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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Monday, January 14, 2019

Eight Tips for Bugging Out

We all know that bugging-out should not be Plan A for most people in most situations, but it may become necessary at some point. Best to think through and prepare for bugging-out now, rather than trying to figure it out at the last minute. Here are some tips to think about... 

1) Its all about the timing.  Wait too long, and you'll be trying to bug-out with the unprepared masses - a chaotic and dangerous situation filled with massive traffic jams, clogged infrastructure, no gas supplies, and lots of panicky, angry people.  In a true collapse scenario, if there is a "golden horde" escaping the city, the majority will wait until its too late to safely do so, and I predict most will fail, dying within the first 20 miles (think stress induced heart attacks and lots of violence).

2) Maintain your bug-out vehicle. Many, if not most, of us don't really maintain our vehicles on a tight schedule.The last thing we need in a bug-out scenario is car trouble. Keep your designated bug-out vehicle in excellent running condition, quickly make needed repairs, and stay on-top  of regular maintenance. (See related article: Preppers' Auto Maintenance Schedule.)

3) Keep a repair kit in your vehicle. Even if you maintain your vehicle in excellent condition, there's always the possibility of experiencing car trouble during your bug-out. You're not going to have the time or ability to deal with major problems in the middle of bugging-out (you[ll have to abandon your vehicle). Instead, focus on preparing for the smaller problems you may experience. In my vehicle, I keep several quarts of oil (and a funnel), transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, jumper cables, and a battery starter with air compressor. Make sure you have a real spare tire that is in good shape, not one of those small rubber doughnuts, and make sure you have a jack and tire tool. A can or two of fix-a-flat may also come in handy. Sure, fix-a-flat may void your tire warranty and possibly mess-up your rim, but in an emergency bug-out situation, your priority is getting to your destination, not maintaining your tire warranty. 

4) Prepare now to bug-out later. We all maintain bug-out bags (you do, right?) so we're ready to go at a second's notice, but what if we have some more time to pack? Have you thought through what extras to pack into your vehicle? Have you actually tried to pack everything into your vehicle that you want to take with you? Figure this out ahead of time. For example, you may come up with an order of priority that looks something like this: 
  1. Put Bug-Out Bags in car, as time allows, add the following:
  2. Guns & ammo
  3. Extra fuel
  4. Camping supplies (tent, stove, cookware)
  5. Extra food & water
  6. Extra clothing, blankets
  7. Toolbox, tools, etc
  8. Cleaning & hygiene supplies 
  9. Family mementos and heirlooms
  10. Predetermined selection of useful reference books
Of course, the list you come up with may be quite different and will depend on your own circumstances and concerns. The point is to think through these things now, so you're not left trying to figure it out at the last minute under a lot of stress.

5) Know where you're going. Not only have a bug-out location picked out before you need it, but have at least one back-up location, just in case. Know how to get where you are going without having to use GPS or Google Maps. Know alternative routes, too, since major routes may be blocked or otherwise impassible. Don't know where to bug-out? Check my article "But, bug-out to where, exactly???"

6) Preposition supplies, if possible. Is your bug-out location a cabin in the mountains that you own? Perhaps Cousin Eddie's farm in the country? If you know where you're going to bug-out, you may be able to preposition a stash of supplies - food, clothing, tools, guns & ammo, and so forth.

7) Stay safe along t he way. In a collapse scenario, bugging-out won't be a drive in the country, even if it is literally a drive to the country. You will likely face chaos and dangers along the way.  Stay safe by practicing situational awareness and being armed (and trained). Avoid trouble hot-spots (bad neighborhoods, areas of likely heavy congestion, major intersections that may be blockaded in a martial law scenario, etc.). This means you need to drive and learn about several possible routes to your bug-out locations beforehand. Caravanning with others you know and trust is a good idea. Use two-way radios or CBs to stay in touch with each other on the drive. Listening to local radio stations and police & emergency bands may provide information on road closings, police barricades, and areas experiencing looting and rioting.

8) Know what to do if you have to travel by foot. You're bugging out and your car breaks down. Or you run out of gas. Or the roads are barricaded or simply impassible due to traffic congestion, wrecks, and break-downs. Also, most folks don't keep extra gas on-hand for emergencies or even keep their car's gas tank topped-off, so expect lots of cars to simply run out of gas in the middle of the road. There are lots of reasons you may be reduced to traveling by foot to your destination. Be prepared for that possibility. Wear good hiking shoes or boots when bugging-out. Decide beforehand what you'll take with you from your vehicle, and what you'll have to abandon with it. Be prepared to camp out for a night (or several), since foot travel will be a lot slower than travel by car. Including an emergency sleeping bag or survival tent in your bug-out bag is a good idea.
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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Financial Preparedness for What is to Come

We may be facing difficult economic times very soon. Or it may be a few years off. Either way, there will be another economic downturn. There always is. When it happens, it will be especially difficult for the folks who are living paycheck to paycheck (that's most of us), in debt up to their eyeballs and with little or no savings. Debt – whether personal, business or government – is bad. It creates stress and makes one much more vulnerable to economic downturns.

Financial preparedness requires eliminating consumer debt – credit cards, car loans, payday loans, personal loans and installment plans. This will mean you have to put yourself on a budget and stick with it. It will probably mean putting off major purchases, avoiding impulse purchases and denying yourself luxury items. It may mean taking bag lunches to work. It may mean selling your new car to get out of the loan, replacing it with an older model without payments. It may mean having a major yard sale to raise some money. It may even mean taking on a second job. It will take some sacrifice to eliminate debt in your life, but the benefits will be more than worth it.

Building some emergency savings will have to be done at the same time. Yard sales are a great way to bring in extra cash to do this. So is a second job in the evenings or on the weekends. Put the money somewhere safe, such as an insured CD or money market account in a stable bank or credit union (do your own homework or check with several companies that offer ratings on the soundness and safety of various financial institutions). Don’t worry about getting top interest. Safety and liquidity is your goal for your emergency savings, not growth.

Once your debt is paid off and you have accumulated some emergency savings, then you can then turn your attention to saving for long-range goals such as the purchase of a new car, a new home, or retirement. Use common sense, avoid overly-risky investments and seek professional advice of someone you can trust.

No investment is perfectly safe. Cash savings are subject to losing value to inflation. Stocks and mutual funds are subject to the ups and downs of the market. Land is subject to property taxes and eminent domain. Converting all your money to gold & silver and burying it in the backyard is subject to thieves. There are no guarantees in life. The best you can do is use reason & common sense, to remain vigilant and to take responsibility for ensuring your own future.

The single most important thing you can do now to survive any future chaos is to start taking responsibility for your own life.

Get back to the financial basics. Make sure you are spending less than you earn. Avoid taking on any new debt - don't use credit cards, payday loans or installment payment plans of any type. Pay cash or make do without. Build some emergency savings. Get on a budget or spending plan and stick to it. Avoid impulse purchases. Scale back your lifestyle sharply. Find the best bargains by doing comparison shopping, use shopping lists, clip coupons.

Why pay off debt if we are headed towards high inflation? It may be true that by waiting to pay off debt, you will be paying it off with cheaper dollars. However, there are other considerations. For one, debt puts you, your family and your assets at risk. Pay off your debts now while you are employed and you run less risk of losing your home or other assets if you become unemployed later. Besides, deflation may be in the future if things go a certain way. Or, even worse, a period where we experience both deflation (of major assets such as homes, land, vehicles because people simply can't afford them) and inflation (of food and everyday items that we must have at any cost) at the same time.

Debt can also be very stressful, especially in difficult times, which can be a real detriment to your health and your ability to make calm decisions at a time when you most need both.

Another reason is that debt can shackle you to your current job and circumstances, when what is really needed in bad times is freedom and flexibility.

Finally, people tend not to realize how fast interest, late fees and other penalties can add up. You may be paying off your debt later with cheaper dollars, but still be paying more in real terms because of all the added interest and penalties.

Taming the Family Budget, or How to Afford to Pay of Debt and Build Savings 

When I was a small child (the 1970s) the only telecommunications expense my family, most families, had was the telephone, and that was a land line, of course. TV programs were free over-the-air, and there was no Internet. Today, many families pay for a land line, multiple cell phones, special ringtones, cable or satellite TV subscriptions, extra movie channels, Internet connections, gaming and movie subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), special apps for their $500 (or more) smart phones, even satellite radio subscriptions. For most families major savings can be found in this budget category.

Do you really need a smart phone? Do you really need the absolute latest (and most expensive) version of your smart phone? I have a regular cell phone myself, but it is the basic model that only cost me $19.99 (and I didn't have to commit to a plan). I can text and make phone calls on my cheap phone as easily as you can on your smart phone. A cell phone may be a necessity for many today, but all the expensive bells and whistles are luxuries you probably can do without.

We have allowed them to make us addicted to our smart phones and other electronic devices. Maybe its time to overcome our addictions and spend our money on getting ready for the future instead of funding those million-dollar bonuses of telecom executives. 

The same thing goes for cable or satellite TV. Do you really need to have all the movie channels? Do you really need all the HD channels? Do you really need the expanded package with all the sports channels and all the music channels? Or can you get by just fine with the much less expensive basic package?

Or better yet, do away with TV altogether. Radical idea, but somehow humanity survived for thousands of years before TV, so technically it is possible. 

Reduce your entertainment expenses. We may hate denying ourselves, but entertainment is a purely optional budget expense. Eliminate it. Learn (or re-learn) how to have a good time for free or nearly free. Start a family game night. Play with your kids in the backyard. Invite friends over for a weekend cook-out or a movie night (with the DVD checked out from your local library for free). Next week they can invite you over.

Read a book (checked out from the library for free, of course) instead of going to a movie. Libraries are a wonderful source of free entertainment. In addition to books and magazines, many libraries today also offer audio books, movies on DVD, music CDs and even board games that you can check out. Many have story times for young children and lecture series for adults you can attend for free.

Give up the vacation away from home this year. Instead of heading for the beach or Disneyland or wherever, stay home. Spend a week visiting local museums, zoos, botanical gardens, historical sites, parks or wildlife refuges. Go on a picnic or nature hike. Go fishing at a local lake. Play Frisbee with your kids in the backyard. Or just relax at home, thinking of all the money you are saving.

Reduce you home energy use. Turn off lights, TVs and electronics whenever you leave a room. Set your thermostat to conserve energy. Consider replace old appliances with new, energy-efficient models. Super-insulate your house. Consider installing energy efficient windows. Many power companies offer free or low-cost home energy audits for their customers, which can identify weak points in your home's insulation and other energy wasters, along with advice to reduce your energy use. 

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