Creek Stewart’s The Disaster-Ready Home is an indispensable guide to preparedness
If there is one important takeaway from off-and-on grocery shortages during the coronavirus pandemic and the deadly freezing conditions that hit Texas in Feb. 2021, it is the importance of self-reliance. For survival expert Stewart, this means devoting resources to preparedness.
In his new guide, The Disaster-Ready Home: A Step-by-Step Emergency Preparedness Manual for Sheltering in Place, Stewart’s analysis is succinct: “If you wait until you and everyone else needs it at the same time, it will not be available. The only preparations that matter are the ones you make before disaster strikes.”
The Disaster-Ready Home is a thorough, understandable guide for readers who want to begin, or enhance, a disaster preparedness plan. Stewart’s advice for accumulating appropriate stores of food and water and assembling adequate heating, cooking, and hygiene supplies can help any reader be ready to thrive in a short- or long-term survival scenario.
The bulk of The Disaster-Ready Home is devoted to building out a store of food goods for the reader and any members of their household. Stewart provides simple calculations to help readers discern the proper quantities and categories of food they should store for the duration of disaster they anticipate. He advises storing these goods in a well-lit and practical space, and provides plentiful photographs that demonstrate the variety of foods, spices, vitamins, and other essentials Stewart stores in his own meticulously organized, well-labeled pantry.
Of particular value for those who are new on the preparedness scene is Stewart’s description of his three-tiered food storage system. Stewart’s first-tier food is intended for the initial two weeks of a disaster, and includes all the food in his regular pantry, freezer, and refrigerator.
Second-tier food covers the first two weeks to three months of a more severe disaster. Assuming this “difficult transitional phase” will already require extra energy from all family members, Stewart’s second-tier food stores consist of freeze-dried meals, which can be easily reconstituted with hot water. Stewart cautions readers that freeze-dried foods are expensive. Some may prefer to acquire freeze-dried foods over time, and others may have to use perishable items as second-tier foods. Stewart’s third-tier emergency food stockpiles include a nine-month supply of bulk grains and boxed or canned items his family eats often.
Learning to rotate perishable foods to prevent spoilage is a skill Stewart stresses often. He also suggests regularly cooking meals using only the items in one’s preparedness stores as a drill for real survival scenarios.
The Disaster-Ready Home contains information about a multitude of companies that sell freeze-dried food and bulk grains. Stewart offers step-by-step photos and instructions how one can repackage bulk grains with oxygen absorbers in Mylar bags and a well-labeled food-grade plastic bucket using the bucket, a two-by-four, a vacuum, and an iron.
Stewart also teaches readers how to create a year-round supply of fresh produce by sprouting certain kinds of seeds and grains. Sprouts, Stewart explains, “are known to have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals than even the full-grown versions of the same plants.”
Intrigued by his advocacy for this “superfood for the cooped-up survivor,” I purchased several varieties of sprouting seeds. Following Stewart’s guidance, I grew delicious alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts on my counter in the dead of winter within a week, and with limited effort.
Water and Off-Grid Cooking
At more than eight pounds per gallon, a single week’s supply of 56 gallons of emergency water Stewart recommends for a family of four will weigh in at more than 450 pounds. To store the quantities needed for short-term survival scenarios, Stewart advises readers on appropriate water storage containers ranging in size from gallon jugs to 55-gallon drums (with tips on sourcing, cleaning, filling, and siphoning from such containers) to 305-gallon storage containers.
Acknowledging that storing adequate quantities of water for longer-term scenarios will be difficult, Stewart suggests readers create a “plan for harvesting more water from renewable sources.” He gives simple tips for setting up rain barrels to gather rainwater, and has plentiful advice about installing manual pumps on existing wells, or even finding the water table and driving your own well point.
Stewart offers insight into how different types of water impurities carry different risks. He recommends readers store a supply of calcium hypochlorite, and provides instructions for using this to create a water treatment solution that can be used prior to storage, or after harvesting. He also recommends that readers acquire a filtration system, and provides several options at a variety of price points.
Also in this section, Stewart demonstrates cooking methods that do not require electricity. The spectrum of options includes aesthetically pleasing but labor-intensive and somewhat impractical (during non-disaster scenarios) wood-burning cookstoves, and a small but powerful stove that can cook a meal with small-diameter sticks. He also provides step-by-step instructions for cheaply assembling an outdoor brick or cinder block cooking stove.
Heating and Sanitation
Maintaining body heat during a disaster in cold weather is vital. Stewart advocates for wood-burning fireplaces, an option that has varying levels of practicality and expense. This option also requires homeowners to keep a ready store of fireplace wood, and to have the knowledge, stamina, and tools for cutting additional wood from surrounding trees during a disaster. Stewart also speaks to the advantages and problems associated with relying on kerosene and propane heat, or relying on a whole-house generator in case of emergency.
“The improper handling of human feces has been the bane of civilizations throughout human history,” Stewart writes. To that end, he demonstrates how to cheaply and easily assemble a self-composting toilet and dig a backyard latrine to properly dispose of human waste if plumbing is no longer usable.
Rural homeowners will likely get the most value from Stewart’s guide because of resources already at their disposal, and because storage for the amounts of goods Stewart suggests, digging wells, and utilizing off-grid composting toilets could present a complication for those who live in small or high-rise apartments or condominiums. Tips about sprouting seeds and disguising stored preparedness materials in small spaces, as well as creating an emergency plan that allows readers to avail themselves of naturally available resources, will still be helpful for readers with limited square footage.
Having a hard copy of The Disaster-Ready Home will be an asset. If readers follow Stewart’s guidance and perform regular checks of their food stores and preparedness plans, they will likely want to return to the book periodically for inspiration and reminders. Even if the book goes unread for years, in a future disaster scenario that cuts off internet access, having physical copies of Stewart’s advice and his photo-rich do-it-yourself guides will prove a worthwhile investment.
It would be impossible for one book to list the exhaustive possibilities individuals should consider as they prepare for uncertainty. The Disaster-Ready Home is an excellent launching point for anyone who wants to get serious about finding logical ways to meet their most pressing and universal needs in an emergency. By taking advantage of Stewart’s years of experience, readers can accumulate those basic supplies, and begin to think more critically about their own unique survival needs.