Debt and Preparedness

With such uncertain times around us, I've noticed a trend of desperation as families work towards getting prepared.  That desperation sometimes results in incurring debt to purchase preparedness items. 

Over and over, we have been told by living prophets not to go into debt in order to get prepared.  Instead we should be working towards getting debt-free as part of our preparedness efforts.  Here are just a few sources:

We urge all Latter-day Saints to be prudent in their planning, to be conservative in their living, and to avoid excessive or unnecessary debt. (President Thomas S. Monson,  October 2008 general conference)

“We ask that you be wise as you store food and water and build your savings.  Do not go to extremes; it is not prudent, for example, to go into debt to establish your food storage all at once.  With careful planning, you can, over time, establish a home storage supply and a financial reserve."  (All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Home Storage (2007), First Presidency, President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson, President James E. Faust)

“I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order … Self-reliance cannot obtain when there is serious debt hanging over a household." (President Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference, October, 1998)
Wisely we have been counseled to avoid debt as we would avoid the plague. (Elder L. Tom Perry referencing President J. Reuben Clark, October 1995 general conference)
You do not need to go into debt, may I add, to obtain a year’s supply. Plan to build up your food supply just as you would a savings account. (President Ezra Taft Benson, October 1980 general conference)

A huge chunk of being prepared is also having your financial houses in order.  You might reason that in an economic downturn, or the end-of-the-world, that money might be meaningless.  But it's much more likely, that whatever the emergency circumstances, your house payment will still be due. 

And it's not enough to be debt free.  Make plans to ensure that you have a financial reserve to get you through potentially tough times:
“We encourage you wherever you may live in the world to prepare for adversity by looking to the condition of your finances. We urge you to be modest in your expenditures. . .  Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from this bondage.  Save a little money regularly to gradually build a financial reserve.  If you have paid your debts and have a financial reserve, even though it be small, you and your family will feel more secure and enjoy greater peace in your hearts.(All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances (2007), First Presidency, President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson, President James E. Faust)

“Set your houses in order. If you have paid your debts, if you have a reserve, even though it be small, then should storms howl about your head, you will have shelter for your wives and children and peace in your hearts”  (President Gordon B. Hinckley, October 1998 general conference).

So, before you go and purchase that new generator, farm land, long-term food storage, or gun, make sure that you can afford it without using credit, that you have a financial reserve and that you are working towards being debt-free.


Peanut Butter

Well, it looks like peanut butter prices are headed upwards because of a smaller-than-usual crop this year.  As I shopped this week, I was still able to find peanut butter for around $.10 an ounce - which is a pretty ordinary price.  If you include peanut butter as part of your three-month supply, you might want to inventory your supplies and stock away a few extra now before the prices rise.  Peanut butter is one product, though, that you don't want to get too much of.  Because oil is a significant component, the peanut butter will go rancid just like oil.  From my experience, it will store well for 9 months to 1 year depending upon it's manufacture date and storage condition.  It is best stored in a dark, cool area.

For more information:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-peanut-butter-prices-skyrocketing-20111101,0,1645306.story


Green-Tomato Raspberry Jam

It was supposed to freeze.  So, I picked most of my remaining veggies and made Green-Tomato Raspberry Jam. Here is the recipe (just don't tell my kids that it's full of tomatoes!):

Green-Tomato Raspberry Jam
(from my friend Cheryl)

8 cups pureed green tomatoes (clean and trimmed)
2 cups of raspberries
10 cups of sugar (I used 5)

Mix and cook at a low boil for 25 to 30 minutes.

1 t. of lemon juice
1 package pectin
2 3 oz. packages of raspberry jello

Bring back to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.  Ladle into pint jars that have been sterilized.  Water bath for 15 minutes.  Set on counter overnight.  Makes 8 pints.  (I only got 6 from the recipe, likely because of the reduced sugar).  Use within a year.

This is not an canning-approved recipe.  Proceed with caution because it contains tomatoes which fall closer to neutral on the acidity scale..


72-Hour Kit Risk Assessment

For some reason when talking about 72-hour kits, most people seem to imagine themselves running with their family and kits into the mountains or surrounding areas. However, when I tried to think through our own actual risks, I couldn't imagine a single situation where running with a kit would be necessary.

During an earthquake, I wouldn't want anyone running anywhere. Afterwards, we would proceed carefully to retrieve our kits. During an approaching wildfire or hurricane, you would just need quick access to your kits in order to move them into the car for evacuation. Short of a war-type situation, I just can't see any reason that you would be running long-term with your kits. In a raging fire, tsunami, mud slide or tornado, you wouldn't even want to delay an extra second to grab a kit. In those cases, you just get out of the way as fast as possible.

I recommend that you do a risk assessment to help you plan what to put into your 72-hour kits?  When you know your most likely emergency situations, you can include items customized for those moments.  For example, here is an assessment of risks for our family (you can use the same list to evaluate needs for your family which will likely be different):

Tsunami - No risk

Hurricane - No risk where we live.

Volcano - No risk.

Mud slide - No risk.

Riots - Low risk.

War - Low risk. Evacuate to extended family outside of state/country.

Terrorism - Low risk.

Tornado - Little risk where we live (shelter in basement if needed).

Flood - No risk where we live. Possible risk for interior flooding. Would stay with extended family.

Nuclear - Evacuation unlikely as there are few escape routes available and they are likely to be jammed. Safer to shelter in home.

Fire - High risk. Speedy evacuation required. If required, we would evacuate to stay with family. Biggest needs: Change of clothes, underwear, credit cards, cash, etc.

Earthquake - High risk. Speedy evacuation may be required if there are gas leaks and/or fires. Three possible evacuation locations. Stay with extended family if they are not affected. Even in large earthquake, we would likely be able to access our supplies in our home (though it may have significant damage). Husband and sons would likely be involved in clean up and rescue. Biggest needs: Shelter, food, clothing, tools.

My family's biggest risks are fire and earthquake. I try to make my 72 hour kit reflect those most-likely situations.

In a fire situation, we will still have easy access to food and shelter. I know I'd want something to wear that I felt comfortable in (not cut-off sweats) as we would likely be assessing damage and cleaning up in the next few days.

Customized 72 hour kit: includes comfortable clothing and underwear. Cash and/or credit card.

In an earthquake scenario, I realize that most earthquakes have damage limited to a specific area. It is likely that our extended family would be able to come and get us if needed, but that might take some time. Our home is earthquake-prepared as it has been fastened to the foundation and is wood construction with limited masonry. Even in a worst-case earthquake, we would likely be able to use our home as a shelter. However, there are accompanying risks of gas leaks and fire. Those would require full evacuation. In that situation, we would likely end up in a shelter if available (which might take a day or so to locate) or in a field below our home. More likely, though, we would shelter in our home or yard.

Customized 72 hour kit: Food that is calorie rich so that we have the energy to help with rescues and evacuations, food that is familiar to the kids, clothing that is comfortable for work, gloves, tools including a crow bar, flashlights, whistles, cash, tarps, communication, radio, etc. We also need cold-weather gear located in an easily accessible space.  These kits don't have to be light as I don't anticipate that we would be walking far enough that we couldn't return and get more.

Customized Extra kit: For my husband which he keeps at work. My main thoughts are that he would likely be walking home. His kit ideally reflects that specific need and would include 1 days worth of food, spare shoes, flashlight, cold-weather supplies and minimal shelter. His kit needs to be light-weight.  We keep similar kits in each of our cars.

What are your family's biggest risks?  How can you customize your 72-hour kits to be ready for those situations?


When Cheapest isn't Best!

Often, I can be found at our local grocery store doing price-per-ounce comparisons, buying in bulk, and/or buying store-brand items.  I do this to try to save money which allows me to funnel those savings back into buying additional storage.  All of these things are good price-saving strategies, but in some cases they aren't the best strategies for your home storage.

Here are some examples:

Cheapest -  I know that I can save a lot of money buy buying my cooking oil in bulk (large containers) at warehouse stores.  I've learned, however, that oils don't store well long term.  I am careful to keep my oil in a cool (basement), dark (in a box) area to maximize storage potential.  Often, though, I will open some oil and use it for a month or two.  As is typical with oil that have been stored for a while, it soon starts to smell rancid and I throw it out.  So, in this case, buying large containers of oil just results in waste.

Better - Now I buy cooking oil in small containers.  I find that even if it has been stored for a year, I am able to use it fast enough that it doesn't turn rancid.

Sandwich Dressing
Cheapest - There are two problems that I have with these giant-but-cheaper containers of Miracle Whip and/or mayonnaise.  The first issue is that they contain a lot of oils and behave similarly to stored oils as I've described above.  The second issue is that my growing boys use these dressings for sandwich making and they aren't so careful about cross contamination.  The result is mustard or pickle bits that end up in the dressing.  Yuck!  I only had to learn this lesson once.  I had a huge mayonnaise container in my fridge and it seemed to last forever (and take a ton of fridge space).  I did my best to keep it cross-contamination free, but there was only so much I could do.  I couldn't wait to get rid of it.

Better - Now I buy small bottles/containers of these dressings.  Once opened, we are able to eat the contents quickly.  I personally prefer the squeezable bottles because there isn't any danger of mustard cross-contamination.  I also realize that in an potential emergency situation where I don't have electricity, I am much more likely to be able to use the contents of these small bottles quickly without having to worry about refrigeration.

Peanut Butter
Cheapest - Big bulk jars.  Peanut butter contains a lot of oil which has all of  the challenges listed with oils above.  We eat some, but not enough to keep up with those big jars. 

Better - I buy smaller jars and rotate and donate more often in order to avoid rancid peanut butter.  Your family might eat peanut butter quickly enough to avoid this issue.  We don't.

Powdered Milk
Cheapest - I originally thought all powdered milk was the same.  Boy, was I wrong!  I've found that choosing powdered milk is an extremely personal purchase.  Some are sweet, some are cheap, and some more closely resemble the milk that you are used to drinking. 

Better - I made sure to taste several brands of milk before deciding which brand to store.  I also evaluated my powdered milk use to determine how much we would use for drinking and/or baking.  I did find one that I really like and I wait for sales, but it isn't as cheap as some powdered milks that are available (and that I like a lot less).  I'm always hesitant to recommend one brand, but instead encourage you to find what YOU like before you store a lot of it.

Known Brands
Cheapest -  Once I bought a large supply of a no-name brand of chili. It tasted terrible! After trying several cans, we donated the rest to the food bank. I've unfortunately made the same mistake several times.

Better - Now I stick to buying brands that we've already tried, especially if I'm buying a lot.

Unfamiliar Foods
Cheapest - I mentioned this story once before, so forgive me for the repeat.  I found an awesome deal on Kix cereal.  I had young kids and was sure they would like it.  So, I bought tons.  Needless to say, they hated the cereal.  So again, after several creative tries to use it, I ended up donating most of it to the food bank. 

There is so much wisdom in the current recommendation to store three months of food that you already regularly eat.  I once read that kids will starve rather than eat unfamiliar food.  It's true that at some point, most of us, even kids, would eat almost anything rather than starve.  But I can honestly see my kids resisting and consequently whittling themselves down and compromising their health before they would get to that point. 

Better - I try to store food items and recipes that are tried and true.  We regularly introduce new foods to our kids, but I don't store those items until I know that they like it.  Sometimes that means I have to pay a higher price to get those familiar foods, but it prevents waste.

Cheapest - I thought it would be a good idea to make sure that I had a full garden's worth of seeds for the next year in my storage.  It's fantastic to get those after-season deals each year and I thought I would be better prepared for next year.  I didn't realize, however, that some seeds have a very limited viability.  Onions seeds are a good example.  I plant green onion seeds every year.  But when I tried to grow onions from those season-old seeds,  I think I maybe got a handful of green onions at best.  "Bargain" seeds can have similar results. 

Better - When an entire harvest is dependent upon the quality of the seeds, it's best to choose name brands and buy in season.  One note here:  There are some seeds that are easily over wintered.  This is an area in which it pays to do a little homework.  You can also learn how to collect and preserve your own seeds.  This is a great self-reliance skill (that I'm still working on).


You get the idea, right?  Though it is good to save money, it's better to be smart.  Don't buy bulk, store-brand, or even with a group order (even if it a killer deal) unless it is food that works with your own storage habits and your own family's tastes.  Sometimes it's worth it to spend a little extra money.


Green Peppers - NOT!

Finally, despite the cool and wet summer, my peppers are producing.  I purchased what I thought was a standard green pepper.  However, as you can tell from my picture above, that isn't what is growing. 

These peppers are thumb-sized and are pale yellow turning purple-brown.  The flesh inside is yellow.  They taste bitter with a bit of spice on the front which quickly disappears.  The flavor reminds me of regular peppers, but not quite the same.

Any ideas on what I've got?


Hurricane Preparedness

Photo Source: Wikipedia

15 years ago, our family moved into a small 540-square-foot summer cottage on Long Island, NY.  We lived just two blocks from the ocean for several years.  Both my husband and I had grown up in western states with snow storms, heat waves and earthquakes, but neither of us knew anything about hurricane preparation. 

I remember hearing warnings about an incoming hurricane that first weekend after we arrived.  We inquired at church about how we should prepare.  The response was to tie down the garbage cans and bring in any lawn furniture.  That was good advice, but there was so much more we should have done.  The hurricane, though it was a direct hit, had lost strength and was luckily a tropical storm as it passed overhead. 

We had several other hurricanes come close that year.  In 1999, we were still in the same place on the east coast when Hurricane Floyd hit and caused widespread flooding in our area.  By then, though, we had learned a little more about hurricane preparation and were less nervous and more prepared than that first year.

As we watch Irene approach the east coast again this year, I thought I would review several principles of hurricane preparedness:

1. Develop a Family Plan.
Discuss your home's vulnerability to flooding, wind and storm surge.  Designate a safe room within the home.  Decide on an evacuation plan.  Determine an out of state contact.  Check up on your home insurance to determine if you have flood coverage.

2. Create an Disaster Supply Kit.
Keep a supply of food, batteries, flashlights, water, medications, cash and other necessities on hand.  Make sure you have a radio that you can use to get up-to-date information if the power is out.  Keep your cars fueled. 

3. Have a Place to Go.
Evacuate quickly if you are asked to do so.  The longer you wait to leave, the more difficult it will be to get out.  Choose an evacuation destination with friends/family or at a hotel.  Your first choice should be as close as possible.  If you have to evacuate farther away, be prepared for long waits on roadways.  Fill your car up with gas prior to leaving.  If you go to a hotel, call ahead for reservations.  Choose a shelter only if you don't have other options available because they will be full, uncomfortable and may not accept pets.

4. Secure Your Home.
Get flood insurance if needed.  Protect and reinforce your home as described on the NOAA site.  Turn off utilities if instructed.  Turn off propane tanks. 

5. Have a Pet Plan.
Make sure your pets are current on their vaccinations.  Use identification collars and appropriate carrying containers.  Prepare a pet disaster kit including vaccination records, medications, food and water.  Locate possible pet sheltering locations beforehand.

I found this information on the NOAA site (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).  This is a fabulous site if you want more information.

More sources:
Red Cross


Earthquake in Virginia

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Are you prepared for an earthquake?  Do you know what to do before, during and after an earthquake.  Because of the earthquake this afternoon in Virginia (5.8) or yesterday in Colorado (5.3), you might be paying closer attention and looking for information. 

Here are several previous posts on how to prepare for and respond to an earthquake:

BEFORE an Earthquake

DURING an Earthquake

AFTER an Earthquake

More information on today's earthquake:


Three-Month Supply Worksheet (image file)

I've had several requests for copies of this worksheet recently.  Some readers, unfortunately, are not able to access the google docs PDF file.  So, I've saved it as an image file.  You can click on the picture above to make it larger.  Copy the picture file and then print using photo/graphic software.

If it works for you, here is the link for the google docs PDF.

As always, this worksheet is for personal, church or community use.  I'm happy for you to use it and share it - but not to profit from it.  If you place it on any type of website or blog, please also include a link directly back to this page. 


Easily Stored Meals (for a three-month supply)

I'm getting ready to teach a course on starting a three-month supply. 

Though I don't advocate recipe sharing when developing a plan (the recipes should be ones that you already use regularly), I have seen that a list of possible shelf-stable and easily-stored meals can jog memories for those who don't think they eat anything that stores well.  I'd like to have a large list on the black board for this presentation to help people get thinking.

So, I'm asking for your help!  What meals do you store for your three-month supply?

Here are a bunch of ideas that I've compiled so far:

Granola, pancakes/waffles, french toast, cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat, hashbrowns, bacon, eggs, muffins, smoothies.

Wraps/sandwiches (PB&J, tuna, chicken salad), fish fillets, chili, Mac-N-Cheese, jambalaya, pizza, easy canned soups (Spaghettios, ravioli, chicken noodle, etc.), lasagna, enchiladas, chicken crescents, spaghetti, burritos, taco soup, beans and rice, soups, chowders, crock-pot chicken, curry chicken, chicken alfredo, shepherd's pie, pot pie, baked potatoes, quesadillas, casseroles, stroganoff.

Various canned/dry/freeze-dried fruits and vegetables to supplement all of the above (bottled peaches, fruit leather, applesauce, canned green beans, etc.).  Grow a garden.  Fruit trees.  Sides and desserts as desired.

All of these items can be made using shelf-stable storage items which can be stored at least three months or more.  I personally include freezer items in addition to those on my shelves.  All freezer items can be substituted with shelf items if necessary.

Obviously, these meals are all within the realm of my own recipes.  I'd love to hear your ideas!  Please, help me think outside my own kitchen.



Photo belongs to the author of this blog.  Please do not use without permission.

I've been heavily involved with our church pioneer trek reenactment during the past many months.  We were able to trek the actual Mormon Trail near Fort Bridger, Wyoming.  We just returned a couple of weeks ago.  I haven't experience many things quite so humbling as to strip away many of our conveniences for several days and survive without. 

It was hard!  I had some medical inconveniences that resulted in my only walking about half of the projected 17 miles.  I was tired and worn out - even though I regularly walk several miles up and down hills.  We survived two thunderstorms with torrential rain (which had to be bailed out of our tent because there was so much water).  I was reminded about just how dependent we have become on technology and modern inventions.  I loved taking a shower at the end of our trek experience. It was so easy to just turn on the water - hot and clean. I almost cried when my husband told me he had just put fresh sheets on our bed.

I couldn't have survived like my past grandparents did - because I don't have the skills that they had.  Our water was trucked out to us - but it often ran out faster than it was available.  My grandparents had to look for their water and then hope it was clean.  Wyoming seemed devoid of life and food.  I was grateful for coolers full of food and refrigerated trucks instead of a measly 1/4 cup of flour a day like my two grandmothers had. 

We have so much!  But we rely heavily on others for it.

Just another argument for self-reliance!


No Water

Tonight, our water has been turned off.  Our city is doing some sort of maintenance on the system and we were notified via notes on our door yesterday that it would be off from 8:00 p.m. tonight until early tomorrow morning. 

In anticipation of not having access to water, we tried to think of all the ways that we use water each evening.  My son showered early.  We filled multiple water pitchers providing water for brushing teeth and drinking.  We also filled each tub half-way full, thinking it would give us water for washing hands and flushing toilets.  We have water stored, but I'd rather not use it for this occasion. 

What we didn't anticipate was needing water to wash the dishes and wipe the counters.  We scrambled during the last few minutes of water pressure after we realized that we still needed to wash our faces and take care of these other things.

It's amazing how much water we use!  I can't imagine being without water and all the conveniences that it provides.  It's just another good reminder to make sure you store as much water as possible.


My Solar Cooker

This is a picture of my current solar cooker.  It is a hybrid Windshield Shade Solar Cooker based on models developed by Kathy Dalh-Bredine and Sharon Cousins. 

I added the silver bowl after several failed attempts to balance the cooking rack on just the windshield shade.  I also added the black lid after my first failed roll cooking experiment.  I read through a great FAQ on solar cooking and noticed that they mentioned needing to use the black lid.

*Reflective Windshield Shade
Mine is oversized.  $5 from Amazon.
To attach the edges of the windshield shade. $3 at Walmart.
In which you place the windshield shade.  I used two flower pots stacked.  We were also successful with a five gallon buckets with rocks inside.  A square laundry basket also worked - but I needed the basket.
*Large Silver Bowl
*Square Cooling/Cookie Rack
*Black Pot with Black Lid
Mine is a 12 lb. roaster from Walmart ($11).  It is actually too big but I've been nesting a smaller second pan inside.  I still need to try cooking directly in this pan.
*Cooking Bag
I needed turkey size to accommodate the black pan.  This can be reused.

*Internal Cooking Thermometer
This was my husband's Christmas gift several years ago.  It is fantastic for making perfect steaks and tender chicken.  It has been extremely helpful in our cooking experiments because I am able to track temperature without opening the bag and pan (which usually results in a a 20 degree temperature drop).  It is wireless and I can read the temperature from within my home.

1.  Attach Velcro to the windshield shade as shown here.   I used an oversized windshield shade so it took four two-inch pieces evenly spaced.  It is easier if you make sure that the Velcro is put on the notched long side.

2.  Place the windshield shade funnel into your bucket or pot. 

3.  Place cooling rack into silver bowl.  I used scotch tape at the corners to keep it from slipping.  If your rack is larger than the bowl, you can just have it rest on the edges.

4. Place bowl and cooling rack into funnel.

5. Place food into either the black pot directly or a smaller nesting pan within the black pot. 

6. Place the black pot into the cooking bag.  Fasten tightly.  I like to tightly twist the bag opening and then insert the twist tightly into the pot handles.

7. Place pot and bag onto the cooling rack inside the silver bowl. 

8. Tilt the setup so that the funnel optimizes the sun light.  I can see the best position by looking at the shadow on the ground behind the windshield shade.  Continue to adjust every 30 minutes or so as the sun moves across the sky.

9. Cook until items reach desired temperature or until food is cooked thoroughly.

*Cooking will be most successful on a clear day.  Sun rays are most direct and consequently your cooking temperatures will be optimized between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  Smaller food pieces will cook more quickly.


My First Attempts at Solar Cooking

I tried solar cooking for the first time last Tuesday afternoon.  Let's just say things didn't go so well.  Five major lessons learned:

1) Prime solar cooking time is between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  (It's not likely going to work so well if you start cooking after 3:30 p.m.).

2) You need a clear day to be successful at solar cooking.  (In my defense, there were hardly any clouds in the sky when I started).

3) If you are going to attempt solar cooking, start with a simple, non-temperature dependent food like rice, water, or cinnamon apples.  (Rolls aren't such a good choice for the first time because they might rise and then fall when temperatures drop because of  incoming clouds.   In fact, I'd recommend waiting to try baking until you've master basic solar-cooking skills).

4) Solar cooking is like crock-pot cooking.  You should choose foods that cook well at low and slow temperatures.

5) Small food pieces cook more quickly than large ones.

My first attempt, as you might have reconstructed from my comments above, was rolls.  This was a huge mistake because I didn't know anything about solar cooking.  Yet.  I tried starting them at 3:30 p.m. with rolling clouds in the sky.  The attempt was aborted around 4:30 when those clouds blocked the sun and the internal temps starting decreasing instead of increasing and the perfectly risen rolls fell.

The next day I attempted brownies (with powdered eggs to ensure safety).  I also modified my solar cooker design (watch for more information about this modified design), started earlier in the day and made sure the sky was completely clear of clouds.  After two hours, we had yummy brownies that were almost done.  My third attempt was baked apples started right after the brownies.  At this point, I abandoned the internal temperature probe and just let them cook.  They were tender and delicious after three hours or so.  The sugar had not caramelized though - just dissolved.

My most recent attempt was potatoes.  I put them into the solar cooker around 10:30 a.m. and let them cook all day.  I pulled them out just before dinner and was rewarded with billows of steam and a wonderful rich smell of rosemary and dill.  The potatoes were definitely done.  My only complaint is that the top layer of potatoes darkened and didn't look very appetizing.  A little research reassured me that this was normal and they were completely safe to eat.



Update on Solar Cooking

Are you waiting to find out how my solar cooking experiment goes?

Well, so am I.  For living in one of the sunniest places in the United States, we sure haven't had any really sunny days for months now. 

I've got all of my supplies.  I found an oversized window shade on Amazon for about $5.  I purchased my Velcro at the local store for around $3.  I also bought a new black enamel pot for $11.  It was the smallest I could find, but still may be too big.  I already have a cookie rack, bucket and cooking bags on hand.

It looks like some sunny days are in the forecast.  Hopefully, I'll update again soon.


2011 Garden

Photo is property of author.  Please do not use without permission.

Gardening isn't something that you just do.  It's actually a skill that you develop.  That's why it's so important when it comes to self-reliance that you try to plant a garden each year, whether a large plot or a few pots on a patio.  If you wait to develop those gardening skills, you risk a failed garden when it really matters.

Every year that we've planted a garden - which is most of the past 14 years - we've had new adventures.  Last year, we dealt with the encroaching shade from a quickly growing maple over the fence.  Now I know where *not* to plant my tomatoes.  We also tried "solarizing" a section of our garden to reduce the weeds last year.  We put clear plastic (edges buried) over a section of the garden.  Unfortunately, the plastic wasn't durable enough to make it through the heat of the summer. 

Some of our ongoing successes:  We have tomato volunteers every year.  It seems like such a fragile plant, so I'm always thrilled to find those new little plants.  I also have a fantastic rosemary plant that comes back year after year.  We're expanding our raspberry row because they are so popular that our kids sneak into the garden just to eat them.

This year, we're trying square foot gardening in addition to our regular garden.  It's been pretty expensive to set up two 3.5 x 7.5 beds.  The jury is still out on whether or not it's worth the extra cost. 

It's been a very wet spring.  I missed planting my spring crop of lettuce, peas, and spinach because I kept waiting for a dry Saturday.  I finally gave up and found a Monday afternoon late in May to get my summer crop of strawberries, beans, onions, carrots, watermelons, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers planted.  Almost three weeks have passed since dropping those seeds into the ground.  I was actually expecting that I'd have to replant, but this afternoon I discovered these late, but very welcomed, bean shoots finally emerging.  I can also see carrots and barely an onion or two.  No watermelon plants yet.

I'd like to learn how to collect my own seeds.  I've tried several years in a row now, but have only harvested Marigold seeds with success.  I suspect that eventually I'll get it - but see - another reason to practice gardening now. 

How is your garden doing?  What have you learned from past gardens?  Successes?  Failures?  What do you want to do in the future?  I'd love to hear all about it!


Solar Cooking

Storing cooking fuel for various situations such as electricity outages is one of the weakest parts of my preparedness plans.  I currently store and rotate through multiple large canisters of propane for use with my grill.  I have plastic buckets full of charcoal for my dutch oven and apple-box oven.  But there are limits on how much propane I can legally store.  And I can't possibly store large enough quantities of charcoal.  So, I've been exploring the merits of solar cooking to expand my options.

There are a lot of commercial products available for solar cooking.  Unfortunately these products are often quite expensive.  The amazing thing I've discovered, is that you can often get the same results with as little as $3 and not much more work on your part.

I want to direct you to two fabulous sites on solar cooking.  Both sites have resulted from efforts to improve cooking situations for women in Africa and South America.  The first is a wiki (http://solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/Plans) with many solar cooking designs.  It includes plans for elaborate solar cookers to simple homemade solar cookers that can be just as or more effective. 

This second site (http://solarcooking.org/plans/funnel.htm) gives the plans for an effective solar stove developed by Dr. Steven Jones, a BYU physics professor.  The part I love most about the link on Dr. Jones' page is that he includes a chart with estimated cooking times (it is about 3/4 down the page).

Here are two other links by Dr. Jones on solar cooking (for some reason this site is not easily navigable):

My favorite?  The Windshield Shade Solar Cooker developed by Kathy Dahle-Bredine (found on the Solar Wiki).  This cooker is almost identical to Dr. Jones' design except it uses a reflective windshield shade instead.  I'm eager to have something that can withstand water a bit better than Mylar-covered cardboard, so this is the design I've opted to pursue.

Making one of these solar cookers is my current project right now.  I've already been to my guaranteed-to-have-one-of-everything store with a list of products.  Unfortunately they didn't have the one fundamental item that I needed - the reflective windshield shade.  So my next try will be at an automotive shop.  I already have cooking bags and cooling racks on hand.  I'm also looking for a black pot for under $10 that is approximately 5 quarts or less.  I've seen a 7.5 quart pan for $12, but it seems too big.  The cheapest "pan" option is actually a black-painted canning jar.  I'd prefer something a little more durable if possible, but I am intrigued by the "pressurizing" potential when using canning lids (see Dr. Jones' design).
Watch for an update on my solar cooker once I get the supplies and give it a try.


Are We Still The Good Guys?

In the book The Road written by Cormac McCarthy, a father and son travel through a ravaged post-apocalyptic world.  Over and over the son asks his father, "Are we still the good guys?"  This question is posed in extremely difficult situations which include making the choice to share food and possibly go hungry themselves.  Clearly many characters are no longer good guys, but have abandoned their humanity with completely selfish actions, some of which are beyond imagination.  Others, despite their realizations of the consequences, reach out anyway.  The father, with his heart full of the desire to save his son, struggles throughout the book with the questions of how to act - with selfishness or with compassion.  And his son over and over helps him to remember that goodness and humanity is the answer.

Lately, as I've browsed the news, I been both thrilled with the unselfish actions of the good guys and simultaneously disappointed in extremely selfish actions of others.  I look at the ravaged neighborhoods of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Sendai, Japan and Christchurch, New Zealand and read of looting1 and exploitation.  From preparedness sources, I read about individuals who claim they won't need food storage because they have guns and plan to take it3.  I read of plans to loot, steal and hide2 resources from fellow neighbors if tough circumstances arise.  Thankfully, in contrast, I see individuals with destroyed homes and lives setting their own needs aside and helping neighbors who are worse off.  I hear of the poorest families sacrificing their own funds to help a little in these disaster areas.  I hear of families storing extra so they will be able to help their neighbors if needed.

I'm not so naive as to think that there aren't people out there that will continue to act without humanity regardless of what I think and say.  I also recognize the need for me to provide for and protect my family in difficult circumstances.  But what is survival without humanity?  If sharing and helping others meant my family would starve?  Well, I would much rather have the last acts of my life be ones of compassion and charity rather than of selfishness, greed, and violence.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I look closely at the example of Jesus Christ.  His life was full of compassion and love despite knowing his death would ultimately result from those actions.  He was definitely one of the good guys.

I encourage you in your preparedness plans and in your home-storage plans to plan with compassion rather than selfishness and to plan with love instead of greed.

And make sure that you ask yourself over and over and over again, "Are we still the good guys?"

1 - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42834400/ns/weather/
2 - Sorry, not going to post the links and add traffic or credence to these sites. 
3 - http://www.survivalblog.com/2011/04/two_letters_re_confronting_tho.html


Iron Chef: Food-Storage Style

Do you ever buy a food storage item for your family only to find out that it is a complete "miss" and no one will even touch it?  This happened to me this year.  I purchased 5 boxes of Kix cereal on a great sale.  Those boxes have been sitting down on our cereal shelf for almost a year now.  I brought a box upstairs in hopes that someone would open it and give it a try.  I even rearranged my cereal shelves so that all of the boxes of Kix were highly visible right at the front.  But no bites (literally)!

So, for a recent Family Home Evening I decided to ensure that the Kix cereal got used.  I was in charge of the activity and planned an Iron Chef Competition:  Food-Storage Style!

If you've never seen an Iron Chef competition, the gist is that two teams (chefs) are given a "secret" (previously unknown) ingredient and then have one hour to create unique foods which are then judged.  The winning team is determined by which receives the most total points in three categories:  plating, originality, and taste.  Each judge can award up to 5 points for plating and originality and 10 points for taste, for a total of 20 points which are then added together.

We broadened the time limit and then talked our good-sport neighbors, who I'm pretty sure thought we were crazy, into being our judges.  Of course, our secret ingredient was Kix cereal.  Dad's team created a Kix-Brownie by replacing most of the flour with crushed Kix. They dusted them with powdered sugar and drizzled with a chocolate sauce. My team created a chilled peach pie with a Kix cobbler-crust. We added a sprinkle of toasted crumbled crust on top. Sorry, I forgot to take pictures.

After we created our concoctions, we delivered the treats and judging slips.  We sampled each-other's dishes while waiting for the results.  After a few minutes, our neighbors returned the totaled judging sheets.  The winner?  Chilled Peach Pie!  Who knew that the neighbor-dad didn't like brownies?  His super-low ratings for the brownies threw the game to the peach pie by just 3 points.

Unfortunately we only used one box instead of all four like I hoped.  So, I'll likely donate the remaining boxes to the food bank.   Even if you only use a bit of your unused storage, having an Iron Chef competition is a fun way to help you rotate through some of your own less-used food storage items. 

I'd love to hear about your competition if you try it!



Welcome to iPrepared!  Feel free to look around.  You'll find posts on almost every aspect of home storage and preparedness.  Click on the blog title to see all of the recent blog posts.  There is a website search box to the right.  Or you might find what you are looking forward in the menu.  There is a three-month supply worksheet that you might like to help you get started with your own family's three-month supply (the link for the workseet is just there on the top of the left menu). 

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Self Reliance Thought

"Everyone is happier and feels more self respect when they can provide for themselves and their family and then reach out to take care of others."  

President Henry B. Eyring
First Counselor
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Food Storage Tags

You may remember this previous post, Labeling Long-Term Storage, from back in 2009 where Stephanie shared her idea of making tags to help with locating, rotating and replacing her food storage.  Well, I've had two-year intentions of doing the same thing, but have never gotten around to it.  Just this past Christmas, my wonderful parents-in-law gave me a new fun laminator and I've been itching to use it for this project since then. 

I made my tags using a different color of cardstock for each food storage product that I keep in buckets.  Actually there isn't much rhyme or reason to the colors.  I just used the colors that I had on hand.  In the picture below, you might notice that the brighter colors are easier to see and read so I would recommend that you use bright colors instead of dull or dark colors. 

I figured out how many tags of each that I needed.  For example, I knew that I wanted to always keep four buckets of flour on hand, so I used my word processor to print four "flour" labels.  I repeated this process for each of the items I keep in buckets: wheat, sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, rice, oats, and beans.  I laminated my tags for durability, but this isn't necessary.  Then I hole punched the side and tied each onto the bucket handles with some white yarn.  I made more than 40 tags.  It took about two hours from start to finish (but most of that time was spent doing second and third runs through my laminator in order to fully seal the tags - I'm sure you could do it in a fraction of that time).  I love the result!  It is so easy to figure out what is in each bucket now.

Recently I ran out of flour.  So I ran down into my storage area, grabbed a bucket of flour (which was so easy to find because of the easy-to-see tags) and emptied the previously-stored flour into my upstairs bucket.  I actually left the tag on the empty bucket and let it remind me that I needed to buy some more flour to replace the now-empty bucket.  I could also untie the tag and slip it into my purse or tie it to a shelf as a reminder that I need to replace that flour.  When I refilled the bucket with flour, I flipped the tag over and wrote 2011 on the back with a black permanent marker so that I would know the age of the newly purchased flour.

Here are a few other ideas and tips that you could use for labeling your food storage:

*Use different colored ribbons for each different food (i.e red for red wheat; black for black beans; pink for pinto beans; tan for oatmeal; white for rice; etc.).
*Use a different colors of  ribbon/yarn to indicate the purchase date.
*Use different colors of permanent markers to differentiate between foods and/or dates.
*Wrapping ribbon and index cards would work just fine.
*Magnetic labels could be used with #10 cans or steel shelves.
*Instead of tying a ribbon to foil pouches or #10 cans (that don't have a handle like a bucket or a neck like the PETE bottles), just tie a tag to the shelves or adhere a label with a small piece of ribbon directly to the product.
*Label two sides and the top of each container for more visibility.
*Use cup-holder screws to hang labels (of items needing to be replaced).
*These tags would be a great idea for a cheap, but love-filled gift.

I would love to hear your ideas!


Food Storage Hunt

Hannah and Abby over at Safely Gathered In are doing an ongoing series right now about how food storage bloggers organize their storage.  Last week they featured my storage area.  If you are interested in seeing how we organize our food storage, you can go to:  http://safelygatheredin.blogspot.com/2011/03/food-storage-hunt-iprepared.html.

They've also featured two other bloggers with promises of more to come.  Check it out.  You might find some ideas for your own storage.


Toilet Troubles (second of two parts)

Portaloos line the streets after the earthquake last September in Kaiapoi, New Zealand. (source unknown)

For sanitation in temporary emergency situations, a chemical (portable) toilet is the easiest to store and set up. Portable toilets are easy to store, but require disposal. If there won't be any entity helping with waste disposal, a longer-term solution of digging a latrine might be a better option.

Chemical Toilet
A chemical toilet is one that utilizes different chemicals to deal with the smells and disinfect your waste. Portaloos (portapotties), RV toilets, airplane toilets, and portable toilets work this way. You can turn an existing toilet into a chemical toilet by emptying the water and inserting a plastic bag inside the bowl. In it's simplest form, a bucket with a trash liner can also be used to create a chemical toilet. Two boards placed parallel to each other can create a more-comfortable, make-shift seat. 

After using the facilities, commercially-available chemical packets, or home-stored chemicals such as baking soda, lime, or bleach are added to the toilet bag to maintain sanitation. The American Red Cross recommends that you "pour or sprinkle a small amount of regular household disinfectant, such as creosol or chlorine bleach, into the container to reduce odors and germs."4

You can buy portable toilet kits which just include a bag and chemical packets. Other kits include the seat and/or stand. Some even "flush" into a lower chamber to reduce smell. The downside of a chemical toilet is that waste still needs to be disposed.

Many sites recommend disposing waste in an outdoor container until your local governments collect it. If you feel that a quick response is reasonable, then store an extra trash container with a tight fitting lid to be used for this short-term disposal. In a situation where collections might not be soon available, official emergency sources recommend that you "bury garbage and human waste to avoid the spread of disease by rats and insects. Dig a pit 2 to 3 feet deep and at least 50 feet downhill or away from any well, spring or water supply."5

Store: Bucket, lid/seat (or other configuration), garbage-can bags, chemicals.
Pros: Easy and readily available.
Cons: Waste still has to be disposed.

If you find yourself without toilet facilities for a longer period of time, you might consider digging a latrine (privy or outhouse). In reality, people have lived without sewer systems much longer than they have lived with them. It's not been so long since digging a hole for an outhouse was the norm.

The big concern in latrine construction is fresh water contamination. It is essential that toilet facilities be placed where they will not contaminate ground water, fresh water wells, or streams. 50 feet from homes or water sources is a widely cited distance for location of toilet waste. Some areas have high ground water and require that outhouse facilities be located elsewhere in order to protect drinking water.

An adequate hole for a privy would be about five feet deep (which gives you about five years worth of sanitation disposal depending upon use).6 Sources vary in their suggestions of depth from as little as four feet to as much as 15 feet (larger depths require reinforcing the walls to eliminate the risk of cave-in). After digging a hole, a board with a hole cut in the middle can be placed on top to cover the pit. Your privy would be usable at this point, but probably not comfortable. You can add an elevated box or a chair with a hole cut into the seat to make sitting more comfortable. A hollowed bucket with two boards on top would be better than nothing.

At this point, you would also need to address the smell. Whatever construction method you use, it is important to have a lid of some kind to close off the pit which would help to contain the smell. An outhouse can utilize a built-in vent pipe to reduce the build-up of methane gas and disperse the smell into the air. Flies are attracted to the smell and can cause the spread of disease. If you use a venting pipe, make sure to add a screen on top to reduce access to flies and other insects. Fly paper placed inside the facility would also reduce the flies somewhat.

Privacy is a huge issue with outdoor toilet use. There are pop-up tents available for this purpose. A regular tent or even a tarp could also be modified to give privacy. Because a latrine is located outside, weather considerations are important as you build your new facility. Tents and tarps will have to be anchored to ensure resistant to winds, rain and/or snow. If you have the resources to build a permanent wooden facility, weather would be less of a concern.

Store: Shovels, pick-ax, large piece of wood to cover the pit, bucket (or other seat), tent/tarp/wood for privacy.
Pros: Waste is disposed as part of the design. No need for additional chemicals.
Cons: Requires time to set up/dig, usually smelly, cold/hot and uncomfortable.

Make sure that you also store sanitizer, sanitary pads (dispose separately), and septic-safe toilet paper in addition to any other supplies for your toilet.

Click here to go to Toilet Troubles (part one).

1 - Christchurch earthquake: Survival in the suburbs
2 - Strangers brought together by quake stories
3 - Christchurch earthquake: Many face weeks of temporary toilets
4 - American Red Cross - Emergency Sanitation
5 - University of Florida - Emergency Sanitation
6 - How to build a latrine


Helping Each Other in Japan

Rescuers and victims carry out bags of food aid from a helicopter in Yamada, northern Japan on Tuesday. Takashi Ozaki / AP

Yesterday, Polliwog commented and shared a blog of a family housed on a US military base in Misawa, Japan.  On that blog (Acte Gratuit), Emily shares insights into her own food storage - and what she wishes she had stored.  She also describes how her church congregation is gathering supplies for those affected by the tsunami and earthquake. 

It's a fabulous example of  how preparedness enables you to reach out and help others!

Acte Gratuit:
Humanitarian Aid for Hachinohe
Surviving the Earthquake in Japan



A little girl stands in line with the rest of the people waiting for the second batch of water in Shiogama on Monday.  David Hogsholt for CNN

I am beyond sad about what is happening in Japan.  Our family has donated money through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Charities - Humanitarian Aid Fund and are constantly praying for everyone who has been affected. I feel helpless in many ways, but know that the power of prayer is real.  Many people have been motivated to start (or continue) their own preparedness efforts because of this recent devastation. This is good. Being prepared will truly bring you peace.

I just want to remind everyone about the importance of storing water and food.  This morning I read an article from the AP with information about the current lack of food and water:

"In many areas there is no running water, no power and four- to five-hour waits for gasoline. People are suppressing hunger with instant noodles or rice balls while dealing with the loss of loved ones and homes. "People are surviving on little food and water. Things are simply not coming," said Hajime Sato, a government official in Iwate prefecture, one of the three hardest hit.

. . . "I'm giving up hope," said Hajime Watanabe, 38, a construction industry worker, who was the first in line at a closed gas station in Sendai, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of Soma. Just then, an emergency worker came over and told him that if the station opens at all, it would pump gasoline only to emergency teams and essential government workers. "I never imagined we would be in such a situation" Watanabe said. "I had a good life before. Now we have nothing. No gas, no electricity, no water."  He said he was surviving with his family on 60 half-liter bottles of water his wife had stored in case of emergencies like this. He walked two hours to find a convenience store that was open and waited in line to buy dried ramen noodles."1

I love that Hajime's wife anticipated an emergency and stored that water. What a blessing for their family!  The reality is that in many situations, especially those with vast consequences such as in Japan, the government is not going to be able to provide immediate resources for your family.  For example, it has been four days since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, yet many areas still don't have enough incoming supplies.1   In some cases there has been no contact with remote neighborhoods because of impassable roads.2   You might be on your own in a similar situation.  It's up to you to be prepared.

Those most affected by the tsunami have lost everything and many are turning to friends and relatives to help them.  This is another example where being prepared can make helping others easier.  Those with ample supplies are likely in a better position to reach out, clothe, feed, and help displaced family members and friends.  This is also a good reason to encourage your family and friends to get prepared.  You might be the one staying at their house in a similar circumstance. 

So, keep working on your preparedness; make getting water a priority; and pray for those in Japan.



Toilet Troubles (first of two parts)

A portaloo decorated by residents in the suburb of Sumner in Christchurch.
Photo / Getty Images

Yesterday I read an article by David Fisher in the New Zealand Herald describing declining conditions in Christchurch, New  Zealand suburbs after the 6.3 earthquake that hit that area almost two weeks ago.  The surprise?  The decline doesn't seem to result from a lack of food or shelter or even from untreated injuries or damage from the earthquake.  The cause?  A lack of toilets.

From the article:

Tears flowing down his cheeks, burly Canterbury mechanic Keith Mackie was trying to explain that life's basic necessities have been forgotten. . .  "We didn't complain. We just suck it in. After nine days we got a chemical toilet. I had to empty the chemical toilet this morning . . ."  The nearest Port-a-Loo - a decent walk away - was filled to overflowing.  Mr Mackie, retching, drove around trying to find another one into which he could empty his chemical toilet. Again and again, he found the same problem. "I've seen a lot in my life, but this takes the cake."

. . . St Heliers Cres resident Kevin Guy said the lack of toilets and housing threatened to send the disaster out of control. "People will die of this."  He said elderly residents in his street tried to go to the toilet outside in yesterday morning's rain.  "I live near a woman in her 70s who broke down crying, too embarrassed to go to the toilet in a bucket."

Another woman who would not be named said the focus on the central city had ignored thousands of people who were living in squalid conditions.  "The dead people are important but they don't need to go to the toilet. I do."1

Reports reference the planned distribution of 7,000 chemical toilets and more than 1200 portaloos.6  Prime Minister John Keys was quoted as saying, "I think pretty much every portaloo in Australasia is on its way."2   In the meantime, individuals have resorted to stealing portaloos and moving them from areas that they perceived as having plenty.  Kerre Woodham from the Daily Herald quipped that it was "The Battle of Portaloo."5

In the end, even with significant distribution of toilet facilities, there isn't enough (or enough upkeep) to meet the sanitation needs of the 300,000 people impacted by this earthquake.  Sewer lines have been severed and/or overwhelmed by liquefaction.  There is no short-term fix.  Lines are "still some way from repair".This is all made even worse by the lack of running water in more than 20% of the city.  Unfortunately in the meantime, overflowing toilets and the resulting lack of sanitation can ultimately lead to sickness and potentially death. 

Knowing how to address your own sanitation needs could be an essential skill for many different emergency situations.  Unfortunately, it isn't as simple as just digging a hole.  Stay tuned for the second part of this article where we'll address ways to plan to take care of your own waste and sanitation needs.

Click here to go to Toilet Troubles (part two).

1 - Christchurch earthquake:  A new living hell
2 - Key visits hard-hit eastern suburbs
3 - Quake to cost insurers up to $16b
4 - Christchurch earthquake: Latest updates
5 - The best of human nature
6 - Christchurch earthquake: Many face weeks of temporary toilets


Helping Each Other

Members of Canterbury University volunteer army clean up mud on Feb. 24 in Christchurch.
The quake caused liquefaction of the ground. (Martin Hunter / Getty Images)

I am so impressed by the citizens of Christchurch, New Zealand.  Almost one week ago, a massive earthquake hit their area.  Deaths and damage abound.  What amazes me is the spirit of community and service that has emerged from these hard-hit people.

Immediately after the earthquake, citizens with no training jumped in to help rescue and take care of the injured and dying.  There are many stories of everyday heroes jumping and doing whatever they could to save the lives around them.  Kieran McErlain saw a school yard full of children desperate with fear as the water rose to knee level around them.  Though he had no responsibility there, he stayed and helped to calm the children.1  Reports mention students from a university-organized "army" of 10,000 who traveled into the damaged neighborhoods armed with shovels.3  They are shoveling out the liquefaction that has filled up so many yards and houses.  They are helping to move cars stuck in the sludge.  No one asked them to come.  Instead, compassion moved them to help - and they found a way to do so. 

The New Zealand Herald has published a list of companies that are distributing supplies to anyone who needs them.  Again, no one asked.  These businesses just saw the need and took the initiative to do something.  Local bakeries are cleaning up their own buildings, firing up their ovens and baking bread and distributing it for free.  Grocery stores are giving away food and medicine.

"Growers from around the country are offering fresh food donations, church groups are donating goods to those in need and Food and Grocery Council members are also working to get donated food to the people of Christchurch." 4

Neighbors are taking care of each other by feeding each other, and watching over one another. 

"They are sleeping under canvas in the backyard and look well-organised. Tables, a dozen chairs, the barbecue are set out. It looks inviting, an oasis amid the chaos. They and their neighbours have managed to salvage enough glasses and they get together each evening . . . while they cook meat from their defrosting freezers.  Such neighbourliness keeps spirits up."1

Thousand of families in surrounding areas have opened their homes to the fleeing refuges.  A call went out for help and so many responded.   Even families with nothing to give are reaching out and helping each other.   I read a story about a family that gave away their tent because they could fit their little family of four into a backyard playhouse instead.

"We had a tent put up, but we gave it to some friends up the road because their house was not good and they had nowhere to sleep that night," Richard Bruin told the Herald yesterday. "And then we moved into the playhouse. But it's safe, it's waterproof - unlike the house." 2

Other countries have also been quick to offer and send assistance.  Rescue teams arrived as quickly as they could travel and are helping still with the recovery effort.  Donations are quickly accumulating and will be used to help many of the now homeless and hungry. 

There is such a spirit of love and sharing instead of greed and selfishness surrounding these people.  I can only hope that we all will respond similarly when faced with any unexpected dangers in our lives.

1 - New Zealand Herald - On two wheels through the rubble
2 - Christchurch earthquake: Playhouse becomes shelter for family
3 - Christchurch earthquake: Students form volunteer army
4 - Christchurch earthquake: How you can help
5 - Christchurch earthquake: Food companies swing in to deliver supplies


AFTER an Earthquake!

A man holds a child in his arms after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch on Tuesday. (Iain McGregor / Reuters)

Once the earth has stopped shaking from an earthquake, all danger has not passed.  Because of aftershocks, there is a constant need for vigilance even after an earthquake.  Earthquakes also create many different hazards.  Awareness of these hazards can help you to protect your family from any additional harm.


* Expect aftershocks. 
Get yourself and others out of locations that might be dangerous with continued shaking.   Be aware of hazards such as fires, electrical lines, or spills that might still put you in danger.  Be especially careful as you enter or exit buildings.  Buildings can continue to shift even after the earth has stopped shaking.

Be aware of Tsunami potential. 
Move to a higher location if this is an issue.

* Check for injuries. 
Do not move seriously injured individuals unless they are in danger of further harm.  Help trapped persons if possible.

* Check for hazardous conditions.
Damage from an earthquake can cause fires, leaks in the water, sewer or gas systems, downed or exposed electricity wires, spills and broken items.  Extinguish any fires.  Check your utilities.  If you smell gas, turn off the gas at the meter.  If you don't smell gas, do not turn off the gas because it might be many days before you can have it turned back on.  If wires are sparking or exposed, turn off the electricity at the breaker box.  Do not step in water in order to access the electricity box. 

* Check your home for damage.
Turn off water if you have any broken pipes. Do not use the water until you have been told that it is safe. Don't use the toilets if you suspect problems with the sewer system.  Inspect your chimney, walls, and foundations.

* Ongoing needs.
Don't use your phone except for emergencies.  Listen to your radio for instructions.  Gather your children from local schools.  Stay away from damaged areas.  Be careful as you open cupboards (expect items to fall out).  Make sure to check on your neighbors.

Assess the liveability of your home.  Find a shelter if staying in your home is not an option.  Remember that shelters are typically crowded and also often lack basic services.  You might be better off staying in your home if you just lack basic services or have little to moderate damage.  If you do leave, make sure to communicate your whereabouts with a staying neighbor.

Hopefully, you never have to use any of these recommendations.  But knowing, practicing and thinking about them will help you and your family to be better prepared in an Earthquake.