Prepping Basics: be reasonable and prudent

If you are thinking about getting involved in prepping, you’ll want to start with the basics. This article lays out my thoughts on that subject, but it is by no means definitive. A different approach might work better for you. You can be the judge of that.

What Am I Prepping For?

In order to prepare, you need to know what you are preparing for. This question is not so easily answered. An event might occur that you would not ordinarily anticipate, such as a 9/11 event, or a hurricane Katrina, or an earthquake/tsunami. So before considering types of events, I suggest dividing the events into time frames. How long will the event have a substantial negative effect on my life?


Short-term: up to one week
Medium-term: one week to three months
Long-term: anything over three months

You can vary the length of time that you use to define each of these categories, but this type of division is very useful. For example, suppose you are preparing for a disaster that leaves you unable to buy food at the grocery store. Short-term, up to about a week, you can survive on whatever amount of food you ordinarily have in your refrigerator and pantry. After that, you’ll start to run out of quite a few items; you’ll start wishing you had some stored food.

You can store food for up to three months with relatively little money and storage space. My 90 person-day food kit takes up less than 9 cubic feet (9 boxes that are each less than one cubic foot), and cost me about $300.00 ($100 per person per month). Your cost will vary.

But once you get beyond 3 months, it becomes increasingly difficult to store enough food. Most foods have a limited storage life. The foods you can store for 10 years are much more limited than those that will store for 2 years. You need a different approach to obtaining food for a long-term disaster. You might want to consider growing some of your own food, or bartering for some food items, in that case.

So the length of time that a disaster impacts your life affects how you prep.


Next, you should consider what you will need within the time that a disaster affects your life: food, water, shelter, hygiene, medicine, power, transportation, money (or goods for bartering) are all high on the list of needs. In other words, you have to consider how you will meet your basic human needs, if a particular event compromises the current means that you use to meet those needs.

Which disasters are you preparing for? Consider those that are most likely to affect your area. I live in Florida, which is prone to hurricanes, but not earthquakes. Hurricanes are typically a short-term disaster, of mild to moderate severity — but not always. In addition to the most common disasters (storms, power outages), you will want to give some attention to rarer, but also more severe events. Rare but severe events include: an earthquake/tsunami combination, a major terrorist attack, economic collapse, oil shortages with gasoline rationed or unavailable, and many other possibilities.

But you can’t prepare for everything. Be reasonable. Spend a limited amount of money, trying to get the most preparation bang for your buck. Give more attention to the more common disasters. These types of preparations will also be of some use if a rare but severe disaster strikes.

Write out your Plan

Having a written plan will help you stay organized and focused. Prepping takes many months. You cannot simply buy a bunch of stuff in month one, and then be done. It is more a process of learning and gradually increasing your preparedness for an ever-increasing range of possible disasters. Write out you prepping plan, what you will try to learn, what supplies you will store (where and how to store them). And write out what you will do in different emergency situations. When disaster strikes, that is not the time to start thinking about your response. A written plan will help you remain calm during tumultuous days.

What to buy first?

I would suggest that your best first purchase should be a set of books. Being well informed is just as important as storing up some food and other supplies. Here are a few books for your consideration. But I’m NOT suggesting that you buy ALL of these books.

Introductory books:
The Disaster Preparedness Handbook: A Guide for Families (Second Edition) by Arthur Bradley
Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Lawton

Health and First Aid Books:
American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care
First Aid for Babies and Children
American College of Emergency Physicians First Aid Manual
The Merck Manual of Medical Information: 2nd Home Edition
Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, Fourth Edition
American Medical Association Family Medical Guide, 4th Edition

Severe Disasters:
Medical Implications of Nuclear War (free online version)
Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse – novel by James Wesley Rawles

More on this subject in future posts.

– Thoreau

4 Responses to Prepping Basics: be reasonable and prudent

  1. I’m starting pretty much from scratch, and since family members have seen me working on collecting supplies and equipment, they say they’re coming to my house if something bad happens. In that vein, I am stymied on how much to try and collect. If it is just my wife and I, I have supplies that will last about a month, except for water, and I have a water source in the back yard and I’m getting a filter system in the next week or so. With the influx of family, supplies would be greatly strained, and they have no possibility of building up a stockpile themselves.

    • I would strive to slowly build up a three month supply. But opinions vary on this point. Also, it is important to “store up” knowledge and skills, not merely supplies.

      And what do you do when all the relatives, neighbors, and friends show up, wanting to share in your limited supplies? That’s a tough question.

  2. Matt in Oklahoma

    Do what ya can when ya can. Eat that steak one bite at a time. Plan for what happens with your family, make them tough choices now because your mind is gonna snap otherwise. It’s not easy and it’s not pretty.
    Like the man said Knowledge and Skills. you can’t buy your way outta this issue.
    This is my SIG Line
    Knowledge is Power, Practiced Knowledge is Strength, Tested Knowledge is Confidence

  3. Good fiction can get you thinking about prepping as well as give you an enjoyable evening’s reading. With that in mind, I’d like to recommend an author who writes short fiction geared toward preppers. Her name is Susan Gregersen and her ebooks are available on Amazon. Gregersen writes clearly and concisely and, to me, her work is far more readable than James Wesley Rawles’s rather over the top novel, “Patriots”. Gregersen’s survival scenarios are realistic with likeable, genuine characters and she weaves a lot of good practical information into her stories. I think her stories would be particularly helpful for beginning preppers. She gets the point across without making readers feel overwhelmed by too much doom and gloom.
    Two other “prepper type” novels I enjoyed are “Lights Out” by David Crawford, and the 1950′s sci-fi classic “Alas Babylon” by Pat Frank.