Weathering Bad Weather

Tools for survival, Photo by Austin McHenry

Every winter, many people fall victim to a plethora of problems caused by the cold, snow and winds. This risk can be minimized by creating a kit that can help in the event of an emergency.

Though specifics vary, the general concept is to create a kit that will allow you to stay safe in the event of an emergency. This kit includes items such as non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, a battery operated radio, water, and a ways to stay warm (such as blankets and/or extra clothes).

Keeping kits in multiple locations, such as your car, a shed or at work, is a reasonable precaution, as a kit stored in a house won’t do much good if the house is inaccessible. In addition, kits should be portable in case an evacuation is required.

Since bad weather can hit at any time, it is important to be prepared at home, at work and on the road. These kits can be useful year round, not just during the winter.

I have kits with emergency supplies at home, in my car, and at my workplace. Every member of my family has a kit in their car,” said City of Renton Emergency Management Coordinator Mindi Mattson[a]. “The nice thing about preparing for emergencies and disasters is that supplies you store for one type of disaster are typically useful for all types of disasters, so I wouldn’t call my kits ‘winter’ kits. They are ‘all-hazards’ kits.”

A program called Take Winter By Storm is working to increase awareness of the hazards posed by rain, wind, snow, and all other symptoms of a bad winter. Their suggestions go beyond just making a kit. They also recommend staying up to date with the weather forecast, and making and practicing a safety plan with your family or others that are close to you. More information can be found at

Being prepared for bad weather isn’t just a matter of looking out for yourself, it’s also a matter of responsibility to the community.

“If you are not prepared to be self-reliant and take care of your own needs, you will need someone else to take care of you,said Mattson[a]. ”You become part of the problem instead of being part of the solution. It takes so little time and effort to put together a basic disaster supplies kit and the benefit can be so great in a time of need.”

Though many of the components of an emergency kit are common sense, several are less intuitive. Take Winter By Storm recommends having some cash available, as well as copies of important documents. Preparing for an emergenciesthat cause complete lack of access to one’s house is the best way to maximize preparedness. In addition to a standard first aid-kit, it is recommended that kits contain at least a seven day supply of any prescription medications used by any family members.

In terms of amounts for making a kit, supplies should be enough to last for about three days. Take Winter By Storm advises one gallon of clean water per person per day, and food that is ready to eat without preparation.

Taking the time to set up a kit is worth the small effort in the long run. Personal safety and the safety of one’s family is important, and should be treated as such.

Many AHS students can feel the effects of bad weather more than others due to their unusually long commutes.

“I live on a hill, so when it rains or snows it really sucks,” said AHS student Paula Cieszkiewicz. ”I can’t get anywhere and since I take the Metro, when Metro is screwed up my whole commute is screwed up and it’s not much easier to take a car and go to Highline [High School] or Aviation. It screws everything up.”

Even though they aren’t the heads of their households, AHS students should still encourage their

“It sounds like something that wouldn’t be too difficult,” said Cieszkiewicz. “Taking simple action to do something that could be potentially critical in a pinch would be nice.”

It’s easy to put something off until it is too late for it to be useful. Making a kit is relatively easy and can put your mind at ease.

“I wish I did have the perfect words to convince people of the importance of being prepared,” said Mattson. “No one likes to think about bad things happening, but I can tell you that I sleep better at night knowing that my family has emergency kits and a plan to get through it.”

Escaping the Frontcountry

Two hikers work their way up a steep icy slope, one carrying an ice axe and the other with traction devices called crampons on his shoes, but the other usual ice gear is nowhere to be found. To be honest, one of them is enjoying himself a bit more than the other.

The more optimistic of the two is Peter Keckemet, AHS senior and lover of the backcountry. He and his friend Drew Hidalgo are on what they thought would be a quick hike.

“This summer I took another senior, Drew, one of my best friends, up to the Cascades and we did this hike up to Foggy Basin,” recalled Keckemet. “It’s on an old miner’s trail and we had a heavy winter so there was no trail and we were route finding.”

Just the thought of getting so far away from Facebook and their phones might scare some people off, but for Keckemet there’s nothing else like it.

“The first couple hours of any hike or climb or anything, you’re just gonna be asking yourself ‘why did I get off the couch to get outside? I could be at home watching TV right now not having to walk,’” said Keckemet, “but once you really get out there, it’s my favorite place in the entire world, just being outside.”

“I’ve been mountaineering for about a year. I’ve been climbing for about three years in the gym and a bit outside as well,” said Keckemet, “but I’ve been backpacking since I could walk with my parents and I’ve been skiing just as long.”

Hidalgo is also an outdoorsy person, but may have been a bit less prepared for the “quick hike” up Foggy Basin.

“Peter told me that we were going for a three and a half mile hike, two and a half of which was an older miner trail that was fairly steep,” said Hidalgo. “We knew that in the last mile we’d encounter some snow. The snow turned out to be a glacier.”

“He didn’t realize when I said ‘hike’ I meant more of scrambling on your hands and knees up scary snow slopes and he got a bit freaked out,” said Keckemet. “He may or may not have threatened me which was also a little bit scary.”

Mountaineers never stop learning and Keckemet is no exception. He’s looking to get more medical certification so he’ll be ready for anything.

“I have a wilderness first aid certification, but I want to get a bigger one, maybe wilderness first responder or wilderness EMT,” explained Keckemet. “I really want to do an EMT class that could let me get a ski patrol job during college, or potentially I could get work at a guiding company at Mt. Rainier or in the Cascades or something.”

Fortunately for both Hidalgo and himself, Keckemet’s first aid skills were not called for during the pair’s hike together, but they easily could have been.

“It was all good because we spent the night up there and then the next day we came back down and it was a beautiful view,” said Keckemet. “You could see the entire Milky Way, probably one of my favorite parts of spending the night out in the middle of nowhere. And then Drew apologized for threatening me.”

Keckemet wasn’t exactly born with a pack on his back, but like many people who get into the outdoors at a young age, he came close.

“I really got started outdoors from my parents, they started me sailing,” said Keckemet, “we were always hiking and snowshoeing when I was little either on their back or I’d have little kid snowshoes and it just developed from there.”

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