FEMA and the Emergency Alert System

On November 9th, FEMA will be conducted a test of their revamped Emergency Alert System (EAS). It will take place at 2:00PM EST. According to the news release:

On November 9, the public will hear a message indicating that “This is a test.” The audio message will be the same for both radio and television. Under the FCC’s rules, radio and television broadcasters, cable operators, satellite digital audio radio service providers, direct broadcast satellite service providers and wireline video service providers are required to receive and transmit presidential EAS messages to the public.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the test and I truly hope it works as designed. While many major events such as 9/11 kind of serve as their own warning system, given the immediacy with which the news crews cover the story, I can see benefit from the EAS. As I’ve said before, anything that can help give just one more person a leg up with being prepared, I’m all for it.

Hope

Last night, I did a very brief interview with radio host John Curley in Seattle. One of the things we touched upon was the idea of how people will behave in an absence of law — the armed vs the unarmed.

This is sometimes termed WROL, which stands for Without Rule Of Law. Man, we survivalists and preppers sure do love our acronyms, don’t we? TSHTF, TEOTWAWKI, BOB, GHB, the list goes on and on. One more that comes up from time to time is MZB, which stands for Mutant Zombie Bikers. We use that as kind of a catch-all phrase for people who would wish to do us harm after a societal collapse.

As I mentioned during the interview, naturally I believe there will be some degree of MZBs going around looting and pillaging after a disaster. We’ve seen that time and again. Think back to the news footage filmed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. People smashing store windows and walking off with big screen TVs and other expensive electronics. Reports of thefts, assaults, you name it.

But, at the same time, we heard stories of heroic efforts to save people trapped in their homes. No doubt countless people lent a hand to others in need.

Look at 9/11 as another example. How many of those killed in the attack died as they were working to help save others?

Disasters bring out both the best and the worst in people. In a major collapse, I believe that will hold true as well. Sure, you are going to have the MZBs attacking those who can’t or won’t protect themselves. But, you are also going to have people who do everything they can to improve the situation.

I have to believe the good folks will outnumber the bad. I need to believe that. Otherwise, what’s the point? Without hope, we’re doomed.

Odds and Ends

Just a few quick notes and such.

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Last night, I taught a short class on family disaster planning. It was a fairly small group but several great questions were asked throughout. I know they were probably sort of overwhelmed with all the information but I think they each walked out of there having learned at least a few useful things.

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I’m hearing some good things about the movie Contagion. We rarely ever get out to see a movie in the theaters so we’ll probably not get to it until it hits DVD. Any of my readers seen it yet? What did you think?

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Tonight’s guest on Survivalist Radio will be James Wesley, Rawles, founder of SurvivalBlog.com. This is the same Internet radio program I’ve been a guest on a few times. Great people, them.

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Most of my regular readers here know I’m also a writer for Survivalist Magazine. The new issue that came out last week contains the first entry in my new column — The Frugal Prepper. To help celebrate, I’m running a promotion on my Survival Weekly Facebook page. Obtain a copy of the new issue and take a photo of yourself with the magazine. Post that pic on my Facebook wall before October 7. I’ll pick one person at random to win a year subscription to Survivalist Magazine.

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Have a great remainder of your week folks!

Banned Books Week

We are smack in the middle of Banned Books Week. What in the world does this have to do with survival, you may ask?

Well, what child has read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and NOT thought about how cool it would be to drift down the Mississippi River on a raft, living by his wits?

Both Brave New World and 1984 deal with dystopian societies that sometimes seem to mirror current events.

Call of the Wild is a perennial favorite among those kids who love stories set in the wilderness.

Lord of the Flies illustrates a somewhat realistic view of what could happen when a bunch of kids end up stranded on an island.

Personally, I abhor censorship in all forms. I don’t believe you can be selective with censorship; it is an all or nothing proposition. Sure, you should monitor what your kids read and make sure those books are age appropriate. Remember too that once you make something “forbidden” to a kid, it suddenly becomes extremely interesting.

I don’t know about you but I neither want nor need some individual or group deciding for me what I can or cannot read.

Celebrate Banned Books Week by reading (or rereading) one of the classics. Consider it an expression of one of the freedoms we still enjoy.

Contest Winners – Fall 2011!

Congratulations to the winners of the 2011 Fall Survival-Gear Essay contest.

The winning essays (chosen at random) were written by:

Clinton C.
Jed D.
Anne-Margaret

Those folks win their choice of a Budget Survival Kit (1 person size) or a $50.00 Survival-Gear.com gift certificate.

The winners of the comment portion of the contests are:

Bill C.
Jed D.

Those people win their choice of a 2 quart canteen or a $15.00 Survival-Gear.com gift certificate.

Thanks everyone for playing along!

Music is good for the soul

I’m not much for gadgets and gizmos. I have a cell phone only because it is provided by my day job employer. Until we recently upgraded plans, my cell was big, bulky, and didn’t do much of anything more than make and receive calls. Same deal with GPS, I wouldn’t have it except that my boss gave me one to use for work. But, there is one little gadget I feel is important — an mp3 player. Personally, I love listening to music of all types and while I don’t feel it is critical to survival, it sure would suck to not have the ability to listen to some tunes.

Music has a calming effect on most people. It will settle nerves and clear your head. Now, I’m not saying if a tornado strikes your house, you should strap on headphones and crank it to 11. What I’m saying is, if you end up having to hoof it home from somewhere, having some tunes will make the trip at least a little easier to handle. Remember how important an iPod was in The Book of Eli?

If you have your other bases covered (food, water, first aid, etc.), consider purchasing an inexpensive mp3 player to put in your Get Home Bag. Charge it up periodically or just leave it plugged into your 12v outlet in your vehicle. Load it up with your favorite songs and artists and you’re good to go.

Obviously, there may be some situations where it is more important you can clearly hear everything around you so take that into consideration before plugging your ears with those ear buds. But, in most situations, you could probably get by with keeping just one ear free.

Wilderness Survival Movies

Last night while surfing around the Internet, I came across this trailer for a movie called The Grey that is coming out next year. A small plane goes down in the Alaskan wilderness and the survivors’ attempts at reaching safety are hampered by a pack of wolves. Liam Neeson, going toe to toe with a wolf, with broken liquor bottles strapped to his fists? Sign me up!

Seeing the trailer made me think of other wilderness survival movies I’ve seen in the past.

The Edge (1997) stars Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. Hopkins is a billionaire and Baldwin is something of his right hand man. They are in a small plane, traveling to a remote North American wilderness location for a photo shoot. The plane runs into a flock of birds and crashes into a lake. As Baldwin and Hopkins attempt to be rescued, they are stalked by an enormous Kodiak bear. The scenery in this movie is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

Survival Quest (1989) stars one of my favorite actors, Lance Henriksen. He plays Hank, a quasi-mountain man type of guy who runs a school something like Outward Bound on Sierra Madre Mountain in California. His students are from various backgrounds, from a fragile divorcee to a convict (it isn’t explained exactly how or why he’s part of the class). All have one thing in common — they know next to nothing about surviving in the wild. Their class is interrupted by the antics of a band of soldier wannabes, led by a tyrannical “survivalist” named Jake. Where Hank’s approach is more of a “live with” nature, Jake is teaching how to conquer it. After one of the soldiers goes all whack job, his group starts hunting Hank’s class.

Far from Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog (1994) takes place on the coast of British Columbia. A teenager named Angus adopts a yellow lab retriever, naming him Yellow. It isn’t long after Yellow has become part of the family when he and Angus end up stranded in the wilderness. Angus has been taught rudimentary survival skills by his father and he is helped by Yellow, who is strikingly intelligent. They rely upon each other until help arrives. Fair warning — you’re gonna probably shed a tear or two toward the end of this movie.

Those are three of my favorite wilderness survival movies from the last thirty years or so. I’m sure I’m missing a ton more though. What movies like this have you enjoyed?

Space Debris and Hopi Prophecy

As most of my regular readers here know, I’m not big on prophecies. Unless the prediction is the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, I pretty much disregard them. Sure, some of them can be interesting, even entertaining. But from a practical standpoint, not worth much of my time.

However, with all that said, I did find this one catching my attention a bit.

As covered in various news reports lately, there is a rather large hunk of space debris headed our way in the next few days. A satellite will be crashing to Earth, though they’ve not really determined where or exactly when. They expect it to break into several pieces and they’re not sure how many of them will actually make it to the ground before burning up completely in the atmosphere. Rest assured though, NASA has said there is only a 1 in 3200 chance a piece will actually hit a person.

Now, here is where it gets interesting. I’m told there is a Hopi prophecy that says something like this:

The prophecy describes a vision of a “blue star” that will fall to earth, causing create destruction. In some versions, this Hopi prophecy says a “house in the heavens” will fall, becoming a blue star in the process. But certainly, a large man-made craft plunging to earth, all aflame, would be a spectacular sight — one that would be witnessed by hundreds of millions of people.

I guess my first question would be, is this truly a Hopi prophecy from back in the day? If it is, well then that’s pretty creepy. But I’m not all that familiar with Hopi prophecies so perhaps one of my readers here could enlighten us?

I guess either way, keep an eye on the skies so you don’t get brained by satellite debris. I mean, NASA is broke so the best case scenario would be they give you one of the old space shuttles as compensation. And who wants to fight a homeowner’s association about having that in your driveway!

Clearance Sales

Any time you stop in at a hardware store, office supply warehouse, or even grocery stores, take a moment to check out their clearance section. You can sometimes find incredible deals on prepping items. For example, this past weekend we stopped in at Lowe’s. They had a couple of tables in the front aisle of the store with various clearance items. They had about 15 headlamps left, priced at a whopping $0.50/each. LED lights, with batteries, and a comfortable head strap. We picked up about eight of them and probably should have just grabbed them all.

I also picked up a pair of leather work gloves for $3.00. Decent quality, lined with Thinsulate, these will be great for working in the yard this fall. My old leather gloves are falling apart but given that they are about 12 years old, I guess that’s to be expected.

Along the same lines, check out the “outlet” bakeries in your area. There is one near me that sells Hostess brand items for about half what you’d pay in the regular stores. Bread, sweets, buns, all kinds of great stuff. Not once have we noticed any degradation in quality, despite these items being at or perhaps just past the expiration dates. Naturally, many of those items aren’t the best things for you but y’know what? Sometimes a guy just needs a freakin’ Ho Ho.

As stores go through their shift from summer to winter, you can pick up some good deals on clothing as well. This can be difficult to pull off when kids are concerned, given that you really don’t know how much they are going to grow before next spring. Personally, I think each of my boys grew a couple inches between June and September this year. But for adult clothing, you can’t go wrong paying $3.00 for a nice shirt that started out with a $25.00 price tag.

Weekly Assignment — Power Consumption

A while back, I read an article that stated in the last twenty years or so, individual power consumption in the US has something like tripled or more. Between all the various and sundry gadgets, smart phones, i-everything, and not to mention the ever increasing computer usage, we are using power like never before.

Naturally, all these creature comforts comes at a price. Power ain’t cheap. Setting aside all the environmental impacts, it just flat out costs more out of our pockets today than it did five years ago, hell even a year or two ago.

I’ve often said that every dollar you can save somewhere else in your budget can be put towards prepping. So, have you taken a good look at your utility bills lately? I’d be willing to bet many of you could probably cut a little energy usage and never notice it, except on your bills.

This week, I want you to take a good, hard look at your energy bills. Compare them to the same time frames last year. Most utility companies allow you to do this online if you don’t have the paper copies available. Then, challenge yourself and your family to decrease the bills as much as possible.

Here are some easy ways to cut down your energy consumption.

–Be hyper-aware of lights being left on when no one is in the room. Get everyone in the habit of turning off lights when they aren’t needed. Further to that, look at how much lighting you really NEED. If you’re the only person in the room, do you need the overhead light as well as task lighting at the same time?

–Invest in power strips and use them to control energy usage. Many appliances draw power even when they aren’t being used, such as TVs, video game systems, DVD players, and stereo systems. When not in use, turn off the power to them via power strips.

–Watch your thermostat settings. We keep ours at about 65 in the winter and are comfortable. We don’t walk around in T-shirts and shorts but we’re not wearing winter parkas either. In summer, we only turn on the A/C when it is just brutally hot out and even then, it usually gets set at 79.

–Turn your computers off when you’re not using them. Many people just leave them up and running 24/7. It only takes a few minutes for most computers to boot up.

–Turn off the TV when no one is watching it. This was a huge one in my house when I was growing up. My Dad used to win new TVs about every other year through his job, so we had them in all the bedrooms, the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, and the garage/shop. Invariably, at least three of them were going at any given time, with no one watching them. Even now, when I visit, I’ll find them on in several unoccupied rooms. What an incredible waste of energy.

This week, make a plan to reduce energy usage in your home. Stick to the plan for a month or two and see how it impacts your wallet. I think you’ll be happy with the results.