How to answer the door ATSHTF

For those not in the know, ATSHTF is a common acronym for After The Sh** Hits The Fan. In other words, all hell has broken loose and it doesn’t look like order is going to be restored any time soon. Desperate times make for desperate people. Odds are fair to middlin’ you might end up with someone knocking on your door at some point. They may be just looking for help. On the other hand though, they might be looking to take all you have…including your life.

In my day job, I knock on a lot of doors. I’ve become fairly adept at discerning whether there is someone home or not, well before the door is answered. One thing I’ve found is if the door has a peephole, people tend to use it. That’s kind of a no brainer, right? It is easy to notice too, if you’re paying attention. Stare at the peephole and you’ll notice you can see a point of light through it. Suddenly that light goes dark for a moment. Bingo, someone’s home. Heck, if you’re watching close, you can even see if folks are walking around inside the home through your side of the peephole.

Think about this though. Let’s say we’re living in a world without the rule of law and I’m a bad guy. If there’s a knock at the door, who’s the likely person to answer it? Probably the man of the house or whomever else is in charge. The occupants certainly aren’t going to send a young child to see who’s there in this situation. So, I’m the “mutant zombie biker” type of dude. I knock on the door and wait for that peephole to go dark. As soon as it does, I send a shotgun blast into the door. I’ve just gained access to the home as well as taken out someone who would be one of my primary targets, all in one fell swoop.

So, what’s a survivalist to do?

For starters, don’t go near the door. Use a window from an adjacent room to see outside. If you have the manpower to accomplish it, get folks checking all sides of the home from the inside to see if someone is trying to sneak around back. If it appears the person or people on the front porch are alone, send someone out from the back of the house to approach them from the side. I’d recommend that person be armed and expect your visitors to be armed as well. Proceed with caution.

The other alternative would be to answer the door verbally but from a safe location within the home. By safe location, I mean where you are protected to a large degree from incoming fire, just in case.

Hidden Storage

As many of my readers here know, I write The Frugal Prepper column in Survivalist Magazine. I just sent off my latest entry, called DIY Hidden Storage. It will see print later this year. Today, I thought I’d give you all a sneak peek at some of the things discussed in the article.

When it comes to securing your stuff, there are a few ways to go about it. First, you can use a good safe. This is an excellent option for keeping valuables secure. But the good ones are rather expensive and are certainly heavy and cumbersome. Once you have it in place, you really don’t want to move it again. Plus, those who want to find your good stuff, once they see the safe, will figure out quickly that is where the goodies must be.

The second option is to set up caches outside the home. You can use PVC pipe to fashion such caches. Seal them up right, bury them, and hope you don’t forget where you put them. Again, not an inherently bad idea but there’s a fair amount of work involved in not only setting up the cache but accessing it later.

The third option is to hide the goodies in your home. There are several ready-made items available to purchase that will do well to hide your goodies. Hollowed out books, shaving cream cans that open on the bottom, even clocks with a shelf inside for a handgun.

All are great ideas and will probably serve you well. But, let’s look at a few DIY approaches to hidden storage. With just a few common hand tools and a bit of work, there are several places in the average home where items may be hidden and are all but impossible to find.

If your home has a crawl space or unfinished basement, go down there and look up. Odds are pretty good you’ll see a large PVC pipe for waste coming from your bathroom. A casual observer probably wouldn’t think twice if they glanced up and saw one extra pipe. This pipe is extremely cheap and can be purchased at any hardware store.

For non-metallic items, you can hide them inside power outlets. Turn off the juice to the outlet at the breaker or fuse box. Take off the cover, then unscrew and take out the outlet box itself. Most are located close enough to the floor that you can just drop your treasure into the space in the wall and still be able to reach it. Replace the outlet box and cover.

Removing the kick plate at the bottom of your kitchen cabinets will expose empty space you can use for storage. Use Velcro or magnets to reattach the kick plate so you can have easy access to your stuff.

Flat items, such as paper currency, can be hidden inside picture frames. Remove the back of the frame as though you were going to change the picture in the frame. Tape the bills to the inside of this back plate and replace.

Entire books have been written about the art of hiding items in plain sight. And the true professionals have read them all. Thankfully though, most of us would be much more concerned about the burglar spending about eight minutes in the home rather than a team of pros spending hours on end doing an intensive, down to the studs, search.

School Survival

As I write this, details are still coming out about a shooting at a high school in Chardon, Ohio. In the last several years, school shootings have become if not commonplace at least a very real threat. Few things will will terrify a parent like hearing that there has been an emergency situation at their child’s school. While Columbine wasn’t the first school shooting, it certainly seemed to have started a trend.

If you have children attending school, I’d encourage you to inquire with the administration if there are plans in place for how to protect students from this type of incident. I know the elementary school my children attend has done drills with the students for lock down situations. They are to remain in their classrooms and stay away from doors and windows until told otherwise.

If you find out the school has not put any such plans in place, call your school board members and express your concern about this. Ask that they immediately begin looking into partnering with local law enforcement to draft plans as soon as possible.

Find out when and how parents are notified of emergencies like this. Many schools have adopted technology that allows them to make automated phone calls to parents. If this is the case where you live, make sure they have your current phone number(s) on record. While you’re at it, check to be sure the emergency contact information for each of your children is up to date.

Talk to your children about this as well. Ask them if they’ve been told what to do if the school goes into lock down. While this is a pretty scary situation for all involved, you can help lessen their anxiety just by them knowing what they are to do. Let them know that these sorts of plans are made “just in case” and hopefully they’ll never need to be used for real.

And while you’re having that conversation, give them a hug and tell them you love them. Sadly, as today’s events in Ohio have illustrated, not every child makes it home safe from school every day.

Keep your mind sharp

Quite often in survival situations, you need to be able to make quick decisions. To do that effectively, you need to keep your mind sharp and exercise it regularly. Like most other body parts, if you don’t use it often, it quickly begins to degrade.

Watching TV for brain exercise is sort of like curling a cardboard tube like a dumbbell. Sure, you’re going through the motions but you’re not really going to get any results from the exercise, right? Now, lest you think I look down upon TV viewers, please know I have a few guilty pleasures myself. Everything in moderation, as they say.

There are a wide range of activities that will help stimulate the ol’ noggin on a regular basis. Word games, math puzzles, even those old Where’s Waldo books. There are many different computer games available to do this as well. One with which I’m familiar is called Brainiversity. We picked it up some time ago at a used bookstore. You set it up for different users and take daily exams. Each exam consists of tests from a variety of subjects like math and visualization. It even tracks your progress and lets you know how you’re improving.

The idea here is to do something every single day to exercise your mind. Even the little things add up quickly, such as taking a different route to work on occasion or doing other daily tasks in a different way. Anything to jar you out of complacency and routine.

Will the world end in December?

I’d like to hear from my readers about their thoughts on the “dreaded” Mayan prophecy and such matters.

Do you think we’re facing some sort of major calamity in December of this year? If so, what are your thoughts on how it will happen?

Personally, I’ve never been one to buy into prophecy very much. I believe nothing lasts forever and things are always in a state of flux, so of course our society, indeed our world, will end at some point. But, I don’t know that I can go “all in” that the Mayans predicted some sort of major event that would take place thousands of years into their future.

Naturally, I believe in being prepared. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog every day, working my website all the time, as well as writing a book (yes, you read that right and I’ll share details as soon as I’m given permission to do so).

Most preppers and survivalists I know have their own pet theories as to what the future holds. Some think economic collapse is on the horizon. Others worry about the Yellowstone caldera.

So, let me ask you — why do you prep? Do you think we’re headed for the end of the world this year? Please comment below with your feedback, I’d love to hear from you on this!

The Importance of Portable Radios

During small emergencies like temporary power outages, as well as more lengthy situations, the ability to gather news from afar can be critical. Being able to tune into to radio broadcasts as well as weather alerts can help you plan your next move. Unfortunately, many people don’t give this much thought and find themselves immediately suffering from withdrawal in the absence of the Internet.

A portable radio can mean the difference between being in the proverbial dark or knowing help is on the way. I always advise people to invest in a crank powered radio, if nothing else than because one doesn’t have to remember to have batteries on hand for it.

The one carried here by has the added bonus of being able to use solar power in addition to turning a crank. It has all the features I suggest in such a device:

–Easy to use
–Earphone jack so as to keep things quiet
–AM/FM and weather bands

There are many other radios available with all sorts of bells and whistles, such as lights, strobes, and sirens. Those are all nice to have, especially if you are planning to keep it in your Get Home Bag and use it for signaling for help if needed. But for a portable radio to keep at home or in the retreat, many of those features are merely window dressing.

If you prefer to use a battery powered radio, I suggest storing it with the batteries kept separate until you need them. Doing so will help prevent any leakage from the batteries fouling up the radio.

Learning from The Walking Dead

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of The Walking Dead show on AMC. For the most part, I’m rather sick of zombies as the fiction market is absolutely flooded with the undead. But, the zombies in The Walking Dead are almost secondary to the overall story. I’m finding the show focuses much more on the interpersonal relationships of people thrown together by circumstance.

In a scene from a recent episode, three of the main characters, the “good guys” as it were, meet up with two strangers in an abandoned town. The two strangers, while seemingly somewhat polite and cordial, are obviously very interested in learning where our heroes are living. In the course of a very short conversation, the strangers are able to determine the heroes are staying at a farm near the town. Without any overt threats, they make it known they expect to be taken to this farm, ostensibly to be fed and such.

If you pay close attention to this scene and watch the body language as well as listen to the words that are spoken, you’ll notice several subtle clues as to the strangers’ true intent. While it is of course natural for such a conversation to be very tense, given the overall circumstances, Rick (the de facto leader of the good guys) is able to pick up on the body language and take appropriate action.

Should there come to pass a total societal collapse, this type of situation will no doubt be played out again and again. Members of one group meet members of another and quick decisions must be made by each about the other. Friend or foe? Good intentions or ill will?

On the one hand, your group could take the “kill ’em all, let God sort them out” approach. Doing so may indeed reduce your risk of later betrayal. However, on the other hand, let’s say one of the members of this other group is or was a surgeon and you have injured people back at camp?

If I were a betting man, I’d say the odds of your group meeting folks just like yourselves are far better than meeting people who mean you harm from the get go. But desperation changes people too so keep that in mind. A well-to-do businessman who never uttered a cross word in his adult life may turn into a homicidal maniac when it comes to providing food for his family.

The best advice I can give is, like Rick did, pay very close attention to body language and word selection. Remember, upwards of 90% of communication is nonverbal. This is why there is often confusion and misinterpretation when using email and chat for communication online. In all seriousness, the guy or gal who invents a font that is universally recognized as sarcastic will be a billionaire.

The point today is this — learn to really pay attention to the subtle clues people give out when they communicate. Learn to “read” people. It just may save your life someday.

Shopping Privacy

I just read a rather interesting story about how Target uses data mining to determine which of their customers are pregnant. Basically the way this works is they track purchases made by customers and formulate algorithms that predict not only pregnancy but even go so far as predicting ballpark due dates. They then use this data to customize coupon offerings and such to these customers.

Kind of frightening, isn’t it?

I’ve talked before here and elsewhere about the need for using coupons and store loyalty cards to help stretch your prepping dollar. And I still stand by that advice. But with that said, I’d encourage you to do some digging and find out how your favorite retailers may or may not use your data. Whenever possible, stick to patronizing those companies who do not share your data with anyone else, such as

I’ve said before that I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist. I don’t really know that the “powers that be” would consult with retailers like Target or Walmart to come up with a list of customers in a specific area who have purchased specific items, such as freeze dried foods or camping equipment. But it might not be the worst idea in the world to use cash or prepaid debit cards for some purchases. I don’t know of a brick-n-mortar retailer out there that won’t allow the use of manufacturer’s coupons even when paying cash.

The point is this — use your head when making certain purchases.

News story illustrates need for emergency kits in vehicles

A man and woman, missing for three days, were found and rescued on Wednesday, February 15, in Placer County, California. They had been out sightseeing in their car when they drove down an unplowed remote road and got stuck. They survived for three days, subsisting on Girl Scout cookies, peanuts, and melted snow.

You can read the full news story here.

Stories like this read almost like a list of what NOT to do.

1) While they had a cell phone, the battery was almost dead and they had no car charger for it. The man had to hike several miles in snow a couple feet deep to find a strong enough signal to call for help. What would they have done if the phone had completely died? Always have a car charger for your cell phone in your vehicle, just in case.

2) They had no food, water, or presumably other supplies in the car. If they’d had even a basic emergency kit, they’d have been much better off. The story says they would run the car every thirty minutes to warm up. What would have happened if the car ran out of gas? Emergency blankets, even old comforters, would have served them well to help keep warm.

3) They had told no one where they were going or when they were likely to return. The story mentions searchers were looking in the wrong area. Had the couple just told a family member they were heading out to see the sights in even a general area, they may have been found much quicker.

Use stories like this to illustrate to friends and family the need for even just a basic emergency kit in every vehicle, as well as the need to follow basic precautions. Thankfully, despite the many errors in planning and judgment, this story turned out ok. That may not be the case for the next folks in a similar situation.

Stun guns and Tasers

Provided they are legal to own in your area, stun guns and Tasers deserve consideration for inclusion in your preps. They provide a viable means of incapacitating an aggressor at least long enough for you to put some serious distance between you and him.

There is a distinct difference between the two types of devices. A stun gun produces a high-voltage, non-lethal electric shock when the probes are activated and make contact with the body. Press the button, touch the aggressor pretty much anywhere and the effects are immediate.

A Taser device works on a similar principle but rather than having to touch the end of the device to the aggressor, it uses compressed air to shoot two probes at the person. These probes are usually barbed and stick into the skin a bit. The electric current is sent through wires attached to the probes. I recently witnessed a demonstration of the effect of this electric current. A local police department, as part of the training process with Taser devices, attached the probes to the calves of each officer, one by one, and activated the current. I know several of these guys personally and can attest to them being pretty tough dudes. Each one, to a man, screamed like a little girl the instant the current was activated.

One advantage of these devices is that in most cases, there are no lasting effects. There have been instances where the use of the device has led to seizures and other problems. But, by and large, they are non-lethal.

The idea with these devices is to drop your aggressor immediately, giving you time to get away or perhaps implement another method of defense. As such, they are certainly worth considering adding to your defense preps.