Pop Quiz — Bug Out Bags

Today is a pop quiz! Close your books and put them under your desk.

Is your bug out bag ready to go right now? If you had to grab it and run, how long would it sustain you? How far could you go with it?

The whole point of having a bug out bag is that it contains enough supplies to get you from wherever you are right now to a safe location. It should be light enough for you to carry it, rather than relying on a vehicle to put it in. While I’m not a big fan of rolling duffel bags, you may think otherwise and that’s fine. Just recognize the limitations of them.

If your bag isn’t ready to go immediately, then rectify that. Add in the supplies you’re lacking so you’re set to go at a moment’s notice.

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.

Weekly assignment: Insurance coverages

When was the last time you really looked at your various insurance policies? If there were an accident or something, would you really be covered?

This week’s assignment is probably one of the toughest I’ll ever give you. I want you to dig out your auto, home, and life insurance policies and take the time to review them. Check to see how much coverage you really have, compared to what you think you might have. Do some comparison shopping and see how your premiums might be lowered by going with another carrier. Talk to your agent about increasing coverage if that’s an issue.

Insurance is one of the only things we buy and hope we never get to use. But, it makes little sense to spend money on insurance that won’t do you a whit of good if something does happen.

I’d suggest you do this today. Why? Because then every day this week will be better than today because no matter how bad it gets, you’ll be able to say, “Well, at least I’m not reading my insurance policies again!”

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.

More on Hurricane Irene

Folks, if you are in or near any of the predicted impact areas with regards to Hurricane Irene, I encourage you to GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE at your earliest possible convenience. This one has all the makings of a doozy of a bad situation. Some parts of North Carolina are currently under mandatory evacuation orders already. Don’t wait for a mandatory order and end up caught in the traffic. Get out ahead of the crowd.

As of this writing, Irene has moved to a Category 3 hurricane. The following is taken from CNN’s most recent story on Irene:

“The biggest concern is getting people to pay attention and make sure they are ready,” Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said in an interview with CNN. Residents should have the necessary supplies and an evacuation plan ready, he said.

If for some reason you choose to stay put, you should already have emergency supplies on hand. If that’s not the case, get them now, before stores run dry.

Please keep us posted here, via the comment section below, and let us know how things go in your area.

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:

Hurricane Irene is coming

The first major hurricane likely to hit the US in three years is on the way. Hurricane Irene is predicted to begin affecting Florida very early Friday morning, then continue north along the coast over the weekend. It could hit Category 4 intensity, which means wind speeds of 131-155 mph.

How severe is that? Homes can be leveled, gas station canopies fly away like kites, long-lasting power and water outages.

If you live in a potentially affected area, you might consider going to visit friends and family who live well west of you for the weekend. Should you go that route, please plan on leaving fairly early, well in advance of the crowds.

If leaving the area for a few days just isn’t an option for you, please ensure you are as prepared as you can be well before Friday.

–Top off your food and especially water supplies. While we pray this turns out to be much ado about nothing, in the aftermath of major hurricane damage, clean water is often very difficult to come by. The more you have on hand, the better. Do this TODAY, don’t wait until Thursday afternoon.

–Have plenty of candles and flashlights. Don’t forget batteries! Be prepared for extended power outages, just in case.

–Work gloves, safety eyewear, and work boots are going to be necessary during the clean up. Chainsaws, bar and chain oil, and gasoline will be needed as well.

Remember, hope for the best but plan for the worst.

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.

Corporate management skills in survival situations

In what seems like a lifetime ago, I worked in retail security management. I spent almost a decade investigating internal theft, detaining shoplifters, and assisting in the overall management of big box retail stores. Along the way, I picked up numerous skill sets that will be of value during an emergency situation. These are skills that are often taught to managers and supervisors, whether through an internal education program or in an academic setting. Here are a few key skill sets to learn if you’ve not done so already.

Delegation: One person can’t do it all. At least not well or efficiently. Assuming you have warm bodies who can at least fog a mirror, delegate responsibilities. You might have to take some of them by the hand and show them exactly how to perform certain tasks but trust me, you need to free up some of your time so as to focus on other tasks. It might seem counter-intuitive to take extra time now to teach someone how to perform a task, then have to follow up with them to make sure it was done correctly. But, once they’ve learned it, that’s one less task you need to worry about fitting into your schedule.

Conflict resolution: Being able to quell arguments and such is a vital skill in overall people management. Remember, people who spend their time fuming and arguing with others aren’t able to put forth their best efforts on the tasks at hand. Learn different methods for resolving conflict within your group now, before you really need those skills.

Time management: Learning how to prioritize tasks is one of the first skills a good supervisor or manager is taught. This often goes hand in hand with being well organized. Get in the habit now of prioritizing your “to do” lists and avoid getting sidetracked until the most important tasks are handled.

Q & A: Storing fats and oils

Milleniumfly writes: What would you suggest as a viable long-term option for fats and oils considering their normally short lifespan of a few months to a year?

Fats and oils are often overlooked in long-term storage plans. Despite what the media would have you believe, fats are an essential part of our diet. Look at it like this — fats contain more calories than just about any other part of our diet. Our bodies burn calories as fuel, that’s what keeps us moving. While we might not need as much fuel to do what we need to do in our daily lives today, during a long-term crisis we’ll need all we can get.

Plus, if there’s only one thing I learned in my 90 minute cooking class in New Orleans about 15 years ago, it is that fat = flavor. Seriously, the instructor in that class used so much butter you’d have thought he owned a dairy farm in Wisconsin.

Ok, so we need fats and oils, can we agree on that? But the problem, as milleniumfly mentions, is long-term storage for most of those things just isn’t viable. Rancid oil can kill you, or at least make you wish you were dead. Opened containers of oil typically last six months, at best, if kept on the shelf. You can extend that a bit with refrigeration. Unopened, you’re looking at about a year.

Now, you could freeze your oil, such as olive oil, and it will last a few years. But, of course that’s dependent upon you having the ability to keep it frozen. Power goes out, it will thaw. Then you’re back to square one.

You can’t rely upon hunting and fishing to supply you with necessary fats and oils. Most wild game is very lean. If you had a reliable source for bear and/or beaver, you could probably pull it off. Otherwise, not so much.

The ideal would be to raise your own livestock, of course. Pigs and cows could supply you with all you’d need. But that’s just not a real option for many people.

Nuts, particularly peanuts, can be grown in most parts of the US and could provide a decent source. Of course, to produce oil from the nuts, you’ll need a press and such.

My suggestion would be that if raising your own livestock isn’t an option, look towards freezing butter and oils and rotating your supply on a regular basis. But recognize that this isn’t an extreme long-term solution. At some point, if push comes to shove, you’ll need to entertain other options, such as either bartering or securing your own livestock.