Before you can barter, before you can plant, before you can form a simple agrarian commune, you must survive the first week on your own. If the grid crashes or a storm throws you back into the Stone Age, help will likely come, but it could take a very long time.

Prepping for that magic week post-disaster does not need not be expensive or difficult, but the time to think about it is now.

Vital Medicine

Make an assessment of what medications you really need and lay in an extra month. Your insurance company likely won’t pay for it, but your doctor should be supportive. Talk it over with your physician at your next visit and get a separate prescription for a month’s worth if necessary.

“A healthy human can make it 30 to 40 days without food. You won’t make it more than three to four days without water.”

Be ready to pay cash and store your medicine in a cool, dark and dry place. Rotate your stock month in and month out so your backup is never more than a month old. Pain medications and similar controlled substances are potential exceptions, as physicians are by necessity institutionally tight-fisted with such drugs. A basic first-aid kit is a good idea as well.

Stay Hydrated

A healthy human can make it 30 to 40 days without food. You won’t make it more than three to four days without water. Many companies offer shelf-stable water, but I have found that a decent water filter is worth its weight in gold in an emergency. A proper filter will make most any wretched bilge drinkable and will keep you alive long enough to arrange a more long-term, reliable source.

Maintain Energy

In a pinch you can do without food, but you won’t be good company. Everybody loves MREs, but they really don’t last very long in storage. By contrast, Mountain House freeze-dried foods come in sealed cans that are good, if unopened, for 25 years or more. You’ll need a heat source and water to prepare it properly.

See The Threat

Lots of folks wear glasses. Almost everyone over 40 needs readers. Contact lenses are convenient and attractive, but if you get a speck of dust underneath one, you are combat ineffective. Spring for a backup pair of robust spectacles and keep them in a place where they are accessible. Two pair are not a bad
idea. Stash a retaining strap along with your extra eyeglasses so you don’t lose them if you have to move fast.

Light The Way

This is harder than it sounds. A decent flashlight with dead batteries is a club. Discipline yourself to rotate batteries to keep them fresh. Birthdays on either even or odd years are an easy way to remember. Rechargeable electric lights are great but I have never seen one that would really stay strong for decades. A handful of chemical light sticks make good backups.

All-Weather Threads

This is not a big deal if you live in Florida, but it makes a difference in Alaska. When we lived in the Alaskan interior, we kept decent sleeping bags and serviceable winter clothes, including boots, handy all the time. If the power goes out and the furnace dies at 40 below, you will be freezing in less than an hour.

Self-Defense Firepower

It doesn’t have to be a minigun or a howitzer, but a decent handgun with a couple of loaded magazines will sure make you more comfortable at night when 911 gives you little more than a well-intentioned recording. Secure it properly to keep small fingers away, but log enough trigger time to make it feel familiar.

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