Caching Tips For Tornadoes and Other Natural Disasters

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Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the  Midwest  and parts of the South who were impacted by a series of tornadoes, powerful thunderstorms and high winds that arrived on Sunday, November 17.

There are 8 reported deaths blamed on Sunday’s tornadoes while neighborhoods and rescue crews continue to sift through the rubble of destroyed homes, overturned cars and uprooted trees.  The powerful storm front impacted the states of  Michigan,  Wisconsin,  Iowa,  Illinois, Missouri,  Indiana,  Ohio,  Kentucky,  Tennessee,  West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Western New York.

The heaviest hit areas are reporting power outages, natural gas line breaks, and trees and debris that now block many roadways.   Unfortunately, looting is also being reported as people struggle to cope with damaged or destroyed homes and property.

Washington,  Illinois, a town of 16,000, took the brunt of the massive storm front where it is reported that between 250 and 500 homes were damaged or destroyed. Even so, residents whose homes were lost tell reporters they are thankful they and their loved ones survived what the governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, stated were the “deadliest tornadoes that we’ve ever seen in the month of  November in Illinois history.”

As preppers, we are hard-wired to plan ahead for such emergencies, but it never hurts to double-check what the experts advise during a tornado alert and in its aftermath.

  • Move underground to a basement, cellar or to an interior room such as a closet, hallway or bathroom
  • Watch for downed power lines
  • Wear long pants and shirt and sturdy shoes when examining buildings (the amount bizarre of chemical, biological, viral, fungal, and parasitic threats that get stirred up by high wind events are truly amazing and somewhat shocking.  “Mystery” rashes, fevers, spots, bumps, and coughs are the norm more than the exception, so the more you can protect your skin, the better.)
  • After a disaster, if you smell natural gas or hear a hissing noise, open a window to disperse the fumes and then exit the building immediately
  • Use a flashlight when inspecting for damage. Matches or lighters can be the trigger to ignite natural gas escaping from broken lines

Of course, those are just the basics and I hope that you already knew most or all of these points.

Taking It A Step Further

  • Agree on a designated meeting spot that is away from your home. You will need an alternative meeting place in case you are unable to return home due to blocked or gridlocked roads, or in the event that evacuations are ordered because of safety concerns.  It is important to make dry runs to your  meeting place. This will reveal any weak links, and allow you to fix them, before an actual emergency.
  • Many times, disasters arrive without warning. Cellular and landline communications may be down or jammed, making it impossible to get in touch with loved ones.  Never assume you will be able to put a plan of action in motion after a crisis hits.  Having said that, an out-clause may exist.  Several readers have shared they were able to send short texts even when cellular calls did not go through during an emergency situation.(David’s note:  Our family carries a pair (or more) of radios in each of our vehicles and in each set of luggage so that we have the possibility for SOME communication, even if landlines and cell service is down.)
  • When traveling after a tornado, flood or an earthquake, always check for signs of erosion before crossing a bridge.
  • Teach members of your family (who you deem old enough) how to shut off electrical power at the breaker, how to shut off the gas feed running into your home, how to know where the water main to your home is located and how to turn it off.  Consider tying a gas shut-off wrench or a crescent wrench to your gas meter.
  • During hurricane Katrina, people were caught in attics when they fled from the incoming floodwater and, sadly, some were unable to escape as the water level rose to dangerous levels.  In an earthquake or a tornado, debris may block exits.  Should you get trapped, keeping an ax or a chainsaw with your other emergency supplies, where it can be grabbed in the event of a sudden emergency, will allow you to cut your way out .(David’s note:  This is particularly important if you plan on retreating to your attic in a high water situation.)
  • If you are given advance warning, bring critical supplies that you normally store outside in a shed, such as a generator and camp gear, indoors to avoid them being carried away in a flood or a tornado.
  • Keep topographical maps and a compass in your  Bug Out Bag.  GPS relies on batteries, so keep extra batteries sealed and with your GPS.
  • Caching critical supplies by burying them in water-proof containers in your yard or an off-site location is a good backup strategy for catastrophic events; plus a cache offers a buffer against looters.

(David’s note:  SurvivalDiva offers a good general list below, but if you’re serious about caching, I’m starting a 4 part series on caching with a former sniper from 1St Special Operations Group in the Journal of Tactics and Preparedness that will go into caching techniques that he saw and used during multiple combat deployments as well as decades of personal experience from both of us detailing what has and has not worked.  To learn more, go >HERE<)

Many of the items on the suggested cache list below may be things you already have packed in your  Bug Out Bag, but redundancy is NEVER a bad thing.

(David’s note:  Caches are as individual as underwear, and there are as many possibilities for the perfect cache as their are for the “perfect” shirt.  Caches can be inside, outside, above or below ground, above or below water, etc.  They can be the size of a cigar tube or as big as a house.  They can even be hidden or 100% out in the open.  As a good starting point, consider burying a 5 gallon bucket (possibly with a gamma lid) or an ammo container with some of the item’s in SurvivalDiva’s list below.)

  • Food: consider caching a mixture of foods. Items like energy bars, trail mix, peanut butter and MREs do not require cooking, thus freeing up valuable time that will be needed at the onset of a crisis.  If you’ve got a pet, try to include food that both you and your pet could eat.
  • Can opener (if applicable)
  • A small amount of water, a hiker’s water purifier, chlorine or iodine, and canteen/water bottle
  • Stormproof matches, lighters and a metal match.  Blastmatch if you want a Cadillac
  • Compass & GPS
  • Topographical map(s)
  • Emergency medical kit; prescription medications (if applicable)
  • Toilet Paper
  • Hygiene products, including antibacterial soap
  • Bleach (for use as a disinfectant)
  • Copies of important documents (possibly on a USB drive)
  • Cash
  • Tarp
  • Camp gear (tent, sleeping bag, cookware, eating utensils)
  • Weapon
  • Ammo
  • Hunting knife
  • Leatherman multi-tool
  • Hatchet
  • Nylon cord, Paracord or technical cord (check the strength of cord before purchasing)
  • Duct tape
  • Extra clothing (including warm jackets, gloves and hats, when applicable)
  • Hiking boots
  • Plastic garbage bags (they can be used as a poncho)
  • 2-way radios
  • Emergency wind-up radio
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries, rechargeable batteries, & a solar charger
  • A bag, pack, or something else to carry the items that you remove from your cache

(David’s note:  This obviously won’t all fit in an ammo can or a 5 gallon bucket.  Heck, we’ve got a cache of 4 sets of winter clothes in case we have to run out of the house in the middle of the night barefoot in our PJs and it’s bigger than a 5 gallon bucket :)  My advice is to pick a few items and get caching.  Don’t let perfection get in the way of making forward progress.

One way to approach caching is to envision an event, like a fire in the middle of the night where you got out safely but lost everything, and figure out what you would need to have cached to be able to pick up the pieces of your life and keep moving forward with minimal downtime.  List the items you’d need, then make one or more caches to hold the items and place them somewhere where the disaster you have in mind wouldn’t be able to wipe out both your house and your caches.)

Is there anything you’d like to add to the list of recommended cache items? Have you ever needed to evacuate an area because of a weather-related emergency? Please share by commenting below.

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If you’re traveling for Thanksgiving next week, travel safe and keep an eye out for next Friday’s newsletter and our Black Friday specials!

God bless and stay safe,

David Morris and Survival Diva


  1. Looking at the cache as something to be used in case of disasters like tornados or fires, it seems like it would be really useful to have a checkbook in the cache. In the case that I have to run out of my house in the middle of the night with nothing but what I’ve got on me (as could be the case in a house fire), then having access to my money would be important. Cash (as listed in the article) is also a great idea, but some people may not have much extra cash that they can bury. Additionally, even if you do have cash, in the case of a personal emergency (rather than societal collapse) access to your funds in the bank would still be valuable. Checkbooks would have the advantage over a credit card in that they don’t expire. You would only have to dig up the cache to put new checks in if you closed the checking account or opened a new one that you also wanted to store checks fore, whereas with credit cards you’d have to dig it up every few years as the card expired & you got a new one. A list of all important account numbers, websites and passwords would also be valuable.

    Additional things I’d want on hand in a home-destruction scenario would include: work gloves (for sifting through debris), protective masks (because who knows what chemicals and molds will be blowing around in the aftermath of a disaster), an extra cell phone (a cheap one that you could activate if your current cell got burned up or blown away). Also, actual printed copies of family pictures. The pictures wouldn’t feed me or keep me safe or sheltered, but you hear so often about people who loose everything in a fire and the thing they wished they’d been able to save is family pictures. Unlike most other possessions, those really are irreplaceable.

    You might also look into what you would need to replace things like your photo ID and social security card and pack those as well. I recall loosing both those things a decade or so ago, and I had to hunt down a High School Yearbook in order to prove my identity and get new cards. If your ID, SS card, and High School Yearbook all just turned to ash, then you’ll be in a much worse position than if you’ve got something handy that can prove who you are.

    • dieseltekkie says:

      for any cache you would also want to have some bottled water along with a purification method because you don’t want to find yourself thirsty immediately after the $#!+ hits the fan and worrying about having a drink of water before you can purify can throw your mental state and detract from the other matters at hand. living in earthquake country you cannot depend on municipal water or even well water after an earthquake due to severed pipes and unsettled sediment contamination.

      also I would have a first aid kit comprised of bandages, gauze, wraps, and other non expiring items in case you get injured. pretty self explanatory there. I live in an earthquake prone area. also known for wind, rain and snow/ice with lots of trees, so hardhats would be beneficial for dealing with partially fallen trees and big limbs.

      rescue tools such as prybars, saws and shovels can help in making shelter out of earth and possibly house debris. also “550 cord” aka parachute cord is my favorite for tying things in place and it is the best stuff for sheltermaking, it is light, easy to cut and tie, it is strong and durable. plus if you get enough of it you can use it to make things to pass time if you have any time to pass lol.

      just a few things that came to mind

      my cache is above ground in a steel shipping container behind my shop away from the threat of large trees and the other 2 aluminum units are my safe house in case of a major earthquake or the off chance of mt rainier eruption

  2. Price two Honda 2000i generators against one Honda 3000 watt generator. They can be piggy-backed to get 4000 watts, are more easily transported, and are quieter than most generators.

    You can get a tri-fuel kit from Poor instructions. You might be better off buying a converted generator from them.

    You can use calcium chloride in a bottle to preserve grain. I’m still making bread with grain stored 30 years ago. Buy it at a masonry or concrete supply store. You can also store grain with food grade diatomaceous earth which cuts insect waxy exoskeletons — buy it at the pet store as it is also used for flea control.

    Go to a pool-and-spa supply for small bags of granular sodium chloride or other forms of chlorine to disinfect water.

    Calcium chloride and chlorine will burn your skin.

    Soak beans, whole corn, and garbanzo beans in water with quick lime for 24 hours to soften. Rinse thoroughly. Very little cooking required. Quick lime has been used in South America to make corn easier to grind. It also creates a nutritional dish where only calories existed before. Go into a Mexican grocery store and you will see that corn products have been nixtamaled. Mrs. Wages quick lime can be bought at a Walmart super store.

    I also enjoy this website for the reader comments.

    • Thanks, Craig!

      I use/recommend the Yamaha 2000 watt generators over the Hondas because of their durability. Everything from the cylinder casings to the brake on the starter are beefed up on the Yamaha.

      For the tri-fuel kits, I’ve been very happy with They sell kits and they sell generators with the kits already installed that are ready to run.

      Diatomaceous earth (DE) is one of the two best ways to go for long term grain storage…the other is to freeze the grain below zero F for 14 days. I can’t remember their name, but there’s a guy out of Kansas City who does that for almost nothing. Even if you have to do it locally, you might be able to find cold storage for as low as $15/pallet per month.

  3. Great article and advice. In Britain , this is something we have to contend with on a grand scale every 10 or so years and on a smaller regional scale, every 3 or so years. It saddens me how many deaths could be prevented just by a bit of foresight and planning.
    Stay safe and have fun.


  4. R. Stapleton says:

    I didn’t see this mentioned, but if you’re burying your cache don’t forget to have a means to dig it up when the time comes. A folding GI shovel might be something to have handy to grab along with your bug out bag…

    • Could not find a general Comments button so, I used the Reply button to get in. With as much damage that is done ABOVE GROUND, why don’t people build UNDERGROUND? A few years ago, I read an article where a homeowner had built an underground home and survived a tornado with only damage to his ABOVE GROUND structures. He and his family were not even wakened when the tornado came through at night!
      I know that most tornado territory is flat, so the house will have to be built and soil mounded up over and around it the way this gentleman did. I’m sorry I did not keep the article.
      Does anyone know of someone with an underground/earth berm house in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, etc. (Tornado Alley) who has experienced the security of such a structure?

      • Many people do…including my family and the house I grew up in. The trick is balance. Part of our house was above ground, part was a walkout basement open to the South, and part of it was below ground with 8″ pre-stressed concrete on all 6 sides. We had sunlight, and we had a rather large underground safe area that was protected from almost every high and medium probability threat.

      • dieseltekkie says:

        that idea is great against tornados except 2 possible flaws… #1 flying debris could get lodged on your entry/exit(s) preventing you from being able to escape. #2 building underground in a floodplain is a big risk for obvious reasons so you would want to build in higher ground.

    • You’re exactly right…there are a lot more factors than what could be covered in the article. As a quick example, if you live in a part of the country with a frost layer, you not only have to dig, but you have to pick, drill, hammer, melt snow to get to buried caches.

  5. Nothing to do with ‘caching’ per se, but on emergency power. I got an ‘inverter’ (I forget the actual name), you know the kind that is car battery size, has a work-light, compressor, jumper cables, etc. It has cigarette lighter plugins, 110 v plugins, et al. I also have a single (16 inch X 30 inch approx.) solar panel, which I can stand in a southern facing window keeping the thing charged. I have tried using it, charging, and so forth. It will not run a lot, but being able to have a 12 volt work-light, or plug something basic in, and keep it charged, can be a real Godsend.

  6. Procuring many items to cache need not be expensive. Extra clothing, tools, etc, can be found at thrift stores for pennies on the dollar.

  7. Donna Cherry says:

    Can you suggest a good generator for our home ?There are so many available. We have a large gas genorator but not sure we want to assume we will have access to gas.

    • Survival Diva says:


      Generators are not “One Size fits all”. The style/model/make you choose needs to cover your needs. For instance, do you want to run a couple of lights and a refrigerator, or are your needs greater? Before shopping for a generator, it’s important to be clear on your needs to make sure the generator you choose will handle the load. The Honda 3000 is a popular model, however, the type of generator you choose is only part of the puzzle. Gas will only store for between 6 months and 1 year with stabilizer. Diesel will store for up to 5 years. BUT propane will store indefinitely. You might want to look into getting a tri-fuel conversion kit that will allow your generator to run on propane, natural gas, and gasoline (possibly it will work for the generator you already own?). Have a look on You Tube. There are many videos that show how to install a conversion kit to a generator.

      Hope this helped!

      • Additional generator thoughts here- DO NOT CONNECT TO YOUR HOUSE OUTLETS FOR POWER unless you have a Isolator switch that removes you from the power grid! Hooking up to the house will cause a back current, capable of killing someone working on power lines else where. There was an incident post-Sandy where a linesman was killed with N.J. thinking about filing charges against the homeowner. Also be aware that when hooking up an undersized generator to a [prepared/isolated] house the generator may fry, not producing any power while the motor runs.

        My $0.02 worth.

  8. Could you possibly put up an article about how to water proof 5 gal buckets for caching purposes? Something cheap and easily obtainable?

    Thank you!
    Mrs. Whitcomb

    • Survival Diva says:


      Caching can be cheap, which is always a good thing. You can pick up 5-gallon paint buckets and lids at Home Depot for less than $4.00 each. Make sure to buy the plastic lid opener they carry for their paint buckets (around $4.00), or it’ll be the devil to get them open! Make sure to add the lid opener to your Go Bag, so when retrieving your cache, it’ll be handy. Once the bucket is filled, hammer down the lid. Wrap duct tape around the lid and the bucket for a tight seal. Place the bucked in a heavy mill (thick) bag. Many suggest garbage bags, but if you go this route, be sure to get the HEAVY leaf and lawn ones. Twist & tie the bag closed, then tape the ends of the tie against the bucket with duct tape–this will keep water out. Bury the bucket, making sure it’s NOT buried near where standing water collects, and that it’s in a location you will remember. Some use GPS coordinates, but personally, I suggest NOT to rely on electronics because it’s possible for them to fail! Make sure the area the buckets are buried is camouflaged, so that passersby can’t tell the ground was disturbed.

      • dieseltekkie says:

        as far as sealing the buckets you can use some rtv silicone applied evenly in the groove of the lid, clear is ideal but don’t use too much or getting the lid open will not be fun. when possible for burial use natural landmarks to your advantage such as a unique tree, or a boulder, if you have a concrete driveway you can count paces from a corner. unless you live in the middle of a sand desert with no solid landmark you should be able to pick a good spot

    • AZ Biker Girl says:

      For sealing 5 or 6 gallon buckets – after putting everything inside, including a desicant pouch and a couple bay leaves for good measure:
      1. Put the lid on tightly, flip the bucket upside down.
      2. Cut a length of string a lay inside the lip of the lid – where it grabs the bucket.
      3. Cut the string a couple inches longer than the circumferance of the bucket and leave the end outside the channel.
      4. Melt and pour parafin wax inside the channel, filling, covering the string.
      5. Wait for it to cool, set. then store as usual.
      When time to open, just pull the end of the string to unseal the wax and lift the lid. Sometimes the lid is harder to get off, but we have never had a problem. We checked 60 buckets after 3 years of storage and had zero problems.

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