If you woke up tomorrow to a disaster, would you be able to survive? Forget survival, would you even know what to do first? Sadly, the answer for most Americans is "no idea at all." The average family typically doesn't even have enough food for five days, and just getting started prepping can seem like an overwhelming task itself. When you first start researching, the amount of information to absorb is massive. There's survivalists out there who have been crafting and refining their preparations for years, even decades, and their plans are so complex you simply don't know where to begin. The real trick is just to get started. Being prepared for a disaster is very similar to buying insurance. You hope you never need to use it, but if the unexpected happens you'll be glad you got it ready. So what should you do first? Before you can even get started you need to figure out where you are today. Jump online and do some research, and you'll find there's an almost endless amount of resources talking about the subject of prepping - in a huge amount of detail. What you want to look for are getting started guides, and just start reading and absorbing the information about what it takes to start preparing your family for a disaster. Once you know a little about what it takes, you can follow our 8 steps to survival:
1. Plan for the worst
There's a very small chance the event you fear actually happens, but it's quite realistic to expect something may happen which can disrupt your life completely. Sit down with a pen and paper, and work out what it would take to get you and your family comfortably through a disaster. Write down how you would get your family together, how you would first make contact, and where you could go to keep safe and ride out the disaster. Consider any relatives who may rely on you, as well as family pets in your planning. Make note of every asset you already have, and start a "to-do" list of the things you still need to organize and buy. This one is best kept in a hard-copy, so you can access it no matter what. Get your family involved too, as the more they know about your preparations, the better.
2. Put together an emergency kit
What happens if you can no longer stay in your home? You need a plan to escape, and the kit which helps you do this is often dubbed the "bug out bag" by survivalists. This is a pre-assembled pack containing the items you need to get through the first 72 hours of a crisis. Typically it will contain general survival gear, copies of important documents, food, clothes, water and a plan to get to your back-up safe house. It should also contain an emergency contact list, with your friends, family, and any important numbers.
3. Stock up on water
One of the cheapest things you can begin stockpiling is water. FEMA recommends to keep three days worth at a minimum, and you should aim to have a gallon per person per day. It's only a small investment to make in the health and well-being of your family, and the best way is to use 5 gallon jugs until you have at least a month's supply in your stores. Once you've got this organized, consider how you plan to keep your water levels stocked should you need to start using it. Do you have a secondary water source, or a water harvesting system to top up your supply if your taps stop working?
4. Begin to fill your pantry
In a crisis, a supermarkets shelves can empty in a matter of hours. For a survivalist the rule of thumb is to have at least 12 months of food on hand to see you through even the worst crisis. The trouble is, this amount of food is ridiculously huge, and people are going to notice when you're trying to load 15 trolleys worth of cans in the back of your SUV. To start with you're better off 'over-shopping' and slowly building up your pantry until you have enough stored food to cover an extra week, then an extra two, then an extra month - and build on it from there. Just remember to pick nutrient dense foods, that are good for your body, and have an expiration date far in the future.
5. When the lights go out
Consider how self-sufficient your home really is. Would you be able to survive for 24 hours without any electricity? What if this became 5 days, or 10? In a major disaster, the power grid is likely to go down, and you need to be able to manage should it not come on again for days, or even weeks. Easy fix solutions are to pick up a few flashlights and batteries, long burning candles, kerosene lamps and even the solar powered garden lights you normally stick in the garden. This ensures you can see during the night, and if you're looking to invest in a more permanent solution consider buying a petrol-powered generator, or installing solar solutions into your home.
6. Prepare for danger
It doesn't matter if you've got 5 years worth of food stored if you're robbed two days into a disaster situation. A crisis brings out the worst in humanity, especially when there are people going cold and hungry because they haven't adequately prepared themselves. In large-scale disasters, you cannot rely on services like the police force to help, just as many Americans found during Hurricane Katrina. Now is the time to think about ways you can make your home more defensible, with lockable security doors and windows, and practicing operational security (OPSEC) by not advertising your massive food stores to your neighbors. You should also consider investing in defensive items like a big family dog and a firearm along with adequate training to help ensure your family's safety.
7. Stay sanitary
Without running water it can be difficult to stay clean. Build this concern into your plans, and stock up on disposable items like paper plates, cutlery, and cups, so you aren't worried about doing the dishes every night. You also need to investigate if your toilet will continue to function once the power goes out, and have a back-up plan in case the sewers stop transporting the waste from your home.
8. Sort out your finances
This last point seems a little silly, as in a true end of the world scenario your finances will no longer matter. Where this point is critical however is right now. It takes cash to be able to purchase the gear you need, and finance the training and supplies you need to become prepared to survive. Sit down and do a comprehensive review of your finances, and see if there are any areas you can cut back on to allow you to reach your goals on your initial "to-do" list a little faster. Chances are there will be items like your cable TV, or the amount of dinners you eat out each week that you can cut back on. An extra $30 a week will go a long way towards getting you better organized. You need to consider your survival plan as a journey. It's not a quick set of things you can buy, then dump in the garage and hope for the best. Learning to survive is a mindset change you need to make to ensure you and your family are in the best possible situation in a crisis, no matter what comes at you. Time, effort and perseverance are your best allies here, and when something bad does happen you'll be glad you got organized first. What are you going to do today to start preparing?