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Saturday, August 21, 2010

10 Ways to Avoid Trouble

Our fair city has, unfortunately, a fair number of shootings. Some are domestic violence, some are gang-related, and some are officer involved shootings. Many of these events, however, have some common denominators that, should people have chosen to avoid trouble, could have been prevented. Here's some tips for avoiding trouble (and the violence that often accompanies trouble):
  1. Stay far away from gangs, gang members, and gang involvement of any kind. These people seem to have an invisible "shoot me" target on their backs.
  2. Stay away from the drug scene. Yes you can cruise the "drug areas" of town and probably score drugs with little incident but being in these areas ups your chances of being caught up in violence tremendously.
  3. Nip domestic violence in the bud. Letting a domestic violence situation escalate ('awww he seems like such a nice guy most of the time and he apologized for hitting me') is nearly a guarantee that there will be further violence. Dating someone who has their own personal violent stalker ex will cause the same type of problems for you.
  4. Leave the bars before closing time. As it gets later and people get drunker and more belligerent, there is an increased chance for violence.
  5. If you are stopped by the police, comply. Immediately. You can always file a claim against the department later. Escalating violence with police officers is a no-win situation.
  6. Look at yourself in a mirror and see if you could be an attractor of violence. Everything from wearing the wrong colors in known gang areas to the looks you give other people can lead to violence. Confidence but not arrogance is a good rule of thumb.
  7. Stay away from trouble makers. You know who they are. The people who have a rap sheet as long as your arm, the people who always complain about being targeted by the cops, the people who actually like getting in fights...the list of trouble-making characteristics is long; if you note these attributes in the people you hang around with, decide to stay away from them.
  8. Mediate and mitigate problems as soon as they occur. Whether it is an issue with a co-worker or an issue with a neighbor or friend, fixing the problem instead of escalating it because 'you know you are right' is a better option. Would you rather be right or be effective? Life is too short to be weighed down by drama.
  9. Do the right thing. Most people have a pretty good moral compass, they just need to listen to it. Being involved in any kind of shady dealings whether it seems insignificant or not (ie: embezzling just a little bit of money from work, shoplifting a couple of small, inexpensive items, fencing items you think are probably stolen) can be a gateway to larger and more violent stuff.
  10. Remain in control of yourself at all times. Being drunk, being on drugs, being so blinded by anger or revenge that you can't see straight are all situations when you are out of control. Being out of control usually doesn't have a good outcome.
Avoiding trouble is relatively easy if you take a minute to look at where trouble is and decide not to be anywhere near it.

5 Minutes

That's the advanced notice that a small town in Iowa received after a nearby dam failed catastrophically. Read the news story here. Situations like this happen often; floods, hurricanes, chemical spills, fires and similar force people from their homes. This is the bug out that you're most likely to experience - a small scale disaster forces you from your home because it is unsafe to remain.

5 minutes is not a lot of time to grab and go. Heck, 5 minutes is about how long it takes for my family to get into the car for a trip to the grocery store. However, in these "grab and go" situations you pretty much just need to get out of the disaster area, as civilization is still functioning normally outside of the disaster area. You could bug out with minimal gear and be fine - you're not going to be hiking out into the wilderness for an extended backpack trip. Really, your main concern here is getting out in time to avoid problems, staying safe and grabbing important documents and valuables.

Getting Out 
To get out in time, you need to have a functional and fueled vehicle, which is why it's a wise habit to keep your gas tanks at least 1/2 full at all times. 5 minutes does not give you enough time to stop by the Gas N' Gulp, fuel up and grab some hot dogs. If it's a region-wide disaster like Katrina was, you may need to have extra fuel to make the journey to the safe zone. Your vehicle should be in good repair and you should have the spare parts and tools on hand to perform some minor repairs. If you have multiple vehicles and drivers, take 'em - if one of the vehicles has troubles, you can ditch it and continue onward.

Staying Safe
Staying safe while you're traveling to safety is another concern; avoid trouble if at all possible. Know multiple routes in case a road is out, jammed or blocked. People get anxious and frantic in bad situations, so do your best to avoid encounters with others and maintain a low profile. In a 5-minutes out situation, there's not time for the looters, gangs and murders to start their wicked work, but you sure could run into angry and desperate people on the way out. Also, in a situation like this, you may be on your own in a medical emergency; EMS is busy. There's a disaster happening around you that has plenty of potential of killing you and lots of panicked people on the road. A capable first aid kit is a must have.

Preserving your Valuables
Finally, if you can get away from the trouble quickly and stay safe doing so, your final worry will be the loss of your home and valuables. Given 5 minutes, you can't do a lot to fortify the house before leaving it, but, if you have the time, you can shut off the utilities and lock the house down. Hope that it survives and have a good insurance policy in case it doesn't. For your valuables and important documents, know what you plan to grab ahead of time. Discuss it with your family and draw up a checklist. There's no time to dig through a filing cabinet or try to pick out which guns in the safe to bring and which to leave. If you keep cash, silver, gold or other compact valuables at home, store them in a way that you can grab them quickly. Grab the small mementos and irreplaceable family items if you can. But, if you're running out of time, you have to be able to leave your things behind in order to save your life.

What probably won't help you
In this real-life scenario, much of the conventional bug out gear is not going to be of great utility. Unless your plan is to camp through the troubles, most wilderness survival gear is probably dead weight. Civilization is functioning outside of the disaster area; you can roll into a Red Roof Inn or Grandma's house and wait 'till things blow over.

The sad story of this dam breaking reminds us of what bugging out looks like in real life. Plan and prepare accordingly.

Is your vehicle stocked with survival supplies for ... itself?

Flat tire.Image via Wikipedia
Many of us here on WhenSHTF.com have the trunks of our cars stocked with GHB's, or BOB's, or Medical Kits, ect.
But, how many of us stocked our cars with supplies for the car [I]itself?

Does your car have the following stored in it:
*2 cans of oil
*anti-freeze / coolant
*starter fluid
*spark plug
*jumper cables
*spare tire
-jack stand
*tire sealant


Mine didn't, and boy, has it hit me. On the open road this summer, my car's coolant hose sprung a leak. This leak was spraying directly on one of the belts of my engine, making it squeel. Well, my car got very hot because of lack of coolant, but I made it to my destination. I refilled the coolant, but I needed a new hose.
Maybe, we also need spare parts, or the tools to fix the spare parts?

So, fellow Survivalists, how is your car ready, and how can we make ours better prepared?

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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.


New to prepping? Rookie Mistakes to Avoid

Loose lips might sink ships bwImage via Wikipedia
Once people wake up to the idea that the .Gov isn't going to take care of them and that when bad things happen you can't count on running down to Wall-Mart they decide to start prepping.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid. I share these with you not because I'm the prepping guru but because I've made many of these mistakes (or seen others make them). Hopefully you'll find them thought provoking.

1) Get Overwhelmed: When you think about all the things that can go wrong and try to prepare for them it can be daunting. Don't get overwhelmed. Start with the most likely scenarios that can happen in your life and build from there. Don't get overwhelmed and throw your hands up in defeat since you can't prepare for everything tomorrow afternoon.

2) Try to buy everything at once It's easy to read about the supplies other people have and forget that they've accumulated those stocks over years. Don't try to go to the store and in one big shopping trip buy everything you'll ever need. It just flat doesn't work. You end up buying crap you don't need and overlooking things you do. Start small, focus on one area at a time (say medical supplies or building an extra month's supply of food, etc) and build from there.

3) Fail to consider local events It's easy to get fixated on big national events (what if the grid collapses!!!!) and fail to consider local events. Is there a chemical plant upwind from your home? How about a rail line that hauls chemicals from those plants? Are you downstream from a large damn or reservoir? In the midst of a forest prone to fires in the dry season? Lots of storms come through your area? Do you live near a bank that gets robbed a lot? How about a river that floods?

Which leads to the next point...

4) Focus on one type of event It's easy to fixate on a Mad-Max style total catastrophic societal collapse that turns the entire US into Red Dawn II. While that does have a certain romantic appeal you can't think of "SHTF" as one specific monolithic event.

5) Fixate on one type of prep I've said before having a 2,000,000 gallon tank of water doesn't make much sense if you have no first aid supplies. The goal is balance. The corollary to this is to avoid becoming fixated on firearms. They are fun to shoot and discuss but they are but one aspect of a balanced prep plan.

6) Loose Lips Sink Ships When people first turn on to prepping their natural inclination is to want to share their new philosophy/Epiphany with friends and loved ones. "How do I convince a non-prepper" is a common thread topic here. While it's admirable to want to "spread the message" keep in mind that you don't want people knowing what you have. Keep your supplies and efforts to yourself.

7) Buy best quality you can afford This is a tough one but it's a lesson I've had to learn over and over and over again (especially since I'm a card carrying GearWhore). Buy the best you can afford. You can risk getting the one good item out of the 100 crappy ones, or the 1 bad one out of 100 great ones. The choice is yours. A $15 backpack that *might* hold up (or might dump all your gear out at the worst possible time) is no deal compared to the $85 one that will only fail when struck by lightening.

The only caveat to "buy the best you can afford" is that you have to pick your battles. To me a $600 Aimpoint for a rifle is worth it, on the other hand the $5,000 water filtration system isn't. Someone else might think the Aimpoint is dumb. Point is, I've made a calculation that I can live with smaller water filters and use the resources in other ways (and bought the best water filter within the limits of my budget).


These are some of the common rookie mistakes people make when they jump into prepping. Likely many of us here have made some or all of them along the way. Don't worry, none of these are crippling if you've made them. Just be aware of the pitfalls and try to learn from us dummies who fell before you!

Hope this is helpful.