Disaster Prepping for Beginners
Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes, these are just some of the natural disasters that can uproot your family and destroy your livelihood. Emergency is all about preparedness, and often preparedness is what separates those that survive from those that do not. Thankfully, technology and access to information allows everyone, even beginners, to properly
equip themselves and their family when disaster comes knocking. Prepping is easy, surviving is difficult, surviving without prepping is almost impossible.
The US government recommends prepping a 72-hour kit, I think this should be the minimum. Take the recent Corona virus situation as an example. Knowing what has happened, would you be comfortable with a 72-hour kit for your family? Being ordered to stay inside while essential services are still running is easy, and quite frankly it doesn’t require much prepping. What we can learn from this, is knowing how much food and water we need when access has been limited, or in real emergency situations, eliminated. Hypothetically, say that this virus caused grocery stores to close, 72-hours of food and water isn’t going to cut it, so let’s aim for 2 weeks. Keep in mind, prepping can be done every day by making choices that better equip you for most emergency scenarios. Simply put, every time you go to buy groceries, buy a couple extra cans of food, and other nonperishables here and there. Eat them when they’re about to expire, but keep that supply consistently refreshed.
Imagine a pyramid divided into horizontal sections, the amount of supplies and their importance correlate to which section in the pyramid they belong. The largest section, and the most important, is for essentials that keep you alive. Refer to the Survival Rule of 3s: air, shelter, food, and water. These 4 things occupy the base section of the pyramid as you can’t hope to have the rest of the pyramid unless you have these things. There’s a difference between how much food/drink you consume in a day, and how much you need for survival. In emergency scenarios, survival food is not the same as everyday food. Prep what you need before thinking about prepping what you want. This means that space is crucial, and to fill that space with items that are not essential defeats the purpose of survival prepping.
Start by setting a weekly budget, something you’re comfortable spending as you begin to build your emergency survival supply. It’s very easy to overspend on items that you may think is important, but then you never actually use. Food can become the biggest money pit because we tend to buy more than necessary and eventually food will expire. Research recipes that you can make, the ingredients they require, and how much you can make at any given time. Pasta, rice, and beans are all relatively cheap, filling, and shelf stable. Have a place in your house that you designate solely for emergency food, and by extension, for emergency supplies. Often, when you mix the emergency supply with your regular supply, you forget what you have and end up buying the same meal prep items and spending more money than you should. Having a dedicated space allows for better inventory assessment, planning ability, and cost saving efficiency.
Since this is a basic guide intended for beginners to at least start thinking about prepping, I’m more interested in putting forth ideas, and outlining a basic survival framework. Something to get your foot in the door so to speak. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the most important part of prepping is getting that base of the pyramid completed first. For our future emergency scenario, let us assume that we are being kept at home, there is no power or water, and heating our home is not a concern. The structural integrity of the house is uncompromised, so we have shelter. Along that same train of thought, it would not hurt to have items that protect the house in case of emergency. Depending on the type of natural disaster that could happen in your area, you might want to look at having things like sandbags for flood mitigation. Air is another survival necessity that is seldom compromised in disaster situations, so having things like oxygen tanks, gas masks, and military grade air filtration is overkill for most situations. However, it wouldn’t hurt to have a spare air filter in the home, but it is not necessary. N95 masks for every family member is the sensible choice for most preparing an emergency checklist.
Figure 1:Base Pyramid Items
Now to the meat of the pyramid, literally. Food and water will be the easiest to stock but requires the most upkeep if you’re buying food with a shorter shelf life. I would try to focus on food that does not require too much prep to eat, think canned goods or food that can be prepared by boiling water like pasta or rice. Assume a daily caloric intake for the average adult to be around 1800 calories, we are hunkered down at home after all. Obviously, you are free to add/subtract food to suit your own needs. This amounts to approximately 25000 total calories over a 14-day period. Don’t rush to buy food without proper planning as this will lead to over purchasing and spoilage. This pdf has a bunch of recipes utilizing basic food storage ingredients.
If your budget allows, MREs are an easy carefree choice when stocking food. Many companies provide excellent meals that are ready to eat. I will admit, that for budget conscious beginners, MREs are a bit of a luxury. However, they do cut down on the amount of food planning needed, albeit at the cost of saving money. For those inclined to do so, Mountain House sells a single adult, 14 day box of MREs individually packaged for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pricier than homemade, but extremely easy to prep with very little planning, and a shelf life that would outlast most pets.
Figure 2: Mountain House MRE
Another consideration is food storage. Improper storage can lead to spoilage, vermin infestation, and contamination through material leeching. Use food grade containers, and store them in cool, dry places. Items like rice, beans, and grains should be placed in a mylar bag before placing in a food grade bucket. Keep cost savings in mind, these items are recommendations, so shop around or wait for deals before purchasing, you’ll save money.
Water is a big deal, more so than food. We take running water for granted, and in emergency situations, drinking water will be scarce. Municipal reservoirs may become contaminated, or treatment plants shut down. Datrex emergency water pouches have a 5-year shelf life and come in drinking portion packages. A fourteen-day supply is easy to purchase and leave in storage, no planning necessary, other than calculating how much you need per day/week. Pouch water is fine, but in case things go south, a way to treat water is indispensable. Aside from the purification tablets that come with most survival kits, a water treatment product that filters and kills pathogens will be ideal. In a situation with flooding, being able to safely treat water contaminated by floods will put you ahead of the curve. LifeStraw Family will provide you with a home water filtration and treatment station that can filter out viruses, bacteria, parasites and microplastics.
Aside from the Datrex emergency water pouches, a good idea for prepping water is to store your own drinkable water ahead of time. The most important part of this is to avoid buying water bottles (unless your space is limited) as they end up costing more per bottle than purchasing a good quality water storage tank. There are plenty to choose from on Amazon like this 55-gallon barrel. Some people treat the water with chlorine, but most tap water is already treated. The most important thing to keep in mind when storing water is that the containment vessel is properly sanitized, sealed, and that the water itself is free of contaminants. Prepping the recommended 1 gallon per person per day will approximate to one 55-gallon barrel for a family of 4 for 2 weeks. When filling, be sure to use a drinking-water-safe hose, as regular garden hoses can introduce contaminants.
Figure 3: LifeStraw Family and 55-gallon water barrel
The middle of our pyramid will include the items that should be focused on once the basic survival elements at the base of the pyramid has been squared away. We will look at protection items, like first aid and survival tools. For most of these items, you only need to buy them once and have them stored away with the rest of your emergency supply. I recommend forming a checklist and keeping it handy. Whenever you see these items go on sale, buy them and cross them off the checklist. Doing this ensures you don’t have unnecessary duplicates.
Figure 4:Middle Pyramid Items
video on building your own first aid kit for the home. Personally, I would make my own because of all the lifesaving first aid knowledge I will acquire as I build my kit.
First aid is very important and knowing how and when to use certain items in your kit is just as imperative. You are free to shop around for assembled
Figure 5:Home First Aid Kit
Protection items and tools are above first aid on the pyramid, and as such, don’t require the same level of scrutiny when prepping, especially for beginners. There are some basic items that will get you through most situations where you are confined to your house for two weeks. I’ll cover these items soon, but feel free to pick and choose depending on your environment and space limitations.
Hygienic items are first and foremost, during disaster situations, external contamination may lead to serious health complications. Make sure you have a stock of personal hygiene items and medication, soap, rubbing alcohol, wet wipes, and disinfectant. As we are building a two-week kit, you would rarely need more than one or two of these items and should already have a feel of how much you use on a regular basis.
Survival kit items should be included when building any home prep supply. These include things like multi tools, knives, lighters, matches, alternate means of starting fire, emergency blankets, sleeping bags, emergency tents, a compass, a whistle, candles, lanterns and flashlights, batteries, manual crank chargers, heat pads, battery fans, indoor-safe heaters, N95 masks, gloves, eye protection, zip ties, paracord. If you live in a house, have larger tools like fire extinguishers, sandbags, water pumps, tarps, axes, shovels, saws, wrenches, and anything that can be used to make repairs. If you’re inclined to, and it is legal where you live, stock home defense items like weapons and ammunition. Once everything else is taken care of, I recommend having a bug out bag ready just in case you must evacuate. Here’s my guide on assembling your own 72-hour bug out bag.
Figure 6: Top Pyramid Items
Now what’s left are the items that are specific to your personal preference, think things that you would use to pass the time. These aren’t necessarily items needed to survive, but they are certainly items that make things easier and will provide you with some luxuries that keep you sane.
Electricity is a modern luxury often sorely missed during disaster. A backup generator powered with gasoline is nice to have. You can use it to power household appliances like laptops or radios even your stove and climate control units. As a technologically inclined individual, I would like to have a solar charged battery bank. They are extremely simple to set up, and most department stores carry the solar panels, inverter, and deep-cycle batteries. Speaking of batteries, you can’t go wrong with rechargeable batteries and a mobile device battery pack. Communication and media networks may go down during an emergency and having access to information is crucial. Prepare a emergency A portable hand crank radio that can receive NOAA reports, and two-way communication devices like walkie-talkies will keep you out of the dark. If you do not do this already, purchase a small safe to store important documents and a bit of cash, it is well worth the investment.
Hopefully I have motivated you to start prepping. It is certainly beginner friendly, all that’s left to do is start slowly building your supply from the ground up. Take your time, plan the important stuff first and you’ll be %80 of the way there. The rest will come once you become comfortable with your supply, and you’re able to tackle more advanced prepping techniques.
Written by John Sader
From camping shoreside as a toddler while his father fished well into the night, to portaging through the backwoods of Ontario, John is an outdoorsman in every sense of the word. A natural Jack-of-all- trades, he is always outdoors doing anything and everything. John enjoys spending his weekends fishing, from a boat or through the ice, hunting for Turkeys and mushrooms in the spring, wing shooting in the fall and chasing deer until the last day of the season. He one day hopes to have his own homestead where he can enjoy the outdoors to it’s full potential. Follow along on his journey on Instagram @set_hook.