Various catastrophic scenarios — floods, earthquakes, fire, pandemics — can cut you off from your usual supply of power, water, food and other necessities. In this detailed manual, survival expert Creek Stewart shows you how to prepare for a crisis. He offers step-by-step, photo-illustrated instructions for storing and collecting water, stocking a long-term pantry, heating and cooking with fire if you lack gas or electricity, and other survival steps. Stewart’s practical strategies are designed for home use, but those with small commercial facilities may find some helpful ideas.
- Prepare for disaster.
- Assemble and maintain a long-term food storage pantry.
- Develop a supply of potable water.
- Prepare wood-burning devices for cooking without electricity or gas.
- Your emergency plan should include a means of off-grid heating.
- Because human waste can spread disease, prepare to deal with sanitation.
- Use live drills to put your plan to the test.
Prepare for disaster.
Harsh weather, the pandemic, wildfires and infrastructure-related emergencies underscore the importance of having a plan for surviving disasters that could leave you without electricity or water.
“It is not a matter of if, but when, each of us will need to tap into the preparations we are making today.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic generated a widespread lack of goods and services, many people learned the hard way that they were not prepared to shelter in place.
Assemble and maintain a long-term food storage pantry.
You can prepare to live off the grid for as long as a year.If you follow a sound storage strategy, you can stockpile sufficient food to last that long. However, a one-year plan calls for storing a lot of food, so modify the time frame according to your circumstances. The size of your food inventory depends on the time span you want to cover and how many people you must feed in your family or group. Begin with short-term contingency planning, then expand.
Set aside a storage space that is protected against sunlight, heat, moisture and pests. It should be easily accessible, with sufficient lighting, sturdy shelving and an electrical outlet.
Organize your food cache into three “tiers:”
- Tier one — This holds roughly two weeks’ worth of food, the minimum a household should have in reserve. Stock this tier with the foods you eat daily, including fresh foods.
- Tier two — This contains food for a shelter-in-place scenario of two weeks to three months. During an emergency, priorities such as first aid, power and communications may preoccupy you, so stock up on easy-to-prepare food, such as freeze-dried camping meals.
- Tier three — This supply contains food that can remain safe and edible for three months to a year, such as freeze-dried foods; bulk dry goods, such as dried beans, flour and seeds; and long-lasting grocery items, such as canned goods, powdered soup and cooking oil.
Use your long-term pantry as your every day, normal pantry. Stock the food your family eats regularly. Draw from the pantry – mainly from the first tier – for daily menus, choosing the oldest items first. On your trips to the grocery store, buy replacements and restock the pantry. Properly applied, this “rotation strategy” forestalls any need to discard food because it reaches its expiration date.
“When putting together your disaster-ready home, it does not matter where you start.”
Calculate how much food you will need to stock. For simplicity, count every family member as an adult, excluding infants. Using the serving size on food packages as a guide, determine how much of each item you need to provide each person with three daily servings of grain, protein, and vegetables or fruit.
Choose your food stock from the following categories:
- Grain — Buy grains in bulk and store them long-term in five-gallon buckets.
- Protein — Nuts, peanut butter,canned meats and canned fish are rich in protein. Store them with the foods you rotate regularly. Good protein choices for long-term storage include dry beans, peas and lentils. Freeze-dried meat and seafood are nutritious but expensive. Add the protein powder used in smoothies, textured vegetable protein and a soybean-flour meat substitute. If you are in a rural area and have space, consider maintaining a chicken coop to ensure a supply of fresh eggs and chicken.
- Fruits and vegetables — Unless you keep a garden and do home canning, buy dried fruits and freeze-dried or canned fruits and vegetables. You can store some fresh produce, including apples, squash, potatoes and carrots, for months if you protect them from heat and moisture or preserve them properly. To obtain fresh greens, grow bean, lentil or seed sprouts, a simple process that takes little space and produces healthy greens in six days.
- Fats — Fats are essential, but most don’t keep well. Build up a supply of coconut oil, olive oil, canned fish, nuts and butter in your regular-rotation stock.
- Flavoring and spices — Include a range of flavorings, such as dry spices, honey, chicken bouillon, and garlic and onion flakes.
- Vitamins — Stock supplements to make sure you and everyone in your group can receive their daily requirements of nutrients.
Bulk foods like grains, seeds and beans usually come in bags or buckets that don’t provide sufficient long-term protection from moisture, oxygen, sunlight and pests. However, if you put these items in the right containers, they can last indefinitely. For example, seal them in Mylar bags inside waterproof buckets. Put a 2,000cc oxygen absorber packet in each bag to protect the food from oxidation and to inhibit insect infestations from the eggs or larvae that often appear in dry goods.
Develop a supply of potable water.
Store enough water to provide at least two gallons a day for each family member. Storing this much water is a challenge. You may have to supplement your reserve with water you collect from renewable sources.
“Water is arguably the single most valuable survival resource for human existence on planet Earth.”
You can store tap water or store-bought water for up to five years. Small one or two-gallon containers are easy to handle but troublesome to store because they are hard to stack. Medium-size containers hold two to ten gallons but can be unwieldy. One brand, WaterBrick, offers 1.6-gallon and 3.5-gallon containers that interlock for stable stacking. To store a long-term water supply, use one or more food-grade 55-gallon drums. A full drum weighs more than 450 pounds, so set it up on a sturdy, ground-level surface. Storing these drums outdoors offers a workable option that protects against the potential of flood damage from a broken drum. However, this option doesn’t work if you live in an area that experiences periods of below-freezing temperatures.
To have sufficient water for a long-term emergency, supplement your stockpile with water from natural sources. The most obvious sources are streams, rivers and ponds. Treat this water with filters or chemical purifiers since it is likely to contain chemical pollutants as well as microbiological threats, including viruses, bacteria and parasites.
A second source is rainwater, which you can collect with a rooftop rain-harvesting system. Rainwater is potable, but it accumulates debris and dirt as it descends from the roof to your rain barrel.
“For the small amount of time and money you will spend getting [a rain barrel] installed, the reward is an almost effortless renewable source of emergency drinking water.”
A third option is well water. If you have a well, even an old and unused one, you may be able to draw water with an electric or hand pump. Match your pump’s depth capacity with the level of the water in your well.
You also can drill a well or drive a well point into the ground and pump from it. To make a well point, dig a starter hole and then drive connected pipes into the ground with a sledgehammer or post driver. A well point is most practical where the water table is no deeper than 30 feet below the surface.Water will seep into the bottom of the pipe, and you can use an electric or hand pump to bring it to the surface.
You must treat this water to render it drinkable. Boiling will kill biological threats, but you must filter out industrial pollutants and dirt. For this purpose, you will need to buy a filter; The Big Berkey water filter, for example, removes a long list of contaminants.
Disinfect any “questionable” water with granular calcium hypochlorite (HTH), a type of chlorine that comes in tablet or powder form. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers instructions (see “household water treatment” at cdc.gov) for safely using this and other water purification methods.
Prepare wood-burning devices for cooking without electricity or gas.
Your familiar barbecue grill can produce fine meals in the short term. But grills are not your best choice for extended use because they require large quantities of propane or charcoal. The best long-term option for cooking without electricity is the wood-burning stove, which can function as an oven, range and home heater. You can restore an antique wood-burning stove or buy a new one from modern manufacturers such as Elmira Stove Works, Jøtul or La Nordica.
“There are few, if any, preparedness purchases as multifunctional and time-tested as the wood-burning cookstove.”
A rocket stove is a smaller, simpler and less expensive option with a combustion chamber that sends heat through an insulated chimney on which you can cook one-pot dishes. Its fuel demands are low – just a handful of sticks. You can buy a rocket stove, like the EcoZoom, or build one with stacked bricks or concrete blocks. The best off-grid option for boiling water is the Kelly Kettle. This smaller version of the rocket stove can produce enough heat to boil water by burning a surprisingly tiny amount of wood.
An open fire is the most minimal method of off-grid cooking. It requires only a fire pit, wood, an adjustable griddle and cast iron cookware. A cast-iron Dutch oven proves especially versatile, since you can use it over fire to prepare a wide range of foods, including dishes made from your bulk dry goods.
Your emergency plan should include a means of off-grid heating.
Heating is especially crucial in four-season locales, but frigid temperatures can overwhelm even typically warmer areas, as has happened in Texas.
Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are effective ways to warm your home, but they require a lot of wood fuel. Heating a 1,000-square-foot space for one cold season takes roughly 384 cubic feet of wood or three cords (a cord being an eight-by-eight-by-four foot stack of wood).
“Not being able to heat your home in cold weather is not just about staying warm. It causes a cumulative effect of chaos that affects almost every aspect of human survival.”
A kerosene space heater will heat a 1,000-square-foot space for up to 12 hours on two gallons of kerosene. Be aware that these heaters can present a fire hazard and emit carbon monoxide when in use, so you must slightly open a window or two and leave them open. Propane is an effective solution for long-term heating because you can store it for decades. However, heating your home with a propane fireplace requires a large outdoor propane storage tank.Smaller wall-mounted or freestanding propane heating units also can connect to a large gas tank.
Gas-powered generators offer a short-term method for producing electricity to run heaters, but they require too much fuel for extended use. A whole-house generator using propane or natural gas is a costly but effective option that involves an upfront investment, professional installation and annual servicing.
Because human waste can spread disease, prepare to deal with sanitation.
A composting toilet is an inexpensive, easy sanitation solution. It consists of a five-gallon bucket, a snap-on toilet seat and a supply of sawdust. Covering waste with sawdust after each use eliminates odors and enables you to make compost you can use to fertilize trees or flowers. However, because of the potential for transmitting disease, never apply this compost to vegetable gardens.
A trench latrine is an even simpler option. Dig a long foot-deep trench and pile the dirt on one side. Use it as a toilet, starting at one end and progressing to the other, filling each section with dirt after use. You can buy or make a seat and erect a pop-up tent for privacy.
Use live drills to put your plan to the test.
To make sure you’ve created a suitable, comprehensive plan, institute a series of test runs. These drills build skill and confidence while offering your family a low-pressure way to get comfortable with your plan.
“Drills are especially important if you have children. The experience of voluntarily trying something as a practice exercise helps reduce anxiety and fear in the event that it needs to be done out of necessity one day.”
For example, you could become familiar with off-grid living by turning off your home’s electricity for a weekend. Once a month, make a complete evening meal using only the dry foods you keep in long-term storage. If your plan includes cooking from wood-heat sources, try preparing a meal or two using wood heat and your emergency equipment.
About the Author
Creek Stewart, who hosts three survival-related programs on The Weather Channel, owns the Indiana-based Willow Haven Outdoor survival skills and disaster preparedness company.
The book [The Disaster-Ready Home: A Step-by-Step Emergency Preparedness Manual for Sheltering in Place] by [Creek Stewart] is a comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to be prepared for any disaster or disease that may force them to stay at home for an extended period of time. The author is a survival expert and bestselling author who has written several books on survival skills and emergency preparedness.
The book covers the following topics:
- How to create an emergency pantry stocked with enough food for the timeframe of your choice—from two weeks to three months to a full year
- How to select and store food that fits your taste, diet, and budget
- How to easily rotate and use your emergency food supply, so nothing goes to waste
- How to set up long-term water storage and renewable water sources
- How to cook food and boil water when your kitchen appliances aren’t working
- How to safely heat and light your home when the power is out
- How to maintain hygiene and sanitation when the water supply is disrupted
- How to secure your home and protect yourself from looters and intruders
- How to communicate with the outside world and stay informed of the situation
- How to deal with medical emergencies and mental health issues when professional help is not available
The book is written in a clear and concise manner, with detailed lists, photographs, and instructions that make it easy to follow. The book also provides useful tips and tricks that can help you save money, time, and space while preparing your home for any disaster. The book is suitable for beginners as well as experienced preppers who want to improve their readiness and resilience.
The book is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to be self-reliant and self-sufficient in the face of any crisis. The book can help you create a safe, comfortable, and well-stocked place to weather out any emergency without relying on external help or resources. The book can also help you reduce stress and anxiety by giving you a sense of control and confidence in your ability to survive any disaster.
The book is available in paperback, spiral-bound, and audiobook formats. The paperback edition has 224 pages and costs $12.59 on Amazon. The spiral-bound edition has 224 pages and costs $18.99 on Amazon. The audiobook edition has a length of 6 hours and 30 minutes and costs $13.99 on Amazon. You can also get a free ebook by joining the mailing list of Simon & Schuster, the publisher of the book.
The book has received positive reviews from readers who have praised its practicality, simplicity, and usefulness. The book has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon based on 905 ratings. Some of the comments from the reviewers are:
- “This book is a must-have for anyone who wants to be prepared for anything. It covers everything you need to know about sheltering in place, from food and water to security and communication. It’s easy to read and understand, with lots of pictures and examples. I highly recommend it.”
- “I’ve read many books on survival and preparedness, but this one is by far the best. It’s very comprehensive, yet concise and straightforward. It gives you step-by-step instructions on how to prepare your home for any disaster, with realistic scenarios and solutions. It’s not fear-mongering or sensationalizing, but rather empowering and reassuring.”
- “This book is a great resource for anyone who wants to be more self-reliant and less dependent on the system. It teaches you how to create a disaster-ready home that can sustain you and your family for weeks or months without electricity, water, or gas. It also shows you how to deal with common problems and challenges that may arise during a disaster. It’s very informative and practical.”
In conclusion, [The Disaster-Ready Home: A Step-by-Step Emergency Preparedness Manual for Sheltering in Place] by [Creek Stewart] is an excellent book that can help you prepare your home for any disaster or disease. It covers all the essential aspects of sheltering in place, from food and water to heat and light. It provides clear and detailed guidance that can help you create a safe, comfortable, and well-stocked place to weather out any emergency. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to be ready for anything.