Safecastle | One Shop For All Emergency Essentials: August 2005

Food Storage, Emergency Preparedness, MRE's, Freeze Dried Food, Water Storage, Dehydrated Food, Survival tips

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina Disaster Continues in Slow Motion, and It Is Teaching Us Lessons

A typical human tendency, or wish, is to look for dramatic worst-case events to burst upon the scene, and then just as quickly disappear to allow for heroic recovery efforts to begin. After all, that's the way it works in the blockbusters and best sellers that keep us coming back for more.

With the ongoing saga of Katrina's aftermath still relentlessly, almost silently subjugating victims on the U.S. northern gulf coast, we are reminded that real-life storylines rarely match Hollywood's edge-of-the-seat pacing.

News reporters and anchors were declaring victory over nature's forces in New Orleans even before the backside of Katrina had passed from view. They had apparently been looking for apocalyptic doomsday scenes of collapsing, wind-blown skyscrapers and towering tsunamis quickly erasing all traces of civilization at the mouth of the Mississippi. But alas, even the ancient structures in the French Quarter had stood firm against the gales, and the levee-bounded soup bowl of New Orleans seemed to have kept the waters at bay.

When the epic doom didn't materialize on schedule, well, it was almost time to pack up the microphones and satellite dishes and move on. But then ... wait, why is the water continung to rise in the city? And how could that 17th Street levee give now after the wind and rain had stopped? And how could so many people be crawling out of their houses and hovels to start looting defenseless properties even while the authorities were barely ready to start surveying the damage?

It's Getting Worse

Yes, once again, it is the seemingly anticlimactic postscript that is going to perhaps provide the most compelling part of this story.

Already it is clear that tens of thousands of people, beyond all reason, chose to hunker down and try to ride out what was being billed as possibly the worst storm ever to hit the U.S.--in the worst possible place such a storm could hit--the low-lying New Orleans metro area. Not just "people," but many of them parents with their children! ... ahh, but that's a rant perhaps best saved for another time and place.

Now, many of those people who are scrambling about, increasingly wading and even swimming about in the developing cesspool, trying to find some unguarded treasure to lay hands on, are obliviously facing dangers just as great as those the storm itself immediately presented.

Rising water--no solution to that problem in sight--and the waters carrying ever growing pollutants, contamination, toxic wastes, and even dangerous aquatic creatures ... not to mention the disease-bearing mosquitoes that are being bred everywhere. Fires breaking out throughout the city where emergency services vehicles have no chance of reaching. Gasoline and diesel fuel for emergency services are nowhere to be found. Highways out of the city one by one closing due to the waters, until now the last one is in danger of being swallowed by the flood.

Where this goes from here is anyone's guess. But this much is known:

  • Clean drinking water in the vicinty is practically non-existent.
  • Power is gone for the long-term.
  • Food and fuel supplies, communications, emergency services, and transportation are mostly memories.
  • Meanwhile, hundreds of people find themselves waiting for rescue on their rooftops, hoping not to become one the countless bodies floating down the canals that were once boulevards.
  • And of course there are countless residents and gawkers trying to get back in the city, clogging up the only passable routes in and out of the area.

The Lessons for the Rest of Us

The point of this blog is to encourage crisis preparedness throughout America. Being ready for disaster is logical, it's smart, it is increasingly the norm. But even when we get to the point when we pat ourselves on the back for being ready, we too often have been thinking in limited terms of a cut-and-dry problem and a nice clean solution. Unfortunately that potentially makes us as vulnerable as ever.

Katrina is once again teaching those of us who are listening that we need to:

  1. fully respect the power nature wields and realize that our existence within it's sphere can be fragile.
  2. respect the warnings of authorities who tell us that a danger is real and accept that we need to make responsible choices before and after a potentially disastrous event.
  3. acknowledge in our readiness efforts that we are not likely to be able to anticipate all that can happen. We must be flexible in our outlook and be prepared for the widest range of possible developments we can imagine or afford.
  4. NOT count on authorities being there for us at the moment we need them the most. In spite of all the best intentions within relief organizations, the huge scope of resources available to such agencies as FEMA, and the reassuring proximity of our local emergency response groups, the only reasonable approach in preparedness is to go forward as if you are always going to be on your own.

In very large-scale crises such as what we are seeing continue to unfold in the New Orleans area, people needlessly die. It is often a series of mistakes that puts them into that position--failing to prepare beforehand, an unwillingness to heed warnings, then panicking and being unable to use common sense in dealing with their immediate life-threatening crisis. The end looms large, as helpless, they can only hope for someone who IS prepared to miraculously appear with the means to provide salvation.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Katrina--Nat'l Weather Service: Most of the Area Will Be Uninhabitable for Weeks or Longer


1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005






New Orleans Faces Unprecedented Danger from Katrina

The people of New Orleans as well as residents throughout the region are in the crosshairs today of Hurricane Katrina, a rare, top-strength Category 5 storm. At 11am EDT, Sunday morning, August 22, maximum sustained windspeed has increased to 175mph. The storm continues to gain strength.

The storm is expected to hit land within 24 hours. New Orleans' 1.5-million residents are under a mandatory evacuation order with the possibility that this is the feared worst-case storm that has been talked about for years in that area. The city sits well under sea level and owes its existence to a series of levees that keep the waters of Lake Ponchertrain, the Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico at bay. Huge storm surges exceeding 25 feet are expected to easily overwhelm the levees if the storm maintains its current course. Rainfall of as much as 15 inches will contribute to flooding in the historic city. Major wind damage will also ensue, all in all causing catastrophic damage unless the storm unexpectedly and immediately changes course.

For those unable to escape the city and travel inland, ten refuges of last resort, to include the Superdome, have been identified. Those heading to the Superdome have been instructed to bring enough food and supplies to last three to five days.

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said he spoke to a forecaster at the hurricane center who told him that "This is the storm New Orleans has feared these many years." Nagin, speaking to the city's residents on Saturday, said, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a test. This is the real deal. Board up your homes, make sure you have enough medicine, make sure the car has enough gas. Do all things you normally do for a hurricane but treat this one differently because it is pointed towards New Orleans."

At this point in time, major escape routes exiting the city are in gridlock. Reports have it that hotels are filled up as far away as Tennessee.

Only three Category
5 hurricanes have hit the US since record-keeping began, 150 years ago. The latest was Hurricane Andrew in 1992, causing $31B in damage in southern Florida and killing 43 people.

We add our prayers to the countless others going up for the people of the city and surrounding areas.

Link to page of 19 New Orleans Live Cams
CBS Marketwatch: Katrina likely to send gasoline and natural gas prices sharply higher.

Friday, August 26, 2005

When the Lights Go Out

Another in the series of primers on threats one might consider preparing for ...

Localized power failures are not unusual. Wide-scale, far-reaching blackouts do happen as well.

Any power void of more than a few minutes changes everything. Once upon a time, folks might have thought they were ready for a power failure if they had a flashlight in the desk drawer. Of course, whether the batteries were going to work when needed was a big question mark. But most people today realize that a flashlight is barely a start.

The Big One

On August 14, 2003, the largest blackout in North American history impacted 50-million people in the northeastern US and eastern Canada. That same year, an even larger blackout struck Europe, affecting 56-million people in Italy and Switzerland.

Potential causes of power grid failure are numerous. The important thing to realize is that the right circumstances CAN bring about a fast-spreading, cascading power outage, with serious and immediate implications for the areas affected. In the space of three minutes, in 2003, 21 power plants in the US alone shut down, including nuclear plants. Restoring the power took days in some locales.

Think "paralysis" in any metropolitan blackout. People being trapped or stuck on subways, elevators, trains, highways, and in airports. Communications and commerce grinding to a halt. Security and law enforcement largely negated. Gas stations being rendered inoperable. Life-sustaining services interrupted or hindered.

Sometimes, it can get bad in a real hurry. In Cleveland, 1.5 million people quickly found themselves at risk of being without water because it couldn't be pumped out of Lake Erie.

Easy to Counter

The good news is that, on a personal or household level, it's reasonably easy to be ready to offset short-term power outages. Acquiring a suitably sized back-up generator and the installation of a transfer switch in your home is about all it takes. Most of us could get that done in modest fashion for not much more than $1000. Would the payback be worth it? If done properly, it would allow for you to continue to run your major appliances, including a furnace or air conditioner and your refrigerator/freezer. You have to decide what that could be worth.

There ARE levels of backup power readiness that are incrementally lower (or higher, depending upon your ambition) in cost as well, to include 12-volt batteries (charged in a variety of ways such as solar, hydro, or wind) coupled with an inverter. Depending upon the type and size of the charging source and the battery bank, this will allow for you to run such household items as a computer, battery chargers, TV, radio, lights, etc., without having a generator running continuously.

Steps To A Practical Emergency Power System

1. Install a Quality Backup Generator
... for short power outages, and for longer ones, assuming you have fuel. Propane is a good choice. It is delivered in bulk to your site, it doesn't deteriorate or evaporate with age, and it's piped to the generator, so you never need to handle it. Generators live longer on propane because there is less carbon buildup. An electrician will need to install the transfer switch between the utility and the generator, so your generator doesn't try to run the neighborhood, and doesn't threaten utility workers.

2. Add Batteries and an Inverter/Charger
... because the generator only supplies power when it's running, and it isn't practical or economical to run it all the time. Running just 200 watts is particularly expensive with a generator. They're happiest running at about 80% of full rated wattage. This keeps carbon build-up to a minimum, and is the most efficient in terms of watts delivered per fuel consumed. Adding batteries and an inverter/charger allows the best use of your generator. Whenever the generator runs, it will automatically charge the batteries. This means the generator is working harder, building up less carbon, and delivering more energy for the fuel consumed. Energy stored in the batteries can be used later to run lights, entertainment equipment, and smaller loads without starting the generator.

3. Add Solar, Hydro, or Wind Power for Battery Charging
... since a generator has the lowest initial cost for power back up, but they're expensive and noisy to operate, and fuel supplies could be questionable in the long run. If you anticipate power outages lasting longer than a few weeks, then solar, hydro, or wind power will save you money in the long run, and deliver a reliable long-term energy supply.

It's well worth mentioning that, beyond preparing to supply electrical power to your home, it's prudent to investigate two other utility providers. Some folks are surprised to realize that their water supply could fail in a power outage, whether it comes from a municipal system or from a well with an electric pump. Be sure to make proper accommodations such as storing adequate quantities of water or installing a hand pump for your well.

Further, if you are in a northern region and your furnace runs on natural gas, don't assume it will work for you sans electicity or even with your generator operating. You should consider that local pumping stations in the pipeline could be out of commission and therefore your gas applicances and furnace would not have the necessary fuel to continue to operate. Know that there are alternative-source furnaces or modification kits available, and there is always the old reliable wood stove that could help heat an area of your home if you have the foresight to have one installed before it is needed. Furthermore, assuming you have a generator ... electric heaters can supplement the wood stove. Without an adequate heat source, cold weather can cancel out all your best-laid plans.

Next up: Biological/chemical accidents or attacks

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Avoid the Role of Victim

Time to revisit the risks many would probably want to keep in mind when preparing for potential crises.

In "Foreseeing the Unforeseen," we encapsulated many of the major calamities you might consider in your crisis preparation activities. Remember ... insurance-industry statistics show that, overwhelmingly, natural disaster is a more probable outcome than manmade catastrophe.

Just starting out in preparedness, the best bet for many folks is to figure out how you can be reasonably ready for the worst scenarios possible in your area ... choosing from a main-course menu of: earthquake, hurricane, tornado, volcano, tsunami, blizzard or ice storm, wildfire, flash flooding, drought/food shortage, disease pandemic. Pick your poisons, then remedy them.

Manmade Madness and Mayhem

That said, in large metropolitan areas, you may decide that your priority is to initially prepare for manmade fiascos. In the 21st century, it's hard to argue with the notion that we as humans are our own worst enemy.

We recently touched on nuclear threats (Dealing with the "N" Word, Got Nukes? Be Ready to Stay Put), probably the worst of the worst-case scenarios. However, there are many other potentially ruinous events that a prudent planner would seek to mitigate. Today's post will address the first of several of these threats:

Criminal assault or trespass:

No one anywhere is immune from the ever-present risk of becoming a victim of a crime. A few common-sense preventive tactics would include:

- Choosing your friends carefully - rarely if ever fully entrusting them with knowledge of and access to your home, family, and treasures.

- If possible, work and reside in lower-crime areas.

- Do not frequent areas that are crime-friendly and certainly do not do so under the influence of alcohol or drugs when your judgment is impaired.

- Secure your home and office via robust window and door locks (and use them always). If necessary--use window bars on hinges that can easily be opened from the inside in case of fire. Utilize entry, alarm, and surveillance systems as your budget allows. Consider installing a quality saferoom if your situation warrants it. Restrict access to your keys to prevent unauthorized duplication.

- Keep your car doors locked whenever you are driving (and when you are not in the car). Whenever stopped in traffic, try to allow sufficient space in front of you to affect an escape if need be. If a firearm is leveled in your direction at close range or you are otherwise put in immediate danger in the course of a car-jacking attempt--cooperate with the assailant and get out of the car. Give up your purse and wallet as necessary and quickly get out of the vicinity. Fight if you are able to in the event of a kidnapping attempt. Respect traffic laws and fellow drivers to minimize the risk of becoming a road-rage victim. If there is any chance that the accident you are involved in was contrived, stay in your locked vehicle and use your phone to call for help.

- Be sure your children are aware of what they should do in any potential threatening situation--talk to them and assure them that IF something was to happen, there are smart ways of reacting.

- Do not be defenseless. If you are knowledgable and comfortable with it, have a firearm available in your home and readily accessible to you in case of violent criminal intrusion. Be absolutely sure that children cannot access the weapon--for instance, there are many affordable fingertip-combination handgun safes available. Also be sure that you are indeed in danger before choosing to use the gun. If you live in a conceal-carry state, get trained and apply for the permit so you can be armed away from your home. Whether at home or away, if you have a weapon available for self-defense, be fully cognizant of how to legally use it in self-defense, and be sure you are willing to do so if necessary, because hesitation on your part could very likely mean that your gun will be taken from you and used against you. There are many other non-lethal options available today that you may consider carrying such as mace and stun-guns. Self-defense training is always an excellent course of action.

- Always be aware of your surroundings. Be reasonably cautious and be alert for suspicious behavior on the part of others in your vicinity. Do not project fear or timidity ... think of yourself as someone who knows how to handle themselves in most any situation. If you are not projecting " easy victim," you may not become one.

See the NRA's "Refuse to Be a Victim" program.

Next up: "Power Blackouts"

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Attitude and Strength - Where are You Going to Get Yours?

So much of being ready for disaster and positioned to survive it--whether the crisis is personal or location-specific--is really about what is going on between the ears. Doubtingthomas introduced us to that realization in this blog's previous post, dated August 19.

As he points out, getting through trauma is more than a mental exercise--it's also about being in touch with one's own soul and with its Creator. Faith in a higher purpose and in an ultimate reward is going to always be a grand help in time of trouble. For additional perspective, please also see an earlier post: Spiritual Aspects of Preparing for Catastrophe.

The last thing I want to do is to get sidetracked and turn this blog into a theolog. We will again respectfully recognize that each of us has at least a somewhat unique view and interpretation of our place in creation. Our faith in our ability to grasp some of that higher purpose is what can become the difference between persevering and giving ourselves up to temporary madness or worse.

Preparing Your "House"

Theoutlands, one of our "Refugees" at this blog, kindly offered his view of why being prepared is important. The spiritual side of preparedness is more than about leaning on his faith to get through tough times ... it in fact provides him and his household with a basic rationale and foundation for all their readiness efforts.

Theoutlands: Staying alive to be found is a vital part of preparedness and survival, but there is so much more to it than just that. I consider "preparedness" to be a way of life, centering around the family - be it immediate, extended, or adopted.

The better a family is versed in the "basics" and the more diverse it is in abilities, the better the chances are of surviving any catastrophe.

Why plan for ill times? Personally, I can see no alternative but to plan and prepare. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, those with plans and preparations can continue their lives in relatively normal fashion during a disaster. But there is also another side.

Consider these ancient "wise sayings" ...

In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil,
but a fool devours all that he has.

The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

Those of you who have read the Old Testament book of Proverbs may recognize those lines. Part of my belief in "preparedness" stems from my religious faith. This may offend some people, but that's the way it is.

Some organizations, such as the LDS, make preparedness an integral part of church doctrines. I think this is entirely reasonable, because the Bible does talk in many places about "being ready" or "being prepared" for the future.

I've already listed two of them, above - Proverbs 21:20, 22:3, and 27:12 - since the last proverb appears twice. However, those are far from the only places where being prepared is addressed.

Genesis 41 tells the story of Joseph interpreting Pharoh's dreams of a coming seven years of abundance to be followed by seven years of famine so severe that the days of plenty would be forgotten. Joseph's plan for Egypt--given to him by God--was to store one-fifth of the harvests of the next seven years to provide for the country.

Matthew 25 tells the story of ten virgins meeting a bridegroom--five prepared well by taking extra oil for their lamps and five did not. The five who were roaming town, looking for lamp-oil at midnight, missed the arrival of the bridegroom and were left out of the reception.

Well, those are good stories, right? What's it mean to my life today? One last verse for you - 1 Timothy 5:8: If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

So there you have it - if I am aware of dangers that my family may face and do not take steps to provide for them, then I am worse than an unbeliever. So today I take steps to prepare my family because I believe that is my duty.

"Don't prep to outlast the 'troubles,' prep to not notice them."

Friday, August 19, 2005

Emotional Prepping - In the Unlikely Event ...

by doubtingthomas

(JCR - This post is again graciously provided by one of my favorite wisemen, doubtingthomas. See his previous post, "The Sky is Falling, the Sky is Falling." This gentleman is eminently qualified to discuss the topic of this current post ... I specifically asked him if he would provide his perspective on getting oneself mentally and emotionally prepared for war, disaster, or other trauma and/or how to get through such an ordeal. Read on for an insightful view through the eyes of someone who knows of what he speaks.)

How do you prepare yourself spiritually and emotionally for war?

Some would say that it is impossible. In some ways that is true, but not wholly accurate. War is not the only producer of trauma. It can be sexual trauma, getting mugged, living in a high crime area, being in a severe accident where people are killed and/or injured. In wartime, the frequency and severity of these types of events multiplies.

In general it is said that whatever living skills you take into trauma, will affect your ability to deal with it. One thing you can count on, you WILL be impacted by events out of the range of "normal" everyday living (trauma). How much you are affected depends on your ability to deal with it from that point forward.

If you take a quick look at, and view their listed coping skills, you can see that you don’t have to wait until it happens to you to prepare. These skills and suggestions are helpful to anyone, but critical to those experiencing trauma.

You might also notice an emphasis on spiritual growth and development. This can take the form you are most comfortable with. The key is to instill in yourself the notion that most of the world is not within your control. Acceptance is the key to this process.

What You CAN Control

Your reactions to events, to a great extent, ARE within your control. However, to get to a place where your reactions are not destructive to yourself or others, you need to be able to process what has happened. This is done by talking about it.

When we experience trauma, the lower part of our brain, close to the instinctual and physical reaction part of our brain, records the sights, sounds, smells, feelings of the events. If we do not find a way to move these out of the lower parts of our brain, the "triggers" of the events (what we saw, heard, smelled, felt) remain locked there. Over time, these triggers throw our brain chemistry out of whack.

We experience anxiety, depression, night sweats, nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, fear of groups of people, memory loss. The effects on our personal lives can be tragic. Lost jobs, marriages, homes, family, etc.

We end up with a neurological disorder that can be treated, but not cured. Once we get to that point, you end up like me … I need to take a cocktail of psychotropic meds everyday just to function enough to keep a job. In addition, we tend to get a boatload of stress related illnesses (heart problems, stomach problems, allergy problems, etc).

Most of the above can be avoided. Talking about these events moves them out of our lower brain to our higher functioning brain where we can process what has happened. We come to accept that our reaction to abnormal events was quite normal. If someone claims that the trauma has not affected them, they are still in denial, or worse, severely mentally disabled.

Studies are showing that young adults (17-22), surprisingly, are the most affected by trauma--especially war trauma. At a time when young adults are trying things out, experimenting, figuring out who they are and how to deal with the world, trauma, especially prolonged trauma, disrupts that process. At this point in your life, trauma may leave you developmentally paralyzed in that you have a greater risk of never getting beyond the trauma.

The skills you learn to survive war, at that age, are not very productive in a peaceful, civilian life. If you are stuck in that survival mode, your quality and quantity of life are severely reduced. You are not enjoying life, you are just surviving.

So, as trauma victims, are we doomed? No, definitely not.

We prepare our living skills to be able to deal with whatever may come our way. We accept that if nothing else, we are not God, and most of life is beyond our control. We will be able to see the best as well as the worst of mankind during disasters. We will accept our responsibilities to ourselves and families. We will move on, armed with a set of tools to still see the beauty in this life God has given us.

One of my favorite prayers is:

“God, thank you for all you have given me;
All you haven taken away from me;
And all that you have left me.”

To say those words and mean them, means you have reached a level of acceptance necessary to not just survive trauma, but to really live beyond it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

How Some Were Drawn to Prepare

This is the next article resulting from input solicited from TB2K members. (See "Crisis Preparation Advice from the Experts," the August 16 blog entry here.)

The '64 Earthquake in Alaska Reinforced the Habit

Patb: I have had my mindset of being prepared for many, many years. Starting with when I was a kid living with my parents in a railroad section town 9 miles from a highway and 45 miles from the nearest town during WW2. Couldn't get much gas and tires were impossible. So we made a trip about once a month by train to the nearest town to stock up. Of course war time prepping was a much different story.

When I got older, living somewhere else (in a town), prepping was a way of life, especially during the wintertime as we were prone to blizzards that could keep you pinned down for days on end. I'd advise people just starting out to consider the various weather extremes they could expect in their locations. That could lead to lists for various scenarios--yes, I am a list maker. Prepping for extreme weather is one of the ways to ease people into a prepping way of life.

If you camp and have the basic equipment to do so, you are already in the game. We used our camp stove, for example, to prepare meals and melt snow for water after the '64 quake in Anchorage.

My preps also came in handy about 25 years ago when my husband (may he rest in peace) was in a snowmachine accident and couldn't work for over a year. I did have a job, but wasn't bringing in much. Having something put back really helped us. I had three growing boys at the time. You never know what may come. If you have preps and don't need them, you can always use them. But, if you need them and don't have them, you could be in a world of hurt.

A Fast Evacuation Due to A Hazardous Spill

Pam811811: What got my butt into gear was a train wreck. Because of my husband's job, I we had just moved to a town where I didn't know anybody. We lived two miles outside of the small town and there was a train wreck there. The police came through our small subdivision and evacuated us within minutes. I had to leave my house with 3 small children, 2 large dogs, and a kitten. My husband was stuck at work and was not allowed to drive into the evacuation zone. At that time, we also only had one cell phone and my husband always took it to work because I stayed home with the kids.

I didn't even have an adequate diaper bag packed!! I literally had nothing but my kids and animals. I spent four hours at a park with no money and no baby formula. (Hey, I did have diapers though!) When I was finally able to go home, I stayed up until 3am packing small backpacks for everyone. These were my original "bug-out bags" (BOBs). They really weren't much. A few snacks, some water, money, clothes, just enough for a few hours or a day.

Then, I spent some time online and found out about real emergency BOBs and somewhere I found a link to a Y2K site. Boy then, I got an eye opener! Tons of information. Anyway, those of us who weren't really raised as preppers, sometimes need a personal event to knock us into gear. Well, that and GUILT! Boy did I feel like a failure when my daugher screamed at the top of her lungs when I had to give her lukewarm water out of a drinking fountain at the park. Plus she had to drink it out of a plain cup that I found under a seat in the van because I didn't have a bottle.

Surviving Severe Weather Leaves Its Mark

Idelphic: Growing up, we had a small garden and canned a bit; we also had a freezer. I always had an interest in storms. I loved to sit out on the porch and watch the rain come pounding down and to watch the lightning. After getting my Ham license, I took some SkyWarn training, and even did a bit of stormchasing. One way or the other, when you have an understanding of just how much nature's wrath can change the world around us, you realize you ought to try to do something to prepare for the worst.

But until actually going through some really tough storms, I was not actively preparing. Having lived through several hurricanes, and super storms ... I know what it means to be prepared. And to stay informed. A hurricane came through Virginia a few years ago, and took out the power at my place of employment, and it was out for 3 days ... but I missed a day since I didn't keep in touch as I should have.

With the chance of starting a new family, I've made several changes in my plan. I'm in the process of building my house, and I opted to have the area under my front porch converted into a storm room. This area, normally just filled in with dirt and trash, will be a shelter. I will add a protected storage area, and am also researching options on what I can do to create a document storage area for my family history and computer data files. I'm looking at something that will withstand fire and water. Possible other options are to increase the "safe haven" area but expanding the basement farther below what is currently built. But this will not be done until after the keys have been passed to me.

Life's Lessons Included Being Shot in the Head

Bookworm1711: I learned to prepare when I lived in a large inner city. I was the apartment manager for a short while. I saw first-hand the need for personal security. I put double-cylinder jimmyproof deadbolt locks on all doors of my apartment, interior and exterior. I put extra long wood screws to anchor the door hinges and strike plates into the wall studs rather than just the door frame. I put locks on all windows. I reinforced closet doors the same way, and put 3/4" plywood on the interior of the entrance door and even the closet doors. I installed one-inch deadbolt locks on the closet doors. Thirty-five years later when the apartment building, long abandoned, was demolished, my closet doors were still unbreached!

I moved out into the country in 1975, where I thought the crime rate would be low. My farmhouse was broken into twice in the first few months I lived here. I then repeated the security preparations in the country that I had used in the city. Also, as I remodeled the house, I tried to "super-insulate" it. That pays off now with heating bills one-half to one-third those of similar size, even newer homes.

The first winter I lived in the country our power went out for nearly two weeks because of an ice storm. I have since made preparations to survive such emergencies with no problems. We keep enough food on hand as a normal procedure to last a month or more to avoid frequent trips to the grocery store, except for fresh milk which we buy more often. We just stock the normal things we eat. My wife watches for the sale items, and we stock up on those. We have a relatively local food outlet that encourages buying food by the case at very good prices. Buying food there saves money, and makes long term storage preparation easy. My wife dates the cans as we buy them, and always uses the oldest stock first.

We took the threat of Y2K very seriously, and are now glad we prepared as well as we did. Even before Y2K I was shot in the back of the head by an unknown assailant wielding a 9mm handgun. I was knocked to the ground in the muddy back parking lot of the high school where I taught. I was off work for nearly five years. We are glad we had prepped as well as we did, as it helped to survive the loss of income for that long. The person who shot me was never caught, even though a couple of teachers arrived on the scene as the crime was concluding and followed the assailant's vehicle. The assailant escaped, abandoning the vehicle, which turned out to be stolen, so there was no clue to who the assailant was. Interestingly, one of my best students had warned me three weeks before the event that I "was going to be killed." The student told me he hoped I could get a different job quick at another school. The student was not joking, but I took it with a grain of salt.

While off of teaching I spent the (unpaid!) time preparing a major Bible reference book which has sold well over 40,000 copies in its printed book form. It has been distributed far more widely (perhaps 180,000 copies a year) in its software format. In those difficult times I was encouraged by Psalm 34:4-- "I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." We learned to live very frugally, I may assure you. We did not accrue any debt.

When the power goes off we have no water, since we have an electric well. We have since installed an old-fashioned high-quality hand-pump like farms and rural public parks used to have. We have also stored filtered water in emptied half-gallon clear plastic Hawaian Punch bottles or jugs for drinking needs. Since our kitchen is all-electric, the problem of how to cook when the power is out has presented a problem. We have recently purchased kerosene lanterns that are designed to heat food on top, and can safely be used indoors. For outdoors, we have a Volcano Stove that works just fine. Had a full turkey yesterday cooked in the Dutch oven on top of the Volcano Stove, which uses charcoal bricquets for fuel. We decided to "test" our preps to see if it could really be done. Saved a bit on the electric bill by not using the electric oven. The rest of the meal--potatoes and vegetables, etc., cooked at the same time on the Volcano Stove. The meal came out perfectly and sure tasted good.

An Ice Storm Can Teach ... or Not

Ruckmanite: Back in '98, we got slammed with an ice storm that hit Sunday night, and by early Monday morning, there was no power and 8" of ice-encrusted snow, with more coming. I made it to Home Depot and bought the second-to-last 5KW generator, a few plugs, and a gas can. They were out of power and running on backup. Thank God the phone lines and Visa was still working. I ran to gas up the genset and extra can, and my big van for backup fuel. Power lines were arcing across the street, the wind howling--I barely was able to get the gas and took two hours to get home on a 15-minute trip. Power lines and poles were down everywhere.

Back at home, the house was down to 50 degrees, the wife was nervous, and I was rewiring the furnace and well to take a direct male plug into an extension cord (both were 110V). One hour later, the furnace was running, the well was on, and the fridge was operating.

There were four people in our small town of 150 or so that had generators. None knew how to hotwire a well. Word spread fast that I had water, and about a half-dozen neighbors came to the door with jugs for water. With only five gallons of gas, and that going quick, it became a swap meet. I would supply them with water if they could help out with gas, and would have given them water as long as the fuel held out. The neighbors were happy to help.

A few giant floaters in the commode got everyone's attention, emphasizing how important water was. I ran the genset as needed, once every hour or so for about a half-hour. In that time we would run the furnace like gangbusters, prime up the well, and fill extra jugs. To keep the power adequate, it was run the furnace a while, then disconnect that plug and run the well a while, then the furnace ... you get it. Without a transfer switch, you play switch the plugs a lot.

Lessons learned:

1. I figured I could get gas out of my '97 Ford van via siphon. Wrong, as there was some kind of blocker tube in the fuel filler pipe and that didn't work.

2. People are stupid. With an ice storm, below-freezing temps, and plenty of coolers and garbage cans available, people left their homes for shelters and let all the food in their freezers ruin/thaw, instead of packing it in the plentiful ice and snow available.

3. Electric ovens don't make it as back-up heat when the power is out, and newer gas ovens, with electronic igniters, won't work either. In some models, no power = no gas, even to the burners.

4. A camp stove with fuel is a tremendous comfort and blessing to have. My neighbor was about to lose her mind for lack of coffee. I made a very good friend even better with a couple of hot breakfasts and plenty of java.

5. It takes an incredible amount of snow to melt enough water to get a good flush going (from the neighbors).

6. With backup heat and water, you can withstand five days without power with only minor inconveniences.

The scary thing is how the whole town was virtually unprepared. Very few have basic electrical knowledge of how to jury-rig things to get by. Even fewer had only 1 gallon of bottled water around. Food? Forget it. They couldn't even handle a week without going to the grocery store for bread and milk/eggs.

They haven't learned anything since. In '99, I got a wood stove, have learned more, and camp extensively. You can make an excellent oven out of a wooden or even a cardboard box lined with foil or steel sheeting, and use charcoal for cooking. I made lasagna for 18 Boy Scouts and leaders in one of those things with garlic bread and they were amazed.

Get it, learn it, before you have to use it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Crisis Preparation Advice from the Experts

I recently solicited input from the wise and grizzled crisis preppers at the well-known TB2K discussion forum ( OK, so some of them aren't quite gray yet, but these folks, young or old, do take their readiness seriously.

This is the first of at least two blog articles coming out of the comments we collected. Thank you to each of these folks for providing their insights (and for allowing me some editorial leeway here) ...

Preparing for Crises Need Not Break the Bank

RC: You don't need to buy a bunch of expensive "survival" gear. Start with keeping enough food and water on hand to keep your family self-sufficient if normal supplies are cut off for any reason. You can do this by buying the foods your family normally eats which can keep for long periods of time. So if your family normally eats cereal, buy more cereal when it's on sale. If you normally eat oatmeal, buy lots of oatmeal when it's on sale.

If you want to be more methodical, plan out a few menus using just these foods, and figure out how much you would need for each meal (i.e., for breakfast, you would need one cup of oatmeal, one can of fruit, or whatever). Then, add up the quantities of each item. If you planned two days worth of meals, then multiply it by 7 and you'll know how much you need for two weeks. Multiply it by 15 and you'll know what you need for a month. This way, you will know approximately how many days supply you have on hand.

Tanstaafl: I tell people to start with the gear they'd need to camp out for a week--backpack, boots, sleeping bag, cooking kit, tent, water container and water filter, etc., combined with the standard stuff the Red Cross suggests everyone have. After that, you start getting into specific scenarios which require more specialized preps.

Or Spend What You're Comfortable With

Jmurman: My real start in crisis preparedness arose out of concerns about hurricanes and major snowstorms here in the Mid-Atlantic. I bought a generator and extra gas cans along with the proper cords. Next I began to set aside foods, batteries, and medicines. I started with small goals, like what would it take to be sufficient for 3 days. That grew to a week and then a month. It really is a nice feeling to have supplies on hand to be able to get through tough times, although I am in no way finished.

Jerry: To start out, I would suggest getting a month of food together with provisions for water. My first purchases were 50 pounds of pinto beans, 30 pounds of basmati rice, and a camping water filter with silver iodide. It was all less than $100.00 and provided more than a month of survival-grade food and water. As I progressed, I started filling in other needs and buying protein in cans while on sale. The chunky soups in 20 oz cans have basic nutrition (and flavor!) to boost the rice and beans, and when bought on sale can be quite reasonable. My thought has always been that in a pinch, one of those cans would be a meal for a day. Be conscious of calories contained in each can you buy ... vegetable soup with 100 calories is not a good value when compared to Campbell's New England clam chowder at 460 calories per can.

Consider that there are different levels of system and services failure that are possible in our modern world. Prepare with an eye toward different sustainability periods. Stocking supplies for one month is far easier than for 3 months, which is easier than 6, 9 or 12 months, etc. Eventually you might stop thinking temporary or stop-gap preparedness and start talking lifestyle and location changes to where natural resources become assets.

As one starts preparing for longer periods, more potential needs become apparent and should be included as one can afford ... things such as a multiband battery powered radio, medical supplies, a solar panel and deep cycle battery, a small inverter, freeze dried/dehydrated food, treats, ammunition, firearms, non-powder powered projectiles like crossbow and arrows, BB or pellet rifle, wrist mounted sling shot with steel balls, fishing gear, garden seeds, books on survival skills, the list goes on and on and can be intimidating and overwhelming. But one step at a time will do it. Good luck, think before you step, and make conscious decisions.

The Important Thing is to Get Started

Laurelayn: When someone is just beginning to think of getting prepared and is short on resources, a good place to suggest as a starting point is to think of things they use on a regular basis: non-perishible items like canned soups and sauces, ketchup, dry goods like pastas and rice. And whenever they go grocery shopping, just pick up one or two extra, especially if there is a good sale on them, and stash them away.

Pastas, beans, and rice should be put in a good freezer type ziplock to keep bugs out and will keep for quite a while in a dark cool place. This way many people can justify it in their own minds as a good way to just have daily things on hand and save time and money in the process. I have found it a good way to get some of my friends and family to at least have a little extra something on hand. In one case a friend liked the convenience so much she has developed quite an inventory. I don't emphasize it as "prepping" so much as just being a smart shopper.

Renegade: People should realize that "prepping" is not some wacko survivalist thing. When you pay your car insurance, you're prepping with money in case of a wreck. Same thing for home insurance. Basic sustenance is more important than a vehicle. Do what you and your family are comfortable with. There are needs ... and there are wants. If you give up a want now and then and put those resources into needs (preps), you'll be "insured" for the bad times.

Still to come ... how some folks became involved in crisis preparedness.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Private Matters, Personal Choices

Preparing for potential crisis in one's future is seemingly an unusual approach today. However, it may not be as "odd" as you would think.

In fact, the dearth of available data in the mainstream or even of hearsay anecdotal evidence in your own circles may be as much about privacy concerns as about people choosing to ignore future risks.

Before we talk about those privacy concerns, I'll just touch on a couple of things that would seem to hint positively at how many folks there are out there who really may be genuine but "closet" crisis preppers ...

One: since 9/11/01, the federal government and FEMA have been involved in increased efforts to help citizens realize the wisdom in being personally prepared for disaster--at least to the tune of having on hand three days worth of food and water and a few other essentials. (See the FEMA Guide to Citizen Preparedness, "Are You Ready?") It's not just bureaucractic prepositioning that's going on. How long do you go between hearing or reading about a proclamation by some official that an imminent crisis is not a matter of "if" but "when?" If you stay current, then it has become almost a monthly reminder that we had all better sit up and take notice ... and get busy. In fact, it might have been the latest such warning that has spurred you to consider how best you can start your own preparedness plan. So you ought to believe others too are coming around.

Two: In July of this year, New York City released poll results that indicated more than half of New Yorkers had, to that point, taken actions to prepare for an emergency (see the news release.) More poll results ... 16% report having a bag of supplies, or a "Go Bag," with copies of important documents, contact numbers, cash, bottled water and snack foods, a flashlight, a portable radio, prescriptions, and a first aid kit to take with them in an emergency. Another 39% say they have some of these items packed and ready to go.

There are certainly many other points of reference that could be raised in defense of the notion that several of your neighbors may be silently preparing for darker days. But the main thrust of this blog post is less about how many are doing it and more about why the ones who are, may be going about things so quietly.

Watch Out for the Quiet Ones

You could reasonably conclude, I think, that most folks who understand the need for crisis planning are at least somewhat cautious and frequently use common sense to their day-to-day advantage. Such unsubstantiated generalization is not normally of much value but I do believe cautiousness is really at the core of what we are talking about here. If there was such a thing, an individual's "cautiousness quotient" would probably be a good measure of how likely it would be that person would accept crisis preparedness as a part of their approach to life.

Allowing for that assumption, I will point out that there are two primary reasons your cautious neighbors may be more ready for disaster than you would think they are.

  1. There is a certain undeserved stigma in the public mind (as defined by mainstream media) assigned to people who actually take substantive steps to mitigate future risk in their lives. You know ... "they're paranoid kooks," or worse--maybe even racist "skinhead survivalists." (See previous blog posts "Preparing Does Not Make You a Doomer" and "Undeserved Malice" in the July archive.) Obviously, given the popular misconceptions out there, cautious folks will largely try to maintain a public profile of "normalcy" for reasons that should be apparent to most of us. Certainly, if YOU choose to start putting aside some resources for a rainy day, you may very well decide that it's something you will do quietly ... perhaps to avoid potential dings to your reputation, or maybe because you just don't think it's even worth bringing up in conversation with most other people ... no big deal. Or maybe it's just about prudent home security. Any which way you choose, that's OK.
  2. The truly thoughtful and serious crisis preppers could realize that their prepared resources could quicky become coveted resources by others in truly bad scenarios. Thus, there are many out there who jealously guard their preparedness activities from others to avoid uncomfortable or even dangerous situations should they ever truly become needed. That is not to say that all of these folks would choose not to share with others in need ... in fact, I believe many are reserving their right to choose how to do the sharing and how best to manage those resources wisely in times of trouble.

Is it possible someone in your family or some people in your neighborhood are ready for disasters or are systematically working toward that goal? You might very well be surprised.

Be assured, the preparedness marketplace is vibrant and healthy today. Those countless customers are growing in number ... and that is really only a small percentage of the greater number of people who don't need the specialty items to get themselves squared away.

So, don't for a second think that you and I are as odd as some of the media types would have us believe.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Comments, Questions, Dialog

I'm heading off for a family reunion and will be offline for at least parts of this week, starting in a couple of days. There are several good articles in the works that will be posted beginning next week.

In the meantime, I'd like to try a little dialog experiment here where readers and Refugees can talk. Not sure if the "Comments" mechanism format is best suited for this, but if you can't do bold experiments in a new blog, then where CAN you get creative?

So please feel free to jump in, click on the "Comments" icon below and have your say or ask a question. And if you have an answer for a question that's been asked, please chime in. If this meets with any success, maybe we can keep this as an ongoing feature on the blog.

Note: If you clicked on a link to this individual blog post somewhere, then you are able to see the comments that have been posted to this article.

If you linked to the overall Refuge blog where you can see several of the most recent articles, then to view the comments/dialog, you'll need to click on "x comments" to see them.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Got Nukes? Be Ready to Stay Put

There are a lot of good reasons to get involved in crisis preparedness. The bottom line is, bad things happen. It's good to know that if they happen to you, you're going to be positioned to get through it.

We've started talking about whether you ought to consider your options in preparing for the possibility of local high-dose radiation exposure. (See "Dealing with the 'N' Word.") My assumption is that you agree it's a good idea. After all, there are several potential broad scenarios out there that could to varying degrees come to impact people, wherever they live in the U.S. We're talking nuclear-fission acts of war, terroristic dirty bomb attacks, nuclear power plant accidents, and nuclear-material transportation accidents.

We hope never to have to experience any of these occurrences, but it IS possible that one day, you could find yourself directly impacted by a nuclear crisis in the U.S. And be advised, even if you're not in the middle of it or downwind, the domino effect throughout the country will still be kicking the legs out from under your previously uninterrupted "good life." But that opens up some issues for another blog post at a later date.

Basic Options

There are a lot of things you'll need to quickly consider should some version of the nuclear genie suddenly appear on the American landscape.

First, you will hopefully be able to give pause to thank God that you had the foresight to prepare to whatever extent you did beforehand ... because there will be little or no time to take significant remedial steps after that "balloon goes up."

Next and the main focus of this post today--you'll need to judge whether you will indeed be exposed to the immediate danger of fallout, given the proximity and location of the event and prevailing winds and weather conditions. There will be little time for hesitation for many people. It will likely be crucial to decide your course of action quickly--to try to escape to a safer area with good shelter or to stay where you are and make the most of the shelter resources at your disposal.

In a singular, limited nuclear event, whether nearby or far away, the ideal choice might appear to be to "get out of Dodge." Perhaps that is so, but do also realize that if you think you ought to bug-out, chances are, everybody else will be thinking the same thing. If you're in a metropolitan area, that portends major gridlock and perhaps subsequent panic, and thus exposure to some serious other risks in addition to radiation ... on the road and far away from familiar surroundings, protective shelter, necessary resources, and personally supportive social networks.

Stay Put

I've been chewing on these types of issues for about 30 years, since I was designated my military unit's NBC (nuclear/biological/chemical) specialist, in charge of making sure we were equipped to survive the harshest wartime environments. Today, there are certainly better qualified experts out there who can provide all the required level of detail as you become more interested and informed. But for your immediate purposes, it is quite enough to be aware of some basic principles that can mean the difference between survival and a long, miserable death if you act foolishly.

Adequate shielding placed between you and the source of any radiation that is present in your vicinity is paramount to your continuing good health. For most of us in a fallout situation, that means an inside room with as much mass as possible surrounding it and over it. Distance from the radiation is also a pertinent factor.

Your best bet is underground.

Approximately three feet of earth or sand between you in your shelter and any outside surface where fallout particles can accumulate is probably going to ensure your optimal chances for a natural death well into the future ... that is, if you keep that protective mass between yourself and the radiation long enough for the radioactivity to naturally decay to an acceptable level before you leave your shelter (two weeks is a standard, general sheltering-in estimate for planning purposes, but you would want to have the capability to accurately take radiation readings if at all possible). If that earthen mass is not already present, you will want to be able to quickly create as much mass as you can using whatever other material is available to act as a protective barrier. (Helpful hint: sandbags are of tremendous use in fallout protection.)

There are some great how-to resources out there for you if you opt to build yourself a fallout shelter. There are even "expedient" shelter plans out there published during the Cold War for civil defense purposes, but those tactics are really for folks who have no other choice but to react rather than to anticipate.

But I digress ...

Back to the most critical decision you may ever have to make ... should you stay or should you go? If you are well-prepared at home or even adequately situated at work or wherever else you spend a lot of time, you ought to be able to plan to stay-put in many such events--at least until the initial shock and panic in the populace runs its course, or the radiation levels themselves prove to be a small factor in your decision to move elsewhere.

I happen to strongly believe that most nuclear events would have the least adverse effect on those who choose to stay-put rather than for those who try to evacuate, if they have even just an adequate amount of knowledge and some minimal resources available to them to deal with their needs. Quite simply, to try get somewhere else is going to make you very vulnerable and exposed to a wide range of dangers, because among other things, you probably do not have an armored vehicle to travel in, and if you do, it probably is not engineered to shield you from high levels of radiation.

Adequate Radiation Preps

Some of the same basic crisis preparations apply here as for other potential disasters. The main differences are that you need that shielding shelter mass, and you want to aim for having on hand a minimum of two weeks worth of life-sustaining supplies--food; water; light and energy sources; medical supplies; and depending on your shelter conditions, air circulation and filtration.

These are the basics. I aim here to simply get you thinking about "what if." And if you want to actually become better positioned to survive and recover from a local radiological event, then spend some time researching, planning, and preparing.

More to come on some of the serious man-made threats to your peace and security.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that Safecastle LLC offers some of the most robust and reliable prefabricated fallout and storm shelters available in the world. They are built to your specifications and special needs and they are delivered and installed most anywhere in the lower 48. The experience and expertise our builder puts into your shelter is rooted in more than 400 shelters in the last 10 years that have been delivered to customers ranging from corporations and government agencies such as FEMA to households such as yours. Best of all, the price is amazingly affordable.

This store offering is an example of a unit that can normally be yours to use within a matter of two-three months. Contact me for more info or with questions--I'm here to help. See also the Safecastle shelter site.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Dealing with the "N" Word

Those of you who have followed our recent posts are fully aware that we (me and the rest of the rascally Refugees) want to impress upon others the importance of approaching crisis preparedness in a calm and measured way. Doing so, without overtly trying to alarm the townsfolk that the sky is falling, helps you maintain your sparkling credit rating among local merchants and keeps you near the top of the favorite aunt or uncle list and invited to all of the most prestigious extended-family gatherings and group feeds.

That said (many times over these past few weeks), let's politely broach the topic of certain scary scenarios that can too easily become all-consuming personal infernos that keep you up till dawn vacuum-sealing giant plastic buckets of rice and beans.

Today, we'll just start on the first such adrenaline source ...

The "N" Word

Nuclear. There, I said it.

Mankind has been "on the brink" of nuclear annihilation for 60 years now. Scientists who get together to discuss "big bangs" and such when they're between government research grants, have had us holding our collective breath at "minutes before midnight" on the Doomsday Clock for decades now.

Nightmares of death by instant mass vaporization or slow downwind radiation poisoning have been part of growing up for generations. Then, just when it was getting to be the stuff of "so what? It'll never happen," for many folks, the rules change. Now it's not just superpowers, superpower has-beens, and superpower wanna-bes that conceal-carry fission-bomb weapons of self-defense, but criminal gangs and terror feudalists are said to be wielding or bidding for "respect" as well.

Of course, there's also the "flipside" of the nuclear coin that can look an awful lot like the "heads" side if you look at it just a bit askance. The mostly beneficial nuclear power plants across the globe that are firing the growth of the global economy, do also have the potential to rain radioactive fear down upon dependent and trusting customers if somehow things go very wrong.

Classic Debate Helps Determine Your Approach

So should you consider the potential for nuclear radiation in your neighborhood someday as you build your framework for personal peace of mind?

Well, you probably have to decide where you stand in the ongoing debate out there about whether nuclear war is survivable (or might the matter really be about whether it OUGHT to be survivable?). There's a lot of emotion on both sides of that argument, and it would be worth looking into for yourself, if you haven't already.

For me, I concluded long ago that there would be many, many folks out there, in the event of any single nuclear detonation or series of detonations that would be very much in need of immediate attention and protection. Without a viable national civil defense program anymore, the U.S. people are very vulnerable in this area. Should we at least have a shot at surviving such an attack? I think so.

Moreover, the danger of nuclear radiation imposing itself upon your outlook is not limited to the fallout from a nuclear weapons burst. A nuclear powerplant accident upwind could possibly result in critical conditions most anywhere in the country today. And sadly, now we have to also acknowledge the potential for small dirty bombs to become a reality and bonafide risk factor.

It comes down to this: if you are undertaking preparedness to counter reasonable risks out there to you and your loved ones, and you covet the peace of mind that comes with reaching a certain level of readiness, then you're probably not going to want to ignore this big hole in your defenses for very long.

More on this next time.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Watch & PERIODICALLY Assess Your Situation

Editorial whine: Don't you hate it when you spend a couple of hours of your hectic workday polishing your latest blog masterpiece only to have it dissolve when you hit the "publish" button? This will have to be the condensed version of the original ...

So you've decided to methodically ease some crisis-preparation activity into your already quite demanding, perfectly normal lifestyle ... you've come to understand that uncertainty is part of the daily calculus of life and you recognize a substantive opportunity to exert a somewhat greater amount of control over your tomorrows.

Congratulations. That's a nice red-letter milestone. Remember, taking it all step by step, working within your available time and budgetary contraints, is obviously the ideal approach. It's pretty much a no-lose proposition when you commit to preparing materially, emotionally, and spiritually for darker days. In the end, you're aiming toward a greater personal position of strength.

Stay engaged and you'll one day approach a level of comfort and satisfaction in your "material and emotional insurance" building that will make it all worthwhile, even if you never actually have to rely on your preparations to recover from personal, local, or even more far-reaching disaster. In fact, the preferred outcome is simply the "peace of mind" it gives that nothing else can really equal.

Plan B

If you never have to confront a sudden turn in events that require immediate, near-term crisis planning and preparation, you should be thankful. However, at some point, many do face a sudden need to crank up the intensity when there is an obvious threat bearing down on them. Think hurricane; or perhaps an impending job loss; or a dangerous, spreading contagion in the population ... you can fill in the blank here and come up with your own potential scenario that might cause you to suddenly shift into higher gear with your prepping.

If you can make needed adjustments on the fly, then you've been on the right path all along. The key is to maintain the calm, systematic approach and you'll get 'er done.

Whether it's a back-up plan you follow in the face of danger or you have to come up with a whole new, more urgent plan of action, you'll still be way ahead in the game since you already know the rule set from your previous experience in thinking through and preparing for unkind scenarios.

Ready Position

That brings us to the main point of this post. There are major keys to staying ahead of the game, whatever the playing field. That is, pay attention and be in the ready position ... watch and be ready for things that most others probably are not even thinking about.

Don't get paranoid about your world. But do keep an eye on the forest and know where all the trees are as well.

Say what? OK--just a few examples and suggestions:

  • keep an eye to the sky (and to the local weather station) if there's ANY chance of severe weather in your location. It's easy to do today and it's the smart thing to do to plan your activities after consulting your local forecast if it makes any sense at all where you live.

  • assess your employment and income situation from time to time. Don't get blindsided with a layoff notice if you can help it and have at least an idea of what you would do if it does happen. If signs start to point toward a loss of your livelihood, take the initiative to counter that outcome. Set aside some extra necessities, reallocate your available resources to be able to make needed lifestyle adjustments, and stay positive about your future prospects. Then get out there and turn it into the best thing that ever happened to you.

  • stay on good, heart-to-heart speaking terms with those most dear to you. People are surprised every day with very bad news from their loved ones that they should have seen coming long before, when they still had the chance to make a difference. Emotional recovery is a tough nut ... preventive maintenance is the best prep work you can do in the personal arena.

  • crime and terror make the world the bloody place that it is today. You can't live in fear but you can bolster your self confidence and minimize your profile as a likely target in any number of ways. But whatever else you do, pay attention to your surroundings wherever you may be. Again, no paranoia--just use common sense ... when applied in regular doses, it can go a long way.

  • the really big picture ... don't zero-in on any of the myriad of threats out there in the world at large. You don't need to be an expert in any of the fields of doom--there are plenty of folks out there who can do most of the specialized worrying for you. Just keep periodic tabs on what the general risks are in your own situation and make needed adjustments. Then carry on with your life.

Watch, listen, pay attention. Be ready for reasonable possibilities. If you've anticipated downturns before they happen, you're halfway home to surmounting them.