Did you know that this is National Preparedness Month? Yes, that’s right. This is the month we recognize the efforts of those of us concerned enough about the future to prepare for hard times. This is also the month we recognize everyone else who will ignore or poke fun at our efforts until the bleep hits the fan, after which they suddenly become our best friends.

Lately it doesn’t take a lot to get me worried. All I have to do is read the headlines on WND or the Drudge Report, and next thing I know I’m pulling out the canner and wondering what else can go in jars. Maybe it’s because I’m not an economist and have only the vaguest notion of what happens in the upper echelons of the unholy alliance between bankers and politicians, but somehow a pantry full of food doesn’t strike me as a bad idea.

That’s right. We’ve crossed the Rubicon of sanity into that strange, mystical, allegedly paranoid world of “Preppers.”

Of course, nearly all the things we’re doing or learning are things that will be useful regardless of what the future brings. But our concerns about the economy are spurring us to do/learn /purchase things now rather than later. After all, by definition “prepping” means preparing in advance of hard times, not after.

This little subtlety – that preparing is best done before rather than after a serious event – seems to escape a lot of people. You know, like the folks in Florida who see no need to keep plywood in their garage until the hurricane is coming, when they mob Home Depot.

And for this, of course, we’re classified as anything from lovable crackpots to domestic terrorists. Isn’t that nice?

It’s helpful to know what you’re preparing for. Here in north Idaho we prepare for wildfires, earthquakes and blizzards. On a national scale, we have concerns about two possible scenarios. One is that our country will experience an economic collapse, in which case our best “savings account” is what is euphemistically called “tangibles.” (In “Prepper” lingo, this is referred to as beans, bullets and Band-Aids.) The other, hopefully less-likely scenario is a loss of the power grid due to either an EMP weapon or a massive solar flare.

But unless you’re steeped in the strange surreal underworld of “Preppers,” it occurs to me the average reader of this column may be unfamiliar with the basics of preparing. The thousand words I’m allotted here can hardly scratch the surface, but nonetheless I would like to offer a brief summary of what you should think about. I call this Preparedness 101.

There are seven concrete areas to consider. There are thousands of books and websites that can explain any of these items in great detail – as well as quite a bit of information on my blog – so please don’t ask me about specifics.

  • Food – This is obvious. I don’t mean you should stuff your freezer with TV dinners, either, because if the power goes out, they’re gone. Consider purchasing staples you enjoy eating (rice, beans, oatmeal, etc.) and learn to store and prepare them. These have the added advantage of being dirt cheap. If you want to take the next step, learn to can. Properly canned food lasts years without refrigeration, and canning is a valuable skill as well. Alternately, buy lots of commercially canned food.
  • Water – Ditto. Without water to drink and wash, you’ll be miserable (or dead). At all times, you should have a minimum of 10 gallons stored in your home. Look for options to secure larger quantities (roof runoff? storage tank?) as well as ways to sterilize surface water such as bleach, iodine or filtration.
  • Heat – We live in north Idaho. Heat is a major concern for us. How can you heat your house if the power goes out? Everyone’s circumstances are different – you probably can’t install a woodstove in a Manhattan apartment – so think through the alternatives that will work for you.
  • Lights – You don’t want to be in the dark, do you? Everyone can afford an oil lamp or two. Don’t bother with those pricey containers of scented lamp oil, either. A gallon of kerosene is less than $10 and works just fine.

  • Sanitation – What happens if you can’t flush your toilets? If you run out of diapers or feminine hygiene? If you can’t buy toilet paper? Think about what kind of reusable alternatives you can substitute for pricey disposable items.
  • Medical – Can you doctor yourself for minor injuries? Do you have a good stock of your prescription medicines? It doesn’t cost much to pull together a comprehensive first-aid kit. It might be harder to stockpile prescription medications, so this is something worth discussing with your doctor.
  • Safety – What happens when too many people suddenly want to be your best friend post-bleep? What should you do if you live in an urban area subject to rioting and unrest? Some people interpret “safety” to mean they should have an arsenal of guns. Others think they need a secret rural “bug out” location. However you interpret it, identify prospective dangers for your circumstances and think of how to mitigate them.

These are the basic core areas of preparedness. There’s nothing radical about these things; they’re just common sense. Yet to the Department of Homeland Security, these are acts of domestic terrorism.

“Preppers” feel it’s sensible not to place our faith in the government or expect it to come to our aid if things get tough. (Indeed, most “Preppers” believe the government is the problem, not the solution.) This is what worries the DHS since, after all, those of us not enamored with government assistance must be hiding something.

Above all, never, ever, ever assume the government will help you during hard times. Remember Katrina? The whole idea of preparedness is to help yourself. And I don’t mean help yourself to other peoples’ supplies; I mean help yourself.

Our favorite maxim whenever someone pokes fun at us for taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves is this: “We’re prepared to be wrong. Are you?”

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