Emergency Preparations


[Reading time: 9 minutes] This material is based on the “Times Square Church Emergency Preparedness Plan,” from God’s Plan to Protect His People in the Coming Depression, by David Wilkerson (1998).

It’s time to take an account of our situation and, like the five wise virgins in Jesus’ parable, to make adequate preparations for such a “midnight hour.” The three primary areas we would need to prepare for are shelter, family security, and food. Of these, food will be one of the most critical.

Typically, people keep only enough food stored on their shelves to last until their next visit to the grocery store. But any major disruption in our country’s food delivery systems would quickly deplete the stores’ food supply. This depletion would result in sharp price increases and severe food shortages, and anarchy would soon follow. Therefore, we must begin now to prepare for the days of hardship which may lie ahead.

A servant of God loses nothing by storing a supply of food. If chaotic conditions are ahead, our food supply will allow us to be prepared just as Joseph was. You may ask, what if no such crisis comes to pass? The answer is simple: We can simply use the food later or, better yet, give it away to needy families, to God’s glory.

Thoughts on Preparation

Most Americans currently consume much more food than they need. Therefore, in preparing for hard times, we need to consider changing both the quantity and type of food we eat on a daily basis. Emergency food preparation should involve stocking up on long-term, shelf-stable, storable food. A wide range of food-storage options is available, including dehydrated meals (just add water), “meals ready-to-eat” (MREs), commercially packaged survival rations and regular canned goods. (Our use of “canned” here includes all types of foods sterilized and vacuum-sealed in metal, plastic, paper or any other kind of long-term packaging.) Each storage option has advantages, but the most economical way to secure long-term storable food is by stocking canned goods.

The canned-goods storage plan outlined below is a brief suggestion of minimum quantities that people of moderate means could store in case of a crisis. In suggesting this list, we make the following assumptions.

  • If used sparingly, the suggested items should last about sixty days.
  • Regular store-bought meat, milk and other perishables likely won’t be available to consumers.
  • Suggested items commonly sold in cans, bottles or storable, packaged form have a shelf life typically measured in months or years.
  • People who need special diets should determine whether the levels of sodium, sugar, fat or cholesterol in the suggested items might adversely affect their health.
  • Carefully follow instructions for reconstituting dehydrated items with water.
  • In addition to the following suggested food items, people should also have available the following handy items: airtight bins with lids, battery-powered lamps and hand-powered appliances.

Food Storage

The following list suggests storage needs for one person. For more people, use your discretion.

  • Vegetables. Twenty-four 15-ounce cans. For example: corn, carrots, potatoes, yams, greens, tomatoes.
  • Soups. Twenty 8-ounce cans or dried.
  • Hot cereal. Six 16-ounce packages. For example: oatmeal, cream of wheat, cornmeal, grits. Cold cereal. Three 6-ounce packages. For example: granola, toasted oats, corn flakes, raisin bran.
  • Beans and peas. Twenty-four 15-ounce cans. For example: kidney, baked, green and lima beans, sweet peas, split peas, lentils.
  • Meat. Fifteen 16-ounce cans. For example: sausages, Spam, chicken, ham, corned beef, meatballs, turkey.
  • Meat alternatives. One 2-pound package of dry egg powder and one or two 16-ounce jars of peanut butter.
  • Seafood. Ten 6-ounce cans. For example: tuna, sardines, herring, salmon.
  • Assorted fruit. Twenty-four 15-ounce cans. For example: apples, plums, cherries, peaches, pineapples, figs.
  • Assorted fruit juices. Ten l6-ounce cans. For example: orange, apple, grape, fruit punch, prune.
  • Fruit blends and dried fruits. Twenty 16-ounce cans. For example: fruit cocktail, cranberry sauce, applesauce. Also ten 4-ounce packages of assorted dried fruits. For example: raisins, dates, prunes.
  • Milk. Fifty 10-ounce packages of any long-lasting milk product or powdered milk.
  • Pasta. Ten 1-pound packages of assorted pasta.
  • Rice. One 10-pound bag or ten 1-pound bags of minute rice.
  • Crackers. Five 16-ounce boxes of all kinds.
  • Combination foods. Five 16-ounce cans. For example: beef stew, ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings.
  • Suggested additions. Ten 16-ounce packages of tortillas, two large boxes of stuffing mix, and five 1-pound packs of assorted seeds and nuts, such as sesame, sunflower, walnuts, peanuts and pecans. (Snack foods may be stored with a shelf life of at least six months to a year.)

Helpful Hints


  • Use stored items sparingly.
  • Practice now using less water for showers, washing and cooking.
  • Learn to use leftovers; don’t waste food.
  • Plan all meals ahead of time to economize and avoid waste.

Loss of electricity

  • A crisis may mean loss of cooking gas and home heating, so it’s important to make contingency plans.
  • Regular shopping for refrigerated and perishable items should continue until loss of electricity or food shortages forces you to revert to your emergency supply.
  • Keep a supply of long-burning candles.
  • If power goes out, many perishable food items can remain usable (at your discretion) for several days if your refrigerator is opened to a minimum.
  • Frozen foods may still be eaten (at your discretion) if they’re frozen in the center.
  • If there is snow outside or the outdoor temperature is no more than 40°F (4.5°C), some items may be discreetly “shelved” on a windowsill to keep them fresh.
  • Use refrigerated and other perishable items first, including foods with the shortest shelf life.


  • Reduce your spending levels now and avoid creating new debt.
  • Set aside $10-$20 per week at home in a safe place.
  • It’s important to keep as much cash on hand as you can keep secure.

Storage basics

  • It’s always better to use fresh produce when it’s available, and store canned or preserved goods for when they’re needed.
  • Many prepackaged and vacuum-sealed (canned) foods must be used soon after opening the container to avoid spoilage.
  • Consider storing canned foods under a bed or in a closet, if other storage space isn’t available.
  • Keep canned foods away from direct sunlight.
  • Never use a swollen or punctured can; it may cause botulism.
  • Frequent opening of containers could cause items to spoil. Keeping food in glass containers allows you to examine food contents without having to open them. You should clearly label all other storage containers.
  • To prevent insect infestation in flour, cornmeal, sugar, rice, pasta, beans, and cereals, add a few bay leaves and store in airtight containers (for example, a plastic tub with a Mylar liner) away from moisture.
  • Check the shelf life of various foods and the expiration dates on all food containers.

Water Conservation

  • Although we can’t be certain, experts don’t expect water shortages to last more than thirty days.
  • Plan to store enough water for drinking, cooking and hygiene for one month – perhaps 25 gallons.
  • Use water for personal hygiene sparingly (for example, three times per week).
  • Prepare food in batches to save time, fuel and water.
  • Reduce the number of items to wash by making one-pot meals, such as stews, rich soups, and stir-fry dishes, and use disposable dinnerware and utensils when possible.
  • Save water by using baby wipes and antibacterial cleansers to wash hands.

Personal Hygiene

  • Store hygiene products in quantity, including soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, tissue, feminine supplies, baby diapers, Depends, bed pan with plastic liner, disinfectant, air freshener, chlorine bleach.

First aid

  • Fill two months’ worth of prescriptions if possible.
  • Buy enough vitamins and mineral supplements, and first-aid items, including bandages, pain relievers, antacids, laxatives, antiseptics, and such.


  • Build main dishes around pasta or grains, with meals such as rice and beans.
  • Stock up on canned heat, such as Sterno. Use your fuel wisely, because it will have to last until supplies become available or normalcy returns.
  • If possible, you may heat cans of food directly, but first remove the label, then puncture the top to let the steam out.
  • If cooking inside, be sure the room is well ventilated to allow fumes to escape.
  • When using a heat source, secure loose clothing and store flammable items in a safe place.

Baby care

  • Infants older than six months may be fed the same food as the family, if it’s pureed or ground in a blender and is prepared without additives. Exceptions are: casseroles, pizza, cobblers, meat pies.
  • Don’t season baby foods; they shouldn’t have added sugar, salt, fat or MSG.
  • Don’t use fried, greasy, brined (pickles, sauerkraut), processed (sausages) or high-calorie (candy, sodas, cakes) foods.
  • Avoid using honey due to possible salmonella contamination.
  • Fresh or canned juice is preferred over powdered or packaged beverages.
  • Formula: Ready-to-eat: Twelve 8-ounce cans. Concentrate: Four 8-ounce cans. Powder: Eight 15-ounce cans.

Following is a suggested sixty-day food storage plan for an infant at least one year old:

  • Iron-enriched baby cereal. Two 16-ounce boxes of the following: rice, barley, wheat or toasted oats.
  • Vegetables. Sixty 6-ounce jars of any of the following: squash, sweet potato or mixed vegetable.
  • Fruit. Sixty 6-ounce jars of any of the following: pears, peaches, apples, plums or strawberries.
  • Meat and dairy. Sixty 6-ounce jars of any of the following: turkey and rice, beef, chicken or pasta; forty 8-ounce packages of any long-lasting milk product, or powdered milk.


This outlines an emergency preparedness plan developed by Times Square Church in New York City, covering food selection and storage, conservation, loss of electricity, money, water, hygiene, first aid, cooking, and baby care.

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