Imagine a power outage in the middle of a terrible winter storm, or running out of gas while evacuating to your bug out location. There are three words to describe you, buddy: in deep trouble.
To avoid that situation, you need to stock up on emergency fuel.
Here are the things you need to know about it:
Why Should You Stockpile Fuel?
Folks use fuel every day. It’s so common that most don’t even think twice about grilling ribs, making a detour to the gas station whenever they’re low on gas, and turning the A/C on during a hot summer day.
When it comes to prepping for SHTF or emergencies, water, food, and shelter are obviously the top priorities. But how about fuel? You shouldn’t leave it on the back burner.
Here are some reasons why it’s crucial to have emergency fuel during disasters:
- Everyone and their mom will be crowding the gas pumps, and you can’t afford to waste time refueling your bug out vehicle.
- There’s a high chance that power will be gone for days or even weeks. If you don’t turn into a human icicle from the cold, the blistering heat might do you in.
- While you can eat tuna straight out of the can, you can’t blame your tummy for wanting a hot meal every now and then. Having enough fuel to power up your stove can take care of that craving.
- Even if you’ve hooked your home up to an alternative energy source like solar power, you can still use emergency fuel as a backup in case you can’t produce enough energy because of rain or flooding.
How to Store Your Emergency Fuel
You can’t question how important fuel is for survival.
But there’s one thing you shouldn’t forget: it’s flammable.
You need to handle your emergency fuels with extra care so they won’t burn down your neighborhood. Keep the following in mind when storing them:
Place Them in the Right Containers
Different fuels have different containers. You’re supposed to put kerosene in blue containers, gasoline in red, and diesel in yellow.
If you’re wondering why they’re assigned specific colors, it’s not random—there’s actually a good reason behind this.
It’s to prevent fuel mix-ups.
If you placed all your emergency fuel in the same indistinguishable containers, there’s a huge chance you might use the wrong one, even if you labeled them. Color-coding the containers will stop you from adding gasoline to a kerosene heater (and prevent a major disaster from taking place).
So you don’t forget, here’s a recap on what fuel goes in which container:
- Blue – kerosene
- Red – gasoline
- Yellow – diesel
Store Them Away from Your House
When we say store your emergency fuel safely, we mean NEVER stashing them inside your home. Not in the basement, not in the attic, and not even in your garage.
That’s a fire waiting to happen.
So where the heck do you keep your fuel?
We recommend putting your containers in a place detached from your house. If you have an outdoor shed, great. But if you don’t have one, you can buy a flammable storage cabinet from shops that sell safety equipment.
Or you can build a cabinet. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just make sure it’s dry, properly ventilated, and away from direct sunlight. Add a lock as well so your kids won’t be able to open it.
Add Fuel Stabilizers and Additives
You worked hard to secure your fuel, so there’s no way you’ll allow it to degrade by the time you dip into your stash.
Sadly, some types of fuel only last 12 months, even if you’ve kept them in a safe place.
But hey, all hope’s not lost. Just let fuel stabilizers and additives work their magic. These help you increase your emergency fuel’s lifespan. Sometimes, they even double it.
One popular additive is STA-BIL. It stops nasty gum and varnish from building up. For best results, add it while your fuel is still fresh.
Rotate, Rotate, Rotate
Don’t wanna use additives on your emergency fuel?
You can always rotate your stockpile instead—like the way you use the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method for your canned goods.
Store your fuels for a maximum of 6 months so they won’t go bad (it can be longer, depending on the kind you’re saving). Here’s how you can do it:
- Label each fuel with the date that you got them.
- Once enough time has passed, grab the oldest one from the stack and use it.
- Refill the container with brand-new fuel and put it back in storage.
- Repeat these steps and never worry about wasting fuel again.
Got everything? Good. Now it’s time to talk about the emergency fuel you need to add to your list of survival supplies:
What Emergency Fuel Do You Need to Start Stockpiling?
Fuel will run out fast in a disaster since it’s indispensable in generating electricity, cooking food, warming homes, and keeping vehicles up and running.
Don’t wait for a crisis to happen before you start squirreling away emergency fuel. Like other essential survival gear and supplies, it’s best to stockpile ASAP.
But before you make a mad dash to the gas station, read this to know the 9 emergency fuels you should have in your stockpile:
Every prepper should have a healthy stack of firewood ready in case of an emergency. You can use it to keep a furnace going in case of bad winter storms and as fuel for fireplaces and wood stoves.
But you have to remember that firewood is vulnerable to the elements. Expose it to moisture and it becomes virtually useless. Piling chunks of uncut wood would only lead to more moisture and, eventually, rotting.
Keep the firewood dry and well-seasoned by cutting the logs into the proper size and exposing it to a lot of sun and wind. The best type has less than 20% moisture, according to Woodheat.org.
Higher moisture content will make it an inefficient fuel source. You’ll have a hard time starting your fire or at best, have lots of smoke and not so much fire. For this reason, using green wood for fuel is discouraged.
What’s great about charcoal is that it burns better than wood. It’s also cheap and easy to store. Plus, as long as you take proper care of it, it can have a long shelf life.
Charcoal isn’t only useful as an emergency fuel, though. You can smear it on your body to camouflage yourself from animals and bad guys or barter it for other survival tools.
But watch out for moisture. Charcoal is useless when it’s not dry, so store your black nuggets in airtight containers and in a dry, non-humid place. If your briquettes do get wet, putting them under the sun on a scorching day can get rid of the moisture.
Another downside? You can only burn charcoal outdoors.
When this fuel burns, it generates tons of carbon monoxide, meaning it can poison or even kill you if you use it indoors.
Related: A Guide on How to Make Your Own Charcoal
Alcohol may not burn as hot as other types of emergency fuel, but don’t count it out just yet. When you’re hungry for a warm meal or feeling cold at night, heating this fuel will do the trick.
There are different types of alcohol you can add to your stash, including:
- Denatured: If there’s one kind of alcohol to stockpile, it’s this. You can easily find it online or at any hardware store. Depending on the container it’s placed in, this bad boy can have an indefinite shelf life.
- Isopropyl: More popularly known as rubbing alcohol, this also makes a good emergency fuel. Isopropyl comes in a variety of strengths—70 percent, 91 percent, and 99 percent. The higher you go for, the more superior the burn.
- Ethanol: Dropping by the local liquor store for your favorite bottle of booze? Grab some ethanol alcohol while you’re at it. It contains around 95% alcohol. Just stay alert when you’re using this. The flames it produces are almost invisible.
No matter which type you pick, keep in mind that it doesn’t take much for alcohol to catch on fire (thanks to its low flash point). Keep it away from chemicals and store it safely.
Gel fuel is basically an alcohol lamp in gel form.
How’s that possible? It’s made of 90% isopropyl alcohol and a gelling agent like soy wax or calcium acetate. It doesn’t spill or emit smoke, making it the perfect emergency fuel whether you’re camping out or bunkering in.
Gel fuel is commercially available in cans that can usually burn for up to 3 hours straight. You can also make your own and add it to your survival stockpile.
While you can’t expect it to warm an entire house, gel fuel can be great in providing extra heat without any risk for leaks or spills. You can also use it when it’s too dangerous to light a bonfire—say, when you’re camping out in a really dry area at risk for forest fires.
Materials like your junk mail and almond shells can probably save you from freezing one day.
Biomass briquettes are alternative fuel sources made from waste materials like corn husks, nut shells, shredded paper, and other raw materials. These materials are shredded, mixed, and compressed into briquettes that you can use as fuel for cooking, heating, and generating electricity.
These briquettes can be pretty handy if you live in an area where traditional fuel like firewood is scarce. They are also great alternatives to coal and charcoal.
Since these briquettes are made of recycled materials, you’re also using environmentally friendly fuel. Learn how to make your own briquettes with the video above.
Gasoline is one of the most popular emergency fuels out there, and it’s typically used for vehicles and generators. A few extra gallons of gasoline in an emergency situation can go a long way.
But there’s a catch: gasoline has a relatively short shelf life. It can deteriorate after 12 months.
The key to long-term gas storage is through additives. Folks use additives like STA-BIL and PRI-G to stabilize gasoline, preventing its deterioration and extending its shelf life. If you mix these with your gasoline once every year, it should be good as new.
You also should know how much gasoline you need.
How many gallons of gas will it take to reach your bug out location? How much do you need to fire up your generator?
Calculate how much you’ll need and then add in an extra gallon or two, just to be sure. Store this emergency fuel in red plastic containers and regularly rotate your supply.
Kerosene has been used in the States as fuel since the 1800s. Developing countries still use paraffin—as it’s also known—as their primary source of fuel, too.
While somewhat outdated (some groups are pushing for preppers to replace kerosene lamps with solar ones) and relatively dangerous, it can still be a good fuel source during times of crisis.
One prepper from Food Storage Moms narrates how kerosene made their life bearable during a terrible economic breakdown in Africa: “We run our deep freezers on it, cook over pressure cookers and use pressure lanterns for our lighting. We also run our old British Lister Diesel generators on it.”
Be careful while you handle kerosene, though. This substance is super flammable so if you’re storing it in bulk, you have to put them in blue containers and label them accordingly.
After that, stash the fuel in a cool, well-ventilated place away from heat or sparks. You’ll also have to rotate your kerosene supply every 12 months.
Propane is also known as LPG or liquefied petroleum gas. It’s initially stored in its liquid form and released as a gas upon use.
Propane can be used for heating, cooking, and even as fuel for vehicles. Most preppers prefer to use propane as an emergency fuel because it can be stored safely and indefinitely, as long as its container remains intact.
Propane containers can come as portable cylinders that weigh around as little as 14 ounces or as large tanks that can store up to 1,000 gallons.
As the gas is highly flammable, many safety features like regulators and overfill prevention device valves have been built into these containers. These prevent the tanks from being 100% filled as doing so would cause leaks and lead to destructive fuel fires.
Safe propane storage should also be practiced.
Here’s a great tip from Preparedness Advice on the subject: “Since propane is heavier than air, the gas will flow along the contours of the ground like water, a big consideration is where to place your tanks. Place your tank downhill if possible from your residence and other important locations in case of a leak.”
These tanks need to be kept in an upright position and should be re-certified for safety every 10 years.
Butane is a colorless and odorless gas that shares some similarities with propane. Typically, it’s used as fuel for portable stoves and lighters, but it has other applications. This gas is also found in LPG.
You can use a butane stove indoors as long as you have enough ventilation and keep it far away from any heat source. It’s easy, too. Even teenagers won’t have a hard time controlling the flame.
But butane has one major con. Since it has a boiling point of -2°C, it’s not the best fuel to use in colder weather. Have other emergency fuels at the ready if you don’t wanna freeze your butt off during winter.
Also, like its cousin propane, it’s heavier than air, so you need to pay attention to leaks. You have to store butane canisters at a temperature below 120°F and above 32°F. Their shelf life is around 8 years.
Essential Safety Precautions to Follow
You don’t want to jeopardize your family’s safety by starting a house fire. Nor do you want your survival supplies to go up in flames. Before you grab any emergency fuel from storage and begin burning it, don’t forget these basic but essential precautions:
- Read and understand the instructions for the fuel and the device you’re gonna use.
- Take care of any leaks or spills right away.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in key areas. Have them inspected often, too.
- Get fire extinguishers for every floor in your house. Keep one in the kitchen and in rooms with a fireplace. Make sure everyone in your family knows how to use a fire extinguisher.
- Burn fuel that produces carbon monoxide outside.
- Keep any emergency fuel far away from your kids.
In a disaster, a fuel supply shortage will be inevitable, so it’s important to stock up on emergency fuel. Keep various types for backup just in case one doesn’t work.
It’s also essential to know the proper ways to store your emergency fuel. Since they are flammable substances, be cautious when you store and handle them.
When SHTF, you don’t want to be part of the horde scrambling for a dwindling supply of fuel. You want to be the one who’s got a stash of emergency fuel ready for any scenario, so start stocking up ASAP.