Preppers and survivalists are often unfairly portrayed as backwards, paranoid, right-wing nut-jobs, gun-nuts, conspiracy-nuts, or just plain-nuts. This makes "regular" folks reluctant to hear the prepper message of self-reliance and commonsense preparations for any future difficulties. So, how do we get around that unflattering image, so that we can reach our family, friends, and neighbors?
The following is advice that I give specifically to my non-prepper friends and acquaintances. There is no prepper jargon (no BOB, SHTF, TEOTWAWKI, etc.), no extreme head-for-the-hills advice, no conspiracy theories, no end-of-the-world doom-and-gloom, or any of the other stuff that might turn off "regular" folks to the idea of prepping.
1) Get you finances in order.
This means reducing your expenses, and living within your means (a budget or spending plan is an excellent tool for achieving this goal). Setting aside an ample emergency fund is also very important. Also: Pay off your credit cards and consumer loan debt. Avoid new debt. Refinance your home into a fixed mortgage. Pay it off if you can. Keep some extra cash in a safe place at home in case the ATMs are down. Spend a lot less money than you make, even if it means cutting back on your lifestyle. Make sure you have adequate insurance. There is a lot of good information on how to get your finances in order throughout the archives of this blog. Especially check out my three-part essay Get Back To Basics.
2) Make health a top priority.
Being sick doesn't just feel bad, it is expensive! A top priority for you and your family should be improving and maintaining your good health. Stop smoking and abusing drugs or alcohol. Get adequate sleep on a consistent basis. Eat healthy (check out the Mayo Clinic article on the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet). Eat less sugar (a lot less). Be physically active every day (walking, hiking, gardening, yard-work, biking, swimming, tennis, yoga, and exercise videos are just a few ideas). Visit your doctor and dentist for regular check-ups.
3) Take care of your mental health and attitude.
Surviving difficult times requires having "your head screwed on straight" and being able to think clearly. You can't do that if your frozen from fear, having a panic attack, or going through some sort of addiction withdrawal. Take care of your mental issues now, before a crisis occurs. Read my article on developing good mental health/attitude for more tips and information.
I also think getting right with God is a very important part of this step. I encourage everyone to pray, read the Bible, and attend the church or synagogue of your choice. Not sure about God? Talk to a local minister or priest. Or read check out The Roman Road. Or check out Journey to Orthodoxy. Or check out Peace with God.
4) Take basic precautions.
There are a lot of basic, commonsense precautions everybody should make: Have a good first aid kit at home (and one in the car). Take a first aid & CPR course. Have smoke & CO2 detectors in your home (check the batteries). Have (and learn to use) a fire extinguisher. Do a home safety inspection (if you know a boy or girl scout, they have to learn to do these for various merit badges).
Make sure you have at least a week's worth of groceries, water, and other supplies on hand. Two weeks' worth is even better. You never know when a snow storm, hurricane or other event may make it impossible to go shopping for a few days.
Have a good flashlight and battery-powered radio at home, along with extra batteries.
Keep your cell phone fully charged at all times.
In your car, have a first aid kit, flashlight, and jumper cables. Make sure your spare is in good condition, and that all drivers in your family know how to change a tire. Keep your gas tank full. Keep up with basic maintenance, such as oil changes, brake jobs, tires in good shapes, headlights and taillights working. In winter, keep a blanket or extra jacket and gloves in your vehicle, just in case.
5) Consider your security.
The first and most important tool for personal security is awareness. Awareness of your surroundings and the potential risks of your situation is essential. An excellent discussion of situational awareness can be found in the Stratfor report, Threats, Situational Awareness and Perspective, which can be read online for free by clicking the link. Also read their report Personal Contingency Plans.
Also consider the physical security of your home. How easy would it be for someone to break in? Harden your home by replacing weak external doors with heavy-duty security doors. Consider a home security system. Consider a gun (and if you do, PLEASE take the time and effort to learn gun safety, how to shoot your guns, and how to maintain your guns).
Guard against identity theft (an extremely fast-growing crime). Read my article on passwords for some ideas. Protect your personal and financial records. Don't give away too much information on Facebook and social media. Burn or shred important papers instead of just throwing them out.
Talk over with your family ideas about staying safe when away from home, including shopping in groups, parking in well-light, highly-visible locations, avoiding dangerous areas of town, letting people know where you are going and when to expect you back, and paying attention to your surroundings.
6) Build Self-Reliance.
This means learning how to do things for yourself - car and home repairs, sewing, gardening, home canning, and so-forth... Develop your DIY skills. Accumulate a good tool kit. But, mostly, it means to develop an attitude of taking care of yourself and your family, instead of waiting around for others or the government to take care of you.
Remember New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina? Remember all those people standing around in knee-deep water waiting for the government or someone else to help them? That is called "learned helplessness." Don't be like them.