Equipment and supply inventory: A critical preparedness task

When is the last time that you took a good look at the preparations that you have made for times of uncertainty? I’m talking about pulling everything out, looking it over, testing it for proper function, checking expiration dates and ensuring that nothing has gone bad or been invaded by some type of critter. If you’re like many of us, the answer is probably that it has been a while.

Taking the time to check over the preparations that you’ve made is a vital function of remaining prepared for the unknown. This is also a prime opportunity to look for deficiencies in your planning and to identify items that may need to be repaired or even replaced. The worst thing that could possibly happen is for a disaster to strike and the equipment and supplies that you spent so much time and money on are not able to be used because they were shoved in a closet with the assumption that they would always be there when you need them.

I’m sure that many people will shake their heads and think to themselves that this could never happen to them, but some would be surprised to see how easily things can be forgotten about or overlooked. As an example, when there is a bad rainstorm, a storm shelter should always be checked to ensure that there are no leaks and that rainwater is not pooling up inside of it. This can cause mold and mildew, leading to unsafe conditions for anyone who would need to use the shelter for any period of time in the future. Also, any supplies that are housed in the shelter could be ruined if there are leaks and the water causes damage.

Expiring food, stagnant water, insects, rodents, battery acid, corrosion and rust are all examples of ways that supplies and equipment can be ruined if they are not taken care of on a regular basis. These are the grounds for developing and implementing an inventory strategy for your preparedness supplies. That leaves the question of…

What can be done?

There are a number of possible things that could be done to ensure that preparedness supplies are not allowed to go bad or fall into disrepair. I’ve separated the tools that I use into the following four strategies:

Strategy #1 — Keep a logbook

A logbook can be put together in a number of ways including a computer-based spreadsheet, a notebook, or my favorite… a spreadsheet that is created on the computer and then printed out so that I have a hard copy no matter the circumstances and I can make any adjustments as necessary.

The typical log will include information about the item itself, maintenance requirements, expiration dates, any special instructions, location, rotation timelines, etc. My thought is that it should be a resource for me as well as something that my loved ones can rely on if I am not around for some reason. While I chose to label this section as a logbook, it just as easily could be labeled an inventory sheet or whatever is convenient for you.

Strategy #2 Conduct regular inventories

Completing inventories of your supplies is, in my opinion, the best way to ensure that all of your preps are kept up to date and in good working order. This practice, along with the previously created logbook, can pretty well ensure that everything you have done to prepare stays in good working order and are not wasted.

The periods of time between inventories is a personal decision but I prefer to break them down into different periods of time based on what the items being inventoried are. As an example, food, water and other items that are perishable might be inventoried every month, equipment like generators might be inventoried quarterly and other items like propane stoves, tents and hygiene items like soaps and shampoos might be inventoried on an annual basis. This type of system is something that every person will design for their personal needs but should be a regular part of your preparedness efforts. This will create an environment where you will have a good grasp on what you have, what you need, what you may not need anymore and what should be upgraded.

Strategy #3 Store equipment and supplies properly

This may seem like common sense because it should be. However, it can be easy to buy a new gadget, set it down somewhere and then forget to go back to it. Proper storage also means evaluating the packaging that something is in and determining if it is truly the best way for things to be stored.

The first thing that I think of are the ever popular rice and beans; these come in plastic bags but can better be stored for the long term in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers that are inside of a bucket that is sealed with a lid. Other examples that come to mind are firearms that are better stored in a safe with a dehumidifier or specific bags that are designed to store firearms.

If your preparations involve sensitive electronics or very expensive items, a strong case that is lined with foam is likely the best choice for storage. My preference is Pelican Cases because of my military experience where I deployed several times, always using these cases to protect our gear. (I am not compensated in any way for mentioning Pelican Cases by name, nor was I asked by anyone to mention them.)

Lastly, think about storing your supplies off of the ground by using pallets on the ground or shelving. This will help keep them from getting wet in places like basements or garages and also helps keep the critters out.

Strategy #4 – Rotate, replace and maintain/repair your inventory

Rotation of supplies is one of the best ways to ensure that items do not get wasted; this is especially true when it comes to food. As a regularly consumed supply, stored food can be rotated by taking what you buy and adding it to the back of your food stores and consuming the oldest inventory when you eat these foods. It is the simple principal of first in, first out inventory.

It is unavoidable that some preparations will have to be replaced over time. That is just the part of preparedness. Examples of the types of things that must be rotated and replaced are the obvious food and water supplies. Then there are other things that are highly recommended to be rotated and replaced like batteries, filters, ammunition and the like. The adoption of the first in, first out inventory can be employed with these items as well. Something like practicing shooting at the range requires ammunition and using the oldest ammunition first and replacing it with new ammunition is a great example of rotating your inventory.

Some items will only be required to be replaced after many years. I wanted to say decades but nothing is made like it used to be anymore. In order to keep equipment running properly and dependably, regular maintenance intervals should be adhered to and repairs should be made as soon as the issue is discovered.

While this is not a precise step-by-step guide to proper planning and handling of your supplies and equipment, hopefully it highlights an area of preparedness that can often be overlooked. There are many stories of people who found themselves in a jam and thought they had everything covered but found a problem instead. Don’t find yourself in that position by remembering to keep a logbook, conduct regular inventories, storing equipment and supplies properly and remembering to rotate, replace and maintain/repair your inventory on a regular basis.

— Thomas Miller

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