September is National Preparedness Month 2021

Once again, we roll around to September and the official National Preparedness Month. As we do each year, this can prompt us to reflect on what preparations we have made, which we still have on your To Do list, and any changes that may have occurred that would cause us to alter our plans. I think given that last two years, we should have a much different mindset that we would have in September 2019. Thankfully, we also seem to be in a better place now as far as access to supplies than we were in September 2020.

As it does each year, Ready.gov has posted helpful lists and documents. I am going to post some links to a few because I always feel you should use any and every resource at hand to develop the best plan possible.

One new one this year is a simple index card sized checklist. It is very general, but I like the fact that it would be easy to print and hand out to open the conversation about disaster planning. It could be used to educate people in town halls, neighborhood meetings, or church events. I think it would be good anywhere you might want to spark discussion without getting bogged down in complex detail.

Ready.gov – 12 Ways to Prepare Postcard

There is also a download centered on family communication planning. I feel in lots of cases this is a very overlooked item. Most people are so accustomed to being able to grab their cell phone and call/text/Snapchat/etc. the rest of the family that they assume that is enough plan. It is not enough based on lessons learned from past disasters such as 9/11 and Katrina.

Ready.gov – Create Your Family Emergency Communication Plan

Another list to review and refresh as lots of us return to the workplace after working from home during COVID19 restrictions is for commuters, What changes do you need to reflect on this list that are different from last year?

Ready.gov – Commuter Emergency Plan

Another form of disaster, or often a result of one, is related to finances. It often gets overlooked in many discussions, but can be more devastating that a hurricane or earthquake. Many have felt the financial crunch as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. Here is a packet of info posted that discusses this.

Ready.gov – Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK)

They even have a Rainy-Day Fund graphic.

Good luck this month as you review and revise your plans. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to contact me via the contact page or in the comments.

 

Learning from COVID19

The global pandemic of Covid19 has been a mixed blessing. Many have lost their lives or at least their health. but it has brought about a much wider understanding of how fragile our supply chains and support systems can be. I mean in no way to diminish the pain and suffering of those that have fought COVID19 or the loved ones that have buried those that lost the fight. I simply want to examine that in a sense we are “lucky” to have only experience this level of pandemic. I say that because it could have been MUCH worse. If COVID19 had shown its same infection rate but a fatality rate the same as, say Ebola, which is up to 90%, we would be in a very different outcome. So let us use this as a learning tool to help us not only reduce the risk of future pandemics, but also to improve the resilience of our supply chains and support systems such as hospitals.

In normal times Just-In-Time inventory works both for the business and the consumer. It allows the business to reduce the inventory cost on its books, lessen the chance of damage or spoilage while being warehoused, and reduce the cost of warehouse space. From the business side this is a very attractive way to do inventory. From the consumer side, again in normal times, it works well also. It helps to keep prices down and if you buy all the widgets the store has today, then more than likely they will have more tomorrow. So there is no need to worry. What we saw during COVID19 was that this system is easily broken and can take a very long time to recover.

There are 3 major factors that affected the inventory supply. The first is panic buying or hoarding. For a multitude of personal reasons people became afraid and bought items in large quantities. Some examples were toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes.  Some of this was purely psychological and based on seeing others buying large quantities of the same stuff. In some cases, people ended up with 3000 rolls of toilet paper, but only a few days of food, and possibly even less water.  This sudden bulk buying drained the store shelves and whatever small on-hand back stock they had. Since the panic buying lasted more than a few days, stores ramped up ordering from either their central warehouse or suppliers. In some causes the automated store inventory systems made these orders. All of those orders came into the warehouses and were filled from stock on hand there. Within a short time the warehouse stock, which is based on normal demand,  was depleted by all of the increased ordering.

These warehouses then reached out to the production facilities and requested more stock.  This is where the second factor comes in. Whereas stores having to order more stock might have delayed the shelves being stocked by a few days, this bottleneck caused a much longer delay. The production facility might be running near 100% production capability for its normal ordering quantities. Idle machines and workers cost money, so most facilities do not want them setting around. So the production could not be ramped up quickly to restock the warehouses. In fact, due to workers being out with COVID19, most actually fell to a lower production rate. Hiring fill in workers and adding machinery needed to up production takes time.

The third factor is the distance from the production site to the store shelves. Some of these goods are made in other parts of the world and then shipped, more than likely by container ship, to the U. S. The average shipping time via container ship from China to the U. S, is 20 to 30 days. This meant that any increased production that could be done would lag behind by 30 days. The same was true of the machinery needed by the production sites to increase the production.  Unfortunately, just like the manufacturing facilities, the shipping and dock sectors took a large hit due to worker illness. This lead to shipments sitting while they waited for a ship to transport them and ships full of containers waiting much longer than normal for their turn to dock and be unloaded.

Some of these same things worked against the medical sector as they tried to care for all the patients coming in with COVID19. Due to cost most hospitals are sized and staffed based on “normal” patient load.  Remember,  most hospitals are part of a for profit business, just like the widget factories. With the massive increase in inbound patients, they began to run out of beds, ventilators, or at least the staff to take care of those patients. They found that when they ordered more ventilators, beds, and supplies that they were stuck in the same production nightmare as everything else. So they saw lack of stock, a fixed production capacity, and long leads times to get the items to them. In addition to the supply issue, medical facilities saw a decrease in staff as some of them fell ill. Something different here is that due to the stress of the situation and fear for their own health, some additional staff simply quit. It is hard to blame them after all they see and are asked risk. Then you had those that took advantage of the situation and moved to other facilities that were paying incredible wages to attract more staff immediately just to keep their door open. In the end everywhere ended up with patients lining the halls and far too few staff on hand to care for them as usual. Honestly, most did their best to give every patient good care, but obviously it was a very strained existence at that point.

Taking a look back at what has happened, we can use these events to focus our planning. First, we can see that just having a plan and some supplies set back put us way ahead of many. Still, stuffing some ramen in the cabinet next to a bottle of water and aid first aid kit is not enough. We really must sit down and analyze what we use and what of that we need or want when things go bad. What gets used in an average week? That will give you a baseline to look at. Food, paper goods, hygiene items, and medications are a beginning. Having this evaluated we can know what we need instead of madly loading buggies down with toilet paper at the last minute.

Secondly, we need to evaluate what skills we have or can lean that can be put to use in bad times. I am not talking about gardening or blacksmithing at the moment. In the short term things like basic medical skills can be very helpful. At the height of COVID19, going to the emergency room was very risky and it could take hours to get care. So being able to deal with minor medical issues at home is very valuable. Things ranging from minor burns and simple cuts can be taken care of with minimal supplies and skill. I know most people can deal with the most minor ones, but evaluate if you could put in 3 stitches to close  up a cut. What about setting a broken bone? Know your limits and you can make a clear line in the sand as to when you need to look for outside care in troubled times. Unless all medical facilities are totally offline, there are things you are just not ever going to be equipped to handle adequately at home.

Third, evaluate the resources in your area so you know where to go in the event you do need last minute items or care. When panic buying started, pictures from Sam’s Clubs and Costcos across the U. S. showed huge crowds all rushing to clear out the shelves. While these might have been the place to buy the bulk packs of items, they were also the first places with bare shelves. So these places might have not been the best to use as a go to for topping off your pantry.  One personal example is that my household needed a few items we do not use a lot normally, but had ramped up since we were all home full time. Instead of rushing off to Sam’s Club, which was already reportedly empty, I stopped by the out of the way Dollar General in my area. Things that coworkers supposedly could not find, were on the shelf. No huge packages, but smaller ones, many with no limit. So take a look at the places that might have the supplies you need and make a list. Then think outside the box about places that are either off the beaten path or would be overlooked because their main business does not deal with what you are looking for. These places may just be where you find the items. For example, if paper towels were cleared out in most grocery stores, do you know Advance Auto Parts carries them? They just call them shop towels and they are blue. They are more expensive, but also are much better than the $1 rolls you might normally buy. The same thought can be applied to medical care. If you must go in, you might find the local ERs and large walk-in clinics packed to the gills. There may very well be small independent doctor’s offices in the area that would treat you. They might not be “in network” on your insurance, but in an emergency I would rather be treated in 30 minutes at a higher cost , than wait 5 hours just to get the budget rate. You also risk being exposed to other diseases in the larger setting.  Knowing these places ahead of time will allow you to get in and out before the crowds spill over to them.

So I hope you can see that we have lessons to learn that can better prepare us. So take a look at what plans you already have set forth. Does anything that has happened expose a weak point in them? Do you see supplies you need to add? If not, that is great, but I am betting you are in the minority.  I am not saying it is possible to cover EVERY contingency, but we may better cover for things we have never seen as issues before. So many things have happened in the last year that none of us have had to deal with in our lifetimes.

Stay safe out there and take the precautions seriously. Hopefully we will be out of all this sooner than later.

National Preparedness Month 2020 – Week 4

Week 4 rounds out the month with the suggestion to ‘Teach Youth about Preparedness’. This a topic I have covered before (See Including your kids in the plan) but it is till a very important one to discuss.

While it may seem obvious that you want to teach your kids about the preparedness plans you have, it is not as simple as a family dinner discussion. Age of your children is one key factor. A 6 year old will have a very different role than a 16 year old. Take this into account when address certain scenarios.

One key to doing well with kids is to start early. Start with simple things, such as what to do if there is a fire or the smoke alarm goes off. Teach them how to get out safely and where to meet you outside. Use a honest but not frightening approach. Also keep it simple. 6 year olds will much more reliably follow instructions like “meet at the mailbox” than “get to safety”. This will hopefully help them to understand and not freeze up in fear. This also sets the tone when you broach larger subjects with them.

Give them a responsibility. For the youngest, it could be a backpack of their own containing comfort items such as colored pencils ( don’t melt or dry up), coloring books, a flashlight, and a favorite stuffed animal. This makes them feel a part of the plan. If everyone else has bags, they may feel disconnected and not invest in things. For older kids it may be helping to inventory food stores, assisting their younger siblings during drills, or loading certain things in the car in the event of evacuation (bugging out). This can help to give them some insight into why this is being done. Many in the terrible teens may not fathom what could happen without that. In addition, the helping hands older kids can lend may be welcome help when planning and when enacting that plan.

Additionally, you need to teach kids skills that they may need. While you may not plan to run off and live like Grizzly Adams, some basic woodcraft can be a life saver. Practice things such as water purification, fire starting. safe knife usage, firearm safety, and what to do if they end up lost alone (in the city or in the woods). This skills are much more than their individual ones, they can help to build an adaptability in kids that they can apply even as adults.

One last thing. When possible, keep things light. While kids need to understand the seriousness of some of these matters, they should not lie awake at night worrying about what disaster will happen. There is no reason to have them live in fear. Let them know that the reason you plan is to overcome those disasters. Kids have enough to worry about daily already. It is best if next weeks history test, who to ask to the school dance, or which college to go to are their biggest anxieties. They are only kids once. As parents, we do what we do to let them have that.

As with all planning, there is no rubber stamp method to do it. You, your kids, and your environment will dictate how you involve them. Remember also that by involving them now, you not only prepare them for your plans, but also how to make their own when they are adults.

National Preparedness Month 2020 – Week 3

The theme of week 3 of National Preparedness Month 2020 is “Prepare for Disasters”. This may seem like what you have been doing, but that is not what it means. A better way to phrase it is “Know your Disasters”. This means evaluating disasters that are the most likely to affect you.

One good example is tsunamis. If you live on the coast in relatively close proximity to the ocean, this is something you must take into your planning. If you live somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, it is not going to be necessary to plan for. If a tsunami hits you there, there is not a lot you can do to prepare.

This is a good time to employ the levels that I discuss. Nothing has to be exact, but you can use them to break down the possibilities. For example, you live in Minnesota and get a large amount of snow each year. The amount you get might be a huge disaster some places, but is only a blue level to you. This is because everyone is used to it. Municipalities will have a sufficient amount of equipment and chemical to remove the snow from the roads quickly. Normal home owners will own snow blowers or at least enough shovels to dig out. In addition, everyone will probably have supplies in case the power is interrupted. If it is, it will be off less time because the power providers are prepared for the yearly ritual. Lastly, people who must venture out will have the proper clothing and things like tire chains to protect them from becoming stranded. So basically the planning and preparation are a given.

A short term, say 24 to 48-hour, power outage might be a yellow level to many people. While it is a huge inconvenience, it is not bad enough to cause you to have to evacuate unless there are other factors. If you do not have extreme heat or cold in your area, then sitting tight and riding it out would be just fine if you have a few supplies and planning. These supplies might be as advanced as a generator tied into your home electrical system or as simple as flashlights, a dual fuel camp stove, and an alternate heat source if necessary. It greatly depends on your desired comfort level and budget.

Hurricanes are an example of what could be a orange level event for many. If you are in the direct path of a severe hurricane then evacuating is the safest bet. The flooding and destruction from high winds can cover a large area and be unpredictable. Being prepared to evacuate quickly with necessary supplies is a must for an orange level event. Since it covers a wide area and easily has the potential to totally destroy your home and anything left there, you may be left with only what you take with you. So, while this covers a large area and occurs multiple times a year in some areas, it may only significantly affect a small number of people in that area. It takes a heavy toll on those it does though.

A red level event is something that totally uproots large regions, whole countries, or more probably, the entire world. It is the worst-case scenario. This could be a massive global EMP., natural or otherwise, taking out all electrical devices. Or it could an asteroid strike of a level not seen since the dinosaurs. Alternately, it could be an entire social break down that brings on a time where there is no rule of law. It could even be a pandemic, but not like we have now. It would be one that has a mortality rate so high and spreads so fast that a significant portion of the population is gone in the blink of an eye. Heck, to cover everything it could even be some sort of zombie uprising. Whatever it is, it overshadows any other disaster in human history. This is the least likely, but most grave level of disaster. Preparing for it is to also hope that you or none of you family’s generations to come see it come to pass. While these are ones that would be deadly if not planned for, they also take so large of an investment of time, energy, and money that many simply cannot fully prepare for the full battery of possibilities. Whether you commit to preparing for this is a personal choice.

While thinking about these possible disasters can be stressful, it is necessary. Once you know what disasters could befall you, you can then logically begin steps to prepare. These preparations could be as simple as storing a plastic tote full of food and batteries or as drastic as moving to a different area to limit your chance of certain disasters. Each situation is drastically different and only you can decide how your plan is laid out to address it.

September is National Preparedness Month and it means more than ever in 2020

We roll around again to September and National Preparedness Month. I think this year it strikes a much deeper chord with lots of people. Whether it be because of COVID-19, violent rioting, or record setting destructive weather. The slogan put forth by Ready.gov this year is “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.” I feel this very fitting if a bit late since we are in the middle of a pandemic.

While this is not the only month that you should look at emergency preparedness, it is a good marker to use to re-evaluate your planning or lack thereof. If you are reading this and new to the subject, please take a look around the site to begin to get a feel for what planning involves.  A good place to start is my explanation of the core ideas I use when planning that I call The Levels.  You can find this here. If you are a seasoned planner, take a chance to refresh your family or team on the details and make changes necessary based on live events.

There are some key things to review in your plan each year. One of the first is the individuals in your team or family. Have there been any significant changes? Is there a new baby in the family? Has anyone had health issues that affect how they participate in the plan? Are there children that are now at ages that allow you to revamp their responsibilities? Or, alternately, has anyone involved moved to somewhere that affects the plan, be it positive or negative? All of this have secondary effects in the provisions you may need whether it is food, medicine, or equipment.

A second key item to review is rotation of supplies. Now many people have a constant rotation of food as to not let it go to waste, so that might not be an issue. Either way, go ahead and review your food for any otherwise unseen issues. There might be issues with pests, a surprise leak of a container, or simply something that you missed and it expired. In addition, you need to review your medical supplies. Lots of items beyond medications have expiration dates also. While some of these are more suggestions than rules, it does not pay to have potentially faulty medical gear due to age.

A third key thing to review is your skills. Many skills such as advanced first aid, shooting, and fire building, to name a scant few, can dull with lack of use. It is good to ensure that you keep important skills fresh through practice or instruction. Just because you were good at it 5 years ago and have not done it since, does not mean you will be 100% effective at it. Truly some skills are not like riding a bike. So, decide how you want to nurse those skills. It is also a good time to review ones that you have decided would be good additions. Then you can look into how to acquire and improve those skills.

The last item I want to mention is your health. You need to take a serious look at where you stand. Did the last year find you being prescribed additional medications? Did you have major surgery? Did you gain a significant amount of weight? Taking a hard look at these things are important but not necessarily fun. Take a look at factors you can change. Do you feel you need to lose weight and tone up your body? Do you need to evaluate factors that you cannot change and make allowances for these in your planning? Maybe some of the medications are not optional and you need to plan for a stockpile of those in your supplies. Having an honest view of these things is very important because all the plans in the world may not help if you fall ill during an emergency. On the other hand, maybe you had a banner year and improved your health. Then all you have to do is assess what you need to do to keep that up.

In summary, it is important to use this month as a time of reflection of where you want to be next September. Then you can set the plans in motion to make that happen. So, plan for the next year, no matter what it may bring.

Relax – You can’t eat Toilet Paper – COVID-19 Blind Panic

Right now, it is almost impossible to go an hour without seeing or hearing about COVID-19. It is running amuck in most of the world right now causing shortages and fear.

Please watch out for yourself and your loved ones.  Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands well (soap and warm water for 20 seconds) and using other sanitation item you may have. Practice isolation from the general public to whatever degree you can. Just to be safe. If you are in areas that do not have mandatory shelter-in-place orders, halting the spread of the virus might help to keep it that way.

The key is to be safe and prepared but not to panic. Panic is driving the toilet paper shortage (for no good reason). Those loading up on toilet paper, but not any other essentials, may find themselves very hungry if this lasts an extended period of time. Stocking up on things like canned soups, crackers, peanut butter, and protein bars are a good idea. All of these have an extended shelf life and most can be eaten without heating them.

As an alternate to toilet paper since it does seem to be hard to track down, flush-able wipes can still be found some places. I suggest using Amazon so you can avoid the stores.

Flushable Wipes

They also have toilet paper, though not as cheap as before and not a common brand

Toilet paper

Pick up some protein bars and peanut butter while you are there if you need to stock up.

Cliff Bars

Peanut Butter

Again, stay safe out there by using common sense to limit your exposure and avoid the panic that the unprepared seem to be having.

If you have questions or concerns feel free to contact me on the Contact page

Contact Leveled Survival

OPSEC for Civilians – Keeping Secrets

The word OPSEC can be heard in a lot of discussions of survival preparedness and apocalyptic stories. A lot of individuals do not understand what that means because it is a primarily military term. As with lots of military vocabulary, this is an abbreviation for a longer phrase. OPSEC began as the phrase “operations security.” Operations security is defined on Wikipedia as

“a process that identifies critical information to determine if friendly actions can be observed by enemy intelligence, determines if information obtained by adversaries could be interpreted to be useful to them, and then executes selected measures that eliminate or reduce adversary exploitation of friendly critical information.”

In layman’s terms this means that you keep vital information related to planning out of the hands of anyone you do not trust completely.

This can be traced back to some concepts developed in World War II. One example is this World War II poster by Seymour R. Goff. It is the early example of the “Loose lips sink ships” phrase.

 

Another is this poster that comes from the Women’s Army Corps anti-rumor propaganda (1941–1945).

This may seem like a purely military idea, but it is not. The planning that you do is in order to protect yourself and loved ones. Some other people are not of the same mindset though. I have even seen people boasting online that they don’t need to stock supplies because they will just take what they need when the time comes. Sadly, this is a real possibility.

This is not to say that all your planning needs to be done in a whisper in the backroom or by using invisible ink. You may feel that no one should know you have any plans set up. That is fine. At the least though, it means that certain details may be restricted to your family or group. These details might include how many supplies you have set aside, where they are stored, any bug out locations you have planned for, or weapons you may have. Basically any details that could be used to derail your plans should be protected. No one wants to have the worst-case scenario happen and then show up to your bug out location to find it occupied by your heavily armed coworker.

So, to finalize, don’t hesitate to discuss planning if you feel safe in doing it. The free exchange of ideas is what improves planning and creates relationships that may be vital in an emergency. Letting everyone in earshot know how much food you have in your garage might not be a good idea though. Use common sense when deciding what to discuss and with whom.

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.