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When it comes to surviving TEOTWAWKI, nothing is more important than choosing your shelter whether that is your bunker situated near your home, or somewhere more remote like a bug out location. But there’s much debate circling around which is actually the best. Both bug out locations (BOLs) and bunkers have their benefits and pitfalls. Which is right for you?

Bunkers

Pros

Preppers who consider bunkers the best way to survive the apocalypse like shelters for good reason. Bunkers are not only discreet — hidden out of the sight of enemies’ eyes and from the watchful eye of the government — these shelters also offer a low energy cost, they are bulletproof and excellent for surviving high-impact storms.

But, when you’re spending the apocalypse in an underground bunker, there’s not much outdoor visibility. When outfitting your bunker, put up camouflaged and hidden HD security camera system, so that you can keep an eye on what’s happening outside of the bunker.

 

 

Cons

Although some survivalists think that a bunker is the best way to go, there’s also a large group of preppers who consider the bunker a death trap. These folks make a good point. Many bunkers do not have enough oxygen flowing through to keep you alive for very long. And, let’s face it, air is important when it comes to survival.

And, once your bunker is found, there’s no escaping. Whoever, or whatever, is outside waiting will stay there until you’re forced to come out.

underground-container

Prepper experts advise survivalists who’ve already bought bunkers to consider turning them into root cellars to store fruits, vegetables and canned goods throughout winter.

Bug Out Locations

Pros

Getting a BOL is not hard. Getting the land for a bug out location is cheap and it will pay off when you need it. Just make sure the land you choose is accessible to you, not too vulnerable and in a spot where you can live off of the land with your own skills.

Having your own land away from civilization and the watchful eye of neighbors will allow you to stock up on survival supplies and grow your own food. You should use your land to build shelters, traps and everything else that’s needed to survive when the apocalypse hits.

deck

Cons

Even if you’re already living in a rural area, it still may be too close to highly populated areas. When you’re thinking about your BOL, you’ve got to have a plan. Many survivalists take to the mountains since there are plenty of natural resources available there. But if you and your family aren’t trained and you don’t carry the necessary skill set to survive, you’re not going to last long. In some cases, if you’re not prepared, it’s just best to stay put to avoid a self-inflicted demise.

 

BOLs aren’t always easy to defend. If you’re not far enough away from the population center, you’ve got to plan for a siege or an attack. Make sure you’ve got the proper training for this.

When it comes to surviving TEOTWAWKI, nothing is more important than choosing your shelter whether that is your bunker situated near your home, or somewhere more remote like a bug

Anyone who’s lived in Florida during hurricane season knows that you can’t always rely on the power grid for electricity. Residents of Texas also know that it doesn’t take a natural disaster to take down the grid. Also the recent power failure from the busiest airport in the world – Hartsfield -Jackson Atlanta International Airport disrupted operations and forced the cancellation of more than 1,150 departing or arriving flights and the stranding travelers on planes for hours – shows us that we can’t always rely on the power grid.

Keeping the power on is becoming increasingly more difficult, but today we have more ways to go off-grid with our power supply. There are also a number of things you can do to prepare for grid outages so it’s easier to make ends meet until the power comes back on.

Invest in Solar Panels

Even if the power grid goes down, the sun will keep shining, or at least be generating positive photons. Homeowners that invest in residential solar systems are able to rest easy knowing that they aren’t dependent on the grid.

The trick to an efficient solar panel system is all in the setup. Panels have to be positioned precisely to catch the most sunlight. Things like the home’s orientation and tree coverage can make a huge difference. For this reason, some homes are better suited for solar panels than others.

Most preppers are self-reliant DIYers, but this is a project that requires professional help. In addition to solar panel placement, a professional installer will need to set up an inverter system for capturing the direct power (DC) from the panels and converting it into usable electricity. Don’t forget you may also need to obtain permits before you can install a solar panel system.

Buy a Back Up Generator

Another way to keep the power on when the grid goes down is by using a backup generator. Buying a backup generator starts with deciding which type of generator you want. There are relatively inexpensive portable generators and standby generators that can be installed at your home.

Standby generators are more expensive, but they’re also more reliable. However, gas-powered portable generators are the most popular option. The biggest consideration with any generator is choosing the right size. In general, the generator’s wattage needs to be higher than the load. To figure this out, add up the wattage of all the appliances, devices and lights you’d use during a black out plus the startup wattage for the biggest motor. This includes things like the furnace and water heater, which usually kick on first when the generator turns on.

Although gas-powered generators are commonplace, you have to be careful using them since they produce carbon monoxide. A gas-powered portable generator needs to be kept at least 10 feet away from the house.

Keep a Stock of Batteries and Candles

You don’t always need high-tech solar arrays or generators to ride out a power outage. Plenty of people can get by for two or three days using battery-powered lamps and candles. That is, as long as you have a stockpile of batteries and candles.

The one thing to watch out for is how you store batteries and candles. If you’re lucky, it may be a while before the next power outage, and the last thing you want is to think you have supplies only to find they’re no good.

Keep batteries in a drawer within your house so they stay dry at room temperature out of direct sunlight. When stored properly alkaline batteries can last for 5-10 years and rechargeable lithium batteries can last 10-15 years. The best way to store candles is in the refrigerator (not freezer). However, you should wrap them in plastic wrap or aluminum foil so the wick isn’t exposed to moisture.

Store Food That Doesn’t Need to Be Cooked

In addition to light, electricity is needed to cook many foods. You can easily bypass this problem by stocking up on foods that don’t need to be cooked.

Canned Goods – Canned goods are always a good option because they’re fairly cheap and can last for years.

Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) – Years ago only military members and their families were aware of MREs. Now, preppers have caught on to these complete meals in a bag that are ready to eat as soon as they’re opened.

Peanut Butter – Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein that can be eaten alone or smeared on bland foods.

Freeze-Dried Food – Freeze-dried meats, fruits and vegetables are just as nutrition as fresh options, but they last for up to 30 years. Just add clean water to re-hydrate before you eat.

Editors Note: Search our archives for numerous articles on food storage, batteries, generators, power cells and more to ride out any outage! 

Anyone who’s lived in Florida during hurricane season knows that you can’t always rely on the power grid for electricity. Residents of Texas also know that it doesn’t take a

In just a couple of weeks a lot of you are going to be making New Year’s resolutions and according to our good old government (not sure why they have to have a webpage to tell us this) the most common resolution is to lose weight. This is a great goal for a lot of people but as preppers we can look at this another way too. Maybe it’s time to trim some pounds off your Bug Out Bag and save your back in the process. For a lot of us, the mythical – perfect bug out bag is one part Swiss army knife, one part hardware store and one part supermarket with a dash of your favorite clothing outfitter thrown in for good measure. Over time in our efforts to be prepared for anything, we have lost sight of what this bag is meant for and traded common sense for comfort, at the expense of weight.

What choo talkin bout Willis?

In my research as a prepper I have watched a lot of YouTube videos about Bug out bags from people all over the world and in many of them you get very well-meaning people who put together pages of items that you simply don’t need. Others have items that could be lighter or who carry too much of a single item when that isn’t necessary. I myself am a well-meaning person so here is my take on some simple steps you can take to lighten your bug out bag but before I get into that, I want to give you my opinion on what a bug out bag should be in the first place.

What is a bug out bag for?

A bug out bag has been called by a lot of names. I have heard I.N.C.H bag (I’m Never Coming Home). G.O.O.D bag (Get Out Of Dodge), the 72-Hour bag, Go Bag and others that crop up from time to time when I think people are just trying to create something new and trendy (S.N.A.P – Seriously Need Another Plan). Whatever you call it, the bug out bag concept was envisioned as a bag to carry everything you will need to LIVE for 72 hours if you only have that bag on your back and nothing else in the world. Why did I put the emphasis on live? That is because a lot of people start throwing everything but the kitchen sink in their packs and it is one of the reasons why I wrote the post “Is your bug out bag going to get you killed?

When you start adding items with minimal practical use or perhaps less likelihood of keeping you alive then you start adding weight. Do this enough times and your bug out bag becomes an unwieldy mess that can cause injuries or worse, get you killed. So what are some ways we can prevent that from happening?

Don’t carry too much water

Unless you live in the desert and I know that some of you do, water should be something that you know how to find and can easily disinfect to make it drinkable. For the large majority of us, packing 3 days’ worth of water is suicide in terms of size and weight and it is really unnecessary. Again, if you live in a desert I am not talking to you, but you really need to evaluate your plans also.

Sawyer Mini is a lightweight hero when it comes to water filtration.
Sawyer Mini is a lightweight hero when it comes to water filtration.

Water sources are everywhere and you only need a good water filter to make all but the nastiest water perfectly safe for drinking. I like pump filters like the MSR Miniworks EX Microfilter and have taken this on several backpacking trips because they are simple and filter water very quickly. In terms of sheer weight and even space reduction, the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System is a real champ though and in those respects it kicks even decently sized filters like the Miniworks to the curb. The Miniworks weighs 1 pound. The Sawyer mini weighs 2 ounces.

For water I would carry one full litter bottle and have one plastic bladder that I would use to collect water that I need to filter with my Sawyer. Nalgene water bladders weigh almost nothing empty and can roll up to fit in tiny spaces. My plan is to find and filter water as I need it along the way. Could you boil your water instead and maybe save these few ounces or use water treatment tablets? Of course, but you have to have a fire, keep something to boil it in, wait for it to boil, then cool down, lather rinse repeat or deal with the weird taste of those tablets. The filter is the easiest fastest way to go for me and the Sawyer will filter over 100,000 gallons! That is enough to keep you alive for over 200 years if my math is right.

Don’t pack like you are going on vacation

Too many bug out bag lists will contain a spare pair of boots and another change of clothes. Do you need more clothes to live? Maybe if you are bugging out from a nudist colony and you don’t have any on, but you should already have some clothes on. Maybe you need to adjust your wardrobe and put on a good pair of boots before you bug out, but packing another set of clothes takes up space and adds weight; especially if you are packing heavy winter clothes.

Dress in layers and take items that will compensate for a lot of additional items. I would bring a pair of socks so you always have a dry pair, set of clean underwear and not much else. If it was cold I would have a base layer(s) and maybe a fleece, but I might have that on my body anyway. Clothes shouldn’t be packed in place of shelter; you should deal with that separately.

What about my camping towel, deck of cards, favorite coffee cup and my travel pillow? Leave all of that stuff at home. This pack should only have the essentials if your goal is truly to have the least amount of weight you can. If you are running from everything you know for some reason you have bigger problems than a pillow and you will never pack everything you need in all scenarios for all situations so why try?

Use a tarp instead of a tent

Tents can easily weigh 5 pounds so they are prime opportunities for reducing weight. One of the simplest alternatives to packing a tent is to pack either a rain fly or tarp. Tents do not offer much in the way of protection from the elements unless you have a serious mosquito problem and primarily they are for keeping the rain off of you while you sleep and maybe affording some degree of privacy.

For a really nice option that also gives you camouflage, you could go with the Aqua-Quest Heavy duty tarp. This will string up easily between two trees, keep the rain off of you and as long as you were in a wooded area, this could prevent your location from being noticed by passersby. This tarp weighs 3.4 pounds so there are some savings but it rolls up much smaller than a regular tent and you don’t have to worry about those stupid poles and stakes that are always lost. Breaking down and setting up will go much faster as well once you have a simple tarp rigging system down and memorized.

Pack a tarp instead of a tent.
Pack a tarp instead of a tent.

Rain fly’s for hammocks are a similar option but usually weigh a little bit less. It’s the same concept as a tarp but with a slightly different footprint and coverage area. The ENO Pro Fly Rain Tarp only weighs 22 ounces and that is a huge difference from that 5 pound tent.

Look at the weight of your bag itself

Sometimes we can save weight simply by looking at our bug out bag that we are carrying all of this lifesaving gear in. Take just two common bags out there, the Rush 72 by 5.11 Tactical and the Maxpedition Pygmy Falcon II. These bags are not without their differences, but the Rush 72 weighs 4.8 pounds and the Maxpedition Pygmy weighs 2 pounds 1 ounce.

Now I don’t have both of these bags in front of me so the 5.11 could be twice as large as the Pygmy, and with a name like Pygmy, you know it isn’t Super Grande, but the point is your bag also contributes to the overall weight. Maybe if you are looking to shave some pounds and you make some of the changes above you won’t need as large of a bag in the first place. Something to consider.

Lighten your food load

Food is a great place to reduce weight. On one of our first backpacking trips into the woods we didn’t think about weight at all, we thought about pigging out after long days hiking with heavy packs. We had foil packets of tuna, summer sausage, cheese and crackers, whole bags of trail mix, pop tarts and cookies. We never even made it through all of our food that we packed in and in the process of that first backpacking trip learned a valuable lesson. Some foods weigh more than others and you don’t really need to pig out that much to have more than enough to keep you alive.

For a bug out scenario I am looking for a great calorie to weight ratio and one option is G.O.R.P which is simply good old raisins and peanuts. One problem with G.O.R.P is it’s shelf life and ability to handle storage extremes. If your bug out bag is always located in the hall closet or down in the basement where it’s always 62 degrees then G.O.R.P is a great option. The trick is to only eat as much as you need based upon the caloric content. You can’t just eat until you are full or else all your G.O.R.P will be gone the first day.

Other options which are more heat tolerant and long lasting when we look at from a storage perspective are emergency ration bars (my current Get Home Bag option) and freeze-dried food like Mountain House. These are lighter than bringing 6 cans of spam in your pack and can take the heat of a car parked in the summer without spoiling.

Also, these options don’t require you to bring your own mess kit which is another item that isn’t necessary. Just bring a spoon like the Titanium Spork or even an old plastic spoon from an MRE and you are good to go. The Emergency Rations don’t even need that.

Reconsider One Is None

A prepping mantra is “One is none and two is one.” That simply means that stuff happens. Murphy will appear when you least expect him and anything you have can be lost or broken. That single water filter you have could roll down the hill, into the river and out to the ocean. The survival knife you have could be lodged in that great big bear you were forced to scare away from your camp and they might run off into the woods never to be seen again.

The temptation to pack two of everything sounds like great advice but it isn’t necessary or practical in a bug out bag. Could you find a use for two fire starting kits? Maybe. Could you need a back-up rain poncho? You could, but all of your redundancy is adding weight. Think carefully about whether you need this weight or maybe you should just be more careful. If we were talking about prepping supplies for the home I definitely agree that having two is a good idea, but when it comes to hiking through the woods, trying to survive I am less likely to adhere to that advice. I know I could regret it, but we are talking about weight reduction here.

Maybe there are certain items that you could have two of like a knife or a way to start a fire. I have a multi-tool as part of my EDC which has a knife that could be my backup. Also, I have a fire steel and a Bic lighter, but I am not going to carry two tarps in case I lose one.

Sleeping bag Options

Sleeping bags are another item that can weigh a lot and take up a bunch of space. I have a military sleep system that I purchased at a gun show that I love but would never put this in my bug out bag if I was trying to save space or weight. It is huge and heavy. I also have sleeping bags from Wiggy’s that are very warm, but they also take up a lot of space.

You can spend hundreds on very expensive bags that pack down small or you can spend a lot less money, dress in layers and maybe use your survival bivvy to supplement that system. The Recon 3 from Elite Systems is easily half the size and weight of my Wiggy’s and costs a heck of a lot less. Will it last as long as the other bags or keep me warm down to -20? No, but if it is -20 my butt is looking for shelter and a heat source.

So there are 7 ideas for reducing the weight of your bug out bag. What ideas do you have?

In just a couple of weeks a lot of you are going to be making New Year’s resolutions and according to our good old government (not sure why they have

In a perfect world, one would like to think that when disaster strikes, people would rush to help and support each other through it. And while people certainly will, such catastrophes unfortunately sometimes bring out the worst in many people as well. And these opportunistic predator types don’t target strapping he-men either. They’ll be looking for what they think are vulnerable victims; the elderly, the disabled, and women.

While in these more enlightened times few people still think of women as the “weaker sex”, most men still retain some advantages in physical height and strength.

Fortunately, there are a number of self-defense tips and techniques that can level that playing field and allow women to protect themselves and those that they are responsible for protecting. Some of them involve an outlay of money, some involve exercise, some involve surprisingly simple preparation, but all of them should be considered now, not after the worst happens. Below are some of the more effective ones.

Get And Stay Physically Fit

The healthier and more physically fit you are in the aftermath of a crisis, the better.

You’ll be able to run from danger. You’ll be able to run and get help and possibly track down prey.

Weight lifting will allow you to…well…lift weights.

Rock climbing and ropes courses now may help you to extract yourself and assist others in escaping from collapsed buildings, scale cliffs, and climb trees.

And the great thing about physical fitness programs is that they need not involve memberships at expensive gyms. An exercise regime as simple as daily rope-jumping may have you putting others to shame when trouble strikes.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Fear

It’s a perfectly natural emotion, designed by nature to help you avoid serious problems. But there’s a fine line between breaking down into hopeless hysteria or running blindly off of the edge of a cliff, and making your fear work for you.

Don’t be crippled by fear, but do listen to that little voice warning you when going into unfamiliar areas, encountering strange groups, etc. And remember that the adrenaline produced when you enter the “flight or fight” mode actually increases your physical strength. Use it accordingly.

 

 

Face to face with a street thug? Do THIS
Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like we’re living in America anymore, with…
• Outraged alt-left mobs who burn any American flag they come across…
• Trigger-happy thugs who have ZERO regard for human life…
• Radical terrorists plotting to murder Americans right here in our country…
That’s why an ex-CIA Officer made this brief self-defense video and he’s sharing it FREE with all law-abiding American citizens.

Every Heel Has His (Or Her) Achilles Heel

Even physically fit women may not prevail in a confrontation with a man that involves running or brute force. So don’t let him get the upper hand, but calmly and effectively go on the offensive by attacking him in areas that will hurt, with blows and kicks to the:

  • Eyes
  • Groin
  • Kidneys
  • Nose
  • Adam’s apple (that “bulge” in the throat)
  • Shin
  • Instep
  • Solar plexus (between the sternum and stomach)
  • Knee
  • Nose
  • Jaw
  • Sternum (the flat bony area in the center of the chest)

Make sure that these blows are hard, and yes, they work just as effectively on women. And in situations like these, biting is absolutely fair play, and effectively painful. For some defense moves that you can try out, check out this article on The 3 Essential Self-Defense Moves.

Take A Class

There are a couple of reasons to take formal self-defense courses now.

The first one is that you will be learning in a safe and comfortable environment with professional instructors. This guarantees that you’ll be learning how to use techniques effectively, having questions answered by knowledgeable sources, and reducing the chances of injury to yourself or another student.

The second reason is that retentive learning of this nature tends to go better in a group situation, with the positive feedback, support, and hands-on learning opportunities offered by this type of classes.

Join A Shooting Club/Go To A Firing Range

Waiting until the apocalypse is nigh upon us is a bad time to become comfortable with using a firearm. It’s also possible to receive instruction at these locations to insure that you know how to effectively protect yourself with a firearm against attackers.

Other (Non-Lethal) Firearm Knowledge That All Self-Defenders Should Have

Neither the survivor party that you’re trying to protect nor the gang of slobbering attackers that you’re facing will be too impressed if your gun jams or you shoot yourself while firing it, now will they?

The Israeli Woman Teaching the Art of Stiletto Self Defense

Survivalists or preppers who know or think that they will be handling guns should:

  • Know how to load and unload various types of firearms
  • Know how to clean and perform at least minor types of other maintenance on guns
  • Be conversant with various parts of firearms
  • Know how to correctly wear a holster, as well as correctly drawing from and returning a weapon to it

It would also be very helpful to master the not-difficult but time consuming art of reloading, or manufacturing your own ammunition.

Prevention Is The Best Cure

The most effective self-defense? Avoid putting yourself in situations where you have to use self-defense!

Avoid traveling by yourself, traveling at night, or traveling in exposed or isolated areas. Sometimes of course, one has no choice. In such situations, keep a straight, tall posture, walk quickly and purposefully, and keep weapons out and in your hand.

Use Caution In Making New “Friends”

Until you actually get to know them, all unknown parties should be treated with caution. This means maintaining a distance of a couple of meters when meeting and speaking to them. You say this seems rude? Consider this. It buys you some space if the “friend” goes into attack mode, and allows you to observe what most vulnerable body parts the attacker (see #3) is exposing to you.

Maintain Self-Confidence

It can be hard to keep a stiff upper lip during the End of Days, but remaining calm and assertive will not only help you combat depression and feelings of self-hopelessness, it will make you appear less of a “mark” to attackers and other unsavory types.

Hunker Down At Home

If the crisis is short-term or there’s no immediate danger, like Dorothy said in the Wizard Of Oz, “There’s no place like home”. Make sure that your palace is a fortress though, by pre-stocking plenty of non-perishable foods, potable water, and medical supplies. Regardless of weather, all unused doors and windows should be secured. Install an “alarm” system even if it’s just a dog, and if possible, create a well-stocked “panic area” in the home where you can flee from intruders, and they can’t follow. Better still, be cautious about admitting any strangers to your home.

Wrapping Up

What do you think, are there other important factors women need to keep in mind to be able to effectively defend themselves? If you have some thoughts on the subject, please share them with us by commenting in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you!

Face to face with a street thug? Do THIS
Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like we’re living in America anymore, with…
• Outraged alt-left mobs who burn any American flag they come across…
• Trigger-happy thugs who have ZERO regard for human life…
• Radical terrorists plotting to murder Americans right here in our country…
That’s why an ex-CIA Officer made this brief self-defense video and he’s sharing it FREE with all law-abiding American citizens.

 

In a perfect world, one would like to think that when disaster strikes, people would rush to help and support each other through it. And while people certainly will, such

In Part 1, we discussed the conundrum of water; how it was necessary, but safe water is not always available.  We listed what could contaminate water, and mentioned the six practical ways to fix this.  Then we investigated the first two of these methods.  Here is the investigation into the other four methods.

Boiling

Boiling is a very simple concept; bring water to a boil for a few minutes and anything biological is killed.  This process does not do anything for any particulates, salt or chemicals, and requires a source of heat to get and keep the water at 212 degrees F (at sea level; the temperature goes down as the altitude goes up).  A useful item to always have in your water bottle or canteen pouch is a stainless steel cup into which the bottle nests.  Not only can you boil water to kill organisms, but can melt ice or snow to get the water, and cook in it.

Bring water to a boil for a few minutes and anything biological is killed.

Chemical Treatment

As an alternate to boiling contaminated water to kill the organics, you can poison them.  Fortunately, they are more sensitive that we are, and the amount of poison needed for them is not enough to bother us.  It can taste bad, though.  The common choices are Chlorine or Iodine based.  Chlorine can be cheap (think standard bleach), but is unstable (has a short life span), leaves a bad taste, and the residue left behind is suspected of causing some cancers.  Iodine deteriorates on exposure to sunlight.  It also leaves a bad taste and is dangerous for people with some thyroid conditions.  The iodine taste can be alleviated with Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) after it has completed its work.  Although you can use the liquid forms of these chemicals directly, they are subject to deterioration and the potential to leak all over everything, and need care to avoid overdosing.  A tablet purification system is more practical.  The “best” treatment seems to be Katadyn MicroPur tablets, which uses Chorine Dioxide.  This formulation increases the effectiveness and durability, and keeps the chlorine taste to a minimum.  Aquamira is generally considered the number two tablet, also Chlorine Dioxide based, and the number three rated tablet is often considered to be Potable Aqua, which is iodine based (they now also have a Chlorine Dioxide product which has not been evaluated yet).

Cryptosporidium cysts have a high resistance to poisoning; Chlorine Dioxide will do it, but it can take as long as four hours.  Iodine is not reliable against Cryptosporidium.

For something completely different from tablets or liquid, there is the Potable Aqua PURE device.  Solar powered, it takes a salt and water brine mixture and produces a Chlorine and Peroxide purification liquid.

Distillation

Each chemical has a temperature at which it transforms to its gaseous form (boiling point); this temperature varies inversely with the surrounding pressure.  For water, of course, this is 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level (1 Atmosphere of pressure).  If you capture the gaseous form of water and cool it, it turns back to liquid water.  This process is called “distillation” and the apparatus is often called a “distiller” or “still”.  If the liquid (contaminated water) is a mixture of compounds, then some of the chemicals may “boil” (transform to gas) at lower temperatures than water (alcohol is one such chemical), and some at higher temperatures.  Thus, in order for this to be effective at purifying water, you must NOT capture, or contaminate your cooling apparatus with, any vapors prior to the water boiling AND keep the temperature below the boiling point of water until all (or at least most) of the low boiling point contaminants are gone.

And this can take a while, since some of these chemicals (like alcohol) REALLY like being mixed with water.  And you have to remove the cooling apparatus before the water has all boiled away AND keep the temperature from rising above the boiling point of water so no other contaminant is boiled off.  Theoretically, with care, you could get perfectly pure water using this methodology.  In practice, that is often not the case, but the results can be adequate.  Most often, this apparatus consists of  a tank which can be filled with contaminated water, situated over a fire or other heat source, and a way to capture only the steam from water and run it through tubing, which uses open air or a liquid bath to cool and “condense” the steam back into water.

If you capture the gaseous form of water and cool it, it turns back to liquid water.

Many of the commercially available distillers are “one piece”, so should not be relied on if there is much chance of low boiling point contaminants.  Most of the rest seem to be “screwed together”, so it might not be practical to keep the collection and condensing parts free of low boiling point contaminants.  The WaterWise WW1600 seems like it might allow you to just add-on the collection part when the water is boiling, but it looks freaky, the reviews are not very good and the price is too high for me.  There is another option, the Prime Water distiller, which appears to allow placing the collector/condenser after the water is boiling (make sure you have a way to avoid getting burned by the steam), and it is quite low-priced.  They appear to be low producing though; the models they list are specified as only putting out two or four quarts of distilled water PER DAY, and I’m not sure how easy it would be to avoid re-contaminating the output, since it is a bowl which floats in the contaminated liquid.  Then there is the Gravi-Stil from SHTFandGo, which can be set up either as a distiller or a filter, and the non-auto-fill version looks like it could be made to do the job.  Or if you already have or can get two large pots, they have the D-Stil light which looks like it would be fairly easy to use in our desired manner, and the price is not too bad.

Distillation takes a lot of fuel, and does waste some water; some might escape as vapor and as the remaining contaminants in the liquid increase, production of water will decrease, eventually resulting in having to discard it.  You might lose as much as four gallons of water for each one gallon purified, but with good temperature control and care, should be able to get the losses down significantly.

This works, but often you spend more water (as sweat) building the still than you get back from the still.

There is also the concept of the “solar still” which uses solar energy to cause evaporation (the other way a liquid can be transformed into a gas) which is then condensed back to pure water.  This can be a hole in the ground covered with an appropriate plastic film.  This works, but often you spend more water (as sweat) building the still than you get back from the still.  Nowadays, there are “one piece” solar stills.  These are essentially “balls” or “bags” which enclose contaminated water, and uses the sun to evaporate the water and condense it back into a clean container or area.  Note that you don’t want to use this system with any water with contaminants which “boils” at a temperature less than water, such as from a car radiator.  An example of this is the Aqua Mate solar still similar to those included in lifeboat survival kits to purify sea water.  A variation on this is a “transpiration” still, which captures the water given off by a living plant during photosynthesis.  Since the plant draws water from the ground, this can produce small amounts of water continuously.  If a living plant is not available, this methodology will also work on plant clippings which contain moisture, but only as long as moisture remains.  The Hydro Kit from Survival Metrics is an example of this.

UV/Solar

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is effective against organisms, and highly portable units such as the SteriPen are available.  I don’t trust them because they require batteries or other sources of power which may or may not be available, they are electronics which are subject to failure or an EMP, and if there are any particulates in the water, it is possible some organisms will be “shaded” from the UV and survive to wreak havoc.

The SODIS method is very easy to apply: A transparent PET bottle is cleaned with soap. Then, the bottle is filled with water and placed in full sunlight for at least 6 hours. The water has then been disinfected and can be drunk.

Solar disinfection (often called SODIS) adds heat and sometimes other techniques to UV, only needs sunshine and would seem to be a more reliable methodology, although it takes a lot longer.  It is sometimes done with special containers, but can be approximated with standard PET/PETE (clear plastic, recyclable mark “1”, somewhat flexible) bottles with all labels removed.  PVC bottles should be avoided, as chemicals from the container can be added to the water.  Clear glass bottles will work as well.  An interesting option is the Puralytics SolarBag, which not only is an effective SODIS container, but contains a mesh which is designed to treat organic contaminants and heavy metals.

Choosing a Water Treatment Methodology

Unfortunately, there is not really a universal solution.  You need to evaluate what is likely to be in the water and go from there.  Here is a summary of the common methods and what they can usually handle:

  Filter Purifier Reverse Osmosis Boiling Chemical Treatment UV SODIS Distillation Activated Carbon
Particulate YES YES YES NO NO NO NO YES MAYBE
Bacteria YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES NO
Cryptosporidium YES YES YES YES MAYBE YES YES YES NO
Virus NO YES YES YES YES YES YES YES NO
Salt NO NO YES NO NO NO NO YES NO
Chlorine NO NO YES NO NO NO NO YES YES
Heavy Metal NO NO YES NO NO NO MAYBE YES SOME
Volatile Organic Compound NO NO YES NO NO NO MAYBE YES YES
Inorganic Chemical NO NO YES NO NO NO NO YES MAYBE
(Taste) NO NO MAYBE NO WORSE NO MAYBE MAYBE YES

As you can see, for a fixed location with a regular water supply, a distillation or RO system can be a good choice, or if fuel will be a problem or water is limited, a large Purifier with an Activated Carbon stage.  For portable use, a small purifier with an activated charcoal stage would seem the best bet, but this could be a bit hard to find at a reasonable price, with the possible exception of the water bottle based Sport Berkey.  As an alternative, multiple methods might serve.  Boiling, Chlorine Dioxide tablets, UV or SODIS, followed by a filter with an activated charcoal stage would seem to cover everything practical.  Alternatively, a filter followed by an enhanced SODIS like the SolarBag would seem to be about the same.  For salt water, distillation or RO seem the only practical options.

Finally, don’t get a water treatment methodology and assume you are good.  Some of these things have been known to break or fail or get used up; water is not only a requirement for life, but an immediate requirement.  Always have backups; either duplicates or alternate methods.  For instance, have distillation or RO AND a Big Berkey or equivalent at a fixed location, and coffee filters, a metal cup and MicroPur tablets, a portable purifier with Activated Carbon or Sport Berkey, and possibly a SolarBag or Hydro Kit in a bug out bag or other mobile methodology.  It is a good idea to test your systems where practical.  For instance, I ran my tap water through a Sport Berkey, and there was no change to the TDS reading, although I expected at least the Chloramines to be removed.  I talked with a dealer, but she has not responded yet, so I guess I’ll have to go to the company.

Note that in addition to being able to purify your water, you should have ways to collect it for purification, and store or transport it after purification.  If you are going to be using chemical treatment, make sure your container is appropriately sized for the chemical used.  I like 1L water bottles since my chemical tablets are designed for that volume, but they are a bit hard to find, and don’t fit into some of the carriers.  Stainless steel is my favorite, but there is nothing wrong with some plastic bottles as long as you have that stainless cup it nestles into.  In small kits, I use 1L sample bags.  Whenever possible, I like to also have a hydration bladder; it might not be optimal for purification, but it is hard to beat for transport and continual hydration.  A length of surgical tubing can help you get access to water you might not otherwise be able to get to, and has other uses as well.  A clean cloth or “Survival Sponge” can help you collect water from dew or condensation.

In Part 1, we discussed the conundrum of water; how it was necessary, but safe water is not always available.  We listed what could contaminate water, and mentioned the six

There were lots of times when people were stranded in their cars, forced to sleep in the floors of local stores and cities that looked virtually unprepared for any winter event. Its times like this that I wonder how things would have been different if everyone involved had taken the time to prepare a simple winter car survival kit. I think that there are certainly factors that would have made this little amount of snow something to contend with anyway, but the lives of a lot of people could have been much better with a little planning and preparedness. This type of road incident isn’t unheard of and it simply makes good sense to have supplies in your car that you can count on if you are stranded.

The weather may force a lot of people to wait in traffic for hours due to accidents or road clearing operations. Having simple preparations ahead of time (even more so with the threat of inclement weather) would make these delays more tolerable and could ensure that more people can make it home to their families instead of spending the night on the floor at CVS.

What do you need for a winter car survival kit?

Before I get into the actual content list of items to store in a winter car survival kit, I should bring up fuel. It can’t be said enough that you should have no less than a half a tank of gas at all times. Why? Because if for some reason, you aren’t able to fill up, a half a tank will last longer and get you more places that sitting on empty. For those people who must sit in their cars for hours, a half a tank of gas could keep them warm and more importantly moving.

So on to the list. The items below should be in everyone’s car if you go anywhere in the winter. Some of the winter car survival kit items are just as important in the summer and can be considered as core. We’ll list off the items that are specific to Winter, but it will be obvious.

Core- Car Survival Kit items.

Winter Car Survival Kit additions

  • Wool Blankets – 2
  • Survival Bivvy – 2
  • Boots or hiking shoes with good gription (yes that is a word)
  • Small Camping shovel – necessary in some locations more than others
  • Windshield scraper
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Wool or Fleece hat/gloves
  • Spare fleece pullover

What could you sub in there for Summer? Certainly more water and perhaps sunscreen or shading devices. I am sure we will write on this topic for the summer also. Stay safe by making sure you have these basics with you. They do take up a little room, but you can fit all of this in a decent sized plastic bin and forget about them. You will be happy they are in the back when you need them.

Is this list the end all be all of survival necessities? Nope, but it is the basics and you have to start somewhere.

If you want to print this list out, just click on the Print button at the top of the page.

There were lots of times when people were stranded in their cars, forced to sleep in the floors of local stores and cities that looked virtually unprepared for any winter

Everyone can remember the media outrage following Hurricane Katrina; New Orleans became a hotbed for violent criminal behavior long after the event. Catastrophes, natural and otherwise, that destroy our power sources and leave us in the dark elicit an ugly and familiar behavior in some: looting and theft. And while few natural disasters meet the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, any event that takes away our power can leave us instantly exposed. Even those of us prepared with a home alarm system lacking an alternative power source can be invaded the moment our power fails. Here are a few tips to prepare your home for safety the next time you experience a power outage at home.

1.    Have a plan ready with your family

Before a power outage happens, the best step you can take to make sure your family remains safe is to have a plan prepared. This includes:

  • plenty of unrefrigerated food
  • a water source/supply
  • an emergency kit including flashlights and medical supplies
  • reserve clothes and bedding
  • at least one alternative source of power

Your family should have a plan, including common routes and meeting locations. If anyone becomes lost, they should know where to find everyone. Another important aspect to assess in your plan is how long your household can survive in case the power outage is for an extended period of time; there should be a predetermined day in which you leave when you pass that number of days. If you have a nearby neighbor you trust, make arrangements with them. In survival situations, there is always strength in numbers.

2.    Prepare different sources of light

For most criminals, a dark house equals an exposed house. It provides cover, allows easy access to your home, and indicates that any security measures you’ve equipped are likely now unplugged. Deter criminals and maintain your sanity by keeping plenty of alternative light sources somewhere specific that every member of your family is aware of, like a pantry or storage closet. Oil/battery-operated lanterns, long-burning candles or fireplaces are potential ways to keep your home alight enough to deter crooks targeting a seemingly vacant defenseless home. Keeping motion-sensing lights hooked to a generator at night for your lawn is an excellent precaution.

3.    Limit access to your home

To prevent criminals from invading your doors and windows, limit your access with some simple modifications. Install a screw on each window that limits how far they can be opened to a few inches. Make sure your doors are of a sturdy material and equipped with secure locks and deadbolts. Preparing your property with a sufficiently tall fence (six feet minimum to deter people) and a locked gate will definitely benefit you in a power outage. Last but not least, never leave equipment out on your lawn that could be used against you in an attempted break-in, such as tools, blunt instruments, or ladders.

4.    Take caution with generators

While investing in generators for this kind of event is smart planning, make sure your use of the generator is equally smart. Using generators in-doors is extremely dangerous and can result in carbon monoxide poisoning. Likewise, you should keep generators far from windows or doors where the poisonous gas can seep in. It’s important to follow the directions provided with your unit to avoid possible electrocution or damage to your wiring, and never refrain from contacting a professional to lend you a hand if you’re unsure while installing or using a generator. Solar generators are an excellent long-term source for electricity during power outages, though should be used sparingly; focus on lighting and communications devices foremost. They can be expensive − unless, of course, you make one.

Keeping these tips in mind, your family will feel much safer during a power failure. Even if you’re fortunate in not needing all of your supplies or plans readied for the occasion, the peace of mind your family will have to know what needs to be done in case the worst happens is a priceless boon.

Everyone can remember the media outrage following Hurricane Katrina; New Orleans became a hotbed for violent criminal behavior long after the event. Catastrophes, natural and otherwise, that destroy our power

Water is a critical component of life.  Go without any for three days, and your chances of being dead are very high.  We are used to water being available at every tap, water fountain and purveyor of beverages.  The only problem is, this continuous availability of water depends on a lot of infrastructure, and if some or all of that collapses, water is going to “dry up” quickly.  And if you head out into the wilderness, taps, fountains and retail sellers are few and far between.  You should always be keeping an eye out to make sure you have “enough” water and/or a way to get water.

Different Types of Water

Water is water, but not all water is the same.  There is pure water, just combinations of two Hydrogen atoms and one Oxygen atom (H2O).  Generally the closest you can get to this is distilled water.  This is useful and fairly harmless, although it is hypotonic (has a lower solute concentration than do human cells) and can cause hemolysis (rupturing of red blood cells); this is usually not a major concern even if this is all that is available to drink.  Using it on wounds may delay healing a bit; and it might be a problem for people with ulcers (bleeding in the stomach).  But this is still way better than no water.  On the other end of the scale are various degrees of contaminated water, polluted with chemicals and/or biological organisms, which can make you very sick and even kill you.  Salt water can be considered in this latter class as well, even if there is nothing else in it besides the salt.  In between are various types of water, all of which are potable (suitable for drinking without major harmful effects).

Determining what water is potable and what is not can be quite a challenge.  If it is in a sealed container and properly labeled, then it MIGHT be OK.  Labels have been known to be inaccurate (accidentally and even deliberately).  If it comes from a municipal tap, then it MIGHT be OK.  Just ask the people of Flint, Michigan about that.  If it is from a known well, it MIGHT be OK.  My dad’s well was found to contain arsenic.  And if the water is from an open source, such as a stream or pond, there is a chance it might be OK, but the odds are very high that it is contaminated.

Market failure.

Even if some water does not have anything seriously harmful in it, there might be particulates (sand, silt, plant or insect parts and the like) which would make the water unpleasant and/or things which might be only relatively harmless.

During “normal” times, pre-packaged or professionally provided water is usually tolerable, but if the water infrastructure breaks down for any reason, all water is not to be trusted as is.  Open water should always be viewed with suspicion regardless of the state of the surroundings.

Contaminants in Water

There is a tremendous variety of contaminants.  Some are “natural”, such a minerals in water drawn from a well, or silt from the bed of a river.  Some are man-made, and leaked into surface water accidentally or even deliberately; some eventually work their way into the water table.  Some are added accidentally or even deliberately by water distribution networks or packaging.  For convenience, let us group contaminates into particulates, organisms, organic chemicals (contain carbon), inorganic chemicals and salt (a special case of inorganic chemical).

Determining some specific contaminates can be done with a “pocket-sized” kit, but many require chemical tests which may be a challenge for people without lab access.  But you can get a compact “TDS” meter cheap which will tell you the “Total Dissolved Solids” in your water.  As an example, fish tank water gave a reading of 448, tap water read 229, and reverse osmosis water read 17.  We don’t know WHAT contaminants are there, but we have an idea of HOW MUCH.  Some of these meters also measure “EC” (Electrical Conductivity); pure water is an insulator and it is the ions added to it which makes it conductive, so TDS and EC are closely related.

 

This weird device will do just that – SAVE YOUR LIFE in a crisis.

Because requires no electricity, it is ideal for home use, on or off-grid.

Purifying Water

There are six common, practical philosophies of treating contaminated or suspected water.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Chemical reaction changes harmful chemicals (usually inorganic) to harmless ones (such as ion exchange), or adsorb (attract to the surface and “grab onto”) some chemicals (usually organic).
  2. Filtration removes particulates and bigger organisms; most filters allow some organisms (particularly viruses) and all chemicals through.  Salt water cannot be purified by filtration and can damage the filter.
  3. Boiling kills all organisms; it is useless against particulates, salt and chemicals
  4. Chemical treatment has pretty much the same effect as boiling, without the cost in fuel, but often adding an unpleasant taste (you are adding chemicals).
  5. Distillation is an extension to boiling which, if done correctly, should be able to deal with biological, particulate and most chemical contamination, as well as salt.
  6. UV radiation kills organisms exposed to it as long as the water is pretty clear; it is useless against particulates, salt and chemicals

There may be other methodologies which I am not familiar with, particularly large-scale, but these six would seem to be those of most interest for survival purposes.

Since no method is perfect, often two or more methods are used together.

Chemical Reaction

The most common form of this is “activated charcoal”.  This is carbon (charcoal) media which has been treated with Oxygen to create a myriad of tiny pores between the atoms, resulting in a massive surface area of potential chemical bonds.  The carbon attracts some chemicals, particularly organic ones, and they bond to the surface (adsorption).  These usually cannot be cleaned, so clog up and must be replaced fairly quickly.  Also, if the carbon media is granular, some dust sneaks out, requiring a pre-flush of the filter before normal use.  Because the intention is for the contaminants to bond with the carbon, we want the contaminants to be in contact with the carbon for a “long time”.  Thus, the better ones of these have a slow production rate, and arguably the “best” of these uses “carbon block” technology where the media is fused together into a mildly porous solid.

You have probably heard of one common Ion Exchange device, the ubiquitous water softener.  It exchanges two sodium (salt) ions for each calcium or magnesium ion.  This is for non-drinking reasons, because calcium and magnesium are often better for you than salt, and tastes better too.  For water purification, the process has two different beads which exchange inorganic ions to produce Hydrogen ions and Hydroxyl (OH) ions, which combine to form H2O (pure water) to replace the chemicals.  Of course, the ions are used up rapidly, they are for a specific list of chemicals, and the beads need to be regenerated.  And of course, this method has no effect on organisms or particulates.  These are fairly rare; an example would be the MB series filters from CustomPure.com which also include carbon filtration for some of the things Ion Exchange won’t handle. They claim it can remove “sodium” which is salt, but I doubt it would be able to handle the amount of salt in salt water.

Water Filtration

Filtration is very simple in concept.  You pass the contaminated water through a medium with holes smaller than what you want to take out.   As such, a key specification for any filter is what size the “holes” are.  This is usually specified in “microns”, or “micrometers”.  That is, one millionth of a meter.  Some claim this measurement (micron) is obsolete, but it still seems to be the measurement of choice for filters.  Some recent purifiers specify their size in “nanometers”, where 1 nanometer is .001 micron.  Keeping with the “metric” measurements, filter capacity (how much water can be processed before replacement) is often specified in Liters (L); for a rough estimate, a Liter is approximately the same volume as a quart, so four Liters is approximately a gallon.

When comparing filters, the one with the smaller holes would seem to be the better choice.  The problem is that some companies have varying sizes of holes, and claim the size of the smallest hole in their filter rather than the biggest.  Since it is easier for the water to get through a bigger hole and much of it does, this can be a seriously misleading rating.  In your final analysis, try to find out the actual percentage of contaminants removed.  This is the most accurate way of determining filter effectiveness.  Another term which can sometimes be used in a misleading manner is water “purifier”.  The correct use of this term is for a unit which removes the much smaller viruses.  Units which remove particulates and organisms as small as bacteria are simply to be called “filters”.

Some filters become “plugged up” quickly and are rated for a specified number of gallons (or liters), while others can be cleaned and restored to service or even are self-cleaning.  Reverse osmosis (RO) is a prime example of purification and self-cleaning.  It forces the water through a semi-permeable membrane and continuously washes any contaminates off of the source side of the membrane.  This is a very effective system (see the TDS meter example above), but requires the water to be pressurized, and worse, the wash water now has an even higher level of contamination than it had at the beginning.  In many systems, you “throw away” as much as four gallons of water for each gallon purified.  I’ve heard of one household system where the wash water is fed into the hot water line rather than the drain, but I’m not seeing how the pressure in that line is overcome.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter – $20

Other filters run the gamut from several layers of cloth or a coffee filter, suitable only for large particulates, to 0.01 micron (or less) water purifiers; from pocket-sized to counter-top and bigger.  Since the smaller the holes, the slower the filtration and the more likely it is to clog up, often filter systems have multiple filters, starting with a pre-filter for “chunks”, course filters for large particulates, possibly some medium-sized filters and ending up with the finest filter.  Smaller holes require more “energy” to force the water through the holes; this can be from gravity, or more effectively, a pump or suction.

In filters (i.e., won’t remove viruses), perhaps the most compact and simplest to use is the “Lifestraw“.  This is rated at 0.2 micron, with a 264 gallon capacity.  It is light, easy to carry and reasonably priced.  To use it, stick the input end into contaminated water and suck the water from the other end just like from a straw.  It takes a few seconds of sucking to start delivering water.  There also seems to be a Lifestraw Steel model, which adds a metal body and an activated carbon filter to remove some chemicals.  This latter part is replaceable, which is good because its capacity is 26 gallons, only a tenth of the main filter capability.  Another popular compact option is the Sawyer Mini system.  This is rated at 0.1 micron, and can be cleaned to provide up to 100,000 gallons of filtered water.  It can be pressurized by squeezing a pouch of contaminated water, or used inline with a hydration pack, from a standard soda bottle, or used as a straw from an open source.

As for portable purification, an example is the pump powered MSR Guardian, rated at .02 microns and with about a 2500 gallon capacity.  Another, bigger option is the Lifestraw Family, rated at .02 microns and with a 2600 gallon capacity.  I found a particularly compact suction powered (straw) system which sounds promising; the Etekcity 1500L rated at .01 microns with a 396 gallon capacity, but don’t know anything about the company.  They have a wide range of products, so it’s not like they specialize in water purification.

 

This weird device will do just that – SAVE YOUR LIFE in a crisis.

Because requires no electricity, it is ideal for home use, on or off-grid.

 

A countertop system is an option at a fixed location.  An example of this is the gravity powered Big Berkey (actually, the whole Berkey family).  This company doesn’t provide a micron rating since it can be misleading as mentioned above; they stand on their contamination removal percentages.  Their filter cartridges have a capacity of 3000 gallons per filter element, with two to four elements installed in the system.  More elements don’t filter any better, just faster.  Not only is it very effective against virus (and bigger things), but many chemicals as well.  And you can get an add on filter for each element which takes out Fluoride, Arsenic and a couple of other additional chemicals, with a capacity of 500 gallons per add-on filter.

Tune in for Part 2, which investigates the other four purification methods.

Water is a critical component of life.  Go without any for three days, and your chances of being dead are very high.  We are used to water being available at

Like millions of others, I plopped down to watch National Geographic’s American Blackout. I was curious to see how the hypothetical scenario of a 10 day nationwide power outage caused by terrorism would be portrayed. I was also watching this as I do with each episode of Doomsday Preppers to gain new insight or ideas from the other people on the show. While there are some silly moments and outlandish situations on some of the more notorious prepping shows, there are always nuggets of information if you know where to find them and are willing to look at things with an open mind.

As I watched American Blackout, I pulled some obvious conclusions out of the examples of people who were videoing themselves after this pretend emergency and jotted them down.

1 – Always have some cash

The scenario is a nationwide power outage and like we discussed in our Blackout checklist, that means that a lot of life’s modern conveniences aren’t going to work. Things we take for granted like running to the ATM for a little cash aren’t going to be possible in a power outage. One of the characters was a father who was trying to get his very pregnant wife and child back home as he navigated the streets that had descended into pandemonium because the traffic signals were out. Sensing how this might be a problem he tells his wife that he was going to go “get some cash” only to come back to the car with an empty wallet and a worried look on his face.

Don’t let this happen to you! There is no reason to not have some cash on hand with you at all times or at least where you can get to it. I recommend having at least a month’s worth of cash on hand if you can afford this, but even a couple hundred dollars would have kept this family in water and some food if they acted quickly enough. If ATM’s and Banks are closed, chances are your credit cards, debit cards and EBT cards won’t work either. If stores can’t take credit, you will need cash. Make sure you have some cash stored in a safe place at home or in your car that is never spent and is ready if needed in an emergency.

2 – Water and food are necessities

Things didn't turn out too well for the "Yuppie" couple.
Things didn’t turn out too well for the “Yuppie” couple.

We have covered this topic in a lot of different ways, but it bears repeating until it is never any issue anymore. In any disaster or crisis, food and water will be snatched up first and food and water are two of the most important things you need to have. Make sure that you aren’t the Yuppie couple who live day by day eating at restaurants and who only have some old caviar and a bottle of champagne in their apartment. Ensure you have stored food to last you as long as possible. Most of us have at least 3 days’ worth of food in our homes, but for an event that lasts 10 days as in American Blackout, three days isn’t enough. What if you have others staying with you?

Food and water are the simplest items you can stock up on because you use them every day. You are already buying them on a weekly basis I bet. In a power outage, the pumps that run water to the city will shut down and if you have no water coming out of the pipes, what will you do for drinking and sanitation? Actually, the sanitation part was only so briefly covered in the show that I was surprised. People will still need to go to the bath room regardless of what calamity is happening outside.

3 – If you are going to leave, get out of town fast

Even though this show was a dramatic hypothetical, the situations presented have all happened before and on a much more catastrophic scale, so it isn’t complete fiction. Power outages are probably the least horrible “disaster” to live through but can still be deadly. People will get scared and when they do, the absolute worst in your fellow human beings will come out. This has been played out time and time again in history.

If you have plans to bug out, you should be hitting the road as soon as possible in a situation like this. Power outages were being reported all over the country so the token prepper loaded his family plus 1 tag along into his Bug Out Vehicle and skedaddled out of town. As the crisis goes on, people will become more desperate. The early hours of a crisis could be marked with good natured people having block parties, cooking the contents of their freezers and drinking the last of their beer. By day 4, people are going to be stressed out, frazzled and possibly dangerous. You don’t want to be around at this point if you have somewhere else to go away from the mass of people.

4 – Don’t trust others to keep your secrets

Photograph by National Geographic Channels/ Stewart Volland
Photograph by National Geographic Channels/ Stewart Volland

There have been hundreds of posts written on OPSEC and the need to keep your prepping information on a need to know basis. This is done for security and the show documented how this can quickly spiral out of control. The “prepper” took his daughter’s boyfriend, Jason along with them when they bugged out to his hidden retreat “Somewhere in Colorado”. Upon arrival Jason was given a tour of the facility, shown the food storage and how the food they had in the pantry wasn’t all the food the family had. It was meant for decoy to keep the real food storage safe.

In a later scene a few days into the power outage, a neighbor comes to the Prepper’s property asking for food. At this, the prepper said “We don’t have anything for you” and good little Jason piped in to say that “We have two years’ worth of food”. My mouth hit the floor when this happened; because that is the last thing that prepper wanted anyone to know. The begging escalated between the neighbor and the prepper to the point where the prepper pulled a gun and finally made his neighbor leave. Cue the ominous music.

My wife and I had a slight disagreement on how the prepper handled this which I’ll address later but the point for this topic is that you can’t tell desperate people information like this unless you are ready and willing to deal with the consequences. In desperate times, people will do desperate things and you soon find out how this situation turns south for the prepper. If I were in the same scenario, I don’t think I would have taken anyone along with me to my retreat unless they were family. Had I no choice, I think I would have treated them with extreme suspicion until they had proven themselves. There is no way I would have shown this kid,  who I didn’t know, who also just so happened to want to sleep with my daughter, anything about what I had stored at the retreat and I would have instructed my family to do the same. This topic is worthy of its own post, but the main point is people will kill you for nothing very quickly. People will kill you much faster if you have something their starving children need.

5 – Have a grid-down way to communicate

Along with the power being out, communications will go out as cell towers rely on power to push that signal out. Just a simple pair of walkie talkies can be a huge advantage if we have only lost power. For longer communications, HAM radio would be the next best bet and it’s easy to get into this hobby. For less than a hundred dollars in equipment you can talk to people hundreds of miles away in a disaster situation.

6 – A little kindness goes a long way

OK, so the neighbor who was asking for food wasn’t being mean. He was nicely asking for food and may have gone away for a while if the prepper wasn’t yelling at him to leave and saying “I got nothing for you”. If the situation demands an escalation, you can do that, but I think in most situations, a calm level-headed approach is the best first option. The prepper may have been able to talk to the man in a calmer way if Jason the idiot hadn’t opened his mouth, but even after he did I don’t think the neighbor did anything to warrant getting a gun pulled on him. He was asking for food and maybe he was being insistent, but I didn’t see him crossing the fence or threatening the prepper.

Now, I am not advocating you to invite a crack head back home and make him a bowl of soup and let him sleep on your couch, but if you are trying to avoid confrontation for as long as possible, you should be calm and rational. There is nothing wrong with anyone asking you for something. These two hypothetical people occupied a lot of land away from everyone else in the middle of nowhere. The prepper in my opinion should have tried well before a crisis to get to know his neighbor for just this reason. When the grid goes down you might very well have to rely on your neighbors for safety and you could just as easily be threatened by them as people in the city if they want what you have. A neighbor who is hungry and hates your guts is a bigger threat in my mind than someone who is just hungry.

7 – Have a way to recharge electric devices

The entire show was presented as footage from cell phones and cameras after the power went out. There was one kid who mentioned a solar charger and a young girl who was given a whole box of batteries by her dad before he left to find food for the family. The last guy actually had a crank cell phone charger like this one here from Eton that I thought was pretty cool.

Now, whether or not you believe that everyone’s cell phones would stay on that long much less record days of video the idea of charging your batteries is one that you will be faced with. Make sure you have a way to charge electronics that you could depend on. I have a couple of options. First, I have plenty of Eneloop AA and triple AAA’s for the flashlights and radios. We also have an inverter to run off the car battery for electricity and a generator with some fuel. The fall back is a solar charger that will take longer and requires sun, but it is another option. I probably won’t be charging a cell phone to take video if we do have a terror attack that takes out our country’s power grid, but there are several devices I will depend on that will need recharging.

8 – First aid for minor/medium injuries

One of the characters dies from either dehydration or a cut on his arm. The reason wasn’t clear but to me they made it out to be the small cut on his arm and I assume infection. It’s hard to believe someone can die from what appeared to be so minor of an injury but first aid is definitely a priority. If the power is out, streets are crowded with abandoned cars and people are looting and robbing every house on your block the last thing you want to do is try to make it to a hospital. The hospitals are already going to be crowded with people injured in all manner of ways and that is if they are even open in the first place.

Part of your prepping supplies should be plenty of level one trauma items in the form of minor pain killers (aspirin), bandages, antibiotic creams and possibly sutures or a surgical stapler. You need to be prepared to handle these minor injuries because you don’t want to risk going out. They guy who died was trapped in an elevator, but the lesson still applies for people who are safe in their house.

9 – Having Stuff doesn’t make you smart

Photograph by National Geographic Channels/ Stewart Volland
Photograph by National Geographic Channels/ Stewart Volland

Getting back to the Prepper representative of the show, I had high hopes for him. The show started with him loading gear into a nice heavy duty SUV. His gear was pre-staged and it looked like he had planned ahead. His first mistake was bringing along his daughter’s boyfriend. My own daughter looked at me and said “there is no way you would do that” and she was right. Not solely for the obvious reasons either.

The prepper on the show had a plan; he had gear and an unbelievably awesome retreat location in the woods of Colorado. He had backup power and tens of thousands of gallons of water, 2 years’ worth of food and a fully stocked underground bunker with cameras over the entire property. From all of this, one would assume that he had really thought about SHTF and had planned accordingly.

Yes and no. The prepper would seem to have everything you need to be able to live as comfortably weather the grid-down scenario presented even for up to 2 years. His actions quickly showed that he was taking some things for granted.

For starters, he thought that anyone with him (Jason the boyfriend) would know everything about how security minded they should be. Secondly, he was soundly asleep while his 11 year old son was captured and forced to give up their decoy supply of food. Then when he retreated to the bunker, he foolishly went out to confront a gang of obviously desperate men who were stealing his stored fuel and was quickly captured.

Taking the time to plan for survival is great. Beginning the journey toward learning new skills and acquiring the tools and knowledge you need to be better prepared in a crisis like this is a vital and important step, but you can’t be misled into thinking that just because you have some preps, that they can’t be taken from you. An underground bunker won’t prevent you from making stupid mistakes and just because you tell someone to go away, it doesn’t mean they will listen to you.

I believe that being prepared is the smart thing to do, but you can’t stop when you have some stuff. You can use the time you have now to think and learn and plan for events like this so that you will have some time to figure out what you will do if you are faced with a situation that could be life threatening. Life will be even more precious when there are people who have a strong motivation to take yours from you.

Like millions of others, I plopped down to watch National Geographic’s American Blackout. I was curious to see how the hypothetical scenario of a 10 day nationwide power outage caused

What Are Your Bug Out Triggers?

In Part 1, we examined subjects that pertain largely to safety issues in your home and neighborhood, as well as commerce and certain types of services and infrastructures that you depend upon. In this concluding segment we will look at additional infrastructures and the conditions that may generally prevail throughout the area where you live. It is worthwhile to repeat that the more information you have, the more likely you are to make effective and timely decisions.

(15) Have news networks broadcast official advisories or orders to evacuate your residence, town or city?

  • Public safety warnings are an indication that government is (or was) operational at some level at the time of the announcement. Were these notices issued before you decided to bunker down? If yes, have subsequent advisories/orders been issued, updated or cancelled? Or have you heard no further updates?
  • Are the messages prerecorded statements on continuous replay or are they live broadcasts? In other words, is anyone at home at the station?
  • General orders to evacuate your area following SHTF are a clear indication that local government (at minimum) is not able to protect you from a recognized or developing threat. You are, in effect, on your own and a decision to remain in place may become increasingly untenable.
AM/FM NOAA Emergency Crank Radio with Solar Power Panel – Makes a great survival supply to have on hand.


(16) Can you pick up any AM or FM radio station on a battery/solar-powered radio? If yes, how far away is it?

  • If the local radio stations that you normally listen to are off the air, the area affected by the event could have a radius of 50 to 100 miles.
  • A few AM band radio stations have sufficient radiated power to be heard from a distance of several hundred miles when atmospheric conditions are favorable, or if you are on elevated terrain. If you are unable to pick up these distant stations then the affected area is at least regional in scale and may have affected most of the country.
  • If you have a spool of speaker wire (50 to 100 feet), you can rig an external antenna to a battery-powered AM/FM radio to extend your reception range. I have picked up radios stations (those with even modest radiated power) from distances as great as 500 miles using this technique. AM stations with very high power, such as KOMA (1520 kHz) can be picked up from distances exceeding 800 miles.
  • Your ability (or lack thereof) to pick up distant commercial radio stations can inform you of the scale of the event you are dealing with.

(17) Are you able to receive official alerts on emergency and/or 2-way radios?

  • NOAA weather reports are broadcast on six frequencies in the 162.400 to 162.525 MHz range on the VHF band. Bulletins are broadcast from nearly 1,000 stations around the country, but are issued from central locations, such as the principal National Weather Service facility in your area (which may not be in your state). For example, Wyoming presently has 21 NOAA transmitters, but broadcasts originate from only five locations, of which three are in different states (Montana, Utah and South Dakota).
  • Why is this important? If you are in an area that ordinarily receives NOAA broadcasts, but you are now unable to pick up the alerts, the transmitter station could be without power or the broadcast station may no longer be in service (or both). For example, broadcasts for central Wyoming originate in Rapid City South Dakota. The power outage that you are experiencing may cover a large region.
  • Transmitter coverage area is dependent upon station location, effective radiated power and terrain. For station locations, output power and coverage maps in your state, see: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/coverage/station_listing.html
NoPhoneService
If your phone shows no signal then all towers within your range are down.

(18) Does your cell phone or land line still work?

  • All cell phones indicate the strength of signal they are receiving from the nearest operational tower. If your phone shows no signal then all towers within your range are down.
  • Land line phones connect to a local central office (CO) which, in turn, is connected to a Point of Presence (POP) facility where calls and communications circuits are aggregated. If there is no dial tone then there is either a break in circuit continuity between your phone and the CO; or the Central Office is, itself, no longer operational.
  • By itself, the absence of dial tone does not indicate the scale of the problem (whether local, regional or national). A simultaneous outage of land lines and cell phones certainly indicates a severe localized failure, but it still does not tell you anything about the actual scale. The longer both types of communication remain inoperative the probability increases that the scale of the outage is at least regional.

(19) How many hours or days have passed since you saw or spoke with law enforcement personnel in your area?

  • If you have been sheltering in place for several days and not seen or spoken with law enforcement officers in your neighborhood, it is possible that your locality is not immediately threatened by civil disorder. However, it could also mean that all available police are busy dealing with public safety issues in other portions of your community. The worst possible scenario is that they have bunkered down or bugged out to protect their own families.
  • If it is possible to do so safely, quickly reach out to local police. They would want to know current conditions in your neighborhood, even though they may not be able to provide direct protection. Of all people who you may come in contact with, local police are most likely to know current and evolving situations and to be sympathetic to your situation.
  • The national ratio of police officers (in the field) to citizens generally ranges between one and two per 1,000. Frankly, a SHTF event and its aftermath could easily overwhelm law enforcement resources. They may be busy protecting fire fighters who are trying to prevent arson caused fires from reaching your neighborhood.
  • If local police have been augmented by officers from outlying communities, Sheriffs Deputies, state DPS officers or National Guard, this may indicate that civil disorder has become an imminent threat and is moving in your direction.
  • The protracted absence of law enforcement in your area is not, I think, a very good sign. Without phone service, police will not be able to respond to 911 calls for help. Without radio communications, they will not be able to communicate with each other.
  • The total and continued absence of police presence in your area, especially without augmentation by external law enforcement resources, may indicate that local authority, including the capacity to govern, is not assured. It worst, it could indicate a collapse of local or state government.
  • You must consider the degree to which your continued safety in residence is dependent upon local law enforcement.
When was the last time you saw a fire department vehicle or ambulance in your immediate area?
When was the last time you saw a fire department vehicle or ambulance in your immediate area?

(20) When was the last time you saw a fire department vehicle or ambulance in your immediate area?

  • If you have no water, the fire hydrants in your area will also be dry. This would require engine companies to pump water from wells or local lakes or rivers. Their ability to respond to and suppress fires in a timely manner will be degraded, to say the least.
  • Where is the nearest FD station to your residence? If local 911 emergency services are not working, can you safely determine whether the station remains staffed and operational?
  • Are there areas in your community where firefighters are requiring the protection of police? Are there areas where the fire department can not, or will not, enter for reasons of safety?
  • In the absence of fire department protection, civil disorder takes on an entirely different dimension. No rational distinction can be made between a looter and a potential arsonist from the perspective of safety. (Think Baltimore and Ferguson.) If you and your local fire department are unable to suppress a fire, and uncontrolled fires are already occurring in your community, you must consider bugging out.

(21) Have strangers stopped at your residence seeking food, water or shelter?

  • Countless acts of compassion and charity occur around us and across the world every day. Sadly, so do acts of violence, brutality and savagery. Regardless of your capacity to aid refugees, you should at least consider trading assistance for information. Where are they coming from? How long have they been on the move before reaching your area? Where are they headed, and why? If you want to think of that as a transaction, it might be worth allowing them a safe place to rest, an opportunity to refill a canteen, or a meal. From a purely selfish standpoint, information that you might obtain from refugees will provide useful information about conditions in your region. Importantly, what you can learn from these poor souls may also save your life. A map and a box of stick pins can help you visualize the scale of the SHTF event that you are facing. Did the last passers-by depart their home (perhaps from a distance of 100 miles) five days ago? What route did they take? What conditions did they witness while en route? Have they encountered hostile actions? Are they barely ahead of armed gangs?
  • Information that enables you to objectively assess current or pending threat conditions is invaluable; it may be vital in determining if/when you will need to bug out.

(22) Have all battery-powered electronic devices (laptops, cell phones, two-way radios, GPS units, etc.) ceased working?

  • This question is not about whether you forgot to charge your personal electronic devices; rather, were they working before the event, but not after? Change out the batteries to confirm if they will operate. If they are still inoperable you may be seeing the consequence of an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP).
  • If you were planning to take or use any of these tools when you bug out, they may now be useless, and it is too late to learn how to build a simple, but effective, Faraday Cage that would have saved your gear.
  • The loss of public power can be compensated (for a time) by using portable generators or solar voltaic systems. However, if your personal electronics have been rendered useless, you must determine how it will affect your decision to shelter in place versus bugging out.

(23) Can you start the engine on your vehicle(s)? Are any vehicles moving – anywhere?

  • To my knowledge, the simultaneous failure of all motor vehicles can only indicate that an EMP event has occurred. It would be accompanied by a widespread failure of the electrical grid. Any device that relies on computer chips will likely cease to operate if they are not EMP hardened. With the possible exception of military, this would presumably include any aircraft in flight or on the ground, and any commuter rail systems that rely on electricity.
  • An EMP event means that you will be on foot while bugging out. As indicated by #22 above, you will also be without electronic communications and navigation devices unless they were protected in advance.
  • How would an EMP affect your bug out plans? Would the loss of motorized transportation and communications accelerate, delay or terminate your departure? Why?
Mass evacuations are a recipe for massive traffic jams.
Mass evacuations are a recipe for massive traffic jams.

(24) Are nearby major traffic arteries blocked by abandoned vehicles?

  • Mass evacuations are a recipe for massive traffic jams. Although the nearest Interstate highway may be a significant distance from your residence, nearby major traffic arteries may first become congested and then blocked. Accidents and vehicles running out of gas will merely compound the problem, eventually forcing people to strike out on foot. If such an event has already occurred and you have been sheltering in place for days or weeks, you need to remain informed about traffic conditions. For example, are vehicles being cleared by tow trucks, or have conditions remained unchanged?
  • Obviously, the longer highways remain unusable, the underlying situation remains unresolved. If you decide to bug out, you must accept that many thousands of people are well ahead of you and many thousands more may be behind you.

(25) When is the last time you saw or heard the sound of a helicopter or other aircraft?

  • The federal government can, in cases of national emergency, order the grounding of civilian and commercial aircraft; as happened on 9-11, 2001. You may recall that eerie period of several days when there were no contrails in the sky or private aircraft practicing touch and go landings at local airports. If you are able to observe or hear aircraft in flight, it will be important to determine whether they are civilian, commercial, public safety, medical evacuation, military or “other.” The distinction is important because it can inform you about the situation in your area.
  • A prolonged absence of civilian and commercial aircraft almost certainly means that a national security threat of some type has been declared. Conversely, the resumption of this type of traffic indicates an improvement over previous conditions.
  • Commonly seen rotary wing aircraft (other than privately owned) are generally composed of law enforcement, medical evacuation, public safety, commuter taxis, radio/TV traffic reporting and non-military federal agencies (such as Border Patrol, DEA and FBI, etc). That is a wide array of groups, but all of them could be mustered for support service in times of emergency. If you are seeing (or hearing) helicopters in your area it will mean that government is functioning at some level, but it does not mean that conditions are safe or normal.
  • Military aircraft are easy to identify by sight and sound. If transport aircraft, such as C-5, C-17, C-130 variants and Ospreys are operating in your area, you may reasonably infer that supplies or troops are being transported to or from an airport in your vicinity. If you are seeing heavy lift rotary wing aircraft, such as CH-53, Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters, or smaller UH “Huey” helicopters ferrying troops or supplies, there may be tactical military operations in your area. The presence of attack helicopters (not previously seen), such as Apache and Cobra, especially if they are carrying ordnance, may mean that our military is engaged in countering acts of lawlessness or aggression.
  • At the most extreme, a complete and continued absence of traffic, regardless of type, could mean that air traffic control systems (such as FAA radars) are not operational or that the aircraft themselves have become inoperable.
Coming to a town near you?
Coming to a town near you?

(26) Have roadblocks or checkpoints been established on public streets or highways your area?

  • For purposes of this discussion, a roadblock is comprised of portable devices used for the temporary closure of a road and is normally accompanied by flashing yellow lights mounted on collapsible saw-horses and signage that says “Street Closed,” or “Road Flooded,” etc. A roadblock can be quickly set and removed by highway crews or police. A checkpoint is, in effect, a roadblock that has been set to stop and interrogate travelers. Checkpoints may be for a variety of purposes, but in a SHTF situation, they could be used to screen individuals, check for (or confiscate) weapons, or provide directions to hospitals, food and shelter. In other words, a checkpoint would likely be manned by armed law enforcement or military personnel.
  • If roadblocks are being set up in your area, it may be to channel vehicular and/or foot traffic along a desired route – one that enables police to provide some measure of control and security. Checkpoints may not be nearly as benign. If at all possible, determine in advance their nature and purpose before you bug out. The purpose of both types will help inform you about current conditions, as well as any alterations necessary for a successful bug out route.

(27) Can you see smoke from structure fires in any direction?

  • The sighting of any fire, whether far or near, should be of concern in the aftermath of SHTF. If you are bunkered in, your view to the horizon may be measured in blocks (or even feet) rather than miles.
  • Without public communications you may have no awareness of the cause (such as looting/arson), and you may have limited warning of the extent or direction in which fires are moving. It is essential that you have a plan for responding to the threat of fire, regardless of its cause.

(28) Are you hearing the sound of gunfire or explosions?

  • If the answer to question #1 was no and the answer to this question is yes, then you have probably reached a situation where bugging out is no longer safe and sheltering in place has become even more dangerous.
  • Is the gunfire sporadic or sustained? From your vantage point, is it concentrated in a small area or is it widespread? Can you reliably judge the distance and direction of movement? Can you reliably judge the amount of time you have to depart your home?
  • A lot of factors can work against your ability to detect weapons fire (particularly small arms) at distances greater than one-half mile. Terrain and urban structures can block the transmission of sound. Weather conditions (especially rain and buffeting wind) can muffle distant sounds.
  • Your preferred route of departure may have become blocked. Do you have more than one route from your dwelling place that can provide cover while you put distance between the threat and your family?

(29) Has martial law been declared?

  • If martial law has been declared, your constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties, including freedom of movement, may no longer exist in the eyes of government. The supervision of law enforcement by the judiciary will have been suspended. Without redress, you can be forcefully removed from your home. You may be forced to surrender your property (real and personal), including any food stocks, firearms and ammunition that you possess. Section 1031 of the National Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress in 2012, effectively repealed the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. As a legal matter, the declaration of martial law is no longer limited to the threat of invasion or rebellion, or by a threat to public safety, as required in Article 1 Section 9 of the US Constitution.
  • The question you must resolve is whether the implications of martial law, as well as the conditions and justifications under which they were imposed, represent a direct threat to continued safety and survival as you shelter in place.
  • An important consideration is whether you believe that a declaration of martial law is something that you are willing to comply with. For it to be effective it must be enforceable. Are you unwilling to comply?

(30) Are police or other government personnel conducting house clearing operations in your area? Are people being forcefully removed from their homes?

  • Depending on conditions, you may have little or no warning that citizens are being systematically forced to vacate their residences.
  • If uniformed teams (police/military or unfamiliar paramilitary units) are moving house to house through your neighborhood, the question may not be whether you will be forced to leave, but if you can depart with your possessions ahead of a forced removal. Bugging out may be the only option you have to avoid “resettlement” to a place other than your choosing, and at the expense of your freedom. If operations of this nature are occurring in your area, you may have very little time to make a decision.

Conclusion

Making a decision to shelter in place after a SHTF event is not as straightforward or simple as you might have expected. Importantly, deciding to abandon your residence – a place that you hoped would provide a base of supplies and relative safety – is no easy matter either. Nor should it be. Hopefully, an objective analysis of the conditions that you may one day have to deal with will make you better prepared for any eventuality.

What Are Your Bug Out Triggers? In Part 1, we examined subjects that pertain largely to safety issues in your home and neighborhood, as well as commerce and certain types of

What Are Your Bug Out Triggers?

What conditions would have to exist for you to decide that you had to abandon your home; that remaining there had become more dangerous than bugging out into a world that has gone sideways (at least in the corner of it that you can observe)? Some natural events are pretty easy to visualize, such as hurricanes, tsunamis and out of control wildfires. But these are actually localized evacuations and not ‘bug-outs.’ In these events, you can reasonably expect that first responder will flow into your area quickly. They will be followed by state and federal agencies with varying degrees of timeliness and effectiveness. Disaster relief funding will be appropriated, insurance companies will write you a check to repair or rebuild and, eventually, you will be able to move back into your property.   In other words, the massive infrastructures of local, state and federal governments will have continued to function throughout the disaster. All’s well that ends well, right?

But, what if there weren’t going to be any first responders? What if state and federal governments were overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, or if they effectively ceased to exist at the very moment of the event? In some SHTF scenarios, those conditions might prevail and you simply haven’t learned of it yet. So, here you are in your dark home, with no water. You’ve burned the last chair from your dining room set to keep warm and you haven’t seen any neighbors for more than two weeks. Maybe it’s time to go, but you aren’t really sure.

If you find it difficult to articulate the conditions under which you would be willing to bug out, you aren’t alone. That difficulty is compounded by generally vague SHTF/TEOTWAWKI scenarios and a lack of meaningful decision trigger points. What are the differences between an inconvenient, undesirable situation and one that has become intolerable and possibly life-threatening? Can you make such a decision with the full knowledge that no “mulligan” will be issued if you get it wrong, that once you step outside the door of your home, it may be for the last time?

For purposes of this discussion, I make the following important distinctions between evacuation and bugging out:

  • An evacuation is accompanied with the reasonable expectation that you will be able to return to your residence in the foreseeable future. It means not only that you are leaving a place under imminent threat, but that you are evacuating to a known place of safety where aid can be provided by a still-functioning government or the charity of others. An evacuation means that rule of law and its consequences continue to apply across the entire spectrum of society and that there has been no suspension of Constitutional rights. Your primary concern may be as simple as finding a motel that hasn’t turned on its “No Vacancy” sign.
  • Bugging out means that you have no reasonable expectation of returning. It means that sheltering in place in a post-SHTF environment has failed as a strategy and has become more dangerous to your survival than bugging out. Rule of law may no longer be respected or enforceable. It also means that no one can guarantee a safe route of passage or a safe destination. Finally, it means that you have no guarantee of receiving aid; that acquiring essential food, water, shelter, and security are entirely dependent upon your ability. In other words, you are on your own.

With two exceptions (#22 and #23), all of the questions that follow are independent of any specific type of SHTF event. Instead, they deal with conditions and information that will help determine whether or when you need to bug out. The list is by no means complete; you are welcome to add questions that pertain more directly to your own environment. Rather than treat them with simple yes or no answers, consider the degrees of risk that may develop as time progresses. As you work through the list it will become evident that answers to multiple questions can lead to a more complete understanding of your situation and the world around you. Having many data points is more reliable than basing a decision on a single piece of potentially flawed information.

RunningFromFire

The questions deal with specific aspects of public safety, public or government infrastructure, your own resources, or conditions in your immediate area or region. There are no redundant questions. For reasons that should be obvious, this article assumes that you have already made some level of preparation to bug out.

(1) Can you defend your home?

  • Understanding the defensive limitations of your home and property should be the prime factor in determining whether and when to bug out before it ever becomes necessary to do so. The stark reality is that the vast majority of residences are not designed or constructed for defense. Windows, sliding glass doors and wood or stucco exteriors will not stop a bullet or a determined intruder, and some calibers can penetrate cement block walls. In the typical suburban setting, with small property lots and walled in back yards, the defensive field of view is extremely limited. Without some form of perimeter security, you may face the prospect of repelling armed looters that have already entered your home.
  • Can you maintain a visual awareness of approaching threats around the clock? Can you maintain this level of awareness for days or weeks?
  • Is your concept of defense dependent upon distance? In other words, can you tolerate a potential threat that is 1 mile or only 200 yards away? What if there is an existential threat standing on the other side of your front door?
  • Objectively accessing your ability to stop looters outside your residence is a paramount consideration, regardless of how defensible you think the interior may be. Importantly, ask yourself if you would be able to prevent or defend against simultaneous entries from multiple points in your house. A low probability of success (intrusion prevention) is an obvious red flag. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but if you do not believe that you can prevent entry from multiple points without endangering your family or yourself, then you must conclude that your home is not defensible. If the answer is “no,” the issue now becomes whether you are willing to gamble on the outcome. Simply stated, if your home is not defensible and other factors (below) indicate an increased risk over time, you must at least consider bugging out for your own safety.

    Does your disaster preparation plan include security measures?

  • Another aspect of home defensibility pertains to fire. Are trees or native brush located near the structures on your property? Do you have a defensive (fuel-free) space that would prevent an uncontrolled fire from destroying your home? Could you suppress a fire without the aid of the fire department? Before you answer “yes” to this question, could you do it if there was no water?

(2) How long have you been bunkered in your residence?

  • The longer you remain in place the less likely you are to be factually aware of the situation unfolding around you. This is particularly true if you cannot obtain information from news networks, local radio stations, etc. Events and threats can develop rapidly. The absence of timely eye-witness or other authoritative information can mean that you are in the path of increasing danger and don’t know it.
  • The assurance of continued safety may require that you reconnoiter your area on a regular basis to assess current conditions. Speak with as many people as you can (safely), but you must also evaluate the other questions on this list.
  • If possible, set up a regular time each day to meet with neighbors to share information.
Makeshift barricades are a low-tech way of blocking or slowing access.
Makeshift barricades are a low-tech way of blocking or slowing access.

(3) Has your neighborhood been forced to erect barricades?

  • The erection of barricades across streets leading into your neighborhood may be a preemptory defensive measure to a perceived threat, or it could be in response to an active threat. You will need to determine which situation pertains.
  • If conditions are such that barricades are deemed necessary by local residents, you must at least consider that the risk to personal safety has increased to a level that warrants consideration of bugging out. In other words, if barricades are necessary, but become ineffective, your zone of safety will be greatly diminished,

(4) Are you counting on neighbors for your own security?

  • Is your strategy for sheltering in place dependent upon the cooperation of neighbors to maintain a degree of safety?
  • Do you consider that your neighbors are able (equipped, competent and physically capable) to contribute to your security?
  • Have you exchanged commitments (a mutual defense pact of sorts) regarding area security? Is it based upon a perceived threat level or the passage of time? In other words, does the pact hold as long as the threat is minimal? Have neighbors (or you) committed to remain in place for a limited time, such as one more week, or are you/they hanging in on a day-to-day or hour by hour basis?
  • Are you confident that you can patrol your neighborhood without being shot by a local resident? Think about that for a moment. How do you intend to reconnoiter your neighborhood if you have no means of communicating with each other?

(5) Have your neighbors abandoned their homes? Has your security situation improved or worsened since they left?

  • After the event that caused you to shelter in place, have you seen neighbors generally packing up to leave?
  • Have neighbors (that you were counting on for mutual defense) started leaving their homes?
  • Has your ability to protect your residence been degraded by the departure of others?
  • A sharp decline of residents in any neighborhood effectively isolates those who stay. Remaining residents are surrounded by unoccupied structures and will be unable to prevent looting and arson. In such a case it may be beneficial for remaining residents to relocate into adjacent houses where they can maintain close communication and concentrate their defenses.

(6) Are you willing and prepared to salvage supplies from residences in your area?

  • If you are determined to shelter in place for an extended period of time you will inevitably need something that you do not presently have or that you have run out of. The list of potential items is virtually endless, yet you may be surrounded by homes that were hastily abandoned – possessions whose owner/occupants will never reclaim. You are faced with a choice: You can inventory and salvage useful items, or you can sit back and wait for looters and scavengers to take them. Either way, it is merely a matter of time before your neighborhood will be cleaned out of anything that is useful, that may extend your life or improve your safety.
  • I am not advocating theft or looting. I’m talking about a world that has gone sideways; a world where rule of law has largely collapsed; where the government has ceased to function; where even the declaration of martial law has no effect on the behavior of people.
  • If you are unwilling to salvage abandoned material, you may be hastening the day when bugging out is the only course of action remaining to you. Importantly, you will still be without the items that you needed.
AbandonedCity
When is the last time you saw or spoke with anyone outside your own dwelling?

(7) When is the last time you saw or spoke with anyone outside your own dwelling?

  • Let’s look at an extreme hypothetical situation where you have been bunkered for two months in a typical suburban environment. There was an initial chaotic period where neighbors were fleeing their homes and large numbers of refugees were streaming through your area. Those numbers declined after a week but were replaced by looters and scavengers during the next four weeks. None of your neighbors have returned and no refugees have moved into vacant structures. You have now been in place for two months and you haven’t seen a single soul in the past three weeks.
  • Does this mean that you’ve weathered the worst of the post-SHTF event, that you are safe? Hardly. This scenario brings us squarely to the issues of situational awareness and your sense of timing. Your decision to shelter in place means that you were neither ahead of nor in the middle of the golden hoard. They left you behind a long time ago.
  • Except for what you have been able to salvage or scavenge for yourself, every business and dwelling place may have been picked clean for miles in every direction. There is still no potable water, gasoline, propane, packaged food, seeds, protein on the hoof or medicines that you can find.
  • At some point you have to confront the concept of what it would mean to be totally alone; without the possibility of immediate or future aid. Now what? Do you have an objective reason to think that your original bug out destination is still a viable option?

(8) Have you seen or been forced to repel looters?

  • Many major metropolitan areas provide information about the location of criminal activity via web sites. It is fairly easy to identify high crime zones, as well as the general nature of the activity (burglary, assault, homicide, etc.) by looking at an interactive map.
  • What distance is your home from these chronic hot spots? Are there convenient routes that would enable riots and looting to spread toward your residence if law enforcement was unable to control or contain it? How much time would it take for looters to reach your neighborhood?
  • In the absence of public communication, you may have no knowledge of the proximity of looters to your residence. Realistically, whatever that time frame is, you have far less time to decide whether to bunker down or bug out.
  • Once looters enter your neighborhood your margin of safety could shrink to near zero.
When is the last time you had access to water?
When is the last time you had access to water?

(9) How long has it been since the electrical grid went down?

  • Local weather events and even accidents can cause power outages lasting from a few minutes to a few days, but people still go to work and shop in areas where power is available. Utility crews show up with chain saws, electrical cable, poles, and transformers. Long duration outages (greater than three days) could indicate a problem that is far more widespread than your immediate locality.
  • From almost any high point you should be able to spot the sky glow from city lights reflecting off cloud cover at night. I can see the night glow from cities 70 miles south and 50 miles north of my location. If you are unable to see city lights in any direction, the event that caused your outage may be at least regional in scale.
  • The key to this issue is not the outage itself, but whether the resources (manpower and replacement gear) exist to recover from it in a time-frame that enables you to remain in your residence. Without electricity, the infrastructures that provide gasoline, natural gas, public communications, and water will be inoperable. At some point, you will begin to use and deplete irreplaceable emergency supplies that you have stored in your home.

(10) How long have you been without a source of water?

  • The delivery of urban water depends upon electric pumps, purification plants, and large capacity storage tanks to maintain pressure. Without electricity, water will cease to flow.
  • Here is a straightforward equation: SC=R. If you started this event with a five-day supply of water (S) and it has been five days since water stopped flowing from your tap, then you have consumed (C) all that you had stored at the end of the 5th You now have zero days of water remaining (R). Conservation of your dwindling supply is irrelevant if there are no prospects that water will begin to flow from the tap. Without the ability to replenish potable water stocks, continued occupation of your residence will become untenable. If you have no source of water, neither will anyone else in your immediate area.

(11) Are you running low on your bug out supplies of food and water?

  • When the taps went dry, how much potable water did you have on hand (measured in days of supply) for the number of people in your residence, including water needed for food preparation and toilets?
  • Including cooked or uncooked foods that were refrigerated or frozen before the power grid went down, how many meals do you have available for the number of people in your residence?
  • Assuming that you have a bug out plan, how much of that food and water will be needed to reach your destination once you abandon your residence? Once you begin depleting your bug out resources, you will effectively be reducing your range of travel; possibly without the ability to replenish supplies along the way.

(12) Are grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and banks in your area open for business?

  • Have you ever experienced panic buying situations where shoppers strip food aisles in the face of an oncoming winter storm? There is no reason to think that a SHTF situation would not produce the same or worse behaviors, but of a greater magnitude.
  • If the situation is accompanied by large-scale power outages of long duration, modern commerce will effectively cease.   To the extent that any purchases are possible, they will be strictly cash and carry; but the conventional sources of cash (banks) will be closed. It will not matter how much you have in your checking or savings account; you will not be able to access it or convert it to a usable form.
  • For anyone that is sheltering in place under such conditions, the cash and supplies that you have on hand are all that you are likely to have for the foreseeable future. Given those circumstances, you must determine when bugging out will become necessary. The key question is whether you intend to be in front of or behind the Golden Horde.

EmptyHighway

(13) Has home delivery ceased?

  • At minimum, there are three organizations that make regular deliveries to your home or neighborhood and they are ubiquitous throughout the country: USPS mail carriers, FedEx and UPS vans. And, unless you haul your own trash, the local sanitation department will make weekly or semi-weekly stops to empty the dumpsters that you place on the curb.
  • If all of these services have ceased it could be that your area is no longer considered safe for employees to enter. This could be a localized or temporary issue, in which case there will be other indicators to help with your assessment of risk.
  • The absence of mail and package delivery may also be caused by other factors, such as the collapse of regional or national logistics systems that rely on air and ground transportation, massive sorting centers and, of course, data processing and communications.
  • A build-up of trash at your residence (while other houses have none) will indicate that it is still occupied, that you are sheltering in place, and that you have some level of resources, such as food and water. Can you conceal or bury trash while sheltering place?

(14) Have you seen any long-haul freight carriers operating on highways?

  • Freight transporters cannot function without fuel, communications, and logistics. If tractor-trailer rigs aren’t moving in and out of depots, are piling up at truck stops or are sitting on the side of the road, there has been a major breakdown in the transport/supply system.
  • Many businesses rely on “just in time” delivery for merchandise, including food, by using real-time inventory control systems and automatic low order restocking points. If the order cannot be fulfilled, if the distribution center cannot load freight onto a truck, or if the truck cannot roll, the supply line will back up – but not at your merchant’s back door. The material will be stuck in distribution centers, at the producer’s plant, or may be rotting in a farm field. Consequently, supply chains will quickly fail.
  • Looting and other forms of civil disorder are likely to occur within hours and could quickly become widespread. Initial looting targets are almost always retail stores. The next likely targets would be distribution centers and other types of supply warehouses. Common sense suggests that freight haulers will not enter areas where civil disturbances are uncontrolled.

In Part 2, we will examine the remaining questions that you should evaluate when before making a decision to bug out.

What Are Your Bug Out Triggers? What conditions would have to exist for you to decide that you had to abandon your home; that remaining there had become more dangerous than