Teaching through play, Part II

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about teaching children survival skills through playing with them. While in the past that was an occasional thing for us, we’ve decided to make a more focused effort with it. Here are a few things we’re doing.

A few weeks ago, I came across a board game called The Worst Case Scenario. It is based on a book of the same name. I’m sure it is probably still available through various and sundry toy stores but I found mine at Goodwill for a couple bucks. The game revolves around this large deck of cards. Each card has a question about survival and gives three possible answers. On nights we’re all together for dinner, I’ll grab a few cards and we’ll discuss them with the kids. I’ll ask the question, read the possible answers, and they guess which one is correct. My wife and I then explain to the kids which answer is indeed right and why it is correct.

We’re also trying to set aside a little time during the weekend to practice wilderness skills. Yesterday was fire lighting. I had the kids gather up natural sources of tinder, then we tried getting a fire started with a flint striker. We didn’t do too well until I added a bit of dryer lint to the mix. Yes, it was sort of a cheat but I was more concerned with them learning the mechanics of the striker than anything else.

Future plans include going on hikes and pointing out edible plants, building expedient shelters, tracking wild animals in the snow, and cooking over a campfire. Even if they never have the need to actually use these skills in a survival situation, we’re all trying to have fun with it.

DIY Weather Forecasting

The weather has certainly been much in the news as of late, with Hurricane Irene being the leading story the last few days. For most of us, finding out what the weather is likely to be tonight, tomorrow, and the next few days is as simple as turning on The Weather Channel or bringing up one of any number of websites.

But, what if those sources were no longer available? How can we determine if severe weather is headed our way? Being able to predict immediate weather changes is useful whether you’re lost in the woods or enduring the aftermath of a major disaster.

Obviously, without the use of weather satellites and such, hurricanes would be awful tough to predict. But, more mundane types of weather problems can be foreseen at home with just a barometer, a thermometer, and your eyes.

Indications of severe weather on the way include:

–Falling barometer readings.
–Strong winds in the morning.
–Darkening clouds.
–Temperatures well above or below normal ranges or changing very quickly.

Clues the weather is improving:

–Clouds rise and/or begin to dissipate.
–Barometer rises.
–Winds shifting to the west.

Also, bear in mind the old saying, “Red sky at morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” This is one of those old folk sayings that contains quite a bit of truth.

You might consider visiting your local library and picking up a book or two on weather patterns and such. Pay attention to the weather around you and learn how to predict changes that are on the way.

Social networking and disasters

Our world is interconnected like never before. Talk about degrees of separation! With the advent of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the other social networking sites, I’d be willing to bet I could get a message to just about anyone I wished within say a day or so. This is not inherently a bad thing. Being connected like this allows us to keep on top of world events as well as developments in our own little neighborhoods.

These various sites also allow us to network with others of like mind very easily. While we might find it difficult to find preppers living next door or down the street, we can still brainstorm and kick ideas around with literally thousands of others across the planet, with nothing more than the click of a mouse.

The downside is we perhaps communicate too much. Many people out there are so enmeshed into social networking that they feel it is necessary to update their Facebook status every time they move from one room to another…flush the toilet…or blink.

While communication is important during and after an emergency, such as the earthquake that hit the US east coast yesterday, I’d suggest you update your Facebook and Twitter AFTER you have evacuated the building and are in a safe area. Countless people took to the various social networking sites yesterday with posts like, “Just told we are evacuating.” To be a little blunt, these people are idiots. If you’re told you need to evacuate your building, GET OUT! Don’t take even an extra minute to tell all 1500 of your Facebook friends first. Just go and worry about that later.

It is truly sad that this has become a real sign of the times:

Weekly assignment: Shelf lives

We often talk about rotating your food supplies to ensure freshness. But we preppers store a lot of stuff that isn’t food as well, such as perhaps bleach, vinegar, and toiletries. Knowing how long these items are supposed to last before they start to go bad is an important components of an overall pantry storage plan.

For example, many people stock up on bleach for cleaning and water purification. A lot of those folks probably aren’t aware that bleach lasts about six months, unopened, before it begins to degrade. Opened, it lasts even less. Once it begins to degrade, it loses effectiveness for purifying water. This could have dire results if you aren’t aware of it.

Your assignment this week is to find out the shelf lives for the household products you have in storage and adjust your rotation plans if need be.

One source for these shelf lives is found on the Organize Your Life website.

While most of the items we tend to stockpile won’t kill you if you use them past their expiration dates, the quality can be dramatically effected. Also keep in mind that these shelf lives are figured for optimum storage conditions. Heat and sometimes light can have a significant impact.

Weekly assignment: Spread the word

I’ve always felt that the more people there are out there prepping, the better. For every person that takes the time and initiative to set aside extra food and supplies, that’s one less person likely to be knocking on my door or looking to the government for help. Plus, there is another benefit to having someone “in real life” near you who is on the same page. You can bounce ideas off one another, provide moral support to each other from time to time, and it is just nice to know someone who doesn’t think you’re a Class 1000 Whack Job, right?

Quite often, we have people in our lives who are on the same page as us, but neither of us know it. For example, my wife was at work a week or two ago and got to talking with one of her coworkers. The topic of conversation somehow turned around to prepping. Her coworker expressed great interest in the subject. A few days later, my wife brought in a recent copy of Survivalist Magazine to show her a few of the articles I’d written. Turned out another coworker was also very interested as well!

Lisa Bedford (The Survival Mom) spoke at the survival conference in Dallas back in May. She related a similar story about how her husband had worked with this one guy for several years, neither of them knowing the other was interested in disaster readiness. When the topic had finally come up in conversation, each was surprised and delighted to find a kindred spirit.

This week, I want you to do a little bit towards spreading the word about prepping. I’m not talking about inviting people to your home for the grand tour. Rather, I just want you to approach one or two people and try to steer the conversation toward some aspect of prepping, see where it leads from there.

If you’re at a loss, maybe try something along these lines. “I think since all that back to school stuff is on sale, I might pick up a backpack to keep here at work. Y’know, just some snacks and other stuff in case we have a bad storm that keeps us here overnight.”


“My wife (or husband) was talking the other night about stocking up on a bit of extra food at home in case her hours get cut again. Figure having a little extra could tide us over until another job comes along. I think that’s probably a good idea, hey?”

Remember, there’s no need to go into great detail about what you may or may not have done with your own preps. The idea here is just to feel out a few people, see if you might gain a “convert” or two for the cause.

Wildings and other mob situations

Last night, Milwaukee experienced the second “wilding” incident in a little over a month. In both of these incidents, groups of young adults went on a rampage, destroying property and beating people seemingly at random. Witnesses report they believe the beatings were racially motivated due to all of the victims being white, the aggressors being black, and apparently there were racial slurs being spoken or yelled at the victims while they were being assaulted.

While these types of incidents are certainly not new, they do seem to be increasing in frequency. What can you do to prevent becoming a victim yourself?

First, be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to the world around you rather than walking around with proverbial blinders on. If you begin seeing small groups of people gathering and looking aggressive, leave the area.

Avoid being trapped without a good escape route. Know where you are in relation to points of egress at all times. This is good to remember no matter where you go. If there’s only one exit from an area, what are the odds that the threat will be between you and it? Plan accordingly.

If something happens, leave immediately
. Don’t stick around trying to get good snapshots with your camera phone or updating your Facebook status. Get the hell out of there! Get you and your family as far away from the violence as possible. Then, when the shakes subside, post whatever you want on FB and Twitter.

If you are trying to get past or through a mob, go perpendicular to the traffic flow. You’ll move quicker and expend less energy going that route than trying to muscle your way through the pack moving in the opposite direction.

Above all, don’t be stupid. You are not Chuck Norris and this isn’t Hollywood. If you or your family are directly attacked, then by all means defend you and yours. But, the objective should be to deter the attack long enough to flee to safety, not try and show off the flashy moves you learned by watching Steven Seagal flicks. And for those who carry firearms (presumably in a legal manner), remember the applicable laws for the use of deadly force in self-defense.

Different types of survivalists

I’ve received an email from a TV producer looking for candidates for a new show about preppers. In corresponding with them, and reading the types of questions they are asking people, I’ve been giving thought to the different kinds of survivalists there are out there. While there certainly is a fair amount of overlap between these categories, I thought it might be interesting to look a bit deeper into these terms.

Please note, these are my own definitions for these terms. Your opinion might differ a bit and, if that’s the case, I’m cool with that. Feel free to drop a comment below and state your case.

A prepper is someone who is interested in disaster readiness, likely has at least begun to make their own plans and preparations, but isn’t necessarily concerned with just an end of the world scenario. Instead, they are more worried about mundane emergencies, such as severe weather or long-term power outages.

A survivalist, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with one or more apocalyptic events. Whether they are looking at EMP, economic collapse, pandemic, or nuclear war, they gear their preparations for the extreme long haul. Many of them also tend to have security issues rank rather high on the list of concerns.

A homesteader is kind of a survivalist by default. They are working towards providing most or all of their needs on their own. They grow extensive gardens and many have at least some form of livestock. They can their own food, cook from scratch, and have well water for the most part. Should a major disaster occur, unless the devastation were to impact them directly, they’ll generally be mostly unaffected. They may or may not be completely off the grid but even if they have power lines coming to the house, they know how to get by without it.

The armchair survivalist is the guy who frequents all the message boards and other online forums, quick to point out flaws in everyone else’s plans, but hasn’t done much of anything in terms of actual preps himself. Many of these guys (and they are almost all male) have stated a major component of their plan is to shoot everyone and anyone who comes near them after an apocalyptic event. He’s often a major fan of post-apocalyptic fiction and has naughty dreams about saving young damsels in distress by riding in on his Harley, guns a blazin’. These guys are often easy to spot in the mall as they are usually about 100lbs overweight, haven’t shaved in a week, and are ogling all the pretty young things walking around as he wolfs down his fifth chili dog at the food court.

The raider is the one who makes mental notes about his neighbors’ preps and often talks about how great it would be to be able to just walk into a warehouse and make off with all kinds of great stuff in the absence of law and order. He figures that as long as he stocks enough ammo and guns, he will be able to take whatever he wants. If he has any food stored at all, it is probably 10 year old MREs he bought online from a Y2K prepper and hasn’t touched since. Fairly often, the raider and the armchair survivalist are one and the same.

What are your thoughts? Did I miss any major categories? Which one(s) are you? Leave a comment below to start a discussion.