There’s Not An App For That

Living Without Electric Entertainment

Spoiler Alert: We are getting a pool table for Christmas.

Sarah and I both like pool, we have room for a table, and found a great deal on a good used one. And a pool table, despite what Harold Hill says, is good family entertainment. It’s an enjoyable game, that can be played with up to four people either casually or competitively. Also, once purchased–if you take good care of it–there is very little additional cost, it doesn’t require any electricity or internet connection, and it will last for years. You could say it’s a sustainable game.

This led me to thinking about sustainable entertainment in general. We discuss our five basic needs a lot, but how much do we discuss the topic of ‘boredom avoidance’? In an emergency once you know that you’ll have food to eat, clean water, comfortable shelter,  light and warmth, and feel safe; at that point what will you do with your family for fun? This could be a short-term power outage or a long-term collapse. What kind of entertainment do you have that doesn’t have to be plugged in or recharged? This means no computers, smart phones, internet, video games, iPods, television, movies, or even radio – at least not for entertainment purposes.

I don’t see TEOTWAWKI as being a Hollywood-esque struggle full of fear and desperation to survive against the elements and mutant zombie bikers* (MZBs). In reality there will be a lot of boredom periodically interrupted by unforeseen challenges and scary moments. During those times, I believe that having activities which provide fun and laughter will be even more important.

Early on I taught my kids to play a variety of board and card games. When you have four kids during the long, wet northwest winters playing an organized game is a good way to keep everyone entertained and involved together.

Our family tends to play less traditional games. For example, our favorites include: Killer Bunnies, Munchkins, Carcassonne, pirates dice, Apples to Apples, Qwirkle, and cribbage. These types of games encourage thinking outside the box; they are also able to entertain a number of people of varying ages. A pool table, though different, will complement our stock of games nicely.

The games themselves don’t matter. What matters–after you’re fed, warm, and secure–when you’re stuck inside for days at a time without power, is having something to do. Something to keep the kids interested and involved; something to take your mind off the serious (and yes, scary) world outside your door; something to pull you together as a family. Remember, family is the reason we’re doing this.

*Mutant Zombie Bikers (MZBs) is a term used in David Crawford’s’ book, Lights Out. It’s describes the bad guys, who prey on the good guys, in a collapse world.

Location, Location, Location

five basic needs: 1) food, 2) water, 3) SHELTER, 4) security, and 5) energy

Shelter, Shelter, Shelter.

All locations are not created equal; big city, suburbs, small town, rural area. Where do you live? Your location will determine what type of disasters you are more likely to encounter, what services will be available in the aftermath, and the potential risks to your family and home during that emergency. A disaster that is catastrophic in one setting, may have very little effect in another.

Example: An apartment in a large city vs. a house in a rural community when an 8.5 earthquake strikes. City: gas, water, and electric lines break, fires start, water pressure drops, buildings partially collapse, debris falls, power is out, traffic gridlocks, the dense population panics. Rural: things fall off shelves, maybe the power goes out and you have to use your generator for a few days.

Some disasters, like the earthquake or a terrorist attack, give us no notice and all we can do is work to recover afterward. But others, like a hurricane, pandemic, or flooding give us time and the opportunity to make an informed decision.

<cue Should I Stay or Should I Go? by The Clash>

The decision: Bug in or bug out (stay or go)? If you bug in, what are your contingency plans to compensate for potential lost services: food, water, security, energy? If you choose to bug out (or have to), where are you going? What do you take if you leave? What do you leave if you, um, leave? What route are you going to take to get to your bug out location (BOL)? You also need to consider the ‘leave right now’ disaster where there are only minutes to evacuate, like a fire, or a gas leak.

With so many factors affecting this decision, how do you decide to stay or go? You analyze the situation, think about your plan, and ultimately decide: Am I most likely better off if I stay, or better off if I go?

If you choose to go, having a pre-determined plan is invaluable. Once the disaster starts, people may be scared, disoriented, separated, or hurt; it may be dark and/or cold (don’t ‘these things’ alway happen at night?), if we have a plan, we all at least know where to start. A written evacuation plan needs to include: 1) a ‘short list’ of what to grab quickly before you leave your home, 2) multiple routes to get out of your area and to your BOL(s), and 3) an extensive list of contact information for people and businesses in your life.

‘I don’t have anywhere to go,’ you say. If that’s truly the case, then you stay. But a temporary BOL may be as simple as a motel in a ‘safer’ area. Determine that area, one with several motels; make a list of their numbers in your evacuation plan. If you decide to leave, call early and get reservations. Motels frequently have generators and their own disaster plan in place.

Or, talk with a friend or family member; don’t just ask if you can go to their home, but agree to be each other’s BOL if necessary. Create a plan together. If you live in the city and they are rural consider pre-staging items in their home. But, if you’re city, why would they evacuate to you? A local emergency and they just need somewhere to stay a night or two.

We plan for the most likely disruptions first: personal injury, fire, local emergency, local weather. The catastrophic ones: major natural disaster, pandemics, terrorist attacks; if they come, will still require similar plans and preps. Developing an evacuation plan costs no money, only time – take that time now when things are calm (relatively speaking) so you can be ready when things aren’t.

(Wednesday: No, You Can’t Take It)