Saturday, May 29, 2010

Questions from a Reader...And a Long Answer

I received the following email from a reader recently...

" I wanted to get my house ready for a possible disaster. You never know what
can happen. A bunch of my friends have been talking about the possibility of
something really bad happening in 2010. I wanted your take / advice as I
really enjoy your blog.

1. What should I do with my cash? I have it in the bank and do not
necessarily need to have it there. Should I buy a safe and put in that?

2. Should I buy a shotgun?

3. My wife and family are vegan and was wondering what the best food
solutions should be for our 5 person family?

4. We live by the beach? Should we be concerned about water?

5. What about gasoline? Should I get a generator?

I am 39 years old with little kids and our house is not paid for. We have no
debt and live fairly cheap. Let me know your thoughts as I really trust you
and want to put something together this summer. B.P."

These are common questions when prepping. Below are my answers but the readers are welcome to add their two cents in the comments section below because if I know anything about preparedness, it's that everyone will probably have different answers to the questions above.

#1. With my money, I like diversification. I have cash that I carry with me every day (usually $200-$400), cash in my home safe, cash in four bank accounts (four different banks) linked to debit cards which I use like Visas instead of using actual credit cards, gold, investments in mutual funds, a Roth IRA, a 401k, land, equipment (tools, guns, and other things that hold value fairly well), and businesses. I would never say to buy all gold, all guns, or put all of your money under your mattress because you just never know what will happen. If the stock market implodes, I will be out some of my money but the gold and equipment will see me through. If someone robs me, I may lose the cash I carry but will have other cash and resources to fall back on. It is the same with the diversification of your money--you want a little bit in a lot of places instead of all of it in one place...just in case.
#2. Depends. While I am a fan of gun ownership, I don't think everyone should own guns. I like shotguns for both hunting and home protection. Whether or not you buy a shotgun, or any weapon for that matter, will depend on a number of factors. What does the wife think? How do you both feel about having guns around your children? Do you know how to care for a firearm and most importantly, would you practice regularly? How would you feel about killing someone with a firearm? Firearm ownership is a very real responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly. Should you decide to buy a shotgun or other weapon, I would suggest taking a class or two on firearm use, maintenance, and responsible gun ownership, then trying out as many models at the range as possible so you will be able to find the type of firearm you like before doling out your hard earned cash for it.
#3. Again, diversification is the name of the food preppin game. In my pantry, I have 50 pound bags of rice and 25 pound bags of dried beans and other grains. You will want to look into food items that can give you the protein you need (nuts? peanut butter? soybeans?) and have a good shelf life. Most vegans are heavy into being able to acquire fresh produce regularly which may or may not be possible post SHTF. Can you grow some of your own fruit and vegetables? Forage for edibles (plants, mushrooms)? Make your own bean sprouts? Food is something that I plan for somewhat (about a three to six months stockpile) but don't stress over unnecessarily. If it really came down to it, I believe people will do what they need to do to survive (I'll eat bugs or rats or whatever if absolutely necessary but it is not something I consider on a regular basis).
#4. Everyone should be concerned about water. Near a beach means...saltwater? If so, that would not be a viable source of drinking water. Again, I store some water, maybe enough for a month or so plus have a rain catchment system which I use to water the garden, but I also know where all of the lakes, streams, and rivers are in my area and I have enough bleach stored (plus the ability to boil water if necessary) to strain and treat what I will need.
#5. I store some gasoline and rotate it though our vehicle but I maybe only have 30 gallons stored. I also don't have a generator because #1 based on past experience, we are never without power for more than a day or so, and #2 if you do need to use a generator long term, you will need to be able to fuel it (plus the unsavory types that hear your generator running will know that you have something they need to draw attention to yourself...).

I may be one of the lesser hard core preppers that you know. I make my prepping decisions based on a couple of important rules: is what I have/need/do based on an actual need or a pie-in-the-sky, Rambo-inspired vision? Am I doing the basics before going all out on the very expensive/probably never going to use/could become a liability type-things?

Americans are great at planning and apocalyptical scenarios. However, based on my experience, the people I know who have "survived" a broad range of disasters are often the third world poor who may or may not even have shoes! What they have, however, is a will to survive, as good a health as they can muster, a sharp mind, and a creativity/flexibility that allows them to respond to whatever disaster may strike (everything from a flood to machete-wielding invaders to being driven out of their own countries).

Here's the top ten prep tips I give to just about everyone:
  1. Live below your means.
  2. Be debt free.
  3. Always have a BOB ready (only what you can carry may be all you end up with no matter how much food/gas/supplies you have stored).
  4. Be as healthy as possible (this will impact your survival-ability immensely).
  5. Be flexible. If your car won't start, take the bus or ride your bike to work. Some people, when things don't go their way, just shut down. Quick thinking and flexibility in your attitude are very important in a disaster.
  6. Flex your creative muscle. If you can't afford a (name some item), how would you make due? Could you trade for it? Make it? Use something else for the same purpose?
  7. Stock supplies if you normally use them or they would be extremely important to your survival. Stock bottled water and rotate it with the bottled water you normally use. Have camping gear that you would normally use (if you don't camp, you should do so at least annually as it is good practice for rustic living), stock food supplies that you can rotate into your normal everyday meals, etc.
  8. Get educated. I would rather be a highly trained shooter that can use any gun, than someone who has a stockpile of weapons yet never even practices with them. Take advantage of any and all education opportunities that come your way (community CPR class, a science project with your kid that teaches YOU something valuable) etc.
  9. Invest in your social relationships--the social relationships you work to develop today could prove to be very useful in the future. This includes the time spent strengthening your family relationships (do you do things with your kids or let them hide in their room with their computer every day?), chatting with/doing favors for neighbors who would then be inclined to help you out when needed, etc.
  10. Don't stress about the future. Stress will kill you but disasters, statistically, rarely do. I am all for being reasonably prepared but not at the expense of continually stressing about what might happen, spending the kid's vacation money on MREs, or building a bomb shelter unless there is a clear and present need. Since I was a child, there have always been people who say an apocalypse is just around the corner. Only it hasn't happened yet, decades later. What does happen, though, is continual change which we all need to be prepared for and react accordingly to. You may lose your job tomorrow. You may lose your spouse tomorrow. You may lose your home or your country tomorrow. Would you be able to handle these blows and keep on going? If not, what could you do today so that you would be better able to handle such drastic change? Now do those things.

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