Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"I'm not a Survivalist, what can I do?"

Normally I get one of two responses when I talk to someone about preparedness. About 75% of them smile politely when I tell them of my preparations, but simply shrug their shoulders when I ask about theirs. Their only plan seems to be to go to the grocery store if something happens. Well, that only works if there is a grocery store to go to. I had an interesting thing happen Saturday. After we decided Ike was going to miss us entirely, my wife and I invited her brother and his wife over for drinks. Before they arrived, I ran up to our new Spec's Liquor to get "supplies". I took about $50 in cash with me just in case there was an issue with using credit cards. Well, as I live and breathe, there was a sign on the door of Spec's saying they could not take cards! You see, Spec's is headquartered in Houston and their credit card machines are tied into the corporate network. No power in Houston, no cards anywhere! I got my "supplies". but there were a few unhappy folks who did not. Having set out cash before the storm turned out to be a good idea, but imagine if those folks had been trying to buy food, water or gas and no one would take their credit cards. Kind of magnifies the situation.
25% of the folks I talk to are a little more receptive. They are interested in what I have done and want to know what they can do. So, today's entry is about 5 things you can do to become more prepared.
1. Have a plan.
This is the number one thing that I recommend for anyone thinking about preparedness. And one plan is never enough. For any given situation, you need a plan and a backup plan. What should you plan for? well, here are a few possible scenarios:
A. Getting to your rally point (most likely your home) in the event of an emergency.
B. Staying home (bugging in) during an emergency.
C. Leaving town (bugging out) in the event of an emergency.
D. Dealing with household emergencies (gas leak, house fire, leaking water heater).
E. Starting over after an emergency.
Things to consider in your plan are who is included in the plan, what routes should be taken to a location, what supplies are needed, what comes next after you execute the plan as well as several alternatives for each step. For instance, we have a plan that addresses getting home in the event of an emergency. It reads as follows (names and places removed):
"In the event of an emergency every family member should plan to meet at the family home at XXXX XXXXX Street. Adult A will attempt to drive to the house via the following route (document route) if the is not possible, Adult A will take alternate route (document route). If driving is not an option, Adult A will walk home using the following route (document route). Child A will ride his bicycle home from school, unless the school detains him, then he will be picked up by Adult B. Once the family is home, a decision will be made to leave or stay"
And so on and so forth. That is just the basics, the more details the better. Also, having a plan is not enough, you have to discuss it with your family (maybe once every 3 months) and practice it (twice a year at least) for it to work in an emergency.
2. Have some money put away.
My wife had the opportunity to help out with some of the Ike refugees being sheltered in our area, and her number one observation was that almost none of them had any money on them. One family could not even drive their car to a different shelter because they had no money for gas. The ultimate consequence of the welfare state/entitlement culture in America, but that is a different discussion. You have to have some cash set back if you plan to leave or to stay. I know how hard saving money can be, but if you take $10 or $20 each payday and put it in an envelope on your fire safe (you do have a fire safe, don't you?), then you will never miss it. In a year, you will have $120 to $240 put back. That is enough to gas up the car and get 300 miles away from anywhere and still have enough left to feed your family and buy any essentials you have forgotten. Don't count on being able to get money from an ATM or on your debit card, cash is king in an emergency!
3. Get some extra food.
Many people think that survival food has to be expensive freeze dried stuff, however, your normal grocery list probably contains a lot of items that you could use. If you buy groceries every 2 weeks, and include 3 or 4 additional items each time, you can have 3 weeks of food put back in no time. A few extra cans of condensed soup, canned spaghetti sauce and dried pasta, rice, beans (dry or canned), powdered milk, canned juice and canned meat (chicken, ham, tuna) are all items I have in my personal larder. Buy things you will eat. Plan a menu using your survival food. Don't forget comfort foods like pudding, oatmeal and fruit. Have some variety in what you buy. By adding $5 to $10 extra into your groceries each time, you can be ready for almost anything. Rotate, use and replace the survival food every 3 to 6 months, an item at a time.
4. Get some tools.
A few simple tools can mean the difference in an emergency. Do you have a wrench to turn off the gas to your house in the event of a leak? A hammer and nails to board things up? Duct tape to secure the glass in your windows? Well, you should. A good crescent wrench, a hammer and a variety of nail sizes, tape and plastic sheeting and a good hand saw should be your minimum set of tools. If you live in storm prone areas, you should have pre cut marine grade plywood for your windows and doors. The night before a hurricane is no time to run to Home Depot! 50-100' of poly rope and a good pair of leather work gloves can help with debris removal. Keep some 8' 2x4s in the garage or shed for shoring up anything that collapses. And rememeber, hand tools beat electric tools when the electricity is off!
5. Hydrate!
Storing water is not an easy task. It is bulky and weighs a lot. On the flip side, if you go without it, you will die. Keep as much on hand as you can. Even if it is just 2 or 3 5 gallon jugs. Avoid the plastic milk bottles as they are hard to stack and there is evidence of the chemicals in them leeching out into the water over time. 2 cases of bottled water is better than nothing. You will still have the water in your pipes and your water heater if things shut off. In addition, a water filter and some bleach in an eye dropper is generally all you need to make any water potable. Store what you can and have a plan for finding more. My neighbor has an above ground pool that would be good for more than swimming in an emergency.
These 5 steps are just the beginning, but every journey starts with one step. Don't be afraid to take that step, it might save you one day.

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