As The Water Slosheth

We Prepare For The Aftermath

The other day there was a casserole dish, full of water, soaking in the kitchen sink. I was ready to wash it, so I lifted it and began to pour the water out. Immediately I realized I had misjudged and the majority of the water would miss the sink and land on the adjacent counter. I tried to jerk the dish back, but the water was already in motion and flooded over the counter causing a wet mess.

As I was cleaning up the spilled dishwater, I reflected on what had happened. I hadn’t meant to spill the water. The moment it started moving the wrong way I realized it and tried to correct it, but it was too late. The water was in motion and the consequences were unstoppable. There was going to be dirty dishwater all over the counter – all I could do is clean it up.

Though the spilled water, once in motion, was unavoidable, the consequences were mitigated by established habit and routine. There weren’t any dishes drying in the rack next to the sink, so nothing had to be re-washed. We don’t prepare food in that area, so no food was ruined. A towel is kept under the sink, so clean up was started immediately. Because of our kitchen ‘preparedness’ a potential disaster became just a minor inconvenience.

This happened in less time than it takes to tell about it. That is frequently how life’s disasters–big or small–occur. It could be a tornado, a fall, a car crash, a fire, an earthquake, a bicycle accident, or an explosion. Even if there are indicators (seen or unseen) the actual incident typically happens incredibly quickly.

As a prepper you’re not preparing to stop, or even survive, the disaster; you’re preparing to survive the aftermath. The disaster itself–once in motion–is unstoppable; you either die in the immediate “burst” (or very soon after), or live to face the aftermath.

In that aftermath, while those around us are panicking and searching for direction; we know what we need: food, water, shelter, security, and energy. Our goal is to have preparations in place with a plan to use them, and the knowledge that we many have to improvise that plan as needed.

We have very little control over most things in our life, but we will still be forced to deal with the consequences. Once things are set into motion all we can do is respond. Plan and prepare to survive the aftermath.

(Wednesday: Weathering The Storm)

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When Others Are In The Dark

five basic needs: 1) food, 2) water, 3) shelter, 4) security, and 5) ENERGY

Nothing sends us back a century or two like an electric power outage. So much of what we call civilization lives or dies on the “juice” that we get with the flip of a switch.” (Discovery.com)

Modern energy and technology* is completely taken for granted in our society — until they no longer work. Of course, the world existed for millennia without our modern energy and there’s no doubt that human beings, as a species, can survive. But can we, today’s ultra-specialized, technology-dependent individuals?

What would we do without our cell phones and computers, microwaves and refrigerators, television and internet, central heat and air-conditioning, or simple “flip of a switch” to turn on the light as we walk into a dark room?

The power goes out. For how long? You don’t know. It could be a fallen tree, damaged power pole, lightning strike, ice/snow storm, high winds, or short-circuit from changing a routine part at a minor electrical substation; the list of inevitable ‘disasters’ continues. Since we prepare for the most likely emergencies first–not the Hollywood style mega disasters–let’s talk about what happens when we get sent “back a century or two” with a power failure. Most of us can fake it pretty well if the lights go out for a few hours to a couple of days. But what about after that?

What if it lasts longer? I’m not saying forever in the apocalyptic sense, just a huge storm that knocks out power for a few weeks? Suddenly we’d have to deal with all the disadvantages of not having power, and none of the advantages from “a century or two” ago of knowing how to heat, cook, and just exist on a daily basis without it (hell, the boredom alone would kill many of us).

We understand that to make fire it requires 1) fuel, 2) oxygen, and 3) an ignition source; and have all created it before. These days when most homes don’t even have a wood fireplace; frequently the only time we strike a match or a flick lighter is to light candle (or cigarette). Ironically if we do ‘make’ a fire in our gas fireplace or propane grill, it is literally “the flip of a switch”. But, making a successful wood fire–the key component in basic heat, light, and cooking–is getting to be a lost skill.

As preppers we should strive for far more than to be huddled around a fire to keep warm, turning our latest kill on a spit, and casting furtive glances into the darkness. We know there are systems that fail. We know that we are helpless to prevent them. So when the power fails, what is your plan to keep warm (or cool – though that’s not a big problem up here in Western Washington), cook, stay connected, and provide light?

This will be the last in the series of the ‘five basic needs’ posts. We’ve now established a baseline of those ideas and concepts which we will build on and refer back to.

(Wednesday: Product Review – Emberlit Stove)

*I won’t keep mentioning technology, but assume it’s implied knowing that it can’t exist without modern energy.

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)