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Emergency Preparedness – 9 Tips to be Ready

What do you think of when you hear emergency preparedness? Do you think of an earthquake, a power outage or maybe a simple DIY kit or checklist? It’s our opinion that preparedness comes from a life lived with good systems in place. Here are some basic steps to be ready when the time comes.

Home canned veggies on a shelf.

Oftentimes, when people think of being prepared they check off the three B’s: Beans, bullets, and bandaids. They figure if they have these three things, they’ll be ready for anything.

This approach isn’t quite for us. We want to be intentional about how prepared we are because there are so many different reasons you and your family members should prepare for emergencies. 

What if you got a message from someone that said, “Hey, they’re turning our power off for the next 5 to 7 days, and I just went to the bank so we’d have some cash on hand, ATMs are down, can’t find any generators and we’re watching food and water go off the shelves at the stores.”

Where would you think that was taking place?

Usually, our first instinct is to think of a third-world country dealing with a natural disaster, but this recently happened in California. Emergencies aren’t always due to hurricanes and floods.  

Why Emergency Preparedness is Important

The recent power grid outages and fires in California are a good reminder of the fragility of our systems. Our electrical grid in this country is worn down and old. It hasn’t been kept up or replaced, so it can easily fail us. 

Here is a basic emergency plan to have on hand so you’re prepared and ready to get through your emergency management easily. This fact sheet and these safety tips are not extensive by any means, but it’s a start.

No matter if you’re on 40 acres in the wilderness of Idaho, like us, or if you’re living in the city, these basics will work.

Picture of a homestead with welcome signs in the driveway.

#1 – Shelter

You must be protected from the elements. If you’re watching this video, I imagine you all already have a home that will work as a shelter in times of emergency. But perhaps consider where you might go if you have to evacuate your home for whatever reason (say a fire, hurricane or flooding).

Having these meeting places written out in a plan somewhere is important. Then it’s also important to relay this plan to every member of your household.

A hose tucked into a water outlet.

#2 – Water

Most people don’t realize how fragile their water system is. Do you have an abundant water supply on your property? If electricity goes down, your water will eventually go out as well, too. 

Consider the options available to you, whether it’s bottled water, barreled water, water collection systems on your own property or something else. Look at your situation and figure out a plan that will work for the number of people in your household.

I don’t think a few days or a week is enough water, I’d recommend having a water supply for at least a month. This means you also need to know how to properly store water long-term.

This also leads to having a plan to ration it! Figure out how much water each member of your family will need to drink each day, then also factor in how much water you’ll need to cook and clean.

Don’t forget your pets in this scenario, either! They count as members of the family when it comes to being prepared.

A woman holding up a jar of freeze dried food with filled pantry shelves of home canned food behind her.

#3 – Food

You still need to eat in an emergency. Having a proper food storage system is good whether you’re expecting an emergency or not. And I’m not just talking about having a few MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) on hand or some freeze-dried or dehydrated food. You’ll want to have the highest quality food you can get. 

For this reason, we encourage you to grow and preserve your own food so you know where it came from, how fresh it was when it was put up, and the supply or amount you have on hand. You don’t want to be stressing over getting food from the grocery store after it’s already started flying off the shelves. 

We also recommend having a variety of food on the shelves. Stocking up a bulk food supply is important for more than just emergencies. You’ll want dried beans and grains, preserved fruit and vegetables and canned meat. Don’t rely on the freezer for all your preserving. If your emergency has to do with a power outage, how long will that food in the freezer last?

The great part about canned food is you can just pop off the lid and eat it without the need to cook it first. 

Want to take a look into our food storage system for a family of 12? We have put together a full pantry tour of how we store food for a year.

Wood cook stove fire burning.

#4 – Heat Source

Depending on where you live, this may not be a priority (for those of you in the south, for example), but up here in the far north of Idaho, heat is very important. 

Though heat for your home/shelter may not be important, I think we can all agree that having a heat source for heating/cooking food or boiling water is very important.

We have a Camp Chef that we use for canning in the summer, as well as for camping. It’s a great backup with a couple of propane tanks for cooking food, too. We have also recently installed a wood-burning cookstove in our kitchen and our house can be heated with wood heat. 

Cut down timber with logging tools.

#5 – Fuel sources

Wood, propane, butane, gasoline, etc. What fuel sources do you need to keep your heat source up and working? If you’re solely on electrical power, I’d encourage you to source alternative methods for your water, heat, cooking, and power. 

We aim to have six months to a year’s supply of extra fuel sources, whether wood, gasoline, propane, etc. 

A man putting wood into a wood burning cook stove.

#6 – Power

Power isn’t essential, but it can be important. You need water, you need fuel, you need to be able to boil water, etc. 

Most people who live in the city have electricity for the majority of their power sources. The stove is electric, the heating is electric, the water heater is electric, etc. I would encourage you to start diversifying your sources. 

One of the best ways is with an inline generator that’s hooked up to your house, and when the power goes out, it kicks on. This may not be possible if you’re in the city, so check the regulations and city ordinances.

You can also use smaller backup generators that can be powered differently. We’ve used multiple options over the years. In the past, we’ve had one generator to keep our freezers running, one to keep the heater going, one to power electricity to the barn, etc. 

Find out what will work best for you and your situation. But have a plan in place. It’s not very feasible to keep a generator running all day long. It’s expensive and the ability to replenish your fuel supply may not be available. 

A woman reaching for herbal oils in a cupboard.

#7 – Basic medical supplies and knowledge

It’s good to have a basic understanding of first aid care. Learn what to do in case of an emergency until help can arrive. Learn how to start using medicinal herbs and the basics of medicinal herbs and their uses. Start slowly stocking your herbal medicine cabinet and even growing a medicinal herb garden.

Whether this means one person in your family takes a class on basic first aid, or you do some research online, there are many resources out there, so there’s no excuse. Check out my Medicinal Herb Cabinet: Colds & Flu course.

Old fashioned ham radio on a wooden surface.

#8 – Alternative communication sources

Relying on your cell phone in a time of crisis isn’t the best option. It’s great to have backups like a walkie-talkie or HAM radio. One of the first lines of communication to get jammed up in an emergency is the phone line.

Know how you will get ahold of your loved ones.

Cash money in an envelope.

#9 – Have cash on hand

You don’t want to rely on the bank or ATM after the emergency has begun. Banks may not be able to get you your money, or if the bank is closed and power is out, the ATM simply won’t work.

Keep a fair amount of cash on hand (and keep it in a safe place) to help you get through an emergency. If power is down, you won’t be able to pay with a credit card, but many places will still honor cash.

With these nine steps, you’ll be much more prepared for an emergency if and when one occurs. Don’t get caught unprepared. Do your due diligence now so you can rest easy (or at least easier) in a true emergency.

Overhead view of a garden.

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Josh and Carolyn bring you practical knowledge on how to Grow, Cook, Preserve and Thrive on your homestead, whether you are in a city apartment or on 40 acres in the country. If you want to increase your self-sufficiency and health be sure to subscribe for helpful videos on gardening, preserving, herbal medicine, traditional cooking and more.

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