Updated: Apr 27, 2021
Hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, heat waves, tornados, pandemics, job loss, solar flares, food shortages, trucking strikes…all of these situations can leave us needing to rely upon our own resources when supplies are not available.
Sadly, over the years, being prepared has been associated with paranoia and fear. Being prepared for unexpected events, however, is a practical insurance for you and your family coming from love and concern. Considering how many people were not prepared for a global shutdown because of a pandemic causing a run on supplies, it is prudent to be prepared and ready before another event affects the availability of food and supplies.
Our regulatory agencies suggest having a to go kit as well as supplies for sheltering at home. FEMA has recommended a 3 day supply for each person in the household but a recent report released by the Department of Homeland Security recommends at least three weeks in the event of a regional power outage. I would err on the side of three weeks or more if possible realizing that many natural emergencies can easily last longer than three days.
From my personal experience prepping is not a perfect process and does require some extra funds. Start with the basics and add to it as you can afford it. Do not stress over having the perfect amount of this or that or whether you have enough. Just getting started with some rice and beans is a beginning.
The basic categories for being prepared include but are not limited to: Water and/or water filtration, food, shelter, emergency funds, sources of heat and energy, medical supplies, cleaning and sanitation products, sources for electrical power and lighting, and personal hygiene products.
So, let’s go over some categories and suggestions for each…
One gallon of water per person per day is recommended to have on hand. That is a lot of water, so having a base supply with water filters available for filtration is suggested. I recommend and use the Berkey Water filter for everyday use and have a Sawyer water filter for travel and on the go use. Berkey has a travel size that can be packed up and transported if needed. At the minimum, have at least a Sawyer water filter or equivalent for emergencies. It’s fairly inexpensive and can filter a lot of water. A WaterBob is a collapsable water storage container that fits into a bathtub and can hold up to 100 gallons of water. A great way to store water when the need arises.
Have at least three weeks worth of food on hand. Nonperishable, canned and packaged items work best in the event of a power outage when refrigeration may be a challenge. Be sure to have a way to heat and cook such as a camp stove, woodstove or grill. And, have a manual can opener at hand in case of a power outage.
Examples of items to stock are rice, beans, pasta, canned or bottled sauces, canned vegetables, oatmeal, peanut butter, flour, sugar, yeast, broth, coconut oil, olive oil, boxed or dry milk, cereal, canned soups, canned fruits, honey, nutrition bars, broth, spices and canned meats. If you stock the freezer be sure to use those items first in the event of a power outage. Be sure to have extra formula and infant food for the little ones.
Don’t forget to stock food for your pets, too!
Do you have a plan if you have to evacuate or leave your current home? Having a camping set up can help in a pinch. Do you have friends or family where you can stay in the event that you need to relocate? Planning ahead can prevent a lot of stress and confusion during an emergency.
Be sure to have some cash on hand (small bills) in the event that power is out and/or banks and ATMs cannot be accessed. Power outages can prevent the use of electronic payments. So, cash on hand is important for gas, temporary shelter and/or food.
Energy and heat sources
Do you have a source of energy for cooking other than electricity? This can include a wood stove, a propane stove or camp stove (used with proper ventilation), a propane grill, sterno or a solar oven. A simple rocket stove can be made from cinder blocks and provides a very basic means of burning wood to cook over. Instructions for making one can easily be found on the internet. Of course use proper fire precautions and be sure to have a fire extinguisher available.
Do you have an alternate heat source other than electricity if the power goes out? Propane and kerosene heaters are one option used with appropriate ventilation. A fireplace or woodstove are very good options, too. Having several extra blankets and/or extra warm sleeping bags is important as well. In a pinch, sectioning off a room and putting up a tent to sleep in can help preserve heat. Remember to bundle up and use layers to preserve warmth. A hot water bottle at bed time can take the chill out of a bed. And, pets are always cuddly and warm, too!
Be sure to have a readily stocked first aid kit complete with bandages, splints, alcohol, tweezers, antibacterial ointment, gloves, ace bandages, thermometer, cotton balls, pain medication, allergy medicines, anti diarrhea medicine, cough syrup, aspirin, Benadryl, moleskin, rash cream, bug repellant, sunscreen, aloe, cough drops, eye drops, etc. This list is not all inclusive so google first aid kits to see what else might be needed for you situation. The dollar store can be a great resource for these items.
Also, be sure to have any specific medications or medical devices that are specific to your situation. Cpap machines, prescription medications and Epi pens are a few examples. In the case of a Cpap machine…do you have an alternate source of electricity to use if the power goes out? See below under power sources.
Cleaning and Sanitation
Staying clean and having access to sanitation products is often overlooked when getting ready for an emergency. Do you have extra trash bags, cleaning products, laundry and dish detergent, bleach, rubber gloves, rags and clothesline and pins. Natural cleaning can be done with vinegar, baking soda, borax and castile soap.
Power and lighting sources
In the case of an electrical outage, a power source can be an essential item especially if required for medical equipment. There are many generators including gas and solar on the market. I would suggest a solar generator because in the event of a power outage resourcing gas may be an issue. I personally have a Jackery Solar System that produces 500 watts of power. It’s enough to charge electronics and run a small college style refrigerator as well as a Cpap. There are larger systems available and systems from other manufacturers as well. So far, the Jackery seems to be sufficient for our use and it can even run my sewing machine as well as a full electronic set up for outdoor concerts in the woods. Just ask my teenage son!
There are many solar/rechargable powered items that come in handy as well. Small solar phone chargers, solar lanterns, hand crank/solar radios and rechargeable batteries all come in handy. Having a way to receive information via a radio is important during and emergency and many radios have an emergency weather notification alarms.
Communication is key and having a way to stay in touch with family members and community is necessary. Walkie Talkies can come in handy for this, too. Be sure to have head lamps and flashlights as well.
And, don’t forget good ole fashioned candles and oil lamps. Be sure to have a stock of lighters and matches on hand. A flint starter to start fires is also handy in the case of not having matches or lighters available to start a fire.
Personal hygiene is important for good health. Be sure to have an extra stock of toothpaste, dental floss, lotion, razors, shaving cream, soap, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, eye care such as contact solution, an extra pair of glasses, reading glasses, deodorant, diapers and wipes, adult diapers, hand sanitizer, masks and gloves. And of course…toilet paper!
Miscellaneous supplies might be required to accommodate random repairs and projects around the house or outside the home. Items to keep on hand can include a few rolls of duct tape, electrical tapes, basic tools, foil emergency blankets, large trash bags, plastic sheeting, a compass and whistle, sewing kits, tarps, multi tool, pocket knife, axe, bleach, fishing line, rope or paracord, cable ties, and hand warmers.
These lists are not exhaustive but can get you started toward being ready for situations that may temporarily keep you at home. I have listed sources below to explore to add to what I have included. Also, be sure to have a go kit…a backpack for each person in the family with essential items in the case of evacuation. Sources of lists to create these are included below.
Remember, being prepared is a practical insurance for yourself and your family. There is no need to be fearful or feel “hoardish” for having the essentials to get you and your family through an emergency.
www.TheSurvivalMom.com (a great, non threatening site chock full of information)
www.ready.gov/kit (this lists essentials that can be ready to leave the house)
www.ready.gov (has information for preparing for various situations