My friend Toni asked the other day:
I am having a conundrum. Living in earthquake country as I do, I am nervous about having the bulk of my emergency supplies in glass jars. Earthquakes are not glass friendly. In the case of a large quake we are likely to lose power for some period of time. So counting on what’s in the freezer is not a great option either. So here is my question. Given the situation, does one of those Food Saver vacuum sealing bag things make sense? I have a dehydrator that I am fond of, but I need a long term storage situation for those dry items.
When I read this, I immediately thought of the Doomsday Preppers episode I watched* that featured a group concerned about the possibility of an epic earthquake. Fine and good to prepare for an earthquake, I say. But folks, if you’re going to have shipping containers full of food preserved in glass on shelf after shelf to survive an earthquake, open shelving with nothing holding those jars in place is probably not a good idea.
Toni is savvy enough to realize that things shake around – a lot – in an earthquake. But she’s aware of the conundrum:
See. I’ve been wrestling with myself over this for awhile. I could even throw pill bottles in the [Food Saver] bags and suck out the air and not have to worry about them getting damp out in the garage. But its a PLASTIC BAG!! I think you can reuse the “bag” after you cut it open, it just gets smaller with each use. But its a PLASTIC BAG. It does say they are BPA FREE. But…..
If you’ve been here long, you know I’m working to reduce plastic in my life. I’m not obsessive about it, but as Toni says, it IS plastic. So what can be done about safely storing food for earthquake emergencies? I totally get the fascination with the Food Saver – I know lots of people who love theirs – and honestly, if there’s an emergency that requires digging into food stores, I’m not going to be too worried if that food has been preserved in plastic. Health implications be damned if I’m starving. But buying a Food Saver means obtaining a brand new piece of equipment with lots of plastic parts. That new piece of equipment likely comes with packaging – possibly Styrofoam – and plastic bags for sealing food. That’s a lot of plastic and I think it’s unlikely that a cool tool like a Food Saver would be used just for earthquake supplies (oh, I’ll just use it to package these extra chicken legs!) meaning that the plastic use in a household could likely increase.
I think there are a fair number of alternatives that could work for someone who really wanted to avoid plastic.
- Slip each glass jar into an orphaned sock before storing it. This serves two purposes. It protects the glass from damage, and if there is breakage, the glass won’t scatter. You’ll be able to just pick up the jar inside the sock and dispose of it.
- Store glass containers only on shelves that have doors that can be securely latched. Shelves closest to the floor are best for this.
- If you’re storing glass jars on open shelves, run a 1″ x 4″ board across the front of the shelves to prevent the jars from crashing to the floor in the event of a quake.
- Instead of storing glass jars on shelves, reuse the boxes that those canning jars came in or pack them in boxes with a protective piece of cardboard between each jar. As long as they are down low and not situated below your bowling ball collection, the likelihood of breakage should be minimal, I would think. The space under a bed would be ideal for this.
- I’ve spoken with several people who are recycling plastic drink bottles as emergency food storage. Thoroughly washed and dried, the bottles are filled with dry items like rice or beans and taped closed. The addition of an oxygen absorber helps to extend shelf life. This method does use plastic, but it’s recycled plastic and doesn’t involve a piece of equipment. Someone like Toni, who has dried fruit and such to store could probably use a similar plan, using wide mouthed bottles (Gatorade?) or even plastic peanut butter jars. Ask around – there are plenty of people who would be all too happy to save their containers for you.
What’s your system for emergency preparedness? Do you throw concerns about plastic out the window? Have you figured out a safe way to store glass?
Photo: Noah Sussman
*Yes, I watched it. Once. I found it interesting to see what some people are doing, but the whole sense of panic that National Geographic seems to be trying to instill in people is a little over the top for me.