Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios
by Lisa Bedford. New York: Harper Collins, March, 2012. 310 pages.
Frustrating hours of planning, organizing and packing epitomize the average harried mother’s week prior to departing on the annual frenzied “fun” family summer vacation!” If these simple family activities create the havoc we have all experienced, what challenges face the same average mom while sorting through mountains of available information on family preparedness?
Our nation reels from news reports of hurricanes, earthquakes, skyrocketing unemployment and increasing violence in the Middle East. Where does this overwhelmed mother, who understands that the well being of her beloved family depends upon being prepared in the face any unexpected calamity, turn for advice?
Well, Survival Mom – How to Prepare your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst – Case Scenarios, written by Lisa Bedford may prove the perfect resource for her, and other beginners. Lisa’s transition from Suburban Mom to Survival Mom encompassed a lifetime. Her journey found it roots in reading survival tales from her Nana’s Reader’s Digest magazines. Experiences with her first junior high survival class, Y2K and other natural and political disasters of her lifetime provided fodder for her current expertise in family preparedness. In June 2009, her love of research revealed that preparedness literature was primarily penned by men writing for men and geared toward a “survivalist lifestyle” that had little in common with her, as a suburban mom.” (Survival Mom p. 2) Hence, the founding of her online resource, TheSurvivalMom.com. Her book, Survival Mom, is a compilation of years of considerable research, experimentation and development of practical applications. It is designed as a “go-to manual” for moms seeking to provide for their families’ security in these uncertain times.
The book opens with a survey entitled, “What Kind of a Survival Mom are you?” It is a clever comedic attention grabber that whets the appetite of the reader for further exploration into its pages. Although not designed to be read in any certain order, it seems wise to begin chronologically, laying a firm foundation, before utilizing it as a topical smorgasbord based upon “each woman’s unique responsibilities, circumstances, and interests. “ (Survival Mom p. 2)
Lisa exhorts us to “First, “Define Your Disasters”. What might be most likely to happen in your area and in your specific set of circumstances? Her personal list included:
1. The closing of their family business and subsequent bankruptcy.
2. Losing their home in a foreclosure.
3. A long-term power outage.
4. Economic collapse.
5. A long-term drought.” (Survival Mom p. 10)
As you ponder these potential scenarios and browse through the book, She also recommends developing: “The Family Preparedness Plan – 3 lists.”
List #1: To Learn – List of skills and knowledge you realize will be important and in demand.
List #2: To Do – Compile a working list of dozens of things you always intend to do but never complete.
List #3: To Buy - Stocking up on food, extra toiletries, good quality tools, to name a few.
“Don’t be surprised if you have feelings of panic and of being overwhelmed. Switching from a mindset and life-style of “Life is good and is only going to get better” to “I’m not sure what the future holds anymore or even if there is much of a future” is disquieting. The only thing for certain is that staying where you are is the most dangerous position of all.” (Survival Mom p. 2) “Tom Martin, founder of the American Preppers Network, says: “Anyone can be a prepper. Just the act of preparing for anything makes you a prepper.” (Survival Mom p. 4)
Delving into Survival Mom, we discover, “Each chapter contains: Instant Survival Tips, Baby Steps and The Prepared Family, a special section with activities involving the whole family.” (Survival Mom p. 4) Inspiring quotes are tucked into its pages and forms for creating your own personalized Family Preparedness Plan at located at the end of many chapters.
Early on, Mrs. Bedford refers to the “Basic Survival Principle: The Rule of Three.” “This is the rule of redundancy. Have a backup and then a backup to your backup.” She interweaves this principle throughout the book in a variety of important topics.
One appealing aspect found throughout the book are the column notations Instant Survival Tips or Baby Steps. Here is a Baby Steps sample to ponder:
- Plan for a one-week emergency. Assume you have no electricity or phone service.
- Stock up on food for one week. Be sure this food doesn’t require refrigeration or heating.
- Store one week’s worth of water. That’s 1 gallon of water per person per day.
- Stock up on an extra week’s worth of supplies you use daily, such as shampoo and toilet paper.
- Have food and supplies for your pets.
- Just in case you have to evacuate, make a plan. Where will you go?
- Make it a habit to keep your gasoline tank at least half full.” (Survival Mom p. 9)
Survival Mom has 12 chapters followed by a glossary of concise “Survival Mom Bonuses.” The first three chapters contain foundational strategic principles for any crisis situation. Chapter 1, Prepare More – Panic Less, spotlights bygone days of self-reliance that our grandparents and great-grandparents led. “Being prepared in those days wasn’t an option; it was a necessity.” (Survival Mom p. 6)
Chapters 2, Survival Begins with Water, and Chapter 3, Keeping It Clean, cover water and sanitation requirements. Here Lisa startles readers stating, “that when water is nowhere to be found, we have less that 3 days to live.” (Survival Mom p. 20) Although this statement may not be scientifically accurate, it draws attention to the importance of providing sufficient amounts of clean water for your family to drink, cook with, bath with, do laundry with and manage sanitation issues.
These two chapters contain options for choosing the best water filter for your families’ needs, decontamination methods, storage options, wells, laundry equipment and supplies, emergency toilets, composting, diapers, trash disposal, supplier resources and questions every modern woman asks, “Why to store water when we have a faucet, or Can a swimming pool provide all the water your family needs?”
Chapters 4 and 5 cover the all-important discussions pertaining to food storage in, The First Steps of Food Storage and Smart Strategies with Food Storage. Her guiding principles are to keep it simple and serving size counts. Here we find an example of applying the “Rule of Three”. Lisa recommends three layers of food storage: Grocery store products, bulk foods and freeze-dried/dehydrated foods. She provides descriptions of each category, suppliers, price point tips, suggestions to consider before you begin stocking up, including making a “survivalized meal plan.”
She then challenges readers to create a three-month survival meal plan merely from stored foods. To accomplish this she provides a Bedford family favorite recipe that she “survivalized”. After applying this procedure to seven of your families’ favorite dishes and multiplying the ingredients to make seven different main dishes, twelve times each, you will have the bulk of your food storage finished for the three month trial program. Now, you can begin your grocery shopping with a focus! Lisa keeps you smiling recounting examples of her early shopping and meal planning mistakes. These amusing ante dotes will either garner a compatible sigh of agreement or a deep sigh of relief to be spared “learning things the hard way.”
Included in Chapter 5 are her, “Survivalized Seven” meal plans along with important information highlighting items your food storage will be incomplete without. She also discusses options for families with special dietary needs and preferences i.e. gluten free or organic versus conventional products. Admittedly, Ms. Bedford does not address unique dietary needs in detail, but rather encourages individuals to further their own personal research with regards to products they believe fundamental in completing Survival Mom’s foundational principles.
Finishing up the categories of food storage topics, Lisa addresses the Top 10 foods to Store, and The Five Enemies of Food (Heat, Humidity, Oxygen, Light and Pests). She wraps up these two chapters in The Prepared Family section with another challenge. “ When your pantry is comfortably full, set a date to challenge yourself and your family to use only foods in your storage for one full week. Use your own Survivalized Menu recipes and the recipes in this book to get going.” (Survival Mom p. 112) She then suggests six tips for a successful challenge; ending with, “Take the family out to their favorite restaurant or ice cream shop, no matter the results of the challenge!” (Survival Mom p. 112)
An important side note seems timely, as we conclude this section of Survival Mom. This book is reviewed with an eye to the concerns and methods of family preparedness. None of the suppliers or resources have been contacted or reviewed prior to submitting this review. Neither have the menus or meal plans been experimented with. It is highly recommended that each reader do their own research in terms of specific products, suppliers or menus.
The seven remaining chapters are: Your Home Base, Preparing for an Emergency at Home, Essentials for Safety and Security, Survival Finances, It Takes a Compound, Preparedness on the Go: Evacuation Basics, and Survival Mom to Survival Mom. These later chapters form the icing on the cake of your preparedness plans. At this point, the reader is well on her way to taking control of her families’ basic food, water and sanitation needs. Yet, order in the home remains paramount for success. Begin with getting rid of clutter, organizing important paperwork - including food storage supplies and critical expiration dates along with creating sufficient storage space for non-edibles. Lisa discusses inventory methods, sudden medical crisis planning and first aid training, evacuation plans and what to do if your children are left alone should a crises arise and mom is not at home.
Other concerns to consider would be those encountered by a major power outage. Such questions as: How will you heat water or your home in winter? Do you have more than one way to cook food without having to rely on fuels that may run out? How can you replace a refrigerator or freezer, vacuum or washer or dryer? These questions identify just a few necessities taken for granted today. Lisa offers pages of useful advice to help set up your home to weather such unexpected difficulties, as well as a full explanation to, “What is an EMP and should you be afraid of one?” Lisa tells us that just knowing how to quickly identify an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a huge step towards survival. Should an emergency happen when you are away from home, the number one goal of each member of your family is to get home, no matter what-----hopefully, our homes are adequately prepared for such scenarios.
Should families find the need to hunker down at home, best make plans with the assumption that no one is coming to the rescue. This being the case, she discusses the importance of safety and security measures to take for protection of your family. Begin with, “paying attention to your surroundings…. “Situational awareness.” Homeland Security states that is, ”Knowing and understanding what is happening around you, Predicting how it will change with time, and Being unified with the dynamics of your environment.” (Survival Mom p. 168) In conjunction with this, learning gun safety along with operation and maintenance is a valuable skill to master. Adding to these precautions, potential options might include a home security system, a ‘safe-ish” room, and basic safety lessons for kids with regards to answering the door or phone.
Survival Finance strategies begin with paying off all debt first. Lisa examines 13 ways to prepare for hyperinflation, planning for a job loss, developing new streams of income, bartering and setting up two primary goals for savings and other upcoming big-ticket expenses.
- Goal #1: Have several month’s worth of expenses set aside in savings.
- Goal #2: Have set aside a specific sum for future repairs, such as repairing the furnace next winter.
She further provides a rudimentary but solid explanation for what you need to know about precious metals through an interview with Chris Slife, president of Howling Coyote Silver.
It Takes a Compound, discusses the basic concept that historically humans have always lived in groups. They clustered together for protection, friendship, food and shared skills. She queries, “When, or if, that time comes, will you have others to rely on, and if so, who will they be? (Survival Mom p. 228) Not only do we need other like-minded survivalists to join hands with, we also need to be concerned about security. Although a dichotomy, it is one that every Survival Mom must sort through. One of the most difficult stigmas one has to work through with family and friends is, “the normalcy-bias”. Lisa predicts, “That a lot of your friends and relatives suffer from it, which explains why they think you’re the crazy one!" (Survival Mom p. 229) This chapter discusses families in all seasons of life, concluding with “No Grandma Left Behind” and special preparations unique to each situation.
Finally, Lisa shows us what we need to consider should circumstances demand we leave our safe haven or something happens while we are away from home. A vehicle equipped for almost anything- including first aid kits, emergency kits, travel foods and pet supplies sums up the multiple lists and advice provided in this section for moms to contemplate.
As stated earlier, this is not a book to be read cover to cover. Survival Mom, however, appears an excellent resource tool, written in a conversational style that could appeal to women of all ages and seasons of life. Lisa’s style denotes one of linear thinking, relying on solid research skills and collating this information into plans utilizing charts and filing systems. Not all women will embrace such an organized lifestyle and may find its methodology legalistic, overwhelming and difficult to implement. Actually, the reader tends to become overwhelmed with the weight of information it contains, leading to a state of mild paralysis….What to do first? That is until we revisit Lisa’s advice: Start with baby steps on a topic that applies to your individual situation and personal interest.
Survival Mom’s primary target audience, one best suited to implement the methods it recommends will be families living the suburban lifestyle; those with access to garden space, composting, alternative heating sources and copious amounts of storage space. However the author maintains that the advice contained within these pages can aid any woman in her unique pursuit of preparedness, regardless of her personal living situation. She refers to her own years in small spaces and gives several ideas for clearing out clutter and discovering creative storage places and security measures for condo and apartment dwellers.
Yet, there were few specific recommendations for moms raising families in a multifamily apartment or condo complex, such as alternative heating or cooking options should they encounter lengthy power outages. The “Survival Mom’s Story” in the chapter, Preparing for an Emergency at home,” showcased the lives of a North Carolinian family during an unexpected blizzard, which left the community without electricity for a week. Although they encountered genuine difficulties, their wood stove provided both a heat source and method for cooking, plentiful supplies of well water were available nearby and the children enjoyed hours of fun in the snow when local schools closed. Happy Memories! Countless moms in inner city or urban areas are not likely to have access to such life sustaining resources. Along with snippets of information contained throughout the book, a strong resource and planning section geared for the unique circumstances in which city dwellers find themselves (limited resources in space, utilities, safety options etc.) would greatly encourage moms residing in these locations. Another helpful component, vital to any resource manual, would be the inclusion of an alphabetical topical index with corresponding page numbers to aid moms searching for specific items i.e. solar generators, survivalized meal plans or water storage rules within its covers.
Although this paperback book can easily be held in one hand, it is an invaluable resource manual that moms in all stages of prepping could benefit from:
- Prepping “newbies”
- Women who have already begun to put aside some “necessities” but need assistance in the “Big Picture.”
- As a gift for family and friends when they emerge from their “normalcy-bias” ask for advice.
Lisa summarizes, “The key is to identify likely calamities, make appropriate plans, and then TAKE ACTION.” (Survival Mom p. 20) “Preparedness doesn’t happen overnight or even in a month or two. Instead, it’s a way of life, a new awareness of current events and trends, and a commitment to stay focused on what will help strengthen and ready your family for whatever comes along with a willingness to learn new things.” (Survival Mom p. 17) “If the day comes when I am standing in rubble that was once my home and my children look up at me, they will want to know, Mom, are we going to be okay?” At that moment, I’ll know that my transformation into ‘The Survival Mom’ was worth it.” (Survival Mom p. 3)
I'm recently widowed, after 30 years of marriage. My late husband was a conservative economist with an eye to geopolitical affairs, a patriot with active duty military service, both as a medic and sharpshooter in the Vietnam War, a passionate historian, avid backpacker, nature lover and hiker. I sorely feel the lack of my late husband’s personal knowledge, experience and wisdom, as our family now seeks to chart a course through today’s troubled waters without him. However, Survival Mom has encapsulated, in feminine language, much of the knowledge that my late husband gleaned over the years.
Overall, Lisa Bedford has done an outstanding job turning mountainous piles of dry research and technical information on preparedness into usable bite-size pieces of information designed with newbie prepper moms (and other newbie preppers) in mind. She covers what you need to know about the basic necessities of food, water and shelter. Survival Mom provides instruction towards learning essential skills and gaining knowledge that will be advantageous, no matter what unforeseen calamity threatens your loved ones. After all, as Lisa says: “Survival is a mom’s job, and this book will get you there!”