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Foam suits an essential part of preparedness

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AMERICAN FORK, Utah — Buffy Snell figures when disaster strikes, it's likely to be in the winter. In Utah, that means it will likely also be bitter cold.

That's why Snell has a foam outfit — pants, a jacket, gloves and boots — in her storage closet for every member of her large Mormon family. She wants to be sure her loved ones are warm when it matters.

"It took over a year, and I didn't even make them," Snell said. "I hired a friend of mine to sew them."

Some parts she purchased from sports clothing stores.

The clothes are made of half-inch foam (one-inch is too bulky) covered with a nylon shell and worn over a liner (not cotton because cotton holds in the moisture). The foam draws the moisture away from the body so the wearer doesn't get cold from his or her sweat. The nylon makes the clothing waterproof.

The jackets are hooded, and the gloves are made in two parts with fur cuffs. The boots are soft, comfortable and fit into commercial boots for double weather protection and durability.

"My husband and I slept outside in the snow in the foam clothes, and we stayed warm," Snell said. "And I'm usually really cold. I hate being cold."

That's partly why when Snell was called to be her LDS ward emergency preparedness specialist, she focused on outfitting her family for Western winter weather.

"I started looking around, and I was just shocked at how much there was about food and how little there was about clothing and shelter," Snell said.

She heard a presentation from outdoor survival expert Jim Phillips that impressed her profoundly. Snell decided her family needed to be prepared, so she researched foam clothing and enlisted a local seamstress.

She started a year-long process of gathering her family's emergency wardrobe, something that has surprised her neighbors and friends.

These days, Snell shares what she has learned with church and civic groups, toting along her impressive collection of foam clothes and boots. She's more than willing to explain her thinking.

Snell has heavily invested now with clothing built not only for her children in the sizes they have grown into now but also in adult sizes. She keeps these articles of clothing handy in large plastic bags.

"My family just hated this," she said. "They all laughed at me, but I tell them, 'Someday you'll thank me!'"

Sharon Haddock is a professional freelance writer with 30 years experience, 17 of those at The Deseret News. She has a personal blog called "Grandma's Place" at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

e-mail: haddoc@desnews.com