|Cameraman Joel C. covering a flood in Los Angeles|
I'm not talking about being a "Doomsday Prepper" or preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse. But having key provisions to help you with a natural disaster, civil unrest (rioting), or any other unnatural event that may occur. When there is no one else to call on for help. I myself think that you should prepare for the absolute worst with a wide variety of skills, training, and gear. But what if you not like me? Does that mean you don't need any sort of insurance?
The American Red Cross gives a list of disaster kits essentials. For the most part I think that it is a decent list. I'm going to go over the most basic items I feel you should have to be self reliant when there is no one else to call (police, fire, medical, or when the store shelves are bare).
This list will provide you with the ability to shelter in place. So that you will not have to scavenge or fight for food at the grocery stores.
1. Medical/Trauma Kit-Probably the most important kit you can have at your house. This isn't one of those first aid kits with band-aids and alcohol wipes. I'm talking about a bag that can aid in serious trauma (airway, breathing, and circulation). In the case that EMS cannot help you. Something like a first responder would carry. I have a pretty serious med bag that I've put together for grid down scenarios that I'll go over the contents in the future. It also wouldn't hurt to get some kind of medical training from the American Red Cross. CPR training if nothing else.
2. Water-Water is essential to all forms of life. You should have a gallon per person-per day for each of your family members. This will aid in hydration as well as sanitation. You can store it in containers from the tap (just add a few drops of chlorine to maintain the freshness). Or store bought and rotate it periodically. I suggest having at the minimum two weeks worth. Also it would be wise to have a means to treat water such as chlorine. Chlorine is cheap and you probably have it at your house already. You could also purchase a filtering system like backpackers use. You could always boil it but that requires more equipment if the electricity were to go out.
3. Food- In a survival situation you can go without food for awhile, but do you want to place yourself in a survival situation? Survival means life or death. Its hard to gather a food supply when all the other unprepared people are too. A 3 week food supply will cover most disasters. If need be you can stretch the food out longer by skipping a meal here and there. You will need to prepare for 3 meals for each of the members of your family. Canned items is probably your most cost efficient method to develop food storage. This can be done by picking up an extra can or two of food at the grocery store each week. Canned meats, fruits, and vegetables can be rotated in your diet already so its not really an expenditure. MRE's are another great way to go because they don't require cooking. Your kids will like it because of the cool factor and most people can live off of one to two a day. I know because I have while physically exerting myself with no problems. There are also freeze dried backpacking foods that have a long shelf life but do require cooking. A garden in your back yard doesn't hurt either and it is relatively free.
4. Illumination-When the power goes out it sucks to be stuck in a dark house. Candles are cheap and can be found everywhere; they can also be used decoratively around your house. I personally like lanterns. I keep both LED and Kerosene type. If you go the LED route make sure to get one that accepts batteries and not the rechargeable kind. Since the rechargeable cannot be recharged without electricity. Headlamps make you look like a nerd but they offer hands free usage when working on something in the dark. Also keep a supply of batteries and kerosene to operate these items.
5. Fire Extinguisher- Keep a few large fire extinguishers around to keep from losing your shelter to fire. This is pretty self explanatory.
6. Self-Defense- A Firearm if you can have them where you live. I suggest if you only have one weapon that it be a pump 12 gauge shotgun. It can be used in a wide variety of applications. Self-Defense it can stop someone in there footsteps with a slug or buckshot. It can also be used to hunt small or large game. Shells are plentiful even when you cant find any other kind of rifle or pistol ammo. This has been proven lately when I've went to buy 9mm/.223 ammo. They were out of that but had a boat load of 12 gauge shells. I also suggest a pump over an automatic since automatics have a tendency to malfunction. Stock up by buying a box of shells every time you go to Wal-mart.
7. Multi-tool- In a wilderness survival situation I would definitely prefer a fixed blade knife. But for something that is useful indoors and out I would suggest a high quality multi-tool. I only use Leatherman brands. Whether cutting of the natural gas or cleaning a deer, this can get the job done!
8. Sleeping Bags/Heater- This may not be applicable to everyone. More for those that live in a cold environment. Get sleeping bags for everyone in your family that goes down to the lowest temp rating for where you live. They also offer sleeping bags for two people where you can share each others body warmth. Space heaters are excellent for maintaining warmth in a grid down scenario. You will need fuel to run it for 2 weeks.
9. NOAA Weather Radio- This will allow you to get information about the current conditions when the power goes out. I prefer the wind-up/solar style that doesn't need batteries. This may turn out to be your only source of intel to make an informed decision for your next move.
10. Cook Stove/Fire- Some sort of propane cook stove like the common backpacking or camping style will do just fine. If you have a propane grill that will work if the weather isn't too bad. Have plenty of canisters on hand if you go with the backpacking variety. Keep 5 or 6 BIC lighters to light the stove or any candles/lanterns you may have when it gets dark.
11. Bucket Toilet- General sanitation can become a problem if a major disaster happens. Using your house toilet without the possibility of flushing it can cause an insanitary environment leading to sickness. There are a few 5 gallon bucket styles out on the market that have toilet style lids. Those will help for comfort but a 5 gallon bucket will work itself in a pinch. Make sure to have trash bags, kitty litter, and wet wipes to keep your humanity.
This list is just the basics and isn't meant to be all encompassing. It's the bare minimum I recommend or for someone who wants to get started in disaster preparedness. So you can stop here and will be covered for most reasonable disasters but makes a great building block if you want to go further into self-sufficiency.
Here are some Amazon product links for some of the items I recommend from the list above: