Photo by NOAA photo gallery via Flickr
Weather is unpredictable these days. It seems every time I read the news there’s another snowmageddon, tornado, or flood. Get prepared for a three-day emergency, and you’ll have all the peace of mind you need to survive comfortably through a temporary power outage, break from municipal water, or even a serious thunderstorm. Here are a variety of ways to stock up.
Posts may contain affiliate links, which allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps keep costs down so that I can continue providing high quality content to you for free. I appreciate your purchase through the links! (full disclosure)
Are you at risk?
Our modern lives are pretty cushy when you think about it. With the turn of a nob or the press of a button, we can make our interior temperatures as comfortable as we like.
We can also make a hot meal with similar ease: the turn of a nob or the press of a button, and voila – instant cooking source! We don’t often consider what we would do without fossil fuel sources of heating and cooking.
Some questions to think about:
- Did you know that there are typically only three days worth of food on grocery store shelves?
- What would you do if a water main broke and your house was without water?
- Do you have enough supplies to keep your family safe and dry until emergency personnel arrive?
While we’re all busy, taking just a few minutes to gather some supplies now could make a huge difference in the event of an emergency.
Hmmm, that seems redundant.
Redundancy simply means duplicating the essentials for survival. A power outage in bitter cold, for example, is a serious affair. In a perfect world, we would have at least three ways to meet each basic need.
The basic needs are:
- Heating or Cooling
- Cooking or Preparing food
- First aid
- Activities to Combat Boredom
The Well-Stocked 72-Hour Kit
We’ll look at each basic need and some off-grid alternatives for each.
You might consider storing as many of these items as possible in one large tote labeled “72-Hour Emergency” so your supplies are ready to tap into quickly and easily if needed. I like this tote because it is made of a more rugged plastic and is more easily stackable.
#1: Heating and Cooling
In the depths of winter, staying warm is foremost on our minds. What would you do if the electricity went out and your furnace wasn’t working?
Here are some alternative options. Find at least two of them that you can employ if needed.
Heating 1: Wood Heat
Wood heat is the ultimate option, such as a fireplace or wood stove. You must have seasoned, dry wood, so stock up!
Heating 2: Gas fireplace
Some units will be able to run without electricity, others need electricity for ignition. It will be valuable to know which type of unit you have.
Heating 3: Candle-Powered Radiant Space Heater
Make this little space heater with just a couple of terracotta pots. This video shows you how to make one simply and cheaply. Have extra candles both for warmth and light. It isn’t meant to heat the entire house, rather, use it to warm a small enclosed room.
Heating 4: Lots of towels, extra blankets, extra clothes
Revisit your childhood and make blanket forts to sleep in!
Be stocked for all kinds of scenarios. A person who has become wet to the bone (Flood? Storm?) may need dried off quickly and warmed to prevent hypothermia or frostbite.
While you’re at it, do you have a change of clothes ready for both winter and summer? Most folks who are ready for an emergency switch out their extra clothes to match the weather of the season.
Heating 5: Retain the Heat
Bring the family into the warmest room of the house. It could be the room with the fireplace or the warmest room in the house that can be closed off so heat from the candle-powered space heater can be retained and maximized. It is not feasible to think about space heating the entire house in an emergency situation.
Heating 6: Battery back-ups and generators
Mr. TAF has begun collecting battery banks for heating space heaters and other useful emergency energy needs. We can hook them up to our electric car to keep them charged.
Cooling is just as important in the dog days of summer. Many people live without a/c voluntarily, and will have no problem with this kind of emergency. Of course, dry heat is different from humid heat. For example, we live in a humid river valley, where air can be stagnant and cause mold to take over homes. This is no bueno. For this reason only, I hope I never have to live very long without a/c!
Here are some ways to keep cool when the air conditioning turns off. We didn’t have air conditioning growing up, so these were things we practiced all the time!
Cooling 1: Turn fans in during the morning and out during the afternoon/evening.
If you have electricity, utilize those old box fans (we keep some in storage–or buy some weather-friendly ones) to bring that cool morning air into the house. Set a bowl of ice in front of it to make the air even cooler. (If electricity is an issue, you’ll have to be strategic about using that backup power.)
Cross- ventilation will help a lot, so think strategically about opening windows across from one another to create a current.
Turn fans to blow out warm air in the afternoon. For me, I would actually do this late morning when the temperature starts to get stifling. You’ll still get a cross-breeze, without letting in a whole bunch of hot air.
Cooling 2: Close blinds or curtains while temperatures are high.
Be strategic: Close the eastern and southern blinds during the morning and the southern and western blinds during the afternoon to keep the hot sun out. Insulated curtains like these would really do a great job. North-facing window curtains can remain open for cooling since they will not let in direct sun.
Cooling 3: Soak your feet.
If you’re not in danger of running out of water, dip your feet in some cool water for instant relief. For anyone who is especially heat-sensitive, this one can really help cool them off.
Cooling 4: Damp cloth on neck.
We keep a few washcloths in our 72-hour kit for this purpose. If someone is at risk of overheating, a cool, damp cloth on the neck can really help them cool off.
Cooling 5: Wear natural fibers.
Comfortable, loose, cotton clothing can help your skin breathe. This goes for bedding, too.
Cooling 5: Eat and drink for coolness.
Drinking plenty of water and eating cool things that don’t need cooked is a smart way to keep your body temperature cooler.
#2: Emergency Lighting Options
When the power goes out, it gets dark. You’ll want to have a variety of headlamps, flashlights, oil lamps, and candles available. Don’t forget batteries and matches!
- Headlamps are great for keeping your hands free, whether you need them for safety reasons, holding a baby, or for simply doing chores.
- Flashlights can help you find your stuff, but they also can be excellent for safety. We love our ultra bright LED mini flashlights that can shoot an intense beam up to 600 feet. In fact, I used it just the other day to ease my mind when I heard some loud rustling near my back window. Luckily it was just a deer, but it was perfect 🙂
- Oil lamps are a great use of natural light, especially in the winter when the tiny amount of heat they put out will be beneficial. Don’t forget to purchase lamp oil. We tried making our own olive oil lamps at one point, but they didn’t stay lit very well, and the olive oil produced a lot of soot.
- Candles are another source of natural light that really come in handy especially in the winter. If it’s really hot, I’ll avoid the natural flames in favor of my headlamp to keep from emitting more heat. But, who doesn’t love the ambiance of natural light and reading by the flame of a candle? We have a nice stock of candles (and matches!) in our 72-hour kit thanks to our project to recycle our old, spent candles into new ones.
- If you have access to electricity during an emergency, don’t forget to leave the lights off in summer to reduce heat!
#3: Emergency Cooking and Preparing Food
Without electricity you may not be able to heat food, since electric stoves, ovens, crock pots, and microwaves are useless in a power outage (unless you have a generator!). Though we can survive on cold food, during a wintertime power outage, warm food will help you warm up from the inside.
Cooking 1: An older Gas stove
Like wood heating, gas stoves are the cadillac of cooking in an emergency. Not only will it warm your food, it will warm the room. Unfortunately, newer gas stoves have an electric ignition. Do not leave it on indefinitely, as you don’t want harmful gases to build up indoors.
Cooking 2: Rocket Stove
A rocket stove is a super-efficient outdoor cooking stove that runs on sticks and twigs. Bundle up, because you’re cooking outside, baby.
Make sure you’ve prepared in advance by having dry kindling, which is easily collected from any yard prior to an emergency.
Here’s the rocket stove we own. We keep the kindling in 5-gallon buckets in the garage. I talk more about the rocket stove in my post about freezing the harvest and what to do if the power goes out.
Cooking 3: Camp Stove
Most camp stove models aren’t as sturdy as a rocket stove and won’t hold as big of a pan, but useful, nonetheless. Be sure to have the proper fuel canisters in storage.
Cooking 4: Solar Oven
Although in the hot summer you’ll want to eat non-cooked, cooling foods, it may be necessary to cook something at some point. This is where a solar oven comes to the rescue: Cook foods outside without generating any extra heat in the house. If you’re going to go all out, you might as well purchase the best solar oven because it can do all kinds of fun stuff (it’s on my wish list)!
Cooking 5: Outdoor Gas Grill
The cadillac of cooking options, this one will keep you fed, especially when you’ve got a freezer full of meat thawing and you need to get it all cooked up! Here’s the propane-fueled grill we’re saving for.
#4: Emergency Food Options
Most of us in the developing world have enough food in our pantries, refrigerators, and freezers to live through a 72-hour emergency. It might not be gourmet, but it will be enough to survive on.
Here are some considerations:
Food 1: Shelf-Stable Foods
Have plenty of open-and-eat options, such as soups (Keep a hand-crank can opener in your kit!), snack bars, jerky (this is my favorite brand!), dried fruits and nuts, and other ready-to-eat, healthy foods.You don’t need a lot of food to survive 72 hours, so no need to go overboard. Think about the number of people in your house and how much you would need for three days’ worth of eating and snacking.
Buy products your family would normally eat so they don’t get stuck in the back of the pantry and pass their expiration date.
Food 2: Eat Food in the Fridge First Before the Freezer
Extend the life of your fridge contents by having jugs of frozen water in your freezer and transferring them to your fridge at the time of the power outage.
Open the fridge as infrequently as possible.
When food from the fridge has been eaten, it’s time to tackle that freezer. Sometimes food will need to be cooked to keep it from going bad.
Did you know you can dehydrate some frozen-then-thawed fruits and vegetables? Try dehydrating them in your Sun Oven with the dehydrating accessory.
Food 3: Treats will get you through stressful or boring times.
We always keep a bulk-size bag of chocolate covered almonds in our preparedness kit, because in the event of an emergency we can be really stressed, and a little treat can help us remain calm. It also can keep the kids in a good mood if their activity is restricted and boredom sets in.
Treats are also a great bartering agent if you need to collaborate with neighbors for things you need.
#5: Emergency Water Considerations
Water is more important than food for sustaining a power outage, since we can quickly become dehydrated even in the cold. You’ll also need water for cooking and hygiene.
Access to water can actually be its own emergency. Unfortunately there are more and more instances of municipal water sources becoming contaminated independently of any other disaster. If you don’t stockpile anything else for a 3-day emergency, definitely keep a backup water supply.
For drinking, food prep, hygiene, and sanitation, you’ll need about 2 gallons of water per person per day, so that equals 6 gallons of water per person at the very minimum for a 72-hour emergency kit.
Water 1: Store Water
There are all kinds of ways to store water. Here are few ideas.
- Buy bottled water in bulk at your favorite warehouse grocery store (I buy mine at Costco)
- Clean and refill 2-liter soda bottles
- Buy portable emergency water pouches (would be expensive to use for hygiene and sanitation, but great if you need to evacuate)
- Fill this barrel with potable tap water
For best tasting water, rotate this water every 6 months–put it on your calendar!
Water 2: Be able to purify water if necessary.
In the event that you run out of stored water, it may be necessary to purify non-potable sources of water. There are an infinite number of ways to do this, so here are just a couple of suggestions:
- If you have the Sun Oven, an attachment can help you pasteurize water safely.
- Purification tablets are simple to use, don’t take up much space, and are easily portable.
There are other considerations regarding water and beverages:
Water 3: Use your cooking source to make a hot drink.
If it’s cold outside, a hot drink could do the body good. Hot chocolate would be a great way to use up the milk in the fridge and keep spirits up, while hot tea could soothe the nerves and encourage sleep.
Conversely, fizzy mineral water can be refreshing in the heat (even with lack of ice) without resorting to junk soda pop.
Water 4: Care for Water Pipes
If it’s cold outside and you’re heat is turned off, you’ll want to prevent pipes from bursting.
Have a thermometer on hand – there is a greater chance of water pipes freezing and bursting if the ambient temperature falls below 55 degrees. Know where your water pipes are exposed to colder air pockets near outside walls and basements.
Consider candle powered radiant space heaters in those areas, opening kitchen cabinets to expose pipes to the warmth if necessary. Also consider running all water taps at a drip since running water can help prevent them from freezing.
#6: First Aid
It’s smart to have a first aid kit around the house even in the absence of a weather-related emergency or other crisis. Because, you know, life happens. Cuts, bruises, burns, and worse can happen anytime.
I keep this first aid kit in our 72-hour kit and another one in my car.
Keeping your family safe can run the gamut of many types of scenarios. It’s difficult to think through all types of scenarios and what would keep you safe, but here are some scenarios:
Safety 1: Weapons
In extreme cases where people may have lost their homes or where travel is difficult for emergency personnel, looting or desperate individuals may become violent. You may feel you need to protect your family with weapons.
What that means for each family is a personal choice, whether that be through guns, heavy or blunt objects that could deter an intruder, or other tactics. I’ll leave this decision to you.
Safety 2: Evacuation Kits/Bug Out Bags
There may be times when an emergency requires your household to evacuate for safety, and you’ll want to be prepared to leave in a hurry and have some preps with you.
Preps should include not only food, water, first aid, toilet paper, and change of clothes, but also personal identification, cash, and route plans.
Items like a pocket knife or multi-tool, rope, and dust mask could be useful.
An emergency car kit is essential, not only in the event you are stranded, but also in case of evacuation. More preps already in the car can help you stay healthy and comfortable longer. A road assistance kit is part of it. Imperfectly Happy shows you how to make your own emergency car kit and Melissa K. Norris shows you 8 items to always have in your car.
- This post by Preparedness Mama has some excellent ideas for a 72-hour kit. (I love the suggestion to have a fisherman’s vest for kids with stuff in all the pockets!)
- Wondering what to do for babies and kids? Homestead Lady has you covered with some great suggestions.
- Homestead Wishing has some great ideas for preparing a small bug out bag, a frugal bug out bag from the Dollar Store, and a list of items from Amazon.
- Survival at Home also has some great ideas. Check out the top 5 bug-out bag necessities and 5 more bug-out bag necessities.
- When an emergency strikes, you may be at work and need to find your way home through some hairy situations. This post by Live the Old Way has some excellent suggestions for making a “Get Home Bag”.
Safety 3: Communications
In case of emergency, we want to be able to stay connected to loved ones, as well as keep up with the status of the emergency.
One of the most important things you can do is have a plan with your family. Where will you meet if an emergency happens and not everyone is at home? How will you find your way home, or, if home has been evacuated, where will you all meet? This page from the Department of Homeland Security has some excellent documents that you can print off and discuss with your family to make a plan.
Plans are important, and communicating with family members is essential. Brainstorm about the different natural disasters that may occur in your area (tornado, wildfire, flood, etc.) and strategize safety procedures for each.
A cell phone and charger are super important. You may even want to pack an extra charger in your evacuation kit in case you need to leave in a hurry. A solar charger can be really handy.
This self-powered portable weather radio can keep you informed of what’s going on with the emergency.
#8: Activities to Combat Boredom
If an emergency cuts us off from our normal entertainment on tv, computers, and cell phones, it’s important to have some low-tech backups. Boredom can make us all grouchy, especially for kids whose physical movement may be restricted.
Books, board games, and coloring books (even for adults!) can do wonders.
- Stock up on some of the homesteading and gardening books you’ve always wanted to read, but haven’t had the time for.
- Age appropriate board games like Sequence (ages 7 and up), Skipbo Junior (ages 5 and up), and Ticket to Ride (ages 8 and up) are some of my family favorites.
- Coloring books for adults are all the rage these days. Don’t forget the colored pencils or crayons!
- Sanitation is essential. Does the indoor plumbing work? If not, an emergency humanure toilet may be just the thing you need. You’ll probably not want to wait until an emergency to build it! Don’t forget extra toilet paper!
- Ziplock bags and sanitation wipes can be useful for all kinds of reasons.
This is just the tip of the iceberg – there are so many other useful things we can do to be prepared for emergencies. The more redundancy we have in meeting our basic needs, the more prepared we are, the less fear we have. It is one example of living a proactive, solutions-based life.
- Check out this DIY Emergency Survival Kit for more great ideas.
- The Red Cross has a helpful power outage checklist for more information.
Are you overwhelmed?
Use this page as a checklist.
There are an overwhelming number of items on this page that we rely on for daily comfort but don’t think about keeping on hand for emergencies. How on earth will you find the time to collect all of these items?
Any preparations are better than none. Use this page as a guide, and consistently add items as you can afford them. Decide on a few things to add to your preps each week or each month, depending on what works for your budget and schedule, but be consistent and persistent.
If it were me, I would start with emergency water, and then make a family plan.
Remember, it’s too late to try to collect all of these items once the emergency is upon you.
Bring on the snowmageddon, we’re about to have an indoor campout!
What did I forget? How do you prepare for short power outages or other emergencies?