Monday, February 10, 2014

Have an Emergency Food and Water Reserve

The view out my back window earlier this week;
that's nearly a foot of snow
People amaze me sometimes. Usually that's in positive ways, but not this time.

Much of the country has had significant wintery weather recently, and more is coming in some areas. We ourselves had nearly a foot of snow this week, which is unusual for our area. Then we had ice on top of that, which made for very treacherous travel indeed.

Now, rarely do these things come without warning; there is usually some kind of notice that a big storm is a possibility.

Yet still, I saw all kinds of news reports of people who had to leave their house in the middle of the snowstorm in order to get food. What?!?

First of all, it's not like they didn't have notice that there was going to be a storm. No one knows how long these things will last, so for heaven's sake, go to the store and stock up ahead of time! Err on the side of getting extra food and water, just in case. Duh.

Second of all, EVERYONE really should have a good reserve of emergency food. You never know when an emergency is going to hit, so it's important that every household have at least some emergency stores of food and drinking water.

Those people in the news stories who ran out of food in the space of a few days obviously did not have enough food reserves.

To make a food reserve, you need some non-perishable food stocks that don't need electricity or refrigeration, and a non-electricity way to heat them if at all possible. Think cans of food, insta-soups, dried fruits, nuts, rice, beans, beef jerky, even mac-n-cheese. For healthier choices, get a food dehydrator and start drying frozen or fresh vegetables and fruits, then vacuum seal or freeze them for longer-term storage.

Don't have enough money for buying a bunch of food reserves? Just buy a couple of extra things each month and put them away; in time you'll build a decent food reserve. For building up water reserves, read here.

In our recent storm, I was appalled at the number of Facebook posts I saw from friends talking about starting to run out of food, or worse yet, having to leave the house in icy, unsafe conditions in order to have enough food to eat. What?!? Really?

One was from the daughter of some Scout friends. Whatever happened to "Be Prepared"? Sure, she wasn't a Scout herself but her parents are Scout leaders, she went on many family camp-outs, and she was on staff at several Scout camps. Her parents are generally well-prepared but she wasn't, despite all her training about the importance of preparedness.

I understand that she's in college and has limited funds (been there done that myself!), but that's what Dollar Tree and such are for. You can do an amazing amount of cheap prepping at Dollar Stores. Not the healthiest food but at least you'd have a reserve for an emergency.

I realize, of course, that everyone is always on a learning journey and not everyone is perfectly prepared for every happenstance. It's okay not to be perfect, but it is important to be working towards sensible precautions, and a decent food reserve is one of those really important precautions.

Am I perfectly prepared myself? No, of course not. In my college years, I had almost no reserves because I was simply not conscious of the need to have reserves. Had a severe storm hit, I would have been in bad shape. In my initial post-college years, I was incredibly poor and so did not have a lot of reserves, but I at least had some and could have survived a week-long storm. I would have been in bad straits if a longer emergency had occurred, though.

Nowadays, our family's food and water reserves are still a work in progress, but at least we're making progress and are conscious of the need to have reserves. My concern is that I don't see many people even trying to build a reserve, or even conscious of the need to do so. Others are openly dismissive of having a reserve or of making reasonable preparations.

Really?!? How do they think they are going to survive if an unexpected disaster hits? Do they really think they're going to live their whole life without any disaster, ever? History shows that every area is vulnerable to some sort of natural or man-made disaster sooner or later, and of course, modern society is very vulnerable because of our over-dependence on the electrical grid and interstate transportation systems. NO ONE is completely safe from a potential long-term disaster and its interruptions to the food and water supply.

My area is subject to earthquakes; we are overdue for a really major quake. I've read the emergency planning predictions; if a truly major quake hits, we'll be without new food supplies for a number of weeks and possibly several months. How do these people think they will feed their families in that situation, when they can't even feed them for a few days during a winter storm that they had advance notice of!?!

Many people expect to be okay because the government will help. Sure, FEMA will help out as best it can, but people overestimate the government's ability to help in emergencies. Logistics mean that help is sporadic at best, often does not arrive in a timely manner, and is extremely basic when it does arrive. Government and charities can help, but they can't possibly take care of all the needs that will arise in a real emergency.

People need to help themselves, first and foremost, and not expect to be rescued or taken care of. And that means having non-perishable food reserves on hand, a way to heat them, and having enough drinking water for immediate needs (plus a way to filter and purify additional water for longer-term needs). A good first-aid kit (and knowledge of how to use it) would also be a smart addition.

Disasters like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes take enough lives. Sadly, there are many more lives lost afterwards because of poor water sanitation, unsafe food, and poor planning.

Don't let your family members be some of those unnecessary victims. Plan ahead. Start building your food and water reserves NOW.

It's not paranoia; it's simple common sense.


Maitri said...

And don't forget the pet food and cat litter if you need it. Don't be going out in a blizzard because Precious doesn't have any Fancy Feast.

I had a food/water/diaper/formula/pet food store in my old house but we pitched it all when we moved, because the food was all past its expiration date. Need to build it back up.

Anonymous said...

If you are working with a tight budget and schedule, here's a way to build a food reserve:

1. Figure out how much shelf space you need for canned/boxed low-prep food if you're just feeding the household between shopping days.

2. Double that. If possible, triple it. Move the stuff that was on the extra shelf space to somewhere else, or decide whether you really need it. Food is important! (If you were raised to think of food as that scary calorie-having substance you poke at your naughty incorrectly-shaped body when you absolutely must, do your best to ditch that mindset. Food is fuel in an emergency; food is morale; food keeps you going. Yeah, preaching to the choir, I know, but I've been gobsmacked lately by just how much this mindset permeates U.S. culture. I dunno, maybe somebody interested in disaster prep will see this in her Google results and rethink her diet.)

3. Buy your chunky soups, canned fruit, etc., on sale. Buy what you usually eat. Fill every shelf clear to the back; organize the food by type, so that you have a line of soup going to the back, a line of fruit, etc. Put the oldest cans on the bottom in the back, the newest on the top in the front.

4. When you need something for daily use, pull from the bottom in the back first. This feels awkward to begin with, but eventually becomes a habit. When you shop, fill from the front on the top. Yes, stuff needs to be moved around when you do this. It's still less hassle than building special shelves in your basement.

5. When the blizzard hits, you'll have food.

Jenny Islander

Anonymous said...

Back again for the tight budget/tight schedule water storage plan.

1. Find your water storage space. It should be cool and dark.

2. Find your water containers. You can use any plastic or glass food or drink container with a screw-on cap, except don't use milk jugs because milk proteins are very difficult to remove from plastic, so that a milk jug may have enough gunk in it to allow the growth of bacteria even if it looks clean. Also, you probably won't want to use containers that held strong-tasting items such as pickles or salsa because they will affect the taste of the water.

3. Carefully clean each container. Use a bottle brush that you previously cleaned with hot water and dish detergent. Also get a new scrubby sponge. Clean every crevice and corner in both the bottle/jar and the cap. Lots of hot water and a good basic dish detergent are all you should need.

4. Fill each container with cold tap water, screw on the cap, and put it away.

5. Continue until your storage space is full. If you keep a record of how much water you put away, you'll know how long your supply will last in the event of an emergency. The usual rule is 1 gallon per person per day, and don't forget pets.

6. Whenever you get a new container that is suitable for water storage, rotate an old one out. As with your cans, keep it consistent; for example, always put a new bottle on the right end back of the bottom shelf, take out the one at the left end front of the top shelf, and move the bottles up and to the left to make room. If the water in a container looks weird when you pick it up, dump it out, clean it and refill it.

Jenny Islander