Whether inspired by real world natural disasters or the latest horror movie, all of us like to wonder how we would fare in a true survival situation. It’s only natural: we see other people struggling and we don’t want our friends, our families, and ourselves to go through the same things. But as we live in times of prosperity and comfort, most of us are woefully unprepared for a true survival situation. We don’t have much food stored, or know who we can rely on when the going gets tough, or have the skills to dig a well. But there are little ways you can be a bit more prepared for a survival situation, covering all bases.
Gather Your Tribe Together
Another thing which is commonly undermined is the power of groups. Whatever scenario you are contemplating, a team of people is better than a few people. If you are contemplating a serious situation with a threat of some sort, such as the traditional “what I would do in a zombie apocalypse,” or a more realistic threat of criminal violence, then you want many people together so that the fit and healthy ones among you can protect the children, the elderly, and the ill. If there are two adults and two children, then it will take both adults to defend the children, leaving little room for other plans. But the more fit and healthy people you have, the fewer of them it will take to look after the children, elderly, and ill people. The same two adults could manage five or six children, but
with the addition of a further three adults, such as those children’s parents, survival odds go up.
Furthermore, in a natural disaster teamwork is crucial. It can take many people to lift beams or push cars into motion. In such situations people are generally looking out for their nearest and dearest, but this means that sometimes people or families get left behind. Reach an agreement with your neighbors about what you would do in case of a fire, hurricane, flood, or another extreme event. Agree on a meeting point, a roll call, and a course of action. This way you can make sure everyone finds safety
, everyone is accounted for, and everyone is there to work together. This also means that if someone is trapped in their home there will be many people to go back and help them.
Finally, in the event of shortages of food, water, fuel, or anything at all, having a good relationship with your neighbors pays off. Typically, the things you have and the things you know how to do are different from the things your neighbor has and knows how to do. If you have a load of tins of soup, but no energy to cook it on, or a load of flour but no yeast, you m
ay find that you have a neighbor with a propane cooker and a neighbor with yeast, so you can all band together and eat well. This also extends to personal crises, where if you run out of food, your electricity is cut off, or your water is contaminated you can trade services or goods with your neighbors to tide you over until your crisis is over.
Learn What Resources You Have
The very first step to a survival situation in an emergency is simple: know where all your stuff comes from. Most of us will use fuel without thinking about which petrol stations are available beyond our closest ones, use electricity without considering which power lines supply our house, and buy food imported from several states away without asking ourselves what foods are grown locally. Our world is so deeply and intrinsically connected that we never need to give much consideration to where everything is coming from, or to where we would get it from if, for example, nothing was entering our town.
So work out where everything you use comes from. Where your fuel, electricity, gas, water, and food comes from. What your nearest suppliers are. What alternative suppliers exist in the area? And then look beyond that. How would you get fuel if you couldn’t use a gas station? Many places do bio fuels, or traditional, non-electric pumps. What is the nearest one? Where is your electricity or gas produced? Where could you get emergency energy for your home if yours was cut off?
Do you know where to find a generator, or propane tanks and a gas stove? What is your town’s water reservoir? How much water does it hold? Is there a backup? Are there any rivers or lakes nearby? What is the nearest purification plant? Where does your food come from? Does your state grow anything? What’s the nearest farm to your house? What food banks exist in your city?
Knowing the answers to these questions is the very first key in saving your entire family’s lives in a survival situation.
Get Your Electricity Backup in Order
If you have the capacity, and especially if you have the need, a backup source of electricity is a good idea. Consider what potential electricity sources you could have if the grid went down. Solar panels are an excellent option for many, as they are affordable and provide consistent energy. However, you may not be able to afford enough to run your house at full fuel usage. If you have access to running water, a water mill could help as well. Wind mills are generally very inefficient and not worth the effort. A dynamo attached to a stationary bicycle is a very rudimentary source of electricity, but it may provide some power in case you need it and have no other way.
Another way to back up your electricity is to have some stored. A large generator and backup generator are definitely the best way of doing this, if you have the money, that is. They can be very expensive, and making sure they are in top shape and charged at all times could also cost you. For short term energy needs, simple power banks will keep your phones charged until the electricity reconnects. Make sure that your power banks are always kept charged and dry. Storing them in Tupperware boxes is a food idea.
Finally, if you are reliant on any source of electricity to live, such as a dialysis machine or an artificial respirator, talk to your healthcare provider about options to keep it running in the event of a power cut lasting more than six hours. What might be a major inconvenience to some people could be more serious to you, so take every measure you can.
Get Your Light Sources Sorted Out
When the electric goes down, one of the first things we notice is the lack of light. Cloudy days, early nights, or just small, enclosed buildings can result in very few daylight hours in which to work. This needs to be avoided, as many of the things we do today rely on us having long hours of artificial light, and we are usually not ready to adjust to natural daylight hours. A great first step to surviving an electricity outage is to have alternative light sources.
Candles are not the best source. Although they do provide light without needing electricity, they also do not last long, can produce smells, are not very bright, and are a hazard to children and pets, not to mention a serious fire risk. You will need to have 10-24 candles anyway, just in case you have literally no other way of lighting your path or your house, but you don’t want to use them unless you absolutely have to.
A much better choice is battery-powered or dynamo-charged LED torches and lamps. LED light bulbs have a ridiculously long life, so these torches and lamps are much better than conventional bulb ones. What is more, being powered by batteries or a dynamo means that they will last even longer, as LED lights use very little electricity. This also means that your batteries will give you plenty of light and your dynamo will not need winding too often, preserving your energy.
Prepare Your Emergency Communication Outlets
Smartphones are amazing in survival situations for some reasons, and terrible in survival situations for others. They can be great because having a smartphone means you have access to emergency numbers, maps, and local news even if the power is completely out in your area. Make sure as soon as your power is down to check the news and find out what caused the shortage of electricity, whether there will be any other shortages, and what is the best thing to do. Once you have found this out, write down every emergency number you can find, including the numbers of evacuation teams, foodbanks, etc., where relevant. Finally, make a note of where you can find electricity and any other supplies you might need. Typically, there will be charging stations, food banks, and water drives organized by the government if the shortage will take a while to be resolved.
The area where modern smartphones are a problem is when it comes to charge. Modern smartphones are notoriously terrible for holding their charge, and even if you have it fully charged and have turned off all nonessential apps and functions, you will at most get a day out of it. Instead, make sure you keep a small, old fashioned phone that has almost no functions and keeps its charge well, buy a pay as you go SIM card for it, and keep it charged with a tenner. In emergency situations, from losing your main phone, to a crisis, you now have a phone you can use to call emergency services, friends, and family, to keep everything in order.
Sort Yourself Out for Emergency Heating
Heating is a serious concern to some people, and the further North you go, the more of a concern it will be for you. Most of us use heating based on electricity or gas, both of which can be cut off, intentionally or by accident, during a crisis. If your heating is shut off it could mean anything from a minor inconvenience, to damage to your plumbing, to even a life or death situation.
If you live somewhere particularly cold, to avoid putting yourself in such a situation you need to make sure you have alternative heating sources. Again, a generator would be a great idea if you can afford one and install it easily. This would mean you would be able to run all your usual heating without any modifications until such a time as you could move out, or your electricity returns.
Another alternative is simply burning fuel. If you have an open fireplace the transition is as simple as lighting a fire, so make sure to have wood and coals to get one going in an emergency. If you do not have a fireplace you will want to consider a propane gas heater, or a wood burning stove, to warm your rooms and possibly even cook your food on if you go a few days without electricity. And don’t forget to have plenty of fuel. A fireplace or stove is only good if you have wood, propane, or coal for them.
Preserve Some Food in Preparation
Many of us have food in our fridges and freezers which would go off in an emergency situation where our electric is cut off for several days. And if we are facing a long term lack of access to food, we will want to make our food last as long as possible. For this reason, it is essential to know how to preserve foods.
Cooking everything is an important first step to preserving food. Take all the food in your fridge and freezer and cook it. Cooked food will last longer than uncooked food. To make sure it stays fresh, put dry cooked food in a clay bowl, put a plate on top of it, put that bowl in a laundry hamper full of sand or water balloons, and keep the laundry hamper closed. This acts as a primitive refrigerator which will keep your food a bit cooler than outside.
For fruits, breads, etc., use alcohol or sugar to preserve them. Make jars of jam and use heat to seal them, and soak fruit in strong spirits to preserve them. When it comes to flour or bread, mix it up with lots of sugar, some salt, and some alcohol, strain the fluids out of it using a fine cloth, and hang it up to dry out. The sugarier and stale the bread is, the longer it will keep.
When it comes to meats, dry curing with salt is the only truly viable option. Learn how to use salts and spices on raw meats to dry them out and cure them, making them edible for longer. This is simpler and safer than you might think, and will help save you money and stretch your food allowance if you can’t preserve your meat the usual way.
Keeping Yourself Healthy
If you take any medications at all, you need to make sure you will have enough if an emergency situation strikes. Try and make sure you have a spare few weeks or even months of medication at home, to ensure that you can make it until someone can help you. Even if you do not regularly take medications, make sure to keep a well-stocked medical cabinet. A thermometer and some band aids won’t cut it. Try and make sure to have some decent bandaging, some butterfly stitches, a bottle of disinfectant, an emergency surgical kit, a variety of over the counter painkillers, and some deep freeze or deep heat sprays. These will cover complete essentials during an emergency. If you want to go the extra mile, make sure to have spare inhalers, condoms, and plenty of treatments for foot conditions.
Also bear in mind that in most cases the situation will not be serious, but frustrating. You will not be in desperate circumstances like some people of the developing world suffer every day, but rather you will find it hard to access things you take for granted, such as basic hygiene products. So make sure you have enough of these things to get you by. A month’s supply of hard and liquid soaps, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, and baby products could go a very long way. It may be also worth considering keeping reusable cloth nappies, sanitary pads, and wipes, even if you would never use them normally, because in a bad situation it is better to use a cloth sanitary product and feel a little uncomfortable than to not have anything to use at all.
In an emergency situation, access to food may be limited. Make sure you know where the local food banks and drop offs will be, as this will give your family and community better odds of staying fed. However, these resources are limited and you may still need more supplies. For this reason, learn to identify a few edible plants from every season in your area. This way you will always have something to eat, no matter how desperate the situation. Also consider planting a few fruit and vegetable options in your garden, to make sure there is something to eat if lean times strike. You can even plant food in the last minute, by sprouting the seeds from fruits and vegetables in your fridge, or by leaving potatoes to grow green sprouts, then planting them.
Water is another one of those things we take for granted until it’s gone. Make sure you have spare water, whether in the form of a rainwater filter, an emergency supply of bottled water, or access to freshwater reservoirs, in case of an emergency where your water supply is cut off.
Preparing for Emergency Travel
Fuel shortages are something we don’t consider until there is something that causes one, and then we’re just not prepared. But they are a very real risk, even in developed nations, and we need to be ready for them. The very first step is just to use less fuel than before as you think of your alternative options. For most people, the most realistic option for living without fuel is to choose a fuel-free mode of transport such as walking, cycling or horse riding. You could also choose a motorcycle, public transport, or carpooling if you simply must preserve the fuel you have. Always keeping your tanks full will also provide a buffer in case you find yourself suddenly without fuel.
And that is the basics on how to survive an emergency situation such as a natural disaster, a political event, or just a personal crisis. There are, of course, ways of going even further into survivalism, but if you cover these bases you will be much more prepared than most people.