Author’s Note: With the drought, severe winter weather and now flooding in the United States it is obvious food prices will rise this summer. Some price increases have already begun as is he case with milk and meat. It is my goal to help as many as possible get ready for this serious hit to our budgets and to prepare for weather disasters that are becoming more frequent and serious. I need your help. Please like the Totally Ready facebook page and then please invite your friends to do the same. You have been warned so please help me warn our neighbors.
There are so many aspects to self reliance that we sometimes give up, get bogged down or believe we have it covered. Nothing is more helpful and reassuring than learning from the experiences of those who have already been there. The following are a few of the comments I have received over the years as I have interviewed those who have experienced disasters and come thru them with advice for us all. The italicized comments after each story are my thoughts.
“My husband and I were missionary welfare agents in Argentina. As we went about teaching welfare principles, food storage as we know it seemed to me very difficult since these were often poor people we would be teaching. I pondered how to teach and the answer came from the members themselves.
The women save a spoon full of whatever they are cooking, rice, beans, even flour, in plastic soda bottles. Those better off can save a cup at a time. I heard a story of a woman, she claimed she could not get food storage. Her relief society president challenged her to save a hand full at a time in small soda bottles. Many months later she asked the RS president to come over and showed her many full bottles of food.”
With an example such as this how can we possibly make excuses?
“Let me tell you of my own real life experience regarding using food storage. I am a single woman with no children trying to live on a fairly strict budget. Last summer I made the decision to try and live off my food storage for a period of one month – which at the end of that month I was having so much fun with the experience, I then extended to a longer period of time. In fact even now, a year later, I am still “living” on my food storage to some degree. My initial thought process for doing this was to discover…
1. what items I had in my food storage that I actually liked – so I would know what to purchase (or not) in the future
2. to learn how to use food storage items in everyday life and cooking
3. learn how long certain items would last – to give me a better idea of quantities needed for storage
4. to better determine what areas of storage I was negligent in stocking up for preparedness
5. to help rotate some of the items previously stored (if you never use it – it never gets rotated)
It was amazing how little money I was actually spending at the store – because I limited myself to just a few basics such as eggs, butter, yogurt, fresh fruit (only if it was on sale), and baby carrots (because I love to eat them). I determined to take the money I was saving and put it towards the purchase of additional food storage items – and my pantry soon became quite full with everyday type things. And I was able to purchase some additional longer term storage items as well.
I know that I wasn’t truly living completely off my food storage, as I was still purchasing some of the basic necessities. But since my grand experiment was for longer than a week – I felt it would be prudent to not be so strict. I have yet to open a can of powdered eggs to try them out – that is one product I fear will be worse than powdered milk.”
Way to go! Recently there was a report on CNN about a woman who decided to live off the food she had in her home. She was not preparing for anything, just wanting to use up items in her pantry and freezer. The amazing part of this story was the fact that it was amazing to anyone. The media was overwhelmed with the idea that anyone had enough food in their pantry to do that. Just a generation ago everyone had extra food in their home for those “rainy days”. I am afraid with the economy and other political news those rainy days are here.
“When we were living in North Carolina, an ice storm knocked out our power for four days. It was a bit miserable, but now makes for fun stories.
We started to hear the crash of trees falling all around us, followed by flashes of blue light from the wires they took down with them. We couldn’t leave the kids in their room, even if they were sleeping through it. We brought them into our bed so we could be sure they were safe.
We had a family come over to take showers at our house by candlelight because their well wouldn’t run without electricity (yes, I know it should have been by glow stick instead of candles). I was most surprised at how nicely the chicken nuggets turned out by cooking them in a frying pan over our gas range! I have some great pictures of the huge pine trees that fell literally right next to the house, one taking out our fence, and one breaking its top off when it hit our roof.
There are some simple things I wish I had done for that power outage – like keeping a bunch of disposable plates, cups, and utensils in the cupboard since we had no dishwasher; and a bunch of flashlights and batteries stored up too. Glow sticks would have been great, because lighting a candle or running a flashlight all night for the kids wasn’t an option. I also wished I had taken the advice of the neighbors. Being new to the area, and just moving there from Utah, I thought all of the panic about stocking up at the grocery store for the snow coming was silly. What I didn’t realize is that there are no snowplows for anything except the highways, so when it snows, you are stranded.”
This story is a great reminder of the other items we might need in an emergency. There is no place in industrialized nations that is free from the possibility of a power outage. Have we considered what we would need if that happened? The government estimates that 40% of people will not report for work during an emergency, including a severe pandemic. This means no one to fix a downed power line or bad valve in a water treatment plant. This means trash pick-up may cease. Have you considered what you would do should the infrastructure fail. It could happen to you, it has already happened to others.
“We had a half hour notice to evacuate. A friend called when he was called by a friend who received a reverse 9-1-1 call. My initial thought was, this is a drill, we’ll be back tonight, we’ll be the only ones on the road. All of these assumptions were wrong. My husband grabbed the kids and told me to grab a few things. What did I grab? Makeup! Of course when he came in and saw me I woke up to the important things. We ended up taking three days worth of clothes, photo albums, camera, computer, file documents, journals, scriptures, 72-hour kits, and the kids each picked one toy. There was no forethought; I just grabbed what I could, what was visible.
I wish I had taken past journals, letters from my mission, my wallet and CDs and movies for the long drive. A drive that would normally have taken an hour took three times that long.
We did not take food, so our 72-hour kits were used to supply snacks in the car. We learned that you never put mints of minty gum in your kit without wrapping them separately. Everything tasted like mint.
I now have a plan. I have an updated box of important documents is ready to go in the garage. We always have at least a half tank of gas now.
The experience affected my children more than I thought it would. The smoke was very scary for my son, and he still talks about it. He still pretends to put out fire in our grass. My daughter still isn’t sleeping well. I know they had feelings of displacement and confusion. We went to Toys R Us when we were in LA that night. Toys and food are what they needed.”
Ruth also needed to evacuate:
“We had about 15-20 minutes notice to evacuate. A police car came on our street with a loudspeaker and said, If you can hear my voice, you are in immediate danger and must evacuate now.’ We thought it would be just a temporary evacuation and that the fire department was probably on their way. We took our pets, cars, photo albums, and home videos. We didn’t really have a clear plan. I remember thinking about the kids’ photos and vacation videos and telling my two kids to hurry and get their important things from their bedrooms. We took very little – our three cars were mostly empty. We panicked and hurried. I took no clothes. We lost our home.
I wish I had taken clothes, my important papers and files (passports, birth certificates, living trust,and so on) all my work-related files and materials, our coin and Disney collectibles, the kids’ baby items that were handmade by my mom, my wedding dress, the kids’ letterman jackets and the 25th wedding anniversary gifts from my family.
We now have three evacuation lists, prioritized by how much time we have to evacuate.
We have all our important papers in one easy-to-reach place. We no longer keep anything of importance in the attic. Our attic burned first.
We have a dog and two desert tortoises. A friend took care of our dog for the 13 months while we lived in an apartment, and my Mom took the tortoises.
I recommend anyone having to evacute grab things quickly as though you are not coming back.
Think of items that cannot be easily purchased again (homemade things, pictures, wedding items, and other treasures). We didn’t take much, because we thought we’d be back. Don’t keep things of value stored in hard-to-reach places like the attic or garage rafters. Take your computers and hard drives. Take your video camera and take pictures of everything inside your house and cupboards before you evacuate.
Our insurance company required an inventory list so that we could be compensated for our internal
contents. The list was challenging because we had lived in our house for almost 20 years and it was hard to remember everything we had. It took us about six months to compile this 231-page inventory list.
The insurance company asked for receipts as we purchased items and paid our builder, but that was no problem. The insurance also gave us money up front for living expenses and to get us started in the rebuild. They were very cooperative. We had a new policy and a good agent.
Now we have lists of what to take and where everything is that we need to evacuate. We know to move quickly in our packing and stay calm following the lists we’ve made. We used all our lists during another wild fire when we had to evacuate. We had all night to pack and believe me, we took everything this time.”
So many people think this can never happen to them. It can happen to anyone at any time. Congratulations Kelli and Ruth for learning from your experience and changing a few small things to guarantee that should this happen again you will be ready.
Everyone should hold a family home evening to determine what the importnt items are in your home that are a must take and not replaceable should you need to leave your home quickly, possibly never to return.
“My mom and dad were evacuated and came to stay at my home.They called at 7pm Sunday to say they were coming down, normally a 20 minute drive. By the time they got through traffic they arrived at our home three hours later, at 10pm. We had my mom and dad and two cats. They thought it would be one or two nights, but because the streets to their hometown were closed they had to stay five nights.
I wished I had activities like board games and things to entertain all of us when we were stuck in the
house together. I also wished I had more comfortable sleeping arrangements for guests. Having extra food on hand would have been better, too. We had to go to the store a couple times to get food, since there were extra mouths to feed that week. Now we have bought many games to entertain us during the down times.”
We often forget that when others come to our home we will need entertain them. We recently have an elderly family member with us for several days while his wife was in the hospital. It was very stressful because he didn’t have anything to do but we still had work and other responsibilities. Be sure to consider those who may need to evacuate to your homes and the type of items that would be entertaining to them, games, puzzles, books, magazines, crafts, etc.
“A tree fell through my house during Gustav. The best advice I can give anyone is to have a house inventory. Insurance companies require a list of damaged items, where purchased, and purchase price. This would save you a ton of time. Make sure your camera batteries are charged for pictures that must be included in your claim.
It took me 1 1/2 hours to travel about 6 miles to put things in a storage unit because of traffic and downed traffic lights. So, a full tank of gas is a must.
Also, buy large trash bags because you can’t find boxes to put your belongings in.”
Insurance claims are so critical after a disaster. Once you turn in the claim form you are done as far as the insurance company is concerned, anything you failed to list will not be replaced. A home inventory is one of the most valuable preparations you can make. None of us are immune from a house fire no matter how safe your area may be as far as natural disasters are concerned. I love the trash bag tip!
“Last week our refrigerator died. We have six people living in our home including a granddaughter and physially handicapped daughter. It was late at night, too late to call for a repair or to purchase a new fridge. I remembered Carolyn had advised us to fill any empty spaces in our freezer with water in plastic containers or freezer bags. I had done that so we got all those bags out and placed them in the refrigerator and our food stayed nice and cold until we could solve the problem the next afternoon. I know the purpose of the ice is in case of a power outage to save your frozen foods but it was a lifesaver in this situation as well.”
It is so often the case that the preparations we make for one situation help us during a completely different scenario.
I would love to hear and sare your stories of survival or how you have used your self reliance preparations to help your family through a difficult time. Please send me a note or post your experience on our Totally Ready facebook page.