I’ve been telling people to prep and talking preps here for 18 months, but there are still some people who want detailed instructions on what they should do. I believe that everyone’s preps should be customer tailored to their family size, their budget, their geographic location, their greatest fear, and a host of other variables. However, I’m going to work around that and present Five steps to being prepared for the end of the world as we know it.
Step One: Prepare to Survive Short-term Emergencies at Home
To start out, aim to have supplies that can support you for two weeks of disruption in your current home.
For example, nine days after Hurricane Ida roared through New Orleans, there were still 430,000 people without electricity. Your short-terms preps should be able to get you through an emergency like that. Unless you just moved to a new area, you should already know what to prepare for as many of the natural disasters recur every few years.
Store Basic Prepping Supplies
To prepare for short term emergencies you need to store:
Food that can does not require refrigeration, can be cooked quickly in one pot or eaten cold, and is nutritious and enjoyable. Your best bet is canned food and dried food from your grocer or a big box store. (See our list for examples and don’t get specialized survival foods for a short-term emergency.) If you have pets or livestock, always have an extra two weeks of feed on hand for them.
Have a non-electric way in which to heat food and boil water. This could be a camp stove or an outdoor rocket stove. You can also use your barbecue grill if it has a burner and you have sufficient propane.
Enough clean drinking water to last two weeks. (Yes, commercial water systems fail, as do private wells.) A good round figure is 20 to 30 gallons per person. Alternately, you can have a high-quality water filter or purifier and produce your own water, assuming there is a source of raw water somewhere nearby.
You should also have a local source of non-purified water that you can use to flush toilets. If you don’t, then you should have a camp toilet, be able to dig a latrine, or otherwise provide a safe way to dispose of bodily wastes.
A supply of medications and prescriptions to carry you through the first two weeks of an emergency. This should also include some common first aid supplies, including a way to treat minor wounds to prevent infection. (Disasters tend to be dangerous and dirty.)
Nice Additions to Store
The above are must-haves. Additional items include:
- A firearm for self-defense and to protect your gear from looters
- A generator and store gas to provide a few hours of electricity each day. I find running it two or three hours in the morning and three or four in the evening will keep your fridge and freezer cold, provide lighting, and allow you to charge portable electronics.
- Battery powered flashlights and lanterns with spare batteries. While Coleman and kerosene lanterns are useful, flashlights and lanterns are safer. Candle should only be used in a jar to help minimize the chance of fire. Battery packs that include an inverter or can power cell phones and other portable devices are also useful.
- Radios, both an AM/FM radio on which to get news and a set of walkie-talkie radios to provide communication if the cell towers are out.
- Tools that will allow you to remediate any damage caused by the disaster. Depending on the type of emergency, this could include tarps to repair roofs or to use as temporary shelter, chainsaws to help remove downed trees, gasoline-powered pumps to remove water or fight fires, snow removal equipment, etc. The idea here is not to make full repairs, but to prevent the situation from getting worse.
- Camping equipment, including a tent and sleeping bags, which will provide a temporary shelter if your home is unlivable because of an earthquake, flood, fallen tree, etc.
Step Two: Prepare for Bugging Out
Bugging out is never my first choice, but I admit there are times when it is the best choice. If staying home, also known as bugging in, may lead to you or a family member dying, then by all means, bug out.
Many beginning preppers think all they need is a bugout bag, but the bugout bag is only the beginning. In this earlier article on bugout bags, I said, “If you find yourself in a situation where the only survival resources you have fit inside your backpack, then you have failed.” At the very least, you need a plan and a place to go.
Let’s imagine you live in Florida and there is a massive storm brewing in the Atlantic that is expected to slam into the coast as a force 4 or 5 storm. You install the hurricane shutters and decided to bugout. Where are you going to go? What are you going to take with you? If you have two cars, are you taking one or both? If you have pets, what are you doing with them? Does the place your going accept pets?
Where to Go
In terms of where to go, I suggest you identify at least two places, preferably family or close friends, who will take you in. The first place should be an hour or so away. This is where you go if there is a chemical leak, a riot, or another emergency that force you out of your home for a day or two. The other location should be at least four hours away. It should also be different than where you live now. If you live on the coast, it should be well inland. If you live in a city, it should be rural, etc. You don’t wan to bugout only to hve the same type of disaster where you are going.
If you have a vacation home, consider it your retreat and stock some items there. If you are going to stay with relatives, visit occasionally so you are familiar with the area and how to get there.
Don’t plan on bugging out to a wilderness area unless you and your family have extensive training in wilderness survival, primitive living, and bushcraft skills.
What to Bring
It’s much easier to pack up if you have a list of things you want to bring and even some pre-packed bags or boxes. You should bring enough clothing and personal items to live comfortably for a couple weeks, longer assuming you have access to a washing machine and dryer. You should also bring the most valuable and important items that you would hate to see destroyed by whatever emergency is headed your way. Sentimental value counts here. You want to bring the irreplaceable items left to you by people who are deceased or that are important to you because they commemorate an important event or person.
Finally, bring originals or copies of important paperwork. Many people store them in the cloud or on a thumb drive, which is a good idea, but some things, like wills, often need to be originals. Insurance policies, stock certificates (if you are old school enough to have any physical certificates), marriage certificate, birth certificates, passports, mortgage, car title, ID, etc. Yes, most of these things can be replaced, but it is a hassle and can add to delays in processing any insurance claim.