Emergency Water Supplies

July 8th, 2012

Water should be an integral part of your emergency preparedness supplies.

According to the EPA, the average American household uses 400 gallons of water a day.  While some of this usage is related to non-essential activities such as lawn watering, it’s wise to have a clean, purified emergency water supply for your family.  You never know if an emergency will cut off the water supply or even contaminate it.

How much water should I store?

Humans need to drink approximately two quarts (a half-gallon) of water every day to maintain normal bodily functions.  Those of us living in hotter environments, where you are more prone to lose water through sweat, should consume more.  In addition, you will also need water for food preparation and hygiene.  You’re not going to be taking a shower with your emergency supply, but you’ll need water to wash your hands and possibly flush toilets.  So in addition to your half-gallon of drinking water, you should account for an additional one to one and a half gallons of water for food preparation and sanitation.  Rounded up to be safe, each person may use up to two gallons of water a day.

Assuming you have a family of four (two adults and two kids), and you want to have enough water to last you two weeks in an emergency, you’ll need:

2 gallons/person/day * 4 people * 14 days = 112 gallons of water

The sections below will give you tips on how to gather and store a water supply of this size.

If you have any pets, make sure to account for their intake.  For example, a 25-lb dog will generally drink about a quarter gallon of water a day.  Pets won’t have the same food preparation or sanitation needs, so you’ll just have to account for their drinking intake.

Don’t underestimate the importance of making sure you have enough water.  Dehydration, especially in an emergency situation, can be fatal.  Dehydration can lead to sleepiness, lethargy, foggy thinking, delirium, and fever.  After just 3 days without water, the body will start shutting down, and any further length of time without water may be fatal.

Preparing a Water Supply Before an Emergency

Water is all around us, and there are many options for collecting and storing water for an emergency.

For any of the options below, it helps to put the water storage containers in dry, cool, dark place. Don’t store them near gasoline, kerosene, or pesticides as vapors can penetrate plastic and contaminate the water.

Commercial Water Supplies

Commercial mass-market water bottles, such as from Aquifina or ArrowHead, are great options for building your emergency water supply.  If you shop around, or go to bulk stores such as Costco or Sam’s Club, you can purchase cases of bottled water for as little as $1.75/gal.  According to the FDA, commercially bottled water that has been stored (unopened) in a cool, dry place has an indefinite shelf life. While bottled water is generally stamped with a date, this is meant to indicate the water’s “freshness” rather than as a safe-to-drink indicator: water older than the date may smell or taste slightly off, but should be safe to consume.

In addition, there are several manufacturers of packaged emergency water kits, such as Mainstay and Datrex. They sell sealed water pouches that claim a shelf-life of 5 years (and will probably be good longer than that).

Home-Made Water Supplies

If you’re not interested in spending money on commercially packaged water, you can also “package” your own emergency water supplies from your home tap water. All you have to do is sanitize the containers and purify the water.

First, you’ll need to think about what kind of container you’ll be storing the water in. Generally, you want to look for food-grade (FDA approved) containers. Polyethylene plastic is commonly used. Here are some good options:

Do not use these types of containers:

  • Plastic jugs or cardboard containers that had milk or fruit juices: they can be hard to clean and harbor sugars that can grow bacteria
  • Containers that were previously used to store chemicals or fuels
  • Glass containers, as they are heavy and can brake
  • Garbage bags, as they can leech chemicals
  • Water-bed bladders, as they’ll likely still be coated in chemicals

Whatever you choose, you should sanitize the container before filling it with water. Using dish-washing soap, lightly scrub the containers (make sure you’re not scratching them) and rinse completely so there is no residual soap.

When using your own soda bottles, you should additionally sanitize them by adding 1 teaspoon of non-scented household liquid bleach to a quart of water. Pour the solution into the bottle, and shake it so it touches all surfaces of the inside of the bottle. Dump out the solution and rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Next, fill your container with tap water from your sink or hose. If your local water supply is treated with chlorine, you do not need to add anything else to it. However, if you’re adding water from a well or want to be extra safe, you can add one drop of non-scented household liquid bleach for each liter of water. So, for a 2-liter bottle, add two drops.

Let the container sit for 30 minutes. The water should smell slightly of bleach. If it does not, add another drop and let it stand for another 30 minutes. If it still doesn’t have a slight chlorine odor, you may wish to throw the water out and try to find another source.

Make sure to tightly seal the container using the original cap.

Write the date you filled the bottle directly on it, so you know how old they are. Water that has not been commercially bottled should be replaced every six months.

Gathering Water Supplies During an Emergency

If you haven’t yet built up an emergency supply of water, or you start running low, you may be able to gather extra water supplies from around your house when the emergency starts.

Possible sources of water include:

  • Hot-water tank
  • Water already in the pipes throughout your house
  • Ice in your freezer
  • Local rivers, streams, ponds

To gather water from your hot-water tank, you need to shut off the input valve. Even if you have enough additional water reserves, you may want to do this as soon as an emergency strikes if you’re worried about the local water supply being contaminated. Next, turn on a hot-water faucet, or open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Once you’ve drained it, you may need to filter the water if you see sediment from the bottom tank (see below).

Your house’s pipes will also have quite a bit of water in them. Simply turn off your house’s water input valves (the water coming in from the outside) and use one of your lowest floor’s faucets to get to the water.

Ice from your freezer can also be melted for water. If you have an extra chest freezer, you could build a supply of 2-liter water bottles in the freezer to be available later in an emergency. The frozen bottles will also be nice to have to cool off if temperatures are high, or to keep your refrigerated goods cold for a few extra days.

You can also fill your bath tub during an emergency. You can then use the tub’s supply for washing, or purify it before drinking (but not both).

If you’re going to be using water from a local stream, river or pond, make sure you properly filter and purify the water before use (see below).

Do not use water from your:

  • Pool
  • Toilet, or toilet flush tank
  • Radiators
  • Water-beds

Filtration and Purification

Water from unknown sources can contain harmful microorganisms (germs, bacteria, viruses) that cause health problems such as pain, dysentery, typhoid, or hepatitis. If you’re going to be using water that hasn’t been previously purified, you should make sure you do so before you drink it.

Before treating any water, you can filter it if you see any floating particles or contaminants. The simplest way to do this is to strain the water through a coffee filter or even a paper towel.

There are several methods for purifying water.

Boiling is a great method for purifying water, as it’s the simplest to do and will kill all microorganisms. However, boiling water won’t remove contaminants such as metals or chemicals.  Boil the water for at least 1 minute (source: EPA), or 3 minutes if you’re at a location above 1 mile. Make sure you let the water cool before drinking. You can improve the taste of boiled water by re-oxygenating it by pouring the water between two containers several times.

Chlorination is another method of purification. Household liquid bleach kills most microorganisms. You should only use regular, liquid, non-scented household bleach that contains between 5.25% to 6.0% sodium hypochlorite (this is what you’ll generally find at your local supermarket). Don’t use a scenter or color-safe variety.  Bleach’s power diminishes over time, so check it’s expiration date — bleach has a shelf life of 2 years or less.  To purify water with bleach, simply add 16 drops (1/8 tsp) to each gallon of water, stir, wait 30 minutes.  For 5 gallon containers of water, use 1 teaspoon.  For 55 gallons, use 3 tablespoons.  The water should have a slight chlorination scent to it. If it does not, add a second round of bleach and sniff it again. If it still doesn’t have a chlorine scent, you may want to try to find another water source.

Water distillation

Distilling is another great option for purifying water. In addition to killing microorganisms, distilling removes all other contaminants such as metals, chemicals, and salts.  To distill water, you want to boil the water so that it changes to water vapor, then re-condenses back to water in another container. This removes everything but pure water. FEMA has a nice diagram for one way of doing this, and Wikipedialists many other great methods.

Finally, there’s a whole slew of additional options that hikers and backpackers use. MSR, Katadyn and others provide many great products for purifying water that hikers have been using for years. I would not suggest solely relying on one of these products for emergencies as they’re generally built for only a single person’s use. In addition, many of these products only help with filtering water or or purifying water, but not both.

In any case, no matter what you choose — build up your emergency water supply now before you need it!

Emergency supplies: Food

June 12th, 2012

One of the cornerstones of your emergency supplies kit should be food.

For even the most basic short-term emergency situation, you should stock at least 7 days worth of food for your family.  The food you keep for emergencies can range anywhere from canned goods to mac & cheese to rice.  The problem is that it can be tough finding the right balance of foods that provide all of your nutritional needs while still being tasty as well as having a long shelf-life.

Beyond short-term supplies, having a larger supply of 30+ days of food will give you more options if things go south.  I would recommend storing as much food as your means and space allow.  With the proper attention, you could easily build up a year’s worth of (rotating) emergency food for relatively cheap.

How Much Food Do You Need?

How many calories you need to maintain your health depends on your gender, height, weight, age and other health conditions.  According to health.gov, an average male in his 20s that is moderately active will need approximately 2,600-2,800 calories a day to maintain his body weight, while an average female will require around 2,000.  Any less, and you may start losing weight (including muscle mass).  You can use the FDA’s calculator to determine how many calories you should be consuming depending on your height and weight.  If you’re sedentary (not moving around much), you will not be burning as many calories during the day, but remember that in an emergency you may be doing more activity (without the help of machines) such as lifting, hauling or walking.  You should try to increase your caloric intake if you’re active.

There are several manufacturers of pre-packaged survival food “kits” that are marketed as being enough food for one person for a year.  These are great kits to get you started — and we’ll be reviewing their foods soon — but make sure you check their websites for how many calories are included in the kit.  One manufacturer bases their calculations on a ~1,600/day calorie diet, which is probably less than what you may be used to eating.

What Types of Food?

Characteristics of great survival foods include:

  • High in nutritional and caloric content
  • Long-term shelf life
  • No special storage requirements
  • No special storage requirements after opening if the item won’t be entirely consumed immediately
  • Easy to cook with minimal tools, supplies and water
  • Something you would normally eat or find appealing
  • The cheaper the better

You may not be able to find foods that match all of the above criteria, but there are a lot of different foods on the market that will probably fit your needs and tastes.

The nutritional content should be listed on any food you purchase.  You’ll want a good mix of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Shelf-life is essential as your emergency supply will most likely be stored in a place where you won’t see it every day.  I wouldn’t recommend purchasing any food that has less than a 1 year shelf-life.  Luckily, many canned goods have a 2-5 year shelf life, and speciality dried/dehydrated survival foods can be stored for 10-25 years or more.  Remember to check the expiration dates on any goods you purchase – some food will sit in stores for months or years at a time before they’re purchased.

Emergency foods shouldn’t require any special storage conditions.  Make sure they don’t need any artificial storage conditions such being frozen, which you might lose if the power goes out.  Your stored food will last longer in cooler, dryer, darker conditions, such as in a basement.

Many emergency foods are sold in bulk.  Check with the manufacturer or instructions on the container so you know how soon you’ll need to consume the food before it goes bad once it’s opened. You don’t want to open a can that has 10 days worth of food for yourself if it will go bad in 3 days.

Be aware of how the food needs to be prepared.  Many emergency foods require either heat or water (or both).  Ideally, if you have a small gas-powered stove and a supply of water, you should be able to prepare all of your food.

The good thing is a lot of the foods suitable for long-term storage and survival can be purchased in bulk quantities.  Many stores, such as Costco or Sam’s Club, sell basic foods such as rice, beans and tuna in bulk for cheap.  If you build up your supply slowly over time, you should be able to find good deals so you don’t have to break the bank.

Finally, make sure you actually like the taste of the food.  There’s no point in getting 100 lbs of beans if you get sick of them after a few bites.

Great Food Choices

With the above characteristics, there are a ton of great foods on the market that could fit into your emergency supply.

Here are some examples of store-bought supplies:

In addition to meals, you should try to keep extra spices and flavors around to improve the meals.  Many of these are available in bulk from Costco and Sam’s Club:

  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Honey
  • Spices
  • Tobasco
  • Cooking oil

If you have the time and patience, you can also prepare your own emergency food supplies by methods such as canning, vacuum-sealing and dehydrating.

Where and How to Store Them

An ideal place to store your emergency food supply is in a dark, cool, dry location.  A basement is a great choice, as you get free natural cooling from the ground.

A great way to organize your food is with a food log.  For each item, list the type, quantity, date purchased and expected shelf life with expiration date.  If you maintain this list and monitor it every few months, you can easily tell what foods are about to expire and need to be replaced.

If you’ve purchased items you normally eat (such as rice or tuna), try to rotate them into your kitchen pantry.  That way you aren’t throwing away foods that expire.  Make sure to replace any foods you eat with new foods, putting them at the back of your shelf so you know what to eat next.

It’s a good idea to put some basic food preparation tools near your emergency supply, such as a can opener, lighter, small gas-powered stove and gas cans.  Make sure you have enough water to prepare the food with.


Here are some links with good ideas for emergency foods:

Some recommended online merchants selling survival food and supplies:

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring more of these survival food options in-depth.  Stay tuned!

Bugging Out

May 23rd, 2012

If a disaster strikes and you make the decision that you can’t bug-in, your other option is to bug-out, or leave the area.

How to Decide

Bugging-in or Bugging-out is generally not a decision that can be made in advance of an emergency.  You will only be able to decide when it strikes what will best for you and your family.  For example, in a simple power outage, you can probably bug-in.  If a hurrican is on its way, you may be encouraged to bug-out.

The best way to prepare for either is to get your emergency supplies in order, organized, and in a portable container.  Then, whether you bug-in or bug-out, you’ll have everything you need in one place.  If you’re bugging-in, you can take stock of what you have and start to prepare for a couple nights without power.  If you’re bugging-out, you simply put it all in your trunk with your family, make a couple preparations to your house, and off you go.

Once you’ve made the decision to bug-out, you should expedite your movement and get out of the area as soon as possible.  The longer it takes you to gather supplies and hit the road, the more likely either the emergency or other people will block your path.

What to Pack

Start out with your general emergency supplies kit.  All of those items will be useful wherever you go.

You’ll need additional supplies for your journey, including shelter along the way.  The problem with bugging-out is that you’ll have a limited amount of cargo space in your car, truck or van, part of which will be taken up by your passengers.  Remember that the number one priority while bugging-out is protecting and transporting you and your family.

Other items you may need for bugging-out include:

  • Tents for shelter along the way or at your destination
  • Extra gasoline to make it to your destination
  • Food preparation devices, such as a stove and gas containers
  • Priceless or unreplaceable personal items that you want to take with you

The last category of items is worth spending some time thinking about.  You’re leaving your home, and you may be away from it for a while.  Something (or someone) may cause damage to your home while you are away.  If you have personal items that are absolutely priceless and can’t be replaced, you should plan for exactly how they’ll come with you.  You don’t want to have to make the decision of what stays and what goes while you’re packing up to leave town 10 minutes from now.

If at all possible, try to test pack all of your supplies now.  You may find that you don’t have enough room to take everything you want.  It’s better to figure this out now and adjust rather than in the middle of a panic.


If you intend to bug-out, you’ll need reliable transportation to get to your destination.  This is called your Bug Out Vehicle (BOV).  Whether it’s a car, truck, SUV, van, boat or plane, make sure it’s suitable for travel to your destination.

You’ll probably pick one of your existing family vehicles to be your BOV.  If you’re going to be transporting enough people or supplies to require two vehicles, make sure that two vehicles are absolutely necessary.  With two vehicles you’ll be more likely to have one of them break down or run out of gas.  Leaving one vehicle behind with your supplies (or family members) is not a situation you want to find yourself in.

Having an off-road SUV as your BOV could come in handy if you need to get around debris or turn off of the pavement for a while.  A SUV will also have more cargo capacity than a standard family car.  The trade-off is that the gas mileage might not be as good.  You’ll need to do some mileage calculations to see if you’ll have to fill refill your tank prior to reaching your destination.

Try to keep your BOV always at least half-way filled with gas.  You never know if the gas stations in your area will be operational when you have to leave, or if the gas stations along the way will be open.  Gas stations will also be packed if others are trying to get out of town too.

Pick Places to Go

Part of your emergency plan should be a list of several locations where you could bug-out to.  Pick at least one or two destinations in every compass direction from your home (North, South, East and West).  You never know what areas will be affected by the emergency or how far away you’ll need to go.

Suitable locations for bugging-out should be at least 50 miles away from your town, preferably 100+ miles away or in another state.  Locations could be your family or friends’ place, a cabin you own, or a known campground or national forrest land.  Be aware that if you’re heading to a public area or to government-owned land, that it is more likely to be full from other people who have fled your area.  A private residence that you or your family/friends own would be a better choice and probably more comfortable for you.

Purchase road and terrain maps (paper/laminate) that shows your route from your home to all of the destinations.  Your GPS may or may not be reliable, and you may need to make adjustments along the way due to road conditions.  Study the map a bit now, so you know alternate routes.

Put these destinations and maps into your emergency plan.

What to Do

Once you’ve made the decision that you’re bugging out, you should take immediate action to get out of the area.  But first:

  1. Get to your pre-determined meeting location
  2. Account for everyone you’re in charge of
  3. Try to get details on what’s going on
  4. Pick where you’re heading to, and re-study the route
  5. Get immediate supplies packed into your BOV so you’re prepared to leave as soon as possible.  This includes:
    1. Your emergency kit
    2. Road supplies (gasoline, etc)
    3. Maps
    4. Any priceless or unreplaceable personal items you need with you
  6. Prepare your house for your absense: Lock the doors, board up the windows, etc
  7. Fill up your car with gas before you leave town if they’re still open and the lines aren’t too long
  8. Hit the road!

Getting There

By now you have picked your destination, packed your car and hit the road.

Getting to your destination may not be a walk in the park.  Along the way, you may encounter some obstacles:

  • Destroyed or blocked-off roads
  • Stalled or stopped traffic
  • Debris that could damage your car
  • Other broken down vehicles

Try to do your best to avoid these if at all possible.  If you start heading towards the highway and it looks like a parking lot, take out your map and look for alternate routes that avoid it.

Be prepared to backtrack if necessary.  If a road looks dangerous, you don’t want to risk your BOV breaking down and stranding you.

Monitor your gas consumption and keep an eye on the gas stations.  If you’re getting low and some of the gas stations are closed or have huge lines, it’s better to fill up your tank partially several times rather than risk running out of gas in the middle of nowhere.

If you have to stop for rest, try to pull off the road a bit where you won’t be disturbed or accidentally hit.  Like any long road-trip, trade-off driving responsibilities if you have other family members that are suitable.

Driving in an emergency situation will require a high level of alertness.  Not everyone will be able to handle the challenge.  You may decide that only you have the fortitude to drive during the bug-out.  Be prepared for this and take breaks when you can.


Hopefully, you’ll make it to your destination with as minimal fuss as possible.

Once you get there, you’ll want to unpack.  Try to make your new location as comfortable as possible — you don’t know how long the situation back home will last.

If you’re temporarily living with friends or family in their homes, you should be pretty comfortable.  If you need to camp for a while (especially if you don’t camp regularly for fun), you may find it a bit uncomfortable.  Try to adjust to your new location, knowing (hoping) it’s only temporary.

When to Go Back

Naturally, you won’t want to be away from your home forever.  Stay alert, and try to get as much information about your home area as possible from afar.  As the situation improves, you may decide to head back.  Go slowly, and be prepared to not make it completely home on your first try — things may still be blocked or the situation may not be as good as you had hoped.

Good luck!

Bug-In or Bug-Out?

May 18th, 2012

One of the most important decisions to be made during an emergency situation is whether you’re going to stay put (bug-in) or head to another location, such as a retreat or family or friend’s house (bug-out).

Bugging-in keeps you near several important resources: your house, emergency supplies, friends and family.  However, many emergencies can cause your area to become either uncomfortable or even unsafe to live (for example, destruction from natural disasters).

Bugging-out means packing up the essentials (you, your family, and a small amount of supplies), and heading out of the area temporarily.  Doing this at the right time can remove you from harm, but you have to be aware of the potential problems you may encounter after leaving.  We’ll be discussing this option further in the next post.


We all have the basic desire to protect what’s ours, and bugging-in gives us the opportunity to stay close to all of our belongings.  For many emergencies, bugging-in may be the safest choise.  That said, you need to understand the tradeoffs, as well as the situations where bugging-in will be your best option.

Here are some of the pros and cons of Bugging In:

Pros of Bugging-In:

  • You don’t have to actively do anything – just get to your house and stay put
  • Your house gives you built-in shelter and the essentials as long as they haven’t been cut off (water, power, etc)
  • All your emergency supplies are nearby
  • The rest of your belongings are nearby, and you can protect them
  • You’re probably near your friends, family and neighbors, so you can give each other support
    • By the same token, you may be able to help those less-prepared

Cons of Bugging-In:

  • You may be putting yourself in danger’s path (for example, destruction from a natural disaster)
  • You may be forced to leave by local authorities at some point anyways, and at that point you probably won’t be able to take much with you
  • Will your supplies last long enough?  What will you do as you run low on essentials?
  • If you change your mind and want to leave at a later date, it might be harder at that point (for example, natural disasters destroying roads)
  • While you are in your own home, it probably won’t be as comfortable as normal every-day life (for example, if the power is gone or your heat is out)

When to Bug-In

The decision of whether you’re going to bug-in or bug-out can’t be made before the disaster strikes.

You can, and should, prepare to take either action as necessary when the time comes.  For example, if high winds take out the power lines in your area, you should be able to bug-in with a small amount of supplies until the repair crews are able to turn your power back on.  On the other hand, if a hurricane is heading your way, you might choose to bug-out to another state.

If you have a good emergency kit and you store it in an easy-to-reach location, you can prepare yourself for either option by putting the supplies in or near a portable container, such a a duffle bag.  It may not be practical to have all of your supplies in portable containers, but if everything is in the same place, it’ll be easier and quicker to organize it.  You should keep a list of items that are not in the same location as your main supplies, so you remember to grab them if you’re bugging-out.

How to Bug-In

First of all, you should come up with a plan.  What will you do when an emergency is imminent or has already struck?

If you’ve made the decision to bug-in (at least for now):

  1. Stay put, or get to your pre-determined meeting location
  2. Account for everyone you’re in charge of (family, relatives)
  3. Try to get details on what’s going on
  4. Get immediate supplies ready so you’re prepared for the right now.  This includes:
    1. Put on proper clothing, such as more durable outerwear, boots, gloves, etc
    2. Get tools such flashlights, a Leatherman, candles, etc
    3. Prepare your home, such as shuttering windows, turning off the gas line, etc
  5. Stick around until the situation improves or you decide to bug-out

Tailor these steps to your family.  Write it down in your plan.  While the emergency may cause panic, having an already prepared, written-down plan will help you focus on the immediate tasks you need to do to get right-now prepared.  Keep in mind though, even the best made plans will change as the emergency is unfolding.  Stay flexible.

In summary, bugging-in is appropriate for many emergencies.  With the right supplies, it will be more convenient than trying to get out of the area.  As long as you have a good stock of organized emergency supplies, you can make the decision on whether to bug-in or bug-out at the time of need.

Next: It’s not safe to stay put?  Learn how to bug-out.

Medium-Term Disaster Preparation

March 16th, 2012

Short-term scenarios (lasting a few days at most) are easy to prepare for.  The power might go out and you’ll probably get a few free “vacation” days from work to tend to your home and family.  With a basic emergency kit, you should be able to weather the storm with ease.

What if something bigger hits?  A medium-term scenario, lasting a week to a few months, is a whole new ball game.

Photo from NASA

A medium-term scenario can start out looking like just a short-term scenario.  Think of Hurricane Katrina, for example.  As the storm was finding its way through the Gulf, many of the residents of New Orleans thought it was just another storm to batter down the hatches for, pack up the kids, and visit their out-of-state relatives for a few days.  Little did they know how much of an impact the storm would have on the city.  Those who lived through the storm and its aftermath found themselves without basic infrastructure like power and clean water for weeks.

There are many ways a medium-term scenario could manifest.  For example:

  • Major natural disasters
  • Pandemics
  • Terrorist attacks

Any event whose effects last for more than just a few days can cause quite a bit of discomfort for those who aren’t prepared.  Like a short-term scenario, the basic infrastructure we depend on could stop working for days or weeks at a time.  What would you do if you lost access to any of these for more than a week?

  • Power
  • Heat
  • Clean water
  • Transportation
  • Communication

Photo from Mel Silvers

A pandemic, for example, could limit your ability to move (Transportation) or see your family (Communication).  A terrorist attack could knock out the Power or disrupt the Clean Water supply.  We depend on these basic infrastructure needs to live our comfortable modern lives, but they could be taken away from us at any time.

Once a major event occurs, things could start going down-hill pretty fast.  As soon as everyone catches on that their situation won’t improve for a few days, there will be a stampede for the local supermarkets in a mad dash to grab as many candles and as much canned food as they can.  Tempers will flare, stock will dwindle, and some may be left without the necessary means to survive.

Let’s not partake in that, OK?

Preparing for month(s)-long self-sufficiency will take a lot of preparation and dedication.  It’s not just a matter of buying a couple canned goods from the grocery store.  Supplies are only one part of the equation:

supplies + tools + techniques + fitness + awareness = preparation

What will you do if the electricty is out for more than a week?  What about food, water?  How will you figure out what the heck is going on?

For short term preparation, all one needs to do is get a few supplies, some handy tools, and read a book for a week to pass the time.  Medium- and long-term scenarios call for a whole different ballgame.  You will need to learn techniques of self-sufficiency and will have to be physically fit enough for your body to endure.

The focus of this blog will be preparing yourself for a medium-term emergency scenario.  We will share tools, techniques, thoughts and news about how you can prepare.  We’d also love to hear from you about your thoughts on what it means to be prepared.  Getting yourself ready for a medium-term scenario will also make a short-term scenario a cake-walk, and a long-term scenario (TEOTWAWKI) more manageable.

Next up: Bugging in? Or bugging out?

Short-Term Disaster Preparation, Part 2: Staying alert

March 12th, 2012

Besides having basic supplies, the second major component of being prepared for a short-term emergency is staying alert: having a plan, knowing where and how to gather information, and being able to communicate reliably.

Staying Alert

Stay AlertBeing aware of your environment (and the changes happening to it) can give you a big head start in getting ready for something coming your way.  Not all emergency scenarios have a period of warning before they hit, but many natural disasters are foretold hours or days in advance.  Pay attention to your local news and your environment for early warning signs:

  • News of impending unusual or major rain, snow, wind or ice storms
  • Early-warnings of hurricanes, tornadoes or fires in the area
  • City emergency sirens
  • Natural warnings (ground rumbling, loud noises, dark skies, etc)

These signs may give you a few extra minutes or hours to meet up with your family and make sure all of your ducks are in a row.  Make sure you have a basic emergency plan now, and then know how to gather information and communicate when the disaster hits.

Having a Basic Plan

Have a Basic PlanStart out by coming up with a basic plan for what you and your family will do in case of an emergency.  Having a predefined plan serves several purposes:

  • A plan prepares you, gets you thinking-through what you should do when a disaster strikes
  • Already having a plan helps calm you down when the disaster happens
  • Everyone involved (you, family, friends) can follow the same plan, so everyone’s on the same page for what needs to happen

A basic disaster preparation plan has a few key components.  The plan does not (and should not) be tailored for a specific scenario at this point.  You and your family should determine:

  1. How you will try to contact each other
  2. Where you will meet if you are not together
  3. Who else you can turn to if you cannot contact or find each other
  4. What needs to be done when the emergency hits (find your supplies, get out the flashlights, etc)

The US government’s ready.gov website has a great Make a Plan section.  Talk with your family and come up with a basic plan everyone understands and can stick do.  Keep it simple.  Type everything up, and print out a copy that you can have handy.  Make sure everyone knows each other’s cell phone numbers by heart.

Additional plans could be developed for specific scenarios, such as what you would do if a hurricane was heading your way.  Would you try to pack up the essentials and stay with family in another state?  Or would you board the house up and try to see it through?  Obviously any disaster can disrupt even the best made plans, but knowing how to extend your basic plan for specific scenarios can help.

Gathering Information and Communicating

4386268_thumbnailOnce a disaster strikes, it is incredibly useful to maintain the flow of information.  You will need to receive information from your local and state governments, as well as those around you.   You will also want to communicate both within your group and the outside world.

Receiving up to date information about what’s going on can help you plan what to do, where to go, and how long to expect your situation to last.  The most reliable form of receiving information in a disaster is AM/FM radio and NOAA Weather Radio.  TV, the internet, and cell phones are also potential sources of information, but the infrastructure they require to operate is brittle, and often disrupted or overwhelmed in major scenarios.  AM/FM and NOAA radio stations can reach hundreds of miles, so the broadcasting stations can be outside of the affected zone.  They are your most reliable form of receiving information in an emergency.  Amazon has many inexpensive stand-alone NOAA radios, as well as FRS/GMRS radios that can receive NOAA alerts.  Having a simple AM/FM radio — especially one that is powered by a battery, or can be hand-cranked — can go a long way in receiving info about what’s going on.

One of the most distressing parts of any emergency is the feeling of not knowing. Listen closely to AM/FM and NOAA information sources.  These broadcasts can:

  • Give you up to date information about the emergency (scope and length)
  • Help you determine if you should stay in the area or try to leave
  • Inform you of how to get additional help if you need it

Communication with the outside world is also essential.  Staying in contact with others can help guide, calm and inform you.  Today’s most popular long-range communication mediums are land lines, cell phones, and the internet.  Unfortunately, all of these technologies are susceptible to infrastructure failure, and can be down for days.  Don’t expect to be able to contact others outside of your immediate vicinity, especially if the power is knocked out or the communications infrastructure is damaged.  The United State’s cell phone infrastructure is also easily overwhelmed in emergencies, and calls may not get through.

Depending on where you are, your neighbors, co-workers and friends may be the only ones you are able to communicate with.  Try to stay calm, and if you are able, help those around you. An organized group of people can be a powerful asset in an emergency.

If you need to communicate amongst your immediate group over short distances, FRS/GMRS radios are a popular and simple technology that can reach a mile or two.  Despite their packaging claims, FRS/GMRS radios will not be able to reach 10-35 miles, especially in an urban environment.

Good luck. Be Prepared.

Short-Term Disaster Preparation

March 1st, 2012

We will focus our attention first on what differentiates the three emergency scenarios one could prepare for — short-term, medium-term and long-term. Their triggers, outcomes and recommended supplies for survival will all be discussed.

Short-term emergency situations (those lasting 1 day to 1 week) are quite common around the world. Most families will have to deal with one or two small emergencies a year, depending on their geographic location. Of the three emergency scenarios one can prepare for, short-term situations happen the most frequently, but with just a small amount of preparation, one can easily “weather the storms” (pun intended).

In the Pacific Northwest for example, we get hit by major storms a few times a year, and they can knock out power and wash out roads. The region also sees a few snow and ice storms that wreck havoc upon the cities (and citizens) that are unprepared for them.Downed power lines during and ice storm

Every region around the world witnesses short-term emergencies, most often caused by nature.  Which of these do you see in your community?

  • Tornadoes
  • Snow storms
  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Earthquakes
  • Wild-fire
  • Volcanoes
  • Unexpected weather
  • … etc …

The effects of these situations are varied, but they can:

  • Knock out electricity
  • Limit communications (telephone, cable TV, cell phones, internet)
  • Limit access beyond your home
  • Reduce the gasoline and grocery supply (due to stocking up before the disaster hits)

How comfortable are you without electricity?  With a limited food supply?

Thankfully, these situations happen often enough that most citizens in the region know how to prepare for them — though many still get caught off guard and end up having to scramble for supplies or make-do without them.  Stay ahead of the pack!

What can you do to prepare for Short-Term Disasters?

A short term disaster is cheap and easy to prepare for. Get prepared now! A little bit of preparation now goes a long ways towards making you comfortable, calm and prepared when the disaster hits.

A good resource for preparation comes from the US government at ready.gov. The website has a lot of great resources, including an emergency preparation kit check-list, how-to make a readiness plan, and where to go for more information. Their brochures can be easily downloaded and printed. Do it now! If your electricity is out, your printer won’t work!

There are many ways to prepare, but they can be focused into five major categories:

supplies + tools + techniques + fitness + awareness = preparation

While all five categories can be helpful in any emergency scenario, giving higher focus to some initially (supplies and alertness) will help you prepared for a short term emergency quickly. After you’ve built a supplies kit, you will need to spend time and money on the other categories (tools, techniques and fitness) to prepare yourself for medium (and long) term scenarios.

Your best bets for Short Term Disasters:

  1. Build an emergency supplies kit
  2. Be alert!  Know where and how to gather information

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Build a supplies kit now!

Supplies that will help you in a short-term emergency situation are fairly basic, but the key is having them on-hand (in a usable condition) so you don’t have to rush to the local supermarket when a disaster is looming. The panic of ordinary citizens in an emergency can lead to rude and dangerous behavior, and it is best to stay away from places where everyone else is headed in a frenzy. Grocery stores will be out of stock instantly, and you will spend more time in traffic jams and around panicked (and unprepared) citizens. Build your supplies now so you don’t need to rush to the store when the disaster hits.

What should you include in your kit?

A 7-day preparation kit won’t cost you much and is easy to assemble:

  • Eating / drinking:
    • 1 gallon of water / person / day (bottled water works great)
    • 7-day supply of food / person (canned, mountain house dried food, etc)
  • Shelter
    • Sleeping bag
    • Warm blankets
  • Electronics:
    • Battery-powered radio
    • Battery-powered GMRS / FRS walkie-talkies
    • Flashlights with spare batteries
    • Cell phone with extra battery
    • Charged batteries to power all electronics
  • Sanitation / health
    • Moist towelettes
    • Toilet paper
    • First-aid kit
    • Filtration face masks
    • Medicines
    • Personal-needs such as:
      • prescriptions
      • feminine products
      • eye glasses
      • hearing aids
      • pet food
      • baby formula and diapers
  • Information
    • Personal information (photocopies of identification, passports, credit cards)
    • First-aid manual
    • Survival books
    • Maps of the surrounding area
  • Tools / misc
    • Matches or lighters
    • Candles
    • Whistle
    • Multi-tool (Leatherman)
    • Wrench, pliers, screwdrivers
    • Can opener for food
    • Hatchet
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Duct tape
    • Plastic tarps
    • Garbage bags
    • Cash ($100 – $1000 in small bills)

Where should you assemble this?

Gather the above items and put them somewhere in your house that isn’t very damp. A bag or storage bin is recommended. Put the supplies aside and don’t touch them. Don’t grab the duct tape from your survival kit just because you can’t find the other roll. You’ll slowly dwindle your supply!

Next Post: Step 2: Stay alert, know how to communicate and gather information


February 1st, 2012


My name is Nic.

I am a survivalist.

No, not the running with the wild, living off the land type — but someone who is determined to be prepared for whatever comes his way.

I grew up living a comfortable childhood, oblivious to the rest of the world. Now that I am older, I understand that many of the luxuries we live with every day could be taken away from us at any time (either temporarily or permanently). I’ve always been a bit O.C.D. as far as organization and preparation goes, and I’m sure this a cause of my survivalist tendencies.

I live and work in the Seattle area. Professional (and social) reasons keep me in the city and not in the country (and thus the urbansurvivalist). Hard-core survivalists consider the urban environment to be completely unfit for survival preparedness — but not all of us have the luxury of living on the outskirts of civilization or owning a retreat property. I live with my S.O., who has similar survivalist inclinations (though she may not be as outspoken about it), so I am determined to prepare for both of us. Luckily, she is very understanding :)

What’s a survivalist? Why prepare?

There are many reasons to be prepared, and many scenarios you can prepare for. One cannot be completely prepared for every situation, but a little knowledge, training, and a bit of supplies can go a long way.

So you’re like me, living in an urban (or suburban) environment and want to be prepared. What are you preparing for? There are a few situations that come to mind:

  • Short-term disaster preparation (1 day to 1 week). Short-term situations (such as power-outages) should be the easiest (and cheapest) to prepare for, and every household should prepare now. A bit of supplies and some research will get you ready, so when (and not if) something happens, you can feel safe and comfortable in your home environment. Getting prepared to stay at home for a few days without electricity is easy and cheap, and preparing now will ensure you don’t panic when something happens.
  • Medium-term (a week to a few months). Medium term disasters, such as temporary infrastructure collapse, pandemics, terrorist attacks, and major natural disasters can all lead to a situation where you are on your own for a while. Will you be prepared for it? Will you stay where you are, or try to make it somewhere else? What will you do?
  • Long-term (TEOTWAWKI – a.k.a. the end of the world as we know it). What if? Not something easily prepared for (and not the main focus of this blog), but preparing for shorter term emergencies will help you survive in case something bigger happens.

What can trigger an emergency situation? There are many things — caused both by humans and nature — that could catch you (and the rest of society) by surprise:

  • Natural disasters: Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, volcanic eruptions, landslides, blizzards, wild fires
  • Terrorist attacks: Bombs, attacks against the food supply, water supply or infrastructure
  • Pandemics (large and small): Flu, plague, other diseases, famine
  • Infrastructure disruptions or collapse: Power outages, food shortages, water supply contaminations

I am not an alarmist! The intention of this blog is not to freak you out, or get you worrying about every little thing that can happen. Instead, I will use this blog is to share things you can do to be prepared for most disaster situations.

This blog will focus on two topics:

  • Survival preparation and readiness techniques
  • Tools and supplies to help you survive

I am not an expert. However, I have invested time researching survival techniques and preparing the necessary supplies so that I am ready. My goal for this blog is to share my thoughts, experiences and research with others who want to survive.

I am determined to be prepared.

Are you?