I hear this a lot. "I realize that I need to be prepared for a disaster but I don't know how to get started." Truthfully, it doesn't matter how you start as long as you start. The bottom line is that any kind of emergency preparations are better than no preparation at all. So, procrastinate later. Here's a quick list of things you can do RIGHT NOW to avoid becoming a statistic the next time the lights go out and the sirens stop wailing.
1. Create an Emergency Water Stash: Go to your kitchen and get out some ziploc bags. Fill one 3/4 full with drinking water and put it in your freezer. Repeat until you run out of room. Should you ever need to harvest this stash, you will need to purify the water before drinking it but if the taps ever stop running, you'll be glad you did it.
2. Create an Emergency Heat Source: Collect all the old newspapers (not magazines) and other old paper you have laying around collecting dust. Roll these around a pencil or marker to form "logs" and secure them with a a piece of wire or string. Each log should be about 1 to 2 inches thick and should have a 1/4" to 1/2" hole through the middle. These logs can be stacked and burned just like wood. Although they will burn faster than wood, they will burn slower than loose paper and produce a suprising amount of heat. I once cooked a batch of burgers well done over a dozen of these paper logs just to see if it could be done.
3. Assemble Some Emergency Clothes: Imagine this: You need to walk a dozen or more miles across rough terrain, in rain and/or snow while carrying a rucksack. What kind of clothes would you want to be wearing in such a scenario? The kind of clothes you're thinking of are the kind you need to have on hand when a disaster strikes. Put together one outfit that takes into consideration moving through rugged country in cold and wet conditions while possibly evading hostile elements. Put this assembled outfit in your safe room or next to your bug out bag. What? You don't have a bug out bag or a safe room? Read the next section.
4. Create an Emergency Plan: Read my series on building a Family Emergency Plan. Then, sharpen your pencil and start making one. As soon as you can, go over it with everyone in your household. Make any necessary revisions and get to work. It may take a while to get your family totally prepared but now you have an outline to go by.
5. Inventory Your Human Resources: While you've got your pencil out, make a list of all your human resources. The people you know and the skills they possess are more important than any piece of survival gear you may invest in. Think about your friends, neighbors, family and co-workers. Do you know a doctor? A nurse? A veterinarian? Do you know any soldiers or policemen? Do you hang out with any firefighters, gardeners or pharmacists? Who do you know that owns a chainsaw? A 4 wheel drive vehicle? How about a wheelbarrow or a hunting cabin? Meditate on this for some time. You'll be suprised how many resources you already have.
6. Reach Out to Your Neighbors: Tell them you're concerned about some disaster you recently read about and you're thinking about putting together some emergency supplies. If they're receptive, invite them over some time and show them some of your preparations. Show them the guns last if you show them at all. The more prepared people you have around you, the better your odds of surviving the next emergency. If your neighbors refuse to talk to you or if they find your preparedness mentality disturbing, start making contingency plans for how you will deal with them should a disaster put a strain on courtesy.
7. Research Survival and Emergency Preparedness: And I don't mean type the word "survival" into Google. The results will be absolutely overwhelming. I recommend Fernando "FerFAL" Aguirre's blog, Surviving in Argentina and Jim Rawle's Survival Blog as good starting points. From there, I would try SurvivalistBoards, the American Prepper's Network and the YouTube channel for the Patriot Nurse. You can easily spend hours absorbing great preparedness information from these five sites alone.
8. Prepare Your Paperwork: One of the big things people forget in an evacuation is paperwork. Remember, this is about survival and that means long term survival. Forget running for the hills and living like hermits. Disasters turn our lives upside down but eventually the survivors get around to rebuilding their lives. Salvaging what is left of your old life and building a new one will be much easier if you have a few important documents. Right now, make copies of your family's identification cards, passports, insurance policies, deeds, titles and anything else you think you might need and double waterproof them in two ziploc bags. Put these in your bug out bag.
9. Begin Developing Your Own Survival Skillset: The skills you carry in your head are far more important than the supplies you carry on your back. Start filling up that toolbox in your brain. Contact your local Red Cross and sign up for a First Aid/CPR class. Find a self defense class. Join a shooting range. Volunteer with your local CERT team. Buy a field guide and start identifying the edible and medicinal plants around you. If you're looking for some hands on survival training, I highly recommend Randall's Adventure and Training and the folks at Earthskills Rendezvous. Of course, you can contact me directly for advice on all of the above. At the very least, learn how to turn off the water, gas and electricity in your own home.
10. Inventory Your Supplies: Make a list of all the supplies you think you will need to sit out an emergency or evacuate. Revisit my series on Family Emergency Plans if you need a starting point. Once you have completed that list, take inventory of how much you already have.
Guess what? You are now well on your way to becoming prepared for the next emergency. Keep up the good work.