Disaster and Survival Preparedness
There are reality television shows, and a tremendous amount of information on the Internet about prepping. With so much information, available it may be difficult for some to know where to begin. Some preppers such as those depicted in the reality shows are, many times, preparing for a specific disaster, which may lead some new to prepping, to think that they must do the same.
However, emergency essentials are not disaster specific for the most part. There are certain items you will need regardless of the situation. You should start with the basics that you know will always be needed. Once you have established a stockpile and gathered some knowledge then you can prepare for specifics.
It is not necessarily the disaster itself you are preparing for but the days after. There is a cause and effect. Disasters of any sort may cause damage to your home and local infrastructure/power grids resulting in power/utilities disruptions and travel restrictions. This means you may be essentially isolated in your own home or community. What caused the disaster is not always relevant in the early stages, so your main concerns are the effects of the disaster.
The Essentials to Surviving Any Situation
Shelter, water, fire/energy and food are the basics of life. You need the basics regardless of the situation. It is assumed for the sake of this article that you have a home and all of the typical items found in a home. Keep in mind, your emergency stockpile is in addition to what you would normally have in your home. Families and individuals tend to over time, when nothing has happened, start using their emergency supplies and thus, may be unprepared when a disaster does strike.
There are all kinds of formulas and calculations out there to determine how much water you need during a crisis. According to the United States Geological Society (USGS) the average person uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water per day. The typical shower uses two gallons of water per minute. Washing dishes by hands can consume up to 20 gallons and one load of laundry uses between 20 and 25 gallons. One toilet flush can use between 1.6 and 4.0 gallons of water (USGS, 2013).
Practically speaking you cannot stockpile up to 100 gallons per person daily. You have to have water conservation in mind when preparing. You can of course develop a water source that you control such as a dug or drilled well, if you currently receive your water through a municipality. You cannot depend on lakes, streams or ponds because during a crisis these will become public gathering places and the water source can be contaminated, or your access can be blocked off. You need a source you control, to prevent contamination and so you have unlimited access.
The average adult needs two quarts/liters of water daily just for hydration. In addition, you will also need two quarts for oral care and personal hygiene (sponge baths). The one gallon per day for each individual does not consider water for food preparation, medical needs or laundry. It is recommended that you stockpile three gallons of water per person daily. This amount considers water for hydration, food preparation, oral care, personal hygiene and hand washing of certain clothing items.
It is recommended that you stockpile between 14 and 21 days for a natural disaster. If you are preparing for a specific scenario, where you feel your water source may be disrupted for an extended period it is recommended that you develop an alternative water source such as a dug or drilled well or use food grade plastic water storage tanks/barrels that can be filled using tap water. If filled with tap water and sealed well, the shelf life is considered indefinite.
Canned foods are usually the go-to foods for emergencies. They have variety and are relatively inexpensive. There is the storage problem to consider however because for an extended period you will need considerable amounts on hand. Each person will need one can of protein, one can of vegetables and one of fruit everyday so a family of four will need 12 cans daily. Additional considerations are that if you have to evacuate they can be bulky and heavy to carry in a pack. You should have an ample supply of canned foods on hand because they can be eaten cold from the can without any preparations, but for extended periods, you should consider having additional types of foods available.
Dehydrated foods are another option but they do require water for reconstitution and an energy source for heating water. If you are confident of your water and energy source, dehydrated foods, make an excellent choice because of the variety available and shelf life. The foods can be packaged in smaller containers for backpacks. Manufactures usually calculate the amounts needed for you based on figures you provide such as number of family members and for how long you expect to consume the foods. The amounts are based on two meals a day.
Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s)
MRE’s are an ideal choice because each package is a self-contained meal of roughly 1,200 calories each. The meals come with a variety of standard condiments and eating utensils. The meals can be eaten from the package cold or immersed in hot water for heating. The shelf life out of refrigeration is between five and seven years. Each adult will need two MRE meals per day. You can purchase military issue or civilian versions.
Shelter, food and water are essentials before you do anything else you must have these for any emergency. You must also keep in mind that you may have to evacuate your area, so you should have backpacks available so you can carry food, water and other essentials.
Additional Supplies Tools and Materials
- Matches, lighters and additional fire starting materials such as magnesium sticks and Ferro rods
- Illumination such as oil or propane fueled lanterns
- Medical supplies and over the counter medications and any specific medications needed on a daily basis
- Portable camp stoves and gas or charcoal grills
- Tarps, duct tape, plywood sheets and rolls of plastic for making emergency repairs to your home
- Rain gear for each person such as ponchos or rain suits
- Thermal blankets for each individual
- Portable radio
- Communication devices, such as Walkie-Talkies (two-way radios), cell phones, ham radios and Citizens Band (CB) radios
- One gallon of common household bleach used for emergency water purification
For water, purification use bleach that does not have any additives and has sodium hypochlorite (liquid chlorine) between 5.25 and 6.0 percent as its active ingredient. Add eight drops of bleach to one gallon of water seal, shake well to mix the chlorine then wait 30 minutes before consuming.
Inventory your supplies every 60 days and make sure you note the expiration dates. If possible, divide your supplies up and store in various places such as secured outdoor tool sheds, garages, pantries and basements. Having all of your supplies in one place may mean they are all stolen in the event of a break in or all become destroyed if your storage area suffers damage.
USGS. (2013). Retrieved from http://ks.water.usgs.gov/pubs/fact-sheets/fs.024-00.html