Preparing for the unexpected: Can you survive on your own after a disaster?

Andy Boreham
Whether you believe in any of the doomsday scenarios or not, prepping is a good habit to get into.
Andy Boreham

A few years ago I was obsessed with a TV show called “Doomsday Preppers,” a reality series about people who take extensive measures to make sure they can survive on their own in the days, weeks or months following a disaster. I’ve been thinking about it again lately.

The people featured on the show were getting ready for any number of catastrophic events, from an asteroid strike that sends the planet into months of darkness, to a solar flare which knocks out power across the globe. Some were modest “preppers,” stocking up on months of food and water to keep their families fed, and others were hardcore, creating underground bunkers and stashing weapons for self-defense. 

Back then I was still living in New Zealand, surrounded by the familiar. Surely if the proverbial hit the fan, I’d be able to survive — New Zealand has a small population, including my family and friends. I’d be able to find help somewhere.

But now that I’m living in one of the world’s most populated cities, a place I have no birthright, I’ve started to worry a bit. If millions of people are without their normal methods of accessing food and water, how would I fare? Would I even have a chance in a sea of panicked citizens? 

So, I’ve started to prepare for myself, making sure I have enough food and water to last at least a few weeks. You might think I’m crazy, but I think it’s definitely a good idea.

What can you stockpile?

The things I’m stocking up on in terms of food are mainly in the canned variety, because canned foods can last for a couple of years from manufacture and retain all the flavor and goodness, plus they’re easy to store. That includes vegetables like corn and beans, fruit like apricots and pineapple, and lots of canned tuna, which is a great addition because it is packed with protein. The same goes for peanut butter, which can be eaten by the spoonful for protein and energy.

It’s important to make sure you keep an eye on the expiry dates of your inventory, that way you can consume and replace it as needed. I bought everything on Taobao and spent on average 4 or 5 yuan (58 or 72 US cents) per can.

I’ve also purchased an emergency water filter, which can be used to clean most water well enough for drinking, like the water from the Suzhou Creek.

Stock some things to trade

In the aftermath of a disaster, money may not be of much use. Think about stockpiling commodities you could trade with others, like small bottles of alcohol, cigarettes, hygiene items (soap, toothpaste, wet wipes) and so on. That way you can get what you need in a temporary barter-based economy, for example some homemade dumplings from your old neighbor. Yum!

Why bother prepping?

Some people scoff at the idea that society could fall apart for a few months based on any number of reasons, but the reality is that something could go wrong at any time. In 2012, as just one example, a massive solar flare barely missed the planet, according to NASA. Earth is usually protected by its strong magnetic field, but if such a flare breaks through it could cause a massive magnetic storm, potentially wiping out power for months and causing trillions of dollars in damage.

Is Shanghai prepared?

Luckily, Shanghai’s government has put a lot of effort into preparing for disaster. Apart from holding regular drills, the city has also built 64 emergency shelters for those who can’t get to their homes. Each shelter has water and electricity systems, communication equipment, food supplies, medical equipment and more. These are located throughout the city and marked by street signs — but it might pay to find out where the nearest shelters to your home and work are before you need them. The city plans to build over 300 more shelters by 2020. 

Are you convinced?

Whether you believe in any of the doomsday scenarios or not, prepping is a good habit to get into. It doesn’t have to take up a huge amount of space, and you don’t need to go too crazy. But knowing that you have enough food and drink to survive on your own — just in case — is definitely a good feeling.

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