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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Low Cost Preparedness, by J.E.

We, in the U.S.A., live on a knife edge.  Most of us take our life of ease (compared to the rest of the world) for granted, The ones who don’t are preppers and survivalists.  The television and radio give almost instant notification of the latest earthquake, hurricane, fire, or whatever and that makes many of us casual about disaster.  We get used to hearing about it so we ignore it beyond a “Gee that’s too bad!”  After all, disasters only happen to “the other guy.”

Prepping for the individual and the way we go about it is different in almost all cases.  Our geographic location and the natural disasters that follow from that location can be widely different.  Our ‘available/disposable’ income levels vary greatly.  The following is one man'slow cost approach using garage sales, estate sales, bargain hunting and scavenging.

Food
- Much of your supply can be purchased bit by bit.  Bargains, sales, coupons,  Costco, canning, planning and acquisition over a period of time, not overnight, will get you where you need to be and at a reasonable price.  One of the most problematical long term storage items is fats.  Thanks to SurvivalBlog I found the recipe for canning butter.  Great addition.

Done in this fashion, the neighbors will not notice the quantities you bring home.  Along with food items, I also include ‘bandages’ because quite often you can find huge clearances at grocery stores on first aid items.  No shelf life that I am aware of on bandages, gauze, cotton, povidone, and rubber gloves.  I have found clearances ($1.78 for a $17 antihistamine as an example) on OTC drugs with a "use by" date that is years down the road. 
When my office closed, I grabbed the large, full first aid kit as it hit the garbage can.  I have added to it and it is reasonably robust.

Shelter
- Because weather can have such an impact, I have planted a small windbreak at my house, it really needs more, but what is there has already reduced the amount of wind that hits me.  It also increases privacy.

Before I started laying in supplies, the stick built house I am in needed some reinforcing to increase survivability from wind, weather, and earthquake.  It has 2x4 and 2x6 walls toe nailed onto sill plates and 2x12 floor joists.  I purchased metal framing brackets at Lowe’s and screwed them in everywhere I could reach, first in the basement and then in the attic.  When we had the roof done, I asked the foreman to screw the roof sheets to the trusses.  When we replaced the carpets, we screwed the underlayment to the joists.  All this adds strength and durability.
The walls in the basement were reinforced with the metal brackets and then plywood sheets screwed over the face.  The sills were either set in place with concrete screws or with nails from a power hammer.

The window wells were left stock but I fabricated 11/2  inch thick plywood plates (from shipping pallets) that easily slip in place back of the window glass inside the foundation.  They are painted a flat black and are held in place by a crossbar and brackets.  When installed, they are not noticeable from outside.

The hot water tank is attached to the wall with metal plumbers tape and between it and the floor drain is a water sensor alarm.  A side note here:  when we go out of town, the water for the house is shut off.  A cellar full of water can ruin your year. 
Hailstones are a randomly occurring disaster but they are enough of a fact of life that I have picked up a batch of new-in-the package heavy duty 10x20 plastic ripstop tarps at a garage sale for pennies on the dollar.  If needed, I can do a temporary roof patch with them.
 If there is structural damage to the house, there are a couple of canvas wall tents I picked up for next to nothing.  The people had some new high tech tents and the old canvas wall tents weren’t good enough anymore.  They are rather heavy, but they are in perfect condition; no mildew or rips and all the hardware is there.  I have visqueen and indoor/outdoor carpet for floors.

I picked up a nearly new kerosene heater at a garage sale and the kerosene at yet another sale.  Total cost $30.  Extra mantles will come from online selllers. The Coleman stove is nearly new and cost $5 with a $3 repair.  The five gallons of Coleman fuel cost $9 from garage and estate sales.  I have tested it for quality, no problems.  I don’t like the cold and I do like to eat hot food.

Because fire is a real concern, I am cutting back brush close to the house including the plantings of juniper.  In addition, I received six large fire extinguishers for free when the office I worked out of was closed.  They didn’t want the hassle of shipping them with a “HAZMAT” label. 
I went to the recycling center and found a ¼ inch thick circular metal plate that fits over the floor drain and slightly beyond.  With that and a pint of plumber’s putty, I can cap off the drain if it starts to back up on me.  I also have 4- 20 lb weights from a weight set to put on top of the cover.

My basement stays cool in the hot months and warm in the cold months so it is ideal for food storage.  The shelving lines one wall and there is nothing on the bottom shelves that water or sewage can harm.  This is for our day to day food, probably 3-4 months worth.  I am placing bi-fold doors (garage sale for $10) over them so it won’t be obvious to the plumber or other service personnel.  I also have a false wall in another room that has the really long term food stored behind it.  You have to unscrew the panels which are drywall covered with wood paneling.  It even has working electrical outlets in two places.

I don’t like having all my eggs in one basket, after all, this house could burn down. I therefore have a room at a local storage facility.  It is on the north side and has a concrete back wall and floor. It doesn’t get too hot.  My food stuffs are on the floor in the back in plastic and metal cans.  I picked up some patio lounge chairs with the big soft cushions at a garage sale.  The cushions go over the stuff in back as thermal insulation and the frames get stacked on top as camouflage.  I have a complete camp kitchen with a propane stove and sleeping bags in there that were purchased at a garage sale for fifty five dollars.  The sleeping bags are high quality, used once Cabela's and were professionally cleaned by a friend.  They are in mislabeled containers.  The kitchen is a plain wood box.  There are also items in front for camouflage that are just junky-a jumbled mess effect.
A fat tire wagon, also from a garage sale at $20, is left there just in case I need to move stuff.  Rat and mouse poisons on the floor complete the storage.

In case I become a refugee, I have a similar storage unit in my daughter’s house in another city.  It has much more food, and a batch of camping gear.  She thinks I am overly concerned about the state of our world and doesn’t buy into this “prepping nonsense” but she humors me.  I figure that if she and her daughter get to the point where she needs to use the stuff in her storage because the unthinkable has happened, that’s what it’s there for.  It’s also why there is a lot more there than she realizes.  Sometimes you have to try to take care of people that don’t think they need help.

Water
- We have a well, not used for household, but it could be.  The "decorator" hand pump in the front yard planting still works very well.  I have treated it with anticorrosion grease inside the works.  I have extra leathers and several water filters laid by, if they are needed

Bug out
- I have a 1978 Ford 4x4 with foil and plastic wrapped spare electrical parts.  An electric fuel transfer pump was fabricated out of a generic electric gas pump, twelve feet of fuel hose and alligator clips (total cost $25).  I’ve used that twice.  It’s great.  I also have a couple of vans.  Not ideal, but adequate.  The BOBs in them are layered; a heavy duty one stashed out of site in the vehicles and a light duty kit that has its contents change with the seasons. 

The G.O.O.D. bags I have prepared are aluminum reinforced kydex equipment cases, also from the office closing.   Every SurvivalBlog reader’s contents will differ, but here are some points to consider.  A second set of eyes is great when setting these up.  My wife pointed out that I had mislaid the eating utensils-it is hard to eat soup with a knife.  I had small salt and pepper containers to which she added small containers of baking soda, sea salt, and sugar.  In addition to adding flavor, these allow you to make tooth paste, oral hydrating fluid, and many more things.
The small (cheap) sewing kit she tore apart and rebuilt.  It now has a metal thimble, standard needles, a triangular sacking needle, a curved quilting needle, a half dozen small reels of colored thread, a hank of waxed linen for leather, a small roll of nylon filament fishing line, olive drab mil-spec nylon thread, safety pins, and a small roll of duct tape.  We can repair just about anything. 
All contents are in waterproof Ziploc bags.

Perhaps more important, she had suitcase straps added to the kits.  These straps are 2” wide by 6 feet long and made of nylon.  Looped over your shoulder and through the carry handles on the equipment cases allows you to carry these cases a lot further with less effort.  No way can we ruck.
I can hear people wondering why I don’t use back packs.  You have to ask yourself some hard questions when planning.  Not what you would like to do but what you can do.  If you physically can’t carry a pack and there is no way to train up to it, make other plans.  I did, that’s why the equipment cases.

We also made it a point to not concentrate any one item in any one case.  As an example, there is food in all the cases, not just one.  If one of the G.O.O.D. bags gets lost, soaked, or stolen, we won’t be crippled by it.

In my estimation I am not well prepared for all eventualities.  I may never be.  I don’t have all the answers; I know I don’t know all the questions.  You do the best you can with existing resources and keep at it.  You keep reading, planning, and looking around for changing circumstances that may be a danger, a resource, or an opportunity.  I do my prepping in small steps, try to cover the obvious, and make sure it is cost effective.  If I have to pay full price on something, no problem; the savings in one area offsets the expenses in another.

I don’t scour the garage sales, but I have been fortunate in my gleanings.  Sometimes I buy an item needing repair and consider the fix "on the job training".  Sometimes I will sell it and get a better replacement.

Is my house a fort and secure against intruders?  No way.  With the windows and doors it has several weaknesses.  There are some nasty surprises available for us to use if needed.  Guns, bear spray, alarms and security lights to name a few.  This isn’t the Alamo; against a group, it’s bug out time.
I am a voracious reader and have a decent set of emergency related books.  I am increasing my skills in first aid as well as shooting.  Next is a light plant for power outages, square foot gardening for a small but intense food addition, and later, solar panels.  As I find bargains or opportunities, I add to my preparedness. 

I am sharing this information about my setup in the hopes it will give other people some ideas.  Because I am moving, I don’t feel nearly as uncomfortable sharing information as I normally would.  (Much will change very shortly so OPSEC isn’t a problem.)  Prepping doesn’t have to be a horribly expensive.  You do what you can and trust in the Lord and the future.

One note, in closing: Thank you so very much for a wonderfully informative web site.  I have been very impressed by the lack of flames and nastiness from the other people’s writings.  It is very refreshing to find a web site with intelligent and thoughtful posts and no rants.