I don’t consider myself a “prepper”, but I believe in being prepared. Growing up near the Texas Gulf Coast with a 6-month hurricane season in a neighborhood that lost power every time someone sneezed made sure being prepared was second nature to me. And the extreme changes to weather conditions happening more and more frequently everywhere, due to the pollution driven acceleration of climate change, makes a strong case for continued preparedness.
Recently watching South Texas get blanketed in snow and ice while we’re warmer in England was strange and heart breaking. I was seeing my friends post that they were without power and water with unsafe driving conditions to access either. People were reaching out for advice on scrambling to mitigate leaky windows and poor insulation. I was talking my mom through any extended potential disasters. All of these happenings were eerily similar to watching my college town get flattened and my hometown nearly drown just a few years ago under Hurricane Harvey. So I thought I’d share some of my experiences and learnings on preparedness.
Throughout my childhood, food and cooking was never an issue. We had a manual can opener mounted to the inside of the pantry where we had plenty of non-perishables. We had a double oven 6-burner gas stove. We also always had either a charcoal or propane grill. Now I’ve added a solar oven to that list. Having so many ways to cook food without the need of electricity has come in handy many times.
Food preparedness also involves knowing your food, such has how to maintain quality through proper storage. Did you know that sweet onions have the worst storage life out of the typical onion types offered at most grocery stores? Or, that storing apples and/or bananas around other fruit and vegetables will make those other foods ripen/rot/sprout faster? Keeping a ready supply of storable staples makes a big difference. And knowing simple ways to cook an easy yet comforting meal using those staples is also important. Do not under estimate the morale boosting effect of having a good tasting meal during a very stressful time.
Growing up, we didn’t store water, since we never had supply issues even in a storm. I have learned since to maintain approximately 25 gallons of potable water. I also made sure to learn how to filter and disinfect water from biological contamination.
The huge bay windows under the porch overhang and the floor to ceiling windows in the foyer opposite provided ample natural light in my childhood home. Nevertheless, there were oil lamps or candles with packs of matches in every room and flashlights scattered throughout the house. We also had a large fireplace in the living room. Now, newly added light tubes supplement the windows.
We had board games, decks of cards, books, and a chess/checkers set. Musical instruments like my djembe, acoustic guitar, and Rimakej’s zills have rounded that out now. Yes, entertainment is still an important part of preparedness. It gives your mind much needed relief, even if just for a brief period, which can invigorate your motivation to move forward and survive.
My College Years Additions
Between a few evacuations due to hurricanes and general college life, I began to keep a car kit and a hurricane box. At any given time the car kit had a gallon of water, a small first aid kit, a change of clothes, a spare pair of shoes and socks, a hoodie, a towel, a pillow, a blanket, and some emergency cash.
The hurricane box later became a dual purpose camping box for weekend camping. It contained: bug spray, a knife, a camp towel, striking flint, lighters, matches, a combo metal utensil, a metal coffee cup, mini first aid kit, some compression bandages and gauze, 100′ of paracord, wet wipes, glow sticks, a couple of cans of Sterno, a compass, a whistle, and a mirror. Outside of the box included a single person tent that fit in my truck bed, a power inverter, and a 100 W travel solar panel to charge up my battery with if need be.
How Preparedness has Helped
The two times we lost power out at HHH I barely noticed. The first time during the night, I was already 10 feet away from a ready oil lamp with its accompanying pack of matches. When I went out front to check if we were the only ones without power, I saw dozens of cell phones walking around, but no other light source.
The first time we lost water I had just begun to store it. Thankfully the backup stores were enough for us and the animals, but I quickly expanded how much I stored after that.
I’ve used the power inverter during my travels and camping so much it finally died. I thankfully have not needed to use my travel solar panel yet.
I’ve started an every day carry (EDC) of a pocket knife, some band-aids, and a bandana. I began training myself in survival skills, how to read the landscape, foraging, and reading about wilderness first aid.
It’s an ever changing world out there, so you can’t expect to be prepared for everything. Knowing your basic needs and at least three different ways to fulfill each of those needs yourself can save lives. My life and the shared experiences of others have taught me to never solely rely on the conveniences of society. And I especially strive to share my knowledge and preparedness with others whenever possible, because survival takes community.