Every once in a while, we get the opportunity to see just how well we are really doing. For example, the Great Ice Storm of 2014 gave us the chance to see how prepared we are to handle extreme circumstances.
Before last week (if had I even thought about it), I would have thought that while our family was not fully prepared, we were not completely unprepared. Real life, however, has a way of serving up a harsh dose of reality.
Let’s start with the necessity that usually hits first — food. Our family, like many others, started out the storm with a full fridge. That’s all fine and dandy until the power goes out. At first, spoilage wasn’t a problem since the winter storm provided a simple solution — put all the food outside. As the weather improved, spoilage did become a concern. I’m sorry to say the pork roast that my wife made the day before the storm didn’t make it.
Our gas stove gave us an advantage over others that have all electric kitchens. All it took is a lighter and a twist of a knob to get cooking. For those without gas service, I’ve heard that some folks pulled out their camping stoves. Most of all electric crowd stayed relatively close to their gas grill. (Rumor has it you can conjure up a mighty fine piece of toast on the grill.)
Bottom line is that for two days we did fine. Add a couple of more days and/or take away our gas stove, the best we could have done is boil spaghetti over a campfire.
That is, assuming we could make fire. Fire is one of the most important survival tools. That fact is sometimes lost in our modern society. Nowadays, we only use fire to set the mood, provide an ambiance or create a symbolic gesture (i.e., signaling the start of the Olympic Games). However, even the most casual fans of “Survivor” understand that “fire represents life.” Fire allows us to cook food, boil unsafe drinking water and keep us warm.
Were we prepared to make fire? Well, since we have a gas fireplace, the ice storm really isn’t a legitimate test of our preparedness. We just sealed up the living room and cranked up the therms. I don’t think we get any points for that.
In contrast, some friends of ours don’t have natural gas service, and we saw what happened to them after a few days. They came and stayed with us.
The lack of communications also hit pretty hard. Whether we like it our not, the world is a 24/7 place, and we depend on our smartphones and laptops to stay connected. After the first day without power, as the batteries started running dry, we all discovered that our cars are extremely useful, albeit inefficient, mobile device chargers. Personally, wireless was the only way to stay in touch during the outages. That is, until my carrier failed for most of the day on Thursday. (Ugh.) Fortunately, my wife’s mobile (different carrier) still worked fine. It was just a matter of getting the kids off Minecraft.
In the end, last week’s outages didn’t pose a real threat to our society, just an inconvenience to our lifestyle. However, it’s useful to think about how we would fair during a more extreme situation. Based on this experience, I score my personal prepper status as EPIC FAIL!
While we can’t prepare for everything, we all have one thing that we want to do better next time. A more extreme outage would create great hardship and possible danger for our families and other members of the community. And if we can’t take care of ourselves, how in the world are we going to be able to be there for others and help those that can’t help themselves?
Until next time, I’m off the grid @gregory_a_baker.