5 Things to do Right Now to Prepare for a Catastrophe

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5 Things to do Right Now to Prepare for a Catastrophe | Cleaning & Organizing | Debt Free Living | Gardening | Health & Wellness | Money Saving Tips | Emergency Fund

I’m not really one for conspiracy theories, and I don’t generally tend to panic or automatically assume the worst.  I wouldn’t call myself a “prepper,” and we don’t have a secret bunker built in our basement, an arsenal of supplies on hand in the event of a zombie apocalypse, or plans to go off the grid.

But I do know what it’s like to experience a catastrophe.  In 2004 our home and town took a direct hit from Hurricane Charley.  It was a strong Category 4 storm that demolished almost everything in its path and killed more than 20 people.  And while the storm itself was terrifying, it was the aftermath that made my husband and I realize how woefully unprepared we were for a widespread emergency situation.

You see, Charley, in grand scheme of things, was pretty small.  Within hours, the National Guard was on hand to help out, along with volunteers from the Red Cross and Salvation Army.  For weeks they delivered meals and water door-to-door, provided shelter and generators, and helped clean up the mess.


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But it was a sobering reminder of what could have happened if there were a bigger catastrophe.  One that affected the whole state or region, or even the whole country, instead of just one small town.  What if it had been a pandemic that suddenly swept the country like what has happened in Africa this past year?  What if there were some sort of solar flare that caused an extended power outage?   Would we be ready?  Would we be able to survive and take care of our family and protect ourselves if necessary?

I certainly don’t wish for something like this to happen!  I don’t even think it is very likely.  But I do know that if something terrible were to happen, I would want to know I was at least somewhat prepared.  Maybe that makes me a little nutty.  I guess there are worse things.  In any case, here are the 5 things I am doing—and that you can do too—right now to prepare for any number of major emergencies or natural disasters.


When you look in your pantry is it full of staples and ingredients you could use for an emergency?

Stockpile Food

If you already use coupons or follow my strategy for cutting your grocery bill in half, then stockpiling food is probably something you already do to some extent.  We try to keep at least several months worth of non-perishable food in our pantry, including lots of high-protein items like peanut butter and tuna.  We also recently purchased a few buckets of emergency freeze-dried meals, which have a shelf-life of more than 20 years.  We hope that we will never have to use them, but I feel better knowing that they are there just in case!

Secure Access to Clean Water

In the event of a catastrophe, water is the first thing you will miss.  At the very least, it is important to keep a few cases plus several gallons of bottled water on hand in the event clean water is suddenly not available.  (After Charley we didn’t have water for several weeks.)  It is also a good idea to keep a few of these emergency reservoirs on hand.  These collapsible water tanks don’t take much storage space but expand to hold 100 gallons of clean water right in your bathtub.  You might also want to consider setting up a couple of rain barrels around your house or stocking up on some water purification tablets just in case.

Preparing a basic first aid kit will come in handy if you face an emergency.

Plan for Medical Emergencies

After Hurricane Charley we heard several stories of people right in our own neighborhood who were cut by broken glass during the storm and died waiting for the paramedics to arrive.  Would you have the wherewithal to deal with a serious medical emergency in the event no one was around to help?  Or, in the event of an extended disaster situation, would you be able to care for your family without access to regular medicine, doctors, or hospitals?

At the very least, make sure you have some sort of emergency medical kit on hand.  It is also not a bad idea to research alternative medical treatments for your family’s most common issues.  My husband and I have begun researching and using essential oils for a variety of ailments and have consistently been amazed by the results.  (You can read more about that here.)  We also bought a book called Surviving When Modern Medicine Fails that explains how to use oils for a variety of illnesses.

Know How to Protect Yourself

Preparing for an emergency situation mostly just means knowing how to take care of your family even in a worst-case scenario.  Food, water, and medical supplies are important, but equally important is the ability to protect and defend yourself against outside threats.

The sad truth is that looting is all too common during emergencies, and the bigger the catastrophe, the more unsavory people there are around to take advantage of the situation.  If nothing else, knowing you can defend yourself and your family will bring you peace of mind and the confidence to deal with scary situations.

Gardening is a good skill to have, especially if you need to prepare for a catastrophe.

Learn to Garden

Learning how to grow our own food is something my husband and I have been working on for quite a while, with limited success.  While it makes a nice hobby and it is something we genuinely enjoy, our main motivation for mastering this garden thing is so that we would know how to do it if at some point we really needed to.  I’d much rather learn now, while it is fun, then wait until my survival is at stake.

And so we are learning, slowly, what it really takes to grow our food.  This, our fourth year, is our first year attempting Square Foot Gardening.  We are fertilizing more, testing the soil on a regular basis, and tending to our little patch like our life depends on it.  Because some day it might.   (You can follow our progress on Instagram using hashtag #SoukupGarden)

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I’ve mulled this post over for months now, wondering if I really should push the publish button, wondering if saying all this stuff out loud really does make me sound crazy.  I know I can’t prepare for everything, and I certainly don’t want to live my life in fear of the unknown.  That said, knowing there are a few things I can do right now, just in case, without much effort, makes me think I’d be a little crazy not to.

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Have you done anything to prepare your family for a catastrophe?  Why or why not?

5 Things to do Right Now to Prepare for a Catastrophe | Cleaning & Organizing | Debt Free Living | Gardening | Health & Wellness | Money Saving Tips | Emergency Fund


  1. Tiffany
    January 23 at 09:59AM

    Great article! After going through hurricane Katrina with my family we were blessed with having practiced food storage and emergency preparedness in a small capacity. But one thing we failed to be prepared for and that you also failed to mention is the need for cash! We were in short supply of gas and all the stores in a 3 hour radius only took cash. No bank operated in this initial time so you could not go to the bank as you normally would. I was so thankful for those who came and aided us in that time!

    • Ruth Soukup
      January 23 at 10:02AM

      That’s a great tip Tiffany! We also try to keep a small reserve of cash at home for that very reason! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Anonymous
    January 23 at 10:20AM

    A tip regarding drinking water: use your hot water tank. If you have a 20-gallon tank, you have access to 20 gallons of drinking water.

    • Anonymous
      January 23 at 09:57PM

      Be careful drinking water from hot water heater, water is typically quite contaminated with sediment. Use only as a last resort.

      • Lisa Rhinebeck
        August 29 at 07:03PM

        I agree I had to do this last winter an the water was ok to wash in but no way drinkable but if you have a well on your property you can get a manual pump, Or a swimming pool if necessary you can boil that water to drink an also for washing & flushing.. I also invested into a 5 gal porta potty like camping kind. With how our water freezes it is nice to have also nice when you only have one toilet in case of emergencies.. I was a big prepper when my 4 children were young an I was a single Mom but in my old age I figure I got a gun & meds if worse comes to worse I’m taking myself out.

      • Anonymous
        March 15 at 01:40PM

        keep all food and water in a safe place. Such as in a metal container. Such as a refrigerator, dryer, or large safe. If radiation is present is well destroy all of your food and water.

  3. Maree
    January 23 at 10:47AM

    This is a great article and there is nothing nutty or crazy about being prepared. Yes the likelihood of many of us experiencing a natural catastophre is rare but what about simply losing your job? Having an emregency fund is great but even better is having enough food in your cupboards to feed your family. Not having to wonder where your kids next meal is coming from takes much of the stress away of that difficult situation.

  4. Debbie
    January 23 at 11:27AM

    This is great! Thank you for reminding us it is wise to be prepared for anything!

  5. Diane
    January 23 at 01:49PM

    Great article! I have lived on the gulf coast all my life and hurricane preparedness is just a fact of life here. In the last few years I have learned that it’s better to keep your emergency stock updated all year rather than wait until a hurricane is on the way.

  6. Lisa Galleguillos
    January 23 at 01:57PM

    You are not crazy. Your eyes are open and I feel like you are a kindred soul 🙂 Thanks for tackling this subject in such a down to earth way. I’m not a prepper either, or overly paranoid but it is wise to be prepared. A couple years ago we bought samples from one of those emergency food companies. The meals we tried were incredibly good and all you had to add was water. I think our house needs to stock up on some if those again.

  7. January 23 at 04:13PM

    This is something that hasn’t even crossed my mind! To be honest, with so much energy being soaked up by the children and trying to start a business and hoping to sell a house and aiming to buy another, trying to prepare for something that might never happen is a long way from my mind. I’ll be one of those that goes out foraging, living in a tent in the woods until it’s all passed by!

  8. Autumn
    January 23 at 04:18PM

    Love this post; i’ve been feeling the need to take some of these precautions as well, so thanks for some guidelines! We have well water, so the water part doesn’t worry me so much as no electricity. Without electricity, the well is worthless. Be Prepared, Not Scared! 🙂

  9. Alison
    January 23 at 05:37PM

    Matches and candles would be high on my list. Can you imagine not having those? A lighter would be great too. Batteries and a flashlight, also. All these things can be found at the $1 store. You can basically fill a bunker with necessary items from there.

  10. January 23 at 06:01PM

    We, My Tom and I, have done a few things to prepare for weather related catastrophe’s. While we aren’t likely to battle a hurricane in my corner of the Midwest, we do have tornado’s and power outages that, in some areas, have lasted a good week or more depending where you live. So I do garden, can and freeze food (although a power outage in the summer would be a problem with the frozen food after a few days). I have water stored and a way to purify water if needed. I have 2 weeks worth of medicine stocked up that I rotate out each time I refill a prescription. I also have a pretty impressive emergency first aid kit. There is still a lot I don’t have and I would definitely not call myself a prepper. But I was a girl scout and try to be fairly prepared for the most likely emergencies.

  11. Melissa
    January 23 at 07:20PM

    personally I think that those who don’t prepare are the crazy ones. You never know what will happen be it a nasty storm of some sort or some major event. Even everyday life, job loss, house fire, sick family member, you get the idea.
    The red cross and FEMA recommend a MINIMUM of 2 weeks worth of non perishable foods that can be prepared and eaten with little to no fuel and water. Also at least 1 gallon of water per person and animal per day. Think about that, how much water does it take you to make your meals, clean yourself, hydrate yourself, and use the toilet. One gallon is a joke. We often have water issue where I live (community well lots of line breaks and boil notices) I have averaged my family of 6’s water consumption excluding bathing and toileting at about 3 gallons per person. That’s not accounting for other liquids we drink like sodas, milk, coffee etc.
    my suggestions are items that won’t require refrigeration, take little water and fuel to prepare and store longer.
    Make sure these are foods you will either eat (to rotate and keep a fresh stock) or be willing to donate (I get a lot of health food advocates are highly opposed to ramen and canned meat)
    Think full meals not snacks. 2 weeks of breakfast, 2 weeks of lunch, and 2 weeks of dinner, these don’t all have to be different but variety helps a lot. Consider than during most crisis you will probably be burning more calories than normal so over estimate the amount you will need. Account for growing children and likely guests (parents, friends etc that may need to stay with you) encourage them to keep a supply as well.
    Have a way to purify water aside from boiling in the event more water is needed and you aren’t able to drink from your tap. Back up fuel source, it’s possible you may not be able to use your gas stove even with a match, you may not be able to use your outdoor grill either. Consider an alcohol stove, propane camp stove or look into rocket stoves.

    For those that do not want commercial foods and prefer organic, try canning and dehydrating your own. Anyone can can and dehydrate, meats, fruits, veggies, soups etc can all be canned (check out the Ball Blue Book for an excellent guide to getting started) great for people with food allergies so you know EXACTLY what is in your foods.

    In the event the emergency happens and you have to leave home quickly, (fire, gas leaks, mandatory evacuations) have a grab and go bag ready to go. This should contain, a change of clothes, 3 days of food and water, a first aid kit, a weeks worth of any medication you require, a multi tool, a good pocket knife, tarp, duct tape and a kit to start fire, and a light (head lamps keep your hands free to do what you need to do). If you have room and time it would be good to have your two week supply quickly accessible, store it in small totes or duffel bags you can grab and throw into your vehicle.
    Along with jugs or cases of water (the gallon jugs suck and deteriorate and split at the seams too quick imo)
    Thus far my family has tried many types of freeze dried meals and more type meals for our emergency storage. Mountain house makes the best tasting ones and you can find them in the camping section of most stores. It’s usually about 2 servings per bag but for the 6 of us we would need at least 5 bags for a meal. (Kids are 12,8,7,&3) so I buy 6 per meal. These are the ones I put in our grab bags (commonly called bug out bags, inch, get home bags etc)
    Check out for suggestions if you are just starting and feeling overwhelmed.

    Sorry to hijack the post!!! I could go on forever (we are preppers NOT the doomsday kind)

  12. Crystal Hankey
    January 23 at 07:22PM

    Not crazy at all. Have been thinking of these things myself lately. I am more inclined to to believe we will have a natural disaster or pandemic than anything else. So yeah, trying to make sure we have the basics covered like food, water, medical and safety. Thanks for a great article.

  13. January 23 at 07:52PM

    Great list! This is one of our goals, too, as we prepare for the “what ifs”. I have a good supply of food, but am working on building up candles, matches, flashlights and batteries. We’d like to get a generator, too. That’s on the big ticket list.

    • January 27 at 09:47AM

      We have a large generator, purchased used at a great price, but we also have to remember to keep the gas cans full- the generator is no good once your gasoline runs out.
      Once a month grocery shopping also helps with a stockpile- and it is so nice to spend less time in stores with children! I do love to have them with me to pick large amounts of fruit and then can it.
      Also, all us ladies would probably hate to forget to stockpile feminine hygiene products!
      And consider keeping knowledge of your supplies and piles of cash at the house on the down-low. While it is nice to share with family and friends, we do want to stay safe.

  14. January 23 at 07:58PM

    Having gone through the Joplin tornado back in 2011, I totally agree with the point about the water. Water was the very first thing we missed. We didn’t have any at all on hand and it was a big challenge trying to get water initially. Ever since then, while I don’t consume bottled water on a regular basis, I ways keep some on-hand for emergencies. Having cash on hand is VERY important too, I totally agree with Tiffany’s comment above. Pretty much every store around us only took cash for the first few days after the tornado. And if you’re a homeowner, having a generator is a really, really good idea. Our next-door neighbor had one and it was truly a lifesaver.

  15. Mbarclay
    January 23 at 09:54PM

    In addition to these things we have a file that housed emergency money as cards birth cert and any other extremely important documents so that in case of emergency we van grab that and go.

  16. January 24 at 02:47PM

    Being prepared isn’t nutty. It’s smart. I’ve been married for eight years and already we’ve lived through two major natural disasters (the Tuscaloosa tornado and a horrible ice storm).

    We invested in a water filter that can filter contaminated/rain water and keep a well-stocked pantry. Things like extra toilet paper and diapers, while not strictly essential, are really great to have on hand too. Learning how to do without when the inside of your house is 35 degrees would be no fun!

  17. January 26 at 11:04PM

    great tips to prepare for any number of major emergencies or natural disasters. Thanks!

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  18. January 28 at 08:47PM

    Love this Ruth! We went 7 days with no power after Hurricane Charley and, even though I had never been through a hurricane before, for some reason I really prepared for it in the days ahead. It made all of the difference in the world during that week. We’ve since gone on to prepare in other ways (safety, etc) should anything ever happen again. That seems like so long ago – “Middlest” was only 4 months old at the time. Wow. Pinning!

  19. March 25 at 07:47AM

    The above is true. We also went through Hurricane Charlie. I want to add, be sure you have cash. No electric, no ATMs, no gas. Be prepared. Need a way to charge your phone or keep a house phone if you are in a prone area

  20. Amy
    June 26 at 10:07PM

    Not crazy at all! This is something I’ve worked on in the past, but it’s terribly outdated. I was just thinking about this recently, so I appreciate the motivation.

  21. Anonymous
    August 29 at 07:06PM

    Nice to see all the women, in the comments as most times it is men being preppers, but it is a cruel world an yeah women need to be prepared for anything, life throws at them.. Esp when you have kids.

  22. Cal L
    February 5 at 10:13PM

    I have a “jam out” bag in case we have to leave the immediate area. 3 days worth of MREs, Lifewater drinking straws, first aid, tarp, lightweight tent, multi purpose tool, book on wild edible plants, hand crank battery charger, hand crank radio and flashlight. We also could survive in our house for at least a month without running water. It’s scary to think about but you have to be at least a little bit prepared just in case.

  23. Judy
    February 6 at 02:21AM

    I have always had handcrank radios and lights for power outages also have propane heater incase of power outages which have happened a lot this year I hate our electric company PSE here in wa state. I have month worth of canned food and powdered milk and water on hand we have water proof matches in car and apt along additional blankets to keep warm with in both places and emergency kit in car I keep snack and bottled water in my car most of the time with growing boys they are always hungry and saves money and ending up eating in fast food places as often. I recently bought battery powered candles use double a batteries that I will use in kids room and bathroom bought at ross for 4.99 put out fair amount of light and look pretty as well. with my issues with my hands making it harder to keep up cranking the light during power outage.

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