Step 2: Food & Water

How much water did you drink today?  When you really begin to think about it, we drink and use so much more than we might imagine.  Most of us subscribe to the 3 meal paradigm (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) which makes food planning much simpler, but we don’t necessarily plan our water usage…making it much more difficult to calculate our necessary daily amount.  Aside from carry a measuring cup around all day, how do we begin documenting every drop of water we consume?  I think we would all be amazed by the amount of water we waste simply washing our hands.  All in all, an average adult needs one gallon of water per day for normal activity.  This may sound like a lot to drink, but keep in mind how much water we also use for sanitation, and cooking.  Our goal is not to only meet our family’s basic survival needs.  Rather we want to find a perfect medium between living in pure austerity, and living in our typical comfortable wasteful lifestyle.

Because home water stores are not meant to be portable, we have the luxury of excess weight.  Plus, water is a relatively cheap supply, especially considering it is the most important piece of your emergency inventory.  Yes, water is most important.  Remember the rule of 3: A person can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.  Now, keep in mind, “survive” does not mean to “thrive”.  Our goal is to thrive in an emergency, and to retain our wits and critical thinking skills.  A person can “survive” for quite a while by crawling through dumpsters and drinking contaminated water, but we want to avoid those people at all costs.

There are multiple methods for water storage.  Whether we acquire 55 gallon plastic (food safe) drums to fill with treated tap water, or accumulate large quantities of smaller bottles/boxes of water.  In the end, do not simply relay on water treatment methods for tap water as your only water source.  Let’s look at three possible scenarios:

  1. The power grid is out and the local water pumping stations cannot supply the pressure to supply your home; especially true if you live in a high-rise building, which only has to lose local power.
  2. An ice storm knocks out power, but also causes the local water-main to break, cutting off your house from the water supply.
  3. A terrorist organization contaminates the water supply with a Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical agent; simply boiling on a stove will not sufficient to properly remove all agents, and many water filters do not remove virus or radiological contamination.

In the end, do not put all your eggs in one basket.

Food storage can be an overwhelming concept to some people.  They imagine a basement bunker full of dusty cans of spam and peas.  The reality is much simpler.  Unless you literally buy everything you eat from the store the day you need it, you have already begun your very own food store.  Some kitchen pantries have enough food for a day, a week, and some much longer.  The concept of food storage is to simply extend your pantry for longer durations without going to the store.

Note: I emphasize pantry, (dry storage) and not your fridge and freezer, because most disasters are accompanied by power outages and therefore your freezer can only hold food for 24 hours safely.

Attack this concept by breaking your food storage goals into three phases.

  1. Have enough food for 72 hours.  After most storms the first few days are the most disorganized.  Power restoration is underway, fallen trees and debris is being removed, and flood waters will begin to subside.  This is no time to drive around for groceries.  Have enough dry storage to feed your family without the assistance of electricity.  This short time frame doesn’t require any fancy freeze-dried rations, and can usually be accomplished by simply having a large pantry of commonly used items, for example: oatmeal, canned vegetables, peanut butter, bread, granola bars, pasta, etc.  Many dry items can be boiled or heated on the backyard grill, just as you could cook on your stove.  Remember, you will only have 24 hours before your freezer begins to spoil, your fridge will begin to spoil in mere hours.
  2. Have enough to thrive for at least 2 weeks.  In major disaster event, 2 weeks is a sufficient survival milestone.  When catastrophic regional events occur, the government/utility response capability is spread so thin, it can take weeks to restore power in places.  Although this occurrence is uncommon, we recently saw a great example during Hurricane Sandy.  When such large disasters happen, everything is affected.  Power outages are widespread, supply routes and ports may be impassable, and grocery stores may have suffered physical damage significantly delaying their reopening.  Your food storage will now need to include dehydrated or preserved food, similar to those the military uses.  An MRE, for instance, will provide around 2100 calories, and a daily allowance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fruits/vegetables.  A sedentary adult can survive off one MRE a day—or two a day if they have to be active (possibly with rebuilding).  An MRE is a great emergency food storage option because of its simplicity.  Inside the MRE package is everything you need (minus drinking water) and even includes a food heating unit for a hot main course.  The military survives indefinitely off MRE’s.  Because MRE’s are a ready to eat meal, meaning you can eat the food room temperature straight from the package, they are great for portability too.  Just throw one in your car and you have a 2100 daily meal ready to eat.  Once you’ve exhausted your dry pantry storage, an MRE will be the difference between yourself and those standing in government food lines.
  3. Extreme long term food storage.  After your two week food needs are met, you can begin planning for the endless list of worst case scenarios resulting in massive food shortages, utility and infrastructure collapse, (look up: EMP) and potential global war….to name a few.  When looking to store food for durations longer than a month, freeze-dried foods are a great cost-effective option.  Just about anything can be freeze-dried: fruits, vegetables, grains, breads, and most importantly, proteins.  Animal products do not typically have the shelf life of carbohydrates, but the freeze-drying process changes everything.  Under the right conditions a freeze-dried package has a shelf life of 25 years.  Plan you bulk purchasing in time frames.  For example, rather than buying a year’s worth of fruit, spread you purchases to balance your inventory into more food groups.  By spending money on a few months of fruits, a few months of meats, and a few months of grains, will hit all the food groups and balance your inventory for your nutritional needs.  Once you have more money allocated for bulk purchases, repeat the drill again.  Over time your inventory will dramatically increase in your survival timeframe.