Tuesday, September 19, 2017

10 Dates to Add to Your Calendar

Some interesting events coming up...

  1. September 21:  33rd Annual Disaster Preparedness Academy
  2. September 30:  Free National Parks Entry Day
  3. October 17-19:  Emergency Preparedness & Haz Mat Response Conference
  4. October 19:  Great Shakeout
  5. November 11:  Veterans Day
  6. November 11 & 12:  Free National Parks Entry Days
  7. By December 31:  Year-end Tax 'To Do' List
  8. April 17-20:  National Preparedness Summit
  9. List of upcoming prepper events and expos
  10. Major holidays: Halloween (Oct 31), Thanksgiving (Nov 23), Christmas (Dec 25)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

What's the Fiscal State of Your State?

If you live in one of several states--I'm looking at you Connecticut, PennsylvaniaIllinois, and these others--and you rely on the state in any way (for your income, pension, medical care services, payments to your business, etc), well, things aren't looking so good.  These states are on the brink of bankruptcy (kind of, states can't actually file for bankruptcy but that doesn't mean they are financially solvent...they are basically out of money and in the hole so far no one in their right mind would loan them money/buy their bonds).

What does that mean to you?  If you live in one of these states--or are just looking far enough ahead to see your own state meandering in the same direction--it means several things.  The most annoying would probably be potholes that don't get fixed.  The most financially threatening could be many-fold--a dramatic increase in taxes (state income tax and property tax, maybe even sales tax), businesses and jobs high-tailing it out of your state, a decrease in services (cuts to state Medicaid programs, cuts to school budgets, cuts to state and local programs, etc), if you hold bonds they may end up not even being worth the paper they are written on, and more fees for everything (road tolls, cost of licenses and permits increasing).  The worst thing, for those who have a state pension, could mean huge cuts to the monthly pension you receive (can you imagine being old, no longer working or really employable, and having the small pension you rely on cut in half??).

Several cities have already gone bankrupt or are on the verge of doing so, and the thought of entire states heading this direction is pretty scary.  It becomes a no-win circle of doom when jobs leave, which means people can't pay their mortgage, which means foreclosures and a drop in home prices, which means less property tax and income tax, which means less money for government, which means government can't pay their workers...

So how can you prepare for impending financial doom compliments of your state?  There are several things...

  • Get out of debt ASAP and entirely (home, car, student loans, credit cards, etc).
  • Diversify your financial holdings (the entirety of your savings, investments, and retirement pension shouldn't be in one monetary device--like a state pension and state bonds.  If you currently have a state pension, fine, but you also need money in a 401k, mutual funds, Roth IRA, etc,  Spread your money around so if one investment goes toes up, you won't lose everything).
  • Diversify your income.  This means you have multiple sources of income, in unrelated industries, so that if one source of income (your pay from being a teacher, for example) suddenly evaporates, you will still have other income coming in.
  • Do for yourself as much as possible.  The less you rely on the government, the better off you will be.
  • Be prepared for sudden increases in taxes and fees.  Your emergency fund should be fairly substantial in order to handle any sudden increases in property taxes, the cost to renew your driver's license, etc.
  • Live lean.  Having easily survived with only what I could carry on my back for a couple of years, I know that I can actually live quite comfortably with very little.  I know several people, however, who couldn't even think of living with less than four vehicles (for two drivers in the household!), a five bedroom home full of crap--bought at full retail, and a huge salary.  The more weighted down you are by your lifestyle, the more difficult it is to respond to major changes.
To find more (unsettling) information on the current fiscal state of America check here, here, and here.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

25 Hurricane Dangers

If you have been watching the news today (literally every station) you will have seen the non-stop reporting on Hurricane Irma which is hitting Florida as I type this.  All of this coverage provides a lot of 'lessons learned' about prepping for a major hurricane.  These are the many dangers that a hurricane can pose and what you need to prepare for if you live in a hurricane-prone area:
  1. Strong winds blowing down power lines.  These can electrocute you as they fall on you, as you are driving or walking near them and they arc, or if they fall into the flood water you are walking in and they are still charged.
  2. Strong winds blowing things (signs, trees, debris, roof tiles, etc) into you.  This can also be deadly as it doesn't take a very big object, when propelled by high winds, to cut a person in half.  When the winds blow, stay inside!
  3. Flood waters/storm surge.  First you see a little water blown in by the hurricane and moments later the entire first floor of your home can be inundated.  And it doesn't take much rising, fast-moving water to carry a person/car/home away.  Always seek shelter in a stable building, preferably with a couple of floors so you can go up as flood waters rise (and put an ax in the attic in case you need to escape through the roof).
  4. Loss of power.  High winds bringing down power lines will result in no power, often for days or weeks.  If you rely on electricity for refrigeration/heat/air conditioning/hot water/etc. you will need to plan for alternate power sources until electricity can be restored.
  5. Loss of drinkable water.  Municipal water systems as well as private wells can be subject to failure when the entire area is underwater.  As soon as a water system is deluged with untreated flood water (and all of the crap mixed into it), the stuff coming out of the pipes can cause illness and even death.  Store water, learn to purify water, and learn what water can't be purified (ie: water laced with oil and other chemicals).
  6. Gas stations without gas.  Gas is critical for people to evacuate an area but even if you decided to hunker down in your own home, getting gas after the storm recedes can take days or even weeks to be brought back into a storm-ravaged area (especially if the gas stations have been flattened).
  7. Stores without food.  First there is a run on food before the storm is set to hit and then...no more food for anyone.  Again, it could takes days or weeks for trucking and food supplies to get back on track to fill up grocery store for evacuees who are returning and for those who decided to ride out the storm at home.  Plan accordingly.
  8. Looting.  Today on the news a video crew caught a bunch of people looting a shoe store.  I can kind of understand if people are looting a store for food because they are starving but Nikes and Adidas are hardly a life-saving commodity.  This just popped up on my news feed, looks like the scumbags got caught.
  9. Evacuating to a shelter.  Getting to the shelter was part of the battle, wondering if the shelter would even remain standing was another concern, and then having to worry about what, if anything, the people would return to after getting the all-clear was another.
  10. Staying home instead of evacuating.  One guy couldn't bring his monkey to a shelter so he decided to stay home with the creature.  Another person on the news said it would be too hard to evacuate her very ill mother so they stayed at home.  Others who voluntarily chose to remain home instead of evacuating were blasted by social media.
  11. No work, no pay.  While there were some social media threads about very generous employers telling their employees to evacuate and they would still be paid no matter how long it took the business to get back on its feet after the storm, most people weren't so fortunate.  No work means no pay for many people and there was no way to determine how long these people would be without work.
  12. Decimation of structures.  Homes, businesses, condos...every structure in the path of the hurricane will suffer some sort of damage, from a few missing roof tiles to broken windows to the building being completely flattened.  Housing is going to be a huge issue after the storm passes.
  13. Tornadoes.  If being in a hurricane wasn't bad enough, many networks reported tornadoes being spotted around the hurricane's path.  Needless to say, the destruction from a tornado can be just as bad--and deadly--as from a hurricane.
  14. Water everywhere.  Obviously not a good thing.  Water damage--from heavy rains to flooding to standing water after the fact--means ruined homes, washed out roads, washed away cars, and, if the water sits long enough, it can be a breeding ground for disease.
  15. Evacuating ranged from stressful to impossible.  Many people drove (along with several other million people) to escape the storm only to find gas stations out of gas, and their planned six-hour trip to a drier part of the state took 20-30 hours.  Many people weren't prepared for such an extremely long evacuation.  And then there were those who tried to fly out of the area, again with several other million people.  There were only so many planes and so many seats and towards the end, when all planes had to be out of the area, many, many people were left stranded at the airport as there were no more seats left for them.
  16. A hurricane hitting a major tourist area posed even more problems.  Each year several million tourists come to Florida whether for Disney World, to catch a cruise, or to go to the Keys.  So not only did emergency planners need to figure out what to do with all of these extra people, the tourists themselves, who may have been extremely prepared at home, had few if any preps with them.
  17. No help when you call 911.  Emergency responders were very clear, and the news networks reinforced the message, that after a certain point in the storm, all first responders were going to shelter in place and no calls to 911 would be answered (well, they may have been answered but no police or medical were dispatched).  When you have people on stand-by to help after the worst of the storm passes, the last thing their bosses are going to do is send them out into deadly situations and hope they return in one piece.  This is common during all disasters so people are basically on their own during the worst of the storm and for some time afterwards (usually right after a disaster the first group of responders sent out are doing evaluations of the situation and not rendering individual aid).  Example here.
  18. Sorting out the mess afterwards is going to take work of epic proportions.  There is insurance to deal with, FEMA, clean up, rebuilding...  Here's an interesting article on the topic.
  19. Curfews are a thing.  For both people's own safety as well as quelling looters, many jurisdictions issue curfews before, during, and after a major disaster.  This is just something to be expected.
  20. Many people rely on the internet for all sorts of things.  Apparently last minute hurricane preps shouldn't be one of those things.
  21. But of course social media can be a lifesaver providing all sorts of information including a reddit live thread, local emergency info from local news stations, and the ability to check in as safe.
  22. The down side of social media...dumb people.  TIL You aren't supposed to shoot at hurricanes.
  23. As with any disaster, there are things people should and shouldn't do, check out this list of things not to do during a disaster.
  24. And from the "I can't believe people would do that' file, many people abandoned their pets to the hurricane.  Sad.
  25. Finally, some interesting things learned: Tesla can remotely extend the range of their vehicles (cool and creepy at the same time), some cool maps of the hurricane evacuation, and some lessons learned from Katrina.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Prepping Challenges 91 Thru 100--You

Sometimes you go through the previous 90 prepping challenges, you have a massive amount of food and water stockpiled and...you end up a refugee with only the clothes on your back.  Of all of the refugees I have known--from the previously very wealthy to the previously very poor--many ended up fleeing war-ravaged countries with basically what they could carry with them.  So this is perhaps the most important section as you are your most important secret weapon for surviving whatever disaster comes along.

#91--You make your health one of your top priorities.  You eat healthy, keep up with your vaccinations, keep a handle on your health markers (weight, blood pressure, blood sugar cholesterol, etc), and de-stress on a regular basis.

#92--Your next priority is your fitness.  You can walk long distances, you can easily climb under a desk if there is an earthquake, you can easily lift heavy objects to clear your way from a disaster zone...you are fit, flexible, strong, and have excellent cardio abilities.

#93--You are educated and continue to enhance your education on a regular basis.  Whether is it improving your job skills, learning more about prepping, or seeking out new sources of information, you don't stop learning just because no one is requiring it.

#94--You got skills.  While other people spend countless hours surfing the web and overdosing on social media, you spend your time learning new skills.  When your community offers a CERT class, you are first in line to sign up, when you realize your are missing critical defensive skills, you seek out a close-quarters combat course to increase your ability to protect yourself and your family.  Learning new skills is a fun (and infinitely useful) way to spend your free time.

#95--You have people.  While it may be easier to stay home and become a hermit to avoid the craziness of our world, you realize that exercising your social skills muscle is a great way to build community, meet new and interesting people, and develop the relationships necessary for survival in a SHTF situation.

#96--You plan, complete with checklists, for everything.  There is no need to keep all of your "to dos" in your head and you need to be organized to get everything done so you know that using checklists and writing things down will make you more organized and more successful.

#97--You have a generally good attitude.  Your attitude can often be the defining factor when it comes to enduring difficult situations.  Read more about this here, here, and here.

#98--You aren't afraid to try new things.  Maybe grandma wants to teach you how to knit a sweater.  Not very manly but a useful skill nonetheless and it makes grandma happy.  Maybe your kids want you to go on the 'Plunge of Death' roller coaster with them.  Well that doesn't sound like fun, per se, but it is a new experience so why not.  And always take the opportunity to travel, you will learn a lot.

#99--You are ready to travel.  You have your passport, yellow card, visas if necessary, spare passport pictures, and travel gear ready to go at a moment's notice.  Traveling teaches all kinds of survival skills from negotiating in a language you don't understand to learning from new experiences.

#100--You help others.  Whether it's lending a helping hand during a disaster or volunteering to teach a preparedness course at your local community center, helping kids site in their hunting rifles at the local range or ensuring that your kids know how to cook for themselves, helping others learn vital skills and just generally helping others out during their time of need goes a long way towards increasing everyone's ability to survive a disaster.

And check out this list which will help you make a 'clean sweep' of your entire lift.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Prepping Challenges 81 Thru 90--Special Circumstances

If you are young, rich, and healthy, prepping can be a pretty easy thing to do.  That isn't most people.  Many people have a bundle of circumstances that often make prepping difficult to virtually impossible.  Here's what to do if you are any of these special circumstances...

#81--You have an infant or young children.  Generally kids are pretty portable and resilient but they do require extra attention when preparing for a disaster.  From having (a lot) of extra diapers on hand (of both the cloth and disposable type) to having appropriate nourishment for them (formula even if you breastfeed, stockpiled foods that can be easily mashed) there are several things to do to prepare to either bug in or bug out with infants or small children during a disaster.  Find more info here and here.

#82--You are poor.  When people are poor, just surviving from day to day can be a challenge but there are things even poor people can do ahead of time to prepare for a disaster.  First, find out where your local shelters are in case riding out a disaster in your home isn't an option (ie: you live in a trailer in a tornado area).  You can easily stockpile water is used 2l soda bottles, and you can hit up the dollar store for items that can be used during a disaster (a $1 tarp and some paracord are better than nothing when it comes to shelter).  Dumpster diving, even flying a sign asking for handouts isn't out of the question when it comes to procuring needed disaster supply items.  More info here.

#83--You are elderly.  Often the best preparedness activities elderly folks can do, in addition to the usual stockpiling some water and food and medications, is building community and relationships as an informal mutual aid society.  Seniors watching out for each other, either by calling each other often or going to check up on each other in person if someone hasn't been seen for a couple of days, is very common in many senior communities.  Seniors being able to call for assistance, and having family call to warn them about impending disasters, is also useful as a relative can drop off needed water or groceries ahead of time, pick up their prescriptions, etc.  Lot's more information on senior preparedness here, here, and here.

#84--You have a chronic illness.  Being chronically ill usually means being reliant on daily medications/therapy/special devices and within easy reach of medical care if needed.  During a disaster all of these things can be impacted so preparing ahead of time is critical for chronically ill people.  One of the simplest things you can do is have your doctor give you 90-day prescriptions instead of 30-day prescriptions; this will ensure you always have extra medication on hand.  Speak with your doctor and care givers as well as your pharmacist and public health planners to determine what plans you should make ahead of time (you may find out that your county public health office already has a plan in place to assist chronically ill citizens).  There may also be special plans for healthcare-specific shelters, delivery of items like food and meds during a disaster, and other things you didn't even know about going on in your community that can help you before, during, and after a disaster.  Find more info here, here, and here.

#85--You are disabled.  Similar to other plans above, people with disabilities often need physical assistance during a disaster.  Again, planning ahead of time with your support network (doctor care giver, family members, etc) can help a disabled person be better able to deal with an emergency.  Is there a need for a generator to keep critical devices charged?  Is a plan in place for special assistance evacuating from your home?  Are local shelters equipped to help disabled people?  All of these things should be determined ahead of time.  More info here and here.

#86--You have legal issues.  Legal issues, like being on parole, being on the sex offender list, or having a custody order that does not allow you to remove your children from the county can all have a big impact on what happens during and after a disaster.  Recent disasters have brought to light just how these sorts of legal issues can impact disaster survivors (read this and this).  While I usually opt for seeking forgiveness after the fact instead of asking for permission first, in these cases, not following whatever court order you are under could result in a trip back to prison so it is important to ask whoever has you on a short leash what you should do in these instances and GET IT IN WRITING.

#87--You are mentally ill.  Like the aforementioned special circumstances, folk who are mentally ill have particular challenges when planning for a disaster.  Having access to meds is important, as is being able to seek shelter in a shelter that can meet your needs.  This is why pre-planning ahead of time with your team (family, doctors, care givers, therapists, etc) is important in order to develop a workable plan for what you should do before, during, and after a disaster.  More info here, here, and here.

#88--You are homeless.  On the one hand, homeless people impacted by a disaster aren't being displaced from actual homes, but they do become displaced from important parts of their life which includes friends, their children's school, meal programs, homeless shelters and support staff, even friendly locals who help them out with food and supplies.  And while homeless folks are pretty resilient and have top notch survival skills, they can still be severely impacted if, for example, the car they are living washes away in a flood.  It is important that homeless folks keep up with the news (flash flood warnings often go out via cell phones to warn the homeless who live in the storm drains under Las Vegas so they can escape before a storm hits), find out where the public shelters are, and keep up with community information and take advantage of any help being offered.  More info here, here, and here.

#89--You are a first responder or an essential staff member.  First responders are a unique population because they are usually exceptionally prepared yet when disaster strikes, and even before, they need to leave their family to go help others while hoping their family remains safe.  It is important that first repsponders share their knowledge with all family members so that not only do they have the resources (water, food, emergency shelter) but they have the knowledge to survive a disaster when mom or dad isn't there.  Banding together with other first responder's families is another idea.  The first responder's agency can, and should, be instrumental in assisting families before, during and after a disaster so that their responders can give their full attention to the mission at hand.  More info here, here, and here.

#90--You don't care.  Well not you because if you didn't care about preparedness you wouldn't be reading a preparedness blog, but we have all come across people who would rather stick their head in the sand than take a few steps to become better prepared for a disaster.  Spouses, friends, co-workers, and family members can all be quite reasonable in general but have no interest in preparing thinking that either nothing will happen to them or that the city has everything taken care of and will come to their rescue.  You can either go it alone and wait to say 'I told you so' after a disaster hits (and the family is all snug and secure because of your advanced planning), you can stock even more preps then happen to drop by your stubborn aunt's house before a huge snowstorm is predicted to hit and tell her you had some extra food and water on hand and wanted to share it with her, or, like a friend of mine, you can buy an RV because all of his friends had RVs and his wife loved the idea of an RV because then the group would hit up the local parks each summer weekend and it was a big party and then when a minor disaster hit they ended up sheltering for a few days in the RV and all was well and the wife had no idea he was actually using the RV opportunity to be even more prepared than he was before.  YMMV on that one.

So the bottom line to prepping for special populations is that advanced planning is even more important than it is for the average person.  And not just planning ahead but planning with an entire team to make sure that there is a triple, even quadruple-redundant, plan in place to help those who will need extra assistance before, during, and after a disaster.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Prepping Challenges 71 Thru 80--Protection

You are responsible for protecting yourself and your family at all times.  While you can call the police for help, they usually don't arrive until after the fact.  And during a disaster, you will be lucky if you can even get through to 911 so it is up to you to develop some basic protection strategies.

#71--You are safety aware at all times.  You pay attention to what is going on around you, you know what is going on in your community, in your country, and around the world, and you always lock your doors behind you.  You are careful of the places you go at night, you don't hang out with troublemakers who are a target all their own, and you don't flash your money around.  Basically you follow all of the basic safety tips that would otherwise be known as common sense.

#72--You take extra steps to make your home and vehicle safe.  At your home you have a fence around your property, safety doors and locks, a home security system, etc.  In your vehicle you have an alarm, a dash cam, etc.

#73--You know how to protect yourself physically if needed.  While hand-to-hand-combat should be the very last thing on your list of ways to protect yourself, you are skilled in martial arts of some sort and keep in good physical condition.

#74--You have determined if you want to use firearms for personal protection and have taken steps to do this in the safest, most effective way possible.  If you choose to use firearms, you understand how to store them safely, you are licensed for concealed carry, you practice with them often, and you have taken advanced classes in things like tactical shooting in order to become an effective shooter.

#75--You have other weapons on hand of varying leathality, and know how to use them.  Some people want to take a step down from firearms yet still keep some sort of weapon on hand to use in an emergency.  Things like a knife, baseball bat, kuboton, pepper spray, bear spray, etc. can be used to protect yourself.  Laws vary by jurisdiction about possession of these types of weapons and while any of these is better than nothing in an emergency, YMMV about their effectiveness.

#76--You take precautions when traveling, avoid unsafe areas, and follow general travel safety rules.  You know where the nearest embassy is, have given your itinerary to a trusted friend or relative, and keep in regular contact with folks back home to the point that they would know if something goes wrong due to your lack of contact.

#77--You try to keep yourself out of situations that can turn dangerous and are aware of steps to take if something like workplace violence, school violence, domestic violence, or terrorist activity happens where you are.

#78--You are careful about who you associate with.  Many crimes--from gang banger shootings to domestic violence murder-suicides to theft or robbery--occur between people who know each other or are otherwise associated.  The door-to-door salesman you let into your house may be casing your place for a future robbery or home invasion, the shifty guys you hang out with may be a target for violence and you could inadvertently end up in the cross-fire, the crazy ex could turn into a stalker or worse.  You can nip may of these problem in the bud by being choosy about who you hang out with or otherwise deal with.

#79--You always opt towards deescalating a situation instead of escalating it.  This is easier said than done when someone cuts you off in traffic, is acting like an aggressive idiot in the gym, or is otherwise asking for a good ass kicking but the potential outcome of escalating the situation to the point of violence (an assault or murder charge, court time, lawsuits, etc) simply isn't worth it.  Take a breath, adjust your attitude, and try to flip the situation to a happier outcome.

#80--You have the relationships, and social skills, to band with others during a disaster.  There is safety in numbers and when TSHTF do you alone want to deal with roving looters or would you rather band with the neighbors to ensure the safety of your home and neighborhood?  Having good social skills, and knowing who you can rely on during an emergency, can make survival situations go much better than being an individual alone.

Find more personal safety tips here, here, and here.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Prepping Challenges 61 Thru 70--Vehicle

And the disasters don't stop, last week was Hurricane Harvey, next up Hurricane Irma.  So there is more prepping to do...

#61--You have a vehicle of some sort and you keep it in tip top shape.  For most people this means a car but some people don't have cars so a moped, motorcycle, or bicycle may be their vehicle of choice.  Which ever type of vehicle you choose, you want to keep it in good mechanical shape and always keep the gas tank at least half full.

#62--You always have reserve fuel for your vehicle.  During Hurricane Harvey some people used stored cans of fuel to top up their tanks while others siphoned fuel from an RV or boat to fill up their car when gas stations were shut down or ran out of fuel.  Remember to rotate stored fuel and to store it in a safe location in appropriate containers.

#63--Your vehicle is set up as your "home away from home".  This includes having food, water, a first aid kit, an emergency kit, and sleeping bags or blankets in your vehicle at all times.

#64--You have other types of vehicles on hand, according to your situation.  It would be rather useless for me to keep a boat in the middle of the desert but the folks down in Houston made good use of their boats, jet skis, and kayaks during all of the flooding.  Keeping a bicycle for exercise is a good idea and it can also be used as a secondary vehicle in an emergency.  Of course having an RV makes an excellent bug out vehicle.

#65--You have actually went out and tried several evacuation routes in your vehicle.  You know where the choke points may be, have determined alternate routes around these areas, and have noted any impediments to your evacuation routes (ie: bridges and overpasses that may collapse during an earthquake, low-lying areas that will probably flood first, etc).  In addition, you keep a GPS device in your vehicle as well as paper maps which can be used even when cell and GPS don't work.

#66--You have learned skills for (and practiced!) driving in a variety of conditions including heavy rain, snow, ice, dust storms, high wind, etc.  You don't want your first experience driving in snow to be during an emergency.  You want to have studied enough about flash floods to know that driving through them can be deadly so avoid this and head to higher ground anytime flooding starts.

#67--You have experience driving as many different types of vehicles as possible--car, motorcycle, bicycle, boat, kayak, backhoe, jet ski, 18-wheeler, plane, helicopter--the more vehicles you can drive, the better off you will be in an emergency situation.

#68--You are comfortable using all kinds of public transportation--bus, plane, subway, tuk tuk, jeepney, chicken bus.  In the event that you can not evacuate with your own vehicle, knowing (and practicing) using public transit is another skill that will prove useful during an emergency.

#69--You have off-roading experience and, hopefully, the vehicle to do this in.  As you saw during Hurricane Harvey, roads were washed out and even when the water receded, driving around the area required more off-roading skills than most people have.  Having a basic knowledge of off-roading skills is a good thing to know.

#70--You know what to do in a vehicle emergency situation.  You can change a flat tire, do basic car repairs, pull yourself out of a ditch, unstick yourself from sand, know what to do right after a car wreck, and know how to tow another vehicle, among other things.

More information about using and stocking your BOV here, here, and here.