Say the word “survivalist” and chances are you’ll call to mind images of conspiracy theory-laden, camouflage-clad guys running around in the woods fleeing a phantom invasion or preparing for Armageddon. Add a tinfoil hat or two, and you have the perfect stereotype of the doomsday prepper.
But what if, stripped of the conspiracies, camouflage, and tinfoil hats, the survivalist set was actually on to something? It turns out they are. Being prepared for an emergency is incredibly important, and preparedness can make a huge difference in how well—or not well—you’re able to survive an emergency.
Here’s a look at what you want to have on hand in case of a severe and disruptive event. No matter what the disaster, being prepared will make sure you and your loved ones are ready to face it and survive.
Before the fertilizer hits the ventilator, you’ll want to have a plan in place. Just like your fire escape plan, you’re going to want to have a general disaster response plan for your family. And, unlike your fire plan, your disaster plan will need to take into account the very real possibility that you might not all be in the same location when a disaster strikes. Having a protocol in place to make sure everyone stays safe and connected during an emergency is paramount. Families with infants, elders, or special needs members will need to take additional steps to ensure everyone is safe, protected, and accounted for. Not sure how to make your plan? Click here for some help.
Once you have a plan, you’ll need a kit. Your disaster kit should include things like a flashlight, battery operated radio, hand sanitizer, first aid kit, can opener, and other items you’ll need for day-to-day survival. The US Department of Homeland Security offers a great resource page for building your kit.
In the event of a severe emergency—like Hurricane Katrina—available food supplies at your local supermarket will be quickly exhausted. Power outages can mean that available food on hand in your freezer and refrigerator will need to be consumed before it spoils. In order to ensure you have enough food on hand, give some thought to storing a variety of foodstuffs with a long shelf life. The federal government has a great list of options to consider, and you can also purchase freeze dried meals and Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to augment your pantry.
People, it turns out, can go for days without eating. Lack of water, however, can be fatal in very short order. The general rule of thumb for disaster planning is to ensure you have one gallon of clean, potable water on hand per person per day. If you’re building a kit designed to support 72 hours of survival for a family of four, you’d want to ensure you had 12 gallons of water on hand. It’s also a good idea to have a good water filtration system available in case your access to water is disrupted for more than three days.
If your home is not a shelter option during a disaster, be sure you have a plan for where you’ll be sleeping once the sun goes down or the rain starts up. A tent, a pop-up trailer, a neighbor’s home, the local fire hall or elementary school; somewhere that you and your family can find shelter will be essential for your survival, so make sure you have a plan in place if the worst should happen.
Before disaster strikes, be sure to arm yourself with information on how to survive. DHS and the Centers for Disease Control both offer good guides for preparedness and you can find a lot of information on how to build and maintain a kit for your home. During a disaster, make sure you have a battery- or crank-powered radio so you can listen for information and important updates. A police scanner is also a great way to stay abreast of the situation, and many scanner apps are available for smart phone users.
Torpedoes, as the saying goes, hit from the side. While you can never be fully ready when disaster strikes, you can certainly take steps to be prepared.