If you were to ask a stranger what they were doing to prepare, chances are they would indicate that they have a few cans of extra food and some bottled water in their pantry along with a couple of spare flashlights and maybe some batteries. To be honest, those are the things that most people think of when it comes to being prepared.
You and I both know that if a disaster were to occur right now, those folks, out of ignorance or naiveté, would be cut off from the outside world. They would be totally dependent on first and second responders, and then later the government, to help them with the most rudimentary basics in life. Talk about the cost of inaction and failing to prepare!
Luckily, if you are reading this article you have taken steps to ensure that you are not put in a situation where you are on your own without the supplies and skills you need to get by in an emergency situation. You have learned that you can approach preparedness in an organized and logical manner and more important, you can proceed slowly but consistently to build up your preps, one month at a time.
If you have been following this series, you will know that in 12 Months of Prepping: Month 1, I talked about the Survival Mindset. In Month 2, the pep-talk topic was “Why Prepare?” and in Month 3, we dealt with the need to identify risks specific to your family.
Today, in Month Four of Prepping, I address, among other things, prescription medicine, over-the-counter remedies, cash, pets and things you will need to stay warm.
MONTH 4 SUPPLIES & GEAR:
- 7 day supply of critical prescription medicines
- Over the counter remedies and essential oils
- $100 in small bills; more if you can afford it
- Pet supplies
- Infant supplies
- Extra storage containers
Something often overlooked when putting together emergency supplies is an adequate supply of critical prescription medications. The reason meds are frequently overlooked is that collecting extras is darn tough because most insurance policies tell you that they only allow a thirty day supply to begin with.
I have some ideas for getting around this; ideas that I use myself. Here are two.
1. Talk to your doctor and request a standalone prescription for a one or two week supply of your meds. Take this prescription to a pharmacy different from your regular pharmacy and do not give them your insurance information. Pay for these emergency meds out of pocket.
2. Many insurance companies allow for a 90 day prescription on maintenance drugs. Be aware that they may not tell you this so ask. They also allow the prescription to be refilled a few weeks before the 90 days is up. This is especially true of mail order pharmacies (Costco, drugstore.com and the like) since time is needed to both process the prescription and get it out to you.
Hint: You do not need to be a member of Costco to use their pharmacy. Their prices are great and they make it easy to order prescriptions online.
Over time, by pulling a few tabs from each new prescription, you can build up a decent supply of extras. This sounds a bit tedious but as long as you order those new refills as soon as you can, it becomes an easy way to build up an emergency supply prescription meds.
Don’t be a wienie or a cheapskate about when it comes to life-saving prescription meds. Critical medications are going to preserve your health and should not be considered a luxury. Please find room in your budget to pay for extra medications out of pocket.
That said, wouldn’t it make better sense to stay fit and healthy in the first place? You might want to read the article Prepper Preparedness: Personal Fitness and Health.
The Myth of Expiration Dates on Prescription Meds
Before leaving this topic, I would like to address the issue of expiration dates on prescriptions drugs. Although I am not a healthcare professional, many studies have shown that non-refrigerated prescription drugs have a shelf life that is much longer than the pharmaceutical companies would want you to believe.
According to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide:
Most of what is known about drug expiration dates comes from a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration at the request of the military. With a large and expensive stockpile of drugs, the military faced tossing out and replacing its drugs every few years. What they found from the study is 90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.
So the expiration date doesn’t really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use. Medical authorities state expired drugs are safe to take, even those that expired years ago. A rare exception to this may be tetracycline, but the report on this is controversial among researchers. It’s true the effectiveness of a drug may decrease over time, but much of the original potency still remains even a decade after the expiration date.
Excluding nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics, most medications are as long-lasting as the ones tested by the military. Placing a medication in a cool place, such as a refrigerator, will help a drug remain potent for many years.
Is the expiration date a marketing ploy by drug manufacturers, to keep you restocking your medicine cabinet and their pockets regularly? You can look at it that way.
This is something to keep in mind as you go through drawers of supposedly outdated drugs.
Over-the-Counter Remedies & Essential Oils
In addition to your most critical prescription meds, you are going to want to review and add to the stash of over the counter remedies you set aside in month two. Did you notice that I did not list any specifics? The very best way to determine which OTC remedies to stock for an emergency is to open up your medicine cabinet and take a look at what you are currently using.
Chances are you will find a pain reliever such as aspirin or Tylenol plus an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen. Beyond that, consider antacids and antihistamines and any anything else you currently use. If you are not currently using something but think you might need it, purchase some now and give it a fair trial. An emergency is not the time to experiment with new medications, whether a prescription drug or something available over the counter.
I don’t want to dwell too much on the specifics here because you know what you need more that I do. But, and this is a big but, please consider the use of essential oils in lieu of pharmaceuticals, over the counter or not.
There are many essential oils with healing properties that, when stored in a cool dry area, will have an almost-infinite shelf life. Five essential oils to consider for preparedness are lavender, peppermint, melaleuca (also known as tea tree), lemon, and rosemary.
Here are a few articles to help you learn more about using these essential oils in a survival situation.
The Miracle of Lavender Oil: 25 Amazing Uses for Survival
The Miracle of Peppermint Oil: 20 Practical Uses for Survival
The Miracle of Tea Tree Oil: 80 Amazing Uses for Survival
33 Awesome Uses of Lemon Essential Oil
The Powerful Healing Qualities of Rosemary Essential Oil
Cash and the Modern Day Cookie Jar
In great grandma’s day there was the cookie jar. Yes, it was filled with delicious homemade sugar cookies but also, at the very bottom and hidden away, was some cash. The cookie jar was there for a reason: it was there for that rainy day when something was needed and the weekly budget was shot.
In much the same way, you need to put aside at least $100 in small bills for those times when nothing but cash will do. The need could be as simple as paying someone to help you remove a tree that has fallen on your house during a storm or it could be as catastrophic as all ATMs being shut down due to a computer virus hitting the bank you usually deal with.
Whatever your financial condition, try to build up a stockpile of at least $100 (and preferably a lot more) even if you have to do so at the rate of $5 per week. To save money, eat pasta and peas for dinner (see Clara’s kitchen) or a bowl of hearty, homemade soup. However you do it, please save up for an emergency. It is important.
The four-legged family members need supplies and gear as well. During this fourth month, pick up some extra pet food as well as a spare collar and if appropriate, a leash or harness. Also pack away some baggies or garbage bags for potty-cleanup purposes as well as disinfectant wipes. Alternately, make up a batch of hand-sanitizing spray to keep with your pet supplies.
And finally, make sure that you have copies of your pet’s license information, microchip code, immunization records and other information that will be vital in the event you get separated or must leave your home. If for some reason you need to move out of your home and into a shelter, having this information may make or break your ability to take your pet with you.
Get a Free Pet Safety Pack
I also recommend that you order a “Free Pet Safety Pack” from the ASPCA. This kit includes an easy-to-use sticker that will let people and especially emergency personnel know that pets are inside your home. The sticker will identify your pets to rescue workers, and will include the types and number of pets in your household, the name of your veterinarian, and your veterinarian’s phone number.
Tip: If you do evacuate and take your pets with you, write “Evacuated” on the face of the sticker so that rescue workers can move on to help someone else.
Also, I realize that pets are not only of the four-legged, dog and cat variety. If you have birds, gerbils, snakes, lizards or other pets, plan accordingly. Spouses and significant others do not count as pets, however.
Don’t Forget the Teddy Bear
Supply-wise, the last thing we need to purchase this month are infant supplies such as baby bottles, formula and diapers. This is pretty self-explanatory and if you have little ones, you know what you need. If anything, go a bit overboard on supplies for your infant or toddler. Remember, they are totally dependent on you and may be confused and upset by the turmoil around them. Now that I think about it, a small teddy bear is a good idea as well.
Now that we have taken care of the supplies and gear, what are the activities for this month? As with every month, there is nothing too difficult, too strenuous, or too overwhelming.
MONTH 4 TASKS:
- Package your prescription medications in a storage container and date for annual rotation purposes
- Make a copy of your current prescriptions and keep them in a secure location so that can be filled, if needed, following the emergency event
- Pack up warm blankets, sleeping bags, socks and other cold weather items
- Review your storage area and put stray items in containers that are well marked
With the emphasis on prescription medications this month, I want to stress the importance of proper labeling. This includes not only the name of the drug and dosage, but also the date it was packed for storage.
Something that I do is to package a single day’s supply of whatever meds are required (including vitamin supplements if that is you thing), in a small baggie. Here is a photo of my husband, Shelly’s, meds and supplements:
The 3 x 3 baggies were purchased for just a few dollars (try Ebay, the dollar store or Amazon) and are really handy. We do this very same thing for every day use, packaging up 30 days or more at a time so we do not have to deal each day with individual bottles.
Plus, think about this. Remember when I talked about purchasing some extra meds? Each time you get a new prescription, pull a few extras and put them in individual packets to set aside for emergency purposes. At the end of a year you will have a nice little stash. Now how cool is that?
Staying Warm and Toasty
Keeping warm blankets and clothing is pretty much a no-brainer but you would be surprised at how few people remember to include blankets or sleeping bags with their emergency gear. When you think about it though, these are very practical things to have on hand. If you do have to leave your home, or even if the power goes out or some stranded friend or family member comes to stay, you want to have bedding available and warm bedding at that.
They may not be the most stylish or glamorous option, but sleeping bags are perfect for this purpose.
Of course not everyone can go out and spend $50 to $100 or more for a sleeping bag. So, for the short term, consider Mylar sleeping bags that form to the body while retaining 80% of your body heat. These can typically be purchased for about $7 each and are well worth the price.
Bins, Boxes and Garbage Bags
Remember last month when you identified someplace accessible to store your stuff. This month I want you to go have a peek and ask yourself this: Is everything labeled? Is the area nice and tidy? Could you locate a specific item if you were in a hurry?
This month is only month number four and if you answered “no” to any of these questions, think about the disorganized mess you will have when we get to month twelve. I want you to take a very critical look at your storage space and think about the best way to tidy things up. Put things in bins/ Or, lacking the funds for nice plastic tubs, use carton boxes that are available for free from the grocery store or a business in your area. Even garbage bags work, especially for soft goods.
The key, and I am a broken record on this point, is to label and then label some more. I like to use self-stick labels and a sharpie but in most cases (except for the garbage bags) you can write on the container itself.
Okay, so I got a little bit carried away with the storage and organization task. But truly, this is important and advice I still need to take myself. Well, not really since I am a bit obsessed with organization which translates into continually taking a sharp eye to my shelves and cupboards so that I can make them tidier. That, coupled with my obsession with boxes and those plastic bins you get at the dollar store, allow me to stay organized.
The Final Word
If there was some way to wave a magic wand and say abracadabra, the prepping is done, I would do so. But prepping, like all things worthwhile, does not happen overnight. It takes time to build up the right supplies and it takes time to tick items off task list.
Sometimes it may feel as though the “prepping chore list” is never ending. Alas, that is a true statement because just as you complete on chore, you think of another then another then another. My advice to you is to accept the reality that your job will never be done. Circumstances change and there will always be “just one more thing”. Acknowledging this from the get go will make the journey a whole lot easier although at this point, you are just going to have to take my word for it.
As someone told me a few years ago, “Keep on working if you have a job but prepare as though you don’t.” I would like to add to those words with the following:
“Prepare as though a disaster will occur next month but hope and pray that it never really happens.”
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Here are some of the items that were featured in today’s article along with a few other items that are survival and preparedness essentials.
Emergency Sleeping and Survival Bag: for less than $7, you should get for each family member.
Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): For less than $7, this pack of 10 is a great deal. Free shipping too.
TETON Sports Mammoth Queen Size Flannel Lined Sleeping Bag (94″x 62″, Grey, +20 Degree F) : This is the sleeping bag I purchased. And yes, it is a double with room for Shelly, myself, Tucker the Dog and a weapon. Emergency Essentials also has some great sleeping bags that are well priced.
3″ X 3″ Clear Zipper Bags: These are the little baggies I use to store our daily medications. So handy, plus, when sealed in an outer bag, they stay moisture-free. Just remember to rotate annually.
Sharpie Ultra Fine Markers: Cheaper than Staples, Office Depot and even Costco. Half the price actually. Less than $8 for a box of 12 is a bargain and indispensible to a prepper who labels everything.
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter: The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2oz. making it perfect for the prepper. There is also a larger sized LifeStraw Family currently available with free shipping.
FordEx Group 300lm Mini Cree Led Flashlight: You already know this, along with the Blocklite, is my favorite portable flashlight. At the time of this writing, this one is about $4.00 with free shipping. It is super mini sized, bright and waterproof. Plus, it uses a single, standard AA sized battery. Pictured is one that I own in green but they come in basic black as well as some other colors.
Blocklite Ultra Bright 9V LED Flashlight: I now own six of these little gems. There is a similar flashlight called the Pak-Lite (which is more expensive) but it does not have a high-low switch like this one. Less than $8. These little flashlights just go and go, plus, they make good use of those re-purposed 9V alkaline batteries that you have recharged with your Maximal Power FC999 Universal Battery Charger.
Survival Medicine Handbook: This is guide for those who want to be medically prepared for any disaster where help is NOT on the way. It is written from the non-medical professional and assumes that no hospital or doctor is available in the aftermath of a catastrophic event. It covers skills such as performing a physical exam, transporting the injured patient, and even how to suture a wound. This medical reference belongs in every survival library.
Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression: The book is about $15 and a true treasure. Recommended not only for the recipes, but for the heartwarming anecdotes that fondly recall memories of life when all you could count on was yourself and strength of the family unit.
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Normally these four amazing oils would cost you $63.45 but this kit is only $49.99. By using the 10% coupon code “BACKDOORSURVIVAL” your cost will be reduced to only $44.99.
Of course the standard size Spark Naturals Essential 4 Pack is still available for $19.99 less your 10% discount.