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Self Reliance in Tough Times - A Conversation with SWOP
By Lisa Carroll, Staff Writer 

Are you prepared for the unexpected in your life? How much can you depend on yourself to take care of your needs and that of your family should your circumstances change? What do you have for back-up, not only for disasters, but for the simply unexpected things that come up in everyday life?

Consider a few scenarios. Suppose you suddenly were unable to work, either due to being laid off or perhaps you have an accident that lays you up for a few months. Do you have enough food, household items, and a little bit of money put away to cushion yourself for a couple of months, at least?

Imagine that you’re traveling with a small child for some distance. Beyond putting gasoline in your vehicle, what else have you done to prepare for the unexpected?  Do you have a spare tire and the tools and know-how to change a flat? Did you pack a bag for emergencies large and small, containing such items as a change of clothes and diapers if needed? Do you have some wet wipes, something for them to munch on, some toiletry items, and a first aid kit? Suppose your car breaks down in an area where there is no cell phone coverage. Do you have blankets to stay warm, and a flashlight and batteries, to get you through the night (or longer) until you can be located and helped?  

Consider our climate and weather here. Frequent storms often leave us with no electricity, sometimes for days at a time. If the power is out for any length of time, do you panic because there is no food in the house to eat, and no way to cook if there was? Do you have enough water? Do you have a way to stay warm? Is your first aid and medicine kit stocked?

What about a longer term situation, such as the very likely scenario of a major earthquake and/or tsunami to hit our area? Without a doubt, we know that we are overdue for a major earthquake/tsunami event on the Oregon coast.  It is a fact that the Cascadia Subduction Zone could rupture at any minute, and leave us without utilities, food deliveries to grocery stores, fuel and other services for weeks to possibly months or more. Fire crews, police, and emergency medical responders will naturally try to help, but they likely be overwhelmed and will have a hard time reaching everybody all at once. Travel and communication may be difficult or impossible. What do you do?

Avery Horton, Tony Chatman, and Kim Doty-Singh of South Western Oregon Preppers, a group dedicated to common sense approaches in disaster planning.  (Photo By Lisa Carroll)

It was in considering these sorts of circumstances that lead to the creation of the South West Oregon Preppers, or SWOP. SWOP is one of several “Prepper” groups in the area, all of which encourage people to be prepared for the unexpected in a myriad of ways. I spoke with SWOP founders Tony Chatman and Avery Horton, as well as active participant Kim Doty-Singh, about this group and what they hope to learn and accomplish.

“We’re a group of people who get together to exchange ideas and information about how to be self reliant in general, and how to prepare for disasters,” explained Tony. “That’s basically what a prepper is. There’s some “Doomsday Preppers” that think the world is going to end, and those groups get a lot of attention from the media, but that’s not us. We just want to be self sufficient as possible, and share what we learn with others. Then if something does happen, you don’t have to be part of the problem; you can be part of the solution.” 

How does one get started in prepping? “You don’t need to spend a lot of money,” Kim told me. “I tell people when introducing them to prepping when you’re grocery shopping, if something is on sale, grab extra and put some away. Grab a jug or two of water every shopping trip.Every little bit counts, and you can start small. The important thing is to start now.” Tony continued. “People can start with food, but then they might ask, “Well, okay, I have food, but what if I have no power? How can I cook it?” Indeed, what do you do? What if you have to leave your house suddenly- what should you have ready to take with you, in order to encourage your well-being and survival? 

This is where prepper groups like SWOP comes in very handy. South Western Oregon Preppers is open to conversation and the exchange of knowledge and ideas at anytime.  “Our group is a bottom up organization. We’re all equal,” says Avery. “So if somebody comes to a meeting with some knowledge to share, they can share it. If they’ve got a question, they can ask it.” On their Facebook page, there are many conversations and videos regarding subjects such as fire-starting, gardening basics, first aid tips, disaster scenarios, and more. They also hold monthly meetings up and down the coast that are geared for people to learn as well as teach what they know about self reliance and sustainability.  There is never any charge to attend or participate in any of the meetings. Classes they have held so far have covered how to “bug out”,  and what items everybody should have on hand to be prepared. This Saturday, March 23, at 12pm, SWOP will be sponsoring a OSU class on how to safely put up food for storage. This class will be held in the Coos Bay Fire Hall.   Also, they are combining efforts with the Oregon Preppers and other local prepping groups to hold a camp-out this August, where they’ll be demonstrations on a number of survivor and life skills, such as shelter and lean-to building, self defense and martial arts, first aid and more.

If you’d like to learn more about South Western Oregon Preppers, you can contact Tony Chatman at 541 551 0361, or find them on Facebook as South Western Oregon Preppers.

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