For many of you this may be a review. For new readers of the newsletter here is a starting point for preparing for the coming times, whether they be due to Earth changes, economic and social collapse due to the y2k computer bug, or whatever. What I am suggesting is to become self-reliant, so you are able to handle situations and crises, and not have to depend on todays infostructure of government and emergency services.
First, I suggest that everyone take a first aid/CPR course. Learn how to stop an injured persons bleeding and lessen the pain and suffering of a friend, loved one, or a complete stranger. Why first? Because the ability gained through taking this course can be used anytime, from a household injury to a major disaster. It gives you confidence and lessens panic, if you know what to do and how to do it. It is an easy step to take, relatively inexpensive (if not free), and gets you started on preparing. Often the first step is the most difficult because people are overwhelmed when they first consider preparing for these possibilities. First aid courses are normally offered by the American Red Cross, many hospitals, and fire departments on a regular basis.
The second step has to do with water: storing water and being able to purify or filter water. To understand the relative importance of water, consider that you can go without air for about three minutes, three days without water, and three weeks without food; meaning water is more important to our survival than food.
Thus everyone should have a certain amount of stored water they can get to (in their house, car, etc). Small amounts of water can be stored in (clean) two-liter pop bottles. These can be stored in extra closets, under the sink, the garage, or wherever fits your situation. They should be stored out of direct sunlight and off the (concrete) floor. And they can be kept potable (drinkable) by adding either a few drops of Clorox, hydrogen peroxide, or Aerobic 07 (which doesnt have the taste and smell issues of the other two). Larger amounts of water can be stored in food grade water barrels, if you have the space to accommodate them. These are typically available in 15, 30, and 55-gallon sizes.
No matter how much water you store, you will always eventually need more. Thus you need to be able to purify or filter water from other sources, such as surface water (streams, lakes and puddles), and rain water. The basic method to purifying water is to boil it at least 10 minutes, before using it to drink or wash with. But this requires a lot of heat/fire, and takes time and effort. The better way is to use a water filter, such as one of the Katadyn water filters. This uses a porous ceramic filter that filters out bacteria and other dangerous contaminants larger than 0.2 micron. Katadyn is consider the best (and most expensive) and is used by missionaries worldwide, the International Red Cross, the World Health Organization and basically the whos-who that need portable water filtration.
The third step in preparing is to have an emergency kit. Whether you purchase one or build it yourself is not important. What is important is that you have one and have ready access to it when you need it. The kit may actually be several kits: one for home, another in the car, and others where you might need them (example: your office or school). A good kit will contain a first aid kit, some small amount of water (small because of size and weight of water), water purification tablets or drops, a water filter, some form of emergency food, a source of heat and light, and then other items you may want or need to survive in a short term emergency. In our B&A Products catalog we have a list of items that we provide in our custom-made back pack emergency kits. You can use it for a check list.
Now for food. Should you be in your home when an emergency happens, the first source of food is in your panty and refrigerator. If utility power goes off, keep your refrigerator closed as long as possible (up to maybe a day). Then for extended power outages, when you do open it, be prepared to either eat those items that are already prepared, and cook those items that will soon go bad. If this happens during a winter freeze, you may be able to move some items to protected cold areas (like a screened in porch or garage).
Beyond your panty, consider what forms of food you would want to purchase to handled longer term emergencies. The military MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat) are good, in that they are ready to eat, either warmed or room temperature. While these were plentiful, at present they are hard to get and expensive. B&A has picked up an alternative to MREs, called HeaterMeals, that requires no refrigeration, has a shelf-life of two years, and have their own heater built into the package (for more information see the ad on the back of the newsletter).
If you are preparing for a long term emergency, you need to consider long shelf life dehydrated or freeze dried food available in #2-1/2 (about a quart) and #10 (about a gallon) cans. These cans are double-enameled, meaning they are painted on the inside and outside to prevent rust. And when sealed, they are flushed with an inert gas, such as nitrogen, or an oxygen absorbent package has been added to remove oxygen. These products are expected to be usable from 10 to 20 years, if stored properly. This means, out of direct sunlight, away from moisture, and at room temperature or below. Thus you wouldnt want to store them in your (hot) attic, or in a basement where there is moisture (a dry basement would be ideal). People often store them in a closet, or the #10 cans fit nicely under a bed.
The next area to consider is fire, heat, and light should utility power and/or gas be interrupted; and how to provide the ability to cook, stay warm, and light to see during dark periods. The minimum you will want is a supply of candles. These might be ordinary candles you can obtain at a variety store, or the special long-burning candles available from survival/emergency preparedness suppliers. Suggested light sources include flashlights requiring batteries, or other forms of flashlights, like the hand-pump DynaLight that doesnt require any batteries, the new BayGen Freeplay windup lantern, or a solar lantern that can be charged by sunlight. Other light sources include chemical breaklights, and camping-style propane lanterns. Propane stoves are available to cook on, and there are propane heaters to provide heat. However, propane products are not recommended for normal indoor use. Most propane devices use the small canister-type fuel bottles, which might not be adequate for long-term use. But with an adapter these can be used with the larger bulk-type (barbecue) containers.
Another handy little unit is the Emergency Heat and Snap-On Stove system from Alco-Brite. This little unit will boil water in 8 to 10 minutes or fry an egg in 4 to 5 minutes.
Now consider communications. Since I discussed this in my recent newsletter (June/July 98) I wont go into too much detail. But when an emergency happens you need to know what is happening around you to help you plan. Thus you need as a minimum a radio receiver. Normally for local emergencies a radio that has the AM/FM bands will suffice, but for a national or worldwide emergency (such as y2k or Earth changes) you may need to receive the shortwave bands. Beyond simply receiving information, you may want to be able to communicate with others, either by using CB radios or becoming a licensed amateur radio operator.
Handling power outages or the loss of utility power is important. Depending on your location you may want to have a backup generator to be able to provide electrical power should the utility power fail. Generators are available fueled by gasoline, diesel, and propane. The least expensive and most readily available are gasoline generators.They are available from many sources, such as Sams Warehouse, home improvement stores, etc. The diesel and propane units are many times more expensive, but are quieter, longer lasting, and more energy efficient.
The use of a generator is a short-term solution to emergency power due to the amount of gasoline (or other fuel) you can safely store. Another consideration is that stored gasoline (and diesel) tend to go bad (get gummy) in a few months, so a fuel restorer/preserver should be added to extend its life. Picking, sizing, and installing a generator is somewhat beyond the scope of what I can put in this short article, but I did want to briefly touch on the subject.
If you and your family were going to be on your own for an extended period of time, what other things would you need? What about normal household supplies, including soaps, and other cleaning supplies. How about medications you and your family requireboth prescription and over-the-counter items like aspirin, cough medicines, pain relievers, etc. What about your paper supplies we all take for granted--toilet paper, tissue and hand towels. I realize that in an emergency we may have to do without many of these items, but with a little planning, extra money and storage spaceeven that may not be necessary.
For those that have children, preparation for them is important. If your child has special needs, you will want to have plenty of supplies and/or medication on hand. If they wear a hearing device, or other aids that require batteries, you will want to have extra ones on hand, including glasses. Also consider how quickly children grow and have clothing in bigger sizes available. Children often have special toys that comfort them, or a special blanket. And for adults, you may want to include playing cards and a few board gamesince no electricity means no TV.
At this point preparation can go in several different directions, depending on your age, physical condition, and desires. Mainly what I suggest are things you can learn to doskills you may want to learn, or even hobbies that may be useful in an emergency. When I started preparing, I got my amateur (ham) radio license. While in Dallas I became a volunteer for the American Red Cross Disaster Services. And here in Oklahoma Ive become a volunteer firefighter. Thus your next step may be to consider things you would want to learn. You may want to read books on survival and emergency preparedness, or how-to books on a number of subjects. At this point it is up to you to consider what you want to do before an emergency or disaster happens.
The more information you have the easier it is to remain calm. The more skills you have, the more confident you become. When you are confident of your ability to face an emergency, the less likely you are to panic. You need to know what to do and how to perform before an emergency occurs.
I realize that this covers a lot of material in two short articles. I just hope it helps to get you started in preparing for whats to come.