By Daisy Luther
When a disaster draws near, suddenly, preppers don’t seem quite so crazy anymore.
It becomes mainstream to engage in a flurry of activity that looks like an episode of Doomsday Preppers being fast-forwarded across the screen. Panic prepping happens more often than you might think.
We see it frequently when the news outlets warn of a big storm approaching. We saw it during the Ebola scare in 2014. We saw it right before the presidential election, when pending civil unrest was a threat.
Of course, anyone who lives a prepared lifestyle knows that panic prepping is not ideal. However, we’d rather see our neighbors panic-prep that not prep at all.
This article is for those who have never really considered getting ready for an unusual event. If you need to get ready fast because something is headed your way, this may not cover ALL of your bases, but it will get you through at least a short term disaster. Nearly all of the supplies will be easily available at your local Wal-Mart, Target, or hardware store.
A better option, of course, would be to pick up these items ahead of time and having an emergency kit, sitting there ready when a storm is bearing down.
But better late than never – I encourage you to read this over, print out the shopping list, and get your supplies together.
A water supply
Many events over the past years have taught us that a water emergency can happen to anyone. In the event that your area suffers from tainted tap water, you’ll want to have a backup supply on hand to keep your family (including pets) hydrated. This does not mean a case of 24 water bottles.
- The thriftiest quick option is to purchase those one-gallon water jugs that are less than a dollar at the store. Get a supply that will last for 2 weeks – one per day, per family member. That will cost approximately $14 per family member. But if you wait too long, the water will be gone.
- You can also bottle and store tap water, but if you’re not really into the whole idea of prepping, you may not want to put forth the effort to do this. You can find instructions for building your personal water supply in this book.
- Here are some great containers for storing water. If you aren’t in an extremely humid area, this storage system will help you store a lot of water, less expensively, in a small space.
- Here is an emergency water filter.
A way to heat your home
This is essential in colder climates. Lack of heat can cause people to make bad choices – sometimes deadly ones – by using methods that can cause a build-up of carbon monoxide.
- If you’re lucky, you may have a wood burning fireplace or wood stove. If you have that, simply make sure you have enough wood to burn for a while.
- You may also have a natural gas fireplace. Most of the time, these work when the power goes out, although they won’t have a blower and will only thoroughly heat one room.
- An excellent secondary heater is the Mr. Buddy propane heater. You can attach this to a barbecue propane tank. This heater is rated for indoor use (in most states.) Find it here. Keep at least 2 tanks of propane on hand to see you through an emergency.
- Be prepared to close off one room where the heat source is. You can use curtains in doorways for this, or if the room has doors, stuff towels under them to keep the heat from escaping.
- Always have a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector. Your life could depend on it.
Good hygiene is even more important during a disaster. Food and water borne illnesses can be deadly.
- Paper towels
- Bleach wipes
- Baby wipes
- Supplies to make a kitty litter toilet for humans. (Instructions here)
- Disposable rags for cleaning up
- Heavy duty trash bags
When the lights go out, you’ll want to have backup lighting. That scented candle in the middle of your coffee table isn’t going to last for days and days.
- Buy tea lights. They are safe and inexpensive. These burn for 6-7 hours apiece.
- Don’t forget lighters and matches!
- Bring in your solar garden stakes at night for a cozy glow.
- Pick up some glow bracelets for the kiddos. This is a safe way to give them some light in their bedrooms.
- Be sure to have flashlights and extra batteries on hand.
- We love our LED headlamps. With these, you can do things hands-free at night, like reading, knitting, or other tasks that require steady illumination.
A way to cook
Even if you have loads of food in your pantry, it won’t help you much if you have no way to cook it. Here are a few options.
- If you have a gas stove, it will probably work during most power outages. A great way to test this is to simply throw the breaker and make certain it still comes on. Some stoves have an electric ignition and will not turn on without being manually lit.
- A backyard barbecue is another thing that most folks already have on hand that can pull double duty during an emergency. Mine also has a burner.
- An emergency stove that can be used indoors – this is the one I just ordered. and it’s less than $40 with 4 fuel cans. Make sure you have plenty of extra fuel for it. The cans are rated to burn for 4 hours each, and most bucket meals take 15 minutes to prepare.
- A Kelly Kettle is a popular rocket stove that can use any type of biomass to boil water quickly. Find one here.
- A camp stove is another excellent option. Coleman is a trusted name and these can be found in any store with a camping/outdoors department. This one is a classic. Be sure that you have enough propane to last for 3 meals per day for a couple of weeks.
A food supply
Finally, you need a food supply, and it needs to be shelf-stable. During a longer power outage, the items in your refrigerator will spoil fairly quickly, and eating something that could make you sick is even less of a good idea during an emergency. There are numerous options.
- Buy some buckets. Buckets of food are generally considered a one month supply for one person. The fastest, easiest way to build a food supply for emergencies is to pick up a bucket for each member of the family. You can find some good quality, non-GMO buckets here.
- Stock up on canned soups, stews, fruits, and vegetables. These will last a long time on a basement shelf and can be heated up very quickly to conserve your fuel.
- Get canned meat: tuna, salmon, chicken, and ham are all readily available.
- Consider no-cook options. If you don’t have a secondary method, look to things like peanut butter and crackers, dried fruit, canned veggies, and tortillas. Here’s a whole list of no-cook foods.
- Protein powder is a good option to make a filling, tasty beverage (a lot of emergency food is pretty low on protein.)
- Keep dry milk on hand for coffee, cereal, and drinking. It also comes in chocolate.
- Skip the beans and rice. Unless you are cooking them over the fire in your fireplace, you are going to use far too much fuel to prepare stuff like that from scratch. Focus on foods that can be reheated or prepared in less than 20 minutes.
The most important thing to remember here is not to rely on the things in your fridge and freezer during a lengthy power outage. You want to eat those things for the first day or so, working from fridge to freezer, but after that, you need to switch to shelf-stable mode.
It may not be green, but the last thing you’re going to want to deal with during a power outage in which you may not have hot water is washing tons of dishes or laundry. Pick up some disposable items to have on hand for basic sanitation:
- Paper plates
- Styrofoam cups
- Plastic flatware
- Paper towels
- Cleaning wipes
Tools and special supplies
This will vary depending on your disaster, but here are some basics.
- Fully charged screwdriver and manual backups
- Duct tape
- Bug spray and insect repellant
Something to do
In our electronics-addicted world, one of the most difficult adjustments for some people during a power outage is the loss of their electronic device. You’ll want to have a few things on hand for entertainment that doesn’t require an internet connection or a gadget.
- Get some books and save them for just such an emergency.
- Pick up some magazines and put them away so they’ll be fresh and new.
- Pick up games, puzzles, and other old-fashioned forms of entertainment.
- Do crafts like knitting, carving, painting, or scrapbooking.
- Here’s a list of power-outage activities for the kiddos.
Special needs items
This will vary from family to family, but this list should trigger some ideas. Think about the things your family members use and need on a frequent basis.
- Prescription medications (probably the most vital thing on the list)
- Over the counter medications
- Diapers and baby wipes
- Hair elastics (ask any woman with long hair how essential this is!)
- Lip balm
- Hand lotion
Keep it all together.
I can’t encourage you enough to buy these things ahead of time. When an emergency is pending, everyone else is out there with the same idea. However, if you’ve waited too late, now you know exactly what you need. Go here to download your FREE shopping list. This will make it easier to ensure that you have everything you need when you head out for your shopping spree.
It’s wise not to intermingle your emergency supplies with your other supplies. The particularly tasty things will get used up and you’ll be left eating saltines and canned peaches. Not fun. Pick up 1-2 large plastic tubs and keep the majority of your supplies in them. Not your propane though – you will want to ensure that propane is stored correctly. (Here’s how to do that.)
It’s better late than never.
For those of you who are well-prepared, are there any other last minute items that you’d recommend for people who are just getting started?
A binder to keep copies of all your important documents. Birth certificates, social security cards, drivers licenses, car titles, etc. Keep the originals in a safe place, but copies in an emergency situation may be your lifeline. You can also keep a list of emergency contacts, family medical issues/medication lists, etc.
Great list. Folks from flood prone areas have learned to put these documents in their dishwasher, closing the latch for a waterproof seal.
“Instant” white and brown rice, mashed potatoes, ramen noodles and oatmeal can all be reconstituted in water just by soaking-without actual cooking. I’ve tested all these. They could be heated in a solar oven if possible-to save fuel. Mix t hese with other foods to help fill bellies to a comfort level.
And yes, it’s never too late. We see this morning that the Norway Global seed bank partially flooded due, they think, to melting permafrost. That must be fake news because according to your president there is no global warming. So don’t forget to stash some seeds in with your long term preps. Although, haven’t you wondered from time to time, how we would get those seeds from Norway? Are they just going to fly over and drop some?
Don’t forget the manually operated can-openers.
Female hygiene products, hand charging radio .
Panic buying is not “prepping”.
You seem to be fairly unhappy with the content here. I’m curious as to why. Really, the writers here and I strive to make preparedness accessible for everyone – whether they’ve been at this for years, or they suddenly see the light and want to get things together immediately. We welcome everyone, from every walk of life, and we try to help. You should keep in mind there are all sorts of different ways that people approach this and all sorts of triggers that get them on board.
Around here, we cheer them on, even when they’re late to the show.
A most professional response from the author. It is far easier to criticize the hard work of others than it is to step outside one’s comfortable box and actually do something to help others. 😉
Those who criticize others’ work often are simply jealous that they lack the fortitude to do so themselves, and fearful that they will be criticized if they put themselves out there for open critique.
Flashlights are a fundamental. And here’s a link to a YouTube article itemizing (by manufacturer and model number) flashlights that require only ONE battery. One “D” or one “AAA” etc. Then, whatever you can scrounge from the kid’s toys, you can use to get some light. The article is entitled Cheap Emergency Lighting. The listing starts at 2:18. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kv7Bx6usT-g.
FOOD. My folks (from the Depression and World War II era) always went into the winter (where employment was an iffy proposition) with a bushel each of potatoes, onions, and apples in the cold back bedroom. If you do this, pick varieties known to be good keepers. These things don’t need to be refrigerated, frozen, or canned. They don’t even require cooking; you can eat them raw. Add a few pounds of dried navy beans and lentils and rice (plus some powdered milk for the baby) and you’re ready to face just about anything. Eggs can be coated with mineral oil (to stop evaporation through the shell) and stored for months in that same back bedroom without refrigeration. (Try it ahead of time with one dozen and see what happens.) Salt, sugar, tea, and instant coffee all store forever. Gotta have that caffeine. Bon appétit.
After reading The Wilderness Wife many years ago, I learned how to bake sour dough bread. She had a sour dough starter that she used for many, many years. Flour can be stored in an air-tight container in the ‘back bedroom” or kept in the freezer. When the power went out during a winter storm, we stored perishables securely in the snow. My husband makes our Yogurt and has been using the same Bulgarian yogurt starter for eight years now.
Since price gouging for paper products has been running rampant, I will begin washing, cutting up into strips, and hemming old clothing and material to be used in place of paper towels. Some can be washed again and reused.
Tortillas (flour ones, anyway) do not have a long shelf life. Use them first, or better yet use crackers.