When it comes to preparing, supplies are the first thing people think of. Many folks imagine wild-eyed survivalists in camo with a stash of MRE’s and canned goods surrounded by a pile of ammunition. In general, it is also one of the first things a new prepper focuses on. While I absolutely believe a prepper should spend as much or more time on learning new skills and developing their fortitude as they do buying and storing supplies, supplies definitely have their place.
So what is that place?
While there are a million things you can acquire, all supplies have one thing in common: they buy you time for life to return to normal. They allow you to take care of yourself and your family for a period of time when you might not be able to get to the store due to a hurricane or ice storm. Jumper cables allow you to get your car running until you can replace your alternator or battery. Flashlights and candles allow you to wait out the power outage in relative comfort.
To examine the concept in another way, I think about one of my mentors, a 20-year Army Special Forces veteran (Green Beret). While he might have supplies stored, he needs fewer, because he has skills that allow him to gather the things he needs to survive on his own. For example, while I may store 50 gallons of water, he stores only 5, because he knows 10 ways to readily access clean drinking water. Having more gallons on hand gives me a time cushion for the situation to return to normal or to allow me to find more.
So what should I store?
As supplies are essentially there to buy time, I recommend preparing your supplies in time increments. For example, your first goal should be to have 3 days worth of supplies for you and your family. Then you can shoot for 7 days, then 30 days, until you have what you feel comfortable with. Don’t fall into the trap some do, which is focusing on getting a year’s worth of one supply, but none of another!
For example, let’s take a look at one of my earlier failures. One of my first supply purchases was 6 months worth of rice. While that might sound ok, I now realize how foolish I was in that purchase. First, I never once thought about how I would cook my rice if I ever needed it. Second, I never thought about where I would acquire the water I needed to cook my rice. Third, I never thought about the fact that 6 months of eating nothing but rice would likely lead to rice poisoning. Just kidding! But it would lead to appetite fatigue, and I would likely never want to eat rice for the rest of my life. Fourth, while nothing but rice might supply my caloric needs, it wouldn’t supply the complete array of vitamins and minerals the human body needs to function at its best.
Seeing my failure, it is obvious it is better to store what one needs incrementally (meaning, store 3 days worth of each of the 6 categories, then 7 days, then 30 days, etc). In order of importance, this is how I recommend you gather your supplies:
- Water – Water is essential, for drinking, sanitation, cooking, and survival. A bare minimum would be to store 1 gallon per person, per day. So if you have 4 in your family, and you wanted to prepare for a 3-day event, you would need 12 gallons of water. As water is bulky, and can go bad, we’ll explore strategies for the higher quantities needed for longer events (2 weeks or more) in future posts
- Food – Food is also essential. Although the human body can survive far longer without food than water, it’s not fun being hungry, and people are not as effective. There are a number of ways to determine the appropriate quantity. For example, I use a base of 2500 calories per person, per day. While not exact, that could also equate to 2-3 pounds of food per person per day. If you are really organized, you could also plan meals just like you normally would, such as 3 meals and 2 snacks per person per day. We’ll spend quite a bit of time discussing storing food in future posts, as a good food storage program can save you quite a bit of money as well as being great in a time of need. I also include a good multi-vitamin under food.
- Light – I’m sure some hard-core preppers or survivalists would take exception to me breaking light out separately and putting it ahead of some other things. However, I believe light is essential in maintaining a positive attitude, especially if you have children. I also place it high because for a minimal expenditure you can supply your light needs for at least 30 days.
- Shelter/Warmth – Losing a home is one of the worst imaginable experiences. Making plans for an emergency involving both staying at home and leaving your home (or being away from home) is vitally important. I also include the ability to start a fire here, as well as making sure you have sufficient ways to keep warm, such as emergency or regular blankets, sleeping bags, and tarps or tents.
- First Aid – Every home should have a solid first aid kit and as long of your standard prescriptions as you can manage. Optional but great to have items also include SAM Splint and Celox or other clotting agent..
- Toiletries/Sanitation – These items can be easy to forget. Don’t! Hand sanitizer, toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, feminine hygeine items, soap and shampoo are all toiletries and sanitation items you should have on hand. Like having sufficient light, being clean provides a morale boost in a bad situation, especially among teenagers. (Mom, what do you mean I can’t wash my hair?)
- Entertainment/Other – Have a deck of cards, a checker board or Monopoly game, and some books available. Keep some toys handy for small children. Some emergencies specialize in boredom (the calm before the storm, waiting for someone to plow the roads and the like), so be prepared to combat it!
Remember, supplies are time. And the more supplies you have, the more time you will be able to go before an emergency turns into a crisis.