For those of you not in the know, that stands for The End of the World As We Know It. This blog was designed originally as a political commentary on topics close to my heart — TEOTAWKI among them. Now, while the CDC did recently publish a preparedness memo for the Zombie Apocalypse, I’ m sure it was more than a little tongue in cheek. HOWEVER. That does not eliminate the fact that their preparedness memos are designed for EVERY citizen, and it would behoove one to pay more than a passing bit of attention on their list of *must have* items in one’s storage.
Why? You ask. And well you might. I have a good reason, from my own experience. When I was growing up, we lived for a time in a cabin in the woods of Northern Michigan. In the winter, we had no running water — the pipes froze from October until June. We often had no electricity — snowstorms knocked out power lines. We were snowed in, sometimes for weeks at a time — we lived 6 miles from the main road. We had no central heat — we had a wood stove (that kept the house pretty warm) and a fireplace (that was pretty to look at but mostly just sucked the heat out the chimney). So: we had a large store of canned goods, both those that my mom canned and those we purchased at the store. My dad hunted and we fished from the river for our protein (meat) needs. We had kerosene lamps, and gallons of kerosene for those nights we didn’t have electricity. We had cords and cords of wood cut and stacked. We heated snow on the stove and bathed as well as cooked and cleaned with melted snow. All in all, other than the time that I broke my little sister’s collarbone by playing the overly rambunctious bucking bronco (she was 2, I was 7), it was a pretty good life. Oh, and when my rabbit ate the feet off my barbie dolls wasn’t so great either…. But back to preparedness. Now, this was a long time ago, and it was special circumstances, and maybe you think that would never ever happen to you.
So how about a more recent example or two? Recently a storm knocked out the transformer that served our corner of the county. Our community along with four others were without power for a day. We were without power for most of the time, others were without power for part of it and intermittent for the rest. For us, that meant we had no water - the community pumping system has no generator backup. We had no electricity — so no lights obviously; we also had no oven because our stove is electronic ignition and, while a lighter will start the burners, the oven has a safety backup and will not light if there is no power. We also had no heat as we use space heaters to heat the rooms we’re in, and a heated mattress pad on the bed, and the central heating doesn’t work without power (not that we have used it in the last five years anyway). It was wintertime, keep that in mind. Even in Arizona, temps can get pretty low, especially when it snows where we live.
Or how about the time a friend of ours had a power outage when they lived in Yuma? Two weeks without power, water, heat, etc. They had to move into a hotel.
So what did we do without power? Well, we had stored food — and we had a pressure cooker. We have a camp oven that could have made bread (or cake) on the top of the stove. We have kerosene lamps, which provide heat — and light — and we have gallons of kerosene stored. We did NOT have enough water, even though we have a water filtration system, so we had to go to the store for water (and thankfully we thought far enough in advance that there was water at the local market). We had rain barrel water storage for bathing (boil first, of course) and toilet flushing. And we had solar power backup, which meant we could keep the cell phones charged (no land line, no power) and the computer running, as well as the HAM radio. We also have clothing appropriate for the weather — wool sweaters, long underwear, and are familiar with the idea of layering. I even wore a hat in the house to keep my head warm. Our outage only lasted a day, but we would have been comfortable and well fed even if it had lasted for weeks — unlike 99% of our neighbors…who went to stay with friends or family for the duration if they could, or suffered in the cold and the dark if they couldn’t.
Why do I think *you* should do at least a little of the same? Well, the reason is pretty simple. The American Society of Civil Engineers (the ones who make sure the highway over passes, water systems, sewage systems, electric grids, etc — all the things that make modern life possible) say that American infrastructure is failing.
The power outages are going to get more frequent, the water quality from the tap is going to get worse, gasoline is going to become unaffordable (even if prices drop — if you don’t have a job you can’t afford gas) and food INsecurity is becoming an increasing concern of our government regarding our citizens. Do you want to end up having to impose on friends or family, or do you want to be the one being able to offer shelter (and really good food) for those who *need* shelter? For me, the answer is simple. I’m a hedonist, I want to be comfortable no matter what the circumstances — so I prepare. I’d much rather be hospitable than impose.
I had a conversation with some coworkers this past weekend — they were talking about sources for rubber seals for their pressure canners and cookers. I informed them that I own an All American Pressure Canner. And that if the end of the world happened, I would still be happily canning away while they cursed their cookers and canners.
Why this one? Well first of all, because it was given to me, before I realized the benefits. Second of all, IT DOES NOT REQUIRE A RUBBER SEAL. If TEOTAWKI happens, I can still can to preserve food — because my canner doesn’t rely on industry to provide rubber seals. If seals quit being made tomorrow, I could still can. And canning our excess is definitely a large part of our preparedness. It’s cheaper — don’t believe anyone who tells you it isn’t — and the quality is much higher. I KNOW what is in those cans, I grew it and canned it.
You should store water, at least the amount you drink in 48 hours — and you should rotate it monthly, and you should put either iodine or bleach into the storage container to prevent bacterial and fungal growth. We have a 2. 5 gallon water jug but that wasn’t nearly enough for our needs for the amount of time we were without water — which is my mistake. I had foolishly thought we would just use the rain barrel water — but when it came down to it we weren’t brave enough to run the water through the filtration system. So, we now have several containers that I need to fill and store. We use between 5 and 8 gallons of water daily, between drinking needs, coffee (this is *not* a luxury in our house) and cooking, as well as for the animals. In the summer we use more, because it’s Arizona and it’s HOT.
You should store at least a week’s worth of food — peanut butter, rice, dried beans, canned veggies and meats. Admittedly you can choose food you would NEVER eat if you didn’t have to, but why not choose foods you already eat and buy extra? Then just rotate it through your normal stores. I believe the CDC recommends two weeks’ worth. If we couldn’t get to a grocery store for six months, we would still eat like we always do.
You should have a lantern or two — or at least a bunch of candles. Believe me, light makes the difference between depression and hope. And candles put off a hella good amount of heat — maybe it won’t be 70, but it will be a little warmer, especially if you keep several in a smallish room.
For our further preparations, we have planned to install a wood stove. It will allow us to heat without being dependent on electricity at all. And we also plan to get solar powered lanterns. Kerosene got *quite* expensive this last year, enough so that it justifies the cost of solar lanterns. Unlike kerosene, though, we buy them once and they will last for many years (provided I remember to put them in the window to recharge…) – and they give off better light for knitting, reading, etc. And are cleaner — no nasty smell.
In short, you should actually pay attention to at least some of the recommendations of your government. It could possibly save your life, your dignity, or your marriage.