Prepping is for everyone even though it may look different for each person. Learn what to consider when preparing for yourself and your family. You don’t have to call yourself a prepper to take action.
By taking steps now, you won’t be in a situation where you start reacting and buying just because everyone else is buying. While it’s not possible to plan for every situation and calamity that could happen, there still is a lot you can do.
For me, it’s a constant balance between possibility vs probability. What is the likelihood of something happening where you live?
In addition to a food shortage or a society shutdown, it’s prudent to think about what might occur in your geographic area. Do you live in an area prone to natural disasters? That may be a tornado, hurricane, water shortage, wildfire, blizzard, flood, the grid going down, etc.
While an emergency preparedness checklist and disaster preparedness is important, there are things to consider first. It’s not an either-or situation. You don’t have to be a full-blown prepper to take some steps to ready yourself for uncertain times.
Coming from decades in the military and law enforcement has taught me some things I’d like to share with you.
Table of Contents
Avoid Stockpiling and Panic Buying
Seeing what happened with COVID is a good time to take stock. Think of what you might do differently for the next time.
What did you learn and what should you learn?
What should you do now? There are still many uncertainties as new information presents itself. Taking small steps as your budget allows will help you in the future. Consider budget and space constraints. You may have to get creative with storage.
Prepper Rule of Threes
In terms of prepping, I think in Rule of Threes. This is prioritizing so when you take action you know what to prioritize first.
You can go three hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food. What does this mean?
Three hours without shelter
Shelter can mean different things depending on the situation. It can be literal shelter, like your home, shed, vehicle, a tent, a tarp, an emergency blanket.
In addition, it can mean a poncho, rain jacket, umbrella, winter coat, hat, boots, gloves, etc. Other types of shelter can include your hiking buddy, your partner, your family, neighbors, and community.
Three days without water
When you consider water, this can be having enough water for when you are out hiking, backpacking, or camping.
It can also mean tap water from your faucet, bottled drinking water, and distilled water. In addition, it can include natural bodies of water such as ponds, rivers, streams, lakes, a water harvesting cistern, a swimming pool, a well.
Three weeks without food
It hard to imagine, but the human body can withstand three weeks without food. An entire week seems unfathomable….
Planning for three days
In normal life, we tend to have our comforts. For any type of What If scenario, it’s just the basics. You should have three days of supplies of:
- Medicine, first aid
Depending on the severity, there may be instances in which you have to leave your residence but you may be able to come back.
Making a bug out bag is a necessity. This is a bag that you can quickly grab and go should you need to evacuate your residence quickly.
It should contain an emergency blanket (also known as a survival blanket) as well as food and other essentials to get you through at least three days.
Planning for 30+ days
Survival experts say it’s a good idea to plan for 30 days for a natural disaster. This could be a fire or a hurricane rips that through your community.
There can be any type of disruption in your community: a power outage / blackout, etc.
Instances can also include something personal happening to you and your family… if someone was sick and couldn’t leave the home, etc.
You should have enough non-perishable food items, water bricks, and an emergency kit with medications to last for 30 days.
Planning for 90+ days
However, to be truly self-sufficient and not a burden, you need 90 days… that’s the starting point.
If something is going on for 90 days, it’s likely going on six months to a year. It’s a whole different world after 90 days. Your survival skills will have set in at this point.
You can’t plan for everything. You can’t own a Walmart with everything in there.
What you can do is the best you can. But it doesn’t always work out that way. You have to be able to have money for the supplies. Also, you have to be able to find the supplies.
If you are fortunate enough to have money and the ability to acquire the supplies, things still happen.
We learned firsthand that you can have backup supplies and equipment and all that but all it takes is a flood or a fire to wipe it all out.
Even though we were prepared with food, gear, first aid, etc., we lost it all in a flood from a water main break when we were gone for 10 days.
This isn’t to dissuade you from being prepared. It’s to say that sometimes even in the most prepared situations, things can still happen.
Everyone wants “the list”
The prepper movement has encouraged people to seek out the emergency preparedness list:
Give me a list of what I’m supposed to buy.
When you get a list of what you should prep for it’s overwhelming… just literally overwhelming. It’s not an elephant; it’s a herd of elephants. And it costs as much as a herd of elephants.
It’s expensive and time consuming to get everything you need for an emergency situation.
And as Americans, we want to be able to pull it up on Amazon and Prime it and have it in two days… and have everything we need for the next disaster… but we can’t.
That’s not realistic. Even Amazon doesn’t have everything all the time. They too were out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, fever thermometers, diapers, disinfecting wipes, canned foods such as meats and beans, etc.
Being ready for whatever comes your way
The first thing I recommend is breaking things into buckets. For example:
- Medicine and first aid
- Food, meal prep, and storage containers
- Home security and self defense
Below we discuss each one of these and how you can be prepared for whatever comes your way.
The first thing you should have is sheltering equipment. As mentioned above, shelter can be different things. Shelter can be a physical structure, proper clothing, fire or shade, and/or the people you are with.
Most situations are caused by extreme weather conditions. Therefore, you have to ensure you aren’t in the open with the sun beating down or freezing in a downpour.
You can buy an emergency blanket and a tent or tarp. The material the shelter is made from should be sturdy and durable.
You might have to use it outdoors for a number of days. Don’t compromise on quality when it comes to sheltering equipment. It could make all the difference.
Medicine and first aid
Be sure to assess what OTC medicines and first aid supplies you already have before buying more. Many of these you hopefully will never use but should have. Emergency services may not be accessible if you need them.
Consider what prescriptions you and your family are on. If permissible, you want to have three months in reserve.
So as an example, you will have your 30 supply now you are using as well as an additional 90 days’ worth. No matter what, I always try to keep 90 days supply.
This will depend on the type of medicine you take and the insurance plan you have. It’s okay for blood pressure, heart medicine, thyroid, etc. but not for pain killers.
You will want some over-the-counter medications as well. Note, these won’t treat the issue but they will alleviate symptoms so you or your family will be more comfortable.
Consider OTC medications for the following:
- Pain relief
We keep powered electrolytes and Pedialyte on hand. In addition, we highly recommend a nasal wash system kit to help with nasal and sinus drainage.
You can’t have a hospital. It’s never-ending. Some first aid supplies you should have:
- Rubbing alcohol
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Band aids, bandages
- Suture kit to give stitches
- Finger pulse oximeter
As you acquire more first aid to address and treat more serious injuries or illnesses, you must have the training to go along with that.
Learn about conditions of who is in your family. Get trained. You may not be able to call an ambulance. The hospitals won’t have room for you.
What’s your interest? How far do you want to take it? Doctors, nurses, EMTs are always learning new skills and training. It’s endless.
You need to decide: What do you want to have and what do you want to know?
Hygiene and Cleaning
Your first line of defense is staying and being clean, not only personally but your surroundings. This includes the people around you.
It also includes everything you come in contact with. If you and or your family need to be separated from others for a period of time, that time starts the day after your last contact.
It comes down to having a source of water and having the equipment and knowledge to make that water safe to drink.
Having safe drinkable water really depends on where you live and your situation. Most people live in an urban or suburban setting where they are on a public water supply.
Some people live in the county and are on their own private well. Others live in the mountains and have access to runoff. People live on rivers, ponds, or lakes and are looking at their source of water.
No matter where you live, you need to be able to make your water safe to drink.
If you live in the desert, the water supply will always be a concern. That needs to be a priority. Natural water sources are non-existent.
You may have a public water supply but if that water was to be contaminated in some way, you need to know how to make it safe to drink… depending on what the contamination and the situation is.
If public water supply shuts down
Now, if the public water supply was shut off, what do you do? Perhaps you live near a river or stream or you have a swimming pool.
You can purchase water filters and equipment and have the means to make that water drinkable and be safe to drink.
First, you would get as much of the sediment and debris out of the water.
If the time comes that you need to make the water safe to drink, you would filter the water by running it through clean towels, shirts, etc. in order to get as much sediment out of it.
The last step in the process is a Berkey Water Filter and Purifier. We own two Berkey filters.
No matter where you live, something you may want to consider when things calm down is to set up a rainwater harvesting system.
Having a plan for your rainwater does two things:
- It captures water for future use
- It diverts water away from your home or garage, helping to protect the foundation
You can use this water to water plants, trees, a garden, to raise animals, etc. In addition, you can tap into it during droughts and times of crisis.
In our situation, we have a 2,600 water harvesting cistern. It doesn’t take too much rain to fill it because we collect rainwater from two roofs.
Oftentimes, our tank is filled. We aren’t able to capture water when it rains. We used to try to “save the water,” barely using it because we wanted to keep it for an emergency situation.
Now we use it for all of our outside watering: Hosing things off, gardening, water for chickens and livestock. We are considering getting a second tank, especially now that we’ve set up a drip irrigation system for our garden.
Depending on your living situation, it might be wise to consider installing a rainwater cistern.
Accessing swimming pool water in a crisis
In a time of crisis, we know we can access our swimming pool water as well. Again, because of the real potential of a water issue where we live, this gives use some sense of security.
Have the ability to filter water
While it depends on the season and the conditions, there are some basic things you can do. I already mentioned having a Berkey water filter.
Before treating the water with the Berkey though, you want to be sure you can get as much sediment out. You may need to pre-treat the water with bleach or chlorine as well.
How much water do you need?
Dehydration is a major concern during a disaster. You cannot count on finding a clean source of drinking water once you leave your home.
What is the color of your urine? The darker it is, the more dehydrated you are. You want your pee to be almost clear, then you know you are properly hydrated.
The recommended general minimum rule is eight, 8 ounces glasses of water per day (64 oz; 1892 ml). The Centers for Disease and Prevention recommends storing one gallon of water per person, per day. Water bricks make this easy to do.
The challenge, of course, is you never know how long a water crisis will last.
In addition, you will need room to store the water in a dark, cool location. You should rotate it out every six months as well.
Anything that you eat or drink that contains water or fluids — like fruits and vegetables — counts toward your overall fluid intake. Recommendations on average:
- Adult male: 131 oz / 3874 ml of overall fluid intake per day
- Of that, 101 oz / 2986 ml should be water
- Adult woman: 95 oz / 2779 ml of fluid
- Of that, 74 oz / 2188 ml should be water
- Ages 14+: follow the adult recommendations
- Under 14 years: 50 – 60 fluid oz of water / 1478+ ml per day
You may need to increase your fluid intake if you live in a hot climate, a dry climate, being physically active, have a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting.
If you are being physically active, or are ill, your body is using — and you must replace — the electrolytes, which water does not have. Consider using powdered electrolytes or Pedialyte, but not the popular sports drinks, juice, or soda.
Caution: If you consume too much water, you dilute the minerals and electrolytes in your body, causing a depletion.
Food during a crisis
Even during times of food security when not preparing for a food crisis, think of the current week and the following week. Each week, I check the grocery sales papers to prepare grocery lists for meal prep.
I start there for our food plan for the rest of the week and the following week. There’s always a two-week go forward that I’m working on. I’m always ensuring there are two weeks worth of food and meals in the house.
Of course, I recognize many people are not able to be as food secure due to financial issues.
In these cases, you will need to really consider ways in which whatever you buy will be put to use and not wasted. You will need to think about non-perishables and other items with a long shelf-life that you can buy in bulk and/or on sale.
We always have 7 – 10 days of fresh foods. Note this is because we don’t eat many processed or packaged foods. We rely on fresh foods for the majority of our diet.
Plan food storage for survival — this includes fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, milk — with these food storage tips.
Apples store well. Mandarins, blueberries and grapes also last longer than some other fruits.
We buy larger quantities of foods like onions, carrots, and potatoes. Preserving fresh food means freezing them before they go bad to enjoy them for crock pot meals like stews, etc. Freeze drying is also an option for many foods.
Potatoes in Planters: How to Grow Potatoes in Pots
In addition, we buy spinach, kale and berries to eat fresh as well as freeze for smoothies.
We don’t waste any produce (or any food). We will clean it, chop it and put it in the freezer if we can’t eat it before it rots.
Having an orchard with fruit trees or nut-producing trees can be invaluable as well. Consider a hazelnut tree or types of oranges or apples that may grow in your climate zone. Having a mini greenhouse or small gardens and orchards can provide tenfold.
In addition, we bake our own bread and make frozen waffles in batches from pantry staples. We always have containers of oats for oatmeal as well as for desserts. We do the same with rice. Store the following:
- Beans, lentils
- Flour, sugar, baking powder (can also use for cleaning), baking powder
- Peanut butter, nut butters
- Rice, quinoa, oats
- Canned meat and fish
Buying in bulk
I shop at Costco so I always have 1 – 2 months supply ketchup and other things we use regularly like nuts, tuna, beans, rice or quinoa, real butter, dried fruit, cereal, peanut butter, olive oil, etc.
Before making my Costco list, I think, “What do we need if we had to make it through 5 – 6 weeks before coming back?”
How to start a food surplus
Start paying attention to what you buy. When they are on sale, buy an extra one or two, as your budget allows. To overcome a food crisis, buy a couple cans of soup or any food, buy an extra. Put it aside.
The way a prepper thinks is to buy a jar of tomato sauce, and buy a second one to put aside. Do the same with tuna, canned chicken, beans, boxed pasta, peanut butter, bouillon, etc.
Only buy foods that you would eat regularly and will eat.
Think about what you would need for baking. Plan to buy and store an extra flour, sugar, and salt. There are expiration dates on these foods, including the canned foods.
You can’t just buy it and stick it in the basement for a “just in case” scenario for five years. You need to be able to rotate your supply and eat the foods that are expiring first.
Again, I try to have 90 days worth of supplies in non-perishable foods.
If there is a natural emergency or something in our society where things have broken down where we have to rely on that food and those supplies we are in a whole new world.
You don’t know what is going to be required of you. Look for gaps in what you have.
Planning for anything
You need to think of nutritionally-dense foods but also consider individual tastes and some treats. (A treat can be a bag of hard candy. It can be jelly or fruit preserves to go with the peanut butter.)
We are continually adding to our reserves, putting aside a little more.
However, you never know if what you are buying is enough. You don’t know how long you will need it to last. But taking action before facing a food crisis is important. There are realistic ways to prepare. Having something will enable you to build your reserves.
If possible, by an extra freezer. When you have an extra freezer, you can keep buying the fresh foods as well as buying a little extra — meat, fruits, and vegetables — to freeze for future use.
Then you can fill in the gaps with other foods you have in reserve. There are no hard and true rules. Buy foods you enjoy eating.
Bleach and disinfectant, baking soda, vinegar, disinfecting wipes are all good to have.
I bought empty foaming dispensers to use for all the sinks. If I run out of the usual liquid soap we use, I can cut up the extra bar soaps I have. We usually have a pack of 12 soaps from Costco on hand.
In addition, at a minimum, we have an extra laundry detergent, dish soap, and dishwasher detergent. We stock up when they are on sale as our budget allows and when we have the space to store them.
Consider purchasing concentrated detergents. Because you add water to them, they will take up less space.
Self defense in times of society stress
Making priorities with the Rule of Threes in mind, self defense is perhaps one that people neglect to think about.
Depending on how long the crisis or catastrophe has been going on, it may need to be something to act on sooner rather than later. Prepping in terms of self defense can mean different things depending on where you live and your beliefs.
Different ways to protect your home and family
Some things are very simple to do. Most every household can do one or more of these things.
It can be as simple as having working locks on your doors and windows and using them. Remember to lock your car, even if it’s in your garage. If you have a garage door opener, remove it from your vehicle. Lock garage doors, including side doors.
Blinds and drapes
Be sure to have window coverings for all of your windows. If you don’t have blinds or drapes on all of your windows, purchase dark bed sheets to hang in the event of a society emergency. It will afford you more privacy.
Also consider how you will hang them should the need arise. Can you thumbtack them to the wall? Do you need extra-strong tape?
Home security systems and deterrents
Home security can mean getting a security system with visible signs. Perhaps it means having fake home security signs if you can’t afford to pay for a system.
For some families, security and self defense can mean getting a watch dog.
It might mean installing a peephole on your doors. You may want to consider a Ring Doorbell system.
Self defense could be as simple as staying private and not advertising all you are doing to strangers. Don’t post on neighborhood sites and forums.
It can mean dialing back on your social media usage. Many people who are prepping don’t advertise all reserves they have and all they’re doing to be ready.
Firearms for security
For some people, home security and personal security could mean getting a firearm.
With my background, I have been trained in owning and using firearms. This isn’t an ideal situation for many people, but if it fits your needs, you should know the following.
You can acquire a handgun and a rifle. You should have 500 rounds for the handgun and 1,000 rounds for the rifle. That ammunition requirement would be per firearm you own.
The best gun for home defense needs to be the right size for your hand. As far as calibers, the absolute best firearm for self-protection and home protection is the gun and caliber that you can consistency place the rounds on the threat while under stress.
What does that mean? It means that when you are faced with a real threat, we have been told in psychology class, we have two responses, fight or flight.
That’s inaccurate. People have three reactions: fight, flight, or freeze. When you are faced with a true threat — and you will know it — you will fight, flee, or freeze.
In all cases, that adrenaline will be surging through your system. Whatever firearm you choose, you have to be able to use it correctly while under that amount of stress.
All of this is difficult to know before buying a firearm. You will have to educate yourself by going to the dealer and handling them. You will need to either take a class in order to train to use it or learn through online training. Only buy one if you will keep it in a gun safe.
Hoarding vs Being Prepared
These are things to consider as you assess your current situation. There are things you can do now in order to get ready for what may be coming. No one knows how long this will last.
There are many benefits of being self-sufficient during uncertain times.
- You won’t be a burden on society or on anyone else.
- Less stress from knowing you will be able to provide for your family
While you may not have exactly what you want, you can have what you need. Preparing for the unknown has now become a real thing in our world.
Feeling secure during insecure times will help you boost your immune system. When you have enough of the basics, you will have less stress.
Things to have to be self-sufficient
If storage space and money were not an object, some practical things to have to be self-sufficient include:
- Extra can opener (hand crank; not electric)
- Bread maker
- Rocket stove or sun oven
- Waffle maker (not a necessity but we love ours)
- Extra freezer bags
- Extra freezer
- Quality soil including a compost pile or composter
- A pig, goat, or cow, or other animal
- Rainwater harvesting system
- Water purifier
- Building a Garden Bed Cheaply
- Best Backyard Greenhouse Review
- Everything You Need to Know about Pygmy Goats
- 10 Tips for Raising Backyard Chickens for Beginners
- Solar Power Electricity
- Home Generator Guide
- Off-Grid Power Sources
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Prepping and living so you are always prepared
Whether you live in the city, suburbs, or a rural community, there are things you can do to prepare for a crisis. You don’t have to call yourself an urban prepper to be prepared.
When something happens, no one knows how long it will last.
What you can do is prepare the best you can and be ready for the next time something happens.
While you may not be a high risk, you may be impacted by supply chain issues. Entire shelves may be bare. Know there are things you can start doing now to prep for a new way of living. Should something happen, you can be in a better situation to face it.
Go outside & get Vitamin D
Staying healthy is essential. You can’t be strong for your family if you aren’t at your best.
In addition to eating healthy, if conditions permit and you are safely able, go outside for as long as possible as often as possible.
Get fresh air. Even if you can’t walk around your block or sit on a lounge chair, get outside in some way. If that’s not possible, sit by a sunny window and enjoy natural light whenever possible.
Rule of Threes when facing a crisis
Keep in mind the Rule of Threes as you start your plan. Remember, prepping is for everyone, and it means different things to everyone.
What’s important to to consider your unique situation… where you live, your community. What can you do to be less reliant on outside sources? Perhaps that’s starting a garden or raising chickens. It might be getting the right size generator or starting a food surplus.
Prepping means preparing and thinking long-term.
It’s putting yourself in a situation so that when something external happens, you will have security. You won’t be panicking and reacting to what everyone else does.
Portable Greenhouse ~ What to Consider Before Buying One
When I ask myself why many refuse to look deeper into what is really going on, I remember a condition that is commonly called the “Normalcy Bias.”
Essentially, the normalcy bias is a mental state people have when facing or evaluating a potential disaster or pending danger.
The Normalcy Bias causes a vast underestimation of the likelihood of a catastrophe actually happening and the potential consequences of such an event.
It explains why many people on the Titanic, even while it was sinking, still didn’t believe that it could ever sink.
Passengers were slow to enter life boats, as that itself would be an acknowledgement that indeed the Titanic was going to sink.
It explains why so many in New Orleans stayed in their homes even with the notification that Hurricane Katrina was on its way. Many residents who had the means to do so refused to evacuate.
Flash floods are another example where tragedies happen unexpectedly.
Recent events are an excellent example of the Normalcy Bias. Many have been late to shutter themselves. Empty store shelves demonstrate how people were not prepared.
Even as news was spreading across the world, people in the United States were continuing on with their lives as usual not comprehending this would soon impact them as well.
People are now facing new realities and new ways of thinking about what “being ready and prepared” means.
Emergency preparedness means always being ready
It’s overwhelming to think of where to start when trying to prepare for future issues. But it’s important to know that you should always be thinking about the future:
Think about things you can do to further prepare for what’s going on now and for future issues.
Disaster prep and being ready for an emergency isn’t a one-time event or shopping trip. It’s about considering your situation and all the categories — shelter, hygiene, medicine / first aid, water, food, security — and how to approach each category.
It’s something that will evolve over time, step by step. You should always be prepping.