Friday, January 23, 2009

Are we going to do this the easy way?

One of the things that is necessary when you are storing or have stored emergency supplies is to make sure that they are in working order. If you don't check out your equipment/supplies periodically, you may find that what you are counting on is actually not going to work in the way that you expected--if it works at all.

Case in point: A few years ago now my husband was called in the afternoon to go assist in a "polar bear" camping experience that night. Apparently, one of the scout leaders was unable to attend, and with two-deep leadership (a great thing) being a requirement, if a substitute was not found, no one could go. My husband agreed to go. Since we have always been pretty interested in being prepared, we had the sleeping bag needed at hand, plus some other supplies that we could just pull out at a moment's notice. One thing he took was some hand warmers that were put away for emergency use, (hey, this is Idaho :) and which we figured he could use if needed on the campout.

I stayed home and away he went. And while I was nice and warm at home, he was out with the scouts in some pretty brutally cold weather. The scouts built a snow cave for the two leaders, and everyone settled down for the night. When my husband realized he couldn't get warm in his sleeping bag, he pulled out the hand warmers in an effort to help speed up the process and activated them. Perhaps "activated" isn't the right word, because absolutely nothing happened. What was supposed to provide a given amount of heat for a given amount of time turned out to be a plastic wrapper filled with wasted space. Meanwhile, the other leader had products of the same nature that did work. My husband eventually got to sleep, but it took time--presumably considerably longer than it would have taken had the handwarmers worked out.

Ever since that little experience, (which wasn't even mine) I have been a little leery of handwarmers in general. At our local national chainstore there are handwarmers pretty cheap in at least some of the checkout aisles, and I should probably stock up. How do you check a product like this for reliability, anyway? Once you activate it, it's a done deal, and after the given amount of time, it's no longer useful. Thing is, my husband took two handwarmers that night, and neither of them worked. If we had checked one before he left and found out that it didn't work, he would have at least had the opportunity to stop by a store to replace it before heading out to the camping area, and even if he only bought one replacement, he would still have had one more working (hopefully) handwarmer than he ended up with as it was. If the one tested had worked and the other hadn't, he would still have been able to replace the handwarmer that he tested, and still have ended up with one more working handwarmer than he had. Testing it out would have been a win-win situation, especially since the replacement cost was relatively minor.

So my husband found out the hard way that some of our emergency supplies were not in working order. The easy way (or at least easier) way to find out if your emergency supplies are going to work for you is to take stock and check them out before an emergency, which may come, like this invitation to my husband, at a moment's notice. If you find out that your materials are lacking the easy way, at best you can replace them, and at worst won't walk into an emergency situation expecting to depend on something that has run out of dependability. Which will it be? Each of us will have to choose--the easy way or the hard way....

I'd like to point out that this post goes along with the excellent post by Scoutinlife over at American Preppers Network, though I didn't plan it that way. In his check of emergency supplies, he found out that some things he thought he had stored were no longer where he expected to find them. Whether they are not there at all, or they are there and don't work, the result will be the same--learning the hard way, perhaps in an emergency, that we are not as prepared as we expected to be. I tend to be the type of person who likes to put it away and forget about it until I need it, but as mentioned, this kind of behavior is not always in mine or other peoples' best interest....

Don't wait until you are in a snow cave to find out that some of your supplies don't work. We all know that if it's business as usual in Idaho, you are likely to find yourself in need of heating supplies more often than not. After all,

"If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you live in Idaho ." --Jeff Foxworthy

And it wouldn't hurt to check out all your supplies/equipment before you need them, whatever the weather they would be needed---the easier way is preferable any day.....


Anonymous said...

Do those things have an experation date on them?

Doug in Burley

Marie said...

Doug--That is a good was so long ago now that I don't remember, and I haven't really bought any since. Knowing me, however, (who am somewhat obsessive about expiration dates and getting rid of anything that has passed its date) these probably had none, or if they did, they were still good, or I would have had my husband replace them. I am going to get over my grudge soon and actually pick some up in the hopes that next time they will work...thanks for your comment!