Sunday, November 8, 2015

Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness: Missoula, MT

When David saw that our local REI was having the Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness class (and it is FREE), he immediately sent me a text and signed us up.  We wanted to take this class when they offered it last year but I was out of town.  I'm glad he waited for me because I had a lot to learn.

They took us in the back storage room for the class. The sign is a little confusing.  They are directing us to go right for the class but then at the bottom are warning us of Zombies and to Keep Out!  We decide to risk it.

They are set up for about 40 people.  We are the 2nd to arrive.  I wondered if the three of us there would be it but they filled a little more than half of the seats.  Most were couples like us, one in the back had a newborn with them.  The guy sitting next to me is a little on the odd side.  You might be thinking, You went to a Zombie Preparedness class and people living in houses Zombies can break into shouldn't throw stones.  But he is weird in the way that makes you think that he thinks the show The Walking Dead is a documentary.  Incidentally, I have never watched a single episode of that show.  David would sometimes watch when I was in the room doing something else or in the next room and the sounds alone are enough to run me off.  Like when the kids were teenagers and were trying to watch Saw in the living room and I could hear it in my office.  I made them turn it off.

I'm not sure if she is supposed to be a Zombie or if she was in an earthquake and had to dig out of her house or what.  This poster from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  was on the door we entered through.  I visited the website listed at the bottom (  No mention of Zombies. 

The class lasted about 45 minutes and the instructor actually has a masters degree in emergency preparedness (no emphasis on Zombies).  This class is basic emergency preparedness (they were honest about this at registration) with some funny stuff thrown in about Zombies.

There are some handouts and slides to explain the stages of Zombieness?  Zombieism?  

The one that I struggled with the most was smell.  Zombies smell bad.  But several times during the presentation hygiene came up - or more specifically - the possibility that hygiene won't be high on the priority list in any emergency.  We might start to smell bad.  How can I tell if David has turned zombie or not when his BO takes over?  And what about teenaged boys?  They smell bad all of the time.  Do we kill them and not take any chances?  As the mother of a son, I found teenage boys to be generally useless so I might have to give this more thought if the you-know-what hits the fan.  Even our dog Karma didn't like teenage boys.  Every puberty-riddled male that walked through our door made her bark and growl and caused her back hair to get up.  No other group of people or individual person makes her do that.  
You know what they say...dogs sense evil.

If you are inclined to deal with your hygiene, these towels might come in handy.  They are only slightly bigger than my thumb.  As their tag line points out it is "The Only Towel That is a Survival Tool".  Could be true.  If David smells good he is less likely to get accidentally hacked up with my Sog Tomahawk.  That would be ironically sad too since he was the one who bought it for me.  

During the presentation they show things that you can buy at REI, obviously this is expected.  But she didn't cram it down our throats and she also showed clothes that can't be purchased there, food that came from the regular grocery store and other things purchased elsewhere.  She also provided websites and information on other companies, some that I had no idea existed.  Like Zombie Tools.  This company is even based here in Missoula and they make tools appropriate for Zombie eradication - swords, knives and bladed instruments of all kinds.  After checking them out, I don't understand how Helena made the #1 city for Zombie Apocalypse survival in Montana.  

 I am set for blades.  David bought me a machete a couple of years ago that I carry when we hike and also the aforementioned Sog tomahawk.  He tried to tell me when I mentioned wanting it that the Sog isn't for chopping wood, it is for killing people.  I said, "What's your point?"  He is a very trusting man.

There were several things I learned in the class that I didn't know and other things I knew but might not have thought about again had she not mentioned them.  I took a lot of notes and it did cross my mind that people (the instructor in particular) probably thought I was the odd one because I was the only one doing that.  Here are a couple of notes I made that need to be shared:
  • A shovel is probably your best choice for a weapon/tool combo.  You can use it "to bash a zombies head and to bury your poop".
  • Boots are also a good choice as a multi-purpose purchase.  They are good for warmth, difficult terrain and "smashing brains".
  • Guns are not a good choice.  Ammo is heavy, you will eventually run out and the noise attracts more zombies.
  • Slow moving zombies are called Walkers.  My maiden name is Walker.  Take what you will from that.
  • You will get bored.  Pack something to entertain yourself.  I mentioned this to a lady I work with and she immediately produced and gifted to me a tiny deck of cards.  
After class, I thought more about this than I expected.  Not about the zombies but about being prepared in an emergency.  David and I have a lot of the things they suggested we have but I realized they aren't all in one place.  If we had to evacuate our house in a hurry, we would be hard pressed to get it all together.  Iin a place like Montana where it is early November as I write this and we already have snow, we need to be prepared to be outdoors in harsh weather.  It is easy to think we will never need to leave in an emergency or to "shelter-in-place" but it happens.  We have already had a flood at our house (we have hip-waders hanging on a hook in the garage because of this, they could be handy in the future).  We could get snowed in.  There could be a wildfire (there was one not far from here the second year we lived here).  There could be an earthquake. 

I brought up what I was thinking about a few times  over the next several days with David.  He openly told me he was concerned that I might go too far and become a "prepper".  Until I make him dig a pit in the backyard for a secret underground schoolbus shelter (a real thing, look it up), I think he is overreacting that I might be overreacting.  I did investigate some things on the Internet including the CDC website and, the website the instructor suggested.  Most of these had the same lists of things you should have in your Emergency Kit.  It just so happened that I recently emptied a large Rubbermaid tub like the one the instructor showed so I decided it was time for us to make a kit.  Here's what I put in it.  The items with an * are things we already owned, I just had to locate them.
  • 2 pair of inexpensive work gloves
  • a set of 3 crescent wrenches in various sizes
  • box of kitchen trash bags* (good for hygiene or trash)
  • box of contractor bags* (can be used to seal up windows/doors for pandemic or hazmat problems)
  • roll of duct tape (we had this but I bought a fresh roll)
  • 2 Life Straws (lets you drink from potentially contaminated sources without treating first)
  • 2 particle respirator masks (we also had these but they are well used so I got new ones, they were $1)
  • a BBQ lighter
  • 2 small flashlight/glow stick combos in red (the recommended color)
  • Notebook/pen/pencil/sharpie*
  • Tiny Deck of Cards*
  • 2 sticks of Chapstick
  • Bug spray & sunscreen
  • Toilet paper - wet and dry* variety (this will be the new economy by the way)
  • 2 large lantern-style flashlights with extra batteries (one of the flashlights is in the hall by the garage door, one and the batteries in the kit)
I put the kit in the hall closet where I keep my winter weather clothes: snow pants, coats, hats, gloves, scarves.  I could grab what I need when I get The Kit.  David also has a lot of camping stuff in the garage that could be quickly thrown in the truck, stuff like tents and cooking gear).

I also added the recommended first aid items to The Kit:
  • Various bandages and bandaids*
  • Scissors*
  • Non-latex surgical type gloves* (I put in 4 pair and if you are wondering why I already had this, I dye fabric sometimes and it keeps my hands from staining.)
  • Medical tape*
  • Tweezers (I couldn't find mine which you would know if you looked at my eyebrows so I bought a replacement and one for the kit)
  • Instant cold compress
  • Bendaryl - liquid* and cream
  •  Tylenol* and Advil*
  • Asprin (for a heart attack)
  • Imodium* (because, diarrhea, if the Life Straws don't work as advertised)
  • Petroleum Jelly (could double as "entertainment" in a pinch)
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Wet Wipes*
And Food/Water:
  • 10 Gallons of water (we had none, they recommend 1 gallon per person for a minimum of 3 days for both hydration and sanitation/hygiene/cooking, more if you have special needs or a pet - which we do).  This the only thing not physically in the kit, it is on a shelf in the garage.  We could chunk in a vehicle of we had to go.  If we were at home, the ground water wasn't contaminated and we could get outside, we are on a well and could pump more.
  • 2 cans of Spam (they actually don't recommend this because it is salty and bad for hydration but I had to get something David will eat)
  •  2 pkgs Tyson white chicken chunks
  • 2 cans of sardines in oil (for me, David will NOT eat these, even in an emergency)
  • A large jar of Peanut Butter
  • 1 box of 8 Atkins chocolate PB bars (low sugar - David is diabetic)
  • 1 box of 4 Kind bars in chocolate/sea salt flavor
If we had to leave the house for more than a week, we wouldn't have enough food so I need to keep working on that. If we stayed here, I always have rice and potatoes and other staples on hand.  There is a Costco in Missoula.  I don't have a membership because I despise that place but they do have this:

This is the SMALL one.  If you look in the sidebar there is another bigger one for the bargain price of almost $4,000.  That will have to wait until David digs our secret pit.

I needed dry milk to make some bread a few days after the class and found that the store down the street only carries a Zombie Apocalypze size box - like this one of the same size at WalMart.  That is a 4 LB box.  If I bought this for The Kit I would have to buy 4 pounds of chocolate Nesquik to go with it or David would never touch it.

Poking around the Internet I also found you can get this Zombie Extermination, Research and Operations kit on the OpticsPlanet website.  For a bargain basement price of just under $24k.  

I don't think I have gone that far over the edge.  I did think that we needed to also prep our vehicles (again, cold and snowy here) so in the back of my car I now have (I also made David a car kit with minor changes):
  • A bag of kitty litter (for traction, not hygiene); David is to get sand for his truck, it helps add weight to the tail end and can be used for traction (he had this in the past but we used it up sandbagging during our flood)
  • 12 16oz bottles of water
  • A fleece blanket*
  • A sleeping bag*
  • A first aid kit
  • Wet Wipes*
  • A flashlight and extra batteries
  • A change of clothes* (I didn't do this for David)
  • A 4 pack box of those same Kind bars (also just me)
  • Ice scraper, snow broom*
  • I can of Fix-A-Flat
I realized during this exercise that I don't even own jumper cables.  David is presently researching a stand alone jumper kit for my car so we can order it today.  When that arrives, I will make him take me out and show me how to use it.  I also want him to show me how to change my tire.  I did this exactly once something like 20 years ago and I put it on backwards (Remember that mom?).  Who knew you could even do that?  I am also ordering 2 NOAA compliant emergency radios (one for The Kit and one for my car) and 2 tools for breaking auto glass and cutting seat belts (one for each vehicle).  

The last thing they covered that I never really considered was evacuating while at work.  This is particularly stupid of me since I have had to leave my hotel room more than once due to fire alarms.  Once, it wasn't a false alarm and I couldn't find my room keys.  I had to stand at the front desk bra-less in my sleepwear to get a replacement key when they let us back in.  All while meeting a customer for the first time.  Not good.  Now I make sure to leave clothes (including a bra) and shoes readily accessible and put my car and room keys in my purse by the door before I go to bed.  I also added a small first aid kit and flashlight to the bag I carry on the plane when I travel.

The website had a list of items you should keep at your desk in case you have to shelter-in-place or evacuate and walk a long distance (again, prepared for extremes like the cold if you live in Montana).  Since I work at home, I have the whole kit here.  But David could have this happen.  I figure the kit in his truck can double for this.  Since he works at the airport, they have a pretty relaxed dress code and it can get cold in the hanger so he is usually prepared for that.  Being diabetic, he needs to keep some food in his desk and truck.  I am leaving it to him to handle that.  That is probably naive of me but he is a grown man after all.  I am also trying to get better about hanging my keys up when I get home so I know where they are and knowing where my shoes are since I rarely wear them when I am in the house.

There was one thing that they didn't cover in the class that was already ingrained in me by my dad.  Gas.  Not the "I hope you put Gas-X in The Kit" kind of gas but the gas in your car kind.  David is really bad about letting his truck and/or my car if he drove it last get really low on gas.  Less than 1/4 of a tank bothers me but he is okay with waiting for the light to come on.  And then waiting some more.  I finally told him (after more than 25 years of marriage) that this drives me crazy.  What if we had an emergency in the middle of the night?  If the Zombies are coming at 1 am you don't want to have to stop and get gas.  But in all seriousness, what if one of us was sick or injured?  We live 30 miles out of the nearest city with a hospital and we only have a volunteer fire department.  Our next door neighbor recently collapsed at home and had to be taken in an ambulance to Missoula and then taken to Salt Lake by CareFlight.  If I had to stop and get gas during a time like that I would probably freak out.  I am going to train him to start leaving more gas in the vehicles, maybe it will only take another 25 years of nagging gentle reminding.

As a former fireman, dad also preached that you change the batteries in your smoke detectors when the time changes.  Ours were changed recently (they were chirping at us) so instead, we bought replacement 9-volts for all 7 of them to have on hand.  But the other thing I will do now, based on this class, is update the kit at the same time.  I asked the instructor how often she rotates her food and other items that expire (like medicine) and she said she would do it that weekend, when time changed.  That weekend, I put The Kit together and went through our cabinets (food and medicine) and got rid of anything that was overly expired (defined by me as more than a year).  Like the sunscreen that expired in 2007.  For someone that can get a sunburn sitting in my office in a long sleeved shirt with the curtains drawn, it was particularly sad that I let that go so far past.  No more, I have a schedule now.

And because my dad taught me these extra lessons I decided I wanted to pay it forward.  I will be at his house next weekend and his birthday was yesterday so I got him a few things (don't tell him if you see him, I want it to be a surprise):

  1. A solar-powered hand-crank emergency radio with am-fm-weather options.
  2. A monogrammed (Stanley) Swiss-army style tool that has a mini-ax on the top.
 3.  For his food supply.  He considers Eagle Brand one of the 4 food groups.

I am feeling fairly confident there will be an emergency requiring pancakes at his house next Saturday.  I can teach my grandkids to improvise with their utensils using dad's multi-tool and to crank the radio until NOAA comes in while we ensure these products don't make it past their expiration date. 

My daughter knows how to make a fire by rubbing sticks together.  I think I will schedule her to teach a lesson after breakfast.  It is never too soon to start teaching the next generation of preppers.

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