A Four-Seasons Emergency Plan: Summer Survival

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summer survivalNot long ago I was feeling pretty good about my food storage and other preps, perhaps even a bit smug, until someone asked, “Are you stocked up on potassium iodide tablets?”

“What??” was my incredulous response.

After some research, I discovered a significant gap in all my survival preparation. I had not considered how my family would survive a nuclear blast. How foolish of me to overlook that contingency!

The truth is that it’s impossible to prepare for every possible scenario. There are just too many variables. To make the task more manageable, set a seasonal preparedness goal. Right now it’s summer in Texas, and oh so hot! Preparing for a summer evacuation or crisis is different than for other seasons. If a sudden emergency happened during the summer, how would you need to be prepared? What are your emergency plans for summer survival?

The basics of summer survival

First, on the list, make sure there is plenty of stored water in each vehicle. This is true for any season, but especially so during the summer. If there is the possibility of a disruption in your home water supply, buy and fill 55-gallon water barrels. One barrel per person would be a good rule of thumb for a three-week supply of water.

To ensure your water is safe from dangerous microbes, follow these instructions for water purification. If you live in a rural setting or spend a lot of time camping and hiking, stock up on water purification tablets also in case you have to rely on a possibly contaminated water source, such as a lake, pond, or stream.

Food is an obvious second priority. The food in your Vehicle 72 Hour Kit should be safe in high temperatures. In fact, do a quick check to make sure everything in your kit is safe when it’s hot, including any medicines. Double check any canned items for signs of expansion. An explosion of Spaghetti-O’s in your kit will not be a pleasant surprise!

Warm temps also bring the very best summer fruits and lots of them. It’s an ideal time to buy in-season fruits and veggies in bulk and get busy canning and/or dehydrating. New to canning? Tomatoes are in season and are super easy to can. In fact, I cut my canning teeth, so to speak, on tomatoes using these simple instructions. Since your kids are out of school, you have additional slave labor!  Take advantage of it!

How about the temperature in your food storage area? Ideally, it should be cooler than 70 degrees, which may be difficult during the summer months. Our long-term food storage is meant to be long-term, and it would be a shame to end up with ruined food because your storage area was too hot. If you’re unsure of your pantry’s temperature, keep a thermometer in there for a few days and check for temperature fluctuations. Above all, never store food of any kind in your garage or outbuilding unless it’s well-insulated.

If you’re thinking there’s no way you could possibly keep your food storage pantry cool enough, and dry enough, if you live in a humid area, then a small, portable air conditioner could save thousands of dollars of food in terms of preserved nutrition and flavor. Here in Texas, I have lost good food to rusted cans because of the high humidity and wish I had purchased a dehumidifier like this one. Both of these small machines will go a long way to ensure that your food is protected from two of the enemies of food storage.

Beyond Food and Water

The clothing items in your 72 Hour Kits should reflect summer temperatures in your area. Include a light-colored cotton long sleeved shirt for each person to help ward off sunburn and overheating as well as a floppy, brimmed cotton hat. (This is the exact hat I own.) Why a cotton hat? Unlike most straw hats, they can be rolled up and stored just about anywhere, they’re lightweight, and the fabric will absorb sweat. As long as you’re out shopping for floppy hats, look for children’s summer clothing in the next size or two larger. When next June rolls around, you’ll already have clothing in the right sizes for your kids.

Hypothermia is something you probably won’t need to worry about over the summer, but sunburns, heat stroke, and breathing problems abound. Polluted city air is often exacerbated by warm temperature inversions. If someone in the family has breathing problems of any type, be prepared with the appropriate medication and breathing treatments ahead of time. If you had to suddenly evacuate or couldn’t leave your home for a period of time during the hottest part of the year, what types of over-the-counter and prescription medicines would you need the most?

By the way, this book about emergency evacuations has all the checklists and tips you’ll ever need, written by me — someone who has lived in hot weather states her entire life!

In my part of the country, powerful thunderstorms blow in every summer, just like clockwork. They’ve been known to hit power lines and even major transformers, knocking out the power for large sections of the city. That’s exactly what this person experienced. If your electricity should go out for a few hours, days or longer, you’ll need a plan for coping.

A top priority is keeping the food in your fridge and freezer from spoiling. Follow these excellent directions for keeping your cold foods cold. Once you’re sure your frozen steaks and veggies are safe, you’ll need to stay cool yourself! A portable Misty Mate fills the bill for staying cool no matter where you are. It’s a great product and being a swim team mom who sits out in the heat every day, I should know!

Get Out of Dodge

Finally, do you have a plan for getting out of town quickly? Remember the horror stories from Hurricane Ike in 2008? Cars were overheating along the highway, and it took hours to travel just a few miles. If your area was being evacuated this summer, what other routes are there?

Is this really the only route?
Is this really the only route?

Being stuck in a world-class traffic jam in the summer isn’t just inconvenient, it could become a death trap. Spend some time studying maps of your area and marking various routes from Point A to Point B. If necessary, have maps of any neighboring states. Then, on a pleasant weekend, when you have some time on your hands, actually drive one of those alternate routes.

An emergency plan for summer survival should include a 72-hour emergency kit. The first 72 hours following any disaster are the most critical. Consider reading about the 3 layers of 72 hours preparedness. With a system of carefully planned 72 Hour Kits, your family can be self-sufficient as you head out of town. Every

Again, I highly recommend Emergency Evacuations: Getting Out Fast When it Matters Most as your best resource for planning out evacuations. There’s nothing like a recon mission to determine if the plans you’ve made will work out! Summer is no time to be unprepared, so get started now to make sure you’re ready.


22 thoughts on “A Four-Seasons Emergency Plan: Summer Survival”

  1. It would also be a good idea to learn what edible plants grow wild in your area so you don't have to pack them. Dandelions, for example, are edible. So are daylilies – but they have a cousin that looks similar and is NOT edible, so be sure you know how to tell them apart. Wood strawberries are tiny, but also edible. If you know how to forage for at least some food, it will help stretch what you're carrying and vary the taste. Finding these things can also give you something for the kids to help with.

  2. Portable shade, such as a collapsible beach shelter, can be helpful. Traveling with three little kids in anything other than a car or truck will mean lots of stopping. Not much shade here in Kansas and very strong sun.

    Been scratching my head wondering where we'd bug out to if something happened here. The only evacuation events I can foresee are tornado or flooding. In niether case can I think of a set destination. Just grab and run. Needless to say, I keep both cars over 1/2 tank.

    @LizLong: we've got plantain all over here in addition to dandelion. Been trying to get the local extension office to help identify some other stuff but haven't found them too helpful. Just don't feel too comfortable going off of books.

    1. TheSurvivalMom

      In one of the wilderness survival classes I was teaching at Cabela's, a dad who attended was a former Army Ranger. He said that during his time in the Army, he had had to go in and rescue dozens of soldiers who had eaten unidentified plants and gotten sick. That has pretty much turned me off of the idea of foraging for food out in a meadow or forest somewhere. I do know what dandelions look like, but the ones in our yard would only get us through a few meals.

      1. I don't doubt it a bit. The local tech college offers courses, but they keep getting cancelled. I'm fixing to just contact the instructor directly and try to make it worth his while.

        I've purposely let the plantain and dandelion come up in my yard and could probably do okay for a bit between that and the garden. It draws in the rabbits, too. If we ever get hungry I know we're good for at least a few meals of rabbit and greens.

        We've got a swampy area by the highway that's choked with cattails. I think most of my neighbors would starve before digging them up. I've got three kids to feed–I'm determined not to hear them cry from hunger.

      2. That's why it's important to KNOW which are edible, and any look-alikes. If two plants look so much alike you can't easily tell them apart and one is good and one is poison, then don't eat that. To my thinking, if the dandelions, cat tails and "weeds" around you get you through even two or three extra meals, that's still two or three extra meals if things are really bad and worth learning. The little "wood strawberries" we have are so small that I doubt they will add a lot of calories, but at least they'd add some visual interest and a different texture if things are getting bland or repetitive.

      3. I was supposed to go on a camping/training trip, lead by my friend who ex-SF. We were gonna work on our martial arts skills on the woods (fun fun), go on some hikes, etc. But the SFer was going to teach me some things like snares/traps and stuff like that. Unfortunately I'll be going off to school. If you know any ex-SFers they're great friends to have, my friend certainly knows a LOT.

    2. I've never eaten plantain; I use it for poison ivy and mild skin irritations. Just pick it, pound it with a mortar to get the sap out, and put it on the itchy spot. Usually I add a light gauze bandage to hold it in place. It works better than any drugstore anti-itch cream I've found. It's also great for mild friction burns.

      1. TheSurvivalMom

        I'm embarrassed to admit that my closest encounter with a plantain was in a fabulous Cuban restaurant in Miami a few years back! Believe me, it grows nowhere in the Southwest desert! Nevertheless, that's a great tip, even if I have to buy a plantain in the grocery store to use it on a skin rash.

        1. That's a different "plantain".
          I believe the plantain the commenters refer to is English plantain ("plantago"), as opposed to the banana-looking plantain.
          English plantain is a very common weed. The indians called it "settler's footsteps", or such-like, because it was an introduced species and spread like topsy wherever the settlers went.
          If I could include a picture here, I would.
          When we were kids, we wrapped the stems around the head of it and "shot" them at each other. Hard to describe, but you'd recognize it. The herablists make a tea from the leaves for coughs.

          [a picture: <A href="http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?enlarge=0000+0000+1209+0473%5D&quot; target=_blank&gt <a href="http://;http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?enlar…” target=”_blank”>;http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?enlar

  3. I'm in Colorado. Summer days get very hot, and any water in the wild parts is very rare. But nights still get cold here. You can almost always bet on night time temps being at least 30 degrees colder than days. You start the day wearing as little as possible for the heat, but when the sun goes down you're scrambling for sweaters and sweatshirts. (and mosquito repellent.) If you're going to bug out and spend nights outside you need warm weather gear for the days and something warm for the nights.

  4. Excellent post Lisa! I'd add something to that last part about being stuck in a traffic jam, I never go below half a tank of gas, I'll always fill up once I hit half, in the summer I sometimes try to refill at a 1/4 tank but that would leave me spending to much time at the gas station. The last thing you need is to run out of gas in grid lock. That could be compounded by CAA or AAA's inability to get to you with more gas!

  5. In the spring, 'fiddleheads' are abundant. Eaten raw or sauted. The earlier they're picked, the better as they tend to get bitter once they grow into ferns.
    Violets,pansies & roses are also eatable. I have a book, Wilderness & Camping Survival, which would be too big to lug around, so I'm constantly reading it to try and memorize useful skills. I was also given 4 small 1965 books – Merit Badge Series by the Boys Scouts of America – Cooking,Hiking,Camping & Pioneering. What a gold mine of info!
    My favorite new tip is how to start a fire with only a 9v battery & steel wool. If you haven't tried this one yet, do so and show others. Just touch the wool to the ends of the battery.Everyone has a 9volt in their smoke alarms and steel wool is cheap! Just pack them separately.
    I keep these items in my tool box & bug out bag. I found a bunch of those old army can openers. They're tiny but effective.

    1. TheSurvivalMom

      I agree that learning about edible plants is very helpful. A good reference book with excellent illustrations is a must.

  6. I gave a coupe bottles of Potassium Iodate to my daughter and son-in-law a while back. Know where they are? Neither do they!

    It's great to stock up. It's great to do it inexpensively. Heck, it's great to help others. But if the stocks go unchecked, out -of-mind, or just plain missing, what good are they?

    Without a plan, you're stuck. Part of your plan must be to review your stores, get them out and handle them. Remain familiar with the stocks, their locations and usage. To do otherwise is to plan to FAIL.

  7. Have you all read about all the people who died in Portugal this weekend fleeing from wildfires? Over 60 people died, mostly inside their cars. Similar to what happened a few years back in California. You not only have to know escape routes but you have to know alternative escape routes and you have to get out in time.
    Wildfires and tornadoes are our biggest threat. All I figure I would have time to do in a tornado is get in the hallway but, to be honest, other than head toward town, not sure what I would do with a wild fire. We had some bad ones a few years back in Texas where there was considerable loss of life and property. And right now it is very hot and very dry, and my house is surrounded on all sides by dry pasture land, which the driveway to my house being about three or four city blocks long and very narrow. And then a “county road” which is barely two lanes wide for about two miles leading to the highway, which is also only two lanes. We are sparsely enough populated that there would not likely be any traffic jams, but if a car or truck broke down on the highway that would seriously complicate the escape route to town. And only volunteer fire department as well. And more dogs and cats than would fit into my car, which would make things even more difficult. I figure I could cram the nine little dogs, the cat and the rabbit into my compact car, but not also the Great Pyrenees I was recently given when he did not work out as a working pasture dog. That would be a heartbreaking decision to make.

  8. DeterminedDorcas

    We have so many wild edibles here in Arkansas! Don’t wait til you need the food. Get an ID on plants and try them out beforehand. My kids called plantain weed “get between your toes” for the tall flower spikes it makes. Right now chickweed is about over, lots of pokeweed, lambsquarter and dewberries just coming on.

  9. What’s the best way to store water in your vehicle?

    I’ve read that if you store regular water bottles that w/ the heat they can add carcinogens that can be harmful.

    Any tips on how to store water in your vehicle or if there’s a rotation cycle you should use?


    1. The Survival Mom

      I don’t worry too much about water stored in a vehicle, and here’s why. That water is specifically there for life and death scenarios. If you’re too far from civilization to acquire fresh water and you’re in that scenario for a long enough time for a lack of water to become a serious health threat, then drink the darn water you’ve stored in your vehicle! That’s common sense and that’s what it’s there for.

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