Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SHTF: Winter survival at home

Let's take the modern American home like mine for instance. A major ice storm hits the area and is expected to last for 24 - 36 hours. At 9PM, the power suddenly shuts off leaving the whole house in the dark.

This happened last night and is not a drill. We experienced in the middle of the country, a hard ice storm which knocked out power to many homes and towns. Right when the weather was in the mid 20's and dropping fast.

I was in the laundry room searching for an air filter when it happened.
My wife had the baby and was giving her a bottle.
The older kids were in bed, but still awake.

My kids shouted first, "Daddy, the lights are out!".

My wife said nothing from the other side of the house because she knows I will do something in about 10 seconds.

I retrieved the first flashlight from the shelf above and went for one of the emergency electric lanterns by the front door. That went to the kids so they would quit hollering.

I went for another lantern in the bedroom and put that in the den with my wife an baby.

I went outside and verified the rest of the neighborhood was in the dark as well.

OK, we are on electric heating so in a few hours, no warm house. We have a gas fireplace which takes wood, but has gas to start it if needed so that went on immediately.

Extra blankets and quilts? No problem, have lots. The stove runs on gas the water was still running so we were okay there. Who cares if the phone works or not, we use our cells for most anything these days anyway.

However, this brings up a larger set of questions:
- What if the power was out for several days (happening now in other parts of the country due to the same storm)?
- What if the water failed in a day or so?
- What if the gas went out?
- What if the storm was severe and travel was hard if not impossible? How much gasoline is in the car anyway?
- What would you do to warm the home, cook food, drink and bathe with?

In the winter, no heat is bad news. Yes, a nice wood stove without a blower would be nice, but hardly anyone has one I know of and I would not know where to put it in this house.

A well? Fat chance in the city. And the need for electricity would still be a problem.

You see the problems? Most of modern America would be dead or very uncomfortable in about 24 hours or less. We all read about that poor old man in Michigan who died of hypothermia.. that only one has been reported is amazing to me. I would think in this faceless and nameless day that hundreds of shut ins, elderly and others would pass away during cold snaps.

So what is the solution for the hundreds of thousands of families living in modern homes in America during the winter?

Stock up on blankets naturally.

Have a wood fired fireplace at the very least and one cord of wood on hand (five is recommended for winter use).

[Note: Do not plan on burning furniture, lumber or fencing in doors. Most are made from treated wood which when burned, will introduce numerous dangerous chemicals into the home].

Have a water supply now. And have filters and bleach on hand to produce more drinking water from rain or snow.

Stored food goes without saying, but remember you will crave and burn more calories in the winter. I would add to that stock warm beverages like lots of coffee, tea and cocoa.

Make sure the cars are always full of gasoline.

Keep an eye of neighbors, especially the elderly.

A generator is good to have in winter emergencies, but note they burn lots of gas fast. And they may attract the wrong element.

Stay near home and avoid going out doors. Doing so only makes you colder, burns energy and brings more cold air into the home coming and going.

Keep firefighting equipment nearby (extinguishers, sand, etc.) for emergencies. Also have a carbon monoxide detector on hand.

Winter survival at home is not for the fainthearted. Fortunately, our power came on shortly after it went out, but it could have stayed off for a day or longer. When the SHTF, it will stay off permanently; this was a good exercise.

Best news of the day: My wife wondered when we were going to sell our home and move somewhere more rural and have our own land. Wonders never cease!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

SHTF: One Gun

The topic of firearms and survival 'post-TEOTWAWKI' is a fine topic of conversation and a recurring theme. With the recent change of direction in political winds, it would be best that we all consider our options for firearms and their immediate procurement.

Whether our situation leaves us on foot, away from home, or simply travelling light, the question comes up frequently, "If you could have one gun which would you choose?".

Pistol? Rifle? Shotgun? Battle Rifle? Exotic? Common?

First up, I have some ground rules..

One gun means one gun.
No interchangeble barreled shooting irons..
Not "one handgun" AND "one long gun".

Just one gun. That's it.

Let's consider our options and variants. You can have your opinion on your blog or feel free to comment on mine.

Handgun -

There are some "pros" to choosing a handgun over a long gun.

A handgun can be concealed in clothing.
A concealed weapon is less likely to draw attention.
A conceald weapon is more likely to avoid exposure to elements.
In a close fight, a handgun can be as effective as a rifle or shotgun. Especially, if combat is hand to hand or if the assailent manages to "get the junp on you" up close.
A handgun weighs less - big factor if on foot and traveling light.
Less weight in gun means the potential of carrying more ammunition.
A handgun can be kept close while sleeping, can be fired with one hand while the other hand is used for eating, checking gear, etc.

If a handgun were my only choice, I would go with either...

A 9 MM semi auto, either of these two would work.

9MM is one of the most commone handgun rounds which means I stand a better chance of finding, obtaining, buying more ammunition down the road.
9's are favored by law enforcement, gangbangers and everyone (left) in between. Again, better chance of resupply.
A nine milimeter has a decent carrying capacity of ten or more rounds in a standard magazine. That means ammo ready to use in the gun.

If a revolver was my choice, there would only be one for me..

Ruger Blackhawk in .357


Reliable mechanics, will not jam or break down.
Can chamber .357 OR .38.
Simple to use and clean.
Makes a fine club if neccessary.
Single action wheel guns are cool! (not a great reason, but works for me).

OK, on to the long gun.. rifle in particular

My considerations for a long gun made this a tough choice. I want hardiness, but I also want something accurate, and something easy to feed. Nothing worse than having a filet minon demanding partner when the rest of the world is eating dog meat.

My choice for long gun in the rifle catergory goes to .... the AR15


The AR15 fires .223 - lightweight and accurate.
.223 is used by military and police, should be availble via purchase, looting or recovery.
The AR15 uses 10,20 and 30 round magazines. Means more ammo in the rifle ready to use.
The AR15 is widely deployed making spare parts easier to obtain.
If I was in some other part of the world, I might choose an AK variant for all these same reason. But I am in here in the US.

Long gun - Shotgun

My preferred weapon of choice. I will make it simple, there are two choices for me..

A shotgun can fire slugs, buckshot or smaller loads for hunting making it a true multiple gun.
12Ga ammunition can be found everywhere, even in most department and big box stores.
12Ga is used by military and police.
Most families who have a gun in the house will have a 12Ga (guess, but its a good one).
12Ga is simple to use, clean and rugged.
Even if the tube underneath breaks, single loads can still be manually loaded.

So for me, the 12Ga shotgun, in a Remington or Mossberg configuration, is my choice for One Gun in the post-SHTF world.

Your mileage may vary and of course, feel free to comment.. Please use your manners.

Friday, January 09, 2009

SHTF: Scavenging 101

In the post-SHTF world, there are a number of ways to have stuff and stay alive.

Produce - grow vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat.
Hunt - animals for food, skins, etc.
Trade - your goods for someone else's stuff.
Buy - you pay for stuff with gold or junk silver.
Scavenge - you search and salvage.

Scavenging is not looting, stealing or raiding each of which is illegal, wrong and dangerous. For a few quick definitions..

Looters - exist immediately after law and order has broken down or is in the process of collapsing. Looters target businesses, stores and homes which have things they want and will take. Generally, looters avoid violence and direct confrontation depending instead upon mob mentality, confusion and panic to get what they want.

Bandits, thieves and robbers - Lie in wait along well traveled areas and target passersby. Bandits rarely travel far from where they make their living and will only move on when confronted with a larger and more deadly force.

Raiders - move and steal, killing and raping as they go. Raiders burn through food, fuel and ammo and have to constantly travel and raid to find more stuff. The worse of the post-SHTF vermin, the raider must be dealt with before they find your retreat.

But let's talk about scavenging. Scavenging is both a bottom feeder mindset but also a resourceful, adaptive past time. Scavenging means to search for and accqure goods and resources which have been abandoned, lost, left behind or overlooked by others.

The scavengers motto is "lost and found, finders keepers". Scavengers will go through the looted grocery store, warehouse or office park long after world has collapsed and the property owner has migrated or expired. Scavengers research and observe a potential find or area and verify that it is not inhabited or otherwise in the possession of others. Scavengers never kill or use force to take, only to defend what they have found and worked for.

Where the scavenger works

The scavenger works from a base of operations, his retreat, urban or rural. He has to have a central location where he lives and stocks his supplies.

The scavenger will target locations for salvage such as..

Retail stores
Warehouses and storage facilities
Gasoline stations
Businesses and offices
Government facilities, buildings or bases.
Interstate highways and roads for abandoned cars, trucks or other vehicles for fuel and cargo
Abandoned homes, farms or ranches

Tools of the trade

Scavenging typically means traveling light. While it is advantageous to have some sort of vehicle, powered or not, to carry large loads, the typical scavenging run means generally entails carrying as little as possible to the job and leaving with just what you can carry.

The scavenger needs the following tools:

Some sort of bag. A good backpack works, as well as having a few cloth or mesh bags for extras. Trashbags are OK for light salvage, pillow cases work as well.

A crowbar, multi-tool and knife.

Gloves, face mask and goggles are useful, especially the gloves.


Alone or in a group?

It is always best to buddy up when scavenging, for safety, communications and for effort. Whether it is to lift a heavy object or cover a large amount of space in a short time, going with more than one scavenger as a team is the best solution.

What to look for and where to look

Grocery stores - food obviously as well as anything else carried in a grocers. Check under the shelves, any piles of boxes or displays, the back of the store, and loading dock. Always remember that most grocers have offices and areas generally off limits to shoppers.

Gasoline stations - sure the tanks, but don't forget the store, closets, garage, out back and in any storage containers.

Offices, buildings and office parks - break rooms for vending machines, coffee, paper products, the refrigerator. Employee desks (most people keep food or snacks in desk as well as other goodies), storage closets for supplies and giveaways.

Highways and roads - Abandoned cars for fuel and goods left behind, trucks for fuel and cargo (most trucks are contract and unmarked), any highway or DOT storage warehouses or depots.

Abandoned houses - naturally food and supplies inside, but also check the garage, basement, attic, and outside for garden or fruit/nut trees.

In every building and vehicle, search for hidden storage spaces, compartments and trunks. Almost every place has a hidden storage area that other scavengers may have overlooked. Check under furniture or fixtures which seem too heavy to move. In air ducts and fireplaces. In bathrooms.

The good scavenger can have a profitable day no matter where he searches if he knows where to look, what to look for and how to do his job.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

SHTF: The Road Novel

I posted not too long ago about The Road by Cormac McCarthy and how to survive the conditions described. What I did not do was give my opinion and review of the book.

The Road has generated some heated discussions on most of the survivalist forums and boards. The reactions take two courses and are polar opposites;

"I hated The Road. Worse piece of writing I ever read".

"The best book I have read recently. Haunting. Incredible story of love in a horrible world".

I will warn you now. I am in the second camp. Is The Road the best book I have ever read? No, but it is a very good book.

If you have not read The Road yet, here is the synopsis. Later, there will be some spoilers, but none that you could not have read elsewhere on the internet.

The Road takes place in some unamed time years after a apocalyptic event has take place. The story follows a man (identified only as the Man) and his son (the Boy) as they travel by foot southward in an attempt to avoid the bitterly cold winters set upon the land of their time.

The world has grown cold, dark and devoid of most life. The air is constantly filled with ash from burning dead trees and other plant life. Ash filled snow and rain fall and the sun is obscured by the cloud cover.

People are few and far between. Most have survived by resorting to eating each other or scavenging from the ruins of homes and buildings. It is a pretty gross world.

The Man and the Boy are trying to reach the ocean believing there might be life and warmth there. They have no possessions save a salvaged grocery cart containing some canned goods, blankets, a tarp for shelter and a revolver with two cartridges.

The trip is harrowing as they encounter and do thier best to avoid gangs of scavengers and cannibals, theives and sub-human behavior of every type.

The Road is a real SHTF survival story. There are no well stocked hidden retreats, no best friend sheriffs who are always around, no wise old people full of practical knowledge and no cardboard bad guys with names like Scrag or Greasy.. just a man and his "world entire" the boy and their never ending perilous journey.

The story is depressing, especially if you are like me and have children. And I could not help but think that the Road portrays a world that most people will end up in if the SHTF. Homeless, wandering, hungry, cold, and carrying all their possessions in some jerry rigged form of transport.

The Road does not end entirely well. There is death and loss, but there is hope in the end. And like so many other critics and fans have mentioned, The Road is about love and sacrifice. More so than most other survival themed books I have read.

Not a pretty story, but a good read and a good book. The writing style and format take some getting used to, but The Road is definately up there in survival fiction writing in my opinion.

Best option, check the local library for a copy or order the paperback online.

Friday, January 02, 2009

SHTF: 2009 + One Day

Well, the world did not end this New Years, but then we weren't prepping for Y29 were we?

Much to do with the new year. Here are some of things I tackled the past couple of days.

* Cleaned out a hallway walk in closet and another smaller closet in the same hallway. We have been blessed with plenty of closet space, but we have the ability to fill any storage space with as much junk as possible in the shortest amount of time. I now have two more storage areas for my preps and less clutter.

* Cleaned out the laundry room and inventoried my cleaners and disinfectants. We were in better shape then I thought, but we need more laundry detergent. Along the way, I cleared out two more cabinets (more storage space), threw away a bunch more junk and cleaned up quite a bit, (lots of interesting things behind a dryer).

* Pulled a stack of boxes and other trash out of the garage for heavy pickup.

* Took a pile of stuff down to the recycling box in the shopping center.

* Restacked and inventoried food storage space under the guest bathroom. Threw away a stack of flats the canned food came in and moved several cans to Big Pantry 1.

* Cleaned out Decoy Pantry 1 in kitchen. Nice little stack of ethnic foods and odd ball packages to fool any home invader looking to steal some victuals.

* Dumped all the patio pots into the compost heap along with plenty of table scraps. I have two huge piles for spring fertilizing cooking away.

I had some spare time after this, so I created a few more websites to take advantage of the New Year. Simple subjects like resolutions and how to quit smoking, etc. Hope to start making some extra money (we will all need that in 2009).

I get most of my information from the Internet and so I spend a good amount of time online. I read this little blog post this morning..

I like how these writers cite movies as an example of why survivalism is a waste of time. Rarely do they mention specific real events like Katrina, cold weather emergencies, power outages, 9/11 and other imaginary events which have occurred the last few years.

With the holidays, a number of our fledgling SHTF writers must have some spare time on their hands. New SHTF fiction on AR15, Survivalist Boards, and Y2K. I am sure there is more out there; if you find a good online piece of SHTF fiction, feel free to leave a comment.

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