Preparing for disasters is important, but too often people who are into prepping spend lots of money on the sexy things like expensive firearms while ignoring things like sanitation or infection control. Far more people will die of dehydration, hunger, or even diarrhea in a widespread collapse than they will by civil unrest.

Remember that, if we are prepared for the big disaster, we are more likely to survive the small ones.

At the end of the day, we need to prioritize our preps to take care of the basics before we drop $4,000 on that new Sig Blastomatic Model 19 in .50BMG. I have deployed to dozens of disaster sites and travelled to nearly 50 foreign countries. Here is, from my experience, how our preps should look:

At its most basic, the three most important preps that we can make are food, water, shelter, and medical needs. Once those are established, only then should we worry about security and energy. Finally, surviving an event isn’t enough. We need to survive and rebuild our lives so that we aren’t just refugees, but are able to live our lives, not just count more days.

I am going to spend more time over the next several weeks explaining my thoughts (and the thoughts of others that I will shamelessly adopt) on the matter. For today, I am going to talk about the top of the pyramid- records.

Making it through the disaster will be much smoother if you can safeguard your life and not be living as a refugee for the next few years. There are a number of things that you need to safeguard:

  • Our vital documents: scans of birth certificates, professional licenses, certifications, transcripts, credit cards (front and back), medical histories, credit records, diplomas, bank account information, and any other important documents you can think of. Keep a copy of those documents on several password protected, encrypted thumb drives and update them at least once per year. Keep a drive in each vehicle, in your locker at work, and one in your gun safe. You can buy a 16gb encrypted thumb drive for as little as $32– for as little as $170, you can have copies of all of your most important documents with you no matter what happens. The encryption doesn’t have to be perfect, but good enough to deter common thieves.
  • Photos you don’t want to lose: Pictures of your kids, your family, and other memories that are irreplaceable if they are lost. Thumb drives are cheap- you can keep them with the others.
  • At least $300 in cash, with $1,000 being even better, locked in your gun safe. You can have more, but $300 should get you through a weekend disaster. YMMV. Just don’t be tempted to “borrow” from it for non-emergency reasons, because you won’t repay it and it won’t be available when you really need it.

The other thing to consider here is rally points. That way, if you and your family are separated, you can meet up, even if you aren’t in communication with each other.

  • You should have one within sight of your house- for us, it’s the fire hydrant across the street.
  • One within walking distance. For us, it’s the entrance to the neighborhood.
  • There should be one far enough away that it will be outside of a large disaster like a HAZMAT spill or a wildfire. For us, that’s my wife’s parents’ house. They live an hour away. This rally point for us has the advantage of offering emergency shelter, food, supplies, and support.

Also make sure that you have a plan for deciding when to evacuate, when to stay put, and don’t hesitate when it is time to go. Include your significant other in the decision. Nothing is worse than trying to evacuate or shelter in place with a bitchy, pissed off wife who disagrees with the decision. Worse yet, evacuating and becoming a refugee because you didn’t plan for the evacuation.

If your plans are robust, flexible, and comprehensive, you should be able to do well with anything from a loss of employment, another lockdown, your neighbor’s house burning down, your spouse’s heart attack, to the zombie apocalypse.

Can anyone else come up with other ideas along this line of thought?

Categories: Prepping


Dirty Dingus McGee · April 1, 2024 at 7:25 am

A “bug out” vehicle in case shit goes completely sideways. An older pickup truck or SUV, 4 wheel drive. Why older? Analog and not packed with useless crap that will fail and strand you. Put a store of spare parts in a box and keep it in the vehicle. Spares like fan belts, brake pads, ECU, lights, fluids, tire repair kit and compressor(either a rechargeable one or one that plugs into the cigarette lighter) and a basic tool set. If things have gone sideways enough for you to have to bug out, chances are NONE of that stuff will be available.

I chose a mid 90’s XJ Cherokee, 4 door(for more capacity), 4 wheel drive, manual trans. I searched for a while and found a low mile (107K) original owner model.I paid more than I would have liked, but believe in an emergency it would be money well spent. I have organized totes that would hold enough supplies for 2 people to last 14 or more days, four 5 gallon steel fuel cans (old military jerry cans) four 48 count cases of bottle water. In the event I had to carry more than 2 of us, there is a roof rack where some items could be relocated to. I think I could finish filling the totes and have everything loaded in less than 1 hour.

I hope it never comes to having to use it, but better safe than sorry.

    Divemedic · April 1, 2024 at 8:09 am

    I have thought about this. The only way that bugging out makes sense is if the disaster being faced is purely regional. For example, a weather event like a hurricane, where areas outside of the disaster area remain unaffected. Many people bugged out of NOLA to areas in TX and never went back in the case of Hurricane Katrina, for example. Another example would be a house fire.
    Bugging out in a widespread disaster or a complete failure of society is a bad idea. You are now a refugee, and your chances of survival drop dramatically. You are away from your home base, your supplies, and your security situation is now about 100 times worse. You now have to depend on other people for the things and the preps that you should have made already.
    Where are you better off: Your home base, where you have all of your supplies, know the terrain and the locals, and are out of the elements, or in your BOV on the road, where you don’t know anyone, and have a much reduced amount of supplies?
    If the area where you live is unsecure to the point where you will likely have to bug out, then why haven’t you left already? I know that, once disaster hits, the likelihood of me taking in stragglers, even ones that I know, is reduced. Each additional person you take in becomes a burden on your own situation and supplies. Unless that person brings more to the party than they consume, there is no reason to take them in.
    If you, your wife, and two kids show up at my house, what benefits are you bringing into my situation that would justify me taking in four refugees who must be fed, sheltered, and equipped?
    In the event that you are bugging out, you haven’t prepped. You are leaving and counting on finding someone out there who HAS prepared and who is willing to take you in. That isn’t prepping, that’s freeloading or hoping for charity.

      Dirty Dingus McGee · April 1, 2024 at 2:03 pm

      I have no intention of being a burden on anyone, only traveling to another AO where I already have friends. That’s why I included ” If things have gone sideways enough”. It could be a natural disaster, or enough of a breakdown in society to make my current location unlivable, no matter the level of prep. Here at my home, I can probably last 6-7 months. If I was to have to withstand a constant attack, much less.At that point is when I’ll leave.

Boba O'Really · April 1, 2024 at 7:44 am

Excellent post. I look forward to reading your thoughts on this subject.

Bo · April 1, 2024 at 8:34 am

A text document (I recommend it also be encrypted) with login info for all your websites. In the event you lose your PC/phone you may well lose your ability to log into everything from Email to car insurance.

With so many businesses going to initial response by email or website, if you can’t figure out your account login you may not be able to make claims or payments.

As with any encryption you should have offsite copies of the keys and software (if necessary) so that you can unencrypt your files.

I would further recommend that people get used to using a Linux Boot USB/SD which will load on almost any kind of system and provide you the basic functions required (as well as already holding your files encrypted). This allows you to no just have copies of your documents, but to be able to put it in almost any PC and boot up just running on the USB stick. This is a great way to be able to share a laptop without worrying about what copies of your data exist for someone else to find.

Linux Mint is a very easy to use interface, similar enough to windows that it’s learning curve isn’t very big. It doesn’t take much space, 4GB is a fully functional PC image with programs already installed. You can still use relatively small USB sticks and the added advantage is it has its own 256bit encryption options built in so you can spend money on quality brands and forgo the need for Encryption built into the drive.

    Divemedic · April 1, 2024 at 9:16 am

    I already addressed the password wallet question a year ago.

DrBob · April 1, 2024 at 8:40 am

My children and I have built rendezvous plans, and alternate plans. While it may not occur, we count on having no communication at the outset of a disaster. My kids and their spouses all work in different locations and in different organizations, but if the disaster occurs, they all will move independently (if need be) to the rendezvous location. The idea is that none of them get frozen in place, waiting for communication with a spouse or with me. They also have paper maps and a compass. They know where my supply stashes are and how to access them if need be.
Your idea about records is an excellent one! Thank you.

LastDaystotheRodeo · April 1, 2024 at 9:10 am

I would add to the bottom tier one of the most underappreciated but critical preps that cost nothing: physical fitness. The physical toll of a disaster, regardless of magnitude, is unreal to anyone who hasn’t suffered through one. Preparing for the inevitable lifting, carrying, walking, and manual labor, as well as the effects of mental stress on the body, is often overlooked or intentionally ignored. Having thousands of dollars in kit while physically being the team leader of the Gravy SEALS is a guaranteed recipe for failure.

Grumpy51 · April 1, 2024 at 9:22 am

Rules of 3 (you can survive without below for 3 ZZ)
– 3 minutes without air
– 3 hours without shelter
– 3 days without water
– 3 weeks without food

Above is ROUGH (depending on your AO’s climate and resources)

Re: documents – Make a “Grab Me” folder/binder and keep in safe location (ex fire/gun safe). In it, have lists of contacts (family/friends) for those times when you don’t have access to your phone, copies of important documents (as DM mentioned above – professional licenses, wills, Powers of Attorney, Advanced Directives, insurance policies, investment accounts, birth certificates, marriage/divorce papers, etc, etc). Those in NOLA found out quickly they couldn’t just move to another state and start working (licensed personnel) as the entire city had issues and licenses (Nursing) could NOT be verified. Granted many of these are now on the web. If your profession allows, get multi-state licenses (nursing does this), so you can immediately go to work.

Include Prescriptive meds – you need AT LEAST 3 month supply, 1-year is better. Talk to your medical provider about a separate prescription (hand-written if possible, or called in to a mom-and-pop pharmacy). Yes, you won’t be able to use your insurance, pay cash. And generics are fine (in general) for this. While one of my meds is better as name-brand (more consistent blood levels), in an emergency, generic is better than no-meds.

    Divemedic · April 1, 2024 at 9:59 am

    We haven’t even gotten to the medical portion yet.

Don W Curton · April 1, 2024 at 12:03 pm

I agree with you comment above about shelter in place and not becoming a refugee. Outside of a cat V hurricane, our plans are to stay put.

I’d add that in addition to electronic copies of all your records, include some printed copies too. You may have to prove who you are to someone without any sort of computer system. Also print out important phone numbers. With our smart phones, no one remembers numbers anymore, it’s all saved on the phone. Expect cell service to become overloaded (hurricane experience) and expect batteries to die and not be able to recharge. Having an old fashioned land-line could be a life saver if you have all the right numbers written down somewhere.

When discussing food, don’t forget seasoning. A little salt, pepper and garlic go a long way in making the worst emergency food supplies edible. And if you expect sanity around my wife, have at least 3 months supply of diet Dr. Pepper on hand. Better yet, don’t become addicted to any goyslop sugar rush food. Outside of coffee, there’s basically no food group I can’t give up for however long the emergency lasts.

Finally, boarded up windows and un-mowed lawns are welcome signs to looters. If staying home, make sure the house looks occupied enough to detour those easily detoured, and secure enough to detour others.

D · April 1, 2024 at 12:05 pm

The food and water one always bugged me. Where I live, we’re only a few inches per year away from being considered rainforest. There’s water *everywhere*. Even the driest of the last ~40 years, there’s a stream about 1/2 mile from our place that never dries up.

We will pretty much always have water to boil if we run out of local storage (~1,000 gallons of bottled water).

We’ve managed to partially take care of food by freeze drying. We have a significant amount. I’d estimate we could easily feed ourself from our stocks for 6 months very comfortably, and 12 months if we are more careful with our usage. After that, we’d have to hunt/scavenge. I’ve never hunted before, and I’d probably suck at it.

I couldn’t imagine living somewhere drier…like Arizona or Texas. When it’s hot and dry, there’s no water around….for a while.

Of course they probably don’t have to have the arsenal of tools we have to simply start a fire…everything is constantly wet. It sucks.

IcyReaper · April 1, 2024 at 1:02 pm

Great 1st of the series. With your style of writing this should a blast. I’m real curious about your views on medical and food.
I agree with you about the bug out option. To me that’s a last resort unless you have a place fully setup with a group. Safety will be in numbers not a maybe hidden location. With drones now you can easily be found and reconed to see if you have something worth taking. I see lots of folks that go with the belief of a EMP first and foremost so you have to have some old car but with old cars come parts replacement issues. But the results of test performed years ago on cars may not be accurate anymore. We may not know for sure how more modern cars hold up until real teats of a attack. I have heard ruors about some recent .gov trsts but nothing on results. One little item, if your car is in a metal pole barn/garage that’s the same as a faraday cage and should be good or you can line your garage with copper door screening and that’s a farady also. So there are options on vehicles.

I have been a part of many military exercises though out my active and DOD civilian career on various scenarios and yes EMP comes up. But its not a prevalent as it used to be since most of the nation states actors would want to come in later to take over but if they fryed everything back to the 1800″s that makes rebuilding next to impossible for decades and we can trace you and find you. There are systems that can track nuks easily. We would still have retaliatory weapons that emp doesn’t harm to hit back. Why play with nuks when you can just take out the grid and stay unidentified and just taking out key bridges and industry sites, pipelines, refineries, “BRIDGES” in restricted areas with kinetic actions is so much easier and shuts the rest of the country’s infrastructure down but it repairable later or it can keep us out of international arena for a few years.. Think about that scenario long with, we have 30 million invaders inside our country, the cities are full of people of color who are basically savages and are taught we are evil and the cause of all their issues. They aren’t held accountable for their actions. Now take out the power and the cities explode. We would be so focused internally that we couldn’t do anything outside our borders for years if not longer. We should face facts we are a easy target and it doesn’t take much to take us off the playing field.
But as I said, I await your series on the pyramid.

Max Wiley · April 1, 2024 at 1:22 pm

“Far more people will die of dehydration, hunger, or even diarrhea in a widespread collapse than they will by civil unrest.”
“Bugging out only turns you into a refugee.”
I’m going to lump both of these together because they are related: It depends entirely on where you live. Didn’t get out of the blue city or maybe even the “diverse” area of a red city? I would argue that your security situation is your primary concern as that will likely become deadly serious even before a lack of water, assuming you know how to get water out of your hot water tank. Bugging out *immediately* is sometimes absolutely the right call IMO.
And even though becoming a refugee (albeit a well armed and supplied one) might be preferable to getting burned out by a mob (the end result of creating a hardpoint without support in the wrong location) everything should always have a plan. Even those who believe they are in the right location to shelter in place should have an Emergency Plan (that’s the “E” in “PACE”) that is the escape hatch. This plan should include prepositioned supplies and equipment and a planned location to get to.
At that point it’s not really “bugging out” the way most people envision it, it’s the “fallback position” and it should be in everyone’s toolkit no matter what the “Primary” plan is.

    Divemedic · April 1, 2024 at 4:22 pm

    If you still live in a blue area, that’s on you. It isn’t like you haven’t been warned.

      Dirty Dingus McGee · April 2, 2024 at 7:53 pm

      Unfortunately for most of us we are probably 2 hours by car from a blue area. Even my location in rural central GA is 2 hours or less from no less than 5 blue hives.

Dan D. · April 1, 2024 at 3:32 pm

Oh what can of worms did you open here? All the Smart Boys just decreased the Bluetooth connection interval on their keyboards to comment!

My only contribution will be a practical and actual vamp on your evac/rally point suggestion.

We extended ourselves for 40ac in the Rockies when we lived in Boulder. I loaded it out for 6 man-months which took a while. The standing order with my wife was if we heard of anything like people vomiting blood at Denver International, it was likely a filovurus so politely excuse yourself from work, get to the ranch and we’ll monitor things over the radio. No second guessing after reading Hot Zone by Preston. Let it burn its way through people.

Better to be alive and offer apologies to your employer a week later than to bleed from your eyeballs because “maybe it is nothing.” Gotta upend that normalcy bias, it could kill you.

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