Setting Goals for 2013

Resolutions are, for the most part, just to-do lists for the first couple weeks of January, right? But the beginning of a new year is a great time to set concrete goals for prepping.

Take stock of where you are right now in terms of preparedness. How much food, water, and supplies do you have on hand? Then decide where you want to be by the end of 2013.

Let’s say you currently have about a month’s worth of food stored and you’d like to have at least six month’s worth by the end of the year. You need to plan out how you’re going to reach that goal. In this case, it means putting aside another two week’s worth of food every month until the end of the year, while also maintaining your current stores. That’s very realistic, actually.

One of the major reasons why people fail when it comes to resolutions is they tend to set unrealistic goals. Or, the goals are too vague. Saying you are going to lose 75lbs by March just isn’t really doable for most people. But just saying you are going to cut down on drinking/smoking/cussing isn’t measurable either.

They say it takes 21 days to create a habit. Three solid weeks of consciously doing something before it becomes second nature. Can you commit to three weeks of prepping?

Merry Christmas!

We’d like to wish all of our readers and customers a very Merry Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then please still have a joyful and happy day today and tomorrow.

Without you guys, this blog wouldn’t exist so I’d like to thank each of you for stopping by to spend a few minutes to see what I had to say on a given day. You guys and gals are awesome!

Have a great holiday everyone. We’ll see you later this week.

Redundancy is Key

There are several catchphrases in the prepping world.

“Store what you eat, eat what you store.”

“First in, first out.”

The one I want to talk about today is, “Two is one, one is none.” This saying originated in the military, though reports differ as to which unit started it. In essence, we’re talking about redundancy.

For any survival task or goal, we should have multiple means to accomplish it. Example — having one lighter or one pack of strike anywhere matches isn’t enough. We should have both of those, plus a flint striker, a magnesium bar, and/or a battery with steel wool.

Noted author and survival expert Ragnar Benson calls this the Rule of 3s. Have three distinct ways to accomplish a given task. Why? You could lose or break your primary and your backup.

Here’s how this works.

For shelter in your survival kit, have two emergency blankets, a trash bag or light tarp, as well as paracord and other items to cobble together an expedient shelter in the field.

For blades, have your primary sheath knife as well as a pocket knife and a multi-tool.

When it comes to signaling for help, a cell phone, a whistle, a light stick on a cord, and a signal mirror are all great options.

To purify water at home, have a filtration unit, bleach, iodine, the means to boil water, and some pool shock.

The whole point is to have backups for your backups. Better to have too many than be lacking the one thing you truly need.

Winter Driving Tips

Well, given that my area of the country is looking at a major snowstorm in the next couple days, I felt it was time to give out my winter driving tips.

First off, SLOW DOWN! It is far better to be a little late than never get there at all. Keep in mind your driving also has an effect on the people around you. Just because you think your 4×4 monstrosity is fully capable of staying on the road and going 60mph in a blizzard, when you go screaming past the mom with three kids in their little Honda Civic you stand a good chance of running her into the ditch.

Pay attention to the drivers ahead of you, as well as behind you. Leave yourself extra stopping distance as much as possible. Watch for brake lights, just in case.

If you have a cell phone, keep it charged in case you get stranded. A wise investment is a car charger for your phone. However, when you’re driving in bad conditions, you shouldn’t be blabbering on your phone at the same time!

Don’t forget to keep your vehicle emergency kit stocked and ready to go in case you need it.

If you end up having to drive during or after a freezing rain, you can gain a bit of extra traction by keeping partially on the gravel shoulder. As your tires go over the gravel, the ice is broken up. In a pinch when you’re stranded, you can use your vehicle’s floor mats under the tires for traction.

Stick to main roads and highways as much as possible. They are the ones that will be cleared first. If you come across a plow, stay behind it until you need to turn off, even if it means going slower or taking a more roundabout way home.

Be careful and attentive. Take it slow and easy and you’ll be fine.

Preppers Under Attack

Over the weekend, several media outlets have reported Nancy Lanza, murdered mother of killer Adam Lanza, was a “survivalist” and alluding to the possibility that this is what at least partially led her son to kill 20 young children and a handful of adults last Friday.

Here is one such story by the UK’s The Daily Mail. From the article — “Friends and family portrayed Adam Lanza’s mother Nancy as a paranoid ‘survivalist’ who believed the world was on the verge of violent, economic collapse.”

If the reports about stockpiling food and such are to be believed, then yes, you could definitely categorize Nancy Lanza as a prepper or survivalist. No doubt about it.

Personally, I’ve met more than a couple of survivalists in my time who, if they have kids, I shudder to think about their upbringing. While more than 99% of the preppers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting online and in real life appear to be level-headed, intelligent people, there are a few whack jobs out there.

Y’know what though? I’ve met some pretty goofy attorneys too. More than a couple doctors seem pretty “off” as well. Now that I think about it, there have even been a few really weird factory workers.

Saying preppers are bad because the child of one did something that was truly heinous is like saying accountants are bad because the child of one killed a family while driving drunk.

We are consistently being given mixed messages. We have government agencies like FEMA telling us to make a plan, get a kit, be prepared. At the same time, we have other agencies saying preppers are akin to terrorists and need to be investigated for their actions.

Ironically, one of the biggest pushes in this country in recent years has been to be politically correct and not judge someone due to their race, their sexual orientation, their religion, or pretty much any other means of categorizing human beings. Personally, I happen to believe in that. As I’ve said before, within about ten seconds I can find all sorts of reasons to not like a person that have nothing to do with their physicality or background. But, at the same time, the very same media that tells us to not judge people is casting blame on the entire prepping culture because one kid who obviously had some pretty serious issues did something horrific.

I have to wonder how many reporters in say the last twenty years killed anyone while driving drunk.

Cognitive Dissonance and the Prepper

Cognitive dissonance is one of the key components to our overall understanding of social psychology. Don’t worry, I’ll relate this back to prepping shortly.

Essentially, cognitive dissonance is when someone feels mental or emotional discomfort when reality doesn’t mesh with their value system. For example, Joe knows killing is wrong. But, he and his family are starving. Joe knows of a family down the street who appears to have plenty of food. He’s tried asking, even begging, for just a bit of food for his kids without success.

Value system = killing is wrong.
Reality = his children will die without food.

Dr. Leon Festinger is the one who first described cognitive dissonance. When dissonance occurs, according his theory, one of three things must happen:

1) Lowering the importance of one of the discordant factors;
2) Adding consonant elements;
3) Changing one of the dissonant factors.

In our example above, this means Joe must do one of the following:

1) Lower the importance of his children’s starvation or the importance of not taking a life;
2) Acquire food from another source;
3) Feed his family by taking a life.

Now, absent any means of accomplishing option 2, what do you think Joe will do? Will he sit by and watch his family starve, or will he take action to prevent that from happening, even if such action flies in the face of his value system?

This all relates back to something I mention in Prepper’s Home Defense. In the face of a long-running crisis, people will be forced to change their value systems. Behavior that was traditionally viewed as forbidden will now be rationalized in people’s minds as being necessary for survival.

Plan accordingly.

Does Your Reason For Prepping Matter?

Last Friday night, I spent a bit of time meeting with a couple of local preppers, namely Andre and his partner Q from Madtown Preppers. (By the way, I flat-signed several copies of Prepper’s Home Defense for them and they are selling them through their ebay store, Nebudchenezzar Shipworks). One of the topics of our discussion involved the reasons why people prep.

If you ask ten different preppers why they are prepping, you’re likely to get ten different answers.

–Concern about the government
–Natural disasters (pick one, any one)
–Economic collapse / failure of the U.S. dollar
–Unemployment worries

The list goes on and on. Personally, I really couldn’t care less WHY someone preps. I mean, sure, it can be fun and interesting to swap theories about what might be coming down the road at some point. But, the reality is, I’m just happy if people are prepping.

I’ve said this before and I continue to believe it — every person who preps is one less person I might have knocking on my door looking for help. It is also one less person who is likely to need to use up the little available resources from government aid agencies, making that much more available to those who truly need it.

This also ties in a bit with why some preppers find their families and friends reluctant to discuss disaster readiness. Let’s say your theory of choice is peak oil, the theory that we’re soon going to run out of petroleum. You look at those who don’t believe in the theory as people who keep “drinking the Kool-Aid.” Guess what? To those who don’t buy into the peak oil theory, YOU come across as the one who drank it. And the more heated the discussion gets, the worse off everyone is.

It doesn’t matter why someone preps. Just encourage them to do so. Should disaster come to pass, no one is winning a prize for having their pet theory be the one that comes true. There won’t be much time for “I told you so!”

Defining “Prepper”

Over on the Living Ready Magazine Facebook page, the question was asked the other day about how to define the term “prepper.” (Of course, I don’t see the post now but I swear it was there yesterday.) As a writer, I make at least part of my living through words. Therefore, I have a tendency to think a lot about their meanings. Perhaps I think too much about it from time to time but so be it, sue me.

What is it that makes a person a prepper? How would we differentiate between a prepper and, say, a homesteader? Well, here’s how I look at it.

A prepper is someone who is actively taking steps to provide for their needs and the needs of their family during times of crisis. A mom who make a conscious decision to set aside some extra food in case the family breadwinner gets laid off? Yep, she’s a prepper. A husband who has purchased several cases of bottled water and stashed them in the basement, just in case? Sure, he’s a prepper too. The college kid who has a bug out bag squirreled away in his dorm closet? Absolutely a prepper.

The homesteader is a prepper if not by intention then just by a matter of course. He or she is engaged in providing for the family’s needs through growing gardens or crops, raising chickens or other animals, and other self-reliant endeavors. Of course they would be considered preppers, though they might not think of it that way.

It is sort of like those logic puzzles many of us hated in school. All homesteaders may be preppers but not all preppers are homesteaders.

The reason for prepping need not be a concern about any “end of the world” scenario either. Let’s take a closer look at the mom I mentioned earlier. She’s primarily a stay-at-home mom to a couple of kids, though she has a part-time job she works a few evenings a week to help make ends meet. Her husband has been working at the same job for about eight years now. Raises have been few and far between the last couple years due to the economy and there has been talk about the company moving some jobs overseas. Wanting to provide for her family as best she can, mom starts adding a few extra cans of food to the grocery cart each week. Not cases and cases of veggies, mind you, just a few here and there as sale prices permit. Maybe she grabs an extra turkey before Thanksgiving and puts it into the chest freezer, along with a ham at Christmas. Before long, she’s put together enough extra food to last at least a few weeks, perhaps a couple months if they are really careful.

She gives almost no thought to dire predictions about the end of the world as we know it. She’s much more concerned about what she feels are more realistic disasters, like unemployment. Though she’d never call herself one, she’s a prepper down to the bone.

My point is this — many people out there are indeed preppers, they just don’t think of it in the same way. Shows like Doomsday Preppers are partially to blame for this. They tend to focus on the outlandish aspects of prepping, end of the world scenarios, that sort of thing. It isn’t necessarily all bad, of course, but the end result is many people who are interested in disaster readiness get turned off by the gloom and doom. They want to know how to provide for their family if they are stranded at home for a week due to weather and they instead are inundated with information about FEMA camps and black helicopters.

What is a prepper? Someone with common sense who wants to be prepared for life’s big and little emergencies. It really is that simple.

Wilderness Survival — Core Skills

When it comes to surviving in the field, there are several core skill sets you should possess to greatly increase your odds of success.

1) Fire making — you should know as many different ways to start a fire as possible, with a bare minimum of three distinct methods. Knowing how to start one is just the beginning too. You need to know how to properly feed and care for a fire to control it and get it to do what you need.

2) Shelter building — you need to know how to use the materials at hand to keep you out of the elements. Debris huts, snow shelters, lean tos, there are many different types of shelters available, based on terrain and climate. Learn as many as possible and practice making them.

3) Navigation — learn how to use a map and compass so you can find your way to safety. Instill a sense of compass direction by practicing it over and over. After a time, you won’t necessarily need to look at a compass to know which direction is north.

4) Signaling for help — having a signal mirror is one thing, being able to use it effectively is a whole ‘nother matter. Whistles are pretty easy to use, provided you have one with you.

5) Wild edibles — you should know several plants that grow locally that are good to eat, as well as how to prepare them. In most cases, it will be far easier to gather a few nuts, berries, and leaves to fill your belly than try (possibly in vain) to catch an animal or fish.

6) Water acquisition — know how to find water, how to filter it and purify it for consumption. Survival is going to be vastly easier if you’re not having to stop and squat every ten minutes.

7) Knot tying — learn several different types of knots and their applications. If you can tie your shoes, you have the brain power to learn a few more knots.

Even if you live at your retreat and plan on sheltering in place for pretty much every situation, you never know when you might end up bugging out on foot. These skills will keep you alive until you can reach a safe location.