If you are a member of a survival-related Yahoo Group, odds are pretty good you’ve met Ken Brown, even if you didn’t realize it. He is not only a moderator on several groups and a member of even more, he’s an expert in many areas of disaster readiness, campcraft, and is highly educated to boot. Recently, Ken sat down with us to answer a few questions.
Could you tell our readers a bit about your background? I understand you were a teacher for many years, correct?
I worked my way through college, and graduated with a degree in Education. I have a Geography major, and History and Earth Science minors. I taught in Middle School, grades six through eight. Over the years I have taught everything except Language Arts and P.E. I am not a coach! I have taught in both urban/inner city and rural districts.
I was raised in the country. After a miserable ten years living in town when first married, I moved my family back to the country. I can frame and wire a house, design and build a workshop, build fence, and farm a little. I also spent a few years looking after some oil interests after my father passed away, at the same time I was teaching.
How did you get started in disaster readiness? Was this just a part of how you were raised or was there a specific event that “opened your eyes,” so to speak?
The best answer is all of the above. I was raised in Texas in the 1950’s, during the drought. My mother grew and canned as much food as she could, and my father raised cattle, hogs, chickens, and an occasional goat. There was always a milk cow or two. Meat went into the freezer or the smokehouse. I think they bought a freezer before they bought a television set.
When I entered Middle School, the teachers turned us loose in the library. One of the first books I found was Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. This was just after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The possibility of war was on our minds. I still recommend this book to others today. Then I discovered Robert Anson Heinlein, with Farnham’s Freehold and Tunnel in the Sky. There have been many others throughout the years. Sometime during my college years I began reading Bradford Angier’s books.
Over the years, I read more and saw more events developing. I have always been a people watcher. I worked my way through college by working in a grocery store. I began watching and learning the habits of shoppers, and as I began to inventory food items, I realized most people did not keep extra foods at home. Every hurricane threat or winter storm would see our shelves bare from panic buying.
Those who are old enough to remember Johnny Carson’s joke about toilet paper understand panic buying habits. Then came the inflation of the 1970’s and the oil shortage. By the late 70’s there were some good preparedness books and magazines being written. I still have a worn copy of Mel Tappan’s Tappan on Survival in the bookshelf.
You are very involved with many different survival-related Yahoo Groups. How did you come to moderate so many of them? Any pointers or suggestions for group owners out there?
I moderate eight survival related groups, three television and movie survival related groups, and two firearms groups. Each of these groups takes a different perspective on survival issues. I also moderate several different cooking and camping groups. My involvement on these groups just evolved.. As I began to join and contribute to groups, I have been asked to help moderate some of them. Many group owners and moderators are familiar with each other, and when new groups formed, they looked for people with experience and similar views to help them.
Group owners need to make their groups as secure as possible. They should screen those people who apply carefully before they approve them. If I were going to begin a new group today, Yahoo monitors everything. I would carefully choose the title and description of the group. I would approve new members and keep them moderated at the beginning of their membership. Prospective group owners need to be aware that some group settings cannot easily be changed after they are chosen. Choose wisely.
Yahoo judges the standing of groups within their categories by how secure those groups are. With over 500 different survival related groups on Yahoo, a group needs to be at the beginning of the list to be seen by people searching for a group.
Group owners and members alike need to be aware of common rules of etiquette when dealing with groups. If you are not sure about a posting, contact the group owner first. It is much better to ask permission for something before you post it than to ask forgiveness after you post.
How much time do you spend daily, on average, moderating the various groups?
My wife says “too much time.” This varies, but I average two to three hours a day. When possible, I check groups morning and evening. I am a member of several other groups, and try to check these regularly.
How would you describe or explain your personal perspective on emergency preparedness?
I was raised to be self sufficient. Living in the country, we keep greater stocks of supplies. I would rather have something and not need it immediately, than to need it and not have it. My father and grandfather were great at making do with what they had, and rebuilding or repairing equipment. I hope they taught me a little.
If memory serves, one of your many hobbies is cast iron cooking. Any secrets or tips for those just starting out learning how to use cast iron cookware?
There are many good cooking and camping groups on Yahoo where you can learn how to use cast iron. I tell people that anything they can cook on the stove or in the oven I can cook in cast iron over a fire. This takes practice, and I am always trying new recipes. If they keep their dutch ovens cleaned and well seasoned and use a temperature chart to control the cooking heat they should be successful.
You can use your cast iron indoors on a wood stove or in a fireplace. You can use them outdoors on your charcoal grill, or on a cooking fire. Begin with simple dishes, or one dish meals. When we demonstrate dutch oven cooking we make cobblers and dump cakes. They are easy to cook, smell great, and feed a lot of people. Chili tastes better cooked in a dutch oven.
What, in your opinion, are the most likely threats we face in the immediate future (say 3-5 years)?
My greatest worry for years is that the United States will bankrupt itself by attempting to come to the aid of every disaster victim in the world. In the United States we face the continued erosion of our personal rights and liberties by an out of control and out of touch government. Overall it will be the world economy. I think we will see more countries facing bankruptcy. As the political stability of some countries weakens, we could easily be drawn into more peacekeeping roles around the world. We could face terrorist attacks at any time. Water rights and water control will become a major issue in the future.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out with disaster preparations?
My advice would be to be patient and use moderation. Don’t try to do everything at once. Budget your time and money wisely. Look at your local conditions and judge what you need. Throughout history, the three basics have been food, clothing, and shelter. See to these first. Plan your emergency kits around these and add medicines. Then add other items you might need. Consider that you might have to walk out of an area. A hatchet or hand axe, a good knife, map, and a compass should be included, and at least two different tools for firebuilding.
Your family should be involved in the planning. Do they know where to go or how to meet to be together? Do you know where to go if you must leave home?
Stock a little extra food each time you go to the store, and rotate your supplies. Never let your gas tank drop below the half way mark. A lot of preparations are common sense. The problem is many people forget this. Always have at least two ways to go from one place to another.
Above all, don’t wait for the government to help you.
We’d like to thank Ken for taking the time for this interview. He truly is a great resource for both the beginning and experienced survivalist. Should you cross paths with him on a Yahoo Group, pay attention. You just might learn something.