Category Archives: Preparedness

Some Thoughts On Boston and Preparedness

Already the question is heard, “What can we do to prevent another Boston?” The practical answer is nothing. What happened yesterday can and does happen even in the most closely controlled and monitored populations on the planet, and in any civilized and reasonably free environment, there is even less that can be done in a practical manner.

Are there ways to discourage such? Yes, but again those options are limited, particularly in a relatively free society with any form of progressive ethic. There are indeed ways to discourage such, and while effective, they are not to the taste of many, particularly those claiming to be moral elites.

Are there practical steps that you, as an individual or as a company owner/manager/employee, can take to prevent or mitigate the damage from same? Yes, there are.

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A Question for CEOs and ITOs

Spring has sprung, and tales of some recent events have come to my ears such that I want to ask those of you in leadership positions a simple question:

“How much is your data worth?”

Never mind how much it will cost to try to replace it, how much is it worth?

Generally, the data in your systems has several times the value of the cost to restore/replace it. Even with modern tools and a lot of luck, restoring is not going to replace all of it if you operate in single-point-of-failure mode. Nor will it be a quick and easy process.

With memory as cheap as it is right now, why stay with a single-point-of-failure SOP? Ensuring your data security and redundancy is not that hard. It is not that costly.

Not planning ahead for when disaster strikes is about as smart as putting your IT systems in a sub-basement when your building is in a flood zone. Think, plan, and do. If you think you can’t do that, then contact me because you not only can, you must if you want to have a profitable business.

Rational Preparedness, Part 11: Some Thoughts

Originally (?) posted at Blackfive, reposted here in case I can’t recover my preparedness archives.

Continuing what has become both a repost and a bit of an expansion of some previous preparedness posts. You can find an archive of all of them here, and I would also urge you to go back and read the “fundamental” posts and — especially — the comments here, here, and here; and the post on walking home and Monday’s post on looking after yourself is here. Tuesday’s post on room kits is here. Wednesday’s post was actually a two-fer looking at car kits and power. Thursday’s post is actually several posts, combined into one looking at packs, snivel gear, and more. Friday’s post is another several combined into one dealing with packs, cans, and protection. Saturday’s post deals with paperwork, from lists to wills.

I would say final thoughts, but such is an impossibility. There are always further thoughts, refinements, and lessons learned. Here are some thoughts you should keep in mind in regards preparedness.

1. You don’t have to do it all at once. While there are some things you should get early, a lot of things can be built up over time. It can be as simple as getting two large packs of TP instead of one, two boxes of tissues instead of one, and building up a good supply of such over time. It can be as simple as waiting for the grocery store to run a 10 for 10 sale on canned goods, and buying some for storage then. What matters is building up so that you can go a week or longer without outside supply in an emergency.

2. Not all disasters are Ragnarok. Your planning should include the small scale, such as an unexpected bout of the flu. One of the Rubbermaid containers I have holds various nostrums for dealing with such, and I make sure (after getting caught out one time) that my pantry has both ginger ale and a certain lemon-lime soda along with crackers and such. If you can handle the large, it means you are better prepared to handle the small.

3. Rotate that stock. Yep, you went and got all that stuff, but now it is approaching the end of shelf life so now what? Well, this is a huge argument against doing it all at once — the need to do large outlay every couple of years. Instead, build up and rotate out the stock. Keep it fresh and in date. What to do with the old? Well, I donate to various charities before it goes out of date, so it gets used and I get an itemizable deduction.

4. Think portable as much as possible. While I do live in one of those areas where people are likely to head to, rather than away from, I also have identified several things that might require me to bug out. So, as many of my supplies are readily transportable as possible. Yes, I do have a good supply of potable water, the majority in 2.5 gal. containers (and some in .5L bottles) so that I can take as much as possible with me if I do have to bug out. Buying bulk is great, and when I do it that which is for storage gets broken down into smaller packages and vacuum sealed or otherwise set for long-term storage. Smaller packages also are much more likely to be useful, or to be used before they can go bad, in a disaster.

5. Think multi-use. While there are some things in life that have one and only one use, most things can have multiple uses. Make your supplies and preparations have as many uses as possible. Again, it doesn’t have to be a major disaster, or even a minor, to have some bit of preparation come in handy. A former girlfriend and I cheerfully made use of the church key, can opener, and other delights that took up a small space in the glovebox to open up and prepare an on-the-road picnic as we were driving a long distance. The vacuum meal seal system keeps my coffee fresh, seals up leftovers, seals up old papers and records for storage, as well as sealing up items for the emergency stash. Make what you have work for you in as many ways as possible — self-sufficiency multi-tasking rocks.

6. Think about pets. Friend and Mentor P out at Wolf Park reminds me that I should be pointing out preparations for pets in vehicles and in planning. If you have pets and have a car kit, are there things in the kit for the care and feeding of said pet? Gear for controlling or securing as needed, as in a spare leash and/or harness? If you have emergency supplies at home, have you set aside food and meds for the pets as well? Are they covered in your evacuation plans? Think long and hard about such, for leaving them to die slowly and/or alone is NOT an option; and, if you are not prepared to either take them with you or do what is necessary, then you should not have them. Period. As for me, the reminder has caused me to place some extra food in the vehicle in the form of treats from a local maker. Nice thing is, they are like a well-done and dry oat cake/cookie and as such can be consumed by either the dog or me. Yes, I have tried them (a long day out doing for and with the wolves) and they aren’t bad. The dog also has her own secure storage of kibble.

7. Have some trade goods. Maj. Z in comments earlier pointed out that trade goods are needed. Think about your addictions, from coffee to alcohol, and set aside some extra. Vacuum sealed coffee can be stored for ten or more years provided the seal holds, and, yes, I do have some set aside for trade (or desperation use) as needed. I also have other items, from fishing gear to salt, that are intended for trade in an emergency. I also have the means to help ensure it is a trade and not a “give or else” that is employed, and urge you to do the same.

8. Partner. Find some neighbors or others that have items or strengths you don’t and join up with them. It can be as minor as simply having them agree that in the event of fire or whatever that your family well meet up at their place, or it can be as involved as a group prepared for the very worst. If you go with a group, check them out and be comfortable with them. One of my favorite stories in this regard was someone I knew who I would put in the preparedness category who looked into joining up with a more survivalist group. They told this person no, that they didn’t have X number and type of weapons and X amount of ammo, so no go. The response was along the lines of “Well, I have Y weapons, enough ammo to defend myself and what I have, I also have a years supply of TP — and you are going to have an awful hard time wiping your a** with all those bullets…” My understanding is that they conceeded the point and engaged in some reconsideration…

9. Read up, train up. There are a lot of good books out there, but I particularly recommend the Boy Scout Manual (at least the older versions, haven’t read the latest), the Boy Scout Field Manual, Alas Babylon by Pat Frank (lots of good food for thought), and The Rackham Files and Pulling Through by Dean Ing. Alas Babylon and Triumph by Philip Wylie had a strong impact on me when I was quite young, and helped me take the Boy Scout motto towards practical preparedness. In addition, make use of opportunities to learn. Often workplaces and other organizations offer free or reduced-cost classes on first aid, CPR, and similar things; so, make use of them. Want to learn more about the outdoors or butchering? Well, zoos, wildlife rescue, private wildlife or research centers often need volunteers to help, and they often are quite willing to train you to butcher animals. Not to mention that some of the staff there knows and are willing to teach track recognition, tracking, stalking, and other such outdoor skills. Heck, volunteer with Scouting so as to make a difference in young lives even as you learn. The opportunities to read and learn are there, make the most of them.

10. Spread it around. If you have everything in one central place, it can be taken out by a single disaster; so, avoid single-point failures. I have supplies distributed throughout the lair, so that the loss of any one part to storm or such does not take out all. It also means that, as with valuables, they might get some but they aren’t likely to find it all. If you have friends or relatives you trust and/or care about, see about tucking some stuff away at their place. Look into keeping some stuff at the office that doesn’t violate work policies. Think about where you frequently travel and where you might can cache things along the way or at destinations (with permission).

There is more, but this does constitute a good start.

Rational Preparedness, Part 10: Paperwork

Originally (?) posted at Blackfive, reposted here in case I can’t recover my preparedness archives.

Continuing what has become both a repost and a bit of an expansion of some previous preparedness posts. You can find an archive of all of them here, and I would also urge you to go back and read the “fundamental” posts and — especially — the comments here, here, and here; and the post on walking home and Monday’s post on looking after yourself is here. Tuesday’s post on room kits is here. Wednesday’s post was actually a two-fer looking at car kits and power. Thursday’s post is actually several posts, combined into one looking at packs, snivel gear, and more. Friday’s post is another several combined into one dealing with packs, cans, and protection.

Today’s post deals with issues of paperwork, for disasters and dissapointments come in all sizes and shapes. It also reflects my theory that whatever you plan for doesn’t happen; so, plan for the worst, hope for the best, and take what comes. Detesting paperwork as I do, this is the area where perhaps I need the most improvement, so do as I say — not as I do. :)

First up, come up with some checklists for a variety of potential emergencies. Now, as I pilot (and someone who is somewhat absent minded), I do like checklists. They make sure you do what is needed, don’t forget anything critical. Checklists can keep you from pulling one such as in Bloom County years ago, where Opus got all the canned provisions in the fallout shelter, but forgot the can opener… Use the checklists in non-emergency situations to test and refine, and to get in the mental habit of using them.

As part of the checklists, come up with emergency gathering spots: if there is a house fire, everyone meets at X spot for headcount and triage; if there is a bad storm, everyone goes to X place; if something happens during the day, is there a spot other than home that is equidistant from all that would be a secure rendezvous point; etc.

Make sure you have the emergency paperwork discussed earlier this week. Copies of prescriptions, drivers licenses, wills, deeds, titles, powers of attorney, insurance information, and other things likely to be required are good to have in several secure locations, ready to go.

While technically not paperwork, are you prepared electronically? As I wrote back in 2004:

One of the things I do as a consultant on disaster preparedness issues is emphasize the need, and ease, of doing backups. While this is primarily computer, it also applies to paper records as well.For computers, I have three types of backups: on-site, local, and long-distance. On-site is what most people do, but it is the least secure in terms of a real disaster. If your system crashes, it is great in that it is right there and all that, but if there is a fire, flood, storm, or man-made disaster, just call yourself Boston because you are scrod.

The way around this is to have an off-site, but local backup. This can be as simple as backing up your work computer or system and taking the backup to your home. You can get fancy and use a climate controlled facility for computer and paper backups, but you need something local that is physically removed from your main location. Updated regularly, it gives you security in the event something happens to or at the main site. If it is local, consider having a direct connection so that the system can be updated daily, or even mirrored.

Yet, nature can delight in being cruel and really do a number on any given locality. So, the way around this is to have off-site, non-local backups. It can be a different part of the company, relatives, friends, or any place else which is at least semi-secure and geographically isolated/remote from the main site. That way, if a tornado comes through and does unplanned urban renewal on your area and takes out the on-site and local backups, you still have options.

Another idea to consider here is to work with someone you trust who also needs to do backups. You each buy suitable storage/hard drive, and set it up where you back up to each other. With the right security protocols, both are safe and you both have inexpensive non-local backup. Want other ideas, or expansion on any of these? Hire me.

Also, make both paper and electronic backups of important documents. What I have done for some is to copy them, and then shoot digital high-res photos of them and burn same to CD. Make several copies each way, and store them in each of the areas above. That way, if something happens, you will have the needed copies of deeds, wills, and more so that you and yours are protected from bureaucrats and other officious types of all sizes and shapes.

Finally, test the system. I have been bitten before by things that should have worked, but did not. Be as prepared as possible.

I love the idea suggested earlier this week on thumb drives. They are getting much larger in capacity, smaller in size, and less expensive; and, make a handy way to carry important electronic files with you. They even can be hidden easily against theives and such during an emergency.

Insurance, be it provided through work or by you, is something that people often don’t want to think about. The amount is given thought, but the beneficiary is often something avoided. Word of advice: it matters, and if there is reason to change the beneficiary because of marriage, divorce, or some other major (or minor) change, then do it right then — not later. Later may never come, and it ends up screwing over innocent people and causing a lot of grief, pain, and just plain stubbornness to get put right. Make multiple copies of those numbers and any critical documentation that they can ask for later.

A will is critical, I don’t care your situation. Do NOT give strangers — or worse yet — the government control of you or your estate. I’ve had a will since I was a teenager (or maybe even younger) because of some property and other circumstances). While you often can draw up a will yourself, some states do require that a lawyer do it (or did, hope that bit of workfare got shot down or withdrawn everywhere). You can save some time and expense if you work with a lawyer by drawing up as much as possible ahead of time. Just be careful about using old language or forms: my first will was drawn up by a lawyer who was also my Sunday school teacher, and I used an old form. When he read the “having no legitimate children” part of what I had drawn up, he fixed me with a glance and asked if I had something I needed to tell him???

You need to have a power of attorney, power of attorney for healthcare, and a living will/declaration in states that support/require same. Have them all, and talk with the people who hold them. Again, do not give control of yourself to strangers or government, for they will neither know your wishes or care about them.

Nor should this be just anyone. To be honest, none of my blood hold them, for the people that the state would look to are people I do not trust with same. The reason I don’t trust them is that both Dad and I tested some people, and the person I had hoped I could count upon failed every test that came their way. Since blood family was not up to the task, I turned to my “real” family, those that I have chosen as being more than blood to me. If you have no family, go to the family you chose and find a true friend.

As for how I want to die, to steal from Bored Of The Rings I would really rather my death be quick, painless, and someone else’s. That not being likely, and my next preference being rather hard on the partner who is left behind (third is being shot at age 142 by the enraged father of an 18-year-old female), I will take what comes. Since whatever you plan for doesn’t happen, I have planned for cancer, extended illness, etc. Should such come, all I can say is hospice and home. My executors know this, and I know that they will make me as comfortable as possible. What fate awaits, who knows, but I have planned for those I deem the worst.

Nor does it stop there. Copies of the various POA’s and advance care guidance are on file with my doctor, the urgent care place, and the local hospital as well as with those who hold the power. Given the bureaucratic efficency of the local hospital, I tend to keep an extra copy or three around as they seem to need it each time (and to ungarble basic info in my file, but that is another story — great care, horrid administration). Another thing on file with all is an emergency contact/notification list. It asks them to contact the following people in the following order if I come in in bad shape for whatever reason. I also have those lists with several key people at work, so that if I go down on the job for whatever reason, they know who is my doctor, who needs to be notified, and other critical info (allergies, blood type and blood transfusion guidelines, etc.). Keep that notification list updated for all too as numbers and such change.

Rational Preparedness, Part 9: Packs, Cans, & Protection

Originally (?) post at Blackfive, reposted here in case I can’t recover my preparedness archives.

Continuing what has become both a repost and a bit of an expansion of some previous preparedness posts. You can find an archive of all of them here, and I would also urge you to go back and read the “fundamental” posts and — especially — the comments here, here, and here; and the post on walking home and the looking after yourself post. The post on room kits is here. The next post was actually a two-fer looking at car kits and power. Yesterday’s post is actually several posts, combined into one looking at packs, snivel gear, and more. Today’s post is another several combined into one.

Disasters come in all sizes and shapes. Some can be shrugged off, and others can and do require a great deal of effort. While my preference is to stay put if at all possible, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, you may find yourself moving out on shank’s mare. When that happens, how do you take your world with you, especially when it may not be a paved road or even a path you have to follow?

The simple answer is as old as most of recorded history: you put it on your back. This limits what you can carry, but you can get a surprising amount out that way. I have my big pack for big things:

LpackAnd I have smaller packs for smaller things and smaller people:

SpacksNow, I have these because I love hiking and camping, and because of work. The big pack was bought for the former, and the smaller pack for the latter. Why on Earth would I need a pack for work? Simple, when doing trade shows you need to carry out each night the truly valuable stuff, lest it disappear. The pack was the easiest way to do this, and it also tended to draw less attention from thieves and muggers than the fancy cases used by others. It also could be used for any hiking or climbing I got to do whilst on such trips…

Now, the large pack is not fully packed as shown here. There are many things, such as sleeping bags, that should not be kept compressed. I have all of my gear in one area, so that in an emergency I can pack it very quickly. The paper you see is a note to myself on some items, including where to find them. Things that can be packed ahead of time are, and many are packed in add-on pockets already in place. I like the add-on packs and pockets as they give a great deal of flexibility, and they give you additional options for caching and flat-out ditching. I have a post here talking about snivel gear and such that goes in the pack.

The short version is that I have shelter, light, food, water, means to get more potable water, comfort gear, some clothes, comfort gear, and means for defense and hunting. The load-out will vary based on the disaster at hand. By swapping out add-ons and such, the conversion can take place very rapidly if need be.

The smaller packs are for smaller emergencies and smaller people. In any disaster, everyone must pull their weight, from the eldest present to the youngest. Given that not everyone can carry a 50-100 pound pack, have some around that are appropriate for the others involved. As I said before, I use these for other things, so make yours multitask as well. Be creative, and give the items as much fun use as possible.

Small kits hold small amounts of materials, and will get you by short term. If you are worried about longer term issues, from severe winter weather cutting you off from the world to someone doing something really nasty, you need a bit more tucked away. One of the best means of doing this are paint buckets.

Cank1Paint buckets are for all practical purposes air and water tight when sealed, hold a large volume, and have many, many uses. They can store items, they can store liquids, and they make handy-dandy field expedient toilets as needed. Their use is limited largely by your imagination.

I use them for larger kits and bulk storage (and when brewing beer). There are some kits I have done in them that contain somewhere on the order of a hundred different items. Others serve as hygiene kits, holding 12-24 vacuum sealed (to reduce bulk) rolls of toilet tissue, tampons, toothbrushes, and other such items. Still others hold bulk packages of textured vegetable protein, salt, baking soda, and other food. They are easy to carry, easy to transport, easy to store, and have at least a 20 year shelf life if kept in cool, dry places. Line one with about three garbage bags, cut several layers of cardboard for a seat, and you have a field toilet. Once opened and used, they can then be used for other purposes, such as hauling water or other materials.

Do I have all of this here at the lair? Not hardly. You see, one of the things I have done is tuck some of these items away at other locations, ones that I am likely to head to or by if I have to bug out in an emergency. That way, if the disaster hits while I am out or away, I still have options. They also provide the people I care about a core around which to build their own preparations. If I am home and have to bug out, it gives me flexibility in choosing what to take.

Which leads us to the concept of staging. When planning a bug out, plan it for several levels. If there is time, I am going to load as much as possible into my vehicle. In fact, I am going to try to take it all with me. If the vehicle dies or there is another problem, I am prepared to switch to a bike and proceed on with all that I can. When the bike fails, then I am on foot and reduced to what I can carry on my back.

Remember also that the ability to move long distances as quickly as possible is often a key to surviving any disaster. Having as many modes short of walking greatly improves your odds, so try to figure out how to give yourself as many options as possible. For example, there is a rental center almost next door. If time permits, I would look at renting a truck and trailer. Load as much as possible in the smallest truck I can get, get the vehicle(s) up on the trailer, and bug out. If something happened to the truck, then pare down to the vehicle(s). When something happens to the vehicle(s), go to motorcycles or bikes. If something happens to them, try to find a horse. Only as a last resort should you go to shank’s mare.

Plan ahead for this, decide in advance what will get taken, and what will get left at each stage. If you have caches elsewhere, it makes that decision process much, much easier. The more you plan, the better off you are going to be. So, plan for the worst and hope for the best.


I promised more on rational preparedness, and it is time to deliver. The questions I get asked the most that have not already been addressed come down to one topic: personal protection. There are two main topics: guns and gas masks.

I am going to take the easy one first, gas masks. No, I don’t think you need to go get a gas mask right now. There. Easy. Happy? The reasons why are fairly simple. Gas masks work great if you have warning with enough time to put them on before you are exposed. It is doubtful that the terrorist are going to give warning, so the utility of a gas mask is questionable.

In the interests of full disclosure, yes I do have one. It was given to me by an acquaintance when I visited them on a regular basis, as they happened to live next to U.S. Government repository for nastiness. We probably needed MOPP gear, but he had the mask and it made him feel better for me to have one too. Not sure if the canisters are still good or not, but it is somewhere in my closet.

What to do if there is a warning and you don’t have a mask? Simple, according to government sites and experts: take a tight-weave t-shirt, get a double thickness, and put it over your nose and mouth. It is not as good as activated charcoal and layers of micron-level filters, but it will get quite a good bit including – I am told – most biologicals.

If you look at the odds and types of threats, the likelihood of same, and do a cost-benefit analysis and decide differently, knock yourself out. Don’t want to spend that much? There are escape hoods that are much more reasonably priced and will do in a pinch. They are even good for travel in case there is a fire at the hotel or other location.

Now we get to the nitty gritty and the thing that will upset most people: guns. The upsetting part is that I am going to say up front that most people should not go buy a handgun.

Unless you are going to take the time to buy the gun, get instruction on proper use and safety, and practice with it on a regular basis, please don’t get a handgun. If you are like people I have met over the years and go get one, load it, and put it on the bedside table, please never invite me to your house.

“I got my gun today!”

“You did? What type?”

“I got a Frick 9mm. I’ve got it loaded an up on the bedside table. Want to see it?

“Well, how does it shoot?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t shot it yet.”

“Really.” (Oh bleep. This guy is an accident waiting to happen, and I don’t want to be the accidental death) “When are you scheduled for the range and lessons?”

“Oh, I haven’t done that yet. Don’t know when I will.”

“Oh.” (Wonder if I can take out a policy on his wife, kids, and dog?) “But you have it loaded and ready to shoot?”

“Yeah! I will smoke any intruder that comes in.”

“Since you haven’t shot it, how can you be sure that it is accurate?”

“Oh, the sights are good, and everyone tells me it is the most accurate pistol on the market.”

“The sights probably are good, but without being sighted in how can you be sure that where you aim is where you will hit?”

“Oh, its accurate and it will hit where I aim!”

“Riggghhhhtt.” (Can you take out insurance on other people’s possessions?) “Well, then, what type cleaner did you use on it?”

“Oh, it was clean as a whistle when I bought it.”

“Oooookay.” (Wonder if I can take out a dismemberment or death policy on him?) “You didn’t check to be sure there was no grease in the bore or receiver?”

“No, should I?”

Okay, you get the drift here and the truly scary thing is that this is close to a real conversation or three I have had. This is a perfect example of a firearms accident waiting to happen, and I tend not to go back to these people’s houses. People like this give responsible owners a very bad reputation. This is also the type person who sticks the gun down the front of their pants and eliminates future contributions to the gene pool.

If you do want a pistol and are willing to be responsible and do it right, here is the way to go. Go to a reputable gun store. To find one, talk to those who do shoot and get recommendations. Try different guns, find one that fits your hand and has the things you need, such as stopping power, ease of use, good skull sweat in the design, etc. Also, keep in mind that no one pistol is going to be the best thing for all situations. Try them on a range, this is something good gun stores are happy to do. Most shooting ranges will rent pistols to you or let you try a variety of rentals for the price of one if you are pistol shopping. Once you have done your shopping and research, then buy what works best for you.

Once you have bought, then take the gun to the range and get with the range master/certified instructor. They will help you learn the pistol, clean it before using it (you need to get a kit with the gun), and teach you all you need to know. This may take more than one lesson, though a lot of range and safety basics can be covered during the try-them stage. Then practice, practice, practice. You need to do a lot to get used to the pistol and to break it in. You then need to go at least once a month to maintain your proficiency.

Unless you take a full day at the range once a month, maintaining is about all you will do. To give you an idea, I used to fire around 500 rounds per weapon per month when I was semi-serious about shooting. That was simply to maintain, not to necessarily improve – though I took any advancement I could get.

Rather than a pistol for home defense, I tend to recommend a shotgun. If there is a situation, real or imagined, the adrenaline flows. Your hands shake, your heart hammers, your breath comes in gasps, and none of these things is conducive to pinpoint accuracy. Take a look one day at the statistics for gunfights, and see how many shots are fired at very close range, and how few (if any) hit the target(s).

A shotgun makes up for that with lots of bullets, called shot. Get some number one buck, or even some number two shot and it will do the trick. Lots of pellets with punch to do what you need done.

The trick is, also, that you need to shoot the shotgun at a range as well. That way, you can see the damage that will be done. You will know what it is going to do to your home, which is tear the holy hell out of it. Even though you can get rounds that won’t penetrate a wall, they are still going to tear up the things in that room where you shoot and the wall.

This is a good thing. It means that you are not likely to use it unless you have a clear target that really needs shooting. You are not likely to shoot the spouse, the kids, the dog, the cat, the bird, or a shadow. If you do have to shoot someone or something, you are going to do it right to spare the rest of the house.

Two other quick points:

First, I do not believe in trigger locks or locking guns away. This is dangerous, far more dangerous than you think.

Second, teach your kids properly about guns. Do NOT traumatize them so that they never want to touch one; that is your psychosis and should not be put off on them. Teach them responsibly and well, be it with an Eddie Eagle program or some other. My parents taught me from a very early age, about 3 if I remember correctly, that guns were not toys. I knew not to touch one unless I was going hunting or to a range. I knew what they could do and would do if not handled properly. Doesn’t mean I did not make mistakes, just that the mistakes were controlled and knowledge applied to the seat of learning as needed. Do thou likewise, as an educated child is far less likely to do something stupid simply because you were stupid and did not teach them properly.

Final thought of the day: the choices you make are yours. Live with them and take responsibility for them. No one else is responsible for your decisions, for what you do, or what you do not do. You and you alone are the master of your fate.

Short and sweet, you do need lists. You need the lists so that everything gets done, when it should, and you are not caught short. Lists can help ensure you have a can or bottle opener to deal with all the cans and bottles.

You also need communications. I heard this morning as someone pushed cell phones as great for emergencies, and they are just that. When they work. All too often, natural and man-made disaster tend to overload or take out the cell phone system, so don’t rely on them alone. Spend a little bit and get some good walkie talkies. They can and do come in handy for non-emergency situations, and are worth their weight in gold in an emergency.

Rational Preparedness, Part 8: Bugging Out, Snivel Gear, More

Originally (?) posted at Blackfive, reposted here in case I can’t recover my preparedness archives.

Continuing what has become both a repost and a bit of an expansion of some previous preparedness posts. You can find an archive of all of them here, and I would also urge you to go back and read the “fundamental” posts and — especially — the comments here, here, and here; and the post on walking home and the looking after yourself post. The post on room kits is here. Yesterday’s post was actually a two-fer looking at car kits and power. Today’s post is actually several posts, combined into one.

In an ideal world, we would be able to ride out disasters large and small in our homes. Yet, there are many things natural and man made that can oblige us to leave our castles – sometimes in a hurry. The trick to getting out with all that truly matters is a small amount of pre-planning and an equally small amount of preparation.

As I’ve noted in past articles, I keep my emergency gear in Rubbermaid boxes with snap lids. Boxes are nice because they can be easily moved and keep things together. The type of box is far less important than simply having the supplies in some form of easy to move and stack containers.

This is a major part of the pre-planning I mentioned, because if you do have to evacuate, it is easy to gather up all the boxes and have the emergency supplies packed in a hurry. The other part is to take the time and have the truly important stuff like insurance papers, documents, and other critical items in an equally easy to move firesafe or similar box. Remember, if it is an emergency you are not going to have the time to go hunting around for everything, so plan ahead and have it all together and easy to move.

When and if you ever need to evacuate, you have your family, you have your boxes, and all you have to do is grab the travel gear and go. Easy to pack, easy to do.

Yet, there is one more bit of thought that should go into this. Plan on what to do if you can’t use a vehicle.

The fact is, I can think of several natural disasters that could occur around here that would eliminate my being able to use a vehicle or to use it for very long. Consider also that Big Brother Government at any or all levels may try to force you into busses or such, or just plain block your way. So, plan your evacuation gear with the idea of staging in mind.

Staging is simple. In this case, you have the emergency gear (food, flashlights, tools, etc., see previous posts in this category) in boxes and ready to go. You load it, load the travel gear and truly important stuff, and go. Yet, you need to be prepared to abandon the vehicle and take the truly critical things with you.

To do this, invest in a good knapsack or three and/or a good backpack or two, along with some basic camping gear. Both items should have a waist/hip belt to help carry the load, and be as roomy and as rugged as possible. I have both, and both came from REI. I used my knapsack at trade shows and other events where I needed to haul stuff in and out for security purposes each day, and it also meant that I had the knapsack with me in case I got the chance to go hiking.

The packs and gear go into the vehicle with you, so that if you have to leave the vehicle, you can then winnow down the emergency gear even further, put it in the packs, and continue on.

Yesterday, I gave a quick overview on bugging out and the need to be prepared to do it in stages. There are many circumstances that can require one to abandon your vehicle, from it dying to officious orders. Be prepared for it, and be prepared to make the best of it no matter the circumstances.

A large part of my philosophy of life is not merely to survive, but to survive with comfort and style. Yes, I can still go out with very little and get by, but why do so if you can avoid it? Also, the fact is that if you are going out as a family that not all the family members are going to be able to handle that, especially children and the elderly. Think ahead a bit, and be prepared.

At a minimum, you are going to want shelter and warmth: some form of dining fly or cover that can be put up, a tent, a means of cooking, sleeping bags and ground cloths for all, and some food and water. This is indeed a lot, but there are ways to double things up a bit.

For example, that dining fly can be made out of one or more of the groundcloths. If you go for larger groundcloths, you can have just a couple handle the needs of all. You also can get five or more people in a three-person tent in an emergency.

On the tent, get a good one that is roomy, very light, and can be set-up with out stakes and such as needed. This lets you set-up anywhere from the fields to the floor of a gymnasium as needed. You cover all the bases, and ensure that you don’t have to accept official hospitality when that hospitality is a problem waiting to happen.

Individual sleeping bags are a must, in my opinion, though two can share one in a pinch. The other thing to consider with the bag is a self-inflating pad to go with it. Again, field or floor, it will provide some much needed comfort for little room and weight.

Cooking gear should be light, simple, and easy to fuel and use. Go to a good camping/hiking store and check the wide variety out. I actually have a couple of different systems that I have obtained over the years. My favorite is a two-burner system that lets me heat food and water at one time, yet you can use just one burner as needed. It is light, rugged, and reliable. I also have a single-burner system, and I even have my old-fashioned tripod stove, which uses standard propane torch cylinders both as fuel and one leg. I will bug out with all of them, but am prepared to stage down to just one of them as needed. The excess also gives me trade goods and bribes along the way.

I also have a set of light, rugged, and nice pots for use. I couldn’t quite afford to go all titanium, but was able to get some. I have a small set of cooking tools, again light and compact, and I have some other basic snivel gear that will help get me by.

Water is an important consideration, and I strongly recommend using some of the Camelback systems in addition to water bottles. Make at least one of your water bottles a water purification system, such as the Exstream systems, and I also carry a stand-alone water purification system. These are not just useful in the wilds, but, sadly, are often very much needed at refuge centers and the like as well.

I also keep on hand some camping food, so that I can eat without hunting or foraging as I go. If you are with a family or group, this is going to be a very important consideration. The newer freeze-dried and irradiated food will keep for years, so it is not a bad investment. The other thing I keep on hand, and eat and replace, are things like jerky. Allow me to also highly recommend the small bottles of tobasco and the like. Trust me on this, field or refugee center, the food will need all the help it can get.

This may seem like a lot to have, but remember that I also used to camp a good bit and want to get back to doing it again one day soon. Some of the gear is good to have no matter what.

There are two other important considerations to keep in mind.

One, have kids carry a pack with their own sleeping bag, a small first aid kit, some jerky and trail mix, and a small bottle of water. This will not be a problem for even small children, and may make a huge difference to them. It gives them a stake in things, a sense of responsibility, and it takes a load off you, literally. If you are in a group, spread the load as much as possible on the snivel gear.

Two, be prepared to cache things as you stage down, and if possible have pre-selected positions for such. You want to be able to hide valuables or other things you can’t take with you if you do stage down, so that if possible you can recover them later. Also, you are not going to be allowed to take anything that might conceivably be a weapon (nail clippers anyone?) into a refugee area and you sure don’t want to carry real valuables in either. If you turn them in to the authorities, I would not plan on getting them back, so think ahead and plan what and how you will do. Look at probable evacuation routes and figure where you might store things as needed.

For example, I know where nature or terror could take out two critical bridges on my prime paths out of here. I also have some idea where I might could cache some items for later use because I am familiar with those routes. Plan ahead just a bit, and it will make things much easier if you ever have to do them.

A final thought is that the snivel gear not only gives you comfort, it gives you trade items as well. You can trade parts of it for rides, for shelter, or more. If you have excess gear, you can and will find a use for it.

Going back to yesterday, another recommendation I will make is to look at Load Bearing Vests in addition to knapsacks and packs. These give you additional carrying capacity, and can keep truly critical items (ammo, medicine, emergency rations) on you no matter what. There are many around, and even sporting vests can serve for this in a pinch.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and take what comes. Survival with style and comfort is the ultimate revenge against nature or man.

I know many of you are rolling your eyes and that there are private comments aplenty about getting backpacks and camping gear. That is your choice, but I will make just a couple more suggestions.

One, for crying out loud get the knapsacks with waist belts for your kids. The amount of books they have to haul around at, to, and from school these days is ridiculous and the resulting back damage beyond the pale. There are some with both waist belts and wheels, but before getting one with wheels try wearing one for a while. I did, and promptly donated it to charity with an apology to the charity. Those wheels hurt and can do damage if you use it as a real pack.

Two, even if you don’t camp or even hike in the park, get some decent rain gear for your kids. Gortex and other delights are wonderful, lightweight, and can even be warm. Be sensible and get some, for that type stuff always comes in handy with kids no matter where you live.

Three, get some decent walking shoes or boots for them too. Boots can be stylish these days, and will come in handy for some afterschool or other types of activities. Good walking shoes or boots come in handy no matter what.

Four, consider the same for yourself. Face it, the kids can probably outhike and outwalk you anyway if they are over 6 years of age, but having some decent footware handy makes it less a crushing defeat than otherwise.

To stay or go is your choice, but remember that good shoes, good gear, and good clothing can make a difference no matter what.

In all my writing on practical preparedness, I failed to identify one of the most basic and needed preparations simply because it never truly occurred to me that it needed mentioning. Yet, it does because it is always the obvious that is missed.

Remember that a disaster need not be man made, and that no matter the cause one thing can almost always be assured: you will have to deal with bureaucracy. It is in the nature of natural disasters, and keep in mind that terrorists are here to hurt us, not help us by eliminating red tape, bean counters, and bureaucratic inefficiency. Indeed, if they truly wanted to hurt us and our way of life, they would have already detonated a bureaucrat bomb to increase bureaucracy 100 fold. Hmmmmmm. You don’t think…

Interesting speculation aside, you are going to need certain things no matter the disaster. You are going to need identification; you are going to need insurance numbers and related; you are going to need prescriptions and prescription information; and, you are going to need ready cash/valuables. These are things that need to be on you, and on others, during and after any disaster.

First, let’s look at who needs what. All adults need on them – not in a bag or other item that can be lost or stolen, but on them – a “master” set of documents. Given that I know far too many adults who are not nearly as responsible as some of their children, have at least one other member of the party have a master set as well.

Second, what are the needs of each master set? Easy. You need copies of each person’s drivers license and passport if they have one; a photograph or a good copy of a photograph of each person in the party; copies of critical pages of insurance records or all relevant insurance numbers, along with name of company, agent, toll free numbers, etc.; copies of bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and such; and it is not a bad idea to have copies of deeds, titles, or other relevant records in a reduced form. Each person should have a set of documents pertaining to them on them, for use and/or identification. In this way, you have every bit of information that red tape is likely to require.

Third, it is a good idea to have prescription medicine and copies of all pharmaceutical and eyewear prescriptions. This documents that you do indeed need and why you use them, and allows you to obtain replacements as needed. Remember, the odds are that you are going to have to prove a legitimate need in order to obtain medicines and the like, and that the natural tendency is going to be that you don’t need them unless you can provide overwhelming evidence. That is just the nature of the beast, and it has been seen many times in many disasters.

In an emergency, if your pharmacy is nearby and if you have time, get fresh refills before you head out. Your pharmacist is likely to be most helpful on this. Also keep in mind that even if you have to pay full price, it will be worth it and you can always charge it.

Fourth, have cash and credit cards in these packs. Use the credit cards as much as possible, but keep in mind that in an emergency many places will only take cash. My recommendation is to have a variety of bills and to spread things out. Never flash a large roll, things are bad enough without inviting attacks or otherwise making the kids hope that the milkman really was their real father by acting the fool. In fact, it is a good idea to spread things around the party, so that even the baby is carrying something. That way, no matter what, the odds are that some of it will be missed if things truly hit the fan. Having the numbers and the toll-free numbers also means that you can cancel the cards as soon as practical if they do get lost or stolen.

Another thing to consider in addition to cash is to have some other commodity on you. Gold coins come in a variety of sizes, are easily hidden, and readily exchanged for goods or money the world over. High-end jewelry can be used the same way. Think about it, think practical, and then act.

Now, this seems like a lot, but it really is not much more than is recommended for any traveler. Each of my suitcases has a page condom or two filled with this type of information, including copies of power of attorney and advanced healthcare information and directives. That is another thing you should have: blood type, allergies, and other critical information. That way, if things go really badly for you, the information is there for first responders and treatment facilities. I still wear a set of dog tags just for this purpose.

Make this a part of your normal travel planning, and make it a part of your disaster preparedness planning as well. The more you plan and prepare, the better off you are if things do go wrong, be it weather or man. The motto applies to us all: Be Prepared. And remember the wolf’s motto: That which you plan for, never happens. So plan for the worst, hope for the best, and take what comes.

Rational Preparedness, Part 7: Car and Power

Originally (?) posted at Blackfive, reposted here in case I can’t recover my preparedness archives.

Continuing what has become both a repost and a bit of an expansion of some previous preparedness posts. You can find an archive of all of them here, and I would also urge you to go back and read the “fundamental” posts and — especially — the comments here, here, and here; and the post on walking home and the looking after yourself post. The post on room kits is here. Today’s post is actually a two-fer looking at car kits and power.

What do you do if a hose develops a leak in your car? If you get stuck? Stranded? Are you prepared to deal with everyday life, much less a disaster, if you are out and about in your car?

Below is part of the gear I have tucked away in my car. It is only part because I got tired and lazy, and refused to haul up any more to photograph it. This gives you a good idea and basis on which to build. Here you can see a means to inflate a tire or anything else that can be blown up, pull myself out of a ditch, fix minor mechanical problems, and bug out if needed.

Believe it or not, this all fits in a very compact area, and with it I can handle most things that happen. A small pack that has some food, a compass, and other small items gives the ability to leave the vehicle if necessary. But, most things are designed to let me keep mobile in the vehicle.

Notice the collapsible water jug in the mix. Remember the first question? Let me tell you what some people I know did. The hose went out in the middle of nowhere, and they made it to the side of the road safely. A rag helped dry the hose off, and reinforced tape allowed a temporary patch to be made. They then used a collapsible jug to get water from a nearby creek, refilled the radiator, and made it to where they could do a proper repair. What could have been a real problem was turned instead into a minor inconvenience and a good story.

I have managed to get stuck a couple of times over the years, and so have a come-along tucked away. In place of steel cable, I bought the strapping from a cargo parachute used to drop heavy things. This is just as strong as cable, takes up less room, and cost far less. The bonus was getting twice the length for less than half the cost of half the length. The come-along has also come in handy for moving objects out of the way or off of things.

The tool kit should be obvious, and good small kits are not expensive these days. I do recommend putting in some hose clamps and such as they come in handy. Cord or rope do as well, as does some wire. Get heavy duty jumper cables, they are worth the extra money. With these things, minor problems remain that, and not something that keeps you stranded and dependent on strangers and/or the authorities.

I have two first aid kits, as each has different things inside. This gives me options and flexibility in an emergency, and helps ensure that at least one will be available when needed.

The pack not only allows me to bug out, but also to stay put if needed. It has an emergency blanket, an Exstream water purification bottle, a day’s worth of dried food, compass, light, and such. It is mostly empty, however, so that I can add to it things from the car that might be needed. With it and its contents, I can survive a great deal and have options as to staying or going.

There is a folding shovel for dealing with a variety of situations. I can dig myself out, dig a latrine, or even make a quick shelter if needed. There is a canvas tarp to provide extra cover if needed, along with smaller stuff to provide comfort. I have a small fabric cooler as well, both for unplanned shopping and to provide an insulated container if needed in a real emergency. The axe and knife come in handy as well.

There are some canvas bags I picked up at trade shows in there too. They come in handy for hauling things, and I would point out that one that is waterproofed as a beach bag also makes a handy container for transporting liquids.

There are a few other goodies, including road flares, but you get the idea. So, what’s in your car?

Rational Preparedness: Power

What, did you think I was going to miss something this obvious? The great blackout gives ready fodder for the mill, especially when you have reporters and anchors on network news talking about how ill prepared they were. The fact is, a power outage does not have to be the end of the world, just a mere inconvenience to those who are prepared.

There is already talk about lawsuits, who let this happen, and such, but lost in all the blather is the simple fact that it is up to each and every one of us to be prepared. It is not up to the government to take care of us, it is not up to the power company, nor is it up to anyone else. It is up to you to be prepared. This goes double if you or yours have a critical need for electricity, such as for medical equipment.

First off, you should always have at least one flashlight in the home with batteries changed out every six months. I have absolutely no sympathy for those caught without during this last blackout. Good flashlights are not that expensive, and you can get so-so quality lights for almost nothing. Personally, I recommend and use Hubbell brand/HubbelLite because they are well designed, much brighter than the average flashlight, and about as rugged as they come. They can even be used in some hazardous environments. Yes, they are a little pricey at close to $20.00 each, but well worth it.

While you should have at least one flashlight, I recommend having at least one in each room and one in each vehicle. There is no warning when the power goes out, and rummaging through the dark trying to remember where you put the single flashlight is not a fun party game. Put them someplace obvious, even if discrete, and check them periodically.

Candles can also provide light, but they are a fire hazard. If you have proper holders and take great care, candles can and will provide light and even a small amount of heat if needed. They make a great way to conserve batteries, and you can even have some fun turning the incident into a good excuse for romance with a partner, or adventure with kids. A good way to protect furniture and walls in an emergency is to use aluminum foil to catch wax, reflect light, and protect surfaces from heat.

Better than just plain candles for lighting are candle lanterns. These are sold a sporting good stores and are a wonderful gift to the camper and preparedness freaks such as myself. A candle lantern is a self-contained system that keeps the candle in a protective environment for fire safety, provides a reflector that can be used to make it directional, and a mechanism for either standing or hanging the system. The candles that go in them are multi-hour candles, so they can be used for very long stretches. The replacement candles are also fairly inexpensive, so it is not a problem to have enough candles to go 48 or so hours straight.

Because I both like to camp and because I live in an area where thunderstorms, tornadoes, and ice storms hit, I also have a good lantern. Lanterns can be a good investment and the route I chose was to go with a multi-fuel lantern. These can burn the special lantern fuel, white gas, kerosene, or unleaded car gasoline. If you have my luck with mantles, keep several spares handy.

Okay, these take care of light, now what about heating for heating food, water, and such? Easy. I have my camping stoves, and for the urban reader I also have a portable chef’s stove. The latter can be found in restaurant supply stores, online at Chef’s Club and similar outlets, or even in some department stores. It is the same thing many places use for made-to-order omelets and such on buffets, makes a nice addition to any household, and has practical uses for entertaining and such. No reason preparedness items shouldn’t be used for other things, in fact all the better.

Other heating can be problematic, but solved by things such as kerosene heaters, fireplaces, and such. To be honest, I don’t have a kerosene heater simply because the apartment comes with a fireplace. If I did not have a fireplace, I probably would have something else but to be honest I have never absolutely had to have one. The last time we had a significant power outage because of an ice storm, the place stayed fairly warm just from candles, cooking, lanterns, etc. With proper clothing, I was quite comfortable and set to the point that the people running the nearby shelter threatened to come stay with me.

Now, what about the wonders of modern life, the many electronic conveniences? If you are fortunate enough to have a gas stove, heater, water heater, etc., you may think yourself set for much of the vicissitudes, but bear in mind that many will not come on without power. Your computer, fancy phones, and other items also require power. What to do?

Again because of thunderstorms and such, I have invested in a series of real surge protectors (not talking cheap power strips here, stick a crowbar in it and get real) and UPS systems. With them in place, I can keep the command phone running including message system, keep the laptop going for quite some time (provided the laptop battery is in good shape), and even run some of the peripherals as needed. Were there other critical systems, they would have a UPS as well. I have threatened to put one on the entertainment center, but that is just because I hate resetting everything after the thunderstorms roll through. All major or expensive electronics do have good surge protection because of the storms. This is an area where the Air Force invested some significant money in a nearby facility to put all the computer cable over to fiber optic in large measure because of the thunderstorms and the repair bills from same.

If you or a loved one have critical medical equipment, call your local power company right now and find out how to get them set for priority support. There is a brief amount of paperwork (at least here), and it ensures that in an emergency you or they will get priority service. I did it for my Dad and his oxygen system, just in case.

Yet, if you have a situation where it is a matter of life or death to keep power, it is not up to the power company or the local government to take care of things, it is up to you. Get with an electrician, go to the local home store, and get a generator. Get the electrician to hook it in on a special circuit that will run the medical systems and maybe a light or two. This does not have to be expensive, especially given that a life is at stake. Splurge a little and get a larger generator and have a bit more comfort at home. Also, don’t forget to check and see if this can be deducted from your taxes because of the medical necessity.

Okay, you say, this is fine if you have your own home. What if you are part of an apartment complex, live in an apartment building, co-op, condo, or such? Well, then, work with your neighbors and the owner of the complex to go in on things together. If you do it right now and live in an affected area, you might be surprised at what people would be willing to chip in to help all. If one or two don’t want to participate, keep in mind that it is okay. Yes, they may get a free ride in an emergency, but better that than you be without just because of them.

The other thing to do is be sure you have battery powered radios and at least one battery powered television. Be sure to have spare batteries as well. This way, you can get news and information, and even have entertainment as needed. I say radios because I recommend having one boombox or similar device that many can listen to, and at least one personal radio that can clip on a belt or go in a shirt pocket to stay with you as you move around. Consider also some of the handcrank radios and related gear as they will not be totally dependent on batteries.

While it is not directly related to providing power, I do recommend keeping a few gallons of water tucked away for emergencies like this. It can be in the back of a closet or shelf, or wherever works for you. Just remember to change it out about every six months or so. With water, you can survive about anything. If you keep some food as well, remember to make it food that does not require extra pots or things that will need water for cleaning…

When you travel, also take certain precautions. I always travel with a flashlight (actually, a Hubbell and a penlight Hubbell) and some other basic gear. I prefer hotels that have windows you can open, rather than totally sealed. In this way, you need not end up like those poor people who slept outside in New York the other night rather than in the rooms they could not get to or stay in. Yes, you or your travel agent can find out about such things before you go, so take an extra 30 seconds and ask.

Also, wherever you are when the power does go out, get a light and every available container in the room and head for the bathroom. Fill up the tub(s), and fill the containers with potable water. The water may not stay on if the water supply system also looses power. It should have backup power, but as seen recently even cities that know better may not have a working system for such. The tub water can be used to flush the commode every now and then (not every time you go), and the potable can be used for drinking, making coffee or tea, etc.

Have a plan for travel and home, and follow it when needed. For an hour or two of planning, an hour or so of shopping, and less than $100.00, you can do a heck of a lot of preparation that will get you through a blackout in comfort if not style. Spend a little more and do even better. Remember, as I’ve pointed out before in the rational preparedness posts, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) go spend large amounts at once. Do it over time, take your time and shop around, and build up for emergencies.

Yes, you will end up with an investment in supplies, but that investment is returned many times over when you need it. It is not up to anyone else to take care of you or provide for you when the lights go out, that is up to you.

Rational Preparedness, Part 6: Room Kits

Originally (?) posted at Blackfive, reposted here in case my preparedness archives can’t be recovered.

Continuing what has become both a repost and a bit of an expansion of some previous preparedness posts. You can find an archive of all of them here, and I would also urge you to go back and read the “fundamental” posts and — especially — the comments here, here, and here; and the post on walking home and yesterday’s post. Today’s post was originally posted 21 June 2004.

Into each life some rain must fall, but it does not have to fall in the bedroom. That is the basic premise behind the room kits (previously discussed here) I have in each major room of the house. Huntsville seems to have a bullseye painted on it when to comes to weather, and in the two times I have lived here I have seen several tornados, heard a few more, seen a trees go down, seen a tall oak go down over a truck longways such that it looked like an oak hotdog in an F-150 bun, and seen lightening drop 20-30 feet of tree top down through the roof of my neighbor’s bedroom and through the floor (fortunately, he wasn’t home).

So, long before Tom Ridge thought it was a good idea, I started keeping some things handy. When any emergency happens, time is of the essence, so you don’t want to waste time hunting supplies whilst the outside pours in. To that end, there is latch top storage container in each room with some basics. Those usually consist of tape, tacks, brads, hammer, plastic, small first aid kit, knife or some means to cut the plastic, and some form or forms of alternate lighting. There are often other things, most often including a couple of decks of cards.

Roomk1The plastic sheeting is the central player in these kits, as everything else pretty much revolves around it. The plastic can cover electronics, furniture and more to protect it from the elements if there is a whole in wall or roof, or a window is blown out. It can then be used to patch the hole if possible. Even if there are tree parts or such in the way, you can use the plastic sheeting to block, and even to re-direct the water back out or where it will do the least damage. It can cover where the window used to be, or in the event of a man-made disaster, cover the window. The various types of tape, tacks, brads, cutting tools, and such are all there to support this effort.

Each room has its own flashlight, and each kit has chemical lights, candle lanterns, and maybe another flashlight. I want as many options as possible, for as many disasters as possible. If gas or inflammability is an issue, I have chemical lights, and my flashlights (Hubble) are designed for such environments. If long-term lighting is needed (winter storm or such), I have the candle lantern and candles along with waterproof matches. The church key gives me a bottle and can opener, and the cards a means of passing time if needed.

You will note that every kit of every type discussed this week will have one thing in common: a pencil. Pens are great and I keep them around, but pens dry up and don’t work under a lot of conditions. Pencils will work almost anytime and anywhere, and are easy to sharpen. So, there is one in every kit. I also tend to put the medicines I use or might need the most in each kit.

Now, the room kit is not designed for heavy work. It does not contain anything that will remove tree parts, pry things apart, or do other Herculean tasks. It gives you some basics to protect property, treat small ouches, and get a handle on things. But that is crucial because in any emergency you want to buy yourself as much quality time as possible. That time is what gives you a chance to think, to plan, and to act in a deliberate manner to meet whatever challenge has arisen, while retaining as many assets and options as possible. Especially if you have to wait on emergency crews, insurance adjusters, or others who don’t quite share your sense of urgency about the situation.

Also in each room is an emergency food kit. Also in a latch-top container, these vary but most often have textured vegetable protein in various forms, along with other goodies that vary based on what I had that would last a while and might be good. Vacuum packed coffee is in many of them, along with other “just add water” items. I also stick other things in there that might be useful, from spare keys sewing kits. If there is room, why not make use of it? These kits are not short term or pretty, but are designed for long-term storage and viability. Just in case.

Foodk1These kits are all modular for a reason. Actually, for several reasons. First, it makes them easy to store, tucked away in the back of a closet or on top of a cabinet out of sight. It provides some weather protection for the contents as well. It also makes it easy for bugging out, in that the containers are easily grabbed and loaded into a vehicle. I will discuss staging more later, but the containers give you maximum flexibility and utility. Having them in multiple locations also guarantees that if the disaster damages or destroys part of your home, at least some of the kits should survive intact.

One final note is that you will notice a lot of things in the kits are vacuum sealed. I have a food saver, and will note that it does not have to be used just for food. I have sealed up papers from my parent’s estate for storage; what I hope will be collectible items for future enjoyment or sale; and, even weapons of various types. I love my food saver system in the kitchen, but don’t let its use stop there. Think about this, and about what other things you may have that can do double duty.

Rational Preparedness, Part 5: Looking After Yourself

Originally (?) posted at Blackfive, reposted here in case my preparedness archives can’t be recovered.

I promised to post more on practical/rational preparedness after the holidays, and between the winter storms (blizzard here) and politicians giving aid and comfort to the enemy, now seems like a good time to get back into this. This was originally posted on my site 25 June 2004.

Being prepared means many different things to people, but the final step is to be prepared to take care of yourself in the ultimate terms. This means, being prepared to take care of yourself medically and against those who do not have your best interest at heart (presuming, of course, that they have hearts).

The medical really is easy to do. First aid kits can be bought almost anywhere today, in all sizes and shapes. They pay for themselves because you don’t have to have a true disaster or emergency to need them. Around some of my family and friends, all it takes is everyday life. Add to that what some of my friends and I like to do for hobbies, and first aid kits and training are a great investment. Here is my big kit as I call it, which is in addition to the bought smaller kits scattered around the home and vehicles.

Faid1It offers a wide range of basic to medium-level first aid gear and is easy to use. One thing I also keep in it are spare keys. This is because people do some interesting things, and it gives a central place to keep keys for domestic or real emergencies. One key that is about every kit is a handcuff key, an idea I picked up from a friend who used to be a medic, and it is interesting how often such a key can and does come in handy. I don’t have the high-speed drill they had to use in regards a coke bottle one time… I also make sure that it is stocked with things I know I may need, such as antihistamines and stimulants in case I am stung or have other problems. The other “big” kit is what I call my crash kit. It holds surgical dressings, gauze, tampons, and other things that come in handy if there is major trauma to deal with.

Faid2I hope that I never have to use it for its intended office, but various bits have come in handy just dealing with the scrapes, burns, and other delights of everyday life. And, yes, I did say tampons above. A corpsman pointed out to me one time a highly unofficial but very effective use for them with penetrating wounds, as well as giving one the chance to be a white knight if one is unexpectedly needed for its official office. If you have friends with teenage girls, the latter can happen more often than might be expected.

The comment posted to this post points out the fact that you do need to be able to look after yourself in other ways as well. While the author has told me that he was engaging in at least some hyperbole, the fact is that there are far too many moral and intellectual cripples our there who are serious. These are the people that will take the opportunity of a disaster or emergency to run wild. You need to be prepared for them, and to deal with them as you would any other rabid animal.

My own take is similar to Kim du Toit’s, only I am not going to say what all my preparations are right now. If someone sees me coming, some may be obvious, and some will not. To be honest, I am not going to say in part because I want anyone seeing me to wonder a bit about what I have or don’t have, who might or might not be with me and what they may or may not have, and to wonder if I have reverted to type with some friends and be moving with a screen out. Think, wonder, and run away.

Now, not everyone is going to do this, or at least not at first. If you fall in that category, you have two options: partner with someone who can and will, or look at other options for protection. I highly recommend partnering with people, as numbers and diversity of skills give you advantages. If firearms are not your thing, look at other things.

AxekThis is my hatchet or hand axe. I actually have several of them, from Dixie Gun Works, because my favored sport at Highland Games is axe throwing. Having several means that in an emergency I almost always have one to hand, and am not averse to throwing one away for good effect. These are a good investment, and I like them a lot more than the 100-things-in-one yuppie hatchets for sale.

In a true rotary impeller situation, blades come in very handy. You may need to cut, chop, and more, and a good hand axe and a good knife are crucial. For personal protection, people tend to be more afraid of getting cut than shot, so use that. If you won’t carry a gun, carry a knife, sword, or axe. For swords, while I love the katana, for ease of use and dealing with on foot, consider a Roman gladius. Also consider a bow and arrow, since the ammo is reusable or can be made with readily available resources. It has range and accuracy, relatively silent, and can do many things including getting rope or cord where it is needed.

As before, if you are going to go with only one weapon, consider a shotgun. It is versatile, effective, and efficient. One shotgun with some accessories gives you personal protection, the ability to hunt, and the ability to signal.

Whatever decisions you make, do prepare and do remember that in any emergency of any type, the only person who is responsible for you and your safety is you.

Rational Preparedness, Part 4: Walking Home

Copied from Blackfive, in case my original files can’t be recovered.

This post by Uncle Jimbo reminded me that I was way behind on some specific posting promised earlier. Yes, my site is in the process of being upgraded, and I have finally hired professionals for the task. My temporary site has also had some ups and downs, including cracking of the homepage by an AQ-linked group. Nevermind the apparent continuing DDOS/spam attack on the “old” site that has my hosting provider kvetching about excessive CPU usage… Well, enough of that. Things are finally moving in a good direction, and it is high time to start posting as promised. One of those promises was to post on practical and rational preparedness, and Jimbo’s post reminded me of the following post done a year ago September on car kits. In the interest of transparency, I am correcting some spelling and other errors as I repost. Maybe.

One of the projects I undertook this weekend was the annual car clear and re-arrange, which includes pulling out and re-doing my “Walking Home” kit that stays in the car. It is not a full bug-out kit, though it can be used for that in a pinch, but rather something designed to get me home or to help if things go bad.

I have kept something like this in my vehicles since I started driving. Not only does it make a lot of sense to be prepared, but I also used to go off into woods, mountains, and other areas off the beaten track. If something had happened, it would be up to me to get it out, get it fixed, or otherwise beat feet. While I am not in the wilds that much anymore, caca can still occureth, so I remain prepared as the best way to ensure something does not happen is to prepare for it. Most of these preparations are not obvious to anyone looking into my trunk, which has its own advantages…

The first thing any vehicle should have are some basic tools:

With what I have here, I can fix most things that are fixable outside of a shop, dig or pull my way out of problems, remove trees or other impediments, and otherwise cope with most situations. Many things pull double duty, and can also serve as camp implements if needs require. The throwing axe actually has about three uses right off the bat…

Next up are fasteners:


Fastners can also pull double duty, but I have rope, cord, wire, chains, pack webbing, and my tow rope. The latter is actually part of a cargo parachute system used to drop tanks and similar items, and so can handle about any loads I may place upon it. The snow/ice chains are technically illegal where I now reside, but I keep them anyway for emergencies, as the letter of the law will cheerfully be stretched in the face of a life-threatening emergency.

Other items include:


Plastic wrap/tarp, a canvas painters tarp, a collapsible jug, and a breath mask. Can you say waterproof and warm/cool shelter as needed? Can you say emergency window repair? Can you say being able to breathe in a dust or other storm? I knew you could, and know that you can think of other uses too…

Scrapers, tire inflator, heavy-duty jumper cables, a hat, snow salt, wiper fluid, and canvas tote bags round out the other items. With these, many car problems can be solved, I have a cover for my head as I work or hike, and the ability to go get or otherwise carry items in a comfortable manner.

Finally comes the pack. The backpack I have tucked away in the car has three major parts. The outer pocket:

contains paper and pencils, eating utensils, compass, bottle/can opener, knife, sewing kit, and locking D-rings.


The middle part:


contains food and other essential supplies. Essential supplies include a filter mask for dust or other delights, cord, and a water purifier. That brand is no longer available, but you can go find the same technology in Exstream products from Katadyn. With it, you can take water from almost any source except salt water, and drink it safely. Food includes beef jerky, sweets, salty, and even some textured vegetable protein in case the trip home takes far longer than anticipated. All the food is chosen as it will last for a year in some rather extreme temperature ranges.

The back part:


The back part contains a space blanket, foil blanket, heavy duty cord/parachute rigging, clothing, and a flashlight. Note that this is in addition to the normal car flashlight, just in case the car stuff disappears… The old film cannister contains tacks, brads, and other items that might come in handy.

Again, remember that most of this is out of sight and not taking up space in the main trunk. Modern car trunks offer a lot of places to put this and more where it can’t easily be found.

Not shown are two first aid kits, one that stays out in the open and one that is hidden with the pack, and a few other implements including several bottles half-full of water. Yes, half full so that they don’t split from heat or freezing. I am considering adding a couple of other things to the mix, most notably two siphons, one for gas and one for getting water out of containers, wells, or other such places without electrical power (I have one in the basement of the lair to get water out of the well if the power goes out). I am also considering adding this to the car:


though I would prefer something a bit more portable. Will see.

So, what is in your vehicle? Are you prepared to walk home or out if needed? For more on preparedness, remember to check out this archive and all the links.