Besides learning survival skills, the biggest part of preparing to face a disaster is stockpiling the necessary supplies for your disaster kit. For most people, building a kit is a prolonged process as they don’t have the money to buy everything at once. That’s okay just as long as you start on the journey now before it’s too late. The sooner you start, the sooner you will be well-stocked in the event that disaster strikes.
While a home survival kit could contain literally anything and everything, from obvious options like food and water to means of entertainment like puzzles and books, there are some items which are important for any situation. We’re going to concentrate on these absolute essentials.
Since you can only survive three days without it, you’ll need a lot of water to survive. The problem with storing water is that it takes up a lot of space. Nobody has successfully invented instant or dehydrated water so you have to store big bottles of it, kept away from direct sunlight to prevent the growth of algae. One gallon of purified water per person per day is a minimum for drinking and cooking, which means a week’s supply is seven gallons per person in your household. Additional cleaning water would be needed in order to maintain personal hygiene.
Since storing sufficient water is difficult, it’s a good idea to have some means of purifying it. The easiest is a mechanical filter. There are a number of excellent filters on the market designed specifically for survival situations. These are much more robust filters than the commonplace pitchers and faucet attachments used for filtering minerals out of a home water supply. A survival filter is specifically designed to remove bio-hazards, such as bacteria.
A 2.0 micron filter will remove pretty much all bacteria, protozoa and other parasites from the water. For greater security, a 0.2 micron filter will remove viruses as well. At this level of filtration, you can take pretty much any water that is not chemically contaminated and make it safe to drink. (Removing chemical contaminants like lead and copper requires distilling the water or using a complex process like reverse osmosis.)
You will need enough food to see your family through the disaster and its aftermath. Since you won’t be able to count on refrigeration, choose foods that are dried, cured, pickled or canned. You can even buy “survival food,” which is pre-packed in five gallon plastic buckets, providing everything you need to feed your family for several days; this is a convenient but rather expensive way to go.
It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money on that specialized survival food. A trip through any grocery store will offer a wide variety of foods packaged in a way that makes them perfect for survival needs. Develop a menu based upon what you can readily find, and pack enough of it away to get your family through the expected period of disaster recovery.
Stored foods will last for a number of years. How long they actually last depends a lot on how they are packaged. Aside from canning, the packaging used for store-bought foods isn’t intended for long-term food storage. Later on we’ll go over how to repack foods so that they will last for a minimum of ten years in storage.
Means of Cooking
If your electricity is out, there’s a good chance that your normal means of food preparation will be out as well. Even if you have a gas stove, you can’t count on it because the pumping station for the gas may no longer be operating. The only type of stove which is likely to work in a time of crisis is propane.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that you are without means of cooking your food. A little ingenuity will make it possible for you to cook. For most people, the easiest secondary means of cooking food is on a barbecue grill. Since most families have one of these, they make a great secondary means of cooking in a pinch. Just be sure to keep enough of a stock of fuel for the grill so that it will get you through a crisis.
In addition to cooking on the grill, you can always resort to the old-fashioned means of cooking over an open fire. Mankind did this for centuries with excellent results. While it may not be as easy or consistent as cooking on a stove, roasting meat and veggies over an open fire is not all that hard with a little practice.
If you’re going to have to cook over an open fire, you’ll need to have ample means of starting a fire on hand. Starting a wood fire is best done in stages. A fire starter is used first of all; matches and butane lighters work well for this. The matches or lighter are used to start your kindling—any material that will easily burn—on fire. Kindling is defined as something that can start smoldering from a single spark.
There are a number of readily available fire starters on the market. These are essentially different types of well-prepared kindling. They all work fairly well, but you can make your own easily enough. Cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly are one of the easiest fire starters to work with.
Once burning, the kindling is used to start tinder burning. Tinder is sticks that are under an inch in diameter. It helps to have broken, ragged ends to the sticks because it is much easier to get those ends burning than it is to get the bark to light. The tinder will produce enough of a flame to put split logs on the fire as fuel.
Since we’re assuming electric power will be out, you will need an alternate source of light. There are several solutions, but the best is to go old-fashioned with candles and oil-burning lamps. These store well, don’t cost a lot and don’t require electricity to operate.
When selecting candles, look for ones in a glass jar, such as a canning jar, or wide enough candles so that the wax won’t drip. Taper candles are elegant, but typically waste more wax dripping down the sides of the candle onto the table than they burn. You want the candles to burn slow and steady for as long as possible, not to instantly become a puddle of wax.
The nice thing about oil-burning lamps is that they can be used with pretty much any type of oil. The oil that is sold for them is designed to burn smoke-free and not produce a bad odor. In many cases, it’s scented, but in an emergency, any lightweight oil can be used, from cooking oil to motor oil. The only thing to be careful of is that some of these oils will produce soot, which could stain the ceiling of your home.
Even with the candles and oil lamps, flashlights are extremely useful. If you have to go outside or perform repairs on something, a flashlight will serve you much better than a candle ever will. Headlamp-style flashlights are extremely useful for repairs because they’re hands-free and always shine the light right where you are looking.
Tactical flashlights have become extremely popular for survival situations. They are made of machined aluminum, making them much stronger than a plastic flashlight. In many cases they are smaller and easier to keep in your pocket. These flashlights are also waterproof, which is an additional advantage over standard models. Some of these lights are extremely bright, making them useful for lighting up an area or for momentarily stunning an attacker.
While more expensive, the tactical flashlights provide one major advantage: LED lights. LEDs can’t burn out or break, like conventional incandescent bulbs often do. The newer LED flashlights are also much brighter. But the biggest advantage of these lights is that the batteries last much longer than conventional flashlights.
Of course, if you are going to have flashlights, you need batteries as well. However, that’s not the only thing you use regularly that needs batteries. Having a stock of batteries, especially AA and AAA sizes, can make your life much more comfortable.
The other thing you need batteries for is your cell phone. While you may not be able to easily find a replacement battery for your cell phone, you can probably find a charger that will charge it off of batteries. One of these back-up devices will provide you with more time on your cell phone, even if you don’t have the usual electrical power supply to recharge it.
Another item that becomes impossible to find in times of disaster is fuel. A vehicle without fuel is essentially worthless so it’s a good idea to keep some in your stockpile. Yet, gasoline does not store well and cannot be kept for a long period of time.
Additives can extend the normal life of fuel and allow fuel to be stored in the can for several months. However, there is another way to store fuel for prolonged periods of time: by rotating your supply. Buy several gas cans. Once a month, take and pour the oldest can of gas into your car’s gas tank; then refill the can with fresh gasoline. By doing this, you will always have a supply of fresh fuel.
First Aid Kit & Medicines
Hospitals and other medical services are typically overrun with patients in the aftermath of any crisis. Many of those people are suffering from serious problems that require immediate attention. However, there are always those who are there for minor problems. If you have a good first-aid kit, you can take care of your own family’s needs without having to go to the hospital.
If you have anyone in your family who regularly needs medicine, keep a stock of their prescription on hand at all times. These and over-the-counter medicines may not be readily available in an emergency situation.
It is not uncommon for homes to become damaged in a disaster. Whether you’re talking about a hurricane or a fire, damage occurs. Even man-made disasters can cause serious damage to homes due to mob violence.
While it is unrealistic for most people to have a stock of building materials sitting around their home, a lot can be done with a few tarps and some duct tape. Damaged roofs or walls can be temporarily repaired, broken windows can be covered, and temporary shelters can be made with these simple materials.
It is hard to maintain personal hygiene in the aftermath of a crisis, especially when there is a limited water supply. Nevertheless, basic hygiene is necessary for maintaining health. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep a stock of all the personal hygiene supplies that your family uses on hand. In addition, be sure to have a big supply of toilet paper and feminine hygiene products.
One item which many people forget about is anti-bacterial hand cleaner. If you are faced with a shortage of water, this can go a long way towards both saving water and maintaining health. These gel sanitizers can be used without water, yet kill all bacteria and protozoa, preparing your hands for safe food handling.
In the aftermath of disasters, people who aren’t prepared become desperate. Those desperate people tend to flock together, forming a mob. Mobs often become violent, vandalizing property, stealing belongings and hurting others. Having weapons can prevent you and your family from becoming victims.
Preparing Food for Long-Term Storage
Food has a number of enemies, all of which destroy its value for our use. These enemies include oxygen, light, heat, bacteria, insects and rodents. While the bacteria, insects and rodents want to eat the food for their own purposes, the other items simply destroy its nutritional value.
To store food for long periods of time, special precautions need to be taken to protect the food from all of these enemies. Canning does an excellent job of this, but canning only works for foods that are packed in liquid. However, there is a method for packing foods that can’t be kept in liquid for long-term storage. You will need:
- Five-gallon food-grade buckets
- Six-gallon Mylar bags
- A hair straightener or clothes iron
- A vacuum cleaner with a hose
- Oxygen absorbers
- A rubber mallet
The idea is to pack the food in such a way that none of the aforementioned enemies can gain access to it. As long as the food is stored in a cool, dry place, this method works very effectively.
Since we are packing in five-gallon buckets, a sizeable quantity of food needs to be ready and available. Some people pack one type of food per bucket, while others package the ingredients for certain meals together in a bucket. If you buy prepared survival food, it will usually be packed in this second manner. This is very practical, unless you are packaging a large quantity of reserve food stocks to feed a big group of people.
Start by lining the five-gallon buckets with the Mylar bags. If packaging dry foods, they can either be removed from the factory packaging (if the bucket is only going to contain one type of food), or can be left in their individual packages when placed inside the Mylar bags. The bags should be filled to about an inch below the lip of the bucket.
The Mylar will melt readily when heated with a hair straightener or clothes iron. This allows the bag to be sealed airtight. Seal the top of the bag, leaving a two-inch space at the end unsealed.
Place an oxygen absorber in the bag. These come in a variety of sizes so it is important to buy ones that are appropriate for the bucket size and type of foods that you are storing. The manufacturers can guide you as to the right amount of oxygen absorption needed for particular types of food. One precaution on using oxygen absorbers is that they are very fast-acting. The process of putting them in with the food and sealing the bag must be done very quickly. Otherwise, the oxygen absorbers will pull oxygen from the atmosphere and not from the air trapped in the bag.
Stick the end of the vacuum cleaner hose into the bag opening, and suck out as much air as possible. Take the hose out, and quickly close the two-inch gap so that the bag is fully sealed. Leave excess material so that the bag can be cut open and resealed again.
Once the bag is sealed, the flap can be folded over and the bucked lid placed on. Use a rubber mallet to drive the lid on, ensuring that it is fully seated.