I have started this article series about a dozen times and each time it has been put on the back burner for one reason or another. With our youngest daughter turning 4-years-old recently, I felt the need to get this series started before the next “super storm” or some other disaster strikes and changes the way we live, perhaps for decades to come.
If we have learned anything from Hurricane Katrina, “Super Storm Sandy,” and other natural disasters it is that:
- The federal government is woefully slow and unprepared to offer any real meaningful help in a timely and appropriate way.
- You have about 72 hours before people drop all pretense of “civilization” and begin turning against one another.
Leaving aside natural disasters I see an even larger threat looming. Growing dependence, by an ever-increasing majority of people, on government assistance, rampant unemployment, out of control gang
violence, unsustainable national debt, the moral decline of the country, an ever-growing push for socialist programs from local, state, and federal governments, and an ever-increasing erosion of our
individual liberties coming from both sides of the aisle are far more likely to result in TSHTF to the point you will no longer be able to head to your local Wally‐World and get that package of hot dogs, some chips, diapers, and a 12 pack.
It is up to you to provide for your family in those times of need and one way to make sure you don’t become just another one of the sheeple waiting and hoping the government will get to you in time is
prepare, not just for when the world as we know it ends, but also for those everyday emergencies and for those times that even your best laid plans go horribly awry and you find yourself lost in the woods
with the sun going down and the temperature dropping.
The information presented in this article was gained from years of survival training and “Real World Experience” first as member of the US Army Special Forces and continuing as a civilian once I got out of the military. Having worked as a paramedic/police officer and civilian contractor after leaving the military in various hot spots around the world, I have been in, and more importantly, lived through more than one situation where some, or all, of the information or skills presented in this article series are the only reason I am here today.
Just as my wife and I decided that we were going to be the masters of our fate should we find ourselves in a survival situation or if TSHTF, you must do the same. You must decide if you are going to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Are you going to be just another sheep in the herd or are you going to be the sheep dog that protects and cares for his or her family?
One question I have heard the most often when I talk to others about prepping is, “Why?” Well the reasons are quite simple, the answer itself not so much.
I have seen firsthand the government’s response to disasters and I came away with one thought, “If I ever have to rely on these ass clowns to make it through this I am well and truly screwed.” Like most any government program the idea is noble, the execution, not so much. It takes too long for the bureaucrats running the program to make the decisions necessary for the resources needed to get to the people who need them most. Once they do get the resources and boots on the ground where they need them it is up to someone else to decide just what they think you need.
Another reason we prep is that we don’t want to be a part of the problem. There is a vast culture of dependence in this country that thinks government can do all and be all for every single one of us. It is
that very culture that has brought us to the brink of collapse as a nation and it is only getting worse.
Learning to rely on yourself and your family to get you through hard times is essential to prepping and survival. Another question that I get asked is, “Where should I start?” The first thing I recommend is that you take a fierce moral inventory of yourself. Ask yourself, “What kind of person am I?” and “What kind of person do I want to be?” Be honest with this self‐assessment, if you can’t honestly look at yourself and see your own limitations you will never be able to overcome them.
You need to drop phrases like:
- “I can’t.”
- “I’ll try.”
- “I won’t.”
- “It’s not my responsibility.”
- “I don’t know how.”
from your vocabulary, these are all phrases that failures use as excuses not to overcome an obstacle or a challenging situation. Instead use phrases like, “I can,” “I will,” “I am responsible,” and “I will learn how” these types of phrases will get you into the right frame of mind when it comes to your survival.
I tell people that the answer to the question, “What kind of person am I?” can be divided into one of three categories:
- Sheep‐ Sheep are those people who will never for any reason take the personal responsibility for their own safety and survival. They will always look to first the government or others to help them through a tough time. They always have excuses for not being able to carry out even the simplest of tasks. You very often hear the sheep say things like, “I can’t climb that wall”, “I don’t want that responsibility, “or “I won’t do that.” They very often refuse to see that there are evil people in the world that will seek to take from them, through violence if needed, at any opportunity.
- Wolves‐ Wolves are those who will take from the sheep what they can when they can. Wolves have no regard for anyone but themselves. Wolves look at anyone who shows compassion to another as weak. Wolves will use the chaos of a survival situation to sow the seeds of distrust and fear to their advantage.
- Sheepdogs‐ Sheepdogs are those people who prepare for the survival of their families and themselves. Sheepdogs are caring and compassionate when it comes to the sheep. A sheepdog will help a sheep but only so far, the sheepdog knows that it is up to each of us to pull our weight and they will only tolerate a healthy sheep relying on others for so long, though they will still defend the sheep regardless. They will always help those incapable of helping themselves, the old, the extremely young, and the disabled. They will confront the wolves with like force if need be and would never think of hurting the sheep. They are feared by both the sheep and the wolves alike, but for different reasons. The sheep fear the sheepdogs because they look a lot like the wolf and they don’t understand the need for the sheepdog, at least until TSHTF, and then they will scour the earth looking for a sheepdog to protect them from the wolf. Wolves fear the sheepdog because they know the sheepdog will meet them with equal force to defend themselves and any sheep they may have to watch over.
Only you can make the decision on what kind of person you are going to be in the event TSHTF. If you decide you are a sheep then I suggest you man or woman up and realize that the world is not all full of unicorns that crap rainbows, people who only have your best interest at heart, and governments who deliver everything to everyone, especially once society as we know it falls apart and the wolves start looking for the sheep out there to victimize.
If you decide you are a wolf then I suggest you find a deep, dark hole and never come out of it, because as a sheepdog, I and those like me, will show you no mercy or compassion should you ever show up at our doors.
In the end the more sheepdogs out there the safer we will all be in the long run.
Another reason you should prepare can be seen from watching the nightly news or from reading any paper. After Katrina it took more than a week before FEMA could even begin to think about helping
those in need, and once help did start to arrive it was too little too late in many instances. The same is true for the more recent “Superstorm Sandy.” Unlike Katrina where the wolves were the dominate force, sheepdogs have come to the rescue of many victims of Sandy. They banded together and helped one another in ways FEMA either could not or would not. I would like to think that if a major terrorist attack, economic collapse, zombie outbreak, or natural disaster struck in the next few months, that affected the majority of the country, it would be the same, but I know that isn’t going to be the case.
Those who will take what they want by whatever means will be in the majority and my family and yours will be on our own. So it is up to us to make sure we stay safe, secure, and not only survive but
Once you have made your self‐assessment and decided what kind of person you are and what kind of person you want to be it is time to assess your skill sets, preps you already have, and learn to distinguish
between your needs and your wants.
Begin with what skills you already have. Can you start a fire under adverse conditions? Can you fix your car if need be? Can you bandage a wound? These are just very few of the skill sets you should have.
Here is some home work for you, get a piece of paper and a pencil out and make a list of your skill sets.
Start with those that you can do blindfolded, buck naked, under the most adverse conditions, with minimum effort. If you can start a fire with a shiny dime, a shoe string, and some spit all the time, every
time this is where you would list that skill set. Next you want to list skill sets that you have but don’t use or practice each and every day or that you are comfortable with as long as you have some sort of reference material for. A good example would be, that you can do your own repairs on your vehicle without too much trouble as long as you have your handy Chilton’s manual right there with you.
Next list those skill sets you have but are not very comfortable with. If you can use power tools but aren’t comfortable with doing so or you know what a tape measure is but have a hard time using one
would be good examples. Last you will want to list skill sets that you have the least exposure to or those that you don’t use often
enough to feel any comfort with at all. If you have never had to skin a wild animal, frame out a damaged wall, or start a fire with anything other than a match or lighter would be good example of limited or nonexistent skill sets.
Once you have your list made you need to rank the skill sets you DON’T HAVE or feel comfortable with into some kind of learning order. If you don’t know how to fix your car, for example, and your car is going to be one of your major preps for bugging out you may want to learn more about car repair before learning more about how to sew a patch on your pants. Once you have your list prioritized you have a starting point to work from.
Remember that your list is not set in stone. If circumstances change and a particular skill set you are learning at that time is not going to make the situation better you can change the priority of your
learning order or add items to your list as you learn more of the skills on your list. Survival and preparedness should be a never-ending cycle of learning, doing, tweaking, and learning more. The main point is be flexible with your list, what was a number one priority today may be number twelve tomorrow.
Preps you already have
Next you will want to make an inventory of things you already have in your house or apartment that will help you in a TSHTF scenario. Go through all those “junk drawers”, boxes that you haven’t opened since Aunt Edna was 43 and still had her own teeth, your closet, book shelves, and anyplace else you can think of that might have things you can use if TSHTF.
Once you have made your inventory narrow it down even more into various categories:
- Protection (Firearms, Knives, etc.)
- Comfort Items (toys for kids, books, etc.)
- Barter Items
These are just a few of the categories that you can use; categorize your inventory based on your own situation, storage space, and survival goals.
Once you have your inventory broken down into your various categories look to see where you have excess. While you do want to have at least a double redundancy in 99.9% of your preps there is the concept of too much of something’s is a bad thing. If you have a closet full of shoes that you got because they looked cool at the time is a good example. Consider putting them on Craig’s List or in a Yard Sale to get a few bucks you can use for other things you may not have or have enough of.
Wants vs. Needs
The next part is usually the hardest, distinguishing between your wants and your needs. Simply speaking needs are those things you literally cannot live without, air, food, water; medications (for high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.) are good examples. Everything else is a want. The trick is figuring out which of your wants are absolutely required, and therefore are needs, for your survival versus crap you just want to have. A good personal example for me is, Red Bull; I love those damn things almost as much as my wife and kids. The question is do I absolutely have to have them to survive? No. If I could figure out a way carry a years’ worth of them without having to sacrifice something else I would, but the truth of the matter is my Red Bull’s fall squarely into the “wants” category no matter how you slice it and are not essential to our survival. Point being, you have to make those types of determinations for yourself.
Once you have sorted your needs from your wants it is time for a new list and to rank that list based on those needs and wants. If you have enough canned goods to feed 600 people for three years and
your roof has 22 places it leaks, unless you have some serious OCD problems, food shouldn’t be your number one priority. You will need to look at your individual situation to decide what you should do
first. Your priorities are going to be determined in large part by your financial situation and your personal survival plan.
Your plan will depend on a number of factors, the physical condition of you and your family, your location, your skill sets, your level of preparation, your ability to “think on your feet”, and your ability to adapt your plan as the situation changes, to name a few.
Having a good survival plan and practicing it long before you actually need it will greatly improve your chances of successfully coming through any survival situation in good shape. It won’t do you any good to have all the best gear if TSHTF and your water storage system fails after a day of use or your plan to secure your house won’t keep a six-year-old out let alone someone intent on taking what you have.
But how do you practice bugging in?
A good way to start practicing, especially if you are just beginning to prep, is to have what I call a “Bug In Weekend.” If you can’t make it a single weekend living off your preps just how long do you think you will make it when TSHTF?
To start with make sure everyone in your family knows what you want to get out of the drill. You are looking for ways to improve your plan, where is it weak? What are its strengths? How do your kids react
when they can’t charge their GameBoy? How about your wife or girlfriend, how does she deal with not being able to take a regular shower or bath? How do you deal with the various problems that are going to arise?
When you are ready to start your drill flip the main breaker in your breaker box and let the fun begin!
You are looking to see how you can deal with no power, no phones, no computer, basically doing without all those modern conveniences you think you can’t live without. During this time you want to be
sure that shiny new generator you bought will provide the power you need when you need it. If you are going to rely on freeze-dried foods if TSHTF now would be the time to find out if you or a member of
your family can or will eat them. How does your security plan stack up? Can you defend what you have without putting yourself at great risk? If not, what can you do to negate some or all of that risk? Keep
track of how much water and food you use during your drill. If, for example, you store 2 gallons of water per person per day and you find your actual water use is 3 ½ gallons per person you can either try and
figure out where the extra 1 ½ gallons of water was used and or wasted or you can modify your water storage to accommodate the 3 ½ gallons of actual usage.
Once you have run a few of these “Bug In Weekends” you will have a good idea where your plan needs some tweaking and what skills you may need to work on. You can’t rely on a few weekends of “roughing
it” to know how your plan will work over the long run though. Eventually you will need to run an extended drill of at least 2 weeks, though a month or longer would be better. The longer and more you
can learn to live without now the better equipped you are going to be once TSHTF.
Since your plan is to bug in and wait out the crisis then you will need to observe some very basic security rules for you to successfully sit it out. Regardless what you hear on shows like Doomsday Preppers and other “survival” shows, secrecy is going to have to become your best friend.
I don’t care that your buddy Joe comes over to the house on weekends for BBQ’s, and has a beer with you in the garage, your wives host lingerie parties together, and your kids go to school together, unless he and his family are as committed to preparing for when TSHTF as you are, don’t tell him, his wife, or anyone else for that matter, about your preps.
If your buddy Joe isn’t ready should TSHTF I can promise you that if he knows you have food, water, and power he will come knocking when his family starts to get the least bit hungry and he isn’t going to care if you have enough for him or not. You have to plan that Joe will become a wolf and he will just take what he wants if he is able. Remember, it only takes about three days or so for the wolves out there to show themselves and you would be surprised who some of them are.
It sounds harsh but it is a simple truth, if you have chosen to be a sheepdog it is your job to try to convince others to be as well, it is not your job to prepare for all of those who have chosen not to, like your good pal Joe. KEEP YOUR PREPS SECRET! I can’t say that enough.
One way of doing that is to watch what is happening around you, if you don’t see other people’s kids outside playing in the yard like nothing happened, you should not let yours out to play either. If everyone on your block is without power be very judicious with the use of your generator, if you have one. It won’t take long for people to
figure out you have something they don’t if they are in the dark at their house but yours is lit up like Dodger’s Stadium on game night.
The same goes for cooking food, if everyone else in your neighborhood is eating cold meals from the FEMA Center, and they smell your grill with meat cooking on it 3 times a day how long do you think it will take before you have unwanted visitors.
If there is a government aid center in your area that is handing out food and water and you are the only one not going, that will raise red flags among your neighbors and bring unwanted attention. It would be a good idea if you went to the aid center like everyone else, even though you don’t need the aid it will help give you cover for your preps and make you less of a target for the people around you. By making them think you are no better off than they are, as well as having “something extra” that you can use to help Joe the sheep if you choose.
You will need to be able to protect your preps from those who would take what you have by force, if you plan on bugging in. Regardless of your stance on firearms before the TSHTF you may want to take a serious look at getting at least one firearm and learning how to use it and use it well before TSHTF, otherwise you need to be ready to give up what you have and possibly much worse. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina there was a drastic increase in murders, rapes, and other violent crimes and there is no reason to think the same won’t happen again.
Similarly, making your house look like it has already been picked through is a bad idea, you will be better served keeping a low profile, see and not be seen so to speak. Again if it looks like there is stuff to be had because you have lights when no one else does, there is food cooking on the grill, you will be attacked for what you have by the wolves out there.
Within a few days in a TSHTF scenario those who haven’t prepared will start to (or be forced to) leave their homes for the “safety” of FEMA centers or other government camps if the situation is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. Be ready for this to happen, if you have the resources consider buying lock sets and once your neighbors are gone replace all their door locks. There is a twofold reason for doing this, one is security, most people will leave their doors unlocked, if not wide open if they are leaving because TSHTF.
You don’t want scavengers and people from outside your neighborhood rummaging about the houses near you or taking up residence. Though no lock will keep someone intent on getting in someplace out, it will deter 90% of those who are just looking for a target of opportunity. Second, it will allow you access to those houses to scavenge items you may need at a later date. If everything goes back to normal you can give each of your returning neighbors the key to their house and tell them you changed the locks to keep their homes safe because looters were roaming the neighborhood.
Simply hiding in your house is not the best “security plan.” You will have to take active steps to make your home more secure if TSHTF. Consider replacing all entry doors with fire‐proof, steal security doors if your home isn’t already so equipped. You can get the doors through Lowes or Home Depot for under $200; they are designed to give fire resistance of 2500 degrees for between 10‐20 minutes depending on brand and fire rating, and are made with a steel skin over a hardwood interior core.
With addition of a security bar and quality deadbolt locks, which you can get at Lowe’s or Home Depot for between $15‐$50 depending on
which brand you choose. You can also make your own security bar from some scrap steel and a 2×4 or two.
What about your windows? Unless you have more money
than common sense you are probably like me and cannot afford bullet/break resistant windows. That doesn’t mean you can’t do something about securing your windows and making it harder to gain entry to your home. ¾” plywood, pre cut to size and labeled for each window, secured with 2 ½”-3″ lag bolts to the outside of your windows, at the very least. While it won’t stop someone who wants in it will give you time to deal with that threat.
If you have the resources and can afford it, having 2 pieces of ¾”plywood for each window (one outside and one inside) will increase your security. If you live in an apartment or multi‐level home you can secure all of your windows but if cost is a factor for you secure all ground level widows at least.
If you decide that two pieces of plywood is the solution for you will need to secure them to both the window frame and each other. Below is a simple plan for making a double plywood barrier for your
- Cut your plywood so it is 2‐3”larger than the window frame. Drill one or two holes (depending on how many 2×4’s you plan to use inside) through both pieces of plywood and the 2×4 no larger than the carriage bolt you plan to use. Pre‐drill holes for your lag bolts both inside and outside in both the plywood and window frame.
Remember that the holes you drill in the window frame are just pilot holes for the lag bolts.
Next cut one or two 2×4’s so they are 3‐4 inches wider on each side of the window frame. Pre-drill the holes for the carriage bolts in your 2×4’s. Once you have all the parts it is a simple matter to put them up. First secure the outside piece of plywood with 2 ½”-3″ lag bolts to the window frame. Thread the carriage bolt through the
hole you pre‐drilled. Pull the carriage bolt through the piece of plywood inside and then through the 2×4. Place the flat washer and nut on the carriage bolt but don’t tighten it yet. Secure the inside piece of plywood with the 2 ½” lag bolts to the window frame. Tighten the nut(s) on the carriage bolt(s).
We used this system to secure our windows for hurricanes when we lived in Key West and never had any trouble with wind-borne debris making it through both pieces of plywood. I have also tested the system as security if TSHTF and it takes about 10‐15 minutes to hack through it with an axe when it is emplaced correctly. Someone with a chainsaw can get through it in 3‐5 minutes depending on how
motivated they are.
You can decrease the threat posed by chain saws to the system by adding ½” or ¾” rebar horizontally between the pieces of plywood, spaced 2″-3″ apart, and held in place by simple “cup type” shower curtain holders.
Now you have you doors and windows secure what’s next? Time to do a little more drawing, you should sketch a very basic floor plan of your house.
Once you have your sketch you will want to find the “fatal funnels”, places like doorways, windows, hatches, etc. If someone does make into your house your best chance of stopping them cold is to take them out in the areas that will jam them up, the
Make your defensive plan in such a way that it exposes you to the bare minimum of risk should someone get inside your house. Practice “clearing” your house at least quarterly, practice clearing the house at different times of the day and night. If you can get friends (that are as dedicated to prepping as you are), that you trust completely, to act as aggressors. Have them act as if they were actually there to do you harm and steal what you have.
Airsoft weapons make great training aids, if you can afford them, for “live fire training.”You can get an airsoft version of just about every weapons system made today. If you do decide to use airsoft don’t buy
the AK47 because it looks cool if you don’t actually have an AK47 that you are going to use for defense.
Similarly don’t use that AK47 airsoft rifle on full auto unless, again, that is what you actually have for defense. Anytime you can use force on force training do so, it will give you more insight into what you are doing right but more importantly what you are doing wrong or what isn’t working.
Food and Water
Since you have decided that bugging in is the way to go you will need to stock up on food, water, fuel for cooking and a generator (if you have one), first aid supplies (which I will cover a little later in the series), ammo, and countless other items big and small. I am not going to tell you how much of this or how much of that you should stock up on since your situation and plan should be based on your goals for
survival. I will make suggestions to give you an idea of what you should have to reach your survival goal.
As a general rule you will need 1 ½ ‐2 gallons of water per person per day for both drinking and hygiene, more if you live in a hot climate area like Arizona, Nevada, West Texas, or New Mexico. Unless you have access to a well or other large source of fresh water you will need to store as much as you can in the space you have.
If you can’t store all the water your plan calls for but there are sources of ground water (streams, ponds, or lakes) within easy reach (less than ¼ mile) of your home, I would suggest investing in a Sawyer Point Zero Two Purifier System or other water filtration unit. They can make even the scummiest swamp water safe to drink in short order and are well worth the investment. You will be able to resupply your water from just about any source safely and efficiently.
You can also make your own water distillation unit with a pressure cooker, some coiled copper tubing, and a fire. Distillation is simply taking water from a liquid state, to a gas state, and back to a liquid state. To build the unit, drill a hole in the lid of the pressure cooker and add a threaded copper valve and secure it to the lid. Next take a piece of copper tubing and add a compression fitting that will allow you to attach it to the valve you put in the lid, next add a 90 degree bend in the tubing, making sure you don’t kink the tube. Make 8‐10 coils in the tubing again making sure you don’t kink the tubing as you coil it, and that the tag end of the tubing after the last coil is pointed down.
To use the unit fill the pressure cooker ¾ full of water and secure the lid, make sure the valve is closed and your coils are attached. Place the pressure cooker on a heat source and open the valve making sure
there is a clean bucket or other container under the open end of the coil. As the water in the pressure cooker boils it will create steam that will travel through the valve into the coils and condense as it cools.
As it condenses back into liquid it will run out the open end of the coil into your bucket and you have nice fresh, tasty drinking water.
Depending on activity levels you will need between 1800‐3600 calories per person per day. If you have the resources, buying freeze-dried foods like Mountain House or Wise is the way to go for long-term, compact food storage. But if you are like me you don’t have the money to spend $4000+ for a year’s worth of freeze-dried foods for a family of four. Plus the freeze-dried foods need water to make them
edible further increasing your water needs.
A simple, effective, and relatively inexpensive way to build up your food storage started with your list of “Needs and Wants.” If you were honest with your list you freed up at least a few dollars each week. Like me with my Red Bull you might have a soft spot for half‐caf, vanilla, mocha, non‐fat lattes with sprinkles. By taking what you would spend on that latte and buying a few extra canned goods at the grocery store you have already started your food storage.
There are big advantages to using that type of food storage, first is that your food storage is always fresh and up to date because you are simply replacing what you use day-to-day before TSHTF. And second is that you will be eating foods you already like and are used to when TSHTF so there won’t be any shock to your palate by having to switch to a different type of food. If you watch the store sales, clip coupons, and buy in bulk when you can you can save hundreds of
dollars over the freeze-dried foods and by making a food storage plan and sticking to it you can have a year or more worth of food stocked away in a short amount of time.
You will need to also stock up on hygiene items as well. You haven’t quite lived until you have had to wipe your bum with leaves for a couple of weeks because someone forgot to put extra TP in their rucksack. If you have small children who are still in diapers you will want to stock up on Huggies and baby wipes.
Aside from being able to clean the little one’s bum, you can also save water by using baby wipes to keep yourself clean. I have been in the field for weeks at a time while I was in the Army and as a contractor and I can tell you that being able to use baby wipes for a quick tits, pits, and ass bath does wonders for morale when you know water is in short supply and baths and showers are no longer an everyday thing but a luxury. And nothing and I mean absolutely nothing can ruin your day more than being in a survival situation and your wife or girlfriend starts her period and doesn’t have any feminine hygiene products.
So before you find yourself in that most unenviable position make sure you have a healthy stock of everything from tampons and diapers to toothpaste and baby wipes. Like storing food hit the store sales, clip coupons, and buy in bulk when you can.
In the next article in our series Why Prepare? We will cover hygiene in both “Bug In” and “Bug Out” scenarios and its importance to your survival.
I look forward to seeing your comments and as always, Train to Survive!
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