2020 was a textbook case of the sh** hitting the fan with virtually no warning and really highlighted the need to make preparedness a priority. After all, if a flu that was no danger to healthy people under 60 could bring the world to a stop, what will happen if something like ebola gets loose, or China invades Taiwan, or terrorists unleash a truly deadly biological agent into the atmosphere? It won’t be pretty, that much is certain.
How well you weather the next calamity will depend in large part on how well you prepare today. With that in mind we pulled together this emergency preparedness checklist aimed at helping those with no prepping experience. Enjoy.
Emergency Preparedness Checklist
Starting with survival basics and continuing on through the more mundane and esoteric items here is a checklist that should help the beginner prepper make up for lost time.
2 weeks worth of supplies
Pre-coronavirus most public and private agencies that deal with emergency response recommended having enough supplies to cover you and your loved ones for 3 days. The 3 day recommendation was based on the belief that in the aftermath of a natural disaster either areas would recover, or emergency help would reach most everyone, within 72 hours.
Now that we all have first hand experience of hospitals turning people away and millions of ordinary citizens essentially being under house arrest for extended periods of time, 3 days just doesn’t cut it. Prepare for 2 weeks, minimum.
Water and food
The CDC states that each person will need a gallon of water for drinking and sanitation every day. So if there are 4 people in your family that means you should store 4 gallons of water for every day. 4 gallons times 14 days equals 56 gallons of water minimum.
Remember, the average person, especially if they’re packing a few extra pounds, can survive weeks without food as long as they have sufficient water. Even longer if they have water and multivitamins. However, they’ll only last a few days if they have food but no water. So water has to be priority #1.
As far as food is concerned, you should stockpile at least 2 weeks worth of non-perishable food in the form of canned goods, dried cereal, dried fruit, protein bars, dehydrated foods, instant noodles and the like (and don’t forget those multivitamins we just mentioned). How much food depends on how many people are involved.
The average adult male needs about 2,400 calories per day, while the average female needs about 2,000. In a pinch you can get by on less, but those should be your targets. You’ll need to read labels and do the math to come up with the right amounts.
If you or someone in your family has diabetes, high blood pressure, epilepsy or some other condition that requires regular medication, one of your first priorities should be to start stockpiling those meds to the best of your ability.
There is no telling if the next catastrophe will occur next week or 10 years from now so the time to start is today. If you’re lucky and nothing happens by the time those stockpiled meds are set to expire, replace them as needed.
The key here, of course, is to store your medications properly. If you don’t, any stockpile will be worthless, or worse yet, dangerous.
The last time an American saved money was in 1967. That’s a gross exaggeration of course, but the fact is we the people lost interest in saving money a long time ago. In 1960, for instance, the average working person saved about 12% of their income. Today, it’s around 2%.
There was a brief spike in savings as the first wave of coronavirus-related restrictions hit. But it did not last long and subsequent lockdown-related business closures and job losses caused many to burn through what little they had saved.
The bottom line is that there is simply no substitute for having cash on hand if everything is falling apart around you, so start saving now. The more the better.
Food, water, medicine and cash are all essential things to have when the next calamity strikes. But you will also need to have plenty of less obvious, but equally important, practical items on hand.
That means matches (preferably waterproof), disposable lighters just in case, candles, emergency blankets, can openers, solar power bank, rechargeable batteries and the recharger, tactical flashlights, soap, a sewing kit, toilet paper, a portable stove or two plus fuel and more. And for God’s sake don’t forget the duct tape.
Without these unsung heroes of survival your hopes of thriving during a future calamity will be severely compromised. For instance, if you have tons of canned food but no can opener you’ll be up the creek without a paddle. Or if you have a portable stove but no fuel, or rechargeable batteries but no recharger, you’re going to find yourself back in the 19th century pretty quick.
Home-based and portable first aid kit
When hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters strike the number of injured is always far greater than the number of dead. If you or members of your family are injured by flying debris or other causes you need to be able to treat the injuries quickly and effectively.
That means having a fully stocked first aid kit on hand. The American Red Cross has created a very detailed list of the things you should have in your home first aid kit that includes gauze bandages, antiseptic wipes and adhesive bandages (commonly referred to as Band-Aids).
The Mayo Clinic maintains an even more comprehensive list that includes petroleum jelly, eyewash solution, hydrogen peroxide, an aluminum finger splint, medical scissors, a manual thermometer, anti-diarrhea medicines, aspirin, Tylenol or other pain relievers, and more.
Keep in mind too that the possibility exists that you may need to evacuate, in which case you will be limited in what you can take with you. For that reason you should have a smaller, mobile version of your first aid kit always at the ready.
2020 also demonstrated that disasters can lead to a breakdown of civil society. The peaceful demonstrations that involved burning down buildings, looting businesses and attacking people where they lived or were trying to eat dinner were just a coming attraction for the kind of chaos that could ensue in the event of a truly devastating catastrophe.
As such it’s imperative that you take your own safety and the safety of your loved ones into consideration. Depending on what you believe that may include anything from zip ties to constrain assailants, to firearms to keep them at bay. It’s important that you give serious consideration to how you will defend yourself and your family should the need arise.
Games and other diversions
When things get rough it’s hard on everyone. The past year has seen a spike in suicide rates both in the US and worldwide as people have fallen victim to despair. And it’s not just adults who are taking their own lives. There has also been a spike in suicide attempts by American teenagers despairing over lockdowns and lost opportunities.
It’s crucial that as you prepare for future calamities that you keep your mental health, and the mental health of your loved ones, front and center. That means making sure that, alongside the food, water and duct tape, you have a selection of books, playing cards, board games and even movies on USB flash drives that can be viewed on a tablet or smartphone if TV and internet are out.
In the event of a natural disaster there is a good chance your home and/or property may suffer some damage. In that case you may need to spring into action to patch holes in the walls or ceiling, or dig out from under snow, or even mud. There may be downed branches that need to be removed or entire trees. If a hurricane is approaching you may need to board up windows.
In short, being prepared means being prepared for as many eventualities as possible, and that includes the above scenarios. So make sure you have the requisite tools on hand so you can spring into action if necessary.
Good tools to have would include a hand saw, possibly a chainsaw, a hammer, nails, work gloves, cordless drill, screws, a shovel or two, a heavy duty tarp you can use to cover a hole in the wall or roof, a staple gun and more.
In the event that you find yourself isolated, or if you and your family members need to evacuate, you will need to ensure you and they can communicate, either with the outside world or with one another. A two way ham radio is a great thing to have if you are in the house but cellphone towers are down and internet is out.
If you and your loved ones need to evacuate you will need a way for everyone to stay in touch in case someone gets separated. In that case having walkie talkies or BaoFengs radios amongst your emergency stockpile can be a lifesaver, literally. Also, having a CB radio in your car or pickup can come in very handy in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.
Copies of important documents
If you are forced to evacuate you may end up in a situation where you will need to show identification for yourself and family members. So having copies of birth certificates on hand is a good idea. Keeping a copy of your passport may also be helpful.
Likewise, a copy of the deed to your home may come in handy if that home is washed away, burned down by peaceful demonstrators, or otherwise destroyed. In which case you may also need a copy of your homeowners insurance policy.
Other things that may come in handy include a copy of the title for your car, as well as your car insurance policy and photos of all family members; both physical photos and digital copies. You should also have old fashioned physical maps in case you don’t have internet access.
The Importance of Mobile Preparedness
It’s all very well and good to have a well-stocked survival pantry with 6 months worth of food and all the amenities necessary to hunker down for the long haul. But tsunamis, hurricanes, war, societal breakdown and other calamities don’t always unfold in a way that allows us to sleep in our own comfy, comfy beds every night. For that reason you have to be prepared to hit the road if necessary, and that means having a bug out bag at the ready.
What is a Bug Out Bag?
A bug out bag is nothing more than a backpack, gym bag or other type of large durable bag that you fill with emergency supplies. You keep the bug out bag separate from your other doomsday supplies and don’t touch its contents. That way, if the SHTF and you need to “bug out” of your home in a hurry, you sling the BOB over your shoulder and hit the road. (And yes, you’ll be leaving that deluxe basement pantry full of food and other supplies behind, but that’s life.)
Any prepper worthy of the title has a bug out bag somewhere in their house or apartment, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice. Most will never be used. But it’s crucial that it be there anyway just in case.
Some may question the value of the bug out bag (also called a “go bag”), but in our opinion those that do are missing the prepper point. Being prepared does not just mean being prepared for orderly lockdowns that last a few days or a couple of weeks. Or waiting it out at home for a week after you’ve been hit with 3 feet of snow in 24 hours. It means being prepared for whatever.
“Whatever” is a mighty big word and means exactly that: you are prepared to provide for yourself and any dependents whatever form the threat takes. If the threat requires you to leave your home, whether in your SUV or on foot, with no obviously safe destination in sight, then you need to do that, and the bug out bag will greatly increase your chances of survival.
Still don’t think there are any scenarios that might force such a hasty retreat? Well, how about this: a foreign government hacks into a major gasoline pipeline bringing a region to a virtual standstill. At the same time a hurricane is bearing down on that region and the state has ordered mandatory evacuations.
Let’s say a given person didn’t fill up their tank because they thought, “Hey, there’s always gas”, and now they are forced to evacuate. They get a few miles before they have to abandon their car and continue on foot. In a case like that those folks would be very grateful they had a bug out bag with them.
If that seems a bit far-fetched let’s look at some other more prosaic scenarios.
- Your house is threatened by a fast moving wildfire.
- A line of twisters is bearing down on your town.
- There is a train accident and toxic fumes have been released into the air near your home.
- Peaceful protests erupt in your town and you want to get the kids somewhere safe.
- There is a major earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone and a tsunami threatens to wipe out the entire northwest coastline.
- The Mississippi overflows its banks putting several states under water.
Those are all real world scenarios where a bug out bag could make the difference between struggling to get by and being relatively safe and comfortable.
What Goes in a Bug Out Bag?
A bug out bag should be a compact version of your larger prepper stockpile. That means
- Enough water for the next few hours
- Water purification pills and a water filter or filters
- Dehydrated food to keep weight down
- Energy bars/power bars
- Toilet paper
- Extra socks and underwear
- Emergency blankets
- Duct tape, multitool, zip ties, batteries, paracord
- A warm jacket
- Survival knife
- Hard Tack
- Walkie talkies/Baofeng radios
- Solar battery recharger
- Portable first aid kit
- And so on…
The bottom line is that the bug out bag should enable your survival for several days minimum. At the same time though it cannot be so heavy that you can’t carry it should you need to hit the road on foot. Most novice hikers are fond of telling anyone who will listen how they carried a 100 pound pack into the woods for days at a time.
That sort of thing might make for a good story but it’s total fantasy fare. The average healthy adult will wither if they have to carry more than 30 or 40 pounds for just a couple of hours. Accordingly your bug out bag should not weigh more than that.
And just for the record, you might also want to have an even more compact version of your bug out bag in the trunk of your car at all times, just in case.
Common Mistakes Beginner Preppers Make
When left to their own devices beginner preppers are prone to making a number of common, if understandable, mistakes. Those mistakes include:
- Not including a bug out bag in their preparations. People often need to evacuate in a hurry. If they have to grab stuff from the shelf on the way out the door they’re going to forget things.
- Believing they know exactly what form a disaster will take and preparing only for that. How many people saw the coronavirus coming 2 years ago?
- Wasting time preparing for UFO abductions or the zombie apocalypse. Sorry, not gonna happen. Try to stay in the real world.
- Believing all they need is guns, lots of guns. While a sidearm can be an invaluable deterrent if the SHTF you can’t eat it or drink it.
- Buying ready made survival kits off the internet. Most are a waste of money, but having one in your car is probably better than having nothing in your car. Probably.
- Trying to prep on the cheap. You need to be able to depend on the things in your prepper stockpile.
- Thinking a basement full of canned goods is effective prepping. Having lots of food is a good start, but it’s only a start.
- Getting mentally and emotionally caught up in end of the world scenarios. Prepping is about being prepared. It’s not about embracing despair.
- Not checking to see what things have outlived their usefulness and need to be replaced.
- Reaching into their survival stockpiles to fulfill everyday needs.
- Not saving cash. Stories declaring the death of cash are greatly exaggerated. When things get tough people want to see green, not plastic.
The Bottom Line
Prepping isn’t child’s play, nor does it require embracing an extremist ideology. It’s all about common sense. Think about it this way: depending on your age either your grandparents or great-grandparents were preppers. It’s true.
Right up until the middle of the 20th century it was considered short-sighted and irresponsible not to prepare for the unexpected. Canning was part of everyday life and nearly every home had stockpiles of food in the basement in case the winter was particularly harsh, or there was a flood or hurricane.
It was only after the end of the Second World War that people began to feel comfortable enough in their ability to get whatever they wanted whenever they wanted it that this type of common sense preparedness was largely abandoned. Today, however, we have to tip our hat to our forebears. They knew a thing or two about the nature of life and prided themselves on being ready for anything.
So, if you are determined to be better prepared for the next calamity than you were for the one that now seems to be receding somewhat, take the above advice to heart. It’s better to be prepared and have nothing happen than to have something happen and not be prepared.