Emergency Preparation for Northern Climates Series - Part 1

Superstorm Sandy should have served as a big wake up call to this country on many levels. So many people lost everything, and even more went for weeks without power - right before winter.

For those that live in Southern states, winter is an entirely different animal. In fact, almost everything about survival is different in the North versus the South, so I thought I'd discuss emergency preparation for colder climates.

If you've ever watched Doomsday Preppers, then you've probably seen a lot of desert prep. Everything you've learned is beneficial, but you'll need to take extra steps to survive in the cold.

Here are the main differences and issues you need to take into account.

Vitamin D
Bursting Pipes and Backed up Sewers

Let's examine each one individually.

Contrary to the cultural low-salt craze, we NEED salt. More specifically, we need iodized salt. Unless you are near the ocean and will have access to seafood, you will need an iodized salt supply.

In the case of a disaster, you will most likely be eating canned and processed foods for awhile, so in the short term, salt will not be an issue. If the world has really gone to hell, then you'll be eating like a hunter/gatherer and you will need a source of salt.

Again, if you are not near the ocean, then you will also need iodine. Processed food does not provide iodine.

Solution: Buy a large Costco sized container of iodized salt. Save it in your pantry.

Most Northern states receive ample rainfall and have easy access to water sources. Think about it this way - all winter long we are covered in snow that can easily be melted into clean, drinkable water. In a true emergency, you could even save this water for the hot/dry months.

You can and should consider using rain barrels to collect rainwater and runoff during spring and summer. You can drink this water (after filtering, distilling, and/or boiling) but you can also use it to water your crops.

During non-emergency times, you should use this water to water your plants. For short term emergencies, you should have a few weeks worth of water on hand. Bottled water works great. Remember that you also have "clean" water in your water heater and toilet tanks. You can also fill your bathtubs and sinks if you knew you were going to be hunkered down in your home for an extended period without access to flowing water.

You should also scout out nearby streams, rivers, and lakes.

In the absolute worst case scenario, even in severe drought, you should be able to at least collect water from lakes, rivers or from plant transpiration.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial to overall health, as are many other vitamins. In the case of serious disaster, your diet will be whatever you have on hand and that will most likely be nutritionally deficient. Have a supply of vitamins (including vitamin D) on hand.

Use them regularly and rotate through your supplies so nothing gets expired or wasted.

In the summer months, take advantage of the sun to get the Vitamin D you need, but be prepared with enough supplements for your entire family to make it through at least one winter.

If you have egg laying chickens or leave near the ocean where you'll be able to have access to salmon, then you will be able to get some Vitamin D in your diet. Keep in mind that Vitamin D is fat soluble, so you will want to get enough sun exposure to help get you through the winter and you can most likely get by with taking a supplement on an every other or every few day basis throughout the winter.

Staying warm in -65 degrees Farenheit without central heating would be a rude awakening for most of us.

If you choose to heat your home with wood, gas, or any other combustible material, remember to use proper venting (open window, vent system, or something) or you will die of carbon monoxide poising or smoke inhalation.

You may also burn the house down. Plan for this in advance. How would you keep a fire in your home? What would you burn? Where would you find a source for that material? How will you start the fire?

Keep extra blankets on hand. Use them for guests or for couch blankets and throws during your regular life - but keep them for emergencies. Have extra sweaters, coats, gloves, boots, hats, and scarves for everyone in your family.

Cold weather sleeping bags would be a wonderful investment!

In the dead of winter, it might even make sense to live in one room of your house, all together to conserve heat and take advantage of each other's body heat.

Winter is very destructive to your skin (your biggest organ!) You will want to keep your skin healthy to keep your immune system functioning properly and for your overall comfort.

Invest in high quality lotions, creams, and lip balms to protect your skin from the cold and wind.

Bursting Pipes and Backed up Sewer Systems
How could a bad situation get even worse? By pipes bursting and sewer systems backing up into your home.

In a long-term disaster where you have no access to heat, you will need to winterize your home. Shut off the water valves and drain all of the lines. Bursting pipes are not only expensive to fix (in the event of a return to civilization) but wet  floors and walls lead to mold and a destruction of the home that protects you.

If you have a back flow preventer on your sewer lines and waste water lines, turn them on. Otherwise, you are most likely out of luck. If thousands of people are still flushing toilets in a system that is no longer functioning, all of that material (including rainwater runoff that is normally taken down the city sewer lines) will be coming back up - and in to your home. I don't know that there is anything heavy/strong enough to prevent the force that will be flowing.

If your home does fill with sewage, contain it or prepare to leave. You can not live in sewage.

The growing season is short in Northern climates. There is no way around this. Greenhouses without power can not protect plants from freezing temperatures.

You will want an ample supply of canned or shelf stable foods. If an emergency were to happen in the winter, you can move your freezer and refrigerator items outdoors and let them stay cool in the snow.

You should scout out a place where you could garden. Have a supply of seeds on hand - for growing and sprouting. Sprouts provide vitamins, protein, convenience, and variety.

If you garden now, can and/or freeze some of your summer bounty for use in the winter months.

Explore the area you live in to look for streams/lakes with fish, berries, nut and fruit trees, and to find where your local animals roam and nest.

In the case of a true, long lasting emergency, you will need to learn to live off your land.

That will mean hunting, trapping, fishing, gardening, foraging, and..... it might mean a drastic reduction in calories. For this reason, and the fact that you will need extra calories to stay warm in winter, I do not recommend any Northern citizens be underweight.

Being underweight puts you had a huge disadvantage for survival. Not just because you have less fat storage for your body to use, but because you will also be more susceptible to viruses and infections that will be difficult to heal from without proper nutrition, water, and protection from the elements.

Get a book that discusses safe plants and animals to eat.

Insects are high in protein and some (like grubs) are high in fat. Both will be prized macro nutrients in a true survival scenario. Many weeds are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Edible roots, seeds, mushrooms, berries, nuts, and fruit might be right outside your door. Snakes, rodents, and birds can be also be eaten.

Food will be hardest to come by in the winter. This is a major problem. Plan accordingly.

These are just some of the things that require attention if you're creating a survival plan for a Northern climate. You should plan for at least a 1 month emergency - meaning no heat, water, or access to stores for food and necessities.

In the case of a true, long-lasting emergency such as the break down of our society as we know it, then you will need to take more drastic steps and mentally and physically prepare yourself for survival.

In such a case, the inner city will be the worst place to be. Violence, competition and the lack of food/water access will make it the worst place to live.

The suburbs could be okay as long as you have access to water and a source for food (nearby forests, streams, gardening space.) In this case, you will still have competition and potential violence due to the number of close neighbors and the unlikelihood of owning any farm-like items (laying hens, bees, large garden spaces, wilderness teaming with potential food sources.)

Rural locations would be ideal, and if you live in a rural space now, then you are one step ahead in creating a self-sufficient existence that can save you time, money, and may even improve your health now.

Please feel free to add comments if you have any additional recommendations for surviving in a Northern climate.


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