A few weeks ago I was chatting with DadsDollarsDebts via Twitter when he laid quite a surprise on me , his house had burned down in the Tubb fire. Even worse he was nearly in it when it happened. I can only imagine the distress has caused him and his family, and like many others living in that area I send me thoughts and prayers. Out of that post, an interesting thing happened. Personal finance bloggers banded together to write about the importance of Emergency Preparedness. This post is my contribution to that chain.
At first I was a bit hesitant to add to the chain. I’ve never had my house threatened by fire or volcanos and flying mud . What could I write about preparedness that my compatriots had not already added. Then it hit me.
Emergency Preparedness with Unique Challenges
I have spent much of my life growing up semi rurally. What do I mean by semi rurally? Well I do not live on a farm, and I am typically 10-20 minutes from a smaller city. But, to get to my house you have to go down a long and windy road. Then you have to turn down a private lane and go back a good 1/2 a mile to my house. Beyond our current house are woods that go for miles. The house I grew up in was setup similarly. This means a few things are different then what happens in the city.
- I am one of the last people they get to in an emergency. If the powers out we could be waiting quite a while.
- Downed trees and power happen more often than elsewhere just based on the sheer number of them.
- It’s difficult to get out of where I live in an emergency as there is really only one way out by car. The other involves a hike through the woods.
- My home services are more self contained, which is both good and bad. I have a well and a septic system, which means I don’t need water from the water company to survive. But… I need electricity of some type to run my well pump, or I can’t even flush my toilets.
Not Uncommon to be Stuck In Our House For Days On End
So while I have never had a, my house is in danger type of emergency, long periods of potentially dire power outages where you are stuck in your home are not uncommon. In the dead of winter these can quickly become an emergency if you are not prepared. One of the worst such situations I remember happened when I was 14. A 100 year walnut tree in my neighbor’s yard decided to come down. It laid out across the road, took out the telephone poles in front of my parents house, and laid in our yard. For five days we were stuck in our house, cutoff for the outside world. Least you think this was some sort of outlier, regular outages of a day or 2 happened a few times a year.
Emergency Preparedness In Place
The thing is, these type of situations lead to a different type of emergency preparedness than others have written about. I am generally not in need of a bug out bag, transportation, or communication. There are scenarios where such things which may be needed, but infinitely more likely I need to be prepared to hunker down in my home for days on end without contact to the outside world.
While writing this I have noted while I am semi prepared, I have let my guard down in some areas.
How I have Prepared, and a Question
So how have I prepared for an emergency in place:
- Well in my particular case the number one emergency preparedness tool is probably a generator. I will readily admit I have cut corners here recently. We have been playing chicken by not having bought one since we moved into our current home. I am trying to decide how to rectify this issue. An automatic home system is expensive. A portable version requires consistent maintenance and a place outdoors to run during a storm. It is a tough decision really, and one for which I am considering a third option as you will see later.
- We also keep water on hand in jugs in the basement. If power goes out to the home we lose water as well since we are on a well. This means no flushing of toilets, washing ourselves, and ultimately nothing to drink. The jugs are rotated regularly and are primarily for toilets and washing. To this we fill up a tub with water any time a big storm is scheduled to hit, so we can utilize that water if needed as well. For drinking water we tend to fill up pitchers before an expected event. We also keep some bottled water on hand just in case. We are generally prepared for water issues at least.
- Heat is my least mitigated concern. Many of my neighbors are on propane. The house I grew up in was on oil. None of these work without power. We are on natural gas, but no power means no blower which means using the heater is a no go. We could use the oven to some extent in an emergency but that is a poor method of heating a house in an emergency. At the moment we are debating a purchase of a wood burning stove. We could use it to both reduce heating bills and as a backup during power outages. I am somewhat considering this as an alternative to a generator as I view heat in winter as the one thing on this list for which I do not at least have a viable mitigation plan. I have nearly an endless supply of wood behind my house. We’ve cut down a 20-30 foot tree every year since we moved in 4 years ago. Currently my preparedness is limited to knowing how to drain my water pipes. We also, of course, have plenty of blankets.
- I am less concerned about air conditioning. It certainly gets hot in Delaware in the summer, being practically surrounded by water. But we have a basement in our house. I have noted over the years we have lived here that even after coming back from a week of vacation where air conditioning was off and summer did it’s worst, it is bearable in the basement. If I do not feel like I am going to melt like a popsicle in my basement on a 100 degree day after a week with the air conditioning off I suspect we could theoretically survive without air conditioning indefinitely if needed.
- We also have a giant freezer and fridge of food. In a true emergency the big benefit of that generator over a wood burning stove is keeping our food from spoiling. However, most issues here happen in winter when snow and ice snaps power lines. We have a sun porch where we can and have placed food to keep in a winter outrage. As such unless the power were to go out for an extended period of time in the summer this is less of a concern. Even if it did the cost of the food in the freezer once every few years is probably less than a generator. In my experience the fridge and freezer will keep the food for at least 2 days.
Generator or Wood Stove?
So I guess after writing this you can see my struggle as a homeowner living in an area susceptible to being cut off from the outside world. You also see some of the basic steps I have already put in place to mitigate some of the issues.
So I’ll leave you with the question. Which would you buy, the wood stove or the generator? Anyone else have a higher probability of needing emergency preparedness in place?
The Chain Gang
The Chain in question is below, starting with the post from DadsDollars and Debts on his recently frightening experience.
Anchor: DadsDollarsDebt – Tubb’s Fire – A Sudden Evacuation
Anchor Two: Chief Mom Officer – A Harrowing Escape Inspires The Personal Finance Community – Beyond The Emergency Fund
Link 1: OthalaFehu – Cool As A Cucumber
Link 2: The Retirement Manifesto – Am I A Prepper?
Link 3: The Green Swan – Preparing For The Worst
Link 4: Minafi – Minimal Hurricane Preparation
Link 5: A Gai Shan Life – Earthquake and disaster preparedness
Link 7: Money Beagle – How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything?
Link 8: Crispy Doc – Fighting Fire With FI/RE
Link 9: She Picks Up Pennies – How Can A Planner Be Unprepared?
Link 10: Chronicles Of A Father-Getting Ready for a Natural Disaster
Link 11: Rogue Dad MD- Disrupting the Equilibrium
Link 12: Unique Gifter-10 Ways To Help Disaster Victims
Link 14: 99 to 1 Percent: 15 Frugal Ways To Prepare For An Emergency
Link 15: I Dream Of FIRE – Your house is burning and you can only save 10 things – what do you choose?