Saturday, September 03, 2011

A Suggested 72 hour Emergency Pack

Yesterday I said I would post with regards to a 72 hour kit that could be grabbed quickly if one had to evacuate their home in a hurry. Please keep in mind that everyone has their own ideas about this, and each family and each person is different. So no list, no matter where you find it or who publishes it is going to be absolutely right.
First, remember that this pack you're going to put together will be one for each person in your family. Toddlers will need slightly different things than a forty year old. An adult's pack will need to include a first aid kit, radio, and possibly medications. The toddlers kit would not have any of these things, but would have one or two small toys to keep up morale. Family pets will need to be considered as well.

In an adult's pack you'll want photocopies or electronic copies of important documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates if applicable, any health benefit plan documentation, car ownership if applicable, vaccination records, passports, landed immigrant papers if necessary, as well as a small amount of cash. Yes, you need to stash money in your emergency kit and then not touch it. Believe me when I tell you that it might make the difference between sleeping in a motel with a shower or sleeping in your car. Pre-paid phone cards are a good idea also. Consider too a small pocket sized phone book with the numbers of your family and friends that will need to know where you are.

Since no one can know exactly what set of circumstances you'll face, you need to pack with a range of possibilities in mind. You may be lucky enough to stay in a motel. You may have to sleep in your car. You may be forced to camp out for a couple of days. I would include a tarp. Not the ones you get at a dollar store, because I believe you really do get what you pay for. Aim for mid range. Go to a camping supply store and department stores, the super stores and check out what's out there. Make note of the price differences for the same size tarp, really do your homework. This tarp may be your ground-cover, your windbreak or your protection from early morning dew. Also pack a space blanket, this will reflect body heat and make you more comfortable. A rain poncho is also worth considering. This is something that should be in everyone's bag, as well as a change of clothes. Don't forget the socks!
A three day supply of food. Make sure it is something each person will eat. There's no point in packing dried pineapple if your child won't eat it or someone is allergic. If you pack things like canned tuna or ham, remember the can opener. Dried fruit leather, or fruit chips like banana or apples are light and can be compressed into a ziplock bag. Don't forget granola bars, trail mix, ready to eat meals often called MRE's, bottled water, raisins, jerky, and even gum. Put together a basic dish/utensil pack for each bag too. A simple, non breakable plate, cup, spoon, fork and knife would suffice. You can often find these in the camping section of your favorite store, or even in some discount or thrift shops. Again, do your legwork on this. I would also suggest a small folding shovel, a couple of black garbage bags (heavy duty will serve best) and a roll of jute twine. In an emergency camping situation, lengths of jute make great fire starter that can be relied on for flame more than a handful of twigs.
While we're on the topic of fire, let's not forget either wooden matches in a waterproof container, a lighter or possibly even a fire striker kit. Now, each component of this kit so far should be wrapped in either hefty bags or ziplocks. There's not much point in preparing all this without considering the possibility of your bag getting wet. Also worth getting, a small radio that either has fresh batteries or can be wound for power. There's some great ones out there that won't break your budget, but again, it requires some footwork to find them. Some folks have suggested a roll of duct tape, since it has so many uses. I think this is a good idea.

First aid supplies. A basic first aid kit, and each persons toiletries are also important. A roll of toilet paper can be squashed down to make room, and should be packed in a ziplock bag. Ever tried to use damp t.p? Any medications, inhalers, epi-pens or allergy medications should also be included. Non-scented soap, hand sanitizer, a small towel, a brush or comb, toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste. The travel size of these items will work fine, and will save on space in the pack. A bottle of pain reliever will come in handy as well, and don't forget some for the kids if you have children too small for adult dosages.
Last but not least, a book or deck of cards should also find a home in the pack. A big part of staying sane in a crisis is keeping yourself together. I know from experience that kids can ride out an emergency better if the adults are staying calm. It's more important than you think.

Next time, we'll talk about emergency packs for the furry members of your family.

Friday, September 02, 2011

It Can Happen Here Too

These days, I shake my head at the sheer number of natural disasters that seem to hit the world every week. Earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, mudslides, drought, famine, and the list goes on. I am not a biblical person, but even I see that something is happening. Preppers talk about when TSHTF, to break it down, when the s*** hits the fan, and I cannot help but wonder if it's hitting it now.
I do not consider myself an extremist, or an alarmist, but as much as I hate paying attention to the news for it's depression factor, one really can't avoid it these days. Our planet is going through massive changes, and we are simply in the way. Some of those changes, we as a people helped hurry along, like the depletion of the ozone layer, global warming and species extinction. Up here in Canada, we get a glut of news from across the border, and many of my countrymen/women seem to have adopted a "won't happen here" attitude. This according to a 2010 poll conducted by Phoenix SPI. 31% of people polled last year seem to think a basic 72 hr emergency kit is unnecessary, and 27% in 2009, 27% in 2008, 24% in 2007, and 16% in 2005.
I'm not sure why these numbers are climbing.
Saturday, Nov 10, 1979 more than 200,000 people, including my family, were evacuated from their homes in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. A train had derailed due to improper lubrication of a bearing, spewing styrene, toluene, propane, caustic soda, and chlorine into the air. Thankfully, no one died. (But I clearly remember my mother going back into our apartment to get our dog.) The city was all but abandoned and only reopened properly on November 16th. To date, this evacuation is the second largest, after the evacuation of new Orleans; after devastating Hurricane Katrina.
There have been a rash of earthquakes off the shores of British Columbia, even in the past month. Quebec had a quake of 3.6 magnitude on the 27th of August. An earthquake of 3.5 magnitude was felt 46 KM southeast of Cornwall, Ontario on August 24th of this year. I could go on, but suffice to say that we here in Canada have more quakes than you might think, and these are at least felt even if no damage is done. Naturally, British Columbia has far, far more than we here in the east do. This spring brought extreme and sever flooding to our western provinces, and a severe drought came to Southern Ontario this summer; effectively throwing food production and food prices into the collective crapper.

We're also "lucky" enough to have our own "tornado alley", which covers the British Columbia interior, the Province of Alberta, Southern Saskatchewan through southern Manitoba to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Southern Ontario, Southeastern Quebec, and Western New Brunswick. According to Environment Canada, we get an average of 80 tornadoes a year. The deadliest Canadian tornado was an F4, in Regina, Saskatchewan, killed 28 people, and injured hundreds on July 30th, 1912. It had a funnel three blocks wide and demolished the downtown core of Regina. Now I don't know what business might have been impacted back then, but I know if that were happen today, Regina would have serious food shortages and a much higher fatality rate. Fires happen so often across the country that most of them aren't even covered in the media. The most recent one that caused a mass evacuation was on Sunday, May 15, 2011 and over 7000 people ran for their lives. The local police clearly experienced some confusion after they ordered an evacuation and then closed roads for safety reasons. The only fatality was a helicopter pilot as he did his best to help battle the fire in the community. The fire destroyed roughly 2/3 of the town, 374 properties were destroyed and 52 were damaged. The town hall and the library were completely gutted.

My point in all of these examples is that disaster can happen anywhere, anytime. No matter what country you live in, no matter how rural or urban. It is our responsibility to do the best we can to assess the likelihood of a catastrophic event in our area and prepare. How to do that is a complex, personal and very involved answer.
Tomorrow, I'll share some ideas for a basic 72 hour pack for each member of your family, (furry ones too!) that you can grab quickly if you need to evacuate in a hurry.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Modify and Adapt

It's hard to watch, or read, the news these days and not accept the fact that our world is changing. Politically, environmentally, economically and socially. The price of food is rising while the quality slides into uselessness and mega-companies take over more and more control over what we eat, shop for and how it's produced. Wages are either locked, clawed back or stagnating, depending on where you live. There are very few benefits for anyone who works hard, and many days it seems as if it's every man, woman and child for themselves. Indeed, we're seeing a rise of the 'latch-key-kid' again as parents work two and sometimes three jobs to avoid drowning in debt.
My partner has a saying that I've adopted and work to the death.
"Modify and adapt"

We do. I've written here before about making do for ourselves. The way we do laundry has changed, the way we cook, what we cook, how we shop, how we cool our apartment, and on and on. I've written too about doing more for ourselves so that we are not reliant on others, and I've given examples of how we walk the talk, so to speak.
So I was stunned to learn that in some places it's illegal to stockpile, or grow your own food or even keep a few chickens!
Holy Habaneros!
There's a woman in the States, Texas I think, that was sued for replacing her lawn with a vegetable garden. In the end, she won her case, but still...I cannot imagine living in a neighborhood that would presume to tell me how I can live! (One good thing about living in Ontario) Although the region we live in is still trying to decide if they want to allow folks to keep chickens... At least I have the option to grow my own vegetables, herbs and fruit! I don't get enough sun to do that...but I have the option.
So how do we survive these ever changing times? Well, keep our heads down as much as possible. If you stockpile and you're worried that your government or your neighbors are going to knock on your door with either guns or hands out...don't publicize it. I watch a lot of YouTube videos in which this prepper or that will talk about OpSec (operational security) and then make themselves easy to find with a business website found by Google in 3 seconds! If you are concerned about a diminishing market for local beef, then buy your beef locally. Ask at your "local" health food store if they know of any beef producers that are looking for customers. I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised. If you worry that Monsanto will come knocking on your door inquiring about your large field of corn, don't advertise that you save your own seed. keep your heads down.

If the price of bread irritates you to no end, as it does me, learn to make your own, either by bread machine or the old way. If the presence of chemicals in your jam worries you, visit your local farmer's market and learn how to preserve the bounty. Tired of paying good money for two Big Macs? Learn how to make burgers at home. You'll save money and might even discover that a burger can have taste. (I'll refrain from going on about growth hormones, antibiotics and other surprises in our meat here, and save that for another post)
We can do more to change our daily lives than what you think, but it does require thought, creativity and commitment.
Change what you do, how you think about the world around you, vote responsibly and pay attention to the news.
Because if we don't pay attention, modify and adapt, we'll wake up one morning to find life as we know it very, very different.