Being Prepared 101
Originally written in June 2011.
As I sit here in my basement while a summer thunderstorm passes by with 75 mile per hour winds and the local tornado sirens are going off, I thought it might be worth while to write out a few things about basic emergency preparedness. Although this is stuff is pretty basic, to be honest it is stuff that I sometimes take for granted and don’t think about often enough, so I figure it may serve as a good reminder to some of you as well. I, probably like most of you get complacent and forget to keep up on routine things. One that is irritating me right now is making sure flashlights are where they are supposed to be (with functional batteries)… man I get irritated when I can’t find something when I need it! With that said, the items below may help serve as a good reminder of some basic things to do to be prepared for an emergency situation.
The information that follows outlines basic steps for a person/family to be minimally prepared in case of an emergency. Which could be anything from a bad storm, loosing your job, economic failure, civil war, or whatever terrible scenario you can imagine. There are tons of sites out there that offer very basic to extremely complex checklists of items that you should keep on hand in case of emergencies. So I am not going to re-create the wheel by typing out a comprehensive grocery/supply list. But I will touch on some of the basics that I feel are very important and probably shouldn’t be ignored. These items are not necessarily listed in order of importance, as any one of these items could be very important depending on circumstances.
Being Prepared: The Basics
The burden of payments to debtors is likely the number one thing that is keeping your income from working to your best advantage in attempting to be self reliant. I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover for reducing your debt the old fashioned way. Essentially, he teaches the exact same thing that my grandparents thought me. But he relays the information in a way that sinks in and makes you think…man I am really doing some dumb things with my money. It is a highly effective way to reduce your debt and if you stick to his plan you will make big headway in reducing your debt. For the sake of full disclosure, I have started his plan, but am not fully debt free myself….yet! http://www.daveramsey.com/home/.
2.Smoke & Fire Detectors
Seems simple enough, but house fires are statistically one of the most common types of emergencies families around the world have to deal with. Many times house fires could be largely avoided or reduced in severity with some basic preparation. To help reduce the chances of having a catastrophic house fire ensure you have at least one functional Fire and Smoke detectors in common areas of the home and/or as required by your state building codes. Also have at least one large fire extinguisher on each level of the home placed in an area easily accessible area. Also have an extinguisher near “fire prone” areas like kitchens, garages, utility rooms, laundry rooms, etc. Also have a long garden hose on each exterior spigot and a few five gallon buckets handy as well. All of these could be helpful in keeping a small fire from becoming a big fire.
Emergencies = $$$$$. Have some extra cash on hand. Having at least $400 to $500 of cash on hand (stashed away so its not spent) will come in very handy to make emergency purchases that were unexpected. Some people also recommend having an emergency credit card that is frozen in a block of ice, so that it will only be used in emergencies. Although that doesn’t fall inline with Dave Ramsey’s plan. It may not be a bad idea if you don’t have a problem with credit card spending.
Keep your vehicle’s gas tank as full as you can. Try to always fill up if you have less than half a tank. Also keep a minimum of 10-20 gallons of gas in your garage, shed or outbuilding. That way even if you had to evacuate the city (and your gas tank was empty) you would have enough gas to make it a safe distance away and far enough away that gas station lines should begin to thin out. In most vehicles ten gallons of gas should be enough to get you to a safe alternate location or one of your planned family rally points. Don’t forget to have a funnel, that will work with your car’s fill nozzle.
5. Utility Shutoff
Know how to shut off the utilities in your home. Shutting off gas and water lines may require special tools (Check your shutoffs). Shutting the utilities off immediately after a damaging storm should be done if you suspect that there was damage to the house that may have caused a leak. Also know where your main electrical breaker panel is and know how to shutdown the master breaker to kill power to the house.
6. Alternate Power / Heat Source
Own a small generator (or alternative power source) and several extension cords to be able to provide some power for necessities after power goes out. Also consider a propane BBQ grill and or a small propane heater/stove for cooking without power. Even a small charcoal BBQ grill or fire pit would suffice as well. An extra 20 lb canister of propane is also a good idea and will last a long time.
7. Food & Water
Keep some extra food and water in your home. The amount recommended varies widely, my thoughts are that you should keep as much extra as your budget and space will reasonably allow. I recommend building this up slowly and only buying items that you can regularly rotate in with your normal meals as the items come close to expiration. If you don’t normally eat it, don’t buy it for emergency food. In my opinion you should have at least two week’s worth of extra food available aside from what is in your cabinets for everyday use. For drinking water, I recommend having at least 1 gallon per person per day, for two weeks as well if possible. See this great guest post called Long Term Food Storage for more information on how to package your own food for long term storage.
8. Storm damage repair supplies
In most regions within the USA one of the most likely causes for you to go without power, heat, or to be in an short term emergency situation will likely be from one type of storm or another. Ice storm, snow storm, thunderstorm, wind storm, tornado, hurricane, etc. With this in mind consider having some of the following items on hand to help with quick repair to storm damage. This repair may not be the final repair, but just good enough to keep the elements out of your living space. Useful items are plywood, tarps, screws, nails, buckets, a large roll or two of heavy gauge plastic sheeting, duct tape, 550 cord or other nylon cord, a ladder so that you can access all parts of your roof. All of these items are readily available before a storm happens, but are the first things off the shelf after a storm happens.
9. Family Communication Plan
See this link for an article on preparing a family communication plan – Having a family communication plan.
10. Home Exit Plan
If possible designate alternative ways to exit your home in case of fire. In two story homes having an emergency ladder is a good investment. Also check to make sure that windows aren’t painted shut and that cranks or levers are in good working order. Also make sure there isn’t piled up debris under the bedroom windows.
11. Window Tint Or Shatter Proof Film
Applying window tint or shatter proof film to glass windows, does a lot to reduce internal damage to your home. An expedient alternative is to make an X over the window with duct tape. This won’t stop it from shattering completely, but will help to reduce the amount of flying glass if the window is broken.
The more the better. At a minimum own basic carpentry tools. Both hand tools and power tools and know how to use them. Also a chainsaw or a hand bow saw can be very handy if your home is surrounded by large trees, whose branches may be blown loose during a storm. They can also be used to cut yourself out of a debris pile if you were trapped in a basement after a tornado/earthquake, etc. Obviously, to do any good the saw would need to be stored in the area of your home that you will go to, if a tornado or earthquake was to happen. Keep spare blades / chains, oil and gas as well. Se a post I wrote called Are Tools Worth More Than Gold?
Have several sources of light. LED lanterns and flashlights work very well and batteries last much better than older incandescent lanterns. Keeping one flashlight in each bedroom and common areas is a good idea. Candles and Kerosene hurricane lamps also work well, but are a fire hazard if not used properly. A Coleman style propane lantern is also effective for working outside at night. A 20lb propane gas hose set can allow you to hook the lantern directly into the 20 lb propane bottle, so that keeping a bunch of smaller cans isn’t necessary. Check out this video on how to make a Power Outage Kit:
14. Extra Blankets/sleeping bags
Just in case a hole in the roof or rain coming in through broken windows soaks regular bedding. Or in case you have unplanned guests who were unexpectedly forced from their homes.
15. Vehicle stuff
Ensure you replace tires during the first 80% of tire wear. 80% of all flat tires happen within the last 20% of tire wear. Also keep a tool kit, an extra set of belts, spare fuses, a gallon of water, and a gallon of anti-freeze, a few quarts of oil and transmission fluid and a set of jumper cables, a heavy duty tow strap and a large fire extinguisher in each of your vehicles. Lastly, ensure you know how to change a tire, use the jack safely and make sure there is air in your spare tire every time you change your oil! If you have someone else change your oil, they won’t check the spare tire air pressure if you don’t ask!
16. The pets
Consider extra pet food, if you don’t already buy in bulk.
17. Self Defense
I will write more on this later, but consider owning at least one firearm. As a very minimum I recommend starting with a high capacity 9mm semi-automatic pistol. There can be many arguments for different types of weapons, but a high capacity 9mm pistol is arguably the most versatile weapons that could be utilized in the most situations. So start there and expand out as you can.
In the military I was taught the 7 Ps. Proper, Prior, Preparation, Prevents, Piss, Poor, Performance. And the 7 Ps apply for civilian life as well. If you can accomplish some or most of the things listed here you will be leaps and bounds ahead of the vast majority of people in an emergency situation.
What do you recommend doing to be ahead of the game when it comes to being prepared?
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