When I started this blog, my intent was to give the very basics in terms of advice. Meaning, exactly what should one do to prepare, and in what order. Over the 2 years we’ve been here, I hope I’ve at least mostly done that. Because we have had several thousand new folks stop by in the last couple of months, likely do to an increased awareness of preparedness (thanks to shows like Doomsday Preppers, Doomsday Bunkers and Independence, USA), I want to revisit these basics.
At the lowest level, a good preparedness plan includes both information and resources. Information preparedness includes ‘what will me and my family do if there is X’, with X being whatever scenarios you consider important to prepare for. So for example, if X = Tornado, then you and your family need to know how the weather service and your town will announce a Tornado Warning or Watch, the difference between the 2, and what you should do in the event of either. These types of scenarios can be as few as you feel are probable in your area, such as: Blizzard, Tornado, and Wildfire. Or they can be as complex as some of the ‘Doomsday’ shows are highlighting, such as an EMP, Economic Collapse, Legions of the Undead, or Nuclear event.
Other items in the information category include a fire safety and evacuation plan for your home, knowing and securing your important documents, and a communication plan to ensure everyone knows how to get in touch. Something simple like making a laminated list with every important phone number your family can have is something you could do in the next couple of days to increase your families level of preparedness.
When it comes to resources, I’ve stuck to 5 principal categories:
Again, as this is more of a refresh, how much you keep in each category depends on what types of events you are preparing for.
For the first category, I recommend at the very least what FEMA does, which is at least one gallon of water per person, per day for at least 3 days. So for a family of 4, you need at least 12 gallons of water on hand. Preferably, you would have on hand as much water as you can reasonably store, plus the knowledge and ability to make more potable water, whether through boiling (pasteurization), filtration, or use of bleach (sodium hypochorlite/pool shock) or iodine. Or, as many in the preparedness community, having all of the above available let’s you use whichever is most appropriate for your circumstance. Having all of the above methods available is really not that expensive; however, make sure you use each method ahead of time to avoid confusion and stress in a time of need. Sodium hypochorlite, for example, comes in several purities, and knowing how much to use is vitally important to prevent underutilizing, which can lead to drinking bad water, to overusing which can cause poisoning.
In the second category, food, I would also recommend at least 72 hours worth of food that can be eaten and enjoyed without cooking, whether that is MRE’s, canned meats and fruits, or something as simple as peanut butter and crackers. There is a whole category of ‘survival food’ that can set you back a pretty penny, but if you are only looking to be able to survive a long weekend, avoid the expense and pick yourself up some cheap canned goods. If you choose to move into medium and long term food storage (part of the reason many folks find their way to the blog), check this post first, as its been the most popular post on the blog since very early on.
In many (or most) cases #3 on the list, shelter, will simply be your own home. Those events which displace us from our homes are also the most devastating. There is an entire blogging industry dedicated to the ‘bug-out-bag’, so type it into Google and spend a week reading. Any good car bag or 72-hour kit will have some sort of portable shelter, which can be as simple as a tarp, bivy sack, or tent. Shelter can also be a friend, neighbor or family member who has agreed to take you in should something occur. While we may assume our in-laws will be thrilled to have 4 additional family members in the house, it’s still a good idea to broach the subject of what would happen during a personal disaster so you know where you will and won’t be welcome. To ease shelter concerns, also keep a few hundred dollars in cash on hand in your 72-hour kit or vehicle so you can potentially stay at a hotel temporarily as well.
Fire, as everyone from the caveman on can attest, is man’s most powerful discovery. Knowing how to safely build, use, and put out a fire is a critical skill every man, woman and (depending on how early you teach your children things) child should know. For those who think children shouldn’t know how to build a fire don’t understand that boys at least, will learn either the easy or hard way.=) While a fire won’t come into play in every disaster scenario, knowing how to cook, boil water, and use one for warmth will be very handy during many.
Light is one of those items not found on every real prepper’s list. However, from a well-being standpoint, I consider light crucial to maintaining some semblance of normalcy in otherwise stressful circumstances. At our house, we have several on-demand light sources such as Mag-lites (and a box of D-batteries neatly stashed right next to the flashlight) and a hand-crank flashlight, as well as candles and several oil and propane lanterns/lamps. You can pick up some nice oil lamps at many tag sales for a dollar or two, so never pay retail for one. My wife had a run of about a half-dozen tag sales where she came back with over a dozen, several of which we ended up giving away! With new LED technology, you can also get some great light sources now that use very little in terms of battery power.
While there is a ton more that goes into preparedness, from storing your irreplaceable documents to learning how to prepare for an extended event, having the above in place will give you something to build on. Most importantly, it gives you something simple that you can (and should) DO RIGHT NOW. Do not get stuck in ‘research paralysis’ land, which I have watched many people do. In order to not do anything wrong, I’ve seen some folks not do anything at all, and that is a shame. If you have this type of paralysis, many times it will go away as soon as you do something. Pick up a couple of gallons of water, some long-lasting food, a good flashlight, and some cool stormproof matches tomorrow, and realize that preparedness is just another part of life, like going to the gym, paying your bills, and going to school. If you don’t over-complicate it, you might even enjoy it!
Good luck y’all!