The Prepper Continuum

I’ve been doing this prepper thing for a long time now, roughly thirty years and counting. While I missed the heyday of people like Kurt Saxon and Mel Tappan, I did get started right around the time Ragnar Benson’s books became wildly popular. We’re talking the mid 1980s or so.

This was back when the Cold War was still at its height and survivalists near and far were concerned about the Soviets finally pushing the button. There was a lot of talk about underground bunkers and fallout protection.

Flash forward a little less than two decades and the concern became Y2K. Oh no! All the computers are going to crash because some nitwit forgot to account for the year 2000 in the electronics and programs.

Today, the threats have changed a little. Now, for end of the world type threats, we talk about EMP, the Yellowstone caldera, increasingly severe weather, the New Madrid fault, and yes, even nuclear war, primarily thanks to the window licker currently in charge of North Korea.

At the same time these threats have morphed into other concerns, my own prepping style has changed. In talking to other preppers and survivalists, I’ve learned many of them have gone through the same developmental process, at least to one degree or another.

We’ll call it the Prepping Continuum.

It all starts with building a survival kit. Call it a bug out bag, a Get Out Of Dodge (GOOD) kit, or an I’m Never Coming Home (INCH) bag, it all amounts to the same basic thing — a collection of gear and supplies to keep you alive. From there, the plan becomes focused on bugging out. Head for the hills and live in a debris hut, eating food you’ve caught or hunted.

As the prepper gets older, and hopefully wiser, he begins to think, Y’know, I’m not 20 years old anymore. Living in a grass hut just doesn’t appeal, at least not as a long-term solution. By this time, the survivalist may have a wife and children in tow as well, which obviously complicates things. So, the focus shifts to more of a shelter in place plan. After all, that’s where all the gear is, right? Better to be ensconced at home than become a well-equipped refugee.

Go a little further down the Prepper Continuum and you’ll see things change even more. Now, instead of just thinking about hunkering down at home, the prepper is looking to connect with others and maybe set up a group of sorts. Many hands make light work, y’know? By coming together, the group may be better able to meet everyone’s needs, especially when it comes to someone watching your six while you zonk out for a few hours.

Eventually, at the far end, opposite the bugging out forever stage, you come to the idea of living in a settled and established village or small town. One that already has a doctor’s office or two, a dentist, and a whole ton of rural folks who know how to do more with less and make do or do without. In other words, a community of preppers, though they might think of themselves as homesteaders if anything at all.

Where are you in the Prepper Continuum?

Separated families need separate plans

[The following is taken from my upcoming book, THE PREPPER’S COMPLETE BOOK OF DISASTER READINESS.]

Prepper's Complete Guide cover

In our modern society, it seems the “traditional” family of children living with both mom and dad under one roof is becoming the exception rather than the rule. For those who share custody of children, survival plans need to be discussed thoroughly. It needs to be understood by all concerned who is responsible for picking the kids up from school or day care if disaster strikes. Commonly, it seems to be the parent who currently has custody has that responsibility but that might not work well in your particular situation. The parents need to come to an agreement about this, whatever the final plan may end up being.

Not only should the separate plans include who picks up the kids but where to take them. If one parent is a prepper and the other isn’t, well that’s sort of a no-brainer. But, the conversation still needs to take place. One of the worst feelings in the world would have to be not knowing if your child is safe during or after a crisis situation.

Also worth considering is the fact that, despite your personal feelings about an ex-spouse, he or she may end up living under the same roof as you should the worse come to pass. If there were a major catastrophe, a true “end of the world as we know it” scenario, the safety and well being of the children needs to be paramount. If that means having an ex sleep on the couch for a while, so be it.

What a post-collapse world may be like

[The following is taken from my upcoming book, THE PREPPER’S COMPLETE BOOK OF DISASTER READINESS. In this section of the book, we’re discussing how daily routines will be different after a total societal collapse.]

Prepper's Complete Guide cover

In the wake of a collapse, you likely won’t be commuting to and from a day job. Gone will be your morning latte and the daily newspaper. No more hour-long lunch breaks sitting on Facebook, making plans for the weekend. Instead, it will be a much harder schedule. Sun up to sun down will probably involve demanding physical work doing one thing or another.

Many of the chores that are made so much easier today by appliances and electricity will need to be done by hand. Laundry, for example, won’t be nearly as simple as tossing the clothes into a metal box and spinning a dial. Instead, it could take the better part of a day with two people working together just to do the laundry for a week. Waste from toilets will need to be disposed of in some fashion. Meals won’t be just a matter of heating something up in the microwave but instead require a fair amount of planning as well as preparation.

As chores are performed, people will need to be very diligent and careful so as to avoid injuries. Even the smallest cut could become infected and, with a lack of medical resources, any infection could easily have serious consequences.

Forget all about daily showers or baths. You’ll want to conserve water as best you can so unless you happen to be near a lake or river, it’ll be sponge baths most of the time. Clothes will be worn multiple times before washing, with the possible exception of underwear and socks. People will dress much more for comfort and utility rather than fashion. Short skirts, ties, and dress shoes will gather dust in closets.

In the winter months, families will likely sleep all in one room to take advantage of body heat. There will be little to no privacy, save perhaps for sheets hung from the ceiling to create makeshift walls.

Assuming the disaster causes a permanent or at least long-term power outage, people will eventually turn to candles and oil lamps for illumination. Odds are pretty good this will lead to an increase in home fires and with a distinct absence of well-equipped fire departments, many of these homes will be total losses as a result.

Boy, all that sounds like a heap of no fun, doesn’t it? No, it sure doesn’t sound like a good time but the fact is, that’s probably pretty close to what reality will be like during a prolonged crisis. In my experience, there are entirely too many preppers and survivalists who have sort of a romanticized notion of what a post-collapse world will be like. Sure, it’ll be awesome to not have to worry any more about those credit card bills and the mortgage or rent payment. But, like anything else in life, it comes at a price.

The advantage you have now though is you can work to mitigate some of these negative aspects. You can learn the skills you’ll need, you can stockpile supplies, and you can make plans for the future.

Urban Caches

There are two main reasons why you’d want to set up a cache or two. First, it is to hide items you want reasonably accessible but not in the home. For example, you have a few firearms you want to keep out of reach of young children. The second reason is to set up locations where you can resupply yourself if you’re on the move, such as during a bug out.

Caches are a great idea, if they are located properly.

If you’re out in a rural area, setting up a cache can be as easy as digging a hole. As long as you’re off the beaten path, the odds of someone stumbling across it even with a metal detector are fairly remote. Caching in an urban area though requires some creative thinking. It can be more difficult than rural caching in that there is a higher degree of risk of you either being seen planting the cache or that someone else may happen across it.

One suggestion would be to install a fake utility box on the outside of a building and use it for a cache. Add a padlock and your stuff should be reasonably safe.

If you work in an office environment, what about stashing some stuff in the drop ceiling of the bathroom?

Burying caches at a public park is possible but probably illegal, keep that in mind.

If you’re looking to keep the cache closer to home, you could bury it under your rain barrel or even your sidewalk.

Urban caching may be a bit more difficult but it certainly isn’t impossible.

Fake Tweet, Real Impact

Around 1:00PM EST today, a hacker managed to get access to the Associated Press Twitter account. They tweeted, “Breaking: Two explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.”

AP tweet

In less than two minutes, the stock market took a severe plunge, to the tune of about $20 billion. This market shift was a result of computers following automated instructions, not because a few traders saw the tweet and reacted.

The market quickly recovered and all is well now, or at least what passes for well these days I guess.

If you think you will be able to run to your bank during a crisis, think again.

Let’s say it was a real event, not a hack or hoax. In our hypothetical situation, the tweet was real, the explosions really happened. In less than two minutes, the market plunges and the dollar falls. How long do you think it might take for banks to close up? How much value do you think the dollar will have tomorrow, let alone next week?

When discussing survival plans with preppers, I sometimes hear them talk about running to the bank or an ATM to withdraw funds to last them a few weeks. I always caution against such a plan as it presupposes too many things falling in their favor. For it to work and be beneficial, not only will the banks have to still be up and running, the dollar will still have to have value.

My suggestion is, if you would be more comfortable by having some cash on hand, pull it out now and find a good place to hide it. Don’t rely on a bank or ATM to have the funds in an emergency.

The Importance of Cordage in Survival Kits

Cordage is one of those things you could make in the field, at least theoretically and provided you found the right plants. But, honestly, it is so much easier to just pack some in each of your survival kits.

In my opinion, I feel cordage is second only to a good blade in terms of usefulness in a survival kit.

There are just so many tasks that are made infinitely easier with even a shoelace, let alone several feet of good quality paracord.

–Lashing together an expedient shelter.
–Hanging food from a tree to keep it away from animals.
–Tying gear to your pack.
–Replacing broken boot laces.
–Bow drill for starting fires.

220px-Paracord-Commercial-Type-III-Coil

As you might guess, I recommend paracord over other forms of cordage. For those not familiar with it, paracord is a truly wonderful invention. I liken it to duct tape in terms of usefulness. Paracord consists of several strands of nylon cord, with each of them made of 2 or 3 even smaller strands woven together. These inner strands are then covered by a sheath, itself made of nylon. The end result is you conceivably have seventy or more feet of total cordage with just ten feet of paracord.

What I think is one of the coolest features of paracord is that in spite of the incredible strength, it is much thinner than you might expect. Seriously, I have shoelaces that are thicker. What this means is you can easily fit a dozen feet or more in even a very small survival kit.

Coupled with having cordage is knowing how to use it effectively. I highly encourage preppers to head to their local library and find a book or two on knots, then practice some of the more useful ones like the square knot, the bowline, and the clove hitch.

Prepping For Lockdowns

What with almost all of Boston being placed on lockdown as authorities hunt for the second bomber, as well as countless lockdown situations occurring recently from coast to coast, I thought it might be a good idea to review preps you want in place in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

There are several types of incidents that can cause a lockdown. Most commonly though, it is due to some sort of manhunt. Could be someone with a possible firearm was seen walking near a school, for example, which has happened at least a couple times locally. (Turned out, in one case it was a pellet gun and in the other it was an Airsoft pistol, with neither incident involving any sort of malicious intent.) Often, these lockdowns last maybe an hour or two, but obviously there is no way to reliably predict how long it could go on. Therefore, it is a great idea to prepare ahead of time. After all, if I were a betting man, I’d lay pretty good money that as we go forward, we’re going to see more rather than less lockdowns.

There are only a few real priorities you should keep in mind when prepping for a lockdown.

Food and water top the list. While you probably won’t be hunkered down for a day or two, it could be that it happens just as you were planning to go out for lunch, you missed breakfast, and the vending machines at work are too far away to get to easily. Keep a bottle or two of water in your cubicle or workspace, as well as a couple granola bars or something similar. If you feel particularly generous, keep enough on hand to feed your co-workers as well.

Another priority is a way to communicate, or at least get information. For most people, they count on their cell phones more than they probably should. As we saw in the aftermath of the bombings in Boston, as well as in previous disasters, cell towers get overwhelmed and the service becomes unreliable at best. A simple battery operated radio will help you keep abreast of developments in the area.

lockdown

A lockdown kit is something I also suggest parents put together to send with their kids to school. Just some snacks and a couple bottles of water in a plastic bag will suffice. The child should keep this in their desk or locker. While many elementary school teachers often try to keep a stash of snacks, Murphy’s Law says the day they forgot to stock up will be the day they need them the most.

Lockdowns can be very stressful but by planning ahead you can mitigate the anxiety at least a little.

Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla gardening refers to planting food crops on land you don’t strictly own or in places that don’t look like gardens.

I like to think of guerrilla gardens as sort of like hidden caches of food, in a way.

Guerrilla gardening can be used in both the city and in rural areas. The basic idea is to plant vegetables or fruits in out of the way areas, where hopefully there is little chance of discovery. Abandoned city lots are sometimes used, as are edges of farm fields.

Obviously, you don’t want to use plants that need a lot of upkeep. Stick with things like potatoes, berries, onions, and squash. Sunflowers are another good one. No, you likely won’t be able to grow enough food to sustain you, let alone an entire family, through guerrilla gardening. But it is a great way to help augment your normal gardens.

guerrilla gardening

This is also a way to grow food at your offsite retreat if you are unable to be there full-time to tend to things.

What you might consider doing, if you expect a lengthy trip should you need to bug out, is plant some stuff along your route. Of course, there are no guarantees that things will be ready to eat, or even still present, during your bug out. But, I can guarantee nothing will be there if you don’t plant it ahead of time.

Communication during disaster

Perhaps one lesson to be gleaned from the tragedy in Boston is about communication. It didn’t take long for the authorities to shut down all cell phone transmissions in the area. The reason given was that the towers were being overloaded and that was hampering investigators and emergency personnel communicating with one another.

What is unclear, at least at the time of this writing, is whether they shut down wireless internet transmissions as well.

Don’t count on cell phones working during a disaster.

I’m not at all saying to just ditch them completely, far from it. By all means, try to get in touch with family so they know you are ok, where you are, and such. But, consider alternate means as well. First one that comes to mind is texting. Provided the towers aren’t shut down completely, text messages will sometimes get through when voice calls cannot.

Second, in this day and age where there are businesses on every block offering free wi-fi access, take advantage of that in emergencies when possible. You could use your smartphone or an e-reader to log into an email account or even Facebook to communicate with family and friends.

One thing I would caution you about with regards to those methods of communication. Please be conscious of others trying to do the same thing. By that, I mean send your message or make your call quickly, then move along so someone else can do the same.

Failing those means of communication, you could try a pay phone, assuming of course you can find one nowadays. This is one of the reasons why I encourage preppers to always have coins and cash with them.

Final thought: don’t let the psychological need to get in touch with family override common sense. Your first priority is to get to a safe location. Only after you’ve done that should you worry about making a call or sending a text. When debris is falling around you, your first instinct should not be to snap some pics and upload them to Facebook.

Dealing with crowds

As I write this, news reports are just now filtering in about the explosions at the Boston marathon. I can only imagine how chaotic the scene must be. I pray those injured heal quickly and that the person or people behind the explosions are caught soon.

Being trapped in a panic-stricken crowd can be deadly. Here’s what to do.

The first order of business is to get out of the crowd. Trying to fight your way in the opposite direction is a recipe for failure. Instead, move across the crowd. Walk at an angle, moving toward one side of the group. If you are with family or friends, lock arms to try and stay together. Holding hands may not be sufficient. Small children should be carried if at all possible.

crowd

If you stumble and fall, do everything you can to get back to your feet immediately. If this proves impossible, curl up and cover your head with your arms to protect it.

Once you reach the sidelines of the crowd, keep going. If possible, head down side streets that may be less traveled. If there are storefronts, consider ducking inside and ask to use the back door to get away from the crowd.

Don’t stop moving until you get far away from the crowd. Then, assess any injuries and make plans for how to get back home.