April 24, 2014

The Mother of All Cyber Attacks

From time to time, I write an article giving a possible scenario and ask you to consider what you would do in that situation. I then give my thoughts on what I would do in the comment section. I do this for a few reasons; first to help bring to light some of the “signs of the times”, and also to use this type of article to give you an idea of how I would respond. However, my favorite reason for this type of article is that some of you will share how you would respond!

Cyber-attack is a topic that has been on my mind for some time, and with the recent discovery of the Heartbleed vulnerability, I decided it would be a good time to cover it. While the types of attacks I’ll bring up are from my imagination, I do not think they are too far out of the realm of possibilities.

 
The Mother of All Cyber Attacks

While you are waking up, you turn the TV on to the local news, only to hear about a new cyber-attack that started taking place at roughly 2:00am. In that short amount of time, it is being reported that this attack coined “The Black Death” is reported to have affected 30% of all internet enabled computers and this number is rising quickly.

Once a computer becomes infected with the electronic plague, it installs backdoors into several well-known and trusted programs. Then the computer begins to replicate to any computer with a shared or network drive. The plague then sends infected messages to everyone in your email address book and all of your contacts in various social media on a continuous basis, re-infecting already infected computers, with a virus under a new name.

Interacting with infected programs will run executable programs that tax system resources so heavily that it will take up to ten seconds for any keyboard or mouse click to be recognized and responded to. Rebooting the computer flashes the system BIOS and the computer will only load the blue screen of death.

It is later discovered that this was just one prong of the Black Death, that the main focus of the attack was the internet itself. All infected computers join in a coordinated attack on various ISP’s and DNS servers in the largest denial of service attack in history.

The Black Death also takes advantage of a previously unknown vulnerability on switches, routers and other networking components of one of the world’s most popular brands. Routing tables that tell the router where to send information are deleted, causing the data to just drop.

As the days unfold, it is revealed that Russia and China have spent the last 10-15 years training computer programmers. Many of these well trained programmers have been hired in some of the leading IT companies. They used their position to hide malicious code in some very popular and widely used programs. Others created back doors enabling security breaches and vulnerabilities never thought possible.

Russia and China had a cyber-army waiting for these breaches to be exposed. Once they were, the very infrastructure of America was the target. The electric grid, water treatment facilities and various communications systems were all targeted with varying levels of success.

Between the denial of service attack, and corrupted routing tables, the internet is badly damaged in some places and completely broken in others. To stop the damage from spreading, the White House institutes the “Internet Kill Switch”.

 

Things to Keep in Mind

I’ll admit my scenario is a bit “out there”, but it doesn’t take something so dramatic to bring the Internet down. During the Arab spring there were countries that shut it down to stop the communication on social media sites. Many countries have very strict restrictions on it.

Aside from electricity, the internet is the single most used resource in business today. Many companies have their inventory tracking, databases, cloud storage, ordering systems and many more functions and features either hosted on the internet or communicated through it. There are some companies that would no longer exist if the internet was brought down.

How many things in your life rely on the internet? My job would be very difficult to do. This site and all others like it would not be reachable. Much of my entertainment is internet based; games, Netflix and so on. I honestly don’t know how much of our modern news is integrated with the internet. If the grid and water treatment centers were attacked, I’m not sure we would be able to tune in and watch the news.

The scenario described wouldn’t be a TEOTWAWKI event, but it would take some time and money to fix. The question becomes, how bad will things get in the interim?

See the comment section for my thoughts.

Are Knives More Dangerous Than Guns?

We recently heard about the horrific attack by a student who used a knife to wound twenty people. I heard some people say “at least he didn’t have a gun.” Knives being used as weapons in mass attacks is something that has been on my mind for some time. I believe that a knife in the hand of someone willing to use it as a weapon is just as dangerous, if not more so, than a gun. Warning; this article will be more graphic than my usual.

Here are some obvious facts about knives that you’re likely already aware of but which bear repeating. Every home has kitchen knives, but if someone wanted an easier-to-conceal folding knife, one can be purchased at any Walmart, Target or host of other locations, without any kind of permit. Many states have banned certain types of knives, such as switchblades. Some states have limitations on the length of the blade, but I don’t know if there are any states that ban the carrying of knives altogether. A small folding knife can be just as dangerous as tactical one.

Knives are incredibly easy to conceal, hidden until a sudden attack. I carry a Glock 19, which is considered a “compact” handgun. The only place I can carry it that does not print (show a visible bulge) is in the small of my back, which is hardly the most ideal place to carry for me. I can carry a very large folding knife and it is impossible to tell it’s in my waistline or in my pocket.

In Haganah we practiced knife and gun defenses and in close proximity (within an arm’s length away), guns were always easier to defend against. This is obviously over-simplifying it, but we were taught gun takeaways in close proximity that moved you out of the way of the barrel. If the barrel isn’t pointing at you, the gun cannot hurt you. Often the takeaways put your hands on the gun as you move from the line of the barrel, which allows you to strip the gun away from your attacker. Below is one such takeaway. The person talking is the creator of Haganah, who has many years of martial arts training. I had no previous martial arts training and learned this takeaway in one session. Some of the other takeaways are a bit more complex, but I felt very comfortable with them after a few classes. I believe this is because the attacker has the gun trained on you, no matter how they’re holding it. The attacker knows that if the barrel isn’t pointed at you, the gun can’t shoot you.
 


 
Knife disarms are another beast entirely. Some of the defenses require a block. If your arm is not at 90 degrees, the attackers’ momentum can deflect the attack into another part of your body. In the video, you’ll notice that you have to pay attention to the angle, because it determines where you move to, and how you trap the attackers arm. I’ll admit I am not the most coordinated person. After a year of Haganah, I still fumbled on knife defenses. Unlike gun attacks, knives are more dangerous when the knife is moving, which inherently makes it harder to defend against them.
 


 
In knife defense, you obviously never grab the knife. Even if you trap the attackers hand or arm, he can still grab it with his other hand and continue the attack.
 

Tueller Drill

The Tueller Drill is a self-defense exercise created by Utah Police Sargent Dennis Tueller. The drill is used to show how little time one has to defend against a knife attack. I have done this drill at the range, standing back to back with another instructor, with yet another instructor keeping time. When the time keeper said “go”, the other man drew and fired twice at the target. At that same time, I took off running. I easily covered 20+ feet by the time he finished his second shot. All of this took 2-3 seconds. This drill showed me that 20 feet is not nearly the large safety zone I once thought it was.

In this drill, the shooter is expecting a whistle or other command that tells them when to draw and fire, and it takes most people 2-5 seconds to draw. If I am Joe Dirtbag, intending to use a knife to threaten or attack you, I am not going to start advertising it 20 feet away. No, I will get as close as I can and give you as little warning as possible. Even if I’m high on PCP and start charging you with my knife and you manage to draw and shoot me, my momentum will most likely continue toward you, giving me the opportunity to attack.

 
The Following

There is currently a television show about an FBI agent chasing down a man who has a following of homicidal cultists. These people go into public places (restaurants, book stores, train stations, etc.) and randomly stab people. The show is violent and shocking. I am a bit surprised we haven’t seen more of these types of attacks. One such mass knife attack in China recently by ten men armed with knives saw twenty nine people killed and 130 injured.

When I saw the recent school knife attack headline, I immediately wondered if the student who committed the horrific attack had watched The Following.

Granted, the show is drawn from someone’s imagination, but I think the public’s response during the attack is very realistic. There is no sound from the weapon. Often times, the attackers stab multiple people before screams draw attention to them.

When I watch TV or movies, I always try to think about what I would do in that situation. This is one case where always having my back to a wall and situational awareness would be crucial.
 

Training

Anyone who has fired a gun knows it takes some practice or training to get good at it. For instance, if you want to recover from failures or draw and fire from movement, it takes even more training and practice. Granted, someone could take a gun and some ammo and teach themselves the basics.

However, there is no training needed to use a knife to slash or stab. Unlike a firearm, there are no malfunctions. Under stress, people frequently miss their targets with a firearm, even at close distance. With a knife, there is no distance and while the attacker could miss their first stab, as mentioned above, they are most dangerous when they keep slashing and stabbing.
This is not to say I think using a knife for self-defense is a good idea because it takes no training. On the contrary, I think an untrained person wielding a knife for self-defense is quite possibly giving an attacker a weapon. Hollywood has glamourized knife fighting somewhat, with people coming out unscathed. The first rule of knife fighting, is you’re gonna get cut.
 

Closing

I would like to know how many deaths each year are attributed to knives versus guns. With the ease of attaining a knife, no training being required and the ease of concealment, maybe you can understand why I said I am surprised we don’t see more mass knife attacks.

If you see someone brandish a knife, please take it just as seriously as you would a gun.

 
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Food Boredom

Food Boredom


The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6

Most of us have never experienced food boredom, at least not on the level mentioned above. Those of us in first world countries are so blessed to have just about anything to eat in close proximity. I experienced food boredom a time or two in the service, but it was always short lived. Image only having the same 2 or 3 meals available to eat for the next six months to a year. Do you think you would get bored? How about your family? I have read about some children who simply refused to eat due to food boredom.

I think there are two types of artists; one who can look at various paints and see the individual colors and another who looks at the same paints and sees a finished painting. I think the same can be said for people who cook. I think people who can look at their pantry and food storage and see meals have it much easier.

If you’re kind of person who sees the individual items, my only recommendation is to make sure you have an abundance of a variety of foods that your family actually eats. This way people won’t have to eat rice and beans, beans and rice, rice with a side of beans, you get the idea
 
Picky Eaters

I’m not nearly as picky as I was as a child, but having been a picky eater, I understand it. I have Asperger Syndrome and people with Asperger’s often suffer from sensory issues. There are some foods that either because of how they smell or taste, I just can’t handle.

If you have a picky eater at home, you need to consider that when building your food storage. Their eating habits aren’t going to change just because the stuff hits the fan. In fact, because of the stress of the situation, they’ll probably cling to them even more.
 

Treats

I made two “cruises” into the Persian Gulf on the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. Don’t get me wrong, we ate pretty well, but after a month or two of “boat food,” we really looked forward to pulling into the UAE and eating those small overpriced goat cheese pizza’s. My point is that having treats and comfort foods stored away can help break up the boredom.
 

Final Thoughts:

Rice and beans do make up a portion of my food storage but we won’t be eating them for every meal. We’ve also got an assortment of spices and herbs to alter the taste as well.

What other ideas do you have to help avoid food boredom?
 
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Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth

I’m not a fan of Mike Tyson, but I do like this quote.

“Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth”

While Mike isn’t the most articulate fellow, this quote is very insightful. I think everyone should have a plan, but life tends throw us unexpected curves.

Normalcy bias is a mental state that people enter into that causes them to underestimate the possibility of, and potential magnitude of a potential danger. If I asked you how you thought the stuff would hit the fan, or to tell me what TEOTWAWKI would look, my guess is that most of you have some opinions. You have your eyes open and are aware of the many possible dangers and, in fact, have prepared with them in mind.

However, there are some of us who have gone too far in the other direction. There are some people who refuse to live life to its fullest because of what might happen. There are also some people who are so sure how things will fall apart that they might just miss things taking another route.
 

The Sky is Falling, or it Will be Anytime Now

I’m a prepper. I firmly believe that bad things can and do happen. I believe in this so strongly that I have spent hundreds of hours to help others understand that prepping is an act of faith and how to get prepared. While I believe it is possible that we could see society fall apart and resemble something out of the movies. I also believe that it is possible that we will see society degrade or have some regional weather related disaster, but, all-in-all, not be too terribly different than it is now. The point is, I don’t know and neither do you.

While I think it is prudent to take weather and political and societal conditions into account when making vacation plans, I do not think it is prudent to never take a vacation because the stuff might hit the fan while you’re away.

While I believe the emotion of fear is a gift from God, He did not give us a spirit of fear. If you feel an immediate sense of fear, listen to it, but if it keeps you locked inside, tell it off and go live life!

 
It’ll Happen Like This

Every once in a while I’ll hear from someone who takes issue with something I have said. Usually it has to do with what I have said not fitting into how they think things will fall apart. I usually try to explain that yes, if things happen just the way they think they will, they are correct, but that there are so many possible scenarios, they can’t be sure how things will unfold.

If you look back one year ago, are you where you thought you would be? Go back two, five or ten. Can you tell me that life has unfolded just like you thought it would? If you look back and life has not unfolded the way you thought it would, how can you possibly think things will fall apart a certain way?

I have always said the best approach to preparedness is very general. Do not prepare for specific events, prepare with them in mind, but not as the focus.
 

“The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men”

First, let me say that I think having preparedness and survival plans is a good idea and I think everyone should have a variety of them. I will also say that if you ever need to use them, the odds are good that they’ll go out the window.

Murphy’s Law states that “Anything that can go wrong, will”. This doesn’t mean that preparing is a waste of time or that we shouldn’t make plans. It just means we need to borrow a page from the Marine Corps, who have a motto; “improvise, adapt and overcome”.
 

First Things First

The most important reason you should have a variety of survival and preparedness plans is because it gets you thinking about possible scenarios. Have you ever read about people who froze when faced with a life and death situation?

When faced with an emergent survival situation, the human brain rifles through your life experiences, trying to find a way to process the information you’re taking in to tell you how to respond. There are people who experience “brain lock” or behavioral inaction when faced with something they’ve never had experience with or never considered might happen to them.

Having a plan in place for different events gives us a reference point to draw from and tells us what to do first. If your plan proceeds as intended after that, congratulations! If it doesn’t, improvise, adapt and overcome!

 
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Review of American Exit Strategy

Review of American Exit Strategy

I have recently finished a novel called American Exit Strategy, written by Mark Goodwin. Mark is also the owner of the Prepper Recon blog and podcast.

American Exit Strategy is a Prepper fiction novel that depicts an America that has become an unsustainable nanny state, and the broken economy begins to fracture. Throughout the book you get a behind the scenes look as the American economy is in its death throes.

Early on in the book, the federal government is faced with not having enough funds to pay all of the EBT on the first of the month and has declared that it will issue another payment later in the month. This leads to looting and rioting in heavy population centers.

The book follows a very popular politician that reminds me of Ron Paul, whose name is Paul Randall. He is in the midst of a Presidential race and, along the way, makes some compelling arguments about what the American people will face and what he believes they should do to prepare for it. The claims he makes come at a cost, as the current President, who is very Obama’esk, who is at the end of his second term, and the political opponent he faces, try to place the blame for what is happening to the economy at his feet.

One couple that the story follows lives in a suburb in Florida that had seen rising crime before the riots. The couple are prepper’s, and you get to watch as they increase their preparation and follow their decisions. Do they stay in an area with rising crime, with poor economic prospects, or do they make their own American Exit Strategy?

American Exit Strategy isn’t about making a plan to leave America. It is about making a self-sustaining life, not dependent on the country America has turned into.

My Take

At the beginning of every chapter there is a quote, many taken from the Founding Fathers, the Bible and other sources. I enjoyed each one, and it fit well with the chapter.

I think that the events that unfold as the economy falls apart are quite realistic and possible. It’s not TEOTWAWKI overnight. There is a steady decline, with all signs pointing to worse things on the horizon, giving warning to those who are paying attention.

The only negative thing I would say, is that there is some dialogue that is a little clumsy. This is common in books of this genre, as the author attempts to educate the reader on topics like the economy, preparedness, survival and so on.

This, however, doesn’t take away from my overall opinion of the book, which I enjoyed and do recommend. I am looking forward to book two, to see how the story continues.

Spring Prepared Bloggers Giveaway

You might remember that I have joined a community of sorts with other preparedness/survival/homesteading bloggers. We’ve held some contests in the past, but nothing like this.

Spring Prepared Bloggers Giveaway

We’ve teamed up with some of our favorite companies and because of their generosity, we’re able to offer you these mega giveaway prizes:
 
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The Excalibur Dehydrator is highly sought after for it’s large size (9-15”x15” trays), adjustable temperature and 26-hour timer that allows you to set it and forget it. Dry fruits and vegetables, meats for jerky or make your own granola as well as use it for arts and crafts. The possibilities are endless. Included with the Excalibur Dehydrator are 9 ultra paraflexx sheets and a copy of the Preserve It Naturally book.
 

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There will be 4 winners…

1st winner drawn receives the All American Sun Oven plus a pint and a quart size JarBox.

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Enter the giveaway below for your chance to win.

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The giveaway begins Monday, March 31, 2014 and ends on Monday, April 7, 2014 at 11:59 PM EST.

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A Practical Look at Bug Out Vehicles

A Practical Look at Bug Out Vehicles

When you see the term “Bug Out Vehicle (BOV),” what comes to mind? Is it a pre-1980’s vehicle without a computer that would be EMP proof? Or possibly a vehicle tailored for bugging out that might be impractical but very, very cool, like the “Survivor Truck”?

While I would love a vehicle like that, it isn’t in the budget or practical. So, I view the vehicle we drive every day as our BOV. While it might not survive an EMP, if we look at Disaster Probability, an EMP is one of the least likely events that we would actually need to bug out for. Let me take a step back and remind you that I am of the opinion that 95% of the time, we would be far better served to stay at home and batten down than to bug out. Because that 5% exists, I think we need to have a plan to do so, and the chances that our vehicles will be running is quite high. I prepare with that in mind.

I do think that there need to be some steps taken to make a vehicle a BOV. First take a look at the area you live in; the terrain and possible routes. If you live in Texas, having chains for your vehicle doesn’t make sense. However, if you live in Idaho, it might make better sense.

We have two vehicles; an SUV that my wife drives and a car that is better on gas mileage that I use for commuting to work. You can see what I keep in my car kit by following the link. If I am home and the need to bug out arises, we’ll take the 4 wheel drive SUV. Because of that, the truck has more gear in it than I keep in the car. Depending on how much time we have to bug out, we’ll add more gear, and could even load up the trailer.

One rule that every prepper should keep for all of their vehicles is that, when it comes to the gas tank, half is the new empty. When your tank gets to half, fill it back up. This will ensure that you’ll have at least a half a tank to get you out of the immediate danger zone if you need to bug out. Letting your tank get too low can actually cause damage to your vehicle as well.

Because the need to bug out comes unexpectedly, that means your BOV needs to be well maintained; oil changes when they’re needed and engines serviced when it is required. Don’t place duct tape over blinking lights or turn the radio up to cover the sounds coming from under the hood.

Car kit

I think each vehicle should have at a minimum the gear pictured here, it is:
• Flares
• Ice scraper
• Small tool kit
• Goggles (to keep rain or wind out of your eyes)
• Wool blanket
• 4-way tire iron (I won’t carry any other kind, this is a must IMHO)
• Metal Folding Shovel
• Tarp
• Garbage bag(‘s)
• Emergency blanket
• Paracord (this is hard to see, but it’s a 100ft section in between the flares and the garbage bags)
• Fix A Flat
• Jumper Cables
• Map (not pictured)
• Jack (not pictured)

I also think you and your spouse should know how to use fix-a-flat and how to change a tire using the jack you have. If possible, have a full sized spare tire. A 55 mile an hour spare is not meant for a bug out.

You might be thinking that you don’t have a place to bug out to, so you don’t need a bag out plan. I disagree. In bug out myths, I not only explain why I believe everyone needs a bug out plan, but I also give you a great way to make 4 separate bug out plans, even with no owned location to go to.

“The majority of preppers don’t own a separate piece of property that they consider their BOL. The truth is, you don’t need one. Sure, it might be ideal, but it isn’t needed. Below is a way to develop multiple locations. That way you have four routes out of your area. First, if you have a relative or friend outside of your general area, consider asking them if you could head there.

If you don’t have another location to go, I recommend finding a town that’s big enough to have a hotel but small enough to be inconspicuous, which is thirty to sixty miles away. I say “large enough to have a hotel” because that is the landmark. If they have a room available, stay if you like. If you want to continue on, do so. Do this going north, south, east and west. Now develop a couple different routes to each location and label the routes “1” and “2”. We purchased plastic foldable maps and have one in our BOBs and one in the vehicle.

I think each car should have a map and the directions to each location. If you’re at work and your spouse is at home when you need to bug out, you can send a text or email that says “North, route 2”. Now you know where they are going and the route they’re taking to get there.”

At the time of this writing, gas is under $4.00 a gallon and is not being rationed. I can envision several scenarios where gas could be far more expensive and much less readily available. Because of this, you may choose to store fuel.

 
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Be Prepared to Rebel to do what is Right

I got a bit torqued off about a local news story where A ninth-grader says she has frostbite after standing outside for 10 minutes in a wet bathing suit during a fire alarm. According to the student, teachers refused to let her get her clothes before forcing her to go outside in the freezing cold, where she waiting for ten or so minutes before a teacher “received administrative permission” to let the student sit in their car. They waited to get permission to do the right thing! Well, sort of. If I had been the teacher, I hope I would have had the common sense and guts to make sure there was no danger and to let the girl quickly get her clothes.

The term “sheeple” is thrown about as a descriptive term for people who follow along blindly. There are some people who take offense, because as believers, we’re referred to as sheep, and God as our shepherd. To those people, this is not the same term. It’s like using the term “truck” to refer to a Chevy S10 and an 18 wheeler. Both are called “trucks”, but are clearly two different things.

Society has molded us to be sheeple; to follow what is expected of us. From kindergarten on, we’re taught to be quiet, to color in between the lines, to raise our hands and to wait to be called on. To some extent, it continues on through adulthood in the work place; show up at a certain time, you’re allowed to take a certain amount of time for a break, and you can leave at a certain time. Please don’t think I am saying we shouldn’t have rules. In fairness, society has to have a certain level of “sheepleness” to function.

Jesus was a rebel. He rebelled against Jewish leaders who had put Jewish tradition above their relationship with God. He saw people in need and hurting on the Sabbath and rebelled against cultural traditions to heal them. The New Testament is filled with examples of righteous rebellion!

So where should one draw the line? The line belongs on doing what is right!

It is a part of my ethos, my personal philosophy, that I will always try to do what I feel is right, consequences be damned. Sometimes it is easier than others. Sometimes there is a price to pay. But not compromising my integrity and being able to look at myself in a mirror is worth it.

Sometimes following rules is needed. Other times those rules need to be tossed like temple tables!

 
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Signs of a Slowing Local Economy

Signs of a Slowing Local Economy

Mark 13:28

“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near.”

I believe that, on a macro level, the economy can be so manipulated that it can be difficult to tell how it is actually doing; from quantitative easing, bailouts, subsidizing, fiddling with unemployment numbers and on and on. If we learn a lesson from the fig tree, I believe that we can see (on a micro level) when economic troubles are beginning to blossom. I’m going to break things into groups for this article. Some could fit into multiple categories, but you’ll get the idea.
 

Gas Prices

Gas prices can fluctuate based on several factors, from an international incident overseas to a weather event close to home. The price at the pump is reflected in the price of just about everything else. Petroleum is used in the manufacturing and delivery of almost everything we consume and interact with on a daily basis. The more it costs to get to us, the more we’re going to pay for it.
 

Unemployment

This is hugely manipulated by the government, mainly by not adding in people who are out of work but no longer qualify for unemployment and by not counting people who are underemployed. This can be hard to track on a local level but is not impossible. Now and then, we will hear of a local company letting workers go, or of a larger corporation closing a local branch.
 

Food

As I mentioned above, the price of oil can cause the price of groceries to increase. So can inflation, crops impacted by weather events and other factors. Companies have gotten tricky. They don’t want you to see the rising price of a product. At times they make the packaging smaller and keep the price the same or keep the box the same and change the amount of the product in the package.

I have said several times over the years that many of the riots and rebellions seen worldwide are due to increased grocery prices. The people of many countries spend 30% of their income on food. We here in the USA spend roughly 12-15%. They rioted because they had no more money to spend and the price of staples was increased, leaving them unable to feed their families.

Swelling soup kitchens and bare food shelves are also signs of local economic troubles. I have seen several reports in the last few years where food shelves have said that they had seen a sharp increase in people requesting aid.
 

Real Estate

Commercial and housing markets are a good gauge as well. Seeing foreclosure rates and the amount of rental properties increase is a sure sign that the local economy is in trouble. Banks are not giving mortgages to just anyone anymore, so people who would have qualified for a home loan ten years ago might be forced to rent unless they can come up with a 20-30% down payment.

Small local businesses closing can be another sign of trouble in a local economy. Some might go out of business because of a bad concept or poor business practices. However, when you see several vacancies in strip malls or in other locales, it can be a sign that there is not much disposable income in the local area.
 

Consumerism

To me this is the most telling sign of local economic trouble. We live in a society that likes to spend, so when traffic at local shopping centers is light for any length of time, it could be due to a lack of funds in the shoppers’ accounts and could lead to the closing of local businesses.

Another sign of economic trouble is sales with deep discounts, or starting Christmas sales much earlier than normal. Companies don’t do this because they love you, they do it because they love your money and some money is better than none. Another sort of silly sign is when a company will have one of their hourly employees dress up or hold a sign advertising a “special”. They would much rather business be busy enough to have that person in serving customers than providing cheap advertising.

I drive by several establishments that people gather at after work for happy hour. When times are tight, these places have fewer customers. The same can be said for restaurants. Both fast food and dine-in restaurants see fewer customers when the local economy is struggling. Many offer free meals for children on a certain day, or free dessert on another, or even buy-one-get-one deals. Again, they don’t offer these because they just like to see your face.
 

What do These Signs Mean?

I think they can show us that we could see more unemployment as companies try to stay afloat. As these companies try to get your business, it could mean steep discounts for those who have cash. There are those who say paper money is worthless, that gold and silver are the only way to go. I agree that paper money has no inherent value. However, they are wrong that it is worthless. Until we see hyperinflation, paper money still has value and the person who has little debt and has cash can get some very good deals.

An extended time of these signs in a local economy could be a huge warning to move. Look at Detroit, the city was vibrant and thriving, known for music and automotive might. But now the city is literally falling apart with some buildings being so derelict that the city has torn them down.

I have no proof, but I believe that with a drop in local economy, we’ll see an increase in crime. There is a certain percentage of the population who have no problem turning to crime in the best of times. I believe there is a larger percentage who will only do it if they feel they must to take care of their families.

I would really like to hear your thoughts on signs of trouble at the micro level, local economy. Please share them in the comment section.

 
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Protecting Your Neighborhood

Protecting Your Neighborhood

There were a couple of comments to a recent article about how to handle guard duty. This is something I have given some thought to, so I thought I would share it with you. There was some talk of how things have been handled in various prepper fiction books. I enjoy them and have gotten several ideas from them, but on this topic many of them are just that, fiction.

Let’s face it, if you’re reading this, you’re probably someone who is in tune with the fragility of the systems holding society together. This lends to you probably being apt to see things going sideways sooner than many, which probably means you’ll not find many people willing to help keep watch, at least in the beginning. Many of the prepper fiction books also have a force that repels Joe and his merry band of Dirtbags. You’ll also probably have few people who know how to stand watch, or who have the gear to do so.

These challenges don’t mean that we shouldn’t try. It just means we need to take an honest look at what is actually possible with where things are now and what the actual potential of our circumstances are.

 
Neighborhood Watch

Any neighborhood can start a neighborhood watch now. I think these are often made up of people who are open minded, knowing that bad things can happen near them. These are the people who will probably be the most willing to agree to stand watch or participate in guard duty when things go bad. There are several websites that can help you get started with a watch. Police departments are often willing to come and speak to your group as well.
 

Guard Duty or Standing Watch

I believe these are two different things. To me guard duty is someone armed to defend a position and watch duty is someone who keeps watch for danger and reports it. I think we would all like to have a mix of both but the truth is, the best we might be able to do is get a neighbor or two to join us in keeping watch and reporting anything hinky to the other families who’ve joined in keeping watch.

 
Guard Duty

A posted guard is a visible deterrent. In a short term situation, a guard post could be a car parked sideways blocking the flow of traffic. This gives the guard or guard’s concealment and a little cover behind the engine block. If a guard is posted to prevent passage of people into your neighborhood, they should only let people through who can have someone from inside the neighborhood come to the guard post and vouch for them.

I would have to place three of these types of positions in a “T” formation to limit traffic for a few blocks. As you can guess, this could limit the flow of traffic but would take between three and six vehicles, and people to guard each location. I would not just put this type of guard post up on my own. I would get a consensus with others in the neighborhood first.

In a prolonged situation, it might be a good idea to have a hardened location to offer more cover. This could be done by removing the tires from the vehicles, and filling the cars with dirt. The tires could then be used to build berms filled with dirt in other locations.
 
Standing Watch

As I said above, to me, a watch is just that; someone who watches. There are a few different types of watches. A posted watch is someone who is in a set location and reports activity. A roving watch is either someone who roams between posted watches, or just walks a set path.

It is very possible that in the beginning of a situation, there will not be much interest in having a neighborhood watch. It might just be you and your spouse taking turns in case the need to defend your home or bug out arises.

A person on watch generally doesn’t want to bring attention to their position. Therefore, keep sound and light discipline. Don’t have anything that smells different than what is expected. For instance if you are cold and drink a hot cup of cider, the smell can give you away. Light from a flashlight can help you see but is also a dead giveaway of your location. If you use a red lens or color a clear lens with a red marker, it doesn’t provide quite as much light, but is much harder to see at a distance. It also has the benefit of not taking away your natural night vision.

A roving watch can obviously be more visible. They can be used to keep an eye out for things going on between locations. They can also be relief for posted watches who need to take a break.

 
Reality

The reality is, your watch might just be you and your spouse or maybe another family or two. If it’s just you and your spouse, keep watches to 4 or so hours. If there are more families, rotate the watches to give people an uninterrupted night sleep as often as possible.

While we don’t want to be forced to flee, the goal of having a watch posted might be to give enough time for you to do so safely without engaging an armed force. Because of this, have a fallback plan in place, a designated place where people should meet if needed.

 
Ideally

I think the more time that passes by, or the worse things get, the more people will open their eyes and be willing to join in the watch. When this happens, consider using the buddy system. Each guard post has multiple people, as well as the roving watch.

A command center stocked with coffee or other caffeinated beverages to assist the sleepy and help those taking a break refresh is a good idea as well. This could be the garage of someone in a central location.

If you have this many people, there should be training on how to stand a watch and on firearms if they’ll be carrying them.

 
Communications

You’ve probably seen the FRS radios that advertise 30+ miles, which is only in a flat open area. The real range in the average suburban house is probably closer to a mile or two, and even then things can be static. A second option might be DB, which would be more than sufficient in these ranges, but is more expensive. Yet another option would be MURS radio. These also have motion sensors, which can trigger an alarm at the base of the radio. None of these options require a permit to operate.
One idea I’ve come up with is using air horns for alarms. If you have three guard posts, define them one, two and three. If a situation develops at a guard post, they could let one blast for post one, two for the second post and so on. This could let everyone know there is a situation and where.
 
Rules of Engagement

The rules of what to do in various situations should be clear. If it’s just your family, you might want the person on watch to simply wake everyone else. If you have a guard posted at an entrance into your neighborhood, it should be clearly defined what to do when people demand that you let them in, as well as what to do when someone brandishes a firearm or makes threats.
 

Gear

You’re just not going to have enough gear for everyone. You can buy some extra affordable items now. You’ll need to make a judgment call if you share your firearms with others who stand guard duty or a watch.

I recommend having some less than lethal options available. You can buy a large can of pepper spray that is meant to deal with crowds. I’ve seen paint balls adapted to shoot pepper spray as well.

 
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