Prepping for a pandemic
January 30, 2020 9:41 AM   Subscribe

In case you need to be indoors for a while, and possibly while sick. Civilization won't fall, but supply chains could be in bad shape. Advice on what to store (with acknowledgement that it's not feasible for everyone) and what to get done sooner rather than later.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz (80 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
I feel like this is basically the same as advice about what to have for a severe winter storm, which seems like a much more-likely possibility in my part of the world than a pandemic. I guess a winter storm is probably likely to be a shorter event than a pandemic is, but it seems to me that having some supplies in case you can't/ shouldn't leave the house for a couple of weeks is probably not a terrible idea, regardless of what you're envisioning happening. The main difference is that the winter storm could knock out power, which has a whole other set of concerns.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:49 AM on January 30 [10 favorites]


This made me turn my AirBnb guest into jerky. Better safe than sorry I say. Also he had multivitamins.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 9:50 AM on January 30 [58 favorites]


Winter storm/regular flu prep. It's just good advice to be prepared. I liked the part about reminding people to check the expiration dates on stuff. Sometimes I'm like "huh, expired in 2011, eh?" I've been lugging that bottle of cold medicine around for... awhile.

Toilet paper, soap, bottled water, Gatorade/Pedialyte, medication, some food that is easy to eat and you will eat and can be prepared in under 1 minute of work. That's my list. Oh and cat food.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:52 AM on January 30 [7 favorites]


If you're ready for a pandemic, you're also ready for a general strike. We know a lot of us can't afford to go full-prepper, and nobody's judging you for it, but those who can, should.
posted by ocschwar at 9:55 AM on January 30 [13 favorites]


The catch here is you might also want to think about how you'll feed yourself if you get very sick, yourself, such that you aren't very capable of cooking or otherwise preparing food. Having lots of bins of raw materials won't be much use if you're too delirious to operate a stove or to exhausted to stand at one.

I feel like this all the time even when I'm not sick, I wish we had more/better options for things that were good to eat, easy to make and weren't 100% of your daily salt allowance.
posted by bleep at 10:04 AM on January 30 [20 favorites]


When Seattle had a winter storm last year, we knew things were Really Bad when no GF bread was to be found on the grocery shelves. Which is definitely a bad situation when you have to feed people with genuine Celiac disease! Being prepared for emergencies in general seems like a good plan.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:04 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


Folks in earthquake country (should) have a head start. Here's one nice preparedness guide.
posted by PhineasGage at 10:07 AM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Here's an article about how prepping helped those stuck in Sarajevo (it didn't).

Here's a heartwrenching first-person account of that from one of our own. (The preppers starved too, just a few weeks later)

Sure, a few day's or even a week's worth of food and necessities is a good idea if you can swing it, but when shit seriously hits the fan, it's your IRL social networks and cooperation that will save you.

The best disaster preparedness is to cultivate your human connections, know your neighbors, and maybe learn a bit about how to grow or forage food.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:09 AM on January 30 [54 favorites]


Right, but I think that the point here is to prepare for an emergency that gets sorted out in fairly short order, not for the shit really hitting the fan. You probably can't prepare for the shit really hitting a fan, but this is for events when "a few weeks later" is when the thing is over.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:14 AM on January 30 [22 favorites]


There are, unfortunately, a frightening number of men who believe they don't need social skills to survive a long-term disaster because they have bullets.

(When the topic reached Tumblr, the consensus was that they're all going to die of dysentery, because "ugh I don't need to wash dishes" is a terrific way to catch multiple bacterial infections.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:15 AM on January 30 [32 favorites]


I wish preparation for disasters hadn't become synonymous with libertarian nutjobs or zombie apocalypse cosplay but we live in the Dumbest World.
posted by the legendary esquilax at 10:18 AM on January 30 [35 favorites]


Put another way: survivors of large-scale disasters aren't necessarily the ones who can buy things and services, they are often the ones who know how to make/do things and provide services, and know others who can help.

I personally don't think a massive pandemic that disrupts necessary supplies to my city will be a pandemic that sorts itself out in a few weeks, but that's just my guess.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:18 AM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Ready.gov (DeptHomeSec) and FEMA have their own list of supplies. An extra USB battery and an old cell phone is recommended as part of the kit in our modern era.
posted by fragmede at 10:20 AM on January 30 [5 favorites]


This is not helping my anxiety one bit.
posted by vitout at 10:27 AM on January 30 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I never understood those Preppers who gloat "Come the breakdown of Western Civilization, I have a year's worth of supplies in my basement/bunker." Eager to see how they're doing on Day 366. But that's a separate category of situation from the OP (and related acute situations), for which a reasonable set of household supplies is always a good idea.

Separately, a recommendation for the Belgian TV series Cordon, which is about a (fictional) pandemic in Antwerp. It's got some implausibilities and is a bit overwrought (as any good thriller series should be), but it's thought-provoking and compelling.
posted by PhineasGage at 10:31 AM on January 30 [6 favorites]


This reminds me of posts from a user on here who lived through the siege of Sarajevo, and who had a lot of thoughtful things to say about that - including what supplies are really useful months into a siege. It's not quite the same as enduring a pandemic, but was full of interesting info - like how stockpiling food won't get you too far, but having salt, cooking oil, or spices - or soap - (all of which will last a long time) will be a great source of comfort (and a great treat to share with people around you).
posted by entropone at 10:32 AM on January 30 [7 favorites]


Gun-crazy Preppers: My favorite is when people post all the guns they have in their "go-bag" and it's 4 different ammo types. They don't even have the forethought that you can't shoot all the guns at once, and it makes so much more sense to have them all use 1-2 types of ammunition.

So they're not even good at their stupid war fantasies.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:33 AM on January 30 [23 favorites]


In an effort to promote general preparedness, FEMA had a zombie apocalypse preparedness guide back in 2011, before we got trapped in the dumbest timeline. Libertarian LMoE (last man on Earth) fantasies aside, what's wrong with zombie cosplay to drive preparedness?

(Dee Xtrovert posted about their own experiences in Sarajevo on MeFi; linked upthread by SaltySalticid.)
posted by fragmede at 10:38 AM on January 30 [6 favorites]


During the last snow scare in Seattle, I made Disaster Kimchi.

Friends laughed, but if I'm in a situation where I'm holed up for a long time, with a not so insignificant chance of power outages? I'll have some veggies to eat that'll be OK at room temp for a couple of days, at least.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:38 AM on January 30 [8 favorites]


food that is easy to eat and you will eat

I had one experience of living through a period of civil disaster, (no power, no stores) and making the transition to the stuff I didn't want to eat (cold cans of beans, etc) starting to look really good. Going hungry for a few days changes your POV quite a lot.
posted by thelonius at 10:41 AM on January 30 [8 favorites]


It's been interesting and a bit scary to be tangentially affected by the coronavirus through work, and seeing how supply chains can be affected. Middle of last week, I was awake in the middle of the night. In a fit of paranoia, I ordered a box of disposable surgical face masks from Amazon. Arrived next day, no problem.

This week, I was trying to find more face masks for a group of U.S. executives planning to go to Taiwan (a trip scuppered now, out of an abundance of caution). There are NONE to be had. Honestly! Amazon is out, only reusable ones available. I went to maybe 10 separate drug stores and two medical supply stores over the course of 3 days, some of them several times, with not a single box of masks available. One medical supply store said they got a shipment in and sold out in ~30 minutes. Now there are no more shipments coming, as their suppliers are out too. And this is in Northern Virginia! Not a single infection in the entire state as of today.

I'd guess many people are buying them to send to family in Asia, but it's really amazing to see how something that's not normally a huge seller is suddenly scarce. In a real outbreak here, things could easily get bad...
posted by gemmy at 10:43 AM on January 30 [10 favorites]


Honest question -- why are people panicking so much about something that appears to be no worse than the flu (which kills many vulnerable people in the US alone yet doesn't cause a panic)?

I feel like this is mostly just a media frenzy.
posted by mkuhnell at 10:58 AM on January 30 [43 favorites]


(Dee Xtrovert posted about their own experiences in Sarajevo on MeFi; linked upthread by SaltySalticid.)
Just to highlight this some more ITT - this is a necessary read.
posted by entropone at 10:59 AM on January 30 [8 favorites]


How did pandemics spread before the age of air travel? I would intuit (wrongly apparently) that a pandemic would not get a global toe hold prior to virtually instantaneous travel. How did both Vancouver and Johannesberg have the Spanish Flu?
posted by Keith Talent at 11:00 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


How did pandemics spread before the age of air travel?

Boats.
During the Spanish Flu pandemic, for example, you had a lot of people moving around the world (WW1).
A lot of law around health & safety and quarantines (before then, and around then too with emerging USA public health infrastructure being developed specifically around infectious diseases) was written specifically about boats.
posted by entropone at 11:02 AM on January 30 [9 favorites]


It's been interesting and a bit scary to be tangentially affected by the coronavirus through work, and seeing how supply chains can be affected.
During the day zero water crisis in Cape Town, for quite a while you couldn't buy big rubbish bins, or any large containers for holding water. All sold out. I found it rather scary because of what it said about the state of mind of my fellow South Africans. Also before the 1994 elections (apparently, I don't know this from personal experience as I don't have any personal interest in buying them ) bullets were sold out.
posted by Zumbador at 11:03 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


I know it's nowhere at the same level as... food, but the pandemic is already affecting supply chains of Amazon Kindles and other readers.

I think stuff like the annual flu is already accounted for on a macro level and this is just a new thing that no one crunched the numbers for yet.
posted by meowzilla at 11:07 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure why so many people are reading this essay as "you fool! there is actually no way to adequately prepare for the collapse of society!" when no such claims are made. It's just a guide for making some small amounts of reasonable preparation for the interests of your own comfort and convenience.

Just in time supply chains aren't super robust, that's kind of the whole point of them, they're cheaper to operate by reducing the amount of stock a store has on hand! It doesn't take that many people to come down with the flu before all the palliative medication can't be found on store shelves.

Seattle is a city that does this EVERY time it snows and EVERY time a heat wave hits and EVERY time big fires out east or north make the smoke happen. If you don't buy your deicer, or your window A/C unit, or your smoke mask before the current events catch up to you, you're going to be out of luck unless you're willing to pay out the nose (assuming you can get it at all). I mean, last snow event (which was not very dramatic after all!) my partner wanted to stock up on more deicer (we already had some but not a full bag) but we waited too long so the only deicer we could get before the snow hit was going to be paying a good $60 for 12 pounds of it and assume Amazon would be able to actually deliver it next day. It's not going to take that many people getting sick before the local Dayquil shelves are empty, especially if there's a big spike in a lot of people getting sick at once across the whole country.

I mean, chances are if you get this virus, it's not going to be worse for you than the normal flu, but having the flu sucks even if it doesn't send most people into the healthcare system! You feel shitty! You just want palatable food you can pop into the microwave and eat without much effort! You do not want to lie around feeling shitty, without some Dayquil, trying to figure out a way to get fed without going to the store because your hips ache and it's hard to catch your breath.
posted by foxfirefey at 11:11 AM on January 30 [17 favorites]


When I lived in Denton, TX we had one of the worst snow storms we've seen there quite literally keeping me in my apartment for a whole week and I had not prepared. A few things I never realized I needed: a variety of food for my own sanity, same for entertainment. I trudged three blocks in a couple feet of snow to a gas station that was pretty picked over and never thought I could ever get so much enjoyment out of vienna sausages and crackers after days of having cereal and boiled rice (which speaking of, butter, oils, seasonings are pretty important to one's morale)

Jump to a few years ago, my husband going through chemotherapy where his white blood counts drop to zero and me having to go to work that winter surrounded by assholes who wouldn't stay home, coughing all over. I ended up contracting a cold and had to be quarantined from my husband which meant someone coming over to take care of him and no one to take care of me. It gave me a real sense of empathy for care takers (elderly, sick, children) and how incredibly chaotic contracting even a cold could be.
posted by hillabeans at 11:13 AM on January 30 [27 favorites]


This morning on the NYC subway, I saw a lady wearing a mask that was fastened so that it left big gaps on the side. The subway was crowded, so she was standing and holding onto the pole; she wasn't wearing any gloves. At one point, she let go the pole and rubbed her eye.

I'm always sort of shocked by people's willingness to take faux-precautionary measures that, in reality, do absolutely nothing except give them a false sense of security at the same time that they're not willing to do stuff that might actually protect them, like get a flu shot.
posted by holborne at 11:18 AM on January 30 [31 favorites]


I took a Thai cooking class here in Seattle, and the teacher took us to some Asian markets to find deals on certain ingredients. As we cooked, we chatted about earthquake preparedness, and she talked about keeping a rat- and raccoon-proof, wheeled garbage can full of ramen noodles and other non-perishable stuff that is easy to access and tote around. And a can opener, lol.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:18 AM on January 30 [6 favorites]


I'm always sort of shocked by people's willingness to take faux-precautionary measures that, in reality, do absolutely nothing except give them a false sense of security at the same time that they're not willing to do stuff that might actually protect them, like get a flu shot.

Or wash their damn hands and stop relying on sanitizer (which, again and again: does. not. really. work.) Some of the most frequently sick people I know are the same people who have cute carriers on their keychains for their apple- (or whatever-) scented hand sanitizer and buy it up by the caseload at the beginning of every school year.

I hate it because people have a false sense of security, don't take the actual precaution, and then they get other people sick.
posted by witchen at 11:26 AM on January 30 [13 favorites]


holborne, she may have been wearing the mask because she's already sick and doesn't want to spread her germs through coughs and sneezes, making it more of a consideration thing than a precaution thing?
posted by potrzebie at 11:28 AM on January 30 [12 favorites]


There are NONE to be had. Honestly! Amazon is out, only reusable ones available. I went to maybe 10 separate drug stores and two medical supply stores over the course of 3 days, some of them several times, with not a single box of masks available.

Hardware stores may have n95 masks available still.
After seeing two of my team members feel unwell today (then me too with a sore throat), I went home and had a fun afternoon reading about the supply chain issues in China relating to the face masks. In the same sort of faux-security "i probably don't need this but i'd feel better knowing I had this than not" I stopped in on Home Depot in DC on my way home and picked up a few n95 masks (which apparently are far more effective but far less comfortable than surgical masks, assuming all other precautions are taken).

For anyone also wanting to dab in the faux sense of security to quell low-grade paranoia, a guide to using these masks.
posted by Karaage at 11:44 AM on January 30 [4 favorites]


In terms of food, I've been getting into these pre-packaged Indian and Thai meals recently and I haven't even been sick, just lazy for the most part. They have a shelf life of 18+ months or so and I would be fine eating these for a few weeks straight.

Trader Joes also has their own version, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed those as well.
posted by jeremias at 11:46 AM on January 30 [8 favorites]


In re the comments about this being the sort of thing you should do to prep for a blizzard, the thing is that there can be pandemic problems in places that don't have blizzards.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 11:48 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


Note that N95 masks are less effective for those of us with beards and such that prevent the mask from sealing tightly against the face.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:03 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


(reads thread, hides .50 calibre)

Oh hey, I just got this cigarette boat. Potted meat or mangos!

Oddly, I messed up my knee and wrist few days back and had little in the house, wished I kept extra supplies on hand. So, theres another reason, if no one is there to help and have to help yourself its good to have certain things on hand. Soap, food that is easily prepared, rubber barrel grips for the AR-15 (s) if you need crutches. Heat source.
H20 oh, yeah, when the troops stated trucking in water to Flint Michigan during the ONGOING water crisis, we had to refuse cases because not enough room in car there private, thank you. Oh man those solders faces, slightly confused, bewildered, wtf look, with a smile and sir.
posted by clavdivs at 12:03 PM on January 30


Look, it’s important to remember that you prepare entirely differently for a snowstorm vs. a pandemic.
Pandemic: DayQuil, canned chicken noodle soup, sprite
Any measurable amount of snow: bread, milk, beer
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:06 PM on January 30 [10 favorites]


I live in one of the first cities to have a confirmed case of the coronavirus, and it was only a little later that day that my instagram ads had high fashion "urban air masks" in them. So at least the capitalists are prepared.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 12:07 PM on January 30 [8 favorites]


The thing about preparation is people tend to think of the prepper or Mormon thing where you have sacks of grains on a shelf, and actually you can get the same basic ratios just by buying extras of what you usually use, and that way you also don't waste food. Preparing for supply chain disruption is fairly easy as long as you have a home. Really massive natural/civil disaster is harder because you can't expect to have water and power/gas, and it's very difficult to store water for more than a few days for your average apartment dweller. I probably have two months of food as long as I have water and power, I could still manage for at least two weeks eating decently with just water, but probably no more than a week without water.
posted by tavella at 12:17 PM on January 30 [5 favorites]


Note that N95 masks are less effective for those of us with beards

Naww, just rub a big gob of goose grease thoroughly, makes an even better seal.
posted by sammyo at 12:20 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


Corona tracker. No, not that Corona tracker.
posted by No Robots at 12:23 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Look, it’s important to remember that you prepare entirely differently for a snowstorm vs. a pandemic.
Pandemic: DayQuil, canned chicken noodle soup, sprite
Any measurable amount of snow: bread, milk, beer


I recommend a nice (medicinal) whiskey for both.
posted by thivaia at 12:31 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


holborne, she may have been wearing the mask because she's already sick and doesn't want to spread her germs through coughs and sneezes, making it more of a consideration thing than a precaution thing?

Sure, I suppose that's possible. But even if that's true, she's far from the only person I see wearing loose-fitting masks on the subway, and I doubt every single one of them is already sick. She was just the one I saw today. The point is that from what I've observed, people seem to believe that wearing ill-fitting surgery masks is some sort of protection against getting flu or what have you.

And do not even get me started on the people who sneeze into their hands instead of the crook of their elbow and then go right back to holding the pole.
posted by holborne at 1:00 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


I recommend a nice (medicinal) whiskey for both.

No lie, I stocked up on my favorite sake during the last Seattle snowstorm scare.

Having some sort of treat and/or entertainment is massive for morale, even if you don't end up partaking in it. With this new virus, various countries are not only quarenteening those who are ill, but those who have been potentially exposed and/or are asymptomatic, but otherwise are healthy.

This may be better in a disaster where the power goes out, but the Goth Prepper Community I'm in went agog a little while ago over good quality hand cranked coffee grinders - and some of us are investing in solar panels.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:03 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


This morning on the NYC subway, I saw a lady wearing a mask that was fastened so that it left big gaps on the side. The subway was crowded, so she was standing and holding onto the pole; she wasn't wearing any gloves. At one point, she let go the pole and rubbed her eye.

I'm not worried about food, it's the waiting for Amazon to come back on line that's going to kill us. I know, let's put on a play!
posted by sneebler at 1:08 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Mountain House (and similar) dehydrated meals have a shelf life of like thirty years, and only need hot water to prepare. They're a more reasonable quantity of calories than MREs, and I have a box of them stashed in the basement -- enough to feed the whole family for like 36 hours.

We live in blizzard & hurricane country (New England), so I consider my camping equipment to be dual-use: it's also disaster-prep gear!

--
Also, remember that if you run out of Pedialyte/Gatorade, you can DIY oral rehydration salts very easily!
Give the child a drink made with 6 level teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 level teaspoon of salt dissolved in 1 litre of clean water. Be very careful to mix the correct amounts. Too much sugar can make the diarrhoea worse. Too much salt can be extremely harmful to the child. Making the mixture a little too diluted (with more than 1 litre of clean water) is not harmful.
(source: https://rehydrate.org/solutions/homemade.htm)

WHO has an official document on this, recipe on page 33: https://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/documents/fch_cah_06_1/en/
posted by wenestvedt at 1:30 PM on January 30 [13 favorites]


Prepping for a pandemic should be like prepping for a hurricane. Here on the Gulf coast, the general rule seems to be that if the storm is within 500 miles you should fill up the gas tanks and do your grocery shopping. All good, except that everyone else is doing it. Strategies include shopping late in the evening or early in the morning, but be aware that many things will be sold out. Do you need distilled water for your medical apparatus? You better have stocked up a week before the storm because people are buying distilled water as drinking water. Shopping involves making allowances for stressed people and overworked employees.

Now, the difference with a pandemic is that those front-line employees at the store are the ones who are exposed to the most people. Naturally, they are going to be wary, and may not come to work. And if they get sick they better not come to work. So, who will sell us our bread and canned goods? Fortunately, those responsible for keeping the utilities up are not as exposed to the public, so power, water, gas, and telecommunications should be OK. Right?

Postal workers should be fine, but DoorDash? Will the gas stations continue to dispense gas if there is no one in the store?
posted by Midnight Skulker at 1:51 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


There was a big snow storm here in 2010-sh which brought down rural powerlines - many remote communities had no electricity for two months. Then we had the quakes which did the same thing and broke many bridges and roads. You don't need a pandemic for things to go seriously wrong.

Its yet another reason why street and yard trees should have edible fruits\nuts across as much of the year as possible and make good firewood rather than just look pretty.

People I know who do prep swear by .22 LR (cheap, compact, widely useable, tradeable).
posted by unearthed at 1:57 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Good news at last. A use for my Brexit stash.
posted by biffa at 2:07 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


Kinda funny that this post talks about supplies for pets but not babies or children...
posted by k8bot at 2:21 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Kinda funny that this post talks about supplies for pets but not babies or children...

Oh, the wave of full-body cringe when I checked our go-bags (we live in earthquake country, but if anything gets our neighborhood, it'll be the fires that start after the gas line ruptures during the earthquake) and realized my daughter's still had diapers in it. She's in third grade.

(For those who need to assemble a go-bag or supplies for children: I found that the Plum Organics squeeze pouches of pureed fruits/veg are surprisingly palatable and weigh less than canned veg and fruit, so we stock up on those and rotate them out to a food bank when the calendar prompts us to. Also in our earthquake kit for the kiddo: clean underwear, wipes for sanitation, a duplicate of her best-loved comfort object, some of her favorite shelf-stable snacks, a first aid kit with child formulations for painkillers, fever, etc. When she was tiny, we also kept a week's worth of diapers, a week's worth of formula, bottles and a jug of sterile water stashed too.)
posted by sobell at 3:04 PM on January 30 [6 favorites]


I thought it was an extremely useful point about how if you're going stock in food supplies - whether that's for flu season or earthquakes or whatever - make sure you've got stuff you can manage to turn into edible food under adverse circumstances, not just the power being out but you having the flu so bad, or being so sleep deprived from stress, or injured, you can't (or shouldn't) operate a cooking device or vehicle.

My parents are in hurricane/tornado country and prone to weeklong power outages and are very good at being ready for that, but when they both got H1N1 they had a couple days where they just ate bread out of the bag and cold canned vegetables. The moderate amount of canned soup, chips, and ready-to-eat snacks they keep on hand went first, leaving them with raw ingredients and carefully frozen prepped meals that they were too sick and exhausted to figure out how to get to an edible form. And once you get so sick you don't remember how the microwave works, you might also be so sick you don't think to call a friend or neighbor or an ambulance, which is what they probably should have done. Nobody knew they were particularly sick to check in on them. It is probably mostly luck and a little bit of tenaciousness that that didn't kill one or both of them.

We have some food and water supplies for earthquakes and power outages, but I really should stock up on more shelf-stable effortless food, electrolytes, cold medicine and NSAIDS, and some extra toilet paper. That was the other thing that stuck with me from my parents getting so sick - they ran through all the kleenex and toilet paper and were using paper towels peeled apart into individual plys for both purposes. Mom said she was about to start using fabric from her craft stash when she finally got well enough to call a friend to bring supplies.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:08 PM on January 30 [10 favorites]


I liked the thesis of Station Eleven. If a pandemic hits that causes the kind of devastation where gas, electricity, clean water, etc. stop being available, what do you keep, beyond that? You can only stockpile so much before the food supply runs out. I don't know the answer, but it's interesting to think about.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:13 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Also -- this 2015 MeFi post led me to Naomi Kritzer's short story "So Much Cooking," which tackles how one woman lives through a flu pandemic and blogs about it on her cooking blog.

That story has, in many ways, shaped my thinking in re: stocking the pantry and honing my cooking skills.
posted by sobell at 3:14 PM on January 30 [19 favorites]


Did anyone read the 1918 newspaper articles this blogger posted? I haven't gotten to it yet but am very interested to do so.
posted by salvia at 3:42 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Our biosecurity officer at work wants me to take forklift safety training because he needs 30% of us ready to forklift in case of a flu pandemic. I'd better get right on this.
posted by acrasis at 4:38 PM on January 30 [8 favorites]


I find it interesting how there is an ideological context for preparedness which is reflected in the writing style. This feels very Metafilter.

Stewart Brand notes that knowing your neighbors and having a sense of who knows how to do what in your neighborhood is an important part of preparedness. Although it is prirmarily about how to deal with the aftermath of an earthquake many of the lessons apply to situations where institutions are no longer fully functioning.

link
posted by mecran01 at 5:23 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


I live in Michigan, we don't do earthquakes.
posted by clavdivs at 5:41 PM on January 30


And once you get so sick you don't remember how the microwave works, you might also be so sick you don't think to call a friend or neighbor or an ambulance,

I have only had the for-real, no joking around kind of flu once. I went from feeling ok, to feeling like I might be coming down with a cold, to being too sick to be able to prepare food or make a phone call within just a few hours. I feel very lucky that I was living with someone at the time (and, someone who didn't get sick also); without that it would have been a much more dangerous experience.

All of this to say, it's great to prepare, but most of the preparation only works if you aren't too sick to take care of yourself.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:18 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Talking about preppers makes me recall this story about a prepper who was evicted and donated all his stored food to Puerto Rico post-Maria. Most preppers are terrible people who think mostly in selfish terms (and coded racism), but this guy and his wife were unusual in that they made arrangements to support an entire community when things went bad.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 6:38 PM on January 30 [5 favorites]


I liked the thesis of Station Eleven. If a pandemic hits that causes the kind of devastation where gas, electricity, clean water, etc. stop being available, what do you keep, beyond that? You can only stockpile so much before the food supply runs out. I don't know the answer, but it's interesting to think about.

I’ve been thinking about Station Eleven a lot lately.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:52 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Maybe as part of training in use of industrial respirator we were shown a video of a sneeze aerosolizing particles - YUK. Anyway yesterday I was wandering along behind a vaper with their ubiquitous cloud - If I had my way they'd have to wear a plastic bag!

Anyway I wondered if their smoke exhalation cloud is a useful proxy for just normal breathing out, 'cause it was a huge cloud.
posted by unearthed at 12:30 AM on January 31 [2 favorites]


And a can opener, lol.

Two can openners if your prep involves needing one. P-38s are cheap and available in camping stores. An equivalent device is on some multitools and multi blade pocket knives.
posted by Mitheral at 1:16 AM on January 31 [3 favorites]


I wondered if their smoke exhalation cloud is a useful proxy for just normal breathing out, 'cause it was a huge cloud.

It's not - they're willfully inhaling/exhaling a big-ass cloud of aerosolized fluid. It would be interesting to test the degree to which that fluid picks up viral hitchhikers. But it's an asshole move either way.

Normal breathing in and out doesn't produce much if any aerosolized vapor very far past your mouth. Any kind of forced exhalation like sneezing, of course, does.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:56 AM on January 31


To the topic at hand - for those of us who grew up poor and rural, with grandparents old enough to at least peripherally remember the Depression, a basic level of prepper-type behavior is sort of innate. It's only in the last few years I've come around to the idea that if the entire interconnected food supply to my urban area is compromised, I'm probably fucked regardless of whether or not I have a ten pound sack of rice. So count me on team build connections with your community so you aren't the first to be killed and eaten.

That said, something like a pandemic or natural disaster is still a good reason to have enough food for a week or so. Beyond that? If you live in a city, you've probably got bigger problems at that point, as infrastructure and civil obedience start to break down.

I guess all this might be just my own rationalizing a growing disinterest in romanticizing or even surviving any sort of horrifying mass-extinction event.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:09 AM on January 31 [6 favorites]


I've got a fairly substantial stockpile of canned goods, which I acquired completely by accident. You know how sometimes right before grocery shopping you make a mental note of "hey, I really need to pick up X to make a recipe this week"? I did that with cannellini beans, but the note-to-self somehow got stuck and I bought them three weeks in a row. As did my wife. We made the recipe, discovered none of us like cannellini beans, and now we have something like a dozen large cans of beans hanging out in the pantry that I'm pretty sure will only ever get consumed after we've finished off the box of baking soda in the fridge and the desiccated husks of kale plants in the front yard.

So, uh, if the shit hits the fan and you're near Boston, stop by for a delicious bean feast!
posted by Mayor West at 5:36 AM on January 31 [4 favorites]


So, uh, if the shit hits the fan and you're near Boston, stop by for a delicious bean feast!

Beware the Beanhouse Effect that follows.
posted by sugar and confetti at 5:46 AM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Here in Newfoundland, we are just recovering from the state of emergency that ended a week ago. A very nasty blizzard tore the roof off some buildings, blew in a few windows and dropped about three feet of snow with drifts up to 15 feet in places on January 17. For the first couple of days, the roads were so bad any emergency vehicle had to follow a snow plow, all shops and businesses were closed, because the roads were blocked with cars that had been abandoned during the storm anyway. People mostly looked out for their neighbors and helped each other out. All sorts of food sharing groups popped up on social media where people could offer to share what they had or request help, and bartering was commonplace.

I learned that people are basically good, but when in doubt, buy more toilet paper.
posted by peppermind at 5:53 AM on January 31 [10 favorites]


Oh and cat food.

Pro tip: In extremis, you yourself are cat food.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:02 AM on January 31 [7 favorites]


It's too bad Americans can't handle bulk milk in aseptic packaging (not counting single-serve Horizon).

We put all our sugary juice drinks in them but for some reason the milk has to be purchased cold. It's so so so much easier than having to constantly make sure you have some in the fridge.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:17 AM on January 31


This roundup of information seems pretty good.

SaltySalticid Those are really good links, as is the Brand link, mecran01 posted, thanks. peppermind is right; people can be good, but you should prep for disaster, because then you will need less help and you can help others. I prep for severe weather, and because I live alone and away from town, I make sure I have canned food, ginger ale, tea, and cold meds. And toilet paper. I don't know how long people might be quarantined in an epidemic; it could certainly be weeks.
posted by theora55 at 11:22 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]


I strongly recommend keeping a camping bidet around (ideally, one personal one per member of the household.) They are a great way of stretching toilet paper reserves in emergency. I'd recommend keeping one in the emergency kit even if your household toilets have bidets incorporated, gives you the option of using gray water.
posted by tavella at 1:53 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


I have solar power, and was pretty shocked to discover that if the grid-power goes down, so does my solar, even though I am delivering to the system. My neighbor the electrician knows how to hack this, but I haven't had the chance to discuss this with him. We should probably build a local grid, since he has wind, and when he is up, I'm down, and vice-versa.

My sister-in-law jokes that she and I are "war-children". We aren't but we both have a strong need to have a full pantry at all times. I think it's more that our boomer parents were always off on some self-realisation project rather than feeding us when we were kids, so we were always hungry. I can live and feed others for a long while, but as several people have said above, if you are ill, you need stuff that is easy to make and easy to eat. I'm not ill today, but I worked really long hours, and I just couldn't manage making the meal I had planned for dinner. The "kids" (21-year-old partygoers) had eaten all the bread and sandwich fillings. So when I walked the dog I looked into the corner store for something, anything I could eat with minimal effort. I was hoping for frozen pizza or French toast, but he was cleaning up his freezer. It ended up being Swedish crisp bread and canned mackerel which are both things that are made for infinite storage, so now I know to have those in the pantry. I rather like canned liver paté too, though I know that is just weird. But if I were building the ultimate prepper pantry, I'd buy or make tons of pickles to make time in isolation more interesting, because the key to eating canned liver paté or any other processed meat is plenty of pickles.
I'm not a fan of cup noodles, but I suppose they work for most people. I think if I get worried about the corona virus, I'll buy a big stack of frozen chicken soup instead. And maybe some frozen dumplings for extra filling though I have enough different noodles for at least a month.
If you eat pork, a whole piece of bacon or pancetta or dried ham is a good thing to have. In an emergency situation, I wouldn't use it so much for sandwiches or slices at breakfast as for adding taste to vegetable soups and stews and pasta dishes. Dried mushrooms and katsuobushi serve the same purpose, but in different ways. One of my kids has huge bags of dried Icelandic fish in the freezer that she snacks on. Her habit is weird, but the fish is good for a lot of dishes.
I'd also buy a huge bag of lemons and refrigerate them. Lemons make everything taste better. Not least chicken soup. You can freeze lemon juice if your isolation looks to be longer.
Come to think of it, with frozen chicken soup and a few onions or a bag of frozen chopped onions, you could make a good onion soup. I think I could do that if my fever wasn't too high. Grilled cheese on toast would be lovely in a bowl of onion soup but that is the most difficult thing to hoard if you live with young people who raid the fridge at night.
Blackcurrant cordial or sirop is very good when you are ill. Drink it with hot water instead of tea. Alternatives are elderberry and cranberry. If you can't buy them, they are easy to make.
And yeah, the most important thing is to be able to invite people in and share what you have. Respect karma.
posted by mumimor at 3:56 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


if the grid-power goes down, so does my solar, even though I am delivering to the system.

As an aside, this is to protect electrical workers — otherwise, if you lose power but the sun is still out, you could kill the guys trying to reconnect your main lines. “Backfeeding” is a relevant term to search for.

DO NOT defeat those protections unless you’re also prepared to literally (I do mean literally, not figuratively) kill electrical line workers. If you did that in the US you and your electrician could both be tried for murder, not joking.

Do not “hack” this; get a battery array or generator (with appropriate interconnects) if you need backup power. I am not joking in this; people can die. Horribly, as it happens.
posted by aramaic at 9:28 PM on January 31 [9 favorites]


Thanks for the info, aramaic. I will not hack anything, then. I do have a battery array, but it is also connected. I guess I'll have to hope there won't be too many outages in the future as my region moves over to renewables to meet Paris goals.
posted by mumimor at 12:16 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


mumimor; you can look into a system disconnect which is what large facilities with generators use. However I am not sure if that would work if you are selling excess power to the utility.
posted by mightshould at 2:29 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I do have a battery array, but it is also connected.

Then you *probably* just need to replace a couple of elements in your system; battery systems can be made to disconnect themselves from the grid during an outage, allowing the house to run on stored power without electrocuting anybody when the grid comes back online.

Depending on how your system is designed this could be fairly straightforward, although you might want to take the opportunity to connect the batteries to only one or two critical circuits rather than the entire house. If the original installer is around they should be able to assess your system in reasonably short order.
posted by aramaic at 10:50 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Disaster Planning & Recovery (MeFi Wiki) There are many Ask Metafilter and MetaTalk posts that address planning for and recovery from natural disasters. This page attempts to collect and organize the information and discussions.
posted by katra at 12:26 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


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