When the world changes, one of the most significant things that could happen is that your computer will no longer work and/or you will no longer have access to the internet. For many, many people (me included) this will be a huge lifestyle change. My life is stored on my computer, and over the past year there have probably been less than a handful of days when I haven’t accessed the internet. That includes vacations. On most days, I access the internet many, many times.
I suppose I should be more clear here — any and all digital devices may not work. I’m not just talking about your desktop or your laptop, I’m also talking about your tablet, your iPad and your smart phone. By the way, if none of those things work, it’s also likely that your car, your clocks, cable or satellite TV, your ebook reader, and all other electronic devices won’t work either.
So start your prepping efforts by committing to maintaining some manual records.
Start a notebook. Keep your most critical information in it. Yes, it’s important to learn the necessary skills and practice using them…but my guess is that you live in the same world as me — a busy, busy, busy one. I don’t have time to learn all the skills I want to learn, let alone practice them regularly. And things we don’t practice we don’t remember. Repetition is the key to learning. And when we’re under stress, we remember even less. So start a notebook.
Going Back to Pencil & Paper
OK, not really, but it will feel like it. Your goal is to have a notebook that reasonably mirrors your electronic records. The key word there is reasonably. We don’t want you killing tree every time you make a minor update to your digital records. But it does make sense to print out information periodically or when you make significant changes to them. So buy a notebook, fill it with useful information and commit to keeping it reasonably up to date. (Our guess is that once started, your notebook will blossom to a series of notebooks or even a whole drawer in your filing cabinet.)
What You’ll Need:
- A 3″ 3-ring binder or a series of smaller binders. I personally prefer multiple smaller binders.
- A set of dividers
- Clear plastic sheet protectors
- A little time to get started – an hour will give you a good start, two will get you further.
- Our Table of Contents can be downloaded here.
Contents of Your Notebook
Your notebook should include information about the preparations you’ve made as well as instructions that will help you live in a world that has drastically changed. For example, having a wonderful pantry of dehydrated food stored won’t be very helpful if you don’t know how to cook with it. You’ll want to include recipes for cooking with your dehydrated food. Imagine that the world of googling is gone. What information do you still want at your fingertips?
Everyone’s notebook will be different just as each of us has different books on our bookshelves. Here are the contents we recommend for getting started:
Personal Information – This section will hold personal identification that you don’t carry every day as well as financial and key contact information. Be sure to include:
- Things like birth certificates and passports here or include a note here about where you keep them. (We keep those things in what we call our “Grab-N-Go” (GNG) folder, so our notebook only reminds us where the GNG folder is.)
- A copy of the most significant documents for everyone in your family – driver’s license, social security card, other licenses that may be applicable (for example, a concealed carry license, a medical license, etc.)
- A list of all bank accounts and credit cards.
- Insurance information
- Key contact phone numbers and addresses (we include emails because you never know when you might get short-term access to the internet from a location or program that doesn’t have access to your contacts info.)
- In this area, you might want a separate sheet of paper for each person in your family. Include the following information:
- A list of the prescription drugs taken regularly.
- Dietary restrictions, if any.
- Nutrition supplements taken regularly.
- A copy of their living will and/or healthcare power of attorney (or a note about where it’s kept). This could help you avoid very difficult situations in an emergency.
- Basic first aid instructions or a reference where to find the information (such as the “Boy Scout Handbook” you have on your bookshelf”).
Food Preps – Be sure to include:
- A list of the food you have stored. You’ll want to maintain a record of the long-term storage food purchases you make. Most people will keep those records on their computer. Periodically or when you make major purchases, simply print out a new summary for your notebook.
- Recipes for using your long term storage food unless you’re familiar with cooking with the food you’ve stored. Even if you know how to cook with your food without recipes, having them in the notebook could be a big help because in a disaster you may not be available to do the cooking. You may be injured or stuck in some other location. Do those left at home a favor by having recipes that will help them use the food you’ve stored.
- Gardening/farming helps. We’ve started gardening, but we don’t yet know when is the best time to plant each item in our garden or how long we can expect before harvesting. If you’ve stored heritage seeds, you can include their location.
Prepper How To’s – There are so many things you’ll want to know how to do if the world ceases to exist as it is today. For example, if we lose gas and/or electricity for an extended period of time, I’m going to want to know how to build a rocket stove since I haven’t made one yet. I also want to build a solar oven but haven’t done it yet. Those instructions go in the How To’s section. You might also want to include recipes for things you typically buy but may need to make in a disaster (such as soap, candles, etc.). This section could get really blown out and may become several notebooks of their own, but start with just one section in your first notebook.
Resources – This section answers the question “What people or organizations or places might provide me with what I can’t provide myself during an emergency?” Your needs might be for locally grown food, water, people willing to barter, medical attention, or any of a number of other things. These may be people and organizations you can easily name off the top of your head today. In an emergency you may be rattled. The notebook becomes your brain’s assistant. Here’s the lists we suggest you start with:
- List of people with skills you may need in an emergency. Include contact information.
- List of key websites you can access for information or help. If you have internet access you don’t want to waste precious time, power or accessibility doing google searches for that site you always visited for info.
- List of key local and national organizations and contact information.
- List of people with whom you can barter for needed supplies or services.
- List of local resources such as natural springs or farms.
Just Get It Started!
Don’t wait until you have everything you need for your notebook, just get it started. Once it’s started, you can add to it, delete from it, etc. For example, in the recipes section, just put the first 5 recipes you find into your notebook. Don’t wait until you’ve evaluated them or you may never get them into your notebook. I’ve spent too long saying “Well, I don’t want to put the recipe in my notebook until I’ve tried it.” That’s foolish thinking. Just put it in. When you get around to trying it, you can always change or delete it. But if a disaster occurs before then, you’ll have something in your notebook!
Download our Prepper Notebook Table of Contents here. It will help you get started. We’ve provided it as both a PDF and a customizable Word file.
This is not something you create and then put in a drawer. It is a living, breathing document. Update it often.
American Blackout, a two-hour made-for-TV movie, aired on National Geographic Channel this past Sunday night. It was a dramatization of what could happen in the ten days following a nationwide electrical grid failure caused by a cyber attack. This is a very real threat. Just Google “power grid cyber attack” and look at all the hits you get. Things like this report from Bloomberg.com: Power Grid Cyber Attack Seen Leaving Millions in the Dark for Months
I found the movie to be reasonably realistic. I think it downplayed violence, but it certainly didn’t eliminate it altogether. It followed a number of people through the circumstances the blackout left them in, including a prepper family, some urban apartment dwellers, and a group of college students. Seeing how each of them dealt with the emergency provided a good learning experience. Here are some of my lessons learned from American Blackout:
- Emergencies can happen suddenly. We’ve been seeing an economic catastrophe heading our way for years and have been given lots of time to at least begin to prepare for it. With other disasters, like hurricanes, you only have a couple of days advanced warning. Certainly enough time to bug out if you choose to do so and get to a place of safety. But there are some calamites, such as blackouts and earthquakes or getting laid off from your job, that can hit you with no notice. You can’t always count on having the luxury of forewarning. You can’t start prepping when you’re up to your neck in alligators. Whatever you have prepped when one of these sudden emergencies hits is all that you’re going to have. This movie drove that point home for me. I’m doing OK in some prepping categories, but hugely deficient in other key areas. I need to apply myself to filling in some of those gaps, because something might happen with no warning.
- You don’t want to be in a city when it happens. City dwellers must get very tired of hearing this from their county cousins, but it’s true. It boils down to supply and demand. During a crisis in a city, the scale is going to be tipped way over on the demand side, far beyond the ability to supply. The needs will be overwhelming. Which leads to the next lesson learned…
- Things can get very bad in a very short time. People become desperate quickly. I work as a clerk in a rural hospital. I have to ask people a lot of very personal questions and I have to try to collect any co-payments that are owed at the time of service. I’ve never gotten used to the number of people who are unemployed, or even the number of working people who can’t pay their co-payment tonight because they don’t get paid until Friday. For years I’ve heard that a lot of people are one paycheck away from poverty or homelessness. I see evidence of it all the time at my job. Right now there’s a huge safety net in the form of Medicaid, food stamps, and welfare. All of that comes from our bankrupt government by means of tax paying workers. What happens if it all dries up suddenly? Take a look at these recent news articles:
Food Bank CEO warns of riots over major food stamp cuts
Walmart customers riot when unable to use EBT cards
Like I said, things can get very bad, very quickly. Be prepared.
- The likelihood of collateral accidents rises sharply, with much greater impact. American Blackout showed a lot of traffic accidents due to all the traffic signals being out of service as a result of the power outage. Losing your means of transportation during an emergency takes a lot of options off the table for you and puts you in a position of being more dependent on others at a very bad time. The movie illustrated the heightened danger of house fires because people were lighting their homes with candles. Having your house catch on fire can wipe out all of your preps and make your homeless and penniless in an instant. The movie showed one guy who only had an electric can opener, now completely useless with the power being out. He was trying to puncture the top of a can of food with a butcher knife and (predictably) cut a gash in his hand. It’s bad enough to get in a car wreck or have a house fire when you can count on your insurance company to jump in and make you whole again, but if you take them out of the equation, you’re screwed. Having a significant personal injury can be terrible even when you can get quick medical assistance, but if every hospital is overwhelmed with major trauma cases, you’re on your own. Accidents happen during the best of times. If they happen during the worst of times, even a relatively minor event might have disproportionate consequences. How are you equipped to deal with such things?
- 911 won’t respond to your call for help. In a full-blown emergency, your house fire or medical emergency or home invasion won’t get the kind of attention from the authorities that you normally would. They will already be deluged with addressing public safety issues. It won’t take the bad guys long to figure out that the cops can’t roll for every victim who needs help. You’re going to have to fend for yourself in every way. How well are you prepared to deal with your own medical, fire, and security vulnerabilities?
Did I “enjoy” American Blackout? No. There was nothing enjoyable about it. But I hope I learned something from it.
If you missed it this past Sunday, you still have a couple more opportunities to watch or record it. National Geographic Channel is going to rebroadcast American Blackout this coming Sunday, Nov.3 at 10am, and again on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 3pm. Take notes. There may be a quiz when you least expect it.
People become preppers for many different reasons. Phil outlined some of them in this blog. Regardless of your reasons for prepping, “scenario thinking” can open your eyes to new situations you need to address, identify holes in your planning, or just help you re-prioritize where you are in your efforts. Here are just a couple of examples. As you read through each of them, pause to put yourself in the situation and consider what your actions would be.
- Early in the day you learn of a major storm being projected to hit your area within the next four hours. Do you bug out or bug in? What should you have in your car to help make your plan work? Is there anything you’d take time to stop at the store for? What do you wish you had purchased yesterday? If any stores are still open, what is the first thing you will try to buy?
- You are out running errands when you learn that a nationwide trucker strike has just been announced and experts anticipate that it could last for months. Realizing that there will be a run on all the stores immediately, what three things do you stop to pick up before you go home? When the strike begins, what will you wish you had done the day before to prepare for it?
- You are going about your normal day when an earthquake occurs in your area. Your home suffers some damage, but is livable. However, clean water and electrical power will not be available for up to a month. Do you have a plan for gathering your children from their schools and meeting your spouse somewhere? What’s the first thing you’d do when you meet up with your spouse? What are the first actions you will take once everyone is home safely?
- In the space of one week the stock market crashes, the country’s financial rating is degraded significantly, most government workers are furloughed, and a huge number of private sector workers are laid off. The experts are predicting a three to five year economic catastrophe throughout the US. How long do you think you will be able to last in that economy? Will your job be secure? How will you pay your family’s bills over the coming five years? What will you wish you had done before the crisis to prepare for it?
These are just four made-up scenarios. You can do a better job of making up scenarios that are consistent with the vulnerabilities of your locale and what you think is happening in the world. What do you anticipate could happen? What should you be doing now to prepare for it?
EDIT: This bundle is no longer available. It was a great deal, but the consortium of prepper authors who put this together were true to their word about this being a very limited time offer. They’re talking about some other products in the future. We’ll let you know of any worthwhile specials that we find.
We don’t do a lot of selling on this site. That’s not what we’re about. The purpose of this site is this:
- To inform people of the potential dangers we all face in these unstable days we live in
- To motivate people to take steps to prepare themselves for an emergency
- To educate people about what they can do to make those preparations
But sometimes the best way to accomplish one or more of those goals is to recommend a product. This is one of those times.
A group of preparedness authors have banded together to offer a package deal of their books and instructional materials at a discount so deep it’s too good to pass up. It’s only $29, but that price is only good until this coming Monday (September 23, 2013). I don’t know what the price will jump to then, but it is an absolute steal at this introductory price of $29. They say the retail value of the package is $700. I haven’t done the math, but a cursory glance at the wealth of materials will confirm that they’re darned close. I bought one for myself right away. It was a no-brainer. I got enough stuff in this bundle to keep me learning and prepping through the cold winter months to come.
The Ultimate Survival Bundle is a collection of downloadable books, videos, and audio presentations that covers most of the critical areas of emergency preparedness or survival. Included in the package are a couple of books that give a comprehensive treatment of preparedness and it is well worth the bundle price of $29 just to get those two books. They are Making the Best of Basics (edition 12.5) by James “Doctor Prepper” Stevens, which sells on Amazon for $28.99 (one cent less than this entire bundle); and The Untrained Housewife’s Guide to Getting Prepared (also sold on Amazon).
Topics covered by resources in the Ultimate Survival Bundle include food storage, gardening, alternative energy, security, homesteading, medical preparedness, raising animals, and ethical issues. A total of 46 resources from 36 different authors. Some are very broad while others are highly specialized. Here are some examples:
- A 150-page book on dehydrating food, written by the author of a book on the same topic for the “Complete Idiot’s Guide” series that you’ve seen in bookstores
- A 101-page guide to herbal medicines, which sells for $29.67 on Amazon (I’ve looked up all of these Amazon prices myself to get a sense of the value of this package)
- A 266-page book about wind power from a consumer’s point of view
- A 106-page book on “apartment gardening” – growing your own food in limited spaces
- A book on solar energy that sells for $19 on Amazon
- A 40-page booklet on how to build a fire
- A 228-page book on raising goats
- A 62-page book on building and living in a yurt (after browsing this bad boy I am really wanting to get me a yurt!)
Click on this link to go to a page that gives details about all of the many products included in this package.
Besides books, there are also a few videos that you can download. Two of them are instructions on how to build a greenhouse, companion videos to a book on that topic that is also a part of the package. These video files are very large and will take a while to download. One is two hours long (2 gigabyte file size) and the second in a little over an hour long (1 gigabyte). Another video is a half-hour presentation on hand-to-hand self-defense techniques.
I could go on, but I’m going to try to contain my enthusiasm. The bottom line is that if there’s not something in the Ultimate Survival Bundle that gets your juices flowing, you’re not a prepper. At $29, this is one of the biggest bangs for the buck that I’ve encountered in a very long time. I can blow that much on pizza in a week. This is a deal that will give me something to chew on for much longer than that. When you’re ready to order, click here. Get it while you can get it cheap.
I read a lot of prepper and survivalist websites and have email subscriptions to a several related newsletters. They provide ideas and inspiration for many of the blog postings that I write. One of my favorite readiness sites is Jeff Anderson’s Modern Combat and Survival. I like Jeff’s site because he provides practical, real-world tips in articles that (unlike mine) are short and sweet. As Bill O’Reilly would say, Jeff “keeps it pithy.”
I recently got an email from Jeff in which he talked about four places you don’t want to be during a disaster. These are places that the unprepared flock to in order to address problems that they could have prepared themselves for far in advance. Here is Jeff’s pithy list with my verbose commentary and addendum:
- Gas station. Amen to that! I’ve lived through a couple of gasoline shortages in my lifetime. I’ve seen the long lines of cars that extend down the block and the news reports of shootings as tempers flare out of control. In a disaster, everyone is going to want to fill their gas tanks. Fuel storage is one of the most challenging aspects of prepping. In a collapse scenario, acquiring fuel of all types will be one of the biggest problems most people will face.How many of us have the means of safely storing a significant amount of fuel, keeping it stable for long-term storage, and keeping it secure from those who would want to take it from us? I know that I don’t. I don’t have a place to put a tank like that on my property that wouldn’t be a huge fire hazard. Nor do I have a way of protecting it 24 hours a day from desperate, determined thieves. So what can we do? For those of you who live in a location where you could store and secure a reasonable amount of gasoline, I urge you to think about doing so. For the vast majority of the rest of us, I would encourage you to never let the gas tank in any of your vehicles to go below half full. I would also recommend that you have at least one vehicle that gets good gas mileage. And you should also consider acquiring a bicycle for every member of your family. They’re fun and good exercise right now. Down the road, they could become your primary means of transportation.
- Grocery store. This one should be obvious to all. While I’ve been a witness to gas shortage lines, I’ve had the good fortune to never be in a place where there was a run on the grocery stores. But I’ve seen pictures of stores whose shelves have been picked clean by people stocking up on anything and everything they could get their hands on in advance of a coming storm. Food storage is so basic that I don’t feel a need to beat that drum again in this article.
- Hardware store. I’ve also seen pictures of people standing in endless lines to buy plywood and supplies for boarding up their windows as a storm threatens them. These are people who waited until the last minute to make any preparations to ride out their storm. They could have taken note of the natural disasters that their area is prone to and prepared for them in advance. They could have observed the season that they were in (tornados in the spring, hurricanes in the summer and fall, ice storms or blizzards in the winter) and equipped themselves in advance to deal with it. What do you lack for surviving in the location where you live?
- Hospital. I work in the Emergency Room of a small, rural hospital. My hospital is a 50-bed facility next door to a cornfield. Even a place like that can get really busy on any given night. A nurse does an assessment of every patient as they come in before they are put in an examining room to be seen by the doctor. On busy nights when we fill up all the examining rooms we have to bounce patients back out to the waiting room until an examining room opens up. Patients are admitted to an examining room in the order of the severity of their ailment. On busy nights, patients with relatively minor conditions can wait for hours to see the doctor. Some patients decide that they can deal with it on their own, rather than wait all night to be treated. And this is what it’s like in a rural hospital, in a non-emergency situation. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to work at a much larger hospital in a big city. And then I take a moment to thank God that I live and work where I do. Medicine and first aid supplies are often overlooked or assigned too low of a priority by people who are beginning to prep. What medicines (both over-the-counter and prescription) do you take now? You need to lay in a supply of them and rotate your stock. Do you know how to perform first aid? You probably need to take a class or two, and stock up on first aid supplies. Trust me. You DO NOT want to find yourself at a hospital during or after a disaster of any sort.
That rounds out Jeff Anderson’s list of the places that you don’t want to be during or after a disaster. As I pondered his list, I came up with a couple of other locations that I thought should be added:
- Sporting goods store. No, I’m not talking about stocking up on soccer balls and catcher’s mitts. How about camping equipment, sleeping bags, outdoor cooking equipment, lanterns, fishing gear, knives, firearms, and ammunition? Sporting goods stores are chock full of things that people will need to live in the aftermath of a disaster. You should plan a trip to a sporting goods superstore and spend some time there. As you browse the entire store, including areas that you have never had any interest in before, consider it from a prepping point of view and make a list of items that you will need or want in an emergency. Incorporate this list into your priority ranking of things you need to buy.
- Bank. The late, great, motivational speaker Zig Ziglar was fond of saying, “Money isn’t the most important thing in the world, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen.” Zig was right about this, as he was about most things. There are many other things that we need more than money, but money still has a prominent place near the top of the list. You need to have some cash that you can access quickly in an emergency, without going to a bank to get it. It should be enough to tide you over for a while, and much of it should be in small bills. You don’t want to have to give someone a $100 bill for something that you could have bought for $5. You might want to buy a couple of small, fireproof safes or boxes that you could hide in your house or elsewhere. As with all aspects of prepping, you need to take a balanced approach with the stockpiling of cash. You need to have a supply of cash, but it needs to be proportional to your other preps. You shouldn’t set so much cash aside that you deprive yourself of buying other things that you need; but you also shouldn’t go on a shopping spree and leave yourself with no cash reserves. As your stockpile of material goods increases, you can increase your cash supply as well. Balance and proportion, people! Balance and proportion!
The bottom line on all of this boils down to forethought, planning, and action. A real emergency situation will find the establishments list above to be mobbed by desperate people. They will become violent. You don’t want to be where they are. You must address your needs in advance to the best of your ability. What will you need first? What will you need most desperately? What do you use the most of? Think about what you’re going to need before you need it, and buy it now. Make a list, prioritize it, and start shopping. And don’t just think in terms of material goods, but also skills. What will you need to do? What will you need to know? What skills to you lack? Learn them and start practicing them now.