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2 easy steps to start prepping

New to prepping and not sure where to start?

So you’re giving serious consideration to prepping. You’ve thought about the possibility of what could happen if you and your family are not ready for an event that leaves you without the basic necessities you rely upon every day. Whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake, flooding, riots, or whatever else is thrown your way, you want to be ready. You want to face the oncoming storm secure in the fact that you and your family have the basic necessities to survive.

So now what? What’s the next step? Getting into prepping can be very overwhelming. If you Google “prepping” or any other combination of that phrase, you’ll be met with more information than you can possibly take in at once.

My advice is to start with the rules of “3″. In any extreme situation the average person can not survive for more than:

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

Also consider this: after a typical local emergency (hurricane or earthquake), the infrastructure will be more than likely destroyed or temporarily disrupted while roads are made safe to drive on once again. During that time, expect the following:

  • Your normal first responder services (police and fire) will be overloaded focusing on saving as many people as possible. If a tornado hit a public school, movie theater or some other location with a lot of people, first responders will focus their efforts there, not the local neighborhood injuries. “Do the greatest good for the greatest number of people”. Don’t expect supplies and re-inforcements to come to serve you and your problems. You and your family might be on their own for awhile while the large groups are handled first.
  • Stores have enough supplies on hand for at least 3 days. If water to your house is disrupted, do you have enough water for your family for 2 weeks (or more)?
  • Gas stations will be down if electricity is knocked out. Expecting to escape town to go somewhere safer? Do you have enough gas to drive far enough to get away from the event (assuming everyone hasn’t already jammed up the roads trying to do the same)?
  • Roadways out of town. What if the major highways and interstates are destroyed during the event and you and your family can not get out?

There is a real possibility you may not be able to just pick up and leave (or at least you need to consider this possibility). You might be stuck in-place for days or weeks. So assuming our house wasn’t destroyed in the event, what do we need to do to prepare? That leaves us with food and water as top priorities which in an urban environment, you’re not going to find these easily when there’s an emergency.

1. Urban prepping and water

Water needs to be a first priority.

Water. Your body is composed of roughly 60% water. If your body starts losing it or if you drink water that is not sanitary, you’ve got a big problem. Without getting into a discussion about the stages of dehydration or water borne illnesses, let’s suffice it to say we want to avoid being unprepared when it comes to having enough drinkable water.

In prepping, serious consideration needs to be given to getting a basic water backup in place. Out of all the things a prepper should be concerned about in an urban environment, having a clean supply of water (or the ability to filter/purify water) would probably top my list. While living in an area that doesn’t lend itself to having the ability to store large amounts of water can present challenges. But there are some easy remedies that are affordable and can be done incrementally to get you started.

Storage space can be a limiting factor in urban water storage. You’re probably not going to have a 1000 gallon water storage tank sitting in your backyard. You may not have the room for it and the cost may be prohibitive to get something like this installed. The best solution that I have found that allows me to have small water storage units that are portable, affordable, stackable and can easily be carried or moved can be found here on Amazon. Small water tanks are portable in a time of crisis and you can incrementally purchase them as your budget permits.

How much water do you need?

The typical person takes in about 1 gallon/day. You might take in a lot less or more on some days, but that’s a good rule of thumb to start with.

So if you have 2 adults and 2 kids in your home, let’s just go ahead and budget 4 gallons of water per day for drinking and probably cooking (that’s not even budgeting water for other things like sanitation), but that’s a good starting point. Don’t forget pets too in your considerations.

How many days of water do you need?

The typical starting point is 72 hours (3 days worth) and this is definitely nothing more than a starting point. Plan on building on top of that as finances permit. As pointed out above, the typical person can not live past 3 days without water. My long term goal is having a month’s supply of water. Start small and work up.

How do you preserve your water to keep it from going bad?

Water preservative is your friend. Water can begin to turn bad and develop some unwanted growth if not properly treated. You may think you can just toss the water into storage and clean it up when you need it. I wouldn’t recommend that. The time and energy you’d have to spend just to make the water drinkable isn’t worth the risk. Take a few simple steps now so when you need it, it’s ready.

I use these water storage devices and rotate them every 5 years. When I dump them out, I clean them (soap and hot water), put in fresh water, drop in water preservative and then label the date on the side so I know when to rotate them next. Sure, it takes a few hours to go through and rotate all my water storage (done only once every 4 or 5 years), but if you’re life is on the line one day, it’s worth it I think.

2. Urban prepping and food storage

This one can be slightly simpler and easier to implement than the water approach above. With the water storage, there’s several steps that need to be taken, but with food, you can begin to simply add to your existing food storage. When you go to the store, grab a few extra cans of food. If something is on sale (that’d you actually eat), then load up on it. Got some coupons in the mail? Go and grab some of the products on your next trip to the store.

Storage and organization

Have a food pantry? Great, try to begin to organize things a little better. Put the older cans to the front and begin adding to the back with newer cans (be sure to rotate food and don’t let it expire if possible). In our house we rarely eat canned food. That’s fine, we still set up a small reserve in an out-of-way location that doesn’t tie up our pantry. In our home, we store the backup food in the closet under the stairs (I’ll discuss this a little more below).

Comfort foods

In your food preps, don’t overlook comfort foods. If you’re in a disaster, having comfort foods will help relieve stress to a degree and will help with the psychological effects of what’s happening around you. It might be small, but don’t overlook this.

Which foods do I eat first in a disaster?

After the power goes out, eat the perishable foods first. Those are going to be the foods that will go bad first so might as well get to them now before they’re not editable because you’re not going to be making a trip to the store anytime soon. Grab that milk and cheese or chicken you have in the refrigerator. There’s not a lot of time before they go bad, so better enjoy them why you can.

Foods to store

Try to store a good balance of protein/fats/carbs. Don’t have just a bunch of canned fruit, but be sure to grab canned tuna or chicken (or some other source of protein that can be stored away for periods of time). You may be required to do physical labor and having your body deprived of necessary macros like protein doesn’t help. Also consider the amount of sodium in the canned food. More sodium means more water you’ll need to consume. We want to make sure we’re not burning through our water if possible.

Food rotation

Keep an eye and food and water. If you’re keeping your oldest cans of food at the front of pantry and grab those first, rotate the ones from the back forward and put the new food you purchase at the back. It will become a habit and will help ensure you’re keeping food rotated at a basic level.

Where to store your food and water

Under your stairs is the strongest place in your house and is often the coolest and darkest area which is great to help prevent your food and water from spoiling prematurely.

Do not store your food in the garage – the temperature fluctuation is not ideal for your supplies plus if a disaster strikes garages are not very strong (they’re often the first part of the house that collapses).

Storing your food and water in multiple places in your house is also a smart approach. If a part of the house where you had everything stored gets hit (structural damage or theft), then you’re in luck…you had other supplies somewhere else. Ever heard “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? This rule applies here.

Types of food to consider

Try and stock easy to prepare food. You’re probably not going to be cooking a full course dinner so try and find things that will go well together and that require minimum preparation. Also try and avoid foods that are going to require a lot of clean up afterwards. Remember, you’re probably not going to have running water so needing to clean up your cooking utensils is going to dig into your water supply quickly which is not good.

This is why I’d advise having disposable utensils/plates/forks/spoons etc. as part of your preps. Cook the food, serve it on disposable plates/bowls and your clean process is to simply toss things into the trashcan. Easy.

Future discussions

Some may read this and ask where is medical and security? I would rank those #3 and #4 for starting preppers and we’ll get into those issues in a continuation of this article. They’re definitely important, but I’d recommend getting water and food in order. Following the steps above won’t break the bank and if you just start with a goal of 72 hours for food and water, you’re on the right path (and you’re ahead most Americans).

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City Prepping's goal is to help people understand the basics of prepping in urban environments.