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 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.

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

Making Due

Anyone reading this is obviously interested in being prepared at some level. The issue is that at times you may end up in a situation where either you cannot have your supplies with you or they are lost/damaged.  This is when the the real level of preparation you have done will come to light.

Preparation for almost anything is less about the items you have than the skills you gain and hone. Once a skill is learned, it cannot be lost or taken away. Sure it can get rusty, but the knowledge and experience are still there. One skill that is talked about a lot is adaptability. This post is going to focus on examples of how you can adapt and use nontraditional items to equip yourself with the basic items you may need to survive.

Lets set up a scenario where you might be without most, if not all, of your gear and supplies. This is a good exercise to generate constructive thinking about your surroundings. In this case, you have flown to distant city where you are staying in a hotel by yourself for work. Due to flight security and space you do not have anything except a few sets of clothes and toiletries. A large scale disaster (take your pick) strikes that prevents the emergency personnel from responding in the foreseeable future. You have little info beyond the total chaos you can see outside. You know that you need to try and evacuate the area to avoid danger. Hanging around in such a unknown densely populated area does not seem like a healthy idea.  You look around your hotel room for supplies to assist you in hopefully getting home or at least out of the danger zone. You hope that you can resupply with better supplies, but you want what you can get right now.

Items you could collect:

Shower curtain:  This can serve as a ground cover, makeshift tent, or  rain poncho depending on your needs. If available grab a few, they are light and not especially sturdy for the long term.

Bed Sheet/Blanket:  This can serve as a sleeping bag, cold weather poncho, bandages, slings, or be cut to strips for cordage. The sheet could also be tied into a hobo bundle to carry your items more easily that the standard luggage you came with.

Water Bottles:  Beyond the obvious use, these can be packed with cloth, charcoal, and sand as a basic water filter. the top could also be cut off to use as a container to use while foraging.

Soda Can:  Very easily these can be used to create a small alcohol stove to cook or boil water. A second can can act as a pot. They could also be used as a mirror signaling device. In a desperate situation these could be cut into a flat sheet and formed into a crude cutting tool.

Ice Bucket:  If this is the lighter plastic type you can use it to carry water, foraged food. If it has a lid you can use it to keep your tinder dry to help with fire making. While you are at it grab the plastic bag that is usually with it. Again it can hold or protect different items.

Mini Bar Items:  While most of us normally avoid these items due to the insane cost, they are not something to leave behind. The food is obvious, but also take the coffee, tea, sugar packets, and liquor. The tea and coffee will provide caffeine to help you keep moving. You may have a long trek before you feel safe enough to stop. Even just soaking a coffee or tea packet in water can accomplish this on the go. The liquor is best reserved for sterilization and other medical needs.

This list is not to say that you need ALL if these items. You may not have all of them at hand or may have better alternatives.

In addition, when you make it to the lobby, there may be some things you can scavenge.

Every major hotel has a breakfast of some kind. It might take a bit of force to get into the storage area. In a true disaster, you breaking in might be the least of anyone’s worries.

Food/Water:     You can gather a variety of food for short and longer term here. Fruit, baked items, and refrigerated items would be great for the short term. Items such as peanut butter packs, individual cereal boxes, and oatmeal packs would be safe for the longer term. Water bottles or at least a container of water will be stored there. Stock up to augment what you took from your room.

Knife:  Most of these food prep and storage areas would have some type of knife or box cutter. Having a cutting tool is a real necessity. It can be used to make tinder, cut cordage, and if desperate as a defensive tool. You can use cardboard and tape to make a improvised sheath. If no knife is there, scissor might be a good fallback.

Utensils:  While most of what hotel guest get is plastic, there would be a variety of metal utensils in this area for prep. A couple of them could be very helpful if you need to cook or boil water over an open fire.

Cookware: While there is not anything here that would pass for a full set of cooking pots and pans, there is something. Any metal container that you could use to boil water but is still small enough to not hinder your travel would work. Starting a file and boiling water takes time and effort, so it is best to do it in the largest volume possible.

Bleach:  Either in the food prep area or the laundry room you have a good chance of finding a bottle of bleach. Plain unscented bleach can be used to purify water.  It needs to not have any additional cleaners, colors, or anything in it. From 6 to 8 drops per gallon will purify the water depending on bleach concentration.

First Aid Kit: Normally safety procedures would warrant a first aid station in this area. If there is not a kit here, then the front desk is a good place to check also.

Lighter: A lot of these breakfast setups use Sterno to heat the containers they put eggs, sausage, or such in on the serving line. That means a lighter should be available. In addition if the Sterno is there, it would be a great option to use instead of a full blown fire.

As you can see, with a bit of creative thinking, you can supply yourself with some basic tools. They may not be best option given alternatives, but they may also make a difference in your survival. You do not know what you will have access to after you leave the hotel. Nothing stops you from swapping off for better equipment as you travel either.

While this scenario may be very contrived, it is to point out how those items around you can be put to use when you are a bit creative. Thinking and identifying potential items in your location that could help you in an emergency is a very good habit to build. It is very similar to people who, due to training, habitually identify exit points when entering a room. The time saved in ether of these cases could help you escape to a safer area ahead of the crowd.



Prepping used to be “Normal”

For lots of people, the word “prepping” is a relatively new trend. They think it maybe goes back to the Y2K scare or possibly as far back as Cold War nuclear threats. Lots have images of the crazy hermit hunkered down in his bunker full of MREs and guns. In reality, the labels may be new, but “prepping” is nothing new. The confusion  comes from something that is new though. It all seems new because of the current mindset of just-in-time deliveries, fast food joint dinners, and stores on every corner.

In the past, what we would call prepping, was known as day to day life. Families could not turn to the corner convenience store when they ran out of something during a snow storm. Unless you lived in a very urban environment, you were responsible for growing or gathering almost all the food you needed on a daily basis. If you needed food or supplies that you could not make yourself, you were forced to travel what could be long distances to trade for those items. In addition to the daily struggles, you had to be ever mindful to “prep” for winter. While summer and fall might give you a bounty of crops and wild game, the winter months ground that to a halt. Due to the risk of exposure or difficult weather, hunting might not even be feasible. In these months families turned to the root cellar where they had stored vegetables (canned or otherwise preserved) and preserved meats (salt cured or dried) to keep them fed. The lessons they learned in food preservation became common knowledge for generations.

These common sense rules applied as you traveled too. If you wanted or needed it, you carried it. There were trading posts and inns in certain places and different times over the years. These were no guarantee though. What you had on your back, in your saddle bags, or in your wagon had to keep you until you reached point B of the journey. A knife on your belt and maybe an ax in your bag was standard equipment. All this was part of life until the urban environment began to expand.

As families became more urban and industrialized the skills and mindset to live this type of life fell out of favor. Why salt cure hams when you can run to the local grocery store and pick up a nicely packaged and pre-sliced deli ham? Even the ones that might desire to keep these traditions alive found it difficult as they moved from farms into suburbs. In the end, the majority of the population came to assume that those stores would always be open  and freshly stocked.  Even the farmers began to rely on regular and frequent deliveries of things like feed for their animals. The days of the self reliant farm was gone. Specialization became the norm and it leaves a wide open door for disaster.

Now in the present the push to “prep” has returned. It has been fueled by seemingly more frequent natural disasters, terror attacks, and the breakdown of community cooperation. No longer do people assume their neighbor is there to help them in a crisis or are willing to help others themselves. Many people are looking for ways to ensure that they and their loved ones are safe from whatever disaster they may think is the best to focus on. They see that relying on someone to save them is a naive idea. With this the desire to have common self-reliance skills has grown. The skills from yesteryear to forage for food, raise crops, raise livestock, preserve excess food for future use, and to raise your level of self-reliance are all getting focused on. This movement is also not limited to “crazy” conspiriousy theorists or hardcore off-grid types. It is made up of single moms, grandparents, urban families, as well as rural families. It also cuts across a lot of segments of social, economic, and racial backgrounds.

In the end, people making preparations against threats to their family may still be in the minority now. Hopefully though it signals that people are realizing that being prepared is a personal responsibility. One that they may not be able to afford to ignore. Like those previous generations, we might find that one day we are the only resource we have to make it to the next day,

Practice Makes Perfect

It has been stated here before that just having equipment stowed in a pack is not enough. Skill is involved in using most of the equipment you may be preparing. Repetitive use of these items will allow you to operate them during stressful times.

Despite what most online sources will tell you, you don’t need to trek into the wilderness to practice. While that is ideal, it is far from where to begin. There are many chances in your daily life to practice your skills. Fire starting is a good one to look at. The next time you need to start your charcoal grill or burn some yard waste you can practice. Hold off on the disposable lighter and pull out your ferrous rod. Given a few strikes and some dry tinder you should be good to go. If you find that too easy, you can always wet your tinder or introduce other complications to simulate harsher conditions. The picture below is of a relaxing fire started with a ferrous rod. It is intended to burn out a stump that is in the way, but gave several opportunities to practice.

Another skill that can be practiced easily in your backyard is water purification. Practice can be as simple as setting out some buckets to collect rain water.  This will give you a chance to experience using different water filters, water purification tablets, and boiling. It can also give you insight into how your body will react to this water. Even though it is perfectly safe, some people can still have varying degrees of adverse reaction to water treated by these means. It is better to find out now than after you are stuck in a survival situation far from modern facilities.

On a daily basis you can also practice your first aid. Practicing applying tourniquets, splints, and compression wraps. It takes a bit more work to practice this, but can be a helpful skill even before a S. H. T. F. scenario. Any practice with usage will vastly improve your skills. It will also let you determine what equipment works best for you.

So take some time to sit down at your kitchen table, on your porch, in your backyard, or wherever and work on important skills. It does not take long. You just have to repeat it for it to become ingrained. In the end it can pay high dividends in return when you need these skills. By all means though, if a chance arises to practice these far from civilization, take it and enjoy.