Stockpiling is just the beginning, and obviously, the most important part of being prepared is having the essentials for survival. However, your essentials must be ready for use when you need them in an emergency.
Preparedness is a state that must be maintained at all times and part of maintaining a state of readiness means conducting routine checks of all of your supplies, gear and equipment and making required adjustments and in some cases, replacing items or supplies.
All food is perishable, in other words, food can deteriorate to the point it is not edible and some foods can be unsafe to eat at a certain point. Any number of things can increase, as well as, decrease the shelf life of your food supplies. Therefore, inventory and rotation of foods is important, first in first out.
Just because the manufacturer states the shelf life is 25 years does not mean it will last 25 years for you. Any number of things can influence the shelf life of food, so do not take the manufacture’s statements at face value, read the fine print and understand what factors do have an impact.
Factors that may have an impact include storage temperatures, in particular temperature changes. Freeze, thaw cycles can ruin canned goods, for example, or cause glass food containers to burst. Exposure to humidity and sunlight can also have an effect on the shelf life. Opening certain foods can dramatically decrease the shelf life, as well, so be aware of what the impact is and ensure you have proper storage containers for the foods once opened.
Label your foods with the date of purchase and expected shelf life or use by date. Set up an inventory schedule so you can track dates and incorporate those foods into your everyday menus as they near the end date. This also gives you a chance to sample the foods, and to make sure you can prepare them. Keep in mind your cooking options will be limited, during a crisis.
It is important that you know how to prepare the foods during a crisis, with limited cooking resources, and that the foods are something that everyone can and will eat.
You want a flashlight that works when the lights go out. You do not want to fumble around in the dark looking for the batteries, because the manufacture instructions state you should store the batteries separate.
Batteries will corrode inside of flashlights and other devices in particular if they have been used. The corrosion will ruin the device, cause burns and can ruin other items stored with them.
The only sensible way to prevent this from happening other than storing the batteries separate is to check your devices on schedule. This means you need a maintenance schedule.
There is any number of home remedies on the Internet to prevent this from happening. Grease on the terminals, for example, or switch the batteries around inside the device and so on. Switching the batteries around means the flashlight will not work when you need it, so once again, you are left fumbling in the dark. Grease on the terminals will not stop the battery itself from bursting and leaking it will only prevent the terminal from corroding. Check and change as needed to ensure your battery operated illumination devices are ready to go when you need them.
Emergency candles not housed in a container (usually called taper candles) and stored in the attic in the summer, or in any place that has excessive heat, will likely melt out of shape. The same applies if you have candles in your vehicle’s emergency kit, and they are left in the vehicle during the summer. This does not mean the candle is not functional, but it can make it more difficult to use in some cases.
Store your candles in an appropriate place but where they are accessible at all times. If storing inside a vehicle try wrapping in some type of insulation to help reduce heat damage to the wax. Wrap in newspaper, or even place inside an insulated cooler, for example or wrap in some type of material and bury inside your vehicle’s emergency pack.
There is a lot of information on the Internet about drinking water storage and some of it is wrong. However, perception can become fact in your mind, so in some cases, you have to do what satisfies you as far as water storage and rotation.
If you rotate your water supply every six months as some recommend this can become expensive especially when dealing with large volumes, but once again do what makes you feel comfortable with the safety of your water supply.
Water from your tap, if you receive your water from a municipality it is already treated. Therefore, if filling up water containers from your tap you do not need to treat the water. However, if treatment is needed then treat just before consuming the water. Do not treat and then store if using questionable water sources.
Once treated water (tap water for example) is inside a sealed container that is rated for drinking water, the shelf life is in theory indefinite. Some do not believe this, because they believe water goes bad. Water does not go bad it becomes contaminated.
The plastic in water bottles purchased already filled from a retailer will breakdown over time from exposure to light and oxygen.
Water will go stale because of a lack of dissolved oxygen, but the water is still potable. Aeration will add dissolved oxygen to the water to “freshen” it, but this is where water can become contaminated when you uncap to agitate or when adding water to the container. Water takes in oxygen when agitated by creating bubbles that rise to the surface, burst and then collect the dissolve oxygen from the air.
If you use a siphon to extract water from large barrels this can also contaminate the water so make sure you sanitize any devices prior to contact with the water.
Check your water supply on schedule to ensure the containers have not become damaged or someone has not removed the seals or used the water and you are not sure of the sanitation procedures used when extracting the water. If in doubt remove the water, sanitize the barrels or containers along with all siphon extraction devices and then refill.
Food grade plastic containers will not breakdown in your lifetime. Experts have stated that certain plastics in landfills will still be there a thousand years from now.
You should routinely inspect for damage to the containers and for faulty seals. Barrels full that have been exposed to freezing temperatures need close scrutiny to make sure there is no damage from freeze expansion.
Moisture will cause mold and rot, and rodents are always looking for a handout. Inspect your backpacks, tarps, cordage, hiking boots, and other survival/disaster supplies for this type of damage. Your basement in July may be dry but in early March, it may not be, so it is important that you pull your supplies out and inventory each piece for serviceability at least every 90 days.
Firearms do not service themselves they must be maintained by you. Ammunition can corrode so it needs inspection, maintenance and/or replacement, as well. Establish a maintenance schedule and adhere to it whether you have fired the weapon or not. One of the more important reasons to inspect your firearms and ammunition is to make sure nothing is missing. This means you must keep tight control. You cannot check on your firearms to often.