Advice for the newly awakened and overwhelmed

by A Different Drummer

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest

There are many aspects of personal preparedness that make sense, and I know firsthand that once you take a trip down the rabbit hole, the path to preparedness can be daunting at best, if not completely overwhelming.  To this overwhelming state of mind, I wish to remind everyone that you must walk before you can run.  I know it sounds obvious, but once you start “waking up” to the real world we find ourselves in many are drawn into panic because there is so much to do and seemingly so little time.

Where to start?  What’s most important? Bug out bags?  Food storage?  Water purification? HAM radio? Alternative energy systems?  Defense “tools”?  The list of needs in a SHTF situation is staggering.  However, I believe that while all those things (and more) are important, maybe even essential given the scenario, what I see most overlooked is just good ol’ common sense personal safety in the home.

For example, are you aware that in 2014 there were over 1.2 million fires reported in the U.S. alone?  Those fires led to 3,275 civilian deaths and over 15,000 civilian injuries.  In other words, the S hit the fan for close to 20,000 people that year, from house fires.  Not financial collapse, CME/EMP or the New World Order, house fires.  Just think about that for a minute and let it sink in…

When is the last time you checked your smoke detectors?  Not only do they need to be checked routinely for battery replacement, but smoke detectors also have expiration dates.  This is something most people aren’t aware of.  If you haven’t checked yours in a while, do it today.

Now let me ask you, where are your fire extinguishers?  Do you know off the top of your head or do you need to think about it for a second?  Can you easily grab one, or is it behind a bunch of stuff that will need to be knocked out of the way?  Do your spouse and/or children know where the fire extinguishers are located?  Do they know how to use one if necessary or when NOT to use them? When is the last time you checked the extinguisher to see if it is still good?  Some extinguishers are disposable and have expiration dates; others can be serviced and can last for years.

Have you made a family/household evacuation plan?  If so, have you ever practiced it?  Nothing can make a minor emergency spiral out of control faster than not knowing what to do in said emergency.  Everyone needs to know at least two ways to get out of the home and where to go once they’re out.  I’m not talking about “bugging out”; I’m talking about evacuating your house due to fire, earthquake, tornado, etc.   You’ve made it out of your home, but the street is blocked off, there are emergency vehicles everywhere, maybe news vans and reporters and of course the curious neighbors and passers-by.  Where do you go?  How do your kids find you if this happens while they are away from the house and the LEO blocking the road won’t let them through? At the very least you should practice your evacuation plan at least once a year.  The more you practice, the more your response becomes automatic.  And besides, things change.  Another example; my family’s “muster point” should we need to evacuate is in a little courtyard at a small shopping center down the block.  This worked great for 10 years, until suddenly the courtyard was fenced off completely for construction and was off limits for a year… It’s important to keep things up to date and even better to have a Plan B, just in case.

Aside from the obvious hazard of a house fire, it’s important to prepare yourself, your family and your home for the type of natural disasters most likely in your area.  For me its earthquakes, so keeping tall shelves bolted to the walls and keeping a wrench handy to shut off the natural gas valve are some simple, inexpensive preps I can do to help mitigate risk.  Maybe you live in a hurricane zone, so having pre-cut (and labeled!) plywood sheets for your windows would be a simple, low cost prep that will save you time, energy and further damage when the storms come.

My point is this, we all live with danger, every day of our lives.  There are many things we can do to lower our risk and shorten recovery time, but you have to identify them ahead of time. That is why we all participate in this thing called preparedness! Sure, smoke detectors aren’t exciting and nobody is going to care about the picture you posted of your freshly serviced fire extinguishers in the survival forums, but these are simple things that will most likely do more to save your life and the lives of those you care about than the latest tactical gear.

It’s easy to get caught up with the preparedness “stuff”, I know because I’m guilty of it too.  And I’m not saying the gear and the long term storage foods and all those other goodies aren’t great to have around.  I’m a firm believer in the better-to-have-it-and-not-need-it-than-need-it-and-not-have-it camp but the fact of the matter is that you and your loved ones are far more likely to face a house fire, a natural disaster or some other mundane crisis than you will need to grab your B.O.B. and your AR-15 and head off into the great unknown to fight the Illuminati.

If you’re one of the newly awakened, take a step back, a deep breath and ask yourself “what type of disaster is the most likely to happen to ME?” and go from there.  Apply a little common sense and get your house in order before you spend all your time and resources on the survival toys that so many crow about.  After all, nothing is going to ruin your day more than having all your hard earned preps lost forever for want of a $6 smoke detector.  It’s often said that skills trump gear nearly every time and I believe that.  I also believe that critical thinking is a skill and one that is under used by many.  If you really think about it, I believe you will agree that preparing your home for the everyday, common emergency will give you a much better chance of survival in the long run than say, another hank of paracord or the latest and greatest gadget to show up on the magazine covers.

Prepare smart, with serious consideration for your location and personal needs and before long the overwhelming panic will subside. And once you got your home base covered, you’ll be ready to move on to your next preparedness phase with a clear head.

Prizes For This Round (Ends April 12, 2016) In Our Non-Fiction Writing Contest Include…

  1. First place winner will receive –   A gift certificate for $150 off of  rifle ammo at Lucky Gunner, an Urban Survival Kit a $109 value courtesy of  TEOTWAWKI supplies, a WonderMix Deluxe Kitchen Mixer a $299 value courtesy of Kodiak Health and a LifeStraw Mission Filter a $109 value courtesy of EarthEasy, and a 4″ Heavy Duty WaterBoy Well Bucket a $106 value and a WaterBoy Tripod Kit courtesy of Well WaterBoy Products for a total prize value of over $867.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – 30 Day Food Storage All-in-One Pail a $119 value courtesy of Augason and Berkey Light with 2 (9″) Berkey Earth Elements a $157 value courtesy of LPC Survival, for a total prize value of $276.
  3. Third place winner will receive –  International MRE Meals Supply a $72.00 value, a LifeStraw Portable Water Filter a $19 value, Yoder’s Fully Cooked Canned Bacon a $15 value all courtesy of CampingSurvival and one copy of each of my books “The Prepper’s Primer” and a copy of “The Prepared Prepper’s Cookbook“ for a total prize value of $137.


  1. Thomas The Tinker says:

    DD … Thank You. You made me run over the mental list of those ‘lil-things’ while I was reading your article …. checkcheckcheckcheckity. Out of the house muster points need to be changed to fit just the two of us now. DD ‘barrowed’ the bed roll out of the trunk of the 4 door. Drove through Southern, Ill. and so removed the ‘iron’ form the GHB. ‘Down’ on ‘bath’ canning supplies. Need to replace the ‘Attic’ and ‘hall’ extinguishers with the floor models in Aprils budget. The ‘Large’ ones sold at HomeDepot don’t give you more than a few seconds of cover and I should know better working in a refinery and all.

  2. Petticoat Prepper says:

    A Different Drummer,

    Good article! TSHTF can happen in many different ways and you give all of us a thing or two to chew on.

    Divorce was my EOTWAWKI and I learned a great deal about living off my ‘Armageddon Pantry’ and ‘food fatigue’. I have a far better understanding of ‘trying’ to secure the perimeter 24/7 and the need for additional help to do so. I also learned how I behave during a long term (2 years), high stress, volatile situation.

    Growing up in a rural area I have always prepared for the storms/power outages. I took the food a step farther later on than my parents did as I remember one snow storm (not a common thing here) that lasted two weeks. Dad sent me early morning via horse to the neighbors (remember it was rural) to get money and grocery lists. He was the only one in the area with a 4×4 and he chained up all around and drove to town; I delivered groceries into the dusk.

    All in all your article is a good reminder that SHF can happen in many ways. It’s much easier if you’ve a bit of preps to draw from.

    • I think water is the first and most important factor to assure survival. If your place to survive does not have a good reliable source of good clean water then you most likely won’t last long.

  3. mom of three says:

    Thank you! I’m with you on this article all the way I prepare for life not if were going to get invaded, I just can’t go that way. Yes, our smoke detectors, are all brand new they should be replaced every 5 year’s, some 10, so check what the manufacturer, says. Common sense, is going out the door I’m just amazed how people, who should know better are CLUELESS!!! Many want to change the subject it’s just sad.

  4. JP in MT says:

    Preparedness should and does mean different things to different people. This is a good, common sense way to get started.

    My personal goal is to be as little affected by outside events as possible. Sort of like hearing that there is a big snow storm or a hurricane coming to your area, and just moving things out of the yard, etc. and relaxing.

    I can’t be prepared for everything. But the more events I am prepared for, the smoother my life is.

    • Jersey Drifter says:

      Like when a big snow storm is coming and everyone runs to the store for milk, eggs, bread, water, and batteries. I just can’t understand how some people ( the same ones all the time ) always panic over a little thing like snow. I work at Wally World and see it all the time.

  5. PatrickM says:

    Every building that has electricity and or any heatsource, should have smoke detector(s), and fire extinguisher(s).

    Shutoffs for water,gas, and power should be known to all family member’s (depending on)and know how to turn them off and on.

    We check our smoke detectors everytime we change our clocks. This consist’s of backup battery change, and a quick vacuuming with an upholstery brush to keep them free of dust.
    Of course, every once in awhile we check them with the oven at dinner time, ROFL!

    • i have a plaque that says
      ‘dinner is ready when the fire alarm goes off’.
      and it has often been true.

  6. Will Fehlow says:

    Great article.

  7. Hi Different Drummer. Good article. I’m a big believer in preparing first for the common everyday unsexy disasters before worrying about the more exotic. If we don’t get through the first, we won’t need to worry about the second.

  8. There have a lot of good ideas shared here. I intend to act on some of them.
    I would like to add a couple of supporting comments.
    Most likely right after the SHTF government agencies will take and keep tight control of the road system. Travel will be difficult and dangerous, so I intend to stay close to home.
    Subsistance farming and living methods are will know and have been practiced for hundreds of years. But such living is a full time job. I don’t want to do it if the economy is going along OK.
    So my plan is to live the good life while my wife and I can, and be ready to ramp up my food production when and if the SHTF.
    Live where the water is clean, plentiful, and reliable. Have enough stored food and have a good garden and greenhouse to provide for us long enough to ramp up production for the long haul.
    Stay as self-reliant as possible and don’t rely on the government for anything.

  9. MsBlindSpot says:

    Good article. Thank you.

    Something that is rarely talked about is important papers. I have been working on packets of these…one for my BOB, one for my son, one for a friend out of state, and one just for at home.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve read/heard about folks be without these important papers when needed. Just recently, there was a tornado in Rockwall, Texas, and two things about ‘papers’ stood out for me: 1) an elder couple was killed in the storm and their WILL was found by chance FORTY MILES AWAY. 2) the city of Rockwall decided to almost immediately tow all vehicles off the damaged streets to a central place, and PROOF OF OWNERSHIP was required to retrieve them. How are you going to have those papers if a tornado just takes them all away? Or if you’re away from home and something happens.

    I found some good lists online for what to include in my packets, or I’d be willing to post a list here if there is interest.

    I agree that prepping for common emergencies is a good starting place for prepping. It gets the basics covered and isn’t as overwhelming as trying to prep for Yellowstone blowing, or some of the other more intense ‘ideas’.

    Thanks again. Good article.

  10. Axelsteve says:

    prepping is regional and seasonal. A plan for my area may be alien to your area. For instance when I am out in the trees and bushes I wear long pants and a cowboy hat to keep ticks off me. I do not need lyme disease. That may not be a worry in your area but in n Komradfornia it is a concern.For a ground zero newbie I would start with food and water storage.

  11. Good article, yes check the smoke detectors,check. Have alarm system for burglars and fire. Check. My house is built for rabbits, it has two sets of stairs from the upper level and a fire ladder to escape out a window or the front porch roof from the two front rooms. Fire extinguishers, 3, 1 in laundry room and first aid kit bolted to wall, one in garage and a large one in the kitchen. Every once in awhile we test the smoke detectors when DW forgets to open the dampener on the fireplace. Lol

  12. After a major tornado hit us in the southern Appalachians. I became aware of a simple, treacherous ploy scavengers were plying. Finding personal papers of people who had lost everything. I came across it several times, while helping with cleanup. Most of us have mountains of personal documents we keep, for no reason. I literally plowed through 20 years of paperwork, of my life. After securing the most important documents. I was left with two compact lockable containers. Deeds, trust, insurance, and health care documents. These go inside a durable third box. They can be thrown inside my pickup or SUV, one person, very easily. It is one of my most satisfying, and time worthy preps to date. I then burned three garbage bags of useless documents, that held pertinent information. That in the wrong hands could have been financially harmful. Also, remember to keep IRS RETURNS, W/PAPERWORK, for Four years in your documents. Brought me great peace of mind,

    • MsBlindSpot says:

      Yes rokflyer. I posted about this also. You don’t see it mentioned much, but it seems really important. My papers are in “dry” bags, like those used for river rafting. They come in all sizes, and when sealed are water-proof. I plan on obtaining a fire-proof box to keep the original ‘home’ ones in. I also mention that my son has a set and a friend out of state (copies of all papers), just in case something happens to the ones at home or in my BOB. That out-of-state friend is also the contact for all family members if communication between us locally fails. Something else I have in my sets are copies of my address book, and copies of my little book of online sites and passwords. Would make things so much easier to have these in an emergency away.

  13. This winter Goliath dumped 40 inches of snow on my house. I was grateful to be retired because it was treacherous for a month. I did not have enough water stored and doubled my storage… forgetting that I have frozen water in the freezer. I was lucky I had electricity the whole time. I had plenty of food, but have
    been putting off heat (2 weeks) and water,
    wanting to create longer term solutions. I
    garden and preserve foods. I am pretty new at
    at prepping and feel overwhelmed sometimes.
    I have a long term plan that I am working toward one step at a time. One year food was easy, but infrastructure not as much! Bottled water is a bandaid not a fix, but I have a bigger bandaid. Note that our snow rarely lasts more than a day or two.

  14. Will Fehlow says:

    Love the article and great comments, thank you!

  15. hvaczach says:

    Well done. As a Volunteer Fire Fighter I appreciate the preach. We forget the most likely cause of an emergency is largly preventable. My kids were little like 3 and 2 when we decided if the smoke detector goes off get out and run to the apple tree ( as far from my home as you can get and not enter the street or a corn field) and to this day ask them where we meet and its the apple tree teach them young and they never forget.

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