The Everyday Prepper

Are you ready for a natural or man-made disaster? As in are you ready RIGHT NOW?

From the outside the building looks like nothing special: an office door and garage entrance in a sea of likewise small modern industrial park warehouses dotting the Florida landscape. Once inside, the casual observer sees shelves lined with nondescript boxes and bins, along with stacks of empty canvas bags and backpacks.

What would pass as just another small storage facility among the many in communities across the country is actually the operational nerve center for Joe Alton and his wife Amy. Joe is a retired medical doctor; Amy, who is also retired, is an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner and Certified Nurse Midwife.

The Altons, however, have alter-egos : they are known to legions of followers as Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy. They are preppers.

Sort of.

“Calling people preppers really detracts from the message of preparedness that we’re trying to put forth,” said Joe. “Most people in the preparedness community are regular folk just like me who wear a tie and wear an actual dress shirt from time to time .” Rather than call him a prepper, Joe prefers “medical preparedness expert.”

Thanks to shows like The Colony , The Wheel , and of course, National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers , Joe says the uninitiated view people in the preparedness community as “camo-wearing, gun-toting, bunker dwelling folk who have pretty extreme views.”

But like most reality TV shows, the reality of people in the preparedness community is that they are looking to survive if the daily goods and services that we all take for granted suddenly becomes unavailable.

In California, residents are worried about earthquakes. If you live in the Midwest, tornadoes are a constant menace. And for Floridians, it’s the seasonal threat of hurricanes.

“The chances of being involved in some kind of disaster is not really so small,” said Joe. “That’s why it’s so important to instill a culture of preparedness.”

Joe and Amy got into the preparedness culture after Hurricane Katrina. Though hundreds of medical professionals descended upon the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the storm, as Joe tells it, “There were too many people for the medical resources that were around.” He believes that some people who may have been able to survive Katrina didn’t, simply because doctors and nurses were overwhelmed.

From what the couple saw in a post-Katrina Alabama and Louisiana, was born the idea of helping not only medical professionals but also the average person administer basic medical aid. Joe and Amy co-authored a book: The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way .” Joe explained that in the wake of a disaster, “The average person may be the highest medical asset left in your family.” He wanted to make sure that person had at least a fighting chance to save a life.

The couple self-published on Amazon.com and expected to sell a few copies here and there. Four years in and the book has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. It currently sits at No. 5 in Disaster Relief books, No. 6 in the Survival Skills category, and No. 13 in Safety and First Aid.

“We kind of fell into it by accident,” Amy told News 6.

As the book took off, Joe and Amy started hearing from people who were buying their book. The advice was great, but what about the physical tools (in this case medical supplies) needed to administer aid?

Which brings us back to the warehouse.

Four years after the couple embarked on their new post-retirement careers, they found themselves suddenly also in the business of re-packaging and selling the medical supplies stocked in their warehouse. A few times a week, Joe and Amy pack up custom prepared medical kits and ship them off to customers. They offer over a dozen different combinations and even encourage people to put together their own kits as each one on their website specifically lists what’s packed inside. Contents are basic and readily available at a drugstore or online.

Not Just About Medicine

Although medical preparedness is the foundation of Joe and Amy’s work, the couple also noticed that having just a guide and medical supplies on hand for an emergency wasn’t really enough to be fully prepared.

“A poll recently showed that only 12 percent of people are ready enough or consider themselves ready enough for whatever the next disaster might be,” Joe told News 6. Amy added: “If people think through scenarios you’re more likely to act and say OK , I thought about this and this is my plan.”

San Francisco, a city with a reputation for devastating earthquakes, is being proactive and thinking about their own plan. The Bay area’s new SF72 campaign puts a spotlight on residents being able to survive for at least 72 hours in the wake of a disaster as power, water, food a nd emergency services may not be available.

“The basics are food, water and shelter, and medical comes in a pretty good fourth,” says Joe.

Whether you take shelter where you are or hit the road with your own version of a survival kit and supplies, the Altons think you’ll have a better chance of getting through a tough period if you break down what you’ll need into five categories.

We used the acronym “SWEEP” to keep things organized:

· Sustenance: Think about canned food or anything easily transportable with a long shelf life. Meals-ready-to-eat are what most preppers prefer, but there are lots of choices available at any supermarket.

· Water: Floridians know the drill: a gallon per person for every day that you’re on your own.

· Entertainment: You’ll need things to keep you and the family distracted like books, playing cards or board games. Videos might work, but only if you have the power to keep your devices charged.

· Energy: Speaking of power, you’ll want to have batteries or a generator to help keep things running like cell phones or lanterns. A portable solar charger could keep smaller devices running for days.

· Personal Needs: Prescriptions, any type of medical kit, and of course, hygiene. If you’re going to stay at home, no need to pack clothes. But if you’re leaving, clothes are going to be an essential. Got a favorite food or treat that you like – stock up on that as well.

Two final things to remember for any disaster: T ry to keep a copy of personal documents in a safe place that you can easily grab and take with you if you have to leave your home. And lastly, don’t forget about the cash. If the electricity goes out, so does the convenience of the cards in your wallet or purse.

“When we talk about a loss of power, we’re talking about a loss of purchasing power too when the credit card verification systems are out,” said Joe. “So have lots of bills in small denominations on hand.”

Good advice indeed.

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