Spencer W. Kimball, in my humble opinion, had it right when he stated, “Preparedness, when properly pursued, is a way of life, not a sudden spectacular program.” In today’s culture, where we rely heavily on technology, convenience, and instant satisfaction, we are losing the ability to maintain a certain level of self-sufficiency. People have become detached from the fundamentals of survival, instead focusing on the here and now. Often burying their head in the sand, so to speak, when it comes to having a plan in place in times of an emergency.
In a way, for me, growing up in rural Alaska has been a blessing in disguise. You are submerged in a unique culture, where traditional means of living are not only commonplace but vital to a subsistence type of lifestyle. Like Kimball mentioned above, preparedness should be an integrated part of your daily life, not something thrown together in panic at the last minute. As a hunter and a gatherer, the topic of self-sufficiency is one I can fully appreciate and a natural extension the concept of preparedness. I value the idea of providing and sustaining a level of independence-- knowing how to build, harvest my own meat, and sharpen my survival/wilderness skills is important to me.Knowing that I can take care of myself is such a mental relief and game changer when unexpected things happen. Because of that, I’d like to explore what it means to be “prepared” in Alaska and what basic steps people can take to ensure their preparedness no matter what circumstances they come upon, whether it’s a natural or man-made disaster, hunting accident, or other type of emergency.
Many of us already know, but for those who haven’t been to Alaska it is, for all intents and purposes, extreme and diverse. It is large, in fact it is the largest state in the U.S. and the most sparsely populated. It is also highly unique in that it is has a wide variety of terrain, that includes sprawling mountains, varying waterscapes, thick forests, and unpredictable weather patterns. Due to the nature of Alaska’s climate and topography it presents some unique challenges for those living here. Driving long distances, wildland forest fires, earthquakes, subzero winters, are just a few of things people who live here deal with on the regular. This is where having a plan in place becomes paramount and with that comes making sure you are well prepared for the elements.
Due to Alaska’s abundant natural resources, there are so many different types of activities to do here such as: camping, hiking, skiing, rafting, snowmachining, biking, hunting, etc. With each of these sports comes a lot of different types of gear required to do them. If you’re like me, most outdoor enthusiasts already have a lot of gear and/or supplies on hand, giving you a head start on your emergency supply kits. Even if you aren’t the adventurous type, you might be surprised at the materials you can scrounge up. Therefore, the first thing I would recommend anyone to do would be to start by looking to see what is available around you and then go from there.
Did you know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that you “store enough of your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity, per person, to last for at least 72 hours!” That means that they foresee it would take a minimum of three days before any help might become available to assist you. To me, 72 hrs. worth is nothing, and for Alaskans specifically, this is a very low number to strive for. Think about all the facts we already talked about above. The foremost being that we are the largest and least populated state. Where’s your helping going to come from? Even if there happened to be aide on its way, it might take them days/weeks/months to get to where you are, depending on your location and the weather. Relying on the government or other organization to come rescue you, is not the greatest backup plan nor the most practical. So, let’s break down these three basic categories in detail to get an idea of some helpful options for those looking to fine tune or start the process.
As I mentioned before, I grew up in a traditional Alaskan lifestyle that included harvesting your own food when you were able. We also lived about two hours from the closest city, so having food stored up was a necessity, as it was sometimes a month before we were able to get back into town for groceries. So, for me as an adult, storing food was the easiest part of my emergency plan to incorporate. There are a lot of subtopics that can tie into this part, including how to reduce food waste.however, for the purpose of time, we will stick to some good ways to stockpile food. My husband and I utilize large chest freezers to store moose burger/roasts, berries, bags of vegetables, extra bread loaves, salmon/halibut filets, etc. For a lot of people, this is is probably the easiest way to store food butmay eventually require a backup generator to run if the power goes out.
Fortunately for me, my dad also passed down his love for canning, so in addition to freezing food that we have harvested, I also have a few shelves in the garage dedicated to canned itemsthat have a great shelf life of at least 1-2 years. I tend to can a lot of meat and fish this way, some jellies, which provide for quick meals and frees up a lot of space in the freezer for other thingsand lasts longer. Yet there is another option, probably one of the most under-utilized, and longest lasting ways to store food is to buy or make freeze dried or dehydrated meals. When backpacking or hunting, ounces become a concern, so a lot of people, including myself rely on these dehydrated or freeze dried meals and snacks when on the go. If bought in a little excess, or if there is any left over from the season, these cancreate an awesome supply of healthy shelf stable food options to be used whenever the need arises.
Second, having access to clean water or a clean water source is a top priority and one of the most important aspects of survival in general. From a preparedness perspective FEMA recommends that a household have at least one gallon of water per person, per day. One of the first things my husband and I did, when we were building on our property was to have a well drilled. Again, that’s great if there is power to draw the water up, but sometimes even that isn’t good enough if an earthquake disturbs the water table. Luckily for Alaskans water is a naturally abundant resource. In fact, according to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, “Alaska has more than 40% of the entire nation’s surface water resources.” What that means for Alaskans is that most likely water won’t be much of an issue to find, however investing in a good filter, and storage container is probably a good idea. Most adventure types already have water filters or other chemical treatment capsules in their outdoor gear as well as bottles/bladders galore!
Third, every good plan requires an equally good kit or basic set of supplies. I personally have some form of kit for my house, Jeep, UTV, motorcycle, snowmachine, as well as for myhunting/hiking packs. As I mentioned before, what do you already have laying around that you can use to kick start this process? Due to the nature of having many different hobbies, my “kits” or supplies get shuffled around depending on the season or activity I am doing. For instance, I might utilize some gear from my hunting pack to use during the off season for my emergency car kit and visa-versa. Some basic supplies to have handy might include things like:
First aid kit
Change of clothes
Water filter/iodine tablets
Cold weather gear
Emergency contact numbers
This time of year always gets me thinking of preparedness, due to the fact that the temperatures are dropping and many places in Alaska are starting to get snow on the ground. Like manyAlaskan’s, travelling long distances is the norm—we either live remote, work remote, have family in another part of Alaska we visit, or we like to venture and check out new places across the state. For me, all of these apply. Therefore, lastly, I wanted to briefly mention that having an emergency vehicle kit is important when thinking about preparedness, as a whole. Whether your vehicle or mode of transportation is a plane, four-wheeler, truck, or snowmachine. Currently that’s what I have been working to finish up as I gear up for winter, and for those interested. here is glimpse of what that looks like so far:
My Jeep Kit
Warm gear: Puffy jacket, snow pants, warm socks, hat, bandana, gloves (two sets- one for warmth, one for dexterity), snow boots.
Food: Left over hunting snacks-- Heather’s Choice, cliff bars, trail mix, etc.
Supplies: Road flares, candles, lighter, hand/foot warmers, headlamp, first aid kit, BioLite stove, jumper cables, sleeping bag/blanket.
Tire changing kit: Tire iron, jack stand, spare tire.
*Tip: Make sure you frequently check the air pressure in the spare tires. If you have room add a bag of sand and shovel.
Remember, the time to start preparing is now, not later down the road when you are in a bind. Start small and add something to your supply list every year. Take advantage of the great resources listed below and put together a plan/kit that works for you and your lifestyle. There are also a ton of websites that go over emergency situations and how to navigate and prepare for those, better yet take a class and get some hands-on experience learning different wilderness/survival skills. As I get older, I appreciate the value this way of life continues to create and I hope that by sharing this passion, it will inspire others to continue to seek that knowledge and put it to good use.