May 222012
 

It is possible to think of so many different scenarios. Which one is correct? All of them!

As preppers, we have to prepare for two sets of possible future adverse circumstances.  The first is to prepare for some sort of event that interferes with LAWKI (life as we know it), and which diminishes our quality of life to a greater or not quite so great extent, for a short or long time period.

While we all responsibly prepare for the short-term minor events (what we term Level 1 events) the really big deal is preparing for the Level 2 or 3 events (we define Level 1/2/3 events here).

But even this is relatively easy, because we sort of know what things we’ll need, and if we start from an assumption that we’ll be on our own with no external support, no external sources of water, food or energy, we can plan from that worst case but clearly understood scenario.

One of the defining points of the transition from a Level 1 event to a Level 2 or 3 event is the need to leave our normal residence in a Level 2/3 event.  And the reason for needing to do this?  There are several reasons, but the most pressing one is usually the need to ensure our own personal safety.

In a higher density city type environment, we’ll be surrounded by unprepared people who, as the Level 2 event unfolds, will quickly run out of food and out of self-control.  We anticipate lawlessness will reign, and see our safety and survival as best achieved by leaving the lawless city behind us.

But even in our Level 2/3 retreat situation, we necessarily should continue to be concerned about the actions of non-prepared people, because this is the other major adverse circumstance we will have to endure and survive in a major event – the anticipated but unknown negative actions of our fellow citizens.

The Unknown Variables Posed By Non-Preppers

Please excuse us if you don’t share a similar viewpoint about the anticipated negative actions of non-preppers in a major breakdown of society.  May we explain?

Our perception is based on what we feel to be a gritty reality – people will do whatever they have to do in order to survive, if the circumstances are extreme enough.  Sure, we believe in the innate goodness of people, the same as you do, but we also believe that when people – and their families – are starving to death; if they see a chance to get life-sustaining food, they will do anything and everything they possibly can to take that food, no matter what is required.

This sort of motivation can make honest decent people into criminals.

We also acknowledge that while most people are basically good, unfortunately some people are basically bad.  You already know this, too.  You call those types of people murderers, sex offenders, arsonists, violent offenders of all sorts, gang members, and so on.  You probably support their incarceration, whole of life sentencing, ‘three strikes and you’re out’ laws, and maybe even the death penalty.  Even the most idealistic of people can’t close their eyes to the ongoing level of violence that goes on in our society today.

The underlying reasons or demographics are irrelevant – the ugly but unavoidable fact is that some people are just plain bad.  Almost 1% of our population is in jail on any given day, and you can decide how many more percent should be with them, and you can worry about the former inmates that are now free but not reformed.

We see that good people will be forced to do bad things due to the underlying basic imperative need to survive.  But we also see that bad people will do very bad things, just because they can and want to, for fun, and because the normal law and order imperatives will be massively weakened (as is repeatedly shown, all around the world, in gratuitous rioting and looting events).

Planning For Encounters With Malefactors

So, we wonder and worry about what to expect as we shelter inside our retreats.  More to the point, we don’t just wonder/worry about what we’ll do while safely inside our retreat.  We also worry/wonder about when we’re exposed outside – doing gardening, tending to livestock, traveling to the neighbor to trade our surplus foodstuffs for his, and so on.

Some people have developed elaborate theories about the types of encounters they’ll have.  Some people support their theories by referring to what has occurred in other societies during times of social disorder.  Other people have developed very different theories, possibly supported by very different factual underpinnings.

Who is right?  What can we expect?  And, as preppers, the essential question we ask ourselves is surely – How can we prepare for such events?

Plan and Prepare For Everything

Well, there is both good and bad in what we have to suggest.  There is no one single right answer.  All answers, all predictions and prognostications, are correct, to some degree.  And all are likely to occur, in some random sequence of events, to some people, some of the time.

We must plan for all possible scenarios.  We can not restrict our planning to what we consider to be the most sensible, the most likely types of encounters.  We know everyone is different with different preferences.  That is why there are dozens of different types of baked beans to choose from in the stores.  We know everyone has different opinions – that is why horse races can occur with a spread of betting over the widely different horses.  We know some people do incredibly stupid and unpredictable things.  But if we haven’t planned for that incredibly stupid or unpredictable thing, maybe we end up being the stupid person, and a victim of the unpredicted thing.

This is the key take-away point of this article.  Don’t just plan for one type of scenario when it comes to people and their actions.  Plan for them all, from the mildest to the wildest.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that when you’ve identified the most likely type of events, that these will be the only events you encounter.  Even if you can think exactly like some type of malefactor (we won’t ask how that is!) you can’t think like other types of malefactors.  But they are all out there, and we need to plan for the unexpected as well as the expected.

Scenarios for Encounters

Maybe some people will just lose the will to live and quietly die in back alleys.  Maybe other people will beg and plead for food, then go away, nonviolently, if refused.

Notching up a level, maybe some others will attempt to take food by force, but will give up when confronted by superior force, without any shots being fired.  Maybe some of these people, if able to take food without needing to kill to do so, would proceed to take food, but would turn away if required to kill first.

Notching up another level, maybe some people will indeed trade shots, but if they don’t quickly triumph, they will then give up and go away, looking for easier pickings/takings elsewhere.

And getting closer to extreme, maybe some people will fight to the death, having made it a point of honor to win the encounter, or die in the attempt, no matter what.

Different Tactics

Maybe some people will simply and noisily storm the front door in the mid-day sun.

Maybe others will sneakily plot and plan to surprise you when your door is open.  Maybe they’ll lie in wait for you in your fields.

Maybe some will kidnap one member of your party and try to bargain their safe return in exchange for food.  Maybe others will simply kill anyone they encounter (and, yes, maybe even eat them too!).  Note – if you don’t consider the possibility of cannibalism in your defensive strategies, you are not thinking far enough outside the box.  A yucky thought, for sure, but civilized rules will be in abeyance in an extreme scenario.

Maybe some will impatiently mount a battle, but if they don’t quickly triumph, and if they start taking casualties, go away defeated, never to return.

Maybe others, if unsuccessful in a first attack, will instead redouble their determination and come back, perhaps in greater force, and mount a more prepared planned and sustained assault.

Some people will approach from the obvious quarter.  Others will approach from unexpected places.

Varying Group Size

Maybe you’ll encounter some people on their own.  Maybe you’ll encounter small bands of 4 – 6.  Maybe you’ll encounter larger groups of 10 – 20.

Maybe you’ll think you’re defending yourself against a group of four attacking you from the front, when all of a sudden, ten more people appear from behind.

A Range of Skill Levels

Most people will have a gun – maybe a ‘good’ gun and maybe a ‘bad’ gun (you can decide what the terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mean in this context!).  Some will be good shots.  Some will be sniper level shots.  Others, as often as not, will be poor shots.

Some will have no knowledge of tactics or how to behave under fire.  Others will be veterans who have fought in one of our country’s many recent overseas wars, and will be skilled at such things (see our article about the rising problem of gangs and how some gangs deliberately have some members serve in the military so they have military level training and skills within their group).

Some opponents will quickly learn combat skills, and others will run away the first time a bullet zings angrily overhead.

All Sorts of Equipment and Weapons

The most common weapon you’ll encounter will be some type of rifle.  Some optimistic types might try to assault your retreat with only a pistol, and a few might bring a shotgun to the party.

But who is not to say that some people won’t have a fearsome .50 cal BMG rifle that will punch holes in just about anything it hits?  Maybe someone has developed his own explosive charges, and maybe someone else has developed a cannon or mortar?  And don’t forget the person with the Molotov cocktail, either.  Fire can be one of your most fearsome challenges.

Maybe someone from SCA has created an old-fashioned catapult, or a battering ram, or something else like that?

Maybe someone has liberated a tank or APC or other military vehicle/weapon from the local armory and can safely assault your retreat from behind the vehicle’s armor, and knock down your front door with their vehicle.

Frequency of Encounter and Group Coordination

Maybe you’ll go six months and not see anyone.  Maybe you’ll end up with a dozen encounters within as many days.

Maybe you’ll have outsmarted the entire world with your choice of ‘out of the way’ location.  Maybe one or two backwoodsman type hunters will stumble across your retreat while you’re complacently reveling in the success of your secret.

Or maybe other people will have thought the same way as you, and will be specifically going to JWR’s American Redoubt areas and looking for preppers and all their food and supplies, using the same factors to guess where you might be as you used to decide where to go.

Maybe roving gangs will meet and share stories and swap details of potential targets.  The gang you fought off last week might encourage another gang to return next week.

Maybe self-appointed ‘warlords’ will claim control of a district and everyone in it.  Maybe – really worrying – he’ll have some degree of pseudo-legal status or actual legal status, and is levying ‘taxes’ on all residents in the area.  With 100 of his troops acting as tax collectors.

The preceding sub-sections have been intended not to list all the possibilities, but to open your thinking to the range of possibilities that may occur.  Don’t stop thinking – this is not a complete list!  You should be able to come up with plenty more.

Summary

It is easy to anticipate the basic issues and challenges we’ll face in a major Level 2 or 3 event.  Take away all external support.  No more electricity or gas or internet.  No more 7-11 or supermarket.  No more Home Depot or Office Depot or any other type of depot.  That’s okay.  We can anticipate and plan and prepare for these things.

But the hardest thing to anticipate?  The actions of our non-prepped fellow citizens.  Think of as many scenarios and nightmares as you can, then drink a fifth of bourbon, and think of some more.  Any – or all – of these might come to pass (well, maybe not that one with the mutant alien zombies that you came up with half-way through your second fifth, right before you fell asleep!).

Because we can’t predict exactly which of these encounters we will face, we should plan and prepare for all of them.

We can harden our retreats to make them resistant to all but the most serious of attacks, we can design our lots to make them easy to defend and hard to attack, and – most of all – we can either join an existing community right from the get-go, or if not, we can group together with our neighbors to create a new form of law and order and mutual support and early warning system.

For More Information

If you’re specifically interested in researching potential future scenarios and how normal people might respond to them, we suggest you follow our category of articles on Communities.

Beyond that, we’ve a lot of information on all types of prepper related topics.  Please roam far and wide around our site.  Thanks for visiting.

May 202012
 

A septic system is simple, reliable and an effective solution to your human waste disposal needs

Some people have made elaborate preparations for a Level 2/3 event.  They have bought their retreat.  They have their food, their fuel, their guns, their water supply, and their generator.

They’ve planned the typical one gallon of water per person per day, and hopefully allowed more than that for all the other uses one needs water for too.  And their food stores are more than sufficient.

But ask them about what happens to the food and water after it is used, and they’ll look at you blankly.  Explain some more, and they’ll get into an elaborate discussion about toilet seats on 5 gallon plastic pails, about ‘Humanure’, maybe about cutting trenches and tossing handfuls of soil or lime on top of one’s outputs.

None of it sounds very pleasant, for sure.

Why aren’t more people simply having a septic system installed at their retreat?  Costs to install a system are low (in the overall scheme of setting up a retreat costs) and the impact on allowing for a much more comfortable life when living at the retreat is enormous.

Maybe some people look upon septic systems with underserved scorn.  They are an excellent, reliable, and low-tech way of handling human waste, and are good as a solution for people living away from a reliable city sewer system in normal times as well as in adverse times.  We’ve lived in septic served houses ourselves and have never had any problems – indeed, the most unreliable sewage system we ever had was where the line to the city sewer would get blocked, regular as clockwork, every two or so years, by roots from the neighbor’s nearby large tree.

Here’s a quick introduction to the subject of septics.

Septic systems vary in size depending on the ‘load’ that is expected to be placed on them (perhaps better to say the load that will be placed in them!).  The rule of thumb is to guess at the load based on the number of bedrooms in the house the system is servicing, and to assume two people per bedroom, and each person representing 60 – 75 gallons of liquid (and solid) a day.

If you are careful, and perhaps if you use 1.6 gallon per flush toilets rather than the earlier 3.5 – 5 gallon per flush toilets, and if you have modern water conserving washing machines and dishwashers, you’ll be able to get down below the 60 gallon per person guesstimate, but for designing your system to county code standards, you’ll need to use whatever their formula is.

Once you know the gallons per day that need to be managed, you double it and that tells you the size of the tank itself.  A three bedroom house would represent a load of about 360 gallons/day (at 60 gallons per person) which doubled represents 720 gallons of tank capacity.

A sweet spot in tank prices seems to be 1000 gallon capacity (which will probably cost you $500 – $800 or so).  This is also the usual capacity of a septic tank pumping truck, and it makes good sense to match your tank capacity with a pump truck’s capacity (prior to WTSHTF).  There is never any harm in ‘too large’ a tank capacity – this is a good thing as it extends the time between pump-outs.

The other thing you need to work out is more complicated.  This is the size of the drainfield, and it is determined not just by the gallonage per day, but also by the type of soil you’ll be draining the tank into.  That same three bedroom house might need as small as a 300 sq ft drainfield (best case scenario) or as large as an 1800 sq ft drainfield (a bad scenario).  You need to call in the experts to do soil analysis, perc tests, and drainfield design.

The all up cost of a septic system for a three bedroom house may be in the range of $2500 – $4500 to install, plus permit fees and initial consultation costs, assuming a reasonably positive situation and a gravity fed system.  If you need to have a pressure system, then the cost is more likely to be around $4000 – $6500 plus permits and consulting.  Worst case scenario, with a ‘mound’ type system, you could be spending $9,000 – $20,000.

A well designed septic system running at the level it was designed for (or less) will need to be pumped out or in some other way emptied every couple of years or so.  Larger tanks require emptying less frequently.  Other than that, they should reliably work for a couple of decades without needing much attention.

Gravity systems are, as their name implies, gravity fed.  Pressure and mound systems need pumps with infrequent duty cycles and low powered motors.  They should not overload your power resources at all.

If you are careful about what you put into your septic system – especially if you don’t use a sink garbage disposal unit to increase the amount of bio-mass going into the system (you shouldn’t waste food scraps that way, anyway – either use them for feeding animals or for composting), and limit the inputs to only the, ahem, human outputs, your system will largely take care of itself.

You should also try not to have sudden peaks of inputs.  If you have a system that anticipates 420 gallons a day, it is better to give it 400 gallons a day for three days in a row than to give it 100 gallons today, 1000 gallons the next day, and 100 gallons the third day, because you want everything to have at least two days in the tank before moving on to the drainfield.  This gives time for solids to settle to the bottom (and fats to the top) leaving just a relatively free of other stuff liquid to go into the drainfield.

Recommendations for Preppers

Clearly we are recommending you should build a septic system at your retreat.

There are two extra considerations to keep in mind.

The first is that, if at all possible, try to avoid the need to have a system that requires pumps.  This will reduce the number of things that might go wrong and/or need maintenance, and also reduce the energy cost of operating your septic system.  If the entire system is fully gravity powered, then you have a very resilient system – much better to spend more up front to get a robust system than to go a cheaper route only to find yourself with a system that becomes inoperative subsequently at a time when you can no longer easily access cheap energy and ready support.

The second consideration is to over-specify everything, and to massively increase the holding tank capacities too.  We’re not quite sure what you’d do at the point where the tank needs to be pumped, so best put that day off as long as possible.

Pumping is inevitable.  The septic system works by settling the solids to the bottom of the holding tank and having the liquid overflow feed out through the drainfield.  Sooner or later, the level of solids will reach the point where they need to be pumped out.  Better to make that time as far into the future as possible, by which time there will hopefully be some infrastructure available to respond to the need.

Here’s an excellent site with much more information on the topic.

May 192012
 

Food riots will become general riots and then general lawlessness and disorder in a Level 2/3 event. Maintaining your security is your biggest challenge if you with to survive such a scenario.

Many preppers are individualists, and their initial assumption – that society will collapse in some form or another – is extended perhaps too far.

Yes, they rightly assume they need to plan for a future with no help from normal external support services, and there’s an unspoken element of ‘It will be every man for himself’ WTSHTF.  This is probably even true, to at least some extent.

But this sensible focus on self-reliance blinds some people to the essential need to form or join a community of fellow preppers as part of a Level 2 or 3 response plan.

It is reasonable to prepare for a Level 1 event that requires nothing more than turning on the generator at home and waiting out the restoration of normal services while eating stockpiled food.  Apart from having some friends around for social purposes and to fight off the boredom that might otherwise ensue if television, radio, and internet services are affected, you don’t actually need a support community of other people to see you through the Level 1 event.

But when you are instead responding to a longer term more severe Level 2 or 3 event, you have a very different set of issues you need to prepare for.

Most People Underestimate the Size of Group they Need

Just as common as the people who give no thought at all to creating a community any larger than their immediately family are the people who create a small group – perhaps a group of three couples get together.  That would be six people, maybe a couple of children, maybe an older generation person or two as well, but in total, probably under 12 people, and only six of them able-bodied adults.

Don’t get us wrong.  A group of six adults banded together is very much better than a couple all by themselves.  But is it good enough to really tilt the odds in your favor in a full Level 2 situation?  We don’t think so.  Read other articles in our series on communities and defending your retreat for discussions on why this is.

In the balance of this article, we consider some of the implications of managing a larger sized community.

Size/Type of Retreat

A typical American family home has between three and five bedrooms, and maybe two or three bathrooms.  That works very well for a matchingly typical American family of perhaps two adults and two children, boosted by occasional short-term guests.

But say you establish a community of 25 people?  How will that work?  Sure, you can pack a lot of people into even an ordinary house for a short term, especially if you have a working sewage line that takes your sewage away, and efficient cooking facilities.

From a social point of view, there are good reasons to split your group into a reasonable number of small ‘single family apartments’ or even separate dwellings.  From a security point of view, you want to have one single external wall to defend, and to have this external wall as small and strong as possible.

There is another thing to consider as well.  If you’re considering building a custom dwelling for your group of 25 or so people, suitable to withstand a Level 2 event, what will you do if the actual event is or becomes a Level 3 event?

As you’ll see in our article about community sizes for Level 3 events, you need an appreciably larger group to survive a Level 3 event.  Shouldn’t you be building a structure that will be suitable for a Level 3 community rather than a Level 2 community?

With this in mind, we generally advocate you should construct something analogous to a block of condos if you are establishing a larger community.  This article tells you more about the benefits and reasons for this.

Even a ‘Simple’ Level 2 Retreat is Not Simple

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  But your biggest challenge in surviving a Level 2 situation is not food or water or shelter or energy.  It is security.  And the second biggest challenge is the unforeseen, the unpredictable, the unexpected, and the not-planned-for.

The only realistic way to enhance your security is to get more people into your immediate retreat community.  Having friendly neighbors half a mile down the road is no use to you.  They are out of sight.  Even if you had a way of signaling them for help – and assuming your attackers didn’t get you by surprise – by the time your neighbors decided to risk their lives coming to help you, and by the time they got to your retreat, it would be too late.

Out of Sight = Out of Mind

This brings up a couple of relevant points.

The first is to appreciate that in a Level 2 or 3 situation, any sort of gunshot wound is much more potentially lethal than it is today, with first class hospitals and paramedics close by.  Closely related is the fact that the loss of a person in a small community is much more damaging in a Level 2/3 situation than it is today – here, people can be ‘replenished’ with new neighbors moving in; and whether they are nice or not is really not all that vitally important.  Post WTSHTF, you become intensely reliant on the people in your extended immediate family unit.

The second is that not only is the downside to putting one’s life at risk much greater in this sort of scenario, but also it is tactically ill-advised to leave your own retreat exposed and unprotected.  If your neighbors tell you they are being attacked, unfortunately the wise thing to do is to go to alert/lockdown in your own retreat, not to go rushing off over semi-open ground to help them.

The only people you can count on to be for sure committed to helping you are the people who are equally at risk as you.  This topic is discussed further in the article about how community mutual defense pacts sometimes work, and sometimes don’t.

How to Anticipate the Unanticipated

We suggest the second biggest challenge you will confront is something you didn’t expect, and didn’t plan or prepare for.  Or maybe it is something that you thought to be safely unlikely to occur, or something you couldn’t afford to plan for.

The best defense in such a case is diversity and redundancy of resource.  The more people in your community, the more skill sets you have.  Maybe you have someone with experience and background suitable for whatever goes unexpectedly wrong.  Or maybe a freak accident sees you lose a key member of your community – in a small community, you might now be weakened by the loss of skills that no-one else has; in a larger community, there is more chance that someone else has a similar skillset already.

An Introduction to Retreat Design Considerations

Creating an appropriate retreat capable of housing multiple families for an extended period of time in a secure environment almost always requires a custom designed/built dwelling.  This is a separate subject, but two quick points to consider.

Normal houses are not built for security; they are built for comfort and for an open airy feel, and are constructed out of low-cost non-ballistic resistant materials.  Did you know a typical rifle round can travel through the exterior of a house, through every interior wall, and then out through the other exterior wall on the opposite side of the house, and if the bullet encountered anyone on its path through the house, or even someone on the outside on the far side, it could inflict a lethal injury on the person too?

Secondly, you don’t want your ‘castle’ to become your coffin.  If your retreat is made of wood – either the walls or roof – you’re at risk of being burned out.  It is very foreseeable that if people can’t get to you, they’ll decide ‘Well, if we can’t get his food, he can’t have it either’ and simply set fire to your building and watch the building, its contents and its inhabitants all burn to the ground.

Bottom line – constructing a suitable retreat for a sizeable community is a specialized task.  Code Green Prep is creating communities and specialized retreats for our community members.  We would be pleased to consider you as a possible member of a Code Green community, or to assist you create your own community.

May 162012
 

Rainwater tanks come in all colors, shapes, sizes, and materials.

Storing rainwater of course has cost associated with it.

You’ll want to store enough to make sense, but not too much.  There’s another issue too – in some drier areas, the amount of water you need for the dry months exceeds the amount of water you can collect and store in the wet months, so you need to calculate both the amount of water to store and then to confirm you’ll actually be able to collect that much during the wetter months.

Sadly, the final calculation is not as exact as it might seem.  Sure, you’ll have surrounded yourself with vast masses of rainfall data as part of your calculating, but as you’ll see from the worked example below, at the end of the process, you end up making some subjective guesses.  Feel free to ask us if you have questions or need help.

Getting the Raw Data You Need to Do Your Calculation

The key issue now is understanding the rainfall pattern you’ll experience at your location.  This involves both some science and some art.

The science is simply retrieving historical rainfall data.  The art lies in translating historic rainfall data, which varies from year to year, into the acceptably likely/moderately worst case scenarios that you want to build into your planning, and in taking rainfall data from weather stations that might not be close to your location and equating their rainfall data to what will actually happen at your location.

It is an easy thing to go to various different websites and get average monthly rainfall data for a range of different locations around the country.  We have some links in this article, just a bit further down.

Equating Rainfall at Weather Stations to Rainfall at Your Location

So how to equate this rainfall data with what happens where you are.  Maybe you are 50 miles away from where the nearest data is collected.  That could be okay, but maybe you’re in the rain shadow on the other side of a mountain range from where the data is obtained.  Ooops.  That’s not going to work, is it!

So find the best data you can, and if you can’t find any good data, maybe consider averaging the data from several reasonably close locations.  It is better than nothing.  In particular, use the National Weather Service rainfall maps (link below) to get a sense of the rainfall patterns and distributions for where you live compared to where the sampling stations are.

You can also ask local residents for reality checks about what they might remember or have recorded for past years.  Perhaps they can at least answer some simple questions like ‘how often is there no rain at all in July’ and ‘what is the longest gap between decent rains’ and ‘which month do you need to water the crops the most’.

If you want to get really obsessive, you can even go to the archives of the local newspaper and track daily weather from back issues of the paper.

How Much Information is Enough/Too Much

This last suggestion (going through back issues of the local paper) points out a happy fact.  Much of this information is ‘scientific guesswork’ – sure, the historical rain data is a matter of fact, but applying what happened last year, last decade, last century, to predict what will happen next week or month or year – there comes the guesswork.

So there’s only so much data you need.  There’s little point in spending lots of time and money to go from a 75% understanding of past rainfall to a 90% understanding, if you then go and make a guess with a huge +/- 100% factor in it anyway.

Averages, Maximums, Minimums

Now for the second part of the puzzle.  You’ve probably managed to find a chart of average monthly rainfall measurements, and you might have adjusted this a bit for any variations between the data you’ve found and the reality of your exact location.

But – here’s the problem.  To start off with an example, the average US family formerly used to consist of two adults and 2.5 children.  But have you ever seen a half child?  You can visit as many houses as you like, and while you’ll find many with two and many with three children, you’ll never find a house with half a child.

Another way of looking at an average is to say that an average is the number whereby half the time the reality is higher than this number, and the other half the time, the number is lower than this number.

What that means with rainfall numbers is that the monthly average rainfall will be, for half the time, higher than the actual rainfall.  Sometimes the actual rainfall might be a little less than the monthly average, and sometimes it might be a lot less.  This doesn’t matter to the statistician who has neatly calculated his 100 yr average number, but for you, it could mean the difference between having water and not having water – yes, the difference between life and death.

What you need to do is to establish a number a bit like flood plain numbers (you know, the 50 year and 100 year flood plain zones).  Do you want to base your needs on an average monthly rainfall figure that is half the time more positive than the actual rainfall will be in reality?  We suggest not.

But now comes the guesswork.  Do you want to use a monthly rainfall figure in your planning that is too high one year in three?  Or one year in five?  One year in ten?  How about one year in 50 or 100?

There is a cost associated with this, of course.  The more you want to plan for drier than normal years, the larger you’ll need to make your water storage capacity to carry you over from the good/wet months to the bad/dry months, and so the greater your cost will be.  Plus, sooner or later, you’ll end up with a number so huge that you’ll never be able to fill it based on the rainfall from the preceding wetter months (which circles us back, in such cases, to the need for a second water source).

You must look at a minimum of 10 years of data for each month you are studying.  If there is little variation from one year to the next, then you don’t have to build as big a safety margin into your figuring.  But if the numbers are all over the place, clearly you’re going to have to assume something close to the worst for planning your water needs.

But within what looks like a consistent set of data for perhaps 10 years can be other hidden longer term cycles – some weather cycles have a 60 or longer year period to go from minimum to maximum and back to minimum again.  Maybe the ten years you are looking at are the ten years at the best part of the cycle, which is now trending towards the worst part, which could show extremely different numbers.

At the very least, get an extended data series on an annual basis so you can see what overall variation there is, and if you’re looking at marginal weather and rainfall, you will need to be more careful about the data you are using.

Daily or Monthly or What Data

The longer the time period, the less variation in the numbers you’ll get.  If you look at annual rainfall totals, these will vary much less from year to year than if you look at each month’s data.  Whereas the chances are that your region’s annual rainfall is never zero, the chances may be that some months in some years, there’ll be an inch or more of rain, but in some months of other years, there might be not the slightest sprinkle for the entire 30 days.

The time period you need to drill down to depends to an extent on the size of the storage capacity you’ll be building.  The smaller the capacity, the more accurately you need to know when water will come in to replace the water going out.

Generally the monthly data is sufficient for most purposes.

However, daily data is useful for understanding how the rain falls during a month, so as to know whether to adjust the total rainfall to reflect light sprinkles that have little collectable net rain or not (see our section on Real World Imperfections in our earlier article on rainwater collection).

A Worked Example

Let’s have a look at some real world data for Seattle – not because we recommend that as a bug out location, of course, but just because there is readily obtainable information for the area.

First, let’s state our assumptions that we are using, above.  To be consistent with our earlier article on How Much Rainwater Can You Collect From Your Roof, let’s keep the same figure – 50 gallons of water a day or 1500 gallons a month for our basic household needs.  We also said that each inch of rain on our hypothetical roof will give us up to 763 gallons of collectible water.  So, by happy coincidence, it seems that as long as we are getting 2″ of water a month, we’re in good shape.

Can we be sure of getting at least 2″ of rain every month?  The first thing we do is look at the monthly average rainfall figures.  Let’s have a look at them on this page (other pages will have slightly different figures) :

 

Month Rainfall
January 5.5
February 4.2
March 3.7
April 2.5
May 1.7
June 1.5
July 0.8
August 1.1
September 1.9
October 3.5
November 5.9
December 5.9
Annual Total  38.1

 

Which brings us to the first important point.  If we looked just at the total rainfall for the year, we’d see 38.1″.  We need 24″, so upon seeing 38.1″, we might mistakenly think ‘Great, we have no problem’ and not look any further.

But look at the individual months.  You’ll see that the five month block from May through September all show less than 2″ of rain per month.  And if we look back at April, its 2.5″ figure looks a bit anxiety-causing too – remember this average is the number which will be too high half the time.  So with a need to have 2″ of rain in April, and no opportunity to top up with extra rain in May, we need to get an understanding for the possible variation of rain in April too.

Let’s now look carefully at the six months we’re worried about (April through September) and not only look at their monthly averages, but at the actual real rainfall that was measured in recent years.

We’ll take the information from this site.  The next table took a lot of time to type in, so please be appropriately respectful of the information presented to you!  And, just to show another thing, we are using their averages rather than those in the preceding table – quite a big difference in some cases, too.  (It seems this service changes their averages on a shorter sample of years than some of the other time bases).

We immediately noticed that regularly, the September rainfall was less than the 2″ we needed, so for those years, we looked at the October rainfall too, and with a shaky 2.17″ in 2008 for October, we looked at that year’s November.  The same thing happened in 2006, although massive rains in November helped the region catch up on its very dry summer.  Although the averages above suggested there’d be no problem in October, for one of the ten years in this sample there was.  If we don’t want to risk running out of water in October one year in ten, we need to look at that month too.

There’s more, with another deceptive average.  We also noticed that April couldn’t guarantee us 2″ of rain in three of the ten years either, so we added March data for years where that was necessary.  Fortunately, March rain was always above the 2″ we needed, so there was no need to look further back.

Month Avg  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002 
March 3.75 3.65 4.42 2.18 2.13 6.49
April 2.59 4.47 3.49 3.36 1.90 0.69 2.73 3.68 0.65 2.74 4.29
May 1.78 3.20 2.83 3.61 0.89 1.46 1.65 3.32 2.53 1.16 1.11
June 1.49 1.42 2.49 0.18 1.64 1.34 1.67 1.63 0.81 0.51 1.73
July 0.79 0.71 0.31 0.06 0.48 1.44 0.06 1.03 0.16 0.06 0.64
August 0.88 0.13 0.64 1.16 2.87 0.73 0.02 0.29 3.00 0.32 0.04
September 1.50 1.29 4.80 1.75 0.78 3.16 1.43 0.95 2.80 0.89 0.42
October 3.48 3.45 5.54 2.17 1.55 3.01 8.95 0.66
November 6.57 6.52 15.63 3.71

 

Okay, hopefully your eyes aren’t glazing over from the over 80 data points in the above table.  Let’s first quickly skim through the data, month by month, and note the huge difference between wet years and dry years.  August went from 0.02″ all the way up to 3.00″.  October in 2002 had a mere 0.66″ of rain, but the next year, it had 8.95″.

Clearly the average monthly figures obscure massive swings from one year to the next.

Let’s now look at both the worst and the second worst rainfall figures for each month.  If we want to allow for a ‘one time in ten’ being wrong, we’d take the worst figure.  If we were prepared to consider a ‘one time in five years’ then we’d take the second worst figure.

Month Worst  Second
March 2.13 n/a
April 0.65 0.69
May 0.89 1.11
June 0.18 0.51
July 0.06 0.06
August 0.02 0.04
September 0.42 0.78
October 0.66 1.55
November 3.71 n/a

 

So we are now starting to make sort of progress, with an easy conclusion to draw and a difficult piece of further analysis.

The easy conclusion is that we can say we can reliably expect, on 1 April each year, to have full tanks due to having had more rain than we needed in March (and February and before).

We can also say that we can reliably expect, more or less on 1 November, that the rate of rainfall will start to increase above our offtake level.  We’d probably want to have a week or so remaining supply in case the November rains came late, but we know, for sure, that by the end of November, we’ll have received more rain than we consumed, and will end up the month with more water in our tanks than we started with.

Now for the really important part – the seven months of April through October.

If we wanted to be super conservative, we could simply take the lowest reading for each of these seven months and use that as the figure to work from.

But here’s an interesting thought.  Look at any of these months – let’s say August, for example.  In our table of lowest values, the lowest rainfall for August is 0.02″ (in 2006).  Now look at September.  Our lowest rainfall for September is 0.42″, in 2002.  Add these together, and you get 0.44″ for the two months.

But – and here’s the complicating factor.  In August 2006, we had the 0.02″, but in September 2006, we then had 1.43″ of rain – add these together and you get 1.45″ over two months.

If we look at the lowest September figure of 0.42″ in 2002, if we add the 2002 August figure of 0.04″ to that, we end up with 0.46″ – not very much more than the two lows, but still more.

So here’s the question.  We have one chance in ten that any given month’s figure is the lowest.  But what is the chance of the next month after that also being the lowest?  Does the weather in one month influence the weather the next month?  Sure, people talk about ‘dry summers’ or whatever, but is that a perception or a reality?

Let’s create another table, for the three most critical months (June, July, August).  We’ll compare the total of the lowest numbers from any year with the totals for each year.

Lowest  Second  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
0.26 0.61 2.26 3.44 1.40 4.99 3.51 1.75 2.95 3.97 0.89 2.41

 

So now we know that if we cherry pick the lowest months from each year, we can end up with the lowest total of 0.26″, and if we go to the second lowest, we are at 0.61″.  But if we insist that each month be linked to the month before and after, the lowest number now is 0.89″ and the next lowest number is 1.49″.

Confused yet?  So, what is your feeling – how much rain should we project to be sure of receiving in the three months of June, July and August?  We’re not going to answer that ourselves, because clearly there is no single right answer.

When you’ve answered that question to your own satisfaction, it is time for the key question :  How much rain do you think we’ll get for the entire period from 1 April through to sometime in early/mid November?

Clearly, there’s no exact or correct answer.  Depending on the level of risk you are prepared to accept for being wrong depends on the number you’ll choose.  If you guess wrong, then during the course of the dry months, you’ll realize the rain isn’t coming as it should, and you’ll see your water levels dropping below the levels you projected them to be, so you can start to adjust your water usage habits some.

That is relatively practical when you started off with a fair/generous projection of water usage to start with, and of course much harder if you were rather optimistic/aggressive about your water savings, giving you little room to cut back.

Further Interpretation of the Data

We’re going to look across the entire dry spell, from 1 April through to some time in November (let’s allow 500 gallons for November), and use our second worst numbers for each month.

But then we’re going to look at the individual months and see how the rain fell in those months and start adjusting for the less efficient collection of light sprinkles compared to the more efficient collection of downpours.

For example, in September’s 0.78″ result for 2008, we look at the relevant data and analyze the rainfall, day by day.

The first day with rain was the 20th, when temperatures ranged from 54 – 58, and the wind was 3.7 mph, and 0.54″ of rain fell.  We’ll say that 0.51″ of that was collected – after a long dry spell, albeit a damp day or two prior, there was probably a lot of moisture absorption and some evaporation off the roof going on.

On the next day another 0.02″ of rain fell, but the temperatures were warmer and the winds stronger, so we’re going to say none of that was collected.

On the 22nd, 0.01″ of rain fell, and that’s the minimum needed just to wet the roof, so we’ll ignore that.

On the 24th, we had 0.12″ of rain, and we’ll count 0.10″ as collectible.

On the 25th, temperatures were warm, the wind was strong, and 0.09″ of rain fell.  We’re going to say that only 0.045″ of that was collectible.

So add these adjusted figures together and round down, and instead of 0.78″, we have a net collection of 0.65″ of usable rain.

Let’s say after doing similar calculations for the other months, we end up with 3.8″ of rain in total that we can be sure will actually make it into our tanks.  This provides us with 2900 gallons of water.  But we are going to use 7 months of consumption at 1500 gallons a month, and we want 500 gallons left over on 1 November – a total requirement of 11,000 gallons.

So after adjusting for the rain that will come in , we need to start on 1 April with 8,100 gallons of water stored.  Now let’s adjust for evaporation – 0.25% a day, perhaps.  This means, for the seven month, 210 day period, we’ll lose 52.5% of our water.  We need to increase our storage from 8100 gallons up to say 12,500 gallons.

Can We Get the Rain We Need in the Wet Months to Fill Our Tanks

12,500 gallons is a lot of water.  It represents 16.4″ of rainfall.  Can we be sure of getting 16.4″ of rain during the wet months of November through March?

Yes, we probably can, even in a worst case scenario, but only just.  We’d simply repeat the analysis that we’ve already done for the dry season, and this time do it for the wet season to get a feeling for likely worst case scenarios.

In this case, our tanks will take the rest of the year to fill, and sometimes might not fill until early in the new year, giving only a few months of happily overflowing tanks and water-richness, before entering into another extended period of anxiously looking up at the sky each day.

The point to be aware of here, slightly obscured from using rainy Seattle’s data, is that the amount of rain we can collect in rainy months is sometimes insufficient for the drier months.  There’s no point in making the storage capacity any larger than the total amount of water likely to be collected off the roof.

Summary

So, we have learned both a general and a specific lesson from this example.  The specific lesson is how to work through a calculation for the water you’ll need based on your area’s rainfall patterns and your family’s water consumption.

The general lesson hasn’t yet been stated until now, but it needs to be considered.  Creating a water storage system capable of storing 12,500 gallons of water requires a sizeable amount of tankerage, and probably they will be at ground level so you’ll then need a water pump to transfer the water up to a holding tank in the ceiling for regular usage, so the water isn’t energy free.

Even a teensy-tiny well (2 gallons/hour capacity – barely a trickle) and perhaps a single 1500 gallon buffer/holding tank would give you the same results as your enormous 12,500 gallon rainwater collection system, and at massively lower cost.

These numbers were based on the climate in Seattle, an area renowned for its rain (albeit, as we’ve now seen in detail, somewhat unfairly).  Imagine how much worse it would be in a drier climate.  If we say 8 months with no water, that would call for 12,000 gallons, plus 500 for early November, and then if we say a higher 0.3% evaporation rate over 240 days, and you’d need to start off the dry season with 21,500 gallons of water stored.

There’s probably no way you could collect that much water during the shorter rainy season in this hypothetical alternate location, so like it or not, you’ll need a secondary water source right from the get-go in such cases.

One last point, if we may.  If you’re in a water scarce scenario, all other buildings on your property should also collect the water off their roofs too.  If you have a tool shed/workshop, an animal shed/barn, or whatever else, these could potentially double or more the rain you can collect.  And here’s the strange outcome of that.  If you are collecting twice as much rain, you don’t need as much storage.

May 152012
 

This map shows the variation between expected average rainfall (clear white) and actual rainfall for the first four months of 2012. 0% is dark brown, 200% is dark green. Clearly there's a huge divergence between average and actual rainfall.

We started off an earlier article about rainwater (see ‘An Overlooked Source of Water‘) by suggesting that a few 55 gallon drums of water taken from your downspouts would be a great source of emergency water in a Level 1 type, at-home, emergency.

If you’re planning for a short duration Level 1 situation, then you don’t need a lot of water, and even a single 55 gallon drum of rainwater would probably be enough – albeit on an uncomfortable hardship type basis – for a week or so, and larger quantities will allow you to enjoy successively more ‘creature comforts’ (such as flushing toilets).

But what about Level 2/3 situations – possibly a year or longer, when you need to be self-contained in everything you eat or drink?  A 55 gallon drum of water doesn’t go very far in that sort of case, does it!

Unless you’re in an area where it rains reliably every day, you’ll need to have some storage to give you water on the days when it doesn’t rain.  We talk about how much storage you might need in our article How Much Rain Water Can You/Should You Store.  This article concerns it more with appreciating how much water you can actually get from your roof collection system and matching it to your consumption level.

This and the other articles about rainwater storage might seem a bit complicated, and we deliberately go into quite a lot of detail.  But – what is more important than water in your life?  Sure, you don’t want to run out of food either, and shelter is important too, but if you don’t have a reliable supply of water, you’ve chosen the wrong place to shelter, and you’ll die of thirst long before you die of starvation.

Water is also a great comfort item.  Whether it be for enjoying a long soak in a tub of water, or singing in the shower, or just washing our clothing more regularly than arguably essential, a positive supply of water translates to a much improved quality of life.

So please do bear with us, and if you end up needing further advice or assistance, by all means contact us.

Water Consumption Rate

The first issue is the rate at which you will use water.  This is a very ‘elastic’ number, because in the worst case scenario, you can live on just a quart or two of water a day for some time.  But in a best case scenario, living a normal life such as most of us do at present, you’ll be going through as much as 100 or more gallons a day (true – look at your water bills the next few times you receive them and do the math yourself).

So somewhere between less than one and more than one hundred gallons of water a day is a number you can settle on as an appropriate compromise between cost and convenience.  Deciding on the exact number is outside the scope of this article – you need to decide what the number is, and then we’ll work forward from that.

For the sake of this example, let’s say you want 10 gallons of water for each of three people, and another 20 gallons of water for household things in general – 50 gallons a day for all of you, combined.

Agricultural Water

There’s another thing to consider as well.  While in a Level 2 situation you are basically surviving on your stored food supplies, in a Level 3 situation, you’re needing to grow your own food into the future.

And if you thought your personal and household needs for water were high, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Here’s an interesting table of water requirements in terms of cubic meters of water per metric tonne of food yielded.

The numbers are very imprecise (even though they seem exact) because it is hard to know how much of the needed water can be supplied from the moisture in the ground to start with and how much needs to be added.  But just to seize some numbers off the site and convert them to US measures, you’re looking at almost 2,000 gallons of water per pound of steak you end up with after raising cattle, 700 gallons for a pound of pork meat, and ‘only’ 200 gallons per pound of wheat.

Our discussion that follows is primarily to do with domestic water for your residence.  But in choosing your retreat location, have an eye for what you’ll be growing there and what the water needs for that will be, too.

In most cases, it will be close to essential to have access to a free-flowing spring or a gravity fed water source to support your farming needs.  We can’t stress this too strongly.  Everything in an ongoing Level 3 situation revolves around convenient access to water.

Equating Consumption to Rainfall

You know – sort of – how many gallons of water you need per day.  But what does this translate to in terms of inches of rain?

The first thing you need to know is the collection area of your roof.  Don’t ask a roofer to do this for you, because he will probably tell you the number of ‘squares’ of tiles needed to lay your roof.  Because your roof is on an angle, the surface area of the roof is appreciably larger than the square feet of floor plan it covers.

So measure the exterior of your house, and add extra space for any roof extensions out over the sides of your house, and from these dimensions calculate the footprint on the ground of your roof.

You also should adjust for any areas of roof which don’t feed the rain into gutters.  Clearly if the water just runs off the side of the roof, it does you no good unless you add extra guttering.  If you have a separate garage and roof and plan to collect the water from that, include that in your calculation, too.

Let’s say you have 1400 sq ft of roof area, and the two sides which the roof slopes down to are each 40 ft long.  Maybe you have a couple of 5′ gaps where the water just runs off the side, but the other 70 ft in total are guttered.  So 70/80 * 1400 means you have 1225 net sq ft of collection area.

One inch of rain falling on 1000 sq ft of roof will deposit 623 gallons of water.  So each inch of rain on your roof will have 763 gallons of water going down your downspouts.

That is the theoretical best case outcome for this scenario.  We’ll fine tune it for the real world, but let’s first do a quick reality check before going any further.

In our example, you want 50 gallons of water a day, and you’ll collect 763 gallons of water from every inch of rain.  This means that in a year, you’ll consume 18,250 gallons of water, which will require 24 inches of rain (best case scenario).

Have a quick look at the average rainfall data for your region (see links below).  Just using the very basic annual rainfall average number, how much rainfall does your region get?  If the answer is less than 24″, you know that you’re either going to have to cut back on your water use, or you’re going to have to find additional sources of water.

Is Rainwater a Practical Partial or Complete Solution

Now for one further quick thought.  Maybe your region will give you 15″ or maybe even 30″ of water.  15″ is good – you could get 63% of your water needs from rainwater.  That’s great.  And obviously 30″ is brilliant.

But what say you can only expect 6″ of rain a year?  And what say none of that rain falls in June, July, August or September, and less than you’ll consume in May and October?  That means you’ll need to stockpile perhaps 7600 gallons of water in May to see you through to some time in October.  That’s a lot of storage, and a lot of cost.

Being as how you have already determined that you’ll need a well or some other water source, if you find a reasonable well (anything over a 2 gallon/hour well will be perfectly adequate – most wells will give you more than 2 gallons/minute!) is it really worth while also investing into a rainwater collection system?

Our recommendation would probably be to continue with your rainwater system, unless you were drawing water from a free-flowing spring or taking it via a gravity feed from a reliable clean year-round river.

There’s one interesting thing about rainwater.  It typically falls in months where solar and wind energy is the lowest – the winter months.  So maybe you use a solar/wind powered pump to draw up water from a well in the summer months, when you have plenty of energy but not much rainwater, and in the winter months, you use rainwater at a time when you have plenty of rain but not much energy.  The two sources balance each other out nicely.

In a Level 3 situation, you’ll be on your own for the foreseeable future with only the resources you have at hand.  Energy will be terribly scarce, as will spare parts for water pumps, and anything you can do to use as much low tech/energy free resources to  help extend the useful life you can get from energy powered and higher tech solutions is to be considered as compelling.  After all, once your high-tech gadgets are gone, they’re probably gone for good.

Furthermore, you know you can trust the water you collect from your roof. Well water is probably okay, as long as you know what else is happening to the water table, but river water depends on what is upstream of you – something you mightn’t be able to control.  That herd of deer that likes to go down to the river to drink?  Guess what else they do at the same time?  The camp set up by the less well prepared survivors of the city a mile up-river?  What do you think they do to their sewage?  Yup – you’re drinking it.

For all reasons, we urge you to keep a month or more’s emergency supply of water on hand – what say your well’s pump breaks, or the river dries up or ices over for the first time in 50 years?

So if you have some tankerage already in place for a reserve supply of water, why not use it to collect the rainwater you get as a supplementary source of water whenever possible, to save on your water pump and the energy needed to drive it.

Real World Imperfections in Water Collection

Remember back to our theoretical collection of 623 gallons of water for every 1000 sq ft of collection area (ie roof)?  Well, now let’s start considering some of the imperfections that reduced the true net water you actually get in your tank from the rain that falls on your roof.

What say you have a very light drizzle on a warm windy day?  What say your roof is made of wood shakes?  Maybe the first bit of rain will soak into the wood, and maybe the warm wind will evaporate most of the light drizzle before it forms into sufficiently large droplets on the roof to start tumbling down and into the gutters.

Maybe you have some dirt, leaves, moss, or debris of any other sort on your roof (and in your gutters) that soaks up some of the water too.

Whatever the circumstance, it should be obvious that a very light drizzle, while possibly adding up to a measurable amount of rain over some hours, might actually be entirely uncollectable.

The steeper the pitch of your roof, the less rain you need to get the water started running down and into the gutters.  If you have a smooth impervious substance like tile or metal, the water will run more readily than if you have a textured or slightly absorbent material such as artificial or natural wood shakes.

For months when the amount of rain that falls is probably less than the minimum you need, these issues become relevant.  You need to analyze how the rain falls, on a daily basis (or even hourly but this is probably not readily available) to determine how much of the rain will end up being collected and how much will be lost.

Our own experimenting has suggested that the first 0.01″ (one hundredth of an inch) of rain is lost, and if the rain is falling very slowly, there will be appreciable ongoing losses.  A 1″ downpour, all within an hour, will give you close to 100% water recovery, but a fine drizzle totaling 1″ over two days might see you only collect half the water (this is a WAG on our part!).

Storage Losses

You know that water boils at 212°, and if you think about it for a moment, you also know that water evaporates, without boiling, at lower temperatures too.  Even a lump of ice loses some of its mass each day due to evaporation.

How much water will you lose out of your tanks due to evaporative losses?  This depends on the ratio of the surface area of the tank to the volume of water within it, the amount of open space above the water, the temperature of the water and of the air (the two might be very different), the ambient humidity, and if there are any winds blowing over the surface of the water.  It even depends on the altitude you are at.

That is enough variables to make it very difficult to offer up for sure always accurate rules of thumb for calculating evaporative water losses.  Suffice it to say that the cooler you keep your water, and the more enclosed you can keep the top of it, and the smaller the surface area as a proportion to water stored, the lower your water losses.  You can’t really control the outside temperature or humidity, but you can stop winds from blowing over your water (and over any openings) and you can perhaps insulate the tank some and maybe even bury some or all of it to take advantage of the natural tendency of the ground to be cooler in summer (and warmer in winter, too – you don’t want your water and pipes freezing up come winter-time).

If you’d like to see an excellent worked through formula, you can go to this webpage which concludes that a typical cup of water would take 44 days to evaporate in a still room at 72°.  In other words, it is sort of evaporating at a rate of 2.3% a day, at least for the first day.

Let’s use the same formula and basic data, but instead say we had the cup of water outside at 85°, and the humidity was 40% rather than 60%, and there was perhaps a light 3 mph breeze running across the top of the water.  This would give us a massively different result – the water would be gone in 11 1/4 days!  You’re losing almost 10% of the water every day.

Clearly, the rate of evaporative loss can be a huge factor and has to be carefully optimized.  Let’s say you can limit your evaporative losses to 1% a day with careful design.  But this does mean that if you need 1000 gallons at the end of 30 days, you’ll need to start off with 1300 gallons at the beginning of the month.  That’s a significant impact.  And if you’re storing 10,000 gallons to last you six months, if you’re experiencing even ‘only’ a 0.5% loss a day, that comes to 9,000 gallons.  Yup – you’ll lose 9,000 of your 10,000 gallons just to evaporation.

Okay, we are slightly simplifying things here, but you see the issue.  The most important thing to obsess over in designing your water storage system is the evaporative loss of your stored water.

Water Collection Rate

So you need (in the case of our worked example) 50 gallons of water a day, right.  Let’s run the risk of stating the obvious, and make two assumptions.

First, if you are getting more than 50 gallons coming down your downspouts each day, you’re free of problems.

Second, it doesn’t rain every day.  Even if you average 50 gallons a day of water collected, you’ll probably be getting less in the summer and more in the winter, and you’ll have occasional unseasonably dry spells that you’ll need to plan for.  Sure, you might get some unseasonably wet spells too, but they are not so relevant.

You need a buffer of stored water to carry you over the dry days with no rain or insufficient rain.  How big a buffer should that be?

It all depends on the rainfall pattern in your local area.  You’ll need to go off and do some research to get not just monthly average rainfall numbers, but hopefully daily rainfall data and averages for many years.

How do you do this?  Well, we’re glad you asked that question!  Please now visit our article How Much Rainwater Can You/Should You Store for a detailed working through of how this can be analyzed and calculated.

May 142012
 

A simple but impressive rainwater collection system.

A person can survive on much less than a gallon of water a day in an emergency (the actual amount depends on things like the type of food you might be eating, the work you are doing, the temperature and humidity of your environment, and your height, weight and age).

But a common rule of thumb is that in an adverse situation, you should plan on about 1 gallon of water, per person, per day.  This keeps you from being dehydrated, and gives you extra water to cook in, and even some to brush your teeth with, too.

But you don’t get any to flush with.  Even modern low flow toilets use 1.6 gallons every time you flush.

The real-world amount of water we actually use in our comfortable lives every day is much greater than the essential need for several pints to keep dehydration at bay.  In addition to toilet flushing, there is dish washing, clothes washing, showers and baths, car washing, garden watering, and who knows what else.  Estimates vary enormously, and there are doubtless regional variations, but it seems the average American uses between 50 – 100 gallons of fresh water every day.

In a Level 1 event, you are going to want to ‘hunker down’ at home for as much as a week (much more than that and you’re moving into Level 2 territory).  The chances are high that you’ll have water, the same as always.  But that is far from guaranteed.  Maybe you have experienced an earthquake that has broken the water mains, for example.  Or a major power outage that means no electricity to drive the water pumps that send the water to your faucets.

Part of the hope in a Level 1 event is that you can continue to live a reasonably normal life during the short-term nature of the event, and due to the event’s anticipated short-term, you choose to stock enough essentials to ensure as much of your comfort as you wish.

So what should you do about water?  And, if you’re going to store some, how should you do so?

It seems to be prudent to keep at least enough water to allow for the essential ingredients of life to continue – maybe a gallon per person per day for essential uses, and some more for not quite so essential uses such as toilet flushing and at least sponge baths.  (Do we need to remind you of the old saying ‘If its yellow, let it mellow; if its brown, flush it down’?)

So maybe you decide you want to have 10 gallons, per person, per day, and maybe you want to be sure to have a ten day supply for three people.  That’s quite a lot of water – 300 gallons.  To look at it another way, that’s over a ton of water, and with the weight of the containers that hold it, you’re probably up to a ton and a half.  (Water weighs 8.35lb per US gallon.)

One more perspective on this 300 gallon supply.  If you’ve been saving up 2 liter drink bottles to keep water in, you’ll need 568 bottles to hold 300 gallons (there are 3.785 liters in a US gallon of water).

Well, don’t let us stop you from buying plenty of 2 liter bottles of Coke, and some industrial grade shelving to stack and stock your water supplies on.  But there’s one source of water, and one easy way of storing it, that most people overlook.

Rainwater

If you live in a dwelling with a roof (ie not in an apartment complex) your house or condo’s roof can be a great rainwater collector.  Best of all, most of what you need is already there; you don’t need to make many modifications at all to be able to get the rain from the roof and into storage.

To encourage you some more, here’s an interesting statistic.  For every 1,000 sq ft of roof area, your roof will collect 623 gallons of water from each inch of rainfall.  Or, to put it another way, with three people each wishing for 10 gallons of water a day, you need a daily average of only 1/20th of an inch of rain.  Well, actually, that wouldn’t work, because 1/20th of an inch of rain would just wet the roof rather than run off it to be collected, but you get the point, I’m sure.

Better to say that if you had 1/2 an inch of rain fall once every ten days, each 300 sq ft of roof would supply enough water for one person.

Okay, point taken.  If you live somewhere wet (like Seattle!) then here’s one of the good sides to this – even the driest month of July still sees 0.79″ of rain, and apart from August at 0.97″, all the other months are way over an inch of rainfall.  But you probably know that, ‘unscientifically’, just from living here, don’t you!

How to Collect Rainwater

This is dead simple.  Although you can do more complicated things, all you need to do is put a rainwater barrel in your downspouts.  There are a couple of things you can do to make this more useful, however.

The first thing is that you want to have your barrels up as high as possible, so you can gravity feed the water on from the barrel to where you’ll be using it, and the more the height differential, the more the pressure from the water in the barrel down to wherever the water eventually comes out of a tap.

From the point of view of the rain coming off the roof, it makes no difference at all if the barrel is immediately under the eaves, or sunk into the ground.

Don’t put the barrel ridiculously high up, though, because you’re going to need some way to get water out of the barrel as and when needed.  The simplest consideration involves two things.  First, you want to be able to reach a tap on the bottom of the barrel.  Second, you want to be able to run a hose from the tap, through a window, and into your house, with hopefully the hose able to run downhill all the way, even if only on a gentle slope.

You also don’t want to get too carried away with scaffolding to support barrels way up the side of your house, and maybe some of the people in your family won’t think they’re the most appealing of ornaments either.

So work out whatever you can as best you can.  Chances are you have several downspouts around the perimeter of your house, you’ll want to do this at as many of them as you feel motivated to tackle.

This water is also great for the garden too, and if you have a fair amount of collection capacity, it might be useful to use it for gardening, in dry months, especially if your local water authority adds any sort of restrictions or surcharges on ‘excessive’ water use.

Water Barrels

You can collect water in anything you like that is reasonably big, which doesn’t leak too much, and which doesn’t add nasty flavors or chemicals to the water.

Most people will choose plastic food grade type barrels.  These can be purchased new (of course) and sometimes used – they are recycled barrels that held some sort of food product or chemical, and which the supplier may or may not promise to have fully cleaned, although often you’ll see that in one point they talk about ‘triple cleaning’ the barrels, and at another point, they also recommend against using them for storing drinking water.

For non-drinking water purposes, used barrels are fine.  But for drinking water, and unless you want to have to either accept some strange flavors or treat/purify the water, it is probably best to get brand new barrels.

Some people will quite rightly avoid plastic entirely, and have the budget to spring for stainless steel.  Others might use galvanized iron, or even wood (probably not a good idea – don’t let wood dry out too much or else it will shrink and the barrel becomes less water-tight).  Fiberglass works.  Glass is great, but sadly impractical.  You can even make water barrels (more like tanks, really) from concrete if you’re wanting something huge in size.

Whatever type of container you get, it is wise to thoroughly rinse and sanitize it (them) before putting water in them.

Choose an opaque color.  Sunlight is as bad for water storage as it is for anything/everything else, so try and keep the water dark (and ideally cool, too, but that might be asking for a bit much).

As for the size of the barrel, there’s no right or wrong answer to that.  Well, clearly there are upper and lower limits – below a certain size and it isn’t worth the bother, and above a certain size and you’ll never fill it.  If you’re looking at typical sized 30 – 55 gallon drum, you will probably end up with close on your target 300 gallons of water, all stored ‘automatically’ for you outside.

A 55 gallon plastic drum, full of water, will probably weigh about 470 lbs – plus the weight of the structure it is mounted on, of course. A 30 gallon drum would be more like 260 lbs.  Both are way too heavy to ever carry, but the 30 gal drum has the benefit of not needing quite as strong a support structure.

Plastic water barrels will cost you anywhere from less than 50c to more than $2 per gallon of storage capacity, depending on the type, their fittings, and where you source them from.

Multiple Barrels Per Downspout

If you wanted to, you could also put multiple barrels, side by side, at each collection point.  Simply run a pipe between the bottom/lower side of one barrel to the same place on the other barrel.  The two barrels will fill evenly and subsequently empty evenly, too.

Alternatively, you could stack one above the other.  If the bottom barrel can be sealed, you simply run a pipe from the bottom of the top barrel to the top of the second barrel, and you take your water out of the double barrel from a pipe at the bottom of the lower barrel.

If the second barrel is not watertight, you’d want the connector to go from the overflow point on the top barrel down to anywhere on the bottom barrel, and you’d then need two points to take the water out from – the bottom of the top barrel and the bottom of the second barrel.  Maybe the lower barrel is below the window or whatever, and you designate this as your ’emergency spare’ and also for garden water, whereas the top barrel with the more convenient water flow is for your main indoor needs.

Connecting Your Barrel to Your Downspouting

This is easy.  Cut and divert your downspouting so that the water pours into the top of your barrel.  Arrange a generous sized overflow tube, also at the top of the barrel to allow overflow water, after the barrel is full, to then go back into the rest of your downspouting.

Be careful that the water coming into the barrel doesn’t just go straight into the overflow exit pipe.

At the bottom of the barrel, you’ll want to fit (or have fitted for you) a regular outdoor tap with a thread for regular hose, so you can then take the water from the barrel, probably via a regular hose, and into the house (or wherever else you want to use it).

Modify as needed if you are having two or more barrels linked together.

Linking Your Barrels Together

This is a great idea.  Maybe you have four downspouts, and a barrel at each one.  Rather than have four hoses all leading into your house, you could instead link the four barrels together and just have one hose, from whichever is the most convenient barrel, to feed into your house.

Simply run a hose from the bottom of each barrel to the bottom of each other barrel.  The hose can even go down to ground level before going up again to the next barrel, it doesn’t really matter, because the rate of water flow through these balancing/transfer hoses can be reasonably low.

For this to work it is important that the barrels be at close to the same height off the ground.  You are making use of the magical property of water to settle at the same level, even if in multiple barrels in multiple locations.  You can easily test the relative heights just by filling all the barrels with about an inch or two of water (so they don’t get too heavy).  You should see the same amount of water in each barrel.  If one has more water in it than the others, you need to raise it however many inches to balance it to the others.

Is Rainwater from the Roof Safe to Drink

Many people enjoy long and healthy lives drinking untreated rainwater from their roofs.

Indeed, when the writer was a child, he lived for some years in a town where his parent’s house relied exclusively on rainwater.  The roof was made from painted corrugated iron, and the water tanks were of galvanized iron.  He remembers as a little boy playing with the tanks, and never thinking to question the dirt in the gutters that the rainwater passed through, or all the slime and sludge in the bottom of the tanks.

Birds would fly overhead and do what they do, and who knows what else happened to the water as well.  It was not treated in any way; it just went straight from the roof to the holding tanks, and from them to the taps inside (this was well before people started drinking bottled water – 100% of all our water came from the tanks).

There are some common sense issues to consider, however.  Try and keep your water away from zinc (such as sometimes used to reduce moss growth), from lead (in paint or flashings), and from treated timbers.  Any sort of new roof should be treated warily before it has had plenty of rain rinse it off.  You don’t want any overflow or discharge pipes from hot water tanks or a/c units to drain onto the roof and potentially into your water tanks.

Screening the tanks can help prevent large (and small) insects and animals get into your tanks.

If you’re in a polluted area, you have a bit more reason to be validly concerned.  All that pollution up in the air slowly settles down, and some of it lands on your roof.  Rain then washes it into your water tanks.

One rule of thumb is that if the water looks clean, smells clean and tastes clean, it is probably fine to drink, especially for a limited period of time.  But if you are concerned about pollution being washed into the water, or just don’t like the thought of drinking water from your dirty roof, by all means filter and treat the water before drinking it.  Or use your outdoor water for non-drinking purposes (cleaning and toilet flushing) and supplement it with the gallon per day of water you feel to be better for drinking purposes.

One plus about rainwater.  Depending on how you might choose to treat/purify it (sometime it would be great to understand how adding chemicals to water is considered to be purification!), you’ll be getting water with no fluoride added to it, no chlorine, and no other nasty chemicals that may or may not have harmful side effects.

Rainwater is generally ‘soft’ rather than ‘hard’.

How Much Water Should You Store

This very essential aspect to do with planning a rainwater system deserves its own page.  And so it now has one – please see How to Calculate How Much Rainwater You Should Store for a mind-numbingly thorough discussion on this point.

 How Long Can You Store Water?

This might seem like a strange question.  Water is just water, right?  H2O.  What can go ‘stale’ with water?

Well, yes, in a perfect world, that is true.  But inevitably, you get biological contamination, and also some other contamination that might become food for the biological contamination.  Add some sun and some nice warm conditions, and even clean pure water will eventually end up with algae and other types of biological contamination.

As the water falls through the air, it picks up contaminants.  It picks up more as it runs over the roof and into your storage.  So rainwater can be somewhat biologically active to start with.

Furthermore, there is always the danger of chemicals leaching out of plastic storage containers and into the water.  This happens slowly over time, so the longer water stays in the same plastic container (and the warmer the temperature and the more the sun) the more leaching will occur.  Smaller containers have a greater surface area to volume ratio, and so need to be emptied and refilled more frequently than larger containers.

Some people recommend changing any stored water once a year.  Others say they’ve had no problems with ‘old’ water many years old.

For ourselves, the nice thing about rainwater is that (depending on your rainfall, storage capacity, and usage patterns) you’re probably turning over the water in your tanks more than once a year anyway.  We definitely renew the plastic bottled water we have indoors every year or so, but the outside water, as long as it is being sort of renewed – either just by surplus rainwater overflowing out of the barrels, or from garden watering and refilling – we don’t worry about, especially if it is water that isn’t our prime drinking water to start with.

Maintaining the Barrels

There’s not a lot that you need to do to maintain the barrels.  Check for leaks, especially around the taps.  Maybe once every five or so years, if you see visible accumulations of algae and sludge in the barrels, clean them out.

An easy way of cleaning the barrels is to use a siphon and just move the end of the siphon tube that is in the tank around to suck up the stuff from the bottom of the barrel.  You won’t need to completely empty the barrel that way.

Needless to say, such activities are best done at a time when rain is forecast in the foreseeable future so as to be able to replenish your water stocks (but there’s no need to do it in the middle of the downpour!).

Legal Issues

Alas, in some jurisdictions, the water that falls on your roof of your house, on your property, may not belong to you!  Anxious environmentalists may be concerned that you are diverting the water from its ‘normal’ path to wherever it would otherwise go (let’s ignore than a house and roof creates an un-normal water collecting/concentrating point to start with, shall we….).

In other states with water shortages and complex water rights, it has been argued that by collecting the rainwater, you are stopping it from mysteriously migrating on to the state’s water supply, and therefore, you are depriving the owners of the water rights of their water (this is definitely the case in Colorado).

The simple act of building structures to hold water barrels may require building permits too.

Summary

Adding a water collection facility to your roof’s downspouting can be an easy project you can do yourself, and will provide you with a store of extra water, either for personal use in a Level 1 emergency, or simply to water your garden with and place less stress on the town water system.

There is one difficult paradox – the months when you most need water are the months when it rains the least.  This means that you’ll need to have somewhat larger storage capacity (from the wet months) to carry you through the dry months.

May 132012
 

Initially it will be ‘other people’ and ‘bad people’ rioting and looting. But within a week or two, it will be your neighbors, too.

We came across an interesting article on a survivalist blog.  The writer said he believed that too many people are being too negative in terms of their projections about what will happen after TEOTWAWKI.

This writer spoke about his belief in the basic goodness of the American people, and offered up various high-minded platitudes to this effect.  As well as platitudes, he also described in some detail a scenario that he believed would apply.

Basically, it was the ‘neighborhood watch on steroids’ concept, where the residents in a neighborhood all banded together to defend themselves against roving gangs of looters and rioters.

A mean-minded person would point out that his reference to roving gangs of goblins already acknowledged that cities would become lawless to a greater or lesser extent.  But let’s not score points through rhetoric, and let’s concentrate instead on the viability of smaller neighborhood communities managing to keep law and order within their own cul-de-sac or apartment complex or gated community or whatever.

He added the comment ‘around where I live, there are more rifles than people’; that may or may not be true about where you live, but it doesn’t really matter and obscures an appreciation of the issues that do matter.

Let’s simply agree with this optimistic view of the future – that you and your neighbors have lots of weapons, are decent honest people, and you all effectively band together harmoniously and create your own micro-community and safe zone, keeping the goblins away.

Bravo.

But….

What happens next?

By this we simply mean, what happens when food starts to run low in your little micro-community? We see three breakdown events occurring in the days after the creation of your neighborhood cooperative.

First Breakdown

The first level of breakdown will be when your tiny self-defense cooperative is first formed.  What’s the betting that part of the deal will be the organizers saying ‘We need to join together and pool our resources for our shared common good’.  Now that all sounds fine and dandy when they’re saying ‘We all need to take turns watching out for raiders and repelling them’ but the chances they are also saying ‘And let’s pool all our food and other survival resources’.

So right from day one, you’ll be under pressure from your fellow law-abiding neighbors to share away everything you have to help them.  In return for this, they are offering additional security – ostensibly from others outside your neighborhood, but the unwritten unstated ugliness is you’re also getting security from them, too.

However, let’s say this is not a problem.  Maybe you are all equally prepared, so redistribution of all your supplies has little effect.

Second Breakdown

But now for stage two.  Some people in your community have strangely used up their share of the pooled community supplies much faster than others.  Are they secretly hoarding food?  Eating twice as much as anyone else?  Or just being wasteful?  Whatever the cause, your community and you now have your second social crisis.  Do you reward these people’s bad behavior and give them more food – especially because, at this point, everyone’s supplies are now diminishing.

With any measure of remaining civilization, this is almost certainly what will happen, because not only will some people be lobbying for more food, half the other people will also be looking ahead to the point where they too will be needing support from anyone who still has surplus food.  So they’ll support the concept of daily redistributions of food based on need, because they see themselves becoming net beneficiaries of the policy, too.  A bit like taxing a few wealthy people to feed the many poor people, right?

Besides which, while you might have had to shoot at and maybe even hit looters attempting to attack your community, they have all been strangers at a distance, and there’s been a life or death, them or us, element to the encounter.  But are you to let one of your neighbors starve in front of you?  And will they just passively starve while you continue to eat, or will they fight you to get your food?

The outcome of this second breakdown is almost certain – you give up still more of your own prepared supplies in exchange for a little bit more peace and safety within your community.

Third Breakdown

Now for stage three, and this is the point where we feel we must surely ‘win’ the argument (we use quotes, because we wish we were wrong, but we fear we are right).

You’re now at the point where everyone in your community group has exhausted their food supplies.  What do you do now?

Your choices are starkly simple.  You stay where you are, and slowly starve to death, or alternatively, you do whatever it takes to get additional food for your friends, your families, and yourselves.

This is the point where all community members, of all communities, have no choice but to become ‘lawless looters’ – except that it won’t just be empty stores you’ll be smashing into to steal food from.  The stores will already have been emptied, days or weeks ago.  The only places where you can get food now are places where people still have food and are protecting their food from people like – yes, from people like you.

What do you do when your polite request for a gift of food is rebuffed?  What do you do after you’ve offered to pay them with money, with valuables, with anything at all they care to ask for, and they’ve still refused to sell/exchange even a single food item?

Most people will manage to become morally outraged at this, and so will then see what happens next not as their own transition to a lawless looter, but instead, they’ll see themselves as morally empowered to fairly redistribute the remaining food and to stop selfish people from illegally hoarding more food than they could ever truly need.

These people will not see themselves as killing the current lawful owners of whatever food remains.  They’ll see themselves saving the lives of many others when they secure the food and redistribute it.

Indeed, what passes for the remaining lawful authorities will probably pass urgent laws making it illegal to keep more than a day or two of food in one’s house, requiring ‘hoarders’ to give up their food, and authorizing any necessary level of force to take it from these demon selfish ‘hoarders’.  (Do we need to add that the people passing such laws are very unlikely to be preppers?)

The Life or Death Question That Has Only One Answer

We agree with the person who wrote the positive heartwarming article.  Many communities will band together to create isolated pockets of safety where the rule of law prevails.  Maybe even entire towns and cities will do so.

But what happens when the food runs out?  Let’s assume there’s less than a week of food for the community.  Maybe on half rations, that will keep people reasonably healthy and comfortable for two weeks.  But if there’s no clear sign of food resupply coming any time soon, at some point people will be forced to choose between taking food by force from wherever they can find it, or passively dying of starvation in their dwellings.

A starving person has no choice – they have to do whatever it takes to find food.

How Fast Will the Collapse Occur

Probably the total collapse of society doesn’t occur instantly.  Depending on the nature of the Level 2/3 event, it may take some days or even weeks for a clear understanding of the changed world to be broadly accepted.

Maybe the authorities will succeed in maintaining order to start with.  But police and national guardsmen have to eat, too, and so do their families.  This sets in place another no-win situation.  Either the security forces are given food while the rest of the population starves, or else the security forces starve alongside the population as a whole.

In the former case, the alienation between the communities and the security forces will grow to the point where ordinary people will no longer feel inhibited at revolting against uniformed officers with guns and badges.  In the latter case, the security forces won’t hesitate too long to join in the lawlessness themselves, because if they don’t, they’ll die.

Things might slowly decay over the course of a week or two – maybe even three or four, but if populations can’t eat lawfully, they’ll do whatever it takes to get food, any way they can.

And because of the very nature of cities and our country today, there is no way that urban concentrations can become self-supporting.  Some cities have a million or more people, and little or no food growing resources within 100 miles.

Do you know how much food a typical person needs to eat every day?  Let’s say, on low rations, they need half a pound of solids (plus lots of water).  That is 500,000 lbs of solids every day – 250 tons of food a day to support a million people.  Where will 250 tons of food a day come from?

People can’t start planting gardens today and harvesting enough food to live tomorrow.  Apartment dwellers can’t do it at all.  People with yards would need seed, fertilizer, and patience – what say the Level 2/3 event comes just after the end of a growing season, with perhaps 200 non-growing days now to wait through before seed can be sown and crops started?

Without the promise of adequate resupplies of food, there is no avoiding this outcome.  Level 3 events, by definition, imply no resupply for over a year, Level 2 events for somewhere between some weeks and a year or so.

The collapse will come, at a rate determined by the remaining supply of food and the certainty of future resupply.  The cities will become totally lawless and anarchistic, and the former city dwellers will necessarily stream out from the cities in their essential quest for food.

These people will stop only when they find food or die.

What You Must Do

Prepping for a Level 2 or 3 event must start from the decision that you will abandon your urban residence and flee to a safer retreat, far from urban concentrations of people.

Stockpiling food in an urban location will only result in it being taken from you and you finding yourself no better equipped to survive than the unprepared people all around you.

You must develop a plan to leave the city and to live in a place where you have stockpiled food and where you can transition to a self-contained and sustainable lifestyle.  City living does not, will not, and can not allow for this.

Are We Being Too Optimistic?

You might think this article is negative – perhaps even too negative.  So please now consider reading an article based on comments from a veteran police officer, but if you don’t have the time to read the entire article, its title will give you a clue as to what it says :  Cities Will Collapse Even Sooner Than We Fear.

May 132012
 

This German stamp was worth two marks when first printed, then was over-printed before being released, for an inflated value of ten million marks.

It is very unlikely that in any Level 3 scenario, regular currency such as we currently have in our pockets today, will be honored or accepted by anyone, anywhere.

Even in Level 2 scenarios, while US currency may retain its notional abstract value, and people would be foolish if they burned it as fuel for their fire, it is likely that people may have difficulty using it to buy things with.  It will only be with a restoration of society after a Level 2 event that regular money will resume its normal role.

It is helpful to understand the evolving role of money so as to understand what may happen in a Level 2 or 3 situation in the future.  This article commits several gross sins of over-simplification in an attempt to explain the artificial nature of the money we all rely on today, and to point out why in a Level 2/3 situation, the acceptance of money as an intermediary abstraction of value will massively reduce.  If you’re an economist, by all means roll your eyes in disgust, but hopefully you’ll agree that even though we’ve over-simplified, the key points we make are valid and essential.

Money is Marvelous

One of the most marvelous inventions of the present world is money.  Indeed, it is such an essential element of the world that it is far from new – the oldest known examples of coins date back to the period of about 700 – 550 BC.

It is possible – maybe even probable – that coinage was used prior to that time, but perhaps made of less permanent materials.  Earlier forms of currency may have been fashioned out of wood – wooden nickels – or bone or other materials that probably have not survived down the millennia to the present day, and/or if they have occasionally survived, have not now been recognized as forms of money, being thought of instead as pieces of art and jewelry and tools.

Okay, so we all like money – or, more to the point, we all like the concept of wealth in general.  But why is money, as a means of trading, so good?  There are many reasons for this, some becoming quite technical and less immediately relevant, but let’s look at a few obvious and relevant ones now.

Money Facilitates Trade

In quick summary, money is good because it provides a convenient method of converting or exchanging between different things, and a non-perishable way of storing wealth.

Money makes it easier to trade the items you wish to sell for the items you wish to buy.  You can choose the person to buy your goods based on how much money they will pay you, not based on what products they have to sell in exchange, and you can choose the people you buy things from based on the prices of the products they sell rather than on their willingness to buy the products you have to sell.

If you have spare assets – for example, food items – you can sell them and the money you received will not perish or go stale.  Money also is easier to store – it takes up less space, and doesn’t require any special care.

The size of money also means that if you need to buy something from the market, you don’t need to fill your vehicle with whatever it is you hope to exchange for the products you need – and if your attempts at exchanging the items are unsuccessful, you don’t need to take it all home again.  You simply keep the money in your pocket.

Money also makes pricing more predictable.  As in the earlier example, the value of things now becomes a more universal sort of concept, rather than based on the vagaries of who would wish to buy them at any given time.

Money – An Abstraction or a Tangible Representation of Wealth?

These days, most people conduct most financial transactions without money ever physically passing from them to the person they are buying or selling something with.  Credit cards, internet transactions, electronic banking, even relatively old-fashioned checks – all of these are abstractions of the underlying money, but they work based on the accepted high probability that these abstractions can be readily converted into real money – although depending on a store’s check acceptance policies, these assumptions are not always universally accepted.

It is easy to understand how a credit card transaction or a check embodies a statement along the lines of ‘by this piece of paper (check) I am instructing my bank to transfer some of the money it is holding on my behalf to your bank, from which you can then spend or withdraw it as you wish’.

Now for the really important issue, which most people live their entire lives without ever considering, and – happily – without ever needing to consider.

What is the underlying actual value of the money in your pocket?  How was this value set?  How might it change?

Even the question itself is difficult to phrase and express, because it is such a foreign concept for many people.  What is a dollar worth?  A dollar is worth a dollar, right?  What is the question?

This is actually a very important question after the end of LAWKI.  At present, we all have – to a greater or lesser degree – reasonable confidence in our government and our economy.  We all believe that a dollar is worth a dollar, and don’t need to second guess the issue at all.

Money Originally Had Underlying Value Equal to its Face Value

Indeed, there are historical reasons for this confidence.  It used to be that a dollar was exchangeable for a dollar’s worth of gold bullion.  Our currency was asset backed.  No-one needed to question its value, because we all knew that a dollar was worth a dollar’s worth of some certain asset – typically but not exclusively gold for higher values, and silver for lower values.

This has been the historical underpinning of currency.  While money is also an abstract representation of some sort of underlying tangible object, the fact that it can be exchanged for the underlying object of value has confirmed the abstract value of the money itself.  Money has been, for most of its history, either inherently valuable (ie made out of valuable metal that is worth about the same as the face value of the money) or convertible to an object of known value.

This underlying concept of either inherent value or convertibility to known value also helped trading beyond a small region.  Although these days exchange rates between currencies around the world are based as much on abstractions as on realities, back then, exchange rates were simple – ‘My one ounce gold coin, which I call a dollar, converts to two of your half ounce gold coins, which you call pounds’ (or whatever other currencies were being traded).

A time came when it became more convenient to carry around representations of the underlying gold or silver or whatever, rather than to actually carry the precious metal itself.  Just as gold coins saved us the hassle of carrying our assets with us, paper banknotes saved us having to carry around a stack of gold coins.

Money Becomes More Abstract In Form

Institutions – banks – were created, and they would hold all your money for you (in the form of gold or other precious tangible things) and then issue ‘IOU’ forms indicating that the forms could be taken back to the bank and swapped back to the gold.  These IOU forms became banknotes.

So far, so good.  But then we started to (perhaps) get too clever for our own good.  Banks noticed that people rarely came back to ask for their gold, and so they started to issue more IOUs than they had gold in their vaults.  This worked fine until or if there became a rush on the bank, and all of a sudden, the bank couldn’t redeem all its IOUs and that was considered to be a generally bad thing by the people holding the IOUs, which had now become worthless.

So the government centralized the role of controlling the issuance of IOUs, making it harder for banks to cheat the system for personal gain (but, alas, not making it impossible – not then, and not all the way through to the present day).

It is important to understand that initially the governments took the role of becoming the master issuer of banknotes so as to protect the underlying value of the currency.  But, before too long, they started to succumb to the same temptation that private banks had, too.  Why should they limit themselves to only issuing enough banknotes to represent the gold they had in their vaults?

If a private person or bank does this, they are committing fraud and possibly worse crimes, and risk going bankrupt, and the people holding their now useless IOUs/banknotes lose the value of the paper they have.  But if the government itself does it, well, by definition, it must be legal, right?  And how about the value of the money we have – is it ever at risk?  (Read the section below on hyper-inflation for the answer to that.)

Fortunately, and most of the time, we do not need to question what it is that supports the value of the money we have.  If I say ‘this is worth a dollar’ and you say ‘so too is this worth a dollar’ we are using the dollar as an intermediary way of equating the value of my item and your item, based on our broad knowledge of the values of other items and the value of how we could otherwise spend a dollar’s measure of money.  The key reality is that we have each used a common scale to equate the value of the items we have and might be considering exchanging, and a commonly accepted form of holding on to and passing over the intermediary value of the objects we are trading (ie the coins and banknotes).

We could measure everything we buy and sell in pounds of wheat or gallons of gas or anything else, too; but in the present world, it is easiest to use dollars as a universal measuring tool, and as a universal way of conveying value from one transaction to the next.

An Introduction to Government Intervention and Inflation

But this measuring tool is not a sacrosanct object that stays fixed in form.  The government can change things by putting more money into circulation (or by taking money out of circulation).  This can be a hard concept to understand, and in very simple terms, think about this :  If the total value of things in a town comes to 5000 units of value, and if all the money in the town comes to $10,000, then do you kinda sorta see how you can say the 5000 units of value equate to $10,000?  Each unit is worth $2.

Now if suddenly we get more units of value – say the main value of things in this town is food and there has just been the annual harvest – what happens?  We still have $10,000, but now we have 10,000 units of value.  You know that when something becomes more readily available, the price drops, and this is what happens in our terribly simple economic model.  Each unit is now worth $1.

Of course, if something happens and half the stored food is destroyed, you’ll have 2,500 units, making each value worth $4.

So far, so good.  But what happens now if the town prints off another $10,000 in banknotes.  We now have $20,000 in money, and still the same original 5,000 units of value to spend the money on.

Do you see how adding this extra money, without adding extra value at the same time, means that each unit of value is now worth less.  Instead of a unit costing $2, it now costs $4.

This is an example of inflation.  If the supply of money increases at a greater rate than the underlying wealth of the economy, the value of things gets reduced and their costs increase, because there is a tendency for the total value of all real items of value to equate the total sum of the money in the economy.

Now if you are a federal government and you need to pay for a $1 billion expenditure – maybe a foreign war, or a new capital works program, or whatever, you have an easy way and a hard way to get the money you want.

The hard way is to tax your citizens, or to divert money from other forms of expenditure.  The easy way is to simply print another $1 billion in currency and use that new money to pay for the project, without needing to tax your citizens.  They love it – they have a new freeway or whatever, and haven’t had to pay any taxes.

Except that the value of the currency has been reduced, and the prices of everything goes up.  This would be impossible if each dollar had to be represented by a dollar’s worth of tangible value, but these days, that requirement has long since been abandoned, and so inflation occurs.

We’ve grown tolerant and accepting of a small amount of inflation (and there are other reasons for inflation too, some of them almost ‘good’ reasons).  But what happens if our government breaks its ‘social contract’ with us and irresponsibly prints way more money than it should?

Hyper-Inflation Is What Happens When Money’s Value is Destroyed

Maybe you’ve seen the pictures of inflation-ridden Germany in 1923, and of their banknotes with incredibly high values on them.  Similar things have happened more recently in Zimbabwe, and slightly less spectacularly in Russia.

Remember how we said that if you print more money, the price of things goes up?  Well, in Germany in 1923, the government was printing so much money that it had 300 paper mills and 150 printing companies with, between them, 2000 printing presses, all working around the clock, printing money as fast as they possibly could to fuel the fires of its runaway inflation.  By October 1923, only 1% of the government’s revenue was coming from traditional sources such as taxation.  The other 99% was being artificially created by printing more worthless money.

An item that cost 1 mark in January 1923 was costing 261 million marks by November.  The value of currency was dropping so rapidly that workers were being paid three times a day.

But the ‘real’ cost of things remained the same.  Although the cost of a loaf of bread in Germany rose to 200 billion marks at one point, two things remained more or less constant.  The relative cost of a loaf of bread and a pint of milk and a new pair of shoes remained closely similar – everything was going up in value simultaneously.  And the number of hours of work it took to earn enough money to buy one of these items – that stayed much the same as well.

The other thing that remained much the same was the cost in foreign currency to buy the item.  The cost of bread was skyrocketing in terms of the cost in German marks, but the number of marks you could buy per dollar was also skyrocketing too.

So it has been common in some countries experiencing hyper-inflation for a second stable currency to co-exist alongside the local currency.  Historically that has usually been the US dollar – indeed, during Russia’s early independence after 1991, many items in shops were priced in US dollars rather than in rubles, and the price was converted to rubles only at the time the item was being purchased.

What this shows us is that if people lose confidence in their currency, or if their government plays financial games with it, the currency will fail, but the underlying economy can survive, albeit using a different form of currency.

But because the role of money – marks in the case of 1923 Germany – as an intermediary was totally destroyed, and back then there were not the modern convenient ways to price items in an external currency – so too was the German economy.  Other economies have only managed to survive by basically ignoring their local currency and using some external reference point for trading purposes.

Implications for Level 2/3 Situations

At present, the US has an efficient national economy, with many trillions of dollars of transactions occurring every year.  Goods, people, and money can freely move all around the nation, and while there are some regional variations, in general, a dollar is worth a dollar, wherever you go, and can be freely converted into a dollar’s worth of goods.

After a Level 2/3 event, the country will fracture into tiny regions, each having their own micro-economy.  Maybe your micro-region has a surplus of food and a shortage of energy.  Food will be cheap and energy will be expensive, because the ability (and or costs) of ‘exporting’ food to another micro-region and ‘importing’ energy will be massive.  The opposite might apply just 100 miles away.

That’s okay, and doesn’t destroy the value of money by itself.  But wait – there’s more.

A dollar is only worth a dollar when we know we can for sure use it to buy the things we want and need.  Remembering back to the earlier example, if there is a shortage of goods, they will become more expensive.

In our micro-economies, we will move from an economy where the limitation on transactions is more to do with people’s personal wealth and their ability to afford the items they want to buy – this is the situation at present for most of us; and instead it will become an economy where the limit is not on the money we have, but the shortages/availability of things to buy, no matter what their cost.

Today, imagine two people.  One person has 10,000 gallons of petrol stored in a tank, but no money in his bank account.  The other person has $10 million in his bank, and only half a tank of gas in his car.  Which person would you rather be?  Most of us would prefer to have the $10 million – maybe we’d spend $100,000 of it to buy/build some storage tanks and fill them with 10,000+ gallons of gas, but we’d still be left with $9.9 million to enjoy in other ways, and to buy anything we wanted.

But, after the end of LAWKI, who would you rather be?  The guy with 10,000 gallons of petrol in storage?  Or the person with an entry on his bank statement saying ‘Balance = $10,000,000’?  What would you now be able to buy with your millions?

This example shows two things.  First, clearly 10,000 gallons of gas, formerly worth maybe $40,000, are now worth way more than $10 million!  Secondly, just having money no longer matters.  The former easy convertibility between money and things of real value has been destroyed.

Here’s another example.  Your small community is surviving as best it can, and three strangers turn up at your gate, asking to join your group.  One says ‘I have with me enough food for all of you for six months.’  The second says ‘I hear you have some elderly and unwell people in your group.  I’m a doctor and I have a range of common medicines in my bag.’  The third says ‘I’m a mega-millionaire and I have a suitcase full of $100 bills.’

If you can only accept one of these three people, who would you choose?  We’ll let you argue as between the man with food and the doctor, but chances are, the millionaire will be left outside, unwanted and unwelcome.

Some Conclusions

1.  The completely different economic basis of life after a Level 2 or 3 event will completely change the current relative values of things.  Luxury goods will become worthless.  Common ordinary items will become invaluable.

2.  Because our current US currency has no underlying real value, it will cease to play a role in a Level 3 scenario, and will be put ‘on hold’ during a Level 2 scenario, or perhaps massively devalued.  A pound of meat might cost two pounds of wheat, or $500.

3.  The most important things for a person to have will be skills and tangible items that extend life.  Even gold and silver will be less valuable than a knowledge of farming, animal husbandry, medicine, etc.  A pound of food will buy another day or more of life; you can’t eat gold or silver.

4.  Due to the compelling benefits of currency as an intermediary in all forms of exchange, initial bartering systems will be replaced by new regional currencies, with real asset backing.

5.  The most dangerously useless part of your own preparing is to accumulate abstract intangible wealth – ie, stocks, shares, bonds, CDs, etc.  None of these things won’t be of any value to you WTSHTF.

Accumulate assets that will assist you with food, shelter, comfort and security, not money, because in a Level 2/3 scenario, money won’t buy you any of these life-essentials.  Spend your abstract wealth now and convert it to life enhancing supplies.  Indeed, borrow money to get these things now – if TSHTF, you’ll have the supplies you need, and the debt you incurred will probably become meaningless.

May 122012
 

Why limit yourself to small floatplanes. The updated G-111 Grumman Albatross can hold up to 28 passengers and three crew.

We received several emails from readers – and pilots – commenting on and asking questions about our earlier article recommending a floatplane as a bug-out vehicle.

It was not and is not our intention to fully explain all issues of owning and flying a plane to non-pilots as part of what was a 1600 word article – there’s just way too much complexity.  Our intention was/is to point out the key issues and to encourage you to further research an option you may not have otherwise considered.

We did feel it a bit unfair to be accused of failing to point out several downsides to relying on a plane, when they were indeed specifically mentioned in the article (such as, for example, the possible loss of GPS as a navaid).  Hey guys – read the articles before you criticize them for not including things that actually are in them!

Anyway, the article drew a lot of interest, so we are pleased to provide some more introduction to this topic.  Here are some more comments in a further 2800 words of content.  If you haven’t already, perhaps you should read our original article first, then come back here for some additional considerations.

1.  Location Issues

The big concern we all have in a bug-out situation is getting stuck in an increasingly insecure and dangerous mess of traffic along with everyone else leaving our urban area, fleeing whatever Level 2 or 3 disaster it is that is causing the exodus.

In this article, we look carefully at the risk of getting stuck in a mass exodus of traffic, and actually conclude that such a risk is minor rather than substantial.  But just because a risk is minor does not mean it is not still present.

From the risk-averse perspective of continuing to be concerned about being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, the ability to fly over the top of the stalled traffic, cruising at 150 mph in the uncongested sky while people below are inching along in stop and go, bumper to bumper traffic sure sounds wonderful, in theory.

But there are some challenges that will affect some people more than others.  The first is getting to your plane in the area you live, and being able to fly it out of the region.

If you have a regular plane, this assumes that the airport the plane is housed at is reasonably accessible to you, and it further assumes there is a cooperative air traffic control system still in place, or, failing that, at least a clear taxiway and runway that you can get to in your plane to take off.

More assumptions – some survivalist blogs have posted comments from people saying that if something goes seriously wrong, they’ll simply head to the airport and steal the first plane they can get their hands on.  What happens if that is your plane?  You are assuming that your plane will be waiting for you, and in flyable condition.  What say the event that forces your evacuation has impacted on the airport, and the planes there?

This of course is part of the reason we like float planes.  They can be discreetly moored or garaged on the shore of pretty much any lake with enough straight-line distance to take-off; or on the side of the ocean, or sometimes even on a stretch of river or reservoir.  The people who think of stealing a plane at an airport are less likely to know about your plane on a lake (assuming it is discreetly stored) and also fewer people know how to fly float planes than know how to fly regular planes.

1.1  Destination Location Issues

You don’t need to be able to fly right up to your retreat’s front door – although for sure that would be ideal.  The bug-out plane flight can be limited to merely getting you out of the major urban area you need to leave, and over the top of any other urban zones or other obstacles on the way.

As long as you have some pre-positioned vehicles, or an ultra-reliable person who can and will for sure be there to meet you, you can fly to pretty much anywhere that achieves the objectives in the previous paragraph (another reason for needing good long-distance radio comms).

We are assuming that your retreat will be at least 100 miles from major population centers and some distance from smaller towns and definitely removed from major roads and routes.

Make sure that wherever you do land is located so there are no remaining potential obstacles in your path to your ultimate destination.  Obstacles could be other major population centers, or the need to cross over freeways or other routes that will be quickly filled with refugees from cities (not just the city you are leaving behind, maybe from other cities too – possibly even traveling in the opposite direction).

If you are making one single trip and are happy to then discard the plane, particularly in response to a Level 3 event, you can probably fly to anywhere that has suitable area to land, no matter whether it be a restricted area such as a reservoir or something or not.  If you’re just going to be landing, getting out of the plane, transferring immediately to waiting vehicles, then driving away, by the time any local officials have responded to your flight, you’ll be already gone.  But if you don’t want to completely ‘burn your bridges’ and if you also want to be able to do some practice runs, you’ll need to be a bit more sensitive to where you legally can and can’t land your plane.

2.  Getting to Your Plane

Wherever your plane is, it is reasonable to anticipate a moderately worst case scenario that all the roads will be jammed, in all directions.  Unless you live extremely close to your plane, getting to your plane could be difficult.

Our recommendation, for what is probably a short journey, is to consider a bicycle, a powered bicycle, or a motorbike.  Being as how the airplane is limiting the amount of stuff you can take with you when you fly out of your urban area, the inability to load up a car full of gear is not so relevant.

On the other hand, your journey to where your plane is located may take you further in to the center of the urban area, and possibly through areas with rioting and looting.  You’re vulnerable as one or two people on an open bike, whereas at least in a regular vehicle you have some more protection against casual violence by bystanders.

Again, a plus for floatplanes is if you live in an area with several different lakes to choose from.

3.  How Large a Lake or Other Body of Water Is Needed

This depends a bit on the type of float plane you would fly, the altitude the body of water is at, the temperature, wind and water conditions and how fully loaded the plane would be.

It also depends on what is directly in front of you after taking off.  If there are any nearby vertical obstructions (buildings, hills, whatever) you not only need to be able to take-off but also to gain enough altitude to fly over the top of these obstructions, or to have enough room to do a gentle turn away from them towards a clearer direction to gain altitude.

Best case scenario, you should hope for about a half mile of straight water.  Some planes can take off in less space, others may require more.

The same issues also apply to the amount of straight-line water you’ll need to land, although landing generally requires less distance than taking off.

Note that higher temperatures and elevations require longer distances, as of course do more fully laden planes.  Tail winds are very bad, head winds are good, and water conditions are best with a slight ripple, but not large waves and also not glassy smooth conditions.

In a river, it is great to take off down-river, and slightly better to land up-river.

4.  Float Planes May Have Lower Load Limits and Shorter Range

The floats probably weigh more than a conventional undercarriage for a plane, so be sure, when checking out plane options, that you’re understanding the specifications for a float-fitted plane rather than a conventional version of the same model plane.

Lower load limits mean not just fewer passengers and less stuff, but perhaps also less fuel, which means less range.  And while we don’t have exact figures at hand, we’ll guess that floats are slightly less aerodynamic and may cause the plane to burn fuel slightly faster during the cruise portion of flight, due to greater wind resistance.

With each pound of load capacity being greatly needed, either for people, things, or fuel, this might also give you and anyone else flying with you the inducement you need to lose a little weight.  In a light plane, each pound you lose allows you to add enough extra fuel to extend the plane’s range by 5 – 10 miles.

5.  Navigational Issues

Many Level 2/3 scenarios might include the disabling of some or all of the common navigational aids that pilots rely upon to work out where they are and where they are going, and so you should plan on being able to get where you need to go using nothing more than a compass, paper map, and timer.

Needless to say, you can’t stop and ask for directions when flying a plane, and if you’re planning on using nearly all your fuel to get where you need to go, you can’t afford to waste any fuel by unnecessary flying around or low-altitude flying, trying to recognize land-marks.

You’ll of course need to practice flying the route using only compass, map and timer, several times.  With the wonderful nature of modern navaids (VOR, ADF, and especially moving map type GPS units) these traditional navigational skills have been largely overlooked by many of us.

It also goes without saying that almost certainly, the place you’ll choose to land at your destination doesn’t have modern airport landing aids – neither ILS or even VASI type aids.

This also leads to the next point.

6.  Weather and Time Issues

Essentially you’ll need to be flying in some type of modified VFR type scenario, primarily due to the possible need to navigate visually.

You could do this by going above the clouds, flying on a certain heading for a certain time, then popping down below the clouds for a quick look-see and adjustment from time to time, of course.

Float planes are more weather sensitive, when taking off and landing, than regular planes on regular runways.

Your biggest concern is probably the weather and light conditions at your destination, because even though you might have back-up landing locations, you almost certainly don’t have any personal support resources (ie vehicles) at these backup locations, and in a SHTF type situation, you might have no way of getting any weather reports relating to your destination before heading to it.

The likely need for visual navigation, and the challenges of landing on a lake, probably mean that most of your traveling, and particularly the final part of it, will need to be done in the daytime.  This might force you to spend some number of additional uncomfortable and dangerous hours staying in the urban concentration before you can leave.

7.  Multiple Trips to Evacuate Multiple People

A possibility is to consider making more than one trip to evacuate your group members.  If you have a four seater plane, this means you can take yourself and three others in one flight – four altogether.  If you could return, you could then load another three people for a second flight, making a total of seven.  With a six seater, this would allow for 11 people in two flights.

In such a case, you need to consider where you choose as your destination.  It doesn’t need to be as close as possible to your retreat – although the closer to your ultimate destination, the better.  It just needs to be safely far away (in terms of both distance and leadtime) from the exodus of other people leaving the city.

If you choose a point 100 air miles away, that might be 120 road miles, and might take you just under an hour from climbing onboard the plane to getting off it at the other end (cruising at 120 mph, slower on the climb, and time to taxi in and out).  Flying back to get a second load of passengers would take you maybe another two hours for the roundtrip, perhaps a little less (and assuming no need to refuel in the middle).

Add perhaps 30 minutes to get to your plane from your residence, and so in total, your group would be all able to leave the far away location 3 1/2 hours after you started your evacuation.  But that same 3 1/2 hours also gives plenty of time for the first elements of any exodus of people in regular cars to be at the same place.

A 100 mile flight is fine if you make it only once, but if you need to go back, it is better to fly further, or to a point that will not require you to then travel overland via a major arterial evacuation route.

A location 150 miles away (say 180 road miles) would take you about 4 3/4 hours or so from when you leave your house to when the plane returns with the second load.  There would be many fewer vehicles at that same distance – some will have turned off, some will have run out of gas, and only the very early ‘advance guard’ of people will be driving by at that point, and perhaps due to their ‘success’ they’ll not be such potential threats.

A 200 mile distance (240 road miles) is probably getting close to the safe range of your plane on a single tank of fuel ( ie 600 flying miles, plus three take-offs and climbs to cruising altitude).  This would be a 6 hour total maneuver.

Of course, if two trips are good, are three trips better?  If four seats are good and six seats better, how about eight, ten, twelve or more seats?  It is hard to decide where to draw the line, which brings us to one of the key constraints.

If you were making multiple trips to collect members of your group, this opens up another possibility.  There’s no reason why you have to return to the same location to load more people each time.  Maybe you go to a different place to collect other people, and maybe you even become a glorified bus, making multiple stops for different people in locations that work for each person.

It also means, assuming you have radio communications, that you can vary the pickup location based on where the people you are collecting can get to, based on traffic and weather conditions, etc.

Keep in mind that sooner or later, if you’re doing multiple runs, you’ll probably need to refuel your plane.  This would be preferably done at the distant location, which is more likely to be more secure.

At the close-in location to the city, you have too many uncontrolled variables that might impact on your security and safety.  You’ll want to be able to swoop in, land, quickly load your passengers, and then leave again before any local people have formed into a group and come to commandeer your plane or to say ‘You can’t do that here’ or whatever other form of interference they may choose to mount.

8.  Cost

It should go without saying that flying is far from the lowest cost way of traveling to your retreat.  You need to buy a plane, and then you have all the ongoing costs of keeping it maintained, insured, and hangared.  You also need vehicles to get you to your plane – vehicles that will of course then be abandoned, and other vehicles to get you from your plane to your retreat – vehicles that are in addition to the vehicles you own and normally drive in the city.

Depending on the size of your family group, your plane, and the feasibility of doing two (or more) trips to bring more people with you, it might be possible to share the costs of a plane with other people, making it more affordable.

This might also remove you from the need to get a pilot’s license and to get type rated for a float plane.  If someone else in the group can do the flying, so much the better for you.

This is something where the Code Green Community may be able to help.  Contact us if this is something you’d like to participate in.

An Alternative Type of Plane

Please also visit our article on a Flying Car for a compromise vehicle that can be both flown and driven.