The Emergency Instructions Folder

In this day and age, most of us are aware of the importance of having a will, including instructions on cremation/burial, last wishes, and how we want our assets disposed of. But how many of us are the primary persons in our homes who handle the bills, banking, all that fun stuff? Does your spouse or significant other know where to find those financial records? Do they know how to log into the various online accounts?

Further to that point, a lot of us have made close friends online. People we may never have met in person but yet you’d want them to know if something were to happen to you.

It doesn’t even need to be a fatality. Could be you’re in an accident and unable to pass along necessary information until you recover.

Sit down and assemble a folder or notebook with this information. Start with a list of all your online accounts — banking, credit cards, utilities, and email addresses. Your family will need to know how to log into each of those accounts. For financial accounts requiring regular payments, be sure to note any special instructions, such as due dates and whether the payments must be made in a certain way.

Include a list of people you want notified if something happens to you. One friend of mine even has gone so far as to draft emails to close friends, saving them in a special folder in her email program, with instructions to send them out upon her passing.

Don’t forget your social networking accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as your regular online hangouts like Yahoo Groups or message boards.

Also good to have is a list of all bank accounts (checking, savings, money markets, etc.), including the names of the banks, account numbers, and any information necessary for your family to access the accounts. Without that information, it can take several weeks to months to get through all the legal red tape.

If you have supplies or valuables stashed somewhere, you might want to note that as well so your family knows where to look.

Naturally, with all this private information, you’ll want to keep this notebook or folder locked up or otherwise very well hidden from prying eyes.

The Importance of Vitamins and Supplements

An item that is often overlooked in long-term prepping is supplements like multivitamins. For short-term emergencies, such as a blizzard trapping you at home for a few days, proper nutrition is generally not a huge concern. In fact, I often suggest that having comfort food like chips and other junk can help keep family members from going crazy. Forgetting the diet for a couple days can make a stressful situation a little easier to handle.

But when we look at long-term situations, such as epidemics or major natural disasters that result in substantial YO-YO time, we need to plan ahead for nutritional needs. This is particularly important to prevent illnesses like scurvy, which is indeed a real thing and not just something pirates talk about in the movies. Scurvy results from a deficiency in vitamin C and symptoms include lethargy, depression, spongy gums, and even bleeding from mucous membranes. The reason it became so associated with pirates is during long voyages at sea back in those days, sources of vitamin C were few.

I would encourage you to shop around and stock up on vitamins and supplements to help offset any nutritional deficiencies during long-term disasters. Depending on the nature of the emergency, you may not have unlimited resources for food. While it is important to keep bellies full of calories, you’ll need proper nutrition to keep your body running.

Think You Have Enough Bandages?

Something that is often overlooked in the prepper first aid kit is an adequate supply of bandages of all types.

Adhesive bandages are fairly inexpensive, which is a good thing because you can easily burn through a ton of them in short order after a disaster. Remember, it is critically important to avoid infections so even the smallest cuts and scrapes should be cleaned and covered. It is easy to keep them clean today since we have abundant supplies of clean water and access to a wide range of over the counter medications, such as antibiotic ointment. That can change in a heartbeat after a natural disaster. Small injuries we would more or less ignore today could be disastrous down the road.

Just as important are the larger gauze bandages and the like. If there is a serious injury, it may take a while to get the bleeding under control. Once that happens and the patient is stabilized (more or less), frequent changes of the bandages are needed to prevent sepsis. A single gash in the arm or leg could require several boxes of gauze bandages by the time it is healed.

Bandages are one of those things that we may not think much about because they are so mundane. People get excited when you start talking about suture kits but they do nothing but yawn when you talk about adhesive bandages. Honestly though, which are you more likely to need?

My suggestion is to pick up a box or two of bandages every time you stop at the dollar store or your favorite discount retailer. Cost is only a couple bucks but those boxes will add up quickly in your medical supplies.

Dollar Store Survival Supplies

Dollar stores can be great places to pick up survival supplies, as long as you realize that in many cases, you get what you pay for.

Here are a few things I’ve seen at my local dollar store that might make for decent supplies:

Food: They typically have a variety of canned and boxed food, such as veggies, instant potatoes, and sweets. Be sure to look at the expiration dates on these things. At my local grocery store, I can usually pick up canned veggies on sale for $0.50 each so be sure to shop around and don’t overpay. Just because it is at the dollar store doesn’t always mean it is a great price.

Soda: Yeah, I know, soda is terrible for you. But, for a measly buck, I can get 3L bottles of it and refill ’em with water from the tap when the soda is gone.

Sunglasses: Something I recommend be in every bug out bag and other kits, yet often overlooked. Pick up several pair at the dollar store, that way if you lose or break a pair, you aren’t out a ton of dough.

OTC meds: Things like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin. Again, watch the expiration dates as well as the number of doses in each package. I can pick up a bottle of 500ct ibuprofen for around $4 at other stores, so I’m not going to pay a buck just for ten or fifteen tablets.

Hand sanitizer: I like to have several bottles of this on hand as it helps in cutting down the spread of illnesses. I frequently see little travel size bottles sold in a three pack for a dollar.

Feminine hygiene supplies: I don’t use these myself so I can’t speak to the quality of them. But, having a few pads in your first aid kit to use as compression bandages isn’t a bad idea either way.

Sewing kits: I sometimes see little travel size sewing kits at the dollar store. Comes with a few needles as well as several bundles of thread of varying colors. Not a bad idea for expedient clothing repair but I do wonder about the quality of the thread.

Ice packs: These smallish instant ice packs work well on bruises and similar injuries.

Toilet paper: Probably not the softest brand around but it’ll still be better than leaves.

Aluminum foil: Check the square footage of the package and compare it to your other local stores to make sure you’re getting a decent price.

Glow sticks: Great additions to any survival kit, come in a wide range of colors and sizes.

Even though the price seems right, I’d never buy hand tools at a dollar store. Not unless you want to impress your friends by showing them you can bend a wrench with your bare hands.

Same goes with anything electronic. Even something as simple as a book light just falls apart the first or second time I’ve tried to use it.

Dollar stores can save you money, as long as you’re careful.

Today’s Executive Orders

Well, I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t make at least one post about the gun control issue, given that today our President has signed 23 Executive Orders on the topic.

For those who may not have seen them yet, here is CNN’s summary of the Executive Orders.

1. “Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.”

2. “Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.”

3. “Improve incentives for states to share information with the
background check system.”

4. “Direct the attorney general to review categories of individuals
prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not
slipping through the cracks.”

5. “Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.”

6. “Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers
providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. “Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.”

8. “Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer
Product Safety Commission).”

9. “Issue a presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.”

10. “Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.”

11. “Nominate an ATF director.”

12. “Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials
with proper training for active shooter situations.”

13. “Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.”

14. “Issue a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.”

15. “Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.”

16. “Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors
asking their patients about guns in their homes.”

17. “Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no
federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law
enforcement authorities.”

18. “Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.”

19. “Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of
worship and institutions of higher education.”

20. “Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.”

21. “Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and
parity requirements within ACA exchanges.”

22. “Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.”

23. “Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.”

Right now, I feel those are the things we need to be looking at and discussing, leaving aside for the time being the recommendations he’s sent to Congress for reinstating the Federal assault rifle ban and other measures. Why? Because the 23 EOs above are the things that are being passed into law right now. The other stuff is still in limbo for the moment.

While on the surface many of these EOs seem to be at least logical (show of hands for who here wants someone diagnosed with multiple personality disorder with paranoid delusion sprinkles on top to be able to buy an ass load of guns), my first take on them is that not one of them would have had any impact on the Sandy Hook shootings, nor on any other mass shooting I can think of.

I also think there’s great capability for twisting these measures and using them for less than noble purposes.

Keep your eyes and ears open for more coming from Washington DC on this issue.

Be Wary of Intentional Survival Communities

One of the latest trends rising out of the prepper “movement” is a number of intentional communities coming to the surface. As far as I know, all of the ones I’ve seen mentioned are still in the planning stages. Glenn Beck recently announced his plan to build such a community.

At first blush, many of these projects sound like heaven on earth. Self-sustaining communities providing all their own food, with medical clinics, schools, shops, you name it. Each family has a home, presumably a newly constructed one, and neighbors who by definition would also be preppers.

Here’s the reality check though. First, these things aren’t cheap. To secure your spot will likely require an investment of several thousand dollars at the minimum, probably more like $15-20k. Most preppers I know don’t have that sort of liquid cash on hand.

Second, to pull this off, the company putting this together will need to gather quite a number of investors. What happens to all that cash you’ve tossed into the kitty if the project never truly gets off the ground? Do you have any idea how many lawsuits are filed in this country every year against contractors who failed to fulfill their end of the bargain? And those are just run-of-the-mill home remodels and new constructions. Here, we’re talking about the creation of an entire town, essentially from scratch.

Third, let’s say they do actually get everything built and folks start to move in. Who’s in charge? Despite claims to the contrary, there absolutely must be some sort of government in the community. There have to be rules or laws put in place, with consequences for those who violate them.

One of the things often trumpeted around with these communities is that their schools will teach the “truth” and they will work to “deprogram” children. Ok, but who are the ones decided what is the truth to begin with? What happens if you don’t agree with them? Sometimes I wonder if “deprogramming” just means swapping the software for a different one.

I’m not saying these intentional communities are an inherently bad idea. As my regular readers know, I’m a big fan of community preparedness and such. My concern though is if you are thinking of signing on with one of these groups, you need to do your homework and go in with both eyes wide open. Look at it from all angles and make the decision that is best for you and your family.

Are primitive skills important?

From time to time, the question about the importance of learning primitive survival skills comes up. What with all the modern devices we have access to today, from strike anywhere matches to camp stoves that will cook our meals while charging our cell phones, do we really need to know how to do things the old way?

You bet we do. Supplies and gear are finite resources. They won’t last forever. They can break or get lost. They can run out of fuel or power.

Knowledge, however, is infinite. The more you know, the less you need to rely on gear.

Don’t get me wrong. If I’m in a survival situation and need to get a fire going, the first thing I’m reaching for is a butane lighter. If that’s not available, then matches. If I’ve run out of those, I’ll grab a spark lighter. Only after exhausting these options will I try more primitive methods.

Survival situations often hinge upon energy. You need to conserve energy as much as possible. Gear and supplies allow you to do so by giving you easier means of accomplishing goals. But, if that gear is not available to you, then you need to know how to do it yourself.

There are a wide variety of texts as well as Youtube videos that can show you primitive methods of starting fires, making cordage, cooking without utensils, and related skills. However, if you have the means to do so, I’d encourage you to take a few classes in person at facilities like Willow Haven Outdoor as there is nothing better than face to face learning when it comes to things like this.

Garden Planning

Now that the holidays are past, it is time to look forward to spring and the first plantings of the season. Seed catalogs are starting to arrive and many of us are eagerly making lists of what we want to grow this year.

If you’ve never gardened before, this is a great time to start. If you’re an old hand with it, look to expand this year. What would be truly awesome is if every experienced gardener reading this were to take someone new under their wing and show them the ropes.

Many preppers live in apartments or condos, either by choice or forced to by circumstance. Do not let this stop you! Look at container gardening as a way to get your hands dirty. If for some reason that won’t work for you, look into community gardens in your area. University extension offices should be able to direct you to them.

Remember, whenever possible, buy and use heirloom seeds. These will grow true year after year, unlike the hybrids. From a practical standpoint, this means you can save the seeds from your produce this year, plant them next year, and expect similar results.

Consider trying new things this year as well, if time and space permit. Have fun with gardening, that makes it a whole lot easier to drag your butt out there every day to weed and water.

Great use for milk jugs

I’d bet that most of us probably have at least one empty or almost empty plastic milk jug in our home right now. Here’s a great way to repurpose one or two of them during an emergency.

I’ve talked before about the importance of having an LED headlamp. Assuming you followed my advice, during a power outage when you need some hands free ambient light for a room, here’s what you do.

Fill the milk jug with water. It need not be your stored potable water either. Any water will do. Close up the milk jug.

Wrap the headstrap from the headlamp around the milk jug in such a way that the light faces inward.

Turn on the light and voila!

headlamp jug water

While it would be fine to just leave it sitting on a table or counter top, you could also hang it from a sturdy plant hook using rope or a bungee cord.

Pretty nifty, hey?

Ever have a “duh” moment?

The other day, I was surfing around online looking for new ideas for survival kit contents. I’m always interested in seeing interesting or innovative ideas, as I’m sure many of you are as well.

Came across this idea and, I have to say, I darn near smacked my forehead for not thinking of it myself.

Picture this — you’re out in the woods and have lost your way. It is getting dark and it has been drizzling much of the day. You’re cold, wet, and miserable. Resigning yourself to spending the night out in the field, you find a reasonably dry patch of ground under a large tree. The sky seems to be clearing so probably little chance of a lightning strike.

You need to get a fire going and quickly as the temperature is dropping with the sun. But, leaves and other small debris around you is too wet to light. Looking in your kit, you remember how you’d used the last of your cotton balls when you showed your hunting buddies how easy they are to light. No tinder in the kit at all now.

Thankfully, you thought ahead and pull from your survival kit this trusty little gadget.

pencil sharpener

Yep, a pencil sharpener. Gathering several twigs, you are quickly able to get a good pile of shavings and, lo and behold, once you get past the bark, the wood seems fairly dry. Within just a few minutes, you have the beginnings of a decent fire.

These pencil sharpeners cost far less than a buck a piece, especially during back to school season. They are small and add almost zero weight to any kit. Sure, you could use your knife to whittle the shavings but I’m betting this pencil sharpener will do the trick just as fast, if not faster.

Wish I’d have thought of it myself.