How to develop a a solid disaster preparedness plan

Step #1 Make a checklist

The first step in a successful disaster preparedness plan is to write down specifically what type of disaster that you are preparing for.

What you need to prepare for may depend to some extent on your geographical area. People in Oklahoma have little to fear from hurricanes, while Florida residents should have them high on their list, especially after the decimating 2004 season.

People in northern New York State may be more concerned about blizzards which temporarily stop the resupply chain.

You may live near a nuclear power plant or a major US Air Force base. Do you need to prepare for a major riot, a terrorist attack, a nuclear assault, or an economic collapse?

Write down all the possible ramifications of the eminent emergency and how they would affect you.

#2 Decide on the timeline

Now that you have decided on a specific disaster and how it will affect you, the second step is to decide how long you think the crisis will last.

Do you want to have enough supplies on hand to last three months, six months, or more? Write down the possible threats to the supply chain and the length of time that you believe each would last.

Be specific.

#3 Numbers

The third step is to evaluate the number of people you are going to prepare for. Who will you be feeding? Will you have a spouse and children to look out for? What about grandma, or your younger sister? Will there be infants to provide formula and diapers for?

Write down everyone that you intend to provide for in an economic collapse and any special needs that they may have.

Now make a list of things that you can do to protect yourself against the unfolding events in the disaster you have chosen to prepare for. If you know what crisis you are preparing for and for how long, as well as the number of people involved, you can now make a list of action steps to take.

How much stored water will you need? Look at the food in your cabinet. What types of food and supplies will you need to get through the shortages? Will you stay put or head for a rural shelter?

If you know who you will have to feed and for how long, you can figure out how much and what types of food to stock up on.

Analyze your grocery buying habits and make a list of how much you will need of each food item to last for six months, or whatever time frame that you have chosen.

Make a written inventory of what is on your shelves right now, and what you buy on a regular basis. What specific food items does your family eat and exactly how much in a month’s time? Does any of your family members take special supplements such as berocca tablets?

A smart food storage plan is based on your family’s preferences. Buy what you know they like, and buy foods that are nutritionally balanced.

A little at a time

Once you have an idea of how much food and personal items your family uses in a month, then you have an idea of what and how much to buy for the amount of time you have chosen to prepare for.

The best thing is that you don’t have to buy it all at once.

One idea is to set aside a little money every week in your budget to be used only for disaster food storage. If you can spend an extra ten dollars on canned goods every time you go grocery shopping, you will soon have a good start on your emergency preparedness plan with very little time invested.

For every canned food item you buy to use today, buy another one for storage and write today’s date on it with a black felt-tipped pen. The following week you could pick up items such as rice, beans, and Kool-Aid, for example.

Once that particular item is on your shelf you can shop for bargains, which will also save you money.

Buying emergency preparedness items in bulk at Sam’s Club or Costco will save you even more money.

Be sure and track your purchases in a notebook so that you don’t wind up with eighty cans of tuna fish and no mayonnaise. Remember to have nutrition and balance in your SHTF plan.


Not only food but other essentials such as soap, shampoo, razors, etc. are important to stock up on. A good example is toilet paper. It doesn’t seem that important, but just try doing without it for a month and you will realize its importance.

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Familiar food is an important part of the daily routine in a crisis. Comfort foods such as chocolate and various kinds of candy will do wonders for morale.

It is wise to include these items in your emergency preparations because they are irreplaceable in times of crisis and stress, and will improve everyone’s attitude.

Have a camp stove or a crisis cooker and plenty of fuel to run it. Nothing boosts the morale of stressed people like a good hot meal and something hot to drink.

Another important aspect of an emergency preparedness plan is to stock up on things that keep the inhabitants happy and content during a disaster.

A good example of this would be to have coloring books and crayons for any small children who will be sharing your home or shelter during an emergency.

You will need plenty of board and card games, books, and toys for the older kids.

If your emergency plan for keeping the kids occupied during a crisis involves card or board games, start playing the games now because staying close to the ordinary routine is important, especially for kids.

Handheld electronic games will be a blessing in a disaster if you have enough batteries, so store a lot of batteries in the refrigerator to extend their life. Portable CD players will be also be a hit in an emergency.

  1. If you have an infant, stock up on diapers, formula, ointments, etc.
  2. Don’t overlook toiletries, personal hygiene items, feminine products, or specific medicinal needs of family members. The unpleasantness of doing without these items in an emergency is unnecessary and can be avoided entirely.
  3. You will also need good books to read, as well as anything else that will keep you entertained during the long hours of boredom that are associated with long power outages.
  4. Keeping emergency preparedness and how-to books in your home or shelter is a must, not only to while away the hours of boredom, but as a vital source of information that could save your life and the lives of your family.
  5. Instruction and how-to manuals are great, but after a while you will want some good fiction books too.
  6. Have at least one Holy Book handy.
  7. If your wife likes romance novels by a particular author, stock some of those on the shelf. Fiction books in general are a good idea in a crisis because you will tire of the how-to books after a while. After you have been cooped up for a while, novels provide a temporary but necessary mental escape.
  8. A musical instrument such as a guitar would do wonders to fill the hours of boredom. Be sure to stock extra guitar strings.
  9. Pens and paper pads are also good for boredom relief in an extended crisis.
  10. A good AM/FM radio is a must because music and information from the outside world will be critical for morale, provided the EMP of a nuclear strike has not disabled the stations. A Baygen hand cranked radio is nice to have when the power goes out and is a neat novelty. They are expensive, around $130, but they can turn an overnight power outage into a fun evening with the kids.

Space, the final frontier

SHTF Plan storageAnother consideration in emergency preparation is how much storage space do you have?

The ideal storage space for emergency supplies would be cool, dry, and dark. Basements make excellent storage spaces for emergency supplies because of the coolness, provided it is a dry basement and not prone to leaks or dampness.

Attics and garages are a poor choice for perishable emergency supplies because the heat will greatly reduce the shelf life of your food. These places are a great place to store paper items such as plates, glasses, toilet paper, etc.

The best storage spaces for emergency food are the spaces with the lowest and most consistent temperatures, ideally between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Failing that, most walk-in closets have shelves that make good storage space for disaster supplies, as well as coat closets.

To store non-food emergency items, mount shelves in your laundry room, or use easily assembled metal storage shelves.

Keep in mind that the heat and humidity of a clothes washer and dryer may shorten the shelf life of canned or dried foods stored in a laundry room.

The space under stairs and even under and behind furniture such as sofas and beds can accommodate a lot of food, as well as spare bedrooms and crawl spaces.

Cupboards and pantries tend to have a lot of wasted space, so rearrange their contents and utilize that space for emergency preparedness storage.

Be sure and do not store food in inconvenient, out-of-the-way places or you won’t use it, leading to eventual food spoilage and wasted money.

A good way to avoid this is to convert a hall closet or utility room into a pantry with shelves for emergency supplies.

Rule of threes

In his book, The Modern Survival Retreat, Ragnar Benson discusses the “Survivor’s Rule of Threes.”

Your system for procuring life’s most critical needs should be redundant in order to ensure that these needs are met.

  • For water, you should have the ability to collect rainwater, carry water from a pond or stream, and siphon from a well.
  • You should have three sources of food: stored emergency supplies, animals to raise, and a garden.
  • For emergency lighting, three good sources would be candles, kerosene lanterns, and flashlights.

These are just a few examples, but you get the idea.


Practice your emergency preparedness system to make sure it works. Turn the utilities off at your house for several days and prepare meals with only what you have.

Any holes in your SHTF plan will quickly surface, and this dress-rehearsal for disaster will give you priceless information for changes that need to be made to your emergency preparedness plan.

Other considerations

Don’t forget to store emergency cash.

In a protracted crisis, cash will eventually become worthless but in those first critical days of the disaster it will be king.

You should have at the very least a three month supply of cash in your home, enough to pay all the bills and buy whatever you forgot to stock ahead of time.

Do not put this cash in the bank because you will not have access to it in an emergency if the bank is closed.

Store it safely in your home and do not spend it on anything else

Do not store large bills

In a power outage, you may need small bills if the stores can’t make change, and they probably won’t accept credit cards or checks.

In your disaster preparation scenario, how mobile will you and your supplies have to be? Does your disaster plan call for staying put at home or bugging out to a remote shelter? To help you decide, read Bug Out or Stay Home In a Disaster.

If you don’t make emergency food storage a priority, it will never happen. Now that you know how to develop a disaster plan, YOU MUST START NOW.

Preparation, not desperation

Philip Hoag, in No Such Thing as Doomsday, says “some people worry, others prepare.”

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Preparation reduces the stress and anxiety of an emergency. It gives you an inner strength and emotional stability when others are panicking, and these can be priceless commodities.

Instead of sitting around worrying, use the planning stage now to imagine how you will react in various disasters, and imagine what supplies you will need for emergency preparedness. Then act. Follow through with your disaster plan.

Instead of living in helpless fear when the crisis hits, you will be in control with confidence. John Glenn once said, “The greatest antidote to worry, whether you’re getting ready for space flight or facing a problem of daily life, is preparation… the more you try to envision what might happen and what your best response and options are, the more you are able to allay your fears about the future.”

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