Preparedness is not “Prepping”

Winter is Coming…

After Snowpocolypse I, II, III (okay seriously, when did Atlanta start getting so much snow?), we all realized the importance of having enough supplies to handle three to five days without modern conveniences such as power and water. However, going online isn’t often much help. Your options are government websites which are often generic to the point of uselessness… or the Preppers, which is fine if you have an empty container car and fear the zombie apocalypse. But for the rest of us, there is little in the way of advice.  This will be the first of a multi-part series on calm and rational emergency preparedness.

Here’s how you can be prepared for a natural disaster, without restructuring your life.

We’re going to cover the three key areas:

  • Food
  • Shelter & Safety
  • Water & Waste

Throughout these three you will also see a fourth key element… mental health. Keeping calm is a key component of staying healthy.

Food

This is a step by step process to ensure you have one week’s supply of food. You will focus expanding your reserves, not buying new fancy freeze dried or bulk “survival” packs. There is a caveat here – Learn how to cook. If your weekly plan is to eat out or microwave food most nights, and you burn water trying to boil it… you will not fare well. Do your health and your budget a favor and learn to cook.

Step 1 – How much and what do you eat? Spend a few weeks getting a baseline of food consumption for your family. The easiest way is to measure in pounds of food. Caloric intake is a better measure, but it’s a pain to track, so do what works for you. This will give you an idea of how much food you need.

Step 2 – Identify durable foods. Durable foods are those that will not spoil if you lose electricity (tip: In the south, frozen is not durable). Identify ones that you like and double them. Instead of having one box of cereal, have two (or three). Always have a reserve box. When a box is empty, open your reserve and buy a new box. This will help keep your reserve supply fresh. All foods; even canned, freeze dried, or dehydrated, will lose nutritional value over time. Generally the goal is to just eat what you like. I deviate from this rule on one item: rice. Hopefully you already love rice. If not, then learn to cook and love rice. Rice is the best durable starch you can find.

Step 3 – Hopefully your diet is so varied that you have no problem with step 2. If you do, then now is the time augment your durable goods with new recipes. Pick durable foods off the list at the end (part 4 of the series), and experiment until you find recipes you like. Keep in mind that mental health is very important in times of crisis. Having food you like will reduce your stress level. It is also important that you know how to cook. If your meal plan consists of eating out, take-out, and pre-packaged frozen dinners then you will not handle a disaster very well.

Step 4 – Now you’ll need to focus on non-durable goods. We live in Georgia and if you lose power in the summer, meat will not keep long at all. Milk will also spoil. The list goes on. Basically you want a small amount of replacements for these. Canned meat, summer sausage, dried milk. Since these are not part of a regular cycle of food, you’ll have to work them in. For instance, we cycle our dried milk twice a year by using it to make pancakes.  We use our summer sausage for snacks at New Years.  You get the idea; Cycle your supply without wasting.

Step 5 – Cooking. If you have a gas grill you are over halfway there. Just buy and keep a couple of extra tanks of propane. If you do not have a gas grill, or if you want to use your fuel more efficiently, the budget solution is to buy a camping stove like this Coleman. If you want to go the extra mile, get an adapter hose to step down a large propane tank to the Coleman attachment.

Having an extra week’s supply of food is really that simple. You won’t have closets of canned goods, and your friends and neighbors will never even know you are prepared. This is good. The looters won’t know to hit your house first!