In an emergency, it’s always better to be prepared for the worst. Things happen, and you can’t control everything. However, having a good baseline can keep you and your family safe when things go south. Food, water, and electricity may suddenly be unavailable. Don’t be caught unprepared and wondering about what you wish you had done to prepare. Here’s a startup guide for beginning preppers who want to prepare for a broad base of emergency situations.
From natural disasters and acts of terror to general civil unrest, your security can change in a heartbeat, so it’s important to prepare for the worst. During a state of emergency, resources dry up and emergency services may be immediately unavailable. As the COVID pandemic, Hurricane Ida, the freeze in Texas, and a number of other events have proven, food can disappear from grocery store shelves in the blink of an eye, water mains break, and electrical grids fail. The worst part is that you may be helpless to fix the problem and might not have had any warning.
You don’t need to go full-on prepper to take disaster preparedness seriously. You can simply address the basics, and stock up on a few key items that will bridge the gap and get you through.
No one is happy with an empty belly, and even worse, hunger can make it harder to complete critical tasks or think critically. Having a good stockpile of emergency food will be a huge asset when you cannot simply run to the store and buy a few groceries.
Canned foods are a great way to start. They keep for years, are quick to prepare, and provide easy meals. If you pick up a couple of extra cans every time you go to the grocery store, you’ll have a good supply in no time. Once you have a fair amount, start using up the older ones and replacing them with the new ones.
MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, are another good route to go. MREs are portable meals designed for the military. Each meal provides an average of 1,250 calories (13% protein, 36% fat, and 51% carbohydrates) and 1/3 of the military recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals. A full day’s worth of meals would consist of three packages of MREs. Each MRE may contain one entree, side dish, snack, condiments, beverage mix, and a heater. MRE’s are typically good for 10 years when stored at optimal temperatures (75 degrees or cooler).
Rice and beans are other great staple foods to always have on hand. This is an inexpensive way to store food for an emergency. Likewise, granola and protein bars are also good. A handful of bars, or even a couple of cases, are easy to transport and will provide the energy needed to keep you going.
If you lose access to water (as I did recently in the great Texas freeze of 2021), it will be important to have, or find, alternative water supplies. Don’t forget, if you are going to shelter in place, you’ll need water for drinking, washing, and flushing. Luckily, my water was only off for a short period of time. However, some Texans were without water for weeks and had to relocate or find alternate water supplies.
One of the most obvious ways to store water is to buy water bottles (either bulk packs or gallon jugs). This is the easiest and will be the option most people choose. However, it can be pricey and produces a lot of waste. An alternative solution would be a supply of large expandable water storage bottles that you fill when an emergency is likely or imminent. Devices like the WaterBOB allow you to collect large amounts of water and store it in external containers for future use.
You may have access to water, but that does not mean it is safe to drink. Have no fear, there are several ways to easily convert that questionable clear elixir into potable drinking water. Having a good water filtration system could be a life-saver in an emergency situation when you are on the move or have limited resources. In certain circumstances, boiling the water will do the trick too.
Filters such as a LifeStraw or Brita pitchers are great for filtering water after it is stored. Chemical tablets, such as Iodine, are another solution to purify your water for drinking, but these will not filter out any particles.
If your electricity cuts out, you could lose access to your heating and cooling. Depending on the weather, this could be a serious issue. A generator can help you power the things you need by converting gasoline, natural gas, or propane power into electricity. However, these will need to be used outside to prevent the buildup of dangerous gases. A portable battery box provides a similar function, but is limited to the amount of power the battery can hold (unless you get a model that can recharge from solar energy). These can be good for shorter time periods and can easily power a fan or small heater, as well as keep your phone charged for emergency contacts and updates.
No power also means no light after dark. You can open your blinds during the day, but at night moving around becomes more difficult. Something most people probably already have on hand is a flashlight. Flashlights are an easy way to give you light during a power outage.
Tactical flashlights have several brightness settings that work great for everything from flushing out critters digging through your trash to finding a spare roll of toilet paper in a blackout. They are also popular options to pair with firearms for home defense because they allow you to easily see your surroundings and identify a possible threat.
It’s good to have a number of flashlights in the home, not only for easy access but also in case one breaks. Ensure you have a good supply of batteries that are easily accessible too.
Hand-crank models will never run out of battery and serve double duty by keeping little hands (and minds) busy when the scary darkness creeps in. For longer-term solutions, solar-powered models have really advanced. If you have not taken a serious look at them in a while, now may be the time to invest a little time — and money — on solar.
Consider keeping a lighter around and some candles too. Just like the times before electricity, candles can be used to light up your home.
It is important to have a good stockpile of first aid supplies. This is just as important for disaster preparedness as it is for a day-to-day emergency. Having the right supplies in your first aid kit could save the day.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and this is not medical advice. These first aid supplies are only useful when you know how and when to use them. Do your research and look into some basic medical training.
Items for your first aid kit:
- Bandages & Gauze – If someone gets an open wound that is significant, you’re going to need a way to stop the bleeding to prevent blood loss.
- Antibiotic Cream – Antibiotic ointment and antiseptic spray can be used to help stave off an infection that could lead to more serious complications and will speed up the healing process.
- Tourniquet – A tourniquet can be the difference between life and death. If used correctly, it will restrict blood loss from serious arterial bleeding, such as loss of limb.
- QuikClot – Products such as QuikClot speed up the blood clotting process to stop bleeding faster. This can be a lifesaver if you have a serious wound (that will not stop bleeding with constant, firm pressure) and nowhere to go and no help on the way.
- Medication – You should include any medications you may need, whether that be for personal health conditions or more general painkillers and allergy pills.
- Emergency Blanket – As the body goes into shock after a serious injury, individuals can feel cold. An emergency blanket will help keep their body temperature in a healthy range.
- Nitrile Gloves – Using medical gloves will keep you and others safe from infection if you are performing medical treatment to others.
Additional Useful Emergency Items
Once you have a good supply of the basics, there are a few other items you may want to have in your disaster preparedness gear.
If you do not already have one on hand, consider purchasing a firearm and some ammunition to protect yourself and your loved ones. Be sure to get some basic training and instruction, practice manipulating your firearm to commit the manual of arms to muscle memory, and then spend plenty of time shooting at the range to hone your skills so you will have them in case of an emergency. A quality 9mm pistol and 100 rounds of ammunition goes a long way.
One tool I believe to always be useful is a knife. Whether it’s a fixed blade that you keep around the house, or a pocket knife you can easily take with you on the go, a good blade can save the day. From food prep to utility work and everything in between, having a knife is always a good idea. It would be best to buy a knife that is dedicated to your emergency kit, but in a pinch, you may be able to make do with whatever you can scrounge around the house.
A quality multitool may be essential for a number of survival tasks. You may not have an entire toolbox, but a multitool is a great alternative to cover your basics. Most multitools have a knife blade, pliers, saw, can opener, bottle opener, scissors, and various screwdrivers. You may not need it at all, but as the saying goes, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”
Conclusion: Disaster Preparedness
As recent events have proven, conditions can change overnight — even in hours or an instant in some cases. You could find yourself without access to food, water, electricity, and medical support. It is important to prepare, so you are well equipped in the event of an emergency situation or disaster. Your life and the lives of your loved ones depend on the decision you make to be prepared.