The following is advice that I give to my non-prepper family and friends. How the advice is given is what I want you to notice. I've intentionally toned-down the message so as to not turn off non-preppers to the advice given. There are no acronyms or prepper jargon, no extreme "head-for-the-hills and hide" advice, no politics, 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. Yes, I think folks need to do more than what I present here, but if they at least follow the advice given here, they'll be better off than 95% of the general population.
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 temporarily 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.
Check out my article Get Back To Basics for much more on this important topic.
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. 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. Don't take your eyesight for granted - have regular eye exams.
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.
Check out my article Prepper's Guide to Mental Health and Emotional Preparedness for more on this important topic.
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 of your choice. My relationship with God gives me great comfort and peace, helps me remain calm in bad situations, helps me stay focused on my true priorities, and provides the moral foundation for decision making. All very useful for survival. Not sure about God? Talk to a local minister or priest. Or check out the websites The Roman Road and 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. An entire month's worth is better still.You never know when a snow storm, hurricane or other event may make it impossible to go shopping for a few days or even a few weeks.
Have a good flashlight and battery-powered radio at home, along with extra batteries.
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. However, awareness is about more than just simply paying attention.It also means both knowing what to look for, and how to access (make decisions about) your surroundings.
See my article Situational Awareness and the OODA Loop for a much more in-depth discussion.
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). 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 with your family about ways to stay 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.
Self-reliance 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.