Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Emergency Preparedness: How to Budget for What You Need

Happy New Year!  I wanted to start off the new year by getting back to basics and talking about some of the fundamentals for starting out with prepping and then keeping a purposeful and organized prepping plan going.  In an emergency situation, you want to have a number of supplies that you can fall back on to ensure your survival, health, and safety. This requires collecting and maintaining a decent amount of those supplies even though you may never need them. Altogether, these supplies - including food and water, first aid supplies, items for self-defense, and things to provide shelter if you have to "bug out."  But even the most basic survival kits can add up in terms of cost very quickly.

The main focus of this article will be for the folks who are just getting started building their preps.  But keep in mind that things like research, budgeting, and prioritization will always be important, no matter how far advanced you are with prepping.  These concepts will be extremely important for the new prepper to help you get started.  Then as you get more advanced in your prepping skills, research, prioritization, and budgeting will be second nature, and you will be focussing more on how to improve what you have and evolve the sophistication of your preps with the changing times. 

Do Your Research:

If you are starting from scratch, do some research on emergency preparedness. Look to websites such as The American Red Cross and FEMA Emergency Preparedness for lists and ideas of what you need to build a survival “kit” and items to stockpile for emergencies. You can also search the Internet and your local area for survivor training and tips.  There is a wealth of good websites out there, and some of them will be listed at the end of this article.

Once you have ideas of specific items you need, research those too. Some items, like food and water, are pretty foolproof. However, other items such as shelter building supplies, weather clothing and gear, self-defense items, and first aid supplies, are not created equal.  There is not a one size fits all method of preparedness, and states all have different laws when it comes to what you can use for self-defense.  Knowing what to look for can save you money while also guaranteeing that you have the best products on hand.

Make a List:

Essentials Survival Kit Before you go out and buy everything you need, make a detailed list of what items you need for your emergency preparedness or survival kit. Break the list up into sections based on their categories such as sustenance, shelter, first aid, self-defense, and more.

Also, have an idea of how much everything on that list costs as well. For home stockpiles, most experts recommend that you have a minimum of three days' worth of supplies, but at least two weeks' worth is preferred.

Initial Prioritization:

To know what items to purchase first, prioritize the list you made based on items that are the most important and most useful. If you are just getting started with prepping, it is important to realize that there are a number of things that you will need, but that you cannot purchase everything all at once.  The top three items to prioritize are:

  • Water: Having enough water stockpiled is one of the most important survival tips. Keep bottled water both in your car and your home. For your home stockpile, the best rule of thumb is to have one gallon of water per person per day.  When getting started, try to build up to a 2-week supply of water.
  • First aid: A good emergency first aid kit and basic first aid knowledge is another item to prioritize. The American Red Cross has a detailed list of items that should be in any first aid kit. You will need to add or make changes to that list based on your family size and specific medical needs.
  • Food: The most likely disaster situation involves a severe weather event where you could be stuck in your home for days or more without electricity or water. Having a decent stockpile of non-perishable foods to keep you and your family nourished is very important.  At a minimum, build op a 2-week supply of food.

Budget and Build Up:

Especially if you are starting from scratch, buying all of the items you need at once might not be very budget-friendly. You might have to get one or two items at a time and build-up to the full amount of items needed over time.  But do NOT go into debt just to build up your supplies quickly.  Make prepping a monthly budget line-item, be reasonable, then stick to it.  Subscription services such as those mentioned below can help with this.

Look for Bargains:

As you are building up your emergency preparedness supplies, keep an eye out for good deals, coupons, and sales.  The Dollar Store (or similar type of stores) are excellent sources for the supplies that you will need.  Subscription services such as those from Wise Foods and Prepper Gear Box can also help save money, and will also help you to maintain a steady stream of supplies.

Paying Down Debt:

I've already mentioned budgeting because it is that important.  During this time, you should be seeking financial advice for helping you to pay down debt and not accumulating additional debt.  Debt is probably one of the biggest killers when times get tough, and that monthly expense just to pay off high-interest credit cards and loans will not help you meet your prepping goals.  Do NOT go into debt with prepping.  Only buy what you can pay for, and don't accumulate unpaid credit card balances by paying for subscriptions.  If you already do a budget, excellent!  If you have not done a budget before, seek professional assistance.  You will be amazed at how much of your money you can take back just by knowing where it is going and doing more purposeful spending each month.

Prepper Maintenance:

Some basic maintenance will help save you money and keep your survival supplies up to date. Keep your food and water stores rotating as they come near their expiration dates. That way things can be used rather than thrown out and stores kept fresh in case of emergency. Proper maintenance of any tools and other equipment will keep them from needing to be replaced, which will also save you money.  Be sure to know the difference between "best by" dates and hard expiration dates for your items.

Budget and Prioritize Again:

This is an ongoing task that needs to be reevaluated and frequently recalculated.  Once you have the basics, it's time to start looking at additional supplies, so your priorities and even your budgeting may change. Camping supplies to provide shelter and cooking in case you have to bug out, more advanced first-aid supplies and some self-defense items will all be important parts of your survival cache.  Some of the items at which you are now trying to work into your prepping supply may tend to be more sophisticated and more expensive as well.

Wrapping it all Up:

Emergency preparedness is a responsible and potentially life-saving life skill, but being ready for anything isn't always cheap. It takes a lot of research, a lot of prioritizing, and very dedicated and disciplined budgeting in order to build a good supply of preps. You can ensure the safety of your family and the sanity of your budget just by researching what you need, looking for a few bargains, and being purposeful with what you spend.  Be sure to revisit your prioritized list often, and be sure to have a rotation plan for those items with expiration dates.

Additional Resources:

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Keeping Important Documents Safe and Secure

We're just preparing for that wide-spread disaster that will cause us to pick up all of our preps and head for the hills.  It is just as important to be prepared for those disasters that can happen at any moment, such as a house fire, that can affect just us and the loved ones at our homes.  We hope and pray that nothing will happen to our home, but it’s a good idea to be prepared “just in case”. You likely have insurance on your home and many material things in your house can be easily replaced should disaster strike. Other things like photos and important documents can be hard or impossible to replace. Missing documents can make it harder to rebuild after disaster strikes. That’s why it is a good idea to keep them safe and secure.

Invest In A Fire Safe: A good fire safe will survive a lot of damage. Invest in a quality one for any documents you want to keep at home. You can get a fairly small box that can be stashed away in a closet or cabinet. Make sure both you and your spouse know where the safe is kept and has a key to open it. 

Get A Bank Safety Deposit Box: You may also want to rent a bank deposit box and store important documents, or notarized copies of them there. This will come in handy when you need the information on the documents (i.e. your insurance policy number), or you need to replace documents that didn’t survive a home emergency. 

Make Physical Copies: It’s amazing how much easier it is to get a replacement passport or birth certificate if you have a copy of the original. That’s why it’s helpful to make these paper copies and keep them in a secure offsite location (like a bank deposit box). You could also keep them at a family member’s home. Make sure the copies are stored safely to avoid issues like identity theft. 

Make Digital Copies And Store Them Online: Last but not least, go ahead and scan the documents or take pictures of them with your phone and store them on a secure online server. Places like Google Photo and Google Drive will store quite a bit of information for you free of charge.  If you have a Microsoft Office 365 subscription, that subscription gives you one terabyte of online cloud storage.  Since your documents and scans are living in the cloud, you can easily access them from anywhere with your phone or a borrowed computer. This also makes it easy to email them off to insurance agents, or government officials to get replacement documents made. 

Spend a little time this week to sort through your most important documents and get your paperwork in order. It won’t take you long to scan them, take pictures of them, and/or make photocopies. The little work you’re doing now to be prepared will potentially save you a lot of headaches down the road. 

Make it a point to revisit your documents every 6 months to make sure everything is up to date and in order. Once the original setup is done, it will be much easier to keep up with it. You’ll likely only need to change out one or two document copies a year. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Refuse To Be A Victim - Awareness, Avoidance, Confidence

Knowing how to defend yourself is great, and it is something that everybody should learn how to do. Avoiding being attacked altogether, however, is even better, and of course, it is safer.  When it comes to potential crime there is one essential rule -- refuse to be a victim. The fact is that if you look like a victim, you are more likely to become one. So, how can you avoid looking like and becoming a victim?

Many of us spend our spare moments looking at our tablets and smartphones, talking on the phone, or even relaxing with our MP3 players and headphones. While all of these devices are wonderful, they can distract us from what is happening around us. When you are out and about, your surroundings need your attention more, and if you have headphones on, you won't hear any "out of the ordinary" noises. Put off using these devices until you are in an area where you really are safe and can relax.

Changing a few habits, and doing without distractions can save your life!  Awareness, avoidance, and confidence are a few of your best self-defense tools that you already have and won't cost you anything except time to adapt and let them become your second nature.  Here are some additional tips to help you to avoid becoming a victim:

First, avoid places where an attack may occur without notice by others. This includes dark streets and alleys, abandoned parking lots, and other under-populated areas. If you must venture into such areas, make sure that you do not go alone.

Be aware of your surroundings, and listen to your gut instincts. Safety is not always convenient.  Criminals don't like to be noticed, and if they realize that you are paying close attention to your surroundings, they are more likely to go away and look for another victim. If you must go out of your way to avoid putting yourself in danger -- do so! No appointment or destination is more important than your safety and your life.

Women: If there is a great deal of walking involved to reach your destination, wear shoes that you can run in, and carry those slingback heels in your bag. It's hard to get away from an attacker in high heels.

Avoid flashing things that may be of great interest to a thief. This includes electronic devices, purses, wallets, and jewelry. This doesn't mean that you can't carry these items; it just means that you should be discreet with them. You don't want these items to attract unwanted attention.

Look people in the eye and acknowledge them. Again, criminals don't want to be noticed. If you've looked them in the eye, they know that you can identify them, and they are most likely not going to attack. Furthermore, when you look someone in the eye, you have a better perception of what they are looking at themselves.

Always have a destination and a purpose in mind -- or at the very least, look like you do. Those who display self-confidence and purpose, instead of walking obliviously along and looking down at their shoes,  are less likely to be attacked. Walk with your head held up -- not looking at the ground.

Always know your options. While you don't want to look like a victim, you can't ever really let your guard down. When you are walking along, always have an escape plan in mind.

Trust your instincts. If your instincts tell you that danger is near, it most likely is. Never ignore your gut instincts or assume that you are just being paranoid.

By changing a few habits and being more aware of your surroundings, you can avoid being a victim.  Overall, use your common sense. If you feel like you are venturing into dangerous territory, turn around and go back. If you feel like you are being followed, get to a safe place as fast as you can. If you are being watched, call for help or change locations. Don't feel like you are being paranoid or foolish. You are simply trying to avoid being attacked!