This is part 1 of a 2 part series about how to survive a disaster whether you consider yourself a prepper or not. These days it seems like disaster can hit us from any direction and it’s common sense to be ready for it when and if something happens.
Not everyone can be the “Doomsday Prepper” we all see on TV, and to be honest most of us have no intention to do so. Unfortunately this is the perception people have about anyone who has a little food stored and is even the slightest bit concerned about our future.
Everyone is programmed their entire lives to follow the herd and conform to society’s rules. We go to school so we can get the best job possible. We spend most of our lives working just to get by, hoping for a raise or promotion, and finally at the end of our lives we can sit back and relax and enjoy a stress free retirement.
This is all contingent on the fact that everything goes the way we plan our whole lives. The reality is, it rarely works out that way. Even if we are lucky enough to find our “dream job” we still get nickeled and dimed our whole lives with credit debt, student loans, taxes and unexpected emergencies along the way.
This is not a rant about society and popular culture, this is just to illustrate the point that we need to be ready when life throws us a curve ball, and ready to survive a disaster even if it doesn’t mean life or death. If we live our lives with our fingers crossed hoping that everything will work out, and get mad at the world when it doesn’t, we are just setting ourselves up for hardship and disappointment.
The average person in the United States these days lives paycheck to paycheck and only has a few day’s worth of food in their home at any given time. People have become so dependent on our fast food, convenience store culture that they wouldn’t know what to do if the supply line got disrupted even for a short time.
Ask Yourself This…
- If there was no food at the grocery store how long would it be before you and your family went hungry?
- If the power went out for 3 days what would you do? How would you cook? How would you heat or cool your home? What would you do when the sun went down?
- What would you do if you lost your job, or you’re hours got cut? Could you get by with what you have until you find another job?
- What would you do if there was an unexpected accident or injury in the family that changed how you live?
Prepping isn’t all about Doomsday and the Apocalypse, prepping and survival are about being you’re own insurance policy in a disaster and not having to depend on someone else for your safety and survival. Recent natural disasters like Katrina and Sandy have shown us that these government agencies don’t have the means to help everyone in need.
The truth is preppers come in all shapes and sizes, some people are prepping for large scale disasters, and some people just choose to be prepared for unexpected emergencies, but because people need to put labels on other people, anyone who prepares is a “Doomsday Prepper”.
Being prepared doesn’t make you a crazy tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist just as being a lawyer doesn’t make you a criminal. Being prepared means you understand that you are the only one you can truly depend on in a crisis.
Regardless of whether you are a prepper or not there are some things everyone should do to insure the safety of their family when times get tough. It’s up to you how far you take this, but doing something is always better than nothing.
The point of all this is that even if you have no plans on building a bunker in your backyard there are still things everyone should do to prepare themselves for unexpected personal disasters. Here is a list of a 10 areas you should be working on…just in case.
How Vulnerable is the US Power Grid?
Getting Ready For a Grid Down Event.
1. Stock Enough Food For a Month
The Red Cross and FEMA will tell you to have 3 day’s worth of food and water stored for emergencies, this seems like the magic number everyone likes to throw around. I personally don’t feel comfortable with this number because most large scale natural disasters will last much longer than that.
The reason I say a month is because you never know when something longer term might happen, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry about food if you were in between jobs? Even if you only have a couple of week’s worth of food stored, it will still make a tough situation a little easier.
You have a couple of options when it comes to food storage. You can store foods that your family eats right now that has a longer shelf life like boxed meals, spaghetti and canned foods. Remember though, you can just set it and forget it, these foods need to be rotated just like a grocery store or they will go bad, leaving you thinking you were covered only to find that you are not.
The other option is long term food storage foods that have a 25 year shelf life like Legacy Foods. The great thing about food with a 25 year shelf life is you can set it and forget it, as long as it’s stored in a cool dry place.
Short Term Food Storage calculator.
Why Food Storage is Important.
Long Term Food Storage Discounts.
2. Have or Know Where to Get Water For a Month
For some people storing enough water for a month is not realistic, if you live in an apartment with your spouse and a child you will need a minimum of 3 gallons per day that would be 90 gallons for a month. To put this in perspective a typical Book Box 16 x 12 x 12 inches, 90 gallons of water would fill up around 55 of these boxes.
On top of that, if you’re storing water in 2 liter bottles they are not going to stack as neatly. With that being said we should figure out a way to store as much water as we can, water bricks are great for this because it’s far easier to open the closet than to hike to the nearest source of water.
If you can’t store enough water to last a month make sure you know where the nearest safe water source is, as a matter of fact you should know this anyway. Just remember, you will not be the only one trying to get water in a situation where water is in short supply.
Having a good water filter (and knowing how it works) is also a good idea, if you have a way of cleaning the pathogens out of dirty water you might not have as much competition. Remember though, filters will not remove harmful chemicals. I personally like the Sawyer Mini, but there are many to choose from.
How to Build a Water Filter.
Think Basics, Think Water.
3. Understand What Life Will be Like Without Power
We tend to underestimate how much we depend on electricity these days. Anyone who has been through a power outage (even a short one) knows what I mean, but imagine the power didn’t come back on for a few days.
Not only would your home be without power, the grocery stores would be affected, gas stations would be affected and any food that needed to be refrigerated would go bad very quickly. If this happened in the winter you might not have to worry about the food going bad, but you would need to figure out how to stay warm.
Depending on what cause the grid failure and how wide spread it is there could be other factors we need to consider beyond the power outage. Supply lines could be severed, you might get an unwanted vacation from work and if its terror related the last thing we would be worried about is not being able to turn on our TV.
Knowing what to expect during a power outage means more than just having batteries and flashlights, it means knowing alternative ways of creating heat or power. Some people will take this to the extreme and create a solar battery bank, and some people will just buy a generator. I have a small portable solar generator I made and a gas powered generator.
Filling up the bathtub with water if you have warning, knowing where to find extra water in the house like the hot water tank, cooking the food in your freezer before it goes bad and heating/cooling one room in the house instead of the whole house are all things we should be thinking about.
Grid Down Solutions Podcast (audio).
4. Have the Supplies to Handle a Power Outage?
Many people have what I call a “lights out kit” This is where you can store everything you might need for a power outage in one place. This could include batteries, flashlights, extension cords for a generator, blankets, candles etc.
We use plastic storage bins for these kits but you can use whatever you like, the main thing is to have everything in one place to prevent having to search around in the dark for your flashlight. It’s also a good idea to have a Power Failure Night Light or two around the house, these will turn on when the power is interrupted and give you some light to get to your supplies.
Depending on where you live you might want to have ways to keep warm or cool. Figuring out how to stay warm is a little easier than keeping cool, you could store extra blankets and have a kerosene heater to keep warm. Keeping cool might mean having a couple low wattage fans and a generator.
First aid should never be underestimated, especially in a disaster situation where getting to a hospital might not be a viable option. Having just the basics laying around can be helpful in outside services might not be available.
Thrift stores and garage sales are also a great way to find supplies without having to spend a fortune. You can find candles, camping supplies and all sorts of stuff at the thrift store. Before you go to the thrift store make sure and check around the house, I bet you are more prepared than you think you are.
Just as important as having the supplies themselves is making sure they work and are not expired. Not only is it a waste of money to buy a bunch of batteries just to find out they are expired and only last 1 hour, you are also going to be pretty disappointed if you have to live by candle light.
What Prepping Supplies Do I Need?
Click the link below this info graphic to continue to part 2 of 10 Steps to Survive a Disaster Big or Small.
Brian McCue says
1.) If you’re keeping $100 as an emergency stash, try to keep this in the form of smaller bills. It would stink to pay $20 for a $5 loaf of bread if the seller could not make change.
2.) Keep a battery powered radio that uses “D” cell batteries. Play radio on low volume so it will run longer. “D” sized batteries contain more amp hours.
3.) Use LED flash lights and lanterns. One flashlight per person and a few lanterns for common areas and security lighting. LEDs will run for hours and hours. Never burn out. Again standardize on the “D” cell sized battery for same reason as above and you can swap them between devices.
4.) Keep spare “D” cell alkaline batteries in a cool and dry place but not the freezer. Have multiple changes for each device.
5.) Purchase a “C” to “D” cell adapters. If, in a pinch, you needed more “D” cells, “C” cells may be available since they are not a popular size.
6.) Have a fire extinguisher handy, and more importantly, know how to use it.
7.) Join CERT – Community Emergency Response Teams – FEMA organized and trained. You will gain valuable information concerning first aid, search and rescue, basic firefighting, and survival.
8.) Have a battery operated smoke and CO detector.
9.) Keep a car charger available for your phone. You can use your car or someone else’s. Also considering purchasing a lighter adapter that clips onto a 12 volt battery.
10.) Keep frozen gallon jugs of water in your freezer. They not only help to maintain its efficiency, they also are 8 lb. blocks of ice with handles you can place into a cooler. You can also drink the water when melted.
11.) Place a glass with ice cubes in your freezer. If you find they are not in cube form it is a reason to suspect your freezer warmed up while you were away. Replace them every month since they do sublimate and reduce on their own.
12.) Consider locating a 12 volt battery charger for “AAA”, “AA”, “C”, and “D” sized batteries. Maintain a supply of NiMH batteries that you can use.
13.) Even if you don’t smoke or drink, acquire a carton or two of cigarettes and a few dozen assorted “nips” of alcohol. These items, along with toilet paper, would be valuable barter items in a pinch.
14.) Purchase a pair of FRS/GMRS radios for communications (and spare batteries). Possibly consider doing so with your neighbor and agree to a frequency, call code, and check in time.
15.) Purchase an “old fashioned” wall phone that does not require batteries for operation. Cordless phones usually won’t work without power.
16.) If legal, consider buying “mace” for protection.