All Posts by Chloe

* Sanitation in the City: What To Do When the Toilet Won’t Flush

Did you ever stop to put some thought into the flushing power of your toilet?

It’s one of those things we in modern society take for granted. We use the restroom, then we flush, wash our hands, and forget it.

But during extreme scenarios, this isn’t always so easy. When researching my book, The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide, I spent a lot of time reading about water, sanitation, and waterborne illness. These issues are all closely linked, and it’s vital to find solutions.

If you’re on a septic system, you have a safe place for your waste to go during most types of disasters, assuming you have additional water on hand for flushing.

But, in the city, on a public sewer system, there exists the possibility that a situation could arise during which flushing is not an option. Do you remember during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy when residents of high-rise apartment buildings couldn’t flush because the city water system was down?  There were numerous reports that people were so desperate that they were defecating in the hallways.  They quoted a resident of a senior apartment complex, Anna Hay, who said, “They can’t go upstairs to go to the bathrooms. Where are they going to go? They’re walking all around for a place to go. There’s nowhere to go in this area.” (source)

With some very small and inexpensive preparations, it doesn’t have to come down to that. Just having a portable toilet is not enough for good hygiene and safety. If you live in an urban area, going outside to do your business may not an option. You have to figure out a way to take care of this, indoors, while maintaining the health of your environment.

As a former city prepper, I’ve been through a few situations during which our toilets were inoperable due to a local disaster. Luckily, I had the supplies on hand to create a kitty litter box for people, so my children and I were able to stay in the safety of our home without risking illness due to poor sanitation.

How to Make a Kitty Litter Potty

Here’s all you need to make a litter box for people:

  • Kitty Litter (For this purpose, get a scented one)
  • Extremely heavy garbage bags (Get the kind that contractors use and do NOT skimp on the garbage bags, whatever you do)
  • Your toilet or this “luggable loo” (which is awesome for only $20)

Hopefully, you realized you weren’t going to be able to flush before using your toilet. If there is waste sitting in your toilet, you’re going to need to get rid of it. Not fun, I know, but if it sits there for several days, it’s going to smell terrible, even with the lid down. To get rid of it, you’ll need to have a bag set up with a bit of kitty litter in it. Then, use a cheap dollar store utensil like a slotted spoon to fish out the poop. Try not to hurl, because that’s just something else you’ll have to dispose of. Get rid of the slotted spoon because you will NEVER want to stir beans with that one again. You’d have flashbacks.

Now that this is out of the way, you have two options. You can line your toilet and continue to use it following the directions below, or you can switch to the luggable loo, which is basically just a 5-gallon bucket equipped with a toilet seat and a lid. The process is the same for either one.

If you’re using your toilet, turn the water off to the tank. (The knob for this should be on the wall at the back of it.)

Line the toilet with a garbage bag. Let me repeat: DO NOT GO CHEAP ON THE GARBAGE BAGS!  You want to use the best ones you can get your hands on. The ones for contractors are designed to carry very heavy loads. (There’s a horrible pun that I’m resisting making right now.)  The last thing you want is for a bag full of human waste to break as you are carrying it out of your house.  Put the bag in the bowl, then pull the top of the bag down over the edges of the toilet. Put the seat down to hold the bag into place.

If you’re using the Loo, line it with a garbage bag.  Same as above, put the bag into the bucket, then pull the top edges down the side of the bucket. Put the seat down to hold the bag into place.

From here, the steps are the same.

Put a handful of kitty litter into the bottom of the bag to start off. Although I don’t usually like scented products, this is an extreme scenario. Trust me, you want scent. Put the bucket of kitty litter beside the toilet and put a scoop in it (about a 1 cup scoop)

Now you can use the bathroom. When someone has to go, they should do their business then toss a little bit of kitty litter on top of it.  Don’t go crazy – just a cup of litter should do the trick. Remember, it’s designed to cover the smell of poop. Put the lid down on the toilet or loo after you use it.

Don’t let it get too heavy before taking it outside.  For the love of all things cute and fluffy, watch the weight of your human litter. It will soak up urine and become heavy clumps of clay. (Anyone who has ever changed a litter box knows how heavy it can get.)  Remove the bag and discard it outside before it becomes a) too heavy to handle or b) heavy enough to cause the bag to break. If you’re using good quality garbage bags, “a” is more likely than “b”.  Most likely, you’ll need to take the bag out once per day. It could be more if you have a large family or if someone is ill and making abundant use of the potty.

This is obviously not a solution for a very long-term situation, because you would have to dispose of the bags of poop. However, in a shorter term scenario, you should be able to load the bags into a garbage can outside and deal with them when services are restored.

Be certain to wash your hands well after dealing with human waste. Although I’m not usually a fan of hand sanitizer, in these kinds of situations, I strongly suggest the use of it. Your family could become extremely ill if good hand hygiene and waste management techniques are not practiced.

Recommended products:

luggable loo

Luggable Loo: About $20

Luggable Loo

contractor bags

Extremely Heavy Duty Garbage Bags

Contractor Garbage Bags

Preppers water survival guide

The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource

Bloom Where You’re Planted: Prepping to Survive Where You Are Right Now

Have you ever heard anyone utter some variation of one of these comments?

“I’m going to start prepping as soon as I can move.”

“I can’t prepare because I live in a tiny apartment.”

“Well, once we are able to get moved to our farm in two years I’ll start prepping hardcore.”

“I’m saving the money for moving instead of using it for preps.”

“There’s no point in prepping here because if the SHTF I’ll be dead.”

Maybe you didn’t overhear someone else saying it. Maybe you said it yourself. One of the most common excuses that people use for prepper procrastination is the unsuitability of where they currently live.

This is the kind of thinking that will get people killed.

While your current situation may be less than ideal, you have to remember that very few locations are actually perfect for prepping. Nearly anywhere you live will be subject to some type of extreme weather, be it crippling cold, blazing heat, drought, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Chemical spills can taint water supplies anywhere. Riots and civil unrest can occur outside of the big city.

The point is, to borrow an old saying, you just have to bloom where you’re planted.

There are many things you can do to create a viable preparedness plan wherever you happen to live.  Apartment dwellers at the top of a city high rise, folks in the middle of the desert, those in a beachfront condo, and people in HOA-ruled suburban lots all have to examine their situations, figure out their pros and cons, and work towards resolving what they can.  With some pre-planning, there is a lot you can overcome if you have the right mindset.  I suspect there are just as many (and probably far more) preppers living in the ‘burbs than there are living in perfect rural locations, with a lake, 10 acres of cultivated farmland, and an off-grid house.

Stop waiting until you move to the perfect location. Make preparations for the situation you have, not the situation you want.

Moving isn’t always an option.

One of the most ridiculous quasi-solutions you will hear is this one:  “Oh, you should just move.”

Preparedness forums are rife with this off the cuff advice from people who haven’t thought it through.  And if you’re one of the people giving that so-called advice, you need to consider how completely impractical this is.

There is no “just” when it relates to packing up everything you own; abandoning job, family, and friends; and relocating like money is no object.

“Just” picking up and moving isn’t that easy.  People have obligations and ties that some Joe-Blow on the internet shouting out advice can’t even begin to understand.  Some in the prepping community have a complete disconnect with the realities of everyday people.  There are reasons like:

  • Not enough money to leave
  • A good job (increasingly hard to come by these days)
  • Family members in the area that you don’t want to abandon
  • No work opportunities where you want to go
  • Custody orders that require you to remain in a certain area
  • A spouse who is not on board
  • A house that won’t sell or with an upside-down mortgage

The list goes on and on.  There are as many reasons to remain in one place as there are people living in cities.  While we could sit here and logically refute each and every reason a person has chosen to remain, it is only philosophical. It still doesn’t address the practical reasons that people have for staying put.  Sometimes people who are interested in preparedness  are alienated when it seems that everything is black and white or like their personal decisions are somehow less valid than the decisions of some random person on the internet.

So, if you are interested in getting prepared but feel your current situation is hopeless, ignore the naysayers and forum curmudgeons. Take your current situation, warts and all, and work with it.  This doesn’t mean that you should abandon your plans for a better location sometime in the future if such a move is warranted.  But it means that you shouldn’t put off important preparedness steps until after that move is made.

Assess Your Situation

You don’t know where to go if you don’t know where you are.  The first and most vital step is an honest assessment of your current situation.  The situation that you have right now, this very minute, not the one you will have in a month or in a year. Assess your needs regarding the following:

  • Water
  • Sanitation
  • Food/Cooking
  • Heating
  • Security
  • Light
  • Long-term sustainability

Once you know exactly where you are with these things, you can begin to look for solutions that will work for you, today.  Dig in and make a plan
for the survival of your family.

Survival in a Population Dense Area

A little note to those who say, “It doesn’t matter, I’m in midtown Manhattan. I’ll die anyway.”

No, you won’t.  You won’t be that lucky. You will be absolutely thoroughly miserable, breathing foul unhealthy air.  You’ll be thirsty enough to drink unsanitary water, which will cause bowel issues to worsen problem #1.  You’ll be hungry, but not hungry enough that you die of starvation.  You will be at the mercy of thugs better armed than you.  You won’t die, not right away, and neither will your children.  You will live like I just described, and it will be horrible.  Look at the residents of Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy.  They didn’t die but they were absolutely miserable, they were terrified, they were eating from dumpsters,  and much of it could have been avoided with some basic preparedness.

Before I relocated to the boondocks, I lived in a very metropolitan area.  I was lucky: I had 1/10th of an acre.  I did everything I could come up with to make my little house as sustainable as possible should the poop hit the oscillating device before I could get out.  A disaster in the city IS survivable.

I planted every inch of the backyard (and some of the front) and grew enough food that the home-canned and frozen produce lasted until Christmas.  I stockpiled groceries.  I had plywood cut and pre-drilled to cover each window of the house. I had printed official looking quarantine signs to hang on the door of my house as a deterrent should the city fall into civil unrest. I put together a little outdoor fireplace in the backyard behind my fence.  I got  a big dog.  I collected rainwater from downspouts at each corner of the house.  I purchased an antique oil heater in good working order, and stockpiled heating oil.  I had enough seeds to plant for the next 4 years.  I located nearby sources of water, wood, and nuts.  I got a wagon for hauling stuff if the transportation system was down.

In short, I did everything possible to make the best of a potentially terrible location.  It wasn’t perfect, but we were determined to resolve as many of the concerns as possible.

The Priorities

The major challenges that you face in an SHTF situation are the same no matter where you are.  Of course, the issues will vary from one situation to another – these lists aren’t meant to be comprehensive.  This is a starting point to get your wheels turning, so that you can figure out how you and your family can best survive, exactly where you’re planted right now.

Water

Water preparedness should be at the very top of your list.  You can only survive for 3 days without water (and you’ll be weak and suffering way before that). A water preparedness plan is essential for survival, even in a short-term scenario. Here are a few ways you can prep for a water emergency, no matter where you live:

  • Store a  month supply of drinking water (plan on a gallon per day, per person and pet)
  • Acquire a non-electric water filtration system (with spare filters)
  • Scope out local water sources that are within walking distance
  • Stock up on buckets and be prepared to transport them with a sled, wagon, or wheelbarrow (this depends on the season and climate).
  • If you have a house instead of an apartment, set up a water catchment system
  • Stock up on water purification supplies (bleach, pool shock, tablets)
  • Figure out a system for catching gray water to be reused for flushing, washing, etc.

Sanitation

Figure out how you will go to the bathroom in the event that the public sewer system goes down. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New York, it was reported that people were defecating and urinating in the hallways of apartment buildings once the sewer system stopped working.  Lack of sanitation is not only unpleasant, but it spreads disease. Figure out ahead of time if any of these suggestions will work in your situation, and then stock up on the required supplies:

  • Get a porta potty – there are camping ones that will hold several days worth of sewage. (Caveat: You have to have a safe place to empty this should the disaster persist.)
  • Make a human litter box using 5-gallon buckets lined with heavy duty trash bags (get the kind designed for contractors).  Scoop in a small amount of kitty litter each time you use it. Don’t let it get too heavy to carry outside – you don’t want the bag to rip and spill several days worth of human waste in your home.
  • Stock up on water for flushing if you have a septic system
  • Learn how to shut off the main valve so that city sewage cannot back up into your house or apartment
  • If you have enough outdoor space, keep on hand the supplies to build an outhouse. (Don’t forget the lime!)
  • Keep these extra personal sanitation supplies on hand: baby wipes, antibacterial wipes (for cleaning food preparation areas), white vinegar, bleach,  hand sanitizer, extra toilet paper.

Food/Cooking

Not only should you stock up on food, but you need to consider how you’ll cook it. Most preppers have a food supply, but in a down-grid situation, food that takes 4 hours to cook will use a prohibitive amount of fuel. If you’re new at this, you might not yet have a food supply. Here are some considerations:

  • Have a minimum of 1 month of food for each family member and pet.
  • Figure out some alternative cooking methods for indoors: a fondue pot,  a woodstove or fireplace, or a gas kitchen stove
  • If you have outdoor space, look at cooking methods like a barbecue (beware of tantalizing smells and hungry neighbors), an outdoor fireplace or firepit, a rocket stove, or a sun oven
  • Be sure to keep abundant fuel for your chosen cooking method.
  • Stock up on foods that don’t require cooking or heating.

Heating

If you live in a place with cold winters, a secondary heat source should be a priority. Of course, if you rent or live in a high-rise condo, installing a woodstove is unlikely to be a viable solution. The cold can kill, so this is a necessary part of your preparedness plan. Consider some of these options for a secondary heat source:

  • Use your wood stove or fireplace (if you’re lucky, your house is already equipped with your secondary source!)
  • Acquire a personal heating unit.  Look for one of the following: an oil heater, kerosene heater, or propane heater (We have this propane heater)

If you absolutely can’t get ahold of a secondary heating system, prepare with non-tech ideas like:

  • Arctic sleeping bags
  • Winter clothes and accessories
  • Covers for windows
  • Segregating one room to heat
  • Setting up a tent in the warmest room to combine body heat

Security

In a disaster situation, the risk of potentially violent civil unrest always goes up.  Used a two-fold approach: try to avoid conflict by keeping a low profile, but be ready to deal with it if it can’t be avoided.

Some ideas:

  • Have firearms and know how to use them. (Here’s why I believe you MUST be armed.)
  • Secure heavy doors with reinforced frames.plywood or gridwork to cover the windows, keeping lights off or low, thorny plants around the perimeter of your house and yard, hardening access points, a big dog, an alarm system, and visual deterrents such as warning signs and quarantine signs.
  • Cut plywood or gridwork to cover the windows, making them difficult to breach.
  • Keep the lights off or low.
  • Nurture some thorny plants around the perimeter of your house and yard.
  • Harden the access points to your home.
  • A dog can serve as both a warning system and a deterrent
  • Install an alarm system
  • Use visual deterrents such as warning signs or quarantine signs.
  • Create a safe room to which vulnerable family members can retreat. (You can do this, even in an apartment or rental home.)

Light

Don’t underestimate the value of light in a dark world.  Most city dwellers don’t consider exactly how dark the night can be without streetlights and lights from houses.  Emotionally, having a bit of light can help soothe frazzled children (or adults) and help the night seem a little less scary.  Use caution that your light cannot be seen from the outside.  Like moths to a flame, people will be drawn to the only brightly lit house on the street.  Keep some of the following sources on hand.

  • Solar garden lights
  • Candles
  • Kerosene or oil lamps (and extra fuel)
  • Flashlights (and extra batteries)
  • Headlamps
  • Battery operated LED lights,
  • Solar camping lanterns
  • Glow sticks for children

 Increase Your Personal Sustainability

Of course, all of the above are solutions for a short-term situation. There’s always the possibility that a crisis could persist for a longer period of time. You should include in your plans as many ways as possible to be personally sustainable. This might include some of the following strategies:

  • Set up a permanent water catchment system at your home.
  • Grow food on every possible space available: balconies, windowsills, courtyards, backyards, front yards, flower beds.
  • Consider raising some micro livestock: rabbits and chickens take up very little space and can be raised in most backyards. If your city has an ordinance against backyard chickens, rabbits are quiet and multiply…well…like rabbits.
  • Learn to make things from scratch and practice your sustainable skills rather than relying on storebought goods.

This website and this one both have great solutions for preparing in apartments and small spaces.  Here is an excellent series about how to homestead when you rent.

Make a Plan

So, if you’re reading this and you’ve been putting off preparedness due to your location, what’s your plan?

If you’ve been feeling disheartened by all the folks grimly telling you that your home is a death trap, what can you do over the weekend to improve your chances, right where you are?

And if you are fortunate enough to be in an ideal location, please share your ideas about overcoming some of these difficulties in a less than perfect place on the map. As a community, we can all help one another solve problems that could otherwise seem insurmountable.

Why You Need to Become More Self-Reliant NOW, No Matter Where You Live

Recently, I spoke with Rory from The Daily Coin about the potential for economic collapse and why we need to pay attention to what’s going on in Venezuela. We discussed how to prepare for it, why everyone needs to work on becoming more self-reliant, and some actionable steps that you can take.

The situation in the US right now is very comparable to the early stages of the  Venezuelan collapse. It’s essential to watch Venezuela and treat it as a cautionary tale because the same signs are right in front of us.  How would you handle rationed food, rationed electricity, and mandatory cuts of work hours? What would you do if food was no longer available at the grocery store?

Even city dwellers in Venezuela have been told they need to grow their own food if they want to eat. If food is rationed, you can bet that the supplies will be meager. You’re going to want to supplement that if your family is to remain healthy.

 

How to Create a Safe Room in Your House or Apartment

The homes of many rich, famous people have a secret hidden within them.  Somewhere, in the depths of the home, is a secure room to which the residents can retreat in the event of a home invasion or violent intruder.  A safe room was carved into the original house plan, and many of these are state of the art.  Features might include a bank of monitors for viewing what’s going on outside the room, a small kitchenette, comfortable furnishings, fresh air venting, and a hardened communications system.  These expertly designed rooms can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you don’t have to be a movie star or a multi-millionaire to build your own version of a safe room. Even the most humble home or apartment can have on a place to which vulnerable family members can retreat if they are under threat.

Why should you have a safe room?

Some folks may read this and think to themselves, “I don’t need a safe room when I have my 12 gauge shotgun and my 9 mm. That’s just running away.”

I completely understand your point. Most of the people who read prepping and survival sites are not of a “retreat” mentality.  But, if a gang of 12 thugs (possibly wearing badges) kicks down your door, how likely are you to shoot every single one of them before someone gets off a lucky shot and hits you?  Hint: If you aren’t tactically trained, the likelihood of this is pretty slim.

Here’s another reason: do you have vulnerable family members in the house? Children? A spouse or elderly relative? Someone who just isn’t a fighter?  Even if you intend to engage, you may have people in the home who are not willing or able to do so, and it will be better for you if they are safely out of the way.

A safe room is honestly just another prep. It doesn’t mean you are cowardly. It means you are ready for a variety of scenarios and that the safety of your family is paramount.  It is a layer of protection that allows vulnerable people to retreat until help arrives.

Here’s a perk: another great use for your safe room is that you can stash your valuables there. Most break-ins occur when you aren’t home.  If your valuables are locked away, a random tweaker searching for things to sell to support his habit is not going to be able to access your important papers, your fine jewelry, your firearms, or your most prized possessions.

Retreating to your safe room

When you retreat to your safe room, you have one goal: to end any possibility of interaction with an unwelcome person. Please don’t call it a panic room. That indicates that you are a scared victim.  You are retreating to a safer location because you don’t intend to be a victim. In a military gun battle, do soldiers move behind sandbags or into trenches? Of course. They want to limit the likelihood of being shot or otherwise injured. You may or may not be a trained soldier, but your goal is the same. It is to avoid being injured by a person who may be intent on injuring you.

A safe room is not a bunker. You probably aren’t going to be holed up in there for days during a stand-off. It is a point of retreat until help arrives.

The #1 rule of the safe room: DO NOT LEAVE IT UNTIL YOU ARE SAFE AND YOUR HOME HAS BEEN CLEARED. NOT FOR ANY REASON. A criminal will threaten, cajole, manipulate, and bully to try to make you come out. DON’T DO IT.

We’ve often talked about the importance of having a plan (as well as a few back-up plans) and running practice drills. A safe room is no different. All family members that are physically able should be able to quickly access the room. If you have several people in your household, you might want to put a keypad access on the door to the safe room so that whoever has retreated first is safely locked in without worrying about admitting the other family members.

Map out as many different ways as possible to get to the safe room from various locations in the house. This is a great time to get the kids involved, because children are explorers by nature. They may know routes that you had never even considered.  Practice, practice, practice.  Run timed drills and make a game out of how quickly all family members can get to the safe room and get the door secured.

Of course, the success of moving quickly to your safe room rests upon being alerted that someone is in your home.  You should have security measures in place that let you know that the home has been breached:

  • A dog
  • Inexpensive battery operated alarms on all entry points
  • A high quality monitored alarm system
  • A wireless alarm system that sounds an alarm and automatically calls for assistance
  • Outdoor sensors that will alert you when someone comes through your gate or approaches your home. (Note: If you’re like us and you live somewhere with a lot of wildlife, this option may not work well for you.)

The more of these early warnings you have, the better off you’ll be. Someone might get through one of the alarms, but how likely are they to get through 3 or 4 without you being alerted?

Where should your safe room be?

If you are building a new home from the ground up, you have the unique opportunity to have this special room added to the plans. In this case, your far less limited by the existing design and layout of the house. In fact, there are companies whose sole purpose is designing safe rooms for homes and businesses.  One of the most reputable, Gaffco, offers consultations, plans, and even construction of these rooms. Additionally, they offer “pods” that were originally designed for the US military, which can be incorporated into the design of your home or connected to the home via a breezeway.  These options are top of the line, and may be out of the affordable price range for the average family.

Most of us aren’t in that building process though, so we need to adapt part of our living space to make a safe room.   Some people adapt a large walk-in closet or pantry, while others refurbish a room in their home. DuPont offers a “Stormroom” that is reinforced with Kevlar and is epoxied to your garage floor. It’s designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, so it’s a good be that it will also withstand your average home invasion.  These start at $6000 for the smallest size.

Here are some important qualities:

  • No windows to the outside
  • Ventilation
  • Thick/reinforced walls
  • Water and a bathroom
  • Enough space for the number of people likely to shelter there
  • Ease of accessibility for the family from multiple locations in the house

Of course, finding all of these things, sitting there in one room, waiting for you to reinforce the door may not be likely so you have to work with what you’ve got.

Some good options are:

  • Walk-in closet
  • Master bedroom with attached bath
  • Basement family room
  • Storage room
  • Wine cellar (Not as outrageous as it sounds – surprisingly the humble little 2 bedroom Victorian cottage we used to live in had one)
  • Interior den with no windows
  • Inside an attached garage

If you intend to go full out and reinforce the walls, it will be less expensive to convert the smallest area that will house the required number of family members.

It is of vital importance to locate the safe room in a place that can be quicky and easily accessed by family members. If you have to run past the entry through which intruders just burst, you probably aren’t going to make it to the safe room. Remember, the most ideal safe room situation is one in which the criminal has no idea that you were home or, if he knows you’re home, has no idea where you may have gone.

One important thing to remember is that your safe room doesn’t have to only be a safe room. The best use of space would have the room used regularly for other purposes.  Most of the modifications you’ll make don’t have to be obvious. For example, if you’re reinforcing the walls, you can drywall over your reinforcements, paint the wall a happy color, and carry on with your life.  An attractive exterior type door can be painted to match the other interior doors in your home.  Even if you live in an apartment or condo, you can make some subtle changes to create a safe place to retreat.

The key here is to do the best you can with your resources and the space you have available. Let’s talk about the most important modifications.

The Door

The very first line of defense is the door you will slam behind you.  For many of us, this is where the majority of the money will be spent.

Forget about flimsy interior doors.  Most of them are hollow core and your average everyday axe wielding murderer or gangbanger intent on mayhem can get through them by kicking or punching through. Go to Home Depot and get yourself the very best exterior steel slab door that you can afford.  If your safe room is an ordinary room in the house, look for a door that can be painted to blend in with the other doors in the house. There’s no sense making it obvious that this room is special.

There’s no point in having a great door in a cruddy door frame. Your door is only as solid as the frame that holds it, so replace your standard interior door frame with reinforced steel. Get the absolute best quality you can afford, then paint it to match the rest of the door frames in your home.  Hang your door so it swings inward. Then you can add extra layers of security to the door.

You want to add more locks than just the doorknob type. For your primary lock, choose a heavy duty reinforced deadbolt system. You can also add a jimmy-proof security lock like this one for an added deterrent, but this should NOT be your primary lock.  You can add a door bar, the hardware for which would be fairly unobtrusive when the bar is not across it.  If you make all of these changes, NO ONE is getting through that door by kicking it in.

The Windows

Windows are a definite weak point in a safe room. If you are using a room that is also used for other purposes (like a master bedroom) you probably have them.  Don’t despair – they too can be reinforced.

The biggest threat with a window, of course, is that the glass will easily break, allowing someone to either get in the room or shoot people who are in the room.

You can go all out and replace the window in that room with a bulletproof security window.  Although they are very expensive, you may decide it’s worthwhile since it’s just for one room. If this is out of your price range, you can purchase ballistic film and apply it to your existing window.  This video shows you how much a high quality ballistic film will withstand.  If you’re doing this, do NOT skimp on quality.

If you have windows, no matter how resistant they are to impact, it’s a good idea to have curtains too.  You don’t want the aggressor standing out there watching you or casing your retreat.  Not only would that be mentally rattling, they just might figure out a way to breach your safe room or counteract your safety plan, like secondary communications.  They do not need to know how many people are in the safe room, what equipment and supplies you have, or what you’re doing in there.  Get heavy curtains and make sure they’re completely closed with no gaps whatsoever.

The Walls

This is where the serious expense comes in.  A round from a 9mm handgun can easily penetrate the walls of the average home. Dry wall does NOT stop bullets, not even from a weaker caliber gun. That’s why one of the most important rules of gun safety is to not only know your target, but what is beyond your target.  If your walls aren’t sturdy enough to withstand bullets, then you’ve basically just put your family into a box to be shot more easily.

One way to lessen the expense of this is to choose a room in the basement. If you build your retreat into a corner, then you have two exterior walls that are concrete surrounded by dirt – virtually unbreachable.  Then you only have two walls to worry about.  If you are in an apartment, the laws in most states insist that walls separating two apartments must be fire resistant. Therefore, the wall between your apartment and the next could be made of cement, providing one wall of safety.

Free plans for a variety of safe rooms are offered by the Department of Homeland Security. As well, FEMA offers free plans for a safe room that is designed to withstand natural disasters. This could be easily adapted for home security purposes too.

There are a few different ways to reinforce the walls of your safe room. Some of the following options may be out of your price range or skill level, and some may not be practical for your living situation.

  • Armored steel panels: One of the best ways to convert an existing room into a ballistic haven is by adding armored steel panels to the walls. You can add drywall over the panels and no one will even realize they are there. These are heavy and use on upper floors could damage the integrity of your structure. They’re expensive, with a bottom end price of about $400 for a 4×8 panel, but depending on the layout of the room, they may not be needed on every wall.
  • Kevlar: These resistant walls are made out of a fiberglass type material.  This is a much lighter weight alternative and can be used in places that can’t hold up to the addition of heavy steel or concrete. You can learn more about Kevlar construction from Total Security Solutions.
  • Poured concrete:  This MUST be used on a ground floor or in a basement because of the extreme weight.  This is a far less expensive option and can withstand most threats.
  • Sand:  This is another heavy weight option, but it can be far less expensive than other options, particularly if you live in an area with abundant sand.  A 12 inch thick barricade of sand can protect against many different ballistic threats. In a basement room, a sand-packed wall in between the exterior of the room and interior drywall can provide substantial protection at a lower price. The Prepper Journal has an interesting article on using sandbags to stop bullets. The ideas could potentially be adapted to the interior of your home.  For example, you could stack sandbags halfway up a wall and then build a lightweight wall over the sandbags – the inhabitants of the room would need to shelter behind the sandbags to remain safe.

Temporary options: For the average family, many of these solutions can be out of reach.  If you rent, you probably won’t want to do major construction, either. It’s best to choose a room that is already as sturdy as possible and then reinforce the weak points. Although these options aren’t anywhere near as resistant as the ones above, they are better than nothing.

  • Have a heavy duty item you can shelter behind, like a steel desk or deep freezer.
  • Line your walls with heavy furniture, like loaded bookcases with real wood backs, not flimsy particle board.
  • Line your walls with metal filing cabinets, fill the drawers with anything, and stay low.

The Camouflaged Safe Room

Even though safe rooms aren’t really a “fun” topic, a secret hidden safe room is the kind of thing that stirs the imagination.  After all, how many awesome movies from your youth began with the magical discovery of a stairway or room hidden behind a bookcase or a mysterious doorway at the back of the closet?

The success of a camouflaged safe room rests on the residents of the home quickly moving into hiding without the intruders even knowing that they are home. This is the best case scenario for an event during which you need to retreat to a safe room.

You don’t have to have a mysterious Victorian mansion to have a hidden safe room. Amazon sells a hidden door hinge system that you can use to create a bookcase door. (You can also buy plans for installing a bookcase door or even an entire bookcase door kit.) Other options might include a trap door in the floor hidden under an attached throw rug or a discreet door at the back of a closet behind all the clothing.

Don’t rely strictly on the secret entry for your security. It should be followed up by the reinforcements described above, in the event that the intruders discover you’ve gotten away.

Communications

As was discussed in the introduction, a safe room is simply a retreat. If you don’t have help coming, you could remain trapped in there indefinitely, particularly if the intruders decide to wait you out.

Remember the #1 rule of the safe room? DO NOT LEAVE IT UNTIL YOU ARE SAFE AND YOUR HOME HAS BEEN CLEARED. NOT FOR ANY REASON. A criminal will threaten, cajole, manipulate, and bully to try to make you come out. DON’T DO IT.

You may not have had time to call 911 or your well-armed neighbor before sheltering in your safe room.  If that is the case, then you need to be able to summon assistance from within the safe room. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Cell phone: Make sure you have an additional charger for your cellphone that stays in the safe room.  Remember that a cell phone is not 100% reliable.  While it’s not exceptionally likely that your average home invader will jam your cell phone, it’s possible. (WikiHow explains how easily one can be made and this device jams  both cell signals and WIFI. )
  • Landline phone: Put an old-fashioned phone in your safe room. Don’t get one that relies on electricity to work. Even better, install a secondary buried line in the event that your primary line is disabled. If a criminal cuts one phone line, he generally won’t look for a secondary line.
  • Computer: Just like the secondary landline, above, consider a secondary internet access as well.  If you have Skype, you can also have an internet telephone system from which you can call for assistance, but be warned that you many not immediately reach your local 911 from a Skype phone.

Once you have 911 on the line, be sure to let them know that you are armed. (Cops hate surprises.)  If at all possible, stay on the line with the 911 operator so that you can confirm that help has arrived without opening the door of your safe room.

  • Two-way radio: If you have a trusted friend or neighbor nearby, a two way radio system is another way to summon help.
  • Ham radio:  Be warned, you need an FCC license for a ham radio.  You can learn more about the different kinds of ham radios in this article.
  • Cameras:  While cameras won’t help you summon help, they can let you know what’s going on outside your safe room.  Especially important, a camera outside the door of the room will give you some advance warning if your retreat is about to be breached.  It can let you know if help has actually arrived or if the intruders are just trying to trick you into thinking so. This system feeds into your cell phone or your computer.

Supplies

You want to have enough supplies to stay in your safe room for 24-48 hours. Since this is a safe room and not a bunker, you don’t need  year’s supply of beans and rice in there.

  • Food: Stock up on food that doesn’t require any cooking or refrigeration. (This article is about food that you’d eat during a power outage but many of the suggestions will work for your safe room supply.)
  • Water: Even if you have an attached bathroom with running water, store at least one gallon per person that is likely to be in the room.  Just in case. Because stuff happens, especially when bad guys are around.
  • Cold weather gear: In the event that your heat stops working during cold weather, stash a selection of winter coats, gloves, hats, sleeping bags, and a warm change of clothing.
  • Entertainment:  Really.  If you end up in the room for more than a couple of hours, you’ll go insane just staring at the monitors.  As well, if there are children in there with you, they’ll handle the ordeal much better with some distractions.  Keep some books, games, puzzles, DVDs, etc., in the safe room.
  • Sanitation: Ideally, you’ll have an actual bathroom as part of your safe room. If not, you’ll need a place to relieve yourself.  The best portable option is a camping toilet, which will eventually have to be emptied, but holds over 5 gallons and should last throughout any amount of time you’d be in your safe room. Also stock hand sanitizer, baby wipes, feminine hygiene supplies, and diapers, if applicable to your family.
  • Special needs items:  Remember that movie “Panic Room”, with Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart?  They were forced to leave the safe room because it wasn’t stocked with the necessary supplies for the diabetic child.  Don’t let this happen to you. Not only will you stock your safe room with food, but keep extra medication for any family members with special needs.
  • First aid supplies: Keep a full first aid kit, as well as a manual, in your safe room. If a family member was injured on the way to the room, you want to be able to provide some care for them. Particularly focus on supplies necessary for traumatic injuries.  Also, stock things like antacids, pain relievers,  and anti-diarrheal medications.
  • Emergency supplies: Always keep a fire extinguisher, goggles, and some particulate masks in your safe room.  A very determined criminal might try to force you to leave the room by starting a fire. Depending on the materials used in the construction of your room, this could be successful.  The goggles and masks aren’t perfect, but they give you a chance to launch an offensive if you do have to leave the safe room.

Defense

Here’s the bottom line: If an intruder somehow manages to breach your safe room, the time for retreat is completely over.   There’s no option left – you have to be prepared to fight like your life depends on it.  If an intruder has gone to the trouble to break through all of your defenses to get to you, your life most likely does depend on your ability to mount an aggressive defense.

Aside from your primary defense weapon (which you’re probably carrying with you), all of your other weapons should be stored in your safe room. Your extra ammunition should be stored there too.

Is every person of reasonable age in your family able to handle a weapon? If not, it’s time to sign up for classes or go to the range.

You need to have a plan in the event your defenses are breached. You don’t want any “friendly fire” injuries to occur. This plan will be different for every family based on individual skills, on available weapons, and on the set-up of your safe room.

The safe room is your final point of retreat. You and your family are like fish in a barrel, neatly corralled targets for the intruders. If someone brings the battle to you, you must be prepared, both mentally and physically.

How to Convince Loved Ones to Prep (and When to Give Up)

Lately, those who live the preparedness lifestyle have been more concerned than ever about the events going on in the world, and for many of us,  the urgency to convince loved ones to prep is at an all-time high as worries increase. The economic collapse of Venezuela, our own shaky markets and banking system, the threat of natural disasters, and worries about cyber attacks all have the potential to become life-changing catastrophes. These are the events we prep for and we clearly understand the ramifications of facing them without the necessary supplies.

And many of us have friends and family without those necessary supplies. Raise your hand if you have ever tried to convince loved ones to prep.  Yep, just as I thought. Hands everywhere.

Chances are that when you brought up the topic, your friends and family considered you anywhere on the nuts scale from “a bit eccentric” to “downright certifiable.” If you’ve ever broached the subject with them, the responses were probably one or more of the following:

“Lighten up!”

“I don’t want to sit there and think about the bad things all day long.”

“You don’t need to worry about me.”

“Live a little!”

“If the disaster is that bad, hopefully, I’ll just die in it. Who’d want to live in a world after ***fill in the disaster of your choice***”

“Hahahahahaha!!!!”

“You worry too much.”

“I’ll just come to your house.”

There’s the smug dismissal, the deer-in-headlights fear, the rolled eyes, and the outright denial that anything bad could ever happen to them. There’s the justification of “We keep a case of water in the pantry at all times” and the “I have survival skills” delusion. Most folks just don’t even want to think about it.

So. Incredibly. Frustrating.

This viewpoint, of course, makes it very difficult for you to talk with these loved ones and bring them over to the “dark side” of preparedness with you.  It’s painful to see people about whom you care, blithely going along, spending money frivolously, buying their groceries a couple of days at a time, and living in places that are totally unsustainable should disaster strike.

So, you have to try.

If you really care about the people in question, you probably feel strongly compelled to talk with them about emergency preparedness. But, how do you convince your loved ones to prep when the idea has never even crossed their minds before?

Why People Won’t Listen

First of all, it’s important to understand why your loved ones see the world through rose-colored glasses.  While they are busy casting mental health disorder epithets your way, it is actually the people who refuse to accept reality who are suffering from a psychological phenomenon called “cognitive dissonance”.

The phrase “cognitive dissonance” was coined by  Dr. Leon  Festinger in his book When Prophecy Fails, which was originally published in 1956.When two diverse values collide – the reality of a situation and the moral belief system of the person, it causes mental discomfort that for some people is quite extreme. The person must make alterations to one or the other in order to regain his mental equilibrium. According to Dr. Festinger

Dr. Festinger’s theory states that “dissonance reduction”can be achieved in one of three ways: lowering the importance of one of the discordant factors, adding consonant elements, or changing one of the dissonant factors. This bias sheds light on otherwise puzzling, irrational, and even destructive behavior.”

  • lowering the importance of one of the discordant factors
  • adding consonant elements
  • changing one of the dissonant factors

This bias sheds light on why people behave in manners that are puzzling, irrational, and even destructive.

It’s very frustrating to watch otherwise intelligent people completely avoid the acceptance of our reality.  Those deeply into cognitive dissonance are simply NOT going to come around by hearing you preach to them.  If anything, it will only drive them further away from you.  The concept of, for example, a long-term disaster like and EMP or an economic collapse followed by total social failure are incomprehensible to them.

Because of this, no matter how fervently you believe these epic events to be likely in the future, it’s best to water down the reality into manageable bites.

Breaking Them In Gently

When trying to convince loved ones to prep, it’s best to break them into the concept gently. If you go too hardcore survivalist, too doomy, or too outrageous, they’ll simply shut down, as described above, and all of your efforts will be for naught. Below, you can find a few ways to introduce the concept.

  • Point out weather-related events that have occurred nearby. Everyone has had an experience with the weather that inconvenienced them in some way. Because of this, it’s a disaster that seems more likely than something they’d consider far-fetched or overly dramatic.  You can easily provide recent examples, like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.   Other regions are prone to tornadoes, ice storms, snow storms, or earthquakes.  For those in regions where events like this occur, you can often persuade your loved ones to stock in at least a 2 week supply. Because you can give legitimate and recent examples of these occurrences, this can be a gentle introduction to preparedness.  You may be able to build on this base acceptance and begin to help your loved ones begin to extend their supplies. Note: always use mainstream sources when trying to gently nudge someone in the direction of preparedness. Those sources are familiar and to most people, thought to be more accurate and reliable.
  • Teach them how building a pantry saves money. Another great tactic is promoting the economic logic behind a well-stocked pantry.  Prices are only going up – it doesn’t take a prepper to see this.  If you can convince someone of the investment value of a food supply, sometimes you can persuade them to prep without them even realizing that is what they are doing.  Then, when that supply comes in handy during a disaster event or a personal period of economic hardship, you can gently reinforce the lesson.
  • Send them articles of interest…but don’t go overboard.  Sending gentle nudges via email is sometimes helpful, but inundating a non-prepper with preparedness advice will generally fall upon deaf ears.  Repetition of preparedness concepts without the scare tactics can help break through the normalcy bias, but it is important to limit yourself within the tolerance level of the person with whom you are communicating.  Remember, you do not want to be the Jehovah’s Witness of preparedness, knocking on the door during dinnertime while the non-prepper pretends not to be home.
  • Sometimes fiction can really get people thinking.  If your loved one is a bookworm, try giving them the gift of some good prepper fiction. You don’t have to preach to them, “This is what could happen.”  Just find a good story that you enjoyed and pass it on as such. Some of my favorites are One Second After, the A. American Survivalist series, and Max Velocity’s Patriot series.  If you’re nudging teens in the right direction, this is a list of our favorite books to inspire the preparedness mindset for young people.
  • Use movies as launching points for conversations. What could be better than prepper night at the movies? There’s nothing like a good disaster movie to get people contemplating the what-ifs. Host a movie night and invite your friends and family. Be sure that a discussion follows the movie – this can help you to learn what their thoughts are, which can aid you in your persuasive endeavors.  Here is a list of 40 survival-oriented movies that might help you devise the evening’s entertainment.
  • Buy them preparedness-related gifts.  If it’s a person you are very close to, sometimes you can set your mind at ease a little by making certain that they have the supplies that they need on hand. Buy them supplies that they can stick in a closet and forget, like buckets of emergency food. If you’re feeling really generous, add some water, a filter, and an emergency cooking method to keep them fed and hydrated, if not completely prepared. Create an emergency kit for their car, put a multitool or Sawyer Mini filter in their Christmas stockings, or give them a pocket survival guide (this is my favorite) to stash in their purse or backpack.

What If They Won’t Listen?

Unfortunately, you have to realize there isn’t a lot you can do to convince others that preparing is vital.  People have to come to their own realizations, just the way you did.  You have to accept that constantly harping on preparedness will do nothing more than to drive a wedge between you and those you love.  Sometimes, you have to know when to give up.

But that isn’t the worst of it. Remember back in the intro to this article, that casual statement that makes every prepper grit his or her teeth?

“I don’t need to prep. I’ll just come to your house.”

As a prepper, you have to make a difficult decision.  Are you going to prepare for a few extra people, adding supplies and making room for them when the SHTF?  Or are you going to go about your preparedness business quietly, embracing OPSEC and building up your supplies with only your immediate family members in mind?

Some people state that they have absolutely no compunction turning away unprepared family members when disaster strikes, because they spent years warning them to get ready.  This is a choice that you may have to make one day, and there is no “one size fits all” answer.

If you allow unprepared loved ones to come to your house, that means there are fewer supplies for your immediate family. You’ll be sharing whatever you have and it won’t stretch for as long a period of time. As well, if they are unprepared despite your best efforts, there could be other problems down the line, like wastefulness, folks who talk too much (and to the wrong people), and loved ones who just don’t grasp the importance of every decision in an emergency. What if they can’t accept the necessity for armed self-defense? This could cause a lot of discord, and even be life-threatening if the situation is dire.

On the other hand, the guilt of turning people away will be too much for some folks to handle. Many hands make lighter work, so if the family members will do their fair share or if they have special skills, then  having them at your retreat will probably be worth the division of supplies. Plus, family is family. Sometimes you have to go beyond the call of duty for those you love.

This is not something that should be decided at the spur of the moment when adrenaline is running high. To make a rational choice, it is important to discuss this among the decision-makers of your household and present a unified front, whichever conclusion you reach.

Why Preppers Need Guns: 3 Reasons Firearms Play a Vital Role in Your Defensive Plan

One of the many adages of the prepper world is, “If you can’t defend it, you don’t own it.”

If you’re new to the preparedness lifestyle, this saying basically means that all of your supplies, your stockpiles, your carefully selected buckets of food, and the time and money you spent on preparation will be for naught if you can’t protect it against those who may seek to take it from you.  This is generally accepted as a truth in the prepper community. Most of us believe that we must be prepared to defend ourselves and our property without relying on any type of “authorities” to protect us.

To me, preppers and guns go together like peas and carrots.I strongly believe that firearms are a necessary part of a home defense plan. So imagine my surprise when I got a negative response to a meme I posted shortly after the massacre in Paris.

Photo Credit

As it turns out, there are quite a few people in the lifestyle that actually do not believe in having firearms. Here are some of the comments that followed the meme, as well as comments from another discussion opened on the topic.

  • I respectfully disagree. That is what has fueled this situation already.
  • Only a coward thinks that everyone should be armed.
  • Oh. What a shame that you posted this – and I enjoyed your page. Bail!
  • I do not trust my fellow citizens to know how to safely take out a bomber without also potentially killing my loved ones! Do you want that bloodshed on your hands?

What?????????

Not everyone believes preppers need guns

(Edited to add) I wrote this article before the shootings in San Bernadino.  Despite the noisy refrain of people begging for gun control, despite that ridiculous and misleading “mass shootings map” (more on that HERE), I haven’t changed my stance one bit. In fact, it just solidifies my belief that we need to be prepared at all times to protect our families. These people were at an office Christmas party when things went down, not a place one would normally expect to need to be armed. This says to me that there are no places that are immune to danger. You have the inherent human right to protect your own life and the lives of others.

I understand not having a firearm if you live in a place where they are not available. (I spent 18 years in Canada and was unable to arm myself there.)  But when you’re blessed to be in a place with access to the tools you need to keep your family safe, it seems like just another prep to me.

But obviously not everyone feels this way. Check out this lady who was on an episode of Doomsday Preppers.

Hat tip to Erica from Living Life in Rural Iowa for the link to this video

(You can check out the entire episode here.)

The thing that I believe it’s important to remember here is that if you have stacked your supplies to the rafters but refused to plan for defending your home and family, you’ve basically just made them bait should a desperate situation arise.

Here are some reasons why preppers need to be armed.

Reason #1: Those who are desperate, unprepared, and feel entitled to be cared for

Remember Black Friday?  People climbed all over each other for cheap electronics. Fist fights erupted over vegetable steamers. People were ready to throw down and do battle for sale items.

I’d hazard a guess that folks who spend time and money fighting over electronics are not the kind of people who prep. That means that these are the people who will be hungry in a long-term disaster.  Look at those people, stampeding to get to a sale on things that they don’t actually need to survive. Their inhibitions are loosened because those around them are behaving in the same way.

You have to look at the psychology of this. People can justify pretty much anything when they or their children are starving. And I can understand that to a large degree – who could stand to watch their babies suffering?  But if someone can devolve to the above degree just to because everyone else is doing it, the chaos we saw above is only a tiny sample of what could come if people were truly hungry.

Do you really feel like you could prepare them one meal and they’d go away politely? Do you really think that reason and a polite but firm conversation will be sufficient to make them go away? It only takes one person to start the charge against you in a tense scenario, and when that happens, unless you take swift and shocking action, the others will follow, and your retreat will be overcome. Sort of like when the walkers overtook the prison after the fence got knocked down on The Walking Dead.

Reason #2: Those who are planning to take the supplies of others

But wait, there’s something even worse out there than the hungry unprepared. There are the folks who have built an entire preparedness plan around taking the things that other preppers have stored. Remember this guy from another episode of Doomsday Preppers?

If you aren’t ready for people like this, your survival retreat is a soft, easy target. These people are not nice, but desperate. Their entire survival plan hinges on taking what someone else has amassed using superior force. This yahoo (who was subsequently arrested after his appearance on Doomsday Preppers) blatantly explains his plan, and I can guarantee that he is not alone. He’s just the one dumb enough to announce it on national television.

These are the types of people who are only careful about breaking the law because they don’t want to be caught. If a situation arises in which being caught and thrown in prison is unlikely, it will be a free-for-all. Morals and ethics won’t stop them, because they don’t have any. The only thing capable of stopping people like that is people who are able and ready to defend their homes

Reason #3: Those who loot and pillage because, doggone it, they like it

Finally, there are those who simply enjoy mayhem.

Some people are just waiting for the opportunity to behave in this fashion. They enjoy destroying things and venting their anger on any person who has “more” than they do. They’d love to act like that every single day, but they don’t want to spend the rest of their lives in jail. But when a verdict gets rolled out, when a storm takes out the power, when a disaster strikes, they delight in the chance to rob, pillage, loot, and burn.  Who can forget the day before Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast, when thugs were coordinating looting rampages via Twitter?

Here’s the scene in Ferguson, Missouri. These are definitely not folks out fulfilling needs.

I remember learning about “sublimation” in a high school psychology class.

Sublimation is a defense mechanism that allows us to act out unacceptable impulses by converting these behaviors into a more acceptable form. For example, a person experiencing extreme anger might take up kickboxing as a means of venting frustration. Freud believed that sublimation was a sign of maturity that allows people to function normally in socially acceptable ways. (source)

If you believe Freud’s theory, then it’s easy to see that many people look for an excuse to revert to their true natures.  In a situation where “everyone” is doing something, they are able to cast off their normal control of their impulses without much fear of reprisal. The number of looters and thugs far outstrips the number of arrests going on in Baltimore, so there’s a very good chance that someone swept up in that mentality can go burn somebody else’s home or business and completely get away with it.

These are the people who burned down their own neighborhoods after the verdict in Ferguson. And what businesses were left untouched? The ones for which the owners stood out front, armed, to defend their property.

You owe it to your family to be ready to protect them.

What if the world as we know it ended? What if there wasn’t food in the grocery stores? What if there was no longer any such thing as EBT, for those who have made a career out of milking the system? What if the police and military finally threw their hands up in the air, gave up, and went home to protect their own families?  Who’s going to keep your family safe then?

You are.

You have to realize that at any point in time, you could find yourself on your own, without backup from 911.

Whether civil unrest is right outside your door.

Whether a group of thugs decides to invade your home to rob and/or terrorize you.

Whether the world we know goes down, via an EMP that takes out the grid,  civil war, economic collapse, or a breakdown in the national transportation network.

The only person you can rely on to protect your family is yourself.

You can stockpile until you have a decade of supplies put back, but if you can’t defend it, you don’t actually own it. You only have it because no one has bothered taking it away from you yet.  You have what you have based on the goodwill of others, who are stronger, greater in number, and better armed.

Take a long hard look at the threats you face during civil unrest, and develop a plan for protecting your retreat. Wherever you live, whatever your situation, you need to plan as though 911 does not exist. Whether riots are occurring in the streets or not, in the seconds during which the lives of your family hang in the balance, you are completely on your own.

In some situations, it won’t stop with the destruction of your property. You may have to defend your home. And for this, you MUST BE ARMED.

I’m sure I’ll receive another barrage of email wishing me and my children dead by our own guns. (It always amazes me how people who swear vehemently that they’re against violence can send me those letters that fervently hope for bloody and terrifying deaths for us.) Some people are so terrified of self-defense tools that the very idea of using one causes veritable spasms of cognitive dissonance and denial.

Those very same people will tell you that they’ve survived riots or unrest and never had to have a gun or shoot anyone.

And do you know what?

Chances are, you won’t have to unholster your weapon. But this is a plan based on pure luck and the goodwill of others. Survival favors the prepared. I do not base my preparations for my family on the hope for good luck and nice people.

Firearms are an equalizer. A small woman can defend herself from multiple large intruders with a firearm, if she’s had some training and knows how to use it properly. But put a kitchen knife in her hand against those same intruders, and her odds decrease exponentially.

You are your own first responder.

If the situation does escalate and the lives of you and your loved ones are in danger, there is no substitute for meeting force with force. You may not wish to engage, but sometimes there’s no time to escape. Sometimes there’s no place to escape to. In these situations, you won’t be able to talk your way out of it, hide from it, or throw dishes at the intruders to fight them off.

When you need help in seconds, the police are only minutes away. By the time they arrive during a collapse scenario, your family will be dead, raped, or kidnapped, and your supplies will be long gone.

If you plan to survive a scenario of civil unrest or a Mad Max society meltdown, you are going to have to accept that  preppers need guns. This doesn’t mean that you want to hurt someone. It means that you intend to keep your loved ones safe by any means necessary.

Here are a few tips to prepare a home defense plan.

Your plan has to be unique to your situation. Be sure when making your plan to take into consideration things like: the layout of your property, your family, and their skill sets, your comfort with firearms, your neighbors – the list of variables goes on and on

Here are some specifics to help you begin planning.

Know how to use your firearm. Whatever your choice of weapon, practice, practice, practice. A weapon you don’t know how to use is more dangerous than having no weapon at all.  You have to spend time at the range. It’s a must. During a stressful, frightening situation, you will be relying on muscle memory, so make sure the muscles are well trained.  I’m not a firearms instructor, so I can’t recommend “the best gun” for preppers. The guns I chose for my rural property aren’t necessarily the same ones I’d choose if I lived in Suburbia. Every situation is different, and your firearm choice should reflect that. (Here’s some advice from someone who knows a lot more about weapons than I do to help you with that decision.)

Make sure your children are familiar with the rules of gun safety. Of course, it should go without saying that you will have pre-emptively taught your children the rules of gun safety so that no horrifying accidents occur. In fact, it’s my fervent hope that any child old enough to do so has been taught to safely and effectively use a firearm themselves. Knowledge is safety.

Spend time making a plan unique to your situation. You need to prepare your battlespace and make plans for defending it. Those plans will be different based on your experience and that of people in your family or group. For example, a family of preppers in the suburbs would  most likely have a very different plan than a group of former military guys protecting a compound.

Don’t rely on 911. If the disorder is widespread, don’t depend on a call to 911 to save you – you must be prepared to save yourself.  First responders may be tied up, and in some cases, the cops are not always your friends.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some officers joined in the crime sprees, and others stomped all over the 2nd Amendment and confiscated people’s legal firearms at a time when they needed them the most.

Be armed and keep your firearm on your person.  When the door of your home is breached, you can be pretty sure the people coming in are not there to make friendly conversation over a nice cup of tea.  Make a plan to greet them with a deterring amount of force. Be sure to keep your firearm on your person during this type of situation, because there won’t be time to go get it from your gun safe. Don’t even go to the kitchen to get a snack without it. Home invasions go down in seconds, and you have to be constantly ready.

Have a safe room established for children or other vulnerable family members. If the worst happens and your home is breached, you need to have a room into which family members can escape.  This room needs to have a heavy exterior door instead of a regular hollow core interior door. There should be communications devices in the room so that the person can call for help, as well as a reliable weapon to be used in the unlikely event that the safe room is breached. The family members should be instructed not to come out of that room FOR ANY REASON until you give them the all clear or help has arrived. You can learn more about building a safe room HERE.  Focus the tips for creating a safe room in an apartment to put it together more quickly.

Plan an escape route.  If the odds are against you, devise a way to get your family to safety.  Your property is not worth your life. Be wise enough to know if you’re getting into a fight that you can’t win.

Civilization is just a veneer.

So many times, when interviewed after a disaster, people talk about being “shocked” at the behavior of others.  Their level of cognitive dissonance has lulled them into thinking that we’re safe and that we live in a civilized country.  They are unwilling to accept that civilization is only a glossy veneer, even when the evidence of that is right in front of them, aiming a gun at their faces, lighting their homes on fire, or raping their daughters.

They refuse to arm themselves and prepare for an uncivilized future.

Accept it now, and you’ll be a lot better off when the SHTF.

Do you have some specific advice for those making a home protection plan? Any thoughts on the use of firearms in that plan? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.

Lessons from Ferguson: Prepping for Civil Unrest and Martial Law

Any prepared and informed person knows that the threat isn’t always the event itself, which could be anything from a natural disaster to a rioting spree after a sporting event to an economic collapse. It’s the chaos during the aftermath of the event.

If you ever had any doubts about that statement, you need look no further than Ferguson, Missouri, when Governor Jay Nixon called in the National Guard.

Martial law officially arrived in Ferguson.

Of course, this only makes it official. The previous week showed a militarized police force driving around in tanks, wearing body armor, and brutally responding to citizens. Martial law was already there and the Constitution was already suspended.  Nixon just made it official.

This is just the icing on the chaos cupcake, however. It all started a week ago when a white police officer shot a black suspect.  Suddenly, amidst  cries of “racism”  an absolute breakdown of society occurred within 24 hours of the shooting.  People no longer governed themselves according to laws and morals.  Store owners were forced to arm themselves to protect their businesses from a mob that looted with all of the joyful abandon of a lottery winner on a shopping spree.  Cops responded, but were vastly outnumbered. Whether these officers were originally vicious individuals or whether fear of the mob mentality made them brutal, their responses were harsh and ruthless.

This article isn’t a debate on right vs. wrong. It isn’t about whether Michael Brown deserved to be shot or whether he was an innocent victim. It isn’t about the race of the looters, the cops, or the residents of Ferguson. It isn’t even about the Constitutional rights that are being ground under the heels of boots. I’m not getting into any of that.

It’s about watching and learning from the events in Ferguson, because this type of chaos could be coming to a city near you. When society breaks down, it nearly always follows a distinct path.  The main variable is how quickly the situation devolves.

The violence began around 8 p.m. and largely dissipated within a couple hours, though the police presence in the St. Louis suburb remained at war-like levels into the wee hours of the morning.

Hundreds — perhaps thousands — of protesters roamed West Florissant Avenue.

Looters prowled several blocks of the main thoroughfare, damaging businesses and shattering glass in the few storefronts that had yet remained intact.

The list of businesses on West Florissant that were looted on Sunday night included a Domino’s Pizza, a Papa John’s Pizza, an O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and a Public Storage facility.

Just west, on Chambers Road, a large group of looters trashed a small store called Dellwood Market. The store ended up on fire, according to a Facebook page called Ferguson Scanner Updates.

“I know that people are upset, but is this the justice for Mike Brown?” the distraught owner asked, according to local CBS affiliate KMOV.

A handful of protesters suffered gunshot wounds and the crowds prevented an ambulance from arriving on the scene.

A large group of people had overrun a McDonald’s on the street. Employees of the McDonald’s were forced to lock themselves in a storage room until police arrived. (source)

Here’s a synopsis of the threats during such an event and what you can do to prepare for them.

Looting

In this case, there’s nothing like a good sports analogy. “The best defense is a good offense.”

When the looting began in Ferguson, nearly every store in town was ransacked. Two of them, however were not: St. Louis Ink Tattoo Studio and County Guns.

ferguson-defend

Mac Slavo of SHTFplan wrote:

It turns out that when violent looters come face to face with people prepared to kill to defend their property, the looters tend to choose a ‘safer’ target.

The take-home lesson here is this: If the situation has broken down to the point that looters are running around carrying TVs down the street, you’d better make it very clear that you are NOT a victim and that you WILL fight back.  There are plenty of people who have been brainwashed by the media to believe that guns are bad who will be far easier pickings for those who want to steal.  Looters will select the easiest targets – not those who are clearly determined to fight back.

The best way to win a fight is to avoid getting into that fight in the first place. Secure your home and lay low, but be prepared if trouble comes to visit.

Here are some tips to make your home less of a target:

Keep all the doors and windows locked.  Secure sliding doors with a metal bar.  Consider installing decorative grid-work over a door with a large window so that it becomes difficult for someone to smash the glass and reach in to unlock the door.

Keep the curtains closed. There’s no need for people walking past to be able to see what you have or to do reconnaissance on how many people are present.

Don’t answer the door.  Many home invasions start with an innocent-seeming knock at the door to gain access to your house.

Keep pets indoors. Sometimes criminals use an animal in distress to get a homeowner to open the door for them. Sometimes people are just mean and hurt animals for “fun”.  Either way, it’s safer for your furry friends to be inside with you.

If, despite your best efforts, your property draws the attention of people with ill intent, you must be ready to defend your family and your home

Don’t rely on 911. If the disorder is widespread, don’t depend on a call to 911 to save you – you must be prepared to save yourself.  First responders may be tied up, and in some cases, the cops are not always your friends.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some officers joined in the crime sprees, and others stomped all over the 2nd Amendment and confiscated people’s legal firearms at a time when they needed them the most.

Be armed and know how to use your weapon of choice.  When the door of your home is breached, you can be pretty sure the people coming in are not there to make friendly conversation over a nice cup of tea.  Make a plan to greet them with a deterring amount of force. Whatever your choice of weapon, practice, practice, practice. A weapon you don’t know how to use is more dangerous than having no weapon at all. Here’s some advice from someone who knows a lot more about weapons than I do.

Have a safe room established for children or other vulnerable family members. If the worst happens and your home is breached, you need to have a room into which family members can escape.  This room needs to have a heavy exterior door instead of a regular hollow core interior door. There should be communications devices in the room so that the person can call for help, as well as a reliable weapon to be used in the event that the safe room is breached. The family members should be instructed not to come out of that room FOR ANY REASON until you give them the all clear or help has arrived. You can learn more about building a safe room HERE.  Focus the tips for creating a safe room in an apartment to put it together more quickly.

Plan an escape route.  If the odds are against you, devise a way to get your family to safety.  Your property is not worth your life.

It’s very important to make a defense plan well before you need one.

Violence for the sake of violence

Not every criminal frolicking through a WROL zone is there to steal. Some people want to hurt people just for the rush of power it gives them.

There is no pacifist answer to an encounter like this. If someone wants to do harm because they find it enjoyable, or because they are swept up in a mob mentality, you have to meet force with greater force.

In these situations, firearms are the great equalizer.

I can’t repeat this enough: you must practice. Frequently. If you don’t know how to use a firearm, you shouldn’t have it.  When you handle your weapon awkwardly, it’s very obvious to a person who is trying to intimidate you. Likewise, if you are so comfortable with your weapon that it looks like a natural extension of your arm, that is also very clear. It sends a message that you mean business and that you know what you’re doing. No one wants to get shot. Most thugs will search for an easier target.

Of course, it’s better still to avoid these encounters.  When your city is under siege, it’s far safer to stay home.  Don’t go to work or send the kids to school. Wait until normalcy returns to go about your business.  It isn’t worth risking your life.

Destruction of property

Of enormous concern in these situations is the destruction of property.

For some, vandalizing and destroying property is the order of the day.  Often, times of civil unrest give people of a certain mentality the excuse they need to seek vengeance against those who have “more” than they do.  Tensions erupt between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.  When this occurs, often destruction of property is the way these people choose to show their “power”.

While this starts out as purely a property crime, the situation can quickly turn violent. If someone is outside bashing the headlights of your vehicle, it isn’t a far stretch to think that they’ll bash on you if you confront them.

How to respond to this is a very individual decision, and depends to a great extent on your personal skill levels and confidence.

If you are a person who is unaccustomed to physical confrontations, you may be better off staying inside and calling your insurance company after the fact. No possession is worth your life or the lives of your family.

Alternatively, in some situations, it won’t stop with the destruction of your property. You may have to defend your home. Fire is of enormous concern in these types of scenarios.  Fire is a cowardly attack that doesn’t require any interaction on the part of the arsonist. It flushes out the family inside, leaving you vulnerable to physical assaults.

Be ready for the potential of fire.

Have fire extinguishers mounted throughout your home. You can buy them in 6 packs from Amazon

Be sure to test them frequently and maintain them properly. (Allstate has a page about fire extinguisher maintenance.)

Have fire escape ladders that can be attached to a windowsill in all upper story rooms.  Drill with them so that your kids know how to use them if necessary.

Have bug-out bags prepared that contain all of your important documents in them in case you have to grab and go.

Running out of supplies

The most preventable issue in the event of civil unrest is running out of supplies.

If you have to “run out to the store” that makes it far more likely that you will become the victim of a crime. The best advice I can give in all of this is to STAY HOME.  But if you have no food and water, it’s difficult to do so.

Many residents of Ferguson are facing exactly this problem. They are “stuck” at home and have run out of groceries.

Keith Griffin II, publisher of DELUX Magazine, set up a table near gas pump 6 at the QuikTrip on West Florissant Avenue, where he is distributing free pizza, chips, fresh fruit and bottled water to protesters and area residents.

Griffin, 37, said he grew up in the area and he’s concerned about the welfare of local residents.

He’s also putting together care packages to people who are stuck because of the protests and curfew, he said. (source: St. Louis Times)

So, after only ONE WEEK, people are running out of food or discovering there is a necessity that they don’t have on hand.

ONE WEEK.

I can’t imagine not having enough supplies to withstand a siege of only a week.  The way this is snowballing, the situation could easily last for a lot longer than just a week.  Even if you think prepping is silly and paranoid, how could anyone watching this unfold not feel as though they need to be stocked up for at least a month?  Ferguson is not a bad neighborhood in New York City. It’s a little suburb of just over 20,000 people. If this can happen in Ferguson, Missouri, it can happen where you are, and it can happen without any warning at all.

Here is a general list of supplies to have on hand. Remember that sometimes power supplies are lost during situations like this. Occasionally officials do this to gain more control over the populace and sometimes it happens as a side-effect of the wholesale destruction by the rioters. Keep the potential for a down-grid situation in mind when preparing.

  • Water (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Necessary prescription medications
  • A well stocked pantry – you need at least a one-month supply of food for the entire family, including pets
  • An off grid cooking method (We have a Char-Broil Offset Smoker American Gourmet Grill, an outdoor burner, and a woodstove inside)
  • Or food that requires no cooking
  • A tactical quality first aid kit
  • Lighting in the event of a power outage
  • Sanitation supplies (in the event that the municipal water system is unusable, this would include cleaning supplies and toilet supplies)
  • A way to stay warm in harsh winter weather
  • Over-the-counter medications and/or herbal remedies to treat illnesses at home
  • A diverse survival guide and first aid manual (hard copies in case the internet and power grid are down)
  • Alternative communications devices (such as a hand-crank radio) so that you can get updates about the outside world
  • Off-grid entertainment:  arts and craft supplies, puzzles, games, books, crossword or word search puzzles, needlework, journals

Martial law

It seems that right now in Ferguson, the US Constitution has been suspended. The National Guard has been called in to help police restore order. Like I said above, this is not an article about the constitutionality (or lack thereof) of what is going on down there, nor is it about police brutality or racial tensions. This article focuses on surviving the situation should such an event occur in your town.

teargas ferguson

The reality is this:

While many of the officers involved most likely just want to resolve the situation and go home to their families, the methods being used are not methods most of us wish to encounter.

In a highly charged situation like this, police and military are trained to use the most efficient methods to speedily shut down a conflict. These methods can include tear gas, sound cannons, and outright physical assaults on citizens. It’s important to note that fear can be a powerful motivator when deciding how much force is appropriate when addressing a threat. Cops are just as subject to fear as the rest of us. 20 cops with shields and batons would be quite reasonable to fear an angry mob of hundreds of shouting people.

Your safety when interacting with officials during a martial law situation does not rely on the intentions of police officers and military. It really doesn’t matter if they are trying to crush your rights under a jack-booted heel, or whether they are trying to benevolently keep people safe and re-establish peace and harmony.

Here are some suggestions to help keep you safe when dealing with cops and soldiers.

Avoid crowds. If you are in the midst of a crowd, you’ll be considered part of the crowd and treated exactly like everyone else in that group. If they get tear-gassed, so will you. It’s guilt by association. If the crowd is violent, and you are part of the crowd, you will also be considered violent, and you’ll be dealt with accordingly. Legally, you are actually guilty if you are part of a group that is violent. GO HOME.

Be polite. If you have to interact with officers, be courteous. You won’t restore the Constitution by arguing with them or threatening them. It’s fine to assert your rights – you don’t have to allow them to search your house without cause, for example, but do so civilly. Belligerence will get you nothing but a beat-down.

You don’t get to explain. In a highly charged situation, the cops probably aren’t going to listen to you when you try to explain that you’re just taking that baseball bat in your hand over to your nephew’s house so he can hit some balls in the backyard. No matter how innocent your intentions are, if you’re walking like a duck, you’re going to be treated like a duck. Training will kick in, and perceived threats will be immediately neutralized by whatever means the cops find necessary.

Stay home. It really isn’t worth risking your physical safety to go see what’s going on.

Underneath the uniform, cops are human.  I’m not justifying the brutality, the methods they’re using, or the assaults on journalists. Cops are just as likely to be swept up in a herd mentality as thugs are during a high stress situation. By understanding this, you can be better prepared.

Just stay home.

I really can’t repeat that often enough. It’s the number one way to keep yourself safer from every single threat mentioned in this article. If you find yourself in an area under siege, the odds will be further on your side for every interaction in which you avoid taking part.

Every single time you leave the house, you increase your chances of an unpleasant encounter.  Nothing will be accomplished by going out during a chaotic situation.

And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t go to a protest and take your children, even if it’s supposed to be peaceful.

Residents, many with children in tow, had turned out for what began as a peaceful protest Sunday evening seeking justice for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot six times by a police officer who allegedly stopped Brown for blocking a residential street.

The protesters marched toward a police command center set up in a shopping mall parking lot when heavily armed law enforcement fired on the crowd using tear gas and rubber bullets. An MSNBC reporter witnessed children suffering the effects of the gas, including two young African-American girls – one dressed in a pink tank top coughing as she struggled to push the shirt up over her mouth and nose while a woman rushed her from the scene. (source)

I can’t even wrap my brain around thinking THAT was a good idea.

Stay.

Home.

Resources:

The Anatomy of a Breakdown

Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival

Total Breakdown In Less Than 24 Hours: Images and Videos of Missouri Riots and Looting

Prepper’s Home Defense: Security Strategies to Protect Your Family by Any Means Necessary

Elite Large Fully Stocked GI Issue Medic First Aid Kit Bag

 

* Should I Stay or Should I Go?

When disaster seems imminent, there’s one vital decision that preppers have to make: grab your bag and bug out or hunker down and bug in?  The lyrics from the chorus of a song by The Clash sums it up – you’ve got trouble either way,  but one way will be worse than the other.

Because this song is now stuck in my head, I thought it should be stuck in your head, too.

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know

~ The Clash

Bug in or bug out?

First, some definitions:

Bugging In: This is when you shut the gate, lock the doors, and hunker down to weather the disaster at home with your supplies.

Bugging Out:  This is when you grab your bug-out bag and you hit the road to go somewhere else because your home is not safe.

In all but the most desperate circumstances, my personal plan is bugging in.  Being out on the road in the midst of a disaster means you’re a refugee. It means your supplies are minimal and that the things you’ve carefully stored over the years are very possibly going to be lost to you. The personal sustainability you’ve been cultivating at your home is also lost, including your garden, your livestock, and your water plan.

But, this is not a decision that’s engraved in stone. A while back, we talked about the 3 steps to surviving any crisis:

1.) Accept

2.) Plan

2.) Act

If you are completely married to one, and only one, course of action, it limits your ability to perform the first step: accepting that whatever horrible event is out there, has actually occurred.  You have to be adaptable if you want to be able to survive extraordinary circumstances. Disasters rarely go by a script, and your plan can’t either.

The variables to consider

The answer to this question is hard to come by. There are so many different variables, there can never be a one-size-fits-all response.  Here are the major factors you have to look at.

Will you be safe if you remain at home? Bugging in is my first choice, but there are some situations in which evacuation is a necessity.  Last year, during the King Fire, we were only a few miles from the evacuation line. Had the fire leapt that line, it would have been suicidal to stay home. If you live near an erupting volcano, same thing. Storms like Hurricane Katrina also indicate that evacuation is a wiser course of action. Chemical spills, fires, biological contaminants, and extreme civil unrest can all be good cause to get-the-heck-out. You have to be willing to accept that no matter how fantastic your survival set-up is at your home, there are some circumstance beyond your control that would absolutely require a bug out.

Do you have a place to go? Bugging out to the woods to live off the land is not a good idea for most people. While there are some folks that would be just fine, most of us would not.  Are you going to go live in the woods with your children, your elderly mother-in-law, and your diabetic spouse?  Even though it’s a stretch, it might work briefly in good weather. But what about when the snow flies? What about when your food runs out? What about the fact that every third prepper has the same idea and will be out there shooting at deer, thus rendering your ability to bag one nearly impossible? If you do get one, do you know how to preserve it with only what you carried out to the woods on your back?  That list could go on and on. The point is, do you have a reliable retreat that is stocked with supplies?  Do you have a friend in the boondocks to whom you can go? Is that friend actually expecting you, and have you ponied up with some supplies before the event to ensure that you are welcome? If you have your own retreat set up somewhere, what will you do if someone hostile got there first? If it has really, truly hit the fan, your best bet for bugging out is a well-stocked retreat location where someone in your group resides full time.

Do you have a way to get there? So, you have a retreat, an awesome little compound that is up the mountain, over the stream, and around the bend.  That is a wonderful thing to have. But in a worst case scenario, how will you get to it? How long would it take you to hike there, should the roads be clogged by fellow evacuees, or in the event of an EMP event that takes out the power, including that of most vehicles?  Is it possible to get there on foot with the family members who will be accompanying you?  How far away is your secondary location?  If it is going to take you more than a week to get there on foot, your chances of making it to your destination with a family in tow are pretty slim.  Your secondary location should be less than 100 miles from your primary location if you expect to get there in a crisis.  A 25-mile range is optimal because it’s far enough not to be affected by localized disasters, but not so far you couldn’t make it on foot in a couple of strenuous days.

Can all of your family members make the trip?  It’s important to have a plan, a backup plan, and a backup to your backup. Often, in a bug-out scenario, that plan includes a difficult hike over rough terrain.  Have you thought about who you’ll be taking with you?  If there are children, are they old enough to walk on their own for long distances or will you be carrying them?  A 25-pound child piggy-backing on you will drain your energy very quickly, especially if you are going up and down steep trails.   What about elderly family members? If you have a parent who is frail, has a heart condition, or has age-related dementia, bugging out on foot is simply not an option for you unless you can rig up a sturdy cart with knobby, off-road tires, and pull it. If you have family members that can’t make it under their own steam, you must plan for your on-foot-bug-out to take far longer than it would normally. That doesn’t make it impossible – it just means that you MUST take these things into consideration, in advance, and make modifications to your travel arrangements.

When to go

When to go is every bit as important as whether to go.

If you live in the heart of the city, civil unrest is going down, and the homes around you are getting burned to the ground by rioters, you may have missed your window of opportunity for easy evacuation.

If there are only two roads out and everyone else has decided it’s time to go, you may be too late to get out quickly. For example, places like New York City and San Francisco are accessible by only a couple of bridges.  With the huge populations there, getting out of those cities would be nearly impossible if you wait too long to leave.

This all goes back to the three steps to survival: Accept, Plan, Act.  If the situation has shown signs of going South in a hurry, you need to get a move on. If you are going to go, go early.  You don’t want to be stuck in traffic, sitting in your car, when the hurricane hits.  If the local government gives an evacuation order, that means that everyone else in your area is getting that order at the same time. The roads will quickly become impassable, as traffic becomes gridlocked and unprepared people run out of fuel.

Beaumont, TX August 30, 2008--Hundreds of vehicles line the interstate outside of Beaumont, Tx. Mandatory evacuation orders were made in east Texas near the Gulf Coast in advance of Hurricane Gustav's landfall.in San Antonio. FEMA is working with State,local and other Federal agencies in a joint operation in preparation for Hurricane Gustav's land fall. Photo by Patsy Lynch/FEM

Beaumont, TX August 30, 2008–Hundreds of vehicles line the interstate outside of Beaumont, Tx. Mandatory evacuation orders were made in east Texas near the Gulf Coast in advance of Hurricane Gustav’s landfall.in San Antonio. FEMA is working with State,local and other Federal agencies in a joint operation in preparation for Hurricane Gustav’s land fall. Photo by Patsy Lynch/FEM

If you decide to stay…

If you decide that staying home and hunkering down is the best decision, then it’s time to commit to that decision.

You should be set up with the following (at the minimum – hopefully you have these supplies and more):

  • Water
  • Necessary prescription medications
  • A well stocked pantry – you need at least a one-month supply of food for the entire family, including pets
  • An off grid cooking method like an outdoor burner, a barbecue, a fire pit, or a woodstove)
  • Or food that requires no cooking
  • A tactical quality first aid kit
  • Lighting in the event of a power outage
  • Sanitation supplies (in the event that the municipal water system is unusable, this would include cleaning supplies and toilet supplies)
  • A way to stay warm in harsh winter weather
  • Over-the-counter medications and/or herbal remedies to treat illnesses at home
  • A diverse survival guide, a very thorough preparedness book, and a first aid manual (all in hard copies in case the internet and power grid are down)
  • Alternative communications devices (such as a hand-crank radio) so that you can get updates about the outside world
  • Off-grid entertainment:  arts and craft supplies, puzzles, games, books, crossword or word search puzzles, needlework, journals

Be prepared to defend your home. Regardless of the reason you’ve hunkered down, when disaster strikes, vandals, looters, and thugs come out to play.

Defense is two-fold.  You want to stay under the radar and not draw attention to yourself. Some of the following recommendations are not necessary during an ordinary grid-down scenario, but could save your life in a more extreme civil unrest scenario or a situation that has gone long-term. It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. The best way to win a fight is to avoid getting into that fight in the first place. Secure your home and lay low, but be prepared if trouble comes to visit.

Here are some tips to make your home less of a target:

  • Keep all the doors and windows locked.  Secure sliding doors with a metal bar.  Consider installing decorative grid-work over a door with a large window so that it becomes difficult for someone to smash the glass and reach in to unlock the door. Install a door bar on your front and back doors.
  • Keep the curtains closed. There’s no need for people walking past to be able to see what you have or to do reconnaissance on how many people are present. If the power is out, put dark plastic over the windows. (Heavy duty garbage bags work well.)  If it’s safe to do so, go outside and check to see if any light escapes from the windows. If your home is the only one on the block that is well-lit, it is a beacon to others.
  • Keep cooking smells to a minimum, especially if there is a food shortage.  If everyone else in the neighborhood is hungry, the meat on your grill will draw people like moths to a flame.
  • Don’t answer the door.  Many home invasions start with an innocent-seeming knock at the door to gain access to your house.
  • Keep pets indoors. Sometimes criminals use an animal in distress to get a homeowner to open the door for them. Sometimes people are just mean and hurt animals for “fun”.  Either way, it’s safer for your furry friends to be inside with you.
  • Be ready for the potential of fire. Have fire extinguishers mounted throughout your home. You can buy them in 6 packs from Amazon Be sure to test them frequently and maintain them properly. (Allstate has a page about fire extinguisher maintenance.)  Have fire escape ladders that can be attached to a windowsill in all upper story rooms.  Drill with them so that your kids know how to use them if necessary.

If, despite your best efforts, your property draws the attention of people with ill intent, you must be ready to defend your family and your home. Firearms are an equalizer. A small woman can defend herself from multiple large intruders with a firearm, if she’s had some training and knows how to use it properly. But put a kitchen knife in her hand against those same intruders, and her odds decrease exponentially.

  • Don’t rely on 911. If the disorder is widespread, don’t depend on a call to 911 to save you – you must be prepared to save yourself.  First responders may be tied up, and in some cases, the cops are not always your friends.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some officers joined in the crime sprees, and others stomped all over the 2nd Amendment and confiscated people’s legal firearms at a time when they needed them the most.
  • Be armed and keep your firearm on your person.  When the door of your home is breached, you can be pretty sure the people coming in are not there to make friendly conversation over a nice cup of tea.  Make a plan to greet them with a deterring amount of force. Be sure to keep your firearm on your person during this type of situation, because there won’t be time to go get it from your gunsafe. Don’t even go to the kitchen to get a snack without it. Home invasions go down in seconds, and you have to be constantly ready.
  • Know how to use your firearm. Whatever your choice of weapon, practice, practice, practice. A weapon you don’t know how to use is more dangerous than having no weapon at all.
  • Make sure your children are familiar with the rules of gun safety. Of course, it should go without saying that you will have pre-emptively taught your children the rules of gun safety so that no horrifying accidents occur. In fact, it’s my fervent hope that any child old enough to do so has been taught to safely and effectively use a firearm themselves. Knowledge is safety.
  • Have a safe room established for children or other vulnerable family members. If the worst happens and your home is breached, you need to have a room into which family members can escape.  This room needs to have a heavy exterior door instead of a regular hollow core interior door. There should be communications devices in the room so that the person can call for help, as well as a reliable weapon to be used in the unlikely event that the safe room is breached. The family members should be instructed not to come out of that room FOR ANY REASON until you give them the all clear or help has arrived.

Even if your plan is to bug in, you must be ready to change that plan in the blink of an eye. Plan an escape route.  If the odds are against you, if your house catches on fire, if flood waters rise, if the levy breaks…devise a way to get your family to safety.  Your property is not worth your life. Be wise enough to accept that the situation has changed and move rapidly to Plan B.

If you decide to go…

Nearly everything to do with bugging out needs to be done ahead of time.  When the time comes to evacuate, you want to be able to put your plans into motion quickly and flawlessly, This reduces stress tremendously.

  • Have bug-out bags prepared . They should contain all of your important documents  in case you have to grab and go.  This is the best bug-out bag article I’ve ever seen – it’s only 25 pounds and has everything you need to survive.
  • Have a list.  Make a written checklist that you can easily access. You might include the location of items that are packed away. Decide on these things now, when you have the time to calmly think about what items are the most important. When we got the first evacuation alert during the King Fire(a notice that evacuation was highly likely within the next 24 hours), a woman who lived down the street was wailing and sobbing as her husband tried to pack up their vehicle.  She was rendered absolutely useless by fear. Meanwhile, my 13 year old was fulfilling her list while I fulfilled mine and we quickly made an orderly stack of important belongings, then turned on a movie to beat the stress. Had our area actually been forced to evacuate, those who panicked would have either been the last to leave, or they would have forgotten important things as they left in a disorganized rush. It’s important to decide ahead of time who packs what, and for each person to have a list. Sit down well before disaster strikes and make an evacuation plan with your family.
  • Get organized.  All the lists in the world won’t help you pack quickly if you don’t know where things are. One change we made after the fire is that all of the items we deemed precious enough to pack and take with us are stored in one area so that we won’t have to look for them when seconds count.  Another friend ran into the issue of dirty clothes: he actually had to evacuate with hampers of unwashed laundry. Having your home tidy and organized (and your laundry washed and put way) will help your packing go smoothly in the event of a sudden evacuation.
  • Have multiple evacuation routes planned. Don’t rely on GPS, either – have physical maps on hand in case you need to set out on foot.
  • Have a destination.  Please don’t think you are going to go deep into the woods and live off the land. It’s one of those movie-of-the-week ideas that will get you killed.
  • Keep your vehicle full of fuel.  If you have to evacuate, lots of other people will be hitting the road too. When you’re stuck in traffic, you don’t want to be worried about your fuel gauge dropping to the empty mark, leaving you stranded in a dangerous situation.
  • Get fit.  If you aren’t in shape, bugging out on foot through the mountains isn’t going to go so well for you. When is the last time you hiked even 5 miles?  Did you have a pack on? How much did it weigh? There is a large contingent of armchair preppers who have this idea. However, they don’t exercise regularly. This is a classic recipe for a heart attack, by the way. Extreme over-exertion. High-stress situation. High-sodium, easily packable food. Out-of-shape person. A few miles into the journey, particularly if it includes a steep climb, the person will experience a pounding heart, dizziness, and faintness, as the body tries to shut down to protect itself from the unaccustomed demands.  If the physical stress continues, the heart won’t be able to keep up with the demand to pump blood. This can endanger not only you, but the people making the trek with you.  What if you have a heart attack half way up the mountain?  What if you have an asthma attack? What if you injure your out-of-shape self? Who is going to help you? If the situation is bad enough that you’re bugging out, you aren’t likely to be airlifted to a hospital for medical care.

These actions are not last minute actions. No matter what Plan A is, you need to have all of the above components in place long before any potential disaster occurs.

So….all of this and I didn’t answer your question

That’s because there is no answer.

Hopefully, the information provided here has pointed out the important variables that will allow you to make good decisions based on the variation of circumstances should the need arise.

The biggest part of preparedness is being able to adapt to the situation at hand. For us, bugging in is our Plan A. That doesn’t mean we have disregarded Plans B and C, which are bugging out to a friend’s place by car, followed by bugging out to the same friend’s place on foot. We also have a second location should the first one be unavailable, which I suppose would be Plan D.

Don’t just make one plan. Make at least 3.  Try to figure out the shortcomings of all of your plans and solve those issues ahead of time. Whatever your plan is, strict adherence to one course of action is extremely dangerous and short-sighted.

You may get through life never needing to evacuate or hunker down, but if you do, the speed at which you make your decisions could be pivotal in saving the lives of your loved ones.

 

Gluten-Free Prepping on a Budget

In nearly every preparedness book you look at, one of the primary staples in every stockpile is wheat. Buckets of wheat berries, flours for bread, baking, and prepared items like pasta, crackers, and packaged cookies are frequently the backbone of a prepper’s stockpile. So prevalent is the dependency on wheat products that some guides recommend a whopping 300 pounds of wheat per person, per year.

However, that style of pantry won’t work for everyone who wishes to get prepared. There is an almost epidemic hierarchy of wheat-related ailments in America today, ranging from mild discomfort to severe debilitating illness to chronic disease.

Because of this, many folks are looking for ways to build a pantry without those products. Gluten-free prepping doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. The following suggestions will help you build a pantry without wheat, even if you’re on a strict budget.

Why are so many people going gluten-free?

The symptoms suffered by those who cannot consume gluten have a wide range. From an intolerance that causes gastrointestinal discomfort to a debilitating disease, the number of people who do not consume wheat is multiplying exponentially.

At the pinnacle of this is Celiac disease. Sufferers are highly sensitive to gluten in any form. The Celiac Disease Foundation defines this:

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.  It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide.  Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.

When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.

The disorder can cause serious long-term health effects and those with celiac disease should never consume gluten, even in moderation.

Not quite as severe, but still highly uncomfortable, is gluten intolerance. People with gluten intolerance can have anywhere from mild to severe reactions to the consumption of gluten.  Issues can include digestive upset, bloating, aching joints, skin problems, and a host of other symptoms.

Kristen Michaelis explains this intolerance very clearly on the website Food Renegade:

First, let’s be clear about what gluten intolerance is. It isn’t a food allergy. It’s a physical condition in your gut. Basically, undigested gluten proteins (prevalent in wheat and other grains) hang out in your intestines and are treated by your body like a foreign invader, irritating your gut and flattening the microvilli along the small intestine wall. Without those microvilli, you have considerably less surface area with which to absorb the nutrients from your food. This leads sufferers to experience symptoms of malabsorption, including chronic fatigue, neurological disorders, nutrient deficiencies, anemia, nausea, skin rashes, depression, and more.

If you remove gluten from the diet, the gut heals and the myriad of symptoms disappears.  (source)

Gluten intolerance is written off as a fad by many, especially since lots of people pass the test for the anti-gliadin antibodies and are told the issue is all on their heads. However, some recent information has exposed the fact that the issue for many may not be the gluten in the wheat, but the harvesting process. According to the USDA,  99% of durum wheat, 97% of spring wheat, and 61% of winter wheat is drenched in the herbicide glyphosate before it’s harvested. This process, called desiccation, causes the wheat to release more of its seed as it dies, which results in a greater yield for the farmer and a contaminated product for the consumer. (You can learn more about the shocking process in the article, Maybe You Aren’t Gluten Intolerant, Maybe You’re Poison Intolerant.)

Many people are cutting back on wheat in sheer disgust about how it is harvested.  If you do choose to continue eating wheat, knowing about the process above makes it even more vital to stick strictly with organic varieties.

Gluten-free eating doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive.

Over the years, most food storage guides have recommended the storage of hundreds of pounds of wheat and flour, and these guidelines have left some gluten-free families flummoxed. Many of us who build large pantries do so for two reasons:

1) The economic savings from buying products in bulk

2) To be better prepared for a wide variety of emergencies or personal economic downturn

Whatever your reason for building a whole-food pantry, it’s obviously vital to have supplies that won’t leave you feeling ill and bloated.

If your family has a member with adverse reactions to gluten or you want to cut out wheat because of your personal preference not to eat herbicide, it might be time to focus your purchasing dollars on grains that are gluten free. like rice, organic corn, quinoa, and oats.  Depending on the level of sensitivity (for example, if a family member suffers from Celiac disease or has an intense reaction to trace amounts of gluten), you may need to purchase these from a gluten-free processing facility.

The problem is, gluten-free food is a billion dollar industry, and at the prices Big Food is charging for these specialty items, it’s easy to see how fast the bills can rack up.

You only need to stroll over to the gluten-free section of your grocery store to see that the cost of eating a diet free of wheat is absolutely outrageous.  A loaf of Udi’s bread at my local market is $6.  And it’s a tiny loaf – with little bitty pieces of bread and a lot fewer slices than a conventional loaf. The Udi’s white and whole grain loaves contain 14 slices.  So, if you have 2 kids and 2 adults and all four of you eat a sandwich for lunch every weekday, you’re looking at a cost of nearly $20 – and that is just for the bread, assuming no one is super-hungry and wants 2 of the mini-sized sandwiches. This also assumes no one wants toast for breakfast or garlic bread with dinner.

And speaking of dinner – have you priced out quinoa pasta lately?  Enough gluten-free pasta for one spaghetti dinner will run you about $4, vs traditional pasta, which would be closer to $1.

Big Food is cashing in on the gluten-free trend, as more and more people discover that wheat is causing health problems and attempt to go gluten free. In 2012, the Huffington Post reported on the billions of dollars being made off those who wanted to omit wheat from their diets.

The gluten-free foods market is expected to hit $4.2 billion this year, according to a new report by market research publisher Packaged Facts.

And at the rate it’s going, by 2017, gluten-free sales could grow to more than $6.6 billion, the report said. (source)

That is simply astronomical, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

The issue is, everyone wants to eat the same diet they’ve always eaten, just without the wheat. And that won’t work, at least not healthfully.

First of all, the gluten-free products are highly processed. In order to give people the familiar textures, lots of additives are necessary to simulate the airiness that results when wheat gluten is combined with a leavening agent. Here’s an ingredients list from a common gluten-free white bread.

TAPIOCA & POTATO STARCH, BROWN RICE FLOUR, MODIFIED TAPIOCA STARCH, WATER, NON-GMO VEGETABLE OIL (CANOLA OR SUNFLOWER OR SAFFLOWER), EGG WHITES, TAPIOCA MALTODEXTRIN, EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, TAPIOCA SYRUP, YEAST, XANTHAN GUM, SALT, BAKING POWDER (SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, SODIUM BICARBONATE, CORN STARCH, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE), CULTURED CORN SYRUP SOLIDS (NATURAL MOLD INHIBITOR), ENZYMES.

While this list of ingredients isn’t as bad as the ingredients in a lot of conventional breads, you end up with a highly processed, low nutrition food item.

If you make it yourself, it is cheaper, but the list of ingredients that you need to make a loaf of homemade bread sans the wheat is lengthy, daunting, and still somewhat expensive. Here are the ingredients for one recipe that I found:

  • white rice flour
  • tapioca starch
  • sweet sorghum flour
  •  buckwheat flour
  • brown rice flour
  • dry active yeast
  • cane sugar
  • salt
  • guar gum
  • xanthan gum
  • ground ginger (adds flavor and acts as a natural preservative)
  • apple fiber (a dry nutritional supplement, available at health food stores)
  • egg whites, room temperature
  • light olive oil
  • apple cider vinegar
  • lukewarm water

This is more nutritious, but it’s certainly far from “simple”. And life is complicated enough without complicated food.

So what if, instead of buying all of these expensive products, you just switched to real foods that are gluten-free naturally?

Instead thinking that you must have either wheat products or pretend wheat products, forget about those foods you’ve been eating. For starters, what are your favorite meals that don’t contain wheat products? What about a stir-fry over rice? Or a delicious salad? Or a steak with a baked potato? Why not hit the farmer’s market and get some delicious in-season produce while supporting local agriculture? (You can find a local farm or market HERE.)

By changing your meal plan around and omitting these products altogether, you can eat nutritiously on a tight budget. We no longer consume wheat and have shifted our long-term food supply to reflect that.

If you can’t find it, grind it.

That doesn’t just apply to poorly driving a vehicle with a manual transmission.

Gluten-free specialty products are pricey, but they don’t have to be.By purchasing grains that are not yet ground, you get several benefits. First, the shelf-life is often longer. Secondly, you can save a fortune from the cost of the specialty flours by grinding them yourself.  I have both an electric grinder and an off-grid, manual grinder.

By purchasing grains that are not yet ground, you get several benefits. First, the shelf-life is often longer. Secondly, you can save a fortune from the cost of the specialty flours by grinding them yourself.  I have both an electric grinder and an off-grid, manual grinder.  If you are committed to gluten-free eating, you’ll recoup your grinder investment fairly quickly.  Don’t skimp on quality – grinding grains is tough work. The WonderMill is a good choice because it comes with a lifetime warranty.

It doesn’t save you money if you must continuously replace flimsy grinders. On that same note, from someone who learned the hard way: don’t try to use your blender or food processer for this unless it is specifically rated to grind grains, like this attachment for your Kitchen-Aid Mixer.

Buy it here:

Electric Grain Mill

Manual Grain Mill

Use these staples for gluten-free prepping

A full pantry isn’t just for preppers. Buying in bulk quantities will get you the best bang for your buck, which is very important when going gluten-free. Below, you can find some reasonably priced options for building a gluten-free pantry.  The products linked to are NOT from gluten-free facilities unless specifically noted, so these may not be the best options for people who are highly sensitive:

Rice

More than 3 billion people across the world eat rice every day. Rice has long been at the top of the hierarchy in the prepper’s pantry.  It’s inexpensive, a source of energy-boosting carbohydrates and can extend one humble serving of meat to turn it into a meal for an entire hungry family.

Conventionally grown rice has a very high pesticide load. PANNA (Pesticide Action Network of North America) identified more than 40 different pesticides on rice grown in California, with 15 of those pesticides on their “bad actors” list – which means that the pesticides have been proven in multiple studies to have negative effects on human beings and/or groundwater systems.

The website “What’s On My Food?” noted that the pesticides included those which were known to be carcinogenic, bee toxins, human reproductive and developmental toxins, neurotoxins and suspected hormone disruptors.

Rice that has been grown organically is not soaked in pesticides and fungicides from seed to package, like conventional rice.  This is a vast improvement for the purity and nutritional value of a bulk rice purchase.  White rice, when stored properly, has a far longer shelf life than brown rice, which is far more nutritious (and many find it much tastier as well).

Unfortunately, though, even organic rice is not the best thing to serve on a regular basis.  Recent studies have shown that all rice, organic and conventional, has a high level of naturally occurring arsenic.

Arsenic is a metallic element that is toxic to multi-cellular life forms. There are two types of arsenic: inorganic and organic. Inorganic arsenic has not bonded with carbon, and is a known carcinogen.  Organic arsenic is found in seafood and is generally considered to be non-toxic.  It is excreted through urine within about 48 hours of consumption.

Arsenic is taken into the rice from the soil, through the roots of the plant.  Arsenic can get into the soil in many different ways, including the use of arsenic-containing pesticides.  These pesticides can remain in the soil for up to 45 years after they were sprayed. Another source of arsenic in the soil is fertilizer made from chicken droppings – commercial chicken feed has been found to have high levels of the toxin. When rice fields are deliberately flooded, the water soluble arsenic in the soil is delivered to the roots of the plants.

Brown rice contains more arsenic than white rice – the arsenic accumulates in the hull, which is stripped during processing.  The hull, however, contains most of the nutrients in the rice.

Arsenic can be toxic in both the short-term and the long-term.  Everyone is familiar with the use of arsenic as a poison. According to the Mayo Clinic:

“Arsenic is perhaps the best known of the metal toxins, having gained notoriety from its extensive use by Renaissance nobility as an antisyphilitic agent…A wide range of signs and symptoms may be seen in acute arsenic poisoning including headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypotension, fever, hemolysis, seizures, and mental status changes. Symptoms of chronic poisoning, also called arseniasis, are mostly insidious and nonspecific. The gastrointestinal tract, skin, and central nervous system are usually involved. Nausea, epigastric pain, colic abdominal pain, diarrhea, and paresthesias of the hands and feet can occur.”

Rice can still be important part of your pantry, but it should not be consumed on a daily basis, lest a build-up of this toxic heavy metal occur in your body.

Please, please don’t buy rice from China.  While it might be dirt cheap, their food standards are very low. You do NOT want your stockpile to be made up of food like that.  If you can’t afford organic or eco-farmed (this means there was no use of chemical pesticides but it isn’t certified organic), please buy American-grown rice.

Oats  

Oats can be used to add extra fiber to baked goods, in place of bread crumbs in meatballs and meatloaf, and as a hot cereal. They are also a staple ingredient in granola, and of course, the much beloved oatmeal cookie!  Oats can be purchased in bulk quantities and then repackaged for long shelf life.

When oats are grown, they look similar to wheat. Little kernels called “groats” are removed from the hulls and then, most of the time, are minimally processed in a mill to ready them for human consumption.

Oats are milled in several different ways:

Whole Groats: These little kernels look similar to rice. They take a very long time to cook, about an hour and a half, so they may not be the best choice for emergency food. They are the least processed of all of the oat varieties and have a slight nutty flavor. Groats can be used in place of rice or pasta, or as a hot cereal.

Steel-cut oats: Steel cut oats are groats chopped into just a few pieces with (big shock) a steel blade. They take about a half an hour to cook, have a chewier texture than more processed oats, and are known for their more complex flavor.

Rolled OatsRolled oats are a bit more processed. Groats are steamed to soften then, then rolled into flakes. This process actually stabilizes the naturally-occurring oils in the oats, which makes them more shelf-stable than steel-cut oats or groats. Rolled oats only take about 5 minutes to cook.

Quick-cooking oats: Quick oats are simply rolled oats, but thinner. Because they are thinner, they cook extremely quickly – they can be ready in about 1 minute. This is a definite perk in a down-grid scenario,  since you won’t have to waste precious fuel during a long cooking time. The downside of quick oats is that they don’t maintain their texture as well as rolled or steel-cut oats.

Quinoa  

This delicious little kernel is the highest protein grain around. Quinoa (pronounced keen’-wah) was held sacred by the Incas, who called it the “mother of all grains.”  This ancient grain has had a recent resurgence in popularity because of its excellent nutritional profile, easy preparation, and versatile nutty taste. Quinoa is more expensive than most other grains, but the high-quality nutrients make it a great investment. Quinoa contains significant amounts of thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, niacin, Vitamin E, and folate , as well as minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Quinoa is used as a grain, but is actually a seed that is closely related to beetroot, spinach, and tumbleweeds.

Quinoa is used as a grain, but is actually a seed that is closely related to beetroot, spinach, and tumbleweeds. Weird, huh? It contains complete protein, including amino acids. Make sure the quinoa you purchase for your stockpile has been processed to remove the bitter coating (called saponin). In an emergency situation, you don’t want to have to use your precious water storage to wash your grains. Not only does the saponin taste terrible, it can also cause gastrointestinal distress.

Cornmeal

I strongly recommend seeking organic options for all things “corn” as more than 80% of corn in North America is genetically modified, making it a poor choice for your food storage pantry at a time when you need reliable and non-toxic nutrition.

Cornmeal is finely ground. I purchase very coarsely ground cornmeal, also known as grits or polenta. You can run this through your grinder to make it finer for baking.

Buckwheat

Despite the name, buckwheat is not actually wheat at all, or even a grain. It’s considered biologically to be part of the fruit family and is related to sorrel and rhubarb. The part we consume is the seed, which is dried and ground into a flour substitute. It doesn’t contain gluten, so won’t rise like flour that contains gluten. However, buckwheat makes delightful pancakes that don’t require all sorts of gums and magical ingredients and a chant to give them a nice texture like most gluten-free pancakes. Buckwheat can be served as a substitute for rice or as a hot breakfast cereal.

Buckwheat is sold either roasted or unroasted. The roasted variety is called “kasha” in Eastern Europe, where it is traditionally served over pasta (opt for gluten-free, of course) topped with onions and brown gravy in a dish called Kashe varnishkes. You can find the recipe HERE. I recommend purchasing the whole buckwheat groats and then grinding them as needed into flour or roasting them lightly.

Amaranth

Amaranth is a high-quality protein that is similar to quinoa, so it serves double duty in the pantry.  The part of the plant consumed is the seeds. It can be served as a pilaf, ground and used as a baking ingredient, or made into a hot breakfast cereal. It’s very gentle on the system and easily digestible, making it a perfect food for someone who is recovering from an illness. Here’s how to cook it, from Dr. Weil.

In Mexico, amaranth seeds are popped like popcorn, and then tossed in honey, chocolate, or molasses. This is sweet treat is called “alegria”.  You can click HERE for a recipe.

Gluten Free Emergency Food

Of course, sometimes there are situations in which convenience is key. Enter, emergency food buckets.

Here’s why every prepper should have some emergency food buckets stashed away:

  1. A lot of calories can be condensed into a very small amount of space.
  2. If you have the capacity to boil water during an emergency, a filling meal can be yours.
  3. They add variety and speed to an emergency food supply.
  4. Calorie for calorie, they’re lightweight and easily portable in the event of a bug-out scenario.
  5. They’re professionally packaged to have a 25-year shelf life, so you can get it, stick it in the back of your closet, and forget about it until you need it.

Now, the downside.

If you’re looking for ready-made meals, none of them are going to be completely without additives. This is impossible, because they’re made to last for 25 years, to take up minimal space,  to cook up quickly and efficiently, and to taste reasonably good.

Some compromises must be made. Yes, emergency food buckets contain processed food, but you don’t have to let go of all of your focus on healthful choices.

After a lot of research, I finally found a product line that I can get behind. NuManna Foods are all non-GMO and contain no horrible ingredients like soy, MSG, aspartame, or high-fructose corn syrup. If you’re looking for a better choice in storable food, they’re the top of the line as far as health is concerned. Best of all, they have gluten-free options for families with wheat intolerances.

The NuManna NO GLUTEN Family Pack contains 116 lunch/dinner servings and 10 breakfast servings:

Pasta Primavera (3 x 6 servings)
Classic Chili (2 x 10 servings)
Enchilada, Beans & Rice (2 x 6 servings)
Sweet Habanero Chili (2 x 6 servings)
Italian Pasta (2 x 6 servings)
Potato Casserole (2 x 6 servings)
Cheesy Broccoli Soup (1 x 10 servings)
Black Bean Soup (1 x 10 servings)
Cheesy Potato Soup (1 x 10 servings)
Oatmeal (1 x 10 servings)
For more information, here are a couple of reviews of NuManna products that I’ve done:

How do you prep gluten free?

Gluten free prepping carries its own set of challenges, but for some of us, it’s vital to our health. If you are building a gluten-free prepper pantry, share your tips in the comments below.

For Canadian readers:

Many of these products won’t be available to be shipped to Canada.  When I lived in Ontario, my favorite resource was this:

Oak Manor Farms

They did not offer free shipping, but the prices were very reasonable and the quality was fantastic.

* Healthy Emergency Food List for Beginning Preppers

In this day of paychecks that are stretched to the limit, it can be difficult to imagine taking on anything else that will cost money.   Despite that, if you are interested in preparedness, you know that it’s wise to have a food supply on hand that will see you through a basic emergency.

I always recommend that you get started by planning for a two-week emergency.  What kind of emergency, you may be asking?

Well, the best kind of prepping will be so versatile that it will see you through a personal financial issue, an extended power outage, or being confined to your home for a period of time due to a blizzard or civil unrest.  None of these things makes you a “doomsday prepper” of the National Geographic variety. I’m not asking you to filter your pee and drink it. Just have the basics on hand to ride out a variety of situations in comfort.

One of the most frequent requests I get is for specific recommendations, so here’s a healthy emergency food list for beginning preppers.

Shopping Tips

Shopping for an emergency food supply isn’t like regular grocery shopping. Here are a few things to think about when planning your emergency food list.

Buy good quality food. While it’s easy to get sucked into the “something cheap is better than nothing” mentality, that’s not 100% true.  It’s very important that you nourish yourself well during a crisis. This provides you with the energy you need to get through the emergency and it keeps you healthy. What could add more insult to injury than a lowered immune system allowing you to become sick during some sort of crisis?  Focus on getting the best quality of food that you can afford.

Think about how you’ll prepare it.  Some people have numerous off-grid ways to cook. Perhaps their propane kitchen stove works when the power is out. Maybe they plan to use the outdoor grill or the fireplace.  Maybe none of these is an option.  Base your food list on the resources you currently have available, not the ones you hope to have one of these days.  There’s a lot you can do with boiling water, so consider adding a rocket stove to your supply list. (The Kelly Kettle is amazing and worth every penny. Another great option is the Volcano 3 in 1, which will burn just about anything for fuel.)

Think about the special needs of your family. Maybe you have a person with a severe peanut allergy – scratch peanut butter off the list. Maybe someone is gluten intolerant or has extremely high blood pressure. Perhaps your children are extremely picky eaters. Whatever the case, try to create a food supply that will be similar to your everyday fare. No one needs added stress in the midst of an emergency.

Plan ahead.  Don’t just run to the store and buy a whole bunch of stuff and consider yourself prepped.  You need to break this down and analyze it. Otherwise you’ll leave out something very important or you’ll blow your budget without getting all you need. Trust me.

Hide your stash.  If your house is anything like mine, your family will hoover up the easy pickings. Since we rarely have any type of prepared food sitting around the house, things like granola bars are novelty items that will be eaten right away, leaving you without emergency food supplies.

The List

Let me preface this list by saying that it’s really more of a guideline. If you are following the suggestions above, you understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to do this.  The list assumes that you have the ability to boil water during an emergency.

  • Crackers
  • Canned fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Dry cereal (repackage for longer shelf life)
  • Dry milk (We prefer dry whole milk to non-fat dry milk)
  • Canned beans
  • Nuts
  • Pudding cups (a nice treat)
  • Jerky
  • Pre-cooked rice
  • Granola bars
  • Dried Fruit
  • Peanut butter
  • Dry pasta (this kind can be prepared by soaking it with boiling water for a few minutes)
  • Canned soup
  • Canned pasta in sauce
  • Instant oatmeal (the kids will probably want some syrup or brown sugar on the plain packets.)
  • Canned chicken
  • Tomato sauce

This list totals about $275 and would feed a family of 3-4 for a couple of weeks, give or take a little. Keep in mind that the items I chose were very high quality. You may be able to duplicate the list at your grocery store.  As well, if you choose non-organic items the emergency list will cost less money.  Adjust the quantities and items based on your budget, your family’s preferences, and the number of people you’ll be feeding.

Another emergency food option is freeze-dried buckets. Choose high-quality products like the ones from Preppers Market.

For the long-term…

Of course, the emergency food list above is the bare minimum you should have on hand for those unexpected emergencies that could happen to anyone.  I really want to see people get started so they can handle those short-term crises with aplomb.

A far more budget friendly way to deal with potential emergencies is to build a pantry stockpile of high-quality food over a period of time. If you’d like to learn more about that, please check out my book, The Pantry Primer.

However you opt to get started, I urge you not to wait. Winter storm season is just around the corner, the economy is shaky, and there’s always the potential for something unexpected. Build a pantry that gives you one less thing to be concerned about.