September is National Preparedness Month. FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, sponsors of the effort, use this month to encourage Americans to prepare for natural and manmade disasters. Many of us already have our plan in place and a bug-out bag stocked and ready. Others are just starting out and need a little guidance. One of the top questions and complaints I read from the online prepper community is, “My friends and family don’t prep. How do I get them to understand the importance of stocking up on water and food just in case?”
As cheesy or cliché as it sounds, I start out my conversation after a few beers: “Dude. What are we gonna do when the zombies come?” The zombie apocalypse survival scenario has never failed to get people talking about prepping. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a little banter about zombies? After a few rounds of “DOUBLE TAP!” and talk about unlikely raids on grocery stores, I turn serious and remind them of Snowpocalypse 2011. Everyone ends up agreeing that having a few days of food, water and batteries is a good idea.
If you are anything like me, your surrounding friends and family resemble the cast from Modern Family. Everyone’s situation is different and we cannot all prepare exactly the same. But what if we were to prepare together? Naturally, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Pooling resources within your close-knit friends and family helps you save time and money; not to mention the fact that you will all be better prepared. Honestly, when disaster strikes I don’t want to go it alone. Two heads—or five heads—are better than one. Not only does building a local prepper community with those you trust fight off isolation, it provides help and security. If your friends and family aren’t prepared, make National Preparedness month the time you talk to them about the importance of preparing.
Make a Plan
The first thing you need to do is pin down exactly what you are preparing for based on where you live—regionally and whether it is urban or rural—will help guide you. For example, in North Texas, we don’t need to prepare for hurricanes, but we do need to plan for tornadoes, ice storms etc. If you live on the coast, you will want boards, hammers and nails to secure windows. For folks in the North, you will want plenty of warm blankets and an alternative source of heat.
Once you have listed out every possible survival scenario, create a detailed and separate plan (if necessary) for each situation. The resulting plans are where pooling your resources become important. Some emergencies give you more time to get ready—severe winter storms come with advanced warning, but a tornado may only give you minutes. I have a cozy place right off campus, within a short walking distance of 24-hour pizza, tacos, booze, convenient stores and pharmacies—many of which stay open during severe snow and ice. My friends who live in isolated areas can’t get out when the ice is thick. I keep a stock of warm blankets and board games in case we need to camp out at my place.
On the other hand, during summer and spring storms, my place is less than ideal. My only internal (no outside walls) tornado-safe room barely fits me and the dog, much less anyone else. I agreed that someone else in my network with a bigger house should be tornado and flood central.
No plan is fool-proof. However, a detailed plan for every possible situation that could occur in your location will make everyone in your network safer. Discuss your plans and ensure everyone is on board, understands their role and the gear they need to supply.
Bugging-out can cause bigger issues, especially when organizing a group. Some of your survival group will have kids and pets, or elderly or members with special needs. Everyone will have to agree how to accommodate them. When you choose, or forced to evacuate, the first step is to designate a meeting place. Fortunately, in my group we have multiple, privately owned locations to choose from. Depending on the emergency, a destination 45 minutes away will suffice, or we can bug-out to a property two hours away. Our plans include criteria to select which location is best based on the emergency.
Have your evacuation route pre-planned using highlighted maps. Keep detailed instructions and maps for several alternative routes to your meeting place. Having an out-of-town point of contact everyone can text or call is a good idea. In a disaster, long distance phone calls are sometimes easier to make than local calls. Your point of contact can stay afloat of news and weather and disseminate important information as necessary.
You might not be as fortunate as I am to have multi bug-out locations to retreat too. Local shelters and hotels will fill up fast and might not accept family pets. Perhaps you or one of your cohorts has friends or family out-of-town. Discuss the possibilities of meeting there. If necessary, pick a favorite out-of-the-way campground as a designated meeting place.
Long-term prepping is where I have utilized my friends and families strengths and weaknesses the most. One of my friends loves to garden, while I hate it. I can’t even keep a cactus alive. Chipping in for the cost of seeds, tools and other necessary gardening equipment and supplies, I do what I can to help my friend cultivate a vegetable garden while another group member does the canning.
Utilize each of your group’s abilities. That way, everyone contributes, as well as saving time and money on your preps. When deciding who to include in your survival community, consider friends and family involved in skilled trades such as the medical field, mechanical and carpentry. Those with teaching, cooking, sewing, and hunting skills also bring a wealth of knowledge to the group.
It is my firm belief that we shouldn’t go it alone in this world. Studies have shown that companionship makes disease less deadly, boosts our happiness, and leads to longer lives. If I were to list the top 10 things I need in a survival situation, my number one is company. Sure, you could go it alone, but why would you want to? Including those you love in your SHTF plans, not only helps you, but others as well.