Prepping 101: The Best Crash Course You Can Find Online

What would you do, right this very second, if a disaster struck? Let’s say it’s something that took ...

What would you do, right this very second, if a disaster struck? Let’s say it’s something that took the power out for a few days. Would you be able to keep your family safe and comfortable? If not, do you recognize the importance of increasing your preparations until you can meet a crisis head on?

by Tess Pennington

Many people like to turn up their noses at those “crazy preppers” but if they were to stop and really think about it, they’d realize that being prepared for those events that occur without warning is just good old-fashioned common sense.

Unfortunately, media portrayals of preparedness like to show the most extreme examples of the lifestyle. Shows like Doomsday Preppers are populated with people who are, quite literally, preparing for the end of the world.

(Keep in mind that the people on these shows may, in fact, be perfectly rational, but the taping is edited to be as entertaining as possible.)

Here’s the thing many people don’t understand about preppers: most of us just want to take care of our families, regardless of the situation. We have undertaken a journey to self-reliance so that we don’t need to depend on others, like FEMA or the Red Cross, to rescue us should an emergency occur.

We can probably all agree that unexpected things can happen. Things like:

  • job loss or a change in economic situation
  • natural disasters like wildfires or earthquakes
  • extreme weather like hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, or heatwaves
  • power outages that last longer than normal
  • contamination of the water supply by chemical spills, agricultural run-off, or an issue with the treatment facility
None of these events is outrageous, right? In fact, we’ve seen all of them happen, right here in our country, over the past decade. These disasters are an undeniable part of life, and the only thing you can change is the way you react to them.

A prepper is merely a person that realizes being able to meet his or her own needs is the key to true freedom and peace of mind. Preppers know that the government may not be there to save them, and they intend to save themselves.

So, if you’ve gotten this far and can agree that being prepared for life’s little surprises is important, congratulations!

You have taken the first step towards preparedness, and that’s also the most vital one: recognizing that there are things you can do to see your family through disasters large and small.

This is a 2 part series for folks who are just getting started on their journey to preparedness.

The series will give you the basic fundamentals of how to get started with prepping, help you gain an understanding of why you need to have certain disaster supplies in place, and provide some suggestions for where to get those supplies.

If you want even more in-depth information on preparedness, click here.

Whether you’re preparing for a short-term disaster or a long term disaster, you have the same basic goal.  That goal is: to be self-sufficient and have the ability to care for yourself and your family independently during an unforeseen event.

Know What You Are Preparing For

Disasters can strike quickly and without warning. What that disaster is, depends on where you live. Knowing what type of disasters could affect the area you live in will help you plan more thoroughly for an event. 

Deciding on the type of disaster to prepare for will also help to determine the type of survival gear that is needed. If you are new to prepping, you should start by planning for the disaster that is most likely to occur in your area.

For example, if you live in the Eastern coastal regions, you might begin preparing for a hurricane. If you live on the West Coast, an earthquake is a more likely crisis in your area. 

If you live in the northern states, it might be a blizzard that takes out the power and keeps you snowed in for a week. What weather-related issues are the most common for your location? 

Is there a reason you might need to make an emergency evacuation, such as a plant nearby that could have a likelihood of chemical spills? Is your area prone to wildfires?

You get the idea – geographically speaking, there’s nearly always one risk factor that is more likely than the others.

Map provided by Redcross.org and Noaa.gov

Once you’ve identified your most likely event, then it’s time to begin acquiring items for your basic needs should that event occur.

Start with a two week supply of food (here’s a handy list of what you should include) and a two week supply of water (the rule of thumb here is a gallon per person per day – and don’t forget your furry friends!) and begin building upon that.

Typically, the best way to prepare for a disaster is to plan for the worst case scenario so that all areas are covered. Plan as though you won’t have electricity, running water, or the ability to run to the store.

This may sound a bit excessive when you’re just starting out, but being completely prepared and self-sufficient for a given disaster is the basis of prepping.

Soon, thinking of the possibilities and how to solve the issues that arise will be second nature for you.

The Two Types of Preppers

We all prepare for something whether it be for a bad storm, a sudden financial catastrophe like unemployment, or for a long-term disaster. Because of the many different occurences that can affect us, there are different types of preppers to go along with those different scenarios.

Short-term preppers are those that want to be prepared for anywhere between 1 week-3 months. Many government websites such as The American Red Cross and FEMA suggest every family have a short term food supply in the case that food routes are interrupted due to severe storms or another unforeseen event.

This will cover you through most situations: a terrible storm, a local natural disaster, an unexpected financial expense.

Long-term preppers are planning for disasters that could last for a more extended period of time. They plan for periods of self-sufficiency in the event that something more dramatic occurs.

A few examples of a long-term scenario would be a power outage that lasts more than a month, (some people affected by Superstorm Sandy had no power for many months after the event), a job loss that leaves you with little to no income, or dramatic events like war, an EMP strike, or a solar flare.

These preppers have a short-term supply to complement their long-term supply. A longer term food supply usually includes dehydrated foods, MRE’s, seeds, hand crank wheat grinders, and equipment to be used in a non-technological environment.

For a more detailed list of short term food supplies and longer term food supplies, click here.

Get Organized

While food and water are very important, there’s a little more to it than that.

FEMA, in conjunction with the Red Cross, offers a disaster checklist to help you know what items you should have ready in the event of an emergency. 

The list provides a step-by-step disaster plan. It covers power outages, the potential need to evacuate your home, and situations like fires or earthquakes.

This in depth list also offers suggestions for reconnecting with family members should you get during a disaster, and recommends supplies to prep your vehicle, should you be on the road when a crisis occurs.

As an added way to get your home organized for disasters, I recommend every home having a preparedness manual filled with information you can turn to at a moment’s notice.

Information in this manual should be emergency contacts, preparedness supply lists, emergency plans for specific disasters, pertinent documents. Some families go the extra route and put their important documents on a flash drive. (Heavy duty memory stick)

Having the information in one place helps you to think through these scenarios and keeps you clear headed knowing you already have a plan that works for your family.

Disasters Don’t Just Happen to Other People

Disasters do not just happen to other people – they can happen to you.  When you are prepared for a particular scenario, then you already have tools in place for when you need them the most. This isn’t crazy or some silly new trend.

Preparing for a disaster and being self-sufficient has been a way of life for centuries.  It is simply families trying to make the hard times easier.

If you can see the wisdom in this, check out The Prepper’s Blueprint. This guide offers orderly, rational, step-by-step instructions to take you from a complete beginner to a self-reliant person who is prepared for whatever life hands them.

Part Two: Essential Items Needed for Disaster Preparation

There’s a reason that humanity has survived this long: instinct. The awareness of possible danger around us isn’t something we have to learn. On some level, we’re born with the innate ability to recognize threats to our safety.

Preppers take it even further. We hone those instincts by heightening our awareness to potential disaster. Then we neutralize the threats by creating a worst-case scenario and preparing for it.

Get Started with Research

It all starts with research. For example, learn how much food to store by finding out how many calories a person needs per day in order to survive.

As well, check out this free guide to prepping. This series helps get you prepared in 52 weeks and includes supply lists and suggestions for further skill developments and is the basis for the best-selling book, The Prepper’s Blueprint.

Another great resource is survival/prepping forums. There, you can read about what others are doing and you can ask lots of questions.

Most preppers are very open to helping others who want to get started. Those with experience all know that the beginning stages can be overwhelming.

One of the first decisions you will need to make is whether or not you plan to evacuate, or bug out. When to leave is one of the hardest choice to make. Ensure you have all the facts. The following are a guide to making the right decision for your family.

Acquire Your Supplies

Always begin with fundamental disaster items to meet your basic needs: food, water, clothing and shelter and then add more preparedness layers onto their foundation. Basic disaster items are intended to sustain family members for 3-5 days.

However, many decide to expand their disaster supplies to encompass a longer duration so that a delayed emergency response has little effect on them. This is why preppers believe in having “back-ups for their back-ups.

Resist the urge to purchase fancy kits or expensive equipment, like generators. Since most of us do not have an unlimited budget, focus on the most vital things first. These pricey items are generally less important than meeting your basic needs for sustenance and shelter. Once you have the basics in place, then you can branch out.

Below, you’ll find some suggestions for the items you should begin to accumulate. As well, consider these 8 basic preparedness items to compliment your supplies with.


It is suggested to have 1 gallon of water per person/per day. Having a 3 day supply of water on hand is a great place to start, but you’ll find that many disasters last longer than originally planned. Therefore, aim for a 2 week supply for each family member and pet.

I emphasize having more water than needed because victims of previous disasters say the suggested water amount of one gallon per person per day does not take into account water needs for sanitation, food preparation, etc..

One family who went through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and were without power or their well water supply for a week admitted that, to keep hydrated and clean, “we went through 20 gallons a day’ for drinking and washing, he says.” That’s 120 gallons of water for the week after the hurricane.

With water being one of your most important preps, play it safe and double the amount of water needed. The extra water can be used for other purposes like sanitation, cleaning, etc. Ultimately, the goal is to have enough water to survive a long-term disaster.

Additional water storage for longer term use can be reviewed here.  If family members such as children or the elderly become dehydrated and need more water, you’ll be very glad that you stored more than needed. 

It is suggested to have other water-related supplies such as a water filter, frozen water in the freezer, and water purification tablets. Lakes and streams can also be a way to find water, but the water needs to be treated.

Don’t stop with just stored water. Once you have created a supply, look into expanding into items such as a water filter, frozen water in the freezer, and water purification tablets.

Locate nearby bodies of water like lakes and streams and learn how to treat that water to make it safe for consumption. In a dire emergency, don’t forget that there are hidden water sources in your home.


Once you have your water supply looked after, it’s time to begin stockpiling some food for emergencies. Start out with a supply of non-perishable food that doesn’t require a lot of cooking time (if any). 

In the event of a down-grid scenario, your normal cooking methods may not work. As with water storage, begin by prepping for a few days, then expand to meet your family’s needs for a couple of weeks. Once you have this foundation, you can begin expanding your supply further.

You can do this without blowing your budget. The large volume supermarkets typically have better deals than the smaller stores. Map your shopping route based on local ads from the large supermarkets to save on gas money as well as on shopping time.

Even dollar stores carry canned goods and food products for short term/long term food supplies. Look for the best sales and buy as much of the item as your budget will allow. This list offers suggestions for your first emergency food shopping trip.

Ensure that you have foods suitable towards survival. Foods that have the sustaining energy sources to burn slowly.

Finding foods that are high in complex carbs and dietary fiber are far more efficient from a dietary standpoint and will keep you feeling “fuller” longer.

This could go a long way if you are planning on rationing your food in an extended emergency. As well, consider packing your own MREs to save money and to ensure your family has foods they will eat. Here are some tips and suggested foods to do this.

Using a food storage calculator will help you to determine how much food is necessary. It is important to factor in your caloric intake, especially during an emergency.

Your activity level could drastically increase following a disaster due to stress, as well as more physically demanding activities. These are some considerations to keep in mind before purchasing the food items:

  • It’s best to find items that have expiration dates that are 1-2 years away from expiring, unless that item is used frequently in the home, and can be rotated frequently.
  • Typically, the best sales are advertised in the newspaper flyers.  There are stores that have 10 items for $10, or 2-for-1 offers.  You don’t have to break the bank to get stocked up.  Just get a little each time you visit the store.  In season vegetables are typically cheaper.  Larger volume packages are often a better price
  • Shop with the number of people in the household in mind. Also consider their preferences, food sensitivities, and appetites.
  • Get a wide variety of food to help reduce food fatigue.
  • Don’t rely on junk food. It’s especially important to keep your strength up and remain healthy during an emergency. Purchase supplies that are loaded with nutrients.
  • Be aware of any special health considerations for family members.  Make sure you have supplies for family members with allergies and intolerances, as well as issues like hypertension or diabetes.
  • Store what you eat, and eat what you store.  By following this adage, you will not end up throwing away expired food, and you won’t serve up something completely unpalatable during a crisis situation.

Medical Supplies

Medical emergencies can occur at the drop of a hat, and having the necessary supplies can mean the difference between life and death. When an emergency situation arises, one must act calming and decisively. Having pre-assembled medical packs for specific medical emergencies can save precious time.

In the case of a severe injury where there is a lot of blood loss, there must be supplies on hand that can stop bleeding, reduce the pain, and calm the patient if necessary.  Not only are supplies important, though.

Having a family member confident to provide this type of medical care is a must in a survival situation. Taking medical courses would be very beneficial in preparing for this type of emergency. The Fire Department, American Red Cross or Medical Centers are local resources that offer classes to assist in medical emergencies.

To further prepare, find websites online that deal with first aid care and go through each injury to see what medical instruments and items are needed. 

Moreover, you should have a good understanding of how to properly store medications in order to keep them ready for emergencies. Make a list for supplies that can be added to your disaster medical supplies.

Keep an assortment of emergency medicine references on hand. This ebook is a free download: First Aid Full Manual. In addition, The Survival Medicine Handbook by Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy is a wonderful resource for your preparedness library.


The right tools are a valuable commodity when it comes to survival and essential items to have on hand for hunting, digging, cutting, communicating and navigational purposes. A 72 hour bag should have all items necessary to survive for 3 days.

Bottom line is your preparedness tools are your life line and without them, you could be ill-equipped in a survival situation.

The ten tools listed below are some of the most important survival tools that should be in your 72-hour bags.

Of course, other items can be included, but these essentials are a must-have for every survival pack. Practice using these tools regularly so that you know their capability and their strength.

Read more about essential survival tools here. As well, consider having separate supplies for your vehicle.

Written Survival Information

In a high stress situation, it’s easy to forget the basic how-tos of tasks that you don’t perform everyday. Many survival manuals and printouts can easily be downloaded onto a flash drive to be taken along in your bug out bags.

Don’t underestimate the value of a spiritual book to boost the morale. You want books like:

  • Survival Manuals (This small manual fits easily in most purses or backpacks and is loaded with information for nearly any situation)
  • First Aid Manuals
  • Native American Survival Handbooks
  • Boy Scouts Handbooks
  • The Bible or other spiritual literature

A great book to have on hand is The Prepper’s Blueprint. This book is a compendium of survival information that walks you through being a newbie prepper to a long-term, self-reliant survivalist. You can order this handy volume HERE.

I like to have hard copies of important books on hand at home. If the power is out, you may not be able to access ebooks or websites.

The following are some of my favorite preparedness books:

  1. The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals
  2. Prepper’s Natural Medicine: Life-Saving Herbs, Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for When There is No Doctor
  3. Prepper’s Home Defense: Security Strategies to Protect Your Family by Any Means Necessary
  4. The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource
  5. The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget

Go Get Prepped!

Understanding how to survive in different scenarios requires constant learning in order to be as prepared as possible.

Whatever the reason that you have decided to prep, you and your family will be far better off than those who choose to ignore the fact that disaster can, and usually does, strike when you least expect it.

You can become a master prepper with The Prepper's Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster

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