First Steps to Prepping: Prepping 101

May 27th, 2015No Comments
Holding back the flood

This guy knows how to prep!

Self reliance, prepping, emergency preparedness.  It seems like there are a million names for it and everyone has an opinion on how you should do it.  Buy gold.  Buy guns.  Store food.  Get off the grid.  Move out to the country.  According to many of the so-called experts, it seems like you have to completely change your life because the end of the world is just around the corner.

Hold on a second.  Let’s step back, slow down, and take a deep breath.  The world has been ending for a long time, yet we are still here.  So is prepping important or not?  Absolutely!  Let’s face it, emergencies happen all the time and the better we are prepared to deal with them, the less of an impact they will have on us and our families.  There’s nothing wrong with preparing for a total economic collapse, but there are more important things to prepare for first.  If you are new to prepping, it can be confusing trying to figure out where to start.  How do you begin prepping?  What are the first things a new prepper should do?  The best approach is to start small, look at the things that are most likely to affect you and your family, and take small steps to prepare for those.  Over time, this prioritized, incremental approach will give you the most bang for your buck, and by dealing with “normal” emergencies you will find yourself much better prepared for major emergencies.

What are these “normal” emergencies?  They are simply those things that each of us face in day-to-day life, things like injuries and medical emergencies, vehicle accidents and breakdowns, utility outages, home evacuations, and crime.  These are all things that each of us might experience on any given day and the impact they might have on our lives can be huge.  If you want to be more prepared, more resilient, then these are the types of emergencies you should address first.  Still not sure how to get started?  Here are 12 first steps to prepping:

1.  Talk to Your Family

Prepping 101 starts with understanding what you are planning for.  Each of us have different risks and priorities in life.  Your first step is to identify what worries you the most and what resources you have available for preparedness.  Perhaps a family member has a medical condition or your lifestyle exposes you to more crime or you live in a hurricane zone.  Whatever your situation, identify the main risks you face, how much time and money you have available to address those risks, and get your family involved.  When I first started preparing, my wife thought I was getting ready for zombies or the end of the world or something.  I think she thought I was a bit crazy.  Once she understood that I was really just trying to protect our family from the day-to-day emergencies I talked about earlier, then she was completely on board.  So step one is to talk to your family and create a plan.

Take the Self Reliance Assessment

Get the Planning Guide

2.  Store Water, Bleach, and Filters

No matter who we are and where we live, we need water.  We have become used to the idea that clean, safe water is no further away than the nearest faucet, but that is a luxury that much of the world does not enjoy.  There are any number of reasons our water supply may be contaminated or shut off, and I believe that water storage is the most important prep we can make.  The main challenge is figuring out how much to store and how to store it.  In general, you want at least one week’s worth of water at about two gallons per person per day.  That’s a lot of water and takes up a lot of space!  Large drums are the best if you have space.  For apartment dwellers, 2 1/2 gallon containers under a bed or in a closet may be a better option.  Just remember that no matter how much water you store it will eventually run out, so you also want ways to make water you find safe to drink.  Bleach and water filters are a good choice.  A gallon of bleach will purify up to 3,600 gallons of water and bleach is a great disinfecting agent for cleaning.  For filters, check out the LifeStraw Family Purifier and Berkey water filters.  Also, don’t forget that you are already storing water in your hot water heater and pipes.  Read the “Water Storage Basics” article to learn how to tap into that water.

Water Storage Basics

A Simple Water Storage Project

3. Build First Aid Kits and Learn How to Use Them

Injuries and accidents happen all the time, and, personally, I don’t want to stand around helpless, hoping someone will come to save my loved ones.  Red Cross training is available everywhere across the country and there are hundreds of training organizations that provide more advanced training.  A person can bleed to death in minutes and sometimes waiting for the ambulance is just not an option!  Most commercial first aid kits are junk.  They are designed for minor bumps and bruises not life threatening injuries, and I strongly recommend that you learn how to build your own kits.  I have first aid kits in each of my vehicles, in my house, and I also built small ones for each of my family members.

Take a Red Cross class

4.  Read a Book

The more you know the better you are able to adapt to the crazy stuff life throws at you.  One book I really enjoy for preparedness is Cody Lundin’s When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikes.  This is an entertaining, light hearted look at prepping and is full of great advice.

5.  Protect Your Personal Records and Important Documents

My cousin’s house was flooded last year and they had to evacuate quickly.  When these things happen, there is often no time to save your important papers, family photos, and other personal effects.  Once these things are gone they are gone.  Go get yourself two external hard drives and take a day to scan and store all of your important documents.  Back up your computers, photos, and whatever else you don’t want to lose.  Store one of the drives off-site, at a friend’s house or in a safety deposit box, and every month or so update the drive at home and swap it out with the one in storage.  This is a cheap, easy way to protect all of your valuable documents and family mementos.

6.  Buy Flashlights and Batteries

Emergencies happen at the worst possible time and everything is harder in the dark.  Go out and buy a few good flashlights for your cars and home.  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.  I carry a small light in my pocket every day and I am still amazed at how ofter I use it.  I also recommend you take a look at the new solar camping lights.  These are a great way to light up your house when the electricity goes out.  One I particularly like is the Luci Outdoor Inflatable Solar Lantern.

7.  Build Car and Home Emergency Kits

Emergency kits are important.  Car kits are designed to deal with emergencies that happen on the road and to get you home, while home kits are designed for evacuations.  My car kits include things like jumper cables, tow straps, blankets, first aid kit, emergency food bars, water, and a flashlight.  The house kit is designed as a 72-hour bag and includes clothing, hygiene items, and food in case I have to evacuate my house.  If I have time then I will throw more stuff into the home kit, but if I have to evacuate immediately then I know I have the basic stuff that I need all in one place.

8.  Buy One Case of MREs for Each Person

I’d love to have a years worth of food in my house, but I’m not there yet.  Really, it is not realistic for most people to just go out and buy six months or a years worth of food right away.  A better approach is to build up slowly.  Get a weeks worth, then two weeks, then a month, and so on.  I like to have enough for for a month that doesn’t require cooking.  Military MREs are a good place to start.  One case includes twelve meals and will last one person for about a week.  They actually taste pretty good, don’t need cooking, and last a long time.  Unfortunately, they are also expensive.  You can buy them on Amazon, however they are often cheaper at guns shows and the like.  Many commercial variant are not that good so buy military surplus if possible.  I’m not a fan of freeze dried foods because they are heavily processed and take a lot of water to prepare.

Food Storage: MREs, Freeze Dried, or Real Food

Simple Food Storage System

9.  Exercise

You never get healthier during an emergency, and how well your body recovers is largely a matter of how healthy you are to begin with.  Take care of your body.  Start exercising.  You do not need to be an olympic power lifter or a marathon runner, but get up, walk, jog, stretch, and do simple body weight exercises like push ups.  If you haven’t exercised for a while then take it easy.  There is no need to hurt yourself, just get up and get moving!

10.  Store Essential Hygiene Items and Medications

You should have at least a one month supply of hygiene items and medications.  We’re talking about things like toilet paper, soaps, and cleaning supplies.  I don’t normally use hand sanitizers but I like to store them because they reduce demand on my precious water supply.  Likewise, paper plates and disposable utensils are great items to keep on hand.  Also, don’t forget that you still need to go to the bathroom during emergencies and flushing the toilet may not be possible.  Get a couple of five gallon buckets and some heavy duty trash bags.  It may not be pleasant but it works.  A bag of lime will help keep the bugs and smell tolerable.

11.  Cash

Going to the ATM may not be an option during an emergency and if the power is disrupted stores may not accept credit cards.  It is a good idea to keep at least $1,000 of cash on hand for emergencies.  If you don’t have that right now, then just save what you can each week, ten or twenty dollars, until you build up your reserves.

12.  Improve Your Security

Crime is a fact of life.  Take a look at ways that you can improve both your physical and cyber security.  Simple things like adding exterior lights, closing your garage door, and improving the locks on your doors and windows can go a long way to reducing your chance of a burglary.  Start locking your car doors while you drive and look around before you get out of your car.  Simple things can make a big difference.  Also take a look at your online life.  As more and more of our personal data moves online our risk increases dramatically.  Every time you check in on Facebook you are telling the world that you are not home, and believe me that not everyone who has access to your Facebook profile has your best interests at heart.  Password protect your phones and computers, and start using strong passwords.  I like to take a phrase I can remember, like “the brown cow jumped over the moon”, and use the first letter of each word for my password.  So, I might use Tbcjotm#35.  The longer the better, and try not to use the same password for all of your websites.

So that’s prepping 101 in a nutshell.  Twelve simple things that you can do that will have a huge impact on how well you can respond to and recover from emergencies that happen everyday.  This is certainly not a complete list or even a complete “prepping system,” but it is a good start.  You may want to modify it based on your situation, if so, great!  The important thing is to get started and to do one thing every week.  If you do that, then you may wake up one day and realize that you truly are ready for anything!

Be sure to share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.

© 2015, mjshozda. All rights reserved.

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