Tuesday, February 1, 2011
On Being Prepared
Today was the first day of an anticipated two-day storm that has been called both "record-breaking" and "catastrophic." Mr. FC&G and I woke up at 6:15, and he immediately looked out the window and then went down to check on the condition of the driveway and streets. I grabbed the iPhone and powered up Twitter long enough to find that the college was closed and by the time I was finished, Mr. FC&G was back. "It's slicker than snot on a doorknob," he said and dived back under the quilts with me for another hour. When I got up, I knew this was the perfect day to share with you some of my thoughts on preparedness.
If you search online for sites dedicated to preparedness, you are in for a full afternoon or six reading various people's thoughts about how to prepare for situations ranging from bad to worse. Many people couch their preparation efforts in terms of events that they wish to be prepared to handle, whether that is job loss, dramatic inflation, political unrest, extreme weather, or even less-likely events. While the chances of any one thing going wrong may be small to infinitesimal, the chances over a lifetime that you are going to have to deal with a period of going off the grid, being separated from modern conveniences, or having an emergency that you have to handle yourself are pretty great. Being able to do so is part of living a self-sufficient, sustainable life.
Think you'll never need to be prepared to rough it a little? In just the last five years, I've had to deal with the breakage and replacement of a sewer pipe, a fender-bender that left me without transportation, the tail end of Hurricane Ike, and now the great ice storm of 2011. Each of these situations has benefited from me being prepared in various ways, and all were more or less unforeseeable in the long term. So, I'm not the type to prepare for a specific situation. Rather, I suggest you begin your preparedness efforts by looking at the amount of time you could possibly be "off the grid," separated from one or more of your conveniences. Let's look at some examples:
Less than an Hour: The power goes out to your home in a random thunderstorm. Do you know where your flashlight is? Your spare set of car keys? Can you find first aid supplies and any medications you may need in the dark? If you are at work, do you have enough gas in your car to get home? Is it safer to stay at work? How would you decide? Is your cell phone charged?
More than an Hour but Less than a Day: You lose power in an ice storm like we're having today. Do you have back-up heat that doesn't rely on electricity? Where are your extra quilts? Do you have enough food in the house to make a meal without a stove? What do you have to drink? Will your freezer stay cold for 24 hours so that you don't lose what you have stored? Do you have a hand-crank emergency radio so you can get updates? How about some candles?
A Day to a Week: Hurricane Ike took us off the grid for over four days. How will you prepare meals? Do you have a week's worth of food stored; if not, what if groceries are unavailable in the store? Do you consistently keep enough gas in your car for an emergency supply run if the gas stations are unavailable? How will you reach friends and family who are worried? Where's your passport? You might not be travelling internationally, but it is the best form of ID we currently have. Do you think you need a generator, a heater, a water purification system?
A Period of Months: A job loss, a hyperinflation, or (heaven forbid) a system collapse of some sort occurs. What survival skills do you have? Can you grow or trade for food? Do you know how to repair things around your house? What medical skills and supplies do you need? How much can you rely on your neighbors; how much do you want them to rely on you?
None of this is intended to frighten you. The more extreme the imagined circumstance, the less likely it is to occur. However, it is a good exercise to imagine scenarios that could leave you without your normal resources. Start with short term losses of one resource like, as mentioned above, a power outage for a limited period. Work your way up to more long-term and widespread problems. Discuss plans with your family. It might be a good idea to write down your plan, then revisit it occasionally.
Postscript: How did we prepare for this storm? We are in pretty good shape, considering we have a lot of stored food from the summer, piles of quilts, a snowblower, a pile of wood and a fireplace insert/stove. We charged the phones and got an extra can of gas and some kerosene for the heater. Mr. FC&G ran to the store for some comfort food items, but we would be OK for many days without. And so far, we are snug and warm in a house that still has power. We may not need any of our preparation items, but we'll use up our stock and then restock as needed. Being prepared and not needing it is far better than doing without.
Posted by Jennifer Lorenzetti at 11:33 AM