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Are You a Prepper Parent? Can You Help Me Get Started?

Posted by on August 13, 2014

1950s fallout shelter (public domain photo by Fastfission at en.wikipedia, from Wikimedia Commons)

Do any of you do any prepping? If so, how the heck do you find the time, money, and energy to do it with young children?!

I really want to do whatever I can to be prepared for possible disaster. I’m not talking about the stuff of tin foil conspiracy theories involving martial law, FEMA camps, or the total collapse of the economy. I’m thinking more along the lines of natural disasters likes hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and blizzards. (On the extreme end of the spectrum, I’d like to be prepared for EMP effects of a CME.) In addition to wanting to have enough food to handle my family of six trapped in our house for a few days, I’d like to be prepared to have no electrical power or running water for an extended period (such as happened to many people hit by Hurricane Sandy).

We have done a very small amount of prepping already. It’s something we started in preparation for our first child. Whenever we make a soup, stew, or sometimes a casserole, we save some in our chest freezer. Once the baby’s born we can thaw and heat up the saved meals instead of cooking something new. After our second child was born we didn’t have to cook any new dinners for three months! Unfortunately, this preparation is of a kind that will do us little good in the event of long-term power outage that disables the freezer.

I want to do more, but what? What small improvements can I make to my preparedness? I’ve been told that anything I chose to do is better than nothing. That’s small comfort, though, when analysis paralysis sets in.

Every time I start to seriously think about prepping I freeze up and have a panic attack. There are just so many things to do that I don’t know where to start. On top of that we’re broke. Disposable income is pretty negligible. I have no clue how to most efficiently use my scant resources to protect my family in an emergency. The icing on the cake is that our lives are so busy with work and family commitments that time is a precious and limited resource.

So, gentle readers, how should I proceed. What things can I do for little money and in little free time?


A commenter on Facebook asked me some helpful questions, so I’m answering them here.

Can you give me a starting budget, both in terms of money and time/manpower?

Both money and manpower are extremely limited. Assume that I’m working with loose change and stolen moments of free time.

And I’m assuming that you want to prioritize power loss, and short-term disaster survival. Let me know if that’s not true.

I’m not so much interested in recovering power (such as with a generator), but short-term disaster survival. Actually, “disaster” might be a bit too strong. In the short term I’m just interested in preparing for something like being snowed in without heat and power or stuck in a Hurricane Sandy scenario. I’m not prepping for TEOTWAWKI yet. 😉

Things I want to learn include non-obvious first aid supplies, most essential every day carry, the best foods (other than canned goods) for storage, and the best prepping “hacks” and “secrets”.

Give me a list of your basic needs–does anybody require medication?

Nobody uses any medications that they can’t do without for a few weeks or longer. The only other special needs are those associated with the newborn due next month. Our basic needs are those typical to a family of 6 – 2 adults in their 30s, a 6yo, a 5yo, a 3yo, and a newborn.

What things do you definitely want to have power? Is there anything ‘weird’ or odd that you consider a priority? To use myself as an example, I consider my dissertation data absolutely critical.

Cell phone chargers. Nothing else jumps to mind.

It would also help if you could provide me a list of what emergency supplies you already have–medical gear/medication, food stores, etc.

I recently put together a rudimentary first aid kit (meant mostly for hashing), and we have a store-bought kit in the car. We have several days of food, perhaps a couple weeks, without grocery shopping. However, no effort has been made to strategically build up stores.

Also, let me know if you have any skills/training that would be useful. For example, if you’re a good hand with a soldering iron, and have had a couple semesters of circuits in an electrical engineering program, you have *a lot* of options. Or if you are owed favors by a civil engineer, then we have much to discuss.

Not sure about any favors, but I’m pretty skill-less (in a practical sense). I’ve never soldered. I always worked in software or with bread boards. I have no carpentry skills. I don’t know jack about cars. I’m a noob around guns. What have I left out?

Have you ever been camping or fishing?

No fishing. Never did any rugged camping. Always somewhere with bathroom facilities. I badly want to do “real” camping, though.