While stockpiling food is an important part of preparing to face a disaster, your stockpiling shouldn’t be limited to just food. Experience has shown that in the face of a major disaster, much more than the food supply line is severed.
If we look at Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, we find that pretty much all of the infrastructure goes down in the face of a major disaster. The people living in those areas were without electricity, fresh water, sewage service, communications, police protection and much more. In a sense, it was if they were isolated from the rest of the world. Many things that we depend upon daily were lost to them.
Those things didn’t come back quickly, either. Probably the first part of the infrastructure to return was electric service. Power companies from other parts of the country sent in emergency crews to help with restoring power to the people affected by the storms. Even so, most of the people didn’t have electrical service for more than two weeks. The other services couldn’t begin to be restored until then, because everything depends upon electrical power.
Remember, those were regional events. Should we have the misfortune of being struck by a nationwide event, it would take much longer to restore electrical service; which means everything else as well. It has been speculated that in the case of an EMP attack, electrical service will take eight months to restore.
Just like with your food, you want to have enough other supplies to get your family through the crisis, should a major disaster eliminate the infrastructure we depend upon. Essentially, your food supplies and your other supplies should parallel. In other words, if you have a year of food supplies, you should have a year’s worth of as many other supplies as you can. For some types of supplies, that may be extremely difficult to manage.
The other option, instead of having a year’s worth of supplies, is to have an alternate plan. Let’s take electrical power for example. It would be cost prohibitive to have enough battery backup power to last a year. Likewise, trying to store enough gasoline to run a generator for a year would be impossible. Gasoline doesn’t store well over long periods of time. So, instead of having enough batteries or gasoline, you need a plan to get by without electrical power or with the power that you can produce with your solar and wind power generators.
Determining everything you could possibly need to survive a disaster is a monumental task. No matter how hard you try, there are things you are going to miss. Nevertheless, the more you manage to prepare, the easier it will be for your family, when that time comes.
1. Fuel – Gas pumps don’t work without electricity, so having some extra fuel on hand is a great idea. Not only will you need it for your car, but for your lawnmower and tiller, as well. While you can’t store gasoline for long periods of time, you can store some by rotating your stock.
2. Heating fuel – In addition to fuel for the car, you’ll need fuel to heat your home, especially if you live in a colder climate. There are many ways that a home can be heated, such as by using a fireplace or a kerosene heater. Whatever method you choose, make sure you put in a good supply of fuel for it.
3. Cooking – Your gas or electric stove probably won’t work when the power is out, unless you have a propane stove. You’ll need an alternate way for cooking, as well as fuel for it. That means both something to cook on and the fuel to run it. Gas-powered camp stoves (not the kind that use little propane tanks) are great for this; so is a barbecue grille. The fuel for cooking might be the same fuel you are using for heating your home, but if not, be sure to have an ample supply.
4. Means of producing electricity – Our lives depend so much on electrical power that you’ll need some way of producing at least some. While you probably won’t be able to produce as much as you currently use, you can produce enough for your “critical systems.”
5. Batteries – We use many devices that run off of batteries. Fortunately, one of the major battery manufacturers is now producing standard size batteries with a shelf life of 10 years.
6. Water – You can count on needing a minimum of one gallon of clean drinking water per person per day. If you live in a hot climate, up that to two gallons. This is just for cooking and drinking, not washing. You can’t have too much water.
7. Water purification system/supplies – There’s no way that you can store enough water for your family. A family of four needs a minimum of 120 gallons of water per month, just for drinking and cooking. You’ll need five times that much for washing, if you are extremely frugal with it. Be sure you have ample means of water purification, with a backup.
8. Heirloom seeds – In the case of a prolonged recovery period from a disaster, your food stockpile may not be enough. Heirloom seeds are the old kinds of seeds, before GMOs came about. They are totally natural, excellent sources of nutrition and produce seeds to perpetuate your garden.
9. Gardening equipment – Having a stockpile of seeds isn’t going to do much good if you don’t have the means to use them. Be sure you have the tools and the knowhow to turn those seeds into food bearing pants.
10. Oil lamps and candles – With the electricity out, you are going to have to revert to lighting your home in the old-fashioned way. Don’t just depend upon flashlights (although you should have them), as your battery supply is finite. Candles and oil lamps store well, are inexpensive and provide adequate light.
11. First aid kit and common medicines – Medical services are usually overloaded in the aftermath of any disaster. This won’t be the time to go to the doctor because the kids have the sniffles. Not only would you have to wait for hours, but you might have trouble getting there. Being able to treat injuries and minor ailments at home can be a lifesaver.
12. Tools – Many disasters cause damage to homes. You may have to do extensive repairs to your home. Be sure you have what you need.
13. Cleaning supplies – Many types of disasters bring general destruction, including making a mess of your home. If you are going to try and live in it, cleaning it up will be important; not only for comfort, but for health.
14. Home repair materials – If you have to make some basic repairs, it’s a good idea to have the materials on hand to do them with. You’d be amazed by what you can do with a few sheets of plywood and some tarps.
15. Personal hygiene items – Keeping yourself clean is another important part of maintaining your health. With the shortage of water that you’ll probably encounter, that’s going to be extra challenging. Soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toilet paper will be worth their weight in gold. Be sure to stock up on anti-bacterial hand cleaner as well, the kind where you don’t have to use water.
16. Barter goods – In addition to the supplies your family will need, it’s a good idea to have a stock of goods just to barter with others.
17. Firearms and ammunition – Unfortunately, social disorder attends many disasters. Looting, vandalism and general violence are common. You may have to protect your home and family. Don’t just buy guns, become proficient in their use.
I realize that this list covers a lot of ground, and it will be hard to gather all of this stuff, as well as gather the food you’ll need. Don’t expect to do it all in one week, or even one year. The point is to start on the journey. Every step you take brings you one step closer to being self-sufficient. Many people take years to build their stockpile to the point they want, build their alternate power supply, drill a well and learn new skills. This is an investment in your family’s future; as such, it takes time.
Don’t just stockpile the food and supplies either; learn how to use them. You should test everything you have and become proficient in its use. If you have an alternate method of cooking, try cooking that way. Better to make mistakes and learn before a disaster hits than to wait until it’s too late.