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Net Archives 2014-2015

Preparedness-minded folks are generally very thorough in detail-oriented.  We wish that we had hours to discuss certain topics, but sadly we only have 30 to 40 minutes -- presentations are short.

Here we archive past topics, if possible, as presented by the speaker.  If you’d like to present a topic, have an idea for a topic, or would like to contribute an article for the SWOPN, please Contact Us.

* Any missing dates in the archive is due to not having the presentation submitted in writing by the presenter, or because of radio-related technical issues.  Net is on 1st & 3rd Mondays 99% of the time!


January 18th, 2015 -- Winter Roadside Kits
Usually if I hear people talk about survival and they say that "shelter" is the first priority, I sort of poo poo that because unless there is a life threatening environmental issue -- such as the extreme cold we are currently experiencing -- shelter is NOT a first priority.  So as we've seen lately, as in tonight RIGHT NOW, with wind chills dipping us below zero, we move into an environmental scenario that CAN actually be life threatening.

We're going to leave out the more hard core survival scenarios...such as a plane wreck in the alps and focus on more common scenarios like going to Krogers for a gallon of milk at 8:30 at night -- RIGHT? -- who needs some milk right now?  A much more realistic  scenario.  So let's paint a picture:  the wife asks you to go to Kroger...you're almost ready for bed and you have sweat pants and a t-shirt on...so you push the remote start on the car, throw on a sweatshirt, your shoes with no socks, a ball cap...wait 5 minutes for the car to heat up...and you head out the driveway in your Honda CRV; next thing you know, you've slid off the road, you forgot your cell phone and the car is stuck; you only have a 1/4 tank of gas, but the car has stalled anyway and doesn't want to start up -- not such an unrealistic scenario.

Don't be a victim -- DRESS FOR THE WEATHER.  In sweatpants and a t-shirt, with no socks you could be facing frostbite inside of 1 hour, especially if you decide to try and walk somewhere...and what if  there is snow on the ground?  A few quick precautions -- NOT taking the weather lightly -- NOT assuming your trip is going to be routine.  Remembering important things like appropriate clothing, your charged cell phone, and a roadside emergency kit are all key.

You might think I'm exagerating the scenario or the threat, and honestly in this area anyway, a roadside slide off will probably result in nothing more than a bad night and an annoying inconvenience, but if you live on a rural road, or if it's late at night, or if you slide DOWN and enbankment...or if you're just plain unlucky in some way...even we here, in a fairly populated area, can find ourselves in a pretty sticky situation.

Some things you can put in a roadside kit are:  shelf stable ration bars, emergency drinking water packets, one wool blanket per passenger, extra gloves and hats, a roadside flare or two, a flashlight, and a safety candle.  Ration bars can be thrown in the car and forgotten for years, ready to be eaten only when needed...they'll still be good.  Emergency water packets good for an indefinite period -- the neat thing about them is that they may freeze, but they will not burst.  If the water packets DO freeze, you can thaw them under your armpits, or if the car is still running, with the heat.  Wool, as we all know, retains it's heat retaining properties even when wet, they don't have to be expensive if you get the 55% blend which is almost as good as 100% wool blanket at a fraction of the cost...as little as $15  each.  A roadside flare can help get attention when needed, or warn other drivers to a hazard.

Lastly, a candle, if used safely by having it contained properly  and rolling down a window just an inch, can raise the temperature inside a car by 10 to 15 degrees -- even a tealight candle can do this. A flame can also take away some of the apprehension felt by passengers if  the situation seems more dire than it is.  Food and water, blankets, flashlights in addition to being useful, also can calm fears and relax people because these items DO return some feeling of control.
 

December 14th, 2015 -- Urban Preparedness:  Part III

Tonight we finish up a 3 part series on urban preparedness.  The first topic covered sheltering in place.  The second was sheltering in place, but planning on moving around the city on a regular basis and the extra equipment that would entail, and this third and last part of this series:  Focus on starting in the city, but having to exit the city either by choice or out of necessity.

Whether you have planned all along to exit the city, or whether you are gearing up for a possible forced relocation, the supplies don't care one way or another.  The list for each of these options is similar, but not exactly the same.  Naturally, if you have a dedicated retreat already set up, you'll be in a better position.  It could be country cousins, your family in the hills, or a piece of land you've been preparing for just such a scenario.

If you know WHERE you're going, your supply list can be much more direct and simple. You will know exactly how far you have to go, how long it should take; you can plan for a detour or two, and you can plan on resupplying at this designated place where you know exactly what you have on hand. Much more simple than heading out of the city into the  countryside not knowing where you are going or what supplies you might find (or not find), or what you might need.

As usual, this topic is way too complex for our limited time here on Monday nights, so I'm going to focus in on two areas to concentrate above and beyond normal survival equipment:  sanitation and storage space.

When you're in the field the main things you'll notice missing are convenient sanitation and storage space.  Sanitation means having toilet paper, a toothbrush, soap, a way to get clean water, a washcloth, and willpower.  You've got to stay clean.  It keeps your morale up and it keeps problems from happening health-wise BEFORE they happen.

It should go without saying that we need a water filter of some sort, or a way to render potable water, which could be boiling.  Water pertains to sanitation as previously mentioned, but of course it also goes for general hydration and food preparation, which leads to our next problem:  storage capacity.  I see this [lack of storage space] as the biggest problem for being in the field.  Water filters can last months, but FOOD and a way to pack enough to last is a HUGE problem.

So, as mentioned before, KNOWING where you are going is a huge plus because you can pack 2 or even 7 days worth of food relatively easily and it becomes more of a NON-issue.  If you are egressing the city, however, with no goal in mind and no plans on returning, your food planning must turn from PACKING it to FINDING it in the wild.  We can easily store years worth of food in our house, but it's impossible to transport it.  We must plan on getting food from "the fat of the land".

For this reason, I recommend for the urban bug out pack (with no particular destination in mind), a .22 rifle, even if it's a single shot.  .22 ammo is very light and we can easily carry 200 rounds, or even more, which could equate to a years worth of  food for 1 person if used wisely (and if we are lucky enough to find game).  I also recommend snares, which are very light and compact, as well as tools to make other traps. Wildlife MUST become an integral part of your diet when  you can't carry enough food.

Also, studying now about edible plants in your area is advised.  Collect the knowledge in your mind, but having a cheat sheet in the form of a small field book with detailed, accurate illustrations and information about which plants are good for sustenance is a great idea.  I know of a fantastic deck of cards with plant information on them, providing both useful food gathering info, as well as having some entertainment and value.

Again, too much information to really get into in depth, but in addition to all the fire making, environmental control items like shelters, etc., bushcraft knives, and the rest of the survival tool kit, think about these two things:   sanitation and the LACK of storage capacity you’re going to encounter.  We need a way to carry food and other large items -- we MUST plan ahead for this.  Grabbing a few things and throwing them in a bag on your way out the door is NOT going to work well.
 

November 30th, 2015 -- Urban Preparedness:  Part II

Last net we talked about bugging "IN", that is staying in your home, ostensibly, like most of us may have to do, in an urban area.  I was espousing how, in a super emergency, there are 3 options for the urban prepper:  1. Bug in and plan on staying in your home in the city, 2. Bug "IN" by staying in the city, but moving around (which is what we'll be talking about today), and 3. Getting out of the city safely during a crisis.

Staying in the city during an emergency and not remaining in the home full time, but moving around the city for resources or other reasons -- this adds another dimension to the scenario.  Let's say your original intent was to remain in your home, but now we are 30 days out and not only are you running low on supplies, but you're getting stir crazy.

Venturing away from the home, I'm reminded again about the audio interview sessions of the Balkans region resident named "SELCO" -- as mentioned before on this net, the Balkans conflict in the 90's ended up being a case study, along with Argentina circa their year 2000 economic collapse, a case study in societal collapse.  SELCO talks about how personal security in the city became a big concern, along with personal hygiene, and of course food, water, and medical supply procurement.  30 days into a collapse, resources will be at a premium.  At this point, personal security cannot be under estimated as the number one threat.

In moving around a neighborhood, it would be wise to use "rabbit trails" winding through back yards, along tree lines -- not unlike deer do.  You'll seldom see a deer standing out in the open and if they are, a tree or bush line is only a quick sprint or hop away, quickly accessible.  We could even go through other houses to keep out of sight.  Using the wide open street, as though you were a car driving in normal times would be tantamount to waving a flag above your head and screaming “look at me”.  Travelling at night, using the sewers, or otherwise alternative and thoughtful ways to get around without being seen is advisable.

Some interesting things you'd want to have in a day (or night) pack, while moving about the city would be:

1.  A water filter, preferably a bottle type which could be used and drank from like a straw, rather than a cumbersome, time consuming filter that needs to be pumped, etc..  You'd need to be able to react on the fly, perhaps taking circuitous routes, having to find water on the fly and move quickly.

2.  At least 3 days worth of food, probably in the form of dehydrated meals and therefore light in terms of weight, or in the form of smaller, hydrated but high calorie unconventional foods like ration bars or energy bars.  This, again, due to the possibility of having to stay away from your main supplies for longer than expected during evasion or unexpected issues.

3.  Personal protection.  You could view this as a camoflauge technique, like a cloak with proper patterning, or, conventional weaponry for personal protection, like a rifle, bow and arrow, knife, etc., or BOTH camo and weaponry of some sort.

Other ideas for equipment is a "silcock", which is a skate key looking tool which has several size drivers good for opening the water valves on the sides of industrial buildings like gas stations and ware houses.  We've all seen these faucets with no handles -- the silcock allows you to access that waterline.  There may be no water pressure, but there may also be potable water leftover in the pipes.

A set of lockpicks and the knowledge to use them would be handy.  If you require stealth, if you need to get into locked doors to scavenge for supplies, lockpicking could be a real skill to aquire.  As usual, a good knife is needed for general tasks a knife accomplishes, for prying doors, cutting cords, whatever the task, a knife, as always, is a must.

Your papers.  A flash drive, or even minimized paper copies of personal information, like a driver's license, passport with photo, insurance, social security card, and other documents could be very useful if any remnants of authority are encountered, giving you legitimacy over the throngs of disorganized, probably unscrupulous masses.

Don't forget your maps.  You can create those now, using Google earth for free, mapping your general vicinity, or you can purchase street maps of your city or both.  Have a way to mark off where you've been, where it is dangerous, where supplies are, and where you need to explore still, etc. -- all would be more easily done and in a more organized manner than random movements.  Bring a notebook and pencil too to keep ideas and notes.

As usual, way too big of a topic to do it justice in our short time here on Monday nights, but two weeks from now for the completion of this 3 part series on urban preparedness, I'll talk about a plan to get out of the city all together to reach a safe haven, or to just run for your life and exit the urban environment.
 

November 16th, 2015 -- Urban Preparedness:  Part I

In urban preparedness, there are 3 options:

1.  Bug in and plan on staying in your home.
2.  Bug "IN" by staying in the city, not necessarily in your own home, but rather moving around the city.
3.  Plan on being in the city only long enough to safely walk your way out of it.

Regardless of what you end up doing, there are some aspects to  urban preparedness and planning that carry over to each category and  other aspects that are specific to each.

For the purposes of this talk, we are not speaking in the context  of a "normal" localized disaster such as a tornado or hurricane, but  more in the context of a grid down total collapse in which law and order are sporadic at best and we are pretty much on our own.

With that in mind, security becomes just as important as water, food, or any other commodity.  Likely it will SEEM to be THE most important concern.

Think about the thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people in your general area.  In Dayton, for example, we have a population in the greater metro area of about 840,000 people.  That's a lot of mouths to feed.  If 1% of that population is prepared to any degree (which is  an accurate representation of prepper numbers), that leaves over  800,000 people with no option other than to TAKE what they need WHEREVER they can find it.  What does this mean for a prepper stuck in the  city?  It means danger.  We see what people are capable of on black Friday for TVs on sale -- imagine what they will do if they are  starving.

So if you must stay in your house, forget generators, forget cooking outside, forget even being seen for that matter.  The Balkans war in the 90s showed us what happens when a fairly modernized population falls into chaos.  People form gangs, generally of no more than 15, who end up exerting power for control of resources and territory.  If you are SEEN, you will be a target.  Blackout curtains are a must if you intend on staying in your home.  If someone sees movement inside, whether at night by a flashlight or lantern, or by day  through the window, you will be assumed to have something and will be a target.

Boarding up your home may provide short term security, but again, a fortified house will represent having something inside worth fortifying.  One strategy might be to make your home look decrepit, already looted, or otherwise a valueless target.  Throw your belongings on the yard, burn them, spray paint your home, break things -- and pray that no one thinks there is anything of value inside while you keep your movement to a minimum and stay careful.

Better yet, while it may sound a bit “James Bond-ish”, go ahead and spend the resources to create a hiding place in your home for you, any loved ones, and your critical supplies.  The reality is that no matter how valueless your home may look, eventually someone will root through it, depending on how long the crisis goes on; unless you can hide, they will find you and your supplies.  A secret room, in my opinion, is the only option for urban dwellers planning on staying put.  The looters can come in, loot, leave, and you emerge unharmed after they've done their business, marking your house as "looted" and empty.

I've heard a lot of guys say "I'll give the looters my supplies one piece of lead at a time" and while I understand the mentality and agree with the sentiment, the reality is that you will be molotov coctailed out of your home, or burned alive inside.  You might get a few of them, but you'll be pinned down and eventually killed.  Remember, 800,000 people just in Dayton, Ohio.  The mob is just too numerous.  Even a small army of 20 or 30  people would have a hard time holding ground in an urban setting, not to mention storing enough ammunition and supplies to stay viable.

I've presented on this net before the "community" aspect of preparedness and how it is probably the last piece to the preparedness puzzle and usually the most difficult one to attain, due to the nature of interpersonal interaction and the general non-acceptance of the premise of prepping by the public at large.  If you do plan on staying put and it's a conscious decision on your part, odds are it will be an unconscious or LACK OF decision on your neighbors' parts.  They'll stay put because they had no plan.  Whatever the case may be, having good relations with your neighbors can really pay off in the form of teamwork and mutual understanding, respect, and even friendship.  Neighbors you don't know BEFORE might as well be your enemy AFTER a collapse;  maybe even worse because your dog was always dropping boom booms on Mr Smiths yard and now there is no law.


Regarding moving around in the city, quietly moving from home to home through a rabbit trail of backyard fence hopping, hole crawling and/or door jumping, would probably be the best way to move.  Wearing ragged clothing and a non-descript bag, or no bag at all, a concealed weapon, and general dirty looking appearance would be the proper attire -- again looking as though you have nothing would be better than having the fanciest  MOLLE gear, backpack, BDUs and camo clothing.  Dressing like special forces might make you FEEL confident, but it will also make you look like you have something valueable to take.  Desperate people will do desperate things, just like attack a well armed single or even two or three man team.

Cooking in doors should only be done on small, gas powered stoves if possible.  Smoke can be seen and smelled, again giving away your position.  Cooking in a basement or upper story might mask cooking smells moreso than on a ground level floor with open windows.  Water barrels, solar panels, windmills, radio antennes -- all are outward signs that your house may have something of value, or alive, well equipped people inside.  Consider hiding these things or making them mobile for easy deployment and retraction based on conditions, rather than leaving them visible 24/7.

Next week we'll talk about planning on staying in or near an urban area, but not necessarily in the same place.
 

October 19th, 2015 -- Drones in General & in Preparedness

Drones are becoming increasingly available in higher quality at lower prices, making them within reach of even modest hobbyists, rc-ers, and yes, preppers.

Check the law in your local area, because in most places if you go above 200 feet with a drone or aircraft you are in violation of FAA rules if you do not have the proper permit -- if you’re a licensed pilot, you can face heavy fines and consequences!  Likewise, many other areas are restricted airspace.  While laws about flying drones are sparse and not currently enforceable (unless you already have a pilot’s license), we are sure to see drone laws enforced increasingly in the near future.

A drone with a camera is the type we are talking about tonight, as a drone without a camera is purely for fun.  A camera-ed drone, whether it's live action view, or simply one that records, can give valuable recon-type information.

If you're a farmer you can see irrigation problems from the air, noticing how erosion is working.  If you're a realtor, a birds eye view of a home is a valuable selling tool, and if you're a homeowner needing a new perspective on your land, a drone can help.

For the prepper, rising a couple of hundred feet can give you a great up close, but still different point of view regarding security measures.  New holes or avenues into your yard  or property WILL be revealed.  Count on it.

Drones with real time camera views right to the controller can now be had for under $200, making real time reconnaissance of limited areas a reality.  Just getting up 100 feet, or even 50, can show rooftop threats such as snipers, all while not sticking your own head out from behind cover.

Learning to pilot a drone can take as little as 30 minutes of flying time, especially if you have previous experience with radio controlled vehicles.


October 12th, 2015 -- Pocket Knives

Pocket knives.  Daily drivers. You have liner locks, which have a thin locking mechanism inside the frame of the knife and are great for opening boxes, cutting cord, whitlling, general tasks, but are not good for drilling holes or pushing on because the blade could slip past the meager locker and close on your fingers.  I prefer lock backs which have a more robust locking mechanism built into the back of the frame which secures the blade much better.  These can be trusted a bit more for drilling, etc..

The fixed blade is usually preferred as a full tang (which means the knife from hilt to tip is one solid piece of metal and can usually be viewed as such, as the handles normally do not wrap all the way around the blade/handle, so the exposed metal can be seen).  These knives are large enough to fight with, such as the well known “k-bar” military style, you can baton wood with them (split small wood) and do things that require more torque or  power like trimming branches off of larger sticks -- and if your knife is sturdy enough,  jimmying doors open and things like this.

A Mora knife, is a rat tail fixed blade which is when the hilt-end of the blade is encompassed by the handle, not visible, but runs almost the full length of the handle making it quite sturdy even though it’s not full tang.  Moras are very highly regarded in the bushcraft community as having high grade steel, whether stainless or carbon,  manufactured in Sweden.  They come at a very reasonable price, between 15 and 30 dollars, so you won't cry if you drop it over the side of the canoe.

While on metals, I'll  mention that while a stainless blade can serve many years, but the draw backs are it's easier to dull more quickly, not as strong; and a carbon blade, being harder, will provide 50% or more more sparks from a ferro rod, making carbon a better choice all the way around in my opinion.

When it comes to styles of knives, you have both blade shapes and hilt, or handle shapes, but they're mainly defined by the shape of the blade.  A “tanto” sort of looks like a triangle at the tip, coming to a well defined 45 or so degree angle. This blade is meant for stabbing and damage to tissue, but it's also for the same reason good for puncturing.  A drop point blade curves up from the cutting edge, while the top edge curves down and is what most blade profiles look like when we conjure up the common knife looks like in our mind’s eye.

The curved blade in a gentle crescent moon is called a “karambit” and usually has an  accompanying curved handle.  This is usually a folding knife.  One that can look similar is a “kukri”, popularized by the Gurkha warriors in south Asia which fought the British and did quite well with their large, heavily angled blades.  Usually at least 14" in length, the angled blade with graceful curves was made for hacking meat and does quite well as a  machete.  It is the k-bar of Nepal...some survivalists have adopted them as a good choice for all around use.


October 5th, 2015 -- How Bad Will It Be for the Non-Prepper?

We often talk about the things we do to prepare, why we do it, what capabilities our preparations will allow us to have, etc., and the things we want to be ready for -- it's a big topic to cover, whether it's a hurricane, or a car accident, or worse.

Let's posit the question from another angle, though, tonight and see where the discussion goes. Maybe we can learn how to express the reason we decide to prepare more clearly to others by asking THIS question:  “How bad will it be for the non prepper?”

Let's consider a worse case and often cited possibility:  a cyber attack which cripples the power grid either entirely or partially.  Power grid failure by cyber attack is cited as the number one threat by many credentialed analysts -- not just bloggers writing in their mom's basement.  So let's consider how bad it will be for non preppers...

Those with medical conditions requiring electricity to sustain them will face immediate hardship. Even if it's only a CPAP machine, if your sleep is affected, your overall health and well being will be affected. If you require dialysis, or ventilator assistance, you'll be relying on fuel supplies and if your insulin requires refrigeration, that is a problem.

Lack of lighting is a mere inconvenience, but hot water, microwaves, range tops, and heat are far more likely to be missed.  The ability for us to clean, cook, and stay warm are critical.  For the non prepared or those untrained in outdoor living, conditions and circumstances as simple as heating up soup will be a huge or impossible task.

So far as food, most inventory systems in grocery stores are “just in time delivery” and rely on automatic ordering based on inventory. Should the electric go off for any period of time, orders will not be placed -- and should the outage be widespread, trucks in far away places may not be able to be loaded, fueled, and sent to needy areas.

Gravity fed water and sewer systems, if unable to be re-primed with electric pumps, will cease to work. Where will the unprepared get clean water?  Do they even know how to make a fire to boil water?

These are just a few things to consider for the unprepared. A quick look at recent hurricanes in areas like South Carolina and New York gives us yet another reminder of how  conditions can deteriorate quickly and change in a very short time.


September 21st, 2015 -- Family Preparedness Planning

Similar to a bug out bag, a family preparedness plan should be built to your specific situation.  Just like a bag, there are some aspects, such as fire making, that will translate to any situation, but others will need to be tweaked to make it the most effective.

That said, let's start with some foundational thoughts.  1. You need to have an easy to understand cause to activate your plan. This could be as simple as knowing your house is on fire and that you need to activate, or as in depth as staying in tune with geo- or local politics and news outlets, waiting for downed cell phone communications as a signal to  activate your plan.

What is the sign?, what marks "the Balloon going up", so to speak, that activates your family plan?  This could be the hardest part of your plan to determine.

Regardless of the calamity, I'd contend that making a meeting place to rally, regroup, and discuss further plans is near the top of the list.  Whether it's a fire and you use your neighbor’s house as a go to point, or if it's a massive cyber attack, we need a place to meet up. Everyone in your group needs to know both the queue to activate, and second, the place to meet.

As ham folks, we may be able to incorporate our hobby as an alternative way to communicate with loved ones should conventional comms go down, but having a meeting place is both pragmatic AND a fail safe, should communications completely fail.

A couple of final considerations should be both children -- and possibly, pets.  If it's children, who's going to pick them up?  is there more than one place or child to be picked up?  Who is going for who?  If it's pets, who is responsible for them?

If vehicular travel is not possible for whatever reason, does your plan stay the same?  Is there a walking get home bag in the car?

While ham radio is a great backup option, if the range permits, CB may also be an option. Set a prescribed time and event for when to get on a specific channel to "meet up".  Other than  cell phones, landlines, and radio, there really is no way to reliably communicate if these few means go down, so having a plan of action to regroup is of the UP MOST importance.  That means actually writing something down AND meeting to discuss so that everyone understands the plan.


August 17th, 2015 -- Financial Preparedness

In lieu of the recent hiccup in the stock market, it begs the question of financial preparedness. When we think of preparedness, we usually think of it in terms of gear or different types of training or learning.

In a slow collapse scenario, such as a financial one, however, there will likely be a slow motion degradation of resources and conditions which could take months or years, culminating in something worse, or on the positive side, perhaps, in something of an improvement in conditions on the ground.

In direct contradiction to gear, which you could ostensibly go out and purchase in one fell swoop tomorrow, preparing financially for a crisis is a little more deliberate.

For example, what kind of job do you have? Is your skill set critical? That is, are you a welder? Do you have medical skills? Carpentry skills... or are you in real estate or marketing or sales? If the economic sector takes a downturn, service sector jobs, or non “essential” service type professions will probably take a big hit, leaving people who make a living in that area in a bad position.

For these reasons, perhaps a job change or re-training is a good idea. Is your job in a city? Do you have the opportunity or ability to create a Web based income? Internet based sales allow you to be far from population centers, while still making a living wage. Again, these are not goals which are obtainable overnight. Something to think about.

What about your current assets? If you are in the stock market with a market tied retirement or money market type fund, your real assets are subject to wild fluctuations, as seen recently in the market. Again, not something you can change quickly -- especially if there are freezes, more commonly called "holidays", in the banking or financial arenas.

Let's talk about what "money" actually is for a moment. In 1913 a dime would buy you a gallon of gas. But in 1913, and up to 1963 actually, a dime was made of 90% silver - real silver, the traded commodity. Nowadays, a dime will buy you doodly squat.

Today, in 2015, if you took that same 1913 dime to a coin shop and sold it for its silver value, it would be worth about 2 dollars and 25 cents -- or about the cost of that same gallon of gas. So what has happened here? What can we learn from this?

The price of gas has not sky rocketed. Rather the value of our currency has plummeted. Whether that speaks to the value of precious metals, the value of fuel, or the current weakened state of our dollar I will leave to you, but one thing is for sure -- metals certainly seem to retain their value.

A diversified investment portfolio is advised. Metals are not a way to make money, in my opinion, but rather a way to preserve your wealth. It's a battery in which one can store previously obtained money. Instead of keeping paper dollars (which ceased to be tied to metals in 1971 after Nixon took us off the gold standard) keeping some money in pre 1964 coinage may be a good way to hedge your portfolio.

What is money, but the representation or storage of one's own labor/work?

Final advice here is to own a good set of tools and know how to use them. What work can you do to help someone else? Can you fix a porch step? Can you process firewood? Do you have the tools to do such work?

If you need to barter labor for food it is much easier to show up with a set of tools and say "May I fix your porch step?", than it is to ask, "Do you have some tools I can fix your porch step with?"  We've talked about post collapse tools on this forum before, and this point goes directly to why it's a good idea.

Lastly, having a bit of cash on hand at all times, preferably a couple of thousand or at least a couple of hundred dollars worth is a good idea. In a bank "holiday" situation, such as was seen in Greece recently, the banks may close entirely or severely limit withdraws. Having extra cash on hand will give you a leg up on others who do not and cash may be the only accepted form of trade for a period of time.

If it's a more in depth collapse such as grid down, ATMs and credit card machines will likely not work, making cash once again "king".



August 10th, 2015 -- Canning Meat for the Long Term

We had a special guest, the wife of one of our regular operators.  A special thanks to them both for taking the time to put together this great and informative lesson.

Most any meat product can be preserved through the canning process:  Rabbit, Venison, Fish, Beef, Pork, Chicken, Turkey are only some examples.

You will need:

  • Canning jars (Ball, Mason) with rings and new lids (reusing rubber seal lids is not a good idea)
  • Quality meat (lean, with excess fat trimmed off)
  • Pressure canner
  • Jar lifter
  • Vinegar
  • Paper towels
  • Kitchen towel

Prepare your jars by thoroughly cleaning them.  Lids should be new to ensure a quality seal.

Trim any excess visible fat from your meat and cut into pieces just small enough to fit into the jars you are using.  The meat pieces do not have to be uniform in size or shape.  Stuff as much as possible in each jar as the meat will shrink as it cooks.  Do not exceed the top of the jar as the lid will not fit properly.

Wipe the rim of the jar with a vinegar soaked paper towel and place your lid and ring on the jar.  You can heat the lids in water to help with the seal, but it is not required for this process.  Tighten the rings finger tight and process in the pressure canner as directed.

Processing time varies by the type of meat, but averages from 70 to 90 minutes.  Be sure to follow all safety precautions when using the pressure canner and follow the processing directions provided.  This will ensure a quality end product that will last.

Most commercial information will tell you the canned product will only last a year.  However, that is primarily for litigation reasons.  As long as the seal remains intact, the product should be good.  Use your common sense when opening/using.

We have used some over two years old with no problems.

Variations:

  • Sausage and hamburger must be cooked prior to canning. Otherwise, a very unappealing product will result.
  • Do not add bread, pasta, rice, thickeners, flour, or like items.  This will cloud up the end product and may cause problems due to yeast, bacteria, etc.  Not recommended but some do anyway.
  • You can add spices (anything you would normally use for the specific meat)
  • You can also add raw vegetables (we have added carrots and potatoes to make a stew)

Sources:

Our primary source is the Ball Canning Book, available at most any bookstore, and the instructions that come with the pressure canner.

National Center for Home Food Preservation:  http://nchfp.uga.edu/.

Additional information:

Storage time:  There is no specific storage limit based on the type of meat.  Standard storage is 0-10 years or more.  The key is the seal.  Store your goods without the rings.  This will allow you to better observe the seal to ensure it remains sealed and prevents corrosion around the rim of the jar.

Pressure canners come with a weighted gauge or a dial gauge.  Important considerations are to be sure the rubber seal is still in good shape and all safety valves/outlets are clear of any corrosion to ensure they work as advertised.  IF you have a dial gauge, the county extension office can help you calibrate it.  We use the simple weighted gauge, wobbly top with great success.


August 3rd, 2015 -- A Brief on Food & Water Purification

A lot of survival experts will say shelter is their number one priority.  While it may well be in extreme conditions, I tend to say that water is the concern because our body requires so much of it and we quickly deteriorate without it. So unless you experience freezing conditions, or "baking in the sun desert type conditions" ....in other words, conditions that threaten your immediate survival -- then I contend that water is the concern.

Many people will attempt to store a lot of water. It's possible and there are products like bleach and stabilized oxygen (which is even better) to help you do that.  These chemicals can make water last for years without needing to be rotated or changed.

Storage method and longevity issues aside, water takes up lots of space and it's very heavy.  8 pounds per gallon. Therefore, it's my advice that water filtration or some method of purification is superior to storing water. It's OK to store some water for immediate need, for convenience, or for charity, but there are so many filters which can make thousands of gallons of water safe to drink that I find filtration to be the best option.

The Berkey filter, in particular, weighs just half a pound, is only 10 inches long, but can filter up to 5000 gallons of water from any source. Storing even 1000 gallons of water would take up an entire bedroom of your home; it could go bad relatively quickly, and would likely collapse your floor.

It’s also important to know how to make filters and otherwise make potable water. Charred wood which is crushed, used in conjunction with alternating layers of sand can make a fine water filter. The UV rays of the sun can be used to make clear water safe to drink in about 8 hours. This is a W.H.O. approved method. Boiling water, of course, can also make water safe to drink under most circumstances.

On the topic of food, while there are many commercial options for long shelf life dehydrated and freeze dried foods, my first line of defense is our pantry. If you buy a few extra cans or boxes each week of what you normally eat, within a few short months you can easily have a 1 month supply of food on hand with little extra expenditure.

Expiration dates on food are vastly under how long they will actually be safe to eat and if you're disciplined about moving new cams to the back of the shelf and sliding old cans forward for use, you’ll have a good system of using the food you store and having a good first line of defense against food supply interruptions.

From here we get into long term food storage. You can purchase pre-made food for this explicit purpose which can last from 20 to 50 years or even longer. It's reconstituted either by adding boiling water or by simmering. The price tag on storage food may leave you with sticker shock, but due to how many portions are often in a can, such as 14 or 20, it's on average only about 2.50 per serving which is less than McDonald's.

It's easy to prepare and actually quite tasty. To make your food dollar go further still, you can pack your own food - such as rice - in mylar bags and 5 gallon plastic buckets in order to keep out oxygen which will let the food deteriorate, and to keep vermin like mice at bay (which is the reason for the buckets). A 50 pound bag of rice can be had for around 25 dollars and that's a lot of food and calories for a small investment. The rice can be added to the flavorful premade food to stretch the food dollar.


July 20th, 2015 -- Fire Making 101

Tonight we’ll talk a little about fire starting. I don't want to make it sound like it's rocket science, but I've found that many people have a hard time starting a fire from minimalist tools such as strike rods or other devices that deliver nothing more than a spark.

The first thing to remember about starting a fire is to plan for stages in your fuels. I've seen full grown men try to start fires right off the bat with logs. Instead of starting big, we need to think on the micro scale. Start small, then gradually move to large. If you don’t start small, you won't start at all.

When I say small, I mean tinder so small and fibrous that a single spark will ignite it. So we go from the very fine and fibrous, such as cotton fibers, either from a torn up cotton ball, or from nature in the form of a torn up, dried cat tail head or milkweed pod, or other substance.

Above that you'll want tiny twigs the diameter of a couple of fingernails thickness. The next size is not quite that of pencil thickness, then add this increment of sizes of fuels as your fire grows. You should organize your different sizes of sticks into piles and have lots of all sizes. The worst thing that can happen is to run out of one stage of fuel before the fire gets going... because then you have to start all over.

The smaller stuff is usually easier to find, but the larger sizes needed to get a good base of hot coals can be an issue to find in quantity -- specifically if you're in a high traffic area like a camp ground. You may need a tool to process fire wood. A small wire saw or buck saw can process wood that's too big to snap on your knee.

When building a primitive fire, expect to spend 20 to 30 minutes gathering the proper materials, a few minutes organizing the material, and at least 20 minutes to get a decent blaze going that is not in danger of going out. So plan on an hour start to finish and you won't get frustrated -- and you'll end up with a viable fire.

My favorite fire starting tool is a ferrocium rod, often called a strike rod or "ferro rod". It's a type of material similar to flint that when struck properly with another, harder piece of metal it will splinter and ignite the shards into a tiny hot ember. You strike the rod so that it throws the ember into your fire sensitive tinder. I also like spark wheels which are nothing more than a Zippo flint and strike wheel which throws tiny sparks.

Of course we also have bic lighters, matches of all sorts, hand sanitizer, high proof alcohol, and lots of other propellants that can make life easier. The advantage to something like a ferro rod, though, is that they will last for hundreds and hundreds of fires, while propellants run our relatively quickly in comparison.

One last neat tip...we all know about smearing Vaseline into cotton balls, but chap stick is a great substitute! Just smear a bit into your tinder, leaving a few fibers uncoated to catch the spark, and the petroleum based products will make that tinder burn four times as long as it would have, giving your fire more life.



July 13th, 2015 -- Preparing Your Property for Severe Weather

In lieu of today's severe weather, I thought it might be appropriate to discuss how to prepare your household for such weather.

The threat list is as follows, in order of probability of occurrence -- in my opinion:

Property damage
Power outages
Personal injury

On property damage, the most likely issue will be downed trees and/or damage to the house or other items on the property such as vehicles, furniture, or out buildings.

It's expensive to have trees trimmed PRO ACTIVELY, but it is just as expensive to have them cleaned up once they've fallen. If you have large, over grown, older trees, or trees with dead branches, it's a good idea to have a professional keep them thinned and in shape, or even removed ahead of time. This is especially true for trees within falling distance of a structure, or under which you park vehicles. Have chain saws and other tools prepped and in good working order, ready to react.

Lawn furniture should be secured ahead of time, as should toys and any lawn ornaments which can blow over, up or into other objects -- like your neighbor's windows, YOUR windows, or your vehicles...or even YOU. High winds can blow trash cans hundreds of yards...into cars, houses, pets or people. Secure any loose objects on your property to reduce flying debris.

One last point on property damage, be sure to have your insurance up to date, as well as all contact numbers in hand. on this side of things, should you need to file a claim, we wander into a bit of financial preparedness -- perhaps a good topic for another day -- that is, we ideally have an emergency fund capable of, in this instance, meeting a deductible payment. Also, getting your claim in the queue as quickly as possible, may speed up your results, especially if there is widespread area damage.

Next up is the power outage. Also highly likely. We've talked a lot on this net about power outages, what you can do to stay in communications, water, cooking capability, heating and such, so I'll stay light on this area, but the regular points apply, as I just mentioned: a way to cook and heat or boil water off grid, a way to get water off grid, heating concerns if it is season appropriate, as well as emergency communications...which WE of all people SHOULD have covered.

I often recommend creating a small solar setup as a very useful, simple, and relatively affordable means of charging cell phones, batteries, radios, and even laptops and other small devices. For just a couple of hundred dollars you can have 120 amp hours of power stored, ready to power both DC and AC applicances in case of an emergency.

Lastly, we have the threat of personal injury. It's best to remain indoors during severe weather. Limit or eliminate your travel during a dangerous period. Stay away from windows and doors. Do not, I repeat, do not dance in the rain with your umbrella. That was a joke...but if someone does manage to get hurt, know the location and capability of your medical supplies. Ice packs for breaks or bad bruising, large gauze and compression bandages for any severe cuts or bleeding, as well as general supplies.
 

June 29th, 2015 -- Community During Widespread Crisis

I was talking with a friend today about the possibility of an electrical grid failure on a large scale. Numerous government agencies and think tanks have recently been war gaming this possibility (link provides access to a high profile analysis by Infragard) and the requisite fallout from it. The most popular hypothetical cause war gamed seems to be that of a cyber attack which cripples at least 2 of the 3 main grids.

Immediate issues will be lack of power to health care facilities. While all such facilities have backup power, their fuel on hand is only enough for 24 to 48 hours. After that, should fuel deliveries be delayed due to lack of pumping capability or other delivery issues, we will see the first wave of deaths as a direct result of the power outage in those who rely on an electrical means of life support or care.

For the rest of us, there will likely be a 24 to 72 hour "honeymoon period" in which people will discuss the outage but no one will really know or understand what is happening and the serious ramifications of the following weeks and possibly months. This honeymoon period is the best last chance people will have to get things in order for possible interruptions in the food and water supplies.

We discussed this dire scenario and it's many facets and came to the point I'd like to discuss tonight.  That is:  Community

For the preparedness minded individual, community is usually the very last piece of the puzzle which we address or attempt to put in place. It's hard, if not impossible to discuss disaster scenarios with neighbors or friends -- they'll usually think you a bit nutty. Everything is fine, right?  “Why is this guy talking about Armageddon?”  When in reality, it's just called planning.

As Lord Baden Powell would say to his scouts: be prepared.

If you have neighbors who are on the preparedness bandwagon and in the know -- GOOD FOR YOU! -- you can discuss planning for your neighborhood in a constructive manner. For the rest of us, you may have to be a little more tactful. We've discussed operational security here before, that is, not telling the world that you might have a little extra food on hand, lest they come a knocking and expect handouts.

I do have a small group of people, family mainly, who are ready to ride a storm out together, when it come to my immediate neighborhood, my method has been this, and I highly recommend it: start a neighborhood watch.

Set yourself up as the point man on an email alert system for goings-on in your neighborhood. If there is a break in, make sure someone reports it to YOU with details so that you can forward it on to the rest of your street so they know what to look for.  Twelve of the eighteen houses on our street are in our program and it works. Recently, we have all been on the lookout for a specific truck that has been casing houses.

If calamity were to occur, this beneficial, positive, and useful neighborhood interaction of a watch group will make a great launch point for working together as a community to weather a much larger social storm.

With all that said, it's up for discussion:  What, if anything, are you doing to put a pre-plan in motion for working with others to help each other out in the categories of:  food, water, and security?

 

June 22nd, 2015 -- Natural Pest Control

Another short presentation this week, opening the net to round table input.

Marigolds planted around a garden as an insect barrier is a trick that my mother uses to this day in her gardening, a technique handed down by her own mother.  Many plants are claimed to be naturally inhospitable scents for ants, aphids, and other bugs.  Rue is another, as well as cucumber slices.

Vinegar was mentioned by several netgoers, mixed with various other things, as a spray on repellent for garden plants.  It can also be used as a cleaner.  It was mentioned that vinegar can be made at home and therefore agreed upon as a great option due to possible future availability through rendering.

Water bowls with things like beer, honey, and other sweets are good bug traps.

Since it was a round table, I’ll just leave a few interesting links for further reading.  We all came away from this net realizing that there are many options for natural pest control.  Vinegar was the winner.

Vinegar Garden Spray
How to Make Vinegar at Home


June 15th, 2015 -- Refugee Issues During Disaster

This week was a round table discussion regarding what to do, how to react if other people come to your home for assistance.  The people who are seeking help and resources may be people you know, like family members, neighbors, etc., or they may be total strangers.  Regardless, like everything, how you react and what you do depends largely on circumstances.

One thing is certain:  when a disaster hits, people will need help and they may be desperate.

If the disaster is local and/or “normal” such as flooding or a tornado, the situation, while troubling, will be much less dangerous.  We can all act in concert to calmly distribute resources and safely, usually, aid the refugees from such an event.

Things get a little more hairy if there was a serious Mad Max type event.  To be sure, most people will not be prepared to help themselves and will be seeking resources and help.  We’ve all heard the statement from people, “If anything happens, I’m coming to your house.”  When we are running low on resources, though, how will we react?  I urge everyone to incorporate charity into their preparedness planning and perhaps make “Take This and Go” bags to distribute to wandering refugees as a way to diffuse the situation and help others.  At some point, however, charitable supplies will run out and then we are back to the original problem:  people will be seeking resources and may be desperate.

Although it is the reaction of many to say simply, “I’ll just shoot them,” I do not find this to be a constructive, moral way to think.  Unfortunately, we may have to defend ourselves any day in our lives, but there are many variables and things to consider.  The point of this exercise is not to come to a perfect conclusion, as I’ve said, there are so many variables -- the point is to think about it clearly now while things are calm and be ready to deal with the situation when it arises.
 

June 8th, 2015 -- Repeater was down!  WCOARA Fixed Quickly
 

June 1st, 2015 -- Back to Basics:  Water Filtration

You'll hear many survivalists say that shelter is the most important priority in a survival scenario. I disagree, unless extreme cold or perhaps extreme heat are factors. It's true that exposure can kill you more quickly than dehydration, no denial there, but in the most common scenarios, such as getting lost in the woods or 3 day power outages, getting safe water is far more important than shelter.

So first, in nature, how do we FIND water? My best method, for the Midwest anyway, is to look for the white bark of sycamore trees. They are easy to spot and they almost always indicate that water is nearby. It may not be clean, but it will be there more often than not -- and please, test that statement next time you are driving around and see a white tree...look for the water. Rock outcrops on the sides of hills are also often damp or wet, as are valleys and gorges. All good places to start looking for water.

On to actually filtering or cleaning water.  We have tried and true iodine tablets which will kill most microorganisms that cause problems such as diarrhea -- a condition that can lead to death -- or extreme stomach cramps. Although I know people who will use iodine for months in a row and are still alive and swear by doing so, iodine is supposed to be a short term emergency solution.

Chlorine Dioxide tablets are another chemical-based option for making water safe. Iodine is quicker, only taking 30 minutes to an hour, while Chlorine will take up to 4 hours to work. Chlorine tablets are usually packaged individually, so they have a longer shelf life, too, because once you open a bottle of iodine, it needs to be used within a year or so, and that's assuming it was kept tightly sealed. Chlorine is also more expensive, but it tastes better. Pros and cons with each option, as usual.

After chemical solutions, we have filter mediums. One method I never tried, but always keep tucked away from my scouting days is to dig a hole 6 or 10 feet away from a stream bed, deep enough to reach below the water table which uses the earth/dirt as a filter as water seeps in and fills the hole. I'd probably run that water through a t-shirt or bandana, too, to remove particulate -- but again, I've never actually tried that method.

If you have clear plastic bottles, or clear baggies, such as zip lock bags, you can use the UV rays of bright sun light to kill micro organisms -- IF, and I mean if, you have clear water with very little or no particulate floating around in it to obscure the sun light from penetrating the clear bags. Clear, strong sunlight will make water safe to drink in just a day of exposure -- this is a method proven and certified by the World Health Organization.

And finally we have actual physical filters. Remember, filters will always meet their end of life.  They will run out, so to speak. I recommend learning how to make your own filters using charcoal (which you can also learn how to make) and sand. But if you're going to buy a filter, I recommend a LifeStraw, which will filter 250 to 300 gallons, or a Berkey product.  Katydyn and MSR also make good filters.

Keep in mind that the cleaner the water is which you put through your filters, the longer your filters will last. So we should always pre-filter our water with some sort of cloth to remove as much debris as we can BEFORE we put it through a filter.  This can really extend the life of a filter.

One last note. I have become increasingly concerned with people opting for the "Sawyer" water filter. The claims they make, in my opinion, are FAR too good to be true and I don't like to see people relying on those claims.  After all, the companies which have been around for decades and are highly trusted make no such claims.
 

May 25th, 2015 -- Floods, SHTF and Home Waste Disposal

...the other topic suggested last week was preparing your home for human waste issues during extended periods of time without the use of normal utilities -- specifically, a question was posed about sewage control in the event of a flood.

I have some experience with residential plumbing and am familiar with the physics behind water pressure and home systems -- but that said, I am not a plumber, nor am I a systems engineer, municipal planner, or expert of any kind, so that's my disclaimer and I welcome all input, but to try and cover Bill's question about preventing sewage backup, I did some reading, thinking, and contacted a friend who designs municipal systems.

Whether it's a localized event like a flood, or a grid down collapse, the last thing we want to deal with, from a financial standpoint, not to mention the health and sanitation aspect, is having a bunch of raw sewage to deal with INSIDE our home, which may also be our longterm retreat either by design or happenstance.

The pressure that can build up during a flood can be tremendous -- much more than necessary to blow off any standard back flow prevention flapper type valve;  and simply capping your main drain on the basement floor will likely only result in the sewage being pushed out through sinks, toilets, and tubs on the upper floors which is even worse than it being in the basement.  Remember, all plumbing is connected in a home.

I found myself contemplating a heavy duty shut off valve that could be put IN LINE somewhere between the street system and my house.  An outside valve would be ideal, because should a burst occur under high pressure, it would, again, be OUTSIDE of the house.  That would take care of stopping waste from getting in, but what about getting it out?  My municipality-employed friend indicated that most city systems rely on electrical pumps, so if the pumps stopped carrying waste for an extended period of time, we find ourselves right back to the sewage backup issue.

Gone are the days of free flow sewage drainage unless you are on a septic system, so my first instinct is to build an outhouse.  Depending on circumstances, from a security standpoint, however, we may also need to collect, store, and dispose of waste properly inside the house.  It can be done with heavy duty, special purpose waste bags.

If we turn off the water to a toilet and flush it one last time, the bowl can be dried and we can fit the heavy duty bags right into the dry commode for comfortable, somewhat normal use.  Disposal is another matter, though.  We can use saw dust, or wood ash to keep the smell and flies down and I would urge you to keep the bags sealed until it's time for use. Urine can be disposed of in the yard, if done properly, while the bags themselves should be reserved for solid waste ONLY.

Here’s a neat trick:  Dig a 20" round, 3 feet deep hole, pour in 1 foot of gravel.  Insert a 5 foot section of 6" PVC pipe, fill the rest of the hole with the leftover dirt --- this makes an outstanding urinal for men as specially, although anyone's urine can be poured down this pipe efficiently.  It leaches well, keeps odor down, and is a good sanitary practice.  The pipe can be moved as needed relatively easily.

A listener texted a comment during the show which lead to an interesting thought -- a makeshift septic “system” might be constructed as follows:  a 55 gallon drum with 3/4” holes drilled in the bottom could be buried to within 6 inches of the ground level, with a “dump hole” affixed to the top, as well as a vent pipe.  I would think a layer of gravel at the bottom of this hole would also be appropriate.  It’s not a perfect system, also it’s highly illegal during normal times, but I think it could be effective as a last resort when it comes to disposing of waste safely.

It was also noted during discussion, that human waste, no matter how it is composted or processed, should NOT be used on consumable plants such as vegetables.

The bottom line, from my research, and again I don't claim to be an expert, is that in a serious flood, assuming your home isn't under water anyway, it would be ideal to have a heavy duty main line shut off outside of your home to cope with the tremendous pressure that can build.

We can also assume that outgoing waste will be a problem during a long term power outage for whatever reason, so we should all be prepared to deal with that.  I came away from this topic thinking that a heavy duty main line shut off between the street and home is a REALLY good idea, along with other preparations to deal with the aforementioned issues, of course.  Good luck in your planning.


May 18th, 2015 -- WCOARA Repeater System

There is no actual script for this edition of the SWOPN.  Jason, from WCOARA, as well as their current president, Keith, joined us to discuss the history and breadth of the 145.100 repeater network they so graciously provide the region.

We learned one fact that is very pertinent, to this forum particularly, and that is:  the WCOARA repeater IS on emergency power.  So we can all plan on being able to meet up and communicate on this frequency should the need arise in unfavorable conditions.

If you’d like to help out WCOARA with your time or treasure, please visit their website to learn how you can help these folks out and keep them viable.


May 11th, 2015 -- Auctions: Save on Preparedness

We've had some interest in the past on this net regarding auctions as a place to pick up discount, if not slightly used preparedness gear.  I have been going to auctions for over 30 years and I've picked up a lot of great items for a fraction of their true value.

If you've never been to an auction, it can be intimidating.  Expect lots of people standing around, many of whom who look like they know what they're doing.  Many of them do, but many of them do not -- regardless, you can still get great deals.

First, locate an auction.  You can find them in the newspaper classifieds, but better yet I would push you to a website called AUCTIONZIP.com.  Auctionzip.com lets you put your zipcode in and set a travel limit of 20 miles, 30 miles, etc.  It will return all scheduled auctions for all dates selected.

When you get to the auction, locate the administration booth.  It's usually a trailer with a window and/or doors and probably a line.  Sometimes it is just a table inside the estate or property where the auction is being held.  You will need a photo ID.  Present it to the worker and they will present you with a piece of cardboard with your "number" on it.  Guard it closely because if the auctioneer records your number associated with a sale, YOU are liable for paying for it.

Once you have your number, you are able to bid.  Walk around and peruse the goods, just as you might do at a garage sale or in a curio shop -- everything is for sale, usually even the pictures off the wall.  Remember, an auction is a clearing house type sale.  Everything must go....which is why you can get great deals.  Very rarely are there minimum bids.

So what can we, as preparedness minded folks, get at auctions?  A few examples of what I've gotten and their general prices are:  a 250 gallon water tank for water storage for $40; numerous garden tools like hoes, rakes, shovels -- as low as $1 each, but depending on quality as much as $5 each;  over 100 drill bits of all sizes and uses for just $1;  tons of small camping gear type items like canteens and small bags, usually for a few dollars for a box of this type of equipment.

Naturally, the price for an item will vary based on its condition, as well as who else is at the auction who may also have their eye on that particular piece of equipment.  Set a budget or price in your mind for whatever items you like and make sure you don't go over it. . .people have a tendency, especially inexperienced auction goers, to get into contests with one another and I've seen things go OVER retail price on numerous occasions -- this defeats the purpose for going to an auction.

A couple of more tips:  be sure to pay attention to where your items are and where the auctioneer is.  I myself have missed chances to bid on items when the auctioneer sold something when I wasn't paying attention or if I went to the bathroom at a bad time.

And don't be shy!  Don't allow yourself to get left out.  Sometimes you have to raise your voice to get the auctioneer's attention.  Often times raising your number high in the air is enough to get his attention.

Bottom line is there are FANTASTIC deals to be had at local auctions.  Instead of paying $20 for a Chinese shovel at a big box store, why not go to an auction and pay 2 or 3 dollars for a 50 year old AMERICAN MADE shovel with a nice worn handle -- the tools and equipment you get at auctions and garage sales might not be shiny and new, but it's been my experience that it is often more WELL MADE than current store bought.


May the 4th (be with you), 2015 -- On Generators

So the amount of power we require during an outage, beit as simple as a day or two, or something more extensive, the power we require is based on our desired level of comfort, as well as the level of comfort a situation will allow due to security concerns.

Personally, my needs are simple:  water for sanitation, drinking, and food preparation; food preservation, and perhaps some electricity for charging devices or for receiving communications via television, radio, or the internet (if it’s up and running).  Because I'm on wood heat, that's not a factor for me, although it likely would be for many during the winter months.

When it comes to generators, they can REALLY reduce our inconvenience and stress during a what would otherwise be a rough time.  If you were around for the 2008 wind storm here in Dayton, lots of people lost power for up to two weeks.  This meant tons of lost food, due to refrigeration, or lack thereof, not to mention no hot coffee, meals, or showers.

A whole house generator of the automatic variety, housed in an aluminum box, is super convenient.  It turns on automatically when the power goes out, it also turns on regularly to keep itself lubricated.  Running off of natural gas or propane, your supply of fuel will be constant, uninterrupted (assuming the natural gas keeps flowing or you don’t run out of propane, NOTE: natural gas should continue to flow even during a power outage) -- and all of this keeps you from filling gas cans and baby-sitting a genny.

A good company can sell you and install a 7000 watt generator of this variety for around $3500 to $4000.  I like Jeff Bonham Electric.  This will power most of the critical systems in your house and then some -- although if you are on electric heat, you will need to either go MUCH larger (probably $8000 larger), or find an alternative method of backup heat. These smaller units will also not power air conditioning, but, if you're a minimalist like me it WILL do all of the necessary things, like keep your food from going bad.

I'd like to push people to consider the "roll around" gennys in the range of 5000 watts.  NOTE:  To avoid offing your family with carbon monoxide, you can have an outlet box installed on the outside of your home which runs to a sub panel near your main panel, from which you can select 8 or 10 circuits to power such as your well pump, freezer, refrigerator, and a few outlets for charging -- this type of set up, including the generator can cost as little as $1200.  Very safe, very powerful, relatively affordable.

Another positive aspect of going the roll around route is that if you need to get out of dodge, you can always throw a roll around in the back of the truck and take it with you to provide power and charging in the field, whereas a whole house genny of the stationary kind, although more convenient at times, is not going anywhere -- it is stuck right where it is, plus it would require modification to run off of propane tanks of the gas grill variety, so fueling would likely not be possible even if you did manage to take it with you.

Both propane and gasoline gennys burn about 1.5 gallons of fuel an hour, so there's not much difference there, but there are other options such as diesel (which is probably the best from a maintenance perspective), and bio-fuel.  Duromax makes an interesting model which I'm currently evaluating which is a roll-around 5000 watt unit which comes from the factory set up to take either gasoline or plug in to 5 gallon gas grill tanks which are both able to be stored AND are probably more available than gas during a crisis.

As a final note, interestingly, there are conversion kits which will allow you to run standard gasoline generators off of a 5 gallon gas grill cannisters.  These kits are fairly easy to install, although they cost close to $200 including shipping.  Find them by searching "propane conversion kits for generators" on the internet.

My final word:  a generator, if properly thought out for your specific needs and if maintained properly, can REALLY make a difference in your life during a power outage or other crisis.  Don't rush in, do your diligence, choose wisely, and you will be happy you made the plunge when the time comes.


April 27th, 2015 -- Location, Location (During WROL)


So we discuss on this forum many aspects of preparedness for lots of abnormal situations -- from simple power outages, to natural disaster response search and rescue, to more serious madmax scenarios like massive, extended power grid failures due to an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) or cyber attack.  Tonight it's madmax.

It takes research, dedication, financial planning, and follow through to stockpile the proper equipment and supplies to be ready for any scenario -- these are the things we've discussed here before, which you can read about and research via books, blogs, and networking. . .food, water, defense, and more.

One thing, though, that is far more difficult than just researching equipment, saving a relatively small amount of money, then buying and implementing or practicing with a new tool(s)...more difficult to plan and execute is your LOCATION.  Next to building a community or network of trusted people to rely on during tough times, adjusting your physical location is a TOP priority.

The guys out there who are more focused on the Emergency Response Teams side of preparedness will have to excuse my topic tonight, I’m aware it’s more on the madmax side of things....not really pessimism per se, just ask the people in the Balkans of Europe in the early 90s who lived in the cities during that conflict.  Just consider me the crazy uncle who's half-cocked theories are fun to talk about from time to time.

In a system wide grid down scenario, due to a cyber attack, high altitude nuke attack, or sun generated EMP from a coronal mass ejection, the scholars give society a mere couple of weeks before near bedlam conditions erupt -- in the cities, that is......which is my first point.  Living in the city is hazardous to your health during a mass event.

Water systems are dependent upon electric pumps.  If you're lucky in the city, you are on a gravity system which may last a few days.  If you're REALLY lucky, your municipality invested in generators which will re-fill the gravity tank(s) and those lucky dogs may be able to go a couple of few weeks before water gives out.

Once the water is gone, however, sanitation and then disease will be a real issue, adding to the social chaos already caused by delayed or non-existent food delivery. If you must live in the city, the best advice one can take is to DISAPPEAR.  Don't turn on your generator, you should cover your windows with blackout cloth and lay low.  Prepare to DISAPPEAR.  If you’re not there, you’re not a target.

When city chaos becomes unbearable, we'll have refugees.  We see this in the Middle East constantly.  Refugees from Iraq, Syria, Somalia -- people flee areas where hardship, violence and death abound.  If they can't drive they'll walk.  The first places they'll show up is the suburbs.  The routes they'll use are major thoroughfares.

Next point:  Make your homestead a minimum of 45 minutes by car from the city -- preferably 2 hours in a direction away from population centers.  This advice makes it all but impossible for most of us, or seemingly so, due to having to make a living.  For some, though, preparedness is worthy of a career change.  Many people do it.  Computers make working at home feasible these days.

To wrap up, due to time constraints, stay away from highways, state routes, and large cities if at all possible.  The best states of residence are:  Idaho, Montana, or otherwise ULTRA rural areas.  Tennesee, Kentucky, even Southern Ohio have some very low population denisty areas.

It's worth a moment to step back and fully comprehend just how many people are in a city even as small as Dayton, Ohio -- look at a satellite image:  That's a lot of mouths to feed. Physical location is a serious consideration.  Bugging out may be a necessity.

What is YOUR plan in the event of a mass breakdown?


April 20th, 2015 -- Chickens and Expiration Dates

First, it’s that time of year when people begin hatching chickens and other yard fowl that can supplement one’s food supply with eggs, meat, both, and/or be useful tools on the homestead.

We’ll take your personal advice, stories, or commentary on raising fowl.

Secondly, a net-goer requested some info on expiration dates regarding water and food, so you may speak on either topic.

I’ll get things going withi a little on yard fowl.  I’ve kept bantam chickens, larger layers, as well as guinea hens.  Guineas are my specialty, if I have one.  First, they are NOT a city bird.  They make great watch dogs.  If anything changes on your property, you can rely on your Guineas to start clucking loudly and often until things return to normal.

They have voracious appetites for bugs and most of their diet comes from this, with just a little meal added from the store, making them very cost effective.  They especially like ticks, which was the main reason we got them.  There’s a book I read called “Gardening with Guineas” which was the next reason we decided on guineas -- instead of scratching up plants like chickens, guineas will surgically remove bugs from plants with their beaks.

I could talk more about guineas, but I’d like to open the net up for your comments on chickens and fowl, OR for your experience with expirations dates on food and water.  So let’s start at the top of the list...back to the net.


March 16th, 2015 -- Hand Tools for Post Collapse

Humans have built a lot of impressive things before we had power tools or fancy devices...just look at the Tower of Piza -- OK, maybe that’s a bad example, but the Parthenon, the Great Wall, and the Brooklyn Bridge, all built without power tools.

As usual, we have a huge topic and limited time, so:  a shovel.  Many subsistence farmers around the world still hand dig wells.  We need to dig fence post holes to contain livestock, or dig up bad posts, moving dirt, covering our dead, digging outhouses, a number of sanitary related tasks are done with a shovel.  The Earth is literally moved with a shovel.

I’m assuming we all have a cutting knife of some sort, so on to the ax.  Used for felling trees, cleaning them of branches for further processing, then after the log is sawed, for splitting the wood for use in hearth fires.  Of course lumber can also be used for making shelter and not only for burning.

Saws.  If you can find a large, two man saw at an auction or garage sale, the kind with two handles, one on each end, grab it.  A good price is around $40.  They aren’t making any more of the good ones and the antiques are getting harder and harder to find.  They are great for processing large trees into rounds to be worked with an ax without a chainsaw, plus they are much quieter.   Also, smaller hand saws are great for building things and for general woodworking.

A hand powered crank style drill does not need electricity and consequently is a great thing to have.  I’ve picked them up for as little as $5 at garage sales.  As we’ve discussed here before, auctions are a great place to get tools at rock bottom prices.  At a recent auction I picked up almost 100 drill bits in a variety of sizes and configurations for just $2.

A good bench vise is another useful tool which has many applications for working pieces of metal, wood, and others, holding a workpiece safely in position while you bend, hammer, or otherwise shape it.  A hammer -- preferably in several sizes and formats is a good idea.  A small ball pean, a run of the mill carpenter’s, a 4 pound sledge, and a large full size sledge for breaking concrete are all advised.

Here’s a quirky one we may over look:  a set of punches.  Good for servicing firearms and other items.  A set of brass brushes for cleaning guns and tools are also a good idea.  We will likely become our own gunsmiths and repairmen in the future should a collapse occur.

So these are just the basic tools we should keep.  Ideally, you’d also have the normal assortment of hand tools such as screwdrivers, ratchets in metric and English, as well as a variety of gardening tools like:  hoes, rakes, a spud bar, and hand cultivator.  Also, don’t skimp on quality and spares, plus spare handles -- a good 40 or 50 year old American made tool you find second hand is not only less expensive, but FAR superior to new Chinese garbage.

Remember, keep them well oiled and dry -- back to the net.


February 2nd, 2015 -- Morals During WROL

This topic has no right answer really.  I call it madmax morals and it is just what it sounds like.  Moral behavior during a collapse scenario.  We aren’t talking winter power outage, but rather two months into a serious grid-down scenario.

People are now scavenging for food, violence is commonplace, and rule of law is out the window.

You’ve managed to remain in your fairly rural home down a long lane, staying unseen and stocked with food.  Your perimeter alarm is set off around high noon on a summer day.  Shuffling your child and wife inside, you man your defensive position, with your wife covering you from a defensive position inside the home.

A man, woman, and two children aged 5 and 10 are in tow.  They look haggard and short on supplies.  Pretty much at their wits’ end.  The group does not appear to be armed.  After a short and cordial although uneasy introduction, you share an appraisal of the current conditions and trade stories.

You feel a little more at ease, but then the man asks if you have any food.  You do, but only about 2 months worth left for your family.  You’re not sure yet how you will get more food when that runs out and it’s something you’ve been thinking more and more about lately.

The man asks politely at first, but quickly becomes pushy and insistent when it looks like you may not want to give up any food, stating that “You look healthy and well kept” and must have something to share.  He mentions that the road has been dangerous and they’ve been looking for a safe place to stay for a while.  Your wife is sounding nervous through the walkie talkie earbud in your ear, asking if there is trouble what she should do.

The man starts to advance on you, still brandishing no weapon, but he has a crazy look in his eyes.  Your AR is leveled at him and you’re ready to fire.

What do you do??  Back to the net.
 

December 22, 2014 -- Firemaking 101

Hello to the net...thanks for joining us and I hope everyone stays safe during the Christmas season.  Speaking of fire, if you have a natural tree this year I urge you to take every precaution such as making sure the tree doesn’t block your only exit, not connecting more than 3 strands of lights, and turning off your lights when you go to bed or leave your home.

That PSA aside, when making bushcraft fire, that is not the white man’s fire started with a propellant, as I am guilty of for the sake of time, the most important step in the process is proper tinder.  The tinder, or that which you start the fire with, is arguably the most important element -- aside from a spark of course -- because if you can’t get a spark to take, you will have no fire and the rest doesn’t matter.

Cotton balls, dryer lint, any substance with ultra fine fibers or fibers which can be torn apart with your fingers is the best starter.  Certain barks have a very fine hair on the underside which can be used.  Pull back a piece of bark from a dry, downed tree and see what you find.  Dry milkweed pods and cat tails can also make great tinder if you again pull the fibers apart with your fingers and tear them into tiny fibers to take a spark.

From there, once you have something to receive a spark, the next most important thing is to have an escalating selection of wood from small twigs to larger sections of split logs.  you can often gather downed limbs of varying sizes, breaking what you need with your hands and across your knees, but better selection of wood propellant usually requires tools such as an ax or hatchet.

One trick I like to use when it has been raining is to find dead and fallen branches hanging in trees...ones caught by live limbs before they hit the ground, already dropped or severed entirely from their source tree.  These suspended branches have not been in contact with the ground and consequently dry much faster and do not absorb as much water when it’s raining or has been raining.  They are a great source of dry or drier wood.  This trick has helped me many times.

So far as spark makers go, bic lighters are small, inexpensive, and last a long time.  Keep them in zip lock bags in your pack as a primary or back up starter, or as barter items.  The flint in them can also throw a spark long after the butane is gone.  UST makes a great flint spark thrower which is super small with replaceable flints, throwing a great spark, it has a totally exposed striker wheel making it very easy to get on target, tossing a spark into cotton or what have you.

Magnesium bars are my other favorite.  You can YouTube magnesium fire starter to get a better picture, but these bars last for 1000s of fires, start fires with high heat and usually have built in ferrocium rods, plus they are inexpensive.  I will say that they are not all made equally, though, and you should always choose Doan brand -- made right here in Ohio, they are hands down the best, having supplied the military for decades.  This is a big topic, that’s a brief overview, and I look forward to where the discussion goes.  Back to net control...


December 8th, 2014 -- Preparedness on Vacation or Travel

While many of us are prepared to survive a couple of hundred mile hike back to our home base where we have more supplies cached, or we plan on bugging in where our supplies already are. . .and in these scenarios we would probably be able to get by, possibly quite comfortably, BUT, when we are traveling, we have to balance taking a “normal” vacation in which we have enough clothes, toiletries, jackets, proper shoes for our planned activities, etc. -- that is, space is limited.

Not only is space limited, there will likely be restrictions on what we are legally, or safely allowed to carry.  Our favorite K-bar knife is likely not able to go on an airplane, overseas, or on a cruise ship.  Stun guns, pepper sprays, and firearms all have different levels of acceptance in different states and jurisdictions.

So there are many restrictions on what we can take with us when we travel, for numerous reasons including simple pragmatism.  Our needs in a survival scenario, though, remain the same.  Water and food being of the highest concern, in that order, unless we are traveling into or through cold climates when we would then also have to consider shelter, or protection from the elements.

In short, my quick list of small, easy to pack, light, and necessary items to pack are:  a Lifestraw (which filters 250 to 300 gallons of water), emergency food or calories, my choice being Datrex rations and energy bars.  Also, a medical kit with most common capabilities including rehydration powder for diarrhea which can be mixed with water, as well as serious trauma capabilities in the form of coagulation bandages like QuikClot and pressure wraps.

I always try to work in a pocket knife and fire making for good measure and some method of self defense, no matter how rudimentary.


November 24th, 2014 -- Water Filtration

For Sawyer filter company to actually have verified its claims, if it takes 30 minutes to filter 1 gallon, if running 24 hours a day, it would take them 6 years to test their 100,000 gallon filtration claim.  To faithfully test their 1 million gallon claim, it would take them 57 years to complete testing.

These claims, to me, sound ridiculous.  Companies like Berkey, Katadyn, and MSR, have been around for years and have never made such claims.  I have found people who are basing their entire water solution on the Sawyer claim and I find this very concerning.  The aforementioned reputable companies also claim only a .2 or .1 micron filtration capability, while Sawyer claims 0.02!!  For a fraction of the cost and hundreds of thousands of filtration capability??  Hmm.

What do YOU guys think about the Sawyer filter?  Possible or ridiculous?


October 27th, 2014 -- Cold Weather Survival in the Home


Last week UCN brought up a lot of good points about preparedness when it comes to driving in cold temperatures and snow.  It is very important to be able to survive in your vehicle or on the road in such conditions.  This discussion led me to the next natural point and that’s survival in the home during extreme cold weather.

Power outages are the main concern.  I hear a lot of people cite the 2008 windstorm here in Dayton as their eye opener and reason for getting into preparedness.  In the winter if we have a power outage, short or extended, the first and main concern quickly becomes heat.

I’m blessed to have a Buckstove that can heat our entire house using good old fashioned firewood.  I recommend at least one cord of wood per three week period and that assume a very conservative use of your firewood.  My calculation as to how much wood you’d need will vary greatly depending on your stove’s efficiency and the size of the area to be heated.

Another option for heat is a kerosene heater, or propane radiant heat device such as a Mr. Heeter which takes the small 1 pound green tanks.  Cracking a window just an inch or two should provide enough air circulation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, but I’d never burn a fossil fuel indoors where people sleep without a working carbon monoxide detector nearby -- I keep one right near our Buckstove even.

Other concerns are the normal ones during any power loss:  clean water for drinking, water for flushing toilets, and food storage.  Having a non powered back up water source is very important.  What will you rely on during the winter for emergency heat -- not only for your body, but to keep pipes from freezing in the event of an extended power loss?

 

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