In my part of the country, they are predicting up to 24″ of snow to fall in the next few days. We’re supposed to get anywhere from 3″-7″ between now and tomorrow morning. Then a second storm front will move in, dumping another foot or more through Wednesday. I receive weather alerts on my cell phone and yesterday, it finally gave up trying to keep track of everything and just said, “Look, just don’t make any plans, ok?” Living in the upper Midwest, we’re certainly well accustomed to snow. But, we don’t often get this much, all at once.

Knowing we might be stuck at home for a couple days, here’s what I did or am doing.

1) Went to the grocery store last night. Yes, we had plenty of food on hand to get through considerably more than a couple days. But, the store is only ten minutes from my home so I ran up there and picked up milk, eggs, bread, and some snacks.

2) Filled the gas tanks on both vehicles. Granted, we’ll probably not be doing much traveling during the blizzard but I’d rather not have to stop at a gas station if we do.

3) Queued up a few more movies on Netflix. If we lose power, we have plenty of books, board games, and other activities to keep us and the kids occupied. But, as long as the power stays on, we’re planning on a couple movie marathons.

4) Brought extra wood into the garage. We have a gas furnace but also a small wood stove. Several years ago, I set up a small wood bin in the attached garage, enough for a couple days’ worth of wood. I also have a couple lawn carts I’ll fill with wood, just so I don’t have to tramp through the snow to our wood pile. The wood stove will certainly keep us warm in the event we lose the furnace for some reason. Plus, we could cook on it if need be.

What is your normal routine in the event of impending blizzards?

Food shortages on the way?

I’ve been hearing from multiple sources that we should be expecting rapid increases in food costs due to shortages. Unfortunately, everything I’ve heard thus far is very vague, bordering on Chicken Little type of talk.

But, this brings up the issue of rising food costs in general and the impact your food storage plan can have. You can save money in the long run by purchasing food at today’s prices and eating it tomorrow. If you buy in bulk, you can usually save a bit more. Use coupons whenever you can, trust me it adds up quickly.

I do most of the grocery shopping for my family. My wife cuts coupons every week and sorts them. We make out the shopping list together and gather the coupons for those items on the list. On average, we probably save around $20 or so every trip to the grocery store between coupons and the store loyalty card.

If you’ve not done so already, I’d highly encourage you to start stocking up on staples. Whether there is a coming food shortage or not, I think it is safe to say food costs surely won’t decrease in the immediate future.

Survival kit poll

I’d like to hear from some of the readers here.

1) How many different survival kits do you have on hand? What sizes and configurations do you have? For example, I have one large (backpack size) kit in my car that serves as my bug out bag, another in my van the same size, and a smaller kit that fits into a shoulder bag for EDC (Every Day Carry). I also have extensive kits set aside at home for use there in an emergency.

2) How often do you go through the complete contents of each kit, checking for outdated food, batteries with low power, and just generally looking everything over?

3) What are some items you feel are frequently missing from pre-made survival kits marketed in stores and online today?

4) Are there items you see in most pre-made kits you feel are unnecessary?

Please respond to any or all questions in the comments section below. Thanks!

What if Wednesday–Stranded at the workplace

This is an ongoing feature of this blog. Every Wednesday, I’ll present to you a different scenario. You take the information given and run with it. Give some thought as to what you’d do and how you’d go about it. I understand there will be scenarios that just wouldn’t apply to you personally for whatever reason. Feel free to change it around a bit to suit your own situation. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

What if disaster struck while you are at work? Further, what if the circumstances of the disaster are such that you are unable to leave your workplace for an extended period of time? What supplies do you or your company have on hand to provide for food or water?

How many people are there on a daily basis? Sure, you might (should) have an emergency kit near your work station or desk but that probably is barely enough for you, let alone your co-workers. Those vending machines probably won’t last too long.

Do you know where the first aid kit(s) are? Do you know how to use them?

How about communications with the outside world? Any battery operated radios around? Do they have batteries?

If you work outside the home, you should consider what you’d do if you were stranded at your workplace for at least a day or two. If you’re an employer, I encourage you to invest in emergency supplies for your workers. They, and their families, are counting on you to keep them safe.

Safe rooms

There are a variety of different scenarios in which having a safe room in your home would be prudent. Home invasion is the first to come to mind. While we might fancy ourselves as Charles Bronson lookalikes and have visions of standing over an assailant, smoke curling from the barrel of our handgun, the truth of the matter is real life hardly ever works out that well. Just the legal battle alone would be enough to drive one to drink, and for some of us, let’s face it, that ain’t that long of a trip.

A safe room is an area of your home where you and your family can wait out dangerous situations. Typically an interior room, it should feature at the minimum a strong door that locks from the inside and a phone line connected to a corded telephone. A cordless phone won’t work if the base unit loses power, either by being unplugged or through a power outage.

It isn’t a bad idea to utilize your pantry storage area as a safe room, as long as those two conditions can be met. Either way, the safe room needs to be large enough to fit all family members in at least some modicum of comfort. A small closet probably won’t suffice. You want enough space so everyone has room to at least sit down.

If you choose to store a firearm in your safe room, please be intimately familiar with all applicable state and local laws regarding the use of firearms in self-defense. Not to mention, be sure you have sufficient training in the use of your weapon.

Agree on some word or phrase to use as an alert signal to your family. Upon hearing it, everyone is instructed to immediately go to the safe room. Use something easily recognized, such as “emergency” or “hide.”

Once in the safe room, the door is locked and no one leaves the room until law enforcement arrives. Use the phone to call 911 and alert the local police to the situation. Give clear, concise directions to the dispatcher as to where you are in the home. Stay on the line until the officers are knocking on your door.

Teaching through play

As parents, we want to pass along knowledge and skills to our children. Of course, this would include survival techniques. One of the best ways to teach younger kids is through play.

For example, after the last big snowstorm here, we went out and built snow forts. One of the forts I made was a snow cave, which could be used as an emergency shelter. I shoveled snow into a big pile, then shaved off the top so it was flat. I had a plywood board handy so I placed that on the top of the flattened pile. I then dug out a cave on one side of the pile, taking the snow and shoveling it on top of the board. It only took about fifteen minutes to create a cave large enough that I could crawl inside. I could easily have fit a small pack in there as well.

(I only used the board because I had it handy and also because I knew the kids would be pretty rough with the shelter. Boys are boys and it would be stomped on, climbed over, and rolled down. In an emergency, that kind of horseplay wouldn’t happen and the board wouldn’t necessarily be needed for additional support.)

Placing a tarp or space blanket across the cave entrance would serve quite well in trapping body heat and keeping me warm and safe from the elements for a night.

I explained this to my boys as well as illustrating a few other expedient shelters, such as the space under a pine tree. While they were much more interested in how well the snow cave would work during a snowball fight, I’m confident the lesson made it into their long-term memory banks.

The desire to learn is present in almost all children. You just have to figure out the best way to present the information. I’ve found by incorporating lessons into playtime helps them to not get bored. Plus, you get to have some fun with your kids, which is never a bad thing.

Risk Assessment

I’ve always felt if you’re prepared for a disaster on a national or global scale, such as something that would result in a total societal collapse, then surely you’re prepared for any less severe emergencies. However, to someone new to preparedness, that’s a pretty daunting task. To go from zero preps to being able to provide for an entire family for years to come is like getting your driver’s license at 9am, then getting behind the wheel at the Daytona 500 that afternoon.

In other words, you have to learn to walk before you can run.

Many of your needs during and after a disaster are constant, no matter the cause of the emergency. Breathable air, clean water, food, and personal safety are constants. What changes is how best to prepare to meet those needs.

A risk assessment is simply gathering information on the likely threats your family faces in the future. Consider the most probable scenarios, such as the loss of electricity during a storm, and work your way to the more extreme situations, like a terrorist attack using an EMP, which could take out all electrical devices for a large portion of the country…perhaps permanently.

One resource for your research is your county’s Emergency Management office. Often this is a role assigned to the Sheriff’s Department. Get in touch with the Emergency Management Coordinator and ask about getting a copy of the hazard mitigation plan for the county. Every emergency management office that receives federal funding must have this plan completed and on file. Typically, these plans concentrate on natural disasters, rather than man-made. But, they’ve done the research for you in terms of what is likely or possible to happen in your area.

The plan will not only clue you in on what hazards your local government feels are important to mitigate but it also explains what the county has done and/or plans to do about them. Remember, your tax dollars funded this plan’s creation, you are entitled to see it. Many counties have the plans posted online, you just have to find it.

You can use this document as a template for your own plan. Add in any threats you feel are missing from the county plan. Make concrete decisions on how you can mitigate the different risks yourself. Set realistic goals as to when you will accomplish the various steps. Come up with an overall time table as to when the preps will be completed. Then, stick with the plan as best you can. Revisit it often and revise it as necessary.

Firearms for survival purposes

Let me preface my comments here by saying:

1) While I fully believe in our Second Amendment rights, I could never be seen as a gun nut. Unfortunately, I lost all my firearms in a tragic riverboat accident some time ago.

2) If you’ve been following the posts here, you should have figured out by now that I’m not one of those rabid, gun-toting, “shoot ’em all and let God sort ’em out” kind of survivalists.

With that said though, I do believe there is a place in disaster preps for firearms. At a minimum, I feel every family should have:

  • A .22 rifle–I prefer the Ruger 10/22 myself. It is reliable, dependable, and endlessly customizable. The .22 round is excellent for most hunting purposes, except perhaps for big game unless you are exceptionally skilled. The ammo is still fairly cheap, easy to find, and is small enough that you can store a large amount in a relatively small space.
  • A 12 gauge shotgun–Good for home defense as well as larger game hunting. I don’t think there are many people who could hear the racking of a shell in a shotgun and mistake the sound for something else. I suggest stocking up on both shot shells (including bird shot and larger) and slugs.
  • A deer rifle–Something like a 30.06 or similar. You want something with some power and with a scope. This is obviously for hunting, as well as long-range defense if it comes to that.
  • Handgun–If you’re not familiar with firearms, start with a revolver. They have less moving parts and are easier to maintain than a semi-automatic pistol. A .357 is a good round for self-defense and won’t take your arm off when you fire it. It is possible to hunt with a handgun, but I don’t advise it unless you really know what you’re doing.
  • No matter what firearms you purchase, learn how to use them safely. Take a hunter’s safety course, get out to the range, and fire some rounds through your weapons. Get to know them inside and out. Learn how to clean and maintain them. Make sure to stock up on ammunition for your firearms. Without ammo, they are nothing more than expensive clubs.

    Above all, teach your children to respect them for the weapons they are. Keep them locked up or secured in such a way to prevent accidents.

    What If Wednesday–Communications

    This is an ongoing feature of this blog. Every Wednesday, I’ll present to you a different scenario. You take the information given and run with it. Give some thought as to what you’d do and how you’d go about it. I understand there will be scenarios that just wouldn’t apply to you personally for whatever reason. Feel free to change it around a bit to suit your own situation. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

    In today’s world, we take instant communication for granted. It can take mere moments for us to compose a message to a friend or loved one, send it off, and have it received. But, what if that ability were taken away in a heartbeat? What would you do in an emergency if you couldn’t just pick up your smart phone and fire off a text message?

    If TSHTF (The Sh** Hits The Fan), how are you going to get in touch with your family, who might not all be in one place at the time? Let’s say you’re at work, your spouse is at home, you have kids at school and a major terrorist attack strikes your area. How will you get in touch with your family?

    If one of you is away from home, and the rest of the family is forced to evacuate, how will you communicate this to the straggler?

    If an EMP burst were to take out all electronic forms of communication, what will you do?

    Conspiracy theories

    As you proceed in your studies in survivalism and disaster readiness, you’ll no doubt run across any number of conspiracy theories online. Whether it concerns 9/11 or reptilians from Alpha Centauri impersonating politicians, the Internet has provided a platform from which proponents can make their opinions known.

    I love reading about conspiracy theories, the more outlandish the better. But, I love them for their entertainment value and tend to take them with more than just a grain of salt. Heck, some of the theories out there require enough grains of salt to take care of NYC streets for an entire winter season!

    When reading the various theories you find online and elsewhere, I highly suggest you use your head for something more than a hat rack. A little common sense will go a long way.

    I’m not saying all conspiracy theories are bunk. Far from it, actually. History has shown any number of outlandish theories to actually be true. After all, the mysterious MK-ULTRA project, where US citizens were covertly given LSD and other drugs, was proven to have actually existed.

    However, that doesn’t mean every theory put forth before or since is automatically true as well. Each one must be examined and evaluated on its own merits.

    If you find yourself some night, long after you should have gone to bed, giving serious thought to your mind being probed by reptilian aliens, please have this site bookmarked:

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