Posts Tagged With: emergency preparedness

When Adventure Becomes Emergency

My original goal with this blog and the upcoming book was very simple: get more people out there. I meet so many people who are astounded–yes, actually in amazement–that my kids and I do so many things in the great outdoors, and that yes, we typically do them without my husband leading the way. That’s not a judgment call against him or a rallying cry of “we don’t need no men!” It’s simply a fact. My husband doesn’t enjoy many of the things the kids and I like to do, so we don’t let his absence stop us.

But I had another purpose for sharing our stories. When I see people who are blown away by our recent hike or kayaking trip or camping excursion, I feel sad that they’re not getting to take advantage of a great experience, but I’m also afraid for them. If you’ll let your fears stop you from going on a camp out at a secure, well-lit, well-populated state run campground, what are you going to do when disaster strikes and you really have to take care of yourself?

If you’re prepared for outdoors fun, you’re more likely to be prepared for outdoors emergencies. But what about those emergencies that bring the outdoors to you?

Around Christmas time, our state experienced some bizarre sever weather threats. Our particular region went through fairly intense flooding, or at least it was intense for us since flooding isn’t usually at the top of our threats. We all sat huddled in front of televisions or social media, watching the news updates and hearing what towns had closed all of their roads. At one point, we were watching a video someone had uploaded to Facebook of the severe flooding near where my husband works and where I do our heavy-duty grocery shopping. We were literally trying to piece together the location of the roaring waters by squinting at the business signs in the background.

At our house, the water from the drainage gully that runs between our yard and the road had risen to the point that our fence was getting wet. My husband and I kept a close watch on it, taking turns heading out on the porch and seeing how close it was coming.

When it was time for bed, our oldest was more than a little frightened. “What do we do if the water comes up to the house?” she asked almost tearfully.

I looked at her and smiled. I pointed to the window. “See the trailer with the kayaks on it? If the water comes in the house, we’ll go out the window and get on the kayaks.”

I took a few minutes to remind her of some of the very real dangers associated with flooding: rapid currents, unexpected surges in the water, sharp and dangerous debris that has been carried along with the water, and sewage backup that carries waste in the water. So we formed the plan. She was to put on her boots to protect her feet, hold onto the rope we attached to a pool noodle from the garage, and make her way to the kayak while keeping the water out of her nose and mouth. We packed several of our dry bags (the waterproof bags we take kayaking) with hand gel, food and bottled water, emergency mylar blankets, and a first aid kit, and placed those next to the window with the rope. Then she went to sleep and (knowing her) never thought of the danger again.

Did the water come up to the house? Of course not. Our land is built in such a way as to feed the runoff away from the property. Did I try to erase her fear by telling her that? Of course not. She’s fifteen. She doesn’t know what a flood plain is or that landscape architects and city planners factor in water flow when they design a town. And trying to convince her that she wasn’t in danger from a flood was a bad idea because a) the water was right in front of her face and b) there were better ways to help her get over her fear, namely by reminding her what she was prepared for.

My daughter is a really capable kayaker, and the kayaks were right outside the window in the back yard. By reminding her that she had the skills to save herself and then assembling the tools she’d need, she went to bed happy and confident.

And that’s what I want parents to get out of this blog. I want them to get out there with their kids and equip their children for unexpected obstacles by teaching them to be calm, capable, and confident. There’s no time for hand-wringing when a crisis occurs, but there’s also no need to scare people into becoming rabid preppers who live in fear of the next catastrophe. Just use some common sense and develop the skills to protect yourself, while also having a great time developing those skills.

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Winterizing, or the End of the Season

We managed to sneak in one more camping trip to the beach a few weeks ago, complete with our favorite activity, taking a boat out for the day. We saw an eel… it was really cool.

We also had a more recent trip involving our outdoors skills and gear, but with a different purpose. This trip was last week, and we spent the night in the woods in the middle of nowhere… no electricity, no heat, no lights, just what we could bring with us. It was to provide the support for an aide station for a 100-mile run, and this particular aide station requires someone who’s comfortable in the dark, alone in the woods, with nothing but the coyotes to keep you company (hopefully nothing but coyotes!). It was actually really cool, and something we’re physically and mentally prepared for.

But now the sadness sets in… it’s time to put up our gear for another season, and that means winterizing your stuff.

When you winterize your home, you protect it from the elements, and the same is basically true for your camping and outdoors gear:

Kayaks – while they’re designed to get wet, they’re not designed to have water get inside of them, freeze, expand, and cause your seams to crack. Your other accessories (like paddles and life jackets) have to be protected from the cold extremes and from mold, too.

Tents – It’s a good idea to grab one more seasonable day to put up your tent, wash away any dirt or mud, check your poles for any signs of weakness, and give the whole thing a thorough cleaning. Once you’re certain it’s dry, then a really good, focused fold up is in order, as opposed to the foldup where you stow it quickly at your camp site since you’re trying to get out of there.

Sleeping bags – I know, there are people who’d think I’m taking the easy way out, but remember the purpose of this blog: it’s to help anyone do this. I take our sleeping bags for a once-a-year washing at the laundromat. I even splurge on the drop-off service. Basically, sleeping bags are one of those items that you probably COULD wash in your household machine, but a) you risk tearing them by putting them through the agitator, and b) your dryer will never get them dry enough. Even from the laundromat, I take the sleeping bags home and open them up to dry fora few days in the garage before I stow them for the season. Be sure to pack a couple of dryer sheets inside each one before you fold to keep down on pests and mold.

Cooking essentials – No one wants to get their gear out in the spring and find out they have a mold problem in their camp kitchen from a few leftover crumbs. I take apart our entire kit and wash everything in the dishwasher, then let it all air dry for a day on the racks before putting it all away.

Here’s the important thing about your gear: don’t put it out of reach. Sure, the attic is fine, or a shelf in the garage. But remember that your gear can still serve purposes all during the winter. It’s a good idea to keep one of your sleeping bags in the car in case you get stranded in bad weather, and throwing a small cook stove in there can’t hurt if you’ve got the space for it. If you invested in a tent heater, keep that thing within household reach in case a storm takes out the power; ditto for your propane stove if you have one. Keeping a couple small propane cylinders is a good idea, too, if you can store them safely.

Of course, the item we love to keep out of the gear is the marshmallow sticks! They’re perfect for roasting marshmallows in the fireplace.

The best thing you can do this winter is sit down and plan out the next round of fun you’re going to have with your family when the weather warms up. It makes the cold days go by a little faster, and it gives you an organized plan for your next outdoors adventure!

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