Owner and Head Instructor, Earth Connection
Tim MacWelch is the owner and Head Instructor of Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival and Ancient Skills. Tim founded Earth Connection in 1997, and has continuously been offering outdoor skills classes in Northern Virginia ever since.
Emergency Preparedness - Shelter at Home
Wilderness expert Tim MacWelch discusses emergency preparedness tips including how to survive at home.
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Tim MacWelch: Hi! I am Tim MacWelch of Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival and Ancient Skills near Fredericksburg, Virginia. This is our video clip series on emergency preparedness. In this clip, we are going to talk about emergency preparedness in the home. Now this is just a regular day in our home. We have got all the things that we would normally have in our house. We have got running water, we have got our lights on, we have got utilities, but let's say for example, we had a storm coming in and then our electricity went out. Even without electricity and all the different services that it provides, our home is still a shelter, that's the most important part of understanding emergency preparedness. You may not be at the comfort level that you are accustomed to, but you still have your home and that home is still a good shelter. It's waterproof, it's windproof, it offers you many different types of protection. So now we just have to adjust our comfort level and work within the home with no utilities. So even though we have lost our power, we have still got the waterproof, windproof home to stay in. So now we just have to compensate for not having electricity for lights and electrical devices. Now if you live in the countryside, and you are on a well, electricity actually runs that well which goes down into the ground and pumps up the local water from the water table into a pressure tank in your home. So when your electricity goes out in the country, you will have lost your water also.
Now if you are in the city or suburbs and you get a water bill every month, that's because you are on the community water supply. This would be coming from a water tower or pumping station. Now your water tower as long as it has some water left in it will still give you water even if the power goes out. And perhaps your community is fortunate enough to have generators at your water tower which would keep pumping water into it and keep providing all of the local people with water in the event of a power outage.
But out on the countryside, you are on your own and you are going to have to have your own water supply that's not dependent on electricity. So that's where we talk about how much water to keep in the home per person for however many days you would anticipate an emergency lasting. Typically, we would have one gallon per person per day of emergency. And many different agencies recommend that you have a three day or 72 hours supply of all your basic necessities; food, water, clothing, lighting, different things like that, also medications and medicines.
So we might want to air on the side of caution a little bit, and instead of just having one gallon of water per person per day as many agencies recommend, or we could air on the side of caution and have five gallons per person per day. This could be easily stored in water cooler jugs in a closet or some out of the way place in home. They will last for quite a few years and still be good to drink.
After a few years go by, we may want to be concerned about bacteria growing in the water and that can easily be dealt with by boiling or purifying the water, and making it safe to drink. Now let's talk about something that's also missing from our home besides water, and that's heating. Now in the summer time or even warm spring days, and warm days in the fall, we don't have to worry about heating our home. It may have some pretty wide temperature variations that maybe 40 at night in your home because it's quite cool outside at night in the spring or the fall, and then it may get up to 70 and be comfortable during the day time when the sun is out.
But in the winter time, that's where we really need to be concerned with heating our home. Now the heat in your home going out can be quite a significant problem to all of the people who are living at your home and the water still in your pipes in your home. So in subfreezing weather, with your power going out and your heat going out, you will want to find the main drain for your water supply for your home. You will want to turn-off the water supply to your home and drained it out because the water left in those pipes if it freezes, it will swell and it will burst your pipes.
Now that may not be a problem until they fall out again, and then we will have water gushing all throughout your house, throughout the walls, throughout the ceilings, this would cause major damage. So if you do have water in your pipes, and your home does get below freezing, you would definitely want to empty those pipes out as soon as you lost your heat.
Now with that in mind, let's talk about another element of heating, heating up the people. Sleeping bags, all the blankets and pillows, and quilts and comforters, that you probably already have in your home, different types of camping gear, you could even set up a tent in your home, these are all elements of shelter within another shelter.
The one other way we can heat the home besides our own body heat is to have a fire outside. Wherever you live, if you can have a fire outside of the home and heat up some bricks or some dry rocks in that fire for an hour and a half, or two hours, and then very carefully scoop them out with a pitch fork or a shovel or whatever fireproof implement you can, roll them or scoop them out of the fire after an hour half or two hours, and put them in a metal cooking pot. Scoop them up pot them in the pot.
Now we don't want to use a pot that has a non-stick plastic coating on the inside. The extreme hot rocks or bricks will begin to burn and smoke on that plastic lining on your pot. We also don't want to use a galvanized vessel. You can tell by the little square shaped and feathery patches on the surface. We don't want to use that because extremely hot rocks or stones will cause vapors to come out of the galvanizing solution in the metal.
So we don't want that in our home either. Just a simple steel or enameled cooking pot to put the stones in and then we can very carefully transport that into the home, take a few more bricks or stones and make a safe place away from pets and children, safe place up on a table or counter top. With bricks or rocks, we set down that extremely hot pot of heated stones or bricks, and this will act as a primitive space heater. This will heat an entire room for several hours. It will be very warm at first and then it will gradually cool off as the hours passed by.
A wood stove is a great way to heat your home if your home can support it. The wood stove provides us heat for quite a few rooms around the stove. It also gives us a flat hot surface to actually cook in different pots, kettles, frying pans, and griddles, and this hot water can also be used to take a sponge bath in your bathtub.
Your bathtub still works when the power goes out. It just doesn't have a supply of water, but the water can still go away. So next, we are going to talk about how your home is a storehouse.