You’ve probably heard about those “preppers” or survivalists. You know, the people who store food, medical supplies, and maybe ammunition or other necessities they think they might need in an emergency? Perhaps for a long time you thought they were crazy. Then came Katrina, Sandy, and maybe a period of unemployment, and you decided they may be onto something.
Your family doesn’t have to go overboard and become backwoods survivalists to begin and sustain a preparedness program. If nothing else, you’ll gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re ready for whatever life throws at you. This article isn’t a comprehensive family preparedness guide, but here are a few things you might need to be prepared for.
Job Loss or Financial Hardship
The vast majority of the time, you don’t know in advance that you’re about to lose your job or be faced with a financial hardship. The total and unwelcome surprise of losing your job is something most people fear, but not enough prepare for. While you don’t know when or if a loss is coming, the best thing you can do is prepare for it before it happens. Getting your family into a good financial situation now can greatly reduce your stress and heartache later on.
Cut unnecessary expenses to put more money away. Pay off debts and eliminate your credit card balance. Sit down to discuss and reassess your needs versus your wants, and include the whole family in these discussions. Can you eliminate or cut back on entertainment, cable, and shopping? It might also be a good idea to stock up on non-perishable and freezer-friendly food. If you have a health savings account, see if you can contribute a little extra that could get you through a period of being uninsured. Overall, eliminate as many costs as you can. When you lose an income, the number of bills you eliminate could make the difference between being able to keep your current home and having to move.
Even if you don’t live in an extreme climate, it’s important to be prepared for weather-related emergencies before they happen. Whether it’s extreme heat, high winds, or a snow and ice storm, being prepared will help you avoid panic. Once a dangerous forecast comes out, it’s pretty safe to say there will be a run on supplies like food, batteries, flashlights, and toilet paper. But if you already have these supplies, you can rest easy.
Whatever the season, be sure you’re prepared to go without electricity, clean water, and perhaps sanitation for a time. Store drinking water, make plans for alternative heat (or how you could stay cool), and make sure you have a good supply of hygiene items and food on hand that doesn’t require a lot of preparation. Put together a 72-hour kit, including first-aid supplies and medications, and update it frequently for the needs of any family changes.
Even if you don’t live in a flood, hurricane, earthquake or tornado zone (though most of us live in areas where these things CAN and sometimes DO happen), being prepared ahead of time for natural disasters is essential to your ability to cope.
There are several simple things your family can do ahead of time to help you meet disasters with confidence. First, know how to turn off your home utilities such as gas, water, and electricity. Make sure large appliances, furniture, and your water heater is anchored to the wall to avoid tipping in an earthquake. Move breakables and heavy objects to lower shelves. Keep papers in a fire and water-proof safe at home or another secure location. Document your belongings for insurance purposes and make sure your coverage is adequate, as many policies do not include natural disaster coverage.
Also, make sure you stock up on non-perishable food, first-aid supplies, batteries, flashlights, matches, blankets, etc. Be ready to get through several days without utilities. It’s always a good idea to have cash on hand as well.
Make sure you have a family emergency protocol in place. Where should everyone take shelter in the house? What would be the best escape route, if necessary? What should your kids do if they’re at school in an emergency? Where should everyone meet if you’re away from home and separated? Knowing you are prepared and have a plan will help the entire family cope with a difficult situation.