Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday with a rich tradition in America that dates back to some of our earliest founders. Many of the things we take for granted today, from fresh food to warm homes, were ongoing challenges for the Pilgrims. Situations we experience only during emergencies were faced by the Pilgrims every day, and there are some good things to learn from their preparation.
Preparing For the Cold
The Pilgrim Way: When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in December 1620, they were unprepared for the extreme cold of New England. Their first order of business was to build shelter as quickly as possible, but that took time, and many were initially forced to live in tents or dugouts. Because of these insufficient shelters, many of the original settlers suffered from exposure and illness during their first American winter.
The 21st Century Way: Today many of us take shelter and warmth for granted, but it’s important to be prepared for cold weather in case you lose power or get stranded. Prepare safe alternative sources of heat. Even a gas or oil furnace needs electricity to operate, so if you have a fireplace or wood stove, be sure you have enough wood. Also, never bring portable generators, camp stoves or grills into the home; they should be kept outside and at least 20 feet away from windows, doors and vents. Pack some extra blankets in your Ready kit. If you’re expecting a freeze, allow your faucets to drip to prevent pipe damage. Finally, winterize your vehicle in case you get stuck in some bad weather.
Preparing Your Food
The Pilgrim Way: The Pilgrims didn’t have supermarkets and refrigerators, so they had to learn how to acquire food and preserve it. Food was a struggle in the early months because of the harsh winter and their unfamiliarity with the land. However, by the following fall, the Pilgrims had produced enough food through farming, gathering and hunting that they were able to throw a three-day feast at the First Thanksgiving and store up their surplus for the winter.
The 21st Century Way: Today we can drive to the grocery store if we need food, but after a disaster, we may not be able to drive anywhere. Like the Pilgrims, it’s important to store non-perishable foods and water in a safe place in your home in case of emergencies. Thankfully, instead of an entire season’s worth of food, experts today recommend putting away three days’ worth of food and water for your family. If you really want to get into the Pilgrim spirit, include some jerky in there and some canned corn and beans as well.
Preparing For Medical Emergencies
The Pilgrim Way: About half of the original group of colonists from the Mayflower died in the first year, mostly from infectious diseases caused by unsanitary conditions and exposure to the wet and cold. The first common house the Pilgrims built was turned into a hospital to deal with the infirm, because they knew these were the people who needed the care. Sadly, medicine was still pretty primitive at the time, and their capabilities were limited.
The 21st Century Way: One thing to be thankful for this year is modern medicine. What we can handle with simple pills today would seem almost miraculous to the Pilgrims. This is why it’s important to pack a first aid kit and extra prescriptions in your Ready kit. It’s also a good idea to keep copies of your medical documents in a watertight container.
For those who may need extra assistance during emergencies, such as older residents and those with special needs, create a support network of people who may be able to help in these types of situations. Just like the Pilgrims, we need to make sure our first priority is caring for those who need it most.