In the last year my husband and I have been blessed to be able to sell our house and move to our bug out location (BOL) in the mountains. It is a learning experience! We have been watching the signs of these times. It seemed prudent, for us, to prepare for emergencies – be they natural disasters or an economic meltdown. About four years ago we began our journey to learn as much as we could and fumble our way through obtaining supplies and equipment to become self-sustaining. What follows are lessons we have learned and questions we have asked ourselves that might mean the difference between “We can do this” and “Panic”. Hopefully this will assist others in their preparation.
Read Them Before You Need Them: Putting together a library of “How To” books is essential. Subjects such as food storage and cookbooks, dental care, first aid, gardening, mechanics, survival in harsh weather, security, defense, arms, canning, etc. are great resources. But if you don’t read them before you need them you will find that you don’t have what is needed to carry out the task. For example, food storage requires certain containers and a temperature controlled storage area – are those containers and an appropriate place to store the food available? Cookbooks require certain ingredients in each recipe - are all the ingredients on hand? Dental care requires certain tools, temporary dental fillings, or common household items – are they at your bug out location? First aid procedures require specific equipment and medications – do you have those supplies on hand to treat illness and injuries? Canning requires equipment as well – do you have all equipment needed? Books are a wonderful resource but it can’t be stressed enough to have supplies and equipment on hand which leads to:
Use It or Lose It: Okay, you have obtained a generator, wood stove and/or wood cook stove, tools, a solar panel or two, seeds for a garden, treated gas and diesel, and an adequate food supply, along with recipes for stored food. The power goes out; food is in short supply, fuel unavailable. Is the generator ready to go? Has it been started at least monthly? Do you just need 110 VAC or do you need 220 VAC, perhaps to pump water? Does your generator have 220 VAC? We bought a backup generator that we thought had a 220 VAC winding. It did not, so although it will light up lots of 110 VAC appliances and lights, it won’t pump our water. Do you have a power transfer switch installed so when the power comes back on (if it does) your power does not back-feed through the power lines and injure or kill a power company employee?
Do you have wood available? Do you know how many cords of wood it will take to heat your house for a winter? Have you cooked in your wood cook stove? (If not, you have some stress and challenge to look forward to) Are tools where you can find them? Do you know how to use all the tools you have? Are the photovoltaic panels hooked up and ready to go? Are you set up with batteries to use in tandem with solar? Have you gardened before? Are the seeds you have specifically indicated for your climate? If, for example, you live where the growing season is short and the seeds you have require a longer growing season, your crops will not mature and there will be no food. Are the proper tools available to garden and a water supply close by? Do you rotate your fuel? Did you add fuel additives for storage? Are you cooking with stored food? If you stored wheat, for example, do you have a grinder? Have you used it? If the wheat does not have the correct protein content (no less than 13% for bread), do you have gluten to add to the flour so the bread will rise? Have you stored food your family will eat? For example: Do you have 200 pounds of black beans in storage and everyone in your family hates black beans? These questions beg to be answered before the need is pressing. Then, when you least expect it – something breaks, so:
Redundancy: Planning is key. The old saying often quoted in SurvivalBlog is: "Two is One and One is None." For a heat/cooking source we have a propane fireplace, a wood cook stove, an electric range with a propane cooktop. For further backup we have an electric 22 quart roaster, crockpot, numerous camp stoves, propane burners, cast iron pots and pans to use over open fires and a propane barbecue. If propane and electricity are depleted, the wood cook stove provides heat and the ability to cook. What is your plan A, B and C? Lighting: While electricity exists there is electric lighting (when the power does not go out). Our backup is the generator (while fuel is available), candles, oil lanterns, Aladdin lamps and battery flashlights and lanterns. Do you have more than one source for lighting? What is your plan to recharge batteries – solar or electricity? Murphy’s Law seems to be alive and well. If one system fails, you need to have another option. If the electricity goes out, we have a generator to pump water from our well. If fuel runs out, we have hand pump from Lehman's that fits on the wellhead. Do you keep water in 5 gallon containers in your house? Have you thought about – what if…..?
Transportation: Climate may dictate modes of transportation. While fuel is available automobiles, trucks, quads and snowmobiles can all fill the bill. Do you have an older vehicle that you can work on and actually fix that is impervious to an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) so you can still keep on trucking? What if there is no fuel? Options are: Feet, bicycle, horses or maybe a boat depending on your location. If horses are a choice – do you have feed, shoeing supplies and know-how, fences prepared, vet supplies and shelter?
Communication: When a storm came through this fall and the power was out for several days our phone system was useless. Luckily, we had not thrown an old land line telephone away. It doesn’t require electricity so we were off and running. It’s now plugged into an extra jack all the time. Do you have a land line ready to go? What will you use to communicate if there is no phone service? We have several walkie-talkie type handheld radios that are effective short distances. CB radios, base station and mobile, offer more distance and will put you in touch with other CB radio operators. Some HF band Ham radios offer world-wide communication but require a special license. Short wave radios will keep you in touch with emergency news and weather. Do you have a system in place?
Laundry: Clean clothes make us feel better and aid in hygiene for better health. Of course, the first choice is an electric washing machine and dryer but what will you do when that is not available? We have two washtubs set on a stand – one for washing and one for rinsing. From Lehman’s we have purchased a hand washer (looks something like a plunger) that is plunged up and down to agitate the clothes. We plan to purchase a wringer two2 would be even better – one for the wash tub and one for the rinse tub) for the washtubs. A washboard is great for working out stains. We also have a clothes rack for drying clothing in front of the wood stove and clothes lines for drying clothing outside in the summer. There is also a hand washing machine available called a James washer (similar hand washing machines are available at Lehman’s). Have you prepared for taking care of laundry? Much of the equipment and paraphernalia necessary to survive and thrive needs maintenance.
Packrat Is Not a Dirty Word: My husband is the original keeper of all things. When asked why that box of stuff can’t be tossed, his reply is always: “We might need it someday”. I have always chaffed at having a 1960s-vintage soldering gun and four crates of screws stacked around the shop - but no more! If it can breakdown, at some point it probably will. When it does, do you have what is needed to repair it? My husband can go to his shop and rummage around innumerable cubbies, cabinets and shelves and find something that will work to fix almost anything. Do you have basic extra supplies? Duct tape, electrical tape, nails of several sizes, wire (both insulated electrical wire and plain of several gauges), screws of several sizes, wire nuts, nuts and bolts, welder, fence staples, lumber, extra chains for the chainsaw, oil, anti-freeze, light bulbs (the 2000 hour bulb keeps the pump from freezing and doesn’t have to be changed frequently), paint, turpentine, lamp oil, electrical switches, locks, rope, tow chains, and tires makes up only a partial list of great junk to have. It can mean the difference between keeping it going and doing without. However,
If You Can’t Find It –It Doesn’t Count As Having It: This fall, the snow started to fall and the temperature dipped into single digits. Gloves, boots and cold weather gear became a necessity and we had prepared, except, we couldn’t find where we had put it. Maybe the barn, or the shed, or the root cellar or stashed in a container all of which required digging mountains of snow to access. Oops! We had prepared but didn’t track where items were located. Are you organized? Do you have lists of what you have and where it is located? A 3-ring binder or a clipboard works well and will save your bacon when something is needed and needed immediately. It is vital to have a list of stored food and the location of that food for several reasons. First would be so it can be found easily and quickly but also the list can be used in the rotation process, noting date of storage (my daughter also date-marks each food container--a huge help) and which items need to be used first. It also acts as an inventory so you can formulate shopping lists of what is still needed and what is used and needs to be replaced. Alphabetizing inventories is a great help in finding specific items. There should also be separate inventories for clothing, supplies (toilet paper, soap, laundry items, toothpaste, etc.), tools, hardware, equipment and medical supplies that contain such information as amounts and location. Knowing what and where medical supplies are located could save a life. Are you ready? Are there specific emergencies in your area for which you should:
Assess Your Environment: Do you live in an area that is prone to flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, extreme heat or extreme cold, tornados or earthquakes? What plans can you make to respond to threats in the area in which you live? For example: The greatest threat in the area in which we live is wildfire. This area is heavily forested and timber was/is the predominant industry. Our plan: Clear a fire break (disc under grass in a 12 foot swath, and clear a gap of 30 feet in timber) around the perimeter of the property. Selectively remove or trim trees that are close to structures. We purchased a fire tanker trailer from a retired logging company owner. This trailer includes a 300 gallon water tank, 200 feet of hose, nozzle, and two pumps (one to pressurize the hose and one to fill the tank from the creek). The tank is kept filled during the dry season but drained for the winter.
In Conclusion: Preparedness can be an overwhelming task. Learning to ask some of the right questions and think through your specific needs can lighten the process. Readiness will remove stress and panic in the midst of new challenges.
Note: There are many sources for technical information on all of the subjects mentioned above. SurvivalBlog and Paratus Familia are two excellent resources for information or that can refer you to find the desired information. Remember, though, every area must be tailored to your specific needs. Recommended food storage lists, for example, are wonderful guidelines but must be adjusted to your family’s preferences.