Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

Shortly after the Northeast blackout of 2003, my wife and I started to take disaster preparedness seriously.  The blackout only lasted a couple of days but we realized that had the blackout not occurred in the Summer and had the blackout lasted much longer, we would have been in serious trouble. 

The journey from being totally unprepared to being aware of how totally unprepared we are could be be described as “The idiot’s journey”.  Smile

BIG DISCLAIMER:  Muich of this is written tongue in cheek. This is primarily about the dumb things I did and the dumb things I’ve noticed other people doing as they learned what they actually need to do to be prepared for a prolonged disaster.  YMMV.

 

Stage 1: Stocking up on future rotting MREs

imageThe newbie prepper thinks it’s all about starvation.  Never mind that a human can go up to 3 weeks without food but only 3 days without water. Our novice prepper will not just stock up on food but will specifically buy MREs in bulk.  This food will then be stored (poorly) in the basement along with a couple gallons of water.  In time, this food will quietly expire.

Prognosis: In the event of a prolonged disaster, this prepper won’t starve to death, they’ll instead die of dehydration or dysentery.

How to spot: Asking who makes the best 1200 watt portable generator.

What we learned:  Pointless to have more food than water supply.

 

Stage 2: I must have all the guns!

imageGraduating to stage 2 for us meant recognizing “it’s the water, stupid!”. 

Our novice prepper will begin building up supplies of water, the ability to obtain new water and then build up on food supplies. At this point, the prepper understands the concept of cycling through their food stocks (but usually won’t do it anyway). 

Unfortunately, these novice preppers immediately start worrying about how to defend their food and water. So they get guns. Lots and lots of guns.

And our well armed proto-preppers ignore:

  • that their house/apartment/condo is indefensible.
  • that their house/apartment/condo isn’t habitable in the winter
  • that if they get hurt they’re screwed
  • that they have no way to stay clean (unless they dip into their water storage)
  • that they are really just glorified supply depot for gangs if things really were that far gone.
  • that if they think they can hunt for food that millions of others will be doing the same and there just aren’t enough deer for that.

How to spot: Endlessly debates AR-15 vs. AK-47 in a survival forum.

What we learned: Defense is way way down the list in terms of being able to handle a serious disaster.  (1) Water (2) Food (3) Fire (4) Gear (5) Hygiene & First Aid (6) Defense.  Not necessarily in that order.

 

Stage 3: The Purposeless bug out bag

imageThis is where the dumb person (like me) can spend a lot of cash on things they’ll never use.

Stage 3 is where the real fun starts. The Bug out bag. Most people never leave this stage because the bug out bag becomes the hobby.

What starts as the accumulation of gear ends with a 55 ton “bug out bag”. Because, you know, it should have everything possible.

For me, this stage lasted…well, let’s just say it lasted a long time.  I’m better now. No really. I have it under control. What? What’s that? A portable Ham radio receiver? I’ll be right back!

(4 hours later..)

Ok. I’m back. What were we talking about? Oh yes. My bug out bag. I’m not trying to brag it’s got everything…

  • Water? Hell yea. I’ve got water. Water purifiers, life straws, bladders, canteens, charcoal, solar distillers, plastic wrap for collecting moisture. I could live on Dune! When filled with water: 1.2 tons.
  • Food? Oh, no problem. MREs, rice, jerky, bear traps, dinosaur snares, harpoon, fishing pole, pemmican. Total weight: 2.1 tons.
  • Fire? Lighters, matches, fire starter kits,  gas stoves, “portable” (not really) propane stove, etc.
  • Gear? All of them. I mean, you have to include thermal imaging gear in there. Only a fool would not have that. Plus knives, hatches, saws, hatchet, axe, tents, knives, sleeping bag, under armor, knives, Merino wool stuff, shovels, and on and on and on. 
  • First Aid and Hygiene? Oh, well, obviously we need to be ready if someone needs their appendix removed. Haven’t you read The Stand? Don’t want to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere not ready to do an appendectomy.  Plus toilet paper, portable latrines, and lots and lots of other necessities.
  • Defense? Well you gotta pack a 30-06 (for hunting game), a 22 (small game), an AR-15 (for defense), a pistol.  Not to mention a shot-gun. 12 gauge of course unless you really need that 410 too. What the heck, let’s take both.

Prognosis: Dies of heart attack 15 minutes after trying to carry all this stuff.

How to spot: Treats disaster preparedness as if it’s an extended hiking trip that they’ll never actually take.

What we learned:  I learned that in the event of a disaster my primary role should be food. That is, I should be food for other people as I clearly lacked common sense to survive an extended emergency. As a form of protein, I might be able to help smarter, better prepared families survive a difficult time.

Also: A bug out bag is a means to an end. It should get you from point A to point B. And you should know what A and B are beforehand. Which brings us to…

 

Stage 4: Grasping what Disaster Preparedness is

imageFrom what I have seen and read, most people stay in stage 3. That’s not all bad. Getting more people interested in camping or hiking and how to use various types of equipment is better than nothing and anyone who has gotten to stage 3 will probably be okay in all but the worst disasters.

In our case, since we began this journey after realizing just how dependent we’ve grown on the modern power grid. Not surprisingly, most of our thoughts have centered around how to deal with an extended power outage.

People who reach this stage seem to have an understanding that there are certain prerequisites that should be met before even starting this journey. 

For example, you shouldn’t be “prepping” IF:

  1. You have a large credit card debt
  2. You don’t have health insurance
  3. You are financially struggling
  4. You are physically in preventable, poor health.

People at this stage also realize that accumulating a bunch of stuff is pointless without a plan.

What we learned: This is where we started thinking of different locations we should go to in the event that we didn’t think we could stay in our home.

I hate the term “bug out location” (BOL) but that’s the lingo. It means that in a disaster, the destination matters. Your emergency kit (BOB) exists to get you to your BOL.   How long would it take you and your family to walk there? Ideally, you could just drive there but if you’re planning for the absolute worst, being able to walk there should be a consideration.

Once you’ve figured out what it would take to get to your destination, what challenges would you realistically expect? Being picky on this is a big challenge because the more you carry, the slower you’ll go.  I think my family could probably walk 8 to 10 miles a day. That distance decreases rapidly as we load up with gear.

My kit is 35 lbs. I weigh 180 lbs. I know there are people who say that 25% of their body weight is the norm. Yay for them. They win. They’re more manly than I am.  My goal is for my pack to be less than 1/6th my body weight. But it’s very challenging getting there.  When I started, my kit was about 50 lbs. Someday, if I build enough skills, I think I can get to 1/6th.

Remember: Gear can be traded in for skills. Skills weigh 0.

Point being, the kit is there to get you to a destination.

Depending on the severity we’ve got 3 different destinations. 

  1. Our home,
  2. my wife’s parent’s farm,
  3. or our 40 acre wooded land.

Having a destination is crucial.

In all hope and likelihood, none of this will matter. We’ll probably never have any emergency that makes any of this relevant. We just treat it as any other insurance policy, we don’t expect any disasters to happen. But if the worst case happened, it would take a week to walk to remote wooded property.   Thus, our kits have to include what that would entail. 

It is important for people to remember, especially people who never go past stage 1, this few people think there’s any real likelihood of any of this mattering.  We enjoy this as a hobby as well as an insurance policy.  It’s a great excuse to get the family doing something together.  We get to learn how to be more self-sufficient. I can’t really think of any downsides.

 

Stage 5: SKILLS

imageFor us, this is a theoretical stage because we’re not here yet.

When it comes to learning skills, there is no substitute for experience. 

You can read and theorize all day but you have to actually do it to be sure. And that takes time. A lot of it. A bunch of expensive equipment and a good plan are useless without the skills to carry out your plan. 

Many basic skills  just require discipline.  For example,  could my family actually walk to a prepared location in a reasonable time? I doubt it.  A hiker, in decent shape and a reasonable pack can do around 10 miles a day.  That’s one of the reasons why I see these 70lb packs people have prepared and wonder how long they plan to lug that around.  Ask a soldier/veteran about how easy it is to carry 70lbs of gear 15 miles a day with an 8lb rifle. 

I want to say this again: Learning skills will let you get rid of some of your gear. 

Someone in excellent shape can haul 25% of their body weight. But most hikers I know stick to 1/6th their body weight.  Mine is about 1/5th my body weight and I consider it a bit too heavy for a week long hike.

Skills are, imo, the culmination. They are the difference between someone being a supply depot for someone else and survival in the event that some horrible disaster ever happens that really does bring about a prolonged break down in civil society.

We may never get here but it’s nice to have a goal. Plus, I plan to become an expert with those dinosaur snares.


Comments
on Sep 15, 2013

Not sure the Dinosaur snares are going to catch too many...not unless they have a way-back machine function...

Disaster prepping all depends on the um....severity of the disaster.

If it's a one-way road I think my preparation would be....

One small pistol with one bullet.  Add one bullet extra foe each family member.

All the rest is just delaying the inevitable...

on Sep 15, 2013


Not sure the Dinosaur snares are going to catch too many...not unless they have a way-back machine function...

Disaster prepping all depends on the um....severity of the disaster.

If it's a one-way road I think my preparation would be....

One small pistol with one bullet.  Add one bullet extra foe each family member.

All the rest is just delaying the inevitable...

Well that's just depressing.

What if it's just an extended (like 90 day) power outage?

90 days would be long enough that someone living near a major city...might not want to continue to stay on the outskirts of Detroit when food and water start becoming limited.

on Sep 15, 2013

I have a friend who teaches survival training, and according to him the most important thing is to start drinking small amounts of creek water, to build up the body's immune system and better prepare it to absorb the environments natural resources.

 

 

Being good with people can't hurt either.

on Sep 15, 2013

Frogboy
What if it's just an extended (like 90 day) power outage?

Well....that wouldn't be the 'express elevator to hell' EOTW scenario...so topping oneself for a 90 day 'drama' might be a little bit overkill [sorry for the pun...shall endeavour to improve]...

I expect 'the American Way' would be to arm oneself to the teeth and ensure you are one of the 'haves' rather than one of the 'have nots' - through force.  No need for stocking up on 'vittles' just take 'em as you need 'em...

Other than that, the only 'real' solution is to change your entire life-style NOW and go 'off the grid' entirely - so social 'disasters' of whatever cause OR duration have zero effect.  Find some sort of 'oasis' 500 miles from no-where with absolutely no amenity other than nature and live the life of the Native American [or Aboriginal/Inuit/whatever]....

Permanently...

 

on Sep 15, 2013

Agreed.

on Sep 15, 2013

cardinaldirection
the most important thing is to start drinking small amounts of creek water, to build up the body's immune system

Please do not do this.

You DO NOT and cannot build up immunity to intestinal parasites, and pathological bacteria. Such "theories" have never been proven, and are dangerous. Actual experimental and medically proven evidence of such theories does not exist.

You WILL NOT and cannot build up any "immunity" to industrial pollutants or carcinogens.

You might very well get quite ill, or worse. 

on Sep 15, 2013

Remember the great depression in 1929? Most people would know of it...some lived through it...but ask almost any Amish person and they won't have a clue what your talking about. You can learn a lot from the Amish.

Oh...and consider buying a seed bank. You can get those for about $100...they have about 20 heirloom seeds and can last for approx. 20 years buried underground. And do it now before the GMO craze does away with seed bearing plants.

And if we do have some sort of disaster...just run towards the light/flash...it'll be over quicker.

on Sep 16, 2013

DrJBHL


Quoting cardinaldirection, reply 3the most important thing is to start drinking small amounts of creek water, to build up the body's immune system

Please do not do this.

You DO NOT and cannot build up immunity to intestinal parasites, and pathological bacteria. Such "theories" have never been proven, and are dangerous. Actual experimental and medically proven evidence of such theories does not exist.

You WILL NOT and cannot build up any "immunity" to industrial pollutants or carcinogens.

You might very well get quite ill, or worse. 

Yes, clean, running water is necessary.

Human beings figured this out thousands of years ago, long before the invention of the water-purification techniques required for over-populated areas.

I suppose I should have concluded my friend's suggestion with a warning that it most certainly not be followed in an inner city.  Not just because of water pollution, but also because this modern environment and diet basically sterilize much of the human immune system, and render it highly susceptible to illnesses which pose little threat to a healthy and naturally acclimated body.  Not to mention all the new sicknesses and stresses we've introduced that the body just doesn't have to expend energy defending against in more balanced and nurturing environments.

 

If you have to be told not to drink water down-stream from an industrial plant, well, best of luck.

 

 

It's been my personal experience that the most useful survival skill worth honing is knowledge of what your body actually wants, in order to achieve the desired clarity of thought.  Being able to think clearly is number one in my book.

My friend's second suggestion was just that, to be conscious and methodical.

In his words: "If you need protein, don't just eat a squirrel, first follow it home and make an appetizer of it's store of nuts."

on Sep 17, 2013

Funny post, though I guess having grown up in a heavily forested rural area this is how the city boys approach the issue

Hmm I'm surprised I haven't heard anything about being an eagle scout on here...

Also, one Massive hole in your preparation measures:

What do human beings need more of than water? Air.

Air purification systems will be absolutely critical for a multitude of possible reasons, among them:

Volcanic activity: Yes humanity has survived many a huge volcanic eruption, so why not prepare for all that fine ash?

Radiation: From all the nuclear reactors that will not be working anymore, all of the nuclear waste will be frying and the entire USA, Europe, China and Japan will be uninhabitable.  So, really your BOL should be in the southern hemisphere where the wind patterns will limit the concentration of radiation(plus, finding food that will adapt to the environment will be tough, why not try your luck in the most biodiverse regions of the world?

Another bit would be to prepare to travel to the Hopi indian reservation to see if you can commune with the ant people and get into their underground city.

on Sep 17, 2013

A nuclear reactor is only frying while it's working.  As soon as it stops working, there is no frying happening...

 

Typical designs result in automatic, and unpreventable shutoff in the event of any kind of marginally catastrophic failure.  They don't simply keep running, even if the rods melt their way through the reactor lining, as soon as they're out of position they stop working and are about as dangerous to the surrounding environment as the dust they swept off the floors and put in hazardous waste sites.

 

Zero radiation concern outside of all out nuclear war.  If everyone launches everything, large portions of the planet are definitely going to be unlivable for a few decades.

on Sep 17, 2013

You guys are funny. Unless it's a minor disaster, why would you want to survive? Survival is overrated.

on Sep 17, 2013

psychoak

A nuclear reactor is only frying while it's working.  As soon as it stops working, there is no frying happening...

Typical designs result in automatic, and unpreventable shutoff in the event of any kind of marginally catastrophic failure.  They don't simply keep running, even if the rods melt their way through the reactor lining, as soon as they're out of position they stop working and are about as dangerous to the surrounding environment as the dust they swept off the floors and put in hazardous waste sites.

Zero radiation concern outside of all out nuclear war.  If everyone launches everything, large portions of the planet are definitely going to be unlivable for a few decades.

Oh I'm not talking about the reactor itself, I'm talking about the storage pools that are used to store the radioactive waste stored on site next to nuclear reactors that are 300-500% over capacity at all the sites across the USA and most of the world as we discuss this topic(Europe has spent more money on radioactive strorage and therefore the waste is less concentrated there).  The potential fallout from these sites has been calculated to cover areas of 20,000 square miles in the local region, with incalculable impacts on the larger earth ecosystem.  When you factor in Where these sites are around the country you quickly realize that this country will become irradiated.  Its not something I made up, its a real risk that has been assessed...Why do you think they got funding to carve out Yucca Mountain?  

Tangent/rant on Yucca mountain:

It's lame that the project fell through though(small technicality, imo), i'm sure that the pharmaceutical companies didn't want the market for expensive radioactive waste to collapse, because they were/are making god money while paying criminal syndicates (like the Ndrangheta who were "disposing of waste in the Mediterranean) lots of money to dispose of the waste without ethical qualms.  Considering how much money was likely involved, because the demand for nuclear waste disposal is huge, I'm sure it well outstripped any potential damages that could ever be brought in court(and we all know that it wouldn't).  Sadly Yucca mountain is now a top secret lab for radio-pharmaceutical research.  Its like an evil lair out of a bond film...

/end tangent/rant

As for current nuclear missile capability, we have nukes now that emit little to no radiation on impact, the radiation release is actually an inefficiency in the design that has been fixed...so hiroshima/nagasaki are just a bad memory...  we don't want to mess up the WHOLE planet when we go to war...

Anyways What would I know, i was just trained to run a reactor, and I lived next to one for 2 years.  It was warm.

You guys are funny. Unless it's a minor disaster, why would you want to survive? Survival is overrated.

It might not all be bad, beings above may take pity on the few survivors and take us to the their pleasure planet where we can have all we desire.  You would never know if it happened if you were dead.

on Sep 19, 2013

One small pistol with one bullet.  Add one bullet extra foe each family member.

 

Seen "The Fog" based on Stephen King ? No good choice if the desaster ends shortly after You used that option

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