Friday, February 21, 2014

Why I'm a Prepper

I belong to a prepper group for women on Facebook. Today a member asked for some encouragement and said prepping is a very stressful thing for her, especially when she hears about people going off grid and doing so much more than she's capable of doing at this point. I started typing in a long elaborate comment, but then thought why not post it here? So here it is, my advice to a stressed out prepper.

First of all, look at the likely disasters in your area. Where I live it's hurricanes and I've lived through a few of them. I rode out Hurricane Andrew at my grandmother's home in Dade County and spoke with my mom on the phone while the storm trashed her house south of us. Further south still the homes were flattened; I saw those a few months later when I went down into that area on an errand. I saw what people went through in the aftermath just trying to get back to some semblance of normal life again.

I know that should my home be flattened all of my preps could very well be flattened along with them so I try to be realistic, secondly. (I get really irritated when people in the prepper community can't show compassion for disaster victims. "They should have prepared so it's their own fault", they say. Yeah, well, maybe they did but the disaster wiped them out, including all of their preps!) The most likely scenario after a hurricane, however, is roof damage and losing power for an extended time, possibly as long as a couple of months, so that's what I prepare for.

Here's what I've learned to expect. In the immediate aftermath roads are impassable, both due to debris and damaged stop lights, phones (cell definitely, land lines if it's really severe) can stop working and you can lose water. (Although make sure you have a land line with a corded phone, which will work without power. Cordless phones need power and cell phones need intact cell towers, both in scarce supply after a hurricane blows through, but sometimes the land lines will still be OK.)

The question I ask myself is this- if that were to happen again, how can I survive and keep my family fed and clean and reasonably comfortable? That's where I come from when I think about prepping. I'm not an "end of the world" prepper, I'm a "temporary disruption of my world" prepper. My family got through Andrew (although my mom knew a child who was killed in the storm, so not everyone made it) and managed to get themselves settled, housed at my grandmother's home (which sustained minor damage), fed, and taken care of. It was absolutely horrific, but we got through. (Once she got her house fixed up my mom moved several states away so she'll never have to go through a hurricane ever again!!) A strong family network was invaluable; my husband and I went down (this was before our first child) and pitched in with the clean up at my mom's house. My brother and his wife were there, my grandmother helped as much as she was able, and we did what had to be done. No one talked about prepping at that time but my parents had storm shutters that probably saved their lives. They had non-perishable food they were able to salvage and take to my grandmother's. My grandmother lost power but she was from an era where that was a normal thing and she pulled out her kerosene hurricane lanterns and her sterno stove and kept right on going.

My grandmother was from a generation that knew how to function without our modern conveniences because they didn't have those conveniences growing up, especially country kids. She grew up on a farm in rural Alabama and knew how to do all of those things we are trying, as preppers, to re-learn in today's world. She had a garden (just a few tomato plants by the time I came along) and raised chickens and cows with my grandfather when my mom was a child. She told me all sorts of stories about her childhood, how her mom would make a huge lunch including homemade biscuits every day, wash their clothes by hand on wash day, butcher chickens, and thump misbehaving kids on the head with her sewing thimble, how her dad was a jack of all trades including a bus driver, an untrained yet very competent vet, a farmer, and in later years a builder, in order to take care of his family, and how they all had to go and pick cotton in the family fields when she was just a kid. They were "off grid" for the most part, but it was just the way they lived!

Now that I've walked down memory lane a bit I'll get back to the point I'm trying to make, which is preparing for disasters shouldn't get you stressed out. Take it one step at a time, beginning with defining what you are prepping for. Learn skills as you can. Volunteering with Girl Scouts provided me with excellent opportunities to learn new skills such as camping and first aid, for instance. Learn by doing, too. Say you aren't very good with plants, the only way you'll get better is if you try! If you throw some plants in the ground to start with you'll quickly learn what works and what doesn't, especially if you do your research as you go. I'm not good at researching in advance when it comes to gardening, it's too abstract, but give me a plant that's all wilty when I know I've watered it enough and I'll research the heck out of that little problem!

So that's how I've approached prepping. I plan for hurricanes so I've prepared my house as much as possible with storm shutters and roof straps and, as soon as we could afford them, impact windows, I've learned about other steps I need to take such as yearly pruning of the trees on my property, (and I had a few trees cut down that were too close to the house for comfort), and I've prepared for an extended time without electricity. I've planned for having to live in a tent if my house is damaged by learning to camp. (And now that my husband and I are older we've been able to purchase a second home with retirement savings so the bug out location isn't a tent anymore!) I've taken first aid classes. I can cook without electricity or gas. I can grow food, sort of. Not enough to go live off the grid, but I'm pretty sure I could get through the aftermath of a nasty storm or two. It's taken a bit to get here, I am 50 after all, but I just keep plugging away!

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