Preparedness Pays And More

Sorry for the long silence, but I’ve changed day jobs and it has been intense. Good, but intense. It will also help with some of the information in Preparedness Pays as well as my preparations.

Along those lines, I suggest you read this post from Sarah A. Hoyt. Like her, I am concerned at what I see coming. Like her, I’m expanding my preparedness as fast as I can within my budget.

A suggestion for those who are just now getting into practical preparedness: buy a water bath canner and a pressure canner now. When covidmania hit, you could not find either, and had a hard time finding jars. The jar shortage continues, so stock up when you can.

More soon.

Preparedness Pays: Food Ennui

Day life and job have been interesting, so am running behind. This is actually something I had planned to address later, but for a number of reasons I wanted to touch on it now.

When planning food and drink supplies, keep in mind that even within a week you or your family can fall victim to food ennui. That is, you have food but not anything you want to eat. That is particularly true if you have only a limited range of food tucked away.

An easy and usually inexpensive way to fight it is to visit your local ethnic or interntational grocery stores. By picking up canned vegetables, dishes, etc. you can get a range of flavors and increase your options. Along with sauces and hot sauces, you have the means to take regular food and take it very different directions. You also tend to find very good prices on those items.

Just a quick thought to share this morning.

Preparedness Pays: The Quiet Team

One good thing about making practical preparedness a part of your lifestyle is that you are prepared for quite a few of life’s routine emergencies. But, one thing you need to consider is the fact that you should not advertise it, but accepting that preparedness and survival for larger emergencies requires a certain degree of teamwork.

How much and what you are prepared for is something you should keep close to the vest. First, in a major emergency, those who are not prepared will see you as a target for getting quickly what they hadn’t bothered with before. They will demand you share with them, take them in, etc. Second, there are those who will not make demands and expect you to take care of them, as they are simply going to try to take by force what you have. Third, in a major emergency you are likely to have your reserves appropriated for the good of the people by various levels of government. It has happened before and will happen again. If they don’t know what you have and how much you have, it works to your advantage all around.

That said, surviving major emergencies requires teamwork. The simple fact is that groups do better as each brings strengths (and a variety of supplies/preparations) to the table. They can and should also provide safe places for bug-out at need. Sound people out, and choose wisely. Expect them to be judging you as well.

Years back, a friend was looking at just this situation. Through a mutual friend, he learned of a group that was into preparedness and looked into joining. He was quickly informed that he did not have enough weapons or the proper type of ammunition. In looking over their requirments and preparations, it was clear they were light on what I would call fundamentals. He thought a moment, and then informed them that no, he didn’t have all the ammo they required, but that he did have in addition to food a year’s worth (more actually) of toilet paper and they were going to have a hard time wiping their asses with all those bullets. And, by the way, he had more than enough ammo on hand to deal with anyone who tried to take it. They thought that over for a few days, contacted him to say that he had a point, and asked him to join them. He declined.

So, keep quiet but keep an eye out for good people to team up with at need. Make sure that they can be a safe haven if you have to bug out because of anything from a chemical spill to those pythonoids from Antares (who are just as big an group of assholes as the CCP) doing something nasty. Keep in mind that your location can be used if they need to bug out. Groups improve chances, but choosing the right group (or creating it) is essential.

Preparedness Pays: Pets

Today’s post will be short and sweet, and is courtesy of a reminder from a friend. When conducting your thought experiment, be sure to include your pets in your planning. Not only food and water, plus a means to take them with you if you have to bug out, but also common medical conditions. If they take medicines or supplements, you need to include those items in your needed supplies. If you know they have other conditions ‘every now and then’ be sure to include supplies for that in your planning.

We’re almost done with the thought experiment(s), but one more to come courtesy of those darned pythonoids from Antares….

Preparedness Pays: Tools I

Today, let’s take the thought experiment a bit further. In the first post, I talked a little bit about looking around the house for things you already have that can be useful; and, I also talked about doing some advanced planning. Today, let’s dip a toe into that pool.

Whether it’s storms, earthquakes, or an invasion of pythonoids from Antares, you should have one room or area of your home (or apartment, etc.) as a designated shelter. It generally should be an interior space that is structurally sound, and best suited for use as a shelter in a variety of conditions. In a house I owned years back, mine was technically an exterior room in the basement. However, it was the old coal room and was extremely sturdy with very little above ground. It also had shelving which made it the ideal place to also store many of my preparedness supplies.

Again, you have to find what works for you and your situation. You simply need a very sound space that works for more than one emergency. For example, if flooding had been an issue I could not have used the old coal room as my designated shelter. It should also have a stock of food, water, and other supplies.

For today’s expansion of our thought experiment, something (darn those pythonoids from Antares!) has forced you to take shelter. Not only that, but your home has been damaged. So much so, you are having trouble getting out. Whatever has happened is such that you can’t count on local services to find you and get you out. So, what do you need to get out?

For me, I had a standard pry bar (one large and one small), a long straight pry bar, a sledge hammer, an axe, and some other tools including hand saws that I stored there. These were all items that I used on other projects, but stored there just in case. In fact, I have a sledge hammer in my bedroom at my current lair as since it is a basement apartment, in the event of emergency the best exit might be through one of the windows — which my landlord and I have discovered to be rusted shut. One sledgehammer, no window and out I go…

Much depends on how much damage your home took, but think about what you might need to get out in an emergency. Also, think about what it would take to get out of any room in an emergency. Do you have bedrooms upstairs? Emergency fire ladders ready to go are a good investment.

Now, back to our main focus, what would it take to get out. In the coal room I not only stored an axe or two, but the go-devil I used to split wood, a hand axe, and other implements of destruction (and construction). I also had rope, chain, and other means of pulling, lifting, and such including a come-along. Again, these were all things I used in other parts of life and simply stored there. If you have battery-powered saws and such, might not be a bad idea to store them in your shelter if possible. If not, have them where they can be grabbed in an emergency to go in with you.

Also, again, think safety. Have a fire extinguisher in that room, along with an extra first aid kit or kits. I’ll talk more about those later. For now, think about your shelter area/room as the keep to your castle. Not only have it ready for use, but have what you need to force your way out if necessary.

Preparedness is all about having the right mental and physical tools ready to go. So, for today, think about what physical tools might be good to have ready to go.

Preparedness Pays: Fixing Up Your Home

While I can already hear some ranting about bugout/bailout bags and such, the idea is not to overwhelm someone new. Those that get overwhelmed find it easy to not get prepared, even when such preparations can increase the value of their home and otherwise save them money. Again, each situation is unique and you need to plan for what works for you. Even if you rent and apartment or something else, you can take steps that will help you be prepared and far more comfortable in day-to-day life. While this is focused on someone in a stand-alone home, there are aspects that can be applied elsewhere.

Your home is your castle and your keep, even if it’s not in the middle of the street. It is the place you live, and the place you are most likely to stay in the event of an emergency. What are some of the things you can do, and may already want to do, to improve it so that you enjoy benefits even while preparing?

Let’s start with weather preparedness. Is it weather tight? No matter where you live, insulation is a good thing for keeping out the heat or cold. Caulking, door seals, and other items can reduce energy bills. In an emergency, it can help keep out smoke, pathogens, or even radiation in the worst case. The nice thing is, depending on where you live, there may be grants, tax credits, or even programs to help you take these steps.

Security is also a factor. Are your outer doors insulated and security rated? Again, the grants and other programs may can help with that, as well as taking other steps to make sure it is secure. Double- and triple-pane windows not only add to energy savings, but can also be a security feature. What other steps can you take?

How energy efficient is it? If you HVAC system is old, or even older, a newer system can provide savings. Again, there may be programs to help with such an upgrade, along with tax credits and such. This applies to all major appliances too — the more energy efficient the better. A minor thing you can do is buy outlet insulation systems that help stop drafts that come in that way. At an apartment I rented years back, putting them in actually provided a measurable drop in my electric bill. It also reduced what could come in from outside, from pollen to insects and other delights. Going all LED on lighting saves money, and can make it easier to maintain light and critical appliances via a generator or other power source if needed.

Landscaping can help improve security by eliminating places people can hide, gain entry without being seen, or even approach without being seen. In an area where flooding could be an issue? Berms and walls can help reduce the threat. A non-flammable patio can not only increase the value of the house, but it provides a secure place to put a grill or other outdoor cooking items that can be used in an emergency.

Take a few minutes to think about what you can do to your home to improve it, and at the same time make it better prepared to be your castle and keep in an emergency. Then, look to see what grants, programs, tax credits, etc. may be available to help with that effort. You might be surprised, and all you do will add to the value of the property. If you don’t own but rent, do the legwork to find these opportunities, and it is rare that a landlord won’t jump at the chance to improve their property with little- to no-cost to them.

Be creative, and look outside the box for solutions that work for you.

Preparedness Pays: Some Food For Thought To Go With Yesterday’s Post

As you go through the thought experiments, here are a few things you may want to keep in mind.

First, keep in mind that what you are planning for is not a normal situation. You will use less of some things, and more of some others. For example, just before the joys of 2020 hit, I caught a sale and had bought what should have been a year’s supply of hand soap. With the lockdown and all else, it turned into a 6-8 month supply since I was home far more than normal. I also used more facial tissues, paper towels, and even some cleaners as I was home more.

Second, since it is not a normal situation, you might want to plan both on rationing food a bit (cut back on portions/amounts) as real emergencies don’t come with a time limit. Also, you are not doing as much if you are trapped at home and should cut back on things anyway. This way, you have food for an extra day or three if needed. On top of that, plan on having what is needed for a day or three of extra “normal” food above and beyond that three-day or week’s supply. This way, if you are doing work (cleaning up, repairing, digging out, etc.) you have the food for that as well as if the situation goes longer than a week.

Third, when making your list on equipment/things, look to see if what you already have on hand can do double duty. Also, the things you buy should also be useful every day and do more than just be there for emergencies. Alton Brown talks about kitchen utensils doing multiple things, and the same goes for the tools and equipment in our lives. The only items that should do just one thing are fire extinguishers. First aid kits should be useful for “everyday” disasters such as cuts, scrapes, stings, etc. Make the items you buy work for your situation in as many ways as possible.

Just some quick food for thought. Hopefully tomorrow we will embark on another thought experiment.

Preparedness Pays: Starting Planning

At this point, despite the ease of planning for just a few things rather than the infinite number of possible disasters, many people freeze up at the thought of planning. Maybe it’s because there is still a residual bit of fear of trying to figure out all that can go wrong. Maybe it’s because starting to plan seems like a word problem in math. Maybe it is a fear of starting the process and perhaps being labled a “prepper.” Who knows.

The thing is, if we borrow a technique from Sir Issac Newton, starting your core plan is easy. Sir Issac was known for what he called “thought experiments” where he postulated and extrapolated subjects in his mind. His “thought cannon” was really the start of the concept of orbits, microgravity, and more. Being intelligently lazy, let’s steal his page and engage in a thought experiment.

This one is easy: imagine you are trapped in your house for three days. For this experiment, we will keep it easy and assume that gas, water, power, etc. remain uninterrupted. The key is, you can’t go outside, run to the store, or anything else. Your doors are sealed.

Do you have enough food? Maybe not what you want at that moment, but do you have enough food to feed yourself, or all in the household? Do you have enough toothpaste, soap, floss, hygiene items, laundry and dish detergent, and other supplies? Do you have enough pleasure items (alcohol, snacks, other nice-to-haves) for the three days? If not, what of these do you not have in sufficient quantity? Write them down. That’s the start of your basic planning list. These are the things you need to get and keep in stock to be prepared for minor emergencies.

Now, take that out to a week. Adjust your list accordingly. You now have a basic list of the things you need to do, purchase, etc. to start tobe prepared for emergencies.

The next step in our thought experiment branches out a bit. Ask yourself what safety equipment you have on hand? Do you have a first aid kit that can handle minor cuts, burns, and other delights? If so, great — just remember to keep it up to date. Do you have a fire extinguisher that can handle a minor stove fire or other event? If not, put that on the list. Do you have enough of a supply of medicines, supplements, and other health maintenance/support supplies for a week? If not, again, add those to the list. Is there any other safety or support items or equipment you need that are unique to you and your situation? If so, add them to the list as well.

Yes, there are lists out there that can tell you all sorts of things to get and do; however, most of them are one-size-fits-all plans. You and your situation are unique, and your planning should be as well. You know what you need, how much room you have to store items, and other issues that are going to impact what you do, when, where, and how.

For example, where I lived before had very limited pantry space. It impacted how much I could store in the pantry itself. One solution to that was access to some other space (under the bed, garage, etc.) where I used plastic totes to store some of the items on my list, and not just canned goods. Your planning needs to revolve around your needs and what space or spaces of which you can make use.

Okay, you have a basic list of the items you need to get or get enough of to maintain a week’s supply. That’s a good place to start if you are not already into preparedness. It is, however, just a start and there are good reasons to work up to a longer timeframe as you can.

Now, let’s do a different thought experiment. Again, you are sealed in your house for three days. This time, the normal services are out: no water, no electricity, no internet, etc. For this one, the sewer is still working. Think things like this can’t happen? Just look at what happened in Texas recently.

First up, lighting. Do you have flashlights? If so, are the batteries still good? Do you have spares that are in date? What alternate forms of lighting do you have, if any? Candles, lanterns, and other delights come in handy. If nothing, you need to start your first equpment list.

Second, what alternate means do you have to heat or cook food? Any? We’ll relax the seal on the doors so that if you have a grill you can use it. Most gas grills today have at least one side burner, so in addition to cooking on the grill proper, you can cook on the side burner. A few years ago, where I lived had a gas issue, so for several days I cooked my breakfast on the side burner. You make do with what you’ve got. You can cook on a charcoal or wood grill, but be prepared to clean up. Do you camp? If so, bet you have some form of camp stove. Nothing? Again, time to put it on the equipment list.

Third, how much water do you have on hand? Do you have any water for flushing the toilet? Do you have a means to bathe without a shower or tub?

To aid your thinking on this, I have two five-gallon sealed buckets with non-portable water set aside just for flushing the toilet. Enough for a week? Not under normal circumstances, but it may be enough for my “mellow yellow” protocol. Stole the name from a line in one of John Ringo’s books where a character put over the toilet a sign saying ‘if it’s yellow it’s mellow, if it’s brown, it goes down.” Fill the cap of a bleach bottle with bleach, put it in with each pee, and you are good for a while. Still have a box of baby wipes around just for things like this.

I also have both bottled water and jugs of water on hand. I use both: bottled water for the day job and jugs of distilled water for making my coffee and other drinks. I have enough to get by for more than a week, and rotate my stock.

Now, to continue the thought experiment. Let’s add the wrinkle of it being winter and cold. How are you going to stay warm? There is no one answer to that. In the past, I’ve used kerosene heaters (not an option where I am currently), propane, and other alternate means — WITH ADEQUATE VENTILATION!!! I also have camping gear, and am not above setting up the tent indoors and having people huddle there for warmth. I also have cold weather gear to wear because I’ve spent time not only in the north, but outside in the north.

There is a lot more I could throw in, but I also consider them advanced planning. For now, I want to keep our thought experiment simple so that you get comfortable with the planning.

With this exercise, you have begun planning to have food and drinks, light so you can do things, and to stay warm at need. Those are the true essentials in an emergency. You have a list of what you do have on hand, and a list of the things you need to get.

With the two lists you now have (first exercise and this one) you know what you need to get, and even a good idea on quantity. Now, you need to sit down and prioritize what you get and when. The items on the first list should be your top priority, but unless you have the funds on hand to get them all at once, add them to your next few grocery lists and pick up a portion at a time. This is easier on the budget, and gives you time to set up your storage. As for the second list, work out a priority list based on your situation and begin making your purchases over time.

For this post, however, I will note that I am advising that people lay in a year’s supply of supplements and OTC medications. One reason is that with two-for-one sales going on at various stores, it is easy and less costly to get the larger amounts. I’ve also discovered that in going directly to company websites, I’m finding better deals on larger amounts that I could through a certain online retailer.

Also, as you look at your lists, see what’s available through yard sales, online sales venues, and other delights. As I noted earlier, the spring is a great time to find deals on winter items, from snowblowers on down, while fall is a good time to get deals on summer items (grills, etc.).

So, you made it through the basics of planning and now have good lists of what you need for your situation. Take the next step and act on those lists.

Preparedness Pays: Things

Again (and again and again and again), there are an almost infinite number of possible disasters. If you try to plan for individual disasters, you will not only be overwhelmed, but fail to take good precautions. Instead, focus on the fact that there are only three things that can be hit by a disaster: people, places, and things.

Today, we are going to touch briefly on things. I say briefly simply because this is the introduction to the topic, an overview. The proper term for things is infrastructure; however, that term makes most people think about roads, bridges, and such. While they are a part of preparedness, there is little you can do about truly major items other than plan to avoid or make use of if there is a major disaster. What I want to concentrate on are the parts of infrastructure that are within your control: the things you use every day.

In that context, infrastructure applies to the items that are a major part of your life. That ranges from smart phones to the sump pump in your basement. It is the power and hand tools you own, it is the machinery that keeps your house warm or cool, the water flowing, the water heated, etc. Things also applies to the food and other resources that are the logistics of your life. Yes, there is overlap with places, but that just makes planning easier.

The two major impaces of a disaster on things boil down to damage and/or loss-of-use, or the loss of resources. Recent events in Texas highlight what happens when a rare occurance results in a loss of the things we often take for granted.

For example, the loss of electricity removed the ability for many to heat their home, run appliances, cook, and maintain communications. The loss of water, which was apparently a combination of freezing and the loss of communications had impacts from being unable to have water for drinking to being able to bathe and flush the toilet. The loss of the two had a cascading effect, which was compounded by being unable to access groceries and other necessary logistics.

The number of people who were unprepared for any of this is hardly surprising, though I wish it were surprising. How many of you have spare water for drinking (bottled), spare water for cooking (jugs or larger), or spare water for flushing the toilets? How many of you have an alternate means for cooking, such as a camp stove, propane burner, or a butane chef’s stove? How many of you have an alternate means of heating the home at need? How many of you have lined up a place to go to in the event of such an emergency?

Thankfully, I do know some in Texas who were at least moderately prepared for what happened. One combined resources with a person in a location that maintained power, and they not only helped each other out, they were able to help some fellow members of the military by giving them a place they could hang out, relax, and warm up other than on base. I’m aware of others that used camping gear, such a tents, to set up an emergency shelter in their home that they could keep heated, while using camping and other supplies to get by until water and electricity were restored. Yet another, as did many, used their vehicle to warm up, recharge electronics, and otherwise get by.

The good thing is, preparing for that loss of, or damage to, things is fairly simple and involves some of the resources already discussed. One good thing about doing this series of posts is that I’m going to work on a chapter on tools, that is the things that are needed across the three types of damage. These range from flashlights to weapons, as all are needed and useful tools in an emergency.

A quick question for the reader: if you have flashlights and other tools that require batteries, have you checked them recently to be sure the batteries are still good and that there is no damage to the units in which they reside? Do you/did you have spare batteries that were in date? How about other dated resources? Were they/are they good?

We’ve covered the basics of Preaparedness Pays, now, let’s start getting serious about how to plan and how to prepare.

Preparedness Pays: Places

It’s time to talk about the second thing that can get damaged in a disaster: places. That place can be your home, your business location, your work location, or other structure. Again, the list of disasters is near infinity, and can include fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, etc.

Let’s start with your home. Bad things can happen, but you can take steps to minimize damage fairly easily.

For example, a fire. Smoke detectors properly installed and maintained can and do make a difference as they give early warning of a fire. Fire extinguishers are inexpensive, and can be used to put out stove fires or even house fires if caught early. Otherwise, they can help you and yours make a safe exit. Invest in not just a number of extinguishers over time, but get different sizes and types so that you are prepared for different events. A small extinguisher designed to fight grease fires is a good thing to have in the kitchen.

Falling limbs (or trees), storms, and other delights can damage your home as well. One thing I like to have in almost every room is a small plastic container that has a tarp, tape of different types, tacks and nails, scissors and/or a utility knife, a hammer, and even basic first aid supplies in it. If a window gets busted in that room, the materials to cover it and prevent further damage are right there. If your roof is damaged, you have a tarp you can put up as soon as it is safe.

Which brings up another point: have the tools you need. A ladder is useful around the house for a variety of projects, including emergencies. Shovels of various types, a mattock, and a sledge hammer are also useful for general use as well as in emergencies. Right now, where I am living, there are window issues that would make it hard to use them in an emergency, so I have a sledge hammer tucked away near those windows that would make short work of them if needed for use as an emergency exit.

Also, have things like pry bars and a hand saw in the area where you would take shelter for a storm or other emergency. That way, even if your location takes damage severe enough to potentially trap you, you have the means to begin to extract yourself. That area is also where you should store at least some of your emergency resources such as food, water, and basic first aid supplies. In addition, I have battery-operated lanterns and flashlights, and even some camping gear so that I have the means to get by a while at need.

If your home has more than one story, it’s a good idea to have emergency fire ladders tucked away in each room. That way, in a fire or other emergency that requires you or yours to go out a window, there is a safe way to get down to ground level.

Keep up on your maintenance, and/or ensure your landlord does. Good maintenance tends to help minimize damage from minor disasters. Also, if you have trees or limbs that pose a threat to your home or business, get them cut and removed. There’s a lot more to discuss about landscaping, and using it to improve safety, prevent fire hazards, and other delights but time is limited this morning. Also, winterizing or otherwise insulating your home and sealing openings can save money on utilities as well as making it difficult for insects or other critters to get inside. You may even be able to get a grant or tax rebates for such. Again, much more to discuss later.

Finally this morning, have a plan for fire and plans for other likely emergencies and practice them. Make sure that if it is more than just you, everyone knows where to meet (rally point) so you can ensure all are out safely. Also, especially with children, make sure they know not to go back inside for any reason. Growing up, I remember a child and a parent dying in a house fire because the child ran back inside to try to save a pet, and upon realizing what had happened the parent ran back in to try to save the child. Make the practice as realistic as possible, because how you train/practice is how you will do when and if the plan really is needed.