September 2011, a blackout swept across parts of the U.S. Southwest and Mexico leaving roughly 6 million people without power. There was no warning, no stormy weather, no earthquake. One minute we had electricity – the next – nothing.
We lived in Southern California at the time and my husband and I managed to get one text to each other before the cell phone towers were overwhelmed. Landlines were of no use. Radio towers did manage to keep Twitter alive so we could get updates from the utility company.
Many of us resorted to listening to our car radio, to try and figure out what had happened and how long it might be. We were told it could be days before power would be restored. Traffic lights ceased to function – creating a huge gridlock of vehicles not going anywhere. Elevators stalled between floors in buildings. Hospitals discovered that some of their generators were out of repair.
If you were lucky enough to live near a neighborhood store, you quickly discovered stock was being bought out at a record rate. And if you didn’t have small bills you were out of luck, because store clerks couldn’t give change. No cash on hand? You were really out of luck. For most of us who experienced it, it left its mark. And more than one person I know vowed to be better prepared the next time something like that happened.
Have you experienced something similar?
Growing up in the Midwest, losing power was common. Downed lines during ice storms could mean no power for up to two weeks. So, we prepared accordingly. But not everyone did. One year we even had a blizzard. Once we could dig out, I remember taking food to a neighbor and her small boys. She admitted she had planned to go to the grocery store that day. The storm caught her with only orange juice and Cherrios on hand. She had no food storage beyond what she purchased each week.
If you are reading this, I’m betting you are one of those people who has vowed not to get caught so unprepared in case of a future emergency.
But, Where do You Begin?
Looking at the big picture, and all the possible scenarios, can be completely overwhelming and you may give up before you begin. I felt the same way. I tried making lists and figuring out a game plan, but I had so much to accomplish and my wheels were just spinning in place.
My Recommendation: Start with Baby Steps!
That’s how we all learned to walk. One step at a time – and we fell on our butts a lot – but we eventually got there. And soon we were running! Too many possibilities to consider just overwhelm us. We need to break this down into smaller bites to digest and understand.
Let’s start with discussing the three types of preparedness you might want to consider:
Emergency Preparedness: Basic emergencies can be power outages, water shortages and/or weather conditions that require you to be without outside services for approximately 72 hours.
Disaster Preparedness: Natural disasters can be anything that nature throws your way, tornadoes, flooding, ice storms, blizzards, mudslides, hurricanes, tropical storms and earthquakes. You may also have to contend with the civil unrest that sometimes follows these disasters. If you live in an area prone to wilderness fires, this preparedness might include evacuation, in case authorities insist you must suddenly leave your home.
Survival Preparedness: Hikers and backpackers aren’t the only people who can find themselves lost in the wilderness without communication with civilization. What if you’re stranded during a winter snowstorm? Your car runs out of gasoline in the desert? Your bicycle is damaged in a wreck in the mountains. Knowing some basic survival skills could save your life, and someone else’s life.
Start at the beginning.
Here’s where those baby steps come in.
Start with something as simple as this:
Select a container and fill it with emergency lighting options such as: a flashlight & extra batteries, a hand-crank flashlight, candles & matches, headlamps or lanterns.
There – now you have a handy go-to box in case of a power outage, and it’s a first step for your Emergency Preparedness plans.
Your next step might be to pick up some extra canned food each grocery trip, then add in some dried beans and powdered milk. Soon you’ll have a full pantry of foods that will feed your family in an emergency. Later you can expand this supply to include some cooking options, such as a propane camp stove. Then you’ll add in a water filtration system and some water storage. Soon you’ll discover that you have painlessly moved up into the Disaster Preparedness planning stage.
Now that you have an idea of where to start and how to move forward, we’ll cover lots of projects in my blog posts that might help you along the way. I hope you’ll share your ideas and success stories with us all, too. We learn quickest when we share ideas – and that includes what didn’t work, as well as what did succeed.
Remember: Each one of us has different circumstances, live in different parts of the country and have various factors to consider, such as if you have children or elderly living with you. So, you can see there is ‘no size fits all’ guideline. You are the only one who can educate yourself and make the best decisions possible for your scenario. But we can network and help each other discover new ideas.