Its good sense to be prepared for emergencies. While we can’t foresee every circumstance that might require fortitude and prudence, there are a few basic survival focuses, that if we plan ahead, will help us weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side. That’s the basic premise behind Robin Egerton’s first book, “Getting Prepared, an untrained Housewife’s Guide” with Angela England.
Book Review: Getting Prepared, an Untrained Housewife’s Guide by Robin Egerton with Angela England (Angela England Media: 2013)
This is the first book in a proposed series of “Untrained Housewife Guides” geared toward young homemakers who didn’t have the benefit of a mother at home to train them in the classic arts of homemaking. The book is written with the naïve beginner in mind, and as such, attempts to simplify the decision-making process and overcome the overwhelm in emergency preparedness. The subject of emergency preparedness is very broad, and overwhelm can stifle the urge to begin. This book breaks down the process into easy categories to help you get started.
About Robin Egerton, and why she writes about preparedness
Robin Egerton is a consultant for Shelf Reliance emergency foods, and has lots of experience cooking from her food storage and teaching others about the importance of emergency preparedness. Her goal in writing Getting Prepared is to encourage other families to prepare for 30 days of self-reliant living in an emergency situation, not just for survival but in order to be as comfortable as possible, regardless of the hardships that come.
“To answer the question of why to prepare, or what the goal of this book might be — it is ultimately self-reliance. Our strategy is to have the capacity to be completely self-reliant for 30 days. Some will ask why so little, and others will ask why so much. We feel that if we can handle being completely on our own for one month, then a three-day power outage will be almost fun! If you feel your family needs to prepare for a longer period of time, 30 days is an excellent foundation to work from.”(p. 14)
Short term survival and long term comfort
The book breaks down preparedness into short term survival and long-term comfort. A surprise to me was that the very first preparedness purchase suggested was homeowner’s insurance. Many people who are strapped for cash, let go of the insurance and instead stock up on water, and food – another form of insurance. Robin emphasizes the benefits of being able to fall back on insurance in a time of great need, and the peace of mind that homeowner’s insurance affords. Don’t expect to see the pros and cons of particular insurance company policies or the relative merits of one form of insurance over another. Robin avoids detailed comparisons throughout the book. Instead her advice is general, just making you aware that this is something to look into. You will need to do further research with your personal needs in mind.
Robin takes this stance with almost every recommendation in the book. There are very few specific recommendations and little comparison on the relative merits of one thing against another similar thing. There are few anecdotal stories shared to demonstrate the relative efficacy of one product against another similar product, which might help you make a decision for or against a purchase. I was disappointed in this aspect of the book. For instance, in her discussion on emergency lighting, Robin mentions that she is attracted to Kerosene lanterns for aesthetic reasons. So much so, that they are her signature wedding gift. While I love that idea, she mentions only two kinds of oil lamps. She barely discusses the difference between paraffin lamp oil and kerosene, although she does recommend “clear lamp oil.” She doesn’t mention candles, olive oil lamps, solar lamps, LED lamps, pressurized oil lamps, or Aladdin lamps, a brighter and more fuel efficient oil lamp. The section on lighting is limited to 2 1/2 pages and barely skims the surface of what you’d want to know before you invested in alternative lighting or emergency lamps. Plan to dig deeper in other sources as you make decisions about what is best in your personal circumstances.
Teaching preparedness skills to children
Robin briefly hints about teaching her children emergency preparedness skills to ease the transition, should her family experience a true survival situation. I appreciated this part of the book and would have liked to see more information and stories about how Robin specifically and intentionally does this in her own family. Robin homeschools and so one assumes that self-reliance has become a way of life in this family and perhaps there is little need to intentionally address it. But for those who are just beginning on the self-reliant journey with their children, a road map would be helpful.
Don’t do this!
One dangerous practice that Robin recommends, that I would steer clear of, is storing emergency drinking water in unrinsed plastic bleach bottles. I don’t know about in the USA, but in Canada these bottles are not food grade plastic and are not considered safe for storing food or drinking water. Storing water in food safe plastic containers made for storing water would be a safer bet. Why skimp on something so necessary to life as water? Perhaps if the water was to be filtered before drinking through a double filtered Berkey water filter system, this would be a safe and acceptable way to store drinking water. It makes me very uneasy to see a picture of a person drinking from a bleach bottle. As a grandmother, I worry about my very young granddaughters seeing that picture and naively, giving it a try. I prefer to err on the side of prudence.
The strengths of this book
I’ve mentioned a few of the weaknesses that I felt could be improved upon. The book has several strengths that are missing in other emergency preparedness books. One strength was the sanitation chapter, so few books actually address this crucial, but unmentionable area. Sanitation can mean the difference between death by disease or healthy strength when faced with a long term emergency. Think of what happened in Haiti after the Earthquake in 2010. After the emergency was over and the rebuilding process had started, many people died from cholera because of the lack of sanitation. Having a plan to deal with human waste both for infants and older people, is an often neglected, but necessary aspect of emergency preparedness. Robin mentions the importance of being able to “go” in the woods. And the necessity of preparing today through exercise, to be able to squat if that might be required of you in an emergency.
“The point here is that if you do not prepare a way to use the toilet beforehand, your only option will be to squat outside. There is really no way to make that pleasant, but if you are not in good shape, your legs will get really sore on top of everything else. And if you are going #2 . . . you had better hope your thighs are really strong!”p.73.
Recipes for thrift
Another thing that I enjoyed about the book were the simple recipes sprinkled throughout for everyday non-food items that you might now be buying in the store. If you made and used each of these recipes you would save enough money in a month to jump start your emergency preparedness plan: Items like baby wipes, laundry detergent, oxygen “bleach”, homemade menstrual pads from recycled clothing, and even a DIY Clothes line.
Seeking more depth than this book offers?
There’s a chapter on foraging for food, and another one on protecting yourself from extremes of temperature. While these chapters just skim the surface on what you might want to know about preparing for a long term emergency, they point you in the direction to do further research. Entire books are available on these subjects, so expect to search them out and learn the parts that are valuable to you on a just-in-case or just-in-time basis. Or better yet, get a Kindle and sign up for the Joybilee Farm Book Club and get a daily list of free Kindle books that will help you grow your education in these areas, for pennies a day.
Should you buy this book?
Should you buy this book? If you are just starting out on the emergency preparedness journey, this book would be a good overview of the types of things that you need to take into consideration in making your first prepper purchases. It will come to you like a helpful neighbour, to hold your hand at the garage sale as you try to fit your first preparedness needs into your weekly budget. If you are a seasoned prepper, have had a bug out bag in your car since 1997, and have been rotating your food storage since Y2K, you will want more specifics than this book has to offer. Don’t take my word for it. Look in your pantry? Could you be completely self-reliant with your current knowledge and current supplies for 30 days. If the answer is “No,” then Getting Prepared is a good place to start. But please start now. The world needs you and the world needs your dreams.
I received a digital review copy (pdf) of this book for my review. I was not paid to review this book nor was I required to give a favourable review. This review represents my honest opinion of this work. My review copy did not contain a linked table of contents. I don’t know if this shortcoming was corrected in the digital version of the book.