A Survival Guy’s first steps to preparedness

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I love getting emails from readers and listeners to my radio show, and I try to answer them all.  This week I received an email from an unexpected source, a single guy.  Now, I’ve always suspected that about 25% of my readers are men, based on their comments here on the blog and from email I receive, but this email was especially meaningful.  The concept of preparedness was new to the writer, D.F., and I’ll let you read his letter for yourself.

Dear SurvivalMom,
I can tell you the day and the hour I started preparing for a disaster. It was just three days ago at 11pm on August 15th that me and a friend were talking about earthquakes and I realized that I didn’t even have one days worth of food or water in my apartment. I didn’t have a single flashlight or even so much as a candle. To say I was woefully unprepared would be an understatement, I was perhaps as unprepared as an individual can be. The realization of how vulnerable I was hit me like a truck. I kind of freaked.
With knots in my stomach I started searching for information on the internet, fearing I would have to wade through a million blogs by guys that think they’re the star of an action movie, thankfully I was very wrong on that point.
It didn’t take me too long to find your site and I was soon reading your post, “Lets help Aimee become a SurvivalMom”.  I immediately started feeling much better (your Momness is powerful). It was such a relief to realize that my first priority was a simple trip to the gas station and the grocery store.  This seems so obvious to me now that I feel foolish for feeling overwhelmed in the first place.
It wasn’t even twelve hours after deciding to get prepared that I had the bare minimum. I left the grocery store with two weeks of water and food, flashlights, batteries, candles, first aid supplies and many other essential items and goods that you and others recommended. I’m a single guy with no children and shopping has always been about grabbing a few ready-to-go meals and perhaps the ingredients for one or two cooked meals.  Shopping with the mentality of preparedness was like seeing a grocery store for the first time!
Since then I have purchased many of the items I would need to walk the thirty five miles to my sister’s house if I absolutely had to, begun stocking her house with essentials for her (she got right on board with me), her children and myself for a month, purchased a 22 rifle and stocked my car with the beginnings of a 72 hour kit.
I still have a lot to do.  It doesn’t seem like you can ever really be prepared, but three days ago I wasn’t even prepared for a ten minute blackout. Knowing that I’m well on my way to a month (with goals of much longer) of supplies and essentials feels great.
It feels odd for me to offer a tip to someone who has been at this for far longer than I have, but in your post “Seven Lessons Learned from a Two-hour Power Outage” you talked about the initial moments after the power went out being difficult. I’m a control room operator and one of my duties is training people how to do the job. When things go wrong for any number of reasons, I have seen people “lock up” for a few moments before their knowledge and training kicks in. Co-workers lives may just be on the line, and there are many millions of dollars of equipment at risk, every scenario is different and you may not have all the information you need to assess what has happened.  It is understandable why people may freeze. This is why I always drill training operators that if they are unsure in those first few moments to, “check their breakers, their lube oil pressure and their steam drum level”, and after that they’ll know what to do.
It works very well and I’m already drilling myself on what to do if there’s a power outage or in the moments after a disaster “Get dressed, put your boots on. If you’re dressed already then sit down and retie your shoelaces.” By the time I have finished tying my shoelaces, I’ll know what my next step should be.  Of course it doesn’t have to be shoelaces.  Anything simple but practical will do.  God forbid but if I ever see a mushroom cloud while I’m out of the house, people all around me will start to panic, but I’ll be looking for a place to kneel down and tie my shoe laces!
Lisa’s note:  I LOVE this tip! Focusing on a few, concrete activities helps calm the nerves, focus on an immediate need, and gives your brain time to back away from its fight/freeze/flee impulses.   Then you can assess the situation and take action.  Thanks for the tip, D.F.!
It’s taken me a while to get here but I’ve finally gotten to the purpose of my letter. Thankyou! Your advice and the advice from like minded people may just be the most important information there is on the internet. That may sound dramatic, but it’s absolutely true.  The day may come where what I have learned from you already will save my life. I cannot imagine a more noble pursuit than sharing willingly and freely your time, experience and knowledge on such an essential topic with as many people as you can. I felt desperate to find out what I needed to know and there you were, my gratitude is deep and sincere. You’re beautiful.
Yours sincerely,

I wanted to share this letter with you because I know there are always newbies visiting this blog in search of, “What do I do first?”  D.F. started by first being aware of the need to be prepared and then immediately went into action.  I don’t think he realized that he was writing a tutorial for beginners, but here it is!

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

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  1. says

    What a great letter! D.F.'s energy and enthusiasm makes me want to accomplish more!

    And thanks for the shoe-tying tip…I have nightmares regularly about seeing tornados on the hill behind our house and freezing up. Can't move. Can't scream. Can't think. Can't find my kids. Next step on my survival agenda is figuring out a concrete activity (like shoe tying) to give my mind time to reset. Hopefully that preparedness will spill over into my dreams :)

  2. says

    Love DF's letter. Although hubby & I have been preparing for the last 3 years it was refreshing to read his letter remembering my first go at it. I always had at least 3 weeks to 3 months worth of food and essentials since I was 30 (24 yrs ago) but it was still intimidating for me to think about a years worth of supplies and changing our life style a bit. I reminded myself to breath and take one section of preparedness and breaking it down making short term and long term lists of purchasing and stocking. Taking another breath as changes in our lifestyle came, but all for the better. I thank DF for sharing his tip, it makes me feel much better that I'm really not loosing my mind 😉

  3. katzien says

    I also feel like a rookie….I've fallen on the wagon so to speak. I stopped stocking up, collecting books, building my supplies stash etc. Heck, I even stopped checking in here. Time to get back to work! Just look at the state of things today. I found a GREAT book for getting started on planning your canned food storage…The 100 Day Pantry by Jan Jackson. Nothing beats homemade, but this type of cooking sure beats not eating at all. It's 100 recipes all made with canned goods or dried goods added to the mix. I'm getting a few copies for family members too.

  4. rightwingmom says

    Love that new prepper smell….LOL!

    Seriously, DF's email is refreshing and eye-opening. We all need to be aware of those around us who are just now waking up. The stress and pressure of being a new prepper can be overwhelming for some. I urge "experienced preppers" to mentor the newcomers; become a rock of stablity…encyclopedia of knowledge….and calming presence to help them meet their own needs. We're all in this together….old timers and newbies! :)

    • Kassandra says

      I agree with you. I have come across a few ‘pros’ that have basically said, don’t bother trying to prep because you are too far behind. This is extremely disappointing and also also scary. I want to do the best for my family and press forward to prep the best I can. I really love Lisa and Survival mom. She has really put prepping into a less overwhelming experience.

      • says

        I think those ‘pros’ are wrong and have undoubtedly overlooked some area of preparedness themselves. I don’t believe in sowing seeds of despair just to make myself look like some lofty know-it-all.

  5. Bets' says

    And that's why, when my lil bird left for the big city, I practically depleted my stock, giving to her everything she would need, just in case. The power bars, candles & flashlites ,to her, were the most important things during a recent outage.
    Welcome to the club DF, there's plenty of room in the ark!

  6. Paul & Terry says

    A few weeks back at a small group gathering we have, one of the members ( a single dad) asked the question "what should I do ?" He truly was interested, but living in a small apartment and was considering moving soon, so having any type of storage would seem a hassle to be moving. Then he asked " what do I bring to the group"? he is a manager of a local DQ facility, has good managerial skills and organization, which we told him that would be useful plus he is in mid 30's so he brings "MUSCLE"!

  7. karen says

    Two years ago I experienced that memory lapse for a few seconds when my mom’s aneurysm reuptured and she was alone with me. I picked up my cell phone, that is my only phone and I use it all the time, and for several seconds (it felt like at least a minute but I think it was less time) I could not remember how to dial 911 on it! It was traumatic and I felt that memory lapse for the first time.

    My mom did not survive the aneurysm and died in my arms but I also know that those lost seconds would not have mattered anyway. However in a survival situation that may be different. I never thought that I would FORGET how to dial my phone! Making a survival plan in advance is a great idea! Stop and do something to calm down first. Tying shoes is a great idea!

  8. Kassandra says

    I love the shoe string idea. I also have had dreams about not being able to move or focus or run from danger. Always makes me want to go running when I wake up. Cardio, cardio, cardio! I am still nervous about having to face a disaster alone, (my husband works an hour away)with my two young children (1 and almost 3 years old). I play disasters in my head and wind up just getting myself into a panic. I need help with prepping still and all the steps too. Thanks for all of your advice.


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