Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook

by James Talmage Stevens

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Close your eyes for a moment and imagine what would happen if you became ill and couldn't work, or if an earthquake or hurricane or bomb left your community devastated. It happens all the time. When unexpected disasters happen, people who are even a little prepared are much better off than those who have taken their dependence on outside resources for granted. When


Close your eyes for a moment and imagine what would happen if you became ill and couldn't work, or if an earthquake or hurricane or bomb left your community devastated. It happens all the time. When unexpected disasters happen, people who are even a little prepared are much better off than those who have taken their dependence on outside resources for granted. When you imagine the security of not having to worry about going to the store for even a few weeks, a comprehensive storage system begins to make sense.

Now in its 11th edition, is one of the best-known preparedness bibles around. Stevens lays out a yearlong storage program of 15 food and nonfood categories, six of which (water, wheat and grains, dairy products, sweeteners, "cooking catalysts" like salt and oil, and sprouting seeds) are capable of sustaining life indefinitely in a no-frills diet. The other 9 categories are designated "Building Blocks," and improve upon the basic diet and support a more routine, less Spartan existence while relying on stored supplies

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Xeno Press
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Chapter One

What Is Family Preparedness?

    Once upon a time there was an old man who loved to listen to the striking of his grandfather clock. He enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he kept it in his bedroom against the far wall. After retiring each night, he would lie in his bed, half-awake, listening to the striking of the clock. Whenever the clock struck, he would sleepily count the chimes. One night something went wrong with the clock's mechanism. It began to strike and he began to count. He counted to ten, eleven, twelve ... then thirteen! ... fourteen! ... fifteen! ... Suddenly he realized something had gone wrong and he was immediately wide awake. He reached over, shook his wife, and said, "Wake up, Ma! It's later than I've ever knowed it to be!"

It is later than many of us realize. Those who have lived during the last two or three decades of the 20th century have witnessed unparalleled growth, progress, and constant innovation. Sometimes this progress is accompanied by the belief or hope that science, technology, and government can meet all the challenges of our times, tame the forces of nature, and fix everything that goes wrong. However, our unprecedented progress has been accompanied by social change in which we've seen the eroding of our "traditional" values and by the depletion of our earth's natural resources. Daily we are confronted with the evidence of our progress: ozone alert days; water use restrictions; "Don't Eat The Fish" signs along polluted rivers and lakes; men, women, and children standing on street corners with signs proclaiming "Will work forfood"; latchkey kids; metal detectors in schools; increased security at airports; government services shutdowns; ... the list seems endless.

The old man's "wake-up call"--"It's later than I ever knowed it to be"--serves to remind us during these challenging and chaotic times of the need for personal responsibility and individual creative genius. We need to recognize that each of us is important in our own special way to the survival and well-being of this world. But first, we must take responsibility for our own survival and well-being and actively exercise our creativity to that end--we can't expect science, technology, government, or anyone else to do our part.


Because no one knows what's in store on the horizon, the individual who takes responsibility for his life and that of his family not only expects the unexpected but prepares accordingly. The premise of Making the Best of Basics is that we know we are at a high risk for some disaster. The purpose of this edition is to help you become prepared for it.

Family preparedness activities facilitate a proactive, self-sustaining lifestyle and a high level of readiness for circumstances beyond our control. Being prepared means being able to face the potential problems of increasing demand and decreasing supply of basic commodities with a degree of confidence and certainty.

The only way we achieve this level of preparation is by deciding to take control of our own destiny. Although we can't control externally caused life-changing events, we can organize a plan and implement it for times when such events occur.

There is a powerful, secure feeling in knowing that you chose to take charge of your personal readiness and your family will be able to eat and sustain a relatively stress-free rebound period after a disaster--because together you made the effort to plan ahead.

If you've prepared for your family's self-sufficiency (security) with both emergency and long-term provisions, you can turn what could have been a life-threatening situation into a manageable problem.

Events Which Could Not Be Controlled

When we understand the importance of self-reliance and being prepared, it's as if we hear the "wake up call" and begin taking responsibility for managing our own lives. In so doing, we understand (paradoxically) that there are many facets of our lives which cannot be managed or "controlled."

Natural Disasters

Consider a partial list of major disasters which occurred in the U.S. since 1989. Even the most responsible among us could not control these events:

1989--Charlotte NC, Charleston SC, and other inland areas devastated by Hurricane Hugo.

1989--Bay Area of San Francisco rocked by an earthquake during World Series playoff.

1991--California residential areas suffer severe fire losses.

1992--Southern Florida suffers worst damage ever from Hurricane Andrew as it destroys public and private property.

1992--Hawaiian Islands pounded by vicious wind and water and suffer heavy property damages due to Hurricane Iniki.

1993--California homes ravaged by fires again and losses exceed previous years.

1993--The Great Flood inundates 8 million acres in 9 states along the Mississippi River, causing $12 billion in damage.

1994--January, several major calamities happen concurrently in the U.S.:

* Los Angeles earthquake (6.8 on the Richter Scale), which disrupts the entire city, kills 60 people, and ultimately costs more than $6.5 billion.

* 24 North Central, Midwest, and Northeastern states are paralyzed by extremely cold and bitter winter weather during the "storm of the century."

* natural gas explosion in Kentucky destroys property and disrupts many communities.

* frozen water distribution system in Atlanta, Georgia, leaves part of city without water for days.

* extreme winter conditions disrupt businesses and federal government offices in many Eastern seaboard cities and towns, including Washington, D.C.

1994--November, Hurricane Gordon rips through southern Florida, destroying winter vegetable crops estimated in excess of $200 million, then proceeds up the Eastern shore to the Carolinas, causing additional losses.

There's little need to continue--the sheer volume of tropical storms and hurricanes during the summer of 1995 alone exhausted the entire alphabet!

Man-Caused Disasters

There are many instances of man-caused disasters--business disasters, political upheavals, nuclear detonations, war, and terrorist acts:

1992--Los Angeles barrios engulfed by civil riots and fires, looting, and vandalism.

1993--World Trade Center bombed by terrorists, killing six people.

1995--April, terrorist bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

1995-1996--continuing saga of elected officials straining to pass legislation on a balanced budget ultimately disrupts the lives and fiscal security of hundreds of thousands of federal employees during the Christmas season.

Note the changes in the number of major airlines which have either been consumed or have totally gone out of business. Or witness the major changes in the Fortune 500 listings, closures of many military bases, and resultant major cutbacks in the military's civilian support industry. Have you noticed how many Fortune 50 (yes, that's fifty) companies have downsized their employment force by tens of thousands?

Personal Disasters

But the most frequent disasters in our lives are the ones which don't get headline coverage--the private disasters which occur on a daily basis to people of all ages and incomes:

* serious illness or disability in the family

* death of a family member

* divorce

* loss of home

* losses due to crime

* loss of income or job due to rapid technological change, downsizing, or business closing

* having less than two-weeks' income in savings

* bankruptcy

* isolation of the elderly

* lack of income for retirement years

* struggling to make ends meet

* being technologically unskilled in a technological world

* living impoverished in a world of plenty

"At Risk"

As society becomes increasingly more complex and our space more crowded, greater numbers of us live and work in disaster-prone areas, and the potential for involvement in any of these disasters is enhanced. Today's lifestyle adds further pressure to the chances for "personal" disasters. Greater numbers of communities and individuals are "at risk" of involvement in life-changing events. People become displaced and find themselves without adequate supplies for sustaining life, much less sustaining a near-normal lifestyle. So as the potential grows for more people to face "uncontrollable" life-changing events, economic self-sufficiency becomes a significant focus of life management.


It's certainly easy enough to understand why we don't prepare as past generations did. "Progress" and the resulting technological advancements of recent years seem to have lulled us into a false sense of security--believing we can have anything we want, anytime we want, anywhere we want it. Control of our personal and family self-sufficiency (which in reality is our real security) has been replaced by the ease of obtaining credit, buy-now/pay-later plans, and ready availability in the stores of practically everything we want, regardless of our ability to meet the payments. We take for granted the availability of public services such as water, sewer, electricity, natural gas, telephone lines, and cable TV. Then there are the many privately owned resources such as 24-hour supermarkets, convenience stores, automated banking machines, debit cards, telemerchandising and drop-ship businesses which have addicted most of us to a high-technology, hand-to-mouth lifestyle.

Additionally, as we survey our society and the requirements of daily living, we can see more reasons why preparing for self-reliance and security takes a back seat for most of us. Our nation's families are stretched thin financially, emotionally, and in terms of time. As companies downsize, employees are asked to work more overtime. Communication technology, with all of its advantages, also keeps people "on call" 24 hours a day. We are a mobile society--families move across town and across country seeking better opportunities. More and more women and men have the responsibility of parenting children alone while maintaining a job to provide money to reduce overwhelming financial obligations.

Unfortunately for the modern family, there have never been so many distractions to interfere with the establishment of a family self-sufficiency program.

Fortunately there has never been more information available to guide today's family in the quest for self-reliance and security. In this the Information Age, there are countless books, periodicals, pamphlets, brochures, videotapes, and computer software programs designed to help families in their effort to become prepared. Making the Best of Basics draws on some of the best of these to combine the most important information into one volume.

How Prepared Is Your Family?

How prepared is your family? Perhaps the following questions will alert you to the reality of your vulnerability:

* To what potential natural or man-caused disasters is your family subject? To what types of personal disasters?

* What have you done or can you do to eliminate or minimize the impact of these potential disasters on your family?

* If normal distribution of food to the grocery stores were curtailed, what sources of food would you have available to you or under your control?

* If electricity were unavailable for an extended period of time, what methods would you use for cooking, heating, and lighting in your home?

* If you had to evacuate your home right now, where would you go for shelter?

* If you were required to move away from potential harm immediately, how much gasoline is in your vehicle at this moment?

* If someone in your family were injured and medical help were unavailable, what resources would you have at your disposal?

* What would be the results if your normal source of income were interrupted for 2 weeks or longer?

* How much money do you have on hand for emergency situations?

If these questions, or rather, the answers to them, make you uncomfortable, now is the time for you to start to work on your preparedness by using Making the Best of Basics as your Family Preparedness Handbook.

In-Home Storage--A Basic Strategy for Family Preparedness

In-Home Storage--an Overview

If you are unfamiliar with in-home storage, the following paragraphs provide a general idea of what you might expect if you choose to pursue your own program. Recognize that this is a lifestyle choice. Being prepared through in-home storage requires a commitment to learn new skills and use resources in ways never before considered.

Your Personal In-Home Grocery Store

Think of your home, apartment, or other safe storage place as your personal in-home grocery store. That's right, a virtual personal shopping center, stocked with the things you need and like to eat--set up where you have unique access to it when needed!

Imagine having supplies of food and other necessary items on hand from which you can draw continuously for up to a year. Imagine everything in constant stock rotation--items consumed are replaced and new items added as they are discovered and enjoyed. Think about having quality foodstuffs to utilize in the preparation of wholesome and nourishing meals ...

Making the Best of Basics was compiled to help you and your family develop just such an "in-home grocery store." This Handbook provides:

* guidelines for establishing your own "in-home store"

* tools to help personalize your "in-home store" and provision it for dairy, bakery, produce, medications, personal care, and meat departments, with additional storage for water and fuel

* general guidelines for quantities and quality specifications, including listings of what foods, supplies, and equipment to stock

* selected listings of suppliers for suggested storage items

* charts for listing, prioritizing, and budgeting the orderly acquisition of supplies

* recipes for using your "in-home store" provisions

Commitment--the Major Requirement of In-Home Storage

In-home storage requires thoughtful planning and review because family resources will need to be re-allocated in new and perhaps unfamiliar ways. Achieving the goal of preparedness demands change. Change requires commitment. Essential resource demands will be:

   * sacrificing immediate gratification for long-term objectives

   * setting aside time to establish and maintain a home storage program

   * investing financial resources in purchasing adequate food and supplies

   * designating and using living space for storage of food and supplies

   * using stored foods as a regular part of daily food preparation

   * rotating foodstuffs and supplies on a fixed schedule

Though establishing an in-home storage program is not easy, it's worth it. We must realize there's no security without labor; there's no progress today without the experiences of yesterday; and, there's no future prosperity without adhering to sound advice.

Wealth and security seem to increase whenever people exert energy in the right direction and in the right causes.

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