Sunday, July 23, 2017

40 Ways to Communicate During a Disaster

Do you have a communications plan?  Is it triple redundant?  Will it work during a natural or man-made disaster in your area?  Here are 40 communications methods that you may want to consider when you need to contact someone or receive information before, during, or after an emergency.

  1. Phone call to either a cell phone or a land line.  Don't forget that you can call a neighbor--ie: the restaurant next door--if you can't get a hold of your target--ie: the fire department in your town.  The next door neighbor can answer your call and run next door to alert your target to your call.
  2. Text message.  These often go through even when voice traffic isn't working.
  3. Fax.  Yep, some people still have fax machines and even occasionally use them.
  4. Email.  Self explanatory; have more than one email address for each person on your contact list in case one service is down.
  5. Social media.  This includes Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
  6. Mailing a letter.  Slow but it is an option.
  7. Going over and talking to the person face to face.  If all lines of communication are down, you may need to literally run to seek assistance in person.
  8. Sending a runner.  Depending on the emergency, you might need to send one of your kids with a message to run and seek help.
  9. Dead drops and live drops.  These are espionage techniques but still a viable means of communications.
  10. HAM radio.  Get certified and practice with this method of communication before you need to use it in an emergency.
  11. Signage.  This could mean leaving a note on your door for someone, leaving a note on their door, signally SOS in a way that can be seen from the air, using FEMA search markings, tacking a note to a tree in the forest on a paper plate, writing 'help' on a sheet and waving it on your roof after a flood in the hopes that a TV helicopter will see you, etc.
  12. Satellite phone.  Expensive and occasionally difficult to use (depending on the satellite) but still a way to communicate from places where there are no other options.
  13. Satellite messengers and locator beacons.  In remote areas this may be your only means of communicating.
  14. Video games.  Any video game system that is connected to the internet can also be used for communicating with others.
  15. Online message boards.  From reddit to leaving comments on online news stories to 4chan, there are numerous public message boards that allow you to comment and/or leave messages for others.
  16. Check in sites.  After a disaster Facebook has a Safety Check in system, the Red Cross has a similar system called Safe and Well.
  17. The Red Cross also offers an emergency communications service for military members to alert them to family emergencies no matter where on the globe the military member is.
  18. Elected officials can be useful in an emergency as they often have access to alternate ways to contact someone in an emergency.  Find your elected officials here.
  19. If you are traveling abroad and have an emergency and don't know who to call, contact the State Department for further assistance.
  20. Television and radio.  These are the most basic ways to receive emergency information before, during, and after a disaster.
  21. There are a variety of ways to send and receive covert messages if needed.  Consider these.
  22. Through chat applications.  These include SnapChat, IRC, and similar applications.
  23. Sign language and/or an obscure foreign language.  Sometimes when you need to communicate in private while in public and you don't want to be overheard, these methods will work.
  24. An actual bulletin board.  Sometimes when disaster strikes (ie: the Twin Towers collapse, the Manchester Bombing, etc) people leave printed messages (such as missing flyers with a photo of the missing person and contact phone number) in a public place near where the disaster happened in the hopes that someone will have pertinent information and contact them.
  25. Weather radio.  These are one-way radios (you can receive information but not broadcast) that will alert you to imminent weather disasters.
  26. Emergency radio apps.  Apps like Broadcastify and Scanner Radio allow you to listen to emergency radio traffic and learn what is happening in your area.
  27. Short wave radio.  A bit old fashioned but it still works.
  28. RTL SDR.  In interesting and unique way to access a variety of radio systems on your computer.  This is an overview.
  29. Hand-cranked/solar radio.  Everyone should have one of these very basic devices to access information should the power go out.
  30. Two way radios.  These don't have a very long range (a couple of miles usually) but they don't require a license to use and can allow families to stay in contact when there are no other options.
  31. Audio public address systems.  This can be anything from having a bullhorn on hand if you need to communicate with a large group of people to knowing what the audio signals in your community are for tornado warnings and other emergency alerts.
  32. A picture book.  Believe it or not these books can be useful when communicating with people who don't understand your language or are unable to speak...simply point at pictures to get your message across.  Here's an example.
  33. Smoke signals.  I'm not kidding.  Using flares, building a fire that can be seen from the air, etc. are viable ways to communicate that you need help.
  34. Emergency Alert Systems.  This can range from Amber Alerts that show up on your cell phone to emergency broadcasts that interrupt your TV show which alert you to local emergency issues.
  35. The -11 system.  Everyone knows they should call 911 for police, fire, and ambulance help.  You can also call 311 for important but not exactly emergency police and fire questions, 211 for emergent social service help, 711 for telecommunications relay assistance, 811 for non-emergent public utility location assistance, 411 for directory assistance, and 511 for road and traffic information.
  36. TPS.  The Telecommunications Service Priority system can be accessed by emergency service organizations and will give them priority for phone service during a disaster.  GETS and WPS are similar services.
  37.  Morse Code.  Back in the dark ages when I was a kid, it seemed like everyone knew the basics of Morse Code.  Although it it not used much anymore, knowing this code can be useful in a disaster (like banging out a message on a pipe if you find yourself in a building collapse).
  38. CB Radios.  Again, back in the dark ages these were a viable means of communication (and entertainment) for the masses (or at least OTR folks).  They are still in use today and are a means of emergency communications for people who don't have a radio license.
  39. Online work spaces.  These include Slack, GoToMeeting, freeconferencecall.com, and other online services used for communication between people and groups.  Families, prepper groups, and other can set up these systems as a check in point if phone and internet services are still working.
  40. SIPRNet, GCNs, NIPRNet, and other government communication systems are provided on a need-to-have basis.  Most civilians don't need to have access to these networks but should be aware of their existence anyway.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer Is a Great Time To...


  • Practice your camping and backpacking skills.  Of course you should do these things in the fall, winter, and spring too but for beginners it is easier to work out the kinks of your camping skills when it is 80 degrees than when it is 20 degrees.
  • Clean out the garage and review/repack your preps.  New batteries in flashlights and radios?  Check.  Bug out clothes still fit?  Check.  Packaged food need replaced?  Check check.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and inspected.  Ditto for your furnace, gutters, and any other item on/in your home that would create a crisis should it fail at 25 degrees.
  • Take a class.  Again it is easier to take yourself to a first aid or EMT course when the roads are clear and it is sunny out instead of in the dead of winter.
  • Spend time with the family.  Before the kids head back to school, spend some time with them by teaching them valuable skills (WOW and GTA aren't valuable skills...I'm talking fishing and camping and beach combing and growing a garden-type stuff).
  • Get ready for fall hunting season.  Get your rifles sighted in, have your kids (or yourself) take a Hunter's Ed course if it required, apply for permits/tags/special hunt permits/etc if this is required in your state, etc.
  • Get the kids ready to go back to school.  Reviewing reading, reviewing math, getting school clothes and school supplies ready, going to bed at a reasonable time a week or so prior to the start of school...all of these things will prepare your kids to successfully jump back into school when it starts.
  • Review all of your preps for natural and man-made disasters that are likely in your area.  People in tornado-prone areas are already getting a workout these past few weeks, ditto for wildfire-prone areas, flooding season is just around the corner, and of course there will be winter weather to deal with in a few months...are your preps ready to deal with whatever life might throw at you?
  • Make some extra money to bulk up your emergency fund.  Mowing lawns and landscaping, helping people move, hauling...there are many things you can easily do during the summer to make some extra cash to add to your emergency fund.
  • Get your car ready for winter.  Tire sales are a thing at this time of year, do you need tire chains for the new car?, cleaning your car is easier and more enjoyable in the summer than in the dead of winter...you get the idea.
  • Go shooting.  The long days of summer will give you plenty of time after work to hit the range for a bit of practice.
  • Garden, glean, and put some food by.  Those are old fashioned terms for sure but instead of relying on your local grocery store for every bit of food in your house, go for a bit of self sufficiency and do some late-season gardening, glean a farmer's field if that is an option, and practice your canning/freezing/smoking/jam making/etc skills.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

10 Quick Tips

It's been a busy summer around here (as you can tell by the lack of posts recently) but here are some things that have been rattling around my favorites list...

  1. If you are a senior and haven't got your Lifetime National Parks Pass, do it now while the cost is still $10.  In August the cost of the pass will go up to $80!
  2. If you know kids in your community who rely on the free meal program at their school for sustenance, here is a link to find local summer meal programs in the community.
  3. Have ideas for ways to address some of the world's most pressing problems?  Here is a contest that will pay you $25,000 to do just that.
  4. While I think that seeking legal answers online is iffy at best, here is a website that provides free legal answers courtesy of the ABA.
  5. Some cool/useful apps I've recently come across: AskRail, PulsePoint, and GoodSAM
  6. The National Preppers and Survivalists Expo will be held December 1 and 2 in Jacksonville, FL.
  7. DEFCON is coming up at the end of the month.  If you can't make it, their website has a trove of useful hacking info on it.
  8. One webpage you should definitely keep on your favorites list: AllTop Survival
  9. Bored?  Online?  Like to solve mysteries?  Here are the sites web sleuths use to solve cold cases: Doe Network, Web Sleuths, NamUs, ViCAP, ClaimUs, IdentifyUs
  10. And a whole bunch of summer safety tips.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

It's a (Cyber) War Zone Out There

Cyber attacks have been around nearly as long as the internet (way waaaay back in the day we would hack into our college servers but that was before cyber security was even a thing and professors would ask nicely that whoever was accessing their servers please stop doing that).  Unfortunately the cyber attacks we are seeing these days are no joke and instead of being an annoyance that needs a quick fix, the things hackers are doing these days can impact--in a very bad way--ordinary people's everyday lives.

Can you imagine showing up for surgery and having it cancelled due to a cyber attack on your hospital?  It's happening now.  Can you imagine having your critical data held hostage?  The nuclear power plant down the road being hacked?  The major food companies being brought to a stand still?  Those things are happening too.

In the grand scheme of things, the ordinary person is pretty helpless when it comes to relying on the powers that be to secure our major infrastructure.  However, on a personal level, there are things you can do to preemptively head off major issues when it comes to massive cyber attacks...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

10 Anti-Establishment Activities for Fun and Profit

The dictionary defines anti-establishment as:  A view or belief which stands in opposition to the conventional social, political, and economic principles of a society.

I always shook my head when, back a few years ago during the Occupy Wall Street movement, protesters would show up on TV tapping away on their iPhones while juggling their Starbucks, in their Nike tennis shoes, after pulling some money from the ATM of the local megabank.  If you are against Wall Street, why, in the name of all that is holy, would you support companies that, make up Wall Street?

As I am feeling rather contrarian this week, I got to thinking about how most people follow along with conventional society, all the while complaining about conventional society.  Complaining may raise your blood pressure but it does little to nothing to actually generate change.  Kind of like venting about obesity and the low pay of fast food workers while gulping down a cheeseburger from said fast food restaurant.

In the interest of "sticking it to the establishment", saving or making a bit of money, experiencing something new, and "walking the talk", I give you ten activities to enjoy this summer which have an anti-establishment flair...

  1. Cook all of your meals from scratch for a month.  Don't support the soda industry and fast food industries which basically sell you a boatload of chemicals and obesity, learn about how the food industry engineers your cravings, and watch a few health-inspiring videos on Netflix.
  2. Get out of debt.  Our world revolves around debt.  Can't afford to pay cash?  Just use your credit card and pay small monthly payments!  Can't afford the payments on a new car?  Simply lease (fleece as Dave Ramsey says) a car and pay less!  Can you imagine what your life would be like if your monthly bills were only for utilities?
  3. Participate in the underground economy.  This can include everything from bartering and swapping to sharing to buying and reselling.
  4. Support your local community.  Buy from local stores, shop at local farmer's markets, volunteer at your kid's school, help out a an elderly neighbor.  If you want your community to be strong and vibrant you need to invest (your time, effort, and money) in it.
  5. Learn to do for yourself.  There are YouTube videos that can teach you anything you need to learn.  Grow a garden, change your own oil, fix an appliance, mend your clothes instead of buying new ones...the list of things you can and should learn how to do is endless.
  6. Get away from it all.  I firmly believe that all of the hyper reliance on technology not only melts your mind, causes depression, and makes people fat and anti social (see other list of impacts here) but it has an overall negative impact on most people's everyday lives.  To combat this, head out to a remote, people-less place for a few days at minimum.  Enjoy the silence, learn how to rely on yourself instead of crowd-sourcing everything from your daily living skills to your self esteem, and recall what life was like before the tidal wave of tech took over our lives.  See also: Microadventures.
  7. Set a big, anti-conventional goal, and go for it.  I've been fortunate to meet a lot of interesting (read unconventional) people over the course of my life.  The common denominator amongst them is that they took a big, outrageous idea which caused people to question their sanity/make dire predictions about their life, and thumbed their noses at the naysayers.  See also: Helene Neville, Yolanda Holder, the Family on Bikes, and Karl Bushby.
  8. Be your own boss.  Most people cling to their one (piteous, underpaid, overworked) job like they are clinging to a life ring in the middle of the ocean.  Of the few "real" jobs I have had (complete with an employer, benefits, paid sick leave, etc), they have only served as stepping stones to gain knowledge or skills before heading off on my own.  I much prefer the secure insecurity of being responsible for my own income by developing multiple sources of income.  Examples of how to do this here and here.
  9. Do your own research.  With facts, alternative facts, and straight up lies by those in power, it pays to do your own research before making decisions that impact your life.  Among the "you didn't do the research" crowds: anti-vaxers, those who are surprised that Trump lied to them, people who fall for scams and rip offs that are easily Google-able.
  10. Support the people and causes that make a useful/positive difference in your life.  Turn out to vote, support gun rights, eat food that makes you healthy, join clubs with like-minded members, and hold your politicians accountable or vote them out.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

10 Sources for Bulk Food to Store

How are your food stockpiles looking?  If you are just starting to get your emergency food stockpile together, consider these ten places to buy food to add to your collection...

  1. Amazon.  You can find a wide variety of bulk food online at companies like Amazon and it will be delivered to your front door.  You can also buy MREs here.
  2. LDS Home Storage Center.  You don't need to be a Mormon to take advantage of this service which features foods especially prepared for long term storage.
  3. Costco.  Costco is kind of the granddaddy of bulk food sellers.  You can find all kinds of restaurant-sized bulk food products here.
  4. Grocery store loss leaders.  If you purchase loss leaders at your local grocery store every week you will soon be well on your way to a good-sized food stockpile.
  5. Ethnic grocery stores.  While a regular grocery store may sell a 10 pound bag of rice, an Asian store will sell 50 pound bags at a reasonable price.  Ditto for dry beans at a Mexican grocery store, lentils at an Indian grocery store, etc.
  6. Ordering in bulk from your local grocery store.  Some grocery stores have special "bulk" sales where they sell canned goods by the case or bulk bins you can buy larger quantities of grains and other items from, and at other stores, they are often more than happy to order food in bulk for you.
  7. Wholesale food distributors.  Some wholesale food/restaurant distributors will also sell directly to the public.  Simply Google wholesale food distributors for your nearest city to see what's available.
  8. Specialized emergency food companies.  There are a multitude of companies that focus on selling food specifically for emergencies and long-term storage.
  9. Backpacking food companies.  Backpackers have always sourced ultra light, dehydrated food that will last forever and now there are a number of companies that cater to just this market.
  10. U-pick/catch, U-preserve.  Whether from fishing, hunting, gardening, or u-picking at a local farm, the "do it yourself" approach to gathering food can be a cost effective way to build up your food stockpile.
Not included in this list but still a possible option is buying bulk grains (oats, corn, etc) from animal feed stores.  You need to make sure the grain is fit for human consumption and doesn't included added things like antibiotics, that the grain isn't moldy, and that isn't infested with insects.  Don't forget, once you have a hundred pounds of grain sitting in your kitchen you need to properly prepare it for long term storage.