Being prepared for disaster is an ongoing process. It’s not something you just do one time and then forget about until disaster strikes.
This means that once you’ve collected your stockpile and written down plans for each and every disaster scenario that could hit your way, you don’t just leave it as it is.
If you want to be properly prepared for a potential disaster, you need to assess your situation periodically.
Part of this assessment will comprise of you looking through your supplies and determining what’s still good and what needs to be swapped or rotated out, particularly when it comes to food, water, and ammunition.
This is the only way that you can confirm everything is in good and safe condition for when you will need it.
If you don’t inspect your survival stockpile regularly, it can mean your gear won’t work, your food will spoil, your water will become contaminated, and so on.
For example, let’s say that you’ve stocked up on a six month’s supply of water. You keep all of this water in big containers out in your shed.
Then three years later, disaster strikes and you’re suddenly in a grid down scenario, and your stockpiled water is the only water you have access to.
But then when you go out to your shed and open those containers for the first time in three years, the water is dirty, filled with algae, or the containers are leaking.
That’s why checking your survival stockpile has to become a habit. And since a simple inspection will only be a one to two-hour commitment that you have to make every few months, it’s a simple habit to create. In this article, we’ll discuss how to properly do it.
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The Importance of Rotation
When inspecting your survival stockpiles, look for anything that you believe needs to be rotated out. It can be anything from food to water to ammo to gear to first aid equipment.
Then, ask yourself which of these things (that you’ll be rotating out) you can also use before you need to actually throw them away.
When it comes to survival stockpiles, there should be few things that will be in your possession for your entire life. Things need to be rotated out regularly, especially food and water that will go bad sooner or later.
Instead, when you’re getting ready to rotate something out, incorporate whatever it is you’re throwing out into your diet or your life.
So if you decide that you will rotate your water out every six months, for example, consider making the rotation a few weeks or a month early and then use the water that you would have thrown out.
You don’t have to use it for drinking purposes, but you could at least use it for things such as washing your car or watering your garden.
Maintaining Your Gear
Gear wears out over time. But you want your gear to be in top working condition for when you need it most, which is why conducting routine checkups and maintenance is required.
Examples of this include cleaning your guns, sharpening your knives, and making sure that all of your lighters have fluid in them.
It’s regularly inspecting to make sure none of your first aid/medical items are past their expiration date, that all of your gear bags and clothes have no rips or loose stitching, and that your electronic equipment is in good working order, and so on.
Maintenance needs to be part of your routine. Checking up on your gear and completing any maintenance necessities should be done at least once every one to three months.
If there are any items that you can no longer use, buy replacements for them as soon as possible.
Once you have checked to make sure all of the kit’s contents are there, the next step is to then inspect each of the supplies to ensure they are in working order.
This includes testing items like flashlights, radios, and other electronic items to ensure they are still functioning properly.
If one of the items appears to be broken or is otherwise not working, you should replace it immediately.
Be sure to thoroughly test each item to make sure it works. Examples include performing function checks on each of your firearms, testing your radios or communication devices with other family members to make sure they work, confirming that the lights on your flashlights are bright, etc.
Swapping Things Out by the Season
Something to keep in mind when inspecting your survival gear is that different items are needed for different seasons. This is especially true when it comes to clothing and bug out bags/survival kits.
For this reason, at the start of every season, go through your survival kits and pull the things out that you need for that season, and put away the things that you don’t need for that season.
For example, if you have a winter bug out bag, place it back in storage when late spring or summer hits, and then pull out your summer bug out bag so that it’s more easily accessible.
The same goes for clothing that you have reserved for SHTF purposes and any other items that you need depending on the season.
Re-Assessing Your Plans
Part of inspecting your survival stockpile is also to assess and re-assess the plans that you have in place. As a survivalist, you need to have multiple plans written down for a variety of different scenarios.
These include your evacuation plans and the different routes you will take to get to your bug out location, how you will ration your supplies, and how you will get in touch with your family members, to name a few.
As you gain new information and as new things happen in the world around you, you will need to re-assess and possibly update these plans.
For example, if a bridge that was a part of one of your evacuation routes is scheduled for demolition, you’ll need to adjust your evacuation routes so that the bridge is no longer a component of your plan.
Gear Inspection and Rotation
As we mentioned earlier, gear wears down overtime. Many things that you will need to stockpile for survival, such as batteries, fuel tablets, water purification tablets, and such have a shelf life of around five years.
Some items have a much shorter shelf life than that. An example is bleach, which is used for cleaning as well as water purification, which expires after six months.
You can extend the shelf life of these things as long as possible if you keep them in an area of table room temperature and where the environment will not change drastically. This will make it easier for your supplies to last as long as possible.
The good news is that replacing your gear and supplies should not be complicated. You should research into the shelf life of every item that you have in your stockpile, and record the future date of the end of that shelf life next to the item name on a spreadsheet.
Food Inspection and Rotation
Food will need to be rotated much more regularly than the kinds of supplies that we just discussed.
Since the overwhelming majority of foods don’t last long when stored, this severely limits the kinds of foods that you can store as a prepper.
As a general rule of thumb, any and all foods that you store in your stockpile will need to be able to last a minimum of six months before they will need to be rotated.
Remember to strongly consider swapping out the food around a month or so before you would otherwise rotate it out so that you can eat the food and put it to use other than waste it.
Examples of foods that last for six months or more include protein bars, boxed potatoes, dried fruits and vegetables, powdered milk, and most crackers.
In addition, some foods can last over a year, such as canned soups, canned fruits and vegetables, jelly, cereals, and peanut butter.
Certain kinds of foods can also last forever so long as they are stored in tight containers. Examples include dried corn and dried pasta, coffee, white rice, and honey.
Check on your food regularly and check for any discoloration or foul odors. If there is even a hint of either of these things, don’t take the risk. Throw the food out immediately and replace it.
Water Inspection and Rotation
Regular water inspection is absolutely critical. Even though you can only survive for a maximum of three days without water, it can still be more dangerous to drink water that is contaminated than to not drink any water at all.
That’s why you need to check up on your water regularly to make sure it’s safe. You can absolutely have your water tested, but the safest thing to do would just be to rotate it out regularly.
On every water container, bottle or canteen you store, add a label to it with the current date and then the date it will need to be replaced.
Six months should be the maximum that you allow your water to sit, so write your water expiration date on the label six months to the day from when you stored it.
When the time comes to rotate one water container, don’t throw out the old one. Granted, you might not want to drink it if you feel that it might be unsafe, but that doesn’t mean that the water is unsafe for other purposes.
You can also use all of that old water for watering your garden, washing your cars, personal hygiene use, or irrigation. It’s simply not going to be harmful towards either of those things, and you’ll save a lot of cash if you do so anyway.
The goal with rotating water is that you always have the freshest water, meaning a maximum of six months should be set for the shelf life of your water.
Many preppers make the mistake of believing that preparing for disaster is a one-time thing. But that could not be any further from the truth. In fact, treating your preparation as a single occasion rather than an ongoing process can be a fatal mistake.
Your gear, food, and water all have to be thoroughly inspected and then rotated out at regular intervals. This ensures that your gear is in top shape and that your food and water is safe to drink.
In addition, you also need to re-evaluate and adjust your plans as you gain new information and as new events happen that make your old plans outdated.
The good news is that inspecting and rotating your survival stockpile is not a time-consuming process and as long as you keep track of the expiration dates of everything in a spreadsheet.
Nick Oetken is a prepper, outdoor enthusiast but, most of all, he is our in-house firearms expert. Look out for his articles on guns to find out which ones you need for your survival.