Tips on How to Prepare for Disaster for Single Parents

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Written by Bernie Carr

Single parents have their hands full in supporting and caring for their kid(s) all by themselves. Juggling day to day activities is already challenging in itself, and planning what to do in a disaster may be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be – by taking small steps each week, you will be on your way to being prepared in case of disaster.

Let’s look at covering the basics.


Let’s look at the rule of three when going into the basics of survival. A person can survive only around three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food and three hours without shelter in extreme weather. So it makes sense to cover water as your first prep.

You’ll need a least one gallon per person per day. That sounds like a lot of water, but water needs are not just for drinking. You also need it for cooking, hygiene and cleaning. So if you have a two person household, you need two gallons a day, and for one week, that is 14 gallons total. If you have a dog or cat, you need water for your pet as well. The best thing to do is pickup one gallon or those 2 1/2 gallon jugs each time you shop at the grocery store. Find a place to store your water supply – in the pantry or even under the bed. Just watch out of leakage.


A food storage plan will not only help you during natural emergencies such as earthquakes, hurricanes or floods, it can also come in handy during the following:

  • Threat of unemployment
  • Cold or flu keeps you home for a few days
  • Even if there no emergency, you can avoid having to run to the store when you run out of something

Because you are responsible for making sure your kids are fed, you’ll need to set aside food for emergencies. You can start a food storage plan even if you are on public assistance.

  1. Buy multiple quantities of things that family likes to eat. Use a coupon for extra savings.
  2. Canned food seems to be a painless way to start: just buy an extra can of a few items such as canned corn, canned peaches or tuna each time you shop. Also buy extra breakfast items such as oatmeal, or cereal to get started.
  3. Other good items to have are granola bars, peanut butter, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, just add water meals such as ramen noodles, rice and pasta meals etc. Don’t forget comfort items such as junk food – your kids will thank you.
  4. Always check expiration dates and reach for the item with the furthest expiration date.
  5. Resist the temptation to pick up food your family does not eat just because it’s on sale or it has a long shelf life.
  6. Rotate the items and use the ones whose expiration dates are approaching.
  7. Later, as space and budget allow, other forms of emergency supplies can be added such as MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and dehydrated food.
  8. Once you have a week’s worth of food, then move up to two weeks, then a month, then go from there.
  9. Make your own MREs (meals ready to eat) with these tips.
  10. Read this article if anyone in your family needs a special diet.

Once you have a small stockpile of foods you normally eat, use the items before they expire and rotate your stock.


I doubt anyone will forget the toilet paper shortage during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown. If you build a small stash of hygiene necessities – toilet paper, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, sanitary napkins and tampons, baby wipes, diapers etc., you will not need to panic if you hear a shortage is going on. Set aside your stockpile to cover at least a week’s worth of needs.


Make sure you have extra prescriptions (including any medical devices, extra eye glasses or contacts) on hand for you and your child, in case you are unable to leave the house for a few days. Assemble a first aid kit – try these tips for money-saving ideas.

Emergency plan

Take a few minutes to make an emergency evacuation plan in the event of a large scale disaster. You do not have to do it all in one day, just take a few steps each day.

One of the challenges of being a single parent includes having another adult you can trust to pick up your kids from school or activities in the event you are unable to to so. Leave a list of contacts at school, stuck to the fridge for the baby-sitter, and coaches. Include:

  • Your work address and phone number
  • Relatives in the area
  • Out of state emergency contact
  • Your child’s pediatrician
  • List of your child’s allergies
  • Local hospital
  • Poison control, police and fire numbers

Build a texting tree you can use in the event of a disaster.

If you prefer to purchase a pre-made emergency kit, see the review on available ones in the market. Or, you can take the DIY option.

Financial preparedness

Financial preparedness is also an important aspect you need to pay attention to.


Because you may be at work while the kids are home, take precautions and teach your child about safety at an early age. You can start by coming up with a secret code word you and your child can use in case you are unable to pick them up.

It is never too early to teach them some basic survival skills – here are survival skills for kids under 10 years old.

Train your children not to open the door when a stranger knocks.

Get started now

As we discussed, you don’t have to get this all done all at once. Even if you just do one item per week, the important thing is to get started. Setting aside just $5 a week can help you build your stockpile. You may even end up saving money in the long run. Having a preparedness plan in place will give you peace of mind and confidence that you have tried your best to care for your child in case of emergency.

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About the author:

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.

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