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.