Prepping is an important part of self-sufficiency and being resourceful. It can help you become more conscious of what’s happening in the world and better understand how to manage yourself should a crisis occur.
How do you start prepping for beginners?
We know prepping can be an overwhelming and perhaps even a daunting task. In this article, we’ll break up the main steps to help you get started.
If I were a new prepper, I would break up my prepping journey into 12 months so that it would give me a good amount of time to complete each task appropriately. Having enough time to the entire process may feel less overwhelming. I know for myself that when I have too much on my plate, I get stressed and end up accomplishing less.
In any case, you can go at a faster or slower pace— whatever works best for you! Remember, any level of prepping is better than none, so don’t get discouraged because you’re not 100% there by the first month.
The 12 months of prepping
Month 1: Know Your Risks.
The first step when starting out as a prepper is to identify and become aware of any potential hazards and the most likely disasters to occur in your area.
Make a list of the natural disasters that threaten your area, and learn a little bit about the level of preparedness that is required for each of them.
For instance, in the event of a hurricane or semi-distant wildfire, you will be given some warning time to evacuate. On the other hand, flash floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes usually offer little to no warning time. Preparing for each disaster scenario will be very different.
It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the terminology used by the news and media during each disaster. In our series of disaster guides, you can learn everything you need to know about each disaster type.
Month 2: Create an Emergency Plan.
Create a broad emergency plan which outlines the steps you and your family will take in case of such emergencies (the ones on your list from month 1). This should include where everyone will go and who will be in charge of what tasks. Have plans in place in case utilities such as electricity, natural gas, and water are disrupted.
Based on your family dynamic, identify important supplies you will need to start stockpiling — think about items that make it critical for your survival. Discuss your disaster plan with the members of your household so that everyone is on the same page.
Make sure that your pets are included in your emergency preparation plan. Be sure to consider that you may need to make special arrangements for their care if you have to evacuate.
Month 3: Create Your Communication and Reunification Plan.
Determine ways in which you will stay in touch with your family should someone get lost or not be with together during the time the event occurs. Make sure that everyone in your home knows who to contact in case of an emergency, including family members, neighbors, and emergency management services.
Make a list of emergency contacts in the city you live in, as well as in a different city or state. This should include phone numbers and addresses for family, friends, neighbors, medical professionals and healthcare providers, and local emergency services like the police and fire department.
Practice how to contact each other in different scenarios. Have multiple ways of communication, such as landlines, cell phones, or even social media. Keep in mind that many of the traditional forms of communication may not be an option.
For instance, wifi won’t work if there’s a power outage, and cell phone data may be limited. Here you can learn how to contact loved ones without the common methods we are used to using under normal circumstances.
Finally, identify where to go for safety if needed and the best location where you can meet outside of the disaster zone. Have a predetermined meeting spot for family members.
Stay informed and monitor weather conditions. Set up alerts on your phone or other devices so you can receive weather reports and critical information in real time. I recommend picking 2 or 3 reliable news sources in your area, whether it be social media accounts, TV, or radio stations.
Pay attention to the weather forecast, especially in the days leading up to a storm or other potential disaster, and evacuate your home early if the threat is imminent. Remember, the most important thing during a disaster is you and your family’s safety.
Month 4: Have an Evacuation Plan.
Develop a home evacuation plan with an escape route should you need to leave your home at a moment’s notice.
Develop a plan for what you will do in the event of an evacuation, including what items you will take with you, where you will go, how you will get there, and who you can contact for help.
Identify a safe location near your home that you can go to if needed, whether it be a loved one’s home or evacuation shelter. Familiarize yourself with the location and contact information for your local shelters in the event that you need to seek refuge during the emergency.
Tip: It’s a good idea to keep your survival gear in a closet near the main entrance or exit door of your home, that way if you need to evacuate, your supplies are in an easy-to-reach location.
Months 5 and 6: Put Together Your Survival Kit and Supplies.
Create a prepper kit or several kits based on your needs. Ideally, you should have as much food, water, and supplies to cover all your family needs for a minimum of 3 days. Additionally, you should have good bug out bags, a get home bag, a bug in kit, and at least a basic first aid kit.
Make sure to include items like flashlights, extra batteries, a battery-operated radio or satellite phone, and extra weather-appropriate clothing.
You can either purchase your kits, like these ones, or make your own with the recommended items listed here.
If you’re making your own disaster kit, I recommend comparing prices on items and taking advantage of sales whenever possible. Oftentimes, you can create your own kits for a fraction of the cost if you’re willing to invest the extra time in looking for the right deals.
Continue reading to find our list of top recommended items that you should store. Be sure to rotate and replenish your supplies on a regular basis, or as needed.
Month 7: Organize Your Home.
Make sure that all important documents, such as insurance cards, passports, birth certificates, financial records, and other important papers, are kept in one place so they can be easily located during an emergency. For a complete list of important documents, click here.
Make sure to have enough cash in case of any power outages or other situations where credit cards may not be accepted.
Review your home and car’s insurance policy to make sure it covers any necessary expenses for property damage or loss due to a disaster. Contact your insurance provider and ask them all the questions necessary so you’re well aware of what they do and do not cover.
Month 8: Make Home Repairs and Maintenance.
Pay attention to potential hazards in your home and make repairs as needed to mitigate damage from natural disasters. Ensure that your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order.
Make sure your home’s electrical system is up to code and that it includes surge protection and other safety measures to protect against fires and power outages during a disaster.
I recommend investing in protection methods, such as exterior cameras and special locks, to protect you from home invasions.
Month 9: Practice Your Emergency Plan.
Put your plan into action by practicing with your family to ensure everyone knows what to do during different types of emergencies, such as fires, floods, severe weather events, utility shutdowns, and evacuations.
Be sure you know how to shut off utilities and have a plan for alternate sources of power such as generators if the worst should happen.
Month 10: Check Your Emergency Kit Again.
Go through all your emergency supplies and replace anything that may be close to expiring, in bad condition, or no longer needed. This includes rotating any of your food supply (i.e. canned goods), bottled water, and first aid supplies (i.e. pain relief medication) you stocked up on months prior.
Month 11: Educate Yourself and Commit to a Life of Learning.
Learn about basic survival skills like first aid, navigation, fire-building, shelter-building, food preservation, and self defense. These skills can prove invaluable during a crisis scenario.
Month 12: Start an Emergency Fund.
An emergency fund is a certain sum of money that is set aside to account for times of financial difficulties, such as natural disaster evacuations, property damage, job loss, and other times when money is tight. Click here to learn how you can start saving for your emergency fund.
What to do first when prepping?
Everyone’s prepping journey and timeline will be different, so it’s really up to you and your priorities. The monthly recommendation above is an idea for those who have no idea where to start.
If any of the before-mentioned topics feels the most crucial for you, start there.
Knowing what to do when disaster strikes can help keep you safe and give you peace of mind. Developing an emergency plan ahead of time is key, and having the right supplies on hand can make a huge difference in any situation.
Additional resources and tips on what you can do to become prepared in an emergency situation are available here.
We offer emergency response plans and checklists that can help you better understand the risks associated with different disasters and how to prepare for them.
What supplies should every prepper have?
Every prepper should have enough supplies to ensure they are prepared for any emergency. Here’s a simple list of items but for the complete list of bug-out bag essentials, click here.
Food storage: Store non-perishable foods that can last a long time such as canned goods and dried grains like oatmeal or rice. Make sure to include food items that don’t require refrigeration and are easily cooked without electricity.
Some of the best snacks to store are protein snacks, peanut butter, cereal, crackers, and trail mix. Avoid highly processed foods high in saturated fats, sodium and sugar. Click here to see our complete list of foods with a long shelf life and remember to print the free check list provided. Click here to see our current selection of freeze-dried food that lasts 20+ years.
Water Supply: Have at least one gallon of water per person per day for drinking, cooking, and hygiene purposes. Store a minimum 3-day’s worth of water but if you have the space for more, I recommend storing up to 2-3 weeks’ worth in case of an extended emergency.
Store your water in clean, food-grade containers with tight lids. These blue containers are amazing because they’re not too bulky and not as heavy to carry if full when compared to larger containers.
I also recommend having a water filtration system in case your water storage runs out. Click here to read about the pros and cons of the most popular water filters and purifiers on the market.
First-Aid Supplies: Put together a first-aid kit with essential items you may need to help treat minor injuries such as bandages, medical tape and gauze, antiseptic ointment, antihistamines, pain relievers, thermometer, sterile gloves, scissors, and antiseptic wipes.
If you need to administer medication to children or adults, be sure to add the necessary prescription medications and their doctor’s contact details. Make sure all your medical supplies are up to date, not expired, and in a safe, secure place. For our complete DIY first-aid kit checklist, click here.
Clothing: Have an extra set of clothing for each person in your household in case the ones you’re wearing get wet or dirty. Be sure to include weather-appropriate gear such as hats, gloves, socks, and sturdy shoes.
Cooking Supplies: If you don’t have access to gas or electricity, you’ll need a way to cook or at least heat water. Have a safe cooking method like these options that are safe for indoor use as well as fuel for your grill, charcoal and lighter fluid for external use. Have an extra set of utensils and pots or pans too.
Safety Tools and Equipment: Have at least two fire extinguishers and working smoke detectors in your home. Make sure to check the expiration date on the fire extinguisher and replace when necessary.
Extra Cash: In the event of a power failure or other disaster, cash is essential to pay for necessary items such as fuel and food.
Keep in mind that you may not have access to ATMs or credit cards, and banks may be closed during a crisis situation. Make sure you have your stash of cash safely stored away.
Emergency Contact Card: Have emergency contact information on hand, and/ or on your iCloud.
Copies of important documents: Make sure to also safely store copies of your driver’s license, passport, birth certificate and other important documents in case you need to evacuate quickly.
Emergency Kit: Have a backpack or bug-out bag that you can take with you during an evacuation. Some important items to keep in your bag include:
- Flashlights and Batteries: Have flashlights with extra sets of batteries for each flashlight on hand. Make sure to check that your flashlights are working prior to an emergency situation, and keep them in a place that is within reach and easy to access in the event of a power outage.
- External battery for your phone: Keep a portable external battery to power your phone or other small electronics. Make sure to keep the battery pack fully charged.
- Emergency Radio: Keep an emergency radio in your home that can be battery or hand-cranked operated. This will help keep you up to date with any news and weather updates so that you know how best to stay safe. If your radio is battery operated, keep additional batteries on hand.
- Hygiene Supplies: Pack items such as toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes.
- Blankets: Pack enough blankets for each person in your household. Instead of traditional blankets, consider using space blankets which are lightweight and provide warmth without taking up too much space.
- Extra Set of Keys: Make sure one of the emergency kits contains a full set of keys, including car keys.
- Whistle: In case you or someone else gets separated, pack a whistle for signaling to others that may be nearby.
- Local Maps: A paper map of your local area can be invaluable if digital sources of navigation become unavailable or unreliable during an emergency.
- Pet and Baby Supplies: If you have pets or young children, make sure to pack a few days' worth of supplies to meet their needs in case of an emergency.
Our DIY family plan and prepping guide will walk you through each step of the preparedness process and help you put together your emergency plan including what to include in your kits, how to store water and food safely for a short-term and long-term disaster, and much more.
Our customizable plan is loaded with checklists of recommended items and other valuable tools to ensure you’re prepared for whatever comes your way. Get started for free here!
What essential items do new preppers forget?
Preppers are always diligent in making sure they have all the necessary supplies to be prepared for any emergency, but they often forget some key items that can make a difference in a survival scenario.
Here are 10 of the most commonly forgotten prepper items:
- Duct tape
- Zip ties
- Sewing kit
- Bar soap for laundry and dish soap
- Entertainment (i.e. books, board games)
- Bug repellent
- Reusable water bottles
- Extra gasoline for generator
Frequently asked questions:
- Why do people become preppers?
There are a number of good reasons for becoming a prepper. The most common is an urge to become self-sufficient, to be prepared for any emergency, and to have peace of mind that one’s family will be safe and secure in the event of a disaster or other unforeseen circumstances. For many, it has become a way of life.
Having a backup of emergency supplies are essential in order to survive difficult situations and provide basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and medical care, especially when they become scarce, expensive, or completely unavailable at the grocery store.
Shall I remind you of some of the recent shortages? Toilet paper, computer chips, and lumber in 2020, potatoes, eggs, gasoline, coins in 2021, and baby formula and wheat in 2022. Time will tell what shortages we’ll be experiencing the following years, but the moral of the story remains that it never huts to be prepared.
- What percentage of people are preppers?
There used to be a common misconception that would wrongly stereotype people who wanted to be prepared for emergencies. They would sometimes be placed in a similar category as doomsday preppers who have fully equipped underground bunkers, an end of the world mentality, and are ready to survive in the event of zombies and an EMP attack.
While neither a beginner, seasoned prepper, or doomsday prepper are wrong in their way of thinking, there was a negative connotation about all preppers as being crazy conspiracy theorists or paranoid about the future.
That stereotype seemed to have changed a lot in early 2020 during the initial wave of Covid-19. A lot more people took interest in the idea of preparedness due to noticeable supply chain issues and a major disruption to everyone’s everyday life.
According to an interview done by CBS News in November 6, 2022, the website owner of The Prepared stated, “We think about 15 million Americans are actively prepping right now. In terms of percentage of households, we are at or about to cross 10% of all households. And just a few years ago, that was 2% or 3%.”
It is clear that people are becoming more aware of the difficult circumstances that could put them or their loved ones at risk. It’s prudent to have a mindset that is prepared for the worst-case scenario of any situation, whether it be job loss, the bread winner of the family getting ill, economic collapse, terrorist attacks, and man-made and natural disasters.
- What do preppers want for their birthday?
For a prepper’s birthday, you can give them practical and useful gifts that will help them achieve their emergency preparedness goals for the future. Click here for some great gift ideas for preppers and outdoor enthusiasts!
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