For a country family, preparedness is baked into the cake of living. Most of us already have a woodstove, a full pantry and perhaps even a well or creek in the backyard. Our power goes out on a pretty regular basis and those of us living way out are used to being the last ones brought back online. For people in the city or even in the suburbs however, preparedness is something that takes more thought, especially as adverse weather events are no longer the exception but rather the norm.
It might help you get organized if you think of your home in terms of systems. Heat, lights, water, sanitation, food and food preparation, communication and entertainment should all be considered and transportation as well if you live in a place that might require evacuation. The order in which you address each system will depend on you and your family’s specific situation.
I’ll tackle heat first. If you live in a cold climate a lack of heat might make it necessary to go to an alternative location, especially if you’re caring for a fragile elder or an infant. Otherwise, even without alternative heat, you can stay pretty warm with the right clothes and coverings. Wear layers and make sure you stay dry.
It’s easier to keep a small space warm than it is a large space so closing off one room is a good idea. A bigger problem than keeping yourself warm is protecting your home from bursting pipes. If you have any heat at all, keeping the doors under sinks open will allow the heat to circulate better. Letting the water run a bit will help too, but not indefinitely and not if it gets extremely cold. Learning how to drain your pipes might save you a large plumbing bill down the line.
Lights are important for both safety and morale. I have a stash of light sticks the kids can use in their rooms. They let off enough light to get to the bathroom safely and they can’t cause a fire. Keep a flashlight next to each bed and anyplace you often sit. If the power goes out you will need to navigate until you get a lamp lit. Candles are good for atmosphere, but not great to rely on for your only light source. Hurricane lanterns are much better and very reasonably priced. Get some extra fuel and be sure you have wooden matches. Never leave a lamp lit in a room without an adult present. Putting one in front of a mirror will throw off a lot more light.
You either have water without power or you don’t. If you don’t, you need to store some. You can just fill clean jugs and rotate them out every few months or buy water. The plastic jugs degrade over time and can cause a terrible mess, especially if one leaks all over your stored pasta, not that such a silly thing ever happened to me. You will always need more water than you have. Just flushing a toilet once a day uses up to 6 gallons.
Food can be a few cases of canned meals like soups or stews. If you store dried food, remember to store enough water to rehydrate it. Also remember a manual can opener and check out the small camp stoves. Be sure the one you use is rated for indoor use.
OTHER VITAL TIPS:
- Don’t let yourself get too low on necessary medications.
- Stock up on some non-electronic entertainment like board games, puzzles, and books. It is possible to be driven bonkers by a house full of bored, cranky kids.
- Make sure you keep your car’s gas tank half full. If you do need to leave you definitely do not want to be looking for gas. Park facing out and away from overhanging trees if possible.
- These are just some highlights of basic preparedness. Just In Case: How To Be Self-Sufficient When The Unexpected Happens is my very own book and I shall hawk it shamelessly. There are lots of others if you prefer.
Available at Lehmans.com and at our store in Kidron!
Editor’s Note: This article first posted in September 2015. We have updated it to include Kathy’s latest book, Prepping 101.