Bugging In: Preparing for the Worst at Home

Bunker interior
We often think about how to survive if we find ourselves lost in the wilderness, but we commonly ignore being prepared for disaster to come to us. I’m going to give you some guidance on preparing your home for the worst. 

Considering Possibilities

The most important part of any preparation is knowing what you’re preparing for. The disasters you may be preparing for can be grouped into three categories; war, anarchy, and acts of God. Acts of God, also known as natural disasters, are the easiest to prepare for, and anarchy is the hardest.

Preparing for War

By far, the best way to protect your home against war is to live away from any likely targets or battlefields. You’ll also want to take a page out of history and build a bomb shelter and be ready to blackout your home on a moment’s notice. 

Preparing for Anarchy

I don’t believe this scenario is likely so I won’t waste much time on it. If you’re worried about it, fortify the perimeter of your yard. 

Preparing for Natural Disaster

Natural disasters are by far the most likely catastrophe your home will ever face. If you can, position your home out of harm’s way, like on a hill to avoid flooding. You’ll need to start by researching what kinds of disasters are known to occur in your area so you know what you need to consider. 

Preparing your Home

Bug In Kit

Your bug in kit is the most important preparation you can make. It contains all the supplies you’re likely to need if you’re trapped at home without functional utilities. The Government of Canada, as well as many others, recommend you have enough supplies to last 72 hours. You can buy a premade emergency kit from a retailer or humanitarian organisation, like the Red Cross or Salvation Army, or you can assemble your own. 

This is the Government of Canada’s recommended bug in kit, designed for 72 hours. Adjust it as necessary. 

  • Six litres of water per person
  • Non-perishable food (keep an eye on expiry dates)
  • Manual can opener
  • Wind-up or battery operated flashlight 
  • Wind-up or battery operated radio 
  • First aid kit
  • Extra keys (for your car, house, etc.)
  • Cash, travelers’ cheques, change
  • Important documents such as identification 
  • Emergency plan

In addition:

  • Six additional litres of water for cooking and cleaning 
  • Candles and fire source 
  • Clothing for everyone in the house 
  • Sleeping bags and/or blankets 
  • Toiletries 
  • Cell phone charger
  • Medication and medical equipment
  • Utensils and dishware
  • Water purification supplies 
  • Tools
  • Self-contained stove with fuel
  • Whistle and/or other signalling equipment 
  • Duct tape 

The most important of these are food and water, everything else you can do without for a short time or improvise. Probably your best option for food is military field rations. They’re designed to be stored for long periods in less than perfect conditions. Once you have your bug in kit assembled, find a readily accessible place to store it and make sure everyone in the house knows where it is. 

Refuge

When disaster strikes, you’ll need a place to take shelter. For most situations, the best possible option is a reinforced underground bunker, but the more robust parts of your house, like the bathroom or under the stairs, can serve the purpose. If you’re concerned about flooding, it’s more important to get and stay above the high water than to seek shelter. 

Your shelter should be large enough to be your entire world for the duration of the disaster. Be sure to include cooking, dining, sleeping, and bathroom facilities if you expect to use it overnight. It’s also best to have multiple entries, one from your house, one from outside, and one from where you store your bug out vehicle, should you have one. You’ll also want to store your bug in kit in your shelter, since that’s where you’re most likely to use it. You should consider including exceptionally large stockpiles of supplies and some sort of power generation. The simplest power source is a gas or diesel generator but wind or solar power can be used indefinitely. 

Plan

Probably the most important part of being prepared for an emergency is to plan for it. Once you have all your facilities and supplies in place, you’ll need to devise a plan of action for every situation you want to be prepared for. It should cover all the tasks you need to do to dig in for the duration of the crisis. As counterintuitive as it may seem, don’t assign roles in advance, it’s just going to make people indispensable and could easily put your family in danger. Do, however, create a leadership line of succession, so you instantly know who’s going to be in charge and don’t waste time figuring it out. 

Practice

You’ll want to practice periodically so everyone in your house knows what to do in an emergency, especially children. That way they won’t be lost if disaster strikes while you’re away. 

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