Lately, I have seen a growing number of articles stressing that everyone needs to get prepared NOW! They stress that this may very well be your last chance to get prepped up. Is this true? I don’t know, but like many of my friends I do feel that in many areas things are rapidly accelerating. Am I going to give a prediction on when the bottom will drop out? Not a chance. I do, however, feel it’s not a question of “if” but rather one of “when”.
When did it happen for me? I have always been a “preparedness” type, but my first big commitment came when the Y2K scare came along. I thought about it, reasoned that a world without electricity would not be a good place, and promptly shelled out “mucho dinero” for a six-month supply of storage food for my family. Y2K came and went, without a single catastrophe. I have no doubt that the family members I had tried to convince to get prepared were not so quietly snickering about the crazy old man who tried to get them to waste their money. Undeterred, I hauled the food through two house moves and to a storage locker, and yes the majority of the food is still good; we continue to consume it. About four years ago, we linked up with some very intelligent folks who really opened our eyes to what was going on. My wife and I were so impressed with the way these people were walking the talk that we made major changes in our life. We watched as our friends took all the steps– finding land, stocking up, building a garden (only slightly smaller than Connecticut), and acquiring livestock. Oh, their efforts also included employing a very large, four-footed, security guard to watch over the operation.
My wife and I were retired, so the changes were not life-shattering, but they were certainly life-changing. We moved to a different state and bought a house close to our friends. Thereafter, we jumped in with both feet and began serious prepping. Only by the efforts of my chief financial officer (the wife) were we slowly able to acquire, on a pensioner’s income, the necessary preps and eliminate as much debt as possible. Although it took years, we achieved a reasonable level of preparedness. We had the stuff, so what now? Well, we decided we had better see if the stuff works. Like many writers suggest, we decided to do a blackout drill. The rules were pretty simple for the next ____ (fill in the amount of time you wish to drill). We would have no electricity, no running water, and no egress from the house. We would have to make do with what we had acquired. Thankfully, we completed the drill in the winter time, with very few problems. However, the lessons learned were many.
One of the most important lessons I learned was that, depending on the type of stove you use, one can make two different kinds of coffee. On the first day, I broke out the small sterno stove, filled the camp coffee pot with all the required ingredients, put the pot on the stove, and sat back to await the aroma of coffee in the air. Well, as it turns out, the coffee you get from a sterno stove is “ice coffee”. The temperature in the house was approximately 53 degrees, and I was pretty sure the coffee would freeze before it boiled. I left the pot on the sterno stove long enough to grow a beard, and then gave up. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll go to plan B.” Out came the sterno stove and in comes the propane camp stove. I transferred the coffee pot to the propane stove, turned up the flame, and turned my back on the stove. This is when I discovered the propane stove will make “volcano coffee”! In a short period of time, the pot was boiling up, out, and all over the kitchen. Ah yes, learning new things is truly enlightening. A few more pearls of wisdom acquired were that we used much more water than we predicted and head lamps are the greatest thing since “sliced bread”.
Less than a month after completing the drill, we would be put to the test but with one huge complicating factor thrown in. I suddenly learned that I needed immediate surgery. Okay, we can do this. The surgery was successful, but it left me basically bedridden for a period. Then I was unable to lift anything substantial for an extended period of time. As if on cue, a major storm dumped record snowfall on our area, and that’s when the two chills fell on me. First, it was the chill of the plunging temperature, which went down to over 20 degrees below zero, and the second was the chill of realizing that snow plus a plunging thermometer almost certainly meant a power failure. There I was, as useless as a Washington politician. At this point, you discover you hadn’t really factored in being laid up during an emergency into your many scenarios. It is a horrible feeling to think that you cannot assist during a crisis or even worse that you might not be able to protect your family. What did I do?
I only had one choice– turn to my wife. The CFO/nutritionist/caregiver was about to expand her resume even further. With so much snow in the driveway that we could not get our small car out and with another storm inbound, my wife added snow shoveling to her list of many talents. After working all day, the driveway was clear and we would be able to make it to the doctor’s appointment scheduled for two days later. One day later, the doctor’s office calls and wants to reschedule my appointment. I said, “Excuse me? I am supposed to get my staples removed. Could delaying that cause a problem?” There was a long pause. Then the receptionist said, “Let me check. Can you come in early tomorrow?” I answered, “Yes, I will be there.” Immediately, I begin to wonder what happens if the next predicted storm arrives early or the doctor decides to cancel appointments? Will the incision become infected if the staples stay in too long? Could my wife remove them if necessary? At once, I have visions of my wife handing me a bottle of whiskey and saying drink this while I find the needle-nose pliers.
After successfully repressing my medical fears, we settled in for the evening and the power went out. A call to the power company assured us the power would be back on in two hours. Right; kind of like your call is important to us so please stay on the line until you pass out from exhaustion. As they say, we knew the drill, crank up the alternate heat source, monitor the smoke and CO2 alarms, and pile on the blankets. When the sun came up the next morning, we made coffee (perfect this time), cooked breakfast, and waited for the power to come back on. A short time later, the power was restored, and we were off to see the doctor. As I prepared to have the staples removed, the CFO/nutritionist/caregiver/snow shoveler/intelligence operative went to work. In her best southern drawl, she said, “Doctor, I’m very interested in how staples work. May I observe?” “Sure!, the doctor replied, and he talked her through the process. When the procedure was complete, the doctor left the room. When the nurse entered the room, my wife was examining the instrument used to remove the staples and noted that the package stated that the instrument was for one time use only. “Gee, if you all are going to throw it out anyway, could I have it as a souvenir?” she asked. “I guess so,” said the nurse. BINGO! That’s my girl. Now, I can take my needle nose pliers out of hiding.
What lesson can be learned from this experience?
If you are the leader of your respective group, establish a clear chain of command as to who takes over if something happens to you. Write it down. A recent article on survival blog, Your Brain on Paper by MR, talked about the importance of written procedures and instructions. This is very good advice. All that knowledge in your head is useless if others in the group don’t have access to it. Rethink your supplies and transport methods. That 90-pound, comprehensive survival kit is really neat, but can your 120-pound wife load it into the car, if you are out of commission? Train and practice. Make sure everyone in your group knows the location of all the equipment as well as how to operate it.
In the introduction, I posed the question, “When is the deadline for prepping?” In my opinion, the deadline was yesterday. It took us years to reach our present level, and it all paid off in the span of ten days. I can easily envision the day when some government panel decides I am too old to qualify for some type of care and my family or friends will have to take over. It could be anything from a weather emergency to a full blown disaster. So, in spite of what the main stream media tells you, being prepared does not make you a nut job; it makes you self-sufficient. So get busy! Lay up food, supplies, training, and knowledge, and stay as healthy as possible.