Maximizing the amount of time, you can spend preparing for the survival of your family after the SHTF can sometimes even be done from the comfort of your favorite chair – or at least very close to it!
Practicing your preps to hone survival skills and buying essential emergency gear and weapons is a major part of disaster preparedness – but it is not the only important aspect of apocalypse readiness.
The time spent educating yourself, making detailed plans and inventories, and networking with other good folks in the prepper community will not only be time well spent, the knowledge and organization you gain might just save your life.
#1. Make an Inventory
If you don’t know what you have, or you don’t have, the chances of surviving a disaster are decreased substantially. Create a spreadsheet on your computer to keep track of all the items placed in and removed from, your various prepping storage areas. Label the list by category: medical, dental, weapons, ammo, cleaning supplies, food, etc.
Add multiple columns to you can note expiration dates and box/can/package sizes. Place a dry erase board at the entrance of your pantry, basement, kitchen, garage – everywhere survival gear and supplies are stored. Train your family to write down anytime they place or remove an item from the specific storage area so the inventory can be updated on a weekly basis and always remain up to date.
#2. Build a Prepper Library
Create or add to your preparedness educational materials. Books and manuals are great, but you can also find a plethora of quality survival information online for free and print the reports, project step-by-step instructions, complete with photos – and place them in categorized binders.
#3. Research Medical Preps
You will not be able to call 911 after the SHTF. Medical preparedness is perhaps the most difficult aspect of any survival plan. Unless there is a doctor or advanced medical professional in your family or tribe (my favorite label for a mutual assistance group) you will need to learn how to deal with medical emergencies yourself and cross-train other members of your group.
The Survival Medicine Handbook is one of the best resources for non-medical preppers and homesteading families. Dr. Joe Alton and his nurse/wife Amy Alton, are both highly-trained and licensed medical professionals AND devoted preppers themselves.
#4. Learn How to Grow a true Survival Garden
Even if you have been successfully gardening and putting up food for decades, don’t resist the urge to learn more – particularly survival growing techniques.
A camo “food forest” survival gardening concept keeps prying eyes from even realizing they are walking past land filled with a growing bounty – a huge plus during a SHTF long-term disaster.
#5. Medicinal Plants and Herbs
All preppers not only need to know how to grow their own food, they also need to be able to grow their own pharmacy. Find, print, and then study all the various alternative natural medicinal benefits of herbs and plants that can be grown in your area – and how to use and preserve them. Research the medicinal benefits of weeds which grow the region as well.
#6. Learn More About Your Health and the Importance of Nutrition
Now is the time to discover whether or not you and your loved ones have a currently underlying or potential health problems – not after the power grid fails and society has collapsed. Physical strength and endurance will be essential during a long-term SHTF situation.
Getting help for an aching back, sore knees and joints, or possible diabetes problem now not only enhances your overall readiness level, but gives you time to stockpile medications and supplies to treat the issue during and after a doomsday disaster.
Proper nutrition is also necessary to maintain physical and mental well-being. Review your long-term storage and preserved food stockpiles, as well as your annual crop yield and animal harvest records to determine if enough protein, healthy greens, and other essential nutrients will be available to keep the family at their best and strong enough to deal with long hours of manual labor and perimeter surveillance during a disaster.
#7. Learn About Weapon Repair and Maintenance
You might be a crack shot and can shoot a turkey from 100 yards away with a bow, but can you repair your weapons, reload ammo, make ammo casings, and your own arrows?
The massive stockpile of firearms, bows, and related necessary items could very well run out during the apocalypse. Spending time compiling weapons library material, studying it, and then putting your new survival skills to the test will never be time wasted.
#8. Stockpile Livestock Supplies
Calling a vet or farrier will also be impossible during a long-term disaster. Learn about the food, hoof maintenance, and health needs of animals and then do a bit of online shopping.
Manual farrier tools, worming medication, and books about caring for the medical needs of animals naturally might save your herd or flock from perishing when the SHTF.
#9. Learn About the Different Types of Wood and their Uses
There is a lot to learn about wood, for a variety of reasons. Different species of wood burn more quickly or longer than others. Hard woods are best for building structures and furniture – and wagons.
Bark from trees can often be used as medicinal tinctures and salves – but only if you learn how to identify and harvest them properly.
#10. Learn How to Use a Map and a Compass
Relying upon GPS to get you and your family home, especially if separated during a disaster would likely be a fatal mistake. How well do you and your loved ones truly know your town, county, or adjacent counties/cities you travel to on at least a fairly routine basis?
Could your elementary age children find their way home from ball practice walking by themselves if an EMP hits and makes it impossible for you to pick them up in a car?
Use Google Earth, detailed local street maps, and/or images of the route home taken with your cellphone, to craft maps for family members of all ages to keep on their person and get them home (or to designated rally points) from addresses their routine schedule dictates they must go.
The typical route home might not be a possibility, a plan B, C, and even D, should be highlighted on the maps in different colors to easily distinguish the varying routes. Topography and waterway maps should also be complied or created so you and your loved ones can find your way home or to safety if traveling on the road is not feasible.
#11. Create a Signal System
Make a code or symbol signaling system to incorporate into the family preparedness plan. A simple series of symbols, colors, or phrases which everyone can study and commit to memory will serve as a silent alert system when disaster strikes.
A message could be left in code by using a market or spray paint to alert loved ones what route the family member is traveling to the rally point or to get home, if an area is unsafe, why they had to flee the home and who was with them when they left
Leaving a standard note could alert dangerous people not only of your whereabouts, but if you are traveling alone, making you and your beloved far more vulnerable to attack.
#12. Watch YouTube Videos
Watching videos can and should be educational. If they are saved to an electronic device that is stored in a Faraday cage, they could be used as an instructional guide after the SHTF – at least until the device is drained of its power for the last time.
The prepper library categories should also be used when deciding which videos are worthy of your time. In addition to the basic category labels noted above, time should also be spent learning how to build and use off the grid power sources, how to butcher meat, how to track animals, and how to repair machinery – particularly farm machinery, without the aid of modern tools.
Scott Hunt, of Practical Preppers fame, offers perhaps the easiest to follow and most detailed videos about utilizing hydro power, solar power – and even powering your well with a submersible solar hand pump after the power goes out.
Getting water out of the ground or from a nearby creek or pond will become essential to your survival almost immediately after disaster strikes.
#13. Get Ready to Homeschool
Many preppers educate their children at home now, but all survival families with school-age children will become homeschooling parents after the SHTF. The basics, reading, writing, and math, will be necessary for children to learn even if the lights were to never come back on.
Children will need to know how to read, understand, and execute recipes, help make natural medicines, measure wood and other materials for building projects, and to read directions from printed manuals pertaining to machinery repairs, just for example.
Science lessons can be geared to useful homesteading and survival skills, such as livestock care, gardening, and water treatment. Scores of free printable lesson plans, workbooks, and curriculum guides exist online.
If you cut the front and back out of a standard school folder and use clear tape to put a “window” of clear plastic or cut to fit freezer bag in its place, the worksheets can be placed inside the folder pocket and written upon over top of the window – allowing the crayon or washable marker answers by the child to be wiped away and the same sheet used over-and-over again for practice.
#14. Find a Community
Use the internet to network with other preppers. You can do this anonymously and simple share your insight with other preppers, or get questions to your survival planning issues answered – or both. Prepper meet-up groups and mutual assistance groups open to accepting new members can also be found online.
There is even a dating website for preppers! Survivor Jane created the most used preparedness hashtag on Twitter – #preppertalk. The virtual community that uses the hashtag is both welcoming and very well-informed.
Sometimes, scheduled chats with expert preppers are hosted and important upcoming “prepper expo” information is frequently shared via the hashtag, which has also now spread to both Facebook and Google+.
No, you can’t actually engage in foraging from the comfort of your own home, but you can learn what types of wild edible exist in your region during each season of the year.
Printing off photos and facts about the available wild edibles to use as flash cards so you can study and cross-train your loved ones is a great way to commit the information to memory before going hiking to find food during prepper training drills – or after disaster strikes.
If you laminate the flash cards by simply covering them with clear contact paper, they can be hole-punched and placed on a keychain and put inside the bugout or get me home bags carried by all of the family member.
#16. Defense Evaluation
Ensuring the safety of the prepper retreat or homestead is vital. Walking the property and inspecting the structures for vulnerabilities from all angles is a commonplace prepping chore. To increase the odds of not missing a single weak spot, get back on Google Earth and view (then print) your property both at a regular screen size and then after zooming in as close as possible.
Getting a bird’s eye view of the land and surroundings areas from this angle could easily help you find an escape route/or alley of attack, that you may have missed during a hike or drive around the property.
#17. Skill Chart
Make a skill chart to record the hands-on and educational training of everyone in the family or mutual assistance group. The survival score card will help with overall preparedness planning and in helping to develop a cross-training guide.
#18. Civil Defense
Helping to prepare the neighborhood or community for disaster could significantly enhance your chances of survival as well. Learn about community preparedness efforts in your community by visiting local government websites. Plans, at least feasible ones, might not even exist.
Drafting a simple starting-block community preparedness plan to share with local officials and civic group leaders, or at least your neighbors, will be a time-consuming task that could takes weeks to complete – but will be worth every minute if introducing the concept of prepping for a disaster sparks action and helps to protect your family.
If at least some basic emergency disaster planning is being engage in upon the local level, try to connect online with the folks involved with the planning or jot down when the group is meeting next and plan to attend, if enhancing community response after the SHTF is on your survival priority list.
#19. Game Playing
Prepper board games and card games do exist – or you can make your own. Hosting a family game night with a purpose not only makes the survival training session fun, it will help you discover exactly how your loved ones or friends would react during the apocalypse.
In some of the prepper board games you compete against each other, but some of the low-tech offerings require the participants to band together to survive – with each player’s actions having an impact on the entire group. Some of the most popular prepper board games include: Let’s Go Hiking, Doom and Bloom Survival, Conflicted, City of Horror, Pandemic, and Settlers of Catan.
#20. Read Storybooks to Your Chilrdren/Grandchildren
Books geared to even young children to introduce the concept of prepping in an “unscary” way have emerged on Amazon and in free PDF version from various prepping groups and websites.
The printable versions are designed like coloring books with a purpose and activities for the children to do both on paper and in the backyard after hearing the story. Scouting storybooks can also be used to help teach homesteading and survival skills to youngsters.
#21. Watch TV
Watching television as a homework assignment? Yep! There are many survival shows and movies on television, Amazon, and Netflix. You can learn both what to do, and what not to do, by doing a little binge watching and taking notes.
Jericho, a pretty realistic but cancelled television show, available on Netflix, will show you how one small town reacts after a nuclear disaster. Revolution, also cancelled and available via online streaming, focuses on life after the power grid fails seemingly forever.
Of course, there is also The Walking Dead and its spin-off, Fear The Walking Dead. You do not have to believe a zombie apocalypse is looming on the horizon to get some useful prepping tips from either series. Swine flu nearly took out the entire survivor group in one episode of The Walking Dead.
Other episodes could prompt discussions and planning for dealing with large, violent, and organized marauding hordes and how to deal with an unwanted visitor or soon-to-be former member of the mutual assistance group when they break established rules.
#22. Prepper Drill Planning
Use your down time to plan the next (or first) prepper drill session for the family or tribe. Anyone who has ever planned a ball tournament, community event, or even a wedding, understands how complicated pulling something like this off, flawlessly, truly is. Disorganization or over-estimating the survival capabilities of group will destroy a vital hands-on learning opportunity in mere minutes.
#23. Be Specific
Plan the drill to focus upon a specific type of disaster or a specific stage in any disaster. All the basics of prepping are the same, but the family or mutual assistance group must know if they are reacting to a nuclear attack or a power grid down scenario, for example, before putting their survival skills into practice.
You do not need to tell the participants in advance why type of drill they will be participating in, but moments after the alert to begin sounds, they must all be informed of the disaster type.
If the drill is skill specific: responding to a fire on the property or medical emergency, give specifics clearly and decisively as well – preferably from a writer disaster drill card you printed for yourself, and let the group know the duration of the drill as well.
Be Realistic. Turn off the power, confiscate all electronic devices, and find sounds which would typically accompany the chosen disaster scenario as well. Use smoke bombs or other safe visual and scent props to help the group submerge themselves as much as possible in the SHTF scenario.
Remove one key person from the drill at the worst possible point. Your best shooter or medical expert could become lost or “dead” right before they are needed to force others in the group to step up and put cross-training to the test.
Place a faux flame in front of the food storage unit and force the group to forage or go hungry for the day. Place a skull and cross bones emblem in front of the backup water source to test the water purification skills of the family.
Put your off grid communication plan and code to the test. At some point in the prepper drill, create a situation, preferably multiple times, where a message must be relayed in order to maintain safety.
Quietly spirit away one group member and time how long it takes participants to notice the missing person and respond with the appropriate communication method to alert the rest of the group about the added emergency – and to form a plan to find the person.
Create a score sheet in advance for both individuals and the group. Multiple sheets should be used to critique various stages of the prepper drill. Attempt to gauge the feelings/emotions of the drill participants on one of the evaluation sheets as well.
Who became frustrated, broke down, stepped up, or was adversely impacted by the sights, sounds, and smells of the realistic disaster training drill? Sitting down as a group and one-on-one with the participants to help them tell or understand what they did wrong or could have done better will not only improve their performance in future drills, but could prevent them from perishing after the SHTF.
You cannot always sit while you prep – but when you are exhausted after a long day or the weather prevents you from your planned activities, there are an enormous amount of ways you can spend your time wisely and help increase the survival chances of the family in the process!
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.