Starting with the basic home preparations, we lengthen their affective time frame. Primarily this involves additional supplies and equipment. Home preparedness involves backups for food, water, shelter, heat, health and sanitation. To be effective for a 'long' time frame, these fixes and replacements will need to be durable or in somewhat large quantity. What we do is neither extreme nor does it require us to go far out of our way, nor are these things that we never use. Rather, ...well, Hannah gives here a good picture of what I mean. Read on.
Home preparedness is a key theme in our lives; it's so practical and makes so many things easier. Keeping the house clean makes us prepared for unexpected company who happens to drop by on an hour's notice. A well stocked pantry makes us prepared for the next storm warning; prepared so that we can stay home and read a fun book with the kids instead of picking over bare grocery shelves and standing in the checkout line for hours with everyone else who is unprepared. Of course, in some cases we may not be able to get more supplies due to flooding, a blizzard or something else.
With electrical outages on the rise all across the country and surrounding communities experiencing rolling brownouts, blackouts and full-fledged outages lasting in duration from 1-3 weeks, we will all start looking more seriously at what it takes to become prepared. What would normally be an exasperatingly difficult and trying experience can turn into a fun adventure for the prepared person. That reminds me of two stories. The first is about some friends of ours. When their water pump failed, this happy four person family had a miserable two weeks with no water. Before the well was fixed, the boys had concluded that it was time to sell that bad house and get a new one. The other story took place about a year later when the electric pump in our well died. With the opening of two valves and an occasional 15 minute stint at the hand pump, our lives continued as normal. We kids thought it was pretty exciting to get to pump water for a couple of weeks while we waited for our new pump.
Another example of preparedness took place in August of 2005 when our septic system gave out. At the ripe old age of nearly 40 years, the septic system under our lower garden had finally come to its end. As we were in the middle of gardening, we were not willing to dig it up for a month. But, with a determination to 'survive', we quickly made the necessary adjustments. Five gallon buckets under the sinks worked as water collectors, which had to be emptied regularly, especially since we were in the middle of gardening and food preservation season. (Yes, more than once the buckets under the kitchen sink over flowed, oops!) Using very little soap enabled us to water our gardens and fruit trees with our dish and laundry water. A portable toilet was brought in for convenience and we took our showers at a camp (outdoor shower houses are a novel change).
One of our prayer targets for 1999 was a wringer washer. We were preparing for the potential problems at Y2K and asked God to provide one for us, which He graciously did. Y2K never amounted to any difficulty for us but our wringer washer has been invaluable on other occasions. Doing laundry can be a big chore for a family of our size under normal circumstances, but when our washing machine broke it became an all day occupation. Dad showed Hannah and me how to operate the wringer washer and we set to work. The washer itself uses a small amount of electricity, which, in this case was no problem, but if electricity went out we would need a generator to operate it. But the biggest savings when power goes down is that the wringer only uses a fraction of the water that the automatic uses. Once the clothes were washed each piece was fed through the wringer into a tub that Dad had plumbed into the basement drains.
In the fall we use our wood stove to heat our house. This pushes back the time when we must turn our heat on. Dad lights a fire in the stove early in the morning when it is particularly cold, this heats the whole house up. In the winter we use it on really frigid mornings. If you have a flat topped stove you can cook on it. (Some stoves are made especially for cooking.) In our old house, where we heated exclusively with wood, the stove had an oven and a system whereby we heated water. Some of the older children remember once cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving on it. This was a particularly big stove which worked very well for making heat and we cooked on it regularly.
Home preparedness doesn't have to be extreme or radical. No one should start with the huge, scary and somewhat unlikely 'what ifs'. To the contrary preparedness is a mindset, a way of life. Starting with the basics, like keeping a small pantry stocked, the house clean and some flashlights on hand for the normal storm-caused electrical outages, is where we should all begin. After you have discovered how helpful and stress relieving these simple preparations really are, you will want to consider the next step. Wouldn't it make things easier if you could continue using a washing machine? And what about a kerosene lamp to facilitate normal evening activities and a happy atmosphere with it's cheerful light? Actually, having these home preparations does deal with some scary 'what ifs'. What if there were an influenza pandemic and your town were quarantined? Well, you would be prepared! If a specific threat concerns you, you can add a few specific items for it. These home preparations should help with the basics. Preparedness improves our survivability, but it is also the convenient way of life. It doesn't have to be hard or expensive. It can be a lot of fun.
On top of our basic preparations, we will primarily be adding supplies and equipment to lengthen our survival time. Of course it will be necessary to know how to use the equipment. This necessitates a little practice. The best equipment is of little value if you don't know how to use it. Personally I have found equipped.com to have some very helpful suggestions, from someone with much more experience than I have.
If we could provide a generator large enough, most of our problems are immediately solved. That is, solved for as long as we can keep it going. While a nice idea, generating the amount of electricity we use is quite unfeasible for most people. This is not to say that you won't be able to provide a small amount of electricity to run small items, but we won't be able to depend exclusively on most generators. Also, electricity won't provide food, medicine or any other supplies. Gas, diesel and propane generators are the most common but are limited by the amount of fuel you can store. Other alternative generators include solar, water, and wind powered generators, which although having unlimited fuel can be very expensive to set up and very limited in where they can go. These latter will usually require battery banks, an inverter, etc, in addition to installation costs. One thing you should consider is how conspicuous your generator will be when no one else has one. Being conspicuous isn't exactly the safest in a prolonged emergency. If you do have some sort of generator you will need to decide which things to run off of it and for which you will provide a non-electrical backup.
For shelter we need to have the supplies and tools on hand to repair damage to our house. It is imperative to keep water out of the house and in, cold weather, keep the heat in. Maintenance when electricity is down and no more supplies are available will be more difficult so we want to keep some things on hand. When considering severe weather, we do not know what damage our home will receive. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and hail can all result in major damage which must be repaired. If the damage is too great, some other shelter must be found or built. Either way constructions skills, tools and supplies may prove very valuable.
Most important tools: Chainsaw (trees) and non-electric tools (i.e. handsaw, hand drill)
Most important supplies: Plywood for covering windows (with screens) and tarp for covering roof
Nearly all heating systems require electricity. To survive for a long period of time, we really need a heat source not dependent on electricity. If your home does not allow for wood heat this may be difficult, but you may want to consider buying a wood stove or wood furnace. Just make sure it will work without electricity. Also consider what it will need for a chimney. Don't let your fuel supply get too low. Keep your woodshed full. Keep your fuel tanks full (and fresh as in the case of gasoline). If you depend on a chainsaw, keep plenty of consumables (chain, oil, files, etc.). You might even want a second saw.Making your home energy efficient will help both now and in an emergency with fuel savings. An Alternative appliances for heat might include kerosene heaters.
Clean water is another basic necessity, which is vulnerable. We have an electric water pump in our well. As the water level in our well is only 12 ft lower than the basement floor, we are able to use a hand pump which was plumbed into our basement plumbing. (Note: water can only be lifted by vacuum approximately 20 feet. Thus, if you have a well with the water level lower than 20 feet down, this method will not work for you.)
If you are on a public water system, hopefully they will have back-up systems to keep it going. If you cannot use your well or don't have one, you can store some water, however, eventually you will need to carry water from a spring or brook. If you can get water close at hand you may be able to haul it in buckets. Bringing water a distance may be made easier with a cart or wagon. Whether you use stream water or have unpotable tap water, you will need to consider water filtration and purification. Consider how much water you may need to filter and thus how many filters you will need. For purification you can use chlorine or look into the other options. Pure water is extremely important in an emergency when you really can't afford to get sick.
Concerning health, you may want to re-evaluate what skills you have and any you want to add because, you may not be able to get professional medical assistance. Beyond that, you may want to collect additional medical supplies of the kind you use. We use herbs. We already try to take care of most of our medical needs, so the only change for us was to keep sufficient herbs on hand to last for an extended period of time. Remember, in an emergency you will want what is normal for you, so prepare accordingly. If you are interested in improving your medical self-sufficiency, I would recommend starting with good health. For some really helpful information on how to keep from getting sick in the first place, go to ImmuneBoostPlus.com. This site also has some articles on medical preparedness for specific emergencies and other issues.
Sanitation is very important from the health perspective. If you have a septic system it will hopefully continue working. Maintaining it in good working order prior to an emergency will take care of the majority of this need. Of course sanitation requires water, which I mention above. For laundry Sarah has already mentioned our wringer washer and laundry plunger. Of course you will want supplies of soap and other consumable hygiene products.
One last basic I'll cover here is food. While most of us could survive quite well with significantly less food than we eat now, this is still an essential. Dry goods like grains, dried foods, and canned goods will store a long time if they are kept dry. Naturally this will require a large pantry, which must of course be stocked in advance. Hannah has mentioned some benefits of storing food on her page about food preservation. Naturally the food in the pantry should be rotated. We use up the older food on a regular basis, continually replacing it. Although starting a pantry had its costs, now that we have it, we spend much less on food than before, because we can buy at bulk discounts. Freezers and refrigerators require a large amount of electricity. Even if you are able to run them for a short time with a generator, that will be a relatively short time. Of course you will want to use fresh and frozen food items first. It is easier to preserve many types of food by freezing than by other methods but you may want to increase the amount of drying and canning you do because they store without electricity. Alternative appliances for cooking include a BBQ grill, wood stove, and propane camp stove.
So, we have added equipment and supplies to help us survive during longer emergencies. Seeing how useful they are at decreasing the inconvenience of short term emergencies is also an incentive to improve them. There will always be more improvements we can make to these preparations. Putting too much time and energy into this will unbalance other areas of life; that's why we stick to the basics.
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