The Firebox: What it is and Why Every Household Shouldn't Be Without One
Twice a year my family takes an inventory of our immediate assets. I don’t mean our investment portfolio. I’m talking about immediate access to life-preserving essentials: water, food, warmth, light, and basic first aid. The stuff we take for granted until we’re up the proverbial creek.
We have seen alarming trends demonstrating how vulnerable we are to circumstances beyond our control. We’ve grown accustomed to relying on others to respond on our behalf. We’ve become so distraught with our inalienable rights and personal freedoms, that we’ve become negligent to our civic responsibilities as contributing members of a free society. It’s great that FEMA and the National Guard (sometimes) show up when there’s trouble, but taking a little accountability for ourselves helps alleviate the collective stress on the immediate response.
We’ve seen how a handful of precarious variables can completely derail the day. Fluctuations in the world economy promote turmoil. Malicious people wreak havoc. Mother Nature has proven her ability to kick some ass. I’m not a conspiracy theorist or a cynic, but life is unpredictable. If we cover our own basic needs, when things go awry, we’re individually better positioned to help out, rather than grab our heads in a holy panic.
Cody Lundin reminds us in his book When All Hell Breaks Loose, that “Ultimately, your safety is not the government’s responsibility; it’s yours. The emergency response chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Make sure the weakest link is not you.” Buy the book and read it.
FEMA and the CDC now recommend that all families in the United States maintain on-going reserves for every man, woman and child for a period of no less than two weeks. I like to error on the side of a month or more (it's actually more like 4-6 months). These are allocated rations specifically designed to sustain your family during an initial response. If every family in every community had these reserves, people in general, would be less panicky about meeting basic human needs. When shelves go bare at the grocery, there’s a buffer in your pantry. That’s the point.
Think ahead. Prepare a small cache for your family. Buy the non-perishables you would normally eat (with the longest shelf-lives). Consume things as they get close to expiring and then replace them. Balance your supply with items that meet your nutritional needs. My family is gluten-free, so our cache reflects what we eat year-round. Stock a closet with a few dozen gallons of water. It costs almost nothing, takes up virtually no room, and is absolutely essential for life. Supplement with a gallon of bleach, a Katadyn water filter, and a LifeStraw for everyone in your household.
Our “firebox” pantry is stocked with dried fruit, canned vegetables, beans, nuts, jerky, rice and more. Quinoa and hemp hearts are super high in protein and easily prepared with little or no fuel. We have a stash of flour, sugar, salt, honey, coconut oil, almond butter, and chocolate. We watch expiration dates on a wide variety of household first aid, medicines, vitamins and toiletries. Buy whatever you normally use. Write expiration dates in big magic marker to keep dates visible. We keep extra propane, candles, batteries, flashlights, toilet paper, and matches. We also use a solar powered sun oven year-round like a crock pot.
We keep our first aid kit well-stocked with a practical manual for first responders and combat-medics, written and illustrated for people without advanced medical training. A few strategic guidebooks provide tactical information, but don’t wait for a crisis to pick them up and read them. Also keep your household CPR and basic first aid certifications current. That’s just sensible for the entire family.
My preparations are not politically driven; they just seem smart and responsible. People make investments all the time. If twice a year, I invest in a stash of provisions that will help my family endure an unpredictable adventure, it’s priceless. Worst case scenario, we consume our assets. Now, that’s an investment I can live with.