Before COVID-19 arrived, many preppers were mocked for stocking up on supplies so they’d be ready for a major crisis. But now, in the midst of a global pandemic, people are looking at preppers in a different light.

The coronavirus outbreak has shown us that disaster comes in many forms and, if we’re prepared, it’s much easier to be self-reliant. When COVID-19 hit, it created shortages of bleach, sanitizer, Lysol, disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, and paper towels. Shoppers were caught off-guard when staples they’d previously taken for granted were no longer available. Now, even months later, many shelves are still bare in some places, and some items are still difficult to buy online.

Want to be more self-reliant going forward so you’re prepared for whatever comes next? We’ve got some tips.

1. Undertake a massive purge

The last thing you want to do in the aftermath of a disaster is to wade through stuff you don’t care about to locate the stuff you do. You probably could fill a dumpster with possessions you wouldn’t miss if you suddenly had to evacuate. But why wait for an evacuation? Dumpster rental rates are as low as $250 a week in some places, and delivery/pickup options are safe and easy. They’ll help you declutter the space you have so you can put it to better use.

Also, it’s possible that you avoided stocking an emergency kit (or a stash of bleach and toilet paper) because you had nowhere to put it. If you clear out junk and unwanted belongings, you can use that newly available space to store supplies — or even serve as a home office or playroom. Or you can find other creative and useful ways to utilize those cleared-out areas.

2. Make your home ‘greener’ inside and out

If you’re looking for a good home improvement project, seek ways to go green. The less reliant you are on non-sustainable, “non-green” items, the more self-reliant you can be.

  • Improve your insulation. You’ll use fewer resources, cut your energy bills, and add value to your home. Take the money you save and use it to create a disaster emergency kit.
  • Consider solar paneling. In the long run, it can save you money on energy and help you to live greener. To further increase your self-reliance, store any excess energy generated and use it in conjunction with solar battery storage — this way you’ll have power even during outages.
  • Install a steel door. You’ll seal out any drafts and make your space more energy-efficient, not to mention, you’ll recoup 74.9% of what you spent installing one.

You can also use your do-it-yourself skills to build a garden. You’ll reduce your dependence on commercial packaging and the transportation required to deliver goods to the stores, leaving a greener footprint on the Earth. If you take it a step further and learn how to store your garden bounty in cans and jars to enjoy year-round, you’ll really boost your independence in feeding yourself.

3. Get your financials in order

Unfortunately, disaster usually brings some sort of financial upheaval. Global, national, regional, or personal financial hardship all can impact your household. To avoid long-term repercussions, plan for the worst ahead of time.

  • Go through your monthly income and expenses to devise a budget you can work with.
  • If you don’t already have one, set up an emergency fund.
  • Review your insurance policies and get a home warranty to make sure you have the coverage you need in the case of potential disasters or breakdowns.
  • Pay down as much debt as you can so you have more options for credit in case you need it.

Putting yourself in a stronger place financially can help pull you through and stand steady in the aftermath of a disaster.

4. Collect and store important documents

The last thing anyone wants to do in an emergency is to spend time frantically searching for essential documents. Assemble a legal and financial emergency packet that includes important documents such as birth certificates, ID documents, and passports; bank, tax and pay records; insurance cards and policies, along with your will. If you don’t have a separate space to store these for easy accessibility, try undertaking one of these creative DIY solutions as a project.

Once you get your hard copies in order, take the time to secure this important information digitally, as well. Any important documents (including sentimental cards, letters, and photographs) can be scanned into a digital format so they can be preserved online.

And if you own a business, be sure you back up all necessary documents, database files, and licenses. Many people use cloud solutions to create redundancy so that vital or cherished items aren’t destroyed or lost.

5. Expand your survival skill set

At a minimum, to be proactive in preparing for an emergency, you should refresh your basic safety and first-aid knowledge, ensuring that you’re up to date with the latest information. Take it a step further by learning CPR and other lifesaving training so you can help others if the need arises. Other useful skills you might want to consider include:

  • Checking tire air pressure and changing tires.
  • Driving a stick-shift car (an irreplaceable skill if a vehicle with manual transmission is all that’s available during an evacuation).
  • Reading a paper map when online maps aren’t working.
  • Hunting, fishing, and preparing catches, in case food is no longer easily accessible.
  • Harvesting and discerning the difference between edible and poisonous plants.

You may not need these skills on a regular basis but having any of them under your belt can make it easier to get through a disaster. It could even mean the difference between life and death.

6. Stock up on necessary supplies

Conventional wisdom suggests that you should always have an emergency kit ready to help you through a disaster. Ready.gov suggests that you have following on hand:

  • One gallon of water per person, per day, with a three-day minimum
  • Three days or more of nonperishable food (Don’t forget your pets!)
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal others for help)
  • Battery or hand-crank radio, along with a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Wrench or pliers for shutting down utilities or making repairs
  • Manual can opener
  • Garbage bags and plastic ties, plus sealable food-storage bags
  • Dust masks
  • Cellphone with chargers and charged battery backups
  • Other supplies recommended by FEMA

COVID-19 also has taught us that, from now on, emergency kits should probably include extra masks, sanitizer, paper towels, toilet paper, disinfectant sprays and wipes, bleach, and other supplies that might be hard to acquire if another pandemic or serious supply disruption occurs. Store your kit items in airtight plastic bags and collect and store them in easy-to-carry plastic bins or sturdy backpacks.

Often until something terrible happens, we don’t realize how unprepared we are. As difficult as it has been, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic; and going forward, being prepared on several different fronts should definitely be one of them.

If you are still in need of assistance and disinfecting services, do not hesitate to reach out to the professionals at Rainbow International Restoration of South & West Suburbs for all of your sanitation and disinfecting needs!