All Posts by Olivia Bedford

Survival Bartering: The Pros And Cons

BarterTo trade by exchange of commodities rather than by the use of money.

Much has been written about the use of barter in a post SHTF/TEOTWAWKI* scenario. Barter is presumed to be the norm for conducting common transactions, especially at the beginning of the event (see Chile 1982, Argentina 2001). None of these discussions describe the true difficulties of using barter for containing daily common supplies and needs. This is survival bartering – when your very life may depend on your bartering skills.

Most people think barter is merely “I’ll trade you this for that.” In a pure, simple sense that is so. However, where the rubber meets the road, where theory smacks hard into the face of reality, it isn’t nearly that simple and easy. “Barter” is plainly not the same thing as “money” — just using things like matches, seeds, clean water, rounds of ammunition in place of coins and paper money.

The difference between survival bartering and using money

Like it or not, good or bad, “money”, as we have come to know it, is an effective means of exchange. We exchange money for the product and services we want. “Money” is very effective is because it is very generic. The currency we receive (or pay out) in exchange for products and services can be used to obtain whatever other products and services we want, when we want them (all other things being equal). We do not need to know exactly what we are going to use the money for when we receive it.

We can exchange money for food or clothing or medicine or fuel or transportation or entertainment, or simply hold on to it (save) for another day. “Money” doesn’t get stale or expire or simply go bad after some period of time (ignoring inflation and devaluation for the moment).

The difference between survival bartering and using money

Like it or not, good or bad, “money”, as we have come to know it, is an effective means of exchange. We exchange money for the product and services we want. “Money” is very effective is because it is very generic. The currency we receive (or pay out) in exchange for products and services can be used to obtain whatever other products and services we want, when we want them (all other things being equal). We do not need to know exactly what we are going to use the money for when we receive it.

We can exchange money for food or clothing or medicine or fuel or transportation or entertainment, or simply hold on to it (save) for another day. “Money” doesn’t get stale or expire or simply go bad after some period of time (ignoring inflation and devaluation for the moment).

By contrast, when you are considering a barter exchange, you mustconsider at that exact moment what it is you reasonably expect to do with whatever item(s) you are receiving in the exchange. It is highly risky to accept an item whose usefulness to you isn’t clear.

This has obvious draw backs

You may not need an item today but need it tomorrow and now the opportunity to acquire it is gone. You may take an item in exchange thinking it will useful but turns out it isn’t. You may take the greater risk of accepting an item in exchange hope to re-exchange it later for something else, but that doesn’t pan out either.

For example, many web sites and blogs state that .22 ammunition will be the “new currency” in a post SHTF environment. To me, .22 ammo is only good if I have a .22 firearm. If not, I either don’t accept the exchange, or take on additional risk by accepting something I may (or may not) be able re-barter later for something I do need.

Another example: Consider a post-natural disaster scenario like Katrina. Suppose someone comes to you with a brand new big screen TV wanting to trade it for food. In more normal times the TV has value because you can use it right away. But after a disaster it might be weeks or even months before power and cable is restored to your area so what good is a big screen TV?

What exactly to store as barter items?

The answer is simple: It largely doesn’t matter.

There is no real way of know what exactly will be of exchangeable value in a post-SHTF scenario. Some items will probably always have a level of demand such as food, water, medical, defenses, fuel, etc. But those would likely be the last things you want to trade instead of keeping for your own use.

Websites and videos are full of suggestions for this or that  to accumulate for barter such as tobacco, alcohol, ammunition, salt, sugar, batteries, candles, needles and thread, even tooth brushes and dental floss!  In one video I recently saw the guy claimed to have over 50,000 (yes!) nails of all kinds stored for both his own building use and for barter. On another website it was posted that someone had stored so much TP in anticipation of Y2K problems that it took several yearsafter Y2K to use it all up! Imagine the storage space need for all that!

There is also geography to be considered. Some items may have greater value to people in urban areas while people in rural areas put greater value on different items. Someone in a more Northern location will value warm clothes more than someone in Florida.

The reality is you simply cannot turn your home and pantry into an extension of WalMart. No one has enough money and space to allow that. If you are going to collect items with the intention of using them for barter, be sure they are things you can use yourself in your own life should the exchange value not be as significant as you imagined pre-SHTF (not to mention if a SHTF event never occurs at all).

Barter exchange has been around since the start of humanity. There is no reason to think that would change. But bartering for products and services is far different from our present currency exchange systems that requires a very different understanding of how markets work in order to be successful. It should not be thought of as just the same as using dollars or other paper currency.

Homecare Nursing: The Missing Piece In Survival Medicine

Medical planning and training is a huge subject among preppers, and with good reason. In a large-scale disaster or worst case scenario, medical treatment may be impossible to access. Preppers, as a group, know more than the average person, but there is one area that very few preppers even seem to notice: Homecare Nursing.

I am a Licensed Practical Nurse, EMT, Wilderness EMT, phlebotomist, and CPR/ First Aid instructor. I also instruct disaster medicine with a well known firm and am currently working on my RN. I work full-time as well and have done this over the last several years. In addition to this training, I have had the opportunity to care for two relatives on hospice.

I have noticed that many preppers want to know how to suture a wound or remove “the bullet” or some other “glamorous” task. But the more training I receive and practice in the field, the more I realize how much I do not know, in spite of all my training and experience. That concept really scares me but it’s a healthy fear. Preppers will benefit from that realization as well. Learn the basics. Have the proper supplies ready. And then take the next step to learn how to suture a wound or remove a bullet.

Homecare nursing

The most ignored area in medical training that I have seen in survival circles is homecare nursing. I know it may be a boring subject, but it’s an absolute necessity to keep your patient alive and viable. It is sad when I deal with a person (young or older) who has contractures, bed sores, develops pneumonia, or just fights to maintain some level of independence because no one in their life provides basic homecare nursing skills.

A basic overview of the skill set necessary

Good basic patient care can be learned and mastered by becoming a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant). The job of CNAs is to take temperatures and blood pressures, give bed baths, turn, and feed patients. They help monitor for bed sores, pressure areas, changing incontinent patients, and providing basic necessary care. It may not have the glamour or prestige of removing a bullet, but basic patient care is actually more necessary.

Not everyone understands that a person cannot lie in bed for hours, days, or even weeks without someone really involved in their care. An immobile patient must be turned and checked every two hours. If you turn them and see a red mark on their side, butt, or back, you are probably looking at a bedsore very soon. Bedsores can kill patients!! I have seen Stage 4 pressure ulcers that go to the bone. Do not let that happen. Patients need to be clean, dry and intact – always!

Bed-bound patients need to be exercised daily to help prevent contractures, a shortening or distortion of muscle or connective tissue. Contractures ultimately have the patient going into a fetal position. In nursing school we have worked with patients that required four adults to just change them and get them out of bed. Very, very sad.

This exercise involves having the patient move all their joints through their full range of motion. One or more caregivers may have to help with this. Start with the head by going side to side and rotations, move to the neck, shoulders, arms, fingers, knees and toes.

I also use incentive spirometers for lung exercises. This can help prevent pneumonia. If that is not available, try chest physiotherapy. Try cupping your hands and have the patients on their side. Use your cupped hands and tap on the patients back to loosen anything in the lungs. Do not use too much pressure but tap several times a day.

Necessary materials

  • Gloves – No latex. I prefer Nitrile for durability (available at Costco). It is impossible to have too many. I personally have 10 –12 cases. Each case has 10 boxes of 100 gloves. (Latex allergies are fairly common; there are nitrile allergies but they are far more unusual.)
  • Bed pan
  • Urinal – Male and female.
  • Wash basin
  • Emesis basin
  • Bed pads for incontinence – Reusable or disposable. The reusables are strong and can be used to help turn/ reposition your patient
  • Incontinence briefs (diapers) and pull-ups
  • Baby wipes – You can never have enough.
  • Thicken – Makes liquids thick for people with swallowing difficulties.
  • Nosey cups – Plastic cups with the nose section cut out to help with liquids for patients with limited mobility
  • Incentive spirometers – Lung exercisers.
  • Walkers
  • Crutches
  • Cane – Carbon Fiber is far lighter than other options.
  • Bedside commode
  • Gait belt – Assistive belt to help a patient ambulate.
  • Thermometer
  • Blood pressure cuff and stethoscope
  • Manual wheelchair
  • Hand Cleaner
  • Clorox and sprayer

I designed a “raised platform bed” for homecare nursing because I could not justify a hospital bed with hand cranks. The raised bed allows me to care for the patient without killing my back.

This is just a starting point to help you begin to think about skills and supplies you may want to add to your repertoire. It is far from complete but should give you an idea about needs for your patients. The American Red Cross may offer classes in your area to provide more training.

Remember, everyone in your family or group will need training and practice. Someday, the patient may be you, and these simple procedures may save a life, including your own. Also and most important, many of these tasks are not fun. Many are done for infants and young children without any thought. Please be kind and offer privacy and dignity to your patients. Treat them as you would want to be treated.

Would A Long-Term Blackout Mean Nuclear Meltdown?

According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, there are 61 active commercial nuclear plants spread across the United States. A question on the minds of many is, what would happen to those plants if the nation experienced a widespread, long-term blackout? Would there be a nuclear meltdown? Let me start by saying that there is a quite a bit of misinformation on the web about this subject, so my advice is to be careful about what you choose to believe.

Many of you may know that I have a background in science and engineering (Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering), so I believed that if I could talk with a knowledgeable person working in the nuclear power industry, I could get to the bottom of this question. To find answers, I consulted Jim Hopson, the Manager of Public Relations at the Tennessee Valley Authority. As readers may point out, it was in Mr. Hopson’s interest to assure me that nuclear plants are safe, but to be fair, I found him to be forthright about the industry’s safeguards and vulnerabilities.

How nuclear plants operate

Probably the best place to start is with a basic discussion of how a nuclear power plant operates. There are two types of reactors in the U.S., boiling water reactors (BWRs) and pressurized water reactors (PWRs). For purposes of our discussion, the differences in their operation aren’t terribly important. Nuclear reactors use an atomic process called fission to generate heat. The heat is then used to create steam that turns large turbines to generate electricity. The steam is later condensed and returned in a closed-loop process within the reactor system.

The nuclear reaction itself is beyond the scope of this brief write up (and my expertise), but the gist is that an energetic neutron is absorbed by a uranium-235 nucleus, briefly turning it into a uranium-236 nucleus. The uranium-236 then splits into lighter elements, releasing a large amount of energy. The physical system inside the reactor consists of tens of thousands of nuclear fuel rods placed into a water bath. The rods are essentially long metal tubes filled with ceramic nuclear pellets that are bundled together into larger assemblies.

Trivia bit: A nuclear fuel pellet is about the size of a pencil eraser but equivalent in energy to one ton of coal.

Preventing a nuclear meltdown

The risks of nuclear power are many, but two stand above the rest. The first is that the fuel assemblies in the reactor might overheat. That would only occur if the fission process became uncontrolled or if the cooling system failed.

Should overheating occur, the fuel rods’ zirconium cladding and nuclear materials could both melt, resulting in a nuclear sludge akin to molten lava. That slag would be so hot that it might melt through the bottom of the reinforced reactor. Eventually, it would cool enough to harden, but not before it had spewed nuclear contaminants into the air. Melting zirconium also releases hydrogen, which could lead to an explosion that might actually expel the nuclear material into the surrounding area—think Fukushima.

The good news is that nuclear fission can be stopped in under one second through the insertion of control rods. Those control rods are automatically inserted near the fuel rods either by a hydraulic system or through the use of an electromagnetic dead man switch that activates when power is removed. That means that when the electrical grid goes down or an emergency shutdown is initiated, fission would automatically stop one second later.

That’s a good thing, but it doesn’t make the reactor inherently safe. Even without fission, the fuel rod assemblies remain incredibly hot, perhaps a thousand degrees C. If they were not actively cooled, pressure and temperatures would build in the reactor until something breaks—not good. After three days of active cooling, however, the reactor would be thermally cool enough to open, should it be deemed necessary to remove the fuel rod assemblies.

The second major risk has to do with cooling of the spent fuel rod assemblies. Nuclear fuel rod assemblies have a usable life on the order of 54-72 months (depending on reactor type). Every 18-24 months, the reactor is brought down and serviced. While it is down, the fuel rod assemblies are removed, and 1/3 of them are replaced with fresh assemblies. Think of this like rotating cans of food in your emergency pantry.

In the U.S., fuel rods are not refurbished like in other countries. Instead, they are carefully stored in giant pools of water laced with boric acid—imagine a swimming pool at your local YMCA that is 75-feet deep. Those spent fuel rod assemblies are still incredibly radioactive, and they continue to generate heat. Water in the pool must therefore be circulated to keep them cool.

How long must the fuel rods be cooled? According to Mr. Hopson, the answer is 5-7 years. After that, the rods are cool enough to be removed and stored in reinforced concrete casks. Even then, the rods continue to be radioactive, but their heat output can be passively managed.

Emergency systems

Nuclear plants obviously require electricity to operate their cooling pumps, not to mention their control systems. That power is normally tapped off of the electricity that the reactor generates. If the plant is offline, the power is provided by the electrical grid. But what happens when the grid itself goes down? The short answer is that large on-site diesel generators automatically activate to provide electricity. And if those should fail, portable diesel generators, which are also on-site, can be connected. Recent standardization has also ensured that generators can be swapped between plants without the need to retrofit connectors.

There are also a couple of additional emergency systems that can be used specifically to cool the reactor. These include the turbine-driven-auxiliary-feedwater pump, which uses steam generated by the reactor to power a cooling turbine. The pump requires an operator, but it runs completely without electricity. This system, however, is meant only for emergency cooling of the reactor during those critical first few days when the fuel rod assemblies are being brought down in temperature, not for long-term cooling.

And finally, in the worst case, most plants have a method of bringing in river or ocean water to flood the reactor. This typically damages the cooling system, but again, it helps to cool and cover the reactor core should all else fail. Unlike in other countries, permission from the federal government is not required to flood the reactor.

Worst-case power-loss scenario

With backup systems to the backup systems, it would seem that there’s nothing to worry about, right? Under all but the direst of circumstances, I think that assessment is correct. However, one could imagine a scenario in which the grid was lost and the diesel generators ran out of fuel.

Speaking of fuel, how much is actually stored onsite? It depends on the plant, but at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, for example, there is enough fuel to run the emergency diesel generators for at least 42 days. I say at least because it would depend on exactly what was being powered.

Once the reactor was cooled down, a much smaller system, known as the Residual Heat Removal System, would be all that was required to keep the fuel assemblies cool, both in the reactor and the spent fuel rods pool. The generators and onsite fuel supply could power that smaller cooling system for significantly longer than if they were powering the larger reactor cooling system. Even if we assumed a worst case of 42 days, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which that would not be enough time to bring in additional fuel either by land, water, or air. Nonetheless, let’s push the question a little further. What would happen in the unlikely event that the diesel fuel was exhausted?

Even with the reactor having been successfully cooled, the biggest risk would continue to be overheating of the fuel rod assemblies, both in the reactor and the spent fuel rods pool. Without circulation, the heat from the fuel rod assemblies could boil the surrounding water, resulting in steam. In turn, the water levels would drop, ultimately exposing the fuel rods to air. Once exposed to air, their temperatures would rise but not to the levels that would melt the zirconium cladding.

Thankfully, that means that meltdown would not occur. The steam might well carry radioactive contaminants into the air, but there would be no release of hydrogen and, thus, no subsequent explosions. The situation would certainly be dangerous to surrounding communities, but it wouldn’t be the nuclear Armageddon that many people worry about.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that in the event of a long-duration blackout, several things would need to occur for a nuclear meltdown.

First, fission would need to be halted by the insertion of control rods, a process that takes less than one second. Next, the reactor would need to be cooled for at least three days using the large diesel engines to provide electrical power. After that, the fuel rods would be cool enough that the reactor could be opened, and the plant’s Residual Heat Removal System could be used to provide cooling. That smaller system would need operate for 5-7 years to ensure that the fuel rod assemblies, both in the reactor and in the spent fuel rods pool, didn’t overheat. Only then could the fuel rod assemblies be moved to concrete casks for dry storage and final dispositioning.

During those 5-7 years, electricity in one form or another would be required. If it was not maintained, radioactive contamination could be released into the air, but the temperatures of the fuel rods would not be high enough to cause a complete meltdown or the dangerous release of hydrogen.

The point of this article wasn’t to convince anyone that nuclear power generation is safe or that a nuclear meltdown could never happen. I would argue that history has already proven that it comes with some very serious risks. Rather, it was to discuss the impact of a long-duration blackout. Specifically, it focused on the safeguards that are currently in place, and more importantly, discussed the magnitude of the catastrophe that might result if we allowed those safeguards to fail.

Guest post by Arthur T. Bradley, Ph.D.

5 Steps To Creating A Culture Of Self-Reliance In Your Family

We have all known people who save everything. My grandmother is one of them. If there are four green beans left in the pot, she puts them in the freezer. I remember one specific visit with her, 27 years ago, where she asked me to get her a bowl of ice cream. What I thought was the container of vanilla ice cream was actually a container of saved bacon grease.

Fast forward to today. She is now 96 years old, and still saving every last morsel and dollar. Grandma grew up during the Great Depression; those habits, ingrained in her when young, are still manifest today. The family snickers a little bit about it, but we know she will not outlive her money or her things. Isn’t there something reassuring about that? She has always worked hard at being self-reliant. Will our children be able to do the same?

As I watch the news and look around me, I wonder if another Depression wouldn’t do us some good. It wasn’t too long ago when life wasn’t so convenient. Many in our society have lost the mindset that our grandparents had. We have instant and immediate food, entertainment, communication, and information. Many feel that things will always be as good as they are now, but history does repeat itself. Perhaps one of the most important things we can do is prepare the next generation for whatever may arise.

Like those who have habits from the Great Depression, you can make self-reliance and preparedness a part of your family culture. One of the most effective ways to do this is to live it every day. Whether we have children of our own or are involved in an organization such as a church or school, we have the power to instill preparedness values. Now is the time for us to equip the younger generation with skills that will help them be confident and prepared for anything life may throw at them.

If you have children I recommend that you have a weekly family council. Along with normal family business, make goals on implementing these principles of preparedness into your family. If you are part of another organization, teach classes or organize projects that encourage preparedness. Set the example by your actions.

Five Preparedness Principles

There are five principles that can generate a preparedness mindset:

Thriftiness and frugality

The longstanding adage “Eat it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”, still holds true today. The importance of being thrifty and frugal is often forgotten. Clothes can be mended, altered and remade into other items. I have seen curtains reused to cover chairs, a table cloth became pillow covers and adult size clothes were remade into clothes for a younger child. Learn ways to take other household items and re-purpose them.

Another way to pinch pennies is to find out where all of your pennies are going. There are many forms online that can be used to assist in budgeting. Record your family’s expenses for one month and then gather together to review them. Are there any non-essentials that can be eliminated? Involve family members in creating a budget. Teach them to differentiate between wants and needs and set financial goals together. Save money for a vacation or purchase that the whole family can enjoy. Budget additional funds to be set aside for large purchases and for emergencies. Teach your kids now that it is not worth “keeping up with the Joneses”.

Strive for independence

This would include independence from anything that prevents us from living to our full potential. Avoid any habits or addictions that restrict your body and mind. Eat healthy, exercise, surround yourself with good friends, and strengthen yourself spiritually and mentally.

Look at your finances. What can you do to be financially independent? Do not get into the habit of using credit for purchases. Many people look at the monthly payment amount versus the real amount of an item. If you have debt, pay it down now. There are many websites available to help accomplish this.

Time is another area where you can be independent. Choose how to prioritize and use it wisely, which would include helping others. Teach this next generation the importance of being kind and charitable. Donate money and time to projects you feel are worthwhile. There are many opportunities available in your own community or help out with a need on the other side of the world. Either way, you will develop a deeper empathy towards others and an appreciation for what you have.

Become industrious

It sounds odd to tell someone to work at being industrious, but it does require energy to be creative and find balance in life. Look at your life and see what circumstances are around you. Search for ways to be resourceful. You may discover talents you did not know you had.

Are there any enterprising opportunities available that you could take advantage of? Another source of income could benefit you and those around you. Find ways to increase your marketability in the workplace. It may be finishing that degree, taking community classes or a free online classes (many are available). Look in your community. See if there is a need that could be filled by a skill that you possess. Teach those around you the importance of an honest work ethic.While industriousness is good, remember that wherever you are at in life, be there completely. When you are at work, work. When you are at home, leave work alone and enjoy your time with family and friends. If you need down time, take it.

Strive for self-reliance

I am sure you know people who seem to be able to do, make, or fix anything. Chances are, they had to work on those skills often before they mastered it. Like them, you need to continue to learn and put what you learn into practice. The internet is a great resource. We can learn how to do basic car maintenance, repairs on our home, first aid, and taking care of what we already own. Not only can you save money by doing these things yourself, you are free from depending on others to do them for you.

There is a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from doing and mastering new tasks. Planting a garden is another way of developing self-reliance. Not only will you save money on groceries and enjoy fresh produce, there are benefits much greater. Gardening, along with other tasks, allow you to spend time with those close to you. Working together as a group builds stronger relationships, whether it is between parent and child, as friends, or in a community setting. There is a sense of togetherness and learning that you cannot get anywhere else. If you do not teach those around you how to work, who will?

Aim towards having a year’s supply of clothing and food

Don’t let this overwhelm you. Take baby steps. Make a list of the amounts of food and commodities that your family normally consumes in one day. Take that list and multiply it by 7. That is your one week supply. When you have a one week supply stored, continue until you have three months supply. Use and rotate your 3 month supply. Then focus on long term storage.

Many foods, such as grains, beans, and pasta can have a shelf life of 30+ years. Clothing can be a bit of a challenge if you have growing kids. Looking at clearance racks and thrift stores can be an inexpensive way to work on storing clothes and shoes. If you sew, fabric is also be a great addition to your years supply. Do not forget to include any notions you may need.

As you begin to create a culture of self-reliance, you will feel more confident about your ability to withstand almost any hardship. We cannot depend on the government or charities to provide services and care for the millions of people across the nation when a disaster happens. It is essential that each individual and family do all they can to be responsible for themselves when needed. If we are wise and careful with our resources, we will be able to sustain ourselves through difficult times.

18 Tips For Buying An Affordable & Usable Property For Getting Out Of Dodge

An affordable bug out location or Get Out Of Dodge (GOOD) property is a wish and a dream for many a prepper. Unfortunately, though, few of us can afford those multi-hundred-thousand dollar properties we see on TV with orchards, solar power, stocked ponds, and all the bells and whistles.

Even a moderate property out in the country is an additional expense, not only for survival or preparedness but as a place to go while the kids and grandkids are little. Time in the country makes for many happy memories. After all, you might want to get out of Dodge simply to escape from the stresses of everyday life.

If this is a dream and a goal for you, the first step is to find an affordable, usable GOOD property for your family, preferably one that is a fun weekend and summer getaway as well. Once you’ve found that dream piece of land, then it’s time to design and build your dream property, all without breaking the bank or having to drive too far (as defined by your family).

Finding your affordable bug out location

The first issue to tackle is where you want to buy property.

To narrow the search, the first decision is how far it is reasonable to go. For us, anything more than a full work day (eight hours) of driving in normal conditions was too far both for that Get Out of Dodge location and for an enjoyable family weekend/summer retreat. If everything did hit the fan, getting that far would be difficult to impossible. For family getaways, we would spend two days driving, which uses up an entire weekend and cuts down too much on a longer vacation. In addition, getting there to check on problems and make sure everything was safe is too difficult.

PREPPER TIP: Decide how far you’re able to drive, in both hours and miles, and then mark those distances on a map, going in different directions from your current home. This may lead you to the perfect area you hadn’t considered.

Living near a major city, two hours is bit too close to the potential hordes. Ultimately, we decided that a three to four hour drive from our home is comfortable for us both in terms of being far enough for a SHTF situation and close enough for summer vacations and weekend trips. However, a knowledgeable friend in our own town has a retreat ninety minute to two hours from here. His belief is that three to four hours is too far if you need to walk, and his family is able to regularly use their weekend place because it is convenient. Point being: the ideal distance is what you are comfortable with, not a static, fixed number.

Take terrain, hazards, and weather into consideration

Another consideration is the terrain you will need to travel. Given our location, a lot of potential destinations involve twisty, country roads or heavily traveled interstates. That definitely impacts our choices.

Depending on where you live, some directions may have rivers, lakes, mountains, deserts, canyons, and other geographical features that can make driving harder, or possibly easier. Seasonal features such as flood plains and roads that are routinely threatened by avalanches, mudslides, or rock slides must also be considered, although these are unlikely to be marked on anything other than, possibly, a detailed map such as a DeLorme Atlas.

Man-made potential hazards such as dams, prisons, and power plants are not marked on all maps, but should certainly be considered. (I lived near Three Mile Island when it made nuclear history.) Other considerations include having a national border (Mexico, Canada) or big city (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles) within a few hours. We have a big city about six hours north of us. Six hours is more than far enough to feel safe from it even in our home, but any property owners several hours north of us will regret being that close to a large city. Obviously that isn’t ideal in a SHTF situation, but it also tends to make property much more expensive in everyday life.

Weather is another consideration. In my case, the weather even four hours north tends to be cold enough that it would limit how much we could use the property. Similarly, buying property three to four hours east of Los Angeles would tend to make it too hot and dry to be useful. (It is a literal desert.) Some areas are also prone to natural disasters including hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, which can lead to significantly increased expenses for building, insurance, and repairing damage. In short, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the local weather and natural hazards in any area you are considering.

RECOMMENDED READING: I cannot recommend highly enough the classic by Joel Skousen, Strategic Relocationfor evaluating locations within every state and continent as a potential Get Out of Dodge location.

Your family may also have specific health-related concerns that will affect your GOOD location. Anywhere with too much time on twisty roads is problematic for my family because of rampant motion-sickness. Another friend has serious health issues and has to be within an hour or two of a top-notch hospital. Allergies and even phobias may also impact your choices. If someone is truly afraid of heights, a cliff-top property might be completely out of the question.

Once you look at all those factors, you should have a solid, reasonably-sized radius to look in and it’s time to narrow down the search to specific counties or towns.

Getting more specific in your search

Spend some time thinking about what your family enjoys doing and where they like to do it. Are they avid bikers, backpackers or hikers? What kind of terrain? Do you regularly canoe, kayak, sail, swim, or do other water sports? Are they better suited to the ocean, rivers, or a lake? Is the property just for you or do you plan to build with friends or family?

These may seem trivial if you have end-of-the-world scenarios in mind, but at some point, you might be LIVING in this location, so it might as well be somewhere you actually want to spend time.

How old are your kids? If they are small, what safety concerns do you have? With toddlers, a deep swimming hole could make an otherwise-perfect property a no-go. If they are bigger, do you want to make it big enough that they can join you with their own significant other and/or family? Do you have any other family members you need to consider, including your parents and in-laws? How much space do you really need both in acreage and in home space, and think ahead several years to changing family size and circumstances.

How do you plan to get there? Do you have a private plane? (If so, your search radius can be hours farther from your home – a ten hour drive might be a nice short flight!) That will clearly change what you are looking for since you will need a landing strip nearby. Will you be taking an RV or tiny house? Do you have a four wheel drive vehicle? How about a truck? Will your family or group be arriving in multiple vehicles? Not only will your form of transportation affect how far your GOOD site will be, but also the types of roads you’ll be able to navigate.

Do you want to start a survival garden? If so, what plans do you have? Your needs will be different if you want to have a mini-orchard, an herb garden, or a small greenhouse, but gardening generally needs more open (not forested) land than hunting or fishing, for example, and your needs in terms of soil, sunlight, and water will be greater. The north side of a mountain may simply never get enough sunlight for successful gardening.

RECOMMENDED READING: Develop a survival garden that blends in with the surrounding native plants, providing food but camouflaged to passers by. Rick Austin provides details in his book, Secret Garden of Survival.

Would a hunting property be regularly used, or does your family fish? Depending on what you hunt, the game might be plentiful in different areas, and you might want to adjoin (or avoid) national or state park lands. As a fisherman, you may choose to avoid certain areas if the water (and fish) are known or believed to be contaminated, or to choose other areas where they are plentiful and tasty.

In our case, my kids love kayaking, canoeing – any water sports – so my preference is property on or near water, just not the ocean. (I don’t want to deal with hurricane insurance or damage.) That means our ideal GOOD property will be either on a lake or a river. My preference is a lake because rivers tend to have large cities on them, which makes it easy for those citizens to go upstream in an emergency and our safe shelter might not be so safe any more. Rivers also frequently have power plants and factories on them, increasing the chances of pollution.

Narrowing the focus and looking at properties

Using MapQuest and Google Earth, I initially searched in a 2 hour radius from our home for rivers, larger lakes, and any other water feature that might serve, until we found an area that seemed to suit. (The DeLorme Atlases are also a great way to search.) The next step was to (virtually) check out actual real estate.

Some areas have realtors that specialize in that area, although that can be a warning sign that they are popular and possibly too populated. For other areas, Zillow or can help you decide if the area suits. This is a great way to get a general idea of what the local style is. If you really hate log cabins, an area where most of the available property tends toward “log cabin” probably won’t be a  great fit. But it might be perfect if you love log cabins!

In my own search, the first area I found to my liking is near a major natural spring, making geothermal energy a real option, but it’s also far too close for comfort to a less-than-totally-safe city. It’s also an area with lots of tourists, and this makes the prices a bit higher. Moving on, the next potential property I found didn’t appeal to my husband because it was too close to where we live now.

After talking with my husband a bit more, I realized that I was looking for locations too close to our current home. It was at this point that I went from looking a couple hours away to three or four hours away. Lesson learned: it’s important to be flexible and talk with your spouse while going through this process. As we talked through things, I realized that we were really only interested in looking south of where we currently live. That simplified things a lot!

I spent a few more hours on Google Earth and narrowed down the search area even further simply by looking at the geography. By identifying a more specific area and then looking at geographical features, we now have an area that’s a good enough fit to actually begin looking at properties.

Wanting to learn more about the area from those who have visited it first hand, I started to ask people what they thought of it. Since it’s a popular vacation spot, asking around doesn’t raise any suspicion. When I was picking my son up from school, I saw someone wearing a t-shirt for that area and asked his opinion. Since his family has been going there every year for thirty years, I think he counts as a fan! More importantly, talking to local people about it has given me a better feel for how long it really takes to get there and how hard the drive is, or isn’t. (Motion sickness is a big issue for my family.)

The area has lots of summer vacation home rentals but that isn’t realistic for us this year. Camping, on the other hand, is totally doable, so I’m going to try to wrangle the family and get them to go down for a long weekend to really see what we think of the area.

One item to keep in mind while you are looking at undeveloped land is that a well and septic can be $10-20,000 or more each, depending on size and complexity. Well prices depend in large part on depth; our well has water about 40 feet down but the well is over 200 feet deep, so don’t assume water fairly near the surface will mean the well doesn’t go deep. A $60,000 lot with a well and septic installed may be a bargain compared to an unimproved one the same size for $40,000.

Lowering the cost even more

How can the cost of a GOOD property be affordable? Consider it’s potential as a rental. In the area I’ve been looking at, because it is a popular vacation spot, there is the potential for rental income depending on how and where we build. (Local ordinances restrict some areas from short-term rentals; other areas are simply not desirable.) Honestly, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that. Once we have our personal items there and at least enough food that we don’t have to go grocery shopping immediately upon arrival, I don’t know that I want strangers staying there, but I might be OK with it. I simply don’t know, and it’s far down the road, but it’s an option that could help us if we experienced a financial setback.

Sharing the property with like-minded friends and family is another way to lower the cost, especially if you have multiple buildings on one larger property. One possibility is starting with a tiny house or two — enough covered living area to provide a sturdy shelter until a larger home can be built.

Really be purposeful and realistic about what you are buying. Do you actually need one hundred acres, or would five to ten acres suffice for your needs? More land means more area to protect and develop. Living near a state or national park may decrease how much property you need, if isolation is your primary concern. Finding a property where you can generate off-grid power such as solar, geothermal, wind, or water power may also help you lower the long-term costs.

As with any big purchase, there is a lot to consider, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or outrageously expensive (for real estate). Take your time, think about your needs – not what someone else tells you is important, and what you want out of a property. Enjoy the process – and don’t rush it! It’s better to take a few more months, or even a couple of years, and end up with a property you love than to settle for something not-quite-right.

Necessary Roles In a Survival Group

Forming a group of like-minded individuals who are committed to helping one another in the event of a disaster is a great plan.  Many hands make light work and all that.  However, it is important to remember there are some key roles that need to be filled within the group.  It is certainly possible that one person can take on multiple roles.  However, if that’s the case, bear in mind that the loss of that person will result in several roles also being lost.

The Problem Solver

This person is critical when it comes to solving the inevitable issues that crop up, whether the problems are interpersonal or they are physical.  He or she tends to think outside the box and offers solutions that work more often than not.  The Problem Solver often prefers taking action rather than debating an issue ad nauseum, which sometimes is exactly what is needed.

The Jack of All Trades

Often, though not always, this role is fulfilled by the Problem Solver.  The Jack of All Trades is the person who knows a little bit about a lot of things.  He or she is handy with things like carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and mechanics in general.  When the group needs to figure out how to build something, the Jack of All Trades is the person to have on hand.

The Thinker

Akin to the Problem Solver, this person is able to see the big picture and predict far ranging effects of a given course of action.  Where he or she differs from the Problem Solver is that they tend to ruminate over issues rather than wanting to act quickly.  Often, this person is frighteningly intelligent but relatively quiet.

The Manager

He or she is the logistics person.  They are able to figure out the best ways to keep people working and have tasks accomplished efficiently.  The Manager tends to work best when goals are outlined to them and they are told to ensure those goals are met.  Good Managers typically have superior people skills and motivate those with whom they are working.

The Leader

At the head of any successful team is an effective leader.  He or she tends to inspire people and the best ones avoid using fear or force to get people on board.  They will take into account the advice and guidance of others, then make concrete, committed decisions.  Great leaders tend to be born rather than made.  Either a person has this capability or they don’t.

The Joker

This role might not be absolutely crucial to a group’s success but they sure make life a little more fun.  The Joker provides often needed stress relief.  While he or she will likely get on someone’s nerves from time to time, their side remarks and commentary can lighten the mood and allow the Thinkers and Problem Solvers to brainstorm solutions.

The Scout

This role requires the person to be courageous and quick thinking.  He or she will be tasked with exploring the area, either to locate resources or determine threats, perhaps both.  Ideally, the Scout is physically agile and intelligent, able to get in and get out quickly, efficiently, and quietly.

If you have a group already, give some thought as to which group members fill each of these roles.  Whether you have an existing group or are looking to start one, use these roles as a checklist of sorts as you seek out new members.

Picking Group Members for the Long-Haul

By now, or at least, hopefully by now, you have figured out the lone wolf approach doesn’t work well in survival situations. Despite numerous fiction novels featuring the protagonist as a lone wolf survivor, having a team, group or MAG (Mutual Assistance Group) dramatically increases your chances for survival.

The key to a good group is having a people you can trust. Unfortunately, finding trustworthy people can be a difficult task.

There are no simple rules to finding and picking group members, and you’re cautioned to be very careful. The average human is made up of a complex mixture of emotion and logic. While this makes us smart and compassionate, it also makes us dangerous. Compounding the issue even more, someone you deemed as stable  in normal circumstances can turn into either a basket case or a threat to the members of the group under pressure.

Finding group members is a lot like finding a spouse: you won’t know how compatible they are after only a few meetings. Likewise, the success of a group is partly determined by everyone’s willingness to work hard at it. There will be differences of opinions, arguments, heated discussions, and many emotional conflicts. This is all normal, but it all needs to be properly addressed, especially since this group is supposed to be like a second family.

What Makes A Good Group Member

The best advice here is to listen to your gut instinct. If you haven’t developed your gut instinct yet, you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage but you might as well start developing it now.

Dogs can be helpful with this, as they can pick up on your subtle clues, even if you’re not aware of them. By watching the dog, you can get a better idea of signals your subconscious is picking up on, though you need to be familiar with the dog and his or her tells.

Keep in mind you’re looking for someone willing to put the group’s needs in front of their own, but you also don’t want a martyr. How many cool toys someone owns should have no bearing on whether they are let into your group. It’s far better to have a stable, hard-working person who has nothing than it would to have someone who constantly argues every point and can’t agree to anything.

A common set of values and morals is a god place to start, including their perspective on preparedness. If you are of the mind to help all that need it, you won’t get along well with someone whose preparedness plan is to kill preppers and take their stuff. There’s a lot to gain by having members having a different skill set from yours, but having a common core of beliefs is fundamental to a good group.

A Snake in Your Midst?

The two attributes you should look for in a perspective member are loyalty and trustworthiness. People having these traits are low security risks before, during and after they becoming members of your group. Group members will learn sensitive information about everyone in the group, and the time to discover someone cannot be trusted is before everyone has divulged their secrets.

Realizing the true nature of someone isn’t easy. Most people put on some form of mask when they are around others. You need to engage potential members in activities that will drive their true nature to the surface. It can take years to get to know someone, but there are activities and discussions you can engage in to help this along.

Stressful situations can also bring out someone’s true nature. Of course, at no time should they feel like they are under scrutiny, as this tends to make people behave differently.

While it would seem nearly any preparedness-orientated person would be a good fit for your group, the truth is the majority will turn out to be incompatible with your goals, plans, opinions, and ideas. Starting with that common set of values gives you a platform with which to begin.  Knowing this common base also gives you the opportunity to see if they uphold those beliefs they say are important to them.

When someone leaves the group is not the time to find out they have a criminal history, are revenge driven, or have violent tendencies. A spiteful person who has learned your sensitive information can make your life miserable, particularly if they are sociopathic. Imagine trying to operate as a group knowing there is someone out there who knows all of the group’s information and has a large amount of animosity towards everyone in the group.

Once your group decides to have communal property for a bug out location, it’s likely this property will be unoccupied most of the time. If a disgruntled ex-member knows its location, it will be difficult to use that property for storage or caches. Even when there is an amicable separating of ways, unless you change everything about the group, ex-members will know this information.

Use OpSec

Whether you are just starting to look for members on your own, or already have other members, always use OpSec, or Operational Security, when meeting with potential members. Don’t brag about what you or the group has, where it’s located, or any personal information. Even when it’s been decided to let someone join the group, you should maintain a level of OpSec and only reveal a little info at a time.

Groups like make it easy to find like-minded people and interact with them on a comfortable level. No need to divulge personal information and you can see how people interact with different topics and people. Once you’ve identified someone with potential, you can start to do things together and begin the learning process.


Love Thy Neighbor: Preparing to Help in a Crisis

How often do we think about preparing to help our neighbors in a crisis? Neighborhood emergency preparedness isn’t something that gets a lot of attention, sometimes because in urban and suburban neighborhoods, we rely on our system of laws and the ability to call law enforcement to keep order. Neighborhood kids are known and the informal phone network keeps a close eye on them. Change is usually predictable or occurs at a reasonable pace; renters move in and out, trash is picked up regularly, and lawns get mowed. Neighbors are familiar, whether they are good, bad or anonymous.

And then disaster strikes — an earthquake, a major flood, or other long-term calamity. Disaster is, by its nature, unfair; it devastates one house and leaves another one nearby totally untouched. Suddenly, your neighborhood has changed, and it’s definitely in your best interest that you pay attention and prepare to exert your influence to keep the neighborhood stable.

A Stable Neighborhood Is a Safer Neighborhood

It’s a simple rule of civilization that a healthy, interactive neighborhood is much preferable to one with abandoned houses and no communication among neighbors. The latter welcomes crime and uncertainty, the former allows neighbors to support each other so everyone is kept safe. Everyone knows the elderly, the disabled, and others that need extra help…as well as the house rented by four strapping college football players (muscle can come in handy!).

Disasters can attract predators of the human variety, whether they be faux contractors looking to scam victims with a repair scheme, your basic thief looking for loot to pawn, or opportunists squatting in an abandoned home, they will thrive if your normal network of communications among neighbors is disrupted.

READ MORE: How can walking your dog help you prep? Read this!

Most Neighbors Won’t Be Prepared

It’s no secret that the unprepared greatly outnumber the prepared. If you’re reading this article, I’m betting you’re the latter. We quietly store extra food and water, tend to our generators and solar panels, and make our plans. What we usually don’t do is plan for the actions or inactions of our neighbors. However, your ability to safely stay in your home is somewhat dependent on your neighbors’ ability to stay in their homes. With a familiar presence next door, you are inherently safer.

On the Ragged Edge

We all have to make the calculation as to whether we go or we stay. For those of us who are well prepared, we have flexibility that those who were not prepared do not have. For some, it may come down to one thing that causes them to flee; it could be a lack of batteries for flashlights, lack of gas for a generator, or basic lack of food and water. Or it could be something as simple as having enough food for their dog. Civilization is surprisingly fragile.

Finally, if government assistance has not arrived and no one in the neighborhood can inspire confidence in those who are on the fence about staying or going, there’s a much greater likelihood that more than a few neighbors may feel the need to run and abandon their homes.

Reinforce That Castle Wall

Your commitment to stay and fight against whatever disaster has occurred can mean a lot to your neighbors. Nobody wants to be the last man standing, and everyone needs a hand here and there. Each time you help a neighbor, you’re strengthening the invisible castle wall that surrounds your neighborhood, not just your own home. You’re encouraging your neighbors, friends or foes, to stay and help keep you and your family safe. Even a simple thing like a running an extension cord from your generator to your front yard so neighbors can charge their cellular phones can make a huge difference. Sharing a hot meal can be a great way to perk up a neighbor used to cold pork and beans.

Two Types of Generosity

Providing support to your neighbors in a disaster can take two forms:

  • During or immediately after the fact
  • After the major threat is over during an extended disaster

This is an important distinction, as generosity shown early in the disaster does not imply the ability of your neighbor to obtain support from you later; in this early or rescue phase of the emergency, help is easily offered and easily accepted as a “Good Samaritan” gift.

Later, as the adrenaline from the immediate emergency leaves the body, the focus for most of your neighbors will turn inward to their own families and situations. Over time, the ability to communicate with people outside the neighborhood will become easier. Assistance given at this point has more implications, as noted below.

Preparing to Help

We don’t usually spend a lot of time preparing for what others might need in a disaster. And yet, this might be one of the most important things that we can accomplish in our preparedness. What I’m talking about is preparing giveaways: Small items that we stock in advance for the purpose of helping others in a disaster. In a way, it’s similar to stocking extra supplies with the idea that they would be valuable for bartering for things we might need in the future. In this case, we’re not bartering for supplies, but for less tangible things like safety or security.

ALSO READ: “Comfort and Care in a Crisis” and “Charity Prepping

So what kinds of things make good giveaways? Some examples include a four pack of AA batteries, a juice or milk box, a candy bar, or a gallon of gas. A giveaway is simply an individual item that you can spare in order to obtain goodwill or stability and safety in your neighborhood.

Other suggestions:

  • Chemical lights (glow sticks)
  • Emergency blankets (mylar/aluminum)
  • Cans of juice or soda
  • Energy bars
  • Band aids and antibiotic ointment
  • Cleanup items like bleach or wet wipes
  • Cigarettes or airline bottles of liquor
  • Diapers or baby formula

A Friendly Chat

A big part of this strategy is gathering information. In law enforcement, we called this the “Walk and Talk”. This is simply making conversation, exchanging information and finding out what’s going on with the other person. It’s really not anything different than what you normally would do with your neighbors, but in this case you will have more of a purpose.

Each of your neighbors will have their individual issues, such as damage to their home, inability to contact a loved one, or their personal medical or mobility problems. One thing to watch for is common themes: ‘My car got broken into’, or ‘There’s a pack of dogs roaming the neighborhood’, or ‘I’m seriously thinking of getting out here.’ These may be indicators of serious problems to which you need to pay immediate attention. In most cases, it will be obvious who really needs help, and those that are doing okay. As for you, keep things vague if everything is fine with you and your family. You don’t want to become the target of opportunists.

Tread Carefully

One large pitfall that can occur is that your generosity can be quickly and easily abused. The last thing that you want is to be the house that everybody goes to for “stuff.” You must set boundaries immediately and strictly:

  • Only use giveaways for neighbors that you know or can verify.
  • Make it clear that the giveaway must be kept secret by the receiver.
  • Limit giveaways to one per household per day.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no, especially to unknown people.

Otherwise, you risk becoming a mob scene of people seeking free stuff. Think of an episode of The Walking Dead and you can imagine what your front yard could become. Firm boundaries are much easier to set early than to try and establish them after things have gotten out of hand.

Bottom line: Take care of your neighbors as well as you can. After all, they’ll still be your neighbors after the smoke clears.

Here’s How to Convince Your Loved Ones to Prepare

Any person who has begun to seriously prepare has had to make compromises between current wants and future needs, how much to spend on preparations, and how many people to stock supplies for.  If you’re married, you need to have a spouse that shares your concerns or you’re going to fight over every #10 can the mailman delivers.  I don’t need to go into detail on how much you should store,  how to store it, or what makes the cut on your List of Lists.  The purpose of this article is to help communicate the need to prepare with those in your family that you want to help without alienating them or downgrading your own preparedness plans. It is about how to convince your loved ones to prepare.

I am a professional firearms instructor and am also employed full time as an emergency management planner.  Due to my job, my hobbies, and my personal beliefs, my former mother-in-law delighted in trying to insult me by calling me “Sgt. Tackleberry”.  She was unreachable, and I didn’t spent a lot of time trying to convince her of the importance in prepping.  She would rather buy timeshares of vacation property than spend money on a basic 72 hour kit.  That works for her, and I cannot judge her, but she would not be invited to,“come live with me if it ever did happen,” as she believed.

Other members of my family have thought my preparations were a, “phase”, or some harmless idiosyncrasy.  Those family members did not have a negative view of my preparations.  They mostly looked at my preparations with amusement.  They tolerated my teenage experiments with wild foods or earthquake kits.  As I have grown older and they have seen things on the horizon that will personally impact  them, they have begun to ask me for my opinion on coming winter storms or whether they should buy gold or guns.

It’s like being a firearm instructor and people asking you which gun to buy.  If you do your homework and build credibility, people respect you more.  If you take the long view and work diligently. these members of your family might be “converted” with patience and work.  While I cannot assume responsibility for them and make them prepare for disasters, I can be a role model and sounding board to help them understand the issues at play so they can build a plan that works for them.

If the world as we know it collapses, it’s not only about survival.  Once your survival needs are met, you’re going to have to rebuild and continue with your life.  Having your loved ones with you makes that a lot easier.  The problem is that each person I add to my retreat lowers my safety margin IF MY SUPPLY AMOUNTS REMAIN FIXED, but if those people I add to my retreat bring their own supplies, it dramatically increases my safety margin.  To me it is definitely worth it to help your family prepare.

I have a few precepts that I use when dealing with family or friends on this subject.

  1. My first precept of dealing with family is not to preach.  My preparations are based on my needs and the things that I believe are important.  Each person has their own priorities, and preaching that you are right and they are wrong only pushes them away from the direction you need them to go.
  2. My second is never to prepare for a particular event.  I am sure there is still a lot of rotting food out there that was bought in bulk specifically for Y2K, and some of those that bought it are convinced it was a waste of money.  I tell my family that my food storage can be used for Y2K, Armageddon, TEOTWAWKI, Pandemic Flu, Nuclear Winter, Job loss, or when I just don’t feel like cooking.   By having an all-hazards approach and building capability and skills rather than building for specific events, my planning work gets more bang for the buck.  The first time I read of the “Deep Larder” was an “ah-ha!” moment for me, and changing my terminology has worked well in changing the response I get from my close loved ones.
  3. My last precept of helping my loved ones see the need to prepare is to foster an appropriate mindset instead of concentrating on gear acquisition.  I could buy my mom a Springfield Armory M-14 and 10,000 rounds of match ammo, but it would be much more effective to get her to go with me to the range a couple times and practice with a .22.  This would likely foster a desire to shoot, and then I could help her choose a firearm that fits her needs and desires.

Whenever the family conversation gets around to disaster preparation I bring up concepts like:

  • “Buying car insurance is considered a responsible action, but you don’t have any tangible benefit from buying it, if you never get into an accident.”
  • “With having a deep larder, even if zombies never attack, I still have the food.”
  • Or as Dave Grossman has said, “You never hear of elementary schools burning down but they all have fire extinguishers.”
  • My favorite is, “Noah built the Ark BEFORE the flood”.

I try to break everything down into manageable bites rather than cram it in and have them tune me out.

The best case scenario is that your loved ones will see the need to prepare for themselves and begin planning and preparing on their own, therefore augmenting your plan.  You cannot out-argue someone into adopting your position.  As Dale Carnegie said, “Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.”  What has worked for me is a quiet and consistent approach.

I love my family and want what is best for them.  The best way I know to do that is to help them become more aware of the need to prepare.  My goal is to foster a sense of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, and to help mentor them through the beginning steps of basic preparedness.

Think about how overwhelming it was when you first began to prepare.  There is a LOT to learn and even more skills and equipment to acquire.  We know that we cannot stock everything needed or prepare too much.  The process of preparing is every bit as important as the items you acquire.

Researching and prioritizing is mental prep work so that when a large disaster occurs we are not comatose with emotional overload.  If I coddle my loved ones and try to remove their responsibility to prepare by doing it for them, then I am doing them a disservice.  When hard times come, they may not be emotionally ready to deal with the collapse.  What’s worse is that making them dependent on my charity would cause strain on otherwise healthy family relationships.  Because of this, I feel it is worth supreme effort to work with my loved ones to prepare so that we can grow together in adversity and make our family bonds stronger.

This year I had my breakthrough.  My parents asked me what they could do to prepare.  We had a very long discussion and came away with a workable plan.  At the time of our discussion their location was more favorable for a long-term retreat than my own, and they are going to provide the location and storage space for most of my preps.  We both win in the end.  Shortly after that discussion our town had an unusually long cold spell.  In the days before it we talked more about our short term plans and communication protocols and procedures.  While we did not have to evacuate to my parents, it was nice having all the details ironed out in the event we had to.

Disaster preparedness is not a fad or a short term race to buy a lot of cool gear.  It’s a lifestyle choice, and one that has a lot of benefits.  However, it comes the necessity of taking off the rose colored glasses.  Not everyone is ready to do this, but if you want to set an example and truly influence others, you must understand what you do is much louder than what you say.

By David Nash

The DIY Survival Community: Is There a Better Way?

A popular topic on survival forums, blogs, and websites is the concept of the DIY survival community.  Here’s the concept.

Every self-reliant group should have a doctor, a dentist, one or two former military personnel, an experienced gardener or farmer, maybe a teacher, and an assortment of others with strong practical skills, such as hunting.  To form your own survival community, you should begin seeking out like-minded people who fit these specific slots and begin making plans for establishing an actual survival retreat as a group.

There are some downsides to this plan.  First, with opsec always on the fore-front of the minds of most preppers and survival-types, how will you know exactly who is like-minded and also interested in joining with you?  Instinct?  And, do you really want to cast your family’s future into the hands of virtual strangers?  A few conversations in a Meet-Up group can hardly establish the deep trust necessary for banding together in order to survive.  Think about it.  If this is your plan, you are placing your family’s security in the hands of people you may not know very well.

Who’s to say everyone will be in agreement when it comes to making hard decisions?  And what will happen when the doctor’s son and his family show up at the retreat after TSHT?  Will the group be given a vote as to whether or not to accept these new arrivals or will the doctor, because of his or her importance to the community, be given a free pass when if a steady stream of their loved ones starts arriving?  Just how long do you think the cohesiveness of the group will last if the majority votes to send away your parents?


In a way, the idea of establishing survival communities along these lines is reminiscent of the efforts in the mid-19th century to create utopian societies, such as the Icarians.  Eventually, the groups disbanded, sometimes after just a couple of years.  Usually, this was due to disagreements about how money was handled, who was in charge, how decisions were made, etc.  Wherever there are people, there will be conflict.

In theory, I really like the idea of the make-your-own survival community. On paper, it looks great.  The reality, though, could be very, very different. Even establishing rules, procedures, and a chain of command early on won’t guarantee a survival paradise with everyone emerging on the other side of the S hitting the F, as a cohesive group with everyone safe and healthy.

One of my friends who is quite active in prepper circles told me of an experience in which she and her husband were seriously considering joining a prepper group that was forming. The leader had sought them out because of her training as a nurse. At first, this seemed like the perfect opportunity. The other group members were all highly motivated, the location was within a short drive of their rural homestead, but then something happened to change their minds.

She told me, “What he talked most about was how members of the group would be punished if they went against his rules.” This little prepper group was on its way to becoming a dictatorship, and my friend was glad she found out in time!

Dr. Bruce Clayton, a well-known survival expert and author of eight books, has a different take on the DIY survival community.  He claims these communities already exist. They already have a doctor, a dentist, farmers, food preservation experts, security experts, and teachers. This community is called a village.  Dr. Clayton recommends doing some research and finding one of these villages in your preferred area, and then just…moving there.

Yes, you’ll be the outsider, but the essential pieces required for a self-reliant community are already in place.  It will be up to you to establish yourself as an integral part of the community, but it will also save a lot of time. If your family members show up after the SHTF, you have every right to bring them into your home without consulting The Leader or The Committee.  In the meantime, you can begin growing your gardens, planting your fruit trees, and start prepping to your heart’s content.