In the United States, September is National Preparedness Month. Emergency preparedness is so vitally important for every family. Especially for homesteaders! For the month of September, I’m going to be sharing daily preparedness tips on Facebook. Be sure to follow me there for some great tips!
Planning is the first vital step to becoming prepared for emergencies. Without a plan, you have nothing!
But how do you get started? I’m glad you asked! Here are my tips for being prepared for the “what-ifs” of life.
Decide what threats you may face.
The first step in determining your emergency preparedness plan is to figure out what threats you are most likely to face. If you live on the East coast, for example, you should prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms. In the Midwest, you would likely prep for tornadoes or fires. On the West coast, your biggest threat is probably earthquakes and social unrest.
Think about your geographic and political area to find out what threats are most prevalent. What threats have you encountered first-hand? What is the likelihood of it happening again? These are the types of things you should take into consideration for your emergency preparedness plan.
Involve the whole family in emergency preparedness planning.
Everyone needs to understand the what, why, and how of your family’s emergency preparations. If you involve the whole family in the emergency planning, it is more likely that each person will remember what to do in such cases. Make sure that even small children know the basics.
If you have a bugout location, make sure everyone knows how to get there. Also make sure they know the reasons that you would go there.
Set aside some cash for emergencies.
In the event of a natural disaster or some other localized emergency, it is highly likely that ATM’s and card readers won’t work. You may need some cash to buy goods or pay someone for services. You should set aside some cash for these instances. Make sure you have smaller bills so you don’t have to pay for a little, with a lot.
Lots of people include gold or silver coins in their emergency preps. While I wouldn’t argue with the logistics of this, I believe that gold and silver will mostly be useful for a long-term financial crisis. But if a serious economic depression is one of the threats you feel are most pressing, by all means, go with gold and silver!
Put away some barter items.
In the event of a severe economic downturn, there will be some things that will be more valuable than money. Useful commodities, such as salt, have historically been very valuable during times of hardship.
Think of things that you have, or can get, excess of, that many people will need or want. Alcohol, feminine hygiene, coffee, tobacco may be very hot commodities sometime in the future. Stock up on some of these items while you can, so you can store for bartering purposes.
Make sure you have water stored.
You need to have at least a gallon of water, per person, per day. And I would suggest having at least a week’s supply stored up. If you don’t have big water storage containers, you can still store water, on the cheap. Rinse and fill up used 2-liter soda bottles. Wash out milk jugs really well and re-fill with water. And then there’s my favorite, buying new 1 gallon plastic jugs filled with water. They are under a dollar and store very well.
In addition to storing water, you should learn at least 3 ways of purifying water, in case you can’t take your water stores with you. Every emergency kit should have water purification tablets or a personal water filtration straw.
Build up on food storage.
FEMA suggests every household have at least 3 days’ worth of food. I suggest at least a one-month food supply for emergency preparedness. This, of course, will take some time and money. I have a new Emergency Preparedness Bundle that includes a One Month Food Storage Tracker if you need a jumping-off point in starting your food storage.
You will want to stock up on foods that have a long shelf life, and are easily stored. Rice, beans, flour, sugar, salt, and canned goods are your friends here. Go for foods with high nutrient content, don’t bother with sugary or low-nutrient foods.
If you grow a garden, make sure you have a plan to preserve your harvests. This will go a long ways toward your food preps. You may need to invest in a water bath canner and/or a pressure canner, but if you look online you’re likely to be able to find these used for pretty cheap.
Make copies or take pictures of important documents.
Everyone should have extra copies of important documents in an emergency binder. Things like insurance paperwork, financial documents, birth certificates, and pictures of valuable physical assets. The emergency binder should be in a place that you can easily grab it in the event you have to evacuate.
You can also take pictures of these things to store in your cell phone, but I strongly suggest having a hard copy as well. That way, you can still access that important information even if your cell phone is dead or you have no power.
Keep recent pictures and information for each family member.
Everyone should have a recent picture, identifying information, and phone numbers or email addresses for each family member. That way, if you get separated, each person has a way of asking for help in finding the family. This is especially important for children, who might not be able to remember phone numbers or full names.
Go check out my Emergency Preparedness Bundle if you would like some ID cards to print off for each family member!
Write down or print off important phone numbers.
You need to have a section in your emergency binder for important phone numbers. You may not have access to phone numbers if they are just in your cell phone, unless you write them down. Important numbers that you should include are the police department (non-emergency), schools or day care your children go to, your church, work, and the family doctor.
The emergency binder should also have an “Emergency Contact” outside of the immediate family, and a number for an out-of-state family member. Bonus points if that emergency contact has both a cell phone AND a landline. Phone lines may be too congested to make a local phone call, but a long-distance call or a text may go through.
Gather basic emergency preparedness supplies.
Every family needs to have access to basic emergency preparedness supplies. Things like first aid kits, matches and fire starting supplies, candles, flashlights, pocket knives, and a few different ways to purify water. And every family member needs to know how to use these things (within reason, of course).
A small, portable cook stove and extra fuel is imperative, and lanterns can be insanely useful. Even a tarp or small tent will be used for a multitude of things. Most of the things that you would take with you on an extended camping trip will really come in handy.
You can get most of these things online, or you can go to a sporting goods store. You can even look at yard sales for inexpensive, lightly used equipment. Even the dollar store can be a good resource for some cheap emergency preps!
Put together various emergency preparedness kits.
I am of the firm belief that everyone needs to have a few essential emergency preparedness kits.
The 72-Hour Kit, which holds all the necessities that your family will need in the first 72 hours after an emergency. This kit should, at the very least, include water, food, mini cook stove, fuel, cooking utensils, clothes, blankets, fire starting materials, candles, flashlights, lanterns, and a first aid kit. That is of course not an exhaustive list. I plan on creating a 72-Hour Kit checklist soon. Many people use a large garbage can for their kit. The 72-Hour Kit should be stored in an easily accessible area, preferably a part of the house that you can shelter in place in. For us, this is our oversized laundry room/pantry.
The Lights Out Kit. This kit should be in a different location, conveniently located by anyone in the family should a power outage occur. The Lights Out Kit should have flashlights, glow sticks, headlamps, lanterns, candles, etc. It is designed to get you easy access to light when the power goes out, and is an easy kit to put together for emergency preparedness.
The Vehicle Emergency Kit. This kit should be in every vehicle, all the time. It will hold things like some basic tools, jumper cables, road flares, and duct tape, as well as comfort things like food, water, blankets, and extra shoes. The Vehicle Emergency Kit should serve three purposes: to help you get moving again if your car breaks down, to help you shelter in your vehicle for extended periods, and third, to help you to evacuate on foot if needed.
The Bug Out Bag (BOB), or Go Bag. Your Bug Out Bag should be lightweight, but hold most of the stuff you’ll need in the event you have to evacuate. It should be almost a miniature version of the 72-Hour Kit, however, this kit is for each person, where the 72-Hour Kit is more for a family. Every member of the family (including pets!) should have a Bug Out Bag. In this bag, you need basic lighting, fire, and cooking supplies, a change of clothes, and a little bit of food. For the Bug Out Bag, you need to think lightweight, and just enough to tide you over until you can get somewhere safe. Most people use a backpack for their Bug Out Bag, and keep it where you can grab it quickly in case you have to evacuate.
If you would like a handy checklist of what to include in your Bug Out Bag, I have one included in my Emergency Preparedness Bundle. There are a few other kits that you could make (or buy), but these are the most basic that everyone should have for emergency preparedness.
Think about how you will stay warm.
Shelter and warmth is so important in an emergency situation. Without proper shelter, if exposed to the elements, you could die within 3 hours. Think of warmth in terms of layers.
The first layer you should have is your clothes. That means that you should try to always have a change of clean, dry clothes, and maybe a jacket. Long underwear is insanely helpful for cold temperatures.
The second layer you need is a blanket, or space blanket. These are easy enough to keep in your car, or pack into (or strap onto) a backpack. You should also keep extra blankets or sleeping bags in your 72-Hour Kit and in your linen closet.
The third layer is plastic or a tarp to fashion into a makeshift shelter. This should always, ALWAYS, be in your Bug Out Bag, as well as your 72-Hour Kit. It will keep the rain and wind off of you, and could potentially save your life.
The fourth layer is an alternate, external heat source. In your home, this may be a wood stove that you can use for heat if the power goes out. In your 72-Hour Kit, this could be a Mr. Heater propane heater or some terra cotta pots and candles. You might not be able to fit or carry an external heat source in your Bug Out Bag, but you could use your cooking source or a fire to give you a little heat. Or, consider keeping hand warmers in your bag.
Decide whether you will shelter in place or bug out.
Now this is going to depend on each individual situation. Remember those “choose your own story” books in the 80’s? Well, it’s going to be a little like that. For this part of your plan, you’ll need to think about each threat individually. But you also need to realize that your plan may change, if unforeseen variables come into play.
I’ll give you a few examples. If there is a medical pandemic (thanks, 2020!), it would be best to shelter in place. You will be much safer in the confines of your own home. If a tornado or hurricane is threatening your home, and you have the time to prepare for it, it may be safest to bug out.
I do want to point out that for the majority of scenarios, the safest place for you is your home. You have your needs met there, you have shelter, and you have peace of mind. The alternative (bugging out) is uncertain. Stay where you are unless you absolutely have to leave.
Make an evacuation plan and practice it.
Ever notice that almost every office and work place has an evacuation route mapped out? That’s because, in the event of emergency, most people forget simple things. That’s why you need an evacuation plan! You need to plan out what each family member is responsible for grabbing, the order that it needs to be grabbed, and where you’re going to put everything if you need to evacuate quickly. And then you need to practice it! Yes, kinda like the fire drills we used to have in school! Practicing your evacuation plan helps to commit it to memory, so you can evacuate smoothly.
Set up a safe meeting place and alternate communication.
Each family needs to have a safe meeting place for certain events. You may need to have a few different meeting places, depending on what the emergency is. For example, if you have a house fire, your neighbor’s house might be your meeting place. If you are bugging out for a bigger emergency, you should have a meeting place that is away from home, but closer to where you are going to bug out to. Make sure everyone knows this meeting place, and knows how to get there.
Make plans involving an out of the area friend or family member to be the emergency coordinator. Preferably, this person will have both a cell phone and a land line phone, and know the family well. They will be your go-between. Each person should have their phone number (written down!) and know to call them to check-in. The coordinator will then be able to tell each family member where and how everyone is.
Note that sometimes texts will go through even if the phone lines are clogged. Each person should be able to text or call the group, and the emergency coordinator, to ensure communication and a fast reunion.
If you have the means and the ability, it may be a good idea to keep walkie talkies on-hand for emergencies. Make sure they are charged or have good batteries, and make sure everyone knows how to use them, and what channel to be on.
Make a plan for your pets and/or livestock.
This will be a tough consideration for most people. Some pets or livestock will have to be left behind in the event of an emergency. I know, lots of people consider their pets as family (I do too!), but sometimes it’s not in their best interest, or yours, to take them if you have to bug out.
In my opinion, dogs are the easiest and safest animals to bug out with. They can actually help you, if they’re well-trained enough. Most dogs are able to carry a small “doggie backpack” with some supplies in it. Have them carry their own doggie Bug Out Bag! A collapsible water container, some food, and a small first aid kit can easily fit in a little pack that the dog can carry himself.
Unfortunately, most livestock will have to be left behind, unless they will be truly useful and you have the means to transport them. This will be a tough decision, but if you think it through a little BEFORE the emergency arises, you will have a clearer head about it. A few laying chickens and maybe a milk goat would be useful to take with you during a longer-term bugout situation.
If you decide to leave certain animals behind, at least give them a fighting chance. Don’t lock the animals up in a place they can’t find their own food and water. Let the chickens out to free-range, and let the larger animals out to pasture. I know this is a touchy subject, and it will be a hard decision to make, but at this point you have to realize that your family’s safety and welfare come first.
Organize your preps and practice using them.
Your emergency preps won’t do you any good if you don’t know where to find them, or how to use them. You need to keep them organized where you can easily access them. And you need to know HOW to use everything! Make sure your kits are in a secure area, out of the elements and free from pests. Teach each family member to use the things you have so painstakingly gathered for emergencies. Make sure everyone knows how to build a fire. Or how to purify water. Knowledge weighs nothing, and costs nothing!
Emergency preparedness is so important for every one of us to practice and implement. If no one was prepared for themselves, can you imagine the strain on the government to provide for everyone? Not to mention, there is different sizes and severity of emergencies. If it’s just a personal financial emergency, you’d be on your own. And if you haven’t prepared anything for yourself, how will you overcome this kind of emergency?
Preparing yourself to overcome all kinds of emergencies gives such a peace of mind. I can attest, as someone with anxiety, that preparing to care for my loved ones in hard times gives me a such a calming feeling that is difficult to replicate. Why don’t you try it for yourself? Try some of these tricks to get started with emergency preparedness, and see how it makes you feel!
This post may be shared on Family Homesteading and Off The Grid Blog Hop, Simple Homestead Blog Hop, Farm Fresh Tuesday, and Old Paths to New Homesteading & Self-Reliant Living.