We talk a lot here about some of the more advanced concepts in preparedness but I’d like to take a step back and look at some of the very simple things we should all do to be prepared for minor emergencies. I’m constantly amazed by friends of mine who talk about being prepared but who never seem to find the time to follow through and pull together anything more than a bit of extra food and a case of bottled water. You just never know when trouble will come along and as we all know here, it really does pay to be prepared.
These relatively simple tips and preps will hopefully help turn situations that could have become serious into minor inconveniences. I’m referring to power outages, bad storms, accidents around the home, and other minor events that require you to be self sufficient even if only for a couple of days. And these happen all the time. Whether it’s tornados in the mid-west, snowstorms in the northeast, flooding in the south, or earthquakes on the west coast something is happening every week that leaves families to fend for themselves for a while.
With just an afternoon of quick errands everyone should be able to pull together the following items and store them away for a rainy day.
Number one of the list has to be at least a few days of extra food and water. It’s not hard to stop by the store and fill half a grocery cart with food and a couple of those rectangular 2 ½ gallon jugs of spring water. Even if you’re only stocking up on powerbars and tuna fish it’s better than nothing. For a very comprehensive food storage list see Thoreau’s full rundown here.
Next you need to have spare batteries, flashlights, and candles. Again, these are easy to stop and pick up and you’ll be glad you have them when the power goes out. Personally I stock way more flashlights (still in their plastic packaging) and batteries than I think I’ll ever need but consider them good barter or charity items that I can share with my friends and neighbors. Also I’m afraid of the dark so I like having lots of light…
Depending on what region of the country you live in having some way to heat your house can be critical. Woodstoves are great as we’ve pointed out here in the past but at the very least a functioning fireplace is still pretty good. If you have a fireplace I recommend keeping a stack of firewood somewhere on your property. The next time you trim back a tree or have some scrap wood from old furniture or the like just stack it up by the back fence or somewhere out of the way. You’ll be glad you have it when the time comes to get a fire going. Having an extra propane tank for the old gas grill is a great idea as well. Of course you can’t heat your house with a grill without asphyxiating yourself but it’s perfect for cooking or boiling water in an emergency.
I know I’ve said this before, have a few sheets of plywood, some of those big blue plastic tarps, and plenty of duct tape on hand out in the garage. These items along with a hammer and nails are about all you need to seal up a broken widow, door, or other damage to your home that can happen unexpectedly in a storm or earthquake. Being able to patch up minor damage quickly can both keep your family safe and warm as well as save thousands on potential water damage.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you must have -and know how to use- basic first-aid items. These will come in handy even if there isn’t an emergency. You should also have an extra week’s supply of any important medications.
These are all very basic preparations and while very few people would argue their value I’d be willing to bet that plenty of those same people are not prepared to even this basic level. Hopefully this will serve as a little call to action.