The Power of Social Media

In my upcoming Prepper’s Communication Handbook, I talk a little bit about using social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to keep in touch with loved ones during a crisis as well as using such sites for gathering intelligence about the situation at hand. Despite the popularity of such sites, there are many people who shun them, thinking their sole use is to spread funny cat pictures like some sort of online STD. The reality is that social media is, or can be, whatever you decide to use it for.

I was reminded of the power of social media this past weekend. Late last week, my wife and I learned there was a candlelight hike scheduled at a state park about an hour away from where we live. It was mentioned on the state park system website and someone had even made an “event page” for it on Facebook. They planned to have a 2 mile stretch of trail lit up with candles, as well as charcoal grills set up for those who wanted to use them and hot chocolate for everyone. We made plans with our neighbors to tag along with us. I also made arrangements to hook up with my buddy Daryl Halseth from DragonFire Tinderbox at the event.

The event was slated to run 5:30PM-9:00PM and we arrived to the area around 6PM. I say “area” because traffic was backed up a couple of miles from the park entrance. We could have easily turned around at several points while we crawled along but we wanted to see how this was going to play out. As we got closer to the gate, we found out that the event page on Facebook was indicating upwards of 10,000 people were planning to attend. By way of comparison, this candlelight hike normally draws a crowd of about 250 or so.

We finally reached the gate and found two squad cars there with rangers waving people on, saying the event had been closed. We decided we’d just continue on and go out to dinner somewhere. The interstate highway was just about a mile down the road and we were an exit away from a wide range of restaurants and shopping outlets. As I hit the on ramp, we could see traffic going the other direction was backed up for easily a couple of miles.

Once we reached the restaurant, we found we weren’t the only folks who had that idea. It was kind of fun monitoring the ratio of hiking boots to dress shoes among the people who came in the door looking for dinner. It was easily three to one in favor of hikers.

Naturally, the comments on Facebook were just flying non-stop, with most commenters lambasting the park for “poor planning” and such. The reality was, and this was pointed out several times, the park wasn’t responsible for the huge turnout. The several thousand people who arrived were there because that one “event page” on Facebook had gone viral, a page that hadn’t even been created by anyone affiliated with the park system.

Think about this. One woman created a single page on Facebook. She did so quite innocently, merely wanting to share the details of this event with family and friends. But, that one page, that one post, resulted in several thousand people altering their plans and all showing up at this one location. That’s pretty powerful, my friends.

We routinely hear stories similar to this, where the power of social media was harnessed for a good cause, such as locating the owner of a found wedding band or finding a long-lost sibling. But, have you thought about how that power can help during a crisis? Social media could be an excellent option for maintaining communication with family and friends, letting them know you are okay or if you need help.

I can already hear the comments from the peanut gallery about the necessity of technology being up and running in order for social media to work. Yeah, I get it, EMP and other types of disasters could make social media a thing of the past. Here’s the thing. I’m not about to completely disregard an option just because it might not work in a relatively narrow set of circumstances. I mean, social media will work just fine in the vast majority of common disasters. I’m also not saying it should be your only communication tool, either. Rather, social media is just one item in the toolbox.

Think about it like this. A chainsaw won’t work without fuel but that doesn’t mean we should just forget about using them at all because someday there might come to pass a crisis that dries up our supply of gasoline.

Realities of armed self-defense

Take a look at this video. Then, watch it again.

At first, you’re like, “Hey, awesome! One more dirt bag off the streets!” And you might be right about that. However, once you’ve watched it more than once and you start actually thinking it through, you see at least a few mistakes.

Granted, as we go along here we have to remember that the only information available is what we’re seeing in the video. There might be far more going on that what we’re seeing. But, what is shown is somewhat troubling.

First, how long is the bad guy just standing there in a mask and no one seemingly notices? None of the employees, at least the ones we can see in the frame, appear to notice the mask. Neither do the other customers in the frame. Look, if you’re out and about and you see ANYONE enter a store wearing a mask, unless it is bone-chilling cold outside, expect that things are about to take a turn. Similarly, if you’re an employee and you see a guy like that enter the store, do all involved a favor and start dialing 911 now. From what we can see, poor situational awareness.

Next, bad guy pulls a pistol and points it at the employees. In response, a pharmacist from behind the camera’s view steps forward, pulls his own pistol, and opens fire on the bad guy, hitting him at least twice. But, look closer.

As the pharmacist opens fire, he has two, possibly more, employees almost in his own line of fire.

The first bullet appears to go through the bad guy and shatter the window behind him, with a possibility of hitting someone out in the parking lot.

As he follows the bad guy to the right, the pharmacist fires again. This is in the same direction as we saw at least one bystander run immediately before he started shooting. If you follow his line of sight, it doesn’t look like the bad guy went very far. It is unclear whether the bad guy just collapsed or if there is a wall or something preventing him from going further.

Worth noting, too, is that the bad guy took two solid hits to center mass and kept right on moving. Thankfully, his efforts were concentrated on escape at that point, rather than returning fire.

While the pharmacist took down a bad guy, by doing so in this manner he endangered several other people. Tactical shooting is far different than just sending some lead downrange on a sunny Saturday afternoon with your buddies. If you carry a firearm for self-defense, you owe it not just to yourself but to everyone else to seek out the proper training for using it effectively and safely.

The real world isn’t like Hollywood, folks. When you shoot someone, they don’t necessarily just drop to the ground immediately. Your target doesn’t always stop the bullet. By their very nature, armed confrontations like this don’t happen in controlled environments. There is a great big wide world around you and can and will be affected by your actions.

Let me close by saying this — I’m not condemning the pharmacist for what he did. However, I think there are lessons that can be learned from what we see in the video. Keep your head up and your eyes open, people.

Surviving When You’ve Lost All That You Had

By James Smith

There have been various instances in history where people were left with nothing, not even their homes. Wars, plague, earthquakes and what not, the history is filled with stories of people with no food, water or shelter. However, what’s moving and intriguing is the ability of some humans surviving despite all this. When one comes to think of life, your first guess about living without the basics is that you can’t make it through a day — but, you can and people have. When a prepper starts preparing he/she is mentally prepared about the worst case scenarios if SHTF. However, there’s more than just mental preparation which is needed in order to actually survive. Survival isn’t just living a day or two without anything, you have to make the impossible possible and make the conditions suitable enough for you to live with at least the basics again.

Today, people view preppers and survivalism as preparing for a holocaust, war, zombie apocalypse or the worst of all cases, a government collapse. What people don’t realize is that disaster can strike in any form and the catastrophe can affect you and your family on a personal level. Even worse is the fact that your government or any other nation may not be able to help you. Sometimes, a small disaster entirely affects individuals without moving the entire nation. So chances are, you are or a small group of people are the only ones suffering and there’s not much the others can do; what is it that one can do when he/she loses everything?

What can you do?
If you’re a hiker, camper or have lived in the wild for some time then you need to adapt all that hiking/camping wisdom to an urban scenario of being homeless. Prepper or not, one must carry his basic belongings and essentials to survive, in a survival bag. This way, you’ll at least be able to provide for yourself through initial times. If you lose everything which most importantly includes your home then its best considering options like a make shift shelter and whatever food sources that are available at your disposal. People don’t even consider homelessness as an SHTF situation; however, this is from where things start turning out of control.

Shelter:

As we said, this is where other problem sprouts from because being homeless would leave you without food, clothing and water too. So let’s consider a natural disaster situation like Katrina or the Haiti earthquake where huge populations were left homeless in just hours. In a situation like this, you must know how to make shelter for yourself and your family. If there are any restrictions against putting temporary shelters then you need to find a safe place to make it through the night –if this place has some natural food source then this is your best chance to spend your night or even days here. If you’re within an urban setting then look for a wooded area where there are less chances of hygiene risk. If you have your survival or bug out bag with you then you must be carrying a camouflage tent with you, at all times. Find yourself a safe, secluded place where this tent can be set without any bigger problems from arising. If you can’t find a flat surface to put up your tent then just clear the debris and make it as feasible to sleep as possible. It is very important to find spots that are safe from any invasion, both human and animal, because people in an SHTF situation are desperate to loot anything they get their hands on and become extremely violent.

Food and Water:
When in a situation like that of a natural disaster, you don’t have the luxury of buying food and then storing it for days. For one, stores would either be destroyed or left empty before you regain your senses out of the shock. Therefore, carrying your bug out bag is essential as it will at least have some stored food. If your bug out bag doesn’t have any food then it’s best to rely on the options Mother Nature has for you. There are various edible weeds growing around in urban settings like, dollarweed, dock or catbrier. Plants would be your blessing in disguise as they would be the first edible out there that is most likely to be eaten as compared to insects or food from the dumpsters. Do your research on nuts, plants and berries that are found abundantly growing and are safe to ingest in any form (cooked or raw). Try to find containers, out of the debris to store food and wood to start a fire. If you’re good at hunting and fishing then you have more options to prepare yourself a nutritious meal. In fact, eating anything that walks or flies is comparatively safer than trusting every plant you come across. Keep doing your research about what plants and animals are safe to eat in extreme conditions.

As for water, there may or may not be resources but if you have at least some to survive through a day in your survival kit then you’ll stay hydrated till you figure out a way to get yourself something to drink. In most SHTF situations, preppers put their bets on drinking from a fountain or river but if you have created fire then it’s best to purify it through boiling or purifying tablets. If there is a situation like heavy rain then gather containers to collect as much water as you can from this natural resource.

There’s a lot that can be done even if you’re left with nothing. So don’t ever give up without trying your best to survive. Keep prepping!

Surviving When You’ve Lost All That You Had

By James Smith

There have been various instances in history where people were left with nothing, not even their homes. Wars, plague, earthquakes and what not, the history is filled with stories of people with no food, water or shelter. However, what’s moving and intriguing is the ability of some humans surviving despite all this. When one comes to think of life, your first guess about living without the basics is that you can’t make it through a day — but, you can and people have. When a prepper starts preparing he/she is mentally prepared about the worst case scenarios if SHTF. However, there’s more than just mental preparation which is needed in order to actually survive. Survival isn’t just living a day or two without anything, you have to make the impossible possible and make the conditions suitable enough for you to live with at least the basics again.

Today, people view preppers and survivalism as preparing for a holocaust, war, zombie apocalypse or the worst of all cases, a government collapse. What people don’t realize is that disaster can strike in any form and the catastrophe can affect you and your family on a personal level. Even worse is the fact that your government or any other nation may not be able to help you. Sometimes, a small disaster entirely affects individuals without moving the entire nation. So chances are, you are or a small group of people are the only ones suffering and there’s not much the others can do; what is it that one can do when he/she loses everything?

What can you do?
If you’re a hiker, camper or have lived in the wild for some time then you need to adapt all that hiking/camping wisdom to an urban scenario of being homeless. Prepper or not, one must carry his basic belongings and essentials to survive, in a survival bag. This way, you’ll at least be able to provide for yourself through initial times. If you lose everything which most importantly includes your home then its best considering options like a make shift shelter and whatever food sources that are available at your disposal. People don’t even consider homelessness as an SHTF situation; however, this is from where things start turning out of control.

Shelter:
As we said, this is where other problem sprouts from because being homeless would leave you without food, clothing and water too. So let’s consider a natural disaster situation like Katrina or the Haiti earthquake where huge populations were left homeless in just hours. In a situation like this, you must know how to make shelter for yourself and your family. If there are any restrictions against putting temporary shelters then you need to find a safe place to make it through the night –if this place has some natural food source then this is your best chance to spend your night or even days here. If you’re within an urban setting then look for a wooded area where there are less chances of hygiene risk. If you have your survival or bug out bag with you then you must be carrying a camouflage tent with you, at all times. Find yourself a safe, secluded place where this tent can be set without any bigger problems from arising. If you can’t find a flat surface to put up your tent then just clear the debris and make it as feasible to sleep as possible. It is very important to find spots that are safe from any invasion, both human and animal, because people in an SHTF situation are desperate to loot anything they get their hands on and become extremely violent.

Food and Water:

When in a situation like that of a natural disaster, you don’t have the luxury of buying food and then storing it for days. For one, stores would either be destroyed or left empty before you regain your senses out of the shock. Therefore, carrying your bug out bag is essential as it will at least have some stored food. If your bug out bag doesn’t have any food then it’s best to rely on the options Mother Nature has for you. There are various edible weeds growing around in urban settings like, dollarweed, dock or catbrier. Plants would be your blessing in disguise as they would be the first edible out there that is most likely to be eaten as compared to insects or food from the dumpsters. Do your research on nuts, plants and berries that are found abundantly growing and are safe to ingest in any form (cooked or raw). Try to find containers, out of the debris to store food and wood to start a fire. If you’re good at hunting and fishing then you have more options to prepare yourself a nutritious meal. In fact, eating anything that walks or flies is comparatively safer than trusting every plant you come across. Keep doing your research about what plants and animals are safe to eat in extreme conditions.

As for water, there may or may not be resources but if you have at least some to survive through a day in your survival kit then you’ll stay hydrated till you figure out a way to get yourself something to drink. In most SHTF situations, preppers put their bets on drinking from a fountain or river but if you have created fire then it’s best to purify it through boiling or purifying tablets. If there is a situation like heavy rain then gather containers to collect as much water as you can from this natural resource.

There’s a lot that can be done even if you’re left with nothing. So don’t ever give up without trying your best to survive. Keep prepping!

About the author: James Smith is a survivalist, who loves to write about survival skills and techniques. Currently, he is working for Teotwawki Supplies, offering a complete range of survival and emergency kits.

Wazoo Survival Gear

Hey folks, I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to my new friends over at Wazoo Survival Gear. I’ve known about Wazoo for a few months now and have been chatting quite a bit with one of the owners, Dustin. Wazoo first popped on my radar when I received a few of their products in a Battlbox a while back. I was pretty impressed with the Bushcraft Leather Necklace . What I like about the necklace is that it gives you one more option when it comes to fire making, an option that not only is small and lightweight but one that looks pretty damn cool!

I got in touch with Wazoo and let them know how much I liked the necklace. We got to chatting about this, that, and the other thing and they sent me some goodies to get my opinion on them.

Ranger Bands have been around for a while. Basically, they are ultra-strong rubber bands, often made at home by cutting apart rubber inner tubes from bicycle tires. The ones sold here are very similar, though I think they might be a tad stronger. They sell them in different sizes and they are a great add-on to an order. They work great at securing gear.

Their Fire Steel Toggle works great, too. It is the same one that comes on the Bushcraft Leather Necklace. It is small, only an inch long, but is the perfect size for a necklace or a paracord bracelet.

And then there’s this guy.

Called a Wazombie, it is far more than just a pretty(?) face. Hidden within is a fire steel and striker, 20 feet of cordage, a signal mirror, a needle, and a few very powerful magnets. Is it gimmicky? Yep, absolutely, no question about it. But, it is about as functional, perhaps more so, than many of the paracord survival bracelets you see everywhere. A Wazombie would make a great holiday gift for the prepper or preppette on your shopping list.

I like Wazoo Survival Gear. They have their heads and their hearts in the right place. They’re creating innovative products designed to help you should an emergency arise. Plus, they’re not afraid to have a little fun along the way.

They aren’t paying me to be a shill for them, either. You folks should know by now that I don’t just get behind any old company or product that comes down the pike. These guys are the real deal, check them out here.

Post-Collapse Barter and Trade

[Note: I gave a presentation on this topic at the NPS Expo in Louisville, Kentucky, in October, 2015. These are the notes from that presentation, as promised to those who attended.]

After TSHTF, paper money will likely be pretty worthless. As for gold and other valuable metals, well I’m personally not sold on the idea of stockpiling them for future currency. I think that if the world does finally end up turned on its ear, it will be quite some time before people are concerned with more than just filling their bellies and keeping some form of roof over their heads. For at least the immediate future after TSHTF, barter and trading will be the most popular forms of currency.

No matter how long we’ve been prepping, each of us will probably forget to have stockpiled some item, or at least enough of it, that will get us through. Hopefully, someone else will have had the foresight to either stockpile it or in some other way be able to provide it…probably for a fee. No man (or woman) is an island and we all likely lack at least a couple of skills we might need at some point down the road. Thus, we’ll need a way to “pay” for someone else to help us out in those areas we lack.

There are essentially two categories for what you might have available to trade or barter – stuff and skills.

Stuff refers to the physical items you have on hand you could trade to someone else for either goods or services.

The key elements in my opinion as to what items to stockpile for future use in barter are:

1) They must be relatively inexpensive now.
2) They must be long lasting and easy to store.
3) They must have inherent use for you, whether you trade them later or not.

Some suggestions for stuff to stockpile for use in bartering:

Vices
Tobacco
Alcohol
Hard candy
Coffee/tea

Consumables
Garden surplus
Honey
Sugar
Powdered milk
Drink mixes
Salt
Seeds

Medical
Chapstick
Feminine hygiene products
Vitamins
Pain relievers
Condoms
Yeast infection treatments
Bandages
Caffeine pills

Toiletries
Soap
Shampoo
Toothbrushes
Toothpaste
Dental floss

Miscellaneous
Can openers
Butane lighters
Strike anywhere matches
Nails, screws
Hand tools
Cloth, patches
Needles, thread
Safety pins
Socks, underwear

Skills are the services you could provide in exchange for either goods or services. Again, same with stuff, the skills must have inherent value to you and your family.

Medical (including herbal remedies)
Cooking
Dental
Leather working, tanning
Carpentry
Welding
Electrical
Smithing, metal working
Plumbing
Reloading
Sewing/knitting
Foraging, trapping
Automotive, small engine repair
Home brewer, distillation

Obviously, if you have skills to offer, you should have stockpiled the necessary tools and supplies to do the job. Most of the above skills would be well suited for a cottage industry after a collapse.

The key elements to a successful trade either now or later:

1) Both sides should be happy with the result. Ideally, each party will feel they got the better end of the trade.

2) The trade should take place in a safe manner, as best as is possible. Thus, I highly discourage the idea of trading ammunition, just in case the other person feels like returning their “purchase” using some form of quick delivery system. If the other party is a neighbor or friend, obviously that is a less worrisome transaction than someone relatively unknown. In the latter event, perhaps you can work out a neutral location to swap goods.

Incidentally, that image at the top of the page? That was a barter kit issued to American pilots during World War II. The idea was that downed pilots could use the contents to help bribe their way back to safety. Read more about these kits here.

Realistic Bug Out Planning

[Note: I gave this presentation at the NPS Expo in Louisville, Kentucky, in October, 2015. As a courtesy to those who attended, I am sharing it here. It isn't verbatim, of course. In fact, there is far more here than I had time to cover at the Expo.]

Show of hands, how many here have at least one bug out bag packed and ready to go?

Show of hands, how many here have at least one planned destination if they need to bug out?

Show of hands, how many here know exactly how they are going to get from Point A to Point B?

Ok, cool. Now, here’s where I’m going to deviate from a lot of the advice you’ve probably heard or read when it comes to disaster planning. You ready?

BUGGING OUT SHOULD BE YOUR LAST RESORT, NOT YOUR PRIMARY PLAN!

Bugging out is what you do if, and only IF, you have no other viable options available to you. In the vast majority of potential scenarios, staying home is going to be your best, your SAFEST option. Home is where the bulk of your supplies are located. You’re familiar with the area and are likely going to be the most comfortable there.

Now, with all of that in mind, let’s talk a bit about what bugging out means.

Defining Bugging Out

What does the term bugging out mean to you?

Here’s how I look at it. Bugging out means traveling from a hazardous location to a safe one, as quickly, as efficiently, and as safely as possible. It does NOT mean heading for the hills to live off the land in a debris hut for months on end.

The fact is, relatively speaking very few people possess the skills that would be required to successfully live off the land for an extended period of time. Hunting, fishing, trapping, and scavenging wild edibles is all well and good, but that’s a damned hard means of existence when we’re talking potentially several weeks to several months.

Plus, think about this for a second. What scenarios could happen that would make living in the woods for an extended period of time be the best option? Natural disasters would, by definition, make being outdoors a risky move. Martial law? Sure, ok, but now you’re adding a need for extreme stealth on top of supplying your basic needs. Look, we live in the real world, this isn’t a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel. Do you really think you can meet the needs of yourself and your family members out in the bush for several weeks or more?

If this is your plan, I would encourage you to grow up, move out from your parents’ basement, and join the rest of us out here in big people world.

The fact is, the vast majority of people who plan to head off to the woods to live out the rest of their days will get exactly what they’re planning, just that the rest of their days probably won’t be quite as long as they think.

Ok, on to realistic bug out planning.

We’re not going to go into detail on what should or should not be in your bug out bag. That’s an entire workshop in and of itself. Suffice to say, there are roughly a bazillion lists available online that will tell you what you *should* have in your BOB.

Instead of this being what we might call gear porn, we’re talking today about planning for the actual bug out. The first step is determining where you’re going to go. Bugging out without a destination just makes you one more refugee on the roads. Perhaps a well-equipped refugee, but a refugee nonetheless.

Bug Out Locations

I suggest you have at least three different potential bug out locations, each of them in opposite directions from one another. Say, Grandpa’s old hunting cabin up north, your buddy’s homestead to the west, and your cousin’s place to the southeast. Prepping is all about options, giving yourself the luxury of choice rather than being locked into a single course of action. Planning multiple locations covers your bets, so to speak. Being that none of us can accurately predict the circumstances that might cause us to bug out, we don’t know where the safest direction for travel may be.

Assuming you’re like most of us in this room, you probably aren’t Mr or Mrs Moneybags and you can’t afford to just buy a bunch of land all over the place. Therefore, you’ll need to consider speaking with family and friends about coming their way should some crisis occur. Yeah, I know, that’s probably not going to be a fun conversation. But, it needs to happen so everyone is on the same page. Be sure to offer your place to them, should the event happen in their neck of the woods. I would also strongly advise you to give thought to socking some supplies away at each bug out location. This is made far easier, of course, if the BOL is someone’s home, rather than an empty cabin. Food, water, basic first aid items, all that fun stuff.

Transportation

Once you know where you’re going, next is planning how you’ll get there. In an ideal world, you’ll have gotten out way ahead of the crowd and you’ll just have a leisurely drive, maybe even some sightseeing on the way, right? In reality, you’ll probably be facing rush hour from hell, possibly even roadblocks, official or otherwise.

This brings up something we didn’t talk about regarding choosing BOLs – the distance. Most cars and trucks on the road today average somewhere around 400 miles on a tank of gas. Given that most of us probably fill up when our tank reaches somewhere between ½ and 1/4 full, that gives us, on average, about 100-200 miles. Keep in mind, that’s not as the crow flies but as the road twists and turns, including detouring around roadblocks (natural or manmade) and other deviations.

Should you end up on foot, the likelihood of traveling a couple of hundred miles diminishes considerably for many people. Depending upon your physical fitness, the terrain, and other considerations, you might be lucky to get ten miles a day. If your BOL is 100 miles away, that’s almost two weeks of walking. Could you do that?

Something to consider is keeping bicycles at home for possible use when bugging out. You’ll travel much faster than if you were walking and you don’t have to worry about carrying cans of fuel with you. Plus, bikes can be used for transporting cargo, far more than you’d be able to carry on your back.

Animals can also be used for transport, of course. If you have horses or donkeys, they can be a great option. However, riding them or using them for cargo transport isn’t something you can learn in just a few minutes. Caring for the animals’ needs is crucial as well.

Route Planning

Ok, so you have your BOLs determined and you have a good idea of how you’ll be moving to get there. Now, we need to determine the routes you are going to take.

Plan for at least three separate routes to each BOL. Again, options. You can’t know ahead of time what the road conditions are going to be like. You might run into roadblocks or very heavy traffic. Speed is important, yes, but so is avoiding potential problems along the way. Far better to detour 30 miles out of your way than end up enmeshed in a major traffic jam for hours on end.

Routes should take you away from and around population centers as much as possible. Stick to back roads, ones that few people probably know well outside the locals. Test out these routes from time to time, varying between day and night as well as throughout the different seasons. You might be surprised at how different a given stretch of road can look at night or in the middle of winter. You want these routes committed to memory as best you can, so you know them like the back of your hand.

Always have the applicable maps in your bug out bag. There shouldn’t be a need for marking your routes on the map, you should know them already. The idea behind having the maps is to increase your options if you end up having to deviate considerably from a chosen route. Obviously, knowing how to properly read a map is important!

Caches

Depending upon the distance, it might not be the worst idea in the world to set up one or two caches along the way. A cache is simply a small collection of supplies that is hidden along your route. The most basic type of cache is a section of PVC pipe that is sealed up and buried. There are all sorts of websites and even Youtube videos that can show you how to assemble one rather easily. The idea behind a cache is to have resupply points as you travel to your BOL. If you’re running low on food or ammunition, it would be great to a stash available to you.

A few words of caution about caches.

1) Make damn sure you can find it again. One way is to triangulate the location between fixed points of reference, such as a large oak tree, a boulder, and a fence post. Another is to mark the location with a very easy to spot landmark, such as a uniquely shaped or colored rock.

2) Caches should be placed on property you either own or in some other place where it is legal for you to bury it. You really don’t want to get caught in the middle of the night in a public park or cemetery with a shovel and a large pipe-shaped object.

3) Items placed in a cache should be stuff that you can leave sit for years. Where in most areas of prepping we talk about regularly rotating our supplies, you can’t do that with a cache.

4) Lastly, I would encourage you to give thought to how you’ll access the cache when the time comes. Burying a PVC pipe isn’t all too difficult, removing it from the ground is a whole ‘nother thing. See, ground settles over time and that pipe might be locked in tighter than Winnie the Pooh got stuck after eating too much honey. Consider a tube-within-a-tube approach.

Unplanned party attendees

Okay, so there you are. You’ve managed to trek 80+ miles, mostly on foot, over the last week or so and have finally arrived at your BOL, only to find some folks have beaten you to the party. You’re tired, hungry, and more than a bit peeved that someone else has taken up residence in your BOL. Now what?

Well, like most things in life, it depends. For starters, hopefully you know the lay of the land, so to speak, better than they do. Use that to your advantage and learn what you can about them. Are they merely starving survivors who are thanking gods high and low that they found this nice piece of heaven on earth or are they more akin to raiders, looking to scrounge all they can and move on?

I mean, I might have a hard time kicking out a single mom with a couple of young kids, all of whom are starving and just looking to put a roof over their heads for a night or two. On the other hand, if it is a group of ne’er do well types, am I sufficiently armed and capable of meeting force with force, should it come to that?

Yeah, this one’s pretty much a judgment call. Let your conscience be your guide. Tell you what, though. Just at the outskirts of your BOL would be a dandy place for a cache.

The Importance of Drills

As I said at the beginning, bugging out should be your last resort, not your primary plan. That said, you should have a bug out component to your overall disaster plans. You don’t know what the future may hold. To that end, once you’ve established your bug out plans, you should practice them from time to time. On some Saturday afternoon when everyone is home, suddenly announce that you’re all bugging out. Time how long it takes for everyone to grab their stuff, load up, and get on the road. Practice a different route to a different BOL each time. Alternate drivers, change things up to make it interesting.

Now, you’re not doing this to keep everyone in a great mood, as likely as that is, of course. Remember fire drills in school? You know why they do them? Because they work! Family members need to know what is expected of them in an emergency and how to accomplish what you want them to do. Take it slow at first, with a minimum of shouting. Over time, they’ll get quicker at it, but only if you practice regularly.

At least one drill every few months should involve walking all or at least most of a route, rather than always driving. Yes, that’s a pain in the arse for all involved. But, it needs to be done.

Bug out bag recommendations

Now, as I said at the start of this workshop, we’re not going to go into great detail about what should or shouldn’t be in your bug out bag. However, I will share with you some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen over the years.

1) Don’t buy the pack first – determine what you’ll need to carry, then decide on a pack that will contain it all. Too many people buy a pack that is way bigger than needed, then feel compelled to fill the damn thing to bursting.

2) Cheaply made and/or untested gear – Look, I’m all about budgeting but relying upon the dollar store to provide for your survival is wishful thinking at best. Further, each and every item you purchase, whether for bugging out or sheltering in place at home, should be fully tested so you know exactly how it works and what is limitations are.

3) Lack of foot protection – Socks don’t weigh much and can be used for cushioning items in your pack. They are crucial to keeping your feet protected from injury. Always keep a good, sturdy pair of walking shoes or hiking boots near your bug out bag and change into them at your earliest opportunity. Ditch the Jimmy Choos or Allan Edmonds.

4) Ounces lead to pounds, pounds lead to back aches – overpacking is probably the most common mistake I’ve seen. Met a guy once who showed me his bug out bag. It was so large, he was out of breath from carrying it across a parking lot. Look, you need to put the bug out bag on your back and walk around with it, at least for a few hours. If you can’t make it to the end of your driveway and back, start ditching unnecessary gear.

Complication Free Food Storage Rotation

By Lee Flynn

Stored food will last for a while but it will not last forever. This is exactly why a good plan for rotating the food being stored is important. It will save money by eliminating the need to throw out groceries that have outlived their shelf life and it could prevent illness from food borne bacteria.

Keeping track of the shelf life of food is easier than you may think. Most foods have a “use by” or an expiration date. This is the date the unopened product should be used by for optimum quality. Some items have a longer shelf life than others.

Putting Together an Organized Plan for Storing Food

1. Plan the storage space.

Perhaps the most important part of storing food is to planning the space. Food that is not easily accessible is food that can go to waste. Shelve that revolve are an excellent idea. They allow you to easily move the food so the FIFO or First In, First Out strategy can be used. This strategy ensures that food stored first will be used first.
Other options include using rolling storage bins, Lazy Susans, and sloped shelves.

2. Place food items in order.

This will help you to find things more quickly as well as stocking them using the FIFO strategy. For example, place foods such as canned beans, canned corn, and other canned vegetables on the same shelf. When you are ready to use a can remove it from the extreme right. When you restock, add new cans on the left and push the existing cans to the right. If you are using deep shelves, place newly purchased food items in the back and pull the older ones to the front of the shelf. Grocery stores use this method when restocking shelves.

3. Date food items.

Although most food has “use by” dates, they are generally in small print and not easy to see. Use a marker to put the month and year the food was purchased on the top of cans, packages, and boxes. Make sure and check the “use by” dates first so you do not end up with items nearing the end of their shelf life. This tip also aids in helping to rotate the food correctly and efficient food storage. It is easier to see to make sure you are using the oldest first.

4. Keep an inventory list.

An inventory list will help you to keep track of the food you have on hand and what needs to be restocked. Check off items as you use them or inventory your food on a regular basis. This is particularly helpful when rotating food by using from the back and pulling older items to the front.

5. Check food storage areas on a regular basis.

This ensures that items are not sitting on the shelf for a prolonged period. If there are some that are not used as frequently and have been sitting for a while, pull them out and use them as soon as possible. This will prevent you from buying more of something than you need and reduces food being wasted.

Using these tips will allow your food dollars to go further because it will cut down on waste. Knowing what you have on hand keeps you from buying more than you need and increasing the risk that it will go bad before it is used. Organizing your food storage also makes it easier to find the items you are looking for when preparing meals. Rather than a cluttered shelf with food you forgot you had purchased, it will be simple to find that can of mixed vegetables you need for your home made soup.

Why Buy Books When We Have The Internet?

One of the most common complaints I see in negative book reviews on Amazon, reviews for non-fiction at least, is that the information in the book can easily be found online. I’m not referring to reviews on my books in particular, I’m talking about reviews in general for non-fiction books. Here’s the thing. If your Google-Fu is even just average, you can find out damn near *anything* you want with a little searching. The Internet contains what amounts to the sum total of all of mankind’s knowledge.

So, what’s the point of buying a book, then? First, the book probably contains information you’d never thought to seek out. Many readers don’t know what they don’t know, know what I mean? The information is out there, but if you aren’t aware of the need for it, you’ll never go searching to find it. That’s where the author steps in, takes you by the hand, and shows you what you’ve missed.

Second, in this particular niche (disaster readiness), we talk a lot about things like power outages. Disasters or emergencies that would preclude ready access to the Internet. Assembling a library, even a very small one, goes far toward ensuring you’ll have the information you need at hand when you need it. All of the best bookmarks in the world won’t do you a bit of good if you can’t get online.

Third, just because you can find the information elsewhere online doesn’t mean it’ll be presented in a way that makes sense or that is enjoyable to read. For some, the latter is irrelevant, I know. There are a few people out there who subscribe to the Jack Webb School of Learning – Just the facts, ma’am. Many readers, though, want to be at least somewhat entertained as they learn new information and skills. It has been my experience that people tend to learn and retain new information easier if they are relaxed and in a good mood. That’s one of the reasons why, as so many have noted, my writing style is laid back, as though the reader and I were just sitting on the porch with cups of coffee, solving all of the world’s problems.

Look, the fact is that probably around 80% of the information in Random Prepper Book #1 will also be covered in Random Prepper Book #2, #3, and so on. I mean, food storage is food storage, right? It is more a matter of HOW the information is conveyed, with the author’s unique spin on the topic. Plus, there’s that ~20% that’s going to be brand new information.

If you’re serious about prepping, setting up some sort of small home library is an essential step. Hard copies, books you can pick up and leaf through, are far preferable to electronic files you might not be able to access when push comes to shove.

Emergency Preparedness for Pets

By Lee Flynn

Imagine finding out that your home is in the path of a destructive storm and you have been given the order to evacuate. Knowing that you live in an area prone to severe weather, you put your 72-hour kit(s) in the trunk of your car, check to make sure that your home will be secure while you’re gone, and turn around to see your pet.

In the event that you have to evacuate your home, remember that if you leave, your pets should leave with you. Never leave a pet alone or set them loose believing that their natural instincts will kick in and that they can survive on their own. Always bring pets indoors at the first sign of an approaching storm. Pets may become disoriented and wander away from home during an emergency.

“Always be prepared.” It’s the Boy Scout Motto and is especially true when faced with the threat of a natural disaster. You have an emergency plan for your family but you also need to have an emergency plan for your pet(s).

When developing an emergency plan for your pet, consider the following:

Geography and Climate
Depending on which part of the country you live in, your family may be threatened by tornadoes, hurricanes, wild fires, blizzards or, mudslides. You also need to take into consideration the climate in which you live; this will affect your emergency plans.

Emergency Routes and Shelter Locations
You should have at least two emergency evacuation routes mapped out and you should drive these several times to become familiar with them. Where you shelter is also important. Call ahead of time to find out if there are pet friendly shelters or pet friendly hotels available if you don’t have a friend or family’s home to go to. Preparing ahead of time will lessen your pet’s stress.

Micro-chip Your Pets
If you have not already done so, consider having your pet micro-chipped. This will help in the event that you and your pet become separated. Keep recent photos of your pet(s) on hand to help in identification.

Collars and Tags
Be sure that your pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date information. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number, and urgent medical needs.

Prepare an Emergency Kit for Your Pet
Your pet has the same needs as any other member of your family. Your pet’s emergency kit should be clearly labelled. Make sure that everyone in the family knows where it is.

Items to consider keeping in or near your kit include:

• Up to 7 days of emergency food which can be either canned (pop-top) or dry food. Rotate the food every two months.
• Up to a 7 day water supply. Store your water in a cool, dry place and rotate it every 2 months.
Pet water/feeding dishes.
• Extra collar and leash.
• A sturdy pet carrier, one per pet. Be sure to write your pet’s name, your contact information, and any medical needs on your pet’s carrier.
Pet first-aid kit.
• Liquid dish soap, disinfectant, and paper towels.
• Disposable garbage bags for clean-up.
• Disposable litter pans and scoop-able litter. Aluminum roasting pans make great emergency litter pans.
• Photocopies of medical records and a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires. Rotate the medicine every two months.
• A fleece blanket or piece of fleece fabric (for picking up a scared or nervous pet). The blanket can also be used in the pet’s carrier.
• Favorite toys.

Be sure and take into consideration the type of pet you own, the age of your pet, and the special needs of your pet when preparing an emergency kit. Review the kit annually to determine if your pet’s needs have changed.

Be prepared; take simple steps now to reduce your family’s and your pet’s stress during an emergency.