By: Matt Wymer/Kyle Moffat
A grocery store wiped clean of supplies and food items during the COVID-19 pandemic
Natural disasters, the flu, acts of terrorism, unknown viruses, and more are a reality we all too often ignore and, quite frankly, don’t want to think about. One of the admirable Alaskan traits is a prepared mindset. Many Alaskans enjoy outdoor excursions (of various types) and recognize the value of having the right gear, both for the pursuit, and in case of emergencies. Being prepared needs to be an intentional act as headlines scream out warnings, and a growing worldwide population only increases the impact events can have. The motto needs to be 'Now, not later'!
Most are aware of this, but few are willing to plan. FEMA recommends that everyone should have an emergency kit with enough supplies to survive for 10 days (per household member). This should include water, non-perishable food, and a decent backlog of prescriptions and personal items; contacts, over the counter medications, etc. Other important items include manual can openers, flashlights, batteries, cash, and paper copies of important documents.
We touched on emergency preparedness in our Earthquake Preparedness article, and it is worth mentioning here again that you need to be ready for some sort of disaster in any season. The best way to view a proper preparation in this scenario, at a minimum, is that you need to have the gear necessary for your family to endure a weeks worth of winter camping. Alaskan’s know cold, and we should be prepared to essentially have no power, no heat, no anything except for what you could have if you went on a week-long winter camping trip. Pretend you’re recreating in the middle of nowhere, in Alaska, in January, and you’ve got a weeks worth of supplies.Empty paper product shelves
Being prepared should be a household endeavor, and just a normal part of daily life. Frontiersmen and pioneers prepared for each season and stockpiled what was needed until the next harvest, or supply run. Initial purchases can be expensive, but a slow consistent approach will help maintain mental preparedness and allow the needed supplies to build up at a reasonable cost. One example; Amazon offers a subscription shopping system that allows you to subscribe to needed items. A family can simply make it a part of the monthly shipment and slowly build up needed items.
If your household has special needs or disabilities, these must be a part of the planning effort. This may include backup power, transportation, and more. Involving your neighbors, or neighborhood, may be needed.
In reality one must plan to “be the help until help arrives.” There are a lot of great articles and resources to help with strategic plans. However, just reading and copying what is out there is not enough. Each household must take the steps to build a personalized plan, specifically tailored to the individual needs of each household member (including pets).
Key aspects of your plan need to cover the following: Food, water, waste disposal, shelter, and communication. Enough food and water (10 days minimum is the FEMA recommendation), the ability to get rid of waste (specifically human waste), shelter from the elements, and the ability to communicate with family and responders if needed. Communication plans and rally points are key backups in case the cellular network goes down.
If you are new to this and a little overwhelmed, it might be worth it to start out with a prepared 10 day kit (or even a 30 day kit like the one here) and personalize it as time goes by. However, the best thing one can do is to build a plan. Plan first, buy second. However, a plan is worthless without the entire household’s input and knowledge.
We've compiled a resource below as a starting point to see what you could add to your kit, or even get started altogether. We will begin in categories
Food: How much and what type of food you get is going to be personal depending on family size and food preferences, so plan accordingly. You can get pre-made kits that come in days rations, you can also get dehydrated food that only requires boiling water to prepare, or stock up on essentials like beans, rice, and proteins if you have access to normal cooking gear. What would likely be best? Having all of it.
Water: This one is pretty self-explanatory but along with having water on-hand, having the ability to both filter and purify water that you may have to collect is also paramount.
Power: Power can mean extra battery packs to power radios, cell phones, flashlights, or even larger battery cell units for powering medical devices or even jump starting a vehicle in an emergency.
First Aid: First aid kits, and some knowledge on how to use one can be life saving for yourself, a loved one, or even someone in danger that you can help. Like food, the size and complexity of the kit will be determined by family size, medical history, and other factors. Choose accordingly.
Shelter: We mentioned above that choosing your shelter should start from a worst-case scenario perspective, which is housing yourself and your family in the dead of an Alaskan winter. This means sleeping bags, a tent that can sustain wind and snow-load, and all the gear that goes into a winter camping trip. This is not a small amount of gear, so taking a slow approach to methodically acquiring the gear necessary for this is the best method here. Another key consideration is being able to shelter in place (aka your home) for an extended duration. Each home is different and will require different things. Thinking through this must be a key component of your planning process.
-Large Teepee Tent
-Cabelas Guide Model Tents
Other Gear Considerations: Other necessities like dust masks and goggles for volcanic ash fallout, natural gas shutoff tools (also mentioned in our earthquake article linked above), and get-home/bug-out bags that can quickly be grabbed that are stocked with essentials are things to think of in addition to the rest of the items above.
-Automatic Gas Shutoff Valve
-Manual Gas Shutoff Tool
-Stove to boil water for food and also water purification
-Hand Crank Radio
-Battery Powered Radio
Now, not later. This is the most important part. We are in the middle of witnessing a massive run on food, supplies, and other items with the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the globe. Lets do a better job at being ready and making preparedness a part of our daily lives.
Lastly, a survival event causes people to think first and foremost of themselves. While at times that may be needed, it is essential that we also think of those among us who may need our help. Isolation and fear go hand in hand, lets remember to reach a hand out and lift up those around us. You never know, your acts of kindness, might save lives.
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