All Posts by Andrew Bedford

Get Prepped For a Quarantine

All too often, the world is shaken by a new flu bug or the resurgence of an old one. This article caught my eye, as it’s about a mutated version of avian flu H7N2 that was transmitted from a cat to a human, quite a rare occurrence. I also have a long enough memory to recall the Ebola panic just a couple of years ago and shaking my head at the incompetence and poor decision making by those in authority, including the CDC.

The history of Ebola, as detailed in this book, is helpful to know and understand how a deadly virus originates, mutates, and spreads.

With an eye on the future and knowing a little about how quickly certain viruses can spread, I have put into place a number of preps that would see my family through the duration of a widespread outbreak, similar to the ones described in Steve Konkoly’s The Jakarta Pandemic. I know Steve personally and the massive research he put into this book, although a novel, is spot on. Read it to learn even more strategies to keep your family safe.

So, if we can learn anything from past epidemics, we can fully expect to see many more viruses of every kind spread, to one degree or another. And, naturally, there will be even more cases of overwrought hysteria by the media and public officials. Another very concerning development where these viruses are concerned is the flood of immigrants from all parts of the earth whose health issues are unknown. Some carry highly contagious diseases, like tuberculosis, which have previously been very rare here in the U.S.

That said, imagine for just a moment that you and your family have been placed under an official quarantine lasting seven days, fourteen days, or even longer. No one goes to work, no one goes to school. You won’t be eating at restaurants, going to church, the bank, to the movies, or visiting friends. During a quarantine, you will be expected to be self-sufficient for everything except for your utilities.

How will you cope?

Prep now for a quarantine

Preparing for something like this is a good excuse to really get going with your prepping if you’ve slacked off or are pretty new to the idea. Basic prepping for anyone begins with food and water. If you haven’t yet started storing food, here’s a list of some basic foods to begin stocking up. One simple strategy is to begin buying extras of the groceries you use more often and do that each time you go grocery shopping.

If you’re the one who’s sick and possibly very contagious, you’ll need to have on hand a couple of week’s worth of things like canned soup, freeze dried meals, and other simple “open and serve” type meals. Make sure everyone in the family knows where this food is and how to prepare it.

Add essential non-edibles

In addition to food, you’ll need essential non-edibles that are a part of your daily life but also a few items more specific for dealing with a quarantine and pandemic. Those would include soap, laundry detergent, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bleach, black trash bags (the really heavy duty contractors bags), rubber gloves, N-95 face masks, medical quality disinfecting wipes, and medical disinfectant spray.

An official looking quarantine warning sign would be a good idea. Keep in mind, in a true epidemic or pandemic, you will want to quarantine, even if no one in your household is sick. Hunker down at home and let the virus run its course, far from you and your loved ones. A quarantine sign will be a reminder to outsiders that you’re aware of the health scare and are taking necessary precautions within your 4 walls. At the same time, if any potential intruders are casing your home, that sign could possibly scare them away if they believe the virus is alive and well inside your house.

Now would also be a good time to make sure you have a working thermometer or two, extra bottles of pain reliever, at least one humidifier, diarrheal medicines, and electrolyte drinks or dry mix as detailed in this article. If the virus is affecting the upper respiratory system, the humidifier becomes even more important, along with decongestants, many boxes of tissues (be sure they are immediately disposed of in something like this), lots of water for rehydration, possibly natural remedies you have found helpful (we use Boswellia tablets for coughs). The CDC has a helpful article that details complications from the flu — good to review, take notes, and plan to have on hand supplies to deal with this type of common virus.

Once the quarantine is in place, you will probably not be able to go to a drugstore or pharamacy. In that case, you need to make sure you have an adquate supply of prescription drugs. I’m thinking, in particular, of asthma inhalers, since a number of flu viruses focus on the upper respiratory system. This could be particularly dangerous to an asthmatic.

Depending on how severe the illness, you may need contractor-grade bags to hold refuse, biohazard bags, barf buckets, even gauze (or maxipads) to absorb blood. (Remember pictures of people with tuberculosis coughing up blood in old movies?) In the case of Ebola, the virus was found in bodily secretions of all kinds. That’s where rubber gloves, goggles, disposable Tyvex suits (not as expensive as most people think) and a biohazard clean up kit should be added to your supplies.

Most people don’t give much thought to the pathogens that could be present in vomit, saliva, urine, and feces. They’ll probably grab some paper towels and maybe a bottle of Clorox spray, but an actual biohazard spill, or clean up, kit provides most everything you need to clean up and then dispose of potentially dangerous substances. Speaking of disposal, adding biohazard disposal bags provides you with a safer option for disposal of used medical supplies and even clothing worn by the sick person.

Clothing, towels, and sheets used by the sick person will have to be quarantined away from those used by everyone else. Launder them separately and once the patient has recovered, throw them away. This is true of everything else used by the patient: cups, plates, silverware, etc.

Lest you think it impossible to deal with a deadly virus like Ebola within your home, a young Liberian woman did just that by using low-tech supplies to keep family members alive during the worst of the outbreak:

Every day, several times a day for about two weeks, Fatu put trash bags over her socks and tied them in a knot over her calves. Then she put on a pair of rubber boots and then another set of trash bags over the boots.
She wrapped her hair in a pair of stockings and over that a trash bag. Next she donned a raincoat and four pairs of gloves on each hand, followed by a mask.
It was an arduous and time-consuming process, but Fatu was religious about it, never cutting corners.
You can read her entire story here. If a pandemic becomes so widespread that professional medical care is impossible to access, you can still do quite a lot with basic medical knowledge and the right supplies.

Maintaining sanity within your home

A quarantine will require that everyone stay home. If you have kids or grandkids, then you’ll want to make some plans now to keep them busy and entertained.

First, they should understand basic quarantine rules:

  1. Wash hands after every time they use the restroom.
  2. Immediately dispose of used tissues in a biohazard container.
  3. Stay away from the “sick room” without specific instructions from an adult.
  4. Know to wear protective clothing, including goggles and a face mask, around the sick person.

Very young children who tend to not always follow instructions may need to be kept behind a barricade, such as a kiddie gate.

Having the kids at home 24/7 may drive everyone batty, so it will be worth your while to tuck away a few books on CD, DVDs, books, and even school workbooks. Amazon carries the BrainQuest workbooks for various grades, and at over 300 pages each, surely they’ll keep kids busy for a long while. Also, have plenty of pencils and a good pencil sharpener handy. Puzzle books, board and card games, and indoor physical activity supplies (jump ropes, exercise videos, etc.) can help create a routine that, in turn, helps everyone stay sane. This article provides many more examples of how to set up a shelter-in-place routine.

Finally, if no one is working during the quarantine, it’s possible your income might suffer. Your mortgage company, landlord, and utilities must still be paid right on time, so do a little financial planning to be sure that money is set aside in case the worst does come to pass. As always, it pays to be prepared in more ways than one.

This 7 minute video from Dr. Bones gives more helpful tips for setting up a quarantined home:

How to Survive if You’re Caught in a Riot

What happens if you are stuck in a large riotous crowd?  Now this can be the result of an evacuation or bug out situation, a protest, food riot or any other mob-ruled violence.

Now, back in the early 70s, I was working undercover and got caught in a couple of the anti-war riots that occurred during this period. Once, I even ended up on the wrong side of a police line, not the right place to be.

Last night I was watching a movie and they showed people traveling in a large, panicky crowd. Our heroes made several dumb moves. First, they tried to drive through a crowd having the only running vehicle. This does not work, unless you are willing to kill people and even then, you most likely won’t get out of the crowd alive.

If you are on the road during a bug out and there is a large and desperate crowd in front of you, reverse course. Find another route, even if it means abandoning your vehicle. This is why I recommend having a detailed map, like these, as well as a GPS. Remember, crowds are something to be feared. A panicky crowd will have no conscience.

Going back to our movie, our hero made a second mistake: he pulled a firearm. All this did was result in the loss of the firearm and him almost being killed. If you have a firearm in a crowd, try to keep it out of sight, and for sure, don’t pull it out and threaten someone.

The best solution is to avoid being caught in crowds, but sometimes you have no choice. You may be attending a large public event like a ball game or simply have to work in a bad area.

 So, here are some ideas to help you stay safe in a riot or panicky crowd

  1. If you see people start to mass, don’t get curious and wait to see what is happening. Leave now.
  2. Be familiar with your area. Even if you’re just visiting a location, you should still get to know your surroundings as much as possible. Study a map and have a good idea of where you are, directionally.
  3. Think about your possible escape routes and safe havens before anything actually happens.
  4. If you work in a volatile environment, make sure you know several routes for getting home so that you have a number of methods of escape in the event of a riot.
  5. Carry small amounts of cash with you in case you need to quickly arrange transportation, pay off looters, or address your basic needs.
  6. Remain calm. Riots bring intense emotions boiling to the surface, but if you want to survive one you’d be better off keeping your own emotions in check. Your adrenaline and survival instincts will kick in, but strive to think rationally and pursue safety methodically. The book, Left of Bang, delves into this and is a good read as well.
  7. Avoid confrontation by keeping your head down. Think “gray man”. How could you blend in and not attract attention?
  8. Walk at all times at a casual pace. If you run or move too quickly, you might attract unwanted attention.
  9. Keep your loved ones close. If you’re not alone, then the first thing you should do is grip the hands or lock elbows with all of the people who are with you. If you’re with a child, hold them in your arms so they aren’t trampled. Sticking together with your loved ones should be your first priority
  10. Don’t get involved or take sides.
  11. Try to get out of the crowd, don’t try to move against it, but try to work your way to the sides at an angle and find a way out.
  12. When you get to the side, either leave the area or find a safe spot in a building. Just by moving inside a sturdy and controlled building, you may find protection. The first thing you should do if you enter a building is look for an escape route or back door.  Hopefully this will let you out onto another side or alley that is free of the crowd. Don’t hide in upper stories.
  13. If you find safety in a building, don’t watch the riot from the windows, this may attract attention and will increase your chances of getting hurt.
  14. Look out for fire. If the angry mob turns toward the building, it can be a target. Try to have an escape route.
  15. The best thing to do is to get as far away from the crowd as possible. But as you are leaving, watch to make sure no predators are following you. If you have a firearm this is when it will be most useful.
  16. Depending on the circumstances, the police and authorities may or may not be your friend. Avoid them if necessary as they may assume you are one of the rioters. If they are in limited strength and under attack, stay away from them.

Hopefully you never get caught in this situation. Planning ahead and living and working in good areas, can help keep you and your family safe. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done!


The TEOTWAWKI Last Minute To Do List

If you are watching the news and following events you know that the country could be in major crisis with very little notice. The average citizen in Venezuela had little time to prepare for the collapse of their economy, and the author of this book lived through Argentina’s multiple collapses and can give you tips for preparing and surviving.

An economic collapse, an EMP, war — these worst case scenarios are part of the reason we all prep, so that we can handle the unexpected. But suppose you have a few hours notice? What are the 10 last minute things that are most important?

Here’s a list of my suggestions:

1. Contact your friends and family and let them know what is happening. Get the kids out of school, get home from work. In other words, get your group together in one location.

2. If you are bugging out to a stocked retreat, load the car, fuel up, gather extra gas cans, and leave now. You can complete the rest of this list en route and when you arrive. Before you leave, make sure you have a destination. You do not want to become a refugee.

3. Make a last minute trip to the grocery store. Buy items that you are short of, but at the very least, grab useful items like batteries, candles, matches and all the canned meats you can carry. Grab any other other last minute supplies you need. Don’t forget extra fuel. Be sure to store it in proper containers for safety.

4. Check your prescriptions and go to the pharmacy and get any refills you can. While there, stock up on the over-the-counter medications your family typically needs.

5. Check your water supplies. Are all containers filled and in good condition? If you have a waterBOB, fill it now,and have 2 on hand if you have 2 bathtubs. If you don’t have a waterBOB, fill your bathtub and all extra containers that you have on hand. Locate your water filters and make sure they are ready to use.

6. If it appears the power will go out, get your generators or other sources of off-grid power ready. It should be done even if you will be using kerosene lanterns, a propane cooker, or anything else that doesn’t rely on generator power. You may need that generator in the middle of the night, so test it and have it ready to go at a moment’s notice.

7. If you have a freezer full of food, implement your plan to preserve it. If this is going to take some time, wrapping your freezer in blankets can help keep your food frozen for a longer period. If you own a Yeti cooler, as your freezer begins to warm up, keep as much meat as possible in the Yeti. This will buy you at least a couple of days before it must be cooked. A Yeti could also be used to keep life-saving medications chilled.

8. If the weather is cold and you will lose heat, get your blankets, sleeping bags and cold weather clothes ready. If it is hot, make sure that your group is dressed appropriately for the weather and has plenty of water to drink and battery-operated fans to help avoid heat-stroke.

9. Make sure that your first aid and medical supplies are easily accessible. This medical kit is especially well-equipped.

10. Implement your security plan.

These 10 last minute things can be accomplished in a short period of time if you do a bit of pre-planning. For instance, if you are familiar with the layout of your nearest grocery store and where the important items are, you may be able to gather things up quickly.

If you have more than one vehicle and multiple drivers, you’ll be able to simultaneously pick up the kids, get the cars gassed up, run by the grocery store, and be on the road quickly. Be prepared to act fast and without hesitation. If you are wrong and nothing happens, you won’t have lost much and you will have had a good drill.

Where There is No Water: Staying Clean

Now, there are numerous situations in which disaster could leave us short of water. They could be just for a couple of hours or situations that lasted for months or even years. Besides the lack of drinking water, how would you stay clean in a world short on water?

This brings us to the topic of waterless hygiene, and believe it or not, there are actually products on the market that provide you with quite a good cleansing using no water at all. A bottle or two in every bug out bag would be a wise investment.

I am assuming that you currently have access to a limited amount of water like most people, and that you are reliant on city water. Drinking and cooking will be your biggest priority, of course, but at the same time, you need to keep yourself clean.

Maintaining good hygiene helps to prevent disease and maintain good moral.  Today we are very spoiled; we take a shower just about every day and use many gallons of water for other hygiene purposes during the day. This has changed over the years, though. Even when I was a child, you mostly had one bath a week and washed up in the sink the remainder of the time.

Now, when we talk about waterless hygiene, most people immediately think of wet wipes and hand sanitizer. If you have these on hand, by all means use them, but you can’t count on them for long term. You can only store so many packages and eventually, you’ll use them up.

Now, many people in the past who lived without indoor plumbing, simply washed up morning and evening with a basin of water, soap, and a washcloth. You can keep yourself clean like this if you are careful. You can brush your teeth with two mouthfuls of water, one to rinse your mouth and one to rinse off the brush.

Washing your hair can be done with 16 ounces of water. Put a bowl on the ground to catch the water you use to get the hair wet and use it again to rinse with. If you don’t have water but you have cornmeal or baby powder, running it though your hair will help remove the oils and make your hair feel cleaner.

What about shaving?  Dry shaving is not fun, but if you have a tube of generic sex lube it will help. A little dab and a disposable razor and you can get a nice shave. Rub a spoonful or two of water over your face and wipe off to finish. Rinse your razor if at all possible and it will last longer.

If you have access to vinegar, a small amount mixed with water can be used to wipe critical areas of your body and it will kill bacteria and help prevent rashes and other problems.

The one big concern that many people have is lack of toilet paper. Here is a link to a post on No Toilet Paper Now What?.

What about your clothes? Even without running water, you’ll eventually need to do laundry. If you have no water at all, lay them out in the sun and “sun wash” them.  Shake them to get rid of loose dirt and lay them over some bushes. Let the sun hit them for an hour or more and you will be surprised at how much fresher they are.

Most of these ideas are nothing but common sense, but after a disaster, waterless hygiene may become a serious problem.  Remember, lack of hygiene can kill.


From Employed to Unemployed: Surviving a Personal Financial Disaster

It’s happened. You’ve just found out the main breadwinner in your family is now unemployed or maybe their hours have been cut. Either way, you’ve joined a growing club of Americans who are dealing with a loss of income, and all the hardships and stress that come with that membership. On one hand, you aren’t alone facing this financial disaster, but on the other, this isn’t a club that anyone wants to join!

Or, maybe in your case, it’s the discovery that health insurance premiums have tripled or, perhaps, an unexpected medical crisis has left you with a mountain of bills.

Whatever the cause, you’re facing a financial disaster.

Seeking solutions

Once the shock, tears, and other emotions have had their turn, it’s vital to search for solutions and put into place an action plan. Your family’s well-being and nothing less than its future depends on this.

If you find yourself in a panic mode, give my 16-Second Survival Breathing technique a try. If it works for the men and women in Special Ops, it can certainly work for you in a moment of panic!

It’s so important in this process to remain calm when the kids are around. I don’t recommend lying to them about your financial situation, but kids, especially young ones, cannot completely understand something as complicated as a family’s finances. They often take things literally and worry needlessly, like the time my kids found out that friends of ours had lost their house.

“How do you lose your house?” was a question I had to answer!

So, when the family is together, breathe your 16-second survival breath, if you must, but do your best to not give in to tears or a panic attack. You don’t want to add fearful children to your list of problems to solve, and at the end of the day, it’s solutions you need.

Income and out-go

I always feel better when I’ve taken some sort of action. It beats fretting and digging into a gallon of Blue Bell ice cream! If you’re dealing with a financial disaster, you, too, must take action, and developing a Family Financial Plan is part of that.

Check out this worksheet from my book, Survival Mom. It’s ready to download and print out.

A Family Financial Plan doesn’t have to be complicated, and you don’t necessarily need the assistance of a professional. You just need to take a look at the 2 main components of your situation: income and out-go.

How much money do you have coming in?

How much money is going out?

The first answer is likely the easiest one to answer. If you’ve lost a job, your income takes a dramatic plunge! However, there may still be severance pay and/or income from unemployment, disability, and other sources.

Write it all down, no matter how pathetic those numbers might appear. Somehow, when something is written down, it loses its power of intimidation.

The next step is to determine your family’s expenses, or, if you’re single, your own personal expenses. If you use a debit card for most of your purchases and for paying bills, this step is very easy with an online session at your bank’s website. Every single expense is listed there for easy categorization. If you haven’t gone through your monthly expenses in a while, you may very well be shocked at how quickly unnecessary expenses add up.

What if you don’t use a debit card but rely mostly on cash and checks? You aren’t off the hook, but it will take a little more effort to go through the checkbook and any receipts that you’ve kept.

If you use cash for expenses, keep track of those for at least a couple of weeks in order to get an idea of where that money is going.

If you haven’t guessed, the next step is to separate necessary expenses from those that are not truly necessary. This step takes a lot of guts because it may involve favorite activities, family traditions, and some of the small luxuries that so many of us take for granted.

Eliminating these expenses may be painful, but there’s also the possibility that the loss is temporary. I remember having to cancel my children’s music lessons because the extra money just wasn’t there, but the loss wasn’t forever. And, admit it, you’ve probably become accustomed to little luxuries that you won’t miss one bit once the initial pain has gone away.

Some folks call this, “living simply.”

Opening up streams of income

Believe it or not, even in the toughest of economic times, it’s still possible to earn a living, and sometimes, a very, very good one. The concept to begin applying is to look for multiple ways to earn money. I explain this in more detail here.

After you’ve cut every expense you possibly can and you’ve researched creative ways to prepare yet another meal of rice and beans, it’s time to consider how your family can bring in extra income, and it doesn’t involve a paper route!

The easiest way to bring in some extra cash is through selling anything of value that you don’t want or need any more. Ebay, Craigslist, and local yard sale websites are an easy tool to use. If you love yard sale-ing, you might consider looking for yard sale bargains and re-selling them online or add them to your own stash of yard sale items. If you’re a smart shopper, you might turn a very nice profit.

Direct sales companies are enticing, but be careful about signing on the dotted line unless the initial investment is very, very low and you have at least 10 friends who have committed to being your first home party hosts. I spent 18 years in the direct sales industry, know every trick in the book for booking parties, recruiting new sales people, and up-selling, and I can tell you, it’s not all that easy to maintain this type of business, much less getting started.

What about mystery shopping? Well, I’ve done that, too! Generally, there’s a lot of effort involved with highly detailed reports required within a very tight time frame. This is best left to those with lots of time on their hands, a reliable vehicle, and plenty of gas money. You’ll need all 3 to turn even a small amount of profit.

A part-time job can bring in enough extra cash every week for groceries, and if your kids are teenagers or older, they can earn money for their own expenses, including that cell phone service that just wasn’t a necessary expense in the Family Financial Plan! And, two part-time jobs isn’t a bad idea, either.

Behind all of these suggestions is the critical notion of constant movement. You may start out working part-time at Waffle House or washing windows on the weekend, but doing something is energizing. Sitting at home, watching TV and playing video games is a sure route to more of the same: countless hours watching TV and playing video games. Neither of those activities will ever result in the solutions you and your family desire.

Assess your own skills and knowledge

There’s one more strategy for bringing in extra income, and it involves the bank of skills and knowledge you’ve acquired.

There are a lot of people who want to learn how to can food, make jelly, speak another language, or learn CPR. If you have mastered just about any skill, you can teach it. If you can produce a quality product, you can sell it, and the internet makes this easier than ever.

If you’re a walking encyclopedia of herbal remedies, you can turn that into a side business by offering classes or writing articles for websites and magazines and ebooks. Learn how to quilt and you can not only sell your quilts but you can teach others to quilt. Start a quilting blog and earn money from advertisers and affiliate sales.

One woman in Phoenix has turned her lush suburban homestead into a very successful business, delivering organic vegetables, goat cheese, and fresh eggs to upscale customers who happily pay her prices.

Are you an expert hunter or fisherman? Have you considered advertising your skills as a hunting guide or fishing instructor?

All these skills and hundreds more can help add income to your budget when you teach them! Offer classes to a homeschool group. Call a community college or a community center to find out how to teach

There is no limit to where your skills and knowledge can take you. Here’s my master list of practical skills. See which ones you have mastered, or could become an expert in a short amount of time and consider how they could be turned into an income source.

Do accept help when it’s offered

If your child or grandchild suddenly collapsed in a busy mall, would you refuse help offered by a doctor or nurse who happened to be there that day?

Of course not! In a crisis, you need all the help you can get.

Well, a financial crisis is no different. I encourage you to accept all offers of help from unemployment payments to EBT cards, food banks, and anything else your community, church, and circle of friends has to offer. Most people who offer help see it as a privilege and a way to pass on a blessing.

If you’re uncomfortable with this, and most self-reliant minded people are, then look for ways that you can help others.

Attitude is everything

Everyone experiences a setback, sometimes many setbacks in their lives. If your attitude about this financial setback becomes one that brings your family together as a tighter unit, and you find yourself able to focus on the good things that life brings with it every day, you’re already on your way to recovery.

Attitude is everything, and a common refrain heard from those who lived through the Great Depression, “We didn’t even know we were poor,” illustrates the difference attitude make. Your attitude is contagious.

Saving money and cutting back on expenses can become a game, with everyone wanting to get involved. When I serve a home cooked meal, I tell my family, “There’s $40 we didn’t spend at a restaurant!, and we all cheer.

Our culture continually tells us the lie that we must constantly be acquiring in order to be happy and successful. Face that lie with the truth: it’s not STUFF that is most important in life.

What if the financial disaster hasn’t hit yet?

There are communities around the country where unemployment is relatively low and, perhaps, a bit of true economic recovery has occurred. If your family is still enjoying a stable income, it’s nevertheless wise to begin thinking, “What if…?”

Here are a few tips from my book, Survival Mom, that will help you prepare just in case there’s an income loss in your family’s future:

1. Cut back hard on unnecessary expenses now.

2. Begin living as though your income were cut by one-third.

3. Pay extra on your utilities each month. Try to get 3 or 4 months ahead. This is money in the bank should the worst happen.

4. Use coupons and store sales to stock up on several weeks’ worth of food, toiletry items, and cleaning supplies.

5. If your job is currently secure, put in extra effort to make yourself indispensable. Figure out how to make your boss look good!

6. If you have credit card debt, make minimal payments, for now, and stash whatever you can in a savings account.

7. Learn a new skill or brush up on old ones that might be useful to bring in another stream of income.

A financial disaster doesn’t have to mean the end of the world if you keep your wits about you and focus on what can be done to keep your family thriving.

Identifying the Perfect Bug Out Location

While I am not a fan of bugging out, I realize that situations can force any of us to leave our homes. Of course the perfect bug out location is to have a fully equipped home in a good area of the country. That’s just common sense, but most of us can’t afford that, so what are our options?

You can find friends or relations that you can join in an emergency. If you make prior arrangements with them and stock some supplies, you will probably be welcome. Don’t just make the mistake of showing up and expecting that they will take care of you. In fact, here’s some wise advice from rural preppers who are pretty sure friends and family will find their way to their homestead.

Some people have purchased or gained access to vacant land and stashed supplies ahead of time.  This can be a good idea, but you need to have a substantial amount of food and items to provide shelter. You have to hide these supplies well. Some people plan to take supplies with them and live off the land. Unless you are very experienced this is a very hard way to go, avoid this if you can.

I know some people who have a second home or small cabin that they keep stocked and ready to move in. This is a great idea if you can afford it and keep it secure. Make sure that you have the ability to get there in an emergency. Some people have already bugged out and now live in theirs year round.

Let’s assume you have the money and means to develop a bug out location or resettle to a new area. What criteria would you use to find the perfect retreat location?

Here are my thoughts on choosing the perfect bug out location

  1. I would want to be on the edge of a small town, one just large enough to have at least a small hospital and doctors. Maybe 2000-5000 people. No larger.
  2. I would want to be at least a hundred miles from a large metropolitan area. I know many people think this is still to close. But with traffic jams, accidents, and fuel problems I don’t think many people would make it this far.
  3. The town would not be on any major transportation routes. No main highways, freeways, railroads or large airports. Most people will stick to the major roads.
  4. The town would not be located near any military bases, communication centers or critical infrastructure.
  5. No large industrial plants, mines or other strategic businesses.
  6. No major government centers.
  7. Good availability of surface water.
  8. An area that exports food and produces more than it uses.
  9. I would want to be in a politically conservative area with good firearm laws.
  10. As long as there was good water, a decent growing season, and access to heating fuel, I wouldn’t worry about the weather.
  11. Avoid any place that the government would be in a hurry to control. For example, major communication links or sources of electric power.
  12. I would want at least an acre of good land.
  13. Take into consideration the dangers of wildfire.
  14. Be sure that local zoning laws will let you accomplish the things you want to without a fight.

A very detailed map, like a DeLorme atlas, will provide much of this information for you.

Before I moved there, I would spend a fair amount of time learning about the community. In addition to the research you can do through the internet and Chamber of Commerce, you need to spent time there. This means getting to know people other than realtors. Maybe subscribe to the local paper for several months. Go on some of the prepper blogs and ask if anyone lives near there, you may get lucky. Find a church in the area, talk to people. The more you can learn upfront the less you are likely to be disappointed later.



How to Prep Again When You’ve Lost Everything

I remember the night so clearly. It was the end of an emotionally exhausting day. My husband and I were lying in bed, holding hands, feeling like it was the only thing we had to hold on to. He sighed and said, “The life that I am living doesn’t seem like mine. Everything we are going through seems like something that happens to someone else, not us.” I could not argue with him, he was right. We were watching much of our life around us crumble and there was not much we could do to prevent it. We had to wait until the crumbling stopped and we could re-build.

Our family was experiencing hardships of almost every kind. We had to move from our home, close a business, and we had nowhere to live. The foster child we were in the process of adopting mentally went off the deep end. For the physical safety of our family, we immediately moved him out, and this caused more legal and emotional trauma than we could have imagined.

One of our cars died; it was not worth fixing. A friend loaned us an extra vehicle he had. We stayed at my sister’s home until we could find a place to rent. Moving to a new area where we didn’t know anyone was just another stress. Our other car was beginning to have problems. Our savings were low. We were living paycheck to paycheck and our food storage was almost depleted.

Some of the chaos was our fault. We did not prepare as much as we thought we had or think some decisions through completely. The other chaos was called life. We had no control over the economy, other people and their actions, nature, or health issues. Even thinking about that time brings back some of the overwhelming feelings we had. Our family was working on getting our footing first, then rebuilding our emergency supplies. We learned many difficult and painful lessons along the way, and we came out of it much smarter and stronger than we could have imagined. Life will always throw us curve balls, but we are more prepared to handle them now. As a family we have become the “better prepper”.

How to start prepping from scratch

1) You can never have too much money saved.

There will always be something unexpected come up, and it will come up at the worst time, always. We kept a mason jar around for loose change. I remember using it to buy $85 of groceries. As things got better, we worked our way up to a dollar jar. We were surprised to see how fast the jars filled up. Those jars were what helped us build up our emergency money. They are still in use and are a reminder to keep change and cash on hand. Not only in our home, but also in our bug out bags and cars.

To raise additional funds, we sold items we did not need. We started cleaning out what we had and decided what we could live without. At the time, it was difficult to see some things go. Knowing that we were doing everything we could eased some of the pain. It was a few years later that I heard Dave Ramsey on the radio. Being prepared means having a healthy savings account and we decided to try his baby steps plan. That was the beginning of the way we now handle our finances. Go over your finances and make certain you have enough to get you through an emergency.

Here are a few Survival Mom resources for you:

  • Check out my monthly series of past articles, “52 Weeks Savings”, with discounts, bargains, and deals for each month of the year. Here’s a sample month for June’s best bargains.
  • Learn more about the 52 Weeks Savings Challenge here and customize it to your own income and circumstances with these tips.
  • Print out my collection of tracking charts at this link.
  • Join Survival Mom’s 52 Weeks Savings Club on Facebook. We’re over 3600 members and going strong!
  • Dave Ramsey has solid advice for taking control of your finances. I recommend his basic book, The Total Money Makeover for an easy-to-follow plan and a quick, motivational read.

2) Have 3 months of food stored.

Money was tight and we ate our food storage. Our meals were inexpensive and home-cooked. Everything was used, nothing was thrown out. Soups were made with left over vegetables, meat was stretched by putting it in casseroles and salads. Knowing how to prepare nutritious meals from scratch was a skill I possessed, but had taken for granted.

To supplement our food storage, I took advantage of additional opportunities. Many communities have some type of food co-op program where food is exchanged for volunteering hours or food is deeply discounted. The local university offered in-season produce grown by the students at $90 a year. My husband put in a small garden of tomatoes, lettuce, squash and bell peppers. Our neighbor was more than happy to give us oranges and lemons from her trees. Lemons were prepped and kept in the freezer for future meals.

DON’T MISS THIS: Survival Mom’s guide, “Simple Food Storage Meals“.

As things improved and finances allowed, we purchased meat and canned goods that were on sale. Our 3 month food supply of food, water, and everyday living supplies was built up a few items at a time. Nothing causes you to evaluate your food storage than having to use it. Store food you are going to eat and enjoy. This includes cake mix!

3) Education: I attended the local adult education school.

After only a few months I was employed as a certified nursing assistant. A few months later I was a certified EKG technician. This experience slowly morphed into a small business. Being self-employed allowed me to make good money and go back to school for my BA. I knew I did not want to do this type of work as a career, but I do not regret the certifications.

Being a prepper, I understood that it was an education that could someday benefit my family and others. Always look for ways to increase your education and preparation. It could be an Amateur Radio license class, CERT classes, and local adult education or community classes. Adding other streams of income is the key.

4) If full time employment is not possible, look for a short term solution.

Something as simple as a dog-walking, house-sitting, substitute teaching, or other temporary jobs can get you through a rough patch. If you already have a full time job, look for other part time income streams. Is there a skill or hobby that you teach to others? What knowledge or experiences do you possess that can be turned into a small business?

5) Physical and Mental Health

Even though we did not go through a natural disaster or suffer extreme trauma, we still experienced a large amount of stress. Stress takes a great toll on your body. Glucose levels and blood pressure can increase. Our immune systems can take a hit, making you at risk for auto-immune and cardiac disorders. To off-set the negative impact of the stress, our family focused on cutting out processed foods and switched to a whole food diet. We spent time walking, swimming and hiking outdoors.

Mental health is sometimes overlooked in the prepper world. The pressure of trying to put life back together can be overwhelming. The effort used to get through or get by can push aside feelings of anxiety or depression. Sundays have always been used as a day to decompress for our family. When there were times of difficulty, we focused even more on keeping Sunday low-key. We attended church and did not obligate ourselves to anything else. We read books, watched uplifting movies, played games together and rested. This down time allowed us to face the next week with a renewed attitude.

Along with family time, my husband and I continued to have our weekly date night. Since there was not much money, we could often be found having a picnic at a park or attending free activities in town. Maintaining strong and healthy relationships is part of being prepared. Two people, or a family of more, can work together and get through trying times if their family has trust and communication between each other.

6) Faith

We are a religious family, it is part of who we are and it is our family culture’s main ingredient. During the good and bad times, we pray. This simple act has sustained us, and has given us the strength to get through difficult times. It has also given us hope that things will get better and that we are not alone in this journey. Prayer holds us accountable. When I pray for guidance, I am reminded that I need to be doing my part. Am I a wise steward with my money, time and resources? Prayer helps put things in their proper prospective and reminds us of the blessings we have been given.

For those who are not religious, it is important to take time meditate or connect with one’s self. There is much to be thankful for, even in trying times. Center yourself and be open to opportunities and possibilities. Great ideas and solutions can come when the world is quiet and we are alone. Write down any ideas, even if they sound a bit crazy. They can transform into brilliant ideas.

Life Always Happens

Through all of this, we were able rebuild our food storage, savings and emergency supplies. Our financial situation was good, and education and jobs were going well. Life was to be going great! And then another curve ball was thrown. My husband’s employer was replacing all management employees. We had a little bit of notice, but not as much as one would hope. After a brief moment of panic, we realized that we were going to be okay. Together we had been through such challenging times, this did not seem as difficult. Because of the experiences we had many years earlier, we were better prepared. During those four months of unemployment, we adopted a daughter, celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas, witnessed our son’s wedding, had a beautiful reception on a shoestring budget, and prepped two kids leaving for college. We were able to enjoy all of the happy family events because we were prepared.


Root Cellars: An Old Concept for Modern Survival

Yesterday I spent the day with a friend who was raised in Finland and is near my age.  He and I talked about the use of root cellars and what foods they had available in the winter.  They raised most of their vegetables in green houses, so they could get a jump on their short summers.

In the summer they had a fairly wide selection of vegetables, however in the winter they had a very limited selection.  They mainly had what could be stored in their root cellars.  This consisted mostly of potatoes, carrots, beets, rutabagas, turnips, cabbage, onions and for fruit, apples.  They kept these in a root cellar.  Prior to refrigeration a root cellar was used to store food over the winter and to help keep food cool in the summer.

A root cellar is a structure built completely or partially underground and used to store vegetables, fruits and other foods that need to be kept cold.  They are well insulated so that the foods stay cold , but do not freeze.

To function properly a root cellar should maintain temperatures between 32° F and 40° F.  The humidity level should be 85 to 95 percent.

The high humidity slows the loss of moisture from evaporation and prevents wilting.

The cold slows the release of ethylene gas and prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause decomposition.

Some tips for making and using root cellars

  • Don’t dig near large trees.  It will be hard digging and the roots will eventually cause you problems such as cracking the walls.
  • Temperature can be regulated by ventilation to allow cold air in.
  • If you want completely stable temperatures, you need to have a root cellar that is 10 feet deep.
  • A thermometer and hygrometer can be handy to measure temperatures and humidity.
  • Wood shelving and platforms work well because they do not conduct changes in temperature as well as metal does.
  • Shipping pallets can make good flooring, because they allow air movement.
  • You should allow an air space between the shelving and the walls.

The following article is directions for building root cellars from a book published in 1907.  They show how to  build one that is partially underground.

Hope this helps you


root cellars

How to Get Water From Your Well When the Power Fails


An Windmill

Recently I have run across several people who are concerned about how to get water out of their water well in an emergency.  Without electricity, most of today’s water wells would become useless.  But remember people had functioning wells prior to electricity.

Old-fashioned hand operated water pumps can still be purchased and are quite effective on wells less than 200 feet deep.  Some brands say that theirs will work to 300 feet in an emergency, but that the number of strokes required is less than desirable.


A Simple pump


A well bucket

If the water level in your well is over 300 feet, solar powered pumps will go as deep as 800 feet and wind powered pumps will go down to 1500 feet.  Here is a link to a prior post Solar Powered Well Pumps can Solve your Water Problems.  When I lived in the Midwest, every farm had a wind powered water pump.  You still see many of these in use in many areas.  The Aermotor Windmill Company which has made windmills since 1888, is still in business.  You can find their windmill on the internet or through a good well drilling company.  Both of these methods will make your water supply independent of the electrical grid.

A fourth method is to make a well bucket, they are simple and inexpensive to make.  Here is a link to a post that shows how to make your own, Make your own deep well bucket.  The well buckets work better in shallow wells, you can use them in deeper wells, but it will be a lot of hard work

One thing, it is important to remember is that even if your well is over 300 feet deep; the water table may be much higher in the casing.  We have a well in our family that is cased to 200 feet deep but the water level is only about 13 feet deep.  Well buckets and hand pumps may work in these wells.


Tips to Design and Build Your Bug Out Location

Designing a house, even a tiny cabin, should be fun! It’s a chance to for your dreams to become real in the form of a home. Most of us don’t get to include all the bells and whistles we might like, but we can include the most important ones, leaving the possibility to add more, later. At the very least, when you build and design your own bug out home, you can avoid things you truly dislike.

You may have purchased your land to live on full time, use for recreation, or for a time in the future when you might want to get away from cities in a bug-out scenario. Regardless, the first steps are aimed at getting ready to build.

Preparing your land

The very first step to take before buying land is to have a perc test done, if one hasn’t been done already. If it fails, no home can be built on the property; just walk away and find a different location, unless you want a lot of extra hassle and potential difficulty reselling the land. (There are options that allow some of this land to be built on, but it’s more complicated, potentially expensive, and can be harder to maintain.)

The perc test tells how large the septic drain field can be, and that, in turn, lets you know how large your house can be. The result will be something along the lines of, “This property perked for three bedrooms”, which means you can build a three bedroom house, but not a four bedroom house. That’s not a suggestion and cannot be ignored. If your lot perks for three bedrooms and you need four, then you will need to buy an additional piece of adjoining land that perks for at least one bedroom and combine the two to build a four bedroom house.

Even if you don’t plan on building a full-size house and only plan to camp on your new land, you really should at least do a perc test for the sake of future resale value.

Once you buy the land, install a well and septic system if they aren’t already there. You can have the basic well and septic installed without having a final home location, but that would be a bit unusual and require the contractors to come back out later to finish the installation and hook-up. Try to avoid that extra expense, if possible.

It’s also important to know that you will need a fair amount of power to operate the well pump and the septic pump, so electricity will also need to be run to your property.

Some areas support geo-thermal heating, solar power, wind turbines, and other off-grid technology. If you are wanting, or hoping, to go completely off-grid, looking for properties that lend themselves to these options, is the way to go. You don’t want to invest money in property, developing, and building, only to find out that your location doesn’t lend itself to many off-grid options. Planning for the installation and use of these alternative power sources should be done in the earliest stages of designing and building.

If you want to be on your own well, before purchasing the property, find out if that’s even an option. One farm property we looked at was on city water. When I asked about having a well dug, the nice folks in this rural Kentucky area had never heard of such a thing. The realtor asked around to find someone who could even dig a well! That surprised me, because I had assumed a homestead of 20+ acres and well beyond city limits would automatically be on its own well. So, be sure to ask about this.

As mentioned in the post on choosing a property, a well and septic system can be $10,000-20,000 or more each, depending on size and complexity, so a $60,000 lot with a well and septic installed may be a bargain compared to an unimproved one the same size for $40,000. Personally, I would buy a lot with a well and septic already installed, if that was an option because it’s just easier and there are no worries about unexpected costs in installing the well and septic. Many people have successfully dug their own wells, however.

For the well, I have heard that some areas used to regularly install little windmills over the well to power them in an emergency. It’s also possible to install a hand pump. Those both sound like fine plans to me, especially after we had our well pump go out and had no running water in our house for several days. If you have a well and septic, no well also means no toilet because you need the water from the well to refill the toilets.

Planning your bug out dwelling

Tiny houses are cool. Tiny houses are fun! Tiny houses are…tiny. However, we all have to start somewhere. For a Get Out Of Dodge location or a weekend getaway, a tiny house is a great place to start, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop there forever. You can start with a tiny house and add on as finances allow. Also, my view is that if a 200 square foot house is “tiny” for one person, then an 800 square foot house is still “tiny” for two adults and two teens, so “tiny” doesn’t have to mean microscopic! If you’re a DIY type of person, or family, you could possibly build your own tiny house with plans such as these.

Tiny house or not, your initial space needs to include a kitchen. Since this is typically the most expensive space to build, it makes sense to build it with future expansion in mind. For example, if your initial building is quite small, the original space eventually becomes the kitchen and dining area with a guest bathroom. To me, the easiest way to do this is to have a series of smaller spaces connected by corridors or hallways, possibly surrounding a courtyard, parking, or work area.

As your family or group grows and/or you have more money to spend, the original small Get Out of Dodge shelter grows, but in an orderly and pre-planned fashion.

I found a floor plan in the book Compact Cabins that has another great idea for connecting two parts of a home: build a greenhouse or enclosed patio in the space between them. Depending on need, this space could be used as a mini-greenhouse, storage, or living space. I can easily imagine a space near the garage with pegboard walls covered in tools, another filled with books and homeschooling materials, and yet another filled with herbs and veggies.

Storage is always an issue, so another option would be to start off with a garage with a bathroom and plenty of storage space. (You may not feel this way, but I want a bathroom ASAP!) Later, a garage bathroom makes it possible to have dirty kids, dog, etc. clean off before coming into the main house, but initially, the large garage provides perfectly suitable living quarters. By starting with a garage, you’ll have covered and secured storage space right away.

If you are thinking of building it yourself, Cabins: A Guide to Building Your Own Nature Retreat by David Stiles, describes how to build your own cabin in the woods. It starts with site preparation and goes all the way through furniture selection.


Whether you are looking primarily for a weekend getaway or a full-on bug-out location, landscaping needs to be part of your planning. A portion of the land will need to be cleared, a basement may need to be dug, a driveway and parking created, and open space around your building(s) determined.

Even if you want to keep your lot heavily forested, there still needs to be some space around your buildings. If trees are too close, the roots can damage foundations, limbs are more likely to drop onto the roof or otherwise damage the building, and critters can easily use them as a pathway onto and into your (now their) home. In areas prone to fire, this should also be large enough to provide a firebreak.

Another consideration, is that you will need a rather large area for growing food. If your land is heavily forested, the shade will become a problem. It will also make any type of solar cooking more difficult!

Most people will simply plant pretty (but low-maintenance) flowers, bushes, and trees because that’s what they are used to doing. As a prepper, odds are that you will want your landscaping to do more work for you. Herbs, vegetables, berry bushes, nut trees, and fruit trees come to mind, but landscaping can also be done so it camouflages your property and provides protection. Many herbs and flowers, including marigolds, provide protection from insects. Anything with thorns is a deterrent for human pests trying to break in.

There are many good books on the topic, but Rick Austin’s are particularly good. Secret Garden of Survival: How to Grow a Camouflaged Food Forest tells you how to design an edible garden that won’t be noticed by passers-by and that requires minimal human involvement, which is critical for a rarely-used getaway. Secret Greenhouse of Survival: How to Build the Ultimate Homestead & Prepper Greenhouse is about building a greenhouse that doesn’t look like a greenhouse. Because it is designed to retain heat and help warm the house overall, the ideas are good even if you aren’t interested in a greenhouse.

Bug out location inspirations

Tiny houses often have little hidden compartments. If you are building a property that won’t be your primary home, at least for now, having some more burglar-resistant (hidden) spaces makes sense. Even if you don’t plan on leaving a lot of belongings there, it’s still a good idea. For example, my family has lots of DVDs that we will copy onto a portable drive. Having that stolen would be irritating, and a hidey-hole would conceal it perfectly!

If your location will be hot in the summer and cold in the winter, you may want to add a root or other cellar to store your temperature-sensitive medicine, electronics, and food, including basic canned goods. Take precautions in case a pipe freezes and bursts as well.

Personally, I want to build a series of smaller buildings with corridors or breezeways connecting them. This way, we can build one small building, then add onto it as money allows and as our kids grow older. Ideally, these will eventually surround a central courtyard. This offers a lot of great flexibility and options in terms of both privacy and security. Your courtyard can be as open, or as hidden, from the outside as you choose.

Spanish haciendas, with their interior courtyards, are a great example of this kind of style. They are generally one continuous building but may have several different levels, so it’s still worth taking a look. While Spanish hacienda style isn’t my first choice, it does have some great ideas for easy maintenance, comfort in the heat, and indoor-outdoor living.

The interiors of yachts and private cars for trains are my favorite source of inspiration for space-saving interiors. The people who design these are masters at that! For example, they routinely have a small shelf above the bathroom door to hold extra toilet paper and special dish racks to keep dishes safe on bumpy rails/seas. (This also keeps dishes safe in smaller earthquakes.) Small-scale appliances designed for use in boats can be used in a tiny house as well.

The Japanese are also renowned for their small-space designs. The home on the cover of The Very Small House has a raised floor for the kitchen. Naturally, there are segments that open to access storage under the entire kitchen floor.

Finally, Ikea. It’s a great source of ingenious space-saving furnishings.

Actually designing it

Unless you are an architect (I’m not), you should work with a professional to turn your dreams and ideas into a buildable reality. They will be able to help you design your preppers hideaway in stages, adding additional rooms and sections, as time and finances permit. Will it be costly to hire an expert? Yes, but not nearly as costly as not having a professional make sure it’s right. Even small mistakes, such as forgetting to include a septic pipe, can be incredibly costly to fix. A professional builder should spot and fix at least the most obvious design mistakes, but that will take more of their time. You’ll end up paying at one end or the other!

So why bother going through all this process? An architect is a professional, but not a mind-reader. The more clearly you can articulate what you want, the easier (and possibly more fun) their job will be. If you tell them, “I want a 1000 square foot house with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms”, then you might as well look through a book of pre-made plans and pick one out. You have given them nothing to work with. If you say, “We want a lake house that brings to mind The Great Gatsby with a lot of yacht-inspired details, passive heating and cooling, and the lot perked for 3 bedrooms”, they have a real direction to go with their design. Creating a Pinterest board is a great way to show an architect or designer what you love  (or hate).

I’m excited to design and build a bug out location for my family – even if we only need to “hide away” every so often from the routine drudgery of school and work!


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