- Bottled water (ALWAYS have extra water on hand)
- Food that doesn't need to be cooked (milk, cereal, bread, peanut butter, granola bars, canned food, etc)
- Manual can opener
- Paper plates/cups/utensils
- Tarps of varying sizes (useful in case a tree comes through your roof during a storm among other things)
- Rope of varying length and type (ditto)
- A Bug Out Bag for each member of the family (these should always be on hand)
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- A battery operated radio and extra batteries
- A NOAA weather radio (if you live in an area prone to severe weather)
- Working smoke detectors with batteries
- Working CO2 detectors with batteries
- Winter clothing (wool socks, insulated pants and jacket, long underwear, gloves, hat, etc)
- Winter boots
- Yaktrax (or similar item to make your boots grip)
- Chemical hand warmers
- Sleeping bag for each member of the family
- Snow shovel
- Sand, de-icer, road salt...items to make your walk ways less slippery
- First aid kit
- Tool set
- Work gloves
- Duct tape
- Hygiene supplies (extra toilet paper, soap, etc)
- Waterless hand sanitize
- Water purifier tablets
- Plastic bags (from ziploc sandwich size to large, strong trash bags)
- Playing cards, board games, books, and other non-electric entertainment
- Camping stove with fuel
- Kerosene heater
- Firewood and kindling
- Chainsaw and extra fuel
- Generator and extra fuel
- Firearms and extra ammo
- 5 gallon buckets
- Ice chest
- Fire extinguisher
- Extra prescription medication
- Additional baby supplies (formula, diapers, etc)
- Additional pet food
- Windshield scraper
- Booster cables
- Tow chain or rope
- Spare vehicle fuel
- Light sticks
- Kitty litter or road salt for traction
- Snow chains for your vehicle
- Cell phone charger for your car
Thursday, December 5, 2013
If you haven't prepared for a winter storm yet--and for most Americans that storm should be coming soon--here are some items you might want to have on hand:
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
If you haven't watched the news recently, you may not know that a massive arctic weather system is headed towards the US (and not just part of the US but it will impact MOST of the US). Even in Las Vegas we are expecting below freezing temperatures which is not unheard of but is also not very common. Here's some tips to prep for the cold weather that is heading our way:
- Wrap your water pipes and insulate your exterior faucets (drain and remove hoses as well).
- Be sure you have plenty of food, water, and supplies at home (you may not be able to get out to the store for a few days).
- Prepare for power outages, a common event in icy weather. Make sure you have an alternative heating system, and alternative way to cook and heat water. Keep stored water on hand, especially if you have a well and need electricity to draw water. Have fresh batteries in your flashlights and radio to use during a power outage.
- Be aware of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning (ie: don't use non-indoor heating appliances to heat your home as this can KILL you).
- Get your car ready for the cold (check the oil, check the tires, add antifreeze, put new wiper blades on, etc).
- Bring pet inside during particularly bad weather.
- Make sure that water for your outdoor animals is not frozen over.
- Keep sand or salt on hand to make your deck/walkway/driveway less slippery.
- If you use wood for heating and cooking, make sure you have extra on hand.
- Top off your oil tank if you use oil for heating or hot water.
- Make sure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries.
- Although it is short notice, any extra caulking insulating you can do (to your windows, your attic, etc) will help.
- Pay attention to the news for current updates on the weather in your area.
- If you need to renew prescriptions in the near future, do it now.
- Dress appropriately for the weather and avoid hypothermia.
- Know where your city's emergency shelters are ahead of time (you may never need it but a big tree coming through your roof can change this).
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
I think most people know about reddit these days although I am occasionally surprised when someone says they have never heard of it. If you don't know what it is, reddit is like a giant online bulletin board with literally thousands and thousands of "sub reddits" on various topics. Here's some good subs to check out:
- Bug out
- Physics garden
- Self sufficiency
- Camping and hiking
- Post collapse
- Make your own gear
- Bush craft
Be sure to check out the sidebar of these subreddits for links to related subs. Also be sure to check out the subreddit for your area (example here).
Monday, December 2, 2013
We interrupt your cyber-shopping Monday to remind you of a bunch of tasks you may want to complete before the end of the year:
- Pull your free credit reports and make sure all of the information in them is correct (find the legitimate, free credit report site here).
- Do your Christmas shopping, a bit at a time, beginning now (so you don't end up being one of those people doing all of their shopping the day before Christmas featured on your local evening news).
- Change all of your online passwords, delete old accounts, and back up your computer files (just some simple housekeeping tasks which often falls by the wayside but which are very important to do on a regular basis).
- Consult with your CPA (or do the research yourself) and see if you need to: donate more to charity for additional tax write offs, contribute more to your Roth IRA or 401k, pay for education expenses before the end of the year, defer income until after the first of the year, etc. Here are additional things you can do to improve your financial standing although I would hesitate to induce labor solely for financial gain.
- Use your end of the year bonus to pay off a debt instead of blowing it at the mall.
- If you have a FSA, HSA, vacation days, or other "use it or lose it" items that need to be run down by the end of the year, make a plan to do this.
- If you are a senior remember that there are deadlines for signing up for Medicare (at 65) and pulling money out of your IRA (at 70) that are required.
- Review your finances including your net worth and your investment accounts (you may want to make plans to improve these areas in the upcoming year).
- Update your home inventory videos/spreadsheets, particularly after acquiring new, expensive items at Christmas.
- Update your Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney, insurance beneficiaries, resume, etc.
- Review your insurance coverages (for life, health, auto, home, etc)
- Make sure you have an adequate reserve of cash on hand, at home, in a secure location
- Donate non-financial items to charity (food banks often run low this time of year, homeless shelters can always use hygiene supplies, etc)
- Take a short, winter camping trip
- Practice shooting (even fair-weather shooters should practice in cold, miserable weather)
- Instead of a list of new year's resolutions, set one huge, kick ass goal for 2014 and go for it
Sunday, December 1, 2013
With Christmas just around the corner, there is no end to the commercialism surrounding the holiday. Years and years ago there were quite a few skills that went into making a happy holiday season. These days, all you have to do is open your wallet and "ta da", instant Christmas. Make an effort this holiday season to create lasting holiday memories with your kids (and surreptitiously teach them some useful survival skills in the process).
- Cut down your own Christmas tree. This can be done easily at u-cut Christmas tree places or cheaply with a permit to cut on public lands. Skills learned: how to use a saw, how to secure your load to your vehicle, how to pick a "good" tree, how to navigate the permit process if you go this route, how to find the location of where you will cut your tree.
- Have the kids decorate the tree using non-store bought products. Skills learned: how to glean natural products to use for decorations, creativity, how to research (they can figure out how people decorated trees prior to store bought decorations being available).
- Do your own baking for the holiday season. Bake pies and cookies, make candy, etc. Skills learned: how to bake and cook (a useful skill that will last them their entire lives).
- Decorate your house for the holidays. Skills learned: how to safely use a ladder, how to safely hang Christmas lights, how electricity works in regards to Christmas lights.
- Make your own Christmas cards. Take the kids out to photograph some Christmas-y scenes and make your own cards on your home computer. Skills learned: how to be creative, how to use a computer/Photoshop/printer/etc, how to address envelopes, how to find addresses that you may need.
- Make a Christmas dinner and invite friends and family. Skills learned: how to shop for ingredients, how to use coupons and shop sales, how to plan food needs based on the number of people attending, how to cook, how to invite people to a dinner, how to work collectively with the family to pull off a big event.
- Make your own Christmas stockings. Skills learned: creativity, how to sew, how to make/use a pattern, how to buy fabric.
- Volunteer or donate to help the less fortunate. Skills learned: how to help others in need, how to perform various jobs (sorting canned goods at a food pantry/serving a meal at a homeless shelter/etc), how to interact with people who are usually marginalized in the community.
- Attend a holiday religious service that is different from your own religion. Skills learned: how to be open minded, how to learn about different religions, how to be respectful of other people's beliefs even if they are different than your own.
- Let the kids choose a new holiday tradition, plan it out, etc. This may include looking at Christmas lights around the city, Christmas caroling at nursing homes, setting up a movie night to watch "It's a Wonderful Life", etc. Skills learned: how to plan an event, how to research, how to use a map to find the most efficient route to look at lights, how to contact a nursing home and arrange a time for Christmas caroling.
I love to see kids learning how to actually DO things. Anyone can drop money at a store and end up with a reasonable facsimile of the holiday season but this precludes kids from working with others to accomplish a goal, learning valuable skills, developing their creativity, and most importantly, keeping busy (on projects that don't involve a computer or iPad). This holiday season make an effort to instill the spirit of the season in your family.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Everyone should have an emergency communications plan. When disaster strikes, one of the first things people want to do if you are in the disaster area is let loved ones know you are all right or, if you aren't in the disaster, ensure that loved ones who are in the disaster area are all right. Here are ten ways to stay connected during a disaster:
- Leave your itinerary with a responsible person and check in regularly. If you will be on a remote trail or in a foreign country, leave a fairly detailed itinerary with a responsible person who will know if and when to send for help on your behalf (ie: if you don't check in within a reasonable amount of time, the friend or relative can call the consulate, call the ranger station, etc and get a search started for you).
- Assign one responsible friend or relative to be your "emergency communication hub person." During a disaster you may not be able to check on friends or relatives in your immediate area (cell towers are overloaded, phone lines are down) but you can often call long distances without a problem. Give this person's contact information to all family members and in the event of a disaster everyone can check in with the designated emergency contact person.
- Consider a GPS locator such as a SPOT 3. These devices allow you to bounce messages off a satellite to let people know you are fine or to call for help. Although not common or practical for daily use at home, these are often used when people are way off the beaten track.
- Get a HAM radio and the training to use it. Almost exclusively during major disasters, HAM radios work when all other forms of communication don't. Start here.
- Always keep your cell phone charged. Everyone uses cell phones these days and often, even if cell towers are overloaded with calls, you can still send text messages during a disaster.
- Consider a land line. I haven't had a land line in ages but these can be very useful during a disaster, especially if they are buried lines. A land line (with a hard wired phone, not a cordless phone) does not require electricity to use and be used to make calls during a disaster.
- Use your internet. Again, depending on the type of disaster, if you still have internet access, you can connect with people (either via Twitter, Facebook, email, computer-to-text, Skype, etc) through your computer or tablet.
- A satellite phone can be helpful during a disaster. I say they can be helpful because there is good reason to use these phones (calls are bounced off a satellite so you don't need to rely on cell towers or phone lines) but there are a host of drawbacks as well (they are expensive to keep, use, and maintain; you need a way to keep them charged, you need direct access to the satellite which means you need either a fixed antenna that is still standing or need to go outside to use them, and the satellite needs to be working and in position to use).
- Use a people finder. After a major disaster there are a couple of reliable services that are used to connect displaced people with loved ones who are searching for them and vice versa. Check out Google Person Finder and the Red Cross Safe and Well websites.
- Use a runner or be a runner. When all else fails, the only way to get your message out may be via your own two feet (or the feet of another). In this case, you want to be in good enough physical shape to be able to travel a distance--via foot, bicycle, etc--in order to seek help or communicate with others.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Many cities and towns that were devastated by the huge typhoon that hit the Philippines a few days ago are just barely starting the recovery process. As the news keeps coming from the devastated area, here are 10 random take-aways to help you with your survival planning:
- Can you swim? It's a good skill to know and can be useful during such a disaster (many people who were washed away in the tidal surge had to swim for their lives).
- Water is a critical necessity after a disaster, how will you procure yours? (Hint: water purification tablets, a simple water purification system used by backpackers, and bottled water are good options).
- Can you evacuate ahead of a disaster? Some people can't afford to, some people don't want to leave their homes. If you can afford to evacuate do so, stuff can be replaced, you and your family members can't.
- How will you get food after the disaster? (Will you raid stores for scraps? Will you have a week's worth of food in your BOB?).
- How will you contact your family after a disaster? (Note: when everything--cell towers, land lines--are washed away a HAM radio comes in mighty handy).
- How will you take care of your medical needs after a disaster? Consider pre-planning: stockpile necessary meds, get a tetanus shot and make sure your vaccines are up to date; and post-planning: avoid drinking contaminated water or wading in contaminated water, have a first aid kit in your BOB, have some basic medical skills, etc.
- How will you shelter yourself after a disaster? In the case of hurricanes and typhoons, everything is washed away. Do you have a tent/sleeping bag in your BOB? A tarp? Can you fashion a shelter out of the stuff you can find around the disaster area?
- How will you protect yourself after a disaster? Mostly people will be doing what they need to survive and usually people are good about helping others out but if you have food and water and shelter and many others do not you may need to either hide yourself and what you have or defend yourself and what you have.
- Do you have basic survival supplies? A whistle? A mask or bandanna to cover your nose and mouth? Matches to start a fire?
- Can you work with others? Coordinating efforts can help you and others to survive by building shelters together, protecting your area from looters, etc.