Emergency Preparedness, Two Liters at a Time, by Roy P.

My son handed me a book to read this Thanksgiving titled “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It” by James Wesley, Rawles. He had a stack of them and gave them to all his ‘important people’. The title intrigued me. Although I never really considered myself a Survivalist in the way that the media might portray one, I have stored food and supplies for emergencies throughout my life. The book was well written and easy to read, as I read it in two days and it has inspired me to once again get serious about preparedness.

Many of us see the potential dangers facing us in this uncertain period of our lives. Unemployment is high, foreclosures are starting to pop up everywhere and we have an administration that doesn’t give us any reason to anticipate a speedy resolution. We may still have our jobs and our mortgages may be up to date, but in the back of our minds, we see that it wouldn’t take much to turn our world upside-down. Although I am self-employed, and I might entertain the thought that I can’t get fired or laid-off, my business is 100% Internet related and dependant. If that single utility were to fail, overnight I could myself in a quagmire instead of the solid ground I thought I was on. Multiply this scenario by the millions of people that share this vulnerability and the whole country could undergo a ‘fundamental transformation’ as someone has phrased it.

So some of us may realize that we are a little late getting prepared. But, rather than analyzing it, we need to start doing something, now. The problem is that getting started may appear to be a daunting task. Finding and affording long term food storage, locating food grade containers, dealing with moisture control, ordering oxygen absorbers and mylar bags, and on and on, may make the first step too big for a beginner to take.

I found myself in that situation 20 years ago when my wife and I first decided to prepare for emergency/disaster scenarios. Still today we are by no means any kind of experts, but we do have some practical experience that we can share to help that person sitting on the edge get a push into action.

My earliest recollections of preparedness was as a child living in Ohio. Born in the mid-1950s, I grew up in the threat of the Cold War, you know, Duck and Cover in the classrooms. I remember my father looking through brochures for building a Fall-Out Shelter (mid-1960’s survivalism I guess). We had a huge basement at the time, temperature and moisture controlled and this is where we played, built projects and the adults had their parties. But in our basement we also had an extra kitchen, workshop, laundry room, food pantry, and a super-secret store room. I think that my dad, not being able to build his fallout shelter, used our basement as his next best alternative.]

Living in a cold climate, in the suburbs of Cleveland, winters were very cold. I remember at times we would get snowed in and couldn’t go to school for as long as 2 weeks at a time. If the city’s snow plows couldn’t get by for a few days, we were seriously snowed in. Even though we lived in the heart of suburbia, 3-4 feet of snow makes it hard to get anywhere. I remember my dad having to dig out of our front door and walk to the neighborhood store (Dairy-Dell) to get milk and bread for us four kids but the mainstay of our food during those times was the huge pantry my parents always kept stocked in our basement. My parents built a set of shelves that covered an entire wall about 12 inched deep and it held canned stews, vegetables, soups, beans, camp stove fuel, Sterno cans, as well as other vital household items. Even back then I remember all the cans were dated and the stock was constantly rotated as we ate out of it almost daily.

Flash forward to the 1980s, my parents are now empty nesters and built a house on a hill top in southern Oregon. My dad, who’s perspective was formed growing up in the Depression, serving in WWII, and living his adult life in the Cold War built this new house with a basement again but this time an even more elaborate food storage room. When he showed it to me for the first time I noticed stacks and stacks of 2-liter bottles on the shelves on one wall. I asked my dad why he had all the soda is his storage. Well, it wasn’t soda, but is was grains and beans. My dad’s childhood of living in the depression made him thrifty in many ways. He told me these bottles are virtually free, they were made from polycarbonate just like my shooting glasses, have an excellent seal, transparent enough to see what is inside without opening, and make handy sized containers for food storage. I thought it was a great idea as I was about to buy and store some grains and beans for my family.

Having just made it through the Bush 41 administration and now wondering if we will make it through the Clinton regime, I felt like I needed some food security. I lived in central California at the time and didn’t have a lot of extra money laying around, the 2-liter bottles made food storage really cheap. My wife and I were buying way too much soda in those years, but that made for a lot of empty bottles available. At that time I was buying bulk grains and beans in the 10 to 20 cents per pound range. We bottled up hundreds of pounds of food and spent less than a hundred dollars total. We now got some security in knowing that no matter what happens, we will eat. We didn’t use any silica gel, oxygen absorbers, or dry ice as we didn’t know about them and couldn’t have afforded them if we did.

What we discovered was that the bottles created their own vacuum. We never had any kind of bug infestation or mold. The lentil beans and split peas lost their color after a few years, but the whole wheat and white rice was like the day we bottled it, ten years later. It was all very handy to use, just grab a bottle, pour it in a measuring cup for cooking and keep the unused portion on the kitchen shelf. Each bottle holds 8+ cups of grain or beans.

Of course none of the gloomiest forecasts of that time ever came to be, but my wife and I had to thank God on a number of occasions when that food really saved us. A few years after we stored our food, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and Desert Storm began. We were both self-employed in a business that relied heavily on land development which in turn relied on investment capital to fund it. Investors became uncertain where Desert Storm was going to take the country and started pulling back their money and canceling proposed projects as well as projects already underway. (Does this sound familiar?) Well almost overnight, projects that we had in our cue of work in progress were cancelled one after another. Projects that that would have invoiced for $30,000 to $40,000 each just vanished. We kept our employees on, as they were a good team with skills that were very hard to find, hoping things would improve soon and lost over $30,000 that first month. The following month took another $40,000. Quickly my partner and I started laying-off everyone but ourselves, but now we were in a bad way. We eventually shut down the business and moved to Southern Oregon. I cannot tell you how important it was that we stored that food and other assets that we used to survive the next few years in our leanest times.

The 2-liter bottles are very handy to grab with one hand and use in the kitchen until it is empty. It is easy to share one or two or a variety with a friend or neighbor who is in need. They are reusable and pretty much free and they are air tight, water proof, lightweight and bug proof. We never had any mouse or other vermin problems although a hungry varmint might eat through one if unprotected.

Here a trick in filling your bottles. Always clean and dry your bottles well in advance of filling them. I took two caps and glued and taped them together, top to top. I then drilled out the center so it was like a cylinder with inside threads at both ends. I but a bottle on one end and cut the bottom off that bottle. Then just screw the other end on the bottle you want to fill and you have a large capacity filling funnel that doesn’t jam or fall off. Fill them to the very top to leave as little air as possible. If you have oxygen absorbers, you can roll one up and slide it in the top.

I know that this may seem simple and elementary. It is by no means the best way to store food. But it is fun, you get immediate results and you can do it today. If getting started is half the job, this is certainly worth doing to prepare you and your family.