I woke up a few months ago. Literally, I woke up one day and realized if TSHTF, I was toast. In a big way. It all started with Hurricane Sandy. I live in a coastal town in the Northeast. The beach is a comfortable twenty minute walk from my home. Three streets behind me is Water Street, so named because not only is home to various Marina’s and marine supply stores, it has a tendency to flood every high tide. I woke up the morning Sandy hit to an eerily lit sky. Even though a hurricane was heading our way my employer expected me to show up on time ready for work. I had been at work for all of two hours when my manager informed us we had permission to close the store and go home in three hours. Half an hour later, we lost power and it was a half an hour later that we were finally allowed to go home and brace for the storm.
Since I am a single parent who’s currently without a vehicle and bus service was suspended for the duration a co-worker gave me a life home. When we were two blocks away from my home both of us noticed an awful amount of water on the street, what frightened both of us the most was there was no rain. When she dropped me off in front of my home a utility truck was parked in the drive way notifying the residents in my neighborhood they were cutting power and shutting off the gas to reduce the possibility of fires. After all part of the Long Island Sound was now in my front yard.
I ran up the stairs to my apartment and rushed through the door, frightened beyond belief. As I went through the cabinets I realized I had absolutely nothing to feed my children that didn’t require adding water and cooking. I walked down the hall to my bedroom my heart racing a mile a minute. “What am I going to do?” I asked myself repeatedly. As I was changing, the local radio station mentioned that local schools were opening as emergency shelters. As quickly as I could I packed up the family, and we headed out. As we were walking my youngest whom is all of eleven years old kept saying. “This is not cool mom; we’re walking in a hurricane. We would have been safer staying at home.” I didn’t have the heart or the courage to explain to him, home was not good because his mom who is ninja at paying the bills, and making sure there is always food in the house was not ninja at making sure she was prepared for this. His mom, who will wash clothes in the tub to make sure he and his thirteen year old brother can go on a field trip, was not so cool on this.
It took a little under a half an hour for us to get to the school, the first thing I noticed as we were walking in was the fear that it inspired in me. Armed police officers stood guard at the door. People in bright orange vests herded the new comers into a line. Once you got to the table another orange vest asked for identification, and the names of all in your party. After we were checked in another orange vest escorted us into the school gym, and showed us our area. As we set up our cots and prepared to hunker down for the worst, another orange worker came over and informed us that dinner was being served and we needed to follow the rest of the crowd down to the cafeteria. As we walked to the cafeteria I noticed that there were armed police officers in the halls drinking coffee, and listening intently to the noise squawking from their radios. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like a refugee from Monster Storm Sandy, I felt deep within my soul and in my heart that my children and I were in a farce of being shipped off to a concentration camp similar to what I had seen in Schindler's List. I didn’t like that feeling one iota.
As the night wore on and the storm finally hit, I was gripped by the terrible fear that if I survived the night with no bad happening, I was going to do everything in my power to make sure my boys were never placed in a similar situation ever again. When the next morning dawned it was business as usual. I called my job, we were open for business and I was expected in. I told them I’d be late and why. I packed up the boys, called their grandfather for a ride and we headed home. The lights and gas back on, the Long Island Sound back where it belonged. All day while I was working and my kids talking about their grand adventure I knew I had to begin to prepare for whatever would could and probably will happen next.
So I set myself up a mission, I needed to learn how to prepare for the worst. I did countless web searches. I read blog after blog, message board after message board. It seemed at first as if I just wouldn’t be able to the expense was just too great. Then I remembered " Keep It Simple Stupid" (KISS). What do I know, so I made a list.
1) The human body cannot live for more than three days without WATER.
2) The human body cannot live more than five days without FOOD.
3) Depending on the weather conditions you have to be able to stay warm, cool, dry.
So I started with the basics. Water. The next time I went grocery shopping post Sandy bottled water was on sale. Buy 2 get 2 free. I bought 4, and I got 4 free. Four went into the kitchen for the house; four got hidden under my bed. I felt good doing that. I can’t describe how totally back in control I felt. So I began to expand. My kids love fruit snacks, what kid doesn’t? I noticed one day while grocery shopping that all the way down on the very bottom shelf was an off, off brand of fruit snacks 10 for $5.00. I bought 20. Ten went into the kitchen; ten got hidden under my bed. I felt even more empowered.
One week when my paycheck wasn’t quite what it should have been, and the non-child support paying ex gave his usual, “I’ll see what I can do,” speech. I had no choice but to go to the dollar store for groceries. It was while there that I realized I really could have been prepared. I purchased thirty cans of beef stew for $15.00. Half went into the kitchen, half, you guessed it, went under my bed. Hey, cold beef stew may not be an ideal dinner, but it’s better than no dinner at all. It was a start small and insignificant as it seems, it was a start. I kept it simple, when I got a bonus at work because my department exceeded our monthly sales goals I invested in an item that I had read about over and over again.
I bought a vacuum sealer, three rolls of bags, 100 Mylar bags and 100 300cc deoxygenators. Then I went back to the dollar and bought 14 boxes of just add water pancake mix. Three made it into the kitchen; the rest got measured out vacuum sealed with a deoxygenator and tossed into the freezer for two hours. After they came out they got sealed into a Mylar bag and stacked into a really useful box, and put under the bed.
Soon it was joined by more water, some alcohol, first aid kits, coffee, and a camp stove. This month I again got a bonus and instead of paying down debt decided to invest in water treatment and a really good gas grill from amazon. One that I can fire up under my dining room window and cook a nice hot meal for my boys, where the neighbors can’t see it, and I don’t have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning. Soon enough my income tax refund will be here, and as my neighbors are discussing which model of big screen television they are going to be purchasing. I’ve already spent mine. First on my list is a car. A nice used SUV or Wagon. Next up camping gear for me and the boys, a pistol firing course for me and archery lessons for the boys. I also plan on purchasing a six month supply of MREs, a 21 quart pressure canner, and canning supplies.
The big one though is I’m a city girl. I signed up for a plot at the community garden; I’ve got a list of seeds of things I’d like to grow. A book on gardening for dummies, some potting soil and plenty of empty egg cartons for seedlings; I can’t wait to get started.
So how do you prepare for TEOTWAWKI? Well it’s like they say, you can’t run until you’ve learned to walk. You can’t prepare unless you know how. One thing at a time, start with what you know. In the two months since Sandy hit, I went from being a scared sheep with no idea what to do. To a soaring Eagle with a nice supply of necessaries for me and my boys, if we have to hunker down for a day we’re good. If we have to hunker down for a week we’re good. Even if we have to hunker for a month or longer we’re good.
I no longer shop in the dollar store for groceries with my head down as if it’s something to be ashamed of. I shop there on a regular basis with twenty to thirty dollars a week stocking up on things I know I’ll need if TSHF. From soap, shampoos and grocery items to basic first aid items and possible barter items. I have learned how to prepare. As I think back on the night I evacuated my home for a monster storm and I peek under my bed and in my closet and in my kitchen at how far I’ve gotten, I realized that my income didn’t matter. What mattered was I was able to prepare all along and just didn’t know it. That I just had to start at square one.
In six months the oldest of my boys leaves for the Marine Corps, and told me that for the first time since he enlisted he’s no longer afraid of what will happen with me and his younger brothers. He’s actually okay with really leaving now, because in two short months I’ve managed to squirrel away enough supplies to take care of all of us, and instead of believing that the powers that be will take care of me and mine in an emergency, I’m being proactive in taking care of me and mine. If it happens, when it happens, this Mama is more than ready.