When a disaster draws near, suddenly, preppers don’t seem quite so crazy anymore.
UPDATE: Here’s a list of cities and counties that are under evacuation orders. However, many places are completely out of fuel and stores are out of drinking water. If you are stuck there and can’t purchase water, begin filling ALL of your containers with tap water. You may still be able to purchase containers for water, like mason jars, canisters, and pitchers with lids. When the storm is about to hit, fill your sinks and bathtubs.
During times like this, it becomes mainstream to engage in a flurry of activity that looks like an episode of Doomsday Preppers being fast-forwarded across the screen. People rush to the stories in a frenzy, and often get all the wrong things. Most of these folks aren’t preppers in the traditional sense – they’re just hurrying to get ready because they know something is headed their way.
This article is for the folks who have never really considered getting ready for an unusual event. If you need to get ready fast because something is headed your way, this may not cover ALL of your bases, but it will get you through at least a short term disaster. Nearly all of the supplies will be easily available at your local Wal-Mart, Target, or hardware store. Some will need to be ordered by mail so do this as soon as you hear that the storm is on its way.
A better option, of course, would be to pick up these items ahead of time and having an emergency kit, sitting there ready when a storm is bearing down. (Wink.) But for now, let’s get busy and get prepared for the possibilities.
Here is a plan for getting everything together as efficiently as possible.
- Keep on top of the news. (You can sign up for my daily preparedness newsletter here.)
- Go over the shopping list below and figure out what supplies you already have. You’ll be spending a bit more money than usual so there’s no sense wasting any.
- Immediately order the things that you won’t be able to get locally to give them time to arrive. This article is filled with helpful links to resources. (NOTE: Sept. 7: Be cautious about relying on things you order to arrive before the storm hits. If the item is absolutely essential, try to acquire it locally.)
- Check your insurance coverage to make sure you don’t need to make any changes.
- Print off the shopping list (Link at the end of the article) and cross off the things that you have or have ordered.
- Make your purchases and beat the last-minute, frenzied rush.
- Create an evacuation plan in case you can’t stay at home. Where will you go, will your pets be welcome, and what are two different routes you can take in the event that the first one is impassable? (See this article for more information on making your decision.)
- Include a list of things you will want to take with you and put these things together. We always used Rubbermaid tubs when it looked like we might have to evacuate. You can find an evacuation checklist here.
- Gather together important papers like ID, birth certificates, deeds/mortgages, insurance paperwork, licenses, etc.
- Photograph and inventory the things in your home. Store this in the cloud in case you need to make an insurance claim.
- Depending on the type of the storm, prepare the outside of your home by tying down anything loose and boarding up your windows. (Here’s a list of things to do before a hurricane.)
A water supply
Many events over the past years have taught us that a water emergency can happen to anyone. In the event that your area suffers from tainted tap water, you’ll want to have a backup supply on hand to keep your family (including pets) hydrated. This does not mean a case of 24 water bottles.
- The thriftiest quick option is to purchase those one-gallon water jugs that are less than a dollar at the store. Get a supply that will last for 2 weeks – one per day, per family member. That will cost approximately $14 per family member. But if you wait too long, the water will be gone.
- Some stores are already selling out of water. Circumvent this by filling your own containers. Here are some great containers for storing water. If you aren’t in an extremely humid area, this storage system will help you store a lot of water, less expensively, in a small space.
- You can find instructions for building your personal water supply in this book.
- Here is an emergency water filter.
Being able to keep in touch with the outside world can help you get essential information or reach out for help. Social media was a primary tool for communication during the aftermath of Harvey.
- A phone charger battery like the Jackery
- A solar phone charger (This one will go for 45 hours and includes a solar lantern. This one is less expensive but not as powerful.)
- A crank-radio so you can get the news (This one also has a phone charger)
Good hygiene is even more important during a disaster. Food and water borne illnesses can be deadly.
- Paper towels
- Bleach wipes
- Baby wipes
- Supplies to make a kitty litter toilet for humans. (Instructions here)
- Disposable rags for cleaning up
- Heavy duty trash bags
Keep the lights on.
When the lights go out, you’ll want to have backup lighting. That scented candle in the middle of your coffee table isn’t going to last for days and days.
- Buy tea lights. They are safe and inexpensive. These burn for 6-7 hours apiece.
- Don’t forget lighters and matches!
- Bring in your solar garden stakes at night for a cozy glow.
- Pick up some glow bracelets for the kiddos. This is a safe way to give them some light in their bedrooms.
- Be sure to have flashlights and extra batteries on hand.
- We love our LED headlamps. With these, you can do things hands-free at night, like reading, knitting, or other tasks that require steady illumination.
A way to cook
Even if you have loads of food in your pantry, it won’t help you much if you have no way to cook it. Here are a few options.
- If you have a gas stove, it will probably work during most power outages. A great way to test this is to simply throw the breaker and make certain it still comes on. Some stoves have an electric ignition and will not turn on without being manually lit.
- A backyard barbecue is another thing that most folks already have on hand that can pull double duty during an emergency. Mine also has a burner.
- An emergency stove that can be used indoors – this is the one I just ordered. and it’s less than $40 with 4 fuel cans. Make sure you have plenty of extra fuel for it. The cans are rated to burn for 4 hours each, and most bucket meals take 15 minutes to prepare.
- A Kelly Kettle is a popular rocket stove that can use any type of biomass to boil water quickly. Find one here.
- A camp stove is another excellent option. Coleman is a trusted name and these can be found in any store with a camping/outdoors department. This one is a classic. Be sure that you have enough propane to last for 3 meals per day for a couple of weeks.
A food supply
Finally, you need a food supply, and it needs to be shelf-stable. During a longer power outage, the items in your refrigerator will spoil fairly quickly, and eating something that could make you sick is even less of a good idea during an emergency. There are numerous options.
- Buy some buckets. Buckets of food are generally considered a one month supply for one person. The fastest, easiest way to build a food supply for emergencies is to pick up a bucket for each member of the family. You can find some good quality, non-GMO buckets here.
- Stock up on canned soups, stews, fruits, and vegetables. These will last a long time on a basement shelf and can be heated up very quickly to conserve your fuel.
- Get canned meat: tuna, salmon, chicken, and ham are all readily available.
- Consider no-cook options. If you don’t have a secondary method, look to things like peanut butter and crackers, dried fruit, canned veggies, and tortillas. Here’s a whole list of no-cook foods.
- Protein powder is a good option to make a filling, tasty beverage (a lot of emergency food is pretty low on protein.)
- Keep dry milk on hand for coffee, cereal, and drinking. It also comes in chocolate.
- Skip the beans and rice. Unless you are cooking them over the fire in your fireplace, you are going to use far too much fuel to prepare stuff like that from scratch. Focus on foods that can be reheated or prepared in less than 20 minutes.
- Don’t forget a manual can opener!
The most important thing to remember here is not to rely on the things in your fridge and freezer during a lengthy power outage. You want to eat those things for the first day or so, working from fridge to freezer, but after that, you need to switch to shelf-stable mode.
It may not be green, but the last thing you’re going to want to deal with during a power outage in which you may not have hot water is washing tons of dishes or laundry. Pick up some disposable items to have on hand for basic sanitation:
- Paper plates
- Styrofoam cups
- Plastic flatware
- Paper towels
- Cleaning wipes
Tools and special supplies
This will vary depending on your disaster, but here are some basics.
- Fully charged screwdriver and manual backups
- Duct tape
- Bug spray and insect repellant
Something to do
In our electronics-addicted world, one of the most difficult adjustments for some people during a power outage is the loss of their electronic device. You’ll want to have a few things on hand for entertainment that doesn’t require an internet connection or a gadget.
- Get some books and save them for just such an emergency.
- Pick up some magazines and put them away so they’ll be fresh and new.
- Pick up games, puzzles, and other old-fashioned forms of entertainment.
- Do crafts like knitting, carving, painting, or scrapbooking.
- Here’s a list of power-outage activities for the kiddos.
Special needs items
This will vary from family to family, but this list should trigger some ideas. Think about the things your family members use and need on a frequent basis.
- Prescription medications (probably the most vital thing on the list)
- Over the counter medications
- Diapers and baby wipes
- Hair elastics (ask any woman with long hair how essential this is!)
- Lip balm
- Hand lotion
Keep it all in one place.
I can’t encourage you enough to buy these things ahead of time. When an emergency is pending, everyone else is out there with the same idea. However, if you’ve waited too late, now you know exactly what you need. Go here to download your FREE shopping list. This will make it easier to ensure that you have everything you need when you head out for your shopping spree.
It’s wise not to intermingle your emergency supplies with your other supplies. The particularly tasty things will get used up and you’ll be left eating saltines and canned peaches. Not fun. Pick up 1-2 large plastic tubs and keep the majority of your supplies in them.
Do you have tips for folks who are preparing for a hurricane?
For those of you who have been through a hurricane, are there any other last minute items that you’d recommend for people who are just getting started?