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 emergency kits and other 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 survival 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.
Table of Contents
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.
Many preppers end up throwing away old items or supplies, and even dozens of pounds of spoiled food.
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.
You might even need to relocate stashes based on disaster seasons. Hurricane and flood season might mean it is time to move things up out of the basement and off the floor, for instance.
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.
Date Every Package Directly
Creating your Survival Storage Spreadsheet is a great idea, and useful, but if you want to save yourself a ton of grief in the case of mix-ups you’ll need to do more.
Every container of food you buy and store, whether or not it’s in its container or in its original packaging, should be marked and dated. This is so you can tell at a glance when you acquired or preserved the food.
As mentioned, the factory printed date on the package cannot be trusted as an expiration date, so to better inform our decisions and maintain better track of our goods, we’re going to mark them ourselves.
The most important thing about this step is that you do it. It’s preferable to mark by the month and year of purchase, at the very least, but some individuals prefer a month, day, year structure for greater accuracy and accountability.
Some people take it one step further and put a colored dot or other coded indicator on the goods that they will cross-reference on their spreadsheet.
This allows them to see when the food was bought or when the anticipated rotation date is.
Everyone has their own style about these “quick-ref” indicators, and they may not be required for you, but if they are, go ahead and do it any way you want.
Another thing, if you can, use permanent ink or a waterproof sticker to leave your mark on the package so that it doesn’t wipe off or detach.
The fragile, paper label on canned sauces, vegetables, fruits, soups and the like is notorious for popping or sliding off over time with little provocation, therefore I recommend marking them directly on the metal of the can or lid and noting the contents so you don’t have to guess!
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 those gallons of 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.
Keeping Watch for Pests and Spoilage
This is a crucial one that I see often neglected, even by preppers who should know better.
Regardless of how much food you have or how you store it, no matter what kind of containers you’re using to keep it in, you must check and examine your items for any signs of deterioration or decay on a regular basis.
When you least expect it, doing this might be the difference between life and death.
There are several potential problems that may affect your stored foods.
Most often, spoilage is the most common problem, although pests- such as termites or rodents – and erosive effects owing to blown or damaged seals or poor storage conditions are also possible.
Look for any changes or modifications in the container when examining for spoilage.
Any obviously signs of moisture, greasiness, scaling or dustiness is a clear indication of trouble. Another obvious and major sign of spoilage is mold. Sometimes you’ll smell it before you see it!
Check carefully to see if a can or pouched item (tuna, chicken, etc.) feels bloated or taut; the swollen feel is caused by gas, gas generated by harmful germs are growing inside it!
Pests are a persistent problem for even the most dedicated food-storage warrior, but the greatest defense is, as always, prevention!
Preventing pests from detecting and reaching your stashed food and other supplies is priority one. If you discover your food has been infested, however, you should generally trash it:
Mites, weevils, wigs, beetles, ants and all sorts of other repulsive insect pests will attack dry foods like whole grains, beans, flour, and so on on a frequent basis; they can usually be recognized by their movement or by tiny black flecks left behind after eating.
These dark flecks will look as small as a grain of sand or as large of as a grain of rice; they are neither, being the droppings of the insectoid menace!
Rodents are a far more serious concern, but they’re also much easier to detect.
If you hear any ripping, scratching, rubbing, squeaking, tapping, clawing or scurrying coming from inside or anywhere near your food storage areas, assume at once that mice, rats or other vermin are attempting to get to it.
Immediately begin countermeasures and inspections:
- seal all entry points,
- examine the edges of all nearby walls and ceilings for nibbled holes that may show their ingress point,
- check along baseboards, shelves, and other customary pathways used by rats for greasy smear marks, droppings, and spots worn noticeably clean of dust and debris.
If you believe rats or other vermin are present, you must thoroughly inspect all storage containers since even the tiniest mouse may squeeze through a gap it can fit its head through.
Rats are considerably more persistent, and can gnaw through metal! Obviously, indication of any damaged containers or food debris on the floor are signs that it’s too late.
Make Your Supplies Stackable to Ease Rotation and Inspection
If you have taken the important step of preparing for hard times by stocking up on your food, the next, somewhat more dauting step is to actually store it!
If you’re doing more than just filling your pantry to capacity, difficult enough, you are probably dismayed at just how much room it all takes and how many individual items you’ll need to move, remove and replace, over and over.
Make your food stackable if you want to make your life easy. Try to make your supplies, food and more, fit neatly into sturdy crates or tubs that can be removed and replaced easily.
Whether your stuff comes in a container that’s already stackable, like as a plastic box or metal can, or something else is irrelevant: you want the ability to pull, open, and replace without disturbing an intricate “Jenga tower” of stuff that will all come tumbling down.
Once you try it yourself, you’ll discover why Preppers are so concerned about storage containers, from huge plastic tubs to heavy-duty buckets to low-profile plastic lidded trays.
Any or all of them might be appropriate for you; it all depends on your house, your goods and you situation.
Also, keep an eye on weight restrictions since food especially can get heavy fast! You don’t want to crush the items below or tax your shelving to the breaking point.
Fuel Storage Considerations
While you’re busy stockpiling supplies, another critical consideration is your fuel supply.
If you are going to rely on any liquid-fueled appliances, vehicles or tools long-term, you must have their fuel on hand. The trouble is that fuel goes bad too, and some of it goes bad really, really fast.
This means you’ll have to be diligent about specialty storage techniques and procedures, and really stay on top of rotation to avoid waste and spoilage. With some fuels, you’ll spend more time rotating and dealing with them than you will your food!
Below is an overview for storage and shelf life of some of the most popular liquid fuels in the West.
Gasoline is the most common petroleum-sourced liquid fuel that powers all kinds of motors, big and small, throughout the world.
Gasoline is plentiful, reasonably priced, and delivers enough power for virtually every application that requires an engine, but its volatility and capriciousness as both a liquid and vapor make safe storage essential; it’s also a nightmare when it comes to long-term storage.
Although gasoline is marketed as being pure, it is actually a mixture of several hydrocarbons.
Ethanol-free gasoline will last anywhere from 6 months to a year once stored properly in a suitable container before the component chemicals separate enough to make the fuel unusable.
However, the presence of ethanol-gasoline blends has reduced the shelf life to an expected 3 months typical, perhaps 6 months if you use a stabilizer additive.
With a stabilizer additive, gasoline that hasn’t been blended with ethanol can last anywhere from a year to 1 ½ years. If you attempt to use gasoline that has degraded significantly engine damage or major malfunction could result!
Storing any amount of gasoline for any length of time will entail tedious rotation if you don’t want your supply to spoil, and this is a hassle that many people, particularly preppers, will not be able to handle long term.
If you’re depending on important tools or vehicles in your survival plan, consider using an alternate fuel source to keep your fuel stores on standby for extended periods of time.
Diesel fuel, as we know it, is not a specific formula of petroleum fuels. It refers to any liquid fuel intended for use in a diesel engine, aka compression ignition engine.
Diesel fuel is not as powerful as gasoline and has more chemical components, but the engines themselves are sturdier and that makes them better suited to commercial applications.
Typical diesel fuel bought at the pump is far more stable over time than gasoline, even though it can prove tempermental in extreme weather conditions.
Modern diesel fuels, like gasoline, are being increasingly experimented with and sold with a variety of “helpful” additives that have reduced the previously impressive long shelf life.
Diesel, nevertheless, is superior for long-term storage compared to gasoline, so if you’ve ever considered getting a diesel engine automobile, this may be the final excuse you need to get going.
When storing diesel fuel in cold climates, extreme care must be taken since low temperatures might cause the fuel to gel, making it unusable until the temperature rises high enough to return it to its liquid state.
However, diesel has its own troubles with ling term storage that must be accounted for. Namely in the form of algae raft formation!
The strange algae that sometimes forms in diesel fuel may develop and survive in the mix after water separation occurs within the solution, which is a peculiar aspect of diesel fuel.
These algal colonies are not unlike those that develop in any other body of liquid and must be treated immediately if you want to save your fuel.
Despite these flaws, diesel is a good liquid fuel choice as long as your cars, tools and generators use it.
Kerosene, often known as lamp fuel, is a petroleum-based hydrocarbon-based fuel that is used for household and outdoor uses as well as being a lamp or stove fuel.
Kerosene was formerly an extremely popular energy source because it was commonly used as fuel in cities around the world. However, in the west kerosene has largely been supplanted by other liquid fuels throughout most regions, though elsewhere around the world it remains a standard.
Kerosene is highly combustible, as one would imagine, and so causes a significant proportion of all accidental fires when it’s used to light lamps and stoves.
But in operation kerosene has advantages enough to make these risks worthwhile for most.
Used in a lamp, it can produce a very bright, clear light and portable heaters powered by it may easily heat and dry an area with great speed. In such devices, kerosene maintains its usefulness as a portable fuel.
Perhaps its best attribute for prepper’s is its excellent shelf life: Kerosene may be kept for up to five years if stored in a container with little airspace and with care taken to prevent condensation from forming.
Unfortunately, this simple storage requirement and long shelf life is offset by kerosene’s high price: it has significantly increased in price in recent years, especially throughout much of America.
Propane has a lot of advantages over the other liquid fuels on this list.
Propane is far and away the best-in-class liquid fuel for personal preparedness, despite the fact that it is not as readily available as gasoline or diesel.
Liquid propane is used by many people all around the world, ranking third after gasoline and diesel in terms of automobile usage.
It can power everything from buses to full-sized cars to forklifts, power tools, and personal heaters. Talk about an all-purpose fuel!
Aside from its great adaptability, one of propane’s most notable functions for preppers is its incredibly long shelf life.
Propane, kept in an adequately maintained and serviced container, has a shelf life that exceeds 30 years with no additives or other fiddling required to maintain it.
An on-site tank with hundreds of gallons of propane can enough to sustain an propane-fueled automobile and generator set as well as propane heating and climate control during a long-term survival scenario.
Propane is readily transportable, extremely safe when stored in an appropriate and certified pressure vessel, and simple to use. It’s also relatively cheap, costing between $2 and $3 per gallon depending on where you buy it and how quickly you want it there.
Keep It Checked if You Want to Keep It!
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.