We never know when a disaster is going to hit or even what kind of disaster could happen — natural, terror, or even a financial crisis (such as losing a job.) While it’s easy to say, “Oh that would never happen to us,” the fact of the matter is…it could (unless, of course, you live in the middle of the country — probably no risk of a hurricane there!)
I’d rather go my whole life being prepared for the unexpected hardship or disaster and never use that preparation than be presented with something and not be prepared. I want to be the person that people will try to come to because they weren’t prepared, rather than the other way around! Right now…I’m about half way there!
It can be hard (and expensive) to get prepared, I know! However, it pays off. There are many things you can do to prepare your family for a disaster and many of those ways are free. Here are 10 ways to prepare your family for the unexpected.
1. 72 Hour Kit
I think I have been told hundreds of times the importance of a 72-hour kit. And do we have one? Well, yes. But not until a few weeks ago did we have a complete one. We bought a container awhile ago that we started putting items in, but then forgot about it along the way.
During most emergencies, those first 72 hours are when emergency help will have the hardest time getting to you, which is why it’s important to have one. There are plenty of websites out there that have tips for creating a 72-hour kit — I personally like this list. I think one of the easiest way to build a 72-hour kit is to build it one week at a time.
Or, if you don’t want to just build it up a little at a time, you should consider getting one from a preparedness company. This is what I personally did, because, well, I just don’t have time to put one together otherwise. This is the one we have from Survival Paradise.
You can also get tons on Amazon for pretty good prices, and there are a lot of preparedness companies out there. I really like Valley Food Storage. They have tons of great food storage products, but they also have 72-hour emergency kits as well!
2. Have a Family Plan
Talk with your children about what you would do if a disaster happened — come up with a family meeting space in several locations. So, for instance, a place outside your home, a place in your neighborhood, a place in your city, etc. You should also come up with a list of people to contact, in case you aren’t able to get in contact with each other right away.
Going over this plan on a semi-regular basis is a great idea, and it will help you (and your kids) be prepared if something bad does happen.
3. Food Storage
When talking about being prepared, I think food storage would probably be the first topic that comes to mind. Food is something you don’t really want to be without in a disaster and building up a nice stockpile of shelf stable food is very important.
There’s a lot of different companies that provide food storage. We’ve bought food storage buckets at Costco and at local grocery stores as well. Food storage doesn’t necessarily have to be just freeze-dried foods either. Of course, that lasts the longest, and you will have an easier time using it if there’s a power outage. But we are always stocking up at case lot sales at our local grocery stores. A few times a year, the stores will put a lot of their shelf stable foods on sale for pretty cheap prices.
I think the highest quality food storage we have gotten is from Valley Food Storage. The food tastes great, it isn’t full of junk, and the prices are very affordable. They are always having sales going on! You can almost always get free shipping.
Something with food storage is that you should use it in your everyday cooking and not just have it sit there, waiting for a disaster. Food storage eventually does go bad, so learning how to cook with it is a good way to know how you would do in a disaster. I always use our Thrive food storage in a lot of different meals, as well as the things we buy at case lot sales.
4. Water Storage
Even more important, in my opinion, than food storage, is water storage. According to this post, a person can survive 30-40 days without food, so long as they are properly hydrated (though there are a variety of factors that weigh into that.) The ability to survive without water is much, much shorter. So, basically, water is super important to survival!
Not only is it good to have enough water to drink, but also to use for bathing and for going to the bathroom (if all sources of water are gone, you’ll definitely want this for those tasks!) We try to keep 72 hours worth of water in our home right now, mainly in water bottles that we got on sale at the store. We used to fill up empty milk jugs with water that we could use for bathing/bathroom. Having about 1 gallon of water per person, per day, should be sufficient!
Water barrels can also be very useful!
Awhile back, my dad was the emergency preparedness specialist in his ward (congregation). He discovered something called GroupMe and added all of our family members to it. Basically, it’s a free, group texting system. When one person texts the number, everyone else immediately gets the text and responds. Having something like this set up is a great way to get in contact with family members fast. If your kids have cell phones, I highly suggest doing that. It takes a lot less time than sending individual texts to everyone, and everyone gets updates right away. Of course, if you have a chatty family like I do, you might want to set up two accounts — one for emergencies only, and another one where you can send out other family updates.
6. Extra Cash on Hand
I’m really bad at this — I really don’t like carrying around cash. However, during an emergency, it may be impossible to use your debit or credit card. Having cash on hand is really important — whether it’s to buy gas, food, etc. Who knows, you may even have to buy something from an individual and most people probably don’t have a credit card machine on hand.
7. Practice Skills
You can talk all you want about what to do in an emergency, but if you don’t practice some of those skills, they might as well be useless (such as building a fire.) Forrest and I think it would be fun to take your family camping and practice some survival skills there. That way, it’s still a fun, family activity, and it’s more interactive than just sitting inside watching a video or reading a book on how to survive.
8. Have an emergency contact list in house
My mom always had a list of important family and friend contact numbers in the cupboard at her house. Even though most people have cell phones now and can put important phone numbers there, during an emergency, your phone might die, and having a hard copy of those numbers or people could be important (assuming you have a landline!) Even just having this list for your kids, in case something goes wrong and you aren’t home, can be helpful so they know who to contact.
Twitter isn’t just a silly social network. It’s a powerful way to communicate information quickly. I feel like with every emergency or catastrophe situation I see being reported nowadays, they always reference Twitter as being the first place information came in. You can subscribe to tweets from local leaders, family members, news organizations, etc. and can even have the most important messages come straight to your phone. For instance, my parent’s congregation at church has one set up just for the members so they can get information out to church members quickly.
10. Be Well Informed of Local Issues/Possible Disasters
Being aware of what types of disasters can occur is important. For instance, here in Utah, there’s a very large fault line that could cause a very large earthquake…so that’s something I’ve been vigilant about learning about. There have also been tornadoes in Utah (as well as in Colorado, where I grew up) so I’ve learned about what to do in a tornado. However, we aren’t going to have a hurricane or tsunami here, so I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out the best ways to survive one of those (maybe if I go to the ocean during hurricane season, I would feel differently.)
While this isn’t necessarily a big issue in the US (yet), knowing about civil unrest and possible man-made disasters would be important as well.
11. Don’t Let Gas get too low in car
You never know when you are going to have to pack up and drive a good distance in your car during an emergency. And, the worst thing, would be to get in your car and realize you are on empty. During a disaster, you’d better believe that gas prices will be hiked up a lot, and there may even be a gas shortage. Keeping your tank about 1/2 full is recommended. Not only will that hopefully get you where you need to go, but it also helps with fuel efficiency!
Invest in a portable charger for your phone, tablets, etc. We have one that, after charging it, can be plugged into our phone and charge for eight hours (without the device being plugged into the wall.) We use it a lot on road trips, since our phones die pretty quickly, but I feel like it would be super helpful if we were in a situation where our power was out. Obviously, the one we have has it’s downsides, particularly if your power is out and you hadn’t remembered to charge it!
Luckily, there’s a solution for that! You can get a solar powered charger. With a few of the tips above, you obviously need a phone or access to the Internet, so having something like this would help you have access to those.
What tips do you have for being prepared?
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.