Alternate Communications

Lets face it, most of us are used to picking up our phone and calling or texting someone at a moments notice. On a day-to-day basis it is very easy to communicate. This is the marvel of modern technology. I highly recommend that you have a cellualr phone with you at all times. For most people, signal will be good enough to call for help in an emergency. Even with very low signal a text message can often still be transmitted. Keeping the appropriate chargers and a power bank handy is also advisable. In a large percentage of situations this will be enough to call for help if you have a medical emergency, auto accident, become lost, or face a natural disaster. There are times though that the cellular networks will be overwhelmed or down completely.

These situations where cell phone access is unavailable require a bit more thought to plan for. This has been see multiple times in the recent past. On 9/11 cell networks in the surrounding area were crippled from the immense load of the calls. They became unusable. I even experiened some of this hundreds of miles away as the cellular providers attempted to reroute call traffic through secondary routes to lessen the load. Ironically, when being able to make a call is the most important is when it is most likely to be jammed up. This means that we must plan alternate methods to communicate with family, group members.

One of the easiest ways to set up an alternate communication plan over a moderate distance is handheld “walkies.” While these could be susceptible to breaking down from an EMP or simple age, they are simple to aquire, train on, and deploy.  Most of these require standard batteries and additional ones can be stored with it. Rechargable batteries and a solar or crank charger would be a nice addition. Also many models have weather alerts built in. You do need to remember a few facts though. First, these have a limited range that greatly decreases with obstructions. Second, most if not all of the channels on these are public and not secure. A personal set of code words would be advisible in case things become hostile. Lastly, often different models and brands may not be set up with the same channels. This can also vary with the ages of the units. Decide on and test channels ahead of time.

Here is an example of a unit that is rated well and affordable

Midland – GXT1000VP4, 50 Channel GMRS Two-Way Radio

A second option that is similar is CB or Ham radios. I will not go over all the differences, but basically CBs are lower powered and not regulated where as HAM radios require a license but have much more power and bandwidth. These units would allow for a much larger range than hand held 2 way radios. The trade off is that these normally require more power to run. Ham radios do come in handheld models, but many of the more powerful are a fixed location affair. Another plus though is that you can communicate with groups such as emergeny responders in yoiur area via HAM.  Most 2 way walkies cannot do that. There are many great online resources about HAM radio and most areas have a “club” where you could meet some experienced HAM operators.

In the event that the use of electronics is not possible, there are still ways to communicate with others. This can require a bit more preplanning if you feel that there may be the possibility of others misusing the information. It would be smart to come up with some “code” with your group members. It does not have to be hard. Something as simple as refering to Grandpa’s house as “The Farm” or using a symbol for each member to securely sign the communication. It may sound a bit like an old spy movie, but if things are really bad, nefarious individuals might use intercepted communication to track or ambush you. On the up side, as long as everyone knows the “code”, there is no harm in it and it might even simplify things.

There are several ways you can use this code. You could write a note and place it somewhere out of sight that others know to check. This could let you confirm your status, travel desination, and who is with you. Another way to leave communication might be to paint something on the side of a building along your route. While this would not be good to do in normal times, during a forced evacuation or worse cases it might be the best way to catch the eye of others in your group traveling the same route.  Sharpie style markers are also useful to do this on a smaller scale. These coukd be used to write on windows, street signs, or abandoned cars.

While I know some of this may lean toward the apocalyptic level of disasters, it will hopefully give you something to think about for all levels of planning. Because of things such as long commutes, children away at school, and simple distance between towns, we may find ourselves far flung when disaster strikes. This communication is important because it connects you to your most valuable resource, family and friends.

National Preparedness Month 2019

Yet again we roll around to September which is National Preparedness Month. It is a great time to reevaluate your planning and update it based on situation changes. Life events that change your geography, add or remove household members, or affect your health are all things that may cause a need for changes. In addition, social, political, and environmental changes may also warrant revisions in parts of your planning.

FEMA’s site Ready.gov is using the theme this year of “Prepared Not Scared.” It is a great theme because fear should not be the driving factor in your planning.

The different focus for each week also highlights important topics to consider. I have touch on each of these topics in past posts, but visiting them again periodically is a great idea.

Saving early is not just good for disaster preparedness, but is great overall. Sometimes putting money back can be very hard, but there are many great strategies out there. From putting all your spare change into a savings account to brown bagging lunch, it is not hard to save something. Even if it is not a lot each week, small amounts add up. When disaster happens, whether it be a blown out tire, roof leak, or hurricane, not having any cushion of funds can leave you in a perilous situation.

Planning for a disaster is, well, why you are reading my page I hope. Planning is a definite way to take control of the situation so that you are not paralyzed by fear when things do happen. In worst case scenarios, those that act early will have a better chance to come out of it successfully. Time is a precious commodity whether you are evacuating ahead of a hurricane, gathering last minute supplies to ride out a blizzard, or outrunning everyone else escaping the zombies (just kidding).

I did an entire post on including your kids in your planning. No one is too young to understand some part of the plan. Things as simple as “meet at the mailbox if you have to escape the house” are a great place to start. Plenty of five year olds dial 911 in an emergency every year. Even if they can’t explain the issue to the operator, the call will alert emergency personnel.  This teaching also sets the precedent to allow you to expand their part in your plan later. Plus, spending time with your family on a shared activity is always a good thing.

In addition to your own planning, I do agree that everyone should be a part of their community planning. On the up side, you have input to try and get the most effective plan in place. You will be able to form bonds with other like-minded people that may help you to band together in times of need. On the more selfish side, you will know what others plan so that you can adjust appropriately. Plus, hopefully some sound advice offered to others might help you lessen the number of unprepared people around you. That possibly means less people to clash with over resources if you cannot leave or no assistance can get to you.

So take this month as time to plan or revisit existing plans. Read up on what others suggest and find how their ideas apply to you. Most importantly, decide what level you want to plan for and how your specific life affects your plan.

Day 2 of the Apocolypse

Watch any apocalyptic themed movie and you will see a very common trend. Your happy go lucky neighbor will turn into a raving psychopath as soon as whatever event happens that makes it apocalyptic. While this tends to add drama and move the story along, it is not very realistic. Aside from a pandemic disease that alters the mind of those infected (i.e. 28 Days Later) or a nuclear incident, most people will not even realize things have hit the fan at first. Even if a widespread EMP event happens, most people will assume things will be back to normal in a few days. Authorities will tend to reassure people of this in an effort to not incite panic. While it may actually vary in time period, I refer to this as Day 1. For the most part this can be a quiet time. Some less than desirable individuals will try to leverage that law enforcement is stretch thinner than ever to ramp up criminal efforts. Most ordinary people like our neighbors, members of the PTA, and the college girl that babysits your kids will be either in a state of shock or disbelief though. This period unfortunately is when the decisions you make can very well be life or death.

In this lull, unless the situation is instantaneous cataclysmic, most people will feel more inconvenienced than anything. They will follow their normal patterns as much as they can. They will go to work or school if it is open, come home, have dinner, do chores, and repeat the next day. They will discuss news tidbits they have heard with their friends and neighbors and theorize about when this will end. Most will feel that their community services, government, and relief organizations will take care of the problem in due time. You can’t really blame them for wanting to believe that. Most have no idea how to react if that is not true. The longer this period lasts, the thinner the veneer of society will be stretched.

It will begin to dawn on some slower than others that this is not going to end any time soon. That is when the transition will begin to what I refer to as Day 2. Again the actual time period may vary greatly depending on the actual events. This is when the full implications of a large scale disaster will sink in. Panic is very likely to ensue. Essentials like food, water, and fuel will become points of conflict as people try to hoard what they can. Both targeted and random violence will begin to break out. The uncertainty will leave most in a high level of stress and panic. The longer the population remains high, the more resources will be burned up or willfully destroyed. Possibly within a matter of hours of the light bulb going off in their head, those in densely populated cities will begin to migrate outward in hopes of finding the quiet little farm or a section of woods where they can hold up. Millions of unprepared and ill-supplied bodies will tear across the land ravaging it worse than a wildfire. As the situation becomes dire, people will become desperate to feed themselves and their loved ones. Desperate hungry people often feel they have nothing to lose and will not act logically. This will make for a very dangerous horde trampling towards wherever they may see as glimmer of hope.

As someone making preparation for various disasters, you might already see that Day 2 is too late to be making your move to relocate and secure yourself. Like has been seen in so many evacuations, traffic will be at a standstill on any road but the most remote. Initially the volume of traffic will be the issue, but as hours pass roadways will become long parking lots of crippled and abandoned vehicles. Any vehicle that is not trapped in this will become a target for anyone with questionable morals. The only way to avoid this deathtrap that many will fall into is to identify Day 1 and have plans in place to move quickly or already be at a location that allows you to hunker down safely.

When planning take this need for swift and decisive action into consideration. Wasting precious time mulling over your options or going shopping for essentials might put you directly in the middle of the rush to leave. While there are some item you may need to acquire at the last minute, make those as few as possible. Also, in many situations credit cards will be useless, so having cash on hand will help you get the last minute items you need to round out your supplies. Additionally, be sure to plan how everyone is to get to the desired location. Waiting for your entire party to get home may take much longer than meeting them at a central randevu location.

While this scenario goes well beyond localized flooding, snowstorms, or even lower end hurricanes, there are many precedents to look at in recent years. Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Andrew, the Mendocino Complex Fire in California, and others show that it does not take an EMP, government collapse, or a pandemic to cause you to need to put your plan into action. So plan well, review it often, and be prepared to stay ahead of the crowd.

Let’s talk about shoes

On the average day most people worry more about the look of their shoes than the comfort. Women take the brunt of the jabs about preferring looks over comfort in footwear, but many men operate on the same principle. Whether it be Jimmy Choo high heels, wingtips, cowboy boots, or Converse Chuck Taylors, people abuse their feet daily by what they wear. Blisters, corns, callouses, broken down arches, and hammer toes all come from wearing the wrong shoes for your feet. Wearing the wrong size, be it too large or too small, is just as bad. People in certain occupations have specific footwear requirements that limit their choices. They may need safety toes or chemical resistant soles to protect them. Outside of this scenario, I strongly urge you to reevaluate the emphasis on shoes that keep your feet healthy.

Keeping your feet healthy on a daily basis just requires making some good decisions. First, different shoes are needed for different activities. You might be able to get away with almost anything if you are just sitting at a desk all day. If you walk, stand, or run then footwear with better support and soles are necessary to prevent fatigue and damage. On the flip side, a pair of running shoes with foam style soles is not going to be a good choice for hiking mountain trails.  Second, buying the right size is imperative. Different brands are cut to different specs, so you may not always wear a size 10 medium width in every shoe. If you need help determining the best fit, visit a shoe store that has staff to help you find a fit and not just salespeople to sell you the most expensive pair. Third, remember that shoes have a lifespan. They may be “worn out” long before the soles fall off or they get holes in the uppers. Replace shoes before they lose the support your feet need. Fourth, recognize if your feet need special care. Some people have foot issues that require special shoes or orthotics (insoles) for their normal shoes.  This can be because of a physical foot issues, results of a past injury, or simply age. Lastly, recognize that cheap shoes are rarely good shoes. A pair of $1 Old Navy flip flops can be expected to have about $1 worth of support. A good pair of boots or shoes will cost a bit, but watching for sales and such can help to lower the cost. Just remember that cost is not a pure indicator. Lots of high heels are really expensive but work better as zombie killing weapons than shoes.

Now you may be wondering how this relates to disaster preparedness. It has everything to do with it. I assume the worst when I plan for things. In that case, you will be on foot. That means you need to have healthy feet and appropriate footwear.  The middle of a crisis is not the time to be shopping for shoes. That footwear should also be broken in to avoid finding out at the wrong time that they cause blisters or worse. Now planning for a range of disasters means you need to cover several specs in footwear. I find that a sturdy waterproof pair of boots does that. That being said, I avoid rubber or duck style boots. They just do not do well when walking long distances. Unless it is rather cold, they can make your feet sweat. In the cold, most do not have much insulation. A laceup or zip side boot is a good choice to allow for adjustments based on thin or heavy socks.

Obviously, there are hundreds of options that would work. Here are a couple of examples of good boots for men and a couple for women. These are reputable brands that have a proven track record of both durability and customer service.

Men

Timberland Men’s White Ledge Mid Waterproof Boot

Wolverine Men’s Floorhand 6 Inch Waterproof Boot

Women

Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Boot

Timberland Women’s 6″ Premium Waterproof Boot

Another good thing to pair with these is a good pair of socks. Wool is best because it wicks moisture away better. Merino wool is not your old fashion wool and these socks generally last a long time.

Merino Wool Midweight Hiker Socks – 4 Pack

If you have issues finding pairs that work for you and would like to try different pairs, Prime Wardrobe from Amazon is a good option. Without spending money on returns or driving from shop to shop, you can  try shoes and clothes free. You only pay for what you keep and have free Prime returns for what you don’t.

 

If you have any favorite examples to share, please leave a comment. The pair you prefer might just be what others are looking for.

Feeding yourself – Learning to garden

Not that many generations ago every family in the United States kept some type of garden. Sometimes it was the 50 acres out in the Midwest or sometimes a 5 foot by 5 foot mini garden in the backyard of a suburban house. People grew a wide variety of different vegetables, fruits, and herbs. They used this to supplement their grocery purchases, share with family or friends, sell, or trade for other goods. Their dependency on these garden products ranged from absolute necessity to a quaint hobby. Today things have changed for many people. Due to access to store bought produce year round, lack of space in many areas, and distance from a heritage of farming many people do not even know how to begin gardening.

No matter the level of disaster you are planning for, knowing how to grow food is not a bad skill to learn .  No one knows when a financial disaster might happen to your household.  The rest of the world may go on, but you may find that feeding yourself and loved ones by ordinary means is impossible. In this case, if you have access to dirt, be it ground or in pots, you can produce food for a tiny percentage of the retail cost.

As with most things, knowing how to do something and having done it before are quite different. The “green thumb” attributed to some people is usually a culmination of many trials and errors.  Through these they learn the nuances of what certain plants like and don’t like. Maybe despite their rampant desire to grow carrots, they find that the ground they have access to is just not a good fit for them. That is not saying that they could not improve the ground to match what carrots like, but they know that that effort is better spent growing other items. Sometimes you pick your battles with mother nature.  In light of this, practicing gardening now is better than later when it might be a dire situation.

Your garden can be as simple or as elaborate as you desire. Pots, buckets, straw bales, and hydroponics can replace traditional tilled earth gardening if you desire. If you are new, start small. Five tomato plants can provide a bounty, thirty can produce a lot waste. That is if you do not have anyone to share with, sell it to, or have a way to preserve it.  Instead of just one type of plant, you might plant a few different ones. That way if some types fail you still have others to fall back on. If you do a bit of research you may also find some that are ready at different times to allow you to have produce from spring until fall. The options are endless. Just remember that it takes time to perfect this skill like any other.

Don’t be frustrated if you have difficulty. The best gardeners have bad seasons.  Sometimes it could be a bad batch of seed, lack of rain, too much rain, excessive heat, not enough heat, etc. If one particular plant give you trouble try another. For instance, you have no luck with vine type plants, try potatoes, cabbage, beans, or corn. Considerate it a chance to try new varieties of vegetables.  Tomatoes alone have over 3000 varieties that are currently actively cultivated. Who knows, you may find that you love some of the varieties one thousand percent more than store bought.

There are many wonderful books out there about gardening. One I can recommend is

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times

 

Here is also a list of free Kindle ebooks that I have compiled that can also help you get started. You simply need the free Kindle app to read them. Click here to get it: Free Kindle App

A to Z Gardening for Beginners

Vertical Gardening:The Beginner’s Guide To Organic & Sustainable Produce Production Without A Backyard

Easy Container Gardening: 5 Steps to Grow Fresh Organic Vegetables in Small Urban Spaces: Beginners guide to patio gardening (Easy gardening essentials Book 1)

Gardening 101: Friendship Gardens

P.P.P.P.P.

The 5 P’s is something a ex-Marine told me years ago that still resounds with me. He said his commanding officer had drilled it into them – “Proper Planning Prevents Piss-poor Performance”. In the same vein, it is just a different expression of the Boy Scout motto of “Always Be Prepared.” While this is true in disaster preparedness as we discuss here, it can also apply to your daily life. Applying these ideas daily will help you to be in a better position to limit stress. Living with less stress will make you stronger and healthier to deal with large life events.

On a daily basis I honestly struggle with organization. Things just get out of hand and then you can’t find your shoes the next morning. This in itself wastes time and causes undue stress. Compound this over weeks and years and all the little things build up. This can lead to a constant state of stress dealing with even the most basic things. This impacts you both physically and mentally.

Some things you can do to combat this apply to both daily life and disaster preparedness.  Some of these may sound cliche, but they work.

Everything has a place – Ever run late looking for your keys? Not if you designate a place for them and habitually put them there. Having organized locations for everything is not OCD. It is a manner to remove one more variable that can cause stress from poor performance. The same goes for your emergency supplies and bag. Having things organized saves precious time when you may only have minutes to evacuate from a disaster situation. A handy thing to have is a label printer. With it you can label shelves to organize where items belong. This works anywhere you can stick a sticker.

DYMO LetraTag LT-100H Handheld Label Maker

Another option are erasable labels such as these dry erase ones. Then you can adjust them whenever needed.

Dry Erase Magnetic Labels

Plan Ahead – Anything from laying out tomorrow clothes beforehand to a complete color coded family weekly schedule can fall under this. Depending on your situation, it may be more complex that other people’s. Planning out your day, week, and month can avoid conflicts, delays, and , again, stress. Planning will allow you to consolidate things such as having appointments that are in the same location on the same day if possible. This will avoid multiple trips and additional time away form home or work. Planning well in advance can also help you save money as in the case of booking a vacation. Earlier booking can let you find better deals on accommodations or transportation, pre-order tickets to attractions or events, and avoid forgetting items you must replace while away.  With all of this done you can actually be relaxing instead of planning each day while there. Planning out your emergency strategy can help you to have everyone one up to date on what to do in particular circumstances. This again saves time you need to evacuate or enact the plan to hunker down. Organizing the rotation plan of perishable items such as canned foods you are storing can help you to avoid wasting items and money due to expiration. A good way to keep up with this rotation is an inventory log. It can help you know what you have to avoid over buying or forgetting something.

Inventory Log: 100 8.5 x 11 inch pages

You can also use color coded stickers to assist in keeping up with the rotation.

Pack of 1020 1/2″ Round Color Coding Circle Dot Printable Labels

Know your limits – Everyone must face that they are not an expert at everything. Also, based on age, lifestyle, or illnesses, physically you may not be able to do certain things. Admitting these ahead of time will allow you to find ways to adapt to these parameters. If the limiting factor is skills you do not have, you can study or train to build those. For instance, your financial situation may keep you from upgrading your car that is giving you mechanical issues.  In this case, studying how to do some of the repairs yourself can improve the car’s reliability at a much lower cost. This more reliable transportation then relieves stress on you and your finances. Similarly, studying and practicing skills like fire building and water purification can  help you to better mitigate issues in a crisis.  In the case of physical limitation, you can find ways to accommodate or alleviate them. If you suffer from arthritis that causes you to have less strength in your hands, simply buying pop top style canned goods versus screw off lids can help the issue. When emergency planning, you may also do something like including a cart to transport your supplies if you must evacuate on foot. You may do this because you know that the weight you need to carry exceeds your personal limit for the necessary time period.

Practice – You often hear people in different sports talk about muscle memory. Basically it means that you repeat a task or motion enough that you can repeat it without thought. Some examples include shooting a basketball, firing a gun, and riding a bike. You can apply this to help out in your daily life. Repetition of tasks such as chopping vegetables will lead to you having consistency and  speed. This can make preparing dinner a less stressful task. The same can be said for emergency plans. Maybe you want to improve your skill with a firearm because you want to protect your family during a crisis. Then practice loading the gun, firing the gun from different stances, and resolving malfunctions. Again, this will improve speed and consistency because you do not have to think about it, you just do it.

These are just a few examples of strategies you can use in both daily life and disaster preparedness to limit stress and be more prepared for whatever may come. If you have any personal tips that you think might benefit others, please share them in the comments.

Surviving the Heat

Summer can be a time of great fun. School is out in a lot of places and lots of people take their yearly family vacation.  Unlike when it is cold though and people take precautions to avoid frostbite, people seem to forget about the dangers overexposure to sun and heat cause. These dangers can be multiplied exponentially if you are in the midst of a disaster rendering you without electricity, clean water, or shelter. Some natural disasters that might affect you in this way during the summer are tornadoes, wild fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and tsunamis.

Here are some tips to employ to help out if you end up caught in a disaster with no electricity during the hot season in your area.

If it is safe to remain in your home, keep it cool by doing the following:

Cover windows with drapes or shades. Dark colored sheets or multiple layers of lighter colored ones would work as temporary stand ins.

Weather-strip doors and windows before hand. Duct tape could be used as a temporary option around doors and windows you do not need to use. This works best if you do still have some type of cooling option, but can still be a benefit if you cannot open windows.

Use window reflectors, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside. Mylar emergency blankets would also work in the place of foil.

Add insulation to keep the heat out. This is hard to do unless you do it before hand, but it can save you heating and cooling costs on a daily basis in addition to helping out in a disaster.

Take precautions when you have to be outside:

When possible, find shade. Wear a hat wide enough to protect your face. A boonie hat is a popular option. A large cloth can also be used to cover your head and neck. A scarf like this shemagh is a helpful option. A dangerous sunburn is the last thing you want to add to your worries.

Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.

Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. If you or someone you care for is on a special diet, ask a doctor now how to deal with it now so that you know. Water is good, but also make sure you have something to replace salt and electrolytes such as a sports drink.

Avoid high-energy activities during the heat of the day. If you must travel on foot a considerable distance to get away from danger, do so at night or in the early morning hours. Rest in a safe cool area during the day.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you make it through the extreme heat even if you do not experience a disaster.

 

But I don’t want to be a Prepper

The media often times plays up extremes. A good story is the guy building a 20,000 square foot bunker with 300 years of food and more ammo than the Soviet Union had in the 80s. They tend to ignore the family preparing extra supplies to take with them while evacuating ahead of a hurricane. While the flashier story may bring good ratings, it tends to skew the view the general public has (on whatever subject). In turn that view tends to be applied to anyone that very vaguely fits the typecast.  This can bring a certain negative connotation and labels. People who plan and prepare for emergencies must be preppers, right? No, not in the way that the term has come in to common usage. The Red Cross stockpiles supplies for disasters, so does FEMA. Neither of those organizations are deemed to be zealous preppers. You should not not be labeled negatively either.

I bring this up to highlight how people who truly desire to protect themselves and their loved ones can feel pressured into not doing so. No one wants to be labeled as the “crazy prepper” next door. Sometimes this pressure can even come from the very family members you want to protect. This can be hard to overcome but it cannot be the reason you are found vulnerable when emergencies strike. The very reason you want to plan for whatever eventuality is so that you are not at the mercy of others.

There are several ways people deal with this situation. Some keep their plans as private as possible. Some ignore the stereotype and try to educate others. Most fall somewhere in between though. How you handle it is entirely up to you. Maybe you want to discuss it with a few close friends, but not with the neighborhood at large. As with most things in life though, don’t let others dictate your actions. Rarely are those same people there to help you when issues arise.

Hidden Water

One thing that humans cannot live without is water. On a normal day we can turn on the tap and fill our glass over and over. When disaster strikes, we will have to rely on what we have stored or can find. If public utilities are out, then municipal water or the electricity to pump water from your well will not be an option. Depending on the disaster, sources like rivers and lakes might be too dangerous or polluted to drink from. Flood waters can pick up many types of pollutants. Rainwater might also be contaminated in cases such as a nuclear explosion or a volcanic event. Given this, you may need to look for less obvious locations.

Some locations that may have clean water (Though treating or boiling might still be needed)

Water heater – Every home or business has one and they can be as large as 100 gallons

Garden hose – This might not be a huge amount, but you might find upwards of a gallon just sitting in the hose from its last use.

Toilet tank – While it seems unsanitary, the water in the back tank of a standard consumer toilet is clean. Just be sure that it does not have a toilet cleaner tablet in it. These contain more than just bleach and can poison you.

Silcock connection- The faucet found on the outside of commercial buildings needs a silcock key to open properly, but due to its low location on the building, it should gravity feed out whatever is left in the building’s pipes.

Retention Ponds – Most housing and retail developments are required to have a retention pond to capture run off water. Some larger ones are even stocked with  fish to combat mosquito breeding. It is suggested you filter this water because it could have contaminants picked up as it drained from yards or the pavement.

With water being one of the most vital keys to survival it might become the most important item to resupply. In a true disaster stocks of bottled fresh water will disappear quickly. It will be your responsibility to find places to supply yourself and your family or group. As stated before, thinking creatively will be the key to finding what others overlook.

Urban Resupply a.k.a. Scavenging

Despite the best laid plans and stores of supplies, if a disaster lasts long enough you are going to have to resupply. If you are in an urban setting there are potentially lots of supplies left sitting around. Let me make a distinction between scavenging for supplies in a very long term disaster and looting. Looters tend to take advantage of the chaos in short term to break in and steal things they want or can resell. Things like money, electronics, cars, and jewelry interest them. They are not trying to survive, just profit from the disaster. They don’t care that the owner might be back in 10 minutes or a few days. In the case of long term scavenging, you are looking for items like food, fuel, and medical supplies. You are also not taking items from someone. In this case, the original owners are probably not ever coming back. This is not to say that you would not gather something like jewelry for barter purposes later on, but that is not the main goal. Your goal is to provide supplies to keep your group fed, sheltered, and protected.

Develop a Plan

There a several things to plan before even unbolting the door or gate to head out. Good planning will hopefully net you the most supplies with the least risk. Simply heading out blindly will only endanger you and waste valuable time and energy.

First, plan on what you are looking for and prioritize. Items such as food, medical supplies, and fuel are obvious first priorities. Things such as plumbing pipe, building materials, or tools may also be on the list. Depending on the scenario, your group, and your location you may have other needs. Items to allow you to collect and purify water, plant and grow food, build defenses, and sufficiently house your group could be necessary. Those in charge of different areas of the group’s infrastructure should discuss what they need and why. This will bring to light what is truly needed to keep the group going.

Second, plan where you are going beforehand. If you have them sit down with a map and a phone book. Pick an area and look for places that might hold the supplies you need. You might have to get creative if you expect the normal places to have been picked clean.  Doing this you can prioritize places based on what supplies you have the most urgent need for.  You can also begin a list of places you have been with notes as to other items still there or potential dangers to avoid.  Let the ones that stay behind know the details. Others knowing your plan will also mean that if you are injured there is a chance someone may be able to come assist you.

Next, plan who is going. Depending on your group and needs you may have to go alone with little time for recognizance. If time and numbers do allow, scouting in a small team of 2 or 3 will let you identify dangers such as possible traps or locations controlled by other, possibly hostile, groups. Unless you are desperate, starting a war with another group by raiding their camp would not be beneficial. Scout teams need to be armed and supplied with enough to allow them to observe target locations as long as necessary. A radio, if possible, should be included to allow them to contact home base regularly or in case they need assistance. Also look at the skills of people going. Not just skills to help them scavenge, but skills that mean they should stay behind. For instance, sending your only member with medical knowledge out to scavenge might not be a good idea if it can be avoided.

Gather the Tools

Scavenging teams should also be equipped with tools to get in and out of locations where supplies are at. They also need to be able to disassemble items too difficult to transport otherwise or because only parts are needed. Some to possible include

Pry bar – Stanley Wonderbar Pry Bar

Hacksaw – Stanley Hack Saw Junior

Roofer/Shingle/Plumb hatchet – Plumb Half Hatchet

Lock picks (if you have someone that can use them)  – LOCKSET Strong Pick and Hook Set, 24-Piece

Bolt Cutter – WORKPRO Bolt Cutter

Socket/Wrench/Pliers/Screwdriver Set – Apollo Tools 95 Piece Tool Kit

Knife – Morakniv 4.1” Fixed Blade Outdoor Knife

Para cord – Para cord Planet 100′

Zip Ties – 15″ White 120lb (100 Pack) Zip Ties

Trash Bags – Heavy Duty Contractor Bags

Pack – 55L Internal Frame Backpack

Maps (preferably in a waterproof map case) – Map Case

2 Way Radios – BaoFeng 2 Way Radio 5 pack

Fuel Containers – 5 Gallon Gas Can

Siphon (water or fuel) – Siphon Fuel Transfer Pump (Be sure to keep a separate one for fuel/oil and water)

Spray Lubricant (help disassembling items) – WD-40 Lubricant Spray

Items to Look For

As stated before, the exact items you need will depend on your exact situation. Here are some items in no particular order to keep in mind that might find use in a lot of situations.

Plumbing pipe – Metal or plastic for water collection, sanitation, and could be used for making weapons.

Clothes – Either to wear, cut up for material, or trade (such as winter coats)

Fuel – gasoline, kerosene, used cooking oil, and cooking stove fuel (propane or liquid)

Water

Guns and ammo

Ammunition reloading equipment and supplies

Medical Supplies – Medications, bandages, surgical equipment, and sterilization items

Books – Both for entertainment and education

Farming items –  Tools, seeds, and plants/trees

Maps – To plan future routes and distribute copies

Communication equipment – Walkie talkies, Ham Radios, antennas, and (if electricity is out) possibly a manual typewriter to allow long term record keeping (unless you have GREAT handwriting, unlike mine)

Sanitation items – Toilet paper, tissues, feminine products, and such can be used or traded.

Shipping Pallets – If you have a way to transport them in mass, pallets can provide a lot of building materials or be used as is to fashion sheds for shelter.

Where to Look

Some places others may have missed where you might look for items

Manufacturing plants – Break room vending machines, maintenance shop tool box, first aid station, and janitor closet

Distribution warehouses – What is there might be hit or miss, but these will not be picked over as quickly as retail stores and usually will have larger quantities. If you get really lucky, you might find a shipment going from a gun, ammo, or MRE distributor to retail stores. Make sure you include shipping depots like UPS. Lots of stuff will be sitting there if things fall apart quickly. Most things you think of ordering online go thorough one of the major home delivery shippers.

Schools – Generally there will be some types of food in cafeterias or vending machines. The library and shop classrooms might also have useful items. Paper, pencils, maps, and first aid kits are usually stored there.

Veterinarian Offices – Many of the medications and surgical items are just the same as used on humans. If you have started farming animals, then there may be stores of animal food there that you could use for them. Dry dog and cat food, canned wet food, bird seed, and small animal hay/feed are some of them. There may be cages there that would also work.  The food and cages would save a lot of work feeding and housing animals such as rabbits, chickens, ducks, pigs, or goats.

Marinas – Boats should have supplies stored on them. Tools, guns, fuel, food, and water are possibilities.

Churches – Lots of churches run a food bank or organize clothes drives. These supplies might still be locked in a closet there. In addition, candles, toilet paper, paper towels, and such will be stored there in some quantity.

Self-Storage Facilities – While these may not contain food, one would expect an abundance of clothes and household items. Other items like tools and spare parts would not be out of the question either. Given enough relative safety and time even the roll up doors and metal walls could be disassembled for use. This location would be a second or third level location though due to the time needed to open and search each unit.

You can see that there is a lot more to scavenging in a long term scenario than just going and getting things. Resources will become scarce and dangerous to acquire. The ability to plan and think creatively might mean the difference between living and dying.