What took place in Haiti might make you want to stop and ask: if there was a natural disaster in my home, would I know what to do? Would I have all of the necessary supplies to ride it out until help arrived?

From basic survival gear, to making sure you and your family are comfortable, there is plenty you can do in advance. I don’t mean the bat-shit crazy survivalist fall out shelters, but a handful of easy things to do the next time you go to the Wal-Mart or Target or even the supermarket.

Start with the basics: Store in a cool dry place plenty of bottled water, batteries, flashlights, and a radio. Candles, waterproof matches, a can opener, a Swiss army knife, are also helpful. Formula or baby food if applicable. First aid kit, aspirin, disinfectant. If you have small children, simple games and toys will keep them busy as opposed to frightened. Depending upon the prescription drugs you take, a few days to a weeks worth. Pet food if applicable. Basic camping gear sleeping bags and blankets, water filters, dried foods are also helpful. (If using your basement, get them off the floor and onto shelves).

Popular Mechanics posted a number of special issues on disaster preparedness, with stories on:

7 Best First Aid Kits For Any Situation;

Steps to save yourself when a natural disaster hits;

Smart survival tactics that saved lives;

Unexpected, But Essential Survival Kit Items

Must-have survival gadgets and gear;

SURVIVE ANYTHING: Guide to Worst-Case Scenarios

8 Tools and Gadgets to Prepare Your Home For Any Disaster

• There is an emergency preparedness guide by the L.A. Fire Department (pdf);• You can find more info at Ready.gov.

Good stuff worth a look . . .

Category: Current Affairs

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

27 Responses to “How to Survive Natural Disasters”

  1. franklin411 says:

    I think one of the biggest problems for most Americans if a real, serious natural disaster should strike is that people don’t cook for themselves anymore. Most of my neighbors eat out, or they eat frozen/canned/instant food. And because they don’t know how to cook, they don’t have a supply of basic, non-perishable food products on hand (flour, beans, rice, canned veggies, etc…) and they wouldn’t know what to do with them in a pinch. A 25 pound sack each of beans, rice, and flour could carry a person quite a while. Enough protein and calories, provided you can get water. But if you can’t get water, then you’re pretty much dead anyway so it works out! =)

  2. Winston Munn says:

    No one is talking about the biggest natural disaster of all:

    “From 2000 to 2008, the number of poor people in the U.S. grew by 5.2 million, reaching nearly 40 million. That represented an increase of 15.4 percent in the poor population, which was more than twice the increase in the population as a whole during that period.”

    I don’t know about you, but turning the U.S. population into Haitians is not my idea of disaster preparedness.

  3. PeterR says:

    Thanks Barry for a great site, and a wide range of comments, including this one.

    John Mauldin’s current newsletter is not exactly optimistic about the next few years (decades?).

    Could you recommend a “survival plan” on a larger scale for the worst-case-scenario regarding equities, bonds, etc., and geographic location?

    Thanks again for your insight, wisdom, and forthrightness.

    Have a good weekend.

  4. Transor Z says:

    But if you can’t get water, then you’re pretty much dead anyway…

    No no no no no. If you have no access to water, drink your own urine. I recommend including an external catheter like the stadium pal http://stadiumpal.com/
    in your doomsday supply kit and jury-rigging the collection pouch with a straw for quick “juice box” access.

    Secondly, if it does come down to the cannibalism thing, my suggestion is to PLEAD THE FIF:


  5. gd says:

    Winston Munn, I agree with your sentiment entirely, except for one point– that’s not a *natural* disaster. It’s quite man made.

  6. bobmitchell says:



  7. Mike in Nola says:

    Porkl & Beans (Van Camp is my preference) are de rigueur for hurricanes. It helps that they aren’t bad cold.

    Peanut butter doesn’t go bad easily and jelly will last a few days after it’s open if it’s not too hot. Bread is the problem their.

    One thing I haven’t been able to find lately is Sterno which is simple. They want to sell us fancy propane stoves which we may never use.

    Oh, and if the electricity may go off and you have to evacuate, please make sure to empty your refrigerator of anything that could spoil. I felt pretty stupid because I was in NOLA at our house the day after Katrina and had most of the edible stuff in an ice chest which I gave to a neighbor who was going to stay because his parents were flooded in. I stupidly didn’t think about what wa going to happen to all those leftovers and condiments and veggies that were in the fridge. At least everyone thought they would be back in a few days after the hurricane passed. I knew I wasn’t going to be back for a few weeks. Well, what they do is rot and liquefy and give off the worst smell you ever experienced, esp. since it’s in your kitchen. And getting a fridge out of of the house while it’s still full because you dare not open the door is a major bitch. The streets of New Orleans were lined with refrigerators and flies for a week after we were able to return and until FEMA could get a contractor to pick them up.

  8. ToNYC says:

    As Ted Turner said in his recent interview at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco on commenting on his visiting a psychiatrist to Phil Bronstein, Diane Feinstein’s spouse, “Sometime you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.” Why on earth DID several thousand Marines rush in to occupy the cheapest-to- deliver island in the Caribbean BEFORE much greater numbers of care givers of food and medicine practitioners. Were they afraid of looting the in this most destitute country?
    If they were to protect the only thing of real value, food and water, all you need is a few squadrons guarding dropped-in tents in key locations.
    All this nonsense logical talk is as useful as chasing the latest market consensus…it’s just WYSIWYG.
    The bet is they find a reason to stay forever to keep order. Let no crisis go to waste to execute on the plan on the shelf. There is no reason to doubt their good intentions, mind you.
    Now New Orleans is a bit different. Those pesky US citizen po’ folks just didn’t leave after we dragged our feets a’waitin, and waiting and waiting.

  9. mlwjackson says:

    On a lighter note…forget the Swiss Army knife. It’s a lot like a government employee, it looks useful but when it comes time to actually get it to do something it’s not worth a damn. It functions best as a paperweight or something to throw when you run out of ammunition.

  10. Mike in Nola says:

    mlwjackson: I’ve found mine pretty handy. Have carried it almost continuously the past 4 years when I have gone to court or gotten on a plane. It also attracts a lot less attention from law enforcement than those big old things.

    Forgot to mention a crank radio. I wasn’t in NOLA long enough to need to fall back on mine, but the people in my wife’s hospital sure could have used some.

  11. Mike in Nola says:

    Oops: meant “haven’t gone to court” or “haven’t gotten on a plane.”

  12. DallasDog says:

    Collapse premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2009
    “….So get a bicycle and start growing your own food. It can’t hurt. If the collapse doesn’t happen, you can still credit Ruppert’s forebodings for helping you lose a couple of pounds.”
    -NPR on Michael Ruppert, Explaining The Coming ‘Collapse’

    Only click the play button, it may take a minute to load.


  13. Transor Z says:


    Thank you for the link. Best 72 minutes of anything I’ve watched in quite a while. FYI for anyone going to the link, you have to either subscribe or spread your viewing out in order to watch the full 80 minutes of “Collapse.”

  14. jdjed says:

    I knew this post would reel in the doomers. Mike Ruppert did a decent job creating the peak oil map but the rest of his predictions are lunacy…9/11 was an inside job, Haiti was a manmade earthquake so the U.S. military is well positioned to take over S. American oil fields, stock up on potassium iodide tablets b/c Pakistan will drop the bomb tomorrow etc.

  15. Transor Z says:


    I wasn’t familiar with him before seeing this. The central thesis as presented here is that global ideologies (capitalism and communism alike) predicated on expectation of infinite economic growth are colliding with the reality of finite resources.

    I think it’s pretty hard to argue with that. I’m hardly a doomer, btw.

  16. Greg0658 says:

    jdjed – you missed the 666.79 low was a near perfect computer trading que to help sell books and a movie for the Zietgeist to cash-up for takeovers

    one thing POTUS Reagan said I like to remember “Trust but Verify”
    and I say “the everyday business of life makes folks do bad things to survive”

  17. investorinpa says:

    I would direct those interested in learning more about survivalism to a great podcast on the internets at http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/

  18. jdjed says:

    @Transor Z, I’m in the petroleum exploration business so I’ve read his book and agree with his assessments about oil and some of the problems with ‘the way money works’. The wild tangents he embarks upon are simply ludicrous IMHO.

    @Grego658, LOL

  19. OkieLawyer says:


    I also disagree with some of his theories (I subscribe to the “Peak Oil” theory), although I wasn’t aware that he had said that the Haiti earthquake was “manmade” — that is crazy. Did he really say that?

    Another big “doomer” concern that I have is that we are also running out of fresh (potable) water. I think he touched on this when he talked about the extraction of oil sands in Canada. But, having talked with a marine biologist Thursday night, he told me that we are “living on borrowed time” when it came to fresh water. This came up during a conversation wherein I asked him about the pollution / waste from fish farms and how difficult (impossible?) it was to replenish our food supplies from the overfished oceans.

    Remember, chance favors the prepared (and educated).

  20. bman says:

    I’d like to point out that if you live next to a volcano, or on top of an earthquake fault or within a few feet from sea level, you’ve got to sleep lightly and be prepared to move. The beach is nice, (for a vacation) but it is not a place to live, unless you’re a seagull.

    If your existance is maintained by the edifice of civilisation, now more then ever, your life hangs by a thread. I’m not a survivalist, I just believe in living well.

  21. “living on borrowed time” when it came to fresh water.

    uhhhh….WHAT? This planet is 3/4 water! Sure, it is mostly salt but if we can find trillions to blast each other to kingdom come and trillions to make bankers feel comfy then I’m sure we can find the few billion we need to covert the water to fresh.

    That is a perfect picture of how incompetent mankind is it is that he dies of thirst on a planet that is 3/4 water! Oh, the irony

  22. Greg0658 says:

    HtCMSI – roof gutter into gray water filtration system

  23. hd01 says:

    Winston Munn Said:

    “From 2000 to 2008, the number of poor people in the U.S. grew by 5.2 million, reaching nearly 40 million. That represented an increase of 15.4 percent in the poor population, which was more than twice the increase in the population as a whole during that period.”

    Does anyone know how many of those poor people were “imported” from other countries through illegal immigration?

  24. formerlawyer says:

    Canada has been promoting disaster preparedness on the basis of everyone being able to survive, winter or summer, for at least 72 hours.

  25. [...] blog, The Big Picture, includes links to several Popular Mechanics articles on natural disaster preparedness (and I [...]

  26. [...] wondering if you are prepared to have something like that happen to you. The Big Picture has some tips and links for surviving disasters. Start with the basics: Store in a cool dry place plenty of bottled water, batteries, flashlights, [...]