Get started prepping: First things to secure
Water: Without water, you will die in a few days. Water filters, water stores and manual well pumps are ways to ensure you have enough in the case of an emergency. Your first goal with water should be to provide your family with two weeks worth of water. Then filter any water found after that.
Food: Most people in the U.S. have less than two weeks worth of food stored in their homes. Take a look at your pantry and estimate how long you could survive on it. Your first goal with food should be to put together one month’s worth of stored food, then work toward three months as quickly as possible.
Shelter: It is critical to control your environment in an emergency. You should have a way to heat your home in the winter and a place to properly store food and water. Generators or solar panels can help power the necessities.
The rest: For many people, prepping becomes a hobby. It not only helps you prepare for emergencies, but can help you live healthier and cheaper in the meantime.
American Preppers Network
National Geographic’s reality TV show “Doomsday Preppers” depicts people obsessed with the end of the world and spend a lot of money and time preparing for it. Bomb shelters, years worth of food stores, hidden caches of weapons and armored vehicles make regular appearances on the show.
But according to local solar energy expert and prepping consultant Johnny Valentine, not all preppers are gun-crazed survivalists or loony conspiracy theorists. Most are average people who prep for sensible reasons.
“Most people get insurance for their homes and property, so what is wrong with having some physical insurance?” he said. “The people who hire me to do jobs aren’t crazy. Many of them are really intelligent.
“For me, just having car insurance, health insurance and life insurance isn’t enough prepping.”
Valentine explained the desire to prep really took hold after he became a father. Concerned about tough times and possible local disasters, the Gainesville man wants to make sure he and his wife, Lindsey, can provide for their two young children, Elias and Elsa.
Wars, tornadoes and other natural disasters can cause a widespread panic, resulting in the lack of food or collapse of infrastructure, whether temporary or permanent. Each potentially devastating event is on his list of possibilities.
“If we got in a war or a heavy-duty natural disaster happened, times do get lean and they have gotten lean before,” he said. “During World War II, people were rationing meat. My grandfather can remember that.
“Part of our role in this family is to be prepared for things like this.”
His wife agreed.
“It’s really just a way of life for us,” Lindsey Valentine said during an interview at their home off Chestatee Road in Gainesville.
To be ready for such seen or unseen disasters, Valentine assembles the basics needed for life including water, food and shelter, and stores it on his family’s property in northwest Gainesville.
Valentine keeps about six months worth of food in storage. It comes from various sources including his own organic farms, local farms and farmer’s markets. Vegetables are dehydrated and stored in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, which will keep the food fresh for years. Once every three months, his family travels to an organic meat farm in Ellijay and buys about $350 of meat. During hunting season, he supplements his stores with deer meat.
Valentine admits it may sound like a lot of money, but it allows his family to eat meat every day for about $4 a day.
For the long term, Valentine keeps canned fish, which contains a large amount of protein and can be stored for a long time.
To cook the food, he keeps a wood burning stove and a “rocket stove,” which burns wood at extremely high temperatures to prevent excessive smoke that can cause lung disorders after prolonged exposure.
Valentine primarily relies on an underground well for water. But like all things, he has multiple backup plans.
In case his electricity goes out, including his solar-powered backup batteries, his well is outfitted with a “simple pump,” a metal hand pump that allows him to manually fill his pressure tank.
For added security, he also keeps carbon water filters to purify ground water.
Valentine’s expertise in solar energy is noticeable in his shelter preparations. He is one of two people in the state to hold two certifications in solar energy from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.
As an expert, Valentine’s house is a passive solar-heated home, meaning his house collects heat from the sun through its many south-facing windows. At night, he draws thick curtains over the windows to help retain the heat during the night.
For supplemental heat, he has a wood-burning furnace and keeps enough wood on hand to last him months.
“My house isn’t some crazy technology,” he said. “All I did was face it south and insulated it a little more than code.
“My house is 2,000 square feet and my power bill is an average of about $100 a month.”
Valentine’s disaster readiness and solar energy expertise has not just changed the way he thinks about the future. His preparedness has influenced his family.
His parents and grandparents own solar-heated houses on the same property as his own in West Hall. His grandmother’s house is equipped with a solar water heater similar to his own. It consumes roughly the same amount of electricity as a 100-watt light bulb and keeps the water around 130 degrees.
On Valentine’s home, 18 solar panels feed electricity into a battery backup system. If it loses power, this system can provide enough electricity to run the necessities — light, water and refrigeration systems — indefinitely. For added security, he also owns gasoline power generators.
Valentine believes Gainesville could be the location of a natural disaster such as the tornado that leveled the city in 1936. To prepare for such an event, he is building a concrete storm shelter under his parents home, that will double as a storage area for food because it consistently stays cool.
However, the father of two young children pointed out he does not believe in prepping for an apocalypse. In that case everyone would be dead anyway, he said.
But he added the benefits of prepping are not only dependent on disaster happening. Creating a more efficient and self-sufficient home can save money and lead to healthier diets. It can also reduce the negative financial effects of common pitfalls such as job loss or illness.
For Valentine, though, the reasons to prep become simpler everyday.
“We don’t do it because we don’t think we’re going to make it,” he said. “It’s just fun.”