If you’re an average American, you probably think that preppers – people who stockpile food and supplies in case of disaster – are a little bit insane. After all, normal, healthy people don’t get reality shows, right? In our culture, “prepper” has become synonymous with “conspiracy theorist,” which, according to the mainstream media, is another word for a tinfoil-hat-wearing lunatic. Meanwhile, there’s a hurricane bearing down on the East Coast, wildfires have run rampant through California, and flooding has been wreaking havoc in Texas…is it really so crazy to be prepared for stuff like that?
Prepping Isn’t A Revolution
Let’s clear something up: preppers don’t put aside supplies and practice emergency response plans just because they’re expecting another civil war. Sure, they acknowledge the possibility that things like that can, and do, happen, but that’s only part of it. Being prepared isn’t revolutionary. It’s not even particularly out of the ordinary – don’t you have smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, and teach your kids about what to do if there’s a tornado during a bad storm? When you break it down, prepping isn’t a precursor to a nervous breakdown, nor is it strictly the territory of religious fanatics who insist that the end is near. It doesn’t take an apocalypse to put you in a dangerous situation.
Preparation Is For Everyone
In reality, “prepping” just means being prepared – which is even recommended by the CDC. Natural disasters can leave you stranded without help for weeks, and a simply survival kit can be the difference between life and death. Preppers call this a “bug-out bag” in case they have to “bug out,” or leave home because it’s too dangerous to stay. The CDC, too, recommends that you make your survival kit portable so that you can take it with you if you’re forced out of your house. Even if no large-scale disaster blocks emergency services, something like a house fire or a tornado can occur without warning, and having a bug-out bag suddenly makes a lot more sense in that context.
Even if you don’t identify with the prepper crowd, you should at least have a survival kit and a family disaster plan. It’s not hard to put together, and it might save your life.
At the very least, you should pack these items into some kind of a portable container like a backpack or a suitcase:
- Enough clean, fresh water to last for a few days. The guideline is 1 gallon per person, per day, and if there’s a storm coming that might knock out power or contaminate the water supply, it’s smart to fill your tub with water to use for bathing…and you might consider storing a little extra for cooking.
- A stock of non-perishable, lightweight foods. The smartest things to store for an emergency are canned goods that don’t require heat or preparation. You might not be able to use electricity or start a fire. Just make sure you pack a manual can opener like this one that doesn’t require electricity to operate.
- An emergency blanket. If you don’t have an emergency blanket, buy one now. Until then, pack a regular blanket, but don’t wait to get an actual emergency blanket, because there’s a big difference between the two – especially when it comes to warmth, staying dry, and multitasking.
- Personal hygiene products. Hygiene isn’t just a modern comfort – it’s an important part of our overall health. A clean mouth, for example, makes you less prone to disease, and bathing cuts down on the risk of infections and parasites. You don’t need cosmetics, but some toilet paper, toothpaste, and shampoo will make a big difference.
- A first aid kit. You can buy prefabricated first aid kits like this one which already contain the basics, but make sure that you add in any medications you take for existing conditions. If you happen to have any potentially serious medical issues like asthma, severe allergies, or migraine headaches, pack the appropriate over-the-counter or prescription medicines, just in case. Pay attention to expiration dates! Hopefully, you won’t need to use your survival kit, but if you do, you’ll want recently obtained medications.
- Vital technologies. A flashlight with fresh batteries, a battery operated/solar powered/hand crank radio like this one that doubles as a cell charger, and a cell phone with a battery bank like this are the core of your emergency tech. Remember to keep spare batteries for everything, and if your survival kit sits for a while, switch them out with new ones.
You should also consider keeping a water filtration system or water purification tablets in case the emergency lasts longer than anticipated.
A basic survival kit like the one described above will get you through most emergencies, but sometimes it won’t be enough. In large scale disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, landslides, floods, earthquakes, etc. you might be without power, and without help, for weeks or months. On top of that, you could be faced with the prospect of rebuilding, which is a painful process. Adding a few extras to your survival kit, or bug-out bag, will prepare you to face the worst and get the best possible results.
- Cash. Cash is king, and if you have to leave your home to find a safer area, there’s a good chance that power will be wiped out and your credit and debit cards will be useless. A little bit of green can come in handy.
- Copies of your vital documents. May you never have to go through the process of replacing your birth certificate, passport, social security card, or other legal document. Keep your vitals in a fireproof safe if at all possible, but keeping photocopies in your survival bag can help in case the originals are destroyed.
- A multi-tool. A Swiss army knife, survival-specific multi-tool, or something like this entrenching tool could work wonders on improving your luck. If you have to fend for yourself without modern conveniences, you’re going to need, at the very least, a knife. A multi-tool covers that requirement, and more, without taking up too much extra space.
- Paper maps. When was the last time you used an atlas to find where you were going? Learn to read a map, and make sure you get an updated version every year or two. While you’re at it, write down important phone numbers of family and friends, because you probably won’t remember those if your cell phone dies.
- Extra keys. A duplicate set of keys to your house, car, any outbuildings, or other important locks doesn’t take up a lot of space, doesn’t weigh much, and can save you precious time in an emergency.
- Guns and ammo. Make sure the magazines of your personal protection sidearms are full, and keep extra ammunition for your defense and/or hunting guns. For a short-term disaster, you shouldn’t need it, but if services are out for months and emergency support can get to you, you’ll need to consider both hunting for food and personal defense.
Some other things to think about:
Keep your gas tanks full. If power is out, you can’t get gasoline. Don’t wait until the last minute – with our gun store being located inside a gas station, we’ve seen firsthand how power can be knocked out without any warning, leaving those with nearly empty gas tanks stranded. Even people who have generators can’t run them if they don’t have any gas, and gas doesn’t pump without electricity. At the very least, keep your car above half full so that you can get out of town if needed.
Along those lines, you should also fill any propane tanks (your grill will be your best friend in a power outage) and check your generator periodically to make sure it will start.
Not all emergencies are large-scale catastrophes. Your survival kit isn’t just for massive outages and natural disasters. Even if the power only goes out at your house because of an equipment failure, or your water lines burst in cold weather, you could still find yourself in a dangerous situation. If someone in your household has a medical emergency and your car is out of gas, that has the power to make a dangerous situation into a disaster. Small acts of preparation like building a survival kit and having a family evacuation plan can turn a potentially bad situation into a minor inconvenience.
Okay, so maybe there are some preppers out there who can get a little nuts, but the overall sentiment isn’t crazy at all. Disaster preparedness isn’t a fad, and it’s not a political statement. We should ALL be prepared, even if it’s just the bare minimums. Living in denial doesn’t stop bad things from happening, and being ready for an emergency doesn’t magically make it happen, either.
Just build the kit, okay? And while you’re at it, stock up on some extra beer. If anyone asks, it’s part of your emergency plan.