Most of this site is about the physical and social technologies required to improve our dysfunctional status quo to create thriving on our planet in the medium and long term. See this article for the big picture.
However, this and related posts are for what happens in the meantime. This article is focused on 9 priorities in preparing for the likely disasters we are facing as things are bad and getting worse. We have the usual things that mess with human safety, including severe natural events like droughts, fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes. We also have a host of political, economic, and environmental problems. Historically, even a subset of these problems have repeatedly caused societies to collapse at different levels (recession, depression, holocausts, genocides, total collapse). At present, the causes of societal collapse are all occurring simultaneously and, most recently, with a psychopathic U.S. president in charge.
Before getting down to the brass tacks of the nine prepping priorities, there are a few contextual points that might be helpful to be aware of.
Fear & Discomfort. Prepping covers some very uncomfortable topics that understandably raise anxiety for almost anyone. What most of us do when confronted with unpleasant emotion is try to escape it either by avoiding the topic or pathologizing those who do engage in it. In my view, this fact is one of the fundamental obstacles to shifting our culture to one that works. However, we can do something different — we can become emotionally resilient and learn to deal with reality even when it is unpleasant (see this article on the psychology of avoidance vs. dealing with reality). My radical claim is that dealing with reality is the best way to minimize suffering. That’s true in the short term and the long.
This set of posts focuses on short-term potential realities by preparing for them. But, this has three short-term costs: (1) stress and anxiety (ignorance really can be bliss), (2) the money, time, and energy required to complete the preparations that we simultaneously hope will never be used, and (3) perhaps, some embarrassment about seriously approaching an issue that others dismiss (and pathologize) as the topic of wing-nuts, etc.
Politics. Many of the expert preppers out there are conservative politically. It is interesting to me (as a more progressive thinker) that people from very different world views are converging on the necessity of preparing. I regard this as bad news because it represents a kind of cross-validation of the need for getting serious about prepping. A more pleasant implication is that prepping is a way of honoring and respecting each other despite differences in political perspective in other areas.
Expense & Depth of Prepping. As with any area of knowledge, as we get deeper into a subject we become increasingly aware of our own levels of ignorance. Speaking of knowledge, most of the experts say that more than what you have, resilience is about what you know (see, for example, pathfinder classes). We can always know more, become more resilient, cover more scenarios, increase the quality of the gear that we may have to depend on, cover longer time periods (e.g., 2 weeks of food storage instead of only 3 days), etc. Becoming resilient is a continuum: some people come to be interested in prepping as a subject matter and go very deep indeed; others simply want to be told what to do to be “good enough.” My approach so far has been to be deliberate about where I draw the line so that I’m prepared enough for my own comfort but can lay it aside at some point and spend my life on other interests. Prepping — perhaps like many subjects — is a deep rabbit hole. It’s your decision where to stop diving. Perhaps, this article on resilience and this one about levels of resilience will help frame this in more detail.
The Handbook to Practical Disaster Preparedness for the Family by In any case, a set of priorities can help.
Disaster kit. The main short-term recommendation from FEMA to Red Cross is to prepare an emergency kit both for surviving on your own for at least 72 hours and for possible quick evacuation (a “go bag”). See U.S. government recommendations and their printable list for a 72-hour kit. Notice that these recommendations are based on the idea that disaster relief will arrive within 72 hours. Also, see this site for other ideas and lists and checkout their printable summary. If you like camping or backpacking, why not outfit some backpacks with what you need for a backpacking trip and supplement with go-bag options?
The 72-hour kit (or “go bag”) should incorporate items for each of the 9 priorities. So, let’s plunge in, one layer at a time.
Order of priorities (see this article)
(1) Security. This is a whole world, uncomfortable even to consider for some. This category can be addressed by everything from securing your home with bullet-proof walls, safe rooms, fallout shelters, gas masks, and radioactivity exposure cards to AR-15s, kevlar vests, and night vision. Some books that are relevant for this category, include: The Secure Home by Joel Skousen, U.S. Armed Forces Nuclear, Biological And Chemical Survival Manual by Dick Couch, and Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms (Expanded Edition) by Arthur T. Bradley. These topics get short attention here, in part, because if you are worried a lot about security, maybe you should move (see, for example, this site on a Panama plan)? Of course, there are things that may not be avoidable in that way.
- Self-defense. See, for example, onpoint Tactical, Ancient Pathways, or CUMA (Illinois) for training classes.
- Easy fix. Put extra locks on your doors (pictured left)
- Another Easy fix. Replace short door-hinge screws with longer screws (see picture to the right).
- Medical care. Another whole world. Take a First Aid class (e.g., NOLS Wilderness Medicine and/or Red Cross and/or combat first aid) and adjust your first aid kit accordingly (see Emergency Car Kit for an example). Popular additions among those preparing for traumas like axe or gun wounds include a Israeli bandage and CAT-style tourniquet, and quick clot sponges.
- Bio-chemical and/or nuclear accident preparation. See this site for a start. Also, FEMA’s guide to a nuclear incident and the Nuclear Attack Planning Base. EPA and Homeland Security guide, title “Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation First Edition (2009)”. Most hazardous area from fallout is 10-20 miles from ground zero.
- Electronic security. Protecting various electronics from cars to phones to computers during an EMP is covered above. Day-to-day electronics security is also a good idea. This includes encrypting stored data on all devices (including computers, phones, tablets), backing up those devices with rotating drives (with some off site), and encrypting data that is sent and received by those devices. Most modern devices already encrypt stored data or have easy options to do so. This is a good article from UW-Madison on ways to improve privacy. This is a good general article on data sent and received, another on anonymity aimed at preventing traffice analysis (e.g., Tor), and a good overview article from Wired. VPN is available for all devices to protect network data (e.g., see this review comparing options; set up your own private vpn) and a router-level vpn will protect any internet connection in your house. However, your data will only be as private as the vpn service’s policy on what they log, how long they keep those logs, and what they will do if authorities ask for those logs. For example, Mullvad does not log traffic and has other privacy measures. This article from PC Magazine covers Tor browsing but also private and anonymous email possibilities, such as ProtonMail. Here is a good article from Forbes on encyption generally and as applied to VOIP phone call safety. Encrypting cell data, however, is a separate issue and seems to have fewer friendly options, especially if you don’t want to have to communicate with others through a special and separate app (like, Signal or Whatsapp). This article covers some of this and also highlights silent circle, a service that will work with any caller or texter with the caveat that the data is only encrypted from paying user to server and not from server to non-paying-user. Finally, here is a video describing Tor, the Deep Web, and the Dark Web. Electronic money has been around for a long time, including electronic transfers and credit cards. If you want to buy or sell in privacy, use cash. To do the equivalent online is more complicated, even using bitcoin (article).
(2) Shelter, Clothing, & Camping Kit. You can die of exposure to cold or heat in a matter of hours. Fire is intense heat and smoke and can kill you in minutes.
Fire: Shelter for yourself and your belongings in a fire (temperatures max at around 2200 F and average 1800
F, source). Protection includes: Smoke alarms, multiple fire extinguishers (example), 2 exits per room (emergency ladders for upstairs rooms – example), hoods or masks for being able to breathe while escaping smoke (example; example; example; Israeli citizens use these but there’s some talk about them being sold as new when they are not and leaking and being
obsolete; NIOSH-approved respirators such as these disposable masks; 3M overview on respirator selection; CDC article; 44 mm nato canisters are most available), UL-listed fire- and burglar-rated safe for valuables (Example; See this article talking about an alternative rating system; Not-UL listed example).
Clothing is your personal mobile shelter. Prepare for all seasons. Consider set of clothes for each family member that is simply packed, ready, and not used otherwise. Don’t forget about gloves — they convert your hands into powerful tools for moving debris or broken glass.
Heat: Think propane heater, wood stove, or generator/car-powered inverter to power furnace
Cooking: Use your normal kitchen natural gas stove or a camp stove (propane, alcohol, etc.) or a home-made alcohol stove such as the small DIY “Fancy Feast” stove (pictured right; see here for more details) which is also a great addition for an evacuation bag or for backpacking.
- Cooling: Think basement and low-power fans
- Evacuation – Alternative places to go: Outside of house but in neighborhood, Outside of neighborhood, Outside of town, Outside of country
Is your family ok? Where are they? How and where do you meet up? One could argue this is the #1 priority, but obviously you have to be alive to communicate with family, thus safety and shelter have come first on our prepping list. Consult the hyper-linked article for details about communication plan (this includes who to call, including outside area people, pickup and rendezvous locations and plans, insurance information, medical information, phone numbers for police, fire, EMS, red cross, poison control, and cabs). Cell phones are incredible technologies in an emergency with apps for everything useful you can think of, including emergency scanners (e.g., 5-0 Radio Pro), Zello walkie talkie, and more. And, what if the cell towers are down? Perhaps consider HAM radio as a backup.
(4) Emergency Power. But how do keep your shelter and communication powered? Backup power: deep cycle marine battery, inverter from car, generator, solar.
(5) Water. You can die without water in days. Store 1 gallon per day per person for at least 3 days. Be able to transport, filter and purify water from other sources (e.g., rain barrels, river, lake)
(6) Food. You can die without food in weeks. 2 philosophies: (a) Store food that has long shelf life; (b) Deep larder: store what you eat, eat what you store
(7) Hygiene. Don’t forget about germs. It’s important to stay clean. The picture below is an example hygiene plan.
- A backup toilet is important. You can use a 5 gallon bucket, lined with a normal trash bag, a swimming pool noodle cut so it will overlap the lip of the bucket so you can sit on it comfortably, sawdust (a scoop per poop), and containers to urinate into and emptying outside so urine is kept separate (women can use a device like the pstyle pictured). Believe it or not, it’s the urine that makes toilets smell, so if you keep it separate, you will be in good territory. Regardless of the absence of smell, the toilet would be improved with a lid, no?
- Paper bowls for eating
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper
- Germ-ex or similar hand-wash liquids
- Garbage bags
(8) Finances. Diversify. Cash, gold, land? Keep cash on hand.
(9) Emergency Car Kit. Creating an emergency car kit is a good idea for normal times and disasters. Getting out of dodge when it’s necessary can be achieved on foot, bicycle, motorcycle, or car (see this site). Keep the car gas tank as full as possible: consider 1/2 full as empty.
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