Top Emergency Essentials Needed for Survival

Surviving in the mountains

The following article has been contributed by Vic Rantala, owner of SafeCastle which provides survival gear. It has been published with permission of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of

The risks to our comfortable way of life today are obvious, significant, and numerous. So much so that crisis preparedness is now a booming market niche. If you are not yet in the growing mainstream demographic of those working to achieve some level of self-sufficiency and preparedness, then have a look at these realistic, baseline parameters that can help you get started with your logistical contingency planning:

  • Consider a developing chance of the structure of your home itself becoming seriously at risk for damage or destruction. Earthquake, severe weather, flooding, wildfire are some of the likeliest threats. These forces can crop up with no warning. With or without warning, what would you do to protect yourself and your loved ones?
  • Imagine a disaster where the normal food-supply chain infrastructure is broken. It doesn’t take more than one or two bad links to make the whole chain worthless. Is it possible? How about an economic collapse, widespread drought, a national truckers strike, a terror attack on the food supplies, an oil crisis that causes transportation industries to take a big hit, or a pandemic that wreaks havoc throughout society? The average grocery store has a two-day supply of food on its shelves–and that assessment does not account for panicking shoppers. Yes, the just-in-time supply chain is very vulnerable.
  • A good water supply is critical to survival, yet we all tend to take it for granted. What if your water was suddenly to become undrinkable or your city water was to stop flowing? How long would you and your family be able to cope? Realistic? Ask anyone who was in Cleveland a few years ago when the big blackout throughout the region shut down the water-pumping stations there.
  • Think of any kind of event where the power goes out on a wide scale, perhaps preventing the utilities from getting everybody back up in a reasonable time … some folks having to go without for an extended period. Can it happen today? Think major ice storm, serious flooding, catastrophic earthquake, or a big hurricane impact. Yes, it’s possible. What would that mean for your ability to keep and cook food, to provide for special health care needs, to heat or cool your home in times of temperature extremes? In fact, what would it mean to have to deal with the security implications in a long-term blackout with compromised communications and emergency response services?

Those are a few potential scenarios—none pleasant to contemplate. But if there is a silver lining, it is that for mitigation planning purposes, we can address most of your emergency requirements quite simply:

  1. Shelter
  2. Food
  3. Water
  4. Power
  5. Heating & Cooling
  6. Security

The first three in this list are primary needs for survival in most situations. So we’ll start there.

A Simple Plan

First, determine how long you want to be able to sustain your household in a worst-case scenario. Then approach each of these survive-and-thrive factors accordingly …


Ensure you have the means to withstand a water supply crisis. The human body’s water dependence makes this the most critical need of all. If you have city water, but also have a well, you are in far better shape than most. But remember, unless you have a handpump, you’ll need to power your electric well pump somehow if the grid goes down.

water is a valuable resourceStoring pure water is almost a necessity for everyone else. You need to have a bare minimum of two gallons per person per day set aside. More realistic in your planning would be to store 5 gallons or more to sustain each person per day to allow for drinking, washing, cleaning, and cooking. If you have four people in your household and you want to be able to ride out a period of one week, the prudent math says you should store 140 gallons of water … in containers that are designed specifically for water storage, in a dark, cool area to minimize the growth of bacteria over the time it is in storage.

Of course, storing water requires a lot of available storage space, and not all of us have that. But even if you do have storage space and even if you do have a well, ensuring there is a means to filter and/or purify water is also wise and is perhaps the ONE common necessity everyone should plan for. There are a multitude of excellent water filters and water purification tablet treatments out there on the market, such as Katadyn and Berkey brand filters, made specifically for crisis preparedness and the backpacking/camping crowd. But even just having some fresh household bleach on hand and providing for a means to boil water will potentially be a life saver.


There’s a wide range of approaches to prudent food storage. If you choose to simply stockpile normal groceries to allow for your family’s ability to ride out a crisis, be sure to continuously rotate your food into a normal usage cycle as the nutritional shelf life of all store-bought groceries is surprisingly short.

Some folks grow and can or dry their own food … and if done well, it’s an excellent way to provide for lean times. On a longer-term sustainability basis, it’s THE way to go.

Ultimately, food storage is a science unto itself, and if you want to seriously consider all the ins and outs of various approaches, plan to spend some time investigating your options. For those who have more money than the time and desire to take another food storage route, the best, quickest, and most popular low-maintenance way to go is to purchase bulk freeze-dried or other similar food-storage packages. Mountain House freeze dried food is the premier such food on the marketplace. In #10 cans, Mountain House food lasts 30 years on the shelf with little or no nutritional or taste loss.

There are many emergency food choices and price ranges out there, as well as taste and nutrition-quality factors to consider. Once the buying decision is made, you can rest assured that you have a food supply with an extended shelf life of anywhere from 5 to 30 years, a range that dwarfs the period of time your other approaches will provide you with. Word of warning—be sure you verify that your food packages are based on 2000 calories per day per person. Some unscrupulous sellers will misrepresent their offerings. If you validate that the calorie count equates to the time period claimed, figure out whether the price is similar to what you would expect to pay for your groceries over that time period. A big discrepancy would tell you something is not right.

Shelter and Security

Are you comfortable with your present storm-shelter arrangements? If you have a full basement, you’re probably in good shape for most kinds of severe weather risks in most of the country.

In parts of the U.S., flooding or earthquakes are of bigger concern than windstorms, so those regions are more focused on structural integrity and perhaps the structure’s foundation elevation and methodology. Of course, in some cases when warnings are given, the prudent thing to do is to evacuate to a safe area, as in the event of a coming major hurricane, flood, or wildfire. The obvious need here is to have a well-defined evacuation plan with a destination and readily transportable supplies that allow you to sustain your family for the anticipated period of time.

Another consideration in the shelter category arises out of the concern for relative security in a world gone mad with crime, terrorism, and the historically proven risk of acts of war. We might even toss in another possibility to account for: industrial and transportation accidents that can severely test your ability to survive in the event of toxic chemicals or a release of radioactivity upwind from your location.

tents as sheltersThere are many ways to address each of these shelter-related risks (and many more), but the place to start is in a careful assessment of your own unique situation–to include your geological and meteorological risks given your location, your position in relation to prevailing wind patterns and major industrialization and transportation patterns, as well as your local crime trends. You will also want to determine where your comfort zone is in terms of viewing the geopolitical and economic scene going forward.

For many, not all of these factors register, and that is fine. Fifty percent of the benefit of preparedness is the peace of mind it brings. So as long as you are comfortable in your own planning, you are halfway to your goal.

Again, there are a myriad of ways to build security into your home … everything from bolstering your door frames with kick-proof plates to being armed and trained to use a firearm, to installing a well-engineered shelter or saferoom.

Increasingly, determined do-it-yourselfers are taking on the task of building a saferoom or storm or fallout shelter into their home. Even more often today, busy people are purchasing such shelters or saferooms from qualified builders and having them professionally installed. Either way, when done well, it is the ultimate step you can take to provide for your household’s safety and for your peace of mind.

Power and Heating & Cooling

Blackouts are not uncommon. Sometimes, those blackouts can extend over a period of many days, depending on their cause. Back-up generators and alternative power sources such as solar, wind, or hydro power are all very attainable options for those seriously looking to get squared away. So much of our modern home-life today is dependent on natural gas and electrical power (not to mention gas and diesel-powered transportation). For some, reliable power actually sustains life due to a medical condition and specialized treatment equipment. Either way, the household with back-up power is light years ahead of the neighbor without power. Power can actually enable or enhance all your other essential capabilities above, so it is a worthwhile expenditure for those seeking to mitigate worst-case scenarios.

As for heating and cooling—either in times of extreme hot or cold weather—power generation capacities can determine comfort and/or survivability, especially with the elderly or health-compromised. For anyone in northern climes, a woodstove and a supply of dry, split firewood are an excellent backup plan for a midwinter power outage.

Survival gear and supplies can take many different forms. A positive frame of mind is beneficial. Anything that will help sustain you and your family through a difficult time is worth having on hand. Once you prepare and are aware, you are ahead of the curve.

Vic Rantala is the owner of SafeCastle, a leader in the survival industry. SafeCastle provides a viety of survival gear including food storage and shelters.

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