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Rational Preparedness, Part Two

Originally posted April 30, 2003

A couple of points bear repeating today. First, rather than be overwhelmed by all the things that can happen, change your viewpoint to focus on the five outcomes. Five is much easier to deal with than infinity. Second, taking some rational precautions that prepare you for nature and for man does not mean that you are an evil or demented survivalist. It simply means that you are practical and have the best interest of your family and friends at heart.

Yesterday, we talked about the first two types of damage that can occur: personal injury and structural damage. A brief overview of a basic kit was discussed as well, and that is where I want to pick up today.

I mentioned that a hammer was in each kit. In fact, using tools and small kits picked up at trade shows and the like, I have several tools in each kit. The tools are so that you can drive nails, pry, screw, unscrew, and do general work. Why are they in each kit? Simple.

When an emergency happens, it is not the time to begin wondering “Now where did I leave the hammer?” If you need it, you are probably going to need it fast. Hammers are cheap if you don’t go fancy, and the same holds true for most basic tools. You don’t need a mechanic’s tool set in each kit, just a hammer, a flat-head screw driver and maybe a Phillips-head as well. If you can come up with other good tools for cheap or for free, grab them and include them. You can’t have too much in there, especially if you can get it for free.

The same holds true for medicines. I have allergies and am highly allergic to bee stings. For that reason, I have Benadryl in each kit because if I need it I will need it fast. Think about things that you and your family might need in that regard, and take the appropriate precautions. The nice thing about modern blister packs is that they are sealed, and there are usually several in a package. Get a package, and distribute the contents.

Lighting is something to think about a bit. Flashlights are good, and I highly recommend the Hubble flashlights in all sizes. They no longer come with the “Do not look into laser with remaining eyeball-type warning any more, but they might should. Bright, light, and useful in some truly nasty environments.

If there is gas in the area, or some other problem that could blow up in your face, you may not want to use a flashlight no matter what disaster it is rated for. Then you want to have a chemical light stick. These are moderately priced, come in colours, last for hours, produce no heat or spark, and have even more redeeming features. They also have a multi-year shelf life, so can be stored. I keep one or two around in each kit just in case.

Remember also that batteries can go dead, both in storage and in use. That is another good reason to keep some chemical lights around, and to have some candles. I have candles in the emergency kits, inside candle lanterns. If you hike or camp, candle lanterns are quite nice to have. They also work well for emergencies, since they can be hung or stood in place, and they shield the candle from the wind and the surroundings from the candle. Some even come with nifty reflectors, which aid in illumination. Any good camping or hiking store should have them, though I got mine at REI.

I love REI and get a lot of my camping and hiking supplies there. If you hike or camp, remember that your supplies for that make dandy emergency supplies as well. At a good store, you can get food, containers, candle lanterns, rope, and much more.

Tape is another issue of note. No, it does not have to be duct tape. What you want is a good tape, not cheap, that will stick and seal – and stay stuck. You want a good shipping tape, good duct tape, etc. My kits contain a variety, depending on what was on sale and/or what I bought bulk for the office. This means I have duct tape, high-quality packing tape, strapping tape, double sided tape, scotch tape, etc. Not everything is in every kit, but I do have some means of sealing things up in each one.

There is also usually a pencil, a marker, and a pen in each kit as well. This is not for writing farewell notes, but for marking things to be cut, where to place things, and leaving notes as needed. A pencil is in there because they really can’t go bad and can be sharpened with the utility knife or some such if needed. Pens and markers are there because they can and will mark about anything. Make sure both have waterproof ink. Just a hint.

Take a few minutes right now to think about food and water. If there is a bad emergency, you really don’t want to have to think about cooking. You will also probably want to think in terms of calories rather than a truly balanced meal. Keep it simple, and things are easy.

One of the things I do is keep some of the lunch box stuff on hand. These meals-in-one make dandy emergency food, are ready to eat, require no cooking, and have the advantage of being able to be used rather than thrown out as expiration dates approach. Keep things like that on hand, enough for each person to eat 1,500 or so calories each day for up to a week. If you build up, it is not expensive or hard, and they don’t really taste bad at all.

Water is the key, however. I approach it in two ways. My refrigerator has a large Brita tank and a large Brita pitcher. Between them, they have enough water to keep me going for 2-4 days on emergency rations. I also keep bottled water around. If you drink bottled water, just up what you normally buy a bit and then rotate your stock. That makes it easy to keep .5 to 1-litre a day per person on hand.

The advantage to the Brita is that you can also take semi-potable water and make it potable. This means you can pull from a variety of sources and get clean water. For pulling from non-potable water, however, you will need to get a water purification system. If you do either of the above methods, you should not need to do this. If you want to be safe, get a good purification system for camping and it will work well.

In your planning, remember that what goes in must also go out. Either plan for water to flush the toilets once a day or have an emergency potty ready to hand. You can make them real easily with garbage bags and some cardboard, or you can get more creative if you like. Plan ahead, and have lots of extra toilet paper on hand. Aside from the obvious use, it is an excellent filter material and has many other uses as well.

A book I highly recommend is Dean Ing’s “Pulling Through.” While written for a nuclear disaster, most of the preparations are rational and good for ANY emergency. A lot of good skull sweat went into what Dean wrote, so make use of it so you don’t have to sweat.

Remember, you don’t have to do everything at once. Start small, and build. Rational preparedness can help you through everything, from day-to-day emergencies to a true disaster. Be Prepared. Then, really honk people off and survive in style.