Basic elements of preparation:

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Basics:



Levels of disaster (a lot of opinion here):
[Pretty much from most likely to least likely.]
  1. Personal disaster for your family. Major illness or accident, job loss, house fire. Or even tiny personal "mini-disasters" such as theft of wallet or phone or laptop, or having your phone or laptop die.

  2. Short-term local disruption. Hurricane or blizzard or earthquake interrupts food stores and utilities (electric, water, gas, sewage, internet, roads) for a week or two.

  3. Medium-term local disruption. Major local destruction due to flooding, hurricane, tornado, wildfire. Maybe your neighborhood and house are badly damaged.

  4. National economic crisis or war-based boycott. Such as Venezuela is going through in 2018. Currency collapses, govt services are minimal, stores don't have basic food or supplies.

  5. Complete national societal breakdown. Your country turns into a war-zone.

  6. Worldwide societal breakdown. World war, or a major asteroid strike, or a major fatal out-of-control pandemic.




Elements of preparedness:
  • Relationships.
  • Skills.
  • Materials.
And that's probably in order of hardest-to-easiest. Getting your partner and family on board, getting them to cooperate and learn skills and agree to spend the money, might be hard and take a long time. Last-minute buying of some materials you overlooked, such as more food and water, probably is easy.



General items:
  • Integrate preparation into your life. It's not some separate mode that you switch into in the event of a disaster. You have to practice the skills, use the materials and replenish them, maintain relationships, on a continuing basis. If you want to buy some rural retreat to flee to in a disaster, buy something that also works as a vacation place you can enjoy routinely.

  • Your goal (before and after a disaster) is to have a good life, not just to survive. Fix problems in your "normal" life, don't just provide for a disaster. Fix your finances, your health, your physical fitness, your relationships.
    Fixing those will pay off in a post-disaster situation too. Obsessed with preparing for Apocalypse; can't climb stairs without fainting

  • Simplify your life. If you're driving 100 miles from home to work to school each day, a disaster could catch you stuck in the wrong place. If you're driving 40 miles every other day to go take care of your parents, what will happen to them during/after a disaster ? If the nearest store is 5 miles away, how will you get there after a disaster ?

  • Do things that will be useful even if no disaster ever comes. Avoid things that only pay off if the global economy collapses, or an asteroid hits, or something. Don't go into massive debt to build a bunker, assuming the bank will disappear when the global nuclear war happens.

  • Prepare for the most likely problem first. Probably a weather event; depending on your location, it might be a hurricane or blizzard or earthquake or flood. Maybe you'll be on your own for a week, with no utilities. Can you handle that ?

  • In terms of "likely problems", your death is inevitable, someday. How will your family cope ? Do you have life insurance ? Savings ? Do you have legal stuff and other documents prepared for them ? See my "Legal Stuff" page.

  • Maybe start with some very simple, easy steps: Make sure everyone in the family knows when and how to call ambulance or police. Make sure children and the elderly carry phone numbers of the adults at all times. Buy a basic First-Aid kit, fire protection, 10 gallons of water, extra nonperishable food. Make copies of important documents. A simple, easy start will give you a sense of accomplishment, get you over the hurdle of getting started.

  • Get training before buying anything more than the most basic stuff. Training will help you find out the right things to buy.

  • Don't try to keep up with other preppers. You have to find your own path, your own cost/benefit tradeoffs. Some people will move to a farm and try to become completely self-sufficient so they could survive forever in a complete societal breakdown. Well, I don't want to be a farmer, I don't want to slaughter my own animals, I don't want to live out in the middle of nowhere. Decide what is right for you. And you can change that over time, if necessary.

  • Similarly, decide what your limits are. Personally, I'm comfortable accepting that if a full-out global nuclear war or a complete global economic collapse or an enormous asteroid strike happens, my family and I will die (along with 99% of humanity). I'm not going to worry about those. I'm not going to do anything special to try to survive those.

  • Mostly ignore the (non-disaster) news. Some preppers obsessively read the world news, looking for and maybe hoping for signs of coming civil war, signs of world economy collapsing, signs of coming racial war, or whatever. That's a waste of time. Prepare for more likely, smaller things such as weather events. Over time, you can increase your level of preparation.

    Now, when a disaster is imminent or happening or just past, you want to listen to the news for specific info: what's down, what's happening, what does the govt say to do, where are aid distribution points, etc.

  • Be aware that a lot of people are making a very good living off scaring people:
    • "D's/Obama/Hillary are coming for your guns": the R's, the NRA, the gun-manufacturers are laughing all the way to the bank about how gullible you are.
    • Alex Jones gets fame and lots of fortune by panicking people and selling expensive buckets of crap-food to them.
    • "Fiat money is about to collapse, buy gold/silver from me".
    • "The government and media are evil, don't accept anything they say": the Russians love this.

    There is a tiny amount of truth in each of these things. The D's do favor more gun-control. People should have some extra food in storage. Governments do have a lot of debt and keep printing more money. Some media is biased, and some media flat-out lies. But mostly the people hard-selling these stories are trying to manipulate you into doing what they want.

  • You want balance. It's not good if you have plenty of food, water and weapons, but no medical skills or supplies. Or some other imbalance.

  • You want backups and fallbacks. You shouldn't be the only person in your family who knows how to operate everything. You don't want a fire in your kitchen or a flood in your basement to destroy all your food.

  • For any material item, think of storage, procurement, and production. How much do you have, how can you get more, how can you make more ?

  • Maybe do an occasional test-run. Turn off all the utilities (electric, water, gas, internet, phones) for a day, and see how well you can function.

  • Preparation is a marathon, not a sprint. Don't go crazy quickly buying tons of stuff. You'll soon find yourself sitting around bored and hoping a catastrophe happens soon. And minus a lot of money.

  • Preparation should not be totally selfish, and about hiding in a bunker while everyone else starves. Prepare to be able to help your relatives, neighbors, community.




Smaller, more specific items:
  • You can buy just about everything you need in "normal" stores: supermarket, Walmart, hardware store. Don't pay 3x for something just because it comes from a "prepper" store and comes in a camoflauge-colored box.

  • If you get evacuated, or cut off from your home, can you access electronic copies of your ID documents ?

  • Find out about government plans/preparation/advice: what is their plan for providing water or shelter, where are the usual evacuation shelters, what do they expect you to bring with you, etc.

  • Consider different scenarios: flood means you have to leave your house for months, government quarantine means you have to stay in your house for weeks/months, etc.

  • Map out family meeting-points, and evacuation routes, and out-of-area evacuation destinations. What emergency plans do the kid's schools have ? What does the school expect you to do ?

  • Redundancy/resilience: you don't want all your water in one tank, or all of your medical stuff in one bag. What if it gets contaminated or stolen or destroyed somehow ?

  • Things to have in your house/apartment:
    • Water (stock, empty containers, filtration, disinfectant, rain capture).
    • Food.
    • Sanitation (including shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, cleaners, etc).
    • First Aid.
    • Medicines (your prescriptions, anti-biotics, spare eyeglasses, masks, gloves, rescue breathing mask).
    • Security (locks, alarms, whistles, weapons, dogs).
    • Communications.
    • Power/fuel.
    • Cash.
    • Support network (family, friends, neighbors).
    • Tools/spares to maintain and repair stuff. Spare chargers for devices, spare earbuds, spare cables.
    • Batteries.
    • Information (disaster plans, important documents, how-to books, equipment manuals).
    • Comfort items (entertainment, alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, tea, caffeine, sugar, sweetener, etc).
    • Shelter (if you're away from home, or home is damaged).


  • How to acquire skills: camping/backpacking classes, FirstAid/medical classes, Emergency Response classes, Search-and-Rescue classes.

  • Do all the adults in your house know how to turn off the main switches/valves for electricity, water, gas ?

  • Do all the adults in your house know what to grab in case of a sudden evacuation ?


Fire protection:
+/-
  • Fire extinguisher. You can buy a 6-KG ABC fire-extinguisher online for about $35.

  • Fire blanket.

  • Smoke alarm.

  • Fume alarm.

  • Fireproof and waterproof "document bag" or safe for documents and backup disks etc.
    +/-
    Document bags/cases available on Amazon for $10 to $50. But they don't specify how long they can resist fire and water, and what temperature the inside will rise to. And various people say "nothing will survive a house fire" and "these protect paper, not disks".

    Most house fires generally don't exceed 650C.

    Disks are more sensitive to heat than flash drives and paper.
    From Fireproof Safes UK's "NT FIRE 017 Fire Test":
    Paper chars ... at 177C; temp rise of more than 50C damages flash drive, CD-ROM, DVD; temp rise of more than 30C damages floppy disk. Says nothing about hard disks. [Suppose normal ambient temp is 35C; that would mean plastic magnetic media damaged around 65C.]

    From Safelinc's "Fireproof Safes & Storage":
    "Starts to degrade: paper at 177C, digital (flash drive, CD, external hard drive) at 120C, magnetic media (tape, floppy, traditional internal hard drive) at 52C." I don't understand the distinction between external and "traditional internal" hard drives. And "rising humidity levels inside the safe can also constitute a hazard for vulnerable data media".

    Someone on reddit said "Standard hard drives start getting higher probability for data loss at 60C." But I wonder if that's for when it's in operation, not powered off. Maybe could survive a higher temperature when off, then cooled down and powered on. Another source: "You need a safe that limits the interior temperature to 52C or 66C for magnetic media like hard drives ...". Another: "a CPU chip will fry at 150C". Typical CPU chip max operating temp is about 100C.

    From Remtech's "Fire Ratings Explained":
    "The critical temperature for computer media is only 55C. Above that temperature all information is lost. The critical temperature for hardware storage is 70C. Above that temperature hardware will be effectively destroyed ..."

    Standards for digital media:
    • EN 1047 Dis or BS EN 1047 Dis: 120 minutes at 1100C, internal not exceed 52C.
    • NT FIRE 017-120 Dis: 120 minutes at 1100C, internal not exceed 52C.
    • UL 72: 120 minutes at 1000C, internal not exceed 52C.
    • MTC DIP120 - 60DMA: 120 minutes at ???, internal not exceed ???.
    • MTC DIP120 - 60DMB: 120 minutes at 1100C, internal not exceed 120C.

    Would be nice if these guys stated exact model numbers and claimed standards, and measured temperatures inside and out:
    TKOR's "Testing Fire Resistant Safes" (video)
    PreppersSurvive's "Do Fireproof Bags Really Work?"
    Mr EastCoastMan's "Is a fire safe actually safe in a fire ?" (video)

    If your safe has mounting holes through its walls, make sure those holes are filled (with bolts and maybe some kind of fire-insulation) whether you mount it or leave it freestanding.

    I see some products that have the title "for your documents and digital media", but then the standards they claim to meet are for paper only, not digital media.

    I see some products that say they meet standard "MTC DIP120 - 60DM", but there seem to be at least "A" and "B" versions of that standard.

    "Defense in depth" probably is a good thing: put a smaller bag inside a bigger bag or a safe.








Water:



Super Prepper's "How to Store Tap Water for Emergencies"
Brett & Kate McKay's "Hydration for the Apocalypse: How to Store Water for Long-Term Emergencies"
Emergency Essentials' "5 Myths about Water Storage"
Will Brendza's "9 Best Water Storage Solutions and Mistakes To Avoid"





Food:







First Aid And Medicine:



KidsHealth's "First-Aid Kit"
Wikipedia's "First aid kit"

Sabiha Sultana's "First Aid Apps for Android"





Security:







Power / Fuel:







Shelter:







Behavior / Choices:







Anti-government stuff:



Many survivalists seem to have some Ayn Rand or cowboy-movie fantasy. They seem to think that the world would be better off if we had no government, every man manufactured all his possessions himself (smelting ore directly, presumably), everyone could do what they wanted, etc.





Miscellaneous:



Leigh Anderson's "Doomsday Prep For Non-Paranoid People"
Alan Henry's "The Complete Guide to What To Do Before, During, and After a Disaster"
Patrick Allan's "Seven Emergency Preparedness Tips You May Not Know"

Many ideas gleaned from In The Rabbit Hole Urban Survival podcast.
A couple of good big-picture episodes: ITRH's "E33: 7 Habits Of Effective Living" and ITRH's "E75: Urban Survival Techniques".

TSP Wiki's "Modern Survivalism"
Super Prepper
The Secure Dad



My preparation status:
Near-zero. We are 5-6 people living in a smallish apartment, and we'll probably have to move in the next 6 or 12 months. Two somewhat-elderly parents, two middle-aged us, sometimes 20ish very overweight son, 10-year-old niece. Already have moving-boxes full from another apartment, stacked in our living room. Little room for storing additional water or food. No medical kit or fume alarm. Fail.

We do have no debt, and my wife is a doctor, and son is finishing medical school. So a couple of pluses. She's worked in Peruvian hills where she was the only doctor for several villages. I lived and cruised by myself for 13 years on a sailboat, catching rainwater and using solar and wind power, repairing engine etc. So a couple more pluses.

11/2018: Installed a couple of smoke-alarms. Bought a 6-KG ABC fire-extinguisher. 6/2019: Improved locks on doors and windows.