Summer lesson for winter emergencies

What does survival after an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack in late summer have to do with preparing for winter emergencies in early December? Both situations, though different, equally require us to prepare to live without electricity and without the ability to resupply. It is the “how” and “why” of survival in each case which most impacts our preparations.

In August 2019 my at-home EMP exercise dealt with preparing to survive for the longterm following the theoretical destruction of all electrical systems and supply networks. All normal transportation, emergency services, communications, farming, water treatment, food processing, military capabilities, etc., would have been destroyed. My priorities back then focused on collecting water and rationing the available food at home until I could come up with new sources of food by foraging, hunting, and eventually farming for myself.

Winter disasters are similar in that we might also be without electricity after the region is smacked with freezing temperatures, tons of snow, dangerous ice, and destructive winds. Trees will break, power lines will fall, and roads will close, possibly cutting us off from the outside world. Back in the warm summer months water was the most important thing because we knew we could survive a long time on modest rations. But in winter when we’re cold, wet and exhausted what we need most of all everyday is food, water and a place to get warm. Our focus then is on near term survival while waiting for help, and for life to get back to normal.

When we’re not able to heat our home it becomes more critical that we pay attention to our body heat. For the most part the human body is a wonderful natural furnace designed to keep our internal temperature at around 98.6 degrees all the time. All it requires is a continuous source of calories, which means food and enough of it. In my experience canned goods from the grocery store are the least expensive emergency food for any emergency, things like: vegetables, soup, stew, chili, meat, tuna, chicken, and fruit. Each person should have around 2,000 calories per day, and five to seven days worth should be enough. I also keep emergency dog food for my four-legged buddy, Mr Guinness. When stocking up also remember that whatever we can do ahead of time will make survival much more efficient. When disaster strikes every move we make, from cutting wood to searching around for flashlight batteries, or collecting and melting snow for water, uses up precious calories. Store up bottled water.

Beyond food we need to ensure that we always stay dry (to prevent hypothermia) and that we have a warm place to rest. Emergency generators, portable heaters, and fireplaces are great as long as we have fresh fuel (hint), and the firewood is stored where we can get to it even when completely snowed in. Heating just one room can be a huge help, but if not then try building a small snug sleeping space; an indoor “debris den” to trap body heat. Rearrange furniture or use a large table as a frame over which to drape a tarp and layers of blankets, towels and extra clothing. Insulate the floor using rugs, blankets, and cushions.

Also, try making an emergency candle-heater which is just a large terra cotta flower pot (with center hole) set upside down over an upright bundle of lit candles. The more candles…the more heat. The pot is propped up around the bottom using something small like tuna cans; something that won’t catch fire. Keep all lit candles away from flammable items and don’t put lit candles into the sleeping den. The den can be warmed by just using the pot itself. When ready for bed blow out the candles, wrap the warm pot in a thick towel and set inside the foot of the den to provide hours of radiant heat.

Getting ready for winter holidays should remind us to think about surviving a winter disaster. Just remember the key priorities are: food, water, and the ability to make heat when needed.

Learn more about survival and preparedness at www.mountaineerwilderness.com.