Military invasion, collapse of society, and the ever present plan to go “into the woods” in case there’s trouble are all the “cool” versions of prepping. They are more romanticized or appealing situations for us to daydream about.

However, these situations fall on the lower end of probability. They can still happen, and are the focus of what many think a prepper’s ideas are, but this is mostly not the case. This has caused things like Bug-out-bags (BOBs) and wilderness shelters to be a major focus in the last decade.

But what if you can’t get to the woods? What if travel is restricted or, worse, dangerous? What if nature itself poses a threat to you and your family? Natural disasters and extreme weather are still part of our lives, and we are more likely to encounter these than anything else.

New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (Picture from naturaldisasters.com)

We have a number of historical examples ranging from Hurricane Katrina to the events of 2020 where people were not able to leave their homes but still had to survive. It raises a question: Do you have what’s necessary to survive in your own home?

This seems like a silly question, but every year we hear about how a storm knocked power out for days or even weeks for thousands of people. So it’s not that unreasonable to think that the luxuries we have in our home might be temporarily unavailable to us even though we haven’t left.

So let’s look at some of the things you need to consider when staying home for the next disaster.

Types of Disasters And Their Impact


There are many types of disasters and they affect the areas where we live differently. Some dangers will last for a long period of time while others will be shorter but leave behind additional hazards.

Extreme temperatures
Temperature is something that is ever present in our lives but we tend not to think about it. This is because we adapt when we encounter different temperatures. But sometimes we encounter temperature extremes for the first time and it catches us unprepared.

Cold

Extreme cold is one of the easier things to prepare for. In order to combat it we use insulating layers of clothing, heated areas, and food.

The cold can be oppressive especially when we get into negative temperatures. If we are constantly in the cold our bodies are going to be burning extra fuel to keep us warm. We will tense up and cause additional muscle fatigue.

Avoid staying out in the open for long periods of time. If you’re at home this can be easily done, since you have a shelter already. Homes usually have some form of heating which negates having to build a fire. If the power goes out, be sure to have secondary heating methods. This can be standalone heaters, sleeping bags, etc. 

If you live in a larger home or an area where heating can be problematic, create a micro-environment. What’s a micro-environment? It’s like a blanket fort but for survival. While it doesn’t have to be a blanket fort, the idea is roughly the same. You are creating a small sectioned off area that doesn’t let heat out.

This micro-environment technique is why some older homes have so many doors. It allows you to close off certain portions of the building for more efficient heating.

There are always the classic heating solutions like wood burning stoves and corn burners. These are better options than building a fire because they are usually integrated into your home already and you will have fuel for them set aside.

Limit your time outside in negative temperatures and keep your skin covered to help prevent frostbite. If you start to feel numbness or pain in your limbs or face you should get to a warm area as soon as possible.

Heat
Extreme heat is a different problem than extreme cold. With heat you can only wear so many layers before heat exhaustion is a serious issue compared to cold.

Staying cool and hydrated is the major concern in extremely hot environments. Shade, air conditioning, and water are usually very easily had at home. But if the power goes out, air conditioning and water can become a problem.

Limit activity in the heat as much as possible when temperatures are high. Make sure you have plenty of water and the means to keep things cool.

Soaking a cloth or bandana and putting it around your neck will help cool you down. Hats with lots of air flow and wide brims will also keep you cooler since you’ll be carrying your own shade with you.

Larger hats can also be used to fan yourself or other people. Getting a gentle breeze or a light wind will make a huge difference in comfort levels in hotter environments. Ice and shade can mean the difference between moderate comfort and heat exhaustion.

Storms

Storms happen all over the world and each has a certain style to them. Certain areas are more prone to certain storms. Make sure you know which storm types are likely in your area and be ready to deal with the aftermath.

Hurricanes, Tornados, Heavy Thunderstorms

These storms have enough similarity that we are just going to cover them in one section. They all can have rain, high winds, lightning, and devastating after effects.

Hurricanes and heavy thunderstorms will have large amounts of rain which can lead to flooding. This will limit your ability to travel around the area once the storm passes or will threaten your shelter during and after the storm.

Tornados can have heavy rain but their major danger is high winds. Heavy thunderstorms can also have high winds, but we mostly think about the wind with tornados and hurricanes. High winds can destroy shelters and homes. This is extremely dangerous, especially since wind borne debris can cause additional damage to structures and severe injuries to people.

However, because tornados and hurricanes happen semi-regularly in certain areas, the local infrastructure is built to deal with those scenarios. Areas with tornados have storm shelters or basements you can stay in. Areas with hurricanes have houses built to withstand the effects of hurricanes. Keep in mind, though, not every structure can handle extreme storms and even those that can will sometimes fail.

Avoid going out in the storm. Flooding, hail, and wind borne debris can cause damage to you and your vehicle. Travel in storms should be reserved for emergencies and emergency personnel. If you’re going out for something that is not an emergency you could very well cause an emergency.

Dust Storms and Blizzards
Loose sand and loose snow have similar properties. Each is carried by wind and can score areas with small gritty crystals that can damage your eyes and skin depending on how fast they are going.

Both will limit visibility and make traveling dangerous and slow. However, they are on opposite ends of the temperature spectrum. Blizzards feature all the dangers of extreme cold paired with low visibility and snow build up. Staying in a warm, secure area and waiting it out is your best option.

Dust or sand storms are very similar, however their airborne particles do not melt after a time. Since dust storms are made up of either small bits of soil or sand, they cause more problems. Breathing in dirt, dust, and sand is terrible for your lungs. Be sure to have some sort of protective face mask and eye protection to keep those particles out.  Getting any object in your eyes is dangerous, but it’s even worse when those objects are small and gritty. Rinse the eyes and wear protective eyewear when you encounter things like dust storms.

Dust storms and sandstorms will also limit your travel. If you’re caught in one, get to shelter as soon as possible. If you’re at home, don’t venture too far or you might get lost. These types of storms tend to shut down machinery like engines and generators. So avoid leaving them out in these types of storms.

Loss of Resources

Many types of natural disasters are highlighted by loss of resources. This is sometimes unavoidable, especially with disasters like volcanoes, earthquakes, and flooding. However, these tend to be more permanent losses, so we’re going to focus on temporary losses and how to combat those.

Power outages

Power outages are the more common situation we encounter where we lose access to our normal resources. This can happen due to grid failure of some form. Whether a power line is damaged by a storm or something overloads the power stations, power will be lost to individual residences over a specific area. How large or small the area is depends on the structure of the grid.

When we lose power in modern homes, things like heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, light, and entertainment go out the window. This creates a multitude of problems.

When dealing with extreme heat or cold it becomes harder to control your shelter’s temperature. It also makes it harder to cook and preserve food. This has secondary consequences of people getting hungry and irritable. Be sure to have additional means to cook food, or have food that doesn’t need to be cooked on hand just in case your normal cooking methods are not available.

Water also becomes an issue, especially if you are not on city water lines. Those with wells have to have an electric pump to keep water in their systems and/or have a manual pump as a secondary means of getting water.

If you have time to prepare for a potential outage (as in the case of hurricanes or blizzards) be sure to stock up on drinkable water and non-perishable meals.

Then we come to the worst problem: no internet. Yes, it might seem trivial, but having no internet can cause serious problems. A lot of work these days is done online and a lot of entertainment is found there too. The average person checks their phone anywhere from 50 to 90 times a day. Remove that, and boredom can set in quickly.

Be sure to have things like cards, games, and other non-electric entertainment on hand just in case you have to stay in place for multiple hours or days. Bored people can cause a lot more problems than people who are not bored. More importantly, be sure to have access to a local news source that doesn’t require internet access. In the case of emergencies you want to be able to have the most up to date information. 

Conclusion

Being prepared to stay in place is one of the most basic practices of prepping. Our home is where we tend to feel safe, and actually making it safe should be one of our priorities. To some this means weapons for home defense, but in most cases it means being ready to stay there for days or weeks.

Having additional food, water, clothing, and other resources at home is easier and less stigmatized than building a bunker. Given that it’s your residence, people expect to find those things there and don’t think about it as prepping, but it is.

Natural disasters will happen. And each disaster will have a number of factors that are unique to it. This has just been a very broad overview of things to consider when you are going to be staying in.

Sitting around “doing nothing” is one of the hardest things to do. So make sure you have your home infrastructure in place before thinking about your “in the woods” plan.