Tips for New Preppers

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When you first start to prep, you may worry that you're not doing it right. You may worry that you've missed something important. Don't worry, wherever you start, you'll be ahead of the game when it comes to surviving a disaster or a grid-down situation. Just the fact that you're thinking about it is a good start.

A Quick Review of Some Basics

The first logical step is stockpiling food and water (which we've talked about earlier); however, one quick word on that before we continue: Do not store water in old plastic milk jugs, no matter how well you wash them. You run the risk of breeding bacteria. Not only that, but old milk jugs can leach whatever material they're made of into the water. The best solution is to store your water in 5-7 gallon BPA-free plastic containers. 

Likewise, as we also tend to emphasize here, it's smart to have a good water filter on hand. Water filtration is a whole other topic; but at least get a countertop ceramic gravity filter that can remove both chemicals and bacteria (a UV light can also kill bacteria), and some portable water filters.

If your plan is to shelter in place, as soon as you know a disaster is headed your way, fill the bathtub with water (making sure that the drain plug works! Test ahead of time!). You might also devise a way to collect rainwater.

When it comes to food, we've already talked about stockpiling both canned and dried foods. However, at the risk of sounding like I'm repeating myself (which I am), only stock foods you will actually eat!

Remember, freeze-dried foods need to be prepared with water. Drying your own foods can be simple and inexpensive; a simple dehydrator can be used to easily air dry vegetables like spinach, shredded carrots, or any fruit or vegetable that's very thinly sliced. While you're prepping for yourself and your family, don't forget your pets; be sure to keep both extra dry and canned food on hand for them.

12 Preparedness Tips Beyond Food and Water

It goes without saying, keeping a stockpile of food and water in both your home and vehicle is the first step. Likewise, keep your vehicle's gas tank topped off and ready to roll. However, there are other steps that need to be taken to round out your preparedness.

Pay Off Your Bills (and Have your Financial Affairs in Order)

This may not seem like a prepping tip, but if you're overwhelmed with monthly bills, you won’t be able to buy the extras you need for prepping. Moving towards self-reliant living will also be more difficult, such as buying an off-grid home or land. Work towards becoming debt free, it's the ultimate freedom in this day and age. 

While you are working on this very important step, take the necessary steps to round up all your important documents/papers, passwords, etc - and keep them in a fire-proof/water-proof box. Keep copies in another safe place (also fire and water-proof).

(PS: Although his information has absolutely zero to do with prepping, many people have had success in getting a handle on their financial situations through Dave Ramsey's books like "Total Money Makeover" and/or "Financial Peace." [Note that he writes from a Christian perspective; however, his advice can be followed by anyone.]

I personally used his advice some years ago when I had a steady job - which, by the way, helps. It's not always easy to get on a schedule without a reliable or at least regular income. If this is difficult for you, check in your community for free credit counseling services.)

Have a Plan to Get Home

If disaster strikes while you're at work, at school or out running errands, know more than one way to get home. It's important to know the side streets to your house. You may want to avoid the freeways, which could be crowded and subject to gridlock. You want to avoid traffic and crowds as much as possible.

Also, along those lines, many people talk about bugging out, and being AWAY - whether for 72 hours, or longer, but many don't consider the implications of getting back (if that's the long-term intent).

Anyone who has seen the devastation of a natural disaster first hand will tell you that it can be very traumatic to return home - particularly if that home has been seriously damaged or even destroyed. So, as you plan ahead, this is a good time to have a few additional contingency steps in place: Where can you go if "home" is no longer an option? 

I know one person who is prepared to live indefinitely at campgrounds if need be. Is that his #1 choice? No, but he has the correct gear as well as the know-how. Plus - most importantly - he has the correct mindset of calm confidence (versus fear and worry). More on that below.

Ascertain the Most Common Potential Disasters in Your Area

Every geographical area has natural disasters that are common to it. If you live along the Gulf Coast, it's hurricanes. If you live in the Midwest, it could be tornadoes. The western states are subject to forest fires. If you live on the West Coast, it's earthquakes, wildfires, and mudslides. 

If you live in a big city, be prepared for looting and gang violence during a disaster. Know what the most likely scenarios will be for your location, and plan accordingly.

Plan for Power Outages

Make sure you have plenty of flashlights and extra batteries on hand. Also, invest in a few inexpensive solar lanterns and lights; solar doesn't need batteries. Also, keep a battery-operated radio handy. You can also get solar and hand crank emergency radios. Likewise, if you can afford it, purchase a gas generator, and learn how to use it; remember, never run a gas generator inside! Solar generators are also a good option to consider. However, remember, solar requires deep cycle batteries to store power.

Prep to Shelter in Place

The first option you may have is to stay home and wait out the disaster. Shelter in place can mean choosing a small room in the interior of your home with few or no windows and taking shelter there. This is a good option during a hurricane or tornado. Turn off the air conditioner and exterior fans, and close all the windows. 

However, to some preppers, shelter in place means sealing off their entire house, in case of a chemical, radiological, or biological situation. This can be accomplished with duct tape and plastic sheets over all windows and doors.

Have Bug Out Locations Ready

Sheltering in place may be the first option, but there are definitely situations where you'll need to be prepared to move. This could be if you have prior warning of a hurricane, forest fire or civil unrest.

Have a list of locations ready if you need to evacuate. This could be relatives or friends in another town, a cabin, or even a campground. Keep your gas tank full at all times. Keep your vehicle stocked with food, water, a sleeping bag, camp stove, and other camping equipment. Hit the road as soon as possible. Also, it's a smart idea to map out alternate routes that avoid the main highways. Getting stuck in traffic is not something you want to do in a disaster.

Hygiene and Health Supplies

We've mentioned this before, and of course hygiene supplies are often included in ready-made emergency survival kits, but it bears repeating. Baby wipes are a good thing to keep in your preparedness kit. They're good for water-less washing. Also, keep some extra soap and hand sanitizer. You'll also want to keep a well-stocked first-aid kit, both in your home and vehicle. Keep extra bottles of vitamins and medications on hand; however, be aware of the expiration dates. Don't forget the toilet paper and paper towels.

Your Bug Out Bag

It may be tempting to cram as much as possible into your bug out backpack. However, you need to keep your fitness level in mind; can you really carry a 35lb pack for miles? You'll need to seriously consider what's most important, and how much you can really reasonably carry. Also, consider spending a little more on your backpack; one with an aluminum frame and a waist strap can make carrying it easier. It's also a good idea to keep your bug out bag in your vehicle.

Stay (or GET) in Shape

Surviving a disaster will be much easier if you are in good health, and have a decent level of fitness. Strive right now, to address any health issues, or related issues that you may have with diet and exercise. Take up hiking with a backpack as a hobby. 

Hunting, fishing, and camping are also good prepper hobbies. Walk and take the stairs when in town. Good health and fitness will serve you well in a disaster. PLEASE don't say, "Yeah, I'll get to it at some point," because "at some point" could be the next storm. Just get started. Even a small degree of better health and fitness will serve you that much longer in a true emergency.

Maintain Your Mental and Emotional Health

Perhaps even more important than physical wellness is mental and emotional wellness. If you're the type of person who falls apart or panics easily, that needs to be addressed right away. Frankly, you can be all prepared physically - you can have a brand spankin' new bug out pack, the best first aid kit, and a year's worth of food and fuel, but if you don't have the right mindset, you're not doing yourself any favors.

I don't mean to sound harsh, but this is the time to be honest with yourself, and face your fears. Taking up meditation or martial arts may help. So will taking a survival course. In any case, do what you need to do to develop a calm demeanor and strategic mindset. Panic and fear can quickly undo the best-laid preparedness plans.

Learn Basic Survival Skills

Grow a food garden in your backyard. If you don't have a backyard, you can even manage to grow some food on a patio or even indoors. Take up camping, fishing or hunting as your new hobbies. Learn how to build a campfire, and learn to cook on an open fire or grill. Learn to sew, with a needle and thread. Learn basic first aid. Think old school skills, and learn to do a few things as our pioneer ancestors did.

By the way, some of this can actually be fun - so involve the whole family. For example, there is a company called BattlBox that offers a monthly "Survival Gear" subscription, delivering a box of gear for you to either use on a daily basis, or to save. For someone just starting out, they would likely recommend the "Basic" package. 

BattlBox has an vibrant online community, along with great monthly giveaways, not to mention a fun YouTube channel. Anyway, we'll be discussing BattlBox a little later, but if you'll like to check them out, here is their site: 

Some additional posts at this site include a selection of survival books, survival training courses, and more. 

Have an Emergency Toilet Ready

During a flood or a hurricane, the sewer system may be overwhelmed; there could be sewage running in the streets. Wait - strike that. During a situation like this, I can all but promise you that a municipality's sewer system is going to be overwhelmed. 

Ok - story time - and this doesn't even have to do with a weather emergency! I have friends who live full-time in a condo, and last summer someone decided to flush wash cloths (you know, regular terry cloth ones) down the toilet. Then, a couple of baby diapers. 

Perhaps it was more than one person (it's a popular vacation rental building, so who knows?). It doesn't matter. What DOES matter is that their poor behavior backed up the sewer line for the entire building.

Guess who happened to have his "marine latrine" (emergency 5-gallon toilet) stored in his condo? Yup! Let us just say it served them well for the day that the system was down.

So, the moral of the story is to make sure you have some sort of an emergency toilet ready. If you can afford it and have the space, a composting toilet is great. If not, you can also use 5-gallon buckets filled with sawdust or shredded newspaper.

You can also purchase portable camping toilets at a camping supply store or online (like this one - also shown in the Amazon link over there on the right). It isn't going to win any design awards, but it will do the trick! Of course, keep some hand sanitizer on hand too.

Final Thoughts on Preparedness

Being prepared is not something you set up and forget; preparedness is really a lifestyle. While it does not need to consume your every waking hour, it should be in the back of your mind at all times. Developing what's called “situational awareness” is a necessity; wherever you are, you need to be aware of what's going on around you, and how to escape if necessary. Situational awareness can also encompass your neighbors; you certainly don't need to tell everyone you're a prepper. This is especially true if you live in a questionable neighborhood, surrounded by shady people. Keeping a low profile is always a good idea.

You're urged to consider the suggestions laid out here; you don't need to do it all at once, but please do consider what's most important to your personal situation. Evaluate your location, the probable disasters, the people around you, and proceed to prep. Every little bit helps. It's up to you to ensure not only your personal safety during a disaster but the safety of your family. Do what you can now, and keep at it. You'll be glad you did when the time comes.
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