72 hours sounds like a long time, doesn’t it? After all, that’s 4,320 minutes or 259,200 seconds. Think of everything you can get done when you look at time like that!
On the other hand, 72 hours is 3 days, not quite half of a week, or roughly one tenth of a month. Thinking about 72 hours in this fashion and you will quickly realize that 72 hours isn’t that much after all. A few days can go by in a blink of an eye. Getting to the point: 3 days isn’t very long.
Think about it. If a disaster just hit your community, what’s the first thing that’s going to happen? Assuming that people aren’t still running for their lives for some reason, everyone will raid grocery stores and buy everything that isn’t nailed down. Food, water, toilet paper… gone. So, unless you’re one of the lucky (or smart) few that made it to the grocery store before everyone else, you’re going to have to survive on whatever you have on hand.
Life will likely be very chaotic for at least a few days (if not more) while local responders deal with whatever is going on. Likewise, you shouldn’t expect that relief organizations will respond any faster–anybody remember Hurricane Katrina or the multi-week power outage that struck the northeast?
Ask Yourself This…
If a disaster hit right now and you needed to survive on your own for the next three to seven days…
- can you stay warm?
- cook your food?
- purify your water?
- light your home in the dark?
- keep yourself clean?
- stay safe?
- or otherwise lead a somewhat normal existence for any length of time?
Consider too that electricity, gas, water and phone services may not work for extended periods. And don’t think that you’ll be able to drive to safety either. Roads are likely to be packed with many thousands of other people trying to do the same thing. A simple one hour drive can easily turn into several hours of getting nowhere. Do you really want to be stuck out there with them?
Granted, most people can probably survive for at least a few days. After all, you already have some protection from the elements with a roof over your head. You may have some bottled water stashed somewhere. If you were thinking quick then you would have some water reserved in your hot water heater and maybe you were smater than most and filled your bathtub. You probably have enough food in the pantry and fridge to get by (assuming the food in your fridge doesn’t spoil before you can eat it). Food, water, and a roof over you’re head and you’ll live.
So, what happens if you needed to survive beyond a few days? Can you? If not, then start to use the references found on this website or wherever you prefer; there’s plenty of advice to be found. The trick is to act now.
Actions You Can Take
It doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune to be relatively prepared for even a few weeks. Begin to think about the basics in life: food, water, and shelter and you’re on the right track.
- Spend the next few months acquiring a stash of water and non-perishable food. I would suggest browing my many posts on food and water when you have time.
- Remember to stock supplies for any special needs individuals (i.e., medicines, insulin, spare glasses, etc) and for pets as well (food, water, leash, cat litter, etc).
- I would also suggest a well stocked first aid kit to round-out the bare minimum requirements.
- If you can afford it, work on the “nice-to-have” items such as a means to cook food, stay warm (besides clothing), lighting (beyond a basic flashlight), sanitary items (i.e., additional toilet paper, wipes, etc), communications (i.e., battery powered radio), etc.
Other considerations I’m sometimes asked include money and bartering, so, let’s tackle these one by one…
Emergency Money Stash – Do You Need One?
Some people think that money won’t do any good in a true emergency situation, after all, what good is money when life as you know has just changed forever? Others think that money can buy anything. In reality, the truth is somewhere in between.
While it’s true that dodging debris from the tornado that just breezed through is more critical than having money on hand at that moment, most would agree that a small supply of emergency money is critical to any proper emergency kit.
Cash is important to your kit
Remember that the entire point of an emergency kit is to help you survive AFTER the emergency. That said, money comes in very handy after an emergency, especially if you find yourself on foot (with your bug out bag, of course) and trying to get across town (to your local emergency contact) and find that you need to call your designated out-of-state contact to let them know you’re safe. Of course, all of this can be planned for with a comprehensive disaster plan… if you take the time to do it.
As you well know, money (cold-hard cash, that is) can be used for, well… everything. Don’t expect that the local bank will have any money on-hand, let alone be open. You shouldn’t expect that the ATM machine will work or even that your credit cards will work or that the vendor you’re trying to purchase from can even process your credit cards due to a power or internet outage. Likewise, don’t expect that the check you’re trying to write will be accepted either. The point is, except for the end of the world, cash is always accepted by everyone.
How much cash should you have?
Ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 different responses. You’ll need to decide that for yourself. I recommend keeping at least $100 per adult (in assorted bills) along with a roll of quarters in your bug out bags expecting that you’ll need to survive for at least 72 hours with them. Keep more if you can (upwards of several hundred dollars should suffice), however, you shouldn’t have too much on your person as too much money can bring too much trouble. Start flashing a wad of $100 bills and you’re bound to be asking for trouble!
In essence, you’ll want to have enough cash on hand for simple purchases such as pay phone calls (which means you’ll need quarters), small food and water purchases, travel fare and the like. If things are bad enough, a crisp $100 bill might serve as a ready bribe should the need arise.
Other forms of money
While this post is primarily about cash, I would also keep at least one credit card, check, and calling card per adult in your bug out bag as well. While cash is king, these other forms of payment may be usable but should be relied upon as your only source of funds.
Not every reason is an emergency
You might also consider stashing money in an “emergency” fund, which is simply a bit of money put aside in the event something breaks that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to fix. Thus, a few hundred dollars in a fire safe or maybe in a savings account or whatever could prove useful if things are tight.
Save now. Even if it’s a few dollars. Before you know it, you’ll have something worth smiling about and be better prepared for doing so.
Should I be Ready to Barter After a Disaster?
Oftentimes I read about people who are interested in what goods would be the best to barter with after an emergency. Although bartering sounds like a good idea on the surface, there are a few problems with doing so after an emergency:
- You’re spending money on items you DON’T need for items you potentially DO need.
- There’s no reason to believe that what you need will be available for bartering from somebody else.
- If people begin to notice you have “extra” supplies they may decide you’re worth stealing from (or worse).
So, if you ask me, I would recommend that you spend your time, money, and effort into stockpiling everything you think you’ll need to survive and not worry so much about what you can barter with. You can easily design you own emergency kits with this online tool should you be so inclined.
If, however, you have more money than you know what to do with (in which case a donation would be nice) or a burning hole in your pocket (again, donations are preferred), then I would suggest stockpiling the following items in the event you ever needed to barter:
- hard alcohol – any brand name will do; I suspect people will sell darn near anything for a bottle of whiskey
- cooking fats and oils – unfortunately they don’t last long but would be in very short supply after a disaster, so, if you’re going to stockpile this then… rotate, rotate, rotate
- ammunition – anything that is very common could be useful to stock (especially hunting rile ammo); common calibers includes .22, 9mm, .45, .223, 12 gauge, .308; note that there is a giant rule of thumb which says you should never trade/barter anything that can be used against you… ammo certainly qualifies
- toilet paper – you can never have enough and neither can anybody else especially when ladies are involved
- seasonings – especially salt (which is necessary to life) and pepper; most other seasonings are not necessary
- first aid supplies- bandages, wound treatment supplies, medications, etc
- fuel such as gasoline or diesel – note that gasoline has a limited useful life that can be extended up to a year or longer with Stabil; any fuel could prove VERY useful shortly after a disaster for personal use as well
- two-cycle engine oil – most small engine equipment needs it to run
- extra clothing (such as thermal socks and durable pants or outerwear) and especially shoes in different sizes
- prescription meds – maybe best to keep for yourself but could be worth their weight in gold to those in need
- matches – especially strike anywhere type or at least waterproof
- lamp oil (such as kerosene)
- fishing equipment – rods and reels, fishing line, hooks, etc
- plastic sheeting – (in 50-100′ rolls) useful for patching holes in your home, blackout needs, etc
- miscellaneous stuff – rope, string, cord, twine, candle wax, wicks, etc
- non-hybrid / heirloom seeds – probably best to keep for yourself but if you have more than you know what to do with, others would surely want them
- batteries – only trade non-rechargeable batteries; keep the rechargeable for yourself
Again, I would spend your money on things you know you’ll need. On the other hand, you can’t know EVERYTHING you’ll need, so, maybe a few trade/bartering items would prove useful after all. You be the judge.
I also found an interesting post about bartering rules.