How To Prepare For A Natural Disaster

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This week (at the time of this writing) we are facing natural disasters on both sides of the country: hurricanes in the east and wildfires in the west. It seems the US has had her fair share of natural disasters this year with tornadoes and flooding happening in between.

It breaks my heart to see so many people in pain and desperation. Not to mention the panic that has hit closer to where I live (here in North Texas) with people rushing to get gas and with the panic causing a disruption in the supply. In other words, so many people rushed to get gas that it caused gas stations to run out of fuel. The delivery trucks couldn’t keep the gas station tanks full for long enough, giving the illusion that there was shortage of gas, causing long lines at the gas pumps. Many stations ran out of gas completely.

This panic is a dangerous thing. If people panic for no reason, then imagine the panic when there really is a reason! That’s all the more reason to be as prepared as possible.

There are currently 3 hurricanes in the Atlantic or Gulf, with probably more storms to come this year, so I want to talk about getting clean water to drink when it’s not available. Also, there are numerous fires going in the west. I’ve talked to friends that are having a hard time breathing outdoors because of the air quality. Smoke is everywhere. Since fires are so unpredictable you could have to leave your home at a moment’s notice, I want to talk a little about bug-out-bags. They are of course also relevant to people who are evacuating to avoid a storm or have to leave because their house is flooded from hurricane rains.

First let’s talk about what you need to always have clean water.

Emergency Water Supply

Bottled Water
If you have no stored water then by all means go buy bottled water. However, this is not what I recommend planning for in the future.


Small Personal Water Filters
There are a number of small personal water filters on the market. The LifeStraw is the one I would recommend (read our review here). These are great for adults but young children might have a problem sucking the water through the filter. You might also consider a Berkey water bottle. We take these when we go overseas; however, they again are difficult for small children to use.

Family Water Filter
If you need a water filter for your entire family that is more mobile consider a Family LifeStraw (read our review here). They can be hung anywhere and work well. However, you will need to carry the filter and a bucket for the water to drain into. That’s why I said “more mobile” but they might become cumbersome on foot. They would be a great thing to put in your vehicle.


If you are sheltering in place having drinkable water stored in a WaterBrick is a great idea (read our review here). They stack easy and are designed to store water unlike washed out milk jugs which can split and leak.


This is my first choice for sheltering in place. Having WaterBricks and a Berkey both would be best, but if I had to choose I would choose the Berkey (read our review here). It can filter out almost anything and last for hundreds and hundreds of gallons of swampy muddy water. We actually use ours everyday to filter municipal water. So it’s already in use and has a place in the kitchen. Switching to emergency mode would be very simple.

Evacuating From Hurricanes and Wildfires


What Do I Need To Take?

Even though most of us would prefer to shelter in place unfortunately it’s not always the best or safest option. Evacuations are actually happening now, with Irma coming closer and closer to Florida, and of course the devastation from Harvey. Even with the west engulfed in flames, there are many people who simply are not as prepared as they need to be.

I don’t want you to ever be one of those people!

There are some basic supplies that you will need no matter how little time you have to prepare.


Know The Rule of 3s

If you know of anyone who dubs themselves a prepper, you may have heard of the rule of 3s.

Actually there are two sets of rules but both have 3 rules each.

You can live for:

  • 3 weeks without food,
  • 3 days without water, and
  • 3 minutes without air

The second rule of 3s is that:

  • ONE is NONE
  • Two is ONE

So what do you need when you are forced to evacuate?

Generally you should have these basics covered:

  • Shelter
  • Water
  • Fire/Warmth
  • Food
  • Communication
  • Self Defense

Even if you only have 10 minutes until you are forced to leave, it is important to put some thought into what you will bring.

Assuming that your vehicle is in good working order, it can act as a temporary shelter if needed.

What to grab if you need to leave in 10 minutes

  • Good walking shoes
  • Rain and wind resistant clothing
  • A blanket
  • Lighters or matches, or an electronic lighter such as the Sparkr Mini
  • Water/Juice/whatever fluids you have available
  • Charging devices for your phone
  • Important documents such as insurance policy, birth certificates, etc. Things that you will need to help establish yourself wherever you are heading to once the crisis has passed. (Read about how to store them securely on a USB drive)
  • If you still have time, grab high calorie non perishable food items
  • CAN OPENER if you grab canned food

If you have more time to prepare then you should definitely take these categories a step further.

If you’re are building a bag for later consider adding…

  • Emergency blankets capable of reflecting up to 90% of your body heat
  • Change of clothing
  • First aid kits
  • Sanitation supplies
  • Water
  • Ways to purify water, such as the ones I mentioned above
  • Paracord
  • Tent or tarp
  • Alternative ways to start a fire, matches, lighter, magnesium fire starter etc.
  • Medications you take regularly

There is always room for improvement and frankly, the items each person’s would pack in an ultimate survival bag are as different as each person themselves.

If you google Bug Out Bag, or INCH Bag (I’m Never Coming Home…), than you can see a lot of the variety that many people pack. Some of these camping and backpacking rigs can weigh upwards of 50 lbs and look a lot like something that the military may use.

If that is the route you want to go, then more power to you, but it may not be right for you, and that is PERFECTLY OK!

However, if you think that you may be living out of this bag for a couple of months, travelling on foot, or setting up a camp in the woods there are a few more items that you need to add to your list in order to make this feasible.

  • Folding Saw or Hatchet
  • Heavy duty tarp
  • Fishing, Hunting, Trapping devices to obtain food
  • Possibly a GPS device
  • Solar charger for electronics
  • Fuel or fire starters
  • Trauma first aid kit
  • Hiking boots
  • Insect repellant and additional medications
  • Firearm or at least a bushcraft knife or machete
  • Container suitable for both catching and boiling water
  • Hats, Gloves, Sunglasses
  • High calorie food ration bars
  • Booklet on wild edibles
  • Deck of cards or a harmonica (never underestimate a little relaxation)
  • 2-way radios for you and whomever you are travelling with
  • Binoculars
  • Whistle
  • Flare
  • Handheld radio

Like I said there are too many variations to this list to cover it all today. Everyone around the country is at risk in one form or another of natural disasters and evacuation orders.

Again, if you can shelter in place that is wonderful, and we definitely plan for that with our food storage and our Berkey water filtration system. In fact, I recommend having a water filter even if you are on municipal water supplies, as a recent study found that over 90% of water supplies tested contained plastic microfibers! As a rule I just don’t like the idea of polluting with plastic water bottles when there are better options for purification. However, there are definitely times that water bottles are better. For example, flooding can contaminate the groundwater with chemicals that cannot be removed by filtration straws alone, and although we could take our Berkey with us if evacuating by car, it would prove a very difficult if we were on foot.

Don’t let making these preparations overwhelm you! Take it list-by-list and step-by-step. You’ll be glad you took the time to gather together the supplies you need now, in order to secure your safety in the future. Plus, you won’t be running around from store to store only to find empty shelves.

I think everyone should prepare for a natural disaster, but I also think it’s important to prepare for things like the panic I mentioned above.

Helpful Links

Cairn is a monthly subscription box that delivers 3 – 6 outdoor-related products every month. You might get apparel, gear, food, skin care, or even emergency products. Over the last few months we’ve gotten cool items like a lightweight hammock, backpack and water bladder, a combo flashlight/lantern, and lots more. Check them out here.