Being Prepared: Where to Begin

Do you feel overwhelmed trying to figure out what to do first? Learn how to get started preparing your home and family for emergencies! @ AVirtuousWoman.org

Family Emergency Preparedness

You can read all of the posts in the Family Emergency Preparedness series here.

My husband and I have been having serious discussions lately about what’s going on in the world. He called me this morning as he was driving through Asheville, NC and said he saw billboards all over with something like {not an exact quote} Are you Prepared? It’s Coming. I think it was a survival company, maybe, advertising. People are nervous.

Between ISIS, Ebola, Russia and the Ukraine, China moving 12,000 troops to Russia’s border, Russia practicing missile strikes on the US, terrorists on the Mexican border, the unstable world economy, Iran and Israel… not to mention this new virus that is hospitalizing children across America… it feels like something is really wrong and I don’t know how you feel about it, but it feels like we are headed for a major climax sooner than later.

Sometimes it almost feels overwhelming.

The good news is that we have a GOD who is mighty to save. Anything we do to prepare for an uncertain future right now is nothing compared to the things HE can do. He is ultimately the source of life and Who we rely on for protection.

He is mighty to save. He will calm all your fears. Zephaniah 3:17 @ AVirtuousWoman.org

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Doesn’t that bring you hope?

Getting Started with Emergency Preparedness

I received this comment this morning on my recent post, Are You Prepared, and felt like I should answer her question here:

THANK YOU for these articles!! I so needed to read them and begin applying them. Yes, I am way behind. I am keeping up with what’s going on but I am a huge procrastinator. So now, I am making myself anxious with all that we need to do and haven’t already. Can you point me where to start first? I am huge on directions and list. I’m just overwhelmed at where to start. Grab and Go, ER Closet, Stocking up, etc…..Where to begin to prepare? Help!

Christie, I totally understand how you are feeling. I’ve been slowly preparing our home for years, but still feel like there’s so much I have not done and that we really aren’t all that prepared for a true emergency or major disaster.

Faith in God

Remember that the most important thing to do, before anything else is to prepare your family for eternal life so that no matter what trials, crisis, or emergencies we face, we know WHO to trust. Last night I was listening to an interview with a Christian Sudanese woman who was placed in jail with her toddler where she gave birth with chains around her ankles just days after she was sentenced to death because of her Christian faith.

She said, “the situation was difficult but I was sure God would stand by my side.” That kind of faith comes from having a true relationship with Christ.

Look at Your Budget

The first order of business would be to look at your budget. If you are serious about making home emergency preparedness a priority, what money can you put toward getting your home ready? Are there luxuries you can cut out? Could you eat more beans and rice this month? I mean, seriously consider what you spend your money on.

So many of us are financially strapped. I know, because I’m right there with you. Our budget just keeps shrinking. But, if you get creative, you may find you have a little extra cash to spend on preparations.

Look Around Your House

It may be you have more around your house than you realize. And even if you don’t have enough of one item for each person in your house to have one, it’s a start. Gather your supplies together and put them in the Emergency Preparedness Closet {or storage area}.

Also, not everything you need in the event of a disaster or crisis needs to be kept in your Emergency Preparedness Closet – only those things you may want to get to easily or Grab and Go in the event of an emergency.

Take Inventory

Here are some common household items: 

Water. So, maybe you can’t afford to go and buy enough water for your family to last a few weeks all at once. Can you save empty plastic orange juice bottles and spaghetti sauce jars, and fill them up with water? You would need to treat the water with bleach, a water filter, or boil before drinking or washing.

We fill used jugs at a spring that comes right out the side of the mountain for free. In our area there are several places that have the fresh water springs with very pure water. When we know we’ll be driving by, we take our empty jugs with us and stop to fill up.

Also, at the first sign of trouble – whether it’s weather related, a power outage, a terrorist attack, or an economic disaster, fill your bath tubs and sinks with water to use for washing. In the event of a real disaster, ration the water for sponge baths and use treated water for washing your dishes.

Buckets. If you don’t have rain barrels – we’ve purchased inexpensive barrels from a used container store in Corbin, KY – buckets can be used for collecting rain water. You can funnel a tarp or sheet of plastic into the bucket to collect even more. If you get a good rain, and the power is out and the water is out, you could funnel water into a bucket and use the bucket to fill your bath tub.

Tarps. My husband always keeps tarps on hand. We use tarps for covering things outside, when we’re camping, etc. There’s just so many ways to use them.

Lighting. Most homes have at least one flashlight. Keep a fresh supply of batteries with your flashlight. Do you have matches, lighters, and candles? Put them in a practical location where you can easily get them if the electricity suddenly goes out and keep some in the room you would go to during a bad storm. Make a mental note of where you keep your supplies.

Old Rags. Maybe you use old rags and towels for dusting or maybe you are used to throwing them out. Keep a basket or container full of old rags or other fabric that you could use creatively if you were pressed for resources. Old, clean rags can be used in place of toilet paper, feminine napkins, cleaning, and more.

Backpacks or Duffle Bags. I purchased new backpacks for us for our 72 Hour Grab and Go Kits, but I have been saving my money for a few months to do this. You may have some used backpacks, totes, or duffle bags that would work for this purpose until if and when you are able to purchase new ones.

Cash. If you don’t have cash in your house, in a safe place, go get some.

Documentation and Identification. Every adult should know where they keep their important documents like birth certificates, social security cards, passports, marriage license, etc. These papers should be kept in a fire proof lock box or safe. Copies can be kept in a binder in your Home Emergency Preparedness Closet.

Pocket Knife. Every man I know owns at least one pocket knife. Ask your husband if he has some spare pocket knives you could put in your Grab and Go Kit.

Utensils. So, I suggested putting Hobo Tool in your 72 Hour Grab and Go Kits. But you don’t have to use a Hobo Tool. You could use plastic forks, spoons, and knives you have laying around the house, but they might not last long. If you have extra utensils in your drawer those will work too or you can try looking at the Goodwill for some cheap used flatware.

Rope or Twine. I suggested having paracord on hand because it’s strong. You can put that on your wishlist and add whatever rope or twine that you have to your emergency supplies.

Card Games. We always have extra card games stuffed in drawers. We pick them up a few times a year because we play a lot of games and wear out the cards.

Rain Ponchos. If you don’t own emergency rain ponchos, how about large black garbage bags?

Fingernail and Toenail Clippers. Maybe you have an extra set lying around you can put with your emergency supplies.

Small Scissors. Most homes have more than one pair of scissors in drawers.

Clothes Pins. Grab a few from you pin bag and put them in your 72 Hour Grab and Go Kit.

Winter Gloves and Hats. Put last years hats and gloves in your Grab and Go Bag.

Change of Clothes. Try putting older clothes that are sturdy into your Grab and Go Bags. Having extra socks that are in good condition is very important if you are on foot.

Toiletries and Medications. Lip balm or chap stick, an old comb, a sample of toothpaste you got from the dentist, etc. Just look around and see what you have to spare. Reuse an old medicine bottles for some ibuprophen, allergy medicine, etc. Also, if you take perscription medication, be sure to add a few days worth to your Grab and Go Bag and label it well with instructions.

Food. Storing up food for your whole family for several months will take time. Start by putting together enough food in your Emergency Supply Closet or your 72 Hour Grab and Go Kits to last 3 – 7 days. I’ll talk more about food storage later this week.

Sewing Kit. Lots of women have basic sewing supplies at home. Gather some of these supplies together to store in you Home Emergency Preparedness Closet or your Grab and Go Bags.

What other items do you have around your house that you could use in the event of an emergency?

Get Organized

Or at least clean up. 

  • Keep on top of the laundry so you aren’t faced with a mountain of dirty clothes {and no clean underwear} when the power goes out.
  • Try to keep the dirty dishes to a minimum. Believe me, if you ever have an issue with water you won’t want to be scrubbing dried on oatmeal off pots and bowls in your rationed water.
  • Know where your supplies are located so if you are faced with an emergency you don’t have to waste precious minutes digging through closets and drawers looking for the batteries.
  • Keep your cell phones charged as much as possible. You can’t make emergency calls if your phone is dead.
  • Keep your gas tank full. If you car is half empty, consider it empty. Get into the habit of filling it up before you head home.

Being organized could save your life.

Make a Plan

1. Once you’ve taken inventory and gathered your supplies, go ahead and make a plan. Make a list of the things you feel are important to purchase or  to do. Then, take that list and decide how to prioritize everything.

2. Food and water are important. Set small goals. For instance, begin by setting aside 1 week worth of food then 1 month, then 3 months. I’ll share more about how to do this later in this series.

3. Make a plan to get your home organized if you have not already. Being organized will free your mind, save you time, and could save your life.

4. Begin having family worship each day and spending personal time in prayer. Get your heart right with God and teach by example. After all, what does it matter if we gain the whole world, but lose our own soul?

5. Practice and go over family plans with your children and loved ones for what to do in the event of an emergency. What should they do if you are separated when a disaster strikes? What do children do if the house were to catch on fire? Practice getting out of the house, etc.

6. Educate yourself. Check books out from the library on topics that can help you and your family if there is a major crisis. Read blogs.

7. Teach your family not to waste. Save money by not wasting food, reusing things your home, or even re-purposing items instead of buying new. Live by the motto: “Use it up, wear it out; make it do or do without.” Use the money you save to make smart purchases.

"Use it up, wear it out; make it do, or do without." @ AVirtuousWoman.org

This post may contain affiliate links. You can read my disclosure policy here.


Creating a Grab and Go 72 Hour Kit

How to Create a Grab and Go Bag with a 72 Hour Kit {Family Emergency Preparedness Series} @ AVirtuousWoman.org

Grab and Go Bags for Emergencies

You can read all of the Family Emergency Preparedness articles here.

This past week I worked on putting together Grab and Go Backpacks for each person in our family and I’m still working on them. I’m almost done, but have a few more things to get together.

So, what is a Grab and Go Bag and why do you need one?

A Grab and Go Bag {or backpack} is what you quickly grab in the event of an emergency that forced you to quickly leave your home – house fire, natural disaster, etc. Ideally you’ll have one bag per person.

How to Create a Grab and Go Bag with a 72 Hour Kit {Family Emergency Preparedness Series} @ AVirtuousWoman.org

I went to our local Wal-Mart and purchased new backpacks for my kids. My husband and I already owned really nice backpacks similar to this one. I chose to purchase backpacks that are found in the camping section – typically used for backpacking. The idea being that these backpacks are made with lots of storage and for comfort in mind if we were forced to escape on foot.

When purchasing backpacks for your kids, it’s really important to make sure the backpack fits your child. If it’s too large, your child will be uncomfortable and possibly in pain after walking even a short distance. The backpack I initially bought for my youngest daughter Laura was too big and I had to exchange it for a slightly smaller version. I ended up taking her with me and trying them on before we settled on the one we liked.

Since I’ve taken my girls on backpacking trip before and we are planning on doing it again soon, I figured these backpacks could serve double duty. When we aren’t using them for a backpacking trip, I’ll keep them stocked with our emergency 72 Hour Kit Supplies.

It is important to take into account how much the finished bag weighs. When we went backpacking, I carried roughly 35 – 40 pounds for 24 miles over very steep, rough terrain. It was not easy. In fact, since I’m not extremely fit, it was probably one the hardest if not the hardest thing I’ve ever done. In the unlikely event that you would need to hike out on foot, for a long distance, you would need to carry all of that weight with you. So, just be aware.

My nine year old carried 15 pounds and my other girls carried roughly 20 – 25 pounds each. You want to take into consideration age and weight when planning how much your child should carry – you may need to pack some of your child’s gear. And honestly, I’ve raised my girls to be tough and not complain when camping or packing through the woods. So, if your kids are a little on the wimpy side, you might want to consider practicing some strenuous hikes where you all carry some weight on your backs.

Emergency Preparedness

What situation could possibly leave you with the need to leave your home and possibly your town on foot? I imagine this would be a pretty dire situation – maybe a terrorist attack, EMP attack, or even if cars were piled up on the highway and you ended up abandoning your car because you were unable to get your car out of the traffic. Or what if a widespread power outage happened and you were not able to get gasoline?

You just never know. It could happen.

Having said that, leaving your car or home on foot in an emergency really should be your last resort. Not your first choice.

Anyway, back to what goes in these bags. 

72 Hour Grab and Go Kit Supply List

Your 72 Hour Grab and Go Kit should have enough immediate supplies to last you at least 3 days {if not a week} – so that you have a little time to figure out what to do if you are in a situation where emergency rescue is needed but not coming. Remember, Hurricane Katrina’s rescue efforts?

For our backpacks, I used easy zip top baggies to organize our supplies to make it easier to find things, plus the baggies could be used to carry water if needed. I also purchased travel size items – Wal-Mart has a great selection to choose from. Although, if you can find them cheaper than $1.00 each, do so, because it really added up. Alternatives might be saving hotel shampoos and lotions and soaps, samples of products, etc.

How to Create a Grab and Go Bag with a 72 Hour Kit {Family Emergency Preparedness Series} @ AVirtuousWoman.org

The List

If ATM’s are down, you’ll need some cash on you. In fact, I’d recommend always having some cash stashed where you can easily get to it.

Remember to pack enough feminine products to last several days for yourself and your daughters because you never know if you’ll be faced with an emergency during your time of the month. You may want to try the Diva Cup or Moon Cup – I’ve never used one, but the cup is reusable so might come in handy.

I purchased my girls each a whistle/compass/reflective mirror/fire flint/match holder combination that they can carry around their necks. Also, I purchased paracord bracelet clips so we can make paracord bracelets for each of the girls. It’ll be a fun craft, and will take the weight {however small} off their backs and put the cord on their wrist.

How to Create a Grab and Go Bag with a 72 Hour Kit {Family Emergency Preparedness Series} @ AVirtuousWoman.org

Bandanas are useful for so many things – you should always carry at least one bandana, if not a few of them in different colors. Plus, you can cover your dirty hair if you need to. Always a plus in my book. And, Wal-Mart sells nice ones for about a dollar a piece.

You can buy Wet Nap Hand Wipes at Wal-Mart in the napkin or toiletry section and I just love them. The citrus ones smell amazing. Or, if you can’t find those, you could go with Wet Ones which I’ve used before as they also work well.

If you have to make your escape in the winter time, you’ll want to be sure to include items to help you stay warm like emergency blankets, gloves, and hand warmers.

Reader Shari shared this tip in the comments below – a large 30 gallon size garbage bag can be used as a rain poncho {just cut slits in the bottom and sides for head and arms and can also be used to keep things dry when crossing a river or even if it’s raining. Also, I thought of this – if you live in an area where bears are prevalent like I do, you need to keep your food in a bear bag. When we went backpacking, we used large black garbage bags tied to a rope to hang our food in the trees.

Shari also suggested packing clothes pins to hang clothes or other items to dry or even to clip a tarp – which is a great idea. I always take clothes pins when we go camping, so I don’t know why I didn’t think of it!

Card games are light weight and could provide some laughter and fun during a stressful time. Our family loves UNO, Dutch Blitz, Rook, Old Maid, Farkle, and Phase 10. Any of these would be a great addition to your Grab and Go Bag. If you have younger children, include a new, small toy in their grab and go bag.

  • medications – over the counter and prescriptions
  • lip balm
  • complete change of clothing – pants, shirt, socks, underwear and EXTRA socks
  • comb
  • lotion

When you purchase lip balm, get the good kind for bad weather, really chapped lips, or even cold sores. I mean, chap stick works for chapped lips – but what if stress causes you to break out with a nasty cold sore? I personally love Carmex brand.

  • lightweight food for three days
  • can opener in each bag {if canned food is included}
  • water/ container for filling with water
  • lightweight mess kit
  • Life Straw or water filter

As for food, try to choose lightweight options such as freeze dried MREs, granola bars, ramen, To Go packs of peanut butter, fruit cups. You want to provide a good mix of protein and carbohydrates.

Water bottles may be the easiest to include – you could keep a case of water bottles with your backpacks, or go ahead and throw a couple of water bottles inside each Grab and Go Bag. You’ll want a way to refill water – either a canteen or sturdy water bottle. Just remember that having water available, and clean water is really, really important.

The Life Straw is an amazing water filter. This is on my wish list for each person in my family. You use it like a straw and it filters out all the bad stuff with no waiting required. This thing could be very useful.

Other tools you might want in the really detailed Grab and Go Bag:

  • backpacking shovel
  • toilet paper
  • signaling mirror
  • lightweight binoculars
  • sleeping pad
  • sewing kit
  • 1 lb. tarp or an emergency tent
  • sleeping bags

When I took my girls backpacking, we slept on a tarp instead of in a tent. I prefer camping in a tent, but we survived, despite the freezing weather and rain. A tarp is lightweight and can provide important shelter. We used two tarps like you would find in the hardware section at Wal-Mart but you can also purchase these nylon tarps that weigh less than a pound. Definitely on my wish list. Another option would be a tube tent like this classic scout tent.

A tarp can also be used to collect rain water which could prove to be very important depending on the situation.

You may want to also include sleeping bags in your preparedness closet that you can grab and go. A few years ago we purchased everyone lightweight -20* sleeping bags for backpacking. These backpacks pack small, are lightweight to carry and keep you warm. However, I can attest to the fact that a quality ground insulator is very helpful if you are sleeping in very cold weather. A sleeping pad would a luxury item, though, and totally optional.

You may not feel like you need to prepare for a scenario where you and your family might be faced with sleeping outdoors in an emergency situation. Personally, I prefer to go ahead and just assume it’s a possibility, however unlikely.

Being Equipped

We all hope that we’ll never be faced with the possibility of having no choice but to vacate our homes in the event of a disaster or other type of emergency. But, the fact is, we don’t know what the future holds. Having a plan of action equips you and your family to better handle any situation that comes up and gives you a better chance of staying safe from harm.

Have you put together a Grab and Go Bag? Do you have a 72 Hour Emergency Kit? Is there anything I missed?

This post may contain affiliate links. You can read my disclosure policy here.


John 14:27 {Rest}

My peace I give you. John 14:27 @ AVirtuousWoman.org

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

This post may contain affiliate links. You can read my disclosure policy here.


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