There are two ways to sleep well at night ... be ignorant or be prepared.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

How Some Were Drawn to Prepare

This is the next article resulting from input solicited from TB2K members. (See "Crisis Preparation Advice from the Experts," the August 16 blog entry here.)

The '64 Earthquake in Alaska Reinforced the Habit

Patb: I have had my mindset of being prepared for many, many years. Starting with when I was a kid living with my parents in a railroad section town 9 miles from a highway and 45 miles from the nearest town during WW2. Couldn't get much gas and tires were impossible. So we made a trip about once a month by train to the nearest town to stock up. Of course war time prepping was a much different story.

When I got older, living somewhere else (in a town), prepping was a way of life, especially during the wintertime as we were prone to blizzards that could keep you pinned down for days on end. I'd advise people just starting out to consider the various weather extremes they could expect in their locations. That could lead to lists for various scenarios--yes, I am a list maker. Prepping for extreme weather is one of the ways to ease people into a prepping way of life.

If you camp and have the basic equipment to do so, you are already in the game. We used our camp stove, for example, to prepare meals and melt snow for water after the '64 quake in Anchorage.

My preps also came in handy about 25 years ago when my husband (may he rest in peace) was in a snowmachine accident and couldn't work for over a year. I did have a job, but wasn't bringing in much. Having something put back really helped us. I had three growing boys at the time. You never know what may come. If you have preps and don't need them, you can always use them. But, if you need them and don't have them, you could be in a world of hurt.

A Fast Evacuation Due to A Hazardous Spill

Pam811811: What got my butt into gear was a train wreck. Because of my husband's job, I we had just moved to a town where I didn't know anybody. We lived two miles outside of the small town and there was a train wreck there. The police came through our small subdivision and evacuated us within minutes. I had to leave my house with 3 small children, 2 large dogs, and a kitten. My husband was stuck at work and was not allowed to drive into the evacuation zone. At that time, we also only had one cell phone and my husband always took it to work because I stayed home with the kids.

I didn't even have an adequate diaper bag packed!! I literally had nothing but my kids and animals. I spent four hours at a park with no money and no baby formula. (Hey, I did have diapers though!) When I was finally able to go home, I stayed up until 3am packing small backpacks for everyone. These were my original "bug-out bags" (BOBs). They really weren't much. A few snacks, some water, money, clothes, just enough for a few hours or a day.

Then, I spent some time online and found out about real emergency BOBs and somewhere I found a link to a Y2K site. Boy then, I got an eye opener! Tons of information. Anyway, those of us who weren't really raised as preppers, sometimes need a personal event to knock us into gear. Well, that and GUILT! Boy did I feel like a failure when my daugher screamed at the top of her lungs when I had to give her lukewarm water out of a drinking fountain at the park. Plus she had to drink it out of a plain cup that I found under a seat in the van because I didn't have a bottle.

Surviving Severe Weather Leaves Its Mark

Idelphic: Growing up, we had a small garden and canned a bit; we also had a freezer. I always had an interest in storms. I loved to sit out on the porch and watch the rain come pounding down and to watch the lightning. After getting my Ham license, I took some SkyWarn training, and even did a bit of stormchasing. One way or the other, when you have an understanding of just how much nature's wrath can change the world around us, you realize you ought to try to do something to prepare for the worst.

But until actually going through some really tough storms, I was not actively preparing. Having lived through several hurricanes, and super storms ... I know what it means to be prepared. And to stay informed. A hurricane came through Virginia a few years ago, and took out the power at my place of employment, and it was out for 3 days ... but I missed a day since I didn't keep in touch as I should have.

With the chance of starting a new family, I've made several changes in my plan. I'm in the process of building my house, and I opted to have the area under my front porch converted into a storm room. This area, normally just filled in with dirt and trash, will be a shelter. I will add a protected storage area, and am also researching options on what I can do to create a document storage area for my family history and computer data files. I'm looking at something that will withstand fire and water. Possible other options are to increase the "safe haven" area but expanding the basement farther below what is currently built. But this will not be done until after the keys have been passed to me.

Life's Lessons Included Being Shot in the Head

Bookworm1711: I learned to prepare when I lived in a large inner city. I was the apartment manager for a short while. I saw first-hand the need for personal security. I put double-cylinder jimmyproof deadbolt locks on all doors of my apartment, interior and exterior. I put extra long wood screws to anchor the door hinges and strike plates into the wall studs rather than just the door frame. I put locks on all windows. I reinforced closet doors the same way, and put 3/4" plywood on the interior of the entrance door and even the closet doors. I installed one-inch deadbolt locks on the closet doors. Thirty-five years later when the apartment building, long abandoned, was demolished, my closet doors were still unbreached!

I moved out into the country in 1975, where I thought the crime rate would be low. My farmhouse was broken into twice in the first few months I lived here. I then repeated the security preparations in the country that I had used in the city. Also, as I remodeled the house, I tried to "super-insulate" it. That pays off now with heating bills one-half to one-third those of similar size, even newer homes.

The first winter I lived in the country our power went out for nearly two weeks because of an ice storm. I have since made preparations to survive such emergencies with no problems. We keep enough food on hand as a normal procedure to last a month or more to avoid frequent trips to the grocery store, except for fresh milk which we buy more often. We just stock the normal things we eat. My wife watches for the sale items, and we stock up on those. We have a relatively local food outlet that encourages buying food by the case at very good prices. Buying food there saves money, and makes long term storage preparation easy. My wife dates the cans as we buy them, and always uses the oldest stock first.

We took the threat of Y2K very seriously, and are now glad we prepared as well as we did. Even before Y2K I was shot in the back of the head by an unknown assailant wielding a 9mm handgun. I was knocked to the ground in the muddy back parking lot of the high school where I taught. I was off work for nearly five years. We are glad we had prepped as well as we did, as it helped to survive the loss of income for that long. The person who shot me was never caught, even though a couple of teachers arrived on the scene as the crime was concluding and followed the assailant's vehicle. The assailant escaped, abandoning the vehicle, which turned out to be stolen, so there was no clue to who the assailant was. Interestingly, one of my best students had warned me three weeks before the event that I "was going to be killed." The student told me he hoped I could get a different job quick at another school. The student was not joking, but I took it with a grain of salt.

While off of teaching I spent the (unpaid!) time preparing a major Bible reference book which has sold well over 40,000 copies in its printed book form. It has been distributed far more widely (perhaps 180,000 copies a year) in its software format. In those difficult times I was encouraged by Psalm 34:4-- "I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." We learned to live very frugally, I may assure you. We did not accrue any debt.

When the power goes off we have no water, since we have an electric well. We have since installed an old-fashioned high-quality hand-pump like farms and rural public parks used to have. We have also stored filtered water in emptied half-gallon clear plastic Hawaian Punch bottles or jugs for drinking needs. Since our kitchen is all-electric, the problem of how to cook when the power is out has presented a problem. We have recently purchased kerosene lanterns that are designed to heat food on top, and can safely be used indoors. For outdoors, we have a Volcano Stove that works just fine. Had a full turkey yesterday cooked in the Dutch oven on top of the Volcano Stove, which uses charcoal bricquets for fuel. We decided to "test" our preps to see if it could really be done. Saved a bit on the electric bill by not using the electric oven. The rest of the meal--potatoes and vegetables, etc., cooked at the same time on the Volcano Stove. The meal came out perfectly and sure tasted good.

An Ice Storm Can Teach ... or Not

Ruckmanite: Back in '98, we got slammed with an ice storm that hit Sunday night, and by early Monday morning, there was no power and 8" of ice-encrusted snow, with more coming. I made it to Home Depot and bought the second-to-last 5KW generator, a few plugs, and a gas can. They were out of power and running on backup. Thank God the phone lines and Visa was still working. I ran to gas up the genset and extra can, and my big van for backup fuel. Power lines were arcing across the street, the wind howling--I barely was able to get the gas and took two hours to get home on a 15-minute trip. Power lines and poles were down everywhere.

Back at home, the house was down to 50 degrees, the wife was nervous, and I was rewiring the furnace and well to take a direct male plug into an extension cord (both were 110V). One hour later, the furnace was running, the well was on, and the fridge was operating.

There were four people in our small town of 150 or so that had generators. None knew how to hotwire a well. Word spread fast that I had water, and about a half-dozen neighbors came to the door with jugs for water. With only five gallons of gas, and that going quick, it became a swap meet. I would supply them with water if they could help out with gas, and would have given them water as long as the fuel held out. The neighbors were happy to help.

A few giant floaters in the commode got everyone's attention, emphasizing how important water was. I ran the genset as needed, once every hour or so for about a half-hour. In that time we would run the furnace like gangbusters, prime up the well, and fill extra jugs. To keep the power adequate, it was run the furnace a while, then disconnect that plug and run the well a while, then the furnace ... you get it. Without a transfer switch, you play switch the plugs a lot.

Lessons learned:

1. I figured I could get gas out of my '97 Ford van via siphon. Wrong, as there was some kind of blocker tube in the fuel filler pipe and that didn't work.

2. People are stupid. With an ice storm, below-freezing temps, and plenty of coolers and garbage cans available, people left their homes for shelters and let all the food in their freezers ruin/thaw, instead of packing it in the plentiful ice and snow available.

3. Electric ovens don't make it as back-up heat when the power is out, and newer gas ovens, with electronic igniters, won't work either. In some models, no power = no gas, even to the burners.

4. A camp stove with fuel is a tremendous comfort and blessing to have. My neighbor was about to lose her mind for lack of coffee. I made a very good friend even better with a couple of hot breakfasts and plenty of java.

5. It takes an incredible amount of snow to melt enough water to get a good flush going (from the neighbors).

6. With backup heat and water, you can withstand five days without power with only minor inconveniences.

The scary thing is how the whole town was virtually unprepared. Very few have basic electrical knowledge of how to jury-rig things to get by. Even fewer had only 1 gallon of bottled water around. Food? Forget it. They couldn't even handle a week without going to the grocery store for bread and milk/eggs.

They haven't learned anything since. In '99, I got a wood stove, have learned more, and camp extensively. You can make an excellent oven out of a wooden or even a cardboard box lined with foil or steel sheeting, and use charcoal for cooking. I made lasagna for 18 Boy Scouts and leaders in one of those things with garlic bread and they were amazed.

Get it, learn it, before you have to use it.

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