1) Think for yourself. Let me start by stating what should be obvious - there is no "one size fits all" preparedness plan. There is no "one way and only one way" to do preparedness. Be wary of anyone who insists their way is the only right way. Everyone faces different circumstances and has different concerns. Everyone has different skills and abilities. Everyone has different challenges, different strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, your survival plan will be at least somewhat different than my survival plan, which in turn will be different from someone else. That is a good thing.
2) Prioritize health and fitness. No, I'm not saying that you have to become a world-class athlete. For most of us, that isn't going to happen. But we all can do more to improve our health and fitness, regardless of our age or circumstances. Work on eating a healthier diet and being more physically active. Start out slow, make steady progress, and you'll be surprised how quickly you notice positive changes.
You may be interested in my articles Fitness and the Aging Prepper and Ways to Improve Your Health and Fitness for Free! for more on this topic.
3) Develop self-reliance. Supplies are nice, and skills are even better. But, when an emergency hits, survival is often more about attitude than anything else. Developing an attitude of self-reliance is crucial. To that end, I've identified seven foundational points of self-reliance:
- Assume responsibility for your own life.
- Take the blame for your own life.
- Be informed.
- Know where your going.
- Make your own decisions.
- Learn skills.
- Gain experience.
4) Develop a communications plan. This starts with gathering a list of emergency contacts, but it doesn't stop there. A good communications plan let's everyone know how and when to get in touch with each other, and what to do if they cannot. After all, an emergency is unlikely to happen at a convenient and predictable time when everyone is together. The situation will be chaotic and confused.
See my article Do you have a Family Communications Plan? for an in-depth discussion of this topic.
5) Develop your financial fitness. Living within your means, building an emergency fund, and paying off debt are the basics of financial fitness, and you probably already know you should be doing these things. But are you? Please read my article from last week, Financial Preparedness: Get Back to Basics, for lots of ideas for financial preparedness!
6) Acquire a basic stockpile of food and water, as well another supplies, such as cleaning & hygiene supplies, batteries, and so forth. An emergency, be it a winter storm or something longer lasting, will mean a massive disruption in the supply chain for goods and services. In other words, the shelves at Wal-mart, Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, and your local grocery, hardware, and clothing stores will quickly be emptied, and may not be restocked quickly. Stock up now for an extended period of time in which you will not be able to buy what you need.
Of course, the more you have, the better. But if you're just starting out, strive for a week's supply. Then bump that up to two weeks. Once you have that, then you can build a month's supply, and so forth. The point is to do a little at a time, making slow but steady progress. This will feel less overwhelming than trying to acquire an entire year's worth, or two, all at once.
My article Emergency Water Storage is a fairly complete guide to water storage, including guides to how much water to store, so check it out.
The best resource on food storage, in my opinion is Peggy Layton's book Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook. It has detailed information for building stockpiles of food, water, medicine and other necessities. I consider this a CORE BOOK for most preppers.
7) Learn first aid and survival medicine. Everyone, prepper or not, should learn first aid. Even young kids should start learning the basics. And every serious prepper should learn survival medicine. By survival medicine, I mean what to do when a doctor isn't available, and help isn't own the way.
For first aid, I suggest the ACEP First Aid Manual, 5th Edition. This first aid manual of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is much more up-to-date (2014) than the American Red Cross manual, which hasn't been updated since 1992.
For survival medicine, start with The Survival Medicine Handbook: THE essential guide for when medical help is NOT on the way, by Dr. Joe Alton and Nurse Amy Alton.
8) Get ready to bug-out! Even most non-preppers have heard of "bugging out" and "bug-out bags." Its probably the topic most associated with prepping, besides food storage. No matter how safe a location you currently live in, there may come a time when you have to evacuate to a better, safer location. When this happens, it likely will happen quickly, without much warning or time to plan and pack. That why you need to plan ahead of time for such a possibility. Decide where you might go in an emergency and how you'll get there. Be ready with a packed bug-out bag that you can quickly grab on your way out the door.
I should say that bugging-out in an emergency should not be your Plan A. The best advice for most people in most situations is to stay put. Bug-in (hunker down) where you are, unless and until it becomes too dangerous to do so. You don't want to face the open road during a highly chaotic and dangerous time unless you absolutely have no other choice. Bugging-out is a measure of last resort. Also, consider that a bug-out location isn't necessarily somewhere you'll move to permanently. You may only need it for a few days or a few weeks.
I go into a lot of details about bugging out in my previous articles But, bug-out to where, exactly??? and Eight Tips for Bugging Out.
Final Thought: There is a lot more to emergency preparedness and survival than the items listed in this article. There is so much that can be done that it can seem overwhelming. Don't let it overwhelm you. Its like the joke about how you eat an elephant: one bite at a time. Follow this list if you're new to prepping, and you'll be better off than the 95% of the population who have done nothing.
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