Disaster Preparedness, Part 2

by Glenda Lehman Ervin (Item numbers refer to the Lehman’s Catalog items.)

We each have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, and those who count on us: Pets, children, disabled, the elderly. As accountable adults, we should have the following on hand (see previous issue for details):

1) an emergency preparedness kit, including a three-day supply of food and water
2) an emergency plan so you can locate all family members
3) the ability to get accurate information quickly

Some disasters, however, exceed our ability to respond, no matter how much preparation goes into them. Some are sufficiently inconceivable that it’s just not rational to prepare. An asteroid hitting the earth? A massive volcano that destroys the atmosphere? What about real civilization-threatening cataclysms? It does not make sense to prepare, or even worry, about these types of disasters.
The types of disasters that we can (and should) prepare for include short term natural disasters, such as a tornado or winter storm in the forecast. But what about a long-term disaster that prevents us from living our accustomed lifestyle?

The key word to all of this is PREPARE, which our good friend Webster defines as:

1) to make ready beforehand for some purpose, use, or activity
2) to work out the details of: plan in advance
3) to put together; to put into written form

So, long before any disaster hits, you should sit down and skim through Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook (Item#723252, $22.95)

The 319-page book shows you how to store food, fuel and water long-term. If the power goes off or you can’t buy groceries or get water, you’ll be ready. It includes hundreds of charts, recipes and tips, as well as a very useful listing of over 2,500 preparedness product suppliers. The key is to be ready for the unexpected and to know how to use the products you have carefully researched and purchased.
Do you remember what happened on August 14, 2003? When the lights went out across a wide swatch of the country? A blackout that covered much of the Northeast United States dramatically confirmed expert warnings that the traditional electric grid was overloaded and unreliable.

In less than 24 hours power was restored across the country, but let’s just imagine what our lives would be like if it hadn’t. If there was no traditional power system across half of the United States for days, or even weeks…and it was the dead of winter. Do you have a way to heat your home? Obtain fresh water? Feed your children? Heat, water, food and light are your primary concerns.

Here are some products that you can incorporate into a modern lifestyle that will allow you to flourish in the absence of electricity. First and foremost, a wood burning heating and/or cooking stove (see www.mostwoodstoves.com for details). Not only will it dramatically reduce your fuel bills in the winter, who really needs a complete meal in two minutes?

The smell of a beef stewing simmering on the stove all day; homemade cocoa – with milk, not water! – or even whirly-popped popcorn. Now that’s old-fashioned goodness. And it can keep you warm and comfortable, regardless of the status of the electric grid.
Keep in mind that a wood burning heating stove is designed to heat your entire home. But a wood burning cook stove, while it will heat the room in which it is placed, is designed to get hot fast to cook your food. They really are two separate appliances, but with a little forethought you can cook on a heating stove, and you can heat with a cooking stove. Just don’t wait until the first power outage to “plug it in.”
There are a number of ways to sterilize and store water, but if you are looking for something for the long haul, try what the American Red Cross uses in international relief efforts: The Big Berkey Tabletop Water Filter (Item #85415, $249)

Just pour “raw” water in the top chamber and draw off sparkling clean water from the lower chamber. Gravity does all the work. Special ceramic elements contain carbon media to remove bacteria and reduce chemicals, rust, sediment, and bad tastes/odors.
Elements are impregnated with silver to prevent bacterial growth. The manufacturer, based in England, has been in business for over 140 years.

Of course, if you have an electric water pump, just getting to the water in your well may be an issue. For that problem we recommend a galvanized well bucket, which is made by the local Ohio Amish exclusively for Lehman’s. You can get water from any well by hand, and it works at any depth. A special leak-proof valve opens to fill, then closes automatically when the bucket is drawn up. (Galvanized Well Bucket: Item #550202. $42.95)

If the power is off for more than five hours, which is the case in our “black out scenario,” you should be concerned about the safety of your refrigerated and frozen food. While a cooler with ice (or even the front porch, if it is the dead of winter in northeast Ohio), will work for a while, a prolonged power outage is going to take a gas-powered appliance, such as a Servel gas refrigerator (Item# !RGE400X, $1219) or an eight-cubic foot freezer (Item# CF240LP, $1935).
Without long-term refrigeration, dairy and meat, and even some medicines, become very difficult to keep on hand. And who doesn’t need extra storage for the frozen vegetables or meat loaf; or the watermelon or bushel of apples you picked up at the farm market? Keep these “extra” appliances in your garage or basement and you’ll be ready for any disaster.

The last thing on our long-term, must-have list is non-electric lighting. During the California black-outs several years, we discovered that many of us are still very afraid of the dark. Because when the grid is down, it gets very, very dark. Those of you that live in or near an urban area are unaccustomed to the pitch black of a dark sky.
There are many options available from a low cost, efficient and functional Dietz lantern (many are available at www.Lehmans.com; for example, the Lil’ Wizard Dietz Lantern, Item# 37013, $12.95), to a collectible Aladdin lamp (Item#K102, Deluxe Brass Table Lamp, $149.95, for instance).

Most non-electric lighting will burn kerosene or lamp oil or (our personal favorite) liquid paraffin. As with any product using a live flame, it is important to use caution around oil lamps. Never leave one unattended – the custom of leaving every light on in the house, even when that room is unoccupied, is a 21st century notion. In the old days, the family gathered in one room, and that was the room with the best heat and light.

If you choose to fully prepare yourself for a long-term disaster, don’t let it scare you. After all, this is the way our grandparents lived every day. Use your time and energy to teach your children not only the importance of self-sufficiency, but how to minimize our impact on the environment.

In the next issue: The lighter side of preparedness. It’s Day Three and the Kids are Driving us Crazy! ■

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