How to Prepare for a Flood: Emergency Flood Checklist

A flood is among the most universal of natural disasters: It can happen just about anywhere. That includes parched desert country, where canyons and washes are highly vulnerable to flash floods. And that includes urban areas, too, where heavy rainfall over a paved-over cityscape often generates violent runoff and overspilling channelized streams, and where storm drains may back up from clogged debris or simply the magnitude of precipitation.

Whether a seasonal floodplain overflow or a catastrophic 500-year inundation, floods can kill and sicken, rack up billions of dollars in property and infrastructure damage, and impede transportation and services for days and weeks on end. (The National Weather Service tallies some pretty sobering yearly flood statistics.)

Here’s how to ready yourself for high water in your neck of the woods!

Waterlogged Primer: The Nature of Floods

Floods come in all shapes, sizes, and timetables. They might impact a single waterfront neighborhood or swamp entire towns or regions. Hydrologists distinguish between slow-onset floods, which may slowly build from multiday rainfall and persist for weeks or months, and rapid-onset floods, “flashier” affairs that rise and fall more quickly.

Streams and rivers may leap their banks due to heavy and/or prolonged precipitation; they may also flood from spring snowmelt. Some parts of the country often see inundations from ice jams. (For instance, the Red River of the North, which flows, rather unusually, poleward from Minnesota and North Dakota to Lake Winnipeg, is notorious for regular flooding not only due to its pancake-flat basin, but also because its southern watershed often melts out earlier than the northern portion, where lingering ice can dam the river’s swollen springtime waters.)

Ferocious as the winds of hurricanes and tropical storms most definitely are, the most lethal effects of these tempests tend to be flood-related: from storm surges—where cyclone winds pile up ocean water inshore—and inland deluges caused by torrential rains. Storm surge can also coincide with high tide to result in a so-called “storm tide,” which may pummel coastal areas with waters better than 20 feet above the normal tidal reach.

Floods, of course, can also stem from the failure of artificial infrastructure: breached dams or levees, for instance, or burst pipes.

Flood Risks

Sound flood preparation means understanding just how dangerous high water can be. Overland floodwaters are deceptively powerful: A mere six inches can knock you clear off your feet, and only a foot or two can sweep a car away. (Cars can also stall out in surprisingly shallow water, leaving occupants vulnerably stranded.) Overflow may also be contaminated, and there’s also the risk of electrocution. In short, whether you encounter them while evacuating by foot or vehicle or inside your home, avoid entering floodwaters if at all possible.

Besides drowning, electrocution, waterborne illness, and other directly life-threatening effects, flood impacts can also include damaged or destroyed property, blocked transportation corridors, interrupted power, and polluted municipal water supplies.

Flood Preparation for Your Home

If you live in the U.S., you can assess the vulnerability of your home to flooding by looking up your address via the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Flood Map Service Center. The agency generates Flood Insurance Rate Maps (aka FIRMs)that portray high-risk, moderate- to low-risk, and undetermined-risk flood hazard areas. Federal law requires many home- and businessowners in high-risk areas to obtain flood insurance. It’s not required in moderate- to low-risk areas, but damaging flooding can still occur in these zones: According to FEMA, they account for a third of flood-related federal disaster assistance and better than 20 percent of National Flood Insurance Program claims.

If you live in a place prone to flooding, it’s smart to take measures to protect your house, such as:

  • waterproofing your basement;
  • installing a backup battery-powered sump pump;
  • elevating electrical systems and appliances such as furnaces at least 12 inches above the projected flood level; and
  • securing fuel tanks.

Putting Together a Flood File

As part of your flood checklist, FEMA recommends maintaining a “personal flood file,” a collection of essential documents kept in a waterproof container. Said file should include copies of your insurance information and a detailed inventory of major possessions, including serial numbers and receipts for appliances.

Flood Checklist: Emergency Kit

You may need to evacuate in the face of a flood and be unable to return home for an extended period of time, and goods and services may well be disrupted during and after the inundation. This means it’s vital you have an emergency readiness kit already assembled before a deluge comes knocking at the door. This should include water and non-perishable food provisions (such as Mountain House Just In Case…® supplies) for at least three days and preferably a week-plus.

Your flood preparedness/flood evacuation kit(s) should also include first-aid, any necessary prescriptions and toiletries, insulated clothing (including raingear), sleeping bags and/or blankets, flashlights (and backup batteries), a charged cellphone, spending cash and credit cards, and other essentials. A battery-operated or hand-crank NOAA Weather Radio is also a valuable tool to have on hand, as it allows you to closely monitor real-time flood conditions.(Check out this FEMA factsheet for a full flood checklist.)

Developing a Flood Action Plan

Evacuating ahead of or during a flood is much easier when you have some sense of where you’re going. This means developing a flood action plan that everyone in your household’s well versed in. Identify evacuation routes to high ground in your neighborhood as well as around workplaces and schools. In the event of a large or long-lasting flood, you may need to take refuge out of the region, so make a list of friends or relatives you might be able to stay with. Make sure everyone’s phone has emergency numbers programmed in, and identify a family member out of the region to serve as an emergency point of contact.

Practice makes perfect, right? “Dry runs” (if you’ll pardon the pun) put the finishing touches on any flood evacuation plan. Carry out periodic simulated flood drills with your family so everyone’s familiar with the step-by-step. Besides instilling confidence, these exercises can help you identify and fix any potential hiccups in your plan.

Flood Forecasts & Evacuation Orders

Pay attention to those meteorologists: The National Weather Service issues a “Flood Watch” (or “Flash Flood Watch”) when conditions are ripe for flooding; a “Flood Warning” (or “Flash Flood Warning”) means a flood’s underway or soon to occur. It’s also a good idea to keep tabs on alerts from the NWS River Forecast Centers, which monitors current and predicted river levels.

It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway): Take any evacuation orders issued by local or state officials seriously. The sooner you can seek safe high ground ahead of a flood, the better: Traffic’s liable to be heavy on major evacuation routes.

Imminent Flood Preparation

Besides the general measures we outlined above, you may need to implement some last-minute prep if a flood watch or warning has been issued. (But remember, again: Evacuation is the most important course of action in many cases, and you should absolutely abide by any evacuation orders issued by local or regional officials.) Move important documents, rugs, furniture, and other possessions to higher floors of your house. If directed to do so, you may also end up shutting off utilities and/or water to your house. Clear your gutters and downspouts of twigs and other debris in anticipation of downpours.

Don’t let floodwaters catch you off-guard: Prepare a flood checklist, assemble an emergency kit, come up with (and practice) an evacuation plan, and stay abreast of weather/hydrographic forecasts and any emergency declarations. You can learn more about flood prep and response over at Ready.gov.

Here’s to staying dry—and safe!

How to Prepare for a Wildfire

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In 2015 (according to the National Interagency Fire Center), nearly 70,000 wildfires raged in the United States, scorching more than 10 million acres and racking up better than $2 billion in federal suppression costs. A wildfire may spark in the middle of huge wilderness from the lick of a lightning bolt; at a front-country campsite from a careless campfire; or within city limits when the spark from a car or a tossed-away cigarette alights the brush and weeds of an untended lot or roadside hedge.

Wildfires can be terrifying and life-threatening. They don’t need to be terribly large to become essentially uncontrollable, and many of the biggest yearly blazes only die down with the help of Mother Nature in the form of sustained rainfall or snow—though wildland firefighters across multiple agencies do an amazing job protecting lives and property. Here are some tips on wildfire preparedness any homeowner would do well to take to heart.

The Risk

Wildfires are on the increase in the U.S., as they are in many parts of the world. The reasons aren’t cut-and-dried, although global warming is almost assuredly playing a role by, for instance, enhancing drought and proliferating tree-killing pests and diseases. And the historical American policy of essentially blanket wildfire-suppression has also made many landscapes—evolved over millennia under the influence of occasional scorching—more vulnerable to bigger burns: woodlands, savannas, shrublands, and grasslands once regularly flushed by low-intensity wildfires have in many cases become overgrown with trees or brush, making a much larger fire more likely.

Keep in mind that, while we often colloquially refer to “forest fires,” wildfires can and do occur in non-forested habitats. Brushfires and grassfires can be swift and ferocious, threatening structures far removed from the nearest timber. Furthermore, wildfires may break out in rural and even urban settings.

The Wildland-Urban Interface

Among the people most vulnerable to wildfires are those who inhabit what’s called the wildland-urban interface. This describes the overlap zone between developed, human-dominated areas and wilder, undeveloped country. Millions live in these threshold landscapes, not least because they directly appeal to many homeowners eager to reside on the edge of countryside or wilderness.

These homes are often located in fire-vulnerable settings such as canyons, shrubby or forested foothills, and enclosed woodland. If this describes your HQ, it’s incumbent to make your home and property as fire-resistant as possible—and to develop an emergency plan of action in case a blaze breaks out in or advances into your vicinity.

A Fire-wise Home

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) oversees an initiative called the Firewise Communities Program aimed at educating homeowners about steps they can take to make their households safer from wildfires. The Firewise website is an absolute must. We strongly urge you to take advantage of the many resources it provides.

The first step in converting your domicile into a Firewise one is assessing your so-called “home ignition zone”: the area 100 to 200 feet around (and including) your home that may cause it to catch flame via embers, brands, or simply radiant heat. That home ignition zone is your defensible space, and you want to make it a buffer less likely to fuel and/or carry a fire.

It’s a good idea to begin your Firewise effort with your home itself: the most important part of your property, after all. Keep your roof and gutters clean, as accumulated leaves, twigs, and other debris can combust from a mere ember. You also want to make sure to fix or replace any busted or missing tiles or shingles, as the gaps they create can allow embers to enter your house. Vents can serve as similar entryways for flaming material, so consider guarding them with wire mesh.

Decks and patios can be significant avenues for fire. Remove material from underneath and alongside them, and blockade the crevices beneath with mesh or some other material so debris doesn’t build up.

The NFPA recommends keeping a “fire-free” radius within five feet of your house. Eyeball the exterior walls of your home, and you’re more likely than not to see something combustible leaned or stored against them: woodpiles, lumber, compost bags, brooms, etc. And that’s not even including plantings. Remove flammable items and consider replacing vegetation or mulch with hardscaping: gravel, pavement, and the like.

Beyond the immediate radius of your house, consider planting trees, shrubs, and herbs that are less likely to violently combust in a fire. The Firewise website has links to state/region-specific references on fire-resistant landscaping. Space out trees and shrubbery: For instance, within 30 to 100 feet of your home individual trees should be separated by 20 feet and tree clusters by 30 feet. And you want to prune your property’s trees so they’re free of branches six to 10 feet from the ground. Such low-hanging boughs are what firefighters and foresters call “ladder fuels” for their propensity to carry a ground-hugging flame into the canopy.

Fire Emergency Plan

Just as critical as Firewise home maintenance and landscaping is developing a sound fire emergency plan for your household. This should include assembling the sort of emergency kit we’ve discussed here at the blog before—including an adequate supply of non-perishable provisions such as Mountain House meals!

In the case of a fire, you may well be forced to evacuate with little advance notice, so you’ll want an emergency kit designed as a “go bag” that can quickly be grabbed on the way out the door. In addition to food, water, first-aid, and other survival essentials, it should include backups of any prescription medications as well as copies of critical documents.

You’ll also want an emergency kit stowed in your vehicle in case you need to evacuate by car, or you’re blocked from returning home by a wildfire.

Your wildfire evacuation plan should specify at least two and ideally more escape routes from your home and neighborhood, in case an oncoming inferno blocks one or more exit points.

Everyone in your household should be familiar with the fire preparedness plan, and it should include evacuation and other emergency-protocol details for workplaces, schools, and anywhere else family members spend time. Program emergency numbers into everyone’s cell phones.

You also want to refresh yourself as to your homeowner’s insurance policy and inventory your home’s content ahead of any potential wildfire.

You can be the most diligent Firewise homeowner out there, but your wildfire preparedness may end up being for naught if your neighbors aren’t as responsible. Educating your neighborhood about fire-resistant landscaping and home preparation is an excellent first step in coordinating communal safety efforts. You’ll all be more secure and better-prepared if the entire neighborhood keeps tabs on the local risks of fire. That also means making sure street signs are clearly visible (for emergency responders), and having a sense of who’s most vulnerable in your community—for example, the elderly or infirm.

Ahead of an Approaching Wildfire

The most important instruction if a wildfire’s in your area is to heed any and all evacuation orders. If such haven’t been issued, take other anticipatory steps: Besides doing another once- or twice-over of your defensible space to get rid of or more safely away from any combustible material, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends attaching garden hoses of suitable length to reach all parts of your home and filling tubs, bins, garbage pails, and other receptacles with water.

Keeping Tabs on Weather

In the U.S., you can stay abreast of potentially dangerous fire conditions by keeping tabs on any National Weather Service (NWS) alerts. When particularly hot, dry, stormy, and/or windy weather is forecast, the NWS may issue a “Fire Weather Watch,” a “Fire Weather Warning,” or a “Red Flag Warning.” (You might consider purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards receiver for your wildfire emergency kit so you receive up-to-the-minute notifications of fire weather.)

Wildfire is nothing to play around with. Check out helpful wildfire-preparation resources such as FEMA and Firewise, and prepare—and practice—a fire emergency plan for your household!

How to Build an Emergency Shelter In Your Home

You’ve probably seen the pictures, even if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid the experience yourself: sturdy homes reduced to jagged rubble by a monster tornado or hurricane. It’s a stark and shocking illustration of the power these violent storms wield—and the threat they represent.

If you live in an area prone to such atmospheric disturbances, one option for protecting yourself is installing a safe room: a reinforced, firmly anchored shelter that can shield you from hammering winds and projectile debris. Here we’ll take a look at some of the basics of building such a structure and briefly consider other kinds of at-home emergency shelters.

The Safe Room

Under the guidelines of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a safe room is meant to deliver “near-absolute protection in extreme weather events.” Such a room needs to be independent of any surrounding or connected building structure (in the case of an interior or adjacent safe room). FEMA’s standards call for safe rooms to resist winds of 250 miles per hour: an “extreme weather event,” to say the least. (Most of the information in this blogpost comes from FEMA Publication P-320, “Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business.”)

A home constructed solely to local building codes is still definitely vulnerable to the devastation of a major windstorm. A Category 4 or 5 hurricane boasts winds in excess of 150 miles per hour; the most powerful tornadoes, classed as EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, may whirl away at better than 300 miles per hour. Single gusts in less intense storms can still pack a heck of a punch.

High winds aren’t just pummeling a building from the outside: They can also smash out roofs and walls by streaming in via windows, doors, or any other openings, and lift a structure right off its foundation. And that’s not even considering the ballistic impacts of windborne debris: tree branches, 2X4s, sheet metal—all manner of everyday objects turn into missiles during these sorts of maelstroms.

A properly designed safe room, accessed via a single stormproof door, resists such forces with its reinforced roof, walls, and foundation, to which it’s firmly anchored. Besides being resilient to wind loading and windborne wreckage, safe rooms also are meant to withstand the collapse of a surrounding building.

Should you invest in a safe room? If you live in the U.S., you can gauge your home’s vulnerability to damaging winds by checking out Figure 2-7 in “Taking Shelter from the Storm,” which divides the country into four wind zones and also identifies hurricane-prone regions.

A Word on Terminology

We’re mostly focused here on FEMA-defined safe rooms. The International Code Council (ICC) established a set of standards for “storm shelters,” ICC 500, in collaboration with FEMA and the National Storm Shelter Association. FEMA’s safe rooms meet the minimum ICC 500 guidelines while incorporating additional protective design elements. In other words, a FEMA safe room meets or exceeds the ICC’s storm-shelter standards.

And it probably goes without saying that a term like “storm shelter” is pretty loosely bandied about in books and websites, so don’t assume the structure in question actually meets FEMA or ICC standards. The same goes for so-called “storm doors”: Many of these don’t meet the benchmarks of a tested tornado safe-room door (which you can learn more about in this FEMA factsheet).

You’ll also see “safe room” used synonymously with “panic room” to refer to a location secured against home invaders. That’s a different aim, of course, than a FEMA-style stormproof safe room, and it’s beyond our purview here.

Long story short: It’s absolutely critical to understand terminology and standards when it comes to safe rooms or any other survival shelter. You’re relying on this installation to keep you safe and sound during a life-threatening event at home: Skimping is not a good idea.

Construction Considerations

It’s pretty much always easier to install a safe room in a home under construction than in an existing one. For example, as FEMA notes, it’s relatively straightforward to incorporate a safe room into the layout of a home being built of concrete block by adding steel reinforcing bars and grout to the exterior walls and then using reinforced concrete-block interior walls and a concrete roof deck to wall off the shelter itself.

It’s certainly possible to retrofit your home for a safe room, but the process is more involved. For example, you may need to cut out a portion of your slab foundation to install one of the proper thickness and reinforcement to support a safe room.

With an eye toward minimizing household disruption, logistical headaches, and (most of all) costs, often the best bet for an existing house is to go with an exterior safe room rather than monkeying around with retrofitting.

Besides having a custom-built safe room added to an existing or under-construction home, you can also opt for a prefabricated unit. These are increasingly available as both interior and exterior safe rooms, often made from steel or precast concrete. Prefab safe rooms tend to be less expensive than custom-built ones. Keep in mind, though, that unless an existing foundation can adequately bear and anchor the safe room, you’ll still have to thicken and/or reinforce the slab. (It’s a good idea to have the prefab safe room and the foundation professionally inspected to make sure the setup will actually do the trick.)

Realistically, the construction and installation of most safe rooms—particularly those made from reinforced concrete block, solid steel, or fiberglass—should be left to professional builders. That said, you can find resources for building your own, such as this Family Handyman version of plywood and steel.

Other Considerations

One common complication for safe-room installation in those low-lying coastal areas vulnerable to hurricanes is the risk of flooding. A below-ground safe room isn’t appropriate, for obvious reasons, in a place prone to storm-surge inundations. FEMA has special criteria for safe rooms in Special Flood Hazard Areas; check out P-320 for more info. (If you’re in the U.S., you can use the FEMA Flood Map Service Center to investigate your area’s flooding potential.)

If you live in a region with significant seismic risk, you’ll want to take into account the additional reinforcing standards necessary to protect your safe room not only against wind and debris, but also earthquake damage.

Also, you may want to incorporate certain comfort and convenience amenities—electrical outlets or ceiling fans, for example—into your safe room. Some of these features may make more sense if you’re in a zone vulnerable to hurricanes, as these large, long-lived storms may require holing up in a safe room for a more extensive period than a tornado or severe thunderstorm.

Siting a Safe Room

One basic decision to make when installing a safe room is whether to place it inside or outside your home. As we mentioned above, the design of your existing house and the realities of your bank account may well make an exterior safe room the better option. Keep in mind, though, that reaching such a safe room will expose you to the weather: Particularly in the event of a tornado, you may not have very much time to seek shelter, so you want it close enough to be swiftly reached. One option is to build a safe room that shares a (reinforced) wall with your house and is accessed via a properly bolstered safe-room door in that wall.

Inside, some common locations for safe rooms include bathrooms, basements, closets, and storage areas. As FEMA points out, a typical bathroom may recommend itself above other options because it has the crucial elements of a toilet and a water supply, and also because it may well be inherently less cluttered than other rooms—making it easier to access and safer to hole up in during a storm.

Safe Room Size

The size of your safe room depends on a variety of factors, not least how many occupants will need to use it and—as we touched upon above—the type of windstorm you’re safeguarding yourself against. Exceptionally violent as it is, a tornado is a short-lived phenomenon: You likely won’t be sheltering long from one, so your safe room doesn’t need to be particularly roomy. A hurricane, by contrast, may require hunkering down awhile. Therefore, FEMA advises that a tornado-focused safe room in a one- or two-family home accommodate at minimum three square feet per person; a hurricane-focused safe room in the same house, by contrast, should have seven to 10 square feet per person.

Cost to Build Underground Bunker/Safe Room

As we mentioned above, it’s typically cheaper to install a safe room during the construction of a new home rather than retrofit an existing home. Furthermore, a prefab safe room’s usually less expensive than a custom-built one: You can buy a turnkey unit of 10 square feet for as little as a few thousand dollars (though remember you’ll often still need to reinforce the foundation).

You may be able to obtain some funding assistance for the installation of a safe room via various FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance grants. You can find out whether your project’s eligible by contacting your State Hazard Mitigation Officer.

Other Kinds of Shelters

If you live in an area vulnerable to tornadoes, hurricanes, and other significant windstorms, a FEMA-standard safe room provides the most assurance. Maybe, though, you’re looking for a cheaper, less rigorous option, or a shelter that’s not necessarily extreme-stormproof.

If you’re curious about how to build an underground shelter, there are many resources both on- and offline. Many DIYers opt to construct a semi-buried shelter to lessen the excavation work involved—say, by using bermed-over earthbags or poles. Don’t forget to check your local building codes before tackling the project. Also, any such bunker should be equipped with two entries so you can bail in the event of a fire.

Though a basic version is simpler to construct than a safe room, the disclaimer we made early on in this article should be heeded again: You want to be absolutely certain of your bunker’s structural integrity, as a shoddily designed and poorly sited one may flood or collapse—even without the stresses of a natural disaster. It goes without saying an underground bunker needs to not only be adequately bolstered against the forcing of surrounding and overlying soil, but also well ventilated.

Outfitting Your Safe Room or Bunker

You’ll want to have an emergency kit inside your safe room for meeting your basic needs while hunkering down. You can learn more about assembling such a kit by reading another of our recent blogposts, “How to be an Urban Prepper.” Needless to say, Mountain House Just In Case…® products are ideal for covering your bases food-wise—remember, we’ve got the longest shelf life in the industry!

You’ll also want the means to force open the shelter’s door if necessary, in case it’s blocked by debris.

Depending on your situation, building a safe room or emergency bunker may be a practical choice for safeguarding your household in the event of a storm or other disaster. And stock up on tasty (and long-lasting) Mountain House meals for your shelter’s provisions!

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Basic Emergency Food Storage Principles

From an evening power outage to the weeks of turmoil following a major natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake, the world has a habit of occasionally playing havoc with our daily routine. From the inconvenient to the catastrophic, it’s always a smart idea to have an emergency food storage at the ready in case the unexpected does befall you. And anchoring those supplies must be an adequate reserve of food and water—the absolute fundamentals.

Fortunately, Mountain House makes stocking emergency rations easy. Our meals boast the longest proven shelf life on the market—and, best of all, they taste absolutely delicious! Survival fare, as it turns out, can be both nutritious and lip-smacking—at least when it comes from a company with a half-century reputation as a leader in the freeze-dried food industry. (It’s no surprise many of our customers reach for Mountain House cans and pouches for everyday at-home dinners, not just for camping trips or survival stockpiles. From the kitchen to the backwoods, from routine evenings to disaster zones, Mountain House always delivers!)

Let’s run down some of the best long-term food-storage tips so you’re ready to hunker down when the next contingency comes knocking at the door.

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How Much to Store

A recent blogpost of ours spelled out the calculations you’ll want to consider when deciding how much emergency food you should be stockpiling. Factors include the size of your family, the caloric requirements of each individual, and any special dietary needs.

The general rule of thumb when it comes to disaster preparedness is to have what you need to get by for at least 72 hours, but, naturally, larger supplies give you more security in the event things take much longer to get back to normal.

Our Mountain House Just In Case…® emergency food supply kits come partitioned in two-, three-, four-, five-, and 14-day amounts, which makes assembling reserves a breeze. You can use our handy-dandy Emergency Food Supply Calculator (available on our Emergency Preparedness page) to estimate how many of what size kits to purchase for different intervals and numbers of people.

Don’t Forget Cooking Water

When estimating how much water to include in your emergency supplies, be sure to factor in what you’ll need for cooking (including for those Mountain House delicacies!). And remember: Besides stockpiling bottled water, it’s a good idea to equip yourself with the means to purify water in case you need to rely on questionable sources.

Emergency Food Storage Containers

A supply of emergency rations doesn’t do much good if it’s improperly stored. Here’s another of the many pluses of Mountain House: Between our waterproof pouches, vacuum-sealed Pro-Paks®, airtight and sturdy #10 cans, buckets, and kits, our containers are ideal for maintaining an emergency food supply for the long term.

Place other ingredients such as rice, cereal, sugar, spices, and the like in resealable containers (a screw-top jar, for instance) to preserve freshness and keep out insects, rodents, and other pests. Wrap perishable nibbles such as crackers in plastic bags and keep those in a resealable container, too.

Label all your containers with the date you restocked the supply so you’ve got a yardstick for gauging your food’s level of freshness.

Where to Store Long-Term Emergency Rations

You want to make sure any long-term food supplies stay sheltered from moisture, high temperatures, and direct sunlight. Cool, dry, dark—that’s the best sort of setting for your emergency rations.

Figuring Out What To Use When

Let’s say your power goes out for an extended period. How should you prioritize your rations?

Eat what’s most vulnerable to spoilage first, namely those perishables in your refrigerator and on the pantry shelves. As the USDA notes, an unopened fridge can maintain foods such as eggs and meat at a safely frosty temperature (at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) for four hours or so. Freezer items should be next on your list: A properly insulated and completely full freezer that isn’t opened can keep items safe for some two days (less if it’s only partly full). As long as a food item still contains ice crystals, it normally should be OK to eat—and it can be refrozen.

Try to minimize opening the fridge and freezer doors to preserve as much of their cold as you can. A good strategy is to keep a regularly updated list of stored items taped to your freezer so you know what’s in there and where: That cuts down on costly rummaging time. If electricity’s not looking to come back on board for some time, the USDA recommends sticking block or dry ice inside the refrigerator.

Once you’ve worked through your perishables, move on to those items with longer shelf lives. A simple and effective way to arrange non-perishables by their expiration date (whether indicated by a “use-by” label on a package or the date you filled a container) is to keep older items in front, newer ones in back. That way you’re reaching first for the foods that need to be eaten soonest.

Mountain House meals don’t have any competitors in the emergency-food department in terms of shelf life—not with our 30 Year Taste Guarantee! A manufacture or ‘Best Used By” date of a given product can be found on its packaging. Refer to the information on our website to determine the specific shelf life.

Keeping Tabs on Your Stockpile

Periodically inspect your food stores to make sure they’re in good condition. Discard expired items, containers that have been punctured, swollen or rusted cans, and any foods that smell or look spoiled. Don’t take risks with foodborne illnesses.

Assessing Flood Damage

If floodwaters breach your emergency food supply, you should get rid of any items that might have come into contact with them. As the USDA explains, you can still use all-metal cans and retort pouches if they weren’t damaged or otherwise compromised by floodwaters: You should take off their labels (which can foster microbes), wash the cans or pouches with soap and water, rinse them with potable water, and then sanitize them using either boiling water or a bleach solution.

Whether you’re outfitting a 72-hour bag or a bomb shelter—or you’re just looking to spice up your pantry options—turn to Mountain House, your go-to source for the highest-quality, best-tasting, and longest-lasting freeze-dried food around!

How To Be An Urban Prepper

In the developed world of the 21st century, it can be all too easy to forget how quickly the comforts and systems we’re used to can go out the window: All it takes is a bad storm or a major power outage. You may be well-versed in the 1,2,3’s of wilderness survival, but the idea of having to apply some similar tools and techniques as an urban prepper may be a new one.

In this article, we’ll explore the concept of urban survival and what it takes to be an urban prepper.

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Urban Survival

There are plenty of scenarios that might disrupt the normal and predictable routines of everyday city life. While our imaginations might gravitate toward visions of disease outbreaks and terrorist attacks—or the odd zombie apocalypse—extreme weather events are a more likely situation. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, severe thunderstorms, blizzards: The atmosphere can wreak real mayhem, and in the wake of one of its outbursts you may find yourself stranded in a devastated neighborhood, marooned by floodwaters, or simply contending with a widespread, long-lasting power outage or a contaminated public water supply.

Similar calamities can also occur via earthquake, tsunami, wildfire, and any number of other natural disasters. Because many such natural disasters are difficult to predict, and because one kind or another can strike just about anywhere, preparing in advance is the first step in reducing your vulnerability.

You might have only a few days’ advance warning about a hurricane making landfall, and if you wait until then to stockpile provisions you might be facing long lines at the grocery store and gas stations—not to mention picked-over shelves.

In this hyper-connected day and age, abrupt emergencies might also arise from a cyberattack (or, less dramatically, a system malfunction) that disrupts, for instance, a region’s transportation or power grid.

The Urban Prepper

A person might decide to become an urban prepper for any number of reasons, and there’s no question some have more dire outlooks than others. But being prepared for the unexpected—wherever you live—is sound, rational, and potentially lifesaving.

Imagine an unforeseen catastrophe occurs: a tornado detours through your subdivision, an unexpected shift in winds means you need to quickly evacuate ahead of a blaze. In such situations, you may not have the time or the ability to assemble what you need to stay safe and comfortable for some unknown length of time—however long it takes for things to get back to “normal.” And you shouldn’t assume rescue workers will quickly come knocking at your door (or tracking down your stranded vehicle): Depending on the circumstances, they may have their hands full, and transportation corridors may be blocked.

Self-reliance and forethought are called for. If you’ve readied yourself for a disaster—even if, of course, you didn’t know what form it might take—you’ll hopefully have emergency supplies at hand and a preplanned emergency protocol to follow.

You may never have to use the urban survival gear you acquire or the urban survival skills you cultivate—hopefully you won’t! But urban prepping gives you the peace-of-mind of knowing you’ve got a game plan—and some practical tools—if disaster does strike.

The Basics

A basic emergency kit, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency notes, should provide the supplies you need to get by for at least 72 hours, and ideally longer.

We’re talking at least a three-day share of non-perishable food and water (a gallon per person per day), with larger reserves all the better. Here at Mountain House, we offer a selection of kits and buckets, including our three-, five-, and 14-day “Just in Case” emergency food supplies ideal for an emergency kit. (Don’t forget: Our products have the industry’s longest shelf life, which is backed by our 30 year Taste Guarantee!)

You’ll also want items such as a first-aid kit, a battery-operated or (better yet) hand-crank radio, multiple flashlights, backup batteries, a cell phone with a charging system (or two), a whistle, and materials such as plastic sheeting for making an emergency shelter.

It’s also a good idea to include blankets and warm clothing, copies of critical documents, some cash money or traveler’s checks, and household chlorine bleach (which can be used to disinfect both wounds and water). If you use prescription medication or you wear glasses or contact lenses, keep backups of these in your emergency kit as well.

And don’t forget Fido and Whiskers! If you have pets, they need their own emergency kits, too (including their own stockpiles of water).

Urban Survival Training: Practice Makes Perfect

It’s one thing to have assembled the urban survival equipment necessary for a comprehensive emergency kit. But that’s not all that urban survival demands: You also want to define a plan of action, and make sure that everyone in your household’s familiar with it.

This means mapping out an evacuation route in your house, ensuring everyone knows how (and when) to shut off utilities, and practicing putting these kinds of measures to use through emergency drills. Occasionally running the family through a simulated disaster response might seem like overkill, but if an actual disaster occurs, you’ll be thankful for the game plan you established—and that were able to refine through trial-and-error—in calmer moments.

The same idea applies to workplaces, schools, and anywhere else you or a family member spends a lot of time: Familiarize yourself with that location’s particular emergency-response protocol, and make sure everybody in the family has the contact info for every pertinent location.

Bug-Out & Get-Home Bags

There’s plenty of lingo connected to modern-day urban prepping, and some of it refers to variations on the standard emergency kit. You may have heard about “bug-out bags,” for instance, also known as “72-hour bags” among several other monikers. Bug-out bags are meant to include items to sustain you while you evacuate from a disaster zone to a safe retreat (a “bug-out location”). Given such havens might be in the backcountry, bug-out bags typically include many of the same items an experienced wilderness traveler carries, such as fire-starting and water-purifying materials, in addition to tools for “living off the land,” such as fishhooks. (Some Mountain House freeze-dried meals would come in handy, too!)

And then there’s the urban “get-home bag,” a survival kit specifically designed to help you return home if an emergency or disaster catches you away—say, at work. Many people, after all, spend most of their waking hours on the road, at an office, or in a classroom. A get-home bag’ll typically be smaller and lighter than a bug-out bag—weight’s at a premium, after all, when you’re trying to get yourself home as quickly as you can—and might include items such as tennis shoes (for comfortably walking or running blocks or miles of city streets, not to mention hopping fences and other obstacles) and a detailed city map. Once home, you might determine you’re secure enough to hunker down there (what some call a “bug-in” scenario); or, if conditions are dicey, you might reach for that bug-out bag of yours and light for safer territory.

Both kinds of survival kits are meant to be catered to your personal situation. A bug-out bag will look differently depending on the sort of place you live: The tools and supplies for bugging-out in a swamp forest, for instance, won’t be exactly the same as those a desert dweller would depend upon. And a get-home bag will reflect the specifics of your workplace (or wherever you spend most of your time outside the house), including—naturally—how far from home it is.

Building Confidence

It’s all too easy to go overboard when it comes to urban prepping, both in terms of scaring yourself silly with apocalyptic visions and in terms of amassing too much equipment (or impractical stuff for downright outlandish scenarios). But remember: Readying yourself for emergencies of even the most mundane sort is actually an exercise in building confidence, in feeling calmer and more secure in your day-to-day life. Life’s unpredictable, but some simple preparations and straightforward provisioning can go a long way to helping you sleep a bit more soundly!

Clean Water is Critical. Introducing Survivor Filter.

There are some times that call for taking risks. Safe drinking water should never be one of them. And whether you’re out in the woods on a backcountry trek, building a preparedness kit for your car, or loading up a bug out bag with the essentials, a reliable water filter is a must-have.

Our friends at Survivor Filter® have become especially known for their unbeatable filtration abilities, backed up by their Independent North American Lab Test Results, as well extensive field usage by users in every continent. Today Survivor Filter® has grown into one of the most trusted names in Portable Water Filtration in the USA.

We recently took the Survivor Filter® and the PRO-LE into the woods on a backcountry excursion to do some field testing of our own. The original Survivor Filter® is used like a straw, submerge it directly into the water source and drink up, or, attach it to a plastic water bottle or one of their Collapsible Canteens. A shallow (and fairly murky stream) turned into clear and delicious drinking water thanks to the 3-part filtration system of the Survivor Filter®. (You can geek out on the details here.)

Survivor Filter

The Survivor Filter PRO-LE is a lightweight, compact, and easy-to use pump. Just submerge the pre-filter end into your water source, clip the outflow/external filter to the provided cup or reusable water bottle, and pump. When done, wrap it up in the convenient carry case.

Survivor Filter PRO-LE

Survivor Filter® was founded on the realization that water scarcity is the largest security threat influencing conflict and development throughout the world. The company was born to address the global water scarcity crisis by giving people the tools they needed to access Clean Water anywhere on the planet.

Mountain House 72-Hour Kit Checklist

Mountain House food

Mountain House food will taste fresh for 25+ years in cans or 10+ years in pouches and kits.

72-Hour Kit Checklist

No one likes thinking about emergencies. Not only do they make us feel apprehensive, but most people’s lives are so busy that we never “get around” to putting together even a 72-hour kit. Some people don’t even know where to start. As part of National Emergency Preparedness Month, we’ve put together a list of things everyone should have at home as part of their 72-hour, earthquake or storm kit.

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