Out of all the years that I’ve been writing about prepping, this has been the year of the wake-up call. If one good thing has come from all the disasters, it’s the fact that many people have seen the light and learned a hard, firsthand lessons and want to start prepping.
Now there’s an epic storm in the Northeastern US that was sudden and brutal. A friend called me yesterday and told me she and her family could be without power for more than a week. She wasn’t ready for it. “This really drove home what you do,” she said.
All of these horrible things have one silver lining…more people than ever realize that the government won’t be rushing to save them anytime soon and that they must be prepared to be completely on their own.
So if this is you, welcome to the prepped side. I have put together a little primer for you. It isn’t over the top. You don’t need a bunker and an AK47 for each family member. You just need food, water, shelter, and an evacuation plan. No tinfoil required.
There are links in each section where you can go to learn more about that topic. At the end is a resource list with some shortcuts and some useful books. You don’t have to do every single thing RIGHT NOW. This is just a preparedness overview and if you have recently been through an emergency, you will probably recognize what your priorities should be.
If you never buy a single canned good or bag of pasta for long-term food storage, please store water. Every time there’s a pending emergency, the shelves at stores are completely cleared of water within a matter of hours (if not sooner.)
If you went out and bought it, a full month’s supply of drinking water for a family of 4 would cost approximately $150, depending on the prices in your area. I recommend the refillable 5-gallon water jugs for this. This is a small investment to make for your family’s security and well-being in the event of an emergency.
As well, fill empty containers with tap water. Every container that comes into your house can be used for these purposes. When you empty a jar or bottle, wash it, fill it up, and stash it somewhere. Even if these containers aren’t food safe, you can use them for flushing, cleaning, and hygiene.
Once you have water stored, consider adding filtration devices, secondary water sources, and water harvesting to your preparedness endeavors. You can learn more about water preparedness in my book on the topic, and HERE, HERE, and HERE.
Lots of preppers like to keep a year’s supply of food on hand. If you’re just getting started out, that can bein incredibly overwhelming. Start out smaller than that – focus first on an extra two weeks, then on a month’s supply. You can always build from there.
Keep in mind when building your emergency food supply that you might not have electricity during some disasters. In that case, you’ll want to have food that doesn’t require lengthy (or any) cooking times. Look for just-add-water dehydrated foods, or better yet, foods that don’t need to be cooked at all. Search for an off-grid cooking method that will work for your home.
Do not make the mistake of loading your pantry with nutritionless processed foods. In a crisis event, you want your body to work optimally, and junk in means junk out. Focus on nutrient-dense foods for good health and energy no matter what’s going on in the world around you.
A great starting point for someone who is just getting started on a preparedness journey is prepping specifically for a two-week power outage. If you can comfortably survive for two weeks without electricity, you will be in a far better position than most of the people in North America.
Lighting is absolutely vital, especially if there are children in the house. Nothing is more frightening than being completely in the dark during a stressful situation. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest things to plan for, as well as one of the least expensive.
Some lighting solutions are:
Learn about prepping for a two-week power outage in more detail HERE.
A common cause of illness, and even death, during a down-grid situation is lack of sanitation. We’ve discussed the importance of clean drinking water, but you won’t want to use your drinking water to keep things clean or to flush the toilet.
For cleaning, reduce your need to wash things.
Look at your options for sanitation. Does your toilet still flush when the electricity is out? Many people discovered the hard way that the toilets didn’t work when the sewage backed up in the highrises in New York City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. At our cabin, the toilet won’t flush without power because the pump is electric.
If you are on a septic system, with no risk of the toilet backing up into the house, simply store some water for flushing in the bathroom. (At the first sign of a storm, we always filled the bathtub for this purpose when we had a home on septic.) Add the water to the tank so that you can flush.
If this is not an option, another solution is to stock up on extremely heavy duty garbage bags (like the kind that contractors use at construction sites) and kitty litter. Place a bag either in your drained toilet or in a bucket. Sprinkle some kitty litter in the bottom of the bag. Each time someone uses the bathroom, add another handful of litter. Be very careful that the bag doesn’t get too heavy for you to handle it. Tie it up very securely and store it outside until services are restored. Learn how to make a kitty litter toilet in more detail HERE.
If your power outage takes place in the winter and you live in a colder climate, heat is another necessity. During the first 24 hours after a power outage, you can stay fairly warm if you block off one room of the house for everyone to group together in. Keep the door closed and keep a towel or blanket folded along the bottom of the door to conserve warmth. You can safely burn a couple of candles also, and in the enclosed space, your body heat will keep it relatively warm. As well, dress in layers and keep everything covered – wear a hat, gloves (fingerless ones allow you to still function), and a scarf.
However, after about 48 hours, that’s not going to be enough in very cold weather. You will require backup heat at this point in certain climates. If you are lucky enough to have a source of heat like a fireplace or woodstove, you’ll be just fine as long as you have a supply of wood.
Consider a portable propane heater (and propane) or an oil heater. You have to be very careful what type of backup heat you plan on using, as many of them can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if used in a poorly ventilated area. Also, invest in a Carbon Monoxide alarm that is not grid-dependent.
Learn more about off-grid heat options HERE.
It’s important to have a basic first aid kit on hand at all times, but particularly in the event of an emergency. Your kit should include basic wound care items like bandages, antibiotic ointments, and sprays. As well, if you use them, keep on hand a supply of basic over-the-counter medications, like pain relief capsules, cold medicine, cough syrup, anti-nausea pills, and allergy medication.
If you want to put together a more advanced medical kit, you can find a list HERE.
This is something that will be unique to every family. Consider the things that are needed on a daily basis in your household. It might be prescription medications, diapers, or special foods. If you have pets, you’ll need supplies for them too. The best way to figure out what you need is to jot things down as you use them over the course of a week or so.
It’s an unfortunate fact that disaster situations bring out the worst in many people. Because of this, even if you stay safely at home, you could be called upon to defend your property or family. Some people loot for the sheer “fun” of it, others consider chaos a free pass to commit crimes, and still others are frightened and desperate. You can have a 10 year supply of food, water, and medicine, but if you can’t defend it, you don’t own it. The article The Anatomy of a Breakdown explains the predictable patterns of social unrest.
Here are some tips to make your home less of a target:
If, despite your best efforts, your property draws the attention of people with ill intent, you must be ready to defend your family and your home. If the odds are against you, devise a way to get your family to safety. Your property is not worth your life.
Have an evacuation plan
Not every emergency can be weathered at home. Sometimes there is no option but to evacuate. Some examples of this are the pending collapse of a dam, a volcano, a massive storm, flooding, wildfire, or a chemical spill. In some cases, you’ll have an hour or two to get ready before you have to leave. In other situations, there may barely be enough time to put on your shoes.
Have things set up ahead of time so your evacuation can be quick. Even if you have more time, getting on the road before everyone else gives you the advantage of being less likely to be stuck in a traffic jam while disaster bears down on you. Keep important documents in the cloud so you can access them if your home is destroyed.
Don’t wait for the evacuation order. When officials are trying to cover mismanagement or when an event occurs suddenly, you may not be warned in time.
Here is a general list of supplies to have on hand. Remember that sometimes power supplies are lost during a variety of situations, so keep the potential for a down-grid situation in mind when preparing. You don’t have to get everything all at once. Just get started and build your supplies as you can. After a quick inventory and re-organization, you may be pleasantly surprised at how many supplies you actually have on hand.
I’m always so happy to welcome people who are new to preparedness. Read books, go to websites, and join forums an Facebook groups. While there ARE some curmudgeonly folks out there, most are delighted to answer questions and help you on your way.
Please, don’t let the thought of all of the preps that you do not yet have bring you down.
It’s a process. Once you know the possibilities, accept them, and begin to prepare, you are already far ahead of most of the neighborhood. Don’t be discouraged by how much you have left to do, instead, be encouraged by how far ahead you are compared to your former unawareness. Just making the decision to get started is the biggest step towards preparedness you’ll ever take.
For those of you who have been doing this for a while, please welcome our new friends. And tell us in the comments, what is your best advice for getting started?
Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, leaving all links intact, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio. Daisy is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting, homeschooling blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com She is the best-selling author of 4 books and lives in the mountains of Virginia with her two daughte... Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.