Many people wonder where to begin. You can easily feel overwhelmed as you think about emergency situations and how to make sure your family is prepared. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
Prepare for the most likely scenarios first. The probability that you will face an apocalyptic meltdown is small. Sure, it will happen some day, but probably not this year.
Prepare first for a short-term family crisis or local emergency. Then prepare for a longer regional disaster. Then, if you still have resources, prepare for a major long-lasting national or world-wide crisis.
Have a 72-hour kit with supplies to care for your family
The first three days are critical in a family or local emergency. If trees are down and roads are blocked, you may be totally on your own during that period. In most cases, relief will start to reach people within a few days. Your top priority is to stay alive until help arrives.
Water is critical. Most people can last 3 days without food but will suffer and possibly die without water. Have some drinkable water on hand and have a way to purify more as needed. A general recommendation is one gallon of drinkable water per person per day.
Shelter in place if you can. If your home is not on fire or damaged to the point it may collapse, you are usually better off staying put. You will almost certainly have more resources (food, water, tools, medical supplies) available in your home.
Have a bag ready with supplies if you need to “bug out.” In should include some water, or a way of purifying water, along with some food and emergency gear. Often, your car or other vehicle can provide shelter but, depending on your circumstances, you may need a tent and sleeping bags. (The small, lightweight emergency ponchos, sleeping bags and tents take very little room and are excellent to help you stay warm and dry.) You should have a portable stove of some sort to heat water and warm up food.
Have a light, solar or battery powered, that you can use at home or on the road.
Have a radio, again solar or batter, so you can get news during an emergency.
Have a battery pack or some way to extend or recharge cell phone batteries. (Many solar lights and radios can change phones.)
As you can, add more products so you are prepared for emergencies that last longer time periods. If you just buy a couple extra items a week, before long you will have a good supply.
Store, use, rotate, replenish. You need to know how to use items you store. Every week, have one or more meals using emergency food storage items. Learn to use them to make meals your family will enjoy.
Grains and beans are inexpensive and easy to store. But what will you do with them in a real emergency. It won’t do you much good to have a basement full of wheat if you don’t have a way to grind it or recipes to use it in nutritious meals your family will actually eat. If you are use to refined, which flower and suddenly you are forced to eat whole wheat, your digestive track may complain.
Make preparedness a lifestyle. Store, use, replenish.
Food in #10 cans is best for long-term storage. Most will last 15-30 years. Some will last longer than that. You can now get all kinds of freeze-dried food items in the #10 cans. The freeze-drying process preserves nutrients and the food tastes great. Store items your family will actually eat.
Grains will store potentially forever if kept dry. Grain in 50-pound bags is cheaper than in #10 cans, but bags will not last long; them will eventually let in moisture. Five-gallon plastic buckets are okay for some items (grains, beans).
When comparing prices, compare calories. Some companies may have a great price on an item labeled for three servings, but the fine print will tell you those servings don’t provide a satisfying meal for an average adult.
Water is critical. Store some water in 5 or 10 or 55 gallon barrels or 250 gallon tanks. Use some method to keep the water pure and safe. Some people recommend adding bleach to water you are storing. That works, if you are careful, but bleach is highly toxic and so you do need to follow instructions to the letter. Bleach will become ineffective relatively quickly and so you will need to drain, refill and re-treat your water supply every year.
For water storage we recommend ST GEORGE NANO SILVER. Read about it here. Just 2.5 ounces will treat 50 gallons of water, making it potable for 3-5 years (depending on how it is stored).
No matter how much water you have stored, it will never be enough. You also need a good filter or other system to purify water. Modern filters will make water from virtually any source safe to drink. For families, we recommend the Katadyn Ceradyn Drip Filter. If you have ever used a pump filter, you know it works well for individuals but it can take forever to pump enough water for a group. The Ceradyn is gravity-fed so you can use it without exertion. Simply pure dirty water into the top and clean water comes out the spout.
Have gear appropriate for your situation.
If you live in a single-family home, you need to know how to turn off the power, water and natural gas. You may need a special tool to do so. If there is an earthquake, pipes may break. If you hear a hiss from a leak or smell gas, turn off the valve immediately.
Evaluate your resources to find out what you need and what works. Do you have or can you add an energy-efficient fireplace? If not, you may need to develop some kind of supplemental heating system.
Do you have a propane grill that can be used to cook in an emergency? Or do you need to acquire some kind of stove? Do you have adequate propane?
Can you add solar panels and a storage battery? Or some other system to give you electricity to power basic equipment during an emergency?
Bug out location
If you need to leave your home, where will you go? You need a plan in place. Share your plan with family and trusted friends.
It may make sense for family members to meet at a per-determined location. Family members may be able to cooperate to store some supplies on site, or to accept assignments to bring complementary supplies. (Perhaps everyone doesn’t needs to bring a cook stove – if you trust your family to share.) But everyone does need to have a water source, some food and basic gear.
Being prepared is a process that you work at over time. Begin where you are. Work small if you need to at first. Make it a lifestyle.