Denise Fennel

Denise Fennell is the OSU Extension Master Food Preserver Education Program Assistant.

Winter is coming!

Well not quite as bad as Jon Snow endured, but all of us here in Douglas County can readily recall last years’ snow storm. After day three of no power, I got my husband to take me to the store. Not that we needed anything, we were well prepared with food, extra water, wood, etc.

I wanted to know what was being taken off the shelves. It stunned me. There on the shelves were cans of beans, soups, tuna and more. What was not on the shelves? Chips, cookies, crackers, candy (of all things) and pet food. I think most took snack foods, since they are easy to eat and no cooking. I think also that many assumed the power would be back on a lot sooner.

That storm took everyone by surprise. Whether it’s a day or, like some, weeks before the power came back, nutrition is critical. Not just to keep your body going, but your mindset as well. This is the time to start getting ready, before anything happens.

My goal is to help get you to be better prepared. In the event of an emergency you may not have access to food, water and electricity for days, even weeks. You can provide for your family during such a time by maintaining a stock of goods in our pantry and using “first in and first out” practice to keep items fresh.

Each time you go to the grocery store, pick up an extra can of veggies, beans, tuna, powdered milk and other non-perishable foods. Get your pantry stocked now at an easy to manage cost. Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water should flooding occur. This includes anything near your hot water heater in case it leaks.

Take into account any special dietary needs for diabetics, pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, babies, toddlers and pets. Food preferences also need to be considered. You don’t want to stock up on, say green beans, if nobody eats them.

Keep your freezers full! If not with food then save gallon and quart food grade containers and fill them with water and put in your freezer. It will help keep your freezer cold for much longer and if need be can provide emergency water.

Have a To Go Kit ready for each family member — and one for your pets too — so if you have to leave you won’t be adding extra stress by figuring out what to take. Pack things like a change of clothes, protein bars, water, small med kit, emergency contact list, toys for kids, medicine, treats like candies that don’t melt, a deck of cards, etc.

You can get used backpacks at second hand stores for relatively inexpensive. Keep them all in the same location so they are easy to get to.

Do you have a generator and if so plenty of fuel? Gasoline naturally degrades and loses combustibility over time. Gasoline usually lasts three to six months when properly stored in a labeled, tightly sealed plastic container or metal tank. If you have gas stored for longer than three months, cycle it and get fresh gas before winter hits.

Think outside the box. There was one family that all electric appliances and they had no fireplace. They contacted me and asked if I knew of shelters. I replied “don’t you guys go camping a lot in the big 5th wheel? Time to camp in your driveway!” They didn’t even think about using it since it had been winterized. But while you can’t use running water, you can light up that propane heater and use that stove to cook.

Being prepared for whatever comes our way will make the incident less stressful, allowing you to better cope with the situation.

Stay safe this season and remember, check on your neighbors if you can.

Denise Fennell is the Master Food Preserver Coordinator and Education Program Assistant for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. Denise can be reached by email denise.fennell@oregonstate.edu or phone at 541-236-3049.

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