Inventory Time: How Prepared Are You, Really?

When the weather cools off and autumn is nigh, it’s a good time to take stock of the preparations you’ve made for emergencies or disasters. One lady lamented that she didn’t know how to keep track of what she had. Well, let’s fix that.

I’m typing this story on a computer using a word processing program. Many of you readers have something similar with your computers. You may also have a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel. That’s what you need – a way to make a spreadsheet.

In years past, I’d buy a 12” x 18” pad with ¼” squares, because it was easy to write on the lines. I’d punch three-ring notebook-paper holes on the short side, and I could keep the sheets in a three-ring notebook. The sheets stuck out about 10 inches, making it easier to find. My wife laughed at that, but it’s true.

It helps to divide your pages into categories. Some of mine are: Water, canned food, dehydrated food, seeds, tools, clothing, footwear, outerwear, first aid, lighting, heating, cooking, washing clothes, washing people, toilet flushing, hand washing, bicycles, and books. Choose your own categories.

You’ll see that I don’t have anything on the list that requires electricity. Nothing here requires gasoline or an engine.

Water storage is important, as are some means of making water safe to drink. Those can include chemical treatment, boiling, pasteurizing, etc. All require some equipment, and the inventory tells you what you have.

Water is also needed for cooking, washing, and personal hygiene. Each of these activities has its own special equipment, and the inventory tells you what you have and what condition it’s in. For example, you can make a hand-powered clothes washer out of a 5-gallon bucket. You make a one-inch hole in the center of the lid and put the handle of a toilet plunger through it. But toilet plungers are made of rubber; is yours still soft and flexible, or hard and cracked? Inventory tells you.

You can make a portable toilet from a 5-gallon bucket, too. It takes at least 2 thick plastic bags inside the bucket, and with a little work a real toilet seat can fit on top. Inventory tells you how many plastic bags you have. Run out of plastic bags, and your life is going to change.

Of course, you may be able to use the indoor toilet. All you have to do is fill up the toilet tank so you can flush it. You don’t need drinking water to flush, but you must have water available. Inventory tells you when you must find flush water somewhere. Tank water works.

Canned food lasts a long time. Inventory tells you how many cans of what kind of food you have stored. If you date the cans, you can use the oldest first. As you use the cans, you cross them off your inventory. When you make your monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or yearly inventory, you’ll know what you need to buy.

The inventory helps in other ways. If you have water that needs to be boiled or food that needs to be cooked, you’d best assume the microwave oven isn’t working. So – how will you cook that food? Is it worth it to invest in a small cast iron stove you may never need to use? I look at it as insurance. I buy insurance even though I hope I never need it, but when I’ve needed it, I was glad I had it.

Most of us haven’t ridden a bicycle for years, but we may still have a couple around. The inventory tells their condition – maybe it’s time to get new tires and tubes and spend an afternoon getting two bikes ready to roll. Your bikes will roll when your truck can’t, and they’re a way to get to town if you must go.

In the emergency or disaster we hope won’t happen, it’s likely the electricity will go off. You won’t be able to get access to any inventory you put into your computer. But wait! You can print out your computer inventory lists every 3 to 6 months. Or you wrote your inventory down on big sheets of paper, right?

Take inventory of what you’ve got, figure out what you need, and do it before the end of the year. If anybody asks what you want for Christmas, give him a list. It’s okay if your list includes bicycle tubes, a whistling teakettle, and 100 pounds of long-grain rice.

By sharing this story, you might get your family and friends to give you Christmas gifts that will help you get better prepared for emergencies or disasters. There are more than 150 free Disaster Guy tips on my website Any comments, please e-mail