If you’re like most of us, your garage is one of two things: It’s either a catch-all for the junk that won’t fit in your house anymore but that you can’t bear to get rid of, or it’s a place to store and work on your car or your hobbies. Either way, it has a very specific use that most people don’t vary from.
With it’s proximity to your house, however, your garage could be something even more useful, that being—a storage space for your survival supplies or even a place to retreat if there’s a natural disaster that damages your home. Here is a comprehensive plan to help you set up your garage to help you survive whatever the world throws at you…
The first thing you need to worry about is storage. You want to make the best possible use of the available space so you can store as many supplies as possible in it. If you’re prepping for survival, you never know how long you’re going to be on your own. If the world ends and the country’s infrastructure collapses, you’re going to have to handle food, water, medicine, electricity and other supplies without being able to turn on a light switch or drive to the grocery store.
Keeping everything organized doesn’t just give you more room to fill your garage with supplies. It also makes it easier to manage your inventory and to rotate things out as they near their expiration dates.
First, decide if you’re going to be parking your car in the garage in the event of an emergency. Doing so will help to protect it but also reduces the amount of available storage space you have. You may need your car for survival, so leaving it in the garage is your best option here. Keep it safe out of the weather, especially the extreme kind that could put you in a survival situation in the first place.
[Editor’s note: keeping a car in the garage could also backfire if, say, your garage collapses. Perhaps it’s best to keep one in the garage and one in the driveway if possible.]
From there, start working on shelving. Solid metal or wooden shelves are ideal, especially if they’re adjustable, as this allows you to adjust them as needed to accommodate new supplies or equipment. Slide-out storage can help you take advantage of small spaces, such as the space between the wall and a fridge or freezer. Fill up the rest of your garage with totes, barrels and other containers to keep small items from ending up all over the place.
[Editor’s note: Be sure to label and track your supplies. Even a few large bins or several small buckets can become a mess to look through if you’re not organized!]
Once you have your storage space set up, it’s time to start collecting your supplies. We’re going to break this down into categories — food, water, first aid, electricity, lighting, shelter, safety, tools and entertainment.
Other than water, food is one of the most important things that you’ll need to stockpile. You can raid abandoned grocery stores for a while, but those resources will eventually run out, and you’ll need to have something to fall back on. Stock up on non-perishable foods like canned goods, pasta, rice, flour and similar items. Anything not in a can or jar will need to be stored in a secondary container to keep rodents and other pests out. Ideally, you’ll want at minimum a month or two worth of food stored.
As things approach their expiration date, purchase new items and rotate the expiring ones into your home’s pantry to be used. Keep up with your inventory and make sure you’re rotating out any expired supplies. A physical inventory —because computers may not work after the world ends, making digital spreadsheets useless — can make this task a little easier. Write down the item, the amount and its expiration date so you don’t have to worry about checking every jar and can to make sure that nothing has expired.
[Editor’s note: Storing food and other supplies, like medicines, in an non-climate-controlled area will cause them to degrade faster, possibly even before their expiration dates. Keep close tabs on whatever you store here.]
You can survive for three weeks without food but only three days without water. Make sure you’ve got a water stockpile. Barrels of at least 55 gallons are ideal for this, both because they store a lot of water and because they protect it from sunlight and other contaminants. Have at least two to three months of water stored for everyone in your household. In most emergency situations, it’s recommended to have 1 gallon of water per person per day — half for drinking and half for hygiene.
[Editor’s note: I typically recommend five gallons of water per person per day.]
You should also have some sort of water purification system with your supplies, whether that’s a solar-powered water filter, purification tablets, or bleach. Even if the water infrastructure is still working, there’s no guarantee that it will be safe to drink.
You can’t go to the doctor when the world ends, so make sure you have everything you might need to deal with injuries and illnesses. That includes basic first aid items like bandages and splints all the way up to suture kits. No one likes to think about having to get sewn up without anesthetic, but in an emergency situation, if it’s down to stitches or death, you’ll suck it up and start sewing.
Electricity is usually the first thing to go out during an emergency. We deal with massive power outages every year during hurricanes, blizzards and other natural disasters, so you’ll need a way to keep things powered if the world ends. Generators are a good option, but make sure that you’ve got enough fuel to keep them running as long as possible until you can find new fuel sources. If you do choose a generator, don’t keep it in your garage while it’s running. You’ll want to move it into a well-ventilated area outside because even a partially-ventilated area (such as a garage with the door partially open) can still build up deadly amounts of carbon monoxide.
Solar power is another great option if you live in an area that gets enough usable sunlight hours and, even then, it may be the only long-term solution you have available.
It gets really dark when the power is out, so you need to think about lighting. Flashlights and batteries, oil or kerosene lamps with extra fuel and torches are all great options to include.
[Editor’s note: Be sure to stockpile plenty of batteries or fuel to keep them running. For safety’s sake, I’d encourage you to stick with battery-powered lanterns in most cases.]
If you’re staying home, shelter isn’t really a problem, though you will want to reinforce your home since most modern homes aren’t designed to be defensible. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.
If you’re bugging out, shelter is essential. You can shelter in your car, stop in an abandoned home or pitch a tent in the woods. Make sure you’ve got plenty of sleeping bags or blankets to stay warm and pack weather-appropriate clothing in your bug-out bag. The elements are your biggest enemy if you’re leaving your home during an emergency, especially during the winter when cold can be fatal.
In an end-of-the-world situation, you will need to be able to protect yourself. This part of your supplies should include everything from a fire extinguisher to gas masks to weapons. Whether you choose a pistol, a rifle or a sword, make sure you practice with your weapon of choice before everything hits the fan. Don’t trust your video game skills to protect you when the world ends. Be comfortable with your weapon and know how to use it, maintain it, reload it and repair it before everything goes to hell.
When life as we know it ends, if your vehicle still functions, you’ll need to be able to maintain it, and that means you’ll need the tools to do it. Make sure that you’ve got everything you need to maintain your vehicle, your generator and any other appliances that you’re using for the duration of the emergency. If you have a source of electricity, a compressor can be a valuable addition to the garage. You should also have a fire extinguisher and first aid kit just for those days when you’re doing mechanical maintenance. Hopefully, you won’t need them, but it’s better to have them just in case.
[Editor’s note: you should have the ability to repair your home as well, and having the right toolbox of tools is a great idea.]
Without television or the internet to keep you entertained, you’re going to get bored. Include some entertainment supplies in with your emergency kit. Focus on things that don’t need power, like board games, decks of cards and books — actual books, not Kindle books which you won’t be able to use without access to electricity or the internet.
You may find yourself too busy to use these things, but if you have a slow day or young children, it can be a great way to keep yourself entertained while you wait for the next mess to happen.
We’ve gotten used to electric appliances that make our lives easier. Washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators have taken over many of the jobs that we used to do by hand, but if the electrical grid fails, none of these conveniences will work anymore.
The fridge won’t be a problem since the majority of your food supply will be non-perishable. All you need to do is consume the stuff that’s in the fridge before it spoils and then start using your non-perishable supplies. For other chores like washing and drying clothes, you do have some options like a pedal-operated washing machine, and you can always hang your clothes to dry them.
Look into non-electric appliance alternatives like the washing machine we listed above to add to your garage so you always have everything you need.
While your garage provides a fantastic place to store supplies, it isn’t the strongest part of your house, so it might be a good idea to reinforce it. Look into metal brackets or straps to reinforce the frame of the building — they’re commercially available as a tool to reinforce light wood construction against high winds. Windows and doors should be reinforced with shutters on the exterior and heavy-duty locks inside the building.
Garage doors aren’t generally designed to be durable. If you’re not planning to use it as a point of egress from your home, you can reinforce the door with both vertical and horizontal braces made of lumber. You can remove them if you need to get something in or out of your garage, but they’re not something that you’ll want to move on a regular basis.
[Editor’s note: be careful with add too much in the way of reinforcements that aren’t meant to be there, especially if they may impede your ability to evacuate… always have two ways out of every room or shelter.]
Finally, after you’ve done all the work and collected all the supplies, the last thing you need to do is make sure that everyone in your family is prepared and knows what to do in the event of an emergency. Having all the supplies in the world doesn’t do you a lot of good if you don’t know how to use them.
Take the time to have emergency drills from different locations — work, school, shopping, etc. Make sure that everyone knows where all the supplies are, how to access them and how to use any tools or weapons. Of course, this should be age appropriate — don’t expect too much of young family members. An emergency will make them grow up fast, but while preparation is important, they don’t need to grow up quite yet.
Be Ready For Anything
People like to laugh at preppers because they think we’re preparing for the zombie apocalypse or something else that might never happen, but it’s better to be prepared for anything than to be caught with your pants down if the world really does end. No one wants to think about the end of the world or living without the modern conveniences that we’ve become so accustomed to, but it’s always a possibility, so it pays to be prepared.
We might not have to worry about zombies, but there are still plenty of other threats looming on the horizon, any of which could turn into a reality that will change the world we know. If your garage is full of junk, now is the perfect time to clean it out and turn it into storage for your survival supplies. Start now before you end up needing those supplies and find you don’t have anywhere to store them. It never hurts to be over-prepared! And if you’ve got more supplies than you need, you can trade them for other goods or services that you may not have while you wait for normality to be restored.
Note: This was a guest post.