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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Where to find extra funds for preps?


Here is one of those income streams I recently stumbled across. People String is a website/social network along the lines of face book. One major difference is that it pays you to use its services. Currently I am conducting a test of the earning potential of this site but wanted to share it with you all because I like what I see. Some of the key points of People String are:

   1. It's 100% free to join.
   2. They pay you to surf the web and do the things you normally do everyday.
   3. They share 70% of their advertising revenue with members.
   4. By networking with your own sphere of influence, you can maximize your earning potential.

Now, remember I did not say you can retire off of this site. This is not a get rich quick, make a zillion dollars in 40 seconds offer. What this can be, is another small stream that could help you build a worthwhile cash flow. Many of you are bloggers who use Google adsense as a method of raising funds. Consider this to be along the same lines.

If you decide to join there are a few things you can do to expand your earning potential.

   1. Make People String your homepage. You need to sign on at least once every twelve hours to earn the the maximum people points for the day.
   2. Add the websites you visit every day onto your people string homepage and use the homepage as a launching pad for your web activities. You will earn a little sliver for doing what you normally do for free.
   3. They provide links to Face book, Twitter, and most of the free email services. Access these sites through your People String Site to earn more.
   4. Search from Google, play games, read the news- all from the People String homepage; it will all make you money.

Interested? http://www.peoplestring.com/?f=survivorbax

Alternative Shelters

I found this article and thought the idea was pretty good. They are more durable than a FEMA trailer and could be used at a bug out location. What are you thoughts?- Nomad

Shipping Container Homes - The Perfect Building Block For Emergency Disasters

By Dave A Lee

Emergency Shelter Homes
Since the earthquake in January 2010 in Haiti, there have been many requests for international quotes. Companies are now doing an extensive amount of research and product testing on creating emergency shelters using shipping containers as the main building blocks. All over the world, there are natural disasters taking the lives of thousands of people.
When considering building an Emergency shelter home in an area that is prone to hurricanes and earthquakes, there are two factors to consider in regards to the construction and design of the emergency shelter home:
The first is the susceptibility to water damage, generally caused by flooding, and the second is the resistance of the construction materials to wind damage. Because most coastal countries are prone to hurricanes and tropical storms the safety of a steel construction home becomes a high priority.
Water damage - Most damages incurred, during and immediately after a hurricane, are caused by flooding and water incursion through damaged structures. Shipping container homes reduce the chances of water damage in several ways. Most importantly, the steel wall structures are inherently water tight so that rains, driven by hurricane force winds, are unlikely to breach the structure. These ISO shipping containers are both hurricane and earth quake proof, based on their design, and their seaworthiness.
They can withstand 100mph winds unanchored and 145 winds anchored.
These homes can be used in the beginning as emergency shelters and then converted into homes and or offices in the future.
These containers can also be stacked upon each other and replace the poor Haitian construction. Additionally, The emergency shelter Shipping container home must be placed on a secure and elevated foundation.
Emergency shelter homes are generally placed in locations away from areas, which have a history of flooding. However, even in areas not normally susceptible to flooding, significant runoff can occur during heavy rains. So the installation of the homes regarding elevation and land positioning is very important.
Emergency shelter shipping container homes are all placed on foundations that will meet, and generally exceed, the levels of protection needed in the homes foundation. Additionally, the mostly steel construction will not be prone to cracking, or fracturing, as would a concrete structure. This leads to longer life and lower maintenance for your home.
Wind damage - While water damage far surpasses other forms of damage incurred from hurricanes, damages caused by high winds can also be severe. There are generally two sources of wind damage incurred during hurricanes. The first, and most obvious, is from the hurricane itself. In a strong hurricane, the wind speeds can reach upwards of 160 mph. However, the strongest winds associated with hurricanes are generally caused by tornadoes spawned by the hurricane. The winds from a strong tornado can be higher than 250 mph. A high percentage of the wind damage is actually a result of debris being hurled through the air.
Experiments have shown that items, such as small trees or two-by-fours, can actually penetrate the walls of a concrete block home when hurled at the velocities generated by a moderately strong tornado.
The steel wall structure of homes Shipping container is inherently secure against intrusion from such debris during a hurricane or tornado. Please visit:
ContainerHomes.net or
ContainerHouse for a complete guide to help you.

Breaking It Down

In the never-ending quest to reduce, I spent the better part of the morning using this website to calculate where our money is going. I say it that way, because it's useful for me to understand that every time I power up my computer (and leave it idle) or turn on a light (and forget to turn it off) or watch a DVD on the television (and then leave the room while the movie still runs with no one watching it), I'm spending dollars.

It's not just wasting energy (squandering our dwindling resources).

It's also wasting money.

From the calculations, one-third to one-half (depending on the month) of our electricity is spent on operating our computers. The monthly total is 211 kwh, half of which goes to operate the one desk top computer (with LCD monitor) that stays on, roughly, twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week, whether or not (which is more often) it is being used. It costs us $17.92 per month to keep that computer powered up.

The second biggest energy sucker is the oven, which uses 124 kwh for two hours worth of use at 350°. I usually run it at a higher temperature, but not quite for that long.

The refrigerator didn't use as much as I thought (although my calculations may be off) at 40 kwh per month, and the calculator didn't provide any information about operating a deep freeze.

The television doesn't use as much energy as I thought, either, but that's mostly due to the fact that we don't turn it on very often. On a side note: I was surprised to discover that operating our old CRT television doesn't use as much energy as powering one of the newer, sleek, very expensive plasma and LCD models. Makes me happy that I have my crappy attitude toward television, in general, which means I would NEVER have spent that kind of money on something I deem less than worthless ... and as a result of saving money, I saved money ;).

According to the website's calculations, we use 502.8 kWh/month. Our actual usage is a bit higher - between 500 and 600 kWh/month, but there were a few things that I couldn't account for, because the calculator didn't have that option and I just have no idea. Things like the septic pump, my printer, the computer router, and our upright deep freezer. I figure with those things excluded, the my estimates are pretty accurate.

So, what to do ...? Because we can't go off-grid and expect to be able to afford a system that generates 502.8 kilowatt hours per month. I've looked into those systems, and they are definitely too much money. What we will be able to afford will more likely be something in the 400 watt range.

The answer will be to replace inefficient appliances and electronic devices, and to conserve.

The no-cost solution to the oven usage is to: 1) plan better; and 2) use the stove top more often. Planning better means that I would use the oven once or twice a week, instead of whenever the whim strikes me. I would spend a day baking bread, and at the same time, bake other things, like pumpkin or pies.

An electric burner operating for two hours uses, approximaately, 50 kwh, which is less than half of what it costs to operate the oven for the same amount of time. I could run two burners for two hours for less than it costs to run the oven. I could also use woodstove more, although now that it's getting warmer outside, using the stove for cooking doesn't really work as well as it does during the deep winter freeze, because I'm not burning the fire quite as hot.

Using techniques like a haybox cooker and doing things like heating water to boil, adding pasta, and then turning off the heat and covering the food, which will continue to cook, will save energy, as well.

Changing those habits won't cost us a thing, but there are some low-cost solutions to the cooking issue, too, which would pay for themselves in a very short period of time.

The low-cost cooking solution is to build an outdoor kitchen. Not only would it provide me a cheaper way to cook our meals, but it would also give us a fixed place for the annual maple sugaring :). If we built an earth oven I could even reduce our cooking costs even further.

The whole topic of an outdoor cooking space is so incredibly broad. Having an outdoor cooking space would offer so many advantages that indoor cooking does not provide, including the above mentioned sap boiling, meat smoking, and wood-fired bread baking. The only dilemma, for me, at the moment, is where to put it to best utilize our space ... and since I want our outdoor kitchen to have a hand-pump well, too ....

But that's a whole other post ;).

Back to the topic of saving, we could cut another 37 kWh/month if we were to handwash the dishes, although our little half-sized dishwasher probably doesn't use as much electricity as the calculator says.

Replacing our circa 1997 refrigerator with a smaller and/or more efficient fridge would save 30 kWh per month (assuming my calculations for how much energy our fridge uses are correct).

We have night lights in the bathrooms, and if I could train myself and my family to not turn on the bathroom overhead lights if they're just tinkling, we might save a few more pennies per month. We already "let it mellow" if "it's yellow", which saves on the amount of electricity the septic pump uses (less water means less pumping needed :).

We've already picked all of the low-hanging fruit (turning off lights, replacing bulbs with CFLs, using power strips for ghost loads), when it comes to lowering our energy usage.

And we took it up a notch when we installed the woodstove for heating.

It's time now to take it to take it even further and start really changing habits. We have to get our every day electricity usage down to what we can reasonably afford to produce ourselves.

Step one: replace the desk top computers with laptops (and at this point, doing without isn't really an option, as computers are big part of our home schooling, could take the place of our television ... and, oh, yeah, I work from home using a computer *grin*).

Step two: build an outdoor kitchen.

Just those two things will decrease our energy usage by an estimated 235 kWh per month ... and the $38 per month we'll be saving could go toward the purchase of our alternative energy system :).

It might seem silly to spend $500 to save $38, but it's not about the short-term. It's about the long-term, and if we spend the money we have today on things that will help us use less energy and make us more self-sufficient tomorrow, I consider that a good investment.

Identity Survival: The Importance of Emergency Documents

One often overlooked area of preparedness is having copies of important documents which would prove your identity and possessions to the authorities should your originals get destroyed due to disaster.
Katrina is a perfect example. Many families who were otherwise prepared failed to follow this advice and ran into a host of issues.
When the waters receded, some residents tried to return to their homes. The national guard and police, who were guarding against looting, prevented people from entering their homes unless they could provide proper identification and proof of ownership.
There were also difficulties in getting families back together after becoming separated following the disaster. Children were often put in a secure location and would only be released to parents/guardians if they could prove their identities.
Even trying to file insurance claims were frustrating since most did not have their policy numbers available.
Having access to your important documents is absolutely essential if you were required to rebuild your life following a disaster.

What Documents Should You Have Backups Of?

Here’s a list of documents that you should have a copy of for each family member (where applicable):
  • drivers license (front and back)
  • passports
  • insurance cards
  • social security cards
  • credit cards (front and back)
  • proof of ownership or lease of your residence
  • vehicle, boats etc. proof of ownership (copy of title, bill of sale etc)
  • bank account numbers and other financial information
  • legal documents and wills
  • a recent family photo with names
  • phone and address information for in and out-of-state emergency contacts
  • birth, death, marriage, divorce certificates
  • important business documents
  • photos of valuables for documentation of insurance claims
  • medical records (immunization etc.)

Where You Should Store These Backups?

Having more than one backup for these important documents is essential. For example, if you choose to put your emergency docs only in your bug-out bag, it may be that a disaster prevents you from getting to that bag.
Here are some options for you:

In Your Bug-Out Bag

Besides food, water and gear, your bug-out bags (72 hour kits) should also contain these important documents. I prefer to put them in Ziplock brand (they’re more durable) freezer bags. This keeps them completely waterproof and prevents damage.

With Trusted Friends/Family

Another option where you can store your emergency documents is with a trusted friend or relative who lives outside of your area. This provides another failsafe in case your area is completely destroyed. You obviously don’t want these documents to fall in the wrong hands so it’s of primary importance that you can trust that individual and that they take the necessary precautions.

Safe-Deposit Box

For around $15-$20 a year you can store copies of your important documents in a safe deposit box. Again, I would recommend keeping them in a bank outside your immediate area. If your a customer of a national bank this gives you many options.

Keeping Electronic Copies

This is one of my favorite methods. Basically you create digital copies of your important documents and then upload them to a remote server (like Gmail, Google Docs, or Hotmail). By keeping a copy on various remote servers you benefit from the fact that your document is safe from disaster. Many large companies like Google and Microsoft have disaster-recovery servers that if one server location were to be completely destroyed another would take its place without any data loss.
As a graduate of computer science I am well aware of the importance and vulnerabilities of digital security. But transferring digital files across the net and keeping digital copies need not be risky. In my next article, I’ll be sharing with you how you can securely keep copies of these documents on the web. Read it here.

Related posts:

  1. How to Create Secure Digital Copies of Your Emergency Documents
  2. The Importance of Self-Reliance

Review: Ragnar's Urban Survival

Ragnar's Urban Survival:
 A Hard-Times Guide to Staying Alive in the CityI remember reading about ol' Ragnar Benson during my impressionable younger years. I was never quite sneaky or ambitious enough to purchase one of his books, with titles like Ragnar's Guide to the Underground Economy, Mantrapping, Ragnar's Big Book of Homemade Weapons, and the aptly named Breath of the Dragon (a book about flame throwers), but I remember reading about them in mail order magazines and during the early days of dial-up internet. And I remember wanting them, quite badly. So in my slightly older years, I've taken to picking up the occasional Ragnar book, in part out of curiosity, and in part to see what can be learned from his writings.

Recently, I got a chance to read through Ragnar's Urban Survival, in which the prolific writer tackles the often shunned topic of urban survival. Most survival experts claim that survival in an urban environment, post-collapse, is nigh impossible. Ragnar, however, points out that many of the 20th century's wars and battles were fought in cities and urban areas, and that many people survived in those cities, without much in the way of advanced preparation.

Ragnar also notes that cities are important, both strategically and symbolically, and that most guerrilla resistance--while it may have its roots in the country--takes place in the city. We can see evidence of this in Al Queda action in Iraq/Afghanistan. While guerrilla warfare may not appear to be of much importance to the average survivor, it could come into play during a Red Dawn/repel invaders or a civil-war type scenario. Red Dawn-style TEOTWAWKI is not on the top of my list, but it's worth at least thinking through.

So, conceding that there are certain challenges to urban survival, Ragnar lays out his "rule of threes", which is to have three sources for accomplishing any important task. In the rest of the book, he discusses water, energy, food, food preparation, emergency shelter, caching and storage, trading, guns and survival nursing, specifically as they relate to urban survival. Throughout the book, Ragnar cites real-world examples from unnamed city survivors who made it through disasters/urban warfare--not a bad group to draw experience from.

When you read a Ragnar book, you have to take the good with the bad. Ragnar generally takes a fairly balanced approach, but that "balance" often includes considerations for the far-out-there ideas and tangents. For the most part, this book is relatively light on those ideas, although it does linger too long on the idea of surviving in a city during an invasion/war. More time spent focusing on surviving in a city after other SHTF events would have been beneficial. For the most part though, Ragnar offers fairly sound advice.

Is this book earth shaking? No, but it's a good read and one of the few survival books that focuses on the tricky task of urban survival, and as such, it's at least worth a read. At only 189 pages, it is far from comprehensive, but it does provide a decent overview and should at least give preppers a needed refresher or some new ideas on a few areas of their preparations. Also, because it takes an overview approach, Ragnar's Urban Survival may be a good gift to give a novice survivalist.

Check it out:

Ragnar's Urban Survival: A Hard-Times Guide to Staying Alive in the City >

Multiple Retreat Locations

I was reading through some of the archives over on Total Survivalist Libertarian Rantfest late last night, and came across a post on multiple income streams that got me thinking. We all agree that it's wise to have multiple sources of income--full time job, part-time gig, on the side work, at home businesses, investments, etc. There's Ragnar's Rule of Threes and the common preparedness saying "Two is one, one is none." But the typical survivalist focuses on setting up one well-stocked and well-outfitted retreat location, BOL, etc. Is this the wisest approach?

Sure, we all have limited resources. If we were infinitely wealth, we could have a dozen well-stocked retreats, hideaways and bug out locations (BOLs). My thoughts revolve more around whether it's wise to sink all of our resources into getting one location exceedingly well prepared, or whether we should diversify our stores amongst several locations. I'm leaning towards the latter.

Things happen and nothing goes according to plan. Your BOL or retreat may be destroyed or otherwise compromised. That mountain of preps and logistics will do you no good if they're burned up in a fire, lost in a flood, or looted by neighbors. If that "mountain" is all you've got? You're screwed.

Hedging your bets
So, to avoid placing all of our eggs in one basket, what can we do?

Well, in the case of bug out land, you may look to buy two (or more) properties--in different areas--instead of one. Spreading your budget across multiple locations will necessitate some compromises. This will generally mean a smaller plot of land and foregoing a number of creature comforts--a nice house or cabin, grid power, developed land, etc. If you've got $150K to work with, you'd be spreading that $150K over two locations ($75K a piece) or maybe 3 locations ($50K/each). Depending on your area, that may not get you a whole heck of a lot. One alternative would be to buy one nicer piece of land and then a cheaper plot of land as backup. There are plots of "junk land" available quite inexpensively via online auctions.

Multiple locations will also cause increased logistical headaches. It will mean that you will have to spread your stores out amongst multiple locations or that you will need to bring along more gear with you when you bug out. Since you may not have much in the way of permanent buildings on your multiple BOLs, you may need to look into caching and hiding supplies on the land in advance.

Goal for multiple Bug Out Locations
Your goal for each of these locations would be to have a fairly safe and defensible location where you could hunker down and survive for six months to a year--maybe more. If you have a cabin, house or trailer on the property, great. If it's undeveloped land, that's ok. Either way, you'll be looking to build a concealed hide site on the property. One of my favorite SurvivalBlog articles in recent memory discusses just this topic--see A Wilderness Hide Location for Planned Retreat and the cited FM 7-93, Long Range Surveillance sites.

With this approach, don't think self sufficient and well-defended farm. Think digging and camouflaging hiding spots and surveillance sites--trenches, foxholes and LP/OPs. Once you're "dug in," you stay out of sight and observe. It isn't about  long-term comfort and sustainability. This is about hiding in bunkers, keeping good noise, sound and smell discipline. It's about avoiding trouble and staying alive.

A plus? Hides and bunkers require inexpensive materials to construct--mainly, you just need the land to dig on! In a pinch, you could build such a hide site on public land, but private land is preferable. Requiring only undeveloped land, this style of retreat means that you can get multiple locations set up much more cheaply than buying multiple cabins, farms, etc.

These kinds of hides also have good built-in ballistics protection and camouflage--good luck replicating that a trailer or cabin. Some designs offer fallout/radiation protection as well.

If you're prepared, this kind of hide can get you through tough times. You'll need to cache supplies before hand or bring them with you WTSHTF. You'll also need to be mentally ready to lay low and camp out for a long while. But, this style of retreat shelter gives you an affordable and concealed place to ride out TEOTWAWKI. I also think that having a couple of these sites establish in various areas, complete with some adequate cached supplies does a much better job of hedging your survival bets than having one well-stocked farmhouse or cabin.

In Normal Times
It's important to have a use for your BOL in normal times--in this case, it would typically be a vacation/recreational property for camping, bushcrafting, fishing, hunting and the like. This style of BOL is most definitely not a full time retreat--it's a good piece of land, maybe a small permanent structure and your concealed hides, fortifications and supplies. Because the land is only minimally developed, you'll also have a lot less to lure potential thieves or vandals onto your property--I've heard horror stores about people having their weekend cabins ransacked while they were away. With minimally developed land, their is little to lure looters and other malefactors onto your property.

Cheaper Approaches
My family is not currently in the position to purchase one piece of undeveloped land, let alone multiples. I imagine that many of you are in similar circumstances. There are the aforementioned public lands--national forests, parks, etc. If you're forced out of your home with nowhere else to go, you can always head for the proverbial hills--deep into the hills--dig in and hide out.

However, the underlying principal here is to not place all your eggs in one basket. You don't know where you will be when TSHTF and you can't guarantee that you will be able to get home or to your bug out land--and, even if you can get there, they may not be standing when you arrive. You want to keep you options open, and that means having multiple bugout destinations and stashing preps in more than one location.

Those destinations can range from a well-outfitted bunker to your parents' house--but have those destinations planned out and preposition some supplies there. A few rubbermaid totes in the basement, a cache in the backyard, maybe a small storage unit at a nearby place could make the world of difference in a bad situation. Plan on arriving with little more than your EDC gear and the clothes on your back.

When TEOTWAWKI strikes, you don't want to be locked into one plan of action--three escape plans to different areas would be a wise place to start!