Empty shelves

People stand in an aisle of empty shelves in a supermarket amid panic-buying due to the coronavirus outbreak. When the coronavirus erupted in March, grocery stores emptied as hoarders sprang up seemingly overnight.

For three months, Jonathan and Kylene Jones didn’t step foot inside a grocery store. They relied on their Utah home’s built-in storage room supply: flour, rice, beans, a freezer full of food.

That was last summer.

The couple, founders of the “The Provident Prepper” website and YouTube channel, wanted to do a 90-day trial of surviving solely on their food storage and garden. Bartering and trading was allowed — their kids hauled hay for a nearby farmer one day in return for a Subway sandwich — but they couldn’t go to the grocery store. Those were the rules.

So when the coronavirus erupted in March, emptying grocery stores and turning others into hoarders overnight, Kylene and Jonathan Jones relaxed.

“When this pandemic struck, we’d already been through it,” said Kylene Jones, 55. “There was this great sense of peace that taught us that we’re just fine, we can do this.”

The Joneses acknowledge that very few people have the patience or time to do an experiment like theirs.

But a variety of people who prioritize preparedness say that most people can and should have supplies and plans to get them through several days. It’s doable without entertaining conspiracy theories or spending a fortune on special tools and supplies.

Here’s how to start.

Think it through

Yes, it might feel weird or unnerving to imagine worst-case scenarios. But thinking through possible disasters — especially now that we can envision one — is key to preparation and peace of mind, said Ontario’s fire administrative director Jordan Villwock.

Look up evacuation routes for your neighborhood — include routes with the blue “evacuation” signs as well as little-known streets that might come in handy if the larger thoroughfares get blocked. Find routes that don’t use bridges or roads crossed by bridges. Know how to get out, in case of an emergency.

Plan for communication

Sit down with your family, roommates or neighbors and discuss. Decide on a meeting place in your neighborhood and one farther away, if it’s not safe to stay close to home. Agree on an out-of-state contact who can serve as an intermediary to help relay information. Memorize and write down that person’s contact information.

“Some people hesitate to feed their children information that’s scary, but I think it can be done in a non-threatening way,” said Jonathan Jones, 60. “It truly empowers them to look at a situation and say, ‘OK, here’s what we’ve already done and we can think this through.’”

Get ready to go

Call it whatever you want — a go-bag, bugout bag, 72-hour supplies, or basic preparedness kit — it should be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Think of the 2018 Camp Fire, a deadly wildfire that tore through the Northern California town of Paradise in minutes.

Ready.gov, the federal preparedness website, advises that you fill your bag with the basic supplies. Villwock recommends also keeping cash in small bills in your bag, along with paper maps of your city.

“Think what life would be like if you’re finding places and you don’t have Google Maps anymore,” he said. “How would you get around?”

Don’t get overwhelmed

If you’re stressed imagining the next disaster and the prospect of preparing for it seems too much, stop and take a breath. Think of prepping as the opposite of hoarding _ get ready while you’re in a calm state of mind so you don’t have to panic later.

Preparing is also a form of community care, the Joneses said. Planning ahead means no last-minute runs to the store to stock up, taking away from other people in need.

“A lot of the reason people don’t prepare is because it seems overwhelming until you break it down,” Jonathan Jones said. “When you break it down into small, manageable pieces, then it’s doable, then you can make some real progress. And then what comes with that is a lot of peace of mind.”

So think ahead. Keep it simple. And don’t hoard toilet paper.

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