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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It is very difficult for the average middle class American to prepare for the coming collapse; those that recognize the need still see it as maybe too late to do anything or there is too much to buy and prepare to be completely prepared.  Unless you are independently wealthy, that may be true, it is nearly impossible to be 100% completely prepared for all eventualities.

The first thing you need to do is to prepare your soul and your family, they have to understand and be on board.  Your family and yourself must first get right with God if you haven’t, and accept Christ as your savior and bend to God’s judgment, let his will guide your first and foremost.  After this you must begin your preparations, none of us know when the time will come, more than likely soon, but it may be a week away or years away, and every little bit will get you that much closer to survival and make your position far better.  I won’t go into deep detail on every facet of information as there are ample books and blogs explaining the “how to’s” and if you are on survivalblog already than you have a monstrous wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.  This is a quick once over to help the read understand the basics and get started, remember that knowledge is the best weapon you have, read, learn, try and repeat until you have it mastered.


More than likely you don’t have a lot of disposable income have had your hours cut back or have a hefty mortgage.  You have to look at all the expenses in your house, if renting is it reasonable, is there a way to find a more remote location to move to, or a cheaper place to rent that would save you monthly expenses?  Cell phone bills are an easy way to cut, if you have multiple phones consider cutting back to one main house phone, get a pen and paper and write down things to buy at the store instead of calling home from there to figure out what you need.  Cell phones are handy but are they worth the extra 60-100 dollars they are costing you a month?  Cable is not necessary, it is a convenience, if you have cable you probably have internet, have one house computer, sell the others, and get your news off the net.  Whatever disposable income you have, start to put it into tangible goods, things that you can use or sell in the coming TEOTWAWKI situation.  I invested a good portion of my net assets in precious metals in 2008 before the price went up, but even with the higher prices now you have to remember that when the time comes that everyone realizes that they should buy gold and silver it will be too late to get adequate amounts.  Buy “junk” silver, 90% dimes and quarters, they don’t have the numismatic value of silver Eagles or gold Krugerrands, but people won’t care about the collectibility of the coin in TEOTWAWKI only the content. Don't buy 1-ounce "trade dollars" or bars. What I mean by this is the 10 or 100 oz silver bars or 1 oz gold coins, those are worth a lot individually and you will need your metals to barter for things like food, ammo, clothes, etc.  day to day items not a new care, so buy small amounts, which is why junk silver is so nice, because about 1.30 in silver coin is worth a 1 oz silver piece and you can barter more accurately with the smaller denomination.  It’s okay if you can buy $10,000 worth of coin now, if it’s just a few hundred at a time, that’s more than fine, shop around get the best deal, but don’t not buy storage food and ammo to buy more coin, you can barter with silver but you can’t eat it, and at the beginning of the collapse people may only want “beans, bullets and Band Aids” as the military says.  In short, don’t eat out, buy bulk and buy cheap, learn to cook with simple ingredients that can be found in nature.  Cut out non-essentials, don’t take that vacations to Hawaii, instead go out camping and you can test the gear you buy and get your family used to living it rough, and relying on what they have and on God’s bounty in nature.  I know many people might disagree, but get out of your retirement accounts, cash them in take the hit, or at least don’t put your money into them anymore.  List out all your expenditures and future expenditures and figure out where you can cut out wants and boil it down to actual needs and go from there.


Food isn’t hard to find and buy, with the proliferation of bulk food stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.  On a tight budget you can see when there are deals on canned vegetables and other foods and when you go out buy a few cans per trip and it will add up.  This is a less efficient course, because when you buy in bulk you save much more per can than individually.  If you can’t afford a membership find a friend that does or find a few and pool your money and have the owner of the account shop for everyone. You can save up to a dollar a can in some circumstances.  Bulk Salt, Sugar, Molasses, Coffee and every other staple can be purchased there.  Buy in bulk store it in a garage or wherever you have room, and add to it over time as money allows, in a short while you will be amazed at what you can accumulated.  Read up on what is needed for an adult man, woman, and child to survive and buy accordingly.  You’ll need an ample source of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.  Hard Red wheat is a favorite of mine, you can (with a home grinder, recommend the Country living grain mill, it’s the best on the market) grind your wheat when needed into flour to make bread and it retains its nutrients much longer than buying flour itself.  You can also soak it in water overnight to make Wheat Berries and add some brown sugar and/or honey and it makes a nutritious breakfast that’s not too bad.  If you can’t find a cheap local seller of red wheat, check local bakeries many will sell it at wholesale or a buck a pound if you bring your own bucket.  For long term storage you need food storage grade buckets, and there are many techniques including Mylar bags with dry ice and “Gamma seal” lids, just a quick search on any survival site will give you more detailed information on how to pack and store this once you get your supplier lined up.  A quick tip is instead of buying the buckets online, is to call local bakery shops, or supermarkets, restaurants that buy bulk cooking foods and ask if they have empty buckets laying around.  Make sure that the buckets ARE food grade and haven’t had any chemicals stored in them.  Check for smells because if they held pickles and you don’t clean them out with bleach and baking soda then you might have pickled flavored wheat come TEOTWAWKI time. 

The other way to get your food storage situation in order is to look at bulk pre-packaged meals like those in the military MREs or the Mountain House meals you see at camping supply sections.  These meals are dehydrated, have long shelf lives and only usually need water to cook/heat up.  The downside is that they are much more expensive per calorie than say a bucket or hard red wheat and canned fruits/veggies.  The upside is that they are great emergency and Bug out (a term that denotes you needing to leave quickly) food, as they can be thrown in a backpack and left there for longer than your family dog will live.  If money is tight then I would only use this as a small portion of your total food storage. Definitely have some pre-staged in “Bug out bags” (will mention this later, but basically a backpack for each individual, easily available to grab and leave quickly if things get bad) so that you will have meal(s) to eat on the go and MREs can be rationed out to last a few days each.  Check Craigslist, local surplus stores and of course the internet, as they are sold everywhere and can range from $50-to-90 a case (of 12).  The last big item to mention for food is seeds and hunting.  Hunting will require weapons which will be discussed later and will be dictated by where you live and availability of game in the area.  Seeds on the other hand are very important for long term survival in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  The average seed store will sell you a pack of carrots or tomatoes that with a green thumb and good soil produce copious amounts of the fruit or vegetable wanted, but most people don’t save the seeds they produce to use the next year.  This is because of two reasons, one the packs are cheap and two most seeds are what are called “hybrid seeds”, meaning that they are made to produce good yields of each plants bounty, but the in a generation or two the seeds produced will not be viable.  What you want to buy are “heirloom” seeds, these seeds often don’t produce as big of yields of as their Frankenstein hybrid cousins, but year after year, the seeds they produce will grow true and can be used indefinitely.  Search out web sites that sell heirloom seeds and research the plants and crops that will grow best in your area, or areas near you will be moving to after the collapse.  Research heavily, I have a whole folder that has page upon page of information on every heirloom seed that I buy and that has helped tremendously when I did my own small experiments and tried my hand at home gardening, this information and experience helped me immensely to accumulate the knowledge needed to know how and when to plant, what plants to plant around or keep away from my “crops” as now the learning curve only means I lose a plant or two or none grow at all until I figure the tricks out.  In a TEOTWAWKI scenario when your life depends on this food, the learning curve will mean life or death.  You don’t want to OJT in a survival situation; you need to know the little tricks before.  Intent is good, knowledge is better and practical experience is golden.


Water is one of the most important links in survival and a post indoor plumbing; TEOTWAWKI will amplify this for every man woman and child on this planet.  Most people take their ample water supply at home for granted, flip the faucet and water will run continuously.  When that water stops where will you get yours? Even if you have a house more than likely, as in 99% of the time your pump is electric with no manual backup. If you have your own well there are manual pumps that can be made and fitted to use before, or if you have the money to buy them, solar powered pumps are and option as well.  If you live in the city, or even the suburbs many times, you are dependent on city water and will be SOL in TEOTWAWKI.  First thing to do in any emergency is plugging the drains in sinks and tubs and fill it with water, you will need this to fill bottles, camelbacks, etc for your run from the city. 

Wherever you go one thing that it will need to have is water available, whether it’s a solar/hand pumped well, a neighboring creek or some other water source.  The closer the better because a five gallon bucket of water weighs around 41.7 pounds and hand carrying that long distances gets old real quick!  A water filer is a must especially if your water comes from a standing water lake or pond or even a stream.  I know and have drank from fast moving streams deep in the mountains, as they are often free from bacteria, but this was necessity and I know use a Steripen UV water purifier for when I fill my canteens.  The problems with streams is that you never know what is just upstream from you, a dead moose/deer or other animal could be lying dead or a friendly bear could be giving you the big finger by taking a dump in it.  Like I said I carry a candy bar size Steripen for my hiking trips with a solar recharger case for my mountain camping, but that takes 45 seconds to sterilize a quart of water, and only as long as the battery lasts.  The best plan is to buy a Big Berkey water filter with a 3.5 gallon per hour filter rate, and its filtration is second to none.  This baby runs about $250+, so it is out of the price range of some, but if you can make it work, it is well worth the investment.  This is a in-house filter and not good at all for on the go, in the same price range is the portable  Swiss made Katadyn pocket filter that you can use to fill up your canteens or Nalgene bottles from lakes and streams.  These are two examples of great filters for in house and on the go (bug out) use, but there are other ways to filter your water for cheaper.  The Common container of bleach (original non-fragrance) is an old standby for water purification.  Use ¼ teaspoon per gallon of water, or a full teaspoon per 4 gallons of water.  This is a cheap purifier and should leave avery slight bleach smell, this only means that it has done its job, but may not taste like it’s from the Brita.  Another more economical solution is to use “Pool Shock” a common ingredient to make pools safe to swim in and available from any pool care store, online or in your town depending on your environment.  Make sure that calcium hypochlorite is the only active ingredient in the product and at 65% with no added anti-fungal's, or clarifiers, if not you can seriously endanger you and your family.  You would use about ¼ ounce per two gallons of water, this will make bleach and with that you can use the bleach solution to treat water at 1 part per 100 parts water, roughly 2.5 tablespoons per gallon of water.  I got most of this info from J.W. Rawles on and the EPA site link, and using this I would definitely go with the EPA’s recommendation of aerating “The disinfected water by pouring it back and forth from one clean container to another” as this does get rid of the smell.  This was more because I had time and it wasn’t survival mode yet, but a bad smell is better than giardia (Beaver Fever) any day!   The last way is to just bring the water to boil for one minute, let it cool and drink it.  This is fine for the campsite but for a larger group of people in a more static location having the ability to treat large amounts of water is a real plus and your energies and time can go to more pressing matters.


This list isn’t so much in order of importance, as food and water are important to survival but having a place to stay and survive while society collapses is a must.  If you live in an apartment there are books and manuals available on how to outfit it for “urban survival” but most of these recognize this as being just a "you have no other choice" type scenario and I would discourage it in every possible way.  The truth is yes if you have a fireplace you can burn furniture available throughout the city or construct a makeshift stove to heat and cook from.  You can barricade the doors; form a co-op with other residents, pool resources and all that.  That would be for a short term, month+ plus Katrina scenario where the caped federal crusader will be there to provide food and shelters eventually.  In a TEOTWAWKI world, this isn’t going to happen, currency and government will cease to function, and there will be no coast guard airdrops and FEMA trailers coming.  The best thing to do if you live in an apartment is move to a more remote home with land of your own.  If you can’t do that then, as previously stated, change your life habits, get something cheaper if possible and be ready to leave the city or suburbs as soon as things get bad, and before everyone else realizes it and loses their minds. A quick digression, if you are reading this you already recognize the need to know these things and have somewhat of an idea of how bad things will get.  But remember that 99% of the people in this country have no idea what do when the power goes out and the shelves at the supermarket are empty.  Many people will remain good hearted individuals, but many will not and turn to the darker side of humanity and steal, rape and pillage whatever they can.  Our commanding general in Iraq said that we Marines should “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”  That is the mentality you need to have, that you should live the Christian virtues of charity and love of your fellow man, but have a plan to escape survive and defend you and your family’s life.  Okay Back to Shelter, if you can’t afford a place out in the woods away from the main cities, remote and self sustaining to the best of your ability, network.  Log into survival blog sites like and others and find other like-minded Christian people like yourself that want to be prepared, form groups and pool your resources, more than likely you have skills that others don’t, and if you don’t have any practical survival skills begin to learn them, specialize in medicine, or hunting/trapping, solar power, mechanics so that you have something to offer the group that they need.  There is the rugged individual in every American (And I was of this mindset when I first started prepping) that wants to have a mountain top retreat, hunt, grow and trap all your food, and hold of waves of godless communists with nothing but your AR and brass balls.  Sorry to break this to you if you had the same thought as me, but you won’t survive long-term going solo, or just you and your family.  You could scrounge out an existence, but more than likely you will run out of food and/or gangs of looters before too long.  Your best chance of survival will be in groups, peppers who joined before and after the collapse to help each other and pool their resources and talents.  Your best chance will be to find a place off the beaten path, not near any major highways with freshwater, long growing seasons and plentiful game.  Even with all this life will be labor intensive and difficult.  You will want your retreat in an area where the population has some semblance of self reliance as a community virtue.  It should be within driving distance and if not you need to have pre-filled and rotated gas cans so you won’t rely on gas stations to get there.  There are extensive tomes written on this subject so I won’t try to touch on all the details that lie therein.  Basically you will want to get out of the cities and away from any major populations now, and if not do it before things get bad, read the signs and beat the crowd.  Survival in numbers, folks.


Depending on whom you ask you’ll get many different opinions on what weapons someone should have to defend themselves in a TEOTWAWKI world.  I’m a firm believer that everyone should have a weapon for self defense even in the pre-TEOTWAWKI world we live in now.  I have the utmost respect for Police officers and have worked with many of them over the years, but Police rarely stop a crime before it is committed, more often they are a cleanup crew.  At the minimum someone should have a handgun, shotgun and rifle.  Handguns should not be your primary defensive weapon now or in TEOTWAWKI, they are great as a backup when your primary weapon runs out of ammo or you don’t have time to reload and need rounds on target quickly. Transitioning (which is what those in the military and plice world call it when you move from one weapon system to another) from your rifle to your pistol is much quicker often times than reaching for a new mag and reloading as your pistol should be already loaded and ready to go.  A .45 is my preferred choice for a sidearm for is stopping power, but there has been a lot of talk about the .40 S&W being of roughly equal stopping power, higher capacity and better ballistics when Special Forces was testing for a new sidearm over the hated M9 Beretta 9mm.  I personally use a Kimber Warrior, but any Colt manufacture .45 is excellent as well, with any weapon read up, shoot ones your friends may have, and many pistol ranges allow you to rent most common pistols, take lessons and use what is most comfortable with you.  I don’t like 9mm as its stopping power is at best problematic as I saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, even with hollow points a enemy can and has taken multiple rounds and been able to still keep fighting, albeit less efficiently.  If you have a 9mm now, consider selling it and getting a .45 if not, it’s still better than a knife or bat! 

For rifles well that’s where we run into a 1,000 different opinions and no matter what you say there’s always someone that says your wrong and this is why.  I don’t care much for armchair shooters' opinions and I rely on my own experience overseas, I did two tours in Iraq with the Marine Corps Infantry, the last was the Siege of Fallujah in 2004-2005 and then three years private contracting security for companies that have been unjustly maligned in recent years, anyway off my soapbox.  I prefer my M4 for main battle rifle due to its ability to do double duty as both an offensive/defensive weapon as well as hunt small to medium game.  The M4’s main attribute is it is basically a magnum .22 and has quite a bit of “oomph” behind it (the amount of depends on your barrel length and ammunition used).  There has been a lot of talk of it not being able to “stop” a enemy, and I have seen this in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it does sound hypocritical due to my diatribe on the 9mm previously, but the lack of one round stopping power is made of the other attributes the M4 (AR family) offers.  As a Drill instructor told me, the AK is great for uneducated, slow witted mud hut dwellers, they can point shoot and drop it in the dirt, and it will keep shooting, but the M4 is a professional’s weapon.  It can shoot accurately at distances far outrange of the AK (the barrel length will greatly affect this) or many other similar battle rifles, and in the hand of a well trained Marine it is deadly.   I love the AK as well and I own and use one as well as other rifles, but if push came to shove and there was an intruder in the perimeter, my M4 would be my primary.  With proper training and only Iron sights you can hit targets accurately at 500 yards or less.  With the right ammunition you can also hunt animals from rabbits to deer, which makes it a much more versatile weapon than the venerable AK. 

As for a Shotgun I would go with a 12 gauge Mossberg 500 or Remington 870, there are nice autoloader Benellis or other fine quality shotguns, but for the price that you can buy a Mossberg or Remington, you can’t beat them.  They are tough reliable and easy to use, and their close in stopping power is second to none.  I prefer 4 or 5 shot 00 Buck but pretty much any shotgun round at close range will do the trick.  There are also 3 shot+Sabot from Winchester called the PDX1 12 will destroy any intruder or enemy at close range, and even longer distances with the Sabot round.  For the uninitiated the 12 gauge shotgun can be a bit intimidating, so definitely get familiar with the weapon. 

Another quick point would be, if you are forming a group or have a large family, wishing to have a rifle for you, your wife, older sons/daughters, etc.  In any case where you are going to have multiple rifles in your family/group, come up with a group standard no matter which one you choose.  Any assortment of weapons is better than having nothing, but you do not want to be in a situation where you are running out of ammo and the people around you have different calibers and magazine styles, as you can’t interchange them.  So if you decide on the AR family then bulk up on magazines, at least six on each person, in a chest rig or some other type of practical magazine carrier.


To sum up, none of us regular chumps have a lot of extra cash to go and buy two years of food for a family of six an arsenal of weapons, a farm with animals and thousands of dollars in silver this minute.  But over time you can, but that time is rapidly growing shorter, as I believe things are coming to a head very soon.  So first and foremost pray, get right with God, get right with your family, become cohesive, find others you can rely on when things go bad, stock up on what you can when you can.  Every individuals situation is different so look at yours, look at your options, your network of friends and family, figure out who possibly has a place far away from the cities that you could fall back to, talk things over with them, even if they think you’re crazy if they agree, they will thank you later.  Pre-stock food, ammo and other essentials there, bring your family out and camp out in the elements with the, so they have a better understanding before it becomes real.  This is real camping, not Winnebago and a gas grill we are talking about, practice primitive survival methods (that are legal) practice trapping and hunting when the season permits, get everyone in decent shape.  Change your life, save your life and the lives of your loved ones.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I cannot even remember a time when I wasn't a "prepper".  Although until a few years ago, I had no idea of what I was preparing for.  Before the dawn of my awakening, I had serious urges to learn how not to kill plants and flowers. I wanted to grow my own food eventually, so I started with a trip to the local Big Box store, and bought some bare root fruit trees. Now in my mind, they are already dead, so if I could resurrect them, and keep them going, I was on my way. If they didn't survive my over-nurturing tendencies, then I wouldn't feel bad, as they were dead already! To my surprise, all but one survived the first year, and I tasted the sweet success of peaches fresh off the tree!  What I didn't know then, was that you always thin out the fruit the first year or two, or all the branches break. I learned the hard way.  That summer I built two 4x8 raised bed garden boxes, and planted up a storm. I read nearly every garden web site, watched all the you tube videos and read all the books that I could get my hands on, and learned about proper drainage, shading, and organic pest control. It is all a balance act as I found out, but I am now eating most of my diet from my garden. Quality garden soil is the key. Everything else can be managed. 

Along the way, I found articles  and blogs on TEOTWAWKI and WTSHTF. I read Bible prophecies, Hopi indian prophecies, and listened to those whom I trust, warn of impending disasters, and world wide trouble. Economic collapse, social unrest, changing weather patterns, and evidence of global disasters increasing in intensity, and frequency, answered any questions I might have had about the urges to prepare that I had been experiencing for many years.   In a disorganized way, I started buying long term food storage, beans, rice, wheat, and canned meat. At the time, I did not have a wheat grinder, and had absolutely no idea of what I would do with it, when the time came.  A plan would have been the smart way to start, but I eventually bought a hand grinder.  It was not until the electric grinder that I found at a yard sale, came into my life years later, that I actually ground the wheat to make bread.   Another lesson learned along the way : White wheat? Red wheat? Which do I use for bread? Gluten? Why do I need to add that?  Gluten needs to be added to make it rise better. After a few flat loaves, I asked  questions. Once again, I learned the hard way. I also did research, and learned that the nutritional value of wheat is increased by up to 700% by sprouting. What a find that information was, for my long term food storage plans. I will sprout my wheat, and throw it into salads! 

Momentum was building, as guns were acquired, CCW permit obtained, ammo purchased, water tanks, 72-hour kits assembled, and a trailer for hauling what I needed out of town if it came to that.   I'm a single mom here, with two grown boys, and I was feeling a little bit lonely as I used what extra money I made, to purchase more and more food storage, for at least a year's provisions. I personally knew of no one else doing this. I was feeling a bit like a hoarder, and occasionally had to do a reality check. Finding like-minded people on web sites, and blogs like was a tremendous help, to center myself.  Reading and re- eading the lists of organized ways to approach preparations has helped me move forward. I sure wish I had started that way.  Just after the real estate bubble burst, I saw the values declining so rapidly in housing, that I realized one of the most valuable pieces of advice given to me is to be debt free of consumer debts, and to own a house free and clear. I accomplished getting free of installment debt after a time, but the house mortgage was going to be a bigger challenge.  

I still had a little money in savings, but really felt uncomfortable with the money in the bank, after having narrowly avoided the markets' mini-crash in the late 1980s, and read about savings and loans collapsing.  So I decided to use what I had, to build my emergency short term, or long term retreat on a piece of land that I had purchased some seven years prior when I had been buying things to prepare without knowing why.  This was a perfect plan, to secure a small home that would be paid for, off grid- independent of city utilities of any kind.  It would be for me, a great investment, and a place to retire to as well. I work for myself, so for me, this was it. This was the only retirement fund I would have, a place to live.   Construction started two months later, after researching plans found on line. Again,  planning was lacking, as there was urgency in completing this project, and the builder was pressed for time too.  But my cabin stands proudly, in a rural area, 165 miles from the nearest city, and 15 miles from a town of 20,000.   

There is a fantastic neighbor across the street, but the first line of defense, is a fence! So that went up right away with the help of one of my sons, and some friends.  In spite of broken bits for the rock drill, cuts, bruises, and sore backs, we made it through the excruciatingly long week of stretching fence, and barbed wire on top. I did the hard part - I watched, and made lunch for everyone! :)  

The house is equipped with a composting toilet because I bought property without doing a percolation test first.  (Learning the hard way.) The perc test determines if a septic can be put in, and in this case, there were too many rocks!  Water must be hauled, but there are underground tanks that can be purchased inexpensively, to hold plenty of water. (you can buy up to 10,000 gallon tanks) I presently have 1,200 gallons stored, in 300 gallon tanks,  but will be installing two 1,500 gallon tanks this next summer. Wells dug in this area run $35,000 and up.  When in conservation mode, the average adult uses three gallons or less per day for drinking, cooking and washing (heated over the stove- sponge bath I would suppose)  So I will have plenty of water for over a year. The water system is pumped with a 1/3 horsepower recreational vehicle water pump, and an extra pump is hidden away for emergencies. Water is run through the cabin with pex line, which is easy to work with. I installed an on demand propane water heater for the shower, and kitchen sink. The Berkey water filter sits proudly by the sink, and is always filled. Extra filters are in the pantry. 

The cabin has a ventless propane heater, and a cast iron wood fireplace.  A funny thing about propane I learned last winter: In extreme cold, regulators freeze, and propane heaters do not work, nor do propane stoves and ovens!  Last winter I went to the cabin to experience the Christmas season in the snow. Hah to me. the temperature had dropped to -15 degrees Fahrenheit and everything in the cabin when I got there at 9 p.m., was frozen!  I think of SurvivalBlog, where I learned "two is one, and one is none". Oh thank goodness I thought, that I had just installed this new woodstove. I had not yet used it, but this was to be it's maiden fire.  Funny thing about fire places and wood stoves... there is a bit of a learning curve. I was being conservative of electric, because I wasn't sure of how charged the batteries were on the solar system, so I lit the oil lamps for light, which adds a cozy feel, and I set out to light myself a great fire! I remembered to be sure the flue was open, but I left the door open while I was attempting to defrost the cabin. I grabbed a cast iron pan from the kitchen, threw in a piece of chicken and some veggies, and shoved it into the wood stove.  Yum, dinner was great, but when I stood up and turned on the light to wash the dishes, I realized that the whole room was filled with smoke, and if I had installed a fire alarm, everyone within miles would have known what a dummy I was with my first fire!  

The smoke was so thick in the cabin that I had to sleep on the floor that night, because I couldn't breathe!  Yes, I did open the windows a crack, to vent the smoke outside, but I realized that there was a flue adjustment, and the door was suppose to have been closed.  (No wonder the cabin was still cold, outside the four foot ring around the hearth).  I called a friend in a panic, who after having a great laugh at my expense, told me how to adjust it to heat the house comfortably. (yes I learned the hard way - again)  

The following day was sunny, and a bit warmer but still no propane. No worries, I have a solar oven. It worked like a charm to cook lunch, but I soon realized that if I was to survive with this thing, I had better plan my meals a day in advance, because the sun is out for a limited time. No planning dinner at 3 p.m. in my neck of the woods!   The sun... A funny thing about the sun I discovered. It never makes appearances when you need it! I had decided with the cabin, solar was the way to go. So I started small, with two 175-watt panels, and eight T105 batteries, and an Outback pure sine wave inverter. Great system if the sun is out all day. Some days it is not. Darn that jokester the sun. It seems to be out all day when I am not there, but when I go to visit the cabin, it is cloudy. The battery bank is drawn down too quickly, and then Wham! I'm out of juice. No lights, no water pump, no radio, no charging the cell phone.  During the summer, which is the rainy season, it happens this way every day.  So I learned two more lessons the hard way:   Lesson 1. Always have a water tank that provides gravity feed to a house. Lesson 2. Buy more panels to charge the batteries up faster, or a wind generator.  I also have a gas generator, but it does require gasoline, and I am 15 miles from town. Lesson 3. Always keep a spare can of gas handy.   So now I have a great log sided shed built behind the cabin, to house the back up generator, and the 25 gallons of gasoline, the stockpile of charcoal, the 8 gallons of oil lamp fuel, the tools, washer (which will be run with generator power, and gravity fed water), dryer for use when it is raining, and all of the camping supplies.  

I have built up to a two year supply of food, soaps, Clorox, medical supplies, hundreds of matches, and flints for when it is raining, and I am outside for what ever reason. Handguns, rifles, shotgun, ammo to hold off an army,  300 + seed packs 1/2 heirloom, and 1/2 hybrid to sell or trade.  I am finally taking inventories of all that I have stored, to best rotate, and plan for future needs. I have learned that vodka is used for making tinctures with herbs, and I may consider buying a couple of cases to sell or trade in an extreme situation.   I am designing my green houses, and a heating system to extend the growing season well into winter.  I am collecting books to read, mostly non fiction, and movies to watch on cold dark nights. I have purchased 4 more solar panels 190 watt each, and before they are installed, I will be pricing the tracking pole mount. It increases productivity by at least 30%. 

I now have two 55-gallon drums, and hand crank gas pump, which will all be assembled and filled next summer. I expect to fill one with diesel fuel for barter or to sell. Diesel lasts for years, and I have distant neighbors who use it.  A four wheel drive vehicle is a must in a rural area during winter.  I would love to learn about ham radio, and to be certified to operate one.   I have a 10x20 covered chicken run with a coop at the retreat location and a small flock of eight hens. They live in the city for now with me, but travel to the cabin and stay in the summer for extended stays. They seemed to enjoy their last summer vacation. I always have eggs to share with neighbors.  Last but not least, My son and I purchased an older kick-start dirt bike, kept in our home in the city, with a 72 hour kit nearby, and an off road map from point A to point B.   Next year my project is to learn to use those fishing poles I bought at the swap meet!  Respectfully submitted B. R. in Arizona

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I may be a little late to the party, but I have spent a considerable time lately worrying about what to do if this economy of ours crashes.  I started thinking about what I would do if TSHTF. I had no answer. I have read about lot of peoples concern over solar flares, and 2012 scenarios, and while they may happen, I am more convinced of the coming collapse of the dollar and the global economy. I think this is much more of a probability and certainly less speculative that the other fears---at least at the moment. So, rather than let my already damaged IRA drift further down the road to worthlessness, I decided to bite the bullet and pull money out to secure a retreat for my entire family. It will be a place we can go to in any type of disaster. I paid the taxes and penalties like a good American, and set out to find a place to go. I also put a large sum of money into hard assets (gold and silver). I will call for delivery of it on the first sign of trouble. The rest I have left alone for the moment. I set some criteria for what the retreat would have to have. Fresh water, the ability to heat without power, the ability to grow a large garden, the ability to harvest game, and a place to house 10 people. I had to do this all for less than $100,000.

I found a newly renovated 1,950 square foot home, on seven acres, with a fresh water spring, a seasonal pond, wood stove, no central air or heat, two acres of cleared land, five acres of deer infested cedars, a lake close enough to fish, a 30 x 30 barn and a 10 x 30 - three-horse stable. The property is half a tank of gas from where I currently live. I have taken a sample of the spring and will have it tested this week. My son will be moving into the home soon and we will begin to get it set up. There are some things I know we need to do, and I can use any advice anyone has to move us to the point of self sufficiency. I have bought a couple years worth of heirloom seed for the garden. I have am ATV we can use to till the garden spot. I need to get power to the barn while we have it because we will need to build storage capacity for food and supplies in the barn. I have all the woodworking tools I need to do this. I imagine I will need to cut some cedars for posts so we can fence off the garden. Right now the deer walk through the yard every morning right past where the garden will go. I plan on setting up a perch on the upper level of the barn so when the time comes for surveillance of the home and property, we can do it from there. The barn will give us full view of the home and road leading to it. It sits about 100 yards from the home. We’ll also build a wood rack big enough to hold a cord of wood. In the meantime we need to get started with gathering emergency supplies like food, first aid/medical, canning supplies for when we harvest the garden etc. So, if the Republicans can mouth off some debt reduction rhetoric, and buy me some time to get a first garden harvest in, we will have food, water and shelter covered by fall of next year.

We will also have time to get our survival supplies stored up which will shorten the time we need to be ready. I have put together a list of critical items I will need to haul out of my current residence if I have to bug out on short notice. I am hoping that a lot of it can be relocated soon. These items include my lawn tractor, 4 wheeler, tools, guns and ammo, (except the ones I will keep for my travel to the retreat), all my hunting and fishing supplies, and the like. I have a 12 foot trailer so it will probably take a couple of preliminary trips to move all the things I want to move ahead of time. That will leave me with enough room in our two vehicles and the trailer to bug out with the remaining essentials I really can’t move early. But like I said, if the rhetoric from Washington will just settle the markets for a little longer we should be okay. If not I will just have to re-prioritize. As for whatever is left behind, we’ll just need to learn to live without it. I have a list of survival stuff to gather/purchase and have begun getting it together. It includes food, food processing equipment, a portable solar generator, water filtration, fuel storage, some security and personal protection items, medical supplies etc. I have learned a lot from this blog. Keep the posts coming and I’ll take whatever advice you all have. - Paul F.

JWR Replies: Congratulations for having the courage to cash out and buy a retreat.

My advice on precious metals is simple and hasn't changed in more than a decade: Buy precious metals only after getting your beans, bullets, and Band-Aids squared away. And then when you do buy, purchase only physical precious metals that you keep very well hidden at home. Bonded vault storage and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and other promises of future delivery are just promises, and modern history is replete with broken promises. Take immediate delivery!

Monday, August 23, 2010

I believe that in a severe crisis, most of the problems are going to have to be solved at the local level. State and federal government are too big and dependent on technology to survive a severe crisis once the grid drops and all services start to erode. Local governments, too, are ill prepared to assume this crushing responsibility, but they are much more resilient because their scope of control is smaller. Most of them have never even considered what they would do.

This article is a discussion piece to stimulate thought on the subject of small community recovery after TEOTWAWKI. I hope it will also be useful as a rough blueprint or checklist for local community leaders, or at least a starting point for a comprehensive plan. I wrote it from the perspective of a fictional town mayor. Most of the issues I mention apply to many levels of local government and law enforcement. I realize that A mayor never acts alone or has absolute power. They have a lot of people helping and advising them. I am hoping you will help yours make and implement the right decisions and that this paper will help in some small way.

Before I start spouting off about what I think will occur, I need to tell you who I am. I am a retired Army Electronic Warfare and Signals Intelligence Warrant Officer. I spent over a decade working on Army planning staffs at various levels, and was a professional action officer on the USAREUR DCSINT planning staff for more than four years. I got the rare opportunity to see many failed states and regional crisis and how people, communities and economies react. But I have never held any office in local government. Also, unfortunately, I am not a wizard who can see into the future. The following are my own conclusions and suggestions drawn from my own experiences. I may be wildly wrong, or overlooking factors that seem obvious to you, especially if you have a lot of experience in local government. So, take this for what it's worth. Hopefully, it will provide a basis for discussion and planning and generate a dialog. I am hoping to hear corrections and other ideas. I am never insulted by disagreement, so if you see things differently, I would be very happy to hear it.

First, we need to define what kind of crisis I am talking about. I am talking about a large scale disaster of some kind that effects a huge geographical region and forces local communities to solve their own problems and precludes getting help from outside. I am talking about an event that would cause a complete failure of basic services such as finance (banking) or the electrical grid and prevent the Government from repairing it quickly enough to prevent a general cascading breakdown of other services. I will use a major EMP event as my example because that would be just about a worst case event. Some of what I say will be applicable to regional or short term events, but some of it won't.

I believe that most communities are doomed. Many American and European communities are artificial constructs entirely dependent on modern society to keep them running. You can tell if your town cannot survive by looking at the population density, arable land, water supplies and other resources. If your community is in a desert and trucks in all their water, you can't possibly survive long term. If your whole population is suburban or urban and you have no working farms or farmable land, then you are doomed. Sorry. If you live in a doomed community, I don't know what to tell you. For this article, I am assuming a smallish town with a good water supply and a lot of working farms that don't require electric irrigation. Even a perfectly situated town will have huge problems and may not survive a major EMP event. Anything less than perfection is going to require superhuman effort, no mistakes and a large touch of luck.

Somebody has to take charge quickly:
Anarchy is the dirtiest word in the English language and should be avoided at all costs. Whenever I see some teenager wearing a T-shirt espousing anarchy, I get a strong urge to show him a little anarchy by beating him up and ripping it off his back..and then ask him if he still thinks Anarchy is "cool". I have seen chaos and virtual anarchy up close and I was frankly astonished at the depravity of mankind. Without law and order of some kind, the strong will take from the weak. The cruel will torture and kill wantonly. Rule of law is essential to any progress or recovery. I am writing this in the firm belief that when our society crashes, some communities will maintain order and some vestige of humanity. That's going to require a delicate balancing act because the two concepts are not mutually reinforcing and can be at odds with each other. Communities are going to have to make some very hard choices if they are to maintain order and survive. Lets hope they can maintain their humanity and Christian values while they are doing this.

Let's imagine that you are the mayor of a small town when this horrible event occurs. The lights go out, most cars don't work, and personal battery powered electronics malfunction. How quickly would most small town mayors realize it was EMP? I am guessing that most of them will figure it out within minutes or hours. There are enough smart folks around to advise them even if they are not knowledgeable. So what are your actions going to be?

What are your resources? The town owns some land and some buildings, some vehicles and maybe some utility equipment. But by far, your biggest asset is a limited amount of capital in the form of authority and good will. You represent a body of voters, which gives you more legal legitimacy than anyone else. You have a police force of some kind and the authority to spend money on behalf of the government...sort of. Your authority is real, but it's based on some fairly fragile cornerstones. Some of them may not exist anymore. The monetary system may be completely wrecked. You may not be able to pay anyone for anything. The Federal and State Governments are both out of communications and may not exist anymore. Any indecision or misstep on your part could destroy your authority, leaving nothing in it's place.

What, exactly is your authority? Where does it overlap with county or other governments? What gives you the authority to maintain order? Impose martial law? Appoint armed deputies, Set up roadblocks? Commandeer fuel and food stocks? The Army NCO academy teaches that there are five types of power that an individual can wield. You will need to use all of them.

a. Legal: You have limited direct "Command authority" in a military sense. Unless you have a body of laws to back you up, you can't lean on your command authority too much. Check on this, but your town is unlikely to have bylaws giving you much power in an emergency. Instead, you have to assume that you possess Delegated authority. You are the representative of both State and Federal government and have to assume their roles and responsibilities until you can re-establish a chain of command. In the absence of orders or directives, you are free to "assume" responsibility and authority. At least that's a good legal theory and may be enough. If this were ever tested in court, it might not be upheld, but by that time, the crisis will be over, right? Everything you do is "Legal" until you are overruled by a court...or ousted by a mob of your constituents. Your real authority is your mandate from the people. It rests on your ability to make sound decisions and convince others that you are doing all the right things. That buys you more authority in a crisis than all the documents ever printed.

b. Coercive: Unfortunately, brute force is always a factor. As long as you maintain control over the police force or sheriff's department, you have authority. You must gain firm control of your police and public employees first, before you try to do anything else. Without them, your authority can be dissolved by a few hot-heads with weapons. You are going to be forced to make some very unpopular decisions and part of your community is going to be extremely angry with you. Get your troops in place first or you won't keep your authority long. You must also be very careful not to abuse this authority or let your troops abuse it. A good way to do this is to immediately beef up your police force with out of work, solid citizens. You can take on a fairly large number of deputies from the community. That gives the community a sense of ownership in the police and helps prevent excesses.

c. Reward: You will initially have almost no ability to reward anyone. If the finance system is gone, you have nothing to trade for goods and services. You will need to change this immediately by setting up some kind of economy for your town. (This topic is covered below). If you don't lick this problem immediately, your police and city employees are going to stop showing up for work very quickly. They have to feed and protect their families somehow.

d. Charisma: Unfortunately, (or fortunately perhaps) personal charisma and magnetism are much more important than we like to admit. If you can sway a crowd or argue persuasively, it doesn't matter if you are right or wrong. This sword cuts both ways, of course. You are going to have to face very charismatic personalities around town and persuade them to go along with you, or at least stay neutral. You need to gain the immediate support of community and church leaders. Figure out who can cause you political trouble and approach them to get them on your side or otherwise neutralize them, or you will be facing a "minority party" that will eventually oust you.

A good tool for dealing with dissension is to trap your opponents into stating a preferred way to resolve some problem and then enlist them to oversee it. There are a lot of ways to "skin a cat". Let them try their way if it can work. Pull them into your administration. Remember, you are all on the same team at some level. Find that level and stay on it. I believe that in a crisis, everyone has a tendency to follow anyone with a firm voice and the appearance of a plan. Just be sure you have a good plan and you will keep dissension to a minimum.

e. Expert: Knowledge is power. Anyone with unique and useful knowledge has value and power. It's much easier to sway an audience if you have a degree in the topic or an acknowledged expert in your corner. You should surround yourself with experts. When a new problem arises and an expert or two are identified, pull them into your circle of advisers. Doing this not only makes you a better leader with better decisions, it gives all of your followers the sense that you are open to suggestions and good ideas from any quarter.

So, you take charge quickly and start issuing orders. What are those orders?You have a lot of things to worry about, and all of them are urgent and critically important. The following is my list of issues that you need to address immediately and some suggestions on how to address them. Local conditions, laws, resources and public opinions are variables that effect how you must react. Think it out in the context of your local conditions and try to at least have a tentative plan to put forward immediately. The venue for putting forth your agenda should be as transparent as possible, either a public meeting or a written decree or order. That way, everyone not only knows your decisions, they know the reasoning behind them. If you can get consensus from a town meeting before you put out an emergency decree, you will have less trouble,but some of these issues require immediate action.

1. Communications:
Without communications, you are powerless. You must be able to communicate with your police department and other public service folks, the people of the town, the county seat, the State, and lots of others. Unfortunately, a big EMP event will wipe out electronic communications in a blink and leave you isolated, just when you need to be at the center of activity. There are a couple of things you can do to mitigate this if you plan ahead, but you are still going to have to somehow establish some kind of communications with your neighboring towns and other polities...and hopefully higher echelons of government.

If you can store some short range radio equipment and maybe some old-school TA-312 or TA-1 type telephones in a Faraday cage, they will be worth their weight in gold. Even a few old telephones (and wire) can enable you to keep in touch with the town down the road, or your own guard posts. Another thing to add to your Faraday cage is a couple of battery-powered shortwave receivers. These will allow you to catch long range HF broadcasts from working stations possibly overseas. Shortwave may be your most reliable source of news. A ham radio rig, if it survives, might be very useful too.

If you don't have working radios, think back to a time when radio and even telephone didn't exist. Our founding fathers didn't have those luxuries and still managed. The solution is a central, easy to find headquarters, official written communications, and messengers. You will need plenty of paper, (with your office letterhead if possible), envelopes and some kind of official seal you can use. You might even consider a wax seal, like they used in the 18th century, but a notary seal (or something similar) with your signature over the top will look a lot more official than a blank paper. You will also need carbon paper or a working copier, but probably won't have them.

Small communities in the past used church bells, beacon lights, gongs, bugles, whistles, sirens and flags to communicate locally. These methods require some planning, but they still work.

Public notice boards were a major tool of government in the days before electricity. Designate a board outside city hall or somewhere convenient and section it off into five sections (or more if you wish). Post public policies and directives in one section and "good advice" such as water purification procedures in another. A third section of the notice board should contain a calendar or event log to keep people advised on upcoming events. (Also, you should somehow let people know what day it is). A fourth section of the board can contain news items picked up on the shortwave or from other communities.

The fifth [and very large] section should be made open to the public. Remember, they have no reliable communications means and may need to link up with missing relatives or communicate privately with other community members. A board is a good way to do this and can substitute for a public mail service. Set up a drop box for personal messages (controlled by someone at city hall or at the post office or whatever) and maintain a list of people with "refugee mail" on the public notice board. That way, if someone wants to send a letter or something to anyone else, they drop an envelope in the drop box and write the addressee's name (and a date) on the public board. When the addressee picks up his mail, he crosses his name off the list. Any person traveling to a nearby town can carry mail to that town.

You may need to regulate your public notice board by requiring people to date their notices and limit the time something can remain posted. Otherwise, the public board will quickly get out of hand, no matter how big it is. Try not to get too draconian. Allow people to post anything they want (subject to whatever constraints make sense to the town). Your board may be the best and only information service most people have.

You should also expect to do a lot of face to face meetings with crowds and individuals. Consider setting up a weekly town meeting where you can put out orders and public service information in person and invite discussion. Town meetings used to be a great source of entertainment and gave everyone a chance to blow off some steam about things that bothered them. When electronics fail,You will need to be able to do a lot of business face-to-face. If you move your headquarters to an easily accessible area, like downtown main-street, or near a marketplace, everything may be easier. Unfortunately, messengers and face to face conversations require working transportation of some kind (as discussed below).

2. Building an emergency economy
You are going to have to set up some kind of economy to replace the crashed finance system. You are not going to be able to rebuild the crashed economy, but will have to build an entirely new system, almost from scratch. If you get this one wrong, everything else will fall apart very quickly. This is a huge undertaking, but it must be done quickly. You simply cannot use the existing financial system or hope to rebuild it. About 4/5ths of your town will need food and most of the town's food will be owned by a very few individuals or controlled by a store manager in the case of a corporate chain store. If you allow the market to "work itself out", these few store managers or individuals will suddenly control all the wealth and be able to charge people anything they see fit...or withhold critical resources as the whim takes them. Some people will have nothing of value in the new economy [except their labor]. How will these people buy what they need? "Money" is not the fiat currency we are used to dealing with. It is something of value exchanged for something else of value. Any finance system has to be able to allow people to exchange what they need for what they have or it will fail. In this example, the likely results might be a riot and immediate looting.

Mitigation: None possible? I don't know how you can prepare your town for a total financial crash. If anyone has a suggestion, I would love to hear it.

We might as well deal with this topic right away. Are you going to try to have a strictly capitalist system? If so, a lot of people who don't currently have exactly what they need, or anything that happens to be valued in your new economy, are going to die. (More likely, they are going to revolt and try to take the resources they need.) A free market is a wonderful thing, but it requires time, security and communication to form. You won't have any of these. People who don't have food won't wait long enough for you to form a fully functional free market system, which could take months or years. Without perceived equitable distribution of "wealth" in the form of whatever your community members need, you will have violence and mayhem very quickly. A free market capitalist trade system will never get a chance to form without a precursor system to hold it up until it gets established.

In my humble opinion (after seeing many different monetary systems over the years) there is no alternative to adding a very large socialist component to a post-collapse emergency economy. If you don't strictly regulate critical resources, they will not be distributed equitably and many people will needlessly suffer and perhaps die. Even if that's okay with you, consider what you would do in their shoes. Would you watch your family starve while there was food on the shelves down at the Wal-Mart? Not very likely. You might decide to gather some like-minded folks up and storm the Wal-Mart. If the police try to stop you, what will you do? You will fight to the death because there is no valid alternative. For that matter, the police force may be leading the charge. What are you planning to pay them with? Patriotism? Whoever controls the food and other scarce resources controls the reins of power. It simply cannot be left in the hands of random individuals.

To avoid total anarchy in a societal collapse, you will need to form a centrally controlled economy in the short term, designed to equitably re-distribute and manage critical resources. You will need to slowly build a free market as you are able, but trying to do it immediately will undermine everything you must accomplish during the crisis.

In order to form a centralized economy or even pay for the services the town is going to desperately need, you need to gain control of most of the "publicly available" critical shortage resources and use them as your basis of wealth. Scarce resources are the basis for a currency system. At a very basic level, Food is cash. Once you have a warehouse of food under your tight control, you can pay for labor and other commodities and resources with that food. A better system might be to pay for labor and services with "ration cards". That ration card entitles them to eat a single meal at a community soup kitchen, or entitles them to a set amount of grain or other commodity on demand from the town warehouse. In essence anyone needing community resources "works for the community" and gets to eat at the mess hall...and earns a little surplus to use for other necessities. This arrangement will also give you a huge manpower pool to work with almost immediately. You may find that you will need most of them.

Avoid giving "handouts" to anyone. You need everyone to work as hard as they can. You need them to use their incentive. Handouts that compete with the local economy are counterproductive and destroy human dignity.

Without machinery, manpower is your biggest resource. Cherish each unemployed citizen. Make them work for their pay and use them to build capital for the future (see below), food production, military duties, messenger services, trash collection or anything else that needs doing. Remember, these are not freeloaders, they are solid citizens who want to work and feel like they are part of a larger effort. Don't worry about having so many people on "welfare". Most of them will get to be self sufficient as fast as they are able. Pay them a slight surplus and they will feel that they are working toward something and not living hand to mouth. You may find that they invest the surplus and build your free market economy for you.

If you let private citizens keep their food and fuel and other scarce resources and only confiscate and control corporate or "large retail or wholesale stocks" (explained below), any citizen with resources can also hire help at roughly the same rates you are paying, which helps the whole community and drives down demand for public stockpiles. (You have established a minimum wage of 1 ration card per hour). Everything else could be bartered using food or the town ration cards as currency. If you establish a set value for your ration cards and a safe marketplace in town (perhaps even a market day, where other communities can join in the trading), you have the beginnings of a free market with as little pain as possible and almost no stink of socialism. Since food is established as the gold standard, you also add incentive to immediately start farming, hunting, and otherwise adding to the public larder.

So where do you get the resources you are going to control? I am not talking about collecting up everyone's food and gasoline. That would be an economic disaster in the long term. People need to feel secure in their property rights or they won't be willing to invest in the future. And you need a lot of private investment to get your community through the crisis. You will need to collect taxes later, but not until there is a harvest or something to collect.

You have to be careful which resources you initially confiscate and only gather large retail or wholesale stocks meant for re-sale. Anything owned by an individual for his own use is his property and must not be touched. Any critical and scarce commodity owned strictly for resale should be confiscated for the common good and held by the community. Make sure you provide a receipt to any owners you can locate or at least keep records of what is taken. This will allow much easier accounting if someone ever tries to rebuild the old

Our free enterprise system has provided the opportunity for some families and even individuals to amass huge fortunes. It also allowed groups of individuals to "incorporate" to form legal entities that own vast resources. In normal times, this is an overall goodness that generates wealth and (at least in theory) raises everyone's standard of living. In normal times, an individual is free to own thousands of acres of land and all the minerals under it. He is allowed to farm it, bulldoze it, burn it, deny it's use to others or use it pretty much any way he wants. It's almost certain that critical resources in your community are "owned" by a corporation or private investor. In theory, a single individual can legally "own" all the arable land in a community and prevent anyone from farming it, even if they are starving.

In an emergency, I feel that this cannot and must not be allowed. Moral imperatives and common sense must prevail over law in some rare cases and this is one of those cases. Private property for use by the individual is morally different from corporate property or privately owned property that is held for the "wealth" it generates. If someone "owns" something and has no intention of ever using it himself (or even seeing it), he cannot morally control it in an emergency. I believe that corporations are legal fictions that have exactly as much validity as the rest of our complex finance system. When the dollar crashes and all the banks close, (IMHO) they cease to exist in a moral sense.

Any corporate or investment property belongs to the state in an emergency. Did that sentence scare you? It does me. But I believe it will come to pass. The state has the ultimate responsibility to answer to the people and has legal power over all corporate entities. The government's charter (by constitution and a huge jurisprudence system) is to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare. In normal times, this is best accomplished by jealously guarding a clearly documented body of property rights for individuals and corporations. But this is not a universal law of nature. If corporate interests collide with public welfare needs, the government has the right and the responsibility to negate corporate or individual rights for the common good.

As mayor of a community, you are going to have to make some hard choices and convince others that you are right. One of these choices might be to confiscate corporate property and redistribute it as needed for the common good. That specifically includes local merchants who hold stockpiles of needed resources meant for resale, such as gas station and grocery store owners. The whole retail system with it's complex accounting and "ownership" laws are part of a finance system that no longer exists after a severe EMP event. You (and your community) need to sit down and determine a whole new set of ownership rules. I urge you to think hard about this and perhaps appoint someone wise and respected to arbitrate individual cases. Farmable land owned by a absentee landlord is easy; he's not there and owns it only as an investment, therefore it now belongs to the community. Large corporate holdings, like the stock of a chain department store are easy matters. That corporation is dead and gone and the goods now belong to the community. A large Agra-business hog farm is easy, confiscate the hogs and their feed. But what about a silo of corn owned by a Co-op of local farmers? What about a local farmer with 1,000 acres of standing corn clearly meant for commercial sale? What about a rancher with 100 head of cattle? You really have to be careful where you draw the line between private ownership and "retail goods", but draw it you must. Your new government is going to need a lot of capital to survive the tribulations coming.

3. Transportation and fuel
Your police and city vehicles may not work after an EMP event. In my opinion, the testing of EMP effects on vehicles outlined in the congressional EMP report "2008 Critical National Infrastructures Report" was flawed. Their simulator was only capable of generating 50kv EMP and only generated a E1 event, not the (perhaps) more damaging E3 wave. The cars were tested only until they exhibited a fault of some kind and then the testing was halted. Many of the vehicles showed some kind of failure or "faults" at lower voltages, but were never subjected to high voltage EMP, yet the conclusion includes these cars as having survived with no permanent damage.

Also, there is no reason to assume that 50kv is the upper limit in a real world HEMP event, it was simply the limit of the test gear available. I believe the test gear used was strongly influenced by the Master's degree thesis by Louis W. Seiler, Jr., "A Calculational Model for High Altitude EMP, report ADA009208". That thesis, while brilliant, computes E1 gamma burst for the peak EMP at ground zero for a burst above the magnetic equator, where the Earth's magnetic field is far weaker than it is at high latitudes (nearer the poles). Further North or South, the magnetic field lines converge (increasing the magnetic field strength). It's generally accepted that the peak EMP is almost directly proportional to the power of the Earth's magnetic field. That means that real world voltages in real world equipment may easily exceed 50kv. In fact we have some evidence of this. The Soviet above-ground warhead test #184 produced ground zero EMP intensity estimated by Soviet scientists at 350 kV. Also, remember that the cars used in the commission's testing were older cars build between 1986 and 2002. Have cars gotten more EMP resistant since then? No. My conclusion is simple. A lot of cars may not survive a real world event.

If a lot of vehicles survive, fuel stocks may be depleted almost immediately unless you take steps to protect them. I know this sounds draconian, but the police force and emergency vehicles should have priority for fuel and the only way to assure this is to implement some kind of rationing plan immediately. Fuel stocks are a public resource owned by private citizens. Once they are gone, your community may never get any more. This is a case where you are going to have to exercise some emergency powers and appropriate property from private citizens. If possible, you should "pay" for the fuel immediately. If you cannot, at least make sure you give the rightful owner a receipt so you can pay him back later if someone manages to re-build the economy.

Keep your town's vehicles in good shape and look into storing them inside a shielded garage when off duty. Being indoors may prevent some of the damage. If you are able to afford it, buy a reserve fuel supply for the police department. I don't know how much this would cost for a specific town, or how much fuel it should hold, but if you could somehow talk the town into the merits of a municipal reserve to last even a few weeks, it might someday prove very useful. If you bought two tanks, sized to last the police department a month or less, you wouldn't have any extra expense for fuel additives. You could rotate your fuel.

As distasteful as this is to Americans, I can't see any alternative likely to work. You need to seize and ration all bulk stocks of gasoline, Diesel, propane, fuel oil, coal and other fuels used or held by the town. The town will desperately need these fuels for heating, emergency services and agriculture. You may also be forced to confiscate privately owned vehicles if yours are damaged or you need specialty vehicles (like fuel tankers, for instance). You need to work out a method of doing this without stealing. Any time you confiscate resources from any private citizen, you need to somehow reimburse them as fairly as possible. A better approach may be to exclusively hire them as the driver and let them retain ownership.

Your town may also have a stream of refugees pouring through or past it from a nearby city. This is a very bad situation that has to be dealt with immediately. If they have access to your town's fuel stocks, they will drain every drop in a day or two. This may need to be your first order in an emergency. Every hour you delay may be critical. (Refugees are discussed below).

Another distasteful, yet lucrative opportunity you may have is to confiscate fuel (and other resources) from passing highway traffic. Whether you call this piracy or taxation, If trucks are still moving on the big highways, they may contain resources your town really needs to survive. I am not suggesting that this is a moral or desirable option, but someone in your community is bound to bring it up. Think out your position in advance and be ready to argue your point. Personally, I believe that any interference in long range commerce or transportation is detrimental to all of society and also undermines the very laws that prop up your own authority. No matter what you call it, the act of a government stealing is a slippery slope.

4. Water and sewage

Modern towns are very wasteful of water, but can't survive without it for more than a few days. Most people have never thought about how to purify water or deal with waste. If you don't do something quickly, a lot of your citizens are going to start defecating outdoors and many of your citizens are going to drink unsafe water. The results will be catastrophic in terms of public health.

Your town may be in good shape, but probably not. You will want to get some expert advice on this immediately. Many towns rely on pumped water, often from towers in or near the town. If so, you have a few days until the tanks run dry. You will need to figure out a way to keep this system going if you can. You still need to add chlorine and get the water high enough to maintain water pressure. If the machinery for doing this is broken, you need to set a crew working on water immediately.

Some towns won't be able to keep their water flowing and will have to use extreme measures to provide water for their people and deal with wastes. You may have to haul water to a central point and purify it manually, or even set up public latrines and wash points. Without ready supplies of water, most private residences are going to be uninhabitable in the long run. The folks with homes you cannot supply may need to move closer to your water point.

Talk to your water providers now and get them thinking about it so they can come up with options for you. Ask them to do a formal assessment of your town's situation and resources and suggest mitigation strategies for emergencies. What do they need to manually run their system during a power outage? If they can't run manually, you might consider buying a backup generator to run pumps and machinery. (Make sure you budget for a good Faraday cage to protect this generator and keep it disconnected and keep all cables inside the cage until needed). You may need to stockpile fuel or extra chemicals or buy extra equipment that can be run manually. If your town can't afford any of this, You may need to buy some mobile water tanks for the town. Any of these preparations could be very useful during a whole range of situations and natural disasters.

These will depend on your town's system. But you need to keep your eye on the ball. You need to provide at least a gallon of water per resident every day, just to keep them alive. You will need much more than that to keep them healthy in the long run. You also need to tell the community how to get pure water and warn them against drinking or using tainted water. Is your area dependent on irrigation agriculture? You will need to figure out how to supply that water too.

5. Solid waste disposal and burial of dead.
Without fuel, trash collection and burial can be very laborious. These problems would be a lot simpler if everyone lived within easy walking distance of town, but unfortunately this is almost never the case in the US. You may need to solve this by distributing simple instructions on how to do it using old-school techniques. Old homesteaders had an outhouse to deal with sewage, a compost pile to deal with organic waste and a burn barrel (or fireplace) to get rid of burnables. Anything else, they threw in the "trash pile" out back. (The solid trash pile for non-rotting, non-burnable trash was often a used outhouse cesspool, which was then covered over with dirt). On the bright side, municipal rubbish volumes are going to diminish and be replaced mostly with compost-able plant waste. Anything that can be recycled and reused, like old cardboard boxes will be treasured and kept. Our throw-away society will be over.

Burial and funeral services used to be handled very locally at the neighborhood church or even on your own property. Embalming and cremation are modern innovations that will be too expensive to maintain. [JWR Adds: The only exceptions will be in heavily-timbered regions or in coastal communities that are in driftwood deposition zones. There, perhaps there will be plentiful firewood for use in outdoor cremation pyres.] You will need your medical people to oversee and recommend procedures for burial. Make sure they consult the church leaders or you may make problems for yourself.

Actions: Check with a local doctor and have him recommend procedures for waste disposal. Find a way to distribute them and encourage people to follow the procedures by explaining why.

6. Food. (Short term provisioning)
This is going to be a real problem. You need to provide some minimum of calories and nutrition for all your citizens until the community can grow (and the free market can distribute) all the food needed by the community. This is going to be a tall order. Most people don't store a substantial amount of food in their homes and will quickly be dependent on town stocks. Most of the food in most communities is owned by very few people or corporations.

The only way you are going to save a substantial percentage of your population over the short term is to gain control of and ration most of the food centrally. You are going to have to locate and safeguard as much food as possible. you will need to establish a warehouse of some sort and guard it well. Pre-historic villages and other primitive cultures always locate their food stocks in the center of their living space to ensure it is guarded. This might be a wise choice. You may be able to use a church, school or other public building close to the town center for this purpose. If that building also has a substantial kitchen and cafeteria that you can get working again, it will save a lot of transportation problems.

Don't be shocked if your town is forced to fight some other town to keep the food you stockpile. Historically, when food gets scarce, communities fight and take what they need. Be ready for this behavior. I would station my police force inside my granary, in the center of town if possible.

Sources of food you can confiscate or otherwise control:

a. Department stores and food stores: Large food stores are the most obvious place to look for food. They will not last long whether you confiscate the food or not. People are going to either buy or loot everything in a matter of days or even hours. Unfortunately retail stores don't maintain much stock these days. If it's not on the shelves, it's probably not in the back room either. With modern stocking practices, nobody maintains a well-stocked warehouse on site anymore. The non-refrigerated foods should all be salvageable, but if you hurry, you might be able to make use of much of the frozen foods and fresh produce or even salt some away using other preservation techniques before it goes bad.

b. Co-ops and large commercial farms: These may have livestock and large amounts of feed grain and other dried foods on hand. Whoever manages these establishments are also probably experts at food preservation, storage and a whole range of agricultural issues. Seek them out and get their input and help to secure their food. You want to avoid spoilage and loss as much as possible and these people can help. Hire them. You may need to keep the grain right where it's at (and guard it) or provide power (if possible) to dry out the grain or you may need to provide manpower to manually harvest crops. Listen to your experts.

c. Feed stores: Most animals in your community are going to have to be slaughtered during the first year. Save as much edible feed as possible for human consumption. Most feed mixes are good for humans to eat. Even the big bags of dog food should be preserved. You will probably need them. They are mostly grain and if ground into flour and thoroughly cooked, all of them are safe to eat. Alfalfa pellets and other "non-human-food" products may be used to feed livestock.

d. Pet stores. Bird seed is nothing but grain and oil seeds. Most pet foods are edible and should be saved for human consumption. The issue of what to do with pets is going to be a hard one, but logic dictates that the community refrain from using up useful food stocks on animals unless they add substantially to the local economy. However, keep in mind that people get very emotional about their pets. If you try to get people to give up their animals, they may lynch you. (Your commissary should sell the pet foods, just like they do people food. If the pet owners work hard enough to support their animals, you should not try to get heavy handed. Any other approach will put you at odds with part of your population.)

e. Regional distribution centers: If you are fortunate enough to have one or more of these in your reach, you should act immediately to secure them. These centers typically have very substantial stocks of food on hand. Unfortunately, much of this food requires refrigeration and will go bad very quickly. The centers with dried and canned goods will be in big demand very quickly, so you need to dispatch work parties (with lots of trucks) as quickly as you can organize them.

f. Standing commercial crops: Depending on the season, one of the first tasks you need to tackle may be to help farmers with their harvest or planting or other tasks. Modern farms are only manageable with the aid of heavy machinery. Without this machinery, even routine tasks are not possible. Without combines, farmers couldn't possibly complete their own harvests. Without security of some kind, their crops may never make it to maturity. Refugees would strip them bare without your help. You can strike a deal with farmers to bring in their crops and help in return for some kind of payment in kind or a cut of their crop and others in the area. (Remember, most farmers are mono-crop farmers with little use for 60 tons of corn with no market). They may be more interested in what you can provide in the form of machinery, power or labor. Talk to them, explain your situation and strike a deal that benefits both of you.

g. Lakes and rivers: Fishing resources are very limited, but important sources of food in many areas if you can protect them. You need to prevent poachers from destroying their production capacity by over-fishing (maybe with dynamite) or polluting water resources.

h. Bakeries and food processing plants: Processing plants usually have very limited stocks of food on hand, but may have quite a lot depending on what they are making. They may also have usable machinery that can be converted to use.

i. Colleges, Libraries and bookstores. These don't contain food, but they contain knowledge about foraging for wild plants. You may be able to extend your resources by sending out forage parties to collect locally growing wild resources. If you get lucky, you might be able to gather a large harvest of acorns or maple seed or some other highly prolific food species. Appoint someone (maybe a survivalist or old hippie) as "wild food forager" and cross your fingers.

Things to watch for are large grain mills and industrial cooking equipment. You may also find water pumps, power generation equipment, specialized vehicles, lathes, mills, presses and other industrial tools. If you can repair the EMP damage, power them and get them working, they can speed the recovery of your community and really enhance your economy.

Actions: Appoint a good commissary officer. Someone is going to have to oversee collection, storage and disbursement of not only food supplies but fuel, tools, fertilizers, seeds and other resources. Your commissary officer needs to be a very smart, honest person and he or she will need a fairly large staff. They are going to have broad powers, so find somebody that is morally good. Whoever you appoint needs excellent people skills and the meticulous attention to detail of a banker. This same person is really in charge of your whole economy and will probably be in charge of printing currency if you use it. A bank manager might be a good choice. If you have political opposition in the community, this is an excellent place to put them if they are up to the job. Once they are "holding the baby" they will be on your side and won't be able to accuse you of any misbehavior.

7. Heat and shelter:
When winter hits, you may be faced with a grave heating fuel shortage. People staying in private homes may not have access to heating fuel at all. The town council is probably going to have some number of refugees to care for and they require heat too. Your community may use oil, gas, wood or something else for heating and each of them pose their own problems. You will need to think this issue out in the context of your own community situation and come up with some kind of solution. The most efficient solution, of course is to co-locate everyone in a few larger buildings and heat them at 65-68 degrees. Setting up a shelter has it's own problems, but it's easier than trying to heat 500 single family shelters. The public shelter model of setting up in a big gymnasium can work, but it provides a very efficient vector for respiratory and other diseases. If you can provide each family (or multiple families) with a classroom or office room of their own, they will be much more comfortable and resistant to diseases.

Providing a warm place to sleep may be all you can manage. Some homes are going to be difficult or impossible to heat once the power grid goes down and the oil trucks stop delivery. You should make every effort to conserve liquid fuels that will be needed for spring planting and emergency machinery.

Mitigation: Location specific. You may be able to encourage your citizens to switch over to an alternate fuel source (like wood, if your community has a lot of forests nearby). Stockpiling fuel for the town may be a good idea if you can afford it, but this is a temporary solution. Look around your town for some suitable shelter buildings and food storage facilities and check out their heating and ventilation equipment. You may be able to improve your chosen buildings or buy alternate heating systems for them within your budget constraints. Laying in a large supply of cots and blankets is a good idea.

Actions: You should immediately set up a shelter and cafeteria of some kind after the emergency. Schools are probably your best choice for this. You will probably have homeless almost from the start, so you need to get this done quickly. Home fires are bound to be more common and some people who live too far from town will need to move closer to the cafeteria. The more people you can get to move into your shelter, the easier it will be to heat. (Each human radiates roughly the same heat as a 100 watt light bulb. It adds up fast.) Make things easy on yourself and appoint someone competent (a school principal for instance) to administer your lodging and cafeteria. The principal already has a staff dependent on the city payroll. You will probably have to feed your teachers and school staff anyway, so hire them to administer your shelters. Administration of a shelter is a big, frustrating job, so make sure you appoint someone level headed to oversee this effort.

8. Security and public order:
Whatever your town's current situation, you will probably need to greatly expand your security forces. In fact you will probably need an Army. During normal times, your town doesn't have it's own foreign policy or the need to defend itself. With a general society collapse, that changes. Your town will need the ability to fight off raiders or even other communities.

a. Some of your own civilian population is going to get unruly. Even a small percentage acting up can overwhelm your current police force. You need some way to punish them and bring them in line. Jails are inefficient and expensive and not very effective at curbing bad behavior. I suggest a simpler system of corporal punishment (whipping or caning) and for serious infractions or repeat offenders, expulsion from the community. Find a judge or other competent person to set up a simple system of justice that fits your circumstances, take a vote at a town meeting to get public buy-in and then appoint someone to run it. Your police force should be distanced from both judgment and punishment. Judgment and punishment should be accomplished by a different group, perhaps a randomly selected jury or something equally simple and fair.

b. You are going to have additional requirements for officers (or someone) to act as "messengers" to put out policies and community information. Without electronic communications, much more of your business has to be done in person.

c. You are almost certain to have extensive guard duty requirements. You will need to provide point security for foodstocks, livestock, roadblocks and critical resources like fuel, power generation, etc. Your uniformed police force is too valuable to bog down with these security positions. You need to hire out of work locals to augment them with a reliable guard force. (I recommend handing this responsibility over to your military...see below).

d. You may need to put a 24 hour presence at roadblocks or traffic control points to divert refugees away from your town. (see below for a discussion of refugees).

e. You may face a threat from outside polities. If so, you will need an Army or you will be destroyed. You may have to mobilize the entire population to fend off other communities. (see below for a discussion of inter-community politics.)

Your security forces are your "face" to the community. They will represent the town and embody your decisions and authority. You need to keep a tight reign on your police forces or some of them are going to be tempted to take unwarranted liberties and abuse their authority.

One of your first actions should probably be to call your security forces and emergency responders together and reaffirm your covenant with them. You need to reassure them that they are still going to be paid and their families taken care of. You need to get buy-in from them and make them feel they are part of something important and bigger than mere survival. Let them know your plans and your thoughts as clearly as possible so they can represent you well. You should also let them know that you will tolerate no misbehavior. They are your knights and have to act the part.

You should also set up some kind of "military" arm to deal with extraordinary requirements. Call it a militia or a town guard or whatever you want. In essence it's an army. If you have any doubts about the loyalty of your police chief or sheriff, the military arm should report directly to you or one of your representatives rather than falling under the police. All of your authority rests on the shoulders of your security forces, so you can't tolerate any dissension in the ranks or misbehavior. Choose someone loyal and skilled with a military background and good people skills to head up your military. Hopefully you have a retired officer or senior NCO available. Whoever it is will have to be able to effectively give orders to perhaps hundreds of people in an emergency, so choose someone charismatic and smart. He will also need an excellent grasp of tactics and the ability to plan for small scale military operations. Let your military commander hire his own personnel, arm and train them and instruct your commissary and police force to assist him in anyway possible.

Your military commander's first task will be to do some kind of terrain analysis and COA products to determine how to defend the community and try to predict future issues. His second task will be to build an effective military force. It should probably be a small offensive force backed up by a larger irregular militia comprising most of the town. He will need to set up some kind of training program and be able to pay people to participate. Military training is hard work, so don't expect anyone to take it seriously or work at it if you are not paying them. You can put your military commander in charge of all the guard duty requirements to assist the police as well as messenger duties.

9. Foreign relations and refugees:
Every community is going to face the same challenges you have. I expect most of them will fail and fragment. I also expect a huge outpouring of refugees from every city in the USA. City based communities have huge challenges that small towns won't. They have limited options and maintaining order will be desperately hard, perhaps impossible. Every community and group of people are going to face terrible, unsolvable provisioning problems. The ugly truth is, most citizens of the USA are going to starve to death after a society crash. It's simple arithmetic. There will not be enough food for everyone to live. Even if most of them last through a whole season until the first harvest, there is no chance that the first [post-collapse] harvest is going to be bountiful enough to sustain everyone.

The following is going to read like science fiction [a la Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank], but I call em like I see 'em. If anyone can find a flaw in my analysis, then please tell me about it. I believe you can expect large polities to attempt to take resources from smaller ones. If you are the mayor of a city with 100,000 or more people, you have no other choice. During normal times, the countryside (agrarian areas) produce all the food consumed by cities. Once the provisions stop arriving, your city is going to starve very quickly unless you can procure more. Your normal sources of supply are perhaps a thousand miles distant and might as well be on the moon. Your actual chances of sustaining your population long term are zero. If you are a smart leader, you will attempt to save most of your people by sending them to other communities that have more food and water. If you are not so smart, you will attempt to take what you need to keep going from the surrounding countryside and small nearby communities. The best a small community can hope for is that all the large polities (cities) nearby will fail and fragment quickly. If they don't the small communities may be forced to take in refugees or surrender food stocks to support the cities. Either way, the city people are mostly doomed, but if this occurs, so are the small communities.

A medium sized city could potentially muster an enormous army. I am not saying every city is going to manage the level of cohesion, organization and discipline needed to do this, but it's at least a possibility in some cases, especially for cities that have a military base nearby. You also need to consider smaller polities like boroughs or neighborhoods or even church congregations making demands on your community. How will you react when the mayor of a nearby town or city asks you for provisions?

Another probable development I expect to see is the "professional army". Groups may attempt to provision themselves by threatening small communities and extorting "protection" from them. This is another layer of taxation you probably can't afford, but if you choose not to pay, you must be prepared to fight. Think about it and make sure you discuss your concerns with your security leadership so they can form plans.

You can also expect to see a large stream of refugees pouring out of heavily populated areas. If they have vehicles, they will move outward from the cities along major roadways until they can't get more fuel and then stop. If the finance systems are still working, this refugee stream may burn up most of the available liquid fuel in the USA in a few days. If your community lies on a major line of drift, you can expect to have many thousands of thirsty, hungry refugees knocking at your door hoping for a handout. These are going to be US citizens, mothers and fathers, sons, daughters, and grandparents who are desperate and begging. If begging stops working, they will get hostile and dangerous. Maybe very dangerous.

I know this is a very disagreeable topic, but almost every refugee is doomed and you are powerless to change that fact. Think it out carefully and you will see that you simply cannot feed everyone. You are going to have to prevent refugees from consuming your community resources or you will perish with them. You need to stop the stream of refugees from entering your community. Once they are inside your community, they will exponentially harder to deal with. Effectively killing someone by evicting them from your town while looking them in the eye and listening to them beg is going to be hard to do. If you get soft hearted and let too many stay, you will be condemning your community to slow death by starvation. Discuss this topic with your community leaders, especially your security leadership and make them see that there are no alternatives to a strict quarantine. You need to have a plan and execute it immediately or you may be overwhelmed within hours.

One final note on turning back refugees: Do it as far from town as you can. The refugees are going to be truly pitiful and seeing this level of misery will cause your community a lot of pain and distention. You need very hard men to man your line and you need to be careful to leave the refugees another place to go. Don't block a major road. Instead, block a turn-off. It's okay to be as humane as possible and provide water at the roadblock, but you simply cannot afford to give away food or medical supplies. The only people you can let into your town are town residents. All others will have to continue down the road. The men on your roadblock are going to crack up fast, so rotate them often and watch them. This will be the most traumatic thing they have ever had to do.

10. Long term provisioning:
You need to appoint someone to oversee food production. This should probably be completely separate from your commissary department. You need someone with expertise in farming and more specifically, small scale gardening. They need to organize and assist everyone in the community with planting their own gardens and teaching such basic topics as drying, pickling and canning produce. They will also have to oversee a lot of coordination to grow and harvest grain crops and figure out the most efficient ways to store surplus.

Mitigation: Heirloom seeds and fertilizers are going to be in very short supply. If you can somehow trick (or talk) your town into stocking up on these, perhaps as part of a 4-H or school project, your town will be much better off. If you have any say in public plantings for parks or landscapes, try to plant as many food bearing plants as possible. An apple tree is just as attractive as a pine or elm and produces fruit every year.

Actions: Every piece of arable land in the community needs to be planted with something edible ASAP. Without power machinery, this is going to be a real challenge. Every lawn and every empty lot should be dug up and worked in order to build soils, even if it's not planting time. Working leaf litter and plant materials into the plots needs to begin almost immediately. The "Garden Czar" will probably take up the lion's share of the spare manpower in the town just planting city owned lots. He will need to procure hand tools by the hundreds and garden seed, both of which may be in short supply. The tools can be loaned or rented to citizens as needed for their own plots and the seed will need to be rationed out carefully until a stock of good seed can be built up.

The town's citizens may have no horticultural knowledge or gardening skills and will likely not be conditioned for long hours of manual labor. The sooner they start getting their hands dirty the better. Try to hire some skilled gardeners to assist and advise your citizens with their own plots. Building a surplus and a working economy depends directly on their success at working small private gardens.

You may need to pass some resolutions about gardening to prevent land from sitting idle. You can't afford a scrap of idle land as long as you have any seeds left to put in the ground.

11. Building a manufacturing capacity. At some point, equipment and tools will begin to break down. Before that time, you need to establish a manufacturing base that can support your community.

You will eventually need a machine shop capable of founding, forging and machining metal parts and tools. You may need this immediately to repair critical equipment for pumping water or grinding grain et cetera A simple blacksmith shop will be needed to create plows and simple hand tools like hoes and scythes that you are likely to need. You may also need a small foundry and machine shop to create replacement parts for critical machinery. Keep a lookout for likely skilled individuals and hire them to build the town a metal working capability. [JWR Adds: As science fiction writer S.M. Stirling aptly pointed out in his Dies the Fire novel series, leaf springs from abandoned cars and trucks make ideal steel stock that can be used to re-forge into crossbows, plows, small hand tools, knives, and even swords. Leaf springs should be very plentiful for at least one or two generations in a truly post-collapse society.]

You should have someone begin building hand plows and other animal and human powered agricultural tools ASAP. You will need as many as your metal shop can manufacture and I guarantee you will be able to trade surplus plows to other towns within a few months.

You will eventually need to replace or repair clothing. You will have a long grace period while you go through existing stocks from department stores, but within a few years, you will need new fabrics. Appoint someone to worry about fabric production. How do you build a loom? In less than four years, you are going to need a source of fiber and a fabric production capability, especially in cold climates.

Other manufacturing capabilities may be needed as you go along. You may wish to set up a pottery shop or produce adobe brick for building materials or set up a sawmill for lumber and firewood. Brainstorm this with your staff or at a town meeting.

12. Preserving:
A lot of irreplaceable things are going to be destroyed or lost if you don't make some kind of effort to preserve them.

a. Animals: A lot of people are going to be very hungry. Most of them are going to die. I expect most species of large animals in the USA and Europe, including livestock, to be slaughtered for food until they are scarce or even extinct. Think ahead. You are going to need draft animals desperately in a few months. You simply must preserve as many animals capable of filling this role as possible. Dogs are peerless burglar alarms. Cats keep vermin numbers down. Once all the chickens are gone, where are you going to get eggs and poultry? Saving even a small breeding stock of all the useful animals in your community is going to be hard when people are literally starving to death all around you.

Actions: You are going to have to put livestock under guard or they won't last long. Someone will poach them. Any private farmer trying to keep livestock is going to find out just how sneaky hungry humans can be. Someone also needs to start training your working animals immediately. It takes time to produce a working plow team out of average untrained cows or horses.

b. Knowledge: If you don't take steps to prevent it, people will burn most of the books in your town for fuel. I recommend keeping your library open for business. Your town or local school libraries may turn out to be very important for both entertainment and reference.

c. Records: You need to secure public and as many private records as possible. Without them, repairing our current culture will be much more difficult. Birth records, tax records, bank records etc. All of these may have
tremendous value in the future.

d. Art and historical treasures: If your town has any, you should safeguard national treasures for future generations. The very fact that you are making this effort will send a powerful message to your citizens.

13. Medical:
Your existing health-care facilities and drug supplies need to be safeguarded quickly. You will have a very limited stockpile of opiates and other painkillers and mind altering drugs that will be very attractive to some
criminal (or simply addicted) elements of society. Every pharmacy and clinic in town should be carefully confiscated and put under guard. Don't forget the pet hospitals and veterinarian clinics. Appoint a doctor or pharmacist to oversee this effort and support them with whatever resources they require (if you can). Some drugs require refrigeration and may not be salvageable if they are ever warmed.

Hire as many doctors and nurses as possible and set up a public health clinic near the town center. Have them take charge of public health and start an outreach program for self help and public sanitation. If your town has vaccines available, you will probably want to use them up quickly before they go bad. Your community may be able to avoid a lot of misery and casualties if you organize your health care.

Have someone in your manufacturing base or commissary department work with them to replace or recycle medical supplies. Something as simple as a building wood-fired autoclave might be beyond the capability of your health care folks but easy for your artisans.

Also, hire as many pharmacists, chemists and any other scientists you can find. You probably won't have too many of these once they are all accounted for. If you have a few, don't be afraid of tasking them to do some very difficult tasks for you. They are very intelligent folks and can perform miracles if you challenge them. Challenge them to set up a lab and try to synthesize antibiotics, or opiates. Or challenge them to figure out how to improve agriculture in your town or synthesize liquid fuel for your vehicles, or explosives. They may surprise you with spectacular results. These folks are valuable property, so try not to use them as unskilled farm hands or guards. The same goes for engineers. Give them challenging work and have them tackle real problems.

I recognize that most of us are not mayors. We are probably not the ones who will be called on to shoulder the numbing responsibilities of command during a crisis. I really wouldn't care for that job, even in peacetime. When the balloon goes up, it will be hardest on the leaders. Your mayor and police chief will need help. As a prepper, you are in a position to provide that help. How many of the jobs that I mentioned above could you competently fill? I implore you to help them. Having you available as adviser (and commissary officer or military leader, experienced gardener, metal smith etc) could literally make the difference between life and death. Your efforts could make a huge difference to a lot of people.

If your community has any chance at all to survive, those odds will increase exponentially if your leaders have a well thought out plan and make good decisions. Community leaders will need to make timely decisions on a host of issues they have never considered and have the conviction to act ruthlessly. You, as a prepper, have the advantage of thinking about it ahead of time and working out all the details in your mind. That and the skills you have learned can allow you to make a real difference. Will you step up to the plate and try to save your whole community? It seems like a superhuman job and daunting for a mere human. But if anyone can do it, maybe it's you.

Win or go down swinging, - J.I.R.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I am a retired Marine Corps officer and Naval Aviator (jets and helicopters), commercial airplane and helicopter pilot, and most recently, an aircraft operations manager for a Federal agency.

I graduated from numerous military schools, including the U.S. Army Airborne (“jump”) School, U.S. Navy Divers School, Army helicopter, and Navy advanced jet schools. In addition, I have attended military “survival” courses whose primary focus was generally short-term survival off the land, escape from capture, and recovery from remote areas.  Like most Marine officers, I attended The Basic School, an 8-month school (only five during the Vietnam era – my case), which is still designed to produce a second lieutenant who is trained and motivated to lead a 35-40 man platoon of Marines in combat.  This course covers everything from field sanitation to squad and platoon tactics, artillery and other ordnance delivery, communications, reconnaissance, intelligence, firearms training, and much more.   Later, I attended the Marine Amphibious Warfare School and the Command and Staff College, both follow-on schools and centered upon the academic study of tactics and strategy as they applied to the missions of the Marine Corps.  I flew helicopters offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and across the U.S. I found out first hand how thoroughly corrupted is the federal bureaucracy and the government, in general.  Not a pleasant experience. I’d rather have been flying. I have bachelor's and master's degrees.

As a result, my wife of forty years and I seem to have been moving endlessly from place-to-place.  Nevertheless, I have tried in each place to do what I could to maintain a level of self-sufficiency for my family that varied greatly with locations and personal finances. My intention here is to try to share some of the less-than-perfect ways that I have tried to accomplish that end. 

Only in the last few years, primarily as a result of the political and fiscal situation in the U.S., have I begun reading some of the huge amounts of literature about how one can prepare for serious long-term off-the-grid survival.  I have found that the preparation required to be ready for that contingency seems to be endless.  I do not want to talk about all of those preparations.  Others have done so very well, and besides, I’m not there, yet.  What I would like to do is to talk to those, perhaps like me, who are not true survivalists in the commonly referred-to sense, but who are genuinely concerned about the future of this country, and might desire, like me, to begin to prepare. Perhaps my elementary and simplistic efforts might be of help to someone else who is beginning to think about the subject of preparedness.  There are many scenarios that might require this, but the two that I am thinking most about are economic collapse and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. I’m building small Faraday boxes, but not doing much else for EMP.

My thinking on begins with my own estimation of the basic problems:  shelter, water, food, fuel, and security.  I view these as the most critical needs, whether living in a tent or other outdoor shelter or here in our rural home in West Virginia. Here I have and often take for granted what I have -- shelter, well water, a small stream, a pond, a rain barrel; canned, dried, frozen, and freeze-dried foods; fuel for the generator and portable stoves, kerosene heater and lanterns; factory-made and reloaded ammunition for any one of several firearms.  Edible plant books. Gardening books. Encyclopedia of Country Living-type books. Reloading books. Hunting books. Tracking books. A few novels devoted to the “what ifs” of the future, including Jim Rawles' excellent "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse", for example.  Books to fill an entire bookcase.  The Boy Scout Field Book sits right there next to the military survival manuals, as do Tom Brown's Field Guides, the The Foxfire Book series, a canning book, field medical books, and quite a few others.

Those are the basic things about which I think. I have been thinking about them for quite a while, in fact, longer than I even realized.  Perhaps I’ve been thinking about them ever since I was a young lad.   For example, my very first “survival book” was the Boy Scout Field Book, the original of which I still have (circa late-1950s edition). It is still a great reference if one is looking for an all-in-one manual for starting fires, making simple shelters, recognizing game tracks, tying knots, and much more.  I note that it is still available on (It’s probably been scrubbed to favor the politically correct, but don’t know [JWR Adds: Yes, I can confirm that unfortunately it has been made politically correct--with the traditional woodcraft skills showing any injury to innocent and defenseless trees duly expunged. So I advise searching for pre-1970 editions!] ) One does not necessarily need the SAS Survival Handbook or the U.S. Army survival manual. I have them and have read them. They do cover security problems, but then don’t cover other topics.  Alas, there appear to be no “perfect” manuals, and the Boy Scout Field Book is no exception.  But it’s not a bad beginning. And so I was beginning the journey even before I knew that I was. 

I think that my first education in “survival” came at about fourteen. That’s when I first shot a .30-06, an old [Model 19]03 Springfield. It pretty much rattled my cage.  Mostly, my older brother and I used to track and shoot small animals in the deep woods of Missouri as youngsters.  We were “issued” ten rounds of .22 LR ammo by our father, a retired USAF pilot, to be used in a bolt action, single shot, .22 rifle with open sights.  One would be surprised what that meager handful of loose ammunition could do for one’s choice of shots, one’s ability to be patient in waiting for the shot, and for one’s great satisfaction at having brought home six or eight squirrels for the cooking pot, having used just those ten rounds – and sometimes, but not often, less.  My point is that the knowledge of firearms is, in my view, basic to the notion of preparedness and in surviving in the wild. And it need not be exotic or overly complicated in nature.  One can surely attend modern schools that will teach one to double-tap a cardboard target or silhouette at seven yards with a semi-auto pistol, as well as basic and advanced tactical rifle courses, but very basic survival skill with a rifle can be had without much cost if one is committed to learning the skill and if one disciplines oneself. Start with only one round, and work up from there.  As Col. Jeff Cooper used to say, “Only hits count.”  In a purely off-the-grid survival scenario, I can envision that .22 LR rounds would be very precious, indeed.

Consequently, and even though I own handguns and rifles that will shoot .45 ACP, .44 Magnum/.44 Special, .357 Magnum/.38 Special, .380 ACP, .223, .25-06, .270, 7mm-08, .308, .7.62x39, .30-30, .30-06, and .45-70/.457 WWG Magnum (a wildcat), I shoot a .22 rifle and pistol more than all of the others, combined, and normally at least twice a week. And I’m hoarding them, as well as shooting them.  I have the capability to reload all the calibers (except .22 LR/Magnum, of course) above, as well as shotgun ammo in 12 and 20 gauge. I wasn’t really thinking of “survival” when deciding to do this about twenty years ago, but was interested only in having the capability to shoot more, and to do it more cheaply. Yet it appears that much of that ammo could be used for barter. I had never even considered this until reading some of the recent “survival novels.”

My apologies.  I’ve wandered into the weeds here, as I could do forever on my favorite subject.  Suffice it to say that whatever firearm one chooses – and make no mistake, one is necessary in my opinion -- there are all kinds of reasons to choose one over the other, depending on the situation and the person. One must endeavor to shoot it well. Owning a firearm is of almost no consequence, at all, unless it is properly employed.  Personally, I prefer a M1911 .45 ACP pistol and a 7.62 M1A SOCOM, while my wife is comfortable with the milder .38 [S&W] revolver and 20 gauge. pump shotgun.  I won’t even begin to get into the debate over .223 vs .308 and 9mm vs. .45 ACP.  Suffice it to say that in Vietnam I had the opportunity to see the effects of all of these, and I chose for my own security the .308 and .45 ACP.

Having got my favorite subject out of the way, I’ll talk about one that is likely even more important.  Water.  It is amazing how complicated this can be, and how many choices one has to solve this problem.  I have not yet solved it.  I have put up a rain barrel, and plan to get a couple more.  It’s amazing how rapidly a 55 gallon barrel will fill in even a moderate thunderstorm.  I got mine from Aaron’s Rain Barrels. I’ve camo-painted the first one to make it recede into the bushes that surround it.  

We have a very shallow stream down the hill that I need to dam so that it keeps only about a foot-or-two deep pool for gathering some water. It flows into a large pond, of which we own half (The owner of neighboring property owns the other half.).  But that’s over a hundred-yard trek downhill with empty buckets, and the same distance uphill with full ones.  Now, while that is okay for a backup, in my thinking, because I’m going on 63 years, I prefer to have something closer.  So my next “big” purchase will be a Simple Pump that allows one to drop a pump and pipe though one’s existing well casing down to below water level and extract water by means of a hand pump or DC motor attached to a battery which, in turn, will connect to a solar panel.  This is much, much cheaper than a Solar Jack.  At $1,200 for the hand pump capability (I’ll add on the DC and solar later), it’s a bargain, for me. See:  
I’m not recommending it for anyone, yet, as I haven’t got one. It has plenty of good reviews, and I’m willing to try it.  My apologies, but I am just talking about how I, for one, intend to solve my “water problem.” 

I’ve also started collecting clear plastic soda bottles for use in Solar Disinfection (SODIS), see;  I’ve set up a rack for putting out the bottles in a sunny place.  Again, that’s a backup, but I’ll use it.

I have bought three different water filtering devices, the best of which is the Swiss-made, all-stainless Katadyn Pocket Microfilter.  It works wonders in that shallow stream and pond down the hill.. [JWR Adds: The same Katadyn filter model is available from several SurvivalBlog advertisers. They deserve your patronage first, folks!]

With the exception of the Simple Pump, these solutions are relatively cheap and effective, if not producers of great volume.  So far, they are what I’ve come up with.

I won’t go much into the food problem. It isn’t quite as complicated as the water problem.  I’ve either got to have it [stored], grow it, or kill it.  I’ve started storing all kinds of Mountain House freeze dried #10 cans (with expiration date dates in 2034), two-serving meals from Mountain House (expiration dates circa 2016), and numerous grocery store-type canned foods (expiration a couple years), in addition to dried beans, rice, Bisquick (sealed in plastic bags with desiccant inside), salt, sugar (Domino, which are sold in one-pound plastic tubs), olives, peanuts, wheat, etc.  Basically hit-or-miss, so far.  I need to get this “food problem” organized and do it right.  But it’s a start.  I think we’ve got only about a 60-day supply now, for two.

I’ve got two Coleman two-burner stoves.  One is a butane stove, and the other a dual fuel (white gas or unleaded gas), as well as several small backpacking stoves, the best of which is a MSR Whisperlite International, which uses virtually all fuel (unleaded, white gas, kerosene, diesel, and maybe even corn oil).   I was heavily into backpacking when we were stationed in Hawaii in the late 1970s, and still have all the gear.  After having one knee replacement and hedging doing another, I’ll not be backpacking if I can help it.  Nevertheless, I have two bug-out bags with essentials in them, ready to hit the trail if need be.  I’ve saved up and bought two good Wiggy's bags and a couple of his poncho liners.

Concerning backpacking stuff, I can recommend a book that I read back then called The Complete Walker, by Colin Fletcher. I haven’t read it in at least a decade, but its import is such that I remember much of it.  He emphasizes simplicity in gear.  That is to say, don’t pack a tent if you can get by with a tent fly – which you cannot in cold weather. I’ve still got my old three-season tent, but am saving up for a four-season. And he emphasizes: don’t worry about pounds – worry about ounces.  That is to say, if one is packing tea bags, remove the labels from the bags.  Ounces.  Remove all packaging material unless it is absolutely necessary (usually never). Don’t carry a “mess kit,” nor a knife, fork and spoon set.  A spoon will do (I’ve done it) along with a pocket knife. Now I have so many knives of so many types that I can’t remember them.  Personally, I’d go for a multi-tool.  But it’s heavy.  I never used to carry a weapon while backpacking.  Of course, it was (and is) illegal in Hawaii, but I think one would be remiss in not doing so today.  There was so much good advice in that book that helped me in the USMC, if nothing more than when packing my helicopter before a mission, or a car, trailer, or truck to move across the country.  “Think ounces, not pounds.”  I always think about Mr. Fletcher’s advice when I pack.

Anyway, I think I’ve got the camping stove angle covered in spades.  That is, until the fuel runs out.  Same goes for kerosene heater and lanterns (5).  My plan is to pull out our pellet stove and replace it with a free-standing wood stove.  Pellets are nice, but they must be bought, and the price is getting exorbitant, according to my pocket book.  They likely will be non-existent in a crunch. 

I connected a 12,000 Watt/50amp gasoline generator when we moved into this house nine years ago, as I have with every house in which we’ve lived for the last two decades.  I’ve got it wired through a transfer box to the circuit-breaker panel, a job that I did myself. It works, and it’s safe.  The main reasons for having this were to run the 220V[olt AC] well water pump and to run the refrigerator and our free-standing freezer during power outages.  But I’ve got it wired, anyway, to nearly every circuit in the house, except the other 220V appliances – water heater and heat pump.  It is somewhat selectable. That is to say that I can choose which circuits I want to power by engaging or disengaging the switches on the transfer box.  The problem is that it uses gasoline. So in a long-term outage it would soon become useless.  I’ve had the propane gas company come out to estimate what it would cost to get a dedicated 100 gal propane tank for the generator.  It would be about $500, but then, in addition to the 50+ gallons of gasoline, butane tanks, and white gas that I keep stored in a separate outbuilding, it would make a great explosion when hit with a tracer round.

Which brings me to the subject of security.  We live in a split-level home on about ten acres of forest.  The property is surrounded by other similar-sized properties of seemingly like-minded individuals.  I gleamed this because everyone out here shoots.  The sweet sound of gunfire can be heard at times in a full circle.  West Virginia, at least, has still got its priorities straight in this regard.  But I digress. This is a frame house with half of it below ground in front, but framed in back, which faces the forest.  The forest, itself, is a maze of downed pine trees blown over by the wind, interspersed with small saplings, vines and low brush.  Not a likely avenue of approach for anyone but the most determined.  For those who are determined, the downed trees would make excellent cover and concealment.  So I have a security problem to solve there, as well as at the front. 

I’ve started buying rolls of barbed wire and baling wire.  Unfortunately, I do not have access to dynamite, which we used to be able to buy in a hardware store in the 1960s.  We used it back then to blow stumps while clearing the land for our house.  I am thinking of buying a bunch of used railroad ties to build cover in the back; I’ve thought also of bricks and sandbags.  Problem is we’re reaching the point in all of this where the house would begin to look like a fortress, of sorts, to all but the most ignorant observers.  So there’s a line here concerning security versus “normalcy” that I must cross sooner or later.  Inasmuch as my wife is a few years older than I and is on constant medications, I’m afraid that finding a retreat (if we could even afford one) would be out of the question, as access to doctors, hospital and pharmacy are a necessity. Nevertheless I’ve got the bags packed and gear ready to throw into the pickup (Toyota 4x4 – like to have one of those older model American trucks, but I think they are getting rare, at least around here.  And what there are will likely go to the Cash for Clunkers Program….grumble, grumble. What will they think of next?).

So it looks to me as if we are here for the duration of the crisis, or sooner, if they try to take the guns from my cold, dead hands.  Speaking of, I still have to build a cache or two for guns and ammo and a few other necessities. 

And since I’ve more-or-less made that decision (here for the duration), I’ve thought of organizing the apparently gun-loving neighbors.  I’ve begun to buy walkie-talkies, if not field phones and commo wire.  I’ve got solar panels and several batteries (need to get a mega deep cell or two, however) to run the small battery chargers and the CB radio. My shortwave is up and running.

I will have to wait to talk to the neighbors, whom I rarely see, much less know.  I can just imagine the words that would come out of their mouths if I were to mention to them the notion of forming a security “company” and establishing a perimeter.  “That old retired Marine down the road is nuts!”

So that’s what I’ve got to say.  I do hope it at least stimulates some thought for those who are starting out trying to prepare, as I am.  All of this shows me that one “problem” in this “survival” business leads to several more, and they in turn lead to even more problems.  Lots to do. So I’m glad I’m retired.  I’ve got time to think about it.  If I were rich, I could do a lot more and likely in a far away place, but as it is, we do with what we have.   I have to use the lessons taught to every Marine:  Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.  

Long Live America.  Keep the Faith. - “Two Dogs”, Col. USMCR (ret.) in West Virginia

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In descending order of frequency, the 78 readers that responded to my latest survey recommended the following non-fiction books on preparedness, self-sufficiency, and practical skills:

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery (Far and away the most often-mentioned book. This book is an absolute "must" for every well-prepared family!)

The Foxfire Book series (in 11 volumes, but IMHO, the first five are the best)

Holy Bible

Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson

"Rawles on Retreats and Relocation"

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

The "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course

Crisis Preparedness Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival by Jack A. Spigarelli

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon

Tappan on Survival by Mel Tappan

Boston's Gun Bible by Boston T. Party

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Survival Guns by Mel Tappan

Boy Scouts Handbook: The First Edition, 1911 (Most readers recommend getting pre-1970 editions.)

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein 

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Preparedness Now!: An Emergency Survival Guide (Expanded and Revised Edition) by Aton Edwards

Putting Food By by Janet Greene

First Aid (American Red Cross Handbook) Responding To Emergencies

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

Cookin' with Home Storage by Vicki Tate

SAS Survival Handbookby John "Lofty" Wiseman

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike Bubel

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide by Carol Hupping

The American Boy's Handybook of Camp Lore and Woodcraft

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton

98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive by Cody Lundin

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss

Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management by Maurice G. Kains

Essential Bushcraft by Ray Mears

The Survivor book series by Kurt Saxon. Many are out of print in hard copy, but they are all available on DVD. Here, I must issue a caveat lector ("reader beware"): Mr. Saxon has some very controversial views that I do not agree with. Among other things he is a eugenicist.

How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman

Tom Brown Jr.'s series of books, especially:

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking

Tom Brown's Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants (Field Guide)  

Total Resistance by H. von Dach

Ditch Medicine: Advanced Field Procedures For Emergencies by Hugh Coffee

Living Well on Practically Nothing by Ed Romney

The Secure Home by Joel Skousen

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikesby Cody Lundin

The Last Hundred Yards: The NCO's Contribution to Warfareby John Poole.

Camping & Wilderness Survival: The Ultimate Outdoors Book by Paul Tawrell

Engineer Field Data (US Army FM 5-34) --Available online free of charge, with registration, but I recommend getting a hard copy. preferably with the heavy-duty plastic binding.

Great Livin' in Grubby Times by Don Paul

Just in Case by Kathy Harrison

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

How to Survive Anything, Anywhere: A Handbook of Survival Skills for Every Scenario and Environment by Chris McNab

Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance by John & Martha Storey

Adventure Medical Kits A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicineby Eric A. Weiss, M.D.

Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener  

Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook (superceded the very out-of-date ST 31-91B)

Wilderness Medicine, 5th Edition by Paul S. Auerbach

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Longby Elliot Coleman

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Government By Emergency by Dr. Gary North

The Weed Cookbook: Naturally Nutritious - Yours Free for the Taking! by Adrienne Crowhurst

The Modern Survival Retreat by Ragnar Benson

Last of the Mountain Men by Harold Peterson

Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness by John McPherson

LDS Preparedness Manual, edited by Christopher M. Parrett

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century by James H. Kunstler

Principles of Personal Defense - Revised Edition by Jeff Cooper.

Survival Poaching by Ragnar Benson

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman

Sunday, June 28, 2009

James -
We think along similar lines, as my wife and I relocated to Central Idaho in 1995, raising and homeschooling our four children here. We're electrically functioning off the grid, engage in animal husbandry, grow what vegetables we can, and stock up on essentials we cannot produce and always meticulously rotate the stock. And we hunt, big time.

I read the entry on your site today about the fellow who intends to travel ore than a thousand miles in a blink of an eye, and use this blur to make a life-changing decision based on distorted glances at sixty miles an hour. Though I agree with essentially every bit of advice regarding location considerations, and in particular what to avoid, perhaps you should suggest to this fellow to split his trip into two or three, perhaps even four excursions so he can really evaluate what he is looking at.

I've lived in the west my entire life, a witness to the destruction of Colorado as we finally fled the far reaches of the West Slope for here. Knowing that one simple mistake in terms of selecting a location can be fatal in and unto itself, we began looking in 1993 and through 1994 before making our selection. Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Distance from population centers was number two on our criteria list, but as you well know, the number one priority must be water.

People in the cities haven't really a clue as to its relative scarcity. Turn on the tap. Our criteria was "live, year-around creek" on the prospective dirt, or it was scrubbed from the list. At 8.37 pounds per gallon, you can't realistically haul enough any distance for survival if survival means growing food if TEOTWAWKI actually occurs. Maybe not enough to use just to satiate thirst if you are too far from the source.

Let's face it. If people have to actually "Bug Out", the "End" is happening, right there and then. Think: water, water, water, and location, location, location.

I wrote a piece about "relocation" a few years back for a Peak Oil web site that generated several thousand comments, the vast majority of them were positive. The negatives were from the Gold's Gym-type jerks who thought I was trying to come off as some kind of tough guy, which I wasn't. "Realism" offends people. You cut one cord short on firewood before winter and the snows get hip-deep, you are dead. Sometimes you have "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" with large critters equipped with teeth and claws. I killed a damned lion at six feet inside my barn who was upset that I was upset that he had killed my milk goats. A bear at thirty feet on top of one of our sheep who was none too happy with me either. The wolves are here constantly, and that's just a time bomb waiting to go off. We've had jerks from cities show up on the place acting, and to be kind here, just a little "weird". Occasionally and unfortunately what followed were "in your face" armed confrontations, required to convince them getting the hell out of here was a damn good idea.

Which leads to another situation that is always notably absent from writings about "Getting out of Dodge". Why isn't it mentioned that people are already "out there", and even if a person chooses to relocate before the fan is blowing manure that it takes a couple of years before the indigenous outlanders accept your presence. These pre-existing folks, as you well know, traded off the easy living the cities offer for a harder lifestyle that almost guarantees austere living. The F.N.G. is a newcomer, and no one knows whether her/she is a curse or a blessing. The number of drug-laden scum that has floated in and out of here over the years is pretty amazing, let alone the flood of retirees who ain' t worth knowing. A third of them want sidewalks along Forest Service Roads.

And then when things go south, some guy, regardless of what color collar he wore to work, abandons his 52" widescreen HDTV, his Budweiser and the N.F.L. Package, throws his "Git-R-Done" stuff in the 4-Runner. Off he goes, carrying just enough with him to guarantee that where he ends up, thieving and murdering is going to be happening. Why? Because he's in a panic regardless of how "cool" he thinks he is. In truth, if you don't already live "out there", you aren't prepared. City folk are waiting to run, and they are running to nowhere. For that matter, half the people who are already "out there" aren't really prepared. But City Folks simply cannot take with them what is needed long-term to survive, and even short-term if winter is upon them. So, he is going to become a thief and a murderer. Where he's headed he doesn't own dirt, has no roof over his head, and he hasn't got the food to last a month. The most moral man in the world will become the worst of sinners when facing starvation. Add a man with his woman and a passel of kids, and you've got a desperate man. "Honey, I starved the kids!" I don't think so.

So, what do you think folks around here are thinking anyway? Putting out the "Welcome Wagon" for an exodus of people who refused to sacrifice ahead of time? Those who have been living easy and going to Applebees every Friday night? The wife blowing money at the mall every Saturday with the rest of the "girls"? People who thought, "I'll stay here doing the 9-5 because the woman insists, and then we'll go if we have to." Here's another good one: "We didn't want to move and have to change schools. The kids really liked it there."

The foregoing mean that the "Old Lady" and the "kids" have been dictating his life anyway, right? You ever seen these women go through "Mall Withdrawal"? Good God, it's a terrible sight to behold even under good conditions! At least when things are "normal" they can head over the pass for a methadone-like "Mall-Fix" up in Missoula or head to Idaho Falls. Shoot, you go and "Cold Turkey" a mall-dependent woman and h**l doesn't even begin to describe the price that must be paid! It's viral too, I swear.

Seriously though, is there some assumption that such "exodus scenarios" aren't discussed by the locals down at the cafe's in Salmon, Challis, and Elk, Bend, and North Fork over morning coffee, as well as at the Sheriffs Departments around here? My understanding is that the roads in and out of here are to be closed, which is fine by me. There isn't much bounty here to begin with, and adding a bunch of instant vagabonds will simply be making meager pickings that much slimmer.

Fools rushing for the hills. There's a steep learning curve and most aren't going to make it. Best regards, and keep up the good work - John M.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I'm a student from Singapore studying overseas in Australia and I'm also a Christian. I have been following your blog for quite awhile, and there are some things I would like to ask.
First, what advice can you give to students studying overseas? As a student, I stay on my own in a rented place, and probably will have to move every six months or so, so stockpiling food and goods are only feasible for about a month or two worth of food, as I will have to shift everything I own on my own to my new place whenever I move. That being said, I have roughly about a month's supply of food stored up, but it is mostly in rice. If things go bad, I won't be able to eat well, but will survive (I stocked up on some vitamins as well. Not healthy I know, but better than nothing.). Additionally, what kind of food should I buy and store? Currently, I am thinking about baking hardtack, as they are easy to make and store well. I also have about 20 liters of water, and am able to purify more than 100 liters of water using water purification tablets and I also have a bottle of plain bleach.

As I am not in my home country, and if anything happens, I have no 'safe' place to go. Other than going into the bush, which will not happen, as I have no bush skills, the only choice I have is to hunker down and try, if possible, to get a flight/ship back to Singapore. With such limited options, I am worried about what to do WTSHTF, which is ever more likely, given the current swine flu going around. While I do know a family staying in a relatively rural area, I do not know if I am able to get there as their acreage is quite a distance away from my place and I have no transportation. Also, I am not sure if they are prepared and stocked up for any crisis, so there is no guaranty that they will be able to take me in. I would greatly appreciate some advice over this issue, as it is the most important issue, and also advice on whatever you think I am lacking in below.

Supplies: I have managed to gather some stuff over time, some medicine/first-aid(learned some first-aid when younger, and still know the important stuff), lights (some military stuff, since I have done my national service, a couple of wind up torches as well for backup/indefinite use), fire starting equipment (lighters, matches, fire starters, candles, no flint due to being unable to find someplace that sells it), lightweight cooking equipment (billycan, metal bowls and tins, utensils). Not much, but been trying to convince my parents to send over some more supplies I have, which are mainly military stuff (nothing illegal, but will raise some questions; excuse is they are for paintball, etc). Additionally, for food I have about 10 kg of rice, plus enough canned food for a week (or more, if I ration it), 6 liters of packet milk, about 20 packets soups, cooking spices (very good for making whatever you have taste better), salt, etc. For toiletries, I got plenty of toothpaste/toothbrushes, toilet rolls (about 2 months worth), soap/shampoo, etc.

Self defence: Nothing much, since there are strict airport rules, and can't get a gun over here or in Singapore either. I keep a Swiss army knife on me all the time, but that is mainly for use as a tool, as normally there won't be any time to take it out. I learned tae kwon do when young (almost got my black belt, but was unable due to circumstances), and am trying to learn more methods and techniques of fighting. If it comes down to a fight, I am fairly confident that I can hold my own against one or two people, but I have been trying to improvise weapons that will allow me to escape. I have been trying to find a place to learn Krav Maga, which is an Israeli martial art designed to teach you to fight anywhere, any how, and any time, against multiple opponents that may or may not be armed, with various weapons. They focus on being ready to fight at all times using whatever it takes to survive (aka all the dirty fighting techniques). I think that it is a very useful martial art to learn, as it is the most realistic form of combat, and teaches you how to improvise on the spot (They have two rules: 1. survive, 2. Try not to hurt your sparring partner.). In any case, I think the most important thing to have is to be aware of your surroundings and people that are around you. An armed man is hard to be beaten, unless taken by surprise, and an alert man is hardly ever taken by surprise. As a side note, I recently bought a slingshot, not that I expect it will be of any good for defence, but rather more for hunting small animals if things really go south. Just need to get around to practicing with it.

Day to day carry: I carry with me a Swiss army knife, some medicine/first-aid, water purification tablets (for 20 liters), a small LED light, a lighter and some money in small notes in a small pouch close to me everywhere I go. Planning to add on another pouch with more medical supplies, especially for this swine flu outbreak. I also have a SOG multi-tool that I can add on, but chose not to as people will really question what I am doing with 2 knives and all those stuff. Also, wherever I go, I also bring along at least 1 liter of water, a torch, a poncho, additional first-aid supplies, hand sanitizer, a bar of soap and a couple of cereal bars. If I am on a long trip (more than a day or a few hours by car), I would bring along additional stuff, like more fire starting equipment, extra food, extra water, a spare torch, and a spare change.

Skills: I learned basic first aid when young, learned tae kwon do, crude fire making (not too good), cooking, sewing (very basic, mainly for repairing/modifying clothes) and cycling (although my area is very hilly, so I hardly cycle). I am trying to learn more skills, like bushcraft, Krav Maga, hunting (doubt I will be able to), and brush up on my fire starting skills, although in light of the recent bushfires, it may be a bad idea. Also I am handy with simple repairs (mainly a crude temporary fix), and like to innovate and make new stuff.

Swine Flu: I have been trying very hard to raise my stock of food and medicines ever since I heard about the swine flu, but due to time (university) and financial constraints, I can only stock up so much. I have been buying paracetamol tablets, aspirin, face masks (box of 100, plus various other dust masks), anti-bacterial hand gel, hydrogen peroxide, and am looking for surgical gloves, proper N95 equivalent face masks, Sambucol, more water purification tablets, antibiotics, Betadine, bandages, etc.

Economic crisis: I have been looking around for a place to purchase silver bullion with whatever spare cash I have, but have been unable to find a dealer. I am hoping to get at least 150 ounces of silver in 1-ounce to 10-ounce bars before the economy gives way, which I suspect won't be long. I pray it doesn't happen, as my home country will be hit really hard as it is focused heavily in the financial sector, but being a realist, I think eventually my family will have to move over to Australia, as at least it has farmland, natural resources and a very social welfare-focused government as well.

Thanks for all your effort to educate people about the coming world situations and how to prepare for it. What you are doing can mean life or death to many people in the future when the world crashes and burns. - DieReady

JWR Replies: By all means, do team up with a rural family, if you can. If you cache a large quantity of food with them, you will be assured of being welcome there WTSHTF, since you will be a benefactor for the family. In such circumstances, food is a much better investment than silver! If you can pre-position your storage food and most of your gear there, you can plan to bug out via mo-ped.

There are two ways of looking at obstacles to preparedness: 1.) As reasons to give up, or 2.) as challenges and opportunities for growth. For example, your hilly terrain can be seen as an opportunity to build strength and endurance, rather than as an excuse for not bicycling. And just because you can't find a local martial arts center that teaches Krav Maga, don't lapse into inactivity. Study whichever art is available locally. Just be sure to find the best full contact dojo in town. Furthermore, don't look at airport security restrictions as a the lowest common denominator for your self defense preps. If you are going to be in Australia for an extended period of time, then there is no reason why you shouldn't go ahead and purchase a few key "dual use" self defense items, such as a half dozen 15 minute road flares, a machete ., and a six-C-cell black MagLite ..You might also see if these is a local archery club--perhaps affiliated with your local university. Practice at least twice a week with your slingshot! They can indeed be quite useful if you take the time to practice. For your silver purchases, be willing to look further afield for dealers, or if need be, to buy from a reputable mail order dealer. Concentrate on the positive aspects of prepping, shepherd your available funds, train consistently, and you'll make progress!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I'd like to add an additional perspective on the letter on "Learning the Details of Self-Sufficiency" -- the conscious competence learning model. I'd like to pull back the shade a bit on why 'just buying stuff' and reading books isn't going to cut it when the balloon goes up.

Many folks are 'buying things', reading books, searching the internet with the thought that when the time comes, they will begin living the self-sufficient lifestyle in the country. The aforementioned letter points out the folly of this approach. I just want to take a step back and look at why so many people are taking an unproductive approach -- it has to do with how people assimilate new skills.

With a new skill set (like self-sufficient living in this example) a person at first is unconsciously incompetent (stage #1). Here a person doesn't even know what they don't know. They certainly don't understand the ramifications of not having mastery of the things they don't know. Most people stop right here. They feel safe. In fact, it's not until they go a bit further into consciously incompetent (stage #2) when they begin for the first time to understand some of the things at which they are incompetent; and begin to realize the impact of their incompetence on their desired outcome.

Stage 2 lasts a long time because the more a person learns, the more necessary skills they uncover, which skills they have no experience whatsoever. It's not until you actually eat the beans you've canned, which were stored in the root cellar you made; which beans grew in your garden, which garden you protected from insects, which plot you cleared from the forest, fenced from the deer, amended the soil, selected the correct variety of bean seed, planted at the correct depth,with the correct spacing, at the right time of year, with the proper sun exposure, etc. Then and only then will you have begun to have some gardening experience -- for beans. Then you can begin to appreciate that beans are not carrots. Carrots have different needs, and hey, wow, I wonder if all these different vegetables, grains and fruits have different requirements? Gee, what would happen if I grew my garden in 'compost' I bought from a local garden center and the entire crop failed, and I couldn't buy my veggies from Wal-Mart? Last example was a true story for me as a local nursery sold me 10 yards of 'compost' which [later] tested almost zero for N, P, & K. My crops bolted and died within three weeks.

Stage 3 is conscious competence. This is when you can perform a skill reliably at will. I can put up more beans this year, I know how to do it; I know how many rows of what dimension and how much seed I need. I want to put up some dilly beans, I know how to do that too. I can cook using the blanched and frozen beans I grew last year.

Stage 4 is unconscious competence. This is where you aren't even aware of the skills you are using to produce the desired result. People who reach this level of expertise often can't teach another person how to do what they are doing because so much ability (not knowledge -- big difference) is assumed. Have you ever seen a craftsman produce a beautiful result, and make it look easy? Then you tried and found, "Hey, this is harder than it looks!" That's what stage 4 is, and where you need to be before you risk your family's life on homesteading in the midst of a crisis.

We've only talked about beans so far; how about production quantity gardening for the 20 or so veggies, fruits, and grains you're going to need? How about producing pork? Chicken? Rabbit? Lamb? Can you breed, select, grow, cull, harvest, process, store, and prepare all of these? How about dairy operations? Retreat security? Redundant water systems in place? Redundant power systems in place and functioning? Productive relationships with neighbors? Suppliers? I'd like to give you a more complete list, but I've been doing this for years now, so I don't even know all I know!

If you aren't doing these things right now, then you won't be any good at them in a time of need. The only way to gain new skills is by doing. Take advantage of whatever time we have left before things get much worse, and go do it! - Mr. Kilo

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