It’s finally starting to feel like Spring here.  Much of the country has already planted their gardens, but we’re just getting started.  If you haven’t put in a garden, think about getting started this year.  It’s a great way to grow some edibles, teach your kids a little about self sufficiency, and it’s a relaxing past time.

Here are some of my favorite seed suppliers for good heirloom varieties.

I plant mostly leafy greens because they grow well in the garden areas I have and my family likes them.  My kids grow pumpkins and watermelon because they love the big flowers and the big gourds.  I’m also experimenting with sunchokes this year – they seem like a great long-term food alternative because they grow well, self sow (to the point of being invasive) and you can leave the tubers in the ground until you want to eat them, which has to be the easiest food storage option I’ve come across.

What’s on your plate for gardening this year?

 

Vises are made for holding things tight, but in an emergency, you may find that it’s your vices that have a grip on you.

Smoking and drinking are two common vices that become such a habit that people don’t even think about them.  If you’re used to having a smoke after a meal or a couple of drinks every evening, you might feel the effects if you go cold turkey.  The last thing you need when the pressure is on in an emergency is to have withdrawal piling on the pain.

One group that may not even realize they’re addicted is coffee drinkers.  I’ve heard it said that caffeine is far more physically addictive than heroine.  If you’re used to having a cup or two in the morning you may not even realize you’re feeding a habit, but if you go without for a day or so, the resulting headaches can be crippling.  At the very least you’ll be irritable and less prepared to deal with other events.

Thinking through your daily routines and taking stock of your habits can help you prepare more completely.  It’s just as easy to stock up an extra supply of coffee or booze as it is canned goods and water, and since you’re using it anyway, you can store what you eat and eat what you store.  Just think through your day, everything you do and need, and think about how it would be different if the power were out, if the heat was off in a blizzard or if there were angry people rioting on your street and you couldn’t leave your house (it’s happened to me).  If you play out these scenarios in your mind, you might find several little habits and vices that you can prepare for to make emergencies easier.

What’s your vice, and how do you include it in your preps?

 

Rain.  It’s free water from the sky, but it’s not always falling when we need it.  Building a simple rain catchment system is an easy way to collect water when it’s there for times when it’s not.

If you have a house with gutters, one of the most effective rain catchers is your roof.  This isn’t ideal for your drinking water supply if you have asphalt shingles or other roofing material that will add contaminants, but it’s a great way to save up some rain for your garden.  Just adapt one of your gutter downspouts to flow into a barrel or other container.  For the deluxe solution, add a screen filter on the intake and make sure it can overflow without causing problems.

For a more pure drinking water supply, the Rain Saucer is a free-standing collector/funnel that fits into a container.  The Rain Saucer seems like a good deal since it comes with tethers, filters, and connectors, but you could easily DIY something similar and adapt to whatever type of container you want to use.

Rain water storage is a quick and easy way to set aside some water for future use.  Whether you want it available for a water shortage, just want convenient water for your garden, or want to put a standalone rain catcher in some location without water service, it’s inexpensive way to secure one of your most basic resources.

 

Everyone should have some extra food set aside for emergencies.  Based on your risk assessments, you may be preparing for a 72-hour bug-in during a storm, or laying in supplies for a 30, 60 or even 90-day crisis.  Only you can decide what risks you realistically face and what you can afford to do to prepare, but everyone should have at least three days worth of food on hand all the time.

There are several kinds of foods that lend themselves to medium and long-term storage.  Dry goods like rice, beans, lentils and pasta are great because they will have a long shelf life if stored properly.  Many will last 30 days or longer simply stored in your cupboard like you got them from the store, but if you live in a particularly humid or otherwise adverse climate, you may have to take steps to keep them edible.

For the foods listed above like rice and beans, the key to storing them is to keep them dry and away from oxygen.  Dry is easy if you can seal them in bags or jars.  Keeping them away from oxygen is harder, but there are several ways you can do this.

  • Oxygen absorbers – little packets that will absorb the oxygen after you seal them in a jar with your food.  They cost several dollars apiece, so you have to balance the economy of using them versus other options.
  • Gadgets like the Foodsaver jar sealer and other vacuum devices that allow you to remove the air after sealing a bag or jar of food.
  • Dry ice – placing a small piece of dry ice on top of an open container of food and giving it time to displace the air in the container with CO2 before sealing will effectively eliminate air.  This must be done with care so you don’t damage the food (placing the dry ice on a small insulated pad will protect the food underneath) and to insure that no dry ice is left in the container when you seal it because it will pressurize the container and potentially burst.

The primary rule for storing food like this is to store what you eat and eat what you store.  Store what you eat routinely so you don’t end up in an emergency with a bunch of perfectly preserved weird food that no one wants to eat.  Eat what you store so you’re constantly rotating through your stock to maintain freshness.  Even if you build up a 90-day food supply, you should be pulling the oldest containers off the shelf to eat and replacing them so you don’t end up with a 90-day supply that has been sitting on your shelf unused for years.  Some foods and some storage methods will handle that, but if you’re just getting started it’s easier and safer to just continually build up and rotate through your stockpile.

 

 

One of the most enduring images that shows a lack of preparation for emergencies is the too-frequent scene of people standing in floodwaters desperate for the delivery of bottled water. Granted, flood waters are dangerous and they should be your last resort, but they are usable if you have a little knowledge and a little prep.

There are three things that make any water dangerous whether it’s a flooded river or a stagnant pond.

  • solid matter – sand, dirt, algae and other debris suspended in the water
  • chemicals – in flood waters the most common danger is oil and gas that’s coming off flooded streets or out of storage containers
  • pathogens – bacteria and viruses, everything from cryptosporidium to E. coli may be present in contaminated water.

The first threat, solid matter, is the easiest to deal with.  Some will simply settle out if the water is left still for a period of time.  A good filter will remove most solid matter and often the dirt or other suspended matter is unpalatable but not dangerous.

The second threat, chemicals, is a serious concern.  Any attempt to clean contaminated water must include filter material capable of a absorbing chemical contaminants.  Activated charcoal is the most common means of dealing with chemicals.

The third threat, pathogens, are also a serious issue and are most often addressed using chemical purification or boiling, though UV sterilizers are also becoming more common.

The most common way to prepare for dealing with water purification is to have a filter on hand.  Whether it’s a big home-installed system like a Berkey or a small backpacker model like an MSR, these provide filtration and purification on demand.  However, it’s worthwhile to spend a little time learning how to build a filter from scratch to meet emergency or on-going needs.

One common and easy-to-build design is to fill a container with layers of sand (to provide filtration of solid matter) and charcoal (to absorb chemical contaminants).  Often layers of pebbles or cloth are used to stabilize the other layers so you don’t end up with channels that allow water to flow through without going through all layers.  These materials can be layered into any container that you can pour water through.  A bucket with an outlet on the bottom is ideal and allows you to pour water in the open top and collect filtered water flowing out the bottom.  You can even build a water filter like this from a water bottle.  Instructables has a nice page detailing one method.  Practical Primitive has another.

It’s important to note that the charcoal used in this type of filter is not the same as the compressed charcoal briquettes you buy for cooking on a charcoal grill.  Briquettes are made by compressing charcoal, but you have no idea what original source material was used to create the charcoal.  If you’re using it for fuel, the requirements are much less stringent than if you’re using it to filter water.  You can buy bulk bags of activated charcoal to keep on hand.  It’s used in many types of filtration systems, and places like aquarium supply houses provide it in bulk at a reasonable price.  Alternatively, you can make your own charcoal buy burning wood and smothering the fire before it completely burns.  This technique allows you to create the charcoal you need from a known-clean source of wood.  Always use wood you can trust, not things like building materials that might contain treatment chemicals.

The last threat, pathogens, can be addressed by adding chemicals like bleach or boiling.  A DIY filter doesn’t help with this step, but if you can build a filter that removes debris and chemicals, removing the pathogens is straightforward.  In addition to boiling or using a product like Aquapure, you might even use your backup filter, something like the MSR, which will remove many pathogens.  Using the homemade sand-charcoal filter first will help lengthen the lifespan of your filter cartridges.

 

 

Dehydrated food is a common part of stocking up food for an emergency.  Dehydrated food has a long shelf life and is easy to prepare which makes it an ideal part of your 72-hour or longer-term food supply.  Often this means stocking up on single-serving dehydrated meals intended for camping.  Brands like Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry offer a variety of entrees and side dishes which can be prepared by simply adding hot water to the pouch.

While dehydrated camp meals offer convenience, very long shelf life, and are reasonably affordable, they’re typically not the kind of thing you want to eat every day, so they don’t fit the budget or the philosophy of someone who wants to store what they eat and eat what they store.

Jennifer Ess at Rainy Day Food Storage has an alternative.  She’s created recipes you can use to create your own dehydrated meals, allowing you to package several meals from bulk dehydrated ingredients and fine tune the recipes for your family’s taste.  Her creations are tasty and affordable enough that you can not only store them long term but use them for everyday meals.  This lets you and your family rotate your stock of stored food and become familiar with the options, which will make using them in a real emergency that much easier.  Just imagine how much better it will be in a crisis if your emergency food is also your kids’ favorite meal like chili mac or homemade beef stew.

 

e_prep_merit_badgePreparing children for emergencies is a controversial topic.  Depending on the child, even bringing up possible scenarios might be more than they can handle and trigger anxiety or nightmares.  That’s why a lot of preparedness guides focus on doing things that will maintain a sense of normalcy for kids in a crisis rather than involving them in the preparations.  That means keeping them in the dark before the crisis and keeping them occupied during the crisis.

If your kids are ready to be more involved, there are some good resources to introduce them to preparedness.  The Boy Scouts have an Emergency Preparedness merit badge that guides scouts through how to prepare for and deal with everything from a kitchen fire to a public shooting to an evacuation situation.  It also includes checking your house for safety hazards and building a preparedness kit, essentially lead-in to a bug-out/bug-in bag.  This program is a time-tested way to introduce kids to the topic, and the best part is that you don’t have to be a scout to benefit from it.  The basic requirements for the the e-prep merit badge are online and there’s a link on that page to a worksheet that provides a step-by-step guide to talking about different risks and how to deal with them.   A lot of the detailed information you need to guide kids through these worksheets are contained in the merit badge pamphlet which you can order online or pick up at your local scout shop, but you can find a lot of the same info online and they’ve provided a list of resources in the external links on the merit badge page.

These resources put together by the BSA are a comprehensive, proven and very inexpensive way to introduce kids to preparedness.  They can help make involving your kids in safety planning easy and fun.

 

In the prepper community, bug-out bags are all the rage.  In most cases, it’s a backpack that’s kept fully stocked with survival gear so in a crisis situation, you can grab one bag and go.  I think bug-out bags are a great idea and it’s certainly worthwhile to set one up.  To get started, I think everyone should begin by assembling a bug-in box.  “Bugging in” is when you decide that the situation warrants hunkering down in your house rather than getting out, and it’s a scenario that’s a lot more likely to happen to most of us when we prepare to deal with mundane emergencies like winter storms and power outages.  Gathering all your 72-hour supplies and putting them in one place makes it easy to find what you need when you need it, and you can still throw the box in your car and go if you’re in a bug-out situation like an evacuation.

Things to have in your bug-out box:

  • Water – ready to use bottled water, a water filter, and water purification tablets.  Plan for at least a gallon per day for three days for each person.
  • Food – three days worth of food.  Personally, I only keep a few emergency food sources like Power Bars and MREs in my bug-in box and rely on the extra food I have in my pantry for the bulk of my three-day supply.  This violates the grab-and-go intent of a bug-out bag, but it makes it easier to rotate your food supply and eat what you store, store what you eat.
  • Cooking – a camp stove, propane burner or other means of cooking your food.  At the very minimum you need several ways to start a fire: a cigarette lighter, waterproof matches, fire steel, etc.  but in a bug-in situation you don’t want to resort to having a camp fire in your living room so a camp stove or other type of cooker is more functional.
  • Warmth – the little mylar emergency blankets are a good backup if you have nothing else, but you should plan ahead to have real blankets, mylarized tarps, sleeping bags, and chemical heaters.  Clothing is an important component in keeping warm because it allows you to heat your body, not your space.  Keep warm coats, hats, gloves, and extra socks in your bug-in gear.
  • First Aid – if you have the training to use it, having a full trauma kit is great.  At the very minimum you need the basic first aid like antiseptics, antibiotic ointment, and bandages.  In a bad situation you might need to set a broken bone or deal with major injury, but it’s a lot more likely you’ll just need to treat minor cuts and scrapes in a situation where the risk of infection is much higher than normal.
  • Power and light – flashlights can make all the difference in a power outage.  The ability to keep your cell phone charged will help you stay informed and connected during an emergency.  Having spare batteries for the kids’ gameboy can keep them calm and maintain a sense of normalcy that will make it easier to deal with crisis.
  • Hygiene – if your water supply stops or the sewers back up, you need a plan for dealing with human waste.  A sealable 5-gallon plastic bucket and trash bags as liners makes a pretty unpleasant toilet, but it’s better than nothing and a cheap prep.  You can even use the bucket as a container for some of your other bug-in supplies to help stay organized.  Other hygiene items like hand sanitizer and toothbrushes/toothpaste are important but often overlooked in emergency kits.

The biggest advantage of planning a bug-in box over a bug-out bag is that you don’t need to try to minimize size and weight to fit everything in a backpack.  It’s much easier to start thinking about what you need without the constraints a bug-out bag imposes.  Start big and assemble everything you need, and then you can sort out essentials to make a bug-out bag later.

 

Cody Lundin is a survival teacher and co-host of the TV show Dual Survivor.  He’s an expert at bushcraft and suvival techniques.  I’ve seen his videos and TV shows a few times and have been impressed by his knowledge and attitude (and his ability to walk barefoot over any terrain).  Coast to Coast AM just posted a Youtube video of an audio interview with Lundin about preparations for disasters.

A lot of what they talk about focuses on TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) and major collapse scenarios, but much of it is applicable to everyday emergency prep if you want to be ready for the next big storm, the next power outage, or any other short-term interruption of your everyday life.  Lundin has some great things to say about mental preparation and how to deal with crisis in addition to talking about specific techniques and preps.  He’s basically trying to sell his new book, When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes.  I haven’t read the book (yet), but I respect Lundin and everything I’ve seen from him has been quality information without self-aggrandizement or self-serving alarmism, so the book is worth checking out if you find the content of the audio interview worthwhile.

 

Les Stroud is a renowned and well-respected survival teacher.  He was the man in Survivorman for three seasons, and unlike all the other survival shows, he went out alone, filmed all his own material, and actually lived the part rather than just playing the part like some of the staged shows.  While many of us will never be faced with the specific wilderness survival challenges he teaches about, his attitude and inventiveness apply to almost every challenge.

Now that we’re in the depths of winter, it’s overdue for many of us to be thinking about being prepared when we drive around.  Even a quick trip to the grocery store can turn into a challenge in winter if you’re not prepared with basic necessities.  Les Stroud put together an extensive list of things to keep in your car in winter.  His list is long and comprehensive.  It would prepare you for almost any situation.  If it seems a little overwhelming, consider the risks you face in your winter driving.  Are you just driving around town and on well-traveled routes, or are you taking back-country roads where the chance of someone coming along to help are slim.  If the former, you can make do with a less extensive kit.  If the latter, you should carefully consider everything on Stroud’s list.  At the bare minimum, you should always have:

  • warm winter clothes including coat, hat, gloves and shoes.
  • water
  • food

Far too many people drive around in winter conditions wearing dress shoes and lightweight jackets that are fine for driving and being indoors, but inadequate if you end up needing to get out of your car and clear a snowbank or walk to safety after an accident.  Being prepared starts with thinking about what might happen outside your usual routine and the things you’ve planned for.

For even more of Les Stroud’s wisdom, check out his book Survive! – Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere Alive.  Like his television series, the book focuses on wilderness survival, but many of the skills, advice and attitude that Stroud teaches cover much more likely situations for all of us such as being stuck in our homes in a blackout or being forced to evacuate in the face of a storm.  I can’t recommend highly enough reading this book and learning these skills even if you don’t find them immediately applicable to your life.

© 2013 Before the Need Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha