The Federal Emergency Management Agency says that “Even though it is unlikely that an emergency would cut off your food supply for two weeks, consider maintaining a supply that will last that long.” And later on in the same document they say “Consider storing at least a two-week supply of water for each member of your family.” Obviously, if food is not available for two weeks a lot has gone wrong with the world and you are likely to want more than just food. A discussion of what it might take to meet this requirement from a “yuppie” point of view was posted here. Originally that post was going to include a rural working poor plan as a kind of contrasting way of looking at the issue. That did not happen due to excessive length of the yuppie plan so in this post we will pick up where we left off.
The Rural Plan
The rural plan is constructed to the same general rules as was laid out in the yuppie post. In other words…
1: This plan is designed to enable a theoretical working rural poor family of four to remain functional and to be part of the solution in the event of an unexpected emergency lasting two weeks in the urban areas. Comfort is not a goal. Rather, the goal is being healthy enough to function normally and having the equipped needed to do things that would make the situation better.
2: The plan is based around what is theoretically necessary to accomplish the above goal in a situation where there is no utilities, no sewer, no gas for vehicles, and no outside emergency support services for the duration of those two weeks in urban areas.
3: All the stuff listed in this plan needs to be functional and ready to use 10 to 20 years in the future even if forgotten and ignored up until it is needed.
4: All the stuff in this plan should be able to fit into a closet. This is more about defining the amount of total storage space sacrificed to disaster preparedness and it is not a requirement of the plan that everything be suitable for storing in a closet. In the abstract it would be better for me to say that total space needed by the plan should be no more than 126 cubic feet (3*6*7) but it is easier to envision a closet then that amount of space in the abstract.
5: The assumption behind this plan is that the theoretical family lives in the northeast and have to deal with weather and water resources typically for that region.
6: Budget for this plan is $800. It was figured on the grounds that seems to be roughly the amount that working class families I am familiar with spend on a “vacation” if they don’t have a lot of money but are gainfully employed.
Except for the budget, everything above is the same as the yuppie plan. But our assumptions about the nature of a theoretical rural working class family are going to be different then our assumptions about the yuppie family.
Assumptions: If you live in South Carolina and you are prepared for the impact of 4 inches of snow, you are prepared for a particular type of emergency situation that while possible will rarely happen. If you live in upstate New York and you are prepared for four inches of snow, you are simply competent to deal with everyday life. Same logic holds true for the difference between living in a rural area and a subdivision. In a rural area, a power outage that last for a few days is not out of ordinary even if it is not something that happens every year. On the other hand, if a subdivision loses power for a few days it is a big deal. It is for this reason that many rural people I know think that they are better prepared for a disaster then their yuppie counterparts. They heat with wood. They have a freezer full of food. They have guns and know how to hunt. They have been without electricity for awhile and it was no big deal. And so on and so forth.
But an emergency by definition is something that we don’t expect. Rural working poor are in general more prepared for utility interruptions because they expect them but that does not mean they are any better prepared for a true emergency. For example, we read this about the 1998 Quebec ice storm:
Many power lines broke and over 1,000 transmission towers collapsed in chain reactions under the weight of the ice, leaving more than 4 million people without electricity, most of them in southern Quebec, western New Brunswick and Eastern Ontario, some of them for an entire month.
Most of the urban areas had power back in days or at most a week. It was the rural areas that waited more than a month for power to be restored. So a disaster that means a yuppie needs a two week kit means that the rural person might be looking at a month or more of roughing it. That is why we define our two weeks in terms of urban centers being without for two weeks. It always takes longer for the rural areas to have services restored so if it is rational for suburban folks to be prepared for two weeks, the rural family should be prepared for longer.
Not only are rural areas last in line for any kind of help and relief, but disasters can have problems for rural areas that don’t even impact urban areas. For example, earthquakes can have a negative impacts on wells for weeks after the earthquake happened. You might think that earthquake related well issues can’t impact you because you don’t live in an area prone to earthquakes but consider this….
The 1998 M5.2 Pymatuning earthquake in northwestern Pennsylvania caused about 120 local household-supply wells to go dry within 3 months after the earthquake (Fleeger and others, 1999). The 2002 M7.9 Denali Fault earthquake in Alaska caused a 2-foot water-level rise in a well in Wisconsin, more than a thousand miles from the epicenter.
Now imagine a another New Madrid style earthquake that devastates America’s heartland and leads to all kinds of supply shortages as pipelines and highways critical to bringing supplies to the northeast are disrupted. Your house is standing and you are well outside the areas impacted by major shaking but somehow your well was still impacted. How fast is someone going to fix your well when the rest of the world is having trouble getting gasoline because the pipelines that transport it are out of commission?
These types of scenarios are not very likely. But the entire point of an emergency kit is to prepare for the unlikely but possible. If something is truly likely, you should spend a lot more time an effort preparing for it than is envisioned by this kit.
So for this list, our assumptions are going to be a little different than they were for the Yuppie list. We are going to assume that our rural working class family of four is prepared for normal run of the mill power outages. We will assume they are used to working with their hands and solving problems. We will also assume that they have all the normal tools to solve normal rural problems such as chainsaws and firearms. We will take it for granted that they heat with wood and have clothing appropriate for their climate. In short, we will assume they all ready for likely problems that come along in a rural environment.
Since we assume that the rural family is already equipped for likely rural problems, we are going to set up the kit augment what a rural household typically already has. We will build this kit with the assumption that anything that causes urban areas to go two weeks without resupply will be that much worse in the rural areas. Since this is a shelter in place kit, we will assume that that the house remains standing and the wood stoves is still working but other then that, we are not going to assume that any of the modern appliances found in a rural home will actual work.
The Question: What can you get for $800 dollars that will expand a rural working class family of four’s ability to deal with serious systematic disasters not normal to rural life? My list is as follows…..