Saturday, April 4, 2020

50 Prepper Tips for the COVID-19 Pandemic

It's a pretty crazy time right now.  The global coronavirus pandemic has brought out the best--and the worst--in people.  Here's some prepper tips to keep in mind...

  1. Pay cash for the stuff you buy and shred the receipt when you get home.  The government can't confiscate what they don't know you have.
  2. Instead of shopping at only one store, shop at a variety of places.  It pays to be consistently inconsistent.
  3. Don't shop at membership clubs like Costco or use grocery store apps.  These places track your every purchase and can cough up a list of everything you have ever bought from them.
  4. At this point in time, wearing a mask, gloves, dark glasses and a hat is considered a safety thing and not a 'planning to rob the place' thing.  These items can also thwart facial recognition programs.
  5. When you return from shopping, pull into your garage and close the garage door before unloading your vehicle.  This keeps the neighbors from seeing what you have bought.
  6. If you are storing your survival gear/guns/food in your garage, consider covering the shelves with black curtains or other material to conceal what you have.  Whenever I drive by an open garage and see a gun safe I shake my head and the person's lack of awareness.
  7. Shop at different times, on different days, instead of on the same day and time every week.  Again, consistent inconsistency is a good thing.
  8. When you do shop, buy a little extra of everything (like you are shopping for a family of four instead of two) instead of filling up three carts a la many hoarders.  People notice shoppers like this, often take pictures of them, and blast these photos out in viral social media posts.  You don't want to be the face of a viral social media post.
  9. Don't post photos of yourself with your stockpiled food/toilet paper/firearms, or in your bunker.  This will make you and your home a huge target for needy neighbors/relatives and/or burglars/robbers.
  10. Better yet, don't use social media at all.  Dropping all social media at once may be too obvious so you may want to slowly disappear from social media (and delete/cancel your accounts) over a period of time.
  11. If you do decide to help others, do it discretely.  If your mom needs toilet paper, drop her off a four-pack when needed.  If you drop off five mega-packs of toilet paper at once, both neighbors and relatives will talk about you.  This pertains to food, difficult to get medications, etc.
  12. When you do go out, leave your cell phone, smart watch, etc. at home so your movements can't be tracked.
  13. When you go out, look like the most ordinary of ordinary people.  Leave the Rolex at home, the flashy clothes and jewelry at home, drive the beater truck instead of the Mercedes, etc.  People may also remember you for the unique glasses you wear, the memorable cologne you wear, the jewelry you wear, etc. so plan accordingly.
  14. When you have the option to buy gear in basic black or tacticool camo, choose basic black every time.  Looking like Rambo makes you an obvious target for the marauding hoards.
  15. At the same time, you don't want to look like a weak target when out in public.  Walk with purpose, keep your head up, pay attention to your surroundings, etc.
  16. Always make your home look lived in at all times of the day and night, this is a good burglar deterrent.
  17. Never tell anyone about your BOB, BOV, BOL, or anything else that would suggest your prepper skills go way beyond having a couple week's worth of food at home.
  18. Also, never talk about money (or the precious metals you have in your safe, your investment accounts, your firearms, etc).  The more average you seem, the better.  As is the case with most Americans, average is broke and semi-desperate these days.
  19. You may want to teach your kids and spouse as many prepper skills as you can, yet keep other information (your precious metal stash, your cash stash, etc) private so they won't inadvertently "spill the beans" about your actual situation.  Hopefully you can trust your spouse with this information.
  20. Be careful with purchases you make that are delivered to your home.  Doing a major home renovation with workers and materials coming in and out of your home may tip off your neighbors that you aren't as desperate as everyone else in the neighborhood.
  21. Instead of having Amazon deliver to your home on the regular, consider having the deliveries sent to your office or an Amazon lock box if this is a safe option.
  22. If you do buy large and/or expensive purchases, be sure to discreetly dispose of the boxes.  Cut up big TV boxes into small pieces and put them in your recycling bin instead of leaving the giant box in front of your home on garbage pick up day.
  23. Strive for a minimum of garbage that goes into your waste bin each week.  Neighbors and other people interested in your activities will find your garbage most informative if you toss out everything without taking security precautions.
  24. Shred all documents and other sensitive info before throwing it in the garbage.  Ditto medication disposal (grind pills and dissolve in water to make them unusable), disposing of cell phone boxes (some have the IMIE number on them), etc.
  25. Consider having sensitive mail and packages sent to a secure, off-site location such as a PO box, a PMB, your office address, a mail forwarder, etc.
  26. When you send outgoing mail, instead of putting it in your own mail box to be picked up by the postman, drop it off at a stand-alone mail box.
  27. In very difficult times, you don't want to do things that draw people to your home.  If people are sitting in the dark, hearing your generator run, can draw attention to your home.  If people are hungry, barbecuing steaks on the grill will have the same affect.
  28. The more self sufficient and off grid you want to be, the more you should consider locating your homestead WAY off the beaten path; somewhere that only the most hardy souls will travel to get to.  Currently there is a major exodus from NYC to Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and even Maine by people "escaping to the country".
  29. Depending on where you live (and your firearms laws) I highly recommend concealed carry.  While open carry is legal in many places, there are very few situations in which I would recommend this.
  30. Secure your home, but do so in a way that doesn't draw attention.  A home surrounded with a six-foot fence topped with razor wire and a 24-module security camera set-up draws way more attention than a more subtle security system.
  31. Consider getting a dog.  They make good companions and, depending on the dog, a good security alert system.
  32. Look at the situation you are in then determine how NOT to draw attention to yourself.  For example, right now, people driving cars with New York license plates in surrounding states are drawing a lot of negative attention to themselves.  Better to rent a car with local plates if you find yourself in this situation.
  33. Whether you are buying food or ammo, or in recent days, toilet paper, spread your purchases out over time.  Buying an extra package of toilet paper each time you shop or a couple boxes of 50 rounds of ammo is less memorable than the guy that buys 10 cases of toilet paper all at once or 1000 rounds of ammo all at once.
  34. If people do happen to comment on your purchases, feel free to make up a story to mislead them.  One guy was buying a dozen gallons of bleach a couple years ago and a lady commented on this.  He said he was buying all of the bleach to donate to the local animal shelter.  Whether he was actually doing this or was keeping it all for himself, being able to deflect someone's curiosity with a reasonably believable story is a good skill to have.
  35. Don't be a panic buyer during a crisis like people who wait in hours-long lines at the gun store/Walmart/Costco/etc.  You should be purchasing your firearms (or food, or toilet paper, etc), one at a time, over a long period of time (and maybe in places where the "gun show loophole" is still a thing when it comes to firearms) in order to deflect interest in what you are buying.
  36. When it comes to a bug out vehicle, a bug out motorcycle, or a bug out bicycle, keeping it on the down low or disguising it to make it less memorable is a good idea.  A Sprinter van draws attention, an old Ford Econoline does not.  A Harley draws attention, a Suzuki doesn't.  A Cannondale draws attention, the same Cannondale covered with stickers, mud, and scuffs looks less memorable.
  37. Speaking of vehicles, pre-1994 vehicles don't have black boxes in them.  Imagine driving and not having your every movement tracked (note that license plate readers still apply).
  38. If you must travel under the radar, try to travel via country roads.  Freeways, toll ways, and similar high-traffic roads generally have Automated License Plate Readers.
  39. Always be polite to neighbors but direct the conversation to them and away from yourself.  The less you say about yourself the better, besides people generally like to talk about themselves.
  40. When talking to people, avoid contentious topics.  Politics, religion, being a prepper...these are things you don't want to talk about.  The weather is a good topic, showing basic concern about the current situation also makes you sound like an "average" person.
  41. If you must travel, whether by car, bike, or on foot, either do so at night under the cover of darkness, or do so along with everyone else (ie: if you are scouting an area in your neighborhood, walk in the morning when all of the neighbors are out walking.  Wave and keep up a brisk pace, heading to your destination while looking like you are just out exercising).
  42. One of your best options during the pandemic (barring extreme social unrest in some cases), is to stay secure in your home (and yard, of course).  Being out with the infected crowds is generally a bad idea.
  43. Be prepared to change your usual activities.  It's popular to go out shooting in the desert near where I live.  With every wannabe Rambo who just stood in line for hours to buy a gun and now wants to try it out...needless to say, I've got enough practice under my belt that I can skip a month or so in order to not be around these people.
  44. Try to avoid the crowds at popular places in your area.  During the quarantine, a lot of people want to go out and socially distance themselves by getting back to nature.  Unfortunately half the city has the same idea and they all tend to end up at the same popular outdoor spots.
  45. Consider gathering your food and supplies from unconventional sources.  Some restaurant supply places are now selling restaurant-sized food products to the public, and bartering your bread for a neighbor's eggs is another good idea.
  46. Now may be a good time to consider foraging for wild food in your area.  This is a skill that takes a bit of effort to learn (avoid foraging for mushrooms unless you go with someone who knows what they are doing) and, of course, it's always a good idea to be stealthy about this.
  47. Gardening should be one of your top hobbies, especially at a time like this.  If possible, hide your garden as much as possible from the public, ditto your bee hives, chicken coops, etc.
  48. Take excellent care of your health, especially at a time like this.  The last place you want to end up is in the emergency room at a hospital mixed in with a sea of covid patients.
  49. This also goes for accidental injuries.  Taking physical risks is questionable on a good day but highly inadvisable when emergency medical care may be impossible to access or significantly delayed.
  50. Protect your health.  Wear a mask if you go out in public, wash your hands, avoid people, etc.  Monitor your symptoms if you fall ill and take care of your illness at home unless you are seriously ill and need professional medical care.

Friday, April 3, 2020

You Need to Be the Grayest of Gray Men These Days

During a regular disaster, it pays to keep your head down and not draw attention to yourself.  This is called the Gray Man Theory and it makes sense as the biggest target, well, looks like a big target.  Now as the pandemic unfolds and people are going from slightly agitated to a world bordering on  dystopian insanity, there are quite a few examples of why you don't want anyone to know you are a prepper, to know that you have firearms, to know that you are financially more than comfortable even in the midst of a financial disaster, or to know that you are anything but the boring guy who lives down the street with a boring car in front of his boring house.  Nothing to see here folks, you can move along now. 

In case you have missed some of the lessons learned about espousing your two years of stockpiled food or the fact that you only go to work to keep yourself entertained, not because you need the money, consider these situations:

So keep your stuff hidden, your actions nondescript, your head down, and your mouth closed.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

How is Life Going So Far?

For us, so far, the coronavirus, has been kind of a non-issue.  Of course it has interrupted our usual daily activities such as going to a casino, playing in poker games, hitting up the occasional restaurant for a meal, or dropping into a store and shopping, but for many preppers, as outlined in this article, being prepared means there is no reason to panic and freak out, even when there is a world-wide pandemic going on.

Having a good stockpile of food, water, and consumables means that when people are panic shopping, you can sit back and watch and be thankful you aren't one of them.  Being debt free and having multiple sources of income means that when people are worrying about how they are going to pay their rent next week, you aren't worried.  Of course, ideally, I would like to be living 100% off the grid and fully self sufficient right now which would put us in an even better position, but over all, the years of prepping have served us pretty well.

Right now our best course of action is to stay home, lay low, and let the disaster blow over at some future date.  We don't want to add to the chaos at grocery stores, we (hopefully) don't want to be taking up space in a hospital and on a ventilator, and we don't want to be a financial/emotional burden on our children, friends, or relatives.  Of course we are doing what we can, from a distance, to help out others whether that means calling elderly shut-in relatives and friends to check on them and cheer them up or providing a little financial help to some of the kids who needed it, but being prepared means that you are both not a burden to yourself in a disaster situation (I swear some people are going to die of stress before the coroanvirus even gets to them) and you are not a burden to others and "the system".

Hopefully your years of prepping have had a similar outcome and you are sitting much more comfortably in the midst of disaster than people who didn't prepare.  But of course there are many lessons learned here, even for hard-core preppers, which will be enumerated in future posts.

Friday, March 20, 2020

5 Things I've Learned This Week

In no particular order...

  1. Never underestimate how quickly things can go to shit with little to no warning.  Of course we know that earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes can happen with little to no warning but one would think that a global pandemic would have given us a bit more warning.  While we are supposed to have a syndromic surveillance system to give us advanced warning of such events, many doctors actually learned of the beginnings of the outbreak via social media. smh
  2. Never overestimate how much and how quickly the government will come to your aid.  At this point, several days out, millions of people have been laid off due to the pandemic, county and state offices have been shuttered, and still there is very little financial assistance or guidance from the government about how people can afford their basic needs during the next few months.  A "plan is in the works" but giving people cash assistance many weeks after they get laid off is less than helpful when people are hungry and worried about their bills today.
  3. Never underestimate how people in your city will react during a crisis.  Many people have gone batshit insane in response to this outbreak.  Either they are throwing entire aisles' worth of food into their shopping carts, or they are hanging out at the beach with thousands of other people; both are poor ways to respond to this outbreak.
  4. Never overestimate your preparedness.  So far so good with our stockpile of food and supplies, we probably won't have to leave the house for another several months although I would miss fresh produce.  On the other hand, I am making lists of things that we should have stocked or should have stocked more of, lists of changes we will make to the house (if we stay here and don't move away all together after this is over), and other things I will want to review, post-pandemic.
  5. Never overestimate what the president is telling you.  Every daily briefing from the president makes me more surprised and incredulous at his lack of knowledge, lack of common sense, and lack of discretion (using a press conference on a major world event to point out reporters he doesn't like is both childish and stupid but I digress...).  No, there aren't enough COVID-19 tests and there won't be, there is also not enough lab capacity period.  The "wonderful drug" that may help treat COVID-19 is not at all wonderful but is probably better than death.  Maybe.  Get your information on the virus from reputable, knowledgeable sources and not the president of the United States.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

How Did They Do Things in the "Olden Days"?

Just a quick note that while you are locked down at home, you may want to read up on (and practice!) how they did things "in the olden days".  Literally look at every single item you have/use/need/rely on and figure out how you could make this product, or a reasonable facsimile, yourself.  Toothpaste, ketchup, alternatives for toilet paper...there are rumblings that while the government is saying 'don't worry our supply chain is strong', basic manufacturing may hit some stumbling blocks whether because raw materials are in short supply/unavailable or because manufacturing can't keep up with demand. 

When a doctor buddy said in frustration that he was "fixin to have my wife make some cloth face masks" because their hospitals have literally no more alternatives for acquiring actual N 95 masks...well, my first thought was 'can people do that?' (yes they can although if you start seeing cloth masks in a hospital situation you know we are well and truly screwed) and my second thought was 'how'?   I may be whipping out the sewing machine this week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Our State is Officially on Lockdown

The governor of Nevada just officially put the state on de facto lockdown.  All non-essential businesses were ordered closed including all casinos in the state which will basically make Las Vegas a ghost town.  Even though I have personally planned for such an event, and actually worked on pandemic planning a couple decades ago, the reality is still quite surreal.  Here's what's happening in my neck of the woods...

  • We had already prepped several months of food so the couple times I went to grocery stores last week were mainly to survey the damage.  I'm glad we didn't need water or toilet paper or the myriad other supplies that were flying off the shelves.  One of my store visits coincided with a fist fight over the last package of toilet paper...people definitely seemed unprepared and were barely keeping it together and this was BEFORE things escalated to where they are today.
  • We have been self-quarantined at home for the past four days just to avoid the aforementioned crowds.  For me, another month or so at home is no problem, I've got yard work and shop work to keep myself busy.  The spouse on the other hand is already missing a laundry list of social activities so I predict cabin fever setting in soon.  Yikes.
  • All of the vehicles have full gas tanks.  On the one hand, we don't plan to go anywhere over the next several weeks, on the other hand, we need to be prepared for all possibilities.
  • We are checking up on elderly relatives via phone calls, texts, and social media.  So far all is well but I've offered to order grocery deliveries for them if needed.
  • The list of people I am concerned about is fairly long: EMS and medical personnel (they are very much lacking PPEs no matter what the government is saying; poor people in our city (there are a lot of people who were barely getting by on a good day, surviving this situation may be beyond their capabilities and the last thing the government--or anyone--needs is hungry people protesting in the streets); people who had good, stable jobs in Las Vegas just last week and were summarily laid off with less than 48 hours notice (many Americans live paycheck to paycheck so the possibility that these formerly well-employed people will be among the starving hoards sooner rather than later is a real possibility); the ill and the elderly (unfortunately this is the highest risk group and our peer group so I'm hoping our friends and relatives manage to keep themselves safe and healthy).
  • The future, the part that comes after the pandemic, is still anyone's guess.  I am thinking it won't be a quick and clean rebound like many are predicting.  The economy of my city, and my state for that matter, has been gutted.  It will be a slow and painful slog to make Las Vegas back into the city it was.  How my investment portfolio bounces back is again, anyone's guess.  Based on past history a rebound is the general default but then again, the world has never seen anything like what is happening now.  We shall see how things go...

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Take Notes

Now that we are knee-deep in the coronavirus pandemic, it is a good time to start taking notes.  This is perhaps the biggest preparedness test in my memory (there were gas shortages in the 70s, the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s that affected some but not all areas, the fallout shelter panic in the 1960s but none of these seem to have been as wide-spread or panic-inducing as the current pandemic) so this will be an excellent learning opportunity for all of us. 

Take this opportunity to make notes about things that worked well with your preps, things that you hadn't considered, things that you need to be better prepared for, and your utter failures which weren't known until TSHTF.  Here are some initial observations, courtesy of the news and social media, about ways people in my community were unprepared:

  • People were laid off from their jobs this week, with only a few day's notice, and are wondering how they will pay this month's bills (a six to twelve month emergency fund that will cover all of your bills and living expenses for several months should be at the top of everyone's to do list).
  • People were searching all of the stores in the city for toilet paper because they literally didn't have a single roll left in their homes (consider a bidet as well as always having 50 or more rolls stockpiled).
  • People didn't expect they wouldn't be able to acquire N95 masks, especially people in construction, manufacturing, and healthcare as they have always been available before (even if your employer always provides your PPEs, consider stockpiling your own supply at home).
  • People have never considered spending 24/7 in their home for a month or longer, especially in a city where everyone is always out and about (practice staying home for an entire weekend just for the experience and stock your home with enough entertainment option to help you pass the time).
  • People didn't consider that their kid's schools may shut down for weeks or months yet they, who are essential personnel at hospitals, utilities, etc. need to be at work (have a triple-redundant back-up child care plan if you have kids).
  • People never considered that entire industries could shrivel up and (nearly) die in less than a week's time as what's happening with the travel industry, cruise industry, etc (have multiple sources of income spread among various different industries).
  • People are used to being able to buy what they need, when they need it, and often have it delivered right to their doorstep within 24 hours of ordering (consider stockpiling needed supplies as well as taking every item you need like diapers and looking at alternatives such as stocking cloth diapers even if you never usually use them).
These are just a few examples.  By the end of this outbreak, I will probably have an entire notebook full of notes on how I can improve my preparedness for the next SHTF situation.