For many, the most difficult part of being prepared is taking the first step. But what do you do? Where do you start? As I mentioned in my Welcome article, I like to promote the one-month-at-a-time method of prepping which adds new tasks, skills, and food items each month until, at the end of the year, a decent and well-rounded set of preps is good to go. My strategy for this concept was taken from our own San Juan County Department of Emergency Management which publishes a very useful Preparedness Calendar in flyer form.
Today I am sharing my own version of Month 1 and hope that you will follow along by adding to your own supplies and performing a few simple tasks that will set the stage for your preparedness lifestyle.
MONTH 1 SUPPLIES & GEAR:
Water-3 gallons per person and per pet
Hand-operated can opener and bottle opener
Canned meat, stew, or pasta meals - 5 per person
2 flashlights with batteries
MONTH 1 TASKS:
Inventory the disaster supplies you already have on hand, including your camping gear
If you fill your own water containers, mark them with the date they were filled
Date cans of food and food containers if you have not already done so
Let’s talk about water first.
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with an unquenchable thirst? That thirst is a signal that your body is dehydrated and is lacking a sufficient quantity of fluids to function. When this occurs, the blood in your body is compromised. More succinctly, it gets completely whacked out. And the result?
In addition to increased thirst, dry mouth & throat and chapped lips – all of which are annoying – there is a risk of lethargy, dizziness, decreased urine output, constipation, migraine headaches, wild fluctuations in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and ultimately, lack of consciousness. Much more, at this point, than a mere annoyance, this can, in fact, be life threatening.
So how bad really is dehydration? Back in 2001 I ended up being carted to the hospital by the local EMTs as a resulted of dehydration caused by food poisoning. Survival Husband thought he was losing me; it was not a pleasant experience. So yes, think about water storage now and make it your number one priority.
There are a lot of ways to store water. You can purchase a 55-Gallon Barrel, you can stock up on bottled water, or, if money is tight and you are willing to do a little work, you can clean and fill some empty soda bottles with water from your tap and store them someplace cool and protected for up to six months. I have written an article on do-it-yourself water storage which you can read on my website if you need some guidance with your water storage: A water freak: How to store water for emergency short term use.
The next items on the list are related: canned goods and a manual can opener. The goal here is to put away some food items that you enjoy, that require minimal cooking, are tasty and - here is the rub - are calorie dense. This is not the time to worry about the very best in low fat, diet-friendly foods. What you are looking at are foods that are going to feed your body with energy.
Have you ever analyzed the contents of M.R.E.s? (If you are not familiar with that term, M.R.E. stands for “Meal ready to eat” such as the precooked and prepackaged meals used by military personnel in combat.) Many such meals seem tiny in quantity by today’s standards and yet the total calorie count, per meal, is 1,200 calories or more. Personally, that is my own daily calorie allotment so I if ate two or three a day – oh my -I think you get the point.
The moral of this lesson is that in a crisis or emergency situation, your body needs fuel and fuel means calories. As you are planning your canned food storage items, think calories and lots of them.
One of the easiest ways for a beginner to tackle the canned food storage task is to open up their cupboard or pantry and raid the contents. And for the more experienced prepper? You are still going to want to take a peek in your cupboards and take a look at the foods you are currently eating and hopefully enjoying. Have you included these with your existing supplies? What better time than now than to go take a look. Pick and choose some new items and add them to what you already have.
Here are some of the canned and prepared food items that I personally have stored away in my survival pantry:
Canned tuna (purchase pre Fukushima)
Mac and Cheese
The last items on our Month 1 gear and supplies list are flashlights and batteries. This is one area where you are going to want to do a bit better than your 99 cent flashlight from the dollar store. Not that I don’t love those little LEDs that cost just a few bucks each but in a power outage, you are going to need something a bit more powerful. I like a Maglite (which could also be used to bonk someone in the head but that is another story) or a tactical flashlight. And batteries. Lots of batteries. It is all well and good that you are a good steward of our planet and use rechargeable batteries but trust me, in a power out, grid down situation, you will be thankful that you have a healthy supply of standard Eveready's.
Let us move on the Month 1 Tasks, the first of which is to inventory your existing supplies, including camping gear. What I did when I first got started prepping is walk around the house, the yard and the garage, taking note of the items I had on hand that could be used if the power were out, if a natural disaster or storm shut down the roadways, or if there was some other crisis.
Here is a starter list of things to check on:
First aid supplies
Outdoor cooking facilities
Knives, hatchets and saws (for cutting away brush)
Self-powered radio gear
Sleeping bags & tents
Firearms and self-defense items
Remember, at this point we are merely taking an inventory so you can assess any gaps in your gear and think about making a purchase of those missing items in the ensuing months. The list of what you have will probably be different from the list above as will, ultimately, the list of what you need.
The important thing is to know what you already have and also the condition it is in. This will insure that the money you spend down the road is well spent on items you need and not duplicates of items you already own. Also, once you have taken an inventory, you can watch for deals and sales on those very same items.
Another task for month 1 is to get out those Sharpie's and mark the date you fill the water containers or put the food aside for emergency use. Now some will argue that you should mark everything with the expiration date but to me, you need a PhD in code breaking to understand those expiration dates that appear on cans and packaged food. I feel you are much better served by focusing on an effective rotation system – first in first out as us accountant’s like to say.
The Final Word
The very first month in implementing your plan to be prepared does not have to be difficult, nor does it have to be time consuming or unnecessarily expensive. Please, whatever you do, do not get frustrated. There is a lot of support out there in the online community to help you get going.
And for the not-so-newbie? What better time than now to go back and review your progress and perhaps share your experience with an unenlightened family member or a favorite friend. Share this article with them and help them get started on their journey toward a preparedness lifestyle. Be gentle with them if they don’t at first understand. In the long run, they will thank you.
For more information, visit my website at http://www.backdoorsurvival.com and the article 12 Months of Prepping – The First Year. Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!