This is being posted with Katydid's permission. The following work is all Katy's.
Prep for beginners
Developing a family preparedness plan needn't be difficult or expensive. The most important ingredient in a successful plan is YOU.....your organizational skills, your creativity, and your willingness to just do it'. Because every family is different, only you can determine what preparedness steps are right for you. And only you can determine what your prep comfort level' is. For some, this comfort level may be achieved by having supplies for a week or so. For others, it may be a month, a year, or even several years worth of supplies, as well as a knowledge base of particular skills and talents that would contribute to the family's overall level of self sufficiency.
Regardless of what your comfort level is, there are certain aspects common to every level of preparedness. This booklet is designed to serve as a guide to setting the foundations of a family preparedness plan. Once you've covered these basics, you may decide that certain areas are deserving of further attention or exploration so that your plan will be truly effective in a variety of different situations.
But for now, let's focus on the basics........
1. Water, Water Everywhere (But Not a Drop to Drink)
2. The Black Hole (or Is there any food in the house?)
4. Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?
5. Batten Down the Hatches
1. Water, Water Everywhere (and not a drop to drink!)
Water is the number one ingredient for sustaining life and yet we take it so for granted! A simple twist of the wrist and it magically appears at our faucet. Lakes and rivers of full of it and it even falls from the sky! It would seem that we are blessed with a never-ending abundance of water.
Unfortunately, that abundance isn't always safe to drink. Even our normally safe municipal supplies can have problems. It isn't uncommon for water officials to issue a boil order' after experiencing a maintenance problem or damage from floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes. And if that isn't enough, we now have an even more disturbing possibility in the form of terrorist attacks on our water supplies. Tulsa Oklahoma recently experience such a scare. Thankfully, this scare turned out to be a false alarm, but if the situation had been real, things could have gotten tense in Tulsa very quickly as people scrambled to secure a supply of water.
The prudent prepper knows that water pipes can break, supplies can become contaminated, or service can be interrupted almost instantly and without warning. But she also knows that preparing for those things is really pretty simple....and it saves a lot of headaches and hassles to have a plan of action in place. It means that when a problem occurs, you never miss a beat....you are able to carry on about your daily life with little aggravation and frustration.
A good rule of thumb is to store one gallon of water per person, per day. Remember, that this is survival level water storage.....enough for drinking and cooking and maybe some minor cleanup. If you are in a situation that compels you to rely on your stored water, you can NOT afford to be wasteful. Storing this amount will probably mean you'll have to search out additional supplies for bathing, toilet flushing, or other high usage jobs should your situation become a long term one.
Any clean, food grade containers with tight fitting lids can be used for water storage. Juice bottles and 2 or 3 liter soft drink bottles work wonderfully. You can even purchase 55 gallon drums for water storage. One caveat to remember is that milk jugs or the plastic gallon jugs that 'store bought' water comes in are designed to biodegrade more quickly than many other containers and are therefore not suited for long term water storage. Nevertheless, if that's all you have at the moment, go ahead and use them. They should hold up for at least 3 to 6 months just fine. To be on the safe side, store those containers in an area that won't be damaged if they should spring a leak. And plan to replace them with sturdier containers as quickly as you can.
It's generally not necessary to treat or purify your stored water if it came from your tap and a safe municipal water supply system. On the other hand, if your water comes from a private well or a questionably safe source, a few drops of regular household bleach will help prevent problems with bacteria or algae growth. About 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water should be sufficient unless, after treatment, the water still appears cloudy.
2. The Black Hole (or Is there any food in the house?)
Do you ever open up your pantry or cupboards and feel like you're looking into an empty black hole in space? After you finish listening to your voice echo in there, shut the doors and let me tell you a story..........
One upon a time, in a place called America, scores of adventurous men, women, and children packed their worldly goods into covered wagons and began the arduous journey through the wilderness.
The average covered wagon measured a scant 4 by 8 feet. It took some real creative packing for a family to stow all the things they needed for starting a new life. We won't even mention the intestinal fortitude required to travel 20 whole miles in a 16 hour day.
Besides the usual household items, farm implements, and tools, food was an important part of the cargo. There was no Walmart in the middle of the prairie to replenish supplies, although they were able to supplement their meals with buffalo and other game hunted there. And they probably did a pretty good job at foraging for wild herbs, berries, and other plant foods. But the pioneers knew better than to rely solely on what they could hunt and forage. They had to rely on the stockpiles of food they carried in their wagons as the basis for their meals.
And that food was very basic.....flour and cornmeal, coffee and salt, beans and salt pork. The lucky ones had a cow, maybe two, that supplied them with milk and butter. If she didn't 'go dry' on the journey, that is.
At the time of the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800's, the Canadian government distributed a list of supplies that each miner was required to bring with him before being allowed into the area. There were several variations of the list that spelled out food supplies to last a full year. One such list included the following:
150 lbs bacon
400 lbs flour
75 lbs dried fruit
20 lbs cornmeal
10 lbs rice
20 lbs coffee
10 lbs tea
25 lbs sugar
100 lbs beans
24 cans condensed milk
20 lbs salt
1 lb pepper
40 lbs rolled oats
50 lbs potatoes
5 lbs canned butter
10 lbs baking powder
2 lbs baking soda
1/2 lb mustard
1/4 lb vinegar
5 lbs dried onions
4 pkgs yeast cakes
25 lbs assorted dried meats and vegetables
Some shopping list, huh?
It's amazing to think how these pioneers managed to feed themselves and their families - for weeks or months at a time - over a campfire and from such a meager looking list of foods. Even more amazing is that most of us would be hard-pressed to do the same from our modern kitchens using those same ingredients for even a few days. We're so spoiled to the modern system of easy access/easy preparation of our food that we don't even realize how complicated we've made the concept of cooking and eating!
Of course, we don't want to give up some of the conveniences and products available to us in this day and time......but what if? What if we were unable to reach a grocery store? What if we didn't have the funds to make a purchase? What if there was nothing on the shelves to buy? Any or all of the above possibilities exist. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but you never know!
With a few minor modifications, the Gold Rush grocery list is an excellent food storage system and, because it's based on simple ingredients, the cost of implementing the system is minimal.
Granted, you probably want to substitute other protein sources for the 150 pounds of bacon, but it's a simple matter to think tuna, peanut butter, or tofu instead. And since you won't be saving all that yummy bacon grease, you'll probably want to add a supply of your favorite cooking oil or shortening to the list.
All in all, this list from a century ago is still very valid today. Yes, there are a ton of things you love to eat that aren't on the list, but don't worry about that now. This list is the basics of survival and is more versatile than you might first think. Once you've built a supply of these basics, you can start adding some of those other goodies that seem so irrestible right now.
For now, though, adapt this list to your own needs by substituting where necessary or desireable - for instance, canned fruits instead of dried, or dry milk powder for evaporated.
And don't worry too much if you aren't sure to do with some of these foods just yet. If you don't already own a good basic cookbook, it's a good time to search one out at the yard sales or used book stores. Don't pass up an older cookbook....one that's 30 years old or more may actually be more useful for real 'scratch' cooking information.
Compared to the basic food storage list, the list of other household supplies may look quite daunting. It doesn't have to be. It's entirely up to you.
The first thing to do is to take a household inventory.
Take your pen and paper and go to the bathroom. Make a list of all the products you currently use. List everything from toilet paper to toothpaste, soap to shaving cream. Leave no stone unturned and don't overlook anything!
Once you have your completed list, sit down and really study it. Decide which of those products you'd be willing to live without in the event of an emergency situation. Make a new list containing only the items that you deem absolutely vital to your survival (but don't toss the old list - you'll need it again later). First on your survival list will probably be toilet paper....I don't think anyone wants to live without THAT....but, you may decide that you could live without your hairspray or cosmetics if times get really tough. If not, that's ok too. Remember, though, that the point of this exercise is to determine what you NEED. Once your basic needs are met, you can begin adding some of the 'luxuries' back into your plan. This means that if the hairspray was very reluctantly crossed off your list of essentials, it's very likely that in a month or so - after you have the necessary items - you can slip the hairspray back onto the list and add it to your supplies.
Repeat this process in other rooms of the house - other bathrooms, the laundry room, the non-food areas of the kitchen. And don't overlook the medicine/first aid supplies. Every home should have at least a basic first aid 'station'.
Again, don't let the size of these lists overwhelm you. You'll probably discover that, although the list is long, you won't need very many of any particular item. In fact, you may already have several months’ worth of many items.
Most importantly, don't drive yourself crazy. This doesn't happen overnight. For serious preppers, the process never really ends! We're always thinking of new ways and new items to add to our household inventory.
Once you've completed the exercises to this point, you should have a very workable grocery list and household inventory list that you can begin working from to stock your home with everything you need to make survival during an emergency or disaster easier and less stressful.
Your first instinct may be to run out and buy everything on those lists all at once....only the money isn't there. Don't stress! Simply set aside whatever money you can spare each week to apply toward your prep plan. Even with as little as $10 a week, you can quickly advance your standing in the prep game. Ten dollars will buy quite a lot when you are buying basic commodities.....25 pounds of flour, 10 pounds of rice, a large package of toilet paper. Do what you can, when you can and you'll be surprised at how fast your shelves fill up! And with a little creative budgeting, you might be surprised at how many $10 bills you can find to spend on your preps.
4. Where Were YOU When the Lights Went Out?
Iiiiiinnn the dark!
Which really isn't so terrible if you can just crawl in bed for a nice long nap until the lights come back on.
POP! (Notice the sound of the dream-bubble bursting....fade-in to real life).
Power outages most often occur during the times when you NEED electricity the most. It's a Murphey's Law thing. Trust me on this.
It's the middle of winter (snow and ice aren't mandatory, but they do add to the atmosphere). You got home late and it's already dark. The heat is on high because your toddler has decided to take up streaking. No, it really doesn't have anything to do with the fact that you forgot to put the clothes in the dryer this morning. And no, you haven't even started to think about what you'll feed everyone tonight.
All of a sudden, in the midst of your normal chaos, the lights go out.
You stand there for a moment, muttering to yourself, possibly invoking some of your favorite four-letter words. The toddler (who's still naked, by the way) starts to shriek because she's scared of the dark. She's probably starting to turn blue by now too, but you won't know that for sure since you can't find the flashlight. Or if you find it, the batteries are dead.
In a situation like this, your priorities suddenly shift - you need light, you need heat, and you need to feed the family. Sudden priority shifts can be stressful, especially when you're unprepared.
What to do about light? Your first line of defense against darkness is the simple flashlight. You can never have too many flashlights - or too many batteries for them. But it's darned near impossible to find the flashlight in the junk drawer once the lights have gone out, so keep those flashlights in easily accessible, strategic locations in every room of the house! On the night stand, the kitchen counter, a shelf in the bathroom. Make a point to test the batteries on a regular basis - perhaps during your routine housecleaning. While you are wiping down the counter, pick up the flashlight and switch it on. Leave it on for a few seconds and watch for the light to flicker or dim indicating weak batteries. Replace the batteries as needed, and keep spares located either near the flashlights or in some other easily accessed central location.
There are lots of options for lighting the darkness, but flashlights are the safest method, especially around children and pets. (Hint: flashlights also make great Christmas gifts for the kiddies....there's a ton of fun in a $2 flashlight). Do invest in at least one higher quality flashlight for yourself. Find the one in your price range that will put out the greatest amount of light.....you won't be sorry.
Now about that naked toddler.......
Your home heating system may not rely on electricity, but that doesn't give you permission to skip this section.
True story: I came home one winter afternoon to the smell of natural gas inside my house. I immediately called the gas company and they arrived very quickly to diagnose a definite leak. The solution? The turned off the gas and pulled the meter. Did I mention it this was a Friday afternoon?
It was Monday before we could even reach a repairman and it was Wednesday before they could begin the repairs. Almost a full week without heat in January. Luckily we had a fireplace and were able to manage just fine. The point is that no method of home heating is totally infallible. It's wise to realize this and to have a backup plan that you can safely implement if/when it becomes necessary.
This is one area where the backup plan can be a bit tricky since it may involve spending a fairly sizeable amount of money. On the other hand, you may be able to cope by using a bit of creative thinking. If you have a working fireplace, make sure you always have a supply of wood. If your home heating system isn't dependent on electricity(meaning your heat fails for reasons other than a power outage), then an electric space heater might be a solution. There are now also space heaters that run on propane canisters for a non-electric solution. And at the very least, there's the concept of dressing for the weather. If it's colder inside than it is outside, then dress as though you are outside. Thermal underwear, layered outerwear, even hats and gloves. You really can wear those things in the house! We've gotten used to the idea of climate controlling our homes so that we wear as few clothes as possible, but people survived pretty well in the days before central heat by dressing for the temperatures. (Hint: Sleeping bags make good Christmas gifts for the kids...but get a 'real' sleeping bag, not one of the cutesy ones. The real ones will have a temperature rating. Along with the flashlights, there's a ton of fun to be had playing camp-out even if they never leave the house!)
Ok, now we've got some light and the toddler is dressed....it's time to put some food on the table. We know you have food in the house, because you've already started working on that area of your preps....but how are you going to cook it with no electricity? Well, if you are lucky enough to have a gas stove (without an electric ignition) then you're in luck. Otherwise, it's time to get creative. You can either munch on things that don't require cooking - peanut butter and crackers or cold sandwiches maybe - or you can tap into another. Maybe you have a backyard grill....great alternative as long as you keep a supply of charcoal or your propane tank filled. Do you have a supply of matches?
Another option is a campstove. They are reasonably priced and easy to use once you get the hang of it. The camping section of your local discount store also carries something called 'canned heat' or sterno. It's a bit on the pricy side, but is easily stored for emergency use and may be the way to go if you really, really don't want to deal with much in the way of primitive cooking and if your power outage will only last a day or two.
5. Batten Down the Hatches!
In emergency management circles, you will often hear the word "mitigation". It's an important word that means.....well....it means, "there's a storm brewin', Ethel! Batten down the hatches!" Mitigation is the process of planning ahead to protect your home and property from the damages presented by acts of nature....floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and so forth. Now, you may be thinking "No need to worry about that, I have insurance for that sort of thing", but you may not know that something more could be required of you.
In many cases, particularly where there is some question on the part of the insurance adjuster about your claim, you may need to show that you took reasonable precautionary steps to prevent damage (or prevent further damage) arising from a disaster. Having an insurance policy does not absolve YOU from taking reasonable steps to protect your own property. Failing to take those steps can result in having your insurance claim denied.
Of course, it would be impossible to outline every situation here. You must take the initiative to understand what hazards are most likely where you live - be it tornado, hurricane, earthquake or something else - and learn what steps you need to take to protect your home. Chances are good that if you live in an area prone to any of these threats, you've heard all the safety precautions countless times. It's time to really think about them and to plan for them if you haven't already. You've heard the warnings about learn to shut off the electricity/water/gas to your home', but do your really know how to do that? No? Find someone to show you how.
You know all those tired old fire safety rules...have drills, have a meeting place for the family, and on and on and on.....have you done it? What are you waiting for....a fire?
None of these things cost any money. They aren't hard to do. If you are hesitating, ask yourself if the hesitation is due to fear or laziness. Both are dangerous to your health should you be faced with a disaster, but fear can be largely overcome by preparedness. This is the beauty of living a prepared lifestyle.....fearful things become much less so. There is power and strength in having the courage to face our fears and in putting them in their place through proactive planning and preparing. A fearful situation becomes less frightening when you have trained yourself to know what steps to take in overcoming it. Fear can be a useful tool and a powerful motivator, but unless you are determined to use it constructively, it can also be a paralyzing emotion. It's up to you which role fear will play in your life.
I'm just going to hope that no one answered laziness'.
Copyright: Katydid/KLS October 2001