Disasters -- whether natural or man-made -- are scary. We don't like to think about them, so we put off planning for them. We feel safer living in the now instead of preparing for the future -- and as a result, life sometimes catches us with our pants down.
momlogic: Let's start with the basics. What types of disastrous what-ifs are we talking about?
Lisa Bedford: Disasters are scary things to think about, and I think a lot of moms think "it" will never happen -- and that's why they don't prepare. Every individual and family should prepare, first, for whatever emergency they believe is most likely to happen. In today's economic climate, most families should probably be prepared for several months of unemployment or an overall decline in their income. That is what my family has prepared for first. Here is what we have done so far:
- Paid off as much debt as possible.
- Stocked up on several months' worth of food and supplies (cleaning supplies, over-the-counter medicines, shampoo, etc.).
- Saved money.
- Paid ahead on our utility bills.
Our solar oven, the Sun Oven, would allow us to continue to cook food and purify water, if necessary. Busy moms on the go should also be well-prepared for emergencies that might happen away from home. A well-equipped emergency bag or bin kept in the trunk of the car should contain items necessary for medical emergencies, weather-related emergencies (such as ponchos and an umbrella) and items to keep the kids occupied and fed. I have a list of these necessities on my blog, "Don't Leave Home Without It: The Vehicle 72-Hour Kit."
ml: Why is NOW the time to prepare?
LB: If not now, when? It's better to prepare when time is on your side and you can research, learn and plan. Too many people do their "preparing" in a panic right in the middle of a crisis when they aren't thinking clearly. Do you really want to be the woman in the news, looking at empty grocery-store shelves because she didn't think to stock up on water or diapers before the crisis hit?
If our economy continues to worsen, prices and the availability of goods will never be better than it is right now. Moms can use coupons and store sales to bag huge quantities of goods at bargain prices. That may not be as possible if we experience inflation or family incomes continue to decline. There's a lot of empowerment in being prepared.
ml: When an emergency happens, we will all have at least a few items on hand. Name a few household items that could have double uses in case of an emergency.
LB: A key to being prepared isn't just having stuff, it's having the know-how of what to do with the stuff! A gallon of vinegar, for example, has multiple uses -- but if you only know to use it for salad dressings, it isn't much help. So be sure to learn all the ways you can use whatever it is you stock up on. Most moms are crunched for three things: time, space and money. If you stock up on supplies with multiple uses, you come out ahead in all three categories.
- Vinegar uses: hair rinse; equal parts with water makes a great all-purpose cleaner; polish for chrome and stainless steel; dab on bug bites to make the "ouch" go away.
- Wheat berry uses: grind them to make your own healthy flour; soak them overnight to make a hot breakfast cereal; use them to make wheat sprouts, which add nutrients to salads and sandwiches.
- Baking soda uses: sprinkle dry on animal (or kid) pee spots on carpet, then vacuum up; mix with water to make toothpaste; mix with water to make an antacid drink; make a paste with water to put on bug bites and sunburn.
- Light stick uses (kids love these!): keep a few in your car to use for signaling in case of an emergency; have kids wear them around their necks after dark on camping or hiking trips; they're waterproof, so kids can even wear them when they're playing on the beach or by a lake after dark.
ml: What encouraged you to start "The Survival Mom" blog?
LB: I've always been intrigued with the idea of being self-reliant and prepared for anything. I've always kept a case of bottled water and blankets in my car, and TV series like "I Shouldn't Be Alive" keep me riveted to my TV! However, when our economy soured a couple of years ago, I began taking the idea of survival and preparedness more seriously. I began researching and learning more about food and water storage and the importance of becoming more self-reliant, but virtually every book and website I read was targeted to men. I was looking for ideas from a mom's point of view, and when I didn't find that, I began writing my own blog. I keep my blog articles short, since I know moms need their information in a fast and furious format, and I try to keep my advice practical and easy to follow. I stay away from paranoia, since that only serves to foster fear and panic. Who needs that? Moms want their families to be safe, sound and happy, and that's hard to accomplish if you're hyperventilating!
ml: You're a self-proclaimed "prepper." In a nutshell, what does that mean to you? Is it different from being a survivalist?
LB: Traditionally, survivalists were the people who chose lives of self-sufficiency, apart from most people. Preppers tend to be more like me: suburban or urban residents whose ties to the community make it difficult to pack up and move out into the wilderness. The goal of most preppers is to put plans into action that will allow their families to continue to live stable and secure lives, regardless of future events.
Katrina was a wake-up call to Americans -- at least to those who were paying attention. In a major emergency, you're on your own. That applies to both natural disasters (severe weather events) and our worsening economy. If no one can come to your rescue, what will you do? That's the question moms need to be asking themselves, and then coming up with a plan to protect their families. There's power in preparedness -- power and confidence. We can't prepare for absolutely everything -- no one can -- but when we are proactive, we're far less vulnerable and can rest easier, knowing we're ready for any number of emergencies.
ml: Most people find the task of collecting for emergencies daunting and expensive. What's an easy way to start, and how do you know you're done?
LB: It can be expensive if you try to do it all at once. Focus on small goals. You'll be surprised by how quickly these baby steps make a difference:
Baby Step #2: Stock up on enough water for a one-week emergency. Plan at least one gallon of water per day per person. I use clean two-liter soda bottles for most of my water storage. Fourteen of these bottles will be enough water for one person for one week. Buy an extra bottle of unscented bleach to use as a water purifier, if that ever becomes necessary. Just eight drops per gallon of water is necessary. Store an extra medicine dropper to make this easier.
Baby Step #3: Be ready for an evacuation. Wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and severe storms can all require fast evacuations. Pack one simple outfit per family member in an old duffle bag (or something similar) and keep it under a bed or in a closet. Include a toiletry bag with extra toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, a bar of soap, feminine products, small bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Again, you probably already have most of this. If you have pets, decide now what you will do with them in case of an evacuation, and plan accordingly. I have more tips in my blog, "Organize Your Emergency Evacuation."
These three simple steps will get you started toward being ready for an emergency and being more prepared in general. Add to your supply of stored food and water, learn more about emergency evacuations and learn more about preparedness on my blog! As far as being "done" ... I'm not sure that concept exists among preppers! Being prepared isn't limited to a mother-of-all-shopping-trips or being ready for a single event.
ml: What are some survival must-haves that people might not have thought of?
- Keep a pair of comfortable walking shoes in your car. If you ever become stranded and have to walk a long distance, you'll thank me.
- Stash two or three small blankets under the backseat of your car. These have multiple uses: changing pads, privacy screens, a means to darken the car for nappers, picnic blankets, warmth, emergency towels and washcloths. I keep four Gymboree blankets in my car just for these uses.
- Keep a package of sanitary pads on hand for use as emergency wound dressings. They're sanitary and absorbent!
- A sanity kit: earplugs for mom, air freshener, activities and books to keep the kids busy, hard candies, a bottle of Motrin.
- Those big, black trash bags. Great for emergency ponchos or a shelter, ground cover, collecting water, shade cover.
- Bandanas: water filter, bandage, signaling device, use to tie on a splint, head covering, sanitary pad.
LB: Hey, have I accomplished nothing with my blog and all my hard work?! (Laughs) Getting prepared is a process. All of us preppers are on a journey. Some have been living this lifestyle their entire lives; others are just now figuring out that maybe the future isn't as secure as they once thought. I might be able to sneak a bucket of wheat out to you, but you'll have to take it from there.