Emergency Preparedness: Retardant, Radios and Rations

Ladies and gentlemen, gather ’round and let’s talk emergency preparedness. While Rancho Santa Fe isn’t exactly the hurricane capital of the world, we do face our fair share of wildfires and earthquakes. Here’s a basic guide to preparing for everything from wildfires to power grid disruptions, with a bit of silliness to keep things light.

Wildfire Woes

We Californians know wildfires are as real as a run on toilet paper in a pandemic, and lately, the insurance companies have been fleeing faster than a cat from a cucumber. Home insurance premiums have skyrocketed, if you can even get one. So, what’s a savvy homeowner to do? Besides the usual yard work of clearing dead trees and underbrush, consider investing in Mighty Fire Breaker’s MFB-31 Citrotech. This non-toxic coating can be sprayed on your home and surrounding areas to “radically reduce the risk of a fire’s ability to burn.” Think of it as sunscreen for your house and yard. You can grab this magic potion at Grangetto’s in Escondido.

Infrastructure Interruptions

Imagine the FBI director’s face last month when he told Congress that Chinese hackers might take down our infrastructure. It’s a bit like saying they can’t find the President, but scarier. A cyber attack could disrupt everything from cell service to water distribution. So, just like preparing for wildfires, stock up on food, water, and alternate power and communication sources. Learn to navigate without your trusty GPS, just in case the cyber gremlins strike.

Short and Long Range Chit-Chat

If the internet and cell service go poof, short-wave radios are your new best friend. The Voyager AM/FM shortwave radio is a tiny powerhouse that can be cranked by hand, powered by solar, battery, or USB. With a little wire and duct tape you can create a little antenna magic, and even pick up stations from South America, the Caribbean, and beyond. Local emergency broadcast stations like KOGO-AM 600, KWVE-FM 107.9, and KLSD-AM 1360 will keep you informed. So, jot down those call signs because Google won’t be around to save you.

Remember the Nextel cell phones with the walkie-talkie feature? They were in every construction worker’s belt chirping away on a job site or lunch counter. They’re back in action for emergencies! These indestructible phones work on a system called Direct Connect, perfect for staying in touch without relying on the internet. Dust off your eBay account and get yourself a pair.

Satellite phones and communicators like the Garmin inReach, ZOLEO and ACR Bivy Stick are great communicators when cell service is spotty. But they only work if the internet is up. Some may assume Starlink will bypass conventional internet, but Starlink works exactly the same way. You can take your Starlink receiver and get internet service through a satellite uplink, but the data that comes to the satellite goes through internet ground-based internet servers, and if there’s a widespread internet outage, Starlink won’t help. For those with family far away, amateur radio is the way to go.

When everything goes dark, amateur radio may be the best way of communicating over longer distances. But there’s a learning curve and then there’s the whole antenna issue. So the trusty BAOFang UV5R radio comes to the rescue. It’s a favorite among Special Forces and can communicate over long distances. It’s an easier device to program so you can buy one for you and your tribe, and start practicing your “over and out.”

Water, Fuel and Food

  • In the event of a water supply disruption, you’ll need a stash. Experts suggest one to two gallons per person per day. For more serious needs like flushing toilets and camp showers, think about alternative sources like pools or streams. Don’t forget a way to purify it unless you fancy Montezuma’s revenge.
  • If Gavin decides to put us on house arrest again, you’ll want a week’s supply of canned food. Think of it as a nostalgic nod to your pantry’s past life. Canned food has an indefinite shelf life according to the USDA. Just make sure you’ve got a method to cook it if the power’s out. Rancho’s propane stoves to the rescue!
  • A basic first aid kit is essential. Stock up on gauze, tape, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, and steri-strips. You never know when you’ll need to play doctor.
  • Solar-powered generators are a lifesaver, and gasoline or propane generators are solid backups for larger appliances. Battery-operated flashlights and headlamps are essential, especially for those midnight bathroom runs.
  • Stock up on toothpaste, shampoo, soap, toilet paper, and other toiletries. Remember the great TP shortage of 2020? Let’s not relive that.
  • Without GPS, a paper map and compass are your best friends. Learn some basic orienteering skills so you’re not the star of your own lost-in-the-woods movie.
  • Plastic tarps and paracord are indispensable. Whether it’s covering a broken window or rigging a temporary shelter, you’ll be glad you have them.

Neighborly Networking

Finally, get to know your neighbors. Find your people. The ones you would want on your team in an episode of Survivor or The Amazing Race. In an emergency, they’re your most valuable resource. One neighbor might have a pool for water, another a vegetable garden, and yet another a stash of Scotch for when things get really tough. Community spirit can make all the difference.

So, there you have it — a basic guide to emergency preparedness. For a deeper dive in all the subjects above, you might want to have this handy book as a resource. Stay calm, be prepared, and don’t forget to laugh a little!

Kelli Hillard is a Covenant member.