May 20, 2011 by Leah
In honor of tomorrow’s possible Rapture, I thought a word on disaster preparedness might not go amiss. Maybe I’ll even listen to myself, because while Aaron and I do talk about what we would do in the event of an emergency, we don’t exactly have a bomb shelter or even the most basic supplies laid by in case of trouble.
I expect this is due to our relative youth (can I still say that? I’m almost 30) and transience. It’s hard to stockpile goods when you move every year or live in an apartment. Still, it’s something worth looking into beyond a casual, “hey, honey, what would we do if there was an earthquake?” (To which the latest answer was something along the lines of: “grab the dog, the rifle, the ammunition, the camping gear, and prepare to defend our territory.”)
Aaron’s parents are master planners when it comes to the possibility of a catastrophic event. (They would probably deny this.) They keep both their home and their cabin, which are on opposite sides of the Willamette River, pretty well stocked, figuring that if all the bridges in Portland go out due to earthquake, at least some family members should be able to get to one location or the other.
My parents in Alaska have a similar setup. Their house and their cabin are stocked with years’ worth of accumulated canned goods (thanks, Costco!), and both places have wood stoves and access to firewood, so even if it were January they probably wouldn’t freeze (especially since chopping firewood is so very warming). When I lived in Anchorage, my plan in the event of global catastrophe was to decamp to their cabin and lay low until the looting and political upheaval settled down. This plan was greatly improved when I met and married Aaron, who has the necessary knowledge, experience, and implements needed for successful hunting.
Since we moved to the greater Los Angeles area, I haven’t really had a plan. I used to make fun of Anchorage (lovingly) by explaining to people that there were only two highways out, one going north, and one going south (which then deadends on a peninsula anyway). Still, even if the highways were jammed, I was familiar with the area, an experienced hiker, and wouldn’t have had too hard of a time finding my way through the mountains on foot (or snowshoe) (so I told myself).
This place, though, takes lack of access to a whole new level. In the few times that we’ve managed to escape from L.A. in our car, we’ve run into hours of traffic, highway-closing brush fires, torrential downpours, ice and snow warnings, massive car crashes, and more. All of which things happened on “normal” days. (I hate what passes for normal around here, can you tell?)
When I’m flying into or out of LAX or one of the surrounding airports, the amount of time we spend over the urban sprawl that is Greater L.A. freaks me out. There are so many people here, and there are so few ways out. If some major disaster really were to occur, getting in our car would probably be the stupidest thing we could do. We don’t have a plane (or know how to fly one). We are not wealthy enough to bribe ourselves onto a commercial flight. Unless we manage to steal a canoe and paddle ourselves far enough to the north so as to escape the massive crowds who are also trying to escape, I don’t see that we have many options other than staying put.
So. What kind of preparations have we made? What do we have stockpiled, and at the ready?
Well, not much, other than the rifle and a ton of pâté. (Note to other people who are trying to learn to love liver: a pound of chicken livers will lead to six+ ramekins’ worth of pâté, none of which your husband will even want to try.) Since I avoid canned goods (BPA, augh!), most of our food is stored in the freezer. This is not the best strategy because power outages happen, often, and are sometimes devastating.
(I was in living in NYC during the summer of 2003 when we lost power for what, a day or two? I remember hiking home from my 19th floor office in Battery Park City to my apartment on 110th street, which is approximately seven miles. While wearing my all-black work clothes. With no water. It was August. When I made it home I puked and then fell asleep. My roommate kept his bar open thanks to candlelight and people who carry cash. Apparently it was a fun night.)
We do have a fair amount of dried beans and grains (none of which I’m supposed to eat right now, but if we’re in disaster mode, GAPS will go out the window), and if we lost power we could cook up the things in the freezer. Except, we couldn’t – our stove is electric. I usually don’t mind the electric stove – it’s easier, since our gas goes out every couple of weeks. Either way, we probably wouldn’t have a stove to work with.
We have a camp stove, but we only have one bottle of fuel, and cooking dried beans or grains would not be a good use of fuel – they take forever to become edible. We could pretty easily dig a fire pit and gather wood, though. We have like three shovels.
We also have one well-organized closet in our house, and it’s the one with all our camping, backpacking, and “survival” gear in it. (Although we don’t have a hatchet, or one of those cool wind-up lanterns or radios. Note to self: buy those things – perhaps at the REI sale.) We have warm sleeping bags, sturdy backpacks, a water purifier, matches, the aforementioned camp stove… definitely enough to keep us going for a while.
Oh, and we have the garden. We have lettuce, collards, squash, and the broccoli and string beans are starting to appear. Not only that, there is a much larger garden a hundred yards away that is maintained by the VA Hospital patients as part of a therapy program. Last time I went to visit I came home laden with artichokes thanks to the patients’ generosity. Of course, I’d feel bad about using stuff from that garden when there is an entire hospital full of people basically next door who will probably be in desperate need of supplies, since they’ll be operating on generator power and most of them won’t be able to move.
That reminds me of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, actually, or any circumstances where natural disasters strike and no amount of preparation you do will make a difference. Floods, tornadoes, giant faults opening up in the earth, deluges a la “2012” (hmm, maybe I should buy a canoe and some dry bags at the REI sale) – we couldn’t do much if something like that happened (see previous musings on how impossible it would be to get out of here). That said, if disaster strikes and leaves the house standing and us alive, we really don’t have an excuse for not being able to take care of ourselves for at least the first few days.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go fill all my empty jars with water, and maybe hardboil some eggs. Just in case.