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During disasters there are two types of people: Those who prepared, and those who didn’t. You don’t have to be a hardcore survivalist to make it through the most common disasters (hurricanes, blizzards, floods, etc.), but you have to at least cover the essentials. Not only will you be more comfortable, you’ll have a much better chance of survival. If you’re a beginner prepper, get these 10 disaster essentials while you still have time.
1. Water. Other than oxygen, this is the most important thing for your survival. You should have some that is ready to drink immediately (remember, at least one gallon per day per person). However, this can take up a lot of space so you’ll also need some water purification tablets or a good water filter.
Remember that water isn’t just for drinking. You’ll need it for things like bathing, washing dishes, and flushing toilets. Water for these purposes ought to be stored separately. Consider filling a large barrel with water and 2 teaspoons of household bleach per 10 gallons of water.
2. Food. Obviously food is the next most essential thing after water. You’ll want to get a 3-day supply of storable food immediately, then build on that until you have a year’s supply through which you can rotate.
Some people like MREs since they last such a long time, but they’re pretty expensive and they don’t taste very good (I know someone who calls them “meals rejected by Ethiopia”). Another option is dehydrated or freeze dried foods. If that’s too expensive for you, go shopping at a place like Costco or Sam’s Club. The canned goods will keep for years, and everything else can be stored in Mylar bags.
3. Fire. Fire is essential for many reasons. You can use it to boil water, cook food, provide warmth, and see in the dark. Everyone should learn how to build a fire from scratch, but in the meantime stock up on Bic lighters and waterproof matches. You might also want to get a fireSteel and a camp stove.
4. Backpack. In case you have to bug out, you’ll need a good backpack stocked with 3 days of emergency supplies (a bug out bag). It’s tempting to get a cheap backback, but I urge you to get the highest quality you can. Better yet, get one with an aluminum frame. It will distribute the weight more evenly and be less likely to break.
A few other features to look for: multiple pockets so you can get to certain items fast without having to dig through the bag, a bladder and tube so you can drink water while walking, and MOLLE loops onto which you can clip gear you might need at a moment’s notice. Be sure to prepare a bug out bag for every member of your family.
5. Multitool. Multitools are very convenient and save lots of space in your bug out bag. A good multitool should have a knives, a saw, a can opener, a screw driver, pliers, and wire cutters.
This is something you don’t want to skimp on, either. A cheap brand from Walmart is much more likely to break when you really need it (trust me, I know). Get the best quality you can afford.
6. First Aid Kit. Even if no one in your group has a major injury, there’s still a good chance of people getting cuts and sprains during a disaster, especially if you’re on the move. And if someone does get seriously injured, a good first aid kit could save their life.
Make sure your first aid kit comes with everything you need to treat deep cuts and broken bones. You should also get a pocket-size first aid guide. However, if it’s a very serious injury, you might not have time to look through the guide. That’s why I recommend everyone find a good first aid class. Red Cross provides training all over the country.
7. Hand Crank Radio. During most disasters, a radio can keep you up to date on what’s going on in your area. If you need shelter or supplies, you could find out where to go (although going to refugee centers is not ideal, you might have no choice).
I prefer hand crank radios because batteries run out and solar isn’t very reliable, but it’s up to you. If you can, find one that includes a flashlight and phone chargers.
8. Lighting. Even if your hand crank radio includes a flashlight, you’ll still want to get more flashlights for each member of your family. They make hand crank flashlights, too, although these can be a pain in the butt since the light doesn’t usually last long.
You may also want to get candles, oil lamps, or a battery-powered lantern that has LED lights (these last a pretty long time, but get plenty of batteries, anyway).
9. Cleaning Supplies. This is more important than most people realize. Human waste is a major cause of disease if not dealt with properly. You’ll want to get plenty of toilet paper, trash bags, soap, disposable wipes, disposable gloves, and anti-bacterial gel.
If the water isn’t running and the toilets don’t work, dig a latrine that’s a foot deep, a foot wide, and several feet long. After using it, cover your waste with some dirt. If you have to leave the area, be sure to fill in the latrine before you go.
10. Shelter. Shelter is definitely essential, but the type of shelter you need may depend on your location. An underground shelter is ideal during a tornado or chemical disaster, but they can cost thousands of dollars and can’t even be built in areas where the ground is too wet. But there are some other measures you can take.
If there’s a tornado, go to the room with the fewest windows and outside walls (maybe the hallway or a bathroom). If there’s some sort of air contamination, cover the windows and doors with thick plastic sheeting and duct tape.
If you have to bug out, bring a small tent that is just large enough to protect you and your family from the elements. Having some sort of temporary shelter is better than nothing.
Once you have the 10 disaster essentials, you can start building on that. Set aside a certain amount of money each week and purchase a little bit at a time.