Is your homestead prepared for an emergency? I’m not talking about apocalyptic emergencies, a-la EMP or pandemic, but rather the everyday kind that can strike when you least expect it. Many people stress over what they would do during a major disaster event. But in reality, something like a sick family member or a job loss would prove just as devastating for a family. This kind of emergency is far more likely to happen, and giving some thought to these kinds of scenarios today can prevent an emergency from turning into a disaster tomorrow.
If you are a homesteader and anything like us, it seems as if there is never enough time to complete all the projects, ideas and tasks that are needed to keep the homestead functioning. Some days it can feel like a chore to just keep your head above water!
However, there are some easy plans you can set into motion that will help disaster-proof your homestead. We will begin by thinking about basic needs and then branch out to more specific needs. As I was writing this post I realized that there is a lot of ground to cover so I’ve divided it into a series of posts to make it a little more manageable.
Prep 1: Water
So simple yet so important. Without access to clean water, you are dead and so are your animals. Water emergencies could be contaminated city water (re: surprise boil notice), contaminated well water, the well pump failing, or a seasonal drought. You need water not only to drink and prepare food with, but you also can’t flush your toilet without it. For drinking water a good rule of thumb to start with is 1 gallon of water per person per day. Obviously, more is always better here but having at least a 3-7 day supply for everyone in the house gives a good starting point.
Super simple but just keep some bottled water around the house. You can even reuse other bottles from soda, juice or milk if you have these and just fill from the tap.
Water collected in IBC containers can be used for crops, provide water for livestock, or even yourself if it is properly filtered. They make great emergency backups if your well goes down or you get a boil notice from your municipality. Remember, these tanks need to be painted black or covered in black plastic to help prevent algae growth. They can be attached to gutters off the house, barn, or even chicken coops. Set them on cinder blocks at each corner to ensure water pressure when you draw from them.
We put a nice fence around ours as it’s not exactly an attractive backyard feature. However, this also created a convenient outdoor storage space. Make sure to leave room to remove the tanks for occasional cleaning and re-covering. There are many great YouTube videos on using IBC containers or ‘totes’ for rainwater harvesting.
Using a Berkey water filter or a similar filtration system is a must to properly clean water during an emergency. The Berkey filter can even clean untreated water- hello IBC tank I’m looking at you! They will remove bacteria and viruses, chemicals, and can eliminate lead and mercury along with a host of other nasty things. Rumor has it they will also turn fruit punch clear. They are great for everyday use too as a best practice for the best quality water possible.
Remember, even if you are on city water, they usually don’t send out the ‘boil water’ notices until after something has already gone wrong. Who knows how long there was an issue, how many gallons you drank, or how many people got sick before a problem was detected? Daily filtration helps stop that lag time and creates a buffer between who controls your water and you.
In a pinch, take a bucket of water from your pool to dump in a toilet tank to have flushing toilets, and dump into a filter like a Berkey for drinkable water. It may not be as perfect as a bottle of spring water off the shelf, but believe me, you won’t really care, and it’ll do fine.
Energy and Pressure
If you’re on a well, even if you have a rainwater IBC container backup, you need a plan if your well pump fails, or the grid goes down preventing the pump from turning on for an extended period. If you don’t have power, you don’t have pressure, which means no water out of your taps. The ideal solution is to have a generator installed next to your well (natural gas, propane, or gasoline in that order). If your pump runs on 240VA electricity, this may be your only option, so start planning soon.
However, if you have a shallow water table and a pump that runs on typical 120VA electricity, you have at least one generator parked in your garage or sitting on your driveway already. It’s your vehicle. Clamp a DC-to-AC inverter of appropriate wattage to your battery terminals, start your vehicle, plug in the pump, and you’re back in business. Just know what kind of pump you have on your well ahead of time to start planning this part.
Septic and Wastewater
What comes in must go out. What happens if you’re not able to flush toilets, or your septic system fills up in a grid-down scenario after a couple days? This can make for a serious hygenic issue for you and your family, especially if you have nowhere to go or are unable to leave easily. Most septic pumps run on 120VA electricity, so use the inverter tip above! Run it a couple times a day until the tank load has normalized- use your vehicle to prevent nasty stoppages!
Prep 2: Food
Second is food for you and your family. If you couldn’t go to the store for 2 weeks would you be ok? What if you lost your job and money was tight? Could you avoid spending money on groceries for 3 months while you’re looking for a new job? If you answered no to any of these questions you are not alone.
The answer to this problem is the deep pantry. What is a deep pantry and how does a deep pantry make you prepared for an emergency? A deep pantry just means you have multiple of all the items you frequently use. You can start by making a list of the non-perishable items you frequently use and then each time you are at the store you pick an item to buy extra of on that trip.
After several months, you will begin to have a stockpile of food that will help keep you from both running out of items and making unexpected store trips and have a stash of food to work through if couldn’t physically or financially get to the store.
Don’t go buy a bunch of rice or MRE’s. I mean you can live on that but it’s going to suck and it’s extra money. If eventually you get to a place where you want some of those things and you already have a deep pantry fine but it shouldn’t be first on the list. A deep pantry is money you were going to spend on food anyway, you just accelerated it a bit and if you are looking for sales on items you can increase your savings.
Food for your livestock and pets
The same stories apply. Are any of your livestock dependent on feed your buying from the store? What would you do if you couldn’t get ahold of the feed or couldn’t afford it for a period of time? Keeping some food in reserve at least gives you a buffer.
It is important to keep this food pest free during that time so it does not get ruined but having a spare bag can save you not only during an emergency but also prevents last minute trips to the store because you ran out of cat food! Ask me how I know this one?!?
Growing Livestock Food
It may also be worth considering for livestock, particularly for birds on the homestead, if you can grow any of their food or have a sustainable system on the farm that helps provide for them. While potentially lowering feed bills this may become especially important if you couldn’t get feed at the store for them.
I’ve been hesitant to try this yet due to both time constraints and concerns about throwing off the balance of their diets with protein ratios and such. However, with some planning this could be a really good option. At the very least having some greens on rotation is worth considering.
Hopefully, I’ve given you some good ideas on ways to be better prepared for an emergency whether small or large. I covered food and water first since they are necessary for life but be on the lookout for part 2 and part 3 where I will cover other areas of the homestead and provide food for thought on ways to keep you a little more comfortable during any kind of emergency!