Keeping Track of Survival Information

It is important to remember that in a grid down situation, you likely won’t have ready and easy access to the Internet so all of those great articles you’ve bookmarked will be useless to you. On top of that, depending on the nature of the calamity, even e-books might be out of reach. Any and all personal record information, such as insurance policies and such, won’t be accessible if they are only found on your computer.

Keeping Track of Your Information

Survival Binder

A survival binder is a simple way to keep all of that information handy. Start with a 3 ring binder and a three hole punch, both of which can probably be found at your local Goodwill if you don’t want to pay for new (though they are very cheap, especially at back to school time). While you’re at it, pick up one or two packages of dividers, which are cardstock with tabs affixed to the side. These will allow you to better organize your binder.

Some people go so far as to use plastic page protectors as well. This isn’t a bad idea but will add a bit of expense to the project.

Set up your binder with sections for things like:

Important documents – insurance policies, financial statements, property ownership paperwork, etc.

Food – recipes using food storage items, information on different ways to cook offgrid, that sort of stuff.

Water – information on filtering and purifying water.

First aid – information on how to stay healthy, treat injuries and illnesses, how to use different first aid items you might have on hand.

The list goes on and on. As you find information online that you might want to be able to reference if the power is out, print out a copy and store it in your binder.

I would caution you to stay on top of the organizing part of this project. It is all too easy to go on a printing binge and then just toss everything into the binder, promising to yourself that you’re going to organize it later. Trust me, later never comes. It is far better to place the printed pages into the correct part of the binder each and every time.

As you go along, you may end up getting to the point where you’ll need more than one binder because you’ve accumulated so much information. That’s perfectly fine and normal. What I suggest you do at that point is to create labels for the binders so you know what is in each. This will hopefully cut down on your searching time when you’re looking for a specific piece of information.

The survival binder is an excellent project for keeping track of all the great information you find online, allowing you to access it when the computer and Internet aren’t viable options.

Civil Unrest Preparedness

It has become increasingly common to see and hear news reports of riots, looting, and other forms of civil unrest in our cities. The causes are varied but the fact is, if you live or work in an urban area, you are at risk of getting caught in the middle of a potentially violent situation.

Preparing for Civil Unrest

Civil Unrest

Obviously, the first thing you’ll want to do if you find yourself in a bad spot is to get out of the area as quickly as possible. If you are on foot, don’t try to go “upstream” through the moving crowd but instead move perpendicular to the forward motion, pushing to one side of the crowd. Once you are out of the thick of things, keep moving away from the area, cutting down side streets if possible. Link hands with those who are with you so no one gets left behind.

If you are in a vehicle, you may find it a bit tougher to keep moving. Keep your windows rolled up and your doors locked. Do the best you can to keep going forward until you can turn down a side street. However, if you’re not familiar with the area, watch for signs that indicate the side street is a dead end so you don’t trap yourself.

For those who live in urban areas, civil unrest can be a two-fold dilemma. Not only might you get caught up in the thick of things when you’re out and about, the riots and looting could make it unsafe to even leave your home.

This is one of the many reasons why I encourage people to have enough food, water, and other necessities in their homes, sufficient to last at least a couple of weeks. That said, impending rioting and looting in your immediate area would be one of the rare occasions where I’d suggest you give serious thought to bugging out to a safer location until things settle down.

There is a documented psychological effect at work in large groups. Often, it is called mob mentality. It is actually pretty scary when it happens to you. Without any real thought, you’ll find yourself mimicking the actions of those around you.

Their emotion becomes your emotion. The issue at hand might have originally had absolutely no bearing on your life but suddenly it has become your passion. You’re angry, you’re upset, and you want to do some decidedly nasty things.

Later, you’ll be at a loss if asked to explain what happened. It’ll all just seem to be a blur. If you find yourself getting caught up in the moment, try to remember to take a step back and breathe for a moment or two. Clear your head, calm yourself down, and give just a second or two of thought to the situation. Doing so might help keep you from doing something you’ll regret later.

The Thermodynamics of Survival

Growing up, one of my favorite survival authors was Ragnar Benson. Over the years, I’ve read many of his books and enjoyed all of them quite a bit. Very knowledgeable, full of common sense approaches to survival methodology.

I can’t recall in which book of his I first read it but he came up with a theory we’ll call Ragnar’s Rule of Survival Thermodynamics. Simply put, the rule states you should avoid expending more energy on a task than you stand to gain from accomplishing the goal.

How does that translate into real life? Well, here’s just one example, albeit a little simplistic. If you burn several hundred calories out hunting and at the end of the day all you’ve managed to bag is one scrawny squirrel, you’ve had a net loss of energy. You aren’t going to gain that many calories consuming that one little tree rat, right?

Automatic Fishing ReelThis is why trapping and fishing are typically better approaches to obtaining meat than hunting. Remember, we’re talking survival scenarios here, not just heading up north with your buddies for a weekend of deer and beer. While you’ll burn energy setting out a trap line and checking it each day, you stand to gain far more in meat than you might by tramping through the forest, rifle at the ready. Fishing is typically even less involved when it comes to energy expenditure. Invest in a few Yo Yo Fishing Reels and check them from time to time as you take a break from other chores. It doesn’t get much simpler than that, right?

Survival is, in many ways, about energy conservation. Cut off from easy food procurement, you need to conserve your limited calories as best you can. Calories are the fuel that powers our bodies. Without a renewed supply gained from food, our bodies will cannibalize our fat stores. Granted, some of us could stand to lose a few pounds but a survival crisis situation isn’t really when you want to suddenly try out a crash diet.

If you find yourself in a true survival situation, give serious thought as to what you stand to gain from a given course of action, particularly where food procurement is concerned. While a straggly squirrel beats eating nothing at all, concentrate on methods that will be force multipliers for you, such as trapping and fishing.

The Importance of Document Storage

Perhaps more than any other point in history, paperwork rules our lives. Sure, we’ve made some strides in saving trees by using electronic media rather than actual paper in many cases, but the fact is, red tape often seems to conspire against us. This is readily apparent in the aftermath of disasters.

House in Flood WaterYou have insurance, you’re up to date on your premiums, yet no one can seem to figure out how to locate your policy because you don’t know the policy number.

Since your copies of the policy are now drowning underneath several feet of water from the flood, you’re at a standstill. You know who you are, everyone around you knows who you are, except for this bean counter who won’t do a darn thing for you unless you can produce a photo ID. Unfortunately, your wallet went up in flames along with everything else you own.

Storing Your Important Documents

Do yourself a favor and take steps now to preserve these documents and other critical information in such a way that you can easily retrieve them should the worst happen.

Here’s a list of the documents and other information you’ll want readily available.

Copies of all insurance policies (home, auto, health, life).
Copies of photo ID cards (driver license, student ID, etc.) for each family member.
Lists of all prescription medications you and other family members take regularly.
Names, addresses, and phone numbers for your primary physician, dentist, attorney, and insurance agent(s).
Information relating to bank accounts (name of bank, account numbers).
Photocopies of all credit cards (front and back).
Copies of vehicle titles.
Copies of property ownership records (deed, land contract, mortgage paperwork, etc.)

If you have pets, snap a photo of you and Fluffy together. Should you become separated, this is a great way to prove ownership of the animal.

Electronic Storage of Documents

Start by purchasing a thumb or flash drive. These small USB sticks store a ton of information. You’ll want to password protect the contents of the flash drive, of course, given the sensitive nature of the contents. You can buy flash drives with this feature built in, but they tend to cost considerably more than the average USB sticks. There are programs available, some are even free, that allow you to install password protection on any flash drive. Here’s just one article with more information about those options.

Once the USB stick is ready, either download or use a scanner to make electronic copies of all of these documents, as well as any other information you feel may be necessary to have. Be sure the file types being saved are common ones that can probably be opened on any computer, such as DOC, PDF, or JPG files.

You might also consider scanning in copies of treasured family photos, though I’ll admit that project can be a massive time suck. But, should there be a fire, a flood, or any other disaster that destroys the originals, you’ll appreciate having had the forethought to make copies.
As you go along downloading these documents and such to the flash drive, print out hard copies if you don’t have them on paper already. By having two sets of the information, you’re in a better position to ensure at least one set will be available to you.

Okay, so now you have two complete sets of all this critically important data. Where do you store it? Depending on where you work, one set could be kept at your office. Stick it in the back of a drawer and just bring it home once every six months or so to update the information. Another option is to make an arrangement with a trusted family member or close friend. They’ll keep your stuff and you’ll do the same for them. A fire safe isn’t a bad option, either, though they aren’t infallible.

What I do myself is keep a password protected USB stick in my EDC bag that goes everywhere I do. I have a set of hard copies stashed with someone I trust as a backup to the USB data.

Having copies of this information outside the home but readily accessible can be crucial in expediting insurance claims and cutting through the inevitable red tape that comes along with disaster recovery.

Pick Your Battles

Part of the problem with becoming rather active with prepping and such is you sometimes find yourself butting heads with other people who don’t think like you do. Preppers, particularly those fairly new to the lifestyle, are very passionate about their beliefs. It usually takes a little longer for us seasoned pros to get our dander up but it does happen from time to time.

Here’s the thing — You can lead a person to knowledge but you can’t make them think.

One of the worst approaches is to immediately start talking about end of the world scenarios and how they should have stored enough food and water to last at least a year. That’s not a very good sales pitch, let’s be honest. All you’re doing is coming off as some sort of extremist, using a scare tactic to make a point. That’s not going to work with most people.

Start small, talk about weather emergencies that have been in the news. Bring up the need for having a little extra on hand in case someone in the family gets laid off or loses their job completely.

Sometimes though, we can talk until we’re blue in the face and some folks just aren’t going to budge. That’s ok, that’s their problem. You did your part by broaching the subject and presenting them with (hopefully) practical and factual information. If they choose not to pursue it, like the grasshopper compared to the ant, so be it.

Pick your battles wisely. Don’t get so involved that it stresses you out.


Pandemics are epidemics that cross national or international boundaries and affect great numbers of people. In other words, a whole lot of people living in a wide area have all been infected with the same disease. This isn’t just a case of the sniffles running rampant through a school district.

With many people, the first thing to come to mind when discussing pandemics is the Black Death, sometimes called the Black Plague. While it is impossible to cite exact numbers, it is believed the Black Death claimed up to 200 million lives from 1347 to roughly 1350. In just three years, it decimated up to 60% of the entire population of Europe. This pandemic of the bubonic plague originated in or near China and spread through the Silk Road to Europe. Fleas, carried on the backs of rats that infested all the merchant ships back then, helped to spread the disease everywhere they went.

Take a moment and let those numbers sink in a bit. 200 million people perished as a result of the disease. To put that into perspective, estimated population numbers in 2012 indicate there are roughly 314 million people living in the United States, including the District of Columbia. Can you even imagine what life would be like if two-thirds of the U.S. population all died within a few years? How long do you think it would take for life to return to anything close to normal? According to some experts, it took Europe about 150 years to get back on its feet.

A more recent example is the flu pandemic that occurred in 1918-1919. This was the first major outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus. It is sometimes referred to as the Spanish Flu, only because of how the news of the virus spread back then. Remember, this was during World War I. Back in those days, censors worked hard to keep morale up by not allowing much negative news to hit the airwaves. I know, that would never happen today. So, anyway, as the early reports about the illness and mortality rates started coming in from Germany, the United States, Britain, and France, these censors did what they could to keep it hushed up. Spain, however, was neutral during WWI and didn’t bother keeping things quiet. The result was that news reports seemed to indicate Spain was being hit hard by this flu but not so much the rest of the world. Therefore, it came to be called the Spanish Flu.

What was particularly chilling about this flu outbreak was how it targeted the healthy segments of the population. Rather than the deaths being centered among the elderly, infirm, and children, it was the healthy young adults who were hardest hit. This was due to how the flu virus worked. What happened was the virus caused what is called a cytokine storm in the body. Essentially, this means the patient’s immune system went into overdrive and the healthier the patient was at the outset, the more powerful the immune system, resulting in cytokine storms that killed the patients.

This flu pandemic hit just about every corner of the planet. While numbers are still sketchy, estimated death tolls range from 50-100 million. Now, no matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of dead bodies but bear in mind that most of them perished within about a 9 month period.

Could something like that happen today? I mean, with all our modern medical knowledge and technology, surely the powers that be would be able to act quickly to develop a remedy and nip it in the bud before things got out of control, right?

Think about this, though. HIV/AIDS has been around since 1981 and they still haven’t figured out a cure for it.

Round Out Your Training

So, earlier today, I saw a post from someone on Facebook asking if anyone was interested in joining their survival group’s next “training session.” I clicked over to their website, out of curiosity if nothing else. My suspicions were confirmed when I read all about their combat maneuvers and such. All sorts of braggadocio about tactics, combat, and marksmanship.

Interestingly enough, not a word about food preservation, water purification, or even basic wilderness skills.

If you’re going to organize or participate in a survival group, your training must be diversified!

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that security and defense are important aspects of a survival plan. C’mon, I even went so far as to write a damn book on the subject! But the reality is security should only one piece of the overall puzzle. There is so much more involved in long-term survival planning.

For example, let’s say you have a core group of eight people. These people are going to need 2,500+ calories a day in their bellies. They are going to need a gallon or more of clean water to drink every day. They are going to need to know:

How to garden
How to hunt
How to trap
How to fish
How to raise animals
How to preserve their food
How to survive if they get lost during “patrol”
How to keep clean without running water
How to treat injuries and illnesses
How to repair broken equipment and gear

And on, and on, and on…

If you spend all your time playing weekend warrior, you’re missing the much bigger picture.

New Virus Cropping Up

Various news agencies are reporting the findings from the World Health Organization related to a new virus they are calling MERS-CoV. This is a coronavirus, a group which encompasses the common cold all the way to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). They are saying this one is not SARS but something new. As of last week, there were 44 reported infections, with about half of those resulting in fatality.

My understanding is that thus far, those infected have been limited to France and the Middle East. WHO is very leery though, believing this could be the next Spanish Flu. For those who don’t remember their history, the so-called Spanish Flu swept the globe back in 1918-1920, killing about 75 million people.

According to a story on CNN:

Novel coronavirus acts like a cold virus and attacks the respiratory system, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said. But symptoms, which include fever and a cough, are severe and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea have also been seen, according to the WHO.

Thus far there is no vaccine against MERS and antivirals don’t seem to be of much help either.

While this might be a red alert as of yet, it is certainly something that bears further monitoring.

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?

Scary things are afoot in NY

Let’s say you received a letter in the mail from your state level law enforcement agency and said letter commands you to surrender any and all firearms in your possession to your local police department. You have no criminal record whatsoever and nothing, as far as you know, inhibits your legal right to own any firearms. What do you do? Well, one guy in NY found out what is going on. Upon receiving his letter, he contacted his attorney.

Apparently, the New York State Police have access to at least some citizens’ medical records. What they are doing is making a list of those people who have ever undergone some form of psychiatric care that included prescriptions for certain medications relating to the treatment of depression and anxiety.

I wish I was making this up. I wish this was the plot in some novel.

Some of you, no doubt, are thinking these medical records should be protected by HIPAA. However, again according to the story, this is the key part of that privacy law that applies.

A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well being.

The emphasis on that last part is mine. See, the argument appears to be that the public’s health and well being may be in jeopardy if someone who was treated for depression or anxiety in the past now has access to firearms. Also, there is this portion of the New York SAFE Act.

The NY SAFE Act is designed to remove firearms from those who seek to do harm to themselves or others. This means keeping the minority of individuals with serious mental illness who may be dangerous away from access to firearms. This law should not dissuade any individual from seeking mental health services they need.

The question is, though, who determines which individuals are at risk for doing harm to themselves or others? Well, apparently, the answer in this case at least is the New York State Police.

Now, this doesn’t affect me because 1) I don’t live in New York and 2) I lost all my firearms in a tragic riverboat accident years ago. But, is this a sign of things to come in other states?