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How to Prepare Today for Tomorrow's Emergency

Updated on October 29, 2011


Once you have made the decision to prepare your home for a period of unrest, such as a freak winter storm or a widespread power outage, it can be intimidating to figure out what you first need to do and buy. The availability of resources and information on disaster preparedness is so wide that many can give up before they even begin trying.

The most important thing to do first is secure your family’s basic needs for a two week period. Two years ago in the southern part of my home state, thousands of people were without power for nearly a month due to ice and snow. For our purposes, we will prepare for the worst case scenario, which would be a long term power outage during the coldest winter months.

What follows is a guide that you can use to get yourself better prepared than every other house on your street by tomorrow. Once you have taken care of the immediate needs below, you can then take the time to think out and research a solid long term plan for maintaining your desired level of preparedness. More importantly, even if you only do the five major steps below and never revisit or improve your plan, you will be infinitely more prepared than most of your neighbors and extended family.

Step 1 - FOOD AND WATER - According to, you need to have one gallon of water, per person, per day, for drinking and sanitation. For a family of four for a two week period would therefore need 56 gallons. I would round up to 60. Rather than spending hours researching how to store and procure water, simply go to your local big box store and buy all the one and two and five gallon bottles of water they have. Also buy five gallons of bleach, which can be used to sanitize questionable water, such as the 40 gallons of water that is currently in my water heater.

As far as food, I would buy many cans of vegetables, beans, pasta, fruit that I could carry, as well as some prepackaged meats like Spam. These will last quite a long time under normal circumstances. This is not something that takes a lot of forethought, just go out tomorrow and buy as much as you can carry.

Try to keep your freezer stocked with meat, which can be kept outside your home if it is below freezing and your power has gone out.

For food and water, make sure you mark on it with a Sharpie when it was purchased. Try to change these items out once per year.

Step 2 - STAYING WARM - Now that you have secured your food and water, it’s time to worry about staying warm. Obviously, the first thing to do is put on many layers, which will go a long way towards keeping you warm.

If you have a fireplace that is in safe working order, you will fare the best out of all of us. Just make sure to have extra wood and be fully stocked at all times. While we ponder installing a fireplace or wood burning stove, we have the immediate one day deadline for our preparations, so we instead head to our local sporting goods outdoor store for candles, candle lanterns, candle heaters, and a tent. If you don’t live close to a store that sells these items, or want to make this process easy, just hit up, which has everything you will need.

Make sure to buy a three pack of 100 hour emergency candles, a boatload of 9 hour lantern candles, and the lantern that goes with it. If you don’t have a tent, buy one large enough for 8 people. You will pitch the tent indoors in a small room, and encourage family to spend time in there. By carefully monitoring its usage, you can keep your family in the tent for most of the day to conserve and maximize the warmth of a few candles and some body heat. Remember, your big suburban house will get cold quickly during a long term power outage.

Candles can also be used to cook and of course, to light your way through the house when it’s dark. You can’t have enough candles. Extra charcoal may mean you get to barbecue your food outdoors.

Mylar blankets can also be used to line the tent and reflect heat from the candles and body heat back into the tent.

Step 3 - COMMUNICATION - During an extended emergency, communication with family and with the outside world is essential. To make sure I could still use my cell phone (if there is service from the towers) and have a way to stay updated with news and warnings from the government, I only had to purchase one device - the American Red Cross Microlink FR160 Emergency Radio by Eton

This device is the one thing you should buy right away. At around thirty bucks, this thing has a 7 band NOAA weather radio, a USB port to charge my iPhone, an AM/FM radio, powerful LED flashlight, a solar array for charging, and best of all, a handcrank that never needs batteries. It is smaller in size and definitely not overly bulky.

Having this device means access to a phone and the Internet, assuming those networks are available. This will allow me to let family members know we are okay, or to send an email if the phone circuits are not responding. Buy it right away.

Step 4 - ENTERTAINMENT - Two weeks is a long time to go without heat, running water, television, school, and fun. If your family has kids, you know how bored they will be without access to video games, television, and the Internet.

Keeping spirits up is very important in a survival or emergency situation, and if people run out of patience, bad things can happen. Make sure you have plenty of board games and books, and a few decks of cards, especially games that you will leave wrapped so that they will be “new” when you need them. Also order a book of card games.

If you have taken my advice and purchased the Eton Red Cross Radio, you will be able to keep an iPod or iPhone device powered, which means video games can be possible, so long as they aren’t dependent on Internet access.

Step 5 - ESCAPE - No discussion of preparing for a two week period of unrest or power outage can be complete without thinking beyond that time frame. At some point during your situation, you may decide that you are running low on supplies, or the hopes for continuing to ride out the emergency in your current locale may disappear.

That leaves escape as your only option. We use the word escape because it focuses you to think of it as a potentially dangerous or hazardous endeavour. Since we are assuming for our conversation that we are facing a long term power outage due to severe winter weather, we will also assume the roads are not plowed or are otherwise treacherous. Assuming this, we will promptly order two sets of snow chains for our strongest vehicle. This will help immensely if e need to relocate to a better off relative’s home.

We will also buy a few high capacity gasoline cans, fill them, add fuel stabilizer such as Sta-Bil, and keep them stored in a safe place. This ensures that even if we fail to keep to the important adage of always filling up when you get to half-full, we will have a means to get out of the area to a new locale.

CONCLUSION - I hope you found the above guide a good way to focus your to-do list so that you can immediately become prepared for most emergencies or disasters. Almost everything above can be accomplished in one day, either by hitting your big box stores and outdoors stores, and/or ordering from Amazon for the things you couldn’t find.

Once you have established yourself for a two week period and taken care of the most pressing essentials, you can relax and take the time to research and prepare a long term plan that covers more bases. There are countless ways you can become more self sufficient, working towards a place where you can go completely off the grid.


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    • marriedwithdebt profile image

      marriedwithdebt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for reading. I'd imagine that living in Central Wis would teach you a lot about harsh weather.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 6 years ago from North Texas

      Having grown up in central Wisconsin, I know about surviving power outages during below zero weather and worse. You have some good advice here for people who might not have any idea of where to start in getting through a bad situation, whether it's a long term power outage, the blizzard of the century, or some other disaster. Personally, I like your information on the American Red Cross Microlink FR160 Emergency Radio the best

      I'm voting you up and useful.