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The Tentacle


February 21, 2003

The Boy Scouts Have It Right! BE PREPARED!

Bethany Stevenson

Last week, as the terrorist alert system was raised, President Bush and his staff encouraged all families to make sure they have an emergency evacuation kit. He also encouraged families to have on hand plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect us from biological and chemical attacks.

But in the February 19th Frederick News Post, the editorial cartoon mocks the efforts of people who are trying to protect themselves.

As many people are aware, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (incorrectly known as "the Mormons") encourages all members to have a "72-hour kit" on hand. They have taught this principle for over 50 years.

The American Red Cross, the people who bail Americans out of many disasters yearly, also have taught for many years to keep this "72 hour kit" on hand and accessible.

So now, we have three separate groups of people encouraging a principle that makes logical sense. Yet, many scoff at the "silly antics" of people who feel more comfortable being prepared.

In my home, we have this 72-hour kit. It contains MREs (the military's ready-to-eat meals that are packaged to survive anything, including time), tents, emergency blankets, potable water, hand operated flashlights and radios, emergency stoves, toilet paper, personal heaters, a deck of cards and miscellaneous toiletry items. We also have personal bags that are packed and ready to go with a change of clothing for each person in our family.

This is not a new item in our home. We have had it since 1998. There was no impending disaster lurking on the horizon at the time. But when the scare for Y2K came along, we were ahead of the game. What a feeling of peace to know that at any time my family is prepared to evacuate our home, and still have the necessities of life: heat, shelter, food, water and, well...., toilet paper.

I could not imagine having to be out of my home for flooding, bombing, fire, or biological attack if I did not have toilet paper. I can go without a lot of things, but that is one necessity I require to keep my sanity in a stressful situation.

Without this kit, I could just rely on the Red Cross to protect me and have the things on hand that I need. But that seems a little arrogant, and extremely lazy, not to mention very trusting that they will not be effected by the disaster as well.

When the alert was raised last week, I went through my backpack of supplies to make sure everything was up-to-date. Apparently, my Cub Scout took the pocketknife for his Whittling Chip badge night from the kit. I had to hunt him down to find it. Some of the extra food had been swiped for family activities. The trail mix and the chicken salad & crackers were used at swim meets and camping trips. Fortunately they are easily replaced.

But the gyros in my head started turning as the weather predictions started coming in on Thursday for a large storm. Everybody I know rushes to the store to get last minute items. One of my friends suggested the forecasters must be paid to predict snow so that Giant Eagle can reduce overstock.

However, being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I had another ace up my sleeve. The church leaders encourage everyone to keep a one-year supply of food and supplies just in case.

In case of what? Doomsday? No, actually. What if my husband lost his job in this recent economic downfall and couldn't find a new one for several months? We could pay our basic expenses (the mortgage, electricity, heating etc) out the little bit in our savings and we could continue to eat the way we normally do because of our storage.

Or what if a large snowstorm came unexpectedly and closed highways, roads, shipping routes and stores for a week? We have everything we need right here in our home: milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables, meats, rice and noodles, ingredients to make bread, etc. We even have brownie mixes, pancake mixes and syrup, and all the ingredients to make several batches of chocolate chip cookies. We might even get too fat if all we did was stay inside and eat!

So safe in my laurels, I lay down to sleep on Friday night knowing I didn't need to join the mad rush to the store. I had visions of my family playing in the snow secure in the knowledge that 20 pounds of cocoa lay inside our basement for hot cocoa consumption. More visions of my family sitting in the living room, eating popcorn and telling stories to each other gave me that warm fuzzy feeling you get when unexpected family time brings you all together.

But I am not the only one around here safe and secure.

These are photos of a friend's food storage. She did not want to be named for fear of people later raiding her home.

In this first picture, you can see she has flour, sugar, rice, noodles, oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, wheat, and cream of wheat. Contained in sealing 5-gallon buckets, the food stays fresh for long periods of time.

In the next picture, her shelves are filled with cans and jars of fruits, vegetables, soups, meats, dry beans and milk, oil, syrup, jellies and seasonings. Some of the items she even grew and canned herself.

In the last picture, the table top hold things that are used frequently, like onions, potatoes, and tissues and below the table are items that are for real times of need: plastic sheeting, rubber boots, propane stove and lantern, and garden seeds. In other areas of the home, there are several 55-gallon containers of purified water, a freezer full of meat and more vegetables and fruits, propane tanks, charcoal, and popping corn.

If this family has to hunker down for a week or two while a dirty bomb is cleaned out of the atmosphere, they have all they could want.

Yet those who laughed and scoffed at the silly preparedness actions of others will be pounding on their plastic covered door for food, water, safety and security.

What about those who are scared to death of some sort of attack? They are out there now, acting freaky: buying gas masks and build-it-yourself bomb shelters. Wouldn't they be less stressed out if preparation was an every day principle that they lived?

Even if these preparations never have to be used for war, this family knows that if hard times fall on them, they don't have to rely on others to care for their needs. There is peace in knowing you have done all you can do to prepare.

So the next time you are at Home Depot buying plastic sheeting for your painting project and someone is buying sheeting for emergency preparedness, ask him or her what the motto of the Boy Scouts is. I know that they probably live it.



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