Misty Marsh is a mom of four kids ages 5 through 8 and she is an emergency preparedness blogger and coach. She believes everyone can and should work toward being better prepared for life's ups and downs but she knows that doesn't mean emergency preparedness has to overtake your life. Through her blog, eBooks and eCourses she teaches how to simplify emergency preparedness. Her blog is YourOwnHomeStore.com so you can check her out there.
Jennifer: Hi Misty, how are you today?
Misty: Jennifer, I am doing great and very excited to be here with you today - thank you for the invitation!
Jennifer: For those people who don't know you and the kids you go ahead and explain a little bit about your website and what your mission is.
Misty: I have taught about emergency preparedness on my website for almost six years now, and it's kind of changed and morphed as i found different needs out there for people. A couple years ago I realized there are a lot of people who have never heard about emergency preparedness, don't know where to start, or are a little confused but they see something happen in their life that makes them a little nervous. As I've gone to a lot of emergency preparedness websites many have a plethora of very quality information but that can very quickly become overwhelming and people just kind of stop and don't work on anything. So my goal with my website is to simplify things and to start with the very basics and help people know that they can do this, that this is something they can accomplish and that step by step is a really great plan.
Jennifer: Yes, baby steps and one step at a time so you avoid that overwhelm - I love that. So how did you get started in the preparedness scene? I mean was there something in your life that just made you go "oh, I need to be prepared" or was it just kind of your nature?
Misty: I was actually one of those people that I talk about. We moved to California from Utah. My husband was going to law school, I quit my job because I was pregnant with twin boys, he was not allowed to work that first year of law school and those twins were born three weeks after he started school. We were away from family and I was definitely overwhelmed and began to feel really nervous - "how am I going to care for these two beautiful kids, what am I going to do?" - and I didn't feel like I had that ability to care for them in any situation. So I started researching - I googled emergency preparedness, googled earthquake preparedness, and I just became very quickly overwhelmed and I kind of had to take a step back from it for a while and almost did kind of quit. But I'm also a very organized person and that's kind of one of my passions and so eventually I threw myself back into its and kind of took a more logical approach - "ok, what is the most important thing to start with? I'm going to start there and then I'll take things one step at a time".
Jennifer: Yeah, that's a great strategy. I know there are so many things in my life that I just have to take a step back and say like you did "ok, where do I start". So tell us a little bit about the
difference in what you do and because a lot of people... I think it's getting a little better nowadays but there was the Doomsday Prepper show (I don't even know if that's still on on TV or not)... that I think there's a stigma really if you're called a prepper. So what is the difference between the people that might appear on that show and what you do?
Misty: Like I mentioned there a lot of quality information out there and I don't think the people who... like even if they call themselves, or other people call them Doomsday Preppers, I don't necessarily think or feel that there's anything wrong with that, but I feel like it is very advanced and when we take all the emergency preparedness and throw it into the "Doomsday Prepper" category, people can start to think you're nuts, you’re crazy, that's way overboard, I don't want to get involved in that, that's not something I want to do, and so they stop preparing for even simple things things that every family will very likely face because they don't want to be kind of part of this stigma. As i watched a lot of people kind of move through the basics and then they gradually kind of graduate to the things that they might have once thought are a little crazy or overwhelming but because they've got a firm foundation they feel more able to do some of those more advanced things and they're not scared any longer. So I start with that really basic... I don't think that these Doomsday Preppers are bad, but one other difference that is really key to me is that I don't motivate myself or others based on fear. I'm not afraid of life and I know that bad things will happen; I accept that is a fact that everybody has challenges. I'm like, we all do, and I don't live in fear of those. I instead am motivated by a desire to care for the people that I love and I believe very firmly honestly that God will help me through the hard things I'm going to face if i make an effort and he may not take it away from me, he may just allow me to learn through it but that i do have a part in that and I need to do something even if i can’t do everything.
Jennifer: I love that philosophy, that just perfect. So then tell us where should we start, what kinds of things should we be prepared for? Could you put it like on a scale, like "we're going to start here and eventually we'll get there", so what are the things that we need to be prepared for?
Misty: This is one area that I feel like my philosophy or advice that I give people is fairly unique, and everybody's situation in life is different and so I don't put out a list and you know prepare for this first, prepare for this next to perform this last, but i do get three qualifiers. I say, number one you need to think about is to make a list of all the bad things that could happen in your life whether they're very little things, very big things and then we're going to raise those things in three categories how likely are they to happen - you know what it's very likely that i am going to forget to thaw out the chicken for dinner whereas me facing a large earthquake probably isn't going to happen every month or year or probably even every few years.
Misty: Second, I have people rate things on how drastically that event would affect their life - an earthquake could affect my life very drastically whereas forgetting to thaw out the chicken is going to be a very minor inconvenience. And then the third thing is how likely it is to happen - not just how often but how likely is it to happen? An earthquake is far more likely to happen in my area in Utah then a tornado. So i will have people rate these according to those three different categories and then choose the one with the highest number and sometimes that is something that you may not initially think of when you think of emergency preparedness. It's a flat tire because I commute every single day and that would be a big inconvenience if I couldn't get to work.
Misty: I have people start there because those are things that are going to bring them the greatest peace of mind and help them see that preparedness isn't just something that's "out there" - it's a lifestyle that can help your life every single day and when they're prepared for those one or two things that are most important to them they're motivated to continue preparing for the others. In addition, they don't start preparing for a tornado if they live in Utah they prepare for what affects them. So I don't think there really is one list that i can just give to everybody but i do encourage them to kind of go through that exercise on their own to decide what they should prepare for and focus on.
Jennifer: So to make your own list basically. So let's let's define some of these terms that are floating around everywhere, and one is a big one: a 72-hour kit. So what exactly is that and what should go in it and should you even have one?
Misty: Well, a 72-hour kit is actually one of the very first things I talk about on my website and i have an eBook that teaches people how to build a 72-hour kit one week at a time for 26 weeks. It takes them through just one little part of it. Now if they want to do it in 10 weeks they can take two or three steps a week but it gives this big project... takes it down into manageable chunks. But what a 72-hour kit is is a kit that will get you through the first three days of some sort of major disaster. Now what goes in it depends on exactly what you're preparing for - you know, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, tsunami, what kind of disaster are you preparing for? In addition, a 72-hour kit could be something that you carry on your back because you're going to have to evacuate by foot. It could be something that you carry on your back because you work 30 minutes or an hour from home and we're going to have to walk to get home because the roads are, you know... people can't drive on, but it could also be something that you're going to use in your home for 72 hours.
Misty: I honestly think that is in most cases the more likely scenario. My husband has a kit he can carry on his back because he works away from home, my kids have mini kits they take to school because they're not always home. My kit is in our car but it's not packed in a bag that i carry on my back because my car will likely be with me wherever I am and most of the time I'm home, and I would like to be home. Even if an earthquake destroys our house I'd like to put a tent up here, nearby my support system, my friends, my supplies that don't get destroyed. I think in most cases I'd stay nearby. As far as what goes in it, I tell people there are seven categories.
Misty: The first and most important probably is the water - you can't carry a lot of water but have a water filter in there. Clothes and shelter, a way to stay warm and dry. First aid, sanitation, medications, things like that to keep you healthy. Light, tools... the tools will be the one that's going to vary depending on what you're preparing for. If it's a car kit your tools are going to be different than if it's a home kit. Important documents that your family might need to prove who you are. One thing that I tell people is to have two pictures of your family - one that's a couple of years old and one that's very recent so that if, God forbid, a child is away from you and unconscious or unable to recognize you, you can prove that they're yours and they've been part of your family for some period of time. And then last to think about your own individual needs - do you have specific religious needs? Do you have pets? Things like that... Do you have a very particular dietary and medical needs that you might need extra supplies for? So those are the seven categories.
Jennifer: About the pictures, that's brilliant. I honestly had not thought about doing that with the older picture. So we talk about food storage; I know everybody talks about food storage quite a bit but there's another part of that which is water storage. Could you talk about that a little bit and why is it important even to have water storage?
Misty: Water storage back six years ago when I was starting this stuff, well almost nine years ago when i started with this that's what I decided to work on first. My reasoning was, I can live for a week or more without food - I can forage for food, there's a lot of things out there that I can eat, but I cannot survive without water for more than a few days. So I decided that would be the most important thing for me to have first. I didn't go out and buy a year's supply of water. I didn't go overboard, but that was my very first step because it is so essential to life. Not just for us - we need to drink it to stay alive, but also for sanitation purposes, for wounds, clean water has so many purposes having clean water is absolutely essential to being able to survive the first few days. Particularly if we're talking about natural disasters it's also something that is often cut off - earthquakes, tornadoes, any sort of natural disaster, it is very possibly going to cut off the water supply.
Misty: So as far as tips goes, my two biggest ones would be to start small with water. It is very quick to become overwhelmed and think "I'm never going to have enough water". Your first goal, and it shouldn't be your end goal, your first goal should be one gallon per person per day for three days. So there's six people in my family, that means each person needs three gallons - one pre day for three days - so that's 18 gallons. That's my number one goal is just to have 18 gallons of water. That is going to help us survive. But beyond that I would set sequential goals - "ok, now i want to have a week supply, now I want to have a week supply that isn't just survival, I'd actually like to be able to do laundry, and now I'd like to have a couple weeks" - to plan kind of interspersed that way with your food storage goals, for your 72-hour kit goals, that kind of take it step by step so you feel like you're accomplishing something along the way and you're reaching those goals.
Jennifer: So what do you tell people when they say "well, I don't have the money for all of this extra stuff" - I mean how do you explain that in terms of... because when you think about preparedness you think about, well, that's what it is, is to get all of these extra things, and what do you tell people that say "well, I just don't have the money for that"?
Misty: Two things. First is I believe skills are just as important if not more important than stuff. You can have all the stuff in the world and if you don't know how to use it, it's not going to help you. So if you don't have the money, if you really truly honestly are at a position in your life where you just do not have any wiggle room in your budget, start by focusing on skills. One great place to practice skills is to go camping. Have fun with your family, make it a fun thing, but you're going to practice cooking outside, living outside, filtering water, you're going to be able to practice some of those skills. The second thing I would tell you is to you use your supplies regularly and then they won't feel like a waste. For instance, I have a sun oven. It allows me... it's a great preparedness tool. I can cook with just the sun if I don't have electricity, but i can also use it in the summer and not have to heat up my kitchen. It can be a benefit to me every day and then it doesn't feel like a waste of money. Buy food for your food storage - buy food that you like to eat, that you enjoy eating, and cook with it and then it won't feel like a waste. Then it doesn't just sit on the shelf and lose thousands of dollars that I invested that I might not ever use and that's pointless. Make it a part of your everyday life and it will no longer feel like an extra expense.
Jennifer: But if you had to pick one thing one thing for preparedness what would that one item be?
Misty: I think i would probably pick a water filter, or purifier, because that is so essential and water sources that are nearest can become contaminated, even the water that comes to our tap just here in Utah... this has probably happened eight or nine times just this year in various cities with the water coming from your tap is contaminated, and I I feel like that is so essential. If I can have that water for a few days, I can figure out food, I can figure out the other things in that period of time hopefully.
Jennifer: So let's talk a little bit about back to school, because that's the time... you know, even if you homeschool, because there's activities and things that start out, but that's the time when your children are generally away from you for a long time. So let's talk about the things that we could do this time of year for preparedness and back to school. Are there things that you can do to help your kids be safe when they are at school?
Misty: I think the most important thing is to review, or teach if you haven't yet, what your kids need to do in an emergency, and practice. Help them practice those skills. It's something that I want my children to know - what do you do if there's an earthquake, where do you go in your room, what happens when the earthquake's done, how do you find me, what are some meeting spots, do you remember my phone number... that's kind of a big one... do you remember our address? Really talking to them about those skills and practicing it - going and dropping them off at school and saying "okay, I need you to get home but you can't walk on the street - how are you going to do it?"... and making it kind of a game, a challenge for them, and not in a way that scares them but just helping them to have that confidence that if something were to happen they would know what to do. So first of all is reviewing skills and your family emergency plan with your kids, and second is to have a small emergency kit; my school requires it but not all schools do. Just have some water, a little bit of food, a whistle, a few little things... something that they like... it could be a stuffed animal or a card game, something so they're waiting at school or something, nothing crazy huge, just a small kit for them so that if it takes me a few hours for us to meet up they they have some supplies.
Jennifer: That's a great idea, and it doesn't have to take up a lot of room in their backpack or bag, just a little compartment you can put those things in. What about college bound kids because... there are a lot of them they go quite a ways away from home to colleges. It's their first time away from home and all of that, what what extra things would you recommend in terms of preparedness for them?
Misty: I would make sure they had a full 72-hour kit - whether that's one that they have on their back or they use at home depends on what problems they might face in the area where they're going to college. But I would make certain that they had enough supplies to survive on their own for three days - longer if you can do that. Especially if you know it might take more than three days to get to them or them to get to you, you want to make sure that they have the supplies they need. But in addition, I believe it comes back to those skills as well; if you don't have college kids yet start preparing now while they're teenagers and help them learn some skills so that they are confident to be able to take care of themselves and others. Teach them CPR, get them certified, help them learn first aid skills, various things like that, so that they can help themselves and those around.
Jennifer: I totally agree. Back to the little kids first though, I want to ask you about having a safe word. The tip about the photographs was brilliant and can you talk a little bit about having a safe word with your little ones?
Misty: Something that my mom did with me... we don't use this word anymore so I can say it, but it was Kiki which was our cat's name... we only had it for a couple months and then it died. But we that was still our safe word, and I remember as a child that brought me a lot of comfort and I don't honestly remember ever actually using it, but the idea was that if my mom could not get me or help me in any sort of a scary situation that she would send someone else, or that someone else would come, and that the way that I would know that they were a safe person was that they would know this word. And so if someone ever said to me... I'm playing at the park, "Hey, come to my car and see my cute puppies" I can ask them, "well, do you know our safe word?" And if they didn't then I knew not to go with them. But if they did I knew that that person was safe and I could get in their car and they would help me with whatever I needed. I said I don't even remember using it but I do remember that it brought me kind of a lot of... just, "okay, I don't have to worry so much about who's bad and who's good and who's safe and who's not and who's tricky and who's not". I think sometimes there's danger in telling our children to stay away from strangers. Sometimes strangers are good people, and so for my kids we have two things - we have a safe word, we also... I will tell them that if for any reason you lose me at the mall, the safe word is probably not going to work there. I will tell them to find a mom that has children with her - ninety nine percent of the time that is going to be a safe person.
Jennifer: Can you tell us a little bit about your ten-minute preparedness challenges? I would really love for everybody to know about those.
Misty: This is the idea I have; it kind of goes along with the simplifying preparedness and making it doable, and they're just challenges and I call them 10-minute challenges... some might take a little longer, but most of them fit in that 10 minute time frame... that if you can find 10 minutes this week you can pick a project, do it, and know that you've made a baby step forward in your family's preparedness. For example, go print five recipes - that's it. Because what if the power is out, and you don't have any recipes, and you're not one of those people who can cook from memory. A power outage is really common honestly; it happens even when they're not big disasters. So there you have five recipes, and it took you ten minutes to do it. So it's objects of that type - really simple and easy, that make you just kind of say "hey, I did something".
Jennifer: I also want to talk about your classes, because you have some classes that totally take all of this overwhelm out of preparedness. So could you tell us a little bit about those?
Misty: I do have a class that's called The Simply Prepared eCourse, and I just finished writing it in March. I released it for the first time, and we just had our first class go through and it's 12 modules and 26 lessons within those modules that take people through that step by step process that I eventually created for my family starting with organization, and then water, moving on up that... kind of what I feel like is a prioritized way to work on preparedness instead of just a scatterbrain "I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this". It helps people kind of take one step at a time and work through it and the lessons are available video, audio, printable, so people can listen on the way to work, or read them in the bathtub, or watch them if that is what works for them... and it's just been really successful, people have really liked having a step-by-step plan that they don't have to go figure out and Google and guess,
Jennifer: And I imagine it's very comforting to have that so that they don't have the overwhelm like you were talking about, but just that they have that and they can take it step by step day by day and they don't have to figure it all out on their own.
Jennifer: Well, I sent out an email this morning and I told everybody that you were going to tell us what a BOB and at EDC is. So could you tell us what those things are?
Misty: So a BOB stands for a Bug Out Bag, and the idea behind that is that if you actually have to leave your home, it's a 72-hour kit basically that you carry on your back... and you have to leave your home... and I guess it could be in car if you're able to leave by car, but you should be prepared to carry it if you need to. So it's this idea that you're bugging out, you're going away from your home, out somewhere else... and you might have a prepared place, whether that's a sibling's home, my parents or my friends home, or a second home of your own... you have somewhere else to go and it's a kit that you're taking with you.
Misty: An EDC is an Every Day Carry, and that's the same idea. It's kind of the same category as i talked about but it's just a very very small scale - what are the absolute essentials that you need? For me that's kind of changed, you know I used to carry wipes and diapers, that was my EDC because I needed them every day and I no longer have to. But you think about those things that you might need, both in mini emergencies and large emergencies, and you carry those in your purse or on yourself. A cellphone could be part of an EDC and it could be very small or larger depending on what you're trying prepare for.
Jennifer: I know like you were saying earlier a lot of these things just get thrown around and and half of us know what they are and the other half don't and we get overwhelmed, and so thank you for enlightening there.
Jennifer: Misty, thank you so much for being here! If you would like to know more about Misty’s classes then you can go to YourOwnHomeStore.com, and if you enter your e-mail at the top of her site she will get you weekly preparedness tips and printables. So if you just go right to the home page it's right there at the top and and you will be able to get a 15-page printable grab-and-go binder. So thank you so much Misty for joining us today!