This Article Was Written by Patrick Blair, Contributor at Living Rational
Over the course of the last decade or so, prepping has become “the cool thing to do” due to an influx of prepper and survivalist shows on television. People are becoming more aware of the need for a preparedness strategy, and that’s awesome. The thing is, the idea of preparedness has been around for a long, long time.
A Little Preparedness History
Remember right after World War II — back in the late 1940s and early 1950s? That was the beginning of what was termed the “Cold War Era”. It was a popular movement, that was even considered normal by most of America because everybody was worried about the possibility of nuclear war from the Communist Bloc, so the vast majority of the population did what they could to be ready. People were building underground bunkers and fall-out shelters in their back yards. Families were growing “victory gardens” and canning their own foods. Large groups of people were even banding together to develop community-wide preparedness strategies.
People were very self-sufficient back then because they wanted to know that if something were to happen, they were prepared to continue to take care of their families without missing a beat. This was also before the Federal Emergency Management Agency existed (FEMA was formed in June of 1978). There was no nation-wide organization that was sanctioned to come help you out in times of emergency, so you were expected to take care of yourself.
When the weather threatened to rip houses from their foundations, families would take refuge in their cellars — which worked out great because that is where they kept all of their canned foods and emergency supplies.
Preparedness Became a Thing of the Past
The whole movement peaked and leveled-off in the 1960s, and by the ‘70s and ‘80s it was on a rapid decline. People were more concerned with convenience to learn to do things for themselves. The invention of the microwave all but made the “family dinner” an ancient relic of a concept. People wanted things right now, and even that wasn’t always soon enough. Folks were in a rush to get things done so they could move on to the next thing they would be rushing through.
Enter the “Instant Gratification” generation. An entire generation (arguably two generations) of people were born into a society that would rather watch television than read a book. Kids stopped going outside to play basketball and ride bikes in lieu of staying inside and playing basketball and riding bikes on their game consoles. Parents often work two jobs just to make ends meet… and by “make ends meet” I mean have enough money to buy all the creature comforts to which their children have become accustom.
If you are actually reading this right now, chances are you agree that a large percentage of North Americans have begun feeling more of a sense of entitlement — expecting their government to help them when things go horribly wrong; to pick them up, dust them off, and kiss their booboos. But the government can’t always be there for everyone, and to be honest, they shouldn’t have to be. If you’ve got a preparedness strategy in place, you’re living rationally.
Why You Need a Preparedness Strategy
You see, there’s a big problem with this “now, now, now” way of thinking — if something happened today to change everything, these people would be lost. Case in point – Hurricane Katrina. I know a lot of people personally who were devastated by Katrina, and most of them blame their losses to being unprepared. There was a mass exodus from Louisiana as well as other parts of the all-but-annihilated Gulf shore area. Victims didn’t have anything with which to survive. They were without the base necessities like food, water, shelter, hygiene products or first aid supplies.
Katrina wasn’t the only natural disaster to claim life and property. The entire globe has had areas that have been destroyed due to Mother Nature’s wrath. Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunami (Japanese for “harbor waves”), and other major weather patterns have left places in complete ruin. Just remember — “The End Of The World As We Know It” doesn’t have to be some global apocalyptic event. It could be anything that changes your life and the world around you. Any form of natural disaster changes the landscape of humanity. Again, look at incidents like Hurricane Katrina, the Fukushima disaster, and the Haitian earthquake of 2010.
Fortunately, the modern prepper movement is in full effect and the number of people getting ready for “TEOTWAWKI” is on the rise, so fewer survivors are being left completely desolate after. Get started working on your preparedness strategy now so that you’re not caught off guard in the face of disaster.
Storing Food and Water
When forming a preparedness strategy, it is important to remember the base necessities I mentioned before – starting with food and water. In a best case scenario, you will still have your home to stay in. However, food may run low quickly, and grocery stores may run out even faster with panicked citizens flushing the shelves. In order to be better prepared, I recommend you have at least three months worth of emergency food stored for each member of your family or preparedness group to have two to three meals a day. For a family of four to have three meals a day for three months, they would need 1,080 servings.
Isn’t that a lot of food? It certainly sounds like it when you break it down like that, but go a couple of weeks only eating once a day and you’ll change your mind fast. Then take into consideration that in a survival situation, you may not be just sitting in your house 24/7 waiting for someone to come rescue you — there may be chores you have to do inside and outside the home. The more calories you expend, the more you’ll need to take in to keep your energy level where it needs to be.
Also keep in mind that your body needs water to help break down the food you’re taking in so you don’t dehydrate. Learn multiple water purification techniques, find out where the closest sources of water are located, and always have spare containers to collect water. Large buckets are good for collection and short term emergency food storage in times of emergency.
Emergency Survival Kits
In a major SHTF scenario, you may find yourself needing to bug-out, in which case you’ll need more than just food and water. A fully stocked survival kit will not only keep you alive, but it will keep you comfortable. As part of your preparedness strategy, it is important to plan for any situation when you’re packing a bug-out bag. Whether you’re planning a 72-hour kit for yourself or something to help sustain a group of ten, there are specific conditions for which you need to account.
Food and Water – Ok, we’ve already covered this area, but you can’t always take tons of food with you if you have to leave the comforts of your home — especially if you’re traveling on foot. Items like food bars and water purification tablets will get you through some pretty tough spots. If you can’t find water, you might want to consider adding some small emergency water pouches to your bag.
Shelter – In extreme temperatures and inclement weather, you can only last 3 hours without shelter. In the cold, hypothermia can set in before you know it. The same can be said in high temperatures about heat stroke. Both situations are fatal if appropriate action is not taken. A survival tube tent strung between two trees may be enough to get you out of the heat of sun. You may need to add an additional tarp to that if it’s raining. Emergency blankets will help keep you warm in sub-zero degree weather.
Hygiene – Something most people take for granted on a daily basis is the ability to practice good hygiene. Imagine how you would react to know that none of the toilets in your house were working. In dire emergency, there may not be a working toilet for miles — if there’s one working anywhere. Then there’s general cleanliness to consider. You may think it wouldn’t be important if you were in some apocalyptic nightmare, and you may be right, but just remember that poor hygiene can lead to infection.
If you get some sort of infection, and it gets into your bloodstream, you’re in real trouble. Sepsis is a condition in which the body is fighting a severe infection that has spread via the bloodstream — a condition that will most likely kill you without immediate medical attention. Keeping your body clean may not stop an infection, but it will greatly reduce your chances.
First Aid – Even in the best of situations, people get hurt. Put yourself in a panic zone, and it’s guaranteed you’ll be hurt at some point. A first aid kit will help clean, bandage and heal your boo-boos. Some sort of anti-inflammatory and/or pain reliever, antibiotic ointment, and band-aids are the basics of any good medical pack. Add to that a burn kit and suturing supplies, and you’re ready for more serious issues. Just be sure you know what is in your kit and how to properly use everything. Survival Gear will do you no good if you do not know how to tend to your wounds.
Tools – You can always make tools from things you find in nature, but there’s something to be said for having a ready-made sewing kit and survival knife. A decent knife can be used for many things including food preparation, trimming down firewood, cutting cordage, and even some first-aid uses like removing splinters and cutting open wounds for deep irrigation. With a sewing kit, you can obviously sew up damaged clothing and tents, but in a medical emergency, you may also need to use the needle and thread for suturing a deep wound.
Pet Survival Kits – Ok, some of you just audibly said, “Really?!” Others of you said, “Yes!” This is something that isn’t necessarily thought about often by a lot of people. The thing is, while some of us may not worry too much about our animals because of their natural primal instincts to survive, others of us may have service animals that will require some extra attention to make sure they are at peak physical condition all the time so they can continue to perform their job.
How to Plan Your Preparedness Strategy
When preparing for emergency situations, the first thing you should do is analyze your potential threats. What should you be preparing for? People in Florida should be more worried about hurricanes and floods than earthquakes. Likewise, folks living in Arizona may consider tornadoes and wildfires without concern for tsunamis.
Planning For Likely Scenarios
Once you have determined your threats, think about what those threats could do to your area of the country. Is there potential for property loss? Should you think about a sturdy shelter underground, or would you be better off in a higher elevation? Assess the level of the threat, as well. If you’re in tornado alley, how likely is it that your house will be carried away? If your name is Dorothy, you might want to put some extra effort into that thought.
Now that you have determined what the potential for damage is, consider what items you may need for the amount of time you will either be without utility services (power, water, etc.) and start storing those items. Things like flashlights, emergency candles, matches and glow sticks will be important items to not only help you see in the dark, but get fires started to help cook your food and keep you warm in cold weather.
Checking Your Preparedness Supplies
A good preparedness strategy always includes checking your supplies regularly, rotating stock, and replacing things before they pass their expiration dates and go bad. Emergency food — no matter how long it is supposed to last — will eventually be deemed inedible. The good thing is, most of what you will find with us has a 25 year shelf-life. Still, checking dates is recommended to ensure that if disaster strikes, you have enough supplies.
Redundancy is always welcome when you are prepping. Most preppers live by the rule “two is one, and one is none”. This means if you have only one of a specific item, you need more. Why? Well, if you lose it, break it, or consume it, you’re left with nothing. A spare will ensure that a failure with one will still leave you with a backup. Most hardcore preppers actually have three or more of any given item — knives, flashlights, and fire starters being the three most common multiples.
Putting Your Preparedness Strategy Into Action
So you have a plan in place, plenty of food and water stored, and emergency kits out the wazoo. That’s great! Have you tried a dry run of your plan? You should! It’s one thing to know how to use the items you have so diligently amassed, but another to actually use them during an occasion where stress is potentially at its highest.
The good news is you can remedy that quite simply — get out in your back yard and practice! Everybody thinks they can start a big, roaring fire with a lighter in the woods, but when is the last time you tried to do it when you were hungry and with your fingers numb? It’s not that easy (trust me, I’m speaking from experience). I thought it was one of the easier things to do, but in practice, when your stomach is in knots and your hands are freezing, you can’t think straight and mistakes can happen. Train yourself to focus and push through the nervousness and you will begin to make things easier on yourself.
Once you are comfortable “surviving” in your own back yard, take your act on the road. Load up the car, find a great pace to camp, and try to really “rough it” for a few days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should put yourself into danger, just put your skills to the test. Just be sure you let someone know where you and your friends will be, and when you plan to be back — and keep your cell phone on you, just don’t use it unless there’s an emergency.
The Bottom Line
Your preparedness strategy needs to be made up of more than just the thought that you’re going to be ok, and if you’re not, you can just get in the car and leave. Things don’t always work like that, so you have to be ready with contingency plans. Have a plan, and a backup plan (and a backup plan for the backup). Just make sure you practice putting your plan into action as often as you can so when the time comes, you’ll be able to execute the plan with little to no problem and actually survive!