Prepper (noun): An individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances or lifestyle without significant reliance on other persons (i.e., being self-reliant), or without substantial assistance from outside resources (govt., etc.) in order to minimize the effects of that change on their current lifestyle.
Over the last few years millions of Americans have lost their jobs, millions more have lost or face losing their home.
There is a palpable feeling that politics, culture, and the basic fabric of society is continuing to unravel and with that
comes increasing fear and uncertainty. The middle class continues to be hopelessly squeezed as the rich get richer and the
poor get poorer while viewing the alliance between big government and big business as an increasing danger to themselves and
the American way of life.
An unsustainable level of governmental spending has many now speculating about an inevitable depression, economic collapse, or a least a serious drop in the average person’s earning power and standard of living. And our nation remains at war with a ruthless enemy that continues to attempt to harm us in the homeland. Even though somewhat remote, the chance of a major biological, nuclear, or chemical terrorist attack upon a major city still exists. War, insurrection, riots, civil unrest, and serious natural disasters (like Hurricane Katrina) are not unknown upon the continent and will undoubtedly take place again in the future.
Right or wrong, reality or fantasy, the events and fears described above have spawned a whole new generation of people seeking to be prepared for any event that may affect their normal way of life and ability to protect, feed, and provide for their family. This new wave of “preppers” are less militant than the old “survivalist” movement and more interested in self-sufficiency and common sense in the face of a relatively short-term breakdown of modern distribution networks, modern conveniences, and law and order than the full-blown collapse of society or Mad Max scenario.
I have long dabbled in the preparedness mindset (have a bug-out bag for example) but never really paid too much attention to it all until my town was hit hard by a mile-wide, category-three tornado that destroyed or severely damaged hundreds of homes in my immediate area. Ordered to evacuate my home for several days the realization that things can change very quickly and that ‘bad things’ can and do happen very quickly to otherwise completely normal people has compelled me to re-evaluate my own preparedness for any number of a wide variety of possible scenarios. One cannot be hurt by being prepared for whatever may happen, but one will undoubtedly be hurt if one has not prepared for the unexpected. That has become my mindset and how I now approach the concept of preparedness. It just makes good sense to have plans and preparations in place for the unknown.
In an emergency situation, one has to make the decision whether to ‘bug-in’ or ‘bug-out’ (stay at home or leave). I am of the persuasion that unless you absolutely must leave your home do not do so. It is your base of operations and full of your own supplies that should allow you, if truly prepared, to outlast most short-term emergencies. There is absolutely nothing worse than ending up in some sort of government or charity shelter with minimal belongings and depending upon the charity or help of others. Katrina showed us the folly of that. Getting caught up in panicky mobs trying to flee a city is one of the most dangerous and counterproductive things you can possibly do. Only leave unless you absolutely have to. If you do, have a pre-planned route and destination at the other end. Preferably a relatives or good friend’s house who will be expecting you and where you can even pre-position some supplies (some clothes, money, sleeping bag etc.) ahead of time.
In the quick flight from my home I was able to quickly relocate myself and my family to my brothers home relatively quickly and easily. He lives about thirty minutes away but it was far enough removed that he wasn’t endangered or damaged by the same natural disaster that struck my humble abode. My parents and several good friends also have homes in the area that could be used as emergency bases of operations and shelter if the need was to arise. Because of that, my family and I did not end up living in the Red Cross shelter for several days like my neighbor did. And I consider that a plus.
Ideally, one should plan to hunker down and not leave your own home unless you absolutely have to. This is ‘bugging in.’ Planning around this allows you to stock large stockpiles of water, food and other supplies without any major convenience. Know your neighbors well, and this will allow you to have a small base of supplies and a network of people in the immediate vicinity that can help each other out if things go south quickly for whatever reason. Be a good neighbor now and they’ll be an invaluable neighbor then. I live in a cul-de-sac and know everyone on the block fairly well. I bring them gifts of garden produce in the summers, wave at them when I drive by, and invite them all over when I have my big backyard birthday bashes. We have helped each other out at various times and I would feel comfortable turning to them for assistance or access to tools etc. if I had no choice. Such nominal relationships could come in very handy some day. You never know.
When one starts to prepare for a potential crisis you have to start with the basics; sanitation, food, water, personal defense, light, and heat. Think through the various scenarios of losing one or more modern conveniences. If the electricity goes out for a week what will I do? If the transportation network is knocked out the stores will be empty. What will I have on hand to survive until they recover? If communications are knocked out and police services are quickly overwhelmed can I protect my family from any unsavory elements? If the water supplies are contaminated will I be fine? If the sewage system is sabotaged or running water cut off do I have the ability to still wash, flush toilets, or dispose of waste another way? If I do go into bunker mode how long can I live on the food I have or do I have to join the chaotic and potentially dangerous scene of desperate people looting the local grocery store or Wal-Mart?
Some may think such scenarios are silly but there are many people dead today because they did not think ahead and even attempt to make minimal preparations for the unknown possible emergency scenario. Believe me, I didn’t think it would ever happen to me but it did. But while I was lucky enough to return to a damaged but intact structure after a few days people just two blocks over had everything destroyed and in just a few minutes went from run-of-the-mill middle class folks going about their routine daily lives to homeless and scared desperates with destroyed vehicles and only the clothes on their back. It can and does happen. Sometimes it happens with a warning and sometimes without. But in any case you have to be ready.
Let’s examine each of the subjects of preparation I have mentioned:
Your initial goal should be to have a minimum of a 30 day supply of food on hand at all times. This includes what is already in your cupboards as well as your special food hoard. If you have an additional freezer be sure to utilize it to store extra food. Every time you go to the store be sure to pick up an extra can/package or two (or more) of food. I do and it has quickly helped me to build up my emergency food supply. Look for things on sale and you won’t even notice the cost. Pick up stuff you would normally eat but also food that will last if stored. Canned meats and tuna, canned vegetables of all sorts, dried fruits, and the like will help you to have a good diet even if you have lost power or unable to cook for whatever reason. Be sure to have at least two good can openers stored WITH the food stash. You’d be surprised how good a meal of canned tuna fish, corn, cranberry sauce or peaches, some crackers, dried apricots and a big glass of water will taste when the alternative could have been an empty stomach. You can fit a large amount of canned goods and the like in some small and out-of-the-way places. Store foodstuffs under the bed, in the top of a closet, on the shelf of a bookshelf, and in a variety of nooks and crannies wherever they may be found. You have a lot of wasted space throughout your home, take advantage of it.
On a side note here, figure out a way to have the ability to cook or boil water if necessary if you can’t use your stove. I have an outdoor propane grill with a couple spare filled tanks. I can cook food or sanitize questionable water for many months with such a simple set up.
This is probably the very most important item on the list but is sometimes overlooked. You can go a very long time with little or no food, but even a short time without water leaves one dehydrated, disoriented, dirty, and eventually dead. Part of prepping is storing as much water as possible. While bulky and heavy, you would be surprised how much you can squirrel away in a small space. A spare closet can hold several weeks worth for example. The utilization of ‘dead spaces’ throughout your home will allow you to store this absolute necessity without becoming a visual blight or major problem. I have a crawl space under the house that provides me with virtually unlimited space to store a large amount of water in a cool, dry, dark place that is totally out the way and, perhaps just as importantly, out of sight.
There are probably endless ways to store drinking water, but by far the easiest and most cost-effective are the 1 gallon grape juice type plastic jugs and the 2 liter plastic pop bottles. These are easily found. I can’t go to any social gathering without ending up hauling a bunch of empty pop containers back to base to wash and fill for free. Just wash them out well, add one drop of liquid dish washing soap, shake forcefully, then wash out thoroughly again with hot water. Add regular (cold) tap water up to the brim and screw on the top. Date the bottle with a marker. You now have a significant amount of water that can be stored for drinking for six months to a year, and virtually indefinitely for other uses such as bathing or flushing a toilet. Adding a constant stream of fresh drinking water to your stash is an imperative part of preparing for any scenario. Keep them in a cool, dark place and they’ll be fine. No hot attics or freezing garages. If water is clear and chlorinated it should be good to drink for a lot longer than one would think.
No one talks about this but this is important to maintain a healthy hideout as you wait for services to be restored. Keep plenty of toilet paper on hand. There is no such thing as too much toilet paper. Most toilets will work even without functioning water system as long as you have water to pour into it to simulate a flush. As my stored drinking water expires (good for six months to a year) I keep it specifically for washing or flushing. Also be sure to have a good five gallon bucket or two around as an emergency backup and plenty of those plastic Wal-Mart bags or smaller, kitchen size trash sacks. That is your toilet backup. Keep a shovel or two around as well. You may have to temporarily bury your waste (as far away from the house as possible) if your toilets get clogged or are unusable for any reason. Keep clean and wash your hands.
Be sure to have on hand plenty of soap, shampoo, and toothpaste. Keeping clean and healthy is extremely important as well as being psychologically reassuring. They make great barter items as well.
This is where the old survivalists used to get a maximum amount of derision and perhaps the most flack. It’s great fun to collect firearms and build up an impressive arsenal of weapons, but if you do so at the neglect of all the other subjects I cover here you will have wasted a great amount of time, money, and effort and in fact put your own comfort, and perhaps even survival, at great risk. Weapons are to be used only as a last resort and chances are that you will never have to use them if you properly bug-in at your residence, draw little attention to yourself, and basically lie low in any crisis situation. Yet, at the same time, having the ability to protect your supplies, your home, your family, and even your life is an absolute necessity so this area at the same time cannot be neglected.
You do need to have at least three different types of weapons for home defense. The first is a long rifle of some type. One that has some firepower and the ability to impressively ‘reach out and touch someone’ before they have actually made it into your home. There is always a huge variety of opinions in regards to what type of rifle is best but anything that you can fairly accurately shoot and are comfortable with is fine. Everything from an AK-47 to a common hunting rifle in the right hands will do the job. Just know how to handle, aim, and load the darn thing. Take it out to shoot at least a couple of times of year to keep your familiarity and comfort level with it. Don’t be afraid to handle and ‘play’ with it unloaded in the home. The comfort level you have with it may save your life someday. My ‘battle rifle’, SHTF weapon is a Chinese made SKS rifle. Rugged, easy to fire and maintain, it is not necessarily the sexiest of firearms but it will do the job and do it well and reliably. Have a thousand rounds on hand for it (I have about 700 at the moment which isn’t too bad). Even a reliable shotgun makes a good home defense weapon for it is easy to use and aim. And the use of slugs or buckshot make it a formidable weapon up to about 50 yards or so.
The second is a pistol of some type. This is your back up weapon. If for any reason you do have to bug out and leave your humble abode this will become your primary means of self-defense. Great to just slip into your pocket with no one being the wiser. Allows you to check out the neighborhood or go a short distance for supplies while still being protected and without alarming everyone by openly displaying a rifle. I have a concealed handgun permit and legally carry concealed but in a crisis scenario you need to have quick access to one no matter what. Anything from a .38 caliber on up is acceptable. Have on hand at least 100 rounds. 500 is far better.
Third is a knife or dagger. This is your last line of defense. Easily concealed it is certainly better than nothing at all and a couple of quick blows to the abdomen or neck will quickly even the odds if you are attacked by someone who may be bigger or stronger than yourself. If it did come down to that you are probably in fairly big trouble anyway but at least it may buy you a bit of time to make an escape. At last you’ll have a chance. Having a couple of cans of mace handy is not a bad idea either. Quite painful to an attacker and it may buy you a few precious seconds that you might not otherwise have had.
The key here is that some weapon is better than nothing. It is your responsibility to protect yourself, your family, and your property. Do not make the mistake that the police or some other government entity will be able or willing to help you in a crisis or emergency scenario. In fact, in many cases it is far better to avoid contact with law enforcement or military personnel if at all possible. They are quick to confiscate any weapons you may have leaving you helpless and defenseless, and as we saw in the Katrina aftermath will sometimes turn (sometimes lethally) on civilians if they feel trigger-happy, even vaguely threatened, or overwhelmed. Be careful, lie low, do not attract attention to yourself or the fact that you have some hoarded supplies, and be smart. The best weapon in any emergency or crisis situation is your intelligence and the ability to not panic and remain calm. By exercising this weapon you will then probably not to have to resort to using any physical weapons. And that should be your goal.
Light and heat:
Lots and lots of candles and several good flashlights. Keep a healthy supply of batteries to power your flashlights. Be sure to have plenty of lighters and kitchen type matches stored away in your emergency stash as well. The nights are long and demoralizing during a crisis if power and communications are cut off. The glow of a few candles at such a time is very reassuring and allows you to continue to attend to whatever needs you may have even with the absence of natural light. There is nothing worse than trying to find something you really need when you just can’t see. There are a variety of battery operated lanterns and the like available that also work well. Be cautious with any camping supply type lanterns that are often designed to be used exclusively outdoors and may let off some dangerous fumes in an enclosed space. Putting up at least a few weeks supply of firewood is always a wise idea if you have the ability to burn it effectively to at least partially heat one room of your home. A handy fire extinguisher is a must as well.
Always have lots of blankets and sleeping bags on hand for that may be your main source of heat with the loss of the power grid. If you ensure that you do have some fresh ventilation a fireplace or old-fashioned, pot belly wood stoves will also provide you a degree of warmth in a pinch. Hats and gloves/mittens are important to have on hand and to help prevent the loss of hard to replace personal body heat and also allows you to operate effectively outdoors even in extreme cold if you must venture outside (dig up carrots from your garden in the middle of the winter for example).
The key to any survival, emergency, or potential crisis situation is to keep your head, analyze the situation, and if at all possible stay put and lay low. If you in fact must flee then have a pre-planned route of escape with a firm and safe destination in mind. Make sure you always keep at least a couple of hundred dollars in small bills available for small purchases or refueling when the debit card machines are down and never let your vehicle’s gas tank get below half a tank. If you have to leave take as much of your survival stash with you as possible. I keep a big army bag with it so that I can load up as much as possible in just a few minutes and grab a few 1 gallon handled jugs of water as well on the way out. It is also prudent to have a small emergency stash of supplies in every vehicle in case you are caught up in something far away from home and may have to get by in improvised quarters for a short time until you can make it home or to your pre-selected bug out location. If you know you must leave (a hurricane is coming for example) then don’t delay. Your goal is to beat the crowds and not find yourself sitting in helpless gridlock on the highway with a million of other desperate, hot, and angry people. Know how to get your destination in the quickest and fastest way as well as any other alternative routes in case of road closure for any reason.
Let’s be honest, it just makes good sense to have plans and preparations in place for the unknown. Hopefully, I have shown that with minimum time and expense one can start preparing for an emergency and be prepared for ‘that day’ if it should ever come. Entire books can and have been written about the subject and this is far from a comprehensive list of what you should have on hand. But if you at least exercised the minimum of preparedness as I have outlined here then you are already well ahead of the game and far more prepared than most other people.
Once you have stored up a minimum of one month supply of food and water and other related supplies than begin to rethink what you would need if access to stores or power was cut off for a significant amount of time. Then make the proper adjustments to facilitate a lengthy stay in your home without outside contact as comfortable and practicable as possible. Prepping is an ongoing process that never truly ends. Once you have a month supply of food and water, try for three. Can you supplement your food supply with a garden? Have you stored up any seeds? Do you have the ability to capture rainwater runoff is you had too? Do you have an alternative mode of local transportation like a bike? Do you know how to keep it in good, running shape etc.? These are the daily type of questions you must continue to ask yourself as you prepare to move from a soft, living day-to-day individual to one who thinks and plans ahead and has made arrangements to survive without having to make two or three trips a week to the convenience store just to get by.
Be prepared. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. But above all else, be ready.