Estimated reading time: 27 minutes
- Anticipating Disaster
- DAY 1 – WATER
- DAY 2 – FOOD AND COOKING
- DAY 3 – ELECTRICITY AND LIGHT
- DAY 4 – HEATING AND COOLING
- DAY 5 – FIRST AID
- DAY 6 – DEFENSE AND COMMUNICATION
- DAY 7 – SANITATION
The whole idea of preparedness is to plan ahead. But that can create a unique challenge. How can you plan for everything and should you really attempt to do that? If you consider the range of events that could lead to a disaster preparing for every eventuality would not only be very expensive but most likely move you from stockpiling to hoarding.
But most people don’t evacuate. They stay home and that is often a wise choice. The Red Cross recommends that anyone staying home following a disaster have at least 2 weeks of survival supplies. They’ve determined that is the average time for things to return to some degree of normal.
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What’s a Prepper to Do?
The easy answer from most of us is to do both. Be prepared for a 72-hour Bugout and be just as prepared for a 2 week “Bug-in.” However, the preparations and what you assemble for either scenario are very different. 72-hour kits are usually lean and light so they can be easily transported.
When you choose to stay home and bug-in, you’re on your own to a large degree. Support may be available (eventually) but more often than not you’ll be in a highly self-reliant environment so the amount and range of preparations are going to be a bit more complicated. There’s also an unknown factor related to the duration of your bug-in. It could be 2 weeks but what if it’s 2 months or more?
A Logical Approach
To keep this simple and to keep this clear, we’re going to make 7 fundamental preparations over a week dedicating some time each day to a specific survival subject. Here are the 7 subjects we’ll cover across chapters and each chapter will end with a general checklist for things you might want to learn, think about, buy, build or collect.
- Day 1 – Water
- Day 2 – Food and Cooking
- Day 3 – Electricity and Lighting
- Day 4 – Heating and Cooling
- Day 5 – First Aid and Medicines
- Day 6 – Defense and Communication
- Day 7 – Sanitation
You’ll also need to factor in quantities and amounts of many subjects depending on the number of people in your family or group, their age and any special needs. There’s also that question of duration so prepare for a length of time consistent with your level of concern.
A wise approach would be to both assemble a 72-hour kit for a bugout (or buy one), plus stockpiling 2-weeks of supplies (at least) for a bug-in.
DAY 1 – WATER
In most locations water can be easily found whether it’s rain, snow or a local creek or pond. Urban locations can be more of a challenge. The quality of the water will vary requiring varying degrees of treatment, filtering and purification but the best way to survive a water shortage is to have some water in storage.
Storing 2 weeks of water is not unreasonable but the amount may surprise you. One adult would need at least 14 gallons of water just for drinking to last 14 days. Three 5-gallon bottles of water in the basement would do the trick but there’s a little bit more to water storage than just stashing some bottled water and forgetting about it.
Estimating Water Needs
According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult male requires 15.5 cups (just short of a gallon) of water a day. Adult women require 11.5 cups (about 3 quarts) of water a day. And that’s just water for drinking.
|Drinking Water: 1-Gallon a day per person|
It may seem that cooking would use up a lot of water but there are simple ways to avoid that. For one, cook with methods that don’t require water. If you are cooking with water, make sure it’s part of the dish like a soup or stew. It will contribute to your daily intake to some degree.
|Cooking: 1-Quart a day per person|
Now’s not the time to scrub the floors and steam clean the carpet. Then again, if you’ve been flooded that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. There’s also the need to do dishes (by hand obviously), laundry (also by hand), and general cleanup of all the things around us that shouldn’t remain dirty. Doing these things by hand actually conserves water. Dishwashers and washing machines are water hogs.
|Doing the Dishes: 3 gallons per week|
|Laundry: 6 gallons per week|
|General Cleanup: ½ gallon a day|
2 week Totals for Water Usage in an Emergency for One Person
|NEED||DAILY AMOUNT PER PERSON||2 WEEK TOTAL FOR 1-PERSON|
|Drinking Water||1-Gallon||14 Gallons|
|General Cleanup||½ Gallon||7 Gallons|
|Doing the Dishes||2-Quarts||6 Gallons|
|TOTALS||5+ Gallons||76.5 GALLONS|
If you’re thinking about using 5-gallon water bottles for storage you’re looking at fifteen 5-gallon bottles in storage for one adult to last 2 weeks. For each additional adult in your group, add another fifteen 5-gallon jugs. It adds up quickly and it’s the biggest reason you should be knowledgeable about finding, collecting and purifying natural water sources.
You should also remember that one gallon of water weighs 7.5 pounds. If one person stored their 76.5 gallons of water in one location the total weight would be a little more than 570 pounds. That’s a ¼ ton and you need to think about whether or not floor boards would support that amount of weight. It’s one of the best reasons to store water on a concrete slab in the basement or the garage.
Natural Water Sources
If your water usage exceeds your storage or the duration of a disaster exceeds your expectations you’ll need to consider alternative water sources.
Rain, Snow and Ice
Perhaps the easiest source of raw, wild water. It’s even delivered. Better yet, it often arrives in a very pure form but be wary. Some rains have a high acidic content as a result of airborne chemicals. Even rain and snow that falls from the sky pure, eventually comes in contact with any number of structures from trees to rooftops that are often covered in bird droppings.
Local Lakes, Rivers, Creeks and Ponds
The quality of the water in lakes and rivers varies widely depending on their location and the potential for things to runoff and into them.
Swimming pools are an excellent source of large volumes of water. Better yet, they’re typically treated with chlorine and actively filtered maintaining at least some level of purity. Chlorine concentrations can be a concern but a gallon of chlorinated water exposed to sunlight will rapidly cause the chlorine to neutralize.
And don’t forget your water heater
There could be up to 50 gallons of water in storage in your basement in a water heater. Just make sure the circuit breaker is switched off. If the power comes back on with an empty tank the heating elements will burn out.
Existing Well Pipes (Stand Pipes)
Most modern wells are drilled with equipment and a long length of pipe around 6 to 8 inches in diameter runs from the surface to the bottom of the well.
If the power is out or the pump quits, you can still harvest water from the well pipe. You’ll need a specialized tool that resembles a long, narrow bucket but if you have a well dug with a metal stand pipe and you can’t draw water electrically, you could always do it by hand.
Grey water is water that has already been used and can be reused for another purpose.
Water Storage Assumptions
- The water is purified before storing.
- The water containers for storage are designed for water storage and are BPA free and sterile.
- You have a place to store your water that can support the weight of large amounts of water. One gallon of water weighs 7.5 pounds.
- You have a way to preserve the quality of your water with a water treatment if it is in storage for months or longer.
- You have a way to test your water to assess its quality over time.
- You have a way to transport your water in containers that can be carried from one location to another even if it’s from your basement to your kitchen or your mother-in-law 5 miles away.
- You have a way to store grey water that’s clearly labeled for non-drinking water usage such as flushing a toilet, watering vegetables, or other needs that don’t require filtered and purified water.
Emergency Filtration and Purification
Water Filter Pitchers
Water filters built into 1 and 2 gallon pitchers have become very popular over the last few years. Brita is a common brand many people are familiar with.
Countertop Gravity Fed Water Filters and Purifiers
Think of these as a pitcher water filter on steroids. They usually are designed to sit on a countertop although some are free standing.
Portable Water Filters and Purifiers
These are typically positioned as camping and backpacking water filters and purifiers although they can be used in any emergency.
Water Treatment Tablets for Immediate Use
Water treatment tablets were originally designed for use by the military and have found their way to campers, hikers and backpackers. A common brand name is Potable-Aqua.
Water Treatments for long-term storage
Even water that has been treated, filtered and purified is subject to contamination over a long duration. A chemical water treatment designed to inhibit the growth of microbes and fungus for long-term water storage is a wise decision.
The Basics of Boiling for Purification
The simplest and most direct approach to water purification for immediate use is boiling. The minimum time for disinfecting water through boiling is 3 minutes. And don’t assume that bringing water to a brief boil before using it for cooking will be effective. Boil the water for 3 full minutes before adding any other ingredients for cooking.
- Filled 5-gallon and 1-gallon bottles of water. Quantity depends on your family or group size.
- Tarps, rain barrels, 5-gallon buckets or any other equipment you plan to use to collect and transport water.
- A water filter and purifier. Any size or type will do but make sure you have extra filters on hand.
- Water treatment tablets for immediate purification and long-term storage.
- Containers for water storage. If you have 5-gallon bottles filled with water in storage you would obviously keep the empty bottles and refill them.
- A water test kit so you can evaluate water during any emergency for contamination.
DAY 2 – FOOD AND COOKING
Many of us have fairly well stocked pantries and could at least go a week with the food on hand. One challenge would come from any power outage compromising a refrigerator/freezer. In that event, eat the refrigerated foods as soon as possible with the knowledge that most refrigerated foods are only safe to eat without refrigeration for 4 to 24 hours. Frozen foods are reportedly good for up to 48 hours.
Storing a 2-week Food Supply is not Hard
The only challenges with storing food for a 2-week duration is making sure they don’t require refrigeration or freezing, and keeping an eye on some level of balanced nutrition.
- Canned tuna
- Canned salmon
- Canned chicken
- Canned beef stew
- Canned chili
- Spaghetti sauce with meat
- Canned beef franks
- Various dried legumes in bags like soy beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans, haricot beans
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, cashews, and pumpkin seeds
- Peanut butter
- Bread flour
- Pancake flour
- Instant mashed potatoes
- Various canned fruits
- Various canned vegetables
- Assorted pastas
- Jellies and jams
- Dry gravy mix
- Pancake syrup
- Soy sauce
Herbs, Spices and Basics
- Baking powder and baking soda
- Powdered milk
- Iodized salt
- Black pepper
- Seasoned salt
- Italian seasoning
- Garlic powder
Cooking Without Power
For many of us, cooking without power is nothing new. Charcoal and gas grills are the usual choice for emergency cooking. The benefit of a charcoal grill is that any wood can be used for cooking. Some people with gas ranges can manually light the range because most natural gas is delivered under pressure and doesn’t require electricity.
An open fire is another possibility although apartment dwellers will have limited options. One possibility is a small fire in a small metal stove or Hobo stove on an apartment patio. Small stoves powered by propane or white gas/regular gas could also work but any cooking over a fire or gas flame other than natural gas should be done outdoors.
Food and Cooking Checklist
- Foods that don’t require refrigeration or freezing for you and your family
- Alternative cooking methods of choice whether charcoal, propane or white gas.
- Outdoor cooking utensils
- Reserves of charcoal, propane or white gas.
- Paper plates, paper towels, plastic cutlery, plastic cups, aluminum foil
DAY 3 – ELECTRICITY AND LIGHT
Many of us have gone hours and even a day or two without power. It’s uncomfortable and distressing but most times we don’t suffer too much. One of the things most of us immediately start to think about as the day grows late is finding a flashlight or candles to get through the night. If a power outage stretches into days and weeks things start to get a little more desperate and more robust options are worth considering.
Alternative Power Generation
There are a variety of ways to produce electricity and any of them can power various things you need while the power is out. How far you go with any of these alternatives depends a lot on your location and your level of concern with preparedness.
The fastest way to generate electricity is with a generator. The size of generators is measured in watts and kilowatts and the size you need is proportional to your usage. If you want to power some lights, electronics, refrigerator/freezer and other standard appliances you could get by with a 4,000 watt generator.
The only limitation is your ability to store enough gas to keep it running.
Large Capacity Batteries
Wet cell batteries and other large capacity batteries can be recharged to provide varying amounts of power using an AC inverter to convert the battery’s direct current to alternating current. Even a car battery can power some devices at least for a while but there are other ways to charge or recharge a large capacity battery.
Solar panels are an excellent source for emergency power. The amount of power generated is proportional to the number of solar panels and the capacity of the batteries. Think about small solar power banks that can hold a charge to recharge small electronics like cell phones, computers and other devices.
There are also small panels that can recharge batteries in standard AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt sizes. Solar may be an over-reaction to a 2-week prep but they will always be available for any emergencies down the road.
Let There Be Light
The most immediate need tends to be light and it’s not always about flashlights and batteries. Candles have proven themselves over centuries and small candle lanterns are a good choice to contain any open flame.
Electricity and Lighting Checklist
- Flashlights are always a good idea but look into flashlights that are rechargeable either with small solar panel inserts or manually with a crank.
- A generator can deliver a lot of electricity but require a store of gas to keep things going for as long as two weeks. How much gas you need to store depends on your power needs. The critical thing is to make sure any gas is stored in metal, tightly sealed cans. It’s also very wise to replace the gas at least once a year and to add a gas stabilizer like Stabil.
- Solar panels and batteries can be a significant investment but if you start small and add capacity as you go it can be a good overall decision for the long-term.
- Small solar power banks are inexpensive and most have a flashlight feature in addition to a built-in battery to recharge small electronics.
- Candles and candle lanterns are also inexpensive and can provide light across a wide variety of rooms and areas.
- Lanterns either powered by kerosene or gas are a good choice for exterior lighting. Kerosene lanterns are relatively inexpensive but here again; you’ll need some kerosene or lamp oil in storage to power the lanterns.
DAY 4 – HEATING AND COOLING
A wood burning fireplace is an easy solution for some but you may need to close off some rooms given the overall inefficiency of a fireplace for heat generation.
There are propane gas solutions that can work and some homes with large propane tanks use it as their everyday heat source. Smaller propane heaters are also a possibility but are better suited to smaller spaces; may need to be vented and may require additional tanks in storage.
Climate change has changed the landscape as it relates to heat and even parts of the world traditionally cool have seen their share of heat waves. Heat has always been a threat and hundreds have died during heat waves.
Start with Hydration
Drink lots of your stored water on a regular basis. One thing to consider is an electrolyte additive for water. They come in a powdered form and ensure effective hydration.
Basements are always cooler and if your home has a basement consider spending more time down there. Attics are heat traps and vents in the roof can help move trapped air up and out. Root cellars are traditionally cool and if that’s all you have spend some time with the turnips.
Embrace the Fan
Fans need electricity, but not much. Even a battery can power a fan and in a time of hot, still and stifling air the slightest breeze can be welcome. This is especially important for the elderly and young children. If you do have a source of power, properly placed fans can improve air circulation and make a heat wave bearable.
Remember your Vehicle
Most cars, trucks and SUV’s have air-conditioning. It means using up some precious gas but if you have gas stockpiled or the gas stations are open the air-conditioning in your car can provide welcome emergency relief to anyone overcome by the heat.
Dress for the Weather
Whether hot or cold, make sure you have the clothing on hand to survive weather extremes. This is especially important with hands and feet in addition to the face all of which are the most prone to frostbite.
Heating and Cooling Checklist
- Buy electrolyte crystals and add them to your drinking water on a regular basis. People tend to be very active during times of disaster and they will head off any danger of dehydration. Hydration is important. Remember the electrolytes.
- Make sure you have sufficient clothing for all seasons.
- Think about heating alternatives that suit your location and your home. If you have a fireplace make sure you have enough wood to get you through 2 weeks of fires at all times.
- A woodstove is another possibility. If you want an effective solution but don’t have the space or timber to stockpile firewood, consider a pellet stove for emergency heating. Smaller propane stoves are another option.
- Look into fans both batteries powered and electric. Many people with air-conditioning don’t own any fans and if the power is out during a heat wave or brownout you sure won’t be able to buy one.
DAY 5 – FIRST AID
Hospitals and medical professionals are often overwhelmed during and after disasters. Emergency services are stretched thin and even pharmacies might be closed. There’s also an increased possibility that you or someone in your family could be injured. First aid is another priority and it’s not about a kitchen first aid kit.
First Aid Needs
- Cuts and scrapes are common and typically require cleansing of the cut or scrape; a topical antiseptic and various types of bandages, gauze or medical tape to cover the cuts.
- Deep wounds require more than a simple bandage. In some instances a tourniquet is needed to stop bleeding. Butterfly bandages and sutures are often used to close wounds. Deep wounds also require deep cleansing usually with sterile saline and are sometimes dressed with a topical antiseptic.
- Broken bones and sprains are serious injuries requiring splints, elastic bandages and wraps, slings and additional equipment like crutches canes and even plasters and surgical tape.
- Burns range from first-degree to third-degree are treated with specialized burn care products including burn gels, burn wraps, saline solutions for cooling and cleansing, and various antiseptic creams and moisturizers.
- Medical interventions from CPR to Choking are some of the most severe injuries and while there is equipment to treat those emergencies, knowledge and practice is more important. There are classes where you can learn and practice CPR and other interventions. At a minimum it’s worth reading about it and even watching demonstration videos.
- Heart Attack and Stroke is well beyond the ability of most people in the category of first aid. There are some basic steps and treatments that you should learn including how to recognize the symptoms. Your best hope in the event of a life-threatening medical emergency is the ability to get the person to a hospital or medical professional or at least be able to contact emergency services.
First Aid Kits
The easiest way to prepare for a first aid emergency is to buy an expedition level first aid kit. They include equipment and supplies for a broad range of medical emergencies and are similar to the kits carried by paramedics. They’re not cheap and you could always buy a family first aid kit at a pharmacy but disasters often lead to serious injuries so an extensive first aid kit is worth the investment.
It would be wise to have books on hand that detail how to handle and treat medical emergencies. There are also apps for phones, internet sites, tutorial videos and you could even take first aid classes at a local fire station or community college.
The worst time to learn something for the first time is while it’s happening. That’s especially true for a medical emergency. Don’t just throw a suture kit in your first aid kit. Learn how to close a wound with sutures and buy a practice kit and practice first.
These are basic things like crutches, canes, splints and braces for wrists, elbow, knees and ankles, and other items that support or protect an injury. What you buy is proportional to the age and health of people in your group and many of these items can be improvised but injuries are common after any disaster and it’s worth thinking about.
Over-the-Counter Medications (OTC)
Take the time to check the medicine cabinet and at least make sure you consider the following OTC’s:
- Pain relief – Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Aspirin
- Congestion relief – Actifed, Sudafed, Nyquil, Dayquil, others
- Allergic reactions – Benadryl
- Poisoning – Activated Charcoal, Ipecac Syrup
- Antibiotic ointment – Neosporin
- Skin conditions – Hydrocortisone, Calamine lotion, anti-itch cream, Bactin, others
- Eye drops
- Ear drops
- Constipation and diarrhea
Generics are okay as long as they have the same percentage of active ingredients listed on branded products.
Stockpiling prescription meds gets a little complicated. Sometimes it’s an insurance issue and other times it’s a medical or doctor issue. If you’re concerned and have a chronic medical condition it’s fair to discuss that with your doctor especially if you live in an area subject to natural disasters.
Some people are ordering their prescription meds from Canadian pharmacies. They report that the price is lower and many have been able to order quantities up to a 6-month supply.
First aid checklist
- Do some comparison pricing on first aid kits and select the best all-around kit you can afford.
- Consider any medical equipment like oxygen tanks, splints, braces or other devices you might need especially if you have members in your group who are elderly or have pre-existing medical conditions.
- Stock up on OTC medicines.
- Talk to your doctor about a backup supply of any prescription meds.
- Figure out how you are going to expand your medical knowledge to treat common injuries or any specific conditions that could potentially affect you or a family member.
DAY 6 – DEFENSE AND COMMUNICATION
Any disaster or emergency with A 2-week duration is less likely to result in severe security concerns as opposed to a long-term disaster where local services and authority sees a continual breakdown. However, even the shortest duration could present threats especially in urban locations.
Just as important is communication. Communication is all about awareness: awareness of what’s going on around you and awareness of how family and friends are doing.
From a defense standpoint there are a variety of factors to consider and it’s not all about guns.
Home Security Checklist
- Locks on doors and windows. Dead bolt locks and even a length of wood blocking the channel in a sliding door can enhance security.
- Bars on windows are unfortunately common in some urban neighborhoods. Their use is up to you but it’s an extreme precaution.
- Bulletproofing a home is another extreme precaution although even people who live in quiet, wilderness areas take that step to protect against errant rounds from a distant hunter’s shot.
- Think about ways to secure vehicles, detached garages, sheds, and other outbuildings. At a time when the power may be out there could be added temptation to break into an isolated place in the dark.
- If you don’t have smoke alarms, get some. Think about carbon monoxide alarms as well especially if you’re using any alternative methods for heating and cooking.
Non-Lethal Weapons Checklist
- Pepper spray, tasers even a stout cane can give you a way to defend yourself without lethal force.
- Take some time to understand how and when to use non-lethal force. If used indiscriminately they could aggravate a situation to greater violence.
- A general recommendation is a rifle and handgun. A lot depends on your location; the situation and your willingness to use lethal force. Many assume they will have no choice but there are many examples of people being too quick on the trigger.
- Take the time to get training in the use of any firearm and how and when to use them.
- If you feel you will be in a highly dangerous situation or are in a volatile neighborhood, consider body armor but it will not make you Ironman. It’s designed to protect vital organs to some degree.
There are two levels of communication worth thinking about during and after a disaster. One is the simple ability to watch or listen to local news to stay aware of how things are unfolding in your area. The other is the ability to stay in touch with family and friends to both reassure them of your situation and to have the reassurance that they’re okay.
- If cell phones are still operational but the power is out, how will you recharge your phone? You could always use your car or truck if you have a plug in cable. There are also solar power banks that have USB ports that can recharge phones and other small electronics.
- Cars and trucks also have radios so you can access information that way, or you could buy a portable radio that runs on batteries, solar power or hand cranked power. Some have multiple bands including NOAA weather.
- Various 2-way radio configurations allow short-range communication to multiple people and locations at the same time. They’re usually sold in packages of 4 units. Most are powered with either AA or AAA batteries so think about buying rechargeable versions of those batteries and a solar battery charger.
- Good old CB radios are still around and can be powered by a car battery.
- HAM radio is the survival method of choice but it requires a license.
- Even if cell phone service is compromised, traditional hard-wired land line phones may still work. If you don’t have active land line service many land lines will still put a call to 911 through.
- The Internet may still be operational so make sure you try communicating that way. You could also look into ways to hook up your computer to old fashioned land lines if they’re still working. Download speeds will be very slow on a land line but email will still go through.
DAY 7 – SANITATION
Disasters are a mess and without power or running water everything gets messier. Sanitation covers all things related to a toilet, bathing, personal hygiene, general cleaning and domestic tasks from washing dishes to doing the laundry.
A lot of this depends on circumstances but at a minimum we all like to brush our teeth at least once a day and we wash our face and hands as needed throughout the day. Following a disaster things get dirty and the need to cleanup may be more frequent.
- You can flush a toilet with a bucket of water if the power’s out and the water is not running. Filling a bathtub with water before a disaster makes it easy to access water for flushing.
- Grey water is a great source of water for flushing a toilet.
- If a toilet is not available for any reason you can improvise a portable toilet from a 5-gallon bucket. An outhouse made from a tarp around a hole in the ground could work and in rural and wilderness areas any bears in the area can give you some advice on how to use the woods.
- Buy new, dedicated supplies related to personal hygiene in storage including tooth brushes, tooth paste, mouthwash, soap, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, moisturizers and any other personal care items anyone may need. Remember to have sufficient quantities for each person.
- Even though the water’s off you can still use a sink to drain water.
- Make sure you have a good supply of paper products including toilet paper, paper towels, feminine napkins and tissues.
It’s most likely you have many of these things on hand but the question to ask is do you always have 2 weeks’ worth of anything that doesn’t need to be stocked or stored?
Getting through 2 weeks can be a challenge for some but it’s a far cry better than the level of endurance and stress that accompanies disasters leading into months. FEMA’s standard recommendation for 3 days would seem like an adventurous vacation after 2 weeks especially if the power it out for the duration. What’s important is to make sure you have the basics covered and the necessary supplies and equipment stocked and stored.
What’s critical is to both acquire the knowledge and the supplies to sustain self-reliance beyond the luxuries of everyday life. With any luck you’ll never have to endure 2-weeks or more of total self-sufficiency but If the past is any indication -it may take more than luck.
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