Everyone has seen stories about survivalists with nuclear bunkers in the backyard. While you may laugh at their assurances that civilization is coming to an end within the month, if you're not prepared for a potential disaster, they may be having the last laugh.
You don't have to build an underground fallout shelter or collect an arsenal. Instead, plan for the disasters that are increasingly common due to climate change and the aging infrastructure of the U.S. Unusual weather patterns mean places that aren't used to the cold are shut down with snow and ice storms while other places see rolling blackouts during record heats. So put on your safety goggles and get ready for disaster with these five easy planning steps.
1. Install a Solar System With Battery
The aging electrical grid in the U.S. doesn't have the flexibility to deal with changing weather patterns, creating life-threatening emergencies from coast to coast. More than 25% of the grid is over 50 years old, 70% is over 25 years old and some is over a century old. Systems that were made to last a couple of decades have outlived their sell-by date twice over. Installing a solar system is more than a wise financial and ecological investment, it is your best line of defense against electrical grid failure.
With the rise of the solar battery, solar systems are no longer just an offset to your electrical bill, they can mean complete freedom from the electrical grid. Solar batteries allow you to store and use the electricity your system makes while the sun is shining. They are emergency generators that are always full of fuel.
Solar battery technology is changing rapidly. The latest iterations can automatically disconnect your home from the grid during a power outage and switch you to battery power. They will even continue to charge while they're in use. That's not as useful for a storm but if you've dealt with summertime rolling blackouts, you'll know that it's not just cold weather that threatens the grid. This is the one step that can make all the other steps easier to handle.
2. Store Food and Water
Storing food and water for an emergency doesn't have to take up a lot of space or take a lot of time. Guidelines from the government suggest storing enough water for each person to have a gallon per day for at least three days. If you know a storm is coming consider cleaning out a bathtub really well and filling it with water for your household needs as well.
Storing food is less about getting a 30-day supply of powdered meals from Costco and more about checking that you have enough canned and non-perishable food to get through three or four days. Check your pantry; you may be more prepared than you think. A jar of peanut butter is great energy. Store some protein bars and granola. If you need milk for the cereal, invest in powdered milk. Make sure you've got a manual can opener to get into the soup and vegetable cans too.
3. Have an Emergency Kit
When you're putting together your emergency kit, think of it like planning what you need for a camping trip. Here are some ideas to get you started:
A first aid kit
Extra batteries and a portable charger for electronics
A safety whistle
Cleansing wipes or baby wipes
Keep everything stored together and put it on your calendar to check your supplies at least once a year. Make sure your medical supplies aren't out of date, flashlights still work and everything is ship-shape. You'll need to evaluate your needs when you check on your supplies. If your family has a new member your emergency kit, food and water storage should all be updated to reflect your new requirements.
4. Make a Plan
Some disasters you can see coming from a mile away, but others hit unexpectedly. Consider keeping an extra emergency kit at work or in your car. Your car kit may need to be checked more often but it means you can access it at work and on the road. Besides being ready for disaster wherever it occurs, planning should include a family session to think about where you would shelter in place or how you would evacuate from your city. Discuss meetup points and make sure everyone keeps their gas tanks half full at all times.
5. Don't Panic
Once you start thinking about disaster preparedness it's easy to see how some people go overboard. Be prepared but don't let thoughts of disaster take over your thinking. Paranoia and fear aren't healthy and they aren't something you want to pass on to your family. Instead, think of disaster preparedness as a healthy habit to develop.
With these five steps—oh, these five steps and plenty of toilet paper—you'll be well on your way to weathering a disaster in style.