The age of lightning-quick world news has brought almost cinematic tragedy to our televisions and computer screens. Homes destroyed. People stranded without food or clean water. Weary souls huddled under blue tarps waiting for someone to do something. Unfortunately, many people see these images and still maintain a sense of intentional denial that it can’t happen to them.

More and more people have taken heed, though, and are diligently preparing for something they hope will never happen. The ability to survive on your own without any governmental support has gained popularity over the last few years. Hurricane Katrina seemed to have been a wake-up call. In the end, it will be up to individuals to manage an existence in the event of a major catastrophe. So the question is, how long are you willing to prepare for?

One Week

As we have seen with major storms across the country, Mother Nature is capable of pushing us back 100 years in moments. Power can be severely disrupted and water supplies can be tainted. When coupled with the physical hazards of a storm, finding these resources can be a challenge. There are basics steps everyone should take regardless of whether or not they live in an area prone to storms and other natural disasters.

Water is critical and should be seen as priority one. Avoid using tap water after a major event unless it has been cleared by authorities. You should keep water stored in your house. It is recommended that you store a gallon of water for each day. Multiply this times the number of people in your household and you will get an idea of how much water you really need. If you have warning of an imminent emergency, then you can also capture water from your tap before the system goes down. Companies such as WaterBob sell specific kits to help you safely and sanitarily store water in the bathtub for long periods.

Store non-perishable food. These can be emergency-type meals or the readily available MRE (meals ready to eat). These items will need to be storable without refrigeration since power will be unreliable. One of the best places to get these meals is at longlifefooddepot.com.

Your emergency kit should include a serious and durable flashlight like a SureFire G2X Pro, extra batteries, an emergency hand-crank radio such as the Midland ER102, candles and a first-aid kit with any medications needed. Additionally, glow sticks can be a safer alternative to candles. Waterproof matches are also one of the most important items to include in this survival kit.

One of the major problems faced during major events is loss of power. Because of this, you should consider a generator. Safely store fuels for the generator and keep a regular maintenance schedule for it. A name respected in this field is Honda. They make a variety of generators to fit any need.

If there is a major event, ATMs will not be functioning because of power outages. In this type of environment cash is king. This same lack of electricity will eliminate the ability to use credit cards because the card readers will be lifeless. The amount of cash you have on hand should be balanced with safety. Never let anyone know you are keeping cash, and store it someplace safe.

One Month 

With a week under our belts, we need to look further down the road. We will not spend time theorizing on just why you would have to be on your own for a prolonged period of time, but rather how you will do it. If you are willing to plan for a month, then we need to expand your planning to accommodate this longer period. Let’s keep everything previously listed but modify it by adding a few things.

With your newly extended timeline, you should consider a water filtration system. You would be challenged for space trying to store a month’s worth of water. Add to that the fact that you may have to be mobile, making it impossible. The upside to the new awareness regarding disaster preparedness is that companies have begun selling their wares. On that list is Katadyn. It makes hand-operated water filtration systems to fit any need. The Katadyn Expedition is portable and easy to use.

“As we have seen with major storms … Mother Nature is capable of pushing us back 100 years in moments.”

While they serve a vital role, emergency meals are not known for their culinary palette. You should plan on storing vegetables either in specialized containers, or canning. Be sure that these items are stored in water-safe areas. Anything exposed to flood-type waters can be contaminated. You can also store simple canned meals like ravioli and soup. 

Your emergency kit should evolve with your extended timeline as well. You are encouraged to begin with a preloaded kit like the Chinook Medical Gear Emergency Preparedness Medical Kit Level 3. Include in that any medications you will need during that time. Be diligent and know the expiration dates so you can change them out appropriately. 

An additional kit we will call “general gear” needs to join the list. This kit should have basic tools like pliers, screwdrivers and a hammer. It should also include bailing wire, duct tape (you knew it was coming), twine and rope. These basic tools can help you manage general repairs until the dust settles.

While some spending cash was handy for the week-long challenge, it is critical if you are going it alone for a month. Never carry your entire reserve with you, and make certain to have a secure storage area for it. Once you hit the month timeframe, bartering will become a common practice as well. But we’ll talk more about that ahead.

As we get into a months-long survival situation, fuel for your generator will start to be hard to come by. With power gone, fuel pumps will sit quiet as society tries to move along. Ration your fuel and only use it when absolutely necessary. You should start gathering dry wood at this point in order to build heating and cooking fires.

Weapons should be considered if you are serious about month-long survival. Society has a way of falling apart when major events occur. Most folks will drive on and do their best to survive until order can be reestablished. Some, however, see it as an opportunity to cause chaos. This crowd will not prepare for a prolonged challenge, and they may see you as a source for something they need. They may not ask politely. It will be a desperate time for many, and they have the potential to take serious measures. At minimum you should have a semi-auto pistol chambered in 9mm. One of the most popular is the Glock 17. Its polymer frame and ease of use make it a good defense weapon. If you choose this route, seek professional training. Another solid choice is a shotgun because it can double as a hunting weapon. A solid choice is the 12-gauge Mossberg 590. It is reliable and effective. A firearm is serious business, and you should be schooled in its function as part of your prepping. 

Six Months

Well, things are pretty grim at this point, but not hopeless. If you are planning on preparing for six months on your own, then we need to expand and adjust our planning once again.

A portable water filtration system has limitations in regards to how much water it can process before the filter gives up. Katadyn is still our go-to source for pumps, but it would be prudent to have two units now, along with larger water storage containers.

At the six-month point, you might consider growing some of your own food. Vegetable seeds are hearty and can be stored in cool, dry places for long amounts of time. You should also consider developing your hunting and fishing skills. This should only supplement your existing food stores however. Trying to “live off the land” is extremely difficult and requires a dedicated effort to succeed. This is especially true for those who don’t have a background in these skills.

While rife with challenges of its own, a stand-alone fuel tank can be the difference between electricity and darkness. Moving away from petroleum may be an option as well. Fuel tanks are a common sight in many rural areas. People and companies install them to help manage their fuel without having to hit the gas station constantly.

Again, you’ll need to expand your emergency first-aid kit and general gear kit to reflect your extended challenge. You should also seek advanced first-aid training in the event a serious problem occurs.

Emergency cash to last six months can be a challenge in the best of times. While you should still keep cash, you should also prepare yourself with items people may barter for. Food and water will be like gold if a six-month challenge arises. Right alongside those will be demand for batteries, flashlights, simple tools, rope and other “nice to have” items. Clothing will also start to become an issue now. Six months of living a hard life will wear out the best jeans and shoes. Add several sets of new clothes to your preparation area along with extra boots. You should also consider cold-weather gear since the seasons will be moving by and it could be brutally cold depending on your location.

When you consider the six-month timeframe, a firearm is not really optional at this point. This now applies to both personal protection and hunting, so we will add a rifle to the mix. Your hunting skill and location will determine what rifle you choose. A seasoned deer hunter in the Midwest could choose a Remington 700 as a versatile rifle. Someone trapped in the suburbs may need a Henry Arms AR-7 survival rifle in .22 LR. This design is small, portable and great for small-game hunting.

A solid “best of both worlds” rifle is the AR. Lightweight and easy to use, it is capable of taking deer-sized prey as well as small game. A solid choice for a reliable AR-15 would be something from the Daniel Defense lineup. The company makes a variety of configurations to fit your personal preferences. The AR platform is a solid deterrent against two-legged predators as well.

At the six-month point, people will be desperate and your supplies will be noticed. The one crucial add-on to any firearm is ammunition. Store as much as you safely can. Break up the ammo and store it in more than one location in case one lot is damaged or stolen.

One Year

At this point you are homesteading. You will have to provide everything you need in order to survive. How you prepare at this point is crucial. Once the event happens, it may be almost impossible to expand your cache. The images of empty grocery store shelves prior to a hurricane will be nothing compared to a year-long catastrophe.

Water will be an ongoing challenge at this point. People serious about long-term survival and preparedness collect and further purify rain water as a means of improving their water reserves. Another method of long-term water management is boiling large amounts and then storing it. This is effective against bacteria and other organisms, but you should be cautious about chemical contamination as well.

A garden and livestock of some type are going to become important during a year-long crisis. Canned and emergency food will go quickly and you must have an additional source. Chickens are at the top of many people’s list because they are small and produce eggs. Goats are often included in this mix as well because of their relatively small size. If gardens, goats and chickens seem overwhelming to you, then seek training. There are preparedness groups around the country that teach the basics in these topics.

Although your generator has performed well, it’s time to start looking for other options. Fuel availability after a year of nothing but survival will be slim. A solid choice for non-petroleum energy is solar. A well-made solar unit with battery packs can run even a moderate-sized house.

It is also time for you to become a master of bartering goods and services. Cash will begin to lose its appeal for a variety of reasons. Plan ahead and double or triple the items we discussed before. If possible, make your garden large enough that you can plant extra produce. This will make it easier for you to barter what you’ve grown for what you need.

Clothes are still going to important, but the ability to repair them now becomes a necessity. Sewing supplies as well as extra material for patches is a must. For those who are handy, you can also begin to make your own clothing as a longer-term solution. 

Always remember, if a national emergency goes on for a year, it will be a tough time. As we mentioned earlier, most people will not be prepared. You should plan on having to defend yourself as well as your supplies. This seems almost unfathomable, but it is a reality.

For your safety and the safety of those around you, it’s very important for you to never discuss what you have in your cache. This is as important during good times as it is bad. The cliché comment seen on social media by the unprepared regarding preppers is “I know where I am going if things get bad.” The idea is that they will storm the property of the prepper and take what they need. The best way to avoid this is not to advertise your actions. Quietly prepare and be diligent about protecting your cache. 

Worst-Case Scenario

We have wrapped up our suggestions at the one-year mark. However, there are places such as post-earthquake Haiti that show us a year may not be enough for a government to respond. The planning going beyond a year really is more about personal preparation than it is goods.

You must learn fundamental skills ranging from gardening to emergency medicine in the field. The fact we must face is simple: A disaster can happen to any of us. Even in the most advanced country in the world we are susceptible to cataclysmic events capable of leaving us alone and without any support. How you survive will be up to you.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE ™ Winter 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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  • John

    The Grey Man is always invisible in plain sight.

    The Grey
    Man is totally aware of his environs, his own capabilities or lack
    thereof, his weaponry and his levels of competence with that weaponry.
    He constantly strives to improve upon both his capabilities and
    competence. In public, he is always respectful, even to the point of
    obsequiousness if the situation calls for it. He always appears to be
    just a little confused by what is happening around him, while in reality
    he is alertly doing a tactical assessment.

    The Grey Man NEVER
    draws attention to himself by word, dress, action, or mannerism. The
    Young Grey Man is dismissed as a wimp, the Older as a doddering old
    fool. The Grey Man derives great inner satisfaction from having this
    portrayal of himself accepted by all he meets, for it means he is
    succeeding in his disguise of his actual persona.

    The Grey Man is
    a private man. He practices with his weaponry in private, or only with
    his fellow Grey Men, always in a secluded location. If he must resort to
    use of a public facility, he schedules his practice for times when he
    is likely to be the only one there. At such times he would probably wear
    bright clothing, to be remembered only as ‘that guy in the red jacket
    and sunglasses’, a quite different person from his usual persona. If
    right-handed, he would always occupy the leftmost station on a NRA
    bullseye pistol range, with his back to an observer, or the rightmost
    one for riflery or combat pistol practice. He would not have his name
    emblazoned on clothing or equipment, nor would he have any noteworthy
    affiliation proclaimed on his cap. “He’s just a guy. Comes every
    Wednesday morning for his coffeebreak. Always pays cash.”

    The
    Grey Man does not drive a pink Cadillac with steer horns on the hood,
    NOR does he drive the biggest mutherin’
    4X4-with-all-the-bells-and-whistles BOV in the lot. The older his
    vehicle is, the rustier, the less likely it is to draw attention (or to
    be stolen, for that matter). This vehicle is, under its exterior,
    scrupulously maintained and in excellent running order. If pulled over
    by authority on the basis of appearance, it can be shown to meet or
    exceed all requirements under licensing laws, and an obsequious
    co-operative manner precludes a search under the seats. The Grey Man
    does not speed on the highway: cruise control is his friend. So is the
    Highway Patrol: he waves to any he sees. If he travels the same route
    constantly, at the same times, The Grey Man becomes a ‘fixture’ and can
    be dismissed from conscious observation.

    It helps the Survivor to
    build up this persona of The Grey Man gradually and over time. The
    anti-gun sheeple neighbors will quickly rat out the ‘Patriot’ who is
    always loudly declaiming about his ‘Rights’ and ‘what will happen if
    they try to take my guns’. The Grey Man goes far out of his way never to
    offend anyone, imitating the duck which appears calm on the surface of
    his pond whilst paddling like hell under the surface.

    Be seen as
    conservative in all you do. A Survivor is a Grey Man, and that little
    old grey man alone over there in the corner is probably a Survivor!

    And that young guy next to him? Just another wimp? Or are they both watching each other’s backs?

    Making
    the other guy waste precious time in assessing the situation is a big
    part of staying alive. Practice being grey now, while there’s time to
    build your skills.