Most People Are Clueless When It Comes to Emergencies. Are You One of Them?

Aaaahhhh, Life. Is. Good.

minions enjoying bananas in a bar under a thatched roof


Aren’t we lucky that everything is perfect all the time, with no need for a survival guide? The sun’s always shining — free tropical drinks on every street corner. You can even keep the little umbrella! Best of all, everyone’s always really safe and happy.


aerial view showing a nuclear explosion


Not to go too dark, but the world is actually super crazy. As the old saying goes, “whatever can happen usually will,” and life-or-death emergencies happen every day.

graphics of a man sitting on the beach and under an umbrella


If you and your family want a chance to survive when disaster strikes, then you’ll need a solid survival guide. But how can you possibly plan for everything that might go wrong in the world? Isn’t it easier to just keep living in a piña colada daydream?

view from space showing a huge hurricane


Well, that might be easier, but it would also be very, very dumb. Our lives are more connected and streamlined than ever, but it’s also getting more dangerous to be a human on Planet Earth. Think we’re kidding?

Climate researchers recently found that natural disasters of all kinds could be three times more likely now than they were just 30 years ago. And that’s Mama Earth. Consider how truly nutty some of our fellow humans can be . . .

a street rally of huge group


We’re living in polarized times. There have been global upticks in politically oriented violence and crimes for several years now, and there’s no sign that everyone is going to suddenly chill out. 

a man and a woman lying on the same hammock


Sure, it’s comforting to think that you live in a “safe” part of the world, but how safe would you really be if the, uh, stuff hit the fan?


You Can Be Ready for Almost Anything (Yes, Even You.)


Don’t waste your time obsessing about all the dangerous stuff in the world. There’s only so much you can control, but if you can learn these simple survival guide tactics, you’ll have a big leg up.

What You’ll Need

vector icon showing a board with written plan A Legit Plan
icon representing a drop of water or h2o H2-Oh That’s Refreshing!
icon representing not to be seen Someplace to Hide From

the Elements/Monsters

icon of basket full of food Grub
icon for gadgets Gear, Gadgets, and Toys

What You’ll Need to Know

icon showing a man with ideas coming out of his head Some Adult-ish

Organizational Skills

flat icon of a jeans Why Your Jeans are

Trying to Kill You

vector icon of a man with bandage in his arms How to Treat Boo-boos,

Tummy Aches, and

Compound Fractures

flat icon of a log cabin Elite Fort Building!
vector icon of a baker holding a baked pie How to Cook Like a

Five-Star Caveman

The Five P’s are Legit

You’ve heard of “Preppers” right? Aren’t those just a bunch of cooks stashing away tons of Campbell’s Soup and fantasizing about the end of the world on Reddit?

We’re not qualified to speak on the finer points of Prepper culture, but one thing they definitely have right is preparation. Any survival guide (and the Boy Scouts!) will tell you that the first and most important thing you can do before an emergency is to always be prepared. That’s why you should always remember the Five P’s:

  • Prior
  • Preparation
  • Prevents
  • Poor
  • Performance

We know, that sounds like something your nagging grandma would say. But what if you apply that thinking to real-world emergency prep?

Don’t Be Lazy. Make an Emergency Plan (or Several).

grandma and her grand child running after knocking at the door


Your preparation should start with an emergency plan. Think about stuff like evacuation routes, regional weather risks, and considerations for kids and the elderly. You may be ready to jump on a dirt bike and ride 100 miles per hour the wrong way through traffic, but remember grandma . . .

a man putting clothes in a luggage


Drill It!

So you’ve got solid emergency plans. Congrats! Now, are you ready to follow them when your heart is pumping out of your chest? It’s imperative that you review your emergency plans and a good survival guide (like this one!) regularly and practice, practice, practice.

Eric Cartman from the cartoon South Park going down to a ladder to hide


Run a Tight Ship

Think about where you’re going to store extra food, gear, and supplies BEFORE you start collecting them. All those survival guide goodies aren’t going to help much if they’re scattered from the back shed to the attic. Pick a storage location for your emergency gear that’s centrally located, but also safe from things like broken water pipes, direct sunlight, and rabid porcupines. Who knows, right?

Once you’ve picked out the perfect spot, it’s time to stock up!

a man trying to insert lots of clothes inside a bag


Survival Kits for Dummies

You’re no dummy. You’re reading this survival guide! But how much do you know about survival kits? There’s more to a survival kit than just a few matches and some trail mix, and you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the bases covered when the unexpected happens. Let’s dig a little deeper and make sure your survival kit is fully stocked.

Roly from the cartoons He Duggee digging a key out from the ground


The Nuts and Water Tablets

Food and water are a good place to start when building your survival kit. In this survival guide, we’ll give you some tips on scaring up some grub and wa-wa in an emergency, but it’s way better if you have that stuff ready to go when things go sideways. Here are some go-to choices:

canned foods and other items found in a pantry

Image by USDA, Public Domain, via Flickr

Recommended Survival Foods

  • Canned meats, fruits, and veggies
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal
  • PB&J
  • Fruit leather
  • Canned and bottled soft drinks
  • Shelf stable milk
  • Fatty foods like chocolate and cheese
  • Baby food
  • Treats to cheer you up

Plan to have at least three meals per person, per day for 72 hours. Don’t forget the snacks! Also keep around a gallon of water per person, per day. Cause hey, survivin’ is thirsty work.

a man loading his car with fuel


You Got the Powah

We rely on gadgets for basically everything these days and all those little robots require power. Power outages are par for the course during natural disasters, so you’ll want to keep an ample stock of batteries and chargers on hand. Also, keep a few large gasoline cans full and at the ready. Gas station lines suck even on a good day. You definitely won’t want to wait around to fill up during an emergency.

a chef sharpening a kitchen knife


What Everyone Else Forgets

You don’t really need a survival guide to know that keeping food, water, and batteries on hand is a good idea. But there’s gotta be something you’re forgetting, right?

When you’re assembling your kit, take some time to think about the handy day-to-day stuff that might make life easier during a disaster. We’re talking about the stuff you won’t find in every survival guide. How about a fire extinguisher? Did you grab any toys for the kids? What about solid boots for a long walk?

Wait, really, what about clothes?

Dress for Success (and by “Success” We Mean Not Dying)

James Bond fixing the button of his sleeves while looking in the mirror


One way that many people blow it in an emergency is by wearing the wrong clothes. And we don’t mean they look bad. Hypothermia can take hold quickly even in warm conditions if you’re wet and there’s a breeze. But what exactly is considered appropriate during an emergency? Let’s just say you can ditch the Canadia Tuxedo.

Bart Simpson selling T-shirts


Cotton Kills!

There are several excellent fabrics to choose for your emergency garb, but one that’s terrible. Cotton may be the fabric of our lives, but it also loses virtually all insulating properties once it gets wet. It also stays wet for a really long time. Instead, choose synthetic-based fabrics like polypropylene and wool. How much spend on survival gear is far less important than how you combine your clothes. Wait, what?

Layering: Not Just for Cakes Anymore

Layering is a time tested system for wearing the right combinations of clothes to maximize versatility. You’d be shocked how little you can wear and stay warm in super gross weather with the right layers.

Base Layers

These sit directly against the skin and provide warmth and sun protection while also wicking moisture from the skin.

  • Synthetic or wool underwear
  • In cold conditions swap Long Johns in for regular underwear

winter clothes icon

  • Non-cotton short or long sleeve shirt

shirt vector icon

  • Wool blend or synthetic socks like Smartwool or  IceBreaker.

vector icon of a pair of socks

image via smartwool

Mid Layers

These babies bring the heat!

  • Fleece jackets and pullovers

graphics of a jacket

image via ph.zaful

  • Wool sweaters

sweater icon


  • Puff down or synthetic down jackets

vector icon of a Puff down jacket

image via coachmag

  • Fleece pants
  • Synthetic track pants
  • Softshell pants
  • Down or synthetic puffy pants

vector icon of Synthetic track pants

image via aliexpress

Outer Layers

This layer seals your body heat and nasty weather out.

  • Waterproof rain jackets like Gore-Tex
  • Insulated ski jackets
  • Rain pants

vector icon of a Waterproof rain jacket

image via wildearth

  • Seasonally appropriate hats
  • Don’t skimp on sun protection!

winter hat icon

image via menhatscaps

  • Gloves and mittens
  • Consider wearing light leather or synthetic gloves even in warm weather to protect from the sun and creepy crawlies

gloves icon

image via o-sew-easy

  • Other warming accessories like scarves, gaiters, face masks, and balaclavas
  • Bandanas can make a great warm-weather wrap to keep the sun off your neck and face

scarf icon

Unless you live in Antartica (which would be pretty rad) you don’t need to keep a winter layering rig on hand at all times. Adjust your emergency clothes seasonally, especially footwear, and you’ll be ready scoot at a moment’s notice.

Hey, did someone say footwear?

Do Not, We Repeat, DO NOT Neglect Your Feet.

Remember in Forrest Gump how Lieutenant Dan is obsessed with socks? Guess what? He WAS RIGHT.

a soldier played by Tom Hanks speaking in front of a many people


Cotton Kills!

There are several excellent fabrics to choose for your emergency garb, but one that’s terrible. Cotton may be the fabric of our lives, but it also loses virtually all insulating properties once it gets wet. It also stays wet for a really long time. Instead, choose synthetic-based fabrics like polypropylene and wool. How much spend on survival gear is far less important than how you combine your clothes. Wait, what?

cape blown into the face of the man who is wearing it


One tragically overlooked topic you won’t see in the average survival guide is footwear. Think about this: How are you ever going to survive the zombie apocalypse if your feet are soaking wet, covered in blisters, smashed into high heels, or getting otherwise abused by lame footwear? Get some dang waterproof hiking boots, break them in, and keep them on the ready.

And while water is no good on the outside of your feet, water is REALLY GOOD inside your feet. Let’s talk this out. .

the two girls from the movie "My Neighbor Totoro" playing with water and manual water pump


Bottoms Up!

Do you ever have a hard time drinking enough water during your day? You wanna know when it’s even harder to drink enough water? During an emergency that knocks out municipal water systems. Your body doesn’t care if there was an earthquake or not and the last thing you want to do in an emergency is get dehydrated. Fortunately, there are some fairly easy ways to get your hands on some H20 even if your sink tap is dry.

boiling water on a steel pot


The Heat is On

The cheapest way to purify water is simply boiling it. Bring water to a constant, rolling boil for five minutes. Let it cool before you drink though. Duh.

There are also some pretty cool methods of purifying water if boiling is too much work.

Tablets, Lightbulbs, and Pumps, Oh My!

Boiling water is cheap and easy if you’re at home, but can require some extra time, effort, and fuel you may not want to expend in an emergency. These grab-and-go water purifying methods can help you stay hydrated even without stopping to build a fire all day.

hand washing icon Iodine tablet – These are

simple, easy, and inexpensive.

They purify water in around

20 minutes but have a distinct

taste that some people hate.

5 gallon water bottle icon Two-part Solutions – Mix a

small portion of parts

and B, mix with water, let

stand and Voila! These have

less taste than iodine but

can take longer.

water filter icon Pumps and Filters – These

mechanical devices force

water through a ceramic

and charcoal layer and

catch contaminants. You’ll

need to add iodine or other

solution to kill bacteria.

steripen icon UV water purifiers – UV

purifiers like the Steripen are

basically little wands with

a UV bulb at the end. Simply

engage the bulb and swirl it

in your water. Groovy, right?

chlorine icon Bleach – Yep, you read that

right. A teeny tiny amount of

bleach can sterilize water

and won’t make you sick

when you drink it. We mean

a teeny tiny amount.

If you’re in a survival situation sort out your water situation first. You really can’t do much if you’re dehydrated. And you’ll need to do A LOT to survive. Like, for example, finding or building a shelter.

Peter Griffin of Family Guy hiding beside a note which says "No Girls Allowed"


Home is . . . Wherever You Won’t Go Hypothermic

Didn’t you just love building forts as a kid? Well, think of an emergency shelter as a fort that could save your life. The main purpose of a shelter is to keep you out of the wind and weather long enough to get back into a stable and safe situation. Here’s what to look for:

a woman carrying a child and running towards a fallout shelter


Location, Location, Location

One of the big reasons to build a shelter in a survival situation is to stay dry. So don’t just panic and go to sleep in a puddle. We’re only partly kidding. When you’re exhausted and scared, it could be tempting to just give up in any old spot. But look around, find a location with some high and dry ground, and start building there.

hut in the woods

Image via Pixabay

Solid Foundations

When you’re building a shelter, use anything you find on hand. This could be a space blanket, tarp, or even the fuselage of an alien spacecraft. Just don’t use your survival guide to thatch the roof. You’ll need that later.

Going Au Naturale

But what if you totally ignored this survival guide and have zero emergency building supplies? In this case, you must sit quietly and feel shame.


Mother nature can provide everything you need to build a shelter that will keep you alive. From lean-to’s to igloos, humans lived in natural shelters long before we ever had concrete. The different design options and building methods are far too vast for this survival guide, but this article from Outdoor Life is a great place to start:

Survival Shelters: 15 Best Designs and How to Build Them 

a kid craving for the food served on the plate


Now that you’re all set up with a cozy shelter you’re probably ready for some dinner, right?

Gross Stuff: It’s What’s for Dinner!

a group of ant working together to carry a piece of cereal


Let’s get this out of the way. You’ll never get a five-star dining experience during a survival situation. Be prepared to gnaw on anything from stale biscuits to earthworms. Yes, we’re serious.

Your body can go much longer without food than water, but nutrition is critical if you’re going to have the energy to survive. But don’t rush out to the supermarket, you probably already have some great survival foods hiding in the back of your pantry.

Well, Maybe It’s Not ALL Bad

a man looking at a popcorn machine and freshly cooked popcorn


Many of today’s processed and packaged foods are optimized for long shelf life. Ever eaten a three-year-old Pop Tart? We can neither confirm nor deny that they’re a little stale but still totally doable. Top Ramen packets, canned foods, cereal, and popcorn are all cheap and hold up well long spells on the shelf. Want to push it even longer? We got just the thing.

Eat Smarter, Not Harder

three smurfs grilling the marshmallows over a campfire


If you want to ensure that you’ll truly be stocked up on grub in an emergency, then consider camping meals. They’re specially designed to provide a nutritional balance that will keep you healthy. Some are even shelf stable for decades at a time. Meals from companies like Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry are also pre-mixed, so you don’t actually need to cook anything. Just heat water, mix and serve.

Cooking is, of course, always an option. Even when you’re in survival mode!

Go Full Caveman

a silhouette of a man cathing a fish


While lots of gross stuff is edible and will technically nourish your body, living off the land can also be kind of delicious. Consider keeping a few fishing hooks, some line, and a few flashy lures on hand to snag fish if you get caught in the wilderness. With some practice, you don’t even need a fishing pole to pull a fish on to dry land. Fresh meat and edible wild greens can help keep you healthy in an emergency. And remember, you’re the only doctor on call . . .

Dr. You . . . Paging Dr. You . . .

graphics showing an eye with tears falling down and a heart breaking into two


It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, right? Having solid first aid skills could be a lifesaver when an emergency goes from bad to worse. Or they can at least buy you a little time to call in someone who knows what they’re doing.

graphics showing how to do CPR


Mouth-to-Mouth: It’s Not Just For High Schoolers

If you’re going to learn first aid, then also take the time to learn CPR. It’s totally worth it. Classes for CPR and automated external defibrillators (AED’s) are inexpensive or free, and they will teach you way more than a survival guide. Lung and heart function are kinda non-negotiable for this whole “life” thing. Study up and learn how to keep that blood moving. But not too much . . .

putting a band aid


We Got A Bleeder!

There’s a pretty good chance that you or someone in your group will get a cut of some sort during an emergency. Everybody’s running around all crazy like, ya know? Treat the wound by rinsing out any particulate with clean water and use antibiotic cream if you have some. Get the wound elevated above the heart and have your patient (you’re the doctor, remember?) apply pressure to the wound. That is, unless you think it’s a broken bone.

graphics of a man with bruises and bandages running towards the door


Set it and (Definitely, Do Not) Forget It

If you suspect someone has a broken bone, you’ll need to immobilize the injury with a splint. You can use practically anything to keep a broken bone from moving, even a paperback survival guide! Just keep a flat and firm object on either side of the injury and wrap them in place with torn cloth or duct tape. That stuff rules.

Carefully start moving the patient towards medical attention or sit tight, build a fire, and relax if help’s on the way. You do know how to build a fire, right?

Let’s Get Lit

It’s good to know how to build a fire whether you ever end up in an emergency or not. Massive bonfires are also totally awesome, right? But let’s say you’ve got this far in life without knowing how to build a fire. Is it like, REALLY that important?

a person lighting up a candle using a matchstick


Yes. Fire is Really That Important.

The heat from even a small fire could prove life-saving if you’re experiencing the signs of hypothermia. It will also help you dry out wet clothes, see what the heck you’re doing in the dark, and provide morale-boosting comfort to help you keep going.

a man freezing in snow and behind him is Olaf


KISS Your Flame Hello

Don’t worry about building the perfect teepee-shaped campfire during an emergency. Every survival guide will show diagrams of symmetrical fires ripping easily into flame, but this is just always in practice. Tear the pages out of said survival guide, pile some dry tinder on top and get a ripper blazing as fast as possible. You may not have time to sit around waiting, and you’ll need the skills to get a blaze going fast.

a group playing musical instrument in front of a firewood


Keep Your Chops Up

Don’t think that because you read this survival guide, you’ll be ready to build a fire in an emergency. Go out and practice. Be safe. It’s fun!

Surefire Ways to Blow It

When things are totally out of whack, it’s easy to let the situation get worse. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself fall into these three common survival traps:

Chuck Noland from the movie Cast Away talking to his friend Wilson, a volleyball


Don’t Turn Into a Slob

Take some time to bathe, clean up, and tidy your possessions every day. Cleanliness is near and dear to our humanity, and you don’t want to let that slip.

David Archuleta walking in the middle of the woods for a music video


Don’t Just Start Running Around Like a Goober

If you’re lost in the wilderness, or really anywhere for that matter, it’s fair to assume that your sense of direction is a little off-kilter. Don’t just pick a random direction and take off. You’ll probably get even more lost. Instead, take some time, collect your thoughts, and return to the last place you didn’t feel lost.

a man jumping out of a window


Don’t Start Taking Crazy Risks

You may well feel afraid during an emergency. That fear may tell you it’s a good idea to jump out of a hotel window. Ya know what? It’s probably not. Take some deep breaths. Take a sip of water. Force yourself to make a rational decision. That may shake off the fear just enough to get yourself to safety.

two men startled after sleep while sitting on the couch


Prep Hard. You Got This!

It’s fun to daydream about a world where stuff always goes right. Go ahead, close your eyes and soak it in. Feels pretty nice, huh? Well, you know what feels better? Knowing that you’ll be ready when things back here in the real world go wrong.

goofy and a friend dancing


So get out there, make a plan, build a survival kit, learn some skills, and face down that zombie apocalypse!

Featured Image: CC0 via Pixabay