Mar 062013
 
Should you use a storage locker for your supplies?  If you do, we'd recommend parking your vehicle to obscure the view into your locker when visiting.

Should you use a storage locker for your supplies? If you do, we’d recommend parking your vehicle to obscure the view into your locker when visiting.

We’ve seen several writers recommend keeping some of your prepping supplies in a regular commercial self-storage rental-unit, instead of – or as well as – at your retreat.  They suggest you should choose a storage locker facility that allows you 24/7 access and which you can secure yourself and access externally.

People advocating this strategy say that using a commercial storage unit may be more secure than filling up your ‘cabin in the woods’ with everything you have accumulated, and they are half correct about this.

The part they are half correct about is that at present, with life as we know it continuing on in its normal fashion, your retreat is probably unlived in for much/most of the year, and therefore is vulnerable to attack.

It is close to impossible to make any type of structure totally burglar-proof.  Assuming your retreat is out of sight of the main road and neighbors, there’s nothing to stop burglars from using a crow-bar or chain-saw or in any other way, forcing their way into your retreat, at their leisure; and loading up anything and everything they want, completely undisturbed and unseen.

Your retreat is vulnerable not only to professional burglars but also to casual vandalism.  If people get the sense that there’s a little used mainly vacant house, they might decide to break in just for the sheer devilry of doing so.

On the other hand, commercial storage units are moderately secure and it is uncommon for individual units to be broken into.  The more secure storage units have individual alarms on each unit that will sound if the person renting the unit does not enter a personal access code prior to opening the door.

The least secure units have their doors secured by padlocks.  The reason this is insecure is that most padlocks can be defeated in only a few seconds by a pair of bolt-cutters; furthermore, after the thieves have cut off your padlock and entered your unit to take whatever they want, they can then re-secure your unit with a replacement padlock, leaving no obvious external sign of unauthorized entry.  Even worse, they could return the next day and simply open the padlock with their key, and for all anyone else would know, they were the rightful owner of the locker.  You’d not know anything about this until returning to the locker yourself to find an unfamiliar padlock on your door.

Issues and Risks of Storage Units

Some of the issues and risks to do with storing your supplies in a storage locker can be mitigated and reduced by prudent action on your part.

For example, if the storage facility you are considering does not have security that monitors and alarms any time a locker door is opened without an appropriate access code being entered, you could probably set up your own internal alarm at the storage unit so that when your unit’s door is opened, a disarm code needs to be quickly entered into an alarm unit, and if not done so, it will either sound a very loud alarm to alert the management and scare off the intruders, and/or dial a phone number to alert your or someone else about the unauthorized access (Use a Google phone number that will ring simultaneously to multiple numbers).  Clearly you want a storage unit with a power outlet, and an alarm with a battery backup.

There are two further vulnerabilities of a commercial storage unit.  Both are fairly small vulnerabilities, but one should not lose sight of them.

First, it is possible that the police or some other law enforcement body might get a search warrant to search an entire storage unit complex due to some part of it being suspected of being used to store something illegal (we are aware of this happening in a slightly different context with safe deposit box facilities).  If you had anything potentially embarrassing in your storage unit, it could be discovered in such a case, and while there would be a debate subsequently about if your items could be seized or not under the terms of the warrant the police were acting on, it would be at the very least an embarrassment and probably would require some time, trouble, and attorney fees for you to retrieve whatever it might be that the police seized.

Even if you had nothing embarrassing present, it is possible the police action could make everything unavailable for some time while they worked out what belonged to who and so on.

The other vulnerability could be the storage unit operator/owner breaking in to your unit – either illegally or legally.  Perhaps you set up some sort of regular auto-pay for the monthly rental, and maybe something changes to invalidate the payments, and maybe you don’t realize this, and the next thing you know, the owner/operator has broken in to your unit and is auctioning off its contents to recover lost rent, and has done something to everything else that you had stored there.

This happened to us.  We used a technique to obscure our actual identity when hiring the locker, but unfortunately, when the regular auto payments failed (unbeknownst to us), the facility manager couldn’t contact us, and we arrived one day to find our unit double locked by the manager, and about to be opened and the contents auctioned off.  Just as well we turned up when we did.

There’s another consideration to keep in mind as well.  It is a remote and unlikely risk, but it is also a risk that wiped out everything I had stored at a storage facility, some years ago.  This is the risk of fire (or any other sort of external ‘natural’ peril such as flood or who knows what).  You’ve probably seen pictures or video of floods, and I’ve definitely seen storage facilities suffering from flood waters the same as other businesses around them.  But in my case, the problem was fire.

A huge fire destroyed the large warehouse/storage facility, and its entire contents too.  There’s actually a weird ending to that story – I discovered that my regular homeowner’s insurance would cover me, and lodged a claim for what I’d lost.  The insurance company immediately paid out, but then almost as quickly, told me it would not renew my cover for the future, due to my having an ‘unexpected loss’.

Isn’t that what insurance is all about – protection against ‘unexpected losses’?  Apparently some insurance companies don’t realize or don’t accept they are in the business of covering for unexpected losses!  They are happy to accept your premiums, but don’t like to ever then pay out.

If you have your insurance cancelled/not renewed, you will find it very difficult to get alternate insurance at normal rates from anyone else, because all insurers tell each other when they blacklist a person.

So make sure you specify to your insurer that you are covering goods at both your primary residence and at a storage locker too; that way there will be less risk of your insurance company giving you a hard time if/when you make a claim.

Of course, there’s probably no way you’ll be able to effectively claim on insurance WTSHTF, but you could have a loss prior to then, and in such a case, you could indeed file a claim and get reimbursed.  And after life returns to normal after a major event, you may have some ability to get some sort of reimbursement from whatever remains of the insurance company – there’s a likelihood that whatever sort of government survives, will choose to help out in such cases.

The Moment at Which a Storage Locker Ceases to be a Good Strategy

So, while life continues normally, a storage locker is probably a good place to securely keep supplies.

But what about WTSHTF?  At that point, your retreat becomes comparatively more safe because you have people living there, and at the same time, your storage locker becomes massively less safe.

Our guess is that storage lockers will quickly become a high priority target for any roving hoards of looters.  If you’re not able to quickly – and safely – get to your storage locker and transport its contents to your retreat, then you run the risk of losing whatever you stored there.  Either the items will be stolen or it will become impossible/impractical/unsafe for you to journey to the storage locker and collect whatever you have stored.

This also indicates an important consideration when choosing a storage facility – its location.  You don’t want to use one in the center of a major population concentration.

You want to choose a storage facility on the outskirts of the population concentration, and on the same side of it as your retreat is, meaning that to travel between your storage facility and your retreat, you only need to go to the outskirts of the city, not into the center, and -worst of all – not through the city to a storage facility on the far side.

Op-Sec and Storage Lockers

If you are using a storage locker, you need to consider some simple ‘Op sec’ issues.

Assume that your every move is being watched whenever you are on the facility premises/grounds, and avoid doing anything unusual or ‘interesting’.  Move only nondescript things in and out of your unit.  Buy some packing boxes – plain brown cardboard boxes – and put whatever you are moving into these outer boxes.  That way, all any observer would see is you carrying generic cartons in and out of your unit.  That is much less tempting than seeing you carrying in boxes of food and ammo and whatever else.

Needless to say, if you are storing long guns – rifles and shotguns – either break them down so they too can fit in normal dimensioned cartons or choose cartons that have unnecessary extra width and/or depth to them so as to make it less obvious what is inside them.

We’d also suggest you don’t go to your storage unit too regularly, that you don’t load or unload too much stuff each time you do go, and that you generally go at semi-normal times of day or night, so as to seem totally ordinary and boring and not arouse any interest whatsoever.

But maybe do make a point of visiting once a quarter or so, and also make a show of taking things out of your locker as well as placing them in.  They can be empty boxes that you are moving, but just show some signs of using your locker for ‘ordinary’ purposes – ie as an overflow storage facility for a regular household where you sometimes put spare stuff into storage and sometimes take stuff out of storage to use.

If you had a taste for the theatrical, you could even do something like make a big show of carrying a box with part of an artificial Christmas tree sticking out of it in and out of your unit each Christmas season.

And, of course, try to minimize the potential for casual passers-by to see into your unit whenever you have its door open, and if there’s a possibility, try to keep stuff looking boring and ordinary inside your unit.

Summary

There is good sense in storing your supplies in more than one location.  If something might cause the supplies at one location to become unavailable to you, you still have your alternate location(s) too.

A storage locker can be a good place to keep supplies, but if you use one, you need to be careful at what you let people know and see about your stores, and will need to be able to quickly and safely clear out your supplies WTSHTF.

Mar 052013
 
It takes time to end up with this amount of supplies set aside.  But the sooner you start, the sooner you too will have a resilient set of prepping resources for whatever the future may require.

It takes time to end up with this amount of supplies set aside. But the sooner you start, the sooner you too will have a resilient set of prepping resources for whatever the future may require.

Unless you are blessed with a major seven-figure net worth that you can immediately allocate to your prepping, you need to make choices about what prepping activities you can do and can not do.

Indeed, even if you do have millions of dollars free to invest in prepping, you still have time and resource constraints.  You can’t just snap your fingers and have an instant, fully equipped, fully self-contained retreat appear in a flash of smoke.  The question for all of us is which things do we do first, and what do we leave until later?

It can seem that the costs and complexities of prepping are overwhelming, with the result that some people throw their hands up in despair, and do nothing at all.  That’s not a good thing!

So, assuming you have finite and limited resources, what should you do first?  What can you leave until later, and what can you overlook entirely?

There are ways to evaluate such things and to semi-scientifically set priorities.

Two Factor Formula

Traditional risk analysis involves considering two things.  You assess the severity of the event you are considering, and the likelihood of it occurring.  Maybe rate each on a scale of 0 – 10.  Then multiply the two together, to give you an answer anywhere from 0 to 100.  This is the importance/priority you should give to the event.

This formula is helpful – it gives higher priority to major events than minor events, and higher priority to events that are likely to occur than events which are unlikely to ever come to pass.

Adding a Third Factor

But it is clear the two factor formula was designed by abstract theorists, because it misses out on one very obvious consideration, something we always have to think about in the real world – how affordable is the solution to the problem?  A problem that scores high on the two factor scale might have a totally unaffordable solution, whereas a lower scoring problem might be something we could prepare for with almost no out-of-pocket expense whatsoever.

Maybe we need to add a third factor – affordability, where 0 means totally unaffordable and 10 means costs nothing to implement.

So we now have a three factor score ranging from 0 to 1000.

Is that all we need to consider, or are there are other issues as well as severity of the problem, likelihood of it occurring, and the cost of preparing a solution for the problem?

Adding More Factors

With a bit of thought, you can almost certainly think of other factors.  For example, you might have a high scoring problem that has an affordable solution that goes to the top of your to do list, but there’s only one thing wrong with that calculation – the solution, while affordable, is impossible for some other reason.  Perhaps government regulation, or perhaps lifestyle constraints, or inability to get your spouse/partner to agree with you, or whatever.

So there’s a factor – the feasibility of the solution.  Add a score, from 0 meaning totally impossible through to 10 meaning can be done pretty much immediately with no hassle or problems.  Multiply that to your other three factors, and now you have a four factor score ranging from 0 to 10,000.

Another factor could be something like ‘additional benefits from adopting this thing’.  Maybe you do something which solves one problem but also goes part or all of the way to solving a second problem.  For example, perhaps you are solving a problem ‘risk of forest fire destroying my retreat’ and part of your solution is to put a metal roof on your retreat.  Perhaps the metal roof can then link into another problem/solution ‘Shortage of water’ – the roof can be used to collect rainwater much more efficiently than shakes or a composite roof.

If you hare using this as a factor, don’t use a range from 0 to 10.  If you used 0 for no additional benefits, that would zero out the entire project’s value, and that’s clearly not right.  Maybe you should instead use a range from a neutral 1 (for ‘no additional benefits’) up to a 2 or 3 for additional benefits, or maybe you simply add the score of each project that the solution can assist together to get a total that way.

Another factor is the ease and speed of implementing the solution.  Maybe an issue requires nothing more than five minutes browsing on Amazon and then ordering something from them and having it delivered.  Or maybe an issue would consume every spare minute of your time for the next three months.  Score high for an easy project that takes little of your time, and lower for a difficult project.

How to Set Values for Each Factor

For each factor you are rating, the more desirable or better the factor, the larger the value you should assign to it.

There are two things to consider when assigning values.

The first is to be very careful about assigning a zero value to anything.  Think of the zero as a veto.  Any time you use a zero, you have made your entire calculation reduce down to zero.  It doesn’t matter if every other factor is scoring max, a single zero will drop the total calculation all the way down to zero.

So unless you want to totally kill a project, you should normally consider 1 as least desirable (and 10 as most desirable).

The other thing to consider is the relative importance of different factors.  Maybe one factor is much less important than another factor.  If that is so, we recommend that after you’ve assigned it a value from 0 or 1, and up to 10, you then divide that value by two or three or whatever number you wish to reflect that it is a less important factor than the other factors you are also including in your calculation.

Which leads to the next point.

The Result is Not As Accurate as it Seems

So maybe you end up with a calculation of 4 x 5 x (2/3) x 7 = 93.33 for one possible project, and a calculation of 7 x 7 x (4/3) x 2 = 130.67 for another project.

So obviously, the second project is scoring massively higher than the first project and should be the one you do first, right?

Well, it is true that 130.67 is almost 50% higher than 93.33, but let’s also keep in mind that probably all the values in both calculations are approximate guesses – they are plus or minus at least one or two in rating scores.  Even if only +/- 1, that means that the first project could score as high as 5 x 6 x 3/3 x 8 = 240 and the second project could score as low as 6 x 6 x 3/3 x 1 = 36.

Wow, so the first project is probably about a 93.33 score, but could be as high as 240, and the second project is probably about a 130.67 score, but could be as low as 36.

In other words, the two projects are pretty similar in rating.  You would want to see a much bigger gap between them than merely a 50% differential in order for a significant different in priorities to be assigned.

Oh – one more thing.  The 93.33 score?  Just because this is how your calculator shows it, don’t be obsessive about showing all the decimal places.  We already know it could score as high as 240, and it could also score as low as 24, so it is perfectly fine to round the 93.33 to the nearest five units, and perhaps call it 95.  And the same for the 130.67 of course, which might be anywhere between 36 and 320 – call that an even 130.

Considering Other Issues Too

So – don’t get too hung up on the exact numbers you are generating from your multi-factor calculations.  You need to also apply some subjective and ‘qualitative’ tools to your analysis as well as the quantitative calculations you’ve been doing, plus a healthy measure of common sense when looking at the answers you get.

Some of these other issues are philosophical – which things ‘feel’ best and most closely seem to fit with your view of the problems you wish to prepare for and how you are creating solutions?

There’s also the value in a balanced cohesive approach to problem solving.  There’s no point in getting a brilliant totally bulletproof (and maybe quite literally so!) solution to one element of risk if that still leaves another element of the similar risk totally unaddressed.

For example, if there are (say) three different things that need to be done to make you able to live without external help for three weeks (perhaps food, water and energy) which is better – to have a complete three-week solution for one of these three factors, to have a half solution good for a week or two for the second factor, but nothing at all yet done for the third factor?  Or to have each of the three factors partially addressed so that you currently are good for a week or so on all three counts, and are continuing to step-wise improve your prepping in all three areas more or less simultaneously?

We’d probably say the second approach was the better approach.  Remember – a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and so perhaps you are best to start off with a complete but not very strong chain, then upgrade to a complete stronger chain, and then stronger again and so on, rather than to make an impregnable chain, one link at a time, but which is of no use at all until it is completed.

This brings us to a point which is so important that we list it by itself :

The Excellent is the Enemy of the Good

This is a concept you need to take to heart and keep close to you in everything you do.  We’ll explain this concept with an analogy.  One time I was managing a promotional activity that would be greatly boosted by having a sales brochure.  Think of it as something like perhaps selling new cars in the days before the internet and tablets made brochures more or less obsolete – sure, you can do it without a brochure, but with a brochure is better.

Well, I decided that I’d create such an amazingly wonderful brochure that it would be ten times better than any of the competitors’ brochures out there.  This would be such an incredible brochure that it would just about sell the product, as soon as a prospect saw the brochure.  It would have twice as many pages.  Twice as many color pictures,  Twice as many helpful tables and feature lists.  It would be updated twice as often.  And so on and so on – everything would be better than other brochures out there.

So I worked and worked and worked at preparing this amazing brochure.  In the middle of the process, the product changed, and I thought to myself ‘good job I hadn’t sent the brochure to be printed, this way I’ve saved the cost of a wasted brochure printing run’.

The new product changes made me make some changes to the brochure.  And then a competitor came out with some interesting new features and selling strategies, so I redesigned the brochure to reflect that.  My company opened another office, so we redid the brochure to reflect our two sales and service locations – that was a great new feature to promote.

We hired a professional brochure designer to bless our project, and she made changes, and we hired a professional copywriter to write some of the advertising copy, and that required some layout changes – more space for some things, and less for others.

This story is stretching out and stretching out, isn’t it.  As did the brochure project.  It took almost five years for that brochure to first appear on a brochure rack, and while it was a great brochure, just as I’d hoped; the ugly fact was that for five long years, we’d had no brochure at all.

A better strategy would have been to urgently quickly come up with a ‘me too’ type brochure, so that at least we had something.  Then, and based on our real world experience of what was working and not working in the brochure, to come out with a second version.  And then a third, and so on.

If we’d have done that, we’d have been at a much better point than we were at when we first released our super-brochure, and probably our ‘normal’ brochure’s evolution over those five years would have moved it beyond where the first untested super-brochure was.

So – the excellent (brochure) was the enemy of the good (brochure).  Our company was harmed for five years while we obsessed over this brochure project.

Another shorter example, perhaps.  Microsoft recently launched Windows 8.  Windows 1.0 came out in November 1985.  Imaging if Microsoft hadn’t released Windows 1, or 2, or 3, or any of the preceding versions of Windows, while it kept on improving and improving the product prior to suddenly then releasing it as Windows 8.  That would clearly have been a massive mistake, wouldn’t it.

Or, at a simpler level, when any software company releases its software, it subsequently comes out with new versions and bug fixes and so on.  The graphics drivers for my computer’s graphics card are now at version 307, for example.  Imagine if nVidia waited until it had an almost perfect version of its graphics drivers before releasing its card?  Heck, the card would still be unreleased, because I’ll wager within a month or two, there’ll be a new version 308 driver out there.

You get the point, I hope.  The excellent is the enemy of the good.

It is easy to see how this could translate to a prepping situation, isn’t it.  You decide, for example, that you want state of the art ultra-high efficiency photo-voltaic panels.  They cost much more, you have to save up for longer to buy them, and a new generation of PV panels comes out, and so on, and for all the time you’re saving up for the super panels, you have no panels at all and no solar power generation capabilities.  Surely it would be better to buy a regular set of PV panels, and then to upgrade or add to them in the future, so as to get your retreat or primary residence outfitted with some solar power as soon as possible.  If you subsequent upgrade the panels, the first panels aren’t wasted.  They can be supplemental panels, or if there’s no room left to mount them, they can be spares.

Or maybe you decide you will build a retreat for 20 people, with three-foot thick exterior walls.  But while you are saving up the money to get this construction started, you have no retreat at all.  Perhaps it would be better to build a retreat for five people and with normal exterior walls, then after you’ve got that up, start adding more modules to the property, and start reinforcing the exterior walls.  Which would you prefer if you needed to bug out today – a completed retreat, albeit too small and vulnerable to cannon fire; or plans for a spacious impregnable retreat for which the first foundation had yet to be laid?

This leads us to a very important related concept.

The Tortoise and the Hare

You know the story of the tortoise and the hare, of course, and you also know which one of them crossed the finishing line first.

With prepping, don’t be dismayed at the enormity of the task you are setting yourself.

Instead, start prepping right now, and slowly but steadily build up your preparations.  Maybe the very first thing you do is get a large container to store some water.  That’s something you could probably do today – indeed, here’s a challenge :  Click this link to Amazon and buy a water storage container right now.  🙂

Maybe the second thing is the next time you go to Costco or Wal-Mart, buy a few extra cans of food and start building up a store of extra food.  And so on.  Little by little, but always steadily building up your reserves and your resources.

Even small modest investments in your prepping will massively transform your ability to comfortably survive a Level 1 event.  It is true that creating a level of resilience to withstand a Level 2 event will be more challenging, and a Level 3 event more challenging again, but don’t submit to the challenge, but confront and surmount it.

In particular this is one of the benefits of joining a community of like-minded folks (whether it be the Code Green community or anything/anyone else) – you can pool your resources and create something that is more individually affordable and simultaneously something which is more viable as a group for surviving a Level 2/3 event.

Progress is a Series of Small Steps in the Right Direction

What we are saying is that while your prepping journey may be long and may be arduous, it is feasible and possible (and necessary).  Like any journey, you simply put one foot in front of the other, and then repeat, while ensuring you are proceeding in the right direction.

Use the resources on this and other sites to ensure you are proceeding in the right direction, and move forwards as best you can.

Feb 182013
 
The time to buy your essentials of all types is before the panic sets in.  Seems obvious, but most people fail to do so.

The time to buy your essentials of all types is before the panic sets in. Seems obvious, but most people fail to do so.

It is now just over two months since the Sandy Hook shooting caused an increase in the rate of buying firearms and ammunition due to people’s concerns about new restrictive legislation, and their hope that the legislation wouldn’t apply retrospectively to existing firearms, magazines, and ammunition.

We’re not primarily a firearms focused website, and our main perspective on this matter is to examine this real life example of our economy’s fragility and inability to quickly respond to changes in the supply/demand equation.  What happens with firearms could just as easily happen to fuel or medical supplies or food items – or anything else at all.

It is true that gun store shelves are no longer totally bare, but if you look at the price tags on the rifles and pistols now available for sale, you’ll notice steep increases in price.  Ammunition is also returning to the shelves, but in limited quantities and again at much higher prices.  Here’s a recent article from, of all places, USA Today that confirms these issues continue to be a problem.

We also can quote an interesting report that was published on a private member only website, explaining some of the constraints that firearms manufacturers are facing.

Smith & Wesson : Is running at full capacity making 300+ guns/day-mainly M&P pistols. They are unable to produce any more guns to help with the shortages.

RUGER :  Plans to increase from 75% to 100% in the next 90 days.

FNH :  Moving from 50% production to 75% by Feb 1st and 100% by March 1.

Remington :  Maxed out.

Armalite :  Maxed out.

DPMS :  Can’t get enough parts to produce any more product.

COLT :  Production runs increasing weekly but restricted by shortages of bolt carriers.

LWRC :  Making only black guns, running at full capacity…can’t get enough gun quality steel to make barrels.

Springfield Armory :  Only company who says it can ‘meet demand’ but meeting this demand sees them running 30-45 days behind.

AMMO :  Every caliber is now allocated! We are looking at a nationwide shortage of all calibers over the next 9 months. All plants are producing as much ammo as possible with 1 BILLION rounds produced weekly. Most is military followed by law enforcement, and civilians are third in line.

MAGPUL is behind 1 MILLION mags, do not expect any large quantities of Magpul anytime soon.

RELOADERS :  ALL Remington, Winchester, CCI & Federal primers are going to ammo FIRST. There are no extras for reloading purposes… it could be 6-9 months before things get caught up.

Distributors have nothing on the shelves.  What comes in daily goes out, nothing in reserve.

Confirming the comments about ammunition above – indeed, revealing the situation to be much worse, this next quote just appeared on the website for Stockpile Defense, a supplier of bulk ammunition to the Front Sight firearms training school in Nevada.  They say their best case scenario is to get only 20% of the ammo they have ordered this year.  One wonders what their worst case scenario might be!

Due to extreme shortages in the ammunition market at this time supplies have run VERY LOW. We continue to get as much ammunition as possible regardless of price. Prices have also increased as much as 50% on some items. At this time we can not guarantee an adequate supply for all students. 9mm and .223 are the hardest to come by.

We are asking students to plan ahead and bring what ammunition you can for the class. We apologize for this inconvenience and please be assured that we are doing EVERYTHING in our power to keep everyone shooting. These are extremely volatile times and conditions are changing on a daily basis. Please check the website often for updates.

Again, we apologize for this inconvenience in these matters and we appreciate your understanding.

Please bring as much ammunition you can with you. We will supplement the rest. We are trying to supply between 500-1000 students per week and at this junction we just are not able to acquire enough ammo to supply all of your needs. We are very sorry for this.

We have 50 million rounds of ammunition on order for the 2013 year. We will not see all of this delivered. If we see 10 million that is my projected best case scenario.

The Growth in Gun/Ammo Demand Isn’t as Huge as You Might Think

It is worth repeating that these extreme shortages of both guns and ammunition are not because of an extreme increase in demand.

There have been only modest increases in firearms sales.  The FBI reports the following number of calls in to their ‘NICS’ service – every time a person buys a firearm from a dealer, the dealer has to call NICS for an instant background check.  Not all calls to NICS are for firearm sales, and some calls represent a sale of multiple firearms, but as a rule of thumb measure, the volume of NICS calls tracks the volume of new gun sales in the country.

The FBI show the following results :

Month Most Recent     Previous Year     Increase in number     Increase in percent
December     2,783,765 1,862,327 921,438 49.5%
January 2,495,440 1,377,301 1,118,139 81.2%

In particular, note that the total number of checks in January decreased compared to December.  Whether this is due to lessening of demand, or just inability to supply, we don’t know.

So these modest increases have totally destroyed the industry’s ability to supply.

Modern Manufacturing is No Longer Flexible

We wrote before on how modern manufacturing is subject to multiple dependencies – for example, a car manufacturer can’t make more cars if he can’t get more of all the sub-assemblies that go into making the car from their suppliers.  For example, the car manufacturer probably buys in its engine management computer systems from other manufacturers.  And these other manufacturers probably buy in the circuit boards, the chips, and so on that go into the units.  And the circuit board manufacturers in turn buy in the components that they then make into the prepared circuit boards, and so on and so on.

The highest profile example of this trend is Boeing.  It used to design and build airplanes from almost the base raw materials.  Originally it would make its own engines, too; but after being broken up due to anti-competitive issues, it split off its engine manufacturing (and its airline operations too) and concentrated on the airplane building.

But now, with its new 787 airplane, it has outsourced not just much of the design, but most of the building too, reducing its role to that of coordinator and final assembler of the airplane from the subassemblies other companies have made.

The good sense of that strategy is very much in question currently.  Not only was the 787 many years late in its development process, but the entire fleet have now been grounded due to safety concerns.  The plane’s electrical system – designed by one company, with batteries from another, integrated by a third company, and with control systems from a fourth company, are showing an alarming tendency to burst into flames, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist or even an airplane engineer to understand that this is not a good thing.

Somewhere along the way, it seems that Boeing lost control of the overall management and safety architecture of its new plane development, and rather than becoming the ‘Dreamliner’ that it fancifully named its new plane, it is instead more of a nightmare for Boeing, the airlines who have bought them, and the public who may have to anxiously fly in them.

We are seeing the multiple dependencies problem play out with guns and ammo too.  A shortage of bolt carriers is limiting Colt’s production; a shortage of gun quality steel is impacting on LWRC and a shortage of all parts in general is impacting DPMS.  As for ammunition, we know there is now a shortage of primers, and who knows what else as well.

Automation Prevents Flexibility

The other key issue is that all the automation that goes into modern-day manufacturing – while a very good thing from the perspective of low-cost high-efficiency manufacturing – means that increases in production rates may require buying more machinery for the factory.

It was an easy step, decades ago, for a factory to simply hire more workers, particularly for relatively unskilled jobs that didn’t require a huge investment or delay in a training process, and of course, when demand cycles reduced, to let those people go again.  There was little up-front cost, little leadtime/delay, and no ongoing liability.

But a company can’t buy a multi-million dollar machine, and probably also need to build a new bay in their factory to house it, at short notice.  Even if it somehow could, how long would it take to build the new factory extension, and to receive the new equipment it had ordered?  And, after having done this, it would then be saddled with the machinery in the event that there was a future downturn in demand.

It also used to be that manufacturers would have reserve capacity in their factories – the ability to add a second or third shift, for example.  But more and more, manufacturers are preferring to soak up their ‘surge capacity’ rather than buying in more capacity, and so they don’t have as much reserve capacity now.

And, even if they did, remember the issue we opened with.  They might be able to double their output, but what if their sub-assembly supplier can’t also double their output to match?

Manufacturers Deliberately Operate Very Close to Capacity

It makes no financial sense for a company to invest in two very expensive machines that each run one shift a day.  Instead most companies these days would prefer to operate one expensive machine for two shifts a day, and, if demand grows further, to add a third shift too.

This makes financial sense, but what then happens if demand increases but the manufacturers are already running at close to full capacity?

The other part of this picture is what happens when all manufacturers are running at close to maximum capacity and then one of the manufacturers is knocked off-line – unscheduled maintenance, even scheduled maintenance, or whatever.  We see this happen regularly these days in the oil/gas industry, where the closing of two or three refineries simultaneously around the country (for different reasons, but coincidentally at the same time) massively drives up the price of gas at the pump.  Indeed, as we write this, we are staring at huge increases in gas prices at the pump, at the same time that crude oil supplies are abundant.

This points to an interesting related point.  Manufacturers benefit from artificial shortages.  When there is a shortage of product, the manufacturers no longer have to compete with each other, but instead they can all push their prices up and enjoy the bonus windfall profits that come their way.

We see this also in the aviation industry.  As more and more airlines disappear (little more than ten years ago there were more than ten major airlines in the US, with last week’s announcement of the AA/US merger, we are now down to only three) and with the remaining airlines deliberately limiting their flights, we not only get to suffer more flights in the middle seat, but we have to pay more for the tickets, too.

Another example – the recent increases in vegetable prices, with some vegetables increasing in price more than 50% almost overnight, due to weather issues in some areas reducing supplies.  Now you could fairly say that it is very hard to match the supply and demand with a perishable product, but the fact remains that – with the entire world as potential suppliers of foodstuffs, we have seen prices for basic vegetables such as even broccoli shoot up from under $1.50/lb to around $3.00/lb.

Empty Warehouses

Another change is the lack of finished goods inventory.  In the past, it was common for companies at every step of the supply/distribution chain to hold reserves of product, so any sudden surges in demand could be satisfied from the warehouses full of finished products.  And by the time demand had persisted to the point that the manufacturers needed to increase their production rates, their sub-assembly suppliers also had reserve capacity to help them respond to increased production and offtake rates.

As we can vividly see from the above information, such capabilities are no longer commonplace.  So here we are, arguably the world’s most advanced nation and the world’s largest economy, and unable to supply even 20% of the ordinary normal demand for ammunition for the entire year ahead.

Bear in mind also that a lot of the firearms and ammunition sold in the US is imported.  Why can’t factories elsewhere in the world also supply enough for our needs?  Has a slight uptick in demand in the US overloaded the entire world’s manufacturing capacity?  As unthinkable as it may seem, the answer compellingly seems to be ‘yes, it has’.

Summary

The bottom line is obvious.  You need to at all times keep a reasonable inventory of all products you need and consume/purchase on a regular basis.  With a simple stock rotation system, this costs you nothing, and because it enables you to buy when products are at low prices to grow your inventory, and to use from inventory when prices are high at the store, you can actually ‘earn a return’ on your investment in your own supplies of food and other items.

The example of continuing shortages of firearms and ammunition shows that it only takes a small shift in demand to overwhelm the entire supply chain, meaning that most product becomes totally unavailable, and what little still passes through the distribution channels skyrockets up in price.

The time to stock up on essentials is now, when they are plentiful, not in the future after panic buying has already set in.

Dec 042012
 

You have an accident in a deserted middle-of-nowhere location. How do you survive for possibly several days until help arrives?

You are probably prepared – in your home – for Level 1 events (see our definition of Level 1/2/3 events here).  But what say you are somewhere else – such as, for example, your car, when something occurs, not to much to the region, but to you directly?  How prepared are you for that?

We’ve ourselves several times experienced what might perhaps be a personal Level ¼ or Level ½ event in a vehicle – a short-term event that may be either happily trivial or alarmingly impactful, depending on our state of preparedness and the randomness of various factors such as time of day and weather.

If your vehicle breaks down in an unsafe location, for example, you’re going to have to evacuate the vehicle and wait for assistance in a place of safety.  No big deal, you might say.  But what if it is snowing, with a bitterly cold wind, and what say when you got into your vehicle in your nice warm garage, all you were wearing was a shirt and trousers?  How long are you going to last, standing around outside, in thin trousers and a short-sleeved shirt when the wind chill factor is bringing the temperature down to -20°?

Temperature extremes are probably the biggest thing you need to prepare for and protect against.  And it isn’t just extremes of cold.  Heat can be a concern, too.  Maybe you’re driving in a remote area and your vehicle stalls and won’t restart.  You’re on a road which has maybe one, maybe two cars a day, and let’s say, instead of a blizzard, this time you’re in the desert in 100° heat (massively more in the car due to the ‘hothouse’ effect as the sun shines in the window, and outside the car, you’ve still got the sun bearing straight down on you.  How much water do you have, if you end up out there for a day or two or three before someone comes along and agrees to help?

Or maybe the car runs just fine, but a tire punctured, and your spare is either missing or flat.  Maybe it is something even more frustrating such as not being able to take the nuts off the lugs that secure the wheel to the axle due to a missing tire tool.  The good news is you can shelter inside the car, with the engine running, and you can use the vehicle’s heater or a/c to maintain a comfortable temperature.  The bad news is, you’re burning gas at a rate of 0.5 – 1.0 gallons/hour.  How many gallons of gas do you have with you?

What happens if your car runs off the road, down a cliff, and ends up in a stream at the bottom.  Maybe you have broken a limb, and can’t go far from the vehicle for help.  Will you have warm clothing, and some water and food, to keep you alive and comfortable until rescuers find you?

Another issue/risk is any type of vehicle accident at all that might injure people in your or another car.

Our point is simply this.  We spend large amounts of our lives in our cars, and there are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong in the car.  These problems aren’t always life threatening, but they sometimes could be, and even if not life threatening, they can certainly be massively inconvenient and mini Level 1 situations for you and anyone else in the car with you.

Checklists of Things to Keep in Your Vehicles

We recommend you should keep the following things in your car at all times to assist you in an emergency :

  • Warm clothing and blankets sufficient for one person more than normally travels in your car
  • Wet weather gear – ponchos, umbrellas
  • Fresh water (a gallon or more), maybe some long life food as well
  • First Aid Kit – the more extensive, the better, ideally in a professional green colored carry bag
  • Fuses (at least three of each type)
  • Spare windshield wipers
  • Everything you need to change a tire
  • Spare engine fluids (anti-freeze, washer fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, engine oil)
  • LED flashlight
  • Car charger for your and other family members’ cell phones
  • Emergency Cash
  • Whistle
  • Knife – perhaps a Swiss Army type multifunction knife
  • Five gallon can of fuel

Beyond these high priority essentials, you might want to add some additional items :

  • Jumper cables
  • Tow strap
  • CB Radio (and external antenna) that will run from car battery or included internal batteries
  • Roadside Flares
  • In-the-air signaling flares
  • Emergency (LED) strobe lights
  • Duct tape
  • Air compressor for tires and tire pressure gauge
  • Fire extinguisher (1A10BC or a 5lb ABC or larger unit)
  • Basic tool kit – assorted screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrenches
  • Gloves, cloths/towels, and wetwipes

Extra Cold Weather Gear

If you are going somewhere cold, you should add some or all of these extra items :

  • Chains/cables
  • Shovel – with a handle that, when extended, can reach at least half way under the vehicle
  • Windshield scraper
  • Gumboots/snow boots
  • Gloves and hats and scarves
  • Spare batteries for flashlights
  • Handwarmers

Extra Remote Location Gear

If you are going somewhere remote, you might want to add extra spare parts such as fan belts, hoses, and more tools such as a complete socket set.  How about some spare headlight bulbs, too?

Ask your car dealer’s repair department what items occasionally (regularly!) fail on your model vehicle, and if they are user replaceable, keep spares of those.  Maybe a service manual would be helpful, too.

If you’ll be spending some time in a remote location, check on the coverage maps for your wireless service provider.  Will there be cell phone coverage where you’ll be?

If it is very marginal, you might want to consider a cell phone repeater/signal booster – Wilson Electronics make the best ones.  Even their entry-level cradle model units (under $100 on Amazon) can make a big difference to the range of your phone.  Don’t get the $10 sticker things you stick on your phone – they do absolutely nothing at all.

Even More Things

Here is a list of additional items to consider for you and your vehicle.  You can decide which might be useful or justifiable based on your vehicles, your travel habits, and your lifestyle.

For example, if you’re a lady often driving in high-heeled shoes, keeping a pair of walking shoes in the car would be a good thing to do; but if you’re a man driving to and from outdoor work sites, you probably have functional shoes on already.

  • Foam tire sealant
  • Traffic cones or triangles
  • Hi-viz jacket
  • Walking shoes
  • Battery powered AM/FM/Weather radio
  • Paper, pens, pencils
  • Paracord – 100ft or more of 550 paracord
  • Signaling mirror
  • List of emergency contacts, numbers, details
  • Self defense items such as pepper spray or firearms
  • Toilet paper and tissues
  • Books, games, cards
  • Tarpaulin
  • Kitty litter – lighter than sand to sprinkle on ice/snow for traction

The Weight Penalty of Emergency Equipment

You might be thinking ‘If I load all of this into my vehicle’s trunk, I’ve added another 100lbs to the deadweight of the car.  That’ll kill my fuel efficiency and engine performance.’

As for engine performance, the chances are your vehicle weighs something over 4000lbs already.  Adding 100 lbs to it is a very small percentage of its total (2.5% in this example) and is the same as adding a young teenager into the car.  The difference in performance will be minimal and almost not noticed.

Fuel efficiency is generally believed to reduce by about 1% – 2% for every 100lbs of load you add (see, for example, this site).  That’s hardly material, either.

So don’t let these concerns prevent you from having a full emergency kit in all your vehicles, all the time.  Chances are it isn’t going to weigh 100lbs anyway!

Summary

Unless you live in mid-town Manhattan and never drive off the island, you’ll at times be driving in places which could pose problems to you if your car were to fail or be in an accident.

You should always keep a core of essential items in your car, and augment them any time you are driving somewhere out of the ordinary.  Furthermore, you should regularly check the contents of your emergency kit, replacing things that have been ‘borrowed’ or which have expired.

Nov 242012
 

This NY Times photo shows a prepper family and their supplies. But there’s as much missing as is included in what they proudly show us here.

Here’s an interesting article with a great picture to start with – as you can see, it shows a family of eight with their stockpile of prepping supplies.

Pretty impressive, yes?  Everything from solar panels to salt, and quite literally, from soup to nuts.  The man who heads the family is a ‘professional prepper’ so you’d expect him to have a good inventory of things.

But – and it is a huge but…..  what can you not see in the picture?  What is missing?  While there’s plenty of food, and a strange assortment of other ‘self help’ items for the future, there are also many important things not present in the picture at all.

For example, they’ve a bucket of laundry detergent, but no bars of soap.  Talking about soap, where is the toilet paper?  Towels?  Spare clothing?

How about a book or two to read?  Paper to write on, and pens to write with?  Some board games and packs of cards?

They’ve got a dismayingly small-sized generator, but what about lights – or, more to the point, spare light bulbs?  It also seems their total gas supply is four 5-gallon gas cans – probably enough gas to power their generator for a day, but no more than that.  And while they have a propane burner of dubious value, we don’t see any propane.  They have some solar panels, but how about batteries to store the charge from the panels?  Radios and other electrical and electronic goods?

We’re not seeking to criticize this family, and almost certainly they have lots more resources that are not included in this photo, and it could even be debated if the newspaper didn’t deliberately choose to omit a lot of the resources the family has so as to make them look slightly ridiculous for what they apparently do and don’t have.

But the picture does illustrate an essential point.  There’s a lot more to prepping than stocking up on long life food and barrels of water.

Sure, without food and water, you’re not going to live for long.  But is it your intention to live a miserable life of extreme hardship, or is it your intention to be able to live adequately – not luxuriously, but not in great discomfort, either?

Particularly in a Level 1 or 2 situation (click link for definition) your ability to survive and thrive, and your ability to maintain your morale and will to succeed will be as much measured by the amount of toilet paper you have as by the amount of dried food.  To keep everyone in your group feeling positive and confident of your ability to get through the situation and emerge successfully out the other end, you want to keep as many of life’s semi-essentials available as possible.

The good news is that a year’s supply of light bulbs or toilet paper costs very little.  The same for a small library of books, and some pen and paper for people to keep their own personal journals.  Many of these ‘optional extras’ cost very little, and the reason that preppers often overlook them is not due to lack of money, but rather due to lack of forethought.

There’s another category of essential items that also doesn’t appear in this photo, but which you need to consider.  Tools and other things necessary for maintaining the things in your retreat, and a generous inventory of spare parts to replace the things that will almost certainly fail during a Level 1/2 situation.

A tool kit (we recommend as many hand powered tools as possible rather than air or electric tools, for obvious reasons) is not expensive, and some of the more essential spare part items for the various things around your retreat are not necessarily expensive either.  That way, when something fails, you actually feel good and experience a small triumph when you produce the necessary spare part and the tools to replace it with, rather than feeling abject and despondent as, little by little, item by item, your conveniences and comforts fail, making life increasingly less pleasant.

What Do You Need?

It is very hard to come up with a definitive list of all the non-food and non-essential items that would help to make a Level 1/2 situation more endurable, because everyone has a different lifestyle and a different concept of what may or may not necessarily be essential.

But there’s a way for you to start to build your own list.  What we suggest you do is get a tiny pocket notebook (we use one which measures only 2 1/2″ x 4″ with about 50 pages in it) and carry it with you, everywhere you go.  Any time you use any thing, write it down in the notebook, along with whatever you can think of that is related to the thing you are using.

For example, you turn on a light, and that makes you think :  Spare switch, lightbulb, fuse.  It might also make you think :  electrical wire, screwdrivers, side cutters, pliers, electrical tape, multi-meter, soldering iron, and who knows what else.

For example, you go to the bathroom, and that makes you think :  Toilet paper, water, sewage.  It might also make you think :  ‘toilet spare parts kit’, soap, towels, plumbing snake, cleaning fluids, bucket, and who knows what else.

You turn on television, and that makes you think :  Television, electricity, spare parts for tv.  It might also make you think :  satellite receiver, old-fashioned external antenna, radio, shortwave radio, walkie-talkies, and who knows what else.

You turn the temperature up when it gets cold, and that makes you think :  Thermostat, furnace parts, filters, humidifiers.  It might also make you think energy sources, alternative heating strategies, insulation, warm clothes, CO and CO2 detectors, and who knows what else.

You go to the kitchen to heat up a can of beans and that makes you think :  Can openers, pots and pans, cutlery and crockery.  It might also make you think :  knives, knife sharpeners, kitchen gadgets in general (preferably hand-operated) and who knows what else.

As you live your normal life, continue entering the details of things you use and do into your notebook as often as you can, for everything you do, and as you can see from the examples above, try to think not just about exactly the thing you are doing, but the immediate and reasonably related other items that the thing you are doing/using relies upon as well.

Finding Subtle Obscured Dependencies

Note from the examples above that you try to think through the layers of dependencies and consequential issues with each thing you do or use.  If you find yourself thinking about the need for laundry detergent, you should try to think through the entire washing clothes process, which of course includes drying them after washing has been complete.  How will you do that when you can’t just turn on the drier unit next to your washing machine?  If the answer is ‘hang them on a washing line’ you next thing ‘hang them with what?’ and realize you not only need a clothes line but also clothes pegs.  Next, for ‘bonus’ points, think also about the life of the clothes and other things you’re washing.  If you have children, what will happen when they grow out of their present clothes.  What will happen when you’ve worn holes in your shoes, socks and clothes – and think not just about replacing, but also having repair kits to extend the life of your garments too.

Most of all, be alert for some of the things that we take so much for granted because they almost never fail; but when they do fail, they can have major impacts on our lives.  This starts with the structural integrity of your dwelling itself and external threats that might be posed – do you have trees around the property that could – either now or in five years time – fall and crash through your house?  What is the state of its roof?  Might it start leaking?  Do you have large picture windows, and if so, what would you do if a pane of glass was smashed in the large picture window?

So, how long should you do keep recording everything you use and rely on for?  We’d suggest two years.  That seems like a very long time.  Of course, the number of new items you’ll uncover in the second year will be much less than in the first year, but the longer you do it, the more robust and resilient your preparations will become and the more likely you’ll be to uncover/encounter some of the unusual but important problems you might have.

The first few weeks will be a rush of a huge number of new entries into your notebook, and then things will start to slow down, but each new season will bring about new seasonal related issues and requirements.

As time and money allows, you should of course work slowly but steadily towards addressing each of the items on your list and coming up with a suitable preparation.

How Much Do You Need?

How high is up?  How long is a piece of string?  And how large an inventory of food and non-food supplies do you need?  Three questions, all with no exact answers.

Ideally, you want to retain some balance in your stockpiling of items.  There is no point in having a decade’s worth of light bulbs if you only have three months of food, is there.  On the other hand, once you have laid in a three-month supply of food, and the means to ensure a reasonable ongoing supply of water, then you might want to pause in your food stockpiling efforts and add in some of the other non-food items that can keep your overall quality of life at an acceptable level, before continuing to add more food.

By all means stock up more than you need of some items, because you might be able to use the extra supplies of the item to trade with other people.  But if all the preppers for miles around have stockpiled extra quantities of salt and hard liquor, then you’re going to find the supply and demand equation for those items will have depressed their value greatly.  Try and think of things which other people are less likely to stock up on.  Ideally such things should last forever rather than have a short-lived expiry date, be of high utility value and low-cost for you to buy up front, and be able to be stored in a small amount of space.

Packs of playing cards and books of card game rules might be an example of a ‘quality of life’ thing – they are inexpensive to buy, last forever in storage, and with the probable demise of high-tech electronic entertainment options, might become very popular in the future again.  Even better still, while a pack of cards can last a long time, sooner or later the cards will get damaged and lost, and so you stand to sell more packs of cards from time to time to the same people who bought them from you in the first place.

On the other hand, toilet paper, while low value and long-lived, and definitely a consumable item, is perhaps not so great as a trade item to stockpile, because it does take up a lot of space.

Use your imagination, and your own life experiences as recorded in your notebook, to come up with not only what you need, but also what might be great to keep spares of as trade items, and try to more or less balance your food/water and non-food/water prepping so that you have adequate amounts of everything.

Summary

Sometimes we feel there is too much focus on food and water, and too little focus on ‘everything else’ when it comes to preparing for a future adverse scenario.

Of course, without adequate shelter, water and food, life itself is at risk.  But once you’re ensured the ability to sustain life, you then want to start to focus on improving the quality of your life, by prudently adding non-essential but greatly appreciated extra things.

Keeping a notebook and listing everything you do and creatively working through that to everything that the things you do/use are in turn dependent upon can help you come up with the list of non-food items you would benefit from having.

Nov 042012
 

FEMA emergency accommodation for Katrina victims at the Houston Astrodome.

Preppers often fail to give enough attention to preparing for ‘simple’ Level 1 situations (see our definition of Level 1/2/3 situations here).

It is much less ‘macho’ to be thinking of things like keeping an extra supply of flashlight batteries than it is to be thinking about laying in a twelve month supply of freeze-dried food, and we also tend to think that we don’t need to bother about Level 1 situations if we are already well prepared for a Level 2 or full on Level 3 situation.

But for the fully prepared person/family, a Level 2 or 3 situation almost certainly involves moving away from your normal residence and going to your retreat, whereas a Level 1 situation is all about staying where you are and managing as comfortably as possible through a relatively short-term situation.

It is reassuring to have the added comfort and security of Level 2/3 preparedness, but in a relatively short-term Level 1 scenario, it may be less convenient and more disruptive to evacuate away from your main residence.

In addition, in a Level 1 scenario, you reasonably anticipate a quick return to normalcy and also a return to your primary residence, so – if there are, or threaten to be elements of social unrest – you might be better advised to stay at your main residence so as to protect it from intruders and looters.

It is also possible that your normal employment obligations remain in force, and so if at all possible you want to be able to work during the day as well as live as comfortably as possible out of work hours too.

These factors all support the concept of staying where you are during a Level 1 event.

One more reason to be sure to focus in on Level 1 events.  They are probably more likely to occur than Level 2/3 events; and much of what you do to prepare for a Level 1 event can also be used in response to a Level 2/3 situation – especially during any initial period of ambiguity while you’re trying to decide if you need to evacuate and bug out to your retreat location or not.

So for all these reasons, and with Hurricane Sandy fresh in our minds, we should all spend some time and thought (and money and effort) in preparing ourselves for Level 1 events.

What Types of Level 1 Events Should You Prepare For

Level 1 events can take many different forms.  It is hard to make a list of exactly everything that might occur that makes you need to resort to your Level 1 preparations, but it is possible to identify at least some of the things which could occur – and also, happily, to identify some lesser risks that, depending on your personal situation and location, can be dismissed and ignored.

A lot of Level 1 events are natural type events, to do with the weather and local conditions.  For example, some parts of the country have higher risk of earthquake than others.  Some parts of the country are more likely to flood, some might be potentially at risk of tsunamis, while some regions will never have water problems.  Some places may be at risk of forest fire.  Some places have to consider tornadoes, and some have to consider hurricanes.

Other types of risks quickly become either much less likely (volcanic eruption, nuclear power station leaks, etc) or else more specific in nature – your house burning down, for example.

In addition to the direct risks which impact immediately on you, there are all the risks from events ‘higher up the food chain’.  For example, something – it could be anything – causes the loss of one or more of the basic utility services.  If you’re in an isolated area, maybe the road leading out of your region goes out of service due to a landslide or who knows what.  And so on.

Or, for that matter, a regional event somewhere else has a flow-through effect to you where you live.

Responding to Level 1 Events in General

Whatever the risk and event, your response revolves around addressing your various immediate needs to sustain life, and then, secondarily, to make it more comfortable and convenient.

The big three requirements you must have fully addressed in your Level 1 response preparations are ensuring continuity of adequate shelter, water and food, more or less in that order of priority.

Shelter is the biggest of these three requirements.  As you may have seen from images of destruction as a result of hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, and so on, our primary residences may well be at risk of partial or complete destruction, resulting in the loss of our primary shelter.

We’ll consider issues to do with hardening and protecting your current residence, which is probably your Level 1 shelter, in a subsequent article.  We’ll also discuss the type of preparations appropriate for ensuring an adequate supply of water, food, and other essentials in subsequent articles too.

Is Your Insurance Sufficiently Comprehensive?

Do you have insurance against all the risks you’re considering?  And will it cover your temporary accommodation until such time as you can rebuild or in some other way restore your primary residence?

Don’t just assume that because your policy is called a ‘comprehensive’ or an ‘all risks’ policy it is, in reality, actually what its name implies.  Most insurance policies have major exclusions, no matter what they are described as.  As your insurance broker what is excluded, and go through the list of things you are concerned about and see where in the policy each item is specifically included or excluded, and what the coverage limits are.

There’s a positive thing about insurance.  The less likely the risk, the lower the cost to insure against it, so it makes sense to add various types of catastrophic coverages that standard policies usually exclude.

Insurance of course won’t prevent problems from occurring, and neither will it provide an immediate or instant solution to your problems.  But insurance can make it very much easier for you to accelerate a convenient return back to normalcy after you’ve stabilized your immediate essential needs (shelter, water, food).

One more thing about insurance.  Sometimes you’ll get premium reductions for having ‘hardened’ your residence and making it more resilient (and therefore less likely to be damaged, reducing the chances of you needing to make a claim).  Be sure to check what rebates you might get on your annual premiums if you are mitigating your risks.

How Long Will a Level 1 Event Last

A Level 1 event, by definition, tends to be short-term in nature.  It is reasonable to expect that within a week to two weeks, most Level 1 events will have been resolved or at least their impacts will be sufficiently mitigated as to no longer be life-threatening or massively inconveniencing, and people will have adapted to the new situation.

There are occasional exceptions to this.  Major earthquakes, for example, may level parts of an entire city and destroy utility services for large percentages of the residents, and due to the extent of the damage, the repairs might take months rather than days or weeks.

But the key thing in such longer events that tends to keep it more as a Level 1 rather than Level 2 event is that society, its social support and law enforcement mechanisms all remain intact, and there is clearly ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, with restoration clearly underway, and it is a regional rather than national event.

If an event is more open-ended in duration, and particularly if no temporary responses are in place, it risks being elevated to a Level 2 event.  Clearly also, at the other end of the scale, a brief power outage lasting only an hour or two is hardly worthy of consideration at all.

For us as preppers, it is reasonable to plan for perhaps two weeks of ‘being on our own’ and needing to be self-sufficient in all things.  At the end of two weeks (and assuming the matters haven’t been fully resolved), either there will be emergency support resources available to us meaning we no longer need to be fully independent and self-reliant, or else we will need to accept the grim reality that what we’d hoped to be a Level 1 event and response is in fact a Level 2 event, requiring us to consider major changes including possibly a move to our retreat location.

The Impact of a Level 1 Event can go Up and Down

Here’s an interesting additional point.  Beware of ‘false hope’ being raised and then squashed again during the response cycle to a Level 1 event.

It is common to see the aftermath of a Level 1 event go through several cycles and stage.  At first, everything is disaster, with the expectation of government and private charity organization type assistance.

Then assistance starts to arrive, providing some comfort for some people and annoying other people who haven’t yet received any external support.  The assistance improves and extends.

But then, there may be a disruption in assistance, as the providers switch from deploying their immediate short-term response and need to instead start calling on reserves for a more substantial and extended level of involvement, and simultaneously, more people are running out of whatever supplies they had at the start of the event, causing for massive escalations in the amount of external assistance needed.

After the chaos and confusion of the immediate few days after a disruptive event, the cold reality of its actual extent becomes more clearly known.  Maybe the reality is not as bad as was originally feared, and a mood of optimism takes hold of everyone.  But equally likely, the reality turns out to be much worse than projected and guessed at, and the stark discrepancy between the problems and the ability of support services to address those problems satisfactorily and quickly becomes depressing.

This period of growing need and faltering support can be disheartening and disquieting, and may cause increased social unrest and protest.  As we’ve seen in the aftermath to Hurricane Sandy, some people expend all their energy in negatively complaining about not being assisted, rather than working more positively to help address their problems directly.

Furthermore, any type of disruptive event is responded to in stages.  The fast easy steps are done first.  For example, with a power outage, you’ll see that the number of families without power starts off high, but then quickly reduces down to half and a quarter of the initially affected total.

At this point, it ceases to be headline grabbing news.  The underlying story becomes old and stale, and the number of affected families has drastically reduced.  Unfortunately, for the people still without power, they become an overlooked and almost forgotten minority.  There’s no comfort in knowing that 95% of affected families now have their power restored if it is two weeks later and you’re still without power yourself.

And as preppers, we always need to be concerned about the 5% worst case scenarios, rather than the 95% best case scenarios.

Summary

Just because they are not Level 3 or Level 2 events does not mean that Level 1 events are not extremely unpleasant for some of the people impacted by them.  Level 1 situations can even be fatal – at the time of writing, less than a week after Hurricane Sandy, there is already a reported death toll greater than 100 as a result of the hurricane.

Preparing for a Level 1 situation is every bit as necessary as preparing for Level 2 and 3 situations.  Level 1 situations may call for different types of preparations and responses than those appropriate for Level 2/3 situations.  It is not enough to say ‘I can handle the worst Level 3 situation possible, so I’m therefore obviously and automatically able to handle a Level 2 or 1 situation too’.

Nov 032012
 

A heavy-duty and preferably sound insulated generator is an essential item. Consider a dual-fuel generator than runs on natural gas AND either propane or diesel or petrol.

This letter from reader John has an essential lesson in it for us all – it is not sufficient merely to buy in and stock up on emergency resources, such as a generator.  It is necessary to then test them thoroughly in a simulated emergency situation so as to be sure they will work reliably when called upon to do so.

Oh yes – and read the manuals of all such devices, too.  Sometimes some very significant things can be hidden in the back pages, such as maintenance requirements that are mandatory rather than optional.

One more comment before his letter.  By all means get a generator that can run of natural (piped from the utility) gas, but make sure it will run on some other fuel source too, and make sure you have sufficient fuel.  The whole idea of disaster planning is to become entirely independent and to not need to rely on any external sources or services.  If your whole disaster preparedness plan revolves around an assumption that your natural gas supply will continue to work, the same as normal, then guess what is almost sure to happen?  The gas service will fail, and you’ll find yourself with lots of gas-powered appliances, but no gas to power them.

Hi David,

We are getting back on our feet and adjusting to the lack of electricity.  The big problem here is getting gasoline for our cars and generators.  A lot of stations don’t have power and the USCG limited some barge traffic and some refineries shut down for the storm, etc, etc!  My daughter waited in line for gas at our local station this morning for about three hours.  The police were on hand to make sure that everyone behaved.

NJ is one of the two US states that won’t let you pump your own gas.  That’s probably a very good idea in this situation.  We have two cars and filled up the one that gets the best mileage.  The station is local so I could walk up the street and give my daughter a break while she waited to fill up with some Russian Owned Lukoil gasoline!

Speaking of generators I’m probably going to get one that runs on propane or LNG.  If I get a whole house unit I’ll get one that runs off of my natural gas service.

A good friend built his new house in PA with a backup generator that uses his heating system’s propane tank (600 gallons) for fuel.  Funny thing is that he had a heck of a time getting it to work.  After many years and several replaced engine blocks it was ready to go.  It lasted a couple of days during Irene and then it seized up.  His repair man told him that he had bought a single cylinder engine that was rated for around 50 hours before an oil change was needed.  He said that the two cylinder engine is the continuous duty one!

Oh well, he told me today he had no problems with his new two cylinder engine for the five days he was without commercial power.  Well, that’s not true.  He collects clocks and the ones that have AC motors all ran fast.  He’s probably wasting his time to complain to the service tech.  I wonder if the waveform coming off the generator is even a pure sine wave in the first place.  He’s a retired EE so I guess he can figure it out for himself.

I just have a couple of large and out of date cellphone tower UPS batteries that my brother gave me.  I’m using one of them to charge our cell phone batteries and to make some 110 V AC from a small 12 V inverter to recharge my laptop and Hot-Spot batteries.  I hope the first one lasts a week as they are very heavy to carry up to the dinning room from the basement.

The power company folks are still talking about getting us back by the 14th.  However they also said it could take even longer!  I just finished throwing out a lot of food.  I have an old freezer that doesn’t self defrost.  Good thing I didn’t defrost it as I now have a large “icebox” for our milk and other cold stuff that we use.  Most of the local supermarkets have power and are open and folks all around us have power. My daughter is over at a friend’s house doing the laundry.

The only real problem we all have is getting gasoline for our cars and generators.  By the way, I really have to thank God that someone invented LEDs.  I have one dual LED unit that clips on to the top of a 9 Volt battery. It will run continuously on low for a full year off of a 9V lithium battery!

There is maybe one benefit of losing power…we’re all getting plenty of sleep, maybe even too much!

I better say goodbye as it’s getting darker here and I have to set the table for dinner while I can still see it.  EST will be a nice change for those of us who have no electricity!  We’re lucky, a neighbor and good friend of our family cooked dinner for us tonight.

John

Nov 032012
 

Some affected homes will be without power for more than 10 days after Hurricane Sandy struck.

This last week saw Hurricane Sandy blow in and through upper New Jersey, lower New York, and parts of CT and other states.  The hurricane was severe in strength, and passed through areas that very rarely encounter such extreme conditions, and so it caused more damage and disruption than ‘normal’.

From a prepper perspective, this was a regional and somewhat minor Level 1 event, although of course, if you were one of the affected people, its immediate impact on you may have been massively more major.

We say it is a small regional Level 1 event because the after-effects of the hurricane were (actually, ‘are’ because we’re writing this while the recovery process is still ongoing) short-term rather than long-term, and only impacted on a very small part of the country and even only on small parts of the affected states.  This means that, notwithstanding short-term disruptions and inconveniences, everyone knows, expects, and hopefully can wait for the restoration of normal conditions.  The overall ‘rule of law’ and society as a whole has not been threatened.

However, the ‘ground zero’ experience was at times devastating, and we can all be thankful that this was ‘merely’ a regional disaster.  Here’s a good article with lots of images of the devastation.

However, it is also an interesting and educational event for us as preppers.  One of the big unknowns we have to try to guess at is ‘what will people do when impacted by a Level 1/2/3 event?’.  With Hurricane Sandy being an unexpected event, we can get some clues as to how people will react in general to other events.

There are, of course, two schools of thought about how people will respond to a major national Level 1/2/3 event.  The optimists say that people will remain orderly and law-abiding, and the noble spirit of humanity, of respect for human life, and of ‘sacrifice above self’ will prevail.  People will help each other, will generously share what resources they have, and that the law enforcement agencies will maintain the peace in any event.  In other words, relax; all will be well.

The pessimists say that society will collapse in an ‘every man for himself’ and ‘dog eat dog’ scenario and the authorities will be helpless to prevent it.  People will riot and loot, with murder and mayhem being the rule.  People will hoard rather than share, and those without resources will do anything, up to and including murder, to get whatever they need and want from people who do have resources.

There are also two schools of thought about the role of external agencies, and ‘the government will help us’.  Will people passively wait for someone, anyone, to come and save them, or will they positively take charge of their lives and the situation and create whatever solutions they need, independently?

The Reality of the Sandy Experience

We can look at what happened as people reacted to the problems and disruptions from Hurricane Sandy and use it to help us better guess as to how people might respond to a more widespread disruptive event.

For example, we have seen only a little rioting or social disorder post-Sandy.  That is the good news – although, as this article indicates, there has been some disruption and the situation is extremely precarious, such that the slightest spark could set off mass rioting and looting.  This other article indicates that a ‘powder keg’ situation is present in other localities too, and note that both articles are silent on the authorities, and instead talk only about the local people being forced to defend themselves.

On the other hand, the scale and scope of the Sandy disruption was not really significant enough to cause rioting, and in particular, with New York City having one of the greatest police concentrations of anywhere in the world, and with the police and public order services all remaining fully functional, there was little opportunity for widespread disruption to occur.

Instead, we saw minor scuffles break out, particularly with the long lines of cars waiting to buy gas from the few gas stations that had both gas in their tanks to sell and also electricity to power the pumps to bring the gas to the cars.  People were waiting four and sometimes even six hours to get gas.

We saw other things, too.  Most of all, we saw an extraordinary and passive sense of entitlement, quickly evolving into resentment.  People would complain about the external help they got as being insufficient, rather than express appreciation for getting any assistance at all.

In particular, it is astonishing that anyone would ever complain about the Red Cross providing relief services, but as this and other articles point out, it was common to criticize the Red Cross for not magically and completely solving all problems for affected people.  Apparently, unless the Red Cross was handing out new big screen televisions and rebuilding people’s homes to a better standard than before, people would complain about the Red Cross ‘not doing enough’.

An interesting thought – how much money have such complainers contributed to the Red Cross themselves, in the decades prior to now?  What right do they have to expect anything at all from any charity group?

Also mentioned in the linked article (above) – people who had made deliberate and conscious decisions not to buy flood insurance now believe that they should not now have to accept the consequences of their earlier bad decisions.  Someone – whether FEMA, the Red Cross, or ‘the government’ in general should now help them, these people say.

Rather than improvising field toilets, and attending to sanitation needs as best possible, we saw apartment dwellers crapping in their corridors.  Not even wild animals do that.

Even more astonishing, at least initially, utility workers from other states who went to help restore power and other services were turned away because they weren’t union members of the local unions.

And when local utility crews – people have been working close to 24 hrs a day in a mad scramble to restore as much service as possible, to as many people as possible, got to some neighborhoods to restore service, the residents pelted them with eggs and other objects to show their displeasure at being without power.

That is beyond stupid.  The utility crews have no control over their companies’ staffing policies; they are doing all they can, personally, to restore power, and instead of being welcomed by the people they are helping, they are forced to leave and wait for police escorts before they can return.

Interpreting These Experiences

So, what did we see?  We saw people acting irrationally, selfishly, dysfunctionally and passively.  We saw people demanding that external sources come and help them and do everything for them, and people complaining that the generous help they did receive from volunteers was insufficient, and calling for more.

We saw people who willfully decided to ‘save money’ and not prepare for or insure against disaster now expecting that they won’t have to personally accept the consequences of their selfish short-sightedness.

We also saw potential collapses of social order, with the peace being maintained by ‘do it yourself’ local residents, rather than by the police, and a few cases where looters actually did strike.

Now try to extend these behaviors to a more severe Level 1 or worse scenario.  Which possible outcome do you think to be more likely?  The ‘noble humanity uniting positively together’ projection or the ‘every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’ projection?

Will the same people who chose not to buy flood insurance, and the same people who chose not to stock up on supplies or emergency equipment just passively watch you deploying your generator, your food, and so on?  Or will they be demanding that you share it all with them?

Note also that the proud American spirit of self-reliance and independence seems to now be replaced by a passive dependence on the government or anyone/anything else to solve people’s problems for them, accompanied by an abdication of personal responsibility.

Will the police be present to maintain law and order?  Or will people be forced to rely on their own resources?  And will some sectors of the community become ‘unruly’ (to put it politely) and may they attempt to inflict harm on you, either for rational or irrational reasons?

The Ugly Bottom Line

We see nothing in the responses to Hurricane Sandy to inspire us to hope that society might respond positively to more widespread disruptive events.  Quite the opposite.

While it is true that most people affected by the hurricane this last week have quietly hunkered down and just got on with their lives as best they can, it is also true that the disruptive effects of those people who responded negatively have been significant, and if the underlying disruption were to be greater, and the magical response and assistance from outside agencies to be smaller, more delayed, and less likely, we think the social problems arising from Hurricane Sandy would become massively more impactful and widespread.

By all means, hope for the best.  Hope we never have a massively disruptive event, and hope that if one does occur, people respond positively.  But – you’re a prepper, right?  Yes, do hope for the best – we all do.  But, to be responsible to yourself and your loved ones and others who depend upon you, you must prepare for the worst – both for the worst disasters, and also for the worst social responses to them.

Sep 012012
 

Don’t be secretive about your support of prudent prepping. But don’t shout it out at everyone all the time, either.

It is easy for us preppers to feel isolated; indeed, a key part of choosing an ideal retreat location is to seek out a measure of isolation and remoteness.

Even though the concept of prepping is becoming more widely understood, the unfortunate fact is that by far the majority of the people around us have no interest in prepping, and view it as a cross between something slightly strange and something threatening, almost as something akin to plotting to overthrow the government.

This surely doesn’t make it any easier for us to be open about what we believe and do.  One survey recently suggested that there are now more than 3 million preppers in the country.  That’s good, but it leaves more than 300 million people who are not preppers, and that’s not so good.

And then there is the doctrine of ‘op-sec’ – something many preppers misunderstand and misapply – that seems to require us to be secretive about all aspects of our prepping.

All of this creates a perfect Catch-22 and self-fulfilling prophecy.  By being furtive and secretive about our prepping, we not only imply that there is something to be ashamed or embarrassed about, but we allow the naysayers to ridicule us and shape overall public awareness and perception into a form that generally disapproves and rejects the concept of prepping.

Becoming Positive Opinion Leaders

Perhaps if we were all more open and positive about what we do, we would help to bring prepping into the mainstream of society’s awareness, and make it more generally accepted as a good and sensible thing.  After all, everyone prepares for disasters to some degree and extent; the only difference is that we prepare more thoroughly than do most other people.  It isn’t a difference as stark as that between, say, communism and democracy, it is more like the difference between Libertarians and Republicans – both groups share many views in common to start with.

You almost surely have friends who spend lots of money on their hobbies and interests.  Maybe you know someone with a motor home.  That could be a $100,000+ investment up front, plus plenty more in ongoing costs, maintenance, and so on.  Maybe you know a keen golfer, and when you start to look at the money he (or she) spends on golf clubs, clothing, professional lessons, memberships, green fees, travel to far away courses and golfing events, they can be spending tens of thousands of dollars every year, and spending hundreds of hours of time in the process.

And so on, through all sorts of other interests.  In all such cases, the people who have these interests are not shy about sharing their interests with anyone and everyone.  Indeed, some of them become colossal bores and want to speak about nothing else, even to people who don’t share their same interests.

Now we’re not suggesting you should become a colossal bore, but we are suggesting that you shouldn’t avoid talking about your interest – your prepping activities and values.

If you have a retreat, there’s no need to call it your wilderness mountain man survival cabin to help you survive Armageddon.  Instead you can talk about your second home/holiday home/retreat, as a lifestyle enhancing investment for now, and as a hedge against any future issues too.  That is a positive way of explaining your interest.  After all, the money your friend spends each year on his hobby is probably money gone forever, but the money you spend on developing a retreat is an appreciating and lasting investment.  With the notable exception of the last few years, any real estate investment can reasonably be expected, over the longer term, to appreciate in value and bring a profitable return to its owner.

When things happen in the news, and you and your co-workers discuss them around the coffee maker or photocopier at the office, you can gently add your own prepping perspective.  For example, as we write this, Hurricane Isaac’s impacts on the New Orleans area are just starting to subside.  Typical office chit-chat about events such as this is ‘how horrible it was for the people affected’, but it is a passive sort of concern with an underlying smugness (unstated) of ‘thank goodness it would never happen to us, here’ (assuming of course you don’t live in the next parish over from Orleans or Jefferson!).

There’s an opportunity for you there to say something like ‘I wonder what people in this area would do if we had some sort of disaster strike here, too’.  Depending on where you are, you might be able to cite a local vulnerability – maybe your area has a low risk of earthquake, or flood, or is coastal and so vulnerable to tsunamis, or has a nuclear reactor not far away, or a volcano that conceivably might surprise everyone and erupt, or who knows what else.

Your point isn’t so much the specificity of any particular threat, but rather the question of what would the people in your area do if such a thing impacted on them.  If you can get people thinking about that, you’re halfway to having a positive discussion about prepping in general.  Don’t be aggressive at forcing a conversation your way, and ensure you suppress any type of smugness you might feel about your own resilience to disasters of all kinds.  But simply raise the issue, and focus on the people who look thoughtful, rather than the ones who shrug it off as not a problem that would never happen, and who cares, because if it did, the government would come along to save the day and help everyone.

Such brief and casual conversations, repeated occasionally but not too frequently, will help you to decide who in the group of people you interact with are open-minded to the concept of prepping, and who are uninterested or close-minded.  In a gentle and slow manner, you can befriend the more open-minded people, and start to share a bit more about your concerns and what you do to counter those concerns and respond to the risks you perceive.

Don’t be a Single Minded Bore

We spoke before about people who are very one-dimensional.  All they seem to be interested in, and all they talk about, is whatever their particular fixation may be.  Maybe they are a dedicated equestrian.  You know that no matter how any conversation starts, it will inevitably twist and turn and end up with them telling you about their new saddle, or their riding experience the last weekend, and so on and so on.

You not only find yourself avoiding that person, but you also find yourself slightly put off the concept of horses in general.  If liking horses makes a person so myopically focused only on horses, then you sort of choose to avoid any contact with horses and horse enthusiasts, for fear of being ‘infected’ yourself and becoming, in turn, a colossal bore too.  (Our apologies to horse lovers – and we like horses ourselves – we’re just using this as an example, not as a real issue!)

It is the same with you and prepping.  You need to show yourself as an ordinary and interesting person with a broad range of interests, and you want to only very sparingly and occasionally allow prepping to enter into your conversations.  Don’t become the slightly strange/weird person in the office, and don’t encourage people to see prepping as being something that makes people become slightly strange and weird.

One thing you can do, and one time when you should lead conversations to the concept of prepping, is to be sure to distinguish your view of ‘normal’ prepping from occasional stories in the media about extremists and the way that extremists are somehow often bundled together with preppers.  You’re not an extremist, you don’t have a swastika tattoo on your chest (well, we hope you don’t!), and you don’t have a week’s worth of food conveniently stashed away in the inner parts of your mountain-man beard (again, we surely hope you don’t).  You are a normal person, ‘one of the guys’, and your interest in prepping is a similarly normal thing and an integrated part of your normal balanced life.

How to Advocate and Explain Prepping

There is a temptation to make prepping seem like a very special sort of thing, and a thing which, alas, very few people comprehend.  But this risks alienating people before they’ve even started to consider what prepping is and if/how they could integrate it into their own lifestyles.

In discussing prepping, you always need to make it seem like an easy concept that people can integrate into their regular lifestyles.  The easier it is to do something, the more likely it is people will choose to do it.

For example, if becoming a cigarette smoker and addict was an enormously complex process that involved expensive special equipment, and consumed a lot of time, and could only be done in special places, and required you to fill out paperwork, pass a test, and get a license, few people would decide to do so.  But instead, as many people know from personal experience, at a young and impressionable age, someone you respect or like offers you a ‘quick puff’ of a cigarette, and then generously shares their own cigarettes with you, and over time what is a special ‘one-off’ occasional event becomes integrated more and more into your life.  You feel the need to reciprocate your friend’s generosity, and you buy a pack of cigarettes yourself, so as to be able to share them with your friend the next time a situation arises where you will have a cigarette, and then all of a sudden, you find yourself somewhere without your enabling friend, but in a situation where, if he (she) were present, you’d probably have a smoke, and, with the packet of cigarettes nearby, you have one by yourself, and before you know it, you’re a pack a day smoker.

Now, don’t get us wrong.  We’re not saying that prepping is addictive or a bad habit or anything!  We’re simply showing how a person’s lifestyle evolves in small steps.  Most of the things that these days are core parts of your life and lifestyle started off small and only over time evolved to become important.  Maybe you have strong political views and are active in that scene.  You weren’t born that way, were you.  You slowly grew into that interest and activity.

It is the same with prepping.  Don’t immediately start urging everyone you meet to spend millions of dollars in building an underground survival bunker in their back yards (indeed, we hope you’ll never suggest that!).  Instead, take their present levels of preparations and make suggestions for slight enhancements of those.  Of course they already keep spare food in their pantry, spare lightbulbs somewhere, a flashlight and batteries, and other sorts of entry-level preparations.  They have insurance on their house and car, medical insurance on themselves and their other family members.  When they go out somewhere, if the weather is uncertain, they bring a jacket or umbrella to prepare for the possibility of bad weather.

Help them to see how they are already a prepper.  All they need to do now is think about preparing some more.  The thing is that the more people start to prepare, the more they realize that they have a lifestyle worth protecting and preserving, and the more committed they become to extending their preparations to counter more difficult situations.

The chances are that your state, county or city government has some type of disaster preparedness advice on their website, urging everyone in the community to keep various supplies and resources.  Use that as a talking point.  The next time there’s a power outage in the area, discuss what you and they would do if a power outage affected you too.

You need to first encourage new potential preppers to consider how they could and would respond to mild problems before you drop them in the deep end of severe national crisis type challenges.  Help them become better able to withstand a Level 1 challenge before you start to talk about levels 2 and 3.

Before you know it, maybe they’ll be going to Costco with you and buying a bulk pack of AA batteries and a dozen spare lightbulbs.  That’s a bit like a person’s first puff on their first cigarette.  Next time they might buy a pail of 25 year shelf stable dehydrated food.  And so on and so on.

Maybe you’ll invite them to spend a weekend at your retreat and maybe they’ll be interested in becoming part of your retreat community, and gradually over time, they’ll become as enthusiastic and active as you are at preparing for the uncertainties of the future.

More Preppers = Less Risk

Here’s the key thing.  If we had to sum up the biggest vulnerability that we confront today, it is the fact that 99+% of the population is unprepared for disaster of any/all kinds.  Our problem is not so much the potential for disaster to occur, but rather the dysfunctional way that our society would respond when a disaster did occur.

If everyone in our community was well prepared, then the outcome of a disaster would be mild and moderate.  We’d have no social breakdown, we’d not have people starving in the streets in a matter of days, and looters would be kept at bay by a determined lawful majority of people.

Even if half the people were well prepared, it would probably be possible for the half who were well prepared to assist the half who were not, and to avoid a meltdown of the city.

So the more people we can encourage to join us in preparing for adverse events in the future, the safer we make ourselves.  If our neighbors are no longer people who potentially will be threatening us and attacking us to get our food and supplies from us, but rather, if they’ll be part of our ‘neighborhood watch’ and sharing their various supplies with us and our various supplies, our situation and our security is enormously boosted.

In a Level 1 situation, the more people in your neighborhood who are at least moderately prepared to withstand a short-term disruption to the normal services in our society, the fewer problems you will have, and the less likely it is you’ll have to escalate your response to a bug-out point and making it into a Level 2 situation.

And, in a Level 2 or 3 situation, the more people who will join with you in a community retreat, the better off you’ll all be.  You will have been able to share in the up-front costs of developing the retreat in the first place, enabling you to get more resource overall for less money per person, and you’ll then have more people to share with you in the ongoing business of living in the retreat and creating a self-sufficient lifestyle into the future.

The best thing you can do to prepare for a safe future for you and your loved ones is to help the people around you to similarly prepare for their safe futures, too.  You make the other people in your world become assets and supporters, rather than liabilities and detractors.  So, not only for their benefit, but for your own benefit too, you need to become a careful and positive advocate of the prepping concept.

Two Final Thoughts

First, if you are in the greater Puget Sound area, we are always pleased to address any type of group of people, giving a presentation on prepping in any form and at any level you’d like.  We can bring high quality a/v materials with us, and provide an interesting, thought-provoking and positive presentation.

We’ll do this for free, because just as you benefit from surrounding yourself with fellow preppers, so do we, too.

If you’re not within an easy drive of Puget Sound, we’ll still come present to any sort of group as long as you agree to cover our direct costs associated with doing so.  If you’re looking for an interesting ‘twist’ to your next convention or conference or whatever, here’s a way you can introduce prepping to a group of non-preppers and also make your overall program seem more interesting and distinctive.  We are experienced public speakers and can positively enhance any meeting activity.

Secondly, the need to build a prepping community does definitely extend beyond having your neighbors buy a generator and lay in some canned goods for the next windstorm that blows down the power lines, or the next snowfall that closes off the roads.  You need to have, build, or join a community for Level 2 and 3 situations, too.  If you can create your own community, we’d love you to come and be our neighbors in our selected part of ID/MT.  Or, better still, please consider becoming part of our Code Green community.