I took my daughter to physical therapy today – she’s recovering from ankle surgery. As I sat in the waiting room, it was interesting to watch all the people checking in with a wide variety of injuries. Many of the patients were wearing special cast boots or hi-tech splints on their legs. Some were wearing slings for their arms or shoulders. There were crutches, knee scooters, wheelchairs and lots of limping and slow, careful walking.
It reminded me of when I fractured my wrist playing baseball. I slid into home base and collided with the catcher. I ended up with a fractured wrist but at least I was safe and had scored a run. Even though it was just my wrist, I had a cast that extended halfway up my bicep. I don’t think they use those old plaster casts much anymore. I hated that cast, especially when my arm would start to itch. I would use a straitened wire coat hanger to reach down inside my cast to get relief from those annoying itches.
I remember what it was like when the cast was finally cut off. The muscles in my arm had atrophied and my arm seemed much smaller that my other arm. My arm was very weak and moving it was painful and awkward. In addition, I had to be careful what I lifted. I remember how frustrating it was not to have full functionality of my arm. It took several more weeks before my arm started to feel somewhat normal again and a couple of months before my strength returned. Physical therapy back then didn’t seem to be offered – at least it was never suggested to me.
As I watched these patients enter and leave the physical therapy gym, I thought about the wonderful benefits of such therapy. This process truly helps people recover from their injuries far more quickly and eliminates much of the pain and discomfort of recovery by appropriately exercising the effected muscles and joints.
I thought about how a similar “therapy” for emergency preparedness would be so very helpful. Far too many go through the process of purchasing and storing their food storage and emergency preps and then just forget about them – kind of like putting on a preparedness plaster cast. As a result, nothing is ever done to exercise those preparedness muscles and when the time comes to use those stored preps, those muscles will have atrophied and will not function as anticipated.
Prior to an emergency, physical therapy would apply by our actually using and becoming familiar with the functionality of our preps. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
Make a meal with your food storage. Prepare for your family several entrees of your food storage to see what your family thinks. Become familiar with how to prepare the food and how the serving sizes work with your family’s needs. If you’ve stored whole grains like wheat, try grinding and cooking with it. Do you have the ability to actually bake bread or will it be too harsh on your family’s digestive tracts?
Experiment with the equipment in your bug-out-bags. Go for a hike with your backpacks to see how they fit and how to best adjust the straps. Cook a meal with the small portable stove. How long does it take to boil water? Take the radio/flashlight camping to see how it works in the woods. Inventory the items in the first aid kit and check any expiration dates.
Use your water storage. Rotate your water storage and try using it rather than your tap water for a day. Experiment with how to flush your toilets by pouring water in the bowl. Use your water filters. Go to a lake, stream or irrigation ditch and go through the process of filtering at least a gallon of water and then be brave and drink it.
Cook a meal with your camp stove or try and cook a meal over an open fire. I promise you, there will be much learned through this exercise. Cooking without the convenience of a stove and microwave requires so much more time, especially if you’re cooking with charcoal briquettes. Practice how to use just the right amount of briquettes to thoroughly cook your food in your dutch oven and not burn it – or worse, burn the outside with the center still raw.
Practice off-grid scenarios. Pretend the power is off in your home and go an evening with nothing but your flashlights and lanterns. Will they give off the light you need? How long will the batteries or charge last? How long does it take for your solar flashlights and lanterns to recharge the next day?
Go camping. Even if you’re not a camping family, you should have sleeping bags and a tent in your preps. Try spending the night outside in the backyard in your tent and experience your first sleepless night in your sleeping bags. Are they warm enough? Do you have comfortable ground sleeping pads? If you had to sleep outside for a few days or longer due to a natural disaster, would your preps be sufficient to protect your family from the elements?
There are many other things you can do to practice and exercise your prep muscles. Now is the time to take advantage of your self-imposed physical therapy so when the time comes for you to use your preps in a real emergency, you will have the strength, experience and knowledge to make a very difficult situation far less traumatic.