Gaye Levy, Contributing Writer
This is the year of the Prepper. Or so it seems. For the first time, the Prepper is coming into respectability. No longer is the individual or family putting a little extra food and water aside for an emergency considered a weirdo or fanatic. And for that I am thrilled, because, after all, that is what Backdoor Survival is all about.
As family preparedness becomes mainstream, a frequent question is “How do I get started?” coupled with “Oh my gosh, that is so much work!”.
Today I offer 10 tips for the beginning prepper. As you will see, there is no great mystery, no drama, no nonsense and no weird stuff. Just practical common sense organized in a manner that you can use as a jump off point for your own preps. Shall we get started?
10 Tips for the Beginning Prepper
1. Take Baby Steps
Take a deep breath and get started. Do not let your fear or lack of experience overwhelm you. Step in to the mindset and just start. There are lots of encouraging articles and blogs online (see Recommended Sites) in addition to this one to set you on your way. And please, don’t let naysayers who are too lazy or too stupid tell you that it is not worth it. Just zip you lips and carry on.
2. Keep to the Basics
Don’t worry about the long term. When you are getting started plan for a 3-day emergency supply. When you have more experience – and more confidence – you can expand to a 7 day, 30 day or even an annual emergency supply. But for now? Go easy on yourself and give yourself permission to start modestly.
This means water (one gallon per person per day), non-perishable food items, some first aid supplies, packets of prescription medications, and, if you have pets, some pet food.
3. Gather Important Documents
Obtain copies of your driver’s license, passport, marriage license, emergency contacts and medical history and keep them somewhere handy so you can grab and go if you have to. These documents will assist rescue workers and first responders in identification and in providing you with adequate medical care, if needed. It also would not hurt to include some pictures of yourself with family members. I like to store this information on a flash drive along with other information such as survival manuals, home inventories and such.
4. Develop a Communications and Transportation Plan
If the SHTF and you are not at home, what then? This is where a plan becomes important. Make a plan that identifies how loved ones will connect with each other in the event there is a natural disaster or other crisis. Come up with a meeting place, and if possible, run a drill or two so you become familiar with the process.
5. Learn Basic Skills
This is my personal favorite because it involves having fun. Learn to garden and grow some food. Heck, anyone can learn to grow lettuce and potatoes!
Take up fishing or hunting. Go camping and learn to build a fire and sleep outdoors. Fire up the barbie and learn to bake bread, steam vegetables, and make pancakes on on open grill or fire. The possibilities are endless plus, you can involve all members of your family while turning basic skill building in to a hobby.
6. Determine the Most Likely Natural Event in Your Area
Every geographical area a pre-disposed to some type of emergency. Do live in a hurricane zone? Then that should be your focus. The same thing applies to tornado, earthquake, flood, and wildfire areas. Live in the city? Perhaps you should prepare for gang violence and civil disobedience. It is possible, you know.
If you think you are immune, go back and read Disasters 101: A list for those that think it will never happen to them. This might change your mind.
7. Plan for a Power Outage
Pick up some extra flashlights (this LED type Maglite are two favorites), batteries, candles and waterproof matches. For starters, that is just dandy. Later on, when you have the budget, you can purchase the more esoteric items such as an inverter or generator.
8. Learn how to Shelter In Place
Who says you have to get out of dodge? That alone may be one of the reasons you are putting off the prepping effort. Except in extreme circumstances – which you still need to prepare for – you will want to hunker down in the comfort of your own home or apartment. Make sure you have some plastic sheeting and duct tape available to seal out dust and toxic chemicals. You can read more about it here: Shelter In Place.
9. Plan for Comfort Foods and Amusements
I have taken flak before on this and I will probably continue to be dissed forever on this subject. But, when panic and fear set in, there is nothing like a bag of cookies, some mac and cheese from a box, a juicy paperback and, for kids of all ages, a snugly teddy bear. Add some playing cards, popcorn (which can be popped over an over fire), and a book of Sudoku and you are all set. Well maybe a bottle of whiskey or vodka would be good too.
The moral of the story is to pack away a few things in the survival pantry that will make you feel better in spite of the chaos around you.
10. Get to Know your Neighbors
Get to know your neighbors, or, if you live in a remote area, the folks in the surrounding community. These are the folks that will watch your back and help you out if the SHTF and you are really in trouble. And likewise, you should be inclined to help them out if they are worse off than you following a disaster.
I am not talking about giving assistance or handouts to free loaders. No, I mean offering a hand to your friendly clerk at the post office, or a teacher at your children’s school, or the neighbor down the road who offers you fresh eggs when his chickens are over-producing.
Friendly and familiar faces will be a good thing when and if the destructive zombies start roaming around. Just remember, life is a two way street. The moral and right thing to do is help your neighbor in need. You will be a better person for it.
Extra Credit – Build your Family Preparedness Library
The number of available books, e-books, survival guides and videos offering preparedness and survival advise can be overwhelming. When in doubt, check your local library and if you find something you like, make the purchase after the fact. That is what I do.
In the meantime, I have three recommendations for the beginning Prepper:
Doctor Prepper’s Getting Prepared Week 28: 10 Tips for the Beginning Prepper Doctor Prepper’s The Best of Basics Family Preparedness Guide: From the Rock Star of preparedness, James T. Talmadge. Lots of checklists, ideas, recipes, and more. It is so nice to have everything in one place! This is a terrific resource.
The Prepper’s Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster Getting Prepared Week 28: 10 Tips for the Beginning Prepper: Written by fellow blogger, Bernie Carr, this little book is a gem for both beginner and experienced preppers. I keep a copy on my desk and refer to it often.
The Red Cross has some excellent preparedness resources online. For the beginning Prepper, I highly recommend Be Red Cross Ready.
Starting any new project, large or small, can be daunting. Unlike other projects, however, family preparedness and prepping can literally save your life if not your sanity. This list of 10 beginning prepper tips is not all inclusive in any way – but it is a start.
Let us embrace the year 2011 as the year of the Prepper. What are you waiting for?
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation! — Gaye
Gaye Levy, the SurvivalWoman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable, self-reliant and stylish lifestyle through emergency preparation and disaster planning through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com. SurvivalWoman speaks her mind and delivers her message with optimism and grace, regardless of mayhem swirling around us.