November 1, 2014

Ten Fall Preparedness Projects

Fall Prepper Projects

The leaves are turning beautiful colors, the temperatures are cooling, the air is crisp; this is my favorite time of year! This is also the time of year where we should take care of a few projects to square away our preps before winter sets in. Even if you don’t live in MinnesSNOWta, there are plenty of things to be done! Here are ten fall preparedness projects I came up with.

  1. Change out the clothing in your BOB from summer gear to fall/winter gear.
  2. Gather and save fallen leaves for next year’s compost. Along with kitchen scraps, a great approach is to add equal parts brown (fallen leaves) and green, (grass clippings). You can save the leaves in plastic bins, or in garbage bags, just make sure they are in a dry area; if they get wet, they’ll rot.
  3. Cover crop or mulch over your garden beds. One great method for this is mulching leaves as you mow, and dumping this on the beds.
  4. I suggest checking your smoke alarms twice a year on daylight savings, which is on November 2nd this year.
  5. Flash lights; if you keep batteries in your flashlights, make sure they haven’t started to corrode and make sure the flashlight still works. Another way to keep the batteries near the flashlight but not inside it is to put them in a plastic bag and secure the bag to the flashlight with a rubber-band.
  6. Winterize your car. By this, I don’t just mean the usual car care. Make sure you have cold weather preps in your car; Blankets, Heat for the gas tank, inspect ice scraper and jumper cables, replace if necessary.
  7. Make sure the medicine cabinet is ready for colder weather, especially if you have a little petri dish, err, sorry, I mean child in public schools. I swear as soon as the kids started back to school, we started in with the sniffles! I include cold and flu meds, cough drops and syrup, throat spray and also lotion for cracking itchy skin and Chap Stick.
  8. Get your heating system inspected and tuned up. Usually less than $100 can get you a good inspection.
  9. Consider your emergency heat and what you might do if power goes out for a few days.
  10. If you live where it snows, get your snow blower tuned up well before the first major snowfall. I see at least one story every year after the first major snowstorm on how there are no new snow blowers available, and small engine repair shops are backed up.

Can you think of any projects that can help us get ready for winter?
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National Preparedness Month Challenge

National Preparedness Month Challenge

This is the Month the federal government sets aside to talk about Preparedness. There’ve been conversations about their effort in other articles, but I don’t want to get into that. Instead, I want to challenge you with five tasks! All but one of them is free. If you accept and meet this challenge, even if it takes you longer than this month, you will be so much more prepared!

1. Create a Living Will

Make your end of life decisions now and have them documented. During that time, your loved ones will be under huge amounts of stress and very emotional. Please do not leave these decisions for them to make during that time. Trudee and I got ours done at Legal Zoom, where the price starts at $39.

2. Serial Numbers

Make a list of serial numbers and take pictures of all expensive items. If your house is broken into, damaged or destroyed, this information will greatly increase the speed of getting your insurance claim submitted. I created a Serial Number Recording Form for you. I also recommend taking pictures and storing those images with the list of serial numbers in a couple locations; a thumb drive in a fireproof safe, in any of the online data storage solutions and even on a thumb drive in your trunk!

3. Have Redundant Bug Out Plans

If you have a Bug Out Location (BOL), I suggest you document multiple ways to get there. If you don’t have a BOL, you still have options. One option is to have an agreement with a friend or relative that, if needed, you would head there. You could go one step further and ask to store some food and gear there so you have more than what you were able to BO with.

Another option is to pick small towns; one north, one south, one east and one west of your home. We picked towns that are 30-60 miles away, had a population of around 5,000 and, if possible, a small hotel. You don’t have to stay at the hotel but it can serve as a rally point. Another reason for the hotel is that if you and your family don’t bug out together but agree on which direction to take, if someone is delayed, they can call the hotel and ask to leave a message for your family member who is on their way and will be checking in.

The reason I like this idea is that you have a plan to execute and won’t have to try and figure out where to go if things start going sideways. I like the idea of four directions because you don’t know what direction things might be melting down. For instance, many Minnesotans might think about heading ”up north” because there are many lakes, woods and plentiful wildlife. There is a nuclear power plant along one “up north” route for us and a state penitentiary along another. In a worst case scenario such as an EMP, there is no way I want to go near the nuclear plant and I’d like to keep my distance from the prison as well. It might be easier to just go east instead.

4. Meeting Location

Have a location outside of your neighborhood designated as a meeting place that everyone in your family knows about. If something happens at your home or very near your home, and people cannot get into the area, everyone should know to meet here.

5. 90 Days

Have a plan in place to be self-sufficient for 90 days. I believe that in 95% of situations, battening down or bugging in are better options than bugging out. I believe that 90 days is a moderate goal that we should all be working towards, and when we get there, we should set it out another 90 days!

This can be a lofty task, so planning it out is a great idea. Decide what you will need to provide all of your basic needs; water, food, shelter, energy and security for 90 days. Storing 90 days’ worth of water isn’t realistic if you don’t own a pool, so a water purifier would suffice.

If you are in debt, then getting out of debt should be step one of your plan. One aspect of this plan should also include saving up and stocking away enough money to pay all of your bills for three months.

If you get to a point where you could provide clean water, food, shelter, heat and security for your family, plus pay your mortgage and any other bills for 90 days, you will be better prepared than the overwhelming majority of people.

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Entertainment Kit

Before I get to todays topic, I have a quick personal update. As many of you know, I have been unemployed for quite some time. I was just offered a position doing something very similar to what my last job was. Because the job is so specialized, and because I have previous experience, they offered me 12% more salary then what I asked for.

I know many of you have been praying for me over the last year. I want to let you know how much I appreciate you! I thank God for this position opening up and for all of you.

Entertainment Kit

“RSN”, an active Prepared Christian Forum member, made a thread on the forums that she called Holiday and disaster doldrums pick-me-up’s. It’s about some different things she keeps on hand for entertainment just in case the stuff hits the fan. I think this is a fantastic idea, and thought it would make a good post! At first glance, it might not make sense to have fun things to do when life throws us a curveball. I would argue that it is when we need these things the most!

Depending on how things are going sideways, there could be a significant amount of downtime. If you don’t have something to soak up that downtime, you run the risk of dwelling on the situation and compounding the negativity you feel.

I made it through two 6 month cruises through the Gulf on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and even when things weren’t falling apart, having downtime with nothing to do makes the time crawl by. I can’t even begin to count the number of Hearts and Spades games I played.

Having things to keep people of all ages occupied is important. Entertained children are not going to be as focused on what is going on, which in turn should decrease their fear.

Here are some things you might consider.

Pocket Bible
Decks of cards
Books on how to play various card games
Board games for multiple ages
Pens, pencils, crayons and paper
Tinker Toy’s
Yard games
Word finds
Art and Craft things to do
Hand held electronic games, with extra batteries.

You get the idea! I think having a deck of cards and a travel game or two stuffed in a BOB is a great idea, just in case you’re forced to bug out.

When I am stressed, having something to do that engages my mind can often help me calm down, and help clear my head. In turn, it helps me think clearly when I go back to what it was that was stressing me out to begin with. I personally get bored easily and even more so when there is a lot of stress. I strongly recommend having a variety of things to do!

I would love to hear your ideas of things to add to an Entertainment Kit!

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Five Must Have Items, Each Under Five Bucks

Five Must Have Items Each Under Five Bucks

Stocking up on preparedness items can get expensive, so I thought I would give you a list of five items that you should have in your supplies that are less than $5 each. Remember though that “two is one, and one is none.” Even if you have one of these items, for the sake of redundancy, you might consider getting another.


We only use bleach for the occasional load of laundry and to clean the kennel from time to time. However, bleach can be used as a disinfectant and could be used for cleaning in a survival situation.

It isn’t my first choice as a water purifier, but unscented bleach can be used to do so.

If tap water is clear:
1. Use bleach that does not have an added scent (like lemon).
2. Add 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops or about 0.75 milliliters) of household liquid bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
3. Mix well and wait 30 minutes or more before drinking.
If tap water is cloudy:
1. Use bleach that does not have an added scent (like lemon).
2. Add 1/4 teaspoon (16 drops or 1.5 milliliters) of household liquid bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
3. Mix well and wait 30 minutes or more before drinking.

Keep in mind that this will only kill bacteria and virus and will not remove any other harmful chemicals.

Duct Tape

Duct tape is one of the items I don’t think you can have too much of. It can be used: to close small cuts, to repair a BOB, as impromptu handcuffs, to temporarily patch a broken window, for temporary automotive repairs and on and on.

In short, if it is moving or is leaking and it shouldn’t be, duct tape is often a solution.


Pack of Lighters

Obviously an item used for baking. (Chris has a nasty sweet tooth at times. ~Trudee) Ok, for starting a fire. Sure having the knowledge of starting a fire without a lighter is a good idea. However, while a bow drill, flint, and the other multitude of ways for making flame are effective, they are not nearly as efficient as a lighter.

I think there should be a lighter in each vehicle as part of a car kit, in each BOB and a few around the house.


Manual Can Opener

If you have commercially canned food in your pantry, you would be wise to have one or two of these around. They are not all made equal. I have used several and only think one or two were worth owning.

As with making flame, there are other means of opening a can. I have seen people use a hammer and screw driver, a concrete median and other ways, but in a grid down situation, a manual can opener is the most efficient way to get the job done.


Petroleum Jelly

This is another item that has many uses. It can be applied to very dry skin to moisturize, to keep skin from chaffing and it can be applied to exposed skin in cold or windy areas to protect it against the elements. When applied to a cotton ball it can be used to pack a bloody nose, or to start a fire!

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Become More Proficient With Your Gun Without Firing a Shot

Before I get to today’s article I have a quick personal update. I am having arthroscopic surgery to correct an impingement on my left hip early tomorrow. I have no idea how I’m going to feel the rest of the week. If there isn’t another article this week or an email response or if I am slow to respond to a comment or email, now you know why.

Become More Proficient With Your Gun Without Firing a Shot

Even though ammo prices have come down some, shooting can be a very expensive hobby. Being proficient with your gun involves more than just shooting. Today I am going to give you some exercises you can do for free or with minimal investment in the safety of your home, without firing a single shot.

For the sake of safety, I recommend you practice these things with an unloaded firearm. Be sure to double check.
Dry Firing

Dry firing simply means that you practice all of the mechanics of firing a firearm with either an empty chamber or some type of snap cap, which is a plastic dummy round. Dry firing is fine with most firearms. Check your manufacturer to be sure. I know you should not do so with a .22, as it can damage the firing pin.

The benefit of dry fire practice is that it can help correct bad habits, such as anticipating recoil. If you anticipate the loud bang and the gun bucking in your hand, you can pull down and left (for right handers). If there is no loud bang, you can practice steady hand control, and do it enough times that when you do go to the range you are in the habit of not pulling down and left.

Another way to find and correct bad habits is to stack a few pennies or dimes on top of the slide. If they fall when you squeeze the trigger, you can tell if you’re pulling one way or the other by the direction and timing of when the stack fell.

Yet another way, this time with a cost, is to buy a laser. Nebu Preotec lasers are fairly inexpensive, at around $50. The one I have now is accurate enough to use for aiming at something I actually wanted to hit. It is very easy to tell if you are pulling one way or another.

Drawing From the Holster

It’s a fact, many ranges will not let you draw from the holster. The problem with this is that if you’re ever out and have to draw from the holster, you’re going to be much clumsier under stress than if you had practiced.

If you combine this with dry firing, you can practice an entire self-defense cycle. I know some people love the buzz timers for practicing and I think that is great if you’re practicing for IDPA or another competition. I don’t like the idea for self-defense training though. If you’re out on the town and you hear a loud noise, you’re not going to pull your gun and start shooting. No, if you hear a loud noise, you’ll orient yourself to the direction of the threat, look to see what is going on and then you’ll determine if you need to draw or not.

Instead of a buzzer, use a TV show or a movie. Since no one in the show is actually going to be a threat to you, pick a character, and every time they come on the scene draw and fire. Or pick one color shirt, say red, and every time someone comes on the screen wearing a red shirt, you draw and fire. If two people are wearing red shirts, scan and dry fire at them.

If you get a new holster this is something you should do. For instance, my gun sits very differently than I was used to in the Crossbreed holster I got last summer. Also practice re-holstering without looking. If you are ever forced to shoot, you’ll want to keep your eyes on the attacker and the ongoing scene without looking for your holster.
Drawing From a Concealment Garment

Drawing from the holster is great, but make sure you add in doing so with the clothes you wear when you are carrying it. If you use a CCW purse, practice with it.

Adding in the one extra movement, that of clearing your garment before you can draw, can really foul things up and slow you down.

Practice Without Looking

As I explained in Changes in the Body During a Critical Incident, many people experience time distortions during a critical incident. For this reason, I recommend you learn to reload without looking. The reason for this is that if you look at your hands, you may perceive that you’re reloading much to slow, and then speed up when you were going at normal speed. The problem is that if you speed up, you might make a mistake.

Do you have any tips you can give that can help us be more proficient without firing a shot?


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Brrr Its Cold Outside

Brrr Its Cold Outside

In the last week or so, we have seen record low temperatures across most of America. I may be a week late, but I thought I would give a reminder about cold weather preparedness. Here in Minnesota temps are hovering around zero with wind chill around -20, but we’re used to it. I have seen reports of snow and ice in Texas and other southern states that might not get to 0, but that is still far colder than they are used to. Here are some things for you to keep in mind no matter where you live.

Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can create it. Normal body temperature is 98.6 and hypothermia sets in when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. It is most often caused by exposure to cold air, water or even cold wind. Many people have a misconception that it needs to be frigidly cold to get hypothermia, but it can happen from long exposure to temperatures of less than 50 degrees as well. The elderly and infirm are more susceptible to hypothermia indoors at cold temperatures than younger and healthier people.

Some of the symptoms of hypothermia are:

  • Shivering ; constant shivering is a key sign of hypothermia
  • Clumsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Apathy; lack of concern for one’s condition
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Drowsiness

The treatment for hypothermia depends on the severity of it. For mild cases of hypothermia getting out of the cold environment and using blankets and heaters to raise the body’s temperature can be effective. Moderate to severe hypothermia is best treated in the hospital where special treatments can be used to warm the body’s core temperature.
Dress in Layers

The reason one dresses in layers when out in cold temperatures is to make sure you’re warm enough and to give you the option of removing layers if you begin to sweat. For example, here in Minnesota the temps can get to -20, not including wind-chill. If I have to go out to shovel, I’ll normally wear a white t-shirt, thin long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt and my winter coat, along with long underwear and jeans, wool socks and good winter boots. I’ll also wear a hat, the hood of the coat and a scarf. Even though I’m not in a survival situation, shoveling Minnesota snow can be a workout. If I start to sweat, I’ll take off the sweat shirt and put the jacket back on and maybe lower the hood. I think you get the idea. If you are in a survival situation in cold weather and are sweating, you are in danger and are increasing the odds of hypothermia. Take off a layer or two and give yourself a rest.
Cotton Kills

This is often mentioned in forums. What it means is that cotton wicks your body’s heat away from you when it’s wet. Wool on the other hand will retain your body’s heat even while wet. If you live where it gets cold, having some good wool winter gear is a good idea. Since cotton wicks away your body’s heat, it may be preferable in hot climates.
Driving in Snow and Ice

Here in Minnesota, we can have snow 5+ months out of the year. People still forget how to drive in it, so I can imagine what it must be like in places where you don’t frequently get it. Here are just a few tips that may help keep you safe.

  • Have a car kit. Follow the link to see what is in mine.
  • Leave with plenty of time to get to your destinations. During a snow storm here, it can take 2-3 times longer to travel.
  • Don’t make fast corrections. Don’t slam on the brakes, brake slowly. Before anti-lock brakes, we were taught to pump them. Don’t pump anti-lock brakes.
  • Don’t make sudden turns.
  • If you happen to get stuck, coarse kitty litter or sand can be poured under tires to give some traction.
  • Have the number for a tow truck or AAA in your phone.

If you have any other tips, please add them to the comment section. Stay warm everyone!


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Five Free Practices You Can Do To Be Better Prepared

Here are Five Free Things you can do to be Better Prepared

Have you ever seen someone post a “What have you done to prepare this week?” thread on a prepper forum? I enjoy reading them, both to see how people as my friend, the Survival Sherpa, would say are “doing the stuff” and because there is a sense of accountability. Iron Sharpens Iron.

Money has been tight since I was downsized from my last job, but just because we can’t buy new things, or even replace food storage, that doesn’t give me a pass! I’ve had to get creative in the “What have I done category”, and here are five things you can do for free!


The single most important preparation one can have is knowledge. If deserted on an island, I would take five people who had a depth of knowledge on surviving over five people who had no knowledge and a weeks’ worth of supplies.

There is a saying, “knowledge is power” and it is! We are blessed to live in a time where you can learn about anything and everything, within just a few keystrokes. Of course, we need to use discernment and be wary of our sources but finding reputable sources on any subject is not a difficult task.

Practice Skills

After knowledge, I think skills are the next important item. Having book knowledge is great, but to read about starting a friction fire is much different than doing it. There are plenty of skills one can master for free or a very small investment.

Teach Others

Teaching someone else about something you know helps you to understand it in much greater detail. This website is just over three years old. In that time I have learned new things and I have a much deeper understanding of the topics I have written about.

You don’t need a blog to teach someone else. You just need someone willing to listen and learn. I talked to my son about learning how to change a tire years ago and he was never interested. Maybe I should have made him sit through it but I doubt he would have paid attention. However, a couple weeks ago he called and said he was not far from me and had a flat tire. I drove to where he was, explained what to do and watched over his shoulder as he loosened the lug nuts. I showed him where to place the jack and how to go through the rest of the motions. He was very grateful and I was glad I could pass on the skill. I know he paid attention and will be able to do it on his own in the future.

Examine and Take Stock of Existing Preps

If you have been prepping for any length of time, you’ve got who-knows-what, stashed who knows where. I had things scattered in many different places and decided to put it all together and redo the BOB’s. I had forgotten that we owned several items and was able to build a couple small kits out of the gear I’ve collected over the years. I also found some items that I need to replace when money permits.

Research Future Purchases

When you’ve gone through your existing preps and find those items that you need to replace, or items you might need, thoroughly research them. Read both the positive and the negative reviews of the item you’re considering, and also for its biggest competitor. This will ensure that you make smart purchases when you do have a bit of extra money.

Do you have any other ideas that a person can do to prepare that are free?

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Ten Common Mistakes Prepper’s Make

Ten Common Mistakes Prepper’s Make

I was going to call this article “Ten Mistakes New Prepper’s Make” but then it dawned on me that veteran Prepper’s make these mistakes too! One of those veteran Prepper’s might even be named “Chris”. Making mistakes is human nature. Learning from them and modifying our actions and behavior is how we grow and improve. That being said, following are ten mistakes Prepper’s make.

Getting Overwhelmed

This happens to many new Prepper’s. I think this is because when one decides to prepare, it is often due to the fact that they have awakened to the many real dangers to our modern way of life and realize how ill-prepared they are. I wrote an article called Not Prepared Enough Syndrome that covers this in further detail.

Getting overwhelmed isn’t just something that happens to new Prepper’s. There are plenty of us whose blood pressure rises when new threats pop up. We can still feel that we’re not prepared enough to face what could happen.

When this starts to happen to me, I just reaffirm that I am as prepared as I can be and will face things with the Marine slogan of “Improvise, adapt and overcome”. I also rest in the fact that things are in God’s hands and find peace in that.

Blindly Following Others

Part of the process is learning from others but when it comes to preparedness, we need to pick and choose what will work in our lives. I hope no one goes along with everything I say and tries to mold it to their lives. I do what I do because it works for me. You should take the things you like from this site and others, and apply what works for you, while getting rid of what doesn’t.

Not Storing What You Eat and Eating What You Store

This is one of the The Ten Commandments of Preparedness I came up with. This is a mistake many of us make. I know I’ve purchased some food based on its storage life and not because we eat it.

Lopsided Preparedness

I think it is common for people to have a favorite area of preparedness and it makes sense that the favored area gets more attention. Keep in mind The Five Basic Human Needs and having a well-rounded approach to preparedness is the best method. Having a safe full of guns and ammo does you little good if your family is starving. Then again, a year’s worth of food does you little good to protect you from Joe Dirtbag and his merry band of takers.

The truth is that none of us know how or when things will fall apart. Being able to cook and feed, provide and heat shelter, purify drinking water and defend yourself and your family are all musts!

Only Preparing for the Big Ones

One mistake I have seen is people preparing for the large scale events that have a small chance of happening, while ignoring the smaller scale things that actually happen in their area. I explained this in greater detail in Disaster Probability. While I think a general approach to preparedness is best, I think it also makes sense to make sure we’re prepared to face the events that are most likely to happen in our area. For my area, that includes cold, snow and ice. I know it will snow and there is a potential for power lines to come down. It makes more sense for me to prepare for that over an EMP.

Placing Gear Over Knowledge and Skill

Being prepared can mean acquiring gear but can lead to a false sense of security. There is also a chance some might think that because they have a piece of gear, they are prepared. If I’m bleeding, I would rather have someone who has a firm understanding of first aid and basic equipment over someone who had a top-of-the-line emergency medical kit but has no idea how to use it.

Loose Lips Sink Ships

For a few different reasons, I think it is a good idea to keep your prepping a secret. If people know you prepare, try to keep the extent of your preparedness a secret. Maybe you have heard of Being Gray, which is the process of blending in, keeping a low profile and maintaining OpSec (Operational Security).

If you feel led to share preparedness with others, it is best to be as vague about your own preparedness as possible. The more people who know you prepare and who also know the level to which you prepare, the more people you will either be forced to turn away or share your preparations with.

If stuff does hit the fan and you decide to share with others, for many reasons, it is best to do so in secret.

Bug Out Mistakes

There are actually a few mistakes people make when it comes to bugging out or bugging in. Some people only plan for bugging out, while others only prepare for sticking it out at home. I personally think that for the vast majority of people in the vast majority of situations, it is better to plan on staying home and riding out whatever is going on. That being said, I think everyone should have a BOB and a bug out plan. Follow this link to four Bug Out Myths. I also give a means for everyone to select multiple bug out locations, even if you don’t have a stocked bug out location.


This is probably the biggest mistake people make; getting tunnel vision and thinking the “collapse” is going to happen a certain way. This leave people vulnerable to countless other potential dangers. We should be aware that there are levels of hitting the fan and know it’s possible for the stuff to hit the fan at any time, for anyone.

Living in Fear

This might not be the most common mistake but it can be the most dangerous. We don’t know when or how things will go sideways. Even if we did, worrying about it isn’t going to do anything to keep it from happening. I wrote an article about finding joy in the darkness. In it, I give some tips on how to keep your spirits up, even when life is hard. In the end, all we can do is our best to be prepared and rest in the fact that things are in God’s hands. Find peace in that!

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Communicating During an Emergency

Today’s article was guest written by Lee Flynn.


Communicating During an Emergency

Whether it is a big natural disaster, or a terrorist attack, or even something that is not of national significance, the chances are that we will all face some kind of serious emergency at some point in our lifetimes. And in recent years, it seems as though such occurrences are becoming more and more likely. One of the biggest problems that people face, when hit with such emergencies, is that it becomes difficult to contact the people who they love. Whenever there is a disaster, such as the tornado in Oklahoma, or the bombings at the Boston marathon, cell phone service is often jammed, due to the sheer amount of people who are trying to contact their loved ones. And that is if you are lucky enough to even have a phone still intact, with which you can call people. For this reason, there are special preparations that need to be made in the case of an emergency. Here is a guide to communicating during an emergency.


General Tips

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has put together some guidelines to follow when trying to communicate during an emergency. Some of the most important tips are as follows:

  • Limit your phone calls, especially non-emergency ones, to free up space on the network and conserve battery power.
  • When you do call, keep it brief.
  • Try texting rather than calling, you may find that it goes through more easily.
  • Try other messaging services, such as email.
  • Keep your phone well charged, and keep back-up batteries if necessary.
  • Try to stay in the same place while you are placing a phone call.
  • Listen for emergency alerts on a radio if the power is out.
  • Designate a person who is out of the area to be your family’s emergency contact, so that everyone in your family knows who to contact should you get separated.


Making Emergency Calls

You may be injured, trapped, or witness other kinds of emergencies that require assistance from emergency services. The FCC also has instructions for making such phone calls. Some suggestions include having a backup form of communication in case the power is out, and listening for emergency alerts on the radio and on television. It also offers instructions for calling 911 in emergency situations. Authorities often learn about big emergencies through 911 calls, so don’t hesitate to call, even if you think that many other people might be doing the same.


Make a Plan

The Federal Emergency Management Association also offers emergency preparation advice, through its website On here, they stress the importance of making a plan that all of your family can learn and follow. This includes an emergency communication plan, and a meeting point for if you get separated. This should allow for emergencies that may occur when you are all at home, as well as emergencies that might happen when you are in different places, such as school, work, daycare, sporting events, commuting, or faith organizations. has a downloadable plan on its website, and recommends that you send it to all of your family and friends, keep a copy in your car and with your food storage, and practice a few times until you all know it well.

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National Geographic’s American Blackout

I had the opportunity to watch National Geographic’s American Blackout
National Geographic’s American Blackout and thought I would give you my thoughts on the show. If you haven’t watched it, be warned, there are some spoilers in this article.

The premise of the movie is that there was a major cyber-attack that brings the electric grid down from coast to coast. The show is presented as if the content from citizens who took the video on their phones and video cameras was collected after power was restored,

The show mainly follows five groups, though video clips are shown from others. One group is comprised of a family of preppers and the boyfriend of the daughter. The second group is made up of four students trapped in an elevator. The third group is a wealthy couple somewhere in New York who live on the 46th floor. The fourth group is a family with a young daughter and a pregnant wife is who is due any day. The last group is a mother and teen-aged son. The mother is a nurse who leaves the son alone for most of the blackout.

The movie flows from day to day, giving viewers an idea of how quickly thing get bad. I had originally thought about reviewing it day by day but I think a better approach might be to go by categories. Just after the show starts and the power goes out, the groups mentioned above are often filming themselves. There is an occasional newscast report from a television station that is on generator power.

Water is the most important of the five basic needs (occasionally security trumps it) and the only family that was prepared for this was the family of preppers. In one scene the man from the couple in New York goes into a store and tries to cut in front of everyone else, attempting to buy a gallon of water with his credit card. People were willing to pay $40 for one gallon of water!

I realize that many of us cannot store enough water, but knowing how to filter it and make it safe to drink is something every prepper should know. I cover several methods in the article The Storage, Filtration And Purification Of Water.

Nat Geo also made a comment about the average home in America using 400 gallons of water a day. That seems high to me but I have not researched it. In a survival situation the number that is often given is 2 gallons of water per person per day for drinking and miscellaneous uses.

In the beginning of the blackout, people were throwing blackout parties, cooking a lot of the food before it went bad. The New York couple was eating caviar and drinking warm champagne. The man got sick later in the movie. Here are some tips on Keeping Food Cold Without Electricity.

The prepper family had quite the setup. They bugged out early to their remote location. It was stocked with some food in a closet inside the home. They called that their “decoy food”. If anyone broke in, they would steal that and quit looking. The preppers had 2+ years of food stored in their bunker. There was a neighbor who came to the fence asking for food. The father told the neighbor they could not help him, but the daughter’s boyfriend piped up and said they had plenty to spare. This raised the tension and the father ended up pulling his firearm and telling the neighbor to leave. The daughter’s boyfriend later snuck out and gave the neighbor some canned goods.

Nat Geo, made a text comment about the quantity of foods that are shipped and transported every day in the USA. Since the power was down, the cranes that offload ships in ports that require electricity weren’t functional and the gas pumps were unable to pump diesel into trucks. Therefore, none of those goods would be transported. I covered the impact this would have in When the Trucks Stops

There were many food related riots and eventually the federal government stepped in, instituting “rationing and fair allocation” of resources such as food, water and gasoline. Priority was given to EMS, police and military.

Nat Geo stated that a cyber-attack could cause power surges, causing damage to the electric grid. I have read several articles over the years about municipalities and state and federal government finding proof that hackers from other countries have hacked into the grid.

The prepper family had a solar energy system and a bicycle generator. The father stated they had enough energy stored in their battery array to last two months.

One of the people in the elevator has a wind up cell phone charger that he used to keep his phone charged.

Nat Geo said that only 10% of the traffic lights across the countries have any type of backup power. This was leading to a lot of accidents.

I have covered multiple ways we can Prepare for the Grid to go Down. Just follow that link.

They said that cell towers often have backup power but that service would be drastically reduced due to load. This is often the case in any type of emergency. Often times a text message will still go through when a phone call will not.

The couple on the 46th floor, having to go up and down the stairs was hating life by the third day.

The four people trapped in the elevator were all college students who were heading home for spring or summer break. No one knew where they were, let alone that they were trapped in the elevator. They tried to pry the doors open without any luck. Long story short, one student fell to his death from the top of the elevator. The other three made a harness to climb up the elevator shaft and were able to use a knife that one of the students had to cut through a grate of sorts and climb out. They were still trapped on the top of the building. A second student later died on the building roof.

Since there was no light at night, people were using candles, which was leading to fires. In fact, the family with the young daughter and pregnant wife were chased from their home due to fire. They had candles scattered throughout the house. I’m guessing that was the cause of the fire.

Many fires were out of control, as there was no water pressure to put them out. Nat Geo gave the number of 3,500 gallons of water being needed to extinguish the average house fire.


Security for all of the groups was laughable. Multiple times people went to areas where there were known riots and gang activity. While I do think Nat Geo had the characters venture into these areas so we could see what things were like, I also know that this behavior isn’t limited to a few people in this youtube-driven, “selfie” taking, YOLO world we live in.

The prepper family had firearms but no real security procedures or plans in place. The son was standing the late watch when the neighbors who got food from the daughter’s boyfriend earlier came back to get more. They captured him and forced him inside the home. The son directed them to the decoy food. He then woke everyone. The father brought them all into the bunker at that point.

Later that day, the neighbors, now turned bandits, came back to see what else they could find. The family had a surveillance system and could see them coming. The dad went out alone to confront them, and got his rifle taken away.

The New York couple ended up near a riot and stole a can of peaches that they then brought back to their building. They were followed by a man who demanded the can of peaches. When he was told “no”, he attacked. The husband used the “assault can” to pummel the man. They heard sounds in the hallway of their apartment building and went to explore each time. This never ended well, and in the end, might have cost them everything.

The young man whose mother was a nurse had been on his own for over a week. He found a pistol in his mother’s room but had no idea how to use it safely.

As of the third day, there was a dusk till dawn curfew, which was largely ignored. The National Guard was asked to help patrol the streets in several cities. Martial law was talked about a few times.

Miscellaneous Items

People had little to no cash and, since ATM’s weren’t working, they had no way to pay for goods. One of the shops shown was willing to take trades. Many people don’t think cash will be valuable in such a disaster. I think it will be extremely valuable for a short time. In the show, the media frequently said the government was close to solving the problem. As long as people think the system will go back to what it was, cash will have value. If weeks and months go by, it will then lose its value.

Hospitals were overrun with people. Hence the nurse being kept from her son for many days. Because there was no power, people were doing things that they had never done before, like opening a can of peaches with a butcher knife. This led to a major laceration, which seemed to get infected and make the man quite ill.

I think it was around the seventh day when the President requested international aid, to deliver goods to the American people.

It was mentioned that there are roughly 700,000 HAM radio operators in the US. In this type of scenario this might be the most reliable form of communication.

It was also said that there is an estimated 3 million preppers in the US. I would love to know how they got to that number.

The lack of ability to have a working water and sewage system was mentioned a few times, but I think they grossly undersold the damage this would cause. I covered Survival Sanitation sometime ago. I linked to three great articles from Tactical Intelligence and I highly recommend all three. If you live in an area that is on city sewer and water, just think for a minute about what might happen if all of the toilets in your neighborhood stopped working for a week or longer. Knowing how to manage that, and all of the garbage is something we should all consider.

If memory serves, the power came back on to all of America after nine days. Things just don’t work like that. If power fluctuation can cause damage to parts of the grid all across the nation, it is going to take a lot longer than a little over a week to get them all repaired or replaced. I listened to a podcast with an electrical engineer named John Kappenman who has testified before Congress on the dangers to the power grid from EMP. He stated that we have some components in our grid that have a 30 year shelf life and are 50 years old. If that wasn’t bad enough, he said we no longer make some of these power plants and would need to have them shipped from other countries. Power might come up for a portion of the country, but there is no way a switch can be flipped and the entire countries’ power restored.

The father of the prepper family came off as a jerk to me. I agreed with most of what he said but he could have used far better arguments to make his points.
Final Thoughts

American Blackout is worth watching, if for no other reason than to decide what you would do differently. If we see a nationwide blackout, things are very, very bad. It would take a major event to bring down our entire electric grid and I would expect it to take much longer than nine days to repair.

I think this would be a good show to have a non-prepper watch. It could plant the preparedness seed.

If you had a chance to watch it, please let me know what you thought!

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