Dealing with Uninterested Family Members

As you are embarking on your disaster readiness plans, you may find others in your family aren’t quite “on board.” Perhaps your spouse feels the financial expenditures would be better spent elsewhere. Maybe your kids think you’re being a kook. Or your extended family snickers behind your back, while saying to your face, “Well, if the end of the world happens, I guess I know where I’m going!”

How can you get these loved ones to come around to your way of thinking?

I might start small. Point to the news reports in recent weeks about people being stranded in their cars during blizzards. Explain that it is just common sense to have some emergency gear in the trunk. Once they’ve accepted and are comfortable with that, go a step up and discuss having emergency kits for the home. Power outages, severe storms preventing travel, heck even a bought of the stomach flu running through the house, could all result in at least a temporary emergency. Further, wouldn’t it be nice if we could save some money by eating in more often that we eat out? And not have to run to the grocery store every evening to get dinner ingredients? What about if one of you loses a job in the failing economy? It would be nice to have some food and other supplies stockpiled to help offset the (hopefully) temporary loss of income.

As you move further along the curve from what is most likely to happen (temporary emergency like a power outage) to the more extreme situations (societal collapse, worldwide pandemic, etc.), look to history to provide examples of what could happen. History tells us no civilization can last forever.

Just remember though, you can lead a person to knowledge but you can’t make them think. There may well be people who just won’t buy in no matter what you say. If you have the means to do so, consider preparing for them anyway. If it is a spouse or child, you kinda have to do it no matter what, right? For other family members or friends, especially those who have made it clear they’ll be on your doorstep if the balloon goes up, you might want to have a little talk with them. Explain you’re more than happy to stock up on supplies and food for them, but they have to pony up at least some of the expense.

If they decline to do so, and they show up anyway at some point down the road, you’ll have a hard decision to make. Give some thought now as to how you want to handle it.

The Importance of Documents

One of the many lessons learned in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is the importance of having vital documents available. Many people experienced delays in processing insurance claims because they didn’t have their policy numbers, identification, and other documents immediately available.

I highly suggest storing copies of your vital papers in at least two different locations outside your home. Consider swapping papers with a trust family member or friend. You’ll store theirs and they store yours. Keep another set in your bug out bag, sealed in a plastic bag.

I do NOT recommend using safe deposit boxes for this purpose as if it is a widespread disaster, banks might not be open for business.

Be sure to include copies of:

  • Identification (driver license, social security card)
  • Insurance policies (auto, home, life)
  • Bank statements (checking, savings)
  • Property ownership (vehicle titles, house/land deeds)
  • Also, take all of your credit cards and photocopy the front and back of each one. This will give you not only the account numbers but also the Customer Service phone numbers in the event you lose the card or need to access your account over the phone.

    Finally, add in recent photos of every family member and pet. If one of them turns up missing, these photos can be of tremendous help to searchers.


    There may someday come a time when our current form of currency won’t be worth the paper it is printed on. If this were to come to pass, you may find yourself in need of either goods or services and need to render some form of payment. Thus, it may be prudent to stock up on a few things that are somewhat inexpensive now but may be worth their weight in gold down the road.

    The first thing that comes to mind are those items we might consider vices now. Tobacco and booze top that list. There is little need to go out and get top shelf product either. Those people who would be willing to trade you some extra meat for booze won’t be concerned too much if it isn’t Glenfiddich single malt. For tobacco, I’d suggest storing it in your freezer (while it is still working), as well as some rolling papers. Just buy the larger canisters of loose tobacco as that’s much cheaper than a carton or two of even the cheapest cigarettes.

    Coffee is another great idea, though I’d suggest storing it as “raw” beans, roast and grind them as needed. Candy, gum, and other sweets, if stored properly, will last a good, long time.

    Moving away from consumables, some hard goods to keep on hand for barter would include needles, thread, matches, candles, blankets, soap, and fishing supplies (hooks, line, etc.).

    I have seen some people advocate using ammunition, especially .22 shells, as currency. Personally, I don’t like the idea of giving bullets to anyone who might conceivably use them against me at some point.

    How many fish hooks would equal a can of food? I have no idea, that’d be up to the people conducting the trade. Remember though, the best trade is one where each person thinks they got the better deal.

    Aside from stocking up on goods, you might also consider what skills you have that might be “marketable” down the road. If you know how to sew by hand, you could probably trade some mending for extra candles or something. Be sure to stock up on anything and everything you might need for your hobby/career.

    Remember, the items you stock up on for barter purposes are secondary to the stuff you put aside for you and your family. Meaning, only worry about the barter items after you’ve stocked up on what you and yours need to survive.

    Caffeine Addiction

    Raise your hand if you drink caffeinated beverages on a daily basis. Coffee, tea, soda, whatever. Yes, you in the back, this does include those lattes and frapps you love so much. Now, let’s say there’s a disaster of some sort that affects your area. Long-term power outage for example. Something that is going to last a few days at least, maybe from an ice storm perhaps? What are you going to do for your caffeine fix?

    Some time ago, I suffered through a brutal bout of the flu. The kind where just the thought of anything other than sips of water is enough to curdle your stomach. It was a whole lot of no fun. But what made it worse was the caffeine withdrawal. Just as I started to feel better, the headache hit. I’m here to tell you there is nothing that will cure that headache outside of feeding that caffeine monkey.

    If you are like me and are an admitted (or even a closeted) caffeine addict, you’d be well advised to consider this in your emergency preps. Plan now for a way to satisfy that addiction. If nothing else, maybe include a packet of caffeine pills in your emergency kits. Tea of course can be made quite readily by heating water over a fire. But, if tea won’t cut it for you, try instant coffee.

    Emergency situations are stressful enough, don’t add to it by having to think through the caffeine withdrawal headache on top of everything else.

    Radio Scanners as Survival Tools

    I rarely ever recommend folks to go out and buy the latest and greatest gadgets for survival preps. However, this is one piece of equipment I feel is worth the price. A radio scanner, sometimes called a police scanner, allows you to listen in on radio traffic (police, fire, rescue squad, etc.) in your area. As long as you don’t modify them so as to hear cordless phones or other prohibited conversations, they are quite legal to own and use.

    You can find them at any decent quality electronics store, such as Radio Shack. I don’t recommend buying one at a big box discount retailer, such as Walmart, unless you know exactly what to look for in a unit. Be prepared to spend upwards of $100.00 to get a decent one. You want something that has an AC adapter to plug in at home, as well as being able to run on batteries or a DC plug for your vehicle. Further, get a portable one (handheld) rather than a base unit. I’ll explain why shortly.

    The idea here is to perhaps get some degree of warning with regards to emergency situations. Radio traffic concerning roadblocks, for example, would allow you to plan a different route out of town if you’re trying to evacuate the area.

    These scanners are programmable. Odds are good they’ll try to sell you the latest edition of the book that lists all the different radio frequencies. Don’t bother as this information is free online. My particular unit has 10 “banks” of 40 channels each. A bank is nothing more than just a group of frequencies. I can set it up to scan one bank, all of them, or any combination thereof. You want to program in all the emergency services frequencies in your area. Keep those all in the first few banks of your scanner. Then, program in State and Federal agency frequencies as they may apply to your area and concerns.

    Now, here’s why you want a portable unit. If you anticipate having to travel any distance to get to your emergency retreat location, program the last few banks with the emergency services frequencies for the areas you’ll likely travel through between home and your retreat. Doing so will perhaps allow you a “heads up” as you approach those areas.

    Vehicle Emergency Kits

    This is different from your bug out bag. While some components might be the same, the purpose is different. A bug out bag is designed to get you from Point A to Point B whether you’re on foot or in a vehicle. A vehicle emergency kit is to help you either get back on the road or keep you safe until help arrives if you’re stranded. It will be heavier and bulkier than your bug out bag and thus isn’t really designed for transport on foot.

    While you might not know much about vehicle repair, you’d be wise to keep a small set of tools and related gear in your trunk. A Good Samaritan might be willing to assist you but if he or she doesn’t have tools on hand, there isn’t much they’ll be able to do for you.

    A tool kit should contain:

    • Wrenches (standard and metric)
    • Socket set (standard and metric)
    • Variety of slotted, Phillips, and Torx screwdrivers
    • Pliers and channel locks
    • Hammer
    • Hose clamps
    • Spare fuses
    • Fix-a-Flat
    • Duct tape
    • Sharp knife
    • A couple quarts of oil
    • A gallon of water
    • Flashlight
    • Work gloves

    The above should be enough to cover most basic emergency repairs to your vehicle.

    In addition to the tool kit, you should have a blanket, season appropriate extra clothing, water (separate from the gallon devoted to your tool kit), and a couple days of food. For the food component, be sure to select items that won’t go bad quickly in temperature extremes and won’t need to be prepared in any way. Crackers, granola bars, hard candy, that sort of thing.

    If at all possible, have a cell phone on hand as well. Make sure you have a car charger for it and keep the phone charged at all times. If nothing else, buy a cheap prepaid cell phone to keep in the car. Just be sure to stay on top of any renewals so you are able to use the phone if you need to.