When speaking to preppers like Jennifer, Luther, and Nygaard, it can be hard to separate the more practical aspects of the lifestyle from the enjoyment that comes from doing things yourself instead of paying someone to do them. When I point out that running a small-scale farm and caring for two kids seems like an awful lot of work to do on top of a full-time job, Nygaard demures. “Yeah, it is. But I choose it. I choose to spend it like this because there are things that give me pleasure. I enjoy canning. I love seeing my work on the shelf. You grew that, and you canned it, and you get a source of pride from that.”

Most of us have some sort of toolkit around the house, but if you want to be prepared you need to make sure it’s ready for anything. At a minimum you’ll need a good carpenter’s hammer, a heavier ball peen hammer, wood saw and hacksaw. Other essentials include a monkey wrench, measuring tape, square and level. Cordless drills are great, but a hand drill is also good to have – what if your generator goes and you need to fabricate a replacement part? A set of good screwdrivers is also vital – don’t rely on an electric one. Make sure you have wrenches to fit all bolts on your vehicles and equipment, too.
“I was ordered to spend $700,000 on my department, or risk losing funding for the upcoming year even though there was little need for anything. My budget was already substantial, but I ended up buying new computers for the Computer Learning Center, half of which, one month later, were carved with graffiti by the appreciative students who obviously feel humbled and grateful to have a free education in America. (More and more of our tax dollars at work!)”
When preparing food for storage, take into account the need for future food, if long-term emergencies occur. This would include a space for growing your own food, hydroponics, plant food, and good quality heirloom non-GMO seeds, UV lamps, and good quality earth to grow the seeds in. For tips on how to stock a survival garden, see our topic on homesteading to learn more.

You may feel helpless if you have not been an outdoorsy or rugged person for most of your life, but the most essential lifesaving and survival skills and concepts are easily learned, if not mastered. Below is a list of several core skill sets you should make a point to get trained on and practice when you can. In all but the smallest towns there will be someone who has something to teach you about all of them.

In his 2016 book, Can It! The Perils and Pleasures of Preserving Foods, Gary Allen, a food writer and adjunct professor at SUNY Empire State College, traces the evolution of food preservation as a source of culinary innovation. “The original food-preservation methods—like salting and drying and all that—actually turned the food into something else,” he told me over the phone. “Cabbage sauerkraut is not the same thing as cabbage. Wine is not the same thing as grape juice.”


outisde of the local systems, all newer cell phones in the US should be Wireless Emergency Alerts capable (WEA). Check with your carrier to make sure that your phone is capable (there is some variance by carrier on some phone models.) Then make sure that the service is turned on in your phone settings. These alerts are sent by authorized agencies through a dedicated infrastructure, and there is no need to sign up. If you are in a Tsunami affected alert area, you will get the alert, and the phone does not stop the alert until you acknowledge it. It is important to keep your phone on and charged 24/7. If in the US, Warnings will also be broadcast by NOAA weather radio.
Though its light weight and long shelf life are ideal for navigating harsh conditions, freeze-dried food is probably most famous as a cultural curiosity: Like many Americans, I discovered it in a museum gift shop, gawking at the styrofoam-like ice cream that astronauts used to have for dessert. More recently, I encountered it at a disaster preparedness convention in Raleigh, North Carolina, where smiling, gray-haired preppers manned tables piled with plastic bags full of vegetables, meats, and stews.
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