Retreat Groups Category

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

As a sound and forward thinking prepper you should already be on your way to some level of sustainability in the event of some kind of social breakdown.  The food, water, medical, and sanitation needs are boring, but important enough that without them-anything else doesn't really matter.  As readers of this blog I sincerely hope you've utilized the vast wealth of knowledge available here to develop your own systems of storage, rotation, and skills development.  So with all of that as a foundation, I pose a question.  With your family, your plans, and your supplies all depending on you for security-what do you next when whatever calamity strikes?

So many preppers, myself included, get caught up in the gear reviews.  Oh, its so easy to be swept away by the allure of product reviews or the exhilaration of arguing the merits of your favorite “survival” rifles and why all the rest should be used for decorative paperweights.  The bug out bags have become especially mainstream these days.  Its no longer the tin foil hat wearing crowd with three day bags and remote properties fully stocked and ready to go.  The bags, the gear, along with our food and water are easy to research and acquire.  What's proving difficult for many people is finding actual tactical common sense for defending our preps.

Lets pretend for a moment that some disaster has befallen our once great land.  Those with access to remote locations have already made it to their “bug out location.”  Those that are going to shelter in place have gathered their families and are worriedly wondering to do next.  I pray that scenario never comes to pass, but if it does, you will be far ahead of the herd.  With a little common sense,  a little planning, and a few inexpensive supplies it is quite easy to keep anything less than an infantry platoon away from you and the things important to you.
Whether a remote farmstead or a cute little suburb the first thing we need to do is grab our favorite beverage of choice and sit on our front porch for awhile.  The single most important foundation of a good defense plan is a thorough understanding and knowledge of the neighborhoods and adjacent properties next to ours.  People are like any other wild animal in that we almost always choose the easiest path to our objective.  In the Army we called these paths natural lines of drift, and with few exceptions our ability to read the terrain around us and identify the easiest routes of travel proved fatally catastrophic to the idiots trying to ruin our day.  The simple truth of the matter is that while sitting on our porches, and just a little help from our imaginations its quite easy to see which way trouble will come from.  Simply ask yourself this question.  If I was a bad guy and I wanted to get to this house, what would I do?  The human brain is surprisingly agile with matters such as these, and you will very swiftly become aware of the natural lines of drift leading to your property.
After we've done this exercise a time or ten, being careful to pay attention all sides of our property its an easy enough task to look at the google earth imaging for our areas of defense.  The way things look from the air is very often dramatically different from what we see on the ground.  For one, line of sight on ground level makes short distances feel longer than they are.  Looking at things from above will undoubtedly bring security concerns to light that would not seem relevant from ground level. 
So now we understand the terrain around us,  the obvious and natural access points to our homes, and the vulnerable and secure geographic features that we are dealing with.  Now its time for a basic tactical tutorial.  For those not familiar with combat, or those with a hollywood fueled perception of fighting there are a few very simple but very critical truths that are paramount to the success of a well planned defense.  First,  every fighting position needs to be over lapped or “covered” by another.  Meaning that the reachable distances from left to right of each fighting position should overlap at least one and preferably two other positions.  Your defense plan should be faced to the obvious vulnerabilities first, but placed in such a way that it provides 360 coverage.
Secondly,  Distance ALWAYS equals two things.  Time and safety.  The time aspect of this is quite simple.  The further away an enemy is from a target the longer it will take to achieve their objective.  The further away from your loved ones that you can engage a threat provides reaction time for your and your loved ones to initiate whatever pre arranged defense protocols you have established.  This in and of itself provides an added level of safety.  If you are trying to protect your family, and they are going to be in the home, than the defense should be started as far away from the house as is possible.  A good shot with an AR style rifle can ruin your day from five hundred meters in.  I am aware that it may not be possible to establish a perimeter at that distance, but that would be best.  I suggest possibly establishing a forward outpost at this distance if possible.  A forward placed rifle and a few well placed shots may well be all it takes to persuade someone that its better to go somewhere else. 
For the purposes of this article I will presume that the threats we are attempting to dissuade from entering our property are non governmental groups of loosely organized, lightly trained people who didn't clearly understand the precarious nature of our existence, and failed to prepare accordingly.  Therefore it is safe to assume that they will be armed in much the same ways that we are.  Probably some deer rifles,  a few AR or AK variants and a shotgun or two sprinkled in for good measure.  We should not be concerned with heavy automatic fire or anything resembling heavy weapons like mortars and such. 
With that in mind its important that after we identify where to place our defensive positions that we fortify them in such a way as to provide a reasonable level of survivability for those tasked with fighting from them.  I prefer the tried and true hole in the ground with a few sandbags for support.  Simply dig a small trench, maybe five feet long and armpit deep.  Place a double layer of sandbags all along the edges and that should be good enough for most small arms encounters.  Sandbags can be purchased for around forty five cents a bag and come unfilled and neatly stacked making storage an easy task.  I trust that we will all be able to tell when the time has come to bring them and a shovel out of storage and put to them use.
In many families it will be necessary to provide a safe room or mini bunker for non fighting loved ones.  This can be achieved by selecting an interior room of your residence and fortifying it with as many sandbags as is practical.  Obviously this is the reason for all of our other defense plans and should go without saying that special care and consideration should be given to its layout.  I think it most prudent to line the walls of the room with sandbags preferably two layers deep to at least waist height.  If you choose to add additional protective measures after this it would be a wise decision.  If you have a large group of people I might suggest an able bodied fighter to be posted to this room with a shotgun full of 00 buckshot and clear instructions on how to escape.
So,  we've planned a defensive grid consisting of multiple fighting positions facing natural lines of drift along our property.  We've procured sandbags and a shovel or two to be used after the poop hits the fan.  We have designated a hardened “safe room” for our loved ones.  Let's talk about how to function in a tactically sound manner while actually fighting an enemy.
The first and only rule to small arms fights is very simple.  Move or die.  This is especially true if outgunned or out manned, which is basically the same thing.  I can hear you saying “what the hell, this guy just told us to dig holes and use sandbags and fight there.”  Yes, the fighting positions should be manned and fought from, but if that's all you do a smart enemy will just sit tight, find some cover and pick you off when you show yourself.  In any small arms engagement the objective should be to kill or wound any attackers, or remove them from the battle space entirely.
This is accomplished by establishing a base of fire from your hardened positions, and a separate element flanking or maneuvering in such a way that your fire intersects with that of your static position.  Simply put, one group shoots and another group runs like hell around the attacker position and puts fire on them from another direction.  Even one person firing from behind an enemy while they are focused on what's firing at them from the front will suck the energy out of most untrained people.  
All modern warfare is essentially that simple.  Engage your enemy in more directions than he is willing to defend and they will have to retreat.  Plain and simple. With that said it should be inferred that you are not going to be able to do this alone.  You will need as many able bodied fighters as possible.  I pray you are in good standing with neighbors.  Not that they have to be preppers, because quite frankly that isn’t going to happen.  But if you know them, and do a little planning for them, when the time comes and their butts are on the line they will more than likely sign up for anything that resembles a path to safety for them and their families.
Planning goes a long way when it comes defense.  The more you put into it now, the less guesswork you will have when the stress is already high.  I would urge you all to print and secure in document protectors the aerial imagery of your area.  I would urge you to consider who will be tasked with what assignments, and with what weapons.  The smart move is to implement a night watch strategy.  That is when any group is at their weakest and most vulnerable.  I would think that a two hour rotating watch schedule would be the most convenient route for most groups.  Even during daylight hours it is a good idea to have at least one person dedicated to some sort of patrol route.
I am hoping that you have an adequate communication plan in place.  Once guns start going off having good communication is the difference between life and death.  With a good radio, and some pre planning your goals should be that each member of your team is well versed in retreat routes, flanking protocols, and feels comfortable making decisions for themselves.  In the Army we call them battle drills, but if you develop a short list of scenarios and train every member of your team to react the same way to each of those, than in the chaos of a gunfight you will all be well served. 
Leadership is critical once lives are on the line.  With that said, your goal should always be that any member of your team feels comfortable clearing weapons malfunctions on all weapons being used.  It is also important that everyone understands where to go, and what to do at the moment of truth.  Confusion and indecision get people killed, and loses fights.  The flip side is that the biggest difference between a ragtag mob and the navy seals is that each seal knows exactly what to do at all times.  Their brains don’t have to waste time considering options.  They just act, decisively.  They act with what's called violence of action.  They take the fight to enemy before the enemy has time to react and develop a plan.  In our situations most of this can be achieved with a good plan, and a clear understanding of each members responsibilities. 
Obviously, there are many many more variables to a well planned defense strategy.  This is merely the beginning or a template to be built upon.   A base of knowledge that can be customized and molded to fit you particular scenario.  I do not care to get into discussions of what guns are the best for this.  Take what you have, and develop a plan.  As long as you are prepared to act decisively even your grandpas deer gun will be good enough.
  I do not believe in violence as a means of survival, and am not advocating for that here.  However,  if things get bad than its a pretty safe bet that people will get bad just as quickly.  This information will put you in a position to protect the ones you love in a manner that is tactically sound. If the opportunity presents itself I hope to write more on this topic in the coming months because there are many methods of tightening a security plan that would be useful for our prepping community.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

If you have finally decided to take the plunge and eliminate social networks from your life (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), the skills for maintaining interpersonal relationships should not be completely thrown by the wayside.  Over the course of the last five years our “group” has created a network of people that has proven to be very valuable.  One disclaimer that I must put forth is that the flippant nature of social networking on-line must be completely discounted as OPSEC is paramount.  I would never bring someone into my home to have contact with my family or include them in my preps if I didn’t fully trust them.  This is why most of the people in my network I have met through my church.  Developing a relationship with other families who have similar values and beliefs has been the backbone of the group that we have formed.  Although there are only a dozen active members (not including 14 children) we have developed a set of skills that crosses many areas of need come TEOTWAWKI.  Aside from having a wide range of skills the ability to work together as a team, the members of our group encourage growth “as iron sharpens iron" (Prov. 27:17).

I have isolated six areas of preparation that our group network has been most beneficial:

1. Physical Training:

This has been the greatest area of growth for our group.  Five years ago more than half of the members were overweight and only a few exercised on a daily basis.  As a challenge to all of our group members we started our road to fitness with an eight week program similar to the Get Healthy Challenge.  Group members kept in touch with each other on a daily basis to hold one another accountable.  After this eight week program we decided to focus on strength and core training through the Hundred Push-ups and Two Hundred Sit-Ups challenges.  While working on individual fitness goals group members encouraged and challenged each other with daily progress reports through e-mail, phone or text to see how the others were doing.  Doing these challenges with our wives was also an eye opener, as many of the women took the challenges more seriously than the men.  One of the wives actually won the Two Hundred Sit-up Challenge ending with 312 total reps.  Over the course of the last year the physical training has been taken to a much more intense level.  The majority of the group members participated in a Tough Mudder  Event and a GORUCK Challenge.  While not every member participated in these events due to ability, injury or pregnancy the bottom line is that all of us are in better shape today than we were five years ago.  The average member has lost 20 pounds (I have personally lost 40) and we all have a regular schedule of physical activity that maintains strength, flexibility and endurance.  The challenge, support and accountability that doing these types of activities as a group brings is immeasurable.  I doubt that most people would see the same results if done individually.  Working at the retreat property together has also been good physical training for the group.  Bucking hay, cutting and hauling wood and other chores at one of the two sites we have as retreat properties can be grueling work.  You really find out who your friends are when the hay needs to come in or several cords of wood needs to be put up.  Physically the group dynamic is tested with hard physical labor, but working together completes the task sooner and builds relationships with group members.

2. Medical Training:

This has been the weakest area for our group as we need to increase our level of training.  We do have a doctor (optometrist) and a registered nurse in our group.  Although they both have medical training, by no means are we able to fulfill needs like trauma care or even general surgery.  One of the goals is to get several of the members to take an EMT course at the local community college.  This would not solve all of our needs for medical training, but it would be a start for gaining more knowledge concerning emergency medicine.  This course will be a major undertaking, as 120 hours of classroom, observation and practicum is a commitment that will not be taken lightly by most families.  Ultimately the benefit of the knowledge of life saving skills will have to outweigh the cost of loss of time with one’s family.

3. Food Preps:

Buying in bulk is always better when done as a group.  Greater quantity means lower cost per unit and the most value for the money you invest into your preps.  We bought beef from a local slaughterhouse, grains from the local co-op and worked on preserving them as a group.  Whether it is canning, storing in Mylar with oxygen absorbers or dehydrating, it is always better to have more hands helping with the work.  While most of the food preps were done successfully we have decided as a group to not try to brew beer anymore.  After hours of labor and weeks of waiting we had a pretty nasty batch of skunk beer that was not worth the effort or resources allocated.  Pickling has been discovered as a fun way to spend time together as a group.  Many of the wives were looking for ways to put up excess garden produce, so pickling parties became the summer staple.  Developing the mindset that putting food up was important became the norm.

4. Ammo/Shooting Preps:

Again working as a group to purchase ammo in bulk has always been better than trying to find the best deal for each individual.  Utilizing common calibers as the group standard for our center fire rifle and pistol, 12 gauge shotshells and .22 LR we were able to accumulate adequate supplies of ammunition for each group member.  The greatest resource to ammo preparation as a group has been reloading.  Most of our group members did not know how to reload ammunition when we formed five years ago.  Today most have at least a working knowledge if not their own presses and dies.  We have worked together sorting range brass, going through the steps of case preparation and even pooled our resources during the recent shortage of components.  Sharing load data and ballistics has also helped with refining the accuracy of the rounds we produce through reloading.  It is always better to have someone else check your load data just to be safe when reloading.  We have also purchased several sets of reactive steel targets for our shooting sessions.  While I admit this is the area that the guys enjoy the most and pour the majority of their enthusiasm behind, the wives in our group have all taken classes (as husbands are often the worst firearms instructors for women) and are continuing to hone their skills with range time.  The area for improvement would be to take a tactical course like one at Thunder Ranch or Gunsite Academy.  We did participate in a 1,000 yard long range shooting match (which just demonstrated everyone’s then-current lack of ability beyond 400 yards) as a group, but this was more of a recreational activity, not tactical training.  A couple of the guys do IPSC or IDPA, but the majority of the group is not involved in competitive shooting.  To encourage group participation in a serious training course or a competitive shooting series is the goal for the future.  While all group members have firearm proficiency, few have had shooting experiences under pressure.

5. Communications Preps

Our group started out with FRS/GMRS radios as our primary method of communication in the field, and then we got CBs which were slightly better, now most members have Ham radios.  Studying and taking the ARRL tests together was also a good experience.  While the technician test is not hard, it did require some studying to refresh knowledge of electronics and radios.  It was also amazing all of the different FCC requirements and regulations that we needed to know.  Pooling resources together to build antennas and radios is another good function for the group.  A few members have actually joined a local club that maintains the repeater in our town.  The next step would be to have more members go for their General licenses to increase the bandwidth we can access and broaden knowledge concerning Ham radio.

6. Spiritual Prep

As I mentioned earlier, all of our group members were found through our local church.  We are not exclusive to church members (as some have left the church but are still a part of the group), however it was important to find people that all had similar values and beliefs.  The group members have been a part of a couple of small group fellowships that meet at least once a week.  There is a family Bible study, a women’s study and a men’s study that meets at different times on different days.  This has been probably the most important area of our network.  To “bear one another’s burdens (Gal.  6:2)” and not only hold each other accountable, but to support one another through trials and blessings is perhaps the greatest function of our group.  One of our group members is active duty Army and has been deployed four times overseas.  The group has rallied around his wife and children to provide support during his prolonged deployments, which to me fulfills the second greatest commandment (Matt. 22:39).  While a group may be squared away with beans, bullets and Band-Aids if they are not squared away with their Maker then all is for naught.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

If you take prepping seriously, you’ve probably stored up quite the array of supplies—or are at least working diligently at it.  You may have even downloaded the Excel spreadsheet found on Survival Blog, and if you’re like me, you might have been slightly overwhelmed at first, at the number of things that are necessary in order to really become self-sufficient in the case of a SHTF scenario.  For those of us who are actively preparing for whatever may come, prepping is a never-ending exercise in gathering, training and building.  In between all of these prepping activities, however, sometimes we forget that one of the single most important supplies in our “arsenal” is an intangible thing.  Morale, otherwise known as positive attitude, can mean the difference between life and death—whether you have 2 days’ worth of food or two years of it.

Morale is so critical that the military spends an incredible amount of time and money training troops to understand its necessity and teaching them how to maintain it even in the most dismal of situations.  Major Alexander Cox, in a monograph published by the Army's Command and General Staff College in 1995, explained that morale and unit cohesion are “the intangible entity that bonds men together and motivates them to push themselves to the last ounce of their strength or ability.”  In the worst case scenario, that type of motivation can be the last deciding factor in victory or defeat, whether the situation is a battlefield or just keeping your family focused on surviving from day to day when everything is crashing down around you.

So what exactly is morale?  It seems to be a fairly elusive concept that is often oversimplified or even given trite, clichéd meanings.  I polled several co-workers of mine, for instance, and asked them how they would define the word, and I received a plethora of varying responses.  “Just staying in a good mood,” said one.  Another stated that morale was “something you have in the military.”  Oddly enough, when I asked my boss, a former medevac chopper pilot in Vietnam, he gave me the best answer yet.  “Morale,” he said, “is the absolute belief, way down in your gut, that you will survive by any means necessary, for yourself and for the man next to you.” 

This sounds noble and courageous and lofty, but how does this translate to the average citizen in a SHTF situation?  How does one impart this to the members of their family and/or group?  More importantly, how does one cultivate this within himself?   Many prepper articles about morale offer games to play, or little distractions to engage in to keep the mind busy.  While these are all helpful, the truth is that morale building starts long before SHTF, and it is far more than just stashing a deck of cards in your bugout bag.  Morale is a mindset, a combination of core belief system, emotional health, training, and focus—and one member of the group without it can jeopardize everyone else.

The Marine Corps is often held up as the standard of esprit de corps, or the spirit of the unit.  What makes a Marine so different from other servicemen and women?  Certainly any member of the Armed Forces contributes something, but the mindset of a Marine is wholly different from the rest.  This is because Marines are not only taught to fight and kill, but they are taught the history of their beloved Corps.  They are taught about the spirit of those who came before and they have a pride instilled in them that spurs them on in situations that would break the average man.  They are part of a legacy, if you will, and every one of them believes forever after in the values and the standards of their Corps.  “Ex-Marine” is not something they say [as some even chafe at "former Marine"] , for they are Marines until the day they die.  Every piece of a Marine’s uniform is a symbol of a battle, a hard-earned day of reckoning—right down to the red “blood stripe” down the side of their dress trousers.  Everything has a meaning, and no recruit leaves boot camp without understanding the stories and the pride behind them.  They cultivate a mindset, and that training becomes the foundation for their endeavors both in and out of uniform, for the rest of their lives.

“So what?” you might answer.  “How does that help me here in my home, with my family, facing the whole End of the World As We Know It?”  Trust me when I tell you that you have far more in common with the United States Marines than you think—or at least, you should.

For those of us who call ourselves patriots, who love our nation and believe in the Constitution, prepping is not just setting up food stores in case of economic collapse.  It is not just putting escape plans in place in case of fire or tornado or flood.  For us, prepping also includes the solemn knowledge that we are in 1775 all over again.  Our freedoms are under attack.  Our government seeks to subjugate us under a socialist philosophy.  Our privacy is non-existent, and if the administration has its way, we will be disarmed very soon.  Stripped of our ability to defend ourselves, we will simply be sheep led to the slaughter, with no recourse, no way to save ourselves.  This is a sobering realization, for this knowledge brings with it another fact: We may be called upon to defend our freedoms in our streets, perhaps even in our homes.  The idea of morale, then, takes on a whole new meaning, for suddenly it is not just doing some stretches or playing cards by candlelight to “stay in a good mood.”  It is keeping that same frame of mind that allowed Marine Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly to rally his Marines in the darkest hour, screaming, “Come on! Do you want to live forever?”  It is the frame of mind that drove American fighting men through the mud and the gore of Iwo Jima, through 30 days of endless fighting.  It is the mindset that pushed thousands of wounded and starving Marines to survive Bataan. 

For us, morale begins with understanding that we have a history.  We are the descendants of Nathan Hale, of Patrick Henry and John Adams.  Our ancestors faced this same fight, and in their writings we see not only their humanity and their fear, but we also see their courage, and their steadfast belief in liberty.  We see their own willingness to do whatever was necessary to ensure they won this battle; even if they died, they would die free.  This, then, is the first step to building morale in your families and neighborhoods—understanding our history, and the legacy that we carry in our blood.  We should be teaching our children about our ancestors, and teaching them about who we come from and what was sacrificed on our behalf.

Secondly, morale comes from a core belief system.  Are we sheep?  Or are we the sons and daughters of liberty?  What do you believe in?  What is worth fighting for—or dying for?  When you’ve asked and answered these questions within yourself, there is a sense of confidence that stems from that self-awareness.  People who already know what they believe and how far they are willing to go in defense of that belief have a certain peace because the internal struggle about these things is no longer necessary.  They are free to move to action.  Corporal Jason Dunham did not have to stop and think about what he believed when the insurgent he was guarding attacked him and his men, dropping a live grenade on the ground.  Dunham did not need to stop and think about whether it was his job to protect his men, or whether he loved them enough to give himself for them.  He already knew the answers to these questions, and so he acted, shielding the grenade with his helmet---and his body.  He died eight days later…but his men are alive because of him, because he did not need to question his core beliefs during crisis.

There is a misconception that those who are willing to fight for liberty do not value life, or that they are eager for war.  This could not be further from the truth.  It is because we do value these things that we choose our path.  Please understand—I am not advocating that we all rush out and find a way to die for each other.  On the contrary: we are learning and preparing to survive.  But in order to survive, we must be willing to do what is necessary within the parameters of our moral code and belief system.  We only truly believe that which we are willing and able to defend.

Training is another critical piece of the morale puzzle.  Firefighters train constantly so that when they are inside an inferno, their mind can stay clear.  When you train, morale becomes easier to maintain because you have already prepared for the situation you find yourself in.  When you learn mental discipline, you can steel your mind against the emotions that we all possess, and get the job done.  We put flashlights and candles in strategic areas so that when the lights go out, we don’t have to hunt around for light.  We load rounds into magazines so that when we need them, they are already prepared.  In the same way, we must practice mental discipline so that when we are tested, we can remain strong—and keep the positive attitude that is so necessary.
Those of us who believe in the founding principles of this nation, who understand the purpose and the cost of liberty, know we have a target on our backs.  We have no illusions about what is coming.  But we prepare.  We learn.  We teach.  We persevere.  Because morale, at its core, is survival.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I have recently been reading, and as an avid hiker/backpacker/adventurer, I am very interested in what this site has to offer. I have been reading the different TEOTWAWKI posts, and I have read different TEOTWAWKI situations, learning and understanding more and more about survival. I enjoy giving back to the community, and I have been searching for my own TEOTWAWKI situation that I can use to help myself and other people learn from it. I realized that about 1 year ago, a really serious TEOTWAWKI situation happened to my community (and family).

I am a religious Jewish 18 year old living in New York. My family and live in Far Rockaway, approximately nine blocks away from the beach. In other words, we are very close to the ocean. About one year ago, we heard on the news that a really big hurricane (Superstorm Sandy) was heading our way. Since we live very close to the ocean, you might think that we get hit with hurricanes all the time. The meteorologists seem to think that also, and about once or twice a year, we get a warning to evacuate. The truth is that we have been getting these warnings since I was born, and NOTHING has ever happened. A few examples are (as quoted from the NYC OEM web site):

Hurricane Felix lingered off the East Coast for nearly a week in 1995, menacing the northeastern U.S. before it finally drifted out to sea.
A weakening Tropical Storm Bertha brought heavy rain to the City in July 1996.
Hurricane Edouard veered out to sea after tracking toward New York City around Labor Day 1996.
In September 1999, Tropical Storm Floyd brought sustained 60 mph winds and dumped 10-15 inches of rain on upstate New Jersey and New York State over a 24-hour period. Flash flooding from this tropical storm — one of the most powerful to affect New York City in a decade — forced hundreds of people to leave their homes in counties just outside the five boroughs. Floyd caused New York City's schools to close for the first time since 1996 and led the city to open emergency storm shelters as a precautionary measure.
In August 2011, Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm right before it made landfall in New York City. In preparation the City issued the first-ever mandatory evacuation of coastal areas on August 26, 2011. The evacuation encompassed 375,000 residents living in evacuation zone A, the entire Rockaway Peninsula, and 34 health care facilities located in evacuation zone B. The City sheltered 10,000 evacuees at 81 shelters.

There have actually been more, but since they didn't affect the entire New York metropolitan region, only Far Rockaway, they didn’t count them. I remember Hurricane Isabella some time ago. But the bottom line is that most of these hurricanes are just fluff and nothing really happened despite all the warnings the news gave us.

As a result of all these factors, whenever a hurricane happens, no matter how intense the warnings are, almost nobody evacuates (at least in my community.) Just to slam the message home, in 2011, the year before Sandy, when the news people, the government, and local organizations told us how “this is the craziest, most intense storm to ever hit the Rockaways…..etc.,” some people did evacuate, and still nothing happened. So in October, 2012, when SHTF, nobody expected it, nobody evacuated, and everything went crazy.

Religious Jewish people in general usually live in the same community, go to the same events, and go to the same Shuls (synagogues). The Far Rockaway Jewish community covers an area of roughly two square miles. The community next door (Lawrence), covers approximately that same, and so on. You can probably walk from Far Rockaway to Manhattan and every few miles walk through a Jewish community. Because of this, when Sandy hit, we were all helping each other out.

There amount of good will was astounding. Just to give a tiny example, we have an online classifieds in the Five Towns (Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Inwood, Woodmere, Hewlett) and Far Rockaway, and to show you how the community got together in order to survive this episode, I will post a few samples of the posts:

“1 pair of Beige and 1 pair of Navy Blue Dickie Pants, New with Tags Size 7 regular. 1 pair each of Black George New with Tags Size 8 Regular. 1 pair of Black George Slightly used Size 8 Regular. Prefer these go to family affected by Hurricane like so many of us.  We also have some polo shirts in similar sizes if interested.”
“If anyone needs some lightly used baby clothes or lost baby clothes in the storm. Sized 0-6 months (boy). Please email or call” 
“you can have wireless internet access at XXX XXXX XXXXXXXX anytime. its wireless network is XXXX. password:   sandy 2012. you can come in or park near driveway and it will work. also for those who need showers come on over until 1 am. you can just come to warm up and relax if that's what you need
Ally and Sean”
“I have room for 3 people leaving to Brooklyn this afternoon.”
From Achiezer (Local organization):

We are compiling lists of those that are in the immediate need of clothing. There is a clothing gemach (lending/free organization) that has already been set up at XXXX Reads Lane in Far Rockaway. Anyone who requires may go there for clothing for men, women, boys and girls as well as coats and shoes. If anyone would like to donate clothing to members of the community, please email
If you have no choice but to remain in homes in the Far Rockaway/Five Towns and do not have food for Shabbos (Saturday) or during the week, please call our hotline and prepared foods will be made available for you. (Please keep in mind that many people do not have access to email. Please share this information with anyone you know.)  Fully catered meals are being made available to anyone in the Far Rockaway/Five Towns communities who require.  Please email XXXX@ACHIEZER.ORG or call  XXX-XXX-XXXX to let us know how many meals are needed.  The MET Council along with the JCCRP have opened up a respite area in the White Shul as well as the Young Israel of Bayswater starting at 7pm for Far Rockaway/Bayswater residents.  Anyone who would like some hot food or a place to charge your phones may go there starting tonight.”
“I have a few bags of challah (bread) rolls and some bread for someone that needs it. I can house a single or couple; sorry I don't have room for kids. If you need a shower; change; place for charging cell phones, computers, etc.  If you need (a) Shabbat meals(s) let me know.”
“Dozens of beautifully catered shabbos packages for any families that would like for shabbos are being distributed RIGHT NOW. These include challah, grape juice, matzo, bottled water, gefilte fish, chicken cutlets, kugels, assorted salads, cakes, cold cuts, soups, as well as cold cereals and other items for your children. There are dozens of people arriving there with hundreds more meals being setup.
The distribution is being handled at Shor Yoshuv, 1 Cedar Lawn Avenue, in Lawrence. There is no charge for these meals, and due to the email/cell breakdown we ask you to spread this service to anyone who may benefit from receiving these meals. If you know of someone who is unable to drive to get these meals, please let us know and we will have it delivered.
If anyone in Bayswater requires, please go to the Young Israel of Bayswater where there is also distribution taking place at the headquarters of the RCSP.”

Please read the following few final updates regarding shabbos plans for this weekend. We believe you will find this information both helpful and useful as shabbos approaches.

“From Achiezer Community Resource Center
1)Gasoline Update:
We are tremendously appreciative to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder who today brought Senator Schumer to our temporary community center to pledge their assistance. Together they are working on a major effort to bring and make available a supply of gasoline to our neighborhood. We should start seeing a major improvement in gas supply before the start of shabbos.
2) Security over shabbos:
We know that many are concerned about the safety of our communities over shabbos. Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has arranged that there will be a major increase of police presence in the Far Rockaway area over shabbos. A call was also made to the NCPD to arrange increased patrols for the Five Towns area. The RCSP is also hiring additional patrols for the Bayswater area over shabbos.
3)Volunteer help:
We have numerous volunteers available to help you clean out your homes, pump out your basements, and whatever other needs may arise. Call the office in the morning, and we will be happy to set you up.
4)Shelter for shabbos:
If anyone still would like to be put up for shabbos in either Queens in Brooklyn, it is not too late. We have numerous homes available for complete families. Please call our office at  XXX-XXXX, or email
5)Financial assistance:
Rabbi XXXXXXX XXXXXX from Agudath Israel of America and a group of community trustees spent hours at our office today preparing this special fund. If anyone would like information about emergency assistance, please email us at, or call us at our hotline for further instructions.
We thank you for your incredible patience, and we will do everything in our power to try and alleviate the stress from what is undoubtedly a most difficult period in your lives.”
“I have power at XXX Grove Ave . you are welcome to power up your devices, and shower (after I am finished). There is a limited amount of refrigeration available since I have a lot of stuff from neighbors, but we can squeeze some more in if necessary.”

I think the foregoing messages illustrate an ideal way for a community to react to a TEOTWAWKI situation. This response was only possible after many years of coordination of the community members. We have our own volunteer ambulance service (the city one takes too long), a volunteer police department, a community patrol, etc.  There was incredible damage throughout most of Far Rockaway and the five towns, and many people’s houses were unlivable, besides not having heat in the early winter. Electricity was a rare luxury in few houses. There was no phone service, cell or land line. I think this should be classified as a TEOTWAWKI situation based on these facts alone. I know that a lot of the people who are reading this are from out of the city area, and are probably thinking that this is normal, should remember that this is a city area where there are not really any communities and most people do not know there neighbors. This would have normally resulted in chaos and mayhem. To show you how this is true, look at the next door community where there is no real community infrastructure in place. A few blocks from where I live is a lower to middle class community, and there was rampant looting, shootings, and burglaries. The local Best Buy, Costco, and strip malls were all looted. Our community was mostly untouched.

As a side point, there were signs in this community that read “you loot, we shoot.” Shows you the value of firearms in this type of situation.
It is worth it to organize and establish a community within your midst just to help each other out in this situation, besides all the obvious benefits. A few ideas are thus:

  1. Create a list of the different streets in your neighborhood
  2. Invite all those who live on those streets to partake in events, house parties, etc.
  3. Create an online classifieds that will bond the community members together. Craigslist is too shady and full of scams for many people to be involved.
  4. Create multiple volunteer organizations
  5. Welcome new neighbors to your area. This usually creates a feeling of togetherness.
  6. Assign communal posts. A few reasons for this: you can keep everything organized, it takes away pressure from you doing everything, and causes people to be more invested in your new community

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The service has ended, we say goodbye to our friends, wait for everyone to leave then lock up the church.  The drive home takes only a few minutes and when we arrive my wife and I take off and secure our weapons and conduct a debrief on any problems we encountered during the service.  Not exactly the Norman Rockwell version of a day in church.  I realize that the fact that someone would carry a weapon in church is appalling to many people.  However, before you begin stereotyping Christians as right-wing radicals, ask yourself a few questions.  When you were growing up, how many people did you know who were the victims of some type of crime?  In the last year, how many people do you know that have been the victim of some type of crime?  If you are at least forty years old, you can easily quote the numbers, and the increase is significant.  Whereas crimes against property, institutions, and people have increased dramatically ( regardless of what the local media tells you), unfortunately the church has been given no exemption. 

My journey into the world of church security took the proverbial long and winding road, but I will condense it down to the basics.  A chance encounter a couple of years before had introduced us to a couple who were like-minded, great people.  We kept in touch and became close friends.  As the situation in the country continued to deteriorate we, like many "preppers", recognized that going it alone in hard times was not a good option. Clearly, our new friends were the ones we wanted watching our backs so we relocated to a city in the southeast to join forces with our friends to form a safe haven for "old geezers".  After all, we had four senior citizens and a .22 rifle, what could possibly go wrong?   Soon after settling in, we began a search for a church.  After several unsuccessful visits to area churches we found a small country church and sat down to listen.  One sermon and we were pretty sure this was the right place.  The pastor minced no words when delivering the message. Obviously this guy was not going to win any awards for political correctness.  Plain and simple this man spoke the truth.  We began regular attendance and I noticed that each time the pastor did the announcements that he would warn about some act which had occurred at the church, i.e. acts of vandalism, panhandler’s accosting elderly women as they walked to the church door, and other problems.  God began speaking to me and said you know what you need to do.  As usual, I procrastinated.  One day I timidly sought out the pastor to inquire further about the incidents, but he was corralled by other members and I could not talk to him.  The very next week, another incident occurred and as I sat in the pew God was very direct with me, get off your butt and do it.   After we returned home I spoke to my wife and told her my plan, she was in total agreement.  That day I wrote the pastor an e-mail simply stating that I have a number of years of experience in the security field and that if there was anything I could do to help let me know.  The Pastor's reply was quick and direct; I want you to set up a security team to protect the church.  Well, I guess I’m in it now!  Right on schedule the devil put the doubts into my head. I am brand new at this church I don’t know anybody, nobody knows me, why would a team follow someone they don’t know, etc.
Again, cutting to the chase, the team was formed.  The program launched and we continue to improve.  What I would like to do is offer some of the lessons learned from our startup to folks who are recognizing the need to protect their church.

Clearly state and understand your mission - When I tell people about our program the first thing they say is why does a church need a security program?  My first response is Proverbs 22.3 A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. A quick internet search will produce an astounding number of crimes directed at churches.  Most people remember the church shootings in  Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Knoxville, Tennessee, but harbor the same delusion that it could never happen at their church.  When you decide to start a security program, clearly define what it will and will not cover and get buy-in from the governing body of your church.  Nothing says that you cannot expand your program at a later date, and you probably should. More on that later.
Do your home work- Before you start worrying about whether your team should carry  .44 magnums or 9mms you need to understand what most police officers already know, most of the job is paper work.  Ah man, that’s no fun! Sorry people, but it’s the truth. You will be dealing with vulnerability assessments, threat assessments, job descriptions, operating procedures, architectural drawings, and on and on and on.  Don’t panic if your knowledge in these areas is limited, there is help out there.  Tina Lewis Rowe Training has some really excellent material on building a program and this fine lady allows you to use the material free of charge, just respect her copyright and follow her agreement. 
Pick your team (carefully) - When I started our program my team was chosen for me, and it could not have worked out better.  I got men of the church who were well known by the congregation, mature and level-headed.  Most were veterans ranging from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.   Later,  two ladies joined the team and if there were any doubts as to their abilities (which I doubt there were) they were quickly dispelled during a team trip to the range. All of  these team members were clearly a blessing, but the chances of you being handed a team of this quality are rare.  Choose your members using established criteria, look for mature folks who have good decision-making skills, avoid those who volunteer because of the “cool” factor.  Also, recruit younger members who you can train and have ready to replace people as they leave, and don’t get your feeling hurt because people will leave.  Establish a clear chain-of-command and impress on your volunteers how important the job is.
To carry or not to carry - This is one of the most controversial decisions you will have to make.  The church I attended before my move was partially governed by a group of elders.  Although we had no formal security team, a few of us stepped up when a threat was made against our pastor.  To our surprise some of the elders simply would not stand for anyone having a gun in church regardless of the fact that these men were police officers and concealed-carry holders.  The solution to this problem was obvious, smile, drop the subject, and do a better job of concealing your weapon.  After a lot of research and prayer, the firearms policy at my present church was formed and we tried to keep it simple.  Those who had valid carry permits were allowed to carry while performing their assigned security duties.  It is our belief that you must be as well equipped as those who seek to harm you if you are to have a viable defense.  However, each team member is made well aware of the legal and moral and financial hazards should they be forced to use a firearm.  If you have a church attorney, consult with them.  If you do not have an attorney, I recommend you read two books before deciding: Evil Invades Sanctuary by Carl Chin and  God, the Gunman & Me by Jeanne Assam.    
Build a comprehensive program- Please understand you must have a program that covers more than security.  If you protect the pastor from a mugger but the church burns down because you did not do routine fire extinguisher inspections, then your program has failed.  Your program must have many aspects including but not limited to security, fire protection, emergency evacuation, executive protection, and weather emergencies.  One of the first things we did was to install locks on numerous storage and maintenance areas, you do not need a kid playing with electrical cable. Do not alienate the congregation, once you start implementing rules no matter how correct and necessary they are, people will be offended.  Ask for input when practical, gradually implement new procedures.  When we first fielded our team, some church members were uneasy with these “security people“ hanging out at different locations.  After a few weeks of these “security people” holding umbrellas for people getting out of their cars and escorting the ladies to their cars when they parked in a dark area of the lot, sentiment changed. Write well thought out and researched procedures, practice those procedures, and drill on those procedures. 

In conclusion I would like to add if you hear the call that your church needs your talents, step up.  I was standing in the parking lot one cold rainy night and I realized that my years as a fire fighter, SWAT team leader,  and emergency manager were all preparation for this most important job and that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
I was happily married for 14 years.  I lived through hurricanes and snowstorms with my ex-wife.  We were preppers, with many firearms, ammunition, water filtration systems, storage food, etc.  One thing that was lacking was mental health.  She has suffered from long term mental problems for over a decade.  She tried to have me arrested as a domestic terrorist.  When that failed to happen, she tried to make me out as a child abuser.  When that failed, she divorced me, and forced a sale of all of our stored food, guns, ammunition, etc.

I wanted to let your readers know they should prepare themselves for all circumstances, which is something I did not do.   I never saw this coming, and have lost all my firearms as a result of this divorce.  I had over 50 firearms, and hundred of thousands of rounds of ammunition, which I was forced to sell at auction at a severe loss.  Seeing 1,000 rounds of 9x25 Dillon for $60 dollars is a complete waste, especially when all of the ammunition is from Doubletap ammo.  I am sure you can get the idea, but all of us thinking about long term survival should now consider the unthinkable, if their loved ones become unlovable or mentally ill.  Mine has since been founded for causing mental injury to our kids, but the system is slow and does little if the ones guilty/founded flee the state.

Make plans to cover all bases, even the ones that seem the most insane of all.  Best of luck to all your readers, and keep up the great work. - R.J.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Describing how teenagers can contribute to and have the right attitude for family prepping. (Written by a teenager for teenagers.)
As a teenage prepper my top priority is making sure my family and I will survive a natural or man-made disaster, and prepping is how I do that. Prepping is a family affair around my house, each of us have our items or category (medical, food, garden, hunting, etc) that we are responsible for prepping and stocking up and we carry-out that responsibility to the fullest. If one of us doesn't do our job, in an TEOTWAWKI situation, it could cost us our lives. So in this article I am going to tell you what this teenager does and give some advice of what my fellow teenagers can do to contribute to your or your family's prepping.

Note: An important phrase I will use often throughout this article is "two is one and one is none". That phrase means that whatever you have, it is best to have two, rather than one, of that item. If you run out of or break one thing, whether it be a fire starter, a baby bottle, a shovel, or a gun, you will have a back up, if you have two. If you only have one of that item and that one item breaks, then it could mean your or your family's safety. So, remember: two is one and one is none.

Though humans can go for weeks without food and still survive, I don't want to think that my family and I might go hungry, so I'll start with how my family and I prep food.

A garden is the best and cheapest thing to have to preserve your own food and though it may be a little more work, it's worth it. My mom loves to can. She would be canning all day everyday if she had the time and food. It's a lot of work for just one person, so that's where I come in. When many people think of themselves canning some may say, "Oh, I could never do something that difficult!" or "Oh, isn't that dangerous?". Everyone knows someone that has had some sort of traumatic experience with a pressure canner. Believe me, we've heard the stories. Actually it isn't all that difficult, just time consuming. And it isn't all that dangerous if you follow instructions or get someone that is experienced in canning to "show you the ropes". Canning is almost as simple as making a stew. Chop your vegetables (or meat, whatever you are canning) and put them in a jar, fill the jar with water, add a little salt, put them in the canner and "cook" them. Now, don't go in there and do exactly what I just said, there are a few more steps than just that, but that's how you do it in a nut shell. Vegetables and meat aren't the only things we can; you can put up meat, fruit, jams and jellies, pasta sauces, soups and chili, and so much more. And, whatever you can/preserve will last a long time. How awesome is that? We love to can soups and chili because that's a complete meal in just one jar. If you have 365 jars of soup then you have got yourself one meal a day for a year! In a disaster situation, one meal will be like gold!

Now if canning still makes you a bit nervous, fear not, for there are others options. Store-bought food. My mom and I are always looking for food sales and when we find them, we rack up on whatever is on sale. Whether it be green beans, juice, chicken noodle soup or ramen noodles, it's all 'prep-able', as I say. Store-bought food is ideal for stocking since it isn't easily damaged, where home-canned food jars can break. We are friends with the owners of our local Butcher's Shop. Normally, when their meat is nearing the expiration date, they will put it straight into the freezer to take home for themselves. He sells us that meat for half price. We go every so often to buy up as much as we can afford then we bring it home to can it.

Did you know you can also stock up on things such as crackers, coconut, cereal, chocolate chips and other dry foods that you might think would go stale or dry out? Yeah! We use a FoodSaver with a mason jar attachment. Just stick the food into a mason jar and put a flat on it, then put the jar sealer attachment on the jar and press down on the machine as if you were vacuum sealing a bag of food, and wa la! The jar sealer vacuums out all the air, making it last a very long time. We have eaten cereal and crackers recently that we sealed a very long time ago and it was all still as crispy and fresh as the day we bought them.

Inventory, Rotating, & Hiding
When prepping, inventory, rotating, and hiding is one of the most important things for our family. Inventory is important because you want to know how much of everything you have and what you need. My mom and I are usually the ones who inventory all our stock, and we do it every few weeks. Any time we buy something new to add or take something out, we make sure to mark it down. We have a couple folders and notebooks designated especially for our prepping inventory. To make the job easier for the next time we do inventory, once we have inventoried something, we use a marker to make a mark on the label or top of the can/box, so the next time we take inventory, if there isn't a highlighter mark, we know we missed that one. We also write the dates on all our food, then rotate them every so often. You always want the oldest food in the front, to use up first, even with your home-canned food. It's my and my brother's job to find hiding places for our stock stuff. It's crazy some of the places that you can find to store your stock. When finding a place to store/hide your home-canned stock food you want to make sure it's a cool dark place. In the basement, in the closet, under the beds, places that don't get too hot or too cold. I know from experience that if your home-canned food gets too hot, it will unseal, if it gets too cold, it will burst. When it comes to storing/hiding non-food items, it's not so difficult. Medical supplies, hygiene items, and clothes don't have to have such care. As long as they are out of the weather and sealed to keep out moth, pretty much any where is a good place. Under the bed, top of the closet, etc. Secret hiding places around your house that only you and your family know of are ideal.

Make a Food Chart
It's a great idea to make a chart of how much food your family eats in a year. Calculating how many meals of what you want to stock up on. How many seasoning packets, how many packs of crackers, how many jars of cereal, or how many jars of tomatoes you will need. Our family has a list of several of our favorite meals that we want to have in a disaster situation. Just say you are trying to store enough food for one year and you want to have the same meal once a week for that year. Start out by making a list of everything that goes into prepping that meal. Include everything down to the seasonings. Then buy 52 of those items. Our family of four (two adults and two teens) can eat one box of spaghetti with one quart jar of sauce per dinner. That means we vacuum sealed at least 52 quarts of spaghetti noodles and canned at least 52 quarts of sauce. We also have 52 packs of seasoning sauce (Save-a-Lot food store 3/$1.00). So you would do that with each meal you want to have. You get the idea.

"Two-thirds of the human body (by weight) consists of water. Humans need water for circulation, respiration, and converting food to energy. After oxygen, water is the body’s most important nutrient. Quite simply, you need water to live. Your body loses water constantly through sweat, urine, and even breathing. You must replace the water your body loses for your organs to continue to work properly. Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough water, because you’re losing more water than you’re taking in. In extreme heat, an adult can lose almost half-a-gallon of water through sweat alone. Without water, dehydration can set in within an hour in severe heat. The combination of physical overexertion and extreme heat — without water — can lead to death in as little as several hours. Surprisingly, it’s also easy to become dehydrated in very cold environments. Since cold air cannot hold much moisture, it dehydrates your body with every breath you take. Even if you aren’t sweating, you still need to replenish fluids even in cold weather. So how long can you survive without water? Humans in average shape and perfect conditions (not too hot or cold) can probably live for three to five days without any water if they’re not physically exerting themselves. Healthier people can live a day or so longer, while those who are unhealthy or exposed to particularly hot or cold weather may not survive as long. To stay healthy, you need to continually replenish your fluid supply. Experts recommend drinking approximately two quarts (64 ounces) of water each day. Of course, if you live in an extremely hot or cold area — or if you exercise a lot — you may need to drink a gallon or more of water every day. See: How Much Water Do You Need To Survive?

So as you can see from the excerpt above, we must have water! So let's talking about stocking some water. If you are like my family and don't have access to a working well then you can stock water by buying bottled water or you can even bottle your own. We use milk jugs and 2-liter bottles. Large drums are often used (you can see one in the tv show "Doomsday Castle: Water From a Rock"). A Berkey would be a wise investment if you can afford one. One reason we love the Berkey is that no matter where we have to get our water, we can always have clean and clear water to consume. GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) and water purification tablets are good to have to purify water that you aren't sure is safe to drink. We have both GSE and the tablets, that way if we run out of one we still have the other. Remember: two is one and one is none.

When it's time for our weekly shopping trip, it's a family affair. We all load up and head to town. We each have our list of things we are responsible for prepping so when we go into a store or stop at a yard sale, we scatter to all different directions looking for the items on our list. Some things must be bought brand new, but not all things. What do I mean by that? Things such as clothes, shoes, garden tools, sometimes even guns that have been taken care of, a good EDC bag, and so much more can be bought at places like the thrift store, yard sales or garage sales. Would you buy used guns? Yes, we have before. Most times it's elderly people or ex-military who sale them at garage sales and they have been well taken care of. Most often we can buy them for less than what you would pay for them buying it brand new, but remember: two is one and one is none.

When most people think of prepping they think physical items (i.e. water, food, clothing, guns, ammo, etc), but we have to not only prep those things, we must also prepare ourselves. In an TEOTWAWKI situation we will not have access to things like in normal days. Clothing stores, hospitals, etc. So we must learn how to do these things.

Medical Needs
In disaster days we will most likely not have access to a hospital. If you or a family member were to injure yourself you would need to know how to tend to the wound (as in the book "Patriots" by James Wesley Rawles). You would need to stock up on the material needed to tend to injuries, such as: gauze, bandages, pain medication, suture kit, etc. Sanitary napkins are a great absorbers for blood and would be perfect for serious injuries that need something to stop the blood flow. You don't have to become a nurse or doctor, but if you know someone or have a family member who is in the medical profession if would be a good idea to asked him/her to show you basic first aid, how to suture, perform CPR, how to stop bleeding, etc. My mom's brother is a doctor and we have asked him to show us many things that we would need to know. I am also training to become a midwife, so we know (and are learning) what to do with most injuries and child-birth. Most times you can't just go out and buy pain medications or antibiotics unless you have a prescription for them. So how will you stock the medicine needed? If you have medicine left over from the last time you were sick don't just leave it or throw it away, stock it! Natural medicines such as Essential Oils and Herbs are also wonderful medicines. I know from experience that most times they work just as well if not better than man-made medications. It wouldn't be bad to have both herbs and man made medicines. Remember: two is one and one is none. You can find herbs growing just about anywhere, so study up on your naturals medicines so that you know what to get when you need it.

Know How to Handle a Gun
It is very important, especially for us ladies, to know how to handle a gun. In James Wesley Rawles' novels "Patriots" and "Survivors" all the women knew how to handle a gun and if they didn't, they had to learn. We must be comfortable enough around them and know enough about them to be able to shoot them when we need to. You should learn how to handle, care for, load and shoot a gun. One day your life (or someone else's) may depend on it, whether it be for the use of self-defense, protection for your family or to protect your food. Don't be afraid of the gun, but give it the respect it needs. Once you know how to safely handle and care for a gun, you can show others how to as well.

Physically and Mentally Fit
Yes, we must be prepared with our stock items, but we must also prepare our bodies by getting fit, mentally and physically. You never know when you will have to bug-out and carry a heavy BOB or run for a while. You don't want to be caught or slow others down because you can't keep up. While our bodies must be fit we must also prepare our minds. We must have the Prepper's mind-set. Why do we prepare? Because we know something is going to happen and we want to be ready for it in every way. If the crap hits the fan and we blow our top freaking out like everyone around us, that will just get you lost or killed. You have more of a chance of survival if you keep a cool, calm, and collected head on you. Remember, you knew it was going to happen, so why freak out? When you stay calm, you can keep the others around you calm. There should always be one person who knows what to do, so why not let that person be you?

Soap and Body Care Products
So now that you have your water stocked and you can shower and wash clothes you need soap, right? Of course you can always buy soap to stock but what if that's something you forgot or you run out? So what do you do? You make your own. We absolutely love to make soaps and body-care products. Laundry soap can be made from things around your house such as bar soap, borax and baking soda (see the article in SurvivalBlog by J.D.C. in Mississippi that gives very clear instructions on how to make laundry soap. You can also make your own body soap, conditioner, shampoo, lotion, etc. They are so easy and such fun to make. All these things can be made with one person or many! There are millions of tutorials and recipes all over the internet and YouTube. All you have to do is pick one out and go make it! It can be much cheaper, a lot of fun, and it's healthier for you! We recently made another batch of soap that made 30 bars. It cost us only about $5! I don't know of anywhere you can buy homemade healthy soap at that price. Don't forget to stock up on lye. We buy ours very cheap from an Amish friend ($11/gallon).

Knitting, Crocheting, and Sewing Your Own Clothes
I love to knit, crochet and sew in my spare time. It's so easy and a lot of fun. You can find the materials needed at most any store and often at yard sales, thrift store, and sometimes people even give the stuff away. As long as you know the basic stitches and have the concept of how to do it, you can make most anything. During winter time blankets, hats, mittens, and scarves are a must. You can make all those things, you just have to have the some yarn, a crocheting hook and know how. It can sometimes be much cheaper as well. And it help pass the time away when there is nothing else to do (wink).

(Ladies) Prepping for the Monthly Cycle
I know many of us ladies including myself have, at some point in time, wondered what we will do when that monthly visitor arrives in a disaster situation. So what do you do? You stock some! When you have a little extra cash, buy an extra pack of your preferred item. But what about when you run out? You can make your own. I know what you are thinking, gross, right? Well, when the world is in a chaotic state and you run out, those homemade sanitary napkins are gonna look pretty darn good. They are much more sanitary than one might think. They are reusable and last years so you wouldn't need many. There are so many different styles, patterns, and materials out there all you have to do is pick one. I have made them before and they are very easy to make at home or you can buy them yourselves (the most popular ones you can buy are Luna-Pads). You can try out different ones now so that you will know what will work best for you when the times comes that you need them.

Hard Copy
Last, I want to mention something our family is working on full-time. There are tons of tutorials online in the form of video, pictures, or text. However, when we have no electricity none of it will be accessible. Now is the time to get all the the tutorial, instructions, recipes, etc printed out and neatly organized into a binder. Every time the family gives a "thumbs up" to a new recipe my mom or I try, two copies are printed or written in a binder that moment. No waiting. Remember: two is one and one is none. One important bit of information we have printed and filed is a conversion chart. It has everything from weights and measures to equivalents to substitutions. Although we copied this from a very old cookbook, I'm sure all of this information is online as well. Check out: Cooking Resources: Cooking Measurement Conversion, Ingredient Substitution, and More.
So there you have it, the answer to the question "How Can Teens Contribute?" Prepping can be a lot of fun especially when you get the whole family involved. When you are a prepper and have the mind-set of a prepper it will encourage others around you to get ready for whatever disaster may happen. I hope that you, my fellow teens, have learned something from this and have been encouraged.

My most important prep,
While most people start by thanking Captain Rawles, and rightly so, I would like to thank Dan in Montana.  I’d also like to start with a question.  Has anything every just hit you and made you think, “that’s been it all the time?!”  Well it just happened to me.  I have been prepping for several years now and even farther back if I think about it.  So it seems like an easy question, what is my most important prep.  I have seen my focus change over the years.  It has changed, as I have changed.  Being a medic for many years I first prepared for medical disasters and relief.  Later getting into law enforcement, security became top of my list.  Meeting like minded people and being able to talk things out with them have shown me balance in my prepping but it is just now that I see what stands out most of all.  MY WIFE!  See how easy that was but bam, there it is.  My beautiful, smart, sexy, tough, sweet and intelligent wife.  Did I mention beautiful?  Well she is all that and more but it’s the more that is most important.  She is my partner and my backup.  She is the one I would do anything to save and the one who would do anything to save me. 

Survival can’t be your only goal.  To merely survive is to not actually live.  I feel like my prepping has a purpose now.  A goal that can and will be achieved.  To continue to be with the person who makes me want to live.  Like everyone, I’m sure, I have seen what I believe is more than my fair share of loss.  I have lost friends, family and even my faith it seems.  All the time struggling to find a path that seemed to fit.  I told her once that I have always felt like a proverbial bull in a china shop, looking for someone to tame me or fix me.  Looking for a woman who could make me fit better into this time and world.  So there I was, in a china shop standing on a mound of broken glass trying so unsuccessfully to be anything but the bull.  Bam! That was sound of another bull slamming into my china shop trying to find her own place in the world.  Turns out what I needed wasn’t what I was looking for but I found it anyway.  Or at least she found me.  I am so very thankful to have her, to have to part of me that was missing all along.  So I tell you now what I promised her on our wedding day:

  • “I will always love you”
    Seems corny and worn out but it’s true.  You must always love your mate.
  • “I will always be faithful to you”
    Again seems common sense but without trust there is nothing.
  • “Above all others I will put you first”
    Your actions are no longer yours alone.  The things you say, the actions you take are all a reflection of your character and your values.  You must value your mate above all others. 
  • “I will always work hard, in life and at love”
    Life is hard work and love is even harder.  The best things usually are, so work at it every day.  Everyday make sure your mate knows how much they mean to you and how much you care about them. 
  • “Forever at each other’s side”

These vows were important to me because I wanted my bride to know she will never be second to anyone, including me.  I didn’t need a maid or sugar momma.  I didn’t need anyone in charge of me nor did I need someone I would have to take care of every second of every day.  I needed a partner.  Someone who would stand by my side no matter what.  Someone who was as strong as I needed and as soft as I wanted.  We are partners because we are equals.  We may have different strengths and weaknesses but neither one of us is more or less important than the other.  Without her I am no longer whole.
These are some of the things I swore to her in front of god and our family.  They are things that I think about daily and they guide my decisions.
So you have now read at least two perspectives, one from a man who lost what was most dear to him. Preparedness and Divorce, by Dan in Montana  showed us a loss that may have led him what was most important in the end but by losing it.  My story is different but what I hope you take away is the same.  Love the ones your with.  Your marriage, your union, even your partnership can not be something that you fail to prepare.  The way you prepare your relationship for the worst times is by working at loving them now, through the good times and the bad times. 
“While I have failed at many things in my life, loving her will never be one of them.”  - A Prepared Sheepdog

Saturday, December 7, 2013

“We” had been prepping since Y2K, reading, watching, canning, storing, organizing, teaching and moving to the North West Montana mountains. A Monday morning knock at the door three months ago changed everything.  At the door was a court appointed clerk serving me divorce papers. The crash I felt was not the economy or a gale force wind blowing down my house.  My entire world had just collapsed around me. For me the TEOTWAWKI just occurred.

It took hours to orientate myself, stop my head from spinning, re-read the court papers and try to accept what had happened. My wife of seventeen years and my two daughters were walking out of my life. The anguish was immeasurable.  I watched them drive away and couldn’t stop my stomach’s upheaval.

If you are married or getting married please do not make the mistakes I made.  Don’t’ let the sun set on your anger.  Work out the issues when they first arise. Don’t forget that your marriage is a full time job.  It has to be cared for and tended to.  Like a garden, it has day to day necessities, left unattended; weeds will grow quickly and choke out the fruit. Today, I am reduced to a statistic as a Christian divorce.  The numbers are no different from non-Christian divorces. My witness has suffered and my church attendance is in a slump but my Bible readings and prayer times have hit new highs.  

All the prepping I had done up to this point was for my family.  I bought and stored feminine products, shampoos, hair conditioner and brushes along with all the beans, band aids and bullets.  I saved so that my family would be better off.  The twenty acre retreat we had moved into years ago now means so little. All the sweat, money and time building a garage, chicken coop, tool shop and garden; raising goats, horses and chickens now is questioned. What value is any of it without my family? 

Even with all the uncertainty I continue prepping.  It is who I am and what I do.  The habits engrained in my being have not changed. It is my comfort zone of sorts. Prepping is more urgent than ever before but I hesitate about what and how to prepare. I may have to sell the retreat and re-locate without my family. Maybe I can stay, maybe they will come back? Do I dare even hope?

Crazy as it is, this situation has stripped down and streamlined my prepping priorities. Once my stomach settled down and my head stopped spinning, I was able to re-focus. The surplus supplies stored in the garage and tool shed were first. Neither of us wanted any of these items.  I cleaned and packed those treasures and dropped them off at our local auction.  I sold my extra “barter” items: truck tires, outdoor lights, buckets, garden and hand tools. The frivolous possessions: golf clubs, ice skates, sports card and comic book collections sold for several hundred dollars. I split the money and deposited funds in a checking account for my soon to be ex-wife to access.  I saved my half of the funds as cash.  I am trying to save every way possible. 

Next on my list, (yes, I have an updated list), I attacked the closets.  I separated summer and winter outfits, paired up boots, gloves and beach slippers.  I organized them in; give away, not sure and save boxes. I  delivered the give-aways to the Goodwill store as donations. I have the "not sure" boxes ready for my wife and kid’s evaluation. The save items are labeled, dated and sealed. The concept of carrying and moving every item in the house helps the prioritizing process along nicely. 

The uncertainty of staying or moving has inspired me.  If I do have to sell the home, I’d like to get top dollar so on ward I went with my “to do list.”  I sanded and painted the discolored mud room door and placed new dead bolt locks and weather seals on all the doors.  Since no one is home most days, I have placed locks on the root cellar; tool shed, garage and generator shed.  I constructed a 12 ft metal gate at the entrance of my driveway with large boulders on each side for security. Two of the rooms now have new paint and one bathroom has new tile. Projects I’ve wanted to complete are now being finished.

My wife has returned on several occasions when I was not home and removed quite a few possessions.  Along with her clothes and personal items missing were most of my guns and cash. I trained her well; she took my Marlin .45-70, S&W .44 magnum along with several rifles and shotguns. I was left with only my Glock Model 30 that I carry with me and a Ruger 10-22. I felt vulnerable.

Using the cash from the sale of the barter and frivolous items, I purchased a semi auto shotgun, loaded it with slugs and OO.  Several of the articles read from SurvivalBlog recommend if you have limited funds or are just starting to prep a shotgun would be a purchase to consider. I have used quite a bit of the information from JWR’s site. (Thanks).
My fire wood trunk finally expired after over a decade of reliable service. My friend had a 1984 Ford, diesel 250 ¾-ton pick up he was using to spray his farm fields.  He sold it to me for a very reasonable price.  I used my remaining silver coins and cash I had from selling the extra items.

After the first month I started to feel depressed, especially when I arrived home.  Working two jobs, I leave at 6:45 AM and return exhausted, after nine PM to a dark, cold, empty home.  To help me fight the gloom I purchased timers for several lights.  They are scheduled for various on times. I made certain to have one tick on before nine  PM.  Amazing what a little light can do for the Spirit.

The weather is quickly changing and becoming quite cold.  I have my wood burner running open and hot when I’m home.  It’s marvelous what a glowing bed of red hot coals does for a log home’s setting. I use my best firewood when I leave, stuffing the wood burner full.  My log home retains the heat all day.  When I now arrive, the home is light and toasty warm. 

I have not purchased any groceries since my personal SHTF event.  I am presently cooking and eating my stores of canned foods and frozen provisions. I was surprised by the number of undetected canned foods that had expired under my watch.  Some of the freezer items were ice covered and freezer burned.   Items that are safe for consumption are being cooked and consumed daily.  The others feed my animals.  The freezer is on my list and soon will be defrosted and re-organized into sections with dates.

Cleaning out my freezer, I made venison stew nightly.  First thing in the morning I placed the frozen meat in the bottom of Granny’s crock pot, added cans of expired corn, beans and peas, set the temperature and blasted off for work.  I easily cooked up enough for several days.

I found several of the canned soup and pasta dishes quite flavorful, quick to prepare and easy to clean up. They have elevated their rankings on my inventory. There are also several that now won’t make my list. 

Returning home, I am now welcomed by a rich aroma that fills a well lit, warm log home.  Even with the inviting fragrance and notable taste, repeating the same stew night after night does become monotonous. A variety of spices and a wild game cookbook are essential and now on my list.

There can never be a substitute for my girls.  I pray after some of the wounds have healed, they will want to spend more time with me. In the mean time I elected to adopt a new youngster.  I picked out a year old black Labrador Retriever from the dog pound.  Kimber is great company and a reliable deterrent for unwanted strangers.  As an added bonus she has a fifteen hour bladder! So in my own peculiar way I found solutions to deal with a cold, dark and lonely home. 

Not having my daughters at home with me is excruciating.  I have pictures of them in every room.  I have cleaned their bathroom, closets and drawers.  The emotional cost of this loss is almost unbearable. I don’t know where they are staying.  I miss and love them so very much.  Divorce is horrible.

Attorneys on both sides are making quite a profit from my mistakes.  As the process continues they are the ones who benefit.  My stored silver and emergency funds have been cashed in to pay the attorney’s fees.  Any spare time I had is now used to gather statistics from my IRA, home insurance policy, pay stubs and tax statements then promptly forward them to the paralegal.  My stores of food and fuel are depleting quickly. I wish I had a “do over.”

Lessons learned:
Work at your marriage
Spend any minute you can with your family
Today with your family is more important than tomorrow without them.
Use what you are storing and planning to draw on when the SHTF
Clean out your garage, storage shed and closets, you have too much
Buy and store more spices
Check expiration dates
Defrost your freezer
Start and finish one of your “To Do” list jobs

God’s grace is never ending, in an answer to prayers, my daughter just texted me asking if we can go to lunch on Saturday. That appointment is BOLD, and number one on my list.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I'm a suburbs dweller, living about 25 miles out of Milwaukee. I've gotten my mom--who lives nearby--into prepping. (Loaning her my copy of your "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" book worked!) So what do I do next, to get her farther down the road [to prepping]? I bought her a Kat[adyn water] filter. She has no clue about storage of foods. (We aren't one of those "canning" families.) I bought myself a bunch of MREs and Mountain House foods, but she can't afford to [do likewise], since she's a retired school teacher. Do you have any advice on how she can store her own food, and not break the bank? Thanks, - G.H.C.

JWR Replies: The Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course (now priced at less than $20) would be a good gift to put in the hands of any relatives or friends who are interested in prepping, but don't know where to start. In the course I describe shopping at Big Box stores like COSTCO as one of the most time-efficient and cost-effective ways to stock up on staple foods. There is also some information in the course that is useful for advanced preppers.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Your mention of Zus Bielski's birthday and the film Defiance. (and the book upon which it is based) brought to mind an excellent 90-minute documentary by PBS, "Resistance: Untold Stories of Jewish Partisans," produced in 2001. It is available online at Vimeo.  (or from PBS Home Video on DVD)

It includes interviews with many partisans among them Aron Bielski, the youngest of the brothers (still living). After more than half a century since the holocaust, the myth still persists that all of the Jews just walked peacefully to their deaths at the hands of the Nazis.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  More than 20,000 Jews fought the Nazis as partisans. In this group memoir, eleven men and women, now in their 70s and 80s, recount their battle against the Nazis in Poland, Lithuania, and Belorussia from 1941 to 1945. They chronicle their battle for survival, the almost insolvable dilemmas facing Jewish partisans (provisions, weapons, and prejudice) and the emotional aftermath of war. This is among the best documentaries of their story that I have seen. - Dollardog

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I am an active prepper. I do not have a retreat or bug-out vehicle (yet), but I do what I can for bugging-in and preparing for emergencies. I have extensive food and water preps, tactical supplies, and all of the other trappings of modern-day prepping. Although my family is aware of my prepping, and support my efforts, they are not “in the loop” with how to do what, when to do it, and what to do it with. I have come to realize that many of my preps will be useless if anything happens to me. A good example of this is my emergency comm gear. It’s good gear, easily accessed, and will work well, but there are no user-friendly instructions on how to use the gear. Another example would simply to list where everything is located, as my preps are spread throughout the home, vehicles, and remote locations. There are many, many things that I can do with the gear, but might be a stretch for my wife and children, simply due to the lack of instructions.

To this end I have begun documenting all of the needed information regarding our preps. This is being done in plain text, and then a printed copy will be hidden, and a copy given to my wife. Digital versions on the thumb drive are encrypted with a password that we all know well. The docs begin with a detailed inventory that gives location, quantity, and a short description. After the inventory I have started writing how-to docs for each area of need, and the level of detail is just deep enough to get the job done. As is the case with most such articles on preps, bug-out-bags, etc., I begin with water, food, shelter, protection, safety, communications, and lastly, comfort. I have kept the technical jargon to a minimum, and intend to solicit feedback from my family to clear up any points that need it.

With regard to each are of prepping, in some short discussions with my family that safety and security are two areas where considerable discussion was required before writing my docs. The reason is very predictable, my family consists of my wife and two teenage daughters. While they are all very sharp, and quite capable, some aspects of safety and security are difficult for them to accept. An example is the need to hide the bulk of our preps, while leaving a substantial quantity of food and water out in the relative open. I think this is needed because looters WILL come, and they can more easily dealt with if they are not coming up empty-handed. The other reason may be obvious, they might give up looking once they think they have taken all they can find, so the bulk of our preps will be secure. My family thinks that there will no looters, and that if I think there will be, then we should hide all our preps. Another example is dealing with strangers. My family of females is not as callus as I am, and will want to lend aid much too readily. After having lengthy discussions with my family, I was careful to re-state my concerns for security in the related docs. Mainly, be cautious and suspicious at all times. We should always be ready to lend aid and be charitable, but individual safety comes first. My rules are simple, in an emergency situation, no one outside the family is allowed in the house, and if we are providing any sort of aid the recipient will remain at least twenty-five  feet from the door until it is closed and locked, no exceptions.

In creating my docs, I have tried to write instructions as I perform a task, at least mentally. I have found that when I describe how to do things, I leave out small details that I take for granted. Don’t do this! Be exacting when it counts. We don’t want to bog-down anyone with too much detail, but overlooking a small but critical detail could be disastrous. A prime example is the fact that my gun safe key must be turned before dialing-in the combination or it wont open. It’s a key feature of the safe, and a detail I have long since just taken for granted. Although a tiny detail, this could easily hinder my family in my absence. I’m sure you can all think of dozens of small things similar in this respect.

Another aspect of preparing these docs is the printed version. Digital copies are valuable, I store mine on a pair of thumb drives, but printed copies are mandatory. If there is no computer to read the docs, they are useless. I have started printing my docs on waterproof paper, using larger than normal (14 pt) bold type font. They are then placed in zip-loc bags with moisture absorbers  and stored in a predetermined location, high above the water line of any potential flood. My wife thinks putting a copy in a fire safe is a good idea, I may agree with her. (it’s so hard admitting she’s right!). I have read articles about encoding printed docs, but it seems to be a dangerous practice, except maybe for very sensitive information, and the need for that kind of secrecy is far outweighed in my mind by the need to get the information quickly in an emergency situation. We’re talking about how to start the generator here, not nuclear launch codes!
I believe that the digital copies of these docs should be written and saved in a simple .txt format whenever possible, even if encrypted. You never know what sort of device or program you might have to open them on. The more universal the format, the better. If you have diagrams or pictures, consider using a PDF format for those. The PDF format is widely supported on computers, phones, tablets, just about any digital device available. If you will be printing docs that must contain actual photos, try and use high-contrast black and white in all of your images. In the long run, these images will last longer and will maintain readability better under adverse conditions, and the high contrast will make them easier to read under low-light conditions. Regarding storage of the printed docs, I found some surplus Army signal flare tubes that seem to fit the bill perfectly for this task.  I also put a chemical light stick in the tubes with the docs. This way we have a ready light source if needed to read them in the dark. I found the tubes at a local gun show, but I bet there are millions of these things out there on Ebay and military-surplus outlets. Another idea would be just to make your own tubes with PVC pipe and screw-on caps. If the tube does not fit your docs, there are countless waterproof containers out there. You might even consider fireproof containers in addition to waterproof containers.

So far my family has been supportive in giving me feedback on my docs and it’s going well. I expect that will change some as we get into more sophisticated activities like setting the channels up on a 2 meter hand held radio, or setting the bait hook on a small game trap. In the end, I believe that my preps will be complimented well by a good set of documents and procedures. My original thought was to provide the needed information to my family in the event that I was not here, for whatever reason. After several weeks of typing, I am keenly aware that there were some things I needed to brush up on as well. Now more than ever, I think it’s true: you don’t know how to do anything well until you can tell someone else how to do it. I strongly suggest that you use this opportunity to use and test gear and practice using tools and techniques, having found many times that some things were much easier to do in my memory than they currently seem to be. It can also be a great opportunity to get your family more involved in the practical side of preparation. We live in the deep south east where hurricanes are quite common, and I love the thought of my family knowing how to take care of themselves in the event of any emergency. It also gives me a chance to spend more time with my kids, and that’s always good.

So to recap my thoughts here:

  1. Make a good inventory of all of your preps.
  2. Write a detailed how-to document for each prepping item.
  3. Make no assumptions, where needed be very thorough.
  4. Store digital copies in an encrypted file.
  5. Use a safe but easy-to-remember password on your files.
  6. Make printed copies on waterproof paper.
  7. Store multiple copies of digital and printed versions in safe locations.
  8. Review the docs with the people that will be using them.
  9. Use the docs to practice using tools and techniques.
  10. Setup a periodic review and update schedule for updating your docs.

I hope others find this informative, good luck with all of your preps, I hope you never need them!

For more in depth information on encryption, see the Wikipedia page on encryption software.

And this link will take you to the free encryption software that I use:

Some really good sources for waterproof paper can be found using these links:

Or, you can waterproof your own paper.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

As I imagine many of the readers on this site, I once found myself somewhat isolated in my prepping, embarrassed to let on to how I felt, why I prep, et cetera . My family is very close, very involved in each others lives, and I couldn't imagine or want it any different. My entry into this contest will be an explanatory background on myself and my preps, followed by a realistic guideline on how to "save the ones that matter" to you; or at least, my means of doing so.

I am a young, 30 year old father of an angelic two year old girl, with another child on the way (another motivator and complication to my prepping). My background was in the Finance/Insurance arena for years until I decided to open my own business in a different industry. One could say I am living the "American Dream," or at least, what it used to be - the house, two new cars, kids, a savings account, investments, hobbies, etc. It wasn't until about two years ago that a very close uncle got me back into coin collecting that my investment-guided mind started seeing the patterns and benefits of gold and silver and their true role as a store of wealth. With any worthwhile research, one will slowly find the fringe reasoning behind seeking metals as an investment, which I did....and then I continued reading. Quickly I began seeing through some of the fog that has been lowered over our field of view and the implications of where our current financial and economic status indicates we are...and it doesn't look good. I found myself up every night until 2 a.m. reading endlessly over conspiracy theories and radical ideas. Granted, I took everything with a grain of salt but I definitely had come to one conclusion; the system was hanging by a thread that seemed to be about to snap. Being naive and having a biased financial background, I started converting many of my liquid investments to silver and gold.

I was able to conceal this for awhile, or rather - felt I had to, however, eventually, my wife confronted me about the slowly growing clutter in our home safe. So one night, after she got home from work, I sat her down and had a very serious talk with her, something I am usually never the one to initiate or request. The last time I had done this was in 2011 after we had been burglarized and I told her that I needed her to swallow her distaste for firearms because this had been the last straw, and we were both getting sidearms, and a rifle. That was no easy battle and it was only when I had put it in black and white: "What if you had been at home with our infant daughter when they kicked in the door?" that she saw the light. And we did it responsibly, which I knew was important to her. We had my father, an ex-police officer, and highly successful/responsible/moral man, sit down and drill us together (even though I had grown up with his guns and his rules) on how to operate, use and maintain our firearms. We went to the range together many times and enjoyed ourselves finding a new and fun way to compete with one another.

But prepping is so much more than guns and silver. I remember one night reading something that said "you cannot eat your gold". This really stuck with me. I had focused so much of my time on first acquiring ounces and ounces of precious metals, followed by boxes and boxes of ammo. It was if I could see myself in a post apocalyptic world looking like Rambo, AR-15 in one arm, sack full of gold and silver in the other with my wife and child huddled behind me as I kept the roaming MZBs at bay (those are Mutant Zombie Bikers if you haven't read the novel Lights Out by David Crawford). So unrealistic. You cannot do it alone. (That is an idea we will come back to later.) But yet, so common amongst today's preppers. I would bet that most preppers, or rather, people that consider themselves preppers, follow the same misguided purchasing patterns that I did with silver and weapons first. This is the turning point that I consider when I really started to get serious about prepping.

It was also around this time that my wife started asking about some charges to our debit card, some high dollar amounts at Wal-Mart, some Army Navy Surplus store charges, etc. Purchases outside our norm. I did not want to start a fight with my wife, but if I had it my way, I would go out and spend $20-30k on what I would consider necessary preparations; she would go out and hire a divorce attorney. So we sat down and came up with an acceptable budget. I highly suggest that you do the same. But before you do, make visible sacrifices to your spending habits so that your significant-other/family can see your dedication and how important it is to you.

This whole time, my wife was slowly paying attention to my behavior. Rather than going golfing on the weekends, I was going to the target range instead with the husband of her friend. Instead of buying new business clothes or styles, I was purchasing quality boots, outdoor clothing, etc. Then, one day I came home and one of the huge plastic tubs in our garage was in the family room and had been emptied onto the floor. My wife had this look on her face like "What the ---- is wrong with you??" This particular bin had all of our clothing and footwear in it. All sealed in plastic. She was upset. "Why did you buy all of this stuff you haven't even used it" followed by "How much did all of this cost?" So we talked for awhile about it. I explained to her that I have a life insurance policy for the dreaded "what if" contingency. This was life insurance, but the real kind; to keep our life intact. I explained that rather than having all of my life insurance in the highest premium category known as "Whole Life", that we had diversified some of it into "Term Life"...that this was a tradeoff between the investment value of Whole Life and the extremely high premium it requires, all while still maintaining the level of insurance we require with a combination of "Whole Life" and "Term". This made sense to her. So I further explained that I keep these all terrain boots, all weather clothing, rain suits, etc in here for the very same reason. Eventually, she calmed down, and laughed that I had picked the right size for her by going through all of her shoes in the closet and guesstimating her size.

At this point, I had a pretty solid foundation of the essentials. I had food, water, shelter, fuel and security all set and ready to go in our closet and garage. All we had to do in the event of an emergency was throw all of the giant storage bins, our BOBs, 5-Gallon water jugs and fuel cans into the SUV and we could go 1,200 miles in any direction. I had even done a practice drill once while she was out shopping with our princess to see how fast I could do it alone. I even figured out a way to "Tetris" everything as efficiently as possible into the vehicle while not being able to see much from outside the vehicle. I was impressed; I could be loaded and ready to go in 15 minutes - alone. And that was when it hit me: Where am I going and what am I going to do when I get there? That brings me to what I call "Level 2" of preparing.

Ensuring that you can initially survive a disaster is a huge first step. Up to this point, I was positive I could sustain my wife and child for a month comfortably even if we had to drive out into some remote forest and live out of the SUV and tent. That was when I read the novel Patriots. That was when I realized you cannot do it alone no matter how well you prepare, no matter how much money you throw at preps. Every man needs to sleep and who is going to guard my queen and princess while I am sleeping. Where is the cross fields of fire going to come from with one inexperienced man defending his family who is probably wetting his pants in the heat of his first battle? It was time to reach out. So enter Level 3:

The first logical choice was my father. Understand one thing about him; he is the guy everyone in the neighborhood is friends with, the guy everyone calls when they need help, and a "guys guy". Everyone I know respects him. He owns his own company, so he has a lot of spare time and usually spends it helping people. Fixing things. Driving people to doctors appointments. Babysitting my princess when I have to run out for my company. I grew up with him coaching every sports team I was on, shooting, be honest, I couldn't have been luckier. So when the day came and I showed him all of my preps, I wasn't prepared for his reaction which was "Buddy, is all this necessary? Do you really want to live in a world where you have a weekly gunfight just to defend your garden from poachers?" This hit me really hard. All I could think was that my dad thought I was crazy, and worse, that he would be one of the people to just lay down and die. So I kind of dropped it for awhile and didn't mention this to any more family members for months.

Randomly one day, my father asked if I had any good books to read. I mentioned that I had a book on my tablet, "Lights Out," if he wanted to borrow it. So I gave it to him and crossed my fingers. A few days later, my dad called me and had a little spunk in his voice. He loved it. I mentioned that I had another as well, called "Patriots" by none other than JWR. He read it in two days.

On Monday mornings, my father comes to pick up my daughter and it is the one day a week I go out to my accounts and put an eye on site. The Monday following him finishing "Patriots" he knocked on my door like normal at 7:30am to pick up the princess. As I was walking to the front door, I noticed I didn't hear the car running like normal. When I opened it, he greeted me, and walked in. He played with my daughter for awhile but I could tell something was up. Usually he just scooped her so I could get on the road, and my wife, sister, her fiancee and I all meet up for dinner at his house and after we take our daughter home with us. Eventually he says "Hey bud, I know why you gave me those 2 books, I feel like you are trying to tell me something."

I didn't know what to think. So I started by asking him if he would just give up if the SHTF. He laughed. He then went on to explain to me how he had reacted that way months ago because he didn't want me obsessing and worrying about TEOTWAWKI, but at the same time, it has stuck in his head. After reading those 2 books he said he saw how realistic a disaster could be, and how close to a meltdown our country was...and....what was my motivation for making him read those specific two books? So I went on to explain my concerns, my preparations, etc.

It was at this moment that my father blew my mind. Remember, I was in Finance for five years. I wrote every policy, investment, etc that he owned; he trusted me that I knew what I was doing. And on a side note, I did well. He asked if I remembered about that piece of property him and my mother had purchased years ago in the mountains. My eyes almost popped out of my head. I don't know how I hadn't remembered it. It was just property, no structures. He then went on to tell me how it was a dream of his to build a cabin there, and use it as a vacation home in his retirement and to one day leave it to me. My head started racing with ideas, building plans, farming plans, security measures, and so on, it all started flying out of my mouth a mile a minute. He put his hand on my knee and said, "Buddy, we have some work to do, I didn't realize how much this meant to you, why don't we spend today putting a plan into place?"

So we did. I called my partner (my soon to be brother in law and sisters fiancee) and asked if he would mind making the rounds today and that I would see him tonight at dinner. He said no problem. We sat in my family room with a composition book until 5 pm. We hammered it all out. From immediate BOBs for everyone, to a short term "bug in" plan, to our long term disaster plan. We talked about building a cabin on the land, and even splitting the costs. We talked about who else we needed. Our immediate family was a given: myself, my pregnant wife, our daughter, my sister, her fiancee, him, my mother...and then we stopped. W e needed skills, or rather, people with skills . My partner's (my sisters fiancee) sister and husband came to mind. He was ex-military, and is now part of an undercover drug force,  and known to be a little bit of a gun guy. I figured he at the least could assist with security. My father was an ex-police officer but also has serious mechanic skills rebuilding muscle cars. I am an electronic tinkerer. One major gap we had was medical and farming. A very good family friend of  my wife and her husband were immediate choices. He is an ER nurse and she teaches Botany at the state college. The funny part was, he happened to be the only person in the last two years I ever really talked about prepping with, went shooting with, and we saw eye to eye on everything, and they had a daughter that our daughter played with frequently. It was all coming together. We just had to get everyone on board. I suggested to my father that he be the one to present it at dinner as everyone listened to him.

That night, we all met for dinner. About halfway through, my sisters fiancee asked if I was feeling ok. Everyone looked at me as if thinking "what is he talking about???" I started cracking up laughing. Here is where my dad stepped in and discussed with everyone what we had been doing all day.

Amazingly, everyone was on board. Initially my mother and sister thought we were a little crazy, but eventually agreed that this was necessary and a good idea. We even worked out a budget to start building on the land. My parents handled the initial chunk to break ground and my sister and I each contribute monthly. Over the next few days, we approached my partners sister and husband, as well as my wife and I's couple friend. They were all into it as well.

Since then, we have gone on three of what we call "prepper" weekend camping trips. One was for seven nights, and all 10 adults and five children came at once. It was amazing. We had itineraries where each day, each couple was responsible for teaching a "class," and if you didn't have a TEOTWAWKI skill to teach, then they either had to learn one very quickly and thoroughly to teach to the others, or were responsible for cooking all 3 meals that day (which my mother ended up doing anyway). My wife and I's couple friends ended up doing 2; one in treating traumatic injuries and another on basic planting/harvesting skills. My sister, of all people, taught us how to process a squirrel and a fish.

Since then, we all frequently communicate in what we call "The E-Mail Chain". Whenever someone comes across something relevant, we "CC" everyone in our group. Whether it be something in the news, a group supply idea that we will all split (and the resulting debates, ha-ha-ha) or people we are considering inviting. We rotate printing hard copies of valuable handbooks and "how-to" guides that we store with our supplies.

We have gotten a lot accomplished so far and I am proud and impressed at everyone's contributions. And to think, none of this possibly could have come to fruition if I hadn't just spoken about it, and about how important it was to those around me that they understand and get involved. That initial dinner was in August of 2012.

Friday, October 4, 2013

We've been preppers since the late 1970s when we were living in a New Jersey seaside apartment and our long term food was stored under furniture in a 400 square foot apartment.  After that a job relocation to a more rural area enabled us to buy a 35 acre fixer-upper farm where we lived for 16 years and learned how to garden, raise livestock, heat with wood, and become generally self-sufficient.  Then we bought our second rundown farm in upstate New York (we were suckers for fixing up dilapidated farmhouses) and started up a commercial sheep operation on 360 acres.  There we learned to farm on a larger scale for ten years, and became more prepared for a SHTF scenario, including the addition of draft horses to help with some of the work.  Now we're on our retirement farm in northern Vermont with the horses and a small flock of sheep, along with the dogs, cats and chickens.  We're both in our sixties and have been hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.  Now I've been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and I'm faced with survival of another kind.  We all know we're going to eventually die, but we like to think that it's so far out into the future that we can forget about it.  Being diagnosed with a potentially terminal disease pulls that eventuality back into the present.  This can really throw a kink in your SHTF plans because the S has now HTF in your own life and makes everything else seem pretty irrelevant. 

If you see financial, commercial or social collapse as potential emancipation from the status quo, as I have, you're jolted into seeing the world from a new perspective since you may very well now need the existing infrastructure to support your ability to survive.  This includes the potential need for grid-based medical treatment or nutritional therapies that require foods not native to your geographical area.  So far I'm able to keep doing what I've been doing on the farm, but now as I get ready to battle the disease there's the strong possibility that illness and/or treatments will soon impact my ability to do strenuous work, hopefully just temporarily, but possibly for extended periods of time, and possibly until death.  Wanting to be ready for a world without luxuries and in order to better prepare ourselves for a world that might lack many of the things we now take for granted, over the years we've prepped by weaning ourselves from a lot of tools that require fuel from outside sources.  We walk and use the horses instead of owning an ATV, split wood by hand instead of a power log splitter, garden without a tractor, shovel manure by hand, you get the idea.  Much of that work is beyond my wife's physical capabilities, so my inability to do those types of work could leave us pretty helpless.  In retrospect it looks like making ourselves ready for TEOTWAWKI has left us very exposed and without the financial resources necessary to retrofit our farm to one that's more mechanized.  I write this simply as food for thought for those who may find themselves preparing in a similar manner.

From a preparedness perspective, societal collapse and a grid down scenario could spell the end of my life unless my disease results in total prolonged remission.  Actually, under those circumstances and without a healthcare infrastructure, I wouldn't even know if I was in remission.  Nature would just take its course.  Yes, I would be able to consume anti-cancer herbals and foods from storage along with whatever we grow or is available in our area.  We always read about increased die-off in this situation, but we all think it won't be us.  Unfortunately, in many cases it will be us, no matter how prepared we may be. - Northern Vermont Shepherd

JWR Replies: Cancer has touched the life of nearly every American. You will be in our prayers!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

We started "Prepping" the day I was issued my DD-214 from the 2nd Marine Air Wing back in 1970. Even way back then the writing was on the wall if you cared enough to take a hard look and pay attention.   The VietNam War was pulling this country apart. “So you don’t believe, we’re on the Eve of Destruction?” We swallowed John Prine's antidote, hook, line and sinker.

"Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an find Jesus on your own."

Homesteading here in central Missouri, we home birthed 6 strong kids, 3 boys, 3 girls on 25 acres of Missouri River hills and creek bottom. We planted an orchard, blasted out a well, used the rocks to build the root cellar. Farmed with mules, cut and skidded 150 saw logs off the hills. Set up and ran a small sawmill. Built a house from scratch. Built a business relining chimney’s and selling wood stoves. Inch by inch, row by row, we were just living the Dream. When 9-11-01 hit, the storm clouds started piling dark and deep. They were not at all interested in re-enlisting a 53 year old Marine Corps veteran, pissed and looking to dish out some payback but they are always ready to enlist an 18 year old Eagle Scout. In 2006, three months into his first deployment, our youngest son was killed in action by IED on night patrol outside Fallujah Iraq.

A downward, deep "dark night of the soul" ensued. Oh yes, the enemy can smell your pain like blood in the water. The real challenge is to not feel sorry for yourself, Old Nick can really work with that one. Our faith has been sorely tested but has stood fast. When this POTUS was elected in 2008, the slippery slope got steeper. The feeling of being in a slow motion train derailment intensified. Our preps became more focused and urgent. The result of the 2012 Reelection hit me with the finality of the coffin lid being shut on the land that I love, have served and as a family, we have sacrificed so greatly for. Every day the News lands with the thud of a coffin nail being driven home. I came to truly dread the daily Drudge Report  but then, this is a lot like watching the Hindenberg go down. “Oh, the Humanity”.  I’m getting to be a cynical, bitter man. Up late one night, cleaning my weapons and listening to the radio, I made a call and managed to get hold of George Noory on Coast to Coast AM, talking live with his guest, Jim Marrs from Texas. I despaired of the fact that although we were pretty well dug in, had our chain water pump, had our grain, beans, 15 grandkids to worry over, choke points on the road and clear field of fire in front of the house, what were we going to do when some bedraggled family and staving kids showed up straggling down our gravel road? Jim gave me some good, hard advice that I have taken to heart. Reach out to your neighbors, get it together, circle the wagons, work up a plan. Support a local Church to distribute charity. James Rawles has alluded to all this in his novels but it took Jim Marrs to "slap me upside the head" at 1:45 am.

So, then and there I decided to come out of the closet, overcome our self imposed isolation and make a positive, pre-emptive strike. Face it, most of us are private people, we’ve come keep this all to ourselves for some very good reasons.

My proposition to you is this, it is getting dark quick and the storm is rising. Its time to make like Peter and step out of the boat. My cousin Paul is an Army EOD Tech, career FBI, and retired Head of Missouri Emergency Management. Cousin Paul's Executive Summary of our collective situation is that: “We are so sc**wed”. We conspired to rent the hall and sponsor an open meeting at the local community building. We called it "Jamestown Prepares"  and  set out some simple flyers. We are located close enough to the New Madrid Fault to pay serious attention, we get randomly visited with Joplin sized Tornado swarms out of Oklahoma and I almost forgot the fun for all when the Missouri River busts it banks and cuts the state in half. Last winter we all lost power for a week when 2+ Ft. of snow came on the heels of a bad winter ice storm. No power at the gas station, dead of winter, and the roads are paralyzed. 

From a small country town of 362 Souls, the room filled up with 65 people. Cousin Paul started with a good, standard issue, FEMA Style, Power Point Presentation on Family Emergency Preparedness, passing out your tax dollar paid, slick FEMA brochures with the checklists and suggested 7 day supplies. Well received and timely, but now it’s my turn at bat.

"Folks, Cousin Paul's is the optimistic one. I'm thinking we are in for some very rough sledding and it’s high time we get ready. If you plot the trajectories of all the big things we worry about, there’s an undeniable tipping point coming closer by the day.  We can argue about when it happens, how hard and how long this goes on, but I’m thinking an Argentine economic crisis (1999–2002) at an absolute minimum, and that's only if we’re lucky, so then I bark out: 

“Brace for Impact” Do I have your attention? There’s a few nervous looks around, nobody laughs”. Lined up on tables down one side of the room I have a taste of the basic's. Water filter and chlorine bleach, Survival garden seed packs, Tattler canning lids. The Sam's Club FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer, a plastic-sealed brick of .22s, vacuum packed noodles, salt, canned olive oil, A 5 gallon bucket of dry ice evacuated Turkey wheat. An ear of open pollinated corn. A Corona hand crank grain mill, a field surgical kit, sutures, a gallon jug of Povidone Iodine Solution from the feed store, a jar of homemade Sugar-dine. KIO3 Iodine pills, Vitamin C. and Neosporin. A Dakota Alert motion sensor, base station and hand held radio. CB base station, hand held FRS/GMRS walkie talkies, Shortwave, and micro Ham radios, Harbor Freight Solar Panels and your new best friends, the rechargeable AA battery, solar recharger and LED head band light. You get the picture.

I went right on down the line, broke down the Why, Where and How and moved on to the next. You could hear the gears turning and see the tumblers falling in place. These are as good a people as you will find anywhere and have never forgotten or left their roots far behind. We had good mix of farmer's, veteran's, volunteer firemen, our local Banker, a retired Army full bird Colonel, and some home school Mommies. All of them some where along the road and awake enough to show up at this odd, community meeting. Although they were specifically invited, sadly missing were our town’s mayor, any local law enforcement or our "on the payroll" County Emergency Management Officer. Our local Sheriffs are really spread too thin to be effective and most government apparatchiks operate under a deep fog of "Normalcy Bias". There were many more questions and lingering conversations. I collected 56 email address’s and promised more information to come. We had to turn out the lights to run them out of there. In a couple day's I put out an email thank you, a page full of pertinent web links and notice of the next meeting. 26 folks showed up noon on a Saturday to plot the next steps. We agreed to and have set another open invite, steering meeting and a general community meeting in 30 day's on "Communications" presented by a couple of retired military Comm guy's to lay out the start of our CB radio network. Requested high on the agenda will be an Extension Service presentation on canning and food preservation. We created a private Yahoo group for a local “party line” and threw it out there. It's just starting to come to life with posts for excess garden produce, needed equipment, etc. This is the starting point I hoped it could be. I'm starting to feel a bit better. 

There are large sections of this country we will sadly have to watch go down in flames (Lord, Have Mercy). Not everybody can run to the hills but you don’t have to face it alone or go down without a fight. When we were planning this, a fellow traveler warned me not to pop my head up and draw attention to myself. 

“Get thee behind me, Satan”. Apparently, “They” already know everything about everybody and in the crunch, your neighbors will quickly figure out who you are and what you’ve got that they don’t. My Pop was in the Navy in World War II, he boxed competitively and taught his boy’s, no matter what the odd’s are, you’ll never be more than a punching bag unless you’re willing drop your guard and throw a well placed, timely punch. Its time we throw a punch and reach out to our neighbors. You may be surprised by the response. People stop me at the post office and thank me for getting things rolling. If you ever get in a room full of guitars, pluck a G string. All of the G strings in the room will vibrate. That's called a sympathetic vibration. You are not alone in your intuition and sense of impending doom. I am convinced there are millions of us located at some point along this road back to sanity. A timely nudge will be all it takes to get many folks off dead center, some encouragement and affirmation provides needed momentum for everyone.

So, I’m asking you: do you really want to be alone in your skinny little trench when the poop hits the prop?  The “Powers and Principalities” we face would really just as soon have us all frightened and fragmented, and, in fact rely on it. I would have you consider that the next logical step in your survival preparations is to reach out to those with ears to hear. There's strength in numbers and like the Old Man warned us long time ago, "Boy's, if we don't hang together, they'll hang us separately".

Now is the time to fix your eyes on Jesus, throw your leg over the side of the boat and put one foot in front of the other.
Pray for Mercy, Pray for Grace, and don’t hide your light under a basket. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The never-ending threat of the TEOTWAWKI looms in the depth of all of our minds.  My work experience lays primarily in public safety, government peroration to emergency response, tactical team assaults, gang mentality and survival, logistics and law enforcement radio communication.  My personal experience is very broad beginning with my first job at age 15, working continuously through college, being married for the past 16 years to my “high school sweetheart” and raising three young children.  I have been validated in court as an expert in several fields regarding gangs, firearms and narcotics.  I would like to share with you my thoughts and expertise relating to successfully bugging out of an urban area.

My family and I happen to live in the California Bay Area and like many of the readers, live in a heavily-populated urban area.  Don’t be fooled though, many of us urbanites are just like our rural area pepper counterparts; we just haven’t made the jump to move to the desirable off grid lifestyle, full time.  That being said, most urban based preppers are vested in the communities we live in, go to Church/Temple, donate time and resources to local charities, and are involved in our children’s school(s) as well as many extracurricular activities.  Most of us have bug out plans and a small network of family and friends to help us achieve the goal of getting our families out safely.  However, the looming challenge is knowing the right time to leave, weather to leave together or in groups, what mode of transportation will be available (vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, small aircraft, boat), what we can bring based on how we can travel, safe routs of travel (neighborhoods, highways, bridges, chokepoints, time of day, waterways, air travel) and realistic time needed for travel to your safe location.

Deciphering the right time to leave the city or urban areas is something that you have to research in advance.  It’s not something one can effectively do after the mass evacuation crisis has started.  I recommend paying attention to the raw materials trade markets, indicators of local government preparations, public schools and local airports.  While these are not traditional sources of impending danger information what each one of them show are immediate shifts in normal behavior, change in the flow of resources and change in human behavior.

The raw materials markets show the flow of milled lumber mostly white fir to China, metals, mostly recycled metals overseas especially at a reduced rate, recycled oil products to Southern America and lastly vehicle buyback programs such as Cash for Clunkers, Kars for Kids and  These programs receive significant government funding to get abandoned vehicles, boats, RVs and trailers off the streets of America.  When we see the price of white fir lumber drop, the price per shipping container of metal or aluminum drop, the price to recycle your used oil increase or having to pay to “donate” your vehicle a shift in normalcy is on the horizon.  While these indicators may not be immediate indicators you should maintain a watchful eye on one or all of them to make a predicative analysis of the fall of the USD.

Indicators of local government preparations include an increase of public disaster drills (outside the norm), more specialized emergency management equipment being stored extensively at and around public safety buildings rather than at city or county corporation yards and police and fire personal response times increasing to a higher than normal routine.  When you notice changes in staged emergency management equipment and supplies at the public safety building in your community you should anticipate a large event taking place.  If it’s a preplanned event such as a fair, a celebration or a parade generally there is no cause for alarm.  But if the changes you notice appear unplanned or in such duration that goes beyond normal parameters you should pay attention.  Again these signs alone may not be indicators you should bug out, but the totality of your research and observations will be the deciding factor.

Changes in behavior at the public schools relating to free lunch programs, after school program accessibility and an increase in teacher absences are signs that the transportation logistics are failing and the priorities of the school administrators are changing.  The focus will shift from keeping children at the school to surviving with what funds and resources the schools left. 

Changes of behavior at the airports will show similar concerns.  When air fuel costs go up, plane tickets go up.  When airport TSA restrictions go up, freedom and liberty go down based directly on actions of the TSA Director.  This should raise eyebrows and should be evaluated along with the other change of behavior signs in your communities.

When you decide to leave you will need to already have a preplanned route as well as a secondary route for redundancy.  Your primary route will generally be the shortest you can take by way of a vehicle on a paved road.  If you have access to a small aircraft you will likely be traveling by vehicle with your supplies to the airport.  The same goes for waterway travel.  You will generally need a vehicle to get to a harbor or a boat launch with your gear to leave the heavily populated urban areas.  The most significant dilemma for most urban area preppers is not leaving too early where you may face being fired for not reporting to work if things don’t go bad and not waiting too long where all the highways are packed bumper to bumper where you can’t get out.  The last thing any of us want to do is lose our job if we leave without notice and are released from our employer in a non-emergency scenario.

A solution may be to leave in groups at staggered start times.  Those who have a low risk of a significant impact for leaving early are those like home makers who would face no more than a child’s school absence, telecommuters who don’t have to report to an office, business owners who decide not to open their business for a day or two, retirees who don’t have commitments in their communities and obviously those who are on their regular days off from work.  Those who can leave early with little or no recourse should leave as soon as the indicators outlined above begin to show.  Those who have jobs where leaving would cause employer concern such as construction, infrastructure jobs, public safety, government offices or other employers who require prior notification for unplanned absences, will face a tough decision.  At some point you will have to make the call to leave knowing your unexcused absence will have a substantial affect on your future employment.  Sometimes it’s a gamble and sometimes it’s an educated decision on your part.  Those who have fled suspecting troubled times in the past have suffered the loss of a job or disciplinary action because of their unexcused absence.  They know all too well what can happen for their decision to leave.  All I can suggest is you study the signs and make the best decision for you and your loved ones.

Determining you mode of travel is simple, if you have the discretionary free time and if you leave early enough.  Unfortunately that is not the reality for most of the working class in the urban environment.  You need to plan for moderate to heavy vehicular traffic.  Pack extra provisions, fuel and comfort items you and loved ones need to make the extended trip palatable.  Secondly plan for extra security measures.  Having quick and easy access to a firearm is you first defense when faced with marauders so it’s essential that you have one close to you when traveling during these troubling times.  If you flee in a vehicle is would be easy to inconspicuously and legally carry firearms with you even in the most restrictive states like California and New York.  All states allow legal vehicle transportation of firearms.  Some states are more restrictive than others and require the firearm be in a locked case and with the ammunition stored away from the firearm in the vehicle, but most do not specifically define what a locked case is and don’t require the ammunition be locked or unloaded from a magazine.  That being said I have seen some very creative case locks which include “rope”, zip ties, bailing wire and twist ties.  While under normal circumstances I would recommend sticking with a traditional key or combination lock, I think in a bug out situation law enforcement officials will be less worried about the manner in which you chose to transport your firearm and more concerned with problems of keeping the peace.

Be wary of hasty road blocks and haphazard detours.  Most traditional law enforcement road blocks need to have proper signage and notification and will “look official.”  Your best option to avoid checkpoints all together.  When driving keep your must keep your eyes on the horizon and always be looking ahead.  Travel efficiently but not too fast where you may come upon a roadblock too fast and can’t get out of the queue line before your trapped and committed.  At the onset your most efficient way of travel will be on the Highways and Freeways.  During the later stages of the exodus you will have to divert to your secondary travel route and stick to back country roads.  Lastly as a general rule never park your vehicle(s) with less than half a tank of fuel.  To do otherwise is lazy and foolish.  I shouldn’t have to say anything more on that topic.

If another mode of travel is your plan such as a boat, small aircraft or motorcycle/quad then the options open up for you.  Small winged air travel being the safest you will not need to be as concerned with the roadways.  You will however need to be concerned about flight restrictions and filing of flight plans.  If you are traveling by boat you are sure to run into some resistance and chaos at the docks with others fleeing the later you leave.  You should expect to run into frantic citizens loading copious amounts of supplies onto their boats at the same time.  The boat docks at most marinas are not designed for mass exodus and lots of people piling provisions along the docks at the same time will cause confusion and delay.  For those scenarios, it’s imperative you store as much gear on your bug out boat prior to the event to avoid delays and confrontations on the ramps and docks.  Stay light and quick and you can weave yourself and family through the rushes at the docks very efficiently. 

If the motorcycle or quad is your planed way of travel be prepared to carry extra fuel along with all your other gear which will be seen by all.  While we would like to conceal our gear and fuel it’s nearly impossible on a motorcycle or quad.  I would suggest painting your jerry cans to at least appear like traditional saddle bags so at first glance it doesn’t look like a gas can.  Also I would recommend a siphon.  There small light and can make the world of difference between only making it part of the way and walking versus riding all the way to your destination.

Travel routes and times are critical.  Plan primary, secondary and alternate routes out.  Have a road map or atlas with you so you can recalculate your route if needed.  GPS is a great tool until Murphy’s Law kicks in and it doesn’t work for any number of reasons (government satellite shut down, EMP, CME, system over use overload, etc…).  Areas of concern are heavily populated areas, low income housing blocks, chokepoints, bridges, tunnels, and highway to highway intersections.  Determining routs around these potential ambush points is your key to your safe travel.  Leaving early enough to avoid these problem areas is ideal but may not be possible.  If you run into a choke point sometimes it’s best to pull over to a safe location and observe for a half hour or so.  Learn from others mistakes and adjust your route accordingly.  Stay alert and watch your surroundings.

Most likely the best time to leave is late at night.  Just as the early bird gets the worm, the early traveler gets less traffic.  Leave after midnight but before 5:00 am.  You should give yourself enough time to be out of the populated areas in into the country before 5:00 am so plan for delays and rest stops if needed.  While headlights can be seen for up to a mile away and ambushes can be organized on you approach, it’s still safer and more efficient to travel at night.  Night vision capabilities are premium when driving at night but most of us can’t afford such an expense.  Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst and always have contingency plans.  The government does for just about everything having to do with emergency response, so why shouldn’t you?

The last two options are the least desirable.  Bicycling or walking are obviously slow and open you up to all sorts of potential problems.  While you will benefit from moving quietly while creating a small silhouette of yourself, you will have no cover or concealment.  Additionally traveling by bicycle or by foot will extend your travel time immensely so plan for it.  Coordinate it ahead of time with your group so members know to expect you in weeks rather than days or hours.

Realistic travel times need to be planned for.  If your bug out location is a five hour drive during normal conditions, then plan for twice that during times of crisis.  Inevitably you will be faced with delays, detours, unplanned refueling stops when the opportunity arises and necessary renaissance stops.  Plan for stopping to top off your fuel tanks at every reasonable opportunity you have.  Fuel prices could be rising every few hours and credit cards systems could be corrupted or shut down without warning.  I would suggest using a charge card as much as you can while the systems are still active.  Save your cash until the credit systems stop working then transition to your cash.  If/when you reach your bug out location and the credit card systems are still functional, unload your gear and family and go back out to the closest fill station and top everything off.  Fuel will be worth it’s weigh in gold when the refineries shut down and/or the fuel trucks stop rolling.  If nothing more, fuel will be a good bartering item for the new America.

In conclusion, be prepared, make the sacrifices now so you can live comfortably in the future.  Having preparations stored provides most with a sense of accomplishment and security in your future.  As Americans we mustn’t forget the duty of charity and helping others out.  That being said, take care of yourself, your loved ones and your group.  After then, and only then as J. W. Rawles says, “Give until it hurts.”  With that, be safe, plan ahead and God Bless.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Despite years of reading valid arguments for moving to the American Redoubt or other remote area, of the hundreds of preppers I've met I can count on one hand those who made the move and most of those were retired.  I meet relatively few preppers living at a secluded retreat, a few with secondary retreats, many planning to bug out to property they do not own (hopefully by agreement), and the majority still living in and around cities with no alternative plan to shelter in place.  Only one of those four types I just described is unlikely to be on the road at some time after a trigger event. According to NOAA, 39% of Americans live in counties directly on the shoreline.  It is for those who are not already where they intend to weather the long emergency that is to come that I share my experience.    

I am blessed to live in what has been described by many publications as one of the best small cities in the U.S.  Not only are we hours from cities with populations over 30,000, but our infrastructure is designed to withstand the occasional two-week power outage which happens every few years.  When our local grid goes down water still flows from large tanks perched high on the surrounding peaks.  We are close enough to the natural gas wells that even the elderly do not remember a time when gas stopped flowing to our homes.  We are surrounded by rivers and lakes with standing dead timber and wild game so prolific they are both considered nuisances.  While this is great for localized disasters it is still too population dense for comfort during a long-term world-changing event at 274 people per square mile, I purchased acreage in a secluded and gated community about an hour away via the highway, a couple hours via secondary roads, and a few days walk via mostly rail trail with caches buried along the route.  Deep in a holler on a dead end gated road off a dead end paved road off a township road I built a wood-heated, solar-powered cabin with hot and cold running water which my neighbor looks after in my absence.  Outbuildings and other infrastructure scatter the hillside.

Just when I thought I had everything squared away, my wife came home excited about an opportunity for professional advancement.  This new position would be closer to her parents which had become important because we recently had our first child.  My concern was the location.  It was in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia which sits on a Peninsula between Naval Station Norfolk (the world's largest naval base) and Surry Nuclear Power Plant.  Traffic on I-68 is a bear in both directions on an average day and horrendous around the holidays.  Remote controlled gates shut down Eastbound on ramps so all lanes serve westbound traffic in the event of a hurricane or other evacuation.  State studies show that it would take 36 hours to evacuate South Hampton Roads in the event of a hurricane and that is less than half the 1.7 Million residents of the metropolitan area.  Rob Case, principal transportation engineer for the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization stated "that means you'd be sitting in your car for up to 30 hours, then you'd probably run out of gas.”  If we didn't leave early we would have to bug in until the crowds thinned.  This close to such an attractive military target that meant nothing less than a hardened bomb shelter would suffice.

Fortunately my wife did not get the job so it cost me nothing to be a supportive husband to someone who, although she is not at all interested in preparedness, is supportive of my spending tens of thousands of dollars and much of my spare time pursuing it.  Although I did not have to implement the plan, the thought process I went through in developing a way to get back to my mountain retreat from such a desperate locale helped me to improve my existing plan for the much shorter distance from this small city.  I share it here in hopes that those who cannot relocate pre-incident will find it helpful in making an assessment and developing an evacuation plan.

SWOT Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
This term I learned pursuing my MBA in the nineties is an appropriate way to consider the strengths and weaknesses of both the location and the person in that location.

S = Strengths:  As it is on a peninsula, the only good thing I could find about Hampton Roads is that it borders the James River on one side.  There are probably more, but since I never had to actually move there I did not discover them.  In the interests of humility I will limit the explanation of my personal strengths to those relevant to that fact.  Part of my job when I worked for the Boy Scouts of America was to pilot a boat ferrying scouts from typical camps to my high adventure outpost.

Weaknesses:  Hampton Roads is an overcrowded peninsula and even during “normal” times traffic is often at a standstill on I-64 in various spots between Hampton and Richmond.  As I explained earlier, even if all lanes are going NorthWest experts believe it could take days to cover that 75 mile stretch.  My relevant personal weakness is that I absolutely hate traffic!  I somehow managed a commute of six lanes each way when I was a graduate student in Atlanta, Georgia.  As I've grown older, however, I'm on edge the entire time I'm in traffic.

Opportunities: I could buy a boat which is not only enjoyable during good times.  Since as you say, two is one and one is none I would get both a cruiser and a dingy.  Although much farther away moving close to my wife's family would provide the opportunity for more time at the retreat since I'm the primary care giver of our toddler.

Threats:  Greater cultural diversity in the Hampton area has resulted unprovoked attacks.  A newspaper reporter was recently dragged from his car and beaten by a mob merely because of the color of his skin.  This friction could escalate following a trigger event because people need someone to blame and these differences are the most apparent.

Since this essay is about getting out of the city I will dispense with all the preparations I would need to make based upon identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats because these are going to change substantially.  I will instead focus on the subject of this essay which is escaping from a crowded city to a preplanned safer location.  Here in Appalachia I buried my first cache with essentials similar to a bug out bag within a day's walk in case we have to leave with only the clothes on our back. In this hypothetical example, however, we will leave from home fully provisioned and experience several setbacks so as to explore the greatest number of possibilities:

I'm home with our daughter when normal programming is interrupted news of a trigger event.  I immediately text COME HOME NOW SHTF to my wife at the nearby university.  She heads for home before most people realize the intensity of the situation while I slide out Coleman Scanoe onto its rack on the roof of our Jeep Liberty.  After filling the back with our bug out bags, the electric trolling motor in its EMP resistant metal box, and the portion of my armory I keep at the house, I slide the motorcycle rack into the hitch receiver and roll my Suzuki DR350 into place.  My wife makes it home in time to change change clothes and grab something for us to eat on the road before we head out the door.

Traffic in our residential neighborhood is not much different than during Trick-or-Treat, but once we get onto the main streets traffic is heavy and the radio reports it is already getting messy on the Interstate.  We decide to take the two-lane secondary road which we are familiar with from trying to avoid stop-and-go traffic while visiting the in laws.  I creeps along for a while until it stops completely.  We hear on the CB that there has been an accident up ahead, but unlike before we do not hear the sounds of sirens converging on their location.  They must be tied up elsewhere meaning the sea of vehicles isn't going anywhere.  People are still civil, but we do not want to be trapped her when darkness falls.  Doing the math, we decide we have to leave the Jeep behind.  We consider rolling the DR350 off it rack behind the Jeep and winding our way through the traffic, but we are still far down the peninsula and although I've seen families of five weaving through traffic on similar motorbikes in third-world countries, they weren't trying to carry as much stuff as we do.  Fortunately, the great majority of the traffic is trying to leave and while there are people waiting at intersections to enter this mess, no one is driving away from it on the streets perpendicular to the golden horde.  There are several cars in the other lane prevent me from turning toward the James River so I make a deal with the neckless behemoth in the truck next to me to give him the motorcycle if he can clear a path.  Under normal circumstances that would be a foolish trade, but I can't take it with me.  Within a few minutes we are at the James River and shortly thereafter the Scanoe is in the water with the trolling motor attach and the hull filled with the supplies from the Jeep.

It's decision time again.  Do we head twenty miles down river in hopes our cruiser does not pass us coming up river along the way?  I know if I had no other options I would have stolen one myself.  Maybe I should have headed there to begin with, but hindsight is 20/20.  Since we want to get as far away as possible before dark and the nuclear power plant on the other side of the river is still stable, we opt to head upriver in the Scanoe to the first asset I pre-positioned in a more rural area on the other side of the river.  We arrive just after sunset at the place I pay a monthly fee to store my farm truck.  I could get by with driving a 1989 Ford F250 Diesel with rust holes and no exhaust muffler in the back woods of West Virginia, but when we moved to the big city I had to leave it behind.  Instead of leaving it at the retreat I opted to strategically place it within walking distance and on the other side of the James River.  One weekend a month on my way back and forth to my retreat I stop and maintain this and my other caches which I will describe later.

It doesn't take long to get the truck loaded and on the way because I did not have to use the alternate starting procedure necessary in the event an EMP disables the ignition and glow plugs.  Traffic is still heavy on this two-lane rural highway, but with very few people trying to enter the flow from side roads it moves along at a good pace, but it still takes three hours to get to our next asset, a small self-storage unit near the small town of Farmville, Virginia population 8,200.  We arrive physically exhausted so instead of the two of us taking shifts sleeping we back the truck up as close to the roll-up door of the unit as possible, lock the doors, and set the portable motion alarms stored in the unit before locking the outside hasp open with the padlock, rolling down the door, and securing it with a chain.  I would prefer a guard, but I'll sleep in the bottom bunk with my battle rifle on my chest while my family rests up top because we want to get on the road before day break.

At 5:00 AM the battery powered alarm clock I've had since I lived in a tent for a living screams me awake.  While my wife tends to the toddler and prepares a simple breakfast, I replenish our water supply from the 50 gallon food-grade plastic barrel and load the canned food (rotated monthly due to high heat) into the back of the Jeep.  I empty the remaining contents of this 5' x 10' self-storage unit onto a large tarp which I wrap up like a burrito and place into the back of the truck.  I also top off my tank with stored diesel and ratchet down the gasoline cans that I moved from the unit to the back of the truck when we arrived. 

Except for some trepidation when we passed under I-64/81 in the middle of nowhere, the remaining 250 miles to our retreat is largely uneventful.  I remembered how foolish I felt driving up and down the Interstate with my GPS mapping road that go under the Interstate, but without off ramps. We stopped at our buried cache in Mon National Forest and added those items to our load.  More people seemed to be open carrying then usual, but it's legal here and we may just be extra sensitive.  It's not unusual and according to at least one survey we have the highest rate of armed households East of the Mississippi.  By keeping the truck registered in our retreat state, sticking to back roads, and crossing under Interstates where there are no exists, we were able to avoid road blocks.  We arrived back at our retreat community with twenty-four hours of leaving Hampton, before the bridge to our community was closed, and within the nine meal buffer before anarchy.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Prepping is never far from my mind. A few months ago I was talking with a friend and the subject of TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We know It) came up.
Tom (not his real name) said that he would like to prepare for upcoming emergencies but didn’t know where to start. The answer was simple; start where you are.
Obviously most people cannot start with a full larder and weapons/ammunition cache. That is of course, unless you really do have all of that, in that case…well, that’s where you are.

I asked Tom what scenarios he wanted to prepare for. “Like what?” he asked. You know… EMPs, natural disasters like the Yellowstone Super Volcano, earthquakes, social breakdowns, pandemics…what?

He said, “Yeah. Those things.”

I guess he’s a lot like me. I really don’t know when or why I’ll need my preps…I just know that sooner or later I will!

The only difference in the end will be the timeline of the disaster. It could be years with a war or catastrophic natural event, or just a few days in duration like a blizzard. I wanna’ live through it all and I want all of mine to live, too!

To help Tom get started we did an inventory of what he had: food, medical supplies, stored water, tools, gardening supplies, clothing and shoes, finances, cash on hand, firearms and ammunition, and skill sets. We also took a long and hard look at his home and property.

We then drew up a plan to go from where he was to where he wanted to be. Since he was on a limited budget we needed to get creative.

As we looked at his discretionary income we discovered that he could squeeze about $75 USD per month from his budget.

“Is there anywhere else we can find some money?” I asked.

“I don’t think so”, he replied. Wow, this could take a really long time. Time we don’t necessarily have.

Since Tom and I are really old friends he allowed me to look at his budget. Right away I saw a few places he could cut down to “find some money”.
The following is a running tally of where we were able to gather some resources:
            He, his wife, and daughter all had cell phones. Eliminate land line, savings about $40 USD per month. Total $40 USD.
            Downgrade his satellite TV to basic package. Found money- $60 USD per month. Total $100 USD.
            Shopped for auto /home insurance (I know this guy…) savings $900 USD per year, equals $75 USD per month, total $175 USD per month.
            Take coffee with him eliminating Starbucks, saving $4 USD per day times 20 days per month equals $80 USD per month, total $255 USD per month.
            Tom eats lunch at a restaurant nearly every day. He spends $8-12 USD per, average $10 USD. If he packs his lunch and works through his lunch hour he can leave early and save $200 USD per month, totaling $455 USD.
            He also usually bought a candy bar and a Coke most afternoons. If he eliminated that he would save the money plus cut several hundred calories a week from his diet. I suggested he take a piece of fruit with him.  This cost him about $2.50 USD x 20 = $50 USD / month, totaling $505 USD per month.
            Tom’s wife works about 5 miles from home and her vehicle gets about 32 mpg. Tom on the other hand commutes 80 miles per day and only gets 17 mpg with his SUV. Let’s do some math:
Tom – 80 miles per day x 5 days per week = 400 miles per week divided by 17 mpg = 23.5 gallons of gasoline.
Mrs. Tom - 10 miles round trip x 5 days per week = 50 miles per week divided by 32 mpg = 1.5 gallons of gasoline.
If they trade vehicles Tom would have 400 miles per week divided by 32 mpg = 12.5 gallons and Mrs. Tom 50 miles per week divided by 17 mpg equaling 3 gallons of gas. The savings would be 12.5 gallons (Tom) minus 3 gallons (Mrs. T) or 9.5 gallons per week multiplied by the price per gallon, which was about $3.50 USD at the time we figured this. The savings was $33.25 USD per week x 4 weeks or $133 USD per month.
This added to the $505 USD savings we already had came to$638 USD plus the $75 USD he started with, brought him to over $700 USD per month to start his preps. This totals $8,400 USD per year. Your mileage may vary.

With figures in hand we decided to start a “Prepping Budget”.  We didn’t want to spend all $700 USD on food or guns or on just any one item. We wanted to spread it around so that if TEOTWAKI hits next month he will at least have a little of everything.

Water storage is probably the least expensive item to complete, and next to air and shelter is the most vital for survival. And so it was easy to get his basic water storage completed.
While normally there are only three members in his household, he also has two grown children; a single son in college and a married daughter who has one child and expecting her second. When TSHTF they also expect to take in Mrs. Tom’s handicapped (wheelchair bound) brother. This brought their total to eight. Realistically they should build in a fudge factor of 50%, or prepare for 12 people.

With this in mind we calculated the minimum amount of water to be stored. At two gallons of water per day per person (authorities recommend one gallon per day per person<remember the Preppers Code: two is one and one is none!>) and fourteen days worth stored equals 24 gallons per day times 14 or 336 gallons.
So off to Pepsi went Tom who bought seven used plastic 55 gallon drums that had been used for soft drink syrup for $10 USD each. (total expense was $70 USD) He brought them home and rinsed them out, drained them, made a solution of 5 gallons hot water with 3 tablespoons of dish detergent and placed it in a drum. We replaced the bung (plug) and rolled the drum between us. After a few minutes we drained the drum through a funnel into the next drum. (We let it drain for several minutes to get it as empty as possible) We continued this system until all drums were washed. We did have to change the water after the fourth drum, as it was pretty skanky! The drums were left upside down overnight so that they might drain well.  The next day we repeated the process, again allowing them to drain overnight. Next about 10 gallons of warm rinse water was placed in each drum, they were rolled again and drained.
The next step was to put about 5 more gallons into each drum with a quarter cup of chlorine bleach. We rolled each drum several times over the next day, after which we emptied the drums.
We removed the drums to his basement storage area, wiped the outsides of the drums and placed them on pressure treated 1x4’s covered with ¼ inch plywood. This was to keep the drums off the concrete floor which could affect the plastic drums.
We then placed about a tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach into each drum and then filled them through a food grade water hose with tap water.
We date labeled the drums so that they could be used and refilled in a consistent manner.
Total expense for his water storage was about $102 USD plus the actual water from his tap.

Keeping in line with an across the board spending he next purchased a solar battery charger online for around $70 USD. Also in the order he spend around $20 USD on each, “C”, “D”, “9v”, “AA”, and “AAA” rechargeable batteries. Total was ~$170 USD.
The next trip was to the LDS Family Food Storage Center where Tom spent $200 USD on commodities. He placed an online order for plastic pails, Mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers. Cost – around $100 USD, subtotal $300 USD, total $572 USD.
Off to Wal-Mart where he bought a Coleman propane camping stove and a 20 pound propane tank. Total there was $120 USD. Total of all $696 USD.

And so Tom was able to get a good handle on his beginning preps with his water storage well started, as well as batteries and charger, a small stock of essential food storage items, and something to cook it on.

Month 2
After another planning session Tom made his purchases for the second month:
            Another $100 USD in rechargeable batteries.
            An AM/FM/SW/ NOAA radio - $120 USD
            A Big Berkey water filter - $320 USD
            3 Dietz kerosene lanterns, a 5 gallon safety fuel can, and 5 gallons of kerosene - $115 USD.
All of these purchases totaled $655 USD. I suggested that he put his $45 USD away for seed money.
He took me literally and bought a number 10 can of heirloom seeds from Emergency Essentials.

Month 3
This time when I met with Tom his list was already made. After a review I agreed to his plan:
            150 12 gauge 00 (double ought) Buckshot shotgun shells for $99.99 USD (Tom already has a 12 gauge shotgun)
            2 cases of MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) at $60 USD each, $120 USD total - $220 USD.
            2 large and 1 medium “Alice Packs” for total of $95 USD – total $315 USD.
            3 “experienced” USGI sleep systems @ $80 USD each, for $240 USD, total - $555 USD.
            The $145 USD balance was spent on USGI canteens, web gear, and pouches. Total spent $725 USD (Tom went a little over budget).

Month 4
As I write this Tom is purchasing this month’s preps.
As this is canning (bottling) season there are many canning supplies on sale. His goal is several dozen quart jars, extra lids and rings and a pressure canner. I also recommended that he purchase a good reference manual on preserving food.
(Sidebar: Tom did not have a garden this year but plans to purchase some produce at the local farmers’ market and can some vegetables for the experience.)
We estimate this cost at ~$200 USD, although the produce itself will come from his household budget.
Other purchases this month will include:
            4 Family channel radios (2 sets) with headsets and external mic - ~ $120 USD.
            A handheld GPS and USGS maps for each section to the family farm (BOL) ~ $250 USD.
Hiking boots for Mrs. Tom $125 USD.

Tom’s shopping list for the near future include handguns for he and his wife, along with appropriate ammunition, holsters, accessories, CCW class, and CCW. He also plans to purchase three new shotguns, a 12 gauge pump (tactical style) for him, and two 20 gauge pumps for his wife and daughter.
Of course his food storage, gardening tools, medical supplies, solar/generator, tactical clothing, BOV, MBR and ammo, and a myriad of items remain to be prioritized and purchased.

THE MAIN THING IS THAT Tom, et al, has found a way to afford the things they need. If only TIME will allow them to complete the basics they should be all right. If not… well, they’re already better off than they were!
In summary I would like to add a few observations:

  1. No matter your budget there are almost always some extras you can cut and use that “found” money for your preps. (I wish the US Government would follow this advice!)
  2. It is always better to have 30 days of a wide variety of preps, rather than a year’s supply of any one or two things. Plan accordingly.
  3. Have a plan and for the most part stick to it. An exception might be a really good sale or bargain on something you were going to purchase soon anyway.
  4. Never borrow money to buy preps. If you do use your credit card then pay that purchase off before using it for another prep purchase.
  5. Understand that you will never, never, never be ready for TEOTWAWKI. There will always be one more thing you need, one more skill to hone…

Start where you are, examine your lifestyle and yourself, enlist those who mean the most to you and trust in the Lord. All will be well.

JWR Adds: In addition to budget trimming, to generate cash I would recommend developing a small second income stream, such as home-based mailorder business. And if the inventory that you develop for that business is of items that would be good for post-disaster barter, charity, and your own family's use, then it is a "win-win." Excess frippery (such as collectibles) can also be gradually sold off via eBay. Don't make the excuse of just saying "I don't have the money to prepare." The money is there if you just get creative, as Louie suggested.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

SurvivalBlog provides a wealth of prep-related information. Many here cut and paste critical essays to store as Word documents for safekeeping and later access when crisis times call for it. I suggest going one step further. Build a structured notebook of your family's prep information, with each topic index tabbed for easy access and available for all family-tribe members to consult when the need arrives. Let this notebook become your family's SHTF collapse response manual, your SOP for surviving a collapse.

People panic and make fatal errors under crisis when they do not have enough information and do not know what to do. The most critical prep is: having a plan: knowing now what you will do when "it" happens. Prepping may be described as having a structured plan based on an adequate scope and depth of information.  Having a comprehensive plan... in writing... becomes your critical survival tool. That plan needs to be written out on old-fashioned paper and indexed by topic in a notebook that everyone on your team can access. 

If and when TSHTF it will be very helpful for you (and, especially, other family members if you happen to be away from home when TSHTF) to have ready access to that plan.  Your family will need immediate access to your written guide on just what to do to address the list of critical needs. Make this notebook your family-tribe's operations manual for when TSHTF, where members can retrieve critical information on a range of topics... what to do on day one, then how to handle the unfolding crisis on a long-term basis. We have built such a manual for our household and the larger family-tribe living on our country lane.
We are blessed to live on an old extended family farmstead divided among four sibling homesteads, with cousins and nephews also living along our remote country lane. This is a rural side road with no cross roads, one access at each end, making it easily blocked and defended. We are six miles outside a small town of 2500, forty miles from a small city of 20,000, and ninety miles inland from a coastal city of 90,000.  Our neighbors are brothers, sisters, and cousins forming our extended family tribe.
Each homestead ranges from twelve to a hundred acres of land mixed between fields, gardens, mixed forests, and multiple water sources. Each home is a self-sufficient single family household. That strength multiplies when neighboring households unite as a tribe for survival. Our tribe is united in mutual support, preps, politics, ethics, skill sets, and trust. Within the extended family tribe is a wide range of skills from homesteading to agriculture to mechanical trades to health care. Within our family tribe we have discussed plans for mutual aid and defense.
We experienced a real-life rehearsal of our SHTF responses a decade ago when a huge ice storm collapsed the electric grid statewide for more than a week in the cold dead of a dark New England winter. This event suddenly presented our tribe, community, and the entire state a great training and learning experience. We brought to bear all our grid-down preps for heat, food, power, communications, water, and cooperation within the community.  Following that event, everyone in town not already on board with preps were immediately enlightened. Those who were prepped learned their weakness. Since then, our tribe has become more organized, aware, and ready. Our motto, semi-jokingly, is "we will be the last to die."
Perhaps the most valuable prep item added to our household since then is the Notebook: our SOP manual on every aspect of surviving a collapse.  Its pages are index tabbed for chapters on water, food, heat, energy-power, health care, hygiene, home safety, sanitation, communications, defense, agriculture, foraging.  Each chapter details immediate primary actions, longer range plans, and backup contingencies. There are even blank pages to journal unfolding events, experiences, and lessons learned.

Water management, for instance, starts with a detailed list of known sources: current active wells, idle old original settlers' homestead wells, brooks, natural springs, plus instructions on how to retrieve and manage that water. Water usage and recycling protocols are described along a continuum of rationed uses from drinking to cooking to hygiene to laundry to flushing toilets. Toilet protocols present choices and emphasize caution to avoid disease.  Flush toilet rules (yellow versus brown; you know the rhyme) are a starting point, but progress to assembling and using a composting toilet or outhouse setup. 

The notebook declares that the primary use of stored gasoline is to operate portable generators, whose primary role is to power domestic water pumps to fill water storage containers.  We recently added a propane generator as an alternative resource. Redundancy is important. This will be about the only time generators will run, briefly and occasionally to fill water storage containers. If generator use becomes a problem, water can be dipped by bucket from the top of shallow wells and springs. The guide also describes proper concentrations of bleach to clean containers and protect stored water.  Redundancy includes bleach, water purification tablets, iodine purification kits, and filter kits.

Preventing infections and disease is top priority. Hygiene must be emphasized in a now-compromised world, despite a stash of a range of antibiotics. Sanitation, hand-washing, and teeth-brushing become lifesaving rules.  Who wants to die of an abscessed tooth? Who wants the task of ripping out a loved-one's molars?
Food management is a big chapter from short-range management of stored foods, to balanced rationing, to long-range agriculture planning.  Several plans are presented for food management in a grid-down world.  We may have wild game now, but that will quickly disappear once THSTF.  Hunting, trapping, fishing, and gathering will be an immediate but perhaps a shorter term task, coupled with proper preservation of bounty. Agriculture is already established but will need to be seriously expanded when the balloon goes up, to take over long-term where food stores leave off short term.
Situation awareness and information become immediately critical.  If we awaken to no power grid, we must determine if it is a local, statewide, or nationwide event. We will turn to several avenues of communications, since no grid means no phone, Internet, or television.  A quick check of the news on the car's satellite radio may, hopefully, tell us if TS really did HTF. If that source is not working, we may assume something large has occurred.  We then turn to shortwave and HAM radios powered by 12V solar backup power to obtain critical news to determine appropriate response. 

If it looks like a hardcore nationwide grid collapse such as a Carrington flare event or enemy-led total grid takedown, the first order of food preps is to rescue what is in the chest freezer. We keep this packed with extra ice to sustain frozen food for at least 2-3 days during our frequent weather-related power outages. This can be supplemented with an hour per day of generator use, if needed. But if it is confirmed to be long term grid down scenario, meats will be thawed, ground, and cooked-dried into hamburger rocks on day one.  This will add lots of protein to canned or dried foods already in place. 

If communications reveal a long term grid collapse, longer range agriculture plans must be implemented.  Diesel fuel stores will be dedicated primarily to homestead tractors for garden needs and firewood gathering.  Existing gardens may need extensive expansion: digging, plowing, soil enhancement.  Family tribe cooperation will be critical to expand and disperse multiple gardens to assure surviving crop failures, pests, deer invasion (venison!), and even theft defense.  Cooperation will aid in planting, tending, harvesting, storage, nutritional balance, protection, and mutual aid.  Sharing skills, equipment, and workload will be important.
Gasoline was to be dedicated solely to generator use, until we added the propane generator to our preps. This allows us to shift gasoline use to chainsaws to cut up as much firewood as possible to add to existing stores for long term heat in our frigid New England winters. Safety in this work becomes critical to prevent injuries that cannot be treated as effectively as in the "normal" world. The manual reminds family members work safety rules that cannot be compromised.
Health care needs are supported by existing skill sets within the family tribe: EMTs, nurses, physical therapist, and experienced grandmothers. This is supported by stored medical supplies.  Bandages, surgical kits, a range of medications, splints, crutches, braces, TENS units, reference manuals, and medical knowledge all become survival essentials. The notebook lists the stored antibiotics, dosages, what ones for what types of problems, and their precautions. A wide range of leftover, renewed, or otherwise acquired meds becomes a treasure. 
Power, lighting, and heating instructions list a range of choices in each area of concern. Various cooking fuels are available from wood to propane to kerosene to others fuels using a variety of equipment. Again, redundancy rules. Wood is most available long-term, with perishable fossil fuels carefully dedicated to powering chainsaws, tractors, generators, and rototillers. 

Lighting has a similar range of options from 12 volt LEDs to lanterns to candles. Several solar panels with charge controllers and multiple deep cycle batteries will power LED's and recharge batteries for flashlights, lanterns, and walkie-talkies. They also power Ham radios and scanner.  Our manual provides extensive how-to instructions to manage solar panel setups and properly operate their intended devices. All family members need to know how to handle these tools.
Area defense is discussed in the manual. Few in the family tribe have military training, but there is enough to offer basic skills. All have extensive skills in various shooting sports and possess equipment typical of a well-prepped rural lifestyle.  All the adults are trained, experienced, and well-armed at a civilian level.  Tribe members from pre-teens on up will need to be brought up to speed on all weapons available to the group.  The more experienced members will update the less experienced ones with .22 weapons to ease them into heavier firearms. Weapons, ammo, reloading, maintenance, and redundancy are adequate within the tribe.

Decisions will be made on defense based on information gathered from communications on what is going on locally, statewide, and nationally regarding security and rule of law.  The road we all live on is easily defended and access controlled, but structured plans for defense may need to be dedicated if TS has severely HTF. The extended family tribe has enough members to rotate and equip lookouts. The manual contains essays gathered on these topics as they pertain to our AO, for consideration by tribe members.
The final section provides a detailed list of prep stores including foods, medical supplies, energy sources, heat sources, hygiene supplies, weapons and ammo, winter clothing, repair and construction materials, radios, batteries, disposable eating utensils, water preps, camping supplies, soaps, seeds, toilet supplies, paper products, canning and food prep supplies, tools, playing cards and games, kids' treats and diversions, record-keeping materials, maps, reference manuals, good books, copy of US Constitution and Bill of Rights, Bible, as well as trade-barter items.
This is all written out in the notebook to provide information in a readily accessible and organized manner.  Frightened family tribe members can regain comfort, coordination, and direction from consulting the manual.  We supplement this with a small library of additional references such as the Boy Scout Manual, Back-To-Basics, and a variety of other manuals taken from the internet to strengthen the tribe's survival SOP.
The act of writing this manual becomes a prep tactic as family members collaborate, discuss, and decide how things should be done as the manual is built. Everyone in the tribe should be aware of what is in the manual as it is written, reviewed, and updated over time. The manual is an education tool before a collapse and a survival manual after it happens. It is easy to share when new tribe members are brought into the fold.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My sister and I both retired due to disabilities are working as we can trying to prepare for the family. Often, we say did we really do that, like talking to a stranger in our local Wal-Mart and saying we would like some green beans and he happened to have about a bushel in his truck he had not sold so, we got them and yielded 14 quarts of beans we needed. Ask and ye shall receive hit us in the face so hard, Thanks be to God! We are on an extremely small budget but we continue to buy sale items. Then, we do a stupid things and go where it tells you how much you need for x people and kids. It is so disheartening. The adult kids know we are preparing but they do not have the time or seem too understand what can happen even with us talking to them. We pray they come to their senses and help.

Where do you store 500 lbs of flour, and rice, or 200 lbs of oatmeal and 300 lbs of assorted pastas? And do not leave out the 500 lbs of beans of all kinds! It is on the floor, table, corners, under the bed, under anything and everything and stacked to the ceiling here and there. But now where do we live? Then, there are the candles, and wicking, and of course Toilet Paper. I do not want to use corn cobs which I have, or other alternatives! Store toilet paper.

One work in progress is our assortment of "Gimme Bags." They are bags to hand out to people who ask "please gimme something to eat" or to tuck into your backpack! They are snack bags and zip lock bags of a pack of coffee, tea bag, kool aid, hot cocoa mix, and sugar in a bag. Then, in another bag, add protein bar, cup of soup, Raman noodles, pack of tuna or whatever you devise. In another add some dried beans with salt and pepper packets. Make a snack bag with band aids, Q-tips, other first aid items. You can add on and on. Another thing we are adding to some is like a Weight Watchers Protein Drink, 10 gram. Dollar Stores are great, but watch for sales. Packets of salt, pepper, and a bullion cube or two helps too.

Be creative and make a list of possibilities on an index card, pull that card, make up a few, then another card with different things and make a few. Mark the number made. EASY to pull out things already together than trying to go through your stuff if one shows up. Children can design a paper bag with artwork for you to hand to the “visitors“. Always keep your children away from the doors, out of sight, if someone shows up. Have your good ole handy defense weapon on you, not "nearby"! But, in order to be God’s children, help others as you can, but do not forget they want your stuff! I am sure you have things in place to determine when to open the door and not to! Be careful.

Make out menus, extend them to include your family members coming. Oops, I need 2 lbs of beans, instead of a cup, and see how it stacks up to your storage. Do not let it get the best of you. You are starting to get all things together, keep it up. Do not panic, just pull up your big girl drawers and suck it in and go on! Check calories, protein, etc! Have something for the kids too, pudding, or a cookie. We are saying a prayer, “GOD give us a chance to find beans cheap and some dried milk! Seriously, think of the amount a family needs! Rice doubles but even though millions of people eat it, we are used to a different diet and the beans with rice would make each go farther but can get very tiring!
Know how to make noodles, spaghetti, and breads! That includes lots of flour, solid shortening, and yeast! Get your recipes together for all kinds of breads! Corn bread on a fried grill is quick and good but again you will need variety! You must practice making things!

One thing that lays ahead for my sister and me is killing the rabbits with a broomstick and canning them. Yuck! I know we have to but do not look forward to it! YouTube has things on there that are amazing on how to dress rabbits or squirrels to making breads or cheese! Please get your act together and get organized! This is one thing I am doing too!
check for those dratted mice! I thought the mylar bags would deter them but to no avail. I lost some vital dried vegetables, and some other goodies. They do not seem to like cinnamon, so I sprinkle some around, get the cheap kind. Only mylar bag not eaten had some in it! Go figure! Make sure you have traps, etc for those unwanted detestable things. Be careful with handling them due to the disease they can carry!

One note of dehydrating things. One ounce of dried equals about a pound of raw vegetables, so when you see the cans on sale use this like a guide to determine if you can do it for less! IF we get the stuff given to us, it will be cheaper but to buy 10 lbs of green peppers and then uses the electric, etc compared to $14 a #10 can, you determine what best fits into your needs. Check into dried vegetables in minestrone soup or vegetable soup at your local discount stores! Usually, the package is about $1 and it is over an ounce of dried ingredients, so I think it is cheaper to buy!

Remember to get the necessities, like Gorilla Glue, metal tapes, and duct tape and Toilet Paper. Make sure all your tools are in good shape with good handles and clean them up. Get a few yards of extra screening, or muslin for cheese making and tuck it away in that pile, but label it well. You know what specifics you need in your neck of the woods. Of course, you need all the staples and some other necessities like chocolate and coffee! Check on this blog for list and lists. Not many can have everything they think they need but start marking off what you do have. It makes you feel like you have done something! Those hash marks behind the cans of coffee make you feel like I know I can have coffee! Also, try to find natural alternatives! If we can no longer get coffee or chocolate, the world would not end, but sure would make it easier to tolerate tough times with it!

One trick my sister thought was when storing canned jars, take off the rings, place clear plastic on the top of the jars and lids, and put a rubber band around it to keep the moisture out, and it works! She is so smart!

It is almost to the panic zone! Okay, we have the stuff to do an appendectomy but who knows how! Get someone in your group or two or three that have some medical training. Or who knows how to deliver a child? We see on television, it just comes out but really! Run off lots of" how to" situations and add in another binder. Pictures here are helpful. Let’s go from Point A to… Can you sew a cut or cleanse a wound, or bind a broken bone, find out how.

We are solicitors too, but it is legal. We ask people for apples when we see the trees are full, and not being picked, and have made lots of apple butter, apples, etc. We ask people if they do not want the produce may we buy it, usually, they give it to us and we can and can. ASK and ye shall receive, at least doing it in the right way, under the Lord’s guidance, we have been blessed.

My sis and I plug away, we read this blog daily and run it off too. Thank goodness people give me paper.
We will take most anything one gives us and find a way to make it work into our plan. If we do not can it, we bind it, or box it or seal it or sew it!

Please prepare for the children too. Get the crayons, cards, board games, glitter, glue, dice, books (i.e. school), rulers, pencils, (do not how to make pencils) etc. IT will be hard on them living a life so differently than they have for10 years or so. Get some cheap presents to have on their birthdays and for Christmas and tuck them away. A frilly top can work wonders on the girls and a neat shirt for the boys. Cheap! Right now summer sales are on. Get ones in several sizes.

SHOES-Where will I find a size 13 or 3! I can not make them, so how do I have room for all this or the money to get it! I have Please get boots in various sizes for your crew! Please tell the adults to bring boots! Good sturdy, hiking boots or work boots! Even community boots wear out, and you need several pair of working boots, and rain boots, and and and….

Okay, it hit’s the fan and the crew is coming! Have them bring clothes, bedding, and bring all the food they can fit in the car. Make sure they bring food for the animals too! Tell the family to make sure others in the family can pick up the kids from school. Keep trying to talk to those loved ones who do not believe it will happen. Also please talk to them about the value of having extra meds they need on hand! They do not have time to stop and get whatever at the store as it will be gone and your car will be stripped if you try and stop! Listen, have ears, and look, thorough eyes that GOD has given you! Have a plan, a meeting place and pray all will make it.

Being informed will help you in making wise choices. Know how to use that grinder, water purifier, and baking bread from freshly ground flour. IF you wait till something happens that is more burden on you and more stress. Practice some simple things with few ingredients that are great tasting and give you the proper nutrients. That is a job but one you must do, in all your spare time! Many cookbooks with four or five ingredients are great! This article could be 20 pages long and still not share all I feel is needed but certainly hope this may help at least one person.

Remember the Lord, go to HIM in prayer, and hold on to your faith, and beliefs. - The Peas in a Pod Sisters in a Pear Tree (And yes, we do have a pear tree).

Saturday, September 7, 2013

(Editor's Introductory Note: The following article is presented as an intellectual exercise, or gedanken. Be forewarned that there are mentions of torture (mental and physical) herein which are of course not conscionable behavior! But this mention is only for the sake of showing the full range of potential interrogation techniques, and as a warning that in the future -- under different circumstances -- you might have to be prepared to resist interrogation. "Forewarned is fore-armed." Again, none of the following is intended to encourage any SurvivalBlog readers to do anything immoral, or illegal, or unethical. It is in your own best interest to learn about interrogation techniques, even if you never intend to use them yourself. If nothing else, this knowledge could prove useful to recognize when subtle interrogation and propaganda techniques are being used against you. - J.W.R.)

(Author's Introductory Note: This is not a manual for interrogation, but rather an attempt to convince the preparedness community of the importance of seeking out references on this topic. The methods and mindsets associated with interrogation are too large to catalogue in even one book, let alone an article.)

"All Warfare is based on deception." - Sun Tzu

In the best case TEOTWAWKI scenarios, such as earthquakes or hurricanes, our survival training and preparedness will enable us to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe until order is restored, and we can get back to our lives. In the absolute worst case scenarios, such as economic collapse, terrible plagues that wipe out large parts of the population, or nuclear apocalypse, the American Prepper may be facing complete anarchy for an extended period of time.  In these scenarios it is highly unlikely that the supplies that have been set aside will last for more than a few months, and I’m sure that your planning on raiding your local Wal-Mart or other superstore, but remember, so is everyone else.  In this new Darwinian world money will have zero value, and there will be two ways in which a lone survivor or a family unit will be able to obtain more supplies. You can barter, or you can take, and in order to take, you must know where the goods are. Now I consider myself a moral man, so the idea of stealing repulses me, especially if that stealing will cost other persons their lives due to starvation or inability to defend themselves. But here is the simple truth, not a whole lot of other survivors will feel that way. In the initial months following the “event” there will be a quick culling of the herd. Those unprepared for the scenario will starve, and those willing to prey on others (I.E. criminals, immoral persons, or simply desperate regular people who quickly adapt an extremist mindset) will stockpile what they can take, while killing those who stand in their way. Of course Preppers will be holed up in bug-out locations, waiting for all this to blow over. But what comes after? Afterwards we will be forced to look outside for more supplies, whether by farming or by scavenging for that which cannot be grown. And here is the basic fundamental fact, others will want what you have, and you will want what others have. In talking about these scenarios often basic principles are overlooked. Most importantly that is will be highly unlikely that anything of value will be left at the super-stores. Persons will hide the supplies away. So we must ascertain the locations of these supply caches, but how? We could do house to house searches, exposing ourselves to small arms fire. We could look for camps and appeal to their humanity (it is unlikely that they will have any humanity left at this point). Or, we can approach this situation from a guerilla warfare mindset, and take the information that we need. In order to know where the goods are you will either have to go find it yourself, or ask someone who knows, enter interrogation.  

Enemy soldiers are a goldmine of information. You can learn more information in a five minute interrogation than in a week of scouting. For the purposes of this article I will speak on interrogation as related to a scenario where we are searching for supplies. But there are many other scenarios in which the need would be pressing and undeniable. One of your party’s members has been taken hostage to an unknown location, you capture an enemy scout; will you be able to educe the location of their camp from him? And in doing so save your family/friend? Your group has fallen into conflict with another group, you decide to go on the offensive, you capture one of the enemy scavengers and want to find out all the tactical details of their camp, will he break? You are alone and on the move and become engaged with small arms fire by a small group. Your superior marksmanship and cool head win the day, you kill two and wound one but are injured yourself and it looks bad, you need medical attention. The injured enemy is bleeding out and you don’t have a lot of time, you don’t know the area and need to find medical supplies, can you get him to break before he dies? The applications and need for a thorough understanding of interrogation is obvious. But the area of interrogation as a teachable science is still in its developmental stages by the US Military and Intelligence community. The average American citizen known very little about interrogation methods and most all of what he knows is learned from Hollywood or media reports; not the most reliable sources. I am in the military and have deployment experience in HUMINT operations; I am also a student of Intelligence (About to graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Intelligence Operations) and have studied every reliable source I can find. I want to be clear when I say that I am not an experienced interrogator, but rather someone who has conducted a thorough study of materials produced by experienced interrogators and am presenting my findings to yo.  I will not present you with a roadmap to a successful interrogation. I won’t even concentrate on methods; you can read every book on the subject and still be less effective than someone who has conducted only one interrogation. I will simply dispel myths, and provide several proven guidelines to interrogation so that if the Schumer ever hits the fan, you will be able to develop your skills quicker.  Interrogation is something that you can only learn by doing, so read this and know that while you will still be a novice, at least you will be an informed one.

The myths surrounding intelligence are so numerous that it is almost comical. Hollywood depicts interrogations that last a grand total of thirty seconds with the result of a highly indoctrinated terrorist in the corner crying while the hero is shaking hands with impressed onlookers. The media is so busy telling us that torture doesn’t work that they have managed to ignore all other methods used in interrogation. And here is food for thought, if torture doesn’t work, then why has it endured millenniums of use. You’d think if it had such a high failure rate someone would have noticed. You must approach interrogation with an open mind. Here are the best and most easily abbreviated principles. For a more thorough study, see the “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual”. [JWR Adds: "KUBARK" is an obsolete a CIA cryptonym for the agency's own name, used in internally-published documents for purposes of deniability for interagency training, or in the event of unintended release.)

  • Just ask first, you never know how unhappy he is in his current organization, you may be the answer to his prayers.
  • A successful interrogation is a process, not a series of events. You can’t torture a subject then five minutes later attempt to talk him into giving up what he knows.
  • You must tailor your methods to the subject, everything matters. Age, sex, ethnicity, all of these have influences that if not respected and worked around can hinder and even kill an interrogation.
  • No matter who you talk to, anyone who has experience with interrogation will tell you that rapport building is the most reliable way to go. Now this doesn’t mean that you need to convince the subject that you are his best friend. But you must get him firmly rooted in a relationship of your choosing, even if he sees you as his enemy, if you can get him to respect you as an enemy then you are well on your way. The roles you can take are limited only by your imagination. But he must perceive you as being in control.
  • Torture is interrogation for the unskilled. Better to break his spirit than his body. But if you must torture, don’t try to be fancy. Waterboarding and car batteries are a lot of work and you run the risk of killing him. Pliers and heated blades are classics but you have to be careful of shock and passing out. Fists are a viable option but make sure you don’t break your wrist hitting him, which would make you look ridiculous and seriously hinder your interrogation.
  • He will be silent, then he will attempt to deceive, he will keep deceiving until you catch him in a lie. Then he will tell the truth.
  • If he fears that you will kill him after you are done, then you may be forced to resort to physical torture. Try not to let him think about that.
  • Never ever lie. He must believe that you will do the things that you threaten to do. Whether you are threatening him or promising reward.
  • Fear is a product of imagination. His imagination will instill in him more fear than anything you can do. Feed that, build on it. Don’t tell him what comes next, let him fear the worst.

Keeping these tenants in mind I hope alongside you that none of us will ever be forced to resort to them. Remember that these are not rules but merely guidelines. And that nothing can take the place of experience. You may have noticed that I spend much of this article justifying the reasoning and morality of interrogation; it is because to me the biggest hurdle of interrogation wouldn’t be the interrogation itself, but convincing my group to allow it. Many people would be willing to kill but for some reason torture is completely unacceptable to them. Keep this in mind, don’t become the evil that you have set out to destroy. At all costs avoid hurting the innocent. But recognize that someday you may be forced to choose between your morals and your life, or the life of a loved one. Only you can make that decision. If you are really interested I suggest that you download a copy of the KUBARK manual, which is an interrogation manual written by an accomplished CIA interrogator in the early 1960s, before such actions were put under government oversight. The science of interrogation is still in its developmental stages, and the current engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan have provided a unique opportunity for experimentation and innovation. Expect some great products and manuals to be produced in a few years. And remember, the best skills that you can use in an interrogation are those that you use every day, the ability to read faces and emotions, the ability to relate and emphasize. Trust yourself and be willing to adapt. And good luck.

The Central Intelligence Agency and Dantalion Jones. The CIA Document of Human Manipulation: Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual. Central Intelligence Agency, Langley VA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2008.

Christopher E. Kelly: “A Taxonomy of Interrogation Methods.” dissertation., University at Albany, State University of New York, 2013

Lawrence E. Hinkle and Harold G. Wolff: The Methods of Interrogation and Indoctrination Used by the Communist State Police

National Defense Intelligence: Educing Information Interrogation: Science and Art

JWR Adds: I recommend that anyone who anticipates a societal collapse or a foreign invasion and a subsequent war of resistance should study both counterintelligence (CI) and human intelligence (HUMINT.) Though the terms are often mistakenly used almost interchangeably, CI and HUMNIT are distinct spheres. In the context of the DIA and its subordinate agencies the rule is that HUMINTers cannot do investigations and that the CI guys ("Special Agents") cannot do interrogations. (However, CI Agents do some strategic level debriefings.) When deployed overseas, CI operations are conducted "inside the wire" while HUMINT is collected "outside of the wire." (But raw HUMINT is then analyzed and fused behind the wire.)

Coincidentally, the protagonist in my fifth novel ("Liberators", scheduled for released in October of 2014) is a DIA contract CI agent.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My experience this past weekend camping with two of my friends and all of our children reminded me of the difficulties that one would have in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  To begin with I have two friends that I have known since jr high or longer.  We have, since that time spent lots of time together camping, hiking, biking, canoeing and any of a number of other outdoor adventures.  We have climbed over 12,000 foot passes while backpacking and ridden our bikes for hundreds of miles, camping along the way.  When we began having children we decided that we would do an annual camping trip to push the limits of what they and we could physically handle.  The ultimate goal, to build a life time love of the outdoors for our children and also to prepare them for the really fun trips we can do when they are finally big enough to carry their own weight.  For this article I will talk mostly of our most recent trip but may throw in lessons learned from the past.  

This years trip was by bike.  We rode 25 miles from one of our houses to a campground on the outskirts of our city.  In our party are three 38 year old men who are in decent shape but not the shape we were before fatherhood.  We had 3 girls 9,7 and 5 and 4 boys 5 ,5, 3 and 3.  The 9 year old rode her own bike but carried no equipment. We then had the other two girls and oldest two boy riding trail behind bike.  We had three Burley bike trailers carrying the youngest two boys and all of our equipment.  

We actually had room to carry more stuff but for the ease of transport we elected to only bring food for dinner and breakfast with the plan to resupply during the following day.  We ate our meals on the road at restaurants.  We cooked by fire to avoid a stove.  We had clean water available to us so we brought no water purification equipment.  The forecast was for temps from 60-80 so we could skimp on cold weather clothes and sleeping equipment.  All of these are thing I would be reluctant to leave behind were it not for the the fact that we were only gone three days and a rescue was only a phone call away.  We had the usual other camping and first aid equipment, as well as bike tools and tubes.  We did not have any tactical equipment or firearms with the exception of my carry gun and 2 extra magazines.  I state all of this to make it known that we would have wanted to bring a lot more with us or have it cached if this was a true bug out situation.  

The ride out there went pretty well.  We covered about 8 miles before we had our first break.  All the kids were hungry and thirsty and tired, though with in a few minutes most of them had begun playing red light green light and were clearly not that tired.  We had another 9 miles to go to our planned lunch stop.  My son who is very diligent about staying hydrated had to stop three times to use the bathroom in that next 9 miles.  It is good that I do not have to worry about him not drinking enough but it really slows momentum when the whole group has to stop so often.  About two miles from our planned lunch the nine year old was losing steam.  Even though we were only 20 minutes away at most from lunch we had to stop and let her eat a snack.  It was a good lesson for the rest of the kids when they did not also receive one as well(rationing) but it is once again a momentum stopper.  The truth though is that you can not make kids at this age wait to eat.  If they crash their energy reserve they will not recover for some time and that will slow the rest of the trip down.  This is true for adults as well.  I have certainly pushed myself to the point where with out food I was slowed to barely a walking pace while biking.  It can takes several hours to get your system up and running again and that is not a position you want to be in under any circumstance.  We made it to lunch and spent a good hour eating and resting before finishing our trip.  I believe we made it without any stops from lunch to the campground about another 7-8 miles.  I should add that we were riding mostly on a trail that was built on a rail road track so there was very minimal grade to contend with.  Whenever we met hills the weight of our combined rigs was a lot to deal with.  The whole trip took us about 5 hours with about 3 hours of riding time.

Some word on bike choice would be appropriate here.  I have a lot of bikes to choose from in my garage.  In order to pull a trail behind bike you can not have a rear rack because the trail behind mounts to the the seat post.  For this reason I did not ride my commuter bike which I am the most comfortable on and has the widest range of gears.  I picked an older bike that was a top of the line racing bike 20 years ago.  It is geared to go fast and it does, but I found that I was riding in the bottom 2-3 gears most of the time and was not able to maintain the cadence I would like unless we were going about 12-13 miles an hour.  If I were going up any kind of incline I had no choice but to fight down the pedal in way too tall of a gear.  I have ridden a lot and given our situation I could handle it but I would have been much happier with a bike geared for a lower speed range.  The truth is that even 12-13 miles an hour was never maintained for more then a few minutes and so I found myself always pedaling slower then I would like.  I will say though that when we faced one of those up-hill climbs and I yelled back to my son to pedal hard--he was helping me get up the hills.  It is important to take advantage of their energy when you can but also be mindful of preserving it on the level.  I suppose a mountain bike would be the best choice in a bug out situation but if you are comfortable on a commuter style bike the skinnier wheels will save you a lot of energy.  Half of our ride was on crushed lime stone which those bike handle well.  I have ridden them on true country gravel roads though and found them to be difficult to keep upright when loaded down.  I have also ridden a mountain bike with smooth but still fat tires on long trips and found them to be more able but about 1-2 miles an hour slower, there is always a compromise.

I will also comment on bike maintenance and equipment.  It is wise to have a tool kit with wrenches etc that will fit most if not all the components on your bike(s).  They do not generally have that many different sizes so the kit is not that big.  Spare tubes, tube repair kits, spoke wrench, chain breaker and tool, as well as a spare chain and chain oil would all be good things to have as well.  Remember tubes for all the different wheels you have.  [Albeit a rare occurrence,] a broken chain can be a real problem.  I was stranded once and had to have my sister come get me because I could not fix the chain and I was too far away to walk.  Chains breaking can be a very dangerous thing as well.  Many of the injuries I know of with bicyclists have happened while going hard up hill or sprinting and having their chain brake.  The rider almost always suffers a bad crash in this situation.  In some instance I know of broken bones and concussions.  

Once we reached our camp ground we put up our tent and set up our camp.  We rode back to buy firewood, much easier then foraging and set out to explore the campground.  We had drank all of our water plus three Gatorades, a chocolate milk for all the kids and drinks from water fountains along the way.  I would estimate that was at least 4 gallons of water but probably more.  That takes along time to pump through a purifier or boil and cool were that necessary.  Plus we had all begun the trip well hydrated.  We went to get more water and found that it tasted pretty awful.  A lot of the kids seemed like they would not drink it.  I am sure in time they would have but not before risking dehydration.  Luckily we had powder mix and found that it could be mixed pretty lean to take away the bad taste and still last.  

Here is the hard part about camping with kids.  The dads are tired and the kids are ready to play.  They are old enough to do so with out us but they like it better when we participate and after all we are there to have fun.  This gives our group a good chance to gain some unit cohesion where one father will entertain the kids while the other two get some work done.  By the end of the weekend the kids rarely care which dad is lifting them up, applying sunscreen to them or cutting their food.  It also give us the chance to discipline them all as necessary so that we can effectively operate in the absence of one parent such as when one of us had to go to the grocery store the next day.  If nothing else comes from these trips the chance to have a close relationship with your best friends children is worth it.  We never know when one of us may be gone and it is easier to rest knowing that there are at least two good men in their lives.  This is especially close to my heart as my father died when I was 19 and I would have liked to have had that relationship with some of his friends.  

After dinner, Smores for dessert, and another walk it was time for bed.  It is hard to get kids to go to sleep in a tent when it is still light out.  Expect it to take a while.  Even though they are tired, it is not dark enough and they are out of their element.  You will spend a good while going back to assure them that you are just sitting by the fire.  We stayed up until about 12:00 or so as adults then slept poorly until about 6:00 in the morning when the first kids started to wake up.  One thing that you get a lot practice with as parents in general and especially while camping is sleep deprivation.  I am sure in a bug out situation it would be worse but we would also be more careful about staying up so late and better about napping during the day.  

We made breakfast and then two of us took the kids to the playground while the other went to the store to get food for the rest of our stay.  This turned out to be a good opportunity for me to try my Mainstay Emergency rations on the kids.  When we returned from the playground to get our swimming suits for the beach the kids were all hungry again.  We had some food left but I told them we did not and offered them each one of the lemon flavored emergency bars.  To my surprise all but one of the kids liked them.  They did have a hard time eating the whole thing but it carried them over well, until lunch time.  I ate one as well and found it to be a little dry but filling.  At lunch we ate a loaf of bread,  chips, grapes and a few other snacks.  However much you think that you will eat get about 20-30 % more.  Kids eat a lot when they are outside all day playing.  The rest of the evening went well with the usual filling of all the water bottles every couple of hours.  The only new lesson learned was that my younger son who never has nightmares woke up in the middle of the night screaming about a bad dream.  That could be a big problem if you were dealing with a security situation but I am not sure how it can be avoided.  I think that if you went to bed with them it would help but it is only a theory.  

The next morning we were up again by 6, had oatmeal, packed up camp and were on the road by 9:30.  We could probably shave some time off of this but we did not have to pump water or do many of the other tasks that would have been necessary camping in the wild.  We made good time back going almost 12 miles before our first stop.  Another 5 miles brought us to lunch.  The last stretch we also made with out a major stop.  I find that the kids start to travel better the longer that you are out.  

We could probably have made it another 10 miles that first day but that would have been about the limit I think.  If we had traveled the next day I think that it would have had to be a pretty easy day but we could have probably made 20 miles.  After that I think that we could settle into a 30 mile a day routine.  I say this from past experience on longer trips.  The 2nd day is usually the hard one and after that you can usual get into a rhythm that works for awhile.  I think that it would be awhile before you could go much more then 35 miles a day and expect to keep doing it day after day.  

Another consideration is in a real situation we would have our wives with us.  That would increase our cargo capacity but also increase our cargo.  The other problem is that in our situation we are three friends that have done this kind of thing for over 20 years together.  We know our groups strengths and weaknesses and for the most part deal well with them.  Having spent the weekend at a cabin with the same group plus wives I know that our group does not operate as well.  I am sure it is something that would work itself out, as we are all married to very capable and intelligent women, but it still could make for some difficult moments.  

I have also given consideration to pulling larger trailers with multiple bikes.  We have done this once before when we built chariot type rigs to be pulled during our High school homecoming parade.  They were not of the highest quality construction so I am sure I could improve upon the design but they were manageable.  With two bikes attached as horses would be it did not take to long to coordinate with the other rider starts, turns and stops.  Hills were very difficult and some provision would need to be made for assisting the trailer up the hills possibly by less encumbered riders.  More likely by walking up  the hills.  The other problem and the main reason that I would see this as last resort is that they were very difficult to stop or turn quickly.  In this way you would expend a lot of energy going up hill and not getting the advantage on the coast down as you would be trying to keep from turning into a runaway train.  Another idea I have for moving more stuff is to shuttle half the group forward with half the equipment and then send the strongest riders back to pick up the rest of the stuff and the other half of the group.  This is also an idea I do not like but the truth it that we may be forced to make decisions we would rather not have to make and it is good to think about it ahead of time.  

In closing if biking is part of your strategy please ride as much as you can.  Ride to church, ride to the store, ride whenever you  can.  You body will remember those miles when the times comes.  Practice pulling additional weight up a hill, you will be surprised how much you can feel that 20 pounds.  The eye opener to me in all of this is that I need to consider more seriously caching food and equipment.   The cabin that I thought was one hard day of cycling away, is probably more realistically 3 to 4 days away.  All the extra space I had intended for more tactical equipment would be taken up by the additional food requirement.  

Keep your lamps trimmed and burning.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dear James:
It occurred to me while training kids on water safety, that some of the most basic elements of surviving everyday life are perhaps neglected by many of us while focusing on worst case scenarios.  We can be so wrapped up in getting through TEOTWAWKI that we neglect first surviving to TEOTWAWKI.

It doesn't do any good to be fully prepped for TEOTWAWKI if you, or a loved one, dies in the meantime from one of the statistically most likely causes of death - namely disease and accidents.

By the numbers, if you are younger an auto accident may be your biggest threat.  If you are older likely a debilitating disease that is dependent to a large extent on your health and wellness lifestyle choices.

To kick off the conversation:
• ROAD SAFETY::   Do you (and your kids) know how to swim well enough to survive an accidental immersion into cold, rough water?
• FIREARMS SAFETY:  Can you (and your kids) recite the 4 rules of firearms safety, backwards and forwards.  Do you insist your shooting buddies keep the same high standard?
• HEALTH:   Is your weight within 10% of ideal?
• Do you refrain from smoking?
• Have you minimized toxic foods in your diet (GMO corn and soy, aspartame, MSG, etc.)  
• Do you pay attention to taking in nutrient dense foods versus empty (or toxic) calories?
• Do you pay attention to keeping  your immune system strong through diet, exercise and nutritional supplementation?

The "bonus" here is that all of these mundane health and safety fundamentals needed to survive likely causes of death  pre-TEOTWAWKI,  would be even more critical post-TEOTWAWKI.

Just like in wars - and likely in many forms of disaster - it's not the actual conflict or disaster that kills but the accidents and disease that result from it.   Historically disease and starvation are bigger killers in wartime than is enemy fire.   In the first Gulf War, there were more US deaths from vehicle accidents than there were to enemy fire.

Regards, - OSOM

JWR Replies: Thanks for mentioning those important points and keying them to the ground truth of the statistical list of the most likely causes of death. It does indeed make sense to employ an actuarial perspective of the world.

It is noteworthy that "Violence" rates just 0.98% of deaths, but in the event of a widespread disaster, war, or revolt, that figure can quickly jump into double digits. And a similar jump for "Infectious and parasitic diseases" (normally 23.04%) and many other other listed lethal diseases--most notably diarrhea, which is normally 3.15%--in the event of a pandemic. Ditto for "Drowning", which is normally 0.67%, but that risk of course multiplies greatly in a flood or tsunami. (Does everyone in you family know how to swim?) These are a few of the reasons why SurvivalBlog is so popular: Wise people realize that the world around us can change very quickly, and we need to prepare for those events.

In looking at the list of most likely causes of death, which all start with two digits, one digit, or even with just a decimal point, most people skip by pondering the big number at the top, the only one with three digits--the one that reads: 100% (All causes.) To me, that is the truly sobering number. Let's face it: We are all going to die (barring the fulfillment Mark 13:26 in our lifetimes) and the human lifespan is pitifully short compared to that of a Sequoia tree. So to my mind the far larger questions are:

1.) Are you right with Christ, so that you are fully assured of your final destination? (There are just two, Heaven or Hell, where we will spend eternity.)
2.) Are you sharing the Gospel with your children, and others?
3.) What legacy are you passing on to future generations? How will you be remembered? Are you helping to improve the world, or just taking, using and abusing? Are you putting your descendants in a better position to survive, thrive, and live long and happy lives? Are you writing and publishing words and music (or creating art, architecture, films, software, or other lasting legacies) that are helpful, positive, and edifying or that are degenerate?Are you truthful, fair, and forthright in all of your public dealings?
4.) Are you raising children who are content, polite, and helpful, or are they foul-mouthed, grossly pierced, heavily tattooed, addicted, and lost?

I must also note that taking this long view of life can radically reduce your risk of suicide. (Which, according to the stats, is normally 1.53% of deaths.) Just last week I heard about the suicide of an anesthesiologist in the American Redoubt. Although he was an accomplished prepper and he made a very good living, he was not in Christian fellowship and had developed a drinking problem. His experience should be a warning to all of us.

It is not my intent to sound preachy, but that is where I stand. Think about it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

It’s interesting to see the differences in the way people prepare for the future. We have been reading ‘SurvivalBlog’ daily now for over four  years, and here too, we find different types of people who prepare differently. (One reason why I love SurvivalBlog!) It is also interesting to read the difference between FEMA suggestions, Homeland Security (?) preparedness requirements, Weather Channel Preparedness tips, and different books written on the subject. Then there are the multitudes of survivor shows on television from Les Stroud in ‘Survivorman’ to the man of few words -- Cody Lundin in ‘Dual Survivor’ and his new partner Joseph Teti. If you want drama there is always the ‘Doomsday Preppers’ or the older version that really taught useful tips; ‘The Colony’( Season 1 only.) All show different people with different ways of preparing for the future. Some seem genuine and some seem off the top. Some seem to know what they are doing, and other seem to be real nut cases.  Some show the difference between ‘preppers’ and ‘survivalists’, or between people riding the prepper wave and those who have lived a self-sustaining and prepared lifestyle, it’s all different people, different styles, different ways.

My husband and I grew up on neighboring farms in the same very rural farming community. In our day, we were taught to never let anyone else know exactly what we had, from food to money. Never, ever give full disclosure. As we watch shows on television, we cringe at the families who divulge everything to the entire world. We were always taught the surest way to lose what you have is to let others know all about it. We have tried to teach this to our children and our grandchildren, but society is so different these days, rules for living are different. Today’s society makes living so very social, yet survival is so very personal. It doesn’t make any difference how many facebook friends you have if SHTF and you don’t have any preparedness skills or plans.  We believe a society or community is only as strong as it’s weakest link. We don’t want any of our family to be that weak link.

While we grew up living a rural preparedness lifestyle, our children have grown up with a bit more urban lifestyle. Our grandchildren have a mix of urban, suburban and rural lifestyles and now all have different and interesting ways of preparedness. They all have been taught preparedness from their parents who learned from us, however; their various states of prepping are interesting to observe.  We have three grandsons and two granddaughters who are so different, it is hard to realize they are brothers/sisters, cousins or even related. Their prepping habits are equally as different. In our family tree, our ancestors were the roots, we have been the trunk and our children have been the branches and our little leaves of grandkids flutter in the turbulent winds of the present, family preparedness has run thru us all.

Humor me: as proud grandparents, let me tell you about our three grandsons. There is the oldest; whom we playfully call the ‘jelly-roll’ from a time when he was little and always had peanut butter and jelly on his face. He was secretly married right out of high school, however; when the great grandchildren started coming, it wasn’t so secret anymore. He dropped out of college and works in computer programming to support his ever growing family. We commend him, he works hard, he has a beautiful and strong family; owns his own home, has food storage, emergency supplies and a bug out bag ready. He has a home gym set that he used to use everyday, but now only uses two or three days a week. He is young and strong, so we don’t worry about him too much, he and his family are street-smart, bright and aware, true survivor personalities.   

Our second grandson whom we call the ‘Mr. Brains’ is seriously gifted and absolutely brilliant. He is so highly intelligent; we worry about his common sense. Working on his PhD in Nanotechnology Engineering, he is still a dedicated prepper in a community with some members of his research team. He or a member of his group, has every prepper tool known to mankind and have even created some of their own. They have spent thousands of dollars as a group and it literally takes trucks to move all their stuff. He tells us not to worry, as they will take care of ole’ grandma and grandpa, we chuckle and shake our heads. He takes his vacation around prepper training camps and conferences. Whenever he takes trips for his work, he checks out the local prepping community where ever he goes. When he’s overseas at conferences, he checks out preparedness supplies in that country. He exercises every weekend and practices his bug-out with the group once a month. Him we worry about, we are concerned he may be out of town or out of the country when SHTF. If that happens, we know he will at least have enough brains to keep himself safe.

Our youngest grandson is now finishing high school; we call him our ‘little eagle’. He has been in Boy Scouts since kindergarten where he started dreaming of getting his Eagle Scout Award, which he achieved just after his 14th birthday. He too believes in prepping but in a totally different way, he believes survival is in knowledge. He is self-confident and has learned to survive on nothing. His bag is a cord bag on his back, his knowledge of primitive survival skills (along with weapon training) is outstanding. When he heads off to college next fall, we are all confident he will survive both university life and some TEOTWAWKI event. He runs or walks everyday to excess; he started running everyday about a year before his Boy Scout troop went to Philmont Ranch in New Mexico, over three years ago and has never stopped his training. Some days after school and band practice he runs, some days he hikes a trail at the local Historical Park and some days he just walks circles around the house. Sometimes he does it in full pack, sometimes carrying two five gallon buckets full of something, sometimes he carries the huge family dog in a fireman’s carry over his shoulder and sometimes nothing. But he consistently does it every day. He will be physically able to handle any situation, however; he lacks supplies for long term survival. We know you can’t just live on nothing, oh, the gifted imagination of youth! We want to shake him and tell him to wake up, but in the meantime, we keep supplies for him. 

Three boys, three different ways, and our own prepping has been shaped by them to some extent. Our children are okay, they have supplies, training and knowledge. If SHTF our kids will be fine, we have added extra to our supplies specifically for the grandkids and great-grandkids, a whole hidden room in-fact. I’m most concerned about my two granddaughters. Unlike their brothers, they do not prep and think it is stupid. One, our oldest granddaughter, whom we call ‘Missy’ now a hairdresser in Miami has asked me to teach her to shoot while she was here over Christmas. That is a major breakthrough, as she usually doesn’t want to spoil her nail polish. She has now been on her own long enough to see the need for self-defense training. Both the girls just don’t want to be burdened with ‘stuff’ and they think prepping is hoarding and silly. Grandma has her work cut out on these girls.

Our youngest granddaughter whom we call ‘Pumpkin’ has the same attitude that we have seen portrayed by many of the participants on the television show ‘Doomsday Preppers’. ‘Pumpkin’ just wants to find a man who preps who will take care of her. Her; we worry about the most, like her sister, she can cook, home can food, sew, and make jelly but she cannot shoot a weapon. She is still at home with her parents and seems to be filing her time just trying to find the right man and updating her ‘status’. So many of the newer television shows and media represent the men of the family with weapon training, military or camping experience who use prepping as a form of male bonding. The women end up cooking, cleaning up the mess and taking care of the food. We are firm believers that women need to be trained just the same as the men. Each person, male and female need to know how to survive and how to defend themselves and their family, anything less is a neglect of one’s moral and ethical responsibility. A woman’s life is no less significant than a man’s. All of our family consider themselves ‘preppers’; yet it is amusing to note their extreme differences. One maxed out to the umpth degree with stuff, one with nothing but his own skill-set and confidence and one in-between, one with no desire to prep and one with an urge to start learning self-defense skills. What exactly is a prepper? A person who prepares for a future life-changing event, so in some way I guess all the grandkids qualify to be called a ‘preppers’.

Children have to find their own way in the world. Grandchildren (and great grandchildren too!) are bound do things differently from the ways we have, or that we taught. We wouldn’t want it to be any different, but we do want them to be safe. Sometimes, their ways are better ways and they teach us. We see preparing for the future as a way to keep them safe in unsure times, but we can’t be upset if they don’t agree. Each and every person has their own path to follow and their own way to do things. Diversity is key to survival, so we have all learned from each other in our family. Thank goodness they can all still come to Grandma and Grandpa’s anytime and sleep on air mattresses in the living room and pile up on the couches and in the extra bedrooms. Our home is the ‘final destination’ for family bug-outs. Family and loved ones are a key to the internal drive to survive.  Ask yourself, do you really want to be a sole survivor if there is no one left to laugh with? Maybe yes, but it will be a lonely, desolate life. It’s the same question older or disabled people often ask; “do I want quantity of years” or “do I want quality of life”.   We have decided on ‘quality’: we want family, friends and loved ones or not at all.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My story begins as another closet prepper.  As many of you, I did not have the support of my spouse for my new found drive to prepare for the unknown. Often I would attempt to sneak items that I planned to lay up long-term into the grocery bill without her noticing. I would even have online purchases delivered to a neighbor claiming to him that it was for her birthday or our anniversary. Needless to say, I usually (always) got caught, which would lead to long discussions about me "wasting money."  As fate and the good lord would have it, I finally got my window of opportunity to prove what I was doing had merit. 

As I recall, it was late February. Pennsylvania had another one of its wonderful snow storms topped with ice. We awoke without power to a somewhat chilly house and a few feet of snow.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  The morning, afternoon, and early evening went as they usually would without power.  However we were starting to become concerned because power is usually restored in no more than 16 hours. My son was only about a year old at this time so his needs were a little more than our own. The house was becoming colder and as a new mother, my wife was starting to become unglued.  Although I upgraded our home with multiple heating sources (not without protest and a little help from the bank), all of them required electricity to operate the circulating pumps. A major new prepper mistake. Our refrigerator was slowly starting to warm, making us concerned about his supply of milk. Lucky for me, I made one of my "secret" purchases a few weeks back.  I had attended an estate auction in town and purchased a small gasoline operated generator.  At the time, I had no idea if it was large enough to run anything other than the drill I used to test its function ability.  I was also afraid of somehow burning my house down with a electrical fire.  It was around hour 36 of the outage when her meltdown occurred and she looked to me to fix the situation as she always has.  In her eyes I am the man of the house, the provider.  It is my job to fix and solve the things that end up over her head.  I bundled up and headed out the back door to the shed, hoping my plan would work.  Lucky for me it did.  About 45 minutes later I had the coal stoker and the refrigerator up and running.  We had heat.  As I returned to the house, I could easily read the look in my wife's eyes.  It was her classic "I don't know how you did it, but you did and I love you for it" look.  I was their hero. I saved the day. That is when the dimly lit light bulb went off in my head.  After a long discussion and a few confessions on where the generator came from, I had her convinced.  Without my purchase, we would have had no choice but to brave the roads to a unknown family members house, with our son in the car, in the middle of another wave of storms.  This is when she saw the light and realized that not all of the "wasted money" was really wasted.  I drove this entire concept home throughout the entire 4 days without power.  Without my inexpensive siphon, I wouldn't have been able to use some of the gas from the vehicles to keep the generator running.  Without the powdered milk, what would the little man have had?  Without the bottled water?  Without the small propane burner?  The list kept going.  Needless to say, I was in a bit of trouble with all of these "secret" items I had hid from her view, but I was forgiven quickly.  After all those months of trying to get her on the bus, it only took 36 hours without electricity.

Now that I had her partially on board, I was looking for opportunities to teach her skills that would benefit us in the future. The following summer provided several occasions for just that. My wonderful wife was raised by her grandparents who grew up in the classic "oldest of 12 kids during the depression" scenario. (In my humble opinion, this generation is one of the best untapped resources for learning new and useful skills and knowledge for a post-TEOTWAWKI situation.) Needless to say, they waste nothing and are avid gardeners. During one of our normal visits, her grandfather had mentioned to me that canning season was upon us and the next few weekends would be consumed by the task.  I volunteered us to give them a few extra sets of hands.  My wife was more than happy to give something back by helping out, and she had no idea she was learning a valuable skill.  After 3 consecutive Saturdays, she was canning like she had been doing it for years. During our weekly work parties, I got a chance to get some serious feedback from her Grandmother on the importance  of stocking up for the uncertain.  The advice from someone who has been there multiple times, some times worse than others, was truly priceless.  Coming from her grandparents, my wife took every word to heart.  She is now an avid canner, storing every small bit from our tiny undersized garden, and "clearance" farmers market deals.  Once she seen the savings of doing our own canning, this lead to more.  She now typically buys items in bulk from the warehouse stores.  Once you break the price of the item down per ounce and compare, the savings are obvious.  We now go looking for sales on food goods instead of the new Abercrombie store at the local shopping mall.  I can't complain a bit. We now have enough food in our pantry to sustain us for about three months.  All the savings have also started her into extreme couponing. She has created a sizable larder of things like tooth brushes, tooth pastes, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and razors.  She has even mentioned these would be great for charity or even barter for other comfort items. (I was so proud.) 

During a trip to an local amusement park, I inadvertently discovered my wife was incapable of reading a simple map accurately.  Before our trek into the park, I picked up two maps to help us get around.  I marked three separate and simple rally points (RPs) on the map. When something as simple a pre-determined RP has saved you in the past, it kind of sticks with you.  I often worry about an active shooter scenario when in a large group of people. My wife volunteered to go to the vehicle to retrieve some items for our son.  As the two of us continued around the park, my wife called me to find us.  After a quick scan of my surroundings, I noticed we were practically on top of rally point three.  After a few gripes, we hung up the phone and with the aid of her map, she headed off to rally point three.  Fifteen minutes later my phone rang again.  With her nowhere in sight, claiming to be at the RP, I asked her to describe her surroundings.  I was easily able to determine her location and meet her. She quickly became aggravated and defensive when I accused her of being lost. That is when I realized our bug out plan had a fatal flaw.  After a quick landmark recognition land navigation class, she led us around the rest of the day.  She still needed a little more advanced help.  Motivating her to learn something she has no interest in is extremely tough.  Lucky for me, I found Geocaching.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, Geocaching is where someone hides a cache (Usually an ammo can) with clues and coordinates on where to find it posted online. Inside the can you typically find a visitors log, and items to trade. A lot of newer GPS units have a feature built in for this from the factory. Some caches are entry level easy, increasing in difficulty to the multi-caches where only one point is published and once you find it, it gives a second location to find another.  During a family camping outing, I introduced it to her. After her first find, she was hooked.  Armed with my GPS, she was off to the next cache and I was playing catch up.  Once she had that mastered, I threw her a curve ball.  After obtaining a topographic map from the park office and making sure my compass was in my pack, her GPS batteries mysteriously went dead.  She had to find the last of her two day trek multi-cache.  After teaching her to plot to paper and correct for magnetic north, she found it easily.  (She actually did much better than most of the guys with whom I went to the Platoon Leader's Development Course (PLDC.) She also learned how difficult it was with a pack on your back and a baby strapped to your front.

Now that she is on the same page, knitting needles as mother's day gifts excite her.  She has started knitting and sewing some items for our boy.  Her ability to re-purpose items amazes me.  She even suggests going to the rifle range for our monthly date instead of dinner and a movie. She is even becoming a little obsessive about accuracy, taking over my reloading press for hours at a time.  Even showing her uncle how to "properly" shoot with a sling.  She is now constantly coming up with new ideas on how to store more stuff and other items we may need in our bug out bags. Her job as a bank teller even has her starting to stack pre-1965 silver.  Face value is the best way to buy! I highly recommend if you have a stubborn wife like I do, take any opportunity that arises to be used as a teaching opportunity. Be creative, and be persistent. Identify areas where they may not have the appropriate skills to carry out your plan, and find a way to get them involved.  I know this sounds cheesy, but you must be able to seize the opportunity.  If you can make it fun, they will learn without them even knowing it.  Some of these would also work great for kids.  With your spouse on board, two minds are better than one.  Wait for your opportunity to show them how awful it could be without prepping and the real reason behind it.  Be ready.  Molon Labe.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The intention of this article is to share with you how we decided on a homestead location and how we intend to get there. There are many ways to skin a cat. Whether it's a hidey-hole in Id-e-ho or a farm in Oklahoma, the choice you pick for a homestead is as uniquely independent as the DNA in your body. Take the time to think it through and you won't be disappointed. We said several prayers and asked for guidance. Contact Todd Savage of Survival Retreat Consulting if you still need additional help after reading this submission. I'm sure he can give you several solid pointers.

Our America is changing and it isn't looking pretty. Constitutional rights are disappearing, school education is lagging, and the Almighty dollar is all but a joke. Illegal immigration, lawsuit-happy money grabbers, GMO mega corporations, half the country on some form of welfare...where does it end? 
For our family, it ends now. Thanks to Obama care, one of the two hospitals in my company's organization closed their doors permanently last month (May, 2013). Now, our smaller rural hospital has been gobbled up in a corporate buyout. I was informed that I no longer had a job...over the phone on a Friday afternoon...while visiting Oklahoma for my Grandmother's funeral.

Thus begins our journey to relocate to the country and take care of our family ourselves. No more traffic, smog, insane crime rates, grocery store dependency, bottom of the barrel public schools...and the list goes on and on. As the Robertsons (from Duck Dynasty)would say: "WE GONE!"

As we debated how we could attain our ultimate goal of becoming self-sufficient on our own homestead, there appeared to be four clearly distinct barriers we had to overcome.

  • First, what would be our final homestead location?
  • Second, how would we sustain ourselves when we arrived at our new home?
  • Third, how would we physically get our family and our assets to the homestead location?
  • Fourth, what type of home would be the best homestead building?

These were the four major decisions that were crucial to our plan but each had several smaller factors that had to be sifted out. Once we determined the major obstacles, we sat down and went through each obstacle and picked it apart. Each major hurdle became its own independent topic of discussion. By making a step by step plan to overcome each major hurdle, we were able to break down what seemed to be a huge difficult task into many small manageable tasks. Being an Indiana Jones fan and sharing the same last name, I declared each of the four major issues my own quest for the Holy Grail or "Chalice."

The First Chalice
The first Chalice is choosing a homestead location. If you have a place already in mind then congratulations! This is one of the toughest decisions to settle on.  For Wifey and me, deciding where we wanted to raise our six daughters and spend the rest of our lives was not so clear cut. I had read James Rawles thoughts on the American Redoubt and also purchased Joel Skousen's Strategic Relocation--North American Guide to Safe Places, 3rd Edition.  Both of these highly recommended resources will arm you with the information necessary to intelligently decide on a homestead location based on crucial data such as population density, potential disaster fallout, military targets, maps of private and public land use, satellite  terrain (including highways, surface streets and trails for bugout purposes), and why you should vote with your feet. Remember, if you can’t afford Skousen’s book, check it out from your local library.

While we desired a homestead in the American Redoubt, we have no family or close friends there.  Arguable by some folks I’m sure, we feel community is crucial to survival.  Can we go it alone…sure. Should we? It wouldn’t be smart. So we chose an uninhabited old family farm in Oklahoma where we had a large number of family members and a few (but very solid) friends. With a storm shelter in place, we will be safe from tornadoes with our only major concern being possible long term drought.  A few well-placed deep wells and massive water storage is in our future plans. With permission to live on the family farm complete, the first Chalice had been secured.

The Second Chalice

The second Chalice in obtaining our homesteading Holy Grail was to secure income producing employment near our homestead location. We have every intention of becoming 100% self-sufficient in time but in the beginning of our journey we agreed that we should have a means by which to pay our monthly bills without fear of failure. There would be no moving to our homestead until this income was established.  With this in mind, I laid out a plan to find a job within thirty minutes of our location in an attempt to minimize gasoline expenses and travel time. Obviously, the closer the job is to the homestead, the higher the savings in time and money. Your results will depend on your comfort zone. If I owned a moped or motorcycle, perhaps I would be willing to drive a little further for employment.

There are several ways to search for employment and in today’s digital age, I think it is somewhat easier to find potential employers. I started with the usual job search engines: Monster, Jobing, CareerBuilders, and Indeed.  Knowing your desired field is not necessary but very helpful.  I am trained in healthcare and pursued that avenue but you could just as easily search “all jobs” in your desired location. Make sure your resume is up-to-date because applying for jobs in another state means your resume may be the first thing a potential employer sees of you.  Get a friend to help you or research the topic on the internet if necessary. The resume is there to sell your skills. Don’t slack on this step.

Another method of finding jobs in your chosen homestead location is to use Google Maps (or similar mapping system) to pinpoint business in your designated area. If you are a diesel mechanic who has chosen Nampa, Idaho for your homestead location, for example, you can go to Google Maps and search for “diesel mechanic  Nampa, Id” and see the results.  This gives you a handful of diesel mechanic shops in your desired area complete with address and contact information.  Google the names of their companies and search out a little individually specific information on each one before you call. A quick search tells me that Tim’s Auto Repair and Service in Nampa employs “ASE certified techs” and is” B+ rated with the Better Business Bureau”.” Family owned and operated” while being closed on weekends gives you four arrows in your quiver when aiming for a job with them. They should be impressed that you took the time to research the company.

The approach I took to land my job was a little different. Since my job would be in a hospital, I search for the local hospitals near my homestead location. I chose one particular hospital and went to LinkedIn.  I won’t go into the details of LinkedIn here but suffice it to say it is similar to an online resume forum. People sign up and post their resumes on their profile page and make connections to other people in hopes of building a strong job “network”.  The more people you are connected to, the easier it is to find help when you need it (much like the community concept of homesteading.)

Since I knew the name of the hospital I was seeking employment from, I did a search on LinkedIn using that exact hospital’s name. This search gave me a list of all the members of LinkedIn whom had listed my specific hospital as their employer on their public resume.  A quick scroll through the list and I was able to find a nurse who worked at this hospital. LinkedIn gives you the ability, with a general (free) membership, to send “invites” to folks and ask them if they would like to connect with you. I invited this nurse to connect and she accepted. I now had a connection to an employee inside the hospital where I wanted to work.

As we previously talked about searching the Internet for information on a potential job, you can also do the same thing regarding a person. It helps to have topics of common interest to discuss when establishing a new relationship. On a previous interview, I researched my interviewers name and found out he was Native American, a member of a particular tribal organization and enjoyed running. Again, this information puts arrows in your quiver when shooting to make a good impression on your potential employer. I mentioned to my new nurse connection that I had recently been in her small town for a family funeral. Turns out she grew up in that town and knew my extended family. This was the arrow that ultimately helped me land a job at my desired location. Having a well-made resume also helped.

Using both a telephone interview (initially) and a Skype interview, my interviewer was able to visualize me and ask me questions without me ever leaving Arizona. Phone interviews are common but some employers, like mine, was not comfortable hiring a new employee “sight unseen”.  I recommended Skype and his I.T. department set it up. It wasn’t flawless but it kept me from having to fly 1,000 miles for an interview…and it worked.

Wifey and I decided it was best for me to go ahead for one month and check out the new job and location. Once I am able to determine the job is stable, I begin to research local churches, Mason lodges (my daughters are active in Job’s Daughters), potential schools (if we don’t homeschool immediately), and other factors which will affect us directly. I am now the family pointman.

The Third Chalice

The third Chalice involves how to move an entire family 1,000 miles to our new homestead. We are in this phase of the challenge right now. We have begun by having garage sales to eliminate unnecessary items. Items we are unable to sell but are worthy of donation will go to Goodwill thrift store. The rest goes to the local landfill.  The remaining items to be kept will be boxed up and labeled for transport via U-Haul truck.

As one commenter mentioned on my blog, you can reserve a U-Haul truck for a future date and this will lock in the price you pay. The price increases the closer you get to your scheduled date so lock in your price as soon as you find out that you need a truck. U-Haul allows you to reschedule your dates an unlimited amount of times with no fees. You can also negotiate a free month of storage at your destination location if you reserve your truck on the phone with a customer service representative. My cost to move 1,000 miles was roughly $1,100 for their largest truck. Their web site says it will hold belongings for a four bedroom house which is what we have. So, I have set my goal for moving expenses to be $2,000 and hope that will cover gasoline and some miscellaneous expenses.

I began visiting our local Wal-Mart for boxes and found they had a large supply every morning. It became a part of my morning routine to stop by and pick up as many as possible before I left for Oklahoma. Wifey continues that tradition now and is easily obtaining enough sturdy boxes (with handles!) to pack up the house. Each teenager is in charge of packing their own belongings and helping mom pack up the toddlers. Our goal is to be ready to move in roughly one month from the time I left for Oklahoma. With the help of my new coworkers, I will trade some shifts around and arrange for one week off to return to Arizona and begin the arduous chore of packing it all up in the truck and driving it to Oklahoma.

Again, how you move your family is unique to you. I am simply sharing how we are doing it as an example. Some folks suggested using coupons to get the best rental truck deal. I have an enclosed 6x12’ trailer and hauled a good chunk of my stuff and some bulky items out to Oklahoma during my initial visit to save some of the precious (read: more expensive) cargo space on our future U-Haul truck. Bulky items that take up space like our bicycles, table saw, chicken coop, etc. I rationalized that I was already making the trip, why not bring as much with me as possible to lighten the final load.  Don’t forget the power of friends when it comes time to pack it all up. We’ll be requesting the help of our church members when the time comes to leave our old house. It will be a sad but joyous occasion.

The Fourth Chalice

The fourth Chalice encompasses the task of figuring out what type of structure you want to homestead. If your location already has a structure large enough for your family, congratulations! You’re done. Our farm does not have such a building and I suspect some folks undergoing this relocation will be purchasing raw land or land with no structures.  In this case you have several options.

You can live with family or friends while you establish a structure or rent a nearby home. One commenter on my blog wrote that he and his family actually camped at their homestead for a year. He said the kids loved it. That allowed them to save up the money they needed to build their homestead. You can use a travel trailer or place a mobile home on the property while you build. Take your time and research your options.  If you can build something yourself while you stay in a travel trailer, more power to you!  

One of my mentors has been the videoblogger Wranglerstar and you can see how he began his homestead here.  If it is truly your dream, you can make it happen. Feel free to stop by my blog to share your homestead story or ask questions. I’ll have more to share on this last Chalice as our time to choose a building gets closer. Thanks to everyone who has participated in the blog comments and a big thank you to Captain Rawles and Wranglerstar for leading the way for the rest of us. - Orange Jeep Dad

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Greetings, my fellow SurvivalBlog readers! My name is Michael, and I am seventeen years old. I live somewhere on the East Coast of the United States of America with my mother and father. To the rest of the world, I appear a normal teenage boy: Glued to my iPad, where I read SurvivalBlog each night before bed, obsessed with both new and old music, and always quoting music lyrics, movies and television shows with my friends. Yet what both the majority my friends and society do not know is for the last year I have been preparing for The End of the World as We Know It. Yes, dear reader, it affects even the youngest in our society: this fear of a “world gone mad.” Generally, optimism is my life philosophy, but I see society on a dangerous trend towards self-ruination. Realism has taken deep root in the way that I handle the world around me. My goal for this essay is to be the example to those who say that they cannot prepare because of financial, familial, social, political, or other factors. I also want to give those holed away in the mountains or in “The Unnamed Western State” a sense of peace, knowing that regular, everyday citizens of our society understand that preparing for a future that might not come to fruition is better than partying on and having to learn the hard way.

My prepping story began when I was eight years old. My parents bought me a copy of the book The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht. I fell in love with the book, as it revealed how to land a plane, jump off a building (and there is a safe way!), and escape from killer bees. The book made me think of the classic cheesy Hollywood inspired “doomsday” films that seem to open each summer blockbuster season. I thought, “How would I take care of myself if something terrible happened?” Thankfully, those thoughts faded just as quickly as they came. I still have the book a full eight years after my days dreaming of the end of the world. However, prepping fell out of my thoughts for many years, as I entered an academically challenging school where my time to consider such things was severely diminished under the weight of 12 page research papers, math homework and more. Prepping, like an urge to contact a long-forgotten friend, though, did come back. One of my father’s friends is a gunsmith and a prepper who gave me a paperback of one of James Wesley Rawles’ novel Patriots. I was in tenth grade at the time. The book did not stand a chance against my voracious appetite to keep turning the pages: I finished it within a day. Going back and reviewing the elaborate ways that the Gray’s prepared The Group" for TEOTWAWKI-style living was quite a shock, and made me consider The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook a trifling attempt to capture some of what the fictional Grays did at their wilderness fortress.

As I thought about Patriots, I considered where I was located in the country and the world. Being on the East Coast, many nuclear power plants exist and are an open target for some form of terrorist takeover or attack. Nuclear threats from a “rogue state” like Iran or North Korea could be a threat, but many years further on. By the time that North Korea has a missile that can reach where I am and stay in one piece, I will be dead and gone, and thus I considered myself safe. Yet such events as a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), Flu pandemic, economic collapse and innumerable more catastrophes made me reconsider my “high on the horse” mentality quickly. As I did then, I continue to want to leave the East Coast for good, as I see it leading to the destruction of the American way of life and a haven for looters and other miscreants after a TEOTWAWKI event. As it turns out my father has a job opportunity that will take him west after I graduate high school. Naturally, my mother and I will follow him out there. As Robinson Jeffers said in his poem Shine, Perishing Republic, which includes this stanza:

“But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center;
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster’s feet there are left the mountains.”

I believe that prepping is a task best undertaken by the community that surrounds oneself. My parents, for example, are my strongest and most dedicated supporters on this long and arduous process of collecting and storing the things necessary to continue life as we know it. My mother has kidney, sinus, back, and other health concerns that force me to stock up on such products such as antibiotics, namely Levofloxin and Avalox. As a family, we also contract many other infections, and to combat this I attempt to keep a full prescription of Amoxicillin inside of my bug-out-bag, just in case. Advil, Tylenol, Mucinex, sleeping medications, cough drops and more play as crucial a role in my bug-out-bag as a room full of ammunition or a new AR-15 would be to an otherwise “healthy” prepper, given our medical histories and other complications. Procuring these medications, especially the antibiotics, requires nothing short of an act of Congress to get, as doctors are more reticent now than ever to forking over such prescriptions for infections that do not exist. Nevertheless, my mother and father allow me to store these medications when obtainable in an effort to protect us from what may lie around the corner.

In addition, as a family, we also work as a team on buying such things as ammunition. Our gun battery is not what I would consider sufficient, yet we are making strides forward. We have a 9mm Glock Model 17 and a .22 Long Rifle Beretta handgun. Because the nature of ammo is transient on the shelves in Wal-Mart or any other dealer, just finding ammo in either of these calibers is an act of Providence! My father enlists the help of my mother to purchase ammo in the “bulk packs”, as an individual can only purchase one per day. I am the one who stores and checks all of the ammo for defects once purchased, keeping it separate from our firearms, which are in my parent’s room, locked up. Nothing like a little bit of physical distance to keep “the lock from the key”. In addition, my mother is supportive of my father and I going to a local gun range every so often and honing our skills, of which I am grateful for her trust in my fathers and my abilities.

Because I have supportive parents, they fostered my desire to form my very own bug-out-bag. My first bag was a disaster. I constructed it last year, and at the time, it was the best thing since sliced bread to me. It was a L.L. Bean backpack that I had formerly used for school, but now insisted that it needed repurposing into a “survival kit.” My father was none too pleased because I had just gotten this backpack, but my mother was yielding, buying me a new backpack to replace the one that would soon become my “survival kit.” I woefully overfilled this poor backpack, whose purpose was to carry about 15 to 20 pounds for only a brief time. I weighed it at one point and was horrified to find that it weighed 45 pounds! I could barely carry it 15 steps when relaxed and not stressed, let alone under duress. My mother had forbid me to carry it outside the house, fearing for my physical safety! Yet, as I got older and wiser, I realized that a frame bag would take a majority of the weight from the supplies and distribute it, making carrying 45 pounds similar to carrying 20 in my current bag. After finally having this stroke of genius, I went out and purchased a Kelty Redstone 60 frame backpack. I spent the big money, and it was absolutely worth every penny. Now I can pack so much more than I could have in my old bag, and not even feel a difference! I ascertained a moral out of this: Always buy the best gear that you can afford, and make sure that it is applicable to the job you want it to do.

Now that I have made my decision and have a better bug-out-bag than I did before, I can now pack my bag with more than I ever imagined I could. Now, I have 5 days worth of clothes and food in my bag at all times, ready to go. In addition, I have a Kaito Voyager radio for staying in touch with the outside world, a 3 D-cell MagLite flashlight, a small quantity of ammunition, all of my medical supplies, toiletries and more. In addition to the bag itself, however, my room can be converted into survivalist headquarters in the event of a catastrophe. A set of clothes that include a L.L. Bean rain coat, blue jeans, sweat pants, long johns, and boot socks stay perched atop my Sturm T0 sleeping bag, which I recently purchased. The bag is amazing: it can keep me warm on even cold concrete, and while I may wake up stiff, I can sleep easy knowing that I will not become ill from being chilled. I also love the Sturm because it connects perfectly to the bottom of my Kelty bug-out-bag, where I would connect it for easy carrying if an event forced an evacuation of my home. In addition, my steel-toe boots sit beside my bed at night, along with a pair of Teva sandals and flip flops, just in case. This setup is just the “Warm weather” or “hurricane season” wear; I make the change from my “Winter weather” to “Warm weather” whenever the temperature remains above 60 degrees F at night, as only then could I survive in my summer clothes outdoors. Yet when the temperature dives below 60 degrees F at night, I make a swift change to my survival supplies, bringing out the “Winter Weather” supplies. These changes include bringing out ski pants that I have in my closet to an accessible place for quick access, bringing out my LL Bean heavy winter coat, filling it with a lighter, hand and boot warmers, Clif Bars and a small flashlight. This jacket stays next to the ski pants, where they sit in preparation for whatever life may throw at them. I also replace the sandals and flip flops with a pair of Bass winter boots that sit next to my steel toe boots, ever ready to tackle the next problem.

While my parents and I think that these plans are fantastic and prudent, there are many detractors. Some questions that I seem to get a lot from both friends my age and adults: How do you plan to implement these plans? Where would you go if you could no longer stay at your home? Why are you a “prepper” anyway? I will answer these questions respectively, starting with how my family and I would implement these plans. If there was ever a catastrophe great enough to displace thousands from their homes, and this happened at least 60 miles from my house, we would make the getaway plans effective. I would grab my bug-out-bag, put on my spare clothes I keep by my bed, put on shoes or boots, grab additional clothes that are stored in my closet, grab the family ammo tin, my watches and any other sentimental items that can be transported without additional weight. My mom and dad would grab their kits and any small items they would need and we would move to either my mother or my father’s car. The decision on which car to take would be on the amount of gas in each. As for where we would end up, we have a family friend that lives “somewhere out West” that has agreed to take us in if any catastrophe ever happened, and this is where we would formulate our plans to either return home, stay put, or move further out west, depending on the situation. As for why I personally am a “prepper”. I believe in a Supreme Being that has endowed me with enough intellect to understand when times are getting rough. With many potential threats to society now becoming apparent (CME, Yellowstone Eruption, Power grid failure, economic collapse, etc), now is the hour to hear the “little voice” within us all and begin making preparations not only for ourselves, but for the next generation of Americans as well. These preparations do not have to be on a massive scale to be a benefit; rather it is the small steps that move us forward with more wisdom and guidance than those who will attempt too great a stride too late, succumbing to a TEOTWAWKI style event rather than being a survivor.

I sincerely hope that this article has inspired you all to either begin preparing for events outside our “Circles of Influence”, or to continue on a path that protects you from those events. My family and I pray daily for the SurvivalBlog readership and the aversion of devastating events. I wish you all the best. Never Surrender. Stay Strong.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A couple friends and I recently talked about the state of ‘things’, and how ‘things’ seem to be getting worse, and how ‘things’ are so bad that ‘things’ simply cannot get better. You’ve had those conversations, right? My friend David is well aware of the sorry state of our political system, and we’ve discussed those ‘things’ several times in the past. However, he was not thinking in terms of societal collapse. David started thinking along those lines pretty quickly, once I pointed out some weaknesses of our system, like the fact that our power utilities are not adding capacity, but reducing capacity, all at the behest of our environmental protectors at the EPA. We’ve had some bad weather in this area over the last year, and the power outages heightened his concern.
My other friend, Steve, was already thinking preparedness, and related some stories about how he buys his grown kids long term storage food for Christmas! (“What? No socks this year?”) Steve has his ear to the financial side of the equation and is quite concerned about the deficit spending and national debt.
Both my friends are also seeing clearly the moral decay of our country, and realize that the fruit of that decay will only be destruction. Needless to say, like you and me, they are looking to prepare and protect their families in whatever eventualities arise.
Then I mentioned my notion of starting a prepper store, a retail outlet that would serve our region by selling preparedness supplies and offering classes. So we started talking that over, having several meetings over the next months. We identified a location for the store, our target market, how we wanted to help our customers, and how we would compete in an marketplace flooded with cheap Chinese goods. We are now open for business!
We’ve come up with some good ideas, one of them being offering classes on preparedness elements. Our initial class drew dozens of people and gave us some initial encouragement that there is a potential place for local preparedness supply outlets. We notice that the attendees at our classes are fully engaged, whether beginning or advanced preppers. After the formal part of each class ends, the folks hang out for sometimes an hour, chatting, networking, and sharing ideas. This was a bit of a surprise to me because I thought that all preppers were very private, OPSEC obsessed individuals who would only reveal their first names.
In our classes, we find a discussion format works well because everyone attending is working on some piece of the preparedness puzzle. Even between two experts in one area, each learns from the other. It’s pretty cool to see two ‘experts’ taking notes during a class he or she is teaching!
In the process of opening this prepper store, David, Steve and I have been so encouraged. Before, we were thinking that there were only a few other people thinking preparedness. But now we realize that there are many, many people thinking and starting to live this way, just in our area. Our ‘destination’ for preparedness is helping folks to focus and get more serious about prepping for the gigantic disaster that our government is bringing down on our heads.
Something else is interesting… In our meetings, we have little or no discussion of politics, religion, morality, or the decline of society and impending doom. Very little. It’s as if ordinary people are getting beyond that and concentrating on the important matters of surviving and thriving. We all know that the sun came up today, the grass is growing, and the government is wasting 8 billion dollars a day, 46% of which is borrowed! That’s just a matter of course in our discussions, and we don’t waste time on it.
We are instead focusing on community building. David, Steve and I came to the conclusion early on that if only 10% of us are prepared in our rural county that we all will still suffer greatly. Now it’s difficult to convince a liberal that his thinking is destroying America, but there are many conservative people in my area who already have awakened. It’s not hard to get them thinking about prepping. If we can raise that 10% to 20% or 30%, then we are making progress. Not all of us can move to the Redoubt, and if we all did JWR would likely move back east!
Community building is the process of restoring the community atmosphere and benefits that we had in America 100 years ago. In every community there was a storekeeper, cobbler, carpenter, brick mason, etc., and these people were interdependent. They were not co-dependent, with all the negative connotations that brings today, but they were more inter-independent. Our communities today consist of individuals or families who shop at the same supermarket, but never speak. A neighbor of mine was out of work for a year, and I did not know it! We shop at the same supermarket, but never talk, and that’s not enough to support a community.
When I watch people chatting at the end of our classes, I see community building in action. “Oh! You know about solar power? I was thinking about putting in a small system. Can you tell me about what you’ve done?” That’s what we need in our community -- people sharing their expertise and friendship toward a common, meaningful goal, something more than watching the Super Bowl or American Idol.
The classes we teach are sometimes involved, and comprise topics such as radio communication, canning, food packing, medical, etc. The people who attend generally have a career and are experts at what they do, though not at what we are teaching. It is heartening to see a 60 year old grandmother hitting the books to learn about radio antennas, or a 20 year old learning about safe and proper canning. I’m getting a boost just from being around these people, and I’m finding others who have skills I lack, so I’m building my community network at the same time.
How do you build community to ensure you not only survive, but thrive? You have to take a bit of an OPSEC risk and talk to people about preparedness. In our area, we’ve had some bad weather, as I mentioned. That’s a good place to start. As I was putting up flyers at a convenience store for one of our classes, some guy standing there told me that a week long power outage was not the worst of it, but that they had a two week "boil water" requirement from the local utility after the power came back on. That was the perfect entrée for me to note the wisdom of having water and food stored for emergency use. Get them thinking with comments like, “Makes me wonder what we would have done if the power had been off for a month!”
Without taking politics or the accursed Federal Reserve, you can start a conversation with a fellow prepper. Recommend a product to them like freeze dried food that was ‘unexpectedly tasty,’ or a water filter, or how you and your spouse met a friend at the shooting range the other day. I was chatting with a buddy I had known for years and the topic of guns came up. I found out that he is an expert marksman and had taken several advanced handgun classes, with his wife, too. Both are office workers and I would have never guessed that about them.
A neighbor just changed the license plate on his car to one of the Gadsden flag designs. That opens up an easy avenue of discussion that may just well lead to a prepping dialog.
Another idea is to just call a meeting at a local library about basic emergency preparedness. Invite someone from your local Red Cross chapter to speak for a few minutes. FEMA gives out free literature (well, we are over-paying for it), shipped to you for free (we are over-paying for that, too), and the pamphlets have some great advice for short term preparedness. That will give your meeting credibility, in case the local constabulary show up to take names. That’s the first batch of your community building effort, because most people there will be interested in long term preparedness, not just how to apply a band-aid or open a bottle of water. Branch out from there.
As we have been building community, I’ve been feeling better about my family’s decision to bug-in and stay put. We are in an east of the Mississippi state which is within a several hour drive of a couple heavily populated areas. Though our county is rural, it could suffer an influx of refugees, if they survive the ride up the interstate. I’m not about to move to Idaho due to family, climate, and age.
While the greater population density is a downside, it’s not if a bunch of those people are part of my community. Every person I can get on the preparedness track is a person I will not have to feed, but one who can help me in time of need, most likely with skills and expertise, and by sharing a community workload. Who cares if there are 1,000 people per square mile, as long as most are prepared?
Another advantage to community building is it becomes the basis for the next American government. It is the survivors who write the history books, and it is the survivors who will form the next government. America 1.0 is done, we know. But freedom is not done, nor is morality, or honor, or virtue, or courage. The survivors, over time will be people with those traits, and they will force their will on the government, hopefully adjusting the framework to prevent the next politician-greed driven crash. I’m participating in training the survivors today, my community.
These people are awesome. One fellow is building an alternative fuels business. Another is taking his home off grid. Several are learning about communications techniques. Many are learning safe and effective firearms practices. A single mother is raising livestock on her own small farm. People are finding ways of getting water out of their deep wells and thinking micro-hydro installations using scrap materials.
These are the people I want to share a country with. A John Galt in every community. It’s happening!
I encourage you to build your community, wherever you are. Only about half of Americans are wed to the government check. Many of the rest have the backbone to ride out the end to the new beginning and be the men and women of strength and courage we need to build a brighter future. Yes, store beans, band-aids and bullets, but don’t neglect your community, for by working together we can determine our own tomorrow for many years after the dependents have burned Washington, DC.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

James Wesley,
A few days ago I called a local businessman about doing some work on our water well pump.  I also asked him his advice about the possibility of later installing a manual water pump along with the electric pump.  He then began to tell me that he was at that very moment installing a manual pump for another person.  His words though were “for one of these preppers.”  He said, “I guess he’s worried about a zombie attack or something.”  This short interaction made me think about a few things that I would like to pass on.

1.  That man had no business telling me what someone else wanted on their property, especially in the way he did. 
I see it as a lack of integrity to categorize in a negative way a paying customer to a person you are talking to on the phone (that he had never met before).  When you do business with someone regarding your preparation for the future, take their integrity into account. 

2.  While this “prepper” should have remained anonymous and unmentioned to me, his downfall was obviously that he told too much about himself to the ‘well man.” 
We all like to make small talk.  Be careful though of telling too much about yourself to others, especially strangers you will only see once or twice.  After I heard what he said about the “prepper,” I just told him that I wanted one because when electric goes out occasionally it would be nice to have access to water.  Even that’s more than he really needed to know.

3.  This man who is a “prepper” is now thought of negatively by the “well man.”
Is it right that the “well man” now has judged the “prepper” for what he prepares for? No, it is not.  But it doesn’t change the facts.  I do not believe in being a man pleaser by any means; but also, much can said about saying as little as possible about yourself.  For instance - Proverbs 17:28Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”  Is the “well man” wrong? – yes.  Will that ever occur to him? – No.

4.  If the “well man” told me about the prepper, who else has he told?
In small communities, word spreads fast.  And yes, men gossip just as much as women, if not more.

5.  When times get tough, the “well man” will remember the “prepper.”
Even though the “well man” thinks preppers are crazy, where do you think he will go when his wife and kids are hungry, dirty, and tired?  Will he come in kindness?  Will he come to take in survival?  We can only speculate.  But he will remember the “prepper.”

Prepping has become cool and trendy for many.  They like to show off what they have and what they know.  That may be fine if they don’t know where to find you, but not if they do.  This makes me think of 2 Kings 20:12-18.  Here, King Hezekiah was proud and showed all of his kingdom to representatives from Babylon.  He did not give God the glory for it.  The prophet Isaiah told him that all would be lost to the Babylonians one day.  Be careful who you take into your confidence. 

Another analogy comes to mind which is far less spiritual or Biblical.  In the old “Muppet Movie,” as Kermit The Frog and Fozzie are traveling to Hollywood they stop at the old church and meet the band.  When they leave and ask Doc if he wants to come along, he declines, but adds “Maybe some day when you're rich and famous, we'll show up and exploit your wealth.”  Many people will make no preparations and simply expect someone else to take care of them (Red Cross, FEMA, neighbors, preppers, etc).  They will let you put in the time, money, and sweat and then want to jump in when you are sitting pretty.

As stated before on this blog, be careful what, who, and how much you tell.  It may come back to bite you one day.  In a final word, I am not saying you should not share or help others in need.  What I am saying is, don’t create problems for yourself.  Be careful of loose lips!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

CPT Rawles,
To follow up on the recent letter son Guerilla warfare:

1.   The most important thing to the success of the insurgent is the support of the people (the fish swims in the sea). The insurgent must maintain support/legitimacy.  Discipline when dealing with the people is paramount.
2.   The insurgent always chooses the location of the fight.

3.   The insurgent never fights when he knows he will lose.  The insurgent wins by surviving.

4.   Advance/retreat; rest/harass; retreat/advance - read Mao.

5.   The insurgent seeks to make the enemy overreact against the people.

6.   In the early phases of the insurgency the best source of supplies and weapons may be the enemy.  Overreaction by the enemy inflames the people.

- Mark S., in Germany

The post on "studying" Guerilla War tactics brought to mind a subject that I have been considering for some time.
Like many, my training and experience was many years ago. Though my body has grown slightly less than optimal my spirit and mind are what they once were and more as an added measure of wisdom has been granted to me.
The question I have been pondering is to ask, what role to those of us who have reached the age of reason have to play in a possible future resistance? We are not able to handle the physical challenges efficiently yet have the experience and knowledge stored that would assist the success of such endeavors.

I have read Max Velocity's book and many other books, articles and posts over the last few years. Many of those in the marketplace of ideas appear to me to be the products of armchair warriors who never heard a shot fired in anger but who have strong opinions and fair writing skills. Max Velocity is not one of the armchair variety. I can not specifically nail down why I know this but can only say that when you know you know.

I believe however, that even from some of these armchair folks, things of value can be gleaned and I will not detract from their efforts except for the few who would upon implementation of their advice get a lot of good people killed without value. I'll leave the details to another time, though I suspect that you and many others with actual experience in the storm see them for what they are as well.

My conclusions are based on observations of history. Old men may not be able to run twenty miles and fight or evade an enemy force in a northern plains winter but we still have value to a potential resistance. In Southeast Asia and many other conflicts in time and about the world it was the old men who provided the philosophical foundation of a resistance. Without coherent reasons as an underlayment, a movement will wither and die. The problem to avoid is a philosophy that compromises true value for the sake of expedience and experiments with the lives of young men. Those who take this role need to be people who have lived what they speak of.

Old men and women provided the Intelligence network for much of the Viet Cong's network. Shop and stall keepers in the cities and towns and the village elders and headmen out in the bush provided the eyes and ears of the guerilla fighters. Men with experience in combat will know what information is useful and how to transmit it. They will be very likely able to set up the networks required. Many good men and their families were executed by the Viet Cong because they would not fill this function for them, instead they worked with our forces. Tragic as this is, it is a good lesson in the value of information networks run by old men and women.

Wounded can be sent to outlying farms to be cared for by the elderly as well as active troops scattered to farms as labourers disguising their true nature. Food supplies and caches of equipment can be concealed and managed by old men and women in cities as well as on the farms. A lot of fighters in African conflicts survived on food and equipment cached by villagers out in the bush. There are many ingenious ways of doing this. Young fighters need food & medical supplies as much as they need ammo.

I think that one of the most valuable assets that old war horses bring is tactical knowledge and training. Knowing how to approach an enemy, how to engage and how to escape and evade afterwards is paramount to success. Young men's eagerness can often lead them into the jaws of a trap or violate the principals that keep a population on the side of insurgents. Old men teach and moderate this tendency in the young.

Like many, I see dark days and see the handwriting on the wall. There is a storm coming. Don't write off an old man because he walks with a cane and takes a long time to pass water. What he carries in his head and his heart is as valuable as a weapon and as useful as a well stocked medical kit. - George in the Upper Midwest


James Wesley;
Another good book on this topic about the originators of guerilla warfare on this continent fighting a standing army is Apache Tactics 1830-86,  by Robert Watt

The author concludes with several reasons the Apache tribes eventually failed in their efforts.
1)  Attrition due to small numbers
2)  Weapons and ammunition supply
3)  Eventual army adoption of guerilla tactics and use of Apache scouts.

...all of which are reversed to the benefit of a patriot counter-revolutionary effort in our present situation. - S.P.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

(Why I prep, and how I do so in a family that thinks I’m crazy.)

In the summer of 1977 my mother dragged me to see my older brother’s Cub Scouts meeting.  I was closing in on my sixth birthday and she informed me in no uncertain terms that I would be joining.  My mother was one of the multitudes of single mom’s in my part of Brooklyn.  A neighborhood where at the time crime was high, money was tight, and involved dads were few.   The only place for many boys to find any kind of positive male role model was in Scouting.  So off to the basement of the local savings bank I went, passing along the way many other kids whose parents weren’t making them go off somewhere that required stuffy uniforms on humid July evenings. 

Shortly after arriving, “Signs Up” was called and the scouts were ordered into their Dens so the meeting could open with The Pledge of Allegiance.  When that was done and all outstanding business concluded I watched in absolute amazement as the older boys (the Webelos) proceeded to learn how to treat shock and minor wounds on one side of the large room while the younger boys (Cubs) were learning how to lash branches together to build a tripod for use as a camp table complete with seats.  Those relatively simple things spoke to me on a level I still can’t comprehend.  I was “all-in” right then and there.

From that night until I turned six I was at every meeting.  I became a mascot of sorts, treated as a member of the team but not quite in the game.  It was a big deal for me when I was finally able to wear the uniform.  At the time (I believe it has changed now) the neckerchief had a picture of a bear cub and the logo: “Be Prepared”.  Words that still echo in my mind and a philosophy that continues to permeate everything I do.

The Modern World:

So here I am: A full grown man, husband and father both, having grown up hearing some variation of “Be Prepared” on a regular basis…  “Make sure you have a dime for the pay-phone”, “Make sure you have extra pencils for your test”, and “Make sure you check your engine fluids before you drive that far”.  The list of recommendations of how and why to be prepared just keeps going and going. 

In a modern world a fully charged cell phone has replaced the dime for the pay phone, but otherwise little has changed with regards to what we tell our children on a daily basis.  So you can imagine my surprise when upon building an emergency kit some year’s back, my wife looked at me with “that look”. 

You know the one you get… it sort of says: “Poor fool just doesn’t know any better”, the visual equivalent of a condescending pat on the head.  I guess I just didn’t realize that being prepared was somehow strange.  So my wife and I proceeded to have a conversation where on one side was the feeling that you can’t ever be too careful (especially in light of how many times we lose power in Upstate N.Y.), and on the other the assertion that I’m paranoid; backed up with the ever so logical “what will the neighbors think?”  I was astonished.

Having grown up about five cents below the poverty line and being raised with Scouting at my side, I had learned to always hedge my proverbial bets.  To find out that according to the people who loved me preparedness was considered crazy…  that most people truly believe the government can and will take care of them in a crisis… just confounds me. 

Had these people not been watching the same news I had?  Do they not remember any of the natural disasters over the last ten years?  Katrina, Irene or Sandy anyone?  Were all of my tidbits of wisdom thrown out like the mornings coffee grinds?

After several discussions about the topic of preparedness I realized I was alone.  I would not receive any assistance in gathering, organizing, storing or in any other way getting my stuff together for an emergency of any kind let alone for TEOTWAWKI.

I had no choice but to become: “The Secret Prepper.” (Cue ominous music.)

Logistics of a dual identity:

Deciding on where to begin is kind of like being an eight-year-old with a $100 bill in a candy store: Overwhelming in its possibilities.  So in looking at the logistics of fulfilling the requirements of my shadow-self, I decided to create 3 basic (but in retrospect woefully inadequate) categories to manage the tasks:

  1. How to pay for it?
  2. What to get and where to get it?
  3. How and where to store it?

The most difficult of these three options, for me, was how to pay for it.  Having a stay at home parent raising a child, in my humble opinion, far outweighs the negative financial effect resulting from only one income.  The problem I came across is that my wife wears so many hats.  I make the money, take care of the yard, kill the bugs and protect us from things that go bump in the night while she does pretty much everything else.  This includes balancing the checkbook.  (Remember, she’s not on-board because I’m nuts.)

How was “The Secret Prepper” to accomplish any of his preparedness goals while not tipping his hand to the one-woman oversight committee that thinks he’s insane?  Not to mention maintaining Operational Security (I will make references to where I adhered strictly to OPSEC.)  Over time it became a game to me.

Getting ready for the Schumer on the cheap:

Finances came from good old-fashioned sacrifice.  I’ve found that when money is tight you have an obligation to stick to what you feel in your gut is important.  As such, sacrifice is an imperative.  At that time, when all was said and done I could allot myself $25 each Friday for the following week.  This money was to pay for my lunch, coffee or anything else I wanted while I was at work. 

I realize this doesn’t sound like a significant amount of money, but once you learn how to squeeze blood from a stone you’d be surprised how much those suckers can bleed.  So I thought back to my childhood and how my mother managed to feed us and came up with some practical solutions as well as some that were foreign to me.

Two things that I did were start a vegetable garden and learn how to jar/can.  This was a completely foreign world to me.  Growing up in an apartment building, the only reason I wanted a good-sized property hours from the city was to get away from people.  I didn’t realize what could be done until I bought a homesteading book.  The amount of money I now save on produce is astonishing.  This has served to help my entire household and not just “The Secret Prepper”.

Otherwise, I spent the first few weeks stocking surplus goods in my locker at work.  Nothing too big mind you, just the basics for the purposes of masking my future purchases.  Ferreting away an excess item from home here and there and bringing it to work, I managed to stash several days lunch in my locker and needed less money the following week.  My surplus cash went into an envelope there as well.  I made it a point to only use cash so as not to create any kind of a paper trail (OPSEC).  It was good practice for my later and larger purchases.

I soon had a sizeable bankroll and a grocery store in my locker with none the wiser.  Some of this food was moved to buckets in the basement and some was consumed for lunch but all of it served to free up $100 a month in cash.  This process took several weeks but once I had it down to a science there was no stopping it.

Saving about $100 a month, I was able to start prioritizing the next objective: What to get and where to get it?

I decided on what my most immediate need would be in the event of the most likely emergency in my area: Nature’s fury and her prolonged power outages.  So with that particular goal in mind, and the knowledge that needs are similar in many emergencies, I proceeded to spend my hard saved money.  Candles, matches, water purification tablets/canteens, solar blankets, first-aid kit, tent and sleeping bags, walkie-talkie’s, batteries, MREs. Thus, all of the basics.

My cup runneth over:

Pretty soon my work locker, my car and my super-secret-hidey-hole were near to bursting at the seams.  It was time to consider task three: How and where to store it?  The problem was, I was still working on what to get.  It became clear to me that a two-pronged approach was in order.

I went to a “mom-and-pop” hardware store in the next town and bought two footlockers, paying in cash (OPSEC), making sure that they could fit into the trunk of my car in case I had to bug out rather than in.  One I labeled camping gear and proceeded to fill it with pretty much anything that fit the bill, storing it where I keep all of the other things my family has no interest in. The other one I left unlabeled and filled with surplus goods.  I added to them some large desiccant packs that I got for free at a piano store and hid the unlabeled one in a dark corner among the spiders.

With room at my outside locations freed up, I went back to my list of necessities.  After buying and waylaying various supplies, I started looking into the next phase of purchase and storage: Mylar.

Nowadays there are a lot of good videos on YouTube about the use of Mylar bags.  Not so just a few years back.  I’ll tell you what I believe to be the most important piece of information I learned about Mylar bags after I had started using them.  I have decided (once again my humble opinion) that I prefer to fill smaller bags.  I can then use these bags to create a variety of items in a single storage bucket.  If I had to grab just a few buckets and bug due to an emergency I won’t have to think about which ones to grab.  Each has a little of everything.  But I’m getting way ahead of myself…

I bought some 5-Gallon 5mil Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers through a dummy persona from an Internet retailer that accepted money orders (OPSEC).  Then, to save money I went to a bunch of grocery stores out-of-town (OPSEC) and basically trash-picked or asked for some food-grade buckets.  When I had a good bucket to Mylar ratio I proceeded to fill my dried stores.

Filling Mylar bags is a simple thing to do.  It’s pretty much a 3-step process:

1. Put bag in bucket and fill with dry goods.
2. Add Oxygen Absorbers.  I use 300 to 500cc absorbers per pound depending on how much “dead air” is left in the bag. For instance ziti leaves more air than rice.
3. Fold the bag over, squeezing all of the air out and run a hot iron across the open end to create a seal.  I usually iron the outermost part of the bag, near the opening, and an extra two inches to create a bigger seal.  By leaving a lot of the bag below the seal you can re-use it.

My dried stores consisted of what you’d expect: Beans, rice, pasta and various grains totaling a paltry five buckets-worth.  To supplement them I proceeded to add cans of various meats like tuna, sardines and the like.  Anything with a shelf life extending out for a few years that I could and would eat over time was collected and stored away.  After a while my secret stash, which was in plain sight, was becoming noticeable (definitely not OPSEC).

It was about then that I read on a blog about how a couple in Manhattan with a considerable shortage of space managed their preparedness needs. 
While I couldn’t follow their example strictly I did learn a lot from it.  Here are three examples of what I did with this wisdom:

  1. I made a workbench using stacked buckets for the legs and camouflaged it on three sides with storage shelves. (They had made a kitchen table camouflaged with a table cloth,)
  2. I stored food in Mylar bags under (my side) of the bed in those under-the-bed storage containers, surrounding them with out-of-season clothes.
  3. Started using 1-gallon Mylar bags to fit a greater variety of items per bucket.

Now it bears note that following number three is a less efficient use of food-space. When you seal the items this way and put them into a bucket there is a lot of dead space between the bags.  What I do with those spaces now is add things like: ammo, toilet paper, water filters/tablets, basic first aid supplies and pretty much anything else I can cram in there.  [JWR Adds: Never include anything on a food container that might exude toxic vapors such as lubricants, paint, Sterno, cans of lighter fluid, hexamine tabs, or Trioxane fuel bars.] So long as I can lift and carry them without straining myself I fill the buckets as much as I can.

Now, instead of having to open a 5-gallon bucket of rice and risk spoilage, I can open smaller amounts as needed and preserve freshness to greater quantities of supplies.  Plus, I have the added benefit of knowing that a single bucket is roughly equal to a full month of a majority of my supplies.  I’ll delve into this momentarily as I know it sounds like a ridiculous estimate.  Just bear with me.

Hiding in plain sight:

Over time my stores grew and my available space was shrinking.  I needed to find a new way to hide my stores in plain sight.  One of the way’s I’ve done this is to put storage buckets next to the items they resemble.  What I mean by this is that I have a bucket with a re-used label stating “Activated Carbon” next to my house’s water filter.  I have a bucket with a manufacturer painted fertilizer label on it among my garden supplies. The variety of things that now require buckets for “organization” in my house is amazing.

All of my buckets have been cleaned and sterilized, and the use of Mylar goes further to ensure the supplies are safe.  Plus, the buckets are among the items they are pretending to be.  This adds a level of camouflage that I otherwise wouldn’t have achieved (OPSEC).  If you think about it, you can find many different ways to not-camouflage your hidden stuff.

Like pulling a rabbit out of a hat:

So now that I have some experience in this, what do I fit in my magical, invisible buckets?  I’m glad you asked.  It takes some creative packing but here’s a typical inventory:

-8 Lbs Rice                                               
-5 Lbs Beans
-5 Lbs Pasta                                               
-5 Lbs TVP (taco, beef or chicken chunk)
-1 cup Sugar                                               
-1 cup Salt
-1 cup Italian Seasoning                       
-100 rounds .22 Long (for small game or ballistic wampum)
-4 Bottles of Water Purification Tablets in a wide mouth quart jug (totals 50 quarts)
-25 each of Chicken and Beef Bullion Cubes (also in the quart jug)
-1 roll of compressed/vacuum sealed toilet paper (cardboard removed)
-50 (ish) compressed/vacuum sealed napkins (can double as kindling after use)
-200 strike anywhere matches in a sealed plastic tube
-2 solar accent lights removed from their stakes
-Whatever first-aid supplies I can get in

Coupled with my jarred stores, garden and chickens (see below), these supplemental items should do just fine.  And if something should go wrong what buckets I may need to bring should I have to evacuate/bug out will still have a solid variety of supplies.

Subterranean Supermarket

I will touch briefly on canned goods.  We can all agree on the fact that they last a long while and offer up a variety of ways to supplement protein and calories as well as ways to avoid Food Fatigue

Food Fatigue is basically getting so sick and tired of eating the same things repeatedly over a long period of time that you slowly starve yourself because you choose not to eat them anymore.  Please feel free to look up a literal definition.

Setting up a rotational stock system should be high on your list.  Canned goods must be stored in such a way that they can be rotated with every purchase.  Optimally you can set up a shelf that lets you put new stuff directly in back and allows you to easily take from the front.

Just imagine that the Schumer has hit the Fan.  You’ve used everything in your refrigerator first and now are going to your stores.  You open up a can of tuna and it just doesn’t smell right.  So you open another… same thing.  As the fear sets in you realize your mistake.  The best way to avoid this is to rotate your stock and stay on top of it. 

Rule of thumb: One in, one out. [Quickly replace everything you use, and use your oldest stocks first.]

Other things you need to keep along with your canned/jarred stores are:

  1. Bleach: You can’t beat it for keeping things sanitary, especially if you have a designated area for butchering game.  It can also be used for treating water, but I’m not entirely comfy with that.
  2. Vinegar: It’s a great non-chemical cleaner that can be used where food is prepared/consumed.  You’ll also need it for jarring foods, post-SHTF.  Store different types of vinegar.  White for cleaning/jarring, apple cider for poultices or treatment for conditions like Gout.
  3. Alcohol:  The drinking kind.  I do not partake often, but if there is any kind of prolonged crisis you may need it for tincturing medicines.  It’s also a great barter item.  Make sure you have vodka and high proof rum.

An old dog learns new tricks:

So to address the obvious shortcomings in my monthly supply estimate, I did after all say it was a rough estimate, I had to learn a few new skills.  Under the guise of boredom (OPSEC) I decided that I wanted to enter the magical world of keeping chickens.  I had to think long and hard about this one.  There are a lot of reasons not to do this.  Among them are:

  1. Chicken coops require maintenance.  If you can’t keep up on things you have no place having them, especially when it comes to living creatures.  They may only be chickens, but their still Gods creatures.
  2. Space is a factor.  If you have a rooster and your neighbors are as little as an acre away, you won’t be friends for long.
  3. Town ordinances.
  4. My limited experience with animals of any nature.

If you look on YouTube there are a lot of instructional videos dealing with coop construction.  I strongly recommend watching them.  Also, though my acreage is small I’m surrounded on three sides by state land.  As for town ordinance, the clerk told me that, though illegal, if there were no noise complaints from my nearest neighbor then there weren't any chickens in existence on my property. 

After about six months, I decided that all was well on the chicken keeping front.  The next thing I had to learn was how to jar and can the produce from my ever-expanding garden. 

I firmly believe that it is my duty not just as a Christian, but also as a human being, to give charitably whenever possible.  I have found that a garden can go long ways towards helping others when needs are great.  As unemployment in my area exceeds 15% at the time of typing this, I am finding more and more people within five miles of my home who are in need of food assistance than I ever though I would see.  Having gone to bed hungry many times as a child I find this to be an affront to my very existence.

As such I keep producing as much as possible.  Along with this, I have found that it has become a simple matter to jar foods like pickles, salsa, tomato sauce, chutney and bean salad.  I give my surplus to the food pantry run by my church versus direct giving (OPSEC) and I’ve managed to streamline my process and make better quality stores for myself.  I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve always believed that you learn best by doing.

The best offense is a good defense:

I’ve now spent the last couple of years secretly creating my cache of supplies.  While doing so I’ve come across a like-minded individual who brought me to my current phase of preparedness: Security and Defense.

I had come to realize that there is a giant hole in all of my preparation.  I did not have the ability to defend it.  I have a fairly decent ability to fight hand-to-hand and with knives.  I honed this ability growing up in a rough neighborhood.  My biggest problem was that I didn’t want to end up being the fool who died because he brought a knife to a gunfight.

To that end I sought to get my pistol permit.  During my journey to permit-hood I met a firearms instructor who, as it turns out, lives not too far from my home.  My gut told me we were kindred.  After my class we got to talking and our belief systems seemed to be in sync.  So I decided to break operational security and divulge my preparedness.  I have not had a single regret about it yet.

My newly discovered partner-in-preparedness is a retired SWAT-experienced police officer.   He has helped several people on the road to “Emergency Security” and has decided to not only teach this to me, but to train with me.  I have been introduced to the world of the “three gun” philosophy and am currently taking steps to hone my skills along with others like me.

A man’s home is his castle:

When it comes to home defense, it’s not enough to just know how to shoot.  I had heard numerous times about “Hardening your home”.  Hardening, in general, is a very simple concept: Don’t make it easy for the bad guys to get in and win.  Use things like thorny plants below but not overgrowing your windows, security system, motion lights etc.  But what about when the Schumer hits the fan?

These basic precautions would likely not be enough to fend of a few hungry people let alone stand up to a full-on assault by looters.  With that in mind I spent a good amount of time walking the perimeter of my property looking for places where my property, as well as my home, could be compromised or used against me.

My property, which borders hundreds of acres of state land, is heavily wooded.  I don’t expect to be set-upon by a fast moving vehicle based force from any of the sides facing forest.  Any approach on foot from these directions would have plenty of cover, but only after traversing 12 acres of swamp on one side, and hundreds of densely forested acres on the others.  I have made good use of a chainsaw and thinned out the woods for a hundred feet in each direction past my property line.  This wood will do a lot of good in my fireplace.

Additionally, I have taken the liberty of re-populating the now thinned areas with low growing vines for ground cover.  These will serve to entangle all but the most dexterous foot thus slowing any approach, and even offering up targets should they get stuck on approach.

With three of four areas of approach taken care of I then needed to contend with my homes three weakest points.

  1. My proximity to the road.
  2. The gaping hole in my home created by my glass deck doors.
  3. The gaping hole in my home created by the Bay Window facing the road.

There isn’t much I can do about how close to the road my home is.  Here are a few solutions I have applied or am in the process of at the time of typing:

  1. The digging of a “Water Run-off” ditch along my road frontage will do considerable damage to smaller vehicles.
  2. A six-foot privacy fence, using concrete in the pillars running the length of my property.  On the “Yard Side” of the fence, concrete “Planters” with decorative brick facing have been added at intervals that will make it impossible for anything to drive between (should my fence be rammed).  Plus they look nice and are the future home for my medicinal herb garden.
  3. My glass doors will be removed when SHTF.  To take their place I have constructed a ballistic and fire resistant blockade that I refer to as “The Portcullis”, though it doesn’t really look like one.


Building The Portcullis

2x8 pressure treated lumber was used to frame out the door opening.  The framing was done in such a way as to allow for the installation of a steel fire door in the center.  The outside of the structure will be closed around the door by screwing plywood to the framing and allowing it to overlap the house by one foot in all directions. 

This plywood is then covered with sheet metal, which when needed for actual use will be coated in barbecue paint.  The whole effect, with the steel fire door installed, is to create a standard door opening that offers protection from nasty things like Molotov cocktails and bullets. 

The additional ballistic protection comes from gravel.   Once the outside of The Portcullis is installed, the inside will go up in sections.  The bottom four feet will be covered with plywood.  At which time gravel, cleverly disguised as additional parking on the side of my driveway (OPSEC), will be used to fill in the space between the outer and inner plywood. 

When I reach the top of the first section, three additional feet will be added in the same manner.  The final foot will be filled this way but with a bit more difficulty as there is little room remaining for the shovels of gravel to be manipulated.

The final product results in excellent ballistic and flame protection.  The same process will be used for the Bay Window with the addition of two gun ports.

The beauty of this assembly is that all of the parts can be stored unassumingly in my basement, shed or anywhere else such things seem ordinary (OPSEC).

It all comes full circle:

As I type this I am still living this secret life.  I have learned how to raise chickens, grow crops, jar and can, purify drinking water, store food, use multiple weapons and harden my home.  I am surveying my land for an area suitable for fuel storage and I have even signed up to take “classes” on battlefield medicine.  But I have yet to re-visit the topic of preparedness with my family.

To an extent I am a coward.  I know how I will react in an emergency.  We’ve had multiple hurricanes and nor’easters. We’ve had a “gas crunch” which saw people fighting on long lines.  I have stared-down armed assailants and fought violently to clear a path through harm’s way. And worse, I have performed CPR on my dying child, and failed, while others either panicked or froze in fear. I know exactly who I am.

I’m just still trying to find out how to be him.  Until then I am shrouded in Operational Security in my own home.  I am “The Secret Prepper”.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Make no mistake, someone will fill the roles of Leader, Supervisor, and Mentor.  As we all know, power abhors a vacuum.  Leaders are considered to be in positions of power, in spite of the fact that many great leaders had little power and many powerful people were terrible leaders.  This article will refer to these roles as they pertain to survival situations.

While the Leader, Supervisor, and Mentor might be the same person, often each of these roles fall on different individuals.  A leader is someone who can organize a group of people to achieve a common goal.  It’s someone who people will follow, either because of coercion (power), charisma, intelligence, gained respect, or other characteristics.   A leader is often assertive and confident.  A leader must weigh their concern for others in the group versus the intended goal.  The situation will often dictate which style (coercion or charisma, for example) of leadership will work at any given time.  Because survival situations can often bring about depression, or a defeatist attitude, it is important that a leader be able to inspire others in the group.

Although someone may be the initial leader, they may not retain it.  Being a leader, as I said, includes having power.  Having power means having responsibility.  The more power you have (whether the president, a cop, or a parent), the more responsibility comes with it.  Some people don't like that responsibility, and some people (although they may like the power) don't know how to handle it well.  I think that, above all, doing what's “Reasonable” will help ensure a leader is considered suitable for the long haul.  Reasonable , in this case, encompasses many things, including good decision making skills and having high moral and ethical character.  As a leader, it is also important to have courage and good communication skills.  Again, not everyone is suitable for the position of leader.

A leader may delegate a supervisor for a particular assignment, so that the leader is not overwhelmed by trying to oversee too many people or projects.  A supervisor is someone who oversees others to see that a project gets completed properly.  A supervisor should probably supervise no more than seven adults at a time.  This, of course, depends on what the task is, but as the number of people being supervised increases, so does the chances of losing control of the project.  As mentioned earlier, the group leader may also be the supervisor, depending on how many people are in the group or are involved in a particular project.   A supervisor will be the primary link between the leader and the group completing the project.  Generally, a supervisor will (or should) also be actively involved in the labor of completing the task at hand.  This is a “lead by example” style that is often important in survival situations.

A mentor is someone who guides or teaches.  A leader or supervisor could also fill the role of mentor, or they may be a terrible mentor, depending on the task, the knowledge they have, and how good of a teacher they actually are.  A good mentor might also be a poor leader or supervisor.  For instance, you may have a doctor in your group who has no interest in being a leader or supervisor, but that doctor might be a very good mentor for aspiring medical care givers in your group.  A mentor may use a “Tell, Show, Do” model of teaching someone, but if the risks involved with a failure are high, then it may be more of a “Tell, Show, Tell, Show, Tell, Show, Do” method.  For instance, a medical procedures mentor might use this technique, because the risks of harm are high if the procedure is done wrong.

Think of the skills most people have now, and what skills will be needed during an extended grid-down scenario.  Not many people possess all the skills needed.  That means everyone will need training/mentoring in some aspect of survival.  For each skill needed, hopefully there is at least one person in your group who currently has expertise for that skill.  Skills need to be cross-trained so that several people possess each individual skill set.  This is so that if one person is unable to conduct a particular skill, then another person can still perform it.  Skills I expect to be needed are: medical (triage, wound management, child birth, disease diagnosis, I.V. administration, mental issues, etc.); food preparation (butchering animals, making basic breads, cooking over wood, solar cooking, dehydrating foods, canning, etc.); gardening (how and when to plant, maintaining soil quality, saving seeds, pest control. weeding, etc.); sanitation (making clean water, personal hygiene, waste disposal, etc.); security (early warning systems, personal combat, team tactics, observation and communication skills, etc.); maintenance (electronics, construction, metalwork, sewing, etc.); hunting (including trapping, snaring, and other wild food gathering); and teaching (primarily the basics of traditional education, along with religious education for the children). 

It is important that proper “feedback”, whether good or bad, be provided by leaders, supervisors, and mentors.  A survival situation is not the same as the normal business world, and the importance of keeping good relationships and completing important tasks cannot be underestimated.  Lives could be at stake.  With that in mind, realize that the way feedback is given greatly influences the way it is received.  If correcting someone (or giving negative feedback): make sure to give the feedback in a prompt manner (don't wait till three days has passed before you tell them they screwed up); be specific about what should be done better (they need to know what they actually did wrong); try to give negative feedback in a setting that is away from others so you don't appear to be trying to embarrass them; and, try to use the “sandwich” technique of saying something positive, then the negative, then finish up with something positive again.  For instance, you might say “Thanks for helping split this wood.  I know it's hard work and I appreciate it.  Can you please split the pieces a little thinner so we can fit them into our stove easier?  Again, I really appreciate your help with this.  This will help us all for quite a while.” 

Giving positive feedback is easier, but just as important.  We can all use positive reinforcement for the jobs we do, and it makes us more willing to do them.  As a leader, supervisor, or mentor, you will be giving feedback, but you will also probably be receiving it.  Make sure you take the feedback with an open mind and react the way you hope others react when you give them feedback.  In fact, as a leader, supervisor, or mentor, I would suggest you occasionally request feedback.  How else will you know how you are doing and where improvements can be made?  It also conveys the feeling that you care what others think about your performance and that you have their interests at heart.

There are many tasks (security, gardening, cooking, cleaning, wood gathering, etc.) that might need to be done in a survival situation.  How will these tasks be assigned?  How will divisive decisions be made?  Is there a process in place to overrule the group leader?  How about insubordination, or a minor crime like theft from someone else in the group?  What sorts of punishments will be handed out?  Those things should be discussed and some plans made.

If some of these decisions are to be made by voting, then I suggest figuring out how to do it ahead of time.  I would suggest having a stock of pre-printed ballots, which have a small box next to a “Yes” and a “No”.  The vote is made by just punching a small hole (with a stick or pencil) through one of the boxes.  Once marked, the ballots go into an empty box before being counted.  By doing it this way, all votes can be made discretely, thereby reducing the chance of influencing the vote by intimidation.  How many votes will be needed to pass a measure (unanimous, majority, super-majority)?  Again, these are for the individual group to decide.

In closing, I just want to say that a leader will almost always be needed, but may not be welcome.  If you have anarchists in your group, then they probably won’t want to follow rules, no matter who makes them.  Not every decision must be made by the leader, so figure out how that will take place.  Having some guidelines in place now will make it easier when times are tough.

When the SHTF, unless you’re alone, someone should, will, or must be a leader.  Not all situations or tasks will need a supervisor, but all will, at some point, have a leader.  It is important to consider who, among your group, will rise to the occasion.  Is it you?  Is it someone you believe will take that position, but not do the job correctly (especially for a survival situation)?  Does your group have too many people who think, or expect, they will be the leader?  Now’s the time to look at the dynamics of the people who may find their way to your house or retreat, in a survival situation.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) has probably crossed your mind lately. It might have been just a brief news flash about a silly Mayan prophecy, or maybe you have an uncle who still thinks the Russians are gonna nuke us. More likely in our generation, our societal bonds could disintegrate thanks to erosion of our financial system. If you have not given this situation much thought, it is high time to start. The first step is to take the possibility seriously. If you cannot handle this basic prerequisite, well, Devil take the hindmost.

Once you acknowledge that the world as you know it could change overnight (as it did one day in September a decade ago, forever making 911 more than an emergency phone number), you can begin to get your mind into the right shape to handle things that might come. First off, look around you. Are you happy with the quality of "people" you see on television? Do you sense a budding sickness in society, perhaps born of ignorance and apathy? Whether by endorsing unfundable entitlement programs or refusing to speak out against unconstitutional infringements on our guaranteed rights, these are the lazy masses deciding the direction of our economy and country. Do not wait around for an irresponsible government to provide a backup plan for a problem it won't admit exists. Decide now that your fate will not be determined by fools and demagogues. If there's one thing we're supposed to know how to do in this country, it is to take care of business when the going gets rough. Now exhale and use your brain.

Everyone has their own ideas about what they would need to survive. We know there are basic needs of food, water, and shelter which we earn by trading our labor, resources, and knowledge. Unfortunately we actually trade for money which is then converted into satisfying our needs and wants. But how is worth estimated when your neighbors no longer value green toilet paper with pictures of dead presidents? When the intermediary is gone from the equation, you must trade directly. With assets lying around for anyone to take, what is special and valuable from an individual? The quick answer is skill set - what you bring to the table besides a consuming belly. All the survivalist staples (like bug-out bags, bomb shelters, and sustainable living, to name a few) are secondary to the primary survival tool you have: your mindset. Whether you are prepared for a new way of living or not, your skill set brings value and your mindset determines your survival.

Currency is the grease which keeps our mighty economic engine cranking at high RPMs. If we lose it, then everyday single-swipe type transactions vanish as does all the industry that depends on things moving at break-neck speed, inevitably to collapse under the weight of its own complexity, only for the want of a little engine oil. Fortunately we grew up with tales of how the country can work (and used to work) at a slower pace. According to your grandpa, those were the Good Ol' Days. There was more bartering and human interaction, less telemarketing and ADHD. This is not to say your current diploma-requisite job is useless; however, smart money says invest in yourself by learning something your grandma would be proud to see perpetuated.

Cities do not function below a certain RPM. Without hundreds of trucks bringing in supplies daily, everyone starves. Riots and looting are only two days deep into hunger and authoritative neglect, as evidenced by recent superstorm Sandy in the Northeast. Maybe you think about escaping to the countryside where the food grows - well, everyone else is thinking that, too. Imagine: desperate hordes fleeing into the wilderness in search of a replacement for their supermarket. They will find mostly unfamiliar countryside, as not everyone is a hunter or farmer. In fact, relatively few of us have the skills to survive on our own. The vast majority of people need a bunch of other providers to live. The main reason we built societies in the first place was to make it easier on everyone. You might even manage to survive as a loner, but you won't thrive. For success after TEOTWAWKI, you need to be accepted into a community that somehow works without our current authority and currency. Yet outside of immediate family members, who would take you in?

A survival-minded group is not going to accept everyone who stumbles into it. For their own protection of limited resources, they will turn away anyone who cannot pull his own weight. Furthermore, they will be practiced in turning away people with necessary force. You will need to offer skills and knowledge that make you worth a share of the food. If you have no obviously valuable skills (carpentry, plumbing, cooking - all those things learned by the vo-tech kids you looked down on in high school), you had better learn to have a valuable attitude. If you think you could be manual labor, well, that's true of anyone. Why should you be the one a community says Yes to? In modern terms, you should think of your survival chances like a job interview. The best answers win and you had better sell yourself well. If you are qualified, you need to prove it. If not, you need to be convincing without fudging your resume.

Think of what kind of homeless person you would allow into your own home. What qualities could such a person have? Should they be honest? Tolerant? Talkative? Picky? These days we get away with character traits that can hardly exist in less evolved societies. White lies, prejudice, insecurity, finicky, fastidious, vegetarian, promiscuity, addictions, and high-maintenance personalities. After TEOTWAWKI, those days are over. Eat whatever is on your plate, like your grandma always said, because there might not be any more. Bothered by things like snoring or bad breath? Learn to live with it. The less trouble you are, the easier you are to keep. You will need to not give any excuse to exclude you from the community. Getting kicked out is as bad as never being accepted in the first place. To wit, you will have to get along with everyone.

Be willing to do anything. Remember your grandparents' work ethic and make them proud. Work doesn't stop when the sweat starts, and after work there will not necessarily be a shower. Work so hard no one can question your devotion. Never get caught lying, stealing, or holding back. You won't get a second chance to rebuild trust. Don't talk about things you wish you had, like chocolate or a bubble bath. Everything you do and say has to make things easier on everyone else, not harder. Think twice about anything before opening your mouth - it might be better to just internalize the comment. You don't have to get two cents into every conversation. You could be better off being considered a good listener who only speaks when he has something of quality to say.

Imagine this kind of person you could invite into your home, because that's who you need to be to get accepted into someone else's group. Make that decision now, and you can learn some skills while you have a peaceful chance to do so. Home gardening is cheap and will grow on you (pun intended). You'll learn how to nurture and no one will know if you fail early on. Cook something that doesn't come with directions on a box. Chop a log or two and see the real cost of that store-bought bundle of fireplace fodder. Go fishing for the first time since you were a kid, and this time clean your own catch. Sew a patch onto your oldest pair of jeans and ask yourself: could I stitch an injury?

It is possible that you won't have skills an established community needs or respects. They might not let you in . But it doesn't necessarily end there, if you are of a persistent mind to be useful. What can you do if you're not accepted inside? Offer to do reconnaissance and mapping. Offer to be a postman/courier between communities. Perimeter security. Ambassador. Negotiator/tradesman. Musician/entertainer. Translator, even! By the way, you are not asking for charity or handouts - you are offering information and services in exchange for food. You might even eventually earn your way inside. Trust is a thing built on experience and performance, not credit.

The decision to survive is really the same as to be a useful member of a society. If you have not prepared for TEOTWAWKI already, then you should learn some post-apocalypse marketable skills. If your only skills are modern and complex, it's time to appreciate some of the old-school, traditional ones. The immediate result (even if society does not collapse) is that you will be a more valuable person, both to society and your self-esteem. You will be stronger of mind and willpower. If you do not want this for yourself, then be honest: are you really worth saving?

Mr Rawles, thank you for the service you provide.

A comment on the dual ring village concept. If it is advanced as a defense tactic, I would urge remembering that the walled-town versus siegecraft dynamic is thousands of years old, and the survival of walled towns and cities is only possible if they are:

1. Provisioned to last longer than the besieging force, which is of course free to forage and be resupplied
2. Fireproof
3. Relieved by a friendly force from outside.

They are also utterly obsolete since the development of artillery bombardment, still more so since the airplane and missile. Sad but true.

IMHO, safety today must rely on:

1. Invisibility or insignificance to possible enemy
2. Effective surveillance of a wide perimeter
3. mobile defense force to engage potential enemy at a distance

War is not only Hell, but quite expensive!

Thanks again! - Ben F.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dear Sir:
I am taking this time to write, because you express an interest in solutions that provide enhanced security and prosperity for people. I, too, like the idea of a fortified village, instead of isolationism.

One possible solution, the dual ring village (DRV), is based on a simple idea. Imagine a line of mixed use buildings - something like the 1890s in New York City. Stores on the street level, with apartments above. Take that line and wrap into a circle. Take another line of buildings, and wrap that into a circle, placed within the first circle. The result : two circular buildings, a ring street between them, and a round park. . . a dual ring village. One more embellishment - construct continuous balconies at each upper level - not unlike the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Obvious benefits : consolidated population, proximity to vocations, retail, services, social access, a large central park, access to a roof deck garden, and inherent security controlled by the gateway. Easy access around, up and down the ring, via the balconies, etc., and reduced  overcrowding on the ground level.

Engineering benefits : curved walls are stronger, use less materials, shared walls reduce exposure to the elements, curved walls deflect winds, and resist side forces (earthquakes). If the exterior ring wall is constructed as a substantial barrier, it would also offer protection from storm surge, flash floods, and mudslides. Security from flooding is dependent on wall height.

Alternative View benefits : The roof deck garden and balcony planters, as well as the central park, conserve more green space than most other high density population designs. Depending on the size and resources of the DRV, may reduce or eliminate the necessity for owning an automobile.

The drawbacks : A DRV has to be designed and built as a monolithic unit, not incrementally. This design also flies in the face of convention, thus is unattractive to the "powers that be." Worse, it fosters a rebellious independence of the Ringers. (Chinese Hakka Tulous are a good example). It is also not designed to expand, other than adding layers, which may not be feasible (shading factor, etc). Generally, population growth will need to be dealt with by building additional DRVs.

Ideas, criticisms, and brainstorming welcome. See the Ring Life Yahoo Group.

JWR Replies: I have briefly mentioned the traditional Fujian Tulou design in SurvivalBlog. Based on the 19th and 20th Century history of urban fires, I don't recommend building entirely monolithic structures. The narrow streets between buildings can be protected by gates, mantlets, or other mobile barricades. But at least they will reduce the risk of a catastrophic fire that cannot be stopped.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I was born into a family of preppers.  My grandparents were all farmers and lived through the Great Depression in the Midwest.   My parents both grew up on farms and came from large families.  While my folks would not label themselves today as preppers, they would consider themselves as independent and self-reliable.  In order to understand my journey as a prepper, you have to go back a few years.  Early into my parents’ marriage, my dad just got out of the navy and worked in various cities and towns, from Texas to Minnesota.  The largest town we lived in was Minneapolis, but usually we lived in towns with a population of around 100,000 people.  As the family grew, there was a desire for my parents to move to an acreage, to get a large farmhouse, and to raise some animals.  By the early 1980s they were able to purchase an acreage that was homesteaded in the late 1800s and was located in rural South Dakota.  It was about 8 acres, had a barn, chicken coop, and two-story house.  It was located at least 20 miles from any town over 1,000 people.  The acreage was situated on a high water table, so we had an outdoor well and had a sand point well for the water in the house.   

After my parents purchased the property, they bought a milk cow, laying hens, some sheep, and a dog.  My mom planted a large garden (roughly 30 yards by 10 yards) with a variety of vegetables.  She canned the extras and created a pantry with shelving all the way to the ceiling with the many jars.  All my siblings helped in the process, hauling up the vegetables to the house and cutting them up.  Many of our neighbors grew large sections of sweet corn, so we would usually eat corn most days in the summer and then would have a few days devoted to freezing the extra corn (sometimes two pickup loads).  My parents went from having a small chest freezer when they were first married to purchasing two large, used chest freezers (these were about 6 feet long).  These came in handy when they began butchering their own cows, pigs, and chickens.  It was not too long until their freezers and pantry were full of meat and vegetables.

In order to save money on clothing, we would wear hand-me-down clothing, and my mom sewed/repaired our clothes to make them last as long as possible.  We attended public school and even in by the late 1980’s and early 1990s, I can remember being bullied because we did not wear “cool” clothes, have neat electronic gadgets,  or bring homemade things for show-n-tell/holiday time instead of from a store.  I remember these bullies using various names to me and my siblings, ranging from being a loser and hick, to poor and worthless.

It was this time in school that I vowed that I was going to get a great job, make a lot of money and show these classmates just how wrong they were.  I vowed that I was going to study hard so I could be the first in my family and go to college.  I wanted to get as far as possible from the rural life.  The summers would especially motivate me to study hard and change my future.  It was during the summers that I spent much of the time on my grandparent’s farm, getting up at 5:00 am, picking rock, milking cows, pulling weeds out of the fields, fixing machinery, putting up hay, and doing other chores until late in the evening.  By the end of the summer I would be even more motivated to move away and was left with a motivation to do well when school started up again in the fall. 

I excelled in school and did end up going to college.  My parents were unable to financially provide for me to go to college, so I did work-study, took out student loans, and worked as a resident assistant to pay for my dorm room.  The motivation from the summers at my grandparent’s farm was still fresh in my mind and I graduated four years later.  I did well in college and ended up going straight to graduate school, this time even further away from my parents.  I enjoyed the college life, much preferring the academic pursuits as compared with my previous manual labor on the farm.

It was then that my “average” life began - the life that I had always wanted.  I got married, graduated again and got a great job.  With both me and my wife working, we were making great money.  We had accrued over $70,000 in student loans, but where happy to pay just the minimum monthly payment.  We enjoyed eating out many times a week and spent a lot towards “entertainment” each month.  We bought a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo; a new car; and took a trip to Disney World.  Things were good. 

Then my best friend, a man in his twenties with a young family died of cancer.  It shook me up and made me reevaluate all aspects of my life.  It was then that things started to change for me.  We had a young daughter at the time and made a decision that one of us would stay home with her.  My wife quit her full-time job and went to a very part-time position (a few days a month).  In addition, my parents gave us tickets to a live Dave Ramsey event and we decided to get “gazelle intense”, getting on a budget and paying down our debts.  Even with our income going down greatly, it still felt like we had more money than ever.  Less than two years later we had to push “hold” on our debt pay-off, as we had a son.  My wife did not work at all that year, and our son had a difficult beginning, so our medical bills were pretty high.  Being a father to a son, I thought a lot about my role as provider and protector, as well as the legacy that I wanted to leave for my family.  It felt that I was a long way from where I grew up in terms of my lifestyle.  Life was fast-paced, we lived in the city, we went to the grocery store near our house a few times a week, and we even had all our yard/maintenance taken care of thorough our homeowner's association (HOA.)  But I could feel a yearning that there was something missing. And thus began my return trip home!

It was with two young kids that we decided to move back closer to my family.  The decision did not happen overnight, but rather over 18 months and a lot of prayer.  The housing market bubble had popped and we lost about $25,000 on our place but we packed up and moved anyway.  We found a two-bedroom apartment in our new town, only about 25 minutes from my parent’s acreage.  We decided that we wanted life to slow down and get back the skills that generations of my family had all known.  In order to do this with only one income we got creative on how to save money.  We began couponing, collecting the weekend newspapers on Monday from the motel just a few blocks from our place.  We sold our car for a used minivan.  I went to my parent’s acreage and helped butcher chickens like when I was a kid – my folks were grateful to have us back and to be helping so they gave us 30 chickens for our freezer (we acquired to small chest freezers that we have in our garage).  I helped my uncle butcher four large pigs, and like my parents, he appreciated the extra help, thanking me by getting me about 50 pounds of ground pork.  We used the envelope system for our budget and paid cash for our purchases.  We got a used food dehydrator at a garage sale for $5 and began to use it.  We tried our hand at canning and did a few small batches with various foods.  We made our own laundry detergent, baked our own bread, and tried to drive our vehicles less.  With these small changes, we currently have our monthly food budget at under $250 for our family of four.  We are proud to say that our student loans are down to about $4,500 and we don’t have any car payments or credit card debt!  We even have our $1,000 emergency fund and within a few months hope to have the remainder of our debt paid off.  We then hope to save for a house, maybe even an acreage just like my folks. 

Since moving back closer to my family, I have devoted myself to learning about new skills.  I have always enjoyed reading, so I naturally began to follow blogs and read books on how to be self-reliant and how to save money.  Much to my surprise, most of the books and blogs I was learning the most from were from a group of folks called preppers.   While I do follow multiple blogs now, I do have to say that it is SurvivalBlog is my favorite.  Not only has it helped me to stretch my dollar for food, I have acquired so many new skills that I now don’t know how I lived without them.  I feel that I am now a better provider and protector for my family.  I like that our house now has a medical kit, a bug-out-bag that we can grab at a moment’s notice and enough food to last us for at least 3 to 6 months.  I enjoy how there is a focus in SurvivalBlog about family and the importance on building relationships.  I feel equipped that even with all the negative news on television, my family is going to be okay, as we are going to be prepared.    

Friday, April 12, 2013

You may be reading this and have not made the decision to get started.  You may be facing some of the same challenges I had or you may have your own.  I want to encourage you to find ways to overcome your obstacles.  Getting started is the biggest step. 

My family and I have always led a very frugal life.  My wife and I both work, and I have a second job as well.  The grocery bill stays under $30 per week through couponing and eating-in.  Money has gone into savings in case of emergency and we finally have a few months saved up.  Any extra at the end of the month is put towards a quickly dwindling mortgage.  The only expense we do not continually try to find new ways to lower is the tithe.

This was our lifestyle before I started ‘hearing’ the news last summer.  I had been reading and listening to the news, but I had not been hearing it (my ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ reference).  I quickly realized I needed more information.  With a Google search I found SurvivalBlog and started reading the main page… then the archives… then looked for other resources.  I promptly realized I needed to stop reading and get started.  I also realized I had two major hurdles before I could even start.

Hurdle number one was my wife’s fears.  Like most people, we were sheeple, making our way through life in the blessed assurance that the security blanket we had been given would always be there to keep us safe and warm.  Fortunately, we communicate about everything (we don’t always see eye to eye, but we do talk).  At first, the news scared her.  She could only handle a few minutes of my questions at a time a couple of days a week.  I just had to slowly feed her information.  I asked questions when making meal plans like, “What would we do if the food we needed for the week was not available at the stores?”  It is 10 months later and I am still asking questions.  She is involved now, but not as much as I would like her to be, or as much as she really needs to be if something happens.   It is an ongoing process, but isn’t everything about getting prepared?

At some point she conceded we had to do something, and trusted me to start.  She was okay with being prepared, but she is still not interested in imagining her life after TSHTF.  She helps by buying more at the store than we need when there are deals on goods with a long shelf life.  She also created storage options under the beds and set up a system to track the expiration dates on these purchases. 

In opposition to some of the advice we see, we do not always buy food we will eat if we still have it in two years from now.  We understand much of it will need to be donated and replaced at that time.  I have asked her to start with an easy goal of accumulating three months worth of food and water at the most economical price possible.   Sometimes this means purchasing things we have coupons for that we would not normally buy.  If TSHTF and I am hungry, am I really going to care that the food available consists of chopped tomatoes instead of Campbell’s soup, or am I just going to be thankful to have something to eat?  After we have three months stocked, I will explain the need for six months to her… or more likely, introduce the idea that we may need to have enough food for any loved ones who are not stocking up as well.

On a slightly out of context note: An unlucky squirrel blew a transformer in the middle of town here a few months ago, causing power to go out throughout the area in the middle of the day.  I attempted to buy from the local Wal-Mart, Publix and Kroger.  None of them would sell me anything because their computers were down.  They had the doors locked.  The stores are dependant on the barcodes to get prices for the products, and their inventory systems communicate with their corporate offices to reorder items.  In addition, they won’t be taking any credit or debit cards without their machines to approve the sales.  I often hear we should get to the grocery stores with our cash as soon as we see there is an issue, but if the power is out due to an EMP or natural disaster, it is probably be too late, even with cash.  Waiting to buy food at the first sign of trouble is not a viable option.

The second hurdle was finances.  As I mentioned, we are both conscious of our money and live a thrifty lifestyle.  Where was the additional money going to come from to buy supplies and additional groceries?  How would I start buying some silver coins?  For me, the answer was in something I had already been doing every week… yard sales.

I had been spending every Saturday morning in search of yard sale stuff already.  All of a sudden my list got longer.  I found two military issued backpacks just back from Afghanistan for less than $10 total.  I bought fishing gear, boots, warm clothing, storage containers, cabinets, five gallon gas cans, propane tanks, knives, two multi-tools, ropes, tarps, a canteen, and a second first aid kit.  Silver jewelry bought for dollars often finds a home in my new safe (also bought at a yard sale).  In addition, is a virtual 24 hour yard sale.  I have picked up all sorts of useful things, from 55 gallon drums to a new firearm, on there.

I also started looking at the stuff at yard sales as a way to make more money I could use to buy other things I needed.  This takes some research and I had to choose a few things I would specialize in.  The pair of silver plated candelabra’s bought for $5 sold at the local coin shop for $35.  A practically new 8-man Tent bought for $10 was sold for $50 on Craigslist.  I have learned to avoid certain things like watches which I can’t authenticate, vinyl albums which I do not know enough about to make money, and old cameras which are a pain to sell.  Selling the items is the hard part and it is work.  It may sound like buying something for $1 and selling it for $5 is a 500% profit, but with the cost of gas I use driving around and the time I need to put into selling things, I typically shoot for larger profits.

A cell phone is an invaluable tool while at a sale.  Want to know how much an item is worth?  Check it out at before buying it.  Ebay is the ultimate source to find out what an item is worth since it tells you the true value people are willing to pay.  Remember to look at the Sold listings.  Just because an item is actively listed for $50 does not mean it has sold in the past for more than $25.

This work resulted in enough money to start buying the things I could not find locally.  The essentials, such as a solar powered battery charger, a hand-cranked emergency radio and water purifying equipment I still had to get from Amazon.  Ammo still had to come from the store.  A small silver coin collection is financed from the yard sale profits and continues to be added to.  Watch sites such as for discounts on everything from flashlights to pistols.

You literally never know what you are going to find for sale.  One of my most surprising finds was ten AR-15 thirty round magazines for $1 each.  My advice if you want to give this a try is to get started early, and plan your route.  Craigslist and your local newspaper are good places to look for upcoming sales in your area.  I like to get a list of the ones starting at 7:00 AM or earlier and head that direction first.  I recommend getting there 30 minutes early (unless they specifically request that you do not in their ad).  Most people are setting up and do not mind you looking.  After those, choose a route going by as many populated areas as possible.  You have to get out early because by about 8:00 AM all of the valuable items, such as jewelry and collectibles, are gone.  There are lots of yard sale pickers out there searching for these.

Be prepared when you arrive.  Do you know how to tell gold and silver jewelry from the costume jewelry?  Have you written a list of the main items you are looking for?  If your spouse is not with you, bring a list of items he or she are looking for.  Be prepared to ask for a discount, even if the price being asked for an item is reasonable.  People expect to bargain at yard sales and every dollar saved helps.  More than half of the time they will discount their price for you.

Lastly, ask for anything specific you are looking for, even if you do not see it.  Sometimes people have things in the house or garage they did not consider selling at first, but are willing to part with.  I picked up a five gallon gas can last week just by asking.

I still have a lot more to search for, but I have the essentials and each week I become more prepared than the week before.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

History has shown that empires, nations, societies, and individuals all pass, and that the events of our lives can be, and oftentimes are, very uncertain. 

About a year ago, my wife and I read the novel One Second After by William Forstchen.  While this book is a fictional account of a catastrophic event and the resulting collapse of civilized society, it may depict a disturbingly accurate account of events that could occur in a real-life catastrophe in the near future.  Reading this book resulted in a complete shift in our mindset and caused us to re-evaluate our pursuit of the “American Dream.”  It opened our eyes to the realities that the near future may consist of issues far more serious than retirement and buying our dream home.  While these things are still important, they are not the only factors to consider, or even necessarily the most important factors to consider.

Thus began our journey towards preparing our family for a future event that will change the lifestyles and priorities of our society.

Initially, we read blogs, books, magazine articles, and many other sources of information to educate ourselves in the necessities of preparedness.  We immediately discovered that a person could spend a lifetime researching and learning, and still not know everything there is to know about prepping for a variety of catastrophic circumstances.  We also discovered that prepping is costly, both in time and money.

As we began making plans, lists, and gathering supplies, my wife and I discovered that we each had a mindset unique to us.  This difference was, and is an obstacle that has to be overcome and collaborated in order to maximize the effectiveness of our preparations.

For example, I am a Law Enforcement Officer in a small, rural town in the Rocky Mountains.  I am also an avid outdoorsman, survivalist, and gun enthusiast.  These qualities tend to guide my mind towards preparing a “bug out” location in the mountains, far away from human populations, and living off the land.  It also causes me to consider tactical preparations as a primary issue.  While there are some positive things to be said for this, I have learned that there is far more to prepping than living off the land and shooting the bad guys.

My wife on the other hand, is a stay at home mom who home schools our two children and keeps the home.  Her mindset is to prepare our home to be a safe haven, well stocked with the necessities to survive.  She tends a garden, cans food, sews, cooks, collects and stores food and water, and makes plans to “hunker down” and thrive on our collected resources in our “bug in” home.

These very different mindsets are both important, but must be melded in a manner that creates a balance.  This, along with a limited budget, made it imperative that we prioritize our preparations by order of immediate importance.  To successfully accomplish this prioritization, there are several factors to consider.

Factor #1 – What circumstances are you preparing for?
People prep for many reasons.  In our minds, the most logical preparations take into consideration a wide variety of realistic circumstances, and prioritize the supplies and skills that will prepare you for many different circumstances.  For example, if you prepare exclusively for a worldwide pandemic, but do not prepare for a complete collapse of our current society, your family may starve to death.  This is along the same lines as the commonly quoted idiom, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”  Our personal opinion is that there are numerous circumstances that may lead to the collapse of our society, creating a shortage of necessities, and a breakdown of civil order.  Therefore, because it covers such a broad spectrum of circumstances, it makes sense to us to be prepared for that situation.  When those preps are complete, then narrow down your continuing preps for a particular situation.  We scour web sites such as,,, and for useful and practical prepping information.  

Factor #2 – Financial limitations.
Prepping is not cheap.  You could spend infinite amounts of money preparing for the end of the world as we know it, but, if you are like my family, you do not have infinite financial resources.  Thus, you must carefully prioritize, plan, and shop in a manner that maximizes the financial resources that are presently available to you.  For example, if you don’t presently have the financial ability to purchase a solar power system to power your home, you may have enough money to purchase a large supply of non-hybrid seeds, enabling you to plant a garden.  The point is, purchase necessities of survival when you can, and plan to save up your money for the large expense items.  We visit internet sites such as, and for information and ideas on prepping with a limited budget.

Factor #3 – Organization
When my wife and I first began prepping, we had all kinds of great ideas, priorities, and purchases which we wanted to implement.  What we quickly discovered was that we often times were making something an immediate priority when there were other items or skills which were a more pressing priority.  We decided to get organized and began to make lists of what items and skills we needed for our preparations.  What we then discovered, is that these lists are always growing, and that, while having a list is great, the items and skills on the lists must be prioritized by order of importance, and must be adaptable to ever changing circumstances.  This organization requires time and effort to create and maintain, but will ultimately result in a more efficient preparedness plan.  This organization and planning is unique to each individual and family, but there are innumerable web sites on the internet that provide insight and opinions into this topic.

Factor #4 – What is truly important?
This is a question that can also be relatively unique to each family or individual.  With that being said, there are several factors that are universally important.  These factors are: clean water, shelter, and food.  It is our personal opinion that these necessities should be prioritized in above order because, while you can live for a while without food, you can’t survive without water for very long, and shelter may be just as important, depending on the situation.  Other factors may be relative to a person’s marital situation or geographic location, but every human on earth requires these needs be met.  That will never change, so make these a #1 priority.  Beyond these necessities, each individual and/or family must decide for themselves what preparations are most important.  One family’s plan may not be the best plan for the family next door.  The point is, meet the necessities first, then prioritize and implement the other preparations.  There are many great books and web sites devoted to these topics.  One web site we have found particularly helpful is, and our favorite book so far has been JWR's How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It.

Factor #5 – Who are you prepping for?
This is a very important issue to think about.  Are you prepping for your family? You’re extended family?  You’re friends or neighbors?  Or all of the above?  The point is, when these people come knocking at your door and looking for help, what are you going to do?  This needs to be thought out and planned for so that when the time comes, you are not caught unprepared.  Personally, my wife and I feel that the more people we educate on this topic, the less people there are that will be knocking on our door (or knocking down our door), looking for help.

Factor #6 - Learn what you can.
There are almost unlimited resources to assist you in preparedness. Make use of as many resources as possible.  Learn from other people’s mistakes or successes, and do the best you can to avoid making mistakes of your own.  Remember, knowledge and wisdom are two different things, but both can help you survive and thrive in a bad situation.

My wife and I are still very new to the world of preparedness.  We learn new things every day and struggle with balancing prepping with living our lives in way that does not require us to stress or obsess to the point of unhealthy mental strain. 

Prepping can be exhausting and stressful.  Or it can be rewarding, exciting, and fun.  Be diligent, but don’t be militaristic.  Include your entire family and work at your preparations at a pace which best suits your family.  Find ways to make your prepping fun and adventuresome.  Prepping can be used to bond families together.

Our world is ever changing and we must adapt to, and overcome the challenges that arise with these changes if we are to survive them.  If you wait until the last minute and don’t plan for the unexpected, you may find yourself unprepared to face the potentially life altering, or life threatening circumstances you may encounter.  Better to be prepared and not need to be, than to be unprepared when necessity strikes!

Good luck and happy prepping.

In my conversations in person and online as well as select daily readings including SurvivalBlog; it seems to me that there are a few very common themed roadblocks that people throw out as reasons why they can’t or don’t need to prepare or are unable to take their prepping to the next level.
The four that come to mind are:
1)      My spouse doesn’t buy into the need to prepare
2)      We can’t afford to move
3)      God is in control; He will take care of us.
4)      Your prepping is actually a sign of a lack of faith: The Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory.
For the purposes of this article I am going to leave number one alone as much has been written about it and I don’t feel that I have much to add to the topic other than to say that if you are “equally yoked” with a spouse who is also a survivalist then count your blessings. That being said I believe that the conclusions I will draw regarding the latter three topics is also likely the reason a spouse is not “on board” with prepping.
We can’t Afford to Move;

Let me begin this topic by excluding those who are in the heart of major metropolises doing “great commission” work and those who are serving our country. I know brothers who are survivalists and in the military who when serving in "The Sand Box" are very concerned that the flag could go up and they would likely be up a creek without a paddle. Also stateside they realize that their preparations are lacking due to where they may be stationed, frequent moves, lack of storage space and too much month left at the end of the paycheck since they are the sole bread winners for their families. They deserve our praise for being in harm’s way.

Many people have given their testimony regarding pulling up stakes and moving to a safer location. My personal favorite was the SurvivalBlog submission “The Big Picture – Making a Life Changing Move” by A.L.  His writings remind me of the colloquialism of "nuff said."

Another popular testimony is that of Pastor Chuck Baldwin; they pulled up stakes after 35 years of preaching and deep roots from their home in Florida moving to where they now reside in Montana. Read his testimony titled The Hardest Decision of My Life.

Pastor Baldwin has said some controversial things in the past that not everyone agrees with but allow me to make two points. First, I was impressed by the fact that it wasn’t just he and his wife who made the move; in fact if was five families and 17 people. Secondly when he says that it was the hardest decision of his life, I take him at his word.

My testimony is not as impressive as those two but it follows the theme. 25 years ago my wife and I moved from a large metropolitan area in California to a mid-sized city in what is now called the American Redoubt. We did our homework and had visited said location twice. When it came time to move it meant leaving all our family and friends behind. We loaded all our worldly possessions (we were newlyweds so my dog was probably the most valuable possession)  into my pickup and my wife's small car. We arrived at our new “home town” with no place to stay, no jobs lined up, not one person in the region we knew, no credit available to us and $5,000 in cash.

I can report that from that day to this we have never borrowed a nickel from anyone other than for the purchase of real estate. The journey has been incredible and the blessings that we have received by taking that leap of faith are uncountable.

There are many great people and blogs out there with similar stories. I think of the homesteaders I know in the Clark Fork, Idaho area, Enola Gay’s blog Paratus Familia and Patrice Lewis in her Rural Revolution blog. [JWR Adds: Those are two of Avalanche Lily's favorite blogs.]

The common themes are this. Very few people relocate to a safer location with significant resources at their disposal, nor do they relocate to pursue the treadmill of creating (paper) wealth. Most stories you hear have required a leap of faith and very frugal living to “live the life." In a word; sacrifice.
Another theme you will see is that the definition of wealth  has been redefined by those who have moved out of the cities and suburbs to their piece of ground, homestead, rural retreat, etc. From my observations most of those people tend to be happier even though they work extremely hard. That happiness, I believe is derived from a sense of purpose that is hard to find in the work-a-day world of large cities.

Several years ago we were new to birthing (goats and sheep). We had a few successes under our belts but we ran into a problem and of course it was in the middle of the night in the middle of winter with zero moon. Bottom line, we were in a bind. It was clear the babies were not going to make it so it was all about saving our prized  French Alpine. We don’t like to impose on people but like I said, we were in a bind and over our heads. I called our neighbors who live two miles away and 3:10 am who have much more experience with livestock.

They answered the phone straight away with a “hello?”  I said Dan this is Jeff we are having problems with a birthing and wondered if you had any advice for us. He said “I will be right over." He and his wife arrived at our place nine minutes later. His wife gets out of the vehicle and in a very upbeat and cheerful tone says “good morning neighbors!” It took an hour of physically and emotionally draining work but we saved the babies (Kids) and the doe. That to us is wealth. Having neighbors who have your back that you can call on any time day or night and they are there for you means more to me than a fat 401k would.

I will concede that there are people who through no fault of their own lack the resources to make a move. I also believe in personal responsibility and cause and effect and know that when a good number of people claim that they can’t afford to move what I hear is that they are unwilling to make the sacrifices entailed in such a move.

It’s a choice. Can you afford not to move?

God is in Control
I will never forget a conversation I had with a gentleman after a Bible Study we attended. Based on that study I knew the answers he would give to my first few questions. For OPSEC reasons he did not know that we are survivalists.

Me: So John you believe that Christians will be here on earth during the Great Tribulation?
John: Certainly, that is clear in the Bible.
Me: And you believe that the Great Tribulation is coming soon?
John; Very soon.
Me: And you believe in the concept of the Mark of the Beast?
John: Yes, I believe that we as Christians who do not take the mark will not be allowed to conduct commerce, buy, sell and so on.
Me: So that means what? You can’t buy groceries, fuel, clothes etc?
John: Yes exactly.
Me: What are you doing about that?
John; What do you mean?
Me: I don’t know, this is your scenario, I just wondered if you were doing anything to prepare for this?
John: You mean like storing food?
Me: Well, I don’t know, like I said, this is your scenario but sure, if you won’t be able to buy groceries, how are you going to feed your family? (Husband, wife and three pre-teen children)
John: Well I had thought about that but I would just end up giving all the food away as charity.
Me: Wouldn’t it be better to be in a position to dispense charity rather than to have to rely on it?
John (pause); Our main course of action is to pray and get close to God and put our faith in Him.
Me: I see.
John: My wife has brought up the same questions (come to find out she is a closet prepper). But I don’t want to get all bogged down in trying to sort through every conceivable disaster to prepare for.
Me: (The guy hasn’t gotten bogged down in anything) Are you in danger of that?
John: I just want to be careful not to turn inwards towards myself rather than outwards towards God.
Me: Well, I would say that using your resources and time to help insure the health and safety of other people is the inverse of selfishness.
John: Maybe, I just don’t want to take away from what God's plan is for Me: to be a blessing to other people.
Me: (gag) Well, again, this is your scenario but it would seem to me that if what you think is going to come to pass, does come to pass, and you don’t do anything to prepare for it, you will be the inverse of a blessing to those you love the most.
John; (long pregnant pause)…it’s something to think about..he changes the subject.

My suspicions are that there are a lot of people like this. On the one hand their eyes are open but on the other they have every conceivable reason why they don’t have to do anything. These are also the types where if you start talking about firearms for self protection you can get the; “Oh, we want to be careful about that, remember those who live by the sword die by the sword.” Wow! What do you do with that?

In the safety of a blog that doesn’t compromise OPSEC I think what you do with that is call a spade a spade. The doing of the Bible and the doing of survival might not be required to save your soul but it could save your life and the lives of people you care about. My sense is that likely it is just a means to an end to support laziness. When all Hell is breaking loose I really think that God is going to have “bigger fish to fry” than keeping food on your table. Don’t ask God to do for you what you should be doing for yourselves.

A few weeks ago I read an article and I cannot remember who wrote it but the gentlemen had no compunction about telling it as he saw it. To paraphrase he was talking about this very subject about all the places the Bible (Jesus) warns us to be prepared for myriad things. Then he says, so if you don’t heed the Bible's warnings and prepare like it tells you to; when you and your family are starving that will be the least of your pains because you will be gnashing your teeth for not doing what you should have, then you will die and go before God and you will get to explain why you didn’t do what He told you to do!  Yikes!  No holds barred there, but I like his bluntness.

The Pre-Tribulation Rapture: "You see, your preparations are actually a sign of a lack of faith on your part."
This is a good one.
First of all let’s not meld three concepts into one as they are want to do. There are personal times of “tribulation” there are “tribulations” and there is “the great Tribulation." So, even if you’re certain that you won’t be around for the “Great Tribulation” it does not mean that there is nothing to prepare for. Twice Paul begged God to be” taken away home” out of his personal tribulation and God refused as He had additional plans for Paul. If Jesus’ right hand man Paul didn’t get a pass from his tribulations why do you think you will?
I am not a “man of the cloth” rather just a man trying to walk the walk but in my opinion the concept of the Pre-Trib rapture is false doctrine. Potentially dangerous false doctrine.

In no way does the Bible clearly articulate the concept of Pre-Trib rapture. To my reading the citations used by those to support the concept are subjective in nature. "The cow jumped over the moon which was made of green cheese." So clearly the cow represents Israel and the moon means the Euphrates River and the fact that it was made of green cheese means the moon was not kosher.

Okay, so I exaggerate but you get the point. This is what I refer to as the “clearlies” and the “obviouslies."  When you are reading “The Theologians Guide to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture”, etc you run across a lot of “clearlies” and “obviouslies” and that to me means it is not “clear” or “obvious." Without getting bogged down with back and forth scripture citations let’s ask some common sense questions that deserve common sense answers.

1)    The Pre-Trib rapture first got introduced as a working idea in the 1800s. Prior to that there is no mention of it that I can find by any prophet, scholar, preacher, writer, nobody. Why?
2)    What does Satan have to offer? Three things to my thinking: lies that contain half truths, the allure of “enlightenment” and the desire to divide Christians. God offers whole truths, no lies, the offer of redemption not enlightenment and desires for us to unite.  "Love your neighbor as yourself."
3)    Did this notion of a Pre-Tribulation rapture serve to unite or divide Christians? If you’re not sure you need to get around the Internet a bit more and see the vitriolic arguments for and against levied by “Christians” at each other. If the modern notion of a Pre-Trib rapture served to divide Christians in a big way (and it has) it serves Satan's purposes, not God's.
4)    What explanation do some Pre-Tribbers offer as to why this concept was never spoken of prior to the mid 1800s? Yep! Some form of enlightenment by the believers bestowed upon them in that day that was previously not known. Who was it that offers enlightenment again?
5)    Do the Pre-Trib believers of today that you know see their beliefs as more enlightened than those who do not hold those beliefs? The ones that I know do. Do those who don’t believe in Pre-Trib rapture carry an air of more enlightenment than those who do?  I for one don’t. This is best illustrated by the fact that Pre-Trib rapture believers have absolutely told me to my face that my preps are a lack of faith. Satan's lies are so subtle that they have convinced themselves that the false doctrine they embrace is a higher level of faith (enlightenment and division all in one) than those of us preparing to provide four ourselves in times of trouble. Who was it that seeks to divide us and offers enlightenment again?
6)    The Bible is the book for believers. Our handbook if you will. If the believers are all going to be “taken away home” just in the nick of time what is the point of the Bible going into great detail about the Great Tribulation period if none of us are going to be here? We really wouldn’t need to know anything about that would we? What purpose does that information serve if everything in the “Good book” is there for a reason?
7)    Not the least of which the Mark of the Beast. Why would we need to think about that or hear about that if we are all gone?
8)    The Pre-Tribbers assert that at the rapture (at the onset of the Great Tribulation) Jesus comes down to the clouds and at the end of the Great Tribulation. He actually walks on Earth and that that is the second coming. So which one is Judgment day? Those who get raptured to Heaven and those left behind at the beginning of the Great Tribulation; is that judgment day? Or is it judgment day when Christ returns?  Are there two judgment days? Two unsealing of the Book of Lambs? If all the saved Christians are taken away home right before all hell breaks loose why have a great tribulation at all?
9)    Be extra leery of theses that support your biases. i.e. people with lazy streaks who  convince themselves that they don’t have to do anything. Nothing worth having is attained easily. We know that our salvation is attained through grace not works but we also know that there is a certain element who are all too keen on the idea of having to do nothing. “Works for me, back to the ball game." That is fine, it’s a choice, but when you castigate those of us preparing that doing so is “lacking faith” it is hard for me to not think of the word “foolish” or even “mockery." Mocking God's people seems like a bad idea to me.
10) And now we get down to brass tacks. Does the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory better serve the desires of Satan or God? How could we know? Using logic I think we can certainly gain some insight. What happens if I am wrong and the rapture occurs prior to the tribulation and I am taken away home? Nothing really, I will be saved and in Heaven and probably won’t even know what hit me, much less have the time to rationalize, “Oh I guess I got that Pre-Trib rapture thing wrong.” Now let’s go the other way. What happens to Christians who have built much of their belief system around the Pre-Trib rapture, what if they are wrong? The great tribulation is “game on” and they are still here on earth. How many of them are going to question God? Question their faith? “He” didn’t come through for us, it was all a pack of lies! How many of them are going to renounce their faith? How many of them will swallow the next big lie that God doesn’t exist and turn their allegiances to the antichrist and become the sworn enemies of those remaining Christians? To me, that’s the main “rub” right there. This is exactly what the Pre-Tribbers have been set up for in my opinion. Not all of them will swallow the next big lie certainly, but many will.
To me the main lesson here for those of us who count ourselves as Christian Survivalists is this; In a SHTF scenario identifying friend from foe is going to be a huge challenge. None of us are naive enough to think that the bad guys are going to introduce themselves as evil. But let us also not be naive enough to think that all “Christians” are going to be your friends. The Bible is clear on this and maybe none more famous than Isaiah 3:5:

“People will oppress each other-- man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the nobody against the honored.”

Since, like Judah, we have broken our covenant of protection, this may well metaphorically speak to our futures as well.

God is in charge but that doesn’t make doing nothing a wise call.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Since I am Jewish, I read with interest "A Prepper's Holiday" by C.E.B. (posted March 7th), in which the author described what he has learned by observing the Old Testament holidays of Passover and Sukkot.

It occurred to me that Jewish history and culture - being largely a five-thousand year track record of survival against all odds - actually has quite a few lessons that would be relevant to SurvivalBlog readers of all faiths. Here are a few.


In 1941, Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. At the time, my grandmother and her family were living in a small town in the Ukraine, not terribly far from the Soviet border. The Stalinist propaganda machine, of course, assured the populace that the German army would be crushed with ease. However, one of my grandmother's uncles was a senior member in the local Communist Party, and had a clearer view of reality. He gathered the family together one evening and told them that it was very likely that the Nazis would reach their town, with devastating consequences to the inhabitants. He spread out a map of the USSR, and pointed to a small province much farther east: the Uzebek SSR (now called Uzbekistan). "You have to go there," he said. "Hitler will never get that far."

Having suffered through generations of persecution and "pogroms" (anti-Jewish riots, often conducted with the approval of police and political authorities), they had every reason to believe him. So, they quietly packed up and moved to Uzbekistan, where they waited out World War II far removed from the death camps and other atrocities of the Third Reich and the Stalin regime.

Fast-forward to today: while the mass media assures us that the recession will be over any day now, folks like SurvivalBlog's Captain Rawles are busy telling anyone who will listen that heading for the hills would be a very smart idea.

If you wait until you hear the sound of jackboots on cobblestones, it will be too late. The time to get out of town is now. As American poet Robinson Jeffers wrote, "When the cities lie at the feet of the beast, the mountains will remain."


Even well-meaning politicians can easily be influenced to implement terrible policies. This is illustrated perfectly by the Book of Esther, which is commemorated by the Jewish holiday of Purim.

To make a long story short, a beautiful Jewish girl named Esther is selected to be the wife of King Ahasuerus. Aware of anti-Jewish sentiment in the King's court, she keeps her heritage a secret. Esther is an orphan, and her guardian is her older cousin Mordechai. While visiting Esther at the palace, Mordechai offends Haman, the king's chief adviser, by refusing to bow to him. Mordechai explains that he will prostrate himself before God, but not to a man - even the King.

Enraged, Haman tells the king that the Jews do not follow the law of the land (which states that everyone must bow to the king), and suggests that they be executed. The king, being a typical politician, agrees.

Haman gleefully makes plans for soldiers to go out and exterminate the entire Jewish population of the kingdom in a few days. For Mordechai, against whom he has a special grudge, Haman sets up an impaling pole.

Queen Esther finds out what's happening, and decides to risk her own life for the sake of her people. Through some high drama involving a banquet and a secret plot against the king (which Mordechai exposes), the king winds up offering Esther anything she desires. She asks him to spare her life, and the lives of her people. Outraged that someone would threaten his queen, the king quickly discovers what Haman has been up to, gives Esther the authority to overturn Haman's orders, has Haman impaled on his own pole, and gives Haman's estate to Mordechai.

With that story in mind, consider the fact that West Point's "Combating Terrorism Center" recently released a report entitled "Challengers from the Sidelines," which classifies "the 'Militia' or 'Patriot' movement" as part of the American "violent far-right," describing its members as dangerous extremists who promote "anti-taxation, gun rights, survivalist practices, and libertarian ideas," and who "support civil activisms, individual freedoms, and self-government." Of course, this describes perfectly the interests and ideals of all of America's founding fathers, but that irony is apparently lost on the scholars at West Point.

A variety of other quasi-governmental reports have made similar allegations. In other words, just as Haman (and, of course, Adolf Hitler) twisted the facts to classify Jews as enemies of the state, these so-called "think tanks" are twisting the facts to classify the typical, security-and-freedom-loving SurvivalBlog reader as a terrorist-in-waiting. Since our politicians are engaged in a never-ending War on Terror, it's a very small step to you or me finding ourselves being treated to the indefinite detention, torture and summary execution that the US government has established as being appropriate for terrorists.


The traditional narrative of the Holocaust is that the Jews went meekly to the death camps, like lambs to the slaughter. In reality, many Jews fought, guerilla-style, against Nazi troops in the streets and alleys of Europe.

One of the most remarkable of these Jewish guerillas was a young man named Imi Lichtenfeld, who was a champion boxer, wrestler and gymnast in his native Slovakia. As the tide of anti-Semitism began to sweep Europe in the 1930s, Lichtenfeld and his fellow Jewish athletes banded together to defend their communities from the increasingly violent attacks of Jew-hating gangs. Lichtenfeld quickly discovered the difference between combat sports and life-or-death brawling, and developed his own fighting system, which he taught to his compatriots.

Seeing the writing on the wall in 1940, he left Slovakia and served with distinction in the Free Czech legion in North Africa. He spent the remainder of his long life in the newly-established State of Israel, teaching his system - Krav Maga - to the Israeli Defense Forces.

The moral of this story is not only that Krav Maga is one of the most practical and combat-proven self-defense systems in the world, but that having the WILL to fight is just as important as having the ABILITY to fight. In the Jewish tradition, life is viewed as a gift from God. Therefore, to allow your life or the life of another to be taken, if it is in your power to prevent it, is actually disrespectful to God. My understanding is that, with the exception of certain pacifist denominations, most Christians agree with that rationale. Therefore, we must be ready to act, without hesitation, to defend ourselves and our loved ones, and must do so in the certainty that self-defense is not only a moral right, it is a moral obligation.


In medieval Spain, there was a period - from about the eighth to the eleventh centuries - called "La Convivencia" - "the coexistence." During this time, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in relative peace and prosperity, freely associating with each other and openly exchanging knowledge of medicine, philosophy and commerce. As you might expect, the members of all three communities benefited from this interaction. Although there were certain social barriers in place, in principle everyone was protected by the law.

That pleasant situation gradually deteriorated, and many Jews and Muslims converted to Christianity to protect themselves. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be had serious doubts about the sincerity of these conversions, and in 1481, the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition was formed to root out and punish "heresy." Overnight, the law went from protector to persecutor. Anyone with a grudge against a neighbor could accuse that person of being a "crypto-Jew," and report them to the Inquisition. Thousands of innocent people - many of whom weren't Jews at all - were imprisoned, tortured, and then hanged or burned at the stake.

Christians today face similar persecution in many middle-Eastern countries, where being openly a non-Muslim is seen as a crime, and sometimes a capital offense (witness the murders of Copts in Egypt, for example). In fact, the only middle-Eastern country where Christians can worship openly and in safety is in Israel - the Jewish state. But leaving aside religion for a moment, consider the bigger picture: anything can become a crime, just because the government says so. Remember, it wasn't too long ago that a black person who drank from a "whites-only" water fountain was a criminal in this country. It is because "law" does not necessarily mean "justice" that Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, "One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

When the Department of Homeland Security stockpiles hundreds of millions of rounds of ammunition (according to one report enough to keep our troops in Iraq supplied for 20 years) one is forced to wonder exactly whom our "representatives" expect to become criminals - or, to put it another way, whom they plan to CALL criminals. We all love law and order, but - God forbid - if the day ever comes that the law of the land is no longer our friend, we must be prepared to do the RIGHT thing, even if it is not the LAWFUL thing.


Being part of a community means looking out for each other. It is this trait - more than any other (with the exception of Divine intervention) - that explains why the Jews have outlived the Ancient Egyptians, Philistines, Persians, Phoenicians, Romans, and every other culture that tried to stamp them out.

From the 40 years of wandering in the desert, after escaping from slavery in Egypt, to the Diaspora, when Jews were forced out of almost every country in Europe, to the Holocaust, to today, if a Jew needs a hand, other Jews will help him. And Jews are not alone in this: you see the same thing, for example, in the Latino community: if a Mexican immigrant opens a restaurant, other Mexicans will go there to eat. Or consider the informal fraternity of military veterans: if a newly-retired Marine applies for a job, and the business owner is also a retired Marine, odds are the younger Devil Dog has a good chance of getting the position. Historically, church congregations have also helped their less-fortunate members in times of illness, unemployment and hardship.

This may sound like simple human nature, but in some neighborhoods, the opposite is true: if a person opens a laundromat, his neighbors will break his windows and vandalize his machines. And, from an outside perspective, community solidarity is often criticized as conspiracy or clannishness. The folks at the Aryan Nation meetings certainly aren't thrilled to see Jews and Mexicans supporting their own communities. They recognize - in their own twisted way - that Malcolm X was exactly right in his assertion that, "when you spend your dollar out of the community in which you live, the community in which you spend your money becomes richer and richer, [and] the community out of which you take your money becomes poorer and poorer."

The job that went to a Marine, the meal bought from a Mexican immigrant, the suit bought from a Jewish clothier, or the housing given to a frail parishioner, represents dollars that did NOT leave the communities in which those people live. Is it wrong to give preferential treatment to members of your community? To "your own kind"? By the politically-correct, non-judgmental, morally ambivalent logic of modern thinking, yes it is.

According to the voice of history, experience, and common sense, no, it absolutely is not! If we do not support our own communities - however that term is meaningful to ourselves - we are in fact harming them. If you, retired USMC Captain, don't give that young Sergeant a chance, who will? If you, Juan, buy lunch at McDonald's instead of at the neighborhood Taqueria, whom are you helping? As Malcolm X explained, "And then what happens? The community in which you live becomes a slum. It becomes a ghetto. The conditions become rundown. And then you have the audacity to complain about poor housing in a rundown community, while you're running down yourselves when you take your dollar out."

Rabbi Hillel, a famous Jewish scholar who was a contemporary of Jesus, famously asked, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" Those questions have been food for thought for 2,000 years, and they are as pertinent today as ever. If you don't look out for yourself, who will? But if you only look out for yourself, and ignore your community, your society or the Earth, what kind of person does that make you? If you put off meaningful action, how will you know when to act? All of us - regardless of race, creed, color, or background - must be willing to answer those questions honestly. We must be willing to protect ourselves, to support our communities, to recognize the dangers in our society, and to respond accordingly. And if we have not yet begun, we must do so now.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

In the survivalist/prepper world, one can argue that we are all leaders, yes?  Well, ask yourself, what happens when you thought you were going to be the leader of your compound/ neighborhood/ community but got to the party late and someone else is in charge?  What happens when you can’t or simply aren’t THE leader?

You lead from the middle. This article proposes two ways in which you can lead without being the designated leader. 

As survivalist/preppers we know a neighborhood or city block is better than one home, while a community is best. Let’s assume the SHTF and you are executing your plan.  You were able to get your family out to your community’s compound. Having fought off several looters on the way, you managed to collect several critical items from your cache. You are definitely prepared for this event and have various skills crucial to surviving the next riotous year.  Relief overwhelms you as you realize that you are exceptionally skilled, and there is  no one better equipped to handle the upcoming chaos as you are able handle it.  Let the games begin.

Once you arrive at your community’s compound, Grey Beard is in charge and he designates you “firewood collector guy”.  He directs you to stow your food and supplies in the pole barn and report to the fire-master.

I exaggerate because I am not sure there is a “firewood collector guy” or “fire master”; if you were assigned to collect firewood with your leadership experience and mammoth suite of survival skills, you might feel slighted, indignant perhaps.   You might feel as though you deserve to be elevated to a recognized leader status.  Who wouldn’t, right? 

So what’s to be done, expert survivalist/ prepper turned firewood collector? 

Be the best fire wood collector you can be.  You will ensure that there will never be a minute, an hour, or a day without ample firewood. You may improve the firewood collection process, perhaps automating your wheelbarrow.  Focus on your task and do it with dedication and focus.  And go one step further, have fun while you are doing it.

All compounds are organized differently, and I am not being frivolous by suggesting someone be designated the task of collecting firewood.  What I’m trying to convey is that if you have a PhD in Chemistry, you would feel silly if you were hired by a University to mop the floor…in the chemistry wing. 
You would feel undervalued and underused – a non-contributor.  You would be operating below your capability. 

At this point, you might be thinking, “Nah, I won’t feel that way.  I’ll do what is asked of me.  I’ll be a great team player.  I don’t need to lead.”

I sure hope so!  However, I think, that anyone who is so earnestly invested in the welfare of others would not be so quick to surrender leadership, especially us A-types who spent the last several years preparing for a SHTF moment.  We must be prepared to lead from the middle because it may be our primary mode of leading. 

For me, leading from the middle arose from necessity.  Six weeks of indiscriminate Scud missiles during the opening of Operation Iraqi Freedom kept me sleep deprived, anxious, and frustrated.  As a 1st Lieutenant surrounded by field grade officers, my objections were overruled with suggestions routinely ignored. Ultimately, I was relegated to doing a job that a Lance Corporeal could perform.  Simply put: I was not leading and it was frustrating.  Add to that combat stress, no sleep, and irregular meal times and I was ready to implode.

Working took my mind off the frustration.  Conscientiously monitoring communications kept me active. Concentrating on doing my job well relieved stress and I started to have fun—I smiled often and laughed a lot.  When I began to really study my communications plans, I saw deficiencies.  I corrected those deficiencies.  I discovered new commo devices different units had and that weren’t be used, so we trained on those devices.  We talked communications over chow and sometimes in our sleep.  I was no longer worried about the sea of officers that surrounded me—I was doing my job better than I had ever done it in the past.   

In time, lower enlisted sought my counsel, not the senior enlisted or other officers.  I was consulted on our intelligence briefings and our daily operations updates.  Our foreign partners sought my advice and suggestions concerning scouting missions and decontamination sites.  People began putting faith in me.

Reflecting on that time I realize that all I did was successfully do my job and tried to have fun doing it.  Do your work well, efficiently, and expertly.  In a SHTF environment I am willing to bet it’ll look and feel a bit like combat; days of downtime interrupted by minutes of panic.  Complacency creeps in and people get restless.  When they look at you getting firewood every day –cheerful and working hard - those around you become less anxious.  They will look inward after watching your example and realize their own work needs to be done and they will go and do it. 

You have just led them.  From the middle. 

My second piece of advice is to follow well.  Great leaders are great because they possess the capability to follow as good as they lead.  When SHTF dialogue is over, it’s time to do.  Protests must stop and you must act.  As long as you are conscious and morally not violated, follow that order. Others, who have witnessed your worked ethic, will see your enthusiasm.   They won’t be scared because you are not—you are too focused to be worried about other things.  They will ask you questions, for help or for advice.  Your skill set, even-keeled demeanor, and enthusiasm will inspire others.  You will be able to demonstrate all your skills as well as your leadership acumen when others’ speak with you and work by your side.  You, again, will be leading from the middle.

One aspect of following well is to offer solutions, not problems.  Sure, Grey Beard’s idea is not great. You can pick it apart blindfolded.  However, it’s not all that bad.  Don’t play “stump the chump”: offer suggestions that look like you love his plan and are working to make HIS plan even better.  Hide a weakness in his plan with a well worded suggestion.  People will see you are on board and are working toward making it better—not usurping it.  Think about the “sheeple” in your everyday life who say, “Oh, that’ll never work, you can’t do it like that!” and offer nothing but negativity.  Think about how you feel toward that person.  Sheeple bring problems, not solutions—being a good follower means you bring solutions.  Leading from the middle means you are not a sheep, but a clear thinking, highly skilled, insightful level-headed leader.

Some may argue against the necessity of being able to follow well.  They may say that the one with the best skill set and best leadership ability should lead and, in the case of survival, should fight to do so.  Let me offer you this—amongst an entire block or community or compound of skilled survivalist/ preppers, do you think any leader would do anything so egregious that you would be required to take over?  If so, you might need to reconsider belonging to that group.

Following well will show others that order is good; that you have courage and are not scared; that your faith in others and your abilities in your job will see whatever situation through. No one will panic because you are calm.   People are watching you—not the leader; they have their orders so there is no need for the leader right now.  Their behavior cues are coming from you because they want to see how you are going to follow the order.  You are the leader at this given moment - leading from the middle.

You have already set the conditions middle leadership.  People around you are recognizing your natural abilities as a spearhead, plus your excellent skill set has started to become apparent—you were able to weld a small motor to your wheelbarrow and you were able to suture a bad cut for your friend. 

In a small group setting like a block or compound, everyone doing their job is critical to survival.  You have to set the example - and the impact is immeasurable.  Being a good follower by being a problem solver makes you a contributor to the plan and also sets the tone for the subsequent behavior of your peers.  People may not move until you move, they won’t decide until you decide, and they won’t feel safe unless you let them know they are safe and have told them what they need to do.

Eventually, you will be the leader without being the appointed leader…because you led well from the middle.

I offer these two lessons learned because they have helped me throughout my life, not just during my time in the Middle East.  It was exceptionally hard for me to deal with being a junior officer and having no one to lead.  Imagine saving money for the entire year for prom and the woman (or man) of your dreams agreed and has said yes. You have the limo, the tux (or gown), flowers, and reservations at the best restaurant in town.  This will be the most magical night ever!

Yet you never get to go…

I was not prepared for being underutilized.  I had no idea, with the stress, fatigue, and hunger that I would feel so desperate to use my skills.  I was paralyzed by how frustrating it would be to watch a sea of senior officers completely disregard anything I had to say while refusing to acknowledge my contributions. It was one of the toughest emotional tests I had faced as a young man.

Leading from the middle and being a good follower saved my sanity, quite possibly my life, and the sanity of others.  I learned that a leader has many definitions and that being in charge of everyone is just one small definition of a leader.  Perhaps the greatest lesson was that no one cared about my idea of leadership - they cared how I demonstrated it.  So, I did my job well and followed even better.

After a few years as a defense contractor and now as a science teacher I’ve used these two lessons continuously with great success.   

I learned the value of humility by doing my tasks and following; I learned how to be a selfless team player and that alone is at the core of any great leader.

I hope this article at least wrinkled your eyebrow a bit.  God Bless!

Friday, March 22, 2013

There is a crisis of manhood in America today.  The numbers are astounding:  One in three children live in fatherless homes.  Since 2011, women receive more college degrees than men.  And recent decrees by the Obama administration will now see our wars being fought by women and homosexuals - it’s enough to make a guy like me be glad I won’t be around to see what this country looks like fifty years from now, and get a knot in my gut knowing that my children most likely will.  It makes me realize that my sons will need the skills to survive even more than I.

If you think like I do - that wisdom is more important than knowledge, and see very little of either coming out of America’s universities;

If you shake your head at today’s youth shuffling around the mall, looking like tattooed and pierced zombies-in-training; 

If it disgusts you that the average 34-year-old American male spends more time playing video games than the average 12-year-old boy;

and If you remember a time when a male of eighteen was considered a man, and expected to work like one, and you lament that so many of today’s high-school grads...aren’t and don’t;

This article is meant to bring you hope.

With three sons of my own, I take the issue of raising Godly sons as seriously as my spiritual walk, my marriage or my business.  If you have sons, you probably feel the same way.  If you are blessed with daughters, I hope you are fervently praying for them to find true men who will be able to give them what they truly need - provision, protection, affection and direction.  

We do everything we can as a family to be prepared for an uncertain future, from stocking the larder to making firearms training a regular family event.  To that end, we homeschool our children, because as Ayn Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged, 

“I would not surrender them to the educational systems devised to stunt a child’s brain, to chaos with which he’s unable to deal, and thus reduce him to a state of chronic terror.”

If you aren’t sure what I mean, just google “pop tart pistol.”  

Sometimes I feel like the world’s worst prepper.  I am a videographer by profession, something that will be as useless as paper money in a post-collapse world.  I never hunted as a kid, and can only wish someone would have made me join the Boy Scouts.  But we all have to start where we are and work with what we’ve got.   

I had no say in my upbringing, but I can control that of my children.  And with a farm to manage and perhaps protect someday, I’ve decided to invest my time and energy into ensuring my children have what they need in terms of survival knowhow, even if that means they have skills that I don’t. 

As our kids get closer to completing their high school curriculum, we’ve had many family discussions about their best options for continuing their training and education.  My boys, especially, are looking for more “real world” skills.  For my part, I’m more convinced every time I turn on the news that emergency skills training will incredibly valuable in the years ahead.   

Most of all, I hope my kids’ll find a way to continue their spiritual growth long after they’ve left home to take on the world.

Several years ago we found an amazing course of instruction tailored to making young men into well-trained first responders capable of handling almost any emergency.  It’s called the Air Land Emergency Resource Team, or ALERT for short.  In the interest of full disclosure - I receive nothing for recommending them to you, except the hope the ALERT program will still be around by the time my youngest is graduating.

It’s a one-year program that takes young men just out of high school and gets them trained up on a whole host of skills.  For example:

Emergency Medicine - Paramedic
Aviation - Flight Training
Auto Mechanics
Rescue SCUBA and Aquatics
Technical and High-Angle Rescue
Building Trades - construction, electrical, HVAC, plumbing
Sawyer and landscaping
Wilderness Survival
Land Navigation
Law Enforcement

The International ALERT Academy is headquartered in Big Sandy, Texas, where they have turned a defunct 2,600-acre college campus into something like a combination between a Boy Scout camp, a Monastic order and the United States Marines.  The entire one-year course takes place here, with the exception of various “deployments” undertaken as they travel around the world on missions that include disaster response, humanitarian aid, search and rescue and missionary security.

These seventeen to twenty-five year olds are treated like men, and not surprisingly they act like it.  They are given man-sized responsibility from day one, and are expected to embrace their calling to take dominion over themselves - and then the world.  

It isn’t a course for adjudicated youth or problem children; but rather appeals to an, ambitious “cream of the crop” of high-school grads who is serious about squeezing every morsel of training out of a fast-paced year.  One example: each class or “unit” since 1994 has made a commitment to forego the distractions of music, movies and entanglements with females altogether for the duration of their time at ALERT.  

Awhile back I was asked to be a guest speaker at a local public high school.  If it’s been several years since you’ve walked the halls of one of those, you might be surprised, as I was, to see how much it has changed since I graduated in nineteen *mumble mumble*.  I won’t bother with a litany of shocking things I saw that I’d file under “advertisements for home schooling,” but suffice it to say I was appalled.  So few of the seniors I spoke to were capable of expressing themselves in complete sentences, looking me in the eye, or shaking my hand rather than grabbing their own crotch and grunting, “Sup.”

My first visit to the ALERT training center couldn’t have been more different.  Every one of the square-jawed, uniformed young men I spoke with shook my hand with confidence, looked me in the eye and spoke with conviction about the things they were learning in the program.  I was especially impressed at the level of spiritual maturity on display, as the men articulated their daily “wisdom searches” and other devotionals.  Questions like “What makes you passionate about the future” produced instant, well-considered answers that left me tempted to send my daughters to hang around here once they are ready to find a mate. 

I’m not normally the kind of dad who has designs on my children’s career or life choices once they get out on their own.  I simply hope to make men out of them and then let God call them into service to the Kingdom.  To that end, I am doing whatever I can to raise Godly men(a term I consider to be redundant), and will encourage all of my sons (and both of my daughters) to spend some time at the academy.

The ALERT academy was founded upon the realization that 100 years ago, boys aspired to manhood, not extended adolescence.  Our grandfathers, at age 18, could build things, fix things, hunt, fish, skin, trap, and take care of themselves like men.  By contrast, it seems today’s high school grads are more likely to be experts at playing HALO or Minecraft, but little else.  Americans today spend 25 billion dollars per year on video games - coincidentally the same number of hours spent on facebook annually.   ALERT set out to change that by giving men the skills to make them confident, competent and spiritually mature leaders in the real world.  Their first responder training makes them especially helpful in any kind of crisis, and well inured to challenging circumstances.  

In addition to the one-year course for men, ALERT hosts an annual one-month summer course called “Quest” for boys aged 14-16 who want a taste of what the full ALERT responder course has to offer.  Last year my oldest son attended this course, and even in one month’s time, I was impressed at the air of quiet competence he developed while there.  

For girls, there is a one-month summer course called STEP, which stands for “Skills Training for Emergency Preparedness.” It teaches a range of similar subjects in a female-only environment.  Our sixteen-year-old daughter attended somewhat reluctantly, but afterwards had this to say about the experience:

“At STEP I got more than just survival training and life skills, I learned the importance of teamwork and getting along with a big group of people. Through daily devotionals and sessions, I learned so much about God and how big He really is. I made great friends at STEP and I’m excited to go back for STEP Advanced.”

The cost of the full year course ranges between seven and seventeen thousand dollars for the year, including tuition, room and board.  The price depends on the advanced skills the responder chooses to pursue.  The course is broken up into three phases, and some attend just for the initial “basic” portion of the year.  The men wear uniforms, carry rank, live in barracks and do PT daily while at the training academy, but with the exception of the Law Enforcement track do no training with weapons or hand-to-hand combat.  That’s something I’d like to see added if they could find a good instructor.  Every stage of the training is based around a solid Biblical curriculum that, by the end of the course, gives each man a grounding in the principles of Godly manhood.

I’ve now visited the ALERT campus several times, and always come away astounded by  the men and the program.  We have decided as a family to support ALERT with our donations as well as by sending our children there, because we want to see this program succeed, and believe it is worth every penny, and then some.  

About a third of those who graduate from ALERT go on to join the military.  Another third enter the mission field, and the rest move on to other endeavors.  No matter what they choose, however, they will have garnered a tremendous skill set in a positive-pressure environment, and will be ready to face whatever the future holds.

In the Army I learned the maxim, “The more you carry in your head, the less you must carry on your back.”  Training my sons in emergency preparedness gives them a great head start on developing a full set of survival skills.  And unfortunately, I fear they’ll need it sooner rather than later.

About the Author: Chuck Holton is a former U.S. Army Ranger and now works as a freelance war correspondent. He is the author of several books, including Making Men: Five Steps to Growing Up.

Monday, March 18, 2013

As I go through life, I see the world through the eyes of a Prepper (Survivalist was the term used before I joined the ranks.).  I’m also a Type A personality with light to moderate obsessive-compulsive disorder. What this means in practical terms is every action I take in my daily life filters back to preparing for a disaster of some sort.  And I want to try and wake-up as many people as I can.  But at the same time, I don’t want to freak out everyone I come in contact with. 

My wife and I started prepping in August of 2009.  At first we were very hush, hush about what we were doing.  At first we were frantic.  We thought the world had maybe 6 months to a year left.  Here we are in mid-March of 2013.  Now I think the world has a few weeks, maybe a few months left.  But, I was wrong back in ’09, so who knows. 

What I do know is that the people I meet are divided into four categories. 

The first type would be the American Idol, Jersey Shores crowd.  They know nothing of the world beyond pop-culture television and current fashion.  If I start taking about politics or disaster, their eyes glaze over faster than Bill Clinton accepting an invitation to a female intern convention.  This group I generally don’t talk with directly about my concerns.  Usually if it is a cocktail party or work water-cooler setting, they may be nearby and overhear me talking to someone who may actually be interested in this subject matter.  My hope is that through serendipity they may begin to wake up, but I haven’t seen it happen yet. 

The second type of folks are, for lack of a better way to put it, the Obama maniacs.  These people know only what they are told by the White House Press Corps and the Mainstream Media (I know, these days that is kind of the same thing.).  They cannot comprehend the coming storm because the sources that they get their information from are assuring them all is well.  For the first few years of my awakening, these people drove me nearly insane.  I now watch them with a detached sort of amusement.  I know when it all comes crashing down, somehow us evil Conservatives will still be to blame.  But, they can blame me all they want while I am at my retreat and they are trying to decide if the storm-drain water is safe to drink.  Needless to say, I don’t waste any time on this group.  It is worth noting that there is a sub-group in this category.  They are liberals who won’t go all the way to the mat for Obama, but still feel more positive than negative about him.  They also get all their news from the left.  But often, the current situation has hit close to home.  Either they or a spouse lost a job, a home, etc.  I will work with this group in trying to get them to see the light and prepare.  But I will avoid political talk, as I don’t want to alienate them.  You can’t really help someone you’ve offended.    

We all know plenty of people who fall into the third type – “Yeah, I know I should probably prepare, but….”  You can fill in the blank as to what their excuse is.  No time, no money, ultimately the government will eventually get things squared away, this list continues ad nauseam.  This group can be more frustrating than the first two groups.  At least with them you know when to cut your losses and move on.  But these guys fill you with hope, because they seem to know, or strongly sense, what is going on.  But then your hopes get dashed like Charlie Sheen waking up from a blackout bender alone in a dry county.  All you can do with this group is try to gently remind them, as year after year goes by and they do next to nothing.  Although once in a while, a breakthrough will occur.  I had a fellow who fits in this category call me and asked about gun advice, the upcoming gun show in our area, that sort of thing.  So I felt good that he was at least doing something.  And it felt good that when he had a question, he thought to call me. 

With this group (and the next one I’ll talk about), there is another thing you have to consider.  If they call you during the collapse (and you know they will) will you let them into your retreat, or turn them away?  I have talked to my tribe about this, and we’ve decided that we will let some of them in.  Our reasoning is, we are only eleven people, and can accommodate a few more.  While we have the cat herder (me), the camp cook (my wife), the ER nurse, the mechanical genius, the electrician, the combat vet, and three adult children, we still wouldn’t mind having a few more folks to help with gardening, fence building, standing watch, etc.  And we already plan on making them work a little harder to make up for the fact that we did all the heavy lifting and they just came waltzing in.  And when they call in panicked desperation, they will be made aware of that fact.  And I have no doubt they will agree.  They’ll be as scared as Donald Trump on a windy day without hair spray.  But their penance won’t be forever.  Maybe just a few weeks or a month.              

The fourth and final type are the fatalists.  I’ve met more than one person who has said, “Well, if everything falls apart, so be it.  I’ll just die.  I wouldn’t want to live in that kind of world anyway.” 

This is an easy thing to say with bravado while things are relatively normal.  But the people who say that obviously have not thought it out.  For one thing, very few of us could put a gun in our mouths and pull the trigger (not to mention that it is a sin in many religious views).  The survival instinct is much stronger than these people realize.  And what if a wave of rioting comes through your neighborhood and you become a victim of unspeakable atrocities before you can even react?  Then there is the thought of dying of starvation and or dehydration.  These people push such horrible thoughts out of their mind with the “well, I’d just kill myself” mantra.     

In Summary, while the endgame seems as obvious to us as Paul Krugman filing bankruptcy, it can be painful to watch others we care about not getting in the game.  But your best bet is to figure out which group they are in, and treat them accordingly. - Mountain Man Virgil

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Over the years since I first read the novel Patriots by James Rawles and made the decision to embrace prepping my idea of prepping has changed.  It started when I recognized that friends, acquaintances and strangers all had varying ideas and degrees of preparedness even within very similar prepping models.  The greatest characteristic of is that there is something for everyone presented in articles and information.  Regardless of your station you’ll find information pertinent to your specific situation to help you improve your own preparedness level.

I realized that my own prepping mindset was slowly shifting over time as I pursued knowledge, skills and dealt with changing personal circumstances.  Health issues, children getting older, economic changes and political changes have all required minor to major changes in my original preparedness model.  These changes and realization led me to begin classifying the different levels or approaches to prepping.  It began with a realistic and unbiased look at the location I had originally determined as a great location for prepping.  My research began to reveal some hidden assumptions and biases I was holding that caused me to ignore critical factors.

Of course, some folks will adamantly disagree with my assumptions so I feel it necessary to establish a broad disclaimer:

My assessments and research are non-scientific and are particular to me and my personal familial situation.  I try to use a broad brush for informational and statistical research and apply it to general trends and loosely defined geographic, demographic and economic particulars to my own education, experience and life skills.

I stated above that I have come to recognize general trends or categories in the preparedness mindset or commitment levels.  I try to define these now:

Rawlesian Approach (RA):  The original, at least from my perspective, retreat or prepper model-the Gray’s Ranch depicted in the novel Patriot’s.  A free-standing and completely self-sufficient ranch/homestead that requires no outside contact for a 3-5 year survival situation and is off-grid.  Keep in mind the Gray’s didn’t meet this point until after the Barter Faire when they accumulated livestock and more kerosene.  Basically, they were able to survive and thrive without outside contact.  Essentially, an Island. (If you have heartburn about this definition please re-read disclaimer)

Modern Homestead (MH):            I think this can be separated into two unique sub-classifications depending upon the isolation or close proximity to smaller metropolitan areas.  The ultra-rural MH is at least 1-2 hours from the nearest Wal-mart at highway speeds.  East of the Mississippi River this is at least 75 miles, rural and isolated from larger metropolitan areas with box stores and trauma center.  If the homestead is closer, like 30 minutes to one hour, then I consider it a rural homestead.

In the American Redoubt a drive 30 minutes to one hour can put you out into the woods or other terrain fairly quickly.  For example, one hour from the Spokane Valley can put you into another county and even into another State or National Forests of Idaho Panhandle.  The MH may be off-grid, on-grid or a mix of the two.  The main characteristic is distance and the fact that the MH is NOT self-sufficient or an island.  The MH needs commerce or access to commerce for survival.

Suburban Farm (SF):            The SF falls within 30 minutes of smaller metropolitan areas.  SF communities are where homes sit upon larger parcels 1+ acre or larger.  These areas usually have local ordinances or GMR’s that restrict sub-dividing parcels or restricting high density dwellings.  These communities usually have a “country” feel and many homes have gardens and small pasture/orchards.  In my area I generally see 1-3 homes out of every 10 homes are growing vegetables and/or raising animals other than pets.  The remaining 6-9 homes could raise something if they converted their manicured lawns or fallow pasture to productive use.  The SF area usually has people selling fresh produce through the growing season right from their property or at the local farmers market.

The SF is usually attached to a local water district but outside metropolitan waste water treatment facilities (septic).  Some SF’s have access to irrigation districts that allow larger water access for irrigation.  The irrigation district water is usually cheaper and is untreated.  In my local area the water is drawn directly from the aquifer and is substantially cheaper than municipal water.  SF’s have a considerable number of parcels on well water systems.  In general, the SF is well water with septic system.

Urban Garden (UG):            This is a broad category defined by its close proximity to the metropolitan center.  The UG is minutes from all modern services like Costco, Trauma centers and fast-food outlets.  A great test is to determine the outer boundary of the UG with the SF is what I call the Nacho test.  Just order nachos at Taco Bell and start driving.  You’ve hit the outer limits of the UG when the canned cheese hits room temperature.  Eat the nachos at your own risk.

The UG is limited.  Limited in ability to produce, support and defend.  The UG can support salad garden with some exception for green houses and creative landscaping.  We see occasional stories about the UG prepper being persecuted by zoning Nazis for having a garden in their front yard and other such nonsense.

It must be stated, even if it’s obvious, the RA would take considerable financial resources and time to achieve.  I only know of three people who have attained the RA and yet they lack the human capital necessary for long-term success.  The last few years I have moved from one style/station to the next and made a habit of looking for the natural or organic things that came with preparedness and each station.  What commonality was being ignored or taken for granted?  Were there any consistent commonalities present?  How would these affect my preparedness station? And, as a Christian, was I being obedient to God’s Word?

All these questions brought me to my new view of preparedness—The Commerce Model of Prepping.

The Commerce Model of Prepping:
This model of preparedness makes a major assumption as a foundation of its premise.  The assumption is that human nature drives people to attempt a return to normalcy in the shortest time possible.  Even if that normal is different from what was previously known—they will still plan, act and work toward that new normalcy.  To better understand what I mean we should characterize or assign levels to “events” that initiate or launch usage of our preparations on a full scale.

I’ve loosely defined these events by severity.

  1. Habit Changer-Lay-offs, Illness, Regional Disaster, Personal or Localized Events.
  2. Life Changer-Economic Depression/Collapse, War, Pandemic, Modified Societal Collapse, Regional/National Disaster.
  3. Game Changer- EMP, Civil or Global War, Pandemic and other survival fiction-worthy events.

These events can overlap somewhat.  For example, a long-term layoff or unemployment may change habits at first and then become a life changer by forcing a move or shift in socioeconomic status. 

The latest economic “recovery” (quotes denote sarcasm) has been a habit changer for most and a life changer for many.  Regardless of impact, what was/is the single largest common denominator for people experiencing “Hope-N-Change” (again Sarcasm)?  The answer is immediate adjustment and subsequent pursuit of normalcy. How?  Salisbury Steak instead of Sirloin Steak--Tilapia instead of Salmon--Staycation instead of Vacation--shopping at a Goodwill thrift store instead of the mall.

Okay—simple economics.  What does this have to do with preparedness?  This natural tendency should be a major decision factor in your preparedness plans—especially location.  How?  IMHO it should flavor all your preparedness systems and decisions.  Why?

The Commerce Model of Preparedness stipulates that safe, free and consistent commerce and trade will be the catalyst for any long-term success for personal, familial, community, regional and even national recovery. 

Again, IMHO, every aspect of preparedness needs to be viewed through this perspective.  Unless you have achieved the RA level of preparedness you must be prepared for commerce. One could argue that even if you are an RA level you should be ready just the same.  A business approach to preparedness puts you into a prime position to thrive and thrive abundantly.

The commerce model forces you to think in terms of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, economies of scale and supply and demand while you pursue your prepping goals.  I would like to use one comprehensive example to address this point.

The Modern Homestead, especially the ultra-rural variety, has many pitfalls when viewed through the lens of commerce.  In a way this example will be a de-facto assessment of North Central Idaho-specifically Idaho County.  I believe the only system that has long-term viability in these ultra-rural areas is the RA.  If you are an island with all your preps then you are an island.  You have the luxury of riding out most events or situations.

North-Central Idaho has many enticing qualities.  Good quality land at reasonable prices, large percentage of freedom-minded individuals, elected officials that apply limited government and self-policing models, distance from large urban populations and on and on.  Obvious negatives are lack of jobs and the [higher] average age of population [41.7 years. Statewide, the median age is 33.2 years.] At first glance its ideal but add some likely and probable factors and the picture changes rapidly.  Let’s start with fuel—either prohibitive pricing and/or scarcity of supply—which can happen for a variety of reasons.

Fuel scarcity or price would limit trade and the ability to travel for necessary items for success.  If you did have the fuel the additional expense would put you at a competitive disadvantage versus competitors.  Trade within an ultra-rural setting will likely have immediate limitations due to scarcity of products.  Any entrepreneur who tries to fill demand will be able charge higher prices.  Fuel scarcity creates a “lesser of two evils” situation.  Use the fuel to get what you need or don’t and suffer the consequences.

(Author’s Note:  An underlying assumption of my work is that there will always be a currency of some sort used to support the function of trade--it may be greenbacks, blue bucks or .22LR ammo.  The point is no trade functions, with economic efficiency, without a trusted, recognizable medium of exchange.)

The small towns that pepper this region have only two days of fuel and no back-up power to run the pumps. A regional earthquake of meaningful size would close all roads for days or even weeks with rock slides.  Economic Collapse or a substantial increase in fuel prices begins to limit and stunt economic activity.  Most of the MH’s in this region are 20-30 minutes’ drive up and out from the small towns and then an additional hour or more to an actual metropolitan center.  Scarce resources would immediately become scarcer, too expensive or even inaccessible.  Unless you are a true RA the MH that is one hour or more from smaller metropolitan areas need to honestly assess their viability.  How long can you last without electricity, cheap fuel and open roads?  Just the loss of one would render 99% of the homesteads in this area unviable if lost for more than two weeks.

The stark reality of this vulnerability came to light when discussing my own personal research of this area.  The local sheriff made a revealing comment about the region.  His belief was that if the government wanted to depopulate the area they would just turn off the power and stop fuel deliveries.  In his estimation the first third would leave in a week, the next third the following two weeks and within a month only the RA’s would be left.  I had to concur.  My research showed that the largest towns between Lewiston, Idaho and Missoula, Montana have only a two day supply of fuel and 5-6 day supply of food—under normal demand.   These inherent vulnerabilities make the MH, especially the ultra-rural MH, dangerous and success unattainable.

My personal conclusion was that if I couldn’t reach or become an RA then I needed to seriously modify my preparedness plans.  I began to apply the Commerce Model to determine best case or most applicable outcome coverage—what gets me the biggest bang for the buck!  Again, consider the types of events and their potential likelihood and then combine with the Commerce Model.  The result is a strategic location between small metropolitan areas and the MH.  Locations that are close enough for commerce and yet far enough away for seclusion and security.  Close enough for aid and close enough to provide aid depending on the circumstance.

From a Christian perspective I started to ask myself questions about charity and service to the community.  Am I behaving Christian-like if I remove myself from the stabilizing role of neighborhood and community member?  If my model is to “wait out the carnage/die off” in the cities is that appropriate when I could have been in the trenches from the beginning making a positive influence back to normal (whatever that may be)?  It really comes down to a question of Christian Worldview.

Is the Kingdom of God in decline and will continue to get its collective rear-end kicked by the God-haters?  Or is Jesus sitting on His throne, at the right hand of the Father, and all power and dominion been given Him?  Uh-Oh!  Yes I went there.  I opened the can of worms that pits those who grab their “left behind” and are waiting for the proverbial “mothership” to come whisk them away from “end-times” and thus any potential suffering.  (If my sarcasm seems over done please re-read the gospels and take note of how Jesus wielded sarcasm and humor.)  The opposite crowd is the Dominion theology crowd who thinks America is in decline because the Church as a whole in the US has abdicated, capitulated and quit working to further God’s kingdom.  The evidence is divorce, public homosexuality, abortion and economic/monetary ignorance, and all the other outcomes and sanctions America deserves for abandoning and condoning through inaction.

The point isn’t to offend but to challenge.  I will finish my de-facto assessment of North-Central Idaho with this generalization.  A majority of Christians in this region are there because they are “fleeing” the world.  They’ve over-applied the command to not be “of the world” at the expense of “being in the world”.  They have become islands upon an island.  No mindset for dominion of this world but more of a “let’s hide here and scrape out an existence while we sing kumbaya.”  The belief in a pending “rapture” (a word not found in the Bible) has created a Church wide pessimism that slowly erodes the Church’s desire to think generationally for the Christ’s Kingdom.  Why bother building cathedrals when the “mothership” will be here any day?  Obama must be the anti-Christ—right?


The American Redoubt’s ultra-rural areas have many families are living at or on the edge of poverty because they feel “led” to flee the city but arrived with no means to support their family.  I was amazed at the amount of grown, able-bodied “Christian” men who worked part-time while on public assistance.  They refused to provide basic needs to the point of having homeschooled children that were unschooled.  The parable of Talents once again applies.

A common characteristic is home churches (islands) that resent and openly castigate the role of pastors and formal church government of any kind.  Home churches have a place where open congregational worship is forbidden or restricted.  Often used as a defense for home churching is the New Testament but the young Church in the book of Acts only home churched when they couldn’t worship corporately at the local synagogue or temple.  It is difficult or impossible for a home church family to bless the local Church and vice-versa when they don’t worship together consistently with an eye toward spiritual maturity.  Even in "Patriots" the fictional Group only home churched when they had too otherwise they met corporately at church.  Modern day China gives us a real model of the Church—corporate worship in secret and home churching as the last option.

The real problem with this retreat mentality is the tendency to avoid accountability—especially the husbands and fathers as providers.  One can’t be challenged to be active, prosperous, church growing and people serving if they are a part of an inward looking, self-contained, meat (spiritual) avoiding, hide from the apocalypse mindset.  How can the Church conquer the World for Christ when the Church is hiding in the wilderness?

Let me point out that most of these folks are kind and would gladly give their shirt off their back.  My point ties in with commerce.  These folks are, IMHO, wasting the most precious of all commodities—TIME.  The asset (or talent for a biblical reference) of human capital is being misappropriated and wasted and are they are positioned for an epic failure of tragic proportions.  How?  Let’s go back to an example or one limiting factor—Fuel.

If fuel becomes scarce or extremely expensive most of the islands I’ve referred to will be in immediate poverty and limited in options.  They will, tragically, become a huge burden to the church community.  How is the Church to serve those around them when there is no apparatus or strong foundation for service?  Relatively speaking, times are good now and this community/region has a weak spiritual, financial, vocational, economic and geographical position.  Will they sit and starve for Jesus or become a moving hoard of good mannered locusts?
A very legitimate question I say!  My point has merit in two ways: the first assessment is to ask if I had to walk to town for commerce could I do it in less than four hours?  Second, make a list for one month of every item you get from the store or mail order and apply a scarcity model to that list—could you survive without commerce?  Who could?

Are you skeptical?  Remove fuel and add any other category on your list.  If you are ultra-rural do you think those scarce items would be more readily available for commerce in your ultra-rural location or in small to mid-sized town (30,000 pop or less)?  Assume your area can and would become a closed system at some point.  I really want to connect the entire piece by asking you the reader to combine both main points.

Is the community or America better served by Godly people removing themselves from populated areas in the best interest of stability and return to normalcy?  If God is to sanction America and allow habit, life or game changers to occur-- is the pillar and culture changing news of the gospel better served hiding in the ultra-rural or better served with “boots on the ground” in closer proximity to greater populations?  I think of Gen. Patton always moving to where the fight is to take the initiative.  Can you be a tent-maker like Paul?  Providing commerce, stability and service to man while being a platform for the transformational truth of Christ’s work on the cross?

In closing, I hope I have challenged the reader on two levels.  First Spiritually--Examine your worldview and study God’s word and the subject of end times. It does matter as one worldview, by nature, creates a natural pessimism and one doesn’t.   For deeper understanding I recommend the unanswered and authoritative work By Dr. Kenneth Gentry.  “He Shall Have Dominion.”  Here you will find a deep review of the recent (1830s) move by the Church in America to embrace Dispensational Pre-millennialism (Rapture Theology) and Post-Millennialism (the Church's historic position). 

Second- I hope I challenged your “prepping model”.  I believe one’s end-times worldview and beliefs about commerce are interconnected and dictate one’s prepping model by either causing an “isolate and prep mindset” versus a “stay, prep and positively impact mindset”.  Are you thinking about the next 5-10 years or the next 100-200 years?

I left the ultra-rural area because God challenged the fallacy in my worldview that held the idea of “prep for the worst but hope for the best.”  The idea that I could avoid or ride out any sanctions or events He allows America to endure is wrong.  The Church, with Christ as the head, is the glue of civilization and the only hope for America and more importantly the World.  Christ’s Church is the army and this victory must be worked out over time.

The modern preparedness movement, even the Rawlesian Approach, is distracting the Church from its real mission of serving those in need  Preparing your house, neighbors and local churches to be a network of support, and yes commerce, is Biblical.  The Union Gospel Mission has taken these marching orders and followed them superbly.  Food, clothing and shelter while growing the Kingdom for Christ.  It should be our model also.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
Isaiah 39:5-7

God’s word to Hezekiah, king of Judah, through the prophet Isaiah immediately followed a dramatic sequence of events that twice should have led to Hezekiah’s death, but ends with his miraculous healing and a visit by Babylonian envoys bearing gifts and congratulations. Hezekiah welcomed these envoys gladly and, for some reason, decided to show them “his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.” Isaiah was not aware of the envoys or their grand tour, and upon discovering their presence began questioning the king about them and what they had seen. The king’s confession prompted Isaiah’s prophecy above, and so it was that some 100 years later the first wave of Babylonian invaders began to deport Jews from their Judean homeland into what became known as the Babylonian captivity.

My theological beliefs hold that God is sovereign in all things, and He used Hezekiah’s actions and the subsequent Babylonian invasion to ultimately point the Jewish people back to Him. I also believe Paul in his second letter to Timothy when he said “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16). It follows then that the Bible is replete with great examples of how we should live our lives daily, not just in a spiritual sense, but in a very practical sense. God used Hezekiah’s mistake as part of His ultimate plan of redemption, but that does not take away from the fact that Hezekiah made a very grave error in judgment by laying open all the possessions and capabilities of his kingdom to foreign visitors, ultimately making and giving justification to their later invasion.

So what lessons do you and I stand to learn from Hezekiah’s actions? Any student of history, and certainly any frequent reader of SurvivalBlog, should be intimately familiar with the concept, application, and importance of Operations Security (OPSEC). However, being familiar with OPSEC and putting it into practice are two very different topics. Today we face the same danger that Hezekiah faced. Relatively speaking, things are good for many of us in this day and age. We lead busy, active lives and while we know dangers exist, our busy lives have a way of lulling us to sleep and coaxing us to take our guard down because total chaos has been averted for yet another day. Just as you should not wait for a disaster to begin making use of your preparations and training, you should not wait to begin practicing OPSEC in your daily lives.

Where do you start? Any writing on OPSEC that tries to address the entire concept in a few short pages is being overly general and probably not very useful. With that in mind, I will try to focus on one specific aspect of OPSEC: the role of critical information in maintaining essential secrecy.

Let’s begin with two definitions:
Critical information is that information that is either 1) important to you successfully
achieving your objective or mission (i.e. your route to your retreat WTSHTF) or 2) information which may be of use to an actual or potential adversary (i.e. the fact that you have a deep larder when Wal-mart’s shelves are empty and never being restocked).
Essential secrecy is actually a condition that is achieved by denying critical information to actual or potential adversaries, through the combined means of traditional security (physical boundaries, guards, etc.) and OPSEC.

As preparedness-minded people, our goal is to maintain some type of essential secrecy. Note that there is a difference between maintaining essential secrecy and being paranoid. If you treat everyone in your life as a potential adversary, then you already have little hope of surviving, much less thriving, through TEOTWAWKI. This is where the often understated importance of community comes into play. It is a subject that I feel we do not emphasize often enough, but nevertheless, it is not the topic of this article.

We achieve and maintain our essential secrecy by protecting our critical information. In DoD parlance, it would be incorrect to refer to your critical information as “secrets,” but for our practical purposes it is fundamentally the same thing as few of us have a tiered system of classifying documents. To practice OPSEC is to keep your secrets secret. One of the first and most important steps in the OPSEC process is to identify information about you and your capabilities, activities, limitations (including vulnerabilities), and intentions (CALI) that you consider to be critical in nature. What is critical, you ask? Naturally, it depends.

Immediately, the size and location of your larder, the grid coordinates to your retreat, and your bug out route may come to mind. Yes, these are very important capabilities and activities, but do not stop there. Go back to the CALI acronym above. We like to focus on positives - the fact that we have made preparations and plans. Equally as critical to the things that we have done are the things we have yet to do - our limitations and vulnerabilities.

As you begin to formulate in your mind what information you would classify as critical, it is good to set a few parameters. First, you should initially limit your list to ten items. Over time and as your OPSEC practices improve, this list can expand. Trying to prioritize pieces of information in importance can become cumbersome, which brings us to the second point, prioritization. To those in your immediate circle who are like-minded and cooperatively preparing with you, your critical information will be common knowledge. However, as new members are brought into the fold, the extent of their knowledge of your preparation should be based on your critical information list and revealed incrementally as deemed appropriate by their proven level of commitment and upon approval of the primary members of your group. Next, the critical information list should be physical in form and its content and importance known by all in your group, with the understanding that its existence highlights the importance of keeping it secret from those outside. Why keep a hard copy? To serve as a reminder of what is at stake. If you cannot protect that document, what makes you think you can protect your family during a disaster? Finally, your critical information list is a living, breathing document. As your level of preparedness changes, so too should your critical information change. You should reexamine and update your critical information list quarterly, ideally at the conclusion of a rehearsal or training event (you are rehearsing and training for WTSHTF, right?).

The ability to protect your critical information is a result of the total process of OPSEC, rather than a few simple, one-time steps that will lead you down a mythical yellow brick road to essential secrecy. The fight to protect yourself is ongoing and ever-changing. This process only begins with identifying your critical information. In order to protect that, you must analyze threats against you, analyze your own vulnerabilities, assess the inherent risks, and implement measures to counter each of these areas. Each of these steps in the process have been the subject of countless pages of analysis and policy implementation, but for all the various means of implementing OPSEC, the first step will always be to identify your critical information. Without knowing your most important secrets, what use is it to plan painstaking measures to protect them?

To conclude, let’s go back to our analogy using King Hezekiah. We see that he exercised absolutely no discernment when it came to protecting the critical information and CALI of the Kingdom of Judah from his Babylonian guests. The foolishness of his actions, however, was all too clear to Isaiah when he learned of what had transpired, and God revealed to him the prophecy of what was to come for the people of Israel in the future as a result of these acts.

Now think about your own experience in taking steps to be prepared for the unforeseen. Whether you are preparing for a complete economic meltdown, an infrastructure-crippling CME event, or next year’s hurricane season, there are certainly things that are better left unsaid, especially to those who do not bother to reign in their own tongues or some who would undoubtedly turn to barbaric behavior as a result of their own failure to prepare. Perhaps you have even made an error in judgment of another’s character and trusted them with information that you now regret. Now is the time to begin systematically structuring your OPSEC plan so that it is an inherent, organic part of your preparedness plan, rather than a simple buzzword in your prepping vocabulary that you use on occasion. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so spend this weekend identifying your critical information and start taking steps to protect it. Do not let the wisdom of the Bible as portrayed in Hezekiah’s mistake slip by unheeded.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Operational Security (OPSEC) has been around since the first Stone Age battles were fought. In an effort to provide the element of surprise and in order to keep what one had only those that need to know where told. I have always considered my friends and/or people I associate with and of what I considered similar moral fortitude worthy of my trust when it came to discussion of prepping. However I have recently discovered that not everyone is of the same mindset.

First a little back ground on me. I moved out at 18 and went on to higher education like many. I worked part time retail jobs and went to school then I was in a motorcycle accident and couldn’t get thing back on track. I joined the U.S. Army and served 2-1/2 years as an Airborne Infantryman (11B1P) and unit Armorer. After an Honorable medical discharge, I moved home and after two months living with mom and dad and not being able to find a job. I worked in the retail firearms industry for some very big names for more than eight years. I then followed my dream of a career in Law Enforcement where I have been for the last five years.

This is not your typical OPSEC that we are talking about. You know where you don’t let the boxes from your favorite long term storage company or the new big screen television stick out of the trash can. This is OPSEC regarding people you invite into your home. Whether they are family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, business professionals you deal with on a regular basis people you share common hobbies with and that may seem to have the same ethical way of thinking. The people who given the opportunity do the right thing do the right thing in our non-state of emergency day to day life. They buy the homeless person a burger, help the little old lady put the gallon of milk in her car, are in a job that is for the benefit of society, they may be Doctors, Law Enforcement, Military, or Fire Fighters. You know the types people who help people in their day to day lives.

I was recently told by an individual that I held to a higher standard than most people in the community, that he and another person on my list of Friends that I thought were like minded and trusted confidants were Prepping. You can imagine the joy these two individuals are well respected in the community that I participate in and many of my friends participate in. The first is a Sales representative for an international firearms company (Mr. Gun) and the other is a Successful business owner (Mr. Business). Names withheld for OPSEC and they are after all still friends, however they may never know what hides behind door number 1 at my house or where my family and I will end up if the Schumer does Hit the Fan.

As I’m sitting in the office of Mr. Business and we are discussing our two biggest common interest shooting sports and guns. He drops the bomb that he and Mr. Gun are Prepping for when “The Stuff Hits The Fan.” At this point I’m thinking alright I have just added two very important people to my pool of resources and possibly to my group should anything happen. I may also point out that both are in my opinion and in the opinion of many exceptional well trained, practiced, and experienced with engaging multiple threats at close distance with a handgun. Mr. Gun is also very capable with a rifle and shotgun at distance. Then he says those dreaded words “we are making notes of people we know who are Prepping and we will just go to their place and take what we need.”  I had to use every ounce of strength in my person to keep my jaw from hitting the floor and letting my secret be known. These two have told me that if I ever need anything just ask and if they could they would. In fact Mr. Gun loaned me $50 no questions asked which was paid back after my lunch break. We worked together for more than years. Chances are they have a good idea what I have for defense and my capabilities.

"Wow!", right? Here we have two respected individuals that I have known for over 12 years talking about just taking what they need/want from their own friends. Then my mind goes into overdrive what have I told them, what do they know, what if they come to my house will my kids just open the door for them. Heck my kids call Mr. Business “Uncle.” How do I tell them not to tell them what we have or what we are doing to Prepare. I now have to figure out a way to tell my family that some of the trusted people in our lives are not to be trusted when TSHTF and that we really don’t know who these people are. I also now have to figure a way to have my kids go about as nothing has changed when we are around these two individuals.

Sounds like just a bad day right? Well it gets worse I’m at work later the same week and talking with one of my partners we are discussing firearms, as they pertain to our current profession and which ones we like. He starts talking about the television show Preppers and how he thinks it’s a good idea so he’s trying to stalk up on ammo but with the current state of things it’s difficult. Again I start to get that happy felling of finding another like-minded person. Then the conversation from earlier that week flashes to the front of my mind. So I tell him I have about 400 rounds of this so I can practice for re-qualification later this year and 100 rounds of that just to have around and a few .22 LR around. I seriously down played the amount on purpose trying to feel the waters. Then he comes out and says he just wants enough so he can go take more ammo and food from other people he knows that are stalking up. What did I just hear this is a guy I work with, a guy I trust my life with on a daily basis. I think to myself maybe I didn’t hear him correctly so I asked if he had any food set aside like they do in the show. The answer I was hoping for did not come he just stated that he would eat what he had and when that ran out just go and take it for people who told him they were prepping or those that he thought may have extra. He was adamant that he would take it by force if need be. At this point I am about to fall out of my chair here is a person who is supposed to uphold the law talking about taking other peoples life for food.

While discussing how my inventory was going and that I am close to a goal anther co-worker entered the area we were working in and started asking questions because we were looking at some new tactical gear for our personal use luckily the gear could have been for work also. I was fending off the probing questions with great flair.  Here is how the conversation went and a few example questions from that day:

Question 1: Are you guys preppers? Answer 1. I Look at my partner with the OPSEC look and ask in reply: "What is that?"

Question 2: "You know like the television show 'Preppers' on National Geographic." My reply: "Never heard of it. I will have to check it out."

Question 3: :"Do you have any food stored? My reply: "I went to the store last night and bought steak for dinner is that what you mean?

Question 4: "No. You know, like stored water? My reply: "I have a 10,000 gallon swimming pool, will that work"?

"Yes that should be good."

Needless to say I felt bad about misleading hi. He sounds genuine but with my recent let down of learning that close personal friends and having no real way other than sarcasm and a poor attempt at wit to try and weed out the true prepper from the fisherman looking for the next Honey Hole to add to his list of house to hit when things get bad. I may get back with him and do some probing of my own. He has no skills that are of benefit to me or my group but that won’t stop me from making an ally.

I am now stuck with the dilemma of how to weed out the people who seem to be of the same mindset from the people who are of the same mindset. The question of how to let my kids know that it’s ok to trust Mr. and Mrs. Soandso right now but when things go south they are not to be trusted ways heavy on me and I have yet to do it. Telling them that they only want our food and don’t care how we survive after they take it is going to be difficult.

The fishers need to be turned be careful in how you approached this. Take time, pray, and talk to others that it will effect if these people come knocking when TSHTF. If you don’t think you can turn them don’t give them a reason to come to your door.

Thought for the day. They may be lifelong friends but are they friends for a long life? Be careful divulging to people you trust they may just be the ones coming to take what you have when the chips are down and TSHTF. If they want your help, help. Be cautious when the probing questions start get good information take some time turn it around and ask them questions make it seem as if they just planted the prepper seed, when the time is right and your sure OPSEC is good let them in to your little secret.

As always stay alert and Prepare for the Worst and Pray for the Best.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Whenever you read fiction stories about surviving TEOTWAWKI, reading articles here on SurvivalBlog or any other similar site. One of the things that keeps coming up is its best to form a group of "Like Minded People". Here is what I have put into motion and my future plans on how I hope to accomplish it. Any feedback is always welcome.

My situation is my age being in my mid-50s and having a disability. It would be wonderful to find some like minded people in their early 20s or 30s who have the strength and ability to do what I am unable to accomplish or have the physical stamina to fend off any opposing evil at the gate. Unfortunately I'm not really going to find those kind of folks with there being such an age difference. People with disabilities can still do many things to help out, we just have to do them differently.

I found what works the best for me in finding like minded people is to stick around my own age group. People who grew up in the mid 50s to mid 70s are a prime target. People who understand what it was like to work hard for a living and realizing that things are not just given to you but you had to earn them. I think modern technology is great but it is also going to be our undoing in the long run. There is some merit to grow up using your imagination as a child for entertaining yourself than finding it in a video game. As kids growing up and playing Army out in the woods, we were learning how to build forts, set up defenses , working together as a team and forming strategies without even knowing it.

When finding like minded people in my age group it's going to be very rare to find someone who is not in some form of needing medical assistance. But, this is not such a bad thing either, some of us old hornets still have a lot of sting left in us and we posses knowledge and skills that are not found in just any book. Something that comes to mind is two of the people that I'm working on served in Viet Nam so they are not strangers to a vicious enemy. I believe for the type of BOL I'm looking for in the wilderness I would prefer someone who is familiar with jungle fighting but would love to find anyone with experience in setting up military style defenses.

One of the things I have done is to join the County CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program. Here I have found men and woman mostly near my age group who are in some way concerned about being prepared. Some of them take the course just for their own knowledge in what to do to better prepare for an emergency around their own home but you will find others who extend it to a further means. Many of the people I have been meeting have in some way been involved in the military or in some form of Emergency Management / Training and are retired.

About two years ago I had the opportunity in my county to take an amateur radio course. We had an individual in our CERT program who was very much into this hobby and was involved with putting on the course. I signed up and spent four Saturday mornings for four hours sitting in lectures that I had no idea what they were talking about. The good thing was for the course we needed to pick up the book: The ARRL General Class License Manual.

First let me explain, there are three classes of Ham Radio licenses: Technician, General and Amateur Extra. Each class offers more benefits to having the license, basically more frequencies you can use. Well in the back of the manual, there were test questions that you could study and these test questions were word for word as they were on the exam. There are also online sites you can get into and take practice tests, over and over again. Hind sight being 20/20, I would have just studied all the questions, memorized the answers and gone in and challenged the tests when the exams became available. I hate to say it, but I passed my General exam without even knowing how to turn on a radio. For the first two years I had done nothing with my license because anytime I would meet a ham radio enthusiast and ask a question, they would just open up with all the techno knowledge they had to impress me that I walked away more confused than before I asked.

This all changed one night about two weeks ago while at a CERT meeting, I met a man in his mid-60s who was into ham radios. After talking with him for a few minutes and explaining my situation, he laughed and told me it was people like that was his reason he was not involved in any clubs anymore. We exchanged phone numbers and he told me to give him a call and he would hook me up with a radio I could borrow and get me on the air. This past weekend I went over to his house and in the two hours I spent with him, I learned more than the 16 hours in the class. He also put me in touch with Associated Radio, a small family owned business in Kansas that he has found to be very good in dealing with for ham equipment. The owner's name is is Dan. I now have being shipped a Yaesu FT 2900 R and a TRAM 48" magnetic mount antenna. Once I get the system my friend will help me get it mounted in my SUV and programmed.

While my new found friend was helping me with the radio, I also learned he was a prepper but not so open about it. We talked about different things and found we had more in common than we realized. This is someone I plan on working with to see if he has an interest in combining forces for later down the road. It's wonderful to find someone who is very knowledgeable but doesn't come across as the type who has to prove it or make you feel stupid for their own ego.

One day last week I volunteered to do some admin work for the CERT program. I was working with a gentleman who also does a lot of volunteer work with CERT and in talking with him, I found out he was involved as an instructor in Emergency Management in New York City and was at the Twin Towers on 9/11. Like my ham radio friend, this gentleman also served in Viet Nam. We shared like interests and had a lot in common, some things we disagreed on but nothing that would hold me back from bringing this person into the club. Actually you want someone who does not always agree, brings out other options to look at as long as you can team up and work together. He was slowly building up his preps in buying much needed items such as fire arms and was working on obtaining other supplies. In talking with this gentleman I wanted to hurry him along some in his prepping efforts so I mentioned a couple of books to read, Patriots by James Rawles and One Second After by W. R. Forstchen.  Also in our conversation he mentioned he has a son with one of the SEAL Teams. On hearing this, my mind went into mental overload and started racing with all sorts of thoughts. This is a person I definitely want to get to know much better and would love to meet his son. If for nothing more than to thank him for his service.

A third person who has been a long time friend of mine and use to be my boss in the Coast Guard many years ago is now a Pastor at a church in Florida. where he is planning on retiring in a couple of years. After he retired from the Coast Guard, he went into nursing school and he now works one day a week in the Emergency Room at a busy Florida hospital. He and I have been sharing a dream of one day buying a couple of Class A type motor homes and touring the country with our wives in tow (not literally in tow, they can ride inside). In one of our conversations I had mentioned that this type of unit would be good for getting out of Dodge if the SHTF. He mentioned that this was part of his plan in getting one but had to get his wife onboard that things are not looking good and they needed to start making more preparations.

A fourth person I know is a good friend of mine and I hire him any time I need work done on my home he's a very talented carpenter and also loves to hunt. He and his wife have a 5th wheel camper and they go camping and hunting regularly with it. With the construction field being slow, he is doing mostly work by word of mouth and would not be able to put a lot of funds into prepping but he brings other talents to the table.

My wife and I have been working hard scrimping and saving to get this house paid off which will soon come to light. I highly recommend this as part of your prepping efforts. I have been actively looking for land where we can pick up some acreage that has a year round fresh water spring and boarders a National Forest. When I find the right piece I hope to be in a position where I can afford it. Once I find the right place I will take time and set it up with gardens, off grid power systems and security measures. I'm now thinking on ways how I can set up several motor homes and camouflage them into the landscape. My ham radio friend has just purchased a Class A motor home and he has found a good dealership that will work with you and has a good reputation. My friend in Florida also has a member of his church who owns a motor home dealership so finding a good deal should not be a problem.

In my making plans for where to find land to establish my BOL Community one of the sites I use is: You can go in, find any State and any County within the State and see what's available. In my mind, I can see the property I'm looking for, now I just have to find out where on earth its located.

I have purchased a map of the United States and have mounted it to a piece of cardboard. I have been in the process of locating where nuclear power plants are and using a colored push pin to mark their location. You can use the distance scale on the side of the map to make yourself a small round disc to place under the push pin to represent the distance you want to be away from the plant such as 25 miles. I found this information here.

If you have settled in on one State in particular you can just get a larger more detailed map of that State and work with that. Being a member of AAA has many benefits but one being free maps and information books on areas. When finding a location I use a more detailed map to locate major roads and highways. I want to identify what I feel will be heavy traveled routes and stay away from them. Google Earth on the PC is also a wonderful program.

Also located on this map I make note of prevailing winds, earthqauke-prone regions, and so forth. Two of the sites I use for this are: NOAA Seasonal Drought Map and Natural Disasters Map.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I have a disability and so do some of the people I'm meeting. So something that is important is where hospitals and medical centers are located. For this information I use this site. These places may not be up and running in a full blown out disaster but they will be up until then and maybe for a short time after.

At times I have found some decent properties that seem to have some potential then once I find something that I may like I go into: and I can enter the town or county and pull up records of the area. One of the things I look for is the crime rate. Some places that seem like good potential actually have a crime rate higher than the National average. I can understand one day when the toast is burnt  people are going to get ugly and crime will go up but I don't see the need to start off with it at an already high level.

My plan is slowly coming together and I'm finding the right people that are like minded in my way of thinking. Other than my two long time friends, the other two just came into focus within the past two weeks or so. I have to believe that the Good Lord is making things happen by bringing these people into my life for a reason. Real life past experiences have shown me this. I have in my mind the skill sets I'm looking for in a person and eventually the Good Lord brings them around. Like I mentioned, I waited two years just to find someone who can help me with the Ham Radio. When I find that piece of land I'm looking for, part of my plan is to get my friends to join me out there camping at times and see what we can come up with or bounce some ideas off them.

You can go into various web sites and look to meet online "Like Minded People" but I find that can be very dangerous so use extreme caution, you really do not have any idea who you may be opening up your life too. Having before used online dating sites and finding out the profiles are not always accurate in describing the person I would shy away from that. What has worked for me was joining the local CERT program and getting involved with that. Here you can actually meet the people, work with them under emergency situations and disasters and see how they hold up. You can also figure out who you can work with and who you can't, the ones who pitch in and help and the ones who like to jump in and take charge. I would shy away from the people who jump in and take charge thinking their way is the only way. This may work out good at a disaster but not so good in a group of folks who are trying to survive. Working with your Emergency Management also puts you in the know of what is available in your local area for resources and the ability to do some networking. If you do enough volunteering, you may actually find yourself in a position where you can set up programs and policies that will be of a benefit to you. You can find out a lot about a person such as religious and political beliefs without giving out to much information about yourself just by working with them.

Approach friends or people you know and work with that you feel comfortable with and strike up general conversations. You can be conducting an interview without them even knowing it and getting a feel of their beliefs. I feel it's best to keep a very low profile of my prepping activities and not spill the beans until I feel the time is right. I have many friends and neighbors whom I have known for years and would love to have them involved in prepping and setting up a community. I've tried talking with them and trying to get them working on it but they just say they need to or would like to but just don't have the finances, don't have the time, blah blah blah. In the end they say that if anything happens they will just come out and stay with me and my wife. Wrong! Right now they have jobs, the stores are well stocked and they have the same opportunity as I do. My wife and I are not scrimping and saving to have the funds to prepare for their benefit. When I do find the land, it will be a closely guarded secret.

            2 Corinthians 6:14, Be ye not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers:
            Deuteronomy 22:10, You shall not plow with an ox and an ass together.

As always, good luck in your preps and God Bless...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Preparedness is well within the top ten subject matters of interest today.  Most everyone is thinking about it and many of us are well under way toward some level of advanced planning.  Groups of like minded families are common but it would be a mistake to fail at making preparedness attractive to our children.

Our pioneer ancestors invented creative games to teach their children skills of survival in an unfriendly world.  Games were simple and fit for most occasions.  If they were weathered in at a cabin, there was a game where one child was the subject and the others would take turns trying to make the subject crack a smile or laugh.  While the children thought it was just a game, it taught them to control their emotions.  Should a raiding party attack their home, it could save their life to remain emotionless and silent.  That skill could prove valuable today if you needed to escape detection by blending into a crowd or lay motionless in brush.  When it comes to extracting information, skilled interrogation derives as much from emotional response as it does verbal.
There are many other skills that we could teach our children by having them play interesting games.  Games need to fit the age and ability of our children but you would be surprised at how quickly they learn advanced skills.

My daughter was one of the youngest females to qualify for the Washington State Explorer Search & Rescue (ESAR) program.  At fourteen years old, she completed her equipment, classroom, and first-aid training and accomplished a final exercise that included a three day map & compass orienteering course.  She carried a fifty pound pack of standardized equipment, food, and water.  Objectives were to use map & compass and orienteering skills to locate designated cans on a stake that was painted bright orange.  The locations were marked on their maps but getting to those points was dependent on their skill.  As the teams found each target they were to remove the lid and mark the notepad inside with their name and time of day.  The course was designed to place the two person teams at expected locations for each night.  Senior ESAR members watched from a distance and checked up on them with a nightly camp visit.  On the first night, leaders had lost track of my daughter and her teammate.  A full scale search started and they began checking the targets for signature.  These two girls had located and signed in at more targets than had previously been expected for one day and the leaders found them on top of a hill that was reserved for the middle of day two.  They were in great spirits and enjoyed a truly “hill top” experience under the stars.  My daughter and her teammate were not only the youngest two qualifying females in Washington ESAR history but they completed the three day course a half day ahead of the second team in.  One of the challenges of the event is not told the recruits.  Day two put them on what is called “Magnet Mountain.”  Because of local iron deposits, magnetic north cannot be located with a typical compass.  They would be required to adapt and read their maps according to terrain.  ESAR has learned to teach through exercise which makes the entire learning experience a fantastic game.  It works.

A variation of the orienteering game can make it progressive.  Each team has a different set of targets to locate with each target providing a necessary part or clue to completing a task.  An example might be to start with a recorded tape or CD at the first target; followed by a tape or CD player at the second target; followed by earphones at the third; and finally the batteries.  The recorded message would guide them to the final prize that all teams are looking to win.  The prize for our youth is both something fitting to their effort and a fun filled event.  The prize for us as parents will be watching our youth learn valuable skills while having a ball doing it.

We can create many great games for our children.  Among groups of like minded families where many youth are represented, the potential is awesome.  We can make afternoon, day, or weekend events that will teach and sharpen skills.  As parents, we will learn as much and have as much fun planning these events as our kids have doing them.  “Hide & Seek” could be modified to emulate our military Escape & Evasion training.  They don’t have to “play Army” and the game can be called “Rabbit & Fox.”   They learn escape & evasion if they are the rabbit and they learn tracking if they are the fox.

My children have done things like this on a grand scale with their friends.  Weeks of preparation went into an elaborate all night game of “Capture the Flag.”  This involved a kickoff barbeque, camouflage clothing, and full face paint.  It ended with a pancake breakfast.  I have family pictures of my son and daughters as proud of how they looked that night as if they were going to the prom.  They were serious tacticians and they still share stories of those nights with dozens of their friends on their cousin’s farm. The excitement kept them up all night and after breakfast the next morning; they were already planning the next event.

At a well disciplined shooting range, we could teach our children how to safely handle firearms.  If there isn’t an Appleseed group near you, I’m sure they would help you with both ideas and perhaps a pathway to forming your own group.

Other practical events on a smaller scale could be a timed event at digging a Dakota Hole, starting a fire without matches, and bringing one cup of water to a boil in a standard soup can.  My youngest daughter invited several of her friends over for Smores around a fire pit.  It was sad that so many of her friends didn’t know how to start a campfire even with the use of matches and newspaper.  After several poor attempts they were all interested to learn how to do it right.  Imagine that?  Teens interested in learning a skill from one of their dads. 
Our children want to be a productive part of the group and what better way for them to demonstrate their worth than to be in charge of starting the campfire or a host of other suitable skills?
I am part of a group of families that meet each month and share training on various skills.  We describe it as 4H for adults.  At one event we explored how to make a bow & arrow from PVC pipe and a fiberglass rod used for temporary horse fencing.  It was amazingly good and the bow’s delivered forty-five pounds of thrust.  That would be perfect for teaching our teens an important skill and what would be more appropriate than hosting a “Robin Hood” shooting event with those home-made bows and arrows?

The movie “Hunger Games” cast the heroine as a young provider for her family and could be used to encourage our youth to participate.  She was an accomplished archery hunter but more importantly, she provided her family with food because of her skills.  In a grid down world, our children will need to become proficient at many things.  A problem is that many daily tasks necessary in a ‘grid down world’ are manually intense and tend to eliminate younger bodies.   When looking for a “Well Bucket” to manually draw water from a four inch well casing, I was amazed to find most were sized at several gallons and would be very heavy to draw.  Seeing a need to include our children in as many tasks as possible, I designed a light weight “Bullet Bucket” that holds only about one gallon per draw.  This is light enough that a young teen could draw water for a family and not be excluded from serving an important role.

Practicing skills can be a group event.  Our group was formed after reading an article in SurvivalBlog forum regarding Colloquium (CQ) Groups.  We have grown into our third year and have affiliated groups in three other cities.  Once each year we hold a CQ Field Day.  We camp out at a city park or privately owned field that is visible and accessible to the town.  This year we will be in a three acre field owned by our church and right in the middle of town.  Along with practicing our skills and having a great time of fellowship among ourselves, we will be hosting the local 4H group, Boy Scouts, and the city Youth in Action group.  We will be demonstrating outdoor cookery, amateur radio field operations, fire making, making your own laundry detergent and other skills of interest.  There are several merit badges available to the Boy Scouts and we have men qualified to approve those badge requirements.  This will be our second such Field Day and it is capturing some very good attention from our city.  Our group is not promoted as a “Prepper Group” and that is with purpose.  Since we are promoting skills that can help a family save money and that make us better prepared for storms and associated outages, we are cast in a very different light than with the mockery that is painted on “Preppers” as a result of sensational media attention.   Since the skills we teach and practice can and do serve both hurricane preparedness and TEOTWAWKI, we prefer to remain hidden in plain sight.  Even at our meetings, nothing is ever shared about how much any of us has stored.  We are all about skills and the subject of personal inventories never comes up.

The importance of training our young people will make a profound difference to the future of our nation.  As they learn skills of survival, they learn principles of living.  Including them in such an important part of family preparedness teaches them responsibility and recognizes their significance as a contributing member of the group.  Children are often marginalized by our system of education and teens especially may lack the confidence to stand shoulder to shoulder with adults in preparedness training.  It is easy for them to feel overwhelmed and left behind as their parents become serious about making preparations.  We can unintentionally push our children aside because we want to demonstrate and practice abilities newly learned.  Reaching them and encouraging them to join in is a worthy effort at the very least.  An important note is that all of us like to play games and that is the key to teaching skills and including our youth in sharing the future.   When we teach skills by the media of games, we discover a love of learning.

Are you responsible for the most valuable commodity in the world? Do you have small children? Are you a grandparent? Even though your grown children currently think you are crazy, will they be showing up at your door in a SHTF scenario? What about the neighbor down the road, the single mother that is just barely getting by financially? Even though they are not actually your responsibility, will you be able to turn away a stranger with an infant or small child pleading for help? What does God expect out of us? What if you were suddenly responsible for an infant or toddler? Do you have some basic supplies or plans  for this scenario? In many ways, infants and toddlers require careful planning when preparing for a TEOTWAWKI situation.
Infants and toddlers can throw a curve ball into your prepping plans.  Here are some basic needs that toddlers and babies require, that many people may not think to have in their long term storage. Some of these suggestions are simple and inexpensive but extremely valuable. Anyone that has taken care of children knows that keeping them happy and comfortable reduces a lot of stress on the caretaker. Sadly, some parents will not have a clue about what to do when they run out or cannot afford/find disposable diapers. Some of these items are cost (and space) prohibitive for someone that may not be definitely responsible children.  Additionally, there are a few transportation type items my family has acquired. We will use these in a SHTF scenario, but we also use them in our day to day life.

Babies need diapers, plain and simple. Instead of stockpiling expensive and bulky boxes of disposable diapers, I bought a pattern (link) and made one size diapers that fit a baby from 8 pounds to 35 pounds. Both of our children can literally fit in the same diaper, even though they are almost 20 pounds different in weight. These are not your thin pre-folds found on the Wal-Mart shelf (don’t buy them unless you’re using them as burp cloths, they’re terribly thin and not very useful). I can also use the leftover material from the diapers as cloth wipes or the diapers themselves as bandages in extremely unfortunate situations. A couple of drawers of diapers that last for years saves much more space (and money) than years’ worth of disposable diapers. How good would you feel to hand a struggling parent a few re-usable diapers (you may need to show them how they are used) before sending them down the road? Don’t forget a good supply of safety pins for many reasons. Plus, when using my homemade laundry detergent, I don’t have any additional soap to buy or store.  You can find good, used diapers through a diaper cleaning service, online, and at garage sales. Get creative; they are out there if you look for them.

Babies also require milk. Most people can agree that nursing is the most beneficial form of nourishment for an infant. It also is simpler. For example, there is no need to find a bottle (let alone sanitize it), it is always at the right temperature, no one has to measure out precise ingredients, and I can’t think of a single time it has ever been recalled. However, it can be painful to nurse and sometimes it just is not an option. If you suddenly find yourself caring for an infant what are you going to feed that baby?

Through my research, I have found several goats’ milk recipes. Goats’ milk has very nutritious properties and is supposed to be easier for infants to digest than a cow’s milk. So, if you have access to goats, search for some recipes and see if this is something that may benefit your situation. Unfortunately, goats simply are not an option for my family. We live on a military installation and the housing authorities are adamant on their pet policies. Goats will not do here, which leads me to a formula recipe I found in a cookbook. The recipe’s ingredients are common staples in most pantries.

12 ounces evaporated milk
2 Tablespoons Dark Corn Syrup, Sugar, or Brown Sugar
2 ¼ Cup Water (my Dr. recommends boiling all water, even bottled water, to kill bacteria before giving to infants)

Mix these ingredients together (be sure that the water has cooled to an appropriate temperature) then feed to the baby. This can be refrigerated after use and stored for several days.
Since this recipe does not have additional vitamins or iron that infants require, liquid vitamin drops would be important to add in order to meet the child’s nutrient requirements.
As a disclaimer, I am not a health care provider. Perhaps this information will be helpful to a child in a SHTF scenario. In the meantime, please consult with a medical professional with questions or recommendations for the health of your child.

When TEOTWAWKI occurs, how are you going to transport that kiddo if we have to? This is a subject that, unless you are currently or know you will be responsible for children, may be a minor concern. Transporting a child “legally” in a vehicle will not be a priority however; a car seat does keep the child safe and stationary so the other occupants can remain alert to the environment around them. I do not believe that traveling via motorized vehicle will be an option in most SHTF scenarios so, let’s concentrate on non-motorized transportation options.
First off, bicycles are great to have at hand. They provide a quick, efficient, and cheap mode of transportation. But, how will you transport the children on a bike? Well, you could install one of those plastic seats over the handle bars or behind your own seat. Used ones are plentiful and inexpensive at garage sales.  Or, here’s another option. We chose a bike trailer. We purchased an Aosom Elite 3 in 1 from an eBay store. This is a cheaper model, but one is better than none, right? What is nice about this trailer is that two children (up to a combined weight of 88 pounds) can ride in it simultaneously. The trailer has a mesh cover to allow air flow, but it also keeps rocks, sticks and larger bugs from infiltrating the cockpit area. It came standard with a clear plastic cover to go over the mesh to keep rain off the children or to keep the cold weather out. One of the requirements I had when looking for a bike trailer was that it had to convert easily from a trailer to a stroller. This trailer simply attaches to pull behind a bike, and it has a front swivel wheel that allows it to become a stroller. The swivel wheel can be “locked” in a forward position to be used for jogging. The handle bar at the back of the trailer doubles as a roll over bar and can be adjusted to be more comfortable for those of different heights pushing the stroller.  There is also an enclosed area at the back of the trailer that is fairly large (for a size idea, it can fit 4 gallons of milk). Another neat feature is that many trailers can be converted to be on skis for those in snowy regions. A simple ski kit is available on eBay for those that snowshoe or Cross Country Ski. Now, if funds are not an issue for you, I would probably recommend a trailer with a larger front wheel. This would make the trailer more compatible for rugged terrain. Furthermore, when the kids outgrow this, it may be retrofitted to haul game, goods, firewood or used as a great barter item.

What if hiking is more your style or a bike trailer is not feasible for you? Here are some other options. While hiking (or even doing house work) with a “fresh” baby, my Moby Wrap was a life saver. The Moby is a long piece of fabric with a stretch. You can even make your own, just do a search for how to on online. For us, the Moby worked well while the kids were just a few months old. The bigger they grew, the more difficult it was for me to carry them.

Then, I was introduced to a Deuter Kid Comfort Carrier. These distribute the child’s weight more evenly on my body, making long walks more enjoyable for both mommy and the child. Each of our Deuters have a kickstand (which allows us to double the back pack as a high chair because of the balance the kickstand provides), strap in harness, shade cover, and rain shield. They also have mesh pockets on the side, and a deep pocket under the child’s seat. We can store diapers, food, water, and other necessities in the deep pocket. This pack does not allow you to carry “tons” of items for a BOB, but it is perfect for me as a Bug Home Bag, if I am just running errands throughout town. It is perfect for everyday use, too. It frees my hands but also allows a fussy child to be comforted close to mommy or daddy.

Trying to be prepared can be expensive. We were blessed to pick up a Deuter at a garage sale, and the other was a gift from my parents. Here is a money saving recommendation. When trying to get equipment, head to an REI store (or similar facility) if you have the luxury. Be prepared to stay for several hours. Get properly fitted for a backpack. I strongly suggest this, as this will increase your comfort while carrying the child. There are also great videos on YouTube explaining how to properly fit yourself to your pack. Put your child in the backpack and see how you both like it.  Walk around the store for half an hour or longer. Try several different brands and see what works best for you and your children. Take notes on the features you like, how it fits, what you do not like, etc. Do the same with the bike trailer or any other necessities you find yourself needing.  Push the kid(s) around the store. Try to see how the kids fit in the trailer with helmets on.  Is there enough storage area, do the kids have enough room? Again, take notes. If money is not a problem or if there is a remarkable sale going on and you want to support that store, then go ahead, make your purchase.  On the other hand, if you have a smart phone or want to save a bit of money, check out eBay, Craigslist, Bookoo, etc. Take your notes and go home. Find a used product at a more affordable price. Many times children outgrow these tools before the family uses them a handful of times, so you can find good products in like new condition.

The products I mentioned are just items my family finds useful. We are not associated with any of these companies or web sites, nor do we get any monetary gain from sharing our opinions on these products. They are just that, opinions, take them for what they are worth. Children are surely a blessing. Consider them and their needs when preparing your supplies.

Regarding the piece by I.S. on a female's point of view, she is right on with how to introduce a non-prepper to this world.  I have done the same but with my husband, I am the gardener, shooter, and all around prepper.  Though we do not have a lot of funds, you can nickel and dime it towards your survival goals and I have done this with proof to him such as becoming debt free, minus the mortgage, getting branches and salvage wood for free for the wood stove to save on heat, stocking up on food and now growing seedlings for sale.  You have to work with what your spouse can relate to.   Mine relates to the profit of an action, he can now rest assured that if he loses one of his jobs, (he is a great worker), we will not do without.  He calls my storage area my "little store."

I now have him helping me make decisions about items to keep and get rid of and he will now use terms like "that would be good for barter."  (I almost fainted the first time I heard him say that.) He was even okay with my closing a small retirement account to convert it to silver and a little gold, he is also good with the saving nickels concept.  I told him that if absolutely nothing happened and all was well, the little coin I am saving, will not loose value.  He is still in baby step mode.  I will now be storing larger quantities of beans and grain, I explained to him that a bean has many uses, you of course can eat it, grow it and use it for sprouting should greens be unavailable.  

I also do a great deal of shopping at yard and estate sales and have shown him the savings and resale values of the items I get, he sees the profit I make with reselling.  It is also best to explain the value of a changing life style for the simple health benefits rather than just gloom and doom.  It makes the pill a lot easier to swallow, so preppers, just keep at it with your significant other, some or any preparation is better than none, work with their dreams and desires to get to the prepping world even if you have to use that fictitious 2x4 upside his head. ;-) - C.N.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hello sir.
I am a sheepdog that is very aware and nervous about the way things are progressing. I have been a prepper for a while. It's a side effect of my upbringing and career.
I have been researching whether it is realistic and feasible for me to relocate to the American Redoubt. I am a black American, although I am really just an American like you! I see a lot that I like, however I am worried that a black man (light skinned, but still, LOL) would not be generally welcome in that region and/or have to be constantly on guard because of a heavy presence of neo-nazi groups and other racist. Is this a false worry? Please answer me candidly. I am not offended by plain straight talk. I prefer it!
I have raised my children to understand the situation in our country, as well as how to live by the Golden Rule, humility and when to shoot.
God has been shielding me a great deal in the past and lately, and I cannot ignore his voice urging me to be ready for a near crisis.
Thank you for your time. - F.M.J.

JWR Replies: I'll pray that your planned upcoming move goes well. I have seen no "...heavy presence of neo-nazi groups".  That is a myth perpetuated by the media.  The most vocal neo-nazis were run out of town in Hayden Lake, Idaho 13 years ago.

The per capita number of haters is no greater in the Redoubt than in the other western states.  In my experience, people here are judged by their politics and religious affiliations more than they are their skin color.  If you are a conservative, then you'd certainly be welcome here.  

White, Black, Yellow, and Brown people people who drive a Prius or Volvo slathered with liberal slogan bumper stickers are the ones who get razzed here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter? I’m not talking about coming home at 2am on New Years. I’m talking about staying awake and alert, for an entire evening, before sundown to after sun up. Has it been a few years, or maybe never? With all this excitement about “bugging out” and prepping, there’s a lot of talk about security and self defense, but I have yet to read an in depth article about the practical application of watches. Kind of boring maybe, but in a TEOTWAWKI, scenario keeping a watch is essential, so let’s dissect it in detail. First, the watchman.

The watchman is the first line of defense for the entire community, be it a small family or a Rawlesian 20+ acre Ranch in the Redoubt. One must be ready to respond to any threat or emergency immediately on contact. This is not a chore, it is a duty. The difference is that you can listen to your MP3s while you do the dishes, but you should not even be whistling while on watch. Consider this, while you were whistling Dixie, you didn’t notice the obvious rustling in the bushes an hour ago; that was a scouting party from a group of camp raiding, cannibals down the road. Now a full assault is minutes away and you will be completely off guard, and so will everyone else in your camp. Had your tune not obstructed your hearing you could have sounded the alarm and either moved camp, or mobilized the rest of the fighters and been ready. Most of you reading this don’t have to be convinced that this scenario sounds funny, but is not outside the realm of reality for a society who allows stampede deaths on Black Friday for sales on pairs of socks, and this is all pre-starving feral masses! This is a serious position, and must be treated as life or death because it is! You must be responsible for getting proper rest in between watches, personal hygiene, and relaxing during your down time. You are responsible for keeping your mind clear and ready; all of these elements can affect your ability to keep the camp safe, so again, take it seriously!

Every watchman needs equipment. You can have 1 designated set that every watchman uses, and they should all be accountable for it, i.e. a checklist inside a bag that everyone reviews before assuming the watch. Especially when resources are scarce. Here’s a short list to consider:

- Weapon: Lethal or non-lethal, or preferably one of each. A pistol is good, and a rifle is excellent. A large can of 18% pepper spray can dissuade animals or disperse a gathering crowd, but even a big sharp stick is better than nothing.

- Foul weather gear: A poncho, wool cap (there’s a reason it’s called a watch cap), gloves, etc. Keep it simple.

- Communications devise: To stay in contact with other watches or base camp. At random hourly intervals every watch should check in. Random is the key; you don’t want to give away your system to an enemy. This could lead to predicted watch paths and holes in security. Just remember you never know who might be listening. This devise could be a radio, but another kind of signal devise can work also, i.e. a bird call or whistle where a known code is used, 1blast all secure, 2 blasts need assistance, 3 blasts wake up the camp the hordes are descending upon us!

- A good flashlight, notebook and pen, First Aid Kit, and a multi-tool. This is just a basic kit, but a well equipped watch is a ready watch. Every watch needs to consider their own needs beyond the basics i.e. an extra jacket or sunscreen.

Now for watch rotation, the concept is simple, take a 24 hr day and divide it into parts. Assign each part to a qualified body and execute! This gets more complicated in practice. An average man cannot be an EFFECTIVE watch for longer than 6-8 hrs maximum, and less than that at night. You can’t afford to run your watches so hard that they become ineffective; and fairness is a crucial element in these acronym scenarios. So, let’s take a 3 family bugged out scenario, with 4 able watchmen between them, and create a watch bill.

We have John, Jacob, Hiemmer, and Schmidt. John is the unofficial leader of the pack, and Jacob is his son. Hiemmer and Schmidt are best friends from college, and unimportantly Hiemmer is the only female watchman. It’s Monday and John says he’ll take the first watch, so here’s what it looks like:

6am-12pm John

12pm-6pm Jacob

6pm-12am Hiemmer

12am-6am Schmidt

Easy enough right? Since John’s the leader, he should never have to pull an all-nighter, and since Jacob is the youngest he can’t be expected to stay up during the night, it’s too big a responsibility! See how this doesn’t quite even out? John gets to be with his family every night while the buddies battle to stay awake. This erodes unit cohesion over time, and a short time at that. So let’s try it again, this time with shorter evening watches to ensure watch effectiveness and every able watch considered equal or otherwise unsuitable.

6am-12pm John

12pm-6pm Jacob

6pm-10pm Hiemmer

10pm-2am Schmidt

2am-6am John

6am-12pm Jacob

12pm-6pm Hiemmer

6pm-10pm Schmidt

10pm-2am John

2am-6am Jacob

And so on. Now you see the thought process and what a real rotation looks like. This would be a sweet set up really, imagine having less or more watchmen though and you can see how tough or easy this could become! Draft one up for practice; use 2-4 hr night watches and 6- 8 hr day watches to figure out how they all mesh. Now let’s delve into the worst case scenario, 1 man and his little family, as we move onto our last discussion: the craft of the all-nighter.

An all-nighter will test you, whether you have or haven’t planned it. Yet how often do we get to prepare for a full on nuclear fallout family bug out? Probably 1 out of 100, but that’s why we prep, practice, and stay sharp. Yet this isn’t something I hear a lot practicing, and it is, just like everything else, a perishable skill. So I’m proposing we correct this, next weekend or within the month, take the opportunity to plan and practice an all-nighter. I’m not saying a full on bug out, not initially anyway (you’re doing that 2-3x a year anyway right?), but just stay up, all night into morning. Watch the sun come up and an hour or so later, get in bed. Let’s try to do it 2-3x a year, and maybe somewhere down the line we’ll combine the bug out and the all-nighter. This is a more realistic scenario anyway, I can’t imagine gathering my family and bug out pals, fighting our way out of the cities, making it to our bug out locale and then we all sleep like babies. Have a plan, have a watch bill, and practice. There are a few things you can do to help you through the night, here’s a few I’ve learned over my time in the military, law enforcement and security contracting:

- Drink water: H20 will curb your sleepiness more than you think. I’ve drunk coffee for hours and head bobbed the entire time. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t drink caffeine, because you definitely can (should?), but staying hydrated will keep you more alert than dehydration. Also, if you have to urinate often  your even more awake (note that each situation is different and frequent urination might not be your friend.  In this case ensure you are properly hydrated but not overly so). 

- Stay uncomfortable: Think of it as setting yourself up for success. If you put on a nice thick coat, hat, and prop your feet up you might as well be in bed and you WILL fall asleep. Is it fun being cold, or standing rather than leaning, or doing push-ups? Not exactly, but that’s the point. Don’t let yourself relax, remember, this is life or death for the whole camp. Stay alert by wearing a thinner jacket, or taking your hat off when you feel sleepy, doing a few push-ups or jumping jacks. Stay moving and keep the mind alert!

- Scenario role play: Use your weary thoughts in a productive way to picture a dire scenario. What was that in the shadows? It was a raider scout, and he’s collecting information about your camp. Stealthily defend your people from the evil cannibals! Seems silly, but so does dry firing and reloading your pistol, and if you aren’t dry firing your pistol bi-weekly I kind of hope you don’t carry it. It and you become a liability rather than an asset, and the same goes for the watchman. Do this and time will pass more quickly, and this is a good thing in the all-nighter.

- Make it fun but not too fun: For the practice all-nighter stand small watches and break them up with something fun you like to do. Play an instrument, or a video game. Do something to keep your mind active then go back to “watch mode”. Even watch during the acronym can be fun, kind of like how the most important game of the season is fun. Always remember to de-stress after watch, clear minds are more capable.

The watchmen have a crucial task ahead of them, but with proper planning and willingness, families in the acronym world will sleep well knowing someone’s got their eyes looking out. (This article was written entirely from midnight to 7:30 am, and later edited for excessive crazy babble.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

As Seen on TV – My Humble Beginnings
I admit I've watched just about every episode out there from all of the popular survival shows – Survivorman, Beyond Survival, Man vs. Wild, Dual Survival, Man Woman Wild, and yes, even Worst Case Scenario with Bear Gryllis . I ate it all up. Those shows got me hooked on wilderness survival. My Christmas and birthday lists went from a focus on video games and computer upgrades to things like paracord, solar blankets, magnesium fire starters, etc. I also got a few great books that gave me vast amounts of knowledge. Everything I stocked up on I saw as something to use should the power go out, the car break down, etc. This is all before the term prepper went mainstream. I didn't consider myself a 'prepper' at this point – just someone who prepared for a few emergency scenarios. Then I saw the first season of The Colony. That got me thinking about home security and stocking food. There was nothing romantic about The Colony like there was with the other shows. I quickly realized my problem – I didn't live in or near the wilderness. I have always been, and will most likely always be, a suburbanite. I had my wife watch the episodes with me so we could talk about what we would do. How would we fare in that situation? Unfortunately, that's all it was at that point – just talk, no action.

My Reality Check – Survival School

For my birthday, my wife registered me and my brother for a wilderness survival school in Florida ( I had an absolute blast there and realized something very important. Seeing how to do things on television is no comparison to doing it in real life! I know – common sense right? Before the class, I was completely confident that I could make a friction fire or snare some dinner if I had to. Not only did I learn many important basics in the school, but I also got a lot of hands-on experience on making a knee-high fire in no time, building a proper debris shelter, as well as a plethora of other life-saving skills. I would highly suggest all of you out there to get registered for a course. Get your hands dirty. Better yet, bring your spouse or your friends along. You don't want to be in a life-or-death situation to try something for the first time, especially something as important as making shelter or fire. Practice, practice, practice! If you look at some survival school schedules, you'll see that there are discounts many times or even free classes posted (!

Podcasts – Free Information on Just About Anything

Next to YouTube, you can find a podcast for just about anything – from investing, to gaming, to travel – even Prepping. If there was any podcast that got me into the whole 'prepper' movement, it was In The Rabbit Hole ( I did try out some others, but for the most part, the hosts always seemed a little odd or too political for my tastes. These guys (Aaron and Jonathan) were my gateway to prepping – I quickly found many other sites (,, etc) and people to follow, like Lisa Bedford (, who often has free webinars. I give a lot of credit to these guys in getting me up to speed. This is about the time I started considering myself a 'prepper'. Some of their episodes that were eye-opening to me included being 'gray', home schooling, survival skills vs survival gear, situational awareness, bug out bags and every day carries…I could keep listing more and more. Every episode was filled with so much useful knowledge. They also have a great forum and unbiased gear reviews. If you're new to, or just plain interested in, prepping, I would start with these guys. You can download their episodes and listen to them whenever you like.

Don't let your quest for knowledge stop there. The Internet is full of free resources and advice. Get out there and search for other forums. Get involved. Ask questions. Find a group of preppers with the similar mindset you can share ideas with.

Food Storage & Gadgets on the Cheap

There's a very simple method called "copy canning" ( for food storage that anyone can put in the practice right away. I believe I first heard about this on In The Rabbit Hole.It doesn't involve going overboard buying $5,000 worth of freeze dried food. Well, if you can afford to do that, more power to you! For the rest of us, this is a great, affordable method. The article has a lot of information, but here's the most simplistic way to look at it: Every time you go to the store and buy a can or box of food, buy an extra one (or more if you can afford it). That way you know you're buying what you already eat. When you get home, always put the newer items in the back. Then, eat the older stuff. A lot of people who stock up on food mistakenly stock up on foods they have never tried before. There's no point in buying 3-months of food that no one in the family will go near. With copy canning and the information in the article above, you can stock up on plenty of the things you already use. Even if you're not 'prepping' per-say, think of it as a hedge on inflation (as Aaron and Jonathan say). This method can be used for all of your consumables (toothpaste, feminine napkins, toilet paper, soap, etc).

Canned food? Check. I also knew I wanted to get a dehydrator so I could preserve foods and make things like jerky and fruit leathers. Just like anything, you'll always find the best deals online. I watched craigslist for a food dehydrator a month before I spotted a great deal. I paid $80 for an Excalibur 2900. It has 9 trays and comes with waxy paper for making things that would otherwise spill through (like fruit leathers, chilli, etc). It helped that I watched many, many videos from Dehydrate 2 Store ( She has the most helpful and comprehensive videos out there when it comes to dehydrating food. Quick Tip: You don't need to buy more wax paper inserts – I bought a pack of five silicone cutting board sheets and cut them to fit on the dehydration trays. They work like a charm and only cost about $6. So you don't have to pay full price – just be patient and watch the classifieds or Craigslist or eBay. That reminds me, I also found a guy on Craigslist that sells food-grade 55-gallon barrels for $10 each! I now have water storage taken care of as a result. It's all out there, you just have to look!

I recently bought a Foodsaver 3880 kit using a coupon and saved a ton of money on that as well. That in conjunction with my Excalibur makes an unstoppable food storage combination. Did you know the Foodsaver is also good for keeping important documents and electronics protected as well?

It was the food dehydrator that got my wife excited about storing food. It was such an awesome feeling when she came home from shopping and said she bought an extra crate of fruit for us to dehydrate for later. I never thought I would've seen the day. This came from someone who would roll her eyes when I talked about anything prepper-related. Now she regularly buys extra food and consumables from the store to stock up.

Keep in mind this is over a period of about a year and a half. I didn't just go out there and start buying things up right away. Don't prep yourself into debt!

Another quick tip – I have five 1-gallon and ten 5-gallon food grade storage buckets, all of which I got for free. All I do is call my local Wal-Mart and ask to be transferred to the bakery department. I ask if they have any buckets they'd like to get rid of. These usually had icing in them for all the cakes. They cleaned them up and gave them to me for free. Your results may vary, but I've heard this working just about everywhere.

When It's Time to Have The Talk

No, we're not talking about the birds and the bees. We're talking about firearms. Some people are from families that are very open to guns, and some people aren't. Growing up, my family never had a gun in the house. My wife's parents absolutely object to the very thought of guns (thank you media). I always knew I wanted my own firearms. If you don't want anything to do with firearms, I respect your decision as well. You can skip this section.
I turned to people for advice asking how to convince the wife to let me buy some guns. Unfortunately, the most common response was "Just buy them, and she'll learn to live with it. Then you can just keep buying them." Yes, that does work surprisingly well for many people. That's not how I wanted to approach it.

My wife and I are members of a couple different ranges here and have been for a few years now. We'd rent the guns and just shoot for an hour or two. That's about it. Over a period of about three months or so, I would pick times to talk to my wife about the possibility of gun ownership, what it meant to us, and what the pros and cons were. She talked about what scared her most and I would tell her my thoughts. If I didn't have an answer to any of her questions, I would do some research and then tell her what I thought. It was quite a process, but I gained a lot of knowledge (and mutual respect) as a result.
It just so happens I got a gift card to Bass Pro Shop from the survival school I attended. When I asked her if I could use it to buy a Ruger 10/22, she simply said "yes." Had I asked the same question three months prior, I already know what the answer would've been. It would've been a flat out "No Way! No guns in the house!"

I've since gotten my concealed carry permit (again, a gift from my wife) as well as a concealed carry pistol. We still aren't exactly where I want to be yet, but we've taken great leaps forward. I know in the future, if I'm thinking about anything, firearm or anything else, I can talk to her about it. If we decide to purchase something or not, it'll be a mutual decision.
Note: By all means, if you have kids in the house, be sure to take them to an Eddie Eagle class if possible. Our gun range offers them free of charge every few weeks or so. If those aren't offered in your area, teach your kids the proper actions to take should they find a gun.

If any of you are in a situation where your spouse is unwilling to let you purchase a firearm, I urge you to talk things out. Don't Argue. Talk. Respect your spouse. Don't go behind his or her back – while it may be easier, it's not right.
A quick few tips:

  • If you purchase a firearm for defense, get one that you can hit the target with. You don't need the highest caliber known to man. You're no good to yourself or your family if you can't hit someone trying to do you harm.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Again, if you decide to have a firearm, you have a responsibility to know how to use it properly.
  • Get a gun safe (or two) and keep it locked. Too many people are too lazy to lock their safes. Robbers count on this. Especially if you have kids, be sure to lock things up.

The Journey Continues
I've only been actually 'prepping' for about a year and a half now. I think I have food storage down for the most part. I have a way to hunt for food and protect my family. I even have some wilderness survival gear and training. My journey is far from complete, however. I still have things I want to work on, and ideas to talk through with the wife.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

This is the time for all of us to learn something abut “Building a community”. We have done our best to be prepared to survive and to continue to enjoy an acceptable good life, and provide for the present and for the future. Time surely appears to be getting very short. Now is the very best time we will ever have to ready ourselves to rebuild our community and provide the services and protection that we will need.

We sincerely believe that our post-SHTF life must be more than simple survivalism, more that just having enough basic food to survive at a lower calorie count, more than simple security from the Golden Horde. Life must continue to be about improving one’s self. Life must be about enlarging God’s kingdom here on earth. Life must be about creating strong love for families. Life must continue to be about helping those who truly cannot help themselves.

We have envisioned being able to help our very small town of about 500 population, to be a tight knit community of survival oriented family units working together to provide for our selves and others as may be needed.  Our small town consists of about 125 homes with a terrific grouping of skill sets plus a 153-year history of working together on common interest projects. The nearest larger town is about six miles in one direction with another even smaller town about fourteen miles further up the road. A large segment of our town already strives to set aside a 1-2 years supply of basic food, fuel, and medicine.

Yes, about 60% of our little country town is Mormon and about half of them actually go to church with us. That is not the important thing. What really counts is that the folks around here are personally experienced in droughts, flash floods, forest fires, landslides, economic downturns, and just plain bad luck on occasion. In actuality we have experienced all of these disasters in just the immediate past 12 years. All of them!  And FEMA  and the Red Cross didn’t show up until the third day after the flood!

As for my family, we are actually two retired couples,, ages 72-72-61-62, plus four  small dogs  and two large cats, residing in a spacious shared home. . We have agreed that we are going to stay here when the SHTF.  We are long-term (20 years) close friends and have learned to trust one another. We have compatible skills and experiences. Yes! two women can share a kitchen and stay friends. Actually sisters in every sense of the word.

Our location is in rural southwest Utah and is centered on a very wide valley mouth (about 4 miles), and next to and above a usable small river. There is an all year creek feeding the river right in the center of town. There is plenty of drinkable irrigation water. We have a two lane state road passing through and only two other roads coming into town. We can be very security oriented immediately! We have a goodly number of retired military and police individuals who are ready and committed to help as needed.

Many of our folks have large gardens and grow wholesome food. There are very large pastures in the immediate area currently used to graze horses and cattle. Many of the ladies here in town raise chickens and are bartering eggs already.

We, as a community, already know mostly who will need medical help, as well as who can probably help to “pull the wagons “when needed.

As for our combined four retirees family, we are fortunate to share a very large well situated home with ample auxiliary power, good water, and a large septic system. A twelve panel solar array (2.3 KW) and a thirty-foot wind turbine  (1.6KW) will provide plenty of power as needed during the “hard times”. A Taller pole would be much preferred. We can heat the entire house with wood easily.

Our alt electricity system is a grid tied 48-volt system with 16 gel deep cycle 6-volt batteries. The batteries are situated in the garage and we are safe from battery fumes because of their gel configuration.

The turbine is good  for our situation and our location. It is a FALCON MACH 5 from Missouri Wind and Solar.  Good people to work with!  They carry all of the miscellaneous parts needed to make the power system perform to our specs.

Our electric power situation is not the only one in town. Two other families also have solar power arrays. However, we do have the only wind turbine. We will be able to provide recharging for the many kindles, notepads, laptops and battery powered small appliances we all seem to need so badly.

Our home is now plumbed to filter the local irrigation water to the kitchen for drinking and cooking. In addition to watering the garden, we can use that water for showers and to flush the toilets. We have a roof mounted solar water heating panel. The small twelve-volt glycol fluid pump at the water heater tank in the garage is powered by a roof top tiny ten-watt solar panel.

I have spent nearly twenty years building an excellent library of specific topic books and videos so that what ever breaks down, disappears, wears out, or proves to be inadequate to our needs, will be rebuilt, repaired, replaced, or expanded. We will do whatever it takes to make it work! We have the specific knowledge needed to do the job. And we can teach others as well.

We have recently made a small investment in Kindles and an exterior hard drive for data storage. Nearly every day one of us downloads and/or copies data from another source into the kindle. has a huge list of EBooks available for free and a great many for just 99c.

Additionally there are 40,000 free eBook’s available from Project Gutenberg. No fee or registration is required. It is fabulous.

Another good site for free EBooks may well be your favorite university. Here is a search result from Google looking for “free university EBooks”.

A great place to find very good quality new and used books and videos is Half Price Books stores. We paid $9.99 for a box of CDs covering 1890 to 1995 National Geographic magazines. Every word, every photograph, every map. 

Our personal main physical library has roughly five types of books. We work on expanding these regularly.  Where do we find books and videos?

Everywhere! Yard sales, consignments, public libraries, Craigslist, etc.

Our favorite topics are mainly these:

History - American

Medical  - “how to do it “

 Drugs -  Essential oils, homeopathic health care

 Food  - storage and usage

 Farming - anything we can find about non-electric farming
 Military – Army-USMC infantry low to mid level skills and leadership

Biographies - great men and women who built this nation


These information jewels are of tremendous value now,  and even more when we start to rebuild our lives after the onset of chaos resulting from the loss of power, or the loss of financial systems, or the loss of regular food deliveries to our stores.

How will we use these data banks? Simply put, they are our DIY “how to” tools. We will build up a community known locally for good individual and town security, good medical care, good solutions to problems, great barter items, education for the children, gunsmiths, charged 12 volt batteries, protected trading fairs, barber and beauty shops, and nothing for free.

We will start with the community we already live in and know well. We will work with people we know and have learned to trust !

I am a 72-year-old diabetic with COPD and I need a regular supply of meds and a supply of oxygen 24/7.  We were able to get a used Oxygen Concentrator from the local company that provides my bi-weekly liquid oxygen restock. A patient had passed away and that person’s concentrator was then considered unusable. The delivery tech cut off the power cable and gave the used concentrator to me.  They wrote it off as destroyed.

I replaced the power cable and put the unit in the garage stores room as my backup. Further, I was able to obtain a supply of reserve air filters for the unit and extra tubing parts in order to be prepared when the O2 deliveries stop.

COPD is now the #4 killer in the nation. These oxygen usage situations are everywhere and are very serious.  Many persons with various serious medical situations keep that knowledge to themselves.  Finding them is important. Helping them to help themselves and others is critical.

A simple web search for “ Used Oxygen Concentrator” will produce more information that anyone may want or need. Three things are important.  #1. Free to low cost shipping costs, #2. 30 plus days of warranty, and #3. a 5 liter per minute flow. Do not buy under 5 liter flow.  Here is a link from the web search I did for these facts. There are many others available. The companies selling new ones all have good used stock as well. These same factors apply to obtaining other diagnostic and treatment equipment.

You can do a web search for companies selling new units and just make a list of their names and phone numbers. Do about 10 of them. I suggest that you make a list of questions with ample space between them to write the answers. Make enough copies so as to have a page for every company you are going to call. Now work the phone and make good notes about the answers to your questions. Always note the name of the person you are talking to. This is always a good research method for just about any important inquiries you might have.

As a diabetic I am concerned about safeguarding my insulin and keeping it cool. There was an article published in this blog site on 12-19-12 about a non-electric “zeer pot”. It is simple and it works. Look it up for yourself.

 In our town we have at least 4 elderly widows who now live alone. Surly there are others. When the SHTF we will try very hard to enable them to move in with a “compatible” family who has room for them. Every family needs a grandma, especially one who brings food, blankets, books, smiles, and experience with her. This will reduce the levels of community needs for winter firewood, summer cooling, childcare, etc. And we will all be happier!

Why do we believe this type of community care is important? Experience and history both teach us that if we do not care for those who “can not take care” of themselves, then no one will be cared for. We will succeed, or fail, together. If we do not take care of each other, no one will be taken care of.

Another element that we should keep in mind is, how should a community deal with strangers wanting help coming to one’s door, especially if they have children? We all know that we must make difficult decisions well in advance before the situation occurs. So be smart! Make these types of decisions before you are stressed.  Should you have to turn someone away, I suggest that you provide to them a small amount of food. One simple meal of beans and rice in amounts as needed. Send them on their way With a stern warning to not return.

A simple solution to future problems is to decide how you will respond to a situation in advance. And then perhaps agree in advance that the only new folks who will be accepted into your community are the family members of current residents. But first, I would require the current residents to commit to sheltering and feeding their newly arrived family member.

The newbies will need to be “thoroughly interrogated” as individuals, one at a time, and questioned separately as to skills and education and especially their background. Then the resident family will need to be questioned to assure that all of the family’s answers are the same. Do not be reluctant to say no!

Perhaps these suggestions are not exactly what you need. Talk about and make the decisions the decisions in advance. Be very careful whom you invite into your town, your secrets, your homes, and your hearts. Your worst enemy will be someone who will turn on you out of envy!

What about non-family exceptions? Keep in mind that your community will surely need some specific skills. Perhaps you need a plumber or a carpenter or a nurse or a teacher. Ask questions about skills and experience. Just what are the skills you will need almost immediately?  Most likely it will be Military and Police. These two are fully separate responsibilities. They should work together, each within the parameters of their specific tasks. 

Who is in charge? Perhaps an administrator, or mayor, or chairman. The actual title of the community leader really is not important. It just needs to be one that everyone understands who is the boss.

Your community leader will most likely perform best if he/she has two associates who work with him/her as counselors and surrogates with specific areas of authority and responsibility. One should be responsible for everything concerning medical and health. The other should be responsible for everything concerning food and supplies. Both will most likely have other areas of responsibility.  Before management decisions are final they would need to be very sure that they are both ready to support the leader.

Your military commander should be, if possible a combat veteran, responsible for every thing concerning security outside of your local area boundaries. Your police commander should be an experienced lead officer, and be responsible for the community security inside your boundaries. Both should report directly to the leader. Neither should be a counselor. You will have enough to worry about without a mutiny.

These tasks are going to be much the same in every sized group and in every type of location. Yes! There will be differences, just be flexible and understand that not everyone will immediately agree with you. Be patient and teach through honest dialogue and skilled questioning. The best leader is usually the best listener.

Now back to our basics, books and videos. We do not want to reinvent the wheel. This wonderful web site has a terrific suggested book list of lists readily available to you. Use it first! blog.

Below we have a list for you of some of the books on our shelves. Some of the choices we have made for ourselves may well be nothing like what you feel that you need. No matter! You’re in charge. Smile anyway! Just do a list and get to work before the SHTF.

Our single expensive knowledge tool to date is the “Appropriate Technology Library” on four CD’s. The cost about six years ago was huge, $400. The four CDs contain 1,050 books. That’s about 49 cents per book! They cover everything anyone would ever need to know to start or to restart civilization, or just to build or repair a community infrastructure. The pricing has increased a little and the material is now available on two DVDs. Their web site is


Here we go. Already on our book shelves as I write this, from among the suggested titles on the Rawles gigantic list of lists: -

When there is no doctor * When there is no dentist
The encyclopedia of country living * Nuclear War Survival Skills
Ball Blue Book of Preserving * Boston’s Gun Bible  * Tappan on Survival
Physicians desk Reference * The Merck Manual * LDS Preparedness Manual
Alas Babylon * Lucifer’s Hammer * One second After * Earth Abides
Molon Labe * The Postman ( book & video) * Out of the Ashes (1 thru 12)
Unintended Consequences (see warning) * Tunnel in the sky * Footfall
Atlas Shrugged * Jim Rawles Books ( All of them)*
Plus twenty-one more from the Jim's lists.

I am only including a selection of our other books that we have actually read, and there are many more just waiting to be picked up and gently used. As a rule, strictly reference books are stored in place, to be used as needed by someone to successfully complete a task or to teach a topic. Our total count in the library is in excess of six hundred plus the 1,050 on the CDs.

Farming 1918 Edition / Four Volumes Set - Sears & Roebuck
Farm Knowledge – Illustrated – pre-electricity -2,000 pages
American Survival Guide – 120 issues ( 10 years )

Medical  / drugs Essential Oils by Bowles / Barron’s
The PDR Family Guide by Three Rivers Press
Acupressure’s Potent Points by Michael R. Gach
AMA Family Medical Guide by Random House
The Green Pharmacy by James A. Duke
Everyday Health Tips by Prevention Magazine
The Botanical Atlas by Daniel McAlpine
Prescription for Nutritional Healing by P. A. Balch
Armageddon Medicine by C. J. Koelker, MD

History Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
Original Intent  book  *  Wall Builders DVDs by David Barton
Patriots of the American Revolution by Richard Dorson

Military Expertise: Company Commander by Charles McDonald
Company Command   by John G. Meyer
Army Officers Guide by L.P. Crocker
On War by Clausewitz
Command in War by Van Creveld
West Point by Bruce Galloway
Citizen Soldier by Robert Bradley
Total Resistance by H. Von Dach

Biography Roosevelt F.D.R.  & Teddy
Franklin  *  Churchill  *  Washington
Adams     *  Jefferson   *  Monroe

Food My wife has more than 40 books on everything imaginable
Concerning buying, storing, preserving, canning all types of Food. And that’s not counting her cookbooks & videos.

One more thing, no one should rely on the Internet for information because when the power fails, the Internet will die! It will be too late to get the information you will need.

It is our sincere hope that our readers will give serious thought concerning the timing and extent of your preparations in the areas of helping others and building a good life after we have survived the major disaster we are all facing. We are sure that Almighty God does answer our prayers for direction and decisions. Please refer to James 1:5 for this assurance.

We are passionate in teaching others the concept of making difficult decisions well in advance.

Remember Winston Churchill’s advice to the graduation collage class during the worst moments of WW2   “ Never Give Up."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

This blog has endless resources for researching the needs and goals of a person preparing for an anticipated event.  Whether that event is unemployment, extended backpacking, or a SHTF scenario, you are likely to develop a “to-do list” for that event.   These lists might be compiled on loose paper, on a computer, or lodged in your brain.  Most of us make lists in one form or another since they are invaluable for organization.   While a “to-do list” is convenient for simple events such as going to the grocery store, they tend to be detrimental to a project such as “prepping”.  The purpose of this article is to show you how to begin thinking differently about your lists, organization, and prioritizing.

I am a Civil Engineer by training and occupation.  Engineering jokes aside, one of the practical strengths I bring to everyday life is project management and of course, “to-do lists”.  Oh boy, there are lists… I have lists for my vehicle maintenance, hobbies, vacations, and of course for preparedness.   Over time, I tried shortening and compiling these lists into one master list.  Bad move.  This massive list became overwhelming and I found myself scratching my head as where to prioritize.  I even found myself wondering how some items got on my list. 

The problem with a typical “to-do list” is the list itself!  How do you prioritize lists?  How do you ensure that you really should do the activities, or buy the items on the list?  Where do you begin working, and where do you allocate your valuable resources, whether that be time, money or labor?  As personal resources tighten, a methodical approach to prioritizing your lists becomes more important, and allocation strategies are likely to change.  For example, someone that works long hours is unlikely to have a surplus of time as a resource.  A single parent may not have extra time or a surplus of money.  For efficiency and practicality, priorities and a game plan must somehow be assigned.

Instead of developing endless lists that have no definite priorities, purpose, or urgencies associated with them, a better idea is to incorporate a strategy called Value Engineering.  Value Engineering (VE) is defined as “an organized effort directed at analyzing the function of goods and services for the purpose of achieving basic functions at the lowest overall cost, consistent with achieving essential characteristics”.   To simplify, you must think of your list items in terms of function, not simply items on a list. 

VE is a professional engineering focus that would require textbooks and coursework to completely cover, so in the space of this article I will condense basic VE lessons that will assist us in prioritizing our lists.  By the end of this article, you will have a new creative skill set you can apply to any project.  The 5 general steps in an organized VE approach are as follows, and explained below:

  • Step 1 - Information Phase
  • Step 2 - Function Identification and Analysis Phase (FAST Diagram)
  • Step 3 - Creativity Phase
  • Step 4 - Evaluation Phase
  • Step 5 - Development Phase

Step 1 - Information Phase
The general idea behind an Information Phase is to understand the “scope of study” for the item for which you are trying to create solutions.   To begin, consider what this “list” is that you have been periodically assembling.  What is the overall goal of the list?  What is the general type of project?  For those of us reading this blog, we likely share a blanket scope of study of “prepping”.  Therefore, let’s make our scope of study in this article to also be “prepping”.

The Information Phase is the key to the success of any study or project.   During the Information Phase of the VE process, you are not yet formalizing a list, approach, or plan; that comes later.  During this phase, you try to obtain as much background as possible about your scope of study.  For example, if your study is to secure food for your family, you must know how much they eat in a day.  This is the type of background information that is put together in the Information Phase.  If you have already been doing some prepping, your previous studying and list-making likely provides a good understanding that you need to consider shelter, food, water, and operational security, etc.  You may have also developed a reasonable concept of how to complete many of those tasks even if portions of them are unfeasible at this time.  Additionally, you may have developed a wealth of supporting data for the Information Phase, making this task easier.  This will be invaluable as you move to the next steps.

Since you will use your background data for the remainder of the VE study, careful attention to your information “team” should take place.  If you are not an expert in all areas of your scope of study, you will need a support team.  This team may only involve your direct family, but you still need their input as they are likely to have a better understanding of certain subjects than you.  Meeting and learning from people that know more than you about a particular subject is an often overlooked part of this phase.  For example, if you don’t know the first thing about farming, you should consider bringing in someone to help you obtain that information.  Start that learning process early versus later.  Bounce ideas off people with more experience or knowledge than you in order to verify your understanding as you begin planning your projects. 

For most people reading this blog, the Information Phase has likely gone on for some time, possibly decades.  The concern is that many of us (myself included) tend to stall out in the Information Phase.  We may have been slowly moving forward over the years without good organization, priorities, or direction.  You may have a list of firearms, food, books, and other miscellaneous items you feel you “need”.  But that is sometimes all you end up with, the dreaded list and a garage full of random prepping supplies.  You may also feel overwhelmed, intimidated, and discouraged during the Information Phase, and a long list of expensive items can make you feel hopeless.  This is the problem with our previous style of list making and prepping.

You must move out of the Information Phase and add sophistication to your approach.  Do not misunderstand me; continue to study and learn and identify things to add to your “list”.  But it is now time to prioritize and create an action plan!  It is time for the next step in the VE process.  Let’s get to work in Function Analysis.

Step 2 - Function Identification and Analysis Phase (FAST Diagram)
In the VE methodology, this is the most critical piece of the process.  We must stop thinking in terms of items on a list.  We need to back up at this step and trying to really get down to the brass tacks of what we are trying to accomplish.  This is where we start thinking about and identifying the basic functions of our list items.  This step may be frustrating to some as it feels like you are putting on the brakes or maybe taking a step backward.  As you will soon see, that could not be further from the truth.

We will now begin assembling a Function Analysis Systems Technique (FAST) diagram.  This diagram is made up entirely of functions only.  Why are we backing up and making this diagram?  The FAST diagram is going to allow us to brainstorm creative solutions for use in the next VE step.  By thinking conceptually of items on your list as functions, we can truly understand what we are trying to accomplish.  As you work through this step, try to think only in terms of function.  Do not think at the item or task level you previously used as it will sabotage the remainder of the VE process.  Your functions will now be written as VERB – NOUN combinations.

The easiest way to begin creating the diagram is with post-it notes.  Start by writing a two word (VERB - NOUN) function on each post-it note.  For example, a function might read “Survive Famine”.  Another might read “Secure Home”.  Write the VERB-NOUN functions out as you think of them and stick them to your workspace (typically a wall or table).

Both “Survive Famine” and “Secure Home” are likely to be the higher order functions and are likely the main problem you are trying to solve.  Stick these functions on the far left of your workspace.  The lower order functions will now go to the right.  The result will be a flow-chart of sorts that reads “how” from left, and “why” from right.  How do you “Survive Famine”?  The next function might read “Collect Food”.   See below for the “how”, “why” nature of the FAST diagram:

A simplified example of “how” direction flow for a FAST diagram is listed below:

Survive Famine (how?) – Assemble Supplies (how?) – Collect Food (how?) – Generate Grocery List (how?) – Inventory Pantry

The same simplified example written in the “why” (reverse order) direction is listed below:

Inventory Pantry (why?) – Generate Grocery List (why?) – Collect Food (why?) – Assemble Supplies (why?) – Survive Famine

Note that your FAST diagram should “test” as you read it in both directions.  As you are sticking your VERB-NOUN post-it notes to your workspace, continually test them by reading them aloud in both directions.  Why do you inventory your pantry?  To Generate Grocery List.  Why do you Generate Grocery List?  To Collect Food.  Why do you Collect Food?  To Assemble Supplies.  Why do you assemble supplies?  To Survive Famine.

Along this diagram, you will also have parallel functions that do not necessarily line up with the “how” “why” lineal nature of the other functions.   These functions would happen at the same time but would be a slightly different subject matter.  The example above was “Secure Home”, versus “Survive Famine”.  Both subjects are important and seem related, but will be placed on their own “how”, “why” alignment in the same FAST diagram.  This will allow us to completely understand the functions behind them. 

As you can see, this is a difficult diagram to explain verbally so I encourage readers to do an online search for “Function Analysis System Technique – (FAST Diagrams)” and learn more about them.   They can be used to begin creatively solving any problem.  This diagram is so effective that many inventors use this method on a daily basis to streamline processes or create new products.  The bottom line here is that instead of immediately brainstorming on solutions (the next step), you are slowing down and really trying to analyze the individual functions of your study.  Once you have your FAST diagram with the big picture identified, the Creativity Phase is next and you will use these individual functions to brainstorm for solutions.

Step 3 - Creativity Phase
The purpose of the creativity phase is to generate new ideas related to ways of performing the functions found above in the FAST diagram.  Now that the FAST diagram is complete, there will be several functions on which to start individual brainstorming.  In a prepping study, some of your functions might look like these VERB-NOUN examples:

  • Collect Food
  • Secure Home
  • Shelter Family
  • Establish Support
  • Transport Supplies

The Creativity Phase is used to determine new ways to solve problems that you haven’t previously considered.  Let’s use the “Collect Food” function as a short example.  Sit down with a pencil and paper (or better yet a spreadsheet) and brainstorm ALL the different ways you would be able to Collect Food.  Ask yourself questions:  Do you have a garden?  Do you have space for a future garden?  Do you work at a restaurant?  Do you like to dumpster dive?  Is your mother-in-law an extreme couponer?  Remember, that EVERY idea counts in brainstorming.  Do not criticize any ideas during brainstorming because silly ideas help you become more creative.  Make it fun, and go ahead and list every idea.  Children often have fresh ideas that adults are too intellectualized to notice. 

Once you brainstorm completely through the “Collect Food” function, go on to the next function, “Secure Home”, and keep working until you have individually brainstormed through every function.  This process should not be rushed.   Individually document all the generated ideas under each individual function for which you have brainstormed.

This Creativity Phase is best completed with the assistance of several people.  In your case, this could be your immediate family or your crew that you anticipate “doubling up” with.  Two heads are better than one in the Creativity Phase.  It is common for ideas that were hidden in plain view to now become apparent.  For example, you might find that unbeknownst to you, someone you are prepping with has a family member in the grocery business with special discounts!  VE professionals learned long ago that very often the best solution is so obvious, nobody thinks of it! 

As you can see, the FAST diagram step was essential in order to truly study the basic functions of the project that you are trying to complete.  The only way to effectively brainstorm and create new solutions is to better understand the true nature of the individual function.  This approach is much different than simply making a list of items to buy.  You have now started a list based on functions, not on things.

Step 4 - Evaluation Phase
The Creativity Phase has been completed.  You now have dozens of ways drafted to complete the functions developed in the Function Identification and Analysis phase.   The next step is to eliminate silly ideas or unfeasible ideas.  Simply scratch out or delete the ideas you do not want to continue to evaluate.  If, in your brainstorm session you listed a .50 caliber machine gun to satisfy the “Secure Home” function, it is likely that this sort of idea listing will now be deleted.  After this you will have a shorter list of ideas to evaluate. 

The next step is to evaluate these individual ideas with a methodical approach.  Aside from the FAST diagram, this is where the magic really starts to happen.  As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, a primary goal is to determine a way to prioritize your lists.  The Evaluation Phase is where this begins.

Qualifiers must now be established in order to evaluate the ideas.  The qualifiers will depend primarily on the scope of study you have begun and the types of functions on which you have brainstormed.  Studying a better mousetrap will have different qualifiers than your prepping VE study.  If you have a hectic schedule, a big qualifier might be your Time.  If you have an extremely fixed income, Cost might be a big qualifier.  The attributes used to qualify evaluations are different for everybody, and may be completely up to the individual’s constraints or current conditions.  Continuing to use your prepping project as an example, the following qualifiers might be compiled in order to evaluate listings generated through the brainstorming sessions:

  • Cost
  • Labor required
  • Added security to household
  • Improved health to family

These qualifiers beg the next question; which one is most important?  A rapid way to determine this is to complete a “paired comparison”.  Initially, you may have compared cost to the labor required.  Which one is more critical to selection?  Perhaps cost wins.  Put a mark alongside cost.  Now compare cost to added security.  Perhaps security wins.  Put another mark alongside security.  Now compare cost to improved health.  Perhaps health wins.  Put a mark alongside health.  After cost has been compared to all, move to the next qualifier (labor required).  Compare labor required to the remaining two qualifiers.  Continue moving down this list until all have been compared against each other once.  After the qualifiers are all compared, you will have a ranking which will help determine which qualifiers are most important.

The paired comparison often brings surprises as you realize certain qualifiers may be more important to you than you previously believed.  Using this example, the following rankings could have been developed:

  • Added security to household – 3 points
  • Improved health to family – 2 points
  • Cost - 1 point.
  • Labor required  - 0 points

This paired comparison of qualifiers allows you to now rank each brainstormed idea carried through from the Creativity Phase.  The next question is how much weight to apply to the qualifiers?  Clearly, “added security” is more important in this study than “labor required”.  Since your rankings show that the amount of labor for you to complete a project is not more important to you, this qualifier should not be critical in your rating of brainstormed ideas.  Typical weights of 1 to 10 are now applied to each qualifier.  For example, you may assign 10 points to security, 7 points to health, 4 points to cost and 1 point to labor.   

You can then determine a system for scoring all the brainstormed ideas with the above demonstrated weighted rankings.  Many people will score each brainstormed idea using each qualifier from a range of 1 to 5, and then multiply by that the qualifiers weighted ranking.  There is no right or wrong way to do this scoring as long as it makes sense to you.  The actual method or math is not important as ensuring that your qualifiers are influencing the scoring systematically.  The scoring is most easily completed in a spreadsheet.

The scoring may illustrate that ideas you previously thought were ideal, may not actually be the best choices for your personal situation.  Using the above example, simply buying cheaply discounted foods may not be a great benefit if the foods are not healthy for your family.   The scoring may produce many surprises.  During the Evaluation Phase, you may also discover that your newly brainstormed ideas scored surprisingly well under the scrutiny of your personal qualifiers.  This is the beauty of the previous brainstorming sessions.

One thing that will become apparent during the evaluation phase is that many of the same solutions belong to different functions.   For example, during the FAST phase you determined a function of “Shelter Family”.  You also had a function of “Transport Supplies” and “Establish Support”.  Then during the scoring, the solution of owning a quality vehicle consistently scored highest in fulfilling those vastly different functions.  The bottom line is that your good ideas or critical elements will keep popping up, further streamlining the Development Phase, which is the next step.

Step 5 - Development Phase
By now you should have brainstormed and scored dozens, or perhaps hundreds of ideas.  Many of them scored low and were eliminated.  Many of them scored well and will be carried forward to the Development Phase.    Some of them, such as the “owning a quality vehicle” example above have kept popping up under several functions.  This is a clue that your Development Phase should focus on that idea.   It is now time to combine and further develop these ideas in the Development Phase.  The goal of the Development Phase is creating a detailed plan that is prioritized, organized and based on functions versus “things”.

In the Creativity and Evaluation phases, you developed unique ideas that had not been previously considered.  For example, in the Creativity Phase an idea of wind generated power may have been listed.  Then in the Evaluation Phase, the consistent wind at your property scored that idea as a better long term option than purchasing a generator.  Or perhaps your Evaluation Phase determined that given your climate, you would be better off to learn to garden versus stockpile food.  You were able to completely change some pre-existing notions of your prepping, and have essentially thrown out those “lists” that you were scratching together the last few years.  Now you have some realistic, workable goals to further develop.

The Development Phase is when the individual ideas are combined into an action plan.  This is the time your team will come up with a game plan and likely a newly updated “list”.  Given our wind power example, you might need to temporarily go back to the information phase and start learning about wind power.  You can then re-asses the wind power project and implement as appropriate.  If you are prepping with a team, this is the time to delegate, break, and plan on reconvening at a specified time to discuss progress.

The Development Phase end result will be a list much different in appearance than you previously completed.  It will be organized by function, not random item after item.  You will clearly understand your priorities and have developed a plan accordingly.  You will find that many items you felt you previously needed have been permanently removed, as you now have cost effective creative solutions to complete that function.  You will also find that many of your solutions now serve to complete multiple functions.   Your list will have become a streamlined game plan that has a purpose based on your prioritized needs.  Your list has been transformed into a sophisticated master plan.

Simplification and Summary
As discussed earlier, the VE process is a little difficult to describe verbally.  You might have read this and thought, “Come on now, I would never work through that entire process!”   I strongly urge you to work through a simple VE scope of study before deciding that it’s not for you.  To make getting started easier, I have a Reader’s Digest version for you, so keep reading. 

You can take pieces of the VE process to improve your lists or goals.  Let’s say you clearly understand the prepping solutions available to you, but your Information phase has produced endless understandings and you have this massive list that is bogging you down.   You are having a hard time prioritizing your list and it’s not clear where to start.  What you need to do is determine a way to prioritize your massive list.  Let’s go back and steal some ideas from the Evaluation Phase.

Begin with a paired comparison in a spreadsheet.   Let’s assume you have a long list of food and cooking type supplies which you would like to purchase.  Take the first item on your list and compare it against all that are below it.  Continue the paired comparison as described previously until you have compared all the items in your list against each other.  You will quickly see that several of the items on the list get a tally much larger than other items.   This should demonstrate to you which items are needs versus wants.   These rankings may shock you.  Unfortunately, this also means that maybe that third rifle you want just doesn’t make the first round (pun intended).  Be prepared for some letdowns!

Another slightly more complex yet helpful way to complete these paired comparisons is to determine a short list of qualifiers as previously described.  Some qualifiers might be time, money, longevity, storability or overall utility value.  This time, just keep them in mind as you are completing your paired comparison.   Think in terms of qualifiers, not your emotional “wants” such as that third rifle!  Neglecting the previously described sophisticated scoring methods, these qualifiers will still influence your decision process as you work through your list.

The take-away here is to be deliberate in your list making and dreaming.  Think in terms of functions, not items on a list.  Ask yourself the following types of questions:

  • What is the true function behind the items on our lists?
  • Is there a better way to complete that function?  
  • Is there a cheaper way? 
  • Is that function so important that you should actually spend more money than you had previously planned?  
  • Is there a way to complete that function that also serves to complete several other functions? 
  • Should you hold off completing that function in order to complete other functions faster or cheaper?

In summary, think in functions, not in simple lists.  This is the type of strategic thinking that will serve you well whenever you need to think on your feet and be creative.  Using the Value Engineering methodology to study your projects will save you money, effort, time and labor, as well as enable you to complete more goals.  But best of all, you will save your sanity!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dear Mr. Rawles,

First, I want to take a moment to tell you how much we love your blog site.  The amount of well thought out information that you have available is a great resource for all of us. 

I would however like to discuss a disturbing trend I am seeing on your blog.  While your distrust of the policies and actions of the government may be well founded I am worried about the anti law enforcement sentiment that is popping up is troubling.  I would never tell anybody to blindly trust or follow any one person or group of people but to distrust any entire group based on their vocation is extremely biased.  I had a sergeant who was found of asking people why they judged us on our color.  He would always get a response of “no I’m not” or “that’s crazy we’re the same color!”  My sergeant would reply “blue, you’re judging us on the color of our uniform, blue.”  I say we are being judged on our uniform now. 

I have been attending The Catholic Church for most of my life.  Many of you may remember the despicable actions of several members of the clergy from the news.  While their actions were appalling and in my eyes deserved a much more severe punishment, it did not warrant a mistrust of all clergy of all faiths.  Have there been police officers who treated people unfairly or even broken the laws they were sworn to uphold?  Of course!  There have also been teachers who preyed on the very children they were there to help.  Soldiers who attacked and abused their own female counterparts.  The list is unfoundedly endless.  I far from condone these actions, in fact I think harsher penalties are due to those who abuse their power.  You simply cannot judge an entire group by the actions of a few of its members. 

I have been a medic, firefighter and most recently a police officer.  I am proud of my chosen vocation and will lay down my life if called upon to do so.  I have attended the funerals of more of my brothers and sisters then I care to discuss.  The number of officers that have been killed in the line of duty is rising at an alarming rate.  These are men and women who laid down their lives for the same good people who read this blog.  I tell the people that I come in contact with to get their concealed weapons permit and carry regularly!  I have sworn to uphold the laws of this state and the constitution of our great country so I tell people to get the permit.  I have even gone so far as to put citizens in contact with instructors.  If it were up to me they would need no permit but it’s not so I direct them to the legal path of self protection.  Saying that LEOs are all out to get you is, in my eyes, the same as a LEO saying that all preppers are domestic terrorists.  I’m not saying to trust every cop you see. Rather, I’m just asking that you give them the same opportunity to earn your trust as anybody else.  Remember that at the end of the day most of us are just trying to make a difference in our communities.  I don’t want to take away the rights of any citizens.  I think the attacks on the 2nd amendment are a threat to the life and liberty of every American.  I can tell you that if, and when in my opinion, guns are outlawed and officers are called upon to collect them it will be a slow day at the office.  I can’t speak for every officer everywhere but I can tell you I have yet to meet one who would even try to take guns out of the hands of honest hard working Americans. 

I learned about this blog from other officers at my department who share the worries of many of the readers here.  It is my wish that more good Christians were able and willing to take care of themselves.  I wish that every decent person was armed and when some crazy person attacks a school or movie theater they were able to stop him or her before anybody lost their lives.  A lot, maybe most, of people today are unwilling to protect themselves.  I believe there are many reasons why this is so and could no doubt fill an entire article with them but the fact remains, it falls on a few to protect the many.  I will continue to be an avid follower and supporter of SurvivalBlog but it is my hope that my fellow readers will see the men and women who protect and serve for what they are: people.  - A Prepared Sheepdog

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I’d like to thank JWR and all of you for providing such a mountain of good information!  I am in my 30’s and have a family with several small children in the suburbs, and just started prepping about 18 months ago.  I don’t remember the details of why I got started exactly.  It just came up in conversation with a couple of friends of mine and we got serious about it.

I do remember, however, some of the events and conversations that took place to get my wife involved (I mean…at least get her permission!) and so I thought I would share it with you.  Maybe there is another person out there that is interested in being prepared, but doesn’t know how to approach his or her spouse.
I am in finance and my wife was in accounting before we had children, so we both think of things very logically and practically.  (Or at least we enjoy thinking that we do)  So, when I explained to my wife my desire to “be prepared” I used two events to my advantage:

1 – In September 2008 Hurricane Ike slammed into the United States down south and then pushed north inland causing $7.8 billion in damages, killing hundreds, and causing power outages for hundreds of thousands.  My area lost power for a couple of days, but my wife and I were both working at the time and neither of us lost power at work for very long.  Curiously, our block including us were without power for 8 days, while all the houses around our block had the power turned back on after 24-48 hours.  The power company was simply working on highest priorities, and we weren’t one of them.  Fortunately, we didn’t have kids and we could go to work and visit friends who had power, so it wasn’t a big deal.  We gave away what was in the freezer because we didn’t know what else to do with it.  I visited the local store for batteries and such, but it was all gone.  Again, not a big deal.  We had a few yummy-smelling candles and a few spare batteries lying around.

2 – Last winter we had rain for a few days, which became freezing rain, which then just became bitterly cold and frozen everywhere.  It was so beautiful!!!  It was also treacherous.  We have a steep driveway and when I went out to start the car for work I slid (while standing) all the way down the driveway and then fell into the street…sliding all the way into the street.  Thankfully, I didn’t break anything and no cars were coming.  If there were they would not have been able to stop.  I went into work and didn’t notice until later that there was blood dripping from inside of my pants.  I was cut up pretty bad and bruised for probably two weeks.  I’m also certain I was very, very close to breaking my hip or leg.  It hurt very badly!  By the time I made it home and went to the grocery store, there were few batteries and there was absolutely no salt.

Fast forward to 18 months ago and on up to today.  I now have several small children and my wife stays at home with them.  My youngest is a couple months old and I can NOT afford to lose heat in the winter.  Going without power at home would be a severe inconvenience.  And, surfing my driveway is not something that I’d ever like to do again.
So, after the kids were asleep and after warning her I wanted to talk to her about something, I approached my wife with a perspective something like this:
When I think of events or bad things that could happen to us, I see a sliding scale of possibilities.  On the one hand, we have lost power for 8 days before.  Also, I have slipped on the ice in the driveway and been severely hurt.  On one end we have a Jesus Apocalypse and he takes us home!  In between, there are threats of varying degree.  Maybe it would look something like this:


Rapture – Definitely going to happen!  Do you know Christ?  Does He know you?
Ice Storm
Power Outage
No Water
Fire, tornado, flooding
Rioting or Civil Unrest
Injury or illness (no income for period of time)
Natural death (no income for family)
Outbreak (it’s happened before!  The first flu virus killed more people than the war!)
Nuclear Meltdown (do you know how many nuclear power plants we have in the U.S.?  Ever heard of Chernobyl?  How about Japan in 2011?)
War on domestic soil
EMP/Chemical/Nuclear Attack
Rapture – Still going to happen!  Not sure when though?

So, I explained this sliding scale to her.  Change the sliding scale to reflect additional possibilities for your area (earthquake, tsunami, flood, volcano, hurricane, proximity to nuclear power plants, family situation)  Some of them are very likely to occur and some of them are absolutely absurd.  Some of them are more or less severe.  I do not think that I will die within the next 20 years, but if I do, I have a large term life insurance policy that helps me sleep at night and my wife knows the ONLY person that I trust to help her financially if I die.  That person is in her cell phone and we have had a mock “Hubby is dead.  Now what?” meeting because I absolutely demanded it.  Sorry, but I’m a financial advisor by trade.  The thought drives me mad that she wouldn’t know what to do when I’m gone or someone would bamboozle her into doing something foolish with the money.  I’ve also inoculated her against various financial instruments that I think are more about the advisor being greedy than it being good for the client!

…back on track.  So on the More Likely end I want to go out and get some salt for the driveway.  I’d like to get some spare batteries and flashlight bulbs and candles in case the power goes out.  I’d like to get a cheap kerosene heater and some kerosene in case the heat goes out because we have little ones.
We’re not being crazy.  We’re just being smart.  The next time the power goes out we’ve seen multiple times now that it’s too late to buy batteries!  When there is an ice storm it is too late to buy salt!

So, in 18 months’ time on a modest income for a family with several small children, I’ve tried to be very strategic with my purchases because I can’t just go buy everything out there that I want.  Also, I started this venture explaining to my wife how very, extremely, yet simply reasonable I was being.  Many of you are probably locked and loaded and lardered but others of you have yet to get started.  I went searching around online and found this list: and started from there.
From nothing, now we have:
6 buckets (for all sorts of things including toilet)
A few axes and hatchets
Tons of batteries, candles, extra flashlights, and extra bulbs
Kerosene heater and 10 gallons of kerosene (in the detached shed)
20 gallons of gasoline with stabilizer in it (in the detached shed)
Several boxes worth of non-perishable canned and jarred goods from the store (it’s what I first started with as far as food is concerned…but it will go bad throughout 2013-2014)
360 servings of food.  You can get a sample pack first.  You can also substitute meals you don’t like for ones that you do.  I took out spicy foods and added a few extra gluten-free.  We have a friend that can’t eat gluten so in the event that we take on refugees…   This was very expensive and I only recently bought it, but I know that since it lasts for 25 years it is actually the cheapest over time.

I’m writing this on 12/14/2012. In the event that people are idiots on 12/21 I went ahead and grabbed the next 6 weeks’ worth of non-perishables that I would normally buy in the store that we WILL USE and put them in boxes in the garage.  I just walked the aisles and grabbed things that I KNOW will be on the next 6 weeks of grocery lists.
So as far as food is concerned I think I probably have 3-4 months saved up so far for my family.  Less with feeding friends or refugees.
A big berkey water filter -
2 Water bob’s - for our 2 tubs
Several bags of salt for the driveway
A few guns and about 4,000 rounds of ammo (the ammo was bought slowly over time whenever I get groceries and I also made one major purchase online with a friend)
Two-way radios

I also have plans to move to a friend’s farm if necessary for food.  I have plans to hole-up with another friend that lives a few blocks away if necessary for security.  I’ve spoken to 5 families and my parents who are all like-minded and have talked about supporting each other if something bad happens.

All of these purchases (with the exception of the excess quantity of ammo) are all very easily explained as to what they would be useful for.  They are extremely practical and would be helpful if we lost access to power, water, or food.  My wife says she doesn’t like talking about this stuff and it makes her feel a sense of panic.  However, she’s glad that I’m doing something and knows that I desire to help and protect the family.  She’s given me a designated survival pallet in the garage!  I also have some space upstairs in the office.  The guns and ammo HAVE to be locked away, but with small kids I’m totally fine with that.

I’m not ready for the apocalypse.  I do, however, have a loving spouse that understands what I’m doing and I am ready for the power to go out on us.  I’m ready for an ice storm.  I’m ready if we lose water in the house as long as I can get to the river nearby.  I don’t need to worry if there’s a long line at the gas station.  I don’t need to worry if we lose heat in the middle of winter.
I hope that this will help someone else who is now like I was 18 months ago starting from Square One.  I hope that this will help you talk to someone, using the Sliding Scale of Possibilities, and get them to understand that you’re simply “Being Prepared” as the Boy Scouts say.  If you can’t explain it, maybe you can show this article to your loved one and just ask them for their thoughts and feedback?

Thank you all, again, for giving me so many ideas and so much good information!!!  This is by far the best survivalist blog I’ve found on the Internet.  (and I’m a 7th Degree Google Ninja)
Grace & Peace in Christ, - Mr. Reasonable Ohio

Saturday, December 29, 2012

They are not personally prepared at all. The average soldier is no more prepared than the average civilian.

If this is a concern (you live by a military installation), a curiosity (you have a relative that serves), or if you just want a glimpse of military life, let me tell you why the average soldier is not personally prepared.  I must first establish my credibility.   

I have a BA degree from a major university, and various civilian job experiences under my belt, mostly in food service and then social services.  I am an older soldier, low ranking on the totem pole. I am a truck driver in the US Army, and on the front lines where the rubber meets the road so to say.    As in all the clichés, I joined the Army to serve my country and learn about the Armed Forces, but somewhat selfishly, I joined also to learn about first aid, shooting, field sanitation, and the plethora of training that many a survivalist craves and practices, not only gaining these valuable skills for free, but getting paid to learn them.  I have been in the Army for four years, and I was into preparing for TEOTWAWKI years before I enlisted.  I have deployed twice, with many a mission outside-the-wire.

Bird Flu was my gateway drug into the prepper/survivalist community.  Upon discovering this new reality that things can and will go south, I was on the zombie apocalypse bandwagon for a long time.  I still enjoy the movies and the books. The reasoning was "if you are prepared for zombies, you are prepared for anything", and if you want a lighthearted icebreaker to discuss prepping, zombie talk will break it.  In the Army, arguing all things undead is a fun way to pass the hours and hours of hurry up and wait, in between the rock throwing and myriad one-uppers.  Early on in this stint of national service, I would talk about zombies and survivalism a lot. I was under the impression that the Army was full of preppers and survivalists. I was deployed straight out of AIT, and saw very little of my wife and kids for my first year and a half of service, so SHTF scenarios that would be natural conversations in my own family continued as daily conversations in my surrogate family.  I soon found out that there was very little interest in prepping, but fortunately, while breaching OPSEC in an effort to convince others about the benefits of preps, soldiers PCS and ETS, and those I stand beside now are completely different soldiers than those I stood beside early on.     

The military has higher rates of suicide and divorce than the general population.  This is an unfortunate reality.  You might think they also have higher rates of preppers/survivalists than the general population.  This is an understandable misconception.  If we assume only 1% to 5% of the civilian masses are preppers, IMHO, no more than 1% to 5% of military are preppers as well.  In this essay, I will discuss the various barriers to an individual soldier's personal preparedness, and I will discuss various categories of personal preparedness in relation to the average soldier. This is important information because maybe you have stereotypes of the average soldier and the military in general, maybe you have contingencies incorporating the military in one way or another, or maybe your feel scared and threatened, neutral and unaware, or secure and reassured by the military and the men and women in uniform.

There are indeed various barriers to prepping.  These barriers for soldiers at times are unique, and at times mirror the barriers for the general population.  The barriers discussed here are money and complacency/laziness.

Money is one of the single most important barriers to prepping, and affects everybody regardless if you are in uniform or not.  Military pay is different than civilian pay.  Military pay is made up of Base Pay and Entitlements.  Entitlements are pay for things like base allowance for housing (BAH) and groceries, called base allowance for subsistence (BAS).  Money doesn't have to be a barrier for the military family, but it is a great barrier to prepping that affects soldiers in different ways.   

Take for instance the young, single (unmarried) soldiers.  The single soldier receives his entitlement for housing, and each month that money is taken away (canceling each other out) and he is provided with a furnished barracks room.  Rooms nowadays are actually nicer than my college dorm room!  More like suites, where you have your own little room, but share a bathroom and kitchen with only one other soldier.  However, many single soldiers choose to not live in the barracks, and go in together on a lease at an apartment or rental house off-post.  So soldiers are paying for housing already, in lieu of directly receiving the BAH, but on top of that, they are using their discretionary income to pay for even more housing because they choose not to stay in their barracks room.  It gets worse when it comes to filling the belly.  Single soldiers are given BAS each month, but the military takes back the money every month because they are provided with a meal card.  The meal card entitles single soldiers to eat three very nice meals a day in the military cafeterias (DFAC), with food so varied that the average American comes nowhere close to eating that well.  And if you went out and bought the type of variety the soldiers can eat in the DFAC, it would cost a small fortune.  But the single soldier does not take advantage of this, and therefore eats out nearly every meal, or buys groceries and cooks nearly every meal.  So you have a soldier who is spending their discretionary money not only on housing, but also on food, when the housing and food is essentially prepaid.

Married Soldiers don't get off easy either.  Divorce rates in the military are higher than in the civilian world.  Paying for divorces and paying for child support is not uncommon.  Family, when not in it for love/spirituality and when not in it for the long run, can be very expensive.  Expensive to get into, and expensive to get out of.  And often times, it is near impossible for the wife to work.  This is why they are called "Army Wives".  That is their profession.  Soldiers work 24/7, it just depends what your specific task is at any given moment.  Could be PT, could be working in the motor pool, but it could also be relaxing or sleeping.  Point is, you are never really off, and in conjunction with field exercises, 24 hour duty rotations, early mornings and long days, a soldier's schedule is in constant ebb and flow, and this means the wife primarily must be the anchor keeping the house together - cleaning, cooking, rearing the children, and the like.  One income households can prosper and prepping can be achieved, just as single soldiers can save money and prepare themselves if they wanted too, but soldiers are humans, and herein lays the other problem relating to money:   

Just like civilian life, soldiers balance financial issues similar to what civilians do, and maybe even more so.  Debt and vices rear their ugly head on soldiers like shoppers ready to stampede Wal-Mart on Black Friday.  There is comfort and reassurance in getting paid on the first and fifteenth of every month, and once the wheels of short term satisfaction and instant gratification start turning, they are hard to brake.  Let’s talk about debt.  And just one form of debt on top of that - the quintessential American car loan.  In my time in the Army, I have come to learn that not only does the average soldier spend a lot more on accessories and upgrades to their vehicles than the general population, it is not uncommon to have a $600/month car note to finance the endeavor, with 10% to 18% interest rates, and an insurance premium to high to pay at once, creating monthly bills in excess of $150.  Furthermore, there is an unspoken rule of ego propping in the Army.  Hence the perceived need for having the brand new Jeep Wrangler "Call of Duty" edition with the heavy duty Warn winch sporting hard, soft and bikini tops at will, even though it will never go off road, or having the brand new Dodge Charger with low profile tires hugging for dear life on 26" rims, with more than one TV screen for every potential passenger, and a stereo system so loud it could be used for a block party.  Money wasted, preps foregone.  Vices would be another avenue of lost income when it comes to the average soldier.  Drinking, smoking and dipping usage is higher per capita in the military than it is in the civilian world, not to mention daily stops at the gas station for energy drinks and snacks.  All this adds up to little left over at the end of the month to put into food reserves, gold and silver coin, and an ample water supply. 

In addition to the money barrier, there is the complacency barrier.  Complacency about work load is a start.  Think of how you drive through a construction zone and there is one guy shoveling and six guys standing around him.  Well, same holds true in the Army.  20% of the workers do 80% of the work.  Thus we have an attitude that someone else will do it.  That is complacency my friends.  Another type of complacency that is found in the civilian world but amplified in the army is the "government will take care of me" attitude.  Well, guess what, soldiers are in that government, and if you have ever been deployed, you know that getting taken care of is no easy task even in the best situations.  Sure, supply and resupply works great now.  But just-in-time on an industrial scale gives soldiers a false sense of hope.  Complacency sets in similar to the way a corporate hamster wheeler gets his pink slip.  He thinks, "This can never happen to me".  Well, it just did.

Now that we have discussed some of the barriers to preparedness, we need to look at different categories of preps to analyze why and how the average soldier is just not prepared.  Let’s start with the tried and true survivalist doctrine that skills are more important than stuff.  This is true.  But let’s look at skills from an individual soldier's perspective. 

The soldier has a primary job, called a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).  I am a truck driver.  I have expert skills in this field.  I can secure an M1 Abrams Tank to a trailer that has 40 wheels and tires on it, and haul it off into the sunset.  I can pick up shipping containers and drop them wherever they are needed.  I can run convoys and react to ambushes, roadside bombs, breakdowns and the like.  I can do these things because that is my job in the Army, and I would hope everybody was competent and proficient in their job.  So the soldier has a primary skill at which they excel, which is great as far as preps go, but all the other cool army stuff that makes its way into movies - commo, land navigation, shooting, kicking in doors, treating casualties on the battle field, etc, are trained on in limited scope, and even more importantly, are perishable skills, meaning they are "use 'em or lose 'em" skills.

If you don't get out and get try to find your way around the desert or through the woods with a map and a compass on a regular basis, you will be hurting in a stressful environment.  If you don't practice improvising a tourniquet on a regular basis, time will be against you in the heat of the moment.  If only go to the range once or twice a year, you are not shooting to your potential.  If you don't fill radios and sync with power, time, antennas, and the like, you will be chatting only with yourself.  This is where the average soldier could have a great deal of skills, but in general, loses on such great opportunities.  Take map reading and land navigation as an example.  This skill is often done in teams, but since the 20/80 rule applies, there is usually one or two that are good at it and do the work for the team, while the others don't want to learn and just tag along to finish the training.  Sad but true.

Physical Fitness is an individual skill and is another aspect of preparedness that is very important yet often over looked.  One naturally assumes that since they are soldiers, they are physically fit.  Well, sort of, but there is more to it than that.  Soldiers have to be in shape or they will lose their job.  Period. Point blank.  I have seen soldiers kicked out of the Army for not being able to pass a PT test, and I have seen soldiers kicked out of the Army for being overweight.  If you don't want to be jobless, there is a strong incentive to performing physically.  But how difficult is the PT test really?  Its two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a two mile run.  If you are generally in shape and not overweight, it is not difficult to pass.  So soldiers are not the superhuman-athlete types that are often perceived.  What you have is multitudes of young men and women, not too far out of high school or college, who should be and generally are in decent shape and health.  But they are still in their late teens and early twenties.  Energy is abundant and in excess for them.  It really is a young person's Army.  Furthermore, the Army has been changing the PT program for years in the making now, and for years a principle focus was on establishing a new PT test which was more difficult, and guess what happened to that idea?  Scrapped.  Soldiers couldn't pass it.  And if soldier's are physically fit as they should be, that does not mean they are willing to do the work that needs to be done when the SHTF.  Laziness can affect anybody, hard bodies included, and it is a self inflicted hindrance upon accomplishing work.  One time I needed help moving a heavy crate off the top of a flatbed trailer, and I asked a soldier who was rather buff and built, but inherently lazy.  He performs his job with only the bare minimum of effort to get by, he prefers to live in the gym, and when I asked him to help move the crate, the reply was "this is just for show", in reference to his body builder physique.  

Weapons and shooting is also an individual prep and skill.  Most of the Army is not combat arms.  They are not out and about kicking in doors, detaining enemy POWs, throwing grenades and generally causing mayhem and destruction.  This means that for the rest of us, we probably visit a range once a year, a couple times a year if we are lucky.  In comparison, there are varying numbers but it is safe to say that anywhere between 20% - 50% of American households own guns, and many individuals go shoot them regularly.  Your average soldier has an assigned weapon, usually an M16 or and M4, that is locked inside a cage which is locked inside a secured arms vault, which is locked inside a secured building.  Point being that while our primary role is protecting the good 'ole US of A, force multipliers, advanced weaponry and effective and efficient soldiers have changed the role and scope of the modern Army dramatically, and one of the consequences has been a lessening in the amount of range time slotted.  And what about soldiers privately owning and storing guns and ammunition at home?  Maybe, maybe not.  Where this would be in line with the average civilian household owning guns, the questions can go like this - how many guns do they have, do they have a sufficient supply of ammunition, and are they training regularly using those weapons?  When it comes to defense, offense, and things that go "bang", the average soldier is really no more prepared than the average civilian.

What about food reserves?  This is directly in line with the assumption that the overwhelming vast majority of civilians are not prepared for a short term or long term disaster and neither is the average soldier.  Sufficient food in storage is paramount, and one of the main pillars in the foundation of prepping.  The average soldier has no more food on hand than the average civilian.  Furthermore, the average soldier probably even has less, because as soldiers move around to different posts, they are allowed only a certain amount of weight for their household goods, and more often than not, soldiers end up giving away food from their pantries, not only to lessen the weight they are moving but also because its more convenient to just give it away then deal with it (i.e. complacency/lazy).   

So what we have in society is the same as what we have in the military as well.  People will always take the easy way out, instead of going down the road less traveled.  The same reactions to prepping that you find in the civilian world are just as prevalent in the military.  For example, the classic, "well, if anything happens I'll just come over to your house" excuse has been said to me time and time again, back when I was early on in my time of national service.  Attitudes like these are unfortunately what helped convince me to be less extroverted and more introverted, in the sense of community.  It also has left me kind of bittersweet with my opinion of soldiers and their personal level of readiness, especially now that I have had some time in the Army and experiences to reinforce that feeling.  I mean, really, you are a US Army Truck Driver and you don't even carry a flashlight or multitool, knowing you will use both of them almost every single day?  And they were even issued to you and often times gifted to you courtesy of your unit's discretionary funds!  Incredible.  Just incredible.  The golden opportunity for people to prepare their families for an unknown unfortunate event that will happen sooner or later, and they fail to seize the day.  

Personal preparedness is a responsibility for all people and all families, and sadly, we know that the average American family is not personally prepared for a rainy day, much less a stormy day.  Unfortunately, we also know that the average US Soldier is not personally prepared either.  If you have selfishly thought of taking your family to your Army cousin's house during some Schumeresque event because you think he is prepared, that could be a great mistake at best, and likewise, your Army cousin might just show up with his family at your house looking for food and shelter, because he has not prepared for his family and thinks you might be one of them "preppers".  And finally, if you not only want to learn skills that are paramount in the life of a survivalist/prepper, but get paid to learn those skills, take it from me, the military has served me well in that department, and you get to serve your country and be part of something bigger than you in the process.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is everyone geared up for Christmas shopping? On the first day of Christmas my five children receive presents from their parents, grandparents, and friends and by the twelfth day of Christmas....well, the presents begin earning the label of junk, lying in the basement or being “played with” by the dog and chickens in the backyard. Every year I declare I will not buy anymore useless, plastic toys - and this year I mean it!

Lest I sound too much like the Grinch, rest assured that I love giving the kids presents. I love thinking about just the right gift for each child, wrapping the presents and hiding them from curious eyes; there’s the fun of sneaking them out to the bottom of the tree after they have gone to bed and of seeing them open them with delight. So what to do?

I have decided this year to focus our gifts on preps for the kids. I don’t think this is necessarily a ho-hum thing; most kids enjoy aspects of prepping much more than we adults who do it with a slight (or large) sense of anxiety. Kids genuinely enjoy learning new skills and “playing pioneer”.

So here are some tips on shopping for “kiddie preppers”:

1. Seed kit and gardening tools

Children have a natural fascination for watching plants sprout and gathering the harvest. A seed kit with some gardening tools can be as simple as a few packs of easy-to-grow seeds such as beans, squash, sunflowers, and pumpkins or you may want to purchase a family starter kit such as the one offered at Saint Claire’s Heirloom seeds. Horizon Herbs offers a Kidzherb kit of useful medicinal and culinary herb seeds such as basil, calendula, and lemon balm that also includes a story book with kid-friendly information, herbal fairy tales and songs, and instructions for making products such as salves and slippery elm cough drops. Books like Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy offer whimsical, yet useful projects, such as “pizza gardens” and gourd tee pees. Consider purchasing kid-size garden tools like gloves, shovels, hoes, and watering cans.

2. Sleeping bags and bedding

No, I’m not talking about those flimsy sleeping bags with a cartoon princess on them; I’m talking about the real deal. Now this might not be exciting unless you promise the kids that they’ll use them on a camping trip. Another idea is a new comforter or quilt. I never seem to have enough blankets as they are often serving as forts and the kids tend to fight over the favorite ones. This way, everyone will have their own special quilt and the bedding will serve your family well should you experience a power outage or need to turn the heat down (or off) to save energy and money.

3. Bug out bag - kiddie style

First things first, get some durable backpacks. What you put in them will, of course, depend upon the age of the child, but the great thing about this gift is that you’re not only providing a gift and teaching them about being prepared, you’re also knocking out an item on your prepping to-do list. Some ideas for kid bug out bags are: flashlight, a magnesium fire starter, compass, important numbers and info on a laminated card, a deck of playing cards, nonperishable snacks like jerky and candy, small mylar blanket, small bottles of children’s pain relief and cold medicine, chapstick, wipes, straw water filter, a tin mug, and a pocketknife.

4. Non-electric games

Imagine, games without noises and glassy-eyed kids. Consider buying a durable chess set and a checkers set. Purchase Hoyle’s Rules of Games and some nice playing cards. Nowadays, decks come in quite a variety, from art masterpieces to tree identification, so you have entertainment as well as sneaking some education in. Other classics to consider are Scrabble, Sorry, and Clue. For the younger crowd, there are concentration games like Memory, Connect Four, and alphabet or number games. I would suggest something like Candyland but you might be stressed enough and yet another round through the Peppermint Forest might have you banging your head on the wall.

5. Survival fiction books

Fiction books are a great way to introduce morals and valuable skills without seeming to lecture. In books such as My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George, Sam not only learns survival skills such as making fishing hooks, building a shelter in a hollow tree, and making clothing from deer hide, he also learns lessons about courage, independence, and making peace with solitude. Likewise, Brian in Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet series learns how to gather edible plants and build a raft from driftwood, but he also learns about self-discipline and perseverance. Other titles include the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, and Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare.

6. Knot games

One of the most useful skills to learn, and one of the easier ones for nimble, little fingers, is knot tying. Companies such as Ramco produce a game wherein the players match the knots on the cards, with each card being worth a certain number of points based on difficulty and Think Fun Knot So Fast has players trying to tie the knots the quickest. There are also numerous how-to books available.

7. Books on wild edibles, traps, and nature skills

Help your children begin to develop a prepping library of their own. A great start is Tom Brown’s Field Guide: Nature and Survival for Children. What I like about this book is that it includes the more usual information - shelter building, wild edibles, first aid - but it also covers nature awareness and “lostproofing”. For example, it includes exercises for training kids in better orientation in nature. Other books to consider are wild food books like Linda Runyon’s or Euell Gibbons’s (for sheer enthusiasm), first aid books, Boy Scout books (usually available for cheap at thrift stores), and books about Native Americans (such reading inspired the likes of Eustace Conway - “the last American man”).

8. Tools

As mentioned above, child sized tools can encourage an early love for gardening. Likewise, consider giving your child useful tools such as basic woodworking and handy tools. When my son got into Survivor Man, we purchased a multitool and, as he got older, he saved up his money to buy a Gerber survival knife and a hatchet. These have provided great lessons in knife safety and tool care. Along these lines, consider buying basic, but high quality, cooking ware and utensils. Tools such as these not only provide a back-up set for your family while your child is young, they will serve as a good “start up” for your child when he moves out on his own.

9. Beginner’s arms

After the popularity of The Hunger Games, it wouldn’t be hard to talk your teen into learning some bow skills. Decent quality bows can be found online or even consider making a self bow. Consider introducing your kids to BB guns as practice for target shooting and for use of larger firearms in later years. Early introduction to bows and rifles help kids better understand the uses and safety rules of such items. In addition, consider purchasing sling-shots or the material for putting together traps and snares.

10. Gift cards

No, not gift cards to the big box stores or for more electronics. I’m talking about cards or passes that give your child an experience, hopefully with a survival slant. For instance, consider buying passes to the national parks and camping grounds. Or lessons in basic knitting, cooking, quilting, or pottery. My town has a rock climbing gym and lessons would encourage physical activity while teaching the kids courage, problem-solving, and determination. Even buying some music lessons would provide the kids with the opportunity to learn an entertainment skill that doesn’t require electricity (think of Pa Ingalls with his fiddle).

11. Craft kits

There are kits galore to help kids of all ages (and their parents!) get started with a useful skill. A quick check online will offer up kits for beginning sewing, quilting, knitting, woodworking, and leather working.

12. Livestock

For the really ambitious, another gift option is a “start up kit” for livestock. Ready made coops and chicks can be purchased via Craigslist (or online if you really want to pay a lot). Better yet, select a kid-friendly book on chicken raising, gather the necessary materials for building a coop, and purchase necessary equipment like waterers and feeders. In this way, you can spend the winter months building the coop and preparing for chicks in the spring. Other options to consider are worms, bees, or rabbits. While I don’t have experience with the last two, I can attest that worm “farms” for composting definitely have a degree of grossness that attracts little kids!

So here’s the challenge this year. Instead of plunking down that hard-earned money to buy some junk made in a country with dubious government policies only to have that junk clutter up your house later on, consider replacing at least some of those purchases with gifts that will truly benefit your family. Help your kids add to their own preps as well as their prepper skill set.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The ground smolders with the charred remains scattered across once-green fields now turned black from cinders and dried blood.  An electric pole lies on its side across an abandoned road, menacing with the occasional buzz and spark.  Your home is gutted, shredded like a soft chunk of cheese.  A stack of crisped tortillas lie uneaten on the hearth, abandoned in the chaos. The air is fowl and acrid though silence has now settled after the screams and destruction of the night before. 
You were lucky, though.  Living on higher ground, you heard the mobs coming and you had time to hide in your nearby cornfield.  You pray for your children, but you prepare yourself to find them among the scattered bodies.  Knowing the subtle trails only traveled by farmers like yourself, you weave your way through the hillside, clinging to any hint of normalcy and structure.  You are trying to stay calm, determined to avoid going into full out panic yourself.  You WANT to survive.  You HAVE to survive to tell your story and work to rebuild your life.  You start taking inventory of your food, your clothing, your memories…everything you will take with you as you flee and search for other survivors.  Your name is Juan, and your world has ended as you knew it.
This isn’t the opening to a novel on a future apocalypse, but one of the many stories I heard from actual survivors of civil war.  Juan’s story is not unique, but it is a true survivor’s story.  While studying anthropology, I had the chance to live in rural Guatemala, site of some of the most gruesome civilian and military guerilla forces in modern history.  Lasting more than 3 decades, the Guatemalan civil war razed villages, crippled the country’s economy, and essentially drove the entire population of 10 million people to live in ‘survival mode.’ During this time, the country also faced increasingly devastating earthquakes, mudslides, sinkholes, and drought.  Human disasters coupled with natural disasters should have spelled doom for an isolated agrarian country.  But, against this backdrop, life somehow continued.  Markets adapted to new distribution channels, educators flopped down in the fields instead of schools, and religious networks united people in a common hope for change.
Through the prolonged instability, some survivors fared better than others.  Some foraged the donated goods from aid organizations but still lived precariously day-to-day. Some learned to adapt to their changed environment and actually learned to thrive in it.  Those that had strong networks adapted to this changed reality and endured all the subsequent threats.  They developed local versions of goods no longer available for import.  They planted small gardens in their patios when vegetable trucks were being ransacked on the highway and never made it to market.  They wove their own clothes and patched old clothes to extend their wear.  They repaired roads and maintained infrastructure when the government refused to.  And, they did this by strengthening their small communities and tapping into what I call a survival network.
Building a Survival Network
What tips can we take from survivors of modern-day disasters?  How should we guide our prepping to not only survive an initial catastrophe, but participate in the rebuilding and restructuring of the future?  If there is one overarching theme to survival on a budgets, it is to connect with the people around us.  Guatemalans (and many Americans, for that matter) don’t have the resources to stockpile food, water, weapons, and tools.  Most work the fields to stock up for winter and live season-to-season.  But, if they don’t own a chainsaw, they know a neighbor who does.  They choose not to buy their own pickup truck because they can pay the 30 cents to hitch a ride down the hill to market instead.  Simply put, they learn to identify resources in their vicinity and build relationships of reciprocity to maximize those resources. 
I know this point may be criticized—preppers feel that anarchy will reign and pit neighbor against neighbor, so you have to amass everything for yourself and not count on your neighbors to help you.  I understand that argument, and I think it IS prudent to prioritize your own personal supply of survival gear.  I realize that thinking of networking as prepping may be more unnatural to Americans raised in an individual-centric mentality.
But, no matter how elaborate your preparations are or how extensive your budget reaches, no one person can live unaided forever.  As the saying goes, no man is an island. I believe the exact opposite is true.  Those people who build trust among neighbors and promote greater self-sufficiency among a strong community is much less vulnerable to attack, much more adaptable to changing threats, and much more likely to survive long-term. And, frankly, who wants to live alone in a post-apocalyptic world?? I think prepping should include reaching out to people you care about and help them prepare to survive with you.
This is NOT adding more friends to your Facebook account, this is in-person, relationship building. So, how exactly should you network for survival? The good news is, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel to figure out what a successful network looks like.  As with any network, you should start with yourself and work your way out to larger circles of family, friends, community leaders, and neighbors.
·          Start with YOU.  Identify your OWN skills inventory that may be of value to these people in order to build reciprocal relationships.  Just as self-interest can motivate looters to rob a cache, self-interest drives trade.  In order to acquire goods and services from others, you need to have equally valuable items yourself.  Remember, trade can include expertise and labor, not just supplies.  Strategize what vocational skills you can build up to make yourself a more valuable member of a survivor community.
·          Once you’ve learned more about what you have to offer, get more informed about the people in your immediate surroundings.  Be informed of groups that share your values and build relationships with preppers in your state and city.  A well-networked person is also a well-informed person and one that can identify warning signs early on.  Prepping isn’t just about preparing for an unknown future.  It’s about learning from the recent past. 
·          Get out and about in your neighborhood--study the geography, the layout of the neighborhood, the areas that are more likely to stay dry in a flood or stay erect during an earthquake.  If you need to flee your home during an emergency, having strong relationships with people in these areas could save your life.  Study exit routes using back roads or footpaths.  Identify possible hideouts if your home and bugout shelter are compromised. 
·          Build a “skills inventory” similar to your physical goods inventory and identify people in your community with these skills.  Some key skills are: hunting, fishing, first aid administration, auto mechanics, blacksmithing, architecture and drafting, construction, HVAC systems, organic gardening, herbal medicine, electrical engineering for radio and surveillance equipment, sewing, and more.  If you don’t know anybody that has one of these skills, find one!
·          Try to build stronger relationships within your existing circle of friends to identify individual skills that could fit better into your survival network.  Learn about the personal lives of your coworkers or fellow worshippers at church.  Become better friends with your auto mechanic and others with practical skills that will be valuable post-catastrophe.
·          After getting closer to your existing network, expand! Join your local Elks Lodge or Rotary chapter.  Start a preppers book club.  Host community seminars on various survival skills or even basic interests such as canning fresh fruit or tending heirloom seeds.  Try to create venues where you can meet new people but also learn about their skills and strategize how they might fit into your survival network.
·          Don’t limit your network to only include active preppers.  A glass-artist may not currently be interested in prepping, but would have valuable craftsmanship skills that could translate to other types of materials when factories shut down and all goods are made by hand.
·          Participate in local politics.  Yes, politics.  One of the primary roles of government is to build a sense of community and understand constituencies.  You will learn your community’s demographics, economic class structure, current issues being debated, and priorities.  This will help you navigate various group dynamics and build stronger relationships with diverse groups.  This can also help you tap into informal distribution channels and alternative communication channels that will survive when electronic media and big trucking are destroyed.
·          Open yourself up to examination.  No, you don’t need to give a guided tour of your bugout camp, or reveal how many pounds of food you have stored.  But, your prepping should be part of a conversation so you can brainstorm ideas and strategies with others. Isolation can be dangerous.  You may not know your weaknesses and prepping deficiencies until it’s too late.  Instead, you should work to entrench yourself in a network of equal give-and-take.  Offering expertise and services will make you a trusted member of a community rather than a selfish, isolated target. 
Guatemala is a small country most can’t place on a map.  Reports on its civil war didn’t make it onto many American newsstands.  But, its people have lived through some of the exact conditions the prepper movement is warning of.  Just as Juan was able to utilize his knowledge of hidden footpaths and hiking trails, we should work to extend our prepping beyond physical goods and tactical training.  I was privileged to hear Juan’s story because he was able to escape the destruction and live with numerous sets of neighbors until he was able to rebuild his home and retake his land.  Juan did various jobs from carpentry to transporting avocados, exchanging his time and talents for food and shelter.  He wasn’t a prepper in the traditional sense of amassing survival goods.  But, his experiences forever changed the way I view a future catastrophe.  I work not only to increase my family’s self-sufficiency but also to become more integrated into our community and more connected to local resources.  I learned from Juan that merely staying alive through disaster is not truly surviving.  Instead, you can actively shape the new structure and community that is rebuilt afterwards.  But, you have to be part of the community first if you ever hope to participate in a new one.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

It’s no secret the majority of survivalists are males.  If your better half is just as prepared for emergencies as you, or you are a female survivalist who is reading this article, then congratulations!  But what about others who have a wife or significant other who goes about their daily life in ignorant bliss; unaware of the dangers surrounding us in today’s world, and how to prepare for and handle them?  I am sure you all love your spouses, and when disaster strikes, you’re going to look after them.  However, wouldn’t they (and you) be better off if they were assets during an emergency rather than dead weight?

All the preparations you’ve made to keep your family and home safe isn’t going to amount to squat if your wife is clueless and you are away on a business trip, or trapped in your office, with no way to get home (transportation suspended) and no way to get in touch with your loved one (phone lines down).

Preparing your better half is the most important thing you can do.  Do you have a gun at home?  It might as well be an expensive paperweight if she doesn’t know how to use it; or worse, if she doesn’t know the combination of the safe where it is stored.  I know women who don’t even know where the circuit breaker is in their home, much less what it does.  If they cannot handle that, how are they going to defend and provide for themselves and your children in the hours, days, or weeks it takes you to get home from wherever you may be?

I’m currently in Afghanistan and my wife and our infant son are in a third-world country in Southeast Asia.  Were something to happen, such as the civil unrest that occurred there two years ago, she will have to take care of herself, as well as our infant son, on her own.  The chance of me getting to her anytime soon is slim.  At best, I am a convoy, a helicopter flight, and two plane flights away.  I tell you this so you realize this problem is real and you need to take it seriously, just as you would your other preparations.

How many hours a day are you away from home?  If you have a full time job, then it’s at least 25% of every weekday.  Now, I have friends who are willing to wager hard earned money at casinos where they don’t have nearly that high of a percentage to win.  Yet, many survivalists are willing to take much lower odds, and wager something more important that money, that an emergency will always occur when they and all their family members are sitting in their house, which is just nonsense.  Add in the time it takes you to commute to and from work, as well as the time you spend away from home doing other things (shopping, visiting friends, going to sporting events, et cetera), and the percentage is significantly increased.  A disaster waits for nobody, and the chance of one occurring when you’re away from your home is quite high.

Now that you recognize the importance of your better half becoming an active part of your survival plan, you need to start bringing her into the fold.  This is a task not to be taken lightly.  If I approached my wife and told her the world, as we know it, is going to end, she would look at me like I’ve lost my marbles and would cease listening to anything I subsequently say.  Therefore, you need to broach this topic with your better half gradually.

The majority of you all reading this did not attain all your survival equipment, rations, skills, and knowledge in a single day.  And while time is of the essence, it’s best if you don’t expect your better half to acquire everything in a single day either.  For me, I started small.

My first order of business was instilling in her the desire to be prepared for the unexpected.  Remember; start small.  For example, I purchased rain ponchos when it was sunny.  Sure, this isn’t exactly a must-have item, but it’s one I like because it serves the dual purpose of keeping me dry during a rain storm, as well as a first aid item for a sucking chest wound.  Purchasing the ponchos when they weren’t needed gave me a chance to talk with her about the ease of buying them now rather than after it starts raining.  This way I was able to gradually accustom her to the strategy as opposed to starting out by purchasing a bomb shelter.

When my wife and I went out one night a few days later it looked as though rain was forth coming, so I slipped the ponchos I’d previously purchased into my cargo pocket.  Sure enough, later that night it started pouring down rain, as it is prone to do in tropical climates.  Everyone around us, including my wife, immediately ducked into a convenience store to purchase ponchos.  Thankfully, they were sold out.  Reaching into my cargo pocket, smiling, I presented her with a poncho, which allowed me to demonstrate to her why it’s a good idea to stock up on handy items when they’re not necessarily needed right at that moment.

Gradually, my wife began to see the importance of such acts, and I’m afraid I’ve created a monster.  Now it’s her who is in charge of our supplies.  She took over that job without giving me a choice in the matter.  And why not?  She loves to shop, so it’s an enjoyable activity for her.  We have since reached our goal of having 2 months worth of necessities (diapers, food, water, you name it).  When I was in charge of our stash, we only had 2 weeks worth.  Who’s better at that job?  I know when to bow to superiority.  She still has room for improvement when it comes to rotating the stashed items to ensure they stay as fresh as possible, but she’ll get there.

Moving on, let’s hit on self-defense in the home.  Have you taught your wife to handle a firearm?  I have not because it is extremely difficult to obtain one in the country we live in, not to mention tremendously expensive.  However, she can recognize daily household items can be used as weapons.  I know this because every once in a while she will pick up a common item around the house and threaten me with it.  For example, she’ll grab scissors and declare, “I cut you!”  Sometimes I believe she’ll do it.  Of course, she’s only mimicking what I’ve taught her gradually over time.  It has turned into a fun game of finding the most non-threatening item in the home and using it as a weapon.

What about surviving natural disasters?  Where we live, flooding is a regular occurrence.  Therefore, my wife has learned how to fill sandbags, and can do so with the best of ‘em.  Does she like doing it?  No.  But she knows the chances of her having to fill sandbags when I’m not there is high.  In addition, when we move to the east coast of the U.S. next year, you can bet your generator my wife will know how to install plywood over our windows in case I’m away during a hurricane.  She’ll have help from my relatives because it’s a two-person job, but that’s not the point.  She will understand the letter and number code I mark each pre-cut piece of plywood with, so she’ll know which piece goes on which window.  Time is of the essence in an emergency, and neither she, nor my other family members, can afford to waste time trying to figure out which piece goes where.

What would your wife or significant other do during an emergency during an emergency?  No, I’ve not mis-spoken.  What I’m referring to is if your child stopped breathing during a natural disaster when medical personnel weren’t readily available.  Does your wife know first aid?  Is she CPR certified?  With a one-year-old son at home, you can rest assured one of the first things I did was have my wife take a CPR course.  I have extensive training in first aid.  In addition, I am CPR, AED, and First Responder certified.  However, none of that is going to do me a bit of good if I’m unconscious with only a non-trained wife to take care of me.  My wife immediately recognized the importance of such training and has since learned a vast amount of information on the subject.  It’s another area she excels at and I am confident in her abilities.

I’m not saying your better half needs to be equally as good as you are in every aspect of survival, as different people bring different skill sets to the table.  However, she should be proficient.  And you might as well get off your macho high horse now because believe it or not, she will excel in areas you don’t.  My wife and I are a team…not a survival expert and the beneficiary of a survival expert.  I cannot begin to tell you all how comforting it is to know my wife can handle whatever is thrown her way to keep herself and our son safe when I’m not there.  And when I am there, I know I’m not in it alone.  Taking care of every aspect of three people’s lives (me, my wife, and our son) would be stressful during the best of times.  Doing so during an emergency would likely turn me into a two-pack-a-day smoker.

It’s my hope you all will take heed in what I’ve written, bring your wife or significant other into the fold, and become a team to be reckoned with when things go bad.  After all, your better half will most likely turn out to be the best piece of survival gear you’ve ever invested in.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How do you balance the secrecy needed when prepping with letting your friends and relatives know that you are a prepper and encouraging them to become one too? Because when SHTF, you want your loved ones to be safe too. Wouldn’t it be wrong to prep in secret and not afford your favorite people the opportunity to prep like you? I know it is not wise to advertise to non-preppers that you are a prepper. But I did it anyway. I just wanted to start a conversation about prepping with my best friend. I was excited about prepping and I wanted her to start prepping too. I wanted to know she would be ok in an extreme situation. And let’s face it; I wanted to brag a little bit too. And that pride, that hubris, can get you and your family killed.

This conundrum was recently brought into sharp focus for me when I was telling my best friend about the new five gallon buckets and bulk grains I had recently secured. I was so proud of myself. Her reply was not “Where did you get the supplies from?” or “How much did it cost – I’ve been saving up and I’d like to get some grains too”. Her response was “If anything ever happens, I know where we’re going”. She meant her family would come here. I was literally stunned into silence. Because I let her know I had secured provisions for my family and about my preparations in her mind I was now responsible for her family too. Rather than plan for her own family’s safety and food security, she let me know her plan was to come here and try to claim a portion of my provisions. How did I feel about this? Would I really turn away my best friend and her husband? Would it depend on the situation or was it just a resounding no? I had screwed up royally. Not only did I fail to inspire her to prep, I jeopardized my family’s food security so I could show off. After she left I realized I had a lot of thinking to do.

And this line of thought, this failure to prepare, it’s not unique to her, and it’s certainly nothing new. People all around our country would rather rely on the government to take care of them, or burden their friends and family who are prepared, than prepare for themselves. Just look at the aftermath of any major natural disaster and you can see that outlook on life manifested. Not only will you have the Golden Hoard to deal with at The End of the World as We Know it (TEOTWAWKI), but some of that hoard will know you personally and will be headed directly to your home. So the bottom line is, are you prepared for that aspect of TEOTWAWKI? Do you have the extra provisions to take these people in? Or would you have to turn them away, with brute force if necessary?

The conversation with my friend made me realize I had talked a lot about prepping and specifically about my family’s preparations to a couple of people. I was trying to help encourage them to prep too. But in the process I had made myself very vulnerable to the people I cared most about. And what would I do if SHTF and they started showing up expecting food, water and shelter? Could our little home and provisions stock pile really stretch to accommodate more people? I didn’t think it was even adequate enough for my family yet, let alone for two or three more people. And if my best friend were coming here wouldn’t she want to bring her sister and her sister’s husband and their son too? What about the grandmother with medical needs that lives with them? Now the hoard in my head was getting bigger and bigger. And what would we do? My best friend comes over every week on Friday to watch television and catch up with me. Her sister’s family are our friends too. Could we shoot these people if that’s what it came down to? We have barbecued with them, been to their weddings, to their parties, their Sunday night dinners. Don’t we owe them something; shouldn’t we help them in an emergency? And wouldn’t they feel that way too?

I decided to make any progress in this thought process, emotion had to tone down and logic needed to be cranked up. What advice would I give to someone else? What if these weren’t people I knew – what if they were random strangers? Well, the ultimate goal is taking care of your family first. But if you have extra provisions or a bountiful crop from the garden, then wouldn’t you want to give them away to help others? That would be nice and it seems like the right thing to do, but it could also be dangerous in a post-TEOTWAWKI world. If you get to be known as the place people can go for a handout, you will soon have more hands than goods to put in them, and that leads to trouble. When the shops run out of food, people often break things and tear up the shops, fighting with one another to grasp at the last few provisions left. Shortly after that comes riots and looting. What do you think they would do to your home? If they don’t respect someone else’s store, why would your home be any different? And in a survival situation people lose a lot of their rationality and morals. Just because you have spent a lot of time with someone, and they are your friend, it does not mean they will not put themselves and their families first. In fact, you should expect them to. And this is the part of it you have got to wrap your head around: no matter how excited you get about prepping and the little stockpile you are amassing, keep your mouth shut about the items you have got! I could have easily told my friend I had picked up a little extra grain and asked her if she did any prepping yet. The recent storm in New York would have been a perfect reason to bring it up. Telling her specifics about the quantities was foolish and could be something that really comes back to haunt me later in life. I was proud of myself for what I was accomplishing, but broadcasting exactly what I was doing could drive people right to my front door in an emergency. Possibly more people than we could afford to help.

My husband and I talked about it and decided we could take in her and her husband in an emergency. He would make a great addition to our security team and she could help with the chores and the baby. The only problem would be what happens if she brings her sister and her sister’s husband and their son too? Could they be a helpful addition to our group? He knows about plumbing, but would there be enough resources to go around? With that number of people we could try to requisition more food and water, but that now takes our home from defensive to offensive, and I am not sure we want that. But that may be where my big mouth has landed me. My friend may be guilty of the folly of failure to prep, but I am guilty of the folly of hubris and letting it run away with my mouth, to the point that I made have inadvertently put my family in danger.

Be smart and keep the particulars to yourself when encouraging others to prep. Answer your friend’s and family’s questions on how to prep, but never reveal exactly what you have. If they ask something innocuous like “Well how much wheat do you have stored?” Always answer with something like “Well it’s recommended you have…” or “In the books I’ve read they say…”. Refer people to web sites and books they can get advice from so they can decide how much to store based on good data, not just by what you have stashed. And it is okay to tell your friends and family why you won’t give out specifics. Explain you aren’t trying to be rude, it’s just not something preppers do. If they really start prepping for themselves, they’ll get it, and they won’t be mad about it. Only get into more detail with other people who are actively prepping who will be in your post-TEOTWAWKI group and even then I wouldn’t tell every little thing. To those in your group you might indicate you have so many months worth of supplies, or more than so many pounds of something, but I wouldn’t list out every amount of everything you have. It is always wise to keep a little something back, especially the specific quantities and locations of your supplies. You want to encourage your friends and family to prep, but be sensible in the way you do it – you do not want to end up jeopardizing your family’s safety and food security by telling the whole world what you have squirreled away. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Many years ago, my two childhood friends and I began to prep for TEOTWAWKI.  At first, we just began buying whatever was recommended by certain web sites, throwing our equipment into a box and then telling the others about what we have.  Doing this allowed us to collect many things, however we were not sure what was really practical since we never used the items.  We decided to change this about five years ago when we got serious about what we are doing and decided to take a camping trip.  The camping trip would include about a one mile hike and the only things we would bring would be the equipment that would be used in a “bug-out” scenario.   My group consists of seven main members who live in four different states, so the gear testing trips take place in two different states twice a year.  The members of my group currently live in four different states: Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and California with the majority of the group living on the Ohio/Indiana border.  Obviously, the friend in California is not a viable option for retreat, but the Ohio and Tennessee locations are both large farms and “close enough” for the remaining group members to gather together.  So, we practice bugging out to each location from our respective homes.  The first test trip was quite a learning experience!  The oldest member of our group had equipment that weighed a total of about fifteen pounds.  We younger folk whispered among ourselves that this surely wouldn’t be enough.  While I will not disclose the pack weight of the rest of the group, I will say that we were having trouble going very far without having to take a break; and imagine our surprise when we found ourselves asking to borrow some of the older man’s equipment!  Needless to say, we decided to take a few tips from the older man and have changed the way we pack for these trips!

We travel to each location twice a year, Tennessee in early April and late July, and Ohio in early October and late December.  The reason for this is so we can camp in different temperature extremes.  The difference of Tennessee in July and Ohio in December are huge and require different gear, so this allows us to practice using everything.  Prior to our first travel, we sat down together with topographical maps of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.  We mapped the best routes for foot and vehicle travel.  We had to know if we could get to southwest Ohio from east Tennessee without hitting a major city while avoiding the interstate…and vice versa.  The members from Ohio and Indiana and their families meet en route to Tennessee and take a different route each year.  Throughout the trip, they stop to photograph certain areas they believe would be a good resting spot and mark the coordinates on the map.  When my family and I make the trip north (I am the good southerner in this group) I retrace their steps north with photos and coordinates in hand seeing if I agree or disagree with their selected stops.  I also take photos and coordinates of my own if I see something I think is better.  Once we get together, we discuss the trip and compare notes.  As of this writing, we have two preferred routes with several stops marked.   If I am headed north or they are headed south I will know which direction to expect them if we cannot contact each other.   Also, if we know a member is en route and never shows, we have a good idea where to look.


As a group, we agreed with the guns and calibers we would collect.  We went with a Glock 22 in 40 S&W, 12 gauge shotguns, Ruger 10/22 rifle, Savage .308 bolt action rifle, Walther P22 pistol, and an AR-15 in 5.56.  The oldest member of our group (and smartest) carries a Kel-Tec PLR-16 on a pivot harness and carries the Ruger Charger in a holster attached to his pack.  After a long day of hiking uphill, the PLR-16 looked a whole lot better than my AR.  Once again, if you buy it- practice with it.  If you are carrying a gun, don’t just shoot it- carry it! Practice with in every way.  If an AR is your bug-out gun, find out how far you can travel with it comfortably. These are the reasons we decided to start our excursions.  Also, carrying four guns is not practical for long distances.  My group may have 5 or 6 guns, but I do not carry all of them.  On our hikes they are spread between my three sons and wife.  Each one is given a gun and taught not just how to shoot it, but how to carry it and how much ammo they can carry without losing to much comfort or speed.  We also have stored .50 caliber muzzleloaders, bows, crossbows and various hunting, fishing, and camping supplies while they were on clearance during the off-seasons.   

We also coordinated our bug-out bags to be similar, so we know where everyone keeps supplies in their bag.  We follow the first in last out method of organizing our gear. (I would not recommend sharing this information with a group unless these are close friends.  I feel comfortable doing this with my group since we have been close for thirty plus years. ) We use the typical 3 day bag for our trips.  When going out with my sons, I have switched the Eberlestock X1A1 pack, giving my oldest boy my three day pack.  I find this pack is great for carrying my rifle long distances, but you lose the tactical advantage of having the rifle readily available.  Once again, this becomes an issue of practice.  I have decided in a TEOTWAWKI scenario I would probably have two rifles- one in the pack and one slung for carry.   Also, during our trips we all discovered the joy of sleeping in a hammock. Previously, we had carried sleeping bags and slept on the ground. The hammock was much lighter to carry and far more comfortable than sleeping on the ground.  While we all carry a small two or one-man tent, the hammock is the preferred sleeping choice; especially as we are getting older!


Keep in mind while reading this that while we are prepping together, we are also prepping separately.  We each have large families and friends that we expect to arrive at our house if a worst case scenario happens even though we attempt to treat our prepping habit like the first two rules of Fight Club.  Unfortunately, the rules we keep don’t always apply to our wives who will mention our guns and food storage during a conversation with those they are friendly with but not friends.  With that in mind I will briefly describe each bug-out location.

- In Ohio, my friend lives on a 40 acre farm surrounded by other farms to the north, west, and east. There is a large wooded area to the south of his property.  He has a large cache of food stored there and at home he owns in the nearby village.  On his farm, he is currently raising meat rabbits, chickens, goats and horses.  He has a large area set-up for a “survival” garden and two barns.  One barn is arranged with a tack room and can be set-up for temporary housing if necessary.  The rear barn is where the livestock is kept along with their supplies.  His house is large enough to house four families comfortably.  The Ohio farm is also close enough for my cohort in Indiana to travel to without touching an Interstate or city.  If the situation would dictate they need to leave Ohio and head to Tennessee, they would use the farm as a staging area to prepare for the possible dangerous trip to Tennessee.

–In Tennessee the farm is on 200 acres that is mostly wooded.  The area is set-up with several small shooting houses (each equipped with a propane heater, but no air) that are made for hunting, but could be used for a lookout post or temporary housing for a few people.  We have a small garden and recently started orchard, which is in the process of growing to a large orchard with many different types of fruit and nuts.  We have very few farm animals, but are surrounded by a few like-minded neighbors with horses, cows, chickens, and goats.  Our house is also large enough to house four families comfortably.  We also have two barns that could be easily converted to living areas; one barn is currently holding the supplies to complete that task.  My wife has a large extended family in east Tennessee and I would not be surprised if most landed on my door step.  I have discussed this event with a few of her uncles, all of which have a trade skill in farming or mechanical.  My immediate family is storing food for 50 people for one year.  We have split this up between several households that are all within thirty minutes of each other, the plan being that they load up and head to the farm.  I truly believe that the majority of my wife’s family would not make the trip to Ohio if we needed to evacuate our farm.  They are proud people who often discuss fighting to the last man.  While that is great in theory, I plan on protecting my wife and children to the best of my ability.  If that means retreat, I retreat; I plan on living to fight another day.  If they stay and fight, they will cover our exit as we head north.  

If both locations fall or fail we do have a handful of other locations to fall back to.  Only one or two have potential to become long term, but they would give us time to regroup, assess and plan.

In most TEOTWAWKI scenarios communication is impossible.  I am hoping for difficult and improbable, but not impossible.  Best case is we use cell phones to communicate and coordinate our efforts.  We would also discuss on whether to hunker down or travel.  It may be in everyone best interest that they stay north and I stay south.  If cell phones are down we have a ham radio at each farm.  If those go down the back-up plan is signals.  We have made a list of signs we would leave at the farm if we had to abandon them, so the others would know where we are headed.  We also have a small cache of food and ammo for them to resupply with.  Also, we place a few signs on the mapped routes to the farms, in case we both bugged out and did not cross paths.  We each carry a laminated copy of address (coordinates attached) in Tennessee and Ohio that are our fall-back positions.  This list was one of the last things I put together, but will have a great use if we ever have to use it.

End Result

I know prepping with a group will lead to the best possible outcome and I chose to do that with my three closest friends and their families.  When we began prepping and discussing logistics this is the best course of action we could come up with, but the bottom line is if we did not train we would not know.  I can imagine us trying to take I-75 N and having to pass through Knoxville, Richmond, Lexington, and Cincinnati to make it to the Ohio retreat or my friends and the small convoy they have passing through those cities in a worst case scenario and I know it would be madness.  I can imagine the results if we had never discussed ammo or weapons and all showed up with different calibers and little ammo.   How would we fare if we never stored food for a large group and just for our immediate family?  What would we do? How would we handle it if we showed up to one of the farms and it was empty? How well does each member shoot? Does one of us exceed at different roles such as planning, chef, and sharp shooter (growing up together we pretty much already knew where we would fall, but not our wives and children.  My middle child will most likely end up as our sharp shooter)? We would not be as far along in our prepping if we did not start using our gear and training.  Training requires planning, planning requires a vision, and with no vision the people perish.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It’s 2:36PM; you and your spouse are at work.  Your son is at day care and your daughter is at school.  The Schumer hits the fan. What is your Family Continuity Plan?
The scenario above is very real and indeed plausible.  Many families have and will one day experience something very similar to this.  To prepare you and your family from natural or man-made disasters it is recommended to design, develop, and incorporate a Family Continuity Plan (FCP); it may one day save all of your lives.

As any prepper, for a natural disaster or a TEOTWAWKI event (or both), we all have the supplies and skills that we require.  Some of your skills may include hunting, trapping, gardening, cooking, or water purifying.  Your supplies most likely encompass food, water, shelter, fire-making material, light-sources, defensive gear, and tactical gear. But most importantly, you will need a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) or what can be considered a Family Continuity Plan (FCP).  Hopefully you and your family have already communicated and implemented a FCP.  If you haven’t developed a FCP then I can guarantee that your plan to bug-out or even bug-in, will fail.  It will fail because the most likely scenario will have you out of town, on a business trip, when the SHTF and your wife and kids are not brushed up on your survival plan back home; they will be oblivious on what to do.  Or, you will be in the middle of a business day and your daughter will be at school.  The SHTF and all the teachers will be scrambling out the door to rescue their family and she will be alone; oblivious on what to do.  Your oldest child left home to be a resident student at New York University, SHTF. What is his plan to bug-out when another 9/11 happens?  You and your wife are at work, the SHTF and your two toddlers are at daycare and all forms of communications are down.  Which of you two will pick them up?  What happens when you get to the daycare and the building is vacant?  What happens when you arrive at your residence and no one is there? 3-hours pass and still no one arrives?  In this scenario you realize you either need to bug-out alone or get trapped in your city.  Your wife and two kids have not returned home, do you come up with a plan to find them?  You better have thought of all likely scenarios and communicated this well to your family members or your bug-out hideaway, fully stocked west of the Mississippi, becomes a null option at this point.  The most important thing you can do for yourself and your family will be to have a very well planned-out, well disseminated FCP with maps, driving/walking directions, rally points, and multiple Course of Actions (COAs) with a plan A, plan B, plan C, etc, for every possible scenario you can think of.

A COOP (Continuity of Operations Plan) is a government term for a detailed plan on how essential functions of an agency or business will be maintained when an emergency situation has disrupted normal operations.  You may have heard of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) which is pretty much the same thing as a COOP, but more business lingo vice government.  Basically, these plans are written, fully thought-out and communicated procedures for a range of scenarios to keep an entity alive during serious catastrophes. These procedures will vary in scope.  For example, having a backup site in case headquarters becomes a smoking hole or who will be next in command if leadership is put out of action.  These procedures are thoroughly tested and disseminated down to every worker, soldier, cleaner, and cook.  After 9/11, how did corporations such as Bank of America, Verizon, Sun Microsystems, the N.Y. Stock Exchange, and other organizations survived?  These companies would not have survived without some type of COOP/BCP.
When I was researching Family Continuity Plans, I was shocked to learn there was not much information readily available on the topic.  Majority of the information were mere hand-out cards for your name, SSN, family member names, and most importantly an outside POC name and number of a relative or friend that could act as the communication point.  This information is good to have, but what happens if phone services and cell phone services are not operable during a disastrous event? 

In August of 2011, the East Coast experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that hit outside of D.C. near Mineral, Virginia.  It was strong enough that the government facility I worked at was immediately evacuated.  The earthquake occurred around 2:00 PM while my wife and I were at work and our two children were in daycare.  I was able to get to my cell phone and LAN line within 15 minutes of the evacuation, but I was not able to reach my wife or daycare.  The main reason was that the entire East Coast populace was also trying to make calls on their cell phones and my local phone service was inoperable.  We didn’t lose phone service, it was completely tied up.  I immediately enacted our FCP; get to my children’s daycare ASAP.  During that time, I was trying to make contact with my wife with no success.  My wife and I are fortunate that we work approx. 7 miles from each other and the daycare is right smack in the middle.  As soon as I pulled into the driveway to our daycare another vehicle pulled in behind me; it was my wife.  Luckily there was no emergency at our daycare, everyone was unharmed and in fact both my kids were napping.  Words cannot express how ecstatic I was that our FCP actually worked without the need of a phone call.  Our FCP worked exactly how we documented, planned, and tested.  We were fortunate nothing major happened, but was given the chance to exercise our FCP in this real-world event. This helped us determine what worked, what didn’t and what needed to be improved.  We realized how important it would have been to have a couple of powerful CB radios to provide that gap in communication.  We now have one Cobra HH38 with external antennas in each vehicle and in the process of acquiring secondary CB radios.

You will find very little documentation online in regards to examples or a decent outline for your Family Continuity Plan.  A good starting point would be the COOP I stumbled across for the county of Walla Walla, in Washington State.  I actually used this as the outline to start my own FCP and just took out the business and government lingo. Their COOP included a checklist and inventory list.  I recommend using their COOP as your starting point.                   

When developing my family FCP, the following are six basic elements I considered:
1) Critical functions vs. non-critical functions
2) Threats
3) Scenarios
4) Planning
5) Testing
6) Maintenance

Critical functions vs. non-critical functions:

Non-critical functions are those items that you want, not what you need to sustain a family during a time of crisis.  Critical functions are needs that are required within your family to survive before, during and after a catastrophe.  Most family’s critical function lists will include water, food, and shelter while some lists will contain specific requirements such as mobility for those with paralysis, contacts/eyeglasses, diabetic equipment, heart medicine, or protection for those within your family that may have xeroderma pigmentosum. 


Once critical functions to survive have been identified, the next step is to analyze all potential threats that can slightly, moderately, or greatly impact the sustainability of your critical functions.  Threats can be hurricanes, tornadoes, earth quakes, floods, fires, terrorist attacks, an epidemic, civil war, World War III, you name it.  It is important to list all man-made and natural disasters that can potentially put your family at risk. 


Once threats have been listed, the next step is to run through impact scenarios.  For example, how will a major flood affect your community, affect your family’s ability to drive out of the area or affect your critical functions to survive?  In the event you and your family have enough warning prior to a large-scale flood, will you bug-in and fortify or will you bug-out to higher ground, perhaps to a different state?  When will your family bug-out in the event of a CAT 3 hurricane, during a hurricane watch or hurricane warning?  What happens when there is a major earthquake, loss of all communication, power, water, etc. and you and your family are at work, sporadically located throughout Los Angeles?  In the event of a mass fire and there is an exodus outside a major city, what roads are you evacuating through?  While evacuating through these roads your vehicle becomes disabled and you forgot to charge your GPS, do you have a physical map or printed out Google Maps to travel by foot?  What will you bring and what vehicle will be used?  Are your supplies already prepped at a bug-out site or in your garage for a quick and easy load?  How will you load each piece of equipment in your vehicle in 10 minutes before bugging-out?  What equipment will you take with you on foot when you run out of gas or blow two tires while evacuating with a fully loaded SUV and you are halfway to your FCP site?  Also, when will you activate your FCP? Unfortunately most individuals never contemplate the most critical time; right at the point of when the SHTF.  Understand that you may not have any warning at all; this is one of many things that a Family Continuity Plan identifies and solves for you.


Once you and your family proposed as many impact scenarios, no doubt generating multiple questions, it is time to bring a plan to the table.  In this portion of the FCP, you will be answering the questions generated from the “Scenarios” section.   This portion of the FCP will be the bulk of your plan; it will contain not only your plans but also any checklists, diagrams, step-by-step guides, and any critical pieces of information.  


After your plan and solutions have been put together, it will be critical to test your plan.  Testing your FCP will be the most important section.  Testing determines what portions of your FCP actually works and hopefully determines what doesn’t work.  Without simulating or putting parts of your plan into action you cannot be sure it is completely foolproof.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, you may get the chance to experience a real-world event that puts your plan, or portions of it, into action such as I did during the AUG 2011 earthquake.  During and after simulating your plan you will make corrections, modifications, subtract, and add to your plans.    


Lastly, there must be periodic maintenance of your plan.  10-years-ago your children were in high school, now they are married and have children of their own; you want your FCP to incorporate them as well. 
Your Family Continuity Plan should be thoroughly written down and well communicated to your entire family.  My fear is that a lot of folks have a general idea of where they would go, what specific gear they would bring but have not thoroughly formalized an actual plan during a time of crisis.  Therefore, I am sharing with you how my wife and I started our FCP as an example and offer a modified version of one of our Course of Actions (COAs) in hopes it will help you develop your FCP. 

First, we referred to the six elements of a Family Continuity Plan.  We wrote down all of the critical elements in our family that are required to sustain us through any environmental threat.  In this process, you will create a checklist for your family’s needs. This checklist will be part of your FCP as a guide when your memory fails to function during a crisis.  Remember the difference between a need and a want.  Your needs are the most critical supplies to sustain your family’s life and will be with you when the decision is made to drop excess supplies.  We split all of our gear into three categories; high, medium, and low.  High inventory identified our critical supplies while medium was placed on supplies we could last for some time.  Low was given to everything else; we plan and equip for all three types of supplies but now we know what the priorities are.  We listed typical supplies such as food, water, shelter, clothing, specific-medicine, emergency rucksack, contacts and eyeglasses, radios, and self-defense equipment, (to name a few items).  We wrote down necessary skills that we either have or will need during and after a crisis.  Skills such as cooking, applying medical treatment, self-defense, gun operations, safety, security, gardening, engine repair, wilderness survival, map reading, direction finding, cleaning, building, repairing, and so forth.  Remember that skills will be more important than the actual supplies.  It would be pointless after the SHTF trying to throw down your 5-year collection of assorted seeds on the ground if you have never gardened in your life.  Once your critical functions have been identified and written down, you then have an idea of what items that are missing or lacking in your survival plan.  If you have no idea how to cook but your wife does, I would recommend you learn that skill.  Your FCP should have a plan if you or your significant other passes away during a catastrophic event.  Imagine you are the only one in your family that knows how to shoot and reload your handgun, shotgun, and long-rifle; what happens when you kick-the-bucket during a crisis?  Imagine your wife is the only person in your family that knows how to operate, maintain, and drive your Class A RV, and 3-weeks after a nuclear attack, she passes away from radiation sickness.  Remember, don’t think just because you know how to do something is enough, what if you’ve been removed from the picture and your wife needs to turn off the main water line before there is a septic backflow into your house?  A critical piece to a Business Continuity Plan or COOP is the succession of leadership and skills between top-level management down to the worker-bees.  It’s the business idea that if leadership is unable to perform their duties within a COOP scenario, the next in line has been educated and trained to pick up where they left off.  It’s the business idea of not having only one technical expert at their main center.  They will have additional trained experts and some strategically placed at their COOP site when the “smoking hole” scenario occurs.  Same analogy applies to your family COOP; don’t put all your 9mm ammo in one basket. 

Once your essential family items and skills are identified, come up with a laundry list of threats that could greatly impact the fabrics of your family’s life.  Think of them all, even that zombie apocalypse stirring in the back of your mind if you wish.  First, focus your attention on the threats that are more realistic or more likely to occur in your environment and then expand out. For my family here in Virginia Beach, our primary threats are hurricanes, flooding, and the occasional severe winter storm.  We may have threats such as tornadoes, fires, tropical storms, wind storms, terrorist attacks, nuclear incident/attacks, and tsunamis that could one day affect us.  It would be wise to imagine as many threats as possible – even the ones that may seem remotely impossible.  Would there be any reason why South Dakota would ever need to be prepared for a volcanic disaster?  If Yellowstone ever took off, the great folks of SD would be in some serious trouble.  The likelihood of this ever happening is less likely to happen but the chance is still there – better to be prepared for it vice having the SHTF and you are standing there SYP (Schumering Your Pants).  As you develop your threats you will see that your Family Continuity Plan may support multiple threats.  Portions of your FCP during a sever flood may mirror your family plan for a hurricane.  Realize that some threats will affect your ability to bug-in or bug-out even if your sole plan is to head out to your fully-stocked cabin in the Appalachian Mountains. 

Now that you have identified your critical infrastructure and your threats, the long and sometimes complicated part of meshing your critical elements and threats into scenarios begins.  You run every scenario and every possibility that could happen within an event and document solutions; this will ultimately be your plan.  For example, you and your family have decided to bug-out when the SHTF in Arkansas.  Unfortunately your city is experiencing an unexpected large-scale flooding, all roads are under 5-feet of water, and your vehicles are floating down the street.  In this scenario, your ability to access your bug-out hideout is null; this is the reason why you plan for everything.  If you did it right, you would not only have a good bug-out strategy but a very solid bug-in plan with the works.   

My wife and I identified multiple scenarios and have varied plans for numerous crises.  I have them all ranked out from Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc.  Plan A basically states that in the event that I am at work, my wife is at work, my son is at day care, and my daughter is at school (a typical work week for us) and the SHTF, my wife and I immediately bee-line it to our son’s daycare.  At the daycare we gather our son, transfer her bug-out bag, CB radio, and other equipment from her vehicle to my truck and we proceed to our daughter’s school.  Once we have picked up our daughter we continue to our house. Depending on the threat, we begin our bug-in or bug-out plan.  Example: let’s say the threat is a CAT 4 hurricane warning similar to the devastating Hurricane Ike in 2008.  Our FCP dictates we would enact our bug-out plan to the Appalachian Mountain region.  (In reality my family would not have been at work or daycare, in fact we would have already hit the road heading west, but for this scenario let’s say we waited until the last minute.)  Once we enter the house, my wife immediately starts packing our clothes, toiletries, snacks, and drinks with the help of our children to keep them occupied.  I immediately back my truck into my garage where we have all of our emergency supplies stored.  This is all of our tactical gear, light, fire-starting equipment, cooking equipment, water purification supplies, shelter, etc., secured in multiple 35 gallon Rubbermaid Cargo boxes.  We have multiple 24-gallon Rubbermaid Cargo boxes that contain over 5-months’ worth of food and water along with our rucksack containing all of our medial gear/supplies, stored in one of our guest rooms for proper heating/cooling.  Each container has an updated inventory list secured underneath each lid.  Part of my Family Continuity Plan has a diagram of my truck bed and roof rack with specific locations for every piece of our equipment.  I spent weeks on our truck bed/roof rack diagram determining the best location for each piece of equipment with the most critical and most useful supplies quickly accessible. These supplies consist of bug-out tools while on the road such as chainsaws, gas tanks, shovel, rope/chain, and a couple of bug-out backpacks to quickly grab in case we would need to evacuate the truck in a hurry.  It is guaranteed if you wait for the last minute to throw all of your gear into your vehicle you will forget something important such as your fire-safe chest containing all of your families’ passports, SSN cards, birth certificates, home and vehicle paperwork, and insurance information.  Or, worst case scenario, you will be wasting-away precious time trying to squeeze your gear into your vehicle while the entire city already bugged out, blocking your escape routes.  Come up with a load plan now, document it, study it, and then test it while there is ample time. 
Based on the level of the threat, a hurricane CAT 4 in this scenario, I would initiate turning off the power, gas, and water; after filling all three bathtubs in our home.  Once the threat subsided, we would attempt a return back to our residence.  If our main water line to the house was down, I would use the water in the bathtub for sanitation purposes.  Continuing with the scenario, my wife and I finalize the loading plan and head off to our destination, Roanoke, Virginia.  We have multiple plans as to which roads we will take to reach our destination.  One plan has us using a mix of major highways and state highways such as Highway 64 for a few hours and then cut over on Highway 60.  Another plan has us using mostly state highways and county highways such as Highway 58 and then up Highway 220.  It is important to plan multiple routes to any destination.  We have a large map for the State of Virginia, a topography map, maps of neighboring states and a couple of Rand McNally Atlases.  We have quite a few Google Maps with step-by-step directions (even on foot) to get us to our destination.  Once we get to our destination we are still not done. We have documented plans on where we will be staying, what our chores will be, and how we would rotate security if need be.  After 48 hours of reaching Roanoke our plan dictates that my three brother-in-laws and I (my family plan actually consists of more than just one family) will pack enough equipment and supplies to head back to Va. Beach and bunker down until it is safe enough for the rest of the party to return.

However, if the city of Roanoke began to collapse for whatever reason our FCP continues on with further plans and instructions to start our trek to Arizona.  Arizona was selected due to one, being west of the Mississippi (less population than the east coast) and two, because a large part of my family resides there. 

Our FCP provides step by step directions on which highways or roads we would use to get to the state of Arizona in a timely and secured fashion.  I have specific locations of towns and gasoline stops marked along the way that I would attempt to get to.  My wife and I fully realize, depending on what type of threat we are experiencing, that we would most likely run out of gas before reaching either Arkansas or Oklahoma.  We have documentation that tells us what supplies we would bring, which roads that lead or follow bodies of water, maps of railroads, and information on towns along the way.  Again, depending on the threat-level we may need to stay away from large cities and we may not be welcomed in very small towns so we plan for it.    

You can quickly begin to see how, in some cases, this can be a complicated and frustrating process.  With so many events that can happen, how can you, we, possibly respond to all of them?  The truth of the matter is, you can’t – it would be impossible.  Take things simple at first, start with the most plausible event and start your plan there.  We started all of our plans at the very moment when the SHTF.  Meaning, during a regular week I would be at work and so would my wife and our children would be at school and daycare.  From that specific moment, we branched out and brain stormed as many possibilities and jotted down solutions for each.  Once you have a plan, you can then build your supply-chain, gear, paperwork and the entire infrastructure.  I started off by providing only one, modified, scenario in my FCP above but we actually have quite a few.  Some of our plans are procedures during the weekend when my family is mostly together. On the few occasions I have gone on a business trip, or my wife, we have a plan for that as well.  Of course, factors depend on where our trip takes us and how we got there (plane vs. rental vehicle).  The important thing is you are communicating your FCP to your partner/family and documenting your plan.  Use your experience to determine some possible scenarios, use the advice from friends and families as a source of information.  Research online and review the news to see how people react during a time of crisis.  Take the tragic events you read online and incorporate those scenarios into your Family Continuity Plan.  As you become more aware, your plan starts to mature, you will add more information, add more plans, and you will alter situations due to your family getting larger or kids growing up.  Once your plan is on paper, test it, and periodically maintain it. 

If you are not sure if your plan works, give it a shot.  Turn off the power and water to your house (we have in the past but we kept the gas on so we wouldn’t have to call a tech from VA Natural Gas) during a weekend and see how your family reacts.  On a weekend, take a slow trip to your bug-out hideout stopping along the way to admire the sites between your home and bug-out site.  You never know – you may be camping at those sites when the SHTF and your bugging out to your FCP site on foot.  Take your family out to as many camping trips as you can. Learn and teach them how to build basic shelter, learn basic fire-making processes, learn to cook with basic tools, and teach the proper handling and safety of your defensive gear.  Build a garden box in your backyard and learn how to grow fruits and vegetables – let your kids be part of this.  Take simple trips out of town and learn what types of equipment, entertainment, and clothing your family needs for the haul and incorporate/adjust your plan as needed.  Your prep plan may rely heavily on a generator when the power goes out, kill the power to your house and run off of it for three days straight and see how the generator really operates.  Remember, testing your Family Continuity Plan is equally important as the plan itself and maintaining your FCP will be just as important. Before the dust collects on your plan take it out every few months and clean it up.  Periodic maintenance on your FCP will ensure it is up to date with your most current supplies, new tools, new vehicles, new members, loss of a member, or even new skills that your family has acquired.  As your children get older, their ability to share the load becomes greater, don’t forget to incorporate those changes. 

In conclusion, ultimately it’s not a matter of “if” a SHTF event will happen but a matter of “when”. Develop a Family Continuity Plan. Teamwork, attention to details, and having a strong psychology to survive are everyday components which should be carried over during a time of crisis.  Teamwork - your chances to live are greatly increased when you add multiple families and at a larger scale.  A community unites when there is a common interest to take care of their families and yours.  If you are a loner and plan to be a loner in the wilderness, your chances of survival are greatly reduced.  Realize that most small bands of families or even communities will hesitate in trusting you or taking you in.  Attention to details – paying attention to detail involves trusting your eyes, ears, taste, and that nagging feeling in the back of your head.  It is the skill of combining all of your senses with common sense in making a decision.  Psychology to survive - I once read a great manual (U.S. Army Field Manual, FM 3-05.70) that states that no matter how much water, food, shelter, or security you have – if you lack the psychology to survive, you will die.  This bleeds into having a positive outlook in everything no matter the cost.  There will be times you will feel sadness, anger, and remorse, but your core needs to be imbued with positive thinking.

I hope sharing my Family Continuity Plan ignites your interest to think, develop and enact a plan for yours. Preparing and planning for the future is always wise.  However, don’t get too caught up with the future and with events we have no control over.  I know people who spend so much of their time and energy storing ammo and beef jerky but forget to live for the day.  We can make ourselves better by being prepared, but don’t let it take you away from reality.  The important thing is that you spend time with your family and friends. A great husband, wife, mom, dad, brother, sister, kids, friends do not come written in a book or COOP plan, they come from living life and doing the right thing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Huey F. makes some excellent points in his article.  I would just like to add the caveat that not everyone who claims to be a Christian really is one.  We have been burned twice in the last several years by people who we thought were Christian brothers and sisters who turned out to be wolves in sheep's clothing.  Due diligence is necessary, especially if you're going to be living with someone.  Just because a mouse is in the cookie jar, it doesn't make him a cookie.  And thanks, JWR, for all you do.  Sincerely, - Barbara in Tennessee

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'll begin with a Bible quote: “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character." - 1 Corinthians 15:33

Perhaps starting off with a Scripture will turn away some people, yet there really isn’t a better way to begin. I don’t want to come across as such a Bible-thumping Christian that I make those of you who are not Christians turn away, but I also don’t want anyone to think I was disguising the Christian aspects of this article in an attempt to trick you into buying in to biblical principles. It is for this reason - transparency and blunt openness and honesty - that I have chosen to go ahead and reference the Scripture that gave me the title of the article. I think you will find that as the subject unfolds, there would be no misunderstanding either way about the nature or foundation of my thought process. It is overtly Christian.

Now that I have that out of the way, I want to say two things:

1. When I refer to “Christians” throughout the article, I would also include any practicing  members of Jewish faith.

2. The rest of the article might not be necessary to those Christians who truly follow the Scripture above with prayer, caution, and deep thought, however I do believe this instruction in Scripture is exponentially more important in a SHTF scenario than it might be in everyday life. Furthermore, it is my belief that commandments and instruction in Scripture do not need further exposition except for the fact that most of us - myself included - often need it said in eighteen different ways before it sinks in that we need to simply follow and obey!

So here we have instruction in the Bible - “do not be misled.” Words like these always stick out to me because they do not occur often in Scripture, so when they do, I take notice and think about what they are implying, perhaps a bit longer than I do other verses. If the Bible is saying NOT to be misled, then it stands to reason that the area it is referring to is one that people are quite often misled about. Myself not wanting to be misled, I pay attention to what follows: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

At first glance, I think to myself something along the lines of “duh” but then, again, I decide to think deeper about it. It must not be a “duh” kind of subject if so many are easily misled on this issue. I won’t waste time with some sort of doctrinal article about all the ways I see people can be misled on this, but I would rather focus on why this is such an important area when it comes to a TEOTWAWKI / SHTF scenario and ultimately, your survival.

There is a saying that “no man is an island” which implies that we all need others. Well, that is mostly true. There is another saying that “every man is an island” which, while in direct contradiction with the previous statement, is also true. We are all our own “islands” when it comes to our relationship and accountability to God. When we stand before Him, there won’t be anyone with us. Just us. Islands. This distinction is ironic because the way I see things, because none of us is an “island” on earth, the importance of who is in our “company” - be it good or bad - directly affects the day we all recognize what we were all “islands” before God.

My wife and I had a conversation recently about our prepping and survival plans should anything catastrophic happen. We don’t have a lot of money, and we take advantage and get necessary items when we see sales, but thankfully we think alike when it comes to planning. More and more we find that our mindsets are in concert any time we talk of the future. We both believe in the need for supplies as well as the need for a group in order to survive a truly long-term collapse. We used to think we could make it alone, but even in the most remote setting that required no security watchmen, we would be vulnerable to injury or sickness. Fact is, we realized that we are not an island. We will need at least 2 to 6 more people in order to live securely. In our recent conversation, I mentioned some “friends” (I use that term loosely here because true friends are those I would have around after a collapse) and told her bluntly, “You realize that if things collapse and we have to form a group, Bobby and Jane (as I’ll call them) are out.” Being that the “Jane” in this couple of “friends” is closer to her than I am to the “Bobby,” I was shocked to find that she looked down rather sadly and said, “Yeah, I know.” She got it. I didn’t have to explain.

Bobby and Jane are not Christians, and as much as I am willing to do things with them socially and have had long conversations with them about God, they are opposed to the idea of a God and do not wish to talk about it further. Again, in THESE times, I am fine to oblige them and respect their wishes. I will continue to be a friend to them, hunt with Bobby, and love their children...but when it comes to the survival of my wife and children in a much different world, I know that I cannot have them around, as much as I hate it for them, and in some ways, for us.

Now some might be thinking that I sound cruel and heartless, or that I am taking too hard of a line when it comes to my faith. Let me start off saying that I understand your thoughts - they were thoughts of mine at first. But then I remembered: “do not be misled.” The words have weight and made me think - and after much prayer, thought, and contemplation, I finally got it.

Christianity is a family, and I don’t need quotes on that word. It isn’t a pseudo-family, it’s a true family. The word family isn’t just a nice metaphor for the entire collective on planet Earth known as Christians - it is a definition. We are family. Brothers and sisters in Christ. Race, gender, nationality, etc, have no meaning when someone is a Christian. If they follow Christ, they are my brother or sister, and the fact is, nobody loves you like family and you cannot risk the health and welfare of your family by trusting someone outside of it.

“Why not?” you might ask. “Aren’t there other trustworthy people out there who simply aren’t Christians?” The short answer is yes...the more complicated answer is NO.

Yes, there are people out there who have a sense of morality and who hold some of the same Judeo-Christian moral standards we have without actually being Jewish or Christian, but if my experience in meeting them is any indication, they are few and far between. The larger issue though is that they might be moral right now, in this society, but who knows after the SHTF. So then, why do I say no? Because of the scenario we have to envision.

Picture this:

Society has collapsed. The dollar is gone. There is no monetary system in place. The grid is down. Fuel is running out quickly. Food and water are running out even faster. Everyone is in a state of panic and scared about how they are going to survive. Bands of looters have already started roaming the streets assaulting anyone they see and taking what they want by force. There is no law and order. There are no firefighters or paramedics. No governing body of any consequence is to be found. Every family is on its own, and you have to choose a few friends to survive with. Guess what - you better choose wisely because these could be the people you grow old with. These could be the people your kids grow up around. These will be the people who defend you, your wife, and your kids when the time comes. These are your family for now and for the foreseeable future.

Now let me say, I am all for having a group with various skills. I personally have learned a tremendous amount of skills in the past three years that I never thought about needing ten years ago. I have learned to can, to hunt, to garden, to raise chickens and livestock, to fell trees and split wood, to fix minor vehicle issues that I would have simply let someone else do years ago, and many other things not worth mentioning, but I am still no expert at them and definitely not proficient enough to want to survive - or have others rely - on my skills in every area. I could definitely use some guys and gals around with skills I do not possess. However, just because I may want a certain skill set in my group does not mean I can compromise on the character of those who have the skills. I mentioned “Bobby” earlier, and truth be told, there are two other “friends” in the same vein. These guys have awesome skills. One is a doctor, the other is an ex-Army engineer and mechanic, and “Bobby” is ex-military as well. Those are some serious skills I would like in my group, but none of these three men are God-fearing. In fact, I would rate them more on the God-hating side of the bar.

So here is where I could deceive myself into thinking it will be okay. I could say to myself, “Their skills are necessary and they have been friends with me for years. It will be fine. They know where I stand and in time hopefully they will come to know God.” But I know this is simply me trying to have my cake and eat it too. It is self-serving because I want the skills on my side. As an athletic coach, I know a thing or two about assembling teams with certain skill sets and directing them as a unit. I know the value of having the right skills for the right position. So why then am I planning to exclude these highly-skilled individuals based solely on their faith, or lack thereof? I will give you three reasons:

1. If a man is not a Christian, he has no personal accountability to God Himself. For me, this is of utmost importance. We are not talking about living in the easy times as we do now - we are talking about total anarchy. Complete chaos and an extreme change in the way our lives are lived. I simply cannot trust a man to lay down his life for me or my family - if need be - if that man is not accountable to God. A man not inwardly accountable to God is only living for and accountable to himself and his family. What if that man is taking watch one night while my family and I sleep when suddenly a group of armed men rush the property? How can I trust that he will defend my family like it is his family if he does not see it that way? As I said earlier, Christians are family, and we know that in that situation, if we defended our own wives and children to the detriment of the others, God would not approve and we would answer for it. We would be willing to lay down our life to defend and warn the others. But a man who does not know God - a man unsure of his own eternal destiny - I do not believe that man will sacrifice his life for anyone except his own, nor am I willing to roll the dice about it.

2. If a man is not a Christian, he does not hold the Bible in any regard and will not submit to its authority. As Christians, we plan to live according to the instruction God has given in His Word. Anyone allowed to live among our group who thinks the Bible is just some mythical book would cause great friction and ultimately not abide by our way of life. In the times ahead, the last thing I need to worry about is some guy who has major influence on my children filling their heads with thoughts antagonistic to God and His Word - or even if he didn’t do so, I don’t need to worry that he will!

3. And finally, there is the title of this article: “bad company corrupts good character.” If a man does not follow Christ, he is bad company. Jesus said "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Mt 12:30) I cannot have a man who is against Christ scattering and dividing my group. Furthermore, there will be a better chance that my children might grow up without me around in this new, violent world, and of all my “preps” I want the main one to be the “village” that will raise my kids in my absence. A son without a father - and sometimes with a father - will want to gravitate toward an adult male who will impart wisdom as a father would. I have to know that whoever my son might choose to fill that role will teach him the way I would, and that he will have a chance to know God because of it.

And lastly, in the same vein as reason 3, I must apply the Scripture directly to myself. If I invite non-Christians (bad company) to live with me as closely as we will be living, what then becomes of me? I might think that my character is strong and my devotion to Christ is unshakable, but Scripture tells me that the bad will corrupt the good, not the other way around. Again, I may want to think the opposite is true, but that is why it tells us “do not be misled.” It would be so easy to do so, especially in the seemingly impossible times that would surely lie ahead. I cannot trust my own wisdom or my own character. I must trust God’s wisdom and surround myself first with men who fear Him, and second with men of worldly skill and ability.

Choose your friends and associates wisely.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I got a call from my mother the other day. She is the mother of six, grandmother to twelve and great-grandmother of three children.  She had just returned from a visit to one of my sibling’s homes.  She said, “You are right!  They are serious about this prepping stuff.  Tell me what to do.”  My mother’s revelation has been a long time in coming.  She is a devout Christian and a Bible teacher.  She believes that Jesus will return and scoop us all up to heaven, hopefully before the tribulation.  She is what she calls a “pre-trib” [rapture] believer.  I have had many conversations with her citing examples from scripture about how God has allowed His children to suffer.  She is now onboard now and wants advice.  This takes some analysis.

The first evaluation needs to be of her and her husband’s circumstances.  Where do they live?  Are there financial or mobility issues?  Are there health issues? What is the best strategy for them – to prepare to evacuate or shelter in place?  They live in a retirement community in a highly populated urban area.  There is little chance they could evacuate during a crisis.  Dad has health issues and mother is getting up in years and finding it difficult to do daily tasks.  The retirement community in which they live has numerous emergency preparedness initiatives underway, and the community center was recently designated as a Red Cross emergency shelter.  This is good and bad.  We, when deciding where to live, rejected locations near potential emergency shelters due to the possibility of an influx of disaster victims.  However, the residents in that community are happy to be preparing the best that they can.  I’ve tried to get them to move out of that area and either close to me or move in with me, to no avail.  I also asked my son-in-law, a devoted prepper who lives near them, to promise me that if evacuation were necessary, he would pick them up and get them out of there along with his little family.  That is the best that I can do for now.

The best strategy for them, in light of the above circumstances, is to shelter in, understanding that this strategy will only work for a short-term emergency.  When mother asked me how she can begin to prepare, the first words out of my mouth were “Water.  You must stock up on water.  You can go without food, but you cannot go without water.”  “But there is no place to store anything”, she said, “our place is small”.  I explained to her that she needed to get creative about storage space.  I am quite familiar with their little condo at about 1400 sq. ft.  She has numerous closets and an enclosed patio that adds additional square footage.  I told her to line her closet floors with gallon water bottles behind the shoes – there is plenty of space there.  I explained that water has a shelf life and she needs to pay attention to using the water she buys and replenishing her stock, saving the plastic gallon containers, which she can place in her storage shed in a tightly tied plastic bag for later use.  Advice:  Every week you go to the grocery store, pick up 4-5 gallons of water, and get some help with shopping.  (Fortunately, I have daughter that lives near mom and helps her on a routine basis).

Now about food.  Many promote buying a year’s worth of freeze-dried food, but most people don’t have a couple thousand dollars to throw at food storage all at once.  This is true for my folks.  Dad has Alzheimer’s and heart problems, so in an emergency situation mother will need to pay attention to keeping his routine as normal as possible.  This could include having Dad’s favorite foods on standby.  As an example, Dad likes his chocolate milk.  Why not stock up on some instant chocolate milk mixes that only require water to reconstitute?  For herself, she can stock up on instant coffee and powdered milk.  We discussed the list of favorite foods because comfort foods can be important when everything around you is going wrong.  Comfort foods satisfy the need for some sense of normalcy.  People who suffer from Alzheimer’s are easily upset when the routine changes.  We also discussed the need for caloric intake.  Instead of buying “lo cal, heart healthy” foods, stock up on high fat, high protein, high fiber foods.  Canned foods that come to mind are beans in all varieties, some that are seasoned already.  I suggested stocking up on canned goods with “pop tops” – those cans that only require pulling on the tab to open, rather than relying on a manual can opener.  Soup cans often come in this configuration.  Mother has issues with her hands due to arthritis and it is difficult for her to use a manual can opener, even though it can be done.  Many of the food items she will need to stock up on, will require the use of a manual can opener.  Does she have one?  Is it easy to use?  If not, put getting a better can opener on the shopping list.  We discussed going to a local “scratch and dent” food outlet for stocking up purposes.  She knew of one nearby and made plans with my daughter to take a trip over.  Advice:  Stock up on canned goods of high calorie, high fiber, high protein content, preferably with “pop top” cans.  Stock up on dried foods, such as instant rice, noodles, oatmeal, and the like, that only require water to reconstitute.

Now about heat and cooking.  She lives in a relatively mild climate – no snow or howling winds to be concerned with.  She won’t have to worry about keeping warm other than dressing warm on chilly mornings.  She will have to worry about cooking or just heating water for reconstituting dry foods and warming up canned foods.  She doesn’t have an outside yard or outside patio, so cooking on a grill or little stove won’t work.  We discussed the use of Sterno fuel cans – the type you would use under a chafing dish.  Sterno fuel cans can be purchased everywhere.  The ones I have burn for about 2.5 hours each.  Sterno brand cooking fuel is non-toxic, biodegradable and water soluble – fairly safe for an older couple to make use of in a small condo.  You can pick up a six-pack of 2 hr. burning cans on Amazon for about twenty bucks.  If you think about using one can per day, you will need to invest about $100 a month for this type of fuel – a little pricey, but we are strategizing about the best and safest approach for an older couple.  A little shopping around for the best pricing may be in order.  Additionally, if she doesn’t have a chafing dish she can use, she can purchase a small Sterno Single Burner Folding Stove on Amazon for under ten bucks.  Advice: Stock up on sterno fuel cans.

Other supplies include paper and plastic products such as toilet paper, paper towels, and paper plates and cups, trash bags, and disposable hygiene wipes (“baby wipes”).  I explained to her that if a disruption in the water supply should occur, she will not be able to flush a toilet or wash dishes, but she could place a plastic bag on the toilet seats to “catch” waste and then move it out of the house.  We didn’t discuss what it would be like if the short term emergency turned into a long term emergency and waste disposal became a much bigger problem.  We are only talking about short-term strategies here.  Advice: Stock up on paper and plastic products.

Medicines and medical supplies:  She has a little first aid kit, but the biggest concern will be running out of medications.  Her insurance and pharmacy supply her with a 90-day supply of medications.  I advised her to get an additional 90-day supply so that her supply would last for 6 months, even if she has to go out of pocket on that additional 90 days.  Some insurance companies will pay for an additional 90-day supply if you explain that you will be traveling out of the country, which they used to do, now not so much.  If she were to be in an emergency situation, forecasted to last longer than 90 days, they could take a pill every other day and take their chances.  If there is a serious medical issue, their retirement community has onsite emergency services and if that were not available, prayer and God’s provision are truly the only things one can count on.  Advice:  Stock up on medications.   

Security and Safety:  This is a sticky one.  I believe that retirement communities, especially in the nicer urban areas will be targets.  I spoke to her about self-defense knowing that she has never used a gun and didn’t own one.  Dad used to shoot and taught his boys how to shoot, but his weapons were long ago given to his sons.  One of my sisters has been urging her to get a small handgun.  In the meantime, both my son-in-laws live nearby, are well versed in weaponry and one is in law enforcement, and if need be, they can provide some protection.  All of my children have been trained to shoot and own weapons, so I think, as a family we need to get great gramma up to speed and take her out to the shooting range.  Fortifying their condo is a bigger discussion and suffice it to say, one well aimed shot will discourage looters and marauders.  I have a deep concern that in a longer term emergency, my parents and many others will be shipped off to FEMA camps, but I am hoping we can evacuate them if it looks like things are going in that direction.  Advice to self:  Get gramma armed and trained.

Those are the basics for a short-term emergency: water, food, heating and cooking, personal hygiene, medications, security, and safety.  I realize that many retired people are on a fixed income and stocking up, especially on medications, is a financial burden.  I suggest that for those of you who have parents or grandparents in that situation, you step forward with the cash to get them better prepared.  After all, think about what they did for you all your growing up years.  If you are willing and committed, you should make that trip, that visit, and do all the shopping for them, get them situated appropriately for their situation.  It will give you and them peace of mind.  If you can’t do it in person, stock them up via automated deliveries.
Using Amazon’s subscribe and save feature, as posted by another reader using J.W.R.’s amazon link is a great way to have things delivered to the house on a regular schedule, which saves an older person the stress and physical exertion of making large shopping trips.  Mom frequently purchases from Amazon, so she could simply shop online and have things delivered.  The following list of items can be found on Amazon and are offered under the subscribe and save feature.  The downside of this type of shopping is it is a great deal more costly than buying in bulk yourself, and canning and storing food.  However, this article is geared towards taking care of the “old folks” who may or may not have the ability to do this themselves.  
The Weekly or Monthly Shopping List for Great Gramma (All pricing is rounded up or down and does not always include a brand name.  This list is to give you an idea of what you can have delivered weekly or monthly for gramma via Amazon.  You can shop around for better deals.):
1.        6 pak of sterno fuel cans = ~$20
2.        16 pack of paper towels = ~$20
3.        24 pack of toilet paper = ~$11
4.        40 count kitchen garbage bags with odor control = $8.75
5.        350 count Baby wipes = ~$11.30
6.        Prepared foods – choices too numerous to list – you will have to experiment.  Search on “subscribe and save” on Amazon.  An example is Betty Crocker Helper Complete Meals, Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuits, 24.8-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 6 ) for $18.41.  These complete meals only require a little milk (use reconstituted dried milk) and/or water and a way to heat them up.  The meat is included.  After searching quite a bit, I concluded that one should expect to pay about $2-$3 per a prepared food item of good quality.  For an older couple, who generally eat less, and need something that is very easy, the Betty Crocker line of complete meals may be a good compromise and will feed 2 people who don’t have big appetites.  No refrigeration or microwaving required.
7.        Hershey's 2% Chocolate Milk, 21- 8 Ounce Aseptic Boxes = $ 19.39
8.        Needless to say, water is not something I recommend you buy through Amazon unless you are looking for specialty bottled water.  Spring water is available in gallon containers at Wal-Mart for about $.88 a gallon.
9.        And so on…
The list above was to give you an idea of what you can do with automatic deliveries to an older parent or grandparent.  For about $100 - $200 a month, you can set up automatic delivery to their home and get them a lot closer to being prepared.  Don’t buy things that require a microwave (think grid down).  If you are local to your parents or grandparents, it makes much more sense to shop at big box stores, Wal-Mart, or a local “scratch and dent” grocery outlet.  Maybe a combination of paying them a visit for the purposes of helping them stock up and having regular deliveries scheduled to them is the right combination.  In all cases, I’m glad mom is finally onboard and ready to move in the right direction.  
In the meantime, my directive is to enlist the help of the bigger family in getting mom better prepped to defend the casa if need be.  This should be fun, if not hilarious.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Those that are concerned with TEOTWAWKI scenarios, as we are, can find great benefit in looking to history for meaningful lessons on what to expect and how to plan and prepare. In many of these circles we often here of and reference the heroic exploits of bands of citizen warriors throughout history.

Rogers Rangers, the Minute Men of New England, The Green Mountain Boys of Vermont and other Revolutionary War militia, The guerilla fighting Comanche and Cheyenne warriors of North America,  and of course the various books, movies and television shows that constitute our survivalist-militia paradigm. I wish to add another relevant and realistic event and militia group to our lexicon and highlight a bit of recent history that took place just about 3,000 miles from North America. This true and well-documented period of time and events can be mined by our communities for numerous insights into preparedness.

The tiny African nation of Sierra Leone first won their independence from the British Empire in 1961. This was a joyous time for Sierra Leonians. Sierra Leone, a beautiful nation on the West African Coast, with beaches to make many vacationers jealous, became a vacation spot for Europeans and Africans on holiday.  The country was awash with valuable minerals, metals, and diamonds which brought the financial interests of global powers.  If you were a member of the elite ruling class and politically connected then times were good and money flowed; allowing you an increasingly comfortable lifestyle. But by the 1970s corruption was entrenched. Wikipedia summarized:

“...politics in the country was increasingly characterized by corruption, mismanagement, and electoral violence that led to a weak civil society, the collapse of the education system..."

In 1968, [Siaka Stevens,] a popular leader rose to power and would leave office 17 years later with the result of turning what was once a constitutional democracy into a one party state.
The Prime Minister’s 17 year term of office is described by Wikipedia as:

 “...the 17 year plague of locusts” saw the destruction and perversion of every state institution. Parliament was undermined, judges were bribed, and the treasury was bankrupted to finance pet projects that supported insiders.”

He stepped down in 1985 leaving a short list of ineffective leadership behind him. Wikipedia characterizes the social ruin that the country now found itself in only 30 years after its independence, with the following…

"With the state unable to pay its civil servants, those desperate enough ransacked and looted government offices and property. Even in Freetown (the capitol city), important commodities like gasoline were scarce. But the government hit rock bottom when it could no longer pay schoolteachers and the education system collapsed. Since only wealthy families could afford to pay private tutors, the bulk of Sierra Leone’s youth during the late 1980s roamed the streets aimlessly. As infrastructure and public ethics deteriorated in tandem, much of Sierra Leone’s professional class fled the country. By 1991, Sierra Leone was ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world, even though it benefited from ample natural resources including diamonds, gold, bauxite, rutile ([the] main ingredient in titanium), iron ore, fish, coffee, and cocoa."

This became the foundation for the decade long civil war that would lay waste to the country and forever change its people.

A rebel army named the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) formed and funded by the criminal government of neighboring Liberia, under convicted war criminal Charles Taylor, grew and quickly took over many areas of the country. This rebel movement was a result of the intense interest in the diamond mines within Sierra Leone and Liberia, and also the large number of disaffected youth that were easily swayed by riches, power, and promise of adventure. The Government of Sierra Leone and its army were either unable or unwilling to effectively challenge the well-armed and funded rebel army. The RUF  tormented the cities and countryside forcing children to become soldiers, getting them hooked on hard drugs, and encouraging them to engage in unspeakable behavior aimed at terrorizing the civilians into subservience. The RUF would quickly become known for rape, murder, torture, burning, looting, and a terror previously unknown in the region.

Sierra Leone, like much of Africa consists of both dense cities and rural countryside.  People fled the cities for their ancestral  homes still occupied by family in their rural villages. Many of these families can trace their family histories in these villages back hundreds of years. This is their native land. These were agrarian villages where people were mostly farmers. It was West African slaves from these areas that would make the American colony and future state of Georgia’s largest export and cash crop rice, grown in the lowlands of the coast similar to their homeland. The average home was armed with only farming tools and instruments.

Making a living from the land for generations, extended families controlled large fields and swathes of land to graze their animals and grow food. They lived in tight ethnic communities where everyone knew everyone. These were not people that were concerned with national politics. They made little to no money from the diamonds, gold, minerals, and everything else that drove the international greed for the resources of their country. These were extended families living a peaceful existence in their ancestral land, practicing and maintaining their culture and history. These communities had strong men that were willing and qualified warriors but these men were the first targets of violence, and they were not prepared or trained for organized military threats on their communities.

Imagine the ease that a light rebel army would experience when pulling up to a sleepy farming village, rounding up the able-bodied men for torture or execution, the male children for conscription, and the women and girls for slaves or throw-away sex toys. Rural police stations were no match for the rebels and would flee, be killed, or join them. Many in these villages became entertainment for depraved rebels mad with drug use and traumatized by their own situations. Old men and women were chopped down with machetes or burned to death with kerosene or car tires. Babies’ heads were bashed in by gun butts or by soldiers' boots. Sometimes the child’s own parents were forced to bludgeon them to death at the gunpoint of crazed men and boys in soldier uniforms. Pretty girls became a commodity traded by soldiers. People were shot indiscriminately in the street and in their homes.  Houses, farms and fields were burned.  The chopping off of limbs became an all too often exercise and horrific scene during such attacks. The movie Blood Diamond starring Leonardo Dicaprio used the backdrop of this war to tell its story and illustrated many of these documented atrocities. [JWR Adds: Blood Diamond provided some valuable insights into the depravity of man under the circumstances of civil war. The history of the 20th Century is replete with similar examples, worldwide. (West Africa was not unique!) It was a surprisingly good film, despite Dicaprio's pitiful attempt at mimicking a Rhodesian accent.]

Resourceful and physically able people fled to “the bush”, their term for the thick untamed jungle wilderness. Their communities destroyed, families dead or dispersed. Many people had to rely on their wilderness survival skills or risk being caught in public areas looking for food and shelter. They had to learn to evade others in the bush that may alert others to their presence. One man on foot in the wilderness is no match for a mobile light army. He would easily be found, caught, and become a victim. A family would be even easier to hunt and track down.
Rebel armies had taken control of many areas and where they did not control, the government armies were often no better. They brutally purged villages looking for rebels and often accused the innocent and made them examples to others. They helped themselves to food, supplies, and women. They were feared by all and were rumored to be soldiers by day and rebels by night, earning them the name “sobels”. There was no one on the side of the regular people. These armies fought each other and used the communities as their battlegrounds. Civilians were collateral damage and/or simply resources to be taken, killed or abused by either side. Roadways were controlled by these forces so any resources such as food, medicine, or ammunition, traveling along them was subject to seizure by the armies. The best homes and structures were taken and used by rebels or government armies for cover, command centers, flophouses, storage, barracks, or other military needs.

This is the extreme of our human experience on Earth, my friends. I can’t imagine a more terrifying experience. It does not matter how bad-ass one man is, he could either evade these forces or become another casualty. Period.  Where was the humanity, you ask? How could they all behave this way, you say? Well how could the Germans behave as they did under the Nazi regime? Or Cambodians under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge?  The ethnic cleansing by Serbs under Slobodan Milosovic? These things happen. When people are pushed by extreme socioeconomic forces they are capable of unspeakable cruelty. In the midst of this turmoil and unimaginable violence a resistance movement grew in the south. A group called the Kamajors.

Wikipedia summarizes: "The Kamajors are a group of traditional hunters from the Mende ethnic group in the south and east of Sierra Leone (mostly from the Bo district)."

These hunters came from a long line of traditional tribal-warriors. In Africa each ethnic group is typically associated with a secret society. These secret societies teach the younger generations survival skills, cultural history, and prepare them for being an adult in their society. For the boys this would often include warrior training, hunting and trapping skills, wilderness survival and so on. These Kamajors came from this tradition. They banded together early on and protected their immediate communities. They had weapons that they had used for hunting along with warrior training and preparation. They had an intimate knowledge of the land and its people. And they had the not just the will to fight their aggressors but the means and know how. This was a modern day tribal militia.

The Kamajors  successfully repelled both the RUF/rebel army and the government army over and over again when they would approach their protected regions. They reacted swiftly to enemy threats in their patrolled areas and gained a reputation for being fearsome fighters and protectors of their communities.  Rebels and the government army, like any marauding groups, will choose the path of least resistance and focus on soft targets. They were reluctant to engage the Kamajor fighters, because a dust up with the Kamajors was certain to end in casualties and depleted resources. They fought fiercely for maintainable ground and quickly retreated and regrouped when outnumbered or overwhelmed.  They were light quick and effective. Youth from all over the affected parts of the country sought out the Kamajors for protection, and many joined their ranks, multiplying their strength. They suffered casualties and we can be sure they suffered their own defeats, but they remained the only alternative and safe haven for thousands.

These were hunters and family men that joined together to protect their families and communities. They were unflinching in their mission and quickly earned names for themselves as the only ones with the strength and knowledge to protect themselves and others from the new realities of their world. The Kamajors answered to their traditional tribal leadership who were often seasoned veteran elders, which was a true government of and by the people. Rebels and soldiers alike intensely feared these Kamajors and African superstition strengthened those fears. Claims spread of the Kamajors participating in sacred rites that would make them bulletproof. It was said that sexual abstinence made them fierce in battle. Stories of their being invisible and being protected by magic persist to this day. The Kamajors were so successful that when international will was finally strong enough to bring peace to the country the Kamajors were enlisted by international peacekeeping forces  to successfully return peace to the country with the help of the UN, an army made from a number of West African countries (ECOMOG) and private mercenary groups.

The war lasted more than ten years and ended in 2002. It is only now, ten years after the wars end that the economy of the country is picking up, experiencing international investment, and people are finally able to start putting the war behind them. Regular electricity to the nations capital, Freetown, and other major cities, was restored in 2007 due to international assistance and the construction of new hydroelectric facilities. Markets are booming and people have returned to the cities twofold. The nations’ future is bright and the worst is behind them but for a long time their future was in doubt.

So after a roughly twenty year period of economic and social decline, we have what was basically a twenty year period where a country was in a total state of war, economic collapse, depression and dysfunction. A messy war with no boundaries or clear enemy, caused by outside forces, political corruption and mismanagement. Caught in the middle were a peaceful people, largely of rural background, forced to find a way to survive a situation that quickly became desperate and deadly. Their ancestral farms and homesteads were attacked and burned. Local currency became worthless. Food was scarce. Resources were taken and consumed by the armies leaving little to nothing for civilians. Civilians became the targets of the new power structure, controlled by the ruthless and lawless armies.

A grassroots fighting force of hunters and family men rose as the only effective resistance force. They were effective because through their hunter/warrior culture and vigilance they were more prepared than others to defend their communities and way of life. These irregulars were the Minutemen of their time. If they had not been trained and organized ahead of time they would have been decimated early on and would not have had the strength to raise a defense later on. The Kamajor fighters were prepared from the beginning and when the SHTF they did what they were prepared to do without hesitance.

Many lessons can be drawn from this history, but a few themes are easy to take away here.  It was their community and culture that created the success of the Kamajors. They had a hunter/warrior culture that could be easily compared to our survivalist/prepper culture today. They also maintained a community within this culture that not only rallied when threatened, but had enough training to be organized when the SHTF to not lose too much ground or strength.

Could they have foreseen the situation that they found themselves in? Perhaps. Could they have done much to prevent it? Probably not. This is a relatively basic SHTF threat. It does not require asteroids, or volcanoes, or even Al Qaeda. Defense against lawless but organized armed personnel; that is what all preppers and survivalists should strongly consider when preparing for SHTF/TEOTWAWKI.

One armed man can’t effectively respond to such a threat of course, yet it is one of the most predictable and relatively common of social upheaval threats and one of the most terrifying. It is basically a home invasion on a regional scale. Some people behave as if these types of events or scenarios are ancient history, or unrealistic. Hurricane Katrina highlights this possible threat, so does the constant narcotics traffic violence in the southwest, the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles, or even Pine Ridge in the 1970s. But for continued insight, moral support and inspiration we only have to look across the Atlantic to a little over 10 years ago when a resourceful group of hard-nosed warriors banded together to protect all that they knew. These were the Kamajors of Sierra Leone.

About the Author: CYA is the pen name of a first generation American on his father's side, and a U.S. combat veteran. His father was born in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone in 1951, and his mothers’ family can be traced to colonial New England.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Based on some of the latest articles I have read, I wonder if there is a misunderstanding of prepping or the Preppers themselves. Everyone has their own reasons for prepping, what they consider prepping, prepping for or at what level they can prepare. Not everyone can afford prepping to the levels of others, not everyone has the skill sets as others or can go out and find that perfect piece of property to call their retreat or bug out location (BOL.)

For the grannies who buy a few supplies or have found a like-minded social group of preppers where they meet once a month or so and talk about things they have read or heard about, good for them. For all we  know, for that granny, this may be her (or his if a grampy) only form of social networking and for them survival is getting out and meeting these people and enjoying the time spent. If after that meeting on the way home granny stops in Wal-Mart and picks up a few supplies and she is happy, more power to her and God bless her.

For me, I would have to say I'm a closet prepper. I prep for the needs of myself and my family. I do not hang out in prepper forums or blog sites, I do not attend preparedness expos to meet others or go online to find like-minded folks in the local area for coffee. My neighbors do not even know that I'm a prepper. In a way I live in fear, if something was to happen I really do not want anyone to come knocking on my door for supplies. As for the people you may meet at these places I think you're going to find some who are "way out there" to some who really do not have a clue. You have to size up each person individually and decide for yourself as to whether or not these are people you want to get to know.

I, like many, have not actually killed anyone. Could I? I hope the time never comes when I have to find out. I spent 26 years in the Coast Guard and have gone through all the drills and training I could get my hands on. I have dressed out and practiced for Nuclear, Biological & Chemical (NBC) warfare without actually being in any of those scenarios. Could I still do it, if I had the gear? Yes, but not everyone has the budget of the military to buy the correct gear. In the military we had to train and know how to do these things because we had to get our ship back up and into the action. As a civilian the best thing to do is get as much distance between you and the situation. Does this mean because I have not actually been in a survival situation that I cannot perform and do things from what I have read and studied? I don't think so. Some say a little knowledge is dangerous but having the basics is a good start. One of the things we use to believe in the military is, no one person can know how to do everything but the important thing is to be able to know where to go to find the information on how to do it. If you have a member of the family who read an article and says they know about how to eat the inner bark of a pine tree for example, instead of telling them they do not know anything, take them outside and try it out. Encourage don't discourage, and learn together.

Does anyone know what will happen or when? No, but I used to teach a course in terrorism, and as ugly as it sounds to us because of the way we have been brought up in this country, terrorism is actually a beautiful way of warfare. You have all the elements of surprise, when, where, how, what and who. One of the things about terrorism is that it does not have to kill many people. All it has to do is change our way of doing things after. How many people actually remember not so far in the distant past when you could go to an airport and actually meet your party at the gate. Those days are long gone. Now you cannot get near the gate unless you're a passenger, show your tickets, ID and go through a strip search. Now the drinks you buy inside the terminal are subject to testing for explosives. I personally will miss going up to the Burger King or McD's in the terminal ordering a burger, fries and a volatile Sprite. Just one act of terrorism can change our freedoms and our way of living for decades. So the terrorists win.
One of the things people prep for is the coming economic collapse. What is the coming economic collapse? We are living in a depression. Many people have lost their jobs, homes and benefits, we have a government that cannot even come together to pass a spending budget and the only thing that is a priority for them is getting re-elected.  How much more needs to happen before its decided that we are in an economic collapse? Are we talking the Government shuts down, all the banks close up, the stock market zeros out, money is worthless and no one in the country has a job? Another item is civil unrest. If what is happening with all the riots in the Middle East were to happen in a city here in the States would it be enough to send you to your BOL or are we talking civil unrest on a national scale? What kind of event would it take to cause it on such a scale where every city is in riot?

Everyone has to determine their comfort zone. I live in a hurricane prone area. Some people pack up and get out of Dodge while others stay. One day I hope to be able to buy a safer piece of land further from the coast in the mountains. But for now, like many, I have to deal and adjust for where I am. Many people who live in this region live with the dangers and beliefs that nothing is going to happen to them or the situation is not going to be as bad as predicted. What does truly bother me about that is that they are told to leave, they don't. Then shortly after things get truly bad, they are shouting "Help, come rescue me" and put someone else's life on the line.

For me, prepping is a hobby. I truly enjoy reading the information I find here on the Internet and in books. I like reading survivalist fiction because the books get me thinking of things that could happen and what I will need to do to prepare even further. To be honest I never thought of stocking up on a year's worth of dog food until I read the novel One Second After by William R. Forstchen. I enjoy reading of what others have done and how they went about doing it. One idea I picked up on SurvivalBlog here was in an article back in August, 2012: "Technology Today, by KCL04" he suggested getting an Android phone that you can store apps and down load all your survival books on.  Well, I'm not into the phone thing, but I took that information, did some research and bought a Nook reader from Barnes & Noble. Slowly but surely as I can afford it, I'm building my library. All my books in one of my kits must weigh about 100 pounds but I can store all of that on the little Nook and whole lot more.

I enjoy organizing and making lists. I enjoy going to the store, picking up the type of storage containers that work for me and filling them full of supplies. As one container gets full, I may take out the toilet paper and start it in its own container. It's not long before that one jar of Vaseline becomes a stackable container full of 12 tubs, the bottle of Listerine becomes a stackable container of 16 bottles and on and on it goes. I keep track of everything I have in inventory and as the kits and containers change. I get into the computer and adjust my inventory. I have made check-off sheets of items I use around the house every day and I keep a log of when I opened up the product and when it became empty. This way I have a working knowledge of how long an item will last and how much I need to buy to last me a year.

The other day my wife had some insect bites so I went to the medicine cabinet to get the calamine lotion then ended up searching all over the  house to find some cotton balls. Guess who now has a container full of cotton balls? Every time a disaster happens I find little chinks in my armor of what needs to be purchased and done so that next time I'm more prepared. I have my lists of things I need to save up for and buy and also list of projects I need to do. This past spring I finally built some raised garden beds and tried my hand at gardening. Cucumbers went totally crazy so I teamed up with a neighbor and we spent a day canning. With that experience, a couple of things got checked off my project list.

People who believe in God do so because we need to have faith and believe in something that will continue our survival once we leave this earth. We believe he has given us a set of rules and a guide we should live by, the Bible. So we spend our lives trying to do what is right and which serves our God and our belief. Well, prepping is not much different, we do not know of what kind of disaster will happen or even if one ever will. Some people prep more than others, just as some people serve God more than others. The important thing is that they are doing something. If prepping gives someone hope that in a time of a disaster what he or she has done will make them a little better off or more comfortable in a time of despair, well, more power to them. People sit around and love to hear stories about God and things that happened back when Jesus walked the earth. Well people also enjoy sitting around and talking up the prepping, learning new things and telling what they have experienced. The beauty of this country is we all have the right to do these things--buy, sell, prepare as we wish and love the God of our choosing and conducting our faith as we wish. If you are frustrated as to what you see other preppers doing or how they go about it, stop for a moment and be thankful. For now, we live in one of the few nations that allows this. God Bless America and each and every one living here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sound like an old cliche? “One for All, All for One”? A phrase from the past.
But it is as valid today as it has ever been. Togetherness, cooperation, teamwork, none of those match the totality of “One for all, All for One”.
Of course there is no substitute for preparedness. As a former EMT, a person who has taken CERT training in my community, and who, as much as I can given my limited financial resources, taken the threat, for any reason, of societal breakdown seriously, I can attest to this.

I remember my instructor many years ago in Red Cross Advanced First Aid. Dear Mrs. Young.  At the close of one training session, she grew introspective. She simply talked to us. Something she said has stuck with me all these years. “If you are ever needed to perform life-saving first aid, CPR, mouth-to-mouth, stopping bleeding, it’s a good bet that you are going be surrounded by total chaos. People screaming, maybe at night, complete hysteria. The methods I’m using to teach you will mentally snap you back to this classroom; you will do the right thing at the right time. Because you are prepared”.

Well, the same thing applies to the principle of banding together in times of crisis. No man or woman is an island and that also is as true today as it has ever been.  Given the results of forty years of the “it’s all about me” way of thinking in this country, even more so. Should, God forbid, calamity in the form of a massive earthquake on the San Andreas, or a total meltdown due to a cyber-attack on our hopelessly “all or nothing” system of communications, essential utilities, or food delivery occur, our world is going to shrink to a local level at appalling speed.

Local. Our horizons are going to contract. What is happening  twenty, two hundred, or two thousand miles away will be of little concern. Sporadic radio communications, if nothing else, will see to that. It is what could be happening in your immediate vicinity that will matter the most.

It is at this point that neighbors and community provide a powerful means of protection and deterrence. In fact, it is almost certain that this will be your only source of genuine protection. Because, as the former Los Angeles Fire Department instructor in my CERT course repeated so many times, “We (the Police and Fire) won’t be there”.
There truly is safety in numbers.

But just as we try to prepare by stockpiling, food, water, filtration, medical supplies, clothing, weapons and ammunition, so too must we prepare for communal defense and support.

And the only sure way to do that, to prepare so that critical time is not wasted when, not if, disaster arrives, is to get to know your neighbors beforehand. Now keep in mind that the things I’m talking about pertain to all people, no matter their location, but specifically to people living in the suburbs. Folks living in semi-rural or rural areas, or in tornado-prone regions for instance,  already have a “helping hand” mentality to a greater or lesser degree. But suburbs encourage anonymity. Suburbs encourage the “911” mentality. Less self-reliance, less neighborliness. It is this element that needs to be overcome. It does not need to be over-the-top; if there are like-minded people on your street you will discover this. Then maybe it truly is a good idea to have a specific meeting where things pertaining to mutual defense and assistance can be hashed out.

But it can just as easily be done through the old-fashioned American method of easy conversation.  Mention that you heard about a CPR class coming up which you intend to take. Or a web site that you found interesting; how to recharge batteries, how to do this or that. Broach the subject; you might be surprised at the willing response.
Especially today, in these times in which we live. In fact, the times in which we live are an advantage in a way they were not before. When everything was great. The whole point is to provide for an awareness that catastrophe can occur so that people are not cast adrift when it does. To build the foundation on which survival will depend.

When you talk to that neighbor of yours however do not  give away too much information. Not at first. Especially anything to do with food supplies or firearms. When the time comes, you and your neighbors can get into detail; Fred takes the 8:00 pm to midnight watch, this guy takes the midnight to 4:00 am watch and so on. The specifics can be gotten into then; what is important is that you and your neighbors have already contemplated it, already have it in mind. This means less time spent blundering about, trying to come up with immediate solutions on the fly and under pressure that could very well determine whether the group lives or dies. Like Jim Lovell said about the breakdown on Apollo 13; “We could’ve bounced off the walls for ten minutes but we would’ve still been in the same position as before”.

One of the most important things to remember when the time comes, when the people in your immediate vicinity are forced by circumstance to band together is this. Crisis brings everybody’s real personality to the surface. It is going to become evident who are the weak links in the chain, who are the dictators, who are the complainers, who is in it for themselves, and who are the most steady and dependable. Somebody has to take charge, but tyrannical attitudes do not get it done. They do not increase security, they increase danger by, if nothing else, encouraging turncoats.

Whoever is going to lead has to be a combination of steel and patience, insure that resources and talents possessed by your group are spread throughout the group for the benefit of the group.  And a leader must insure that those things needed to be done are done. There may be gruesome but necessary decisions that have to be made right from the start. In the event of a major earthquake, there may be fatalities. Those who have been killed have to be dealt with, there is no choice, it will do no good whatsoever to leave bodies unburied to possibly bring down biological unpleasantness on the survivors if nobody can bring themselves to dig the grave and place the unfortunate person or persons in it. Injured people must be treated and made as comfortable as the conditions permit. There can be no debate about this. How a group treats it’s weakest, most helpless, and yes, most clueless members is a predictor of how that group will fare.

A contingent of Australian SAS recruits were sent on a five-day survival course but issued with  just one 24-hour ration pack per man to last for the entire period out in the bush. Some of the men immediately began to dig in, to consume too much of their food while others conserved from the beginning. As the exercise progressed, those who had unwisely eaten most or all of their rations proved to be a drag on the group as a whole. The instructors watched carefully; those who shared their rations to make sure everybody got at least something to eat, in spite of their comrade’s foolishness, were the ones who passed the test.

We, the people who have taken seriously the warning signs, who have tried to use the time to be ready, as much as possible, for what may well be the worst times we will ever face, must also be ready to confront our fellow citizen’s foolishness. The people who deny that our comfortable life is in any jeopardy. The people who do not want to believe that this fabulous but appallingly fragile system can ever break down. The people who, faced with the disintegration of most, or all, of their assumptions, will reveal their true characters in a mad struggle to put food in their mouths, a blanket around their shoulders, and a roof of any kind over their heads. The people who will resort to any cruelty or atrocity to save themselves.  The people who, in spite of a blithe and carefree attitude that endangers their children and themselves, will rely upon the preparedness of others to make up for it.

When one is attempting to prevent someone from going over a cliff, one may finally have to let go if that someone is going to take you with them. We may be faced with horrendous decisions that will haunt us for the rest of our lives.  Which, I might add, may be short, for all our care and preparation. Nonetheless, I for one am prepared to make those decisions. I cannot fight off every starving or rapacious person or group that descends upon me on my own. I intend to have allies. Allies on whom I can depend, and who can depend on me. Allies with whom I have already taken the first steps.  Forbearance, mercy, and kindness will be present in my actions to the extent that I can afford them. But in the end, when all is said and done, I will most definitely fall back on “One for All, and All for One”.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

This is not your typical “How To… for Survival” or “Best Gear for Survival” blog article. Instead, I am asking you the reader, to read this with an open mind. This is much more than that and I believe it will be the difference between you surviving… and not.

Nothing can take away from the importance of being prepared. Nor can the necessity of training and practicing certain survival skills be trivialized. Preparedness and practice are a couple of necessities of survival. But there is more to life than just surviving. the famous psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, summed it up best when he said, "everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." What is life, truly, if there is no enjoyment? While I do understand that standing in your stockpile room, surveying all of your supplies (the stacks of water bottles, the vast array of number 10 cans, the gun safe with all its hidden treasures, the neatly organized bug out bags, etc.) can bring a certain satisfaction, it is quickly fleeting. That is because you spent so much time and effort compiling these things and now your mind is running through the completed checklist, making sure you didn’t miss anything. Nope, it’s all done… so now what? (Cue that emptiness thing from earlier) The intangibles like relationships and the joy they bring will be just as important in a bold new world as the tangibles like your stockpile. I had the opportunity to learn this, quite humbly I might add, the hard way recently when I took my 9 and 15 year old sons on a backpack adventure for four days. My intent was to teach them practical skills while knocking the rust off of my own. But as Robert Burns said, "The best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry".

I began our adventure 48 hours prior by utilizing my Army training and conducting PCCs (pre-combat checks) and PCIs (pre-combat inspections). Yes, I know that this was not combat, but the fundamentals of preparedness are never-the-less just as applicable. I went over every item in my boys' packs with them so that they understood what it was and how they will be utilizing it. I showed them how best to pack their gear by having repacking mine before them. At this point, I left them to repack their stuff a couple of times (so that they were comfortable with where they put their gear). The night before we left for the woods, we did one final walk-through to make sure we weren’t missing anything. As my 9 year old starts to lay out his gear, he is coming across a deck of cards and a pack of dice. I, being the prudent and pack-weight conscious man that I am, proceed to lecture him about how extra items mean extra weight that he has to carry with him everywhere and that he needs to leave them out. No soon as I get it all out of my mouth, I look over to see my 15 year old pulling out his art pad and some pencils. So, obviously, I look at him and ask, "really?” I then begin to lay on him the same lecture his brother got.  At this point (as you could imagine), my kids are less than excited about going.

Fast forwarding to us on a National Park trail the next morning, we are 45 minutes behind my super strict schedule. Frustration gets the best of me when I turn and see that my boys continue to drag their rear end. I begin to lay into them, chastising them for not staying focused and on track. Well, they let me rant for a couple of minutes before my 15 year old interrupted and said, “Dad, we are not lagging behind on purpose. We are just looking for all the things you told us to look for. See look, right here looks like the boar hoof prints. See? Right here. I think it’s a mom cuz look at all the smaller hoof prints." as you could imagine, I’m feeling a bit like an a-hole for trying to rush to find a spot to setup camp while my kids are doing exactly what I told them to do. They are taking in their environment and looking for things like game tracks, wild edibles, possible dangers. Feeling a bit like a heel, I apologize and then join in with them. While it took an extra hour and twenty minutes to get to a suitable camp, they got to experience many little things that they would have otherwise missed if they stayed with my pace.

Jumping to Night 2 of our outdoor adventure, after we have finished all of the stuff that needs to get done, we are sitting by the campfire when my 9 year old coyly asked if I would play cards with him. Without thinking, I begin to get on him for not listening to me. With a bit of sadness in his voice, he simply said, "I’m sorry dad. When you said it wasn’t a good idea to have extra weight, I thought it was worth it to bring them in case you and me had a chance to do something together. Since we were just relaxing and hanging out by the fire, I thought it would be fun." Man oh man, was I on a roll. All he wanted to do was to spend some time by the fire, enjoying a little thing that life has to offer. I promptly apologized and he began to school me in rummy for the rest of the night.

However, not to be myself, I managed to step into it again. This happened just after breakfast, the next day, when my 15 year old, sat about 20 feet away, with his back to us. Curious, I begin to approach him, when I realized that he is drawing on the art pad I told him to leave. I startled him when I forcefully asked him why he brought that stuff. I did not even give him a chance to answer before I started in about coming out to enjoy what was around us instead of drawing more cartoon characters (he is, by the way, very good with a pencil and paper). With an angry look, he held back what he really wanted to say and respectfully looked at me to say, "I am enjoying what’s around me. Until you came up... I was trying to draw a cardinal that was on that branch over the creek. See?” I look up and see a branch he is pointing to but there was no bird. Now, I am no small man. I stand 6'5", 300 pounds but after he held up his pad and I beheld a half-drawn bird, I felt no more than two inches tall. He was doing exactly what I wanted him to do (enjoying the little things), and I admonished him for it. Not only that, but I inadvertently scared away the bird which meant he would no longer have a model to draw inspiration from. It was at that moment that I realized that how much of this adventure I had missed because I was only focused on the big things: water, food, shelter, shelter, safety, etc. it was my children that showed me how much more life has to offer than simply survival.

When we got home, both of my boys were non-stop chatterboxes to their mom about all the awesome stuff they got to do. "I caught a squirrel", "I got to make the fire", "I made a fishing gig", "we saw pig tracks", “I got to put a splint on Dad’s leg”, and on and on and on, back and forth they went, bombarding my wife with snippet after snippet. I gave them fifteen minutes or so to get it all out and then told them to go get their stuff unpacked. With an exhausted look, she turned to me and said, “Wow! It sounds like they had a great time and learned a lot.". I said, "They did, but not near as much as me." She shot me a puzzled, inquisitive look and I began to explained all of my misadventures.

So remember, survival preparedness is not just years-worth supplies for every situation. Water, food, gear, and a plan is great. But It’s the little things too. You’ve got to remember the little things. It is entirely too easy to get wrapped up in your preparations for tomorrow and let today slip right through your hands. Be sure to take a minute and see the world through a child's eyes. There is soooooo much that happens at their level that we miss because they are the little things to us. You will be amazed at just how blind you’ve become.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Many a prepper may take the time to perform a test of their personal prep systems. Sometimes, Mother Nature will force you to do just that if you haven’t put your preps in practice yet. Ours came in the form of Hurricane Isaac.

With media’s laying attention straight towards New Orleans and no one else, the Gulf Coast area residents laid their own attentions to their respective communities. And this attention consisted of hunkering down for a rain and wind event that would be nowhere near a Katrina event. How wrong were these expectations? At a seemingly last minute, Isaac became a hurricane as the winds and rain pounded Plaquemines Parish, a peninsula south of New Orleans that is split between the Mississippi River. Hurricanes are divided into 4 quadrants; Northeast side, Southeast side, Northwest side, and Southwest side. Each quadrant has its own circumstances but most notably, the Northeast and Southeast side’s as these two bring in the most damage. Plaquemines as well as those to the east felt the brunt of the later half in full force.

Don’t let a Tropical Storm or Category 1 Hurricane fool you into complacency. Hurricane Isaac broke that theory. Torrential rains, damaging winds contributed to a much month-long rain soaked Louisiana gulf coast. Isaac’s storms simply added water with no place for it to go. And with winds pushing tidal surges north, drainage canals, bayous and tributaries were compromised so, that water topped some levees that years ago protected communities during Katrina.

So, as a resident along the Gulf Coast, our preps for future uncertainties also included hurricanes. When Isaac was heading our way, the only necessary preps needing completion were the basics such as boarding windows, anchoring down potential fly-away items, ensuring generator is in good running condition, securing plants, filling our vehicles with fuel along with extra fuel cans and propane for cooking fuels, etc.

Our community was never in the projected path, but experienced residents realize hurricane path predictions are never an exact science. That’s why the projection always includes a swath surrounding it. Any area within this projection can easily be a target based on nature’s unpredictability. And this was evidenced around midnight August 29 while pounding Plaquemine’s Parish, Isaac had stalled just enough causing the eye to dance against the shorelines of southern Louisiana. Over the course of approximately 5 hours, Isaac crawled west for about 35 nautical miles of coastline before slowly edging northwest. Believe me when I say a turtle could run circles around this hurricane as this stall is what changed the expectations of a not-so-typical Cat 1 hurricane.

As of this writing, we are in our fourth day and since Houma became one of the first paths for the eye to cross over, we were actually spared the brunt of the hurricane’s impact effects. To the east as far as Biloxi and due north of it, coastal areas to Picayune, Mississippi were pounded by rain, hurricane force winds and the occasional tornadoes. In addition to this came the flooding to add to many a misery.

With this hurricane, we were able to assess our preps while noting any weak points along the way. It also allowed time to reflect on what many along the coastline deal with when it comes to hurricane preparedness as well as the periods between the beginning and the end. This is where I’d like to take you as virtually all of these experiences and scenarios could apply in any crisis situation.

First of all, we were fortunate. This had nothing to do with being prepared necessarily. Bands of heavy rains that freight trained through communities are a hit and miss proposition. What one area may experience as tolerable winds and rain, another area a couple miles away could be getting pounded with no relief in sight. So for us, the most damage we experienced was minor flooding in the yard along with broken branches and leaves. Our garden consisted of a combination of laid down vegetables and some still standing not too worse for wear. It’ll easily be salvaged while we handle getting our property back to normal. No damages to our home or other property and aside from picking up broken branches, raking leaves and debris and stacking it for community service pick up later on in the week. Overall; we’re in great shape. If you apply the following observations and experiences to any crisis or catastrophe, you can get a better handle on things to expect in any situation you’re preparing for.


Food and water were a non-issue for us. No battling last-minute moron’s fist fighting over the last case of water on Wal-Mart’s shelf. If you think Black Friday before Christmas holidays is a nightmare, come down to witness stupidity, inconsideration and greed to the infinite degree a couple days before a hurricane’s landfall.  The majority of folks are not like this, but there is always a few who show their ass. How some coastal residents don’t live with the basic FEMA recommended preps in their home is incomprehensible.

Ice is a needed commodity to have on hand. It helps first of all for cooling refreshments as well as maintaining foods or keeping a freezer in low temperatures. In a worse-case scenario, this ice could easily be consumed as water should it melt. So, it’s important to keep the bag clean as well as the ice chest you’ll keep it in. Don’t let any of it go to waste if you can help it.

Food should never be an issue for anyone. Grocery stores are closed and were likely cleaned out prior to landfall so if you’re not prepared here, you’re in a serious bind. Potted meat and Vienna sausage can only go so far so having regular consumable foods is a must. Cooking becomes an issue as well. This means electric stoves and ovens are useless. Even ovens that run on natural or propane gas may be an issue if it requires electricity to function. Unless, you have access to the plug that can be used via an extension cord coming from a generator. So, be prepared to cook meals on an outside grill or portable stove. Besides, cooking outdoors when weather permits is cooler and prevents unnecessary heat inside the home if electricity is off and no air conditioning is available.

Water is necessary to survive, period. I don’t need to go into details here but for us, we were already ahead of the curve with water in 4 gallon, 1 gallon, two liter recycled bottles and 16oz bottles in cases. We also have our Berkey to filter water and with any Hurricane affecting low-lying communities, a boil water order will most likely take place so having water preps is a must. You’ll need it for consumption, cleaning, bathing, brushing your teeth, washing and even flushing the toilet. Of note on the later, this hurricane happened to emphasize the need for residents in both city and rural areas to limit toilet flushing due to flooding and overwhelming pressures on the sewerage system. Now you can easily realize the boil water order as sewerage, land run-offs, floating caskets popped out of grave sites, swamp, bayou and canal waters become part of the city water systems. So, I cannot over-emphasize the need for a lot of water. Even if one believes their particular crisis is expected to last for a short period of time. It pays to note Hurricane Gustav shut our entire town down for a total of six weeks. Time will tell right now how long we’ll be out of the basic functioning infrastructure.

Refrigeration is a luxury that we all take for granted. During a crisis such as this, electricity is expected to be an issue so refrigerators and freezers need to be addressed early on. This means no more opening the refrigerator to stare with the hopes some food product is going to jump out yelling “pick me, pick me!” Know what you want, get it out quickly as much needed cool temperatures will be necessary to maintain your food products. Same applies to your freezer. Many in years past and likely this one will find themselves cooking all of their foods at once and sharing with others just so it doesn’t go bad. Imagine an entire neighborhood doing this at one time and then imagining that at some point, barbeque ribs and chicken can only be eaten so much for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, one can expect frozen foods will likely be lost. Do what you can to coordinate refrigeration protocols to manage your foods before they become totally loss if power isn’t restored within a reasonable amount of time. This also includes coordinating foodstuffs with protection using ice chests filled with ice. Another bit of advice, prior to hurricane landfall, collect your frozen foods together in garbage bags while storing them in the freezer. That way if the foods spoil due to the freezer’s loss of power, you’re not handling the individual foods. Just grab the garbage bags and put out for disposal which also makes cleaning your freezer much easier too.

Medications are a necessity from the basic needs for cuts and scrapes to serious needs for prescriptions. Be sure to consult with your doctor for extensions of prescriptions as restoration of structure is an unknown during this time.


Municipalities experience their own breakdown in structures and what that means to you is no electricity, no cell phone service (or spotty), no sewerage, no water, no mail, no garbage pickup, etc. This also includes law enforcement, fire responders and emergency responders. You can also expect the possibility of the National Guard being called out to assist local infrastructure. So, you may find yourself as your brother’s keeper or a keeper’s brother.

Electricity is likely the first to go. Especially if power is distributed through above ground resources. Trees break lines, wind knocks over poles, transformers blow. So expect during some of the worse weather conditions for your power to go out. From that point, you’re on your own for an uncertain amount of time. Having a generator is necessary to get you through this inconvenient time. This means having lots of gas (purchased at ridiculous prices) on hand to power minimal conveniences. Our generator has a conversion kit installed allowing us to run it on natural gas. Propane is also an option but we didn’t have to rely on that, saving it for cooking outside when needed. If your generator doesn’t have a tie-in to power your house, expect to have extension cords strewn throughout your house so tripping hazards will likely exist. Distributing the electricity is an individual preference but maintaining refrigeration is a must as well as powering fans for comfort. Our bedroom was ground zero for crashing occupants piled in at night so a simple 8,000 btu window air conditioner kept us cool for sleeping or naps during the day (as hurricane’s interrupt your sleeping patterns). There will be other issues such as battery charging for spare batteries, cell phones, powering maybe a computer, a Wi-Fi, television, radio or other useable conveniences. Keep in mind though that these should be discussed as to what is priority and what is secondary to the necessities.

Television and radio may or may not be an issue, depending on your area. We gave up on cable television years ago and opted for satellite. Cable regularly goes down so I am not a promoter of cable television. They take too long when their systems go down; sorry but that’s the truth. I won’t promote our provider but for sure I can honestly say that we had very minimal issues throughout the hurricane as satellite experienced blocks during the most severe storm downpours. The rest of the time, we had all of our channels which became irrelevant as local news stayed on 24 hours a day. This was a requirement as news reports, weather reports and road closures were necessary if conditions dictated we needed to get out. Our bug-out plans were pre-performed so this would’ve been something we could’ve easily done if needed.

A ham radio is on my list of necessities so that would’ve been a good source of information for us too, which leads me into the next topic.

Cell phones are great and an important function of our daily lives. Calls, emails, texting, internet and even Facebook (Twitter for some also) are integral for communication, information and entertainment. Depending on one’s personal provider, will depend on available services. For us, everything was going well up to around 10am Thursday morning when our provider began to have issues. We lost Wi-Fi, local phone and DSL internet and Facebook was hit and miss. One minute you could call out, the next minute the network was overwhelmed. Internet through our provider hit and missed and when it hit, download times took twice as long. Texting went well for a while and eventually became a hit or miss proposition. If you have others in your home during this time, check who their providers are to see who keeps service and who loses it. You may note this for future considerations that fit best for your area.

Security becomes a part of your preps. If you are armed, you may find yourself establishing various protocols beyond your daily routines. While security of your home should be an everyday thing, a crisis such as this only requires you increase situational awareness. An hour before the hurricane became an issue, four individuals were arrested in the Slidell area for theft of property on boats docked at a marina. In our community, an adult and a 13 year old were arrested for property theft too. A few other communities had similar thefts and there was a law enforcement officer forced to fire his weapon on two individuals for a situation in St. John the Baptist Parish. You may remember four deputies were recently ambushed leaving two officers dead and two with critical injuries. Theft in an area declared in a state of emergency comes with a mandatory three year felony conviction, fine and no considerations whatsoever. You will be arrested without question and considered a serious threat to the community. Homes of evacuated residents are targets for criminal minds and generators have been stolen while running a home in the wee hours of the morning. So, having theft prevention and home security on your priorities list is especially necessary during these times. Criminals have no moral compass stealing your stuff and in some cases are willing to risk it all for some ridiculous lust for someone else’s property. Another consideration is interrupted sleep patterns cause one to lose sleep during peak hurricane activity. If you have a group of people at your home, this might be a good time to access capable assistance, as having activity in and around a home during normal sleeping hours may deter criminal activity. It also allows people to access restful sleep time in shifts so everyone maintains their optimum performance when needs arise and eventually getting back to your normal routines.


In Louisiana, we are well-known for giving someone the shirt off our backs. We are also well-known to destroy anyone’s dietary structure with rich seafood and other dishes that will add inches to any waistline and shock any family doctor over your recent cholesterol count. So, it goes without saying that many families in low-lying areas will evacuate out of their areas into the homes of other family or friends on higher ground or completely out of the state, depending on one’s locale. The last thing anyone wants to be a part of is a community center of sorts where you are assimilated amongst hundreds of other strangers with their children and/or even pets for that matter.

Sharing a home is the most common circumstance where either friends or family converge on another’s home to hunker down. So, there should be some common sense and courtesies to consider if you are one to take advantage of this generosity. And here, we’ll talk about the “taking advantage of” part of this equation.

As a guest being fortunate enough to be invited to stay in someone’s home, you should try your best to do your part and recognize despite the sincerest of invites, you do disrupt the daily routines and functions of another’s home. So it is imperative to the overall conditions and attitudes there that you take into consideration what you must do to contribute to the smooth transition of the move as well as showing through actions your gratitude for this open house invitation. The last thing you want to do is wear out your welcome and even worse, being told to leave because of it. Most folks are generous, but human nature dictates the rules. And your arrival just increased the amount of humans within one dwelling.

This means do not arrive empty handed, unless you were told specifically not to worry about providing foods, water, hygiene or other personal essentials. Even then, do it anyway. You’ll feel better about it and your host will not be in the position of absorbing the full financial burden of feeding, cleaning or bedding you for an unknown amount of time. Besides, if your home already has foodstuffs and self-supporting provisions, should your home be destroyed by winds or flooding, you won’t lose a good portion (if not all) of your stores. Bring them with you if you can and consume or contribute to the host home. Your efforts will be appreciated.

Picking up behind your self is a precious consideration. You are not in a hotel with maid service. Your host already deals with their own issues and it is selfish to burden them with your bad habits. So, don’t contribute to clutter or messes. During these periods, there is a lot of in and out within a home. Outside, the grounds are wet; leaves and debris are everywhere, including your feet. Over time, a neglected area can look worse than a yard after a hurricane. Help out; sweep, wipe, clean or anything that keeps a bit of cleanliness within your host’s home. Help in clean up after the hurricane has passed and it’s safe to go outside. Bring a rake if you can think about it to help with the debris clean-up. Who knows, that effort alone may get you manpower at your place when you return. Attitudes can deteriorate if others are trying while you’re slacking. Again, your efforts will be appreciated.

Kids and we all love them, get bored quick, require attention and protect what is theirs. And with that in mind, your host has not offered to baby sit too. Your kids are your responsibility so you need to discuss this with your children to ensure they realize the imposition, however generous it may be, need not become a problem for their own family through their actions. If they get out of hand, you are responsible for getting them in check, not your host. If you insist on burdening your host with the responsibility to monitor your own children, expect at some point to be invited to seek refuge elsewhere. As with the other considerations, your efforts will be appreciated.

There are a variety of examples to provide here but the most important consideration is keeping your stay from being a burden on your host. Use common sense and always offer assistance, even if you expect to be told to relax on the easy chair. Offering your services, assistance and maintaining your part of the stay goes a long way. Remember, all of the existing inconveniences already contribute to a family’s stress points. And if there is no semblance of order, someone is likely to snap and another SHTF moment can erupt. The last thing you need is to ruin a great relationship because of laziness, lack of parental disciplines and taking advantage of someone else’s generosity.

As a host you’ll have likely considered the fact that another friend’s or family’s family within your home through your invite will interrupt your daily routines and fill any voids that are normal to your lifestyle. So, you are likely prepared for the inconveniences that go along with this choice. If not, now would be a good time to access the likelihood that you could find yourself with an entire family consisting of adults, children, babies and/or pets. You need to decide how to lay out expectations ahead of time.

Most folks through human nature will invite someone to stay with them without considering the potential inconveniences. And if these are not discussed, you may find yourself getting aggravated over petty issues. Most folks will not discuss expectations in advance either. Which means 9 times out of 10, a host family will find themselves dealing with all sorts of issues they weren’t prepared for, or were, but didn’t want to address (or hoped it wouldn’t come to that). So, one need to determine how they will handle the negatives without incident.

You may be so easy going and generous that you don’t care. And that is a commendable trait anyone could admire. But not everyone is that easy-going and generous as you might be. But you are hosting someone who’s been forced to leave their homes and who’s lifestyle will be interrupted and personal burdens will be eventually shared with you and yours. So, establishing a mindset with your own family is imperative before you consider offering a place of refuge to another. This is a vital step to maintaining sanity in any household during a high-stress period.

All of these considerations can apply should you find yourself and your family at a shelter. However, it is not recommended if you have options with other family or friends. Most communities have a handle to disciplines through rules and regulations. You either comply or move on. The choice is yours and planning ahead on a bug out option is highly recommended.


This is an opportune time to assess your preparedness and survival tools and supplies. Simply keep a journal handy and jot down those little things that can be added to your conveniences. And this shouldn’t be limited to the basic items that make your comfort, consumption or anything else easier to deal with. Consider the worse-case scenarios based on what you’ve learned through media’s and social networks. While you may be at home dealing with simple inconveniences, others are being awakened to water in their homes as low as ankle deep to as high as inches from an attic or roof crawlspace. Think about the unthinkable based on what others have experienced and apply these to your own circumstances. It’s easy to think of it as happening to someone else and not you, but it’s just as easy to happen to you nonetheless. This Cat 1 surprised everyone, experts as well. And as it always goes, folks who never were flooded before were rescued through their roofs by emergency responders or brave volunteers. Ask them if they were prepared.

Finally, one prevalent theme that exists right now is the impatience shown over power companies’ taking what seems “forever” in restoring power. News reports that half of Louisiana residents were out of power. Think about that for a moment. Restoration doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes takes weeks. While it is indeed an inconvenience, being prepared to live off the grid can make a difference in both your comfort and your sanity. Pray for the best, but always prepare for the worse.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hi Mr. Rawles,
To start, your site has been an inspiration to many people, myself included.  I am a firefighter here in Indiana and what I've noticed is there are so many different places to get info, some good some bad, but it is tough to get some centralized information for local training's.  We started a Meetup group in Central Indiana that is growing fast and it is not a monetary site or a forum, just a centralized place to post training events and meetups around the area.  You are one of the main sites we encourage all of our members to go to for Internet Information and News.  We do not profit at all will list any businesses as a site sponsor for free.  Thanks for your help and thanks for your awesome site.  -W.A.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Survivalism is at its most basic a selfish endeavor.  I don’t state that as being a negative thing, but rather as being morally right and good.  We are supposed to want to live.  And to that end, we obviously want those that we love to live too.  Environmentalism on the other hand, often seems to push selflessness.  It is usually built around messages of sacrifice, restriction, and admonition of the self for the greater good of society.  I get frustrated listening to environmental rhetoric that beseeches me to seek out environmentally friendly actions for no other reason than eco- altruism, when there are plenty of great selfish reasons to be environmentally friendly.  I think the case can be made that environmentalism and survivalism are two sides of the same coin, and have more in common than one might think, but for very different reasons.  In that common ground, there are many useful applications for decreasing dependency on external entities and adopting attitudes and philosophies that make us all better preppers.

This common ground, despite differing motivations, can be seen in the hot topic of incandescent bulbs.  The environmental message seems to be that you should want to switch to compact fluorescent bulbs because they are better for the environment.  Forget the environment.  It will be better for you too!  The point I am making is that for a survivalist, the reason you should switch to compact fluorescent bulbs and stockpile compact fluorescent bulbs is that they will last longer after TEOTWAWKI than incandescent bulbs will, and they will require less power from your solar, wind, or other type generator. As a survivalist, when you do what is best for you, it usually happens to be good for the environment too(with regard to electrical efficiency).  The awesome thing is that this is true for many environmental issues.  We can call it “Good for the Goose-Good for the Gander-ism”.

To approach this more conceptually, I have identified three philosophies that are central ideas for environmentalism that deserve a page in the survivalism play book as well: sustainability, permaculture, and minimalism.  I will touch on each concept and describe how it is applied for environmental issues and how we can apply it to our attitudes and strategies for prepping.
Sustainability:  Sustainability quite simply refers to the notion of designing products and processes that can be sustained over a period of time, ideally indefinitely.  Sustainability as it is applied to the environment is usually in reference to the use of natural resources. Many of the resources we are dependent upon exist in a finite amount or are being used faster than they are being replaced.  So unless we find ways to augment the use of these resources, or find a resource to replace them, our use of these resources cannot be sustained into the near future.  

The prepper needs to think of his stockpiled supplies in the same way.  When you are making plans for TEOTWAWKI, hopefully you are thinking not just about how you are going to survive the next month, but also the next year, next decade, etc.  You can be dependent on stockpiled supplies for some amount of time, but unless you are also planning/prepping for a way to augment and replace those supplies, then your survival plan is not sustainable and therefore your survival has an expiration date.  So by all means put back cans of gasoline and batteries, but also invest in solar panels and other types of power generation.  Stockpile a deep lauder of non-perishable food, but acquire skills for gardening and trapping as well.  Always be thinking about short term survival for what you have stored, but be able to support that storage with skills later on. 

  This is a fairly new branch of systems ecology where naturally balanced in-put/out-put systems are recognized and replicated in other applications (usually agricultural).
 I once saw these glass globes for sale that were a completely enclosed ecosystem.  They were filled with salt water, a single live shrimp, a small piece of drift wood, and a little bit of algae.  The gimmick was that this enclosed system could survive on its own for 2-4 years because each part of the system provided the necessities for the other parts of the system.  For example, the algae produced Oxygen for the shrimp to breath and the shrimp produced waste and Carbon Dioxide for the algae, etc.   All parts of the system balanced with all the other parts. This is what permaculture is all about.  
 A more applicable example is one used for landscaping.  You may have noticed that dense forests do not need to be watered, fertilized, or weeded to continue to grow and prosper.  This is all because the organisms in that system have organized themselves so that their inputs and outputs balance with the other members of the system.  Trees leaves fall and provide heavy mulch that holds moisture and provides nutrients to the lower level plants, who in turn process the trees leaves into different sets of soil nutrients and also hold water in the soil, which in turn benefits the tree and allows it to grow more leaves, etc.  We can apply this to our gardens and orchards by pairing plants together based on the different soil inputs and out puts and by pairing according to differing heights to maximize sun exposure for all plants in a smaller area.  For example, carrots and tomatoes have complementary soil in-puts and out-puts.  So planting these near each other benefits both plants.  Furthermore, if the carrots are planted on the south side of the tomato plants, both crops can be grown in the same space without either suffering loss of sunlight.   

Another application would be the use of rain-water harvesting in conjunction with on-site sewage composting.  This is just the simple recognition that we can insert ourselves into a system without negatively disrupting the in-put/out-put balances.  In the normal system, rain falls and is absorbed by the ground, then used to grow plants that we eat (or feed animals that we eat).  All we have to do is catch that rain water before it hits the ground, drink it, and then it will reach the ground through sewage or drainage to complete its loop as normal.  In this case, the system is augmented slightly for human benefit without its in-put and out-put being negatively impacted.  In fact, as we use the water and add our own waste products to it, we enhance the flow of nutrients back into the soil which actually brings greater balance to the in-put/out-put of the soil.

We have become a consumer culture of stuff.  The idea of stuff is that is supposed to make life more convenient, but I find that more often than not, stuff makes me more dependent on other stuff.  The environmental application for minimalism is that we are squandering limited natural resources to produce unnecessary products like the newest iphone that is only slightly different from the one that came out a year ago.  Then we all get rid of our old iphones which then go into a landfill somewhere or require some other kind of energy in-put to dispose of. 

For a survivalist, minimalism is about removing all that stuff that makes you dependent on anything but yourself.  Note the root word of minimalism is minimize.  This could also be translated as simplify.  There are certainly degrees of minimalism and I am not advocating that you sell all your belongings and try and live bare foot in sack cloth.  But I am advocating things like learning to bake bread from scratch rather than buying a bread maker, or buying older vehicles where it is still possible to work on them yourself rather than them requiring a computer engineer to run diagnostics, or recognizing that a knife serves just as well as a motorized letter-opener.  In the broader sense, minimalism helps you acquire skills rather than stuff and makes you dependent on you rather than on someone or something else that may not be around after TSHTF.

All three of the above concepts fit very nicely in the “Good for the gander-ism” category.  Applying these concepts to your prepping will certainly have positive environmental benefits, but more importantly, they will have positive benefits for you as well.   What we should begin to realize whether we find ourselves in Green Party or the Tea Party, or anywhere else on the spectrum, is that concern for the environment and natural resources is a morally justified selfish concern that is born of the noble desire to survive.  We often think about environmental concerns as if the environment were external to us.  But we are in the environment and of the environment, and if TEOTWAWKI comes, we will be more dependent on the environment and its resources more than ever.  So go green! But not because some tree-hugging left-wing hippie tells you to.  Do so because in most cases it will provide you with better natural resources, make you less dependent on outside entities as you acquire new skills and new attitudes, and because it will encourage more long range sustainable planning should things go bad in the future. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Most of the citizenry in the United States has seen at least one of the movie theater box office hits “Armageddon,” “Deep Impact,” or “The Day After Tomorrow.”  Those are just movies, but the human brain not in touch with reality doesn’t entertain the thought of these scenarios actually happening in this day and age.  But one day, one or several of the things displayed in those movies will. Experts say that so many apocalyptic events we preppers expect have a very low chance of happening; but nothing is a 100% certain, anything could happen at any moment.  Experts set out percentages about the possibilities of nuclear war, massive solar flares supervolcanoes, super-earthquakes, EMPs, failure of our nation’s infrastructure, pandemics, asteroids hitting us, etc. and we are always led to believe they are unlikely to occur.  But we know for certain that all of the naturally caused ones are 100% certain to occur at some time in the future, we just don’t know when; because they’ve all occurred at many points in the past and the forces that made them happen are just as in motion now as they were then.  We must prepare for our friends and family.  Most Americans believe that since we survived the “Ice Age” that we can learn from the survivors’ mistakes and the ‘do’s and don’ts’ they made. But do we really have that inner strength to adapt to such harsh conditions for years to come?  Modern technology has spoiled us with cell phones, internet giving us access to news and information, and also through television and radio. Not to mention air conditioning and heat to keep us comfortable; as James Wesley, Rawles mentions in his book “How to Survive the End of the World as we Know it”,”  the concept of" "The Big Machine" meaning the everyday things we all take for granted in life.  Grocery Stores, Law Enforcement, Distribution Centers, Hospitals, and Electricity, he asked the one simple question that fuels the whole idea of ‘prepping:’ “What will happen if the big machine is missing pieces?”  Pure chaos of people running down the streets killing others in cold blood for the little food they might have on them.

One thing many government officials and even experts are always reluctant to face is the idea of just how quickly things might happen.  Assume that a disaster occurs that leaves “The Big Machine” broken.  Most people probably will flock to the supermarkets to get the same things they do right before a known big storm is about to hit any city, and clear the shelves just as fast (typically hours).  For those individuals that have waited until that moment to think about their survival through the chaos; they, if they’re lucky, might have expanded the typical one to two week supply of food they may already have in their homes to three weeks.  With water however, most people rely on municipal water or well-water which both require electricity to operate and would be non-existent if “The Big Machine” stalled.  Whatever water they could get from a store or might otherwise have on hand if they typically drink bottled water might give a family of four a couple of weeks at best.  Look at Hurricane Katrina and how quickly society and survival rates devolved over just a few days.  The average person will die after three days of water.  What you can readily see is that having prepared enough to be able to stay in your homes with the doors bolted and making it appear as though no one is home for three weeks would put any family at a major advantage.  They would at least be able to ride-out the initial chaos.  After those initial three weeks raiding of other homes by the few that have survived would increase and people would be salvaging for supplies.  If we consider the possibility that an un-prepared individual is able to use what they already had in their kitchen and got in their rush to the grocery store and then to raid surrounding houses effectively and steal from others to the point of being able to replenish their stock-pile, they might be able to extend their survival to six weeks.  So imagine, if you can simply be able to stock-pile enough water and food, and the ability to defend those supplies, to last you six weeks you will likely out-live the vast majority of the population.  By two months, you will likely find yourself looking for other people that are still alive.  We like to believe that our government would eventually get enough resources together to help rebuild, but if a disaster is widespread enough (it took over a week for FEMA or the National Guard to get to some areas affected by Hurricane Katrina), the government will be so depleted in its own personnel and had to deal with its own basic survival that a truly widespread Hurricane Katrina level or higher disaster would leave us on our own for at least two months.  Just think, 6-8 weeks of survival supplies and skills can get you through the initial chaos and into the phases where communities might be able to have consolidated enough supplies for the survivors so that true re-building and putting society back together can begin.  Just be realistic with yourself about how quickly you would run out of supplies and others would as well, how quickly others would start invading other homes looking for supplies, and how long it would take society to recover from something as simple as a loss of electricity.  Two months is optimistic, but every week past that you can prepare increases your family’s chances of survival many-times over.

 As humans who have had way more expansion and growing of new technologies more than any other decade, we’re too comfortable with our heated blankets and express cappuccino machines during a cold winter’s night.  Its small luxuries like that this country and much of the world knows, things being so easy and so carefree with life.  People believe that they ‘need’ luxuries like these, they have become so dependent on them.  What they need is food, water, and shelter.  People in this country don’t have to go out and hunt their own food, process and cook from start to finish; most wouldn’t know where to start when it comes to field dressing an animal you just killed to feed your family for the week.  It’s the vulnerability like this that makes this country so unprepared for the tragic scenarios that could face us in the future.  When a Global Financial Crisis, EMP, or Pandemic comes into play, average everyday civilians will have no clue what to do or where to start to further provide for their families. When the thought of your children going hungry starts to sink in, that’s when preppers like us become endangered.   For those of us who know the survival tricks and tactics from dedicating our time and passion into preparing, we will be the first targets for attacks.  As prepper’s, in order to save our own lives, we have to help save others before a global crisis happens.
There are 2 steps to getting your friends and family who may be skeptical of the whole idea of “Prepping”.  Getting informed and then getting prepared.

 A highly recommended resource to get friends and families thinking about the “What If’s?” is the fantastic book I mentioned earlier by James Wesley, Rawles.  “How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It”.  This book is a great resource for not only information about any crises that may come to our cities, but it also includes very helpful tips about water filtration, food storage, and medical advice. This book could very well save your and your family and friends lives. It is very important your friends and family have a hard copy of this book, because of course if something were to happen; chances are we won’t have electricity to plug in our Kindles or Ipads to look up survival tips. Calling community meetings and talking to friends and family about the possible situations is one step in the right direction to get a larger group of people informed.  The more our people are exposed to this information mentioned in Rawles book, the more they’re minds will start to wonder about the real possibility of these catastrophes happening.  They will do one of two things, decide they don’t care and not want to be around for the chaos to happen, or two, they will decided to protect their families and do whatever it takes to get ready.  The more information they know about prepping, the better.  Not just for them, but for you as well.  One more neighboring family that knows how to take care of itself is one less family that you have to fear (and one more potential ally) in a survival situation.

Getting prepared the right and successful way is easier said than done. We want to encourage people, not intimidate them with a thousand dollar stock room of dry goods.  Encourage a small “Emergency food” kit, just as most American’s have an Emergency First Aid kit hidden somewhere in their home or car. Something is better than nothing.  20 dollars here, 10 dollars there is a good place to start, slowly building little by little so they can feel comfortable and confident being on their own for a week or two after their pantry runs low. If your budget won’t allow hundreds of dollars for #10 cans of dehydrated food, you’re not doomed for starvation. An easy much less expensive way is to dehydrate your own food and store them in ‘Mylar bags’ since they will help keep your dehydrated food stay fresh for up to 25 years, if done properly.  It is a pretty good investment that isn’t very expensive at all! After getting your dehydrator, which they are readily available for around $40 on (no need to spend $1,000 if you can’t afford it) plan a trip to the grocery store and plan to spend 20 dollars. On your shopping list should be boxed dinners like ‘mac-and-cheese’, ‘Pasta Roni ,’ and canned fruits and veggies. $20 dollars spent on 58 cent ‘mac-and-cheese’ and $1.48 pasta packets should get you quite a few dinners to make ahead. This way when you get home, you can pre-make these easy inexpensive meals and dehydrate them, this way they are already sauced and mixed! Not only will it be faster and easier to reconstitute when it comes time to break open the package, but it will cut down on your cooking time because your meal is already sauced and mixed, so you will save on your fuel that needs to be conserved as much as possible.

One thing people do not want to do is get too ambitious in a short amount of time. Don’t start off by having a goal of a years’ worth of food, that is a great goal but it can also get very overwhelming very fast. Start with a small goal.  Tell yourself you would like to have a weeks’ worth of food, then when you have conquered that goal, do it again. Water is the most important item to have in your prep kit since you can only survive three days without water, the meals you have are no good if you have no water to drink or to reconstitute and heat them. When it’s convenient with your finances buy an extra pack or two of water and store it away. If you work little by little, you’re prep stockpile will grow before your eyes in just a matter of a few weeks.  Along with a stockpile of bottled and jug water, a purification system as a back-up can very well save your life if you happen to run out of water.  With a water filtration system you can drink water anywhere there is a supply that you can get to.

Weapons are a very ideal thing to have (and you need to be sure you know how to use them); if you put all this time, money, and work into building your disaster preparation kit for your family, the last thing you want is to be attacked and taken over by a riot or gang desperate for food.  You have to be able to protect your family and your chance of survival: your water and food.  If you can’t afford to buy a gun, a less expensive alternative is an electric Taser; but, compared to firearms, these are not ideal because of the close proximity needed to do damage.  Also, if someone is attacking your house and you tase them (assuming they're alone, if they’re not then a Taser will leave you defenseless in a hurry), even if you manage to drag the spasming body miles away the person will recover with the knowledge of where you live and that you have something to protect and he can just come back with some of his survival-mates.  The price of an electric stun gun can range from $15 to $80 (and a Taser can cost $400 to $550), so it is a good alternative along with knives if you have nothing else but hand combat.  Remember though, having a knife or firearm that can actually threaten someone else’s life is useless if you do not physically prepare yourself with the knowledge and mettle to use them.

If you’re a new prepper, these trips should help you get on track on the things you need to do, and if you’re a veteran to prepping maybe a few alternatives and ideas were helpful and more cost effective if you’re on a tight budget.  Of course we’re all hoping these unfortunate events won’t happen, but we have to be prepared to survive, and rebuild society when the time is right. My hope for the future is that together, we can inform more people so they can prepare and be safe. If you get one person to start prepping, you may have just saved lives. Let that drive you to inform and save as many as you can. Every person saved is a stronger community when the tough times start. Good luck and God bless.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Part of preparing for any emergency, including TEOTWAWKI, is making plans for those who cannot take care of themselves. Yet, there is very information out there about what to do about Grandma and Grandpa in a crisis situation, or those who just may not be the “fittest.”   Having elders who have been struggling with dementia or who are in cancer treatment, having seen so many of our soldiers come home with PTSD, having loved ones who are chronically ill or permanently disabled, I think about prepping in perhaps a different way than others. After seeking out the information I needed myself from doctors, mental health professionals and fellow preppers, I am now sharing some of the practical advice I’ve found for helping those we love who do not appear to be the best candidates for survival. Why?

For some, caring and preparing for those with less than optimal survival chances may seem like a foolish, even dangerous, goal. Certainly, some soul-searching is required when thinking about who you are willing to “carry” (figuratively and perhaps literally), and just how far you are willing to put yourself and other members of your group in jeopardy to care for someone who may not make it in even a best-case scenario.  You will have to make your own decisions about who to help and who to abandon. But I could not leave my parents, in-laws and grandparents any more than I could leave my children to weather the chaos on their own. I also cannot justify leaving other relatives or friends where they could be victimized by those who prey on the weak. The Biblical commandment to “honor thy father and mother” means not just that I honor them, but that I must also care for them in a crisis. I cannot bear the consequences of writing them off, or leaving them to the unkindness of strangers or the bureaucracy of FEMA. The same goes for all of those I am responsible for, by virtue of my being able, even if they are not.

In the case of illness or dementia, even if it meant that moving them might hasten their deaths, I would choose to care for my own family and friends. Perhaps it is my own rationalization, but I would prefer that if they do indeed die, they do so in the company of people who love them and who will treat them with dignity, not at the hands of mobs or criminals.

If my loved ones were currently in a hospital, nursing home or assisted living situation, I would know the facility’s emergency plan and contingency plans. In case of an emergency, would my people be evacuated, by what means, by whom, and to where? (And I would make my own plans to take custody of them instead).  I would try to be as low-key as possible to avoid alarming the powers that be about any specific disaster or emergency, but I would get the information that could protect them, and make it possible for me to intercept them as quickly as possible in a crisis.

For those who require daily prescription medications, such as cardiac patients, diabetics, epileptics and other chronic illness patients (including those recovering from cancer treatment), some logistical planning now will save anxiety and life-threatening repercussions later.

You will need to know (and have written down) all medications, what they’re for, dosing schedules, and danger signs to watch for. At first, the problem will be in stockpiling enough medication when most insurance covers only minimal monthly quantities. Many times though, a sympathetic physician can prescribe a twice-daily med instead of a once-daily, for example. Explain you’d like to keep a back-up supply for the patient in case of loss, misplacing or forgetting when traveling.

As your supply grows, be especially diligent about rotating meds, using the oldest for current needs and storing the newest in a cool, non-humid environment, and including desiccant packets whenever possible.  (Ask your pharmacy, as they throw these out by the hundreds). 

One of my doctor friends tells me that more than 80% of his geriatric patients are on mood-altering drugs. A similarly large percentage of handicapped and cancer patients are routinely put on these drugs as well. For those who are on antidepressants, antipsychotics or anti-anxiety meds, benzodiazepines or steroids, special cautions apply. These drugs can cause terrible effects if stopped suddenly, and most require a very gradual weaning off the drug if one wishes or is forced to discontinue use. Check with your patient’s physician, and do your own research on ALL of the drugs your patient is taking ( is an excellent resource), and plan accordingly.

While health can vary widely among seniors, there are specific concerns that are common to most. Circulation issues such as edema, bruising and bleeding, dehydration, and constipation can all be more serious in the aged, no matter what the fitness level. Falls and resulting injuries should always be avoided and prevented, as the consequences for elders can be much more serious than normal.
Simple observation and precaution about everyday conditions is necessary. We lose the ability to adapt rapidly to temperature variations as we age—most elderly people feel “cold” faster than younger companions and are at special risk of hypothermia. Your preparations will have to include supplies that ensure more warmth, such as extra clothes, hats, socks & gloves, and you will have to be vigilant in caring for elders who get wet or chilled.

Response to heat or exercise can also be a problem. Fluid intake of seniors must be monitored closely at all times. Dehydration during exertion or other stress may occur rapidly and without warning, causing diarrhea, vomiting, delirium and ultimately, death.

Many seniors will have dietary deficits, due to waning appetite, poor digestion, or self-sacrifice for others’ needs. Without adequate fiber-rich foods (or supplements) and liquids, constipation can become a life-threatening situation for an elder, not merely a painful inconvenience. Stool softener and laxatives should have a starring place in your senior’s medical kit. Lack of vital nutrients may also affect sight, hearing and balance. Keep an eye on their diets and make sure they get the nutrition they need.

Seniors are subject to painful and dramatic bruising when injured, especially if they have been on blood-thinning medications, commonly prescribed to prevent arterial plaques and stroke. Excessive bleeding and inability to clot are also effects of these drugs. Avoid injury first, and if unsuccessful, treat bruises and bleeding quickly to forestall further complication. Every cut or abrasion is also a potential site for infection, which can overwhelm one who is already weak, so be particularly aware of your charges’ skin condition.
Swelling of the extremities due to poor vascular circulation can incapacitate your older loved one. Compression socks, or in a pinch, elastic bandages, are a good addition to the clothing or first aid kit.

Preparation for your loved ones begins with talking to them. You may be surprised to find out that oldsters are more prepared than you thought. After all, many have lived through tough economic depressions and wartime shortages, and they know a thing or two about living well with less convenience. Someone whose breathing depends on oxygen may have already prepared for a power failure or disruption of supply. If not, you can help that person get prepared.  Someone who is overweight or in poor physical condition can benefit from a daily walk or strength training, even without the threat of an emergency. You might be the motivator or the companion to help improve the quality of that person’s life, now and in case of future crises.
Approach with a sincere offer of help, but be sure to ask what general and specific help they would need from you in case of an emergency. You do not know what the unique needs are until you ask.
For those that still don’t accept the idea that all sorts of manmade disaster and mayhem can happen here, and can happen at any time, the conversation can take place in the context of preparing for a natural calamity, such as a tornado, earthquake or fire.

Be aware that some of the sick, disabled and elderly may need to be convinced that their survival is possible, even probable, if they prepare themselves mentally and physically. You may hear this type of defeatism in statements such as “Don’t worry about me, I wouldn’t want to live in that world anyway…” Your people need to know that that a can-do, positive attitude combined with practical planning and preparation can up their chances. They need to know you’ll be there to help them. Most importantly, they need to know that their survival is of paramount importance to you.

You should not assume that because your parent is sick, your grandparent is old, your friend is diabetic, your relative is obese, or your neighbor is blind, that these people are helpless or even less than capable of survival.  Emotional strength, mental tenacity, technical skill sets or ethical leadership can quickly trump any physical challenges, depending on the situation. Lack of emotional resiliency or deteriorating mental stability can quickly turn a strong athlete into a greater liability to the group than Granny who needs a cane.
For example, I have a physically-fit friend who stocks an “earthquake kit,” a 72-hour stopgap to see her through a brief disruption of water and food supplies “until help arrives.” She refuses to consider anything more than that, because it would mean that she would be on her own for longer than she is willing to be. She refuses to own a firearm, because that would mean that she might have to use it. This head-in-the-sand attitude is not preparedness, in spite of her pride in running 10Ks on the weekends, having a few gallons of water and a three-day supply of food in the garage.
On the other hand, my 85-year old mother bought a retreat back in the 1970s, stocked it with supplies and learned to shoot. She has a stay-put plan, several bug-out escape routes, keeps her stock rotated, tests her equipment regularly and maintains situational awareness, even when she’s just going to the bank or grocery store. She has a mental toughness that belies the physical weaknesses of a woman her age.

All of the people you care about have combinations of physical and mental challenges. What we all have in common is our need to be useful, no matter what our abilities or lack of abilities. A person without functioning legs can still wield a weapon or man a security cam. Someone who is blind can still direct audio comms. Everyone has skills and talents that the family and community need, and the survival of the whole group dictates finding appropriate jobs for everyone.
Those who are critically ill or in the advanced stages of dementia may need to have round-the-clock caregivers, which could put a strain on community labor resources. The whole group would ideally have the same reverence and respect for all the members’ quality of life, even the infirm and ill.

Much of the information about surviving natural disasters or man-made insanities assumes that we will prepare not only our environment, but ourselves as well. In order to deal with a crisis, realize that while we are teaching ourselves new skills, setting aside food stores, preparing security and energy options and planning for those who are weaker than ourselves, we must diligently prep our own minds and bodies to withstand the multiple demands that will be required.

Knowing that stresses of panic, physical exertion, mental exhaustion, and lack of sleep will pile up and collapse you if you are not ready, is not enough. Add in caring for others who are young, old, chronically ill, obese, disabled or just darn difficult, and your preparedness becomes even more critical.
Part of the process requires that we must be physically fit ourselves before we can take care of others. So put down that list and go exercise, at least some part of every day! Do not allow yourself to become out of shape, while you’re stockpiling supplies and securing your environment. There are people depending on you. Make sure you are the fittest you can be, physically and mentally. Then you can expend energy on building a community that includes everyone you care about, even the unfit.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I’m writing this article to encourage you, if you’re in a similar situation as I am.  I may be writing it also, to encourage myself.  I want to say that it is possible to prepare for emergencies to some extent, even if you aren’t exactly doing it as a team.  I will share some of my story in order to give you some ideas.

I am a happily-married woman living with a wonderful husband and my four children in a Midwestern state, in a town of less than 5000.  I have been increasingly concerned about an economic collapse, and have been educating myself about preparedness in the last 2 years.  My husband is not happy with the way the country is going, but also isn’t willing to “over-react”, or get “paranoid”.  As a christian woman, I believe that it is my responsibility to submit to my husband with a good attitude, but also my responsibility to see to the needs of my household.  How do I balance that all out?
First, I trust in God.  He has never failed us.  As we have honored Him, and given Him the first fruits of our income, He has always taken care of us.  For example, 3 ½ years ago, we became convinced that God’s will was for us to try to become debt free.  We prayed that somehow God would provide a way for us to become debt-free.  Little did we know that within 6 months, my husband’s job in a large metropolitan area would end and we would sell our house for $30,000 less than we had into it, but still pay off our mortgage.  He would end up, not in his profession, but rather working 5 part-time jobs, and we would buy a foreclosed house in a rural area that needed some work.  After all of the difficulty we’ve had, we are now debt-free in a nice house, in rural America.  God’s ways are definitely not ours!

Secondly, don’t discount the assets you have or want, as something your spouse would automatically reject.  We have a lot of great camping gear that my husband loves.  I suggested a few additions that he has enthusiastically embraced, such as a Dutch oven.  This summer, we used it for every meal on our camping trip in order to really get the hang of it, and I made sure to include meals he likes.  A few of the other  things I’ve  gotten are a couple of flashlights that can work on a hand-crank charge (almost free after a Menard's rebate),  a solar heated hanging “shower” for camping ($1 at a rummage sale),  a lantern that works on a hand crank, and a charcoal starter.  The addition I’m most excited about is our sand-point well. It turns out that this little town has very high sewer rates, thanks to a large new sewage treatment plant which was built recently, anticipating a housing boom that didn’t happen. The sewer charge is calculated off our water use.  It’s nothing to get a $400 quarterly water/sewer bill, so my husband was willing to put in a backyard well so we could wash the vehicle, and water the garden without city water.  It cost about $400 or $500 including the permits, equipment, and 1 afternoon rental of a jackhammer.  Although it runs on electricity now, he was agreeable to spend $40 to get the hand pump attachment and store it for an emergency.

If your husband has any interests that line up with preparedness skills, then encourage him.  My husband is a hunter, and fisherman, so I am very supportive.  We usually discuss purchases together, and if he brings up an interest in purchasing any “hunting equipment”, fishing tackle, etc., I say, “Go for it”.  When we have the money for a conceal carry class, I’ll support his interest.  When he expressed an interest in my pickling his fish, I did it, even though I dislike pickled fish.  He was willing to build me the square food garden boxes I asked for, so I will be willing to can all the tomatoes and salsa he wants.  I don’t complain about all of the venison we eat.  Although my husband isn’t willing for me to tear up any more of our small lawn for a larger garden, he IS willing to tear up some lawn in order to put in a raspberry patch.  I’ll take what I can get. 

I have been keeping an eye out for preparedness books at rummage sales, GoodWill,  and library sales.  So far, I’ve spent less than $20 to get:  “The PDR Pocket Guide to Prescription Drugs “ (includes dosages), Where There Is No Doctor edited by Dr. David Werner, Making the Best of Basics - Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens, “12 Month Harvest”,  “Home Canning”, and a 20 volume set called “The Creative Workshop”.  I also used my Christmas money from my mother-in-law to get "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It",  “The Urban Homestead”, “Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs”, and “The Prepper’s Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do To Ready Your Home For a Disaster”.  (I definitely didn’t tell my mother-in-law which books I bought with her gift.  She would think I had cracked up.)

Other rummage sale finds include a vacuum-sealer, and a box of canning jars.  I picked up a set of solar pathway lights for half-price last week, and have gotten several used food-grade buckets from the bakery dept. of our grocery store.  That is how their frosting is delivered, so I got them for $.50 each just for asking, and just had to wash them out.

One piece of advice; for what it’s worth.  Don’t go for everything you want all at once.  Two years ago, I talked him into buying a six month supply of dehydrated food from Augason Farms.  This was a very big purchase for us.  We tucked it away.  This winter, I approached my husband asking for a one -month supply of more accessible, “normal” food such as canned goods, and he was fine with that. I had been concerned that the one of our children with multiple serious food allergies would not have any protein that he could safely have from that 6 month supply we had purchased.  Soy, beans/peas, and nuts were out of the question, so I needed canned meat/seafood.   If there was a dire need, that child could eat protein from the new stuff for 6 months, and the other 5 of us could eat the other proteins.  Because of our finances, it has taken 6 months to gradually buy enough additional food to feed 6 people for a month.  I just finished this week, and it feels great! The next step is to get a rotation system in place for those foods.  I keep the food stored out of sight, (out of mind) so that my husband isn’t constantly reminded of how much money we’ve spent. J Also, the kids aren’t as likely to blab about it if they don’t see it.

My plan now is to focus on learning skills.  I got a pressure canner for Christmas, and have started teaching myself how to use it comfortably.  I also plan to learn to make bread without my breadmaker.  Perhaps I’ll try sourdough bread, or yogurt.   Other goals are to organize car emergency kits, research and plan for updating first-aid kits, and to make a wish list of things to keep an eye out for at end-of-season sales, or rummage sales.

As an aside, don’t forget that you may already have more food available than you think in your cupboards, and freezer.  I tend to forget to count the food that’s on our shelves, and in our freezer, but of course that would be the first food we would use up. 

Finally, there may be some preparations that you would like to make, that your husband doesn’t agree to.  In my case, it’s a woodstove.  My thought is, “It would keep us from freezing.” His thought is, “No, because it would aggravate two kids’ asthma, and also aggravate a dry- eye condition I have.”  What I have decided to do is forget about it.  If it came down to it, my husband, with God’s help, would figure something out.  God’s Word clearly tells me not to worry, so I choose to let it go.  I’m at peace, even though there’s a big question mark in the area of heat.

Anyway, my point is, don’t get discouraged.  No matter how much you can do, it’s more than the average citizen is doing, and your family will be better off for it.  Just trust God.  He knows your husband, and gave him to you.  If you are honest and have the right attitude and motives, your husband will be able to trust you.  He may not always agree with you, but it’s better to be partially prepared to struggle through TEOTWAWKI while happily married to your best friend, than to be fully prepared to survive TEOTWAWKI in a miserable, resentful marriage.  Our children learn how to honor and respect their future spouses, by watching how we honor and respect their Dad.  It is a legacy to pass on that will be a blessing to them all of their lives.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

During my years in the military, I spent most of my time in the military intelligence field.  Though I was specifically trained in signals intelligence, I learned to utilize a number of sources in producing intelligence products for my command.  The tactics that I learned both in individual training as well as on-the-job are applicable to a number of applications, including preparing yourself and your family for emergency situations. 
In my years of reading “alternative” message boards and blog posts, I noticed that most people in the prepper community either live in a rural community or have a desire to relocate to one.  As someone who grew up in a rural area, I would highly recommend taking such an action, especially in the light of the threats we face from economic collapse, food shortages, rioting, and other calamities, both natural and man-made.  For some of us, however, we are unable to relocate from the area that we currently reside.

My family and I reside in a suburban area of a very large city in the United States.  Most likely, we will not be able to relocate from this area in the near term, so we attempt to make the best of our situation.  Part of our preparation includes the production of intelligence reports of our subdivision and local community.  Creating information such as threat reports is useful for any prepper, regardless of residence location, but is vital when the number of persons that are nearby increases.  Using my past experiences, these are some of the tactics that I adapted for use in creating such reports for my subdivision. 

Creating the Map
In my opinion, the first and most important step that a prepper can take in developing intelligence for his or her suburban area is mapping the local area.  Fortunately, maps are easy to find.  Because my subdivision is over 30 years old, there are fully developed key maps available for purchase.  I can also utilize online mapping and driving directions sites to not only create maps of the streets, but also overlay such things as satellite imagery, points of interest, and anything else that would be necessary for my preparations.  I would create a large, laminated copy of the local area and/or subdivision map and place it on a wall, desk, or other convenient area where it can be easily referenced and manipulated.  If there is space, I would create a variety of maps; for example,  one that featured only streets, one that included satellite imagery, and one that includes locations of stores and gas stations.  I would also create smaller laminated versions and keep them in my vehicles, bug-out bags, and purse or wallet.  Many of the tactics listed in this article will refer back to studying and manipulating the larger map.

Mapping Information
Once the maps are created, take time to study the aerial view of the area in depth.  Look for places of entry and exit of the subdivision and local area (by car, motorbike, foot, etc.)  Imagine where roadblocks can be placed should the authorities implement them.  Find different ways in which you could travel from and to your home.  Study potential choke-points where gangs can trap residents.  Note the locations of homes where you could stop by and/or drop your kids off if you were prevented from being at or going to your home.  For those that like to mark up documents, you can take a marker, either erasable or permanent, and make these notations right on the map.

Make an ingress and egress plan for your neighborhood.  Determine ways that you can get in and out of the subdivision without taking streets.  Take note of places where you could hide or find cover from attack.  Make note of these locations on the map. 

Take is checking the local police blotters and statistics for crime in the area.  When I managed a crime board during my employment at a university police department, I placed different colored pins in areas where crimes were suspected or committed.  Each pin represented a different classification of crime.  This allowed the staff to quickly ascertain the prevalence of certain crimes, locations where crime was highly probable, as well as trends that may have developed.  You can place pins, colored stickers, or even dots from colored markers on areas of the map to determine areas most likely to be hit by criminals when society begins to break down.   
It would also be important to note the locations of known sex offenders, felons, and former criminals on the map.  Sex offender information is often located on a state database at no charge; information for the others may not necessarily be available, or could come at a cost.  While a person who has served their time may never commit another offense during his or her lifetime again, it is best to at least know where potential danger could lurk during times of peril.

Some subdivisions contract with local police or security firms to provide patrols during certain periods of the day.  Look for patterns among the patrols as well as the patrollers and note them on the map if possible.  For example, in my subdivision, one officer spends most of his shift sitting in the same location every time he is on duty there.  Another officer takes the same route driving through the subdivision while he is on duty.  Make note of any significant changes that the officers take during patrol; this could indicate patrolling for specific reasons or persons.  Try to engage the officers from time to time; they can be a valuable source of information about the happenings around the area.

Learn the Location

Now, let’s step away from the map and now engage the subdivision and local environment in a different perspective.  Take time out to schedule regular walks, bike rides, etc. in and around the neighborhood.  If this is something you already do, take alternative paths or go during varying times during the day.  Here, you can practice taking the alternative ingress and egress routes you found on the map, as well as searching for places to hide or take cover.  Make note of the vehicles that are usually parked in driveways or along the street.  Learn to recognize familiar faces.  Note activities that seem to be out of the ordinary for your location.  For example, I learned, in my former neighborhood, that one home was used as a drug manufacturing lab.  Many of the teenagers in the neighborhood sold drugs for the dealer that ran the lab.  I learned to be careful when confronting the teens that would vandalize areas around my home (including the For Sale signs in our yard) knowing that they possessed more weapons and firepower than I did. 

Get detailed information on your subdivision.  Learn the number of homes that are in the subdivision.  For large subdivisions, learn how the different villages are configured.  Find out the demographics that are pertinent information to know (average ages of household adults, average number of children per household, etc.)  Make regular searches for your neighborhood on the internet .Take note of information on the neighborhood web site and/or bulletin board.  Keep local emergency numbers of note, including fire, police, utility companies, homeowner’s association, etc.

You can also learn valuable intelligence information from the windows of your residence.  Find the best vantage points in your home that allow you to look around the neighborhood.  This works best in multi-story homes.  Take time to note the “normal” condition of the homes, yards, and streets around you.  Binoculars or telescopes can help you view particular locations that could normally be inaccessible.  It would be best to have a privacy screen on your window that limits others from seeing your own activities while you watch theirs.

Know Your Neighbors

Get to know your neighbors   Start or join a neighborhood patrol.  Try to engage them as you make your way around the neighborhood during your walks or bike rides.  Begin discussions about local activities, being careful to avoid the impression that you are gathering information for intelligence products.  Gossipers are a wonderful resource for intelligence analysts; they always have a need to talk to others and feel special telling every minute detail about everyone else’s lives.  In my case, I had a neighbor whom I did not know come up to me in the yard and ask me some details about my child that my wife and I would rarely share with others.  After asking her further, I found that her source of information was from another neighbor who sometimes dropped by inside our home in order to use our telephone (and I think may have overheard a conversation I or my wife had on our cell phones.)  Needless to say, the phone has not been available to her since.
Take time to learn about your neighbors in the digital realm.  Checking local voter registration information and/or property tax rolls can often provide names and addresses of the people around you.  You can cross-check their information (names, addresses, telephone numbers, etc.) through search engines, criminal and sex-offender databases, and information collection sources (such a Pipl, LinkedIn, Zabasearch, etc.) Perhaps your state may catalog concealed weapon license holders.  Look for social networking sites where they may reveal more information about their lives (and the lives of those around them.)  Do not forget to check the social networks for their (and your) children, as well as their linked friends as well.  Some people with bad intentions have a tendency to broadcast this information through these methods.

Create the Intelligence Report

With several pieces of data collected on the subdivision, the prepper can now develop intelligence reports that can aid him or her in readying for emergency situations.  The thing about intelligence products is that it is tailored to the needs of the person requesting the information.  When I developed a number of reports during my military time, I usually made them to answer specific questions that were posed to me.  Some questions you may need answered could include:

  1. What are the most dangerous locations in my subdivision?
  2. What person(s) can I depend on during an emergency?  How can I get to him or her?
  3. Are there any persons to keep a lookout for during emergency situations?
  4. What are the various ways to get in and out of the neighborhood under stealth conditions?
  5. What can be seen inside of my home during the day?  At night? 
  6. How many direct lines of sight lead to my property?  How can I mitigate that situation?
  7. Is there something on my property that can attract “special” attention from others
  8. Do I have a property feature that is outside of the norm for my neighborhood?
  9. Do the police and/or security patrol near my home?  If not, how can I address that?
  10. What areas of the neighborhood give me the best vantage point for spotting outsiders?
  11. Who in the neighborhood may be armed? 
  12. Who in my neighborhood is trained in specific skills that can be useful for my needs?
  13. Are there other preppers that I can network with in my neighborhood?
  14. How is the power grid routed in my neighborhood?  Can certain portions lose power while others retain theirs? 
  15. What is the biggest potential threat to my subdivision?  What is the most likely threat?

Hopefully these suggestions can help preppers who, for one reason or another, enhance their readiness for surviving an emergency in suburban areas.  In a later post, I hope to include factors that can be used for those who may face emergencies while living in an urban area.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We’ve read about it in books, watched it in movies, or seen it on the news: People joining together to defend their neighborhood.  The point of this article is to review the general details needed to correctly accomplish this difficult objective.  Successfully defending a neighborhood in a societal collapse is extremely difficult, and it’s not even close to being as easy as it is commonly portrayed.  As you read this, please remember the golden rule of security: it is like being pregnant…either you are or you’re not!  Being partially secured is not much better than being completely unsecured. 

Overview and Expectations

The first part of a neighborhood defensive plan is deciding the type and size of the opposing force.  The majority of potential threats will be related to your demographic location.  Are you located close to a prison or juvenile correction facility?  Are you on the outskirts of a major city that has a high population of gangs or slum areas?  What if your neighborhood is rural but suburbs are located in every cardinal direction? 

Next, how large or small of an area is going to be defended?  The manpower and resources required vary drastically depending on the size of the defended region.  Do you need to defend a single dead-end street, or must two square blocks be secured?  As the defended area enlarges, all other defensive requirements are greatly multiplied.

Finally, how long do you plan on defending the area?  Is it going to be for 12 hours, 2 weeks, 1 month, or 2 years?  The manpower and supplies required expand exponentially the longer the defensive plan.

Knowing Your Neighbors

Now that the decision has been made that a defensive plan must be created, the question needs to be asked: who will participate?  In modern society, we seem to have lost the connection between our neighbors that we had prior to the internet, iPads, cell phones, and other technology which insulates us from each other.  Today, most people have no idea who their neighbors are.  You need to get out and build relationships with the people that live in your area.  This enables you to determine who is reliable and like-minded, who to avoid, and even if you even have registered criminals living close.

The next step is more difficult:  how do you address your defensive strategy to the people you have determined may be “Okay?”  If you are direct, will it turn people away?  Should you start the idea by forming a neighborhood watch?  With the nation becoming the Nanny State, be careful how you approach this topic.

Most importantly, be careful about personal details discussed with acquaintances.  Remember to practice OPSEC (Operational Security).  You should not tell anyone except your most trusted confidants the details of your level of prepping, the supplies you’ve stored, or your defensive tools.  You should never refer to yourself as a “Prepper.”   A good saying to remember is:  “You cannot un-ring a bell,” meaning that once information is provided, it cannot be taken back.  Be friendly, be polite, but be vague about your personal preparations.

Be aware that as a result of your quest to find like-minded people, you are by default putting yourself in the leadership position of your group.  You need to think long and hard about this detail.  Is this a responsibility for which you’re prepared or should you pass this important role off to another person that would be a suitable leader?  If you decide to continue the role as leader, be prepared for the duties that follow.  You will be the person in charge that everyone looks to for answers.  Furthermore you will also be the person that fingers are pointed at for blame.  As Shakespeare says in “Henry IV, Part 1:” “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

Who To Select For What Position

Personalities are just as important to a position as the actual position.  Do you want someone manning a checkpoint who only asks “Will we get to shoot someone”?  On the other hand, do you want someone at a checkpoint that refuses the concept of ever being confrontational no matter what the situation is?  You are looking for someone the military refers to as a “quiet professional”.  For defensive positions, you want someone that has a calm temper, sound mind, and possesses logical thought and reasoning: definitely NOT the Rambo type. 

The other consideration is a difficult.  No matter what good intentions people have during table times, you do not know what they will do in hard times.  You cannot blame them, but when faced with danger, people might choose their family’s safety over their sense of duty.  Once you know your potential group members better, you will get an idea of who man their post and who will flee.   In my professional experience, I have found that the people that talk a good game are not always the ones that will stand up and fight.  On the other hand, in many cases the person you think will run away turns out to be the most reliable person on your team.

The Plan: What Is Needed

This section is not about tactical drills, fighting techniques, or weapons handling.  It’s a general discussion to provide a concise and realistic concept for creating your area security plan.

A perimeter must be established around the defended area.  Two perimeters will actually be created: An extended perimeter (EP) and an inner perimeter (IP).  
I have found that the best way to plan the perimeters is to print high resolution screen-prints of the area using Google Earth.  These screen-prints should include the surrounding regions and be printed on true photo quality paper which is then laminated.  In this way permanent markers can be used for planning and then the printouts can simply be cleaned with rubbing alcohol for reuse later.

First you must create the EP.  This is the defensive line that intercepts the first presence of a threat.  All points of entry must be secured (roads, paths, trails, etc.) by establishing barriers & defensive fighting positions.  These positions must not be visible from a distance.  Avoid being out in the open on a road, instead be off to the side and within cover.  When possible, remove anything outside the position that can be used as offensive cover.  Do not make it easy for the possible threat!  

An additional question to consider for preparing a position or check point is what type of barrier do you want to use?  Such items as cars or farm machinery can be used to make movable barriers should you want to keep the ability for friendly vehicles to pass.  Another important detail is the need for designated areas for bathrooms and locations for rest and sleep.  If possible, a good idea is to build a shelter to protect you from the elements.  People’s motivation and enthusiasm can quickly disappear when they are made miserable by the elements.           

Once the positions are set up and all points of entry are secure, observation post (OP) is required if you have the manpower for it.  This position should preferably be in an elevated location and forward of the OP to spot threats before they get to the defended area.  Simply put, they are the early warning system.  3 people staffing the OP are the minimum requirement.  After 1 hour, it is difficult for the average person to stay 100% alert in an observation position.  You need a rotation established to keep one person watching, one resting, and one “at the ready.” 

Creating range cards is the next step to establish sectors of fire.  The last thing you want to do is be in a position where you might have to engage and risk casualties via friendly fire, range cards can prevent this tragedy.  In addition to factoring in the skill of your team members, you must consider the geography.  If you are in an urban area, there will be houses and neighboring communities outside your perimeter.  Knowing the range of your weapon is part of this as well.  For example, a bullet from a firearm as small as a .22 LR travels up to 1.5 miles.  A 5.56 mm NATO round exceeds 3,000 meters.  Keep these details in mind when planning your sector of fire. 

Outfit each OP and checkpoint with the following minimum list of items:

  • PPE (Personal Protection Equipment: body armor, eye protection, etc.)
  • Form of communication and signal between OP and residences inside the IP
  • Defensive Tools
  • Appropriate manpower
  • Retreat route to IP (Primary & Secondary)
  • Optics
  • Food, water; stimulants
  • Runner between posts (reduces the need for a guard to be absent)
  • Lights

Pulling guard duty is extremely tiring.  Maintaining focus for extended periods of time becomes difficult and eventually staying awake is challenging as well.  Remember, you will be under a great deal of stress, and stress will wear you out just as fast as physical activity.  Stimulants are a good to have on hand, but there are good and bad stimulants.  Coffee and other liquid diuretics should be avoided.  They quickly cause urination, and since you should not urinate inside your position, you will be forced to leave your position which allows you to be seen and heard by the enemy.  Possible alternatives are caffeine gum or pills, natural vitamins, or similar.  In the past, as a Ranger, I found a method that sounds a little extreme but works.  Take a can of long cut snuff, add a capful of whiskey, and let it sit for a few days.  Insert the tobacco in your mouth and while the residue is on your fingers, rub your eyes.  Trust me, it is as unpleasant as it sounds, but it’s nowhere near as bad as being the person that fell asleep while on guard duty.    An important detail to factor in is the “crash” that happens after the substance wears off.  Remember, the more powerful the stimulant, the greater the crash.

The next step is to plan your IP.  The purpose of the IP is to provide the last line of defense in case the EP collapses.  In the center of it are your supplies and non-combatants.  People that are classified as non-combatants are: children, elderly, and those that are physically unable to actively defend the lines.  If you are fortunate to have medics or doctors in your group, keep them there as well.  Why risk the few people who are medically trained on the front line? 

The previously mentioned list and other details also apply to the IP.  The IP however has no defensive fallback plan.   If the EP collapses, and all positions retreat to the IP, you are in serious trouble.  At this point there are then two choices:  retreat if possible, or, re-enact The Alamo. 

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
            Think of SOPs as your team’s play book.  SOP’s are living procedures and thus always evolve.  Some details will change over time and others will not.  It is important that everyone knows what the group SOPs are, and they should always be available for reference.  SOPs must thoroughly cover all operational aspects of your group, thus they require a great deal of time and thought to create.  Listed below is a simple starter list of topics:

    • Escalation of presence and force (amber, red, black)

At what point will it be decided that the neighborhood needs to get together?  Will you start by being low-profile and later have the appearance of a hard target?  How will the activation process be initiated?

    • Established combat load for guard force (for each threat level)

At the Amber level, do you want people to have assault style weapons slung over their shoulder?  At Red level, do you want people in tennis shoes with only a pistol in their waist band?

    • Dealing with noncombatants at checkpoints

How do you handle people that want to pass through?  What about people that want to enter?  What if they are people living in your neighborhood that do not want to take part in the defensive plan? 

    • Dealing with LEOs

What image do you want to give Law Enforcement Officers? (should they still be active) 

    • NEO Plan (Noncombatant Evacuation and Repatriation Operation)

If a retreat is something you see as being inevitable, how are you going to evacuate your children and elderly?  Where are they going?  What equipment and manpower will be needed for this?  At what point will this be needed before it is too late?

    • Roles and responsibilities

What roles will be needed in your plan?  What is expected of them?  Will people be cross trained with a certain level of standards for skill set?

    • ROE (rules of engagement)

At what level of force will you meet each threat?  Will it be able to be justified later in time?  Was it an equal level of force? 

    • Outline of leadership

This is needed!  Without it, there would be no organization within the group.  Who is in charge?  Who is next in command?  Who is in charge of the positions?  Who is in charge of the people within the IP? 

    • Dealing with prisoners and casualties

What will you do with people that might have to be detained?  Will they be treated humanely and have proper quarters to keep them?  What will you do with casualties (friendly and not friendly)?  What about their supplies?  What will done with their bodies? 

    • Escorts and convoys

If the situation dictates the need to lock an area down, but stores are still open with what few items they have left, how will personnel move their safely and back?  Will one small group go into the store while another guards the vehicles?  Will you take the same route back and forth?

    • Passwords and information security

Do you have a challenge and password made for the IP/OP?  What about a running password?  Are passwords put in code phrases or left with normal verbiage?

    • Situations Dictating Actions

At what point do you collapse the EP into the IP?  When will you start evacuation (if possible)? Under what conditions will a retreat be called?

Other Considerations
Another form of protection that is usually overlooked is CYA (cover your a**).  If all hell has broken loose, and you are forced to protect yourself and the people around you, you need to protect yourself for the possible future ahead.  What I mean is that when the environment stabilizes, you may be made to answer for your defensive actions.  What if you are accused of assaulting someone who walked up to your check point?  If lethal force was used, was it justified?  Can you remember the name of the officer who visited your EP?  These facts should all be documented in a logbook.  Any and every incident should be logged, no matter how large or small.  You want to be as descriptive as possible.  When you are writing this, imagine you are trying to tell a judge your side of the story, because you very well could be using this logbook to do just that!  Ensure dates, times, who was involved, what happened, what actions were taken, and how every means possible was used prior to any type of force are all recorded.  This should be written down as soon as possible while the information is still fresh in your mind.  Details are the key to an effective report.

Another serious consideration is that after you have the area secured, what happens to the families that live inside the established perimeter that do not want to be part of what’s going on?  Will you protect them should the need arise?  What if they have family members attempting to break into the perimeter?  Are you going to deny access?  These are very difficult questions to plan for and there is a fine line between doing the right thing and self-declaring martial law on your street. 

The last point to consider is not specifically related to the previous discussion.  It is about the image you present to others.  It is not just about the clothing you are wearing.  Nuances ranging from body language, physical approach towards someone, facial expressions, and your overall demeanor can greatly affect the tone of the interaction you have with other people.  You most likely will meet more people that are non-combatants then are threats.  Is the head-to-toe camouflage approach the one you want to give as a first impression?  By appearance alone, you made yourself a potential combatant to others.  What type of reaction do you think you will get from police if they see you in all the latest tactical gear with a military style rifle slung over your shoulder?  What about the mother with kids in hand that you encounter?  At this point in time, everyone will have at least some level of fear in them.  Anybody that says differently has never been in a threatening environment.  Why escalate the situation if not necessary?  There is a time and place for camouflage and other gear, but in most cases dressing in practical civilian clothing (like cargo pants and overly large shirt concealing items you might have on you), along with a friendly but cautious personality will be most effective.  Simply put, when it comes time to decide how you want to appear and act towards others, ask yourself how you would react if you came across someone who looked and acted just like “you?”  Personally, if I was approached by someone dressed like ninja, armed, and had an attitude…I will be reacting much differently than if they seemed approachable and wearing earth tone non-tactical clothing.


You need to think long and hard about the realistic possibility of accomplishing this objective.  Yes, in movies and books it seems easy to accomplish:  most of the time the “good guys” always win.  After reading this article you should realize that it is much more complex then it seems.

The amount of manpower, supplies, and equipment needed are extremely difficult to obtain for a long term defensive strategy.  To provide a real life example, while living in an unsecured area (Red Zone) in Iraq, we needed a guard force of over 100 men to protect a large house 24/7.  That sounds like a lot, but as mentioned previously, a position does not have a single person; a guard rotation is required.  In our case roughly 50 men per 12 hour shift were necessary for the EP and IP to view in all cardinal directions and to provide protection for the non-combatants. 

With that in mind, how many people will you need to guard a small section of your neighborhood?   Continuing with another personal example, I was part of a force that guarded an urban compound in Baghdad which covered a space roughly 1 by 2 city blocks.  To protect it in a high threat environment we needed 300 static guards (12.5 hour shifts 7 days a week), 9 Quick Response Teams (consisting of 6 men on each team), and enough gear, supplies, ammo, water, and food to sustain everybody.  This doesn’t even consider the resources and supplies needed to establish a secured perimeter.

Another factor that hinders the ability to guard a neighborhood is the group of people available.  You will probably find more people not interested than those that are interested.  The people you do find will be in various ages and physical shape, some might have military or police training, some will not.  It will probably be a “ragtag” group.  Many will like the idea of defending their territory, but will not or cannot plan or practice.  Chances are you will not be fortunate to find yourself living in a community of ex-commandos ready to take tackle this matter head on. 

In conclusion, the reality of defending a neighborhood is that it is not practical and is better left as a fantasy.  I’ve only touched on a very few factors to consider, and there are so many more factors working against you.  It will be nearly impossible for a group of citizens in various states of health, with little or no training, even if they are enthusiastic, to successfully defend a neighborhood.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

As a formerly disabled person I would like to share some ideas to help make survival more likely or at least less treacherous:

 * Keep a heavy duty luggage cart for bug out bags. They are versatile and can be used for many other things like hauling water. Wheeled backpacks with roller blade wheels will not be as durable and versatile.

*  Adult tricycle bikes are quite stable can help many get around easier and quicker while carrying some supplies too. These can be used by others as well to carry water and heavier supplies.
*  Foot-care should be top priority. If you are caring for someone who is elderly or diabetic check there feet often and make sure to keep moleskin, extra soft socks and that they own a pair of quality sneakers that are comfortable.

*  Meal replacement shakes That have a minimum of 19 grams of protein per serving, contain a minimum 25% of RDA on Vitamins and minerals per serving. Higher calories are better and low in sugar. Ideally you want something that only needs to be mixed with water or you can also add powdered milk.

   These can be used by everyone but will be especially handy for the elderly & sick.

*  For those dealing with incontinence it will not always be practical to stock up on or carry the required amount of supplies needed but the following items can help:

        Male external catheters (available online)
        Female urination devices like GOGIRL
        Plastic moisture barrier underwear
        Reusable (washable) incontinence pads & briefs for both men & women       
        Gentle laxatives
        Baby wipes & washcloths

 *   USB memory stick containing medical records

 *  10 parameter reagent test strips- an easy urine strip test that tests glucose, bilirubin, ketone, specific gravity, blood, pH, protein, urobilinogen nitrite, and leukocytes. They are inexpensive--only about $13 for 100  test strips and should be included in everyone's emergency kits.

*  Back pain- Mueller adjustable lumbar back brace, Biofreeze or Salonpas, extra Ibuprofen or Aleve
    Knee pain- Patella tendon strap or full knee brace, Biofreeze or Salonpas , extra Ibuprofen or Aleve
   Neck pain- Inflatable neck pillow, Caldera relief neck rest, Biofreeze or Salonpas , extra Ibuprofen or Aleve

    You can also learn acupressure using your fingers or a knob like device
    Robin Mckenzie has written two very popular books on the subject titled Treat Your Own Back and Treat Your Own Neck

*  Book Recommendation: Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook by David Werner

*  Heart rate monitors for exercise. These can be used to monitor those with heart conditions and make sure that they
   take a break or practice calming exercises when needed. Some of these have custom alarms that will beep when your heart rate
   goes to high or too low.

*  Diabetic supplies may run out Cinnamon bark capsules, Fenugreek seeds or tea, and chromium polynicotinate
   can be used as a last resort. Cinnamon will also be pretty easy to come by and can be easily put into foods, drinks or
   emptied capsules.

Regards, - Tricia, Illinois

Friday, July 13, 2012

Prepping for emergency situations is always a difficult task, especially when considering various limitations that you and your family may have (including financial restraints, locale features and challenges, health of your household members, your network of family and friends-or a lack of a network, etc.)  As for my wife and I, we have the added burden of preparing with a loveable, huggable special-needs child in mind.  As the numbers of children with physical, mental, and/or neurological difficulties continue to rise in this country, a growing number of preppers will need to consider the issue of sustaining a special-needs child through difficult times.  Even those that do not have special-needs children in their care may feel compelled to aid a relative or friend who does care for such a child when the time arises.   While I base many of these ideas upon the needs of my family and child, they may be helpful in starting or perfecting your own preparation plans to assist your special-needs child during times of peril.

In this article, I use the term “medical professional” to refer to persons that provide medical & healing services.  This may include, but is not limited to, medical doctors, naturopaths, chiropractors, nutritionists, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, pastors, massage therapists, and/or anyone else that is competent in treating and healing the human body and mind.  I also use the term “medicine” to refer to pharmaceuticals, vitamins, minerals, supplements, foods, and/or other resources that can treat or heal the human body and mind.   As a believer in medical freedom, I advocate for the right of a parent or authorized caregiver to treat their child with the medical services of his or her choice that is in the best interest of the child’s health and well-being.

Preparations to Consider for the Child

First, the parent or caregiver of a special-needs child must be able to comprehend how to treat the issues that the child faces when a medical professional is not available.  In treating our child, we looked to find medical professionals who (a) were not married to “traditional” western medicine, but looked to a number of healing methods, (b) willing to listen to our concerns, and (c) could explain to us the problems that our child faced.  These professionals, from the first visit, developed a plan with us that we could use to treat our child.   While we are not experts in medical treatment, they made sure that we understood enough in order to facilitate the healing process for our child.  If you or someone you know has no idea what to do in order to help your child during a time when a medical professional is not available, contact your child’s practitioner in order to set up such a plan.  It is also important to have this information available to others in case you are unable to provide the treatment yourself.

In addition, you need to stockpile any needed medical supplies and equipment that would help you execute the treatment plan for your child.  Of course, some medicines or supplies have a short shelf life or storage concerns that can make stockpiling difficult or impossible.  In such cases, it can help to consult with your child’s medical professional to develop alternatives supplies and/or equipment that can be stored and used in these situations.  While the alternatives may be less effective that the preferred medicine or medical supply, it can help the child maintain some normalcy until the preferred products are available again. 

Maintaining a strong immune system for your child would make the transition to an emergency situation easier.  Some special-needs children are more susceptible to infection and illness than normally developing children.  Eliminating unnatural “foods,” providing proper vitamins and minerals, and regular physical and mental activity can help prepare your child for potential diseases that may occur during or after an emergency.  There are various tests, some inexpensive, that can measure items such as your child’s nutritional levels, toxicity, and food allergies; these can be starting points to strengthening your child’s immune system.  There are also a number of medical professionals that are experienced in proper nutrition and supplementation for special-needs children.

Speaking of nutrition, you should also plan to meet the special dietary needs that your child may have.  In our own food storage, we only keep products that our child can also consume.  While this somewhat limits the variety and quantity of our foods (due to increased costs for these products,) we will not have to worry about him eating food from our storage that he is allergic or sensitive to.  It also ensures that there is a substantial amount of food available for him.  While this method of food storage may not be preferable or practical for all, you must ensure that your child has a sufficient amount and variety of food to survive during an emergency situation.  You may also consider growing foods that are earmarked for your special-needs child.  Being forced to feed your child food that sickens him or her may be worse than not feeding your child at all. 
Toileting of special-needs children must also be considered by the prepper.  Some special-needs children may not be toilet-trained and will require diapers.  This requires not only an emergency supply of diapers, but also means of diaper disposal, especially if there is no garbage collection available.  Other items to consider storing would be baby wipes (or some other method of cleaning waste from skin,) skin protectants such as oils or petroleum jelly, diaper rash treatments, and materials to eliminate diaper pail scents.

Grooming and bathing can also be a challenge for special-needs children in emergency situations.  Cleaning my child with a washcloth from a sink, for some reason, causes him to “freak out.”  He also has issues with water being poured on top of his head (making hair washing a challenge.)  If your child has challenges related to grooming and bathing in normal conditions, it would be beneficial to determine how to best approach the changes that may occur when there is no running water, no power, no hot water, etc.  If possible, practicing different methods of grooming and bathing ahead of time can help you determine the best courses of action to take when the situation arises.

You must also remember that your special-needs child is still a child.  As such, you should plan to have games and activities that he or she can play despite the circumstances of the emergency.  This can include books, board games, music from battery-powered radios or MP3 players, coloring books, or anything that can bring a smile to your child.  Consider in advance what materials you would need, including those things that can be used in a no or low-power situation.  If possible, consult with your child; he or she can even help you pick out those things that can bring a smile in an otherwise miserable situation.

Preparations to Consider for Yourself and Your Household

In preparing for your child’s needs during emergency situations, you must also plan for how your special-needs child can affect you and your other family members (and vice-versa.)   The family dynamic can change during these times.  Your family may move to a new location.  Other persons may come to live with your family.  A prominent family member may be forced to leave the home due to other obligations (such as military orders.)  Tragically, one or more family members may themselves become incarcerated, incapacitated, missing, or dead.  Special-needs children may have reactions to certain people either being in the home or away from the home.  Some special-needs children have difficulty adjusting to new situations or surroundings.  While it is difficult to adequately plan for these scenarios, discussing these issues with your child, spouse, family members, medical professionals, and others that can provide informative advice may help you become mentally prepared to assist your child through these and other potential changes.
Your plan for operational security should include the potential actions of your special-needs child.  Our child screams whenever he is happy.  He screams whenever he is upset.  He is difficult to keep quiet and still, even when he thinks he is being quiet and still.  Plan for ways to maintain operational security, even if it may be an inconvenience or stressful to your child.  Please note, I am not advocating any forms of abuse; however, you have an obligation to ensure the safety of your family, including your child when the situation warrants.  Think about and discuss with other household members what needs to be done when dangerous situations require hard decisions to be made.  Be sure to consider the potential consequences of the actions that you may take to maintain operational security.

I’ll be honest: Raising a special-needs child is very stressful during normal times.  When the situation becomes abnormal, our stress level will elevate, no matter how prepared we may be.  Caring for someone who needs a higher level of care may cause a caregiver to direct a higher level of frustration towards that child than is warranted.  This is something that you should prepare for both mentally and spiritually.  Consult with your spouse, relatives, or other potential caregivers for respite time during emergencies.  Have times of prayer and spiritual reflection.  Write down your thoughts and feelings.  Be open to others about how you are feeling; don’t be afraid to talk about what is going on inside of your mind.  If you come to a point of wanting to harm your child, whether physically or mentally, do what it takes to remove yourself from the situation.

In Conclusion

This is by no means a plan that meets the need of many that care for children with special-needs.  I do hope that it can be of assistance for those who may not have considered what actions to take during emergency situations, or at least provides points to ponder upon.  Hopefully I can learn from the tips, ideas, and suggestions of others as well.  Please feel free to provide this information not only to those who care for special-needs children, but also to medical professionals, teachers, and others who encounter them.   The better that we parents are prepared, the better the outcome will be for our children when we do encounter a life-changing event.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Back when I thought the world was perfect and would go on in its present state forever, I was an avid reader of fiction novels. I still am. From reading the Hardy Boys mysteries as a kid to the works of Stephen King and Tom Clancy as an adult, I have always loved to read. In fact, I give credit to this love of reading as the single factor in what will probably save my life one day. If I had not been totally hooked on reading great stories and hadn’t curved my reading interest towards post-apocalyptic types of books (Stephen King’s “The Stand” got me started in that direction), I would probably not have gotten started in my survivalist activities. One book led to another and to another and after a path of hundreds of books that led me to reading “Patriots” and “One Second After”, my course was set. A prepper was born.

Now, this article is neither to sing the praises of any single novel nor to tell my story on how I came to believe what I now believe today. It is strictly designed to talk about the incredible importance of fiction novels to the modern day survivalist or prepper.

As I go through my day to day journey getting ready for some interesting times to come, I am lucky enough to have the opportunity, through my job, to talk to lots of people. I have met several “Like Minded” people in my journey, and the conversation subject generally turns to what we are each doing to prepare. I love to discuss this subject with others and enjoy having them try to throw monkey wrenches in my plans as I try to throw the same wicked tool at theirs. This helps us look at scenarios we might not have thought of and make the appropriate changes or additions to our plans or materials. The main objective of preparation is to have plans and materials available for an unknown situation or series of events. This can, and usually is, a major undertaking. Having someone throw different “what ifs” at you helps you improve those plans and lists of materials.
As these conversations took place, I noticed that I was very good at throwing curve balls at people’s plans that they had not previously thought of and I really didn’t understand why. One day, a friend of mine asked me why I always seemed to be able to throw a scenario at him that he hadn’t previously thought of and it finally dawned on me why that was so. It was because of the massive number of fiction novels I had and continue to read. Most survivalist and preppers can read you off a long list of non-fiction books they have read and collected. Everything from urban combat manuals to food preservation books seems to be a staple for the modern day survivalist. While they recite this list of non-fiction books they own, I rarely hear them mention books like Patriots, Lights Out , Lucifer's Hammer, and One Second After.

They can tell me about the struggle they had reading a book, cover to cover, about canning vegetables but they never mention the wonderful (and educational) hours spent reading “One Second After”, a great work of fiction. Or, maybe they read one or two novels and that got them interested in this movement but after that, it was strictly non-fiction from then on. That is a mistake I am afraid many people are making.

While I am by no means undercutting the importance of non-fiction books, I am simply stating that the importance of fiction novels of pre and post society collapse is typically being forgotten. I believe many preppers get so caught up in reading the non-fiction works to gain the knowledge that they lack that they somehow miss the fact that a good work of fiction will take that knowledge and let the characters show how and when they used it. In other words, it takes the knowledge from the non-fiction and puts it in a storyline that is easy to absorb, wonderful to follow and hard to put down.

I have read some incredible works of fiction that told the stories of groups of survivors after a society collapse. These stories kept me totally captivated as I followed them through their failures and their triumphs. Each of these novels allowed me to learn the same lessons the book’s characters learned without having to actually experience the hardships they went through. Each author created scenarios for his or her characters to go through that gave me an insight as to how the non-fiction knowledge they acquired worked out. Yes, I have read some bad novels right along with the greats, but I can honestly say that I have never read a single work of post-apocalyptic fiction that I did not at least learn something from. I have always managed to take some tidbit of information away that I could use to either modify a plan or a list of materials. The good novels may actually cause you to make several changes as you see what did and did not work for the book’s characters. This is because while we may think of ourselves as awesome preppers, having thought of everything, there is no way we have actually thought of everything. Reading these novels gives us the insight of not only the author’s education but also each character’s. As someone who has done some writing, I know that when writing, a story can take on a mind of its own and when the author suddenly sees his characters in a situation he actually hadn’t thought they would end up in, he or she has to stop typing and go do some additional research on how to get them out of it. This increases his knowledge, while he increases his character’s knowledge, thus increasing your knowledge through reading it.

For example, I had always thought my preparedness plan was pretty good. While I have still not acquired everything that is on my list, I felt pretty good about what was on the list. Then I read a novel about a group of survivors that had to deal with a member of their group suffering from some problems with a mental illness. While this illness was temporary and due to PTSD, it still posed some problems and challenges for the group. They needed to restrain this person to keep them from hurting themselves and others but all they had available was rope. This caused some abrasion problems that led to other medical problems due to the lack of medical care and a clean environment. What the main character wished he had added to their stockpile was a couple of sets of handcuffs. After reading that, guess what I added to my list? That’s right, a set of handcuffs! I do believe that a big part of preparing for an uncertain future involves thinking about the mental state you or others may or may not be in during times like that. The best way I have found to examine these different mental states (without actually creating a scenario to cause them which my wife forbids) is in these works of fiction. You get to live the life of the characters, go through what they are going through, and ask yourself what you would do in a similar situation.

This article may seem like I am putting a higher importance on fiction than I am non-fiction but that isn’t the case. We all need more knowledge than we have and non-fiction books are that source. However, a good work of fiction can point you towards the right non-fiction book to read by showing you areas you are weak in as you follow the trials and tribulations of the book’s characters. Several of the “How-to” books I own came as a direct result of being shown an area in a novel that I was unfamiliar with and learned from the character’s problems that I had better get familiar with it.

If you have never been a reader of novels, you may be asking yourself what novels you should read. In my experience, most preppers have a general opinion on what will be the catalyst of society’s downfall. Things like nuclear war, plague, famine, economical and natural disaster are just some examples of what people are preparing for and while they believe strongly in one of those events taking place, they still tend to do a little “Side Prepping” into one of the other scenarios. For example, someone who strongly believes that an asteroid is going to be our end may still keep a few surgical masks and gas masks in their stockpile just in case it turns out to be plague. Someone who believes a massive case of the flu will bring us down may still do some financial preps in case it turns out to be an economical collapse. I tell you that to tell you this. Don’t limit your fiction reading to only those books whose storyline follows your belief. Personally, I am a follower of the economical crisis leading to a long-term grid collapse theory. While that is a strong belief for me, I still took away many “tips and tricks” from the novel Lucifer’s Hammer which dealt with an asteroid strike. While books that have storylines dealing with the effects of an EMP did not exactly follow my belief in what will happen, the trials and triumphs the characters went through were similar to what I think will happen. In other words, I learned a lot from books like “One Second After” even though my thoughts are more in line with books like Patriots. You can learn something from everything so read it all! This web site has a great list of novels that will give you a great place to start. Will you think every book is great? No. Of course not. Will you learn something from every book you read? Well, that is strictly up to you. Keep a notepad and pen alongside your book and make notes when you run across something you haven’t thought of before. I promise you that you will make some notes and may be very glad you did one day.

As a final note, I want to add that a good novel has one more very valuable attribute. All of us have friends and family that we would like to see become more in line with our way of thinking. I have converted more friends to the prepper way of life by handing them my copy of “Lights Out” to read than I have by giving them my copy of “Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook”. Before one’s mind can be converted to a survivalist’s mindset, they have to be able to imagine a future where that will be needed. Nothing stokes the fire of the imagination like a good novel.

Read on, my friends, and keep on learning.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

As a theater teacher and director I am primed for drama.  I hunger for it.  But what to do while waiting for the aliens to land, the dollar to collapse, the bombs to start flying, or Yellowstone to have its say?  I have always told my actors, don’t rehearse it, do it.  After all, preparation is important, but performing is better.  Act as if you have an audience now and do it the way you will perform it.   I am new to this “prepping” phenomenon.  It can be an overwhelming, and for some of my friends, an inexplicable thing.  So what can I share that is useful?  For those well into the process, maybe just a confirmation of things they already know and do. For those who are just starting out and wonder what to do first, I would offer the following Drama Queen version of prepping and sustainable living. 

The saying “write what you know” inspired me to use theatrical terms to outline ways I have become more prepared.   My former Navy Corpsman husband and I have made some simple but profound changes in our lifestyle.  While we may not be living the post-apocalyptic dream, we know that current conditions in this world aren’t exactly normal, and they don’t seem to be getting any better.  Crazy weather? Check. Fossil fuel?  On the way out.  Economic stability?  Um, since when?  So, it makes sense to live now the way we may be forced to live later. In a very real sense, The End Of The World As We Know It has already arrived. 

THERE ARE NO SMALL PARTS, ONLY SMALL ACTORS   Maybe you are the sort who feels “unless I can do the whole thing and do it perfectly I don’t want to do it at all.”  Rather like those who say, “unless I am cast as the lead in the play, why bother?”  Remember, like the chorus members on stage, no matter how small your efforts, they make a difference.  Even a simple change will lead to more.  Here are some baby steps for your role as Third Guard From the Left, before you take on your End of the World tour as Hamlet.  There is no limit to ingenuity, so start creating instead of tossing away.

Compost food waste
   We used to just throw things out.  Now we sort items into what is recyclable or garbage, and happily compost what’s not eaten or used by us.  Our eco footprint has gone from Godzilla to Cinderella, and in such easy steps.  What’s more, we are creating soil for next year’s healthy garden from this year’s waste. 

Look at your yard with new eyes –
Our back yard has a bumper crop of dandelions.  I used to curse them as noxious weeds.  Not anymore.  Why curse something that has the ability to relieve liver disorders, aid the pancreas, maintain bone health, and cure acne? What an awesome plant!  Not a weed.  Not anymore.  And if you don’t fancy the taste, then feed them to your chickens and you will have happy feathered friends and healthy eating eggs. 

Find new uses for common items
– One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.  For example, make a sterno burner using tuna cans, cardboard and old candle wax.  Or transform aluminum pop cans into solar heating devices.  

Light up your life  
Some call it energy conservation – I call it love light.  Candles are so much more romantic than conventional lighting.  We really enjoy candlelight dinners, and choosing to use electricity less not only saves money, but reminds us of the need to look to other sources for our energy needs.  Remember, TEOTWAWKI is now.  What happens if the power goes out permanently?  You’ll need a lot of candles…so here is a crazy way of extending candlelight – not romantic, but very practical: One tub of Crisco, one candlewick, 45 days of candlelight

JOIN A GREAT CAST OF PLAYERS Being a jack of all trades is useful, but exhausting.  Plays have multiple characters for a reason; and it takes the onstage and the backstage crew to succeed.  Being with like-minded people in a community is so much easier than doing it alone.  TEOTWAWKI isn’t a one man or one woman show – this is a huge production.    Here are ways to find cast members for your local production:

Join a community garden – Take 30 strangers, put them in a room and tell them to start planning a garden.   I thought it would be more like our current political process –a lot of talk, not a lot of progress.  Wrong.  We planned, we plotted, we laughed, and disagreed, and then kept working to make things right.  A perfect example of what can work in the democratic process as well as a wonderful way to learn more about gardening.  We know and grow with a variety of people; some are experienced gardeners, others are beginners who kill off their first three tries at tomatoes.   We also have refugee families who are starting new lives and have knowledge to share.   Find a local group of your own – there are opportunities everywhere.

Get to know your neighbors
– That crazy guy down the street?  The charming lady across the way?  They may be the ones who help you most if the fertilizer hits the fan.  Also, a group of watchful neighbors are less likely to fall victim to mob mentality, and it is far better to know who is right next door in a catastrophe. 

Make friends with those who work or shop at places that give you knowledge and help 
When you find an excellent source  of products for your home, your garden, or anything else,  chances are the people who shop or work there are just as valuable as the items purchased, often even more so.   We have learned from others’ mistakes without having to make them.   When in doubt, ask.  Better to look stupid now, than stupid later.  Wish we’d thought of that before we tried storing potatoes in a freezing cold shed….

DON’T JUST STUDY THE SCRIPT – GET MEMORIZED   Old school knowledge is out there – and Google won’t be around in a catastrophe, so having written as well as practical knowledge is critical. Here are some remarkably useful scripts for your prepping role:

Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World by Kelly Coyne & Eric Knutzen. If the authors can do what they do on a 1/12th of an acre plot in the heart of Los Angeles, what’s your excuse?  Want to make your own soap?  Transform your backyard into a haven of healthy foods?  From the minuscule to the mighty, Making It takes you from easy day to day projects to yearly concepts that will free you from manufactured dependency.  The ultimate guide for a homemade life.  We’ve made our own tooth paste, soaps, and conditioner. We’ve brewed beer, made wine from our grapes, and are looking for more and more ways to produce instead of consume.

The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook
The Holy Grail of Cookbooks.  I kid you not.  King Arthur and his knights would have gone on a quest for this one and come back to happy castles.  Over 600 pages of recipes – and just with flour. Breads, cakes, cookies, biscuits, muffins, scones, etc, etc, etc,.  But the value in this book is far beyond the fantastic recipes.  There is history, and not just 40 years ago history, but the history of hundreds of years of working with glorious grain.  There are fascinating stories about why the recipes came about and what to do to amend them to make them your own.  I learned more about breads and cooking with this one book than any other.  Now I can make Braveheart-worthy scones, our whole wheat banana bread begs bananas to go brown, and the list of deliciousness goes on and on...   By the way, the company is as cool as their compilation.  Top quality healthy flour for over 200 years, King Arthur Flour is a company our country can be proud of. 

The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C Smith   My husband and I both come from families that garden – but we hadn’t planted anything since we were kids.  It was daunting to start our garden last year out of the tangled mess of weeds that was the back yard.  We planted peas too late and corn in bad soil.  But the things that worked were amazing.  All summer and into the fall we had the joy of harvesting beans, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes and potatoes that were all our own.  Every time we wondered anything about any type of veggie we grabbed the Bible.  And it came to pass that our vegetables grew.  And lo, they were delicious to the taste, and were very plentiful.  And we looked upon our garden and said, yea verily, this is heaven!

Crisis Preparedness Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival by Jack A. Spigarelli Where to start with food storage? This book has lists for what you need and instructions on what to do with your stockpile written in a practical and understandable way.  It details not only crisis options but day to day food production and preservation tips. We now have our year’s worth of food storage, which came together bit by bit, rather like learning lines for Shakespeare.  You don’t get it all in one sitting, just take it one line at a time.  Another package of sugar here, extra case of beans there, and then one day – ta-da!  Food storage.
TRUST THE DIRECTOR   Many a great actor has butted heads with their director.  It always ends the same.  The Director wins.  This wonderful planet, our Mother and Home, has a plan.  We can fight it, or we can go with the flow.  Evolution and Nature are far more resilient than even the most stubborn human, so learn from the Director.  Watch how She does it.  After all, She’s been at this a lot longer than we have. Lessons in what can be done are all around us.  Can you grow citrus in the Austrian Alps?  Trick question?  The answer is yes, if you are Sepp Holzer.  He learned how to mimic nature’s ability to create micro-climates with ponds, trees, rocks, and plant diversity.  He has proven beyond a doubt that there is no limit to what you can grow if you understand how Mother Nature works.   For the amazing details read Sepp Holzer's Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening.

BE A METHOD ACTOR – LIVE THE ROLE Gandhi said it best, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  The first part of being the change is changing yourself first.  Do you despise Monsanto’s and other big corporations and their world-ignorant practices? Then live a clean life and do not give them your time or money.  Inform others.  Stand up for what you believe and do not give in to the opinion or even the mockery of friends.    The Ant prepared for winter all summer long despite what the Grasshopper said about “take it easy” and “why work so hard?”  The world has changed.  We are the change.  

You have a voice, and maybe you feel like the littlest Who in Whoville on a political dust mote of individual unimportance, but say something.  Do something.  Others will add their voice to yours and what was just one “No!” will soon resound worldwide. 

Is it important to you?  Get behind it with support.  Is it appalling and wrong?  Don’t add your money to it.  Don’t buy things that hurt others in the process of production.  We have options, and the sooner we spend the way we truly feel the better those options will become.

FDA approved…hmmmm.  Why would the government let us eat/drink/take things into our bodies that are harmful?  Why would anyone knowingly let a product out on the market that is known to cause cancer or other drastic side effects?  Sorry, Pollyanna, it’s not the sunshiny world it should be.  The hard truth is your lack of health makes you a cash cow that is part of a trillion dollar industry of disease and distress.  But not anymore.  Not if you are willing to read labels, stand up for preventive health measures, and become an informed consumer.  If it says “High Fructose” we put it back on the shelf.  We have learned more than we wanted to know about what is in processed foods.  We are picky eaters now, but so much healthier.

TIME FOR DRESS REHEARSAL    When our second refrigerator in the garage died, we had a crash course in what happens with no power.  The food within was instantly “use it or lose it.”  We saved some, lost some.  So, we are now in a more active dress rehearsal mode.  My man frequently asks the question, “If today we found ourselves in a major crisis, what would we most regret NOT doing?”  We work on that answer first.  Recent endeavors include: Honey, I Can’t Make it Home Day using GMRS hand held radios, Little House on the Prairie Day with no electricity, and All Shook Up earthquake prep day.  Dress rehearsal is a great way to find out what works and what doesn’t, and who is up for performance, and who needs a bit more stage time…

AS THE FINAL CURTAIN GOES UP…  The Greatest Performer this world has ever known lived His part perfectly:  “Love thy Neighbor As Thyself.” Imagine a world of loving, caring, planet-conscious humans whose role it is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for those in need.  More than just mankind caring for our own, imagine finally understanding that being one means every living organism, from the smallest microbe in the dirt, to the molecules of air, the vast oceans of water, and every form of plant and animal life.  Everything should be protected and esteemed by us as caretakers of this beautiful Earth. 

Start with the understanding of One Home.  Take care of every needful thing for you and your family and then help others to do the same.  Eventually you will come to understand that we truly are one world.  One family.  Why classify by color, race, country or creed?  They are only the costumes we wear for this particular performance, and as Will Shakespeare, another great performer said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.”  The part you have been cast in is a critical one.  You were born to play it.  So act your part with pride, fellow Preppers.  TEOTWAWKI is now.

Thursday, June 21, 2012