Mind of Preparedness
There is a term that became popular over the last number of years – mainly due to reality TV portrayals – that word is “prepper”. Those belonging to what is called the “prepper community” are a community of folks who are often viewed through a very narrow lens, seen as a group preparing for an event like a zombie apocalypse. Preppers are considered slightly crazy, stemming from a generation that built bunkers in their backyards preparing for a nuclear event throughout the cold war era that never happened. The prepper mentality is often seen as somewhat “overzealous” in their view of the world – and who always look for the bad in everything.
Being prepared has nothing to do with zombies or dreamed up apocalyptic ends, it has everything to do with options; options that may make all the difference. You may be surprised that you are considered a prepper of sorts, because the most basic level of a preparedness mindset is having a spare tire in your trunk just in case you get a flat. Having a spare tire is considered safe vehicle operation. To be without one would be considered unwise, even reckless. A prepper would call that 'being prepared' or having a 'preparedness mindset'. A preparedness mindset takes unpredictable situations, seeing them through in our minds and always making sure we have the proverbial 'spare tire' in our trunk.
Thinking through scenarios that might happen can feel uncomfortable and cause some fear, but this fear is simply the fear of the unknown, a lack of understanding in how to navigate unpredictable scenarios. A preparedness mindset works through this discomfort and fear to find the areas of weakness in disaster situations, preparing for them and ultimately become areas of strength with the right equipment and mindset.
Take for instance the scenario of a bad blizzard, knocking out the power and heat for a week or longer. Being in Canada this is not the 'apocalyptic' type scenario that will never happen, this is an actual reality. If the power went out for a week in extreme cold temperatures, how would you and your family stay warm? Do you have a way to keep light in the house during darker hours? Do you have the food and water needed to stay fed and hydrated until you are able to make it back out to the stores? These are the 'spare tire' solutions to a blizzard. In reading that short example of an actual real-world scenario, suddenly having a preparedness mindset is sounding a lot more rational.
Consider where you live and the natural disasters you are vulnerable to. Think through situations, pinpointing areas where you feel you are vulnerable, jotting down solutions to these problems. For instance, getting clean water can usually be the number one area of vulnerability, thus causing people to run for the plastic bottled water in the stores when the storm comes. This is only a band-aid solution, like the small spare tire that can only go up to 60km per hour, meant to just get you to the station for a tire change. If you want the full-size spare tire solution to your water, do not just buy plastic water bottles, but a water filtration system, making all bodies of water, including snow itself accessible as clean water once filtered.
Next to water, food is our most vulnerable area of need. There are endless solutions to this but you must choose what is right not only for you and your family but what is right for your storage space and dietary needs. Canned food can be good, but it takes up a lot of room, providing little nourishment per can. The 'spare tire' solution would be to have freeze dried or dehydrated food on hand. Long term storage food is compact, light and provides full size meals in small, storable quantities. This type of food is also a lot more usable when considering the need of rotating emergency supplies. Freeze dried and dehydrated meals are my family's go-to option for hunting and solo-camping trips, taking from our emergency supply assures we are rotating the food properly. Not only this but they are delicious! Happy Yak – a Canadian solution for camping meals has become our go-to freeze dried meal!
Warmth and the ability to sleep is next to water and food. Running generators is most people's solution to warmth but learning how to operate them properly is highly important! People often suffer injury or even death from the misuse of generators and not the disaster itself. Generators also require gas to run. Are you storing gas correctly and safely to keep a generator going? Have you done the math to find out how much gas it takes to run a generator for a week in a blizzard? It is also important to consider which items in your house actually need power and how much power they use to run. A freezer might not be the priority to keep running in a blizzard, as the outside has now become your permanent cold food storage, however, storing food outside is susceptible to animals. Keeping a large cooler, even capable of locking, on hand could be a good solution to outside food storage. Running lights is convenient but takes up a lot of power and may not be necessary. Small lanterns and headlamps could save a lot of generator power. When purchasing substitute lighting consider how many people are in your house and the density of the light provided by the lantern. Keeping vital rooms lit, such as the kitchen, will be the most important consideration.
If generators powering heaters cannot provide you the heat you need, make sure you have enough emergency blankets for every member in the house, and maybe a couple extra in case they tear or are damaged. Having a wood burning stove is the ultimate 'spare tire' of warmth, but with new building codes restricting them, they must either be grandfathered in or you live in an area that still considers them as the main source of heating. If you have a source to burn wood, do you have enough dried out wood stockpiled to make it through a week of 24 hour burning? You may be able to get out to collect wood, but this brings its own risk of exposure and injury, which should be avoided in such situations, as the usual emergency response may not be able to get to you. Having a week's worth of burnable wood prepared and ready to go will keep you warm and home safe.
Walking through this very common situation of a weeklong blizzard breaks down the preparedness mindset from the Hollywood zombie apocalypse crazy person to the now responsible family in a regular neighborhood. No one thinks twice about their spare tire in their trunk until it saves the day. Most folks thinks it is crazy to own space-like tin foil blankets until they provide the necessary warmth in an emergency.
Preparedness is not for the .01% of the population, it is for everyone. You do not need it until you need it, but when you need it you can't imagine being without it. Think through a very real situation you and your family are vulnerable to, then think through the situations related to this vulnerability. One scenario by one, address each weakness you have against this situation, coming up with obvious and simple solutions. You may be surprised to realize the areas of weakness which may in turn be overwhelming, however take it slow, making a purchase list for each area of weakness. Build your resources slowly, dedicating a monthly budget towards building a kit. You may find that once your kit is complete you use it for a lot more purposes than your ultimate disaster. Accessing your kit regularly will also help you understand how to better build it out, learning what is useful and what is not as well as what is missing. Take the lanterns you purchase camping, are you happy with them and do they provide enough light? How long does it take to run the battery down and how many batteries should you then keep on hand? There is a saying among those who are into the preparedness mindset 'don't store food you don't normally eat'. With that in mind, do not purchase items for your emergency kit that you would not use in other situations. They need to not only be useful, but they need to be easy to use, encouraging you to incorporate them in your daily life. Then, when and if a disaster comes, the items in your kit are familiar, you are not trying to figure out how to operate a generator at the 11th hour and you are not wondering how to cook freeze dried meals while hungry people wait.
Surviving a disaster should come as second nature to us, as we should be practicing these skills in our usual life. We should know how to make a fire if we have a wood burning fireplace or wood burning stove. We should know how to cut and chop firewood. We should know how to operate lanterns, water filters and prepare freeze dried food before the real need comes.
Thinking and living through these situations can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Keeping the mood light and motivated is just as important as keeping our immediate physical needs met. Make sure you have a few games and items of entertainment as part of your plan – this is often considered for a camping trip but not necessarily in survival situations. It is very likely that if you're stuck in your home for a week during a blizzard that you will not be spending every second trying to survive but instead you will be spending a lot of time sitting around doing nothing, stewing in the misery of the situation. Keeping this misery, anxiety and fear at bay should be as common as eating. Knowing you have some games and entertainment on hand will help pass time and keep your focus off the negative.
Once you learn how to address your areas of vulnerability in potential disaster situations you will develop confidence over fear, knowing you have always got the 'spare tire' in the truck, pumped with air and ready to go!
May God bless you and your families,