Prudently Prepared and Un-Panicked

Supposedly we’re in for a winter storm later tonight, so I’ve been thinking about the topic of preparedness again. We’ve moved since last year at this time, and we’re in a much better situation for riding out acts of God, nature, or terrorism. We have propane in a large tank for heat and cooking – currently a 500-gallon tank but we’re thinking of moving up to a 1000-gallon tank – so we aren’t reliant on gas lines. We have a well and a septic field, so no longer are we reliant on city water and sewage. And although we’re still “on the grid” in terms of electricity, we do have a whole-house generator that runs on propane, so power outages due to storms or other problems don’t trouble us much. We have a good-sized kitchen pantry that we keep stocked, plus an extra freezer and refrigerator in the basement.

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We’re pretty well set to ride out short-duration catastrophes. But as the news media yammers on about tonight’s possible storm, it seems like a good time to repost something I wrote and published elsewhere last year.

From Kill Your Television, Stock Your Pantry:

A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. (Proverbs 27:12, NLT)

One of the downsides – or is it an upside?  I’m not sure. – of not having what Keoni Galt calls tell-a-vision is that you don’t find out when it is time to engage in mass hysteria until everyone else is already in full-on panic mode.

Let me give an example.  We live in Michigan and sometimes the weather here can be bad in the winter.  I grew up in the Grand Rapids area, so I’m used to dealing with heavy snowfall, unlike my compatriots here in the southern part of the state who seem to flip out over five inches.  I noticed yesterday morning when I checked a weather website that we were supposed to get heavy snow today – possibly up to a foot, but I’ve learned to take forecasts like that with a grain of salt because they are often exaggerated and will say things like 6-12 inches possible, which means we might get 4.  Anyway, a possible foot of snow is worth knowing about, but because I don’t have TV, I did not get the Everybody freak the hell out! message.

Coming out of church yesterday evening, my husband left directly to go to work in his car, and I said to our daughters, “We need to stop by the store to pick up some eggs because we’re out and I need one to make dinner.”

Eldest daughter replied, “Oh, didn’t you hear?  There’s a blizzard coming later and there are mobs at the stores and almost no food left.”  Why no, I hadn’t heard, as a matter of fact.  I felt a sense of unease.  “Come on, let’s go.  We need eggs.”  So off we went.

When we arrived at an out-of-the-way grocery store that I thought might not be too crowded, we were greeted by a waiting line of cars to get into the parking lot…at 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday night.  I waited patiently, got a spot, and the girls and I trudged in through the slush.

We needn’t have bothered.  There were no eggs to be had, nor bread, nor fruit, nor vegetables.  All milk other than whole milk was gone – lucky for me, people are still dumb enough to believe that low-fat milk is healthier for them, so at least I was able to get a gallon of milk.  There wasn’t even any toilet paper on the shelves, all because we might get a foot of snow today.  I saw two obese women empty an entire shelf of Little Debbie snack cakes into their shopping cart…because Little Debbie will lead you through the storm safely, ladies, right?  I asked the cashier if it had been like this all day, and the poor, exhausted woman nodded and told me it had been worse earlier, with people arguing over loaves of bread.

Why do people act this way?  There are two reasons.  First, people panic when the TV says to, which kind of makes you stop and wonder a bit about just how much influence we have allowed it to have in our lives.  How much do we unconsciously do and think because that is what the TV tells us to do and think?  Think about how the weather forecast is portrayed on television – it should be a fairly mundane part of the newscast, right?  It used to be that way; when I was a little girl, the meteorologist was always a staid, calm man in a suit explaining something that, to my five-year-old ears, sounded like windshield temperatures, making me wonder why anyone cared what the temperature of their car windshield was.

But forecasts aren’t like that anymore.  There are fast moving graphics, weird sound effects, announcers saying things like Stay with Channel 7!  Storm Team 7 is on the job, tracking the Blizzard of the Century!  and a good twenty minutes of hype, with fluff stories involving interviews with customers buying snowblowers – in fact, the very last snowblower, oh god Bob do we have a snowblower, why didn’t you get a snowblower?! Why did I marry such a terrible, no-snowblower-having man?? – at Home Depot.  What is the point of this?

Well, the more freaked out and emotional people get by the news coverage, the more they watch it; they don’t want to miss any detail.  Why?  Because their emotions are being manipulated – they are being induced into a state of panic in order to get them to continue watching because a large viewership means more advertising dollars.

The second reason people respond this way is that they have not properly prepared for a state of emergency.  Preparedness means getting your ducks in a row before, not during, a crisis.  The reason I did not have to panic and start clearing shelves into my cart at the store yesterday was because I’m already prepared for a short-term emergency.  My husband built a pantry full of shelves for me in the basement, and I keep it well-stocked with canned goods, bottled water, paper products, extra batteries, and the like.  No, we couldn’t live out of our basement for a year, but neither do I have to try to fight my way through a mob to get the last roll of toilet paper on the store shelf with a blizzard on the way.

If you haven’t done so, I highly recommend reading the article The 7 core areas of preparedness by Patrice Lewis.  Patrice runs a preparedness/homesteading blog of her own, Rural Revolution, but this article was originally published in Backwoods Home Magazine.  Here is what Patrice says are the seven core areas and what you need to consider.  She writes:

Food

This is obvious. I don’t mean you should stuff your freezer with TV dinners, either, because if the power goes out, they’re gone. Consider purchasing staples you enjoy eating (rice, beans, oatmeal, etc.) and learn to store and prepare them. These have the added advantage of being dirt cheap. If you want to take the next step, learn to can. Properly canned food lasts years without refrigeration, and canning is a valuable skill as well. Alternately, buy lots of commercially canned food.

Along with storing food, you should have the means to prepare it. Your options will be more limited if you’re in an urban high-rise apartment (where you can’t install a wood cookstove, for example), in which case your food will have to be pre-cooked (such as MREs) or otherwise edible without cooking. Eating unheated soup or beans right out of a can might not be the most pleasant meal, but at least you won’t starve.

Water

Without water to drink and wash, you’ll be miserable (or dead). At all times you should have a minimum of 20 gallons stored in your home. Look for options to secure larger quantities of water (roof runoff? storage tank?) as well as ways to sterilize surface water such as bleach, iodine, or filtration.

If you’re preparing for a minimum of three months, then your storage space for water will be huge and will probably take up far more space than most people have available. That’s why you need the means to purify water. A non-electric water filter (such as Berkey) might be part of your water storage efforts.

Heat

We live in rural north Idaho not far from the Canadian border. Heat is a major concern for us. How can you heat your house if the power goes out? Everyone’s circumstances are different – you probably can’t install a woodstove in a Manhattan apartment – so think through the alternatives that will work for you.

Be careful about ventilation when considering your heat sources. Endless people have been asphyxiated due to carbon monoxide poisoning because they chose the wrong option to heat their living space. Some buildings have windows which will not open, and this must be considered when thinking through your heat sources.

Lights

You don’t want to be in the dark, do you? Everyone can afford an oil lamp or two. Don’t bother with those pricey containers of scented lamp oil, either. A gallon of kerosene is less than $10 and works just fine.

While flashlights and batteries are nice (and necessary), you’ll go through your battery supplies very quickly if you depend on them exclusively for lighting. Remember your Rule of Three: plan to have backups to your backups. You should have candles, oil lamps, perhaps battery-powered LED lamps, or other light sources.

If you’re “bugging in,” consider blackout curtains for your windows that will block light. Alternately, a roll of black plastic and duct tape will work (as well as being useful for other purposes). No sense advertising how prepared you are (OpSec!). But remember, sheeting your windows in plastic will trap carbon monoxide, so be careful.

Sanitation

What happens if you can’t flush your toilets? If you run out of diapers or feminine hygiene products? If you don’t have toilet paper? Think about what kind of reusable alternatives you can substitute for pricey disposable items.

Find reusable versions of disposable sanitary items. Cheap washcloths from the dollar store can act as reusable toilet paper. Use cloth instead of disposable diapers. Try washable feminine napkins instead of disposable. Of course, these reusable versions require a means to wash them, so think through your options. For short-term preparedness, it might be better to stock up on disposables.

If you cannot flush your toilets and an outhouse isn’t possible, a five-gallon bucket lined with heavy-duty trash bags and a toilet seat may be your next best option. Wood shavings, sawdust, or ash can be sprinkled in the bucket after each use to help control odors.

Medical

Can you doctor yourself for minor injuries? Do you have a good stock of your prescription medicines? It doesn’t cost much to pull together a comprehensive first-aid kit. It might be harder to stockpile prescription medications, so this is something worth discussing with your doctor.

Now may be the time to take a refresher course for basic first aid. You might also stock up on medical items you may not otherwise consider — burn dressings, tape closures, compression bandages, and lots of over-the-counter pain killers.

Safety

What happens when too many people suddenly want to be your best friend post-bleep? What should you do if you live in an urban area subject to rioting and unrest? Some people interpret “safety” to mean they should have an arsenal of guns. Others think they need a secret rural bug-out location. However you interpret it, identify prospective dangers for your circumstances and think of how to mitigate them.

Personally, I believe every family member old enough to handle a firearm should be taught safety factors and target practice. Adult members should also have holsters (either concealed or otherwise) for ease of carry during “bleep” situations. I recently purchased a bra holster which will make concealed carry very simple and comfortable (and invisible).

Safety should be more than just firearms. It also includes such things as situational and strategic awareness, home and property security, communications, and local relations (friends, neighbors, community).

Just like nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, so too no one expects a sudden state of emergency; nevertheless, unexpected events do happen, and when they do, people panic because they are being manipulated by mass hysteria cues being screamed at them by their TVs and because they have not prepared.  But if you are prepared, and if you turn off your yammering tell-a-vision, you will not need to panic.

Oh, and how did my trip to the grocery store end?  Well, feminists are certain that careers rather than babies are our salvation, ladies, but in this instance our littlest daughter saved the day.  As I stood fretting at the empty dairy case about not being able to make the dish I had wanted to make for dinner due to the missing eggs, she cried, “Mommy, I see eggs! I see them!”  Sure enough, there they were; she was just the right height to peer into the bottom dairy case shelf and notice a little half-dozen carton of eggs pushed to the very back and unnoticed.  I grabbed them, we checked out, and dinner was just as I had planned it.

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And so here I sit, cozy and calm, watching the snow fall.  Won’t you now join me in a little sing-a-long, dear readers?

I am gross and perverted
I’m obsessed ‘n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little has changed
I’m the tool of the Government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can’t look away
I make you think I’m delicious
With the stuff that I say
I’m the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I’m the slime oozin’ out
From your TV set

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don’t need you
Don’t go for help . . . no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

That’s right, folks . . .
Don’t touch that dial

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10 thoughts on “Prudently Prepared and Un-Panicked

  1. I’m jealous of your whole house generator!

    We have pretty much the same philosophy and preps as you though. I have a 7500 watt gas generator and two 1800 vehicle based inverters so I can light up every room, run the microwave, etc. I have enough wood to heat the house for ten years (it was a very big oak tree when we cut it down) and enough food and ammo to last a while. If things got really bad, I already hunt on my property.

    We also have a camper that can run off the big generator, and about 500 gallons of potable water.

    Your points about being told when to panic are spot on. I wouldn’t know when to panic in an emergency and we are ready anyway.

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  2. My cousins run a sheep station in remote Australia, where they have to do everything themselves. If anyone gets sick or injured, the only option is to call in the Royal Flying Doctor service and hope it reaches them in time. So I ‘get’ preparedness. What I never understand is the American apocalyptic mindset, with the stashing of guns in case the hordes come over the hill seeking shelter and supplies. Do you really believe this would be likely in the event of a freak weather event?

    I agree with you about the low-fat milk, by the way. (Also rice ‘milk’, soy ‘milk’ and anything else that has to be heavily processed in order to make it into a white liquid.)

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    • My cousins run a sheep station in remote Australia, where they have to do everything themselves. If anyone gets sick or injured, the only option is to call in the Royal Flying Doctor service and hope it reaches them in time. So I ‘get’ preparedness.

      The biggest thing I’m thinking of when I prep is weather-related events. We get a lot of weird weather in Michigan – terrible snow storms, wind storms, thunderstorms, tornadoes – and so prepping for those events is something people really do need to do. You have to be ready to lose power for a week.

      A secondary consideration, one that I still consider but to a lesser degree, is the likelihood of a disease epidemic. This is not an “out there” possibility – epidemics have been part of human history since forever and the degree of world-mobility we have now is unprecedented. I consider three to six months about the amount of time that I like to have stores of food and supplies to cover in the event of an epidemic. And by the way, that is good social/public health policy. People just staying home as much as possible is a very good way to contain and stamp out an epidemic.

      And then there is the apocalyptic stuff. Could an apocalypse happen? Sure, it’s possible. Is it likely? I don’t know, but I do know it would be pretty hard to prep for something like that because you’d have no idea what was going to happen and what you’d need to do. I mean, how do you prepare for something like 9-11? How do you prepare that one day you’ll go to work and Muslim terrorists will fly airplanes into your work place and kill thousands of people? You can’t prep for stuff like that, so I just don’t think too much about it.

      We do own guns (all legally obtained and properly licensed and secured) and a reasonably good (and legal) store of ammunition for our various guns. The first reason is because we like recreational target shooting. The second reason is for self-defense in the event of a home-invasion. Home invasions do happen and preparing for that possibility is always wise. The third reason is for hunting. And the fourth reason is because gun-ownership is simply part of American culture and we are Americans.

      In terms of arming for an apocalypse, though? No. We don’t believe there is going to be some kind of terrorist ground war in the U.S. any time soon – right now, it’s all “hit and run” terrorism here and the best you can do is have a concealed carry permit and carry your pistol wherever you are legally permitted to do so.

      What I never understand is the American apocalyptic mindset, with the stashing of guns in case the hordes come over the hill seeking shelter and supplies. Do you really believe this would be likely in the event of a freak weather event?

      Well, there would be no hordes coming over the hills seeking shelter and supplies where we live now. Our goofy little hometown newspaper is always showing off pictures during deer season of all the deer that kids shoot right in their own backyards

      If you are so inclined, you can read all about how little Madison shot her six-point buck in her backyard in Dexter whereas Hunter got his on the family property in Chelsea.

      There are also farms and lakes full of fish everywhere. All our neighbors have food, deer, fish, chickens, and guns of their own and wouldn’t need ours. 🙂

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      • One of my friends here is an avid gardener, with a great big piece of land that’s a way from here, that she uses for vegetables. We always say that when the apocalypse comes, we’re moving in. She’s OK with that, because she wants help.

        However, whenever we have one of these joking conversations, it occurs to me we would be better off stockpiling whisky and ciggies, which we can either trade with other people to our mutual post-apocalyptic benefit, or we can just use to smoke and drink ourselves to death and forget about the horror of it all. (NB: I don’t smoke, but am prepared to take it up in the event of a nuclear war/ tsunami etc etc.)

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      • In reading through that archived newspaper page, I see that the aptly-named Hunter got his nine-point buck with a 44 mag! And they say handguns are only for killing people. Way to go with the handgun-hunting, Hunter!

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      • However, whenever we have one of these joking conversations, it occurs to me we would be better off stockpiling whisky and ciggies, which we can either trade with other people to our mutual post-apocalyptic benefit, or we can just use to smoke and drink ourselves to death and forget about the horror of it all. (NB: I don’t smoke, but am prepared to take it up in the event of a nuclear war/ tsunami etc etc.)

        Stockpiling booze is a perfectly acceptable form of prepping, but go with vodka instead; it can be used to make herbal tinctures. I will post on that in the late summer when I make blackberry tincture, provided my blackberry plants have wintered over and not died.

        I used to be a light/social smoker before we had children. When I met Philip, he also smoked and always used loose-leaf tobacco to roll his own cigarettes. What an outrageous pleasure! I still miss it and plan to start having that one nightly cigarette again if ever I find out I have a terminal illness or if TEOTWAWKI really ever does happen.

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      • Have you heard of the term ‘nominative determinism’?

        Um, I’m named Sunshine. That’s my real, actual, birth name.

        And here I am, shining the light of truth into all your lives. 🙂

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  3. There are no words to describe my love for the whole-house generator. It was a selling point on the house, no doubt about it. And here is a little personal anecdote that demonstrates why I love our generator.

    The very first day we took possession of this house, we came over in the afternoon and started doing some cleaning and planning. I had a carpet-cleaning service coming, and soon the cheerful guys showed up and began steaming the carpet and vacuuming out the ductwork.

    My husband had to take our kids up to the high school because it was the first home football game of the season and our high schooler is a flutist in the marching band, so I was left alone with the carpet cleaners in the middle of our ten-acre woods as dark was falling and a storm was gathering. The wind started picking up, and the big oak trees out back began swaying frighteningly. The lights started flickering and the carpet cleaners’ machines kept cutting out due to the interruption to the power. Meanwhile the entire marching band, all the parents, and the football team were crowded into the old high school (our football field is part of the old high school property and the new high school is across the street).

    And then the entire house went black as the storm hit and the electricity went out. “Don’t worry,” I hollered to the carpet cleaners. “We have a generator!” Thirty seconds later, standing in the pitch black as the trees whipped around outside, I yelped, “Oh NO, WHY ISN’T THE GENERATOR TURNING ON!?” I was starting to panic, but one of the carpet guys told me firmly, “Calm down. It usually takes them about two minutes to turn on.”

    And sure enough, about sixty seconds later, we heard the thunk-hum of the generator coming to life, and the lights all came back on and the carpet cleaners resumed their work. I think, next to my babies’ first cries after they were born, that thunk-hum was one of the nicest sounds I’ve ever heard. 🙂

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