Thoughts on Emergency Preparedness and the Ant

For years now, we have heard stories of people who are worried about various forms of significant events that may one day lead to hardships, shortages, and – in more extreme cases – the collapse of society or a nuclear holocaust and these people have often been the mocked and ridiculed for their decision  to prepare for the worst case scenario.  While some of these self-styled “preppers” may have extreme views, the idea behind their actions can be a biblical one. 

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.  Without having any chief officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.  How long will you lie there, O sluggard?  When will you arise from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a littler folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Proverbs 6:6-11 (ESV)

The Hundred Year Flood

In October 2015, the southeastern United States was hit with the perfect conditions for heavy rainfall and a slow moving storm system.  The result was record breaking, historic, catastrophic flooding in areas of South Carolina including where my home was.  Thankfully my family and I were out of the state when this happened, but we did witness the fallout of the flood’s damage when we returned.  The term “historic” is often used to describe the flood, but people around here have also described it as The Hundred Year Flood, The Thousand Year Flood, and The Flood of a Lifetime.  I’m not sure what the historic context would be, but this is an excerpt from the NOAA and the National Weather Service.

The combination of a surface low-pressure system located along a stationary frontal boundary off the U.S. Southeast coast, a slow moving upper low to the west, and a persistent plume of tropical moisture associated with Hurricane Joaquin resulted in record rainfall over portions of South Carolina, October 1–5, 2015. Some areas experienced more than 20 inches of rainfall over the 5-day period. Many locations recorded rainfall rates of 2 inches per hour. This rainfall occurred over urban areas where runoff rates are high and on grounds already wet from recent rains.

Widespread, heavy rainfall caused major flooding in areas from the central part of South Carolina to the coast. The historic rainfall resulted in moderate to major river flooding across South Carolina with at least 20 locations exceeding the established flood stages. Flooding from this event resulted in 19 fatalities. Nine of these fatalities occurred in Richland County, which includes the main urban center of Columbia. South Carolina State Officials said damage losses were $1.492 billion.

Dept. of Commerce/NOAA/NWS Report: “The Historic South Carolina Floods of October 1-5, 2015”

While the floods impacted a lot of places in South Carolina, my focus was on Columbia and its surrounding areas since that was where we lived and worked.  Columbia, being nestled between multiple rivers, experienced pretty severe flooding as the rain overwhelmed multiple dams including the Lake Murray Dam in Lexington.  As a result, the floodgates of the Lake Murray Dam had to be open for the first time since 1969.  Other dams failed causing the Saluda, Broad, and Congaree rivers to rise and lead to destruction of homes, businesses, and damaged the canal.

It took years for the damage from the flood to be fully repaired.  As late as 2018 there were still structures waiting to be demolished and cleared as a result of the water damage.  People were without clean drinking water as the flood happened, and many stores were closed due to the weather conditions.  My previous employer, which is located on the Saluda River escaped much of the damage, but you can still see the water line a good ten or more feet above normal on trees and bridge pillars nearby.

There’s More than Just Rain

I could go into more detail, but I won’t bore you with that.  The big idea is that sometimes it rains… a lot.  Sometimes it floods.  Sometimes there are hurricanes, or tornados.  Sometimes artic air dips down and freezes wind turbines and leads to major power outages and unusually cold weather in Texas.  Sometimes there are global pandemics that shut down society and everyone starts hording toilet paper.  Sometimes there are earthquakes, or meltdowns at nuclear power plants.  Sometimes there are wars and civil unrest.

There are a lot of possibilities for emergencies to arise.  Some are natural, and some are societal.  For a long time now the US has lived in a privileged position to escape many of these tribulations, but they seem to be happening more frequently as time goes on and we would be wise to heed the words of the Scriptures and to prepare ourselves just as Joseph helped prepared the kingdom of Egypt for the coming famine.

What Can We Can Do?

There are a lot of options and resources – both online and off – when it comes to preparing for emergencies.  But what does that look like practically?  The problem with shows like Doomsday Preppers and a lot of preparedness blogs and websites is that they have a list of things you can do that either require a ton of cash, or a lot of land, or a lot of infrastructure in place, or all of the above.  The goal of this post (lengthy as it may be already) is to give a few suggestions of how to get started making sure you and your family are prepared for the most basic of emergency circumstances.

Get a Good Preparedness Guide

As mentioned above, there are a ton of people online talking about how to get started preparing yourself for the unexpected, but I found it best to start small.  Get a guide from your local government for the types of emergencies you may face.  For me, having grown up in Florida, hurricanes were always something we had to keep in mind.  You never want to be the person rushing to the store just before a major storm hits trying to buy food, water, batteries, etc. because it’s likely going to be sold out or marked up. 

Local government websites should have information on what kind of things they recommend.  Sometimes you can find guides like these from local news outlets as well, such as the Bay News 9 Hurricane Center which has checklists, what to do at each stage of the storm, evacuation zones, shelter information, and more.  I also found that Publix, our local grocery store chain, has these guides year round even at its locations outside of Florida.  Now you may live in a place where hurricanes aren’t a thing, but you should be able to get information on whatever your area is prone to from sources like these.

Start with Food and Water

The biggest things you’ll want to invest in are food and water.  When the power goes out, the food in your fridge will only have so long for the power to come back before it starts going bad.  Investing in shelf-stable and non-perishable food stuffs is both wise, and usually not that expensive.  You can also get buckets of dehydrated food from a number of online sources but those are often quite expensive, usually running around $300 for a 4 week/1 person supply.  This option is probably more convenient in the long run when it comes to storage, so you’ll need to make your own decision there.

Water can also be quite affordable.  According to most preparedness guides I’ve seen, you should aim for 1 gallon per person, per day.  Rather than picking up flats of water bottles, I opt for gallon jugs of distilled and drinking water.  Doing this is generally a better value as you can get more for less with gallon jugs of water usually running around $1 USD.  If you want to be extra sure you will have clean drinking water, I recommend Sawyer filters.  You can get their straw filter for pretty cheap, but their other ones will last longer.  This is what we used when we travelled to India in 2020 to avoid the dreaded Delhi Belly.

Another good option, but one that requires land and/or infrastructure as mentioned earlier, is canning.  If you can or do grow a garden, you can preserve your harvest in Ball or Mason jars.  You can refine butter from the grocery store into shelf-stable ghee.  If you have a dehydrator, you can dry beef from the store into jerk which will last longer and be shelf-stable; you can also do this if you have a smoker by smoking it at a lower temperature to dry the meat out.

Build Your First Aid Solution

I’m sure most, if not all, of us have a box of band-aids and some antibiotic ointment at home along with some Tylenol or Advil for headaches.  That’s a good start, but it’s wise to invest in some additional supplies.  If you don’t know where to start, search around online for ideas.  For my family, we have three very active and accident-prone boys, so we found it useful to pick up some extra items including a SAM splint, butterfly bandages, slings, and braces – It may sound a little over the top, but you’d be surprised at how often we’ve needed all of those except for the splint.

If you need something to get you started, just run by the drug store and pick up one of their pre-packaged first aid kits.  These are usually pretty barebones, but it’s better than nothing. Of course, if you need prescription medicine be sure to ask your doctor if you can get an extra fill to make sure you don’t run out.

Don’t Forget About Power

As a race, humans don’t need electricity to survive in most places, but it sure does help and it makes our quality of life vastly better than it might otherwise be.  That said, this consideration can either be very cheap or very, very, expensive.  To begin you need to consider what your power consumption look like, and what are your electric needs and priorities? 

For me personally, I have a lot of electronics hooked up – even if I am not using them all that often, I just like the option of having them there. I have my primary desktop computer and an older MacBook Pro that I use as my daily drivers, but I also have multiple vintage Apple and IBM computers and a collection of new and retro gaming consoles.  These are things that I enjoy, but they definitely aren’t electrical priorities in the event of an emergency.  Our fridge and freezer, on the other hand, are.  Our stove is electric, but there are other methods of cooking food or boiling water if we need it.  Camping stoves, gas and charcoal grills, even digging out a fire pit are all viable options if you’re limited on what you think you can run on a backup system, which brings us to the topic of backup systems.

The first, cheapest, and most obvious power source to pick up are batteries.  Small appliances like flashlights and radios often use disposable alkaline batteries, so it’s important to make sure you have some on hand for emergency situations.  That said, many more devices and appliances have moved to rechargeable lithium batteries so you should also consider those.  What I’ve found works well is a portable car jumper box with onboard USB ports.  The one we have for our cars cost about $30 USD.  You charge it by plugging it into a wall outlet and, in addition to the jumper cables for a car battery, includes two USB ports for charging phones and such, an LED light, and a small air compressor.

For more power, a generator is a good thing to have, though they are usually over the $200 USD mark.  My family and I were gifted a nice Generac gas generator late last year and we were glad we did.  In January we experienced an unusually cold front that brought with it a pretty intense ice storm.  Everything was covered in a layer of ice, including the power lines, which failed, and we were without power for nearly 24 hours in 34-degree weather.  That may not be too bad in places used to that kind of weather, but we live in the South and most people down here aren’t prepared for severe weather like that.  Thankfully the generator was able to keep us warm-ish with a few space heaters for most of that time.  Of course you have to consider the fuel needed for a generator.  For example, our generator can run for 10 hours on 5 gallons of regular unleaded gas.  It’s also very loud and has to be kept outside, so you’ll need extension cords run into your house.  Another option could be a solar generator.  These sit outside with a solar panel plugged into it until it’s ready to be used.  Once charged they can last for hours powering various appliances.  They’re also silent and can be used inside the house, and some models can be linked together with other battery systems to increase their capacity.  Of course, these are usually more expensive than gas generators, but you have less to worry about with rising gas prices and the like.

If you want to be really prepared, it may be wise to look into alternative energy solutions.  Does your home get a lot of sunlight every day?  Is it consistently windy where you live?  You might consider solar panels or a home wind turbine with a home backup system.  The pros of this are two-fold.  First, your power is renewable and you will be more self-sufficient.  Second, depending on your electric provider, any power you don’t use that is collected can feed back into the grid and you may be able to collect a check for your surplus.  On the other hand these are highly dependent on the weather and can be inconsistent, and they are very expensive (think in the thousands of dollars).

Conclusion

The big idea here is that many of us are unprepared because we’ve lived in a time of general comfort and safety.  Our modern technology and building methods have reduced the number of times that major events have displaced our lives, but as God instructed us in Proverbs, we ought to be wise in our level of preparedness.  I’m not saying you should go out and try to buy a bunker, or store a decade’s worth of rice and beans to survive the apocalypse.  What we are talking about here is evaluating our individual circumstances and preparing for what see as possible dangers – and maybe try to consider some unforeseen dangers as well.  There are more things we could talk about here, but I figure this post is long enough so perhaps we will revisit this in the future.  Just be sure to pray about these things before going out and just buying whatever.  Allow God to speak to and guide you through the Holy Spirit and walk in faith, not out of fear.

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