happens, then you all just come to our place..we'll take care of you!" That response is really just not practical. You must be prepared to take care of your own family in case of an emergency.

So, if there's another ice storm this winter:
Do you have a reliable supply of drinking water?
Do you have a way of keeping your family warm if there's no electricity?
Do you have enough food to get through several weeks?
Do you have a way of cooking/preparing the food if electricity is out?
Can you protect your family and your home if looters come into your neighborhood?

If the BIG earthquake occurs:
What will you do for water if all the pipes are broken?
If the roads are impassable, are you able to survive with no outside assistance?
If your home is destroyed, do you have alternate shelter for your family?
If someone is injured, do you have the skills or tools necessary for treatment?

Like I said earlier, I would love it if we could provide sanctuary for everyone, but we just can't. Since I won't be able to help my family and friends during an actual emergency, this is my way of helping. I urge you to prepare now. If I can help you now with your preparations, please know that I am willing. Of course there's plenty more that you can prepare for besides ice storms and earthquakes. However, I think preparing for a natural disaster is a great starting point for most families.


  1. Great post, Janice. In 2004 we went through two hurricanes within weeks of each other. The first one left all of WPB without power or water for three weeks. The gas stations didn't even have gas for a few days because the trucks couldn't get through the debris and flooding. And most gas stations sell out of gas before a hurricane because everyone fills up. So even people who were able to buy a gas generator weren't able to use it. Once the trucks could get through, people without power were cutting holes through fences to steal generators in the night. ATM's were down because of no power, so people who hadn't thought ahead to get cash were out of luck - and no power means no debit or credit cards. That's another thing a lot of people don't think of. You need a supply of accessible cash. The radio stations were warning people not to pull out their cash until ready to pay for something. The grocery stores opened to sell what dry goods they had, but people were waiting with knives and guns to rob people in the parking lots for their cash. It can get rough out there when people aren't prepared.

    The second hurricane came through about a month later and left us with no power for 2 weeks, but thankfully we had water. A large part of the city still had power, so it wasn't as bad as the first one. We are currently deciding what to do as an alternate source of heat. We did not lose power in the ice storm last year, but if we had we had no form of heat. We do not have a fireplace and Tim says a wood burning stove stinks bad. Any suggestions?

  2. Rhyah, I asked Shawn about this and he came up with two suggestions on what might work. He said that there are propane heaters for tent camping that would be capable of heating one room. Just be sure you get one that's made for using indoors. They use those small green bottles of propane. If you went this route though, you would have to have a stockpile of propane bottles. He guessed that heating one room would probably go through around three small propane bottles a day.

    Another option would be purchasing a free-standing kerosene heater. This is what my parents used every winter in the old farmhouse I grew up in to supplement the wood heat. Kerosene lasts a LONG time, so you could stockpile the fuel and not worry about it going bad.

    Anyhow, that's what we came up with. If anyone else has other ideas, I'd be interested in hearing them as well.

  3. Good post Janice, especially as we prepare for the winter which makes everything harder- as there is not so much to forage and we have to worry about the heat. We can live without the air but when it gets so cold out then we have a lot more trouble!

    What Brian has worked on for our emergency heat is a ventless gas heater. He found one for sale on Craigslist last year and bought one big enough for the downstairs(which would be easier to heat anyway. He also is working on converting our gas generator into natural gas and we have a few 100pd tanks- so we can keep that on hand. Then the generator and the heater would be run off the same thing as well.

    Something to make sure to keep in mind is carbon monoxide. With gas heat and even a wood stove carbon monoxide poisoning is a possibility and very dangerous. I wasn't aware that wood stoves were a problem as far as carbon monoxide until I heard a story on the news about it.

    There are just too many stories each year of people dying from using heaters not safe in the house and carbon monoxide it makes me paranoid!

    I am going back over your questions and thinking some more. What is your thoughts on the water now that you have the Berkey? Are you stockpiling as much or not? Is your wood stove made to cook on or not? (I cannot remember). We have a camp stove and actually Brian just bought some propane for it and we of course have the generator- which is big enough for the stove, frig, freezer etc of course we don't want to rely on that though. We have supplies of various foodstuffs- I was just looking at my list the other day trying to think what I had and what I needed.

  4. Amanda, I like knowing that you and Brian are prepared with an alternative heat source. I know that was our main hurdle at our old house.

    Now that we have the Berkey, we only intend to use it in an emergency situation. Our well water is good and I don't worry about using it on a daily basis. The Berkey gives us the ability to produce 12,000 gallons of filtered water. Fortunately, we have two springs and a pond on our property to obtain water. Also, on our to-do list in the future, we would like to set up a rain-collection system off the gutters and look into getting a manual pump for our well.

    Yes, I am still stockpiling as finances allow. Grains, beans, salt, coffee, tea, sugar, maple syrup, honey, canned vegetables and fruits, batteries, toilet paper, medical supplies, nails, vinegar, soap, and ammo are all being bought in bulk around here. Of course we stockpile what we use and use what we stockpile, so our supplies are constantly be used and replenished.

    I think that this is a really important area that lot of families overlook. It really does make me feel better to know that you and Brian are planning ahead for an emergency.

    Yes, our woodstove has the ability to become a cookstove. We haven't had to use it yet, but I like knowing that we have that option. Setting up a "summer kitchen" would be something that I'd be interested in doing at a later time too.