A friend recently expressed concern on Facebook that it was too late to start “prepping.” As I was responding, it occurred to me that others might find this helpful, so I’m sharing it here as an open letter. While not related to agriculture, I’m posting it here on the farm blog, as what follows may serve as the basis for a class we could have at the farm (or elsewhere). More than just a place that grows food, I want Woodland Urban Farm to be a place that teaches the community how to sustain itself–even if, as discussed below, that means leaving in an emergency. If anybody would be interested in attending any classes, hands-on workshops, or discussion groups about this or similar topics, let me know, and I’ll see what I can arrange.
If by “prepping,” you mean living off the land or stockpiling enough supplies to allow you to ride out a long-term breakdown of supply chains, then you’re right. The time to start was years ago. Your focus at this point should be on mobility. Here are some points to think about and plan around.
– If your subdivision became unsafe, where could you go right now with whatever vehicles, fuel, and money you can grab in five minutes? Could you stay there 24 hours? 72? A month or more?
– Think of four places–one each to the north, south, east, and west– outside of central Ohio that you could go and stay for at least 72 hours.
– If cars and buses weren’t an option, how far could you move your family in an hour? In a day? Could you reach any of your safe places you listed above? Tips: Think bicycles & bike trailers; wheelbarrows/garden carts for little kids & gear; light boats to move on shallow waterways; animals that can be ridden or made to pull carts, bikes, etc. or carry packs. Not too many people around here are going to have horses, but some might have goats and many have dogs. In our location, look to Alum Creek to move south, and the Alum Creek Greenway Trail to move north or south (northeast or southwest, if you go far enough, as this trail is part of the Ohio to Erie Trail).
– How easily could you get out of the country if you needed to? Do all your family members have passports? What countries would let you in? How quickly could you get there? Could you do it without an airplane? Without a car? Do you have any safe places you could go once you got to your destination country?
– Do you have enough of everything your family uses–food, water, toiletries, clothes, medications, etc.–on hand right now to sustain you all for two weeks? How quickly can you move it all into your car? Could you move it without a car? How far?
– If you lost phone and internet service, do you have a means of communicating with any of the people at the safe places listed above to let them know you’re coming? Do you have a way to leave messages for friends who might come looking for you? Can you do it without that information falling into the hands of unfriendlies?
– If your family is not all together (partner at work, kids at school, etc.) when you have to evacuate, how quickly and easily could you all rendezvous? If your children were to get separated from you while you’re traveling, do they know how to find you or get found by you?
– How would you get around or through a roadblock? Assume you’re outgunned.
– Are there other people you know who to whom you could entrust your children if necessary? Outside your neighborhood? Outside of central Ohio? Outside the country?
– Could you travel without being seen if you needed to? How far? How quickly? Consider this both with and without children, as there may be times when it’s not safe to evacuate the whole family, but somebody needs to be able to get through with messages or supplies.
– How far and fast can the slowest person in your family run? Don’t count those small enough to be carried.
– How well can you defend yourself and your family from violence if firearms are not an option (weapons seized or broken, out of ammunition, etc.)? Tip: For thousands of years, wars were fought mostly by infantrymen armed with spears. How quickly are you capable of acquiring a pointy stick at least as long as your arm?
– Could your whole family sleep overnight in your vehicle(s)? If not, do you have camping gear sufficient for those who couldn’t, and how quickly can you load it? Could you carry it without a car, while still carrying 10-days’ worth of supplies for everyone? Can you build an improvised shelter that will accommodate your entire family?
Nobody I know that I can think of–including myself–is likely to score 100% on this. It’s useful to think about it, though, both to mentally rehearse what you know you can do, and to identify those things that are more of a challenge and start thinking now about how you would deal with those situations if they arose.
If any of you run into any areas of particular concern, let me know, and we can work on coming up with answers. If there are skills you need to learn or practice, maybe we (local people) can put together some kind of hands-on training and get people together for a workshop.