It could be your worst nightmare. A disaster happens and for some reason, you aren’t prepared at all. In a panic, you drive to the local store only to rush through the front doors and see row upon row of empty shelves. The survival items you need are gone, already picked over with nothing left except items of no practical use to you like cake decorating icing and gift cards.
Scenes like this happen all the time to people all over the world, but as preppers your job is to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Your family should be preparing well in advance of any potential disaster and we have many posts that outline simple steps you can take now to be more prepared in the future. But let’s just play along with the scenario above.
If you had only one chance to make it to the store, what items would disappear first? If you were in a race with your neighbors to get anything you could before the stock was gone, which items would you need to throw into your shopping basket?
Items that sell out after a crisis
In a lot of ways, the crisis will dictate to some degree which items sell fastest, but we can imagine that in every crisis, power will be off. This fact dictates most of what will appear in the list below. I want to go over each item and give my reasoning for why you should have these items now or in some cases, what you can have on-hand as an alternative so that you aren’t that guy staring at an empty store wondering how you can use shoe laces in a survival situation.
A backup source of power is not something most of us think about (before we prepped anyway) until we hear that eerie sound of silence when every electric device connected to the wall goes dead. In my house, I have backup batteries on my computers so as soon as the lights go out, the fridge stops running and any ancillary devices stop, I begin to hear an annoying beep. That beep is telling me I only have about 10 minutes before my computer shuts off to save any work, but it also signals that we are no longer connected to the power grid in a meaningful way.
Generator sales always peak after a disaster and I have heard stories of people fighting in parking lots over them. The day the hurricane rolls into your town is not the day to try to go to the big home improvement store and get a generator because it is likely too late. If you think you need backup power for emergencies, set aside time and budget now to get a model that will work for you. Most generators will not power your entire home, but a decent sized portable generator can power several lights, charge devices or one to two small appliances. These are great for just the essentials to keep you going. But you should ensure you have plenty of fuel on hand also.
Alternative: In lieu of a generator, you can use a power inverter and your car’s engine to do the same thing. You may even use less fuel and will certainly cause less noise.
So, you have a fancy generator running outside but you need to connect your devices to it. Extension cords are always in short supply after a disaster because people forget they need to get power to the other end of their home or across the street to a neighbor’s house. A few 50 to 100 feet medium duty extension cords will help you bring the power into areas and away from the noise of the generator.
When the TV is out and so is the internet, people naturally revert to the good old radio for information, entertainment and comfort. A weather radio is usually purchased because most like the Eton FRX3 Hand Crank NOAA AM/FM Weather Alert Radio have a crank that you can use to power the unit instead of batteries. This will ensure you can listen to local broadcasts or even emergency weather alerts without the need for power. Well, you supply the power.
Speaking of batteries, it’s good to do two things ahead of any disaster. First, standardize on a common battery size now. I prefer AA for most of my devices that take batteries. My radios, headlamps, flashlights all use AA. The second thing is to have plenty of batteries on hand before you need them. I have purchased a couple of the 48-packs of batteries and stored them away for emergencies. These are not kept with the battery supply that is dipped into for game controllers and toys for visiting children.
Alternative: Use rechargeable batteries and a solar charger to keep your supply fresh. Even the best batteries will die eventually so rechargeables are a longer running option.
Candles are a grid-down staple that can be used for other things beside light. You can heat a room or cook with them if you have the right set up. They aren’t a perfect solution because I would still rather have a headlamp than a candle, especially to prevent fires but they do have their place. Funny, if you watch the walking dead apparently, they each have about 10 dozen with them at all times. Candles are your back-up’s backup.
When the power goes out, a fan can be one of those conveniences that saves a lot of time and trouble besides just bringing a breeze. After hurricane’s Katrina and Sandy, industrial fans were used to dry out carpet before mold set in. In the summer time, they could cool a decent sized room too and keep things from overheating. Now, you are going to have to justify using the gas you have stored for a fan, but in some cases, these are sold out quickly. I can imagine how nice they would be in a hot Florida or Mississippi August.
What are you going to carry that gas in that you are standing in line for hours to get? Along with decreased or non-existent fuel supplies, having an appropriate container for transport is often overlooked. Your car is out of gas or more likely you don’t want to use gas to get to the store so you will need several fuel cans to cart any fuel you can obtain. Additionally, a yard wagon to haul 4 of these or more at a time (provided rationing will allow it) might be a good idea also.
Most home have some version of a flashlight around for emergencies. My dad had several strategically placed at my home growing up and I have followed suite to a large degree. You never realize just how many flashlights you need when the power goes out and it’s pitch black. I would add a decent headlamp to this list for everyone in the family because I think they are superior for working hands free. Lanterns are great for powering a room like the kitchen when we all sit down to a nice meal of freshly grilled venison steaks that were going to go bad in the freezer. We can use the lantern to have enough light to see each other and eat with and not spend the batteries in other devices. I have a couple of battery-powered lanterns (little to no heat and zero risk of fire) and several Coleman propane lanterns for outdoor use or winter time, controlled usage. The heat off these is great in winter and you can cook on the tops too if you are desperate.
Now, the most obvious item that sells out after a crisis, and that is food. I didn’t want to create a list of 10 food items, but let’s just say that you know food disappears when panic sets in. You know your family is partial to eating food because they do it every single day. You know that when the power goes out, your options for cooking that food will be a little bit different so take time now to stock up on canned food items that your family can eat either by heating over a camp stove or grill or even a fire. There are a ton of options that you don’t even have to cook. Have plenty of these on hand to feed your family because the stores will run out if this is really a disaster. Even if they get things running in 3 days, do you want your family to go without that long? Take steps now.
This list is just 10 items that sell out in a crisis, but they are by no means the only things that disappear off shelves that we might wish we had. What is on your list of prepping items to make sure you have before it’s too late?