Robert Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice” is regarded as a masterpiece because it provokes thought and images on contemplating the world’s end and it does so in such a compact manner! The fifty one words were reportedly inspired by the ninth circle of hell as described in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (14th Century) – that’s where the most notorious traitors were tortured by Lucifer (Satan) who is submerged in a block of ice in the final pit of fire. Another anecdote about inspiration was based on a meeting between Frost and Harlow Shapley who was the most prominent astronomer of the early 20th century. To paraphrase the discussion, Shapley described the world’s end as one catastrophe prompting two possible outcomes – the sun would explode and by doing so incinerate the earth or the earth would be deflected to slowly freeze in its careening through deep space.
Climate change wasn’t a pursuable model in the early 1960’s, when Shapley confessed his version of the story, so lets forgive “Fire and Ice” for its suggestion of doom. Our current world media permits us to see disaster anywhere in the world in real-time or “shortly-after-time” and by saturation alone it’s easy to see the natural and man-made incidents as pointers to the modern hell or the end of days. Live through a disaster and you are convinced it is the ultimate end until the elements of civilization arrive (the cameras, the first responders), live outside and watch and you can “whew” yourself into thanks that those images don’t encompass your space.
People with lots of camping, military, or outdoor experience have an advantage if they’ve spent more than three days away from what we would all consider as “modern comforts.” People who go glamping probably don’t qualify as persons with a true sense of out-of-doors because they never give up any of their current comforts. Consider all your neighbors as representative of those that we might end up helping, or those we’d expect to seek help from if we are not prepared.
There are more than enough solutions representative of old and new technologies to ride out the worst power and service outages and beyond. Without promoting any specific purchase, consider what your basic needs of survival will be for up to 10, 20, and 30 days without power or promise to have it restored. The answer is pretty simple: water, food, warmth (and in that order).
There is are a couple of readily available tablets on the market that will eliminate most of the bacteria and parasites in water drawn from a questionable source (a stream, a lake, a fountain full of coins). The longest on the market is Potable Aqua and a single pill contains the correct balance of iodine and other bacteria killers that can reside in a pint of water. After dropping a pill into the water of a one pint bottle (16 oz), wait five minutes and shake the container to guarantee that the interior surfaces of the bottle are sterilized. Then leave the bottle standing for period of 35 minutes wherein the pills can perform their magic before the water is safely potable. Multiply the pills used by the amount of water you are treating and don’t drop in extra pills to make the process go faster. Buy a supply of 50 pills at any Sporting Goods store or Sporting Goods section of a department store or on-line for $9.00 or less (sales tax included). If you have coffee filters and a funnel, they can additionally remove visible “extras” and some non-visible from the water that’s been treated as you ration them into smaller bottles.
Food should be classified as type A – anything a bear would eat, type B – anything in a can or dehydrated with a vacuum seal, type C – anything a dog can forage by smell. Check for obvious signs of safety and consume as discovered in reverse order, making the C items first, then the B’s, and then the A’s. If the disaster takes longer than one cycle, you’ll have to repeat it again before you consume the C witness to a solid A classification for everything. If you are vegan or vegetarian, help yourself to all the natural items available until you run out and then also resolve to get bearish. $20 for protein based foods in cans – you can commit to a cleanse after the crisis is over. You have a manual can-opener, right?
Whether under a canopy, inside a damaged home, or on the roof of a damaged home, a small fire will keep you alive. You have matches don’t you? Keep wooden matchsticks in small plastic bags and maintain at least one bag in every family member’s “go bag” that should also contain at least one change of clothes. A disposable lighter has about 300 quick ignitions, a box of wooden matches has an ignition per match head and kindling for future fires. If you want to “waterproof” the matches, coat the tips in melted candle wax after you’ve extinguished the candles. Boxes of any-strike matches are about $4.00 per 250.
There are several modern technology tools for generating power in an emergency. Most are meant to re-charge cell phones, which is great as long as you have a live cell tower that can relay your call. Solar and wind driven devices exist, but you may find yourself in a bind for either source and the waiting or searching process depletes your own energy. For an all-condition guaranteed power source, the best source is manually generated power – as long as you can move you can create the power. Some devices that are available through retail sales outlets and Amazon have multiple functions (flashlight, radio, emergency band, and charging and hand-crank charging handle). The ETON devices (with their Red-Cross approval marks) will run between $60 and $90 but supply USB charging only. This is actually great for members of your family who think that might be able to get a 20 second update on their social media accounts. Remember, wifi and cell connectivity will be affected in an all-out disaster.
Prioritize your needs according to your understanding of the crisis. One of the best re-charging battery systems on the market is made by Power Practical because it has the capacity to serve two goals; you use boiling water to provide the energy charge to a USB connected device and you can (after 10 minutes of boiling) save the water as “sterilized” or the base for fluffing up your dehydrated meal. The heat source can be a camp stove, a wood stove, a fire-pit fire, or a clump of cooling lava. The battery charge is good for any cellular device compatible with the adapter (Apple) and HEAT is the only element required, so you can test it anytime. They are available in different configurations on Amazon and other outdoor interest sites at about $100. Caution in using this at altitudes over 6,500 feet because a boil is tougher to achieve and very hard to see. Charging is slow but it does work. I may have never come down from the mountains if I had this handy tool to charge my phone for ICE.
The second is either of the hand-powered generators made by K-TOR that charge an 120volt connection that’s capable of charging a phone or device through a plug in adaptor OR used as straight plug for most common appliances (a real lamp for a real read or an electric can opener). They come in a hand-crank model or a foot pedal model (great for getting exercise during idle time). Available on-line or through outdoor distributor sites, prices are about $80 and $250 respectively. Now I know I can go back to the mountains.
You can prepare for just about anything with common sense and a few small gadgets to lessen the inconvenience of life during disaster. To prove that I’m not promoting any single device, take a look at DIY sites that provide manual USB charges. There’s no doubt that with a little “mad scientist” influence we can all create the same devices for zero cost. I personally opt to not try to re-invent an existing wheel. I’ll buy what’s best and conserve my energy for a trek to safe ground.
If you can’t generate enough power to run your laptop for more than 10 minutes at a time, you can consider the $2.00 option for recording your ordeal … a steno pad and a number 2 pencil always works. Double wrap that precious cargo in plastic bags and you’re journal will be safe. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that no matter how you see Fire and Ice in your future or see the prophecy of Revelations, no amount of preparation will save you from these guys.