The Basics of Prepping

More and more people are preparing today. Why? There are a lot of reasons and if you are visiting this website; you likely already have yours. The bottom line is – this world is not a safe place, and it is just flat out common sense to put some supplies back, just in case.

So, where do you begin? If you are just getting started in prepping you will have a little bit to do, and even though it might look like a lot on paper you will find if you approach the task of taking responsibility for your own well-being in a logical manner it will be possible to digest it in bite-sized chunks.

In this article we will provide you with a basic roadmap for getting started and prep it, both the procedures and the supplies that you will need to sustain you in an emergency or even during a prolonged disaster.

group of hikers

Procedures

Prepping is not just all about buying the latest and greatest outdoor or tactical gear, and then hoarding a lifetime supply of baked beans and TP. Prepping is about knowing what to do in a given situation, and to do that you need to know both what you are dealing with and how to correctly react to a threat. You can accomplish this by following the procedures in this section.

Faith

“Where do I begin?” is a very common question and I always have the same answer – God. In the worst of times as well as the best, God can provide needed guidance. Never underestimate the power of faith when the sky goes dark, the seas roar and the mountains begin to heave.

Assessment

Before you can begin to prepare, you need to know what you are facing. Some threats are universal, while others are endemic do certain places or regions, or only in certain situations or times. Learning how to properly assess your lifestyle and your environment for threats is the first procedure you must learn.

For instance, some of the most statistically likely emergencies to befall you are simple accidents. Car crashes, household mishaps and simple human error are likely to result in injuries of all kinds. You would be wise to prepare for these mundane events despite how small they seem before moving on to larger and more spectacular ones.

Speaking of spectacular ones, no matter where you live, you will have to be on the lookout for various natural disasters. These could be hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, landslides, floods or even volcanic eruptions. nature’s fury is not to be underestimated.

Sadly, we must also be prepared for dealing with human threats. Bad guys could threaten you in the commission of something like a robbery or home invasion, or you might be facing a more persistent threat during times of civil unrest and political upheaval.

Dealing with human-centric threats is entirely different from dealing with natural ones, though you will still need too many of the same skills. Only once you know what is most likely end of most concern, and your life should you begin to plan accordingly. 

Planning

Planning is the process of analyzing what actions you will need to take, and what materials you should have on hand in order to survive a given emergency or disaster determined during the assessment phase previously.

Though many skills in prepping are universal, you will not approach every problem in the same way. Dealing with a tornado looks very different from dealing with a flood, and both look very different from dealing with a home invasion or active shooter.

Consider also what material goods you will need, both for survival in the short-term and the long-term. What are some of your favorite foods that can be stocked away? Where will you keep everything? How many flashlights do you need?

Blankets? How much propane do you have for the grill? No power, no refrigeration, no microwave, no lights, no running water – how will you cope? Taking a few steps now will make things a lot easier later.

The planning phase is when you need to start considering whether or not bugging out or bugging in will be the best solution we’re dealing with a particular problem. You also need to take into account your living arrangements and family situation; your response might look very different if something occurs, and you have to round up your scattered family members.

Prepping : 101 for Beginners

Preparation

The preparation phase is where you will start putting skin in the game. It is in this phase that you will begin to accumulate to the needed items and provisions that you identified in the previous phase, along with building any skills that you might be lacking.

Everybody started somewhere, and the longest journey begins with a single step so don’t feel intimidated or less than just because it seems like you have a lot to do in this phase.

You will find the as you grow in experience and effort during your prepping travels that many items and skillsets are useful in multiple situations. This is because the basics of survival never change.

Later on, identifying a new problem or emergent threat that needs addressing means you will probably have less to do overall in order to prepare for it compared to your first initial forays.

Also keep in mind that the preparation phase includes getting everyone in your family or group on the same sheet of music. Even the most rudimentary introduction to an emergency plan and disaster procedures can help to keep everyone calm and alive.

Remember, you might not always be able to take care of everything you would like to do in order to get prepare; do what you can with what you have and you will still wind up far better off than the average person who doesn’t make any attempt at all to get prepared.

Detection

The detection phase is the one where you actually determine that a threat is both legitimate and imminent, though there are varying degrees of imminent depending on what you are dealing with.

A hurricane that is a week away is still an imminent threat, though one not quite as urgent as the pair of toughs who are bee-lining towards you across a parking lot preparing to hold you up and shake you down.

Detecting a threat relies on both your senses and external apparatuses; you might be able to see a threat coming or hear it, either a natural or man-made one. You might rely on a weather forecasting service to tell you if a tornado watch or warning is in effect, or maybe you have text alerts setup to warn you of anything from riots to avalanche conditions.

Generally speaking, the more advance notice you have of a potential threat, the better off you are, although the very nature of certain threats means you will have but minutes or even seconds to preempt them or attempt to mitigate the damage; these you are usually dealing with in the aftermath!

Execution

This is where the rubber meets the road in prepping. All of your planning and preparation has led up to this moment, all the practice and rehearsals have sharpened you for this. It is happening, this is not a drill!

Though your life and the lives of people you care about might be on the line, you will find that you will likely be staying calm while everyone around you is busy losing their head; that is what we strive to do!

You might not have thought that much of it at the time, but as it turns out practice, proper previous planning and cultivating the correct mindset will do much to keep you effectively during any crisis, and that will keep you alive.

Thanks to your skills and material preparation, and perhaps a little bit of luck, you will live to see another day. Just to make sure you are prepared to survive in the aftermath in case of a long-term situation!

Other Prepping Concepts

Some common tenets to prepping are ideas or concepts that don’t fit cleanly into the simple procedures outlined above. You should familiarize yourself with these below.

Group Up

The popular conception in media that involves one supremely skilled individual taking on the world, tackling any crisis, all on their own with no help is largely just a work of fiction. Though periodically throughout history, there have been some singular individuals who, against all odds, survived seemingly impossible situations all on their own, but they are a vanishingly rare minority.

People typically survive in groups, relying on mutual support and a broad variety of skills in order to accomplish work, provide security and quite literally put more heads together when needed.

It is always in your best interest as a survivor to establish a go-to group of people who you are going to survive with when the chips are down. For many of us, this will be our family members, the good, the bad, and the annoying uncles.

Having even untrained people to watch your back can be valuable, and if you can become the change you want to see in your family they might follow your lead and get serious about getting prepared. The family that trains together survives together!

For those who lack a family or just like family members who are willing to contribute in any meaningful way, a mutual assistance group, or MAG, is an ideal solution. There are as many varieties and variations in local and regional MAGs as there are stars in the sky.

Some of them work together as a sort of built-in family for each other, members sometimes lacking families of their own. Others function as sort of a loose collective or coalition of members, with each member knowing they can call on or draw upon the resources of another member when they are in need.

If you cannot find or cannot join a MAG in your area, you might start your own, and try to draw to your banner people who are of like mind. MAGs often form the core of readiness for a given community or a given area, a sort of prepping “militia”, but one bent towards survival instead of combat.

Bug Out or Bug-In

The most quintessential choice facing many preppers when disaster looms near is whether or not they will attempt to run from it, to get away from it so that they will not be hurt by it. This is known as bugging out.

Conversely, other preppers would prefer to shelter-in-place if at all possible, taking advantage of their home bass stocked with all of its many provisions and tools, and further augmenting their chances of survival with a thorough knowledge of the surrounding terrain, and hopefully some neighbors or friends they can call on when they need help.

I know everyone has their preference, both are entirely valid choices, know some situations lend themselves better to one response over the other. Learning when to make the call on whether or not you should bug-out, as well as being able to handle all of the various factors involved in the bug out, is essential.

You’ll need to know where you are going, how to get there, what you will need to get there, and what you will do in case plans A and B fail.

Bugging in is always somewhat easier, but now the onus will be on you to know when to give up a deteriorating situation. If you wait too long, you might be overtaken by events when you try to evacuate. If you leave too early, you could jump the gun leaving behind a major advantage in the form of your home survival stash.

Both of these concepts are fundamental to prepping, and you will find no shortage of information on both of these topics on this very website. 

Homesteading for Sustainability

Sort of the ultimate extension of the bug-in lifestyle, homesteading is an approach that sees you produce everything or nearly everything you and your family might require on your own property. This usually takes the form of some kind of working farm, or at least some acreage but you can raise livestock and grow some food on.

Though this is seen as sort of an ultimate “goal” in prepping today, and a crown jewel of preparation and self-sufficiency, not too many decades ago this was just called life for most people! The skills and procedures needed for this type of lifestyle are far from lost to history, however, and dedicated interest groups and communities have sprung up around the concept.

For most of us, this is something we will have to work up to gradually, as jumping in all at once and making such a drastic change is likely impossible, both culturally and financially.

Nonetheless, it is still probably somewhat easier than you might be thinking, and one of the best possible things you can do to insulate yourself from the risk inherent to dependency upon civilization to provide your survival necessities. 

Disasters You Should Prepare For

You will regularly read about preparation advice urging you to get ready for doomsday, the “big one” or the end-of-the-world, and though some consideration for such events is worthwhile, if you focus only on the truly catastrophic you will miss the more mundane but far more common threats that can still kill you and your loved ones very dead.

A holistic approach to preparation involves preparing for common, everyday accidents as well as disasters of all kinds, those caused by nature and those caused by mankind. Only by readying yourself for a full spectrum of potential mishaps and emergencies can you claim to have an all-around level of readiness.

Remember, when it comes to survival it is far better to be a jack-of-all-trades, an expert generalist if you prefer, than a master survivor ready for only one or two highly specific situations.

Below is a list of common everyday emergencies and various kinds of disasters that are far more likely to ruin your life and your weekend than any globe-spanning catastrophe. If you are going to start assessing your own risk profile, start with these and plan accordingly! 

Car Crash

Car crashes happen every day and all over America on the streets and highways, and sadly result in tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries annually.

An automobile accident is one of those things they can happen even if you do everything right and make no mistakes; a careless driver, a drunk, mechanical failure or just a sequence of seemingly harmless events that dominoes into a major pile-up. The result is the same burning rubber, mangled metal and smashed bodies.

You should be prepared to deal with the results of a car crash by keeping a vehicular fire extinguisher installed in the cabin, learning extrication techniques and carrying a comprehensive first aid kit along with the skills to use it. Learning defensive and performance driving techniques can help you avoid accidents, or if you can’t, lessen the severity.

House Fire

House fires are one of the most common, personal and most devastating emergencies that can befall us. Each and every, year hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of structures will be rendered uninhabitable, or even burn down completely along with everything inside.

House fires are an an all-or-nothing affair; if you act quickly, and have a little luck on your side along with a capable fire extinguisher you might be able to put it out or control it until the fire department arrives. But once a house fire has grown truly out of control, all you can hope to do is escape the flames.

Many people die in house fires from smoke inhalation, while others burn to death horribly. Regardless, even if you escape with your lives everything you own that was inside your home will be gone. A family fire evacuation plan, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, escape ladders and plenty of fire extinguishers are your best bets for combating them. 

Power Tool / Gun Accident

You know the old saying, accidents happen. They sure do, and anytime you are using a power tool or a firearm the potential for accident exists, either through inattention, simple human error or mechanical failure.

Any of them can produce devastating, grisly laceration or penetration injuries that require immediate intervention if you want to keep your digits and limbs, to say nothing of your life.

You can start to insulate yourself against such an unhappy outcome by getting training in their use, religiously following proper operation and safety protocols, and keeping a first aid kit with trauma supplies handy, along with the skills to use them on yourself or someone else.

Fall

A slip, trip or fall is not always the stuff of comedy. Even a fall from a standing position onto a comparatively level surface can result in gruesome fractures, concussions and internal injuries. A truly out-of-control fall- downstairs, off a ladder or after a skid on slippery tile- can be worse yet.

Household falls are overwhelmingly one of the most common accidents that occur throughout the country and around the world, and though the arrogant might roll their eyes at such an eventuality, knowing how to intervene and render aid after somebody takes a tumble might make the difference. You can prevent yourself from this embarrassing and painful fate by taking care to remediate conditions that will lead to falls and always exercising caution when on a stool or step ladder.

Tornado

Tornadoes are ferociously powerful wind events that can occur anywhere on Earth, but they’re overwhelmingly the most common in North America, especially parts of the Great Plains and Southwest known as “Tornado Alley”.

Tornadoes are capable of spawning quickly and producing the fastest sustained winds of any storm on earth, more than capable of toppling buildings and even hurling cars and trains through the air.

Smaller objects and debris will be turned into lethal projectiles, flaying alive anybody caught outside. There is not much you can do against tornadoes except take shelter in an appropriate location, but you can give yourself a leg up if you have a tornado readiness kit and bug-out bag packed just in case. 

Hurricane

Hurricanes are monster storms, but compared to tornadoes, these affect entire states and regions with powerful winds, inundating storm surge and biblical flooding produced by torrential rainfall.

Hurricanes are at their most threatening for people who live on or near coastal areas, but every once in a while they can remain ferociously powerful well inland. Perhaps the only good thing about them is that our modern weather surveillance technology lets us see these slow moving monsters coming with days or weeks worth of advanced notice.

Your best bet is simply to get out of the way, but if you can’t or won’t your survival skills will be put to the test as you’ll be living without power, water and essential services in the middle of a drowned and broken wasteland. You must have plenty of supplies and a contingency plan for losing your home if you hope to survive a hurricane. 

Rioting

The stresses of trying to live alongside each other and get along in a society that is increasingly divided along political and ideological lines is showing as an increase in outbreaks of violent rioting. This is not just a symptom of our modern era, as large masses of people have been gathering for destructive purposes and clashing with their counterparts since time immemorial.

There’s not much you can do to stop a riot; you can only hope to avoid and survive one. Learning riot indicators, maintaining awareness to ensure early detection and keeping a go-bag with you at all times to give you the tools you need to survive in case you have to run for your life will be essential for surviving riots that occur in suburban and urban areas. 

Terror Attack

Terrorists, motivated by ideological, religious or political purposes have and will continue to attack the most innocent among us wherever they can find a juicy, soft target. Terror attacks often occur swiftly with virtually no warning, and are typically carried out via explosives, massed gunfire or vehicular ramming.

The shock and carnage are immediate and stunning, exactly what the terrorists want. Terror attacks can occur anywhere that a suitable target presents itself for the people hell-bent on carrying it out.

You can help keep yourself and your loved ones safe from terror attacks by paying attention to terror alerts and regional threat reports, avoiding places where terror attacks are on the rise or likely, staying sharp and on the lookout for pre-attack indicators and suspicious activity, carrying a compact trauma kit, and learning self-defense skills, both armed and unarmed. You don’t have to save the day, but you might have to fight to keep yourself and your loved ones alive. 

Home Invasion

Possibly the most terrifying thing that can befall any of us is a brazen attack aimed at our very home. What is supposed to be our sanctuary might be turned into a deadly battleground when one or more attackers kick in the door and start rampaging through the house, every effort bent on capturing you and your family before meaningful resistance can be mounted.

Protecting your “castle” against home invasions is a matter of hardening your home externally and internally against forced entry and learning how to defend yourself, with a firearm if at all possible. As always when combat is expected, learning first aid skills for repairing holes in the aftermath is going to be essential.

Supplies

When it comes to survival having the right supplies definitely makes the difference. One thing to keep in mind when purchasing and storing supplies is whether or not you are planning on bugging out or bugging in, generally.

If you are bugging out, weight and space will both be at a premium and you should buy accordingly; you cannot take it all with you!

On the other hand if you are bugging in you can take advantage of your home’s ample storage space to pack in way more supplies than you could reasonably expect to ever haul on your back or even in your vehicle.

UPDATED! Green Beret's Ultralight Bug Out Bag with Gear Recommendations

Bug-Out Bag, INCH Bag, Go-Bag

Every prepper’s very favorite piece of survival equipment is the BOB, short for “bug-out bag”, followed closely by the INCH bag and go-bag. Every one of these oddly-named pieces of survival luggage is your combination escape pod, survival shelter and mobile supply room that you will take with you when it is time to bug-out, truly head for the hills or to accompany you on your day today travels, respectively.

Each of these bags will be equipped with varying levels of all of your survival necessities. The bug-out bag is your “generic”, all-purpose backpack that is loaded with everything you need to survive while transiting to your fallback location in case you have to evacuate.

The INCH bag, which stands for “I’m never coming home”, is exactly what you might suspect; a bigger, beefier BOB with emphasis on long-term sustainment systems that can help you set up a new home, however primitive and temporary, wherever you might be.

Lastly, the go-bag can be thought of as your “just in case” kit that you take with you whenever you are leaving your home.

This will typically ride with you in your vehicle or even be kept at your workplace if you have personal storage, and contains items predominately designed to deal with the most likely threats that you could face, and might even have items that will facilitate you getting home on foot should you become stranded in disaster strike while you are away.

A considerable amount of ink and effort has been spent to define what each of these bags means in concept, and for you as an individual no matter what your situation might be.

With just a little investment and study I am confident this will quickly become your go-to piece of survival equipment also. We have plenty of articles to get you started right here on this site.

food stockpile

Food

Next up is food. We all need food to survive, and going just a short time without it decreases our ability to perform needed tasks and reduces our ability to think. Depending upon the situation it is very likely that being able to think and make critical decisions will be important.

Having the ability to perform work such as spreading tarps, stringing rope, gathering wood, transport water, etc. will be decreased if you do not have the food to fuel you. Make sense?

What food? Well, there is a saying, “Store what you eat and eat what you store.” This basically is telling you to buy extra of those foods that you find in your pantry and cupboards. Obviously those foods with an extended shelf life are preferable.

Examples of these are canned soups, vegetables and fruit, rice, beans, pasta and sauce, flour, and any other foods that will keep for several months. On weekly trips to the grocery store buy a few extras for your preparedness stockpile.

Keep in mind that food is often heavy and bulky, and if you are planning on bugging out, you will not be able to haul an entire store room’s worth of food with you on your excursion unless you are making use of a trailer, or pack animals!

No matter what your survival strategy is, always focus on high “bang for the buck” foods that have long shelf lives, and provide ample calories.

Water

Water is the next component for consideration to include your preparedness supplies. At a minimum, put back a few cases of bottled water. On a budget? Refill soft drinks bottles (after cleaning of course) with water, record a date on them, and store water very inexpensively. Rotate every 6-12 months.

Prepper Water Storage Tips for Stockpiling

A water filter/purifier is a great idea if you can afford one. I am not talking about one which you buy at Wal-Mart – though they are better than nothing. Should you find yourself with no clean running water and the stored water has already been consumed – then puddles, ponds and lake water will look mighty refreshing.

Water from those sources can be contaminated and be very hazardous to consume. A good water filter such as the Big Berkey will filter the water for safe drinking.

Of course boiling will kill cysts and bacteria in the water – but the floating “debris” still won’t go down too good. A coffee filter (or twelve!) will filter out many larger contaminants.

Light

No power? No light. There is really no getting around it unless you’re prepared ahead of time with some flashlights, headlamps, lanterns, and batteries/fuel. Today’s lighting technology allows for brighter lights for longer periods of time.

A trip to your local Wal-Mart along with $20+ can supply you with a couple of good flashlights and a few extra batteries. Stock up on as many batteries as you can afford and make sure you buy LED flashlights.

A good flashlight is going to be your go-to lighting tool for most tasks since it is adapatable and portable enough to go with you literally anywhere. Modern LED flashlights are super-rugged, have excellent runtime’s compared to old incandescent lights, and often feature many useful options like multi-mode functions for brightness and even various colors for different tasks.

You might even consider getting one that is rechargeable so you can ditch batteries entirely; with an accompanying solar charger you can refuel your flashlight no matter where you go!

While shopping – grab a few candles. They are cheap and provide comfort when sitting in the dark. Kerosene lanterns can also work well. Remember – they are fire hazards so be cautious!

First-Aid

Depending upon the nature of the “event” you may find yourself going through rubble, being exposed to jabs from sharp sticks and branches, as well as tripping over whatever may be laying around. Years ago I saw the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo.

The cleanup was hazardous as trees, electrical wires, and all kinds of other objects were everywhere. Point being that cuts and bruises were not uncommon. Have a good first aid kit stored away.

Beyond simple injuries, you should endeavor to be prepared for serious trauma; penetrating injuries, lacerations, major fractures and burns. This will require more specialized gear, things like tourniquets, splints, hemostatic gauze and more. More importantly it will require the skills and training to make use of it, so plan on getting the skills you need from a vetted teacher.

If you regularly take prescriptions and/or require special medical needs consider what you can do now so those needs can be met after the “event”. Talk to your physician and simply explain your intent; it is not out of the question for a doctor to write prescriptions for “just in case” antibiotics and even painkillers in certain circumstances.

Shelter

Without shelter you will be exposed to the elements. Depending upon your geographic location and the season the elements could very well be the most threatening aspect of your situation. At the very least stock up on a few tarps, some nylon rope, and an inexpensive tent. With those three basic components along with a few tools a campsite can be constructed to shelter you from the rain, the sun, and the wind.

5 Bushcraft Shelters - Full Camp Builds Start to Finish

Shelter is not just for survival outside your home; it might be needed to supplement the protection provided by your home.

During times of power outage or just during emergencies in cold weather you might be best served to stay in your home and create a smaller space inside an existing room to make use of and preserve the most heat. This “microclimate” strategy can be easily accomplished with plastic sheeting, tape and extra blankets.

Don’t underestimate the risk of exposure! Lack of shelter in adverse conditions is the most common killer in a disaster or wilderness setting, so prioritize accordingly!

Communications

Maintaining or establishing communications is essential for staying abreast of the situation and staying safe during times of crisis.

Unfortunately, most modern methods of communication like cell phones and land lines are highly intricate systems that are vulnerable to disruption along multiple vectors, so you’ll need to be prepared for this eventuality.

Basic communication would consist of an AM/FM disaster radio. This will allow you to receive situation-specific updates from government run stations. Getting news about what is going on is critical, as information pertaining to evacuations, supply drops, or even the weather would be useful.

Another good option is to invest in some simple handheld radios that can allow you to communicate with your family or group members who are a short distance away. Portable radios come in hand-held and vehicle mounted varieties, and you can even move all the way up into ham radio for the ultimate in self-contained communications capability.

One good, generally disaster-proof option is a satellite phone. Though high-tech by most people’s standards, the good news is that the satellites responsible for the function of these comm. Networks are in orbit, completely safe from all terrestrial disasters. This means they will likely continue to work in place of cell phones after a particularly bad event. A

This is certainly by no means an end all list of supplies to stock up on. There is still sanitation, defense, gardening, heat, etc. But it is a start and will definitely help you survive the majority of events that might occur.

Conclusion

Getting serious about prepping is usually a lifestyle change, and though that sounds like an intimidating undertaking it does not have to be difficult or even that laborious. With the right road map, a logical approach and a little bit of effort you can quickly get prepared for many of life’s most common curve balls.

No matter how safe we try to make things is always a matter of when, not if, so start getting ready and start preparing without delay!

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