Mitigation Strategies During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Mitigation Strategies During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Here are some notes on mitigation strategies on COVID-19 as the public health threat it creates seems to be getting more crucial. We have been planning for some time for an eventuality like this at home. It started for us several years ago after watching a video of a fist fight that erupted over Black Friday for some $20 DVD players. We laughed at first, but then I began wondering what that situation would be like if it were baby formula. From there we began buying more backups of food, installing wire shelving in the basement for more storage, and getting a deep freezer. If you look at the world today a pandemic was sure to come at some point. It is the only non-natural disaster that humans face, and haven’t faced, in a long time. But given that you can swipe a credit card and be on the other side of the world in 24 hours you’d have to think that controlling something like this would be very difficult.

Here are my thoughts on how to prepare if you have not.

Utilities

Risk related to utility delivery involves losing access because of depleted work crews. What’s important to remember is that the chances of normal grid repairs like downed power lines and water main breaks may take longer than usual in this case. Normal fixes from thunder storms or car accidents may become triaged, and your localized outage may be put into backlog. Below are some mitigation strategies.

Power and gas

If you lose power, your two main concerns will be saving your perishables and preparing food. The third, and what most overlook, is what happens to your sump pump. If you have a high water table and a basement, chances are you have one in the corner of your house. Dedicating a small a generator or installing a battery backup will keep your basement from flooding during a hard rain. This should be on your list if you have one.

As far as your perishables, I recommend keeping a ten pound bag of ice in the freezer in case you need to transfer goods to a cooler to get through a few days. I also recommend having an extra propane tank on hand in case you need to fire up your grill to cook food. We have also added small propane canisters and a small stove for boiling water and this can be a cost effective way to add backup.

You should also add a case of candles to your backup. The “votive” type candles that churches use have long burn times and this is what we have in our storage area. I would not rely on using fossil fueled lanterns as carbon monoxide buildup can be very dangerous.

Water

The two most important risk areas related to water will be what you drink and how you flush your toilet. For the first you’ll want to purchase gallons of drinking water from the grocery store and keep them stored. This way you have something to drink and cook your food. I’d have at least 10 gallons on hand.

The second issue involving your toilet can be remedied by keeping a clean plastic garbage can in your garage full of water. That way you can take a bucket full of water out of your backup, fill up the upper tank of the toilet, and give it a flush. If you get low move it outside under a drain spout and pray for rain.

We also have a few handheld water purifiers that stem from my back country camping days, but they are not expired yet and usable. Consider this in case you need to clean water from a secondary water source like a local creek or pond. Even though you your local creek is safe, chances are they have some contamination from a runoff source somewhere upstream from you.

Food

Dry Good Alternatives

There’s been an absolute run on non-perishable foods like beans, rice, pasta, and peanut butter. What the stores will probably have is fresh produce because the farms and related supply chain are fairly robust. In this case you need to learn how to eat staple foods like kale, turnip greens, and collards. These items tend to be fairly cheap, usually in stock, and provide high nutritional value. I came to love them as a bachelor many years ago because I could get a full pot and several dinners for a few dollars. You will find that they are delicious and easy to prepare.

I’d also suggest not shying away from the less popular canned foods. I saw at a recent store visit an abundance of yams and hominy. Maybe you’ll try them and find something new that you like?

Bathroom Tissues and Diapers

I am as floored as anyone to see the run on toilet paper. I think this was one part panic induced and one part profiteering (which typically follows panics anyway). From what I understand from acquaintances who live in a hurricane zone is this is a common occurrence during a runup. I do expect this to level itself out soon as manufacturers catch up.

For now I would suggest not getting too proud to try alternatives if you’re completely out. Although we typically buy our toilet paper and diapers in bulk, we were getting pretty low when the panic hit. Luckily we found toilet paper, but we also stocked a few large packs of napkins just in case.

Thankfully there doesn’t seem to be much of a run on baby diapers and wipes. This may be the one saving grace out of all of this so far.

Salt/Sugar/Oil

I was surprised to see a run on these items at a recent store visit, but they are essential to making many foods from scratch. For a long time we kept an extra container of salt in stock but luckily were able to add to it just in case. If you’re really worried and can’t find any then take comfort that you’re probably getting the sodium intake that you need (and more) from the food you eat, especially if it’s prepackaged or canned.

As far as sugar, chances are you don’t need it. Foods have so much sweetener in them now that not having sugar may be a benefit. We only have what we have because of a Christmas cookie baking party that fell through this past year. I have heard that yeast has been in short supply too, and if you had your heart set on making some bread it may have to wait.

If you are running short on these items and have to have them, see the next section on sourcing for ideas.

Sourcing

If you think you can rely on online grocery shopping then you may need to reconsider. A recent visit to Costco’s online store and Amazon showed many items out of stock (unless you’re in the market for dried sea cucumbers). As such, you should consider shopping at the Dollar General and Family Dollar stores of the world as they seem (at least the local ones to us) spared from extreme spikes in demand. I believe this is because these stores have clientele that are not able to spend several hundred dollars at a time to stockpile groceries. They also have very well managed supply chains that act as a competitive advantage to keeping prices low. If you need staples that aren’t at your large grocery chain you may find them here. This is where we found our toilet paper during the panic when every other store was wiped out.

You should also consider shopping the ethnic and health food sections of your store. After a recent visit I was surprised to see that they were virtually untouched. You can use this as a way to expand your palette so take it as an opportunity. Soy sauce can be an alternative for adding sodium if you’re having trouble finding salt. Matzah ball soup is delicious. Dal soup made from lentils and a curry powder can be both filling and tasty.  If you’re not sure how to use an ingredient you can find thousands of ideas online.

 

 

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