Popular media has made prepping seem like something only paranoid people do. Yet it’s smart who have a plan for emergencies, like an extended power outage or natural disaster — especially if you have a family to take care of.
We’ve all been in a scary situation, whether that’s an earthquake or severe storm. However, while 60% of Americans say preparation for disaster is very important, only 17% are ready for an emergency.
How can you prep for survival with your family? Discover everything you need to know below…
1. Gather the Right Foods
Clearly, survival comes down to more than food. Yet nutrition is a priority, especially if you’ve got children or other vulnerable family members. Focus on rice, dried beans and rolled oats, which can last up to 30 years if stored properly. Other options include pasta, dehydrated fruit, freeze-dried cheese and canned veggies. Airtight storage means you won’t have to rotate your supply.
You won’t want to live on non-perishables forever, though. Beans and rice may keep you alive, but they get old after awhile! Stock up on MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat), a common resource in the military. These bagged delights contain an entree, sides, snacks and dessert. You’ll often also find some condiments, like salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce inside as well.
Invest in duel-use condiments that don’t require refrigeration. Honey, for example, is a tasty sweetener that’s perfect for tea. It’s also a natural antibiotic, offering a protective barrier against infection. Be sure to look for 100% pure honey, not a substitute with fructose corn syrup.
Now you have food but you still need a way to cook it if the power goes out. Invest in an alternative option, like a wood-fire pit or natural gas cook-top. Be sure you have a manual can opener — maybe even two. You don’t want a massive supply of food and no can opener to access it.
[Editor’s note: Although more reliable than other grid-tied options, natural gas lines can be severed during a disaster too. Don’t rely on this as your only source of fuel.]
Grocery shopping may not be an option during long-term emergencies. Consider adding heirloom seeds to your preparedness supplies to start a garden. When you harvest, be sure to save as many seeds as possible for use in the following years.
Be sure to keep your family’s dietary needs in mind. For infants and toddlers, stock up on formula and other easy-to-eat foods. Consider any allergies, such as those to dairy, peanuts or gluten.
[Editor’s note: My book on the topic of food storage foods will show you precisely how to maximize your nutrition with shelf-stable canned foods, bulk foods (such as beans and rice) as well as “superfoods” which are packed with nutrition.]
2. Invest in Clean Water
When it comes to survival, remember the rule of threes: the human body can only survive three minutes without oxygen, three days without water and three weeks without food. As a result, water should be high on your priority list.
In reality, the amount of time we can go without water varies widely. As we sweat, exhale and urinate, we must replenish our internal balance. In conditions like extreme heat and strenuous exercise, we can sweat out 1.5 liters of water in an hour. When we can’t drink water, our blood volume drops, sweating stops, and we become hotter. Eventually, the lack of water in such an extreme scenario leads to death!
On the flip side, in a comfortable environment with a sedentary lifestyle, a person could survive for more than a week. Experts believe an 18-year old from Australia, Andreas Mihavecz, survived the longest without drinking water, a total of 18 days. Police locked him in a holding cell and promptly forgot about him. He allegedly licked condensation off the walls to survive.
Health professionals agree that the average healthy adult needs between 2.7 and 3.7 liters of fluids per day. One gallon of water holds approximately 3.7 liters, meaning a jug could last you four days. Of course, you need to consider the entire family. Children, pregnant women and sick individuals may need more water than others. Plus, think about what you’ll need for cooking and hygiene and the amount of water needs quickly increases.
You can fortify your water supply in two ways — storage and purification. Storage requires containers you can house in a basement, garage or shed. However, space may be limited if you live in a small house or apartment. If you don’t have a lot of room, opt for a few cases of bottled water at the bottom of the pantry.
Is there a natural water source nearby? If so, consider purification. You can treat visibly dirty water and make it safe to drink with a gravity filtration system which removes dirt and debris. Others uses bleach, iodine tablets or chemical purifiers to kill microorganisms and prevent sickness.
One simple (and recommended) way to purify water is to boil it. Bringing liquid to a roiling boil for one minute will kill pathogens and viruses. If the water is cloudy, let it cool and settle. Then, filter it through a clean towel or coffee filter. If it has a flat taste, add one pinch of salt per liter.
3. Think Long-Term Health
Hospitals may close during emergencies. As a result, you’ll be responsible for the health and hygiene of the whole household. Start by creating a fully-stocked first aid kit. Invest in basic supplies like:
- Gauze pads
- Antibiotic ointment
- Adhesive bandages
- An instant cold compress
Be sure to stock up on medications household members rely on. If anyone requires prescriptions, look up how often you can request a refill. Some substances, such as insulin, require refrigeration. If there’s a diabetic in your family, invest in a cooler and extra cold compresses. Try to invest in at least a 30 day supply of medication, if possible.
You should collect extra hygiene items too. Add toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, soap and shampoo to your list. Are there women in the house? If so, you’ll likely need to get menstrual supplies, such as pads and tampons. Infants will need diapers and wipes. You get the idea.
4. Value Your Protection
Not everyone likes guns and that’s okay. However, in a state- or nation-wide emergency, they may be the only way to protect your family because, in times of duress, people get desperate. You never know if someone is willing to harm you or your family for the food, water or supplies you have. A gun may be enough to scare away threatening intruders when no other option is available.
You can also use firearms to hunt thereby allowing you to supplement your food supply with fresh meat. This option may become necessary if an emergency runs longer than expected.
Learn how to store and use a firearm safely before you purchase. Sign up for a class where professionals teach you about different weapons and their various uses. You’ll learn how to hold, load and shoot your weapon. You’ll also learn about proper storage methods that will keep your family, especially young ones, safe.
Once you feel comfortable, buy a weapon and take it to a nearby shooting range who will be happy to assist with any questions you have. With experience, you’ll know what to expect, how to be safe, and how to use one if you ever need to.
When it comes to survival, we often think of our basic needs — food, water and shelter. Yet security, and protecting our families against all threats, is equally vital. When it comes to a disaster, you never know what to expect. Instead, you must anticipate and prepare for a variety of outcomes.
Consider building a security fence around your property, complete with a driveway gate to keep out unwanted guests. A cantilevered gate is ideal for driveways, as they can fit openings up to 120 feet and allow access for vehicles of all sizes. Even better, you can control the system with a touchpad.
Secure all of your home’s entrances, both doors and windows. Choose surface-mounted deadbolts that are difficult to disable. For doors with windows, choose a double-key deadbolt, which prevents invaders from busting the window and turning the latch.
[Editor’s note: I’d be wary about double-key deadbolts as they may not allow for fast egress during a house fire, for example. If it’s that easy to access your door’s deadbolt, consider a different door.]
5. Back-Up Communication
Today, we rely on phone calls, texts and emails to communicate. During an emergency, however, these devices may cease to function. We’ll all need another way to talk and share information. Luckily, we don’t have to go back to smoke signals and hieroglyphics!
Invest in a HAM or short-wave radio. Since these devices use different types of signals, they’re less likely to be overwhelmed by phones during an emergency. HAM radio, which dates back to the 1890s, is one of the first ways people communicated over long distances.
For short distances, family members can stay in touch with walkie-talkies. Look for a set you can charge with solar power or that use typical AA- or AAA-batteries. Test out the range beforehand to determine how close you need to stay during a disaster because range estimates are often vastly over-exaggerated.
6. Prepare Your Pets
Your human family members aren’t the only ones who need your help during a disaster: pets rely on you every bit as much as children do. Stock up on dry food or canned food and ensure you have plenty of water.
Grain-free pet food doesn’t have the same shelf-life as other brands. If you want to prep for the long-term, opt for meals with grain included. Store dry food in sealed containers, not the wax paper bags they come in.
Consider sprinkling food with diatomaceous earth, the pulverized remains of prehistoric phytoplankton. This fine dust contains no chemicals and is safe for people and pets. You can also find it in toothpaste. Diatomaceous earth kills fleas and eliminates worms. However, be wary of the brand you buy. Some food-grade options have chemical pesticides, like the kind used in swimming pool filters.
Be sure you have plenty of medical supplies for your animals, too. Stock up on antibiotics and pet-grade medications.
[Editor’s note: The first book I ever wrote shows you how to prepare your pets for emergencies, including how to prepare for your pet to evacuate or stay home, which supplies you need, what to do if you must leave your pet behind, and plenty more.]
7. Look to Alternative Power
We rely on local power grids to supply our homes and businesses with energy. During an emergency, those grids are often the first to fail, leaving us in the dark. Fortunately, we’ve got a few options for small and large applications.
To keep the dark at bay, stock up on rechargeable batteries, crank-powered lights and radios. Don’t forget about old-fashioned candles and matches. For more power, you’ll need to invest in a diesel- or gas-powered generator.
[Editor’s note: Personally, I’m not a fan of stockpiling candles for an emergency situation or of buying a generator specifically for disaster preparedness… but I’m sometimes wrong too, lol.]
You can also choose a solar panel set-up that work great in most situations and locations around the United States. The amount of power a solar panel can generate depends on its size, efficiency and supply of sunlight. Several solar panels wired together are enough to produce 120 volts — the electricity needed to power most household appliances, but it can be a costly investment.
Alternative power options must be in place before a disaster strikes. If you wait until an emergency, it will be too late.
Bonus: Save Some Cash
Don’t expect to rely on debit or credit cards during a disaster, especially if there’s a power outage. Even if you have money in the bank, you may not be able to access it. As such, it’s vital to have cash on hand as part of your emergency supplies, especially for short-term disasters.
Invest in a fire- and water-proof safe that requires a combination to access. If you don’t have a safe, other excellent hiding places include:
- Buried in a jar in the backyard
- Inside of a sock in your drawer
- In a random book on your bookshelf
- A watertight jar in the back of your toilet
- In the pocket of a folded shirt in you dresser
- An envelope taped to the bottom of a drawer
If the economy collapses, though, cash won’t be good for much, but it’s good to have it around for all other scenarios. At that point, however, you will likely be relying on a barter system, trading goods and services to get the supplies you need to survive, but that is a topic for another time.
Prepping for Family Survival — Be Ready for Anything
Whether you’re flying solo or have a family, it’s crucial to stay prepared. You never know when a hurricane, earthquake, nuclear war or zombie apocalypse will strike.
In a worst-case scenario, we must fend for ourselves and our families. Prepare everything you need to survive before disaster strikes. Don’t underestimate the importance of preparation, especially when it comes to the health and safety of your family.
[Note: This was a guest post.]