Sunday, December 28, 2008

Short-term vs. permanent: or, uh, dude? Why are you storing water?

It sure seems like if one is prepared for the long emergency, then wouldn't one also, by default, be prepared for a short-term emergency, too? I think the answer is no. I think there's a difference, at least in my current life, between being prepared for short-term emergencies and the long emergency. While there's an awful lot of overlap between the two, there are still some different constraints that each operates under.

The overlaps are so many and varied that I'd have trouble listing them all. Some that come to mind are basic food storage--having enough to eat without having to go to the grocery store; being used to low or high indoor temperatures; having more ways to get around than just via car (which might not be viable in an emergency); having built trusting relationships between oneself and one's neighbors, and so on. Yes, you want to do all of these things regardless of whether you're preparing for a short-term emergency or for the long emergency.

But even here, I can already see differences. One of my background assumptions about the Long Emergency is that we will be living in a very low, but not no, energy world. This is actually one that I think Kunstler gets wrong in some of his fiction, although it could just be for effect. The major problem with having electricity, for example, isn't really going to be the availability of coal to fire the plants, but rather the cost of extraction & processing, and so the increased cost of purchasing the energy on the consumer side. In other words, electicity will probably be available, I just won't be able to afford very much of it. There may also be issues with the dilapidation of the grid system (which hasn't been upgraded in lo these many decades), so energy availability might be subject to some hiccups, too, although again, there probably still will be electricity available. And there probably really will be progress made on renewable sources of energy--at least enough to power true emergency things like hospitals, but possibly even enough to provide at least sporadic power to the masses. So generally speaking, I think we will probably have power, in some limited capacity. That is, power enough to maybe run the stove (maybe once or twice a week, or more often), maybe even enough to run a space heater or two, that sort of thing (enough to keep my computer running?!?!).

Ah. Now we start to see the differences between short-term and long-term emergencies. You see, the stuff in the previous paragraph--that's all about the long emergency. But how am I planning to cook things during a short-term emergency where there is no power? Not just low-power, or "plan to do all your cooking on Tuesday" power, but no power. And probably with little to no warning. Yeah, that's a different ball of wax. Or what about eating when you've been evacuated? We had major flooding here this year, and while I don't think our house is in serious danger of evacuation, we are in serious danger of power outages and water contamination. We also, realistically, might need to take refugees from other parts of the city into our house in the coming years.

So already we see some different constraints between these two. It really doesn't make sense to store water for the Long Emergency--I doubt our house has enough space to hold all the water we'd need for a year. But we do need to store water for short-term emergencies, when the power is out for running the water supply system, or the water has become contaminated. We need ways to prepare meals without power--sterno cooking rigs, barbeque grills, etc. Or we need a good backlog of meals that can be prepared without power. We need ways to stay warm with no heat and no power--preferably, ways that are safe. We need all kinds of things like that. Hm. Maybe I should make a list?

Some of these things will slowly be covered by Long Emergency preparations. Sooner or later, if we're able to stay in our house, we'll have to find some non-electric, non-gas form of house heating, and that will take care of heat (and possibly cooking) during short-term emergencies. Sooner or later we're going to purchase a gravity water filter, which will go a long way towards water security for short-term emergencies; installing a water pump of our own would finish that project. The more complete our long emergency preparations are, the less we need to prepare for short term emergencies. Unfortunately, we're not exactly "nearly done" with our long emergency preparations. And in either case, having preparations for fast evacuations will become increasingly important as things generally fall apart.

And so I'm storing water for short-term emergencies, while working on plans for "water security" for the long emergency. My 10-gallon water bottles downstairs will get us through a 2-week emergency; or at least, they will once I've gotten enough of them, I currently only have two! And I'm looking into water cachement systems, cisterns, etc. for long term solutions. (Argh! My neighbor has a cistern on her property! It's so unfair.... Hm, maybe she'll share?). I'll probably be concentrating on our short-term emergency preparations for a bit, since that's what I'll be working on around here, until gardening season kicks in. My upcoming projects are things like: getting more water bottles; getting a water filtration system; constructing "bug out buckets"; putting together lists of no-energy meal prep foods; getting materials (e.g., sterno) for emergency cooking, etc. And boy will I be more than happy to take suggestions, advice, experiences, etc. Always remember, the hallmark of this blog: I have no idea what I'm doing!


  1. I know just what you mean. For a while I was confused about what I was planning for. My DH is more comfortable when I talk about short-term emergencies, and I have put him in charge of our bug-out kits, which keeps him happily involved with flashlights and space blankets. I handle the food storage and long-term prep, and slowly enact changes that will propel us toward long-term sustainability.

  2. Hi :) Just wanted to let you know I have chosen this blog as one of my favorite 15 to pass on the Premio Dardos award to. I also read your other blog, but even though this one is new, I know from what has already been posted, and from reading your other blog, that this one is going to be really good informative, educational reading. So, you can get this on my site, upper left hand side, copy and paste to your blog, and then pass it on to 15 others. Make sure you contact them to let them know...I almost forgot to do that.


  3. All of us started at the same place Robyn. I have some excellent links on my blog that will take you to sites I have leaned much from.

    The self-sufficient and survivalist bloggers are a great bunch, and I have found always ready to post more, or provide links to anything you may wish to learn about.

  4. Matriarchy: yup, I think getting these two facets of preparedness disentangled (or at least sorted out) has helped me already. That's sort of what I hope this blog will help me do--sort things out!

    Gracie: Thanks!

    Molly: I'll check out those links soon--right now, I'm getting ready to ramp up for Spring Semester, and I need a syllabus for my class ASAP! =)