Part 1 Be Prepared

Welcome to our new column, Be Prepared. I hope that you will find it interesting, motivating, and fun! It is for young people, old people, and everyone in between.

Notice the verb in this title: Be. It indicates a state of being. It isn’t “Prepare” for something we see coming, which we all need to be doing each day in order to be prepared. We need to stay prepared, because it’s what we don’t expect that is most dangerous. Being ready means much, and we will continue to explore the details.

Jesus says, “Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” Matthew 24:44. 

The Blizzard

When I was about 13, my parents, sister and I went to a friend’s house for prayer meeting. They lived in the forest a thousand feet up the side of the mountain overlooking the Camas Prairie of central Idaho. We had been there many times and had no idea that this visit would be a life-changing experience.

While we were there, the wind began to blow. When the meeting was over, our host decided to lead the convoy of vehicles out because he knew that the wind was blowing snow that would create dangerous drifts across one stretch of road. So, we all got ready and the string of three pickups and an SUV headed out; all were 4-wheel-drive.

By now the wind was blowing fiercely. The temperature was about 35 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind was driving snow. Everything was OK until we got out of the trees onto the open prairie and had to drive across a half-mile of road that was cross-wise to the wind.

Our host was accustomed to this hazard and managed to drive in his big Dodge diesel truck all the way across to the intersection. Then, seeing we were not doing well, he turned around and shone his headlights back in our direction.

My father was driving our pickup, trying to stay in the tracks of the first vehicle. But the blowing snow made it difficult to see and he got stuck in the drift about half or 2/3 of the way across. He tried to back out but couldn’t. And now the other vehicles were stopped because they couldn’t get past us.

The first plan was for all 10 of us to get in the Toyota at the back of the line and go back to the house. But we didn’t get far before it, too, got stuck. So, the next best option was to go to the Dodge that was waiting in a relatively “safe” place, and go into town.

We set out in groups of three or four, arms linked, to make the final run through the blinding slush to the headlights of the truck. It was cold. The tracks were drifted over, and we kept getting off into deep snow, and had to pull each other back. Finally we all arrived and loaded in. Thankfully there was a canopy on the vehicle, and most of the adults (including my father) rode in the back. Someone put a 5-year-old in my lap, the doors closed, and we finished the trip to town without any major difficulty. Somehow, that 5-year-old seemed to be warm and comfortable, almost like nothing had happened. I was freezing cold and my clothes were soaked! My hands and feet were numb and aching, my teeth were chattering.

Our host took us to a motel where we spent the night. Dad was coldest and got in the bathtub to warm up. The rest of us stood around the electric heater. We had no dry clothes, no pajamas, just the thin blankets on the hotel bed. But we slept okay. During the night, the wind subsided.

Because we had a kitchenette, in the morning another family came to our room for breakfast. But because we had no food, we walked a mile to the grocery store, bought some fruit, oatmeal, and so on, and walked back to the motel to prepare it.

After breakfast the men went out to unstick our vehicles. The roads were a mess. The graders couldn’t push the snow because it was so dense. Our host walked up to his house and came back with a bulldozer. With hand tools, they dug away the wind-packed snow and ice that had surrounded our vehicles like plaster-casts until it was safe to pull them loose with the dozer. 

Lessons to Learn

Stay together. Anyone left behind might have died. Don’t get lost. Running in the blizzard, we had a light to run toward. But each group physically hung onto each other as they ran. They also pulled each other back

onto the path if they strayed.
If all the vehicles had gotten stuck, we would have

needed to choose between staying in the vehicles and trying to stay warm or else braving the blizzard and trying to walk over a mile back to the house. It would have been uncomfortable and risky either way.

Trying to walk back to the house in the blizzard would have been dangerous. Visibility was very poor; the snow was obscuring the roads and when hypothermia sets in, a person tends to lose the ability to think. Six of us were not dressed for the conditions. It would have been best to wait until the wind subsided or until dawn.

Staying in the vehicles, even with the engines running, could have been cold. And if the engine quit (because of the ice or from lack of fuel), we would have been entirely dependent on body heat. But at least we would have had shelter from wind!

Cold is the biggest threat to outdoor survival. Even with temperatures above freezing, many hypothermia deaths occur from wet, wind, poor clothing, and no fire.

Our situation posed no significant risk of frostbite, but had a terrible wind chill factor. Our friend said, “Forty degrees and 40 miles per hour equals zero.” That about describes the storm in which we were caught. 

How to Be Prepared

Remember the 5-year-old who seemed unfazed by the weather? She was dressed in a snowsuit, with a warm hat, gloves, and snow boots. Her family had just moved down from Alaska, where her father had spent years working as a surveyor.

They set a good example. They always kept extra warm clothing and an overnight bag with another set of dry clothing in the vehicle. And, because they were prepared, they were actually quite comfortable through the experience. If they had needed to spend the night huddled in their truck, it might not have been too uncomfortable and probably would not have been life-threatening. They probably had blankets, maybe even sleeping bags. If they had needed to walk very far in the strong wind, they would have been reasonably warm.

By comparison, my family had ordinary, daytime clothing–cotton pants, shirts, and socks. I wore a sweater and a wind-breaker jacket with a hood. Dad had a light jacket and hat. My family had nothing extra for emergencies, just like the foolish virgins in Jesus’ parable.

So, how much clothing do we need? Try going for a walk in the morning before dawn in a storm. How much clothing do you need to be comfortable? This is the minimum amount of clothing we should have every time we travel out of easy walking distance from home. Keep it packed in your go-bag; update it as the seasons change. Always ask yourself, “What will it take to survive the night in or near my vehicle?” Blankets, sleeping bags? Remember that if you are sitting or sleeping you will need more insulation than when you are exercising.

Ever since Adam and Eve lost their robes of light, people have needed clothing for protection from heat and cold. Mors Kochanski, in his book Bushcraft, declares that man has no more business going out into the elements of the northern forest without effective clothing than he has traveling in space without a space-suit. Jesus says, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments.” Revelation 16:15. Until next time, trust in God, keep your matches dry, and your cutters sharp!

As we see more thing coming upon us, always remember to keep God’s Word within our hearts.

The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7.

“Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” Psalms 32:7.

“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.” Psalms 37:24.

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Psalms 42:11.

“There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” Psalms 91:10,11.