Solar links the ways of the past with technologies of today to help make life on our planet easier and more secure.

Live Safer (And Better ) With Solar- Using The Sun For Emergency Preparedness

Michael Little | Vegas Trailer Supply


By Michael Little, Manager, Vegas Trailer Supply

The times that we live in warn us that we need to live more independently from the outside controls of others, especially the dictates of oil, both foreign and domestic. We need more preparedness for the spears that modern day throws at us, including more "home production" that was common place to our grandparents just fifty years ago. Any steps that we take to increase our self-sustainability and independent living increases our safety and freedom from negative influences of the world. Solar is a tool that helps us build a foundation of safer living during unexpected emergencies as well as providing a higher level of security during everyday life.      

There are many steps we can take to better prepare our families for emergencies. The American Red Cross, FEMA, and scores of other organizations have excellent publications available to instruct us on specific steps we can take. Nowhere have I found in these reports a discussion how solar power can be an aid to families in emergency planning. With the help of earthtoys.com we have made available five articles that deal specifically with how solar power can make your family safer before and during emergency situations. Each of these articles are linked below for your consideration.

Water

Paramount to life is water. It is said that we can live only three days without water and many organizations are suggesting that water be stored by families "just in case" it is needed in an emergency. Solar cooking devices can pasteurize questionable water sources of all bacteria and germs and solar distillers will eliminate all other contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides from virtually any water source. Learn more: 'Safer Water with Solar'

Food

Several years ago we saw victims of the San Fernando Earthquake stand in long food lines for hours because they took little or no steps in food storage and emergency cooking preparations. Our society does not promote these concepts, but if you gradually build up your food stocks you will probably be thankful you did. We've heard that it is possible to live for three weeks without food, but any one of us who has watched the TV series "Survivor" knows that life can be rough just a few days without food.

Solar cooking can provide many safety benefits that you may not have considered. You are invited to check out 'Safer Cooking with Solar' to learn more about this important aspect of solar energy. The article neglects to mention that solar cookers are also used to "can" or "bottle" fruits and vegetables and you can also make a solar dehydrator to dry foods for storage.

Power for Lighting

Most regional emergencies like hurricanes, earthquakes or winter storms, are accompanied by power outages. This year we witnessed the largest power outage in US history. It was not a result of a natural disaster, but it did cause many severe problems for millions of people. Often during these power outages people use a myriad of unsafe lighting devices which can turn an emergency into a disaster. Part one of this series, 'Safer Lighting with Solar' discusses why low voltage lighting is safer than other lighting alternatives and it also discusses little known reasons why gas generators are not a safe method of power generation during power outages.

Power for Other Needs

During emergencies power is important for other needs like cooling, refrigeration, communication, heating, or even recreation. Solar can provide the power to keep these systems running if you take the time to learn how it is done. If you are concerned about keeping perishable food or medicines refrigerated during power outages you will want to learn about the new solar refrigerators and freezers made by SunDanzer. These new revolutionary appliances are becoming more popular, and they are reasonably priced. You can read more about the SunDanzer and other aspects of safer power in part three and five; 'Solar Heating, Cooling and Refrigeration' and 'Safer Backup Power with Solar'.

Peace of Mind

Many people don't think about preparedness until an emergency situation is imminent. The problem is, most emergencies and disasters do not announce themselves ahead of time. They are quick and sudden. Preparations need to be made ahead of time, before they are needed.

Having a plan, and doing something about it brings a level of peace of mind to you and your family. You may never be able to prepare enough, but anything that you do can be important, and that is assuring. The American Red Cross tells us in their publication on terrorism, "Taking preparatory action can reassure you and your children that you can exert a measure of control even in the face of such events."

It is hoped that you never need to use your preparedness plan, but if you take steps now, you will reap benefits from the peace of mind that "you are prepared". Your experiences and lessons can then be shared with other friends and family members who will also gain from taking positive steps towards preparedness.

Enjoy Nature Safer

What do you do when you want to experience the natural wonders of the outdoors when it is not safe to use a fire to cook food? During drought conditions your family can use a solar cooker and still enjoy nature. The 21 pound commercial Global Sun Oven is often used camping and there are simple lightweight cardboard cookers that can be folded up and packed in a backpack. Solar cookers do not use flame so they are absolutely safe to cook in the middle of a dry forest. Battery powered lights are a safe alternative to flame lanterns and with the new roll-up flexible solar panels mentioned in 'Safer Backup Power" you can take TV's, cell phones, GPS devices, walkie-talkies or laptops into the wild. 

Many families use a Recreational Vehicle (RV) to better experience life outside of the city. An RV can also be an effective emergency tool because they come with all the systems that make it a complete "home on wheels". I have been in the RV and solar business for over 20 years, and many of my customers have their RV equipped with emergency supplies "just in case" there is a need.

An RV is ideal for solar, especially if you like to "boon-dock" in remote locations. You can power your lights, water pump, and electronics with photovoltaic (PV) panels, cook your food with a Sun Oven, make drinking water out of pond or ocean water with a solar distiller, and take a shower with water heated by the sun. With a little food, no telling how long you could stay on that deserted beach in Baja.

Majesty of solar

While solar is an environmentally responsible way to save energy, provide safer power during emergencies and provide measured benefits to daily life, the real majesty of solar is found in the good that it can do for others who need it most.

Literally half of the population of the world lack basic necessities like grid power, a regular cooking fuel supply, household water plumbing and sanitation systems. Solar devices can bring relief to hundreds of millions of people who need it desperately. Great strides have been made to get solar lighting and cooking devices to these people, but we have much more to do.

A single PV solar panel, battery and a low voltage LED or fluorescent light can provide a light source for a family that has never known such luxury. Now chores and scholastic studying can be regularly done in remote locations, night after night.

Solar cooking can provide much needed relief to countless women and children who are burdened with the task foraging for fuelwood (wood, sticks, grasses and dung) to cook their meals. Solar cooking also eliminates smoke from cooking fires that is a cause for enormous health problems to families in third world countries.

A village that has deforested their surroundings for want of cooking fuel can turn to solar power to renew and heal the forest. Not only will the forest regain its productive strength and habitat, it will improve the local watershed, providing cleaner water with less pollution and disease.

Cleaner water, an endless supply of cooking energy, and a means to become more productive and educated will result in stronger individuals, families, communities and nations. Our efforts need to be magnified ten thousand times if we are to accomplish our goals, yet the smallest effort is vitally important. One 5 dollar cardboard cooker can make a life-saving difference to a family without local fuelwood or the means to purchase cooking fuel.

Because of the great good that solar energy provides to people, the environment and dwindling habitat, it is hoped that you can do your part in spreading this information to others. Members of all environmental groups, care organizations, churches and civic groups can make a difference in the world by getting personally involved to bring this wonderful gift to those who need it most. Members of these groups will find that solar can further advance the established goals of their organization. Solar power gives you the power to do good and provide added safety for your family, your neighborhood, your group, and for others across the globe.

To find out more

A larger ebook publication is currently being developed that gives more details about using solar for emergencies. This publication will include a list of resources and several plans for building your own solar cookers. The ebook  will be available at no charge to those who sign up for our free quarterly 'SunNotes' e-newsletter.

If you live near Las Vegas or are planning on a visit, please stop by Vegas Trailer Supply to see many solar energy products for independent living. We also have a solar living library with hundreds of books at the back of our store that you can use for reference. Our website, vegastrailer.com, has various solar information pages available for download and our solar cooking site, greenSun.org contains information on ways that solar cooking can help conditions in third world countries.

Solar links the ways of the past with technologies of today to help make life on our planet easier and more secure. Tomorrow promises greater technological advances and greater social responsibility to share them with all who can benefit. Solar can assist us in our emergency preparedness by helping us live more independently.

I hope these articles have given you cause to ponder the untapped power that solar can provide. Whether rich or poor, all of us can take steps to make this world a more positive and safer place to live. You are invited to visit my web log that discusses solar and preparedness topics and I welcome any comments you may have.

Mr. Little is the manager of Vegas Trailer Supply and Director of greenSun.org.

Copyright, 2003, Michael Little.


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