What Are You Neglecting? (Keep Up With Things That Wear Out)

Preparedness is about a lot of things, from buying stuff to learning new skills and especially about making plans. It’s also very much about keeping up with your stuff and ensuring your equipment and supplies are there and ready when you need them to be. I’m sure I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: preparedness IS a lifestyle and not a weekend hobby. As such, there are always things that wear out, break down, and otherwise need your attention.

For example, just the other day I fully realized that my pocket knife (a CRKT M-21 which I thoroughly enjoy) was getting dull. Now, this wasn’t breaking news. I’ve actually known I needed to sharpen it for quite some time but haven’t bothered in large part because I can’t find my favorite knife sharpener–so much for my organizing skills–and so I’ve put it off until I can magically find my sharpener. Obviously it’s not critical that I sharpen my knife immediately as I have others BUT it is my EDC knife so it makes sense to keep it sharp.

As another example, I went to grab a flashlight that happens to use rechargeable batteries and guess what… it was dim. Again, not a big problem but then I went to replace the batteries and guess what… the kids had ransacked my rechargeable batteries! (Most likely for the Wii controllers and other various shoot em’ up electronics.) Even worse, now I had a bunch of batteries that were NOT charged. Granted, the main purpose of these rechargeable batteries is so that my alkaline batteries do not get used by the kids (they know that) but I still like to keep on top of such things.

Of course, it could be any number of things that are a problem. And, I should say that I have a very broad definition of “wearing out” to include basically anything that is broken and must be replaced, supplies that have been used up, equipment that needs mended, fixed, cleaned, sharpened, charged, or otherwise in need of TLC from me. With that in mind here are a few more examples off the top of my head to consider:

  • Clothes in need of mending
  • Batteries that need charged
  • Firearms that need cleaned
  • Ammo that’s been shot
  • Canned/bulk foods that have been used up
  • Food/water stores in BOB or vehicle kits need rotated
  • Shoes that need new waterproofing
  • Matches that went bad
  • Bleach bottles that need rotated out
  • Filters that needs cleaned/backwashed
  • First aid/medical supplies that have been used up (especially prescription meds)
  • Firewood that’s been used
  • Smoke alarm batteries that should be replaced
  • Knives that need sharpened
  • Any vehicle maintenance (tire pressure, oil changes, etc)
  • Updating computer files (to the cloud, usb drive, etc)

Certainly, there are plenty of other examples if I spend more time thinking about it and you’re welcome to add your own.

The question is why am I having such a problem? I actually use an Excel checklist to keep up with a variety of similar tasks (I wrote an article last week on the Importance of Checklists. It’s not a big undertaking at all as I usually just peruse the list and insert the date that I most recently performed the task. The answer is very simply that I actually need to open the Excel file and look at it for this idea to work! I’ve been a slacker the past few months and it’s showing. Normally, I have a routine to check on various things each month (my checklist file is a start) but since I’ve been out of my routine that’s not happening.

So, I either need to get back to my routine OR change how I do things and I’ve decided that if my plan wasn’t working then I should change it. Therefore, I’m going to search for a new way to not only track my tasks but to remind me that something needs to be done and–hopefully–also track that I’ve completed the task. I suspect that I’ll look for a free iPad app that allows me to insert a task and put a due date on it (maybe I have something that already does it) so that I get a nice occasional popup that says “hey, dummy go do something productive instead of playing bejeweled or solitaire.”

Now, the question for you is: what are you neglecting? I’m sure you’ve got a few things running around in your head. Get them down on paper, in the computer, your favorite iPad app (let me know what you use) and let’s get a better system to make these things happen.

Why Checklists are Critical to Prepping and You

list-organizeA few weeks back I read this post on The Importance of Checklists. It’s a short post about why he realized he needed a checklist (because he forgot an important piece of gear) and a few ideas of what he’ll do in the future. As for me, I’m a checklist kind of guy and have been for as long as I can remember. I just can’t run my life without them!

Why Use Lists?

It still amazes me how some people I know survive life. They seem to be frantic and hectic and running all of the place most of the time. In my opinion, some of this is directly due to poor time management but also due to a lack of organization and proper use of lists. For example, it bothers me A LOT when I cannot find something. I use lists to ensure I know where certain things are. Certainly, I don’t make a list to remember where my nail clippers are but I do use lists to tell me what’s in various emergency supply bins. And, as these supplies tend to grow, I find I rely on my lists more and more.

Additionally, lists are for more than just remember where things are. They’re used to remind us of what we need to buy at the grocery store, supplies to add to your emergency gear, short and long term tasks (such as replacing water in water barrels every year, changing smoke alarm batteries) and also for the once-in-a-lifetime scenarios where we need to remember all the gear we want to take for a bug out scenario. I actually created an Excel-based reThinkIt! Preparedness Tools file that is meant to help you and your family plan precisely what supplies you’ll take if you ever had to bug out. Granted, you can easily make your own lists using pen and paper.

Types of List-Making Options

Of course, checklists can come in many forms, including tried and true pen and paper method, post-it notes, an Excel-based file, note-taking software on smartphones and tablets (there are a variety but I like the basic iPad Reminders app, many people swear by Evernote), online note-taking services (such as notepub.com), iGoogle gadgets (e.g., Stick Note), and probably a few other things I’m not even aware of. Obviously, some of these note-taking options are limited by Internet connections and grid-power, so there are some circumstances where they may not work when you truly need them to. As such, it’s wise to use pen and paper (or printed out lists) in some cases.

The nice thing about many technology-based note taking software is that they are (1) available anywhere you can access the Internet and (2) many services (especially iPhone/iPad) apps like to sync and share data so that it is always readily available no matter what device you’re using.

What I Do

First, it doesn’t really matter what I do but what will work for you… keep that in mind. Anyway, I’m a huge fan of using Excel and have been for a long time. I’ve used Excel for all sorts of purposes, from making shopping lists to bug out checklists and still use it to track my emergency supplies, though, I do print out hard copies whenever I make substantial changes to the Excel lists.

These days I find myself moving away from Excel mostly because I have another option: the iPad. I now find myself using the built-in (I think it’s built-in) Reminders app for tracking things like shopping lists, to-do lists, goals, etc. There are plenty of other apps, some free, others paid that may prove more useful but this one works for me in large part because it’s easy to use and allows me to create separate categories (e.g., “shopping,” “to do,” “long term buys,” etc). I should mention that many people seem to like Evernote (an iPhone/iPad app) but I remember trying it and not liking something about it, just can’t remember what it was.

While I don’t do so (because I don’t own a smartphone) these lists can be easily synced with an iPhone so you always have up-to-date lists; I’m not sure how syncing might work with other smartphones and tablets but I’d imagine somebody has it figured out.

I did occasionally use Google’s Stick Notes gadget (because I use iGoogle to read mail, feeds, watch the weather, etc) and it was ok but I’ve basically stopped using it since obtaining the iPad.

What Are Checklists Critical?

The short answer is that checklists are meant to keep your life from being a frantic mess! Take a moment and think about your life. Are you constantly searching for things, supplies, gear, etc? Do you seemingly forget something each time you head to the grocery store? Do you forget to call people back, change the cat’s litter box, take out the garbage, iron clothes, or pack a lunch?

Yes? Then use lists. They can be post-it notes, paper, apps, or whatever works.

More importantly, however, is that such lists will be there for when you absolutely need them. Perhaps it’s a bug out scenario and you only have 15 minutes to get your stuff and get out (if that long)… will you remember everything you need to take? Maybe not. Perhaps your mind is a steel trap 99.9% of the time but stress and panic can do a lot to wreck havoc on cognitive thinking. There are stories of people being unable to give the simplest of information to emergency responders–such as their street address or even their name–in moments of high stress. Maybe that doesn’t describe you or your family, I don’t know, but if you can utilize a list to ensure you have everything you need then by all means DO SO.

Similarly, even if it’s a shelter-in-place scenario the last thing you want is to be hunting for your emergency flashlights, propane heater, lanterns, and so on. Maybe you know right where this stuff is but perhaps other family members do not. You can use a list to remind them. You can even use a checklist to deal with specific scenarios. For example, if only the power is out then you’ll want to create a list that includes emergency gear to deal with that. Or, if there’s a boil water order (or no water) then another list could be used to determine whatever gear is needed for that situation. Get it?

In my humble opinion, use lists to your advantage… you can’t go wrong.

Google Maps vs. Google Earth for Prepping

[Note: This is a VERY pic-heavy post so I apologize to those with slow Internet connections.]

I’m relatively familiar with Google Maps as it’s my favorite service for driving directions but I had no experience with Google Earth and began to wonder if it would be better in some way for prepping. So, I proceeded to download it here (it’s free) and installed the program. Now, I shouldn’t say that I have NO experience with it as my kids had installed it on another computer quite some time ago, I just never messed with it much until now.

Rather than talking about it, I figured the best way to compare Google Maps with Google Earth was via a comparison. So, I choose a nearby location that I knew fairly well in northland Kansas City, specifically I-29 and Barry Road for those who might know it, which happens to include a variety of businesses, including a popular outdoor mall, a variety of restaurants, a movie theatre, Walmart is nearby, and so on.

I started with a slightly zoomed-in view–you can see the zoom level on the left-hand side of the image where the little person is shown–using Google Maps of the area (click on image for a larger view):

gm1

Upon first glance, I see major roads highlighted in yellow, highways in orange, smaller roads in white, and a few major locations such as the Saint Lukes hospital on the right of the image and the Barry Road Park in the lower left. Besides that, there isn’t much that I can use here. Of course, if I had viewed a different location, I might use a map like this to notice nearby woodlands, lakes, streams, etc but there aren’t any places like that around here.

I then decided to zoom in a bit and this is what showed (click on image for a larger view):

gm2

This view is slightly more useful in that I can now see some major businesses, such as Applebees, Chili’s, Outback Steakhouse (mostly restaurants) but not nearly as many businesses as there are in this location, so, I’m a bit perplexed as to what criteria Google uses to label businesses. Anyway, I figured that I needed to zoom in more (click on image for a larger view):

gm3

What happened? Where did everything go? I know I zoomed in as much as I could but I fully expected to see… something! I know full-well there are business right along Barry Road. Anyway, there appears to be an obvious “sweet spot” with the zoom feature to be aware of. In addition, Google Maps doesn’t show every business there is so be aware of that.

I should point out that there are some additional selections you may choose to to your Google Maps (e.g., Traffic, Video, Bicycling, etc) but I didn’t find any of these to be helpful in the moment, most of which didn’t seem to do anything.

So, I choose to move on to Google Earth hoping I would get more out of it…

There appears to be a whole lot you might be able to do with Google Earth but I didn’t bother to mess with it much other than to being zooming in (you see the entire earth for starters) until I got to the same general view of I-29 and Barry Road (click on image for a larger view):

ge1

I purposely left the layers pane (shown on the left) for you to see. As you can see the only selection I choose was to show the Roads. From the above image there isn’t much to write home about. So, I moved on and decided to select every option on the layers menu (click on image for a larger view):

ge2

I know it’s a bit hard to see (clicking for a larger image will help) but now I have a variety of icons to hover over, in particular, because of selecting the Places layer. Most of the other layers didn’t seem to do anything for this view, including the 3D Buildings, Ocean, Weather, Gallery, and Global Awareness layers. The More layer did add some stuff but I really didn’t see much purpose in it. For purposes of prepping it was really just the Roads and Places layers that seemed to show anything I found interesting.

I choose to zoom in a bit more and not only found better images of structures but of cars as well (click on image for a larger view):

ge3

As you can see I kept all of the layers selected but it didn’t seem to do much good here. Again, there seems to be a sweet spot with regards to zoom… not too close, not too far… but just right.

Ultimately, the question is whether Google Maps or Google Earth is better or more useful for prepping or even if they’re useful at all?

I guess it starts with what your purpose is. If you simply want directions such as for a bug out route then obviously Google Maps is the way to go. In fact, Google Maps has some cool features such as the ability to select a walking or bicycling route, which attempts to avoid major highways or busy roadways. I’ve used that feature to plot on-foot bug outs to nearby locations with much success.

In addition, I can say that I would rather use Google Maps as an overview of any location I’m scouting out. I would rather print a Google Map and use that to mark on than a Google Earth image.

Is Google Earth, therefore, worthless?

Not quite. I can see a very strategic use for it, in fact. For example, here’s a view of a nearby lake using Google Maps:

gm4

As you might suspect, it leaves much to be desired as all I can see is the lake and nearby streets. Now, here’s roughly the same view of the lake but using Google Earth:

ge4

If you’ll notice from the above Google Earth map that you can begin to see layout and terrain, trees, etc, but not quite anything useful. So, I zoomed in a bit and even rotated the view so that instead of looking nearly straight down I’m looking at the lake from more of an angle:

ge5

Now I’m starting to see contours. And, if I zoom in even more I get a better look at the terrain (the only problem being is that as I zoomed in more Google Earth wanted to straighten out my view):

ge6

From this view I can see quite a bit. While I’m not going to demonstrate, you can actually use the controls to rotate around a particular spot 360 degrees. You have to do a bit of panning to continue to look at the same spot from different angles but it can certainly be done.

From the above image, I can see quite a bit. If this were where I lived I could use Google Earth to get different views of my area from a birds-eye view and see things I might otherwise have missed.

As such, I can foresee the use of Google Earth as a very good overview of the “battle front” if-you-will of any area you choose, the most likely being your own home and surrounding area. I won’t choose to show you my neighborhood, but if you look at yours you might get a very different view of the lay of the land, intersecting streets, nearby woodlands, and so on that might help you better defend your home, select unexpected bug out routes, find good spots to caches supplies, maybe even find unexpected resources that most people might not realize is there.

Try downloading Google Earth and play with it a bit. You might wind up with a useful prepping tool or, perhaps, just something to pass a few hours with.

What if The Shoe Were on The Other Foot and You Were The Safe Haven?

safe-havenWith a ton of family in town this past week (especially over the weekend) I got to thinking what if the shoe were on the other foot? That is, what if we had to be the safe haven for family and friends who had to evacuate? Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy are prime examples. In this case, it’s not that the disaster has hit you specifically so it’s not like your electricity, food, or water resources have been affected but housing could very well be. Of course we would help out as much as we could, but with so many people in town and at our house I got to thinking about how much of a logistical problem this could turn into if things were a bit different.

Obviously, these people came with their own clothes, toiletries, money, and so on. But, what if they hadn’t, and all they had were the clothes on their back? That would be a significant burden for sure. Since they’re family and likely close friends you would do everything you could to care for them within a bit of reason, but you can’t do it all. Surely some of your preps would come in handy, from stored food to extra toothbrushes and, no doubt, the 400+ rolls of toilet paper in the garage. 🙂

Anyway, a problem I can see cropping up is what happens if not only family and close friends show up but maybe they unexpectedly bring their friends or even some neighbors? You know, the people they bar-b-que with every Sunday for the past 20 years. Now we’re talking about a LOT of people, some of which you may not even know and now you may be expected to care for them for an indefinite amount of time. That would get old very fast… even if it were just family and friends.

I can hear you saying they should get a hotel, stay in the local FEMA camp, or whatever. But, what if so many people have evacuated to your area and there simply isn’t anywhere else to go? I think places like Houston had this problem during Katrina. The point ist hat you may very well be stuck with them, like it or not. I can tell you that even after just a few days I was ready for everyone to go back from where they came and these were all of my wife’s family and close friends!

Regardless of where they should stay or for how long, there’s also another problem once you’ve taken everybody in, and that’s how do you logistically deal with all of them? Instead of just your normal family you may now have four or five times that many people at your home. We had dozens of people here for days on end and, fortunately, quite a few of them had other places to go. Still, it was a mad house. We had people staying everywhere, from in bedrooms and on couches to blow-up mattresses (a few of which were borrowed). We used every blanket and comforter in the house, not to mention towels I didn’t even know we had.

And you know the best part?…

The washing machine went belly-up just as most people arrived!! So, off to the local laundromat and the laundry keeps piling up along with dishes, dishes, and more dishes… and that’s even with using a ton of paper plates, cups, utensils and so on. The water heater never stopped and I’m pretty sure we started our own soup kitchen. Well, it wasn’t that bad. 🙂 Many friends and neighbors did bring meals, which was a blessing.

So, the moral of the story is to contemplate what you would do if you had to be the safe haven for literally dozens of people? Where would they sleep? What about privacy? How would you feed them? What about bathroom and shower schedules (yeah, it could get that bad)? If they stay for longer than a day or two, how would others be expected to help out? What if they don’t? How about quiet time when the kids need to go to sleep because they have school the next day?

Perhaps the biggest questions are: would you be open to allowing this situation? Would your spouse? How many people could you house if you had to? And, what would you do if you had to turn people away (maybe even friends or family)? Could you?

And the most important question of all…

When have they officially overstayed their welcome and now it’s time for them to move on?

5 Skills Every Prepper Should Learn

fiveI happened upon a link to a post at SurvivalPreparednessBlog.com with a very similar title (I “borrowed heavily” for this post) and began reading because, after all, who doesn’t like lists?

To summarize, the list included 10 skills: stick welding, small engine repair, how to fish, how to butcher animals, learn to trap, gunsmithing, basic carpentry, auto repair, ham radio, hunting, advanced first aid.

I looked at the list and thought, “ok, I understand, sort of” but it’s not what I would consider skills that everyone should learn. After all, I can’t think of a time I’ve ever needed to stick weld anything, after all, I’m pretty sure that’s why they invented duct tape. 😉 Most of the rest of the list is understandable and would also be good skills to have.

For this post I’m thinking about 5 skills that preppers should learn. Of course, this is just my humble opinion. Take from it what you will…

  1. Basic wound care – I think we tend to underestimate how critical proper wound care is to our health given that we not only have the proper supplies to care for wounds but the knowledgeable personnel to help us we we need more than just a bandage. The same can be said for the fact that we live in fairly sanitary conditions with proper waste disposal and clean water. When these things either disappear or become compromised then the possibility for disease from a simple cut increase substantially. Just knowing how to properly clean and dress a wound is good knowledge. Likewise, supplementing that with knowing how to pack a deep wound, understanding when (and when not to) close a wound, what an infected would looks like, and more could mean the difference between life and death. These are important “basic” skills to have and should not be underestimated. There are any number of ways to learn these skills, including watching various videos I have in the Video Vault, buy some first aid books, read medical references I keep in my Guide to the Net pages, etc.
  2. The ability to shoot a firearm – Your ability to protect not only yourself but your family as well cannot be emphasized enough. We can talk all we want about alternatives to firearms and home security precautions but nothing beats a firearm in the hands of a well-trained and confident individual when it comes to stopping bad guys from doing bad things. The keys to firearms are many, including the experience that only comes from training (repetition is what it’s all about), familiarity (with your weapon, how to operate it without looking, how to load it, clear jams, etc), and confidence (to do what needs to be done should the need ever arise). Of course, firearms provide for more than just protection. Look for local training resources; the NRA is a good starting point.
  3. How to make a fire – I was never a boyscout and I never had interest in learning survival basics such as these (which I now regret) but I can’t think of anything more basic yet so crucial to general human survival than fire. I know it doesn’t tend to play much of an obvious role in our lives in modern society but I would suspect that it will be front-and-center in any significant emergency situation. Remember that fire fulfills many critical functions, including making food safe to eat, water safe to drink, and warding off predators to name a few. In fact, I consider it so critical that I’m going to see Jerry Ward of OzarkMountainPreparedness.com in March to learn firecraft skills for a day. Come join me if you’re anywhere near Arkansas. If not, watch videos and start practicing while you have the the opportunity to do so without a true NEED for fire. And, of course, do it safely.
  4. Food preservation techniques – Considering that refrigeration may be a thing of the past in any significant emergency situation, then a basic root cellar may be all we can muster with regards to extending the longevity of foods in their natural state; we need to do better. Fortunately, we’ve known how to make foods last a long time and that’s utilizing various food preservation methods, including canning, drying, pickling, smoking, and fermenting to name the most recognized options. If you haven’t tried any yet, pick one and run with it! Get a few books on the subject and try it. I thoroughly enjoy dehydrating. Maybe canning or smoking meats is what gets you hooked. I don’t know. But I do know that these skills will last a lifetime.
  5. How to cook with basic ingredients – I grew up in what I would consider the “microwave” generation. If you needed to know how long something should cooking in the microwave I could tell you down to a few seconds! Yeah, I’m no longer proud of it and I’m beginning to realize how important it is to be able to make foods from scratch. After all, there could quickly come a time when you have to make any number of foods from just what you have stored in your pantry or that which you can procure from the wild. For example, there’s a reason why wheat is suggested to be stored in such large quantities and that’s because it is used as the basis to make many foods. Rice could be used in a similar way. There are plenty of other examples, such as if you had no idea that refried beans are made from pinto beans simply by pureeing them then maybe you would be enjoying your tenth bowl of pinto bean soup instead of burritos. Or, if you didn’t know that you can make evaporated milk from powdered milk simply by reducing the water used to reconstitute it then you may be enjoying really watered-down potato soup. 😉

I hope these few examples make it clear why a bit of knowledge and skill will prove invaluable. I’m not saying I have any of the aforementioned down pat whatsoever, far from it. But I do recognize how crucial these skills can be to survival and are something that our ancestors just knew how to do.

So, what would you add that I did not? What’s so important to you and your survival?

Review of Thermos Stainless King 16-Ounce Food Jar

I’m a fan of vacuum thermos jars and have always stuck with larger (1 quart or more) Stanley brand jars. This particular Thermos brand food jar is simply a smaller option that seemed like a better idea for our bug out bags or short term emergency because it takes up less space and is lighter-weight. At 16 ounces (one-half a quart) it is really a one meal per person (at least per adult) food jar.

According to the Amazon product page: “The stainless king food jar has thermax double wall vacuum insulation for maximum temperature retention, hot or cold. The unbreakable stainless steel interior and exterior keeps the food jar cool to the touch with hot liquids and sweat proof with cold liquids. Wide mouth is easy to fill, serve from and clean: lid doubles as a compact and insulated serving bowl. Full-size telescoping stainless steel spoon included.”

When looking for a food jar such as this one, double-walled vacuum insulation is the way to go. This design can keep foods hot (or cold) for several hours. In fact, one of the best reasons to have a few of these thermos jars is for the fact that you can heat up food to a boil and then transfer it directly to the thermos to finish cooking over the course of a few hours or even overnight. This fact alone is the single most important reason to have these vacuum jars around. Just think about how much fuel you can save if all you have to do is heat up the food and NOT finish cooking it! This is the beauty of thermal-heat retention cooking at its best.

Though most thermos jars that are meant for food are wide-mouth jars, just ensure that they are wide-mouth as it makes eating from and cleaning out quite a bit easier. There are also “classic” vacuum jars that are not wide-mouth and are not necessarily meant for food, just liquids. Since this unit has an all stainless steel interior, it’s easy to clean, won’t rust, smell funny, etc.

Of course, the food jar is designed so that you won’t burn yourself when holding the jar (due to the vacuum insulation) which is obviously a good idea. This food jar also includes a fold-able spoon that fits conveniently atop the screw on lid, which is a nice plus. And, last, you could use the snap on lid as a small bowl if you like but I just tend to eat from the thermos itself.

To test this one, I decided to heat up two servings of oatmeal (just to a boil) and then let it finish cooking for a few hours in the thermos. As it’s smaller than I’m used to, I found that two servings didn’t quite fit but I got most of it inside and screwed on the lid with no problem. I should point out you need to be a little careful with foods that expand a great deal (rice and dehydrated foods come to mind) so be sure to leave a little head-space for meals that expect to expand while cooking. The best thing to do is to simply experiment a few times and you’ll get the hang of it.

That said, this Thermos brand food jar is something that I expect to last for many years on end is a perfect addition to your short term emergency preps or bug out bags.

Body Armor for Dummies

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Here’s a nice article on Body Armor for Dummies that really explains what you ought to know if you’re new them, like me:

“No doubt, the vast majority of you are aware of the fact that our federal government seems intent on violating our inalienable right to self-defense, among others. It is entirely possible that we will cross the line where “from my cold, dead hands” ceases to be a metaphor. Body armor is a necessity for those who wish to initiate or survive being a party to a two-way range. The discussion following is intended to be a simple primer on body armor for those less familiar with the actual product and guide you in selecting proper armor for yourself. Generally, body armor is made from three materials: Kevlar, ceramic, and steel. The various levels of commonly available protection range from level IIA-IVA and are rated by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The NIJ standard rates armor by its ability to stop certain rounds (generally of a standard grain and ft/s) from penetrating the armor…”

Read the full article here

The Probability Spectrum of Disasters

rainbowThe probability spectrum of disasters isn’t anything new but it does bear being reminded of from time to time. In fact, I did not come up with the idea on my own. I’m sure I’ve seen it elsewhere before but the first time I remember hearing of it was from Jack Spirko of TheSurvivalPodcast.com and more recently in this SurvivalistBoards thread.

What is it?

It is simply the act of thinking and planning about emergency situations given the likelihood of them occurring to you. This makes perfect sense to me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read on forums or other blogs posts where somebody–usually a prepping newcomer but it could be anyone–talk about a singular threat that they’re sure is going to happen and that everything they want to know is how to prepare for that one event. The threat of an EMP is a prime example.

While I understand how this can happen to someone, it’s completely illogical to think this way. For one, if you’re prepared for life in general then you will most likely be prepared for any disaster that you can deal with and two, preparing for a singular threat is probably not the disaster that’s going to happen to you… it’s just math.

Instead, the best way to prepare yourself and your family is to use the probability matrix, sphere, hierarchy, or whatever you prefer to call it. The thinking is that you should prepare yourself for personal disasters first, local disasters second, regional third, and nationwide (or even worldwide) last. At least, that’s the way I see it.

Still not convinced?

Ask yourself this: does it make more sense to prepare yourself for a job loss (a personal disaster) or pandemic (national disaster)? If you look at the likelihood of these two very distinct scenarios happening to you, I think it’s safe to assume that a job loss is more likely and, therefore, should be prepared for first. Well, that’s the idea, anyway.

Fortunately, many disasters have very common needs, such as water, food, shelter, heating, etc. Sure, some have very specific needs such as an EMP needing appropriate shielding for your gear or a pandemic maybe requiring quality face masks or sheltering in place. But, if you prepare for life in general then you should be fairly well prepared for most anything and, equally important, if you choose to focus on more likely disasters first then you’ll have given yourself the best possible chance for overcoming it.

Here’s the spectrum as I see it and some examples…

  • Personal disasters are the most likely statistically and affect nobody besides you and your family (not even the neighbors). Examples include job loss, injury (requiring serious medical attention or inability to work), home fire, robbery, chronic illness. Prepare for these possibilities first because they’re most likely.
  • Local disasters could be anything that affects your neighborhood or maybe even a city. Perhaps it’s a boil water order or maybe a tornado that wipes out a town (e.g., tornado that hit Greensburg, Kansas a few years ago).
  • Regional disasters are what most people think of when we discuss disasters. These could affect a wide range of people and often result in the declaration of a Presidential Disaster Order. Examples include a hurricane (e.g., Hurricane Sandy) or the winter blizzard that affected the northeast for weeks on end several years ago. They affect a wide range of people.
  • National disasters (or worldwide) are statistically least likely to occur to YOU (in your lifetime) but that doesn’t mean they can’t happen. Examples include a pandemic (e.g., 1918 Spanish flu or the Bubonic Plague that devastated Europe in the Middle Ages) or even the possibility of an EMP from a rouge nation or perhaps the sun. These are the least likely events to occur.

I’m not saying you can’t or should not prepare for a pandemic or EMP, not at all. Just don’t choose to start there if you’re not ready for the more likely scenarios. And, like I said earlier, many of your needs will overlap. Food storage will always be useful if you can’t buy groceries for a few weeks due to a job loss or an EMP wipes out the grid and semi-trucks aren’t hauling goods for months on end.

Hope that helps you get your priorities in order!

An Often Missed Prep: Your Home Inventory

inventory-listOne area of preparedness that I don’t think we preppers take as seriously as we should is inventorying our household possessions for an emergency situation. I’m not talking about organizing your supplies (I’ve written about that in the past here). This post is purely about “what happens if it’s all lost and now I need to file an insurance claim?”

It’s a seemingly simple act, no doubt. List everything you own or, at least, everything of significant value. This should include, furniture, electronics, prepping equipment (of course!), jewelry, dishes, firearms, precious metals, books and dvds, clothing, yard and garden tools… you get the idea. I also recognize that there may be some things you don’t want to list so it’s entirely up to you what you include.

The problem occurs when you go to file a claim and your insurance agent wants you to PROVE IT. Can you? Do you have receipts, a record, pictures, video recordings, etc?

There are actually quite a few tools you can use to better inventory your stuff and I’ve tried plenty of them, from Excel files to online databases to writing it down, pictures, video, and I can’t remember what else.

What have I found that works the best for me and didn’t cost an arm and a leg? I actually do two things.

Action 1

The first thing is to list in some fashion (I like spreadsheets) the more expensive things we own, including those items mentioned at the start, furniture, appliances, firearms, etc. I won’t bother to list each and every DVD we own but, rather, simply estimate the number and combined cost. It’s just not worth the effort. The same can be said for lumping things like kitchen dishes together… I just estimate. However, taking a moment to list our couch that cost a few paychecks is worth it to me. The same can be said for the television, stereo equipment, etc. It is quite possible to go overboard when listing what you own and spend way too much time here. That’s not the point. Hit the major things, lump what you can together, and leave the rest to the video tape (discussed later).

What to include?

Usually the more details the better. They like to see make, model, serial number (if available), date purchased, and cost. Receipts are greatly appreciated. One thing I’m told they like to do to you is to give you the actual cash value of your possessions which deducts deprecation and, therefore, gives you less money. What you WANT is replacement value coverage which attempts to give you the money needed to replace what you’ve lost in today’s dollars. The moral of this story is to CHECK YOUR POLICY for what type of coverage you have and accept nothing less than replacement value. Regardless, you could be very surprised at how much stuff you actually own. Therefore, ensure your coverage is actually enough to replace everything you own!

Action 2

The second thing I do (about once a year) is to take my video camera and go room-by-room briefly narrating what inside as best as I can because we’re always bringing in new items and even discarding old possessions. The more up-to-date this video is the better off you’ll be if/when you need to deal with your insurance company. You don’t need to get fancy here. Just do a good pan of each room, open drawers and cupboards, and mention important specifics as you deem necessary. You know the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” then a video has got to be worth ten thousand. If you can’t do a video then take plenty of pictures.

Additional Steps

Once you have everything chronicled in multiple ways, it’s best to get this information off-site. After all, the whole point is to have something to fall back on in the event of a catastrophic situation. Send this information to a trusted family or friend or perhaps a bank box is a good choice. Even if you choose to keep this information in a fire safe on your property, please choose to make a copy and send it somewhere else as you never know what could happen to your primary list/video if on site.

And, remember to occasionally update your information. Write it on your schedule, such as when you replace your smoke alarm batteries or at each New Year or whatever works for you. You don’t have to completely re-do everything; even a short five minute video update of your possessions is better than nothing. Of course, be sure to date each tape so you know when it was last done.