Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Urban Survival: Networking and Building Community

If you live in the city or suburbs, and for whatever reasons (usually family or financial) don't want to move to a more rural area, here is my best advice to you:  Connect with trustworthy, like-minded people near you and together start preparing and planning for difficult times. This type of survival network is often called a mutual assistance group, or MAG, and can be as formal or as informal as you want it to be.

Advantages of a Survival Network:
  • Provides mutual encouragement and accountability, enabling you to stay on track.
  • Allows all parties to draw on different experiences and skill sets.
  • Can divide up tasks among members.
  • Can divide up responsibilities.
  • Can make and split bulk purchases, reducing costs for all involved. 
  • Can split the costs of certain purchases for which your group only needs one - such as a ham radio.
Also, if the group is successful, at some point you may even consider going in together to buy a few acres of rural property to use as a bug-out retreat.

Many skill sets need to be learned by all group members (examples: basic first aid & CPR, self-defense). But you can assign certain advanced or specialized tasks to certain members. Something like this:

"Sam & Emily, you'll be our medics so you need to get advanced first aid and medical training. John, you'll be our ham radio operator and communications expert, so get the equipment and training. Bill, you have the only pick-up truck in the group, so you need to get a hand truck and dolly and be available to group members for hauling. Mary, since you're already into sewing, you'll be the group's seamstress so make sure you have plenty of supplies to repair our clothing after the SHTF."   

You get the idea. When you go it alone, you have to do it all yourself. When you are a part of a group, those responsibilities can be divided up.

You should also plan how you will provide mutual aid to each other both during a disaster and after. Plan for both natural disasters and man-made disasters. Discuss and write down these plans and expectations to prevent misunderstandings. The more detail, the better. Review these plans often.

Who should be in your network? 

Well, I did say trustworthy, like-minded people near you. You're not looking for folks with certain skill sets (worry about skills later). Rather, you're looking for folks who share similar worldviews, concerns, and goals. Start meeting people and talking to them. Look first to those already around you: nearby family & friends, neighbors, fellow church-members, co-workers, and so forth. 

I say "nearby" because you need people who are physically near your location. Its great to have a survivalist buddy who lives in another state, but transportation with be difficult when the SHTF, and will likely become even more difficult post-collapse as gasoline runs out and infrastructure breaks down. The absolute best situation is someone who lives within eye-shot  of your place. Next is someone within reasonable walking distance of your place. You can expand your search outwards from there.

How do you find "like-minded" people?

Look for clues as to their attitudes and mindset. The guy at work with a NRA sticker on his truck might be a good prospect. Your neighbor who still has the "Hillary For President" bumper sticker on his Toyota Prius, probably isn't. Pay attention and you will pick up lots of clues, good and bad.

Once you find a prospect, start feeling them out. Mention watching a hunting show, or a rerun of Dual Survivor, or something similar, and see how they react. Negative reactions, move on. Positive reactions, keep the conversations going. It will probably take several conversations as both parties feel each other out before building enough trust to get into preparedness and survival topics. 

Religion and politics do make a difference. Someone diametrically opposed to your views on these topics will make a poor fit for your group. Have discussions on these topics early on. Believe me, you'll quickly figure out if they are incompatible with you.  

A few warning signs to watch out for:

1- Addictions.  Addictions of any kind are a MAJOR warning sign.  Do not make them a part of your group until they have successfully and completely overcome their addiction.

2- Nuts/Crazies.
  I'm not referring to people who are a bit unusual or marching to a different drummer, but those who have actual serious mental problems. Avoid them. Remember, at some point in a crisis, their meds will run out. Besides, the stress and chaos of a crisis will likely make their illness even more serious.

3- Bizarre or Unusual Requests Early On. If you are just getting to know someone and they hit you with a bizarre or very unusual request, tread carefully. Bizarre requests might include asking to borrow a significant sum of money, or to quickly make a serious commitment, or to do something illegal or unethical.

4- Dishonesty. Its a good thing to be guarded with personal information, and concerned with maintaining your privacy. Its something else entirely to outright lie, especially about major issues. Don't expect someone to completely open up to you and tell you everything about their life, especially early on. But you should expect them to be honest in what they do tell you.

Some positive indicators:

1- Stability.   Look for signs of stability, or the lack of it, in their lives. If they are holding a job – its a good sign.  If they bounce in and out of work often or spend large stretches of time unemployed  - it may be a bad sign. Same goes for other areas of their lives – friendships, relationships, living arrangements, and so forth. Of course, context matters, so use common sense.  However, generally speaking, signs of stability in their lives are good, and signs of a lack of stability are warning flags. Look for trends within their life, not one time events.

2- Friendship.  If you cannot be close friends with someone, it doesn't make sense to include them in your group, no matter what skill sets they bring with them. You will be working closely together, depending on each other on a daily basis in very difficult and stressful times.  If there is  something about their personality that annoys you, it will only get worse in any collapse scenario.  If you don't like them, don't expect to be able to "put up with" them over the long-term, especially during stressful times. It will go wrong at some point. Some questions to consider: Do you enjoy being around that person?  Can you have a good time together? Are you both comfortable around each other?

3- Trust.  Do you trust that person?  Do you feel you can tell them anything without them judging you, telling others, or spreading gossip?  Do you trust them to always tell you the truth? Do you trust them enough to always tell them the truth? Can you trust them to not put themselves above the group in a crisis? Can you trust them to take care of tools and other things belonging to the group, every bit as well as they take care of their own personal property? Can you trust them to make the same commitment of time, effort , and finances to the group that you are willing to make?

4- Reciprocity. By this category, I mean how they treat you and others Is your relationship with them reciprocal (involving give and take on both sides)?  Do you get as much out of it as they do?  Are they a good host AND a good guest?  Are they a giver, taker or balanced? Do they try to live by the golden rule, treating others  in the same way they want to be treated? As you get to know each other, do they seem willing to sacrifice (time, money, effort) as much for the group as you are? 

Other Articles of Interest

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Emergency Water Storage

Water is absolutely essential to life. In a society long accustomed to having water-on-demand, most Americans give little thought to having water storage for emergencies. However, emergencies that leave us without on-demand water can and do happen. Having an emergency supply of water can be the difference between life and death in certain situations, so having an emergency supply is essential.

How Much Water to Store

The general recommendation most often given for how much water to store is 1 gallon per day, per person. So, a family of four would need 12 gallons of water for a 3-day period (1 gallon X 4 people X 3 days). In my opinion, this is an absolute minimum recommendation.

A better recommendation would be 1 gallon of potable water (that is, water safe for drinking, brushing teeth, cleaning wounds, food prep, and cooking) per day per person, PLUS additional water for flushing toilets, general household cleaning, and bathing (external only; brush teeth & clean wounds with potable water). PLUS, don't forget additional water for pets and livestock. 

Also, I would recommend storing enough water for 2 weeks (14 days), rather than just 3 days. This recommendation would be 56 gallons of potable water for a family of four (1 gallon X 4 people X 14 days), plus additional water for non-potable uses, pets, and livestock. How much additional water will depend on your situation, so use commonsense and your best estimates to come up with your target amount.  

NOTE: This is a minimum recommendation. More is always better.

Water for Washing Pots, Pans, and Dishes

Do you need potable water to wash pots, pans, and dishes? There is some disagreement on this issue. The following is my opinion, and what I do.

There is an adage "Germs dry. Germs die." I have no problem washing cookware, dishes, and utensils with regular (non-potable) water, as long as they are allowed to dry thoroughly before their next use. I've never gotten sick from doing this, and know of no one else who has. Many folks agree with me. Others don't. Decide for yourself. If you insist on washing dishes  only with potable water, you will have to add more potable water to your storage to account for this use.
Containers to NOT Use for Water Storage
  • Milk Jugs - not designed for long-term storage and will eventually leak; difficult to completely wash out the fats & proteins from the milk which may promote bacterial growth; plastic is of a type that may leach chemicals into the water over time.
  • Crystal Glass and Antique Glass Containers - the glass may contain lead.
  • Bleach Bottles - bleach bottles are treated with a chemical agent that may leach into water over time. 
  • Ozark Trail 6-gal water jugs - I've written about this before, but the giant X stamped into the sides is a major design flaw that will eventually spring leaks 100% of the time: read my warning article for details.
  • Containers that previously held toxic substances - impossible to clean thoroughly enough to be made safe.

Containers to Use for Water Storage
  • Water Tanks designed for the purpose of water storage - many types and sizes available on Amazon.
  • Water Containers designed for water storage - I use AquaTainers, and have never had one leak (they are also BPA-free). 
  • Food Grade plastic and glass bottles -  used bottles with tight-fitting screw-on tops that once contained water, juice, soda, or wine can be cleaned and repurposed for water storage; I use 1-gallon table wine bottles. Keep see-trough bottles in a dark room or closet, or otherwise covered to protect from light, to prevent growth of bacteria, algae, or mold.

Are Plastic Bottles and Containers Safe for Water Storage?

Plastic can leach into water over the long-term, but not all plastic leaches equally. Stick to food grade and BPA-free plastics for your long-term storage. Remember this: You will die of dehydration (in days) long before you'll die from plastic toxicity (after years of consumption, if ever). In a true long-term emergency situation, plastic water containers will be the very least of your problems.

How Long Will Water Store?

Non-potable water stores indefinitely, without need for rotation. 

Potable water, assuming it is properly stored, also stores indefinitely, without need for rotation. However, potable water will begin to taste "flat" after about six months or so. It is still safe to drink, and the taste can be improved by introducing air into it (think bubbles). Of course, if you notice algae or mold in the water, do not use it without treating first.

Additional Tips
  • Clean and thoroughly dry all bottles, tanks, and containers - both used and new - before filling with water for long-term storage.
  • If your tap water is already safe for drinking, it should also be safe for long-term storage without additional treatment.
  • Unsure of your water? Have it tested first, then treat if necessary. 
  • Want some extra insurance? Add 2-4 drops of unscented bleach per quart of water.
  • Store your long-term water away from direct sunlight and heat, and away from gasoline, kerosene, pesticides, and other chemicals (both to prevent contamination and to prevent possible degradation of plastic containers).
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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Preppers' Guide to Workshop and DIY Safety

Some preppers are lucky enough to have an actual workshop separate from their house. Others have converted their garage or a spare room into a workshop. Apartment dwellers may only have a closet where they keep their tools, pulling them out and using them as and where needed. Regardless of where your work area is, here are some important safety tips and considerations:

1) Your workshop or work area should be well-light and well-ventilated.

2) Make sure your workshop or work area is not cluttered, and that you have enough room to work on your projects without tripping over or bumping into stuff.

3) Your workshop should be correctly wired (and up to code) for the power tools and equipment you are using.

4) Check all extension cords for fraying and other damage on a regular basis. Always use the correct extension cord for the power tool or equipment being used.

5) Have a well-stocked first aid kit in your workshop (or with you, if you are working away from your workshop). Make sure your first aid kit includes a tourniquet, burn kit, and eyewash bottle.

6) Have a fire/smoke/CO2 detector in your workshop. Check/change batteries on a regular basis.

7) Have an all-purpose (ABC) fire extinguisher in your workshop.

8) Store your tools and equipment properly. Make sure items on shelves are secured so they won't accidentally fall off.

9) Read and keep the manufacturers instructions for correct and safe use of your tools and equipment, as well as the MSDS safety sheets for all chemicals and materials that you store or use.

10) Store all paints, oils, glues, cleaning fluids, and other chemicals in appropriate containers, and away from sources of flames and/or heat.

11) Keep sharp or dangerous objects out of reach of children and pets.

12) Store oily rags in an appropriate, safe container, and away from sources of flame, heat, or electricity.

13) Make sure all workbenches are sturdy and stable. Do not use an unbalanced workbench. Do not overload a workbench with too much weight.

14) When repairing or installing anything electric, make sure the power is off at the circuit breaker.

Safety/Protective Gear

15) Wear/use the appropriate safety gear for the task at hand. This gear may include:
Personal Behavior

16) Don't use power tools or equipment for the first time without proper instruction. Don't use tools and equipment that you don't know how to use.

17) Never use tools and equipment while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

18) Use the appropriate tool for the task. Don't try to make do. Don't use tools that are damaged. Only use tools and equipment how they were intended to be used.

19) Wear suitable shoes and clothing for the task (for example, no flip-flops or clogs). Remove dangling items (such as a scarf, necklace, etc.) before using power tools.

20) Lift heavy objects with your legs, not your back. Get help lifting objects too heavy for you to comfortably lift on your own.

21) Don't smoke or use candles around gas, oil, and other flammable materials.

22) Stay focused and pay attention to the task at hand. Don't get distracted.

23) Please, no practical jokes, running, or horseplay in the workshop or work area. This should go without saying, but many accidents do happen while workers are fooling around, goofing off, or otherwise behaving inappropriately for the situation.

NOTE: If possible, have a partner with you in case of accident while working. Always have a cell phone or other means of calling for help if needed.

Please take workshop and DIY safety seriously. Accidents can and do lead to property destruction, temporary or permanent injury, and even death.

This list is not exhaustive by any means, and is not meant to replace your own common sense. Your particular situation, equipment, and activities may require different or additional safety precautions.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Peek at a Survivalist's Library from 1964

What books should be on a Survivalist's bookshelf? That is a question prompted by a book I recently read (Robert Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold). Its a science fiction survivalist novel about a family that survives a nuclear war. In it, the man (Hugh Farnham) who built and stocked a bomb shelter lists his "must-have" survivalist library. 

Heinlein's book was published in 1964, so all the books mentioned are from that era and before, naturally.  I'm currently working on my list of a Prepper's Library for modern times, but for now I thought it would be interesting to share the list of the books in Farnham's bomb shelter's library.

The list is a mixture of practical books (various volumes on homesteading, medicine, engineering, etc), books for entertainment value (note the inclusion of Hoyle's Book of Games for one), general knowledge (a dictionary and an encyclopedia set), and several selections obviously influenced by the Cold War (the books on guerrilla warfare, and the Russian/English dictionaries). Hugh even attempted to save some classic works (Homer, Shakespeare, etc.)

The List: 
At one point in the book, Hugh Farnham mentions regretting not including the works of Mark Twain in his library.

So, what books would you recommend for a modern day Survivalist's Library?  Leave suggestions in the comments section below. 

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