How to Start Preparing for Hard Times
Copyright © February 24, 2010 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
on a Very Modest Budget:
All Rights Reserved.
The following information was presented during a two-hour talk radio talk show on the Texas Broadcasting Network on February 25, 2010.
On February 11, 2010 we were able to cover the first four topics in the following list on the "Survival Corner," a two-hour talk radio show on the Texas Broadcasting Network. A complete summary of that discussion is included in Part One of this series.
On February 25, 2010 we were able to cover topics 5 through 12 in the following list on the Texas Broadcasting Network and a summary of my comments is included below.
- Where to Start When You Don't Have Much Money.
- Safety Is More Important Than You Think.
- Water: A Simple Solution.
- Food: A Simple Solution.
- Fire and Why It Is So Important.
- Personal Hygiene and Clothing.
- Emergency Backpack or Suitcase.
- Other Really Useful Items.
- Where Will You Live?
- Always Have a Backup Plan.
- Secrecy and Other People.
- Things to Avoid.
Fire and Why It Is So Important
Fire is an absolute necessity for all the following reasons:
- Boiling water for one-minute to make it safe to drink.
- Cooking fish, meat, and some vegetables to make them more palatable and digestible.
- Providing heat for comfort if the temperature drops below a level that is acceptable to you.
- At the present time you can buy a box of 50 matchbooks (20 matches per matchbook or 1000 paper matches per box) for about $1.20 per box. This works out to approximately 8 matches for a penny.
- Or you could follow the advice on some survival forums and try to learn how to start a fire using some primitive method, such as rubbing two sticks together. After one or two hours of hard labor your arms will be aching and you will probably still not have a fire going. And when you think about the fact that you could have purchased 8 matches for a penny then you will begin to wonder why you have invested one hour of your time in this unproductive activity.
- One box of 1,000 matches would yield one fire per day for approximately 3 years.
- If you practice tearing the match in half from its bottom to its top being very careful when you tear through the match head then you could light two fires per match. This is something you could easily practice right now when there is absolutely no pressure on whether or not you succeed, and whether or not you ruin a few paper matches as you learn this simple skill. But if someday you can't buy matches then you could get about 2,000 fires started using your box of 1,000 paper matches, or approximately one fire per day for about 5.5 years. (Note: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being extremely easy to learn and 10 being very difficult to learn, the effort required to learn how to tear one match in half and get two fires started from a single match would be a 1 or a 2, in my opinion.)
- It is also possible to carefully split the half match again by cutting it in half with scissors up through the center of the paper and then through the center of the match head. This is easier to do if you first cut 1/2 way through the match head with a knife before you try cutting through the match head with the scissors. When you are finished each original match would now be in four pieces. This would yield 4,000 fires per box of matches or one fire per day for about 11 years. And your total investment would still only be about $1.20. (Note: On a scale of 1 to 10 this would rate a 2 or a 3, in my opinion. Since the one-quarter piece of match will be extremely thin it will burn very quickly and you must have your tinder material ready so you can immediately ignite it before the tiny piece of match burns out, and before it quickly burns down to your finger tips.)
You should also invest in a few good quality butane lighters and save them for a true emergency.
Purchase at least two different major name brand lighters made by two different companies.
A $1.00 standard size butane lighter will start between 2,000 to 3,000 fires.
During a hard times tragedy event you can get the maximum number of fires started from one butane lighter if you will follow this procedure:
Why Buy Matches and a Butane Lighter?
- Do not try to light a fire in windy conditions. Find a safe place to build your fire where there is no wind blowing.
- Arrange your small fire building sticks above your tinder before you ignite your lighter.
- Select something that will catch fire very quickly such as a small piece of old newspaper or a small piece of one page torn from an old phone book.
- Ignite your butane lighter and quickly put the flame below the small piece of old newspaper to get it burning. The instant the newspaper bursts into flames turn off the butane lighter.
- Immediately put the piece of burning newspaper under your tinder material to start the fire burning.
The reason I recommend matches and a butane lighter is simple. During freezing weather the striking wheel on a butane lighter can freeze and render the lighter useless for starting a fire. In that situation the matches usually work just fine. However, during really damp humid weather it is possible that the matches may get a little damp and be difficult to strike. In that situation the butane lighter works just fine. If you have a different backup method for starting a fire then you will have a much better chance of starting a fire under a variety of adverse weather conditions.
How to Build a Fire:
The secret to successfully building a fire is to select a safe place that is out of the wind and then collect all your fire building materials, including some good tinder. Arrange some very tiny thin dry twigs above your tinder material. When your match or butane lighter is activated you can immediately put the fire to the tinder and start the tinder burning below the very tiny twigs or sticks. Then you should quickly add some slighter bigger sticks to the fire. After they start burning you can add slightly larger sticks. This does not require much practice but you need to be careful or you could smother the fire and it will go out, or you could burn yourself.
How Your Ancestors Started a Fire Without a Match or a Butane Lighter:
Note: In the 1800s families heated their homes with a fireplace and they cooked their meals using the fireplace. When they got up each morning their first chore of the day was to get a fresh fire started in the fireplace if it had gone out during the night. If the fire was completely dead and there were no glowing coals then they would use a match to start a new fire. But matches cost money and many families could not afford them. If the fire was completely out and they did not have a match then one of the children would pick up a "coal bucket" and walk two or three miles to the nearest neighbor's house and borrow some red hot coals from the neighbor's wood burning fire. Then the child would return home and someone would start a fresh fire using the live coals in the coal bucket. It was called a "coal bucket" because it could hold the red hot coals from a wood burning fire. (It could also be used to hold the "black coal" from a coal mine.) These people were not stupid. In fact, they knew more about hard times survival than any "expert" today because the people in the 1800s lived in what people today would call "hard times" from the day they were born until the day they died. They also knew all the "primitive" ways to build a fire such as rubbing two sticks together. But they also knew from personal experience how much work was involved in those primitive fire starting methods. Since they had a lot of chores to do every day that required hard physical labor, it was considered far more practical to walk a few miles to and from a neighbor's house than to invest the effort required to start a fire using a primitive method. Think about this the next time you read about how "easy" it is to start a fire using some primitive method and how "everyone" should learn how to start a fire using some primitive method. There is nothing wrong with learning how to start a fire using some primitive technique but this is the type of skill that should be very, very, very low on your list of skills that you want to learn. There are simply too many really critical skills that you should be learning instead, such as how to grow your own vegetables.
- Use a long stick to move the ashes around inside your fireplace. Look for a glowing coal. Use your stick to move the red hot coal to an area where you can easily get to it.
- Loosely surround the glowing coal with some really good very dry tinder material, such as clothes dryer lint, or shredded newspaper, or extremely dry decayed finely crumbled wood particles.
- Blow on the glowing coal to provide extra oxygen and the tinder material should burst into flames.
- Immediately add some very tiny sticks to your burning tinder material and then gradually build the fire the way you normally would.
Personal Hygiene and Clothing
For a hard times tragedy event you will need soap, toothpaste, dental floss, toilet tissue, and feminine pads.
You should invest in a small but reasonable supply of these items now while they are still relatively affordable and can be easily purchased.
Soap is absolutely necessary for your family's long-term good health for all the following reasons:
Pure "Ivory" brand bar soap may be used as hand soap, body soap, shampoo, dish soap, laundry soap, and even baby soap. Just shave some soap off the bar with a knife or cheese grater and then put those shavings into some boiling water to make liquid soap. If your family has never used pure Ivory bar soap then I suggest you purchase one bar of pure Ivory soap without any extra ingredients and give each member of your family a chance to take a bath with that bar of soap. If no one in your family has any type of adverse reaction to the Ivory soap then you could consider buying some more of it for a future emergency.
- Personal hygiene: Good health is maintained by washing your hands before eating and by taking a bath on a regular basis.
- Laundry: If your clothes get really filthy then they will collect lots of germs and those germs will eventually attack your body and you will get sick. During hard times families with small babies quickly revert back to cloth baby diapers that require a really good cleaning before being reapplied to the baby's bottom.
- Dish washing: If your eating utensils are not clean then it won't be long before you get sick from the microscopic organisms that collect and grow on your dishes.
- Wound care and other medical situations: Even small wounds can get infected and become life threatening if they are not properly cleaned with soap and lots of clean water at the earliest possible opportunity.
- Disease control: Soap is extremely valuable in preventing the spread of diseases because you can wash the bed sheets, clothes, and eating utensils of the sick person, and you can also give the sick person a daily bath or cleaning to help neutralize any germs on the sick person's body.
Although you can brush your teeth with baking soda, baking soda has so many other extremely practical applications that I would suggest that you do not use your baking soda as tooth powder. Instead you should save it for a true baking soda application. Therefore I personally recommend that you purchase and store some of the more affordable generic brand toothpastes. During hard times you should only use a tiny bit of toothpaste on your toothbrush each time you brush your teeth. If you are completely out of toothpaste you can still brush your teeth with your toothbrush and some clean water.
During a long-term hard times tragedy event you will eventually run out of dental floss. It is possible to use very thin fishing line as a substitute for dental floss. You can purchase a 700 yard reel of monofilament fishing line for about $2.50 in the Sporting Goods section of Walmart. One 700 yard reel of fishing line is equal to approximately 12.7 spools of dental floss (55 yards per spool). The monofilament fishing line is sold in 700 yard reels for $2.50 per reel in all of the following sizes: 4 pounds (0.008" diameter), 6 pounds (0.009" diameter), 8 pounds (0.011" diameter), 10 pounds (0.012" diameter), and 12 pounds (0.013" diameter). Since the average space between our teeth varies from person to person you may need to experiment with more than one diameter to determine a size that works best for the individual members of your family. (Note: If you have a few fish hooks then you could tie about 20 feet of fishing line to the end of a long strong stick and you could make your own homemade fishing pole.)
After All Your Toilet Tissue Is All Gone, What Will You Do?
(Note: The following information about an alternative to toilet tissue is being presented for educational purposes only.)
In addition to toilet tissue it would be prudent to also invest in the following items:
When your toilet tissue is all gone and no more tissue is available:
- Latex gloves one size larger than each member of you family would normally wear. Write each family member's name (or initial) on his or her own set of special latex gloves at the wrist area using a black permanent marking pen. Or each family member could have his or her own unique color of latex gloves.
- At least four soft sponges for each member of your family. Each family member should have his or her own special color sponges.
- A plastic spray bottle, such as an empty window cleaner spray bottle that has been thoroughly washed and cleaned. Fill the spray bottle with clean water.
- One small plastic tote container or bucket that is at least 6-inches wide and at least 3-inches deep. Put several ounces of soapy water in this container.
At least once per week boil the sponges in clean water to kill bacteria.
- Put on your own special pair of latex gloves that have your name (or initial) written on the wrist area.
- Spray some clean water from the plastic spray bottle onto one of your special sponges and use the slightly damp sponge to clean your rear end. If necessary, moisten another one of your special sponges and use it to finish cleaning your rear end.
- Immediately dip your dirty sponges into the special bucket that contains a few ounces of soapy water. Clean the sponges while you are still wearing your latex gloves. When your sponges are clean, rinse the soapy water out of your sponges with some clean water, squeeze the clean water out of the sponges, and then put your sponges on the special sponge drying tray that sits on top of the rear tank of the toilet stool. Pour the dirty soapy water from the sponge cleaning bucket into the toilet stool. Rinse out the sponge cleaning bucket with a little clean water and pour that water into the toilet stool. Then flush the toilet stool. Be considerate. Put some clean soapy water into the sponge cleaning bucket for the next person.
- Wash your gloves while you are still wearing them the same way you would normally wash your hands with soap and water. You should have one bar of soap that is only used for this one purpose and that bar of soap should always be returned to its own special soap dish.
- Remove your gloves and hang them on the glove drying rack beside the toilet stool. The glove drying rack could be an 18-inch long plastic towel bar that you install on the wall beside your toilet stool. (Do not use a wood towel bar because wood will absorb stuff that plastic will not absorb.)
If you don't have any sponges then you could use old scraps of cloth instead. Wash the cloths between uses the same way you would wash a dirty cloth baby diaper.
If you don't have sponges or cloth then you could simply use lots and lots of water and your latex gloves. Wash your latex gloves carefully after each use.
Buy several extra pair of socks for each member of your family. Your socks will wear out and need to be replaced while the rest of your clothes are still okay. You should also learn the proper method of repairing socks which is called "darning."
Thread and Needles with Big Eyes:
Buy some large 3,000 yard spools of sewing thread in a variety of colors for approximately $1.94 each in the sewing section of your local Walmart store (illustrated in picture on right). Also buy some hand sewing needles with big eyes. A hand sewing needle has the point at one end of the needle and the thread hole or "eye" at the opposite end of the needle. Then start repairing your family's clothes by hand. If you do not already know how to do this then I recommend the following book on this topic: Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, 2002 Edition, cost about $23. (Note: You do not need a sewing machine. You can repair clothes by hand using a needle and some thread.)
Emergency Backpack or a Suitcase on Wheels
If you were told that you had five-minutes to evacuate your current home or you and your family would perish, what would you do?
If you already had an emergency backpack or suitcase packed for each member of your family then you could spend those five minutes collecting any food, medicine, and clothing that you should take with you, along with any jewelry or other valuables, and your family photograph album, and your fireproof metal box that already contains the original copies of all your birth certificates, marriage licenses, diplomas, school transcripts, business certifications or licenses, deeds, wills, and other important documents.
If you had taken the time to think about this ahead of time then you should have already made a list of the items you absolutely wish to take with you along with where those items are usually stored. This list will help you to quickly collect everything you really need without overlooking something critical due to the pressure of the current evacuation situation.
The emergency backpack or suitcase is usually referred to as a bug-out-bag of "BOB" for short.
Some people recommend packing a "BOB" for a 72-hour or 3-day emergency. I do not agree with this advice. My personal opinion is that your "BOB" should give you the option to survive for at least six-months if you are forced to evacuate your home. Obviously you could not store a six-month food supply in one backpack but you could store enough of everything else to last each member of your family for at least six-months. If an unexpected hard times event forces you to quickly abandon your home, then after you put everyone's emergency "BOB" into your escape vehicle then you could put as much food as possible into your vehicle, and then you could abandon your home.
The items you store inside your "BOB" should be high-quality new items instead of old items that are not in very good condition. The reason is simple. If a hard times tragedy event occurs and you are forced to use the stuff in your "BOB" then those items may be all that you have for many, many years into the future. Wouldn't it be nice to have high-quality new equipment and clothes instead of things that are almost ready to fall apart?
The average family will need a separate "BOB" for each member of the family plus a special family "master" backpack that contains items that will be shared by everyone in the family.
Some minimum suggestions for a "BOB" are as follows:
An adult male backpack should not exceed approximately 30 pounds.
- A master backpack for the entire family should contain the following:
- A really big detailed map of your state that shows all the major roads and all the secondary roads.
- Separate individual maps of all the states that adjoin your state.
- Good maps of each of the National Forests in your state and the nearby states that show all highways, dirt roads, hiking trails, camp sites, and rivers.
- A "Coghlan's Six Function Whistle Compass" with a thermometer, a whistle, a mirror, a magnifying glass, and an LED flashlight (cost about $10 at most Army/Navy Surplus Stores).
- A portable Katadyn Pocket Water Filter (cost about $230).
- A magnesium fire starter (contains magnesium and "fire steel") (cost about $8).
- A stainless steel camping mess kit with cook pots and enough stainless steel plates and tableware for each member of your family (cost about $25).
- Pair of large loose-fitting leather gloves with long wrists (wear them when you need to cook over a wood burning fire) (cost about $5).
- Dish towel and a dish cloth and a reusable pot scrubber pad.
- A variety of vegetable seed packets, such as sugar beets, carrots, radishes, corn, spinach, and tomatoes. Each spring replace last year's seed packets with fresh seed packets (long-term food) (total cost between $1 to $6).
- Twelve professional quality wild game snares (short-term and long-term food) (total cost about $15).
- At least one monofilament gill net for fishing (short-term and long-term food) (cost about $40).
- At least one big spool of monofilament fishing line (short-term and long-term food) (cost about $3).
- Approximately 100 fish hooks in a variety of different sizes (short-term and long-term food) (cost about $3).
- Merck Manual of Medical Information, 2nd Home Edition, 2004, paperback, not the most recent edition (cost about $14).
- A reasonable first aid kit and some anti-itch cream and some triple antibiotic ointment.
- A box of 100 additional one-inch wide bandages(you can cut a big bandage down into a smaller one if necessary) (cost about $3).
- One-ounce bottle of cheap clear fingernail polish to put on chigger bites to stop the itch (cost about $1).
- A small sewing repair kit with thread, needles, a needle threader, a thimble, and a few extra buttons (cost about $2).
- Stainless steel barber scissors, fingernail clippers, toenail clippers, nail file (buy good quality items - total cost about $15).
- A Leatherman Wave Multitool (cost about $70).
- A stainless steel hatchet with a leather sheath (cost between $9 to $45).
- A folding "Sierra Saw" for sawing wood at a campsite (cost about $9).
- A folding shovel (cost about $12).
- A tarp (emergency shelter and rainwater collection) (cost between $10 to $20).
- One roll of duck tape (cost about $3).
- 12 or more heavy-duty one-gallon zipper freezer bags for the temporary storage of rainwater at your camp site.
- 12 or more heavy-duty one-gallon zipper freezer bags for the temporary storage of food at your camp site, such as dried meat jerky, or fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, or dried fruit and dried vegetables.
- At least 200 feet of strong thin nylon or polypropylene twine (minimum breaking strength of at least 100 pounds) (cost about $3).
- 115 feet of 22 gauge floral wire (this item will be discussed in more detail later) (cost about $3).
- A portable world-band radio that can operate on normal AA batteries (cost about $100).
- A solar battery charger that will recharge the four basic standard sizes of rechargeable flashlight batteries: AAA, AA, C, and D (cost about $25).
- Twelve rechargeable AA batteries manufactured by at least two different companies, such as Duracell, Energizer, or Rayovac. Separate them and store them two per small package to prevent the loss of the entire set of batteries if one of them starts to leak (cost about $10).
- SAS Survival Guide by John "Lofty" Wiseman, or the Boy Scouts Handbook, First Edition, 1911, Dover printing (cost between $8 to $10).
- A flash drive with digital copies of all the important legal documents for your entire family, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, deeds, titles, retirement account records, diplomas, school records and transcripts, immunization records, medical insurance cards, insurance policies, family photographs, and anything else your family would like to preserve and take with you in digital form. A digital copy can be of great assistance in helping you to get a replacement original copy if you are not able to take the originals with you.
- Each member of your family should have his or her own personal backpack that contains the following:
- Personal hygiene items such as: large bar of soap, toothbrush, big tube of toothpaste, dental floss, hand mirror, hair comb or brush, a few bandages, and a razor if the person shaves. A female backpack should also contain feminine pads.
- If appropriate, an extra spare pair of prescription eyeglasses or reading glasses.
- 20 paper towels (emergency toilet tissue).
- One pair of latex gloves one size larger than the person would normally wear.
- Four soft sponges.
- Your normal daily prescription medicines plus whatever pain relief tablets you prefer.
- Food that does not need to be cooked but has a long shelf life (some 2400 or 3600 Mainstay lifeboat food ration bars, plus some miniature tootsie rolls or caramels that are vacuum sealed, plus some multivitamins that are vacuum sealed).
- Water container such as a clean empty Gatorade bottle in an outside pocket of the backpack (fill the empty bottle with fresh water just before leaving).
- 6 clean heavy-duty one-gallon zipper freezer bags for the temporary storage of rainwater (or food) at your camp site.
- Good quality rain poncho with attached hood (may also be used as the roof of an emergency shelter, or for rainwater collection, or as a wind breaker during bad weather).
- Hand towel and a wash cloth.
- Thin lightweight blanket.
- Clothing (t-shirt, shirt, pants, lightweight jacket).
- Four pair of socks.
- Two pair of underwear.
- Ski mask.
- One pair of soft warm gloves.
- An adult and a teenager should also have a pair of good flexible leather work gloves.
- Safety eye glasses.
- Fixed blade hunting knife (without a gut hook) and a belt sheath.
- Folding blade pocket knife with no more than four blades (not a Swiss Army Knife).
- Sixteen books of paper matches, 20 matches per matchbook (total of 320 paper matches that are vacuum sealed).
- Butane lighter.
- High quality LED flashlight that operates on 2 AA batteries, such as the "MiniMag Lite" that works on high power (100%) and low power (25%) and can be used as a "candle" by twisting off the top of the flashlight (cost about $22). An LED flashlight consumes significantly less battery power than a traditional flashlight and the LED bulb never needs to be replaced (100,000 hours).
- Two Energizer "Ultimate Lithium" AA batteries stored outside the flashlight.
- A paperback novel that the person has not yet read but would find entertaining, or a comic book, or a coloring book and some crayons or colored pencils.
- A deck of 52 playing cards, or a deck of "Uno" cards, or five Yacht six-sided dice, or some other small travel game that could keep an adult or a child entertained. A game that can be played by two or more people or by one person as a solitaire game is recommended.
- A small pad of ruled paper (50 sheets, 5" x 7"), a wood pencil, and a small pencil sharpener.
- Photocopies of important documents, such as a birth certificate, immunization records, school records, driver's license, medical insurance cards, daily medicine prescriptions, etc. (not digital copies).
An adult female backpack should not exceed approximately 25 pounds.
Teenager and children backpacks should not weigh more than the individual can carry comfortably.
One of the common mistakes that people make is to load a backpack and then see if they can lift it. If they can lift it they think it is okay. They are wrong. The weight of the backpack should be something you could carry for many miles and not just across the room. In the 1800s when people traveled in covered wagons on their way west they would frequently start with a wagon loaded to its capacity and which could be pulled by their team of mules or oxen. But their team would quickly become exhausted and they would have to stop and rest and they would continue to fall further and further behind the rest of the wagon train. Then they would start throwing stuff out of their wagon beside the trail so they could catch up with the rest of the wagon train. Before they began their trip these people had been advised to lighten their wagon load but they were hard-headed and they would not listen to good advice. A smart person is able to learn from the mistakes of others without having to repeat those same mistakes himself.
If possible you should also have at least one heavy-duty folding luggage carrier with large wheels. The luggage carrier could be used to carry several backpacks or suitcases at one time by one strong healthy person. In an emergency a small child could sit on top of a backpack on the luggage carrier and be pulled along behind an adult. If you have two small children then you should consider purchasing two heavy-duty folding luggage carriers. Carrying a small child in your arms will quickly exhaust you.
If you have a growing child then you should consider purchasing clothes one size larger than your child currently wears and putting those clothes into your child's BOB. For example, if your child currently wears a size 6 then buy some size 7 clothes and put those clothes in the child's BOB. After your child grows a little bit and can wear a size 7 then remove those clothes from the backpack and give them to your child and immediately replace them with the next larger size, such as a size 8. This way the clothes in your child's backpack will always be new. And your child can gradually grow into that clothes size if a hard times event occurs. And if a hard times event doesn't occur then you will not have wasted any money because your child will always be wearing the clothes you purchased last year at last year's more affordable prices.
You can avoid mold and mildew problems by vacuum sealing each item before putting it into your backpack. For example, you could vacuum seal the soap, the paper towels, the clothes, the hand towels, the blankets, the feminine pads, the knives, the medicines (if appropriate), the candy, and the matches. Vacuum sealing will remove all the air trapped between the clothes, the towels, and the blankets and this will reduce their size to approximately one-half their original folded size and this will provide more storage space inside each of the backpacks.
Store the butane lighter inside two heavy-duty zipper freezer bags (one-pint size) but do not vacuum seal the butane lighter.
(Note: You should also not vacuum seal ammunition inside a vacuum bag. The vacuum may gradually and slowly begin to pull the primer and/or the bullet out of their brass shell casing and if that happens then you will have a dangerous round of ammunition that may not fit into your firearm, or it may result in an disastrous accident when you try to shoot it.)
One very common problem with an emergency backpack is when a member of your family needs something and decides to "temporarily" borrow that item from his or her backpack. Later when a real emergency occurs you discover to your horror that everyone's backpack has been vandalized by the members of your own family.
Other Really Useful Items
22 Gauge Floral Wire:
During a hard times event a number of simple repairs can be made if you just have some thin wire, and a number of simple things can be constructed if you have some thin wire. You can find the 115 feet package of 22 gauge floral wire for sale for about $3.00 in the artificial flower section of stores such as Walmart. They normally have two colors in stock: green and silver. It would probably be a good idea to purchase both colors of wire for a variety of emergency uses. (Note: They also sell the 26 gauge floral wire but the 26 gauge wire is too thin for almost everything except floral arrangements.)
Plastic Storage Containers with Snap-On Lids:
Invest in high quality containers with good tight-fitting lids in a variety of sizes.
Some of the things in your backpack could be stored inside these containers, such as your personal hygiene items (comb, bandages, folding compact mirror, etc.).
You could also put some of your clothes and other things inside one of these containers. The reason for putting your clothes in the container would not be to keep your clothes safe. Instead the reason would be to get the storage container inside your backpack so that it is not taking up extra space just by itself. Later, during a hard times tragedy event you will probably find a multitude of practical uses for your plastic storage containers.
Heavy-Duty Zipper Freezer Bags:
Invest in the more expensive heavy-duty zipper freezer bags. Although these bags are not completely air-tight or water-tight they are much better than the cheaper bags and they can be reused several times before they gradually wear out.
Store some of the things in your backpack inside these zipper bags, such as the toothpaste.
Some items may require a two-gallon size bag which cost about $3.50 for a box of ten zipper bags.
Where Will You Live?
In my opinion the safest place for most families to live would probably be the home or apartment where they currently live. However, depending on the type of hard times event, it might be better if you abandoned your home. This is the type of decision that would need to be made based on a variety of different variables that you would not know until the decision actually needed to be made.
For example, if a forest fire was headed in your direction then a decision to stay where you are could prove to be fatal.
Therefore it would be good idea to have at least one or two backup locations that you could retreat to in the event that it becomes necessary.
For most families the most obvious choice would be the home or apartment of another close family member, such as your parents, or a brother, or a sister, or maybe even the home of one of your children.
However, in addition to this obvious first choice, you should also have considered the possibility that your first choice might not exist at the time you really needed it. For example, three days earlier an earthquake could have destroyed the place you had originally planned to retreat to. Therefore you should have a second option to fall back on.
For most families this may mean living inside their vehicle or inside a tent. Let's examine both options:
- Vehicle: Most vehicles are too small to be comfortable for more than two people. Even two people will usually find that the space inside a vehicle is not adequate for a long period of time. However, if you have a mini-van or a regular size van then you may actually be able to live inside it for period of time until you can locate more suitable arrangements. After removing the rear seats, a van will allow you to store a lot of your belongings in plastic tote containers or plastic buckets on the floor of the van. You could then put a full size or queen size mattress on top of those containers. The size of the mattress would depend on the size of the van. This would give you a place to sleep at night if the weather outside was not too cold. (Note: If your containers and buckets are a variety of different sizes then you may need to put a flat sheet of thin plywood on top of the taller containers and then put your mattress on the plywood.)
- Tent: If you have children then a tent is a better option than living inside your vehicle. However, it will only be acceptable for a short period of time, and then only if the weather outside is not too cold. However, it would allow you to lie down at night on an air mattress or a folding cot and get some sleep. The major disadvantage of a tent is that it is not as secure or safe as sleeping inside a vehicle.
Regardless of which of the above two options you select, one of the most important considerations will be your ability to get some sleep at night. Sleep deprivation during a hard times event will gradually reduce your ability to make good decisions. Therefore, whichever option you select you will need to think about the sleeping arrangements very carefully and make sure you have a regular mattress, or a folding cot, or an air mattress for each member of your family, along with the corresponding number of pillows, sheets, blankets, or sleeping bags. (Note: Sleep deprivation is one of the reasons that most government shelters would be unacceptable as a backup alternative during a hard times event.)
If you are absolutely certain that the hard times event will be over in a week or two, then a temporary government shelter might be okay. The major problems will be that they will be over crowded, and there will be people there that you absolutely would never allow your family to associate with during normal times, such as alcoholics, prostitutes, sex offenders, drug addicts, and hardened criminals who just happen to be between visits at the state penitentiary. Therefore, you need to think very carefully before you enter any type of government shelter. If the shelter is a "temporary" shelter inside a local church or public school then it might be a little better than the typical government run shelter.
If you know from the beginning that the hard times event is going to last a very long time then I suggest that you not enter any type of shelter. Once you are inside the shelter you may not be allowed to leave regardless of what you may have been told when you voluntarily walked through the front door. The people you will meet inside the shelter will have nothing to say except to repeat their heart-breaking stories. You will also find yourself among a group of people who have rarely ever worked but who are exceptionally well skilled at knowing how to survive by stealing from others.
If the hard times event is one that will be relatively long in duration, such as several years, then your vehicle or tent or a government shelter will not be acceptable. If you try to live inside a tent or your vehicle then your family will freeze to death during the winter months. During a long-term tragedy event a "cabin cave" would probably be your best long-term solution. To build a "cabin cave" you will need a shovel, a good saw, a hatchet, some 22-gauge wire, and a few tarps. Complete instructions for building a "cabin cave" are on my web site.
Always Have a Backup Plan
By this time you have probably noticed that for almost every topic that has been discussed there have been several different options for you to consider. Having options, or a backup plan, significantly increases the chances of your family's long-term survival.
You and your spouse should take the time to seriously discuss your backup plan and the two of you should agree on what would work best for your family.
If your backup plan involves going to live with some of your very close relatives in the country then you should discuss this possibility with those relatives now. Get their permission that it would be okay with them. Then ask them if it would also be okay if you could please store some basic food items, some clothes, and a firearm and some ammunition at their location. This would demonstrate that you do not intend to become a burden to them but you will do everything within your power to provide for the needs of your own family members if an unexpected hard times event forces you to come live with them.
Note 1: Every member of your family will need to adjust their life style and their habits and everyone will need to 100% comply with any and all of the rules of the head of the household at your backup location regardless of whether or not you agree with those rules. Please explain to each member of your family that you will not be waited on hand and foot and you will not have your every whim instantly gratified. Instead your family will be temporary residents that can be instantly evicted if everyone does not behave in a manner that is acceptable to your relatives. It will just take one rebellious family member to get everyone evicted. Explain to your family that if you are evicted then your next location living under a bridge will be significantly worse than where you currently are.
Note 2: If you are the family member who still has a safe place to live and some of your close relatives ask your permission to come live with you then you need to decide whether or not this will be acceptable to your entire family. If you say "yes" then please make sure that everyone in that other family 100% understands the information in the above paragraph, and that they will be asked to immediately leave if they do not follow all the rules you have established for your household. Your rules are not open for negotiation. In addition everyone who comes to live with you will have assigned chores that they must do every day, such as: sweep the floor, wash the dishes, do the laundry, or work in the garden. And every adult will need to find some type of job even if it only pays minimum wage. Every adult should be given a reasonable period of time to find a full-time or part-time job, such as two or three-weeks. One-third of every person's paycheck, whether it is a big paycheck or a little tiny paycheck, will be given to you as "rent" to help you pay a portion of your normal household expenses, such as your mortgage payment and your utility bills. These "rent payments" will not give the other family part ownership in your home or the right to misuse the utilities or the right to start making their own rules. The "rent payment" will also not include free food. The other two-thirds of each person's paycheck should be used by the other family to purchase food, and gasoline, and other necessities for themselves. If your close relatives do not like these arrangements then they will need to find someplace else to live. I suggest that you think very carefully about who you allow to come live with you because every family, including my own, has some people who are basically lazy and they always have some excuse for why they can't find a job, or why they had to quit the job they just had, or why they can't do the chores assigned to them. If you have one or more of these people living with you, or someone who always gripes and complains, then you will need to evict them from your household the minute you get fed up with their behavior. In my opinion the hard times are probably going to get a lot, lot worse before they gradually start to improve and these types of individuals will significantly reduce the chances for the long-term survival of your spouse and children. In my opinion, if you suspect there is a very small chance that things would not work out in the long run with the another family living with you, then you should not allow them to move in with you to begin with. Instead you should say no when they first ask and then explain why using one or more of the following reasons:
There will be fewer long-term bad feelings if you do not start a dependency relationship than if you start one and then have to stop it. You and your spouse should seriously discuss this now and together you will need to decide if you will say no to another family or to all the other families that ask. If you say no then do not let the other family load you down with guilt and pity for not taking them in. After you say no you will need to bring the conversation to a close as soon as possible to prevent the conversation from going downhill and having things said that should never have been said. It may become necessary to politely say, "I have to go now. Good-bye." and then immediately hang up the phone very gently while the other person is still complaining, or immediately but gently close the door to your home while the other person is still trying to get you to change your mind. If they are at the front door to your home and they keep banging on your door and they refuse to leave then politely and calmly say through the closed door, "You are creating a disturbance. I am calling 911 now. The police will be here in a few minutes to escort you off this property." Then call 911 and explain the situation to them and let the proper authorities handle the situation in the same manner that they have probably handled dozens of similar situations in the past few days. This will be much easier if you have kept the other family standing outside the door to your home instead of inviting them inside to explain their situation to you. Let the other family make their request outside at the door to your home and not inside your living room.
- There is not enough space in your house for the other family, not even for one night.
- You can't afford to feed the other family.
- You can't allow all of your close relatives and friends to live in your home and instead of making an exception for one family and showing favoritism you must treat everyone the same and you must say no to everyone who asks. If you take in one family and then refuse to take in another family then that other family will hate you for the rest of their lives and they will blame every bad thing that happens to them from that day forward on your refusal to take them in.
Rental Storage Building:
Another type of backup plan would be to rent a small storage area in a temperature controlled building in a small rural town that you consider a reasonable place to live and raise your family. The cost of the storage area will usually be somewhere between $35 to $70 per month depending on the size of the storage area. You will probably need an area that is at least 6-feet wide by 8-feet deep by 8-feet tall. You will be allowed to put your own padlock on the storage area door so you would be the only one who would have access to that storage area as long as you keep your rent payments up to date. I suggest that you always keep your rent paid at least three months in advance. You could then store a variety of long shelf life food items, clothing, kitchen utensils, sheets, pillows, air mattresses or cots, and camping gear inside your storage area. This could be your "Plan B" in the event you had to quickly abandon your current location. The following two web pages on my web site will give you some more specific information about this type of "Plan B":
How to Select the Optimal Retreat Location.
How to Effectively Evacuate a Big City Without a Car.
Emergency Canned Foods:
If you are storing canned foods for an emergency and most of your cans are approximately the same size such as 15 ounces, then you should consider mixing your canned foods together on a single cardboard flat. For example, some people have canned corn, pinto beans, mixed vegetables, fruit cocktail, spaghetti with meatballs, and chili with beans, and these cans are stored 24 cans per cardboard flat. However, instead of having 24 cans of exactly the same thing on a single cardboard flat it would be smarter to mix the canned foods together and put some of each type of canned food on each cardboard flat. For example, a cardboard flat that contains 24 cans could hold:
This would be advantageous for all the following reasons:
- 4 cans of corn,
- 4 cans of pinto beans,
- 4 cans of mixed vegetables,
- 4 cans of fruit cocktail,
- 4 cans of spaghetti with meatballs, and
- 4 cans of chili with beans.
Emergency Gasoline for your Primary Vehicle:
- Plan A (Staying Home): If a hard times tragedy event were to occur and you were forced to start consuming your emergency food, then some of each type of food would be in the cardboard flat on top of a stack. You would not have to move everything to get to a food item that was on the bottom of the stack. This would also help you to use your emergency food in a more balanced nutritional manner because you would know that you should consume all the food on one cardboard flat before eating food items off the next cardboard flat.
- Plan B (Living with a Relative): If you were going to transfer some of your canned food to the home of a close relative, or into a storage area at a distant small rural town, then you could move a few cardboard flats of food to that location and you would know that you had a reasonable assortment of foods on each cardboard flat.
- Plan C (Disappearing into the Wilderness): If you were forced to quickly evacuate your current home and you only had a few minutes to load your vehicle, then you could add as many cardboard flats of food as you could and you would know that each cardboard flat contained a reasonable variety of canned foods.
If a hard times event strikes suddenly and unexpectedly then you may need some gasoline to get to your "Plan B" location. However, storing gasoline is dangerous and therefore you should consider the following:
- Always comply with your local fire safety laws.
- Purchase and store either one or two 5-gallon containers of gas. These should be containers that are specifically designed for the safe storage of gasoline.
- Store your gasoline in a safe location and avoid breathing the gas fumes. A reasonable location might be the same place you store your lawn mower. The storage area should have a lock on it to prevent the loss of your lawn mower and your gasoline.
- It is best to purchase your gasoline during the cold winter months because the winter gas formula is better than the warm weather gas formula for long-term gas storage.
- Buy the highest octane available, such as 93 octane. The higher the octane rating the longer the gas will remain effective in storage.
- Treat your gasoline before you put it into storage. In my opinion PRI-G is the best gas treatment available. A 16-ounce container costs about $22 and it will treat 216 gallons of gas. PRI-G may also sometimes be used to rejuvenate old gas that has gone stale.
One internet store that sells PRI-G is: http://www.wisementrading.com/farm/pri.htm
- Each winter put the one-year old gasoline that you have in storage inside your vehicle and use it. Then refill your gas containers with fresh gasoline and immediately treat that fresh gasoline with PRI-G gas treatment following the instructions on the PRI-G container.
- Don't discuss your disaster plans with anyone except your spouse. Don't even discuss your plans with your children because children like to brag about their parents and it won't be long before everyone knows everything about your plans.
- Most people will not prepare but they will remember that you talked about it and that you are prepared.
- When their children get hungry they will come knocking on your door.
- They will politely ask you to share everything you have with them. If you don't share what do you think they will do next?
- If you do share then they will keep coming back every day for another handout.
- They will also tell anyone who asks them exactly where they got their free supplies. If they don't tell where they got their supplies what do you think would happen to them? Will they put your family's safety above the safety of their own family?
- How many different families can you feed and how long can you feed them?
- After you run out of supplies trying to feed dozens of families, what will happen to your family?
People generally fall into one of three very broad groups as follows:
Hard times occur when a large percentage of the honest hard-working people lose their jobs and they are unable to find any type of work of any nature. This creates significant problems for a society for three basic reasons:
- A very small but very powerful group of "elite" families who have control over a significant portion of the world's resources.
- People who are "too smart" to work because they know:
- They can get the "entitlement welfare system" to provide for some of their needs, plus
- They can get honest hard working people to provide for some of their needs due to "pity," plus
- They will steal what they want when they see they can get away with it and there is no chance of their being caught or punished.
- Honest people who do all the honest necessary jobs within the society, such as an emergency room physician, an automobile repair mechanic, and a restaurant worker who earns minimum wage. These individuals normally would rather work than beg. Therefore they end up supporting both of the above two groups of people.
During a serious hard times tragedy event other people will quickly become one of the most dangerous problems you will have to deal with.
- There is not enough tax revenue to support the government in its current size. Therefore governments must either increase the tax burden on its citizens who are still working, or downsize its operations.
- The amount of "entitlement" benefits cannot be maintained at their former level and therefore the system cannot add all the honest hard-working people who have lost their jobs into the "entitlement welfare programs." Therefore the government must come up with some "creative reasons" why the honest people who are now out of work are not qualified for the same benefits as the people who have never worked.
- The amount of "freewill charity" is drastically reduced because people can just barely support themselves and their extended family members who are now living with them. Freewill charity consists of voluntary donations to organizations such as the United Way and Food Pantries that distribute free food to needy families.
Please don't lie to yourself about what other people are capable of doing when they are faced with a life threatening situation.
You should be emotionally prepared to see the dark side of people you may have known for many years.
People will do whatever they believe is necessary to save themselves and their children from starvation or death.
To survive a serious long-term tragedy event you will need to become part of a small close-knit community, or your family will need to live by yourselves in the middle of a wilderness area for both of the following reasons:
- Some members of our society are evil and they are just waiting for some type of disaster to happen so they can do all the unspeakable things they have been wanting to do for many years but they were afraid to do because they might get caught and punished. When there is a very, very small chance of being caught and punished then these individuals will start doing horrible things because they know they have nothing to fear from honest law-abiding citizens because honest people would never consider harming them in any way. Therefore it will be extremely easy for these evil individuals to gain the trust of honest people through some type of "hard luck story" and then when their guard is down to quickly and easily kill all of them and then take everything they have.
- The overwhelming vast majority of the people in the United States are "spoiled" and they have never had to live for any extended period of time in conditions that people in third world countries would be very happy with but which people here in the United States would find totally unacceptable. This will be a significant problem during the first few months of a serious hard times tragedy event. Most people will not be able to adjust and accept a lower standard of living that only includes clothes to wear, a safe place to sleep at night, one or two decent meals every day, and a lot of spare time to read or relax. Their past life experiences will not allow them to accept this basic level of survival and they will look for some way to improve their daily lives, even if it is only for a very brief period of time. Their refusal to be content with the basic essentials of life will be the primary reason they will not live very long, and it will also be the reason that anyone who is associated with them will also have a very short life expectancy. I suggest that you think about this very carefully and then make your own decision on whether or not you are emotionally prepared to live in a more primitive 1800s lifestyle until you reach a ripe old age.
Things to Avoid
- Avoid becoming a prisoner:
- During a hard times tragedy event don't become a prisoner.
- Don't become a prisoner of the government, or a group of criminals, or another person.
- During a hard times tragedy event the overwhelming vast majority of prisoners don't survive.
- The living conditions within a prisoner-of-war camp are horrible. There is no running water or sewer systems. But every prisoner still needs to relieve himself at least once a day and therefore the ground gradually fills up with human waste. This human waste attracts flies and other disgusting creatures. A variety of diseases rapidly spread throughout the entire prison camp. And there is nothing the prisoners can do about it.
- There are no "real" statistics on prisoner survival because no nation would admit to what really happened to the prisoners under their control.
- But the reality is that there is no spare food or extra medicine to give to prisoners.
- And if the prisoners are kept hungry and weak then it makes it easier to control them and it helps to avoid any type of uprising or revolt or escape attempt.
- Starving prisoners are not able to think as clearly as healthy people. Starving prisoners make more serious mistakes.
- Starving prisoners will gradually die from natural causes, such as dysentery. This makes space for the next group of prisoners.
- Therefore don't become a prisoner during a hard times tragedy event.
- Avoid becoming a refugee:
- A refugee is an individual who has had to abandon his or her home in order to stay alive.
- A refugee only has what he could carry with him. This may be nothing more than the clothes he is wearing but most of the time it also includes a few things he was able to salvage from his home before abandoning it.
- A refugee's only hope for survival is to accept whatever donations and charity he may receive from the government, and from relief organizations, and from the citizens of the surrounding area.
- Refugees are not able to find any type of work and therefore they can't support themselves or provide their own food.
- The living conditions in a refugee camp are horrible. Human waste quickly accumulates on the ground and disease rapidly spreads throughout the refugee area.
- The average life expectancy of the vast majority of the refugees can be measured in weeks. Some die during the first few days but some survive for several months.
- When we watch the aftermath of a disaster event on television we normally only see the impact of relief efforts for the first few weeks in the disaster area. What we don't see on television is what happens when the media gradually shifts its attention away from the disaster area and the voluntary donations to the disaster area are gradually used up and the people are once again forced to provide for themselves. When that happens the average life expectancy of the surviving refugees can be measured in days or weeks.
- Don't become a refugee. Always have a backup plan that includes a reasonable destination to flee to where you have previously stored some basic food, supplies, and equipment before the disaster event occurred.
- If 100% of your emergency supplies are stored at your current residence then you will have created the perfect conditions for you and your family members to become homeless, helpless refugees if an unexpected disaster event destroys your home, or forces you to quickly abandon your home.
- Avoid farm livestock and household pets: The reasons are discussed in detail on my web site.
- Avoid a huge garden and a green house: This is an open invitation to everyone to come and steal from you because you obviously have far more than you need.
- Avoid a specialty skill that is difficult or time consuming to learn: This would be any skill that requires a investment in equipment and many years of training that will far exceed the price of the item you are trying to make yourself.
For example, which of the following activities would be the best use of your time and your money?
- Buy some cotton seeds. Plant those seeds. Take care of your cotton plants while they grow. Water them if they need it. Learn how to pick cotton without destroying your hands. Buy a spinning wheel. Learn how to spin cotton into thread on the spinning wheel. When you are finished you will have some homemade yarn or some homemade thread. It may not be the best quality you have ever seen but you will be proud of it because you will have invested more than one year in learning how to make it yourself.
- Visit the sewing goods department at your local Walmart store and buy one 3,000 yard spool of high quality thread for $1.94 per spool. The 3,000 yard spool of thread will probably be sufficient for all your family's sewing needs for at least twenty-years during a hard times tragedy event.
When you take the time to carefully think about the above and you use simple common sense to compare the two options, isn't the best answer obvious?
That concludes my comments on Part Two of "How to Start Preparing for Hard Times."
I hope that you found something of value in my comments that will prove useful to you in the years ahead.
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