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02 January, 2013

A Primer on General Basic Emergency Preparedness: Basic Survival Gear

Other articles in this series include Water Safety and Storage and Food Storage



Photo courtesy of EmergencyFoodStoragePros.com
Before I even begin writing this article, I'd like to reiterate the fact that this series is geared toward the basic preparedness needs of a typical family "bugging-in" inside their home in an emergency.  We're talking blizzard + power outage here, not all-out "Mad Maxx" The End Of The World As We Know It stuff, so please keep that in mind.  Also, we won't be talking a lot about the kinds of things you'll find in a good Bug-Out Bag (see articles on that subject here, here, and here), such as you might need to survive in the bush, traveling from one point to another (although some of those items may be the same as you would use when "bugging-in").

The other thing that I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about is firearms, although I consider one or more of them to be essential to any true preparedness plan.  Even in short-term emergencies, other people can often be the most dangerous threat you and your family will face, because of the two-legged predator's understanding that police won't be able to respond as quickly in harsh times and that some might not even have the means to call for help at all if the power and cellular lines are down.  See the first paragraph here, as well as articles here, here, and here.  At the very least, every American family should own a shotgun and every adult and responsible teenager should practice with it.  Period.  That's all I'll say about that here, as it could easily fill-up the entire article.

The following is a list of gear should have in case of emergencies:


Needless to say, we've discussed emergency lighting before.

For many who are prepping only for short-term emergencies, this means candles.  Odds are you already have a slew of candles around your place, but, if not, allow me to suggest a few options below.

Tealight Candles White Unscented Set of 125 -- 125 candles for $14.99 is a great deal, but these only burn for 4-5 hours each.

Unscented 12-Hour Votive Candle 30-Pack: White (1.4" X 1.8") -- 30 here for the same price, but they burn for 12 hours.

10 Hour White Richland Unscented Votive Candles Set of 72 -- 72 candles here for $21.99 that burn for 10 hours each; by far the best deal of the 3!

Better yet, though is to go with an option that doesn't burn-out or get used-up, such as this hand-crank Freeplay Baygen LED flashlight.  When you crank this light to charge the battery, over 74% of the kinetic energy is stored as power and the LEDs are rated up to 100,000 hours or 11 years of continuous use (24 hours a day), so this unit may be the last one you ever need to purchase.

Other options include rechargeable lanterns, but these will soon go dead if the power stays off long enough, and kerosene lamps/propane-powered lanterns, which I advise against for the simple trouble of requiring you to store fuel.

Another very cheap option is to simply buy several regular flashlights and sufficient rechargeable AA or AAA batteries and a solar-powered recharger to run them and keep them powered in a grid-down blackout situation.


In a storm or a blizzard, a very useful item to have is an NOAA weather radio, preferably also of the hand-crank variety.  Several nice models come to mind, including the Eton FR160, which includes an on-board flashlight and can be charged with either the hand-crank or a built-in solar panel.

Many other manufacturers, including Baygen Freeplay, also make great models.

Another item that is needed, in case a member of the family needs to leave the house i.e. to bring in wood, walk the dogs, etc. and you don't like the idea of being out of contact is a good set of two-way radios.  These are also invaluable if you want to have the capability of staying in contact with a neighbor.  Most come with their own charging cradles, but can also be run-off rechargeable AA or AAA batteries, which can be kept charged with a solar-powered recharger.  Possible accessories for these radio sets include a car cigarette lighter adapter, and VOX headsets that range from the normal boom mic-type to very cool throat mics that eliminate background noise by picking-up audio directly from your voice-box, making you feel like a friggin' Navy SEAL!  ;)

Also, check out this neat little kit that covers communications and lighting!

Perimeter Security

The best thing for this is a Dakota Alarm system.  When prepping on a budget, however, and wanting to know when someone might be lurking around your property, I recommend drive-way alarms.  These use a motion-sensor and alert you in the house whenever activated.  They aren't the best thing for the job, but they are very inexpensive, meaning you can likely afford to double- and even triple-up on them.  Here and here, you will find units with ranges of 400-feet, both of which are under $20; or, for slightly over $20, you can get one with an 800-foot range that is expandable by purchasing additional sensors later.  These units also can be run-off rechargeable batteries, so no wiring is necessary.

Also, one need not have to spend large amounts of money to install a home alarm system that needs no grid-power to run.  Simply purchase a battery-operated wireless alarm system and as many extra window sensors as you need (the system comes with 3 and a door sensor at a cost of just over $20).  My only caveat is that some of this system's components run-off the little LR44 button watch-type batteries; this is bad from the perspective of being able to recharge them but good in that they will run for much longer before needing changed than do ones that use AA batteries.


Only you can assess your needs in this arena.   It is essential to never be caught without things like toilet paper, paper towels, and/or baby wipes.  I am lucky enough to live in an area where all of our drain plumbing is gravity-fed to a creek; as a result, my toilets will still flush if you pour water into them, regardless of whether the city water/sewer is functioning.  Others are not so lucky.  If you're one of them, you need to think seriously about purchasing a portable camp toilet and lots of extra bags for waste removal.

Medical & First-Aid

You never know when someone could get hurt or sick, and, if this occurs when a blizzard or flood makes getting to the ER impossible, then you're on your own.  My advice is to secure yourself some knowledge.  There are many great books on backwoods and bush medicine available.  Beyond that, you need to start with a basic med/first-aid kit (here's an even better one and one even better than the last).  Once you have a basic kit, you can move on to more advanced items like Celox and QuikClot hemostatic agents (to stop bleeding) and a Mil-Spec surgical kit.

Also, pandemic preparedness should always be part of your plans.

Backup Electronics

Many of us are married to our electronics, our cell phones in particular.  In a grid-down blackout, it may be that your cell phone quickly becomes your sole source of communication, news, weather, etc., or even just a means of fending-off boredom.  In that case, having a reliable way to keep the battery going is an important preparation in and of itself.

With respect to short-term emergencies, a device like the New Trent iTorch IMP52D 5200mAh External Battery Charger may come in handy.  Basically, the idea is that you keep it charged, then, when the lights go out, you can charge your phone/tablet/etc. directly from its large battery. I can't speak as to the new iPhone or other handsets, but some folks tore down an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 4s, revealing them to contain 1420mAh and 1432mAh batteries, respectively; which tells me that the New Trent device would provide better than 3 full charging cycles for my iPhone 4s.  When not in heavy use, I only lose around 2% and hour, so it will last over 2 days by itself -- adding 3 full charging cycles stretches that out by 6 more days of light usage (of course, more usage = less battery life).  Seems like a good deal to me for the current sale price of only $39.99.

I already own a Mophie Juice Pack Plus that cost far more and only has a 2000mAh battery, and I now wish I had been aware of the New Trent iTorch before I bought it.  The upside to the Mophie unit is that it acts as a hard-back case for the phone as well.

Another very cool option is the BioLite CampStove, which burns small twigs and acts similar to a Solo Stove, but also converts some of that heat energy into electricity to charge mobile devices.

Emergency Heat

Disturbingly, a lot of us depend on electricity for our primary source of heat, and, if you live in a climate with cold Winters, this simple fact could conspire either to kill you or make you completely miserable.

Hands-down, a wood-burning stove is and always will be your best bet, unless you live in Antarctica or the North Pole (few trees).  A good stove and a sturdy chainsaw could mean the difference between comfort and bodily danger for most of us.

If a woodstove isn't in the cards for you, however, consider purchasing either a Mr. Heater Buddy or the larger Mr. Heater BIG Buddy Heater.  These units are safe for indoor use because of tip-over shut-off protection as well as a built-in oxygen sensor that kills the heater if oxygen levels drop too low.  Adding a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector wouldn't hurt, though, just for redundancy's sake.  They run-off the same small propane bottles that many camp stoves use, but can also be hooked-up to the larger grill-type propane tanks by using a separate hose assembly and fuel filter.

Also, with regard to keeping warm, one must be sure to have extra warm clothing and blankets and quilts readily-available.  It may be that you'll need the quilts to hang as room-dividers, trapping the heat produced by the heater above so as not to waste it on the far corners of your home.  It will be far more productive to pile everyone together in one room and block off everything else.

Odds 'N Ends

Beyond the gear listed above, it is always a good idea to keep a stash of cash and coins hidden somewhere at home for emergencies, as well as copies of all important papers.  Along with that, some basic hand tools, a manual can opener, a quality knife and/or multi-tool, machete, and axe.

And that, folks, is what I consider a set of basic preparedness and survival gear, all of which can easily be stored in an attack or basement in a labeled Rubbermaid-style tote.

If you can think of anything I left out, please feel free to leave a comment.


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