Preparedness Pays: Starting Planning

At this point, despite the ease of planning for just a few things rather than the infinite number of possible disasters, many people freeze up at the thought of planning. Maybe it’s because there is still a residual bit of fear of trying to figure out all that can go wrong. Maybe it’s because starting to plan seems like a word problem in math. Maybe it is a fear of starting the process and perhaps being labled a “prepper.” Who knows.

The thing is, if we borrow a technique from Sir Issac Newton, starting your core plan is easy. Sir Issac was known for what he called “thought experiments” where he postulated and extrapolated subjects in his mind. His “thought cannon” was really the start of the concept of orbits, microgravity, and more. Being intelligently lazy, let’s steal his page and engage in a thought experiment.

This one is easy: imagine you are trapped in your house for three days. For this experiment, we will keep it easy and assume that gas, water, power, etc. remain uninterrupted. The key is, you can’t go outside, run to the store, or anything else. Your doors are sealed.

Do you have enough food? Maybe not what you want at that moment, but do you have enough food to feed yourself, or all in the household? Do you have enough toothpaste, soap, floss, hygiene items, laundry and dish detergent, and other supplies? Do you have enough pleasure items (alcohol, snacks, other nice-to-haves) for the three days? If not, what of these do you not have in sufficient quantity? Write them down. That’s the start of your basic planning list. These are the things you need to get and keep in stock to be prepared for minor emergencies.

Now, take that out to a week. Adjust your list accordingly. You now have a basic list of the things you need to do, purchase, etc. to start tobe prepared for emergencies.

The next step in our thought experiment branches out a bit. Ask yourself what safety equipment you have on hand? Do you have a first aid kit that can handle minor cuts, burns, and other delights? If so, great — just remember to keep it up to date. Do you have a fire extinguisher that can handle a minor stove fire or other event? If not, put that on the list. Do you have enough of a supply of medicines, supplements, and other health maintenance/support supplies for a week? If not, again, add those to the list. Is there any other safety or support items or equipment you need that are unique to you and your situation? If so, add them to the list as well.

Yes, there are lists out there that can tell you all sorts of things to get and do; however, most of them are one-size-fits-all plans. You and your situation are unique, and your planning should be as well. You know what you need, how much room you have to store items, and other issues that are going to impact what you do, when, where, and how.

For example, where I lived before had very limited pantry space. It impacted how much I could store in the pantry itself. One solution to that was access to some other space (under the bed, garage, etc.) where I used plastic totes to store some of the items on my list, and not just canned goods. Your planning needs to revolve around your needs and what space or spaces of which you can make use.

Okay, you have a basic list of the items you need to get or get enough of to maintain a week’s supply. That’s a good place to start if you are not already into preparedness. It is, however, just a start and there are good reasons to work up to a longer timeframe as you can.

Now, let’s do a different thought experiment. Again, you are sealed in your house for three days. This time, the normal services are out: no water, no electricity, no internet, etc. For this one, the sewer is still working. Think things like this can’t happen? Just look at what happened in Texas recently.

First up, lighting. Do you have flashlights? If so, are the batteries still good? Do you have spares that are in date? What alternate forms of lighting do you have, if any? Candles, lanterns, and other delights come in handy. If nothing, you need to start your first equpment list.

Second, what alternate means do you have to heat or cook food? Any? We’ll relax the seal on the doors so that if you have a grill you can use it. Most gas grills today have at least one side burner, so in addition to cooking on the grill proper, you can cook on the side burner. A few years ago, where I lived had a gas issue, so for several days I cooked my breakfast on the side burner. You make do with what you’ve got. You can cook on a charcoal or wood grill, but be prepared to clean up. Do you camp? If so, bet you have some form of camp stove. Nothing? Again, time to put it on the equipment list.

Third, how much water do you have on hand? Do you have any water for flushing the toilet? Do you have a means to bathe without a shower or tub?

To aid your thinking on this, I have two five-gallon sealed buckets with non-portable water set aside just for flushing the toilet. Enough for a week? Not under normal circumstances, but it may be enough for my “mellow yellow” protocol. Stole the name from a line in one of John Ringo’s books where a character put over the toilet a sign saying ‘if it’s yellow it’s mellow, if it’s brown, it goes down.” Fill the cap of a bleach bottle with bleach, put it in with each pee, and you are good for a while. Still have a box of baby wipes around just for things like this.

I also have both bottled water and jugs of water on hand. I use both: bottled water for the day job and jugs of distilled water for making my coffee and other drinks. I have enough to get by for more than a week, and rotate my stock.

Now, to continue the thought experiment. Let’s add the wrinkle of it being winter and cold. How are you going to stay warm? There is no one answer to that. In the past, I’ve used kerosene heaters (not an option where I am currently), propane, and other alternate means — WITH ADEQUATE VENTILATION!!! I also have camping gear, and am not above setting up the tent indoors and having people huddle there for warmth. I also have cold weather gear to wear because I’ve spent time not only in the north, but outside in the north.

There is a lot more I could throw in, but I also consider them advanced planning. For now, I want to keep our thought experiment simple so that you get comfortable with the planning.

With this exercise, you have begun planning to have food and drinks, light so you can do things, and to stay warm at need. Those are the true essentials in an emergency. You have a list of what you do have on hand, and a list of the things you need to get.

With the two lists you now have (first exercise and this one) you know what you need to get, and even a good idea on quantity. Now, you need to sit down and prioritize what you get and when. The items on the first list should be your top priority, but unless you have the funds on hand to get them all at once, add them to your next few grocery lists and pick up a portion at a time. This is easier on the budget, and gives you time to set up your storage. As for the second list, work out a priority list based on your situation and begin making your purchases over time.

For this post, however, I will note that I am advising that people lay in a year’s supply of supplements and OTC medications. One reason is that with two-for-one sales going on at various stores, it is easy and less costly to get the larger amounts. I’ve also discovered that in going directly to company websites, I’m finding better deals on larger amounts that I could through a certain online retailer.

Also, as you look at your lists, see what’s available through yard sales, online sales venues, and other delights. As I noted earlier, the spring is a great time to find deals on winter items, from snowblowers on down, while fall is a good time to get deals on summer items (grills, etc.).

So, you made it through the basics of planning and now have good lists of what you need for your situation. Take the next step and act on those lists.

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