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Now, more than ever before, people are starting to really consider the role technology will play in doomsday. As fantastic advancements are being made in the field everyday, and our reliance growing accordingly, it can be hard to imagine an apocalyptic situation without considering how our use of technical gadgets will affect it.

Technology seems to be something that splits most preppers down the middle. For some, stocking up on all the latest survival gadgets is an essential step to take to ensure preparation for potential apocalypse. For others, however, this very reliance on electronic equipment for survival is the actual catalyst for doomsday.

The Age Of Information

With new reports claiming that by 2020, an astounding 70% of the world’s population will own a smart phone. Statistics already show that at least 68% of Americans are regular internet users. It’s clear how widely spread our need for online access is.

You only have to consider the impact of suddenly losing the ability to browse to realize what a large amount of important information is stored virtually. In fact, a Canadian study showed that our constant searching to fact-check information has actually reduced our attention span and ability to commit information to our long-term memory. These are skills that are both essential to survive a doomsday scenario.

Immediately, it’s obvious why so many preppers are hesitant to put so much reliance on technology. Even gadgets that don’t require internet access are preventing us from developing useful survival skills that could significantly benefit us at a later date. Plus, if the power grid goes down, these supposedly handy tools are rendered immediately useless.

Cyberwarfare

norse_map

Norse – Real Time Cyber attack map. Amazing to watch.

Fortunately, due to its decentralized system, it’s highly unlikely that the internet will go down of its own accord any time soon. However, this doesn’t mean we’re perfectly safe. Cybercrime has been on the rise almost continuously over the last decade or so. We’ve already seen guerilla hacking groups take action against governments, economic giants and religious organizations, so worldwide internet shut down isn’t out of the question.

What technophobes fear is that an individual, organization or even warring government could develop a form of malware so complex that it causes irreversible damage before experts can even identify it. With sources claiming that the average American relies on 250 computers throughout a generic day to survive, it’s clear that an attack on a massive scale could bring about disaster in ways that further technology can’t help you with.


Technology as Security

NightVisionDrone

Drone VR Camera with Night Vision

Despite the unhealthy reliance on such a potentially corruptible system, in many doomsday scenarios, technology could actually be an incredible help. Many preppers have already begun discussing the importance of adding a drone to their doomsday arsenal for increased surveillance and security. It’s undeniable that this video footage would be invaluable in terms of spotting attackers and, as those worried about governmental inference point out, they are so regularly used by those powers it would help to level the playing field.

Similarly, using software and technology to lock down your computers and devices is an essential practice to protect yourself from government surveillance.  Any prepper who is not using a Virtual Private Network to hide their online activity and stay anonymous online is asking for trouble from snooping governments and malicious hackers. As previously established, using technology is risky business. If you are going to partake in its use, then it’s essential to stay protected!

Technology As Communication

handy

Small hand-held radios are an excellent option for Preppers. While not secure, they are better than nothing in a lot of cases.

One obvious advantage of having working technology during a doomsday event is being able to have a successful mode of communication. Whether this ends up being a fully functional smart phone or just a pack of walkie-talkies, having to means to stay in contact with those you aren’t directly with will make it easier to scope out potential dangers, get a better general idea of the situation, and find and ensure that loved ones are safe.

Determining on the catalyst for the disaster will decide what form of technology should be used. Obviously, cyberwarfare will immediately rule out smartphones, but mobile devices without internet connection may still function. If the satellites are targeted, or come down by accident, having sets of long-range walkie-talkies at the ready will be greatly beneficial to you and your family. Keeping a supply of all of these items is the best way to ensure you’re ready for literally anything that may strike.

Technology For Longevity

When talking about doomsday, many people put stringent considerations on the initial 24 hours, but fail to think about learn term survival tactics. Depending on the form of the apocalypse, you could easily be out of convenient supplies in a number of days. Similarly, all communal systems will probably collapse in a very short space of time. Due to this, stocking up on helpful gadgets to increase your longevity and potential survival time is an essential practice.

61cywroukjl

Anker 21W 2-Port USB Solar Charger

Simple things include solar power charging packs (you can buy them on backpacks so they charge while you walk) and compact water filters. You can also get waterproof solar fire starters to ensure you can cook food anywhere. As it’s likely that healthcare will quickly become completely inaccessible, carrying around basic medical devices could literally save lives if there’s an accident or emergency.

The role technology plays in doomsday will be highly dependent on the form of the disaster. While it could provide life saving tools to help you survive in some situations, in others it will be rendered almost immediately useless. Due to this, the best tactic by far is to understand to repercussions of each expected form of apocalypse and what they will each require and stock up on all the gadgets you can afford. Yet don’t be hesitant to leave them behind as soon as they’re doing nothing more than weighing you down!

We’ve mentioned some of the most essential doomsday gadgets on this list, but there’s many more available. If you know of any others then be sure the leave a comment below and share your ideas with others! Also leave a comment if you’d like to continue the discussion on what role technology could play when disaster strikes.

  Now, more than ever before, people are starting to really consider the role technology will play in doomsday. As fantastic advancements are being made in the field everyday, and our

Imagine it’s 1:15 on a Thursday afternoon. You and some friends at work have recently returned from lunch and you are settling back into work. As you are going about your daily responsibilities, the Emergency Broadcast System starts to blare over a coworker’s radio. Normally you would ignore this, but you also get an Emergency alert message on your smartphone. Funny, you could swear you had disabled those but it says that there has been a terrorist attack in Los Angeles and urges calm and promises more information soon. You start walking out of your office towards the break-room and notice everyone crowded around the TV when the power goes out. Looking down, you notice your phone isn’t working either.

Making for the nearest window, you notice that vehicles on the road have stopped, seemingly right in their tracks. Could this be an EMP? Not wanting to overreact, you take the stairs and walk out to the parking lot. You try your key fob but that doesn’t work either so you use your key. A quick check of the ignition and you realize your car isn’t going anywhere either. Slowly your co-workers validate the same with their cars and you start looking at the possibility that you will have to walk back home. Unfortunately for you, you work 72 miles away from home.

It’s one of the more common problems us preppers try to figure out. What is the best way home as quickly and safely as possible when SHTF and you are far away? I had a reader ask me the following question:

My husband works 75 miles from home. My greatest fear is that disaster or SHTF will happen while he is at work. I would like to start planning for how he might get home, but don’t know how to begin figuring out what is the best route. Most posts (here and elsewhere) on the subject are about get home bags and what equipment to have with you, but not so much about planning the actual route, other than to stay off major highways. Would like to hear the pros and cons of sticking to roadways, crossing private property, what type of maps to consult, etc. – Zendelle

emergency-alert

I always appreciate questions from our readers and I will try to give my thoughts about this subject as I have considered this myself. So without any further ado…

What is the best way home during a SHTF event?

There are so many factors that come into play when you are talking about a situation like this. How far away are you? What is the weather like? What region will you be traveling through? Are you in an urban environment or rural? What type of shape are you in? Do you have other people, like children you have to consider? Are your two youngest in school or daycare? What type of clothing and footwear are you wearing? What time of day are you starting out?

Each person is unique and our situations are also unique so there are no firm and set rules for anything but I have given this some thought. At one point in my life I commuted 90 minutes each way to work. It was 77 miles’ door to door and getting home in that type of scenario I mentioned above would be no picnic for anyone. To be really prepared, you have to imagine walking home in the heat of summer or the bitter cold of winter.

For this hypothetical, we will assume that there really has been some type of national catastrophe. Maybe an EMP attack from a rogue nation or terrorist cell has disrupted all modern electrical appliances. Virtually everything electric has shut down and you have precious little time, a couple of days tops to make it back home to your family before the chaos really starts.

road

To be really prepared, you have to imagine walking home in the heat of summer or the bitter cold of winter.

Before you take the first step: What gear do you need to consider?

I know our reader mentioned that most people only talk about Get Home Bags when this topic comes up but it is worth spending a few sentences here on how best to equip yourself before this even happens.

  • Get Home Bag – Having a get home bag in your car will be an important step in the right direction so to speak. I won’t get into what you should pack in your get home bag, but we do cover all of that in several articles on the subject. You can read our post about putting together your Get Home Bag.
  • Proper Footwear – Flip flops belong at the pool people! My children are guilty of this too, but if you are forced to walk home, what are you going to wish you had on your feet? Sturdy footwear like hiking boots or at least good athletic shoes should be one consideration.
  • Dress for the elements – Dress like you will be spending all day outside not sitting in a cubicle. Regardless of the season, have appropriate clothing on that will protect you from the elements, especially if you are going to be further than an hour’s walking time from home.
  • Food/Water/Shelter – You should have at a minimum, a container that will hold water, a way to filter water, some form of emergency shelter and food. You don’t need a four-course meal to survive, but something to keep your energy up. Think power bars or protein bars. Survival rations work too and won’t go bad in the car.
  • Protection – Do you have some protection from two-legged animals? I always have a personal firearm, but Tasers and bear spray are options too that are better than nothing.
  • Maps – And the knowledge of how to read them. These can be simple street maps, you don’t have to have topo maps of the entire region. You can grab the road atlas out of your car before you head out.

Planning your route and the alternate route home

For the commuter who drives to work, I would imagine that each of you have already mapped out the most efficient route to your place of business that you use virtually every single day. We get into a routine because we found a way that works. It’s usually the most direct, fastest way to get where you need to go. I even go into autopilot some days on the weekend and start driving my work route even when I am not going that direction. These habits can be a good thing in one respect.

specialreports

each of you have already mapped out the most efficient route to your place of business that you use virtually every single day

Commuters who use trains or buses follow a similar route. The trains go into central spokes normally that would mimic a commute via car. None of us should really worry about the normal route we take back home as long as we know the roads we would take if public or personal transportation was down. With few exceptions, the highway system is going to be the quickest way we can get back to our home city. Highways level out hills and go around natural obstacles. However, what if the route you normally follow has been blocked? What if you travel through less savory parts of town that you wouldn’t normally want to be walking down the street?

Identify your primary, secondary and tertiary routes home – In my case, working 77 miles from home, I was likely looking at 2 to 3 days of hiking to make it back assuming I did not encounter anything that made me need to alter my course. Most of my commute was interstate highway so I would have simply followed that route. However, if that didn’t work out, I could cut back on a smaller highway that would have taken me on a much more rural track to the South back home.

Depending on how people were reacting you could run into rioting or looting in some areas. I would have been walking on the highway through several major population centers that might be best avoided. I don’t think I would ever cut across someone’s property unless there were strong benefits and low risks that I perceived from doing so. Going cross-country, without the benefit of a road can slow you down and may even bring on injury more quickly as you could have to navigate natural obstacles like streams, dense underbrush, rocks, etc. The last thing you want to do is injure your self and make walking more difficult or even impossible while you try to shave 20 minutes off your trip.

alternateroute

Having more than one route back home can help you avoid dangerous areas.

Rather than having a specific route I am taking, I would consult the maps I store in my car to decide which ways I would alternate if needed. I would go to the south of the major urban areas if I sensed any danger but I would still be staying on paved roads that were common thoroughfares.

Pros and Cons of various routes

In the example above, does your normal route take you through urban areas you would rather avoid? Has the disaster already started to make people act irrationally? I think that most of us even in the scenario I described above will be able to count on average people thinking that nothing is wrong. The power will come back on because it always does. Food will still be available and there will still be items on store shelves. You should be home way ahead of any actual panic, but sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry with your route. I don’t think anyone would be barricading streets the first or even third day after the lights go out.

Are you carrying three days’ worth of water on you or are their sources you can tap into along the way. Assuming you have cash on hand you will likely be able to purchase it from stores who are likely still in operation as the Normalcy bias takes over for most.

What factors do the weather play?

Adverse weather could seriously impede your progress. Walking on snow or ice or even extreme heat would sap your energy and could cause injuries. You first have to plan for those extremes if they are common to your area.

If you are facing a walk home and you live in the deserts of the Southwest, you could be forced to walk only at night when the temperatures are cooler and find shade to rest during the day. You understand the weather factors that could influence a trip like this so you have to plan accordingly.

For most of us, walking home is not incredibly difficult with a decent fitness level and some simple preparation. We may never be forced to use our get home bags, but it makes sense to prepare now like we do. You will be more able to react quickly and make the right decisions if you do.

Imagine it’s 1:15 on a Thursday afternoon. You and some friends at work have recently returned from lunch and you are settling back into work. As you are going about

This article was taken from Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency (USDA). It offers some guidelines for keeping yourself safe when it comes to food in an emergency. Food can become contaminated and disasters can introduce bacteria and organisms that will make you sick. It’s wise to make sure any practices you follow with respect to preparing and storing food don’t jeopardize your health. The article also covers when food goes bad after it has been kept out of refrigeration. Some of you may disagree with the specific recommendations on certain items but overall its good information.

Did you know that a flood, fire, national disaster, or the loss of power from high winds, snow, or ice could jeopardize the safety of your food? Knowing how to determine if food is safe and how to keep food safe will help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of food-borne illness. This fact sheet will help you make the right decisions for keeping your family safe during an emergency.

ABCD’s of Keeping Food Safe in an Emergency

Always keep meat, poultry, fish, and eggs refrigerated at or below 40 °F and frozen food at or below 0 °F. This may be difficult when the power is out.

Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic foot full freezer for 2 days. Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.

Be prepared for an emergency…

… by having items on hand that don’t require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or heated on the outdoor grill. Shelf-stable food, boxed or canned milk, water, and canned goods should be part of a planned emergency food supply. Make sure you have ready-to-use baby formula for infants and pet food. Remember to use these items and replace them from time to time. Be sure to keep a hand-held can opener for an emergency.

Consider what you can do ahead of time to store your food safely in an emergency. If you live in a location that could be affected by a flood, plan your food storage on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water. Coolers are a great help for keeping food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours—have a couple on hand along with frozen gel packs. When your freezer is not full, keep items close together—this helps the food stay cold longer.

Digital, dial, or instant-read food thermometers and appliance thermometers will help you know if the food is at safe temperatures. Keep appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer at all times. When the power is out, an appliance thermometer will always indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer no matter how long the power has been out. The refrigerator temperature should be 40 °F or below; the freezer, 0 °F or lower. If you’re not sure a particular food is cold enough, take its temperature with a food thermometer.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. Floodwaters covered our food stored on shelves and in cabinets. What can I keep and what should I throw out?
A. Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with floodwater.

  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with floodwater. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home-canned foods if they have come in contact with floodwater because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
  • Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel-type can opener.

Steps to Salvage All-Metal Cans and Retort Pouches
Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved if you do the following:

  • Remove the labels, if they are the removable kind since they can harbor dirt and bacteria.
  • Thoroughly wash the cans or retort pouches with soap and water, using hot water if it is available.
  • Brush or wipe away any dirt or silt.
  • Rinse the cans or retort pouches with water that is safe for drinking, if available, since dirt or residual soap will reduce the effectiveness of chlorine sanitation.
  • Then, sanitize them by immersion in one of the two following ways:
    • Place in water and allow the water to come to a boil and continue boiling for 2 minutes, or
    • Place in a freshly made solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available) for 15 minutes.
  • Air-dry cans or retort pouches for a minimum of 1 hour before opening or storing.
  • If the labels were removable, then re-label your cans or retort pouches, including the expiration date (if available), with a marker.
  • Food in reconditioned cans or retort pouches should be used as soon as possible, thereafter.
  • Any concentrated baby formula in reconditioned, all-metal containers must be diluted with clean, drinking water.
Q. How should I clean my pots, pans, dishes, and utensils?
A. Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils (including can openers) with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available).
Q. How should I clean my countertops?
A. Thoroughly wash counter-tops with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). Allow to air-dry.
Q. My home was flooded and I am worried about the safety of the drinking water. What should I do?
A. Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters if it is available.

  • If you don’t have bottled water, you should boil water to make sure it is safe. Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool and store it in clean containers with covers.
  • If you can’t boil water, you can disinfect it using household bleach. Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.
  • If you have a well that had been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected after floodwaters recede. If you suspect that your well may be contaminated, contact your local or state health department or agriculture extension agent for specific advice.
Q. We had a fire in our home and I am worried about what food I can keep and what to throw away.
A. Discard food that has been near a fire. Food exposed to fire can be damaged by the heat of the fire, smoke fumes, and chemicals used to fight the fire. Food in cans or jars may appear to be okay, but the heat from a fire can activate food spoilage bacteria. If the heat is extreme, the cans or jars themselves can split or rupture, rendering the food unsafe.

One of the most dangerous elements of a fire is sometimes not the fire itself, but toxic fumes released from burning materials. Discard any raw food or food in permeable packaging—cardboard, plastic wrap, screw-topped jars, bottles, etc.—stored outside the refrigerator. Food stored in refrigerators or freezers can also become contaminated by fumes. The refrigerator seal isn’t airtight and fumes can get inside. Chemicals used to fight the fire contain toxic materials and can contaminate food and cookware. Food that is exposed to chemicals should be thrown away—the chemicals cannot be washed off the food. This includes food stored at room temperature, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as food stored in permeable containers like cardboard and screw-topped jars and bottles. Cookware exposed to fire-fighting chemicals can be decontaminated by washing in soap and hot water. Then submerge for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

Q. A snowstorm knocked down the power lines, can I put the food from the refrigerator and freezer out in the snow?
A. No, frozen food can thaw if it is exposed to the sun’s rays even when the temperature is very cold. Refrigerated food may become too warm and foodborne bacteria could grow. The outside temperature could vary hour by hour and the temperature outside will not protect refrigerated and frozen food. Additionally, perishable items could be exposed to unsanitary conditions or to animals. Animals may harbor bacteria or disease; never consume food that has come in contact with an animal. Rather than putting the food outside, consider taking advantage of the cold temperatures by making ice. Fill buckets, empty milk cartons or cans with water and leave them outside to freeze. Then put the homemade ice in your refrigerator, freezer, or coolers.
Q. Some of my food in the freezer started to thaw or had thawed when the power came back on. Is the food safe? How long will the food in the refrigerator be safe with the power off?
A. Never taste food to determine its safety! You will have to evaluate each item separately. If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, read the temperature when the power comes back on. If the appliance thermometer stored in the freezer reads 40 °F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen. If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine the safety. Remember you can’t rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 °F or below, it is safe to refreeze. Refrigerated food should be safe as long as power is out no more than 4 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for 2 hours.
Q. May I refreeze the food in the freezer if it thawed or partially thawed?
A. Yes, the food may be safely refrozen if the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below. You will have to evaluate each item separately. Be sure to discard any items in either the freezer or the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices. Partial thawing and refreezing may reduce the quality of some food, but the food will remain safe to eat. See the attached charts for specific recommendations.

Refrigerator Foods

When to Save and When to Throw It Out
FOOD Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD
Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes
Discard
Thawing meat or poultry Discard
Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg salad Discard
Gravy, stuffing, broth Discard
Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef Discard
Pizza,  with any topping Discard
Canned hams labeled “Keep Refrigerated” Discard
Canned meats and fish, opened Discard
CHEESE
Soft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco
Discard
Hard Cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano Safe
Processed Cheeses Safe
Shredded Cheeses Discard
Low-fat Cheeses Discard
Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar) Safe
DAIRY
Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk
Discard
Butter, margarine Safe
Baby formula opened Discard
EGGS
Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products
Discard
Custards and puddings Discard
CASSEROLES, SOUPS, STEWS Discard
FRUITS
Fresh fruits, cut
Discard
Fruit juices opened Safe
Canned fruits, opened Safe
Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates Safe
SAUCES, SPREADS, JAMS
Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish
Discard if above 50 °F for over 8 hrs.
Peanut butter Safe
Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles Safe
Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, Hoisin sauces Safe
Fish sauces (oyster sauce) Discard
Opened vinegar-based dressings Safe
Opened creamy-based dressings Discard
Spaghetti sauce opened jar Discard
BREAD, CAKES, COOKIES, PASTA, GRAINS
Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas
Safe
Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough Discard
Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes Discard
Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette Discard
Fresh pasta Discard
Cheesecake Discard
Breakfast foods—waffles, pancakes, bagels Safe
PIES, PASTRY
Pastries, cream-filled
Discard
Pies—custard,cheese-filled, or chiffon; quiche Discard
Pies, fruit Safe
VEGETABLES
Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices
Safe
Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged Discard
Vegetables, raw Safe
Vegetables, cooked; tofu Discard
Vegetable juice opened Discard
Baked potatoes Discard
Commercial garlic in oil Discard
Potato Salad Discard

Frozen Food

When to Save and When To Throw It Out
FOOD Still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigerated Thawed.
Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD
Beef, veal, lamb, pork, and ground meats
Refreeze Discard
Poultry and ground poultry Refreeze Discard
Variety meats (liver, kidney, heart, chitterlings) Refreeze Discard
Casseroles, stews, soups Refreeze Discard
Fish, shellfish, breaded seafood products Refreeze. However, there will be some texture and flavor loss. Discard
DAIRY
Milk
Refreeze. May lose some texture. Discard
Eggs (out of shell) and egg products Refreeze Discard
Ice cream, frozen yogurt Discard Discard
Cheese (soft and semi-soft) Refreeze. May lose some texture. Discard
Hard cheeses Refreeze Refreeze
Shredded cheeses Refreeze Discard
Casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheeses Refreeze Discard
Cheesecake Refreeze Discard
FRUITS
Juices
Refreeze Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.
Home or commercially packaged Refreeze. Will change texture and flavor. Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.
VEGETABLES
Juices
Refreeze Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.
Home or commercially packaged or blanched Refreeze. May suffer texture and flavor loss. Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.
BREADS, PASTRIES
Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)
Refreeze Refreeze
Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling Refreeze Discard
Pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread dough Refreeze. Some quality loss may occur. Refreeze. Quality loss is considerable.
OTHER
Casseroles—pasta, rice-based
Refreeze Discard
Flour, cornmeal, nuts Refreeze Refreeze
Breakfast items—waffles, pancakes, bagels Refreeze Refreeze
Frozen meal, entree, specialty items (pizza, sausage and biscuit, meat pie, convenience foods) Refreeze Discard

This article was taken from Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency (USDA). It offers some guidelines for keeping yourself safe when it comes to food in an emergency. Food can

 

Bug In or Bug Out?

For me my first choice is a bug in at home though I am not sold on it as a definite concept. For this reason I have one prime bug out location (BOL) at a cottage and two secondary ones at friends’ homes. This is really a personal choice. For all those that say you are 100% dead staying at home in SHTF there are more saying you will 100% die in the woods. The truth is between the two extremes but for me I need a roof and walls so I have them at home and at the cottage. If you bug in will it work long-term? If you bug out can you get there and can you be assured of survival on arrival?

The Bug Out at the Primary Residence or Your Primary Bug Out Location (BOL)

If you do not have a wood fire and close, dense forests then I’d not even consider this. Same is required for several local water sources. Having a great knowledge of the neighborhood helps even if the neighbors are literally a knife throw away! For me I keep them both equally stocked as I am still figuring out the pros and cons of each and likely will be doing so until, and if, the actual SHTF occurs. “Two is one, one is none” seems a good rule except for BOL where many people have one main choice. So rather than having one, either bug in it home or bug out then in at a BOL, I have two. Costs more of course but if you are really preparing for the end of civilization it seems a better idea to me than focusing on only one main alternative.

Food

You should have a year’s supply of food stored in the house and the same buried nearby that you can access even if you cannot use your house. That would be a minimum for a SHTF scenario. As you go beyond this (I’d aim for twenty years supply. I have two at present) keep a year’s worth in the home or BOL and the rest in ground cached nearby in multiple locations but accessible if you cannot safely enter the home.

If you are focusing on preparing for a Winter storm, train derailment, etc. then you are preparing for something other than the end of civilization. I always prepare for the worst possible case as it makes the more likely events very easy to navigate through. This should cost you about a thousand dollars. Buy Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. Buy strong food grade buckets and consider the gamma lids for all of them but at least four of them. Unscrew the middle, empty, add a plastic bag, and you have a toilet!

groceries

You should have a year’s supply of food stored in the house.

Buy oats, flour, pastas, sugar, extra virgin coconut oil, rice, beans, and grains (each bucket has most of these as you do not have only one or two types of food in a bucket. If you have to grab a couple and run at least you have a bit of variety) in bulk and freeze them for 72 hours to kill the critters and then decant into one gallon or smaller Mylar bags. Add in yeast and salt and spices to every bucket and you are good to go. Have a good mix of types rather than just white rice and pinto beans (these are a great staple but have a variety available).

On average each five gallon bucket is approximately one month’s food for one person but with decent foraging and careful use you can stretch this to two months. You will lose weight but so is everyone else. They stack well but are obvious so plan where you keep them carefully. Mine has asphalt added to their outside for the driveway sealing I’m never going to do. Consider the Mylar bags only in your attic placed so they cannot be seen if anyone looks into the space if the attic is not a room. Consider tins and cans stocked in under the bed containers placed under the stairs and well covered by the usual junk people have. I have a huge amount of tins and jars padded by blankets in the bottoms of boxes filled with old cassette and video tapes. If able put tins and bottles inside wall spaces which I have not as yet done.

I do rotate food but not the long-term stores. I have about ten cardboard buckets filled with a variety of everyday foods we normally eat and replace the filled pantry from these and then repurchase. This adds up quickly and we believe tins do not really expire if not used before their expiry dates.

Tools for Survival

product

BioLite Wood Burning Campstove – Powers most USB-chargeable devices including smartphones

A full range of gardening tools and prepping supplies is an absolute requirement as is seeds. Seeds go off so get the expensive Mylar sealed ones but spend only $10-20 on these a year. Buy a few every year and store carefully. You cannot have too many nor can you wait until SHTF to learn gardening. It is a lot of fun and not as hard as I figured it would be before I started out. Consider raised garden boxes and have lots of tarps and nails to cover these if the SHTF is radiological. Have poles and clear plastic to construct a greenhouse if, like me, you do not need one at present. Learn how to harvest seeds now and not in SHTF. I have mixed success with beans and amaranth and incredible success with most herbs. I am still learning but it is easy and fun once you get into it. I absolutely will not be gardening until after the first Winter post SHTF. This would be making myself a target.

Have three plans to cook food and make sure all three are not dependent on modern civilization. I have a wood house fire, a BioLite, and a solar cooker. I also have propane for those none long-term events when I don’t really want to cook in the living room. Have at least two good quality cast iron pans and the ability to boil water in 5-10 pint amounts on an open flame.

Have good quality foraging and wilderness skills books. Open these up frequently and look at them and try to use them. Have a large store of plastic bags and bottles. Learn how to boil can as a minimum and have a plan to dehydrate via solar large quantities of fruits and vegetables. Your pre-collapse buckets will eventually run out and your job is to use them as little as possible for as long as possible. Have some ability and knowledge to harvest tree sap for drinking and for boiling down into sugars if you live in a suitable area. Know how to harvest bark and cook it. It is tasty and full of sugars. Again do not wait until SHTF to find the axe is rubbish for this or you do not know how to peel it correctly from a living tree.

For me livestock is not possible for various reasons but if you can you should explore this and make sure you can feed them well in SHTF even if the stores never open again. Fishing rods, lines, hooks, and nets are set up at home and the cottage for us and we know how to smoke them (the fish I mean!).

If you do not sprout seeds already may I suggest you start to do so? It is easy, healthy, and tasty. Again they go off over time so buy yearly but keep all of them. Some is better than none. They also turn into plants and require very simple equipment you should have now rather than try to improvise in SHTF.

Water

berkeyfilter

Berkey Filters are excellent Prepper resources.

Have at least two sources of water within easy walking range. Have a wheel barrow and buckets to transport it to cut down on the time and effort this part of your new life will take. If this is not possible you need to store thousands of gallons of water not a few cases of bottled water.

Have the ability to clean and use the water using various means. Initially I am using stored water and then the Berkey Water Filter. This is expensive but I do feel a good Berkey with four black and four white filters at my home are well worth the investment. We used it in a previous home for all our water but here it is wrapped up in a plastic tote waiting for the day I need it again. Next year the BOL gets one as well as it is an essential and essentials should work very well, for years, and be ready to use at your destination not carried there. Tablets and portable filter systems are for traveling only in my opinion. I have a lot of them so I can use them for daily living if the need arises.

Good quality rain barrels, tarps, and food grade plastic pipes should be readily available to convert rain into water for drinking, bathing, and the garden. Again I have these but they are not set up as I am not keen on screaming “prepper” to anyone who walks by the house or cottage. You should also have a large supply of large clear soda pop bottles. I do not use the stuff myself but collect them from others who do for “starting my plants”. Prefilter, lie in the sun, and consume in a couple of days. SODIS water treatment is clearly explained on the web and is an easy back up plan to provide large quantities of water if the Berkley fails.

Heating

As I said I’d not consider staying anywhere without wood heating but I live near lots of woods and in a climate that gets a bit cold in the Winter. Cold enough to freeze your nose hairs! I have a decent tent system and on top of the mattress in front of the fire it will work great especially with the sleeping system we have. I have not duplicated this at the cottage as I’d rather travel with the ability to be warm but I see the need to spend the cash at some point in the near future.

men

Wood-stoves in Northern climates will save lives in a SHTF event.

I have lots of black bags to seal the windows (see Security) and lots of cheap survival blankets to put up for heat reflection and clear plastic for the doorways. It is my number one concern as death will come swiftly to the unheated up here. In the Summer (yes it does get hot in Canada) the basement of the home stays cool and the cottage stays cool as it is on a rock system by a river.

We have decent Winter clothing in both places and SHTF clothing ready to go in the basement. I went with merino wool for the base layers but have cheaper layers to wick if I feel the need to change clothes in the Winter. I plan on getting smelly in SHTF (see Security) initially and during the Winter a weekly spot wash is all I can see doing.
Power

I would love to put up solar panels at the home and the cottage but until more people do it is just a big, fat target on me. The one home in our neighborhood with solar is not defensible and I cannot see how they expect to stay there if armed and cold people show up. One day perhaps when 25% of the homes do this I will but until then it is simply not worth the risk.

I plan to have no lights at night. Up at dawn, work hard, sleep at night when not on watch from day one in SHTF. For millennia that was the human experience and I see clinging to our current lifestyle in any form in SHTF as being risky. I can use solar lights to generate light that is brighter than the current house lights but that is for emergencies only. I am not even sure if I’d risk it then but I have it and it works. I use a few small solar panels that easily get enough power for this when set up on the 300 square foot balcony and the Biolite stove produces a bit.

I am flirting with a gas generator but for SHTF I cannot see the use. We no longer have a sump pump in the basement so really it would be for the fridge and freezer in a temporary Summer blackout.

Transportation

Our car is the bugout vehicle of choice and we keep 40 liters of gas on hand all the time but if I cannot use it then we have decent bikes with small panniers. Walking would be our main transport method so the wheel barrow is an essential bit of kit as well as good quality back packs. Other than the local area I am not planning traveling much at all in SHTF. Kayaks at the cottage would be helpful in the warmer months if a distance travel was needed but I’d not risk it without a clear destination and honestly in SHTF my local area will be the extent of my concerns.

Security

Guns run out of ammo and using them might not be a good idea if people fire back. The noise would also likely attract a lot of unwanted attention. Plus in Canada it is not as easy to equip yourself like GI Joe as it is in our neighbor to the south. I also think it creates a false sense of security but that is just my opinion. If I find a gun in SHTF I’ll carry it and use it. I have some plans on how to do that but it is not really a legal thing.

The home is defended mainly by passive means. Heavy duty iron fencing and another six-foot wooden one going up in the Spring. Having dogs means this sort of fencing is actually above suspicion and welcomed by the neighbors. Barb wire and solar motion lights go up in SHTF as I am not that sociable at the best of times. Doors, windows, and frames have the fixes easily done and available on the web but the wood pile by the garage is basically entering the ground floor in early SHTF. Stacked high and deep on tarps it won’t allow anyone to get in. We can leave the house by the ladder on the balcony as and when we feel it is safe to do so. It does mean I can be burned out but the house is concrete and looks small and uninviting compared to the neighborhood which are wood and much larger. Passive alarms on any entry point and wooden hurricane boards are further things that go up in SHTF.

Operation

The cottage goes for not looking inhabited and the already ransacked method. As a nurse I have a collection of body bags and a few of these around the place with rotting meat inside would likely put off most people along with the danger contamination signs and tape.

Both places have food and supplies in ground away from them in case of loss of the building (fire or intruders) and I have plans to evacuate and retake both places. This is situational and has some legal issues so I am not discussing it here but stay and fight to me seems more risky than running from the determined and taking it back later on. I’d definitely allow any intruders who have driven me from the place to find a large amount of alcohol that is poorly hidden. As hard as it might be to not drink it myself in SHTF I want to make sure a large group of intruders can get well drunk in this circumstance.

Both places have lots of black heavy-duty garbage bags and duct tape. All doors and windows get blacked out but, again, I am not planning to use light sources at night. In the first few months of SHTF I am also not planning to have the fires going at all and later on only at night. If it hits in the Winter this will have to change but we can stay warm enough without a fire for a week or more. Making cooking smells or showing smoke is just not worth it in the early phase of SHTF and we have planned food, clothing, and sleeping accordingly. Use a wood fire at night if possible and have no daytime smoke.

Active methods of security are bows and lots of arrows. The home entry points are blocked so anyone determined enough to scale the 9-12 foot balcony might be asked politely to not do so. We also have a lot of throwing knives and attached to long sticks, they can be useful to spear fish or any other thing dumb enough to try to get into the home. Classic historical methods of deterring intruders from your ‘castle’ and they work silently. A well-aimed piece of fire wood is also off-putting. One thing I have determined that intruders are dealt with in ways that mean they cannot every return to try again.

In both areas we have good relations with our neighbors and plan to help them out a bit depending on the SHTF. We know them and their habits and have studied them carefully for a few years. We absolutely have not revealed ourselves as preppers nor would do so in SHTF. I am hoping for a Winter event so this aspect dies off rapidly but you need to have neighbors who are allies not enemies. In a bad SHTF they are all enemies so mainly we plan to hide out and defend as best we can.

Going outside will be carefully done. The radios are only for emergency use and we would only use planned routes and times of travel to avoid people. Having worked twelve-hour nights for years it will be no issue going outside at 3am and being back by 5am. Each outside trip will be in the same outer clothes each time and no these will never get laundered. Hair and beards will grow as if we cannot heat water to clean them. After a couple of weeks your hair does not really need washing anyhow (yes we tried that!). Food intake will be rationed so we will lose weight except the day before any planned heavy work or travel when we will have a decent 4000-5000 Calorie day. This will also be a Sunday thing for us but mainly 1500-2000 calories a day the rest of the time. Fat people will stand out very quickly in SHTF.

Have one in ground food cache and two in home ones that are okay but you would happily surrender to an intruder if over powered. Giving them something very reluctantly might save you or not but is worth a try. Getting a week’s worth by emptying your “only” stores should make them happy. In a slowly evolving SHTF we will ask for food and water. We will line up for it and use anything supplied locally. Not doing so is a big red flag that you do not need the help.
After the first year we plan to advertise our health care skills if the area is stable and generally join in with whatever community is there. As both towns are old ones with a long history of water trade and lumbering I cannot see someone not starting a community in them once the population has again dropped to a normal historical size for the terrain. Skills are more important than equipment and we both have great health care skills. We also have a lot of equipment and know how to replace it. People will need to give birth and have bones fixed and cuts sutured.

Obviously offering these services will only be done when our community has sorted itself out without our help. I have no desire to be the leader nor am I willing to risk our preps before stability has occurred. I also have no desire to join a prepping community as I cannot see myself being part of either a paramilitary or hippy organization. Maybe I’ll meet some eventually that seem more suitable and I would happily store food and supplies in their BOL but I’d rather be a lone wolf than submit to some else’s authority however benign.

Location

We carefully choose our home and cottage. Both are out of the obvious way especially the cottage and both have large garden areas and plentiful trees and water very nearby. Even this step seems not enough and we are floating the idea of relocating a lot more northwards when we retire in 5-6 years. The cottage can be easily sealed off from vehicle travel and should be the primary bug in location for us. What puts me off this is knowing that the locals will drive around on ATVs with guns for a while after SHTF has happened looting all the cottage places even those not on lakes and remote. The cottage supplies are mainly buried except for old and dirty tools that work great. I see it as a Summer place and the home as the Winter place. I’m actually planning to loot abandoned lake cottages myself by kayak or snow shoe in early SHTF if at the cottage.

Walk everywhere around your locations and make careful notes as to where all water sources are including swimming pools. Note all fruit trees and clusters of wild edibles. Over time note when these are ready for harvest and learn how to store and process them. For us in Canada it is vital we know our black walnuts and acorns. The protein and fats from them is utterly essential to have.

Know all the roads and trails and rail links. Where are the out-of-town food warehouses and how can you get to them easily? If you have local bus and train services where do they normal park when not in use? Diesel is always a useful addition and our local trains have lots of spades, axes, and other goodies stored in them. Police, Fire, and Ambulance buildings should be known and considered for entry. Even if ransacked already likely you can find useful things inside.

Future

I’d like to be able to install solar and wind power after an SHTF but the cost is too much for me at present so I am looking at ways to do so from scavenging materials. Overall prepping is a hobby for me and I am hoping it never becomes my life but if it does then I will do what I can in the now to help my loved ones survive and a new community arise.

  Bug In or Bug Out? For me my first choice is a bug in at home though I am not sold on it as a definite concept. For this reason I

 

Threat Levels

The threat levels below are courtesy of Jeff Cooper. Mr. Copper is known as the father of modern handgun technique. Mr. Cooper developed 4 levels of situational awareness commonly known as the Cooper Color Code.

White – Unaware and unprepared

Condition White or threat level white is the lowest we have in terms of urgency. Condition White means everything is OK and you don’t have anything to worry about. It is often used to describe people who seem oblivious to our current economic peril or the intrusiveness of government. When someone is looking at things from a Condition White standpoint, they think nothing is wrong and there is no cause for alarm. Move along folks, nothing to see here. This is also the level most people are in for vegging around the house watching a movie.

Yellow – Relaxed alert

Condition Yellow is a more proactive approach to the possibility of danger. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad will happen, but awareness is elevated and a more defensive posture has to be assumed in order to be ready for any potential threat. You can stay in a Condition Yellow for a long time without becoming fatigued. This is easily translated to being very attentive while driving for example. You are alert, but not freaked out and can readily anticipate the actions of the other drivers ahead of you.

Orange – Specific alert

In a condition orange your radar is up and you are prepared for something to happen. If you have ever been in a situation and watched two people right before a fight you know what this is. You are aware that you may have to take action at any moment.

Red – Fight

Condition Red means an attack is imminent. You have either knowledge of or can visually see a threat approaching and must prepare to act. This is when the trigger gets pulled.

How do we begin to put these concepts into action in our lives? All of us are constantly engaged in various levels of situational awareness most of our waking day. From the moment you wake up, to the time you finally drift off to sleep you are paying various degrees of attention to what is going on in your surroundings. This concept applies primarily to your immediate vicinity, but could also be expanded to your city, region, state, country and now with the threat of Korea, the world. For most of this article, I am going to focus on your immediate environment because I see the greatest capacity for immediate harm to you and your group by losing sight of what is going to impact you with the most urgency.

For your immediate Situational Awareness we have to start with you and what you are paying attention to. How distracted are you at any given moment? There are funny examples and more deadly examples of how something bad could have been averted if people were simply paying attention.

Cultural Liabilities

We lead very distracted lives now. If you don’t believe me, you are either in total denial or are living very far away from the rest of us. We have 24 hour news, movies that we can download and stream to our phones, smartphones with applications that require constant attention and a never-ceasing craving for information or stimuli for various reasons and rationale. Everyone has to update their Twitter or Facebook status, share photos with their friends and play games. This leads to people commenting on the most mundane minutia in life just to have something to say and focusing more on their phones than the world around them. If you have children of a certain age, they are probably involved in at least two weekly extracurricular activities which they need to be driven to and require practice usually with a DVD to keep them pacified.  Advertisements bombard us in every conceivable place vying for our attention.

The social norm is to “be connected” but there seems to be in my mind, less actual connection with anyone. Just go out to any place and watch a group of kids interacting for any amount of time and I would bet $50 that there won’t be a 5 minute time span when one or more of them isn’t staring at their phone. This doesn’t only apply to kids; adults now are just as bad. I go out to dinner with people I work with or friends and the phones all come out.

More and more people I see are listening to music also with big headphones everywhere. They can be in an airport, walking down the street or even in their car. I love music as much as the next person, but how aware of what is going on around you can you be if you are thumping music really loud into your headphones? How can you see any threats coming if you are staring at your phone?

Action Plan Simulations

Situational Awareness could save your life and doesn’t cost a single penny. You don’t need extensive military training to become an expert. All you need to do to is drop whatever it is you are looking at and start paying attention. I have a smart phone, so I am not perfect at this, but there are times and places where my phone doesn’t leave my pocket. Why? Because I need to be focusing on what is going on around me.

When you are out in public, try going for an hour without looking at your phone to start with. Instead, observe your surroundings. Who is near you and who is walking toward you? Does anything seem suspicious? If something were to happen, what would you do and where would you go. Do you know the quickest way to get out if needed? Can you access your concealed weapon if you need to? Imagine what you would do if you were out at a mall with your family and someone started shooting. Where would you take cover? What would be your escape route? What if that was blocked?

Finding the right level of awareness for the situation is critical though as we can’t stay on high alert at all times. For most situations, I would recommend yellow or caution but that can be dialed up or down as required. An article at Strafor has a good explanation of this reasoning.

It is critical to stress here that situational awareness does not mean being paranoid or obsessively concerned about your security. It does not mean living with the irrational expectation that there is a dangerous criminal lurking behind every bush. In fact, people simply cannot operate in a state of focused awareness for extended periods, and high alert can be maintained only for very brief periods before exhaustion sets in. The “flight or fight” response can be very helpful if it can be controlled. When it gets out of control, however, a constant stream of adrenaline and stress is simply not healthy for the body or the mind. When people are constantly paranoid, they become mentally and physically burned out. Not only is this dangerous to physical and mental health, but security also suffers because it is very hard to be aware of your surroundings when you are a complete basket case. Therefore, operating constantly in a state of high alert is not the answer, nor is operating for prolonged periods in a state of focused alert, which can also be overly demanding and completely enervating. This is the process that results in alert fatigue. The human body was simply not designed to operate under constant stress. People (even highly skilled operators) require time to rest and recover.

Because of this, the basic level of situational awareness that should be practiced most of the time is relaxed awareness, a state of mind that can be maintained indefinitely without all the stress and fatigue associated with focused awareness or high alert. Relaxed awareness is not tiring, and it allows you to enjoy life while rewarding you with an effective level of personal security. When you are in an area where there is potential danger (which, by definition, is almost anywhere), you should go through most of your day in a state of relaxed awareness. Then if you spot something out of the ordinary that could be a potential threat, you can “dial yourself up” to a state of focused awareness and take a careful look at that potential threat (and also look for others in the area).

 

Practice makes perfect

Even if we are never in a grid-down, zombie apocalypse, the world we live in demands us to remain focused and diligent if we are going to be truly prepared. You won’t be able to protect all of these people you have been planning for years for if you are hit by a bus crossing the street. The same is true if you are involved in some terrorist attack or lunatic at a school. Maintaining situational awareness can save your life and the lives of others around you and we owe it to everyone to try to do what we can to foresee danger first and deal with it second.

  Many of you reading this now have at least a vague concept of Situational Awareness. For those who don’t, Situational Awareness means slightly different things based upon who you ask,

 

People have been saying the US is on course for an economic collapse for years; however, many of them have no formal education in economics, and almost all gain financially from promoting stuff that would help others weather such a calamity.  I decided to research the opinions and publications of economists who were ideologically centered, were not benefiting financially, and understood the country’s true fiscal condition, and tried to provide an estimate of the most likely future economic situation of the US.  The future does not look bright.  Several economists anticipate the US will default on its debt if the country does not change its fiscal policies.

Two major factors are driving this conclusion.  The first is the size of the US debt.  According to economists, the government has been misleading the public on the size of the debt through poor accounting practices and using misleading terminology in certain fiscal activities.  In 2013 the debt was at least 91 trillion.

The second factor is that the US will never be able to repay the staggering debt because of changing demographics.  The American population is aging, and most economists agree this will have a deleterious effect on the economy.  Decades of abortion and birth control is resulting in increasingly smaller numbers of working age people.  Consequently, the government will collect much less revenue from income taxes.  Meanwhile, the dependence on the government for medical care and Social Security will continue to grow.  Most other developed countries are in the same situation – staggering debt and decreasing numbers of working age people.  If the US significantly defaults on its sovereign debt, a worldwide depression is very possible since national economies of the modern world are complexly interconnected.  Regardless if the US defaults or not though, we can expect higher taxation, loss of government services, higher inflation, and slower future economic growth.  In my estimation, the best way to prepare for all this will be for people manage their finances so they can pay their bills and survive with income from minimum wage jobs.  The future economy of the US is almost guaranteed to be poor.

mexico_city_empty_shelves

Empty shelves in Mexico

How bad is the risk of economic collapse?

Highly respected financial experts agree that the US is far deeper in debt than what the government officially reports.  In Feb 2015, Dr Laurence Kotlikoff, an economics professor from Brown University and former senior economist on President Reagan’s council of economic advisors, testified to the Senate Budget Committee that US debt is far greater than the government’s official tally, and the government has deliberately misled the public about the real size of it for years.  He testified that the government had been using Enron style accounting and misleading semantics to mask the size.  According to Kotlikoff, the government’s current 20 trillion debt is only a fraction of its fiscal obligations.  It represents the amount of money the government has borrowed only.  It does not account for other current and future obligations the government must pay such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, government pensions, and other expenses.

According to Kotlikoff, the fiscal gap between what the government must pay both now and in the future and what the government is projected to collect in taxes and other financial means amounts to 210 trillion.  He also spoke at length about how the government uses semantics to mask borrowing.  He used Social Security funding as one example.  The government does not term transferring Social Security funds from current taxpayers to pay current retirees as borrowing; however, this has the same effects economically as any other type of borrowing.  The government will have to repay current taxpayers when they retire and become entitled to Social Security.  According to Kotlikoff, if the government were to re-label this and other transfer of funds as borrowing, then the government would have to report the debt to be 210 trillion.  Most Americans are unaware of this, yet they will pay a cost for these financial obligations irrespective of whatever terminology the government uses.

Another economics expert, Jangadeesh Gokhale, conducted research on this independent of Kotlikoff, and his conclusion supports Kotlikoff’s argument; however, Gokhale came to a more modest estimate of the debt size.  Gokhale, a former senior economic advisor to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and member of the US Social Security Advisory Board, conducted an analysis in 2013 and estimated the real size of the debt to be 91 trillion.  Kotlikoff and Gokhale came to vastly different numbers because of different baseline assumptions, different datasets, and different fiscal projection time frames.  The public fiscal liability is far larger than what the government has led us to believe.

stock-market-crash

Jeffrey Hummel, an economics and history professor from San Hosea State University, argued in 2012 that the government would default on its debt as a result of this.  In a publication in Econ Journal Watch, Hummel argues that regardless if the debt is 79 trillion (Gokhale’s and Smetter’s 2006 estimate) or 210 trillion, the most likely outcome is that the government will be forced default on its debt.  According to Hummel, there are two obstacles currently preventing the calamity.  The first is the ability of payroll taxes to fund Social Security and health care programs (Medicare Part A).  When the trust funds for these programs are deleted and payroll taxes can no longer fund them, the government will have to obtain money from other areas.   Hummel believes that at this point, investors will begin to require a risk premium on Treasury Bills, and the cost for the US government to borrow money will increase.  This will exacerbate the government’s financial situation and cause investors to require even more risk premium.  The second obstacle is between currency and debt repayment.  Hummel believes the government will allow inflation to depreciate the value of currency until it reaches a tipping point when the government will have to choose between allowing currency become almost worthless and defaulting on its debt.  Hummel believes the US will choose to default.  Part of his reasoning comes from history.  Hummel suggests America will do what the former Soviet Union did in the 1990s which was to choose a partial repudiation of its debt.  Hummel argues that the default will be rapid when the US reaches its tipping point – very much like the speed at which the Soviet Union defaulted.  There are other factors which could cause a tipping point; however, these are Hummel’s two prime ones.  He estimates that the default will happen sometime within the next two decades.  A pessimistic view is that health care program funds will be depleted as soon as 2017, and the tipping point could be reached then.

Publications and opinions from other economists support Hummel’s contention.  Gokhale supports this conclusion in his monograph, The Government Debt Iceberg.  In the forward to it, Phillip Booth, the Program Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, states that if no adjustments to the current fiscal situation are made, then “sovereign defaults on explicit (Treasury) debt and implicit pension liabilities must ensue.”  Kotlikoff testified that to prevent the default, the government must immediately and permanently raise income taxes by 60% or cut spending by 40%.  Most would agree this is politically unimaginable. Consequently, Kotlikoff believes that it is not a question of if the system will collapse but when.  The idea that the US will default on its debt comes from several well-respected economists.

What would a default mean?

It is safe to say that a significant default on the explicit (Treasury) debt, which currently stands at 20 trillion, would have severe repercussions throughout every aspect of the US economy.   A few years ago, Congress threatened to allow the government to default rather than raise the debt ceiling, and news agencies interviewed financial experts to find out what effect this would have on the economy.  Bloomberg News interviewed dozens of money managers, economists, bankers, traders, and government officials in an attempt to answer to this, and most saw a US default as a financial Armageddon which would very possibly result in a worldwide depression.  NBC News interviewed financial experts and identified seven likely consequences to a default on government debt.  The first and worst consequence would be a worldwide depression and unemployment as financial shock-waves spread through the economy.  Second, there would be a massive sell-off of the dollar causing prices to rise on everything from groceries to gas.  Interest rates would rise and decrease the ability to borrow.  Third, US equities would lose value causing 401k values to drop.  Fourth, Social Security payments would cease.  The fifth impact is banks would freeze operations.  According to NBC News, trillions in bank equity would be wiped out.  Banks would not roll over loans and would demand immediate loan repayments.  Since most small businesses pay their employees with rotating credit, many would not be able to retain their employees.  Sixth, Money Market funds would lose billions of dollars.  Every Money Market fund would be impacted.  And seventh, the global markets would see major disruptions.  Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the IMF, believes that no company in the US would be unaffected by a default.  In an article in Slate, he wrote that the country would see massive unemployment and bank runs along with depleted savings and refusal to issue credit.  Typically, news agencies try to dramatize news in order to attract viewers, and these opinions may be exaggerated.  Even if they are only half-true, a default would be devastating.  It would be a calamity.

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The main reason the government will not be able to repay its debt is due to changing demographics in America as well as the rest of the developed world.  America’s population is aging and there will be fewer working age people in coming years to support the older population.  Since the development of the birth control pill and other modern means of contraception as well as legalization of abortion in the developed world, the number of younger people has declined.  Normal age demographic distributions resemble a pyramid.  The bottom of the pyramid is large and represents the numbers of very young people.  The top represents numbers of elderly people, and it is small because as age increases there are fewer elderly.  For the first time in human history, the demographic is shifting to an upside down pyramid where there are fewer young people at the bottom and larger numbers of elderly at the top.   This holds true not only for America but China, Russia, Japan and most European countries as well.  All developed countries’ populations are aging.   Economists are not certain how this will affect economies since there are no historical precedents.  The general belief is that it will slow growth.  Of course, with the increase in elderly people there will be an increase in the number of people dependent on Medicare and Medicaid which will further drain government resources and deter its ability to repay its debt.  Depopulation will be a major factor in our coming economic demise.

There are a few people who make counter-arguments; however, they are weak.  One economist, Scott Sumner, does not disagree with Kotlikoff’s contention on the size of the debt, but he disagrees with Kotlikoff’s view that the country is broke.  He makes the point that if the country were broke, the bond markets would have reacted negatively.  He further makes the case that the courts have allowed the government to scale back the amount in Social Security payments, and suggests the government will do the same for this and other benefits.  The problem with this position is that it does not consider the political power of the elderly.  Currently, AARP represents and lobbies for about 50 million elderly people.  Sumner makes an implicit assumption that there will be a younger population of taxpayers to fund the needs of the older generations.  Another counter argument comes from Clem Chambers who is a writer, entrepreneur, and businessman.  In an article in Forbes titled “Why Doomsters Who Predict the Collapse of Money are Wrong,” Chambers contends that the government will simply maintain inflation to reduce debt.  His analysis is oversimplified and does not take into account many variables especially the depopulation factors and actual debt size.  He provides no supporting data or mathematical model to prove his conclusion.  He does not have any formal training in economics, and there are no economists that agree with his view.  For Chambers, the answer is blistering simple – just let inflation eat away the value of the debt.  Hummel believes that inflation will no more reduce the debt than an excise tax on chewing gum.  Chambers appears to simply have dismissed the argument of collapse without applying much analysis.  Another dissenting opinion comes from Joel Naroff, an economist from Naroff Economic Advisors.  In an Oct 2015 interview with Consumer Affairs reporter Mark Huffman, he stated that “consumers are spending, firms that supply into the U.S. based economy are generally doing well and with wages rising and energy costs low, consumption should remain solid for all of 2016.”  This was in response to questions about any coming economic collapse.  He was speaking about the current and near-term US economy however.  He didn’t address debt or depopulation in any of his statements.  There are few, if any, counter-arguments which include depopulation or the 91 trillion debt in their analysis.

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So what will the future be like?

All economists agree that no one really knows, but there is strong probability of a few things.  We can expect high inflation.  Governments create inflation when they print more money to pay down debt.  Both Kotlikoff and Hummel agree that the government will not be able to significantly repay debt through inflation.  Hyperinflation is not likely.  Hyperinflation historically has been the result of a combination of a sudden expansion of the money supply and a weak central government which cannot collect taxes or make budgetary reforms.  It is associated with war, deep civil unrest and civil war.  The US government certainly has no problems collecting taxes, and there are no economists currently predicting hyperinflation; however, Kotlikoff commented in a television interview that the groundwork prepared for it.  We can expect increased taxation to pay for entitlements.  It is very possible we will see wealth taxes.  With reduced working age people, the government will seek to replace the loss of income tax revenue with another form of taxation. The government will likely increase taxes on IRA withdrawals.  We can expect fewer jobs because as the number of consumers decreases, the more businesses will fail.  According to Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, two economics professors from Harvard, economic growth slows down an average of 1% when debt of countries with advanced economies reaches 90% of GDP.  The US is projected to reach 100% shortly after 2020.  This is probably a factor in the poor performance of the US economy in recent years.  Another factor affecting the economy will be the decrease in corporate investing.  Many people will move 401K investments out of riskier stocks and into money market accounts as they get older.  We can expect cuts in government services and loss of government jobs.  According to Rebecca Valenzuela, an Australian economist, there will be fewer goods since there will be fewer workers to produce them.  She argues that this will result in people having to stop consuming certain goods and services.  We can also very likely expect the government “official” debt to rise regardless of which political party controls the government.  The poor economic conditions and depopulation will prevent the government from raising the necessary funds to support the growing numbers of elderly dependent on government assistance.  The government will need therefore continue to borrow money.  The future will have numerous economic problems.

So how do you prepare for economic collapse?

In my opinion you have to be financially capable to live on a minimum wage job.  You have to be able to survive if you lose your job and can’t find anything better than a minimum wage job.  If you find yourself living under a bridge and foraging for food in the woods, it will most likely be because you lost your job and couldn’t make ends meet and pay your rent, mortgage, or property taxes with a job that pays $8.00/hr.   If you are able to get by on so little, then you will weather the coming economic storm better than those who are living above their means and lose their jobs.  It would be wise to reduce your personal debt.  It would eliminate concern about creditors repossessing your property.  It will give you more ability to apply money towards other things.  Relocating to a part of the country with a strong and diverse economy would be optimal.  Diversity is important because when one financial sector is doing poor, another is usually doing well.  You can further reduce your need for income by growing your own food.  I would liquidate your IRA.  I don’t think they will be there after economic chaos, inflation, and taxation ruin them.  My wife and I liquidated our IRAs and applied the funds against our mortgage.  Property, like precious metals, will keep value.  I would be prepared to have family members move in with you.  They will need help and may be able to provide help in weathering the storm.  I think the most important prep will be to pray for God to guide you in your efforts to prepare for whatever calamity the future holds.  God knows what is coming and what you will need, and I think He will guide and assist if you ask.  These are the things I recommend to prepare for the coming demise.

Links:

Kotlikoff testimony: http://www.kotlikoff.net/sites/default/files/Kotlikoffbudgetcom2-25-2015.pdf

Gokhale Monograph: http://www.iea.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/files/Gokhale-Interactive-PDF.pdf

Hummel monograph: http://econjwatch.org/articles/some-possible-consequences-of-a-us-government-default

Bloomberg article on default: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-10-07/a-u-s-default-seen-as-catastrophe-dwarfing-lehman-s-fall

Simon Johnson’s Slate article: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/project_syndicate/2011/07/what_if_the_government_defaults.html

NBC News default article: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/whats-worst-could-happen-7-debt-default-doomsday-scenarios-8c11366851

Economics on ageing population: https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/8950/society/impact-ageing-population-economy/

Economics of ageing population: http://www.economist.com/node/18651512

  People have been saying the US is on course for an economic collapse for years; however, many of them have no formal education in economics, and almost all gain financially

What is OPSEC? OPSEC is short for Operations Security or Operational Security and encompasses identifying critical information to determine if your actions can be observed by adversaries. To boil that down further, it is making sure bad guys don’t have any information about you that they can use against you.  This could be to either harm you, or compromise you or your group in a way that would be detrimental. There, is that murky and ominous sounding enough for you?

If you have traveled in the Preparedness circles for more than 15 minutes, you have heard the terms “Good OPSEC” or “Practice OPSEC” to describe either how to or how not to let people know your business. As a Prepper who are your adversaries? Well, that would depend on the situation. In a Grid-up, everything is fine; (code White) type of scenario you are probably only concerned about, thieves and the Government. Oh wait, was that redundant?

In a Grid-Down scenario things change quickly. Or if you are in a WROL (Without Rule of Law) situation they are vastly different. In any type of scenario where lives are on the line as a normal course of survival; be it from conflict or catastrophe, who would you possibly need to be aware of?  Potentially everyone!

I want to talk about the process of ensuring OPSEC and how this can relate to most everyone reading this post. Some of the topics I bring up and ideas for changing how you look at them could more accurately be described under INFOSEC (Information Security), but let’s not split hairs OK? Unless you are full time active duty military working in Intelligence, the generic bucket of OPSEC will suffice for this topic and our audience. Additionally, we could get way more technical and instructive and break out charts and diagrams and models but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Now that we have that out of the way, an explanation of the different processes in OPSEC might be worthwhile.

Identify Critical Information – The information that comes to mind most often is bank account information, passwords, Social Security Information, Taxes and Credit Card accounts. Going deeper, what information about you,  your lifestyle, hobbies, health issues, political philosophy, your likes and dislikes, resources, skills, travel habits etc. could help your adversary? How many people are in your group? How much food and water do you have stored? What types of weapons and ammunition do you have? Almost any personal information can be used against you in the right situation. The key is figuring out what to share or not and with whom.

Analyze Threats – Who could be looking for any information on you that might jeopardize your security? Let’s take the situation of a normal day. You go to work, drop the kids off at practice, check the internet, run by the bank and so on. You aren’t Jason Bourne, or James Bond. Who would want to do anything with your info? Good question, but it isn’t as simple as Good Spy versus Bad Spy. It could be that a neighbor over hears you talking about a recent gun purchase and they call the cops because they are afraid you are going to go postal. Maybe a co-worker hears or observes you showing off part of your EDC and determines you are a risky individual and make them scared. See how that could get you in trouble?

Analyze Vulnerabilities

Smart Phones – If you don’t realize it already, you are carrying around probably the single biggest threat to your security and anonymity. According to Reason.com:

Nearly 90 percent of adult Americans carry at least one phone. The phones communicate via a nationwide network of nearly 300,000 cell towers and 600,000 micro sites, which perform the same function as towers. When they are turned on, they (cell phones) ping these nodes once every seven seconds or so, registering their locations, usually within a radius of 150 feet. By 2018 new Federal Communications Commission regulations will require that cellphone location information be even more precise: within 50 feet. Newer cellphones also are equipped with GPS technology, which uses satellites to locate the user more precisely than tower signals can. Cellphone companies retain location data for at least a year. AT&T has information going all the way back to 2008.

What does that mean? That everyone’s very precise location at virtually any time is available by a multitude of agencies. If you don’t want anyone to know where you are, don’t take a cell phone with you. For a powerful visual, check out this Ted Talk from German Green Party politician Malte Spitz.

But that isn’t all. How many of us are reading this on a phone? The phone manufacturers and cell service providers keep records of every single search you make and webpage you look up and they are planning to use this to extend outside of your phone to present advertising to you as you get closer to stores, shopping etc. Again, if you think you have any privacy on a cell phone, you are mistaken. What can you do? For Smart phones your only real option (besides not carrying one) is either not search for anything you don’t want anyone to find out about, or set the privacy functions as far as they will allow. For most of the newer phones you can set browser privacy and history settings and if the manufacturers are honest, they say they won’t record this. I am not optimistic though so I assume that I am showing up big time on the grid. You will never be able to carry a cell phone and not have your location recorded virtually real-time.

Social Media  – Social Media like Facebook and Twitter have a place I believe,  but they must be used with caution if you want any of your information to stay secure. You can give away too much information on these sites and before you know it you could end up like the family who was robbed because of what their teenager had posted to Facebook. What can you do? For starters don’t tweet about vacation plans, large purchases or changes that could make you vulnerable “Mom and Dad are gone for two hours…”, or “headed to the beach for 10 days”. Also, consider the photos you are putting on these sites. Do they show anything, like in the case above, that you don’t want some people to know about? If you aren’t sure, maybe you shouldn’t be posting them. Does this require more thought and work? Yes, but if you want to keep your family safe and your information secure (while still using all of the latest Social Media tools) then you should consider what you are posting.

Friends and Family – This is more of a grey area because if you can’t trust your friends, who can you trust? I would say take each incident on its own merits and think about it. For example, when I started to really get into more of a Prepping mindset, the last thing I wanted to do was to push people away or make them think I had lost my mind and gone over the deep end. I wanted all of my friends and family to come along with me, to see the value in what I was discussing with them and to take steps to prepare themselves. I would have friends over and something political would come up and I would gauge their sentiments by asking probing questions before I would blurt out anything obnoxious. That is a normal rule of conversations though; never discuss Religion or Politics. My family breaks this rule every time we get together.

When you start talking about storing a years’ worth of freeze dried food or adding water catchment systems (rain barrels) to your house or purchasing solar panels and going off-the-grid, people are less cautious and are more comfortable with the old “What are you now, a hippy”? I would joke with my family initially saying that I wanted to move to a large piece of land with a fortified house (castle) and a moat with anti-missile batteries at the corners and an underground city with tunnels leading to my escape hatch. I called this my compound.

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WAAC – SILENCE MEANS SECURITY

The joke went around for a while with my friends and neighbors laughing but as we kept talking about it and reality and current events did a better job of convincing them than I ever could, they started to see the light. Eventually, I let them know that my ideal plan would be for all of them to join me “on the compound” and not so slowly most of them agreed that they would like to move there. Several of my family and extended family and I have discussed plans for just that type of scenario, but how would this have gone if I came right out at the beginning and said I wanted to pack up everyone and move to my underground bunker? Friends are similar but you don’t want them necessarily showing up at your door if SHTF unannounced and begging. I do want all of my friends to be prepared though so I do want to continue to have conversations with them. I don’t necessarily open up about all of my preps right away, if ever though.

Neighbors – another tricky subject. Your neighbors will most likely be the people that you are depending on in a post SHTF scenario or they may be the ones you are defending yourself from. Knowing and forming good relationships with your neighbors can be the difference between surviving and dying. Period. Unfortunately, as a society, we are so much less involved in our neighbor’s lives than we were in the past. We don’t know what they think because we don’t speak to them in most cases. What is your neighbor prepared for? Will your neighbor turn to the authorities if the time comes when informing on your neighbors is the only option for a scared and hungry populace?

You have two options as I see it; either you try to make nice and get to know them to form a good bond or you have to decide what you are going to do if they turn against you. Actually, you may have to decide this regardless.

If you don’t know your neighbors and don’t plan on getting to know them keep your survival preps more closely guarded. Don’t walk around in the front yard with your latest rifle purchase and don’t advertise that you have “enough food for 6 months”.  Ideally you would be able to partner with your neighbors for food and protection if the SHTF. They have a vested interest in protecting their home too.

Trash – our trash is one of the easiest ways for criminals to find out about us. Shred your mail and this is a non-issue. I won’t get into the recycling police yet, but that is coming in another article.

Assess Insider Knowledge

OK, so now we know some of the many areas where we should be cautious. Now you have to ask yourself, who has this knowledge? Like I said, we keep most everything between ourselves and family and I try to ensure they all know not to blab about things like firearms or stockpiles of beans and rice. Who else knows information that you don’t want getting out? Think about this and let it come to the front of your mind before you talk about the latest shipment from Mountain House you received, or show everyone your new AR-15.

Apply Appropriate Measures

We know some of the threats, now what do you do? Should you learn Morse code or create a new language that only you and your family understands? Probably, but that isn’t very realistic is it? I prefer the common sense approach. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but anything you can do to limit the information people can use against you the better. Start by watching what you say and how you say it. This goes for sharing information. Take some time to figure out if what you are doing daily is what you would be doing if the grid went down with regards to information. Does this make you cagey? Perhaps, but after time and practice you will get better. I don’t view this as lying, I simply redirect if the subject goes somewhere I don’t want it to or I am a little vaguer than I need to be. You will know it when you see it. The key is to start thinking in terms of keeping your affairs as quiet as you need for the situation you are in.

What is OPSEC? OPSEC is short for Operations Security or Operational Security and encompasses identifying critical information to determine if your actions can be observed by adversaries. To boil that

 

Now, let me first simply acknowledge that unless you do have a castle with a moat or an underground bunker with a tunnel complex that leads to an underground river that connects via a secret cave to the ocean,  just about any residence you are living in can be overrun given the right time and motivation. Even the “worlds most zombie secure house” shown above can be overrun; people make mistakes. Castles can be sieged and towns can be starved out or burned, so what can you do?

There is a lot that the average prepper can do to make their home more secure and I am going to talk about some fairly basic enhancements to security that the average Joe or Jane can do themselves to make it harder for someone to get inside. Some of these ideas are going to be from the perspective of a post-SHTF type of scenario and others you can implement now while we are living in peace and harmony and beautiful birds chirp all day long. Right.

Why do we have this problem in the first place?

Our home is our castle, or it used to be. We still call our home a castle, but it has been centuries since our home provided the level of protection that your run of the mill Medieval fixer upper did. Over time our homes have become less and less sturdy and ceased being built with the goal of keeping invading hordes out. As a society we have learned to live with each other in mostly peaceful conditions for hundreds and hundreds of years. In that time we have slowly changed our concepts of security and aesthetics. We (until recently) relied on the police or an alarm company for security or we simply don’t believe that anything bad can happen to us. Our homes are designed now to be beautiful, energy-efficient; maybe Green, but rarely “safe” from intrusion. You don’t usually see those shows on home and garden TV talk about how sturdy the doors or walls are. You do hear them talk about granite counter-tops and stainless steel appliances though. My daughter especially loves those.

It is the weakness of our modern homes that has us in this position. We want windows to let in a lot of light. Windows everywhere, even on the doors. Our frame construction is pretty weak too. You can take an axe and chop through an exterior wall of plywood and vinyl siding in a few minutes. Our doors are decorative, not designed to keep anyone out really. That is why you see police easily bust down doors and flood into the bad guy’s house on TV every night.

It is also our mindset that has made us more complacent. Most people walk around every day with the idea that nothing bad could happen to them. Nothing is wrong they say and believe people will watch out for one another. We also fail to maintain any real level of security footing when we are in our homes. How many of you now have at least one door unlocked? What is stopping anyone from walking right in? Nothing but the right person and opportunity. If you are at home I would bet that most of us, maybe until you are ready for bed leave the doors and some windows (depending on the season) unlocked.

Taking into consideration the relative weakness of our current architecture and a “condition white” mindset, what can we do about those two things?

Don’t get caught with your pants down

By this I am talking primarily about your mental state. I recently discussed about situational awareness and the need to maintain a more alert mindset to help you see the threats before they get to you. When you are thinking about security in your home, recognizing the weaknesses you have and planning to remedy those is a great first step. That recognition of the threat though is not where you should stop. Your neighborhood where you live is full of people most likely and it is not as though you can just close your door and the world disappears. Maintaining situational awareness of your surroundings even if you are behind the walls of your house is important.

Design your own castle

“What would you buy if you won the lottery tomorrow”? My daughter likes to ask me this question every once in a while. It would probably help my chances if I actually bought a ticket, but I like to play along with this fantasy too so I humor her every time. My response usually is that I would buy a big piece of land well away from any cities over 10,000 people and I would start building my dream castle. My ideal home in the woods, safely hidden from the rest of most of the world is a dream I am sure will never come to pass, but it is fun to think about it.

If you are building your own home, you have a great opportunity to plan for security right as the construction is going on. From reinforced doors at one end of the spectrum to rolling metal shutters that protect your windows and a security perimeter. If you are in the market to build, I would highly recommend “The Secure Home” by Joel M. Skousen. This book is a treasure trove of knowledge and ideas. If you order it off his site he was autographing them at one time. Most of the heavy security considerations are out of the realm of possibility for us regular folks, just like my lottery castle, but you can make some changes that won’t necessarily break the bank and can be done as a normal part of new construction or retro-actively in an existing home.

Obstacles for fun and enjoyment

Barbed_Wire_3Fences have their own usefulness that is readily apparent. In a suburban setting they are usually decorative, but in a grid-down scenario they could slow an attackers advance allowing you extra time to either retreat into your home, or effectively take care of them before they reach your house. Fences can also be augmented with concertina or razor wire if we do have a total collapse. This of course is only possible if you have the foresight to purchase the mounting hardware and supplies before the emergency happens and may fall into the category of “nice to have” for most people. Fences even without razor wire aren’t cheap.

A cheaper option to a fence would be a tangle trap out of regular barbed wire. You can see an example of a simple trap in the image to the right. Barbed wire is one of those supplies I have that sit in the shed for a rainy day. You can get a bale for around $100 at Home Depot and if the SHTF, I plan on using mine to augment my exterior security if it gets really ugly. The simple design is made with some extra scrap wood. The barbed wire is secured to the frame and the X members should be high enough that they can’t be easily jumped. Will this protect you from gunfire? No of course not, but they can prevent someone from running into your position at full speed or sneaking up right next to your home.

Let’s say you have a decently secure house with stone or brick construction but you are worried about your doors. The experts recommend a steel door with a solid metal frame and screws that go at least 3 inches into the framing on your house. If that isn’t possible, another option may be a product called Bar-ricade. It is a brilliantly simple idea. It’s just a metal bar that you mount with seriously long screws to brackets that attach to the inside of your door frame.  What if someone decides to knock on your door with an old station wagon? Provided we have cars that are running, I can foresee a possibility where someone who was desperate enough would use their car as a battering ram.

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Dakota Alert Long Range Motion detector

Since 9/11 most federal buildings have installed additional security in the form of those cylinders meant to stop a speeding vehicle. They quickly rise out of the ground when triggered and can stop a Mack truck. I know this is out of the question for the average person, but you can construct concrete planters and have those set as barricades in front of your house where the main entrance is. There are a lot of plans out there, but I found these simple Popular Mechanics plans for a solid concrete planter that you can use. Obviously, the plans would need to be scaled up to at least 4 feet tall, but you can get ideas from this concept.

Sandbags can be used for an effective bulwark against bullets and can be set up if the situation arises. This isn’t a simple chore I know; actually it will be back breaking work, but you can buy sandbags now and store them for the potential use later.

Security Lighting

Exterior lighting is supposed to help us see what is out there and make us feel safe. It has another purpose though and that is to let people know where you are or who still has power on. Security lighting can help the bad guys see where they are going so by having a bright area they can quickly navigate around your property.

Security lighting does come in handy when you are either returning home and it is dark or you are inside and want to see who is outside. The ideal situation would be infrared lighting provided you had night vision goggles. With IR lighting it would appear as if no lights were on, unless you had on night vision goggles.

A companion concept to security lighting is black out conditions. You may find yourself needing to make your home appear completely dark on the outside. The best way to accomplish this is to purchase black plastic sheeting and plenty of rolls of duct tape. When you do this, make sure you check your house from the exterior to ensure there are no light leaks.

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Liberty Safe Vault Doors for use in Safe rooms

Motion detection systems

Knowing when people are coming onto your property can give you precious seconds or even minutes of advance warning. Systems like the Dakota Long Range Alert system can offer advance warning and perimeter detection you can use to alert on driveways or any blind spots of your property. These units are wireless and have an advertised range of a half mile; more than enough for most homes. You can even disguise the motion sensor in a bird house so that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.

Safe Rooms and Vaults

Safe rooms aren’t easily added post construction to a house unless you have a basement. You can reinforce a big walk-in closet, but this may not be an easy option. With a basement, you can pour solid concrete walls and set a vault door that would keep you safe. Vault doors aren’t cheap at all, Liberty safe sells vault doors for over $6,400 but neither is making a solid concrete wall safe room in your basement. With a reinforced closet you would want to have very strong walls and a door that can withstand gunfire and brute force attack. A way out the back would be perfect but firearms and some stored food and water would be considerations. I believe the The Secure Home has plans for the reinforced safe room, but I plan to write a separate post on that later.

What about windows?

Windows are just about the easiest item to destroy if you are looking to break into someone’s home with a quickness. I think they are second only to large patio doors in terms of overall weakness. There are of course security windows out there, but they are very pricey. An aftermarket option would be security window film. 3M has a line of security window film that you may want to check out. This not only resists break-ins but can keep your windows from caving in heavy winds associated with tornadoes and hurricanes. AND, they can be tinted to keep your home cooler as well.

OPSEC

As with most other items we discuss in Prepper circles, OPSEC is crucial. You simply can’t take a chance that a neighbor or friend will use the knowledge of your preparations against you. Make sure you think about who needs to know that you have a safe room, or stores of food or a secret door in your office that leads to a back hallway. Your safety and your families safety may depend on information that you don’t want anyone else knowing so before you shoot your mouth off, think.

The options and topics with Home security are numerous but hopefully this gave you some ideas to consider. If you have any ideas not listed here, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

From the dawn of time, man has tried to build a home that would keep him and his family safe. From caves to small huts to castles with moats and

I am frequently asked questions around the subject of Bug Out Bags. There is certainly a lot of interest and for good reason. Seeing as how we are in the middle of Hurricane season (regardless of whether we have seen a significant one yet) it makes sense especially for those living near coastal areas to have a plan to evacuate. That plan will undoubtedly require packing supplies that you may be forced to live on of for an extended amount of time. Even if you live in the middle of the country and the closest coast is a thousand miles away, some emergency event might require that you pack up and leave with very little advance warning. This is when having a bug out bag will come in handy.

To those who are new to the concept of a Bug Out Bag, or Survival Bag it is simply a bag with food, water, clothing and shelter enough to last 72 hours on average. This bag is almost always in the form of a backpack because that is designed to be worn easily if you need to walk on foot. Also, this configuration is best for holding weight that all of that food clothing and shelter is going to incur on your back. Additionally, the bag is going to hold your entire bug out gear to accompany the rest of your supplies. There are a myriad of resources online and YouTube for bug out bag lists or you can read our post on the subject for more detailed information on what to pack in your bug out bag. A bug out bag is different from a Get Home Bag, but they serve similar needs. A Get Home Bag should give you what you need to make it home from wherever you are, usually work or school.

Do you need to worry about a Bug Out Bag? That’s a great question but it really comes down to the individual and the situation you are faced with. Do you live in a big city or in the country near a chemical plant? Do you have a place to go if you had to trek on foot away from everything you own? Is your health good enough that if you strapped 50 pounds of gear to your back, could you walk 3 days if needed? Do you know how to use anything you have spread out on the floor for your bag?

I talk about the reasons for and against the actual act of Bugging Out in the face of most scenarios but I like to say that reality always gets a vote. Regardless of whether you have any intention of leaving the safety of your home, circumstances you haven’t even thought about might compel you to ditch your plans and strap on that bug out bag to walk into the sunset. If that event happens, it is wise to be prepared.

Identify what you need the bag for

tetonsportscout

A great bag is easy to find for under $80

When I first started officially prepping back at the end of 2008 I was like so many other people and the overwhelming need to get a bug out bag packed and ready to go was an all-consuming thought. I researched a ton of blogs and forums, read books and watched dozens of videos until I knew or thought I knew everything about a bug out bag. I had my first bag all packed up and ready to go and then I tried it on. It was very shortly after that my plan started changing and it is with the hindsight of a few more instances like that that I want to share with you some of my mistakes so that it may help you avoid making them yourself.

I was overly focused on “the stuff” I needed to go into my Bug Out Bag and didn’t give as much thought as to what I needed the bag for in the first place. Knowing where you are going and what you are going to do is packing 101 stuff, right? If you want to pack for a business trip let’s say; you lay out everything if you are like me according to what you are going to do on the trip to make sure you are covered for every contingency. This makes packing anything easier.

I didn’t do that with my personal bug out bag. What I did do was make a list of everything I needed to have and then I went out and bought it or consolidated it into my bug out pile. My pile was larger than the pack I had chosen and when it came time to put everything into the bag I realized I needed to rethink some things.

Most of you are building a bug out bag as something you can grab and go out the door never to return again and this would be consistent with what the general consensus is for having a bag like this in the first place. However, we are almost never in any situation, flying out the door blindly running down alleys. That is unless you are Jason Bourne and well, that’s the movies.

If you are forced to pack up, you should know where you are going. This may be to a friend’s house or an old college roommate in another state or Aunt Bunny who lives an hour away. What does this bag need to hold in it to make your life bearable at Aunty Bunnies house? Do you need that entrenching shovel, hiking poles and a camp axe? Maybe not. Do you need 2 gallons of water and your winter snowshoes? Maybe you do. Knowing where you are most likely going is going to help you with the next decisions.

Once you know what you need the bug out bag for, you will know what type of bag is right for your needs.

Identify what you are going to carry in the bag

bugoutpackinglist

Lay everything you will need to pack out so you can inventory easily.

If I am being honest, one of the shallow pleasures of prepping for anything is getting new gear. Yes, I will admit that I like buying gear and trying it out. This has nothing to do with vanity, I like to consider myself a gear geek only to the point that trying out new and interesting items that have multiple purposes and could save your life appeals to me. In the beginning as I was getting my pile of gear together that would save our lives I thought more about what I was acquiring that thinking about what I needed. I found all sorts of bug out bag checklists, some of them pages and pages long. Sometimes, I would sit there and listen to YouTube videos and write down everything was said. When it was all said and done, I had a huge pile of gear and my bank account was a lot lighter.

Going camping was a huge eye opener for me and it taught me more about what I needed to pack than any YouTube video could. Well, in truth it put the lists I had been compiling into perspective. It’s funny how life has a habit of doing that when you are packing almost 70 pounds of gear on your back. I recommend that anyone who has plans for a bug out bag take this camping for two nights in the woods. You don’t have to go 50 miles in the wilderness, but take this bag with all of your stuff and hike (so you are forced to carry the bag) into the woods and set up camp. You will be surprised at how quickly you realize the items you have but don’t need and the items you wish you had.

Once you have a better idea of what you need to put into your bag, lay all of those items out on a table because the size of your bag is going to need to fit all of that gear. Can you get by with a day backpack or do you need a larger 4,150 cu size pack to fit everything. It may be helpful to try out a friends backpack first if you don’t have one yourself or go to the store and try them on in person.

Identify your price range

72hour

Military surplus gear is a cheap and rugged option.

This may sound like it shouldn’t be important. I mean how can you put a price on your survival? Well, it should be because if you are like most preppers I know (including me), this will not be your last bag. Take time to shop around for bags and don’t necessarily believe all of the hype that surrounds the mil-spec types of bags. By that I mean the bags that look like they are ready to go to war on the back of some soldier in Afghanistan. These routinely come with price tags over $200 and I don’t think that is necessary for a bug out bag.

Remember, if this is truly going to be a bug out bag that is ready for you, you should have it packed at all times and ready for you to grab and walk out the door. Do you want to spend upwards of $500 and then shove it in the closet for a year?

The opposite is true also because my first bag was very cheap. I purchased a used army Alice pack from Ebay for around $20. These were just like I remembered and are roomy enough to hold anything you can probably need. They aren’t the most comfortable though and if you are trying to stay discrete, having a military style backpack isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. I chose this bag because the use is perfect and the price was incredible. In the end I didn’t use it though. Instead, I take my alice pack with me when I go hunting and it is perfect for that. I just don’t want to lug it around if I am bugging out.

OK, now what?

So you are asking yourself, when is he going to get to the part about how I can find the perfect bug out bag? OK, here are the steps I would take in order to help you select your bug out bag.

  1. Understand what you need the bag for. Is this to get to a neighbor’s house on the other side of town or family two states away? Are you going to be on the water with this bag? This will help you with size, features and function. Most bags simply hold varying amounts of stuff.
  2. Knowing that, figure out how much gear you need to carry. Backpacking trips are excellent practice. You may need to buy some camping gear, but this will teach you what works and what doesn’t. It will additionally let you know how much room and weight you should plan for.
  3. Choose your price range and shop within 20% plus or minus from that point. Craigslist and eBay have great deals, but you may end up spending more time (on Craigslist) or end up getting inferior product (eBay). I would stay away from higher end bags unless you find an unbelievable sale. LLBean for example makes great bags for very reasonable prices but you can find great closeout prices on last year’s models too.
  4. Go into a store with backpacks and try them on before you buy. It is also important to measure yourself to get the right pack for your body.
  5. Once you have your bag, pack it with all of your gear and go hike for a couple of miles. Doing this in the neighborhood might seem odd, although we have a lady here in our neighborhood who does much stranger stuff. If the neighborhood won’t work, take your pack to the closest hiking trail. Nobody will know you aren’t training for an extreme hiking trek and it will either show you that you need to lighten the pack or affirm that you have done this part correctly.
  6. Plan for a dry run. Cut the power to your house and live out of the pack for 3 days. If you do all of the above successfully, you have a perfect pack. Now lock it in the closet and start some other preps!

I am frequently asked questions around the subject of Bug Out Bags. There is certainly a lot of interest and for good reason. Seeing as how we are in the

What is EDC? Well in case you mistakenly go out to Google “EDC ideas” for some inspiration; EDC does not in Prepper lingo stand for Electric Daisy Carnival. What is this world coming to?

No, my friends. EDC is one of the top 10 great Prepper Acronyms and it stands for Every Day Carry. If you don’t already know, we Preppers LOVE acronyms. EDC is essentially the items you carry with you at all times, or as often to all times as possible. It’s the quintessential Prepper gear that you have handy without any backpack or BOB (another of my favorites which we will be discussing later) Bug Out Bag .

One of the misconceptions about EDC gear is that it needs to be a large set or capable of doing more than most people would need in any normal scenario. Now, I know that when we are talking about SHTF (The S**T hitting the fan) we aren’t necessarily thinking about normal everyday occurrences. We want to be prepared for something, anything out of the norm, right?

I bring this up because your EDC is less about the actual gear you are carrying around and more about how diligent you are with carrying it in the first place. The best gear in the world does you absolutely zero good if it is at home on your nightstand, packed away in your backpack or worse, stored in the attic somewhere. For you to realize any value from your EDC gear you have to Carry it Every Day. Get the point? OK, moving on.

Why should this matter to you? EDC gear consists of simple items that individually or combined can make a world of difference if you are ever faced with a situation that the average bear isn’t ready for, but as with everything, your own personal situations vary from a lot of other people. If your job is in an office somewhere you probably won’t need to take an axe, lifeboat and bear spray to work with you. I am sure someone out there can prove me wrong, but until then let’s go with the assumption that most people during their day-to-day activities are near civilization either working or commuting near their town. That is the scenario we will go with.

What should your EDC be made up of? Great question and again this varies. Let me first talk to the average Joe out there and split the normal EDC into Good, Better and Best with Good being what you should have on you really at all times no exceptions. You don’t win any prizes for simply having a Good EDC, you just don’t have to hang your head in shame.

Good

      • Folding Knife – I recommend something that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (usually less than $30) like the Spyderco Tenacious G-10.The blade wicked sharp out of the box, won’t freak too many people out at 3 3/8 inches but a good knife has millions and I do mean millions of uses. Think back to our earliest ancestors. They might not have had all of the fancy gadgets like we did, but one of the first things they got their hands on was a good knife. Even if all you use it for is to open your boxes from Amazon you will use it and if you really need it you will be glad it’s on you.
        spydercotenacious

        Spyderco Tenacious G-10. A really excellent EDC knife for the money.

      • Phone – This may sound silly now because Hey? Who doesn’t have their cell phone with them every single second of the day? Actually, I wish most of us (including me) didn’t have their cell phones. I am tired of watching a bunch of teenagers sit around a table staring at their phones and not talking, but that’s for another time. You need a phone to communicate so make sure you have yours with you. Don’t leave it in the car when you go into the mall. Something else to add to this would be a written list of important numbers. Who else besides me relies too heavily on speed dial and Google?
      • Spare Cash – Another rarity in this day and age, and even I have to force myself to remember to bring some cash with me. If I am going out-of-town, one of the first things I try to do is get out $50 or $100. It probably won’t by me a plane ticket home, but it could get me out of a jam.
      • Watch – You need to know the time and if you’re really tricky like Bear Grylls, you can tell the direction of North with it. Of course, you could be lazy and just by a watch like the Casio Pathfinder watch that has a compass built in.

Better

    • Handkerchief – What? Do you mean like one of those hillbillies? Or an old man with his pocket square that he offers to the first lady he sees crying? Yes, exactly. It can be whatever color you want but a handkerchief is like a knife in that it can be used for a thousand things. You can use it for a dust mask, sling, tourniquet, sweat band or you could just blow your nose with it. They are light and don’t take up any room. In fact, I bet you have one pocket that you never put anything in. The back left pocket, right? Stick a hanky in there and off you go
    • Multi-Tool – You can carry a multi-tool or something like a Swiss Army knife. I recommend the Leatherman Charge. It’s tough and not to beat adeadhorsebutithas a million uses. Could you leave the folder at home and only bring the multi-tool? Sure, but I like options.
      leathermancharge

      Leatherman Charge – Great for just about anything you need to cut, twist or wrench open.

    • Flashlight – Flashlights probably start getting into geeky territory here, but believe me; you will find that they are useful. From coming home late when the carport light is out to power outages or dark parking lots or broken down vehicles a good flashlight comes in handy. I used to carry the Fenix LD10 but have since moved to the Fenix PD22. There are tons of other models. It is simply amazing how much light this little thing puts out.
      fenixl

      Fenix PD 22 – Super bright flashlight

    • Para cord – Some guys (and ladies) wear Paracord bracelets which are fine but might not be the most practical in every situation. If I am going camping or hiking or hunting then definitely I wear the Paracord bracelet. This has about 8-10 feet of Para cord woven into a nice carrying profile on your wrist. This can save you when you need to tie up a tarp or replace a shoelace or in an extreme case, lash your knife to a spear and fight off the zombie horde. If you aren’t ready to rock the Paracord bracelet in the office you can easily buy or make a key fob, or just stick 10 feet or so in your briefcase or purse and keep on trucking.

Best

  • Firearm – Yes I recommend that every adult legally and responsibly carry a firearm. I will save the argument for and the types and situations for another post.
  • Spare magazine – See above.
  • Flash Drive with information – If you are really worried about TEOTWAWKI (The end of the world as we know it) then a flash drive with electronic copies of your favorite document makes sense. I personally don’t. Spare phone batteries fall into this category also if your phone accepts them. Mine doesn’t so I try to be mindful to keep as full a charge as possible.
  • Something to make Fire – You can learn how to rub two sticks together or get really proficient with a flint and striker but a good old cheap bic works great just about every time.

Women – What about women? I think every woman should carry all of the same items. You have an advantage in that you normally carry a purse and frequently take this with you wherever you go. You may adjust things like the knife if that folder is too big. How about a nice key chain Leatherman like the juice? Even that is better than nothing. Everything else should be fine.

leathermanjuice

Leatherman Juice – At only 3.2 inches this could be a simple addition to a key chain.

I think you will agree that this is a good start. Is it the most comprehensive list ever assembled and will it cover every conceivable option? No, but again, we are taking baby steps here. If you have nothing more than these items above you will have a vastly better chance of making it through anything that life throws at you than your friends who don’t have anything. I look forward to your comments on what you carry.

What is EDC? Well in case you mistakenly go out to Google “EDC ideas” for some inspiration; EDC does not in Prepper lingo stand for Electric Daisy Carnival. What is

It is a basic tenet of any conflict that you need to be prepared to defend your location. For military forces, they have bases which are guarded by fences and guard posts at a minimum. Kings had their castles with high stone walls and moats. We civilians in the present day have our communities or neighborhoods which are largely constructed without any thought of defensibility. In every conflict there are people attacking and people defending and this as you know if you pay attention to the news or history at all is not something you should consider yourself immune to.

I find myself occasionally thinking about how I would make plans to prepare my neighborhood against attack. What natural resources could we take advantage of? What areas would be weaknesses in our perimeter? What would be necessary in terms of work and sheer numbers of people to pull this off and could we really make a decent stand in the first place?

You might be asking, who do I think is going to attack our neighborhood? Excellent question and the answer is pretty simple. We, being my neighbors and myself would possibly be defending our neighborhood from anyone who wanted to attack us or try to take what we have. I could easily see situations in our future where we will be forced to defend ourselves. Whether or not we would be successful depends on how well we make plans and the force that is mounted against us. My neighborhood isn’t a trained and well supplied Army by any stretch, but determined people can stand and mount a decent defense if they have the motivation and resources. It is with this mindset that I started sketching out my own plan for how I would start, should some catastrophe give us a reason to, preparing our neighborhood to withstand attackers.

Draw out your Borders

There is a lot of literature on the subject of defensive preparations, but I usually go to Army manuals for the best source on a wide variety of topics. FM 3-19.4 is the Military Police Leaders Handbook which has been approved for public release so you are free to download it here. This FM covers a ton of valuable information like “Preparing for Combat”, “Constructing Fighting and Survivability Positions” all the way to “Reconnaissance Operations” and finally “Base Defense”.

Civilians do not have a base to defend, but you may find yourself in a situation dire enough that you need to defend a complex or several streets in a neighborhood. Is it realistic to expect you would be able to repel an overwhelming force without some serious physical obstacles like mines, trenches or walls? Most likely, but could you defend against a gang of looters or a rival town who has plans to take your supplies? Possibly. In either case, if I found myself in a situation like that I would make an effort and the start of any effort is a plan.

In my hypothetical scenario, I imagine locking down our neighborhood to limit or at least slow access into our area on the roads and set up patrols with a grid system for perimeter defense. If we had every single person in our community on guard duty at all times, we still wouldn’t have a major force, but what we could have is an early warning system and a plan for rallying to provide support quickly if needed.

To start with, I began to sketch out the area I was concerned with. This area is fairly large but it encompasses some natural features we would want to protect in the form of three fairly large ponds and multiple roads into our area. There are a lot of sketching programs out there if you want to get fancy and if I had more time I would have overlaid this on a topographical map, but for the purposes of this article we will use the sketch below as a guide.

neighbormap

Rudimentary plan for controlling access to our neighborhood

I began by sketching out the roads and placing houses in roughly the right positions according to the map so I would be able to later drawn in lines of travel where we now have fences and woods. We could also place Observation Points in various locations and the grid system would enable everyone who was connected via radio to know where any action was taking place or where people were located. Rather than say I see some sketchy people walking behind that house that used to have the three small dogs… You could say we have 3 people approaching from the North East of grid 5 on foot. With that information who ever was in charge could reallocate forces if necessary or your SOP might be the closest OP patrol would run to backup whoever was in that location.

The roads into our neighborhood approach from two sides but we have a large section of forest to our back. From a strict vehicle attack standpoint, we should be able to set up roadblock checkpoints at the two entrances coming in and monitor all traffic in or out. If the situation was dire enough that we had to create the network watch on steroids; felled trees make excellent barriers. Three trees across the road and cut with a path that a car would have to slowly zig in and out of would prevent anyone from rushing our position. Large enough trees would even stop large troop carriers like the MRAP. You could also use vehicles if fuel weren’t a problem.

What else could you prepare for?

mapdetail

Horizontal Lines show trees to be used as a blockade. Any cars would have to slowly navigate this obstacle.

Using this map as a guide would enable you to show plans to your neighbors, work out shift assignments and share grid information. Assuming you had made copies this would be simple. Even simpler if you still had running electricity in this Mad Max scenario, but at least it is a start. Pen, pencil and crayon don’t need electricity and you can make other maps built of this initial plan.

Assuming this was a real grid down emergency that was long lasting, you could begin planning for gardens and other community features like waste disposal to name a couple. I go walking and I am usually at least once or twice looking at trees that would make great barriers, good over watch positions in which to place additional firepower at the checkpoints and natural features we can use to our advantage.

I may never need anything remotely like this and I hope I don’t, but just in case, I already have some thoughts on paper we can use to start preparing and that could be all the difference we need.

Stay safe out there; I feel a storm brewing…

It is a basic tenet of any conflict that you need to be prepared to defend your location. For military forces, they have bases which are guarded by fences and

In small-space gardens, especially those with limited full sun in the first place, we sometimes feel like we have no choices. It doesn’t have to be that way and there are plenty of crop rotation solutions for even small spaces in your garden.

One of the most efficient systems for growing in small spaces are keyhole gardens. Sometimes they’re individuals, sometimes they’re nestled into a system that forms a mandala, and sometimes they’re surrounded by perennials and other beds, much like a pottager garden. The advantage to a keyhole garden is that it closes the gaps between beds and creates a lot more growing space compared to traditional rows, separated beds, and even those pretty pottagers. The downside, however, is that with limited space, sometimes we feel limited in not only what we can grow, but where we can put them. That puts a pretty serious damper on our crop rotations.

The “pizza” garden rotation plan that was mentioned in the first crop rotation article is scaleable. The author lists two – an eighty-foot and a forty-foot diameter that results in whopping 1K-4K square feet of growing space. That could easily be reduced further, but there are some additional factors – like shading – that crop up as we work with small spaces.

Do the rotations matter as much in such small beds?

Because small beds are typically going to be more diverse, with more plants making close contact with each other, we gain “edge” diversity. Just like we find a ton of game and foragable foods at the edges and margins – where rivers slow, where fields meet woods, where the forest is broken by streams – having multiple types of plants in a space creates lots of niche habitat for the microbes.

That soil biology does even better because we typically don’t till our E-shaped and C-shaped raised beds to the same degree we do in-ground and straight beds. The intact soil biology matters. It’s the microbes that let legumes produce excess nitrogen to leave behind, and the microbes that cycle compost into available nutrients. If we practice good culture like seasonal or year-round mulching that prevents compaction, we don’t have to restart the process every spring.

mandala-garden

Healthy soil makes healthy plants. Healthy plants shrug off pests and diseases better.

Even so, the individual plots do start harboring sweet spots for diseases and pests. I once read an author who pointed out that if a cabbage beetle larvae wakes up and finds itself two feet from a patch of kale, it’s just as happy as if you’d planted beets right on top of him again. Same goes for some common corn and tomato-potato pests, and a whole lot of pests that like to eat our brassicas (collards, beets, broccoli). We can restrict ourselves to the brassicas like mustard and upland cress that those pests don’t like, or we can figure out ways to rotate our garden space, put disruptive crops and companions between them, and still have turnips year to year, even with shade-casting plants.

Big plants in small spaces – Why bother?

Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space


Small space growers have been turning patios, porches, and decks into bumper crops of veggies for years. Cuba’s oil crisis makes an excellent study of the impact urban growers can have. It’s not just the cut-and-come-again herbs and greens, or things that give a lot of bang for the buck even with just one or two plants, like summer squash and tomatoes. We now have OP sweet corn and popcorn bantams that produce in 65-75 days and are happy growing in a washtub, storage tote, or filing cabinet drawer.

Will those make an enormous impact on today’s diet? Not so much. But they do allow a small-space grower to keep a fresh seed supply going, learn exactly what pests they’re fighting, and be better prepared, even if there’s still a big learning curve after a disaster when they jump into currently lawn-covered dirt.

Remember, not all crises are created equal. Cuba and Argentina are excellent examples where there was a for-real, shopping-stoppage disaster without a complete breakdown of life as we all know it. The Great Depression is another. Victory Gardens here and in the U.K., and the British Ministry of Agriculture’s response to World War II are other excellent examples.

Today’s city dweller or suburbanite may very well be learning ahead of time, so that when it becomes not only acceptable but encouraged to plant in the space between sidewalks and parking lots, they’re ready. They may also be trying to save money for that perfect retreat location, but be practicing now so they recognize pests and nutrient and water problems right away when they do have a big space.

semi-keyhole-raised-bed

A small-space grower might also be working 50-60 hour work weeks, making time for family, and be learning other skills to benefit their 10-20-120 acres. They can’t handle 500-1K-5K square feet of veggies and staples right now. When the time comes, they will bust out their cultivators and be better prepared since they have an established line of crop seeds – propagated for years, proven stock that works well with their exact climate.

There are lots of reasons to be growing in a small space and to be growing no matter where we live. However, those small spaces do sometimes present some challenges, especially with crop rotation.

Small-bed challenge – tall plants & big plants

When we lay out our gardens, the goal is generally to keep tall plants from shading small plants. This means the back-north of our bed is somewhat limited to corn and tomatoes most of the time.

Corn and tomatoes do not give us a great many options in our crop rotations.

It would also be pretty sweet if we didn’t have to devote quite as much space to sweet potatoes and zucchini to keep them from choking-out everything in their path.

Happily, these two problems go hand-in-hand with a solution: we avail ourselves of trellises.

vertical-garden-pvc

We could make trellies and cutesy wigwams from Lowes material. Or we can start looking at other people’s trash in a new light, buy ourselves some garden-friendly paint, and find a child (or fake one, I don’t care) to cover up our seat-removed chairs, DVD racks, deconstructed dog kennels, and mattress box springs with thumbprint butterflies and handprint flowers so our spouses and neighbors have to grumble a little more quietly or find themselves accused of being both environment-killing disposable-world dirtbags and heartless child haters.

So how do we apply our neighbor/spouse-dodging trellie? We add to our list of “tall” plants for the back of the bed.

Now we have corn, tomatoes, cukes and summer squashes that we’re going to cut small, eggplant and autumn squashes and melons that we can suspend in mesh or pantyhose or t-shirts, Malabar spinach, any pole or vining bean that will happily climb, and peas. We can trellis sweet potatoes, too, although we have to dedicate weekly time to encouraging it up instead of out (zig-zagging line around it).

Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space

Since peas, some tomatoes, our big basil plants, and our summer squashes are either a little shorter or a little looser, we can even pack them in front of some of our more shade-tolerant varieties like Malabar and things like Chinese yardlong beans that grow up-up before they bush out, and won’t be affected by shade at the 3-4’ level. We can also stick looser-branching things we can train wide like cucumbers up on a lower trellis in front of our corn once the corn is well established.

If our spouses won’t bury us in the bed, we can make canted pot towers, stacked bucket towers, or soda bottle towers for strawberries, lettuces, spinach, herbs, onions, chickweed, strawberry spinach, and edible/companion flowers to intersperse as our “tall” rotation. Some of them aren’t going to do so hot behind bushy corn or tomatoes, but pruned tomatoes and the lower or looser squashes will be fine.

Growing vertically doesn’t only expand the rotation options by giving us more tall plants for our northern and dawn-or-dusk sections, it can actually increase the total yield of our small space. We need to compost and drop tea bags and coffee right on the surface through the season (you can get free coffee grounds at Starbucks and McD’s), and we will need to water more. Still, we can further decrease our grocery bills and increase our seed stocks doing so.

And we don’t have to spend a fortune or eons doing it.

Small space rotation challenge – succession planting

One of the other key issues with small plots is succession planting. We might still stagger planting for staggered harvests, but the space for that is a little more limited. However, big or small, we like to rush right out there and get our nails dirty again at the end of winter. When we’re dining off limp dehydrated and canned foods and spoonable wheat, corn, rice and beans, the crunch of romaine, Napa and radishes and the roast-and-stab appeal of a 40-60 day turnip is going to be even bigger.freestanding-pallet-planter

The problem? Three of those four examples – and other cool crops like kale and beets – are brassicas. Brassicas have two soil-borne diseases, soil-hatching leaf-eating larvae, and some aerial threats that inherit the memory of where the buffet is laid out. If we’re not rotating our brassicas, we start losing them to pests and disease.

What’s not a brassica? Spinach and chard, a lot of the lettuces, radicchio – so there are some options.

We can congestion plant marigolds and nasturtiums to help combat brassica pests. That’s not a marigold between every other plant. That’s a blanket of marigolds that we dot with cabbages. The marigolds work not even so much for this year, but more like legumes and nitrogen-fixation – they leave behind things that benefit other plants, in this case, limiting soil pests for future brassicas.

Our soda-bottle towers can help us here, too. We can also make ladders of bottles, bread pans, or storage totes to grow larger cabbages, root brassicas, and kale in, then compost that soil, microwave or bake that soil, or rotate that soil to herbs and flowers the next year to prevent a beetle’s sauerkraut-killing children from just leaping out and eating our stuff again.

That leaves us with most things like broccoli and Brussel sprouts that truly take up a footprint in our beds. And since we now have a wealth of things that can be about the same height like peas, beans, squash, and sweet potatoes that we can rotate with them, that’s just not a very big deal anymore.

Legumes

Peas and beans will share some pests, too, but usually, in tight beds full of diversity, that stops being as much of a problem. With rich soil, we can throw away the companion planting “bad buds” myth of peas and onions, which means our alliums help fight off those pests along with our marigolds, alyssum, and nasturtium.

So, again, the high diversity in our small spaces, keyhole, mandala, or E-shaped beds helps us.

Rotations in miniaturehorizontal-bottle-tower

With all the options available to us as Craigslist hunters and internet gatherers, even small space growers can be very successful, not only in yield but in the rotation systems that build and protect soil, and make future yields just as successful. We can increase our options by including edible and medicinal annual flowers and herbs. We can further increase our rotation options with tiered containers of perennials like strawberry, thyme, and chives — which we can pack into the “keyhole” slots or the walkways between raised beds and cover for the winter.

We’ll be more successful if we adopt rotation systems, regardless of our scale. We can save money on soil and plant treatments and sometimes on our fertilizers by doing so, allowing increases in budgets for other preparedness goals. We can limit some of the amendments and treatments we have to make room to stockpile.

We might find some joy in a garden that’s not making us pull our hair out with a new problem every week. Importantly, we’ll be more familiar with crop rotation systems should a time arise that we must increase our food production.

When we look at things differently and don’t handcuff ourselves because of our space, bodies, budgets or time when we start seeing challenge-solution situations instead of problems, we set ourselves up for success – not only in gardening efficiently and effectively but in every aspect of our lives.

In small-space gardens, especially those with limited full sun in the first place, we sometimes feel like we have no choices. It doesn’t have to be that way and there