In February, a winter storm stranded 4 million Texans without power, heat, or access to water and supplies for days. With many roads frozen, residents struggled to survive. At least 111 Americans perished from hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, vehicular crashes, and house fires. As a result, no fewer than seven House proposals in Texas seek to “prevent [electrical grid] breakdowns from ever happening again.”
Unfortunately, as the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated, reactive legislation can’t mitigate the immediate effects of unpredictability. The government could not offset the economic impacts of shutdowns, which hit Americans hard. Grocery shortages spawned by panic-buying demonstrated the fragility of supply chains under duress.
Yet some were prepared for the pandemic’s upheaval, and the weather-related devastation in Texas. An estimated 3.7 million American “preppers” guarded against uncertainty by accumulating stockpiles of necessities and creating contingency plans to survive in a variety of emergency circumstances.
Preppers were enthusiastically mocked for their inclination to preparedness — and their affection for firearms — when they went primetime in National Geographic Channel’s “Doomsday Preppers” and Discovery Channel’s “Doomsday Bunkers.” New York Times critic Neil Genzlinger found the shows were “full of contempt for humankind.” “What an easy target,” he wrote, “the prepper worldview is for ridicule.”
Most in the legacy media painted preparedness as a sort of madness inspired by a “doomsday” fixation. According to Morgan Rogue, of Rogue Preparedness, however, the purpose of preparedness is to have plans for an uncontrollable future. “Conquer tomorrow,” she says, “by preparing today.”
Recent events showed Americans that having solid preparedness protocols in place is more logical than relying on the government, the supply chain, or even private industry during emergencies. For those looking to gather the right knowledge and equipment to help themselves survive the unexpected, Rogue shares common-sense strategies to help beginners stockpile food and water, survive without electricity in heat or cold, and create the plans and mindset that will help them react to incoming dangers or adverse conditions at a moment’s notice.
Stockpiling Food and Water
First, Rogue says it is “essential” to accumulate a store of food and water. “Three days’ worth of food is the absolute minimum,” she explains, but “ideally two weeks or more is better.” Yet she also warns against “go[ing] into debt or mak[ing] yourself broke just to be prepared. Preparedness is supposed to be an asset, not a hindrance.”
To ensure your stockpile is adequate, make a meal plan based on the food you expect to store. This can curtail any “aimless” purchasing, and gives you “a vision and goal … to spend your time and money more wisely.”
To accommodate a budget of even as little as five dollars per month, Rogue suggests grabbing a few gallons of water and several extra non-perishable items on every trip to the grocery store. These purchases “add up very quickly.” Back home, organize those supplies so they are easily accessible and identifiable.
For those stockpiling in a small living space, Rogue suggests storing supplies under the bed or in stacked containers inside closets. Stacks of supply containers, covered with a tablecloth or blanket, can even double as makeshift furniture. In small spaces, some water can be stored in the freezer and the refrigerator. At the first sign of alarm, Rogue also advises filling up all available pots, bathtubs, and sinks for adequate long-term water access.
Apartment-dwellers can even grow their own food. Rogue suggests focusing on growing vegetables in containers, using grow lights, or even growing microgreens or sprouts.
Surviving Without Power
If it fits your budget, buy a generator that can work with either gas or propane to prepare for power outages. Propane, Rogue says, “is easier to store than gas.” Gas can be stored for “about a year” with proper fuel stabilization, so long as it is rotated regularly. Solar generators or solar panels provide an alternative option.
If you rely on an electrical medical device every day, you may look into battery power banks, which can be used with USB devices, or solar generators, which generally work with items that require plugs. If your devices work on battery power, keep extra rechargeable batteries on hand.
To stay warm in cold weather, Rogue recommends investing in a propane heater, like a Buddy Heater. To retain warmth in the home, she suggests “staying in one room,” preferably near a fireplace, propane or natural gas oven, or wood stove. To keep heat in, cover windows with blackout curtains or heavy blankets, wear layers, “use lots of blankets and drink warm liquids.”
During a summer power loss, keep hydrated and stay in the shade. Blackout curtains can keep a house cooler during the day while opening windows will let in cool air at night. Rogue also recommends “battery-operated fans with a foldable solar panel and rechargeable batteries,” or an above-ground pool or a baby pool filled with water to stay cool.
Rogue reminds those interested in getting prepared that carbon monoxide poisoning, which kills 430 Americans each year, is a concern when using generators, heaters, or grills. Furthermore, while a carbon monoxide detector is an asset, it may not be effective if it is far from the source of emissions.
To operate a generator safely, Rogue advises it be used “outside, at least 20-50 feet away from any windows or doors, with an extension cord to reach your home.” Finally, grills should always be used outdoors, and propane camp stoves should be used outdoors, or near an open window.
Making Plans to ‘Bug Out’
Disaster may arrive with little notice and require a quick evacuation from the home. This is why many preparedness experts have a “bug-out bag,” a bag packed with the necessities evacuees will need to survive for 72 hours while traveling to a safe location.
Rogue says that making an evacuation plan is the first step of creating a bug-out bag, as the contents of your bag will reflect where you plan to escape. If you bug out to a park, for instance, you might need a tent, while those planning to head to a hotel will need currency to cover their stay.
When filling the bag, Rogue says it is best to “look at your daily needs,” and consider the “food, water, shelter, first aid, tools, cooking, extra clothing,” and items like electrical chargers and medicine you will need when away from home. If you have pets, don’t forget to think about their needs as well.
Many use a sturdy backpack as their bug-out bag. Rogue says a “travel roller bag or a tote” can also be effective.
The Preparedness Mindset
Several intangibles, like one’s mindset, are important when preparing for the unexpected. Indeed, as Rogue relays, the aftermath of a disaster is “usually the hardest thing to deal with.” Those with a strong mind can “focus, quickly de-stress, and help others” during times of uncertainty. Additionally, because some emergencies can test a person’s physical endurance, Rogue advocates for getting at least 10-30 minutes of exercise per day.
Finally, Rogue encourages parents to make preparedness a “part of family life,” without making it a large “theatrical” production. As the mother of two children, she “leads by example,” using “logical terms” to explain simple activities to her children, and getting them involved with growing food in the garden and filling emergency kits.
The preparedness lifestyle does not have to be all-consuming. “Preparedness,” she says, “is a journey, not a race.” Those looking to learn more can find a wealth of information on Rogue’s website, Instagram, YouTube channel, and Rogue Preparedness Academy.
The past twelve months of market fluctuation and supply chain instability, and the recent power failures in Texas, have proved that it is foolhardy to rely on familiar, large institutions during times of upheaval and natural disaster. By taking cues from the practical and self-reliant, and with the right skills, equipment, and stores of necessities, when the next disaster strikes, Americans can meet future uncertainty with confidence.
Beth Bailey is a civilian intelligence analyst turned freelance writer in southeast Michigan. Her work can be found in the Washington Examiner and the Detroit News.