Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Prepping 101

Learning new skills
Yesterday, the kids were off school. In our area of New England, they get the day off on Election day. So do most teachers. This means that we were all at home yesterday, enjoying some well-deserved time together. We took down a couple of trees, bucked them, and brought them over for splitting. We loaded up wood for the house (there's our first winter storm on the way), and brought much of it inside. We had delicious food for each of our meals, and Halloween candy (and popcorn) for snacks. Voting took almost no time at all, and was a pleasant experience. All in all, it was a pretty good day. 

We also watched a movie together. We decided to watch The Day After Tomorrow with Dennis Quaid. I chose this movie because I wanted to see what the kids would think of the choices made by the various people in the story. We didn't watch the movie all the way through, but instead stopped at several points throughout, having discussions and answering the children's questions.


Our kids just turned seven last week. They're in first grade. They've grown up in a fairly middle class family with an interest in sustainable living, and with many loving and caring adults (and younger people) around them. They're also incredibly smart, and they've grown up being rewarded for thinking "outside the box." I wanted to see how they'd stack up against others in a survival situation, at least via talking points.

Cooking stew at the campsite
The first thing we discussed was "global warming," a theme throughout the movie. We talked about climate change versus global warming, and why we work with the former and not the latter in our family. We talked a bit about Hurricane (tropical storm, tropical depression) Sandy, and how scientists have said that the warmth of the water on the coast helped make the storm much larger than it might otherwise have been. We also explained that the movie was completely fictional, but that climate change is real and that Sandy and her storm surges and flooding was quite real as well.

I think that part of the lesson was over their heads a bit. Though they asked some good questions, I suspect much of what was said is going to be "in one ear and out the other" as they say. I don't blame them, considering that's also true for most adults.

When we began to see the storms rising in the movie, our girl flipped out. There were tourists taking photographs of the developing funnel and she was literally screaming, "That's a tornado, you dummies, get out of there!" We had to pause because she was so upset that people could be so stupid. Our boy, being autistic, was more constrained on the issue, but he also seemed upset that people would just stand there as a giant destructive thing started coming for them.

We talked, also, about whether it was safe to be in a car or house during a hurricane or other natural disaster. We asked the kids what they'd do if they were on their own for some reason, with no grown ups around, and saw (or heard) that a storm was on the way. Their answers were gratifying. Despite never being taught directly, they had picked up some pretty decent strategies.

Her first sewing project
The girl child immediately said that in some storms it was okay to be in a car, but that she'd rather be in the house. Both children said they'd head for the basement if they knew a hurricane or tornado was on the way, and that they'd go to the very back where the heavy brick walls are, and crouch there. They said they'd take flashlights, too. Since that was the most correct answer, I was extremely pleased.

Later in the movie, when the snow started falling, we paused again. Once we all had popcorn and drinks, we asked the children what the most important thing is in a winter storm. There was a bit of guidance involved, but they eventually got to the correct answer: shelter.

They listened to the climatologist explain the (pseudo)science behind the storm cells ravaging North America, and when some of the people decided to go out and try to walk in the snow (presumably to escape to somewhere warmer, although I've no idea where they thought they'd go on foot) they both gasped. We were told emphatically that it was stupid to leave perfectly good shelter with lots of burnable things in it (the characters were in a library). Yay, team kids!

Our boy, ready for anything
When we were all done with the movie, we sat together as a family and had a long discussion about what the most important things are in an emergency, and what that means to them personally. They've heard us talk about the Rule of Threes numerous times, and got to see it put into action during our talk.

The Rule of Threes states you can live for:

  • three minutes without air
  • three hours without shelter
  • three days without water
  • three weeks without food
  • and three months without hope.
Major first aid is beyond our little ones,  but they have bandaids and such in their packs. Shelter is something we spent a lot of time on, because we wanted them to understand just what shelter is. Shelter is your car or house, or a tent, but it's also a bivy sack, a tarp held up with paracord, a log cabin, a lean-to made out of branches, warm clothing (both inner and outer), and much more. We covered everything from having extra socks to using space blankets. Since both kids have had the experience of sleeping in their daddy's bivy sack (and the boy did so in the middle of a rain storm where he was basically in a huge puddle in the bottom of the tent, and still quite warm and dry), they were able to use that experience to expand on the other things.

Water was the most interesting topic that we went over, in my opinion. Both kids came up with fantastic outside-the-box ideas for where to find water. The boy pointed out that the ice in the fridge and freezer can be melted and used for drinking water, something I admitted to him that I hadn't even thought of myself! Then our little princess, who wears pink and doesn't like to get dirty, sported a disgusted face and started to giggle. With a bit of coaxing (and assurances she wouldn't get in trouble), she noted that the toilet is full of water. Bingo! I could have hugged them both into little piles of love at that moment.

Canned summer harvest
Food they know way too much about, having been involved in the canning and drying and otherwise storing of our harvest and purchases. Hope, too, they're fine with. They know that books are precious friends, that board games and card games are a ton of fun, and that little projects like cross stitch and quilting and the like are also a lot of fun to engage in.

Our children passed the Prepping 101 test with flying colors. They understand the mentality of putting away food for lean times. They are very aware that home grown food tastes better. They know that we care for them, but we also expect them to care for themselves and be responsible children. They might give a bit of lip while sitting around the house (yeah, okay, sometimes a LOT of lip) but in an emergency they're pretty darn good.

In the process of our family day together, our kids learned valuable lessons. They taught us, too, that they're hearing a lot more of our talk than we thought. We found out that they not only have some pretty fantastic ideas, but that they're not bound by the standard thoughts held by most people (how many people do you know that would think to drink the water out of the back of the toilet in an emergency?).

I hope they never have to deal with an emergency like Sandy or Katrina. I hope they live their whole lives with nothing more upsetting than a lost election, and the usual sibling rivalry. I also am comfortable knowing that they are aware of what needs to be done if we're not that lucky.

What things do you teach your children about? Do they know what to do in an emergency? Are you willing to teach them some elements of preparing for emergencies of various kinds? Why or why not?