The North American ice storm in January, 2009 left 1.3 million people without power across six states. Kentucky was the hardest hit, with over 100,000 homes left powerless for over a week. The ice storm made running water a limited commodity. No power meant not being able to cook or heat up food. Some folks were trying to buy anything they could eat cold. Many had to drive over 15 miles just to get groceries; they were the fortunate ones that could leave.
The Jenkins family, including my wife Jill, was caught in that storm. Living near Louisville, Kentucky, they experienced the worst that storm had to offer. They were stuck indoors, wrapped in blankets and cooking with a portable propane stove. Jill’s friend was visiting when the storm hit and had to stay for a couple of days due to the ice factor. When Jill and her family were finally able to leave, they all went to stay with friends who actually had power.
This was a very personal example of how we can be caught unawares, suddenly unprepared for a widespread disaster. Fortunately for Jill’s family, they had a way to cook food, but a heater would have received a warm welcome, and a generator would have really lit-up their spirits.
How would you and your family fare stuck without power for a week? Would you be safe and warm spending a few nights without heat or power? How would daily life be challenged when it comes to cooking, cleaning, moving about the house, or communicating with others next door, across town or far away?
Although we may not know what disaster will hit us, or when, we can still prepare for them by practicing our preparedness. And one fun way to do this is to go dark for a day, go dry for a while, or go outside for the night. Gather your family, choose a day this month, then emulate the effects of a disaster.
Here are some suggestions:
Turn Off Your Power
This is a good chance to test out your emergency lights, generator, and other alternative power sources. Spend the day charging up that power pack with your solar panel so when night comes you’ll still have light for your family. Children especially need light to feel safe and protected.
What other things are you going to have to do without? TV, video games, computers, and other tech won’t work (unless you have a generator or some power source that powers bigger devices like that). Your refrigerator won’t be cooling things off anymore, either, so if you need something out of it, make sure you close the door promptly to keep as much cold air inside as possible.
Without power, you might not be able to cook. Do you have an alternative method for cooking? Some sort of portable stove or grill? The sun is always a fair bet for cooking in a solar oven. And what about fuel? There’s all kinds of things to think about that we normally don’t when life is fine and dandy and full of power.
Turn Off the Taps
Just as the ice storm of 2009 made water a rarity, your emergency prep practice might include shutting off your home water (this way you won’t be tempted to cheat a bit…). Will you have enough water to get through your experience? What if it were to last longer than just a day? Check your water supply and make sure you’d be OK in the event of a disaster. Cooking also requires water. Even if you have an alternative cooking source, if you don’t have water to cook with, you might not be eating very well tonight.
Water is used for more than just human consumption. Think about sanitary issues, such as bathing, washing, and cleaning. You might be able to go a day or two without showering, but your family won’t appreciate it very much. And of course, don’t forget the dog and cat.
Backyard Camp Out
Camping and surviving are synonymous. Do you have a tent? Why not take your family camping in your back yard for a night or two? If, during a disaster, your home becomes unusable (due to flood, tornado, earthquake, etc.), you can see how good your shelter is by testing it out first. And, since you’ll be only a few meters away from your back door, there’s no risk if you realize you don’t have the necessary tools after all.
Once you’re out in the back yard, what will you do? Try out your new camp stove and cook up some grub from your emergency food storage. Have your kids help you set up the tent, cook dinner, and do other outdoorsy things like starting fires (maybe move away from the house for this one) so they can learn those important survival skills, too.
What other things won’t you be able to do without power and heat? You’ll discover what they are quickly enough if you just use the emergency prep that you have already acquired, and see how it goes from there.
If it goes well, congratulations! If not…well, perhaps it’s time to take inventory of your emergency prep and identify the areas in which you can improve.
Did you practice your prep? How did it go, and in what areas do you need to improve?