Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cruise Ship Preps

It's been over a month since my last post here, mostly because we were floating around the ocean for a good chunk of that time.  The spouse needed a vacation and what better place to go than being stranded on a tiny ship floating in the middle of a vast ocean for weeks at a time?  Actually it wasn't quite that bad (and if you happened to have served on any type of military ship I can confirm that being waited on hand and foot and fed into a carb coma is much better than standing watch and hanging around the engine room, but I digress).  Of course every situation requires some preps so here is the list...

  • Cruise ships are generally a safe way to travel.
  • And many disasters can be averted by general common sense.
  • Know where the things are that you would need in an emergency including escape routes from your room, where your muster station is, where your life jackets are, and what the alarms mean.
  • Have a small go bag ready just in case (FYI...cruise ships now scan bags for any contraband prior to letting you embark so that rules out guns and other types of weapons).  My go bag was an Ultra Sil backpack, hung next to the bed, with a handful of ziploc bags.  To go into this bag (and the ziploc bags) in the event of an emergency would have been my cell phone, passport and ID, cruise ship ID card, wallet with cash and credit cards, bottles of water, granola bars, whistle, flashlight, etc.  
  • Learn every corner of your cruise ship.  Check out each deck and learn where everything is.  Where is the tender deck?  Where are the extra life jackets stored?  Where are the life boats and life rafts stored?  How do you get from point A to point B quickest?
  • Make friends with the staff.  Besides making your trip extra comfortable and enjoyable (we were lavished with free drinks just for being friendly with the crew, they went out of their way to make special meals upon request, and we didn't wait in line for anything), knowing the crew and them knowing you can only be a good thing during a crisis.
  • Determine where you can find other items you may need in a crisis such as fire extinguishers, the ship's clinic, improvised weapons, etc.
  • Be prepared to take care of your own health and safety.  Some things are pretty obvious (like being careful where and how you walk when the ship is bouncing around in turbulent seas and not touching everything in sight then touching your face/nose/mouth).  While others deserve a reminder, like bringing your own extra prescription meds and your own first aid kit, and keeping your hands cleaned and sanitized regularly.
  • Take the same precautions on a ship that you would anytime you travel.
  • Don't drink yourself stupid.  This is incredibly easy to do on a cruise ship as bar staff are pushing drinks on you at every turn but in order to keep control of your safety (and you credit card bill!), save the binge drinking for the safety of your home.
  • Plan your cruise duration and destination with care.  Longer, more expensive cruises during the off season generally have a median age of 70+ and a quieter crowd overall, whereas short duration cruises to the Caribbean during spring break generally have a younger, rowdier party crowd.  I'll choose the former.  And you couldn't pay me enough to cruise along the coast of Africa without a SEAL team on board.
  • Remain semi-cognizant of what is going on in the world.  It's easy to tune out the world when you are on a cruise--except when the only two channels you have on TV are MSNBC (we hate Trump, we hate republicans) and Fox (we love Trump, we love Republicans)...needless to say we mostly tuned out the news completely.  But in each port we did use free WiFi and/or free data from our cell provider to check up on what was happening at home and abroad.
  • Realize that it is easy to spend money and not realize it since everything is conveniently charged to your room card (and thus your credit card) and you don't get the bill until the last day of the cruise.  Drinks are expensive, internet access on the ship is expensive, cell service on the ship is criminally expensive, shore excursions may or may not be worth it...do your homework and exercise some financial control when you are out to sea.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

What Happens to Your Preps When You Die?

I came across this post over on reddit yesterday and it got me to thinking.  While it is all fine and dandy to be prepped to the gills when we are on this mortal coil, it is quite a different thing to unexpectedly die and leave your heir a pile of stuff that makes the mind boggle.  For those of you who didn't read the thread, a man died and left his son, his sole heir, $10 million+ in property, a virtual arsenal of guns, pounds and pounds of precious metals, and a boatload of cash (some possibly illegally acquired--both the guns and the money).  He also made the son promise not to get rid of any of this stuff (?!?).

One would think a sudden, huge windfall would be a good thing but when the legal questions start flying it looks like it can be--according to the man who posted the question--quite the mire to get himself out of.  And then there is the deathbed promise which makes the situation even more complicated.

So what should happen to your preps, whether you die at a ripe old age or die suddenly and unexpectedly?  This not being legal advice, I would have to recommend you discuss such things with an estate planner.  On the other hand, here is my plan:

  • I have an updated Will, Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney, and a "when I die" document directing the basics for when I die.
  • I have life insurance and savings (in the bank and at home) to cover both immediate and longer term needs for the spouse.  Things like funeral planning, acquiring documents, disposition of my body, paying the next few months of household bills, etc. all require money immediately until the life insurance can pay out, investments can be liquidated, etc.
  • I don't stockpile nearly as much food and supplies as we used to when we had a houseful of kids.
  • We have no debt and the house and vehicles are paid off so the only monthly bills the spouse would need to pay when I die are utilities, etc.  If we both die at the same time, the paid off assets would become part of the estate to disburse.
  • I have gone from stockpiling stuff to meet every possible need--from day-to-day situations to a TEOTWAWKI situation--to minimalism.
  • At this point in my life (I'm old) I am happy to give away many of my possessions on a regular basis.  Get a new tablet?  My current tablet goes to a kid or grandkid.  Get a new cell phone?  Ditto.  People come to visit?  Here take this home with you.  Basically I don't need a lot of stuff and I would rather give things to people now, while I am alive, than hoard 50 years worth of crap that the kids would have to sort through after I'm gone (been there, done that with several parents and elderly relatives; it's an odious job).
  • If you are a young person with a family, your current preps would be different.  You would be in the acquisition phase (acquiring sufficient firearms for your needs, stockpiling a larger amount of food for an emergency situation, buying tools, etc).  However you should still plan for your untimely demise with appropriate life insurance, legal documents, savings, etc.  
  • The idea is to protect your loved ones no matter your age.  It becomes easier as you get older and once all of the kids are settled into careers, have bought houses, are raising their own kids...well, when that happens it's a very good feeling.  As the kids are settled and have their own lives well set, any inheritance they gain from us would be a nice bonus, we don't want it to be a burden.  We also have good relationships with all of the kids and grandkids and have discussed in broad terms what would happen if I (or we) were to die, namely the spouse would have the option to live alone or with one of the kids and that yes, they will get some things (money and hard assets) from us either given to them occasionally while we live or spelled out in our Wills. 
  • I still have sufficient firearms for our protection needs, we still have enough food to see us through months of not being able to go to a grocery store, we downsized to a manageable yard instead of acreage, and we are easily able to come and go from this country (a concern in these tumultuous times).  Yes we are spending some of the kids inheritance (travel, new tech, etc) but to my very non-dynastic way of thinking, our responsibility was to raise the kids in a way that teaches them to stand on their own two feet, give them nice gifts on occasion, help out in emergencies, encourage them to help out each other (which is even more important), and feel responsible enough to help out their parents in their old age.  Leaving them a small nest egg to help them have a more comfortable middle age/retirement is our goal, lording their potential inheritance over them is not.  Creating strife by playing favorites, not being clear about who gets what when we are gone and letting them fight it out in court, or having them count down the days until they make bank from our demise is not something we want to leave as our legacy either.
  • Finally, don't rely on "I told my son I wanted this to happen after I die" or "I'm sure the kids will get together and happily divide up our assets after we are gone".  Everything needs to be spelled out in writing (in a valid legal document), with a trustworthy executor appointed (preferably someone who does not stand to gain from your death).   Leaving a volume of explicit instructions is also a good idea: user names and passwords for all of your accounts, a clear list of investments/banking and other accounts, and directions to find your important documents (deeds and titles, insurance documents, etc).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

11 Quick Things You Should Know Today

In no particular order...

  1. Monday is President's Day, it is also fee-free day for our National Parks.
  2. Want to see how aligned (or unaligned) your congressperson is with Trump?  Here's a chart.
  3. For coding geeks out there, this HTML reference chart is quite useful.
  4. Feeling overwhelmed by information overload?  Here is a long but interesting read.
  5. Here is some mandatory evacuation expense info from FEMA.
  6. And here is a fascinating "citizen scientist" project from NASA.
  7. Considering a prepping conference?  Here are 15 to choose from.
  8. Did you know that boarder patrol can search your cell phone anytime they want to?  Apparently they can.
  9. Think you can outlast the hunters on the new TV show Hunted?  Here's where you can apply to give it a shot.
  10. Planning a quick trip to visit all of the state capitals in the US?  Here's a map of the fastest route.
  11. Immigration status (or the lack there of) is a huge deal these days.  Although our current system is a convoluted mess, here is a quiz to see if you qualify to stay in the US.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Evacuation Tips from the Oroville Dam Crisis

In the news this week...the Oroville Dam spillway failure (complete timeline here).  With nearly 200,000 people evacuated on the theory that the dam could (best case) create water release problems due to the emergency spillway being damaged or (worst case) the entire dam could completely fail and flood a number of towns downstream, this was a pretty good teachable moment for all of us.

  • Do you live in an area near a dam that could fail?  Threat assessments were a big deal some years back but our infrastructure is still in need of serious repair/rebuilding.  Know what risks are common where you live.
  • Pay attention to warnings.  Whether through reverse 911 calls, door knocking by law enforcement, or evacuation orders given through social media, pay attention to developing conditions via a range of sources (TV news, FB pages, etc).
  • Be prepared to evacuate and do so as soon as possible.  You don't want to be waiting in line for gas, parked on the freeway in the midst of tens of thousands of people all trying to evacuate at the same time, trying to find groceries on store shelves, etc.  Always keep gas in your vehicle and stored on your property, have a BOB ready to go, have multiple places to evacuate to, and stock your vehicle with stored supplies instead of trying to find stuff you need in the stores.
  • Realize you may be on your own and plan accordingly.  It usually takes a while to coordinate a  response and with 200,000 people to take care of, help--ranging from food and water to sleeping accommodations--may take a while to set up. 
Thankfully (so far) the disaster that could have happened didn't.  But each time something like this happens it offers everyone a chance to review what happened, see how people responded, see what worked and what didn't, and offers tips for what to do if you find yourself in such a situation.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

10 Things You Should Do Right This Minute

With all of the political turmoil and uncertainty, who knows what will happen next.  To have a minimum level of preparedness, and in order to respond to whatever happens, do these ten things as soon as possible:
  1. Pack a BOB.  Right now.  Today.  Compartmentalize it so that you will have a number of options at the drop of a hat--bugging out to the wilderness, hopping on a plane and flying overseas, etc.
  2. Get a passport.  It remains to be seen how long a US passport will be in the top ranking of passports but better to be safe than sorry if you need to leave the country in a hurry.
  3. Put aside cash and cash equivalents.  A minimum of $5000 is good.  More is better.  You can put some of this in a bank (unfortunately these funds can be seized so there is that), but always have enough cash on hand to get you far far away from where you currently are.
  4. Focus on your health.  Let's face it, most Americans will drop dead from preventable diseases before any other sort of disaster kills them.  Take control of your health by exercising, eating right, and taking care of your overall health which will put you way ahead of the crowd should the worst (political disaster, natural disaster, etc) happen.
  5. Diversify your income.  Stat.  In these tumultuous financial times, having one source of income (for most people this means earning a paycheck) is a recipe for financial disaster.  Businesses close without warning, industries die overnight...you don't want to be standing there in a daze if your only source of income is here today and gone tomorrow.  By next month you should have earned money from at least a half dozen other sources besides your regular job.
  6. Prepare to Bug In.  Bugging in is optimal for most people in most disasters.  In a well-stocked, well-prepared house, you can hang out for quite a while in relative comfort.
  7. Travel, especially in third-world countries.  Wait, didn't you just tell me to prepare to stay home?  The fact is that political upheaval can force you out of your home--and even out of your country--with very little notice.  By traveling now you will learn the skills you need to survive as a nomad anywhere in the world.
  8. Learn continually.  The more skills you have under your belt the better off you will be.  In a survival situation of any sort--wilderness bug out situation, as a reality TV show contestant, when a natural disaster strikes, etc--the person who has learned hundreds of useful skills has a much greater chance of surviving compared to someone whose only skill is leveling up to the triple digits in Skyrim. 
  9. Make your preps triple-redundant.  So you have one friend you can count on during a disaster?  Try to up that count to three.  If you have only prepared one way to evacuate (by car) consider a couple more alternatives (motorcycle, bicycle).  If your only form of emergency communication is via cell phone, learn something about HAM radio and VoIP.  You get the idea...
  10. Turn down the chatter.  With the barrage of negative social media, "fake news", "alternative facts", and the rest of the crap you are exposed to on a daily basis, you now have to take proactive steps to bring some sanity to your everyday existence.  Try to do more interesting things and participate less in stress-inducing social media platforms. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

50 Survival Uses for Your Smart Phone

While some things make me leery about using a smart phone (example here), they are pretty much an ubiquitous part of life these days.  On the bright side, there are dozens and dozens of ways to use your cell phone in a survival situation...

  1. Make a call to a friend or 911 for help.
  2. To send text messages when cell calls aren't going through.
  3. As a flashlight with the appropriate app.
  4. As a compass with the appropriate app.
  5. To send and receive money.
  6. To pay for things instead of using cash or credit cards.
  7. To take pictures to document car accidents or other incidents.
  8. For directions (using Google maps, etc).
  9. As a tracking device if you are incapacitated. 
  10. To receive Amber alerts and other emergency alerts.
  11. To track disasters happening anywhere in the world.
  12. Hopefully, one day, to listen to FM radio.
  13. For entertainment (watch Netflix, listen to music, play games, etc).
  14. As a repository for your survival books.
  15. To send emergency alerts to friends and family.
  16. To start a fire with your cell battery.
  17. As a place to store your important files and documents.
  18. To follow emergency information sources on social media (example here).
  19. To set off a panic alarm in an emergency.
  20. To put an "ICE--in case of emergency" contact in case you are incapacitated.
  21. As a phone book for all of your contacts.
  22. To learn first aid skills from an app.
  23. As a step-by-step guide for what to do after a car accident.
  24. To access the internet (and, for example, find a shelter after a disaster).
  25. To alert people that you are safe after a disaster.
  26. To identify edible plants in a survival situation.
  27. To check the weather.
  28. To call 911 even if the cell phone doesn't have a service provider.
  29. To create a hot spot for your internet devices.
  30. To provide disaster-related info to researchers (like this earthquake app).
  31. To listen to emergency service providers (fire, EMS, police) in real time.
  32. To take care of all of your travel needs in case you need to evacuate.
  33. To connect with FEMA before, during, and after a disaster.
  34. To find evacuation routes and avoid traffic issues with the appropriate app.
  35. As a radiation alarm with the appropriate app.
  36. To determine if you are too drunk to drive with the appropriate app.
  37. To make money with the appropriate app.
  38. As a signal mirror.
  39. As a flashing signal.
  40. To find the nearest gas station.
  41. To find emergency social service assistance (food banks, shelters, etc).
  42. You can hide emergency cash in your cell phone cover.
  43. As a spying gadget (note this may or may not be legal where you live).
  44. To track and assist the elderly when you can't be with them.
  45. To track and assist family members/children when you aren't with them.
  46. To prevent suicide.
  47. To improve your health and fitness (the top seven causes of death are health-related).
  48. To track the spread of illnesses around the world.
  49. To track (and learn about) medical conditions with the appropriate app.
  50. Even a broken cell phone can be useful during an emergency.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

10 Reminders

In no particular order...

  1. If you are over 65 and like the outdoors and haven't purchased your $10 lifetime National Parks Pass, get one soon as the price is going from $10 to $80 sometime this year.
  2. It is also tax time.  For assistance filing your taxes at no charge (income and age qualifiers) click here.
  3. And as long as we are talking about money, if you haven't pulled your credit report during the past year, you can download it free from the government here.
  4. Sunday is the Super Bowl.  Here are several ways to watch the game for free (as for myself I'll probably be in a sports book cheering on the Patriots).
  5. After all of the Super Bowl parties, you may want to get your diet/health back on track.  Here is one of the better healthy eating plans I've found.
  6. If you are interested in facts (you know, the scientific kind that look like they are being banned left and right these days) check out these "renegade" Twitter feeds.
  7. And if you want to throw your hat into the political ring (because a lot of politicians seem like flaming lunatics these days but I digress...) consider running for office.  Here are the offices you can run for in your area.
  8. Last week I posted on the Daily Insight page an article about how billionaires are prepping for a SHTF scenario.  Here is a rebuttal of sorts about trying to buy your way out of a disaster (hint: it's more about what skills you have than your bank balance).
  9. Speaking of prepping, it looks like the Doomsday Clock is spinning faster and faster.
  10. Finally, if you have a few moments (or several hours) you might pick up some useful survival information from these useful subreddits: survival, preppers, bugout, and survivalist.