If you are like me, you enjoy tuning in to the History Channel on certain Thursday nights to see how the folks from Alone are faring. This season was a particular treat, with teams instead of solo participants. From the first couple of episodes, it was clear that the competition would be fierce, as each team obviously possessed the drive and ambition to win. This season’s winners, Jim and Ted Baird, showed us that not only could two brothers go the distance and take the prize, but they could be thoroughly entertaining as well. Anyone with siblings can tell you that there comes a point, sometimes multiple times a day, where the term “justifiable homicide” seems reasonable.
Sibling rivalry aside, the Baird brothers and their fellow competitors gave us a glimpse into what it takes to survive in a wilderness situation with very little gear to rely on. Most of us will watch shows like this, and at some point ask ourselves the question, “what would I do in this situation?” We contemplate and mentally play out scenarios and usually come to the conclusion that there is a certain level of preparedness that would need to be present in order to survive in conditions such as this. Our next thought it typically something along the lines of “I really need to check into that…….sometime.” Then, as often happens, day to day life steps in and thoughts of survival, preparedness, and other such things disappear as bills, mortgage payments, work, and school take precedence.
To be fair, the chances of me finding myself stranded on Vancouver Island are quite slim, there are a myriad of reasons that I have decided to maintain a level of preparedness for both myself and my family. I’ve always been what society might term a “prepper”, but my interest in the field of preparedness peaked back in April of 2011. On one fateful day early in the month, my area of northwest Georgia experienced a tornado outbreak that lasted a full 24 hours. Storm after storm spawned a number of tornados, ranging in severity from an EF1 to an EF4. While we were spared the brunt of the storms, an area less than 2 miles from my home was completely destroyed. As the sirens wailed all day long to warn of the next approaching storm, my family converted the closet under our stairs into a makeshift storm shelter, as we do not have a basement.
Once the storms had passed and we were able to get out to survey the damage, it became obvious to me that my closet under the stairs would have been of little use if we found ourselves in the direct path of one of these monsters. In addition, the effects were obvious on my children. My son became completely terrified from that point on anytime the sky began to turn dark. As a result, I made the decision to install a storm shelter room in my garage. Capable of withstanding an EF5 storm, it provides the peace of mind that my son desperately needed.
Another aspect of severe weather of this type is that power can be out for days, if not weeks, depending on where your home is located. I had a portable generator, but decided to upgrade to a whole house backup system that comes on automatically when the power fails. I can say that there was some joking and referring to me as the resident “doomsday prepper” by my neighbors, but all that went away when people began needing to charge cell phones, laptops, hot showers, etc.
While I integrate preparedness into my everyday life, many people find the concept compelling, but simply don’t know where to get started. Far too many people go overboard and wind up spending copious amounts of money on gear that they really have no idea how to use. For others, there is so much information available that they are overwhelmed on how to get started. So, before you run out and purchase a satellite phone and a new 4×4, let me give you 3 basic steps to get started with that will allow you and your family to be better prepared for what life or mother nature might throw at us.
While bug out bags and post-apocalyptic books are fun topics to discuss and analyze, let’s start out with something a tad less glamorous: physical fitness. While very few of us may find ourselves emulating the Baird brothers’ experience, we can all benefit from being healthier. Healthy people have stronger immune systems, rely less on medications, have more stamina and energy, and generally will fare better during an emergency situation, be it temporary or a protracted event.
Getting healthier doesn’t have to be hard. Simply make some basic changes in your lifestyle and you’ll be well on your way to a more prepared life. Get a checkup once a year to make sure that all your vital systems are functioning as they should. Find time every day or several times a week to work in some exercise. Cut out the fast food and pack a healthier lunch. Small steps add up over time, and your body will thank you.
So, the second step I would encourage a beginner to take would be that of financial preparedness. We all know people who seem to make it a personal mission to spend every cent they have as soon as their paycheck is received. Just as seasoned preppers put back goods and gear for a rainy day, it would benefit us all to get our finances in shape just as we do our bodies. Start first with a look at your debt. Make a budget and start paying off the smallest debt first and as you pay one off, apply that money to the next. After a while, the snowball effect will really start to make a difference and your bank account will thank you. Little or no debt and money in the bank will allow you and your family to weather life’s storms, such as a natural disaster or the loss of a job.
Finally, I would recommend that a basic amount of gear and training be acquired. The government recommends that all citizens maintain an emergency kit that has a three day supply of food and water for each member of the household, in addition to a stocked first aid kit, flashlight, spare batteries, etc. Your kit could be as basic or elaborate as your budget allows. I would advise getting a storage tote to keep all of your food, water, and gear together. There are numerous websites such as Ready.Gov and the Red Cross that have detailed lists on what needs to be in your emergency kits. Print them off and begin checking off those items. If a storm forces you to evacuate, you won’t be caught without life’s most basic necessities. In addition to your home kit, be sure to have an additional kit in each vehicle you have.
Shawn practices a hand drill fire with his kids
In addition to your emergency kits, I would recommend learning basic life-saving and medical skills. The Red Cross and other organizations offer classes on first aid, CPR, AED usage, and a variety of other medical and survival skills. Check and see if your city or county has a CERT (community emergency response team) and consider volunteering. Not only will you be gaining practical and valuable knowledge, but you’ll be helping out your neighbors at the same time.
As you can see, the basics of preparedness don’t need to be overwhelming. Get in shape, pay off debt, and keep the basics around. While that won’t guarantee that you will have the bush craft and survival skills that the Baird brothers demonstrated on Alone, you will definitely be much better positioned to deal with the worst that life can throw at us. Don’t fall victim to that mentality of “I really need to check into that……….sometime.” Life and Mother Nature don’t care about our timetables. Better to invest a little time and effort beforehand than to suffer the effects of not being ready when one of life’s storms is right on top of you.