Friday, May 21, 2010

Preparedness 101

My neighbor Enola Gay recently posted a blog entry called "Preparedness 101." (She's having some technical difficulties with her blog's format but hopes to have it straightened out shortly; please stand by.) Enola and I are both ramping up our preparedness efforts and feel the need to share our thoughts. Besides, several readers have asked, "What can I do to prepare?"

So, between Enola and myself, here are some ideas.

Talk to anyone about preparedness and you’ll get all sorts of advice on what to do. Certainly most or all of the advice focuses on our core needs – food, water, heat, and sanitation – but after that the advice spills over into whatever personal obsession the preparer has.

And, except for those core areas, there is no one-size-fits-all advice for preparing, because everyone’s circumstances and living situations are different. What applies to a farm family won’t apply to a suburban family or an urban family.

Remember, you can’t do everything. You can’t get a cow if you live in the city. Beyond supplying your immediate needs (food, water, heat, sanitation), the most important thing you can acquire is knowledge and skills. As one reader put it, you prepare the same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time. And, anything is better than nothing. Wise words.

What are you preparing for? I believe everyone should be prepared for a loss of services (electricity, heat, and water) for a minimum of 24 hours. This means providing whatever it takes to keep you comfortable for at least one day of no services. We recently had a five-hour power outage and ended up having some neighbors over for dinner and pleasant conversation because they had no way to heat or light their home, no way to get water, no way to cook food. Folks, that’s ridiculous.

Beyond that, it depends on your particular interests, concerns, and circumstances to decide how much to prepare.

If you’re preparing for TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it), that’s a whole lot different than preparing for a single day without electricity.

You also have to consider the circumstances of your particular family. The needs of teenagers are different than the needs of babies. The needs of elderly relatives are different than the needs of someone who is handicapped or chronically ill. These must all be taken into consideration during your preparedness efforts.

One thing to keep in mind is what Enola’s family calls the “Rule of Three.” You should have three ways to do all the critical things necessary for daily comfort or survival. This way if one thing is unavailable, you have at least two other backup options. Right now most people in this country have a “Rule of One.” If that one thing goes out – say, electricity – you’re stuck. Vulnerable. Stranded.

The Rule of Three should apply minimally to heating, food, water, and sanitation. You should have three ways to keep warm, to eat, to drink, and to use the toilet.

Obviously these “threes” will differ according to where and how you live. Our “Rule of Three” for cooking, for example, is as follows: our propane stove, our wood cookstove, and our wood heating stove. If we run out of propane, we fall back on our wood cookstove. If for whatever reason we can’t use that (though I cannot fathom how or why we couldn’t), there’s always our wood parlor stove where we can at least heat things on its surface.

But if you live on a 7th-floor apartment in Manhattan, your “Rule of Three” will be different. Your first option will be your electrical stove, of course. But if the power goes out, perhaps you can fire up the barbecue on your balcony. If that can’t be done, then have some MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) on hand.

Same with water. Same with heat. Same with sanitation. Think it through.

Water: everyone should have at least ten gallons of potable water stored up, no excuses. Heat: if you have no way to heat your home except electricity, you should have sufficient blankets and warm clothing on hand. Sanitation: if your toilet cannot be flushed, have a five-gallon bucket lined with a heavy-duty trash bag and a seat ready to go.

So those are your core basics: food, water, heat, sanitation. Rule of Three. Get busy.

Once those are established, there are a zillion other areas where preparedness can be applied.

For example, firearms. I happen to think you should have a minimal arsenal on hand (with lots of extra ammunition) to protect yourself, your family, and your property against violent marauders. It’s one thing to voluntarily help those who need help by distributing food or inviting someone in to stay warm. It’s a whole different issue if someone is determined to remove your supplies by force, and who doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process. See the difference?

Lighting. Oil lamps are cheap. Even cheaper, considering ordering some mason cap/burners (a set of ten for $22, item #10BR3273, from Southern Lamp Supply). These will turn any canning jar into an oil lamp (glass globes aren’t included, so you’ll need to get those separately). You don’t need to buy that ridiculously overpriced scented lamp oil – a few gallons of kerosene (available in most hardware stores) will do just fine. Keep extra glass globes handy in case you break one (you can find them at thrift stores for pennies).

And matches – got enough? Your rule of three might include a firestarter kit. How about feminine hygiene? Forgot that, didn’t you? Cloth diapers? Cheap washcloths (3/$1) at the dollar store for back-up toilet paper?

You also need to prepare for whatever natural disasters your location is subject to. Here in the inland northwest, we don’t ever have to worry about hurricanes or tornadoes. We DO have to worry about earthquakes and wildfires. Your preparations should include natural disasters. When a hurricane is bearing down on Florida, it always stuns me to see the obligatory news reports of massive crowds at Home Depot buying plywood, duct tape, and bottled water. For pete’s sake, Florida gets hurricanes nearly every year. What the hell are people doing waiting so long to prepare? What kind of madness is that?

Don’t ever, ever think you can prepare for something after the fact. By definition, “preparing” means your actions precede the event. Duh.

A couple people have asked the question, which is more important? Getting out of debt or preparing? The answer is, both. Your resources, limited as they are, should be divided for awhile. Keep paying down your debts, but divert some of your money and efforts into preparing as well. Remember, a lot of preparing can be done cheap. Lots of things can be found at thrift stores. You can buy bulk foods at restaurant supply stores (in our area, we go to Cash & Carry) a whole lot cheaper than retail groceries. You can pick up food-grade storage buckets with gasketed lids at many grocery-store bakeries (in Coeur d'Alene, I get 3.5 gallon buckets with lids for $2 each at Super 1 Foods).

Here’s an interesting side-note. One time, just out of curiosity, I got onto a forum that occasionally deals with preparedness issues, and I asked a pointed question of urban dwellers: what would you do if the bleep hit the fan?

Answers ranged from the sensible (folks who were fairly prepared in their urban dwellings) to folks who simply planned to leave the city (how?) and bunk with more prepared friends.

The funniest answers were those who confidently planned to harvest wild greens and other freely-available edibles and survive that way. I nearly fell over laughing. Can you imagine millions of people in Chicago or Los Angeles scouring edges of sidewalks for filthy polluted plantain leaves? If they even knew what plantain looked like? And what if it’s winter and there isn’t any plantain growing? And how will you eat it? I hope you weren’t planning on washing or cooking it, because you can’t wash or cook, remember? And you’d better not need to use the toilet either, otherwise you’ll be peeing in some empty lot (just don’t pee on the plantain, okay?).

In other words, the depth of peoples’ naïveté, ignorance, cockiness, and idiocy was breathless to behold. If the bleep were to hit the fan, these people would be holed up terrified in their dark, cold apartments, fearful of setting foot outside to look for plantain because of the gangs of violent marauders roaming the streets.

So if you live in the city, have enough preparations on hand to hunker down for a week or more in some comfort without setting foot outside your apartment. Have those four core needs addressed (food, water, heat, sanitation). Then, as your finances permit, consider longer-term preparedness as well.

That’s all I’ll address in this rather long post. I’ll keep posting as questions arise or as I think of more stuff to add.


  1. you tell em sister. I just saw a video on the earthquake in Mexicali on the same continent we inhabit and after that I just had to take a look at my preparedness again. It is only a second away and there won't be time to prepare after something happens.


    is a great resource.

  3. Save the Canning JarsMay 21, 2010 at 8:24 PM

    Great preparedness post! I felt a very strong urgency last Sunday that we don't have much time left. Sat down with the husband and said, "We're not ready!" We have an outstanding supply for 6 months, but I'd like to see a year's worth. Told him that if there is anything we need, NOW is the time to get it.

    Today ordered 500 lbs. of hard white wheat, 100 lbs. of oat groats, 100 lbs. of spelt, 90 lbs. of Kamut, 15 6 gallon food grade buckets and lids, 2 cases of dough enhancer, and one case of SAF yeast. Just trying to boost what we already have stocked.

    Husband wants another big propane tank to boost our Coleman camping oven to 1750 hours of cooking time. Already have a wood burning stove/oven combo from Australia that is a delight to cook on. Have much wood ready. Have one freestanding GIANT burner (hooks to propane for camping use) that will allow me to can anything in the freezer if it thaws out from losing electricity. He wants more ammo and taking himself & son to concealed carry class. Wants more silver for barter. I want him to get 3 or 4 oz. of gold to carry when he travels by air so he could buy a used car/gas to get himself back home and not be stranded if the economy tanks while he's far from home. And most importantly, we need a new pump head for the old 35 ft. hand dug well and maybe get the windmill going that is sitting idle above the well(our house is 104 yrs old built before OKLA became a state). Need more grape seed extract drops for water purification. Have filtration.

    And yet this week I've talked to people who have head knowledge of what is going on but are making NO preparations...just trusting God to take care of them. I'd like to be like the little boy in the Bible who had the loaves and fishes that he gave to Jesus to bless, which were miraculously multiplied to feed the multitude. Yes, Jesus will do the miraculous, but I vote we give Him something to work with!
    Keep preaching preparedness Patrice! Even those of us in the choir need to hear it again!

  4. Wow! This is impressive!

    - Patrice

  5. This sounds serious! Let us know if you need food parcels. After all you did the same for us in the War. I can remember the dried egg to this day. I am sure we can do better than that. . .

  6. Found your site several months ago and have enjoyed it. Have been prepping for several years now I find that I have put one major purchase for too long. I am in the panhandle of Florida and cant seem to find wheat anywhere close. Have found several places over the web but the shipping is about more than the wheat. Any suggestions?

  7. Hamyheadmp, about the only thing I can suggest is to get hold of your local Mormon church and see if you can purchase wheat through their cannery. We're not Mormon but we're (literally) surrounded by them, and they very kindly help me purchase wheat through their storage/canneries. It's not like a store - you can't just walk in and buy anything - but if a Mormon person agrees, you might be able to accompany them and/or have them purchase some wheat for you. Just a thought.

    Alternately, you might see if any "survival"-type storefronts are in your region. They often have bags of wheat for sale.

    If you find some that is affordable, post a comment so others can follow your example.

    - Patrice

  8. Great advice!!! The only thing I can think to add (and perhaps you addressed this and I just missed it) is to stock up on medication--from basic first aid needs to whatever prescription drugs you may need. I have very poor eyesight, the very first step I took toward preparedness was to make sure that I carried my "backup glasses" with me everywhere and to stock up on my supply of disposable contact lenses and saline solution. It sounds so basic, but I literally would be helpless without glasses/contacts. As always, great advice, Patrice. Thank you (and all you helpful commenters!) for continuing to confirm what the Lord has laid on our hearts as well.

  9. This post has caused me to search out other survival blogs, and here's one with some good info too...he breaks it into short-term, emergency type of survival, and long-term survival.

    I want to make a master list from the various websites that list the things we need. Thanks Patrice, this is really helpful info.

  10. I just have a quick question for you, Patrice, and for anyone else who might have an opinion. What are your thoughts on buying gold? (From a source such as Goldline.) I've read that it can be confiscated by the federal gov't in the event of an emergency, and I'm not even sure how useful it would be in an emergency, but in the interest of preparedness, I thought I would ask. Any thoughts?

  11. Just found your site today through a link from There's always more to learn. I have a suggestion for hamyheadmp for finding wheat. Look up feed stores in your phone book and visit them. Ask if they have anything for human consumption. We have a grain elevator close by that sells feed and by getting to know the people I began purchasing 50 lb. bags of hard red wheat for $10 (they told me it's what they use at home) and field corn (dried whole corn in 50 lb. bags for $8). I get buckets with lids from the bakery in a local grocery store (free) and can buy dry ice in any of the grocery stores in our area (they provide a small chunk free for meats and frozen foods you buy to get them home in good shape).

  12. Hamyheadmp, is a great resource for bulk grains. They have a flat rate shipping fee of $4.99, no matter the weight! We've purchased quite a bit from them and are very happy with the quality.

    They offer monthly discounts when you sign up for their e-newsletter also.

  13. To "Save the Canning Jars" - would love to hear more about your wood stove/oven combo, I've got that on my "wish list" but husband thinks it's ridiculous. Did you get the plain one or the soapstone sides, too? We live in Oregon, and I have been emailing with a retailer in Troy MT who sells the oven (w/o soapstone sides).

    I also felt that "strong urgency" about a year ago to start my preparedness efforts, and appreciate the posts others have here about what the Lord has placed on their hearts.

  14. To "Save the Canning Jars" I would like to know where you got your wheat also how to store it. Please provide websites or phone nos. I've heard about oxygen absorbing packets for keeping the food fresh. My husband is against buying large sacks of flour b/c he says most of it has weevil eggs inside already.

  15. Just a few things I have learned over a bout 2 years of prepping,
    when storing wheat ect,use the dry ice plan.
    put a small bit of dry ice in on top of your wheat or whatever and let it melt. the vapors will push out the o2 and when it is allmost gone clap on an air tight lid no o2 the bugs can't breath and if the eggs hatch they die, also if you put your buckets in a freezer for 48 hrs any eggs in your wheat or grain will freeze and burst so no worries there. there are many resourses on the web but I strongly suguset getting the book (how to survive the end of the world as we know it 0 by john Rawles the guy that has survival bolg lots of good info there too