Roku or Make Do

Emergency preppers are often faced with a dilemma now and again.  Spending our money to prepare on what may happen or spending our money on what is happening now.  A recent small windfall activated immediate mental agony over what action to take to convert this worthless fiat currency into something that will have instant value.  Let me give you a brief history of our “entertainment” system:

Many years ago, sometime in the 90’s, we purchased an ultra-modern 42 inch t.v. that weighs approximately 400 lbs.  To add to our listening pleasure, we also eventually purchased a home theater system consisting of a receiver and five speakers (very LARGE speakers).  We already possessed a VCR deck and added a DVD player once they came down in price.  It took me literally days to figure out how to hook up every system and still have working cable.  The wire and cable mess in the back of the t.v. was a nightmare.  When we purchased our newest location six years ago, I was careful to label each cable and wire before we moved the system.  Still, it took me literally days to get it re-hooked back up.  Then, broadcasting switched from analog to digital transmissions.  Okay, I had cable, it wasn’t going to affect me.  However, when I was waiting for disibility and cut my budget to the bone, we dropped cable and purchased a digital converter and antenna.  Somehow, no matter how we hook everything up, we still cannot get the VCR to play anymore.  Since most of our VHS tapes have been replaced by DVD’s, this wasn’t the end of the world.  Now we get Netflix movies to make up for the deficit.  We also watch streaming instant movies on the computer, but that is difficult to do with more than one person and you really have to watch as many streaming movies as you can in order to get your money’s worth while you are waiting for your next shipment in the mail.  So here we are and here is my dilemma.  Netflix is changing their accounts so we will have to pay for streaming movies or mailed movies separately.  I can’t afford both and since they will eventually change over to all streaming, I need to upgrade my technology as cheaply as possible.  Can’t afford to buy a new HDTV, or a blueray DVD player and all new DVD’s so a new streaming system may be our savior.

After browsing around the internet and discovering what devices will and won’t work for our purposes (we do not own any gaming systems or Wii), I decided on the updated version of the old Roku which was originally made just for streaming Netflix movies, but which can also be used to stream Hulu movies and tv shows, Amazon movies to rent and other entertainment options.  Many reviews claim that the system is simple to hook up and use even if you have an old t.v. system like mine.  I was so excited, I jumped right to the order page and pushed the button.  Soon, we would all be able to sit around the t.v. and watch streaming TEOTWAWKI entertainment at will.  Utopia!

Instantly, I was sick to my stomach.  What had I done!  What if the lights go out.  All that money could have been used to purchase board games and Future Essentials snacks which have a shelf life of 15+ years.  I could have purchased more propane cannisters for my Mr Heater to keep toasty when it gets cold and more lantern oil to see the games we could be playing together as a family unit (all two of us).

I did regret my decision, but what is done, is done.  Will it be worth it even for a short  period of time since the Aztec Calendar will supposedly end on October 28, 2011 more than a year before the Mayan Calendar?  Maybe.  It depends on if it is going to take days or weeks to get it hooked up without losing any of my other components.

Walk on the Wild Side

Is it time to take another giant step toward self sufficiency?  A great addition to your emergency preps, 72 hour kit, 3 day to two week bag and go food supply is a longer term food storage plan.  Some organizations suggest that you may want to store about three months worth of food at home in case the just-in-time supply system breaks down.  This supply would consist of regular canned and boxed goods that your family is used to eating on a regular basis.  Three months can be a lot of food to store for a family so I learned how to use coupons to get them fast and cheap.  It has been an ongoing project.  Maybe eventually a one to five year food storage plan can be put in place.  This would be even more expensive since it would require purchasing dehydrated or freeze dried foods along with bulk items in buckets.  And where would we put it?  Learning vegetable gardening, preserving and seed saving was the logical next step in order to extend a food supply beyond storage which will not last forever and would be difficult to replenish during hard times.  It’s a wonderful skill set to own even if you never have to use it in a survival scenario.  A satisfying hobby.

Emergency Preps or Survivalism?  Another segment to add to these preps and skill sets is something that many preppers have never thought of, but most survivalist types include in their repertoire of knowledge.  It’s actually a very natural transition.  Always an active, outdoors child used to a variety of activites including hiking, camping, and fishing, the interest carried over into my adulthood.  In my 20’s and 30’s in particular, the out of doors experience drew me out of hibernation (I tend to be reclusive) and into the wilds, even if it was just a short adventure near to home.  I began to carry various field guides with me on these little adventures, books with pictures and information telling me about birds, insects, animals, tracks, reptiles and wild plants.  Jotting down notes, locations and drawing little sketches became routine.  Soon I had chosen my area of special interest and felt there was a very practical application for the things I had learned.

Ever thought of doing your grocery “shopping” outdoors?  There is no shortage of hunters and fisherman in my neck of the woods, and if ever a disaster hit, they would know where to “shop” for protein for their families, probably overlooking the obvious (and trampling over) the wild garden of goodies that’s free for the taking and is not a moving target.  Wild edible, medicinal and useful plants abound in every ecological zone and in every season.  The Native Americans knew about them, the pioneers and mountain men learned about them and once settlements were built, food and supplies began to be shipped in, they were all but forgotten.  Many of these plants are considered to be the weeds growing in your yard.  Every year when my husband wanted to spray herbicides to make his job a little easier, I reminded him that we may need those weeds to keep us alive.

Set your sights beyond your cupboard shelves and take a walk.  Look in empty lots, nearby fields, parks, greenways and picnic spots to start educating your family about what’s available in your area.  Get familiar with the names and uses of each plant and if you feel adventurous, start experimenting with preparing and eating or using these plants in your every day meal routines.  You’ll be amazed at what you’ve been missing!

A Prescription for Disaster

Stocking up on prescription meds can be lifesaving.

If there’s anything I don’t want to be out of during an emergency situation, it would be my prescriptions.  First of all, I would have an extremely difficult time getting to the store for a last ditch run on groceries, batteries and all that stuff that empties off the shelves in a red hot flash during an impending disaster.  Finding time to stand in line at the prescription counter would be unlikely.  Since my 72 hour kit is in place with the recommended supplies of food, water, heat, light, shelter, etc., the next logical thing would be the items that would prolong my life – my prescription medications.  I once went for a couple of days without them to see what would happen.  I was feeling very ill by the middle of the first day.  I can’t imagine what it might be like for someone with diabetes or other immediate life threatening condition.

What I had to do was stock up on the meds so I would have enough to last until I could get more no matter what the emergency may bring.  Some people explain this plan to their doctor and ask for an additional month of medication to squirrel away.  My doctor declined claiming he didn’t feel comfortable doing that.  At the time, I was working and had insurance that covered a percentage of my meds.  I ran my plan by the pharmacist and he said I could either pay cash for my medications and get more than a month’s worth at a time, or I could call up to five days ahead of the refill date and each month set aside the five pills.  I chose the second option.  Six months later, I had 30 days worth saved up.  If you use this method, be sure to rotate your stash and use the oldest first so they stay fresh and potent and don’t expire.  I now keep five days worth in my 72 hour kit, five in my comprehensive medical kit, five in my emergency car kit, five in my purse and five in my extended two week emergency bag.  I should have medications available for any contingency.  The meds need to be stored in the original prescription bottles so they remain legal to carry around.  I also keep a couple of sets of prescription receipts in my wallet and kit in case I am able to get refills during a difficult time.  Once, when I went to the emergency room, my family found the receipts and told the doctors what medications I was taking.  This helped speed up my treatment.

Sometimes the emergency situation is economic.  I always ask my doctor to prescribe generic medications which are cheaper.  When I retired with a disability, my income stopped abruptly and I didn’t know when I was going to get another check from disability or some other source.  I was glad for the few months of medications I had stocked up.  The doctor’s helped by giving me samples, but they would only do it for a couple of months.  After doing a little research, I also found that many of the pharmaceutical companies have an indigent program for free medications.  I used this method until my disability checks kicked in.

Other stuff I like to keep plenty of in stock are over the counter medications like aspirin, ibuprofin, tylenol, antidiahrreal medicine, allergy meds, cold and cough medicines, vitamins and a variety of stuff for stomach ailment.   I use coupons and buy them on sale.  Whenever friends or family make a trip to Mexico, I ask them to pick up antibiotics so I have a nice variety in stock in case I get ill and a doctor isn’t available to prescribe them for me and my family.  You don’t need a prescription in Mexico and they are way cheaper.  Before I was able to get antibiotics from Mexico, I ordered a small selection from a veterinary website.  Animals take the same medications we do, but I bought a Physicians Desk Reference, a book called Where There Is No Doctor and some others that help with dosage.  Pain killers are also a handy item in an emergency.  I don’t like keeping a ton of them around because they can be dangerous for children or a target for theft.  But, if my dentist or doctor prescribes them, I don’t throw away the leftovers and if they will give me refills, I will get them.  I keep them in the original presciption bottles and put some in my emergency and medical kits.  Again, I rotate them as often as I can, but have thrown away expired pain killers as they would be useless without the potency.

Where There Is No Doctor - a handy reference.

Disease tends to run rampant after every major disaster.  Some people consider immunizations to be more dangerous than helpful, or they don’t trust the pharmaceutical companies or government to make them safe.  My opinion is that if I didn’t get any other immunization, I would at least get a tetanus vaccination.  It will probably save my life someday.  Everyone in my family is current on all available immunizations for their age and needs.

I do not advocate taking any medication without a doctor’s advice, self-medicating or treating your family members without a doctor’s prescription, nor do I ever intend to share antibiotics or medications with others.  The prescription medications and antibiotics that I have stockpiled in case of emergency are just that.  To be used ONLY in case of an emergency situation when a doctor cannot be available.  Misuse of these items would be a prescription for disaster.  I sincerely hope that my time and efforts are a complete waste of time and money and I never have the opportunity to use them.

The Big One

What pushes your buttons?  What makes you take action?  What gets you thinking ahead – preparing for a possibility.  For some, it’s a simple worry like – my little boy has a new skateboard.  I better buy some extra bandaids.  Hope he doesn’t break a bone.  Will our insurance cover it?  For some, this is about as far as they can stretch the possibilities of imagination.  For others, like Jules Verne, imagination seems to break the barriers of time and space.  As it turns out, it seems that whatever you can imagine, can come true.  For others, a stretch of the imagination is as natural as a stretch of the muscles before exercise.  I am one of these.  I believe that anything can happen.  Not necessarily when somebody says it will, but eventually.  The fact of the matter is, we never know.  People have been preparing for the unknown since the beginning of mankind.  What if it rains?  We’ll find a cave or shelter.  What if the winter is long and cold?  We’ll store some extra wood.  What if?

Current economic numbers show that unemployment now stands at a whopping 9.2%  How long will the government extend benefits?  When will jobs be returning to our cities?   And, whatever the cause, the climate is changing.  As of July 1, 2011, The National Climatic Data Center, released the new normals for U.S. temperatures and precipitation.  Until now, they have remained the same since the 1930’s.  Are you ready for chronic extreme weather?  Although, the USGS maintains that earthquakes are not more frequent or larger than usual, there is more potential for damage and disaster due to more and larger population centers in earthquake prone areas such as, Japan, Haiti, Christchurch, Indonesia and Chili. Imagine, if you will what would happen to the American machine if one of these mega-quakes hit California or the New Madrid area which may have the potential of dividing the U.S. and literally stopping the flow of supplies to the city in which you reside.  Like Katrina, the Gulf Oil Spill, and more recently the tornado in Joplin, MO, any large disaster affects everyone even if it only means a rise in fuel prices in your area.

Tornado damage in Joplin, MO
What constitutes THE BIG ONE for you?  Whether it’s the possibility of a skinned knee, unemployment and foreclosure, a natural disaster wiping out your farm, a nuclear WWIII, or Planet X pulling earth out of orbit or causing a major pole shift and killing off 2/3 of the Earth’s population, what will get you to think ahead and make the appropriate plans and preparations for you, your family, friends or neighbors?