If you are a long-time prepper, the information in this article is probably too basic for you. But if you are new to prepping, or haven't even started yet, this article is your quick start guide, giving you basic steps to preparing quickly for what may come. These six basic steps won't get you completely ready for everything, of course. That level of readiness takes much more time and effort. But, do these six things, and you will be better prepared for our difficult future than 90% of other folks, who will do nothing to get ready.
1) Food and Water - Your first goal is to stock up on 2 to 3 weeks worth of food and water. In other words, make sure you have enough food at home to feed your household for at least two weeks without eating out, going food shopping, or ordering food online. This should be regular canned and dry foods that you buy at the store, not MREs or other long-term (and expensive) "survival" foods. Emphasize foods that need little or no preparation - cans of soups, chilis, and stews, pop-tarts and cereal, oatmeal of the just-add-hot-water variety, canned pastas, easy mac and cheese, peanut butter and crackers (saltine-type crackers can last up to 8 months without going stale if left unopened), canned tuna, canned fruits, and so forth... You can buy bottled water, or store tap water in various containers. Two-litter soda bottles work well, but milk jugs will break down and leak quickly.
After stocking up a few weeks worth of food and water, you can then begin working on longer-term food and water storage - maybe 3 months worth. Then 6 months. Then a year or more. Also, think about stocking up on cleaning, sanitation, and hygiene supplies.
2) First Aid and Medical - Make sure you have a basic first aid kit and supplies in your home and in your car. Have a good first aid manual (I recommend this one) and study it before you need it. Better yet, take a good first aid course.
Make sure you have a good supply of OTC medications (cold & flu medications, pain relievers, anti-diarrheal medicine, decongestants, vitamins and supplements, etc.).
Work with your doctor and pharmacist to get as much of your prescription medications as possible - sometimes they can prescribe for 3 months instead of 1 month, or give you additional samples.
3) Your Body - Begin working on your health and fitness now, even if it is just taking a regular after dinner walk around your neighborhood and/or cutting back on the sweets. Every little bit helps in the long-run.
Also, I've learned the hard way the importance of regular medical check-ups. The key to healing any disease or chronic health condition is early detection. I highly urge everyone to get regular physical, dental, and eye check-ups. If you haven't had one recently, please make an appointment soon.
Go ahead and do any planned medical procedures (Lasik eye surgery, mole removals, dental work, etc.) sooner rather than later.
4) Flashlights, Radios, and Batteries - There are lots of gear you can buy to help in emergencies. Two of the simplest and most important are flashlights/headlamps (you need to be able to see in the dark) and a good emergency radio. I have and recommend the Kaito KA500 5-way powered emergency radio. This one has is all: AM/FM/SW/NOAA (weather alert) bands, and can be powered five ways (electrical cord, USB port, AA batteries, solar, and hand-crank).
Also, make sure you have plenty of batteries for all your devices!
5) Cash and Records - You should have a certain amount of cash on your person, and hidden in your home. How much depends on your own circumstances. Just realize that banks may not be open during a crisis for various reasons, ATMs may be down due to power outages, and the ETF system (which runs credit and debit card transactions) may be down due to power outages or hacking attacks, so you may be stuck using cash-only for a period of time.
You should also collect your important papers (deeds, titles, insurance information, birth certificates, etc.) together in a safe, fireproof, place so you can get your hands on them quickly if you need to. Here is something to consider: The ROLOWAY Fireproof (to 2000°F) and Water-resistant Document Bag is currently available on Amazon for less than $35. Home safes are also good (check fire ratings).
6) Make Plans - Unexpected things do happen all the time, and we need to plan for the unexpected. How do you plan to get home in an emergency if you car isn't working or traffic is too bad? Do you have a get-home bag in your car? Do you wear good walking shoes or boots to work or school (heels, dress shoes, sandals, and flip-flobs don't count)? If not, keep a good pair in your car or bag in case of emergency. What if you had to suddenly leave your home due to wildfires, chemical spills, or some other reason? Do you have bug-out bags already packed? Do you know where you would go? Do you have a reliable vehicle to get you there? Start planning these things now.
By the way, I have down much more in-depth articles on everything I've mentioned in this article. Just search through this website's archives (bottom of right-hand column) if you want to know more.
A final thought: The single most important thing you can do now to survive any future chaos is to start taking responsibility for your own life now.
Get Prepared Now!: Why A Great Crisis Is Coming & How You Can Survive It, by Michael Snyder and Barbara Fix. This book emphasizes preparing for an economic collapse, which in my opinion will be a major part of what we experience. Topics include looming economic collapse, pandemics, drought and increasing weather-related disasters, food shortages, our extremely vulnerable power grid and supply chain, civil unrest, and practical steps for storing food and supplies that you will need.