The Basics of Survival: Develop an Emergency Preparedness Plan

The Basics of Survival: Develop an Emergency Preparedness Plan

Welcome to the  Basics of Survival! Step #1 is to prepare your emergency preparedness plan.

Committing to the survival of your family in the event of a crisis is more than sensible in such uncertain times.

Develop an Emergency Preparedness Plan

My son had an emergency preparedness class at school. The instructor said we were better prepared than she was. Thanks to your advice, my son was the star of the class… I’m so pleased.– Brenda Z.

First things first! We recommend for you to get an Emergency Plan set up before diving straight into food and water storage. This list may look overwhelming, so you are welcome to break these tasks down into bite-sized chunks should you feel the need to.

Your job will be to cover the 3 main categories of the Emergency Plan: setting up a Family Plan, getting your Disaster Kits together, and planning for an Evacuation. Additionally, we highly recommend you backup your computers.1

     Family Plan

  • Contact Info

     Disaster Kit

  • 72 Hour Food Kit
  • Emergency Binder

     Evacuation List

  • Car Kit
  • Grab List

To Do List

  • Take out your worksheets for your EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS PLAN
  • Review the FAMILY PLAN section with your family and complete the sheet labeled “contact info”.
  • Inventory what supplies you already have and gather them for your DISASTER KIT.
  • Gather your documents and copy them for the Emergency “Just in Case” Binder in your DISASTER KIT.
  • Check out our page on how to make an Emergency “Just in Case” Binder for specific recommendations.
  • Complete your Grab and Go Emergency EVACUATION LIST – Prioritize each item in order of importance.

To Purchase List

  • You can either purchase or make your 72 Hour Food Kits (including water). Click here to see instructions for making a 72 Hour Food Kit as well as additional ideas for making your own food kit.
  • Purchase the additional supplies that you do not currently have. Put the additional items gathered and/or purchased into totes or backpacks close to an exit so they are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
  • Invest in divider tabs  and a 3-ring binder to make your Emergency “Just in Case” Binder.
  • Optional: Invest in a waterproof/fireproof safe or locked box for your Emergency “Just in Case” Binder (you can also laminate pages to keep them safer).
  • Gather the items for or invest in your Emergency Car Kit and place them inside your trunk
  • Obtain items for backing up your laptop or computer files (USB drives, discs, or even an online backup service).

Beginner’s Tips for Developing Your Plan

  • Use this plan as a guide to help you create your own unique plan
  • Remember to consider those in your family that have special needs and your pets
  • Personalize your plan based on your family’s preferences
  • Do the easy stuff first. You can cover the more advanced topics later so you won’t get overwhelmed.
  • Don’t forget to backup important information on your computers and other digital media in addition to your emergency preparedness plan.
  • Be sure you have the appropriate legal documents in place such as: identification, birth certificates, passports, wills and insurance.
  • Begin considering alternative sources for cooking and fuel, sanitation, safety, security, etc.

Your family or individual plan should include a checklist of important issues to discuss with family members such as: what the emergency
protocol is and how to follow it, all contact information, where to meet in the event of a disaster and you aren’t together as well as any education needed.

It’s too late to figure out what you need to do after an emergency arises. Get into the habit of reminding children of protocols and plans.

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Survival Water – A Must Have 

Many times in history, survivors of disasters and catastrophes have been found alive after 2 weeks… but only if they’ve stayed hydrated.

On the flip side, if there isn’t any water to be found, these same survivors will only live for about 3 days.

Like it or not, at one time or another, we all take water for granted. Who hasn’t stood under a hot shower for at least 30 minutes on a tough day?

Think about all the different ways we use water: showers, baths, flushing the toilet, watering the lawn, washing the car, running the dishwasher, doing the laundry, cooking, cleaning, filling up the swimming pool, allowing the kids to play in it, and any other way you can possibly think of to use it.3

Ultimate Survival Tip – Survival Water

Be sure to keep lots of extra paper cups and plates readily available. This way in the event of an emergency, you don’t need to worry about wasting your valuable water to clean the dishes. Then, you can burn them in the campfire. Easy cleanup!

We Americans are so spoiled and used to water processing plants treating our water to make it drinkable that we don’t even think twice about how to make water safe and drinkable (also known as potable). Wow, that felt like a huge run-on sentence!

And, that’s exactly why you should think ahead. They don’t call it the end of the world as we know it for nothing…

Water Storage

This is the easiest part of the entire process to start and is probably the easiest way to begin prepping for your family’s survival. We’ll go slow and easy and then get into the harder more difficult stuff later.

Emergency preparedness begins with emergency water storage

When the power goes out for days or weeks after a disaster, having your own supply of stored drinking water could be the difference between life or death.

We recently had a water main break in our neighborhood and we didn’t have access to water for a over a day. If I hadn’t found this site, I would have had to buy water for drinking, cooking and bathing. I was well prepared. Thanks! – Nancy G.

5For people who don’t have an emergency water supply, it’s going to be complete chaos. The average person can live a few weeks without food – but only about 3 days without water.

That’s why it’s an absolute necessity to have a decent supply of drinking water on hand stored in containers for easy access.

Under normal circumstances, disaster support groups can get to impacted areas inside of 3 days, consequently a 3 day water supply (the bare minimum) is often encouraged. Even so, it is always advised to put together a backup plan just in case you have experience an lengthy water shortage scenario.

Get started with the basics of emergency water storage and then proceed to more advanced subject matter as you gain more knowledge and feel more comfortable.

We recommend that you start by storing your water systematically in 3 layers

  1. Smaller, easily portable containers
  2. Cases of water from the store (easy to stack)
  3. Larger containers that can hold 30+ gallons (some can hold hundreds of gallons)

To Purchase


Purchase and keep a bottle of household bleach on hand at all times for water purification and cleaning

Invest in something from the 3 Month Food Supply List (Step 3). Purchase extra items currently on sale, invest in a few items in bulk, or grab a few extras each time you shop.

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To Do List

Fill up the emergency water storage containers and then store them in a few different locations inside your home. Add a little bleach if you have well-water (city water is already chlorinated).

Read the more advanced sections on Water Storage

  • Alternative Water Sources
  • Water Purification
  • Making an Evaporation Still

Update the 3 Month Food Supply List for foods you currently have stored

It’s also very important to keep a supply of emergency water filters and an alternate way to purify water as a backup in case you run low and have to get water from somewhere else. It ensures you don’t drink any contaminates or dangerous bacteria that can make you sick.

Put your family’s emergency water storage in place first. In a survival situation, water ranks at the top of the list of supplies you’ll need.

Focus on these 3 Beginner’s Steps for Emergency Water Storage:

  • Learn how much water you need to store for your family.
  • Learn how to store your water supply.
  • Know the different ways you can purify water.

Why It’s Necessary To Store Water Safe for Drinking

Anytime a disaster is forecasted (or happens), people rush around frantically trying to prepare. Water, food, and batteries fly off the shelves at local convenience and grocery stores. People just panic. Why? Because they didn’t prepare.

Following a natural disaster or water main breaks (this happens a lot in big cities), you can become susceptible to water-borne pathogens that can cause serious illness; especially if your water supply is contaminated or polluted. If you aren’t prepared, you could be forced to find and consume water that is NOT safe to drink.

It doesn’t take much time to think ahead and prepare for the unexpected. Take a little time… and then just do it. You’ll be so glad you did if some unforeseen event arises.

How Much Water Do You Need?

That’s an easy answer. Typically, you’ll need 1 gallon of drinking water per day per person and 4 gallons per day per person for hygiene (bathing, washing dishes, toileting, etc.).

Fortunately, we drink a lot of bottled water. It was easy for us to refill our used gallons with tap water from the sink and put them under the stairs in the garage.

If you’re not in the habit of drinking bottled water, get in the habit fast. You can find generic brands relatively cheap at the store. Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and find coupons too.

If you’ve never watched Naked Castaway, I highly recommend it. That guy was dropped off on a small island in the middle of nowhere and found some used water bottles that washed up on shore for his water storage. I cringe to think about what could have happened had he not had those bottles.

It was amazing to see, and something you’ll hope you never have to experience. It made Tom Hank’s movie Castaway look like child’s play.

And no… You won’t get to see his goods. They blurred out his nakedness for national TV.

For short-term emergencies:

  • Typically, you’ll need 1 gallon of drinking water per day per person and 4 gallons per day per person for basic food preparation and hygiene (bathing, washing dishes, toileting, etc.).
  • Start with a smaller goal of storing enough water for 2 weeks. If there are 3 people in your household then this would be your calculation (3 people x 14 days = 42 gallons of drinking water).
  • Once you store drinking water, start storing the extra 4 gallons a day for the extras. The other 4 gallons should be mostly potable water (free of bacteria).
  • Make sure to remember your pets when you consider how much water you need. A good rule of thumb is to store 1 ounce of water per each pound an animal weighs.

Where Can You Get Water?

  • Reuse 2 liter soda bottles and store-bought water gallons. This is easily the simplest way to start (especially if you’re on a budget). Important Note: All storage containers have to be cleaned and sanitized before using for water storage. Just wash out your bottles or jugs with a little bit of soap, sanitize with 1 teaspoon of  chlorine bleach, rinse thoroughly and refill them with tap water (if you have city water) If you have well water, you may need to take a few more steps. You can do the same with smaller soda and water bottles.
  • Buy bottled water from the store. You can also purchase emergency water from manufacturers that are already sealed.
  • Invest in Water Storage Containers: (Cleaning and sanitizing rules apply here as well).There are a number of different types of emergency water storage containers intended for safe water storage. Fill up water containers with tap water (City water is immediately safe for drinking because it’s chlorinated. If you have a well, you may need to take additional steps to filter and purify the water).
  • Check out the Emergency Water Filters page. It explains in detail why filters are important to your emergency preparedness plan.


  • DO NOT reuse milk jugs and fruit juice bottles. The sugars from the fruit and protein from the milk can’t be removed easily and they attract bacteria (making these bottles a stomping ground for bacteria that can make you and your family sick). Also, milk jugs tend to degrade easily in heat and light.
  • Only use those bottles that have contained edible materials. For example, you DO NOT want to put water into an old bleach bottle or laundry detergent container.

7Storing Emergency Water

If you use well water or are questioning the safety of the water you are storing, follow these steps to make water safe for drinking prior to storage:

  1. Add 1/8th of a teaspoon of non-scented chlorine bleach (household grade) per gallon of water.
  2. You can purify water by boiling it between 1 and 3 minutes (5 and 7 minutes for higher altitudes).

Check out all of the methods you can use to purify water and read about the important ways of making it safe to drink in emergency scenarios on this page.

  • Don’t forget to store your containers away from too much heat and light.
  • Water CAN get stale in storage containers, so date it, rotate it and replace it every 3 months to a year.
  • Don’t store your water in close proximity to household cleaners, anything that contains a toxic substance, gas, paints, etc.

Alternative Water Sources in Emergency Situations

Other places you have water you might not think about in your home:

  • In your faucets and pipes
  • In your hot water heater
  • In your ice trays or ice maker

Other places you can find survival water outside your home:

  • Ponds
  • Lakes
  • Streams
  • Rainwater
  • Springs (Natural)

Water from these sources should be filtered and/or purified first.

Tips For Emergency Water Storage

  • Store your water out of the reach of too much light and away from too much heat.

Remember… Don’t forget about your pets.

8Emergency Food Storage

“It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.”

– Howard Ruff

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”

– John F. Kennedy

As with water storage, we also recommend that you store foods systematically in 3 layers: 

  1. Items from the grocery store
  2. Dry foods (bulk)
  3. Freeze-dried or dehydrated foods

You will be busy working through this section. There are a lot of details teaching you how to plan and purchase a 3 Month Emergency Food Supply (minimum advised).

This can seem a little overwhelming, yet it is really fun to accomplish! After you have your preliminary plan, the rest is not hard by any means.

Setting up your minimum 3 Month Emergency Food Supply can feel a little overwhelming at first, however, it is a very significant part of your emergency preparedness plan! Also, if you happen to have a lean month financially, wouldn’t you feel great knowing you can cut you expenses on groceries while still feeding your loved ones the meals they are accustomed to?

Lots of people prepare only for shelf stable foods, while other people decide to incorporate a few freezer foods at the same time. Decide which types of dishes you think suits your family best, and then put together a plan based on using those foods.9

To Do:

  • Come up with a plan for your 3 month emergency food supply on your computer or a tablet.
  • Print your plan off (if your list is on your computer).
  • Put your plan in plain sight where it will constantly remind you to use and rotate your food items.
  • Inventory your food pantry and update your inventory sheet (on the 3 month plan) for the items you already have; and each time you shop.
  • Create a system to purchase foods that will work for your buying style.
  • Purchase a few extra items on your list every time you go to the grocery store.
  • Really stock up when the items on your list are on sale.
  • Find out more on shopping with coupons (consider a coupon website or service that will list local deals in your area).

To Purchase:

Start investing in foods you have listed on your 3 Month Emergency Food Supply inventory sheet.

Read more survival tips here

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