I'm writing this in what looks like the middle of the Corona COVID-19 A and B Pandemic. From what I can see at this point, the virus has caused worldwide panic over what is still a developing situation.
What I have to stress is this event is very odd compared to most disasters. It's happening, but life is going on. You can prepare now. You can look in places, not to the crowds. That is based on the habits of people and their comfort zone. This is far different than an earthquake or hurricane which destroys and then after people pick up the pieces without warning, or minimal.
I hope I am wrong, and all my prepping over the years are just improvements to my life and a security blanket of sorts.
So why am I writing this today? Most people in the loop in my community are sitting back and watching, not jumping in to assist with newer "preppers." And viewing the forums and the FB groups with people panicking, I understand why the sane and level headed are staying out of the whole mess and taking care of their own.
The most important thing you can do is decide to start now. It's not too late, and everything you do today can be built on tomorrow. It's a long road, and there is no end. You can't sit back and say one day, "There, I'm done'.
I learned about being ready for a rainy day from teachers in my high school; they were farmers and shared knowledge about food production and storage. Reading books by Mel Tappen and Kurt Saxon, both considered pioneers in the "Survivalist" community, debunked many of what is considered to be mainstream ideas in the community today. I will step on a few toes with what I've learned; if you can think critically, it will help you in the long run.
I am a lifelong prepper because I want to rely on myself, over trusting anyone to come to my rescue.
A few definitions first so you can understand where I am coming from. I don't care for labels. Prepper, Survivalist, or Off-grid advocate, it doesn't matter what the name is; it's about being prepared for your peace of mind. That's it.
You aren't a hero in an adventure novel, but you might be for your family.
Understand it is not "IF" it's going to happen; it's "when." And this is "just" a pandemic. There will still be floods, earthquakes, hurricanes to deal with next month and next year. It's not one event and call it done. Part of opening your eyes to it all is knowing you are never done.
Don't worry; this is fun.
There are three golden rules of prepping, which I'm sure have come to light recently in your own lives.
1.) NEVER panic buy. You don't know what you are doing, so stop and think critically before you buy anything. The COVID-19 virus will go down in history as the Toilet Paper Apocalypse; people who should have stayed home went crazy because they saw everyone else buying. During the Obama years, people bought Semi-Auto firearms at exorbitant prices, in a panic. And ammunition. That's happening now as well. Not because of proposed bans, but weapons are comfort items. To be honest, I understand that, people (the mob mentality) are more of a danger to you than individuals.
2.) Do not go into debt. This should be self-explanatory. The "event" will pass, and your credit card bill will still be there. Don't bankrupt yourself long term for a short term overreaction. Bulk food stores are already posting that they will NOT accept returns on Toilet Paper, bulk bags of rice, and other items.
3.) Think critically. Look at what the crowd is doing and research the underlying factors. The crowd is almost always wrong. Don't follow them down the path to the toilet paper aisle. (BTW, the formula for storing TP is one roll per person per week.
When you are in the critical thinking phase, you should look at what is likely to happen to YOU. Pandemics, of course, which are worldwide and occur around every 4-5 years. This one is standing out because the media is hyping it, and the govt has been forced to react. H1N1 was far worse from today's perspective. Then you have natural disasters like earthquakes, tidal waves, floods, and anything else mother nature throws at you. If you live in a flood-prone area, your preps will be slanted more to a lot of water than a need to find water. Wildfires scare me, being in southern Arizona.
Myths which will get you killed
1.) As I stated above, Mel Tappen wrote extensively about the fallacy of the "Back Pack" survivalist. He also was adamant about the Bug Out Bag and how it was corrupted by the mainstream into a Religion, instead of what is, in reality, a 3-day lunch bag with no future. It's a refugee creator, not a viable survival plan. The myth is further corrupted by FEMA and its 3-day plan for the time it takes for emergency responders to get to an area. If you are evacuating, you have to have a better place to go than where your supplies are TODAY. Don't believe me? Live on your bag for a week. Oh, you can't? That's right, you only planned for three days. You will see the look of a hungry child if you bet everything on a 3-day bag.
2.) Help is only three days away. This is a circle between the first responders and the popular crowd who make "bags" and call it good. FEMA states this is what you should have; the myth gets perpetuated online and in media, and what a surprise when the "help" never shows up.
And what happens when "help" gets there? Are you suddenly returned to your regular life? Or, more likely, you will be categorized as a person or family unable to fend for themselves and brought to a holding area. You are now a refugee, regardless of your plans.
All because you used the online advice of the Bug Out Bag crew. The 3-day myth is a placebo, started to make the uninformed feel better while waiting for help, which may or may not ever arrive.
Ready to get real now?
There are three tiers or legs on the prepping platform. I will outline all three and then, in the following articles go into detail about each tier.
Sustenance - This is not only food but water. And everything connected to it. How to find, store, and grow food. What you need to concentrate on short, medium, and long term food supplies. Prioritizing what to do today, this month, and over the next year. How to get it after an event. Transportation; boats, trucks, ATV's and airplanes are all options. Define what is likely first.
Security - Everything from door locks to firearms
Communications - In the information age when everything is available online like weather, news, chat rooms, forums, and social media, it's easy to discount how valuable alternative means of information gathering are. If mother nature is involved, bad things tend to happen in chains; it helps to know when the next punch is coming. Alternative power is in this section as well; solar with batteries, generators, and fuel.
This is the big one on most new preppers lists for a good reason. Starving sucks.
I'm going to start with food storage and the how's and why's because it is as easy to do as grocery shopping.
There are layers to food storage, just like layers to the other sections. These are listed in the order you would have to use them, not necessarily the length of time you can store them.
Short term foods - These are foods that are frozen or require a microwave as well as fresh food which spoils in 7 days or less. The fresh food you eat as long as you can and replenish every day as you use it. Yes, in this instance where we have a pandemic but societies wheels have not come off, the trucks are still delivering food, so you buy as you use it.
Medium term foods - These are shelf-stable and bulk foods. Canned goods, especially meats and high protein and fats, are what you are looking for here. Also, frozen foods IF your alternative power is operating.
Medium term stored foods usually require learning to cook them, specific items like grinders for grains, and a reliable heat source for cooking.
Bulk corn, wheat, rice, and beans are medium-term foods, which is up to a year. I have used stored beans up to 10 years after I've bought them.
I need to add here the long term freeze-dried or what most people refer to as dehydrated foods. These are very popular and usually sell out quickly as people who are scared buy them as a fallback, especially if they've not stored anything to that point. These foods are not as easy as they seem and can be very hard on your intestinal tract, especially if you eat them before they have fully reconstituted. Use boiling water and wait for the full-time manufacturers recommend.
At the start of this pandemic, I checked prices on bulk rice, corn, and pinto beans. I could get 100 lbs of each for less than $300, which would make for a very dull but full diet. A heat source, water, and a grain grinder is all the addition you need for a basic but filling diet.
These bulk grains should be an addition to your regular diet, and you should allocate a minimum of $10 a week to buy extras of the food you usually eat. Buy extra everything, don't try to do it all at once like the yahoos going crazy today. Canned meats, Spam are high fat and protein as an example. Canned fish and chicken should be on your lists as well. Two large cans of chicken or beef every other week gives you 48 cans of protein at the end of a year.
Make a list of everything you eat for a week, the portion size, and how you prepare it. You will find you eat very similar things all the time. It's a comfort pattern and will be VERY important in a highly stressful event to have the same eating patterns.
Research alternatives - Canned meat replaces fresh. Powdered or Evaporated milk replaces fresh milk. Canned bread, yes, it exists, and it is tasty. You may find the alternatives as good or better as what you had been used too.
Store what you eat, your stomach and intestinal tract will thank you.
Water is something you either take for granted, have too much of or not enough. In southern Arizona, water is something I store as much of as I can. In the short term, I can do fine. I estimate up to 2 weeks. But the event I see making it necessary to relocate would be the long-term shutdown of water. You need to store a minimum of 1 gallon of drinkable water per person, per day. I think 5 gallons is a more reasonable amount and gives services time to get back up. Also, it allows time for plan B and relocation.
If you are a lucky one living where you have your own water source, of course, this is where you can breathe a little easier in one area of preps.
I recommend at least three different ways to cook food. And spend some serious time learning how to use them all. Since planning to improvise is planning to fail, don't buy a stove and put it away without learning its operation and how well it does for boiling as well a simmering. You may need to boil water to make it drinkable, so consider the amounts you will need to boil. These include bathing, washing, and brushing your teeth as well as cooking and drinking water.
In the same thread, the most likely way you will get sick and die won't be a gunfight. It will be from not getting your dishes or cooking pots clean.
Getting more food in a situation where a grocery store is not available comes down to three options.
Hunting - I've seen a whole lot of people talking about their plans to take to the hills and live off the land. Every one of you is nuts. Bad decisions don't suddenly get better when you realize you made a mistake.
The most common cause of death in Native American culture, before the white man arrived was starvation. That is an anthropological fact. Some years entire tribes died off from lack of food.
And these were people who were trained from birth how to survive in the environment they live in. Video games, movies, and books are not the same. You will starve or die from exposure. If this pandemic gets bad enough, people who survive will be finding the bodies for years after. Don't risk your family's lives on a dumb idea.
Still, hunting can supplement your stored food. Small game, birds, and animals the size of deer are all running wild but not in the numbers to support the population of people. This is a dead-end idea. Take the opportunity if it arises, but it's not a viable plan for the long term.
Farming / Ranching - If you aren't doing it today, if you aren't stockpiling seeds and the knowledge of how, when, and why to grow them, you are listening to Bloomberg. He knows money. He couldn't grow a Marigold. Stay in your lane.
Fishing - Water is the best place to find animal protein. Nets and traps are the way to go, but trotlines and as a last resort a Rod and Reel. Don't limit your thoughts to fish here. There are more mammals in the ecosystem than fish in some areas.
I have mixed feelings about the medical issues people seem to be preparing for. They have little medical knowledge but think a tourniquet and kerlix are the only things they need to stock.
What you can do now.
Survey your entire circle and list every medication they take regularly. List every condition they have and learn about possible substitutes if the medication is not available. Get your doctor to prescribe a 30-day dose minimum.
If you have the unfortunate situation of having an addict or alcoholic in your close group, you need to understand very few can survive going cold turkey. I have witnessed a withdrawal seizure and death. Not pretty, and happened 24 hours after the last substance intake.
The mentally ill are also a serious potential problem. They will run out or forget their meds fairly quickly and will require close care to keep them from harming themselves or others. I believe these people will be the most dangerous short term to you.
At the other end of this, when things are more normal, you need to make and receive regular doctor and dental visits. Get everything you need done, and don't hesitate if you need dental work done.
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Prices accurate at time of writing