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Mike Terry, Deseret News
Meredith Pond makes wheat bread with ingredients from the family's food storage.

SANDY — Meredith Pond used to shake her head when she saw her parents bring home large loads of food and supplies from warehouse stores.

"They're crazy," she thought as a teen.

The adult Meredith has been a self-described emergency preparedness "hobbyist" for some time. It was what her parents and the LDS Church taught her as she was growing up. And now it's helping her family weather an economic tsunami. Her husband, Dave, was laid off from his job more than two months ago.

The Ponds, who have three children, ages 3 to 8, are among a growing number of people worried by a combination of world events, natural disasters and economic chaos who have been preparing for just such a crisis.

Words like "food storage" and "emergency preparedness" roll off the tongue in Utah, where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long proclaimed the importance of being capable of self-reliance in an emergency. Church leaders have been among the most vocal advocates, counseling their congregations to stockpile food and other supplies. And they're not the only practitioners.

Mother Nature and the global economy each have offered their own testimonial recently.

"I was raised that way, but even though I've been working on it for several years, what happened in Haiti, in Chile, the economy and job losses, it all makes you more aware," Pond said.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate, told the American Red Cross that everyone should be ready for a disaster. A recent poll of New York City residents found that about half are now thinking about preparedness, compared with 18 percent who were considering it in 2004. And increasingly there are associations of and websites for so-called "preppers."

Earthquakes and economic meltdowns have made the need more "believable," said Emergency Essentials co-owner Don Pectol, who has seen an uptick in interest in emergency preparedness.

The problem, Pectol notes, is that money and time are both tight. While desire is higher, it might not be as easy to accomplish in this economy. And those who are not at all prepared for an emergency feel like "they're being asked to eat an elephant."

When people ask him how to get started without breaking the bank, Pectol says to nibble the elephant. Get a little more of what they're eating already. Make it part of the budget, like the electric bill. And chip away at it.

"I believe in the principle that if you do small and simple things, great things come to pass," he said.

Delois Stinson, owner of Survival Solutions, says awareness of the need to prepare has surged recently. Tensions in North Korea, Iran, the economy and wars are all among factors that make people "uncomfortable." Then natural disasters like Haiti's earthquake nudge them into action.

Both Stinson and Pectol say to start with water. Get a three-day supply in place. And as long as you're working with clean water in clean containers, all you have to do is seal it and get it out of sunlight. It will be safe to drink without fussing over it.

Picture time like a bull's-eye on a dartboard, and start in the middle with the present, Stinson said. Take care of the immediate needs — hence the term "72-hour" kit. Then expand out, as you can.

Survival Solutions has a brochure that lists 10 areas of need in any physical crisis: food, water, shelter/warmth, light, cooking, first aid, sanitation, communications, personal items and clothing, and important papers and money.

Don't try to finish one before moving to the next. Go after each, focusing on those first few days when you're really apt to be on your own. Then think what more you'd need to survive five days — then two weeks or six months and so forth. Outside of the bull's-eye, you can start adding bulk items like wheat and legumes, milk, honey, oil, seeds and other life-sustaining items.

The Ponds have taken their preparations seriously, with a whole room of their home in Sandy dedicated to food storage. She uses a spreadsheet to track what she has, and as she rotates items using the oldest first, she notes it.

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They were also frugal, setting money aside. Now that their income's cut, they're grateful they saved, though "surprised" at how fast it goes. They are OK for at least eight months.

If the emergency is physical, like an earthquake, one common mistake is not having a truly portable three-day supply of essentials, agree Pectol and Stinson. Some emergencies require you to grab and go. Each person should have a heftable backpack or case for the first hours of crisis. Stinson also said people forget to plan for sanitation needs.

e-mail: lois@desnews.com

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