Preparedness for contingencies goes a long way to turning chaos into mere inconvenience. Finding one’s self unprepared when life throws you a curveball sucks.
Hopefully, like many TTAG readers, you maintain some level of readiness for a variety of emergencies. If so, congrats. The question quickly becomes how much is “enough” though when it comes to critical itms like food, water and ammo?
Rugged independence and self-sufficiency made America great. More importantly, by maintaining your own preparedness, you can become part of the recovery after an emergency, instead of part of the problem. The more Americans prepare for emergencies and disasters, the faster recovery will happen.
Food and Water
Why is water storage important? Simply put, dehydration is a horrific way to die. At the Beslan School Massacre, Muslim terrorists withheld water from their hostages – children and adults alike. By the second day in the summer heat, people eagerly drank urine from shoes. By the end of the second day, the first few began to die from dehydration.
Nobody wants that for their family.
Medical issues and death from lack of food don’t happen as quickly as dehydration. Nevertheless, energy levels drop without food. Believe it or not, even with a caloric intake of 1100-1600 per day, most people will die in a matter of months. Don’t believe it? Just look at those in concentration camps during World War II.
Those with existing health issues may see those problems made worse from a lack of or insufficient nourishment. And while Americans on average have plenty of extra weight with which to exist during lean times, medical professionals seldom recommend a starvation diet.
So, how much food and water should you put away for an emergency?
Two weeks’ worth makes a great start for your personal preparedness. If you have nothing currently, seven days’ worth is a 1000% improvement over your current state of readiness.
You’ve may have heard some say you should have a year’s food at home. That’s up to you, but know that today, not even most Mormons have a year’s larder in their homes.
Looking around, it’s easy to see why. In today’s America, a disruption of the food supply lasting more than just a few days is virtually non-existent unless you live in sparsely populated, remote regions.
When it comes to clean water, municipal supplies come filtered and treated to our taps. Cities have backup systems in case of malfunctions or power outages. For them, failures come very few and far between – and even then typically only require a short boil order of a day or two.
For the average American, a two-week supply of emergency supplies will get them through 99.999+% of anything life may throw at them.
Alternatively, with no supplies, there’s always government assistance. Just like at the Superdome in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, right? Failing to prepare translates to preparing to fail.
Food and Water Aren’t Enough
Do you have special needs or want to secure additional peace of mind? Fine. Bump your supplies up to four weeks – or three months. Or a year. It’s your money, time and storage space.
I’ve been there. Before Y2K (remember that?), I had a year’s supply and a whole lot more. I earned my doctorate in preparedness the hard way. Afterwards – and to this day – I felt like a fool, but I was a prepared fool.
Today, I’m perfectly comfortable with four weeks’ worth of food, water, toilet paper — don’t scrimp on the TP stash — and baby wipes. It’s a good idea to keep a decent amount of cash on hand, too. And don’t forget candles and batteries for flashlights and a radio. Want to be sure you can charge your phone? A solar charger could come in handy.
Are you foolishly planning to come to my house in an emergency because you think I’m all stocked up? Hah! Bring a tent and some food. You can camp in the nearby park. There’s a porta-potty out there.
What about feeding family or neighbors? If you plan to start feeding others, you’ll never be able to store enough.
If riots or civil breakdown occur following a calamity, how long will your residence remain safe and secure? In most cases, in the near-term, it should remain relatively safe for a few days to a couple of weeks, minimum.
You know your neighborhood and what’s beyond it. Gun owners will keep an eye out for their own homes and those of their neighbors in the days following any emergency. Know the open carry laws in your city and state. Opportunistic looters will avoid gun-toting residents for good reason.
What happens, though, a couple of weeks after your neighbors run out of food and their children begin begging mom and dad for something to eat? At that point, things will grow increasingly dicey for you, no matter your level of preparedness.
How so? How’s it going to go when your neighbors smell your grill when they haven’t eaten for a week or two? Ditto for smelling bacon and eggs in the morning. Those Porterhouse steaks and baked potatoes you’ve salted away will taste mighty good to someone else after they shoot you in the back.
Storing enough for you and yours for a year will mean little if desperate people in your neighborhood resort to desperate measures to feed their families – or provide water to them.
“How much ammunition do I need?” It’s a fair question. It depends.
For self-defense? For your Roscoe, buy some reputable hollow-point ammunition made by a leading manufacturer. Avoid the exotics like the plague. At a bare minimum, buy at least fifty rounds to test-fire in your self-defense pistol. Make sure it functions with flawless reliability. If it doesn’t, don’t make excuses for it. Try another brand instead.
The most common causes for modern pistol malfunctions are ammunition- and magazine-related. Once you’ve found the hollow-point ammo that works reliably with your gat, buy another fifty rounds for self-defense for that pistol. Repeat for each pistol you own.
Unlike well-maintained guns, magazines do not last forever. Buy extra factory replacement magazines and have at least three magazines for each pistol.
The aftermarket magazines for most self-defense pistols often lack the reliability of factory mags, regardless of whether they are “guaranteed” to function or not. And if you’re an experienced shooter using a 1911-style pistol for self-defense, you know which mags provide bulletproof reliability.
For your modern sporting rifle – such as America’s favorite, the AR-15, have at least three 30-round magazines and ammo to fill them (at 28 rounds each). Again, that’s a bare minimum.
For those of you who live in states with “high capacity” magazine limits, adjust accordingly.
For you bolt-gun connoisseurs, you can get by with a couple of boxes of rounds, minimum, once you’re sighted properly. Shotguns make great home and yard defense tools against man and beast, provided you’ve got fifteen or twenty rounds of #00 Buck and about as many rifled slugs.
“Hogwash! You need to buy ammo by the case!”
While you can never have enough ammo on hand, two things: if you’re in a fire fight where you’re cranking off hundreds of rounds of ammo, you’re probably going to catch one coming back at you. Also, have you tried carrying a thousand rounds of 5.56 – or even 9mm lately? If things have devolved to the point you need thousands of rounds of ammo, someone else will appreciate your dedication to supplying them with ammo.
Also worth mentioning: just because a calamity has occurred doesn’t mean you have a green light to shoot every shady-looking character who crosses your path. The same rule of law applies – and will be applied once the emergency has passed.
If your homestead has a half-dozen dead folks rotting away on the periphery, you better have a good, legally justifiable reason why they got that way.
Drugs and Medications
Let’s talk drugs. No, not recreational pharmaceuticals but life-sustaining or quality-of-life drugs. Always – repeat always – keep at least 30 days’ supply of life-sustaining drugs on hand. Blood pressure, heart, insulin, anti-crazy pills, etc.
You may have to pay for that extra month’s supply, but get it and keep it fresh. AllDayChemist.com is a proven, reputable online pharmacy for non-narcotic prescription meds at affordable prices if you’re in the self-pay category.
Keep your gas tank at least half full. Always. In an attached garage, you’re usually limited by fire codes to ten gallons of gasoline in cans. Storing gasoline and propane outdoors is far safer than storing even a single can or bottle of gas in your home.
Solution: buy a patio box and keep fuels outdoors if you don’t already have a shed. Keep your gas can(s) full and treated. Get yourself a 5# or 10# fire extinguisher or two as well.
Have a generator? Great! Store another ten to twenty gallons of gasoline (in an outside structure or patio box) and that should carry you through a couple of weeks of keeping the sump pit emptied and the refrigerator and freezer cold.
Rotate the fuel each year in the winter months and stabilize the gas with Sta-Bil, PRI-G, or Star-Tron. Store it tightly sealed. Run the generator during the day and chain it up so it doesn’t grow legs and run away when you’re not watching.
No matter how much you practice preparedness, you will inevitably need something in an emergency. When cash may not be in much demand, you can always barter for it.
The first rule of zombies is cardio.
The first rule of barter is never trade away anything that can be used against you. Don’t buy stuff with ammo – not even .22s. And never trade away a gun.
Top three things to store for barter use: fuel, alcohol and sugar. Everyone will need fuel: treated gasoline, diesel, kerosene, etc.
In tough times, a person can trade grain alcohol for almost anything, including fuel. With about one in eight Americans showing signs of alcoholism today, booze will get you about anything you need. And with sugar, you can make alcohol.
So, consider storing a few bottles of vodka and Jack Daniels. Both will store for decades and cheap vodka sells for under $6 per bottle most places. Drinkable stuff goes for twice that.
The second rule of bartering: don’t let on that you have significant quantities of sought-after items. Doing so my attract people who are more interested in taking than trading.
Yes, certain events can imperil civilization as a whole. However, if you’re playing the odds, you can handle almost anything life will throw at you with a little forethought and couple weeks’ worth of preparedness items.
After all, that survival mindset is the most important survival tool each of us owns.
This article was originally published in 2017.