Prep privacy concerns

No weekly assignment this week, just keep on keeping on until next week.

A comment came in over the weekend from one of my regular readers and I thought I’d share it with you, as well as respond to it here.

Bill writes: Jim, Survival Steve all you guys I have nothing against your website or your blog but Steve if the SHTF all of us that are prepping and have our faces on the Internet all of us that are giving out our info about what we are doing were going to die. Were going to be the first to go out because of One reason because we were stupid enough to put and tell people that we know how to survive. The government is going to hunt us down and kill us because we were stupid enough to put our survival plans and other material on the Internet…. I don’t mean to offend anyone but its the sad truth. Yes i probably have offended many people yet its whats going to happen…

First of all, I obviously can’t speak for everyone but as for myself, I take no offense at your comment. I’m sure you’re not the only one with this concern and I’m glad you brought it up. Here’s my take on it.

If a disaster were large enough to the point where the government felt it necessary to go around confiscating supplies (food, water, etc.) from citizens, odds are good that the disaster is large enough to occupy the government’s efforts such that they’d be unable to carry out such an operation. Look at what happened during and after Hurricane Katrina. This was the largest scale natural disaster to hit America in recent memory, right? While there was a documented effort to confiscate firearms from citizens (which was widely condemned and likely won’t happen again), I don’t recall a single news story about FEMA or any other agency going door to door and taking food from folks.

And there certainly weren’t any reports, even among the fringe news groups, of government agents killing citizens for their supplies.

I’d be much, MUCH more concerned about family and friends showing up, hoping for handouts, than I would be about nefarious government agents knocking on my door, demanding all the MREs I might have stockpiled.

For me at least, this issue really isn’t anything I lose sleep over. I’d much rather do everything I can to help folks get prepared for whatever comes their way than hunker down and pray guys in tactical vests never knock on my door.

You can never have enough of these items

I’ve said many times that disaster readiness is an ongoing process, not something that has a distinct goal or finish line. As you stockpile supplies, there are some things where once you have one or two of them, you don’t necessarily need to buy more, such as perhaps generators or camp cookware for example. But, there are other things that you really just can’t have enough of, as long as you are being sure you don’t develop tunnel vision. Food and water are both kind of no brainers but here are a few others.

Paracord: I just love this stuff. It has so many uses.

Duct tape: ‘Nuff said.

Bandages and gauze pads: Until you’ve dealt with major injuries, you have no idea just how much of this stuff you’ll go through. Just one moderate laceration will use up a few boxes, at least.

Strike anywhere matches: Stored properly, they last a good, long while and are excellent barter items.

Toilet paper: Yeah, there are alternatives but most of them are much less than ideal.

Ammo: If firearms are part of your preps, this is an item you’ll want as much of as possible.

Online privacy concerns

I’ve already talked a bit about protecting yourself from online scams and viruses. Today, I thought I’d concentrate on protecting your privacy. With social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter becoming so pervasive, we are “exposed” more and more.

However, before we jump in on a few tips to protect your privacy, I’d like for you to keep something in mind. If someone wants to find you, or find something out about you, nothing is impossible given enough time and budget. The idea here is to make it difficult enough to ward off the more casual searchers.

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, on with the tips.

1) The first rule to remember is, anything that gets posted to the Internet is conceivably there forever. Sure, you can delete that photo you posted of you pretending to be really friendly with that goat at the petting zoo. But, deleting it from your Facebook page doesn’t mean it is gone forever. It is still located on a computer server somewhere and could someday resurface. So, before posting potentially embarrassing pictures or messages, think twice about whether it come back to bite you in the future.

2) Check your privacy settings on sites like Facebook. Lock your profile down tight, limiting access only to friends and family. I have two separate Facebook pages. One for just family and friends and the other is more of a fan page for my writing and business stuff. This way, I can keep my personal life separate from my professional one. There is very little overlap between the two. A somewhat frightening video that shows the risks of personal information to be found on Facebook can be found here. Of course, you need to have a Facebook account to have the video work properly.

3) Be vague with profile information. Putting in your phone number and/or street address is a pretty obvious no-no. While I certainly wouldn’t be too difficult for people to find, there’s no sense in making their job any easier.

4) Set up a dummy email account. Many years ago, when I first started getting online, I opened a Yahoo account, the only purpose of which was to use it when filling out forms online. As might be expected, it gets flooded with spam on a daily basis. Once a week or so, my wife goes in and deletes everything we don’t really need. By having this account set up and using it like this, we’ve managed to keep spam out of our “real” email accounts for the most part. Plus, there is little to nothing personal that is attached to that account.

5) If you are truly worried about somehow being tracked online, you can use any of a number of free “anonymizers.” Basically, the way these work is you go to their site and jump from there to the site you wish to visit anonymously. In theory, if the owner of the site tracks your visit, it will only trace back to the anonymizer. However, bear in mind what I said before — if someone truly wants to track you down, nothing is impossible.

Don’t overlook tooth care in your preps

There are few things that suck more than a toothache you can’t get fixed immediately. It seems we usually experience such dilemmas at the most inopportune times too. I mean, who gets a toothache mid-morning and is able to get in to see a dentist that afternoon, right? No, it is usually at 11pm on a Saturday night and the best you can hope for is to get in Monday morning for an emergency visit.

To that end, don’t forget to include tooth care in your preps. First, you’re going to want pain relievers. In my experience, ibuprofen works much better than acetaminophen. Lidocaine will help numb things up too but it doesn’t last as long as you might want. This is the main ingredient in most of the tooth pain relief gels you’ll see on store shelves. Incidentally, lidocaine is often also used as a topical anesthetic so it isn’t a bad idea to have a good supply on hand in your first aid kits. Clove oil also works very well on tooth pain.

Emergency Dental Repair KitYou might also consider adding an emergency dental repair kit to your storage. These kits usually include temporary filling material and other such items to help you if you lose a filling. You can find these kits in most stores like Walmart or Walgreens. They aren’t overly expensive and if the need arises, will be worth their weight in gold.

Of course, prevention is the best medicine. Brush and floss regularly and make sure you have plenty of extra brushes and toothpaste on hand, just in case. Rinsing with a medicated mouthwash is also recommended. If you do experience problems with your teeth, get dental care as soon as possible to remedy the situation.

Rat traps for survival

Most survival kit lists include snare wire. The idea behind this is one could fashion several small snares so as to catch meat for dinner. Not an inherently bad plan, but if you don’t know what you’re doing when you are making these traps, it could well all be for naught. Many traps and snares are difficult, if not downright impossible, to make just from a diagram in a book. If you don’t have the loop at just the right size, the animal’s head may not fit through cleanly, spooking the critter and leaving you still hungry.

Rat Traps for SurvivalRat traps, on the other hand, will accomplish the same goal and require very little knowledge to implement. They look and operate just like the little mousetraps most of us have used but are larger and more powerful.

What you’ll want to do is place the baited traps along a small game trail, if you can find one. If you can’t locate a recently used trail, set them up adjacent to streams, rivers, or even lakes. Set them out at dusk and check them at first light.

What you might consider doing is drilling a small hole in one corner of the wood base, on the opposite side from where you’ll place the bait. Then, before setting the trap, run paracord or maybe even some of that nifty snare wire from the trap to a small tree or log. Occasionally, the trap won’t end up in a clean kill and the animal might try to get away. The cord prevents this from happening.

Don’t get me wrong, snare wire always has a place in survival kits. It weighs next to nothing and has a ton of uses. But, for my money, I think you’ll stand a better chance of putting meat in the pot using rat traps than makeshift snares.

Weekly Assignment: Holiday gift ideas

Hard to believe it, but we’re only 8 weeks away from Christmas. Many of us promise every year that we will not wait until the last minute to do our holiday shopping and most years, we’re still scrambling the last few days before Christmas, trying to fit in shopping between holiday parties, baking projects, and maybe even having a little fun during the silly season.

Your assignment this week is to start making your holiday shopping list. This year, rather than giving presents consisting of all-but-worthless trinkets, small appliances that will likely rarely ever get used, or one more freakin’ sweater, consider giving out gifts with preparedness in mind.

I don’t mean just buying a case of MREs and wrapping them individually to put under the tree. That would be admittedly kind of cheesy.

Here’s just a short list of ideas:

–Crank powered AM/FM/SW radio. These are great to have during a power outage since there’s no need to start cannibalizing other portable electronics to find working batteries.

–For the gadget lover on your list, consider an SOL Origin.

–Vehicle emergency kit. Perfect for those who do a lot of commuting.

–Crank flashlights. My kids love these.

–Even a small first aid kit would be useful in all homes.

–For a close friend or loved one, maybe consider putting together a customized Get Home Bag.

–If you just can’t decide, you could always just go with a gift certificate to your favorite survival supply store.

What I like about The Walking Dead

I’m a big fan of the show The Walking Dead on AMC. It just started the second season last Sunday. My wife and I missed most of the first season’s episodes when they first aired and instead got caught up with them through our cable service’s On Demand feature.

Now, truth be told, I’m sick to death of zombies. For the last several years, that seems to be the predominant theme in end of the world fiction. But, The Walking Dead has just such great, compelling storytelling that I found myself riveted by it. I’ve not read the comic book series the show is based on but I’ve been told it is just as good, if not better.

One of the elements I truly enjoy is how the characters are true to life. Of course, we’re not really worried about a zombie apocalypse but if you instead substitute some type of nationwide pandemic, you’ll see what I mean. You have folks from all walks of life thrown together in this disaster, most trying to work together to survive. You also have the degenerates looking to take advantage of a world without rule of law. The ways in which these characters interact with each other just comes across as very realistic to me.

Naturally, the show gets discussed quite a bit on the various online survival forums. Many folks there are critical of the actions of the characters in various situations, particularly with how they utilize firearms and other weapons. To me, the “mistakes” the characters make just serve to make the show that much more realistic. People make mistakes in real life and frequently those mistakes have consequences.

My only real gripe about the start of the second season is it appears they are going for more gore and shock value than they did in the first season. While I’m a fan of some “blood n guts” horror, I think it detracts from the story here. One of the things that made the first season so great was they didn’t have to show the nasty stuff to get the point across and instead let the viewers just use their imagination.

Even if you’re not a fan of zombies, or horror in general, I’d encourage you to tune in to The Walking Dead and give it a shot. You might surprise yourself.

Finding room for storage

As you acquire more and more emergency supplies, it can become difficult finding someplace to go with it all. Some things, such as food, need to be stored in such a way that rotating it through isn’t overly difficult. Things like candles and extra clothing though need not necessarily be immediately accessible.

As a general rule of thumb, pretty much everything you store will do well in cool and dark conditions. For many people, this means a basement. If it is dry, that is an excellent place to store gear and other emergency supplies. But, you don’t want to put your food storage down there, unless it is very convenient to access those items. Reason being, you’ll soon tire of going up and down the stairs putting things away and using up the oldest supplies first.

If you plan on using the basement for emergency water storage, be sure the containers you use won’t be too heavy to carry back upstairs when you need them.

Look around your home and get creative with storage ideas. Some years ago, I built a large bench for our dine in kitchen. This allowed for better seating at the kitchen table for all of us. I deliberately built it as a storage bench, where the seat lifts up and the bench is basically hollow in the inside. We discovered recently that a 5 gallon pail will fit perfectly inside the bench. While that wasn’t the original intention for that storage space, we managed to get rid of a lot of small kitchen appliances we’d been storing there. So, now we have “hidden” space for about 5 of those pails. Readily accessible when we need them, yet completely out of the way.

Our kitchen is a large rectangle along one side of our home. Running along the ceiling between it and the living room is a heat duct that is encased in framework and drywall. Along the side of this heat duct that faces into the kitchen, I added a long shelf, about ten inches deep and a foot from the ceiling. This gave us a TON of new storage space. The shelf is very strong and supports quite a bit of weight. And again, easily accessible without being in the way.

Some folks have storage under their beds. I don’t like that idea for storing food though because, well, out of sight = out of mind.

Another option is to install shelves inside closets, but above the door. In a small utility closet, this might not get you much space but I promise you, every inch adds up.

In a pinch, you could use large totes for storage, then cover them with blankets or something and use them as end tables in your living room.

Few homes have as much storage space as we’d like. But if you think outside the box a bit, there’s usually a solution.

Air rifles as survival tools

Many if not most of us had BB / pellet guns in our youth. Heck, that was probably the first firearm many of ever used. In case you haven’t noticed, they’ve come a long way since the old Red Ryder days. Today’s air rifles are much more powerful, easily killing small game. Of course, they are also a bit more expensive too.

Why would I recommend having an air rifle or two in your preparedness gear?

1) They are cheap to shoot. Once you’ve paid for the rifle itself, the ammo is very inexpensive. You could shoot an entire afternoon and spend not much more than a couple bucks.

2) They are excellent for teaching basic firearm safety and marksmanship. Most air rifles are easy for even small children to handle. There is little to no recoil to send them on their butts and almost no noise to scare them off.

3) As mentioned in #2, they are very quiet. If you want to hunt small game and are worried about others hearing you, the air rifle is the way to go.

Personally, I prefer the pump style as opposed to the type that require CO2 cartridges. I find them to be a bit more reliable in the long term as well as negating the need to stockpile anything other than ammo.