City Slickers

Photo above: City Slickers III. Wind River area, Wyoming. Son Matt, Brother Dave, Son John Paul, Me J.P.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Are You Prepared?

I suppose you watched the news yesterday evening and today. Huge winter storm hits the central and northeast part of the country. Traffic snarled. Numerous power outages. People flocking to the supermarket to stock up. Sitting in front of my cozy pellet stove out here in Utah, with the temperature dropping to single digits, I was inwardly pleased to know that should the power suddenly go off line, I would remain cozy and warm and well fed even if the outage lasted a week or two. How many of you would be able to have that same confidence? I’ll bet there are many people out east right now, with power lines down due to the storm, who wished they had prepared a little better for such a situation. We are so used to living on the grid that any disruption of the grid can become a huge problem to the average citizen--that is, unless they are prepared.

And being prepared is easy to do, not that expensive, and provides a sense of safety and satisfaction in knowing you can carry on in the face of any disaster, whether man made or by nature. Think like a Boy Scout--Be Prepared. The following is an outline of how to get yourself set.

You need the following essentials to weather any calamity. I’ll take them one at a time.
    1. Shelter
    2. Water
    3. Food

With the temperatures hovering around 10 degrees where I live, shelter is essential should the grid drop off. Your house is a great shelter, but it will be pretty miserable if after a week the internal temperature drops to that of the outside temperature. I have solved that problem by having a pellet stove, a month’s supply of wood pellets, and a means to power the auger and blower on the stove. To do this, I built and installed my own solar panels, batteries, and inverter that will provide near continuous power during the day, and half the night. But you don’t have to be that elaborate. A small gasoline driven generator/inverter out in the garage or back yard can provide the emergency power you need to drive space heaters, electric blankets, and basic electric cooking appliances. My solar system cost me less than $500 complete, and a utility generator with 3500 peak watts runs less than $500 at Costco. Could be the best investment you would ever make.

Water is essential to life. Period. In order to survive, you must have drinking and cooking water. Each person requires one gallon of water per day for drinking and sanitation. Be sure you have at least two weeks supply on hand. Should the grid go down, many municipal water systems would not be able to guarantee drinkable water. It would be a good idea to have water purification tablets on hand. Plain liquid bleach, at the rate of 8 drops per gallon, will do in a pinch.   Collecting rainwater by erecting a tarp, or catching downspout water is a good way to replenish drinkable water. : How to purify water.

Finally, food. Nobody wants to go on a forced diet during an emergency. Most people have enough food to last a week or two, but remember if you drop off the grid you may not have the ability to refrigerate your perishables, unless of course you have a garage like mine that is colder than a refrigerator.  And, you need a way to cook your food without gas or electricity. With a generator, an electric skillet, rice cooker, and tea pot will get you by. A small, liquid fueled Coleman Camp Stove is perfectly adequate for meal preparation. A good iron Dutch Oven with a couple bags of charcoal briquettes will go a long way in producing hearty meals. I have found that planning and storing food supplies is fairly easy if you pretend that you are going on a two week camping trip and stock up accordingly.

Finally, it goes without saying that you should have the following: Emergency crank radio, first aid kit, flashlights with lots of extra batteries, candles, and a good supply of your critical medications.

For quite a bit less than a thousand dollars, you can prepare yourself and your family for what is happening to a lot of folks back east right now. Don’t you think it is time to quit thinking about being prepared, and actually do something?



Bob Mack said...

Howdy JP. Snow covered & cold here in the east. A dram of Jack Daniels in my morning coffee helps with that. I wanted to give you & your readers an unsolicited link to a very good piece of satire regarding Obama's Memorial Service/Campaign Speech in Tucson:
Obama's Moment at The Mega Independent

Anonymous said...

Not only is being prepared for any sort of grid failure just plain smart, it can also actually save you money and cut down on the number of visits to the grocery store.
My wife and I decided several months ago to build a small addition to our house to be used as a pantry and utility room. Then we made a list of the essentials we wanted in food, and emergency supplies. We pretty much enjoy cooking from scratch, anyway, so our list was heavy on basics: flour, salt, sugar, dry milk to make cheese, rice, pasta and dry beans. We also bought a good supply of condiments and seasonings since eating cowboy style can get pretty boring pretty quickly.
We spent a bit more at first to build up our supplies but consider... If you've been watching oil prices, you've no doubt noticed that wholesale food prices are surging in a parallel trajectory. In any case, grocery costs never go down across the board. But we watch for sales, and I regularly empty the dented can and taped up boxes shelf at the back of the store. We don't ever buy anything that we wouldn't ordinarily eat blizzard or fair weather. When we do buy, we buy in case lots. We then "shop" from the pantry, rotating the inventory and replacing any items we use. Given the size of our chuck wagon, we figure that every time we remove an item from the stash, we are "paying" an amount that prevailed about 6 months ago. It's as though our pantry is in a virtual time warp where we shop for today's fixins in a grocery store in the past. We're remodeling our kitchen at the moment but as soon as that's done we intend to up the size of our stash a la LDS church and eventually be able to "camp out" for a year.
Ain't no big ting, brudda!

JP said...

You ought to write the blog--well done who ever you are, although I have a sneaking suspicion once I saw the word "stash." Nice addition to what I wrote, I hope it will inspire others who read this blog to get serious about saving for a rainy day. Sure enough, headline news today was the price of food sky rocketing up. I'll have to run to Costco tomorrow and see if the 100 lbs of flour at $10.59 per hundred weight has shot up in a couple days time.

Anonymous said...

Yep, it was me pontificating, again, JP. I forgot to sign my post.

Rainy day consciousness was embedded in the minds of the generation that lived through the late 20s and early 30s.

Every pilot remembers the old saw about flying consisting of long periods of sheer boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror. Those of us who lived through such nightmarish events understand the truth of it. Just so, our parents and grandparents who survived the Great Depression and other disasters didn't need reminding that "Shit Happens!". They had experienced it and learned how to prepare for the inevitable next occurrence and made preparation an intrinsic part of their lives. Goethe would have been a fellow believer, judging from his statement: "That which does not kill me makes me stronger.".

Unfortunately, we humans have a propensity to believe that History began on the day of our birth. Consequently, too many assume that the future can bring nothing other than the continuation of the present so they don't think in terms of contingencies..."What if...?".
Some of us, who are of a less complacent world view, maintain a more or less constant situational awareness and, consequently, tend to observe "life, the universe and everything" with the slightly jaundiced eye of reality.
We, because we eschew the rose tinted goggles, are frequently regarded as doomsayers, alarmists, and, just, generally, annoying curmudgeons. We tend to stand alone at gatherings. Until, that is, the river rises and they need a ride in your boat; the power goes out and they come asking to connect an extension cord to the generator in your garage. They wonder if you might be willing to clear the three feet of snow from their driveway when you're done clearing your own. Suddenly, you're no longer the whackjob next door but a generous friend in time of need. "Oh, and could you spare some candles? We seem to have misplaced ours. Heh heh heh.".

The problem with the thinking that allows such airhead improvidence to continue is that some day, the power might...just might, mind you... go off and stay off for a very long time or the generator next door might not be able to supply two houses. The grocery store shelves may remain empty and your neighbor may have only enough food for his own family. Charity, remember, begins at home!

Now what, Sparky?
When you're sitting in a cold, dark house, scraping the bottom of your last can of beans, do you suppose your mind might start wandering off into thoughts of surviving by taking by stealth or by force from others who have what you need to survive?
If so, you might consider the possibility that some of them might, just might, mind you, have prepared for that contingency, too.


Anonymous said...

It was Friedrich Nietzsche I quoted, not Goethe.

Bumble said...

cash is also helpful to have on hand. its where my preparedness falls apart most of the time. we stock a lot and eat what we stock. mostly i prepare for natural disaster, and when the power is out, cash will be king. I've been doing the rest of the prep since y2k. people thought i was crazy then. but when there is a natural disaster i'll be sitting as well as can be. just gotta be ready to shoot the looters.

JP said...

Hey, thanks for following this blog. Cash is nice, but I'd like it in a hard currency like gold or silver coins. The way this country is heading, the disaster may be economic collapse, and then your paper cash might not be so valuable. Even if you don't drink, a stash of booze would be great barter goods.