(Originally posted 9/5/2017 on Read With The Gringa)
The gringa’s been thinking a lot about survival skills lately. Not only do I wonder what might happen to the average person’s way of life should nuclear war break out (thanks to the bad behavior of Trump and Kim Jong Un), I personally have survived several natural disasters.
The gringa survived Hurricane Allison. There was a terrifying moment in a motor vehicle, faced with rising waters, when, as I performed a hasty 3-point turn-around to beat a quick retreat, the gringa wondered if she would be forced to choose swimming to safety with her 6-year-old son tucked under her arm and leaving behind her mother to fend for herself who couldn’t swim.
I also survived an earthquake in Los Angeles when visiting friends. It was the scariest natural disaster I have ever experienced. Tornadoes and hurricanes usually provide advance warning. You at least have a chance to get to a safe place. Not so with an earthquake. BOOM. It just happens. It’s a roll of the dice if you are in a safe place or not. No amount of planning really matters.
I was one of the many evacuees finding safe harbor with friends, family and various hotels for almost a month after Hurricane Katrina. Although Houston didn’t get the brunt of the storm, suffering like New Orleans, we got severe wind damage. This meant rolling black-outs off and on for about a month.
The gringa, a single mom at the time, lived with a mother who had high blood pressure. No A/C in the middle of a Texas summer can be deadly for older individuals with high blood pressure. So, we stayed here and there for a few days at a time over the course of a month, so as not to wear out our welcome. After all, we were a traveling troupe of an old lady, 30-something gal, a child, 4 dogs and a rabbit.
Then Hurricane Ike came along and the gringa hunkered down with the caveman and kids, watching as 30-40′ pine trees bent over horizontal to the plane of the yard as the storm blasted through our neighborhood. We were basically cut off from civilization by floodwaters with no electricity in our neighborhood for nearly 2 weeks.
We cooked out on the grill in our neighborhood from our hurricane food stores not knowing how long we might need them to last. Although we had a battery back-up pack that we used sparingly to listen to news on the radio, eventually it ran out of juice and we, along with our neighbors, new nothing about when or if to expect rescue or help.
Now, the gringa has most recently survived Hurricane Harvey. The caveman, our children and I are some of the luckiest people in the world. All we got were floodwaters hemming us into our respective apartment complexes. No loss of life or property and only about 5 hours without electricity.
As the gringa woke in the morning to a raging storm, no electricity and warming coffee water over a few candles, I wondered just how long we might be inconvenienced and if our inconvenience might become dangerous. Over the course of the next week I watched news broadcasts 24/7 to see if we might get a mandatory evacuation order, witnessed the courage and generosity of so many come to the aid of my fellow Houstonians, and battled depression as I saw the lives lost.
Needless to say, the gringa has now been mulling over survival skills. I know all about having a hurricane kit with backup necessities and supplies. However, as I talk to neighbors and hear them mention how secure they feel because they have a generator, the gringa can’t help but think how that is a false sense of security.
After all, Harvey shut down all of our refineries. The entire city and surrounding areas were out of gas within a couple of days. And there is little hope of keeping gas resources readily supplied on the scale the city needs. To really survive a disaster, one must be able to do it without gasoline. And, in case floodwaters require you to flee, a survival kit must be portable. That means no bulky stuff.
Most Americans may think that they simply can’t live without the technology that makes their current lifestyle possible. Trust me, thousands of generations of indigenous people throughout history have done it. Some are still living in such a way.
Shelter, water and fire are the first survival necessities to secure. Here are some old survival secrets modified for modern survivors:
Shelter: Think about all those indigenous North Americans who were nomadic, taking their tepee shelters with them.
A modern survival shelter needs to be waterproof yet still provide plenty of air circulation during warm weather. Keeping out insects is also a must. A tarp roof and mosquito netting walls are perfect. In colder weather additional tarps can replace mosquito netting.
Skip the bulky, heavy commercial tents that include a frame that adds weight and bulk. Instead, add lots of rope and clothespins. Then, all you need is to find a place to hang everything. Some nice shade trees are the perfect location. It’s easier than you think to create a shelter.
Water: The most common advice is for people to stock up on water. That usually means survival minded folks find themselves stashing a supply of bottled water. But bottled water has an expiration date. If you wait until a natural disaster is imminent, you usually arrive at a store to find there is no water left.
Even if you have a supply laid aside that hasn’t expired, it is rare that you have set aside enough to meet your needs for the long haul of a few weeks. For hydration, cooking, hygiene and cleaning purposes, about 3 gallons daily are needed per person. That’s a lot of water to tuck away into a closet in the event you are cut off from regular water supplies for a couple of weeks.
If municipal water is contaminated or a tap has actually run dry, what are the options? Collecting rainwater or using natural resources like rivers and streams like they did in the good ol’ days. And you need to do more than boil the water to make it suitable for use. Having a portable carbon filter is a necessity in addition to water purification tablets that kill micro-organisms. Having other options than boiling water are necessary when it is important to conserve precious resources like firewood.
Rather than stock up on bottled water, fill up your bathtubs, even your washing machine, and any suitable vessels on hand to store water. But also have some buckets for the express purpose of harvesting rainwater or toting supplies from a nearby river or stream. You may be inclined to set-up a dedicated rainwater harvesting system for your home. But, again, don’t let that create a false sense of security. Have portable buckets on hand should you need to evacuate and setup shelter in a safer place.
Fire: Fire serves to keep you warm and make it possible to cook your food when in a survival situation. Fire, in essence, is an energy source. Modern survivalists often replace the fires of old with a gas-powered generator. They use this generator to energize all their essentials that require electricity. They may rely on gas grills for cooking. Again, reliance on fuels that will become scarce in a disaster is a false sense of security.
To cook, lay aside plenty of charcoal briquettes that are safer to store than propane tanks. Charcoal also has a longer shelf life. Also have a healthy stock of firestarter sticks. Don’t forget about portability. If you have to evacuate, you will not want to be towing a barbecue grill with you. For evac purposes, pack a stainless steel pan and a lightweight stainless steel rack that can rest on top.
Instead of a generator that will become useless once there’s no gas for sale, why not put your trust in the Sun? Portable solar power generators can be packed and taken with you if you need to evacuate. Not so with a monster-size gas-powered generator. There are lightweight, fold-away solar generator kits that will keep you connected no matter where you setup camp.
Although the gringa will leave first-aid kit details up to the dear reader to decide, I will offer one tip. Don’t overlook one key first-aid kit item that is rarely mentioned on the average tip list. One thing every survivalist needs today, especially considering the banter between Trump and Kim Jong Un, is a supply of Potassium Iodide tablets that will last for a couple of weeks.
Good luck and the gringa hopes that you will never need to use your survival kit. But if you live in an area prone to natural disasters like the gringa, it is a necessity that you will likely dip into from time to time.
Video Credit: Blade HQ