Civil Unrest Preparedness

It has become increasingly common to see and hear news reports of riots, looting, and other forms of civil unrest in our cities. The causes are varied but the fact is, if you live or work in an urban area, you are at risk of getting caught in the middle of a potentially violent situation.

Preparing for Civil Unrest

Civil Unrest

Obviously, the first thing you’ll want to do if you find yourself in a bad spot is to get out of the area as quickly as possible. If you are on foot, don’t try to go “upstream” through the moving crowd but instead move perpendicular to the forward motion, pushing to one side of the crowd. Once you are out of the thick of things, keep moving away from the area, cutting down side streets if possible. Link hands with those who are with you so no one gets left behind.

If you are in a vehicle, you may find it a bit tougher to keep moving. Keep your windows rolled up and your doors locked. Do the best you can to keep going forward until you can turn down a side street. However, if you’re not familiar with the area, watch for signs that indicate the side street is a dead end so you don’t trap yourself.

For those who live in urban areas, civil unrest can be a two-fold dilemma. Not only might you get caught up in the thick of things when you’re out and about, the riots and looting could make it unsafe to even leave your home.

This is one of the many reasons why I encourage people to have enough food, water, and other necessities in their homes, sufficient to last at least a couple of weeks. That said, impending rioting and looting in your immediate area would be one of the rare occasions where I’d suggest you give serious thought to bugging out to a safer location until things settle down.

There is a documented psychological effect at work in large groups. Often, it is called mob mentality. It is actually pretty scary when it happens to you. Without any real thought, you’ll find yourself mimicking the actions of those around you.

Their emotion becomes your emotion. The issue at hand might have originally had absolutely no bearing on your life but suddenly it has become your passion. You’re angry, you’re upset, and you want to do some decidedly nasty things.

Later, you’ll be at a loss if asked to explain what happened. It’ll all just seem to be a blur. If you find yourself getting caught up in the moment, try to remember to take a step back and breathe for a moment or two. Clear your head, calm yourself down, and give just a second or two of thought to the situation. Doing so might help keep you from doing something you’ll regret later.

The Thermodynamics of Survival

Growing up, one of my favorite survival authors was Ragnar Benson. Over the years, I’ve read many of his books and enjoyed all of them quite a bit. Very knowledgeable, full of common sense approaches to survival methodology.

I can’t recall in which book of his I first read it but he came up with a theory we’ll call Ragnar’s Rule of Survival Thermodynamics. Simply put, the rule states you should avoid expending more energy on a task than you stand to gain from accomplishing the goal.

How does that translate into real life? Well, here’s just one example, albeit a little simplistic. If you burn several hundred calories out hunting and at the end of the day all you’ve managed to bag is one scrawny squirrel, you’ve had a net loss of energy. You aren’t going to gain that many calories consuming that one little tree rat, right?

Automatic Fishing ReelThis is why trapping and fishing are typically better approaches to obtaining meat than hunting. Remember, we’re talking survival scenarios here, not just heading up north with your buddies for a weekend of deer and beer. While you’ll burn energy setting out a trap line and checking it each day, you stand to gain far more in meat than you might by tramping through the forest, rifle at the ready. Fishing is typically even less involved when it comes to energy expenditure. Invest in a few Yo Yo Fishing Reels and check them from time to time as you take a break from other chores. It doesn’t get much simpler than that, right?

Survival is, in many ways, about energy conservation. Cut off from easy food procurement, you need to conserve your limited calories as best you can. Calories are the fuel that powers our bodies. Without a renewed supply gained from food, our bodies will cannibalize our fat stores. Granted, some of us could stand to lose a few pounds but a survival crisis situation isn’t really when you want to suddenly try out a crash diet.

If you find yourself in a true survival situation, give serious thought as to what you stand to gain from a given course of action, particularly where food procurement is concerned. While a straggly squirrel beats eating nothing at all, concentrate on methods that will be force multipliers for you, such as trapping and fishing.

Offgrid Cooking Solutions

As you journey down the path of disaster readiness, you’ll no doubt amass some sort of food storage. This might be special freeze-dried and/or dehydrated foods or perhaps just simply stocking up on some extra canned goods and other “normal” foods your family eats regularly. Whether you take one particular approach or maybe a combination of the two, you should also plan for various methods of cooking food in the wake of a disaster.

One of the first things to go when a crisis hits is power. Suddenly, that microwave oven is just one more bit of clutter on the kitchen counter. Many people have electric ovens and stove tops too, which won’t be working. Fortunately, there are many possible options for offgrid cooking.

Offgrid Cooking Options

Cooking with a CampfireThe simplest, at least in terms of advance preparation, is a campfire. After all, mankind has been cooking over an open flame for thousands of years. If this is an option for you, I would suggest you lay in a supply of branches and split wood and practice cooking in this way from time to time.

There is just as much art as there is science to campfire cooking. Keep in mind, you’ll typically get more heat, as well as a more constant temperature, cooking over glowing coals than you’ll get cooking over the actual flames.

Of course, many of us already have charcoal and/or gas grills on our decks and patios. These work very well for cooking just about anything you’d prepare over a regular stove burner, provided you have fuel for the grill. If you have a charcoal grill but run out of briquettes, you can always just use sticks and branches, making sort of a contained campfire.

Patio fire pits are also very common and serve as portable campfires. Again, be sure you have fuel for them. If you want to explore this option, what I suggest is you hunt around for an old grill grate and place that over your patio fire pit. This will make things much easier when it comes time to warm up water for coffee or hot chocolate.

Folding Camp StovesFolding camp stoves are great to have on hand for emergencies. Very small and compact, they won’t take up much space on a shelf in the garage.

While you won’t be preparing any elaborate, five course meals on these nifty little gadgets, they work great for a can of soup or stew as well as boiling some water to purify it.

Larger gas camp stoves are also excellent additions to the home preparedness gear. Again, you’ll need to stock up on fuel for them.

You could go with the small propane tanks they sell for camping or invest in a converter so you can use the larger tanks you’d have for a patio gas grill.

Moving one more step up in the chain brings us to rocket stoves. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The basic idea is you’ll have a combustion chamber at the bottom of the stove, where you’ll burn biomass like sticks and branches. Rising up from that chamber is a chimney, carrying the heat to the top where you’ll have your cook pot. Because of the way these rocket stoves are designed and insulated, it doesn’t take much fuel to create quite a bit of heat.

My suggestion is to plan for at least three different ways to prepare food during an offgrid emergency. For example, have a gas grill on your deck, plus a patio fire pit and a spot in the yard for a campfire. Always be sure to have plenty of fuel on hand for each method, too. A great addition, as well, is a tripod grill. You can find these at any camping store. They consist of three metal poles that are set up like a teepee, with a chain running down from the top to a circular grill. These work tremendously well if you’re cooking over a campfire or patio fire pit.

Properly Using Emergency Blankets

Emergency blankets, sometimes called space blankets, are found in just about every survival kit on the market today, as well as being available for separate purchase. They can be crucial to survival, provided you understand how to use them properly.

Emergency Blankets are More Like Thin Tarps

All Weather Emergency BlanketThe term “blanket” is actually something of a misnomer. These aren’t things you really want to curl up under to watch a movie with your significant other or favorite furry friend. They are more like thin tarps than blankets. Typically, they are made from mylar or a similar material and often have a reflective finish on one side. They work by trapping your body heat, preventing it from radiating out into the world.

Heat is energy and cold is just a lack of that energy being present. If there is no barrier between your skin and the outside air, the heat energy your body produces simply drifts away. Where many animals have a fur coat that helps trap that heat, we don’t (except for that one uncle many of us have who has so much body hair that when he steps into a pool it looks like he’s suddenly surrounded by kelp). Therefore, we need clothing to keep us warm. In a survival situation, we may end up not having the proper clothing to prevent heat loss. In those cases, we can use an emergency blanket to stay warm.

Common Mistake When Using an Emergency Blanket

The common mistake people make when using emergency blankets is they wrap themselves up tightly, as though they are trying to make a human burrito. While the blanket will certainly keep out the wind and rain, using it in this way won’t do much to warm you. Instead, there needs to be some degree of dead air space between you and the blanket. That air is what will warm up as a result of the trapped body heat, and thus keep you warmer. If you have a jacket and such on already, keep those items on your body and wrap the blanket around you. The heavy clothing will serve to create that dead air space you need. In fact, that’s sort of how our winter coats operate already. The fluffy insulating material in the coat creates the air space, then the outer material keeps the heat in.

Loosly wrap in Emergency BlanketIf you find yourself lacking a coat or jacket, drape the emergency blanket loosely around you. Tuck it in here and there to prevent drafts but don’t wrap it tightly around your body. Either way, if the blanket has a reflective side, keep that directed toward your body.

Caution is advised if you’re buying one of the cheap emergency blankets you’ll find at the dollar store and similar outlets. Quite often, the material used is so thin, it will wear away along the fold lines over time. Then, just when you need the emergency blanket the most, you’ll find you have nothing more than thin ribbons of material. Better to spend the money on quality. After all, your life might just depend upon it!

Disaster Planning with Pets

For many of us, our pets are truly members of the family. They aren’t employees that are only there to perform a duty. Instead, they are much more like children, albeit with fuzzy faces and a lack of a command of the English language. It stands to reason, then, that we need to consider their needs when we go about our disaster planning.

Now, I’ll warn you in advance that the information here is primarily applicable to those who own dogs and cats. For you folks with other critters, the basic topics covered below will still apply, you’ll just have to adjust accordingly based on your pet’s particular needs.

Food and Water

If you’ve had the pet for any length of time, you should already have a pretty good handle on how much food and water it consumes daily. After all, you’re probably the one filling the bowls, right? Yeah, I know the kids promised they’d do that. Kids promise a lot of things, don’t they?

Extra Cans of Dog FoodStrive to always have enough food on hand to last at least three full weeks. If need be, consider adding some cans of food to the storage in case you run out of kibble. I would strongly caution you to do away with any thoughts of just feeding the animal table scraps. First, there might not be many scraps to be had. Second, human food isn’t easily digested by many animals, leading to upset stomachs, vomiting, and other unpleasantness.

As for water storage, obviously the animals can drink the same water you do. That said, while animals can often tolerate dirty water, such as mud puddles, with no ill effects, include their hydration needs when you determine how much water you should have on hand for you and your family.


If your pet has to take certain medications on a regular basis, make sure you have extras socked away in case you can’t get to the vet for a refill. Even vitamins and supplements should be included. If need be, talk to your vet about keeping a small supply of medications at home, just in case. Many vets will be happy to help however they can.

Waste Disposal

For cats, keeping some extra kitty litter is a no brainer. Few cat owners let that supply run too low. Your dog can probably still run outside and do their business quickly in most disaster scenarios. But, should something arise where that isn’t a viable option, you might consider keeping a supply of newspapers in a box in the basement. Use these to lay out a spot where Fido can do what he needs to do. I would, of course, highly suggest the newspapers be placed on a hard surface, such as a concrete basement floor, rather than carpet, if at all possible. If you lack a bare floor, you might consider picking up an old kiddie pool at a rummage sale and keeping it in the garage. Line it with newspapers and you’re all set.

Newspaper for your Pet

You might also want to pick up an extra bottle of bleach and several rolls of paper towel to help clean up the messes as they happen, which will help reduce odors. A box of garbage bags will also help in this regard.

Health Records

While you’re at the vet talking to them about medications, ask them to print out a complete copy of your pet’s health record, including immunizations. While we would hope we’d never have to go knock on the door of a community shelter for a place to stay after a disaster, if that becomes necessary they will probably want to see proof your animal has been vaccinated against rabies and such.


Again, in the event you need to hit up a shelter of some sort for a place to stay, and you have an animal with you, you’ll likely need to keep it contained or confined in some way. For smaller animals, this means a crate. For larger ones, a leash and possibly a muzzle will be required. Be sure to have these items in or next to your home evacuation supplies. What we’ve done is use duct tape to attach a plastic bag to the back of a crate. In that bag is a leash, muzzle, and vet records for our dog. She likes to hang out in the crate from time to time so we don’t want to just leave the stuff in it.

Current Photo

Keep a photo of you with your pet on your phone or stored in some way you can easily retrieve it. Should you and Killer get separated, this is a quick and easy way to prove ownership. Plus, that way you’ll have a photo you can show people who are helping you search for the animal should it get lost.

Our pets rely upon us to provide for their needs. In return, they are there to comfort us (or, in the case of cats, to remind us constantly of their superiority). Take steps now to make sure you are able to keep them healthy and safe, no matter what happens..

Survival Kits for Pets

Emergency Planning for Your Pet

You can also pick up a prepackaged emergency kit specially designed for your pet. The commercial packs are a good start in getting your “ducks” in a row when planning out your disaster plan.

The Importance of Document Storage

Perhaps more than any other point in history, paperwork rules our lives. Sure, we’ve made some strides in saving trees by using electronic media rather than actual paper in many cases, but the fact is, red tape often seems to conspire against us. This is readily apparent in the aftermath of disasters.

House in Flood WaterYou have insurance, you’re up to date on your premiums, yet no one can seem to figure out how to locate your policy because you don’t know the policy number.

Since your copies of the policy are now drowning underneath several feet of water from the flood, you’re at a standstill. You know who you are, everyone around you knows who you are, except for this bean counter who won’t do a darn thing for you unless you can produce a photo ID. Unfortunately, your wallet went up in flames along with everything else you own.

Storing Your Important Documents

Do yourself a favor and take steps now to preserve these documents and other critical information in such a way that you can easily retrieve them should the worst happen.

Here’s a list of the documents and other information you’ll want readily available.

Copies of all insurance policies (home, auto, health, life).
Copies of photo ID cards (driver license, student ID, etc.) for each family member.
Lists of all prescription medications you and other family members take regularly.
Names, addresses, and phone numbers for your primary physician, dentist, attorney, and insurance agent(s).
Information relating to bank accounts (name of bank, account numbers).
Photocopies of all credit cards (front and back).
Copies of vehicle titles.
Copies of property ownership records (deed, land contract, mortgage paperwork, etc.)

If you have pets, snap a photo of you and Fluffy together. Should you become separated, this is a great way to prove ownership of the animal.

Electronic Storage of Documents

Start by purchasing a thumb or flash drive. These small USB sticks store a ton of information. You’ll want to password protect the contents of the flash drive, of course, given the sensitive nature of the contents. You can buy flash drives with this feature built in, but they tend to cost considerably more than the average USB sticks. There are programs available, some are even free, that allow you to install password protection on any flash drive. Here’s just one article with more information about those options.

Once the USB stick is ready, either download or use a scanner to make electronic copies of all of these documents, as well as any other information you feel may be necessary to have. Be sure the file types being saved are common ones that can probably be opened on any computer, such as DOC, PDF, or JPG files.

You might also consider scanning in copies of treasured family photos, though I’ll admit that project can be a massive time suck. But, should there be a fire, a flood, or any other disaster that destroys the originals, you’ll appreciate having had the forethought to make copies.
As you go along downloading these documents and such to the flash drive, print out hard copies if you don’t have them on paper already. By having two sets of the information, you’re in a better position to ensure at least one set will be available to you.

Okay, so now you have two complete sets of all this critically important data. Where do you store it? Depending on where you work, one set could be kept at your office. Stick it in the back of a drawer and just bring it home once every six months or so to update the information. Another option is to make an arrangement with a trusted family member or close friend. They’ll keep your stuff and you’ll do the same for them. A fire safe isn’t a bad option, either, though they aren’t infallible.

What I do myself is keep a password protected USB stick in my EDC bag that goes everywhere I do. I have a set of hard copies stashed with someone I trust as a backup to the USB data.

Having copies of this information outside the home but readily accessible can be crucial in expediting insurance claims and cutting through the inevitable red tape that comes along with disaster recovery.

Emergency Food Storage for Home

How much food do you have in your home right now? If you had no way to buy more, for how long could you feed your family using only what you have at this moment?

What’s in Your Pantry?

What's in Your Pantry?If it is anything less than a couple of weeks, you really need to consider stocking up. Sure, you could subsist on bagged popcorn and nachos for a day or two, if you really had to do so. But, there are many relatively common types of disasters that could strand you and your family at home for several days. A few years ago, this happened to a friend of mine. A huge ice storm hit her area. It caused widespread power outages that lasted for weeks. While roads were relatively save to travel after a couple of days, there just wasn’t anyplace to go as stores weren’t open due to the lack of electricity.

Storing Food for Home Emergencies

I’m not suggesting you go out and buy a couple of pallets of freeze-dried food to squirrel away down in the basement. In fact, I would caution you against any action like that. Instead, follow a couple of proven caveats when it comes to food storage.

Store what you eat, eat what you store

Instead of purchasing a ton of stuff you’ve never had before, stick with the foods you and your family enjoy, just keep more of it on hand. That said, concentrate your long-term food storage on items that, well, last a long time on the shelf. Things like rice, pasta, and canned goods like veggies, fruit, and soups.

Look, the fact is that our bodies grow accustomed to eating certain foods. Toss in something new and our digestive system sometimes gets…confused. Often, the result is we feel sick, sometimes only mildly so but other times it can get pretty bad. If the power is out and the water pressure is sketchy at best, do you really want to add stomach upset to the mix?

Rotation, rotation, rotation

Rotate Your Food SuppliesStoring the foods you regularly eat helps with rotating the supply so things don’t go bad before they’re used. There are various systems people use to keep their long-term food storage up to date. Some create massive spreadsheets on the computer and religiously change the quantities as items are purchased or consumed. Others just have a notebook kept in the pantry and pencil in changes as necessary. Another tactic is to use a marker to date every item put into the pantry so they can be sure to always use the oldest stuff first.

However you accomplish it, the important thing here is to use and replace food before it gets stale or goes bad in some way. Having a massive pantry won’t do you much good if the food is only marginally edible by the time you need it.

Can you cook without a nuke machine?

Bear in mind that if the power is out, your microwave oven, as well as your electric stove top, won’t be options for cooking your emergency food supplies. With that in mind, there are several options available, from charcoal or propane grills to camp stoves. If you have a spot to make one, even a campfire will work. Whichever methods you plan to utilize, and note the plural there, as you shouldn’t rely on just one single solution, be sure to have plenty of fuel on hand. Personally, I keep a minimum of two propane tanks for my grill filled at all times, rotating them out and refilling them as needed. I also have several bags of charcoal for my kettle grill. On top of that, I have a camp stove and a patio fire pit.

Pocket Stove with Fuel

Emergency food storage is important, as is having plenty of water, first aid supplies, and other gear on hand in the event of a crisis. Even the U.S. Federal government is requesting citizens to have enough supplies on hand to meet their own needs for up to three days, at a minimum. As we’ve seen in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Katrina, that three days can stretch out to several weeks rather easily.

Preparing for ISIS

With the recent beheadings by the terrorist group calling themselves ISIS, the world has received a wake up call to the most extreme of extremists. Their ultimate goal is to create a caliphate in the middle east and then to spread its reach to the entire world.

These are not cave dwellers with a half baked plan and delusions of grandeur. They’ve already militarily taken over a large portion of Syria and a large swath of neighboring Iraq. The humanitarian bombings of the US to help stranded civilians has done little to nothing in stopping their advances. Indeed, they are holding major cities and towns within Iraq and have kept them for some time now.

ISIS terrorists

Given the world’s timidity in doing any actual fighting, these brutal religious nuts see nothing that is going to stop them from achieving their goals. An insider who defected from ISIS, but still holds their beliefs, has told us in no uncertain terms that their ultimate goal is conquest. His plain and simple statement gives clear intentions of their goals:

“The main and principal goal of the Islamic State that they tell their new members is to establish an Islamic state that will encompass the Arab world,” the man said in Turkey. “And after that, we go to other countries.” Source: CNN

Other countries, including Britain and Australia, have stated they have credible information on impending threats of attack. The US, thus far, has not raised it’s threat level stating they have no specific information on any imminent attacks.

With the southern border easily infiltrated, it won’t be any surprise when an attack occurs on US soil either by someone who has gotten through the border or by a cell already inside the country. Large scale targets can be mass casualties in any major city or by simply disrupting the electrical grid system causing massive power outages across the country.

Experts have been saying for years how vulnerable our country is to this kind of attack. A major impact would be its disruption of the distribution of food and water. Grocery stores would not get restocked, thus preventing people from getting their nutrition in the only way they know how. If there is a large scale power outage that affects a large portion of the country, the food in people’s refrigerators and freezers would not last and citizens would have no way of getting more food to eat. They would literally starve.

While nice to think and try to believe that things like this can never happen, it has already happened.  It’s happening right now in Syria and in Iraq. And if the terrorists get their way, it will happen in other parts of the world as well.

Food Emergency - Wise Company Gourmet MealsStocking up on food and water doesn’t seem so crazy when real threats like this exist. Many of our readers here and those akin to preparing for contingencies such as hurricanes and other forms of natural disaster have most likely already started a food storage program for themselves and their family. It’s like an insurance policy that pays you in food to eat when enacted.

Freeze dried food purchased beforehand gives you that insurance policy that you don’t have to cash in for up to 25 years. That’s how long it lasts and can be there for you when you really need it. Our recommendation is Wise Food Company Gourmet Meals. They are chef designed and pre-prepared. All you need to do is add water.

Preparing for Hurricane Season

It’s hurricane season again and time to make sure we’re prepared to get through what Mother Nature dishes out. From June 1st through November 30th of each year, there is higher chance of one forming in the Atlantic basin and reaching the US.

Preparing for Hurricane SeasonNow that we’re relocated in Florida, the hurricane season takes on a bit more significance. It’s more than just a slight possibility that we’ll be affected by a tempest now, than it was when we were further up the east coast and more inland.

Even during regular rain storms here, power goes out. Usually it comes right back on but it’s already went out for over an hour one day this year. So I can predict with near certainty that if a hurricane were to hit this area, we’ll be out of power for who knows how long.

Getting Ready for a Hurricane

Hurricanes bring torrential rainfall and extremely dangerous high winds. The combination can be damaging to homes and businesses yet they don’t come without warning.

With today’s technology, we know when they transform from a tropical storm into the real McCoy and even the projected path they’ll follow with relative confidence. Knowing all this beforehand lets us know its coming and to get ready to either evacuate or hunker down and ride the storm out.

Preparing for either option is best and it goes without saying that you should already have a survival or emergency kit inside your vehicle at all times. Your home should also have some things on hand to help make life easier when Mamma Earth comes a knocking.

Assuming your home is structurally sound enough to withstand the abuse of the gale force winds (or else you’d evacuate, right?), you can pretty much expect to be without power. Without electricity, you can’t flip a switch and have the lights come on. You can’t cook on your electric stove or use your microwave to heat up food. Your freezer and refrigerator won’t have the power to keep your food from spoiling for very long.

These things will happen. If it’s only for a short period of time, it’s not a big deal. But as time goes on, the longer it takes to get the power restored, the more life will be more difficult. There won’t be hot water to take a shower and there may not be any running water at all for toilets to even flush.

Think about how you’ll adapt to these conditions beyond the having extra batteries for your flashlight. If your refrigerated food goes bad, what will you eat? How will you heat up your canned goods that you have in the cupboard? You may not need to heat it up, but a warm meal is a major comfort in a situation like this.

Above all, a clean source of water is necessary. Having a supply stored for such a “rainy” day is a good idea so you’ll be set when you need it. In the case of a hurricane, you’ll have warning so you can fill up your bathtub and as many containers as you can before it hits. Just be sure to have thought this out so you can get into gear as soon as you know it’s coming.

Weekend Project

This weekend, I’d like for you to take a little time and put together a mini survival kit. Nothing elaborate nor fancy is required. Just a kit that will satisfy most if not all your basic needs in a survival situation, yet be small enough to fit on your belt or in a purse.

To review, here is a list of basic needs:

–First aid

Preppers are some of the most ingenious people around. This is often highlighted when it comes to building survival kits. People figure out all sorts of great ways to save space and not sacrifice quality.

So, show me something! Get creative! Send me a pic or two of your creation, along with some info about what you included in the kit. I’ll pick the best ones to feature here on the blog in the next week or two.

Send the pics to: