Can You Use a Rocket Stove Indoors? What is a Rocket Mass Heater?
One of the most common questions we get is, “Can you use your rocket stove indoors?” The simple answer is no, it is an outdoor stove and you want to make sure you have proper ventilation. Still, many people are fascinated by the incredible energy-efficiency of rocket stoves and would like to use that technology to heat their homes. They are looking for a rocket mass heater, powered by the same principles as energy-efficient, clean burning rocket stoves.
Why are Rocket Stoves Energy Efficient? In emergencies, rocket stoves are especially handy because they don’t rely on electricity or fossil fuels like propane. When natural disasters strike they usually leave you without electricity or other types of fuel, thus making it difficult to cook a warm meal for your family, neighborhood, or congregation. However, you don’t need a natural disaster to warrant using a rocket stove for outdoor cooking; rocket stoves allow you to conveniently cook despite the circumstances.
Rocket stoves are very efficient wood burning stoves that are great for outdoor use. But what makes them so efficient? One word: Airflow.
The L-shaped chamber in rocket stoves allows for maximum airflow. Fire needs fuel, heat, and oxygen to burn. Take any of these components away, and your fire will sputter and eventually burn out. The air flow in rocket stoves is particularly important to providing oxygen to the fire. Because rocket stoves are designed to provide the maximum amount of oxygen, the fuel will be burned most efficiently, providing the maximum amount of heat from the fuel.
Can You Use Bear River Rocket Stoves Indoors? Two question that frequently arise are “Can you use Bear River Rocket Stoves indoors?” and, “Because rocket stoves are so efficient in burning, can Bear River Rocket Stoves be used indoors for heating?” The short answer to both questions is no. Bear River Rocket Stoves are designed for outdoor use to ensure proper ventilation.
While rocket stoves burn the renewable fuel more efficiently than most other options, they are typically not properly vented for indoor use. The rocket stoves are built with great circulation to allow for very efficient fuel use, but, as with any outdoor stove, burning outside ensures enough ventilation. The uses any outdoor stove can be put to, far outweigh the fact that they can only be used outdoors.
Rocket stoves are meant to reach very hot temperatures and as such, could be tempting to use as a heat source, especially when electricity or other sources are not available. But, again, proper ventilation is essential. Bear River Rocket Stoves were designed as an outside appliance and work well on the back driveway, under a covered porch, or under a canopy.
But if what you’re really looking for is an indoor rocket heater, you’ll want to read up on rocket mass heaters.
What is a Rocket Mass Heater? Rocket mass heaters work on the same principle as the rocket stoves. However, they have one important difference: Rocket mass heaters are meant for indoor heating by transferring the heat from the stove to a masonry mass (usually formed into a couch or bed). Because heat stores more efficiently in massive stone surfaces than it does air, the heat from the rocket mass heater rests in the mass, warms people who sit on it, and radiates into the room.
Mass heaters are safe for indoors, but do require a permit in most places and extensive knowledge about how to properly vent them. However, people who’ve built them say rocket mass heaters are well worth the effort and report that the heaters use 80-90% less wood to heat the same area with a metal wood stove. You can see why a rocket mass heater would be such a popular and efficient way to heat your home!
For all that, building a rocket mass heater yourself is possible and is even a cost effective and fuel-efficient way to heat a home.
Leslie Jackson and Ianto Evans wrote the book on rocket mass heaters. Literally. Their website, RocketStoves.com, explains how Ianto Evans, a Welsh professor of Landscape Architecture and Ecological Designer, has taken the rocket stove technology and adapted it for in-home heating through rocket mass heaters. An expert in rocket stoves, Evans, has traveled from South America to Africa cooking with the people and studying how to most efficiently heat and cook.
Many people are not fully aware as to what rocket mass heaters are and so many places around the country do not building codes that cover rocket mass heaters. When deciding to build a rocket mass heater, the part of this project that usually tends to stump people is receiving the building permit.
Ernie Wisner, a contributor to the second edition of Rocket Mass Heaters, has worked with Erica Wisner to simplify the building permit process for rocket mass heaters in Portland, Oregon. You can read their story here.
Rocket mass heaters, just like the rocket stoves, can be built by handy do-it-yourselfers. These do, however, tend to be a little more difficult than the rocket stoves. Nonetheless, they can be done by just about anyone with very basic masonry skills. Rocket mass heaters require a J-shaped chamber, a 50-gallon drum or cob. Typically a mix of compressed clay and straw is used for the mass masonry, yet, anything from stone, brick, or tile can be used just as well.
How do Rocket Mass Heaters Work? Remember that in order for a fire to burn it needs three things: Fuel, oxygen, and heat. Like rocket stoves for cooking, rocket mass heaters combine the three elements of fire for optimum fuel use and heat. A rocket mass heater has a J-or L-shaped combustion chamber, which forces the fire to burn horizontally.
The 90-degree angle of the chamber creates a turbulence, which feeds the intensity of the fire and makes it more efficient in its fuel use. The airflow through the chimney of the heater allows maximum oxygen to reach the fire and heats the heater with efficiency and allows less wood to burn as a result. Once the temperature reaches a high enough level, it will burn the combustion gases as well as the wood in order to reduce the pollution. At the end of the burning you are left with just a pile of ashes that are quite easy to clean out and prepare the heater for the next use.
How do I learn more about rocket mass heaters? Here are 4 books that talk about rocket mass heaters:
Buying a Bear River Rocket Stove is a HUGE way to be prepared for emergencies. But there are several small, inexpensive ways you can be prepared. As part of our mission to foster emergency preparedness, Bear River Rocket Stoves offers some simple suggestions. The product links in this article will take you to our specific recommendations on Amazon.
Light is so important to emergency preparedness. I’m not talking about post-apocalyptic, end-of-the-world emergency preparedness. I’m talking about your run-of-the-mill, brief-power- outage, sleeping-in-the-backyard, having-a-flashlight-because-your-hike took-longer-than- expected, getting-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-see-if-your-sprinklers-are-leaking, car-dies-on-a-lonely-country-road-with-ax-murderers-lurking-nearby kind of emergencies.
Face it: you feel safe when you can see.
It might come from our pineal gland, centered deep between our eyes at the base of the brain. Scientific researchers believe not enough light to the pineal gland in the winters is the cause of Seasonal Affects Disorder. Cultural researchers believe the pineal gland to be the “third eye” of awareness and inner light discussed in many ancient Eastern religions.
Wherever our need for light comes from, controlling it is one of the advances that makes our modern society different. Our days aren’t limited to the sun’s presence. Though candles, torches, and campfires solved the problem of night blindness, here’s a shout-out to electricity: As a human race, we’ve grown accustomed to being able to see whenever we want to.
So, don’t be caught in the dark. Whether it’s a campout in the backyard or weathering a power outage, you may need emergency light sources in various places.
The important thing to remember about lighting in emergency preparedness is not just the what, but also the where. Here are 5 emergency light solutions and places to store them:
Candles are the most basic light source available. They’re cheap, readily available, and easy-to-use. Candles are appropriate in most home power outage situations. If you ever suspect a natural gas leak, candles are NOT the answer.
I like to burn soy candles in my home because they are a renewable, plant-based energy source and give off less soot than petroleum-based paraffin candles.
Where? Everywhere in your home.
Candles make the perfect home emergency light source because they are decorative. It is very easy to add a candle to each room in your home.
Power outages can happen at any time and it’s important to be prepared. Heavy winter storms, lightning strikes during spring thunderstorms, and over-strain on the power grid in the summer are just some of the reasons for the power to go out. When the power does go out, it’s super-handy to have candles in place in every room because you will avoid the ironic activity of searching for candles in the dark.
It seems too simple to even suggest, but power outages happen unexpectedly and it’s easy to get caught off guard. Even if you have decorative candles prominently in every room of your home, candles aren’t any good without matches.
You can get as fancy as you want with emergency matches. Small kitchen matches are available in mini-boxes of 32 matches and available in a 10-pack from Amazon for $5.20.
Where? Everywhere you have candles
Store matches by every candle to be ready to shed light on emergency situations. Buy several small boxes of kitchen matches and place near your candles. Of course, if you have children, teenagers, or pyromaniacs in the house you will want to store the matches out of sight.
Mirrors reflect light, essentially doubling your light output for free. Placing candles near mirrors doubles the amount of light output. While mirrors won’t help increase light if you don’t have light to start with, they do wonders for multiplying the light of candles, flashlights, or lanterns.
Where? Group with candles for decorative and illuminative effect.
Just as candles can be an decorative emergency preparedness item, mirrors can also serve that purpose in your house. Work with the mirrors you have in your house for optimum emergency lighting. Placing candles by your bathroom mirrors increases light in the bathroom. We have a mirror above our stove to give us the illusion of having a bigger kitchen. Turns out it’s also super-handy in power outages: candles placed on our range give double the light due to the mirrors.
Decorative mirrors by the entry or above a shelf in the living room or family room create a nice arrangement and an ideal set-up for emergency home light.
What? Glow sticks
So, glow sticks don’t really radiate light, per se. They basically just keep their light in place and, well...glow. So, while glowsticks aren’t ideal for finding your way down a rocky mountain path at night, or even finding your way to the bathroom, they are better than nothing, easy to store, and they do provide a sense of comfort.
What glowsticks are useful for is locating. Want people to spot your campsite? Lost in the wilderness? Snap open a glowstick for easy visibility. Car won’t start on a busy road? Place glowsticks on the road as a warning. Children need a night light during a thunderstorm? Snap open a glowstick to put by their bed. Don’t want to lose said children at outdoor events or at the fireworks? Give them a glowstick necklace.
Glowsticks are quite inexpensive and can be purchased in packs of 6 at dollar stores. However, the quality is questionable and not every glowstick in the packs works. US-made Cyalume glowsticks come individually wrapped in a foil pack and boast 12-hour duration and 5-year shelf life.
Where? Anywhere a little light would come in handy
Keep a few glowsticks in your cars--in the glove compartment,where they can be easily reached. Keep them in your trailers, and campers. A foil-wrapped glowstick or two in your tent back might come in handy if you get to a campsite late and need to set up the tent in the dark. Keep glowsticks in your emergency packs. You should have an emergency pack in your car, your office, and by the door. Keep them in your picnic bag. Keep them in your first aid kit.
What? Crank Flashlights
Battery operated flashlights are a great thing, provided you have batteries. Hand-crank flashlights ensure you will always have the power source for your flashlight when you need it because that power source is you.
Where? The usual places
Keep flashlights by each bed, on top of the refrigerator, and at the entrances of your house. That way, you will always have a flashlight in an emergency unless your kids like to take your flashlights in order to play Egyptian tomb explorer. In which case, you’re better off hiding the flashlights as you hid the matches.
What? Inflatable solar camping lights
I’ve saved my a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e favorite suggestion for last: The solar-powered inflatable camping light by Luci. I first found out about them when my dad loaned me one for a camping trip, and I was SOLD.
The sun charges it. It’s so much lighter to carry than a flashlight. It gives out great latern-quality light. There are no matches to mess with and no batteries to worry about.
You see, I am SO DONE with battery flashlights. I’ve kept flashlights in the first aid kit, in the hall closet, and in the car, only to find that in an emergency--or even just routine packing for camping trips--the batteries are dead, corroded, or both. And worse, I find the extra batteries I’ve stored have been sacrificed to the Wii controller or to power late nights reading in the treehouse. Who wants to run to the store in a frenzy for a new flashlight or more batteries? Not me.
The Luci solar-powered camping lights are life-changing if you hike or camp. They are lightweight, inexpensive, and hold a charge for several months. Just tie them to your pack while you hike, or let the solar cells charge on the dashboard while you drive. The light will last all night if you leave it on. The lights are LED, so they will last for YEARS. We prefer the clear lights because the light is (wait for it…) clear, and brighter than the frosted lights.
My dad left his on the dashboard or his parked car in the summer--a thing the manufacturer tells you specifically NOT to do. The power button is now a bit persnickety, but it still works. These solar camping lights are A-MAZ-ING.
I keep one in my hiking bag. I keep a few around the house. This year, I’m going to buy several for the yard and hang them in the trees to provide ambient lighting at night.
The Luci inflatable solar lights are also ideal to keep in first aid kits, in your tent bag, and in your car. One caveat: if you store them in dark places for months a time, you will not be able to have light until they are charged. The solar cells usually take a few hours to charge.
After reading this, please take one small step to being better prepared. Put your matches with your candles. Put a crank flashlight by your bed. Put some glowsticks in your car. Invest in an inflatable solar camping latern.
---Stacie Weatbrook is an internet content writer for Bear River Rocket Stoves, a writing instructor, and a lover of hiking in the outdoors. She’s not ashamed to admit she’s afraid of the dark.
Baking Bread without Power
Bread is the staff of life, so they say, and it’s no wonder. Bread provides pure carbohydrate calories which translate into energy for the body. The density and calories in bread also make it filling, an important aspect in survival settings. Maybe just as important is the comforting aspect of bread: fresh and warm makes most things better.
It’s commonplace to store grains as part of an emergency plan or food storage. While grains like wheat kernels will store for dozens of years if kept dry, the challenge of preparing is to be able to make bread from the stored grains.
How do you use that grain if you don’t have gas or electricity in your home to cook? How do you bake bread without electricity?
Those are questions my father-in-law, Dan Weatbrook, Sr. has asked for years.
Here are some considerations:
Store flour and grains. Some advise against storing ground flour because of its short shelf life-about a year for optimal freshness and nutrition. When ground flour goes bad, it will smell and taste rancid. Whole wheat flour has an even shorter shelf life because the entire wheat kernel, which includes some oil, is ground to make whole wheat flour.
However, it’s important to store some flour. Having ground flour on hand will make the early days of a survival situation more convenient. Of course, wheat and other grains are absolutely essential to store. Wheat and other grains can have a long shelf life (30+ years) if they are kept in a relatively cool, dry area (below 70 degrees is recommended) so you can make bread when the power goes out.
Eat whole grains as part of your normal diet. If you don’t have allergies to wheat, be certain to incorporate whole wheat into your family’s regular diet. Whole wheat is more nutritious than white flour because it provides complex carbohydrates, fiber, and other nutrients.
That being said, whole wheat can be harder to digest than white flour if you aren’t used to eating it. And, children may balk at fare they’re not used to. Using your stored wheat in everyday life makes using whole wheat in an emergency situation one less uncertainty to deal with. Be it unemployment or the aftermath of a hurricane, eating familiar food makes a disaster less disastrous.
Store a hand grinder. Because whole wheat and other grains have a long shelf life, they become the backbone of your food storage preparations. Grains can be soaked and cooked to make cereals, sprouted for salads, and even toasted, but in order to turn grain into bread it needs to be milled into flour.
A hand grinder is an essential prepper tool and it’s a good idea to buy and use a hand grinder before a real need ever arises. The first time Dan made bread without electricity from stored wheat with the grandkids, it took nearly ten hours! This cooking experience was one of the experiences that led Dan to perfect his rocket stove and rocket oven!
Store leavening, salt, and vital wheat gluten. Rising agents like yeast, baking powder, and baking soda make the difference between choking down a lumpy paste of flour and water and biting into a fluffy biscuit.Yeast, baking powder, and baking soda have long shelf lives.
It doesn’t take much salt to add to a bread recipe, but the difference of a bread with and without salt is incredible. Salt also has a long shelf life.
Of course, this entire process of cooking with wheat brings shivers down the spines of people with gluten intolerances, and adding vital wheat gluten to the mix only adds insult to injury. But for the wheat-eaters out there, vital wheat gluten gives whole wheat bread the right amount of elasticity to raise and cook better.
So, How are You Going to Cook this Bread without Power?
Most preppers have made arrangements for several methods of cooking: gas grills, charcoal grills, propane stoves, camp stoves, and fire pits top the list. Luckily, bread cooking in an emergency lends itself to a variety of cooking techniques:
Griddle top. Pancakes, flatbread, and tortillas can all be easily cooked with dry heat from a griddle top. Even a hot rock in a fire would work. These are simple breads but a hot meal means everything. Griddle tops can be on rocket stoves, camp stoves, and even campfires.
Frying. Nothing beats hot scones, fry bread, or sopapillas deep fried in oil. Store oils like refined peanut, soybean and safflower oils which have high smoke points. Livestrong explains that oils will degrade if heated above their smoke points and each time an oil is reused, its smoke point lowers. Livestrong explains oil can be reused if it is stored properly.
By straining used oil into a glass jar through a cheesecloth or coffee filter and storing it in the refrigerator or freezer, it can stay good for up to a month. The oil may become cloudy in the refrigerator or freezer, explains the healthy living website, but will clear at room temperature. “Never reuse oil if it foamed or changed color during heating, or if it has an odd odor or smells like the food you cooked,” warns Livestrong, as the oils may have degraded and harbor bacteria.
Boiling. A simple pot of water over a fire or campstove can be the easiest way to cook bread without electricity. Dumplings in soup are an excellent example of bready-goodness baked without an oven. Bagels and pretzels are also cooked via boiling. They can be finished in the oven to given them a crust or fried in a little oil afterward to crisp the crust if an oven isn’t available.
Steam. Create a steam tent in your firepit and bread dough can be steamed overnight in small containers like tin cans. Your great-grandma’s famous carrot puddings were made by steaming the bread pudding in mason jars in the canner, a recipe that usually took over 4 hours to produce the wonderful results.
If you’re still uncertain about steaming bread, think Chinese stuffed buns. A bamboo steamer set in a pot of boiling water produces perfect, yummy results.
Dutch ovens. If you have charcoal, you’re all set to cook whatever you want in the dutch oven. Bread and rolls turn out incredible in the dutch oven. It’s important to start out with hot, ashen-colored coals. Use coals both on the top and bottom of the dutch oven, typically with more coals on top than on the bottom.
Dutch oven food tastes fabulous, but there is typically a learning curve to getting your bread to turn out successfully. Your family won’t mind one bit if you practice making homemade dutch oven rolls for them!
Traditional ovens (and, of course, rocket stoves!) Tandori ovens, earthen ovens, and brick ovens create the ideal environment for baking bread. These are cooking methods you’ll want to have in place before they are needed for an emergency, but the results of wood-fired bread are well-worth the preparations!
A rocket stove is a wood-burning stove with an interior elbow heating unit. Rocket stoves are very energy efficient and easy to use in situations where fossil fuel and electricity are not available. Because they burn wood or brush, the fuel is more readily available.
You can cook almost anything that requires stovetop cooking on a rocket stove. Since they easily burn twigs, leaves, and wood debris--all readily available after severe storms or earthquakes, rocket stoves are a resourceful solution to survival cooking. The Bear River Rocket Stoves are unique in that they are designed to cook for a crowd with maximum efficiency. Two of the rocket stove models even have ovens! Temperature gauges help monitor the heat of the rocket ovens, allowing for the most kitchen-like experience you can have while cooking outdoors.
Consider Your (Fuel) Source
Each of these methods of cooking bread without electricity will require an alternative fuel source. Propane, charcoal, and camp fuels can be limited. Firewood can be easier to find, especially considering storms usually produce debris that can be used as firewood. Because of the efficient air flow in rocket stoves, they use less firewood than any other wood-burning cooking method.
Learning to bake bread without power might just become your newest hobby!
There’s something well, fun, about cooking without power. Whether you plan a long weekend in the mountains to cook on a backpacking stove or over an open fire, or simply fire up the barbeque in the backyard, being able to cook off grid is definitely an adventure.
Stacie Draper Weatbrook makes a mean wood-fired pizza in the brick oven her husband, Dan Jr., built.
Sometimes, when the words emergency preparedness are uttered, we automatically think big: years of food storage, a power generator, a four-room tent, and a Bear River Rocket Stove (you can’t blame us for the shameless plug!) But really, emergency preparedness doesn’t have to be a herculean task. What we mean is: don’t put off preparing for an emergency because it sounds too hard or is more of an investment than you can afford.
Emergency preparedness isn’t always about that big earthquake, that disastrous flood, or that widespread power outage. Sometimes being prepared means you have a way to light your barbeque on your picnic, you’ve got a backup source of water when you’re out hiking, or you need to shield yourself from the rain while watching a track meet. Taking the time to gather these few supplies will help you be prepared for situations--big or small-- that require some quick thinking and a few necessities.
Knives are often an indispensable emergency preparedness item. There are many uses for knives in our everyday lives such as opening containers or preparing food. UrbanSurvivalSite gives us some ways knives would come in handy such as self defense, first aid, hunting, wood splinting, fire starter, and to path clearing.
Of course, the most extreme emergency situation for a knife would be if you were being attacked by a wild animal or for hunting if you were stranded in the woods without a gun. A knife is also good for first aid, you could use it to create a splint, or brace or even to cut cloth for bandages. You can also split wood to make a fire or build a safe shelter. In a pinch, knives can be used in place of a drill, screwdriver, or hammer (remember, safety first!)
2) Water purification tablets or a small bottle of bleach:
Water is crucial to survival. In a life or death situation, having clean water is vital. If you don’t clean your water you are likely to drink water that contains harmful bacteria. If you’re not close to medical care, drinking contaminated water could be deadly. So a good thing to have is a way to purify water. If you have a way to clean water, like bleach or chlorine tablets, you can just about get water anywhere: lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, etc. This link gives helpful information on how to treat and clean water with bleach. It’s best not to use any water with things floating in it and to also remove as much dirt as possible.
While you may not have a water filter yet, it’s a good item to save up for. In the meantime, it’s worth spending a few dollars to have chlorine tablets available for an emergency.
3) Metal Cup:
When you think of surviving in a sticky situation, a cup may not come to mind as one of the most important emergency survival items, but while it’s just a cup, it can impact the turnout positively. It’s a great way to hold, carry, and share water. It can also hold your food that way your food can still be clean when you eat it. If your cup is metal, you can use it to boil water (especially useful if you have no other way to purify your water). A metal cup is also useful for cooking. Banging on your cup with a rock or other hard object is a handy way to signal to others.
There are many practical uses for a lighter. Really, if you have a lighter you can pretty much start a fire wherever there is fuel, a definite bonus in an emergency situation. As a member of the human race, you don’t need to be reminded the benefits of fire: cooking, warmth, light, signals, and safety. You may never need it, but if you are ever in a situation where you do, you’ll be glad you spent a few bucks to have a lighter in your car, pack, or purse.
While it’s sometimes difficult to know if your lighter has fluid left in it, matches, if kept dry, are a sure-fire emergency solution. We recommend having both a lighter and matches, just in case. (After all, that’s what emergency preparedness is based on: ‘just in case!’) In addition to starting fires, matches act as tinder (albeit a very small amount). Burnt matches also make an excellent make-shift writing tool.
6) Fire Starter:
A fire starter helps keep a small flame burning long after matches would have gone out. While there are several commercial fire starters out there, the best one we’ve found is dryer lint stuffed in a egg carton, covered in candle wax. The individual sections can be ripped apart and used to start a fire.
Three of the nine essential emergency survival items on our list have to do with fire. We realize we’re pretty obsessed with starting and keeping a fire. After all, Bear River Rocket Stoves run entirely on fire!
7) Chocolates and Candy:
While the body can survive a few days without food, in a rough situation, candy can be a perfect pick-me-up. While hard candy stores well (practically forever), chocolate bars, even if they are melted, would be a welcome reprieve in an emergency situation. The extra calories in chocolates or candies can soothe dry mouths, boost spirits, and even be essential for someone with low blood sugar.
8) Emergency Blanket:
There are so many uses for an emergency blanket such as providing warmth, adding an extra layer in sleeping bag, or using it as a signal device. These compact emergency blankets cost only a few dollars and are usually made of mylar. They can be used to melt snow, to catch water, or to make a small rain shelter. Emergency blankets can be used as rope material, a pack to carry items, a sling or a compression bandage, a net for fishing, a tablecover or ground cover, or a sun shield.
These emergency preparedness blankets aren’t limited to emergencies. Emergency blankets come in handy as table covers for picnics, rain covers at games, or even picnic blankets. Keep several in your car--chances are a situation might arise where it comes in handy!
When thinking disaster survival, probably thoughts of rappelling, constructing a raft, building a shelter, or completing a daring rescue are the first situations that come to mind. Of course, these situations would need a good rope--and the knot-tying-know-how.
A length of paracord can be used to tie a splint, secure a bandage, make a snare, pull heavy loads, dry clothes, or tie food up to keep animals away. Internal strands of rope or cord can be could also be used for fishing. Like an emergency blanket, cord or rope has a variety of uses in an emergency survival situation. When paired with your emergency blanket, the uses are nearly innumerable.
Here, we’re talking about nine simple emergency preparedness items to be kept in your car, briefcase, purse, or hiking pack. Most of these emergency preparedness articles are probably lying around your house already. Why not take 10 minutes to gather theses articles together in a bag to keep handy?
Emergency Preparedness Doesn’t Have to be Scary: 7 Ideas for activities that encourage preparedness (and are a lot of fun, too!)
If you’ve already made some sort of emergency preparations, you know one thing: you never know what you’re preparing for. You might be preparing to help your family survive a long-term power outage, a severe storm, an earthquake, or even a financial collapse. These are serious survival situations that require serious preparations. But preparing for other short-term emergency situations are no less important. Situations like job loss, short-term power outages, and even appliances breaking are also circumstances that require preparation.
You want to have the resources in place to help your family and others in need. But just because you are preparing for a possible emergency in the future doesn’t mean thinking about these possibilities has to be anxiety-producing. You can have interesting experiences and make great memories while ensuring you are prepared for any emergency situation.
For years I’ve been passionate about being prepared. I’ve stored food, water, and emergency supplies. I installed a generator. I purchased tents for portable shelters. And, because I worried about how to cook for a crowd, I designed Bear River Rocket Stoves.
Along my emergency preparedness journey, I’ve realized that in being ready for emergencies, there can also be enjoyment by involving the family in activities. Here are some ideas for you and your family to use emergency preparedness skills and have fun doing it:
1. Go for a week without going to the store. Not for milk. Not for vegetables. Not for ice cream. Especially not for takeout. Make it an exciting challenge for your family and let them plan meals without a trip to the supermarket. You’ll likely manage fairly well on your food stores, with hopefully minimal grumblings from your family. Letting children plan meals from only the items on hand isn’t just a good learning activity; it’s also a trial run to see what might be missing and what you could add to your storage.
Did you want to make chocolate chip cookies but didn’t have butter or margarine? You’ll need to store some fat like shortening or butter powder. Was the powdered milk you had stored from the Bush administration? You’ll want to rotate your supplies. Did you miss fresh fruits or vegetables? Find ways to add fresh vegetables.
2. Plant a garden. Speaking of fresh vegetables, a garden--even in planter boxes--provides fresh produce and important self-sufficiency skills. While children won’t always relish time spent weeding, families can grow closer as they work together.There’s something satisfying in planting seeds, seeing the first tender sprouts, cultivating, and finally harvesting. The farm-to-table trend in restaurants isn’t really a trend but a way of life we’ve forgotten over the past hundred years.
Since gardens aren’t always an option, especially in the winter, learn to store fresh root vegetables and squash.
3. Sprout seeds and legumes. Another way to get fresh, vitamin-rich food is to sprout it. Your children will appreciate seeing just how quickly seeds can germinate. Keep grains and legumes damp by rinsing them twice daily. A mason jar covered with wire mesh works great for rinsing the sprouts. Try sprouting wheat kernels, garbanzo beans, mung beans, lentils, or alfalfa seeds.
4. Practice making emergency shelters. Hopefully you’ll never need an emergency shelter, but you want to be prepared just in case. Car problems might leave you stranded. You might get lost or stuck in bad weather while hiking. A severe storm, fire, or earthquake might make your home uninhabitable.
Have a few items handy in your car and emergency bag and let your family get creative in making emergency shelters. Supplies like tarps, rope, duct tape, and even lightweight emergency blankets can be used to make an emergency shelter.
Making emergency shelters can be a fun family activity. Don’t be surprised if your children want to hang out in their forts all day!
5. Try camping or backpacking. Even if you use a tent rather than your makeshift emergency shelter, finding a destination for roughing it is a fun activity for children that can double as a chance to test out your emergency kit. If you don’t have the time or inclination, try camping out in your own backyard. A campfire, tent, and sleeping bag just add to the adventure--and the family memories.
After your camp, ask yourself and your family what items were incredibly useful during your camp? Likely your flashlight, toilet paper, knife, and food top the list. Store more of those. What were you missing? Nail clippers? Lip balm? Work gloves? An axe? Be sure to include those items in your preparations.
Camping also teaches your family--and you--that you can survive in less-than ideal-situations and without conveniences. These experiences are important in teaching “can-do” attitudes and positivity.
6. Host an outdoor cookout. You don’t have to go camping to fire up the barbeque grill, throw foil dinners on the fire, or cook using a propane camp stove. Cooking outdoors offers a fun diversion from everyday routines. Backyard cooking also offers practice for cooking food without power, a skill that’s essential during an extended power outage.
What I’ve realized is much more than emergency preparedness. Cooking outdoors may be practice for a time without power, but more than anything, it’s just another chance for a pleasant gathering with friends and family
7. Bake bread without power. Can you bake bread without power? That’s been an emergency preparedness question that’s troubled me for years. After all, baking your own bread is a cheap food, high in valuable calories and carbohydrates. It’s filling and even comforting.
You can turn grinding the wheat, mixing the dough, kneading the bread, shaping the loaves, and finally baking the bread into a celebration. I’ve spent several delightful Saturdays with my grandchildren baking bread without power. Children love to be involved in tasks and seeing their own creations bake. Over the years we’ve tried several methods of baking bread including roasting bread dough on an open fire, warming flatbread on a skillet, baking in a homemade solar oven, and even steaming bread in a tin can.
While making bread without power is a fun activity, our Saturday baking projects taught me it can also be challenging to grind your own grains by hand and to bake bread without a proper oven. Baking enough bread to feed a group could be an all-day even. While it’s fun to “rough it” outside for awhile, I worried that in an actual emergency, it would be difficult and discouraging to try to make bread without my kitchen and my oven.
When I designed Bear River Rocket Stoves, I wanted to find a way to duplicate the convenience and capacity of a home or commercial stove top and oven. What I’ve realized is that having an outdoor stove and oven is more than an emergency preparedness tool, it’s a fun way to entertain and enjoy the backyard.
Preparedness teaches confidence.
Learning and perfecting any skill increases self confidence. But skills aren’t mastered overnight. Always be patient with your children (and with yourself!) Finding ways to challenge children within their limits not only makes for good teaching moments, it’s also a chance to build memories.
Building preparedness skills with your family can be a fun adventure, but more importantly, it’s a way to teach resilience, resourcefulness, and confidence in any situation. These are preparations that can’t be bought but must be earned.
--Dan Weatbrook, Sr.
“I can’t wait until that big earthquake hits so I can use my food storage,” said no one. But, if you’ve done all you can to prepare yourself for the worst --and who really knows when or what that might be--then you can feel good about what you have accomplished.
Emergency preparedness is for those worst-case scenarios: earthquake, tornado, or massive financial collapse. However, there are other situations to prepare for that are not quite as cataclysmic: A massive snow or ice storm may down all power lines and make it impossible to get to the store. Flooding or fire may leave you without power. A truckers’ strike might leave your region without supplies. An economic depression could make buying the necessities too costly. In each of these situations, having supplies stored can ease difficult times.
You Can Handle Anything That Comes Your Way
Learning about emergency preparedness may seem unfamiliar at first, but you don’t have to learn everything or do everything all at once. Understanding what emergency preparedness is as well as recognizing what steps are needed to achieve a high level of preparedness is vital to protecting yourself and those you love. Gaining knowledge and experience about emergency preparedness brings confidence. As your knowledge increases, so will your preparedness.
Realizing that you can handle what comes your way will give you peace and self-reliance, two traits that will help you make it through almost any emergency situation.
The Standard List: Food, Water, Shelter, Personal Supplies
Most emergency preparedness experts give a standard list to be prepared: food, water, shelter, and personal supplies. This list could be expanded when these essential items are part of your emergency preparedness plan.
Plan for an emergency by asking yourself:
Preparations for Just 3 Days Can Make a Big DIfference
If you are not sure where to start, begin by storing enough food and water for 3 days for each member of your family. Three days is about how long it might take for fire, police, government, or relief agencies to know how you are doing and provide help. AccessingReady.gov can give you basic information about how to start.
Water: You Can’t Live Without It
Any expert in emergency preparedness will express the necessity of acquiring an adequate supply of water. Most individuals can live only about 3-4 days without water. In some instances, some individuals have made it 8-10 days. Most people seem to want to get the food first and then the water, but water is much more important than what or even if you eat. The average man needs 3 liters (a little more than 3/4 gallon) daily and the average woman needs a little over 2 liters (approximately 1/2 gallon) a day. If you need water for your 3 day disaster kit for you and your spouse, you will need 15 liters of water. Children under the age of 13 need 1.5 liters (a little less than 1/2 a gallon) a day and those over 13 need 2 liters a day. Storage will probably be the most difficult factor dealing with water.
One easy way to have water for emergency preparedness is to purchase bottled water. Bottled water is easy to store and does not need to be treated to use. Small containers of water can also be easily stored. If you store water from your tap you will probably need to have the water treated in order to store it for a long period of time. See this website for water storage tips.
Food: You Can Start Small, but Make Sure You Start
Storing food is essential to emergency preparedness. There are many ways to store food and many vendors who specialize in food storage. From #10 cans to mylar bags, and from MREs to plastic buckets, there are plenty of foods designed specifically for emergency preparedness.
But food storage doesn’t need to be complicated. Whatever food storage you choose will depend on space, convenience, cost and personal preference. You can increase your food storage without excessive cost. Each time you go grocery shopping, you might purchase extra cans of vegetables or fruits or beans. Whatever you normally eat is what you will want in your food storage.
Starting out with a 3 day supply of food will give you the confidence to continue adding to your food supply. Food storage companies do sell 3-day to 1 year food kits. These are more expensive so it might be good to start small and put a few items in a backpack. Granola bars, packaged tuna, crackers, and other snack items are a start.
If you choose MREs or dehydrated food, it is important that you know what you will eat and that it tastes good before you purchase food kits. Having a supply of food that no one likes will cause major problems.
Shelter and Clothing: Because the Elements Aren’t Always Friendly
Your home may be a suitable place to be in an emergency. Many people have endured extended power outages, freezing ice storms, minor flooding, even personal hardships like unemployment and remained in their home.
However, some natural disasters will require temporary, portable shelter. If an earthquake, tornado, or flood demolishes your home, you will need a portable shelter.
Shelter might not be an issue if there is an earthquake in Utah in the summer, where the temperatures are bearable. But, the heat could be a big problem for those living in Phoenix or Dallas. You will need a tent as a shelter from the sun. Similarly, not having proper shelter in the winter could be very devastating if the weather is cold and snowy. It is better to have a tent on hand than to bet on a natural disaster happening during pleasant weather. There are many tents to choose from that can give you protection.
If you can’t afford a tent right now, purchase several emergency blankets (available for under $3). You can use emergency blankets as coverings or even as a makeshift shelter.
Proper clothing is also necessary for different weather conditions and disasters. Long sleeve shirts can be rolled up, but a short sleeve shirt cannot help if the weather is cold. Shoes that protect your feet are also important. Keep a bag of extra clothing in your car as well as in your home so it is easy to grab if needed.
Personal Supplies: You Don’t Appreciate Toilet Paper Until You’re Out
Toilet paper, soap, wipes and bleach are items that must be on your list to have in case of an emergency. These items and others as well, will help with keeping yourself clean and prevent the spread of bacteria and other harmful substances such as flood water, chemicals, and sewage.
Store Emergency Items Where They Are Easy to Reach
At the very least, put together a 3-day emergency bag, suitcase, or plastic bucket with water, food, extra clothes, medications, a first-aid kit, and emergency blankets. Cash and personal documents are also a good addition to this 3-day kit. Keep this bag handy in case you need to leave in a hurry. Check your emergency kit every six months to ensure the food and water are good.
Longer-term storage items should be kept in a cool, dry place so that the temperature is fairly even. These basic items should be in a place where they can be easily accessible. You wouldn't want your food and water in a place where you could not get them in an emergency.
Don’t Forget Emotional Preparedness
Preparing yourself emotionally may be one aspect of emergency preparedness that might be normally overlooked. How will you deal with a death or serious injury? What happens if family members are separated or cannot contact each other to make sure they are safe?
Discussing the worst-case scenarios makes it possible to plan and be more prepared physically and emotionally.
Have a Plan
Discussing in advance the different scenarios can lessen the trauma, allowing you to deal with the situations better. Peace of mind comes from having a plan. Part of the plan needs to be selecting a location where everyone will meet in case of an earthquake or fire. Practicing what might happen can help ease stress and have those in your home feel more prepared and less worried.
Cotopaxi combines gear for good, social missions, and a llove of llamas in Salt Lake City's 2016 Questival Race.
To participate in Cotopaxi's Questival you need to form a team of four-six people willing to rack up points by cramming disparate social, environmental, cultural, quirky, and adventurous activities into 24 hours. A llove of llamas is also helpful.
Though this is the 3rd year Cotopaxi has held Questival in Salt Lake City, this was our first time time participating in the socially and environmentally conscious outdoor gear company's race where everyone starts at the same location and chooses their own finish line.
While the prizes for winning the most points in the race include service trips to South America, gear, and bragging rights, the Llam-A-Ramas' goal was 150 points. Armed with our Cotopaxi packs (well worth the $30 early llama entry fee) the Questify app downloaded on our phone to record points, our team totem (which must appear in every uploaded photo or video), and a list of over 150 challenges to complete over the next 24 hours, we set off.
Dan and I with our two daughters (9 and 15) were up for the challenge which kicked off Friday evening with music and pre-race challenges at humanitarian and sponsor booths. Llamas were featured majestically in the middle of this gala at the Sandy Promenade.Admittedly, our team, the Llam-A-Ramas, were both older and younger than the college-age target crowd. But after the check in with well over 2800 people in attendance, our adventure was ours.
Our first stop was to my parents house to hug their blue spruce (3 points). Off-handedly, I asked my dad if he happened to have a bristle cone pine. Just our luck: he'd planted one last year (just a photo, no hugging: 6 points). Then we were off to Grantsville Reservoir, probably the closest campground in the SL area not covered in snow, to camp in a tent (6 points) and to hopefully catch a crawdad and a fish (6 and 9 points that were not to be).
In his novella The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote:
Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters. They never ask: 'What does his voice sound like?' 'What games does he like best?' 'Does he collect butterflies?' They ask: 'How old is he?' 'How many brothers does he have?' 'How much does he weigh?' 'How much money does his father make?' Only then do they think they know him.
If you tell grown-ups, 'I saw a beautiful red brick house, with geraniums at the windows and doves on the roof,' they won't be able to imagine such a house. You have to tell them, 'I saw a house worth a hundred thousand dollars.' Then they exclaim, 'What a pretty house!' That's the way they are. You must not hold it against them. Children should be very understanding of grown ups.
In defense of grown-ups and their love of numbers, numbers seem to be our most objective way to measure, quantify, and recount experience.
I thought of this quote as we sat churning butter (6 points) in the wind at Grantsville Reservoir, cooking tin foil dinners (6 points) and a dehydrated dish (6 points) while waiting for the charcoal to cool so we could draw a charcoal picture of a llama (3 points), and for the crawdad to take the bait Dan set (no points, the trap broke).
It's easy to get caught up in the points of Questival but it's impossible to forget the overall lessons. As Saint-Exupery writes,
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. The essential is invisible to the eye."
We packed a lot into 24 hours: rapping with my 85-year-old Grandma (6 points), having Kinsee dunk a basketball while standing on Dan's shoulders (3 points), throwing donut holes at Dan (1 point), planting flowers in our park (3 points), walking like zombies across a crosswalk (3 points), making an informational video about educategirls.in (6 points) and interviewing the soon-to-be retired owner of Larry's Burgers in Fillmore, Utah (6 points), exchanging books at a Little Library in Cedar City (6 points), and eventually visiting Zion National Park (6 points).
We ended up with a respectable 181 points and in 513th place out of 748 teams. But numbers aside, we learned that Questival--no, life really, is about going outside of your comfort zone and to stuff as many experiences into it as you can. While Cotopaxi's race is a once-in-a-year event, treat every day as a new collection of challenges where you can snack on the state vegetable (3 points), learn to tie a bowline (3 points), volunteer with a non-profit (6 points), or take time to watch the sunset (3 points). Even if there's not an app to track the numbers. --Stacie Weatbrook
This post is first appeared on justwritegroup.com
by Dan Weatbrook, Sr.
The weather was 45 degrees,18 mile hour wind out of the south and raining hard. It was our monthly family get together and the grandchildren wanted to fire up a rocket stove. We took a vote and ended up deciding to try to make rice on the rocket stove. Because of the stiff wind, rain and cold it took us eight minutes to get fire in each rocket stove. It then took twenty minutes to get it up to temperature where it would boil water for the rice. We decided to put on a teapot full of water so we could warm up a cup of hot chocolate.
After thirty minutes we opened the lid and had perfectly done rice. The hot chocolate was delicious and welcomed. The grandchildren then roasted marshmallows in the rocket stoves and at the top of the chimneys. The rocket stove marshmallows came out burned on one end and raw on the other. The chimney marshmallows came out with just a tinge of brown and completely melted on the inside. They were the GREATEST.
We learned that when faced with a strong wind, build or find a shelter where you can get out of the wind. The rain as it went through a phase change and turned into steam it stole a tremendous amount of heat from the stove. If you can't get out of the wind, face the end of the stove with the two rocket stoves into the wind to help with draft. Covering the pot with the rice in it and the tea kettle with a dutch oven cover helped the water boil more quickly. The rice was not burned at all and was light and flaky. Even in these harsh conditions we were able to put out a great meal.
Dan, Sr. is the designer and owner of Bear River Rocket Stoves. He is passionate about teaching others to be prepared.
We had the opportunity to show our stoves in real life a few weekends ago at the Shelley Ready preparedness fair. On our way back from Shelly Ready, we had our own real-life emergency: our truck broke down.
We sat on the side of the road waiting for it to cool down, but realized overheating was not the problem. About an hour passed and a man driving with his family pulled his truck over by us to see if he could help. After trying everything he could think of to start the truck, he towed our truck with the trailer still attached off the freeway. We were only about 200 yards from the exit but he didn’t just pull it off the freeway but all the way to the parking lot of a hotel with a couple of restaurants nearby. This would be a convenient spot for us to wait for a tow truck.
When we discussed options for the night (the next day was Easter) he insisted on giving us a ride home. After taking his family home, he moved our broken truck to a spot out of the way and hooked up to our trailer and pulled it all the way to Garland Utah which was almost 100 miles one way. He spent more than 3 hours and 200 miles to get us where we needed to be and couldn’t have arrived at his own home before 10pm that night.
He didn’t have to help us, but he did and that selfless act impressed me. I now understand what it means to go the extra mile. May God bless the good Samaritan from Chubbuck, Idaho.
By day Dan is the Product Management Director for a software company. By night, he enjoys reading to his children (they're on the sixth Harry Potter book) and making pizza in the brick oven he built. On the weekends, he is a Rocket Stove evangelist.