How To Survive The Apocalypse, on $20 and the stuff in your apartment

This is your prep list for the How To Survive The Apocalypse..for just 72 hours. Our goal is just to get you to First Base---a grab and go kit that will take care of you for the first three days. Why do all earthquake prep kits say to plan for that amount of time? Think about it like this: even without an earthquake, if RIGHT NOW the National Guard was ordered to assemble materials and deliver food/medicine/water/health care to the City of San Francisco, it would take them AT LEAST three days to get that together. It just takes time to pull out the stuff, load the trucks, decide where to go, get set up, etc etc. And in an earthquake of any size, likely SFO, OAK, and the Bay Bridge will be out of operation. And the electrical grid. Oh, and fires—you get the idea. But after three days things will start to sort themselves out.

So, don’t be surprised if it’s not the end all be all; it’s not supposed to be. But it will be a strong foundation. And has been learned from countless disasters, planned and unplanned ( ie: Hurricane Katrina, Burning Man), those people who have done even the tiniest bit of preparation are SO much better prepared mentally to deal with what’s happening. severe acne problems in face Once you have even a basic kit together, you’ll find yourself adding to it, and mentally patting it ( like checking for your wallet ) anytime you get a twinge of anxiety. Trust me, it’s a good feeling to have. For three days, you’ll be able to stay warm, dry, clean, and focused, and instead of being needy and thus likely making bad decisions you'll be helping build the communities of people taking care of each other, which are so key to survival. Because really, it’s going to be people who just step up, not the people who are “supposed” to be in charge, who’re really going to make the difference in who survives, and who thrives.

As an aside, you may enjoy reading Rebecca Solnit’s phenomenal new book, “A Paradise Made In Hell: the extraordinary communities that arise in disasters.” Opens with the stories from the 1906 Quake and Fire, and talks about the community kitchen that thrived in Dolores Park.


Again, let’s focus: You can do this, easily. You can save your ass for just $20, and the stuff already in your house.

Don’t believe me? Try this: Go through item by item the short list below, and put all you have that's on it in a pile. Then, put the pile in a backpack.

Turns out, you already have almost everything you need squirreled away somewhere. For about $20, you’ll be able to get all the key items that you don’t already have. Put it together, keep it in the hall closet or someplace near your way out the door. Done. There, doesn’t that feel better?

A $3 backpack from Goodwill. Because once you have one of these, everything else just falls into it. Seriously, it’s like some kind of energetic law of nature—when the vessel arrives, so does the water. Start. Today.

Backpack (school size)
Space Blanket
20’ String or Rope
Ski Hat
Flashlight—preferably wind up, or an LED one
Metal pan to boil water/cook in
Plastic plate
Coffee mug
Pocket knife
Battery-operated or wind up radio
can opener
zip ties
map-unless you know your whole region by hand, you're gonna need a paper guide if you start moving around
duct tape
deck of cards

We’re aiming for 2,000 calories per person, per day, and it has to be in a form that will keep for a long time. Familiar foods are important, so use this as a rule of thumb, not something set in stone.

Can opener
Cans of tuna
Canned fruit
Cans of soup
Dehydrated meals
Macaroni and Cheese
Energy Bars
Energy Gels
Packets of Instant Coffee (6)
Chewing gum
Packets of salt and pepper
Cans of Sterno—REI has them, as to all hardware stores
Three feet aluminum foil

This one is surprisingly easy. Put a single two liter bottle of water in your backpack—that’s it. Here’s a secret: every single house and apartment in SF comes with a built in 30-gallon supply of water, earthquake proofed. It’s called your hot water heater, and each has a little tap to get at that clean, filtered H20 right on the bottom. Each is also required to be anchored to the wall, so it’s unlikely to be damaged in a quake.

Here’s another secret tip—ever see a circle of bricks in SF in the street, and wonder what it’s for? They were put in after the 1906 quake and fire—they’re underground cisterns, full of water; enjoy.

FRS radio, with batteries. You’d be surprised how many have them—and how handy they’ll be when your iPhone doesn’t work. Make a plan with your friends NOW about what channel to use
Sharpies—use to write on the outside of the place you live a note to friends/loved ones, saying WHEN you went and WHERE. A car makes a great billboard.

Here are general basics to get you started. Split up loose items into ziplock baggies. Include any medicines you use, and a few spare pair of contact lenses.

Band Aids-all sizes.
Adhesive Tape, a couple feet
Gauze Pads
Triangular Bandage, Non-Sterile
Antacid, Calcium Carbonate
Ibuprofen (200 mg), Pkg./2
Acetaminophen (500 mg), Pkg./2
Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg)
Aspirin (325 mg), Pkg./2
Cold Medicine Pkg./2
After Bite® Sting and Itch Relief Wipe
Anti-diarrhea medication
Dust mask--optional, bandana would work, too.
Germicidal hand wipes or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Hydrocortizone Ointment
CPR Barrier, Shield
Surgical Gloves
Safety Pins, #2
1 tube of superglue—fixes things, including small cuts

Toilet paper roll
Plastic garbage bags, ties (for personal sanitation uses)
Household chlorine bleach
Soap, Shampoo (you know all those samples you keep picking up and bringing home from hotels? Now is the
time to clear out your stash).

Grab your sleeping bag and pad from your camping gear—when you go camping, get it FROM your disaster kit, not the other way around.

Next, go find that lame tshirt you don’t like wearing, and a thin jacket, and a pair of undies, and some socks, and put it in there. Shazam: you now have a clean change of clothes. Do the same for your partner/kids.

Advanced Class

Now that you have all that sorted, here’s a few extra items to consider. We keep a 5 gallon can of fuel stashed outside our house—that’s enough to give us 100 miles of range. Also, since we’re burners, we have a 1000W Honda Wisperwatt generator outside—cause what good is a disaster without a string of Christmas lights and some beats? We also put out a chainsaw, because you don’t want to go through a 2x4 with a hand tool. And we
also have a full disaster kit in the trunk of our car, because just looking at the odds, we’re equally likely to be away from home as at home.

But all that comes later. First things first—go to Goodwill on your way home. Get a big packpack, and start packing.

See you at the afterparty!

-Tom Price
Tips for suggested changes welcome:

Some additional thoughts from a reader:

After my Loma Prieta experience, here are some things I would add to your list:

kitty litter! Yes kitty litter. I found that I could create a makeshift toilet using a thick black garbage bag in one of those sturdy tall yellow buckets with some kitty litter inside to absorb liquid etc., and then between uses just swirl the bag closed. For a winter-time disaster it beats trekking into the snow.

women should set aside menstrual products

we had no water to wash dishes (the pump to the well was electric) so I wished for paper plates and plastic utensils

I'd pack a few changes of underwear, great use for those old ones with holes that you'd otherwise throw away.

Not every apartment has its own water heater, so in that case more water

Also, with advance warning as in a storm system moving in, one can fill containers with water and freeze them which will help keep food cold and then provide water as it melts

I bought a coleman camp stove and propane after Loma Prieta. One of our neighbors had one and we had a great communal hot meal which did wonders for our morale. Yes it's more than twenty dollars but worth every penny and you may find a cheap one used.

A good paperback which you wouldn't mind re-reading, in your car bag. I'd rather read than play cards.

One of the hassles is recycling and refreshing your preparedness supplies so date things and put it on your calendar to check it.

Thanks again,