Brushfires, nearby chemical cloud, or worse, you’re going to need a means for breathable air. Masks and chem suits are a short-term expedient, like space suits. They provide mobility, and short-term protection. But you’ll have to have a sealed life-support “capsule” sort of safe room/area, with, at minimum, a place for sanitation, food prep, sleeping, and a minimal leisure area. Best choice is to simply set up these areas now to operate under such restrictions, make them sealable for several days, and provide yourself with suitable chemical filtration. Essentially, you’re talking about lots of plastic sheeting and duct tape over every opening in, under, over, and through the outside roof, walls, crawl spaces, etc., plus a current hand-cranked air filter and spare filter elements top provide daily breathing air. Expecting to deal with this for more than a couple of days in the case of chemical or fallout problems is probably a good reason to seek shelter elsewhere, unless you have a sealed sub-grade shelter bunker under or adjoining your house. 3’ of intervening earth and clean air solves most CBRN problems, as long as you can eat, drink, cook, sleep, and use the bathroom without either suffocating or being contaminated.Water concerns require the ability to collect and store, and purify water, to the tune of 1 gal/person/day. For anything over a month, a cistern and rainwater collection are a minimum. Determine what pipes, cables, utilities, etc. pass under your house and property and where, and when practical consider digging a well (if you are on city water, and don’t already have one). It’s far less difficult than most people imagine, unless the water table is hundreds of feet down. Find a spot in the backyard, or punch a small hole in the garage foundation, take care of business, install a pump, and cover up what’s left with a faux water tank, air compressor, A/C unit, or what have you. Have the water tested commercially. Assuming it passes muster, bury a cistern (poly or concrete, whatever) below your frost line, and start pumping water into your emergency supply tank. Solar panels can power the pump, you can put a small tank in the attic or garage overhead, and a roof-panel solar heating set-up will give you clean, available, and hot water, at pressure. Over time, you could start transitioning off metered water supply; 1% a month over 4 years would cut your bill in half. You could continue to water the yard/garden with city water, and if city supplies fail, do without entirely, all while being a water-conserving good guy and providing for yourself in tougher times. Spares for your pump and solar systems should be added over time.
For food, a minimum 3-month supply of canned food should be a starter, with eventually 1-3 years (almost everything canned lasts this long anyways) being the goal. Start simple: Just buy double what you need, every week. In 1 year, you’ll have 1 year’s extra canned food. In 3 years, you’ll have 3 years’, and your grocery bill drops to half again. You should also plant whatever you can manage in your yard. Books like “Backyard Homestead” are a great place to start, for any size lot. If you have room to park the car(s) in the driveway, and build a carport, do so. Convert the former car garage into storage for canned foods. Another excellent use is to look into aquaponics. This combines raising hydroponic food with raising tanked fish. The fish wastes become plant fertilizer, and the plants and a biofilter clean the water for the fish, and depending on how much you raise, you can provide yourself with hundreds of pounds of fresh vegies and fresh fish, virtually forever, with minimal attention and regular fish feeding. If you have room to do this in the backyard in an outbuilding or dedicated greenhouse/fishhouse, by all means do so. Replace fruitless trees with fruit trees, nut trees, berry bushes, etc. Replace wasted lawn with raised bed planters. You’ll eat healthier, live happier, get needed exercise, and make trips to the grocery store less and less necessary. If you didn’t use the garage for aquaponics, make it a HQ for canning and preserving food. Ideally, your own fresh-raised bounty.Rabbits and chickens also provide meat and eggs in minimal space, needing only feed and water, and their waste products provide great fertilizer for growing food. They’ll also provide fertile soil to raise earthworms, for sale, for live bait, and/or to feed your fish and chickens.
Power off the supply grid is essential, for a variety of reasons. If wind or water power is an option, good on you. For most of us, the only reliable source is the sun. Start small, and add panels and battery storage as you can afford to do so. Like water, your goal is to eventually wean yourself off metered power. You can cut 10% just by being thrifty; if you go to solar at 1% a month, in 7 years, you’re off the power grid. If you can get off it completely, great. If you choose, or are forced, not to, be ready to do so anyways if it fails, and minimize your expense and vulnerability in the meantime, by slowly making preparation now to do without. Start with solar water heating. Then power for the well pump you don’t have, and the aquaponic farm. Then start taking the house back from the power company, room by room.And as bunny-hugging friendly as sustainable power may be to the “Save The Rainforest” crowd, in a major crisis, possibly long-term, the frigging rainforest can look out for itself. The priority is keeping you and yours alive and relatively well-off. The biggest boon to life expectancy over the last 2500 years, bar none, has been hot and cold running water, and the resultant sanitation improvements it allows. The longer you can maintain running water and indoor plumbing, the longer your lifespan will resemble that of civilized humans, rather than mud-wallowing dirt-eaters in the Middle Ages.
With shelter, air, water, food, power (and thus climate control) taken care of, about the only thing you can’t pull out of your back pocket is money to pay the property tax and mortgage. That’s assuming there’s a civic entity functional to collect it.Beyond that, you should make provision for two things: medical care, and communication.
I say medical care, and not first aid, because in a crisis, there may not be any further medical back-up to your first aid. You may thus be required to become second and third aid, in order to prevent giving last aid. In other words, you’ll need to stock enough supplies to run a personal/family clinic, for anything short of catastrophic events, and possibly including major trauma. Once again, you’ll be recreating all the advances in medical/nursing care, as well as you are able, that have occurred since Florence Nightengale was working the night shift in the Crimea. Fortunately, much of it revolves around good nutrition, clean clothes and supplies, and clean running water. With the coming of Obamacare, and the debacle on the American healthcare system that will entail, you’ll be far better off equipping and stocking a spare room as a clinic and gaining a basic medical self-care competence than you will in depending on the soon-to-be catastrophically declining standard of care in official hospitals. For far less than you’d spend on a years’ health insurance premiums, you could equip a one-room state-of-the-art treatment room, lacking only CT scan and rapid turnaround lab results. Step one is actually setting out to set one up, and step two is learning to functionally utilize it. Your goal isn’t to put the local hospital out of business. Instead, it’s to be able to pick up the slack if it’s suddenly or rather permanently unavailable. You’re creating a back-up plan, but a serious one, not a make-believe one.
Communication is a two-way affair. Literally. You need to make provision for getting information, and for sending information. Think of multiple levels, and work out the details. Internet, satellite, cable, broadcast TV. FM, AM, SW/Ham, CB, and GMRS/FRS radios, including scanners that pick up air, maritime, and military signals. Satellite, cell, and hardwired phones. Snail mail, package delivery, and couriers – both official and unoffical. And ways to send and receive media and messages through each. You may want some facility with encrypted signals, codes and ciphers. For example, a thumb drive is currently the size of two nickels, and holds 16GB of data. That’s enough space to just about hold a bible of data or 20 minutes of hi-def video with audio, in something you could conceal at the bottom of a packet of gum. A year from now, the same drive will be double to quadruple the capacity. Learn how to leverage this capability into the power to stay alive, well, and informed if things get less civilized in the near future. Technology that you don’t use and master is just magic and fireworks.Next time, what to do when you’re not bugging in to a typical house.