One of the most fascinating subjects I had to study for a captain’s license was weather forecasting. Back in the late 70s there was no Weather Channel with satellite photos or live radar images to rely on. We had to learn to forecast weather by observing the sky, our surroundings, and recording the change in the barometric pressure. Wind speed is deduced by how it affects objects around us. Offshore, we could look at the wave tops to judge the wind velocity. On land we observe tree branches, weeds, or grass.
When I first started studying weather forecasting, I had several good books on the subject with a pocket weather guide the easiest reference to carry around. A guide helps with determining the different cloud formations and the type weather that would be associated them. Periodically logging, every ½ to 1 hour, the changing barometric pressure in association with the clouds added another layer to the forecast. Next was the direction and speed of the wind. Subsequently, by recording the rise or fall of the barometric pressure over time, the wind direction and speed, and the cloud formations, a forecast would come together. It is important to note that low pressure systems will produce much more wind with unstable weather conditions, where high pressure systems produce milder, more unchanging conditions.
When I first started watching the Weather Channel, in the mid-90s, they focused totally on reporting the weather. If and when some storm or weather event was happening, then they sent people out into the field to cover it. Back in the studio, a meteorologist would analyze the conditions as the weather progressed. That was great for me, because I seeing what I had been studying for the past 20 years and witnessing just how far weather forecasting had advanced.
Today, as I begin my studies on prepping, I realize the importance of knowing some basic weather forecasting. After all, the worst natural disasters in America are weather related. Therefore, understanding what effects weather will have on most any disaster is of a primary concern.
Observing a wildfire, we predict how the wind and humidity affects the speed at which the fire spreads. When a chemical spill or explosion occurs, the weather will determine areas in danger from the fallout. Understanding basic weather principles helps when considering how heavy rainfall may affect a local dam or roadways. Other factors help us predict foggy conditions, hail, ice, or snow. A summer stable high pressure area tends to produce heat waves, which are the number one cause of weather related fatalities in the U.S. Here in Texas, we know all about heatwaves and droughts.
Predicting the effects of the changing weather around us, gives us the ability to prepare for it. Once the SHTF and we are left to our own instincts, the weather will be a major factor affecting our survival. Subsequently, here are some questions to think about.
The Weather Channel will be able help until the electricity goes out, then what?
Do you have an emergency weather radio; one with a hand crank or solar cells?
What about weather (wx) broadcast on Short Wave, AM, or HAM radio?
Where do you find the frequencies that broadcast weather info and at what time they transmit?
What about a small handheld anemometer that also displays barometric pressure?
A pocket guide to weather forecasting stored in your prepping gear?
All these questions are easily solvable.
As an example of local awareness, here along the Gulf Coast of Texas, we get tropical fronts in the Spring and Summer. The warm, humid Gulf air is drawn inland to the mid-Atlantic states. Cool fronts descend on this area as the jet stream comes south and the cool dry air meets the warm humid air and a front develops. Low pressure systems have a counter-clockwise rotation and high pressure rotate clockwise. Low pressure systems tend to move rapidly where high pressure will remain stationary for some extended period of time. High pressure tends to steer low pressure. Lifelong residents on the Gulf Coast know all about hurricanes and flooding and they both are associated with high and low pressure systems.
Topography also plays a huge part in how weather will affect a geographic location. Learn the local weather patterns for the different seasons of the year where you live or plan on heading when bugging out. Knowing the local weather patterns and having a basic understanding of the weather, you will be surprised at how easy you can forecast the weather. Discerning the wind speed and direction, cloud formations, and barometric pressure, you will have all the data you need at your figure tips. The data is not that difficult to collect.
Use your field guide to classify the clouds and for a reference. Purchase a small, portable, digital weather station to obtain wind speed and pressure data called an anemometer, which are readily available at a nominal price. Also, a compass to record wind direction, a good mechanical pencil, and a waterproof note pad to log readings every hour or 1/2 hour, depending on the situation. Thus, for a small investment, you can have the tools for forecasting the weather in your bug out bag. What I use cost less than a good hunting knife and takes up about the same space. I carry them when I go out shooting pictures or go to the beach just to practice. If you fish, a small weather station would be an excellent tool to forecast the quality of fishing and a good excuse to buy one.
Having some basic weather forecasting knowledge could be the difference in knowing when to seek shelter from a rapidly approaching front, or getting caught off guard trying to shelter after it hits. Weather related incidents cause the worst disasters in the U.S. Many times, just by having a basic understanding of the weather, how it is going to affect your community, and what you need to do for shelter, could save a lot of lives. Make the investment in inexpensive, easy to understanding weather forecasting tools and learn how to use them. It is an enjoyable way to gain one more step toward being better prepared when the grid goes down.
Throughout history, settlements form near water. The largest and most successful settle with plentiful water. There are a number of reasons for that. One, water really is life. We require water for drinking. We also use it for cleaning and laundry. As the human species advanced, we needed additional water for livestock. Then we became stationary, mastered various forms of irrigation, and bred our crops to become more and more dependent on water. Doing so allowed us to reap larger yields of sweeter and more mild crops, but it also tied us inexorably to water systems.
Historically we were further tied to water systems for faster and easier travel and trade, and we eventually turned to it for some of our labor. First with direct-labor systems such as grinding mills, then for the generation of power that could be sent across distances, water made life easier as well as sustaining it.
We are no less tied to water now than the caveman, Viking or European colonist. We just don’t always notice. And because most of North America enjoys easy, low-cost water, we aren’t great about conserving it.
Test Your Water Use
Want to see just how influential water is, and how much we use? Easy enough. Turn off the water at the main for a day. Remember to also tape or turn off faucets so you don’t empty any hot water heaters and end up with problems.
If you’re on a well, use your backup pump system. If you don’t have a backup system, one immune to fire and earthquake and the prepper-minded EMPs, you don’t actually have a water system. Turn it off.
Do it on a standard day. A day you’re not off backpacking, not working on your three-day bare-minimum drill doing a dry camp in the living room or backyard. Really ideally, do it in summer or autumn on the day(s) you’d be watering if you irrigate gardens, and on a day you’re hunting or harvesting some doves, chickens and rabbits.
For less-immersive comparison, just monitor the water gauge. For livestock on a non-metered system, fill containers that can have checks and tally lines added quickly.
Don’t let yourself become complacent or say, “well, that’s just because” to justify the amount of water used. Yes, our grooming standards can go down and change, and we can adopt some laundry methods and clothing treatment from the past that limit our uses more. Eventually, though, hygiene suffers.
If anything, a crisis is a time to focus more on proper hygiene.
Handwashing, especially, can make a major impact on fecal-oral route infections, which tend to be the root of most of the illnesses laymen call “food poisoning”.
If your hygiene is dependent on wipes, run that test as long as you can to get the best possible average for how many you run through per day. Whatever your backup toilet system is, use that.
Use the data to create a baseline. How much do you use? How long will your stored water last? What seasons can you reasonably count on resupply?
From there, we look for ways to increase our sources and our efficiency in harvesting and using the water we can access.
A Double-Edged Sword
Water is one of the few things we can’t do without, and a functioning stream, river or lake system or even just a marsh can make a huge positive impact on our preparedness. They aren’t without hazards, however.
Flooding is a primary risk, although healthy marsh systems can actually mitigate and minimize floods. Still, the levee systems in the U.S. are aging and Midwest floods aren’t uncommon. Colorado and Tennessee have both had major, devastating disasters due to river- or creek-originated floods.
In a protracted crisis, the hydro dams put in by the Tennessee Valley Authority and in the Northwest are likely to suffer failures, on top of the failures we see washing out roads and creating mudslides and large floods right now.
Failures combined with flooding can wash those contaminants into our farmlands, cities and suburbs, affecting creeks and wildlife long before and long after we can see the effects.
EPA Accidentally Turns Colorado River Orange With Pollution, Putting Drinking Water At Risk
Livestock are also a contamination risk to both well intakes and streams, just like human waste can already be right here in the U.S. Those risks are even more prevalent in some of the third-world nations that live without our level of basic services. Disease is rampant after earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods due to fecal wastes, and can be expected to go up after a major disaster.
Mosquitoes and the spread of ever increasing and previously “dead” diseases by insects are another risk.
Many of those risks can be limited with site selection and sculpting the land a little, by planting a few things that can help create buffers, predators, and sinks for water and its diseases and pests. An interruption in “easy” water after we’ve become accustomed to it is still the bigger and more likely threat for most of us.
While a gravity-driven well with a pressure-driven cistern would be ideal, not everybody is there. Not every well can either reach or hit the amounts needed for livestock and crop irrigation.
Pairing the unprecedented, super-filtration power of an all-new gravity block core with a hybrid ceramic shell, it removes 99.9999 percent of impurities, including bacteria, cysts, disinfectants, volatile organic contaminants (VOAs) and heavy metals.
A moving channel is a fantastic element to site. One aspect to watch for with small systems is that they don’t dry out in summer. Ideally, they won’t even dry up in the 25- and 50-year drought cycles.
Through much of history, moving water has helped us either with direct labor, such as the old mills we can still find here and there, or later by producing power for us to then use however we like.
Running streams, creeks and rivers can also turn water wheels that help us by lifting water into aqueduct systems or into cisterns that will produce enough gravity from water weight to push water further away from the source.
With even a small amount of motion, there are sling pumps capable of moving water for us. Even if a sling pump won’t reach all the way to gardens and livestock, saving us the bend-lift labor of filling buckets and being able to fill a cistern while we move the first load can make an enormous difference.
With greater rates of movement, we can create hydro re-directs to lessen some of our labors and in some cases produce small amounts of energy. We can dam small waterways to increase pressure or create channel- or pipe-based systems to generate power.
In some cases it’s not going to be a lot of electricity, but even the ability to slowly charge electric tools, appliances, and our music and photo devices can be a huge boost.
Slow it, Sink it, Spread it, Store it
In permaculture, there are several “S’s” promoted in regards to water. They simplify the desires to:
Catch water for future use
Prevent flooding even on the “daily” and seasonal scales, and by doing so prevent erosion and soil hardening via water (runoff, soil compaction)
Allow water to infiltrate so roots can access it, and to lift the water table for springs and swale systems
Keep chemicals and waste from running across landscapes and polluting our waters or gardens
Catchments are one way we capture water – storing it for later and preventing it from running wasted over the surface of the soil.
Water catchment on a huge scale was and still is used in Australia, with systems similar to water towers and large roof-to-cistern systems both above ground and below ground.
Sheep and cattle stations and small farmers also create nearly lock-style channels to store water for the three- to six-month dry seasons. Those systems can be duplicated in North America depending on local laws.
In places where regulations prohibit such large scale water harvesting or hoarding, it may be possible to obtain permits to put in lakes or ephemeral or permanent pond systems, which can function similarly and have added benefits for homesteads.
On a small scale, water can be stored using systems as complex as we like, or we can go simple and create pyramids or triangles of trickle-over buckets and barrels with no plumbing and just mesh or permeable cloth to prevent mosquito infestations.
Small, shallow swales sequester less, but can prevent damage from rains over years. Larger swales can hold more water, allowing that water a greater amount of time to infiltrate. That water then creates a “lens” beneath the surface of the soil and allows plants a longer period of time to access it.
Preexisting vegetation and the type of vegetation we want to put in, if we plan to move livestock through the swale systems and what type of livestock also affects what type of swale system will work best for us.
Reducing Reliance On Systems
We have to have some water, and ideally a constant source. However, even with the best of planning and siting, sometimes we run into droughts or damaged systems. One way to build resiliency to those is to lessen our overall dependence.
Silvopasture over turf can provide forage and fodder even in drought years, and lessen dependence on irrigated grains and delicate pasture and hay. Some silvopasture is coppiced, but most will be either pollarded or selective-drop of large limbs from each tree.
Our livestock selection can also lessen dependence.
Ducks tend to be wasteful of water, while with drip waterers, chickens can be highly efficient. Pigs really need a lot of water to gain weight efficiently, and they need regular access to it. Comparatively, dairy and meat goats need a little less access and less total water per pound of produce.
If we veer a little further away from the American norm, camels need less yet, and have traditionally been used for milk, meat and hides and in some cases angora just like llamas.
We can also look into more water efficient breeds from typically dry regions of the world. They may be more expensive as an initial investment and have less-efficient feed-milk-meat ratios, but in a survival situation, the fact that they do survive with little water may make them invaluable.
If we have a fair bit of property, we can also tailor habitat for hunting small game, and focus our water labors on egg and dairy producers.
Hugelkultur beds are another way to limit use and dependence on rainfall and irrigation. Once established, a properly sized and layered hugel bed requires almost no assistance at all. It retains and essentially generates moisture from within.
When we do use water, we can use it as many times as humanly possible instead of letting it run and flow past our fingers.
Gray water systems, using cooled cooking water in gardens or for livestock, and reclaiming runoff from sprouts and sprouted fodder for livestock or re-watering can all help decrease our total draw.
Then there are little things like using a cup of water to rinse while brushing teeth, and having catch basins for washing hands or rinsing produce that then gets used for laundry or put back into the garden systems – at least once, and in some cases, several times.
Water Is Life
We have always been dependent on water as a species, and civilization and modern post-industrial life has made us more so. However, we can look back at history and to some of the underdeveloped nations to find ways that we can harvest and store water against need, and in some cases, use water wheels and even small creeks or lake properties to help us move water or generate a little bit of power.
Pairing the unprecedented, super-filtration power of an all-new gravity block core with a hybrid ceramic shell, it removes 99.9999 percent of impurities, including bacteria, cysts, disinfectants, volatile organic contaminants (VOAs) and heavy metals.
There are a few tips here. The article about gardening in droughts has additional lessons from fairly recent history that can be applied to reduce water uses for human and livestock food production, large scale or small, urban or rural.
When we’re ready to delve into long-term disaster planning, water needs to be a focus. Without water, and a backup plan for water, all the rest of our preparations become null and void in a large-scale emergency.
Water can also be dangerous. It’s worth researching the local flood patterns, especially pre-levee system, and looking up the diseases, symptoms and cures common to waterways in third world nations and after disasters.
In preparation for National Geographic’s American Blackout ; I wanted to create my own power outage checklist for preppers. The premise of the show from the website is “the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyber-attack — told in real time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones.” If nothing else, I hope the situations they present inspire and motivate others to be more prepared if we are ever faced with a situation like this.
Even if we aren’t ever the victim of any cyber-attack that takes down the electrical grid, power outages do happen all of the time. Knowing what you need to have to weather an outage and having a plan for living through the power disruption is important. As with anything else preparedness related, you are better off planning and organizing what you need well in advance of any emergency. The old prepping adage is that it is better to be five years early than one day late.
The list below is broken into different chunks of information and follows a good, better, best type of format. Good items are the absolute minimum you need for a given scenario which so happens in this case to be our power outage. Better will keep you above the minimum requirements giving you additional flexibility and capabilities. Best is our recommendation for what you would ideally have to make it through most conceivable scenarios provided outside influences don’t change your situation. Best isn’t perfect, but it does put you on a posture for success. For most items I have added links to Amazon or other shopping outlets so you can order and price these items for yourself.
We will be using the same assumption that National Geographic is using for American Blackout and that is a 10 day power outage. We will assume that for the duration of this power outage, you are able to shelter in place and aren’t forced to leave your home. Where you live and what time of year this happens will influence some of your choices below but I’ll try to call that out where appropriate. I probably won’t go into some of the situations we as a country could be faced with in the aftermath of something like this, but in terms of basic survival we should have all the bases covered.
There is no more power
A power blackout from a cyber-attack will not be announced. An attack either on systems that deliver power to our homes or from an EMP attack will come without warning. You won’t get news reports for several days in advance like with a hurricane. You won’t have any time to run to the store to buy the items on this checklist before the blackout. You will have to use what you have on hand, or can acquire almost immediately after the blackout has occurred before panic sets in. Once people learn the power isn’t coming back on anytime soon, there will be chaos and you don’t want to be anywhere near that.
What do we need to prepare for living without in a power blackout caused by a cyber-attack?
The ability to run any electronic devises without batteries – This includes ATM’s, credit card machines, cash registers (I’ll deal with this in security), gas pumps…
Backup power and tying into your home’s electrical system require skill. If you don’t know what you are doing, call an electrician to avoid costly and potentially fatal mistakes. Solar Panels may require additional equipment.
Rechargeable Batteries for all headlamps enough to charge a set and use a set at the same time.
As with anything flammable, candles and oil lamps should be used carefully and not while anyone is sleeping.
You quickly find out how much we take for granted during a power outage at two points. The first is when you flick that light switch on by habit and nothing happens. The second is when you want to cook something and are faced with the reality that you might have to eat those leftovers cold.
In the context of the power blackout, we discussed that you would not be disposed from your home, so this is really talking about protecting yourself from the extremes of heat or cold. Most of the items below could pull double duty as camping equipment.
Appropriate clothing for the temperature. Warm weather calls for clothes that dry quickly and wick moisture away. Cold weather usually means layers and warm additions like hats and gloves.
Spare blankets/ screens for windows depending on weather.
Security like some of these other topics is more complicated so a list like this is subject to a lot of scrutiny. We do cover this subject in much greater detail in our Self Defense section of our website.
As I mentioned above, lists like these are going to be subject to scrutiny. Without devoting a few paragraphs to each topic, this list could spawn a lot of questions. Fortunately, the Prepper Journal has articles on just about every one of these subjects so the information is here. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below.
I love modern technology, particularly the electronics that allow me to communicate so quickly and easily. Even so, the loss of that capability – for whatever reason it’s lost – doesn’t have to be entirely devastating. We communicate not only without our electronics, but without noise all the time.
I tap my wrist, hold up my hand with my fingers splayed. Across a room, instantly, I’ve told someone they have five minutes, or that I need/want five minutes. I tap beside my eyes, point in a general direction, and then point lower or higher in an aisle of a store. It tells somebody at the other end that I found what we’re looking for, or that I want them to look at something, and then where more specifically that something is.
We do it nearly instinctively, some of us more than others. While hand gestures especially change meaning culture to culture, the ability to communicate without speaking is inherent to our species. It has been since before the first cave painting.
Recently the topic of communication without radios came up. The possible reasons for a non-radio life are pretty varied – a generator or solar panels with significant damage, low winter light, extended-time crisis when even rechargeable batteries are exhausted, seasons and locations when it’s hard to get messages through, EMPs and solar storms, neighbors who have the skills to survive but don’t have the same EMP-proof stockpiles we do, newer homesteaders and preppers who can survive but haven’t moved into serious “thrive” supplies yet.
There are also times we want to communicate, but don’t necessarily want to be heard. Hunting and tactical reasons are two of those.
History and modern technology have given us a lot of options to work around those possibilities and needs. Here are a few.
Morse code can be applied to a lot of communication options. While it’s primarily associated with radios, it was once a common ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication method using light instead.
Navy signalman using Morse –
It wasn’t until I started looking for an image online that I realized how dependent people are on the blinker-clicker features of their flashlights for light-transmitted Morse. If you have a milspec light that can take that abuse, great.
If not, cover and uncover your flashlight with your hand. It’s still fast and easy.
For some of us with broken and aging fingers, and for people who are turning their lights on and off to get the same effect, it’s not only actually easier, sometimes faster, it’s also going to save your light a lot of wear and tear.
You can use a laser pointer for it as well, or cover and uncover a battery-candle-oil lantern with a box (or an oatmeal tub, coffee can, small ones with your hand).
Light stands out like it’s cool at night. Even a little green-red-blue laser light. It travels a long way when it’s dark-dark.
If you’re only trying to not stand out to everybody with one of those insane fifty-yard beams and you’re working from a set, expected position, you can signal by flashing the laser light or a flashlight into your palm or onto your chest, onto a tree or certain wall that’s visible from another location but not most of the property.
If you anticipate the need to really not be seen by anybody but your LOS partner, carry a flattened toilet paper roll wrapped around your small flashlight. (Flattened but tube, not sliced.)
When you’re ready to send a message back to the house, to the other side of a building, along the length of a wall, or down a roadway, cup the tube in one hand so you’re blocking the back, and stick the front of the light just inside it. Or, hold a laser sight/pointer just outside it.
The roll contains the light, so only somebody facing you sees it. If you want, add a mirror or a white disk to the palm to make it a little easier for that person to see.
I pretty much prefer those two general methods, regardless, because you stand a really good chance of blinding the person you’re trying to signal, or at least giving them dots in the eyes, especially with a pointer.
The sea services have been using specific flags to communicate since some of the earliest days, from pirates warning about trying to run from them, warning others that illnesses are aboard, to requesting assistance. This site has a list of international signal flags, their phonetic name, and the navy/maritime meanings.
The phonetic name becomes valuable, because some of the meanings at sea translate directly or with minor modification to things we face on land, too. The Morse, semaphore, or ASL of the phonetic name can be flashed or signed to convey a whole thought or message, just as a flag would.
The flags can be made – painted on boards or drawn on cards to use in windows or to be flashed, or drawn in chalk on a wall or sidewalk as needed. It doesn’t have to be fabric, or flying in the air.
Any flag, banner, or windsock at all can be part of group and neighbor communication.
If we all normally fly the local team’s colors, but somebody puts it at half-mast or upside down, they could be saying they need help – or they’re ready for harvest/planting assistance. One person with a weather station might say rain, so a blue banner goes up. A black cross on yellow might mean a woman went into labor and the local sheep keeper would be welcome as a midwife. A black dot might mean there’s sickness – don’t come calling.
A flag might also just mean all’s well here, and a quick snip to drop it on the way past alerts all the rest that the gunfire wasn’t practice, it’s real, or that there’s a fire-fire, not burning waste or smoking out bees.
We can get as creative or simple as we want.
Another powerful tool in the box for sending messages visually, with the same alpha-numeric capabilities of Morse, is semaphore signaling – that signalman out there with the two bright flags or cone lights. Semaphore flag signaling was also once done using a single flag in just four positions (you can find it called wigwag signaling as well).
With two flags, there are fewer combinations to remember, but you also have to have two flags – and hands – available. For both, a larger line-of-sight space is required so the flags can be seen.
Various established codes provide shorthand communication for “Suspicious vehicle” (10-37), “your keying is hosed and hit every branch of the ugly tree on its way down” (QSD), “Report to [location]” (10-25), “stand by” (QRX), and “Be super-duper quiet” (“Do not use siren or flashers”) (10-40).
Those are all phrases we might use, from communicating across a yard or across a farm, as a simple survivor with a neighbor or family, or as a group with defensive and patrol forces. 10-codes especially have a lot of preexisting elements that are of use in many situations.
They can be transmitted with clicks, whistles, a pipe smacked with a hammer, marker on a dry erase board, flashed/blinker lights, or using semaphore flag(s) and hand signals.
We can also easily modify or truncate existing codes.
“QRO” (are you troubled by static noise) can become “do you hear anything”.
10-81 (breathalyzer report) becomes “just a drunk”.
10-90 (bank alarm) can become a prefacing code for an audio or visual alarm, with the location following it.
As with cop and amateur radio codes, there are hospital codes that can apply or be readily modified to fit life without radio communication. Heavy equipment operators and divers also have signals we can steal and modify. Knowing the common motorcyclist signals can be applied to daily life as well as serious disasters.
Military Hand Signals
Whether we’re ever planning to clear a house or a yard with another person or not, military and police hand signals also have applications for many situations. The numbers alone are useful. There are also action-information signals that are pretty handy.
The difference between “stop” and “freeze” gets used with my dumb dog 20 and 200 feet from our house with some regularity. I prefer to just go extract her or the ball from my pots and planters, but sometimes I just want her to stay generally where she is while a car passes. “Go back” translates to “out/away” in our world – I want her to back away from me, usually while I’m playing with sharp things or might squish her.
I originally thought it was just my quirky father telling dogs, the rest of the family, and hunting buddies that we were going to the vehicle with his “steering wheel” gesture. For a while I though the military had stolen the “down” signal from hunters with dogs.
Turned out, not so much. He just modified them from his military days.
Even without need for silence, it’s just really easy to whistle or clap a hand once, tap a window, ring a triangle, and then make a quick gesture, as opposed to shouting fifteen times or hiking out to somebody.
The gestures themselves are rooted in military hand signals we each learned (decades apart). In most of my lifetime’s applications of them, they’ve had no military bearing at all. But like the ability to say “I love you” a last time from a window, or immediately flag a distress signal in a boating-savvy community, they entered into our world and stayed in use.
American sign language has some of the same benefits as the everyday-everyone useful military signals. There are a world’s worth of truncated single-gesture shorthand signs, for everything from “man” or “female child” to “taking lunch”. Deaf-mute people are able to hold the same sophisticated conversation as speaking and hearing folks. The addition of spelling and broader concepts to military hand signals allows ASL signers to be more specific across even distance, silently.
It’s also just a handy skill to have and might increase your employability when you stick it on a resume.
As with flags and hand signals, we can take cues from history and modern eras with leaving drawn symbols – or flashing cards and posters – as well.
Here’s a fairly comprehensive listing of WWII symbols. It wouldn’t be completely crazy talk to go with another nation’s symbols, such as German or Russian, if you want to keep the information a little more segmented, although there tends to be a lot of commonality.
The old hobo symbols can be a little tricky. I can think of three or four for “safe water” alone. It also means adjusting from “black spot of death” and “X marks the spot” to slashes and X’s are bad, and dots are good.
However, from “dangerous man” and “vicious dogs” to “rickety bridge” or “avoid this in rain”, there are many apply, whether we’re planning on a community, thinking “Kilroy” situations, or just making notes for family or a core group.
The symbols also allow us to quickly and easily annotate our own maps for areas of concern or resources.
The limitation to all of these is line of sight. But in some to many cases, being able to communicate even from a driveway to the house, the length of a hall, or stacked in a ditch, without making noise or taking a lot of time, makes them worth considering. There’s a good reason many of them have never faded from use, even with today’s technology.
If you want to communicate at range in the dark, you’ll need flashlights or pointers, (or oil-candle lanterns if your non-radio needs are expected due to long-duration interruptions in shipping). For us, that’s balanced, because we have lights on us, almost always, but not always a cell signal and not always a radio. That might not hold true for everyone.
Hand and flag signals are limited in range, while light carries longer distance. However, blinker-light comms is only really reliable at night. I may be able to use red boards, car windshield heat reflectors, or white flags to increase range in the daytime.
The number-one piece of gear for longer-distance communication without electronics is going to be binoculars or a scope.
Day or night, if I can’t see what you’re sending, clearly, we have delays or miscommunication. They’re inexpensive enough and should be part of most preparedness closets anyway.
If you’re mostly in brush country and are only talking about distances of double-digit yards, don’t break the bank there – there are more important things. If you’re looking at using blinker lights and somebody climbing a windmill or water tower daily or weekly to do a neighborhood-town flag check, a simple scope should work.
It’s also a lot to learn.
Instead of planning to use all of them, maybe take notes, print guides, but cherry pick. The very basic hand signals (heard, saw, numbers, armed or unarmed, child, adult, animal, danger, recover/relax, say again) and basic Morse code would take priority. 10 and Q codes can be added on. A few flags or graphics to represent ideas or situations follow.
Radio Silence Backups
The point is not to discourage anyone with fifty-five million more things to learn or buy. It’s that we have lots of options even if electronics-driven communication becomes unavailable. With any luck, there are some ideas here that can add some resiliency and redundancy to existing plans.
And, since a lot of it is learning based, not resource based, non-radio comms can be a way to improve preparedness with free-inexpensive skill building while saving up for purchases.
Something that can be of value to any prepper at any stage of development, even urban preppers in tight dwellings, is planning. Permaculture’s sectors and zone maps are two of the most powerful tools for developing a plan, both for assessing risks, identifying resources, and developing efficient plans for a site.
Usually sectors gets covered first. I’m going to cover Zones instead. I highly endorse doing a search for “permaculture sectors” – that’s where risks and resources are going to be found. Research it with an eye for defensive and evacuation potential as well.
Zone mapping in permaculture is where we define areas by our presence, using activity and energy input level. By consolidating things that need the same amount of interaction, or even each other, we can greatly increase our efficiency. With a map that actually shows our patterns, and our goals, we can move or site things to maximize that efficiency.
Permaculture zones are abstract geographic areas delineated from the other areas of our property – or our habitual paths – by the amount of time we spend in that area. The zones are based on access, not geographic nearness to our homes and beds. Many zone map examples are shown in concentric rings, but actual zones are drawn and defined by our energy and presence, not distance.
Permaculture universally recognizes 5 zones, in ascending order based on the time we spend there. Sometimes there’s a Zone 0 for the self or the home. The primary-activity and most-visited zones are Zones 1 and 2.
1– Very intensive presence – Most active, usually multiple trips/passes daily
2 – Intensive use – Active, possibly still multiple visits per day, but not quite as frequent as Zone 1
Zone 1 is where your paths most frequently take you. It’s based almost entirely on our human environment.
Things like kitchen herbs and table gardens that need irrigation or are harvested from daily, pets and livestock that are visited daily for care or entertainment, and daily waste and composting areas are located in Zone 1.
Our kitchens and bathrooms are pretty automatic on a household/apartment level, although in permaculture, most will automatically stick the whole house in Zone 0-1.
I don’t, because I have a front stoop I almost never go in/on/through, a spare bedroom I’m only in one part of the year, only pass through my den, and on a daily basis, I usually only poke my head into the living room if I’m looking for a person or a dog. On the other hand, my father spends far more time in the living room. He rarely uses his kitchen porch, whereas my mother and I are on ours ten to fifteen times a day for access to the yard, gardens, or letting animals in and out.
The inclinations between the back and kitchen doors and-or time spent in different rooms change the views and the opportunities our presence offers. For us, it matters. For others, maybe not as much.
Zone 1 sometimes includes livestock, or sometimes they’re bumped to Zone 2, even if they’re livestock we bed down and release, milk, collect eggs from, or feed twice daily.
Zone 2 includes those areas that may not see quite as much human interaction. Regularly permies will include things like perennials with longer seasons between harvests and less daily and weekly care needed, and some livestock like foraging cattle or meat goats.
Zones 3 and 4 see increasingly less human interaction and fewer human inputs (or will, once established).
Zone 3 is larger elements, usually – the bulk foods like grains and orchards, animal pastures, ponds. They are things we may only see weekly, monthly or quarterly.
Zone 4 gets even less interaction. Usually this is managed land, tailored for foraging, livestock fodder and crop trees, timber, and longer-term grazing.
Zone 5 is an area that humans largely leave alone. Some will define this as an entirely wild area. Some will define it as a managed wild area.
To some, it’s for nature and only nature – left as a green-way – while to others, periodic hunting or foraging in this area is expected. For others, Zone 5 might be brush piles, frog houses, owl and dove and bat houses, little native patches of weeds, and other things we scatter through a yard and garden and affix to buildings to encourage helpful wildlife.
This site deepgreenpermaculture.com has a more detailed set of examples and some graphics of Zone definitions. It also has some subsections about common zone sizes.
Permaculture Research Institute – Urban farm rabbits located over composting bins, near water catchment, and along path between house, shed and garage.
Urban & Suburban Sites
There’s nothing wrong with taking a set of known factors and twitching it. Zone definitions can be rearranged and relisted, tailoring them to fit our lifestyles.
For an apartment, condo, or a single-family home on less than a half-acre, zones shrink and include our floorplan. When we turn to sector mapping, we zoom out and include more of our neighborhood with condos and small yards, but that “zoom” can apply to zones as well.
Regardless of where we’re going, or what’s around us as we putter through the day, our habits tend to change by season, and what’s around us changes. There may be areas we can “expand” into besides our own property.
That’s really worthy of its own article, but some examples would be any areas we can hit with seed bombs for wild edibles or for plants that can be improving the soil now for use in a crisis. We might have parks, verges, ditches and other areas that are untapped resources but are on some of our daily, weekly and monthly beaten paths. We might also find landowners (or absent landowners) to talk to about growing space, or have rooftops or fire escape landings that we can use for planters and water catchment, now or “after”.
Knowing where we go most frequently will help even the tiniest studio prepper identify places that have the most potential with the least effort – and that’s really what efficiency is all about, with efficiency one of the major gods of the permies.
What I recommend and what I do for clients is to actually print three identical maps. Two are for “right now”, and are going to be our habitual activity maps, one for the “high season” when we’re outside the most and one for the “slow season” when we’re outside least.
The third map is going to be our “ideal” map – what we’re about to work to make happen.
See, we’re going to use these maps to identify existing zones using our current activity. However, going back to efficiency, we’re also going to use them as a planning tool. Some of the trends we identify will lead to changes, hopefully consolidating our zones of activity for better efficiency.
We can also nab a wider view for our neighborhoods, even as home- and landowners.
Those with significant acreage might want to do one map set with just the house and the 0.5-1 acre it sits on and a second set with the whole property and a margin around it.
Supplies for Mapping
Printing and drawing really is the easiest way to make this happen. You can use computer programs to trace lines that will progressively darken or lighten with every pass. That’s not crazy talk, since it offers opportunities to make multiple-scale maps at once, then just zoom in and out. For the average client, it’s a black-and-white drawing or Google map of their property, regularly with a chunk of the surrounding area that’s going to leave some margin for additional notes.
I really like the Google Earth maps that are nice and up-to-date, and that you can adjust by season and time of day. They let you pick noon in the barest of winter, which lets you “see” more of your property. If you can’t get a free submission to Google Earth, find out if a local library has it, do some screen grabs at various zooms/scales and print them off wherever it’s cheapest.
For paper, standard letter 8.5×11” is fine, or we can go up to 11×17 or even 17×24” if we want.
We’ll also want some coloring supplies.
A couple of sharpened crayons or colored pencils are fine. Markers also work, although you either want really fine points or really big maps. Aim for colors that are easy to see on a simple map, that you’ll be able to see the map through (no dark Sharpies or pens), and that will darken as you overlap lines. Red, orange, blue, and pale purple tend to work really well.
If you only want to print one map, no big there. Hit the dollar store for some of that thin notebook or copy paper that you can trace through. You can shine a light through some plastic or use a bright window to help see better. Call it an overlay.
You can also create a larger map and make overlays of your zones and sectors using contact paper and map pens or grease pencils.
Overlays will also help reduce printing in case you decide you want to add seasonal maps, do maps for each member of the family, or combine everything into a single map.
It’s also a backup against an ill-timed sneeze, doggy nose-bump, or a beloved’s alarm going off and making us jump with a marker in our hand. Hey, we’re preppers. Prepare for crazy things.
The Process of Activity Mapping
This is where the “darkens as we overlap lines, but not too dark” comes into play. Observe, then color.
Start with your first work-day wake-up, and trace your tracks through the house, then outside it. Back and forth, bathroom, coffee, paper, animals, meals, vehicles, back and forth, all through your day until you tuck yourself in at night. To and from the bus, trash can, walking the dogs, as we hang out and retrace steps from vehicles or gardens to sheds and garages, the hose, indoor faucets, all the way down our rows and around our flower/garden beds.
Don’t draw bird-flies straight lines. Trace the actual path everyone takes. Then repeat for the work week, and the weekend.
Remember, it’s the overlaps – resulting in darker colors – that give us our current intensity of use. Be honest with yourself. You’re the one who does or doesn’t benefit.
Your existing zone map just drew itself.
The darkest areas are your 0-1-2 zones. Your palest and untouched areas are your Zone 4 and really, really excellent places to expand that Zone 4 or develop your Zone 5.
Now we go through, and kind of divide those spaces into blobs and blurbs and modern art. We can re-draw or trace our map and give them different colors now, or make them more uniform shades, or just more clearly delineate edges.
You should be able to identify some of the areas you only hit a couple of times a year, like pruning, or places we inspect and repair only as needed.
We should also be observant enough to know those wide, looping, lightly-drawn areas are only us mowing – and maybe we keep those in our map in their apparent zones, or maybe we go back and remove those, or lighten them to more accurately reflect how much attention they actually get while they’re getting mowed. Otherwise, especially for us Southerners, our summer map is going to show our twice-weekly or 2-6 times-monthly sing-along ride or teenager’s slave labor as getting more attention than our workshop and laundry room.
Shoveling snow and raking leaves has some impact on applying the information we just gathered, but not really a ton, so you can go light there, too, if you like.
Applying the Zone Map
Our map doesn’t just sit there. It’s a tool, one of many.
Most of us are likely to have some of our darker/intense areas out there on their own, and many of us likely have dark lines like a drunken spider’s web hooking and criss-crossing.
Those oddball dark jags are places where we can consolidate some of our activities, instead of leaving them suspended and isolated. That will save us time and effort, which will make us more efficient.
When we plan to expand gardens or even change where we keep the tools we use, consult the existing zone map. Places we’re already passing make excellent locations for those.
If we’re passing them regularly, they get more attention and we see that they’re dry, being eaten by critters, sick and sad, or ready to harvest. Being faster to respond to them, and able to respond immediately with tools if necessary, will result in better yields.
Worm bin composter located near the source of feed and easy access to water.
Sometimes we might look at our plan and actively renovate things we already have in place – especially if those things don’t get the attention they should. The extra attention and ease may make it worth it to switch from conventional beds to a series of trash cans turned into vertical gardens, from hot composting piles kept across the yard to a pipe composter in a keyhole bed or a worm composter near the kitchen or the trash.
We may move livestock so it’s faster and easier to get them into gardens for pest control or tilling, or to get composted manure onto large plots. We might move them somewhere else so they’re easier to toss kitchen scraps to.
We might eschew the usual advice of sticking an orchard out-out so we can put small livestock under it, or to make some additional use of our dog runs and kids’ play areas.
Things like the sectors that affect our property, stacking elements and stacking functions, mapping water movement, and switching to low- or lower-labor growing styles that fit into our busy lives can all help make our properties, big or small, more efficient and productive.
A zone map will help us further analyze where we can increase our efficiency and help us visualize how the puzzle pieces of our production and resources can best fit together. We can then play with the map, marking future expansions to see how they’ll fit in with our current traffic flows and patterns, and make our properties more versatile, resilient and productive all over again.
What is a flashlight? It is a storage container for dead batteries as are all other battery-operated devices. We all know this, after all who hasn’t gone to “the dark side” when chasing down that one 9-v that has failed in a smoke detector in the middle of the night?
Another consideration when buying batteries, or any other “powered or fueled” piece of gear is “diversity”. In this case, less diversity is a good thing (try posting that sentence on Facebook!) You will of course have your cell phone (so the government can track you) so one “unique” battery in 2017 and beyond is a given.
However, having to carry chargers for AA, AAA, C, D and 9-v batteries is not smart. Factoring in the chargers you need along with the rechargeable batteries themselves can become a source of weight and confusion, but, like doing your taxes, you must do it! It is worth the investment in time and brainpower. Resign yourself to the fact that you will, most likely, not be able to get away with just one. Make it simple, do your homework, select your cadre of battery operated devices and then compromise on what you can to make sure you have the fewest number of chargers and rechargeable batteries to carry. Reduced weight and increased efficiency are what every prepper should consider in the selection of every component, especially if you plan involves moving from base, or the situation forces you to change plans and abandon a base.
Another consideration is a portable energy storage system which is a science of its own (and the subject of an upcoming post.) These offer some interesting options that will support your rechargeable battery selection and they can be found reasonably priced.
BTW, when a smoke detector does go full-on PSYCHO replace the batteries in them all because they are like lemmings! R.I.P.
Now, I have been doing this for over ten years and have been actively involved in a small community of like-minded people for almost as much time – and I have seen plenty of folks come and go (especially since the rise of the show Doomsday Preppers). I – more so than a lot of people involved in this – have dealt with A LOT of other preppers face to face and I want to talk about the patterns that I have seen form over the years.
Before anything else I will quickly mention one thing that has been repeated a lot but is always worth mentioning – physical fitness! I have met people who hold the belief that it doesn’t matter if they cannot handle a flight of stairs as ‘the weight will come off when it needs too’ and ‘my body will adapt’. You can be the best prepared and equipped person on Earth but the harsh reality is that day zero will involve a lot of hard work, even if you intend to hunker down, you need to take into consideration preparing your AO and getting there. The reality is that no matter the event, prepping without the willingness to make some sacrifice to fitness is hoarding under a different name.
Now with that over with…
Skills – not stuff!
All too frequent is the mentality that having lots of “things” is going to make a SHTF scenario easier; while yes, there is a baseline amount of prepping supplies that will improve your chances and are basically necessities (A good knife, a map, a plan, and a gun depending on how you feel about the situation) that isn’t everything. What I am talking about is the huge tendency to believe that having an object is the same as being able to use said object proficiently.
Using a knife as an example – I believe that you will be hard pressed to find a single prepper that doesn’t carry a knife and have a good fixed blade somewhere. However I would say over 80% of preppers do not have knife skills, what I mean by this is do you know you to whittle, make traps, baton well, the uses for various knife blades and shapes, and how to dress a kill for hide and meat?
The same can be said of maps – yes navigating when you know your initial position is easy, but in the event you get disoriented can you triangulate your position with landmarks. What if you do not know the area, can you still find your way around?
Prepping – like engineering, is not about having the most of everything, it is about having the right amount of everything. Whether you intend to stay or bug out, it is of course important to have the skills (Can you pack a bag correctly etc). However I see many people approaching with a mindset of hoarding will make things easier, as an example I spoke to a man whom had 43 different weapons with almost 500 days of non-perishable food. This mindset of buying without realizing that in a SHTF scenario every item you bring or stock has a cost.
For example with every weapon that man owned he was paying a price in 3 different ways.
Obviously, space and weight. That 2.5 Kg rifle could be swapped for 2.5 Kg of water purification tablets, ammunition or tools – people tend to think of prepping items of – it is good to have. Instead try to think of it in a mindset of ‘what else could I bring instead’.
Finally, almost everything that is a tool for your own survival is also a tool AGAINST your survival. A bigger stash makes you more attractive to bandits and in this situation the only reason to have that many weapons was to maintain a guard force large enough to protect 200-300 people. If your plan is to conscript people and form a sizable community for survival that is fine, but having 40 people armed and only having enough farming tools and equipment to support 10 long-term is very dangerous.
Learn to maintain and make everything!
This is less applicable for people prepping for 3-4 day events like earthquakes and more aimed at people prepping for a complete breakdown of human society for an indefinite period of time. All too often I hear statements like ‘I have these 2 really super high quality solar panels so I will be fine’ unfortunately the reality is even the most expensive and well made tools money can buy are unlikely to survive 10 years of use. It may not be a nice reality but the reality is that any tool that you bring that cannot be replicated with basic machining knowledge and tools is temporary.
Learn the basics of reshaping scrap metal and wood – learn to make a furnace with materials that are renewable (Think clay and charcoal for the fire). Learn as much passing knowledge on simple items as possible, learn to make bows, furniture, simple houses, simple clothes, simple bags, and anything along that line – not only will it be useful in equipping your group but also for trading, a working and replaceable long-range weapon like a bow will be worth more than luxury cars 15 years after a collapse.
And finally, learn how to lead and how humans think.
Prepping has a strong theme of different strokes for different folks but one of the most common themes is ‘Everyone is going to be marauders and is going to be after me and I am going to have to kill so many hapless raiders and that justifies my federal armory of weapons!’. I have served, and I have been in disaster situations both long and short-term and the reality is there will be raiders for maybe a week – tops.
After that people will work together on a small-scale (think tribes) because we are naturally altruistic. After maybe a year or two and people are established raids will begin again. Preppers are almost always very exclusionary – I have met people who think the world will end if you share your beans but it is almost exactly the opposite.
People, given tools and direction can and will work and provide for themselves and the unprepared group who bands together will outlast the lone prepper. Television always portrays survival groups as a bunch of assholes all fighting for dominance all the time but really, it is the opposite! Almost always everyone just agrees they need food or whatever and no one steps up to the plate to really make decisions. Be that person and you will form a group of 20-30 people who will work for you and with you to make everyone’s lives better – it is how we are programmed.
The final note I leave you with on this topic is that people always form tribes and tribes are ALWAYS communal. Don’t expect that refusing to share what you have will extend your life at all.
Halloween is arguably one of the best days of the year to conduct surveillance, practice your bug out drills, and really test your prepper OPSEC. This is the only day out of the year where you are not only allowed to go on other people’s property but are actually incentivized and encouraged to do so while wearing an outfit designed to protect your identity. Now “full disclosure” I have never gone “trick or treating” nor do I have any desire to do so. However I have done some surveillance and drills on Halloween and these are the five things I have learned, and what I look for on my surveillance runs!
Learn your Bug Out Route
This is the perfect time to get a good bug out route in place. There will be an abnormal amount of traffic in the general vicinity especially on foot. People who generally would not be out at night will be roaming the street begging for morsels while decorated in their scariest attire. Generally most preppers talk about a night bug out being tactically advantageous, well this is the best experience you will get in a night setting without there being an actual catastrophe. Adding the value of the sophistication of the numerous outfits it will feel like a real “Purge” scenario, just adding to the hype and excitement. This will give you a real feel for what to expect in regards to the density of people, movement of traffic and the heart pumping realism of getting into the spirit of being in a WROL situation. Not to mention a great way to get the family together for an adventure rooted in the reality of a WROL situation. At the minimum you can have the family together dressed up to take on the world. Afterwards you can have a pizza, your favorite dessert and watch your favorite scary movie together as a family. What’s better than that?
Learn the Neighborhood Security
This is an excellent time to learn what the security around your neighborhood is. When going around the block you can see the openly advertised security signs, neighborhood gates, even beware of dog signs and you can see what infrastructure is set in place whether that be fences, locks, metal bars, motion detecting flood lights, barking dogs, natural topography etc. In a normal setting walking around taking note of local neighborhoods and underlying infrastructure would be seen as very suspicious but during Halloween foot traffic is quite normal so use it to your advantage. This will give you the ability to see what individual houses use as security and to see what security parameters are in place in a certain neighborhood which will give you a greater “security site picture” and a better understanding of the overall community as a whole.
When walking through a neighborhood you get a lot of information about it by what kind of political innuendoes presented on the yard. There is no better way to advertise ones biases then by putting signs up for the whole world to read. So if I see signs in support of Madame Hillary Clinton and or local liberal community organizers I can make a solid case that this neighborhood is probably not in favor of values held by conservatives or libertarian like the 2nd Amendment, and preparedness. Vice versa if I were to see signs in support of a conservative Military/ LEO veteran Sheriff who is a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment chances are I will find individuals who are armed. This goes for car stickers and Flags (American, POW, American Jack, LGBT etc.). If I see a house with a vehicle with Pro/Anti constitution sticker or an American/LGBT flag raised it gives me a better understanding to the mindset of that household.
I can say without equivocation that natural topography is huge factor especially when thinking with a tactical mindset. Understanding what kind of terrain you will be operating in is paramount. Walking on a flat riverbed path is much different from an uphill rocky path. Knowing where water sources are, where different types of topography intersect is something that you should know or at least be familiar with. Especially when operating in low light conditions. Also remember with topography comes unique animal/plant life considerations. Snakes, Bears, spiders, deer, coyotes all of which can be found in the forest. While in snakes, scorpions, cougars, rabbits, and wild dogs can be found in the rocky desert. Also take the time to see if there is any edible/poisonous plantation in your area. Bottom line; get to know your area, terrain, and the players involved.
Density and Movement of people
The density of groups and the pattern by which they move and interact with each other is a topic that one could talk for years about. The whole academic scholarship of anthropology is really centered on these premises. We can discuss if we as humans do this consciously or subconsciously but the fact remains that we do it. So when you’re out there take note of the general movement of people, group sizes and demographics of those groups. See if there is a certain pattern of traffic flow. Do certain groups follow other groups? The incentive in this case is for the individuals to find the most resources (candy, treats etc.). Some will go out with a game plan based upon prior experience while some will wing it while others will follow those who they feel will get the most return on their investment. You may even learn a few shortcuts you didn’t know where there before! Knowing this information will help you better understand how your local communities interact with one another and will allow you to understand how to be the best “Greyman” you can be. Lastly I’ll leave you with this tidbit; chances are if there is a favorite home or neighborhood during the “quote” holidays then it will probably be just as popular during a catastrophe.
Now this is by no means an exhaustive list of things to note however this is a great-itemized list for starters. It’s also important to note that I don’t in any way condone any kind of actions that would violate any state, local, or federal law or ordinances. Now with that being said you will be hard pressed to find a better day to either put your plans into motion or gather critical Intel on your local area. If you have to be out with the family dressed like a princess or zombie you mind as well give your family and yourself the ultimate doomsday experience, and capitalize on the ease of intelligence surveying, and route planning.
The final thought I’ll leave you with is this, if you don’t plan to roam the streets but would rather “stay and play” (distribute candy, treats, resources etc.) what would someone learn about your household, neighborhood or community?
Prepping is a fun hobby! Buy guns and ammo and plot how to wipe out the hungry hoards of neighbors trying to steal your MREs in a grid down WROL scenario. But, like life, the fun stuff is not really useful when SHTF happens in SHTF. This short article is designed to make you think about your circumstances as I go on and on and on about mine and what I would do.
Life in 2018 was different from life in 2017. I got up at dawn and went to bed at dusk. In between exhausted sleep in my smelly sleeping bag I find, chop, haul, and carry all day long. Wood, soil, water, and parts of wrecked houses all need to be gathered each and everyday as I try to build a life again without the aid of prepping videos or Final Prepper. I wish I’d downloaded that site before the War started! Too late now. What will your life be like in SHTF after the bombs stop falling and after the first Winter has seen the largest die off in human beings in our short and terminally stupid history? More to the point of this article, safely printed out and sealed in plastic, is what can happen to you and how will you prepare to deal with it after all the fun stuff has ended? Prepping for Year Two is a good mental exercise as it is too easy to get caught up in the first few weeks however stimulating that is (Check out BZA RZA GZA for the best shtf story of all time ).
Good health is more valuable than gold but is ignored until it is no longer there. Year Two I had some bad luck but I lived and we restarted civilization thanks to the Borgs (funny we called them that and they still do not know why!) so I can post my experiences in case another SHTF happens! SHTF ended by an alien invasion, now why did no one else think that would ever happen.
Huples Gets A Cold
Despite years of being a vegan and eating mostly vegan in SHTF I got a bad cold while trading some amaranth seeds for seed corn at the community market. I felt tired all day yesterday but I feel tired everyday. This morning I ache all over and my throat and head are killing me. I think I have a fever but there are no thermometers left working. Oh how I wish I’d kept those mercury ones I had when I started my nurse training.
Dragging out of bed I light the BioLite with wood stored in the hut. Love this stove but the electricity no longer is produced and the fan is dead. Still it reminds me of happier days camping. I drink mint tea and go back to my bed. Later I have a sneezing fit and green snot shoots out of my nose. Still I know I have a cold so two to three days rest and keep hydrated should fix me. No need to panic as I have several weeks worth of wood stored in the hut along with a lot of water. I’m not that hungry so I break out my emergency rations and have soup and oatmeal. I’m glad I kept pre War rations for when I’m sick. Going out to fish and forage would be very, very hard especially as I am not thinking very straight.
I also use some of my stored honey and apple cider vinegar to make a gargle. I also add in some dried raspberry leaves. Sadly I have no lemon juice anymore as a dash of that would help. I do have some single malt scotch and I have a generous amount of that at dinner time with my stored black tea. Helps me sleep and I know I have to keep drinking fluids all day despite feeling like death warmed over. I keep the fire going as well as warmth helps a lot. To help sleep I have placed two of the Winter blankets under my pillows as the elevation really helps the congestion.
I am not that hungry but I snack on dehydrated foods to help my body fuel itself to kill these nasty cold bugs. Blueberries slightly reduce fever and I like them and carrots for the beta-carotene. I drink a lot of my stored black tea as it contains catechin which is a mild antibiotic. 48 hours later I literally feel the fever go and bounce out of bed raring to go and start the day’s labors.
Huples Gets the Flu
Being a sociable sort I go to the community market again a few weeks later. I really want some baked beans and have been dreaming of them. I have a few buns I baked and almost no one has any flour anymore so I am hoping to be lucky. Nope. There appears to be no more safe baked beans in Canada. This truly is the apocalypse!
Two days later I wake up after feeling totally fine and I think my cold is back again. Until I try to get up out of bed. This is really bad. I am drenched with sweat and shivering. I ache all over like I did when I had the fight with the neighbor just after the War and had to kill him. My back, arms, and legs are so sore they hurt even if I just think of moving them. My throat is sore and I think I am having a stroke as my head is exploding in pain. The sudden and painful dry coughing fit seals the deal. Huples has influenza and that can easily kill me.
If I had any Tamiflu left now is the time to take them but I traded them for a bow last July when the Creeping Death flu hit the area. The bow has been a great gift but I also got the Creep and then had to use my remaining supply of Tamiflu. Tamiflu can cause nausea and vomiting and should be taken with food to reduce those effects. If you are reading this and have some Tamiflu I envy you. It is dangerous to use if you have asthma or any respiratory disease so those heavy smokers out there really should not take it. It can cause delirium and suicide in teenagers. But I have no Tamiflu left.
If I had my family still living I know that I would have already infected them the day before symptoms appeared. I do know that if I live I will be contagious for at least the next five days and maybe ten so no one should come anywhere near me without an N95 mask on and great hand washing.
I cannot light the fire as I am beyond weak. Luckily I can use my store of Winter blankets to cover my stinking, sweating, and shivering body. I immediately implement my illness protocol and use my stored water. I premix bottles with my stored Gatorade powder and really try to drink as much as I can. Once a day I throw my sheet onto the floor and wrap myself in a new one. Truly having a large store of linens was a game changer in SHTF for me.
Of course I survived and can happily tell you that flu had me in bed for about 5 days and as weak as a kitten for a month afterwards. This wasn’t the Creep and no one else around me had it. Still someone must have had it and infected me. Probably the trader whose baked bean tin I picked up even though it was obviously damaged. I never shake hands anymore after the Creep and stay one meter away but flu viruses are hardy and hangout on stuff as well as people.
Huples Breaks His Ankle
Still weak from the flu I was running after a turkey I had hit with my bow in the back woods near where the 767 crashed, near the burned out Costco when I crashed down. I heard the snap and looked at my twisted foot but felt nothing until I tried to untie my boot. Pain. My world was pain. I stopped trying to see what was wrong and started looking for a stick. I could not feel my toes which is not good. I really hope I have sprained my ankle and not broken it. Luckily there were loads of sticks near me so I found two good enough as sort of walking sticks and then broke open my back pack to get to my EDC supplies. I wonder if I am the only prepper who carries an EDC in this new and not improved world! Carefully I tie four sticks to my boot and then attach them above the knee using paracord. This splint will have to do as I have to get back to my hut and get the boot off and do a visual inspection. The 600 meters to home took me three to four hours and I think I passed out a few times.
At the hut I regret not forcing the boot off when this happened as the foot and ankle are really swollen. I manage but barely and again passed out during this. I have opened the first aid box and ignored the precious aspirin as I they will interfere with inflammation and I need nature to work uninterrupted.
Visual inspection tells me it is a fracture. The foot is swollen and the inner ankle is rock hard and bruised but very pale everywhere else. My toes are numb when I prod my knife into them and I cannot move my toes at all. I wish I was not living alone as I really need help with this. I try to tape and straighten the foot but I just cannot do it. I blow my air horn, three short, three long, three short, pause, repeat. Keeping that seemed odd but now I am toast if no one comes a running to save me. I am guessing the population of our small town is around 400 now. 86000 dead but no one does a census and no one collects taxes so there is some good news I guess! Mike shows up after a few hours. He was really puzzled to hear the air horn when out hunting. He’s a good guy. Everyone is these days as the bad ones ended up among the 86000 by the end of the first Winter. Still he’s not happy at being asked to do foot care on Huples so he leaves after having a shot of rare scotch with me and send his 13-year-old daughter Kitty to ‘nurse’ me.
I am a nurse and proud of it so having little Kitty ‘nurse’ me is funny. She broke her wrist during the War and I fixed her up at the time using my great store of medical gear including a cast. I have her get the supplies ready including medical tape, gauze, and my last role of casting bandage. I have been thinking of clay casts but I am glad I have one roll of the real stuff left. My main issue is when the medical tape runs out. Duct tape works but ruins the skin as it does not breathe.
Kitty pulls my foot straight and I hear and feel the grinding. Kitty does not care and has seen and done worse but who of us has not? She tapes and wraps the foot like a pro. Casting soaks and then goes on and the warm heat of it setting is wonderful. I thank Kitty and gift her a Mars Bar (mini one) and a gold RN pin (my old nursing association sent me one a year and I hoarded them). She tells me she will come once a day and help out for half an hour but otherwise she cannot spare the time. Kitty should be a real nurse and I decide to ask her and Mike if I can apprentice her once I am literally back on my feet. So many old skills have literally died.
Thanks to Kitty and my SHTF prepper freeze-dried stores of food carefully hoarded these last few years I make an okay recovery but my days as a ballet dancer are over. My carefully carved ‘crutches’ are a lot heavier than those nice old aluminum ones that burned when the house went up but they do the job.
Anyway as we all know the Borgs invade before the third Winter. Humanity welcomed our alien overloads with open arms and they turned out to be decent enough for orange hairy lizards. I am sure I’d have cut myself, got an STD, had an eye injury, and maybe had one of the births end up as a c section (mortality about 99% I reckon) if the new world had not been forced on us by the Borgs. Yet I have the skills to deal with those things even without modern medicines and equipment the Borgs have given us in exchange for the Sahara and Australia. Still life would be a lot harder and shorter without electricity and powered ships and vans.
There are numerous concepts used in the Prepping community and the concept of a Get Home Bag is one of the easiest to understand because the rationale is very obvious and could potentially affect most anyone. The practice of assembling and using this tool is another matter. A Get Home Bag (GHB) is just what it sounds like. It is a bag that contains supplies to help you Get Back Home. Pretty simple, right?
The next obvious question is what do you put in the Get Home Bag? This is when the answer becomes more complex. Not because it is hard, because I do not believe constructing a bag with the basic supplies you need is difficult, but we frequently want a list of items we can go purchase because its easier. Actually, it would be better if we could go down to Wal-Mart purchase our get home bag along with the latest DVD and some chips and be done with it. Either give me simple instructions or make it easy for me to acquire it and I’m there.
The Get Home Bag is often grouped in with its larger sibling, the Bug-Out-Bag or bugout bag, but the two are vastly different tools and should have two distinctly different uses. While the bugout (BOB) usually contains the same items from situation to situation, this doesn’t necessarily make sense in a get home bag. Let me explain why.
The scenario for a bugout bag is that you are forced to evacuate your homeand you are heading somewhere else for an extended period of time. You may or may not be coming back. Your bug out bag carries the basic necessities for living away from your home for an extended time. The bug out bag is usually pretty closely aligned to your Survival Kit List and the bags are larger because you have more stuff that needs to go in there. Most people would share the same necessities (food, clothing, shelter, security) so the general contents of the bag would be similar regardless of location. You would need some type of shelter, but the type of protection from the elements you need may be different for someone living in Alaska as opposed to Mississippi.
The Get Home Bag is not something you should be packing to live off of. This bag’s contents depend largely on how long it will take you to get back to your family and the obstacles you envision facing on your journey. If you are traveling away from home, your GHB should take a completely separate state of scenarios into consideration and it should be packed accordingly. If you are right down the street at a party, would you need the same equipment?
How far will you have to travel?
According to data I was able to get from the US Census Bureau website, the average commute time in the US was about 25 minutes. I know this is an average and some of you out there drive an hour each way. Uphill. In a car made of cardboard… Actually, I used to do that myself for a month. There will always be situations that are on the outside edges and I can’t take all of them into consideration so we will just take the average as our baseline and work out from there. So taking that amount of 25 minutes into consideration we can assume if you jump into your car and start driving at 60 miles an hour right away the average distance would be 25 miles. I know this isn’t the case, so I am knocking this in half for traffic, public transportation, etc. 12 miles away from home for the average person.
OK, now that we have our base distance of approximately 12 miles and knowing that all things being equal, the average person (I am going to use that term a lot) can comfortably walk a mile in 20 minutes. 12 miles X 20 minutes is about 4 hours. If you are being chased by Zombies, that amount of time goes down and you could make it home much quicker, but the average person should only need about 4 hours to get back home. But wait you say, this is a grid-down type of scenario and you don’t know what could be involved with actually trying to get back home. What if I am not at work and I am visiting relatives? That’s correct so we will take another set of assumptions.
What could cause me to need my Get Home Bag?
For the purposes of this article, some emergency has happened, your normal method of transportation is not available and the location you are in (maybe it is a visit to friends) isn’t going to work so you must get back home. We’ll take that one step further and say in order to realistically need your GHB, NO method of transportation is available and you are using your LPC’s to transport you back to home. For those of you who don’t know, LPC stands for Leather Personnel Carriers – shoes. If we had a situation like 9/11 where a catastrophe happened, no public transportation was available but the basic infrastructure was in place, walking is perfectly reasonable. Again, this is your average person, not someone who is in a wheelchair or injured. If this is the case, what needs to be in your GHB? That depends on what you think you will need for your 4 hour (or so) walk home. Do you need a complete first aid kit, cutting torch, welding gloves and hazmat suit? Probably not.
Let me pause right here and say that I am not poopooing the idea of a Get Home Bag. I have one and it is with me daily in my car. I am just trying to put things into perspective. If you work 3 hours away or are on vacation, your bag’s contents need to be adjusted.
OK, back to the scenario where a disaster has happened, no public transportation is available and you are forced to walk back home. There are a ton of factors that could influence what you carry.
Is it Summer or Winter?
Is there snow and ice on the ground?
Do you work in a high-rise office and wear high-heels to work?
Are you a lifeguard and only wear a bathing suit?
Is it evening time when you are forced to get back home?
Are you likely to be in a situation where you are trapped inside a building and need to escape?
Could you possibly be trapped underground in a tunnel?
All of these factors start to influence what we pack but they should individually be evaluated against the percentage of likelihood that you would encounter a situation like this. Could you possibly be in a car that is plunged into an icy river and you would need oxygen tanks to survive until you can swim up to the surface? Sure, but is that very likely? Nope.
OK, I think I have circled the wagons long enough here and if you have been like me and scrolled all of the way to the bottom until you see a list of bullets, here you go. I keep all of my stuff for my get home bag in a Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack because it has more than enough room for what I need to carry.
Walking shoes – these may already be on your feet.
ball cap or boonie hat to keep the elements off your head
Jacket – to knock the chill or rain off depending on season
Gloves – work type gloves would be better in this scenario
Knife (but this should already be in your EDC)
Multi-tool (again, you should already have this on you)
Headlamp with spare batteries
Dust mask or handkerchief
Water – amount depends on your situation
Basic blood stopper bandage
Spare ammo (you are carrying right?)
meal replacement bar X 2
energy booster – 5 hour energy
25 feet of paracord
10 feet of duct tape (I prefer Gorilla tape)
Your mileage may vary.
Do you need this many medical supplies to just make it home? Probably not. This is a good emergency medical kit for your family though.
Is this going to be enough for you to chisel your way out of a collapsed parking garage, fight the mutant hordes, set up a shelter to weather the meteor storm and feed a group of individuals you have met up with after the disaster for a week? No, but this will get the average person home in a day or two without dying in most situations.
Can you add more water and food? Of course and if you live in hotter climates or have further to go, you should absolutely do that. For me in my every day use though I don’t believe this is necessary. I have reviewed other Prepper’s bags and they account for a lot of situations mine doesn’t. For example, I have seen some that suggest rope (to rappel out of your office window) and bolt cutters and topographical maps and compasses and pry bars and lock pick sets. My belief is that if you can’t figure out how to make it back home without a map, you are very likely to not know how to use a map in the first place. Perhaps you want to take this so someone else can tell you how to get home?
What about a more substantial first aid kit? That’s a great question, but what are you planning for? Most every first aid kit I have seen comes with 250 Band-Aids and a lot of aspirin tablets for the most part. If the world around you has collapsed so completely that you are forced to walk home 12 miles are you really going to stop and put a band aid on a boo boo? No, but you may be injured more seriously so I recommend a basic bandage to stop larger blood loss and patch a bigger cut.
What if you are vacationing and are several hundred miles away from home? That would require you to change the contents of your get home bag. For instance my normal EDC firearm is replaced with a full size Glock and two spare magazines. My water is increased and so are my food preparations. I also have clothing appropriate for walking in whatever weather is forecast. If I am traveling with others, the get home bag starts to look more like a bug out bag but that’s fine.
What about the roving hordes of mutant zombie bikers? Again, if the world has gone to crap like that, carrying more stuff isn’t necessarily going to help you. Your mileage may vary, but this is the basic list of items that can keep you from starving, dehydrating and safe for a day. You may be tired and hungry, but you aren’t going to die.
I am curious to hear what others have packed in their get home bags.
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It is always important to be prepared. By staying ready, you can survive any impending doomsday situation. While the emergent conditions could destroy animals and much of the human race, you stand a chance of survival by staying prepared. One of the important skills to have is knowing how to pick the most ideal camping place just in case you need to live on the move. A good camping site provides you with space for setting up your tables, fires and tents in a comfortable way.
Read on to learn some methods that you can use to pick one of these great camping sites and guarantee your survival and that of your loved ones.
Tips for choosing the best camping place
Pick the best ground surface
The surface on which you set up your tent is very important. That’s because it should be completely flat. This prevents you from rolling right off your sleeping pad and getting crammed against the wall of your tent at night. As such, ensure that the camping surface is completely flat and has no protrusions too. Two ideal ground coverage types are sand and grass. Therefore, look out for them as you search for a camping site. Secondly, if you are camping in windy conditions, a depression in the ground is a good place to camp. However, it presents the risk of collecting water in case it rains. As such, depressions should only be used in dry weather.
Pick a spot that can provide makeshift furniture
While camping, you may not be able to bring along all the furniture that you normally have in your home. This is especially so if you are simply surviving a doomsday. Therefore, pick a spot where there are boulders, fallen trees and rocks. They provide great makeshift furniture for your camping site. Simply drape blankets or cloth upon them to make comfortable spots for having your meals or relaxing during the day or night. Straight, strong branches can also make thebest tent stakes.
The presence of shade
Once you find a flat camping ground, the next feature to search for is shade. While it is not necessary to have permanent shade throughout the day, it is important to ensure that your camping area has shade in the morning. This is because you would not want to be awoken at 7:00am in the morning by hot sun broiling your camping
hammock tent. As such, pick an area where your tent will be shaded in themorning and hopefully for the rest of the day too. One way to guarantee shade for yourself is by bringing along some shade shelter.
If the weather is good, camp high in the hills or mountains
There are a number of reasons why it is best to camp high in the mountains or hills. Firstly, you have a wide view of your surroundings. This way, you can spot any enemies or threats approaching you before they arrive at your spot. Secondly, you can enjoy warmer conditions in good weather. Interestingly, cold air collects in valley bottoms. Therefore, it is warmer up in the hills or the mountain. This makes such locations ideal for a camping site. In addition to that, you get to see the sunshine earlier.
Ensure that the items over your tent are safe
When camping, it is important to observe the items looming right above your tent. This is for safety reasons. You would not want to pitch tent under a dead tree branch under the assumption that it looks safe. As such, you should avoid pitching tent under dangerous features. In addition to this, you should not pitch tent near rockslides and avalanche paths too. Loose rock edges should also be avoided at all costs. By sticking to these guidelines, you can exercise caution as you decide which is better between a hammock vs tent. These tips also help you topick a good camping site so as to ensure your own survival.
Have access to water
While it is not advisable to camp right next to any water masses such as lakes, oceans or ponds, it is important to pick a campsite that has access to water. Carrying your own water as you camp is always a great idea. However, at some point you will need to restock your water supply. Therefore, search for a spot that is close to a creek or spring. While doing this, make sure that your camping site is more than 200 feet away from this water source to avoid floods.
Search for privacy
When you camp, you should search for as much privacy as you can get. While it is not bad to have other campers along, ensure that you are more than 20 feet away from them. As you camp out, it is important to have your own space. This promotes discretion and allows you to hear your surroundings clearly so as to maintain alertness throughout the night. If you find that the camping areas are already taken up by other campers, don’t be afraid to venture further out into the wilderness so as to get the ideal camping site during a doomsday scenario. This privacy actually improves your chances of survival. Moreover, ensure that the camping site that you pick is not too close to any trails.
Check to see that you are in safe surroundings
It is important to ensure that the surroundings of your camping site are also safe. Make sure that you do not set up camp in areas that are surrounded by water bodies, hilltop boulders or mud escarpments. Moreover, it is not ideal to set up camp on wide, flat areas. That’s because windy conditions in these areas can blow against your tent and make the experience very uncomfortable. Therefore, look through your surroundings to ensure that they are safe for camping at all times. This contributes positively to your wellness and that of your companions.
To survive any period of turmoil, it is best to be prepared. The tips above can help you to camp in a method that promotes your survival. The main objective in doomsday scenarios is survival. By following these guidelines, you can dramatically improve your chances.
Welcome to Rainy Camping. I am Michael Everett, a camping expert who loves to travel and explore the wilderness throughout the year. I aim to visit every campsite in the world and offer smart advice to the novice adventurers out there.