Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Getting Started With Survival

I see a lot of posts on the various forums where people ask how they should get started.  I see advice on this topic that ranges from good to downright dangerous.

To understand how you should get started, you first need to understand the "hierarchy" behind survival.  What things you should worry about first, second, third, and so on.  I'm not going to talk about actual "buy this, avoid that"

First, let me tell you what The hierarchy (unless climate conditions are at extremes) is: Air, Water, Food, Shelter, Self Defense, and finally Medical care (unless there is a dangerous pre-existing problem in which case it moves upward as appropriate).

The hierarchy for times when climate conditions are at extremes is: Air, Shelter, Water, Food, Self Defense, and finally Medical Care (but again this item can move up as appropriate).

With that information as a basis, if you want to begin preparing, then start "close to home" with problems you are likely to face, and then move out to less and less likely issues from there.

I have a post where I talked about "Prep Levels" that was meant to put a sort of "DEFCON" (which stands for Defense Condition) kind of feel to preparedness.

It does you no good to have lots of weapons and ammo if you can't survive a simple grid failure without help due to lack of food and water.

So focus "close to home" ... or at the center of the graphic below ... and move out to each step from there, helping yourself to become more and more prepared.
Here's the thing.  This whole "survival" deal is so situation dependent that actually giving you a good beginners survival guide is fairly difficult.  However if you focus on "PL1" level "survival" and being prepared for that, then you will be more ready for a PL2 event.  Again, see the post where I talked about "Prep Levels" to get an understanding of how this can be done.

Not only that, but it becomes easier to understand how to survive the specific situations you are likely to encounter and thus be much more ready for your specific type of survival scenario should you need it.  What I am saying here is that instead of telling you exactly what you should and should not need, instead, I am hoping to help you to become is prepared in the best way for you without mucking up the waters telling you what works best for me.

My background and skills are different than yours, my strengths and weaknesses are different than yours.  Therefore, the things I should do are by necessity different than what you should do.

If you have any questions about your specific situation let me know and I'll be glad to help.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Well, that was horrible advice!

Over at the Survival Blog, someone by the name of ChemEngineer wrote this post.  Before I get into the post itself, let me say that you've probably noticed that I'm careful about the advice I give.  The reason is that too much of survival is "situational"; meaning that what is the right thing to do in one instance will get you killed in another.  That's why I pose so many questions in my posts to get you to consider what the best method will be for you.

Anyway, I really liked that post.  It was well written and well thought out, until I got to the part that said "Don't plan to live in a tent or take to the mountains to live off the forest. Bad idea."

Folks, what's a "bad idea" is trying to do something based on the advice of only one so-called "prepper expert" when he's giving opinions with no knowledge of the specific situation you may encounter.  Did the writer know what he was talking about?  Clearly he'd studied survival "some".  Was his opinion about tents and mountains correct?  That depends.  In fact, it's the "that depends" that makes me say the person probably hadn't truly thought out various different scenarios which meant he wasn't much of an expert ... and that meant all of his opinions were therefore suspect.

If you've spent time learning about what plants and animals will actually be available to you, should you need to "bug out" then you can indeed "take to the mountains" or what ever.  As for the thing about the tent ... that was just downright foolish.  Many events don't last very long and staying in a tent for a week or two is no big deal, backpackers do it all the time and it's fun (being a backpacker I know this).  I routinely will go on two week long backpacking trips where for the entire two weeks, if I don't have it on my back, I don't have it.  I'm literally living a "bug out" type of scenario on a regular basis.  Like I said, backpackers do this as a matter of course and few think of what they are doing as "practicing their survival strategy" and instead just think of it as having some fun and enjoying nature.

Not only that, but given my background I can speak with some authority about something ... people in groups can get real ugly real fast.  If you live in an apartment staying there is a very bad idea if you are a prepper.

People in that complex almost certainly will come after you if there is even the slightest inkling that you have food and water and they don't.

Do you live in a house?  That might possibly work IF you have "hardened" the house to prevent a swarm of people from just breaking through the walls.  Again, the people in your neighborhood will come after you if any of them know you're a prepper.  They'll come begging for your help at first "please give us some food, we're starving! Please help us, please."

They'll bring out their starving children (can you really resist helping a starving child you know you can help) and beg and plead.  If that doesn't work they'll resort to an outright invasion of your home or apartment.

Here's the thing, in a Shit Hits The Fan (SHTF) type of event (natural disaster such as massive fire, flood, hurricane, etc) you do not want to put yourself into the situation of having to defend yourself if you can avoid it.

Trust me when I say this ... very few people can actually shoot and someone.  TRAINED SOLDIERS have great difficulty doing it which is why it takes so many rounds to make a single kill and why so many come back with mental problems.

It is far better to bug out if you can to a location where you can hunker down and largely be invisible.  However, remember what I said, that opinion is situation dependent.  For any number of a variety of reasons that may not work for you.

In some places doing it can simply be very difficult (e.g. some parts of Denver the government has the ability to completely seal off the roads and leave you with no way out).  If you have to stay where you are (roads washed out or flooding so bad you're stuck or closed and guarded roads) then you have to make the best of the situation presented to you.

In that instance, you want to appear to be gone, but you'll also want to make sure that what ever structure you live in can be "hardened" and you want to make sure that you can make it appear that no one is home.

However, the thing to understand is that if you are going to stay in a city environment then you may need to defend yourself from an incursion of people wanting to see if there is food in your home (particularly if any neighbors know you're a prepper).  If you harden it, then it's possible that people will give up and move on to other, easier targets.  Once everything else has been broken into, they won't stop and sooner or later they will get in unless you prove that you have the ability to absolutely and completely defend yourself ... and that will mean shooting people.

The best thing to do is to begin to do what you can to harden now and continually improve on it.  Try coming up with ways you could break into your house even if it means breaking things (trust me, the mob won't care about that).  When you find a weak point, make it strong.  Keep working on it.

Not only that, but during Katrina not only was the grid down but there wasn't any water either ... if you stay in a city then you have to expect the possibility there won't be running water either.  In that case, how will you obtain water in the middle of a city?  Next to breathable air, water is the single most important resource.  Without it you will die in a matter of days.  If you're staying where you are then you will need quite a bit of stockpiled water.  Remember, not just water to drink, but water to bathe as well.

Further, what about "human waste"?  Again, with no running water what will you do when you have to go to the bathroom?  You can always stockpile "grey water" to fill your toilet tank yourself.  However, we're now talking about needing to stockpile a lot of water.  A natural disaster that knocks out the water supply for two weeks would mean you needing at least 50 gallons of water just to flush toilets with!  That's on top of an easy 100 plus gallons you're going to need to drink, cook, and clean with.  Do you have some place that can handle the weight of 150 gallons minimum of water (that is a lot of weight)?  Do you have some place to store it?

The Paradox Of Hardened Structures

Now there is another problem.  The more "impregnable" you make where you live, should a mob come against your home they may wonder what's being hidden and go at you all the harder.  It's why a decent stockpile of ammo at your home at nearly all times should be considered a must.

Prepping does you no good if a mob of people can just come and take it from you.

I bring this up because in any survival scenario you need to the pros and cons.

Should a mob come after what you have, how will you defend your food and your lives?

If you can bug out, how will you get there?  Will you have water, food, and shelter?

Hope this helps.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dry Fire: The little known secret of top shooters

Most of shooting is about learning to "be still".  Breath control and trigger control.

One of the best ways therefore to learn how to shoot better is to get an inexpensive red dot sight (any cheap one will do) and put it on a rilfe that has been "3 point checked" that it isn't loaded.

Put up a target at the end of the hallway, and aim at it.  Watch how the red dot moves around, focus on keeping it still.  (I'm not going to cover shooting mechanics in this post)

Now, squeeze the trigger slowly and watch how the dot moves.  Cock and do it again, focus on zero movement all the way through the squeeze.

Do this laying down with the barrel supported, laying down with you holding it, sitting down, standing up, do it using a wall for cover.

Now do it while walking (crouched, step heel to toe).  Focus on being able to hold your rifle with nearly zero movement in the dot of the scope still all the way until you hear the click of the firing pin ... no movement.

This is "target" practice that you can do at home without needing to spend a single cent on rounds.

Now, your rifle, unloaded will of course be a little lighter than it is with rounds in it.  However, what you're after with this exercise is to give you the muscle memory to be able to fire with extreme accuracy without hardly thinking about it.

If you want to take this to another level, there are "lasers" that you can set into your barrel.  These things put a laser dot on the wall and can make a neurosurgeon look like an epileptic.  It's a way of learning to shoot with near zero movement to a whole new level.

If you want to learn to be a great shot, this is one way of getting that done because now you can practice much more often from the comfort of your home.  You can improve your skill without really going anyway.

Hope this helps.

P.S. I know it's been quite a while since I last posted, but things got a little hectic.  My apologies.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Getting ready ... while not actually getting ready?

One of the things that most concerns me personally about any sort of survival situation is my kids.  Will they know what to do, how will they react, etc.

To help with this I've started talking to them in the car.  What would you do right now if there was a car accident and I was unconcious and my phone shattered?

In other words, I play a lot of "what would you do if ..." type of games in the car.

Interestingly they seem to REALLY enjoy it and have gotten in on the action themselves and started bringing their own "what would you do if..." scenarios to the table.

The great thing about this is that it's getting them to think about and consider survival situations and scenarios and reason out possible reactions ahead of an actual event.  Our constant talking about this has "cemented" their responses to certain things.

So, what would your kids do if ...?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The problem with "make" instead of "stock pile"

Should there be some kind of natural disaster or something that forces me and my family to bug out (called the shit hitting the fan, or TSHTF for those new to this whole thing), I'm the kind of prepper that doesn't stock pile a whole lot.  I want to grow, make, create, or hunt what I need.

There are a lot of pros and cons to this.  On the Pro side, prepping this way is decidedly less expensive.  Not only that, but learning how to create, I'm not even dependent on my specific bug out locations (BOLs) and could really bug out anywhere.

That said, doing things this way does have its Cons.  The biggest of which to my mind is in "operations security" (OPSEC).  In other words, gardens are visible.  I live in ski country so my garden would need a green house during much of the year... which is still yet more visible.

Now, I have a plan for dealing with those things "as much as possible".

What I'm getting at here with this quick Saturday post is that there is no "perfect" or "right" way to prep and each method has its separate pros and cons.  What is VITAL is for you to understand is the weak points are with even the METHOD you are using to prepare for some kind of disaster.

Knowing where you're weak can help you either fill those weak points or somehow use those weaknesses as an advantage.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Prep "Levels"

This whole "prepper" thing is, for some good reasons, focused on survival when things go really bad.  Long term survival off-grid with the supply chains broken and mobs of starving rioters running the streets, and/or surviving a full blown bug out.

The fact of the matter however is that there are many more "normal" disasters that we are likely to face.

Prep Level 1: Simple Power Grid Failure
Lets face it, at some point this is going to happen.  Can you communicate with others and let them know you're okay?  Can your loved ones get to you?  Do you have some alternate method of power generation to keep your refrigerator working and a radio running?

Seriously, out of all of the things we need to be prepared for this is the easiest one, but the most often overlooked unless you have a prep plan that allows for you staying at home.

Prep Level 2: Car Malfunction At Worst Possible Time
  1. Your car breaks down on a lonely road during a blizzard in the middle of the night.  It's well below zero, visibility is a few inches.
  2. Your car breaks down on a lonely road at noon in the middle of the desert.  It's 120 in the shade and the heat causes disturbances in the air making it difficult to really tell what's up ahead.
In either of those cases you can COUNT on it occurring at the same time your cell phone is also mysteriously not working.  You forgot to charge the battery, cell towers are down, snow from the blizzard is causing too much signal attenuation, or the nearest tower is simply too far away.

Now, we've heard of the Get Home Bag, and in the case of your car breaking down in the desert, IF you understand how to travel in the desert on foot, a Get Home Bag can literally mean you grabbing your bag, leaving your car, and doing it on foot.  More likely, your "Get Home Bag" that you should keep in your car should be more considered a "stay alive in my car until someone comes by" bag.

The problem is that your Get Home Bag needs to change depending on where you are going to be traveling.  The needs of someone in 120 Fahrenheit temps is obviously dramatically different than the needs of someone in sub zero temps.

Not only that, but of the two, the car break down during a blizzard is the worst scenario of the two as you could be stranded in your car for several days.  Out in the desert it likely won't be more than a day.  However, trying to stay in your car without it functioning in 120 degrees is problematic (your car would function like a giant greenhouse making it even hotter).

A quick word of note on this ... I really know what I'm doing in the snow and mountains.  Despite that, If my car broke down during a blizzard and there was no one else around I would stay with my car.  My "Get Home Bag" is packed for the mountains where I live.  Survival chances during a blizzard drop dramatically when you leave your vehicle.

Prep Level 3: Localized Natural Disaster
The possibility of your power grid going down is a fairly likely event that most everyone will encounter sooner or later.  Most of the country has experienced power grid failure for one reason or another that lasted multiple days and well into a week.

This is the first level where you need to worry about things like "Bug out bags" and "Bug out locations"

The possibility of your car breaking down is something most everyone has encountered though admittedly most of us break down on a major road and our cell phones work just fine.  If you actually live in an area of extreme mountains or extreme desert then you already know that several people die every single year from cars breaking down and the person isn't prepared for it.

However, if you live somewhere that has tornadoes, a high possibility of torrential rain, hurricanes, "firestorms", or even earthquakes then you know that these events kill A LOT of people, often result in a break down in civil order, and generally things can get pretty ugly.

Katrina hopefully taught us all a valuable lesson regarding the government's ability to respond to something like this and how society will react.

Here is the problem with Localized Natural Disaster; with the exception of a hurricane, it can happen so suddenly that you can't get home to obtain your Bug Out Bag or if you can, your home won't still be there.  This is where the "Get Home Bag" turns into a "Get To Your Bug Out Location" bag.

In my previous post I talked about "prepping your bug out location."  Well folks, this right here is part of the reason for that.  Your bug out location needs to be "ready enough" for your arrival even assuming you don't have your bug out bag ... because you might not have it.  You may want to consider taking a look at the video below for assistance in getting your bug out location ready.

In fact, I would venture to say that unless the "localized natural disaster" is a hurricane, you stand a better than even chance of NOT having it.  A hurricane is one of the very few massive natural disasters that gives fair warning of its arrival.

Those of you living in "tornado alley" are well away of how suddenly one of these puppies can take out a home.  What if one goes through your neighborhood while you're at work?

What I'm saying is that your survival plan must include the possibility that you can't get to your actual Bug Out Bag!

For that matter, during that time of day it would mean children at school and possibly most of your other loved ones at work as well.  What is your communications plan in the event of a breakdown in the usual communications system?  Do your children know what to do?  How will you communicate? I talked about communications in this post here.

Prep Level 4: Widespread Natural Disaster/National Breakdown In Civil Order
This is what most of us are actually prepping for ... and it is the least likely to happen.  In most of the first world, governments are quite careful not to push their citizenry so far that breakdown like this will happen and most countries are geologically diverse enough that no natural disaster could be that wide spread (except near extinction level events like a huge meteor strike).

Part of the reason I don't worry about storing years of food is that the likelihood of the above is so astronomically remote.  In the event something like the above happens, like I've said in previous posts, I'm much more about growing/hunting/creating what I need than I am with stock piling.

What's The Point Of These Stupid Levels Anyway?
Here's the thing.  I wanted to put up this post about the prep levels to create some understanding within our community.  In my opinion there is far too much planning for PL4 (prep level 4) despite the fact that few of us are actually likely to see it in our lifetime.

Now I will admit that with the current financial mess the world is in PL4 via massive civil order breakdown caused by an absolute collapse in the global financial system is becoming more likely.

However, it is still far more likely that you will have to live through a PL2 or PL3.

So let me ask you ... if your car breaks down can you live in it?  If there is a PL4 do you have a "Get Home Bag" that will get you home or to your bug out location?

Here is my point with all of this.

Lets plan for the most likely survival events we are likely to encounter.  Especially since starting with the most likely events we might encounter makes us more prepared for the PL4 level events.

Prepping your bug out locations

Having at least two defined bug out locations is important.  Having them ready for you when you get there is just as important.

A good bug out location will be fairly remote, a little challenging to get to, but even better, it will be easily defended.

Once you've identified one of these close to you and another in a separate geological area, you need to start getting them ready.  When you first arrive, you may not have any food left if you've had to walk any distance.  That means your bug out location should have some buried food cache at a minimum.

Let me say that a bug out location is some place where you will not have day to day control over and that does mean some risk.  I typically recommend "cheaper" food cache items for that reason.

However, as M.D. Creekmore pointed out in this post on the survivalist blog, storing food isn't really enough.  You should also store some simple twine.  It's cheap and a lot of it can be stored in a very small area.  Additionally, some clothes pins so that you can clean and dry clothes.

I talk a lot about building a fire, but what about if it's too windy and a fire could create a very real dangerous situation?  Or if it's raining?  You need some kind of way of cooking that is enclosed.  Now the article I linked to talked about a "cooking grill" ... personally, I have a simple metal box with no bottom and a lid on a hinge.  A grill sits on supports.

Now I can cook in the wind or rain by putting the box around the fire.

Now you can get real fancy like I did and build in a method for transferring some of the heat from the fire into any tents or structures you have.

Next is some decent cast iron pans and the largest "stock pot" you can find.  The stock pot doesn't need to be cast iron or anything.  Just large enough to allow you to make soup ... or use to help get things clean.

If you want to get really smart ... put as many seeds for your garden into your bug out bag.  Keep in mind the shelf life of the seeds you store so that you can rotate/replace as needed.  This way you can get your garden going once you get to your bug out location.  Personally I don't like to store much of anything at my bug out location that can go bad over time.  Food is my only exception to that rule (and I store things with 20+ year long self lives so I'm okay).  Seeds are small and light enough that you can keep a large variety of spring, summer, and fall items

Next, the article I linked to above talks about lamp oil.  Personally, I think storing something that flammable is a bit foolish.  It would be far better to learn how to make oil from animal fats or even better from roots or other vegetation at your bug out location.

Here's the thing.  As much as possible you want to know how to make/acquire the things you need at your bug out location instead of stockpiling them.  Things like rope/twine (at least for me) are a giant pain in the rear to make.  Clothes pins are the same way.  Ditto with something to stop your fire from killing you (or going out).

One more thing.

My view on bugging out, or surviving when the shit hits the fan, is admittedly different from a lot of people.  I personally don't store much food.  Instead, I have ways of growing my own food.

In fact, with preciously few exceptions, I want to be able to make, find/gather, or grow everything I'm going to need should there be grid/supply failures.

That means I'm not stockpiling much.  Instead of spending money on stockpiling, I spend it on education.  Learning about plants, animals, migration patterns where appropriate.

I spend my time on training and scouting locations and routes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Communication when normal methods stop working.

Today the Survival Blog posted an absolutely FANTASTIC article.  That article talked about intelligence and intelligence gathering.

I would like to address a part of that post that actually only got about a paragraph.  (please understand that's not a critique of the post, like I said it was fantastic ... one post can't cover everything)

The section had to do with communications.

Let me ask you a question, TSHTF (the shit hits the fan) and your family is all over the place.  Does your family know where to go and what to do?

If one of you is delayed how will you communicate?

Understand something, in MOST major disasters your cell phone won't work either because towers are down, there's no power, or the phone system is being overwhelmed.

So how does communications occur?

What is your back up communications plan?

What about any children? How will you communicate with them should there be a widespread outage of the phone networks?

This article, also on the survival blog gives a great method for handling this.

Plastic wrap? What for?

Semi-recently I gave a post about what I thought should be in your bug out bag.

I have to admit something now.  The list of items that I thought should be in a bug out bag was purposely incomplete.

That list included the obvious things.

It did leave a couple of things out, and I'd like to talk about one of them now ... plastic wrap.

In my opinion plastic wrap is a VITAL bug out bag item.  In fact I also include plastic wrap in my go bag as well (meaning that list was also incomplete).

The reason that plastic wrap should be included has to do with it's versatility.  It can be used to keep water out of things (or away from it), it can be used to assist with water generation (I'll explain this technique in later posts), it can be used in first aid, and so on.

I go to a "club store" like costco or sams club and I've got pretty large rolls of the stuff in my bags.

Think about including plastic wrap in your bug out bag.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


In this post I'm not talking about bugging out because of a fire, I'm talking about your bug out fire.

A couple of things on this.

First, as I've said in the past you need to have at least 3 methods of making fire NOT including the matches that you should also keep in your bug out bag.  To me a match should be used only as a last resort.

Second, once you've built a fire during a bug out, it should not EVER be allowed to go completely out.  It needs to stay burning.  Having an actual burning fire of even a very small size means it's far easier to build a roaring fire for something should you need it (like an injury).

Having said that, keep in mind that during the day smoke can be seen from quite a ways off, especially in the mornings.  Therefore, your fire should be allowed to get quite small once the sky begins to brighten so that any smoke is dissipated and not visible anymore only a foot or so above the flame.

A word of caution about keeping your fire burning.  Doing that may mean keeping a "watch" awake at all times.  If your group is larger than 5 or 6 people this will be fairly easy.  If your group is smaller that will make keeping your fire burning constantly AND thinking about reducing the size of the fire before it can be seen as morning comes a bit challenging.

If your group is very small you may want to consider trying to combine with another small group.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Can you eat?

That's a big question I ask people that hire me to consult with them about survival.

Can you eat?

Most of the time I'm greeted with a blank stare wondering what I'm talking about followed by a, "yeah ... of course."

So I take them to their bug out location, take their food away and ask them to start eating at which point they mention that I just took their food away.

So let me ask you something.  Let say a bug out becomes necessary.  Worse, it becomes necessary for the bug out to last longer than the food you have in your bug out bag.

Can you eat?

Most people would talk about hunting.  The problem is that once you start hunting you'll find that not long afterwards the prey you are hunting starts learning there is a predator and starts avoiding your area.

The truth of the matter is that if you truly want to survive you need to be able to READILY identify the edible plants and roots.  Nearly everywhere plant life is far more abundant than animal or fish life.  It therefore makes far more sense to think much more "gather" than it is to think "hunt."

So, what plants exist BOTH of your bug out areas? (and you do have two of them, a primary and a back up bug out location correct))

Can you easily go out to your bug out location and survive on little more than what you can gather from those edible plants?

On that note, let me say something.  If you can build a fire, and if you're smart and your bug out bag includes things you can cook with, then you can make soups.  They are easy to make and if you throw plenty of variety into them are often pretty tasty.

If you don't know what edible plants are available where your planned bug out locations are, now is the best time to start learning.  Often it doesn't take much more than a few internet searches to learn this information.  Now you just print it out, and make sure that you can quickly and easily identify the plants you can get food from (berries, roots, leaves, etc).  MAKE SURE that you can do this even in fairly dim light!!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Are you ACTUALLY ready?

I know lots of people with bug out bags, ammunition, stock piled food and water, hardened homes, barriers to create additional perimeter security, stock piled first aid supplies, and so on and so on.

Do you know how many people that I know with a WRITTEN survival plan other than myself?


Not a single person that I know personally has a written survival plan.  Not a single one of those people with kids have talked with them ... let alone practiced what to do in the event of some kind of disaster or civil uprising.

So let me be clear about something.

As ready as you might think you are, if you don't have a written survival plan in place, then you aren't actually ready for much.

If you haven't practiced that plan, especially with any children, then you aren't ready for much.

Now, if you have children and they're younger than 8 or 10, and something happens while they are in school, then your plan for them might be something as simple as two or three places where they are to wait for you to get them.

However, if something happens and they are with you, then practicing what their role is, and what they are supposed to do in any of several different types of crises is important.  It can mitigate some of the obvious stress when they know what they are supposed to do and how to do it.

Besides, practicing some of these things can actually be kind of fun.  A bug out isn't much more than a weekend out camping.

However, every person needs to have a job (over the age of about 3) in a disaster.  Every person needs to know they are helping and that they are contributing.  That they are doing what they can, what they are supposed to, and that the other people in your group are doing the same.

Like I said, it'll keep stress levels down and your chances of making it through some sort of calamity much higher.

If you live in an older neighborhood with older homes, your local fire system probably can't handle a major fire that could go through your neighborhood like a book of matches.

What about a flood if you live somewhere that's possible, or earthquake, or hurricane, or even a massive (worst in recorded history) blizzard that shuts your city down for two weeks.

No matter where you live, some type of natural disaster is possible, and in every instance it is HIGHLY likely for that disaster to completely overwhelm the ability of local response to deal with it quickly, or the federal government to deal with it at all (e.g. Katrina).

More to the point, you probably know what kinds of natural disasters are possible where you live.

So, you should have a written plan of what to do, who is going to do what, and what the "chain of command" (e.g. who is in charge) should be.

This should be written, agreed upon by all involved, AND IT SHOULD BE PRACTICED.

Your plan should include contingencies for you being able to stay at your home, at an alternate "bug out location" fairly close to your home, AND the possibility that the disaster will be far ranging enough that you will need to bug out to a completely different geological region (if you live on the coast, moving to the interior, or if you live below sea level, moving well away and above it)

Your plan should further include how to handle civil unrest.  Again, the plan should include what to do if you're going to stay put, move to a close by bug out location, or move to a much more distant location.

Your two bug out locations should be defined, and AT LEAST 4 different routes of getting to each of them well known and memorized by ALL members of your group older than about 5.

Yes, I said older than 5.  Disasters can cause crazy and unexplained things to happen.  Civil unrest can cause crazier and more unexplained things to happen.  If your child is old enough to run, then they are old enough to run away from you at the WORST possible time (fear can quickly overwhelm reason in a young child).  Should something happen, and they get separated from you, then it's a very good idea for them to know where they should go and how they should get there.

Like I said, having a written plan is a MUST if you have children and having that plan practiced is just as important.

So, do you have a plan?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Answers about my bug out bag post

In my last post, "Stuff for your bug out bag" I gave a list of items that should be in both a bug out bag and a separate list for a shorter term "go" bag.

I almost immediately got some comments asking question or challenging what I had.  Instead of having some super long reply to comments, let me just answer the questions here now.

1) Should the pistol and rifle be in every bug out bag, or just in one bag if there are multiple people?

A)  Every person should have their own firearms ... ASSUMING they are competent with their use.  Giving a firearm to someone that doesn't really know how to use one is just asking for someone to get hurt and a bug out is the WORST time to be teaching firearms skills.  Secondly, and this is totally personal opinion, a real "this is not a drill" bug out is stressful.  For that reason I personally wouldn't give a firearm to anyone less than about 12 years old unless they are VERY skilled.  My son didn't have firearms as part of his bug out or go bags until he was 15 (but settled down, got serious, and he's now sporting an AR-15 that he can reliably use at targets over 500 meters away).  My youngest daughter however is like Annie Oakley and got hers recently at 13 (.22 for both the pistol and rifle).  Again, this is just personal belief and you have to gauge it based on what you think your kids can handle.

My reason for saying each person old enough and skilled in their use should have their own firearms is two fold, first each person should be largely self-sufficient.  Second, even if one or two members of your group are so overwhelmingly more skilled with a firearm than the other people in the group having everyone carry their own firearms and ammunition simply means a better "spread" of the weight being carried.  It gives those people that will be doing any shooting much more ammunition than they could carry on their own.

As an example, myself and my son are likely to be the only two people actually doing any hunting in a bug out or using a firearm in self defense.  However my wife and other children all have both a pistol and a rifle.

2) You list .22 for a rifle and a handgun ... why not a shotgun or something higher caliber for the rifle or the handgun?

A) Before I get started you should know that the kind and type of firearms that should be carried for a bug out is a hotly debated topic with the various experts both online and off.  There are a lot of pros and cons to the various types and calibers of firearms so understand that I am just giving you my own opinions on the matter.

I really like to have both the handgun and the rifle to be the same caliber.  This allows the ammunition you are carrying to server double duty which means you can carry less ... which means less weight carried.

Secondly, and this is largely probably a result of my military training, I am not a fan of shotguns.  I know that birds are everywhere, are easy to find and make an easy and readily available food source, which means that a single shotgun can bring down several birds making feeding easier.

However, shotguns are LOUD.  During a bug out I'd rather not announce my location.  My goal is to hunker down, stay out of sight and quiet, and generally be left alone until some kind of normalcy has been returned.

.22 handguns and rifles are more than accurate enough to take out small "varmints" for food, I'm a good fisherman so there's food that way ... and .22 can be quieted very easily as it's a subsonic round.

Further, .22 ammo is so light that quite a lot of it can be carried.

Those things all equal up to using a .22 for both a handgun (self defense) and a rifle (dual purpose self defense and hunting).

Having said that, take note that my son is using a .223 AR-15 (he thought it was cool that I put the assault rifle as part of his bug out bag).

Also, and I haven't said this before, but I'm using a .45 for both my handgun and rifle to give us something with a bit more kick should it be needed.  Now, the .45 ammo is probably three times heavier per round (okay, maybe twice) which means I can't carry as much.

However, there's 7 in my immediate family (including my oldest daughter's fiance) which means with that many people I have the ability to start varying the "weaponry" a bit.

Stuff For Your Bug Out Bag

Look around the internet and you can find quite a few talking about what should be in a "go bag" or your bug out bag ... so I figured why shouldn't I join the chorus! :-)

Now, at this point I'm going to say something.  In my mind there is a HUGE difference between a "bug out" (natural disaster that may take several days or a week for the government to stabilize) and an emergency (we need to get out for at most a day) "go".

Here is what I think should be in a full "bug out" bag:
  1. a quart of bottled water
  2. iodine tablets to make more water drinkable
  3. 3 days of freeze dried meals
  4. Food prep (pan, pot, spoons ... easily found in camping supplies)
  5. Plate, spoon, fork, knife
  6. At least three ways of making a fire AND a couple boxes of matches (which would make 4 ways of making fire ... and you should be capable of making fire every way that you carry)
  7. Clothes for three days (error on the side of the clothes being for weather colder than you will probably see ... if it's hot, you can take clothes off, if it's cold you only have what you have and that's it)
  8. Walking stick (tied beside the bag so it can't be forgotten)
  9. Some kind of hunting quality knife
  10. A firearm and ammunition for it (personally I keep a .22 pistol IN the bag which in the event the thing is needed I would wear and a .22 rifle tied to the outside)
  11. A small pup tent
  12. a sleeping bag (I live where it's cold so mine has a -30 comfort rating), and pad (I use the texalite pad, it's thin, light, improves comfort and keeps you off the ground)
  13. A shovel (breaks down and goes into the bag, the shovel head also has saw teeth)
  14. A small hatchet
  15. 20 feet of good quality rope
  16. Fishing pole and lures (ONLY if you know how to fish and your bug out location has a place to do it)
  17. First aid kit that includes the ability to sew up a bad cut ... AND YOU SHOULD KNOW HOW
  18. Pictures of loved ones printed from my color ink jet and placed into individual ziploc bags
First, let me highly recommend a back country backpack with an external frame for this.  The items I have listed above will require a fair bit of space.  However, with those items you could survive for MONTHS. 

Also, notice how I structured the list, and this is basic survival.  Think about water needs  first, next came food, then food prep, then fire, then self defense, then shelter, and finally the shovel (human waste disposal) and the hatchet and rope in case the bug out ends up needing to take longer than expected you can create more "permanent" structures. I also have ways of catching more food (fire arms, fishing, and snaring).  Then I also have pictures in there for a little mental sanity.

There should be one of these bags for every person in your household.  If you have young children (less than 10) you'll have to add some of their things to your bag, but if they can talk, they should have to carry some things on their own, at least clothes, food, and water.

Here is what I think should be in a "go" bag:
  1. A quart of water
  2. freeze dried food for 1 day
  3. A pistol and ammunition for it
  4. Walking stick
  5. Tarp large enough to make a lean-to or fold over shelter
  6. Sleeping bag and pad
  7. Hunting knife
  8. At least two methods of making fire and a box of matches
  9. a pair of underwear, a shirt, and a hoodie type jacket
  10. The camping shovel I mentioned above with saw teeth on the shovel pan
  11. 20 feet of rope
  12. Fishing pole and lures (I like to fish obviously ... again, only take IF APPROPRIATE)
 This really should only be a duffel bag with the sleeping bag tied to it.

Again, notice how the list is structured: water, food, self defense, shelter and finally contingency items in case it takes longer than a day.

The idea with a "go bag" however is to make it really easy to grab, go, and not look strange walking around with it.  If you're like most of the industrialized world and you live in a city, walking down the street with a huge backpack on your back will get you noticed.

In a "go" situation (e.g. civil unrest) being noticed could be a bad thing.

Again, everyone should have their own bag!!!

Further, to be honest, in a full "bug out", I would grab my "go bag" as well.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's about awareness

When it comes to survival, like I've said a few times now self defense is important.

And when it comes to self defense, awareness is a major piece of that.  In the military it's actually called "situational awareness."

At any given point in time, you need to know who is around you, what do they look like, how are they moving?  What are your options should there be a physical encounter (e.g. a fight)?

What weapons are immediately at hand?

How far away is it?  What kind?

Now here's the thing about that ... some "weapons" don't appear to be a weapon at all.

As an example, a decent sized heavy book is actually a VERY powerful weapon and often there are books all over the place.

It's about being aware of your options.

Further awareness is also about your ability to determine something as a possible weapon (or shield) that others may not consider.

My last point on this ... situational awareness is a SKILL that must be honed.  You have to work on it.

Pay attention to the cars around you when you drive, what kind they are ... and by "around" I mean within a quarter mile if you're on a major road or interstate.

When you are walking or in a store, how many people are there, what do they look like?  WORK on it, be aware of who is around you and what they are doing.  Be aware and develop this skill.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Are you "go" ready?

I've been talking a lot about the "bug out bag" because it's so important.  There are a number of sites that talk about what should be in it and all that good stuff, and honestly I'll be doing this as well myself in later posts.

Before I get into WHAT should be in your bug out bag, I want to cover an important concept first.  In certain "communities" there is what is known as the "go" bag.  The idea is the same as a survivalists bug out bag, in fact they are nearly identical.

The difference is that people that talk about "go bags" understand that this is something "go ready".  It's something that is right now.  Now prep time, no messing around ... grab and go.

I know lots of people that have a bug out bag that isn't "go ready".  They would need to grab a firearm and ammunition.  I knew one person that stored the food for their bug out bag in their basement but their bag was kept in their bedroom on the second floor.

This isn't good.  A bug out bag NEEDS to be "go ready".  In the event a bug out becomes neccessary time will be a very precious commodity and you do NOT want to put yourself in the position of having to do ANYTHING other than grab it and go.

Your basic survival firearm should be in it along with plenty of ammunition, food, water, methods for making water depending on where you live, methods for making fire, shelter, sleeping gear, cooking gear, and so on.

Is your bug out bag "go ready"?