Where and How Do You Start Preparing?

Perhaps you’ve decided your family needs an emergency preparedness plan, but you’re a little overwhelmed at all there is to do.  Maybe you’ve gone as far as to make a list of things to buy and how to store them, along with some information about surviving an emergency, but putting your plan into action seems a little daunting.  For those who have a desire to get their families better prepared and aren’t quite sure where to start, here are some simple steps.

Lights, please!  If you already have flashlights, be sure to store the right kind of batteries.  LED flashlights and lanterns will last a lot longer than the traditional kind.  If you want something totally self-sufficient, buy a few crank-powered lights as well.  That way, if you do run out of batteries, you’ll have something to fall back on.

Food and water.  When you go to the store, buy a few extra cans of tuna, fruit, or jars of peanut butter.  When pasta goes on sale, buy 10 bags.  Spending just a few extra dollars per week will buy you a significant amount of storable food within a few months.  Once you start building your supply up, buy some food-grade buckets for longer term storage.  Buy food storage items your family is used to, and date the cans or boxes so you can use the oldest items first.  When you use something, jot it down on the grocery list to replace next week.  As for water, large water containers for storage are good to have around, but you can also buy cases of bottled water for a supply you know is clean and portable.  Also remember hygiene essentials like soap, toothpaste, and toilet paper when you are planning what to store.

Fire and cooking.  If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, be sure you have lots of firewood at the ready.  Bags of charcoal can also serve you well, even if you burn it on a concrete pad and set your Dutch oven on top for cooking.  Also don’t underestimate the use of your BBQ for preparing all kinds of meals; just be sure to store extra propane.

Guns and ammo.  Guns and ammunition can be essential to your family’s safety against criminals or civil unrest.  Even if you don’t want a gun, you might consider storing ammunition for bartering.  Look at used firearms at your local store or online, and buy a box of ammo whenever you can.  Please note that those with children need to be especially careful about the safe storage and security of these items.  Never store a loaded firearm, and make sure guns are in a locked place inaccessible to children or others who may use them improperly.

72-hour kit.  If you need to survive for a few days either at home or elsewhere, a 72-hour kit is essential.  Include food, water, light, heat, blankets and first-aid supplies for everyone in the family.  Consider keeping one in your car as well.  If you aren’t sure what to put in it, the Red Cross has a great list.

Blankets.  Especially if you don’t have a fireplace or wood/pellet stove for alternative heat, a large supply of blankets will be your best friend for keeping warm.  Mylar emergency blankets are essential too, as they retain and reflect most of your body heat right back onto you.

Tools.  Make sure your emergency supplies and/or 72-hour kit includes a good knife or multi-tool with saw, can opener, wrench etc.  One of these tools can be put to dozens of useful tasks.  And don’t forget the rope and duct tape!

Trash bags.  These come in handy not only for garbage, but for sanitation if the plumbing isn’t working.  Lining a household toilet or plastic bucket with a trash bag can work for temporary sanitation and disposal.  You can also buy deodorant or enzyme tablets at any camping store.

Gas.  You may be limited in the amount of gasoline you are comfortable storing.  However, simply ensuring your family cars have at least half a tank of gas at all times can go a long way to helping you get to safety when necessary.

Grow your own food.  Start with a few strawberry, tomato, and cucumber plants.  Learn to can or dry foods.  If you’re nervous about gardening, a fruit tree or two can be a great place to start.  You can grow a lot on a tree without having to weed it.


Plan to assemble your emergency supplies over a number of months, or even a year.  Get a calendar and write down what you intend to acquire or accomplish each month.  Before you know it, you’ll have the peace of mind that can only come from knowing your family is prepared for anything.

The Prepper Dictionary

If you are ready to start your family preparedness program, join all the clubs, and generally turn into a prepping nerd, you better know the lingo. Here’s your chance to learn what all those “preppy” people are talking about (and what all those acronyms mean), so you can be a prepper too.

1. #10 Can: A very specific size of can. It’s about 7 inches tall by 6.25 inches wide. Their uniform size and large capacity make them a favorite among preppers. A properly sealed can of freeze-dried food with an oxygen absorbing packet inside can last 25 years or more.

2. Bug Out: “Bugging out” means getting out of the current location and into safety, when a disaster or other potential danger is threatening. Others may choose to “bug in” at home with their supplies.

3. Bug Out Bag: This bag should contain life-sustaining supplies and other essentials that are quick to grab and easy to take with you. Your bug out bag should have at least a 72-hour supply of necessities per person.

4. BOV: Bug out vehicle. Could be your family minivan or another specified vehicle equipped with supplies ready to go.

5. Buddy Burner: This is a light, portable burner with fuel source for outdoor or “vagabond” cooking. They are often made with paraffin wax, poured into a tuna can full of rolled cardboard. Want to make one? Google knows how.

6. Cache: A stash of supplies either on site or off.

7. DEEP: Disaster & emergency preparedness.

8. Dutch Oven: A heavy, cast iron pot that’s perfect for outdoor cooking, either on charcoal or right on the fire. You can make just about anything in a Dutch oven. Once properly seasoned, clean it by simply wiping it out with some plain hot water. Just be sure to dry it thoroughly or it will rust.

9. EMP or Electro-Magnetic Pulse: An EMP is a powerful pulse of electromagnetic radiation, potentially generated by a nuclear explosion high above the earth. An EMP would would disrupt power, satellites, and radio transmissions, causing massive power outages. Any electrical equipment or device could be rendered useless after an EMP.

10. FAK: Acronym for first-aid kit

11. Faraday Box: This is a special shielding device, meant to protect electronic equipment from an EMP. There are many simple ways to make your own Faraday box for storing things like radios, flashlights, even the batteries that power them.

12. Food Insurance: This is not an actual insurance policy, but basically a prepper’s term for food storage. Storing food is like having an insurance policy against hunger and potentially starving to death in a disaster or other hardship.

13. Food Grade Buckets: These buckets are specifically made to be safe for food long-term food storage, up to 25 years or more if kept dry and somewhat cool. Sealed by pounding the lid with a rubber mallet, requiring a special wrench to open. For this reason, many preppers buy “gamma seal” lids. They offer the same protection for food, but they simply spin open and closed without extra tools.

14. Genny: Short for generator.

15. Get Home Bag: Similar to a bug-out bag, but includes essentials to help you sustain yourself and get back to your home after being stranded somewhere. Great to keep in your car.

16. Ghee: Ghee is clarified butter, meaning it has had the solids removed. This is not only perfectly suited for long-term storage in cans, but also eliminates the LDL “bad” cholesterol. Ghee works great for high-temperature cooking and frying as well.

17. GOOD: Get out of “dodge” or bug out now.

18. Ham Radio: Slang term referring to amateur radio. In the event of an interruption in telephone or cell tower service, this could come in handy. Google for more information about getting started.

19. Hordes: People leaving the cities in search of supplies in a disaster.

20. Living “Off the Grid”: Since the “grid” refers to municipal power, water, sewer, or gas supplies, living off the grid means to be totally detached from these services. Living off-grid is is seen by many preppers or survivalists as the ultimate in self-sufficiency.

21. MRE: MRE stands for meals ready-to-eat. Originally formulated for military camps and placements, MRE meals can be eaten right out of the package, warmed on a burner, or heated with an included chemical packet.

22. Multi-tool: Combination tool usually including a survival knife, saw, wire cutters, can opener, pliers, etc.

23. Mylar Bag: Mylar bags are made out of food grade mylar material, providing protection from sun, moisture, and even insects. They may be purchased individually or in food grade “super pails” for storage of 25+ years.

24. Paracord: Paracord is a strong, durable, lightweight nylon rope. Paracord is now being woven into bracelets, belts, and more. Wearing one or keeping some in your car or 72-hour kit can be helpful in an emergency for building shelter, starting a fire, trapping food, and more.

25. Paraffin Wax: This wax is actually a preservative that keeps moisture in (or out) and helps food last longer. It is often used for canning and is even edible. It is flammable at high temperatures, which is why it’s often used in buddy burners. Also called bakers wax or canning wax.

26. Oxygen Absorbers: Used with proper packaging, these little packets absorb oxygen, extending the life and flavor of food or pharmaceuticals.

27. SHTF: “Stuff [or, you know] hits the fan.” Meaning the strike of a major disaster of natural or man-made origin.

28. SIP: Shelter in place or “bug in.”

29. Solar Oven: Solar ovens or cookers use the sun’s energy to bake, roast, or heat foods. Aluminum reflectors focus the heat into a dark-colored oven and/or pot. Also useful for sterilizing water.

30. WROL: Without rule of law, or a state of “every man for himself.”

Severe Winter Storm Preparation

Severe winter storms are one of the most common types of natural disasters that occur in the United States.  While we often think about hurricanes or fires when planning for potential emergencies, winter storms can be just as destructive and deadly.  Severe winter storms can create a variety of hazards, such as extremely cold temperatures, strong winds, heavy snow, freezing rain, and sleet.  Even after the storm has passed, there can still be risks associated with what the storm left behind.  Doing what you can to be adequately prepared for winter storms will help your family remain safe during this relatively common type of natural event.

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Keeping Warm in an Apartment

For most people, the idea of being in an apartment without power during a snowstorm sounds scary.  Apartment dwellers generally don’t have luxury of things like a fireplace or a generator.  I choose to look at an apartment as being a great location to be.  Why, you may ask?  Because there is less space to try to heat up.  It is possible that an extra powerful storm or other incident could keep you without electricity to heat your apartment for days and even weeks – such an event will make you miserable, but at worst, could also be fatal.

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Having peace of mind doesn’t mean that you have to completely dwell on the fact that an emergency could potentially happen. It is important to keep things in perspective when preparing your family for the future.

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