Being prepared is all about the future.
Do you have a fire/smoke alarm? That’s a start. Only one? Don’t let your family rely on a single item that could fail. Carbon monoxide sensor? (If you rent and think there are fire/smoke alarms in the hallway outside the apartment, think again. If you didn’t change the batteries yourself, how can you be sure it works? Get your OWN! Keep the receipt and take yours with you when you move.) A reliable flashlight for when the power is out, somewhere you can find it in the dark (and/or add plug-in flashlights which automatically turn on when they lose power)? A sleeping bag for if the furnace is broken? These are the BASICS!
If you are prepared, an emergency can become just an inconvenience.
If you are NOT prepared, an emergency can become a DISASTER!
So where do you start? Start with small things. Picture being stuck at home for a few days or up to eight weeks. It could be because of a snow storm or other bad weather, a safety issue such a news report of a dangerous felon on the loose in your area, a disease outbreak, or as simple as a twisted ankle. You can’t get to the store. What items might be at least inconvenient, if not really bad, to run out of? Toilet paper? Medicine? Food? Toothpaste? Garbage bags? Paper towels? Batteries? Your favorite beer/wine?
Buying extra of everything seems so expensive! Don’t try to buy everything at once! Either you’ll run out of cash, upset your spouse, or burn out.
How do I recommend proceeding? Here too, we start small, a little at a time. Pick the most critical items first, and put an extra one or two of that item away. Add 1 or 2 extra items each time you shop. Then wait, and whenever you are running out of anything, buy a couple of extras. Get in the habit of buying a little extra, and putting the extra away. Don’t take it out of the ’emergency supplies closet’ unless you’re actually out, in which case make sure to replenish the closet right away. In the process, teach yourself to notice when you’re running low, so you never have to take anything from the closet unless it is something you are rotating (using the oldest one and putting the newly purchased one in its place).
What types of food should I save? When working on being prepared for short-term emergencies, make sure to save things you will actually eat. Having a closet full of 10-year-shelf-life meals-ready-to-eat will be a waste of money eventually if you have to throw it out. I really enjoy plain oatmeal with raisins or cinnamon, and those can be bought in large quantity at discount prices, and have a very long shelf life. Canned fruits, vegetables, and fish (such as salmon and tuna) won’t last as long as oatmeal, but again as long as you buy ones you will eat, and always eat the oldest ones while buying more to keep your supply steady or growing, you will do well there. Dried fruits and meats can give you a variety, but don’t buy too much of those unless you can really picture yourself eating them every day for a month.
Have a variety of vitamin options, such as a B multivitamin, and/or separate vitamins A, C, and D. These are useful to supplement your diet with what you are likely missing, such as sufficient sunlight (Vitamin D), or other vitamins you usually get from fresh fruits and vegetables. Vitamins A, C, and D, are also known for helping immune response, which can help keep you more healthy. But do NOT take large doses, regardless of what you hear elsewhere online. Vitamin supplements can do a lot of harm if taken in large amounts. Moderation is key. Also, make sure to keep some Benadryl on hand. Significantly reduces symptoms related to runny noses, including sore throat, coughing, and related breathing issues.
The next step toward being prepared:
Once you’re prepared to handle being stuck for weeks in your home, now what? Plan for longer? Plan for something different?
Now plan for a bit more, the lack of electricity for some or all of the duration of the event, again planning for a few days or up to two months. What do you need to add or do differently? If during the winter, you might need extra warm clothing and warmer sleeping bags. During the summer, a nice USB-powered fan can go a long way towards keeping you more comfortable while your air conditioning is off. Use your flashlight or other devices without being able to recharge from the wall, and you will run through your batteries more quickly. Adding up the total number of hours in two weeks (336), how many battery power packs would you need to run your most important devices, such as mobile phones and flashlights the entire time? (Have a few regular ones, and at least one large GoalZero lithium battery, would be my recommendation.) Maybe you want to add a small generator and some propane tanks, but don’t rely exclusively on those, as the emergency may not allow you to run the generator outside, or they may be stolen if outside, and those things are deadly inside your house or garage! Consider what else, if anything, you might miss or be unable to do without electricity. Do you have an electric stove/oven, does your food need a toaster or microwave? Plan for food items which don’t need those.
The second step should now be to plan for a lack of other utilities as well, for these same few days or up to two months. The most critical item therefore is WATER! You will use it to drink, of course, though having fruit juice to mix with the water will probably be very helpful during what might be a very boring time at home, especially if you don’t usually drink lots of water by itself. You will also need it to flush your toilets when municipal water is not working. Plan for a minimum of 2 gallons per person per day, and you’ll probably be fine for a while. Be aware that water sitting more than 6 months in plastic containers is probably no longer drinkable, so make sure to rotate some of it, but the (initially very hot) water in your home’s hot water tank will probably be plenty for two weeks, though the next time you need to replace the tank, get the largest size you can fit in your home! Boiling kills bacteria, if that is the current problem, but it doesn’t get rid of dangerous chemicals. Filtering gets rid of chemicals but not all the bacteria, especially if the filters haven’t been changed recently. Filtering and then distilling is recommended by the Red Cross. You might wish to consider two types of water distillers. One which uses electricity but is much more convenient, and one for when your electricity is out.
Preparing for dangerous situations while stuck at home:
The next step after being generally prepared to handle up to two months stuck at home would be to add danger, such as riots, or negative information about you in the news (hopefully inaccurate!). This may be the cause of being stuck in your home, or a result of an ongoing situation, such as lawlessness during an extended power outage, or riots triggered by some event. If the power has been out for more than 24 hours, especially if not related to a snow or ice storm, the likelihood of this happening increases significantly. While everyone needs to decide what type of protection is right for themselves and their families, this type of situation usually is coupled with police inability to respond, such as they are dealing with a major issue elsewhere in the city. As such, you may be on your own during this time. Make a decision what you would do, and be prepared to follow through with purchases and training, as appropriate.
Special note regarding dealing with a Pandemic:
Regarding dealing with any Pandemic, you may find yourself needing to or being required to quarantine for two months or more. It all depends on how bad it gets in your neighborhood, county, state, or country, and on the level of preparation or lack thereof on the part of your government.
Preparing to leave home in an emergency:
At this point in preparing, you have to give thought to what you would do if you had to leave home in an emergency. Do you have places to go to in various scenarios? Family or friends in the neighborhood, if the situation only affects your home? A place in a suburb if you need to get out of the city? How would you get there if you can or can not use your car? What do you need to bring with you? Will they be expecting you if communications are down? There are many ‘bug out’ bags sold online. They typically are geared toward survivalists in great physical strength, and weigh 20 pounds or more, and include all sorts of items you are unlikely to need, or not sufficiently knowledgeable to use. Unless you are truly willing and able to carry 20 pounds while you walk for 3+ days into the wilderness, small and light is critical.
Summary: The discussion above has focused on short-term emergencies, not long-term disasters. Why? Because if you aren’t prepared for the short-term, you are unlikely to survive long enough for the duration to matter. Also, short-term emergencies such as somewhat minor virus outbreaks, or regional disasters such as a major earthquake, localized social unrest or major flood have happened and will likely happen again. Partial or complete government collapse caused by EMP, Solar Storm, Uncontained Highly Fatal Pandemic, Civil War, Alien Invasion, or Zombie Apocalypse are much less likely. Start small, focus on short-term, and if/when you’re done with that you can decide what else to consider. I can help! Please call for details.