Emergency Preparedness and Building Family Resilience

Emergency Preparedness and Building Family Resilience

The thing about emergency preparedness is that you never know when your family will need it. We all think about it, right? But many of us get busy with other things and never actually get down to the work of making those preparations. Or maybe we make those preparations and then over time, supplies dwindle and when the time comes we find ourselves having to race against our neighbors to buy what we need. 

I am going to be flat out honest with you… 

All this COVID-19 hysteria has caught us with our prepper pants down. It’s been a while since we have been faced with an emergency scenario and I am ashamed to say that we allowed complacency to slowly creep in. We aren’t completely unprepared, but we certainly could have done better. Ugh, my pantry! 

You should have seen us after 9/11. We were prepared. When 9/11 rocked our nation and our communities, we learned what can happen when the population is thrown into panic. It happened to communities devastated by Katrina. It happened decades ago for Y2K. And it is happening again as the world faces the global coronavirus pandemic. 

Even if you keep a level head and do not succumb to the infectious fear and panic, it is very likely that others won’t remain so calm. People are going to rush the stores. People will buy up all the food and supplies (hello… toilet paper?) And before much time has passed, all the shelves will be bare like they are now.

Covid-19 Toilet Paper Crisis

Come on people! The time for emergency preparedness is BEFORE we and our families need it. 

So… as we are sitting here on our couch ‘sheltering in’, practicing social distancing, and waiting for the COVID-19 curve to level off, my mind goes to how I want to be prepared next time. Because there will be a ‘next time’.  It may be a decade, it may be a year, it may be sooner. But next time, whatever the emergency we face happens to be, let’s all work toward being a little better prepared. Deal? Deal.

A couple things I want to say before diving in…

Let’s not allow this drive for emergency preparedness to come from a spirit of fear. Fear is not going to get us anywhere and is not going to keep our families safe. Let’s do this from a spirit of wisdom and prudence. With wisdom, we will build stronger families and therefore stronger communities. 

And finally… obviously, this post is not going to provide an exhaustive emergency preparedness plan. That would take an entire book. There are books written on the subject and maybe you will want to pick some of those up. What I am going to cover is how our family is preparing (or will prepare) for future emergencies. I hope you find what we share helpful as you consider how best to prepare your own family.

Lets Build Resilience through Emergency Preparedness

So what do we need to do to prepare? Emergency situations by nature are unpredictable. Could any of us have predicted 9/11 or COVID-19? Not likely.

What about a worst-case scenario?

Regardless of where you think the world is headed, let’s just say that the zombie apocalypse actually happens. What would you wish you had before the power goes out, before we lose communication, and before we are all thrown off-grid?

Ideally, the measures we take for emergency preparedness are things we will never have to use. But most likely, at some point or another, some of these things are going to come in handy. When that time comes you will be happy that you are ready. 

For the sake of this post, I am going share what our family would do to be prepared for at least one year of having to rely on ourselves for the things we need.

So let’s get to it…

When it comes to Emergency Preparedness… KNOWLEDGE IS KEY

I think knowledge deserves a very high place on the list. Knowledge is something that once you get it, you always have it. Your pantry and supplies may dwindle but knowledge won’t. Knowledge is one of the only resources you have that multiplies as it is shared. 

Know the edible and medicinal plants in your area

Many of us are surrounded by plants and fungi that are useful for food and medicine. Know how to identify, harvest, process, prepare, and use them.

Check out our post on responsible wildcrafting.

Getting to know the edibles and medicinals in your area takes time. Even if you just learn ten, at least you would have something to fall back on in an emergency. 

Wildcrafted Oregon Grape

Hunting and gathering

We feel very blessed in the Pacific Northwest with access to fish, shellfish, small and large game. What is available in your area? As with any food supply, there are seasons to consider as well as methods of storage and preservation.

If animal proteins are not your thing, vegetarian or vegan survival diets are totally doable. We did a 21 Day Vegan Fast at the beginning of this year and found it way more satisfying than we expected.

First aid and medical treatments

What will you do if a loved one needs medical treatment and hospitals are not accessible or are overrun? Take a basic first-aid class. Know how to identify and treat common illnesses and ailments. Know the appropriate medicines (herbal or pharmaceutical) to use as well as when and how to administer them.

Consider purchasing a reference book. I have not tried this one from the American College of Emergency Physicians (available on Amazon) but I am putting it on my list.

Gardening and food production

Even if you don’t keep an extensive garden every year, you can learn the basics of how to grow your own food so that you are not entirely reliant on access to the grocery store. Take some gardening classes. Volunteer at a community garden. Help a friend or neighbor with their garden from time to time. Grow a few herbs or plants in a window or on your patio. 

A little knowledge and a few packs of seeds will at least provide you with some kale and salad greens. These are some of the fastest and easiest things to grow.

Baby Kale Transplants

Food preservation techniques

Canning, drying, and fermentation. 

Emergency or not, these are great skills to have. These are fun to learn anyway… and tasty! There’s no canned food more satisfying than cracking open a jar of home canned, vine ripened, heirloom tomatoes. 

And have you ever tried real, living sauerkraut? Or what about lactofermented pickles or other vegetables? These foods were staples in our great grandparents’ generation. It is a great way to preserve the summer harvest. Once you get over our modern squeamishness and on to eating ‘fermented’ food, you and your family will be hooked. And did you know the fermentation process actually makes food more nutritious?

Survival skills 

Shelter, water, fire, food. In that order. 

Learning to start a fire only with supplies on hand is on my bucket list. And in fact, there is a guy in our area that teaches these skills. See if there are classes in your area.

Here’s a good book we have on our family bookshelf and that you can get on Amazon – Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival.

REFERENCE BOOKS

We have already recommended a couple and you can see more of our recommendations here.

It is very convenient to be able to have the internet at our fingertips at any given moment. We can learn just about anything from a Google search or videos on YouTube. But there is nothing like good old fashioned books. Like book books. 

Books don’t require electricity or batteries or chargers to function. They have a shelf life of centuries. And while head knowledge is good, no one will be able to remember it all. We have been practicing most of the skills listed above for many years. Not necessarily out of a desire for preparedness, mostly because we just love the lifestyle. These things are our passion. But I still use my reference books on a very regular basis. Many of the books in our reference library cover the topics listed above.

Stock your reference library with books on topics you feel would be most helpful.

Books in our library

A WELL-STOCKED PANTRY

Emergency preparedness food

Nutritious, non-perishable food. I like to have all the staples on hand. This gives me a lot of menu flexibility… 

  • Rice
  • Dry beans, chickpeas, and lentils
  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Sugar (raw cane sugar and honey)
  • Salt (for seasoning and also for preserving/fermenting)
  • Spices (Things you can’t grow… Cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, etc)
  • Hot sauce (easy way to add flavor)
  • Canned meats (Home canned or store bought)
  • Canned and dried fruits and vegetables (homegrown or store bought)
  • Nuts and seeds (Almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc)
  • Nut butters (Such as peanut butter and/or almond butter)
  • Oils (Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, toasted sesame oil, etc) 
  • Vinegar (apple cider vinegar mainly)
  • Rolled oats
  • Quinoa
  • Baking powder and baking soda
  • Everclear or high proof vodka for making tinctures

Think ahead about meals you can prepare with the items you stockpile in your pantry. I do a ton of cooking from scratch and we also keep a pretty extensive garden. These things really keep our menu options open.

Also consider… 

  • Canned/boxed soups and prepared foods
  • Canned pasta sauce
  • Curry pastes
  • Soy sauce or aminos
  • Seasoning packets
  • Other things your family likes or that you like to cook with regularly
  • Food for your pets and other animals

Non-food items you may not want to do without

  • Diapers and formula
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Personal hygiene products (Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, etc) or alternatives
  • Cleaning products (dish soap, laundry soap, all-purpose cleaner, bleach)
  • Paper products (toilet paper, paper towels) or alternatives
  • Reusable food storage containers (I love mason jars and just reuse the lids that were previously used for canning)
  • Cheesecloth (comes in handy for making medicinal infusions)

Enough of these items for everyone in your household. ‘For how long?’ is a question you will have to ask yourself. I feel most comfortable having a one-year supply on hand. That way if we find that we have to provide for ourselves long term, we will have enough food to get by until we can plant seeds and harvest the produce.

If you already have a garden going you will find yourself ten steps ahead. Which leads me to my next point. 

EDIBLE AND MEDICINAL LANDSCAPING

A vegetable garden. Fruit trees and bushes. Edible perennials. Edible plants that freely reseed, spread and reproduce. 

Stop prioritizing grass! You can not eat grass. Grass only sucks time and resources to maintain, mow, feed, and keep free from ‘weeds’. We have precisely enough grass on our homestead to provide paths (for people and equipment) and to cover our septic system and drain field. Everything else has been made into edible landscaping or vegetable garden. In fact, a couple of years ago we rejuvenated our lawn by aerating and feeding it. We do pull and limit the spread of useless weeds like buttercup and stinky bob. But then we intentionally spread dandelion seed over the lawn so that we would have an organic and accessible supply for harvesting! We seed our grassy area with clover for bees which also produces nitrogen to help keep the grass green. And we are careful to let the lawn daisies (Bellis perennis) stay for their edible and medicinal properties.

Medicinal and Edible Landscaping
nasturtiums and calendula will keep on until it freezes

We also have a guideline when selecting plants for our landscape that they must provide value other than just looking nice. Each plant variety must provide food, medicine, and/or fertilizer (such as nitrogen or biomass). We do make a few exceptions such as unique natives or a few of our favorite flowering plants like hydrangeas just because they remind me of my grandma. 

SEEDS

Keep a seed bank! Always have a supply of seeds on hand. Most seeds will remain viable for many years if they are stored well. Keep your seeds in a cool, dry, dark place.

Seeds can also be refreshed every year. Keep this in mind as you pour over seed catalogs for your annual vegetable garden.

Starting Plants from Seeds

And if you are already a gardener, take it to the next level by learning and practicing seed saving. If you decide to play with seed saving here are a few tips to get you started. Seeds of some plant varieties are easier to save than others. Kale, lettuce, cilantro, parsley, borage, calendula, radish, and peas are some examples of seeds that are easy to start learning with. Tomatoes, squash, beans, cucumbers, peppers are also easily saved. Seeds may not breed true if plants are grown near enough to related plants that they can cross-pollinate but in most cases, they will still produce food. For best result, grow heirloom varieties and if you want to save seeds, do your best to isolate plants from other varieties of the same species. 

MEDICINE AND MEDICAL SUPPLIES

Herbal preparations and necessary pharmaceutical medicine. Over the counter and prescription.

Of course, you want to have a first aid kit on hand, but I am talking about a little more than that. Keep a fresh supply of all the basics as well as any meds you and your loved ones may need over the course of a year. I am always going to go for herbal options first, but if someone is not responding to those or if someone is seriously sick or injured, I want to have options. 

  • Your collection of herbal preparations
  • Acetomenophine
  • Ibuprofen
  • An antihistamine such as diphenhydramine
  • Antidiuretic
  • Bandaging supplies (adhesive bandages, sterile bandages, and ace style wraps)
  • Medical tape (wide and narrow)
  • Latex or other sterile gloves
  • Scissors and tweezers
  • Thermometer
  • Suture kit
  • Prescription medications depending on your family (Insulin, heart medication, asthma inhalers, EpiPen, etc.)

DISEASE PREVENTION

Now that we have a global pandemic under our belt there are a few things that I would add to our emergency preparedness supplies. 

  • Vitamins and herbal supplements (if nothing else, we always have krill oil and echinacea capsules on hand for boosting the immune system)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfecting cleaning supplies (Sanitizing sprays and wipes). 
  • Latex/plastic gloves
  • Facemasks 

ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER

Where will you get water if you can’t turn on your faucet? 

If you get water from a well, the pump requires electricity to function. Are you prepared to face an extended power outage? Do you have a generator (and fuel) to power the water pump? 

Families should always have a supply of bottled water on hand in case of a short term emergency. Also, have a plan for when the bottled water runs out. 

Do you have a nearby freshwater source that you can filter? There are camping or backpacking water filters that you can use. Consider picking up some Life Straws (Amazon has 3-packs here). We also keep a UV pen for purifying water (but should also pick up some extra batteries). You can also boil water to make it safe for drinking.

Consider setting up rainwater catchment. During times of non-emergency a rainwater catchment system can be used to provide animal water or supplement your garden watering system. Plants love rainwater!

SELF DEFENSE AND AWARENESS

I am not going to go deep into this topic, but it is something that every family should consider based on your own beliefs.

Other Emergency Preparedness Supplies

  • Bug out bag, packed and ready to go in case you can’t shelter in place
  • Lighters or matches (make sure you keep them dry)
  • Battery operated radio
  • Water storage and carrying containers
  • Duct tape
  • Garbage bags or other 2-4 mil plastic
  • Tools
  • Extra fuel and oil (for vehicles, equipment, chainsaws, etc)
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Paracord / rope
  • Compass / maps
  • Anything you would use to go camping / backpacking
  • Notebooks, paper, pen / pencil
  • Masking tape (great for labeling)
  • Plastic bags / paper bags
  • What else?

Emergency Preparedness Plan

So we have covered knowledge and supplies. Now, what is your plan? How will your family get news or stay in contact if you lose power and communications? What if for some reason you need to leave your residence and evacuate?

This post is long enough already so I am not going to tackle these topics here. Ready.gov has some really good resources. They suggest we discuss these four questions with our family, friends, and households to begin putting together our emergency plan:

  1. How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
  2. What is my shelter plan?
  3. What is my evacuation route?
  4. What is my family/household communication plan?

We are all busy, but someday you may consider this time well spent. Or you may regret that you didn’t take the time when you had the chance.

How prepared was your family for the coronavirus outbreak?

What did you learn? What will your family do differently next time? Drop a line in the comments below.

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