How Do I Start Prepping?

By Suzanne Wiley

“I’d learned that preppers are, without exception, a bunch of fat racists playing with guns in the woods and throwing money down the drain to buy underground shelters and dehydrated foods to survive an event that’s never going to happen. Also, probably, they have at some point posted in the same internet forums as someone who went on to be a spree killer.” contributor Jamie Lee Curtis Taete

In various locations throughout my home, (I can’t tell you exactly where because reasons) you’ll find a case of freeze-dried food, a water filter, about a 1,000 rounds of .223 ammo, a high-quality utility knife, fire-starting materials, fuel-powered lanterns, flashlights, a camp stove, first aid supplies, extra batteries and various other emergency and survival gear.

My family and I also have a solid plan for when disaster strikes—be it a tornado warning or a total economic collapse.

I wouldn’t consider my emergency kit and contingency plan as extremist and I don’t consider myself paranoid. However, I do feel that prepping is the best way you and your family will survive a long-term natural or man-made disaster. I mean, I’ve heard the 911 calls made during Hurricane Katrina.

Operator: No, the police is (sic) not coming out until the weather conditions get better.

Hurricane Katrina killed 1,833 people. A combination of failures on the part of the government and a lack of preparedness led to the catastrophic aftermath.

A few years after Katrina, some friends and I took a road trip to New Orleans. During our time there, we drove through the Lower Ninth Ward. Many of the abandoned houses were still standing (somewhat,) marked with the mysterious red X’s on the front. Unless you were able to get into one of the 109 new homes Brad Pitt’s non-profit Make it Right foundation built, you may have had no other choice but to turn to FEMA.

I never want to depend on an over-worked, under-manned and tightly budgeted system for food and shelter, especially when I am fully capable of fending for myself.

Do I consider myself a prepper? No. Not at all. I prefer the term “prepared.” Why? Because, albeit all the encouragement our government and first responder organizations like The American Red Cross give us, the term ‘prepper’ has become synonymous with, well…looney. Thanks to shows like Doomsday Preppers, those of us who (intelligently) have an emergency plan and supplies, gained a reputation for only having one oar in the water.

David Sarti, who appeared on the NatGEO show, Doomsday Preppers was deemed mentally defective and his guns were removed from his home.
David Sarti, who appeared on the NatGEO show, Doomsday Preppers was deemed mentally defective and his guns were removed from his home.

To the likeliest of scenarios, like an extended power outage, to the most highly unlikely, say, like the machines taking over, there is one skill I want to be able to utilize swiftly and efficiently—to adapt and overcome. I don’t think this is an abnormal wish.

I feel pretty confident in saying no one wants to be stuck on the roof of their house without food or freshwater in the sizzling heat for days—or even hours for that matter. Now, there were victims of Hurricane Katrina without the physical ability to evacuate themselves and that lays on the conscience of the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana; however, there were those who decided to ride out the storm and ignore evacuation orders even though they had the means and the money to skedaddle.

Tell me. What would you rather do? Have emergency supplies on hand to ride it out or would you rather be stuck in a stifling attic, asking the 911 operator to stay on the phone with you because you just knew it would be the last person you ever spoke to?

Prepping doesn’t sound so crazy when I put it that way, huh?

So, you don’t want to be pigeonholed. I get it. Me neither! So, how do normal people prep for disasters? What is an emergency preparedness plan? The Red Cross, which responds to about 70,000 disasters in the U.S. a year, has a simple 3-step plan—get a kit, make a plan, be informed.

Get a Survival Kit

A survival kit consists of the essential items you need to survive a disaster.

You are more likely to survive a disaster if you are prepared. Build an emergency preparedness kit that includes water, first aid and other essential survival items.
Survive an emergency with your survival kit.

When reading through my emergency preparedness kit above, you might have thought it was a lot. However, my emergency and survival supplies aren’t difficult to store. They have not overtaken the garage or a room in the house. I haven’t had to build extra shelves to accommodate them. The back of the closet, the corner of the garage, in the attic and under the bed are all fairly easily accessible places to store some supplies without sacrificing space for your regular stuff.

What to Keep in Your Survival Kit


Safe drinking water is your priority. We each need a minimum of one gallon of water per day for drinking and basic sanitation. Store three days’ worth in the pantry, in the fridge, or wherever you can find a place to store it (preferably in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight.)

Non-Perishable Food

Just like with your water, you will want to keep three days of non-perishable food. This is anything in a can or a box that doesn’t require cold ingredients to cook (like milk or butter.) There are also pre-packed survival foods you can purchase such as freeze-dried food and MREs. If you are going to do cans, you need at least two cans per person per day. Food in cans lasts up to five years, if stored properly.

Flashlight and batteries

A good, sturdy knife helps with building shelter, fire starting and has many other survival uses.
A good, sturdy knife helps with building shelter, fire starting and has many other survival uses.

First aid kit—including:

  • Medication to treat pain and stomach ailments
  • Prescriptions
  • Pair of glasses and extra contacts and contact solution
  • Allergy medication
  • Insect repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • A variety of bandages and dressing gauze
  • Antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide for disinfecting/cleaning
  • Emergency blanket
  • Tweezers
  • Plastic gloves


Tools include a multi-tool, utility knife, can opener and cooking and eating utensils. I have extras of all these items in an easy grab-and-go plastic tote kept with my camping gear.

Fire starter

Copies of important documents on a flash drive

Sanitation and personal hygiene

These are your barest essentials for a survival kit.

Additionally, I have:

  • A camp stove with fuel
  • Lantern with fuel
  • Paracord
  • Water filter
  • Firearm and ammo
  • Various pocket survival kits, including the 12 Survivors Fish & Fire Kit
  • Signal mirror and whistle
  • Metal pot and cups
  • Sewing/repair kit
  • Tent
  • Tarp
  • Emergency poncho
  • A variety of knives and different tools
What stopped you from prepping for a natural disaster in the past? Since it WILL happen, it is best to be ready for it.
Disaster will happen. It is your response to it that will determine how well you survive.

If you must evacuate, you will not be able to take everything with you. In this case, you will want to make what is called a bug-out bag. Mine is a 12 Survivors hiking backpack which fits an appropriate change of clothing for me and my family members, first aid kit, flashlight and batteries, phone chargers, knives and multi-tools, fire starter, water filter, blanket, flash drive, personal hygiene items, pre-packed survival kit and ammo.

Always keep an extra bag charcoal or propane tank for the grill, a gas can full of gas, don’t throw out old blankets and buy an extra bundle of wood in the winter—a little extra of everything won’t take up much space or cost a lot.

The key is keeping everything easily accessible and portable. Keep your emergency preparedness kit in a centralized location in covered containers with handles or in backpacks.

Of course, “normal” is all relative. I like to think of myself as normal; however, I’m sure there are some who probably think otherwise. I don’t have a tinfoil hat, but I do remain aware. I’m not ruling out a serious disaster that has the potential to change life forever. In that case…or in any case…I want to be ready for it.

If you ask me, preparing for disasters should be the new normal.

How are you and your family preparing for a disaster? Leave your prepping tips in the comment section.