If you search the Internet, you will find many suggestions regarding how to prepare for an uncertain future. People in the preparedness arena will tell you how important it is to prepare, what types of items to stockpile in your home and how to store them, which items to include in your bug-out bag, what things you should have in the trunk of your vehicle, etc. Some of this advice is good and some isn’t. But despite all the recommendations, people continue to make mistakes when preparing. And many of these mistakes are so major that they completely defeat the purpose of getting ready for a crisis situation. The purpose of this report is to share with you the top 12 mistakes people make when preparing so that you can avoid them. By following this advice, you’ll put yourself in a much better position to handle whatever comes your way.
MISTAKE NO. 1 – FAILING TO PRACTICE BUG-OUT ACTIVITIES
They say that practice makes perfect. We may never become perfect when it comes to prepping, but we can get pretty darn close by practicing. What types of things should we practice in the preparedness realm? There are plenty, including the following:
- Practice bugging out. See how quickly you can do what you have to do to get out of the house, including turning off the water and lights, grabbing your bug-out bag and getting into your car. The more people in your family or party, the more challenging this will be, but practice will help you lessen the amount of time you spend on this.
- Practice hiking. Hikes in the woods are not only good for you physically, but you will also learn much about your environment while doing it. Not to mention the fact that the more you do it, the more physically fit you’ll become, which will help when you have to do it for real.
- Practice building a fire. Like everything else, the more you practice it, the better you will become at doing it quickly. This task can become a life-saver.
- Practice building a shelter. This can be a challenge, but by doing it repeatedly, you’ll get the hang of it. Increasing your speed is important because the weather could be nasty when you have to build a shelter to survive. Use your tarp, poncho, parachute or whatever you have handy.
- Practice purifying water. Learning how to purify water the old-fashioned way (boiling, etc.) is fine, but having a portable water filter in your bug-out bag and using it with water from creeks, streams, lakes, etc., will save a considerable amount of time. It’s not difficult to do, but practice it anyway.
- Practice camping out. Even if it’s just in your backyard the first few times, you’ll learn about sleeping outdoors and will discover which items you should have included in your bug-out bag. Try to improve your time for setting up a tent each time you do it.
- Practice your archery. Whether you use a bow and arrow, spear or slingshot, you’ll want to become adept at taking down a small animal if you have to for food. Set up a target and practice, practice, practice. Keep safety top of mind, especially if children are involved in this activity.
- Practice outdoor cooking. Even if you’re an accomplished cook in the kitchen, you may have to practice cooking in the great outdoors. It’s a whole new ballgame when you don’t have as many materials at your disposal and when wind, rain or snow could become a factor.
- Practice identifying plants and bugs in the wild. Knowing which plants and bugs are edible and which are poisonous can save your life when you’re forced to eat only what nature can provide.
MISTAKE NO. 2 – FAILING TO KEEP SUPPLIES IN MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
Everyone knows how important it is to stockpile food, water and other necessities for an emergency. A small percentage of people are well prepared, many are somewhat prepared and most aren’t prepared at all.
There is much less awareness of the need to have stockpiles of food, water and other items in at least two different locations, preferably three. Preppers who have gathered large amounts of bottled water, canned food, toiletries and a host of can openers, flashlights, batteries, radios, blankets, clothing, first-aid kits and weapons are putting all their eggs in one basket if they keep everything in the same place.
A home is a great place to stockpile food, water and other essentials. That’s where I keep my largest supplies because that’s where my family and I are most likely to be when the stuff hits the fan. And even if I’m not home at that exact moment, I will probably be in a position to return there shortly.
But what if my home is destroyed or severely damaged by whatever crisis occurs? If that’s the only place where I have my emergency goods stockpiled – and either I can’t get to them or they’ve been destroyed by the disaster – I will have wasted a huge amount of time and money preparing for the exact scenario in which I find myself.
It is absolutely essential that you keep supplies in multiple locations. If you have a year’s supply of goods at home, keep six months’ worth in at least one other place. If you have six months’ worth of goods at home, store at least three months’ worth at a secondary location.
Now the question becomes, exactly where should my second and perhaps third locations be? There are several important factors to consider. For one, these other locations need to be close enough to get to, yet far enough away that they’re unlikely to be affected by the same disaster that just did a number on your home.
Just as important, these locations have to offer the same features that your home does – a cool, dry place where food and water won’t be negatively affected by sunlight, moisture and extreme temperatures.
Among the possibilities for a second and possibly third location are a storage unit you can rent, a root cellar or storage bunker on your property but away from your house, inside a separate building that you own in town, within a building that a trusted friend owns, or buried in a remote area where only you would think to look.
MISTAKE NO. 3 – FAILING TO STOCKPILE ITEMS FOR BARTERING
You probably have a very good idea of the things you will need and want in a crisis, and you’ve probably included all those items in your bug-out bag and supplies stash. But there are other items that you should include, even if you don’t think you’ll ever need them.
Why? Because you’ll be able to use them for bartering. There are plenty of people who will not be nearly as prepared as you are following a disaster, and they will be looking for some things. If you have them and they don’t, they’ll probably be willing to make trades with you.
One of the reasons that some people don’t bother thinking about or preparing for a disaster is because they believe they have enough money to get through it, no matter how bad it becomes. They’re used to drawing upon their wealth to take care of problems, so they assume that their finances will come to the rescue once again if necessary.
But if we ever experience a total financial collapse – and some believe the signs are pointing in that direction – no amount of money in the world will help. Any number of events could thrust North America into that horrific situation, including an EMP attack that could keep funds locked inside banks for weeks, months or possibly years.
Regardless of your financial status, it’s important to remember that we may find ourselves in a scenario where money is meaningless. In a post-collapse society, it’s entirely possible that the only things of value will be the goods we have stockpiled and the skills we possess, both of which we’ll probably use for bartering.
Backtracking for a moment, the most essential items that you can store now are food and water for yourself and your family. Start with a 72-hour supply and then, as you’re able, graduate to supplies representing one month, three months, six months, a year and longer.
In addition, stockpile as many non-food items as you can. These would include a crank-operated radio, a fixed blade knife, an LED flashlight, batteries, paracord, guns and ammo, fire starters, a first-aid kit, blankets, extra clothing, a compass, a military pup tent, ponchos, a backpack, duct tape, bandanas, Super Glue, sunglasses, lip balm, Vicks VapoRub, thick garbage bags, water purification tablets, coffee filters, aluminum foil, baking soda, etc.
Once you have those emergency items stockpiled in at least two locations, it’s time to start thinking about which items you can hoard and which skills you can acquire that will be useful in a society that has reverted to the bartering system for everyday personal commerce.
There are a countless number of items you could decide to hoard for bartering, but you’ll never be able to stockpile everything. The key is to choose items that will give you the biggest return on your investment. In other words, the items for which there is the largest difference between what they cost you now and what they will bring in trade later. Another important consideration is shelf life.
Food and water will probably be the two most sought after items in a post-collapse society, but trading your “extra” vital sustenance could be a little risky, as we probably won’t know how long it will be before things return to normal and we’ll be able to obtain those items in stores again.
For your bartering supply, you may be better off choosing items that many others don’t think to stockpile, but which will be in high demand, including alcohol, cigarettes, coffee and candy. Other items include (in no particular order):
- Water filters and water purification tablets
- Fire-starting devices
- Non-GMO seeds
- Gasoline and oil
- Precious metals
- Bug repellent
- Toilet paper and other paper products
- Tools/nails/screws/work gloves, etc.
- Manual can opener
- Reading glasses
- Baby products
- Hygiene products
MISTAKE NO. 4 – FAILING TO SECURE YOUR HOME AND POSSESSIONS
My home is not only where I keep the majority of my emergency supplies, it’s also the place that I’ve spent time and money to secure. If a breakdown in society occurs following a disaster, I want to be as prepared as possible to protect my family and belongings.
And because there will probably be a significant amount of lawlessness in a post-collapse society, don’t forget to store the weapons you’ll need to protect what you’ve stockpiled.
A secure home can help protect you, your family and your belongings during a future crisis when you could become a target for thugs who might try to take advantage of law-abiding citizens as society becomes lawless.
Following are 10 tips for securing your home from invaders:
- Install secure doors. A door is the most likely entry point that an intruder will use, so keep your doors locked whether you’re home or away. Solid wood doors or metal-clad doors are effective.
- Upgrade your locks. Grade 1 or Grade 2 deadbolts, accompanied by heavy-duty brass strike plates, should make it more difficult for doors to be kicked in.
- Install secure windows. You don’t want windows that can be manipulated from the outside. Keep your windows from opening more than six inches. Consider installing mounting brackets now so that you could quickly install window bars later if necessary.
- Secure the perimeter of your home. Install motion sensor lights all around your home. Fences can be climbed, but having one might be enough to make an intruder choose a different home. Keep shrubbery trimmed to reduce the number of hiding places on your lawn.
- Install an alarm. The louder the better with an alarm. Even if you don’t have a full-fledged security system in place, the noise itself could scare away an intruder. Post a sign regarding your alarm near the entrances. Make sure your children or grandchildren know how important it is to keep alarm codes confidential.
- Secure breach points. Take a walk around your home – inside and out – and look for areas where someone could enter without much trouble. If there is a seldom-used door to the outside, install a 2 x 4 barricade on the inside.
- Join a neighborhood watch group. If one is not already in place, you may have to take the lead here. Neighbors watching out for neighbors can be an effective deterrent against burglaries.
- Have a dog. Dogs can be trained in defense, or at least to bark when they hear a noise outside. If you can’t have a dog, you can still post a “Beware of Dog” sign in your yard.
- Don’t make it obvious you’re away. When you’re out of town, lights on automatic timers are very effective. Make sure newspapers aren’t delivered while you’re gone, and try to keep a car in your driveway. A trusted neighbor is important to have while you’re away.
- Create a household plan. Every family member should know exactly what to do, in advance, if an intruder enters the house. Getting out of the house quickly is best, but if that’s not possible, a previously designated “safe room” is where they should head. Always keep a pair of tennis shoes, a flashlight and a cellphone by your bed.
You must own a gun – and probably more than one – for the type of emergency that it is probably coming around the bend. In fact, you should have at least two guns for everyone in your household who is old enough and trained enough to use them.
A gun is the only thing that might stop someone – or a group of “someones” – determined to do you harm and possibly steal your home right out from under you during a major crisis. Guns are going to give you the ability to defend what’s yours against people who want to overtake you with their guns.
A shotgun will probably do the trick for you. The nice thing about this type of weapon is that you don’t have to be a marksman to be effective with it. Because it sprays a number of pellets in a circular pattern, it increases your odds of hitting a moving target. It can be lethal up to 100 feet.
A rifle is another good choice because it can shoot accurately at a much longer range than a pistol and will also accomplish a higher degree of penetration into the target. It would be ideal for use while you’re on the porch or leaning out a window as a mob approaches.
Lastly, make sure you have several handguns. The biggest advantage here is maneuverability. Semiautomatic handguns are the way to go, and choose .45 caliber bullets over .22’s. A pistol’s range is limited, so they’re best in close combat situations.
No matter which weapons you’ve chosen for use, make sure that you practice with them regularly. The more accomplished you are with your guns, the better the odds that you’ll be able to protect your family and property during an emergency. And it goes without saying that you need lots of ammunition for each weapon.
MISTAKE NO. 5 – FAILING TO CREATE A FAMILY EMERGENCY PLAN
There is nothing scarier for a parent or grandparent than to be separated from their kids or grandkids during an emergency and not be able to reach them. If a disaster strikes when your kids or grandkids are at home or school while you are at work or out of town, will they know what to do?
There’s one way to make sure they know exactly what you want them to do in that type of situation. That’s by creating a family emergency plan and regularly discussing it with your family.
An emergency plan will include a list of each family member by full name; home, work and school addresses and phone numbers; cellphone numbers and email addresses; local emergency contacts; out-of-town contacts; and the family meeting place.
Here are nine tips for parents and grandparents:
- Learn the disaster response policies of your kids’ and grandkids’ school or day care center and have a back-up plan in place for someone to pick them up if you can’t.
- Ensure that your kids’ or grandkids’ school or daycare center has your current emergency contact information.
- Have at least two pre-arranged meeting places for your family and make sure the kids or grandkids know where they are, as returning to your home in a crisis might not be possible.
- Establish an out-of-state contact known by your children or grandchildren and their school or day care center, in case local lines are down and only long distance circuits are functioning.
- Teach your kids or grandkids how to use 911 and rehearse what they should say to a dispatcher.
- Make sure your kids or grandkids know to stay away from downed power lines, utility poles and trees.
- Practice evacuation routes and strategies as a family.
- Teach your children or grandchildren responses such as Drop, Cover and Hold, and Stop, Drop and Roll.
- Prepare a small “bug-out bag” for each child or grandchild, including items such as a family photo, toy, game, book or puzzle, plus treats.
MISTAKE NO. 6 – FAILING TO KEEP IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS IN YOUR BUG-OUT BAG
As we know, there are many scenarios that could cause us to have to either hunker down or bug out at any moment. Extreme weather is probably the most likely one. But there are a variety of other circumstances, including an epidemic or pandemic, an EMP, a terrorist attack, or an accident causing a long-term blackout.
We always think first about emergency food and clean drinking water in situations such as these – as well we should – but there is also the possibility that we will need to quickly access our important documents. This is especially true if we have to bug out and need to show proof of who we are, what kind of insurance we possess, whether our pets are vaccinated, etc.
Many of us are not nearly as prepared in this area as we are in many others. It’s important to rectify this situation ASAP. The key is to keep files containing all your important documents together in a safe place where you can grab them quickly if necessary. Actually, you should have several sets of all your important documents – one at home and one in another location.
What are the most important documents to have at the ready? Well, home, auto, health and life insurance policies are at or near the top of the list. You also want to have copies of photo ID cards, including driver’s licenses, student IDs, passports, etc. In addition, you should have a list of all prescription medicines you and other family members take regularly.
One document should include all of your banking information, including the names and addresses of your banks and the account numbers for your checking, savings and other accounts, while another document should include photocopies of all your credit cards. Yet another document should contain the names, addresses and phone numbers of your physicians, dentists, attorneys and insurance agents.
Also keep copies of all of your vehicle titles, as well as copies of property ownership records. And don’t forget to include all key documents pertaining to your pets. If you have to check into a hotel that takes animals, you’ll probably need to prove they are up to date on their vaccinations.
As previously mentioned, it’s very important to keep these documents in a safe place… such as a fireproof safe, both at home and at a secondary location.
MISTAKE NO. 7 – FAILING TO INCLUDE HYGIENE AND SANITATION IN YOUR PLANS
Once the grid goes down, sanitation will become a huge problem. Toilets won’t work after a few days, garbage trucks won’t come around, rats will show up and eventually disease will run rampant. The last thing you and your family members will need in a crisis situation is illness.
Assuming you have bugged out, you’re going to need a makeshift toilet. Things to remember are to not place it near your food or water source, nor uphill from your campsite. It should be at least 200 feet away from your resources.
Among the waste disposal systems you can construct in the wild are a cat hole, a straddle trench and a slit trench. You can Google these systems and others for details.
Personal hygiene is also an important matter to deal with during a crisis, as it’s crucial to do everything possible to prevent infections and diseases.
Be sure to clean your hands after handling anything that might carry germs. Keep your hair trimmed and clean so that it doesn’t attract parasites and fleas in the outdoors. Even more challenging will be keeping your clothing clean.
Take very good care of your teeth, brushing regularly. Keep your feet clean and your nails trimmed, and treat any blisters that form from walking as quickly as possible. Try to get the proper amount of sleep and rest.
Finally, purify your water before you use it for drinking, bathing and cleaning, even if you have no reason to suspect that it might have become contaminated. Better safe than sorry, as contaminated water could make you sick or even kill you.
MISTAKE NO. 8 – FAILING TO KEEP YOUR PREPARATIONS QUIET
While it’s smart to stockpile as much as you can in order to better deal with the coming crisis, it’s not so smart to talk about your supplies in anything other than vague terms.
If you let it be known that you have stored all sorts of non-perishable food, water and other essential supplies for a crisis, you’re going to get a whole lot of unwelcome visitors once that disaster occurs. Neighbors will remember that you’re the guy on their block who can get them through a crisis, and it’s very possible that even a friend will turn on you if he and his family are desperate for food and water.
Among the things you want to do when you’re gathering supplies are to buy your survival food from a company that packages it discreetly, and keep that food and other supplies out of sight within your home so that guests won’t notice it.
Once a disaster strikes, if you’re hunkering down, stay inside as much as possible. Wandering around the neighborhood can get you hurt, and with you out of the way, your family and supplies are an easy mark for marauding gangs.
Don’t trust anyone new that you meet. They might be great people and they may just be trying to survive like everyone else. On the other hand, they might try to lull you into a false sense of security regarding their intentions. Their real goal could be to get close to you so that they can take what you’ve stored.
Buy the quietest generator you can find so that no one outside your home knows it’s running. Using it during the day is fine, but try to avoid using it for your lights at night. If the grid is down, your home will stick out like a sore thumb if your lights are on.
Heating up freeze-dried food is fine, but do as little full-fledged cooking inside your home or out in the wilderness as possible. You’ll probably need to do some, but keep it to a minimum because the smell will attract hungry humans and hungrier animals.
Finally, if you need to barter with people you don’t know, keep them in the dark when it comes to the extent of your supplies. If they learn that you possess additional supplies than what you are offering in a deal, they may just hunt you down and take what they want.
MISTAKE NO. 9 – FAILING TO INCLUDE SURVIVAL BOOKS IN YOUR STASH
You won’t remember everything you’ve read from 4Patriots and others about the many aspects of preparedness, so you’ll need books on the subject, including field guides.
An Internet search will turn up a lot of them, as will a search on Amazon.com. Among the books you might want to consider are The Prepper’s Pocket Guide, SAS Survival Handbook, Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide, 100 Deadly Skills, Living Ready Pocket Manual – First-Aid, How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It and When All Hell Breaks Loose.
Now, the more books you have in your survival stash, the heavier your bag will be and the less room you’ll have for other stuff. Unless…. What if you had a Kindle with a survival library on it? That would certainly save a lot of room, although you’d have to figure out a way to keep it charged if the grid goes down.
Among the many other books you might want to consider downloading to your Kindle are How to Stay Alive in the Woods, Wilderness Survival, Outdoor Survival Skills and the U.S. Air Force Pocket Survival Handbook.
MISTAKE NO. 10 – FAILING TO MAKE SURE YOUR CHILDREN OR GRANDCHILDREN ARE PREPARED
Some parents and grandparents don’t discuss preparedness issues until the kids are in bed because they don’t believe children should have to worry about such things.
They’re right when they say the young ones shouldn’t worry about it, but wrong for excluding kids from the conversation, assuming they are old enough to understand. Like adults, children will do much better in a crisis if they’re prepared for it.
Here are some core principles to teach children to prepare them for coping with an emergency:
What is an emergency?
Calmly explain that an emergency is when something happens that we don’t expect and we have to act quickly to keep ourselves safe. It can be a storm, an overflowing river or a power outage. In some emergencies we can stay safe in place, while in others we might have to leave and go to a safe place.
Sirens and lights
Flashing lights and loud sirens mean help is near. The people driving ambulances, fire trucks and police cars help us in emergencies. The vehicles are bright and loud so that they can be seen and heard from far away.
Know whole names
Teach young children their whole name and the whole names of caregivers. If you and your child become separated, they can share this information with trusted adults to help reach you.
Address and phone
Helping your child memorize your phone number and address can quickly reunite your family. They might learn it to a song. If the address eludes them, another technique is to be able to name the nearest popular landmark to your home, such as a church, store or other distinctive public building. Rescuers can quickly get close and drive through the neighborhood until your child recognizes home.
There are people who will help keep us safe in an emergency. Police officers, firefighters, emergency responders, teachers and doctors all can help. Schools, churches, police and fire stations, government buildings and hospitals are safe places.
Choose local and out-of-town emergency contacts. A local contact can help with tasks such as picking up children from childcare facilities. An out-of-town contact may not be impacted by the emergency and can make sure you are all OK.
Where we meet
Select a central emergency meeting place where the family can gather if you can’t make it home.
One of the ways to bring kids into the process can be turned into a fun family project. It involves packing a family emergency kit in a sturdy box or bag. Keep the kit in a location everyone knows. Store items in waterproof plastic bags. Replace water, batteries and clothing every six months.
Let your child or grandchild decorate it and gather items on a list such as the one below:
- Copies of your family emergency plan
- Minimum of $200 in cash and coins
- Copies of family health records, list of prescriptions and dosages, insurance cards
- First-aid kit and prescription medicines
- Three-day supply of dry and canned food, and a manual can opener
- Battery or hand-crank radio
- Mobile phone and charger
- Flashlight and batteries
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Pet supplies
- Spare car and house keys
- Paper plates and utensils
- Trash bags
- Moist towelettes
- Change of clothes, rain gear and sturdy shoes or boots
- Sunscreen and bug spray
- One comforting stuffed animal or toy per child
- Travel-sized toys, crafts or a book.
MISTAKE NO. 11 – FAILING TO INCLUDE MORALE BOOSTERS IN YOUR PREPARATIONS
Food, water and other essential items are the most important things to stockpile, of course, but it’s amazing what adding some morale boosters will do for everyone’s attitude during a stressful experience.
I’m talking about board games, a deck of cards, crafts, movies, books, magazines and a variety of other entertainment items that you would not necessarily connect with survival. Surviving will include passing quite a few hours in a manner that does not involve worrying about your predicament.
Another morale booster is what I like to call “comfort foods.” It’s important to keep your body healthy by eating nutritious food that will provide you with the energy you need, and that will be especially true during a crisis when you might be on the move and your stress level will be higher.
But giving your family members and yourself an emotional lift once in a while with some foods you and they love will do wonders for everyone’s state of mind. And you can’t underestimate the value of keeping attitudes upbeat at a time when depression could easily set in.
So, what do I mean by comfort foods? I mean anything that goes down easy, tastes great, is easy to prepare and reminds you of a time when things were better. Are most of them “healthy” and “natural?” Probably not, although some are. Some are high in calories and carbohydrates, and some include a little too much sugar.
But if a vast majority of the foods you are consuming are nutritious, you can afford to eat a snack once in a while that may be better for your attitude than it is for your cholesterol level.
Here’s a list that comes to mind for me.
Hard candies. My favorites are caramel and butterscotch, but you might prefer cherry, root beer, butter rum or other flavors.
Chocolate Pudding. This might be the universal kid favorite comfort food, but adults love it too.
Mac and cheese. Another item that few kids will turn down. As a child, I always loved it when Mom added hot dog slices to my mac and cheese plate.
Candy bars. Yes, I know, too much sugar. I wouldn’t suggest living off of them. But once in a while, a Three Musketeers, Snickers or Milky Way really hits the spot.
Peanut butter. Most people use this as a spread, but have you ever put a spoonful in your mouth and just savored it?
Freeze-dried yogurt bites. I like these a lot more than I thought I would.
Granola bars. These are almost too healthy to count as comfort foods, but I’m including them because they taste great and are so easy to open and pop in your mouth.
Trail mix. Dried fruits and nuts are tasty, and I like the kind of trail mix that cheats by including M&Ms and chocolate chips.
Coffee or tea. For some folks, coffee is not a comfort food; it’s an absolute necessity. For others, it could be a pleasant reminder of more normal times.
Hostess Twinkies and Cupcakes. A nutritionist just rolled over in her grave, but as long as you don’t fill an entire bug-out bag with them, I think you’re OK.
MISTAKE NO. 12 – TRYING TO DO IT ALL AT ONCE
One thought that discourages some people when they’re just starting out to prepare for an uncertain future is how much they have to do. First they read about how important it is to stockpile plenty of food, water and other essential items.
Then they read about how crucial it is to keep their stash in multiple locations. Then they read about securing their home better, practicing bug-out activities, creating a family emergency plan, etc., and it just seems overwhelming to them. So, they decide not to do it.
That’s a big mistake. The fact is, they probably have plenty of time, but they need to at least get started now. The odds are that a major disaster will not occur in your area today, tomorrow, this week or even this month. But it could happen within a year.
By starting slowly and gradually building up your supplies and know-how, you’ll be amazed at how much progress you’ll make over time. You’ll look back one month from now and realize how much you accomplished. You’ll look back three months from now and be amazed at what your stockpiles look like. You’ll look back a year from now and wonder why you didn’t start this process sooner.
The key is to stop putting it off and get started. It only requires a few dollars each time you do it. Just make sure that you add at least one item to your stockpile and at least one piece of information to your mind every week and you will definitely make significant progress in a short amount of time.