Hey there, and welcome back to my little corner of cyberspace. I hope you had a great weekend.
I can imagine many of you are looking a the tittle of this little ramble and wondering just what the hell I'm talking about. "Rational Prepping" some of you are asking, "Is that even a thing?!". Well yes, yes it is. I know many people still think of the prepper community as a group of paranoid, ultra conservative nuts who are absolutely convinced that we're heading for some kind of Zombie Apocalypse complete with a melt down of the "Rule of Law and Order", but in all honesty most of us are really rather rational about things. Most of us are not stock piling huge amounts of ammo in fancy underground bunkers with full cutting edge security systems and built in generators, nor are we spending obscene amounts of money on mountain cabins that could double as modern day forts. What we are doing is looking at the world around us and trying to prepare our families for those things that can and do happen, and seem to be happening on an increasingly regular basis. "Oh come on, what are you talking about" that I just heard is probably coming from that new reader I see hiding in the back corner, so let me show you.
By now anyone who is paying even the least amount of attention knows about the damage done by Hurricane Harvey in Texas last week, but how closely have you really been paying attention? Did you know that it's estimated that the financial cost of the damage is likely to exceed 190 Billion dollars? Or how about the price of gas? I know you've noticed the price of gas has gone up sharply in the past few days. Well that's because almost 20% of all of our oil refineries are in Texas and have been shut down because of Harvey. And it's not just gas prices that are going to be effected! Other items that directly depend on oil refineries for their production include asphalt, fertilizers, linoleum, soap, perfumes, insecticides, and vitamin capsules, just to name a few. Nor was our oil refineries effected by Hurricane Harvey. 60% of our production of ethylene was shut down by the disaster.
Ethylene? Just what in world is that I hear some of you saying. Well I must admit that I had no idea what ethylene was either until a chemical engineer I know sent me an article about it, the same article I shared on my FaceBook feed over the weekend; and it turns out that it can have an even bigger impact on the average American than loosing our oil refineries! Most of our plastics are made from ethylene, including plastic milk jugs and baby diapers. It's also used to make PVC so the production of the most common type of water pipe used in the U.S. will be scarce for the next few months to a year. PVC is also used in the production of doors, windows, signs, electrical cable insulation, and the inflatable rafts you take to the lake or the pool. Ethylene is also used in the production of the plastic used for hang packaged items, as well as antifreeze for our cars, various coolants, clothing, textiles, tires, kitchen wares, carpets, and food containers used at most restaurants. Still other uses are in making detergents, paper, adhesives such as tape and glues, and emulsifiers used to keep various chemicals from separating. No wonder the estimated cost of Hurricane Harvey is 190 Billion Dollars! Let's face it people, we are going to be hurting for the next several months, and Christmas could prove to be rather lean for much of the U.S. Nor may that be all. After all, Irma is wondering through the carribean even now and many meteorologist say that she may prove to be even stronger by the time she makes land fall.
So what is one to do in such a situation? Here is where rational prepping comes into things. If you live in an area where hurricanes are likely, you probably already have many things lined up and in place for such emergencies; but rational preppers understand that because things in todays world are so interconnected a hurricane in Texas will impact everyone in the U.S., even if they live in Maine or Hawaii! So, allowing for the fact that it's probably too late for you to smooth things over this time as much as most of us would like, what do you do for the future when it happens again?
First thing is to build up a reserve of both money and food. Financial experts have been telling us for years that we really should have enough money squirreled away to pay 3 to 6 months of bills in case of an emergency. Admittedly they are mainly talking about some emergency that results in the loss of a job, such as injury or serious illness; but such a slush fund will make the increased prices we will be looking at for the foreseeable future much easier to handle. So how do you save that money? Well I'm no financial expert, but it can be done. The way I'm doing it is by autodraft to a stock fund, namely a fund run by Vanguard. $50.00 a month is automatically taken from my checking account and deposited into a money market account run by Vanguard each month, and when the amount in that money market account reaches 6 months worth of bills, I transfer 3 months worth of bills to an index fund. Viola. Forced savings with little pain and no action required on my part except making sure I don't accidentally spend that $50.00 before it can be transferred. For more ideas you can check out various financial sites such as The Motley Fool and, my current personal favorite, The Penny Hoarder.
As for stock piling food, I'm really not talking about any thing extreme. Simply set up a rotation system and keep 1 to 3 months worth of can goods and frozen food on hand. No real need to lay in a stock of emergency food supplies that have a shelf live measured in years instead of months (though if you want to buy such items such as Wise Foods from me at one of the shows I vend at through out the South I certainly won't complain!). This allows you to have a supply of food on hand you can dip into when prices start forcing you to cut back on what you're buying each week at the grocery store; and when the price companies pay for milk jugs go up because they can't get the ethylene to make them, well ...
A personal garden isn't a bad idea either. Admittedly this is the wrong time of year to be planting one, but you could start planning one for next spring. Many experts tell me that planning out your bed in the fall is actually a good idea, so take a look at web sites dealing with gardening such as Burpee, or possibly HGTV. And don't write off this bit of advice just because you live in an apartment, condo, or high rise. My grandpa was an avid gardener all his live, and even when he moved into an apartment he still gardened. He just changed over to container gardening by placing planters and nice looking pots on his balcony and widow boxes out side his windows. Admittedly I have something of a brown thumb instead of my grandpa's green thumb, but there's plenty of places to get advice on this.
Now there's plenty more things I could say, but once again this ramble is starting to resemble a chapter in a book more than a blog entry so I'll call it good enough for today. Hopefully I've given you a few things to think of and some useful bits, but it's time for me to head off into the real world now. Take care dear reader, I hope your Labor Day is a great one, and remember. If it's worth doing, worth doing at all, then it's worth doing with attitude!
Hey there, and welcome back to my little corner of cyberspace. I thought that today we'd look at the Prepper movement that's become so big here in the States.
As long time readers will know, I've tried to avoid calling myself a prepper for some time now. Why? Mainly because it has so many negative connotations attached to it. I mean think about it for a minute. When most people think of preppers, what image comes to mind? For many it brings to mind an image of a wild eye nut job who is eagerly awaiting the coming of the Zombie Apocalypse and the attending break down of the Rule Of Law. They assume that preppers are convinced that our government is going to break down completely, or at the very least be replaced by a dictatorship of some sort. And I'll admit that some of the more rabid and vocal preppers out there don't help the matter with their mention of SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan) situations. But for most of us who can be considered preppers, it's really more of a case of living the Boy Scout motto of Always Be Prepared.
Okay, let's be honest here. There's a lot of things that can throw your life for a loop; it doesn't have to be something that realistically is kind of unlikely. Hell, just take a look at my own life for an example. I was raised in Lexington, Ky and lived through the night of 148 Tornadoes back in 1974. I worked at a level one trauma center in Charleston, SC and lived through 4 hurricanes. I served as an EMT in Pennsylvania and still remember the floods that hit Johnston and Indiana, Pa, causing well over $1 million in damages; and last but not least, I dealt with the California style wild fires that ranged through western North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina last fall. In every case people went without many services we take for granted for days or even weeks. In the case of Hurricane Hugo, it was months!
So what do you do? You can just go about your life blindly assuming that nothing like any of these things will ever happen to you. And in all honesty, most of you would be perfectly ok. But then again nobody in western North Carolina, Tennessee, or Upstate South Carolina ever thought we'd have to deal with California style Wild Fires before last last fall; and look at what happened! Thousands had to evacuate, and thousands more lost power and water for weeks. Even more had to deal with brown outs as power companies tried desperately to compensate for power plants that had to be taken off line. Or look at Hugo back in 1989. It caused flooding as far inland as Columbia, over a hundred miles from landfall and effected an estimated 1.8 million people. In all honesty, I was one of those people who never thought something like Hugo could possibly happen to me (a very dumb way of looking at things considering my history), and I can guarantee you that I will never find myself as unprepared again as I was then.
Nor is natural disasters the only thing that could cause a break down in services. Take the Ebola scare a couple of years back. The fact is that we were very lucky back then in that the CDC and the appropriate officials caught the danger and took immediate action. As a result, we here in the U.S. were never in as much danger as the news media made it sound; but what would have happened if they hadn't acted so quickly? Just one or two people who had been exposed landing at a major airport could have easily resulted in a major outbreak. In sections of Africa, whole towns were placed under quarantine conditions before it was brought back under control; think how that would have effected your life if it had become necessary here. Many of us would have been mighty hungry before it was over as stores ran out of supplies and new stocks were turned away by armed police enforcing the quarantine.
So yeah, it can get pretty bad really, really quick; and it isn't really as unlikely as most of us would prefer to believe. So what do you do? Well first thing is to think honestly about what you'd do if the unlikely but possible happened. Do you have what you'd need to keep yourself and your family alive and well? Or would you find yourself desperately trying to keep the lions at bay as your family deals with one emergency or shortage after another? If you did need to evacuate, how long would it really take you to gather everything you'd need to take with you? For that matter, do you even know what you'd need? If it takes too long, you might find yourself in the same situation some home owners in Michigan find themselves in following the severe flooding of June 24.
So so think about it. Disasters happen more often than most of us want to admit. So the question is do you want to keep your rose colored glasses on, or do you want to join me in reluctantly admitting you are a prepper, albeit a sane one?
But it for now I've reached the end of my time for today so I'll put away my soap box. I hope you found some small amount of value to my rambling, and I hope to see you back again soon. And remember, if you're going to do something, no matter what it is, do it with attitude!
And a Happy News Years to you! I'm glad you made it back. Let's see, last time we talked I had rambled about half way through the list of things one might need in an emergency, or bug out pack designed around my family's special needs keeping my autistic son and a mother who suffers from dementia in mind. So far we've covered water, medical supplies, and shelter and warmth. We've also established that due to my family's needs, I'm already up to 23 out of the 40 pound limit a reasonable pack should have when looking at the average American. So what else should be in the pack?
Well for me the most obvious thing to look at next is a source of light. Admittedly, a camp fire will give off a fair amount of light; but it's a bit difficult to carry around with you. True, you could try to make a torch; but believe you me, that's not anywhere as easy as adventure novels and movies make it out to be. First couple of times I tried I ended up with singed fingers! To make a short story long, in the end the best way to use torches for light is to make them up ahead of time and carry them with you and if you do that you'll quickly find that they weigh considerably more than a flash light does. But which flash light or camp latern to choose? And are we going to be okay with just one? Not that long ago I'd have recommended a combination latern with a radio built in so that you could keep up with important news announcements, but with modern cell phones that's not needed so much any more. What I personally chose for my kit is the Pika 3-in-1 Latern. It weighs in at just over 5 ounces, produces 150 lumens of light, can be used as either a latern or a flashlight, and also serves as a recharging unit for your phone. And yes, it is a product that I carry on the Cool Products pages of this web site; but that doesn't negate it's advatages to me as part of my bug out kit.
I also highly recomend what is commonly referred to as a headlamp. These can range in price from as little as $4.00 at a place like Harbor Freight to several hundreds at some specialty shops; but no matter how little or how much you spend, there's no denying the handiness of a light that rests on your head. It frees up your hands and turns with your head to shine where ever you might be looking, and that can be a huge advantage when you need both hands free to get through rough terrain or assist a family member over a rocky spot in the trail.
Next to be considered in my opinion is food. When you're bugging out by car, this isn't a huge problem since you can pack almost any can good you wish and stores are likely to be easily found. When you're hoofing it on the other hand food can become quite a headache, and when you're considering food for an emergency bug out kit the troubles can quickly multiply. Yes, you could consider can goods. They last for years, and even when using a camp fire or pocket stove, a can of soup is probably the easiest thing to prepare imaginable. But at the same time they weigh close to a pound a can and they're bulky. When you consider that at the best rate my mother could possibly make through rough terrain is a measley seven miles a day on a good day, it's pretty obvious that the amount of can goods I'd have to carry just to feed her and myself would quickly eat up four to six pounds of the 40 pounds I'm trying to limit myself to. Add in the fact that I've already used up 23 of those 40 pounds, and can goods go right out the window as a consideration.
So what should we consider? Actually there's quite a lot we could use. Peanut butter crackers can keep you going for a surprisingly long time, or you could put in a supply of protien bars. Two I'm particularly fond of are Balance Bars (they've got a mint chocalate bar that taste almost like a Girl Scout thin mint cookie) and Robert Irvine's Fit Crunch bars, but any quality protein bar will do as well. They typically have between 20 to 30 grams of protein per bar, a goodly percentage of the 50 grams a day that is recommended; and they have a ridiculously long shelf life as a general rule. Or we could chose a modern equivalent of the army's old standby, the MRE or Meals Ready to Eat. These can be found from a number of companies ranging from Wise Food Storage to Honeyville and can be purchase both on-line and at your local sporting goods store that specializes in hiking and camping supplies. They're light, easy to prepare, and surprisingly tasty compared to those of yesteryear.
Of course you could try to hunt while you're hoofing it out of danger; and a collapsable rifle similar to the old AR-7 that the Air Force used to place in airplanes in case the pilot had to bail out or the more modern Keltex Sub2000 wouldn't be a bad thing to have along any way, but I think that I'd find myself too busy trying to make tracks to spend any time trying to plinck small game like rabbits and squirrels. Besides, trying to get out of the way of a disaster would tend to make most people too anxious to be able to hunt successfully.
So we have food covered, as well as water and shelter plus warmth and light; but what are going to heat our meals in? Yeah, if we go with protein bars we don't really need to worry about cooking utensils, but it would still be nice to at least be able to make a cup of coffee or tea don't you think? Well cookware specially designed for hiking is easily found, of decent quality, and weighs in at well under a pound. Your local hiking store should have a nice collection, or just check out Amazon.com. So now we have food for a couple of days and cookware yet have only brought our total weight being carried up to 24 pounds, leaving us 15 to 16 pounds free.
So I guess it's time we talk about clothing, right? Well... actually no. If push comes to shove, we can get by with wearing the same clothes for a few days. Hell, we could actually go for almost a month for that matter, though I certainly wouldn't want to. What is actually more important in a way is personal hygiene, and not just because we don't want to offend someone by the way we smell! We are after all talking about having been forced to hoof it to escape some major catastrophe here, and in the natural course of such a hike small cuts, scrapes, and other boo-boos are going to happen no matter how skilled we are; and that can have major complications. Yes, we have a first aid kit to deal with such issues, and yes that will take care of the immediate problem. What it doesn't do however is take care of the long term effects that might arise from these minor little annoyances. Infections can breed like nobody's business in these kind of circumstances, and the best way to prevent them is good ole soap and water. Nor it is a good idea to ignore your teeth. It's absolutely amazing the number of people with heart problems that can trace their problems back to a bad tooth that was left alone too long. So by all means, use a pound or two of your 40 pounds to pack along some toiletries. Besides, when you get to where you're going to and you have to buy the things you couldn't carry with you, you don't really want to look any more like the wild child of Borneo than you have to do you?
So now we finally get to the last two considerations in making up our emergency bug out bag, clothes and cash. Why cash? Well if the disaster you're fleeing is big enough, nearby towns may find themselves cut off from the major hubs for a couple of days. If that is the case, then all your credit cards and debit cards are going to be just so much pretty plastic until communications can be restored. It won't matter if you have the wealth of a Rockafeller or a Mellon in that case, you will not be able to access anything in your bank, period, end of story. Cash on the other hand spends no matter what's going on with the utilities. So try to have at least $100.00 or so with you. I think you can leave the silver and gold in the safe however. I don't know about you, but I don't know a lot of merchants that will accept bullion as a form of payment.
So now we talk clothing. By now we're down to somewhere around 13 pounds available to pack clothes in, which isn't really very much; but then we don't need as much as you probably assume. At the top of the pack, or even beside it, I would have some good, tough, outdoorsy clothes; such as jeans, a tee shirt, hiking boots, and a good tough long sleave shirt. However these won't be staying in your pack for the trek, instead you'll be changing into them as soon as it's obvious that you're going to need to take off on foot. Why? Because you aren't going to last very long if you try going cross country wearing dress clothes or shorts and sandles. Next down should be a jacket or coat appropriate for the season and locale you're going to be trying to cross. Obviously if you're trying to make it through the wet lands around Charleston and Beauford in the summer you won't need a parka. On the other hand if you're hiking through the maple syrup regions of Vermont in January, a light weight windbreaker isn't going to do you a lot of good. Next down should be an assortment of good heavy socks, and then a couple of days worth of underwear. Why the socks first? Because when you're hoofing it through rough country, you need to take care of your feet above all else. Cold, wet feet can not only lead to athlete's foot (which can stop you dead in your tracks if it's allowed to get bad enough), but a host of other problems including blisters and, believe it or not, hypothermia. The underwear of course I shouldn't need to explain.
Next under all that, you'll probaly want a lighter weight shirt in case it gets too warm as well as a good sweatshirt or a sweater along the lines of the old paratrooper sweaters seen in old movies such as The Dirty Dozen in case it gets colder than you expected.
By now my pack is just over the 40 pound limit I had set myself, but not badly. Definately not heavy enough to be able to keep up with my mother who's age and dementia is going to set the pace for our group. Admittedly I'm not going to have a complete change of clothes for when we get to where ever we're heading, but I've got everything I need to make sure we can get there and I can always buy a new change of clothes once we get there, right? Well, on paper yes. In the real world? I may have everything we need, but if my family cannot make more than 7 miles a day under good conditions then there's no way in hell that we're going to survive any disaster bad enough to force us to try to hike out. It just ain't happening. So at least as long as mom is alive and living with us, we won't be visiting the Natahala Gorge again; which sucks. But the main point of this ramble was not what my family may or may not be able to do, but to get you thinking about what you and your family should do to prepare for a disaster such as Hurrican Matthew or the recent "California style" wild fires that raged through the Carolinas and parts of Tennessee. In that at least, I can only hope I've succeeded. Are there other things I could have included, or that you might want to consider? Well of course there are. For example, since my wife has severe asthma my kit also includes a box of N-95 respirators. I had considered buying a PAPR hood, but battery powered respirators such as a PAPR tend to only last for an hour, hour and a half max; and so my wife's pack would have had an extra 6 pounds of weight in it for something that wouldn't have lasted anywhere near long enough to be useful. You may find something that you need in your kit that I wouldn't even consider for mine
In the meantime, I hope I managed to give you an idea or two a mix all of my rambling. Until next we meet in this little corner of cyberspace, I wish you smooth sailing and sunny skies. And, as always, remember; if it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!