DISABILITIES, EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS & FOOD STORAGE
COMMON-SENSE ADVICE AND ACTIONS
Copyright August 2009 by Rocky Mountain Home Solutions/Jim & Lisa Rodgers
Upfront note: This Guide can't answer all questions about disabilities and food storage/emergency preparedness (FS/EP)...but we hope to start you thinking in the right direction. If you have any related tips to share, please post them as comments to this Guide! And please, if you find this Guide helpful, please vote "yes" at the far bottom left of the guide.
You can find some of the emergency preparedness/food storage items mentioned in this article, and other useful FS/EP items & articles, in our eBay Store at Rocky Mountain Home Solutions.
A few years ago, I found myself disabled with chronic back pain after an accident...HUGE, not-to-be-believed, almost-unbearable, make-your-eyes-water pain. After a few bad months, and finally finding a great pain management doctor and an excellent chiropractor....we got the pain down to a level where I can function...kind of.
Pain management has become a 24/7 exercise...and I don't dare miss taking my (rather strong and highly-controlled) prescription pain drugs...or I'm rendered useless with pain.
I'm not trying to solicit sympathy--just let you know that I've personally faced the absolute necessity of approaching FS/EP from the perspective of a disabled/handicapped person. This topic is very real and personal to myself, my wife and my family.
Thus, my emergency preparedness/survival/disaster response "reality: has changed.
I'm no longer a physically-fit, strong, able-to-run 5-6 miles kind of guy. The reality is that I'm disabled...and I'd be lucky to walk a half-mile, much less 5 or 10 miles.
I simply can't do what I could before...can't walk long distances, carry heavy packs, lift heavy loads, run at all.
This is my new reality...and I must face that reality when planning EP/FS for myself, my family, and my home.
So, how can/should a disabled/handicapped person approach food storage/emergency preparedness???
WITH A HEALTHY SENSE OF URGENCY AND A STRONG DOSE OF COMMON-SENSE.
For starters, let's be perfectly honest up-front: there probably is no way a significantly disabled/handicapped person can implement, all alone, a comprehensive food storage/emergency preparedness (FS/EP) program to reflect and accommodate all of your your physical, mental or emotional limitations. It just can't be done.
For instance, those suffering from severe forms of chronic pain simply can't legally store the necessary high-strength narcotics to help you deal with the pain over long periods, should societal functions such as health care be severely compromised for an extended period.
Those that might be paralyzed or confined to a wheelchair are going to have great difficulty in a true emergency situation...witness the tragic videos and stories that emerged out of the Hurricane Katrina experiences. Let's face it: most such folks can't just jump on an off-road motorcycle and negotiate miles of felled trees, downed power lines and flooded low areas in order to get to emergency services.
If your medical conditions require things like kidney dialysis...well, few of us are going to be able to afford (or have the necessary space for) a dedicated, at-home dialysis machine!!!
There are myriad other examples...but you get the idea.
Of course, having a fully-abled spouse can resolve a lot of the shortcomings cited above...but that spouse is likely to already to have taken on a lot of other physically-demanding household duties & chores. Be careful to prioritize your EP/FS requests carefully.
So, do we just give up?? NO WAY!! Just because you can't do everything, doesn't mean you shouldn't do what you can, including in the realm of FS/EP.
In fact, the disabled have an even greater need to plan an effective, "best-you-can-do" FS/EP plan.
IT IS URGENT THAT YOU DO AS MUCH AS YOU CAN FOR FS/EP, whether disabled or fully-abled.
But, whatever you do must be planned and accomplished WITH A HEAVY DOSE OF COMMON SENSE.
This is even more true for the disabled/handicapped than it is for fully-abled persons.
The disabled are already stressed in trying to live reasonably independent lives...effective planning with lots of common-sense applied up-front is necessary to avoid wasted efforts and time.
Should you or a loved one (e.g., spouse, kids, parents) face such an FS/EP challenge based on a disability or handicap, the FIRST order of business is to be brutally honest with yourself. What is the reality of your capabilities and limitations?
- Can you hike ten miles with a heavy pack? Or just manage a mile? Or a couple of hundred yards?
- Are you, effectively, house-bound? Tied to medical care of a certain type and frequency? Confined to a wheel chair?
- Able to accomplish some heroic things short-term...but then your physical condition kicks in and you're pretty helpless?
- Need certain types of critical, but very controlled, medications?? (examples might be pain medications or anti-depressants)
- Do you have medications that require refrigeration?
- Etc., etc., etc.
Only with a brutally honest self-assessment in hand can you start doing realistic, long-range FS/EP planning with the urgency and common-sense mentioned earlier.
Next, think about where you choose to live.
You may love the mountains or rural areas...but wouldn't it be better to live in a city close to a recently-built hospital with modern medical capabilities?
As mentioned above, there are some things you just can't store enough of at home...if you can even afford to buy them!! So, if you can't store them...why not live next door to a major source of what you require??
By happenstance, before my own accident our family had moved into a house only a half-mile from a planned major hospital...and only about three miles from another planned regional hospital!! One of these hospitals has now opened, and the other will open within a few more months.
Obviously, these modern, well-stocked medical facilities afford great peace of mind with respect to my medical need for significant pain medications.
Plus, the nice thing about newer hospitals even in disaster-prone areas...is that they're constructed to satisfy the newest, most up-to-date building codes.
That means most hospitals...and especially the very newest ones...tend to be built to withstand major earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados...or whatever is the major threat in your geographic region.
So not only are you near a major source of medical care and medication...you're also near a pretty darn secure emergency shelter.
Where would you prefer to ride out an earthquake or hurricane...your own home, or a recently-constructed hospital?? That hospital is going to have backup generators, emergency lighting, superior construction, trained emergency technicians...the works!!!!.
So, the first ground rule for folks with serious disabilities/medical conditions is...consider living as close as possible to a recently-constructed major regional hospital.
Of course, you won't want to rely completely on living next to a medical facility...with typical American spirit, you'll still want to be as self-reliant as possible. Plus, some folks will not be able to relocate near a medical facility, for reasons ranging from financial to simple sentiment.
So here's a few additional ips to help disabled/handicapped/elderly readers prepare for the worst:
- To the extent permitted by federal, state and local laws, keep as large a supply as possible of your key prescription medicines.
- And have a backup plan for the worst-case scenario...if nothing else, at least keep a (legal!) supply of appropriate over-the-counter medications that could, to some degree, substitute for your "higher-octane" prescription drugs.
- For example, you'll want to have plenty of acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen on hand. Many natural plants, herbs and nutritional supplements also have powerful, medicinal qualities--educate yourself on some of them as they might pertain to your medical condition.
- Remember...in the came of pain medications, SOMETHING is surely better than nothing.
- If you have medicines that require refrigeration...what can you do about to minimize the impacts of a power loss, whatever the cause might be?
- If nothing else...a chest freezer is going to maintain freezing temperatures...and thus bags of ice or even dried ice that you can use to keep crucial medications chilled...for at least a few days.
- If you have the money...can you purchase a portable electrical generator to keep your refrigerator running?
- Don't forget to consider to store adequate fuel for that generator...and remember to consider local codes as you store it.
- If you plan to just run your refrigerator from that generator...you might get by with a lower power model. However...you might need a very long extension cord, since you won't want to run the generator inside your house.
- If you decide on a generator large enough to run several appliances...you might also consider having a qualified electrician modify your household power entry point, to permit switching between the electrical grid and your generator--as a general rule, you probably don't want both running at the same time.
- Environmentalists might note that it is possible to leave them both hooked up at the same time, and in many states the utility company will purchase any excess power you push back into the grid. I understand this to be true, but it is also irrelevant in the scenarios we're discussing.
- Using precious stored fuel to sell electricity back to the utility company during a major emergency is probably not necessary, or prudent---your generator fuel will only last so long, and then you might have trouble getting additional fuel. Plus, you probably don't want to run the chance of a power surge damaging your generator.
- Disabled or not...you'll want to consider alternative heating sources if you live in a cold climate. But if you're disabled, your options may shrink a bit...for example, you may not be able to collect firewood due to your limited mobility. Think about your emergency heating sources, and plan accordingly.
- Whether you're disabled/handicapped, or not...in any emergency or disaster situation you can imagine, you're going to need a reliable, portable supply of PURE, CLEAN WATER!!
- Whether you "survive in place" or "get out of Dodge," you need to have clean water. You can have LOTS of water, but will it be pure and clean? Or will it be nasty and dirty, with unpleasant diseases included?
- Imagine yourself in a post-Katrina survival situation. There was LOTS of water around...but it sure wasn't clean. Dead animal and even human bodies, chemicals, pesticides, and every imaginable virus and bacteria was laced into the surrounding water.
- On the other hand...you can't carry all the water you're going to need for several weeks or more.
- So, what do you do??? BUY A HIGH-QUALITY WATER FILTER UNIT THAT YOU CAN CARRY WITH YOU. We believe that Katadyn makes a fantastic line of backpacker-sized portable water filters (called microfilters) that provide superb filtering capabilities.
- A high-quality, backpacking-sized water filter, with a few spare filters, can be worth its weight in gold.
- I've personally met firefighters from Colorado who were deployed to assist with Katrina relief efforts...and they report the water was unimaginably diseased and dirty.
- The water filter they were issued to use in these conditions?? The Katadyn Pocket Microfilter, which we sell (see our eBay Store via the adjacent links).
- DON'T SKIMP ON A WATER FILTER, ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE DISABLED OR HANDICAPPED.
- You need a reliable supply of clean water to ensure your medications are working with a fully-hydrated body!!
- Give some thought, of course, to the type of home you're living in. Can you still navigate stairs? If not, perhaps you own one of those "stair-glide" chairs to get you up and down the stairs.
- If your FS/EP items are all down in the basement....and you're stuck upstairs...you've going to have some challenges. Hopefully, other household members can navigate those stores on your behalf.
- But, what if the crisis occurs the very weekend they chose to travel several hundred miles away to visit an old friend? Think ahead, plan ahead!
- Most of these "stair-glides" have small emergency battery pack...and/or a small emergency crank to allow temporary use during power failures.
- However, these options really are not viable for long-term power failures. (And if you've tried that emergency hand crank option on your "stair-glide"...you already know such devices are literally a pain in the neck and not something you want to do very often!!)
- Obviously, this leads you back towards choosing a single-level home in the first place. Or, at the least, having emergency power backups in your home to allow operation of your "stair-glide;"
- See the discussion above about choosing emergency power generators, storing fuel, connecting the generator to your home grid, etc.
- The same thought process applies if you rely on a motorized scooter for indoors or outdoor mobility. What is your backup plan when you can't recharge the batteries?
- Spare batteries? Solar recharging device? Hand-crank recharging device (that's a heck of a lot of cranking, by the way)??
- Again, this thought process may well lead you back to purchasing an emergency home generator...but be sure to consider all of your requirements, and size the generator (and your fuel storage) accordingly.
- Do you have the ability to light/start a fire? Possible uses: lighting propane stoves, lanterns or heaters; relighting a pilot light on a furnace, fireplace or natural gas stove; or even just a small fire.
- Buy some "storm-proof" matches!!! These have chemical components and usually a wax coating of some kind--the best of them literally will burn underwater!!!! (okay, not forever, but you get the point.
- It is also wise to have some kind of fire-starter to assist the matches. You can buy a toothpaste-like "fire ribbon," or various kinds of wax-infused wood-filler sticks, or even small tablets.
- Personally, we STRONGLY recommend a fire-starter you can make yourself out of cosmetic-type cotton balls and a jar of petroleum jelly ...see our separate eBay GUIDE on making such fire-starters at RMHS Cheap & Easy Fire-Starters.
Obviously, the suggestions above are not all-inclusive, and won't solve all of the special FS/EP challenges faced by we that are disabled, handicapped and/or elderly. Hopefully, we've helped you decide that there are some things you must face up to, and actually can do, to overcome these challenges, to a large degree. Please continue your progress toward becoming as self-reliant and self-supporting as possible!!
For additional hints, tips, tricks, advice & items for emergency preparedness, food storage & survival for everyone, disabled or not, please see our eBay Store at Rocky Mountain Home Solutions.
Best of luck to you!!