Since we are currently living in a very volatile time, with threats of attacks on the power grid, financial systems, and the Internet, it is prudent to review our emergency-situation preparations. Here is a summary of the top categories of need, along with recommendations that can be implemented today.
You probably already have stockpiles of supplies, but this is a good time to evaluate what you have, check its condition, and refresh as needed. Water is the most critical resource, and stored bottled water only remains pure for 6-months, so it may be time to add refresh your supply. (You may not want to get rid of your older water, but rather add a new supply of freshwater, keeping the old for sanitation purposes.
We need a sufficient stockpile of water. This should consist of 1-gallon of water per day, per person. This is a minimum. How many days will you need? Most water systems, even water wells, depend on electrical pumps, so a prolonged power outage can also stop the flow of water. Municipal systems are computer-controlled, making them additionally vulnerable.
Water Filters: In addition to stored drinking water, a 0.1-micron water filter is also essential. Most filters will not filter out bacteria and viruses, so a 0.1-micron absolute system is needed to provide reliable drinking water. Surprisingly, these needn’t be expensive.
Sawyer Mini Water Filter
2. Food, Disposable Paper Products, and Sanitation Supplies.
Canned food is heavy, but most of will last a long time if the food is nonacidic and not fatty. A can of food can often be safely eaten, 20-years beyond the “Best By” date. (However, it won’t be as nutritious.)
Be sure to pick canned and dry foods that are nutritious, but don’t fixate on calories. You may need them to give you energy. Be sure to select foods that your family likes to eat. If you don’t eat these food products before their expiration date, be sure to donate them to a food bank while they can still be distributed to the needy.
In the short-term, paper plates and disposable utensils will make clean-up easier if hot water is not available. When possible, use products that can be burned.
3. Heat / Cooling.
Keep warm and cool clothing with you. A camping tent erected inside your home, and sleeping in sleeping bags inside it, may provide far more warmth than other options. Battery-powered fans may be useful when the weather is hot, but a way to stay in the shade, protected from direct sunlight, is the most important aspect to avoid heatstroke. Hats are similarly useful but they need to have a wide brim to protect the neck and shoulders. Portable camp stoves such as a Coleman Dual-Fuel are great but don’t use them for heat.
4. Be Evacuation Ready — and Have an Evacuation Plan.
Since experts tell us that we are currently at high risk for cyber-attack, with this comes the likelihood that credit cards and debit cards will no longer work when this attack starts. Therefore, we need to have cash money in hand. Use a money belt or some other method to help secure your cash funds and keep them safe. Unless you plan to purchase something expensive, $20 bills and smaller is the place to start as vendors may not be able to make change. Large-denomination bills are more convenient, and certainly easier to carry, but during an emergency situation, don’t expect to get change after making a purchase.
¾ Full Tank in all vehicles. On a normal day, we should always maintain a ½ full tank of fuel, just to be prepared for an emergency drive. But today, during this current high-risk period, we need to keep our vehicles ¾ full of fuel. This is a huge bother, but either a power outage or a cyber-attack will likely force most gas stations to close. Any that remain open will have long lines of agitated people who desperately need fuel.
Check your GO-Bag supplies and replace batteries, water, and other perishables. Keep them, and warm clothes in your vehicle in case you get stranded. For details on what should be in a GO-Bag, read the 36Ready blog posts on that subject.
Check your guns, ammo, and Pepper Spray. Keep them safe but handy. Expect a dramatic increase in crime. Also, emergency services such as police, fire, and emergency medical services, will be unavailable or at reduced service levels, due to high demand.
Be self-sufficient. Establish a mutual aid pact with neighbors, friends, or family. Don’t try to handle life alone. Prepare relationally.
Make sure that you have fire extinguishers in your vehicles and strategically placed throughout your home. Emergency services may not be able to respond, so you need to be ready to handle emergencies on your own—with the help of family, friends, and neighbors.
6. Communications & Your Communication Plan.
Emergency Plan: Make sure that everyone in your household knows what to do in an emergency, and where to meet up with other family members or friends.
Battery Powered Cell Phone Charger: During an emergency, even if the cell phone network is still operational, the volume of calls may make phone use impossible. However, keep in mind that texting often works even when voice calls have become impossible. Install a second texting app on your phone as a backup. “Signal Private Messenger” is the top choice. Have an off-grid way to recharge your cell phone, such as a small, portable power bank.
2-Way Radio: Amateur (ham) radios are the best option for communication during an emergency. Even an inexpensive Baofeng UV-5R is better than nothing, but a license is required unless the situation is truly a life-or-death emergency. For those who are unwilling to get a ham license, a 5-watt GMRS walkie-talkie maybe your best option. Do not expect these to work for long-distance communication.
A walkie-talkie generally only has an operating range of a few miles. Typically, even a 2-meter ham radio with an antenna mounted on a pole will only reach a similar radio setup that is 25-miles distant. Long-range ham radios, referred to as HF, can reach an operator on the other side of the world, but this requires specialty radio gear and a larger antenna.
AM/FM/WB Radio: To get news updates, get a radio designed to receive broadcast radio stations that are in the AM and FM bands, plus NOAA Weather Bands (WB). This is a critical piece of equipment as staying informed is necessary for making good choices.
Radios which claim to be able to monitor police, fire, and emergency services are nearly useless, as in most urban areas in the U>S> and other Western countries, these agencies have switched to secure digital transmission.
However, a good emergency radio receiver will have a hand crank, and it will use a replaceable, rechargeable battery. Solar panels built into the radio have little value. The use of an earpiece rather than utilizing a radio’s built-in speaker will generally save battery power. Top-rated emergency radios include the Kaito Voyager KA900 and the Midland ER310, but an inexpensive budget radio is far better than no radio.
7. Emergency Power.
Emergency power is critically important for long-term sustainability. Even if you plan to buy a generator or install a roof-mounted solar-panel system someday, you may want to seriously consider getting a small, portable solar-power system now. This will be a godsend if we have a power outage or a cyber-attack that produces an extended-duration grid failure.
Jackery 300 Power Station (Lithium battery bank). There are smaller battery bank systems and much larger models, but the Jackery 300 provides a robust and surprisingly powerful solution. If you’re inclined toward a bigger system, instead, consider buying two of these power stations and two solar panels (see below). When using this Power Station to run the below lights, your cell phone, or for recharging flashlight batteries such as AA or AAA, a single charge of this Power Station may last for 5 days or longer.
If you need it to power a CPAP machine or a piece of medical equipment, you’ll need to consider a 500w or larger model. However, the Jackery 300w Battery Bank is a middle-of-the-road system that will meet the power needs of a minimalist user: https://amzn.to/3IyG8y4
Jackery 100w Solar Panel (for use with the above Power Bank)
A “Power Station” can be charged using a 110v power outlet in your home, or by using a solar panel. On a sunny day, a single 100w panel can fully recharge the Jackery 300 Power Station.
Jackery 100w Portable Solar Panel: https://amzn.to/35CPUjZ
USB Reading Light
These lights can be plugged directly into a Jackery Power Station
USB Hanging Bulb Light
Eneloop Rechargeable Battery Pack
Even those who want a larger supply of rechargeable batteries should start with this basic pack of rechargeable batteries and adapters. Note: We do not recommend the “Eneloop Pro” version because those batteries do not deliver as many recharge cycles.
The following link is to the basic Eneloop pack of rechargeable batteries, but additional batteries can be purchased in 4 or 8-packs. The white-color, basic, Eneloop rechargeable battery is far superior to all of the other brands we tested. When fully charged, these batteries have a 20-year shelf-life. This link to the basic Eneloop battery starter pack: https://amzn.to/33YDr9W
Since redundancy is so important, consider buying additional AA or AAA-powered flashlights, plus at least one headlamp (hands-free) for every person in your household/group. We encourage you to select battery-powered devices that only use these two sizes of batteries since having extra batteries in the wrong size is more than unhelpful. Purchase extra essential devices, now, and store them for future use.
Note: Results from an extensive test undertaken by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has shown that the AA battery is the most powerful and useful, small-size battery.)
Standardize your battery devices to AA, and perhaps AAA if necessary. Avoid the temptation to purchase devices that use a different or non-standard battery. If you use tactical gear, you may need to add the CR123 battery to this mix. Nevertheless, understand that AA is the most energy-efficient multi-use small battery.
Battery Charger (for rechargeable batteries): Nitecore UMS4 USB Universal 4-Port Speedy Smart Charger
Note: This charger will plug directly into a USB source such as the Jackery Power Station. This particular charger is unusual in that it will work with all of these types of rechargeable batteries: Li-Ion / Ni-MH / Ni-Cd / IMR. And, it will smart-charge all of these sizes of batteries: 26650, 22650, 21700, 20700, 18650, 18490, 18350, 17670, 17500, 17335, 16340, 14500, RCR123, AA, AAA, C, D. Even if you standardize your electronic devices to AA and AAA, it may prove to be useful in the future, to have the ability to recharge other sizes. There isn’t a downside to this benefit except for a few extra dollars of cost.
Unlike a standard battery charger, a “smart charger” is important as it shuts down when charging is complete, thereby preventing an overcharge situation. Just one overcharge incident can ruin a battery, and it may cause a fire.
Disposable Batteries: Though more expensive than Alkaline batteries, the best and most cost-efficient (if purchased wisely) disposable battery is the Energizer Lithium.
Recap: The Jackery 300 Power Bank (battery) paired with the Jackery 100w Solar Panel, plus the lights and rechargeable batteries/charger, combine to provide a robust yet minimalist grid-down power solution.
Larger units made by Jackery and others are available, and definitely should be considered if your power need is greater. If you have the time to do more research, other brands might be considered, but those listed here are top-rated by us and by Amazon users.
Notwithstanding, there are other good options. However, the use of a set of Jackery products that were designed to work together will likely bring less frustration than a cobbled-together system using several brands; products that may not be fully compatible and as easy to operate.
With anything electronic, it is always worth considering a “set” from the same manufacturer. If you are an electronics expert and have the tools, parts, and knowledge to quickly solve compatibility problems, this factor may not be important.
Redundancy. Before opting to buy a larger power station, consider purchasing two of each of the above rather than a single, larger unit.
In emergency preparedness, redundancy is our mantra. Two of these systems not only brings the option of being able to use them in two places at the same time, it also provides redundancy; the ability to remain operational even if one part quits working or becomes damaged.
Point of Clarification: If you want to power appliances, water pumps, a fan, a mini air cooler, medical equipment, a small refrigerator, or anything beyond minimalist power needs, the Jackery 300 system is not adequate. That acknowledged, it still may be a worthy addition to your emergency supplies because it is portable and more durable than most backup-power solar systems. It is portable. And importantly, it doesn’t require gasoline, diesel, or propane fuel.
If your power needs are low and you have just one sunny day in a week, a 300w system like the Jackery 300 may be sufficient. If your needs are greater, consider a larger power station with additional solar panels or a wind turbine.
There are better (and far more expensive) solar-power systems, and a high-quality gas or propane generator can provide power when the sun isn’t shining. Nevertheless, when available, sunlight is an easy source of backup energy.
Redundancy is key. There’s an old military adage, “One is none, and two is one.” The point is, that during an emergency situation, the loss or damage to an essential piece of equipment might have catastrophic consequences. With this in mind, it is advisable to purchase the best products we can afford. Still, it may be wiser to buy two or more medium-priced products rather than one expensive item.
Think redundancy. Make it a habit.
Also, don’t succumb to the easy solution of buying a prepackaged “emergency kit” that is marketed as having everything you need. Rather, take the time now, to purchase better-quality top-rated emergency products such as those listed in this article.
Importantly, don’t delay; do it now.
Even if an emergency situation does not develop in the days or weeks to come, top-rated products such as those listed in this article, are becoming increasingly hard to find. In the days ahead, we can expect these supplies to also become far more expensive, and supply chain problems may make them permanently unavailable.
Next Steps? Make a list of what you need and prioritize it. If you are feeling a sense of urgency, click on the links in this article and purchase these items, now. If you’re betting that we have more time, use the links as a place to start your research. Either way, don’t delay.
We are now facing a clear and present danger. When the coming emergency situation starts, at that point, it will be too late to shop. Do it now. Be prepared, and ready to roll.
SIG SWANSTROM is the author of the emergency preparedness series, “Prepared, Ready to Roll,” available at Amazon.com and bookstores worldwide. His books are currently discounted on Amazon in response to our current elevated threat-level, to provide timely help to those who are feeling a sense of urgency.