Emergency Preparedess for Beginners – Part 6 – Bugging In: Cooking and Warmth

Emergency Preparedness for Beginners
By Brett A. Fernau

Part 6 – Bugging in: Cooking and Warmth

So far we’ve talked about surviving the initial incident, getting home, stocking-up on food and water and disposing of your waste. Another basic element you will want to consider is some way to warm up your food, boil water and, possibly, if it is cold outside, keep yourself warm as well.

There are a number of things you might want to think about before you light a fire in your back yard, or even fire up your grill to warm up your supper. The first thing to think about is security. Are you the only one on your block with a stock of food and water? If so, it might be wise to keep a very low profile until you know how long you will need to stretch your supplies to insure your own and your family’s survival. If you start cooking in your back yard, some of those people downwind from your fire are very likely to come to visit you and ask you to share with them what you have. If you have sufficient stocks to do that, fine, have a party. However, if you think the emergency is going to last a while, you might not want to advertise the fact that you have something that others may not possess. This will be a difficult decision to make, but it may well come down to you and your family or group surviving, or you and all your neighbors quickly consuming all you have set aside and then slowly starving together. There may also be the possibility of roving bands of hungry, desperate and armed people seeking to take what you have and leave you with nothing. Think about the nature of the disaster you are facing, the amount of time it will take for normal functions to be restored, when the stores will be restocked, what the nature of your neighborhood is, and, then, based on those factors, decide whether cooking your food is a wise choice. You might be safer eating cold food in an inside room with no lights showing to the outside.

Another thing to think about is ventilation. Anything you burn will have some effect upon the air around the fire. If you cook indoors, depending upon what method of cooking you use and what fuel you are burning, you will have to deal with either CO2 or CO; that is carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide. Either one will kill you in a subtle, odorless, colorless, gentle, falling asleep kind of way. You’ll fall asleep, but you’ll never wake up. Be very, very conscious of getting fresh air into any area where you are burning fuels to cook or keep warm.

One other consideration about cooking isn’t about cooking at all, but about cleaning up after you cook. If you have limited water supplies and don’t know how long you may need to rely on those supplies, you will have to find a way to clean up your cooking gear without using your precious drinking water. In this case, it might be better if you ate your food cold and saved your water.

On the positive side, warm food is a great morale builder. It gives comfort and a sense of safety and security to what will be a stressful time. It warms not just the body, but the spirit. So, if it is safe to warm up your food, by all means do so.

If you think that you might need to cook during the time when public power, water and gas supplies are shut off, you will need to have planned ahead and acquired devices and fuel that will enable you to do so. If you already have a gas barbeque grill you can get a few more propane bottles and keep them filled and ready in the basement or the garage. You can buy a camp stove that burns Coleman fuel and keep a couple of extra cans of fuel stashed away. You should store any sort of flammable liquids or gases in a safe place, so that when disaster strikes you don’t compound your problem with a fire caused by your own supplies burning your house down. You can buy or build a “rocket” stove which burns small twigs in a very efficient manner, if you have a source of twigs for fuel. You can use your charcoal grill, too, if you have stocked up on a few bags of charcoal. There are also available a variety of propane fueled cooking devices made for the camping and RV market. They’re easy to find and not too expensive, just check your local sporting goods store, or any number of online resources.

In the colder months, keeping yourself warm inside your house will be difficult unless you already have a fireplace or a woodstove and a supply of fuel. As I mentioned earlier in this article, you will need to be very careful about doing any burning of fuels inside the house where there is inadequate ventilation. If the lack of oxygen doesn’t kill you, setting the house on fire might. Be careful. You’d be better off getting a sleeping bag or, perhaps two, one for the summer temperatures and one for the winter temperatures, than to try to heat your whole house anyway. We’re talking disaster here. You’re going to have to get used to living with a little discomfort until things get back to normal.

If you are a city dweller, and most people are these days, you will discover that it gets very, very dark at night when all the power is off. When it gets dark, plan on getting into your sleeping bag and going to sleep if you can. You will want to conserve your flashlight batteries for the time when you really need that light. If there is any sort of civil unrest around you, you would probably be wise not to show any lights at night so as not to attract any unwanted attention to yourself.

It might be a good idea to invest in a solar powered battery charger and then standardize the battery size in your radio, flashlights and other battery-powered devices so that they can all be charged by your solar charger.

Depending upon where you live, figure out what you will need to help you survive when you are off the gird and on your own. Think it through and make a list of what you will require: solar panels, a wind turbine, propane, gasoline, charcoal, a camping stove, a charcoal or gas grill, kitchen tools, firewood, etc. Start acquiring these things as you can afford them. Learn to use them. Practice your skills. Talk to your neighbors. Make sure your neighbors are just a prepared as you are. You will survive better as a group than as an individual. A group can share resources, skills, labor, and security duties and get all the jobs done much more efficiently that an individual. We’ll talk a bit more about that in the next article.

Emergency Preparedness for Beginners – Part 4 – Bugging in: Food

Emergency Preparedness for Beginners
By Brett A. Fernau

Part 4: Bugging In – What you need to survive at home – Food

Read Part 1 and 2 of this series first. In those articles I discuss what you will need to survive the initial disaster event and what you will need to get home from wherever you are when that event occurs. You should also read Part 3 which discusses water storage and purification. Start storing water first, then food.

Even in a short-term, temporary disaster scenario, you are likely to find the grocery store shelves quite bare after the first few days. Depending upon the type of disaster you are facing, getting trucks filled with groceries into your area so that those shelves can be restocked may take a several days or longer. If there is some measure of panic among the population, a trip to the store may not just be futile, but dangerous as well. If you have some food stashed away in your pantry, basement or garage, you can just stay home, out of harm’s way, and weather the storm as safely and comfortably as possible in those circumstances.

Start putting some extra food away a little bit at a time. Every time you go to the grocery store, buy a couple of extra cans or jars or bags of whatever you would be willing to eat. Buy items that have a long shelf-life, such as canned soups, stews, meats, and vegetables. Rice and beans together make up a complete protein and can be stored for quite some time if placed in bug and rodent-proof containers. I am referring to brown, whole-grain rice and dry beans, in this case. The only drawback I see for dry beans and rice is that they will need to be cooked, or at least soaked, in water to be edible. If you have limited water supplies, this might not be your best option. Canned foods can be eaten cold, right out of the can if need be. Stock up on items that your family enjoys, if possible. A lot of people, these days, are trying to eat fresher and more natural foods. Unless you have your own garden, though, you are going to have to rely on canned or otherwise preserved food that you have had the foresight to store away if you should find yourself in disaster conditions.

As I just mentioned, a garden, if you have space for one, would be a very good thing for you to have. Yes, it’s a lot of work. And yes, things don’t grow so well in the winter. But there was a time when lots of people had gardens and canned some of the produce from them to help get them through the winter months. Depending upon where you live, putting in a garden might be a very smart thing to do. Planting a couple of citrus trees might be a good thing as well. It’s certainly something to think about, if you are serious about being prepared.

You may have seen advertisements for emergency survival food packs. That is another option for you. You can buy MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, in quantity and store them away for an emergency. They are quite a bit more expensive than preserved foods that you find in the grocery store, but they are exactly what the name suggests, ready to eat. You don’t have to cook them. You can heat them up, if you are able or eat them cold. They also have a fairly long shelf-life.  A word of caution with regard to MREs — examine the ones you are thinking of buying very carefully.  Only buy MREs that come with ingredient lists and nutritional information.  Read and evaluate the information to determine whether or not the MRE supplies calories and nutrition from wholesome ingredients and that there are enough of each to sustain you for the time you expect you’ll need to consume them to survive.  Not all MRE suppliers are ethical, so be warned.

There are also freeze dried foods available. They are quite expensive. They are also very light weight, compact and easy to prepare. Usually, all you have to do is rehydrate them with a quantity of boiling water. Of course, you’ll need to have a way of heating that water. And you’ll need to have that water in the first place, which, again, is why water is the first thing you need to start storing if you are going to be prepared.

Though not a food item, you should stock up on some vitamin supplements as well. Your diet in a disaster scenario will not necessarily contain all the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. Vitamin supplements will help with that.

If you eat a balanced diet now and get yourself physically fit, you will be able to survive quite well on the foods you have stored away. At this point, you can probably think of a few other items you should set aside along with your food and water supplies, such as first-aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, a radio receiver, cooking equipment, and perhaps even a generator to keep your refrigerator going when the power is out. These are topics which I will cover in other articles.