Oh sure, you're a member of the He-Men Survivalist Club and you're ready for anything. You've got food piled up to the rafters, med kits in every drawer, guns at every door. Flashlights abound under your roof covered in solar panels, and the rain that flows off of them during a storm is channeled and stored in a large pond filled with tilapia in your yard for future use. Your gun safes are stocked as is your freezer. Ammo shortage? Not at your compound. You have it all covered, from the tip top of your HF antennas to the bottom of your fallout shelter.
Sparky, I'm not writing for you. I'm writing for those of us who live out here in Realityville--the folks who can't move out back of beyond because there are no jobs there, who have to balance expenditures on preps with our house payments, the kid's orthodontist bills and trying to put a little something aside for when (probably if) we ever get to retire.
So, how long can you be self sufficient? Be honest. Start with the basics--the situation isn't going to be sitting at home looking out the window. Something bad has happened. Let's have some fun and say the New Madrid fault has cut lose with a major quake and a huge area of the central US is now offline in all senses of the word. You my friend, along with your family, are going to be out doing some serious labor. For your family, we will assume a Daddy, a Mommy, a teenage Son and a teenage Daughter.
(Yes, it's an old fashioned normal family. No one has any problems figuring out which bathroom to use and everyone is sure of their sex. Boys like girls and vice versa. Sue me.)
Let's start with food. A male performing vigorous exercise needs 3000 calories per day of high quality food, in 3 square meals plus snacks, to maintain his energy levels. While the majority of that can come from carbs, you're going to need protein as well veggies, oils and some dairy goods to keep the machine fueled. So between Daddy and Son that's 6000 calories. Women need somewhat less. You can do some calculating, but let's assume that for various reasons they are going to do considerably less work than the males (Sexist!) and they will consume 2500 calories each per day. Add it up and you're looking at 11,000 calories per day for our family of 4. Minimum. They'll probably eat more, but let's stick with the 11,000 number.
Now, let's have a look at something that you might find in the average prepper's food stocks, Mountain House Beef Stew. Good stuff, I've ate it myself. So how many calories are in a pouch of it? Well, the label says that there are 2.5 servings at 190 calories per serving or 475 calories.
I hope you like beef stew, and I hope you have a lot of money if you're counting on buying enough Mountain house to eat for any appreciable time. And don't fool yourself that you won't need all those calories, because you will. Survival will be a high-energy lifestyle. All those modern conveniences we're used to will not be working, so you will be hauling and purifying water, possibly hauling wood, and patrolling your area (unless you like being attacked by surprise). All those little tasks that use to take 10 minutes will now take 30, perhaps more.
You can store other foods, and there are a plethora or resources out there that will teach you how to store rice and beans in buckets, dry meat, can food and so on. Of course, all of this takes time, effort and storage space, both items that are in short supply in many folks daily lives. Plus you still have to store those 11,000 calories per day.
Next is water. You've probably heard you need 1 gallon per person per day. That's the minimum, and it's a bare minimum. Realistically, if you have been smart and bought a house with a gravity septic system and avoided toilets that require water pressure to work, probably going to need more like 15-20 gallons per person per day. You need to drink, cook, brush your teeth, wash that dirty body, use the toilet and flush occasionally and so on. Water weighs 8.3 pounds per gallon. That is a lot of poundage that has to be moved, and most people will be moving it by hand in very short order. I suspect many people will be bathing a lot less in short order as well.
The stupid ones will also be fouling the water supplies by doing their business too close to it. You would think people would know better, but no, they don't. I've seen this all my life when fishing. Joe Fisherman needs to take a dump and does he get away from the river? Nope. So now we have contaminated water to deal with. So all that 8.3 pounds per gallon water will need to be treated. Bleach is the easiest if you have it, but you'll go through a lot of it. You'll probably want to build a nice big pre-filter as well, like this sand filter. I hope you have thought to stage all those parts before the quake.
But maybe you didn't see your neighbor dumping his new trashcan toilet in the local lake, and now the family has a nice case of diarrhea. Got a good med kit? It had better be deep, because you can go through amazing amounts of medical supplies taking care of one good case of a water-borne disease. Someone gashes themselves being less than careful with a sharp axe? You'll go through stuff by the ton.
So you have food , water and medical covered. I hope your house is in good shape after the quake? No? Well, you'll need blue tarps, plywood, 2 x 4s, nails, screws, 1 x 2 strapping, plastic sheeting, ladders, various hand tools--you do have these things, right?
It's going to be dark at night--really dark. All of us that live in or near cities are so used to sky glow we really aren't used to truly dark nights. If you don't have clear skies and a moon, brother, it's *dark* out in there after the sun goes down. Add good flashlights, batteries, rechargeable batteries, solar chargers, lanterns, fuel, candles and fire extinguishers (just in case a candle or lantern gets out of hand) to your list. Oh, and add burn treatment stuff to the med kit--most people aren't used to the concept of lights that burn.
Self defense. Yes, you have to be ready for that, because there will be people out there that you will have to defend yourself against. Go to Youtube and find all the old Katrina videos. Multiply by 100. Guns, ammo, cleaning supplies and a few spare parts won't hurt. Get your training now, because after the quake you won't have a chance to get any unless it's under fire.
If you've managed to get this far, you're probably wondering why in the world I've jumped up on my Doomer's Soap soap box this evening. Well my friends, it was this article from an Oregon newspaper, detailing how well a recent disaster preparedness exercise had went in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. I've been to that area before (it's actually quite beautiful, full of friendly folks, great scenery, some of the best beer I've ever drank and a little town on the ocean I could quite happily retire to and never venture away from) so it was of interest to me.
They detailed how the emergency responders would parachute in from helicopters, because the roads would be so broken up. They went on to outline in depth how bad things would be after a 9.0 earth quake and accompanying tsunami, which is to say "very bad". But it was this that moved me to grab the keyboard:
On Wednesday, one exercise showed the Navy's capability to deliver personnel and equipment to a disaster zone where ports would be destroyed by tsunami waves.
The Navy sent the USNS Bob Hope with about 500 sailors to build a temporary camp on a Naval Magazine Indian Island, a munitions depot in the Puget Sound.
It took the Navy four weeks from loading the Bob Hope to setting up the camp — a similar timeline would be expected after the earthquake.
Four weeks, folks. It took the US Navy four weeks to load up the USNS Bob Hope and get it to the disaster zone and start setting up camp.
That's no joke, that's reality smacking you in the face. FEMA used to tell us to be ready for three days. Then it was a week. We saw in Katrina that it could be weeks, and this exercise, conducted when they weren't under pressure, was four weeks.
So I'm going to ask again--How long can you be self sufficient?