October 2009 Archives

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Because of our financial constraints, aggravated by the economy and rural area we now live, my family cannot afford to own a second “retreat” home, nor do we have much land on which to build a shed or store much of anything. As a boy, my parents didn’t have much money, and through a mix of my dad’s “fix it or make do” attitude, the scout motto “be prepared” and my newfound need for better frugality, I’ve made a kind of checklist that every non-food purchase my wife and I make must go through, and it’s jokingly called the Dumpster list. Each point of the dumpster list should be met as well as possible, if that point is applicable. The list helps us stretch our dollars, limit our output of refuse, and choose items that are easier to transport and maintain should we be forced to evacuate or relocate during an emergency event.

DURABILITY.  I try to purchase things that are built strong and proven strong. I buy denim or rip-stop pants. A lot of items I purchase are “military surplus” or Mil-spec items, because they are meant to take rough treatment and last a long time. Sometimes an item can be made stronger/more resistant/durable for a small charge. Having some sort of puncture-stop material added to our bike tires or spending the extra money for some sort of hard-shell case for a piece of essential gear would be examples of adding durability.  

rather than Fashion. Cargo pants are not always in style, but the extra pockets and (often) durable nature make them useful. Military-style clothing, available from surplus stores, is usually made in “large, medium, small”-type sizes, but have straps, drawstrings and Velcro to make them a perfect fit. Hiking or “combat” boots may look a little out of place or extreme, but they are made for walking and climbing, are waterproof, and often breathe just as well as tennis shoes. If you get some with steel toes, you are eliminating a lot of toe-injuries that could come from tripping, dropping something, or kicking old logs or stones when trying to carve out a shelter or forage for food. A junky old diesel truck might be ugly, but offers several benefits over a nice new car or SUV.

. Our 72-hour kits (which go in the vehicles whenever we go somewhere) contain several items, most of which have multiple uses. I always carry a “Leatherman”-style multi-tool, for example, because I frequently need a knife to cut something with, a screwdriver to tighten something with, or pliers/wire cutters to bend or trim cable or wire. I carry an “entrenching tool” that works as a shovel, rudimentary saw, and pick. I large iron Wok is my favorite cooking utensil, because its depth allows me to boil water or heat oil, but wide mouth makes it easy to also cook things that need to be more spread out, like eggs or fish fillets. Its handles make it easy to be tied to a pack when we go hiking. When I buy my heavy-duty clothing, I try to choose colors or styles that allow them to double as nice church pants or everyday wear. I wear “web belts” because they adjust to my comfort with more precision than a regular hole-punched leather belt, and this adjustability allows them to be useful for other things, like tying down sleeping bags, bundles of wood, or to be used as tourniquets. The “teeth” in the buckle are also suitable for emergency scraping and small-scale sawing.

. Strong but light materials are a great blessing. My primary firearms are lightweight but strong. One of the few camping items we ever splurged on were our ultra-lightweight sleeping bags, because they can fit into a very small space. Though we have no unrealistic plans of “heading to the hills” with the rest of civilization in a TEOTWAWKI situation, keeping our load light helps us be prepared for last-minute relocation or evacuation in the event of an emergency. Having lightweight material in a pack also greatly extends your ability to trek longer distances because it puts less strain on your body (which is essential for those who are “out of shape” or injured.

. I try to acquire items that are easy to fix or have easy-to find spare parts. Where I live, for example, there are not a lot of BMW dealers, so it doesn’t make much sense for our only car to be a BMW, even if we can afford it. It takes to long to receive or locate parts, and some part sizes are made for tools I don’t own. The same goes for old fashioned “tube radios” or other items made from parts no longer manufactured/manufactured only by specialty shops. Fabric items (tents, packs, tarps) should be resistant to mildew but also easy to repair with sewing items on hand. Items that are less likely to rust are obviously preferred, but I also try to stay away from weak plastics that might break or chip (because plastic is more difficult to repair than wood/,metal for the average person). I try to learn the “ins and outs’ of every new item we get, so it can be repaired if need be.

Is it TRADEABLE? Will the item be of value for trade in an emergency situation? Some things like ammunition, gasoline, food and other supplies are good bartering tools. Other items, like vehicles, firearms and entertainment items can be “traded in” or sold at a depreciated rate (or, if you’re lucky, at an appreciated rate) when you hit hard times, need to leave town, or simply no longer need the item. We do our best not to fool ourselves into thinking anything – including firearms – are an “investment”, because it is safer to be prepared for a bad day and pleased by a good one than it is to be unprepared.  

. What kind of batteries does it need? Can it be powered from a 12 VDC car adapter? Solar power? What kind of fuel does the vehicle use? Will it run on something else? What is the likelihood of that fuel/battery/power source being available in an emergency? How long will the battery/fuel last before it goes bad? What are the best ways to store them? Perhaps the most useful question: is there a hand-powered version available instead? If the item is battery powered (a flashlight, for example), I try to find one that is most efficient in its power usage.

. When possible, I like to acquire two or more of certain items, especially if I like them or they tend to wear out after awhile (clothing, boots). Having duplicate equipment also allows you to use one for parts if parts are unavailable elsewhere. Some items are also good for barter. Others are good to leave at home while you take the other on the road. Some of my firearms purchases have been driven by the type of ammunition for this purpose – I’d rather be able to use what I have in multiple weapons than to have to keep multiple types of ammunition stocked.

I don’t include “Price” in the checklist because I’ve learned (contrary to what my parents tried to teach me) that most of the time, paying more for a high quality item saves more money in the long run than buying a cheap item, which have to be repaired or replaced it frequently. As long as we aren’t charging it to a credit card (or creating other debt) and are living within our means, I try not to think much about price. We also do most of our non-immediate shopping on the internet, because it is easier to find exactly what we need than making do with what we find at the local hardware or department store, and the prices (including shipping) are much better. 

By running our potential purchases through the Dumpster list, we’ve actually modified some other areas of our life, and it has helped us to generate less trash, have less blinking-light/electronic noise toys for our children, and I haven’t had to buy any new clothes in over a year now. Though I thought there would be more potential for “hard work” as a result, we’ve found that by being more picky about our purchases, as well as giving them proper maintenance, we’ve actually had a lot less break-downs to deal with and our “free” time has actually increased.

I suggest kicking the coffee habit. Coffee offers very little actual nutritional value. It is mostly a comfort food. While that is important, consider the drawbacks:

1. Sleep pattern changes
2. Increased anxiety
3. Staining of the teeth
4. Effects on pregnancy and menopause
5. Cholesterol (French Press method can use trap cafestol and kahweol which may raise LDL levels that paper filters capture)

Regular use may lead to "habituation"; that is, no net benefit from use but, rather, a negative effect if the drug is not taken.

Too much caffeine can produce restlessness, nausea, headache, tense muscles, sleep disturbances, and cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats). Because caffeine increases the production of stomach acid it may worsen ulcer symptoms or cause acid reflux ("heartburn").

I'm sure there will be plenty of people who respond that coffee is healthy and has many benefits. I'm skeptical. - Buryl

The credit derivatives plot thickens: New York Fed’s Secret Choice to Pay for Swaps Hits Taxpayers. (Thanks to David V. for the link.)

Russia delays sale of 50 tons of gold. (A hat tip to Trey for the link, by way of MineWeb.)

GG sent this: Stimulus jobs overstated by thousands

SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson spotted this New York Times piece: Hard Work, No Pay. It includes this memorable quote: "I am not unemployable. I have a master’s of fine arts and spent two years in the Peace Corps." Mike's comment: "Er...I thought that was the definition of unemployable!"

Ben L. liked this article: Gold Market Reaching The Breaking Point

Items from The Economatrix:

Gold to Rise to $2,000 Amid "Massive" Inflation, Superfund Says

Paul Craig Roberts: Are You Ready for the Next Financial and Economic Crisis? "Evidence that the US is a failed state is piling up faster than I can record it. One conclusive hallmark of a failed state is that the crooks are inside the government, using government to protect and to advance their private interests."

Goldie Sachs Defends Controversial Trading Practices

Recession Declared Over But Job Losses Mounting

Home Foreclosures Jump in Previously Untouched Cities

Credit Card Hikes Raise Congresses' Blood Pressure

Unemployed Tap their 401ks

A new 2010 Survival Calendar is now available. I was delighted to see that the designer included one page devoted to SurvivalBlog. Check it out! OBTW, you can use the coupon code "survivalblog" (without the quotes) to get a $4 discount on checkout.

   o o o

Brian H. wrote me to mention that Gene Logsdon's classic 1977 book "Small-Scale Grain Raising" is back in print in an updated paperback edition. Be sure to order the Second edition.

   o o o

Reader HPD sent this: Cash for Clunkers costs taxpayers $24,000 per car. And Damon sent this, on this article, with a similar theme: The Stimulus Saved 650,000 Jobs? I'm Not Impressed. ($230,769 to create each job? Only a Federal bureaucrat could call that a success.)

   o o o

Wal-Mart Starts Selling Caskets, Urns On-Line. At least they are made in the USA, unlike most of the other products sold at what my brother calls "Great Wall of China Mart".

"China is now a big buyer of gold and silver for their banks. Chinese television has been recommending that everyone should go to the bank to buy gold and silver. That’s 1.3 billion people getting propagandized. This is a major bullish factor for gold. Perhaps the bankers have met their match." - Howard J. Ruff

Friday, October 30, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I am the leader of a band of 8-to-12 looters. I have some basic military training. We move from place to place like locusts devouring everything in our path. My group is armed with light weapons and can develop and follow simple plans of attack. We take what we want by force of arms. We prefer none of our victims survive because that could cause problems for us in the future.

It has been six months since the grid went down. You and the other five members of your party have settled into what may be a long grinding existence. The every day tasks of growing and gathering have now become routine. The news from the outside is extremely limited but you don’t really miss it much. Life is simple but physically demanding.

Although things may seem stable you will need to keep your team focused and alert. This is your first and most important layer of defense. You should hold an immediate reaction drill once per week. Keep things simple. Practice a specific response to such threats as injury, fire, attack and evacuation. Despite the challenges you must maintain contact with those around you such as neighbors for vital clues that trouble is brewing. Regular monitoring the radio will be critical in providing an early warning of trouble. You may be able to safely interview refugees with risking your party. Keep in mind the information you get from them may not always be reliable.

While you have been farming I have been learning the best tactics to employ to seize your property and your goods. I have been refining them since we hit the road right after the lights went out. I have conducted eight “hits” so far and have been successful seven times. Here are some of my “lessons learned”.

Intelligence gathering and target selection is critical to my success. Targets include those who have large quantities of fuel, food and other valuable supplies. My posse is constantly questioning anyone and everyone we contact searching for this our next victim. Anyone who has ever had knowledge, even second hand, of your preparations is someone of interest to me. I may approach them directly or indirectly. If anyone knows something I will find out about it. Who seems well-fed? Who still has transportation? Who has lights? Who was prepared? Where are they exactly? Somebody talks, either in person or on the radio. They always do.

We search for victims night and day. During the day we are listening for the sounds of machinery, cars, tractors, gunfire or generators. Day or night without a lot of wind those sounds can carry for miles. At night I look for any sort of light. Even a small flash indicates somebody with electricity and that means a rich target. I always have somebody listing to the scanner for any news, leads or insecure chatter.

Operational Security (OPSEC) is an important concept for your entire group to understand and maintain. If somebody outside your circle doesn’t have a real need to know about your plans, preparations or procedures then they shouldn’t know period. Develop a cover story and live it like was a bulletproof vest. It is no less important to your protection and survival. During an event you need to blend in with the surrounding environment. Carefully observe noise (such as generators and other engines) and light discipline especially at night. If you need to test fire weapons do it in one sequence to avoid a prolonged noise signature.

Once I find and target you reconnaissance of your retreat is my next step. Only a fool would try to rush in and try to overwhelm a group of “survivalists”. We had a bad experience with that during our second hit. Now we spend at least a day or two trying to size up a large opportunity and the best way to take it down. I will observe retreat activity from a nearby-concealed position. I will get an idea of your numbers, weapons, routines and so much more by careful surreptitious observation. If your group seems alert, I will try and trigger a false alarm with a dog or child to watch your reaction to a threat. That helps me know how you respond, where you are strong and how to attack. I may also obtain a topographical map of the area to identify likely avenues of approach and potential escapes routes you will try to use. I may coerce your neighbors into uncovering a weak spot or access point or other important intelligence. I also have a Bearcat handheld scanner. I will be listening for any insecure chatter from your radios.

Regular patrols at irregular intervals focused on likely observation points and avenues of approach could keep me at bay. You could put down sand or other soft soil in key choke points as a way of “recording” if anyone has recently traveled through the land. Dogs, with their advanced sense of hearing and smell are able to detect and alert you to intruders well in advance of any human. Motion sensing IR video cameras as a part of a security plan could play a part in your layered defense as long as you have power. A 24 hour manned observation point equipped with high quality optical tools is a must. It should be fortified and if possible concealed. It should have a weapon capable of reaching to the edges of your vision. Seismic intrusion devices, night vision and thermal imaging are phenomenal force multiplying tools. They can give you critical intelligence and warning. You should use them if you have them. Understand they are not fool proof and I can often neutralize them if I know you have them.

These tools and techniques provide you reaction time. Time to plan your response and time to execute that plan. Recognize that a “defender” is always at a disadvantage. By definition a defender will be reacting to my attack. Modern warfare has emphasized the ability of the attacker to operate faster than opponents can react. This can be explained by the OODA loop. Below are the four steps of the classic OODA loop. These are the steps a defender goes through when under attack.

1. Observing or noticing the attack.

2. Orient to the direction, method and type of attack.

3. Deciding what the appropriate response will be.

4. Acting on that decision.

As an attacker I will try and operate at a pace faster than you as a defender can adjust to. I will change my direction, pace, timing and method to force you to continue to process through the OODA loop. This creates confusion and wastes your precious reaction time. As a defender you will need to disrupt or reset your attackers timing with a counter-attack. When you are successful you become the attacker. Your defensive plans should utilize and exploit this concept. Here are a few scenarios:

1. Snipe & Siege

I will begin the attack when I can engage at least half of your party’s military age personnel in one coordinated effort. I will infiltrate my team into concealed positions around your retreat within 50 to 75 yards. I will target any identified leadership with the first volley. Two thirds of my people will be engaging personnel. The other group will target communications antennas, surveillance cameras and any visible lighting assets. I want your group unable to see, communicate or call for help. The members of my band will each fire two magazines in the initial exchange. Two thirds of my group will change to new concealed positions and wait. One third will fall back into an ambush of the most likely avenue of escape. We will stay concealed and wait until you come out to attend to your wounded and dead. We repeat the attack as necessary until any resistance is crushed.

Ensure you adjust the landscape around your retreat so that I don’t have anyplace offering cover or concealment within 100 yards of your residence. You can create decorative masonry walls that can be used to offer cover for personnel close to your residence. Fighting positions can be built now and used as raised planting beds and then excavated for use in the future. These can be extended or reinforced after any significant event. These structures or other measures such as trenching must be sited carefully to avoid allowing them to be used effectively by an attacker if they are overrun.

2. Trojan Horse

For one hit we used an old UPS truck. We forced a refugee to drive it to the retreat gate. We concealed half our group inside the truck. The truck was hardened on the inside with some sandbags around the edges. The other half of our group formed an ambush concealed inside the tree line along the driveway. We killed the driver to make it look good and had one person run away. Those preppers almost waited us out. After nearly three hours they all walked slowly down the driveway. They were bunched up in a group intent on checking out the truck and driver. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

They could have worked together as group to sweep the area 360 degrees around the truck and they would have surely found us. A dog would have also alerted the residents to our presence. They could have taken measures to eliminate the vegetation offering us concealment on the road near the gate. They could have used CS gas or something similar to “deny” any suspicious areas. Lastly they could have done a “reconnaissance by fire”. Shooting into likely hiding spots, including the truck, trying to evoke a response. They should have established an over watch position with the majority of their group. This over watch group would have provided visual security and an immediate response if there were an attack. They were not expecting any additional threats. They didn’t consider that there might be additional danger lurking nearby aside from the truck and they died.

3. Kidnap & Surrender

A few weeks ago we surprised and captured a couple of women out tending a garden. It was totally by chance. We were traveling through a very rural area on our way to another town when somebody heard a tractor backfire. We immediately stopped and I sent a small team to recon the noise. They bumped into a small party tending a field at the edge of their retreat. They seized two women and immediately dragged them back to our vehicles. We began negotiations by sending a finger from each one back to the retreat under a white flag. The rest was easy.

This didn’t need to happen. Better noise discipline would have kept us from discovering their retreat. Some simple boundary fencing or tangle foot could have delayed us. The women should have been armed and aware of such a threat. If they has established an over watch for the garden they could have engaged us before we took our hostages or at least alerted the others that there was a problem. They also could have had a quick reaction SOP developed prior to this incident. That Quick Reaction (QR) force could have followed the kidnappers back to our vehicles and set up an ambush of their own. Rural retreat security is a full time job. If you snooze you may lose everything.

4. Fire and Maneuver

I don’t like this option but sometimes the prize is just too tempting. We typically infiltrate quietly at night to prearranged start points. We begin our attack just before dawn when your senses are dulled by a long night watch or from sleep. Based on our reconnaissance we divided your retreat into positions or zones that need specific attention. We prepare for battle by using an air rifle to target any lights or cameras. Our first priority is to engage any LP/OP site and destroy or degrade them as much as possible. I split my forces into two supporting groups. One group keeps the target position under constant fire. The other group also fires and maneuvers, closing on the target and destroying it with gunfire or improvised weapons. Many times these positions only have one occupant and the task is relatively easy. Often these positions are easy to spot and are too far from each other to provide any effective mutual support. We will work from one position to the next. In the darkness and confusion most of the defenders are disoriented and ineffective. They fall like dominos. We have also used motorcycles to negotiate obstacles and speed through cuts in the perimeter fence. Then throw Molotov Cocktails into any defensive position as they roar past. If you fall back into your residence we will set up a siege. If we can maneuver close enough, perhaps by using a distraction, we will pump concentrated insecticide into your building or we may introduce LP gas from a portable tank into the house and ignite it with tracer fire.

If there was enough warning time from your OP you could execute a pre-planned response. Your planned response should be simple, easy to understand and execute. Half your group occupies your fighting positions, two to a position. The rest of your party establishes an over watch and concentrate its fire at the enemies trying to fix your positions. If you had more than enough prepared positions the enemy might not know where to attack. It would also provide more flexibility in your defense based on the direction of attack. I would use Night Vision if available or illumination from flares or lights as a last resort. Rats hate light.

Usually people keep main access points blocked from high-speed approach. Likely avenues of approach should also be blocked or choked and kept under observation. Remember though what keeps me out keeps you in. Typically the common techniques of parking vehicles in roadways will only delay my approach not stop it altogether. An ordinary 12-gauge shotgun, shooting slugs, can stop most types of non-military vehicles at close range.

Don’t forget the threat of fire or other non-traditional weapons in your defensive plans.

You could create the illusion of a “dead end” for your main access road by positioning a burned out trailer home or a couple of burned out cars at the false “end” of the road. Concealing the fact that the road actually continues to your residence.

Lastly, develop a plan to evacuate and evade capture. When faced with a significantly superior force it may be the only viable option. This should include simple, reliable communications or signals such as three blasts on a dog whistle. Your fighting positions and barriers need to be constructed to allow coordinated withdrawal in an emergency. You should establish a rally point and time limit to assemble. I believe this should be a priority in your practice drills. During a real emergency you may be able to rally, rearm and plan your own version of the “snipe and siege” to retake your retreat.

Key messages:

Your rural retreat defense can be visualized as a set of concentric rings:

  • Location – Location – Location: High and remote are best
  • OPSEC – Think of it as a form of armor or shield: Practice it and protect it.
  • Observation Post / Listening Post: Your first best chance to counter attack
  • Gates / Fences / other barriers: May slow me down. Might keep you in.
  • Fighting positions: Must provide mutual support and allow for evacuation.
  • Residence: Last line. Don’t become trapped
  • People, Planning and Practice


  • An aggressive and unexpected counter strike can win the battle.
  • Stay alert for multiple threats or diversionary tactics.
  • Criminals excel at feigning weakness to lower your guard.

Don’t underestimate me.

Reading for further study:

The Defence of Duffer's Drift, by Major General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton (1905)

US Army FM 5-15 Field Fortifications

US Army FM 5-103 Survivability

Online OODA Resources


While scanning through iTunes U, I found a television (or audio) series from University of California TV on disaster preparedness. They are professionally produced and contain a wealth of information about about emergency response systems are intended to work. Included here are four of the fifteen or so shows that they have put together. The ones I have included are Natural Disasters, Chemical and Biological Agents, Pandemic Influenza and Emerging Infections and Disaster Volunteerism

They go over several case studies that happened in California, but talk about organizations generally enough that it is applicable to most areas with advanced emergency response systems. At the end, I have included links to more shows in UCTV disaster preparedness series.

Here are some video links and excerpted brief summaries:

Disaster Preparedness: Natural Disasters

Transportation and care
Multiple disasters co-existing (earthquake, fire, flood)

Wild fire
-larger then expected

Family Preparedness
-Family network - getting everyone involved
-List of material that needs to be packed to go
-Long distance phones can work (call to foreign county, deliver message, foreign county calls to local number you could not reach), calling local people sometimes doesn't when the disaster is local. This would appear to be a failure of the phone system to update their routing tables dynamically.
-Define a meeting place for your family
-Stores and supplies at home
-Tent, stove, propane, water
-72 hour critical supply of food, medicine and water
-Laundry - Something I had not thought about
-Communications and information management, one of the most difficult things
-Real time information systems - where the fire is, what the evacuations plan is
-After action report - learn from what worked and what didn't
-Reverse 911 only works for land lines.
-Multiple layers of communications, multiple contacts per person
-"Alternative care sites" shelter, Fairgrounds, school gymnasiums, arenas, animal shelters
-Special needs patients, elderly, dialysis
-First day great, everyone helping one another - Day 2 short tempers - social workers and behavioral specialists needed, neighborhoods forming
-It is mentioned *many* times that people will not leave their pets behind. Include them in your preps.

-Single point of contact - single voice speaking for a set of resources
-If you build it, they will come. Where lights are on, people go there.
There are several phases
1. Immediate injuries - Crush injuries, Amputations, Head injuries, airway obstruction
2. Secondary illnesses - Blood pressure medication, diabetes medication, increased rate of heart attack and child birth
95% are rescued by local responders and volunteers in the first 24 hours.

Disaster Preparedness: Chemical and Biological Agents

Disaster Preparedness: Pandemic Influenza and Emerging Infections

Disaster Preparedness: Disaster Volunteerism

More Programs in Emergency Preparedness / Emergency Medicine

Regards, - Ben M.

Reader Beth T. flagged this news item: Explorer Ernest Shackleton's whiskey stash has been discovered in Antarctica, over 100 years after his failed expedition to the South Pole.

   o o o

Kimberly suggested an article that Kellene Bishop wrote on her blog site, titled: Why I Worry About You. Kimberly's comment: "It would be a great article for your readers to send to friends who are sitting on the fence or are completely unaware of, or the extent of, current challenges facing this country and her people. It is a 'heart to heart' message."

   o o o

"Word" was the first of several readers to send this: Toronto musician dies after coyote attack in Cape Breton. If just two coyotes can do that, then what could a whole pack of wolves do? Always a carry a gun when you step off your front porch! Don't forget that predators come in both two-legged and four-legged varieties.

"Some people think the Federal Reserve Banks are U.S. government institutions. They are not ... they are private credit monopolies which prey upon the people of the U.S. for the benefit of themselves and their foreign and domestic swindlers, and rich and predatory money lenders. The sack of the United States by the Fed is the greatest crime in history. Every effort has been made by the Fed to conceal its powers, but the truth is the Fed has usurped the government. It controls everything here and it controls all our foreign relations. It makes and breaks governments at will." - Congressman Charles McFadden

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mr. Rawles,
In your new book ["How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It"], which I ordered on "Book Bomb day" you mention that coffee is hard to store, and suggest using the vacuum-packed bricks. I have found that the key to stocking up on coffee for the long term is to buy green coffee beans that have not been roasted yet. They have the potential to keep for up to two years in just a burlap bag, or much longer if actually packed like you would wheat berries. Roasting can be an art in itself, or as simple as frying in a pan. (Just the beans, no oil of course.) A source for roasting information and ordering of green coffee beans is Sweet Marias. I roast my beans using a Fresh Roast II coffee roaster every few days, and plan on roasting them in a cast iron skillet, should TEOTWAWKI occur. Wholesalers of green coffee beans exist, and the beans can be had for from $2.50-$3.50 a pound in 130 pound bags. Not to mention, fresh roasting the coffee beans actually improves the flavor about three times as much as fresh grinding the coffee beans do!s

The second item regards sifting fresh ground whole wheat flour in order to obtain fluffier whiter flour most people have been led to prefer. Legend, Inc. offers Geologic soil sifters in varying grades of fineness. A #20, #30 and #50 allow me to obtain flours fine enough to bake cakes from hard white wheat berries ground with a Country Living grain mill. I still make whole wheat bread most often, but it's nice to have the ability to make a nice cake or French bread. Some day without power and from a hand cranked mill, a nice cake could be a real morale booster. Thank you and God Bless, - Edward T.

I'm curious as to why you have not included the Northeast in your list of Retreat Areas--like Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine, very good candidates. Especially the northern areas of these states. Regards, - Wayne B.

JWR Replies: You might have missed this subsection in my Recommended Retreat Areas page:

Look West of the Missouri River

As evidenced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, population density is perhaps the most crucial factor to consider when selecting a safe haven. The big cities on the Gulf Coast became hell holes, whereas the small towns got by fairly well. I know that this will cause acrimony with a lot of my readers who live east of the Missouri River, but the plain truth is the East has too much population! The northeast is also downwind of some major nuclear targets. Unless you are among the uber-rich and can afford to buy an elaborate fully hardened bunker with HEPA filtration deep in the Smoky or Appalachian Mountains with a five year food supply, then I firmly believe that you will be safer west of the Missouri River. That is just my opinion, so your mileage may vary (YMMV).

However, before you write me a tirade about how wrong I am and how safe you'll be in upstate New York, please re-read my August 5th through August 10th, 2005 posts in the early SurvivalBlog Archives. Also, take a long hard look at the "Lights of the U.S." photo maps at: DarkSky.org. A picture tells a thousand words.

I stand by that guidance. Yes, I continue to get flack about it from easterners. But they'd take the time to travel through the western US and see just how lightly populated much of it is, I think they'd change their tune.

If your work and family situations allow it, then move to one of my recommended retreat areas!


My son (17 years old) and I, along with my dad and sister who live in Washington State just completed a 4,700 mile road trip on motorcycles, traveling down through British Columbia. We met up with my relatives in Washington, then continued down into Oregon, cutting down to Northeastern California, over into Nevada, down into Utah then to the Four Corners and back up to Idaho cutting across to Western Washington and saying good bye to them before we continued back home. My point is, we saw a lot of empty land, met a lot of good people, saw some close friends who share same beliefs and expectations of what is to come; and we were greatly encouraged!

Sometimes living in an isolated community, you get to feeling stagnant, lethargic or complacent. Seeing the western US and those who live in the country was refreshing. And, it is a small world. We ran into people who knew people...

It was very good to see others and hear them firsthand relate their preparations for the future. I spent some time with one friend, and we spent the afternoon shooting one of his firearms, an FN-FAL. What a great experience! This was on his property his own range complete with 300, 400 and 500 yard gongs. (We shot at the 300, and found that the FN is a great MBR!)

In His Care, brothers always, - Ray

Mr. Rawles-
D. in Dubai has made an excellent point in regards to protein powders/meal replacement drinks. You are correct in that the 'Ensure" and other medical-oriented drinks are a bit more balanced; however they tend to be lower in protein per ounce than the 'sports' type of drinks.

That said, The bulk purchase of a powder that is palatable to you and your family is an excellent means to balance out your bulk food stores, such as pastas, rice, etc. There also tends to be excellent vitamin and mineral contents in their drinks as well. A caveat: go to a store and ask for samples to taste - this is important! Some are simply nasty, some are delicious. Also, start small. Begin with just a fraction of a serving, and use it regularly. This will adapt your digestion to a new food, and the transition will be much smoother.

Once you find one you like, stock up. The prices are reasonable now, plan accordingly! - Sled


Mr. Rawles,
The recent Ensure powder link to Amazon (for one of their partner retailers) at $92.34 + $5.90 shipping is more expensive than buying it directly from Abbott Labs (the manufacturer) at $65.93 with free shipping on orders over $50. I've also seen it on the beta test of the grocery web site for ChinaMart (Walmart.com) but it's not there today.

Abbott also has offers on their site for "Buy three, get one free" coupons for local brick-and-mortar retail purchasers.

They also offer free sample coupons and other discount coupons.

In my opinion, the Butter Pecan is the best and Cafe Latte is a close second. But avoid the strawberry flavor! Thx. - Kent M.

Dear Mr. Rawles,

Greetings! I saw a blog letter mentioning FSA (Flexible Spending Accounts)-one medical plan that helps the average person. Basically, one’s employer (private, public, etc.) has some amount taken out before taxes and this money is put into a plan with a pre-set amount that must be used by the end of the plan year.

Okay, what many people do not know is that IRS laws allow the following:

Once the plan is started, the full year's funds are present, even if you have not had that total amount saved up yet. Example: I set the plan to $1,000, and at the start of my plan $20 is taken each paycheck (50 weeks). But, I can start applying the plan immediately for the full $1,000. These funds are used to reimburse co-pays, over the counter drugs, reading glasses, or other prescription and generic [medication] costs.

Here are two important points I found out last summer:

First, the medical supplies reimbursed for by this plan include medical supplies, including Quik-Clot, Celox, (Yep! Even the Quik-clot for nose bleeds). Other first aid supplies (usually not found in the local drug store-but commonly found in survival catalogs) are covered (check with the FSA firm handling the reimbursements first!).

I got lots of Band-Aids, Celox, and Quik-clot this summer.

Oh yes, my former employer admitted (yes, I called both the FSA company and my employer at city hall to confirm), that due to IRS laws, a person can access the entire amount for that year, get reimbursed for all of it, and leave employment before the completion of employee payments are made-and no refund is required from the employee by either the former employer or the FSA company! This may prove useful for many people who have these plans and think that TEOTWAWKI is coming soon. [JWR Adds: But purchasing supplies without the intent to fully fund a FSA would be unconscionable.]

Also, real survival medical supplies can be obtained (again, check with the FSA first!) with the plan covering the expenses. (From your pre-tax dollars, of course!).

Food for thought. - L.F. R.

Treasury Sales Loom, but Demand Is There. $123 Billion Worth in One Week! Not to worry, they can always make it look like they all sold to non-puppet buyers. (Thanks to loyal content contributor GG for the link.)

Brad C. found this Business Week article interesting: The U.S. Metros Least Touched by Recession. Brad's comment: Note that none of the cities in the top ten are on the East or West Coast, and that they are all in "Fly Over" country. Once again, free states lead the way. JWR Adds: Also note the correlation with my Recommended Retreat Areas page.

Our Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson suggested this piece posted over at Zero Hedge: The Next Step in the Bank Implosion Cycle??? The sheer volume of bank derivatives now in play is staggering!

Items from The Economatrix:

Global Exposure in Derivatives in Excess of One Quadrillion Dollars

US Foreclosure Crisis Spreads to New States

Awash in Nonsense
(The Mogambo Guru)

Massive Airline Cuts as Business Travel Plunges

New Fed Role: "Super Cop" to Police Banks

Amy, of the excellent Humble Musings blog mentioned this article: Cash for Clubbers; Congress's fabulous golf cart stimulus. It is about the new $5,300 Federal tax credit available for any street legal electric vehicle. Well, in many western states ATVs are considered street legal! So... Can I get this tax credit for an all-electric ATV, such as an Eco E ATV, a Bad Boy Buggy, or a ATV-modified golf cart? That would fit in nicely with the planned expansion of our home photovoltaic power system. And it would be a great way to go hunting in a much, much quieter--if not quasi-tactical--ATV. Please don't tell Nancy Pelosi about my plan, or she'll have a conniption fit! An please note that this is not a money giveaway program or a tax refund. It is just a tax credit that will mean that I can keep some of my hard-earned money for a practical use. So I won't suffer guilt pangs over it.

   o o o

As The Fongman would say: "Oh maaaan!" What a bummer. They found Tamara K.'s backup cache. Or, as Slim Pickens would say: "Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas, with all that stuff."

   o o o

G.&K. sent this: Bay Bridge Closure Sets Stage For Commute Chaos. Their comment: "If ever there was evidence for why to not have a major bridge between you and your retreat..."

   o o o

Our Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson recommended this Washington Times editorial by James Carafano: Why 1978 was a very bad year

"The gold standard, in one form or another, will prevail long after the present rash of national fiats is forgotten or remembered only in currency museums."- Hans F. Sennholz

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

As I read the occasional letters and articles on SurvivalBlog about storing/using precious metals (PMs) during a TEOTWAWKI of whatever sort, I must conclude that every single writer is absolutely correct--and yet also mostly wrong. You might ask: How can everyone be right and wrong, simultaneously? It's because most preppers seem to anticipate and plan fairly narrowly for the use of PMs. IMHO, if you're taking such a narrow lane down the preparation highway, you're not thinking big enough.

Any situation following a currency collapse will be complicated by varying degrees of social disorder, economic breakdown, extreme paranoia among the population, (hopefully) temporary increases of theft and violence, etc., and thus will follow certain micro-unpredictable, yet macro-predictable, patterns. Saying it in a less scientific way, it is nearly certain that "big-picture," long-term trends for currencies in crisis, and especially the consequences of certain governmental actions, are extremely predictable. There have been more than 500 currency collapses in modern history (most recently in Zimbabwe, that I'm aware of, and seemingly ongoing for the US Dollar). Thus, economists and financial gurus can predict with fairly good accuracy what patterns will emerge during any currency crisis--whether it something as simple as hyper-inflation, devaluation or the wholesale destruction of a nation (and thus its currency). That makes such events macro (big-picture)-predictable.

Still, every civilization, society, currency and situation has unique characteristics and millions of variables, so certain events common to currency failures and thus almost certain to happen (macro-predictable) will still be hard to predict on a micro (small-scale) basis or timeline. In other words, economists can predict an abandonment of fiat currencies, they just can't predict the day, nor usually even the year. They can anticipate reliably that wheelbarrows will at some point be used to carry paper money to the grocery stores, but they just can't predict which person, on which day, at which store, in which city, will start the trend. Nor exactly when/how that trend will end, as the currency becomes so worthless that even a wheelbarrow-full isn't worth the effort of taking to a store.

Similarly, centuries-tested stores of value like gold and silver are almost certain to hold their relative value through almost anything crisis. Will gold and silver prices go up and down? Will governments make them difficult, illegal or even dangerous to one's health to hold them? Sure; but look at this way: if gold and silver were good enough for the Phoenicians to trade in; for many Jews to use to escape Hitler; for Marco Polo to use in his travels; for ancient, medieval and modern rulers to bribe the guards and spies of opposing rulers; for royal families to use to pay the ransoms of hostage family members; for Alexander the Great to exact in tribute from besieged cities; and for defeated Nazis to spirit away to safe havens after WWII. So it is a good bet that they'll be just as useful in any future scenario you can imagine. I could be wrong, but you shouldn't bet against that over the long haul.

Yes, a number of negative trends (take your pick: currency failure, government failure, world trade imbalances, food shortages, major droughts, out-of-control crime, oil shortages, nuclear terrorism, pandemic diseases, revolutions, major wars, civil wars, etc., etc.) could in theory climax simultaneously, causing gold or silver to be un-tradable for short, perhaps even moderately-extended, periods. (Note: I did not say "value-less." Just un-tradable. Folks will hunker down and drive off potential threats, and food, water and ammo will be the needs in the now. Over any period of more than a few months, though, society will demand a currency to enhance and ease barter, trade and commerce.

Yes, there may be short transition periods when precious metals will be temporarily under or even un-valued by some people, in some regions. But survivors must be pragmatic and flexible when they're hungry or in danger. Since nearly all Americans have at least some gold or silver jewelry, it seems likely the mental transition to gold or silver-based barter or currency wouldn't be difficult for most. Look at this way: When we travel overseas, the local currency (be it the Euro, the dollar, the Real, the Yen, the Renminbi, the Hutsi-Tutsi or whatever) always confuses us for a few days, until we get a feel for what it buys in real, local terms. Mentally converting from our "home" currency adds additional confusion, but usually not for long. Don't you and nearly all other foreign travelers very quickly overcome confusions over the local currency? Within a few days, we're bargaining at the bazaar or market and have a very good handle on what something is worth, and whether we're getting charged "gringo prices." Surely a transition away from the dollar and into silver or gold, in whatever form, can't be too much tougher than adapting to foreign currencies, when the need arises.

Yes, there may be short periods when guns and ammo are worth far more than silver, and possibly even gold. But if that holds true for very long, you're probably going to be dead anyway, unless you can get access to military-level armaments and armor. (Think about it; who's going to own all of those mortars, tanks, Apache helicopters, SAWs and F-18s if the government collapses completely?) On the other hand, in times of outlaws the common folks tend to band together and get rid of the outlaws. It might take a month, a year or a decade, but it will happen. Still, the key thing to remember is that common folks are not trying to make the world safe for guns and ammo; we use guns and ammo to make our world safe for living, trading and improving life for our families. When that point is reached, the relative value of guns and ammo will drop, just as it did in the frontier West, and the relative value of easily-exchanged commodities like gold and silver will go up.

Yes, there will be times when a bushel (heck, even a cup) of wheat will be worth more than a pound of gold. But almost every civilization since the dawn of time has soon invented a means of exchange--a currency. When that happens, things tend to be a bit more peaceful, farmers are farming and gunsmiths (and all the other trades) are buying food. Farmers that are farming peacefully = more food grown = drops in commodity prices. (As an aside, it seems probable that an effective portable water filter will be worth more than either wheat or gold, at some critical points in most TEOTWAWKI scenarios. Huge municipal water filtration/treatment systems are a product of peace, order and stability--not social chaos. We can live a long time on relatively little wheat or other foods, but only a very short time without pure, clean water. Remember, you won't be carrying 55-gallon water barrels anywhere--so you're going to need a sturdy, effective, long-lasting and portable water filter.)

You shouldn't bet your (and your loved ones') survival on a single commodity for future barter purposes, whether that be gold, silver, wheat, rye, 9mm, .223, lead, water, gunpowder, canned meat, spices, guns or whatever. IMHO, a reasonably proportional stash of precious metals in multiple forms increases flexibility, reduces overall risk levels and markedly improves your odds. Quite honestly, there is no single precious metals solution for every situation and need. Gold is too valuable for most day-to-day situations; silver can be too low in value for some needs. Why have only a few dozen Silver Eagles, when you can balance your preps and expand your flexibility by also owning a couple of Gold Eagles, maybe some Maple Leafs, and a good stash of 90% silver pre-1965 U.S. coins? And, why not a few reasonably-sized silver or gold bars or ingots, if that is in your budget and makes sense for your situation? You should tailor and balance your holdings to fit your budget, region, lifestyle, perceived risks and survival strategy.

* If you anticipate a "drop everything" evacuation, you'll be leaving behind most of your heavy silver bullion bars, and your stored items in general, due to weight limitations. So, either don't buy them, or bury them some of your stores in locations you can retrieve from later, or be prepared to hide them quickly in some other way.
* Rare or collectible coins? Only if you have a very generous budget to work with, and you believe that hyper-inflation is the biggest, and almost-certain, risk out there, and are focusing your preps on long-term horizons.

Just as you plan for redundancy and back-up solutions in other areas of preparedness, you should apply it to your precious metals caches. There's a reason you have both power tools and hand tools; several varieties of rifles, if possible; specific handguns for specific purposes (your concealed-carry pistol probably is not your open-carry pistol); and spare parts for just about everything. Most would agree it is wise to have a multi-fuel generator and solar power and some micro-hydro power too. You prepare a defensible retreat, but also also pack bug-out bags just in case, right? Many of us have both gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles, if we can afford it. So why wouldn't the same logic apply to your gold and silver stores? With many different "tools" in your PM toolkit, you can pick the right "tool" for whatever situation you encounter.

Now, back to Micro and Macro: While most of us may encounter micro-situations where precious metals hold little immediate value--in the macro sense, those situations will be relatively rare. Indeed, the odds are much in favor of gold and silver retaining important value in any emergency situation. If the ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Spanish Empire and many other civilizations over millennia have valued silver and gold so highly--why would you want to bet against it for the day after tomorrow? Next month? Next year? To me, the odds clearly lay with gold and silver. Yes, I still have appropriate firearms and ammo, and some reloading equipment, too. I'm just not going to bet everything on firearms and ammo, in isolation. Just like I'm not betting everything on having only food storage. The common-sense rules of prudence, moderation and balance dictate otherwise.

In short, never put all of your preparedness eggs in any single basket. For most of us, that means we should pursue a balanced and reasonable cache of silver and/or gold, in multiple forms, for multiple potential uses, along with our other balanced and reasonable preps.

Blessings to all, - Gentleman Jim from Colorado

Mr. Rawles,
I've been following your site for some time and thoroughly enjoy it. The information provided here is outstanding. I'm writing to make a suggestion for a short term and possibly long term survival food.

A quick premise. I've been working out and lifting weights off and on for the last three to four years. I lifted weights when I was much younger and I needed to incorporate them to get back into shape. Now that I'm a little older and wiser I've been using the internet to find out more about fitness and physical development. I'm by no means one of the monster lifters you see at the gym but, I am relatively fit and what is termed a "hard gainer" or ectomorph somatype. That means gaining muscle mass is difficult for me as my metabolism burns through calories very easily. I'm the slender guy all women hate because I can eat and eat and not gain weight.

As I began to learn more and more about weight lifting techniques and routines I began to learn more about the types of nutrition that would benefit me to include protein powders, shakes, or meal replacement shakes/drinks as they are called.

Most are loaded, or claim to be loaded, with whey protein, as well as other nutrients needed for maintenance and development. These same nutrients are essential for consumption in an emergency and no one goes running to the store for them once the shelves are empty at the super market. Only your most hardcore lifter will be stocking up on mass quantities prior to or during an event/incident. If you come across this guy, stay out of his way. He's apparently really serious about lifting. LOL

That being said, in an emergency you can buy them without having to fight off the mob at your local vitamin and supplement shop. Many of them recommend drinking them one or two hours before a workout to have nutrients available during your workout and then again within one hour of completing your workout to feed the muscle and begin repairing it from tearing it down. In two servings the caloric intake is between six hundred and one-thousand calories. Some are loaded with even more calories per serving and that can be very helpful for life sustaining nutrition. I can gulp one down very quickly. Those that have been in the military can attest to having limited time to eat and MRE let alone heat one up while on patrol.

All you need to make protein powders into a "meal" or "shake" is water or milk, a measuring cup, and a hand mixer or shaker. You don't need power to cook or prepare it. Measure water or milk into your shaker add the powder and shake or mix well. You can even measure the powder into small individual ziplock snack bags and put those inside a shaker for storage in your B.O.B. or kit for emergency use.

Now be warned, some of the products I've tried taste awful. I know that what I enjoy as far as taste and flavor go more than likely isn't the same as what anyone else is going to like or enjoy so, I'd advise buying some of the smaller containers to start and see if you can find one that you can enjoy if you intend to use them as an emergency food or supplement. Don't buy any of the Ready To Drink or "RTD" products. These must be kept refrigerated for whatever reason and they taste horrible. The powders of the same product taste much better. I've no idea what they do to make the RTD shakes but, whatever it is they should just stop.

The one I've finally decided to use exclusively is Cytosport Muscle Milk. It can be a little more expensive than most but, I get three hundred calories from a serving of the powder with water. It comes in multiple flavors, tastes fantastic, like a shake should and when I mix it with milk it can almost double the calories per serving. Cytosport has multiple products and varying prices. Some are loaded with calories and that can be very helpful for life-sustaining nutrition.

No, it's not loaded with a ton of sugar, even though in a stressful situation you'd burn through them quickly. Sugars are the enemy of weight lifters to a degree, and more than likely it will be loaded with essential vitamins and minerals needed for survival.

These can be utilized on patrols as well. Mixing the shakes with water and having them in a shaker in your pack makes for a fast meal while on the move. Leaves no garbage behind as you just toss the shaker back in your pack and keep moving. Two or three and an MRE and you can go for a couple days if need be. Where I am they have smaller shakers than I'm used to in the US. These would be very handy for just such a use. Just make sure if you make the shakes ahead of time, the lids/tops are on securely.

I can't vouch for the shelf life of the powders. I'm sure that they are fairly stable and may store for quite a while. I would wager no one has ever asked companies that manufacture them to test to see how well they keep over time. Usually, they are produced and consumed. For myself, I'll pack more than few of the large jugs away for when TSHTF.

When I buy them I do so mostly through the Internet. You can save a lot of money like that as opposed to buying in the store. In an emergency you'll have to take what you can get if you haven't already stocked some in. I buy the large five lb. jug and I get quite a few shakes from it. I'd estimate I get from thirty to forty shakes out of one jug going by the directions.

One more thing. When using these products and working out (or surviving TEOTWAWKI) your body will more often than not be burning up calories like a blowtorch burns through oxygen. Even without using this, more than likely you may experience some constipation. I know how a stressful or drastic change in environment can kick your body's metabolism into hyper-drive. Even if you drink a gallon of water a day you can still get bound up. Be mindful of this or you'll be very unhappy when the time comes to make a sitting head call. - D in Dubai

JWR Adds: I have read that liquid meal replacements that were originally developed for the elderly such as Ensure powder offer more complete and balanced nutrition than do the weight training liquid food supplements. In powder form, they are more compact for storage, and have a longer shelf life than the liquid form. They are also less likely to cause constipation than the weight training supplements.

GG sent us an article with more about modern-day urban chicken raisers: When the Problems Come Home to Roost.

   o o o

Reader BB ran across a human-powered product which can act as a well pump. BB's comment: "Unfortunately, they will not ship to the US, Canada nor Western Europe, but it's an interesting device I haven't seen before. Certainly a good small scale off-the-grid solution."

   o o o

Reader F.R suggested this article: Solar lantern lights up rural India's dark nights.

"Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me." - Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, The Matrix, 1999. (Screenplay by Larry and Andy Wachowski.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My sincere thanks to the dozens of SurvivalBlog readers that have donated more than $9,000 to the Linda Rawles Memorial Fund, that benefits The Anchor Institute Orphanage and School, in rural Zambia. With just a bit more, they'll be able to buy a modest photovoltaic power system. Thanks again for supporting this very worthy charity, in my late wife's name. Your donations are fully tax deductible.

Jim –
First, may I join many, many others in extending my condolences for your recent loss along with my gratitude for your work with SurvivalBlog.

I have struggled with the thought of writing this or not for some time. I have finally decided that the potential positives outweigh the negatives.

This past year I bought some property outside of Republic, Washington, population about 900. The town is located about 170 miles Northwest of Spokane, Washington.. Republic is the county seat of Ferry County, the least populated county in Washington State and is classified as a “frontier” environment. Republic sits in a North-South mountain valley guarded on the East by the highest pass in Washington State and on the West by the second highest. Approach from the South is via a ferry across Lake Roosevelt and traversing the Colville Indian Reservation. To the North, the Canadian border is about 30 miles with a similar remote environment in Canada. The nearest towns of any consequence are about 45 miles to the West and 50 miles to the East. Tactically and strategically Republic is in a very attractive location and far from having limited resources, Republic has “everything you need and nothin’ you don’t.” The primary downside, as I see it, is that it is in Washington State where the political climate and many of the laws, including tax laws, run counter to the promotion of an ideal retreat location. Other than that, Republic offers everything I was looking for and the property is everything I wanted – and more! (God is amazing, not only providing what we need but occasionally surprising us with a little extra)

There is property available in and around Republic – some of it very attractive property with water, productive farmland, timber, wild game, and wonderful neighbors with a frontier, self-sufficient attitude – at attractive prices compared to other areas I investigated (Northwest Montana, Northern and Central Idaho, Eastern Washington). Herein came my problem. I am well aware of the cons associated with revealing the location of one’s retreat property. However, someone is going to buy the properties that are for sale, and become available in the future, and I would prefer my new future neighbors be of a similar mindset to myself regarding self-sufficiency and preparing for the future. Therefore I have decided to call a little attention to Republic, Washington as a potential retirement / retreat location for those considering a location in the Pacific Northwest.

Shalom, - The Gatekeeper

I've mentioned before a gizmo called a Generlink which allows a lot of flexibility when using a generator for backup power. This device is installed behind your power meter and, depending on the capacity of your generator, allows you to power any circuit in your home via the selective use of the circuit breakers. It's especially useful in that nothing has to be re-wired in the house to safely use your generator. It does require some planning for installation in that your power company will have to agree to it's use and will probably want to install it, mine was installed by my local power co-op for free. Regards, - K. in Texas

My dad kicked me out when I was 19 so I lived in my car for a year on the streets and got pretty good at it.

I'm now married in my mid-40s and have ran several successful businesses and doing well for myself. But, I'm still a cheapie at heart. I absolutely hate paying for motels. When I travel I spend lots of money on food and entertainment, but I hate paying nightly for a bed to sleep on. About 10 years ago I bought nondescript 1994 mini-van Plymouth Voyager and converted it into what I call the Stealth Camper. This small "domestic" looking vehicle comfortably sleeps my wife and I. I built a plywood bed on a welded frame about 16 inches off the floor taking up the entire back giving huge storage space underneath. There are lower access panels and removable sections for daytime use of space. My wife likes extra comfy so with 6" foam rubber mattress it's actually more comfy than our home bed. All back windows have solid black fabric, velcro attached so from outside looks like dark tinted (but they are actually opaque). Velrco allows for easy peaking out in any direction. Behind front seats is black opaque fabric so even with lights on in the back, no light can be seen outside of vehicle. I built in a toilet (mainly for her), but I found I prefer to pee in a wide mouth gallon Gatorade bottle. I also installed inside snap lock latches for the back door, back sliding door, and both front doors. If somebody tries to break in while we are sleeping I will have plenty of time to take action. The only thing the Stealth Camper doesn't have is a built in shower. I've come up with a design for a simple roll up sitting enclosure for a gravity solar heated shower which I'll build later on.

Keep your stealth vehicle clean and well kept. Keep yourself well kept, shaven, clean. Short hair is easier to keep clean than long hair. During warm weather every 2 days buy a shower at a gym or truck stop, or go swimming. I'm told there now are national gym memberships so that is probably your best bet if you travel around a lot. Cold weather you can stretch out a shower every 3 to 5 days. Also camping solar showers work great away from town. Or, to use a solar shower in town; park your vehicle in self serve car wash and give yourself a shower while wearing a bathing suite. I've had few strange looks over the years but no hassles. In between showers give yourself a morning clean up with a wet warm rag courtesy bathroom sink at McDonald's or gas station.

For the first couple of years we would leave the side windows hinged open for ventilation while we slept. This worked fine. But because of security issues we now keep them locked shut, as I'd cut ventilation ducts into the van floor. The front windows have exterior rain guards attached so we usually leave them cracked 1/2 inch for cross-ventilation since the rain guards visually hide the open windows. From the outside, the van looks all sealed up and vacant. I also have installed a low RPM (quiet) 12VDC fan from a junk computer to provide extra ventilation on the floor vent with on a low/high switch when needed. Open windows are a dead give away of vehicle occupancy!

Our favorite time for Stealth Camper traveling is in the cool seasons. Especially if its raining; minimal outside human activity and I've never been roused during a rainy night. I sleep deeply when it's cool and when it rains!

We've been roused a few times and learned a few tricks...

#1. Never sleep with an empty gas tank.
#2. Always have a planned escape route. When parking in a parking space, try to back in so you can leave straight out forward. If you need to leave in a hurry while only half woken up; you need everything in your favor. Know the streets around where you are parked. You don't want to escape down a dead end street.
#3. Have your ignition key available in case you need to jump into the drivers seat for a quick get away.
#4. Sleep wearing skin tight opaque black shirt and black sweat pants or shorts. This way at night time you look nearly invisible from the outside even when you are sitting up front.
#5. Have a roll of quality lint-free paper towels up-front so you can wipe the condensation off the inside front window in the morning.
#6. Have your drivers license / ID / registration, car insurance, etc. ready in case you are roused by authorities.
#7. Do not have illegal items in your possession (or at least find able) in case you are roused by authorities.
#8. When possible pull into your parking space just after dusk. Try to leave in the morning before dawn.
#9. Try to obtain a vehicle (like mini-van) where you can go between sleeping area and drivers seat without leaving vehicle.
#10. Keep the exterior of your vehicle in same condition as average vehicles around you. Blend in. Don't look out of place. I can drive down any street and easily pick out all the vehicles that are occupied. If I miss your vehicle then you've succeeded.

We have California license plates. When I'm not in California I try to park where other "out of state" transient domestic vehicles park; and that's motels / hotel parking lots. Or at least near motel and hotels. I've stayed plenty of times at rest areas without problems but I've heard others tell of many problems.

Warm nights are the worst security times, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Lots of human / kids / young adult and loud activity all night long. People mulling around coming and going. Motel, apartment and young persons areas are terrible. On these worst nights my favorite places to park:
Old folk housing parking lots. Nice and quite.
Hospital back lot parking lots away from activity.
Some motel/hotels have a "quieter" (weekly / monthly rate) side with lower activity. Park as far away from the building as possible! Do not park anywhere near the entrance / exit or buildings. but do park where other cars are parked.
Anywhere truckers park for the night is safer, but this will be noisy. Stay up wind to avoid diesel fumes

Cold especially rainy nights non Friday and Saturday nights are my favorite with minimal human / noise activities. These are my favorite and I'll often park in these areas in no particular order:
Guest areas of apartment complexes. Don't park in residential or numbered areas!
Hotel/motel parking lots. Don't park in room numbered spaces!
Casino parking lots.
Hospital parking lots
Quiet residential areas between two houses [straddling the property line]. Never park in front of somebody's house.
Always park where other cars park for the full night.
I don't like to park where there's lots of activity; where cars are constantly coming and going.
I like to try to find a secondary street, never a primary commute artery. It's amazing how many people get up and go to work at 4 a.m. in the morning!

I have but never liked parking in:
Store parking lots.
Industrial areas.
Away from other vehicles.

I always prefer to park in near the far end of a mass of other vehicles.

When parking on a street for the night always try to park with a car behind you (preferably larger vehicle than you). Never park at an end of a block or at an intersection. This way you'll be less likely to be hit from behind by a drunken wayward vehicle. Also your vehicle will visually not stand out. Don't park on the end of a parking lot for the same reasons.

Don't park anywhere near "all night businesses", bars, liquor stores, etc. Or, anywhere kids hang out, skateboard, kid parks. For quiet night, stay away from main roads and freeways.

My stories of strange situations...

When I was 19 living in my car (before I bought the Stealth Camper) one night I was parked end of a dead end road. Police knocked on my window waking me. Apparently nosy neighbors reported me. I told police my Dad kicked me out. He told me to park behind Montgomery Wards and I was never bothered again. I parked there for about 6 months. After that I got permission to park in a friends driveway for the next six months.

With Stealth Camper, one night I was parked on a country road shoulder (I was only vehicle there). Police pulled up behind and shined light for 10 minutes or so then left. I assume they ran my plates. I don't think they knew vehicle was occupied. I try not to park on deserted roads; it just makes you an out of place target. Always park where other vehicles park for the night.

One hot night in Santa Rosa, California I parked in front of a residential house with all the vent windows open (dead giveaway of occupancy). I was hot, uncovered, and nearly naked. Somebody was mulling around the vehicle with a high powered flashlight trying to peak in the windows and window vents. I guess he he got a view. He yelled "get the f**k away from my house or I'll call the police". I said sorry and left quickly (half naked). I always wore my black sleeping outfit after that.

One night in Reno I was parked across the street of a large parking lot near a residential neighborhood. About midnight I heard racing car engine, tire squealing then crash. Then crash again. And another crash. More crashes... I looked out the window at the parking lot now nearly empty this time of night; a car was driving around just crashing into other cars apparently just for the fun of it. As I left the area I happened to notice I had parked that night in front of a police station which I guess it was empty since I saw no activity there!

One night on a side pull out shoulder off freeway in New Mexico I was very tired and needed just a short nap. Highway patrol ran me and vehicle plates then told me there was picnic area a mile up the road. I moved on up there and stayed the rest of the night no hassles.

I camped out in parking lot of Luxor casino Las Vegas. Accidentally slept in. I had all the vent windows open. Security knocked on window and told me to move on.

One night in Texas out in the middle of nowhere I pulled into a 24 hour truck stop and pulled head into parking space in back of the gas station. My wife in a panic woke me up telling me that someone was prying on the windows trying to break in. I jumped into the drivers seat trying to find my keys. Problem is I had to back out of the space and I couldn't see out the mirrors and I was half asleep and didn't have a full view of the situation. The "drunk Mexican" was yelling at me saying he needed help, he needed help. "Please help me" in slurred English. I was concentrating on getting the van moving when my wife all of a sudden was yelling "he's got a gun, he's got a gun". Somehow I got the van backed out with out hitting anything and started leaving. The Mexican jumped into a white pick-up truck and started following us. I stopped at the gas pump and saw him in my mirror stop behind me and he got out and was coming up to the van. I floored it and got onto the freeway and never saw him again. Next problem was gas gauge was showing empty and it was 50 miles to the next gas. This taught me three things: Never park with an empty gas tank. Never pull face into a parking space. Always have an escape/defense plan. I made it 50 miles on fumes. I had to wait until morning for that gas station to open and I was a sitting duck the rest of that night but luckily no further problems.

I love urban stealth camping. Over the years, I have saved big bucks and I like the flexibility of not being limited to a motel room. - California Don

Chester suggested this YouTube instructional video: AR15 / M4 Magazine Pouches

   o o o

You gotta love Missouri: Anvil Shooting! And here is a lot more of the same, using electric detonators.

   o o o

Jay mentioned the trailer for the new post-Peak Oil documentary film, titled "Collapse." Has this guy been reading SurvivalBlog?

"Inflation has now been institutionalized at a fairly constant 5% per year. This has been scientifically determined to be the optimum level for generating the most revenue without causing public alarm. A 5% devaluation applies, not only to the money earned this year, but to all that is left over from previous years. At the end of the first year, a dollar is worth 95 cents. At the end of the second year, the 95 cents is reduced again by 5%, leaving its worth at 90 cents, and so on. By the time a person has worked 20 years, the government will have confiscated 64% of every dollar he saved over those years. By the time he has worked 45 years, the hidden tax will be 90%. The government will take virtually everything a person saves over a lifetime." - G. Edward Griffin

Monday, October 26, 2009


I've recently read several of your books and found them both interesting and educational. I would like to offer some personal insights based on my experiences from living in a small rural town one of the larger Caribbean islands. Most of my notes are cheap solutions used by people in developing nations all over the world. There may be better ways, but these work and cost next to nothing.


There is something especially disturbing about opening the faucet and hearing a sucking air sound. Not being able to shower, flush, or wash dishes is the worst.

One or more 55 gallon drums and 5 gallon plastic buckets are essential items to have. When you see that hurricane on the news, put the barrel it in the shower and fill it up right away. Add a few capfuls of bleach to make it keep longer. Expect the quality of water from the town water supply to drop. Rainwater collection should be set up right away. If possible the roof should fill a large cistern with a pressure pump. A gravity tank should be put on the roof.

Washing up from a bucket is easy enough. A small plastic cup and a five gallon bucket makes is easy. If the water is cold don’t try to heat up all the water. Bring a good sized cooking pot to a near boil and add it to the cold water. A person can wash easily in 2 gallons of water.

Pouring about two gallons of water rapidly into a toilet from a 5-gallon bucket will flush a toilet.

Washing dishes from a bucket without using gallons of water is tricky. It takes some practice to do it right. If you don’t stack your dirty plates and wash them right away, you only have one dirty side and no dried food.

It is very easy to contaminate your water supply. Dirty bucket bottoms and careless bathing are common causes, be vigilant.


Our community is an exporter of meat, milk, eggs, rice, vegetables and we have a 365-day growing season. Most families have a garden plot to supplement household food. Storing food is always wise but not nearly the problem it is in some other locations. Much of our farming is done with hand work.


We have daily blackouts here and most houses have invertors with battery backups. Since we have occasional power most people do not have generators but just charge when the lights are on. Most businesses have diesel generators.

A 2.5 KW inverter system with 4 deep cycle batteries will keep a few lights on, a laptop and a fan or two for about two days and costs about $2,000. The better systems run on 24 VDC. Here we are all very aware of vampire appliances [aka "phantom loads."]. All those VCRs, TVs, microwaves, wi-fi boxes, alarm systems, clocks, all pull a significant load. You need to learn your house circuits and unplug and turn off the breakers for things you don’t need. Low wattage bulbs are essential.

Running a generator for about 4 hours will charge most battery systems. Your generator will need to be at least twice the capacity of your inverter. Operating like this you can have basic lighting for the cost of about 2 or 3 gallons of gasoline a day. Running a refrigerator off a battery backup system is just not cost effective. Many people have put up both solar and wind systems as a way to produce some additional power to keep the batteries topped off.

A few simple solutions: Computer UPS systems usually operate on a 6 or 12 V battery. It is very easy to open one up and connect a large battery by running wires through the back of the case. This will give a much longer run time. While you have the case open, take a pair of pliers and crush the annoying power alarm beeper. The charger on these systems is very small and will take a very long time to reach a full charge. An off the shelf battery charger will speed things up. Alternativel,y your car can be used to charge the batteries (12 VDC only)


While being armed is important, life is so much easier when there isn’t a conflict in the first place. Some people always seem to have problems wherever they go and need to pull out weapons while others seem to walk through the valley of death without a care in the world. Spend some time researching body language, and read books on interpersonal relationship skills. Besides improving your life right now, it could change a potential fatal firefight into a new friend.


When we have a crime wave, the police set up road blocks coming into and out of town. Rarely does this cause any real problems for honest people but you do need to have your paperwork for your car or firearms on hand. A smile and a friendly face makes things go much smoother. Acting aggressive or angry will get a messy and thorough search of your person, passengers and your car at a minimum. Knowing your local police makes a big difference. Sometimes we are asked to “help them out” which is code for a bribe. Either pay it with a smile, say sorry but you can’t today, plead poverty, or turn back. Fighting it just is not worth the trouble.


Most traveling gangs are small and short lived. They rarely survive an encounter with police. It is very hard for a crime group to survive outside of their own neighborhood where they have local knowledge, a place to sleep and the support of family and friends. On the flip side the crimes committed by these people are usually the most brutal.

Local criminals gangs are much harder to control. Often these are well-connected individuals or gangs who are very good at remaining undetected. Some of them are drug smugglers, cattle thieves or burglars. Persons who are well liked and respected in the community are usually left alone. If you see large gangs forming, seriously consider leaving the country as it is a no-win situation.

Home Security:

This is a very safe country, but it is safe because people here do no depend on the police and protect themselves. With that in mind I have noted some of the more common security precautions here.

My experience here is that a house with lights on and occupied is the house that is left alone. Your best defense is to be the least interesting but hardened house in a occupied community. Vacant houses attract soft criminals and people who need a place to sleep. Most Dominicans always have someone home in the house. Night time home invasions are rare but they do happen. People who do this time of crime are extremely dangerous experienced and hardened criminals.

Isolated houses are at the worst risk for the most serious attacks. A gated community, walled yard, electric gate, bars on the windows, dogs, even armed security guards are all common place here. Country people live in small groups of three or more houses with the fields surrounding them.

Your most vulnerable time is being ambushed entering or leaving your home or car. When designing your landscaping, don’t build easy ambush points for attackers. This sort of thing doesn’t happen much in a small town.


Occasionally when the power or water is out too much, the citizens will organize a protest/strike/riot. Often the organizers are union leaders or other non-governmental community leaders. The usual format is to shut down the with road blocks and burning tires. Much of the bad behavior is more for show than reality but trying to pass the road blocks will result in getting your vehicle wrecked by the strikers. It is important to know why people are protesting and to be sympathetic to their cause (in many cases it is well justified). Their intention is to cause just enough of a disruption to get government the government to resolve the problem without getting arrested. Trying to pass the roadblock means that you are disagreeing with the reason they are striking. Know your local area for alternate routes and don’t try to travel during strikes.


Good dogs are essential. A pair of large dogs of a known breed are a very significant deterrent. Rottweiler, Doberman, German Sheppard, pit-bulls are recognized and avoided. Dogs differ widely in personality. Be sure yours matches your needs. Be aware and realistic of their shortcomings. I know too many people who depend entirely on a easily circumvented dog for security. Professional thieves routinely outmaneuver, poison, or shoot dogs.

Don’t overlook the value of small "yippy" and intelligent dogs like Chihuahuas. They are light sleepers, a second set of eyes and ears and are cheap to feed. They often work well with the bigger dogs.

Watch your dogs. If your dogs suddenly become sick, it may mean they were poisoned and you should expect a robbery that coming night or the following day. Look for your dog before you pull into your drive or get out of your car. If there has been an intrusion it may be hurt, nervous, missing or dead. This will often be your first indication of an awaiting problem.


After a disaster (hurricane, flood, earthquake) the best thing for everyone is to keep the community together. Building a good reputation and personal relationships with neighbors and community leaders will make all the difference when resources are scarce and people are scared. The people who are capable leaders and community contributors often get first dibs on any help that does arrive and the right to make decisions on how goods are distributed.

Filling sandbags, organizing relief, passing out information, providing power, clearing roads, etc will make friends and build relationships that are not soon forgotten. This sort of thing can really bring a community back together in a hurry. We all depend on each other and leadership through positive action is a great way to rebuild. Just as looting is contagious, when people see others working together and helping, they are apt to join in. I have seen this numerous times here.


Propane is subsidized here and is significantly cheaper than gasoline. Many people have adapted cars and trucks to run on both fuels using a special carburetor. As propane stores well this is a good emergency option for transportation, cooking, and power generation. Additionally propane machines can run on biogas and syngas.

While horses are very common here there would be a shortage if things really went bad. They did become proportionally more valuable as the price of fuel shot up.

I rarely see wood gasification mentioned as a alternative fuel supply. (See the Wikipedia page on wood gasification) This is an excellent modification that was used heavily in Europe in the 1940s. In my opinion, for most people this is the best solution to combustion engine power after a complete breakdown. Both alcohol and biodiesel require working farmland and refineries.

Post crash employment:

Anyone who can provide alternative sources of food, power, fuel or light will do well. A little Google work will show what technologies work on a small scale and provide business opportunities both now and after. Additionally, people here who can repair things never seem to make much money here but they always have work and food on the table.

Currency and hyperinflation:

After a major bank failure here, the currency here devalued by a factor of four in about two years. As the slide begins there are lots of opportunities to buy up things at old prices as many people price things based on what it cost them, not what the replacement value is.

As prices shot up, wages lagged way behind. Interest rates sky-rocked. Food prices shot up. Skilled labor prices went through the roof. The economy stopped dead because it becomes impossible to price things and nobody wants to work.

At the end of the slide the asking prices for everything got just crazy high, and the bid prices so low that almost no transactions took place except as acts of desperation.

Three years later, the currency has stabilized. Interest rates on loans are still slowly retreating. Merchants learned to price goods on replacement cost. Prices are often quoted in USD instead of local currency. Asking prices never really came down, but bid prices slowly rose up and as the spread reduces the economy starts to move again. Salaries are paid in local currency, but pegged to the USD for stability.

I wasn’t expecting to write such a long letter but maybe some of this will help people prepare and know what to expect. Sincerely, - S.H.

Dear Mr Rawles,
I've just finished reading your latest book ["How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times"], and let me begin by thanking you for writing it. I have just one small quibble in Chapter 9, Communications and Monitoring. This is something we both missed, and it didn't occur to me until after reading this chapter.

While I agree with you that looters are unlikely to have the inclination, hardware, and talent to do direction finding (DF) on a retreat's radio transmissions, the reverse is not necessarily true. If the readers follow your suggestions and get involved in ham radio, it's quite likely that they may have the means to DF the looters. If you know where the looters are, you also know where they are not, and this could be very useful information.

A retreat with a single DF antenna for CBs may not seem to be particularly useful, but bearings on the looters combined with a maps of the area might serve very well.
In addition, if you either have a large retreat with space for two widely separated antennas, or two retreats working in tandem and communicating on a VHF frequency
or field telephone, it's possible to get a good fix on where the looters are. Best Regards, - Jeff K.

JWR Replies: I used to do communications intercept and radio direction finding work, when I served as an Army intelligence officer. It is a skill that does take practice, but it isn't rocket science. As described in my novel "Patriots", all it takes is at least two intercept sites equipped with loop antennas, compasses, and enough time to get lines of bearing (LOBs) on a groundwave signal before it goes off the air. Those LOBs are plotted on a map. The intersection of two LOBs is called a "cut", and it takes three or more LOBs to establish an accurate "fix" with a half-way decent circular error probability. (Actually an ellipse, but I won't bore you with the math.) A single intercept site with a loop antenna cannot effectively do DF in part because there is no expedient way to eliminate the "front/back" loop antenna ambiguity. (You don't know if your LOB is correct, or if it is off by 180 degrees.) This ambiguity problem was solved by the introduction of later DF rigs such as the AN/PRD-11, that use an H-Adcock antenna array and some clever processing power to do precise time-of-arrival calculations--actually comparing the micro-second difference in time when the speed of light signal strikes the different antenna elements. My great-uncle Albert Michelson would be proud of the designer!

If anyone wants to become adept at DFing in the field, I suggest that they get involved with a Fox and Hound group, organized by their local ARRL-affiliated ham radio club. It is great fun, requires only rudimentary directional antennas, and it will build a very useful skill.

Hi James,
First let me thank you for your wonderful blog, which I read every day. This is just a reminder that fall is typically Open Enrollment at many large and small companies for next year's benefits elections. My company's three week window to sign up for 2010 benefits opened yesterday. This is the time when a person can choose to participate in a ["before tax"] Flexible Spending Plan. While some people are justifiably nervous putting money away in a, "use it or lose it," program, the I.R.S. made the decision a lot easier a few years ago when it allowed Flexible Spending Plan funds to be used for over the counter medications. Even if you are blessed with perfect health and never see a doctor all year, the Flexible Spending Plan is great way to put some money away to stock up on your "Band-Aids," tax free!

My prayer for you and your family is that you have happy memories without pain in the shortest amount of time possible. - D.

JWR Replies: Thanks for that suggestion. One proviso for readers: Be sure to to mark your calendar for a date two weeks in advance of the spending deadline!

Jim. H. suggested this piece over at Lew Rockwell's site by Terrence Gillespie: Ammo for Barter – Ammo vs. Money

   o o o

Reader GG alerted me to this: The raid that rocked the Met: Why gun and drugs op on 6,717 safety deposit boxes could cost taxpayer a fortune. GG opines: "This is evidence of why we should not store our valuables in safe deposit box."

   o o o

Steve sent this video: Fearless Gas Station Clerk Grabs Shotgun From Robber. He was lucky! Never bring just muscles to a gun fight!

"Cynic is a word created by optimists to criticize realists." - Gregory Benford, In the Ocean of Night, 1972

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

As a college teacher, NRA firearms instructor, and military trainer (including survival skills), I have spent years sorting the most effective teaching techniques from less effective ones.  Obviously, some types of training, such as marksmanship, require hands-on methods, while classroom presentations are more appropriate for other subjects.  In all cases, however, it is common for students to base their questions on preconceived notions.  For example:  “What is the 'best' handgun?”  Best for what situation?  Or,
 “What is the best survival kit?”  I always reply, it’s the one you carry between your ears;  knowledge, not equipment.  And, I am often asked similar questions about “best” books, and again, I counter, best for what? 

For actual instruction on survival-related skills, there exists a plethora of training manuals, old and new, general and specialized, beginner level to expert.  Some of these books give the subject matter straight and unvarnished; others contain an admixture of politics, patriotism, or preaching along with the technical data.  I quarrel with neither approach, but I do have reservations about much recommended “inspirational” literature, - mostly novels, - intended to “send a message” or otherwise stimulate the readers’ thought. 

Far too many of the current crop are based on premises or plots so implausible that the author undermines any credibility his characters’ actions may have.  This is entertaining, but it leads the reader directly into the realm of imagination, if not outright fantasy, (not unlike imagining oneself as James Bond) instead of leading him to ask, “what would I do in that situation?”  Moreover, though it may be like sugared medicine, a truly inspirational story must go down smoothly, so the reader gets the point without feeling he is being preached to.  So, why bother? Why not stick with the technical books?

As mentioned, hard skills can be learned, and practiced, but it is difficult to develop, much less measure a person’s survival mindset, his ability to anticipate problems he might encounter, his situational understanding.  Even Jesus recognized that most people learn best through stories:

". . . the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?  He answered and said unto them,  Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.  . . . because they see not; . . . neither do they understand." - Matthew 13: 10 - 13

Some books that meet the criterion of  “understanding” have stood the test of time:

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank [the pen name of newspaperman Harry Hart Frank] is the overall best post-apocalyptic novel.  First published in 1959, it is still in print.  It tells the story of a fictional town in Florida, coping on its own after a brief nuclear war has destroyed central government and electrical power.  There are some exciting conflicts, but no space aliens, no diseases unknown to science, no comets striking the earth, no roving bands of drug-crazed looters – just sympathetic characters realistically dealing with plausible problems.  One older character salvages a discarded bicycle, recognizing its value if the gasoline runs out.  Another character saves irrigation pipe, realizing that the city water supply will soon fail.  Lacking medical instruments, a doctor improvises a surgical kit from household tools.

The book is well-written and the plot builds to an exciting, yet plausible, climax.  Some of the 1950s technology is outdated, such as tube-type radios, and some details have changed --  the Air Force Base mentioned is now Orlando’s airport – but the fictive town is based on the real town of Sanford, Florida, the other places mentioned are real, and the characters seem real, too.  They are neither survivalists, nor firearms experts, nor former Green Berets; the reader can relate to them without delving into fantasy.

First runner-up, and best in the emergency evacuation category, is No Blade of Grass (1956) by “John Christopher,” the pen name of prolific British science fiction author, Samuel Youd.  His series of books depicting life after a space alien invasion is popular, but this book is realistic and plausible.   A plant disease wipes out most of the world’s food crops; famines, riots, wars, and social chaos follow.   Several families band together to escape London, losing their vehicles halfway through their odyssey.  The characters deal with privation, hardship, danger and violence in realistic ways. Some of them cannot accept “murder for self-preservation;” others willingly trade their personal freedom for protection by the stronger.  A historically-minded reader can see a parallel to the collapse of the Roman Empire and the rise of feudalism in an insecure Europe.

No Blade of Grass is now back in print, but look for copies from earlier editions that are widely and inexpensively available on the used book market.  It is also known under the British title Death of Grass and a reprint title, An End to Grass.  A 1970 motion picture bears little resemblance to the book, so skip the movie.

The award for Miss Uncongeniality goes to the title character in Vandenberg (1971), re-titled by the publisher as Defiance: An American Novel (1981), by Oliver Lange (the pseudonym of novelist John Wadleigh).  Vandenberg, the character, is a rebellious social misfit who resists indoctrination after a Communist take-over of the American West. He finds it harder than most such books make it seem.  Vandenberg pontificates, “to listen to some, if the day ever came, 500,000 citizens, all appropriate Rogue Male types, would melt into the hills, and when they weren’t creating havoc among brutal Occupation forces, they would be practicing the fine art of survival.”  On equipment, he says, “if a survival and guerrilla nut bought all the stuff the outdoor stores and catalogs said he needed, it would’ve taken a 25-foot U-Haul trailer and two weeks of packing to get him out of his damned driveway.”

Of course he does go into the hills, and the author’s descriptions of the New Mexico mountains are so accurate the book’s locations can be found on a map.  Eventually he does get some equipment, and he does recruit a few other rebels willing to fight back, but the ultimate result is more thought-provoking than satisfying.  Both titles are out of print but available on the used book market. 

A similar theme with a more optimistic conclusion is developed  by Samuel Southwell, a former U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, in If All the Rebels Die (1966). Southwell’s characters resist enemy occupation after a brief nuclear war, but it is their discussions about patriotism, duty, resistance and its consequences – especially the consequences of reprisals by the enemy – that stimulate the reader to think, “what could I do in such a situation?”  “What would I do in such a situation?”

Many books, both current and past, develop the idea of retreating to the mountains and ultimately fighting the “bad guys” of that particular scenario. "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse" ( 2006, 2009, and earlier draft editions [under other titles]) by James Wesley, Rawles, is a current best-seller that has been described as “a survival manual disguised as a novel.”  It is the now-standard dystopian tale of the hardy band of survivors coping in the wake of the collapse of civilization, and it is representative of this type plot – nothing original here.  But it differs from similar works in the early chapters which describe a collapsing economy: 

“The President . . . instead of reducing growth in government spending launched an immoderate bank lending stimulus package . . . the Federal Reserve . . . began monetizing large and larger portions of the debt (p.13)  The dollar collapsed because of the long-standing promises of the FDIC . . . the government had to print money – lots and lots of it.”  (p. 15)

This is prescient, considering the first edition of this book came out about 1999, before the current government actions it seems to predict, and the theme of economic collapse followed by chaos has resonated with many readers.  The remainder of the book, however “action-packed,” is far less plausible.  An earlier, briefer treatment is found in Fire and Ice (1975), by Ray Kytle.  Note the author’s name, since there are several books by this title.

Fire and Ice was written shortly after the very first Arab oil embargo of 1973, and it posits a three-year economic decline precipitated by an oil shortage.  The protagonist and his family do, indeed, go to a mountain cabin, and do, indeed, fight the good fight.  But along the way they must deal with such problems as obtaining firearms on the black market, and the enmity of less-prepared neighbors.  They also face their own crises of conscience, not over the morality of killing but of the “selfishness” of protecting themselves versus attempting to help their friends and community.   Except in Southwell, this psychological dimension has not been dealt with in other books.  Some of the technical details are less plausible: Even if you can obtain guns ‘off the books,’ don’t try to smuggle 2,000 rounds of .30-06 ammunition in your children’s luggage; they would weigh about 140 pounds!

It is training that prevents an emergency from becoming a crisis, but no one can say, with absolute certainty, what he or she would do in a given emergency.  Soldiers and “first responders” are trained (and trained, and trained) on how to react in foreseeable situations, yet even well-trained persons sometimes fail to take appropriate action.  There are also a number of our fellow survivalists who are so committed to a particular scenario they either cannot or will not consider possible alternative situations or outcomes [If I just have enough guns and ammo, I’ll be safe, no matter what!] or they do not take into consideration many of the human factors that affect sound judgment and decisive action.

While it would be best to develop one’s situational understanding through long training and practice, such training is not available to all.  Some degree, however, can be gained by a study program that involves reading for mental exercise as well as practical knowledge.  I believe the books I have briefly reviewed will be helpful.  However, if an asteroid does strike the planet [as in Lucifer's Hammer] or if the aliens land, you are on your own!

Here is a list of the food suggestions that we made for our kids families. This list only deals with the food and not any implements or utensils needed for preparation and consumption. We already supplied them with what was needed kit wise and it was up to them to provide the food of their choice.

  • Trail Mix
  • Jerky
  • Dried Fruit – Raisins, Banana Chips, Etc
  • Small Pop Top Canned Meats - Vienna Sausage, Deviled Ham or Tuna
  • Small Jar Peanut Butter
  • Crackers (large round ones can be stored in “Pringles” tube)
  • Granola Bars
  • Candy (but consider the melt factor for any chocolate type)
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Coffee Singles
  • Cocoa Mixes
  • Tea Bags
  • Sugar and Creamer Packets
  • Individual Packets of Gatorade, Lemonade, Punch
  • Cans of Stew, Chili, Chunky Soups or Beans & Wieners (pop tops)
  • Knorr Lipton Rice and Sauce Mixes (add water only type)
  • Knorr Lipton Pasta and Sauce Mixes (must have milk powder)
  • Small Cans of Ham, Chicken, Etc (to add to rice or pasta)
  • Small Cans of Green Beans or Corn (to add to rice or pasta)
  • Envelopes of Instant Mashed Potatoes (add water only type)
  • Instant Gravy Mixes
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Non Refrigerated Pudding Cups
  • Fruit Cups

Regards, - Jim and Glennis

JWR Replies: Because of the large amounts of refined sugar in many of these foods, some cannot be recommend as healthy foods for long-term use. But even these have utility in a short-term "bug out" situation for your G.O.O.D. kit, where the sheer number of calories will trump most other selection factors.

Jim from Illinois mentioned an eight-minute YouTube video clip titled The Fallout Shelters You Paid For. While some of their conclusions are unfounded, and some of the pictures are actually just of mines, it is still interesting to watch. Speaking of subterranean shelters, here is an elaborate private one. OBTW, did you notice teh glaring design error? Be sure to specify vault doors that open inward, so they can't be easily blocked by falling debris or by miscreants!

   o o o

Peter Robinson comments in Forbes: Armageddon Time; When it comes to Iran, the U.S. may be facing a cataclysm

   o o o

Reader Jim A. recommended a source for defensive wire: Razor Wire International, in Arizona. Jim A.'s comments: "They have excellent prices and really know the business. In fact they sell to prisons across the country. Contact: Steve at 1(800) 510-0840. They several types of razor wire and concertina wire."

"Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenly [places]. Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil [one]. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints." - Ephesians 6:11-18

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The author is an active duty US Army infantry NCO who is a graduate of the US Army Ranger School.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

If I can find your MRE trash, I can find your patrol base!”  A quote that has stayed with me, haunted me, and perplexed me throughout my military career. Who would have thought that simple traces of life could serve such a double edged purpose? The very fact that we could locate (almost better than a GPS fix on a position) an enemy encampment, an over-watch position, or cache by sight sound or smell is an amazing concept. But the fact that careless lapses in security on any of the above could compromise our own is a very harrowing one.

Noise discipline –The practice of minimizing ones noise signature to a degree that it does not compromise mission essential actions is very important. This could range from a night raid on an enemy stronghold, to an urban reconnaissance of the local supermarket overrun with post-SHTF warlords, to retrieving water or utilizing the latrine at 3am in your secure perimeter. At night, as sight is diminished, the body attunes itself more towards the gathering of sound and touch. Simple noises that were previously background in the daylight are suddenly brought to the very real and close foreground at night. Am I saying to remain totally silent at all times? Of course not. That is both unrealistic, and not something that anyone would enjoy, accompanied by a jabber-jaw! I am simply stating that in times of necessity, such as a TEOTWAWKI scenario, noise discipline can mean the difference in being an advantageous target for a bunch of looters, or having a perfectly laid ambush in wait for them! Simple ways of improving your noise discipline are as follows:
1.) Ensure that you utilize most of your noise-producing equipment during the day--such as Farm Equipment, Firearms (for hunting), Vehicles, etc.
2.) For tactical gear, ensure that it is soundproofed as much as possible. This can be as simple as wrapping some ACE bandage material around metal carabineers, Filling water sources completely full (so as not to “slosh”), Wearing soft material that doesn’t make a “swish” sound when walking, and packing tactical pouches and pockets well. Keeping them free of rattling objects like loose batteries, loose ammunition, etc.
3.) In refugee, or bug out situations, keeping children “pacified” or otherwise restrained from talking or crying or yelling. (The movie “Tears of the Sun” shows a a good example of that.)

Light Discipline – The practice of minimizing or completely reducing ones light signature so as to mitigate all possible detection during hours of darkness. Light discipline seems like a no brainer, until you see a group of people trying to fumble their way around a forest in the dark! Even the smallest red lens flashlight can give away your position during hours of limited visibility. But how do we mitigate this?

  1. Around the house: Ensure you have a way to keep all light from escaping the residence. You don’t want a band of looters to come prey on a lit up house at night! Easy ways to do this are heavy blankets, aluminum foil, or if all else fails, paint em! But you will want to be able to let light in during the day, so only do the latter as a last resort.
  2. Tactical patrols and movements. Obviously if you have the money, Night Vision gear is amazing, but if you don’t have it, never fear. If you have to stop and conduct a map check, be smart about it. Throw a poncho or other blanket over your head, and use as minimal light as possible. If someone is injured, use only as much light as necessary to treat the person, or stabilize them till you can move them to a more secure area. As with Noise, and Litter, there is a time and a place to weigh your options and decide when to forgo discipline for the sake of speed, or safety.
  3. Muzzle Flashes… Some people or animals won’t have the benefit of night vision. Therefore if you are shooting, the flame produced by the burning gas in your firearm is sure to be what they will set their sights on! Using a flash hider can reduce your muzzle signature to a tolerable level.

Litter Discipline – The practice of cautiously monitoring, and properly disposing of your waste. This can range from a candy bar wrapper, to entrails of a gutted deer, to footprints, or even human waste. In the tracking community this is called “spoor”. (An Afrikaans word, from the Dutch word for tracking.) This is classified as generally anything that is unnaturally occurring in the given natural environment. Examples would be footprints or broken limbs in a vegetated area. Water drop trails on concrete, Gum wrappers on a nature trail, etc. Simply put, this can give away your position, trail, or if the tracker is very keen, your exact rate of travel, and last time at that given location. Some ways to mitigate carelessness with litter are:

  1. Simply pick up after yourself. Pocket your trash, fix what you have disturbed in nature, be it a broken limb, or a tire rut that your 4x4 put there. Some Long Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance (LRRS) units have been known to go so far as to carry out their own excrement by utilizing MRE bags. There is an insane level of litter discipline you can go to, but once again it is all dictated by your speed / security / mission.
  2. Tend to any injuries. Blood trails are surefire ways to be tracked by both man and beast alike. Besides the fact that loss of blood is a killer for many reasons, you don’t want to be eaten by a mountain lion while you are prostrate and vulnerable from shock!
  3. Be cautious when conducting movements or rest operations. If you dug a hole, fill it in, only disturb what needs to be disturbed, and continue on with your path. Clean holes made by tent pegs, or sticks. Disperse ashes from a camp fire, etc.

There really is no end to noise, light, and litter discipline. You can take it as short or as extensive as you want, but keep in mind the consequences of each of your actions. Hopefully you will never need to use any of this knowledge, but for a fun time, try to practice one thing a night for a week, and see just how challenging some of these things can be! Take the family camping, and instruct the kids to only disturb what is necessary and fix everything when you leave. When the sun goes down, there is no more light. During the day, try using hand and arm signals to talk. It’s a great bonding trip, and is an invaluable lesson to all. You will also have a much better appreciation for nature, and the secrets it hides when it is tended to, and the ones it reveals when it is not! Stay safe, and practice practice, practice!


Regarding Eye Surgery: I am an optometrist. Unfortunately some of what was most recently posted is misleading if not flat-out wrong.

1. Laser Vision Correction (LVC) will not make you more prone to problems with your near vision. However, if (a) you are nearsighted before the surgery (and thus able to see up close without correction), and (b) you are over age 42 or so, then you will struggle with your near vision. Prior to the surgery, of course, you can see fine up close if you remove your glasses or if you have bifocals. But the LVC does nothing to make this problem worse; it simply corrects your distance vision. Of course all these points are moot if you are younger than age 42. But at around age 42 it will be a problem, so be aware of that.

2. Implantable Contact Lenses (ICLs) are very, very rarely an improvement over LVC. LVC sculpts the front portion of the eye, ICLs involve cutting the eye open and putting a synthetic lens into it. Contrary to the original poster, they are not “swapped out” at your whim, they can in fact correct farsightedness, and they do not have any different effect on your near vision than LVC. ICL’s are significantly more expensive and significantly more risk (of both post-operative infection and of cataract creation due to jostling of the natural lens in the eye) than LVC, which is why we do not recommend them often. Their greatest benefit is for those whose prescription is so high that LVC is not an option.

3. If you are really serious about refractive surgery, I strongly recommend PRK as opposed to Lasik. Both are forms of LVC, however the former is an operation that does not create a flap, while Lasik does create a flap. That flap can be dislodged in the future at any time.

4. Lastly, while I cannot fault many people for looking to the Internet for advice-—I do it too-—neither can I overemphasize the necessity of having an eye doctor who knows you go over the implications, benefits, and risks of refractive surgery with you. Last week I had a new patient who was 62 years old who had amblyopiia [commonly called "lazy eye"] in his right eye. No one had ever spoken with him about this condition or what caused it, even though he had it since he was a child. I explained it thoroughly to him, and he was impressed and thankful. I then smiled and said, “You’ve been going to the discount eye places, haven’t you?” He admitted he had been.

Fight the good fight, keep spreading the Gospel, - WPR

Don C. recommended a piece by Radley Balko at Reason: We're All Felons, Now; Perpetual public fear of crime has turned us all into criminals. The average American unwittingly commits about three Federal felonies per day.

   o o o

The latest nuttiness from Nanny State Britannia: Apology for singing shop worker. (Thanks to Dewanye for the link.)

   o o o

A Cessna armed with Hellfire missiles. (This is not a joke.) Speaking of Cessna Caravans, any owners or would-be owners should bookmark this useful blog page: FlyingTheCessnaCaravan.

   o o o

Vic at Safecastle wrote to mention that Canadian customers can now purchase Mountain House freeze dried foods in #10 cans. Their partner distributor in Ontario has ten different Mountain House varieties in stock, ready to ship across Canada. This is great news for preppers up north that have heretofore been forced to pay international shipping rates.

"A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body." - Benjamin Franklin

Friday, October 23, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The author is an active duty US Army infantry NCO who is a graduate of the US Army Ranger School.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Ironically, I'm not talking about a person while writing this article. The truth is that in many situations, a firearm will be a Provider, Defender, and Companion, and more. Thus, it is only fitting that I shed some light on the very real necessity of proper firearms selection and maintenance.

In order to condense this article, and to prevent the inevitable debates, I am not going to list my preferences. Simply put, firearms are a means to an end. Whether it is the means of procuring game, fending off looters, quelling a riot, distracting and buying time, or just giving peace of mind, firearms are a “Leatherman” tool for many situations. But in order to ensure that they work when you want them to work you must have diligence in the proper selection, maintenance, storage, and operation of the weapon.

Ensure that the firearm you choose meets your specific need. What are you going to use it for? Hunting (what kind of game?) self defense (who/what are you defending yourself from?) skill honing (what skill are you trying to hone?) These should all be factors that weigh in when choosing a new/used firearm.
Many people, (me included) are always looking for the best deal. But when purchasing a firearm, you need to know where it is appropriate to cut corners in order to save money. For example: you walk into a store to buy a Brand X Model ###. There is a new one for sale for $550. Next to it there is the same model, used, for $350. Clearly the lower price would appeal to most of us, as there is a lot we can do with the difference! But here are a few things to consider/ask when purchasing a used firearm:

  • Who was the previous owner? Was it an elderly man, a teenager, a soccer mom who carried it for defense, a gang member? Clearly these are extreme cases; nevertheless, this will give you a general idea of how the tool was cared for.
  • How many rounds were fired through the firearm? Just like miles on your car, rounds through a firearm affect in the same way. General operation of the action, accuracy, and safety of the firearm can all suffer from "high mileage."
  • What is the condition of the firearm? This sounds like a no brainer, but minor cosmetic flaws on a stock or grip, as well as some worn paint or bluing generally is not an issue. Deep pitting in the barrel, on the other hand could mean the difference of life or death!
  • Bells and whistles. Does the new firearm come with an improved stock or trigger? A smoother action? Increased capacity? Or has the old (used) model had custom work done to it? A trigger job? Forcing cone lengthening (shotguns) etc? These may not be things you need, but if you plan on getting them later anyway, you may save time (and money) by purchasing them all at once.

Care - So now you have your firearm selected based on need, price, use, and however else you came up with to talk your significant other into letting you spend the money on it! It is now time to go sight-in / zero your weapon, learn its function and operation, and practice. But before you do, ensure that you take a little bit of time to care for the weapon first! I know what some of you may be thinking: Yes it is common sense to perform some level of maintenance prior to operating a weapon for the first time; however this is an article for the lowest level of firearms knowledge. We all must start somewhere!

Out of the box: if you purchased a new weapon, or if the used weapon came with an owner’s manual, this is the time to read it. [If not, then find a PDF of manual online, either from the gun maker's web site, or from Steve's Pages.] For all us free-thinking men, who hate reading directions, this one may be your exception. Building a garden bed wrong may take time, but improper operation of a weapon may take lives. Read your manual for proper assembly / disassembly, safety operation, etc. If you do not have a manual, or are a visual learner like myself, YouTube has an extensive FREE collection of videos. Just type your make and model, and watch the videos pile up!

So now that you have a basic familiarization with your weapon, take it apart as far as instructed in the manual. (This is what we call "operator level" disassembly.) For further disassembly, seek the help of a competent gunsmith! Once your firearm is taken apart, it is time to clean the weapon. Even if it is brand new out of the box, it is important to clean the weapon, as some packing grease is designed simply for corrosion resistance in transit and storage. In fact, it is dangerous to shoot a gun with grease in the bore. There are many different methods that can be used to clean the weapon.

After being in the military just a short time I had cleaned my weapon cleaned with Break-Free CLP as well as some not recommended expedients like shaving cream and Simple Green. Like weapon selection, everyone also has their own idea for cleaning and lubricating weapons, so at the end of this article I will list several good, proven brands, and let you experiment for yourself!

Once all of the firearm components are cleaned, it is time for reassembly and lubrication. A simple rule of thumb is that --t with the exception of the chamber-- if there is metal to metal contact, lube it up! The environment will be your biggest factor with lubricant. It can be too hot, too dry, too cold, too wet, etc. etc. One example I can give from firsthand knowledge. On my deployments to Iraq, I lubricated my weapon with a “dry” lube. You simply sprayed it on, and it formed a dry film on the components. This provided enough lubrication to aid in weapon function, but was not over lubricated enough to attract all of the dust in the desert to land on my firearm. Inversely, on my deployments to Afghanistan, I used a grease based lubricant (for the same weapon) there was less dust there to worry about, but the duration of our operations were longer and required a longer-lasting lubricant. Also, in the harsh mountain winters, the lubricant would not freeze up.

The single most important component that affects accuracy (aside from proper shooting techniques) is the barrel. Ensure special time and care is taken on cleaning the bore. A rule of thumb is to always drag the cleaning device in the same direction as the bullet takes. [JWR Adds: Be sure to pull the cleaning rod straight, as the last couple of inches of rifling are crucial to peak accuracy.] If you are shooting copper jacketed bullets, you may want to consider copper solvent for the barrel. You may look down a freshly-cleaned and notice nothing, but a couple wipes with the solvent, and you will be a believer!

Ensure that you clean your firearm at least as often as you shoot it. If it has been a while, give it a quick cleaning, or if it has been exposed to the elements, give it a once over. Rust can creep up faster than you think. And it doesn’t matter if you have the quickest draw in the west if you have the rustiest gun in the east!

Storage of your firearm is critical as well. Keep it in a controlled climate, free from dampness, and dust. If you bury your firearms, take extra care in waterproofing, and include moisture absorbing (silica gel) packets. If you have children, educate them, and ensure extra safety measures are taken.

 Here are a few brands of tried and true cleaning and lubrication products. Find the ones that works best for you, and buy plenty!

            Birchwood Casey
            Shooter's Choice
            Break-Free CLP
            Kleen Bore
            (And in a pinch, carburetor cleaner and brake cleaner work well.)

            (And in a pinch, motor oil in small amounts or vegetable oil)

Note: Be careful what chemicals you use on plastic pieces, and around optics or accessories. Some cleaners and solvents may discolor or otherwise ruin the material!

This has been a ground level article on weapons selection and care. It is in no way the only way to do things, just a way that has worked for me, and has been learned through blood sweat and tears. I hope that it saves you all of them! Enjoy your firearms, and care for them so that they can care for you one day, be it putting food on the table, or preventing your family from being food on someone else’s! Practice, Practice, Practice, and Happy Hunting! - Survival Ranger

Hello Jim,
My deepest sympathy and prayers for you and your family after the recent passing of your wife. I have read for quite awhile of these folks that write with their questions and concerns for a survival retreat and where to locate and many have substantial resources to do so and yet many others (like myself ) didn't/don't have those resources. This is why I choose North Dakota which is notably in your top 18 states for retreat areas and I want to tell you why.

I have traveled extensively over the years to every state in the US and lived in several. I spent many years in the North Georgia mountains until it got to crowded like most areas there such as Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Not to mention that they expensive as well.

I spent a summer in Alaska, and loved it there but that state as beautiful and less populated and with the bounty it offers, still lacks many staples needed and which as you have noted, has to be trucked,shipped or flown in and is very expensive.

Idaho, Montana,and Wyoming are beautiful and also less populated but through my travels over the years, I've found property far too expensive for the average working "Joe" with limited funds.

I could go on in reference to other states,but those I have listed were always what I thought to be a safe bet,but there came the money issue again.
I didn't want a loan or mortgage on a "survival retreat" that might possibly end up in foreclosure if and after TSHTF, so I kept looking.

And through those travels I started taking a closer look at North Dakota.Yes, I know there are over 150 Minuteman III ICBM tubes spread out over central and western North Dakota and that I agree was disturbing to me, but then I was right back at that Money issue. Always seems to come back to that. [JWR Adds: For maps of the missile fields of North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, and Colorado see the leftist Nukewatch web site. As described in my book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation", you'll find safety in selecting a retreat that is at least 50 miles upwind of the western-most of these regions.

So, what I did was to buy a very small home in a very small rural area of north central North Dakota, kinda up wind of the "sites" for the most part yet very, very affordable.
I bought this place to "try out" North Dakota and see if it offered what my bank account could stand.
Could I live here for limited funds and use the balance to "stock up" for the future?
Could I pay cash for the place so I would never have to worry about losing it if and when TSHTF and money would become scarce,if there even was any money anywhere?.
Could this piece of property sustain me and my wife in the interim through a garden,chickens etc?.
And was there a possibility of making an income in the area or a population source near enough to get to that I could?.

What I found was nearly an acre with a small well kept home on the edge of a very,very small town for just $11,000 with all the amenities of the big city like Internet, cable, satellite television, water, sewer, garbage, phone and electric and my very own cistern for a backup. And my annual property taxes are less than most people spend for a night out-- under $75 per year.

That small place was a great starting place and allowed us to venture and learn about North Dakota and all it offers.
I will add as well that North Dakota is a major Beef producing state and I have never had trouble finding hamburger for far less than grocery store prices and farm raised,not to mention unlimited hunting and fishing.

What few realize is that most of North Dakotas small rural towns are experiencing a decline at about 10% over the past 10 years due to the older folks passing on and the younger ones moving on and the small farms giving way to huge 3,000 to 5,000 acre spreads and the cold winters all add up to smaller towns.

But we found it perfect and the cold is usually the worst the end of January through the first two weeks of February and then it gets down right cold-d-d. The beautiful spring,summer and fall make up for it though, in our opinion.

But we still wanted to be a little farther out,a little more "upwind" and a little more acreage and fewer people.
After nearly two years we found a seven-acre farmstead. It is far enough from Minot and Grand Forks and northerly enough to give us a very fair survival rate [in the event of a nuclear exchange].

This place has a nice home with basement walls from stone that are 24 inches think.Two garages and a granary make up the buildings.
With this prized piece we can grow more food,have more chickens and raise some beef and pork.
Our closest neighbor is 1-1/2 miles away and the closest larger town is 28 miles with smaller towns in the 17 to 18 mile range.
We did lose a few things by moving here: No unlimited long distance, no cable television (only satellite) and we had to get a new cellular provider. No town water or sewer. We have our own here with a well and septic and we lost our garbage pickup so we burn and recycle and/or haul to the landfill.

We can see anyone coming a mile before they get here yet we are still on a main road for winter snow plows.
And all of this was under $20K, that's right, under $20,000 so that was again, well within our means to pay for and use that money we would have spent on a mortgage or loan to invest in our future,so it is possible and we are living proof of this and we have seen many deals such as this in North Dakota.

So we offer that North Dakota is a beautiful place and affordable for those that (like us) don't have unlimited funds,or don't want to spend all they do have for a survival retreat. A place that is peaceful ,quiet and far enough from everyone, yet close enough for a day trip to any big city and still only has 650,000 people in the entire state.
A state where there is presently a budget surplus and the lowest unemployment rate in the USA.

We thought our own experience here might interest you and your readers Jim.
Thanks for your great job with SurvivalBlog and your time and have a wonderful week. - Fred

You've had two good letters on woodstoves recently. I'd like to add a few thoughts based of heating and cooking with wood for a couple of decades in the Colorado mountains. I have never been more contented than when there's a blizzard raging outside and I'm inside next to a nice warm woodstove. That being said, woodstoves and chainsaws account for the vast majority of domestic emergencies in many rural areas and a constant source of amusement for EMTs.

As has been written, the importance of a properly installed chimney cannot overemphasized. Do get a quote for a good professionally installed chimney and then source the woodstove based on how much money you have left, not the other way around. A semi-okay chimney may not be a problem for years, but eventually that rafter up in the ceiling crawl space that's been getting too warm all those years will eventually cook off one cold winter night when the woodstove is nice and hot. Also get the chimney top nice and high and serviceable. Downdrafts will occur even if they are built to the 2'/10' rule if you have a higher addition near by and the wind is in the right direction. Smoke will also condense on the chimney top spark arrester and clog it up so figure out a way to brush that clean in a safe way. Best to do that as regular maintenance and not in the middle of the night when you find your chimney won't draw and the room is filling with smoke. Lightning will also find the chimney one day. Get a lightning rod installed before you're hit. Do attach a magnetic chimney pyrometer to the chimney. It will tell you how the stove is doing by just glancing at the meter and will also alert you if things are getting too hot. My house did survive my youthful learning curve, but only just. Hopefully, some of your readers will profit from my experiences.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is the area around the stove. I've seen red hot coals from resinous pine fly through a small slot in the air intake and all the way across the room. You'll never get a good night sleep if you just have a small fireproof pad around your stove. Woodstoves and carpet don't mix well. If nothing else the dirt tracked in from carrying wood will drive the wife crazy. If you do have carpet, pull it up and put down tile or stone flooring. If you have a modern springy framed plywood floor, a couple of layers of 1/4" plywood glued and screwed in alternating directions to the existing ply will stiffen it enough for tile.

Also, the wall behind the stove is equally important. Unless you're several feet away from a framed wall do something like this:
Cover the wall behind the stove with fire stop drywall a couple of feet above the top of the stove (or chimney if it exits through the wall). Install a steel lintel at floor level using large bolts screwed into the studs. Leave an inch air gap between the lintel and drywall using spacers. Lay up a brick wall on the lintel and tile over that. The air gap behind the brick wall allows a cooling draft. The brick also provides a good source of thermal mass which leads to a final point.

There's nothing much worse than getting out of a warm bed in the morning to start up a cold, dead woodstove. The stove that I owned when I lived in Colorado was made of Soapstone by a company in Woodstock, Vermont. They aren't cheap to buy but they are worth ever cent they cost. Once that stone gets warm, it stays warm for hours, even if the stove runs out of wood. I used to load my stove in the evening with whatever wood I had, generally pine, aspen or even hem/fir framing offcuts, not oak or hickory by any means and yet that great little stove heated the entire second floor of my house and the stove was still toasty warm well into the next day. Although I had been told this, I still was amazed at how a small properly built stove could heat such a large space and still not cook me out of the room it was in.

I cannot recommend highly enough the use of thermal mass over cast iron in a stove. There are other manufacturers of soapstone woodstoves but if and when I move back to a cold climate, I'll be getting another Woodstock Soapstone Stove. Thanks again for the interesting blog. - LRM, Perth, Western Australia

Mr. Rawles,

I just finished reading Patriots, all I can say is thank you. A few things I'd like to add to what TiredTubes said about hurricane preparedness:

First, when my wife and I first moved to Florida we had little knowledge of hurricanes and their impact. However, due to great parents we had been brought up to always be prepared. So we read and made preparations for ourselves. We lived in an apartment at the time (now we live in a 1960 block home with hurricane panels and a new tile roof) and I asked the apartment manager about logistics of preparing the complex for storms. I could easily tell that this manager of about 200 units had never been asked this question. I asked if maintenance installed the hurricane shutters or do the residents? If the residents do where are they located? At which point in time is the decision made to batten down the hatches? Just blank stares, no answers. I should point out our plan was to protect our valuables as best we could but we would be bugging out. If you live in an apartment or condo complex get the info on the managements plan, and if they don't have one, offer to help form one it will likely come out better if you do.

Second, help other areas after a hurricane, more specifically go to areas affected, even if it requires some travel. The reason is two-fold: A) It's what a Christian, or any moral person should do if able to. B) If you have not experienced a hurricane first hand you will glean countless lessons just cleaning up in the aftermath. Soon after moving to southeast Florida for school the west coast of Florida was hit by hurricanes Charley and Frances. My wife and I both drove over to help out with our church group. Take your own gas, food, water, ice, tools especially the tire plugger and 12 VDC compressor, supplies you want to be a help, not a burden. If there is room take extra supplies and come home in an empty vehicle. With a little common sense I learned things that I'd never have thought of had I not seen the aftermath. You can develop an eye for weaknesses, something a book or web site can't provide alone. A small example is the fact that I was the only one on my street who took five minutes to dig his mailbox up out of the shallow sand and put it in the garage (what's that crazy guy doing?) but then it didn't end up as a missile like some others, when we were hit.

Third, creature comforts. When we were hit by hurricane Wilma (not necessarily high on the Affairs Hurricane scale but 3rd costliest hurricane in US history) we were prepared but lost power for 17 days. Thankfully the freezer stayed cold, the lights stayed on and the gas supply lasted. However, at the time my wife was pregnant with #1 daughter and not feeling well, what added to her discomfort was the fact that most generators cannot run a central air conditioning system and it was hot and muggy. A fan can only do so much for an expectant mother. For us relief came in the form of a friend who had a window air conditioner unit which our generator could handle. This provided a room where my wife could comfortably rest and I could have decent sleep to recover from the post-hurricane cleanup. The units are not excessively expensive and can provide a welcome relief.

Thanks again, - Steve B.

Dear Editor,
Be sure to test any UPS/generator combination before you have to rely on it. Many off-the-shelf UPS units will not accept or pass on incoming power that is not pristine in terms of frequency and voltage. Many lower end generators do not put out pristine power.

I have tested several combinations of generators up to $500 and UPS units up to $200, none would work together reliably.

Higher-end UPS units such as those for commercial data centers can usually be configured for a wider range of incoming power quality, from puritanical to promiscuous.

Bidding on eBay might land you a deal on a 2KW or greater commercial UPS that needs a new set of batteries. Batteries are not expensive, though they are almost always sealed lead-acid types that will need to be replaced every five years or so given gentle treatment.

It is no substitute for a proper battery bank and inverter. -Vlad

Regular content contributor GG sent us a link to this press release: Adam Storch Named Managing Executive of SEC’s Enforcement Division. "Unbelievable! The Securities & Exchange Commission last week appointed a 29-year old Goldman Sachs executive as the managing executive of its enforcement division. You already know about all the curious contacts Goldman's leader Lloyd Blankfein has had with Treasury heads Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner. So I assume the SEC must also be aware of these contacts. While I have no reason to question Mr. Storch's ethics or motives in taking this job that presumably pays a fraction of his Goldman salary, not to mention bonus, isn't the SEC even a little concerned about its already soiled reputation?"

Yea, the great MOAB doth grow mightily, as hath been presaged in the blog of doom: Obama to announce help for small banks, businesses. "Wow, free money for everyone!" (Kudos to GG for the link.)

Bank of America to start charging customers for not using credit cards. Latest bank fee is for paying off credit card on time every month. (This news was mentioned to me by both GG and by Mike Williamson.)

Items from The Economatrix:

It's Official: US Government is Bankrupt

Higher Jobless Rates Could Become New Normal

Feds Still Providing Easy-Money Mortgages

No, You're Reading That Right: 79.9% Rate Targets the Credit Challenged

Yishai mentioned some free CPR, AED, Choking, and Bag Valve Mask training videos that are available on-line.

   o o o

Britain considering banning beer glasses to reduce chance of "Brawls." (Thanks to our Editor at Large Mike Williamson for the link.)

   o o o

Damon wrote to mention that Northwest Territorial Mint now offers silver bullion in fractional ounce and gram sizes.

"You might just as well. . . read the Bible to buffaloes as to those fellows who follow [slavery]; but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp's rifle." - Rev. Henry Ward Beecher (after whom, Sharps repeating rifles were nicknamed "Beecher's Bibles")

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Today we present an entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. You may recognize the author's pen name, as he has recently contributed several informative letters on vacuum tube generation radios to SurvivalBlog

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

In September, 2008, Hurricane Ike--a Category 4 hurricane--pounded the Gulf Coast of the southern US. Some coastal communities like Crystal Beach no longer really exist. Inland, life was severely disrupted. For those of us on the South Coast hurricanes are a frequent reality. We were quite well prepared, but used the disruptions and dislocations as a test and opportunity to tune up our preparations.

1. Be ready to help others and to accept help We didn't need much during Ike, but the power went out before a neighbor finished boarding up his house. My 1 KW inverter, hooked up to his idling truck provide the juice for a Skilsaw and a few lights; allowing him to finish. Usually it is skills and not "stuff" that helps others and yourself. Besides strengthening a neighborly friendship, the number of damaged houses was probably reduced by one.

2. Keep your stuff squared away.. I repaired a few generators during and after Ike. I observed that every one suffering from lack of use; i.e. gasoline that resembled turpentine in the carburetor. People were at a complete loss to understand this. My daugher-in-law owned one of the generators that I repaired. She ignored my admonition to change the dirty oil ASAP and then once every 50 hours. Early in the next week it [ran out of oil and] threw a rod. She was in the dark for another week. Just a $2.99 quart of oil would have saved discomfort, ruined food, etc.
My portable genset, loaned to my daughter, was ready to go;  fresh oil, filters, valves set, exercised, load tested. It started on the first try. I came to check it and change it's oil as soon as it was safe to travel. The first thing that I did was turn it so the exhaust faced away from the house! She had placed it so that the starter rope was in a convenient spot. At least she had, like I had asked, chained and locked it to a foundation pier.

After every hurricane Darwin gets a few through accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Don't join them. If you have a generator, get a carbon monoxide detector in case the wind changes and wafts exhaust in your windows.

Our own [permanently-installed] genset uses natural gas (a tri-fuel generator) which in the majority of cases is superior and much cheaper to operate. Over the 11 days that we didn't have power it consumed $100 worth of natural gas. I estimate that an equivalent amount of gasoline would have cost more than $300. I stopped it every 75 hours for oil and filter. If your genset doesn't have an hour meter, then add one. There are some inexpensive self contained hour meters made for lawn equipment that work very well and require no hard wiring. It's really the only practical way to keep track of operating time, without which, intelligent maintenance is impossible.

I noticed that many generators, some still in the box, on Craigslist following Hurricane Ike at bargain basement prices. I recommended to a friend he latch onto one of these and purchase a dual-fuel gasoline/natural gas carburetor] kit. Ants can profit from short-sighted grasshoppers.

It goes without saying have all your vehicles filled up and serviced so they can be depended upon with out much attention. Pay particular attention to cooling systems, oil changes, tire pressures, belts and battery terminals.

Develop a pre-event SOP: When we hear of a hurricane in the Gulf, we pick up loose items like branches that can be thrown by high winds and cause damage (aviators call this rubbish FOD), trim trees, check prescriptions, recharge everything rechargeable, treat the swimming pool with "shock" chlorine, get all the laundry and dishes done, get all the trash out for pickup, take “before” pictures, etc., etc., etc.

3. Have backups for your backups. The portable generator above was our backup to the natural gas-fueled genset. Then an inverter and ups. After that is a 100 Watt solar array I've been tinkering with to provide power for security lighting,etc.

My daughter spent up to two hours a day foraging gas, mostly waiting in lines. She found out that the problem with gasoline-fuel generators is gasoline! It's expensive, in short supply (when it is needed most), and it takes gas to go and get gas! Needless to say I rounded up the parts and the portable is now a dual fuel machine. Had it been able to use natural gas then she could have stayed home and been one less person waiting in line. And the machine still retains the capability to burn gasoline!

Since gasoline became hard to come by (it was impossible to get for a week after Rita) but diesel fuel was plentiful we did any necessary traveling in my old diesel Mercedes (which is EMP proof, BTW).

One important word on generators: Treat yours like it is the last one you'll ever get. Try and get a good one, I prefer either a Honda or Briggs Vangard engine. My Vangard portable is approx 10 years old and absolutely dependable. The difference is methodical maintenance. Keep the manuals, and read 'em ! Keep the oil changed, keep a fresh spark plug, keep spare [oil, air, and fuel] filters. Most importantly run it under load once a month. Unless it's new, pull off the cowling and clean all the dirt and dust from fins on the cylinder jug. Closely examine the starter rope, the fuel lines, et cetera. Replace 'em if they ain't perfect.

If you get a permanently installed generator carefully consider installing a manual transfer switch and other upgrades. With the exception of automatic "exercising" fully automatic generators these add a layer of complication and cost.

Don't store gasoline in the machine other than enough for one periodic test run. Develop a ritual on test runs: such as every other payday, or the last Saturday in the month, to reduce it to a ritual. I run mine monthly whilst cutting the back yard lawn. (The mower makes more noise.)

For storage between test runs: On portable gensets [with the ignition off, slowly ] pull the cord until you can feel that the engine is at the top of the compression stroke. This is where the engine feels like you are pulling it through a "detent". It puts the piston at the top of the bore and closes both valves. This protects the cylinder from moisture. If you store gasoline then use stabilizer, after six months burn it in your car and replace it. Few experiences are worse that trying to clean out a carburetor by a dim flashlight whilst being consumed alive by salt marsh mosquitoes. Trust me on this. BTW, I've had better results storing "winter" blended gas, since t has more light fractions and starts easier year round.

If you use gas cans; stick with metal, preferably safety cans. Plastics are slightly permeable and it will go bad much faster in a plastic can. On that note, [in humid climates] don’t keep spare spark plugs with the machine. This is because in outdoor storage the insulators can absorb moisture [and the metal parts can corrode]. Keep them inside or in a sealed can with some silica gel. An old one-quart paint can is ideal.

If you have a dual-fuel machine, then break the engine in on gasoline and make sure it operates properly on both fuels under load. Keep the necessary connectors for gas operation on the machine so that you don't have to go searching for that 3/8ths-inch pipe nipple with a flashlight.

Use high quality oils, and have enough. Don't forget to also store plenty of 2-stroke [fuel mixing] oil and chain oil if you intend to use a chainsaw. Maybe store some extra for your neighbors that are less prudent. I use Rotella brand synthetic oil and Wix brand filters, and have had good results with them.

Make sure you have enough oil, filters and plugs for at least two weeks (336 hours), or longer. Don't forget about your equipment after the crisis is over: There are valves to set, oil and plugs to change, etc. Even if you own two generators and have enough flashlights, automatic emergency lights, et cetera, things can, and may likely go wrong. Small children usually do not take kindly to being plunged into total darkness. Unless it is TEOTWAWKI, keep the candles in the cupboard, especially if there are small children about.

4. Double your plans for helping other people. Several relatives from coastal areas evacuated to our house (approximately 50 miles inland). I keep a 55 gallon drum of stabilized gasoline to fill up their cars to get them home. This was a lesson learned after the Rita evacuation cluster. How much food you will go through will surprise you. It finally dawned upon us that we almost always eat dinner (lunch to you Northerners) and sometimes breakfast away from home. So what we consumed whilst hunkered down seemed out of proportion.

We also sent some food home with people to hold them over. I was able to "lend" a retired neighbor enough generated power to keep his freezer, television, and fan going. He was genuinely happy. This also meant that he was one less person in line for ice, food, and so forth.

5. Keep a dial up phone line around, after 24 hours the cell phone tower generators started running out of propane, the cable modem (and the cable) went down with the power. Remember how to make that dial-up modem work.

If you're not a Ham radio operator, then find out where the local hams conduct their emergency nets, and listen on your shortwave radio (HF) or scanner (2-meter and 440 band) and you'll know a lot more that the local television news truck can find out.

If you have cable television, then keep a traditional antenna handy. If you live near a major market the local AM news station, then it is probably a good bet. Have a good UPS, plug the computer and the desk lamp into it. If you have a cordless phone, plug it into the UPS too. The UPS will take the "bumps" out of the generator's power; your computer will thank you. Make sure you test the UPS periodically by plugging in a 100 Watt lamp and pulling the plug on the UPS. I find I need to replace that UPS battery about every 2-to-3 years.

6. Plan for the guests. Have plenty of soap, have a small flashlight (preferably with rechargeable batteries) for each guest. Have things other than television to keep youngsters occupied. Try and get plenty of rest. You'll probably be plenty busy after you can poke your head out again. In this vein don't forget dishwashing supplies, laundry supplies, baby supplies, etc. If it's a predictable event such as a hurricane, have all the dishes and laundry done. before it hits.

A television in a room by itself will keep the racket contained from those who want to read, play games or just sleep. If you have the space, then a “quiet room” where  people can just rest, read, be alone, have some privacy or get a fussy to baby to sleep cuts down on contagious stress.

7. Make sure you are medically prepared. Have a rather complete first aid kit that includes a backboard and splinting materials. There will be plenty of cuts,scrapes, bruises, sunburns and sore muscles in the aftermath. Have Band-Aids, 4x4s, neosporin, peroxide etc. Have plenty of acid reducer and immodium on hand (stress and unfamiliar cooking), have at least two weeks of prescription drugs on hand [and preferably much more for any chronic health issues]. Have a good assortment of Tylenol, cold and sinus preparations, BenGay [muscle ointment], good  multivitamins, etc.

8.Be extra, extra, extra careful. You getting sick or more likely injured can really mess things up for everyone you have prepared for. Not to mention that the local fire/ambulance is probably already overtaxed. Be extremely careful handling fire and fuels. A lot of us are not entirely fluent in using chainsaws, small engines, fixing roofs, trimming trees and moving debris.[JWR Adds: safety equipment including heavy gloves, kevlar chainsaw safety chaps, and a combination safety helmet with face shield and muffs are absolute "musts"!] Don't get in a hurry unless there is a threat to life. Be hyper cautious, be very aware of your surroundings and things that can go wrong. Don’t toil alone. Make sure you have a clear path to beat a hasty retreat if things go wrong. Wear those gloves, safety glasses, boots and maybe a hard hat.

Don't overtax yourself. Getting a fallen the tree off of the roof today avails you little if it triggers a heart attack or heat stroke. Ask God's assistance and start over tomorrow.

Keep fire extinguishers near the gas generator, in the kitchen, and near the camp stove.

Avoid using candles at all costs, and absolutely prohibit smoking indoors for the duration. Have more than enough battery smoke detectors around.

9. Be ready to make temporary repairs.. The missing shingles, damaged windows, etc. Have some plywood, a few 2x4s, some Visqueen polyethylene sheeting, batting boards, duct tape, a tarp, some nails, and so forth around. If you happen to have a good cordless drill, then you'll find sheet rock and deck screws are very superior to nails. If you're squared away then you already have this stuff , but a neighbor might be in need, so buy extra.

Debris creates flat tires for quite some time after many events. Have a tire plug kit and a 12 VDC compressor in each vehicle. Repairs to structures, especially roof repairs guarantee nails in tires. Be ready for them..

Have everything rechargeable recharged. Make sure you have some traditional non-power tools, I have a handsaw that I've had for decades, a good bow saw, ax, maul, sledge and an old eggbeater style hand drill still get regular use.

10. If I had my choice of just one utility it would be running water. Fortunately where we reside is served by a well run rural utility district which has prepared well for hurricanes. Failing this, in addition to stored water I have a portable gas utility pump (Robin brand) that can pressurize our water system from our pool and has sufficient capacity for a fire line. The pool got a good jolt of shock a day before the storm hit.

11.Keep some cash money handy. For a few days [with no utility power] there were no functional ATMs, and no way to use credit or debit cards.

12. Keep a low profile. About a week after Ike a passerby indignantly asked "How'd you get your lights turned on?" This showed his ignorance on several levels. He seemed to think someone just had to flip a switch downtown and "shazam!" his lights are on. I couldn't make him understand there has to be an unbroken physical link between a power plant and consumer, this seemed to aggravate his obvious helplessness. Telling him that we had been making our own juice seemed to irritate him. I wonder who he voted for? People with this mindset (that the world owes them something) could be a genuine liability in a real catastrophe. (BTW on a news show during a piece about energy, I actually heard a lady refer to natural gas as “just another dirty fossil fuel”) and not be challenged on the facts. Little minds scare me. I think that the hyper-liberals would love to use the heavy hand of government to force the ants take care of the grasshoppers.  Keep a low profile. The best advice I ever heard on the subject (I believe it was Howard J. Ruff ) was to "keep your principles public and your actions private".

13. Keep a notebook, keep a record of what happened, but especially keep a record of preps you overlooked or screwed up, or stuff you ran out of, or skills that need to be added or honed. That's where most of the preceding information came from! Also keep tabs on what's scarce after an event. Gas was scarce, but diesel plentiful after Rita. In contrast, after Ike there was plenty of fuel, but few operating stations due to lack of power. (There was a "mandatory evacuation" during Rita which turned out to be a fatal traffic jam for a few poor souls which quickly emptied the filling station tanks.) Out our way the local Wal-Mart made a heroic effort and opened up on locally-generated power, two days after Ike. The sheriff’s department was there to “maintain order”. (Let’s just say that they actually wear brown shirts here.). This event was a lifetime opportunity to study the varied behaviors of people under stress.

There were plenty of canned goods and auto supplies. But fresh fruits and veggies were a little thin, no meat due to lack of refrigeration for a few days, batteries, Coleman fuel, trash bags, paper plates, disposable diapers, formula, and nails evaporated. The pharmacy was closed.

Even with the numerous mistakes we made, we were able to stay safe, secure and comfortable and help others while "victims" were standing or idling their car engines in lines. It was an opportunity to try things out under more or less controlled conditions. WTSHTF there will not be controlled conditions!

Your recent link to an item in the Preparedness Forum (100 things that go first...) led me to other parts of the forum where I found a link to Lamar Alexander's Solar Homesteading e-book.

Besides the videos/pictures etc. an e-book is offered for $5. What a bargain! It is full of useful practical ideas, for example: a barrel-in-a-barrel digester that he uses to fuel his gasoline generator which he had converted to run on natural gas; how to dig a "driven-point" well; a solar dishwasher. And on and on. Your readers will want to get this e-book! BTW, I have no connection with LaMar Alexander. - Bob B.

Dear Jim,
Several years ago my wife and I were resident managers of a self-storage facility. Here are some useful facts:

Check them out first with the Better Business Bureau. The company we worked for, sad to say, was and still is rated very poorly for failing to respond to customer complaints. They operated on a model of "Get every penny they have." The rent was reasonable, and we were on site as "Security" with the usual corporate garbage that we never have anything resembling a weapon in the office or on duty.

The problem came with late fees. As soon as the doors closed at the end of the three day grace period, the computer would apply a penalty. On the 15, another penalty would apply. After 30 days, a "Collection fee," and rent, and more fees. A month late would cost a customer about $100 (in late 1990s dollars) in addition to rent for each month. Their lock would be cut to determine if the space was abandoned, and then overlooked, with a fee to have the lock removed. (All this was handled by the corporate office. We had no choice and no authority or ability to help anyone on hard times.) We were not allowed to provide any contact info except the P.O. Box number to complainants, who'd of course sometimes threaten to "inform our bosses" who made it clear they didn't want to talk to customers. They would never respond in any fashion to a customer unless lawyers were involved.

At one time they stripped and auctioned property through a local auction house, then switched to the "Bid on the open box" plan. So the result of three months lost rent, lots of filing, certified letters, late fees and loss of the use of the space in the meantime would typically be $20 or so.

Keep in mind that almost every place writes leases from the first day of the second month and pro-rates the remainder of the first month. So if you move in on the 20th and pay a full month's rent, you will owe the pro-rata for ten days (20th to end of month) on the 1st. If you miss that you will be in arrears.

Be aware that even the reputable ones do not provide trash service. If you are caught tossing trash into their dumpsters, you will be fined. Obviously, you shouldn't be paying to store trash, but it's amazing what we cleaned out of abandoned units:

A mo-ped
A laserdisc player
A new recliner (Still wrapped)
A new microwave
A case of mixed liquor, sealed bottles
Various tools
A full set of fine china
Car stereos
Construction materials
Literally tons of good clothes, shoes and books. (Which we donated to the local Goodwill.)

All of which were left in unlocked, unpaid units, often with the customer's blessing to help ourselves.

Which would be my last point: don't fall into the trap of just tossing stuff into the warehouse. Get the smallest one you need and plan for (as you mentioned) cold, heat, wet, vermin, and occasional fires. Never store anything crucial with personal value or legal value in one.

I can concur that property stored at these facilities is generally safe. Most of what is stored is not worth stealing, and what is worth it is too hard to sort. However, keep in mind that in grid down or other disasters, the facility may be closed, or wrecked by rioters. And once the first goblin figures out there's "Free" stuff, then all such properties are at risk. So I would not recommend using them except on a short term basis, while transporting your gear to a more secure location. - Michael Z. Williamson, SurvivalBlog Editor at Large

Damon spotted and interesting web article on Everlasting Yeast.

   o o o

Reader JDT suggested the SOG Fusion Spirit Knife/Spear Head as a tool to have on hand for worst-case, long-term situations.

   o o o

Matt R. mentioned a new computer game called "I am Alive" that will be released next year.

   o o o

Ready Made Resources has added to their catalog some new premium albacore and salmon products with a minimum seven year shelf life.

"Once the shooting starts, a plan is just a guess in a party dress." - Michael Yon

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mr. Rawles,
I have a small follow up question/suggestion to your response regarding commercial storage spaces. In my area, I have a solid 4-to-6 hour drive in good conditions to get to my safety location from my greater metropolitan area home. After having to do this drive last year with the chaos of an incoming Hurricane, I decided to take advantage of your "Doug Carlton" suggestion from your novel "Patriots". I decided to rent a small storage unit (5'x5') at what I considered the half way point between my city and my objective location. I pay $20 per month to store a small cache which consists of 20 gallons of stabilized gasoline (ventilated), 7 days of freeze dried food, and bottled drinking water. All in all, it consists of about $100 in supplies.

I do not consider this a long term solution, but at $20 a month it is an insurance policy that almost guarantees I will not have to be walking to my retreat. I'm sure you can find many testimonials online from people who had to evacuate Houston and Brownsville last year due to increased Hurricane activity in the Gulf. Many places were completely sold out of gasoline, food and water with in the first six hours of evacuation activities.

Do you consider this a good stop gap solution when it comes to utilizing self-store units? I understand that this is no excuse for procrastination or apathy. I am not diluting myself into thinking it has long term security for more than 24-to-48 hours of storage pending a catastrophic event or break down of civil service. Thank you for your time and advice. - Matt in Texas

Mr. Rawles,
I am the resident manager of a small self storage facility, and have been for over seven years. And yes I am a prepper and a woman.

Among my tenants I can count about a dozen or so who are also preppers. They consider this a safe place to store their preps while they are finding land to move to. I am always happy when one comes in to give notice that they are moving to the country (as they say).

We (my staff of two, and I) have a written plan in case of a situation and after practicing it and working out the bugs; we can lock this place down in less than five minutes. If I am here by myself it takes about 7 minutes to secure the premises and have my weapon and clipboard in hand. I realize that my tenants will want to come get their possessions as quickly as possible and that is part of our security set up, thus the clipboard with tenant info.

If any of your readers are thinking about storing their goods at a self storage facility here are some suggestions to make sure their items are secure.

1. Check out the location: in person and check with the local police force to see if the facility has had break-ins.
2. Is the property well lit and well fenced? (first step in security)
3. Only rent where there is a resident manager (a layer of security)
4. Gated with an electronic gate and limited hours. 24 hour facilities have more break-ins than those with limited hours. Electronic gates usually record the gate activity. (more security)
5. Is there video cameras recording the activity on the property? (security again)
6. Talk to the manager and staff – get to know them – you can do this without telling them what you are storing. You would be surprised how many people will tell you exactly what they are storing.
7. Does the staff make themselves present on the property?
8. Is the facility clean and well-maintained?
9. What types of locks are on the doors? Round locks for which only you hold the keys to are the best. Are the empty units locked also? (this is a sign that manage takes security seriously) Is there an extra lock on the door? Ask the management why. Most facility requires only one lock so they can lock out a tenant that doesn’t pay their rent.
10. Speaking of rent: Do you pay with credit card or can you set up a continuous pay with your bank or can you pay in advance with the Self Storage sending you an invoice the month you prepaid is up?
11. Read the rental agreement and understand it.
12. Check on your goods frequently.
13. Remember most self storage facilities do not allow food stored in any type of container that a four-legged critter could chew through. Canned goods, and round plastic food grade buckets are good. Make sure when storing food or clothing that you have clean hands. Residue of that hamburger you ate on the way will leave traces that will attract that four-legged critter.
14. Store in Rubbermaid plastic totes, well labeled on all sides including the top and bottom.
15. As far as extreme temperatures; yes it can happen, but if the units are well insulated you should not have any more of a problem than storing at home. You can do the insulation yourself by choosing the containers you store in.
16. Pallets are a great idea and I whole heartily recommend them for everyone.
17. If you don’t want people to know that you are storing your preps, choose totes and containers that will not give you away.

Mr. Rawles, thank you for being a guiding light for so many of us. You and your family are in my prayers. Blessing to you and yours. - N.J.

You have a great site, I watch it carefully.

In the recent article on storage spaces you answered a question about storage units being used to keep your food for a time. I run over 3,000 units of storage in a climate that has burning heat and freezing cold, and the answer to this problem is: climate controlled units. For only a few dollars more per month you might be able to find a unit in a climate controlled space. There temperatures will usually be held somewhere between 60 and 80 degrees. Perfect for storing food. These units are less likely to be broken into as they are interior and usually have higher levels of security covering them.

The drawback is that still just an emerging market, and hence climate-controlled units are not available in may rural areas. However, they are much more common the past few years. I just added climate control to a facility right here and though the facility in an area that is mostly farmer’s fields. I also know that the little town of Haley, Idaho has a storage company with climate controlled space. I also know of climate controlled storage scattered [in small numbers] across across Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Readers might not be able to find one right where they are going, but for the general public’s knowledge – climate control is out there and becoming more available all the time

As for losing your stuff for non-payment, yes it happens – all the time. I am constantly amazed at the valuables that people lose just because they didn’t pay their bill. But any reputable storage site is going to offer automatic payment options, either by credit card or checking withdrawals. That can make life much easier.

Yes, plan for possible water damage, and a possible rodent visit. Both are easy to handle. And lastly have some spare keys made for your lock. That one issue has tripped up too many people too many times. Thanks, - Luke H.

JWR Replies: I wholeheartedly agree about spare keys! In addition to the key that you keep on your daily-carry key ring, put one in each of your main bug-out bags, and one in the glove box of each of your vehicles! Someday, you might have to hurriedly depart for your retreat in unusual circumstances.

I have a question that I think would be of interest to a lot of your Blog readers:

"How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It". I really enjoyed the book. It helped coalesce all of the concepts I learned in "Patriots", [the now out-of-print] SurvivalBlog: The Best of the Blog Volume 1, and "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation".

One of your central precepts is that one should move to a "lightly populated rural area." Okay. With some work, I can find and buy a suitable piece of property and/or house. But you repeatedly point out that the real estate recession is going to get much worse and that real estate prices are going to plummet. Presumably, land prices are also headed far South.

In the interest of getting prepared as quickly as possible, I am interested in finding a viable retreat with a home already constructed on the property.

So, if it's a horrible time to buy real estate, should someone now making the move find a suitable rental property in the hinterboonies? Given the logistics of being a prepper (with literally thousands of pounds of Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids), is renting feasible?

While looking at properties, I have noticed that quite a few sellers are still hanging on to their ideas about their houses' value based on 2006/2007 prices. There are, however, dozens of properties that are for rent at prices way below market rents because of their remoteness and lack of appeal to the typical suburban sheeple (the very attributes which make the property ideal for me).

It doesn't make any sense to me to spend a significant chunk of money on a retreat and then watch as its value sinks over the next 5-10 years.

Should I sign a long term lease (two years or more) of a suitable retreat? And purchase a large sturdy trailer for each of my vehicles and be prepared to move from one rental location to another if required?

Your thoughts/opinions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for all that you do to educate and prepare the rest of us.- M.M.

JWR Replies: We are definitely in a renter's market. I recommend buying only if the seller will accept a deeply-discounted offer.

I must mention a third approach that I recommend to my consulting clients for times like these, with declining house and land prices and an uncertainty of a turn-around within 10 years: Find a place that you really would like to buy as a retreat, and lease it, with a contracted option to buy. (A "purchase option" contract, commonly called "buying an option.".) That way, if the market tanks, you can walk away, and you will be just out the lease money. Alternatively, you could re-negotiate a purchase price. And if the market stays steady in rural areas (a possibility) or if you are still occupying the property when double digit inflation kicks in, then you can go ahead and exercise the purchase option, with all of the the lease money paid applied to the purchase price.

James Wesley,
We have heated our current home with a wood stove and a pellet stove for ten years now. I disagree with one aspect of the recent article on your web site.

Our wood stove in the basement is set up to burn coal as well as wood. Where we live in Colorado there are a large number of dead trees -- from pine beetles -- that we can and do burn for free. However, with pine wood even the best stove will not hold the coals overnight. Hence the ability to use coal is a godsend. When the weather is only a little bit chilly we can place a basketball sized lump of coal in the stove and the stove will hold the coal -- burning slowly -- for up to five days. Hence in the mornings all we have to do is toss on a few pieces of wood and they will catch right away.

During the coldest part of the winter we can load the stove with a five gallon bucket of coal and it will heat the whole house for three days. Given the cyclic nature of our weather here (a couple of days of stormy weather, followed by a couple of days of biting cold, then a couple of days of sunny and warmer weather) we can clean out the stove during a sunny day as coal produces lots of ash.

Burning coal does one other thing as well. Pine wood has a tendency to produce a lot of creosote. But by using the coal, the creosote deposits in the chimney are burned off leaving a hard discoloration. Not burned off as in a chimney fire but apparently one of the chemicals in coal smoke reacts with the creosote and chemically burns it off of the inside of the chimney. At least this is how our chimney sweep has explained it to us when he shows up and inspects our chimneys every year.

Our pellet stove (upstairs) is good for those cool cloudy days in the spring and fall when firing up the wood stove in the basement will heat the house too much.

Now one warning -- our wood stove is designed to burn coal. Your typical wood stove is not designed to do this and the coal will burn through the sides/bottom of the stove. - H.D.

Reader Steven H. wrote to mention: VP Biden puts on his Captain Obvious cape and declares "This is a depression". Of course, Joe Biden has developed quite a track record for the inability to keep his mouth shut--most notably when he revealed the "secret" nuclear blast bunker beneath the VP's Residence.

Ralph N. suggested this piece over at Volokh about how the FedGov conceals some of its debt: Treasury Inc.: The Shadow National Debt. (It is hidden under a TARP, dontcha know...)

Commentary from analyst Niall Ferguson: The Dollar Is Dying a Slow Death.

From the Housing Storm blog: Strategic Foreclosure And The Last Man On The Boat

Also by way of Housing Storm: Subprime Mortgage Myths Debunked

Items from The Economatrix:

Sun Microsystems Slashing Up to 3,000 Jobs

Stocks Fall After Mixed Economic Data, Earnings

Fewer Home-Building Permits Signals Weakness Ahead

US Stock Market Returns to Housing Industry

UK: Business Failures Predicted to Surge in 2010 as Recession Deepens

Recession-Hit Spain Goes Back to Black Economy

F.G. sent us this: In trying times, hunters go after deer to put food on the table

   o o o

Reader Scott C. reminded me of a preparedness list that has been circulating for several years that deserves a link: The 100 Things That Run Out First in an Emergency.

   o o o

W..W. sent us a link to a news story on the long tradition of privately-owned firearms in Switzerland.

"The modern mind dislikes gold because it blurts out unpleasant truths." - Joseph Schumpeter

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Heating with wood has been a “necessary” tradition for thousands of years, but with the advent of the industrial revolution, and the advancement in methods of heating homes and buildings, heating with wood became less and less popular.  During the 1970s Energy Crises, there was interest in seeking “alternative” energy sources, and people started to rediscover the benefits of heating with wood. In the early 1990s, gas stoves and inserts took the place of traditional wood burning.  People were just too busy to deal with the time and energy required with wood.  In the last few years however, wood has come full circle, yet again.  It’s funny how people go back to things that are simple, reliable, and secure, in times of uncertainty.

I am a former Technical Administrator for a Wood and Gas Stove manufacturer, and thought I might be of some help by passing on some of my experience and knowledge. Basically, I was the guy who trained “the stove professionals” at the places that customers buy their stoves.

Heating your home/retreat with wood can be very rewarding, especially in a SHTF scenario. It can literally mean the difference between barely surviving, and comfortably thriving.  If a wood stove is not installed, operated, and maintained properly, there is a very real possibility that there can be substantial loss of property, and or life.


While fireplaces do add warmth and comfort, they are far from being efficient.  Most fireplaces are only about 10% efficient, in other words, 90% of your fuels’ BTUs are going straight up the chimney.  If you do have a fireplace in your home, and would like to make far less trips to the wood pile, please consider installing a wood burning fireplace insert.

Selection of a wood burning stove

There are many types of woodstoves, and not all woodstoves are built alike, and there are a few features that are highly advantageous. Most stoves will burn wood effectively, that is, yes the wood does burn, but there is a bit more to it than that.

Catalytic Stoves – The king of wood stoves

A catalytic stove utilizes what is called a “Catalytic Combustor”.  This combustor is similar to the catalytic combustor (converter) in a cars exhaust system. Its’ size can differ, but usually is 7” round, 7 x 9 oval, or rectangular, and about 2” thick. The combustor is a ceramic or stainless steel honeycomb on which is coated a catalyst. The catalyst may be a combination of one or more precious metals, including the following: platinum, palladium, rhodium and cerium.  The catalyst chemically lowers the combustion temperature of the smoke from a wood fire, thereby allowing more smoke to burn, resulting in higher efficiency, and less creosote buildup.  The active operating range is approximately 700-to-1,400 deg. F. The unit will glow red around 1,000+ deg., but is operating properly as long as it is in the active range. Catalytic Stoves come with a “Cat Thermometer” When operating properly; all that should be exiting the chimney is a white, steamy plume.

Saves Time and money
Dramatically longer burn times. Up to 40 hours on low setting (Blaze King Brand)
Much higher efficiency
Fewer trips to the wood pile
Chimney stays much cleaner, less chance of chimney fire
Greater burn control, resulting in more even temperatures in the home/retreat
Uses less woods
More expensive than traditional non-cats
Average life of converter is 5-9 yrs, depending on use and type of fuel burned
Replacement Cat’s are expensive. (This cost is made up by time and money saved)
Note:  In worst case scenario (i.e. TEOTWAWKI) and the cat is no longer working, the by-pass door (not the loading door) can be left open and the stove will still operate. The EPA will say that it is illegal to operate the stove without the use of a properly operating catalytic combustor. If it is TEOWAWKI, I’m sure you will get a pass on this.

Non-Catalytic Stoves

Non-cats are more commonplace, yet they too, are not all the same.  You have your basic type, that is, a box with a hole in the top, and you have others that employ what is called “secondary air”.  Secondary air aids in better combustion of smoke, resulting in lower emissions.
Less expensive than Catalytic
Fewer parts to wear out
Shorter burn times (cold mornings?)
Less efficient
Uses more wood
More trips to the wood box
Woodstoves with thermostats are much better at controlling the burn, and maintaining a more even temperature in the house.  They are incorporated into the stove itself. (Not on the wall) A thermostat is comprised of a “flapper” that is controlled by a wound, bi-metal strip. As the stove gets hotter, the flapper will start to close, thus controlling the amount of fresh air given to the fire, and conversely, will open up as the fire dies down.
A stove without a thermostat will generally have a manual air intake control, in the form of a plate that you can move to control the volume of air coming into the firebox.

Positioning of stove in the house

It is generally best to place your stove in a centralized area in the home.  Natural air flow is a large consideration.  Most average sized homes can be heated sufficiently with a quality woodstove, based upon layout and natural air flow. It is preferred to have the chimney within the envelope of the home and not routed on an outside wall.

Pre-Manufactured Chimney Systems

Most installations will utilize a pre-manufactured chimney system.  It is important to understand that there is two different systems, one is standard residential, and the other is High Temperature Mobile Home/Alcove/Close Clearance. Normally, single wall pipe called a connector, is used to come off of the stove. This pipe must be 24/26 MSG Black/Blued steel stove pipe. (Do not use aluminum or galvanized pipe) Once reaching the ceiling, it will transition into a “ceiling box” that has Triple Wall (actual chimney), that runs the rest of the way.
  Always follow the manufacturer’s installation requirements, and local codes.  DO NOT MIX DIFFERENT CHIMNEY SYSTEM.

Never use more than a total of two 90 deg. turns in an installation.  Any more than that, will significantly reduce your draft.  If possible, use two 45’s instead of a 90. Furthermore, never slap a 90 deg. elbow right off of the top of a stove.  Preferably, you would go a minimum of 36” up, before turning.  Furthermore, if a horizontal run is needed, it should be 36” or less, AND have a slope of ¼” per ft., downward into stove. It is important and required, that the chimney extends a minimum of 3 ft. above a roof, and is at least 2 ft. higher than any area of the roof within 10 ft.
Note:  Chimney sections should ALWAYS funnel into the stove collar, meaning the crimped end faces down into the stove. This allows for condensation/creosote to drain into the stove, and not leak outside of the pipe

Masonry Chimneys

If you have an existing masonry chimney, and are able to route your stove pipe into it, you can save a lot of money. A masonry chimney must be lined; the liner is usually made out of clay 5/8” thick min., and appropriate cement. A chimney liner should never be smaller than the cross sectional area of the stove collar, example: An 8” collar is approx. 50 square inches.  A visual inspection of the chimney is needed prior to the installation of the stove.  Look for cracks/holes, loose field stones/bricks, and mortar that is crumbling/deteriorating.  Creosote patches are signs of fresh air being introduced through these cracks.  Have a professional chimney sweep inspect and repair the chimney if you feel that this is beyond your capabilities/judgment.  Overly large, unlined, existing chimneys often will not draft properly, will accelerate the buildup of creosote, and usually violate code and installation requirements. All installations require a thimble when the pipe enters the chimney through a combustible wall. It may be constructed of brick, or pre-manufactured.
Note: Make sure the ash clean out door on the outside base (if installed) of the chimney is closed.  This will keep cold air from being introduced into the chimney, and reducing draft.

Creosote and chimney cleaning 
Creosote is basically caused by smoke cooling and condensing on the chimney walls. It can be built up with the addition of ash and other large, unburned carbon particles. It can present itself as hard and shiny, or thick, light and fluffy. You should inspect your chimney and connector system twice a month during burn season. Pay close attention to the appearance of creosote patches inside of the chimney. The existence of these patches is an indication of fresh air leaking into the chimney, and should be repaired or replaced immediately.

Use only a tight fitting chimney brush to clean your chimney. Getting “Bubba” up on top of the roof with tire chains, hoses, and the pool skimmer, will not only result in unsatisfactory results, it can potentially damage your chimney. Remove the first section of pipe off the stove, and attach a plastic bag to the open end of the pipe. Again, follow manufactures cleaning instructions, if available. You cannot expect to get every speck of creosote cleaned off, so don’t lose any sleep over it.  Just do your best to brush as much of it out as you can. 


“Magic” Chimney Creosote Cleaning Logs/Products

My experience has shown that nothing can substitute a tight fitting chimney brush for cleaning a chimney.  While there are several products out there that claim to “clean” or otherwise break down the buildup of creosote, I would not recommend them.
Safe Operation of Stoves
Always follow the manufactures operating instructions, and procedures. If none are available, please consider the following:

Never leave the stove unattended
with the loading door left open. Leaving the loading door open, then getting distracted by a phone call, or knock at the door, can have disastrous results.  Once a loading door is opened, there is virtually an unlimited supply of combustion air available for the fuel. If left unchecked, especially if the stove has just been filled, the stove can reach temperatures exceeding that in which the stove is designed.  This can warp the stove, or worse, cause a house or chimney fire.

Never use gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid
or any other type of accelerant, to start a fire, or to “freshen up” a fire.

Never mix, or substitute chimney brands/systems
.  If you are trying to save money by mixing and matching stove pipe, you stand the chance of losing so much more. Chimney Systems are just that, “systems”.  They have gone through extensive testing for a reason, to save lives and property.  Many have gambled and lost on this issue. Do not use aluminum or galvanized “duct” piping, they cannot withstand the high temperatures of burning solid fuels.

Use only solid, seasoned wood as fuel
, unless the stove has otherwise been designed for such fuel. Do not burn coal, oil, plastics, wrapping paper, charcoal, railroad ties, particle board, and sawdust, painted wood, or anything else that is not dry, seasoned wood. Using unseasoned “green” wood will increase production of creosote, and make for poor draft up the chimney. Seasoned wood is wood that has been cut and allowed to “season”, or sit, for a period of usually at least 8 months. Saltwater driftwood can be death for a stove; it will [cause rust that will] eat right through it

If you are experiencing a chimney fire
and it is safe to do so, then make sure the loading door is closed, turn down the thermostat all the way (or manual air control), evacuate your home, and call 911.

Check Loading Door Gasket
twice during each burn season.  You can do this by opening the door and positioning a dollar bill on the area where the door gasket meets the opening on the stove, now close and latch the door.  There should be noticeable resistance when pulling the bill out. Try this in different areas around the door.

Ensure proper combustible clearances
to the stove are maintained.  Refer to your owner’s manual on distances.  If your stove is bought second hand, and does not have the clearances and certification agency labeled on the unit itself, contact the local authority having jurisdiction, to verify code requirements.

I have gone through most of the basics regarding wood burning stoves, and I’m sure that I’ve missed a thing or two. What I have presented are just general guidelines. I cannot emphasize enough that you follow the manufacturer’s Installation and Operating Instructions, doing so will ensure best performance, with the lowest risk of danger. - Kevin K.

Mr. Rawles,
Just finished reading your book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It. I finished it in one long sitting, and have plans to go over it again with highlighter and pen and paper to take more detailed notes. Great work!

As a member of the Armed Forces, I face a difficult dilemma in that I understand and can clearly see the need to prepare/plan ahead, but my family and I feel hamstrung by our relatively transient lifestyle. I've been in the service for just over four years, and in that time I have been relocated every 18-24 months. This makes it extremely difficult to build up a deep larder and establish a self-sufficient infrastructure and a live-in homestead. How do we work around this?

We have a few things going in our favor:
- We are debt-free, with about $60,000 squirreled away in a Certificate of Deposit (CD) that will mature next year; we intend on using that to purchase a piece of fertile land in a quiet corner out west, and are working with some like-minded family members to pool our resources for collaboration and (hopefully) get a better deal. One thing we have discussed is that there are some very good deals on land in Canada - would could by twice or three times the amount of property than we could buy stateside with the same amount of money. In your experience, do you see any advantages/disadvantages in buying in the US or Canada?
- After all the bills are paid, we have enough left over to put about $1,000 away in long-term savings and another $500 left for preparedness purchases. I have a running list of prioritized items (firearms/ammunition, long-term food/water storage equipment, etc.), and as the money comes in I purchase them.
- We are currently renting a small farm property (seven acres) in New England near my duty station. While here, we are taking the time to use it as a practice ground for growing a vegetable garden and small-scale haying for livestock. This will give us valuable experience once we do have a piece of land to call our own. We are coordinating with several friends to learn canning, cheese making, and small scale home brewing to improve our self-reliance.
- We do have two horses, mostly for pleasure riding; I intend on trading out at least one for a larger Draft cross - much more practical for farming/homesteading. My landlord also agreed to let us keep some poultry, so I will use the winter to build a coop for some chickens.
- Deer are abundant in our area, and several wander through our backyard on a regular basis. I'm going to pick up a deep chest freezer this week, and hope to put one or two deer in the freezer this fall/winter.

In summary, my two questions are then:
1) Canadian versus US land?
2) How to build a deep larder in a nomadic lifestyle?

Thanks for everything, and keep up the great work! - MPJ

JWR Replies: Yes, your situation is a challenge, but you are not alone. The good news for you is that the weight allowances for military PCS moves go up, as you gain rank.

Given an option, I generally don't encourage retreats in Canada because of their more stringent gun control laws. It is fine if you already live there, and have structured a firearms battery that takes full advantage of some loopholes. For example, buying M1 Garand rifles. (The only semi-auto that is an exception to the absurd 5 round rifle magazine capacity limit.) But to voluntarily move from a country that has fairly favorable gun laws to one that does not, just doesn't make sense to me.

For folks that move often, I generally recommend building up two stockpiles of food: A larger one with very long shelf life food s(such as hard red winter wheat and Mountain House(or similar) canned freeze dried foods) that is kept your intended retreat, and a smaller one with shorter shelf life foods that you will keep with you, as you move from place to place.

Hi Jim,

What do you think of storing food at commercial storage sites until you can get the your retreat? Do you think these sites will be targeted and vandalized when TSHTF?

We will be moving north as soon as our house sells. I was wondering if we should move preps to a storage site closer to where we will be moving?

I hope you and your family are able to find comfort in your memories of the Memsahib. Thanks, - Kimberly

JWR Replies: In most of North America, commercial "U-Stor" storage spaces with roll-up doors are not a good choice for storing your food supplies. Inside temperatures temperatures that can exceed 120 degrees F in summer months. This will greatly decrease the shelf life of most storage foods. Traditional warehouses with interior doors have less extreme temperatures, but there you are more likely to have access problems when the Schumer hits the fan. There are some exceptions, in places like Maine, but even there, you have to wonder about stored foods being subjected to repeated freezing and thawing.

Commercial storage spaces are statistically quite safe from burglary. The biggest risk that I've seen is people losing track of their storage contract pre-payments, and losing the contents of their storage spaces! (State laws vary widely. In some states, only one notice needs to be sent via mail before forfeiture proceedings can begin. OBTW, in my travels, I've seen several storage companies that are co-located with antique furniture stores. I consider that no mere coincidence. Obviously, their are a lot of forgetful, unfortunate, or just plain flaky people that have forfeited the contents of their storage spaces! In my 20+ years of doing guns shows, I've met several dealers that regularly bid on the contents of abandoned storage spaces, essentially sight unseen, with varying degrees of success. Typically, the bidders gather, the door is rolled up, and the bidding commences, with the bidders not allowed to enter the storage space. They must base their bids on what they can see through the open door.

Another risk for the contents of commercial storage spaces is flooding. Make sure that you pick a company that has their building on "high and dry" ground, not on a flood plain. But even then, there is always the risk of ruptured pipes, or a malfunctioning fire sprinkler systems. So positioning a layer of inexpensive (or free) wooden pallets under your stored good is cheap insurance.

Ideally, you should store your gear and grub in the climate-controlled home or cool basement of a trusted friend that lives their year-round

New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg: U.S. could be on path to a 'banana republic' situation. (Thanks to Tom B. for the link.)

Reader MP sent this piece in Business Week: What happens if the dollar crashes?

MP also sent this from The Motley Fool: The recession's second wave, subtitled "Green shoots? Sure, but there is actually little evidence of a solid recovery"

GG flagged this: FDIC bank fund in the red until 2012.

Tom R. suggested this piece: Intractability of Financial Derivatives

Items from The Economatrix:

Weiss: Bernanke Gone Berserk! Bank Reserves Explode! "Martin here with the most shocking new numbers I've seen in my lifetime. My conclusion: Fed Chairman Bernanke has dumped so much funny money into the U.S. banking system and has done so little to manage how that money is used, the fate of our entire economy has now been cast under a dark shadow of doubt. This is not conjecture or exaggeration. Nor are the underlying facts subject to debate. They are blatant, unambiguous, and fully supported by the Fed's own data ..."

Stocks Rise as Earnings Reports Top Expectations
. [JWR's comment: "Another bear trap rally!"]

Oil Jumps Above $79 to 2009 High Before Retreating

Iran and Russia Propose Oil Trade Without US Dollar

Housing Market Getting Worse

Wall Street is Winning: Elizabeth Warren "Speechless" About Record Bonuses

From Golden State to Failed State

Best Things to Buy in the Fall

Lloyds Short-Selling Doubles; Collapse Predicted

UK: Tax Raid on Banks Planned By Ministers

Reader Jane L. sent this: River walkers discover weapons cache. There rae two lessons to be learned from this: 1.) Be very careful where and how you cache your guns, and 2.) Be sure to list the serial numbers of your guns, and leave that documentation well-hidden in the home of a relative or a well-trusted friend.

   o o o

Jonathan sent this one about over-reliance on technology: GPS Causing Truckers to Crash Into Bridges. Jonathan's comment: "As you have said many times, you have to know how to use your tools or you'll get in trouble. It also shows the need to use the right tool for the job. In this case truckers are using consumer-focused GPS units that don't look at truck requirements like bridge height and road restrictions."

   o o o

Field and Stream readers go ballistic, debating the survival firearms selection implications of "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse". Rather than debating the merits of my book, they embarked on a lively debate about guns, traps, snares, and even primitive weapons. Gee, just imagine how much they'd have to debate if they actually read my novel!

   o o o

HPD sent this news item from Nanny State Scotland: Why can kids get these weapons? William Wallace is surely rolling in his grave!

"It is not what you do not know that will hurt you the most. It is what you think you know, but it just ain’t so!" - Mark Twain

Monday, October 19, 2009

I find it surprising that I'm now getting inquiries from readers, asking if "we've reached bottom" in the current economic recession, and asking if the time has come to start buying stocks or residential real estate. It seems that the talking heads of mainstream media are using some sort of voodoo. How can anyone think that we've hit bottom, and an economic recovery is in progress? To dispel the myths from the CNBC Cheering Section, please consider the following. (And note that I've provided references for each assertion, just so you know that I'm not talking out of my camouflage hat.):

  1. A broken global credit market that has not fully recovered. See: After Lehman, U.S. firms adjust to new face of credit
  2. Lack of transparency in Mortgage-Backed Securities and other re-packaged debt instruments. See: Geithner Blames Lack of Transparency for OTC Derivatives Hit on Market.
  3. The increasing Federal debt, which is growing at an unprecedented rate. See: The National Debt Clock.
  4. Mountains of consumer and corporate debt. See: Observations on the US Debt.
  5. The Federal budget deficit. See: Federal Deficit Hits All-Time High of $1.42 Trillion.
  6. Ever-expanding bailouts. (I call this The MOAB.) See: As More Companies Seek Aid, 'Where Do You Stop?'
  7. Monetization of the National Debt. See: Fed Could Expand MBS Purchases. (Can you spell Oroborus?):
  8. The destruction of the American consumer economy. (It had been artificially credit-driven). See: A Year After The Crisis, The Consumer Economy Is Dead.
  9. Chronic unemployment, possibly much higher than officially reported. See: Alternate Data at ShadowStats.
  10. More than $500 Billion USD in hedge funds that have borrowed short and lent long. See: Assets invested in hedge funds increase by $100bn
  11. A double wave of residential mortgage rate resets. See: this chart of scheduled mortgage interest rate resets.
  12. Continued down-ratcheting of house prices. See: Housing Prices Will Continue to Fall, Especially in California
  13. The under-reported "shadow inventory" of foreclosed houses. See: The "Shadow" Foreclosure Inventory
  14. The very likely collapse of commercial real estate ("the other shoe to drop".) See: Is a commercial real estate bust inevitable?
  15. A huge crisis lurking in over-the-counter derivatives. See my analysis published in 2006 and the dozens of articles on the Derivative Dribble Blog.
  16. Under-funded pensions. See: Almost half of top unions have under funded pension plans.
  17. A coming wave of municipal bond and municipal bond hedge fund failures. See: The Failure of Leveraged Municipal Bond Hedge Funds.
  18. Increasing numbers of bank failures. See: FDIC: Bank Failures to Cost Around $100 Billion.
  19. Insurance company collapses--some, like AIG, were foolish enough to insure more than a trillion dollars in derivative contracts. See: AIG: Is the Risk Systemic?
  20. Worsening state, county, and city budget crises. See: State prepares for shutdown as budget deadline looms, and this article from a liberal site: Predicting Worse Ahead from America's Economic Crisis.
  21. Loss of faith in the US Dollar, on the FOREX. See: Dollar's reserve currency status in focus as G-7 finance ministers meet.
  22. The coming mass currency inflation, following some asset deflation. See: Which is more likely in 2010: Deflation or inflation?

Back in the Fall of 2008, I started hearing from consulting clients with notes of fear in their voices. They realized that something is horribly wrong with the economy, but they could not properly isolate and articulate the problem. In my estimation, the "something wrong" that they sensed is nothing short of a monumental shift in the economic climate.

America will continue in recession. Most economic recessions are simply a product of the business cycle. These recessions are relatively mild and they often last just 12 to 24 months. The economic engine just readjusts and everything soon gets back to normal. But the recession that began in 2008 is something radically different, and it won't be short-lived. The current slow down was triggered by a collapse in the global credit market. For decades, the global credit market grew and grew, in an enormous debt spiral. Our neighbors to the south saw trouble coming decades ago, because their economies were at the time more debt-dependent than our own. As far back as the mid-1980s, their newspapers featured political cartoons that portrayed an enormous, insatiable monster that was invariably captioned "La Dueda"--"The Debt". Our cousins in Latin America saw it coming first, but the dark side of the debt nemesis will soon be clear to everyone.

The Federal governments's debt, just by itself is cause for concern. As an old gunsmithing friend mine, the late Chuck Brumley, was fond of saying: “If your outgo exceeds your income your upkeep will be your downfall." Several decades of profligate spending by the US Congress are finally starting to take their toll. Just because their friend Helicopter Ben has a high-speed printing press does mean that they can continue to spend money like drunken sailors in definitely. (On second thought, I should apologize for impugning the reputation of drunken sailors. They are actually much more conservative with their funds than congressmen.)

Because modern banking in the western world is based on interest charges that create continuously compounding debt, credit cannot continue to grow indefinitely. At some point the excesses of malinvestment become so great that the entire system collapses. This is what we are now witnessing: a banking panic that is spreading uncontrollably as wave after wave of ugly debt gets destroyed by margin calls and subsequent business failures.

Some economists are fixated on reading charted histories--and unrealistically expect that by doing so that the can reliably predict future market moves. Although they are working from a flawed premise at the micro level, the chartists do have some things right on the macro level: There are major economic "seasons" and even climate changes. The most vocal chartists like Robert Prechter hold to what is called the Elliot Wave Theory. And the big bad nasty in this school of thought is a Kondratieff Winter. This "K-Winter" is an economic depression phase that the world has not fully experienced since the 1930s. An economic winter does not end until after the foundations of industry and consumer demand are rebuilt. This can be a painful process, often culminating with war on a grand scale. (It was no coincidence that the Second World of the early 1940s was an outgrowth of the Great Depression of the 1930s.)

The US Federal Reserve and the other central banks are furiously pumping liquidity to the best of their ability, but in the long run they will not be successful. At best, dumping billions in cash on the economy will delay a depression by perhaps a year or two. But inevitably, a K-Winter depression will come. And the longer that it is delayed, then the worse the depression will be. Further inflating the debt bubble will only make matters worse.

"Big Picture" Implications

As I've mentioned before, hedge funds are presently most at risk in the unfolding liquidity crisis, because they use lots of leverage in lending funds that they themselves have borrowed. They borrow short and lend long, and effectively use debt compounded upon debt.

Even more alarming is the scale of global derivatives trading, particularly for credit default swaps (CDSes). Derivatives are a relatively new phenomenon, so most derivatives contract holders are only just now experiencing their first major recession. Thus, it is difficult to predict what will happen in a genuine K-Winter phase. In a perfect world, derivatives are a nicely balanced mechanism, where there are parties and counterparties, and every derivatives contract equation balances out to have a neat "zero" at its conclusion. But we don't live in a perfect world: Companies go bankrupt. Contracts get breached. Counterparties disappear and disappoint. We have not yet experienced a full scale "blow up" of derivatives, but I predict that if and when it happens, it will be spectacular. The pinch in CDSes (a form of derivative contract) in 2008 was just a faint foreshadowing of what we'd experience in a a full-blown derivatives collapse.

The scale of derivatives trading is monumental, and the vast majority of the population is blissfully ignorant of both its scale and the implications of a derivatives crisis. There are presently about $500 trillion of derivatives contracts in play. That is many times the size of the gross product of the global economy, but the average man on the street has no idea what is going on. It won't be until after the giant derivatives casino implodes that the Generally Dumb Public (GDP) awakens and asks, "What the heck happened?" Since the credit market began to collapse in the summer of 2008, the number of new derivatives contracts has dropped precipitously. But whether the aggregate derivative market is $400 trillion versus $500 trillion, when a crisis occurs there will undoubtedly be some very deep drama.

The next decade will likely be characterized by successive waves of inflation and deflation, and perhaps some of both simultaneously, at different levels. Countless corporations, and perhaps a few currencies or even governments will go under as this tumult plays out. (Take note of the recent vote of no confidence in Latvia.) The current low interest rates will soon be replaced by double-digit rates, much like we saw in the late 1970s. The dollar will lose value in foreign exchange, and may collapse completely. The Mother of All Bailouts (MOAB) will inevitably result in mass inflation. The bull markets in silver and gold will surge ahead, propelled by economic and currency instability. (Investors will be desperate to find a safe haven, when currencies and equities are falling apart.)

Mitigating the Risks

Be ready to "winter over" the coming K Winter depression. That will require: 1.) Prayer. 2.) Friends and /or relatives that you can count on (a "retreat group"). 3.) A deep larder, and 4.) An effective means of self defense with proper training. (For each of those four factors, see the hundreds of archived articles and letters at SurvivalBlog.com for details.)

Since additional large-scale layoffs seem likely, it would also be wise to have a second income from a recession-proof home-based business.

In the event of a "worst case" (grid down) economic collapse, it would be prudent to have a self-sufficient retreat in a rural area that is well-removed from major population centers. Get the majority of your funds out of anything that is dollar-denominated, and into tangibles, as soon as possible. The very best tangible that you can buy is a stout house on a piece of productive farm land. It will not only preserve your wealth, but living there may very well save your life.


I thought that I would respond to Jake G.'s letter on "Preparations for Eyesight & Hearing". I feel I can offer a little insight (no pun intended) on eyesight and Lasik.

I had Lasik a little less than two years ago. I had just turned 43 and, after 22 years of wearing glasses or contact lenses, I was ready to make the jump. I didn't take it lightly, as having any procedure contains some degree of risk, but having surgery on arguably the most important of your five senses is scary. I had been in love with the idea of ditching glasses for good, but I was not willing to have the procedure until it had been around for a while and was more comfortable with it. After many friends and relatives had Lasik, I researched eye surgeons in my area and found one with the facilities and qualifications that made me most comfortable. I wanted a physician who had done this before, many times before. The doctor I selected had done over 14,000 surgeries. I wanted someone who had seen almost anything before. I wasn't pressured to have it done, nor was I even encouraged to schedule a date while I was there.

I went in for the surgery, accompanied by my wife, who would be needed to drive home. While I was in his office for a good two and a half hours, the procedure itself took less than ten minutes and was relatively painless. It felt like someone was pressing on my eyeballs for a few seconds. I left the office feeling great and had little discomfort, although many people say they feel like they have sand in their eyes for up to 24 hours. I had a follow up appointment the next morning and went to work.
From a preparedness standpoint, it's the best thing I could have done. I am 20/20 in both eyes for the first time since I was 21 years old. I don't have to worry about contacts in a field situation, nor do I have to worry about losing or breaking my glasses. I can wake up in the middle of the night and can confront any situation without fumbling for eyeglasses. It is very comforting.

As Jake stated, the potential change in one's close up vision is an issue. I was gradually noticing that reading was a bit more difficult, particularly in low light situations, but I didn't require corrective lenses. After Lasik, I noticed that I was having more trouble reading and I found that I was unable to read comfortably without reading glasses. I picked up several cheap pairs of "cheaters" from the local drugstore. It is true that people begin to notice a decline in their vision when reading sometime after age 40. Lasik can make it more pronounced. It has now been almost two years and my near vision has not worsened any further. Wearing glasses while reading is a bit of a pain and a concession to the advancement of Father Time, but the freedom from glasses in everyday life has been fantastic. I would highly recommend Lasik for those interested with the caveat that they do their research and choose a well qualified physician who explains all the risks to their satisfaction. All the best, - Ken B. on Long Island


The discussion about Lasik and contact lenses prompted me to write about an alternative: implantable contact lenses (ICLs). The surgery is more-or-less the same as cataract surgery, except that unlike cataract surgery (which replaces the natural lens of the eye with an artificial lens), ICL leaves the natural lens in place along with an artificial lens. Because it is essentially a variation on cataract surgery, which has been around since the 1940's, unknown negative long-term effects from ICL are unlikely.

The advantages of ICL over Lasik are several-fold. First, the result is significantly superior to Lasik surgery -- vision is far more clear (mine is now 20/15) and with fewer and less severe optical "halos" (mine disappeared entirely within a few months of surgery).

Because you're not changing the physical structure of the eye, you're less likely to wind up with poor results.In fact, if you're not happy with the results, the lens can be removed entirely and your vision returned to its pre-surgery condition. If your prescription changes, the implanted lens can be exchanged for a new one. If you develop cataracts, your natural lens can be removed and your artificial lens can be changed out if necessary.

During the surgery, local anesthesia is used along with a paralytic to prevent the eye from moving. This is a boon to those of us who have difficulty controlling our blink reflex. IV sedatives are also provided, making the surgery both pleasant and completely comfortable (as compared to Lasik, which is often described as "sucking my eyeball out of my head!").

ICL does not impact your ability to participate in extreme activities: since my surgery, I have been both scuba diving and sky diving with no negative effects.

Finally, people who have been turned down for Lasik -- such as those with corneas that are too thin for Lasik -- may be eligible for ICL.

ICL is more expensive than Lasik; I paid $3,000 per eye in 2005. It cannot correct farsightedness, and won't prevent the need to wear reading glasses (however, it will not increase the need for reading glasses like Lasik can).

I've had ICL for nearly four years now and I can't recommend it enough. The web site for the group I used is www.GoodEyes.com. - E.

I have built a series of Hidden in Plain Sight (HIPS) bird house caches that can conceal a Seahorse Waterproof Case. These cases are similar to a Pelican brand case. The Seahorse company has cases developed for pistols, so I have built a birdhouse. It is a 4-place birdhouse.Two of the spaces are real bird houses, but the other two are dummies, with the top on hinges. The Seahorse case fits nicely inside. My thoughts on this were, for instance, say an intruder breaks into your home in suburbia, your space is compromised, you have enough time and thought to get you, your wife, and child out through a window or back door. You'd then go to the HIPS box retrieve your track phone and your Colt .45, call 911 and have your pistol in the event that the malefactors come after you. I am considering applying for a patent of sorts on this type of home security devices. They come in different configurations colors and made for different birds specified for regional "fit" for the back yard Thanks for all that you do, it is really appreciated. - Gary

JWR Replies:
That is a captivating concept, Gary. OBTW, I concur with concept of having a Model 1911 in hand before dialing 911. ("1911 before 911.")

Reader Mark K. sent a link to an interesting chart that shows the sources of state revenue. This could have a bearing on your choice of retreat locales. (As I've previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, folks that want to truly "live off the land" need to consider property tax and sales tax rates carefully.)

   o o o

Chris mentioned this tidbit: Lone Star Energy: Why Texas Will Resist the Call for a Unified Grid.

   o o o

Reader HH sent this article: The Case For Withdrawing Nickels. It adds credence to my advice on stockpiling US five cent pieces as an inflation hedge. Once silver zooms up past $25 per ounce, I predict that nickels will become the poor man's alternative to silver!

   o o o

Jerrold spotted this article: Harrods to sell gold bullion for first time.

"Anyone who clings to the historically untrue — and thoroughly immoral — doctrine that "violence never solves anything" I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms." - Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I am unable to make my home self-sustaining.  So, unfortunately, my family will probably become refugees in a true SHTF scenario.  My focus presently is in becoming desirable refugees rather than shunned refugees.  The key is minimizing any negative impact (extra logistics of all sorts) and maximizing any positive impact (filling in weak spots) to someone that is geographically fortuitous.  I was challenged to figure out how a small family could best become a wanted commodity when food is tight and security isn’t. I determined the key for us was that everything carried needed to be dense in value. Density equals mass divided by volume. In our case, mass would be the battered value of the item; volume was limited by the size of our packs. We can’t carry enough bulk food, but we can carry items that will have an excellent post-SHTF (bartered) value, an example would be trading  batteries for an illuminated-reticle or starlight scope in exchange for food.  Keeping our packs small (but danged heavy) will give us an additional advantage if we need to make a small camp.

Skill sets are valuable.  I am fortunate to have become a physician.  Talk about (trading) food for thought! I am trained in Internal Medicine, so much of my skill set depends on a working infrastructure, that is, availability of medications, imaging (X-rays, CT, MRIs and the like) which will be useless once the grid goes down.  To make up for that, I have been certified in ATLS (Advanced Trauma Life Support) and ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support), the former being far more useful in extended emergencies.  Further, I have also trained in mass casualty scenarios.  I have been stashing typically needed and well tolerated medications in a FIFO set-up in my home, from antibiotics to blood pressure pills.  In a legally gray area, I have some potent narcotics (barter/ransom/medical use). I also have a good stock of scalpels, retractors, Celox and the like to maximize my worth. The first lives my first aid kit may save might be my family’s. My skill set will be in demand, and I hope with the other positives below, worth enough to take in extra mouths to feed. But I recognize, perhaps better than non-medical people, that the quality of medical care will quickly revert to the level practiced before the advent of antibiotics and other modern pharmaceuticals. Think Civil War or WWI where a gut-shot was a death-sentence.  Garlic may have some ant- microbial properties, but it pales compared to a few doses of modern antibiotics.  Being a doctor in a SHTF scenario may be like being a sailor in the middle of a desert: lots of knowledge but only able to apply a small fraction of it.

My wife is an educator and now teaches special needs kids.  If the Collapse is a bad one, kids will still need to learn, and there is more to teaching than just putting material in front of kids, as anyone that homeschools will agree.

Those are our special skill sets. You can never have enough skill sets, and we plan to further develop our skills.

Our two children are too young to be useful for anything except giving us joy, . And dirty laundry.

We have been buying weapons in standard calibers – 45 ACP, 5.56, and 22LR.  I have given myself the luxury of owning a PS90. I rationalized the purchase by the fact that it supports a 50 round magazine of 5.7 rounds and bridges the gap between a pistol and a longer rifle. In reality, it looks really cool. Four mags on my hip (and one in the rifle) gives me 250 rounds. In an urban/suburban location, which will be the most difficult part of our journey, I do not see a need to shoot over 100 m. Most action will likely be under that, and that is the niche for the PS90. Additionally, it’s bullpup design keeps it short and maneuverable in a vehicle without sacrificing accuracy (it has a 16 inch barrel).  More importantly, we have packed way about 150 pounds worth of ammo in our G.O.O.D .bags and another 70 lbs in our BOB’s. We have so far two extra ARs and three Glocks for barter/trade. We don’t have a weapon for the 22LR, but either we will (Ruger’s 10/22) or it’s for barter. Our bags are meant to carry the lead at the sacrifice of food. It may be easier to barter rounds (heavy but small) for food (light but large).  If we do make to the hinterlands, having our ammo added to the favorably situated ‘castle’ will be a bonus.  My wife and I both shoot accurately to 200 m, and well enough at 300 - 400 m to keep the philistines away. We continue to practice our shooting skills by range time and class time. We will get far.

I’ve begun a ‘collection’ of survival knives and high quality folders by buying two at a time (again, two is one, and one is none).  They will be needed en route and, like ammo, possess an excellent weight to bartered value.  My guess is that knives will lost or broken and there will be a demand for them.  In the same category, are redundant Katadyn water filters kits.  Extras were purchased because they are small and will barter well. Bolt cutters were bought because they will be useful traveling and also in barter. Bic lighters, assorted tiny screws for spectacles with jeweler screwdrivers , rechargeable CR123 and AA batteries, extra Gerber multitools, quality compasses, 550 cord, several small but bright flashlights (Fenix brand – 1 or 2 CR123 batteries and they pump out over 180 lumen and fit on a keychain or a rifle), two Old Testaments, and 2 American flags fill the small spaces in the gear.  We keep thinking on how to improve our “stock” and get more bang for the buck with ‘value dense ‘ items. I thought of the extra eye-glass screws after having my own come apart just as I got to work and spent a miserable day squinting.  Someone missing their glasses won’t function at near capacity and the eye glass screw may be the equivalent of the nail that caused a horse to be lost, then a rider to be lost etc.

We also have our own gear and clothing, using the layer approach with an outer hardshell in camouflage.  We both have packed two pair of extra boots, either for the long haul or barter.

These items get thrown into the trunk along with our Camelbaks, and our mountain bikes (with extra tubes and tires) go on top supporting a few jerry cans of gasoline lashed between them.  If we can’t get to a refuge with available gas or the roads become impassable, then we load the bikes up and ride/walk until we are welcomed.

If we’re lucky, the Collapse will wait until we can move to a more geographically desirable location and all these purchases will remain useful while we focus on new needs (stored food, long term water and power and etc). If not,  I have improvised a plan that adapts to our situation and hopefully will change our refugee status to a valued team-member.

This is written in part because there has been no view from the prepared refugees.  There may be more preppers without a safe haven than those able to develop a safe haven, not because of any deficit or laziness on their part, but because of reality.  In addition, all preppers cannot move to a sparsely populated area in the US for if they did (imagine merely 10% of NYC, LA, and DC doing so during by the end Obama’s administration), those areas would no longer be sparsely populated! So think of what you can carry that can be bartered for things you can’t carry and that will make you into a valuable  team member.

I have worked hard to become a doctor (and perhaps even harder to remain a doctor is this crazed system) and to be able to give charity rather than receive it.  If I am to receive the charity of shelter from someone who is able to do so, I will be sure that we do more than just pull on own weight.  We will add security, in the short and long haul.

So if TEOTWAWKI happens, keep a lookout for strangers who may have much to offer. But for the grace of God, it might have been you unable to live in a geographically desirable area and looking to add to an established sanctuary.

Mr. Editor:
Just a quick note to follow-up regarding preparations for Eyesight and Hearing. I checked into lasik and contacts long ago (I am slightly near-sighted – too many hours staring into cameras and computers I guess). Although Lasik advances have come a long way, please be sure you talk to your eye surgeon at length before you commit to this serious expense. If you are near-sighted, a successful lasik procedure will improve your long-distance vision, but may impede your “up close” vision. I talked with my eye doctor at length about this, and after many questions he acknowledged that in many cases, near-sighted people would require reading glasses in as little as 3-5 years.

Also, remember that as a person gets older, the eye muscles simply weaken, which is why many people need reading glasses by their mid-40s. For those of you who were genetically lucky enough to not need glasses, oh how I envy you! (Forgive me Lord!) For those of us who do need glasses, contacts are a nice thing. Remember that eye solutions do have expiration dates and never sleep with your contacts in because it can lead to eye infections. Make sure your hands are “hospital surgery clean” (HSC) when you place the contacts in your eyes. A post-TEOTWAWKI eye infection is not something you want to deal with.

If there are any ophthalmologists reading, I’d be interested in hearing from you about eye-related injuries and treatments, etc. For example, I imagine there will be a lot of people chopping wood without wearing safety glasses who end up with one of nature’s toothpicks embedded in their eye.

As a side note, I recommend going to Costco and picking up extra pairs of reading glasses. Buy several different strengths, including some that “stronger” than what you currently need. They are cheap, but somewhat durable. Even if you don’t need them now, someone else may. - Jake G.

Ex-Cop Loses Bank as Dutch Critic Spurs Withdrawals. (A tip of the hat to Karen H. for the link.)

Jonathan H. flagged this: DOW 10,000!!!! Oh Wait, Make That 7,537. Jonathan's comment: Due to reduced buying power, the current DJIA at 10,000 is equivalent to only 75% of when the DJIA went through 10,000 a decade ago. Additionally,back then $10,000 would have bought 30 ounces of gold; now its only 10 ounces.

Items from The Economatrix:

California Bank Becomes 99th Closure

Financial Meltdown in the Decade of Greed

Food Giants Cut Back on Size But Price Remains the Same

Bankers Should Stay Worried: We're Watching

Asian Stocks Gain a Second Week on Commodities, Economic Reports

Hedge Fund Chief Charged with Fraud

California Job Losses Continue to Climb

Corporate America Worried About Sinking Dollar

Bonuses Put Goldman Sachs in Public Relations Bind

Sorry, No Jobs. This is California
. State's employers expected to keep cutting staff in 2010.

Reader CPK pointed us to a video clip of an amazing snow vehicle concept from the 1920s that ought to be revived.

   o o o

Courtesy of Cheryl: Record October Cold Has Folks Scrambling to Winterize.

   o o o

Reader Phil E. suggested a fascinating account of Jews hiding out in caves in the Ukraine, during WWII, to survive the Holocaust. Greater detail can be found in the book The Secret of Priest's Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story.

   o o o

H.H. sent us this news blurb from oh-so-politically-correct western Oregon: Apartment residents told to take down U.S. flags. Here are two quotes: "...the American flag symbolizes problems", and "Residents we talked to who had been approached to take down their flags all told us the same thing: that management told them the flags could be offensive because they live in a diverse community."

"For what glory [is it], if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer [for it], ye take it patiently, this [is] acceptable with God.

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps." - 1 Peter 2:20-21 (KJV)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Everyone that has food storage should have a garden to supplement it.  For people that don’t have the acreage or live in cities a Square Foot Garden (SFG) is perfect. We need the nutrients and variety that can be provided with fresh fruits and vegetables.   Think how nice it would be to have a tomato sandwich with lettuce or make a small batch of fresh salsa.  Tomatoes, cilantro, salt and onions makes cornmeal go from cornbread to chips and salsa. The SFG web site has all the information you need to build and care for your garden.
I also recommend buying the books All New Square Foot Gardening as well as the original book Square Foot Gardening, for reference.

Why build a Square Foot Garden?  A small 4’x4’ garden will provide a person with enough produce to have a salad every day of the growing season.  It uses less water and space than a conventional garden is easy to protect and produces a high yield in a little space.  If made with a base the garden can be portable.

A square foot garden consists of a 4 foot by 4 foot box that has a grid on the top to divide the garden into 16 squares.  Each square holds a different crop.  The grid is the most important part of the garden.  It divides the box into “squares”  each square is a foot wide.  Hence the name Square Foot Garden.  Don’t think crop in the sense of a large farm and a crop of onions that is sown in two acres of land.  Our box produces mini crops.  For example in each square you can plant 1 tomato plant, 4 lettuce plants or 16 carrots.  The number of plants you put in each square depends on the recommended plant spacing.  And you have 16 squares to fill.

A Square Foot Garden is easy to protect, easy to build and easy to maintain.  First you build your box (from lumber, bricks, rock anything to hold the soil.  On the SFG web site I saw a  garden that was grown by a hero serving in Iraq, in a cardboard box.  It wasn’t as pretty or as durable as a nice vinyl box, but it did the job.  It produced food in the desert.

After the box is built, fill it with the perfect soil mix, called Mel’s mix, named after the inventor Mel Bartholomew.  The soil mix is equal parts of  coarse A-3 vermiculite, compost and peat moss.  I have found it is easiest to mix [in batches of] three cubic feet of each ingredient.  This gives you a little soil mix left over for other small containers or flower pots.  When you begin with the perfect soil mix there are no weeds.  If a weed does blow into your garden it is easy to identify and pull out. You may think buying prepackaged garden soil from the local hardware store is good enough, but the soil  that comes in the large bags doesn’t have as many nutrients and most are made with Pearlite.  I have found that after a heavy rain the pearlite floats to the top and runs out.  Vermiculite stays in place.  It gives the roots room and air to grow.  The peat moss holds moisture and the compost provides the nutrients or food for the plant.  No additional fertilizers are needed, no pesticides are used.  Bug control  and watering are done by hand.  I have found that in 10 minutes I can water 4 garden boxes, weed, and inspect every plant for pests.

Next, plant your seeds or plants.  Use heirloom seeds.  A lot of seeds and plants that are at the store are genetically modified or are hybrids from the true seed.  They are developed to only produce fruit once.  The seeds that are saved from the hybrid plants may not reproduce the following year.  As a rule, just get the heirloom seeds and if there is a chance that you are not able to buy seeds later; the seeds can be saved from the plants you already have.  After you harvest your plants and are ready to plant something else, dig up the old roots shake off the dirt and plant a new crop in its place.   At this time you need to replace the nutrients in the soil.  Simply add a trowel full of compost to that one square.  Fluff up the soil and replant with your next crop.

Because the boxes are small they are easy to protect and take care of.  Most plants need to be in full sun.  I live in the south and it is hot here.  For hotter climates I recommend having some shade for lettuce plants and some herbs like cilantro and basil.  Shade really helps them to thrive and cuts back on the need for water.  Lettuce is sweeter if it doesn’t get too hot.  If you find that your lettuce is bitter, put it in the fridge for a few days.  It helps.  The rest of the plants need a lot of sun.  Broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, melons they all thrive in the sun.  I also recommend planting Marigolds and nasturtiums around the garden they keep out deer and some insects.  Plus they look pretty.

Chicken wire and or netting can protect your garden from birds and animals.  Again directions can be found on the web site.  To protect from frost, hail or snow, make a dome using two PVC pipes and cover the pipes with clear plastic.  The plastic dome can also serve as a greenhouse.  Having the plastic dome will extend the growing season into the fall and winter months.  

In an emergency or a TEOTWAWKI situation a garden may be moved short distances within your property.  If you have to bug out it will most likely be left behind.  But the lessons you learn from beginning a garden now are invaluable.  What good is a can of seeds if you don’t know what to do with them? I have put my garden in the garage to protect it from hurricane winds. It just needs a plywood base.  Don’t put a box that you plan to move directly on the ground.  If the box sits on the ground it will hold the moisture and the plywood base eventually will rot.  Placing five bricks underneath the box will do the trick.  One brick in each corner and one in the center for support.  The base also has predrilled drainage holes.  My favorite garden is screwed onto an old picnic table.  It is waist height and I don’t have to bend over to work in it.  It would be perfect as a wheelchair garden.

A few years ago here in North Carolina during the summer when gas prices skyrocketed, tomatoes (shipped here from Mexico, another story) were around $5 per pound.  This was when tomatoes were in season.  I was thankful to have a garden in my yard.  I walked out my back door and hand picked five tomatoes for dinner then shared some with my neighbors.  They tasted better right off the vine and I didn’t even have to go to the store to get them.

Hi Jim,
That was a great letter from Jolly but I'd like to add a couple of things. Jolly says 'never, ever' sleep at an highway rest stop. I guess that depends on where you are. In the last few years Texas has built some absolutely beautiful rest stops with clean bathrooms, vending machines, etc. that are manned 24 hours a day. They encourage sleeping there (better that than fatigued drivers on the road). I asked the people at one if it would be okay to sleep in my car - they replied that yes, it would be perfectly okay and safe, as they patrolled the lot. I noticed that when they patrolled they were watchful but respected peoples' privacy - they didn't peer into car windows, for example - but would have noticed someone breaking into a car.

As far as Wal-Mart goes, I've never heard that you can't or shouldn't stay there if you're in a car. I would think that if you parked over with the RVs, they would just assume you were a car accompanying an RV! You'd have the added security of other people around. And for that last reason, my favorite place to sleep in the car is in a truck stop, parked near the trucks. I feel pretty safe among a bunch of truckers - I doubt they'd hesitate to respond to trouble. Just make sure if you park with trucks that you don't put yourself in their way. - Matt R.

Back when I was young and shiftless I spent about a year living in my car on and off. I have a couple of observations about car camping in small towns and rural America. Places where I never had a problem were small town police station parking lots, a church parking lot, and at scenic overlook parking lots on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway was good during the summer when lower altitudes were too hot. Places I would advise against are store parking lots, rest areas (where you could have trouble with both police and predatory humans), and anyplace that has a security force. In my case I have always had trouble in college parking lots, for example.

In the event of troubled times however, I would expect a less tolerant attitude from small town law enforcement than I encountered. I don't know what the right answer would be for this, but expect to be harassed and told to move on in many places (at the least). If you're packing heat I would expect even more trouble. Finally, make sure you take Jolly's advice about finding a place to discreetly take care of hygiene. You will have much less trouble if you look clean cut and respectable. Shave and keep your hair trimmed. The best place I've found for thorough showering and bathing on the cheap is a gym with a pay by the day feature. $5 could buy you some exercise and a shower with no one thinking anything of it. God Bless you all, - SGT B.

Mr. Rawles,
I enjoyed the article: "Perspectives on Roughing It and Covert Car Camping, by Jolly" and thought it mostly paralleled my own experience. I do take exception with his misunderstanding of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)'s liquid fuels policies. Boy Scouts are not forbidden to use liquid fuels. The complete policy is here. Quoting from the BSA web page, the salient portion is:

1. Use compressed or liquid-gas stoves and/or lanterns only with knowledgeable adult supervision, and in Scouting facilities only where and when permitted.
2. Operate and maintain them regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions included with the stove or lantern.
3. Store fuel in approved containers and in storage under adult supervision. Keep all chemical fuel containers away from hot stoves and campfires, and store them below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Let hot stoves and lanterns cool before changing cylinders of compressed gas or refilling from bottles of liquid gas.
5. Refill liquid-gas stoves and lanterns a safe distance from any flames, including other stoves, campfires and personal smoking substances. A commercial camp stove fuel should be used for safety and performance. Pour through a filter funnel. Recap both the device and the fuel container before igniting.
6. Never fuel a stove or lantern inside a cabin; always do this outdoors. Do not operate a stove or lantern in an unventilated structure. Provide at least two ventilation openings, one high and one low, to provide oxygen and exhaust for lethal gases. Never fuel, ignite, or operate a stove or lantern in a tent.
7. Place the stove on a level, secure surface before operating. On snow, place insulated support under the stove to prevent melting and tipping.
8. With soap solution, periodically check fittings for leakage on compressed-gas stoves and on pressurized liquid-gas stoves before lighting.
9. When lighting a stove keep fuel bottles and extra canisters well away. Do not hover over the stove when lighting it. Keep your head and body to one side. Open the stove valve quickly for two full turns and light carefully, with head, fingers and hands to the side of the burner. Then adjust down.
10. Do not leave a lighted stove or lantern unattended.
11. Do not overload the stovetop with extra-heavy pots or large frying pans. If pots larger than 2 quarts are necessary, ,then set up a freestanding grill to hold the pots and place the stove under the grill.
12. Bring empty fuel containers home for disposal. Do not place them in or near fires. Empty fuel containers will explode if heated.

But there is much more at the link.
I really appreciated his other comments and could relate his experiences with scouting to mine.
Respectfully. - Steve in California

Dear Editor:
This civil debate on the status of the Dollar--and thanks, by the by, for keeping things civil on your blog--all comes down to a matter of not "if", but just "when." The United States Dollar will soon be dead meat. Finis. See this article: Reckoning Day for US Dollar Coming Next Year. We just need to ask: will the[definitive] end [for the dollar's dominant reserve status] come in six months, or six years? So, no matter when, I'm hedging by building up my stash of silver and lead. (The kind that goes "bang.") Since I'm still paying off college loans, my investing is very "modest". As one of the impoverished masses, I followed your advice and I'm gradually building up a supply of nickels. I'm also culling through a few rolls of half dollars from my bank every week. (I live in a small town in Texas.) So far I've found 9 pre-1965 [90% silver half-dollars] and 46 post-'64/pre-'71 [40% silver] halves. It's like finding buried treasure! It sure beats watching Wheel of Fortune on TV. The result of my effort is tangible. Thank you, thank you for mentioning [searching through half dollar rolls]. It is great way for people like me that are just getting started, after college. - Jason V.

Dear Jim and Family,
Those were interesting responses to my post that this dollar-dump rumor is just another rumor. I must point out, importantly, that everything the Saudis say is a lie, including "Hello". They promised $200 per barrel oil in 2008. Lie. They promised repeatedly to decouple themselves from the US dollar unless we do their bidding. Lie. They swore they do not provide money to Osama and his Al Qaeda terrorist network. Subsequent research by reporters proved this to be a lie but the Saudis went to the UK, sued for libel, won in the UK, and had the ruling applied to the author of the book and articles in question here in the USA under some sort of twisted reciprocity ruling which makes sense only to judges and crazy people. Yet another reason that globalism is bad.

Yes, the Dollar is dying. However, it is not dying quickly, and while there's a slim chance it could all go at once in a single day, history, particularly recent history, shows that to be unlikely. The Housing Bubble [collapse] happened over months. The Dot.Com [stock[collapse] took weeks. The Derivatives market crash is still happening and the housing bubble is still half inflated and won't be resolved until 2012 or 2013, depending on government interference, bankster greed, and economic inertia. A dollar crash would cause too many nations would lose control of their violent populations -- by this I mean populations counting on bribes, payoffs, and other forms of corruption bought with dollars to keep their peace. The ones who would gain the most by decoupling from the Dollar are also those who have the most to lose. If there was a viable world reserve currency which was everywhere the dollar was, from bars in Panama to the swamps of the Congo, the banks of Switzerland, the docks of Shanghai and the factory in Abilene, then I think we would have reason to worry. Without that existing everywhere, like the dollar, this is a silly rumor just like all the other silly rumors to erupt from the mouth of yet another lying Saudi.

It isn't Optimism if you're realistic and observant. They call this "Pragmatism". Sincerely , - InyoKern

Dollar hit on Fed’s signal of low rates. Meeting minutes show Fed has strong lean to more debt monetization. (Thanks to GG for the link.)

Brian H. sent us a link to a piece in Zero Hedge. that quotes Money magazine: "Now 5 institutions hold 97% of the notional value [face amount] and 88% of the market value in derivatives, and they are all basically in the same business and all basically hedge with each other. It is not a true hedge when the other side can't pay, and history has clearly proven how easy it is for the other side not to be able to pay." [JWR Adds: That is the very definition of derivatives counterparty risk.] Brian's comment: "I would add that the risk isn't just concentrated in these "Too Big To Fail" Five. The risks are clearly placed on the backs of the taxpayer, either through Federal Reserve inflation or direct confiscation of taxes passing through to the banks."

Items from The Economatrix:

Why the Housing Rescue Hasn't Prevented Record Foreclosures

BofA, GE Stocks Push Results Lower

Summers: Banks Must Accept Goernmnent Regulation

BofA Posts 3Q Loss on Defaults: $1 Billion

GE Profits Fall 45%, as Revenue Trails Estimates

US Consumer Confidence Worse than Forecast

Investors Get Jitters as Citigroup Fuels Fears Over US Economy

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet at Goldman

The People v. Wall Street

60 Million Mortgages May Have Fatal Flaws. This refers to the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS)

Nona mentioned that the North Dakota State University Extension Service has plans for everything from bee hives and rabbit hutches to deep well water systems for your house, to vegetable cellars. You can download the 8-1/2" x 11" format plans as free PDF files, or order 18" x 24" blueprints for $4.

   o o o

The new AsaMom web site ("A Sisterhood of Mommy Patriots") has been growing at a phenomenal rate, thanks in part to a prominent mention on the Glenn Beck program. Check it out.

   o o o

SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson spotted some further evidence that the British Nanny State has run amok: Review of babysitting ban ordered. Ironically, the issue is nannying.

   o o o

JHB spotted this item with multi-generational TEOTWAWKI potential: Scientific Sundials. Note: These will be no use for you George Noory "Coast-to-Coast AM" fans who believe in "Earth thrown off its axis" pole shift theory. ;-)

"The right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction." - Henry St. George Tucker, in Blackstone's 1768 Commentaries on the Laws of England

Friday, October 16, 2009

Today's first post comes from SurvivalBlog's volunteer correspondent in Israel, an American expatriate.

Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) of the regional effect scale is a threat during times of potential crisis with a megaton class nuclear equipped foe who also has near-space launch capability for these weapons. An EMP-like event of greater strength and duration is also possible during extreme solar flare events. These types of event are caused by ionospheric excitation of the upper atmosphere by subatomic particles and plasma ejected from a massive solar discharge, this motion in the conductive plasma generates massive amounts of radio waves.

An antenna is any conductor of electricity which inductively converts radio waves into voltage, usually grabbing signals in the microvolt range, but--like a tuned guitar string vibrates in harmony when another tuned guitar string is plucked--an antenna best resonates to a frequency resonant with its length. I would ask the readers to quickly brush up on antenna theory with one of the many excellent tutorials on the Internet.

Fortunately for off the grid equipment like portable electronics and vehicles an antenna that best receives these high energy HF radio waves is measured in tens of meters, unfortunately that makes things like electrical power lines and long antennas particularly well suited to absorbing and transmitting large induced voltages into your sensitive solid state electronics.

It is important to remember, if you are concerned about EMP follow the old instructions for during a thunderstorm, disconnect all antennas and unplug your electronics. At a minimum filter your mains power and install gas discharge tubes on antenna feeds for mission critical radios.

Why do the tube tech gadgets survive where solid state dies from HERF? When an errant voltage spike enters a vacuum tube it can just discharge itself to ground if strong enough (so ground everything electronic at every opportunity), the other large components can also mostly take a sudden flash of high voltage without being destroyed. In solid state the junction size is almost universally quite small and if a reversed voltage is applied against the bias of the semiconductor or an over-voltage is applied the gate is almost always ruined in a way that requires component replacement.

While tube tech is much more survivable in an EMP environment, and HF (shortwave) radios are at high risk being tuned to the most affected bands, I wish to remind the readers that in nearly all other categories tube tech is far less survivable and is notoriously wasteful of precious off-grid electricity. The several downsides to "hollow state" tech is mechanical fragility and short life span compared to solid state, we are talking about blown glass and incandescent filaments essentially like a box of light bulbs to the uninitiated. In a well stocked retreat a tube type radio could be an asset after serious preps have been completed, although for the price of a quality collectors item several high quality military grade (civilian ham radio) solid state radios, the tools and parts to repair them, and proper antenna line and power input traps for errant voltage could be purchased providing much better reliable communications to your retreat than tube tech could.

I actually like to play with hollow state components especially when whipping up simple DIY radios and electronics with the kids, it is a much better visual learning tool which can be used to explain how the solid state components work.

I highly recommend that any serious survivalist invest in several good butane soldering irons, quality fluxed lead alloy solder, and a good tackle box full of replacement components, these can either be harvested from junked electronics or purchased in large grab bags form most large electronics engineering supply outlets. The Brunton Fuel Tool [lighter filling adaptor] makes keeping butane in a usable form easier for a prepper by avoiding the mostly incompatible gas cigarette lighter refill cans and instead using lantern/stove cartridges. These, combined with quality test equipment means that most damaged, shot, soaked, or even EMP-damaged electronics could be saved if you have the time to spare testing out components.

If the readers fail to procure the required hollow state and solid state components and practice their electronics repair skills by kitting or repairing intentionally damaged electronics they will not be able to use these skills during a crisis where mission critical equipment might be taken offline.

You must intelligently train, equip yourself for, and practice your medical, electronics, on and off-road driving, long range bicycling, cooking, fieldcraft, armed and unarmed combat, loaded hiking, carpentry, navigation, boating, food preservation, butchering, cycling, farming, veterinary, water finding, cooking, hunting, fishing, leadership, metal smithing, mechanical repair and fabrication, engineering and other critical survival skills. Being a real survivor has nothing to do with hobby shooting, wide-eyed fanatics, or overweight dude commandos, it is about living your life with the calm confidence that you are walking in the path that the Lord has set out for you while taking reasonable precautions to protect the life you have been given as well as being a vital asset to your family and community. - David in Israel

Dear Jim,

The alleged failure of M4s in Afghanistan is being discussed on my forum and others. The story so far seems to be that when troops fired enough rounds [in a very short period of time] to overheat the weapons, they jammed. This is true of any weapon. Of course, circumstances may dictate that this happen, but it is not a design defect. The M4 is a carbine, not a light machineguns. It's akin to blaming the HMMWV for having bad armor, when it was designed as a light truck. This site has some details, and a link to the after-action report (AAR). - Michael Z. Williamson, SurvivalBlog Editor at Large

James Wesley,
Regarding the oil-denominated-in-dollars flurry, two important points must be noted. First, dollar denominated contracts can be immediately hedged in foreign exchange markets (FOREX) even before the oil is pumped out of the ground. The oil barons aren't stuck holding their dollars any longer than they can call a FOREX desk or sovereign Treasury department (3/4 of the world's oil is owned by governments, not Exxon/Chevron/etc.)

The more important point of dollar-denominated oil contracts is dollar prestige. Documents from the Federal Reserve show that Arthur Burns not only was interfering with the gold markets three decades ago, but the level of cloak-and-dagger efforts to keep the dollar as the world's reserve currency for political power.

Dollar-denominated oil contracts purposes are to preserve hegemony, not prop up foreign central banks' currency reserve. Godspeed, - Brian in Wisconsin

The current situation with the US Dollar is best described as a near perfect case of the Prisoner's Dilemma. The best thing for big holders of US Dollars to do is get rid of dollars as fast as is possible without tipping any other significant holders off that they are doing it. Otherwise their best bet is to get rid of their dollars before anyone else does. If someone did that, it would trigger a crash. The only thing stopping everyone right now is that a dollar crash would likely tank the global economy as well. It is beginning to appear that the carry-trade being funded in US Dollars could be the tipping point for serious action as it is relentlessly driving the value of the dollar down. Just look at a chart of the Dollar Index over the past six months. It is clear that the Federal Reserve has no stomach to raise interest rates to stop this progression of events since that would crash our own economy. It would not take a large event to bring the dollar crashing down any time now. - Mike B.

First, as other people have pointed out here, Iraq provides very little US oil due to its geographic location. The war in Iraq is in no way related to the US oil market. Rather, Iraq is a prime supplier to Europe, in which case a switch from Dollar to Euro was perfectly reasonable (and suited Saddam's temperament). It would be ridiculous to start a trillion dollar war over such a trivial item. There were much more significant reasons, which I'll offer in a separate post for discussion. However, the overall global trend is to diversify from single currencies, which I regard as a healthy movement. A great many of our current global economic problems stem from overemphasizing the paper dollar. The former USSR had the same problem--consider what the Ruble is worth now, versus what the USSR claimed it to be worth (About $5 US, in their over-inflated opinion). Personally, I've never been one for paper money. I prefer to convert it to capital, such as inventory, home equity, useful vehicles and food. You can always trade food. You cannot eat money. - Michael Z. Williamson, SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large

Karen H. mentioned this sobering piece, also subsequently sent in by several other readers: Foreclosures: 'Worst three months of all time'

The latest from Dr. Housing Bubble: A Comprehensive Look at the Southern California Housing Market: 60,000 Properties Listed on the MLS but over 100,000 in Shadow Inventory. California and Nationwide Median Home Price Trends since 1968. Say Good-Bye to Option ARMs.

Also from Karen: Dollar to Hit 50 Yen, Cease as Reserve

IRS Intensifies Global Hunt for Secret Offshore Bank Accounts

Desperate Dollar Heading to the Basement. (BTW, they concur with my comments on the USDI's crucial support level: 72.)

Items from The Economatrix:

Dow Passes 10,000 For First Time In A Year. There's another sheep to be shorn every minute...

JPMorgan Earns $3.6 Billion, But Loan Losses Remain High

Bank Regulators: Real Estate Loans Biggest Concerns

Watchdog: Treasury and Fed Failed in AIG Oversight

Sept. Retail Sales Fall 1.5% Post-Clunkers

The End of Money and the Future of Civilization

2008 Debt Crisis Morphed to 2009-2010 Dollar Crisis

Pension Fund Losses: To Infinity and Beyond

Silver Has More Possibilities to Appreciate than Gold

World Rice Stockpiles Hit as Yields Drop

   o o o

UN: World hunger has been increasing for a decade. Thanks to Bob for the link.

   o o o

SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson sent us this glimpse of the the Third World: In India: Forget the Diamond Ring, Brides Want Ceramic. "…since a “No Toilet, No Bride” campaign started about two years ago, 1.4 million toilets have been built here in the northern state of Haryana, some with government funds, according to the state’s health department… “I won’t let my daughter near a boy who doesn’t have a latrine,” said Usha Pagdi, who made sure that daughter Vimlas Sasva, 18, finished high school and took courses in electronics at a technical school. “No loo? No ‘I do,’ ” Vimlas said, laughing as she repeated a radio jingle." Mike's comment: "As has been mentioned here recently, most westerners don't really grasp how essential modern plumbing, from water to sewage systems, are to modern society. Without them, large cities are simply impossible, and small housing lots lead quickly to the type of pestilences that wiped out large areas of Europe and Asia during various plagues. Bacterial infections can reduce populations in a matter of days. There is, of course, an irony that the vocal eco activists (the anti-human, pro-wildlife types) would never suggest getting rid of indoor plumbing, even though doing so would reduce the world's urban population significantly." [JWR Adds: Coincidentally, we may see some public health issues in the tent cities that are springing up in the US.]

   o o o

This product has some possibilities: the Ballistic Clipboard. If carried in a briefcase or in a laptop bag, it might give you some protection, particularly in locations where you must be disarmed--such as in many office buildings, courthouses, and inside airport terminals. In those circumstances, having some protection is better than nothing!

"The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital." - Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm pleased to report that there have been more than $7,000 in donations received for the Linda Rawles Memorial Fund, that supports an orphanage and school in rural Zambia. Thusfar, donations have come from 36 of the 50 states, Australia, and Canada. Those that have made donations will soon receive a confirmation letter, with certification that can be used for tax purposes. (Your donations are fully tax deductible.) Many thanks for your generous donations. As per Linda's request before her death, they have been earmarked for self-sufficiency projects for the orphanage including a grain mill, a new banana grove (more than 300 banana trees have just recently been planted), and new crop cultivation. (For instance, a new bean field was just planted.) Photovoltaic power for the orphanage and school is also planned, and you can help make it happen. OBTW, any doctors, PAs, dentists, and nurses that have time available are welcome to volunteer for the planned medical assistance rotation to the Anchor School. Please e-mail Anchor of Hope's founder Judy Kendall, for details.


Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I was a Boy Scout, and later did a fair amount of camping when I toured the US by motorcycle in the late 1980s. My tents started floorless and without mosquito netting; progressed to canvas umbrella tent with both. Later still, I was able to go to ripstop nylon "pup" style tents. Advancing, finally, to modern shock-corded aluminum poles and nylon.

After a long gap of 20+ years, my son is now a scout, and I'm on the "no-other-parent-can-go-and-we'll-have-to-cancel-if-you-don't-volunteer" rotation for his troop.

I just completed my second camp-out, and have noticed a few things that both dismay and encourage me.

Following is a stream-of-consciousness review of my reentry into the roughing-it world. Please bear in mind that emergency preparedness has been on my mind for a couple of years, and I didn't go into this a complete neophyte. That said, I didn't actually do anything other than car-camping since about 1993.

Buy a backpack one size smaller than you think you need. It's amazing how much crap a backpack can hold - inside and out. If you actually physically cannot cram another gizmo into the pack, then you'll have to leave that gadget behind. That will always focus your mind on what's truly important.

The single most important article of clothing you need in an emergency is a hooded rain poncho. Even in mild temperatures, you can lose a lot of body heat when you're wet. A rain poncho will help against wind and rain, and can double as a tarp if necessary. I have found two good sources: Jacks-r-Better and Camping Survival's "GI Plus". You should spray both with silicone to enhance their water repellant properties. Don't rely on cheap plastic or vinyl ponchos. During testing I quickly destroyed both of these varieties.

Second most important article of clothing is hiking boots, followed closely by a full brimmed waterproof hat. I have the Tilley nylon winter hat, with retractable ear muffs.

Craigslist is the best place to get camping gear cheap. To date this year, I have picked up two tents, a backpack, a Coleman stove, camp kitchen, tarp, and several other things. Usually, the price is about 10-25% of retail. In the case of the Coleman stove, it's an older model (1973) and built much better than the modern cr*p (which I also have). A $15 repair kit, and $20 for the stove, and it's in brand-new condition. I got a $300 North Face tent for $75 - and it was brand new with original price tags.

Craigslist is a wonderful resource, but there are some rules you might try. First, look for a solid month before offering to buy anything. That way, when a bargain shows up, you'll know it instantly.

Second, if the item is really hot - don't make any arrangements to pick it up more than a day out. I lost the chance to acquire a pair of Wiggy's brand sleeping bags because I tried to schedule pick up four days away. The lady sold them to somebody else because he offered her a deal she couldn't refuse. That's $1,000 worth of sleeping bags I could've had for $50 and I was too cheap to just pick them up ( about 80 miles away ).

Third, as hinted at above - when purchasing from Craigslist - calculate your time & mileage into the price of the items. A bargain that's 50 miles away becomes much more expensive with gas and driving time tacked on. Ask if the seller can meet you half way.

And fourth - generally low ball an offer on the item unless it's already too-good-to-be-true priced.

Break in your emergency / hiking boots. I have two pair of excellent quality boots that I've had for about eight years. I've worn them on occasion, but never really broken them in. This weekend, I pulled down a pair and used them on this trip. Socks were too thick for one thing - these are Goretex and Thinsulate boots, and a bit thicker as a consequence. My feet were miserable yesterday as the socks were too tight, and I ended up hobbling about like an old man by the end of the day. Today I went without socks (as my second pair of socks were just as thick as the first), and was much better, but had the other problem of rubbing the wrong spots you'd expect to have when going sans socks.

Test your equipment. Every camp-out is a test bed for my equipment. This particular trip I tested a Craigslist-purchased North Face one man tent ( Canyonlands ), and a newer sleeping pad ( Thermalite Prolite Plus ). The tent was wonderful. Bigger than my small nylon tent used when motorcycle camping (though not by much ), and an excellent performer. It's my current favorite. The mattress also was quite nice - and made in USA.

That said, I think I understand the popularity of inflatable camp pillows. My older head and neck didn't appreciate the stuff-sack-filled-with-a-towel-and jacket pillow that worked adequately 20 and 30 years ago. I had a nasty headache when I awoke this morning, and I know I was head higher than feet on the gentle slope. My 18 year old sleeping bag, however, worked well.

Sitting down is the main problem for old knees and feet - especially in the rain. I don't want to sound like a whiner, but it gets tiresome standing around with a coffee cup because the ground is too wet to sit, and there aren't any rocks nearby. I'm open to suggestions to fix that. On my first trip, I had cut a section of the closed-cell Thermarest pad ( they're green and purple, and do not compress well at all). It helped a lot placed on a rock. This time, I didn't have that, as I was using a different ( more comfortable )pad.

Erect a tarp so you have a dry place to work. Tarps are cheap, light, small to pack, and generally easy to erect. If it's raining, put up your tarp first so you can unpack necessities where it's dry. You might even need to erect your tent under one. Later, you can cook under it, and generally live under it until bedtime.

Put lanyards on everything. A recent fetish of mine is parachute cord. I get mine from Supply Captain in 100-foot lengths. I put lanyards on my pack zippers, multi-tool, flashlights, LED lanterns, etc. I use different colors and locations to help me know which of the myriad zippers it's attached to. For example, to get to my emergency whistle, I can tug on the blue & yellow one. For my tactical light - the olive drab. Multi-tool is black, et cetera.

There are different sizes of nylon cord. Get the smaller stuff for many jobs. If I wish to erect a tarp, use a 100 lb test cord instead of the 550 paracord. It's far smaller, lighter, and easier to work with.

There's a tension when purchasing emergency equipment. Bright-and-visible vs camouflage. Bright orange equipment, or ACU digital camo? Or something in between? Currently, I've been getting innocuous black or green equipment. If I need to be seen - I can always whip out mylar space blanket, or build three fires, or use the whistle, etc..

Anybody who thinks that anything more than bare-bones survival is feasible with a shiny space blanket hasn't actually used one in the woods. I'm very ambivalent about these things. I can see a use for them, I guess, to help reduce heat loss, but can't imagine they're effective in most situations I'm likely to encounter, with one exception.

That exception would be as a blanket put on a injury victim to prevent or mitigate shock. Any animated person is going to tear the damn things or find they're too small to really do anything well. They really are just barely useful. Especially for big people such as myself.

I'm going to experiment with a sleeping bag version put out by Adventure Medical called a "Heat Sheet." I probably should've tried it last night, but I had too many other tests going on, and didn't want any more variables. The next trip is early November, and might already be too cold for a decent test. I hope to have my Wiggy's winter bags by that time.

The Heat Sheet is interesting because it's a full sleeping bag and you don't have to worry about coverage. I'm a big guy and coverage is important. I've heard it's warm but keeps moisture trapped inside.

Lower that pack weight! Did I mention that people try to carry too much crap? One of the younger scouts packed two tents (actually a Hennessey Hammock and a Sierra Designs Tengu 3!), plus one of those nylon full-sized camp chairs. His pack weighed a ton.

One patrol had so much stuff, they used a child's wagon to carry what wouldn't fit in their ( giant ) packs. Part of this is not their fault - the Scouts don't allow liquid fuel stoves, and therefore, the scouts have to use propane. Of course when I was a kid, we used only wood. But, many camping areas do not allow campfires any more.

Carry only one extra set of clothing, except, maybe, socks. In addition, carry two layers, or more for winter. If you get one set of clothes dirty or wet, then just clean and dry them while wearing the other set. I prefer nylon and polyester. Believe it or not, Boy Scout pants and shirts are among the best I've found, for a decent price. They come in sizes up to XXXXL, too. Just ensure that you have very high quality and tough clothes.

Don't take any mess kits made out of plastic. Use only metal so it can double as cooking equipment. I hate to say this - I bought the entire family colorful mess kits. Each had their own color, and they come with plate, bowls, spork, cup, etc. And for car camping, they're great! But, for hiking / camping, they can't do double duty as cooking equipment, so they're leaving my pack. I'm replacing the set with a stainless steel mug of 20 oz, and a lidded 600 ml pot that can be used as plate and bowl. Less equipment = less weight.

Did you know that you can take a prophylactic dose of Ibuprofen to minimize swelling when you know you're going to hit the trail [on an arduous hike]? I learned this from a doctor at an Appleseed event. It's very effective, but don't drink alcohol 48 hours before or after the dose. Ask your doctor for specifics.

Take a hike with a full pack. I'm good for about three miles before I worry about getting an infarction. Part of the problem are the shoes, but general lack of fitness is kicking my butt. I used to ride a bicycle 300 miles a week in the 1980s, but the last twenty years I've been a software engineer and my fitness has plummeted.

How are you going to cook food? Planning for an emergency, you have to ask yourself questions such as, "What will I be cooking? How long in the woods? How many people? Car camping? And so on.

My cooking plans are pretty extensive. If I'm staying put in my house, the main plan includes a Coleman stove. My wife actually prefers cooking on one of those to our electric range. It's also useful for car camping. One gallon of Coleman fuel will last an amazingly long time. Refills are available at most gas stations with yellow-bottle Heet. A single burner camp stove is great for motorcycle camping.

Next tier down is wilderness camping - for that I prefer alcohol burners / stoves. There are myriad choices, and I won't go into all of them. I even tried to invent my own and found that I couldn't do a better job of it than a dozen others I've purchased. The best, in my opinion, is the Trangia "Spirit Burner" from Sweden. Not pressurized, no moving parts. Built like a tank, but pretty light to carry, too. About $10.

My own system marries a "Sterno" stove with a Trangia burner, and I get a full-sized pot and pan platform with a windscreen for about half a pound. I use two of these side by side for two burners to cook most anything. Total cost for both is about $35. Buy some denatured alcohol and cook some meals on your porch to get the hang of it. That is part of fully testing your equipment. Please note that there are two kinds of Trangia burners. The military surplus version fits the Sterno stove perfectly. The civilian version requires support. I use a tuna can. If you invert the tuna can, the burner is closer to the pot. I don't do that myself, and have found the heat transfer to be completely adequate. You can also just use a Sterno can, obviously.

A lot of people prefer "canister" stoves - using butane, propane, isobutane, or other variants. Yes, these are great. They work anywhere. But, they are expensive to fuel and it's harder to find refills. Also, most butane systems have tiny pot stands, making them very easy to knock over. And if you're cooking with large pots or pans - they're almost unusable.

Whatever you decide upon - stock up on fuel, and place that fuel in several caches, both cars, bug-out bags, etc. If you're using volatile fuel, such as white gas, ensure you insulate the can against high heat. In cold weather, keep a 4 oz bottle of alcohol inside your jacket to ensure easy lighting.

Buy a windup radio that charges cell phones. These are down under $50 and will give you two types of communication. I have the Eton FR360. These also charge any USB device, including iPods and most music players. This weekend I used it to keep my iPhone charged, and while a bit tedious - it worked.

How to Covertly Sleep in Your Car
I'm fairly frugal. Several times I have worked out of state. I hated giving upwards of $100 / per night to hotels so I developed a system for sleeping in my car that ensures that I would not be noticed. The first vehicle I used was a pickup truck with a bed camper top - not a real camper, just a top with windows on the side. The second vehicle was Chevy Suburban. Both vehicles were reputable looking, and not too new or old - completely innocuous.

Cover all the windows on the inside with large sheets of butcher paper (white) or brown wrapping paper. Both can be found for cheap at Wal-Mart. It's important to do a neat job of it so there are no wrinkles, holes, or other damage. I use clear wrapping tape, and cut to fit. On both vehicles, the windows covered were tinted, and only a close look would you even notice they were blocked off. They just look - blank.

On the Suburban, I bought a bungee cord and tan curtains for $10 - again from Wal-Mart. String the curtains on the bungee cord. Then, attach the cord to the coat hanger hooks behind the driver's and passenger seats. Make sure they hang straight and neat. There will be a gap at the top of the curved roof, but it's nothing to worry about.

The last step is to turn off your car's interior light if you can. On many newer cars, this is done with a switch on the driver's console. Other cars have a switch on the light itself to prevent the light coming on with an open door. If all else fails - disconnect the light bulb.

The hard part is finding a place to sleep. Here is one time when you cannot sleep in Wal-Mart's parking lot. You're not driving an RV, just a car. And "empty" cars will be scrutinized by flashlight-wielding security or police.

In a large metropolitan area, the best places are large apartment complexes, preferably straddling a street. Park in the street right behind another car already there. I did this for well over a year without any problems at all.

In the drive-in apartment complexes, ensure there's a lot of extra spots, and that the one you pick is not marked in any way. Usually, I try to pick a spot that the front of the car faces a wall, or the garbage dump area. You don't want to face a park or sidewalk. You want your car to be one among many. Don't park way off to one side - dog walkers may be too common and wonder about the car with curtains.

Small office parks are another good choice. Here, the opposite of apartment complexes is wanted. Park the car as far from the building entrances as possible. Here it's easier to face a wall or line of bushes. People will do anything to shorten their walk to work.

Going to sleep is not normally a problem - I usually went to sleep well after midnight. Whatever you do, don't dawdle when entering your sleep area. There may be people that notice a slow-moving car driving slowly through a parking lot more than once. Scope several places in advance, and have a primary and secondary location for the night.

The two most observable times will be going to sleep and getting up. Usually, you'll be more visible during daytime, obviously. But, getting noticed depends on what time you're leaving and where you parked.

If you can wiggle into your driver's seat without getting out of the vehicle - you have it made. Neither time was I able to do that. I had to leave the car to get into the driver's seat.

I left small flaps in the paper on both cars and would open them to look in all directions (as necessary) for pedestrians and security vehicles. When you're sure you're clear - make a very fast exit, and get your feet on the ground. After that, if required, you can pretend you're retrieving something, and take a leisurely pace. Unless somebody was looking directly at your car when you exited, they will almost assuredly assume you just opened the door, rather than popped out of it.

In an office park, ensure your exit is on the opposite side from the office buildings. Imagine a bored secretary staring dazedly out the window. Suddenly - a scruffy looking man with wild hair pops out of a car door, walks quickly around the hood and drives off. Not good. In my favorite park, I was between a wall and a tree break. Though I finally got noticed after six months, and had to use backup.

Do not stretch, or scratch your head, or hang around at all at this time. Get into your car seat. Start it, and leave at a normal pace. I don't know about you, but it you're like me - you'll be way too scary an apparition for most people. You should have also designated a place to go in the morning to do the ritual wake-up duties such as bathroom, teeth, hair brushing, etc. I usually use McDonald's. I then repaid them for their facilities by buying breakfast.

Other items to remember are ventilation and security. The pickup was no problem - I just left the windows open a crack, including the back panel. This allowed me to hear my surroundings pretty well, too. On the Suburban, it was more problematic. One inch on each window was left open at the top, and I didn't leave the back open. I also engaged the car alarm.

Unfortunately, one morning I forgot about the car alarm, and opened the door causing it to go off. I had the key in my hand, and stopped it very quickly, and I was sure the whole world had noticed my faux pas. Alas, nobody even hears car alarms anymore, and I didn't have to abandon that spot.

Never, ever go to rest stops on the interstate to sleep. While traveling, if I couldn't find an apartment complex or office park, or other suitable location, I'd park on the onramp of a highway - many times between trucks doing the same. I got rousted three times by cops over the years. Technically, it's illegal to park there. Each time I told the truth - I was very tired, and unsure I could proceed to the next motel location. Two of the three times, the cop said that's fine, and go ahead and stay. The third time, he helpfully noted that the very next exit had a motel.

If you have a regular route, other considerations might come into play. For me, sleeping in a tiny Honda Civic, I would have problems with biting insects - and very warm nights. Both problems were solved with an onramp location in an extremely windy spot next to San Francisco bay. (Parish Road off of I-680 in case you're wondering ). My pattern was to arrive about 2 am on a Sunday night and sleep until 7am Monday morning. I then proceeded across the bridge and went to a Burger King in Walnut Creek. I was rousted twice in a six month period.

I have less experience in rural areas. Though extreme familiarity with a route can help by allowing you to identify good spots during the daytime for possible use on another trip. For example, I used to drive between Oregon and Pahrump quite often (on my way to attend training at Front Sight). I spent one whole day identifying likely spots for impromptu camp spots.

One spot, south of Tonopah was a short road that led to some kind of a relay station. I'm pretty sure it was a microwave station, but it doesn't matter. The small fenced-in building was partially hidden behind a hill from the main road, and clearly was not visited very often. The road leading to it went further around the hill, leaving a nice void hidden from the station itself.

Between Tonopah and Hawthorne, I identified two spots very similar to the first, though both were very windy. North of Hawthorne, Walker Lake had parking spots that I felt comfortable enough to use without hiding.

Rural terrain will dictate your choices, too. In South Carolina, I identified two spots on US-25 north of Greenville that looked pretty good. Their characteristic? They were both old houses that had been completely covered in kudzu! I could literally drive under a canopy of kudzu and hide the entire car.

Finally, etiquette inside the car. I always wore gym shorts and T-shirt in a sleeping bag. Never anything resembling underwear. I never used a flashlight or listened to the radio. I was there strictly for sleeping. I didn't eat, cook, brush teeth, or anything else except sleep. The human eye is especially tuned to see movement. Even with covered windows, a brief movement might catch a dog-walker's attention enough to wander over and look at the car. Not a good thing.

I estimate I've saved more than $10,000 in motel bills over the years.

The main thing is to have people assume the car is empty, and belongs to somebody nearby. Obviously, in a serious crisis, extra thought may be necessary to keep below the radar of both security and nosy people.

Hello Mr. Rawles,

This is just a quick note from a new reader. If what I mention to you has been covered on your site, I apologize; your site takes more than a few multi-hour reads to digest!

I see very little talk about contact lenses/solution and hearing aids/batteries post-TEOTWAWKI in most preparedness articles. I would think it would be most unfortunate to train, learn and prepare for any upcoming abnormalities and shortly thereafter not be able to see or hear.

It would seem to me that at least a couple year's supply of contact lenses on hand at all times would be wise, and perhaps an extra hearing aid or twenty for those that need? And I bet you saline solution for contacts and extra hearing aid batteries would be great barter items in the event of a major catastrophe. Those items will be worth their weight in gold (if not more valuable) to the unprepared masses.

Perhaps a wise suggestion would be Lasik surgery or something similar very soon for those who would benefit from it; those that depend on contacts would be wise to think about that procedure or something similar to eliminate their dependency on visual aids. And to say the least, several pairs of sturdy, mil-spec frame prescription glasses would be a great investment for the well-prepared.

One is reminded of the old "Twilight Zone" episode ["Time Enough, At Last", starring Burgess Meredith] where the bookworm comes out of the bank vault, sees the world in post-nuclear destruction....and drops his glasses, smashing them. A true nightmare scenario indeed! Thank you for your wonderful blog site and books. Sincerely, - Rick T.

In response to InyoKern's letter: The title of this discussion thread and the original text that went with it could just as well have been written by any of the well-scripted talking heads on mainstream F-TV (financial television). My initial inclination is to be diplomatic, but considering the exceptional economic times we are currently witnessing, I say, "Balderdash!"

I could reasonably conclude that the majority of the readers of "Survivalblog" are more apt to follow unconventional economic sages such as Jim Sinclair, Jim Willie, Jim Rogers, Bob Chapman, or Peter Schiff as opposed to the well-orchestrated financial propaganda of CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, "FAUX" News, or any of the formerly-relevant "major" networks that spin financial news in the adoring spirit of the CIA's "Operation Mockingbird" that originated in the 1950s.

As such, these "enlightened" readers will know that the fiat U.S. dollar is doomed along with its unconstitutional facilitator, the Federal Reserve - which, as the saying goes, "is as 'Federal' as FedEx".

Coincidentally, Rep. Ron Paul's bill to audit the Fed has reportedly garnered 300 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. The Federal Reserve's days are numbered and it too will go the way of the "Edsel" along with its monopoly-money-clone, the U.S. dollar.

The recent clues to the dollar's demise - sooner rather than later - are so numerous and widespread that one would have to be locked in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison to be oblivious to them.

The dollar has dropped from 89.49 to under 76 on the USDX within the last 12 months; gold is at record nominal highs in the $1,060 range; China is dumping dollars for tangible commodities at an alarming pace; Countries are making deals to trade goods and services to avoid utilizing dollars in their international transactions; The dollar is the international "carry trade" currency of choice now which is very dollar negative; The LBMA (London Bullion Market Association) and the U.S.-based COMEX are both in immediate danger of technical default due to lack of physical metals inventory for settlement of contracts that demand physical bullion; the Federal Reserve is monetizing U.S. Treasury debt sales via printing currency out of thin air to purchase foreign central banks' agency bonds to enable those foreign central banks to use the proceeds to purchase Treasuries...and on and on and on.

The readers who have known nothing but the strength and security of the U.S. dollar for their entire lives and cannot accept the fact that a currency change of epic proportions is coming will have a rude awakening in the form of a lowered standard of living and reduced purchasing power - especially those on fixed incomes. The fact that we are talking about the death of a world reserve currency makes the problem exponential in nature.

The days of the world's workers laboring all day for "a song and a dance" so that spoiled Americans can have access to cheap goods financed by the savings of the world are coming to a rapid and bone-jarring end. We have squandered our wealth and the creditors are lining up for the yard sale - and they're bringing our increasingly-worthless dollars with them to buy up our infrastructure.

Got gold? (or silver?, or platinum?, etc.) The answer to those questions may well determine how you answer the question, "Got milk?", in the future. Signed, - RB

InyoKern is a real optimist, like so many of your readers. Many countries, such as those in the Middle East, have been in financial trouble, and are selling some of their holdings of all kinds, including dollars. Also, the US stock market is quite small compared to the bond market, where the real action is. And I don't believe Putin's trip was simply about being happy oil exporters.

His analysis below seems really off-base to me:

"And the Japanese, the other big holder of Dollars? We feed Japan with our rice, our Kobe beef (a special breed of cattle raised here in California and shipped across the ocean), and they buy our bonds because the national bank system of Japan is less than effective. Japan is also occupied by US bases since Japan is unable, legally, to more than defend itself within its own borders. Threats by North Korea means we, as their allies, are their defense abroad from a real and determined foe. A hundred million Japanese can't afford to dump the Dollar."

For one thing, an aging Japan is going to need to sell dollars to pay for pensions and medical care. For another, saying that the Japanese buy American bonds because the US banking system is in better shape is dubious. The Japanese have been in a "marriage" with the US, and that's why they are forced to buy American beef, even though there is strong resentment about not buying from a country where they test for diseases better, such as Australia. The trouble is that the husband has had a secret gambling habit, and was actually laid off from his good job a few years ago and has been working part-time and living off credit cards. The wife just found out, and she's letting the neighbors in Korea and China know some of the dirty laundry. Regards, - P.L.

JWR Replies: I agree that InyoKern is overly optimistic, but part of his premise is valid. In essence, the problem with US Dollars is that there are too many of them in circulation. And the problem for foreign holders of US Dollars is that they are holding too many of them, all at once. They cannot dump dollars rapidly, or the value of the dollar will collapse overnight, leaving them with nothing but kindling. (Or the electronic equivalent thereof.) Wise investors have been quietly getting out of dollars and into tangible commodities for several years. I expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. Interest rate inequities will perpetuate a Dollar Carry Trade that will be an even bigger market than the Yen Carry Trade that has been played successfully by currency speculators for the past two decades.

In the final analysis, yes, the US Dollar is doomed. Protect yourself by minimizing your dollar-denominated investments, and parlay the proceeds into useful tangibles like silver, gold, productive farm or ranch land, guns, and ammunition. The timing of the dollar's decline and eventual collapse is very difficult to predict. But it is better to be a year early than a day late. Get out of your Dollar-denominated investments!

SF in Hawaii mentioned a low cost source for poly water tanks.

   o o o

Several readers wrote to tell me about a dated, yet interesting article: In 2008 Afghanistan firefight, US weapons failed

   o o o

Some congressmen get it: Tax Policy, Economic Growth and American Families. Too bad that they don't hold a majority. (Thanks to JHB for the link.)

   o o o

Reader Michael A. asked me to remind folks that John Pugsley's now classic book on practical tangibles investing The Alpha Strategy is available for free download in PDF.

"How can we think that setting up the Fed as monitor of systemic risk in the financial sector will result in meaningful reform? The words ‘fox’ and ‘henhouse’ come to mind." - Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Today's first post comes from SurvivalBlog's volunteer correspondent in Israel, an American expatriate with a varied background as an outdoorsman, firefighter, food inspector, and most recently, a Torah scholar.

I think it important to remind the readers of survivalblog to assess their water supply situation in the event of a local or national emergency. Much of the western united states even the well irrigated areas are actually truly considered high desert and could nor supply even 10% of the population should access be lost to the water supply infrastructure. Unfortunately many people have lived their whole life with functional first world plumbing and the clear knowledge that magical faucets, toilets, and shower heads will always have a supply of clean potable water.

It is imperative that anyone planning a retreat have redundant water supply plans including water table maps and locations of springs and open bodies of water. Planning must include which water tables are affected by drought.

The best sources of water are existing deep wells or open un-dammed bodies of water, plans must include how to pump or transport the water to your retreat.

Since water is probably the most important strategic asset to a retreat there must be plans to protect and access remote water sources especially in the face of bandits who might attempt to monopolize this asset. Pre-crisis would also be a good time to secure and possibly purchase a clear legal share or long term lease to water rights on nearby properties. - David in Israel

Dear Jim and Family,

I wanted to comment on the alleged threat of the Saudis to decouple the US Dollar from Oil sales. They've been saying that for a decade. The Iraqis promised to do it, one of the primary reasons for the invasion. The Iranians did it, but nobody cares because they're an oil importing nation so they don't actually matter much. The Venezuelans have been trying to get the rest of OPEC to do it since we nearly got Chavez ousted in a coup backed by the US. Pity that failed, but there will be a next time for him. With 16% annual inflation and 18% unemployment, talk is VERY cheap in Iran. Money is measured in Oil, and with the US Dollar as the reserve currency for Oil, we are in an unprecedented position.

This currency change threat has been going around for years, more and more often since 2006 when we were close to peak oil production. It is nearly inevitable except for one important fact: all the OPEC nations are loaded in US Dollars right now, and the USA is a stable country they like to invest in, both in Bonds and in real estate, the commercial variety in particular. Our stock market is where most of the Oil Sheiks put their investments so they really can't afford to dump dollars without taking a savage hit to their fortunes. While that may seem bearable for ideologues, the fact that their fortunes stave off violent revolution and pay their secret police and informants means they literally can't afford to dump the dollar. It would mean their lives would be forfeit in the resulting coups and revolutions.

Things are slightly less dire in China, where most of the nation's wealth is in US bonds. Dumping the dollar there has been requested since 2006 there, as well, but they don't dare for fear of abruptly ending the economic prosperity that's lifting the standard of living there for the first time in 50 years. They now have a middle class. Revolution is started by the Middle Class. They really can't afford a civil war in a nation of 1.3 billion people and counting. They can't dump the dollar.

And the Japanese, the other big holder of Dollars? We feed Japan with our rice, our Kobe beef (a special breed of cattle raised here in California and shipped across the ocean), and they buy our bonds because the national bank system of Japan is less than effective. Japan is also occupied by US bases since Japan is unable, legally, to more than defend itself within its own borders. Threats by North Korea means we, as their allies, are their defense abroad from a real and determined foe. A hundred million Japanese can't afford to dump the Dollar.

This means the rumor is probably just that: yet another rumor. Markets move on rumors, but they don't stay moved for long. Expect renewed stability rather than actual dollar collapse. Our current Post-Oil transition is [occurring in]slow motion. It will likely continue that way for the foreseeable future too. Sincerely, - InyoKern

Mr. Rawles,
I am enjoying your "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" book, which I purchased on Friday and have read most of it by now. I have something to offer to you by way of experience regarding votive candles as good emergency candles. We are practicing Roman Catholics and, as such, have lots of experience with the 10" candles that you recommend for emergencies or even small-scale food heating. While they cannot be beaten for long-term service ( a week to 10 days per candle), the amount of light and heat you obtain from the candles deteriorates significantly after the 4th day. I believe it has to do with the narrow cylinder of glass the candles are encased in allowing lower and lower amounts of oxygen in the "throat" as the candles burn, leading to smaller and smaller flames. By the 9th day or so, the flame is a tiny 1/4 of an inch high. Good for devotional purposes to be sure, but not for any kind of light or heat. I would recommend the smaller 4" tall votive candles which are constructed the same way but whose shallower depth allow more oxygen at the base of the candle. God Bless, - Tim in Miami

Your info on using electric fuel pumps from junked cars (also included in your new book) was great. Here's a twist you may not have considered: Use the pumps from GM vehicles. They are essentially submersible gasoline pumps. Rig one with wires and connector and discharge hose. The pumps are about the size of 2 D-cell batteries--so they can fit fit down barrel bungs, underground tank fillers, holes in most 5 gallon buckets. They are designed to operate the fuel system around 30 PSI on most gm cars (pressure limited by relief valve in injection system) so they can lift fuel a considerable distance. If you have an acquaintance at a garage you can come up with used functional pumps for free. They occasionally get replaced because they become noisy. Sometimes the brushes get short and they become intermittent and require a thump to start.

If the pump comes with a filter "sock" I'd keep it. These pumps have small clearances. Make sure the pump is completely immersed in fuel before starting and try to avoid pumping from the absolute bottom of the tank. Also, most fuel injected vehicles have a pressure test port on the injection fuel rail (gasoline vehicles)--almost always in the form of a tire valve or a 1/4 flare Schrader valve (the older refrigeration hose connection). After the Hurricane Katrina evacuation disaster we used this expedient to provide fuel for relatives returning home from a filled up vehicle we didn't need to use for a few days. Always connect the hose then start the vehicle. Expect some residual pressure in the fuel system when connecting with the attendant squirt of gas.

Whenever transferring fuel keep a fire extinguisher handy, have someone sitting in the "donor" vehicle ready to shut it off in case of trouble. Connect the two chassis together with a jumper cable to the bumpers, to prevent static buildup. Transferring fuel via a non-conductive hose can build up a very high static charge. Use common sense.

If circumstances require using reclaimed, substitute or home made fuels consider using a Wix 33006 filter. It is the primary fuel strainer used on 123 chassis Mercedes diesels. It is about the size and shape of a C-cell battery with a straight hose barb on one end and a right angle barb on the other. The beauty of this filter is it is a strainer rather than a paper filter element. It is see-through plastic and can be back flushed with a little gasoline. Consider putting one of these upstream (suction side) of any spin on diesel fuel filter. With "iffy" fuel it can be flushed several times thus extending the life of throw-away filters. It is also a good filter to install on a small transfer pump, siphon hose etc. It's clear construction gives you a window into the fuel system. It can give you early warning and the ability to deal with bad fuel, fungus, etc in a more intelligent manner. On gasoline engines, the old bronze element, glass bowl filters are awfully hard to beat, and still available. - TiredTubes

Reader FG sent this: Terror struck four generations in deadly home invasion. F.G's comment: "You must be armed at home, folks!" Meanwhile, The Other Jim R. sent me this home invasion news story. He noted: "This one was in New Hampshire, which is not exactly 'big city'."

   o o o

Cheryl alerted us to this: "Large Insect" Sparked Missile Truck's Crash.

   o o o

Cops' Rising Use of "Stop and Frisk" Questioned

"With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live as slaves." - John Dickinson and Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking up Arms, 1775

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

An important resource to have in times of need is a good food storage.  When I have talked to others about having an emergency supply of food in place, I have received laughter and ridicule.  I even had a neighbor to tell me when he needed emergency food, he would just come to my place.  I jokingly informed him not to bother as I had a supply of ammunition as well.  Too many people have come to rely on the grocery store.  But the threat of a snow storm here in Kentucky clears out the milk and bread in record time, this should be a testament of what it might be like should the trucks not come.

From childhood, my parents taught me the importance of having an emergency supply of food in place.  I grew up in eastern Kentucky where jobs were not plentiful.  As a result, my father changed jobs a few times.  Fortunately, the pantry that my parents filled in times of feast, fed our family of five in times of want, until my father found the next job.  If there was such a thing as unemployment or food stamps back then, I never knew.  My dad would go out and find work quickly and mom would continue to squirrel away food to feed us.

There are some guidelines for emergency food storage.  It is recommended that you have two weeks of water per person and year’s supply of food, clothing and if possible, fuel in your storage.  A first aid kit is also recommended.

An important part of any food storage system is to have on hand the basics:  flour, grains, beans/legumes, oils, rice, salt, sugar/honey, and water just to name a few.  These basics can help you to sustain your life if you are prepared in every needful way.   

My mother taught me to store items, in addition to these that families will eat every day.  Therefore, my storage not only contains these key items, it contains items that are foods we eat every day.  I store condiments, peanut butter, soups, jams, jellies, canned vegetables (both store bought and home grown), cake mixes, pasta, pasta helpers, nuts, fruits, crackers, oatmeal, canned meats (store bought and home canned), etc. etc. 

The key to a good food storage is usage.  If you store something you don’t use or eat, it will eventually go bad and you will have to replace it.  If you store something you use, then you will just replace it as you go along and your food storage will stay fresh and replenished. 

Replenishing your food storage, especially in light of rising food prices today, can be an expense.  I have my pantry to a level where most of my replenishing can be done cheaply.   I get the sales ad and purchase what is on sale.  If ketchup is on sale, I buy several.  We use this item, so it won’t go to waste.  If cereal is on sale, I get several boxes.  If ground beef is on sale, I load the cart down, go home and prep several meatloaves and throw them in the freezer.  Then over the next couple of weeks, while these items are no longer on sale, my pantry is stocked with them and I can go to the next item.  Let’s say next week, pasta is on sale, or sugar.  That is the week to stock up on that item.

To make the deal even sweeter, you can go online to your favorite coupon list and search for coupons that you can trade for and use on the sale items.  Before you shy away from this, read on.  With a good sale and coupons, you can save thousands of dollars over time.  Once, I went to Kroger’s and using coupons, I actually walked out with $100 worth of groceries and $30 more in cash than I had when I walked in.  This doesn’t normally happen, they normally won’t give you cash, and I asked the head cashier repeatedly if she was sure she could give me money.

Also, the Kroger’s supermarket cash registers print coupons out at the point of sale.  I have found free drinks, free eggs, and other items free or cheap.  There are a lot of complexities to using coupons that I haven’t even explored myself.  But it is a good resource.  Check out www.mycoupons.com, www.hotcouponworld.com and there are so many more free sites.

Another good thing to do is utilize your own back yard.  It doesn’t matter if yosu own 100 acres or a back door terrace, grow something and preserve it for later use.  Or, better yet, eat it now to save your reserves.  Fresh grown vegetables are so good for you and they don’t have all the chemicals and preservatives added to them.  You know what’s in them, because you grew them.  Nothing tastes as good as something you grew yourself. 

Even in a small confined space, you can grow in containers or boxes.  For years, I have grown straight from the bag.  I take a bag of dirt and cut an “X” in it, flip it over and cut the plastic out.  Nestled up against my house or out building, I plant two tomatoes in the bag.   I add composted manure to the dirt in the bag.  I also place worms there to enrich the soil.  I also grind up my kitchen scraps and pour around the soil.  I repeat this process every year and eventually I have built very rich vegetable beds.

This year my husband and I canned several jars of green beans, pickles, pickled okra, tomatoes, salsa, strawberry jam, grape jelly, beef, pork, chicken, soup and chili.  It was so much fun and fills you with pride knowing you have actually put away healthy food without harmful preservatives for your family. 

Another trick that will add to your storage preservation is eating your weeds [from un-sprayed areas].  A lot of the plants that are found in the wild are partially edible.  I have just begun researching this and have discovered several varieties of wild plants in my yard that are edible.  My backyard is covered in young poke salet, which I have tried.  My mother in law used the young leaves and cooked it with eggs.  This is a traditional dish in eastern Kentucky.  I am very leery of this plant as it can be very toxic is not prepared correctly.  Perhaps this is a plant to put on the “If there is nothing else to eat” list.  There are many other plants that are edible, and this would be a good skill to learn in order to survive.

This month, we will be getting a local raised cow.  The cost will average $2 per pound.  This will be mostly canned, but some frozen for later use.  Another advantage to canning meat as opposed to freezing it is that you can open it and eat the meat straight from the jar.  If frozen, you will need to thaw and cook.  If we are in times of survival, having the meat ready to eat can mean life or death.  I have friends who told me they have stored canned meat for eight years and counting and it’s still good.

If you watch for good deals and sales in the stores, use coupons and augment your stores from growing, local food, and even eating your weeds,  you can have a wonderful food storage that will sustain you and your family through most any crisis.

I was glad that a reader mentioned the Hallicrafters S-38 series of radios. I had forgotten to mention that the All American Five (AA5) type of radio was also sold in a multi-iband version by Hallicrafters. These are still often available for under $100 in working condition. I have a Hallicrafters model 5R10A, which is a lot like a [Hallicrafters] S-38D. It's an AC/DC design like the AA5 radio that can be run on nine or ten car batteries wired in series with no inverter. (In a test, I found that nine fully-charged "12-volt" batteries wired in series provide 113.4 volts DC.) With 50' of copper wire it picks up stations from everywhere. Just search on eBay for "Hallicrafters S-38."

While it is obviously useful to listen to foreign shortwave broadcasts, long-range AM listening (DXing) can also provide life-saving information. Canadian AM broadcast stations are easy to receive by those who live in the northern half of the country. Those who live in the south, especially the southeast, part of the US can also find English-speaking foreign stations on their nighttime AM dial. I once lived in the panhandle of Florida and I was easily able, at night, to pick up AM broadcast stations from all around the Caribbean. I can recall in particular one strong English-speaking station in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles.

After the lights go out, and nearly all modern electronic devices stop working, an old AA5 wired up to car batteries (or better yet, deep-cycle 12-volt batteries) can keep the nighttime listener up to date on such matters as US and foreign troop movements, martial law declarations, fallout patterns, city riots, and highway problems. - ME

JWR Replies: Thanks for the suggestion. To get the maximum life out of tubes and to be kind to capacitors in an AA5, I recommend using slightly low voltage DC (~110 to 115 volts) and when in both AC and DC operation, using an in-rush current limiter. This gives a gentle "soft start" to the components. In common ham radio parlance these are dubbed in-rush filters, but properly they should be termed "In-rush Current Limiters" (ICLs) or "negative temperature coefficient" (NTC) thermistors. One that is typically used by old radio restorers is the CL-90 NTC made by GE Sensing. If you are handy with a soldering iron, it is fairly simple to build your own "In-rush box", that you can plug in to a surge-protected power strip. The ICL box should have its own its own power switch. This has the advantage of reducing wear and tear on your radio's combination on/off/volume knob. (This is a part that is likely to fail, typically when the volume potentiometer gets scratchy beyond the point of minor annoyance--the classic "scratchy pot" syndrome.) By leaving your radio's power switch always in the "on" position and the volume at a comfortable level, and instead controlling the power with your in-rush box, you'll eliminate most of this wear and tear.

I have several books, folded sheet, and other type maps. I wanted to purchase or acquire a good satellite image map with roads and terrain. After thinking, big mistake, I realized I already had the answer loaded on my computer.

I have Google Earth. On Google Earth you can add lots of legend material, Miles/ Kilometer, parks, etc, I went to the area I was in and printed out several elevations. In some areas you can zoom down to 100 feet elevation. I then went to the nearby office place and had the sheets laminated, and spiral bound. Keep you print outs in order or in the word processor program number your pages and add N,S,E,W tags. Then I got the bright idea that 8”x 11” was rather large so I made new print outs ½ size, laminated spiral bound, with a cover. Now if you do not have a color printer it is possible to save your handy work to disk and at an office place like Kinko's have them print it out for you. The cost is slightly more but well worth the effort. I you don't have a computer you local library has one and if they don't have Google Earth, then use Weatherunderground.com. Choose your area and then pick “wundermap” function right click to copy then paste into your document.

One other item I will suggest is a journal. Write down your thoughts and dreams. Later in life it may provide some laughs, good information or just having reading material. The “Marble” type bound notebook is fine or if you are so inclined a mole skin type bound or there are lots of other options just not spiral bound.

Jim, you and your family are in our Prayers and thank you for writing your new book, "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It". I'm now only several chapters into it but I'm already certain the information will save me several thousands of dollars in mistakes. - Jeff B.

Reader Brian S. sent this: Dutch DSB Bank Nationalized After Bank Run By Clients. "The Netherlands’ central bank said Monday it has taken control of DSB Bank NV after clients began a run amid fears the regional lender might collapse." Brian notes: "People can [presently] only take 250 Euro per day from their accounts."

Icahn: Risk of Double Dip, Investor 'Bloodbath'. (Thanks to Flavio for the linkio.)

A piece by Charles Hugh Smith posted over at Housing Storm: Deflation or Inflation: Who Cares?

Analysis from Greg Fielding (also at Housing Storm): Did the FHA make bad loans with taxpayer money to prop up home prices?

I found an an interesting video of a Jim Sinclair interview by David Williams in South Africa: Gold & Inflation. Sinclair predicts gold at $1,650 per ounce by January, 2011. (This was linked at the Total Investor blog.)

Items from The Economatrix:

California Budget Already in the Red 10 Weeks After its Passage. California unemployment hit 12.2% in August

US Dollar Falls as Skeptics Buy Euro, Aussie

Derivatives Lobby Links with New Dems to Blunt Obama's Plan

China Buys The World

US Has Miles to Go With Its Mortgage Modification Plan

FHA May Be Setting Up Repeat of Housing Bubble

Many Jobless Workers Could Lose COBRA Subsidy. 65% subsidy will end on December 1st if not extended

Will Social Security Survive the Recession? Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has written that when debts to various government trust funds are added to the anticipated 2010 budget deficit, the U.S. debt burden will reach nearly 100 percent of gross domestic product in 2010. Moreover, Rep. Chaffetz estimates that when unfunded liabilities of more than $100 trillion from Social Security, Medicare and government employee pensions are included, national debt is several times larger than GDP.

Citigroup Tries to Shed $100 Million Man "Superstar trader a political liability now that bailed-out firm is 34% owned by feds"

Orange Juice Jumps 10% on Crop Report

Gary North: Banksters Bait and Switch Fractional Reserve System

Gary North: Fractional Reserve Banking System Basis of Bankster Fraud

FHA Raising Concerns with Policy Makers

GS in the State of Jefferson sent us this: Schwarzenegger signs ammunition sales bill. A thumbprint and detailed personal information before completing an ammo sale? BTW, this new law includes .22 Long Rifle ammo! What insanity. Once again, my advice to SurvivalBlog readers is to get out of California. It is a lost cause. Vote with your feet!

   o o o

Exercise can extend survival even in 'oldest old' (Thanks to Roxie for the link.)

   o o o

Ralph U. sent this one: Cold temperatures threaten Idaho seed potato crop

"Every man who goes into the Indian country should be armed with a rifle and revolver, and he should never, either in camp or out of it, lose sight of them. When not on the march, they should be placed in such a position that they can be seized at an instant's warning; and when moving about outside the camp, the revolver should invariably be worn in the belt, as the person does not know at what moment he may have use for it. - Randolph B. Marcy, Captain, U.S. Army, The Prairie Traveler, 1859

Monday, October 12, 2009

I've added The SurvivalBlog Gold World Coin Melt Value Calculator (Excel Spreadsheet) to our Investing page, courtesy of reader Eric C. (He also developed the The SurvivalBlog Silver World Coin Melt Value Calculator.) Thanks, Eric!

Today's blog posts include one from SurvivalBlog's volunteer correspondent in Israel, an American expatriate.

For more than a month, the mainstream media has been yammering about an economic recovery. Chasing phantom "good number" statistics amidst an onslaught of otherwise bad economic and global credit market news, the Wall Street cheering section is desperately seeking some news that the current recession is coming to an end. They talk about "the recovery in progress"--almost a fait accompli. They have been so good at this that they have fooled some investors into putting their sidelined money back into the stock market. What a masterpiece of disingenuous grandstanding. But the sad truth is that there is no genuine recovery in progress. Perhaps there will be a minor economic boost, generated by the huge bailout spending, but the bottom line is that we are in the midst of a major recession. And unlike the recessions in the past 50 years, this one is not based on just market cycles, but rather caused by a systemic failure of the global credit market. So any attempts to re-inflate the bubble with new credit (based on artificially low interest rates and bailout "programs") are bound to be unsuccessful. This recession cum depression won't end until malinvestment is driven out of the system, and trust in a fully transparent system of credit that backs genuine, truly marked-to-market tangible assets is restored.

America's debt bubble that emerged from over-inflated real estate is at the root of the current mess, just as it was in Japan in the 1980s. (In their case, it was commercial real estate, in parts of Tokyo.) The Japanese government has tried similar measures (mostly in the form of massive public works programs and artificially low interest rates) for 25 years, and they still haven't pulled out of their economic doldrums! But consider that our real estate bubble was much, much bigger, and that unlike Japan, we are a net-debtor nation. (Japan has traditionally been a fiscally-conservative nation of savers.) So how can we expect to do any better at "recovery" than they did?

The Obama administration has two potential courses of action that it can implement--through Treasury Department action, in concert with the Federal Reserve banking cartel's open market committee--to attempt to emerge from the current mess. Neither of these are appetizing:

  1. Continue keep interest rates artificially low. This, however, will create a huge dollar carry trade market that will be the source of laughing derision, internationally. This course of action will eventually destroy the US Dollar as a currency unit.

  2. Allow interest rates to rise, but that will likely choke off any economic growth. And regardless of the path chosen, the current administration (like its predecessor) seems committed to profligate spending on umpteen bailouts. These bailouts are funded by "out of thin air" dollars, creating massive budget deficits. In the long run, this dollar creation will prove to be highly inflationary. But there will probably be a time lag, since the effects of the continuing asset deflation is masking the ongoing currency inflation. I anticipate substantial inflation to become evident, circa 2011 and in subsequent years. It could be very nasty, so shelter yourself from it, as I've previously suggested in SurvivalBlog.

My suspicion is that the BHO administration will opt for the "weak dollar" route, since that will be the least painful of the two options. The sad news, however, is that ultimately neither option will solve the underlying problem, and hence the US economy is doomed to a deep 10+ year depression. During this period we will witness (and endure) massive unemployment, high crime, dislocation, rioting, repatriation restrictions, and substantially higher taxes. With these in mind, take the steps necessary to protect your family's safety, and your assets.

The talking heads on the finance and investing shows would have you believe that an economic recovery, or at least a "jobless recovery", is just around the corner. Do not be deceived. If any of you reading this are still under the deceptive spell of the CNBC rah-rahs and believe that recovery could be underway, then just take a look at this chart of scheduled mortgage interest rate resets, which I've previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog. As you can see, the oft-cited peak in subprime mortgage interest rate resets is now behind us, but the peaks in Alt-A, and Option Adjustable (aka "Option ARM") rate resets are still ahead of us. Thus, in actuality, the worst is not yet over. We are just in a lull between two tsunami waves.

With the exception of a few newcomers, SurvivalBlog readers are already well-informed on the foregoing facts, so I won't belabor these points. Instead, I'll move on to some practical issues that will have some benefit to you. Lets talk about jobs, and to be more specific, your job.

A Recoveryless Job

Even if you are currently employed somewhere in a "safe and secure" job, keep in mind that there are no absolutes. You could have a small town civil service jo, for example at a water treatment plant. But what if the city or county that you work for goes bankrupt? You could be laid off in a heartbeat. The phrase "under new management" often means firing you, and hiring the nephew or old pal of the new boss. The fictional character Sarah Conner said it best: "No one is ever safe." So hedge your bets.

I recommend that you develop a second stream of income through self-employment. Typically this can be found in a moonlighting service job, or a home-based mail order business.

I've often encouraged even my rural consulting clients to develop a second income stream. Why is this important? "Living off the land"-style self sufficiently is an admirable and commendable goal. But even if you are living truly "debt free", you will still have property taxes to pay. That means that you will need a recession/depression proof revenue stream in the event that you lose your primary job.

Successful home-based businesses usually center around unfilled needs. Find something that your neighbors buy or rent, or service that they "hire" on a regular basis that currently requires a 40+ mile drive "to town". Those are your potential niches.

A successful recession-proof home-based business is likely to be one where the demand for your goods and services is consistent, even in a weak economy. These include septic tank pumping, home security/locksmithing, care for the very young and the very old, and escapist diversions such as DVD movie rentals. (It is noteworthy that the movie industry was was one of the few sectors of the economy that prospered in the 1930s.)

One market segment that prospered in the Great Depression of the 1930s was repair businesses. Obviously, in hard economic times, people try to make do with what they have. So repair businesses are a natural. If it is some small appliance that you could repair that could be mailed from and back to the customer, so much the better. (That way you could have a nationwide business, rather than just a local one.) This might include: DVD player repair, laptop computer repair, and so forth.

Its a Dirty Job, But Someone Has to Do It
If you want to work for someone else and have that be recession-proof, then consider the dirty jobs. These are some of the least likely to suffer a layoff. In Japan, these are called the ""Three-K" jobs: kitsui ("hard"), kitanai ("dirty") and kiken ("dangerous"). If you are willing to take on any of the Three K jobs, do cheerful and hard work, and have exemplary attendance, then you will likely have a job that will carry you all the way through a deep recession or even a depression. If times get truly Schumeresque and you get laid off, then please be willing to "think outside the box", and consider taking a Three K job. Some of these are low level city and county payroll jobs. And by low level, I mean things like sanitation worker, animal control officer, sewer technician, solid waste transfer station worker, highway maintenance worker, and so forth.

Think about it: A steady job beats no job. Don't let your family starve, or end up homeless. There is no shame in accepting good old-fashioned hard work. If you take a job that brings in only one half of your existing income, consider that you'll actually come out ahead of any of your contemporaries that are laid off more than half of each year. Further, you will have uninterrupted benefits, such as health insurance, that they will also lack. A menial and low-paying job is better than no job.

Some suggested employment possibilities:

1.) Mining and manufacturing processes that because of shipping expenses cannot be practicably be moved offshore. Coal mining is a good example.

2.) Service industry jobs that are essential and non-discretionary. Let me reduce this to a few key examples, so that you'll know what to avoid:

Essential and Non-Discretionary Non-Essential and Discretionary
Mortician Pilates Instructor
11B Infantryman Hairdresser
Septic Tank Pumping Truck Driver Manicurist

3.) Retail sales (face to face, or mail order) of crucial items.

4.) Retail sales (face to face, or mail order) of comfort items. In the midst of an economic depression, people will crave escape. Movie DVDs are a good example.

5.) Military service. Most people don't think of the armed forces as service industries, but that is essentially what they are, on a national scale. In the military you are sort of a security guard for the real Mall of America. Or think of it as a lead delivery service. My father was an Air Force instructor pilot, back in the days of T-33s. He summed up his service when he told me: "I was a glorified bus driver, burning up lots of Uncle Sam's jet fuel. I did a great job of defending miles and miles of cactus." Thirty years later, I served as an Army Intelligence officer. It was great fun at the time, but in essence, I was just a detective--or more precisely the manager of detectives--that worked for one of the world's biggest detective agencies.

6.) Repair work.

Be Flexible and Proactive

The coming years will be difficult ones, globally. If you are risk of a layoff, then hedge your bets by developing a second stream of income, now. And if you are laid off, do not hesitate. Do whatever it takes to find steady work, even if means moving, or taking a lower-paying job. Don't just wallow in self-pity and draw unemployment insurance. be proactive and do something!

Since June of this year when my new Dahon Speed 8 folding bicycle arrived I have greatly increased my bicycle mileage typically doing about 120 miles a week commuting instead of taking the bus in. The Dahon is a 20" wheel folder so I have the option of bagging it up throwing it in the back seat or trunk and catching a ride with friends or taking the inter-city bus if I am tired, this hitch-hike-ability could be an important to a survivalist trying to cover long distances, perhaps even beating out the larger harder to stash 26" wheel folding bikes. The better Dahons come equipped with Schwable super long life tires, they have significantly longer wear life than most bicycle tires. Since this bicycle is ridden around four hours a day comfort is key, a quality narrow spring seat, alloy pedals, hand grips and multi position "horn" bar ends were upgraded since these were the places that my body interfaced with the machine. Good fenders and aluminum cargo racks front and rear let me carry my backpack on the front with the extra pack strap length secured with recycled inner tube rubber bands. I had straps added to my pack to secure my pack onto the front rack where I feel I have the best control. A useful feature of some Dahons is the seat post air pump which gives a long stroke floor pump inside the long seat post shaft. As for spares I carry an extra tube, LED headlight, tire levers, Rema Tip Top patches(by far the best), and a Crank Brothers folding bicycle multi tool, additionally I have 4mm and 6mm Allen wrenches on my key chain next to my Kryptonite bike lock key. During regular times I wear a bluetooth headset for my mobile phone and white LED forward headlamp and red rear LED flashers attached to the helmet, a yellow reflective safety vest makes me even more visible to drivers. A Glock Model 17 and two spare mags in a padded Michael's of Oregon ("Uncle Mike's) holster on my heavy leather belt is comfortable and has shown no complaint to my regular sweating on summer rides. During a two hour afternoon ride I consume about two liters of water and occasionally gulp down some salted honey I keep in a sports gel flask for an extra boost before a hill. Regular mountain commuting will wear on your brakes, a complete set of brake pads is a good idea to keep in your repair kit.

I have made several five day to one week trips in the last few years and in addition to the regular stuff I carry for commuting I also include:
-Stuffable semipermiable rain/wind jacket
-Two pair of wool socks
-Hennessey asym hammock
-MSR Whisperlite International stove
-Kerosene fuel bottle
-MSR cook set
-Military nesting silverware
-MMR-40 40 meter QRP kitted radio
-15deg F lightweight sleeping bag
Everything fits in a mountaineering day pack.

I find that beans and lots of rice supplemented by eggs for dinner and fresh fruit especially bananas for snacks keep me running strong all day if I am careful to pace myself, I also try to remember vitamins. Since I know that I will be eating large portions it makes sense to pack larger camp pots. Strong coffee seems to boost my cycling strength especially when traveling uphill, but a person should know how late in the day they can drink caffeine before it affects their quality of sleep. Caffeine also causes you to urinate more requiring additional water supply. Along with the Norwegian and Swedish armies, I use the fold-a-cup coffee cup. It is unbreakable and flexible.

Hydration is key, for commuting my regular 2/3 liter bottle and a 1.5 liter soft drink bottle is enough for commuting 1.5 to two hours with about 200 meter climb in the hot sun. More water bottles for longer trips can be carried in tight panniers on the rear rack. There are times where a very dilute fruit juice makes gulping down water easier. I refill my bottles at every opportunity. I carry an Aquamira filter squirt bottle for my bike bottle and purification tablets for using questionable irrigation or spring water.

I have previously in SurvivalBlog extolled the virtues of kitting together the very small (2/3 the length of a 600 page paperback book) and inexpensive MMR-40 radio. It provides 6 watts for CW or SSB PSK-31 digital mode has a range of up to several thousand miles [with favorable ionospheric conditions].

The Hennessey hammock is a wonder of simple engineering. The asymmetrical design lets a large person lay off-axis on his side without being forced into the parabolic curve of the hammock. Entry is through a slit in the bottom which snaps shut from the weight of the camper and a tough bug net is sewn to the whole hammock. There is a cord keeping the bug net off of the campers face hung from this is a mesh pocket for your glasses, phone, or headlight. The rain fly when attached kept me warm and dry through a few downpours, but if there is a possibility of strong wind the rain fly cords should be staked or weighted with water bottles else they might blow a flap of rain fly open to the rain depending how the hammock is hung. If it is cold more insulation or a sheet of closed cell foam will make up for the compressed insulation heat losses on the bottom of the hammock. The Hennessey hammock also makes a nice swing seat, if you have no big trees available. The instructions also show how to use the hammock as a one man tent using walking stick or saplings. As with any hammock be sure you are tied into live trees and not dead rotted snags which could fall and crush you. On the upside you need not worry about how steep the incline or rockiness of the terrain as you are hanging suspended.

I used to carry a small Triangia cook set including a brass alcohol stove, which is a tougher sealable version of the DIY soda can stoves. I have found these to be useful in their weight but the hazard of a tip over burning fuel spill combined with the price of alcohol fuel at the paint store lead me to keep this for ultralight expeditions and instead to use my MSR stove. The MSR Whisperlite is designed for easy field maintenance as are most MSR products. The one main weak point, the pump stop, which has failed in a non critical way on all of my older MSR stoves, could allow foreign objects into the pump mechanism or loss of the piston, this has been upgraded to a much stronger design in recent years by MSR. I use kerosene due to the higher energy content over gasoline and the cleanest flame of fuels easily available to me in Israel. I carry a small bottle of alcohol to prime the stove, this leads to much less carbon accumulating on the stove, and quicker startups. (A tablespoon of alcohol fuel into the primer cup is enough to prime the stove most of the time.) Using the wind guard (very heavy aluminum foil) wrapped tight to keep the heat in the stove it primes and is ready to cook much faster, then the wind guard keeps the heat on my pots. I must also mention that MSR makes a repair/service kit with most of the parts and tools to fix and maintain your stove even on extended outings. - David in Israel

James Wesley,
That was a good informative article by SGT B., however there was one glaring omission in the safety section : "Which brings me to the always wear appropriate safety gear rule. Always do. Period. Long sleeves and pants, boots, gloves, helmet with a face-guard or safety glasses, hearing protection."

He didn't mention Kevlar chainsaw safety chaps, which jam a chain in milliseconds are now considered required for wood cutting, one moment of inattentiveness and your thigh, shin, etc, can be hamburger. The least expensive, yet best ones out there are from Labonville.

Remember chainsaws don't just cut flesh , they tear it! There is a youTube video available for those who want to watch that shows that, thankfully demonstrated with butchered meat, not people. Sincerely, - Wayne B.

I'd like to add to Sgt B.'s information. After doing all that he discusses for 40+ years, I would add the following: I put wood in my basement where I have a woodstove. The critters did emerge as he mentioned. I used Zodiac Advanced Insect Spray and that wiped them all out very quickly. A cat takes care of four legged types. I put wood in the basement for when I'm too lazy, tired, or the the weather is just plain nasty. Otherwise, I haul it in as necessary leaving the inside wood for those times mentioned.

Woodstoves: you really don't need to spend a fortune to get some decent heat. My basement is all masonry. The block and concrete soak up lots of the heat (versus a finished basement). Still, my inexpensive little woodstove gets that basement to 70 degrees. I got one from Northern Tool & equip. Sure, a much more expensive all cast iron or fancy one would get the basement and wood floors above a lot warmer but this stove only set me back a few hundred and arrived at my doorstep via freight. Do your homework if you are new to woodstoves. Buying used is okay if you can verify that it's safe. Check for any cracks and if the gaskets / rope are ok. One method of verifying if the gaskets are ok is to place a dollar bill one the backside of the door, close the door, see if the dollar slips out when you pull it. Gaskets kits are cheap and easy to replace. My brother bought a used/antique potbelly type and it has been in use for years.

Traditional fireplace / fireplace insert: The one I just pulled out was very attractive but they sure waste a lot of heat. I finally purchased a top dollar insert as a replacement last year for the ground floor of the house and it paid off immediately in terms of having to bring in wood, using up your wood pile(s), & time/labor. This replacement once hot, remains so all night. I was a great investment.

Log splitters: I'm on my second one. The first was a 20 ton and it was a workaholic. I sold it in one day. It was about 12 yrs old and still good to go. In 12 years I did replace the engine once and the detent valve. My new 37-ton spilts everything I feed it. You may have a hard time finding something it can't split. I had to use my front end loader to push the heaviest of oak under it and the splitter had no problem. This was another Northern Tool and Equipment purchase.

Chainsaws: Useful but dangerous. Be careful. Read the safety instructions if you are new to these items. If you are going to have something go wrong, it'll happen so fast that you won't be able to stop whatever mistake you made. I have two - a 15 year old lightweight 14" Poulan that still gets the little stuff done and a 20" Husqvarna that can handle just about anything. The best accessory item when working with a chain saws is a wedge (plastic, not the steel wedges used with manual splitting...) to prevent pinching of your blade/bar. I recommend using high test gas as 2-cycle engines prefer it for long term engine performance. I also purchased an electric chain saw sharpener which has paid for itself several times over. I can do it manually in the field also and you should be equipped for that anyway. Extra chains make life easy. If the saw is going to sit 11 months of the year, you'll have starting problems. [Use gas stabilizer and] start your 2-cycle engines monthly, warm them up and they'll be kind to you when you need it.

All things wood heating: I enjoy the outdoor time doing all this. It's both exercise and refreshing cold weather outdoor time. Note: it does require time and labor but the payoff is worth it. I cut my oil heat consumption back to one-third of the previous year's averages. Now I can spend more money on more wood cutting stuff. - Flhspete


That was a good article on finding wood, but I would like to see you make a special invitation to a chimney expert or someone else with similar expertise to write an article on wood stove safety. That is something that is often overlooked, or just not understood, often with disastrous consequences.

My wife and I started our "back to the land" voyage back in the 70's with a small homestead in the Ozarks and for the next 10 years we heated only with wood. During that time we saw our neighbors down the road lose an infant daughter to smoke inhalation during a bad fire and our best friends came home on Christmas eve to find nothing left but the foundation, their house had burnt to the ground. Both were caused by skimping on chimney installations. Anyone who has lived in the boonies probably has similar stories to tell. It's okay to scrimp and save on a lot of things, chimneys [with regular chimney cleaning] are not one of them. You have a wild beast under partial control inside your home, one tiny mistake and it can escape and destroy your home and kill you. I don't mean to unduly scare people but I would like to see people have the appropriate amount of respect for the hazards they're taking on. Everything has to be done right up front and maintained properly to keep you safe.

BTW, the biggest drawback to wood heat is just the fact that in the winter you can never be away from home for more than 16 hours or so or the house will freeze up. No weekend trips and if the rig breaks down it adds another level of urgency to getting home. If possible, it's great to have a small emergency propane heater you can set to 45 degrees and run off a 100 pound tank so that if the temperature drops too low it will kick on and keep the house from freezing, it makes a huge improvement in giving you some freedom in the winter. - Bill S. in Oregon

Mara spotted this: First Fannie and Freddie, Now the FHA? Mara's comment: "Every time I read about more bailout money for existing “customers” or new bailout money for new “customers,” I start to get woozy and lightheaded! Good thing I am sitting down when I read this stuff!"

GG flagged this New York Times piece: Failures of Small Banks Grow, Straining F.D.I.C. (100th US bank failure thusfar for 2009.)

Items from The Economatrix:

The Great Recession: The Numbers Tell The Story

Investors to Companies: Show Us Higher Sales

State Budgets Get Adrenaline Shot From Clunkers

World's Largest Shopping Mall is Empty

Reader Steve B. is a broker in the wholesale canned foods market. He wrote me to mention: "As a result of the recent tsunami, canned tuna production in Samoa will be severely
curtailed for many months." We all know what the law of supply and demand dictates. So stock up now, while prices are still low!

   o o o

For American viewers that missed it, Survivors: Series 1 (2008--the remake of the Terry Nation 1970s British series) is now available via Netflix.

   o o o

Speaking of England, reader LJ spotted this: Apocalypse city: Welcome to the 'estate that time forgot' (or when regeneration plans don't go ahead as planned

   o o o

A new book that was co-authored by the late Carla Emery has been released: Canning and Preserving Your Own Harvest an Encyclopedia of Country Living Guide

   o o o

Pittsburgh Police Deny G-20 'Sound Cannon' Allegations. Gee, then they'd better have those YouTube videos removed.

"When I was asked to make this address I wondered what I had to say to you boys who are graduating. And I think I have one thing to say. If you wish to be useful, never take a course that will silence you. Refuse to learn anything that implies collusion, whether it be a clerkship or a curacy, a legal fee or a post in a university. Retain the power of speech no matter what other power you may lose. If you can take this course, and in so far as you take it, you will bless this country. In so far as you depart from this course, you become dampers, mutes, and hooded executioners. As a practical matter, a mere failure to speak out upon occasions where no statement is asked or expect from you, and when the utterance of an uncalled for suspicion is odious, will often hold you to a concurrence in palpable iniquity. Try to raise a voice that will be heard from here to Albany and watch what comes forward to shut off the sound. It is not a German sergeant, nor a Russian officer of the precinct. It is a note from a friend of your father's, offering you a place at his office. This is your warning from the secret police. Why, if you any of young gentleman have a mind to make himself heard a mile off, you must make a bonfire of your reputations, and a close enemy of most men who would wish you well. I have seen ten years of young men who rush out into the world with their messages, and when they find how deaf the world is, they think they must save their strength and wait. They believe that after a while they will be able to get up on some little eminence from which they can make themselves heard. "In a few years," reasons one of them, "I shall have gained a standing, and then I shall use my powers for good." Next year comes and with it a strange discovery. The man has lost his horizon of thought, his ambition has evaporated; he has nothing to say. I give you this one rule of conduct. Do what you will, but speak out always. Be shunned, be hated, be ridiculed, be scared, be in doubt, but don't be gagged. The time of trial is always. Now is the appointed time." - John J. Chapman, Commencement Address to the Graduating Class of Hobart College, 1900

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

I don’t know that you would call my father a prepper. He was more just in love with the idea of economic independence and living in the woods. When I was nine (after the woods behind us were clear cut for an apartment complex), we sold our house in the suburbs, bought ten acres far enough out that he figured the developers would never find us, and built a home in the woods.

We heated this house with wood, and as any of you who grew up with a wood stove can already guess, that meant I spent a good chunk of my young life cutting, splitting, hauling, stacking, and burning wood.

Here are some of the things I learned while I was about it. This will by no means be complete, but will reflect only my partial understanding of a subject as old as fire, and as varied as the trees.

First things first: Why wood?

Wood grows. Wood in one form or another grows in most of the inhabitable regions of the earth. If you own land, chances are you own some wood. If not, probably your neighbors have some. Wood heat is renewable energy that anyone can harness. It can be had when the economy is bad as well as when it is good, it is absolutely EMP-proof (although your stove may not be, if it uses electronic components), and so long as you harvest it yourself, it is tax-free. Wood is not necessarily the best or only way to go, and should be weighed against other options. Even for off the grid situations, heat can be provided through heating oil burning stoves (I assume) or through electric stoves if you have a generator or other form of power. That said, unless you have a super abundance of electric capacity, you probably have many other demands on your juice in any sort of emergency.

The downside of wood is that it is not free. You will have to spend either time or labor to get it. Depending how much you use, this could translate to a lot of labor. The other aspect of this is that if you are injured or disabled, you will have a rough time of it. When my father injured his arm badly, I was in school, and our wood stack was at a low point. We were supported by members of our church fellowship helping with wood, and by using on the grid backup systems. In our case this was merely embarrassing, in some situations it could be worse. I’d say follow the rule of threes and have multiple means of heat.

Other considerations: You will have maintenance and cleaning chores with this method. On the plus side they’ll be things you can do yourself with the right tools. Own your own gear for cleaning the chimney. Don’t burn chemically treated wood, and you can use the ashes in compost, but mix them with other stuff or they’ll just form a smothering layer of gray mud. Avoid burning trash for heat if you can help it. Chemically treated wood and plywood can also produce poisonous fumes, so keep that in mind.

Woodstove Selection
I am familiar with three ways of heating with wood indoors. There may well be others, but if so I don’t know them and am not qualified to speak on them. They are, a fireplace, a simple wood stove, and a wood burning water stove.

The fireplace: This is the most basic form of woodstove. They range from the small and basically decorative fireplaces of most modern suburban homes to the vast fire places of old manors, where large meals can be prepared at the hearth. Fireplaces are generally poorly situated to heat a home. They reside on one side of the room, radiate much of their heat directly up the chimney, or out through the sides, and are basically inefficient. That said, if that is all you have, it is well worth laying in a supply of wood for hard times. From a survival standpoint however, someone in such a position should probably focus more on securing their primary method of heat, with a generator or a supply of heating fuel depending what that is.

Free standing wood stoves. These are, at their most basic a big box with a fireplace in the middle, and with a stovepipe to take away the smoke. They can be situated anywhere in a room, and radiate their heat outwards. If properly designed and located, they lose much less heat up the chimney than a fireplace. They are not efficient for heating other rooms, and (like a fireplace) may be inadequate for heating a large home. Some designs can also provide a cooking surface and or an oven. I find this attractive enough to be a primary consideration, but you may feel differently. These stoves also require no electricity in their basic form. I’ve heard of designs that have some electrical features such as blowers, that can heat other rooms of the house, but I have no experience with them. (BTW, I have seen other posts on SurvivalBlog that speak of woodstoves that can handle coal. I don’t have any personal experience with this, but I think that it is a valid consideration during stove selection.)

Wood burning water [jacket] stoves. These are somewhat more complex. Essentially they are a woodstove wrapped in a water tank. Rather than radiate heat directly into a living area, they heat the water, which is then circulated through the rest of the house. They have some major advantages and disadvantages. This is what we had, so this section will be a bit more in depth perhaps.


  • Can be located outside the living area, which offers benefits in terms of:
    • Cleanliness: Lots of bugs live in wood piles, and they often hitch rides inside with the wood, no matter how careful you are. There’s also the risk of smoke drafting into the room, which is bad for you.
    • Living space not occupied by stove.
    • Safety, in that you do not have hot metal in the middle of your living area. If the stove is outside, which I have seen, it may reduce you fire risk, but you will need a shed to protect the stove.
  • Can heat larger dwellings, either through radiant floor heating or through a more traditional central blower (via a heat coil). We had a very large house, two stories with vaulted ceilings and a lot of windows, plus a full basement, and we had very good heat.
  • Can be used to heat your water through a heat exchange. The actual water around the stove is full of chemicals, but a heat exchanger can run it through a heat exchanger to heat your tap water without contamination.


  • This system requires electricity and a water supply. That means that if the power goes out, you have no source of heat. For this reason it is imperative that you also have a generator. My family put that purchase off until Hurricane Fran waltzed into central North Carolina and left us without power for over a week. Needless to say there were ten no generators to be had for love or money. Fortunately it was summer. By the time we got to learn about blizzards we had a generator. Still, between running our well pump and the stove there was less electricity for anything else.
  • You also can’t cook on these, so far as I know.
  • Unless you have backup heat or water heating methods, you will have to burn wood anytime you want heat or hot water. This means at least some wood consumption year round. BTW, when I say some, I really mean a lot.
  • Maintenance is more of a concern with these systems than with simpler designs, and there are certain unique things that can go wrong. For example, you have to monitor the fire to ensure than the water supply does no boil, or you will have “opportunities for fun” such as a flooded basement or a damaged heater, or both.

All said, my father, reluctant though he was to admit defeat, came to regret the water stove. It became a beast that swallowed a whole lot of our labor, and wasn’t particularly more efficient than living on the grid and using your labor for other things. Other pursuits, such as gardening, livestock, and hunting, suffered due to the need to feed the machine. Neighbors with regular wood stoves used much less fuel, had fewer problems, and had no need for concern with heat when the power was out. I do not recommend these unless you absolutely must heat the entirety of a large structure.

Woodlot Management

If you have a wood lot, you want to manage it. Second growth forests are often too dense for optimum growth, and culling and thinning the trees permits faster growth by the rest. I’ve heard it said that you can expect a cord a year, per acre, from temperate deciduous forest if you manage it well, but I don’t know it for an ironclad fact. Selecting which trees to cut is important. Unless you’re trying to clear a field (or field of fire) it is not a great idea to clear-cut. Pick out individual trees and cut those to clear space for other trees. Start with downed trees before they rot, and move on to wolf trees that take up a lot of space. Plan ahead too, and make sure you take advantage of downed trees on willing neighbors property. Also make sure they’re willing, otherwise it’s theft of a tangible resource. A significant chunk of our family’s firewood came from other people’s lands. People who have invested in woodlands but not yet built on may be particularly willing to allow you to take storm-downed trees. I know people with sizable woodpiles that only harvest other people’s trees. Coppicing is an interesting idea that is worth looking into, but I have no personal experience with that.

I won’t go into different types of wood here. My knowledge of that is limited and regional, and there is very good, technically detailed information out there about the burning properties of various woods. We always cut a lot of trash trees, because despite the poorer burning properties we wanted them gone from our land. YMMV, and watch for creosote buildup vigilantly. Removing trees that produce large quantities of fruit or nuts fall can reduce the presence of game on your land, and/or remove a significant emergency food source. In general quality hardwoods with long straight trunks are worth leaving to grow, in a pinch you can sell them or use them for lumber.

Cutting wood
I won’t say much about the mechanics of cutting down trees. I’ve never been much of a chainsaw artist, and others could tell you much better. I do recommend having multiple chainsaws in every size you use though, because it is darn hard to cut down a tree with a broke saw. Also, following major storms, at least one of your neighbors will want to borrow one, without fail, and it is an easy way to help someone out a lot. Barter is of course always a consideration as well. Other tools that are nice include come-a-longs, wedges and a heavy hammer - for freeing up a bound saw, log rollers, and a machete for clearing small branches and underbrush. Orange reflective tape on the ‘chete grip will save time wondering where you put it.

It is of course possible to bring down trees with hand-powered tools as well. Following the rule of threes I’d say have a felling axe and a two man cross cut saw in addition to the chainsaw. If you’re worried about noise for security or wildlife purposes, or if you live alone, you might also want a single man cross cut saw. Axes are pretty much the least efficient of these in my mind (but great exercise). Bear in mind that there is a difference between a splitting axe and a felling axe. Felling axes can also come in single bit (that’s the sharp part) or double bit (like the classic battleaxe) and can have curved or straight handles. I like the double bit, but that’s a matter of preference, and I am only modestly experienced at felling with an axe.  I have no experience with two man saws, and therefore won’t comment on them. I will say that you should always have maintenance and sharpening equipment (and know-how) for any cutting tool you keep. Finally, machetes can also be used for bringing down saplings and underbrush, and can provide a lot of small wood.  This can increase the depth you can see into the woods, and reduce fire risks around your home (so long as you clear away the hacked brush of course). Machete hacked stumps can be fairly sharp, like little punji sticks, and you may wish to break the points down with your boot as you cut to prevent future tripping and foot bruising.

Safety first when cutting (as always). Always clear any potential fall area of people when bringing down a tree, and bear in mind that a severed trunk can jab out backwards with a few tons of force behind it. That can kill you very dead. Also always check your root bole holes when cutting free a storm-downed trunk. A state worker got crushed to death while taking a squat in one after Hurricane Fran because his buddy didn’t check. Also make sure anyone you’re working with is practicing good safety and understands what they’re doing. A friend of mine got the side of his face caved in by the end of a log once because I instructed another friend poorly. He was lucky. A inch or so higher would have caved in his temple. Which brings me to the always wear appropriate safety gear rule. Always do. Period. Long sleeves and pants, boots, gloves, helmet with a face-guard or safety glasses, hearing protection. I’m losing my hearing and not quite 30 years old. I now wish I’d worn it.  In very cold weather avoid steel-toed boots as they can promote frostbite.  Remember too that after a tree has torn itself free of the surrounding canopy there may be sizable limbs left suspended that may come free and drop with a breeze. Dead trees can also break apart as they come down, or even with the vibration of the saw, so helmets are important.

Younger family members can be included in hauling small wood and burning brush and waste wood while you cut, but make sure you watch out for them. They can be hard to see, and may lack a proper sense of safety, or at least the attention span to remember it. You’ll also want to monitor horseplay. I busted a friend’s teeth out with a piece of firewood at the woodpile at the age of five, and got severely burned in a brush clearing bonfire when I was six. We weren’t working at that age, just horsing around in a work area.

When sectioning trees, make sure that there is sufficient clearance between the bottom of what you’re cutting and the ground for you to stop. Even occasionally grounding a moving chainsaw blade is too often. Also make sure the two sections won’t twist free of each other when you separate them and strike you or your assistant.

Splitting wood
For splitting wood you should have a variety of tools, because not all wood is created equal, and I’m pretty sure some trees were created specifically to build the character and fortitude of wood splitting youths everywhere.

Tools I used for various splitting tasks were a hatchet, a small axe, a large splitting axe, an 6 lb maul, a 14.5-pound maul, a sledge hammer and an assortment of wedges. Most of these are not used most of the time, but I recommend having them all, especially the wedges. Sometimes a large piece of wood will decide not to give back your maul. Small axes and hatchets can allow children to participate (and boy don’t I know it), but make sure you give them clear safety instructions and supervise them. After years of replacing handles I have given up and determined that I will never buy another wooden handled striking tool. I have not yet personally owned a fiberglass-handled axe, but plan to get one. With the heavy maul I use a steel handle.

I advise against using a chainsaw for splitting unless absolutely necessary, because it is a lot of wear and tear on the saw, and because it isn’t generally necessary. I also advise against splitting even small wood with a machete, you’ll have better control with a hatchet.

Remember to always bend at the knees when you bring down the maul/axe. This reduces the risk of back injury, and also ensures that if you miss, the arc of the maul will intersect with the ground rather than your shin or foot. I also advise against swinging from behind the back. I find that that increases strain on your back and arms and leads to significant injury. It also reduces accuracy and doesn’t add enough force to justify it. Others disagree. They have their ways and I have mine. I bring the axe gently to an overhead position, with a wide grip, and only then begin the swing, bringing my top hand down along the shaft as I swing.

I consider myself a minor artist with a maul, and am more conceited about it than anything but my fire building, but when I again heat with wood, I will have a gas powered pneumatic splitter. Yes, the purchase cost is high, yes, it requires gas. But it will save you many, many hours of labor. In my case it added days to my year when we rented a friend’s for just a week.  Pick a centralized location, and then one person brings the wood to the splitter while the other one feeds.

I would however not be caught dead without the tools for the older methods. Gas runs out. Machines break. It would just about take an Arc Light [bombing] mission to destroy a steel handled maul. Also some times it is easier to use a maul than a splitter, and sometimes you just need to blow off steam by breaking things apart (I mean firewood, not people who stress you out).

Always wear boots. Always wear gloves. Always have extra gloves in depth.

Hauling wood
Own a good quality wheelbarrow. [JWR Adds: In addition to a wheelbarrow with an air free (foam-filled) tire, if you have an ATV, then buy a sturdy steel trailer for it. Unless you live on a mountainside, an ATV can get to the farthest corners of your wood lot.] Keep spare parts for everything but the bucket. You will need them. Always store the wheelbarrow upside down if you keep it outside. Always check for snakes when you turn it back up to use. For obvious reasons I recommend using a motorized vehicle for hauling long distance up hill. Even if you have to clear a path, it will save time. Plus, you also burn whatever was in you path. Even the trunk of a sedan can be used to haul a fair bit of wood. Human chains are great for loading/unloading operations. I advise resisting the temptation to toss the wood to one another, but for short, steep gradients, throwing wood down can save a lot of time. Just don’t try to catch it. Make sure to switch sides periodically to vary which muscle groups are getting the strain.

Stacking Wood:
Stacking wood is an art form of its own. There are many ways to do it. Just remember the basics:

  • Never just pile the wood up for more than a short while. It will rot quickly on the bottom, and why should you lose wood you’ve already worked to cut and haul.
  • Always stack on [scrap wood] runners. This permits airflow underneath and greatly delays wood wasting rot. It also reduces bugs, which is good if it’s by your house. It may provide runways for little furry critters, but they are going to be there anyway, so don’t sweat it. I recommend at least one full-time outdoor mouser. Bring her food in at night to encourage hunting and to reduce instances of being woken up by her fighting off coons and possums.
  • Do sweat the snakes and spiders. Once more, always wear gloves. We had a problem for a while with a nest of copperheads. This taught us to always check the ground around the wood stack. It also taught us that in a hot enough stove, a copperhead can pop like a big meat popcorn. Remember to burn at least the heads, and that they can still bite when dead. Ant nests can be a problem too, and necessitate seeking out the wood they have built their home in and sending them on a vacation to a warmer place. Ants just sizzle though, they don’t pop. Sorry.
  • Stack tight, and stack stable. Put the longest and the heaviest pieces at the bottom. Put oddly shaped pieces off to one side and then stick them on top. Think of the stack as a puzzle and make it tight. End posts are nice with permanent stacks. BTW, small stuff burns quickly, and can cause a fire to rage out of control, with a water stove, this can be a problem, causing your water to boil. Stack skinny bits of wood separately from the big stuff, or put them on top.
  • Cover your stacks against the rain. If you use tarps, make sure they are taught, or you will wind up with pooling water that will reduce the life of your tarp and seep into your wood. I advise using solid overhead cover for at least your near term use wood. I feel that over time in a humid climate moisture and heat can build up under a tarp and permit decomposition.
  • When bringing in wood from outside, keep an eye out for vagabond critters scurrying away from you into your house. If they enjoy eating your wood stack, they’ll likely love your nice warm house. Sweep up all debris when finished and throw it in the fire. And never store wood in the house. Things that are dormant under bark in the cold weather may revive in your cozy abode and frolic, to your detriment.
  • Wood stacks can be used to provide tactical landscaping, as others on this blog have mentioned. In addition to providing cover or concealment, they can also block your fields of fire, or avenues of maneuver. Site them wisely.
  • Rotate through your stacks on a modified FIFO basis. In general this means oldest stack first, but sometimes a newer stack may be drier. Use the dried wood first. The water in wood consumes heat energy as it evaporates, reducing useful output, and also add bulk to the smoke, encouraging it to flow back out into the house.

Generally we cut down trees in the late Fall or Winter. It was a good time for hard labor with the cool weather, the underbrush is less dense and buggy, and the sap isn’t running in the trees. We would usually try and get the years supply down and cut into rough lengths. This lets it dry faster. Generally we would leave it in place or rough stack it in place and move on, and then collect it in a later season to haul to the house. This let us make the most of the time when the sap wasn’t running to bring down trees.

Once the wood is rough stacked you can leave it there for a while. I don’t bother to cover wood I leave in the woods. The rain won’t hurt the inside of the wood much, and it will have time for the outside to dry when I bring it to the house. This was an issue of space around the house for us. If you have a big wood barn, like one of our neighbors, there’s not much reason to leave it in the woods.

As for splitting wood, some say it’s easier when wet, some say dry. After trying it both ways I think it depends on the type of wood, but ceased to look into it once I discovered powered log splitters. I do know that wood dries much faster when split, and stacks better too, so I see no reason not to split wet wood.

Thanks to Mr. Rawles and to all the SurvivalBlog contributors. God bless you all and remember to change your socks. - SGT B.

Another good product for light shades is Reflectix Insulation.

Basically Reflectix is bubble wrap with aluminum foil bonded to one or both sides. I have used it to make thermal drapes for my home, and know that it blocks all visible light. You can buy it at most Home Improvement centers. It commonly comes in 25' rolls that are 16", 24", or 48" in width.

Last winter I bought a 4'x25' roll and had enough to do my entire house. (9 windows of various sizes) the cost was about $40.

Manufacturers claim that reflects up to 97% of all radiant heat, so not only will you save some energy, I would expect it to be somewhat effective against infrared and thermal imaging.
I know that the temperature in my old Mobile Home came up a good 10 degrees F in just the 45 minutes it took me to put up my blinds.

While I made my blinds so they can be rolled up during the day time, it would be very easy to find some way to anchor them on the sides and at the bottom so they would completely block all light at night.
Thank You JWR for a great site. - Fanderal

Mr. Editor:

Like Margy, I also found myself building an 'above ground cellar' for temperature stable storage of food and other goods. Working with a detached three-car garage that had just a two-car door, I converted the extra 'bay' to a bonus room. With standard framing and insulation I noticed that that room remained noticeably more even in temperature throughout the day.

I also have warm summers, 100F and occasionally more. Winters rarely drop below freezing for more than a day or two.

I did some research once on passive temperature control and learned that water has a high specific heat and in significant quantity can stabilize the temperature of a given space. I acquired several 55 gallon plastic drums and placed them in a row along the interior wall of my room. I filled them in place with water I treated with bleach and sealed them. Within days I noticed that the temperature remained nearly constant regardless of time of day. The barrels are about 3' high by 2' deep, and it is easy enough to construct shelving above them.

I improved on this further by adding more barrels and increasing the insulation. I bought 2" thick foam panels at Home Depot, the kind with reflective metal coating. These I cut to shape for the windows and blocked them off. I also bought a box fan and some furnace filters. This I mounted in a window on a clock timer. The fan pulls cool night air into the space, pulling air through a furnace filter and an exterior screen. Now that the summer has passed I have disabled the timer and will cover the fan assembly with an insulation panel as the temperature drops. I may even use it to pull warmer afternoon air in during winter.

With these steps and no significant heat sources inside the insulated envelope I have found that with no energy consumption I have managed a cool place for long term storage.

Water is cheap and readily available. Once purified, it requires no maintenance when properly stored. - Vlad

The Other Chris sent the link to a New York Times piece: Foreclosures Mark Pace of Enduring U.S. Housing Crisis. Here are some key quotes: "Every 13 seconds in America, there is another foreclosure filing. That's the rhythm of a crisis that threatens to choke off hopes for a recovery in the U.S. housing market as it destroys hundreds of billions of dollars in property values a year."

"Michael Barr, the Treasury Department's assistant secretary for financial institutions, said more than 6 million families could face foreclosure over the next three years."

"The Centre for Responsible Lending says foreclosures are on track to wipe out $502 billion in property values this year. That spillover effect from foreclosures is one reason why Celia Chen of Moodys Economy says nationwide home prices won't regain the peak levels they reached in 2006 until 2020. "The default rates, the delinquency rates, are still rising," Chen told Reuters. "Rising joblessness combined with a large degree of negative equity are going to cause foreclosures to increase," she added. Anyone doubting that the recovery in U.S. real estate prices will be long and hard should take a look at Japan, Chen said. Prices there are still off about 50 percent from the peak they hit 15 years ago."

Reader Jim H. sent this link: U.S. states suffer "unbelievable" revenue shortages

Items from The Economatrix:

Whodunit? Sneak Attack on the US Dollar

Job Competition Toughest Since Recession Began

August Trade Deficit Narrows Unexpectedly to $30.7 Billion

Oil Prices Nearly Flat as Dollar Strengthens

US Job Levels at Lowest Level in at Least Nine Years

Britain Overtakes US as Top Financial Center

10,000 Apply for 90 Factory Jobs

Jim Willie: Death of Petro-Dollar, Told Ya So!

Why does society loathe well-prepared individuals? See: Soldier suspended from school. My, things have changed since I was in high school 1970s. In that era, many of my classmates carries a Buck Folding Hunter pocketknife in a leather belt pouch, and nobody said "boo" about it. (Thanks to LSC for the news link.)

   o o o

Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?

   o o o

Don't forget that Safecastle's final Mountain House sale for 2009, ends today (October 11th). They are offering 25% off on all Mountain House canned long-term storage foods Don't miss out on the sale pricing for these excellent foods, most of which have a 30 year shelf life.

   o o o

'Ravenwood' Comes to America, by Chuck Baldwin

   o o o

Reader "Maddog" mentioned this WND piece: 2012 forecast: Food riots, ghost malls, mob rule, terror

"The thing they forget is that liberty and freedom and democracy are so very precious that you do not fight to win them once and stop. You do not do that. Liberty and freedom and democracy are prizes awarded only to those peoples who fight to win them and then keep fighting eternally to hold them!" - Sergeant Alvin York

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It’s been almost two years now since I became serious about preparing for TEOTWAWKI. In that time I’ve followed the instructions of the Lord upon the death of my husband to “shore up and seal up my house” but there was always one haunting question. That was, where would I have enough space to store adequate food for my family that I could control the temperature.

Living in a mild climate in the heart of America, we have long hot summers that sometimes kiss the thermometer in excess of 105? making outdoor storage of any kind almost impossible. I’ve always stored extra paper products and a few canned goods in the garage but due to the heat, I knew I couldn’t successfully store food there for a long period of time. Soil in our region consists of a high content of clay so digging a root cellar is not a fruitful enterprise.

Although I have a relatively large three bedroom home, I wasn’t willing to fill closets with survival food, plus I wanted it to be hidden from eyes that didn’t have a need to know. I worried about this at length, feeling that I had been instructed by the Lord to make preparations for my family of eight.

A friend of ours who is a construction person often does odd jobs around the house for me. He is someone I trust like a brother and whom I attend church with. We were standing in my garage one day as I expressed my dismay over the food storage situation when he pointed to an alcove in the garage and said, “You have a closet right there. All you have to do is wall it off.”

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it previously, but the moment he said that it became very clear this would be “the” place. Within in a few days, I had my son in the garage with a measuring tape, pencil and paper and we figured the supplies I would need to make the closet come into fruition. He went to work and I went to Home Depot to arrange for a delivery of 2 x 4s, sheet rock, insulation, electrical boxes and wiring, light fixtures and screws and the complete list to make a well constructed, insulated closet with electrical outlets and ceiling fixtures where tool laden shelves once stood.

The process of moving all of the shelving and items stored on the shelves was exhausting, but I could see the benefit of this project and knew I would either get rid of what was stored there or find another place to put it. Luckily, most of the shelving was the heavy duty steel shelving on casters that we had bought at Sam’s a couple of years before. They were easily rolled across the garage and out of the way of the construction crew, their contents in tact.

The next weekend, my son and his friend came with tools in hand and began a long day of construction on a simple closet, fifteen feet long by five feet wide. Once their equipment was brought into the garage, the door went down and stayed there during the construction process. Although my neighbors are nice people, they are not on the same political thought process I am and I didn’t think they needed to know what was happening in the garage, nor did the city inspectors!

Two by fours were affixed to the concrete garage floor with a Ramset HD 22 single shot hammer device. Once the 2 x 4s were securely fastened to the floor where they would serve as the grounding base for the wall studs, the 2 x 4s for the studs followed and were stabilized by being attached to the ceiling. Next came the exterior sheet rock wall and insulation. I did hire an electrician to do the wiring of the closet as well as additional dawn to dusk lighting around the perimeter of the house.  In addition to the extra lighting in the ceiling of the closet, we added two outlets in the interior and one on the exterior wall of the storage closet so I would not lose the capacity to plug in extension cords for electrical outdoor tools. The closet door I selected was a metal exterior door already set with a lock and key arrangement.

We installed a silvery [Reflectix] insulation that was about 1/4" thick with bubbles sandwiched between the aluminum-looking [mylar] layers. We completely wrapped the walls of the storage closet with the insulation in hopes that it would solve any temperature problems. We  lined the room with it as tightly as if we were hanging wall paper, stapling it to the walls with an electric, heavy duty stapler. It looked good, clean and professional. My nine year old grandson stepped into the room and asked “Wow. What is this place for.” We dubbed it the “beam me up Scotty” room and have jokingly referred to it as that ever since. I put two thermometers in the room – one at each end –  and watched with dismay as the red line continued to hold at 90?. This was a problem that would only shorten the longevity of the stored food.

Once the closet was done my other son came to begin building shelves. My original plan was for wooden shelves but he wasn’t long into the project until he convinced me to buy metal shelving from Home Depot. We purchased three sets of Workforce Five Shelf Heavy Duty Steel Shelving Units that would hold up to 4,000 pounds. These free standing shelves were easily put together, very strong, and by using two units, I could make them tall enough to go from the floor to the nine foot ceiling. Each unit cost around $89 which was a little more than I had originally budgeted, but now that they are in I’m thrilled with them and very glad we went to this plan. The shelves are clean, smooth and without splinters and I don’t worry about weight loads plus the shelves are adjustable if I so desire.

My hot water tank is housed in a small closet inside the food storage room. I knew we had put the tank in almost immediately after we had moved into the house eleven years previously and it was a ten year tank. While I had not had any difficulty with the tank and found it still supplied me more than adequate hot water, I felt as though it would be prudent to have the tank replaced now, before the closet was full of food and shelving units. Also, I didn’t want to take a chance on the tank going out over a weekend or some other rushed time and I would be at the mercy of an unknown plumber to come fix it. Instead, I bought the tank and hired my construction friend to install it at his leisure, knowing full well I could trust him to be discreet about the contents of the closet.

Continuing to be concerned about the lack of control on the temperature inside the closet, my son and I climbed into the attic and put a roll of pink panther R-20 insulation in the area immediately above the food storage room and then a layer of pressed wood over that for flooring, thinking it would also work as additional insulation. Because of the layout of the roof line and the fact that the support beams for the ceiling of the garage ran crosswise instead of lengthwise, we weren’t able to get the insulation into the low lying areas under the eaves of the house. This worried me and I stuck as much of the blue polystyrene foam insulation back into the small crevices as possible.

As the weather began to get warmer, my concerns for the temperature of the closet room grew. Although my son had heavily insulated the new wall when he built it and I had a circulation fan going in the room at all times as well as the added insulation in the attic and on the exterior walls, the thermometer was showing an increasingly large red line. I knew enough about the longevity of  dried food to know this was not good and I would have to take evasive action.

My next venture was to add a stand alone room air conditioner. I did my research on line and bought one from a company in Austin, Texas. It looked like a great idea but looks weren’t enough! The information said it needed to stand near a window so it could be vented out like any other air conditioner. While I didn’t have a window in the room, I figured we could cut a hole in the wall of the water heater closet, run the venting tubing through that closet and up and out the vents in the attic.

My sister and I set about making this happen. In the early morning hours, before it got hot, she crawled into the attic with tools in hand and began cutting an opening through the ceiling of the hot water tank closet and pushing a very long length of flexible insulated dryer venting through the hole and then through the new hole we had cut in the wall of the closet. Pulling fifty feet of insulation isn’t an easy task, but we worked hard at the project and got it pulled through and affixed to the wall with metal brackets so it would be stable.

We followed the instructions on the stand alone air conditioner and attached the venting system to the flexible dryer vent and rejoiced when we turned on the unit and it dropped the temperature two degrees, almost immediately. We congratulated ourselves, went into the house and cleaned up and crashed in the family room. We were both very hot and exhausted but feeling good about our accomplishment as we drifted off to a well deserved nap.

A couple of hours later we went out to check our handiwork and were frustrated to find the room hotter than it had been before we began the project with the thermostat on the air conditioner showing 93?. We checked all points on the venting system to make sure nothing had come undone. I turned off the unit and set the fan back in the room; she went home. I thought about it over the weekend and tried to figure out what we could do to solve the problem. I had spent over three hundred dollars on the stand-alone unit that was only adding to the problem. Not only could I not afford that, it was maddening to think about.

After further research I came to the conclusion that the stand alone unit really is only a supplemental unit to be used in an area that already has some air conditioning but not enough. I’m sure it would work very well in that situation, but not in ours. On Monday, I called the company in Texas and told them I was returning the unit only to be answered by a Brian who wasn’t very nice about it and informed me that not only would I have to pay for the shipping back, which I expected, but I would now have to pay for the shipping to me as well since I wasn’t buying another product from them. That turned out to be about one hundred dollars down the drain. An expensive lesson in futility.

We were able to repackage all of the venting materials we used and return them to Home Depot for a refund, accompanied by a smile. At least they were nice about it which reinforces the virtues  of buying locally.

Several years before, I had added insulation to the attic of my home so I called that same company and had them come out to add more insulation, this time to the area above the storage closet in the garage as well as the original garage walls. To do so, they had to drill holes in the walls but I didn’t think that mattered - the idea was to keep the room cool enough to prolong the life of the food. It was an arduous task to remove all of the food, shelves and supporting items from the closet into another part of the garage, cover them with thick plastic to hide the contents from unwarranted eyes. Once the insulation project was done, I had to reverse the process and put everything back into the room.

Even with the added insulation, the room still wasn’t maintaining temperature below 90? on the hottest days. Although this was frustrating, I now knew I had to install a wall unit in the room. I decided the only acceptable thing I could do was to cut a hole in the new wall and put a small, one room, 120 VAC air conditioning unit in. I felt this was a gamble as well, but I now had several thousands of dollars worth of food in the closet and I didn’t want to gamble with losing it and not having food for my family.

Adding the 120 VAC unit was the smartest move of all. While they, too, are designed for windows and to be vented outside, we’ve been able to make this work. The condensation from the unit drains into a small plastic pan I placed on a shelf under the unit on the garage side of the wall. After a period of accumulation I pour that water into an empty recycled bottle, mark it “distilled” and set it aside for my iron. I’ve hung a small clip-on fan on the metal shelves, also on the garage side of the wall, next to the air conditioner. The fan blows across the unit and downward where the hot air is picked up by a larger fan and blown toward the garage door that I keep raised about two inches for circulation. 

All in all, the addition of the closet is amazing. I learned a lot of hard lessons along the way but knowing what I know now, I would have started with additional insulation as the second step in the entire process. The room is maintaining a temperature of 60 to 70? now, depending on how much I run the little air conditioner, which is normally shut off at night. I’m trusting by the end of September I won’t have to run it at all.

The closet has been constructed in such a way that I can completely disguise it by rolling steel shelves that we purchased at Sam’s several years ago in front of it. Those shelves are loaded with my husbands tools, chain saws, porta potty and anything else that is necessary for a normal life. In as little as five minutes, the garage can be made to look like a normal American messy garage where nothing could be found easily. Unless someone is looking for the closet with a metal detector, it would be very difficult to find.

The addition of the food storage room has cost me approximately $500 for building materials; $375 for additional insulation; $150 for wiring; $400 for shelving; $100 for air conditioning; $100 for shipping back the stand alone air conditioner, but the peace of mind is priceless.

Hello Jim,
The History Channel has aired a two-hour long documentary titled 'The Day After Disaster'.

It is a very detailed look at what they describe as our government's top terrorist concern - a 10 kiloton nuke being detonated at/near the Capitol Mall in Washington DC. [JWR Adds: A re-run of this show is scheduled for October 16th at 8 A.M. and 2 P.M.. Tape or Tivo it!]

One of the things that became very clear for me is that, should this event occur in DC or any of the handful of other 'primary target' cities mentioned, our entire country will immediately go into a lockdown that will make the 9/11 aftermath look like a timeout for a five year old. This lock down will mean the immediate grounding of all air traffic, as we saw on 9/11, but also the immediate suspension of all trucking, freight, and port activity. The government will be searching for additional nukes, and to determine how the weapon entered the country. While not stated in the Documentary, there will be no just-in-time deliveries for what could be weeks, and I assume that rationing will be the method of disbursement for a time after that. There is an implied expectation that Marshall Law will be instituted at a national level as well.

If your not ready, this is yet another reason to get ready. Long term larder, and keeping out of the way will make for a much less stressful life than those who stand there like deer in the headlights.

Thank you Jim for all that you do, our prayers are with you and your family. God Bless, - D. McD.

From Ben M.: Warning over global oil 'decline'

   o o o

2012 Survival Conference Rocks Scottsdale October 17, Teaches You to Survive Mayan Apocalypse. [JWR's comment: These folks have a downright goofy motivation, but I can't knock them for preparing. I suspect that just like those that prepared for exclusively for the Y2K date rollover, their preps will languish, starting in 2013.]

   o o o

Development plans for the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) have been accelerated by three years. Hmm.... I wonder why? Some mullahs should be mulling this over.

   o o o

Regular content contributor Damon S. spotted this: Suspected Ebola outbreak kills 23 in south Sudan.

"The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men." - Samuel Adams, in a letter to James Warren, on November 4, 1775

Friday, October 9, 2009

Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

A little foreknowledge will prevent you from becoming a victim. Most people don’t think about what they will actually do in the case of an emergency. One just has to see what happened after Hurricane Katrina to see how ill-informed the masses are. They simply expect the government to take care of everything. They meander like zombies to some location and wait to be fed and cleaned up after. Not me! I know what I’m going to do when any disaster strikes.

In this article I want to share with you my thoughts on how to:

•Assess the situation and your location.

•Assess your job location and commute.

•Assess any variables to your survival plans.

When disaster strikes where will you be? How well do you know the place where you live, work, or the space in between? Chances are that when a disaster occurs you will be either at home or at work or commuting in between. You may be ready to deal with things at home on a sunny afternoon, but what if you’re on the road in a downpour?

The main occupation of think tanks is to devise scenarios of whatever their specialty is; oil, food, military or political events. The same tactics can be done on an individual scale to find out what your reactions might be to disasters or events. You can plan out your reactions to events by knowing what your assets are at the time and how to be ready for any variables. Planning is simply about not being surprised. “When I am in situation 1, I will do X. When I am in situation 2 I will do Y.” Simple yet effective.


A scenario doesn’t need to be the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI). Natural disasters are just as important and deadly. Not just in the initial disaster but also in the aftermath. Actually more people usually die after a disaster.

Living here in Northern California, earthquakes are an ever present fear and so ill prepared by people and neglected by the elected officials, city planners and developers. People’s houses might be able to take a moderate earthquake with little damage, but what about the roads, highways and overpasses? Chances are fire will spread unabated killing more people than the initial damage. Or, with the cops busy, looters will think it’s open season on home shopping.

So where does your house stand in the general theme of threats?

TASK #1: List the dangers that might affect your area.

Living where you do, you should already have some experience with some disaster inducing events. The United States has a very large variation in weather and its effects can be devastating. Floods near rivers, hurricanes near the coasts, blizzards up north, heat waves almost anywhere, earthquakes out west… the list goes on. You have probably dealt with something already.

Growing up in the Midwest we were always in danger of tornados cutting a swath through our neighborhood. Then in winter we had to worry about blizzards. But the situation doesn’t have to be devastating. What if a thunderstorm simply cut the power for several days? What if the basement floods? What if there’s an escape from a prison?

Could the effects be temporary or long lasting? Is it just power lines down or a blackout covering several states? Do striking rail workers mean food shortages? Is the riot from a basketball game or did Oakland finally collapse into chaos?


TASK#2: Know your city.

As a pilot I know a lot about terrain. All day long I see the land rolling underneath me. Here in Northern California, from the air, I can easily see how land is managed and how cities and towns are developed. I see how many roads go in and out of town centers, suburbs, business parks and so on.

The place I live in is a small town in a valley with only a few roads leading in and out. If there was an earthquake along the Hayward fault line like the “big one” that is due to happen here any time now, and most of Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco were apocalyptic hellscapes, the bridges might be knocked out and it would hopefully prevent refugees from setting up camp in our open land. We have a route to safety toward Sacramento if needed. And we have arable land that can be turned into farms quickly.

How dense is the population where you live?

Do you live in a dense populated city? A suburb? In the center or on the edge, close to farmland? If there was a disaster, where would most of those people head? You don’t need to fly over your area to assess it, Google Earth will do just fine. Take a good look at the main avenues of traffic and housing. Where is the most dense? Where do you not want to be? Where does the suburbs taper off finally into farmland? If Hurricane Katrina is any indication, people will congregate in a large open space like a stadium, park, school or the like. If you were a FEMA organizer, where would you tell people to go?

Where are the nearest hospitals?

When something happens these are most likely going to be the first place that people head for. There is medical attention, food, warmth and light. If you are uninjured, do you really need to go there? Would it be more dangerous? When the hospital gets overloaded after a disaster and turns into a triage; giving attention to the worst cases first, do you think that panicked people are going to simply wait calmly in the waiting room? Or will they start fights, demand attention maybe at gunpoint? Better to avoid it at all costs. (Or be the very first to show up through the emergency room doors!)

Is your home prepared?

Most time spent by people like us is in preparing our home for disaster, so this is well covered elsewhere and too vast to talk about here. But don’t just look at the stuff you have in your house. The wall of freeze-dried food will get you through the initial catastrophe, but then what? How adaptable is your house? Do you have a yard that can be turned into a garden with a little work? Where can you get more water? Are you near a stream or lake?

Is your neighborhood safe and secure?

You don’t have to live in a gated community to be safe, but how far off the main roads is your house or apartment? Would big city gang-bangers find it accessible and tempting? This fear goes up as the powered lights go out at night and all you can see is darkness out of your front door. Even temporary power outages cause hoodlums to go outside and behave like jackasses.

How well do you know your neighbors?

What would your kids do if you were stuck at work and they were home from school? Do they know your plan of action? Which neighbors could they trust? Which neighbors might want to come together but really are there to deplete your stockpile at twice the rate?


TASK #3: Know your place of work.

If you are stuck at work how long could you last there? You could always sleep at your desk overnight but what about food? Do you think your boss would be ready or willing to provide for you and the other employees? Probably not. It would probably turn into surviving out of your car, especially if your place of work is damaged.

What would you do if stuck on the highway?

The cars are stopped because of an earthquake, flood, jack-knifed chemical truck, etc. Could you pull off and hike on foot? Which way?

When I lived in Tokyo we had to have a plan ready for commuting by train and an earthquake happened. I carried a small street map book so I could walk back to my home when the roads and train lines were disrupted. (Even harder for a foreigner.) The Japanese are far better equipped for disasters from typhoons to earthquakes because of simple occurrence. They know it is just inevitable that something is going to happen. There they can trust their government and employers to help though.

Where are your loved ones and do they know what to do?

Does your spouse know what you might do? Don’t expect your cell phones to be working. I have an agreement with my wife not to come looking for me. I will either go to work or home and she will do the same.


TASK #4: Game out some variables.

Once you have a plan of action and know what you want to do, you have to be ready for any changes. The emergency situation probably won’t stay static, but either gets better with quick action from authorities or more likely get worse through inaction and incompetence from them.

If rising flood waters block the road that lies between you and your loved ones, do you know the alternate routes? Where is the higher terrain versus lower? Once you know what you want to do, head straight home for example, what variable might change that course of action? Snow too deep. Flooded bridge. Tremors sending rocks to the road below. Pinhead cop telling you the road is closed.

Are you ready for the extremes?

Are you ready to spend the night in your car? Or several nights? You can find lists of things to have to make your car into a temporary shelter, but the main thing is not to be surprised and get taken by panic. Simply be ready to tough it out for a while until the situation is to your advantage. If you plan to stay at work, how long until you want to head home?

In conclusion, being prepared for emergencies is not just about sitting on top of your stockpile of food with an AR-15 and waiting. You have to know the game plan and how to implement it and expect it to change. As a pilot, I am always ready for an emergency situation by being mentally prepared for it and never panicking when it doesn’t go the way I’ve practiced. You can do the same for any situation.

In the film industry we use a very cheap and very opaque product to block out windows. We often need to shoot [indoor] night time scenes during the day and can't have any stray light.

Product is called Duvetyne, it's a very, very heavy black cloth. We even use it for flags and cutters, which are light-blocking pieces that we put in front of lights as big as 20K (20,000 watts) to deflect and control stray light. This stuff works great.

Here is a supplier of Duvetyne.

Has it for $8.25 per yard (60" wide), so it really is cheap as dirt. You can buy a 50 yard roll for a little over $400, which has got to be enough to do the windows on two or three average houses. At that price I wouldn't want to be using old rags and what have you. I hope that this helps. - Adam

Reader CP suggested a column piece by Malcolm Berko: Taking Stock. CP's comment: "While Berko runs an investment advice column, he's generally not a cheerleader for irrational exuberance. This response to a reader's question is an general indictment of the markets and those who might as well be donning grass skirts dancing on a beach to appease the financial gods."

Commentary from Dan Denninger: Consumer Credit: Disaster, Down $12 billion

Items from The Economatrix:

US Consumers Cut Borrowing by $12 Billion in August

Mortgage Rates Below 5% Fuel Re-Fi Boom

Gold Price Hit Record High on Report to Ditch Dollar

Gold Breakout Alert

Dead Man Walking

Dow at 6,300 By Year End

China Calls End to Dollar Hegemony

Dollar Tumbles on Report of its Demise

Sugar the New Oil as Prices Soar. JWR's comment: Although most SurvivalBlog readers wisely store mostly honey, it might be prudent to buy some refined sugar to store for holiday baking and for barter, before the retail price of sugar jumps.

Morgan spotted this: Brazil’s Motorists Invest in Armor

   o o o

Attention New Yorkers: Don't miss the Doomsday Film Festival, October 23-25, 2009.

   o o o

Penny was the first of several readers to send me this: SWAT raid on food storehouse heading to trial; Family sues over confiscation of supplies, computers

   o o o

Mystery 'Police' Force Has Small Montana City on Edge. (A hat tip to KAF.)

"If you become involved in a crisis situation, you will not rise to the occasion but, rather, default to your level of training." - A phrase first coined by firefighters, but now commonly used by shooting instructors

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wow! We recently set two new records: 31,898 unique visits in one day, and a whopping 46.2 Gigabytes of traffic. My sincere thanks for spreading the word about SurvivalBlog. Please continue to do so, by adding a link to your web site, blog, or e-mail footer. Thanks!


Today we present another entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

As a child, I was orphaned by age 10. I went from living in wealthy lifestyle with maids and yard handyman, with ponies and pet monkeys in Miami, Florida, to living in rural mid-West with my Grandparents. This was truly a culture shock. It has been with prepping that I have truly appreciated the time spent with my Grandparents. From them learned about gardening, canning, freezing, sewing, and mind expanding experiences from visiting relatives on the farm (acres and acres of corn, and livestock!)

I remember Grandma’s bootstrapping on everything. She’d lived through the depression and WWII with its rationing. She saved everything useful. She explained to me that sewing needles were hard to come by, and butter had been rationed. In today’s perspective, it reminds me to stock up on those little things, like needles. Butter making is a skill and relatively easy to do if you have the animals to do it, but without them, I stocked up on powdered butter, just in case! Old clothes were always saved, and were sometimes remade into new ones (hand-me-downs) for another. I even remember an old rag rug made from scraps of old materials braided and then sewn together in an oval shape. Nothing went to waste.

My other Grandmother told me of her experiences during the Depression. They didn’t have electricity to ‘do without’ because they didn’t have electricity back then! They managed and just didn’t seem to be aware of how hard they had it; just because that was the way it was then. However, she did mention that there were problems in the area with hobos and less fortunates stealing and killing livestock. Grandpa had been more fortunate and not had as much trouble with them due to his reputation for being fair. He paid anyone dropping by, ‘a meal for a day’s work’, such as splitting wood, or other farm chore. The word got around that one could get a meal for work and some would come, help, and eat. Grandpa’s farm wasn’t bothered by losses like some of the neighbors.

Today, when reflecting on my childhood and the things I learned, and in contrast looking at today’s young people, gave me pause. Our group of prepper families consists of older parents with young adult children who are continuing their lives as usual. We had viewed it as giving them a chance to enjoy life and have some good memories before the hard times. It occurred to me today, that for our kids, it is comparable to the Roaring Twenties just before the Great Depression.

But, isn’t the prepping for the continuation of our offspring? I realized today that they are not gaining as much of the skill sets for survival, like I had gained from my Grandparents, by working at their side pulling weeds out of the garden, picking green beans, snapping green beans, shucking corn, blanching and freezing corn, canning green beans, cooking (from scratch!), sewing, automotive repairs, and on and on… Or rather, the extensive lessons gained from this year’s prepping.

This summer’s garden has been unusual for us. We have had a large garden for nearly 15 years, but this year’s garden was planted as a training garden. It was laid out on paper first, companion planting in mind. We innovated and experimented with several new crops, including hops. We planted some both in the garden and in containers for comparison. There are berries, tomatoes, peppers, grapes, lemon bushes, pole-green beans, tire-stack potatoes, yams, and landscaped with herbs and cucumbers and pumpkins. Before planting the garden, we assembled a PVC water distribution line with on/off valves for each row and for the garden as a whole. After rototilling the compost into the garden and covering it with black plastic for two weeks to kill weed seeds, we made furrows and laid out the soaker hoses on the rows, and connected to the water distribution line (PVC) at one end of the garden. The seeds were planted according to the preplanned paper charted layout; each soaker hose was planted on both sides of the hose, essentially doubling the garden’s capacity. (We did have to fertilize a month ago because of the doubling of the crops.) Marigold seeds were planted around the outside perimeter of the garden, unfortunately not on a soaker hose, which required manual watering. This turned out to be a blessing because it provided a bi-daily requirement to water and an opportunity to review progress and address weeds and needs of the garden. It has blossomed like a jungle forest in Hawaii despite being in the middle of a drought and 100 degree summer weather! I have maintained my first ever garden journal and noted all progress and failures. Our hops are now over 9 feet tall, and covered with hops. Our potato tire stacks looked like they worked well, but we discovered potatoes only liked the first tire which held dirt; the tires above were filled with tree mulch and grew no potatoes. This was a good lesson before TEOTWAWKI. The green beans have produced 49 quarts to date and are ready for their 4th picking and are still blooming! The bell peppers are nearly the size of a baseball. These were grown from seeds we saved from Costco’s bell peppers eaten earlier in the year! We have a patch along the side of the garden which holds the perennials which don’t get rototilled. There grows the asparagus, which gave us spears for two months early in the year and then goes to frond, tall and wispy, to support the root structure. We also grew new asparagus from seed saved from last year! We have tomatoes planted next to the asparagus. They repel each other’s pests! In between are basil and parsley and garlic. We have had no problems with pests this year! Yeah!

We learned not to plant winter crops in spring, but rather in July. We learned that spinach and lettuce like shade, and that spinach bolts (goes to seed) when the days are too long. Our pole beans have grown up 6 foot rabbit/deer fencing staked down along the soaker hoses. Pole beans are vining plants and have grown into arches making getting down the rows difficult. Next year we will alternate pole bean rows with spinach or lettuce I think. Our cowpeas/black-eyed peas are doing fine and require no work! They will also make a great cover crop for the winter and to rototill into the garden. They add nitrogen to the soil!

The entire garden survived a devastating hail storm which tattered much of the garden, and bruised some of the produce, but most survived and recovered. I discovered that thinning can be done with scissors to remove the extra plants without disturbing the roots of the "keeper" plants.

The garden has always been canned, but this year, we have discovered that much of it can be put up through dehydration. The Excalibur dehydrators web site has excellent videos of how to dehydrate food for TEOTWAWKI, which saves space and weight! We are still canning meats. We also smoked our first freshly caught river salmon and vacu-sealing it before freezing it, to keep it around for awhile. (Of course, that is after we ate lots of fresh salmon.)

The discoveries this summer have been wonderful, but the kids have not been around for much of it. They have been too busy enjoying their own lives in our urban community. They have grown gardens before, but they missed out on much of what we learned this year, by not being around. It is hard to tear them away from their friends, girlfriends, jobs, college, parties, movies, and of course electronic games.

I have learned, like the song says, “You’ve got to be Cruel to be Kind”. To do the right thing for our kids will take ‘Hard Love’, like my Grandparents did with me; chores and responsibilities/school homework came first, before play, and before friends! I hated that rule, but it made a better me as a result of it. Wish me luck. - FBP

Mr. Rawles,
To counter the ridiculous prices of heavy duty lined upholstery fabric and pre-made retail offered curtain panels with "supposed" 99% light blocking out fabric liners, or the use of fabric remnants of odd sizes and black dye, this alternative suggestion beats the cost of other approaches hands down. They can be put up in a hurry with two staples or my preference is to apply them up with screws at both chord ends using para-cord through the holes, which will allow them to be cinched open and closed during daylight hours, if you chose to do so.

I purchased the darkest-colored shower curtain liners from a local dollar store in bulk. I started with tan colored ones. They are heavy duty plastic with weights embedded in the hem bottom to keep them straight and taut. I hung them up on an outdoors clothes line, (yeah, remember those?), so that I could have access to both sides. I spray painted them with non-toxic latex flat black paint, (which I also purchased at the dollar store), and also found para-chord there as well.

Once thoroughly dried, these blocked even the sun which was shining bright that day to dry them in the wind.
I let them hang out in the sun one more day after they were found dry to the touch, to cure the paint and also rid them of the plastic shower curtain new smell. I then rolled them up individually, marked them by number which was assigned to each window on each building and corresponds to a master log sketch picture sheet which also depicts the same numbering system on our OPSEC house "security plan", and stored them away in the closet of each room. They are now ready for a TEOTWAWKI day that they will be hung up in a flash.

The end cost to do all my windows in the house, barn and outbuildings was 1/4th the price of what it would have cost to hang newly purchased rolled black visqueen material in the widths that I needed.

The second alternative suggestion for economy and successful black out affect, for kitchen windows, or use on those short, small windows, is to go to your local variety store and look for heavy Black bath towel blankets. They are oversized like a beach towel, plush, and very black. They were found on sale now at our local Wal-Mart for $5.00. I used these and made "cut to custom" width and length covers for those odd-sized windows that are used for house perimeter monitoring and are designated "target ports", and the curtains have no signature sound "rustle" when you pull them open.
Again, this was far less expensive to complete this project, than starting with base materials. It was a fast, efficient use of goods, effective for blocking out light, ( we tested them) and inexpensive project and the materials are available right now. - KAF

JWR Adds: For any new SurvivalBlog readers that are wondering why they might need opaque window coverings, consider this: In a disaster situation where the utility power grid goes down, there will be very few people that will have have electric lights for more than a few days. Most SurvivalBlog readers have either a photovoltaic power system, or a propane-fueled backup generator. But having your house lit up might attract the attention of looters, in search of lucrative targets. So it is wise to be prepared to black out your windows, and perhaps even add a "light lock" foyer (similar to a photographic darkroom entrance), just inside your house's main entrance. (In a disaster situation, that will most likely be the utility room door.) Once you've set up your blackout shutters or drapes, be sure to check for light leaks, preferably with a starlight scope or goggles. Add opaque duct tape to any glaring cracks, as needed.

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I was recently given your novel "Patriots" by a like-minded friend in Wyoming. I read it once for pleasure, then twice with a highlighter, notepad, and Google. It's a wonderful resource, and I'm looking forward to the new book ["How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It"]. Reading "Patriots" left me proud to be an American, and revitalized something I felt I had been losing in the recent years. This is a wonderful country, and I have faith that there are still a bunch of decent God-fearing people who will stand up for her when needed.

I was 20 when I moved here from Baltimore, to run a cattle ranch that my father had the foresight to buy in the late 1980s. It became the working family "retreat" where I lived full time, and my parents lived half-time. I am forever indebted to Dad for my life. He was my best friend in more ways than can be counted. He passed at age 68 in late 2007, of a digestive cancer. I will always wish I had more time with him on earth.

Life in Wyoming has been wonderful for me, as I developed good self-sufficiency skills and eventually (starting 1995) built a passive and active solar/wind charged earth-bermed home. I remember back in 1984, when Dad (in the computers/operations research field) bought our first PC - an XT with dual 5.25" floppies and 128K of RAM. The first thing I did as a teenager was make my lists of things I'd need to go survive in the woods! I have no idea where those thoughts came from - it was absolutely natural. I'm currently forty, and pretty shocked by current events and economics.

What are we doing? Is hyperinflation around the corner? There are two things my dad taught me long ago, that I always use to analyze everything...

1) Nothing is free.
2) If you have to lie to accomplish your goals, maybe you'd rather reevaluate your goals!

Now I'm building marine-grade expedition campers that can operate far from civilization, and restoring old mechanical diesels in my spare time. Next spring and summer my projects will be a good root cellar, a rebuild of my wind charger, and a new small barn for our goats and chickens.

Thank you for the inspiration. I hope one day to shake your hand. God Bless, - Darrin in Wyoming

Reader Jim F. mentioned this fascinating Wired article: Missile Silo Fixer-Upper Now Swanky Bachelor Pad

   o o o

A reminder that Safecastle's final Mountain House sale for 2009, ends on October 11th. They are offering 25% off on all Mountain House canned long-term storage foods. Order soon!

   o o o

Feds sued to keep out of state's gun affair; Complaint filed seeking affirmation of Montana Firearms Freedom Act. (Thanks to Clem in Wyoming, for the link.)

   o o o

Paint Horses for Sale: SurvivalBlog reader "Tota" wrote me: "Recently I lost my job. I have a herd of Ten (10) Paint/Quarter horses horses that I need to sell because I cannot afford to feed them. I am located in southeastern Idaho. The package includes a young Black/White (Homozygous for color and pattern) stallion, 6 broodmares - 1 mare is also homozygous for color and pattern -1 black QH mare 1- sorrel QH mare, grade paint mare that produces color even bred to solid horses and a paint mare. There are also some 2-year olds yearlings and foals by the above stallion. This package is the best in Paint and QH breeding. The stallion has had four months of professional training, four of the mares are rideable and some even double as pack horses. The whole herd is $15,000." If you are a serious buyer, please e-mail me, and I will forward it to "Tota".

   o o o

Robert M. mentioned: Serious Green: A Guide to Keeping City Chickens

“In addition to some of the obvious reasons why you don’t want to cut yourself when operating a saw, blood on a bare tool steel blade can cause serious and near-immediate rusting, and good tools deserve better treatment than that. “ - H. J. Halterman, Along the Way, August 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sorry about the delay, but here are the result's of last month's poll. Today, I'm starting a new poll: What are your favorite movies with survival themes? Please e-mail me a list of your top five picks. Thanks! I'll post the results sometime early in November.

Here are the results of our recent poll. Thety are listed in no particular order, but each book listed below received at least two votes. Those that are marked with an asterisk are suitable for teenagers.

Thanks for all your input. As I recently mentioned in an interview on the Laura Ingraham show, one of the best ways to inspire preparedness newbies is to put a piece of survival fiction in their hands. It gets them thinking through some potential "what if" situations.

James Wesley,
A Zenith Trans-Oceanic (T-O) is hard to beat, especially if you could snag a [rare] R-520 militarized version. This has a spare tube rack, uses no wax paper capacitors, is fungi proof, et cetera. The T-O definitely the world's greatest portable radio (this side of the AN/GRR-6!) the G & H 500s and the 600 series as well as the R-520 all used the 1L6 converter tube which has become expensive and just about un-obtainable. You can clip a pin out of a 1R5 as a substitute but shortwave performance usually conks out around 7-8 MC. The earlier T-Os which used loctal tubes use a 1LA6 converter tube which has identical characteristics to the 1L6. People have made an adapter from a loctal socket and a 7-pin header.. There is no problem getting 1LA6 tubes. The alignment needs a little tweaking due to added stray capacitances, but it works well.

Your discussion on the All-American 5 (AA5) [120 Volt AC/DC tube radios] was great too. FYI, the typical AA5 has a sensitivity of approximately 20uv/meter. That is not too bad for a minimal mass-produced radio. The All American 6 is worth a look. It is basically an AA5 with an added RF amplifier. This is seen in some Philcos and other. It was an untuned RF amplifier, but it helps. The typical AA6 has a typical sensitivity around 5uv. Probably one of the best and cheapest is the Zenith H615, it is an AC/DC 6-tube with a tuned RF stage and a decent loop antenna. It's kind of a "Plain Jane" radio so it's not terribly "collectable" but they work great. Zeniths are always sounded good too.

Many of the Truetone radios marketed for Western Auto stores were AA6s since they were aimed at the rural market away for strong signals. Most of the Truetones that I've repaired/restored were made by Belmont, who made a quality product. The Model D2613 is a common AA6 that works very well and has general coverage shortwave. The RF amp is in the circuit on MW but not on SW.

The little National NC-54 is a great little AC/DC general coverage. It was national's answer to the Hallicrafters S-38. BTW, an S-38 is a good choice.

For what it's worth many AM DXers consider the 1960s Delco car radios one of the best AM receivers ever made. They are transistorized, but the single-ended output makes them kind of a power hog. (But nothing compared to the tube & vibrator and hybrid radios that preceded them.) [JWR Adds: And these of course also operate on 12VDC, so they are ideal for retreats with alternative power systems.]

A Select-A-Tenna or a home-made tunable loop is a worthwhile addition. (See the National Radio Club's web site.[JWR Adds: I've been a happy user of my original Select-A-Tenna for 20+ years. They are a bomb-proof design. The standard model works inductively (when set up in proximity to your radio's ferrite rod antenna), so there is not even an antenna wire or connection to wear out! These antenna adjuncts are considered de rigueur in Alaska and in much of Canada. They really work quite well at boosting weak AM signals.]

I've been chasing electrons since I was a small kiddo. The fascination with radio never left me.Take a look at my club's web site (the Houston Vintage Radio Assn.)

On another note, I had previously disagreed with you about HF direction finding (DF). But as a practical matter [I have found that] DF-ing [skywave] HF is not that practical in the field. But tag along on a Ham "fox hunt" [to see ground wave HF-DF in action]. But at great distances, due to almost vertical skywave incidence it is pretty tough unless you have a Wullenweber [FLR-9] array! I hope this finds you and yours well. I plan to take a look at Anchor of Hope Charities. and God Bless - TiredTubes

GG was the first of more than a dozen readers to mention this article by Robert Fisk (an outspokenly leftist journal list, so take it with a grain of salt.): The demise of the dollar; In a graphic illustration of the new world order, Arab states have launched secret moves with China, Russia and France to stop using the US currency for oil trading.

Given the import of the preceding (if it is true), is it any wonder that the USDI is tanking, and the future and spot prices of precious metals are going through the roof? You've had plenty of warning and investment encouragement from your editor. Eight years worth, in fact. (I called the bottom, back in 2001.)

Greg F. suggested this: Is The FDIC Killing Short Sales?

Banks brace for Latvia's collapse; The Baltic states are once again in the eye of the storm after leaked reports that Sweden is bracing for a full-blown economic and political "breakdown" in Latvia. (Thanks to GG for the link.)

Items from The Economatrix:

Most Economically Stressed US States

Treasury to Say Three More Funds to Buy Toxic Assets

HSBC Chief Fears Second Downturn

Roubini: Markets Have Gone Up Much Too Fast

Fiscal Storm in Caymans Set to Spread

Will California Become America's First Failed State?

Dollar Doldrums

Wall Street Faces Day of Reckoning Over Bear Stearns

US Unemployment Shows Downside of Short-Termist Stimulus Policies

East Taking Over from West in Irreversible Economic Power Shift

Treasury Yields Drop to Lowest Since May as Recovery Falters

US Stocks Fall, Posting Back-To-Back Losses Since July

Reader JM3 found a "kicked up" MRE cooking video.

   o o o

I heard that Ready Made Resources is having a sale on REC Solar SCM-220 220 watt photovoltaic panels. These panels, made in Norway, are excellent quality, and you can't beat the price--especially when you consider the normal cost of shipping, which is free.

   o o o

Reader "OSOM" recommended some concealed carry wisdom from Massad Ayoob: 10 Commandments of Concealed Carry.

   o o o

Thanks to Tom W. for finding this item: Criminalizing Everyone

"Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence he is just using his memory” - Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There is a new regulation that apparently I must address: per FTC File No. P034520, I state for the record: I accept cash-paid advertising. To the best of my knowledge, as of the date of this posting, none of my advertisers have solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price gear in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. Okay, with that done, I can press of with blogging here in the land that we once called free...

Once you realize the importance of being prepared for coming hard times, you may ask yourself, “How can I possibly prepare for any scenario?  This is an insurmountable undertaking.”  The more you ponder this, the more the reality of this seems to be confirmed.  Let not your heart be troubled.  As with almost any endeavor, the road to success begins with the first step and continues one step at a time.  Consistent, prioritized, careful preparation over a period of time, preparation built around what your personal situation (budget, job, family, medical needs, etc.) will allow, can get you in a position in relatively short order to weather the scenarios that are most likely to occur.  The mere fact that you have considered the possibilities of what may lay ahead can very quickly put you ahead of the vast majority of the population.

Consider the possible scenarios whereby preparedness would prove to be literally a lifesaver.  These scenarios range from very geographically localized events, either natural or man-made, to the proverbial TEOTWAWKI.  The likelihood any of these events occurring generally becomes decreasing likely in a given time frame as the geographical scope and severity of the event increases.  Therefore the occurrence of a total multi-generational societal collapse, requiring the maximum amount of preparation is far less likely to occur over the next year or two or five than relatively local, relatively short term events such as tornados, hurricanes or floods, or even some major terrorist events, all requiring far less preparation than TEOTWAWKI situation previously mentioned.  This should be considered in the early stages of preparation as priorities for investment are made.

Therefore, your preparation should follow a well planned, measured, prioritized process that enables you to be positioned to go through the most likely scenarios first followed by progressively increasing severe scenarios.  Ongoing preparation will build on the past.  No effort goes wasted.  This should be encouraging to the beginning prepper.

How should you start?  Start with a careful analysis of the most likely localized events that may occur in your area or region, or events from another region that may impact your local area (remember passenger air service after 9/11).  Shutdown of transportation systems, especially trucking and rail should be of paramount concern.  What is the probable time frame that these events may cause you to rely on your own resources?  Make a list of all the items and quantities you will need to get through that period of time.  This constitutes the Phase I physical resources preparation plan.

Prioritize the list and within the constraints of your budget begin to acquire the items you have listed.  Keeping an Excel spreadsheet makes this task much easier and allows you to see at a glance exactly how much physical resource preparation you have achieved, how much you still need, the value of those resources, the cost to complete your initial Phase I purchases, etc.  Your spreadsheet should include rows listing each item with columns for:

  • Priority
  • Category or subcategory
  • Quantity Needed (for the given preparation Phase)
  • Quantity on Hand
  • Difference Needed vs. On-Hand (Calculated Value)
  • Cost Each
  • Acquisition Cost (Calculated Value)
  • On Hand Value (Calculated Value)
  • Total Value (Calculated Value)
  • Percent Complete for the Item (Calculated Value) – you can color code this Red/Yellow/Green for and at a glance dashboard view
  • Subtotals as you feel appropriate for each Category or Sub-Category

In the same way you used Excel to track your Phase I resources preparation status, use your spreadsheet to list categories, sub-categories, items and quantities that you wish to acquire for future Phases, up to and including a Phase for TEOTWAWKI.  This allows you to systematically build your level of preparedness a Phase at a time.  As you start with Phase I, you can also see how well you are gearing up for future Phases as well.  Remember, on-hand quantities, pricing, etc, can carry from the Phase I sheet to the Phase II through Phase “n” sheets so redundant data entry isn’t required!  Don’t forget to make hard copies of your files and save them in a three ring binder.

Additional Tips for getting started.

So you have determined what you need to acquire and have begun to do so.  But prepping isn’t just about acquiring tangible goods. 

It is also about skills.  It is especially about skills.  Even what I have called “Phase I” preparation should include training in the plan.  A diversity of skills within your group (which may start out as just your family) is important.  Take advantage of any relevant training available to you at low or no cost.  Programs available in many communities include CERT, First Aid, CPR and similar.  Use these opportunities to increase your skill base.  These are great skills to have in normal times and are great skills to build upon.  Even these basic courses could prove to literally be lifesavers in “normal” as well as tougher times.

Learn to garden.  Even if you don’t have a retreat with the space, perfect soil, and water supply, you should garden on a smaller scale in your city or suburban back yard.  This will give you a head start in knowledge and experience (i.e., harvesting and saving seeds for future years) when you are able to move to that retreat location.  Plus, fresh garden vegetables are healthier and taste so much better than what you purchase from the store, especially if the store bought vegetables are poured from a can!  Nothing beats enjoying a hand picked, vine ripe tomato fresh from the garden (and I confess, I take the salt shaker out back with me!).

Put away the foods you eat today.  Nitrogen packed survival foods are expensive and likely should and may be a part of your plan.  However, many foods that you eat today can be more immediately utilized to kick start your storage pantry at moderate cost while you save for other more expensive longer term options.  You can buy or easily build out of plywood a FIFO rotation canned goods rack, set it in a pantry or closet and start loading it up today with the foods you already eat.  This accumulation can be done for little perceived cost if done over time.  Simply buy a little extra of what you already purchase each time you are at the store.  You will be amazed at how quickly you can build up a 30, 60, 90 day supply of canned goods that will never go bad because they are what you currently eat so you rotate them via the FIFO system into your daily meals.  Canned vegetables, meats, soups, fruits and sauces can all be stored in this simple way.  All at very moderate expense.

Learn about your firearms.  Practice with them as much as you can afford to.  Get professional instruction.  Basic courses for novices are available at moderate expense.  There are NRA sanctioned courses for basic safety, handling and shooting skills.  Work toward completion of an NRA course or equivalent in self defense in the home and self defense outside the home.   If you are or once you get to be more advanced, get even more advanced training.  If your budget doesn’t initially allow this, do the best you can but plan for more advanced tactical training in a future Phase.  The key now is to get what you can afford and build on that.  Practice, practice, practice.

Don’t think you must necessarily purchase a complete set of new firearms right out of the gate for your survival armory.  Conventional wisdom suggests .45 ACP pistols for carry, .308/7.62 NATO semi-autos for your MBR (with expensive red-dot optics), a good .308 bolt action for long range and / or large game hunting, and perhaps a more expensive shotgun than you have budget for.  If you already have 9mm pistols, that AR-15 you bought a few years ago “because you wanted one”, the scoped .303 you inherited from Dad and an old but functional Remington 870 Express in 12 gauge, you are good to go for now, as a beginner prepper.  Make sure that adequate ammunition is part of your plan, but with this or a similar adequate set of calibers and shotgun you are set for your initial Phases of preparation.  Early on, food, water, medical supplies and the like are likely a higher priority than new firearms.  You can upgrade in a future Phase.  Focus on firearms training at this stage.  It’s about prioritization.  Besides, later phases prepare for scenarios that will be more likely to require the capabilities of upgraded firearms.

A basic principle.  Standardize.  If you pick .45ACP for your personal carry weapon, it is advantages for all members of your group to do the same.  The same principle applies for your MBR, self defense and hunting shotguns, etc.  Ammunition and magazine plans will appreciate this.  Try to standardize on 1 or 2 battery types for your battery operated devices.  Or more correctly standardize by using devices requiring only 1 or 2 battery types.  You don’t want to have to store and/or maintain charges on AA, AAA, CR123, C, D, N and CR2032 batteries, when you could be more efficient and effective with perhaps using only AA batteries.  This principle applies to anything that you have more than one of.  Radios, flashlights, etc.  Remember the axiom, two is one and one is none.  Standardization means simplicity, efficiency, spares.  There may be exceptions, but take standardization into consideration when you develop or modify your plan.  Initially, you may have to have a wider assortment of devices depending on the devices you currently have, but have a strategy to standardize.

Plan to read or more correctly, to learn by reading.  Whenever you come across a useful article, print it out and save it in a three ring binder with other useful articles you have saved.  Even if it is something you can’t purchase or do or use until a future Phase, save it now and add it to the plan now.  There is an incredible amount of useful information in SurvivalBlog.com.  Read and save (and purchase through Jim’s site when you decide to purchase goods from one of his advertisers).  Jim helps us so we should help him where we can.

If you have relatives or friends in a rural location that you can get too and who are willing to take you in during appropriate events, have a G.O.O.D. plan.  This includes hard copy maps with routes and alternate routes.  Practice all routes before the big day.  Practice your load out plan, again, prior to the big day.  Search SurvivalBlog.com for loads of information on G.O.O.D.  There are many concerns related to evacuation in certain scenarios.  Educate yourself and make educated decisions.

This article is the tip of the iceberg with regards to beginning prepping, but hopefully it has a few pointers to get you thinking and to get you started and is an encouragement that this can be done, that you can successfully prepare for the future.  You don’t have to purchase all nitrogen packed long shelf life survival foods or the perfect arsenal with one of every conceivable firearm type for every circumstance (in fact limiting (standardizing) models and calibers has some clear advantages) in order to successfully prepare for the likeliest of scenarios.  Remember, methodical, prioritized preparing is the way to go for those of us on a budget.  Start small, build your knowledge base, supplies and skills, and very soon you will be in the enviable position of weathering the most likely calamities to occur in the next few years.   If you continue this methodical, ongoing process, you will continue to improve your situation and continue to put your self in a position to weather increasingly more severe and longer lasting scenarios.  The important thing for those on a budget is not to wish you could do it all now by immediately trading cash for all the tangibles and training you need, but to start and to start now and to consistently build to our plan as we can afford to do so.

First of all I am glad your newest book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" is selling very well. It is a great book and I think just about everyone could benefit from reading it and having a copy on the shelf to reference. Anyway my question is about firearms spare parts. I have stashed a good amount of cash to purchase spare parts for my essential firearms and am not sure what to get. Thanks to a previous post here I have a a list for the AR platform. I am however just about clueless for the Remington 870, the Glock 9mm and the M1911. I have done some looking online and have seen lists here or there which are completely different from each other. I know you use the Remington 870 and the 1911 at the Rawles Ranch so I imagine you have thought those over a little bit. Also any thoughts you or your readers have about spare parts for the Glock platform would be highly appreciated.

Thank you very much for your time and effort. - TheOtherRyan (Co-editor of Total Survivalist Libertarian Rantfest)

JWR Replies: For some suggested spare parts to keep on hand, see these articles in the SurvivalBlog archives and at my static pages:

Beyond those references, you should talk with specialist gunsmiths that are well-experienced with your particular models. Be sure to ask them not only about high breakage parts, but also high loss parts. Some parts under spring pressure tend to go flying across the room, during disassembly. Have you ever spent a half hour with a magnet, trolling through shag carpet in the search for a tiny, errant spring detent? I have!

In closing, I should remind readers to take full advantage of the SurvivalBlog archives, via the "Search Posts on SurvivalBlog:" box at the top of the right hand bar. If your question is technical, then odds are you can quickly find the answer in the more than 7,600 archived posts. They are all available free of charge.

John McC. mentioned an interesting (albeit slow-loading) environmental threat map site.

   o o o

I heard from a reader in Wyoming about some newly-manufactured herdsman-style trailers equipped with wood stoves. They look like a good option for extended camping situations, or a way to house extra families that show up at your retreat at the 11th Hour.

   o o o

Damon pointed us to a Washington Times editorial: The coming war with Iran.

   o o o

India floods leave 2.5 million homeless, 250 dead. (My thanks to Eric C. for the link )

"The fact of the matter was that Venice was utterly demoralized. It was so long since she had been obliged to make a serious military effort that she had lost the will that makes such efforts possible. Peace, the pursuit of pleasure, the love of luxury, the whole spirit of dolce far niente (softness for nothing) has sapped her strength. She was old and tired; she was also spoilt." - John Julius Norwich's description of once mighty Venice's surrender to Napoleon

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mr. Rawles,
My family and I are facing some challenges in our pursuit to become prepared. First off, a little background on our situation. I'm a 12-year Air Force veteran currently stationed in Montana. My wife also works full-time. We have about $60,000 in debt between credit cards and two auto loans. We have no problems paying our bills and our credit is excellent. It's just that we don't have a ton of extra money to begin our grand survival scheme. We've talked about all the different routes about living debt free and also purchasing the right vehicles, retreat and equipment that we feel we would need.

Option #1 - The Air Force pays large bonuses for certain career fields if you reenlist into that career field. I'm interested in one that will pay me a minimum $50,000 ($25.000 on signing, the rest spread out over the length of my reenlistment.) We talked about paying off one auto loan and our credit cards with the up-front $25,000. This would free up about $500/month which we would probably put towards our bigger auto loan. Since the first auto loan would be paid off, we can then sell that car and buy a less expensive '73-'86 Chevy/GMC Blazer or Suburban (gas). That would take care of survival vehicle #1. The other $25,000 over the following years would be used to pay down our other vehicle to where we can pay off or even break even so we can purchase survival vehicle #2---1994-1997 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 5.9L Cummins diesel. If we go for this option, most if not all of our debt will be gone and we'll have about $1,000/month to spend on fortifying our equipment, supplies et cetera. The problem with this option is we won't be too prepared if something were to happen in the next 4-to-5 years or so.

Option #2 - Let's assume that I still have the same bonus as listed above. I retire in eight years and would like to have a little piece of land to go to--TEOTWAWKI or not. We plan on 10+ acres somewhere in north central Idaho (Orofino/Pierce/Deary--that area). Well, I could take the $25,000 up front bonus and put it down on a piece of land. We don't plan on spending over $80,000, so we can figure on a payment of around $300-$600/month. Then, when I retire, I'll move the family up there and build a house with a mini-farm. Of course, if I went this route I would still have a lot of debt.

Option #3 - Perhaps I should plan for more immediate needs. My family has little of the proper equipment/supplies that we would need. Shoot, we don't even have a Bug-Out Bag.. I've considered using that bonus money (or a portion) to build up in the equipment area and forego paying any additional to debt (after all, if TEOTWAWKI happens in the near future, debt will be the least of our problems).

So, this is the dilemma that I am faced with. I know my end goal a (self sustaining mini-farm in Idaho, while still receiving a pension and being debt free). Getting there is the hard part. The costs of my current debt, state of provisions, buying land, building on the land, vehicles, alternative power for the retreat will probably cost anywhere from $200,000-$500,000 when it's all said and done. I think the smart choice is putting as much money as possible towards debt and getting that out of the way, but at the same time making small provisions for WTSHTF. Perhaps I've missed something? - Dan W.

JWR Replies: For anyone that might be laid off, debt can be a real killer in the next few years. I still predict a at least another 18 months of deflation to be followed by sharp inflation. In deflationary times, having any debt load would be disastrous if income were interrupted due to a layoff. Granted, military service is a unique situation, but my general advice is to pay down debts, and avoid taking on any new debt. The situation in the immediate future will resemble the Great Depression of the 1930s, where cash was king, and the few people that had jobs fared well, but those that were unemployed suffered badly. So my advice is to take Option #1: Pay off one auto loan and your credit cards with the $25,000 re-up bonus. Not only will it remove the stress of potential loss of income, but it will eliminate interest payments, which are a non-productive drain on your resources. Then make your preparations gradually, using your expendable income, without incurring any new debt. If need be, downgrade one of your vehicles to an older model that won't require a car loan. That will free up even more cash each month.

Dear Jim,
I attended an Appleseed Project shoot, and it was interesting. I really enjoyed everything about the program, the instruction, the history, and the camaraderie. I'm a newbie to shooting, and I think I may have had the wrong sling type. The type that the instructors had was a loop sling, but the kind I had was just a nylon strap. When trying to get into positions and change positions the strap kept sliding down my shirtsleeve. I did awful in the shooting, and really surprised myself at exactly how bad of a shot I am. I need lots of practice. In reading your site I see all these people who seem to be full blown commandos eating rusty nails surviving in the brush with nothing while always walking uphill in the rain against a hurricane while evading a hungry bear. It's a little discouraging for a newbie, as I sit down in front of my laptop with my microwave TV dinner.

Needless to say I'm going to sign up for another Appleseed project because I consider my first attendance a frustrating experience based on my inexperience. I was never able to find this so called (natural point of aim (NPOA). My natural point of aim seems to be my foot from a standing position. At 50 yards I'm all over the place, no grouping whatsoever, and most of the time I can't tell if I hit the target or not. Another thing to get used to is all the noise at the Appleseed. We were 70 to 80 people all within two to three feet of each other shooting everything from .22 to .308. The smoke, the noise, and the hot spent brass landing on your back from someone else's rifle made quite difficult to concentrate. I don't like anyone else to be shooting while I'm shooting. [JWR Adds: After you've resolved any flinching problems, I have found that the noise, distractions, and stress of a rifle match creates a good training environment for basic combat shooting. Although a rifle match doesn't come close to the stress of tactical rushes with bullets flying both directions, some stress is a good thing!]

I'm trying to overcome lots of bad habits already between the blinking, flinching, breathing, and focusing on the front sight. I'm going to get back at it and keep practicing. My reason for writing this to you is because perhaps some other rookie can find solace in the fact that not everyone on SurvivalBlog is Jeff Trasel running around with an M60. :) I'm a product of the "Me generation" trying to get re-acquainted with reality. - Jon in Florida

I just finished reading the linked article "Five Highly Productive, Low-Stress Animals You Can Raise at Home." When I read articles like this I start to fume. They make it sound like all you need to do is 'get your goat' (or whatever) turn it out and reap the benefits. One the major issues in sheep and goat raising that can be and often is a killer is parasites (intestinal and nasal worms). Sheep and goats are subject to stomach worm. This worms basically suck the their blood and the host (sheep or goat) then dies from anemia.

Most folks do not realize that we have a serious problem in the US in the fact that most of the antiparasiticals that are used to control worm loads has been used (mostly incorrectly) for so long that the worms are immune to it. That means there is little prescription that is effective in killing the worms.

That further means that having these animals on small acreage over an extended period of time can be a death sentence.

Parasites build up in the soil. The worms crawl up the grass, Goat/sheep eat the grass and the worms. The worms continue the cycle of laying eggs inside the host animals, the animals add the worms back to the soil in their manure, with increasing numbers, the host picks up more of them and in fairly short order, bam -- worm overload -- dead host.

Please know that I am quite qualified to make the above statements. I have successfully raised goats for over 45 years. I am one of the few folks that can say they have actually made a profit raising goats. I am here to remind you that there is no profit or pleasure in a dead goat.

There are those that would like to tell you that this breed or that breed is 'worm resistant' --to that I say 'Yeah and they likely voted for Obama'. The fact is that all goats are vulnerable to worms and all breeds are subject just as much as any other. The difference is climate and good management. Warm and moist climate is a breeding ground for worms. For example, in Missouri, where it is warm and humid most all spring, summer and even Fall is a haven for these worms. In [most of] Texas, where it gets hot and dry is not such a good climate for the worms. But there is a trade off. Hot and dry means little vegetation so it take lots of acres to feed one goat in Texas. In Missouri you can feed many goats per acre, but you will also infect those goats in sort order.

Please, do your homework. Livestock are not easy and work-free. They are not for the faint at heart. It takes dedication and diligence along with some common sense and selflessness to keep animals. If someone tells you it it easy, I dare say, they are either trying to sell you some 'seed stock' or they are from the government. Respectfully, - Paulette in Missouri

Having read Part 1 of an expatriate's explanation of his travel safety preps - and being an avid motorcyclist in South America, I have a couple of cents to add:

Batons are worthless, I'm 6'1" and pretty strong. After having worked as a cop, I can attest that baton strikes are of little utility in a serious fight, holding onto a baton in a fight is a serious mistake, you tend to concentrate on the weapon that does very little actual damage and get swarmed under. I've had to abandon my baton most of the time in a real fight, simply because to retain it I would have been unable to grapple or draw my pistol. Given the serious nature of a physical threat south of the border of the USA, and the typical three or more attacker scenario - a baton will just get you killed. Sure they're cute and cuddly and all, but I have never seen one end a fight outside of some of the heavier "non issue" batons. Unless you're very good at modern arnis or escrima, a baton is a poor weapon choice - especially the collapsible ones. I make sure I have two things when riding down there:

1. Steel-toed boots. You can wear them on any airplane, and they give you a definite weapon when attached to a long leg. What an armored kick to the shin or upper foot of a bad guy will do, I have witnessed many times in close quarter combat. Any other kind of shoe is vulnerable on top and if you have a steel shank as well, you can crush the bitty little bones in their foot with a good stomp.

2. Screwdrivers. The nice slender [6mm diameter] kind with a Phillips head screwdriver . Carry one [loosely sheathed in a length of clothes hanger cardboard tubing] in each jacket pocket. I know one guy who pre-stresses his "ready screwdrivers" to snap away like a prison "shank". A snapped off screwdriver shaft stops a fight [As a motorcyclist,] it's not considered a weapon in a foreign country, and you never have to worry about them being confiscated.

I've been in a lot of scraps with a lot of people. I have learned what works for me, and what seems to work in general, and have gleaned the following:

1. Drunk people don't feel pain.
2. Pepper spray is a nice flavoring to add to a general melee - but a bad choice for individual combat with one caveat: the "Hide it in the hand, jam it in the mouth, and set it off" school. Don't warn the guy, don't wave things around, just jam it in and squeeze. Pepper spray is not an instant incapacitant, unless you get it in the upper-respiratory tract (uncontrollable retching coughs). If the bad guy closes his mouth, you lose your effectiveness. Although trained to aim for the upper chest and face - I always aim for the mouth when it's open. That drops them immediately. Pepper spray to the eyes/nose area will cause discomfort (no matter how many Scoville Heat Units (SHUs) it's rated at), prisoners in jails get pepper sprayed pretty frequently (area contamination) and many criminals train with pepper spray to be able to fight while getting sprayed.
3. If it's a fight for your life, then then there are few targets that will save you quickly enough The throat always gets exposed. I've dropped a few guys with a throat hit, intentional, it's a killing blow. Scrunch up cover your head with your hands and try to wait for the throat opening, then punch it like you were using your thumb to press an elevator button (only hit it, don’t press on it). You're aiming for the windpipe.
4. Punch, bite, poke, stomp - then GET OUT OF DODGE. Don't stick around for authorities, you're the "gringo" you're always considered wrong - without exception there are no reasons to stick around for authorities after you've had to defend your life.
5. There is no such thing as an attack that is only meant to relieve you of your property. All physical attacks are attacks on your life. Period.
6. If you're in a big crowd and you see things breaking out, get out of the crowd by whatever means necessary - and don’t look back.
7. If you're alone, the surest way to figure out if someone is after you - is to run. Plan a short sprint while you get your weapon into your hands. Anybody running after you is an attacker. (See Rule #5)
8. Never, ever drink anything with a stranger - anything and any stranger.
9. Commercial wasp spray is a far better chemical alternative to pepper spray. And they make small cans of carburetor cleaner (BrakeKleen is what I carry) that are about the size of a large canister
of pepper spray - and they blast chemicals out in a huge fog. Any of these two are much more easily explained and replaced in a foreign country.[JWR Adds: I must emphatically warn readers DO NOT use any such chemicals for self defense in the US or in any other First World Country, or you most likely will end up losing most of what you own in a six figure or seven figure civil lawsuit!] Carrying pepper spray and a baton say you're ready for a fight, carrying a screwdriver and can of carburetor cleaner [on your motorcycle] say you're ready to fix something - only you know you're ready for a fight.
10. In the event of any altercation, get over any international border pronto - cut your vacation short - leave! This is easier said than done in most South American countries, as the back and forth for permits to cross a border can take hours. You should always carry government official "lubricant" in sufficient quantities to "speed" your application for a visa. Laws south of the US border are pretty much the same - but law enforcement south of the border is almost universally corrupt. If you know you're going to get arrested, give all your resources to someone else, quickly - and make sure they clear the area until the time comes to collect you from the authorities. The first thing you'll lose any bribe money to the searching hands of the official police. Your friend will need the money to arrange for a lawyer to plead for your release, or to pay a fine. I never, ever hand over my official passport except at border checkpoints - I always use a photocopy. The surest way or a foreign authority to keep you in the country is to keep your passport.

Oh, and it was pointed out to me by a buddy that works foreign security details for the US Department of State that Jenna Bush was the protectee - her possessions are unimportant, and can serve as a distraction meant to mask an attack on your principal. The Secret Service detail that was with her when her purse was stolen, probably saw who took it - and immediately took steps to safeguard her life (even if she didn't know it). The property is irrelevant and was most likely intentionally allowed to be stolen once the act was seen in progress. They have one job, to insure their principal emerges alive. This does not always include their handbags and shoes. Regards, - LDM


Dear Jim,
I hope you are well. I'm praying daily for you and your family in your mourning. With regard to CapnRick's excellent travel security article, I have two points, the first is probably peculiar to England, the second point applies to most of Europe including Britain.

1. We have two types of taxis. One is a Hackney Carriage (also known as a black cab, although they're not all black!), which carries a lit 'For Hire' sign and may be hailed from the side of the road or picked up from a taxi-rank at a town centre, port, station or airport, and the other is a Private Hire (mini-cab) which must be booked from a despatching office. Never, ever get into a mini-cab unless you have booked it and it is the same company you booked with. You can tell which is which from the licence attached to the vehicle (usually at the back). Check that the vehicle registration number is identical to that on the taxi licence.

2. A relatively new phenomenon is areas which have become controlled by fundamental Muslims. [and I hate reporting on this because it sounds racist, but I don't have a racist bone in my body]. People of all ages and gender have been attacked and beaten (and in the case of women, raped) simply for being white, afro-Caribbean, Hindu or Sikh. Whites and Sikhs are particular targets. Examples: in Manningham, Bradford, white people (even the few that live there) have been regularly beaten, usually by stone throwing, but stabbings are also reported, and are racially abused. In Alum Rock, Birmingham, two US Christian missionaries were escorted by police from the area for their own safety because 'it's a Muslim area'. and evangelising is 'hate speech'. In such areas, non-Muslim women are considered to be 'uncovered meat' and are targets for rape. Remember, to a devout Muslim, even the sight of an woman's ankle or wrist is considered shocking and to some men means you are 'asking for it'. If you are in an area that is heavily populated by Muslims (you can tell by the Islamic dress), and a group of youths become interested in you, then beware. If all the women disappear and melt into the background, you are about to be attacked. There are other areas throughout Europe where this happens, but I have only reported the incidents and experiences I personally know about. Recently this summer there have been riots involving nationalists and Muslims (although sometimes just Muslims), and there is a danger in getting caught up in such. Hotspots for riots are Birmingham, Luton and Harrow. Discussing your faith (or even lack of it) with a Muslim can be fraught, some of them will report you for 'hate speech'. See this article: Christian hotel owners face ruin after 'defending their faith' in row with a Muslim guest - this is not an isolated incident.

Jim, I hate singling out a group like this, but reality is reality. Although none of these crimes (with the exception of the 'hate speech' two) are exclusively Islamic, the reality is that these crimes are many, many times more prevalent in areas with a large Muslim population. However, I understand completely if you don't publish paragraph 2 - you may have readers who are reasonable Muslims and would take offence. The situation in this country has reached crisis point, and if it wasn't for the fact that my husband has been diagnosed with a third serious, life-threatening illness, we'd be looking to leave. For now, we are trusting in God's mercies. We do live in an area which is untouched by the above concerns, but I have friends and family who, unfortunately, live in the thick of it. I never thought, as little as five years ago, that Islam would be such a concern - in fact, I welcomed such immigration because I hoped it would mean that our church missionaries would be able to evangelise here, at home with the full backing of British Law, instead of the cloak and dagger missionary work that went on in Egypt and other Islamic countries. This has proved to not be the case. Missionaries are still in grave danger.

I understand from my Stateside nephews and nieces that Dearborn, Michigan is starting to experience some of these concerns. (My nephews and nieces are misguided Mormons, the lot of 'em, but I pray for them to see the truth! I have to do it in bulk, though as there's so many of them - and they have around six kids each :-) )

Thank you for all the work you do, it's really appreciated. Keep safe, keep well. Blessings, - Jean in England

Contrary to what was mentioned in the recent article on your blog, there is a place in the world where pepper spray is illegal. In the UK pepper spray (and similar items) is classified as a ``Prohibited Weapon'' and possession can get you five years in jail. I believe this is the only country in Europe where there that's true but I'm not certain. - Johnny in England

Reader Eric S. spotted this: CIT debt swap could cost U.S. more than $1.8 billion

By way of Market Oracle, Damon found these two links: News From 1930 and Zero Hedge discusses railroad carloading statistics.

Items from The Economatrix:

Jim Willie: Systemic Failure Approaches. "Numerous sustaining forces will contribute toward the inexorable path to systemic failure. It will begin with the relapse failure of the US banking system. Citigroup is facing real bankruptcy, whose numerous segments are underwater and growing worse. Bank of America is in a death spiral, whose CEO Ken Lewis departs amidst political and shareholder legal pressures. Wells Fargo is so dead that its true balance sheet makes a skeleton come to life, whose prime Option ARM and second mortgage exposure is monumental."

Wells Fargo "Lost" Grandma's Money

US Faces "Retro" 70's Inflation

FDIC Insuring 8,200 Banks with $9 Trillion in Deposits and Zero in the Deposit Insurance Fund; Calling Banks to Prepay Assessment of $45 Billion

Job Losses Overshadow Any Signs of Recovery

Greenspan: US Should Raise Taxes, Tighten Credit

Consumer Bankruptcies Soar in September

World Unemployment Rising; Rates, Responses Vary

Recession's Unemployment Takes Bigger Toll on Singles

Retail Stores Closing Doors in 2009

InkStop Abruptly Closes All 152 Stores, No Money For Workers

Japanese Deflation Worst on Record

US Unemployment Now Lasts Longer than Benefits

Are US Treasuries a Bubble Ready to Pop?

The Biggest Banking Heist in World History: Washington Mutual

Gary North: What is Money?

A Jobless Economy Recovery or Something Else?

Why All the Fuss Over Rare Earth Metals?

Reader FG flagged this news story from Texas: Soldier who stole night vision goggles sentenced. " FG's comment: Be very careful about any "super deals" on US mil spec night vision gear. It may be stolen Government issue."

   o o o

Reader Bill D. spotted an interesting two-part article yesterday on “The Brussels Journal” web site dealing with the downfall of Bronze-Age civilization and some of the implications for our own times. Bill's comment: "It’s very heavy on the ancient history but very much worth a read."

   o o o

FG mentioned this article on cyber terrorism, from an Australian newspaper: Internet 'biggest threat' to the US

"Nature is cruel and dynamic. It is a daily massacre for the lame and the newborn. Vicious spasms of violence red in tooth and claw tempered by turns of weather that can kill and nourish in the same pastoral event. Most importantly, nature is capricious in the most practical sense: the complexity is so immense as to be almost incomprehensible to human cognition. Complexity theory has tried to capture the distillate of what appears to be random phenomenon but is actually a spontaneous order much like economic market forces. Which brings us to the cruelest joke of all on the Greens: they can’t possibly know what they are talking about." - Bill Buppert

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'm scheduled to be guest on the Laura Ingraham syndicated talk radio show tomorrow (Monday, October 5th), to discuss preparedness topics, from 11:15 AM to 11:45 AM Eastern Time (8:15 AM to 8:45 AM Pacific Time.) She is heard on more than 300 radio stations, on XM Radio, and on the Internet in both live streaming and podcasts.


Today we present Part 2 of a lengthy entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

What Survival type Are You?
Survivors of violent events have been studied extensively. Their faith in God, family and friends seems to head the list of essentials for survival, and survivors were successful at “rewiring” their attitudes to adapt to harsh--even inhumane--circumstances. And, they survived, while many others failed to adjust and survive.

[I concur with the Glenn Beck and the Survivor's Club that] there are distinct personality types of survivors. These are as follows:

  • Fighter
  • Thinker
  • Realist
  • Connector
  • Believer

It is important that each reader think about and analyze their feelings about each of these approaches to survival, come up with their own definitions of what each type is like, decide which type each reader is, and start thinking about “what if...?” scenarios for their particular circumstances. If you think the unthinkable and devise plans to survive, then when the unthinkable occurs, you will make the correct choices automatically. This is important, because people have failed to survive because they refused to think about the unthinkable, and their brains froze, they acted thoughtlessly, or they reacted without thinking clearly through all the possible ramifications of their actions. Sounds like crisis government, no?

A Word About Martial Arts:
A surprise attacker with a knife in his hand coming from behind has the equivalent of a 900th degree black belt. Real world fights do not occur as they do in the dojo or boxing ring. Those who have as many knife scars as I have and are still walking around can attest to that.

Anyone with knife scars and bullet wound scars is not proud of their scars. They know that each scar is a visible reminder of a personal failure to avoid a life-threatening event. I acquired the knife scars on my arms as a dumb teenager living on the Texas border and getting caught in avoidable confrontations while being in places where I shouldn't have been, both in Texas and Mexico. As I got a bit smarter and more aware of my sometimes dangerous surroundings, I started getting knife scars on my legs... having learned that distance is the best defense with an over-medicated knife fighter. When I finally wised up and started avoiding bad places, I got fewer and fewer scars.

I have had no formal martial arts training except the small amount standard in armed forces boot camp. Those of you who are interested in martial arts, please be certain that you make a serious commitment to always stay in peak physical condition. If you cannot fight at full force for at least two minutes, then no amount of skills training is sufficient. It has been my experience that none but those dedicated to their physical conditioning can maintain an aggressive fight for two minutes. If you are proud of your elite status as King of the Dojo, check out the free video series on real-life street defense at AttackProof.

Terrorist Attack Concerns
The planning and execution of the attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City illustrates the modus operandi utilized by terrorists that could be a threat to your safety. Consider how a vigilant person might have recognized indications of a threat, from this case study:

Phase 1: Broad Target Selection. During broad target selection, terrorists collect information on numerous targets to evaluate their potential in terms of symbolic value, casualties, infrastructure criticality, or public attention. Timothy McVeigh wanted to attack a symbol of the federal government, preferably the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He identified possible targets such as individual federal employees, their families, and facilities in at least five states.

Phase 2: Intelligence Gathering and Surveillance. Vulnerable targets able to meet attack objectives are selected for additional intelligence gathering and surveillance. This effort may occur quickly or over years depending upon the target and planning information needed. Terrorists seek to gather detailed information on guard forces, physical layout, personnel routines, and standard operating procedures.
McVeigh performed initial surveillance of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, one of his potential targets. He noted the interstate highway allowed easy access and possible escape routes. He also observed indented curbs that permitted vehicles to be parked directly in front of the building.

Phase 3: Specific Target Selection. Specific targets are then identified for attack based on anticipated effects, publicity, consistency with overall objectives, and costs versus benefits of the attack.
Timothy McVeigh chose the Murrah Federal Building because he believed the Federal agencies represented there were responsible for the incident in Waco, Texas two years earlier. In addition, he assessed the facility as a "soft target," with a good chance of success at low risk. His intent was to kill Federal employees and thereby gain media attention.

Phase 4: Pre-attack Surveillance and Planning. Terrorists may conduct additional surveillance to confirm previous information and gain additional details. During this stage, terrorists will select the method of attack, obtain weapons and equipment, recruit specialized operatives, and design escape routes.
McVeigh recruited Terry Nichols and prepared for the Oklahoma City attack over a six-month period. He acquired materials for a 5,000-pound truck bomb through theft, use of false documents, and paying cash for items normally bought on credit. He also made several trips to the Murrah Federal Building to identify the exact place to park the truck and to select escape routes.

Phase 5: Rehearsals. Terrorists often rehearse the attack scenario to confirm planning assumptions, enhance tactics, and practice escape routes. They may also trigger an incident at the target site to test the reaction of security personnel and first responders. McVeigh practiced making and detonating bombs in isolated locations. He memorized details of the Murrah Building layout, finalized the sequence of actions for the attack, and practiced responses to law enforcement officers if they were encountered.

Phase 6: Actions on the Objective. Terrorists choose to execute attacks when conditions favor success with the lowest risk. Factors they consider include surprise, choice of time and place, use of diversionary tactics, and ways to impede response measures.
On 19 April 1995, McVeigh parked a rental truck – a 5,000-pound vehicle bomb – in front of the Murrah Federal Building where it could cause the most damage. The date of the bombing, 19 April, was symbolic – the second anniversary of the fire at the Branch Davidian church compound in Waco, Texas.

Phase 7: Escape and Exploitation. Unless an operation is a suicide attack, escape routes are carefully planned and rehearsed. Terrorists may exploit successful attacks by releasing pre-developed statements to the press.

After preparing the bomb for detonation, McVeigh walked away from the scene on a preselected route. To flee Oklahoma City, McVeigh used a get-away car pre-positioned before the attack.

McVeigh wanted the world to know that he attacked the Federal Murrah Building because he believed the Federal Government infringed on individual rights of Americans. McVeigh left a file on his sister's computer titled "ATF Read" echoing these sentiments. His get-away car contained anti-government literature and he subsequently made statements concerning his motivations for the attack.

Geographical Regions of Interest
Terrorists may focus on obvious foreign tourists, personnel associated with foreign firms, foreign military and foreign government organizations, and especially individuals who appear to be high-ranking or important. Try to blend in with the local population. When possible, avoid disclosing your country of origin, religious, business, military or government affiliation.

Do you think that you are safe , traveling in the U.S. or in western Europe? Consider this: Within the United States, several organizations and individuals used Terror/criminal tactics to achieve their goals. Other organizations provide direct and indirect assistance through fund-raising, recruiting, and training support.

Terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists against US interests and personnel began in 1978 with the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran. In my personal opinion, the US has been at war since that date. Foreign Terror attacks in the US began in 1968 with the hijacking of Pan Am flight 501 to Cuba, and in 1993 with the first attack against the World Trade Center in New York. More recently, the foiled Terror/criminal plot against Fort Dix, New Jersey demonstrates that Al-Qaeda cells still exist within the nation's borders.

Home-grown terrorism is a reality. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Weathermen and the Armed Forces for Puerto Rican National Liberation executed several small-scale terror/criminal attacks. More recently, violent elements include the anti-abortion Army of God, the eco-terrorist Earth Liberation Front, and other domestic anarchist groups and individuals. Homegrown terrorists have employed various tactics such as rudimentary letter bombs, improvised explosive devices, small arms attacks, and truck bombs. Bioterrorism is also a concern in view of the anonymous anthrax attacks in 2001.

For more information on events in North America, see historical examples on the Oklahoma City bombing, United Flight 93, and the plot to attack Fort Dix. There are serious threats now from MS13 and other Latino gangs, who work with Russian/Italian/Asian mobs, and other gangs. Also, note that the Mexican Cartels have turned the US border area into a war zone, per recent news items. It is reported that Phoenix, Arizona is now the kidnapping capitol of the US.

Islamic extremists pose the primary Terror/criminal threat to US military and government personnel. Since the mid-1990s, terrorists have enhanced their capabilities around the world... including Indonesia and the Pan-Pacific area, Venezuela, the tri-border area of Paraguay/Brazil/Bolivia and expanded their influence and presence into other parts of the world.

In the areas of current US military operations, roadside IEDs pose one of the greatest threats to US forces. Additionally, local political leaders and civilians, infrastructure, and international aid personnel are terrorized by suicide bombings, kidnappings, and murders. In many other parts of the Western Asian and African regions, suicide bombers and gunmen target hotels and tourist attractions to advance domestic political agendas.

Numerous Terror/criminal organizations operate in almost every region of the world. In addition to Al-Qaeda, other organizations include Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ansar al-Islam, and Mujahedine-e Khaiq, the Russian Mafia, etc.

For more information on events in this region, check the Internet for historical examples on the USS Cole, the Luxor Massacre at Deir el-Bahri, and Khobar Towers.

European Union
This region is diverse and contains a wide spectrum of terror/criminal threats. Threats include traditional nationalist, ethnic, and leftist Terror/criminal groups such as the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), November 17, and the Real Irish Republican Army. The region is also threatened by Islamic extremists such as Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam. Chechen rebels, responsible for several Terror/criminal attacks within the former Soviet Union, are both Muslim radicals and separatists. There is a lot of Mafia related activity.

In recent years, US allies in Europe have suffered dramatic Terror attacks. Terrorists have targeted civilians with IEDs and suicide bombers for maximum impact on government policies and elections. US military forces have also come under direct attack by organizations wishing to diminish America's influence in the area.

Additionally, organizations sympathetic to Terrorist/religious radical objectives actively raise funds, recruit, and provide other support to religious extremist groups. As seen in the events of 9/11, western Europe can be a staging area for attacks against the United States.

For more information, see the historical case studies for the London and Madrid subway bombings, the bombing of the La Belle Discotheque, and other attacks.

Stability in the region is threatened by nationalist, tribal, and ethnic groups that use Terror/criminal and pirate tactics to support their agendas. The region is also threatened by Islamic extremists such as Al-Qaeda, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, and Al Shabaab.

The 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania illustrate the willingness of terrorists to use indiscriminate violence to attack foreign interests in Africa. Additionally, local ethnic and nationalist-based conflicts increasingly threaten foreign corporate infrastructure and personnel.

Terrorist organizations also engage in support activities within the African continent. These include fund raising, training, recruiting, operation of front activities, and involvement in criminal enterprises. Africa has the potential to be a significant transit point and support base for Terror/criminal operations in other parts of the world.

For more information, see Internet sources on the African embassy bombings.

Pacific Rim/Southeast Asia
Narco/criminal groups in this region present diverse threats to foreign interests. Some specifically target foreigners and others target public sites where foreigners may become victims. Additionally, there is evidence of ties between groups in the Pacific/SE Asia region and Al-Qaeda and other international groups.

Terrorist attacks in this region demonstrate a broad spectrum of tactics. These include kidnappings, suicide bombings, and even chemical attacks. Aleph, formerly known as Aum Shinrikyo, attacked Tokyo subways with Sarin nerve gas and cyanide in 1995. Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine group seeking to create a radical Muslim state, targets foreigners for kidnapping.

Terrorists have targeted foreign assets in the region. In 2001, Singaporean officials foiled a plot to attack US military forces and western diplomatic missions. The group, Jamaah Islamiya, seeks to create a radical Muslim state across South East Asia. In 2002 it conducted a suicide bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia to kill western tourists.

For more information on events in this region, seek Internet sources on the Bali Nightclub Bombing and Tokyo Subway Attack.

Latin America
The primary/criminal threat in the area is NarcoTerrorism and the continued operation of radical leftist groups. Additionally, the ties between NarcoTerrorists and radical extremists from the Middle East are reportedly increasing. It is possible Latin American countries, notably Venezuela and Argentina may become a transit point for terrorists from other parts of the world to enter the United States via Mexico and Europe via Africa. I have read accounts of Colombian NarcoTerrorists and known radical Islamics being arrested in Mexico and Spain with genuine Venezuelan passports and personal documents when said individuals are known to have never lived in Venezuela. There was one report of a US Border Patrol intercept on the US/Mexican border of some Cubans and a different party of 15+ persons of Arab descent all carrying genuine Venezuelan passports and documents. You should probably take that information as indicating that Venezuela is not friendly to US/ European Common Market interests.

Unlike the 1980s, recent attacks against US interests are focused primarily on businesses and not US military or government assets. In addition to bombings and arson, Terror/criminal tactics include targeted assassinations and kidnapping, especially against foreign-owned commercial assets.

Some of the most prominent Terror/criminal organizations within the Latin American region include the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN), and the Shining Path ["Sendero Luminoso"] in Peru. Various Internet sources are available.

A few words about the Mumbai attacks: The FBI reports are trickling back from the agents dispatched there to cooperate with Indian authorities, and the results are depressing. It appears more and more certain that various Pakistani high-level authorities were aware of the activities of the attackers and their support team in Pakistan. An incident of this sort could easily be the start of a war between these two nuclear powers.

But, take a moment to think of the businessmen and their families that were at their hotel having a nice dinner and deep into their cozy world, when the unthinkable happened. I hope each and every reader of this report will resolve to include a special Survival bag in their luggage to include packaged ready-to-eat food. I use Wal-Mart granola bars, peanut butter and crackers, and so forth. MREs, if space is available. You should also have lots of spare batteries, a flashlight, et cetera. I use a head-band light, a bottle for water, a fire-starter kit (cotton balls soaked in vaseline with a spark striker and a Bic disposable lighter).

Want more ideas? Research the web for what others have assembled as Every Day Carry (EDC) survival bags on the web. If you want to read how life is affected by a total societal meltdown, read the blog by FerFAL, a student of architecture during the 2001 financial meltdown in Argentina. I especially liked the info on his family's ideas of what they would have done differently given the chance, the items that became most important to them, and some gimmicks that helped them keep a good survival attitude.

In closing: the most important thing is to maintain a positive and happy attitude while preparing for the unthinkable.

That was a very good article on by "Sgt. Survival" on CCWs. Just one minor correction ion the portion that mentioned Nevada

The cost of the permit is $100.25 for five years. The training must also take place within the county where you will be applying for the permit.

You can take the course anywhere in the state, regardless of whether you are a resident or non-resident. If you are a resident, you must apply in the county where you reside. My wife and I are CCW instructors and have signed off people from other counties just fine. They now have a list of CCW instructors in Carson City for the entire state.

You are also required to qualify with the weapon(s) that you want listed on your permit.

For autos, yes, but one revolver qualifies you for all revolvers and derringers.

Sorry to hear of your recent loss of The Memsahib. - G. in Nevada


For Washington residents, with respect to these permits, I would add two items: RCW 9.41.073 indicates that for residents of Washington, one must have a Washington LCCP to carry legally in-state. A Washington resident who has only an out of state license cannot legally carry in Washington, regardless of what the reciprocity lists of the two states say. Note that several other states have that limitation.

The opening statement that the State Patrol issues the licenses is incorrect. They do process the criminal background check, but the licenses are actually issued by the local sheriff or chief of police. The statewide program is administered by the Department of Licensing, according to their web site, and Washington administrative law.

As a side note, these laws and agreements change rapidly, as they have this year in terms of which states recognize which others. Always best to check before you head out for travel. Warm Regards, - Rick W.

A reader in Florida mentioned a full-service homeschooling support group: Family Tree Private School.

   o o o

Larry W. flagged this Der Spiegel article: Russian Weapons Industry: Kalashnikov Manufacturer Faces Bankruptcy

   o o o

Ban Handguns? US Supreme Court Taking New Look. JWR's comment: The outcome of this case may be significant for SurvivalBlog readers that live in gun-deprived states like New Jersey and California. If the Supremes hold that individual states can restrict the right to keep and bear arms, then that should be time to vote with your feet, and move to a gun-friendly state.

   o o o

Secession Movement Moves Beyond Texas

If liberty is not maintained with regard to education, there is no use trying to maintain it in any other sphere. If you give the bureaucrats the children, you might as well give them everything else…. No we do not want a federal Department of Education; and we do not want, in any form whatever, the slavery that a federal department of Education would bring.” - J. Gresham Machen in Education, Christianity, and the State

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Today we present Part 1 of a lengthy entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

The following recommendations are a result of my travel throughout the world on business for 20+ years. These observations are offered as a helpful supplement to other sources on the web dealing with personal security issues while traveling. My apologies to those who do not find these observations pertinent to their particular situation. Allow me to say that these suggestions are offered freely and without restriction so they may be passed around with no obligation. Very little of this information is original to me, and I apologize if anyone has written anything similar. Also, I am not a security professional and make no claims of expertise. This stuff works for me, but each reader's mileage may vary. Some of my ideas might actually get people in trouble with the authorities and/or cause physical harm. Please read this with an open mind and a critical eye. Comments are appreciated at travel@ricdav.com.

Lots of US Embassy staff, host country Federal Police and Army staff gave me input, horror stories and advice regarding personal safety issues while I was visiting and working in overseas markets. These were Latin America, but including trips to Western European and Pacific Rim countries. I also have input from international and US expatriates living and working there. I know that many people have a lot of experience in many different countries, and may honestly laugh at all these ideas and issues presented here as stupid and alarmist. How you take it is your business. It is submitted in serious concern for the safety of all international travelers.

It was necessary for me to learn this stuff because I have lived and worked outside the US most of my life. I first traveled internationally in the 1960s and retired in 2005 to live in Argentina. I hope you can understand that the world in post 9-11 has really changed. Radicals of the right, the left and the lunatic religious extreme and NarcoTerrorists all celebrated when the twin towers went down. You should also be aware that even pre 9-11, international travel was seriously more dangerous than it was in the 1960s. Now, bad guys all over the world have become more encouraged by their perception that bad guys can get away with bad stuff... hence, have become more aggressive.

This article contains various types of info, including some info that may not be of interest to all travelers. I hope you will find some of the following items of interest including...

  • Things you may do to prepare yourself for the unfamiliar security issues in unfamiliar territory.
  • Questions you may be asking and factors that may be considered based upon the situation in your area of destination.
  • Items for which you may be alert that may indicate possible threats to your person or valuables.
  • Travel Tips which include how to research the area, sources of information, planning ahead, blending in to your surroundings for safety, etc.
  • Dressing for success. How to maintain an edge in your favor in dangerous areas. Potential weapons/tools to aid in your security efforts.
  • Dealing with the stress of being a victim
  • Dealing with Terror concerns, broken down by world areas.

Try to familiarize yourself with the area you plan to visit. There are various aggregators of news that allow one to program their search “bots” to look for keywords involving your area of interest. I use Yahoo News, Dogpile News Search element and some others. I also look for the local news sources for the area in question on the web. Here are some questions you should consider when seeking information about your geographical area of interest.

  • Are terrorist/organized criminal groups currently active in the area?
  • Do they aggressively attack visiting foreigners? Or, is it more local-on-local crime?
  • How active are they? How violent have they proven to be within the last 4 – 12 months?
  • How sophisticated are they? Do they use military weapons and tactics?
  • Are they predictable? Can you expect to be safer by staying out of known areas of operation?
  • Will local citizens warn visiting foreigners? Do you have local contacts who can advise you?

Groups and individuals have demonstrated their willingness to employ terrorist/criminal tactics to further their agendas. While some threats have a regional focus, others have become international and affect multiple areas. Foreign visitors, military and diplomatic staff are seriously targeted in virtually every region of the world.


Consider ways you might become a victim of a criminal/NarcoTerrorist attack. Several factors to keep in mind include:

Location: Local terrorists may target locations frequented by foreigners or foreign military personnel such as certain hotels, apartment buildings, public transportation centers, and nightclubs. Avoid possible target locations. They often use the employees of foreigner frequented establishments, taxi drivers, airport staff (especially banking/money changing establishment personnel) and adult entertainment workers as associates or sources of information about possible lucrative targets.

Opportunity: Terrorists and criminals look for "soft targets"... so, learn to avoid appearing so. It is difficult to over stress the need to maintain vigilance, practice good personal safety, and to alert the proper authorities of suspicious behavior. If you find yourself unable to avoid being outdoors at night, try to walk down the middle of the street (not always possible). Be especially watchful if passing a large van or a vehicle with people in it, courtyards and deep doorways near your path. Walk purposefully with strong, determined strides... shoulders back, head erect, head and eyes constantly moving. Use windows/mirrors near the street to check your surroundings. Under no circumstances allow anyone to engage you in conversation at this time. Criminals will try to slow you down while their helpers get into position to assault you. Keep moving, speak into your cell phone as if carrying on a conversation... preferably in a language you think the 3333possible attackers don't know.
To attack you, terrorists generally must perceive you, your association, or your location as a target. Put serious thought on the subject of how to avoid appearing to be an easy target.

Be alert for how criminals/NarcoTerrorists prepare and conduct attacks through predictable steps. Through vigilance, you might be able to recognize preparations for an attack before it is executed. Be alert to unusual behavior that may indicate intelligence gathering, surveillance, collecting materials for attack, dry runs, and rehearsals. For example:

  • Taking photos or videos of potential targets
  • Writing notes or sketching details about a possible target
  • Showing abnormal attention to details of routine activities and security measures
  • Using false identification
  • Paying cash for items normally bought on credit
  • Purchasing large quantities of items that could be used as part of an attack (e.g., chemicals or cell phones)

If you see something unusual, report it immediately to security officials for further investigation. Make a note of the individual's description and activities, the time of day, and equipment being used.


Terrorist/criminal attacks at the Spanish/English/Japanese rail systems, Mexican border towns, Bali, Indonesia, Luxor, Egypt, London, England, and other tourist locations signal an increased threat to foreign travelers.

While visiting a new location, it is natural to tour local sites of interest. While sightseeing, you should keep good anti-crime/antiterrorism practices in mind.

Plan Ahead

  • Research any known potential threats in the area. If the threat is elevated, take extra precautions or postpone your activities.
  • Plan activities and a route that includes safe locations. Keep thinking, “What if...”
  • Ask a friend or coworker to join you – small groups are usually safer than individuals.

If sightseeing with others, pre-designate a location to meet at if separated during an emergency. Make sure someone knows your itinerary (acquaintances, business contacts, hotel staff?) and what time you may be returning.

Blend in to Your Surroundings

Conceal your national/business/religious affiliation and try to blend in with other people on the street. USA red white and blue t-shirts, soccer/baseball logo clothing and religious jewelry are overly conspicuous in many instances. Observe and conform to local culture. Activities such as public displays of affection, drinking alcohol, or wearing shorts or skirts may be inappropriate.

Do not bring undue attention to yourself. Avoid loud or boisterous behavior. Walking the streets at night in an inebriated state in very dangerous in many locations.

  • Taxis: Try to never travel alone in a taxi. Try to never take a taxi off the street. Try to always have a taxi company's business card in your pocket and call or have someone call the cab for you. If not, a taxicab stand is the next best solution. Even US embassy marines have to take these precautions, and we know they're in good shape... pretty tough in a fight. They are also excellent sources of good local information. Unfortunately, one of the thriving businesses in criminal/NarcoTerror Land is to pick up a rich guy (you) off the street in a taxi, and around the corner are two additional thugs with guns who escort you to a quiet place, strip the rich guy, take his luggage, etc. If a VISA or debit card is found, they will escort you to an ATM and make you withdraw the daily limit before they strip you naked and leave you on the side of the road. Unless they are impressed with what they find among your effects, Then the thugs may decide it's worth a try to sell you to the NarcoTerrorists (drug traffickers). They may ask for US$5,000 - US$15,000, knowing the NarcoTerrorists' usual minimum demand for ransom is US$250,000. Then, you may spend the next several years of your life chained to a tree in the jungle swatting mosquitoes and eating undercooked beans.
  • If you or your taxi driver notices a suspicious vehicle or two in the vicinity, consider asking the taxi driver to take you to the nearest police station... or high traffic area.
  • If you must drive a vehicle and your budget does not include an armored vehicle with “run-flat” tires preceded by a “chase” car and a following “blocker” van full of armed bodyguards, then try to rent/select an 4-wheel drive vehicle with high ground clearance. A heavy-duty bumper is a good idea for running through barricades. If you see a police roadblock manned by only one or two officers and one (or NO) clearly official vehicle, consider running the roadblock or going around it. You may prefer to reverse out of the area quickly to a place where you can turn around and leave the area. If it is really a fake-cop scam (or, off-duty/retired cops pulling a scam), you should be okay. You may really need a heavy duty vehicle for this maneuver. If is a legitimate control point/official police roadblock and they catch you, humbly and very politely explain that you are sorry and will never do it again, but a friend of yours warned against false roadblocks by criminals/NarcoTerrorists. All around the world, official roadblocks usually have many, many clearly marked police vehicles and uniformed/heavily armed officers. Don't forget that NarcoTerrorists have Police uniforms and equipment, too... but, usually not too many official vehicles.
  • If you happen to be driving down a street and one or more people run out in front of the car in an attempt to stop you, Do not hesitate to slam down the accelerator as if you are trying to hit them. They will get out of the way.
  • If you are in a known area for auto-related crime and someone rear-ends your vehicle as if on purpose, consider leaving the scene as rapidly as possible. This is a serious “What if... ?” scenario.
  • In many countries, police understand if you slow down but fail to stop at traffic lights and stop signs after dark because it is known to be too dangerous at night.
  • Be aware that motorcycles and scooters are not always a good idea if you have to try to escape while someone is shooting at you. Car sheet metal isn't much, but every little bit helps.
  • ATMs: Try to only go to an ATM in the daytime anywhere in the world. Even in the US. Also, pay attention to who is in the area before, during and after getting your money. Situational awareness is difficult when you're trying to get the pesky machine to work... so, consider not going to an ATM alone.
  • Buses: Until 1995, I always felt safe taking the bus. I would still take the Nuevo Laredo - Monterrey bus, but probably think twice about taking one in the Juarez/Chihuaua or Sinaloa state areas. Why? The various Colombian and Mexican NarcoTerror groups stop buses full of people as bait to get the rescuing government forces to move into kill zones where improvised explosive devices (IEDs) take them out. I have seen the results first hand, and seeing where 40+ teenage army guys got brutally cut to pieces by home-made bombs will mess up your whole life.

If you happen to be one of the poor guys shivering naked on the side of the road with 20-30 others watching the NarcoTraficantes molest the women passengers, understand that you will spend the next several years of your life eating beans in the jungle. Poor folks get to go home, except for the young and pretty girls and teenage boys they want to draft for paramilitary service for the NarcoTraficantes .

The NarcoTraficantes are studying in the same Islamic extremist terror schools as Al Qaeda, and Colombian/Mexican NarcoTraficantes' IEDs are really starting to show up a lot more... in recent cases, bait and blast techniques were used in the south of Mexico to kill lots of soldiers and Federal Police.

At an outdoor table of any restaurant, don't leave your phone, camera, purse or any other valuables in plain sight or within reach of the walking public. Try to sit as far from vehicular/pedestrian traffic as possible. As always, play the “What if... ? Game” and remain alert to your surroundings. Jenna Bush's purse was jacked in full daylight in Buenos Aires,when she was surrounded by agents.

When leaving a high-end location, such as an electronics store, Armani, etc, an expensive restaurant or nice hotel, you may have just identified yourself as a potential high-end target. If you are carrying packages, and you put them into an automobile, please try to secure the items in the trunk or a lockable compartment and be aware that you will possibly be followed by thugs with evil intent to your next location. If you are in a Range Rover or Cadillac Esplanade, you should understand that you are in a rolling high-value target, with little or no inside secure storage. If you stop and leave the vehicle in any unsecured location after being seen exiting a high-end location, don't be too surprised if you come back later to find the locks broken or the vehicle stolen.

A wallet is a liability, and I never carry one. I wear a slim, zippered pouch between my T-shirt and external shirt/sweater for credit cards, driving license and copies (not originals) of my passport, birth certificate, travel or residency documents. Sometimes, I prefer a photographer's vest with lots of internal/external zippered or Velcro pockets. This vest can contain as much as a small suitcase... currently, about four kilos of stuff. Fanny packs are less secure, so I usually just put reading material, inexpensive sunglasses, gum, etc in them. Cameras/GPSs and other high-end items are secured in Velcro pockets in the vest or coat pocket. As a side note, I have copied and reduced in size all my important documents for daily carry and emailed these [scanned] copies [as PDFs] to several of my web-based e-mail accounts so I can replace them at any time from any internet/print location.

The amount of cash I carry is as small as possible. I keep large denomination bills in a money clip in the bottom of one front pocket with a handkerchief crushed down on top of it. The handkerchief is super important, because the pickpocket has to go around it to get to the real goodies. Another money clip contains the daily allotment of small bills is in another front pocket, so I don't have to flash large bills for most purchases. It is also crammed down in the bottom of the front pocket with another handkerchief crammed on top of it. The bulk of my funds, original passport and other documents, valuables, etc are kept in a Wal-Mart small combination safe that fits in my luggage, which I check in at the front office safe at the hotel when traveling. Note that I do not agree with several recommendations that a “decoy wallet” stuffed with paper be carried to toss away so as to distract attackers. I prefer throwing my decoy stash of small denomination bills to scatter everywhere as a more time consuming distraction for a better chance of escape.

Luggage Security

Most complaints regarding theft, damage or loss involves the contents of luggage. Savvy travelers will make a written inventory of items in their luggage and photograph it in case of loss. Carry important items like medication, eyeglasses, and expensive jewelry in your hand luggage, a traveler's vest like photographers use to carry their small equipment items, etc. My vest holds up to 8 kilos of goodies. Photocopy the contents of your wallet and your passport. Carry a copy in your hand luggage and leave one at home as back up. Keep luggage under your control until you check in at your destination. Consider traveling with sturdy plain-looking luggage. Expensive looking luggage may be targeted for its perceived contents. External bag tags should not list your full home address and telephone number. I put my cell phone number, my phone number and email address on my tags. I do not put my name or any affiliations on bag tags. Consider defacing your beautiful luggage with big bands of tape all around the outside, laterally, with your phone numbers, email, etc in case of loss.

Consider durable luggage that is capable of being locked or secured and that will withstand being at the bottom of a pile of hundreds of other pieces of luggage without popping open. It is a good idea to add extra banding... $5 for a wide nylon strap with side snap locks at Wal-Mart... or airport plastic wrap or duct tape to your luggage locks to prevent anyone from opening your luggage without detection. When flying, I do not lock my bags so inspectors do not break the locks. I use self-locking plastic tie-wraps. They work well for securing my luggage. All airport inspectors have replacements if they have to cut your ties to inspect your bags. You can buy these at any home improvement store for about a dollar. The reason for this is that smugglers have been known to slip drugs/weapons, etc into luggage only to retrieve it later and maybe with force. Passengers have unknowingly transported illegal substances/firearms that were slipped into their suitcase by baggage handlers only to be arrested later by authorities. What explanation you would give to prove your innocence to a foreign government of why you are carrying drugs or guns? If your luggage was properly sealed, you should see if it has been tampered with prior to opening it. Report any luggage tampering immediately to security before opening the case.

Luggage locks: If there is a combination lock on the bag, I put a piece of tape on the bag under the lock with the combo... usually, 0-0-0. This is because my bag was seriously harmed by customs forcing the bag open even though it as unlocked. A sign of the times, no?

Airplane security: Beyond the obvious precautions, I would suggest trying to reserve a window seat as close to the middle of the cabin as possible. The rear and front of each cabin is where the bad guys congregate to watch over the victims. Consider what you can do to avoid being obvious about your business/military/nationality/religious affiliations.

Cruise Ship Security

Cruise ships are like a small city where passengers are encouraged to forget their troubles and relax once onboard ship. It is natural for passengers on vacation to let their guard down, especially when out to sea in a resort-like setting. Try to not let a false sense of security aboard a cruise ruin your vacation by becoming a crime victim. Before you ship out, consider taking some of these preventative steps:

After you enter your cabin, and while the door is still open, always check inside the bathroom or closest before sitting down inside. Don’t assume that your cabin is as secure as a hotel. Many people have keys to your cabin and your cabin door may be left standing open for hours while the cleaning crews or cabin steward services the room. Cabin doors locks are sometimes horribly outdated and are not re-keyed as frequently as hotel rooms. Obviously, don’t leave valuable items lying around. It is a good idea to have inventoried your luggage and photographed expensive items at home, and even emailed the info to your web email account for easy retrieval anywhere before you packed them at home in case of loss. Since most ship passengers are set up on a charge account system, be sure to use the ship safe deposit box for storage of valuable items, papers, credit cards or extra cash. Use all locks on the cabin door including the night latch. Consider carrying a hardware store door stop in your luggage and deploying it for extra security of the closed door while in the cabin. Some are available with alarms from web suppliers. Don’t open your cabin door to strangers. Whatever the person wants can be expressed from the other side of the closed and locked door. Be sure to teach children about this important procedure.

Just like in a hotel, protect your cabin key and cabin number. Dishonest crew or passengers will look for the opportunity to snatch a loose key or one that is left unattended. When in port, be sure to leave your key with the registration desk before disembarking.

Remember the phony hairspray/deodorant can safe if small items need to be secured and no safe is available. Once on board and out to sea, don’t assume that you are totally safe from criminal acts. While there is little danger of an outside predator robbing or attacking you on a cruise ship, crimes can just as easily be committed by crew members or by fellow passengers. Many cruise lines hire transient and seasonal employees at low wages. Because of this, turnover is high and cruise lines struggle to keep a ship fully staffed. While most crew members are hardworking and honest people, you cannot assume that the ship has properly screened that nice cabin attendant, waiter or below deck crew.. Consider a Family Security Plan: If you bring your children aboard, be sure to establish family rules in advance. Set curfews and restrictions...just like at home. Teenagers especially should be told never to accompany crew members into non-public areas nor should crew members be allowed inside your cabin. Being at sea can cause a false sense of security. Even though the crime incident rate per thousand is relatively low, there can still be predators on board. Ship nightclubs, casinos, swimming pools and Jacuzzis are favorite spots for those looking for a victim.

You also need to keep your guard up with intoxicated passengers. Food and liquor consumption peaks on board ships and cause bring out the worst in some people not used to it. Just because passengers are dressed up, doesn’t mean they will act appropriately or not be overly aggressive. It is not unheard of for a ship passenger to slip a drug into your drink and take advantage of you just like on shore. There are pickpockets, purse thieves, and cabin burglars on board waiting for you to let your guard down or become careless. There are also scam artists who seek and prey on rich vacationers if given the chance.
Your family security plan for children might include bed checks, curfews, restrictions, and special meeting places. Beware of which children they hang out with, just like at home. Your children can be exposed to other children who use drugs or like to get into mischief, just like at home. Try to limit your child to ship sponsored activities in public areas. You should make contact with your children periodically even if they are supervised. Giving them the run of the ship while you are otherwise engaged is not a good idea. Always have a backup plan and identify a ship crew member as a contact person in case your child fails to show up or you get separated at a port. Make certain that the kids understand there is nothing you can do to retrieve a kid from the police if they are caught in a foreign country with contraband.

You are not in Kansas anymore. Although you boarded a ship in a US port doesn’t mean that you are protected by the US justice system. Most ships are registered in non-US countries and travel in territorial waters where US laws might not apply. The cruise industry does not report crime data consistently, if at all, to the FBI or have a database of ships with the most crime problems. Shipboard crimes sometimes fall into a "no man's land" of law enforcement. A crime can occur between two people of different nationalities, on a ship from a third country, and in the territorial waters of a fourth country. The governing law is the International Maritime Law and is not as well developed as US law. Reporting a crime on board a cruise ship doesn't mean anything will be done or that the crime will ever be investigated. The FBI is the only US law enforcement agency that can investigate a major crime but only if it occurs in International waters, otherwise crimes are reported to the jurisdiction of the closest foreign country and to the embassies of the parties involved. Prosecution of crime, in many cases, will be left in the hands of the local port authority where no one can predict the outcome.

Be aware that if you or your family member gets into trouble on board a ship or in a port, you may be held accountable to the laws of a foreign country. The thing to do is to stay alert, be cautious, and stay safe while at sea. For details on the safety record of your cruise ship or how your ship will handle problems such are lost luggage or crime acts, contact the cruise line directly and ask for written disclosure of their policies and regulations. You can also contact the Cruise Lines International Association in New York City who represents the twenty five largest cruise lines for more information.

Security in a Hotel

Most hotels are protected by the individual country's innkeeper laws. In most cases, these laws clearly state that the hotel is not responsible for theft from your room... including the convenient room safe. If you are in a rented apartment for a longer stay, you are entirely unprotected against loss. Some travelers are hiding small, high-value items, money, etc in the small “diversion safe”. This is a common item such as a large can of aerosol deodorant that is really an empty can with a removable screw-off lid. Be sure to stuff a hand towel or handkerchief, wad of paper, etc on top to prevent rattling of the items in the can. I recommend using the front desk lock box when possible, thereby making the hotel responsible in most places.
Upper floors are safer from crime, but worse for fire rescue. Emergency rescue is best below the fifth floor. I compromise by picking a modern fire-safe hotel and always request a room on an upper floor to reduce crime exposure. Ground floor rooms are more vulnerable to crime problems because of access and ease of escape. In a high-rise building, rooms above the fifth-floor are usually safer from crime than those below because of lesser accessibility and ease of escape. Also, rooms not adjacent to fire stairs are safer from room invaders because they use them for escape. Criminals do not want to be trapped on an upper floor inside a high-rise hotel. By design, high-rise buildings usually have fewer ground level access points and are easier for the hotel staff to monitor who passes through the access points after hours.

Door Security Hardware

Hotel or motel rooms should be equipped with a solid-core wood or metal door for best protection. Doors should be self-closing and self-locking. Room doors should have a deadbolt lock with at least a one-inch throw bolt. If the lock appears worn or there are pry marks around the lock area, get another room or move to another hotel. The knob-lock should be hotel-style where you can push a button on the inside knob and block out all keys. This feature is designed to prevent a former guest or housekeeper from entering the room once you are safely inside. Hotels with electronic card access have the advantage of being able to disable former key cards issued to previous guests and unauthorized employees. Electronic locks also will block out most room service keys when you set the deadbolt. The room door should have a wide-angle peephole so you can view who is at the door before opening.

Access Control

Do not open your door to someone who knocks unannounced. Some criminals will pretend to be a bellman, room service, maintenance, or even hotel security to gain admittance to your room. Always call the front desk to confirm their status with the hotel and only open the door if you requested the service. Do not rely on door chains or swing bars to secure the doors while you partially open the door to speak someone. These are unreliable security devices. Teach your children not to open the door of any hotel room without knowing the person on the other side and without your permission.
Other Entry Points

Make sure all windows and sliding doors are secured, if they are accessible from the ground. It is a good idea to test all windows and glass doors to see if they are secure. Beware of balconies where someone can climb from one to another and enter through an open window or sliding door. If the windows or sliding doors are not securable, ask for another room or find another hotel. If your room has an adjoining door to an adjacent room, check it to see that it is secured with a deadbolt lock. If it is questionable, ask for another room.

Beware the Parking Lot

If you are a woman traveling alone or with small children, take advantage of car valet service, if available to avoid the parking lot. After checking-in, ask the bellman or desk clerk to escort you to your room. After unlocking the room, quickly inspect the closets, under the bed, and bathroom including behind the shower curtain before the bellman leaves. Tip the bellman for his efforts.

Occupancy Cues

Put the Do-Not-Disturb sign on the doorknob even when you are away, this deters room burglars (it may affect housekeeping service, however). Turn on the television or radio just loud enough to hear through the door to give the appearance that the room is occupied. Leave one light on inside the room if you will return after dark. This helps you see upon re-entry and gives the room the appearance of occupancy from the outside. Always go through the same room inspection routine every time you re-enter. People traveling alone should use caution when using the breakfast order door-knob hanger card, especially if the card lists your name and number of persons in the room. A smart crook can knock on the door posing as room service and use your name as a ruse to gain entry.

When you find a suitable hotel that meets your safety standards and will cater to your security needs try to stick with it or with the same hotel chain. Don't be afraid to complain to management to get the safe room you deserve.

  • Consider requesting a room on an upper floor, if possible.
  • A solid door with a good deadbolt lock is best.
  • Electronic card access locks help limit access.
  • Make sure your door has a peephole and night latch and use it.
  • Turn on the TV or radio just loud enough to hear through the door.
  • Turn on a single light in the room if you plan to return after dark.
  • Inspect the room hiding places upon entering and check all locks.
  • Ask the bellman for an escort and use valet parking if alone

Hotel Room Invasions
One of the more frightening and potentially dangerous crimes that can occur to a family or business traveler is a hotel room invasion robbery. A hotel room invasion occurs when robbers force their way into an occupied hotel or motel room to commit a robbery or other crimes. It is frightening because it violates our private space and the one place that acts as our temporary sanctuary while away from home. Some travelers never recover from the experience of being assaulted while in a hotel room in a strange city.

Like the crime of carjacking, most police agencies don’t track home or hotel room invasions as a separate crime. Most police agencies and the FBI will statistically record the crime as a residential burglary or a robbery. Without the ability to track the specific crime of hotel room invasion, little can be done to alert the public as to the frequency of occurrence or devise a law enforcement plan of action to prevent it.

How Invasions are Carried Out
Hotel burglars work mostly during the day and when a room is more likely to be unoccupied. Most burglars work alone, or with hotel staff informants and tend to probe a hotel looking for the right room and the right opportunity. Access control systems, good building design, strong locks and doors, and alert hotel staff can often deter burglars. Also, burglars don’t want to be confronted and will usually flee when approached. Most burglaries do not result in violence unless the criminal is cornered and uses force to escape.

Hotel room invasion robbers, in contrast, work more often at night when rooms are more likely to be occupied and less staff is on duty. The hotel room invaders usually target the occupant and room location and not necessarily the hotel. The selection process may include women traveling alone or senior citizens, or known drug dealers, or wealthy travelers, for example. It is not unusual for a robber to follow the victim to their hotel room based on the value of the car they were driving or the jewelry or clothes they were wearing... even being seen exiting a high-end retail establishment or restaurant can cause one to be targeted and followed. Hotel room invaders have been known to work casinos and watch for guests flashing large sums of money or jewelry. Hotel room invaders usually work alone or with just one accomplice and they rely on an overwhelming physical confrontation to gain control and instill fear in the room occupants.

The violence occurs instantly with an overwhelming explosive force to take control of the room. The hotel room invaders often come equipped with handcuffs, rope, tape, and weapons. Some hotel room robbers appear to enjoy the intimidation, domination, and violence and some claim it is a "rush." Some hotel robbers are also opportunist rapist and may sexually assault their victims.

Dangerous Trends
The act of committing a hotel room invasion is escalating much like carjacking. The reason for the increase seems to follow a similar pattern. Much like automobiles, the traditional commercial targets for robbers have hardened themselves against criminal attack. Technology has allowed commercial establishments to install better locks, and other anti-crime deterrent devices.
Guest room robbers have privacy once inside and don’t have to deal with security or hotel staff or other guests who might suddenly appear. Once the offenders take control of a guest room, they can force the occupants to open room safes, locate hidden valuables, supply keys to the car, and PIN numbers to their ATM cards. Guest room robbers will increase their escape time by disabling the phones and sometimes leave their victims bound or incapacitated. It is not unheard of for robbers to load up the victim’s car with valuables and drive away without anyone in the hotel taking notice.
Method of Operation: The most common point of attack is through the guest room door or patio door. Sometimes the hotel room invader will simply kick open the door and confront everyone inside. More common is when the hotel room invaders knock on the door first. The room invader hopes that the occupant will simply open the door, without question, in response to their knock. Unfortunately, many people do just that.

Guest room robbers will sometimes use a ruse or impersonation to get you to open the door. They have been known to pretend to be room service, housekeeping, security, or delivering flowers. Clever room robbers might hold a room service tray or flowers in view of the peephole to further the impersonation. Once the door is opened for them, the hotel room invaders will use an explosive amount of force and threats to gain control of the room and produce fear in the victims. Once the occupants are under control, the robbers will begin to collect your portable valuables.

Another tactic is for a robber to select a victim in the lobby and ride up in the elevator with them. They will get off on the same floor and pretend walk behind you as if going to their room. This means you need to return to the elevator and return to the lobby. Once the guest opens their door, the robber will force his way in behind them and make his demand.

Weapons: A Slight Edge

If you habitually carry a firearm, you tend to feel naked without one on your person while in unfamiliar circumstances. Except for active duty military or law enforcement, it is difficult to get the paperwork necessary to legally carry a firearm in a foreign country. Carrying an illegal firearm is a really, really bad idea in an unfamiliar country. Severe penalties, up to and including the death penalty, ensue if caught at it. While Mexico is currently a more dangerous place that either Iraq or Afghanistan, please understand that if NarcoTerrorists get their hands on you, you will be faced with 15 – 20 guys with AKs and M4s. Your measly popgun will just be added to their collection. Going about unarmed in potentially dangerous territory means that situational awareness and “What if...?” scenario planning are not optional.

My favorite defense tools include a stun gun, and a metal extendable police baton, camouflaged with a small flashlight replacement for the end ferrule. It looks like a typical metal body flashlight, and the police don't question it. Both the flashlight extension and the baton were purchased for less than USD40 on eBay. For less than USD40 I bought a stun gun with a personal alarm and a flashlight as well as 100v stun buttons on top all included on a unit camouflaged as a cell phone. This is great... though, it will not pass close inspection as a cell phone. What is really good about it is the Argentine thieves usually demand your cell phone and your money, giving no alerts as you reach toward him with a cell phone stun gun. Also, it is very useful in a dark, dangerous area to have it up to your face pretending to talk on it so deployment is almost instantaneous. In less dangerous environments, it rides quite openly and comfortably in a cell phone carrier on my belt. Neither of these items pass airport security inspection for carrying on one's person or carry-on luggage. Checked luggage should be okay. You stand a very good chance to be arrested if you forget. I forgot once, and was able to talk my way out of getting arrested after surrendering my extendable baton.

One should be able to get by with taking a ground-down razor sharp screwdriver and/or a multi-tool with a knife blade inside checked luggage. These are handy to carry while in unfamiliar surroundings. I put a plastic barrel of a ball-point pen over the sharp blade of the screwdriver, and it sits upright... held in place by yet another handkerchief... in my left-hand hip pocket. I have practiced with this item until I can whip it out and strike a telling defensive blow in less than a half second. These items pass inspection as tools you just happen to have on you. I sometimes use a belt with a push-blade knife concealed in the belt buckle. My Colombian and Argentine police buddies say that they would not even be suspicious or think of being suspicious of such items, since they don't run into them often... if ever. The Mexican police are a bit more suspicious of such items because they see stuff like this all the time with lots of Mexican nationals just released from prison in the US, as well as weekend commandos from the US. Again, one would face a high probability of arrest and detention if caught attempting to board an airplane with such items on one's person or hand luggage.

See the TSA web site. You can carry pepper spray in checked luggage on some airlines. Local cops that are not trying to rip you off typically won't hassle you for having it for self defense. It is not against the law in any part of the world that I am aware of. An Example: Two US guys off a private sailboat walking down the street in beautiful downtown Cartegena, Colombia in broad daylight when five thugs armed with knives tried to pull them into an alley to have their dastardly way. The sailors applied pepper spray and fled easily. The cops were televised grinning and slapping the sailors' backs in congratulation for having foiled the crooks. The reports talked a lot about the fact that the sailors had used pepper spray, and marveling at the fact that the pepper spray had so effectively disabled the crooks that they were still coughing and spitting 20 minutes later when the cops arrested them.

The small, compressed gas capsicum pepper spray canister can easily fit in the pocket, even on a key chain and is available anywhere. These canisters are usually available for purchase in any country, perhaps in a salvage/surplus/sporting goods retailer. If you prefer, It is legal to carry a small plastic bottle or baggie with cayenne pepper in checked luggage on an airplane. You could also carry an EMPTY plastic squeeze bottle, and mix up a little cocktail in the bottle with the pepper when you get access to some water at your location. I haven't used it on humans, but it worked really, really well on uncontrolled dogs trying to chase me down the street. Again, carry these items in checked luggage only.

The good news is that accurately applied pepper compounds really work. I have seen very tall, large muscle bound guys rolling on the ground screaming for their mommy, while the petite 4 foot 9 inch lady at their side is just crying quietly. The bad news is, don't bring pepper spray to a gunfight. Also, I have used pepper spray on guys lit to the gills on crystal meth doesn't work. Doesn't even slow 'em down. A really, really drunk Mejicano I used it on also didn't seem to notice.

Like anything else, pepper spray defense is an excellent option for most people, and can be considered legal almost everywhere. However, it requires good judgment and adult behavior.

An Example: Not so long ago, two US guys were leaving their sailboat in an African port. It was around sundown, and they were walking to a restaurant about a mile away. They noticed a group of locals giving them the eye as the sailors ambled away. They soon passed beyond sight of any passers by.. The dock areas were deserted. They noticed a guy running parallel to them on a path about 50 yards away in their direction of travel. They realized that they were in trouble... unarmed at night and in a foreign port with no witnesses. Sure enough, the thug ran up even to them and held them at bay 30 feet away with a pistol as his two thug friends came running up from behind. Even with martial arts training, this was the perfect setup for the thugs... no way to reach the guy with the gun before suffering serious injury, two unarmed thugs shaking them down for all their valuables. The even lost their secret hideaway stashes, and were stripped of all of their goodies. They later said the thugs searched them from the skin out, including shoes. And only the crotch area was safe. Because they were unarmed, they were left alive. The criminal with the gun had the drop on them... going for a gun would have resulted in sustaining serious injuries. This was not a scenario for a quick-draw exhibition. The police and port officials reported that the tourists were lucky. The hijack group was highly experienced and professional. Mostly, the less professional groups in the area at that time just shot you dead and took what they wanted.

What have we learned from this? Playing the “What if... ?” game, we may make suggestions.

  • If you are leaving a safe place in an unsafe general area (in this case, an African port... there are no “safe” ports in Africa), consider calling a taxi to come collect you. Please do not take an un-summoned taxi off the street. You want to avoid being taken around the corner so a hostile group can rob you. Having the dispatcher know which driver collected you is your best safety net.
  • If a group of local idlers are eying you, you are probably being sized up as a target. Return to a safe area... in this case, the secure marina, and call a taxi.
  • If despite your best efforts you are approached by a criminal group as professional as described, your best course of action is to submit, as did the unarmed victims in this example. Please believe me when I say that you will instantly recognize a well-planned assault. The guys in this example lived through the experience, and we can learn from them.

In this instance they had a few moments after noticing the running gunman where they could have drawn their firearms. When I carry a weapon in a dangerous area, I carry it in a shopping bag or a folded magazine/newspaper... even a hat or cap... with my hand on the grip, finger off the trigger. Just drape a handkerchief over your cocked and locked pistol if necessary, keep your ready weapon in a convenient pocket or under your shirt... but you must have your firearm in your hand ready to use, not holstered. I practice these things in the safety of my home. With 20/20 hindsight, several people were going to get hurt that night if the victims had at least one firearm in their hand... but, at the time, they had no knowledge that the usual practice was to kill the victims, and might have hesitated to fire. They would have guiltily realized at this time that they should not have been there in the first place... realizing that they had ignored the danger clues when leaving the secure marina. They might have realized that their many hours of target practice were not sufficient for a situation requiring split-second instinctive shooting at someone who had 'the drop' on them and would be shooting at them. The only chance with a weapon in this scenario would be to turn to face their attacker, cooly bring up the pistol up and take their best shot. The chances of this action being successful were not good even if they already had the gun out and ready.

Gunfights are serious matters. The outcome is serious... as the book says, No Second Place Winner. Using a firearm to wound or kill an attacker will change your life forever. We all have to look at a gunfight as an admission of guilt, of failure. You probably shouldn't have been there in the first place. A gunfight is evidence of bad judgment, unless it happens defending your family in your own home, a carjacking, etc. We must plan to be arrested after such an incident, and carry local phone numbers of attorneys/embassy officials/personal and/or business acquaintances for notification of your situation. Also, it is important to know the local laws regarding such incidents. It would be a good idea to read up on gunfights and take an instinctive shooting course if you plan to travel armed. Most importantly, practice, practice, practice.

If using a semi-auto, arm yourself with a CO2 pistol as close to the type you will be using, practice drawing and firing BBs as trained in an instinctive shooting course. Practice walking, running or sitting while shooting. Practice shooting from different types of cover from different positions. Practice instinctive shooting in low light conditions. I use my J-frame .357 with wax bullets/primers/plastic shells that I make up myself. My friends who hate guns actually enjoy this activity and look at it as play. I don't. I practice at 7 – 15 feet--about the useful range for a wax bullet--shooting at a cardboard poster. You can just tape a silhouette target over a cardboard box. You must literally train for hundreds of hours if you want to get into peak performance. And, why would you not want to be the best you can in such critical situations?

Gunfight outcomes are decided by mental attitude, instincts and carefully nurtured muscle memory. Please read up on the gunfighters who have survived lots of gun battles. There are lots of web sites describing such books, and recommendations are available from gun enthusiast and survival blogs. I first read Bill Jordan's No Second Place Winner in the 1970s. I learned to carry spare cartridges in my pistol-side jacket pocket to more swiftly flip my coat tail out of the way when drawing my weapon, and practiced it. I learned about stances, how to draw and shoot from the hip, again as my weak hand met up with the gun and again as my arms fully extended... the Jordan triple-tap... and lots more. I practice, practice, practice. The book is out of print, but used copies are available on the net for as low as US$15 plus shipping. You can't have my copy.

An Example: A more successful outcome. It was Christmas in Houston, and my friend Sara was at Sharpstown Mall carrying lots of packages and shopping bags as she went to exit the mall to go to her car. Since the lot was crowded, her car was not in an optimal location for security. Sara's situational awareness kicked in. She saw that it had gotten dark early, as it does in Houston at that time of year. She noticed some young thugs hanging around the exit. Sara returned to the mall, sought out a security guard, and requested that he escort her to her car, but he refused. Sara stood at the door for a while, contemplating a route to her car that would avoid parked vans in the lot... the criminals' vehicle of choice in Houston at that time... took careful note of who was visible from her vantage point, and plotted her course. Before she started out, she carefully sat down her packages and removed her keys and... discretely... a very small .22 caliber pistol which she concealed in her strong hand, retrieved her packages with her purse over her gun arm and set out to her car. As she was on her way, she turned around several times to scope out the other people in the lot and what they were doing. She planned to return to the mall and insist on an escort if she didn't like what she saw. When she got to her car, she was putting her keys in the door lock when a young thug rushed up to her and yelled some obscenities and threats at her as he grabbed Sara's purse, attached to her gun arm by the strap. The action caused Sara's pistol's pointy end to actually go up his nose. He said... and I quote Sara's description... “Whoa, Mamma! Be cool.” Sara said, “This is as cool as I get.” The thug's friends were running up to help, but the young thug said, “Let's get outta here She got a PIECE up my nose”, and they all took off running. Sara immediately drove to the nearest police station to report the attempted crime and the mall security guard's indifference. She later found out that the young criminals were part of a large group that kept a rental van parked in a central location, and the various teams were dropping off their ill-gotten swag so their hands were free for more crime without encumbrance. Several older people were hurt that night in the Sharpstown Mall parking lot. One younger victim, a man, tried to resist with his wife and children present and ended up in the hospital with permanent damage from the beating he got.

In the two preceding examples we see that options only exist for the wary. The two sailors ignored the little stomach lurch of instinct when they saw thugs eying them. Had the group of thugs that targeted them been less professional, they would probably have died for ignoring their instincts. It only takes one mistake like that... an instant of recognition that was ignored... to end our lives.

Sara's example ended well because she understood that only outstanding situational awareness and planning via “What if... ?” scenarios can help us survive potentially dangerous situations. Even though she was armed, Sara's pistol would have ended up as part of the criminal swag had she not had it in her hand and “gotten the drop” on her own private thug. She probably would have sustained a few injuries as the thug pistol-whipped her with her own gun for being dumb enough to carry a pistol she wasn't ready to use.

Please keep in mind that thugs hate you and everyone else that has more than they have. They have only contempt for those who have less. As they gain more experience at thuggery, they develop a bored indifference to violence and will kill without remorse and spend their swag on a nice meal immediately after a rewarding murder. If you are in law enforcement, you already know this.

Ex-military people who have been in Close Quarters Combat know how to shoot instinctively, how to survive a gun battle, and how to keep their heads on a swivel. They are adept at the “What if... ?” game. Unlike police officers who have survived many criminal confrontations, they may lack other important skill sets. Whomever you may be, it is important to brutally analyze your inventory skill sets, try to determine which sets you lack, and work on trying to improve your chances in a criminal confrontation. Please keep in mind that though Sara did everything right except be in a crime-prone area... not very avoidable in Houston at that time... she had to use every skill set she had plus a lot of nerve to survive unscathed her criminal confrontation. And, yes... street survival is a mind game.

Decoy Money: Consider keeping about US$30 to $50 folded up in a place where you can get to it. If an armed thief comes up to you, give it to him. He may just go away and leave you alone. Seriously… it's been reported as a successful ploy and may save you. Be aware that I have seen video of five armed guys stripping a guy on the street at night. There is no hiding place when you’re barefoot and naked, unless you have your goodies in a tube inserted into a body cavity. If you can avoid that by giving them the bait money, good for you. If not… you’re gonna lose the bait money and everything else anyway. Just a thought: consider carrying the bait money in small bills and throw them to the wind so you can get a head start in running to a safer place very fast. I know from personal experience that this works... sometimes. I also carry my pepper spray concealed in my hand with my finger on the trigger while observing suspicious activity. Since I am not allowed to carry a firearm in my residence country, I need the pepper spray to get far enough away to pull my collapsible baton/flashlight combo as I run toward a safer place. And, yes, I have trained in baton tactics, read many instruction manuals and scenarios, and practice, practice, practice.

Other common sense items: Try to share info from the Internet, news items, overheard comments, etc from traveler Internet boards. We need to help one another.

Dress for Success
Wear layered clothing with lots of zip/Velcro/snap pockets to make it more difficult to clean you out if your pockets are “picked”… spread your cash around your body and clothes… taxi/bridge fare in your shoes.. If you are in an area known as a high threat area for kidnapping, it is best to never wear sandals or flip-flops, no matter how hot. This is in case you are kidnapped and have to walk in rough terrain 10+ hours per day for a few days.

Never carry a checkbook. Identity theft attempts were made after I lost my checkbook in Colombia.

Never sign the back of a credit card. Write “see photo ID” in the signature block. Whenever possible, carry Xerox copies of your important docs. In Argentina, I have a Xerox of the signature/photo page, last entry page and visa page of my passport reduced to fit on the front and back of a single sheet of paper, as well as the receipt for my application fee to obtain an Argentine National ID card/Resident.

Stun Guns
Until they come out with a secret stun ring, I would worry about the cops getting cranky if they found it on you. The good news... they work better than any other non-lethal method of self defense. Oh, except not going to a place where you are likely to need it. No matter how drunk, pilled up or crazy an attacker, and no matter how big and tough, they will be rolling on the dirt screaming for mommy. Again, don't bring a stun gun to a gun fight unless you are ex-law enforcement or otherwise trained/expert in defensive tactics.

Collapsible baton: This is my all-time favorite. But be advised, to the best of my knowledge a baton is not legal in any part of the world. However, it is easily concealable. I carry my 17 inch (extended) baton from eBay discretely in a jeans hip pocket. I paid extra for an LED flashlight butt from eBay so it appears to be a flashlight with a long handle. It doesn't even look extendable. The flashlight module gives good light and replaces the butt ferrule.

If you are fluent in the local language, do not show off or act like a jerk, you may be get by okay with a collapsible baton in most countries. An Example: I have carried my "flashlight with an extensible handle" in Mexico, in Colombia and Argentina on and off cruise ships (the worst questioning I had to endure while going thru bag checks by cruise ship personnel). I had a problem with an federal officer checking hand luggage at the Buenos Aires airport. I had planned to leave it at my Argentine home. I forgot it was in a small bag stuffed in my carry-on luggage. Woops! I was embarrassed. This could have been serious if I wasn't muy fluido en castellano and such an obviously nice, friendly guy. This guy was giving me a bad case of cop eye as I smiled and explained that it was a flashlight. With an expressionless face, he extended it. I showed him my Florida commercial appraiser license and explained it was for seeing into dark corners while appraising buildings. He said... "Sir, this is a weapon". I smiled and stuck it in the box they had there for disposing of small knives, scissors, et cetera. Still smiling, I shrugged my shoulders and got the rest of my stuff together and departed, dignity almost intact. My wife was laughing. I heard the Feds laughing, too. I was out $40 for my own stupidity. It would have been fine in checked luggage. No problem... I got another one via eBay for about $50 and resolved to always re-check the contents carry-on bags prior to leaving home.

In any country, it seems reasonable to follow some common sense safety tactics:

  • Try to avoid places without a lot of activity, especially dark places. If you have to wait for another group to leave the location to have some company, please do so.
  • Carry a whistle and/or pepper spray on your key chain. If attacked, make as much noise as possible while running away, if possible.
  • When exiting a building to go to your car, stop for a second to visually scan the area. Cops are trained to do this. Hold your keys in your hand... not in your pocket, bag or belt clip. Check the back seat visually prior to unlocking the door of the vehicle. If you see suspicious activity, or a van parked next to your vehicle that blocks the view of your entry into your vehicle from others, do a wide sweep... a walk around before entering... or, consider going back into the building to observe for a while. This is especially important if you are with an adult entertainment specialist... she may be part of the gang that want to check out your pockets.
  • If you are carrying a bag with a shoulder strap, wear the strap laterally across your back with the bag in front and walk toward vehicular traffic. Why? I once saw a lady being dragged down the street for almost a block before the strap broke. A pickup passenger had leaned out and grabbed her strap--in broad daylight with lots of witnesses--and fled the scene. If you are facing oncoming traffic, you can see suspicious approaches and prepare. Pillion riders on motorcycles or scooters are the most common snatch thieves.
  • If you are carrying a purse or the equivalent, consider carrying it upside down, snap open and held closed by your hand. If a thief grabs it out of your hand all your stuff will go on the pavement... which is a good thing. It gives you a distraction so you can use your best weapon.--your feet-- to escape.
  • It is difficult to over-stress the importance of the conscientious and judicious use of your eyes, brain and feet to keep anyone safe no matter where in the world you may be. Observe carefully with your eyes so that your brain can evaluate potential threats, and use your feet to avoid iffy locations.

If your attempt to be inconspicuous is unsuccessful, your defensive tactics aren't a good idea and you find yourself naked on the side of the road with a bunch of bad guys, here are some tips that were passed down from folks who have succeeded in getting away from the NarcoTerror boys.

  • Lighten up on yourself. You have the right to a reasonable expectation of personal security no matter where in the world you are located. Your rights have been violated and you were savagely captured by bad guys who have no redeeming social value. Now is the time to settle down and consider your new situation and possible options.
  • Be creative with health issues. Show them your surgical scars, your diabetes meds, (consider getting some meds whether you really need them or not... your doctor may have some ideas) anything that may make them decide you are more trouble than you may be worth to them... even if you have to make stuff up. Lie to them, please. Be creative in subtle ways to slow the column of marchers throughout the journey. Fake a bad ankle and make them go steal a mule/burro/horse from some poor farmer to transport you. Always be alert to opportunities to escape safely from the NarcoTraficantes' area. Always go downhill when you escape... find a stream, then a river, always go downstream until you find a road or other signs of civilization. Sometimes it's a good idea to hide in the day, travel at night... but, be aware that traveling at night can be dangerous in the jungle/woods/mountains... not recommended for those with poor night vision.
  • Make certain that they understand that you have no living relatives or flush employer to ransom you. This is key. If they took you from your work compound, a helicopter they shot down. et cetera, then that is going to be a tough sell. If you carry family/love interest photos, unless you can convince the NarcoTraficantes that the folks in the photos are dead, it is not easy. Optimally, plan to try to appear to be an impoverished , anti-social, solitary orphan backpacker, student or teacher.
  • One of the best ways to escape is to fake an illness that they can't treat you for locally. Several victims have gotten away from relaxed security in a town with a doctor under NarcoTerrorist control. Some research on symptoms prior to your trip may be a good idea. It is not very easy to fake out the medical person most NarcoTerror bands usually have.
  • If you appear to be such a high value prize that they can't afford to give you up except for a big payoff, then none of the above will be very helpful. But do it anyway. Everyone lets a competitor have an advantage by making an error, especially the NarcoTraficantes. Many of the individual groups include young people who don't like what they are doing... many were pressed into service during raids on their village. But, you most often will have to be creative and make up a good story to create your own opportunities.
  • Most important: Forgive yourself for being captive and unable to meet your obligations. When Ingrid Betancourt was rescued from FARC forces in Colombia, she told debriefing officers that she had more problems related to the mental stress from feeling she had let down her family, friends and associates by becoming a captive than the physical stress. Even though she understood that she was a captive through no fault of her own, she had a difficult struggle overcoming her guilt. She and other captives have reported that self forgiveness is the most important key to survival in a long term captivity. Seven years, in her case.

[Tomorrow, Part 2.]

Greg L. suggested this Housing Storm piece: Is it too early to declare mortgage modifications a complete failure?

Reader HPD mentioned this commentary by Mish Shedlock: Collectively, Economists Are A Perpetually Optimistic Lot

Ukraine's Naftogaz indicates default on bonds (Thanks to Danny S. for the link.)

The latest installment of the now predictable FDIC Friday Evening Follies: Three more banks go down. (Hat tip to Bill R. for the link.)

Items from The Economatrix:

Wall Street Money Rains on Senate, Especially Schumer

Governments Dip Deeper Into Alcohol-Tax Well

Shoppers Cash in on E-Coupons

Job Seekers Exceed Openings by Record

"Great Recession" Transforms the Workplace
. Most enduring change expected to be permanent loss of millions of jobs

Job Losses, Early Retirement Hurt Social Security
System to pay out more in benefits than collected in taxes over next two years

The Case For Inflation and Gold

For this is what the LORD says -
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine. - Isaiah 43:1

Friday, October 2, 2009

The demand for my new nonfiction book has been so strong that Penguin Books has increased their printing orders twice in the past 48 hours. They now expect to have a total of 50,000 copies in print by the middle of October. Amazon.com has ordered so many copies that they've been able to drop their retail price to just $9.35 each.


Today we present the first entry for Round 25 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

First Prize: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.) and C.) A HAZARiD Decontamination Kit from Safecastle.com. (A $350 value.)

Second Prize: A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Round 25 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

For millions of law-abiding gun owners, the ability to legally carry a concealed firearm is available to them in the form of a Concealed Carry Weapon Permit/License issued by their home state. However, for millions of other gun owners, that right is either severely restricted by “May Issue” states (like California, New York, New Jersey and several others) or flat-out impossible in the two remaining “Non-Issue” states, Illinois and Wisconsin. It is in the latter that I find myself. Due to work and family commitments, I have spent most of my life entrenched in that bastion of liberalism, just outside the borders of Daleygrad (Chicago) in the People’s Republic of Illinois. However, I do manage to escape every now and then, spending most of my weekends “over the border” in Indiana. Several years ago, I applied for and received a non-resident Concealed Weapon or Firearm License from the state of Florida, which allows me to legally carry a concealed firearm while I am in Indiana and more than two dozen other states.

There are a handful of states that issue permits/licenses to non-residents. The purpose of this article is not to recommend any specific one, but to give the basic information one needs to go about in applying for one. As you can assume, each state listed has their own requirements and procedures that need to be followed in obtaining the permit/license. Some states require that the application submission take place “in person”, while a few allow for submissions by mail. Also, the reciprocity of each state’s permit/license varies, so one must take into account exactly where the permit/license will be accepted as valid.

Note: Some states, such as Colorado, Florida, Michigan and New Hampshire will recognize “resident” permits/licenses from various other states, but do not accept “non-resident” permits/licenses as valid. This was a major deciding factor in my decision in selecting the Concealed Weapon or Firearm License from the state of Florida. As I have family in Florida and visit there often, a non-resident permit from the state of Utah would be useless to me during my time in Florida.

Following is a list of states that currently issue permits/licenses to non-residents, the requirements set forth by each, the cost of the permit/license and the point of contact for the application process. Some of the information was obtained from the very informative PDF provided by the NRA: http://www.NRAILA.org/recmap/usrecmap.aspx. But most of the following was collected from each state’s web sites after hours and hours of research.

Note: According to the NRA's PDF the following states: Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island “technically” issue permits/licenses to non-residents, but they are rarely granted. For this reason I have not included them.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, so please do not take the information as gospel. Do the research and make your own decision if applying for a non-resident permit/license is right for you. [JWR Adds: State and local laws vary widely. Be sure to fully research the applicable laws before traveling armed to or through another state. And of course many states require their own resident permits if you actually reside in that state!]

Almost all of the states listed require that at least one “passport-type” photo be submitted with their application (some require 2). They all require fingerprinting. Usually the fingerprint cards are included in the application package. How and where the fingerprinting is accomplished varies. Some require that it be done on-site as part of the application process, while others require that the applicant arrange for this, usually through their local police department.

The Arizona Concealed Weapons Permit is issued by the Arizona Department of Public Safety: http://www.azdps.gov/services/concealed_weapons/
The cost of the permit is $60 for 4 years. There is a requirement that the applicant attend an approved CCW training course. The course is a minimum of 8 hours in length and is taught by a CWPU authorized instructor. You must qualify with a handgun firing live ammunition. Upon completion of the course, the instructor will provide you with an application, two fingerprint cards and a return envelope. All training for the Arizona CCW permit MUST be conducted within the borders of the state of Arizona. Links to approved instructors can be found on their web site. Payment must be submitted in the form of a money order, cashiers or certified check.

The Arizona CWP is valid in the following states:
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO*, DE, FL*, GA, ID, IN, KS*, KY, LA, MI*, MS, MO, MT, NH*, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SC*, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, WY
*= only resident permits are accepted as valid in these states

The Florida Concealed Weapon or Firearm License is issued by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Licensing: http://licgweb.doacs.state.fl.us/weapons/index.html.

The cost of the license is $117 for 7 years. There is also a provision for submitting your fingerprints electronically by utilizing a LIVE SCAN device (this is the modern method that most police departments use rather than the old, ink and roller method). The application package can be requested from one of the regional offices or you can download the forms online. Acceptable for the training requirement is completion of a hunter education or hunter safety course approved by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or a similar agency of another state, a NRA firearms safety or training course, law enforcement firearms safety or training course or honorable military service (active duty personnel may send a copy of their military ID card, veterans can submit a copy of their DD Form 214).

The Florida CWFL is valid in the following states:
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO*, DE, FL, GA, ID, IN, KS*, KY, LA, MI*, MS, MO, MT, NH*, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SC*, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, WY
*= only resident licenses are accepted as valid in these states

The Idaho Concealed Weapons Permit is issued by the Idaho State Police: http://www2.state.id.us/ag/faq/concealedweaponspermit.htm
The cost of the permit is $20 for 5 years. Applications must be submitted in person at any County Sheriff’s Department. Idaho code provides that the sheriff may collect additional fees necessary to cover the cost of processing fingerprints lawfully required by any state or federal agency or department (fee varies). Idaho also accepts completion of a hunter education or hunter safety course certified by a state agency or a NRA firearms safety/training class as fulfillment of the training requirement.

The Idaho CWP is valid in the following states:
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO*, FL*, GA, ID, IN, KY, LA, MI*, MO, MT, NH*, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WY
*= only resident permits are accepted as valid in these states

Non-residents must apply to the Commissioner of Public Safety for the Iowa Non-Professional Permit to Carry Weapons: http://www.dps.state.ia.us/asd/weapons/wp5.pdf
The cost of the permit is $10 for 1 year. Iowa is a “May Issue” state. Non-professional permits to carry will only be issued to non-residents with a demonstrable viable threat to themselves or their family as verified by a law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the threat occurred. Application packages may be obtained by providing a name and mailing address to wpinfo@dps.state.ia.us or by mail at: Iowa DPS, Program Services Bureau, Department of Public Safety Building, 215 East 7th Street, 4th Floor, Des Moines, IA 50319-0045

The Iowa PCW is valid in the following states:
*= only resident permits are accepted as valid in these states

The Maine Permit to Carry Concealed Firearms is issued by the Chief of the State Police:
The cost of the permit is $60 for 4 years. In addition to the application package, you must submit 2 Authority to Release Information Forms (included in the package), copies of all concealed firearms permits issued by other states or jurisdictions, a copy of your DD Form 214 (if you were a member of the Armed Forces), a copy of your birth certificate (or INS document) and proof of knowledge of handgun safety.

The Maine PCCF is valid in the following states:
*= only resident permits are accepted as valid in these states

The Maryland Permit to Carry a Handgun is issued by the Superintendent of the Maryland State Police: http://www.mdsp.org/downloads/licensing_application.pdf
The cost of the permit is $112.25 for 2 years. Maryland is a “May Issue” state and more often than not, permits are denied. Non-residents may download the application online and may submit their application by mail to: Maryland State Police, Licensing Division, Handgun Permit Unit 1111,   Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, MD 21208.
However, in addition to the application, the applicant must submit 2 separate fingerprint cards, the standard FBI card (bearing ORI-MDMSP6000) and a CJIS card. Both can be obtained at any Maryland State Police barracks. They also require the submission of 2 “passport-type” photographs.

The Maryland PCH is valid in the following states:
*= only resident permits are accepted as valid in these states

Non-residents must apply for the Minnesota Personal Protection Act (Permit to Carry a Pistol) in person with a Minnesota County Sheriff.
The cost of the permit is $100 for 5 years. A listing of Approved Business Organizations that provide firearms training classes can also be found on their web site. The training requirement is also needed to renew the license and must be completed within one year of the date of the renewal application.

The Minnesota PCP is valid in the following states:
AK, AZ, ID, IN, KS*, KY, MI*, MN, MO, MT, NM, OK, SD, TN, UT, VT, VA
*= only resident permits are accepted as valid in these states

Non-residents must apply for the Nevada Concealed Firearms Permit in person with any Nevada County Sheriff: http://www.lvmpd.com/permits/firearms_concealed.html
The cost of the permit is $100.25 for 3 years. The training must also take place within the county where you will be applying for the permit. You are also required to qualify with the weapon(s) that you want listed on your permit.

The Nevada CFP is valid in the following states:
AK, AZ, FL*, ID, IN, KS*, KY, LA, MI*, MN, MO, MT, OK, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT
*= only resident permits are accepted as valid in these states

New Hampshire
The New Hampshire Non-Resident Pistol/Revolver License is issued by the Director of the State Police: http://www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/nhsp/ssb/permitslicensing/documents/dssp260.pdf
The cost of the license is $100 for four years--recently increased from $20. The New Hampshire non-resident license application requires that you submit a copy of a current CCW license (front and back) issued by your state (or another state). Vermont residents can submit a letter from your local police department verifying that the state or county in which you reside does not require a license to carry concealed.

The New Hampshire NRPRL is valid in the following states:
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO*, FL*, GA, ID, IN, KY, LA, MI*, MS, MO, NH, NC, ND, OK, PA, SD, TN, UT, VT, WY
*= only resident licenses are accepted as valid in these states

North Dakota
The North Dakota Concealed Weapon Permit is issued by the Chief of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation:
The cost of the permit is $45 for 3 years. Non-residents can apply for the permit by contacting the BCI at (701) 328-5500 for an application and information regarding certified instructors. An “open book” written test is required and all testing (written and proficiency) and classroom instruction must take place within the state of North Dakota. The maximum fee a test administrator may charge is $50. There are two different permits. The Class 2 permit is for individuals at least 18 years of age. The Class 1 permit is for those 21 years of age or older.

The North Dakota CWP is valid in the following states:
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO*, DE, FL*, ID, IN, KY, LA, MI*, MO, MT, NH*, NM, NC, ND, OK, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT
*= only resident permits are accepted as valid in these states

The Oregon Concealed Handgun License is issued by the Oregon State Police: http://www.egov.oregon.gov/osp/id/chl.shtml
The cost of the license is $65 for 4 years. Applications are available at any County Sheriff’s office. The fingerprinting will also be conducted at the Sheriff’s office. Oregon does not recognize any other state’s permits/licenses. In order to legally carry a concealed firearm in Oregon, you must possess an Oregon CHL. This includes retired law enforcement officers.

The Oregon CHL is valid in the following states:
*= only resident licenses are accepted as valid in these states

The Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms is issued by the Pennsylvania State Police: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=4451&&PageID=462424&level=2&css=L2&mode=2
The cost of the License is $19 for 5 years. Non-residents must possess a current permit/license from their home state if a permit/license is provided for by the laws of that state. The “if” in that sentence may be the key for applicants from Wisconsin or Illinois (where no permit/license is available) or Vermont (where no permit/license is needed).

The Pennsylvania LCF is valid in the following states:
AK, AZ, AR, CO*, DE, FL*, GA, ID, IN, KY, LA, MI*, MO, MT, NH*, NC, ND, OK, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, WY
*= only resident licenses are accepted as valid in these states

The Texas Concealed Handgun License is issued by the Department of Public Safety:
The cost of the license is $100 for 5 years. There is a discounted price of $70 for senior citizens, indigent Texans and honorably discharged veterans. The cost of the license is $25 for active or retired peace or judicial officers and $0 for active duty military personnel (and those who have been honorably discharged within 365 days). You are required to attend a DPS authorized training course. The license will also list either semi-automatic (SA) or non-semi-automatic (NSA), depending upon which type of firearm one received the training with in the authorized course.

The Texas CHL is valid in the following states:
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO*, DE, FL*, GA, ID, IN, KS*, KY, LA, MI*, MN, MS, MO, MT, NM, NC, ND, OK, PA, SC*, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WY
*= only resident licenses are accepted as valid in these states

The Utah Concealed Firearm Permit is issued by the Department of Public Safety: http://www.publicsafety.utah.gov/bci/documents/ccwapp_004.pdf
The cost of the permit is $65.25 for 5 years. Applications may be submitted by mail. A listing of firearm instructors certified by the Bureau of Criminal Investigations can be found at: http://www.publicsafety.utah.gov/bci/documents/insoutstate_057.pdf

The Utah CFP is valid in the following states:
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO*, DE, FL*, GA, ID, IN,  KY, LA, MI*, MN, MS, MO, MT, NH*, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WY
*= only resident permits are accepted as valid in these states

The Virginia Concealed Handgun Permit is issued by the Virginia State Police. Non-residents may request an application in writing from:
Firearms Transaction Center, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Department of State Police, P.O. Box 85141, Richmond, VA 23284-5141 or via e-mail at nonrespermit@vsp.virginia.gov (be sure to include your complete name, mailing address and phone number)
The cost of the permit is $100 for 5 years. As with other states, documentation of competence with a handgun is required, but like Florida they will accept the successful completion of a hunter education or hunter safety course approved by a state agency. NRA firearms safety or training courses also satisfy this requirement.
Note: Persons with a valid Virginia CHP may apply individually to the U.S. Virgin Islands Police Department for temporary reciprocal recognition of a CCDW license while in the Virgin Islands. Temporary recognition is normally for 90 days from the date of issue. Temporary privileges may be requested from: Office of the Commissioner, Criminal Justice Complex, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, VI 00802

The Virginia CHP is valid in the following states:
AK, AZ, AR, DE, FL*, ID, IN, KY, LA, MI*, MS, MO, MT, NM, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC*, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WV
*= only resident permits are accepted as valid in these states

The Washington License to Carry-Concealed Pistol is issued by the Washington State Patrol: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9.41.070
The cost of the license is $55.25-$68 for 5 years. Non-resident applicants can apply at any law enforcement agency in Washington state. If you are in the military, your military ID and a copy of your orders listing your station location are required for the application process.

The Washington LCCP is valid in the following states:
*= only resident licenses are accepted as valid in these states

A few more web sites I’d like to recommend dealing with concealed carry:


For residents of Illinois:


For residents of Wisconsin:


In regards to the letter on powdered milk, the method described in the web site works, but does not produce milk that tastes very good (depending on the oil used).

Growing up all over the world we often were in places where tuberculosis (TB) was endemic in the cattle populations. As a result you could not drink milk but could drink/eat yogurt based products (the process of conversion to yogurt will kill off the TB). Of course to this day I always test positive for TB because I ate the yogurt -- even though I don't have it -- as a result of the dead TB bacillus in the yogurt I developed antibodies to it.

As a result my mother researched how to make "real" tasting milk from powdered milk. What we found (and the method that was used by the military to reconstitute milk in many places even today) was that if you added one can of evaporated milk per gallon of powdered milk you got "real" tasting milk with a decent fat percentage. She also found that mixing the powdered milk using hot water (and then cooled overnight) actually made a major difference in taste.

The only time we tried the method described (using oils) was when the supply plane we and the rest of the mixed military/state department expat community relied on, was very late. To this day I remember the taste of powdered milk mixed with olive oil (the only oil available locally in Ankara at the time) -- even with copious amounts of chocolate milk mix (Ovaltine) it was still nasty. - Hugh D.

Mr. Rawles;
I have been monitoring the latest posts on vintage radios--pro and con--and decided to offer more information and a possible solution for SurvivalBlog readers considering vintage electronics.

M.E. is spot on in his post about the relatively anemic performance of crystal radios versus superheterodyne (as all “American Fiver” sets are known) tube radios. The biggest issue with crystal sets is their absolute lack of range. During a severe crisis, local radio stations will most likely be forced to regurgitate propaganda resulting in little, if any, useful information. As is generally known, news from afar (Canada, Australia, Europe, etc) offers the best advanced information of what will most likely be occurring regionally in our country during an extreme crisis; either government sanctioned-such as the swine flu or unexpected-such as another massive terrorist attack on our soil. This being the case, crystal sets will be useless for all intent and purpose. Regenerative sets will generally fall in this category. An added caveat of regenerative sets is the constant adjustment of the power supply (referred to as a “tickler coil”) by the user. In short, Regen Tube sets require the operator to adjust a variable resistance control to achieve high gain. Unfortunately, the gain qualities would be somewhat unstable requiring the operator to constantly keep the control (tickler coil) just short of oscillation.
Although fine-tuning a regen radio would be possible with time and experience, most of us in a high stress situation have more pressing matters and would prefer a plug-and-play device that can be dialed-in and easily monitored in an attempt to extract pertinent information.

As is often the case, the more information one has, the more complicated the matter of choice often becomes. My advice is simple: if a reader is looking for a radio with unmatched abilities it would be the Zenith line of Trans-Oceanic Radios. These are more than just simple Standard Broadcast ready radios. Zenith Trans-Oceanics are capable of picking up shortwave broadcasts from all over the world.
These radios offer standard broadcast (550-1600 AM), 4-9 and 2-4 MC shortwave (some models have a slightly different bandwidth for these ranges but it is really a non-issue) 16 MC shortwave, 19 MC shortwave, 25 MC shortwave and 31 MC shortwave.

One has to understand that Trans-Oceanics were designed for use in WWII to be utilized by the U.S. Signal Corps for the monitoring of both enemy and ally transmissions. Suffice it to say, any radio good enough to help the boys from the Greatest Generation win WWII will perform beyond expectations!

As an example, I am ensconced in a small town in northern Idaho completely surrounded by mountains and can pick up stations several hundred to several thousands of miles away. I listen to radio
stations from San Francisco, Russia and Japan, Vancouver, Alberta and Quebec (Canada), Denver, Boise, Reno and Brazil (South America), Florida, Havana Cuba) and San Martinique (Caribbean). (What makes my listening experience exceptional is the fact that my mother is of Cuban ancestry and fills me in on the information coming out of South America, while my Russian wife “decodes” broadcasts from Russia.)

Trans-Oceanics are still readily available on eBay and range in price from $50-$250 as an average. All though several pages could be dedicated to the different models of Trans-Oceanics, all of them will offer standard broadcasts as well as shortwave capabilities. Tubes are still readily available and most of them will require electrical refurbishment as 50 year-old capacitors will break down. I have been restoring Trans-Oceanics for quite some time and feel that these radios offer the best of both worlds: Rugged dependability and simplicity of use. If any of your readers would like to contact me
concerning Trans-Oceanics (as I have several refurbished units available and offer discreet refurbishment services as well) please feel free to contact me via email at afbaw1@uaa.alaska.edu and I will do my best to assist my fellow SB readers prepare for the trying times ahead.

Mr. Rawles, I would like to offer my sincerest thanks for continuing to be a “voice crying out in the wilderness”. God Bless. - Prof. W.

Hi James et altera:
For some years now I have refurbished tube radios bought via eBay. I replace all the electrolytic capacitors and paper capacitors, check all the tubes. Then I tune all the padder capacitors and adjustable coils using an RF signal generator. A Fluke multimeter, a tube tester, and an RF signal generator are essential for this work. I've done four models of Hallicrafters and the G-500, H-500, and 600 models of the Zenith Trans-Oceanics ("T-Os").. The 600s have provision for a dial light off a separate battery and a slide rule-like dial. One does not need the gas discharge tube voltage regulator tube in the 600s for DC use. The AM band Wavemagnet is turnable very easily. This aids in both reducing AM interference and increasing the signal strength. I like the 600s the best.

The source for parts and books is TubesAndMore.com. They sell an interesting little kit for a simple tube radio. Would be a great learning tool for novices.

Now while the All American AC/DC radios are a good choice, IMHO they may not be the best. Only a few receive any of the shortwave bands. I would try to locate one that does if you wish to go this route. The shortwave broadcast bands are going to be very important when the Schumer hits the fan. The Zenith T-Os cover the spectrum from 560 kHz up to 31 mHz. Now these models use the miniature 1.5 volt filament tubes that have low "A" battery drain. I fabricate a battery pack with ten of the 9 Volt small batteries in series for the "B" plate current, and 5 of the 1.5 volt "D" batteries in series for the "A" filament current. Five instead of six is preferable. The T-Os work fine with 5 "D" cells in series and the lower filament current makes the filaments last longer. The T-Os have a tuned RF stage, making them much more sensitive than the All American AC/DC designs. I plan to fabricate and test a board for charging rechargable batteries from a 12 VDC source by the following arrangement: connect two of the nine V batteries in series, thence in parallel with one D battery. Arrange five such links in parallel, then all will be charged by a 12 VDC source. One disadvantage of the T-Os is that they use a pentagrid converter tube, the 1L6, which is now hard to find. When the Schumer hits the fan, I will give these spare T-Os to my close-by neighbors.

The disadvantage of the T-Os is that they will not receive single sideband (SSB) transmissions. Most all military and government transmissions will be SSB. The range of an SSB signal is greater. For SSB reception I recommend one of the Hallicrafter's tube radios. The best ones have transformers and require 120 VAC, but this can be supplied by an inverter. After working on several models, I've now bought four of the S-40's to refurb this winter on bad winter days. These will receive either upper and lower sidebands. I suggest buying the reference books on both the T-Os and the later tube Hallicrafters. The source mentioned above can supply a circuit diagram for most older radios.

The 'creme de la creme' is the Hallicrafters SX-71. This tube radio has a dual IF conversion circuit. That is, unlike most all other superheterodynes which have an IF frequency of 455 kHz, this one has a second IF conversion frequency that is considerably higher. Having two such IF frequencies vastly increases what is called "image rejection" and makes for a much more selective receiver. I've one of these I've refurbished. I wish I could find another one!

Now a warning about EMP and close by lightening strikes (which have similar effects as an EMP). I had a nice shortwave antenna with a gas discharge tube next to a Grundig Satellit 800. The gas discharge tube was supposed to shunt a fast moving voltage spike to ground. Yes, it was connected by 6 gauge copper wire to an 8 foot [deep] copper ground. Well now, we had a severe lightening strike which totally fried three circuit boards in the Grundig. A several hundred dollar lesson on Murphy's Law.

To protect radios from EMP the recommendation I've found is this: wrap the radio in nonconductive plastic film. Then wrap completely with heavy duty aluminum foil. Then wrap in a 2nd layer of plastic film. Then add a second layer of aluminum foil. The "skin effect" for electrostatic charges tells us that multiple layers give better protection. If you can use copper foil, this is more conductive and better than aluminum. I've read conflicting opinions on whether or not it is best to ground the outer aluminum foil layer. My opinion is only to ground it IF the distance from the foil to the ground is very short. Else I read that the ground wire will simply act as an antenna and flood the foil with the voltage spike.

One might seriously consider a true uninteruptable power supply (UPS) for a tube radio for household use. Might well isolate it from EMP power line voltage spikes. Best Regards, - Les H.

JWR Replies: I'm also a fan of the older (pre-transistor) Zenith Trans-oceanics. I've owned four of them over the years, and still have two of them here at the Rawles Ranch. The radios of this generation are now five+ decades old, so I agree that replacing the capacitors is a must. (Otherwise you never know when one might go "bang" and make that distinctive "blown cap" smell.) When testing these radios (before re-capping them) it is best to use a Variac to bring the power up very gradually. Aside for buying a few spare tubes and perhaps a reel of extra tuning -dial string, they are relatively "bomb proof" and maintenance free. The book Zenith Trans-Oceanic: The Royalty of Radios provides some excellent details on how to restore these gems, as well as some fascinating history and price comparisons. By the way, Zenith Trans-oceanics are often available in eBay, including some that have already been "re-capped" and re-aligned. The scarce Pentagrid 1L6 tubes are also sometimes available on eBay, but it is best to be patient and wait for a "sleeper" auction to get one at a reasonable price. It is also worthwhile to look for inexpensive "junker" Zenith Trans-oceanics and AM-only Zenith "Universal Model" radios (with beat-up cases, cracked dials, and missing knobs), as a source for spare vacuum tubes and and telescopic antennas.

Ammo Rationing at Wal-Mart as Panic Buying Sweeps US

   o o o

Signs of the times in small-town America: Layoffs, lost cruisers: Problems grow for sheriff. Here is a key quote: "'We will be a lawless society,' worries Angela Greenwell, a county board member, fearing the latest trouble 'basically has neutered the sheriff's department.'"

   o o o

Los Angeles Times reporter Matthew Brown digs in to the conflicting reports coming out of Hardin, Montana: California entrepreneur promising to revitalize rural Montana town has checkered past. This just gets curiouser and curiouser.

   o o o

Reader Phil E. discovered a map graphic that could prove useful: McDonalds fast food franchises in the USA. Phil's comments: "Predictably, it shows many blank areas in the west. It is very similar to the lights-at-night pictures, with fewer data points. It makes a good point about relocation areas." JWR's comment: This squares perfectly with my postulate on "Stop n' Rob" convenience stores that I've often mentioned to my consulting clients. Some of the safest places to be during the unfolding economic depression will be small towns without the conveniences and franchise chains. These towns will have no appeal to the assorted riffraff that will wander out of the big cities in a "slow slide" collapse. They'll likely just pass through, opting instead for larger towns with welfare infrastructures that can accommodate them.

"Modern military planners often talk in terms of “threat spirals” when a given threat escalates and inspires a defensive countermeasure. Ideally you should anticipate your opponent’s next escalation and take countermeasures, insulating yourself from the future threat." - James Wesley, Rawles, discussing recent trends in home invasion robberies in
"How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My sincere thanks for making the Book Bomb Day a great success! When I last checked, my new book was ranked at #4 in Amazon.com's overall book rankings. Only the new Dan Brown novel, the upcoming Sarah Palin book, and Glenn Beck's book are ranked higher. How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It is also ranked #1 in the Survival Skills category, #1 in the Technology & Society category, #1 in the General & Reference category, and #2 in nonfiction books. Thanks again! At this rate, the publisher will soon have to order a second printing. (The first printing was 20,000 copies.)

OBTW, so that Amazon doesn't get all the business, be advised that there are many other outlets for How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It. These sources include:

Barnes & Noble



Indie Bound - This is a coalition of independent booksellers. While they don’t sell directly from the web site, they direct customers to their nearest independent bookstore. The customer enters a zip code to find the nearest independent bookseller, then the customer can order through that specific seller’s site, or go pick it up at the store. Support you local book store!

My book should also soon be available soon as a regularly-stocked item at "bricks and mortar" bookstores.

Once again, thank you!

We've completed the judging! The first prize winner for Round 24 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest is"Old Dog" , for his article "Grub and Gear--Lessons Learned from an Alaskan Trapper". He will receive: A.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost between $500 and $600, and B.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried entrees, in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $392 value.)

The second prize winner is Brad T. for his article Bug Out and Refugee Considerations. He will receive a "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $350.

The third prize winner is C. the Old Farmer , for her article The Disaster Garden--What's Not in the Can. She will receive a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing.

Runner-up prizes go to four writers:

T.W.P., for Camouflage: The Art of the "Liar"

Lisa L., for One Woman's View of Budget Preparedness

Prepared in Maine, for Prepare to Garden Like Your Life Depends on It.

KAF, for Squeezing Efficiency Out of Every Second of Your Workday to Provide Quality Relaxation Time

They will each receive a $30 Amazon.com gift certificate.

Note to prize winners: Please e-mail me your snail mail addresses (both UPS and US mail), and I'll get your prizes out, right away.

Today we begin Round 25 of the writing contest, which will end on November 30th. Get busy writing, and e-mail your entry!

Hello Mr. Rawles,

Here is a link to Chow How that I thought some of your readers might wish to print out and add to their preparedness manuals.

It tells you how to add the fats back to powdered milk (with oil) to make whole milk. It is important that toddlers have the fat for proper brain growth. It would also be a good idea for pregnant women to have the extra fats.

Hope this link is helpful to some of your readers. Sincerely, ~ Garnet

While the concept and idea of a Crystal Radio for TEOTWAWKI (no battery or external power) sounds ideal, in practice the execution leaves much to be desired.

Many ignore the fact that if a grid down situation occurs (or worse an EMP attack) that most radio stations in the affected area will be down and out for the count. In a best case scenario if the transmitting station’s components aren’t damaged, how long will their source of backup power stay up? Many modern stations rely on satellite feeds or long line telephone circuits for their program materials to be delivered and many regional stations have a minimum of technical staff (and no announcers) to maintain their operation and some station’s technical staff actually drives or travels on a circuit to do the upkeep on conglomerate owned stations in a region. US Domestic shortwave stations are in the same boat.

My point? You will probably use your radio for long distance listening to stations that are still up and functioning. Crystal radio sets run the gamut from children’s toys to hobbyist’s expensive toys but generally due to lack of amplification are useful for local listening (and some of the children’s toy type can only pick up two or three very close AM stations – even with a good (100’ long) antenna and ground).

The sets with a mechanical cat’s whisker detector are EMP proof but the ones with a 1N34A style germanium diode are not. The junction in the manufactured diode is very, very sensitive to surges. [JWR Adds: Be sure to buy a few spare detector diodes, and keep them wrapped in insulating plastic and then in tin with a tight-fitting lid, or at least a sleeve of aluminum foil with al seams folded.]

If you want to build or use a set then my strong suggestion is to instead build a one-tube regenerative receiver using space charge technology. These don’t require special batteries or high voltages. If you do a search for a Hiker’s Radio there are a few sites that explore the building of the sets. The component counts are low, the sets are very easy to build (only slightly more complex than a crystal radio), you can use a couple of AA and 9-volt batteries to power them and they utilize the same style of headphones as a crystal set.

The advantages are that the set can be easily built to cover the AM and Shortwave bands, the regenerative receiver can detect AM, Morse Code and SSB signal. (In contrast, crystal radios are limited to AM only.) If built to use 12 volts DC can be run from car batteries, dry cells or gel cell batteries. The Armstrong regenerative circuit provides amplification to the signals and you will be amazed at how sensitive the set actually is.

Parts (including the tube) are available from many sources. (You can even find the parts to build one easily on eBay). Finally, there are a few folks who build these sets and sell them on eBay. (Do a web search for "regen receiver"). Regards, - Karl A.


This is another topic about which I have some intimate knowledge. When I was a kid - when gasoline sold for 29 cents a gallon - I built three crystal radios. I build them using both a razor blade and a germanium diode as the detector. I never had a piece of galena crystal to try out.

This kind of radio receiver depends heavily on having a strong radio signal. When I built my first one my folks were living in a small town in Central Texas that had exactly two radio stations (on 1240 and 1380 AM.) I can remember hearing both stations at the same time. That was because both stations were only a couple of miles away. This is what happens when a crystal radio is used. Also, a crystal radio radio can only drive a crystal earphone, which means only one person at a time can listen to it.

Far superior to a crystal radio for survival is a pair of two superheterodyne radios. One of the two radios would be of the hand crank and/or solar cell variety, a solid state radio. Unless there is an EMP attack this will be the best radio one can have because it's light and it requires no replacement batteries.

In case there is an EMP attack a vacuum tube radio is the best radio to have. It is possible to shield a solid state radio from EMP by storing it inside of a well grounded metal box or can. But, what if you happen to have the radio out when the EMP attack occurs? You're SOL unless you have a spare radio stored in a grounded can. (What if there's a second EMP attack?)

The best type of vacuum tube radio to have is what's commonly called an "All American Five." This type of radio was built between about 1935 and 1960 by literally hundreds of US manufacturers. What distinguishes the All American Five is that it uses a set of five tubes whose filament voltages add up to about 120 volts. Since it has no power supply transformer it can be run on either 120 volts AC or DC (10 car batteries in series.)

The older version, made from the late 1930s through the 1940s used the 12SA7-12SK7-12SQ7-50L6-35Z5 tube lineup. The later version, made during the 1950s and into the early 1960s used the 12BE6-12BA6-12AV6-50C5-35W4 tube lineup. For survival use I recommend getting one of the later versions and keeping around a full set off spare tubes (especially the 50C5 and 35W4.) These radios are very sensitive and selective. At night they easily pick up stations up to 1,000 miles away.

"All American Five" radios often sell for around $20 - $30 on eBay. They make cheap insurance against EMP. Regards, - M.E.

Damon flagged a good essay by Claire Wolfe, over at Backwoods Home: Circle of friends The importance of other people in our preparedness plans

   o o o

Andrew H. wrote to mention that the US Government Printing Office (GPO) finally has the Special Forces Medical Handbook back in stock.

   o o o

Eric S. noted this Popular Mechanics article; Highly Productive, Low-Stress Animals You Can Raise at Home

   o o o

Nanny State Britannia Update: Barmy Britain through the looking glass

   o o o

FG found this: Internet overtakes television to become biggest advertising sector in the UK. The accompanying comment from FG: "Television viewing is quickly being buried by Internet. No great loss. The Internet allows real choice, input, and opposing viewpoints. Television offers none of the above."

"Learn the crucial skills for self-sufficiency and self-defense. Once you’ve mastered them, share them with others. Future generations need to learn these skills. Raise your children to be God-fearing, practical, and thrifty. That will be a lasting legacy." - James Wesley, Rawles,
"How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times"

All Content on This Web Site Copyright 2005-2014 All Rights Reserved - James Wesley, Rawles - SurvivalBlog.com

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2009 is the previous archive.

November 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Visitor Map



counter customisable
Unique visits since July 2005. More than 320,000 unique visits per week.