We’ve all seen him on the news: The guy who is buying sheets of plywood, beer, potato chips and other survival essentials as the approaching hurricane can be seen over his shoulder in the distance.
Unfortunately, the majority of Americans aren’t much better when it comes to being prepared for emergencies. However, recent disasters have proven that the sheer magnitude of an event can overwhelm relief efforts, coupled with cutbacks in personnel, budgets and equipment, place the onus squarely on our shoulders.
Many citizens don’t see the need for preparedness, and that’s their prerogative, however a relatively small investment now for someone who is concerned about the possibility of a disruption due to a natural disaster, pandemic, terrorism, civil unrest or countless other possible scenarios, might mean the difference between a week or so of hungry terror or a week of edgy survival. Most people think of some wild eyed mountain man when the word “survival” is mentioned, but that’s no longer the case. When the Government strongly suggests preparing, there’s a reason behind it.
The ever-increasing list of disasters and emergencies that can put you on your own is a long and often dangerous one. The violence and mayhem associated with black Friday will look like a minor scuffle when food shortages or any one of a hundred scenarios spark riots. Food flew off the shelf and stores were emptied in hours before the big snow hit the East coast last winter. With municipalities cutting essential services like law enforcement, the chances of having to “hunker down” increases exponentially.
Now the caveat: Being prepared doesn’t guarantee survivability, but it does greatly enhance your chances if the event is survivable. The following list is by no means inclusive as there are thousands of variables, i.e., suburban versus rural, gated community vs. projects, the type of disaster, number of persons being prepared for and on and on.
Even with the countless variables, there are some basic necessities that are essential regardless of location or emergency. The following items are simply a starting point that will assist you in thinking about establishing some sort of basic preparedness program. They will greatly improve not only your survivability, but your level of comfort in terribly uncertain times.
While FEMA recommends three days of emergency provisions, and it is a start, given the current climate, a week’s supply should be an absolute minimum starting point, and a several month stash would be better and a year would be ideal. Keep in mind that these items cannot be placed in order because of the countless variables.
You’ve made your decision, so now you need to get down to the business of survival.
1. Water. Absolutely essential for drinking, hygiene and cooking. Remember all of the people who had ample warning sitting on their roofs during Katrina? Imagine how much comfort a measly couple of bucks worth of bottled water would have done to reduce the misery factory. While one gallon per person per day is recommended, enough to drink would certainly be better than nothing at all. Even a few hours of thirst can cost you your edge. Several cases of bottled water would go a long way during an emergency and you can replace it as you use it. A good quality water filter could be worth its weight in gold. If you have a pool, with proper filtration, chemical treatment or boiling, it can be used as a potable supply and for hygiene as well. There are 40 or more gallons of water in your water heater that is potable. I wouldn’t have a problem drinking water that is years old if it was properly stored.
2. Food. Another essential. You can go days or even weeks without food, but who wants to? Something you wouldn’t even consider eating under normal circumstances could look mighty good if you’re starved. Granola bars, canned food and crackers could mean the difference between a clear head or one thinking about a cheeseburger. Every time you go shopping, put in an extra few items that you normally eat. Check the expiration dates and get items with a long shelf life if possible. If something happens, you have food you’re used to and you can use it up as part of your regular food supply. Dehydrated food like instant potatoes, macaroni and cheese, ramen, and hundreds of other products can be integrated into your supply and rotated out while being replaced with fresh ones. Drinks like Tang and powdered lemonade will store indefinitely and would be a welcome addition to any meal during times of trouble. Another advantage is, if you use the foods you store you will have less of a shock if trouble hits. A little thing called “food fatigue” can easily cause you to lose your edge if you end up eating peanut butter for every meal because that’s all you have in the pantry. Canned food are terrific for affordable disaster prep. The following excerpt from the Food and Drug administration is a remarkable example of food’s storage ability:
“The steamboat Bertrand was heavily laden with provisions when it set out on the Missouri River in 1865. The boat snagged and swamped under the weight, sinking to the bottom of the river. It was found a century later, under 30 feet of silt a little north of Omaha, Neb[raska].
Among the canned food items retrieved from the Bertrand in 1968 were brandied peaches, oysters, plum tomatoes, honey, and mixed vegetables. In 1974, chemists at the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) analyzed the products for bacterial contamination and nutrient value. Although the food had lost its fresh smell and appearance, the NFPA chemists detected no microbial growth and determined that the foods were as safe to eat as they had been when canned more than 100 years earlier”.
We regularly ate ten year old canned goods at grandma’s house without side effects and granny ate frozen game that was over ten years old. (It did finally catch up to her at 103, God rest her soul.)
3. Shelter. You have to stay alive to ride out an event. For most of us, staying at home would be the ideal situation. However, any number of situations can require “bugging out” to a shelter or other safe location. Most of us have relatives within driving distance or know someone who might put up with us for awhile. If not, as a last resort the government or the Red Cross will usually provide emergency shelter, however a disaster as opposed to WTSHTF will have two completely different sets of dynamics. Have a plan nonetheless. If you have to stay and shelter in place at your home, business or apartment, or hit the road to get away from civil unrest, a chemical spill, fire or hurricane, you need to have a plan and be prepared to implement it. A bug out bag or get out of Dodge bag contains emergency supplies if you have to go mobile, and is an art form in itself when it comes to putting one together.
4. Emergency Equipment. In addition to food, water and shelter, there are several essential items that will be required in the event you are on your own. Extra medicines are top of the list, particularly if they are required daily. A good first aid kit is another must have. An LED flashlight and lantern with extra batteries are essential. It sounds impossible, but there are several lights from one to three dollars that fit the bill in the form of solar garden path lights. While they don’t put out tons of light, they provide enough light to navigate around a dark house and work as a flashlight and reading light in a pinch. They can be recharged in the window sill in the daytime and will run 8-10 hours every night. I recently purchased several at a local superstore for $1.00 each! Ten bucks worth allows you to put one in every room and several in the main gathering area. Now granted, they aren’t as good (or as expensive) as a battery operated lantern, but they are safer than a candle, and have the ability to recharge themselves. In short, they are not designed for emergency use, but work incredibly well for it.
Warm clothes, sleeping gear, a camp stove and emergency sanitation gear are also essential.
Hygiene can be a real challenge, but a roll of heavy duty trash can liners can have numerous uses. If your sewer is down as is common after an earthquake, flooding or power outage, you can line the toilet with a bag and when it is full, change it out. A couple of large trash cans can hold the waste until service is restored. Several boxes of wet ones will allow you maintain basic hygiene as well. A bottle of regular unscented bleach is another dirt cheap, yet invaluable item.
Last but certainly not least is some sort of self defense. While there are as many opinions as there are corrupt politicians when it comes to self defense, whatever you get, make sure you become proficient with it. WTSHTF you will have enough on your plate to deal with.
5. Time Killers. Even if the emergency is only a 48 or 72 hour event, you will want to have some playing cards, books, a Bible and board games on hand to help kill the time. You might even include some hard candies and other treats as well as coloring books and crayons for the younger ones. Now I know that I will garner some vitriolic comments over the Bible, but remember the old adage, “there are no atheists in foxholes” and I absolutely believe a foxhole might be preferred to the street when it all comes falling down.
The Internet is a goldmine when it comes to prepping. Start researching and download as much as possible and burn the info to CDs or a thumb drive. I have a solar power supply to run my laptop so WTSHTF, I still have access to thousands of articles and books on how to survive – info that might save a life.
Factors preventing many people from preparing are the “it can’t happen here” mentality, and plain old fear or a sense of being overwhelmed. People with the former attitude won’t see a need to prepare, and that’s their choice. (Until something happens and they expect the government to take care of all of their needs.) As for the latter, there is nothing wrong with fear, particularly the “where does one start” quandary, if it is turned into positive action. Instead of worrying about the future, prepare for it and get on with life. We’re talking about simple and subtle changes in your lifestyle, mostly relating to shopping and food storage habits. No one is advocating that you become a mountain man and eat roots and bark. Simply realize the need for a minimal amount of preparation, formulate a plan and get started working toward your goal, and pray that you never need to use it.