Thursday, September 29, 2011

Food Storage in the Suburbs

     Like water, food (or the lack of it), will be a very big deal in a disaster or situation that results in an interruption of services that lasts longer than 4 days. Unlike water, which is somewhat available (in most areas of the country) and easily treatable, food is not easy to come by. For the most part food must already be on hand, and stored correctly, to be of any value under bad circumstances.

     The Golden Rule of food storage: "Store Extra of What You Already Use".  We eat a good bit of rice, potatoes, and pastas. So buying a 50lb bag of rice for $19, 10lbs of dehydrated potatoes for $10, and 18lbs of pasta for $15 wasn't a huge deal. Those are the foundations for many recipes, they're hearty, inexpensive, easy to make, and everyone in my family will eat them. Having things on hand that your family already likes will make a unusual circumstances much less stressful for everyone involved. If you think your family are finicky eaters now....... imagine trying to get them to eat in the dark, while they're wet, cold, scared, and tired.

    The Golden Rule can be implemented simply enough by buying one or two extra packages of what you're ALREADY buying. Buy it on sale, use coupons and discount cards, and store it away from your normal food storage. You will be surprised how fast it will accumulate. Once you have enough on hand to feed your family for a month, begin to rotate your extra food (called "preps") into your normal food storage as you use it.  When you go grocery shopping simply restock your preps with what you pulled out plus one extra package, per item, of what you had on your shopping list.

     We store a lot of canned goods, because we have a wide variety of tastes. With canned goods you can get a wide variety of foods including fruits, in stackable, easily storable containers, with fairly long shelf lives, that aren't very expensive. They're easy to rotate, easy to prepare, and it's easy to identify what's in them. I buy mine at Sam's Club or Costco, so they come prepackaged by the dozen. The boxes open on the end so it's easy to carry the boxes into the house, open them and stack the cans.

     Store lots of dry goods ready to prepare. For example Easy Mac, Ramen Noodles, granola bars, nuts, etc. These are comfort foods, and they will comfort you in times of stress. They'll give you an energy boost when you need it most, and won't require alot of effort to prepare. I buy these things in bulk at Sam's Club so they're cheaper, and store easily. Some of the self lives can be shorter than you might think, so keep an eye on the rotation andf you'll be fine.

      I store some canned meats as well, but not a large variety of them. I store salmon, tuna, chicken, and DAK Hams. At one point I stored Vienna Susages (lots of them), my kids and dog liked them at first but quickly got tired of the taste. I never liked them because they smell funny and have a weird texture. Another mistake I made was buying little tins of fish like sardines, and herring steaks. It looked like the perfect food prep, they stacked really easily and contained decent amounts of protein. They were cheap enough at less than a dollar each, and had a really long shelf life. What could go wrong....right? 

     Lots. They were packed in oil, which extended the shelf life by about 2 years, but made them almost intolerable. They smelled worse than they tasted. My cat wouldn't even eat them. That was my lesson on following the Golden Rule. If you don't eat it now, don't buy it for later. Of course I'd eat it if I were starving.....really starving, and had lost all sense of taste and smell. Good luck getting three kids to eat them.

     We also store quite a few beans. They're high in protein, and add substance to just about any meal. Beans and rice are fundamental staples in most 2nd and 3rd world countries. We store red kidney beans, black beans, pintos, and especially lentils. Soaking them over night greatly reduces their cooking time, but doesn't take much more water than just cooking alone.

     When you begin the rotation stage, that's when you begin to pick up extra items like salt, pepper, spices, oils (i store olive, coconut, and peanut oil), honey, bouillon cubes, condiments, etc.  The spices and cubes you'll want because they can make bland, repetitive meals more tasty and tolerable. Oils you need for fat content, and they have a very long storage life. Honey you want because it is sweet and will store indefinitely.....literally indefinitely.

     A few other odd and ends I store with food:
     Toilet Paper....what goes in must come out. I'm not wiping with full sardine cans.
     Dental Floss, tooth brushes, tooth paste.  Dental hygeine is critical.
     Liquid Soap. For obvious reasons, can also be used to wash dishes and clothes.
     Those are some things I store. We don't have a lot of storage room to spare, so I have to get the most  out of the space I use. Aside from the boxes containing a full 12 items of canned goods, I remove everything from the bulk boxes. Once I open the bulk canned goods, I remove them all, stack them on the shelves, and discard the box. The boxes usually contain insect eggs, which will hatch inside your house and cause you lots of problems.  I either stack smaller items individually or seal them in gallon sized zip lock bags. I like the bag option because you can still see what's inside.

     These are some things that have worked for me over the years. It's a trial and error process for me as it is for most. If you have any tips or tricks please share.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Storing Water in the Suburbs

   We all know how important clean water is in our daily lives. It is even  more important when there is a disaster or when you are in a survival situation. Most stomach bugs, minor wound infections, and hygeine issues are a result of not having clean water. There is already an entry in this blog about sources of drinking water in a suburban environment. This entry is about how much water to have on hand and some ideas on how to store it.

   At a minimum you need one gallon of drinking water per person per day for 3 days. By that rule, a family of 4 will need 12 gallons of drinking water stored and ready to use at a moments notice.  Keep in mind that is drinking water, it does not include cooking, hand washing, teeth brushing, utensil wahsing, bathing, etc. Those sanitary functions are almost as important as drinking water. Washing your hands will prevent the spread of most common illnesses, which can become serious illnesses when in a disaster situation.

    I have a famly of 4 so I store emergency water in two 7 gallon containers. The containers have a built in tap with an on/off valve, and an air valve. The containers weigh about 50 lbs each when full, can be purchased at WalMart, and are stackable as you can see below.


    The purpose purpose of storing emergency water isn't to provide all of the water you will need for the duration of a disaster or survival situation. It's to provide you enough water in the short term, so you can work on long term solutions without the pressure of emergancy water needs. This will buy you time when you need it most. Things will be stressfull enough without adding the stress of thirsty children.

   Rain barrels are another popular option for water storage. We replaced one of our gutter downspouts with a rain chain that runs into a 40 gallen rain barrel. A bug screen is required or you'll end up with mosquitto's breeding in the captured water. We attached a soaker hose to the rain barrel spigot and use the water in our herb garden. It's never held more than 30 gallons or so, but in a disaster situation, the water can be moved to storage containers then treated easily enough and used for drinking water.

     In an emergency, a plastic kiddie pool can be placed under a downspout and used to collect water as well.  All water collected should be considered as unsafe and treated before drinking. As described in an other post on this blog, adding 10 drops of chlorine bleach per gallon, shaking the water to mix it,  and  waiting 30 before drinking minutes will effectively treat contaminated water and make it fit for human consumption. If the water is cloudy or has an odor, use 20-30 drops per gallon, shake it up, and wait 90 minutes before drinking.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sources of Water in the Suburbs

     Water is life. It's that simple really, without water we die.  Three days is the golden standard for how long we can live without putting water into our bodies. Maybe a little longer, maybe not, depending on the circumstances. Where can we get it? How do we make it safe to drink? How much should we store?These are all common questions, and good ones.

     How do you know if water is safe to drink? You don't. Assume all water is not safe to drink, no matter how thirsty you are. The LAST thing you want is diarrhea, especially when you're already dehydrated. Dysentary will kill you in a day or two. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you treat ALL drinking water.  I highly recommend having a copy of the book Where There Is No Doctor. It is used in disaster situations all over the world where trained medical professionals are not available, or cannot reach people needing treatment. In was invaluable in Haiti after the earthquake. Where There Is No Doctor details many proven methods for preventative treatment, such as treating water.  It's free and can be downloaded HERE.  

     The easiest ways to treat water in a household setting is to boil it, or sterilize it with common bleach. To use bleach mix it at a ratio of 10 drops per gallon, shake or stir it, then let it sit for 30 minutes.  If you get water from outside your home, strain out any pieces of debris by running it through a coffee filter, dish cloth, sock, or something like that. Then add 10 drops of bleach per gallon, shake or stir it up, and then let it sit for 30 minutes. If you don't have any bleach in your home, get some now. It's very cheap, stores indeffinately if you keep the lid closed, and has dozens of uses in an emergency or survival situation. It should be a staple in your preparedness supplies. Once an emergency situation arises, or is expected to arise, bleach will be very hard to find.

     Boiling water is pretty self explanitory, but there are a few things to keep in mind. It takes fuel to boil water. If there's no power available, and you do not have a gas fueled stove, things can get complicated. You can boil it over an open flame, and that is going to take firewood. Bring the water to a rolling boil, and let it cool off.  Some people think you need to boil water for 10 minutes, I'm not one of them. Bacteria, virii, and protozoa will die at a temperature of around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Water boils at 210 degrees Fahrenheit, if it reaches a rolling boil, everything living in the water is long dead. Save your fuel for cooking.

     Lets start with water sources inside the home. Depending on the size of your hot water heater, there is between 30 and 100 gallons of potable (drinkable) water inside your hot water heater. Simply drain the tank into a storage container. Do this by first making sure the electrical power (or gas) is turned fof to the heater. Then attach a garden hose to the spigot valve on the bottom of the tank and open the valve, gravity will do the rest.

     There is also between 2 and 4 gallons of water in each tank on the toilet. DO NOT drink from the toilet bowl. Remove the lid from the back of the toilet and scoop out water from the tank. This water is drinkable if you have not put some kind of toilet sanitizing cake (the blue hockey puck looking things) in it. If the water is not clear and colorless, do not drink it.

       Now lets look into water sources outside the home. Swimming pools have thousands of gallons of water in them. Can you drink it? Sure, if you treat it properly. A pool is basically a pond. How can we treat it? Well....that depends on the situation. Pool water that was being pumped and filtered a day ago is in pretty good shape. Pool water that's been standing for three weeks without electricity to pump and filter it is going to be very nasty. If the water is clear, scoop it out into a bucket then take it home and treat it as described above.

     If the water is not clear, move as much algea and debris away from where you plan to scoop water out as possible. Then scoop it out in small amounts from the surface. Place it in a bucket, take it home and reevaluate it's condition. If it's cloudy, strain it as described above using whatever is available. You can "shock" the water by adding 20-30 drops of bleach, shaking or stirring it up, and letting it sit for 90 minutes. You can also boil it as described above after it has been filtered.

     Treat river, creek, lake, and any sources of standing water as you would treat a stagnant swimming pool. If you can't use bleach or the boiling methods, you can use UV rays from the sun. Strain the water as described above and place it in a clear plastic or glass bottle. The thinner the material of the bottle, the more UV rays can pass through into the water, and the more effective it will be. Place the bottle in full sun for at least 4 hours, longer is better. Placing it on a reflective surface when possible will make it more effective as well. I have one of those reflective windshield screens used to keep the sun from damaging your cars dashboard, I can get 16 1-liter water bottles on the screen.

     It is a very good idea to have at least 3 methods of water purification at your disposal if possible. I have the ability to use chemical (bleach), boiling, UV (solar), and a backpacking water filtration system that will treat 1,000 gallons.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The What If

     What are we preparing for? What could go wrong? Why do I need to worry about these things? Well in a nutshell, you've all heard of Cause and Effect.  We have seen the cause....get ready for the effect.  That effect could be as localized as the primary bread winner losing their job, or as large as a global economic collapse. It could be as minor as a local power outage, or as significant as a large scale disaster. Each of these types and scales of disasters will be discussed at length in future posts.

     The basic requirements of preparedness and survival are the same regardless of the situation. You will need shelter, water, food, fire, and tools. We'll also get into great detail each of  those requirements in the coming posts. For people who will be "bugging out" in the event of a disaster, those needs take on a whole different meaning. We live in the one will be "bugging out" to the suburbs.

     There aren't a lot of reasons I can think of to abandon my home, storage foods, tools, firearms, water supply, extra clothing, etc. There is no way I can carry all of the stuff I would need for myself and my family should I just up and leave.I have planned to "bug in".   I could carry some things in my truck, traffic allowing of course. Anyone who has tried to leave a suburban area on the friday before a long weekend can understand why that's not a great idea. Can you IMAGINE what it would be like is things were really bad on a large scale.

     Unless my house is on fire, under water, under seige, in the pathway of fallout, or near the source of a contagion breakout.....I'll be bugging IN. Most suburbanites will most likely "bug in", or dig in, or hunker down, or whatever you want to call it. Why? There are LOTS of reasons. If you've ever tried to take a 4 year old to the grocery store, you can imagine what would happen if you put a bag on their back and tried to walk farther than 20 feet through adverse conditions.

     Should you have a Bug Out Bag, and/or a Get Home Bag? Absolutely. My philosophy is that I need to get home first, then go somewhere else IF I need to.  I plan to regroup with my family at home and assess the situation. The decidse whether to Alamo Up or Bug Out .

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Why

     I live in the suburbs. The 'Burbs if you will. I don't have a 20 acre retreat to do with as I please. No chicken coop, bug out vehicle, 2000 square foot garden, shooting range, fishing pond, etc. What I DO have is a 1/2 acre plot, a mini-van, a contentious HOA, a honey-do list, three kids (one in college, one in 5th grade, and one in diapers), and a crazy schedule with hardly a minute to spare. Under those circumstances, survival takes on a whole new meaning.

     I've been into the preparedness lifestyle, or survival, or whatever you want to call it, for as long as I can remember. My mother was a depression era baby and being prepared to "do without", should we need to, was just a way of life. Sometimes it seemed a little much. Now that I have a family of my own and see the fragile circumstances in which most of us live, it reinforces the way i was raised.

     My preparations, or preps, have evolved as much as I have evolved over the years. What started out as a cheap back pack for a Bug Out Bag, filled with Ramen noodles, and topped off with a compass handled Rambo knife, has been quite a journey. As in many things, life events dictate your ability (or lack there of) to react to circumstances beyond your control. However, careful preparation and planning can ease your mind and provide you with some options should said events beyond your control actually occur. Options are your best friend. Having choices is often times better than having cash in hand.

     In the coming posts I'll talk about what choices I have created for myself. Hopefully, you'll see some parallels between my life and yours and you can make some of my options work for you as well. If you have ideas that you feel would benefit others, please let me know. I'm also doing a podcast, not yet  released, but I would love to hear your ideas and maybe have you on for an episode.