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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Check out: The Ready Store

I've just added a link to The Ready Store.
You'll find it over on the left, if you're viewing through our main site at: http://dailysurvival.info/

 I highly recommend checking them out. If they don't have it, you probably don't need it. Great prices, too!

10 Things You Need to Survive a Disaster

Disasters come in many shapes and sizes. Just this past week I have helped people deal with a death in the family, a completely unexpected divorce, a kid in the trauma center, and the loss of a job. Aside from the big disasters such as earthquakes, winter storms, or floods that make the evening news, the aforementioned things are some of the most common disasters that the average person will face in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, the people who come to me for help are usually missing one (or many) of the following things, much to their detriment. Here's what you need to survive a disaster:
  1. An emergency fund. The bigger the better. No matter what type of disaster you are facing, having money can often smooth the way for you whether you need to get a hotel room for a few days, hire a pit bull of a lawyer, pay a doctor bill, or just fill up the gas tank and drive away from a bad situation.
  2. Be debt free. When you are constrained by debt, it is like you are being suffocated and locked up in a strait jacket all at the same time. Your options are severely limited (like you can't pick up and move away from an abusive situation) because you are worried about paying your bills. You can't take six months off work to sit with your child in the trauma center because...yep, you need to pay your bills. How much more free and easy would your life be if you had absolutely ZERO debt? How much better would you be able to react to a quickly changing situation if you had ZERO debt?
  3. A variety of options for making money. Right next to having money in savings and having no debt, is having ways to make more money that don't require your presence at a particular desk each weekday morning at 8am. When your life is in turmoil, schedules usually go out the window. You may need to move, you may need to pull the blankets over your head and not get out of bed for a week, you may need to focus on things like picking out caskets...all of these things are in direct opposition to keeping up appearances at work. If you have a range of ways to make money, particularly a few that are fairly automated and can keep a steady stream of income coming in, no matter how small, you will be in a much more flexible position to deal with the occasional disaster.
  4. A fairly comprehensive "BOB". Sometimes you gotta get out of dodge. You may be hiding out from a psycho ex in an unnamed hotel, you may be racing to follow the ambulance to the hospital for an undetermined length of stay, you may be tossed out of your home by the sheriff. In all cases, it is quite possible to survive for an extended period with just the stuff you can carry in a backpack. The problem is that people often don't have a BOB they can grab in a minute's time complete with the items they would need to set up a home away from home. Put one of these together now.
  5. Knowledge. Obviously you can't be well versed in everything from traumatic brain injury to the vagaries of spousal support or probate, but no matter what disastrous situation you find yourself in, you need to be able to get the knowledge that you need, ASAP, in order to make some good decisions on your own behalf. Practice now, when you aren't facing a life threatening situation, to gather the knowledge you need to fix various small problems in your life. What resources can you access immediately (Google? Ask Metafilter?), what resources are available in your community (the legal aid clinic? the local librarian?), what people do you know (your congressman? a friend of a friend who is an attorney?). It is not important whether you have the knowledge now, but it is most important that you know how to gather the knowledge that you need, when you need it.
  6. People to help you out. In a crisis, you may need to depend on yourself immediately, but eventually you will need to depend on other people as well. Who are these people? Do you have people you can count on for a place to hide out, a car to borrow, a ride to the airport, a cash loan no questions asked...?
  7. A range of skills. Obviously if you aren't a surgeon, no one would expect you have have surgical expertise no matter how useful such skills may be during a crisis, however, having a wide range of general skills can be of the utmost usefulness during a crisis. Can you do basic car repair? If you can't change a tire in the dark, along side a road, on whatever car you happen to be driving, you probably should learn this skill. If you have absolutely no job skills and are relying on someone else for everything in your life from your home to your food to your weekly manicure, you need to develop some job skills NOW. Can you shelter your family outside, in the winter, in the snow? Earthquakes can happen at the most inopportune time and most often after such a large disaster, you will be on your own for a while until shelters can be set up (if the disaster isn't very wide spread. If it is you may be SOL and really on your own). Basic camping skills--setting up a camp, cooking over a fire, purifying water--are basic skills that anyone can learn with a little practice.
  8. An attitude of perseverance. A good attitude is nice to have but in really crappy situations, no one will expect you to be happy or even pleasant. You do need, however, an attitude of perseverance that will help you weather any disaster. You are entitled to a mini meltdown at the beginning but after that you need to be able to pull yourself together and get things done no matter how horrible the situation (you will be entitled to a larger meltdown after everything is done and you can take a breath).
  9. A "plan b". Sometimes you cannot change a situation or make things go back to the way they have always been. You cannot make a spouse stay married to you if they refuse to do so. You cannot bring back someone who has died. You cannot "undo" a flood that ruined your home or a tsunami that carried away your village. In these cases you need a "plan b". People don't like to think about the worst happening because it is rather unpleasant to think about bad things that could happen to you, but every once in a while let your mind wander to the "what ifs". What if your spouse packed up and left tomorrow? What if you went to work tomorrow and the doors were padlocked and you had no more job? What if your house burned down next week? Like I said, unpleasant thoughts, but by running through some scenarios of bad things that could happen, you will give your mind a bit of exercise creating "plan b" scenarios.
  10. Faith. Some people are Catholic while others are atheist. One things that I have seen carry people through the worst of times is a faith of some sort. Whether they think God has a plan, or all things eventually work out for the better, having some sort of faith in something other than yourself seems to make the worst a bit more palatable.

Survival Kitchen–Five Simple Tips to Outsmart Your Supermarket

            It goes without saying that everybody’s trying to save money these days. But supermarkets are designed to appeal to our human wants, not necessarily our needs. When you go grocery shopping and want to stock up on a few extra things to put by, you don’t want to get ripped off.

Here are five tips to help you save money when you go grocery shopping. This is about as basic as it gets.

*          Make a list and stick to it. If there’s something you see and think you should have that’s not on your list, check out the label for info on calories and nutrition facts. I’ll bet you decide to keep to your list.

*          Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Those smells from the bakery or deli can be enticing, but don’t give in. Get what you came for and go.

*          Shop the perimeter of the store. That’s where you’ll find fresh produce, lean meats, low fat and fat free dairy items.

*          Shop for what they hope you don’t see. The items the store wants you to buy are at eye level. Sugary cereals for kids are put down at their eye level. If you don’t look up and down hard enough, you could miss generic or less expensive brands.

*          Shop midway into the aisle. That’s where you’ll find staples. All those appealing items are at or near the ends so you’ll see them first. You may have to look harder for what you want, but it’s worth it.

            For more common sense grocery shopping help, click here for the Grocery Shopping On A Budget e-Course from Living On A Dime.

Building a Debris Hut

When I was a child, we used to build our own playhouses and forts and pirate ships out of whatever we could find. Back then, you didn’t have to pay to raid a city dump. You could walk in, rummage around, and haul your finds off to create whatever you wanted – including bicycles, parts to repair the bicycles, and parts to build little bicycle trailers to haul those goodies off in. The skills we learned building those playhouses, forts, and ships are important survival skills because one of the things you need to survive is a warm, dry place to sleep.
Later, when I had children of my own, we had to pay to visit city dumps and there were zoning codes that prevented the children from wantonly building playhouses, forts, and pirate ships. In order for my children to get the skills I naturally learned, I had to artificially teach them in places far from home using only what we could find in nature instead of raided materials.
Things are even more restricted now that grandchildren are coming along – most wilderness areas are off limits or cost to visit, city dumps are regulated and visitors are rarely allowed, and zoning laws are even more restrictive and less child-friendly.
But – you can still manage to learn these important shelter building skills if you’re willing to scatter the materials very soon after building the shelter. Mind you, most of what I talk about here are for urban and suburban areas. Those who live in rural areas or have access to rural areas won’t have to go through the same procedures a city-dweller would.
The lack of access to wilderness areas and city dumps, and the harshness of zoning codes in cities and suburbs makes life – interesting – for those who want to learn how to survive without trekking far, far away or buying or renting more land – usually far away, but not too remote. For city folk, the best times to learn and practice these skills are fall and winter. That’s when trees shed leaves and branches and you can practice building debris huts.
A debris hut is pretty much what it sounds like – building a small shelter from debris, usually tree debris. The first thing you do is erect the frame – find one or two fallen tree branches or pruned tree or shrub limbs that are a couple of feet longer than you are tall and some shorter ones that are a bit longer than the distance from you bottom to the top of your head if you were sitting (I call these “torso tall”). Then find a bunch of shorter ones in varying lengths. The torso tall branches form the opening and the longer ones the spine of your hut. Make an upside down “V” from the torso tall branches and lean a longer spine branch from those to the ground. You’ll get a very elongated empty triangle with the ground forming one side and the spine and opening branches the rising edges. This is the skeleton of your debris hut, the frame that will support the rest.
Now, all along the sides of the spine branch, lay the shorter branches you gathered. This forms your walls. Pile it on thick – you want to fill it in as much as possible. Branches with leaves still on them are good, as are evergreen branches you pruned. You should end with a mound of tree branches that has an opening at one end and space for you to crawl inside feet first, so your head is at the opening end. This kind of shelter may be OK on a dry, still day, now you have to insulate it for warmth.
To do that, you pack the inside of the hut with leaves. You pile more leaves all over the outside of the hut and lay more branches on them to hold them in place . Leave the opening visible and don’t cover it up – that’s how you’ll get into the hut.
Getting into the hut the first time takes a bit of wiggling. Push your feet into the leaves you packed inside. They’ll crush around you as you push your way in. Once you’re all the way in, you shouldn’t feel any breezes at all. If it rains, you shouldn’t feel any wet spots inside. As the leaves pack down on the inside, you can add more. The leaves are your insulation that will keep you warm and block the wind and rain. For added warmth, find a shrubby thickly leaved (evergreen is best) branch to form a “door” once you are inside.
Kids love building and playing in these and once spring arrives, they can be chipped for garden mulch or bundled up and set at the curb for Big Trash Pick Up. Adults (in my experience) enjoy having a cookout with a few of these debris huts circling the (in a fire pit) bonfire. The huts can be built large enough for two. They make a fine party prop that is easily disposed of afterwards.
My kids built an entire neighborhood of these in my backyard – “homes” , “offices” , a “fort”, and a pair of “battleships”. Snow and ice only improved them as playhouses. By spring, most of them were usually mulched up enough to scatter around the yard and garden to feed the soil and the larger branches chipped right down so there was nothing to set curbside.
As you get experienced in building these debris huts, you can see how you can use other found materials in making them. Practice each fall and if you ever need to build yourself an impromptu place to sleep, you can do so with confidence. The same principle apply whether you’re using tree branches or rebar or framing lumber from a ripped apart house. Broken bricks, rocks, sheet rock sections, plywood, or cardboard can be used for the sides, and torn clothing and rags and damaged sofa cushions, leaves and newspapers and more cardboard can be used for the insulation. Wherever you are in the world under whatever circumstances, you can build a temporary shelter.
All this, from the humble little debris hut.

Crazy Cheap Croutons

Okay, for some of you this is going above and beyond in the Betty Homemaker category, but if you are like me and run out of croutons and still want a crunch on your salad, this is an EASY way to save a couple of dollars! Those of you who laughed when they read my post about making homemade breadcrumbs can just skip past this post ;)

Okay, to make homemade croutons, all you need is old/stale bread, butter, and seasonings. I had a package of dry hamburger buns that I kept for this very reason, so they came in handy the other night for dinner. Just cut them up into small cubes, put them on a pan (I put mine on my baking stone), drizzle some melted butter over your bread, season with garlic powder/spread, parsley, oregano, pepper, or whatever seasonings you like, and bake at 350 until they are golden brown. For leftover croutons, just store in a tupperware and they will last for a couple of days. Because you used fresh butter, they will begin to taste stale if you keep them on the shelf too long. I am sure you could keep them in the fridge if you needed to.

Put these delicious and EASY croutons on your favorite salad for the perfect crunch!

72-hour kits

“Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong, these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”-Churchill, Winston
I’ve come to the conclusion that 72-hour kits are a bad idea. There are many reasons for this.
1. It promotes the idea that safety can be easily purchased. “I’ve bought (or made) a kit so now I’m prepared.” Real preparedness requires skills, planning and practice drills.
2. Kits are easily set aside and forgotten. “I’ve have six 72-hour kits somewhere in the basement for my family”
3. They are left behind when needed. “Honey, grab the kids”. Whoever says, “Honey, the grab the 72-hours kits”, as they flee a burning house”
4. You won’t have them when you need them – stranded in your car or at the office.
5. They are typically inadequate. No water, no cash, no toilet paper, no ID/financial records/insurance/etc to aid recovery.
6. Kits don’t get used and the contents (food, batteries) expire.
7. They don’t last 72-hours. “You mean this is all the food I get for 3 days? I could eat this in one sitting!”
8. Your kit needs to last for more than 72-hours. Since Katrina, FEMA and the American Red Cross now recommend a week of supplies.
So what should you do instead?
1. Maintain a well stocked home with a week of canned food that won’t require electricity to cook. Keep a week’s worth of water in storage for the entire family. Use and rotate these supplies.
2. Create useful first aid kits for your home, each car and office.
3. Make copies of important documents and store these outside the home.
4. Hide some cash outside the home for emergencies. Not your life savings but say $100 to tide things over until you have access to a bank again. Suppose you flee your burning house in your underwear – you’ll have no ID or ATM card to acquire cash! And you'll have no car keys.
5. Stock your cars with supplies suitable to the season – lots of water in summer, gloves & blankets in the winter.
6. Have comfort supplies at your office should you have to sleep there. Include a pair of old walking shoes if you evacuate and the roads/trains are shut down.

Bottom Line
Yes my six steps take more work and effort. But they will be more effective than a “kit” in a bag or can that is lost in the back of a closet somewhere.