Emergency preparedness can either be a smooth, complete process, or it can be a hit and miss conglomeration of items that really do not accomplish what you want to accomplish.
It's a big difference between "I want to be able to survive for a few hours in a car during a winter storm," and "I want to be able to feed my family of four for a year." Likewise, "I want to be able to protect myself and family," are entirely different than, "I want to make sure we have water to drink."
If you want to end up with an emergency preparedness plan that does what you want it to do, your first absolute must is that you decide exactly what it is that you want to do.
Unfortunately, this has to be specific. "I want to be prepared," is not an answer. Prepared for what? For how many? For how long? Without those answers, you can't get there.
Here are 9 questions that will get you moving in the right direction.
1. What is your budget? It makes no sense to come up with a plan that will cost thousands of dollars more than you will have to spend. Come up with a reasonable amount that you are willing to spend on your preparedness, and then stick to it. If you begin to spend more than you can, you will stop your plan, and end up where you are now.
2. How many people are you preparing for? Count everyone in your household, and anyone else that might show up, such as family members no longer living at home or in-laws. Also, in the not-so-fun category is preparing yourself to say no to the people down the road or across the street who show up hungry and thirsty. Accept that you might not be able to feed, shelter, and water everyone.
3. What are the ages of the people you are preparing for? Young children need less than adults, as do elderly people. Generally, one adult serving will suffice for two young children.
4. What do you have right now? Most people have less than a week's food in their homes, and a couple of bottles of water. Take an honest look at what you would have available in an emergency. Use averages of what is available in the home and don't look right after you come home from the grocery store.
5. What happens if the power goes out? Power outages are a fact of life in some areas. Consider what you will do if your power goes out for an extended period. What will you do for heat? What happens to what's in the freezer or refrigerator? If you are on a well, how will you get water? Can you stay warm?
6. What is available around you? Do you live near water that you could draw and then purify? Is there wood around you could burn? Are there wild animals around you could harvest for food? Look around you and find things that could be used in your plan.
7. Is there a possibility you might need to protect yourself and your family? This is a question that many people refuse to ask or answer, but it's necessary. As an example, in the big East Coast snowstorm, grocery stores were empty before the storm even hit. People were literally fighting each other in the stores for the last of the supplies. What will you do if someone comes to your door and wants some of your supplies? Could you protect your supplies and your family? All the supplies in the world will do you no good if the bully down the road can come and take what he wants.
8. If you will have to leave your home for some reason, (fire, weather, etc.) do you know exactly what will stay and what will go with you? Have your important documents scanned and on a flash drive. Choose wisely on things like mementos and "memories" items. Agree ahead of time what order you will load items, preparing for the event that you might not be able to pack everything you would like to pack.
9. Does everyone know the plan, and their responsibilities? Everyone involved should have some specific responsibilities. If you have a great plan, but don't execute it correctly, what good is it? Checklists are the absolute best way to make sure everything gets done. Make one for each person, and make it easily accessible. Practice it at least once a month.
Emergencies don't have to be catastrophes. With a well though out, well rehearsed plan, you can be assured that whatever emergency comes your way, you will be prepared to survive it in the best possible way.