Now’s the time for clearance shopping

As you head out and about to get stocked up for your New Year’s Eve celebrations, be sure to swing over to the clearance section in each store you visit. Stores are blowing out leftover Christmas themed items that may be of benefit to your preps. Examples include candles, fleece blankets, popcorn tins, even multi-tools. By now, most of those things will be marked at least half off, many places are probably at about 75% off. When the power goes out, it really doesn’t matter if the candle holder has a picture of Santa on it, does it? Look for the fancy gift box packaged crank flashlights, emergency radios, and small tool sets. No, the quality won’t be quite as good as the stuff you could likely buy elsewhere but for the price, this stuff can’t be beat.

This will be my last blog post here until after New Year’s. I sincerely wish each and every one of you to have a safe and fun New Year’s Eve and Day. Be careful out on the roads. If you’ll be celebrating some place other than home, make sure you have a designated driver. You can have all the preps in the world and they won’t do you a bit of good if you get killed (or kill someone else) driving drunk.

Take care, folks. I’ll see you all next year!

Reflections

Today, I turn 40 years old. Given that there are fair number of people I went to school with who would have bet money I’d never see 25, I consider this a pretty big accomplishment. With such a milestone, I wanted to reflect a bit on my own preparedness journey.

I’ve posted at length elsewhere about how I started out prepping. The Reader’s Digest version is that when I was a young child, for whatever reason anytime there was a tornado warning, I’d go through the house gathering “supplies” to take to the basement. Drove my parents nuts as they’d have to put all that stuff away later. As I got a bit older, I started spending a lot of time in the woods near my house. I read a lot about Native Americans and tried to teach myself some basic stuff like setting traps and such. Except in really bad weather, I spent all my free time in the woods.

When I hit my teens, I kind of drifted away from that sort of thing and got more interested in the types of things teenage boys are interested in. Still, I always had my “possibles bag” in my car when I started driving, just in case.

Later, as we approached Y2K, I started getting interested in prepping again. It wasn’t because I feared a collapse as we rolled into the year 2000. It was more because all the talk about being prepared brought me back to that kind of mindset. For the last eleven years, I’ve been working more and more towards not only getting my family prepared but trying to educate folks about it as well.

So, what have I learned in the last 40 years on this planet?

1) Sometimes, getting folks to prepare for emergencies is both fun and fulfilling. Other times, it is like herding cats.

2) There are some truly wonderful people out there doing the same thing I’m trying to do with education and information. There are also a fair number of whack-a-loons who think they’re doing the same thing but really are doing not much more than embarrassing themselves.

3) As I’ve said before, both here on the blog and elsewhere, prepping is a lifestyle, not a specific goal to achieve. You’re never truly done, not if you’re doing it right.

4) While I certainly know more about prepping today than I did 30 years ago, it seems like there’s even more to learn now than ever.

How about you? What have you learned during your journey through prepping?

Goals for 2012

I really dislike making resolutions. To my way of thinking, they hold negative connotations. It might just be a matter of semantics but I think setting goals to achieve is more worthwhile than resolving to change things about yourself.

Either way you look at it, this is the time of year we customarily reflect on our lives and often make decisions on how to improve. That being the case, here are some of my personal goals for 2012.

1) To lose some weight and get into better shape. Yeah, I know, that’s pretty much a cliche when it comes to this sort of thing. But, my wife and I both are committed to this one. Of course, she’s already in better shape than the vast majority of people but she and I both recognize we can each stand to lose a few pounds and get more regular exercise.

2) Book writing. I am currently under contract for a short book that is not survival related. I plan to have that one done in the next month or so. I’m also in talks with some folks about doing a survival manual of some sort. We’re still trying to hash things out on that project. My actual goal though is to complete a minimum of three books this coming year.

3) Book reading. There was a time, I call it B.K. (Before Kids) that I read roughly three books a week. This past year, I’ve averaged a couple books a month. Part of that drop is due to the ever-increasing demands on my “free” time. But I’ll also admit there’s a bit of laziness there as well. While striving for my B.K. reading average is out of the question, I’m hoping to get to at least one book a week.

4) Obtain a ham license and begin using ham radio. This is something that has interested me for quite some time but I never really got around to learning more about it. That’s going to change. I think there is great survival prep value in having a means to communicate over ham radio bands. I already have a few shortwave receivers as well as a CB so might as well add ham to the mix.

5) To help as many people as possible get prepared. Admittedly it is hard to put any sort of concrete numeric goal with this one. But, I have a burning need to help folks, new and experienced, get as prepared as they possibly can be for whatever life throws their way. To that end, over at my Survival Weekly website, I’ve started a project I’m calling Countdown to Preparedness. The idea is to take someone who is brand new to prepping and give them weekly assignments to work towards self-sufficiency within a year. I’m just one guy doing what I can to help but I think this idea is a winner.

What are your goals for 2012?

So, Whatdja Get?

Short post today as I’m still recovering from the holiday weekend.

Well, any of my readers here get anything exceptionally cool for Christmas?

I got my Cold Steel Kukri knife, which is way cool! I’ve wanted one for a few years now and have been envious of the one I bought my father in law last year. It has a serviceable edge right out of the package but I’ll be touching it up a bit before giving it a true field test.

I’ve also been instructed to order a few things for myself from Amazon. Kind of an informal gift card, more or less. While I have a few things in mind, anyone have any suggestions?

My birthday is this week so we always kind of lump the presents together with Christmas. For myself, I picked up a complete set of Craig Sargent’s The Last Ranger series I found a guy selling online. They just arrived and are in excellent shape and the price was very reasonable. If you’re into the Mad Max type of post-apocalyptic stories, you’d really dig The Last Ranger series.

So fill me in here — get anything good?

Merry Christmas 2011!

I hope each and every one of you have a great holiday this weekend. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I still hope you have a great weekend.

I know the past year has been rough on a lot of folks. Unemployment and the economy in general has taken a toll on many people. It seems like every day we’re being asked to do more and more with less and less. Many people out there are faced with choices like either turning on the heat or buying a Christmas present for their kids.

If you know someone in a situation like that, this weekend please make time to get in touch with them, preferably in person. Give them a hug, say a prayer for them, ask if you can help in some way. That help doesn’t necessarily mean financial. Just showing them you care can mean a lot.

Take care, folks. Have a fun and safe weekend.

Pandemic Preparedness

A regional or national pandemic is one of the bigger fears of many preppers. After reading the news stories I posted about yesterday, perhaps this concern has become even more prominent on your radar. While I’d like to think in this day and age of scientific “miracles” we wouldn’t have to worry about something as simple as a flu virus taking down our society, common sense and logic dictates otherwise.

How does prepping for a pandemic differ from other potential emergencies? Well, for starters, you’ll need to plan for limiting your contact with other people as much as possible. Stores, if they are even open, will no doubt be hotbeds for potential infection. Same thing goes for workplaces. You and your family will essentially have to be home bound for potentially several weeks.

Obviously adequate food storage will be critical, as will a good supply of other essential items like meds.

On top of necessary supplies, think a bit on the impact your neighborhood could have during a pandemic. Let’s say half the population gets sick. Half your police force is out of commission. Half the emergency responders, half the fire department. Banks and ATMs will likely be non-functioning, whether you have money in them or not.

The thing about pandemics is they may start out kind of slow but ramp up very quickly. So quick, in fact, that you might not have much time to make runs to the store for more stuff. Once word gets out about a serious virus sweeping the area, people are going to flock to the stores to get food and such. It’ll make Black Friday look like a quiet Sunday afternoon. And each and every one of those people are potential carriers of the illness.

If you had to lock your door today and stay in your home for even three weeks, would you have enough food for your family?

This Is Why We Prep

This morning, I read a story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel discussing how budget cuts have negatively effected disaster readiness in Wisconsin. Basically, what it boils down to is there have been cuts at the federal level and those cuts have trickled down to state budgets.

The end result of these budget cuts is state agencies no longer have the means to react to emergencies the way they may have in the past. For example, Wisconsin is one of ten states that will likely lose funding for a “Level 1” chemical testing capabilities. According to the story, that capability is needed in the event of a terrorist bioattack.

Interestingly, the story comes right on the heels of this one, where scientists in Madison, Wisconsin, at the request of federal agencies, were able to successfully mutate a strain of the bird flu virus into a form that is both deadlier and easier to spread among humans. In an unprecedented move, the US government stepped in and requested the medical journals not publish all the details on how to make such a virus, in hopes of keeping it out of the hands of terrorists and such. Personally, unless you get the guys who hid Jimmy Hoffa’s body to handle the security, I’m less than confident this will remain a secret.

Folks, it is stories like these that you should point to and say, “This is why I prep.”

Winter Driving

With the ginormous blizzard moving through the Great Plains, I figured this might be a good time to review winter driving tips. I live in the Upper Midwest, where we see a fair amount of snowfall every year, yet people often seem to forget how to drive in the white stuff.

First of all, SLOW THE HELL DOWN! Seriously, I don’t care what kind of tires you have on that 4 wheel drive monstrosity, you can and will slip and slide just like the rest of us. Plus, when you go blowing past other drivers, showing off your uber-excellent driving skills, you put all of us at risk. Seriously, is where you’re going so incredibly pressing that you will risk the lives of every other driver to get there?

Don’t tailgate the driver in front of you. Keep plenty of stopping distance between you and other cars. Even at 20mph, you’ll travel a considerable distance in the time it takes you to lift your foot from the gas and step on the brake, not counting how far you might slide if you try to stop suddenly.

Slow down BEFORE you enter a turn, rather than trying to slow down halfway through. It is better to creep through a turn than try to muscle through it and end up sliding into a ditch on the far side.

If you are trying to turn a corner and find yourself skidding forward, don’t oversteer to compensate. What is happening is your tires are sliding on the snow or ice and turning the wheels more isn’t going to do much of anything. Instead, keep your foot off the gas to slow down and straighten your tires until they grip again, then turn slowly.

In the event the road is covered in ice rather than snow, such as during freezing rain or something, you can get more traction by driving half on the gravel along the side of the road. Your tires will break up the ice on the gravel, providing a better grip surface. Yes, it can be a pain to drive this way but you’ll get home safely.

Keep your lights on for visibility. You want other drivers to be able to see you coming.

Don’t jabber on the phone or allow yourself to be otherwise distracted. Sure, have the radio on if you’d like but don’t try changing the station again and again. You want your full attention on the road.

Be careful, take your time, and you should do ok. Driving in bad weather is dicey so stay home if at all possible.

What if nothing happens?

Preppers and survivalists often think in terms of big disasters.

EMP
Quake along the New Madrid Fault
Meteor strike
Nuclear war
Pandemic

Any of those would likely result in a societal collapse. Game-changers, if you will.

But, what if none of them ever happen, at least in our own lifetimes? Does that mean we’ve been prepping for nothing?

I bring this up because of all the hype and hoopla surrounding the Mayan prophecies concerning 12/21/2012. Some fellow preparedness educators feel that if/when nothing happens on that dreaded date, many people who are prepping right now will lose interest. Just like with what happened with Y2K, they figure folks are gearing up for a potential major disaster and if it doesn’t happen, they’ll move on to other things, letting their preps just sit and collect dust.

I know some folks who made a killing in early 2000 by purchasing supplies from people who did just that. They figured Y2K turned out to be such a nonevent, they didn’t need to worry anymore and sold off their dehydrated foods, their ammo, and other goodies for pennies on the dollar.

On the other hand, I know some people who’s lives have been devastated by the current economy and have been out of work for months or longer. They’ve managed to survive mainly due to the emergency preps they invested in years ago. Their food storage has allowed them to stretch that grocery dollar, keeping a roof over their heads and the utilities still turned on.

Prepping isn’t something we do because we necessarily believe the world as we know it is going to come to an end anytime soon. Rather, it is something we do to cover our butts no matter what happens.

If you’re prepping because you believe the Mayans said the world is going to end a year from now, and lo and behold the sun rises in the East on December 22, 2012, don’t let that bring your preparedness journey to an end. Keep on keepin’ on because you just never know what is going to be over the next hill.

Top 5 Books of 2011

Every year, my good friend Brian Keene does a top ten list of the books he’s read in the past year. If you aren’t reading his books, you really should, he’s a tremendously talented author. When he does his lists, he has all sorts of rules he follows as to what may be included. My own requirements are a little more simple. If I read the book this year, it qualifies to be included. The only other rule I’m following here is the book has to be likely of interest to preppers. I read a ton of books in various genres but a lot of them aren’t really survival related.

So, without further ado, here are my personal top five books of 2011, in no particular order.

Getting Out Alive by Scott B. Williams. A unique and interesting approach to a survival guide, Williams covers thirteen scenarios in this book.

Pinned under a boulder
Stranded in the jungle
Hurricane
Mass shooting
Island castaway
Wildfire
Snowbound
Breakdown in the desert
Lost at sea
Trapped in a skyscraper
Bear attack
Airplane crash
Urban societal breakdown

Each chapter focuses on one of those situations. He writes a story, placing YOU in that scenario. How you came to be there, what you have with you, steps you might take to survive. He goes into great detail as to what you would be experiencing, both physically and psychologically. Williams then further illustrates each situation by giving real world accounts of people who survived (or didn’t in some cases) similar situations. Each chapter closes with a top ten list of survival tips applicable to that disaster. Williams is that rare breed of survival writers who have truly been there and done that. He’s traveled all over the world and learned his skills by doing, rather than watching a video or reading a book. You can find this book here.

Ex-Patriots by Peter Clines. This is the sequel to Clines’ first zombie book, Ex-Heroes. I grew up reading comic books and this series Clines is doing hits all the right notes for me. How would superheroes fare against a zombie apocalypse? While you don’t necessarily have to read the first book to enjoy Ex-Patriots, you’ll get a lot more out of it if you do. The first book provides a lot of backstory on both the characters and the world in which they live. Quite often, the second book in a given series pales in comparison to the first. Let me assure you, there is no sophomore slump here! Lots of fun to be had with this series, especially if you are like me and grew up reading Batman, X-Men, and all sorts of other spandex clad heroes. You can find it here on Amazon.

Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat by M.D. Creekmore. While a very slim 80 pages or so, this book is full of great information for both the budding prepper and the experienced survivalist. Creekmore knows from where he writes as everything in this book is based on his own experiences setting up a survival retreat on a very limited budget. He covers everything from finding land to stocking your shelves to providing power. Very well done. Find it on Amazon here.

The Prepper’s Pocket Guide by Bernie Carr. If I had to pick one book to give to someone brand new to prepping, this would be the book I’d choose. Carr covers just about every topic you can think of, hitting all the high points from food storage to water purification. The focus is on how to accomplish goals without necessarily going out and buying all the latest and greatest gadgets. The only complaint I might have would be few of the topics are covered in depth, which is kind of the idea behind any pocket guide. Carr gives you enough information to cover the basics, which is what new preppers really need, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for more detailed discussions. Overall, a great little book. You can find it here on Amazon.

Rounding out the top five is Ashfall by Mike Mullin. I reviewed this title in depth a short time ago. It not only is one of my top five reads this year, it is one of my favorite reads in the history of ever! I still cannot believe this is Mullin’s first novel. He writes like an experienced pro. I had a very hard time putting this book down at night, wanting instead to keep turning pages to see what happens next. The events are portrayed realistically and the characters are flesh and blood. I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel coming next year. I honestly just cannot say enough good things about this book. Highly recommended. Find it here as well as most major bookstores.

Well folks, there you have it. My personal top five survival reads this year. What made your own list this year?