If you have a homestead, you need to prepare for natural disasters. Natural disasters can strike at any time, sometimes without warning.
If you do get a notice beforehand, consider yourself lucky!
Natural disasters come in all forms. Fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes are just a few of the maladies that can wreak havoc on your homestead. But how do you prepare for them?
There are a few things you should have in place to prepare for natural disasters. Some of the things you need are just basic for any kind of emergency. Others are more specific to natural disasters.
Let’s go over a few of the things you can do to prepare your homestead for natural disasters.
Start storing water
Everyone should have water storage anyway, right? Well, that is especially true to prepare for natural disasters.
If your home gets hit with a hurricane or flash flood, your normal drinking water could be contaminated. You should plan on having enough water for drinking and cooking until the danger has passed. Otherwise, you may find yourself having to boil and filter unsafe water.
FEMA and The Red Cross recommend you store at least one gallon of water, per person, per day. They also say you should store two week’s worth of water. This is just barely adequate, as the average person uses more than that in a day for cooking and hygiene.
Don’t forget water storage for your pets too. Most pets will need at least a quart of water a day, depending of course on their size. They may be able to drink the contaminated water, but it may make them sick. And who wants to deal with a sick dog during the aftermath of a disaster?
It may also be helpful long-term to set up a water catchment system, if it’s allowed in your area. This water will need to be treated as well, but since it’s rain runoff, it will be better than any possibly contaminated ground water.
Build up an emergency food supply
Food storage is another thing that everyone needs to have, but especially for natural disasters. Every family should aim for at least 1 month’s worth of food in storage.
Don’t rush out and buy hundreds or thousands of dollars of food at once, unless you have the extra money to do so. It’s better to do a little at a time. This will ease strain on your wallet and make sure you haven’t missed any gaps in your food storage plan. Plan on buying $10-20 extra at each shopping trip, just for your food storage.
Store what you eat, eat what you store. Don’t buy tons of Spam if your family doesn’t like it. Sure, it’s food, and if they’re hungry enough they’ll eat it. But making your family eat things that they don’t like can make an already stressful situation worse!
Also, don’t just buy your food storage goods and place them on a shelf, never to be seen again until an emergency hits. That sets you up for the possibility of having stale, rancid, or just plain bad food. Always rotate your food storage.
This shouldn’t be an issue if you just buy extra of what your family already eats. Put the newest purchases at the back, and eat the oldest items from the front first. Can rotation systems are very helpful for this.
Make sure you store food properly for longer-term. You don’t just want to plop a bag of salt on a shelf – any moisture will make it as hard as a rock.
Keep in mind that after a natural disaster, you may be stuck in your home for awhile. Stores may be closed due to damage, or you might not be able to go anywhere due to flooding. Make sure you have your basic needs taken care of, in case you can’t go anywhere.
You should store staples like sugar, salt, flour, pasta, rice, and beans. And be sure to include lots of canned food.
If you need guidance on building up your one month food supply, I have a spreadsheet in my Emergency Preparedness Bundle that you can buy in my shop. It has 2 other resources as well – a Bug Out Bag checklist and a set of Emergency ID Cards. All for only $5!
Make emergency ID cards
Another thing that is good to do is to make emergency ID cards for the family. Take a brand new picture of each family member, and attach it to a card that they carry with them. Include information such as identifying features, medical issues, and emergency contact information. This will help if that person is lost or injured, or can’t remember the emergency contact numbers.
Each family member should also have current pictures of the other family members, and not just on their phones. They should be printed out in case phones are dead and they have been separated from the others.
You may want to also consider doing emergency ID cards for pets. If you make these sturdy and durable, they can be attached to a collar. This helps greatly in getting your pets back home to you.
I’ve also heard about people putting their contact info on tags that they attach to their livestock’s ears. That way, if your animals get out, other people can find out how to get in touch with you.
Put together an emergency binder
An emergency binder is invaluable in keeping important documents and information handy in case of an evacuation. It should contain important phone numbers, ID cards, financial, and insurance information. If you want to build your own, check out my post on building your own emergency binder.
Make sure you keep your emergency binder in a safe place, as it should have very sensitive information inside. Consider keeping it in a fire box or safe. As long as you can grab it quickly in an emergency, you’ll be good.
Prepare a lights out kit
Prepare for natural disasters by having your emergency lighting and cooking needs in one central location. That way you’re not scrambling to find it when the power is out. Put these things in a tote or bag in a spot that you won’t forget. I keep a backpack with all of our power outage supplies near the back door.
In your lights out kit, be sure to include emergency candles, flashlights, extra batteries, and something to cook on. You might even want to put some of those solar yard lights in your kit. These can be set in the sun and provide a more radiant light for a room for several hours. Head lamps are also great – they give you light without tying up your hands.
In my lights out pack, I have glow sticks, candles, matches, flashlights, head lamps, extra batteries, and a small emergency cook stove with extra fuel.
Make sure you have everything you need for a power outage in your tote. It can literally be a lifesaver!
Set up a safe room inside your home
Having a safe room in your home is the best way to protect yourself in the event of a tornado or a hurricane, unless you’re lucky enough to have a storm cellar. A safe room should have limited windows, and fortified entry points. Think this through while you prepare for natural disasters on the homestead.
If it has limited windows, there will be less chance of the storm breaking them and penetrating your safe room. This, in turn, will help protect you from broken glass and other debris.
Make sure your safe room has your emergency essentials in it, as well as some food and water. Ideally, you’ll only be in the safe room for a few hours. But be prepared for longer!
Have a safe, alternate form of cooking in your safe room. Make sure you have fully-charged flashlights, as well as some emergency candles. First aid kits are good to have. Blankets are important for warmth and comfort. A spare change of clothes for each family member is also good to have, but can be grabbed just prior to going into the safe room. Emergency radios are helpful so you can make sure the storm has passed and it’s safe to go out again.
You may also want to prepare for bathroom needs in your safe room. Set up a bucket toilet. Put some kitty litter or sawdust in the bottom, and keep extra in a separate bucket. Keep some toilet paper in your safe room as well.
If you will have your pets with you in the safe room, you’ll also need to think about their bathroom needs. Puppy pads will allow your dog to do its business inside when it’s not safe to go outside. A cat will need its litter box. And make sure you have some gloves, paper towels, and cleaning supplies in the room with you.
Have window boards ready
You should have window boards ready so you can put them up at a moment’s notice. Measure all your windows and cut a piece of plywood to fit each one. You should label the plywood pieces so you know which window it covers.
Take 2×4’s that are about 6-8 inches longer than each plywood piece is wide. Screw these 2×4’s onto the top, the bottom, and even the middle of the plywood if the window is big enough to warrant it. Make sure you have extra screws to screw the boards on the outside of the window in case of emergency.
Window boards will be handy for tornadoes, hurricanes, or even mobs or riots. If you get advance notice of any of these things, gather your window boards and screw them onto the outside of the windows as soon as possible. This will help protect your windows from damage.
Have sand bags ready
In case of flood, you should keep sand bags at the ready. Sand bags will help you avoid extensive water damage.
Keep them in the barn or storage shed until they need to be used. This will keep them dry and in good condition.
At first notice of a flood, put some sand bags in low areas around your house. This helps keep the flood waters from entering your home. Try not to use all of them at first, as you may find that you need more in lower spots that you didn’t notice before.
Set up your animals
Dealing with your animals during a natural disaster can vary greatly, depending on the type of disaster you are expecting. For some instances, it’s safer for them to be in a barn. For others, you should allow them more freedom.
If you are expecting a range fire, keeping them out of the barn would be better than locking them in. However, it would probably be much more wise to evacuate them if the fire is headed directly your way. You should have ways of transporting all your animals to avoid them being in the fire’s deadly path.
For a tornado or hurricane, the safest place for your livestock would be in the barn or another strong shelter. The only better solution would be to evacuate them to an area that’s not going to be hit by the storm.
With earthquakes, it’s best for them to be out of the barn, but of course you wouldn’t get an advance notice of it to put them in the barn anyway.
For torrential rains and floods, it’s best to have them in a strong shelter like a barn, as long as the shelter isn’t too low. If the barn is on low ground, make sure you place lots of sand bags around the barn to help prevent water from going into the barn. Try to give your animals things in the barn that they can stand on if the water starts to rise.
Prepare an evacuation plan
In the event of a natural disaster, sometimes it may be best to evacuate. You need to decide ahead of time, when you think you should leave. Have a family meeting and decide when it would be best to leave the home. This will be different for each family.
If there is flooding projected, but you have livestock and other animals to care for, you may want to stay put so you can make sure they are safe. If there is a wildfire nearby, it will be best for everyone to leave. Make sure you have a way to transport your animals and livestock, so you can safely get out of the fire’s path.
Small animal cages are helpful to have around to transport chickens, rabbits, dogs, or cats. We keep a big variety of cages and crates around just for this reason. You’ll want to keep your animals contained inside a vehicle if you have to evacuate. If you have large animals, you’ll need a stock trailer or a horse trailer. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a trailer before a natural disaster and you have to evacuate, you’ll have to leave your livestock and hope for the best.
Decide where to go
Get out a map and figure out where you might want to go in case of evacuation. You should have a place to go to the east and to the west. Typically 20 miles away will get you a safe distance from more localized disasters, such as a wildfire or tornado. Make a plan for a longer distance evacuation as well, for something bigger like a hurricane. A hurricane evacuation will likely be a couple hour drive, in order to get to a safer location.
If you have friends in other towns up to a couple hours away, communicate with them before disaster strikes. Ask them if you can come there in case of emergency. And always plan on bringing your own supplies. You don’t want to be an extra burden on your friends.
Make sure your family members know where your evacuation spots are. Set up a code word that you can communicate quickly with the family, as to which location you’re going to.
Keep everyone informed
Be sure to let extended family and friends know your evacuation plans when you prepare for natural disasters. You might want to keep an out of state relative as a main family contact. Make sure all family members know this person and their phone number. If anyone has to evacuate, communicate this with your main contact. Tell your contact where you’re going, and when you plan on returning. If at all possible, give your contact updates throughout the process.
It’s important to use an out of state family contact if possible. The out of state contact probably won’t have to be dealing with the same natural disaster, so they can more calmly communicate with the family as to your whereabouts. Also, if there is local phone outages due to the disaster, this out of state contact shouldn’t be affected.
Get everyone a bug out bag
To prepare for evacuation, everyone in the family should have a bug out bag (BOB) ready. Wait – bug out bag? What in tarnation is that? A bug out bag (or BOB) is a bag with basic supplies, that you can take with you in the event of an evacuation. A bug out bag should have various emergency supplies, some food, water, and a change of clothes.
Make sure each family member has at least a basic amount of emergency essentials and food. That way, if any one person gets separated from the group, they will have enough to get by until they are reunited.
Bug out bags should have flashlights, batteries, fire building supplies, weather protection (like a poncho), a knife, and some no-cook foods. I have an extensive checklist of what else should be included in a bug out bag in my Emergency Preparedness Bundle. Look for it in my shop!
It’s so very important, no matter where you live, to prepare for natural disasters. I feel so blessed to live in an area that has very little natural disaster threats. But I still prep.
Here in southwest Idaho, we have only had 2 earthquakes nearby in my whole life. No hurricanes, no tornadoes, and barely any floods (we live in the high desert). Wildfires are sometimes a concern, but since we live in the desert, most fires are contained pretty quickly. The forests are a ways off, so forest fires aren’t an issue either.
Nevertheless, I still prepare for things that may be out of my control. You never know what may happen, and your safety and your family’s well being depends on you preparing to survive tough times.
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