Bernie Carr is known as “the Apartment Prepper.” She is also the author of The Prepper’s Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster.
There are millions of people who live in apartments who would like to be prepared in case of an emergency or natural disaster, and Bernie agreed to a brief written interview. I share it with you here:
1. Bernie, how big is your apartment?
The apartment has 1300 square feet.
2. When you first started prepping, how did you feel given the limited space you had?
At first I was discouraged that I can never find enough room in our apartment to accommodate emergency supplies. I also felt there are so many limitations as far as what the lease allows: Most apartments do not allow tenants to make changes such as extra locks on doors, generators or even barbecues on the patio. But after reassessing our situation, we decided to focus on what we can do, instead of what we can’t.
3. What are some easy low-cost things apartment dwellers can do to start preparing for an emergency or crisis?
First you must organize and clear up some space. Sell, donate or discard things you no longer use. Evaluate what items you already have at home. I recommend that apartment dwellers should immediately focus on the basics:
Since a person can only live around three days without water, that is the first priority. The low cost way to store water is to wash two liter soda bottles with soap and water, and rinse well. Fill the soda bottles with tap water and store. Soda bottles are food grade and stack well when stored horizontally on a shelf. Store about 3-4 liters per person per day, until you have at least a week’s worth, then go from there.
You can get started with food storage with $5 per shopping trip, but it must be done consistently. Pick up a few cans of food – entrees, meats, vegetables and fruit every time you shop and set it aside for emergencies. Buy only foods that your family will eat. Then move on to rice, pasta, beans, ramen, oatmeal, canned milk. Use coupons and combine them with store sales for extra savings. Store them with the oldest in front and keep rotating and replacing items as you use them.
I also recommend starting a balcony or patio garden. You do not need a lot of space to grow herbs in pots, or a couple of tomato plants.
Once you have water and food covered, move to the next round of supplies:
Buy extra toilet paper, toothpaste, toiletries, large trash bags, paper plates and cups. When water is shut off, use paper plates and cups to avoid washing dishes. Sign up for freebies online and take advantage of buy one get one free deals at drug and discount stores.
You can also find many items at the dollar stores.
Light and Heat
Pick up flashlights and batteries at a discount store like Walmart. Buy extra blankets, sleeping bags, camping lanterns and propane stoves at garage sales, Goodwill or Craigslist. Make sure you check them thoroughly to make sure they are in good working order.
Assemble a low cost first aid kit, or buy a prepackaged first aid kit at Walmart or Sam’s. At your next doctor and dentist visit, don’t be shy about asking for samples. You can also get a lot of freebies by participating in community events such as 5k runs and health fairs. Save these items for your first aid kit.
Set aside cash in case you are unable to take out money or if debit/credit cards are not working. Start with at least $20, then go from there.
It does not cost anything to organize an “important documents” binder to store all your essentials in case you need to evacuate. This will contain copies of your insurance policies, birth certificates, lease or mortgage papers, bank information, contact list, etc.
Make a family emergency plan on what each member of the family will do in case of emergency: who will pick up which child, where you will meet, who to call, etc. Find out your office and school contingencies for emergencies: some schools and buildings go on “lock down” so you need to find out about these procedures.
Resolve to learn one skill a month: CPR and other first aid skills, gardening, learn to make a fire without matches, purify water, etc. Most of the time these can be learned for free by researching it yourself or at a low cost. Check out books from the library or watch YouTube instructional videos to learn many of these skills.
4. What are some creative things you’ve done to maximize the utility of your space?
You don’t have to store all your supplies in the pantry. You can store your emergency items in a hall closet, under the bed, or behind the couch. A compartment in a TV cabinet does not have to store DVDs — you can use it for emergency supplies. I’ve stored items under the dining room table but they are hidden from sight by the table cloth.
If you have empty suitcases stored in a shelf somewhere, use the space inside.
Five gallon buckets are great for apartments You can obtain these free from bakeries or restaurants. I have buckets for various uses: personal care, first aid, pet supplies etc. They stack easily and can be moved from room to room whenever apartment management or maintenance need access to your apartment and you want to keep them out of the way.
Keep track of where you store your supplies.
Use the trunk of your car for storage. You can store extra clothes in a bag in case of emergency, first aid kit, some water and food.
A bit off topic, but our apartment has drafty windows, and since we are unable to change them, we lined the windows with bubble wrap to improve insulation and heating.
5. For more tips about “apartment prepping,” where should my readers go?
Please visit http://apartmentprepper.com.
Thanks for the all the great information, Bernie!
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Don’t be scared. Be prepared.