Just watched this YouTube video, by Prepper Potpourri, which I’ll call Prepping 101: Use Common Sense. This lady offers some great advice about not buying out of fear and making sure you take care of your normal bills and needs, before rushing out to purchase “prepper items or gear.” This video is only around 10 minutes long and really a departure from so much of the online prepper community, “Doomsady Is Near!” type videos.
Category Archives: Emergency Preparedness
America’s political chaos keeps escalating and while the craziness hit new levels in 2020, the deepening polarization has been going on for decades. Even a major national crisis, like 9/11 for instance, created only momentary national unity and then, in the blink of an eye, partisans were back to seething, raging and blaming each other. This year, being a presidential election year, was bound to get very crazy as we got closer to November, but we’ve had COVID-19 hitting us, followed by massive nationwide protests and civil unrest. The recent death of Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg just added another level of crazy to our political chaos and polarization.
If you’re waiting for the government, the experts, or “the science” to guide your most important life choices, you’ll be sadly disappointed, I believe. So, here’s another “becoming a prepper” blog post.
I’m late at mentioning this, but September is National Preparedness Month. The Department of Homeland Security has a website to help you get started, but a lot of preppers on YouTube have put out videos with very good prepping advice too, so I’m going to share some of those. The media keeps hyping that America is going to become even more chaotic this Fall, so rather than fixate on chaos we have no control over, we’ll all probably be better off if we invest our time and energy into preparing our own families and homes to weather whatever storms blow our way.
The main lesson 2020 should teach all of us is that learning and practicing basic preparedness should be an essential routine in our lives. Before this pandemic I didn’t consider myself a “prepper,” although I’ve always had plenty of food, extra water, medical supplies, flashlights, extra batteries, and those sorts of things on hand. However, I lacked any actual family preparedness plan or understanding about how long the supplies I have would last in an emergency situation. Back in May, I decided to expand our food storage to a 3-6 month food supply and even this undertaking has been a learning process for me.
Although I always had extra food on-hand, I lacked any clear idea of how much food we really use in a month, because of all the little trips to my local Walmart Neighborhood Market store, which is very close to my house. I did major grocery shopping, but didn’t really think much about all the little trips to the store. Paying closer attention to the details matters, but be flexible and willing to adjust your prepping as you figure out what works for you. Everyone needs water and some food, but what foods people deem “must haves” varies greatly. I’m not buying any Spam, because I absolutely hate Spam and my husband’s stomach won’t handle Spam well either.
Many YouTube preparedness channels offer practical and useful information and yes, many offer impractical and useless information too, so if you weren’t a “prepper” you’ll quickly be bombarded by all sorts of unfamiliar prepper terminology and lingo. Once you figure out the prepper language, the next adjustment for me was getting used to being bombarded with a lot of apocalyptic fear mongering and advice (usually framed as “must haves”) or “prepper gear” to acquire, so sifting through all of that and considering your budget and where to spend money on prepping items can be confusing and way more complicated than I imagined possible.
Beware of being sucked down numerous “prepper” rabbit holes, because there are so many types of prepping, from basic food and water storage to preparing for natural disasters, preparing to live off the grid, to preparing for end-of-the world crises, like a civil war or nuclear disaster. Figure out what basic prepping activity you want to focus on and stick to that to start. Don’t start measuring your “preps” (supplies you acquire in your preparedness efforts) against what other people (especially diehard preppers online) have. I’m a very basic prepper – food, water, thinking about cooking if the power goes out, and making sure I have extra supplies for my husband’s care and my own medical problems. I am not wasting time preparing for a civil war or a nuclear disaster – I’m just not.
Here’s a video by Sensible Prepper to help you figure out what type of prepper you are:
The thing I like about YouTube is ordinary people put together videos and often they put together information in a clear and easy to understand way. I came across this video on building a three-month food supply by a channel called Actively Family. This guy goes through how his family put together their 3 month food supply and how they use and manage it:
Having some sort of emergency plan helps and although I’m big on comprehensive national strategic planning and have spent loads of time reading about big picture strategy for decades, I didn’t have any real family emergency plan that was well thought out. Actually, the same rules apply – ends, ways, means and while no emergency plan can cover every possible emergency situation, having basic supplies on-hand and organized and going through the process of thinking about ways to prepare and cope with various emergency scenarios, has removed a lot of the anxiety about all the “OMG the sky is falling” hysteria that the media churns out everyday. I mentioned this couple, The Provident Prepper, who have a YouTube channel and a website that covers a wide array of preparedness issues in another blog post, and they put out this video that explains how to put together a Family Emergency Plan:
When I encouraged my adult children to start stocking up on food, water, and making sure they keep their vehicles filled with gas weeks before the pandemic lockdown stuff started, none of them took my advice seriously. Two of my kids told me I was overreacting, one kid told me he has prepared and has guns and plenty of ammo (home defense is an important aspect to prepping too,) and another kid told me my idea of stocking up was ridiculous. By May, I decided to build up our food storage to a 3-6 month supply and that’s still a learning process for me. I’ve read a lot of prepper information and watched many prepper videos, but what’s helped me the most is paying closer attention to how much of various food items we actually do use.
One drawback to stocking up larger amounts of food that isn’t mentioned much is that large stockpiles require time – time to organize, time to rotate, time to inventory, time to restock. After working in retail for years, it’s ingrained in my brain to think in terms of avoiding “shrinkage,”
Having lots of overstock in a store is a recipe to create a lot of unnecessary shrink. Shrink in home food storage seems like it could easily lead to wasted money from not properly storing food (spoilage), buying food no one in your home eats, buying quantities of food that will spoil before you can use it and not organizing your food storage, so that foods disappear into the nether reaches of your freezer or cupboards, only to be rediscovered far into the future. Another thing to think about is large stores of food attract pests, both the creepy crawler bug kind and the scurrying, larger kind. Thinking about pest prevention and control has to become part of your food storage planning.
All four of my adult kids think having a 3-6 month food supply is extreme (and nuts,) so I find my views on preparedness somewhere between the committed preppers in the prepper community and my kids, who think a 3 month food supply is totally unnecessary in America. When I discussed my food prepper idea with two of my sisters, they had the exact opposite reaction as my kids and told me that they’ve been building up their food storage too. Just accept that people near and dear to you will likely view preparedness differently than you do. I’ve kept my kids in mind with my prepping, by buying some extra to share in an emergency.
As I’ve gone along with building up my food storage, I’ve learned a few things. The first thing I learned (by failing to do this, obviously) is that before you embark on building a “prepper” pantry, do an inventory of your pantry and organize the food you already have on hand. Don’t rush out and buy a lot of extra food without preparing a place to store it in your home. It makes no sense to rush through grocery stores, dollar stores and Costco or Sams club stores, just piling stuff into shopping carts. Take a deep breath, take stock of what you already have, then make some lists. Prioritize based on what you can afford and then buy extra supplies you’ve already planned where to store in your home. Deciding to build up your food storage isn’t a one time large haul shopping trip and you’re done effort; it’s a commitment to a new routine in how you manage your food pantry in your home. Prepping takes time and it takes making plans, as you learn what works for you and your family.
Yesterday’s GDP news was dismal:
“U.S. GDP: The BEA released its initial report on GDP for the second quarter, revealing the largest quarterly drop since 1958. Down 32.9%, it was slightly less than the estimated 34.7% decline, but still severe. Consumption, which is a major component of GDP, fell 34.6% with goods falling 11% and services – the largest part of the economy, falling 43%. The second quarter was the first ‘full’ calendar quarter to be affected by Covid-19.”
All of the experts and politicians will be arguing for decades about the wisdom of COVID19 lockdowns, but it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that America has entered uncharted economic territory and frankly many politicians, entrusted with making decisions that impact the fortunes of all of us, have proven feckless, incompetent, and in too many cases disturbingly corrupt.
No matter if you view 2020 as a Year of Compounding Misfortunes or “Oh well, pandemics and economic catastrophes happen,” for most of us we’re left feeling powerless and immobilized if we sit around expecting the government to fix things or provide a safe landing for us.
The other night my son picked up Chinese takeout for my husband and me. I always eat the fortune cookies later. Two out of the three “fortunes” I kept to glue onto bookmarks or use in my junk journal making. Both fit with a belief in learning self-reliance that my parents drilled into my brothers, sisters and me and it’s something I believe matters most in determining which people fare best, not only in a crisis, but it determines which people will set out to tackle problems and which will sit passively by and let the crisis tackle them.
Fortune cookie #1: “Apply yourself to the basics and progress will follow.”
With the crises piling one upon another this year, I believe the people who will fare best are those who recognize we’re probably in for more major crises in the near future and if they haven’t prepared yet, they step it up now. It’s fine to be worried and it’s fine to feel some anxiety, but the most important survival tool each one of us can acquire doesn’t cost a cent.
The must have survival tool is to develop and hone a positive, proactive, can-do attitude. You don’t need to go out and buy all the gizmos and gadgets on the “Top 10 Survival Things You Need” lists that fill prepper and survival social media sites. However, you should start assessing your finances and your basic needs, if you haven’t already done that and it’s prudent to start calmly, carefully and thoughtfully stocking up on some of the basics, while staying within your means. If you can afford to buy a lot of extra canned goods and basics, that’s great, but even if you live on a very tight budget, try to spring for an extra staple item or two each time you buy groceries.
Being practical matters, especially if you live on a tight budget. For instance, many of the serious preppers devote time to building up a food supply that can last for several months to a year and also long-term food storage with foods packaged to last 25-30 years. Using common sense, focus on your short-term food supply now and buy foods that you and your family eat and that you can properly store in your home.
It makes no sense to buy a lot of foods that need to be refrigerated and frozen, if you don’t have a large enough refrigerator or freezer to store it. It also makes no sense to go online and buy expensive dehydrated and freeze-dried food in large #10 cans, that will last for 25-30 years, if you don’t have your basic everyday foods stored up to last for the immediate future.
I thought I knew a lot about food preservation, but after doing a good bit of research online, I keep learning more dos and don’ts and also coming across great tips and solutions. When it comes to food storage containers, sure it’s wonderful if you can afford to buy expensive airtight storage containers and all the high-tech stuff like mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, but honestly if that’s not in your budget, try using containers you already have or cheap ones you can afford. Even empty food containers, especially glass jars with screw on lids work great, if washed and dried thoroughly before using for food storage. The best tip is whenever possible, use what you have and look for creative ways to store food.
You can even use bay leaves to repel pests in flour, rice, dried beans, etc. And here’s a hint, often you can find packs of bay leaves in the Hispanic food section in grocery stores, that are much cheaper than the bay leaves in the spice section.
Fortune cookie #2: “Allow your mind to absorb new knowledge.”
As important as stocking up on basics is, all of us should work on acquiring more basic skills before the next crisis hits. Make it a point to learn to do as many tasks for yourself as possible. It makes no sense to buy large quantities of dried beans if your family doesn’t like beans or you don’t know how to prepare dried beans. Stockpiling 50 lbs. of dried pinto and black beans won’t amount to a hill of beans unless you have the skills and know-how to prepare them and incorporate them into meals your family will eat.
Make it a point to learn new skills. For instance if you don’t know how to cook anything, start learning how to prepare a few simple meals. If you don’t know how to do basic car maintenance, like changing the oil or changing a tire, take the time to learn how. Same goes for things like learning how to thread a needle and sew on a button or sew a simple straight stitch. Everyone should have a small sewing kit with some needles, thread and a pair of scissors.
Many years ago, I came across a bit of home decorating advice that applies to emergency preparedness too. Shop your own house for items to use in your projects. Most people can’t afford to go out and purchase a lot of special “prepper gear” or all of the items you will find on the crisis lists cropping up everywhere.
And here’s the most important Libertybelle preparedness tip: Start thinking about the people around you realistically and with clear-eyed focus on their character. This goes for family, neighbors, friends, acquaintances in your community and start seriously assessing which ones you think will likely just run around in panic mode, latching onto every dire rumor and conspiracy theory that circulates and which ones will be leeches borrowing everything from you (often these two personalities reside in one person, sad to say). Then start thinking about who you think will likely be problem-solvers in a crisis and which ones will be helpers (here again, often these two traits reside in the same person). Hopefully, you aren’t the former and if you are, you’ll need to strive hard to become the later. Character matters most in a crisis.
Think about your support network right around you, because frankly, no one in the federal government is going to come and save you in a prolonged national crisis. It’s doubtful anyone among your state officials are going to be a place to turn for immediate help either. And your local officials will be inundated dealing with all the other mess from people who aren’t equipped to deal with a serious crisis and from people who will use a crisis as cover to perpetrate criminal activity.
Instead of running around acting like the sky is falling, it’s best to think about potential crises that might happen, but think about them with a positive, problem-solving attitude. Set your priorities on what you can do and stick to these – no matter what. Think about what things you might be able to do to keep you and your family safe, fed, clothed, with a roof over your head and as healthy as possible. Once you begin to think about those scary “worst case” scenarios and focus on the things you might be able to do, it takes away the fear and panic. No excuses, learn to be as self-reliant as possible.
In 2012 I started this blog and one of the early blog posts, Gimme A Knife, written by a friend, Gladius Maximus, focused on this very topic of self-reliance:
“It came to me that our inability as Americans to survive in meager circumstances, or put another way, our dependence on technology, gadgets and the government, is evidence of the decay of character in our society. By that, I mean, our inability to be independent, innovative and willing to put up with hardship reflects how truly weak we have become. Our lack of perseverance in the face of adversity is evidence of our impotence. Unless we are surrounded by what many in the world would consider sumptuousness, we don’t believe we can make it.
If we don’t get our water out of a tap from a government approved water system, where will we get it? If we don’t get our protein from the local mega-store, sliced, diced, shrink-wrapped and priced, how do we get it and process it? If the burners on the range don’t work, or if we at least can’t get charcoal for the grill, how do we cook it? Need vegetables? How do they grow? Where do we get seed? When our shoes wear out, what do we do? When it’s cold outside, how do we stay warm?
I understand that folks growing up in the cities don’t have some of the outdoor opportunities that some of us have, but I am convinced that there are opportunities to develop individuality, independence, self-confidence and other survival skills without having to spend a year in the Rockies on some kind of sabbatical. Survival is more a mind-set than a setting. Attitude is everything.”
Now if you want the original year in the Rockies kind of survival tale, also in 2012, I came across this fascinating piece, Looking Back at Lewis and Clark, by David M. Lenard, which mentions a half-Shawnee member of their expedition, Drouilliard, who was the go-to guy to send off into the wilderness alone to hunt for animals to bring back to the rest of the party. Lenard writes:
“Lewis’s entry for August 3, 1805 begins this way: “We set out this morning very early on our return to the Forks. Having nothing to eat, I sent Drouilliard to the wood-lands to my left in order to kit a deer.” The journals are filled with dozens of similar orders to several different men, although the half-Shawnee Drouilliard seems to have been Lewis and Clark’s most reliable and productive hunter, sometimes returning from such sojourns with hundreds of pounds of meat. Still, from a 2012 perspective, Lewis’ laconic directive is truly astonishing. Allow me to fill in the details that Lewis left out: he was ordering Drouilliard to leave the group and go off, by himself, in a dangerous wilderness, with no means of communication, and to not only survive, but to kill at least one edible animal, with only the weapons carried on his back, clean the beast, and bring the meat back to the main group, which of course he was expected to be able to find again, despite having wandered possibly many miles, in a wilderness with no artificial signs or landmarks. It is remarkable that Lewis does not even mention the incredible risks faced by the men on these little excursions — they could be injured, or killed, in countless ways, or lost without hope of rescue. This silence is not because he was unaware of the dangers; in fact, in many journal entries, Lewis fretted about the fate of party members who had become separated from the main group for one reason or another. Rather, Lewis’s silence was because frontiersmen like Drouilliard faced such dangers almost every day of their lives; Lewis’s order was therefore nothing extraordinary to either man.”
When you think about the type of men on the Lewis and Clark expedition and compare them to the ‘brave” protesters/rioters in Portland and the silliness with their “shield-making” operation, you might be wondering what on earth happened to the American can-do spirit. Here’s an entire thread on their “engineering prowess” (sarcasm intended):
We should all try to acquire just a fraction of the dauntless spirit, courage and most of all astounding self-reliance of people like Lewis and Clark, and most definitely Drouilliard. Looking at that Portland protester “shield-building operation, Lenard’s piece on Lewis and Clark says it best:
“In our modern republic, where large segments of our population compete to be declared helpless victims so they can receive government handouts, one cannot help but think that little Jimmy might benefit from being sent out with Drouilliard: “Here’s a musket, son — now go kill that deer, and don’t miss, because if you do, there’s a strong possibility you might starve.”
My usual blog topics are American politics and the media, but this post is about my inadequate emergency preparedness efforts and total fails..
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that [is] it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not before.
Although this Emanuel quote referred to using crises as a vehicle for ruthless political opportunism, for me COVID-19 has been a wake-up call about my own family’s emergency preparedness planning fails. When the “15 Days To Slow The Spread” mitigation effort began a few months ago, I felt rather confident and a bit smug that I had enough food and supplies to manage just fine for 15 day and we did have plenty of food and supplies for two weeks.
Then the lockdowns around the country continued and the partisan political opportunism did jump into high gear, along with skyrocketing unemployment, some continued supply issues in American stores, and civil unrest around the country. All of this, coupled with mercurial political decision-making in some states and in Washington, challenged my rather self-satisfied confidence about my emergency preparedness.
By May, I started taking stock of my family’s basic preparedness and found that I am truly not well-prepared and that much of my overconfidence stemmed from gearing my emergency preparedness toward the natural disaster most common here in coastal GA (hurricanes).
Hurricanes arrive with days, often weeks, of advance warning, as we follow the track as they head towards the US coasts, so I always could mosey on down to Walmart and pick-up plenty of water, long before the mad rush began. I also never had a long-term food storage plan, beyond stockpiling regular groceries. I had no clue about what foods can be stored for years or how to store them.
A few months ago, I scoffed at people buying up all the bottled water at the store, confident I had no need for a lot of stored water, beyond the distilled water needed for my husband’s oxygen machine and my c-pap machine during this pandemic. I didn’t even realize how critical it is to have a sufficient emergency water supply stored – at all times, not just when there’s a hurricane heading our way.
I never imagined America dealing with multiple crises at a time. I never prepared adequately for a sudden emergency. And I certainly never imagined America’s food supply chain being vulnerable to small failures, let alone serious ones.
By May, my attitude evolved to being an engaged prepper in my own home, except that “prepper” label comes with a lot of negative baggage. My challenge was trying to find common sense information on how to begin becoming better prepared when the entire “prepper” culture seems permeated by doomsday hysteria, zealous anti-government/arm yourself to the teeth preachers and starry-eyed homesteaders dreaming of living off the grid, without modern conveniences. I don’t want to set off to live in the wilderness, build a bunker in the backyard or turn my home into an armed fortress. All I want to do is become better-prepared and supplied for sudden emergencies and longer term crises.
I watched a lot of You Tube videos and did a lot of googling on emergency preparedness and learned there seems to be way more useless survivalist stuff, bad information and hysterical doomsday videos than practical information.
By far, the most clear and concise prepper information I found on YouTube is The Provident Prepper channel, produced by Jonathan and Kylene Jones. Jonathan has worked in civil defense planning and emergency preparedness and he served as vice president of The American Civil Defense Association (TACDA), while Kylene has served in an advisory position with TACDA. This couple lives in Utah and unbeknownst to me, emergency preparedness is an integral part of the Mormon religious practices and culture. The Joneses also have a website packed with practical information, to include action plans to get you organized, and they’ve written a book on emergency preparedness. The Provident Prepper – A Common Sense Guide to Preparing for Emergencies.
The Mormon food storage practices are based on preparing to have enough food and water stored to last at least two weeks and then to build up stores to last longer, by buying gradually, not panic-buying. Their preparedness also goes to having money saved for emergencies too. This isn’t like the “prepper” craze that took hold in recent years; it’s a practical approach to emergency planning:
” According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), there are many reasons for having a food storage program. One source of this maxim is the command, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing,” (“Doctrine and Covenants”, Section 109:8). By being prepared with a basic supply of food, water, and monetary savings, a family can survive short-term and long-term adversities while being a resource to others in their community.”
I came across an entertaining read, The Stockpile of Food in My Garage, from March of this year, written by McKay Coppins. Coppins humorously explains life growing up in a Mormon family where stockpiling extra food was the norm. He expressed how he did not embrace the Mormon preparedness ethos, but his in-laws foisted large cans of emergency food supplies on him and his wife as Christmas gifts for several years. He kept the cans in the garage and didn’t pay any attention to them until the pandemic panic-buying hit this year:
“A few nights ago, after an unnerving trip to a local grocery store that had been picked over by panic-shoppers, I came home and sheepishly suggested to my wife that we go out to the garage and take inventory of our food storage.
I had never actually looked closely at the cans, and as it turned out, the collection was less grim than I’d imagined. Yes, there was plenty of dehydrated broccoli. But there was also brownie mix and granola and something called “chocolate-milk alternative”—foods that actually seemed edible (or at least servable to our young children).
I knew that the sense of relief I felt as we examined the cans was irrational. Our fridge and cupboards were full. The grocery store would get new deliveries the next day. The likelihood of a serious food shortage in America remained, according to experts, extremely small. But the ritual of counting and stacking and sorting the cans—like so many rituals of faith—offered something more abstract than physical sustenance: peace of mind, a sense of hope, something to grip while the world is unraveling.”
American culture gravitates towards fast and disposable, but our ancestors were onto something with focusing on frugal-living, setting up food to see them through the lean times and focusing on the basics of taking care of their own family and community first. In the digital age, it’s easy to get swept up in political causes and activism or to get caught up in trendy items to buy and social media “influencers” to emulate. Even with “prepping” the trendy gears and gadget survivalists and living off-the-grid social media types garner large followings, but truly the Mormons are onto common sense and practical steps to take with their “provident prepping” belief system and planning ideas.
I’m working on planning, building and organizing our short-term food storage for 3-6 months, then planning to push that out to a year. After that, I plan to work on building a long-term storage plan.