The 10 Most Essential Items You Need to be Prepared for a Natural Disaster
There’s a basic problem with prepping that you don’t hear a lot of people talk about. That being, if it’s a situation where the sh*t truly hits the fan, it’s impossible to be truly prepared for it unless you’re extremely rich or you make it a lifestyle.
We’re talking about things like an EMP, civil war, complete breakdown of law and order, nuclear war, Weimar Germany-style hyperinflation, etc. Even then, there are no guarantees because things can be extremely fluid.
Maybe you need to stay in place at a perfectly prepped farm out in the woods or maybe you need to flee. Maybe you’re rich and want to take your private plane to another country, but the airports are shut down. Maybe you’re isolated and perfectly prepared, but 50 armed men show up to take all your stuff.
Telling you all this is not designed to freak you out, it’s just to make you understand that there are levels to the game and in the unlikely event that there’s a zombie apocalypse or a Rapture next year, this list will turn out to be sadly inadequate.
On the other hand, in the much more likely event that you’re faced with a hurricane (I’ve weathered multiple storms here in Myrtle Beach), a wildfire, earthquake, or some other natural disaster that’s likely to be dangerous and then disrupt your life for a few days before the government and local populace can get things back under control, this list will be perfectly adequate.
Pay attention to it, make sure you have everything you need, and if disaster strikes, you will be ready.
1) Gas: The last time we had a big hurricane roll into this area, the good news was that the intensity of it slowed down before it hit, so it didn’t do massive damage. The bad news was that it poured so much rain on the surrounding area that a lot of major roads were cut off. One of the consequences of that was that the gas trucks couldn’t get in here for a few days.
If you don’t have any gas in your car, then guess what? You’re immobile. You can’t go check on your neighbor’s house, go get groceries when the stores open back up, or most importantly, escape if you need to get out of there.
If you know there is some kind of event coming, fill your tank up early and if you’re traveling, keep topping it off. When large numbers of people get displaced and they’re all driving, you can run into dry areas and be unable to get gas. You don’t want to get stuck at home, in the backcountry getting away, or anywhere else.
2) Cash: If the power isn’t on, the cash machines and most cash registers aren’t going to be on either. Having cash gives you more options not just in stores, but if you’re out and about.
Maybe someone will be selling produce by the road when all the grocery stores are closed or a small store owner will take cash even though his credit card machine isn’t working. Whatever the case may be, when things are breaking down and going south, you want as many options as possible. Having some cash on you helps with that.
3) Food: Did you know that Mormons keep a year’s worth of food on hand just as a matter of course? If things really go bad, the Mormons will be eating long after the rest of us have starved.
Now, in your case, you’re not going to need that much food for our purposes, but you will need at least a week or so worth of food. Are you going to need that much? PROBABLY NOT, but it will be very useful if you do.
You need to focus on foods that will keep for a long time AND that can be eaten cold because you may not have power. I tend to favor jerky and soup for this, but your mileage may vary.
You may even want to go with specially designed meal packets, but some of those are not very good, so if you’re just talking about a few days’ worth of food, you may want to purchase things you enjoy eating more.
4) Water: In most places, you should still have water for a few days after the power goes out, but is that your situation? Be prepared either way. Figure half a gallon of water per day, per person. More, if you’re in a hot area. Your pets will need water, too.
However, that may still not meet your needs. For example, your toilet may quickly run out of water and need more to flush. Filling up your bathtub before a storm can take care of that problem.
Additionally, once the power goes out, the food in your freezer is going to start to go bad. Depending on how full it is and whether you open it, it may last a day or two before the food starts to spoil. One thing you can do to extend that is put multiple-gallon jugs of water in there. The freezer works better when it’s full and the ice will help it stay cold longer so you may be able to save more of your food.
5) First aid kit/medication: Obviously, if you’re going to have to flee your house, take any medication you need with you. If you’re hanging around, at least make sure you have some of the basics on hand. You know, Advil, triple-antibiotic cream, bandages, etc.
If a branch smashes in your window and you cut yourself cleaning up the mess, at a minimum you want something available for the pain and to make sure you don’t get infected.
If you want to be thorough and go with a full medical kit, you certainly can, but most people can get everything they’re likely to need on that front for $15 at the local drugstore.
6) Plastic sheeting, duct tape, and tarps: Why would you need this stuff? Simple. Because storms break things. They tear the shingles off of roofs, blow paneling out of places, and smash things through windows.
This is much more of a problem than normal because if it happens to you during a storm, it may have also happened to dozens of other people, which means it may be harder than usual to get someone out to fix it.
So, in the interim, you want to minimize any potential damage by covering it up. A tarp is often a decent temporary fix for a roof and plastic and duct tape will hopefully get the job done for a window.
7) Lighting: If the power is out, either you are going to need to go to bed when the sun goes down or you’re going to need lighting.
Flashlights are good for this, but I’m also a fan of more stationary lighting like electric lanterns. They’re not inordinately expensive and they allow you to set them down on a table and illuminate a whole room.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to have multiple flashlights unless you are going to have one high-end flashlight with multiple batteries that you regularly test. If you’re buying cheap flashlights from Wal-Mart, more is probably better so that you always have one ready to go when you need it.
8) Gun: I hope you are never in a situation where you need to use a gun to protect yourself or your family, but the reality is that disaster is one of the times when your likelihood of having to defend yourself may increase.
For one thing, robbers and looters may be drawn to an area that they believe is more deserted than normal because of a storm. Wild animals may be driven into areas they normally wouldn’t be in. Stress levels will be high. Tempers can flare. You probably won’t need a gun, but it’s a very good idea to have one in that situation.
9) Waze: Waze is a GPS application for the phone and while driving INTO a hurricane from Charlotte on deserted roads, I found it to be invaluable because of the way it works. You see, Waze doesn’t just give you directions, it alerts you to blocked roads and debris in the road.
Users of Waze, which is extremely popular, note those sorts of things when they’re driving, and then other users let the app know if it’s still there. Most of the time, that’s dubiously useful. In an environment where the roads may be flooded or have trees across them, this is an invaluable service.
10) Batteries, generators, and a cell phone charger: If it’s dark, you’re going to need light. If you have the money to spend, a generator can be the way to go. You can get one for a few hundred dollars that powers a few appliances or a nice one that will light up your whole house, but you’ll still need to have fuel on hand.
As someone who has spent three days in a house without power in the middle of a Myrtle Beach summer, I can tell you that having a nice generator would have made a massive quality of life difference over those three days.
You need batteries for your flashlights and a cell phone charger is really useful in those situations. I have one I use for traveling and it can recharge my cell phone 4 or 5 times before needing to be recharged. That is obviously super helpful in a situation where your cell phone may be providing your communications, news about what’s happening, and entertainment for a few days.