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Locals learn about emergency preparedness, survival tools

SALISBURY — Weeks after Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm that devastated New York state, many there are still struggling for shelter.
Such natural disasters, combined with 2012 “doomsday” hype, have created an interest in what Doug Patrick calls “prepping.”
Tuesday, Patrick and his daughter, Raven — both avid “preppers,” who keep supplies on hand for emergencies of all sorts — demonstrated a variety of ways to stay safe and healthy, even in the midst of disaster.
Speaking at the Rowan Tea Party Patriots’ monthly meeting, the Patricks showed off everything from simple household items that can literally save lives, to specialized gear for those who spend a lot of time on the road.
While some collect emergency supplies in case of terrorist attacks, or out of fear that an oil shortage could lead to supply disruptions, Doug Patrick said everyday travel and weather make such preparations necessary.
In recent years, a huge survival-preparedness industry has blossomed. The Patricks showed examples of special survival rations designed to last over a decade, sealed pouches of water, even a metal can containing matches, drink mix and more.
But, he said, “We don’t have a $500,000 underground bunker. We’re just everyday people.”
And there’s no need to spend lots of money to meet some needs.
Water, essential to life, can be purified with store-bought tablets or special filter bottles.
Magnesium fire-starting sticks, sometimes called Boy Scout matches, are better than lighters or paper matches. Patrick showed one such tool that he said had lasted for years.
And while those survival rations are good, he said, they’re also expensive.
Oatmeal, beans and other foods will last a long time if properly stored, and are much more economical, he said.
“We vacuum-seal as much as we can,” Raven Patrick said, showing store-bought food that had been sealed in plastic to protect it.
They described how they rotate their emergency supplies so that their stored food and other necessaries are fresh.
Flea markets, gun shows and Internet sites can also be a source of supplies and tools that are less expensive than those found in sporting goods departments, Doug Patrick said.
One example: Instead of a high-dollar camp cooking kit, Doug demonstrated how to use shears and a clean metal soup can to create a “burner” for use with store-bought Sterno fuel and a small stainless steel pot.
By carefully cutting the can, then folding pieces of its metal side like daisy petals, the can holds the pot just above the flame.
He said such an improvised stove can boil water in minutes.
But for a lot of simple supplies, Patrick said, “the dollar store is your friend.”
Some of the most useful tools and supplies can be very inexpensive, he said.
As an example, he held up a package of maxi pads.
“You might laugh, but you guys need these, too,” Doug Patrick said.
A sterile compression bandage for a first aid kit can cost as much as $7, Patrick said, but those pads can help treat a wound in an emergency, and cost much less.
If medical tape isn’t handy, electrical tape can be used to hold bandages in place in an emergency.
A stick of lip balm, containing petroleum jelly, can help start a fire more quickly.
“Always have a couple of versions of fire,” Raven Patrick said, “matches, firestarters.”
Large, heavy-duty trash bags are versatile. Stuffed with leaves, Doug said, they can form a makeshift mattress. They can be worn as ponchos, filled with rainwater or used to carry other items.
And a lot of the items families throw away, such as juice bottles and breath mint tins, can be re-used.
He held up an energy drink can with a screw-top lid. “This could be a makeshift canteen,” Patrick said. “You’d just throw this away.”
Other supplies can be picked up less expensively at dollar stores than in specialized “camping” or “survival” versions.
His favorite example was toilet paper.
Should the world as we know it end, Doug said, “you can grow food, but you can’t grow more toilet paper.”
Raven said she started keeping supplies in her car when she began to commute between Rowan County and Charlotte.
She talked about keeping a season-appropriate change of clothes packed, as well as a second pair of shoes, in case of need.
That, plus a simple first-aid kit, can provide peace of mind, she said.
But the best first-aid kits are those put together out of high-quality supplies, the Patricks said.
“A $10 first-aid kit contains about 20 cents worth of supplies,” Doug said.
And over-the-counter medicines that can go bad in the trunk of a car should be carefully checked.
For those who plan to camp, or who may find themselves stranded on a long road trip, Doug Patrick suggested a wider range of supplies.
A large, high-quality survival knife can also be used to chop firewood, or for self-defense, he said.
For those who aren’t comfortable with firearms, he said, other survival tools such as heavy-duty metal flashlights can be used in self-defense.
It’s important to consider how one might react, and what tools might be on hand, in case of an attempted robbery or carjacking, he said.
“If you’re scared to hurt someone who breaks in your house, you’re going to get hurt,” Doug said.
Drivers should also consider getting a “seatbelt knife,” designed for escaping from a wrecked vehicle, the Patricks said.
Although other camping equipment — mosquito nets, blankets, a compass — can be helpful, the focus of Monday’s presentation was on simple steps and awareness.
“It was good to come up here and see what someone else packs,” said Dianna Bingle, who drove from Cabarrus County.
She said that, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, “there are still people out there without anything. And look at (Hurricane) Katrina, any natural disaster.”
With such things happening, she said, it’s no surprise that “prepping” is getting so much attention.
Doug Patrick said that, although another major ice storm or Hurricane Hugo might not happen right away, now is the time to begin getting prepared.
Instead of watching ‘doomsday’ scenarios on TV, he said, people should make common-sense plans.
“When we have disasters, we’re able to take care of ourselves,” he said.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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