The Practical Preppers Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness

The Practical Preppers Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness

by Scott Hunt


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250055644
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 08/05/2014
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 673,628
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

SCOTT HUNT is the owner of Practical Preppers, the consultants featured on the hit Nat Geo show "Doomsday Preppers." He received his masters in engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and has worked as a welding and metal fabricator, a product development engineer with Michelin Tire Corporation, and as a pastor for 10 years. An experienced homesteader, he is currently a sustainable living design engineer specializing in off grid water and energy systems.

Read an Excerpt

The Practical Preppers Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness

By Scott Hunt

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2014 Practical Preppers LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-5924-1



Keep Your Head Above Water!

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.

— Thomas Fuller

Will you have enough water when a crisis occurs? The average American consumes approximately 1,600 gallons each day. Stop doing the math in your head. Yes, a human being would likely drown if they actually drank that much water in a single twenty-four-hour period. By consume, I mean use — the truest form of the definition of consumption.

Ponder for just a moment how often you turn on the faucet, relax in a hot shower, or push down a toilet handle each day. These few simple examples are obviously among the most important mundane water uses we must consider when attempting to grasp how much a single person depletes local water resources each day.

But if you start thinking larger, you'll see that a drop of water that fell on a wheat field this afternoon is going to be part of my sandwich bread five months from now. If it's a ham sandwich, a lot more water was used. It takes roughly 52 gallons of water to make one glass of milk. It takes more than 600 gallons to make a quarter-pound hamburger. A total of 2,800 gallons of water is used to make one pair of jeans.

Our daily lives carry a giant water footprint. Water is necessary for life. The sophistication of the society that an individual dwells in is determined by the amount of water consumed. While living in a first world country may be luxurious at the moment, such a scenario is not sustainable for long periods of time during either a man-made or natural disaster. The ability to support large groups of people living in high-population-density areas is greatly diminished during disasters.

Think about your water supply being cut off or contaminated. Who will survive? Those with clean, potable water will still be among the living after the dust clears. The human body can last for three to five days, at the most, without water. Securing a clean water source must be your primary preparedness objective, regardless what type of doomsday disaster you feel is looming on the horizon. When a catastrophe becomes reality, potable water will be in both high demand and short supply.

Once the reality of exactly how much water is typically consumed by your family each day sinks in, it is time to begin figuring out how to source clean water. In a first world country, municipal systems deliver clean water to residences by a vast array of pumps, pipes, filters, and chemicals that render open-water sources drinkable. These expensive systems serve the masses and usually provide seamless delivery of life-sustaining water. Individuals dwelling in population-dense areas can certainly store this water in appropriately sized containers.

Municipal water is typically treated with chemicals such as chlorine, fluoride, aluminum, and ammonia. Ammonia has had to be added in recent years. It combines with chlorine to form chloramines, which are now found in 20 percent of American water supplies. Water quality continues to deteriorate to the point where waste water treatment plants produce water that is more pure than the water produced by municipal water plants. The greatest challenge to the waste-water industry is the psychological barrier to the end product of waste-water treatment plants. The removal of unwanted contents will be dealt with in the purification section of this chapter. If you only have municipal water as your source, your only solution is to store enough for you to weather the storm. I am not belittling this solution — it is a great solution.

A trip to a third world country will really make you grateful for the municipal water systems we have in this country. On a trip to Nicaragua to drill wells, I learned that when the water is flowing from the tap you had better capture and store some of it. You could be taking a quick shower and the water just stops. When I first went in for a shower, I was wondering what the bucket was for in the shower. I did not make that mistake again and made sure, if there was water, that I filled the bucket first. It made me wonder how the source of that water was being treated, if at all, and with what chemicals. I now make a conscious effort to have a good water filter such as a Sawyer Mini with me when I travel.

Our overall objective for a disaster water plan is:




Let's examine storage first.


Water can be stored in a variety of containers and places. A few examples of containers include: 2-liter recycled soda bottles, 55-gallon plastic barrels, polyethylene doorway containers, bathtub water storage system, stackable BPA-free water containers, and large above- and underground cisterns. BPA is an industrial chemical found in plastics and has been linked to health concerns in children. Where you store water is very important as well. The best places to store are either underground or in a cool, dry place. How long you are storing water is greatly determined by the source you start with. Municipal water can be stored for long periods of time without further treatment.

We recommend treating all other sources of water with the methods found in the purification section of this chapter. If you store water in your home or apartment, remember water is very heavy, 8.35 pounds per gallon, so the flooring must be able to support the extra weight. Like many items stored, water must be rotated to stay fresh. Water that is stored too long runs the risk of algae growth and excessive bacterial growth. During a disaster there are so many contaminants that enter the public water supply, it is better to have water stored that you know is potable than to second-guess what is in the water.

Water Storage for the Urban Dweller

Storage options for the city resident include:

Fill recycled bottles or other sturdy containers from the tap and store in closets, on shelves, and under sinks and beds

"WaterBrick International" products make water storage easy

"WaterBOBs" for the bathtubs

There are a lot of petrochemicals and heavy metals that end up in water sources during flooding, so we greatly encourage stored water at all times. For an urban prepper, water storage is of utmost importance because the ability to find and secure potable water during a disaster is limited. Store as much as you can. There are many approaches to storing water so choose at least one. I recommend Water Brick International products for apartment dwellers who are concerned about saving space. The stackable bricks are a great option for storing a lot of water yet not overcrowding the space — and can even be used as furniture! The bricks can be frozen and also placed in a refrigerator to help preserve perishable food when the power goes out. "WaterBOBs" are plastic containers designed to fit most bathtubs and are an inexpensive way to store extra potable water. This is a great way to store water temporarily, such as when you know a heavy storm is coming.

How much water should you store? This all depends on the duration of the disaster, how many people must be covered, and what level of energy you are expending. Our rule of thumb is to store 1 to 2 gallons of potable water per day per person for a three-month period of time. That is 1,260 gallons for our family of six people! That is a lot of water but can easily be handled with one polyethylene cistern.


Once you do the math, it's not hard to see that it will be difficult to store enough water for your family's needs for more than a few weeks. Seeking out water sources and methods of delivery to your shelter can provide peace of mind when you contemplate a disaster that would cause interruption of normal services for more than a week.

Finding Water Sources on Your Property

If you live in a suburban or rural area, you may be able to tap into an existing water source on your property. When I am at an on-site consultation, I often refer to my dad telling me "If you ever buy a property that does not have a good water source, I will disown you." Many times when walking a site looking for water sources, people believe they have a reliable source, but in many cases the source is seasonal runoff that is easily contaminated. When I am walking a piece of land, I am looking for the largest trees, and certain flora — holly, ferns, poplar — knowing that they are tapped into life-sustaining water. Think of towns with names such as "Holly Springs" and "Poplar Springs" — communities that were settled around areas of reliable, plentiful water sources.

Another method without any scientific evidence to back it up is water dousing. One of the games I used to play as a child was to try to find the buried ax head or metal object that my grandfather buried in the garden. Using coat hangers, a forked branch from a green ironwood or willow branch, or welding rods, we scanned the ground until either the forked branch dove toward the ground or the metal rods made an X and we started to dig. To prove we weren't cheating we were blindfolded. First one to find the ax head wins! I still use dousing to find buried water lines and power lines before I dig on my property, but it is not a method I would bet my life on when I am consulting at a client's location.

My big goal in this discussion on sources is for the individual to have control over their water during a disaster. You can hire a hydrogeologist, who can determine the best place on your property to locate a well. I did this to learn what they look for and why, so that when I consult with people on their water sources I can make sure I have covered every possible solution. Let's investigate the variety of water sources available and the concerns about the quality of these sources.


Wells are a great decentralized source of water and typically provide the safest long-term source of water for your shelter. There are many different types of wells. Generally they are drilled deep into bedrock or aquifers and are cased in steel or plastic to a depth ensuring protection from groundwater. Groundwater is the term generally describing water that has seeped from the surface into the soil. Groundwater can be easily contaminated with various chemicals, petroleum products, and other industrial runoff. Proper well construction and bentonite grout prevent this groundwater from reaching the well water.

Because well water is not treated, special care is needed when storing it for long periods of time. The good news is that water is continually replaced in the well so it stays fresh. All natural water sources, like well water, contain coliform bacteria. The presence of coliform bacteria can indicate the presence of more dangerous bacteria, such as E. coli. At Practical Preppers, we recommend testing well water annually. If you are storing water for long periods of time, consider treating with any method listed in the purification section.

Types of Wells



Commercially drilled



If you can afford it and it is allowed in your area, we recommend commercially drilled deep wells. These wells are the ones that reach deep into the aquifers and safer water supplies. Depending on where you live, the shallower hand-dug and bored wells can provide a wonderful source of water, but are susceptible to drought and ground-water contamination. Many states have discontinued shallow well construction techniques and settled on commercially drilled deep wells. A bored well is large in diameter — two to three feet — and is therefore a safety concern. Children and pets have fallen into these wells, whereas they cannot in a commercial well, where the diameter is two to eight inches. If you have one of these types of wells we do not recommend abandoning it, for it provides a great off-grid supply of water. You should fit it with a larger diameter casing, which will prevent accidents and allow you to use a variety of pumping solutions. Well drilling typically requires a license but there are a few places where drilling your own well is legal. In South Carolina, for instance, a well can be hand drilled by the home owner as long as it meets the Department of Health and Environmental Control's (DHEC) specifications. The home owner must get a permit from DHEC before installing the well. We have used WaterStep hand drills for our hand-dug wells. Check your local statutes before beginning construction of a well.


Springs are literally fountains of clean water bubbling up to the surface of the soil. These usually occur in hilly terrain where fractures in the bedrock under the soil act as channels for underground water to travel upward. Gravity-fed springwater has been used for thousands of years as a way to sustain life. Communities naturally developed around springs in the founding of this country — Colorado Springs is a prime example. Little to no work is required to get the water out of the ground. Springs were used prior to refrigeration for storing food.

Like wells, they can contain coliform bacteria and they are susceptible to contamination from runoff. One of my favorite parts of a client's evaluation is walking their property and locating these water sources. Over a period of time, springs sediment in. They get hidden and can go underground. With a shovel I can probe into the ground to find the source, the springhead. Many springs have been ruined by bringing in heavy equipment because the water will take the path of least resistance. I want to give the water a path that is easily collected, filtered, and delivered to the end user.

Spring development has taken many forms over the years. Historically, spring development was done with one large springhouse built over the springhead. A springhead is the site where water flows to the ground surface. The springhouse is built over the springhead to keep animals and insects out. However, it can be hard to keep the springhead free of contamination and infiltration. We have found that capturing the spring with the smallest footprint at the springhead and providing for runoff protection greatly improves water quality. This water is then delivered to a smaller spring box that is easily maintained. From the spring box the water can be either pumped to higher elevations or delivered by gravity to a cistern and then to your shelter. If you are fortunate enough to have a naturally occurring spring on your property, we highly recommend you develop it. I have pumped water from my spring for seventeen years and it has supplied all our watering needs when it comes to gardening, raising livestock, and firefighting.


Rainwater is a significant and often overlooked source of water. A simple system of gutters and first-flush diverters on a roofline can collect large amounts of water, and cisterns placed below can store it until needed. There are many water-impoverished countries where this is a common solution for water needs. The American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association is a great resource for DIYers. Americans do need to be aware of local laws, as this type of collection is not legal in certain parts of the United States.

Utilizing rainwater as a water source introduces contaminants not found in other water sources. Bird and bat fecal material, tree debris, industrial fallout, and building material contamination are among the common health concerns. Typical rainwater storage systems range from 55-gallon drums placed aboveground in series, to large underground concrete cisterns.

Open Sources

Open sources of water include lakes, ponds, and streams. This group requires filtration and/or chemical treatment as these are "living" sources, where wildlife congregate and derive their water. Humans are not generally able to tolerate the vast amount of bacteria, cysts, and viruses that are present in open-water sources. Waterborne diseases such as cholera, shigella, campylobacter, and giardia are just a few types of bacteria often present in open-water sources. Waterborne diseases are responsible for 3.4 million deaths each year. A total of 780 million people lack access to clean water around the world. The term water poverty describes the multitudes of people who, although surrounded by water, have nothing clean to drink. For these individuals, a large part of their lives is spent in securing biomass to burn to boil water.


Excerpted from The Practical Preppers Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness by Scott Hunt. Copyright © 2014 Practical Preppers LLC. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Water
Chapter 2: Food
Chapter 3: Shelter
Chapter 4: Power
Chapter 5: Medical
Chapter 6: Bug Out Plan
Chapter 7: Security
Chapter 8: Preparing and Your Community
Appendix: Preparedness Checklist and the Prepper Report Card

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