by Fred Knight, D.D.S.
During the weekend of February 3-4, 1996, the temperature in Tower, Minnesota, dropped to 60 degrees below zero. In the nearby little town of Embarrass, the temperature was a little warmer, at a minus 56 degrees. In a state exposed to cold weather in winter, these were both record lows and were "real temperatures", not wind chill factors. "Yesterday, we could not wait any longer. We had to go to town and buy groceries. That is the first time I had been out of the house in four to five days," said Adrienne Fowler, Embarrass resident.
In warmer Southern California, two years earlier, residents of Northridge, a suburb of Los Angeles, were "knocked" awake before sunrise by the state's third major earthquake in six years. Although this incident occurred in January, cold temperatures were not a large factor because Northridge is a community of green lawns needing lawn mowers, even during the winter months. However, many hundreds of Northridge residents, and those nearby, found themselves without food, water or shelter within ten seconds. The individuals left without shelter were miserable the next day when it began to rain.
Not so long ago, Hurricane Andrew roared though the Southeastern area of the United States. That storm was considered by most experts to be the most destructive natural disaster to ever occur in this country!
More recently, large floods caused significant damage in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest areas of the United States.
Worldwide, the natural calamities causing destruction and loss of life are even greater. Are these signs or harbingers of Matthew 24? If so, should we or should we not prepare for these occurrences ahead of time?
The time of trouble and the increase in natural disasters described in Matthew 24:7 are two different things. A person should prepare for the time of trouble with "spiritual food," and for being snowbound in Tower, Minnesota with thoughtful, careful planning.
Basic survival, as we all remember, requires four things: air, water, food and shelter. Initially, in a disaster situation, food is usually the lowest priority. A human being can survive without air for only a few minutes or without water for several days, depending on the external conditions. Being without shelter in the snow at 60 degrees (F) below zero or in the desert when it is 120 degrees (F), can be life threatening within a short time. However, food requirements at the beginning of a crisis are low priority. Scripture gives ample evidence of this, most notably the numerous references to fasting, including Christ's 40 days in the wilderness. (This, of course, is not taking into consideration medical or physical conditions, such as diabetes, which can be life threatening when food intake is interrupted.)
With this thought in mind, it is comforting to know that for the first one to three days of a disaster situation, food can be considered to be a convenience. But for longer periods, everyone and every family should prepare an emergency food supply, as well as develop a rationing agenda.
Basic steps to prepare for food rationing and storage:
- Choose a time span you think you would probably not have access to outside food sources. You may select one week, ten days, a month; but, pick a length of time. Don't just say "I'm going to store a bunch of food." It will be difficult and frustrating to decide how long a time span to choose because of so many unknowns. A suggested minimum length of time is one week's supply of emergency rations.
- After you have chosen a time span, carefully determine the food requirements for all family members or those expected to use the supplies. Then, store the food necessary to meet those requirements. Storage takes planning because the shelf life of food items should be a minimum of one year. Two dozen apples will not keep for a year, but several jars of applesauce will! A 10 lb. bag of beans will be useless if there is no way to cook them or if it has become infested with insects. Two cases of canned beans, however, will keep for a year and will not have to be cooked. Obviously, it will take much careful thought and planning to store food your family can utilize.
- "Day One" of the time span does not start until all on-hand food supplies have been consumed. By rationing these on-hand supplies, the onset of "Day One" is delayed as long as possible. The system for using on-hand food is to: (1) consume all food in your refrigerator; (2) consume all food in the freezer; and (3) eat the food on the pantry shelves. When items such as oatmeal, pancake batter and canned goods are gone, then "Day One" of your emergency food supply begins.
- The storage location for this emergency food supply is important. The standard statement "store in a cool, dry location" is correct. But where should that be? In the basement, a closet, or the garage? It depends on where you live. In earthquake country, locate your emergency supplies in a place where you can gain access to it if the house collapses. In tornado or hurricane country, choose a location where it will stay put if the rest of the structure is lost. In snow country, probably a location in the center of the house will work.
- A small camp stove and fuel or several Sterno cans and matches should be stored near the emergency food rations. In adverse conditions, warm food and a warm drink can be emotionally comforting, as well as physically nourishing. It takes a lot of fuel to actually cook meals for several people for several days, so plan carefully. It takes less fuel to warm canned emergency food than cook raw food. And remember, some fuel will be used to prepare the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry items.
- Purchase of emergency food rations will be more cost-effective if choices can be made from the usual types of food your family eats. Then, after a year, if the emergency rations have not been needed, they can be rotated into the pantry and replaced a few at a time in the emergency storage area. Never deplete the emergency rations without replacing them. Readily available grocery store items (canned fruits, vegetables, soups, etc.) can be supplemented with backpacking comestibles, such as freeze-dried packaged foods and MREs - Meals Ready to Eat.
As God provided for His children in the wilderness, we trust that He will also care for us in times of strife. God did not remove Noah from the flood disaster, but gave him time and direction to prepare for it with food and shelter. Joseph was also directed to store food for the Egyptian people in preparation for a seven-year famine. So, let us also be prepared.
For a resource list of literature and vendors concerning preparedness topics, please contact the WUAS office.
About the Author: Fred, and his wife, Nadine, live in Cherry Valley, California with their sons. They served as missionaries to Puerto Rico in the mid- 1970s and have first-hand knowledge regarding the hardships that major hurricanes can wreak upon an unprepared household.