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!

Review of RazorPit Men’s Razor Blade Sharpener

A reader comment in my So, I’ve Been Saving My Disposable Razors Lately post pointed out that I could extend the life of the razor blades I’ve been saving using a product I hadn’t heard of before: the RazorPit. This sounded like something I NEEDED to try so I bought one immediately, even without reading reviews!

According to the Amazon product description:

  • RazorPit Saves You Money up to 90% on Razor Blades
  • RazorPit Increases Shaves per Blade from 10 Shaves to 100 Shaves
  • RazorPit features a Patented Friction Razor Sharpening and Cleaning Technology
  • RazorPit Sharpener Works on All Razors and Razors Blades
  • RazorPit is Made from Recyclable Materials and Reduces the Waste of Disposable Blades

Those are some bold claims. So, I tried it myself and what I found was encouraging. First, the RazorPit seems to be a very smooth piece of molded rubber and honestly nothing more. To use, apply shaving cream to the disposable razor head and then, with firm pressure, push the blade along the RazorPit in the opposite direction of normal use four times, rinse, dry. That’s it.

I thought, it couldn’t be THAT easy, could it?

Well, I choose to use the RazorPit on all of the disposable blades that I had been saving and then randomly selected one blade from the baggie I keep them in. I choose to wait four or five days before shaving for very good reason: it’s just long enough for a dull blade to pull whiskers quite a bit yet not long enough for a brand new razor to not work good; if I had waited a week, for example, even a brand new blade would pull a bit.

What did I find?

Well, it’s better than I honestly expected but not quite what the manufacturer claims. The “cleaned” yet dull blade worked much better than it would have if I had not used the RazorPit but wasn’t quite like it was brand new because I could tell that it pulled whiskers a bit. That said, I was still pleased with the results.

Why does it work?

Apparently, this simple cleaning action removes microscopic hairs and skin cells that cause the blades to “feel” dull. I would say that the blades still dull a bit from use and over time this cleaning won’t do much good. That said, if I can extend the use of even a single blade to double it’s normal use that’s awesome.

Am I happy with the purchase?

Considering that I spend seven or eight dollars on a set of just five Mach 3 razor blades, the RazorPit could well pay for itself in just a few months. So, yes, I’m generally happy with my purchase.

Two Neat Videos to Share Today (not YouTube videos)

I ran acrosss two links to videos that I thought were neat to share but not the typical YouTube videos… enjoy!

Video 1: Secret Hidden Exterior Door Entrance (very cool hidden door idea)

Video 2: How to Chop Wood Without Messing Around (I would think this only works well with very dry soft woods but it’s still neat to see in action)

High Yield Low Cost Barter Items

fish-hookBarter items are often discussed as a necessary prep. Generally, I discourage people from stockpiling barter items because you really should be focusing on what you and your family can use and will need to survive… it seems there’s always something that you haven’t bought yet–I know I always have this problem–or that you can buy more of. Only when these needs have been sufficiently met should you really consider barter items because, whether I like it or not, you really can’t expect to have everything one needs to live (and do so comfortably) and so it never hurts to have a few things on hand.

That said, if you’re going to stockpile items for barter then it can’t hurt to get the most “bang for the buck” if-you-will and purchase items that may have  a high desirability and relatively low cost. Precious metals would be the antithesis of what I’m talking about. Just to be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t include precious metals in your preps if you can afford to do so as they are the ultimate wealth preserver, but consider about how desirable a gold bar would be to someone who just wants their next meal.

I might also point out that weapons and ammo are not great barter items for the simple fact that you never want to barter anything that could later be used against you! Or, perhaps, don’t barter with people you don’t generally trust.

I’ve also see people recommend bartering skills and/or information rather than finite goods which is a great idea but not what this post is about either. The criteria for this post is that the barter item should be relatively inexpensive to purchase today but potentially have significant use or desirability if that item is no longer available. Granted, this list could get very large and you’re welcome to add your own thoughts in the comments. Here’s a start:

  • Salt (especially for those living inland) – there’s a reason why Roman soldiers were paid in salt! It’s necessary for life and makes a great seasoning.
  • Inexpensive alcohol (such as cheap vodka) – some will do anything for a good drink during hard times and if it’s high enough proof (such as Everclear) it can be used to sterilize wounds and start things on fire.
  • Disposable lighters (and matches too) – the easiest way to start a fire guaranteed.
  • Fishing gear (small hooks, line, etc) – these things get lost, break, etc. An alternative would be netting but that’s not very cheap.
  • Feminine pads – useful for the obvious reason as well as for trauma dressing or gauze pad and plenty more.
  • Disposable razors – personal hygiene will still be appreciated.
  • Spices (anything and everything but especially consider pepper) – there’s a reason why Columbus sailed the seas looking for spices as they turn bland meals into culinary delights.
  • Vegetable seeds – everyone needs to eat and small packets of vegetable seeds could be worth their weight in your favorite precious metal.
  • Sewing needles and thread – clothes may need to be kept in good repair for a lot longer than we’re accustomed to.
  • Fasteners and adhesives (nails, screws, glue, epoxies, etc) – settlers used to burn down their houses just so they could retrieve the nails used to build it before they moved on. Adhesive could prove similarly useful.
  • Coffee singles – it’s a similar need/desire to alcohol for some people. Vacuum sealed they could last quite a while but it’s probably better to store green coffee beans if your interest is for barter.
  • Nail clippers – I thought I would throw one in there you didn’t expect! Again, nail clippers or chew them off… you choose.
  • Chocolate – while not a great item for long term storage, I consider it the third “addiction” most people have (me included).
  • Cooking oils – these could be worth their weight in gold considering that we need fats to survive. Besides, they could be used as makeshift lighting and even as a lubricant in some cases.

Now, there are plenty of other items that could be included as useful barter items but didn’t quite make my criteria of low cost, such as antibiotics, fuel (per gallon, anyway), alkaline batteries, sterile gauze pads,  etc.

What items would you include that I did not?

Egg Storage Experiment – Week 1 Results

Last Monday I posted about my interest in storing eggs with mineral oil for long term storage. FYI, I have one carton of eggs stored with mineral oil and one carton as a control group (no mineral oil) both of which are setting out on my countertop. Well, week one is over (I actually started this experiment a week ago on Friday night) and here are the results…

This is the control egg (no mineral oil):

egg1-wk1

And this is the mineral oil egg:

egg2-wk1

As you can see, neither egg floated (floating is bad) so that suggests they are still good. Just to be sure, I cracked both open, sniffed, and laid them out on a plate:

eggs-wk1

So, which one is which? I would have known the difference but for the record, the egg on the left is the mineral oil egg. Had I not already eaten eggs that morning I might have given it a shot eating them… will have to try again next week.

My Failed Passive Solar Heater Experiment (And What I Learned From It)

passive-solar-0Like most bloggers, I want to be able to show you cool things, tell you everything is wonderful, and especially share my successes. I was optimistically expected to be able to do just that today but it’s not the case. You see, it all went wrong when I decided to do my own thing and not follow what someone had proven already worked. Some people have the knack of improvisation, I do not.

The problem was that I neither wanted to spend the money nor the time to make something as permanent as these videos showed; in fact, while I’ve seen some very cool YouTube videos about passive solar heaters, some of these guys really put serious effort into their designs! I just wanted to prove it worked… now I’ve got myself wondering.

Anyway, here’s the build I came up with (I’ll explain some lessons learned later and even link to one of the videos I liked at the very end):

Steps (follows the pictures in order):

  1. Find a nice large box that was heading for the recycle bin. In the future, find a much smaller box because this needed entirely too many cans (it’s about 3′ x 3′).
  2. Fill the box full of soda cans (96 total) which doesn’t sound like much but, trust me, it was a lot of work getting that many cans together!
  3. Mark the top and bottom of the box before removing the cans and the guess (better yet, measure) where to cut holes for air to enter and exit.
  4. This is what one side (I think it’s the top) looks like when the holes are cut out. Be sure to cut them a little less than the diameter of the can lips (maybe an inch wide).
  5. Put holes in the bottom of all cans. I started off using a large screwdriver but I wanted to the hole a bit larger so I opted for a dandelion digger instead. A few taps with a hammer and then round it out a bit. BE CAREFUL: you’ll now have exposed metal which can cut you VERY easily.
  6. This is what a typical hole looks like. Not pretty but I figured it would be functional.
  7. The holes in the soda cans didn’t exactly line up with the holes in the cardboard box but I figured I wasn’t sending an astronaut into space so no big deal.
  8. Paint the cans black. What you don’t see is my *brilliant* idea to simply caulk the tops and bottoms of the cans together while they were laying in the box. It’s works but wasn’t the best use of caulking.
  9. I decided that it needed to be held together a bit better, especially where the holes in the cans met the box so I used strategic placement of packaging tape to close the gaps (which sort of worked).
  10. Cover with clear plastic and tape down. Sadly, the 3.5 mil thick plastic I used was not nearly as clear as I had remembered so it wasn’t letting much sunlight through. (Note: this step was not shown in the gallery but can be seen completed in the thumbnail picture at the start of the post.)

I was going to take some temperature readings but could neither find an appropriate thermometer for the task nor the desire because the amount of heat was minimal at best and, even worse, the amount of airflow was lackluster at best. So, I didn’t even bother.

Lessons Learned (generally follows above):

  1. I should have started like everyone else with a wood frame for sturdiness. Cardboard can get wet, is flimsy, and didn’t allow for precise alignment.
  2. Since I just wanted to prove the concept, I could have used half the number of cans and still got a good idea of what to do.
  3. I should have taken my time to properly mark and cut the holes so that I could later seal the cans directly to the frame for less airflow lost.
  4. I really need a few good metal working tools. The video below shows how the guy put three nice holes in the bottom of each can which is a lot cleaner and probably allows for quite a bit more airflow. He also cut off the tops of each can, which I did not; I really figured this would be too much removed but I guess not.
  5. I should have also choose to completely seal the tops and bottoms of cans together (as well as the cans to the frame) so that no air would be lost during heating. This was a big mistake.
  6. Cover the heater with something more durable and definitely 100% clear! Another huge mistake here. I really don’t think the “clear” plastic I used helped my cause whatsoever.

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON?

If you’re going to bother to take the time, put forth the effort, and spend the money (yes I did spend a few dollars)… then DO IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT! Or, better yet, build it like I intended to keep and use it. 🙂

Don’t make my mistakes. Follow what somebody has already proven works…

YouTube Video that was useful (there are plenty of others):

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.

Welcome to Liberty Coin And Precious Metals (and about a fun contest giveaway!)

liberty-cpm-small-2I wanted to welcome Liberty Coin and Precious Metals to the growing group of reThinkSurvival sponsors (they had been a sponsor but we had some mis-communication recently and their ad was removed for a few weeks). Anyway, they’re back and doing some fun stuff, including giving you some nice deals on your precious metal purchases!

In particular, I wanted to point out a cool contest that I wasn’t even aware they ran, which is to guess as close as possible to the closing spot price of silver at the end of the month with the winner receiving a 10 ounce bar of .999+ fine silver bar! You know the best part? They do it every month. 🙂

Click on the link above to go directly to the contest. I gave my guess, now it’s your turn.