Of course, not all disasters have long-term effects. Tsunamis, tornadoes, and hurricanes are just a few examples of chaotic events that, although they can produce significant damage and even get the authorities to declare a state of emergency, they don’t have long-term effects.
But the ones that can forever change how our society functions and throw us into darkness or even as far back as the middle ages are:
- EMP bombs
- an economic collapse
- a mega-drought
- a food crisis etc.
If such a large-scale disaster were to affect America (or even the entire world), it’s safe to assume things will not get back to normal anytime soon. You need a long-term survival plan for you and your family that will keep you safe and well fed for years to come.
Keeping in mind that I’m not talking about what to do when the actual disaster strikes, this has been covered in depth here. Let’s do this!
#0. Pen and Paper
No, I’m not asking you to stockpile pen and paper, although they might be indeed hard to get post-collapse. Step zero, before you do anything, is to figure out your unique situation and plan accordingly. Some of the things you may want to write down:
- the number of people to include in your plan
- the sex, age and medical conditions of each
- pets and farmyard animals
- your location and climate
- your bug out location (you’re gonna have to split your stockpile between your home and your secondary location)
- your bug out vehicle (you can find plenty of ideas here)
- the type of disaster you’re prepping for (for example, if you’re worried Yellowstone might erupt, when it does you might have to spend months on end inside your home so make sure you stock up on plenty of respirators)
Next, it’s time to do the math. Let’s start with water. 1 gallon a day per person is the minimum you should have so let’s say 1.5 just to be safe. For a one year supply for you, your spouse and a kid, you would need 4.5 * 365 days that’s almost 1650 gallons. If you can’t afford to store that much water, you should either consider moving to a rural area or to have alternate ways of finding, filtering and purifying water and ways of finding food.
For food let’s start from 2,000 calories per person per day. Since life post-collapse will be hard, I would say one would need at least 2,500. For a family of three, that’s 7,500 X 3565 days = almost 2.8 million calories for a one year stockpile. You can either start from there and count the calories so you always know how your food will last you or you can just blindly stockpile food and don’t worry about the math. Up to you.
#1. Plan and Start a 1 Year+ Food and Water Supply
How much food do you need for long-term survival? The minimum is one year but, in reality, you need more than you think.. Some of it will spoil, some of it you’ll barter with, and let’s not forget that life post-collapse will be tough and you’ll consume way more than the much-touted 2,000 calories a day.
A few essential tips for a long-term food supply:
- Rotate your stockpile twice a year to get used to the taste and make sure it doesn’t spoil.
- Know who you’re stockpiling for: your household members, your pets, your farm animals.
- You definitely don’t want to stock up for non-preppers who don’t live under the same roof as you. They need to build their own supply.
- Do label your containers with the expiration date so you always consume before.
- Don’t forget to store cooking utensils, can openers, wheat grinders, and anything else you may need to cook and consume your food.
If you haven’t read my article on the best 37 foods to hoard for long-term storage, I highly encourage you to do so right now. Spoiler alert: wheat berries, spam, and pink salmon are just a few of the foods that will last decades if properly stored in a cool, dry, dark place.
#2. Homesteading and Self-Sufficiency
Being able to provide everything your family needs without outside help is a lost art that may very well become a necessary skill after the collapse. Homesteading is a huge, huge topic so let me just give you the main things to consider for your long term survival:
- Raise small backyard animals such as chickens, rabbits, ducks, or goats. Larger ones like cows and pigs require a lot more maintenance and food.
- Consider harvesting rainwater but be sure to check your state regulations before you do so. With the coming mega-drought, some states have imposed restrictions and sanctions for doing this. A workaround is to have the pieces of the harvesting system in place and keep them until you’re ready to use them post-collapse, when the Constitution and the law may be suspended, anyway.
- Consider beekeeping.
- Gardening and farming. (Recommended reading: Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre)
- Become a canning expert. This will allow you to have a food supply for the winter and avoid throwing it away. (Recommended reading: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)
#3. Master These Survival Skills
You can only stockpile so much food and water but learning to get it from renewable sources is a fantastic way to improve your long term prepping endeavors. Consider these:
- growing a garden
- foraging (very useful to know which plants to eat if you run out of food)
- digging a well
- and many others (full list here).
#4. Learn How to Barter Your Stockpile and Your Skills
Speaking of skills, let’s not forget the art of negotiation. It will help you get anything you want in a post-collapse world, such as food, water or much-needed medicine.
Plus, you can even barter the aforementioned survival skills. That way you don’t have to give up any of your precious food, tools or gear in order to get what you want.
A few tips for successful negotiations:
- Always open with a “lowball” offer.
- Never show more than you have to.
- Dig up as many benefits as you can. You never know which one will get them to say “yes”.
- Never act needy, desperate, or in a rush.
- When your opponent is thinking, don’t screw everything up by saying something. Stay silent until he agrees to your terms.
Check this article out on how to barter.
#5. Your Long-Term Safety and Protection
Stocking up on guns and ammo is a good idea but what if there will be no ammo available? You’re going to need these alternative survival weapons to keep you and your family safe PLUS a solid home invasion and bug out plan. Yes, you might be forced to bug out weeks or even months after a disaster since things can take a turn for the worst just when you thought they’re getting better.
#6. Light and Electricity
EMP or not, the power grid will most likely fail everyone post-collapse. You need your own power source (solar, wind, water). You’re also gonna need a way to turn mechanical energy (such as that coming from wind) into electrical by means of a generator (which can be pretty loud) or a battery bank and a power inverter.
Make sure you have other means to light your way at night: candles, flashlights, (solar) lamps etc.
#7. Stock Up On Tools, Gear etc.
First off, you need to know which items are going to be a pain in the a-s-s to get in a post-apocalyptic society. I made a list here but, to give you a heads up, think:
- canning lids,
- needles and sewing kits,
- fishing equipment,
- cooking equipment (pans, pots, coffee pots etc.)
- baby diapers and feminine hygiene products,
- wood, alcohol or propane stoves,
- flashlights (particularly the hand crank kind),
- tools (hammers, nails, wrenches, shovels, splitting mauls, a wrench set, pliers, hoes, etc.),
- survival knives (getting a good knife post-collapse is going to be tough),
- chain saws (including one that’s hand crank)
- a manual grain grinder,
- sharpening stone,
- clothes (especially hiking boots),
- detailed maps of the area you live in (if you can get them laminated/waterproof, even better),
- and other items such as coffee, alcohol, or tea that will also make excellent bartering items.
Consider the fact that gas might be unavailable long-term. You’re gonna need some means of transportation that doesn’t rely on energy or gasoline, such as a mountain bike, a canoe, or even a small boat. You can find a full list here.
#9. Home Schooling
This is an often overlooked aspect of long term-survival but you need to consider your children’s education. With no schools available, you might have to take the role of a teacher so why not stock up on your old school books?
If you’re thinking you might have access to school teachers post-collapse, you should also keep in mind your child’s safety. Him or her going to school every day in a post-apocalyptic world could prove to be very dangerous. I’m not saying this will happen, just that you should keep in mind the idea of home schooling with YOU as a teacher.
#10. Medical Care
Needless to say, you’re gonna need medical supplies and knowledge to take care of yourself and your family. Working in the field all day and even around the house is hard and accidents will happen. In addition to storing lots and lots of band-aids, you’ll have to improvise (from duct tape and cotton balls, for example).
Once the dust settles, there’s going to be a BIG hygiene problem. Big cities will be the ones most affected because of all the garbage that will accumulate but don’t think you’re safe just because you’re in a rural area. Burning your garbage can attract nosy neighbors so it’s probably best to bury it.
Don’t forget that garbage attracts a lot of rats and other critters. If you want to get rid of rats, make sure they don’t have food, water, and shelter.
Speaking of hygiene, don’t forget your teeth. Even the best dentist in the world can’t operate without modern equipment unless you’re willing to take a reasonable amount of pain (I can still remember this one tooth my dentist pulled out without anesthesia when I was a kid – ouch!).
The solution? Stock up on toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and mouthwash. Mouthwash can last for at least 2-3 years because bacteria cannot grow inside. You’ll thank yourself for doing this, trust me.
#12. Rebuilding A Post-Apocalyptic Society and Economy
Provided that you’re surrounded by like-minded people, you’ll have to take matters into your own hands and create a functioning community from the ground up. In a WROL (Without the Rule of Law) situation, you’re gonna take care of your own security, you’re gonna need a budget, a hospital, someone in charge of communications, and so on.
Rebuilding society isn’t just hard work, it requires you to get everyone else around you to help. That means conflicts, fights, arguments, and tough decisions are to be made. Just imagine how hard it would be if everyone started bartering instead of using the defunct U.S. dollar. You may also have to trade with other communities, a pretty risky endeavor. In fact, I think the last thing to come to normal post-collapse is the trust between people.
Last but not least, let’s not forget that in a world without smartphones, TV and the Internet, boredom is going to be a problem. When I would spend my summers in the countryside with my grandparents as a kid, I didn’t have iPads and games. My favorite ways to spend time were playing with other kids and animals, listening to the radio, reading comic books, and just talking with friends and family.
If this sounds boring to you, I suggest you:
#1, learn to appreciate the beauty of simple things and bonding with other people
and #2, to stock up on books, board games, and other things to kill time (full list here).