Half Assed Disabled Prepper Tips for Preparing for a Coronavirus Quarantine
March 9, 2020, edited March 10, 2020
By Leah Piepzna-Samarasinha
Note as of 3/17/2020: This doc has blown up A LOT in this wild-as-hell past week, and I’m grateful folks are finding it helpful. A lot has changed in the past week since I wrote this- shelter in place orders in effect, we actually ARE in quarantines, etc. I’m going to edit hopefully tonight. For now I would say: focus on getting food and meds together and making a plan with close people and/or a local mutual aid group for support if you get sick. You can check out the North American mutual aid doc below to find organizing happening in your community.
Fat-Assed Prepper Survival Tips for Preparing for a Coronavirus Quarantine : Bit.ly/FatSurvival “A group of us fatties made this guide to help us survive, rather than get “triaged” out of existence.” Made by a group of radical fat activists, this guide contains crucial information for fat folks navigating access, safety and medical eugenics and fat hatred. Straight-sized folks will also get a lot out of this well organized, detailed guide.
Overall Mutual Aid doc folder created by Rebel Black, with tons of resources for mutual aid from a disability justice perspective: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1l_xCQmi3NnK0A_1Urnb1W0-Xs53-LMZI
Self-care Tips if you become sick with COVID-19 from an activist nurse : http://bit.ly/33iG8yr
Collective Care Is Our Best Weapon against COVID-19 Kitty Stryker, Text written by Cindy Milstein, resources compiled by Agency & CM.
Massive North American wide doc of mutual aid projects and resources: (I think this is the same as above?) https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dpMzMzsA83jbVEXS8m7QKOtK4nj6gIUk1U1t6P4wShY/preview
Click here to find Rebel Sidney Black’s “Pod Mapping for Mutual Aid” document.
With gratitude for all our collective care work,
I joke that I am a ”half-assed prepper.” I grew up with a mom who intensively gardened for food and taught me how. As an abused kid, I was fascinated by the idea of running away from my family and living in the woods, and studied a lot of hiking, camping, wildfoods and survival manuals towards that end. Then I read Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower at 21 and, like many, was inspired by the main character Lauren Olamina’s creation of a “survival bag” with money, food, a map and meds to survive the destruction of her community, as a wake up call to get ready for potential political, ecological and other disaster.
It’s important for me to say this: Most people don’t learn about survival from being in “survivalist/ prepper” communities. As sick, disabled, poor, Black and brown, queer and trans people (to name a few), we already know a hell of a lot about surviving. Over the past two decades, I’ve learned a lot about survival in ways many people do- from being poor and sick and having to make food stretch and grow, shoplift and forage my food, to being a sick and disabled hiker and camper figuring out what works for my body in terms of gear and food prep. From studying herbal medicine as a chronically ill person and learning to make my own so I could afford it and could share with friends, to learning skills from friends who live rurally and low electricity. Most recently, I’ve learned from sick and disabled mutual aid in the face of wildfires, snow, power cut offs and now, COVID-19/ coronavirus. And yes, more than once in a while I read prepper blogs and filter out the Christian fundamnetalist content to get intel.
I live in Seattle, one of the epicenters of SARS- COV2/ COVID-19 infection. It’s an emerging situation where the information about it is changing all the time- which is part of what makes trying to prepare for it so stressful and scary. I am also chronically ill/ disabled with a weakened immune system, and it’s felt like me and every other disabled and sick person I know has spent the last week trying to figure out how to prepare and take care of ourselves and our communities, in the face of being extra vulnerable to getting seriously ill, and government inaction and lack of transparency (this article broke Saturday and said that the CDC had wanted to warn elders and “medically fragile” ie disabled/ chronically ill people not to fly at all last Monday (3/1/2020), but the Trump administration made them take it out.)
As a friend pointed out, anywhere else in the world we’d be under mandatory quarantine, but because we’re in the US, we’re not. ETA: WOW, from the vantage point of 3/23, this is quaint as hell- and important to remember that two weeks ago there were no shelter in place/ lockdown rules. There are also no government funded nurses coming to check on us, no mass distribution of food and masks and gloves ETA: something that many mutual aid groups are now working on. It is all put on the individual and, if we’re lucky, communities to figure it out, without an overall social safety net.
What we do know is that right now we are being urged to “socially isolate,” (not be in groups of over 10 if we are immune compromised or elder, keep physical distance between ourselves and other people) both to protect ourselves and to “flatten the curve”- to slow down the number of contacts people have with each other where the virus could be transmitted, so that a pandemic can be lessened in impact and severity.
I have spent the last week or two gathering information and working to get ready for COVID. To me, this means everything from preparing to not leave the house as much as possible to protect my immune system (so, gathering food and other necessities so I can stay at home, cook, eat, read, work and sleep), to taking steps to manage my existing disabilities, to getting ready in case supply-chain slowdowns and mass buying affect the availability of food, medicines and cleaning products. To, worst case scenario, prepping for if the water and/or electrical grid goes down.
I’ve had a lot of people ask me for advice about what is really needed for a two week prep, seen a lot of vague articles in mainstream papers, and I’ve seen a lot of people go out and do things like buying flats of small water bottles in plastic, jerky and power barst. It can be hard to sort through prepper info online, especially since a lot of it is coming from far right wing communities preparing for Armageddon with the two year buckets of freeze dried food.
So I’ve compiled some lists, thoughts and strategies on the disabled prepping I’ve been doing. Like everything, this is a work in progress and some things may or may not work for or apply for you- take what works and leave the rest. This is definitely a list coming out of my current life as someone who has housing and a little space- I am looking for and will post more resources when I find them aimed at folks in smaller spaces and/or living outside. (please message if you have favorites at the email address above.) This is also not an exhaustive list- there are a lot of other areas I could’ve gone into more detail on, but this thing is 13 17 pages already and I thought I would start here. For example: I have more financial resources currently (ie, savings) than I did for most of my life and was able to buy in bulk now more than I would’ve in the past. However, if I had less money now, I’d focus on rice and lentils and water and soap with some canned fish for wild times and keep it simple. This is not meant to be a “buy everything I did!” thing, but an example, or an overlapping series of examples, questions and thoughts.
To me, the five cornerstones of prepping are Food, Health Supplies,Water, Fuel (for heating and eating), and Mutual Aid
Plenty of lists like this one in the Toronto Star just say something vague like "Get a couple of weeks’ supply of non-perishable food items, such as canned meats, fish, soups, beans and vegetables. ” I feel like a lot of people are going to read this and go, ok, fine, but…. What do I do with that? A lot of people I know also just go out and bought jerky and power bars- what we’ve been trained to think of as “survival food.” Maybe you can live in Larabars for two weeks if you had to, but that won’t work for a lot of people’s bodies, morale and nutritional needs. A lot of people also look up those “300 meals in a bucket” survival meals, but they’re expensive and to me they look gross and are very “white people food.”
Instead, take a moment to think about:
Menu planning is something some of us are taught and some of us have not had access to. It can be overwhelming to plan meals for many people for a lot of reasons- eating disorders, growing up or being poor and not being able to plan ahead, etc. Start small. Instant oatmeal packs, meat or protein bars, dried fruit a bag of apples, and/or a bowl of rice and whatever on top can be a great place to start.
Also: I got hella lentils but maybe you want to buy 10 frozen pizzas! Go for it. A lot of these food recommendations have an air of Serious Food Only, with a dash of fatphobia. Get what will comfort you and also fulfill your nutritional needs. I have cookies and chips, I just made sure to get some protein as well.
For COVID, where I'm likely to have access to electricity and a stove, my plans are a bit different than if I was planning to be totally off the grid cooking off a camp stove or fire.
So my menu plans go something like:
Breakfast: Granola with almond milk (I keep some shelf stable almond milks around) along with apples, dried fruit, seeds/ nuts etc. Or: oatmeal, quinoa for porridge with the same kind of apples, seeds, etc Or: eggs (I stocked up) in tortilla, or on beans, beans and rice.
Lunch: Canned fish is good here for tuna or salmon salad. Having salad stuff on hand ( in the garden/ pots on the roof if you have, fridge veggies for a while or fridge veggies your friends drop off or veggies like cabbage that store well and you can combine with lemon/ olive oil and salt and whatever veggies you are trying to use up). crackers. drain some canned beans and make bean salad, or rice and beans. I also bought a bunch of cheese.
Dinner: The core of my prep is I bought a 40 pound bag of rice from the brown people store and hell of red lentils, like 20 pounds. Both together make protein, i enjoy eating dhal/parripu and rice, I can add veggies or not, and, you can cook both quickly- like in 20 minutes on a camp stove or fire, same on the stove. I am planning on leaning on things like rice and beans, stews, chili, and pasta, mujaddera (rice and lenttils), ful (fava beans and tomatos, spice, onions), etc.
Tips for buying stuff: Where did I get that 40 pound bag of rice? Isn’t everyplace sold out? I went to DK Market, which is the closest Big Brown Immigrant Warehouse Style Grocery where I live now, where there are hella sacks of rice and lentils.
Every place is different; the supermarkets and larger natural food stores here have gone through spates of being cleaned out of toilet paper and dried beans, but then many of them have restocked. However, I myself wouldn’t rely on Costco, as it keeps getting panic stripped of supplies here- and, I don’t want to be around masses of people right now. In my experience, people tend to rush “big box” stores when the call goes out to buy in bulk.
Where I bought my food and supplies:
DK Market (local immigrant food warehouse)
MacPherson’s (local fruit/veg place)
PCC and Olympia Food Coop (local food coops)
QFC (local big supermarket chain, but early on- they do keep restocking.)
Vitacost.com (online health food place that mails you things, has 30-40% discount off list price.)
Grocery Outlet (regional dented-can chain with deals)
Local Asian supermarket in my neighborhood.
Where’s the bulk stores, the discount food stores, the immigrant grocery stores, the health food stores with bulk bins in your neighborhood? Do you have a dollar store that has rice and beans and tea? Where do people buy products online outside of Amazon (often sold out in crisis)? Take a moment to think about it. Maybe make some calls and ask how stocked they are.
Here's my food and prep list
One 7 gallon Aqua Tainer, 5 7 gallon Reliance Jumbo Tainers (more rigid, easier to store)= 42 gallons potable water = 1 gallon per day for three people for two weeks.
Backups of 4 5 gallon BPA free clear water containers, purchased from WinCo (for washing, cat water, etc)- 20 more gallons, we put bleach in these and use the water for cleaning, cats, etc
Power and fuel: ( i put asterisks by what i would prioritize)
*One camp stove with gas containers
I have a set of thin, lightweight camping pots my partner got me last Xmas, but before that, I bought cheap aluminum pots from Goodwill, or used what I had in the house.
*A battery lantern or two (I found mine in thrift stores, people decide they want to camp and then don't ever go and get rid of their stuff) and batteries.
One oil hurricane lamp with oil (again, i found this at a thrift store and bought fuel online a while ago)
*A headlamp (an ex gave me one I’m still using 8 years later, the ones at walgreens aren’t great, try and get one from a camping or sporting goods or military surplus place) and batteries
Assorted candles, but not primarily what we rely on.
1/3 cord wood (I have a fireplace and room outside to start a fire pit, if you don't skip this.)
Two bags charcoal with grill (not depending on this, it takes a lot of charcoal to grill successfully, but if i didn't have a fireplace but did have a grill I’d lean on it more.)
Note: I bought all my camping gear slowly over the last few years. Maybe you can ask friends who have extra, ask on Buy Nothing groups, etc.
Food: (note- I live with two other people and bought with the idea that we might be sharing. You don’t have to buy all of these things- I just wanted to give examples of some stuff we bought and some stuff we already had.)
40 pounds rice, with about 10 other pounds in small bag we were already wating. (You don’t have to get this much! 10- 20 would be plenty for a lot of people.) One pound of rice is about 5 servings of rice.
Approx 20 pounds red lentils (3 7 pound bags)
4 big cans Trader Joe’s canned salmon (would’ve bought more but they were sold out.)
4 boxes GF pasta (the dollar ninety nine kind from TJs)
2 bricks instant rice noodles (99 cents, rehydrates quickly, good to add to soup.)
Lots of pintos, black beans, chickpeas, other dhal- we already had these.
Sunflower seeds and some almonds, tahini (had already). Peanut butter is cheap but I’m allergic.
Some canned beans- we had 3-4, bought 3-4 more.
4 cans ful (fava beans)
Bunch of canned tomatoes
Maybe 3-4 cans of coconut milk
5 pounds other lentils
Bag of apples
Bag of oranges (both keep well)
4-5 heads garlic
10 pounds potatoes (2 5 pound bags, they were on sale for 1.99 each)
3-4 winter squashes that store well
One cabbage and one big jar homemade curtido, one biggish jar kimchee.
10 pounds onions,
Big box loose tea and some coffee, some pre ground in case power goes out
Can of olive oil
A couple shelf stable almond milks and also some canned evaporated and condensed milk
Already have regular kitchen basics like spices, sugar, flour, oils honey, soy sauce, salsas/hot sauces, but I bought a big bag of kosher salt and a large can of olive oil
Meat: I tend to buy meat when it's on sale and freeze it. So, I have a whole chicken, 2 packs chicken legs and pound ground buffalo in freezer but plan on using meat sparingly and leaning on rice and beans/ rice and dhal, pasta with sauces,
Some chocolate, and I bake, so I have a couple pounds of butter that were on sale at grocery outlet in the freezer.
4 gallons bleach ( two chlorine, 2 hydrogen peroxide “safer bleach” because it's what the health food store had) for disinfecting while washing clothes and towels frequently and clean up around the house on doorknobs, light switches, bathroom, kitchen sink, etc.) We put chlorine bleach into a spray container on a one to ten ratio of bleach to water and spray onto surfaces, knobs, the compost bucket handle, the faucets, etc. Hydrogen peroxide we pour straight onto a rag and rub on things.
3 1/2 containers isopropyl rubbing alcohol, 98% (for sanitizing things- though we are increasingly using bleach as it is easier to find- and making hand sanitizer for sanitizing hands in public as well as inside of the car, laptops and cell phones, as all the commercial hand sanitizer has been sold out for weeks). I would’ve gotten more but I bought the three they had left.
Recipe to make homemade hand sanitizer is here: https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Gel-Alcohol-Hand-Sanitizer?fbclid=IwAR2Q9ucSerUlWCuGArtHeDa9zAwgxx8Ke3iNN3LW2mS7gD0rvs15yJhtplY. (I also bought some aloe gel from Vitacost and have an aloe plant.) Don’t fuck with the percentages, sterilize your containers and don’t use vodka! Everclear 91% can be used in a pinch.
3 containers liquid soap (One Dr Bronners 2 liquid black soap, you can use them for multiple purposes and a little goes a long way,. I stocked up because I wanted to be ready if the supply chain got disturbed, and you can always scrub things with soap and water)
Yeah we have toilet paper but you know what I’ll do if we run out? LOTA. You can survive without TP, you can’t survive without food.
Meds: Because of the kind of sick I am, I save meds and buy supplements when they go on the two for one sale when I can. I made sure I had my inhalers because I have asthma, Flonase I had from my last pneumonia, a ton of Tylenol (now recommended to bring down fever in case of Covid over ibuprofin). Can you use an online pharmacy, a drive through, or have someone pick up your meds, if you need to get extra? I also tend to stockpile meds, and I know I am not alone.
The rec is to have 90 days of meds and to call a doctor or PCP to try and get this. THIS IS NOT ACCESSIBLE FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE but I included it because it is a recommendation.
I also do a lot of daily immune support stuff I am used to doing as a disabled/ chronically ill person: eating raw garlic, drinking a ton of water, using fire cider, drinking nettle and tulsi tea, getting enough sleep, prayer and acupressure at home with some points I know.
One access hack for immune compromised, getting bronchitis/ pneumonia easily people: I got a flu shot and a pneumonia shot on the recommendation of my PCP- not as a way of preventing coronavirus, but as something that might reduce secondary infections and comorbidities (comorbidity is a medical term for an illness or condition that often occurs at the same time as another illness or condition.) The flu vaccine can lessen the severity of the flu and risk of hospitalization. My PCP also advised getting is because it could reduce my chance of getting the flu or pneumonia and having to be exposed to others at a hospital or urgent care.
(Edited to clarify 3/10/2020): I want to stress: Coronavirus is not the same thing as a flu virus, or as pneumonia. However, it is possible for someone to a) acquire coronavirus and flu at the same time (this is something seen in a lot of early coronavirus cases in China b) get coronavirus, and then develop pneumonia. Both these situations are extra dangerous, especially for people with compromised immune systems. For example, in some coronavirus patients, we see complications and death arising in part from a secondary pneumonia infection creating deep pockets of bacterial infection in the lungs.
Getting a flu and /or pneumonia vaccine will not prevent you from getting coronavirus. However, getting a flu and/or pneumonia vaccine may lessen your risk of acquiring flu and/or pneumonia after getting coronavirus- thus perhaps preventing some potential severe complications. It is a form of harm reduction. It does not mean that one cannot get coronavirus, or that one does not need to wash hands, socially isolate, etc.
To flesh this out: I have a history of having chronic bronchitis as a child and young adult. As a chronically ill adult, I have a history of getting sick easily with viruses, getting chest colds/ viruses that easily turn into bronchitis and then pneumonia- which then is more challenging for me to “shake off” then someone who is more able bodied/ healthy, and which sicken me for much longer than a “healthy’ person. So, I got the pneumonia and flu vaccines as a way of lessening my chances of getting both those things, period and/or on top of a potential corona virus vaccine. I am still washing my hands, sanitizing surfaces, staying inside, etc.
Prevention is often better and more accessible than cure. Right now, there is no vaccine or magic pill for COVID. One of the best ways to prep for COVID, and one of the only things we have access to right now, is to take care of your existing health/disability/ chronic health needs. So if you have asthma, COPD, diabetes, manage it as well as you can. And get sleep, go for a walk if that is accessible for you (or do another form of body mindfulness that feels good), draw, watch something calming on tv, cook, wash your hands, rest, stretch, read and talk with friends, take breaks from talking about it. All of these are things that can lower your stress level which will help your immune system. Again, immune boosting practices are not a magic bullet or a cure or a surefire way of preventing the aquiring of coronavirus. However, they are practices that we have some control over in a time when much is out of our hands, that can restore a feeling of agency, calmness and centeredness.
“Disabled and chronically ill fam, now is an extra good time to practice self love and self care! 🧘🏿 If you take any medications 💊 for asthma, COPD, diabetes or other on-going conditions, taking them regularly and managing your chronic conditions well make it easier for your body to fight off viruses. Rest. 🛏 Hydrate. 💦 Eat leafy greens and vitamin rich food. 🥬🥦🥕 Ask your doctor for refills on medications and if you can get your hands on one, keep an extra inhaler around. Hit us up if you are in the East Bay, BIPOC and need support. Helping us spread the word is appreciated!”
There are a ton of articles about hand washing, social distancing and cleaning / sterilizing surfaces out there which can describe how to do these things much better than I can. Here’s some I’ve referred to the most:
The CDC site (hugely resourced): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html
“What I think About Covid 19 this morning” (from a virus scientist, good grounded info and advice): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cI_D3ULz6-qoBRMND8dIVz-naW92MqATphBg5bQEIjg/edit?fbclid=IwAR0l81UhxCuypp0LrlCMsLgREquMpAlG-TNKS3Hn-Q_0wkf8sY0wdtzLSM8
“Preparing for coronavirus to strike the US” (has tips and was one of the first places to speak about community prep as mutual aid to sick and elder people) https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/preparing-for-coronavirus-to-strike-the-u-s/?fbclid=IwAR23_71xsW5jEmlkh06RdAln3APWvAas-g294rOkGTkgKkLI2yAOP76axFg
“Wuhan Virus: How to Stay Safe” (good article from a virus scientist and journalist focuing on epidemics on some things she does to lower risk and stay safe.) https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/25/wuhan-coronavirus-safety-china/
Wash Your Hands, by Dori Midnight: (a nice poem and series of reminders by a sick witch beloved): https://dorimidnight.com/uncategorized/wash-your-hands/?fbclid=IwAR1d3uaXijkmO-2NCwwSNbChxciLSe-uA_6k8ft37CWySuV6z2UYYHUicrg
Video from TheBody.com about COVID and HIV, 3/9/2020:
Edited to add 3/10/2020: For a great document about what mutual aid is and going much more into detail about mutual aid is and disabled/sick mutual aid and creating a “suport pod network”, check out my friend Rebel Sidney Black’s post “Pod Mapping for Mutual Aid” here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-QfMn1DE6ymhKZMpXN1LQvD6Sy_HSnnCK6gTO7ZLFrE/edit?usp=sharing&fbclid=IwAR3ww5NfVe9kp-z6zPhi56xJP6xK7WxuGkW05itGCGEG-YTZkXlTbqdUaBM
I have been a part of a lot of experiments in sick and disabled mutual aid, or collective care, which I am drawing on now. At first I was stumped: how were we going to face this? Usually we didn’t have to socially isolate/ stay away from groups under 10 people!
But I am realizing that everything we survive gives us some lessons and tools we could draw on in new situations.
Maybe you know how to ground.
Maybe you know how to pace yourself through the days.
Maybe you have a sense of humor that gets your ass through things.
Maybe shutting down, numbing out and dissociating helps. Maybe primal screaming does in the shower does. Maybe you have a dance party on Zoom, or soothe yourself by re-reading a book where you know exactly what is going to happen in it.
Maybe you can remember that you survived before, and what helped you to do so.
The principles of cross-disability mutual aid- that we can use our different skills and strengths and needs as disabled people to support each other- apply here for sure.
This could be a time where those of us with stronger immune systems go into public places to get supplies for folks who don’t.
This can be a time where we use the expertise many of us have in doing online meetings and building connection through phone calls.
From the Disability Justice Culture Club:
“Caring about people with disabilities means taking public health seriously. Those most impacted and at risk by COVID 19 are people w/ weak immune systems. If you haven’t already, now is the time to have conversations with your circles about both prevention/mitigation practices and what support disabled people will need if mass social distancing measures are taken. Do your neighbors have food, water, medication? Does your org culture plan redundancies so people can stay home when they are sick? If you have to meet, does everyone wash their hands when they come in the door? Asking these questions are a part of building disability justice practices/praxis. No need to panic, but there is a need to act.
Hand sanitizer and masks are sold out in many places. We will distribute kits (sanitizer, masks, gloves, citrus 🍊 from our backyard, other items) — please comment or PM us if you are BIPOC who could benefit from this or know BIPOC spaces who would. Stay home as much as optional, walk two feet away from people when possible, wash 🧼 your hands for forty seconds, avoid touching your face, and do what you can to boost your immune system. 🥬💦🍊🍋🛏 Spreading the word/post is appreciated. We got this.”
Every disaster is slightly different. What stays the same is that we can start from where we are, and do what/ offer what we can, to look out for each other.
You don’t have to be a super-popular, super-networked person with tons of local friends to do mutual aid. It can be you and your one friend.
You know what you need. And If a mutual aid effort doesn’t exist in your area, you can post on social media, or put up a poster on your block or at a community place you go, asking to connect, or with an idea, and see who shows up.
It doesn’t have to be local: In the last few wildfire seasons, it felt like circles of sick/ disabled folks in different regions kept trading places. When it was bad in Oakland, us in Seattle sent masks, playlists for morale, air purifiers, herbs. When it was bad in Seattle, vice versa. In this one, people in places where the stocks of sanitizer, etc, have not been emptied out are buying and mailing to their friends in places that have been picked over. Some of us can distribute hand sanitizer the way the DJCC is. Some of us can send each other money, meal delivery, meds, etc. We can text and check in.
It doesn't have to do everything to be worth doing, and meaningful.
During the Snowpocalypse 2018 and 2017 and 2018 wildfires, the circle of disabled/sick friends I have in Seattle made a text message group called Kripsignal (we were on Signal) where we could check in on each other, sharing needs, and problem solving around how to get them.
Sometimes just checking in - hey, how are you doing?- is enough to help someone calm, pause and figure out what needs to be done. A big action .Sometimes listening to someone vent or be scared is something you can do. Sometimes asking for someone to let you vent, asking if they have capacity, is a thing.
Sometimes, we did things like- a friend with a big wheelchair accessible van dropped supplies and snow melter off to people who were homebound during the 2019 Seattle snow.
If we make food, or elderberry syrup, we can invite a few friends over to share, or drop it off for folks. Or help facilitate pick up/ drop offs.
We already know a lot about living isolated/ in bed/ being homebound. We can share what we already do to make those things workable.
For example: for me, I find that even if I can’t visit anyone in person, like when we were snowed into the house for a couple weeks, I need to get out of the house every 3-4 days- even if it’s just for a short walk- to keep my mind in a good place. Or, I schedule phone dates. I can really love staying in my sleep clothes and working from bed- but I also find that sometimes, having a schedule where I can get to the shower and get dressed, have blocks of time outlined like “I read now, I do email now, I cook now” and go outside to sit on the porch, is really useful for my mental state. I can be tempted to marathon TV, but after a certain point, I can get in a zone it’s hard to break out of where it’s 3 AM and I’m half awake staring at the screen- so, setting a bedtime is helpful.
During the last fires and PG and E power shut offs, disabled, fat and elder people in Northern California set up a text and phone hotline where people could call if they had needs, or resources. People asked for, and offered things like housing, a place to charge medical devices, masks. They also collectively created a disability survival document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/18HoGaGluv92o9H4L1_QUGbHETQjhD1-5ANqV1aEoDmo/edit?usp=sharing&fbclid=IwAR2vx5QKW45476JpYy1sGRVRVCa5P_VpEWeWekcOkeYXyJoi8nYPsC9eqJM with a ton of info. Some of it- like how to keep insulin cool if power goes out, and generator info- could be super helpful here.
Maybe there could be online or distance fundraisers to help folks we know who don’t have extra cash for food/ supplies, or who are losing income.
Let’s brainstorm. The sky is the limit.
I also want to lift up that some of us are very isolated and don’t have access to friends or community. Doing what we can to feed and take care of ourselves is mutual aid to ourselves.
A lot of early advice posts around Corona prep advised people to get and store at least two weeks worth of water per person, prompting a lot of people to panic a bit- was it really going to be that bad?
So- do I think the water grid is likely to go down due to COVID? No, it’s not the first thing I’m worrying about. However, most prep starts with water, because it’s dehydration not starvation that kills people first. (The rule is that most people die in 72 hours if they have no water, disabled/elder people may die faster.) Below are some pieces of information and strategies for people who don’t have a lot of money or space and are looking for the best ways to do water storage. You can skip to page 6 to get to food info.
The rule of thumb is, one gallon of potable drinking water per person per day. For one person, that’s 14 gallons.
That may seem like a lot. However, if you buy two of these containers: https://www.rei.com/product/618168/reliance-aqua-tainer-7-gal and fill them from the tap, you’ve got enough for one person.
This container: https://www.rei.com/product/777828/reliance-jumbo-tainer-water-container-7-gal is even more compact and easy to store.
I live with two other people, and we have one Aquatainer and five Jumbotainers, and they take up about 3 feet square on our porch. If I lived alone, two Jumbotainers would be enough and would take up an even smaller amount of space.
You can buy these containers at sporting goods, camping and military surplus stores (as well as, sometimes, Walmart and Target- check before you buy.) They run about $15-20 apiece. You can also order them online- however, sometimes the shipping cost is as much as the price of the containers. Also, prices vary wildly according to demand (which is high right now), so the same container that is selling for $20 at REI is nine bucks more at Amazon.
The best way to store water is by using rigid plastic containers with opaque colors (grey, green, blue.) Clear water containers with thin sides let through light, which helps bacteria grow and makes the water go bad faster, even with bleach. DO not reuse containers that have been used to store chemicals, gasoline, oil, etc in the past- no matter how much you clean them, there will be residue.
You may be tempted to re-use milk jugs, water bottles, glass jars etc. However, all of these are both clear and hard to sterilize. If there are bacteria left in a plastic milk jug, for example, (easy to do) your water will go “off” with bacterial growth. Glass also is heavy to carry and easier to break. Commercial soda, spring water or milk jugs are thin and break down when used for long term storage, cracking and also leaching chemicals into the water.
If you absolutely can’t buy containers, clean reused soda jugs (the acid left in them can kill off bacteria) or glass containers with a diluted bleach and water solution, rinse well, then fill and keep them away from light. Check every month for growth, bad taste, and breakage; dump store water and refill.
For all water storage, make sure you store them well away from chemicals, or places (like a porch, shed or deck where you also store paint, stain, pesticides or other chemicals) where chemicals could spill, or where containers of chemicals are simply resting on the same shelf or flooring- the plastic will pick up the taste and provenance of the spilled chemicals easily.
Buying flats of small water bottles from the store is the first thing many people think of. However, it’s more expensive for less water and goes bad quicker than storing in opaque containers. If that’s all that’s available to you, try and get larger 2-3 gallon containers, not a flat of pint sized water bottles.
If you are not in an area with a boil water advisory or unsafe water, you probably don't need to add bleach because the water is already treated. If you want to or need to add bleach to your water to kill microbes, the rule is 8 drops unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
There is also chemical water preserver, like this: https://www.rei.com/b/aquamira/c/chemical-water-treatment that you can add to water to kill viruses, bacteria and protazoa, which makes it easier to store your water for longer.
You want to check your water for signs of algae or bad taste every six months. Dump stored water, clean containers and refill every year.
If you want to learn more about all of this in great detail, this site: https://theprepared.com/homestead/reviews/best-two-week-emergency-water-storage-containers/ goes into more detail about all of this, including the best way to clean your containers.
I also have a Lifestraw, a small water filter that costs $19, can filter a thousand gallons https://www.lifestraw.com/products/lifestraw) and is useable to to treat stream, lake and other water I might be suspicious of, taking out bacteria, viruses, etc. Bigger ones are also available. Think about where the water is near you and how gross it is (or not.) I live in a weird part of South Seattle where there’s a creek on my street and a small urban forest, and I’d feel safe filtering stream water if it came down to it. Lake Washington also isn’t bad. If I was still in Toronto, I’d consider drinking from Lake Ontario in a pinch, if I had filtration and no blue flag advisory. The Gowanus Canal, however, would be a no.
I keep a gallon of chlorine bleach under the sink- 8 drops to one gallon of questionable water will sterilize it.
We also have 4 5 gallon clear containers I bought from the supermarket before i knew how important opacity was- we keep those as a backup for washing, laundry and cat drinking water. We put bleach in those- 8 drops per gallon.
Some people have said, what about filling up the tub? I think this can be good if you don’t have any containers- and if you get notice. But the thing is, often when the water gets shut off, you don’t get notice, so you can’t fill up the tub. It’s also harder to keep clean than a container- stuff falls in, and it’s open to the air. If you can, consider this a backup to your stored water.
I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to my friend Naima and this video KRS-One made after Hurricane Sandy. “Disaster Kit”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WfnbFUmoic which is what really drilled the “8 drops of bleach per gallon” thing into my head.
I also live in a house with a yard and a fireplace and wood we bought in the fall for it, and that would be my second option for cooking and heating. We also have a grill and some charcoal, but it’s not so efficient or fast.
I have a couple of those cheap power packs to charge my cell phone and laptop, and I keep my cell and computer plugged in during times of epidemic and emergency so they can charge. I also keep my car filled up as much as possible.
Let’s take care of ourselves and each other and get through this! Some prep is better than no prep! Share resources, remember that your ancestors survived some shit, and you already have survival skills you can build on.
Love and solidarity,