This is the third in a series for the beginning prepper on how to get started Prepping. In part one of this series we covered defining your Priorities and making sure you have a sufficient store of water. The second article covered planning for long term food storage and selecting the best firearm for self defense.
I chose to add financial security as the next most important consideration because unless there is no concept of money or value of goods anymore, you will need some form of currency in which to trade for services or goods. When everything goes south, in almost every scenario, money can still buy you out of a jam so to be dependent on getting your money if it is stored somewhere else is a huge liability. Financial Security used to mean owning stocks and bonds or having T-bills or a really nice 401K or pension fund. Recent events have shown that all of these vehicles are prone to risk and by risk, I mean outright theft. You need to have a plan that falls outside of the norm for society, because if society collapses, you want to have your own source of wealth that you can access regardless of what is going on in the financial markets. I have broken this into three areas.
Emergency Fund – I think everyone needs to have some money that they can get their hands on quickly and no I am not talking about the ATM at the bank down the street. For a wide variety of reasons, you can’t count on banks to either have or be willing to let you access your money anymore. You only have to look at the dozens of bank failures this year alone, or the recent bank crisis in Cyprus where banks shut down for almost two weeks and no one was allowed to take their money out. As long as your money is in someone else’ hands, they control whether or not you can access it and when. This puts you at the mercy of the holder of your money’s good will. Trust is fine and dandy until one party fails to live up to their promise.
Without going into all of the details of fractional reserves or high volume trading (which I can’t coherently explain anyway), I will simply recommend you have a fairly decent portion of money where you can get access to it whenever you want. I would suggest several thousand dollars if possible. Why this much? You may have to live on this money and nothing else if you are unable to get your money from a bank for weeks. Think of this reserve of cash as your monetary survival kit. If for some reason, the banks are closed but the grocery stores are still open accepting cash, you want to be able to purchase items you need. I know that ideally, you would have everything, but look at this as another layer of protection. Another example where cash might help you is bribing people for access of favors. I know this goes against most peoples morals, but if you can bribe a corrupt official to turn a blind eye instead of throwing you in jail, what will you do?
There are a lot of places you can hide your money but this, as with banks isn’t completely risk free. Even if you have money saved and can access it, our money could be worthless due to an economic collapse and even thousands of dollars won’t be able to buy you a loaf of bread. This is exactly what happened in the Wiemar Republic of Germany after World War I. Regardless, I personally would rather have the money just in case. If we have an economic collapse, I think the cost of everything will skyrocket first so you may need to pay more for necessities. Having a fairly large supply of cash could come in handy. There are a lot of people who say you should have small bills and change and I think that would be good if you are faced with some type of emergency that happens and our economy is still functioning relatively normal. If the economy goes bust, it may cost several hundreds of dollars for a few gallons of gas. You really never know what could happen, so again, having a supply of cash could help you. The trick is to put his money away in a safe place and not use it for the family vacation to Disney World.
Long Term Hedge against inflation – Assuming you have been paying even 1% attention to the global economic news, the policies of the Federal Reserve, the IMF and its ripple effects in other countries, you may question the security that the experts in our financial system are claiming to have preserved. If you are concerned about an economic collapse, I would seriously suggest you hold some physical gold or silver. The benefits of precious metals are well documented out there and this is not something that can be artificially inflated or deflated with a printing press. Research whether this is a good option for you and if it is, make sure you hold those metals in your hands. Having them stored with another company is just as useless as having money in a bank. If you don’t have it in your hands, they can refuse to give you access to what should be rightfully yours. I really think the days of storing money in mattresses or coffee cans might be making a return on some level. I don’t suggest this is where you hide money, but having physical possession of your asserts in a liquid form certainly seems safer in a lot of ways now.
Bartering supplies – Assuming there is a giant cataclysm of society where the SHTF in a big way, money even gold might not be depended on but people will still want to trade goods for services. Bartering has been foreseen as what could potentially be the method that people choose to conduct commerce in a future dystopian society. Bartering is not without risks but if you have supplies you can trade others then you will have a form of currency. Ideas for bartering are household cleaning supplies, cigarettes, alcohol, tools, ammunition; pretty much anything that will be of value to those who are just trying to survive. I wouldn’t plan on selling your X-box if there is no power.
I do imagine that eventually in a total collapse, groups will form and bartering will be more common. This is an extremely dark view of society. You can also look at supplies you store to barter as a resource to give away in charity. Some people have suggested small care packages that you can hand out to people who are very down on their luck. For natural disasters, this could be small food, medical and hygiene items. In a end of the world scenario these will be worth just as much as cash to someone.
As we begin to prepare our homes and families for surviving after an emergency, whether natural or man-made, wars or famine, a highly important consideration is staying healthy. The biggest threat to health, notwithstanding a plague type of incident is injuries and infections. If emergency services are overwhelmed during a disaster, you may have to be your own first line of defense on medical care as well. Having the supplies you need to treat mild to major injuries could be the difference between life and death.
Humans are incredibly resilient creatures and our bodies have the capacity to heal themselves in a large variety of circumstances. What you need to consider are how you can apply first aid to your family or group in the absence of the family doctor, calls to 911, trips to the emergency room or the local clinic down the street. My first aid supplies are mainly focused on stopping blood loss and treating infection so that any wounds can heal.
I have seen hundreds of first aid kits on the market out there and even own a few myself that claim to have 250 pieces of lifesaving gear. This sounds great until you look deeper and find that 150 of those pieces are band aids and another 25 or so are things like aspirin. While these kits are great for the car or as general use on vacations or to have around the house, these are not something that will do you much good in a total collapse scenario. I do have some of these first aid kits, but they aren’t what I am depending on if all hell breaks loose.
If you look at what soldiers carry into battle, you will get a good indication of two primary threats they are worried about. The IFAK which stands for Improved First Aid Kit or sometimes Individual First Aid Kit is fairly small and each soldier wears one on their gear. The main items are a combat tourniquet and a nasopharyngeal airway tube. The Army knows that the two main killers are loss of blood and not being able to breathe. You will see a couple of bandages in here, but no band aids. No anti-itch cream, no moist towelettes.
Soldiers in the military have the benefit of highly trained medics and a rear area with trauma doctors. In a real emergency you likely won’t have those luxuries. Knowing how to perform basic lifesaving will be a tremendous advantage. If possible, take a wilderness first aid course, advanced CPR or survival first aid. This will give you some training and experience with saving lives. You won’t know how to do surgery, but just getting someone stable, stopping a major blood loss or clearing an airway could save a life.
For the first aid kit, I have two major kits. The first is a wilderness first aid kit that I purchased online. This has more supplies than the basic first aid kits you get for your car, but I augmented this with a field surgery kit, extra bandages, blood clot and blood stopper tourniquets. This is for the house. My other kit is a Combat Lifesaver kit complete with all of the gear and supplies that comes with it. I also added extra blood stoppers, and sutures to this kit but it was pretty stocked already. This was a nice find at a gun show about a year ago. Since we are on that subject, you can usually find tons of first aid gear and supplies at a gun show relatively cheaply. This bag goes with me on any car trips.
Reference materials in the form of medical manuals are also something to get now. You don’t want to rely on a web site to show you how to suture a wound or treat a sucking chest wound when a family member is slowly drowning in their own blood. I also bought a book titled Emergency War Surgery as a reference. This is not something I have memorized by any stretch, but could be used as a reference guide if needed. With these supplies, some training and a little help you should be able to stabilize most blood loss injuries. I would also recommend stocking up on antibiotics. Topical ointments work well for minor skin lacerations, but more serious infections will require real antibiotics.
Some prepping websites advocate the use of fish antibiotics. I don’t doubt this could work well enough to fight infection, but urge you to do your own research on this to decide if this route makes sense for you. There are also a ton of natural remedies so the resource section of your library should include a book on using herbs and flowers to make medicines or treatments for a wide variety of ailments.
Lastly, if you have medications that you need to live, now is the time to stock up. You may have to speak with your doctor regarding a longer prescription but even this will run out if the disaster is wide spread or lengthy.
In Part 4 we will discuss the rest of the basic options which will cover Fuel and Backup Power as well as Home Security.