The picture above shows four thing you need to help in any given situation. These are the very basics. But I think there are actually five. Food, water, shelter, Character and Community. They are all important, some in the short term, others for your long term mental health and physical well being. Today we are talking about a concept known in the community as “The End of the World as We Know It” otherwise known by the acronym TEOTWAWKI. If you do some searching on the interwebs you will certainly find lots of proposed ways in which the world as we know it will be disrupted for anywhere from months to permanently. Some of them are based in reality (Search for Massive Solar storms or Economic collapse) others are somewhat specious at best (The Zombie Apocalypse or Nibiru) Others have happened quite often in our history (Plagues for instance.)
I don’t want to be a fear monger by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some realitiies to the modern world that put us at risk. If you want a good read on it pick yourself up a copy of James Wesley Rawles “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It.” I’m not a Rawlesian prepper (mostly because I can’t afford to be a Rawlesian prepper. If you’ve read the book you know what I’m talking about.
In the book Rawles talks about the “Thin Veneer of Society” that holds the civilized world together. Think about it, in our world there are some rules and conventions that hold up and let us function as a society as long as it’s in the majorities best interest to function with those rules in place. The moment it becomes deadly for someone to follow those rules they will go out the window in no short order. Not many people will face their starving children and tell them they have to die because their parents didn’t plan well and it isn’t right to steal. I’m sure some will because they have a strong moral character that will guide them to do whats right. I daresay there aren’t enough. Some people are just bullies by nature, remove the grip of law from their reins and they run amok. So being prepared is your goal.
The first thing you need is a plan. Two plans actually. The first plan is to hunker down until the danger has passed. The second is a plan to get the heck outta dodge. Both involve some expenditure on your part, but can be done on a budget. Trust me, it’s not as overwhelming as you think. Give yourself a budget. Lets say $10.00 a week. Or maybe $10.00 a month. it will take longer but something is definitely better than nothing. Lets look after the basics first.
Water: If you are hunkering down you need a solid supply of water. A good rule of thumb is four litres per person per day for cooking and drinking. Obviously you can’t store enough bottled water to last you a year. A family of three would need 1100 gallons for a year. That would fill a 5 foot by 5 foot by 6 foot (1 2/3 x 1 2/3 x 2 meter) tank. To cover your first two weeks you would need 14 gallons per person. You can get by for a while on less water (don’t cook anything that needs water etc.) but that isn’t sustainable. To help with your hunker down water supply the first thing you need to know is if your water supply is gravity fed or uses electricity or other power to pump it to you. If it isn’t gravity fed, water will stop flowing as soon as the back up generators run out of fuel. If you live in an earth quake zone they could be severed by a quake. If there is any reasonable belief on your part that the water will stop flowing in the event of an emergency you need to plan for a source and a method to clean it. It’s fairly easy if you live in a rural area or a house in the city.It becomes problematic if you live in an apartment building in the city.
I live in a small town with lots of fresh water springs in rural Nova Scotia. I know of three lakes and at least 7 streams and rivers that are all within walking distance of me. But fortunately, i have an active spring right on my property. But that’s me. To get started simply lay in four cases of water for every person in your household. For economy and ecology’s sake you can use larger containers as long as you lay in 1 gallon (four liters) per person per day for two weeks. This will cover your short term hunker down needs. Same for when you bug out. You will need water. If your bugging out you will need enough water to get you to your bug out location and a secure source of water at the location when you get there.
For longer term hunkering down you need to secure a source of water. Rain barrels are great for this, but you have to be aware of two things. Waterborne pathogens (germs) and pollution. Filters will help with this short term. The problem is after a while you will run out of filters unless you learn how to build your own. If pathogens are the only real concern you have then I would recommend either the Life Straw or my personal favorite the Sawyer Squeeze. I like the sawyer squeeze (well, the sawyer filter technology in particular) because if you use it properly and clean it as instructed it will filter about one million gallons of water. Thats a lot of water. Of course, boiling works well for pathogens, really well. Another cheap solution is to add Chlorite bleach or Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide to your drinking water. The ratio for bleach is two drops to one liter of water (8 drops/gallon.) The ratio for Hydrogen Peroxide is 2ml/gallon of water. You can use both as they compliment each other really well. The last, easiest most effective and cheapest solution is to place clear two liter bottles out in the sun for a couple of days. UV light will kill all the pathogens in the water. A steripen will do this as well. Put some tinfoil behind the bottles to help with this.
If you need to be concerned about pollution (for instance if you live in an active volcano zone or a massive fire breaks out or, and this is a worst case scenario, a tsunami hits your area… think about all the diesel and home heating oil that would mix into the ground water at that point…) then you will need a more definitive solution. Katadyn makes some great all round portable filter systems as well as Berkey. Just be aware that you will need to lay in extra filters. Examine how many gallons each is reasonably capable of cleaning contaminates out of. If you do go that way you can prolong the life of that filter by first filtering with either a Sawyer filter to get the larger contaminates out, or even a Brita first. Brita’s eliminate a few contaminates themselves. Remember, you can’t boil out a lot of chemical contaminants. Boiling the water just concentrates the chemical even more. If you are worried about chemical contamination you are going to need some kind of hefty filtering technology. If you can’t afford to buy any of these goodies you can build a solar still. there are plenty of designs for these on the internet including step by step directions on the Internet. They are cheap and easy to make. I’m currently looking at creating a few solar contraptions myself including a solar furnace. A small still will also help you out.
Remember one thing, you can survive three days without water in a warm environment. A little longer in a cold one as long as you aren’t exerting very much.
Food: This is harder. You need space and you need to know what to keep. But first of all I have some important news for you. Best Before dates are NOT expiry dates. They simply mean that the food within is freshest and tastiest before this date. If food has an expiry date, when it hits that date it is no longer safe to eat. There have been cases in the past where cans have contained safe food for 100 years (Look up the steamboat Bertrand.) Cans in that case had been underwater for 100 years and were still safe to eat. Here is a good rule of thumb for you, but If you look closely they say that it’s only taste appearance and smell that deteriorate after the best before dates.
So you need to lay in food stores for a disaster. Once again, start small and learn the tricks of the trade. Canned foods have a long shelf life, along with dried foods. Fresh produce is not a prep, but seeds to grow it are. If you can can or bottle your own stuff that’s all the better.
How much do you need. Well, if you’re mathematically minded you can calculate the Basil Metabolic Rate and figure out exactly how many calories you’ll need to make a go of it. A basic rule of thumb however is 2000 calories a day for a woman, 2200 calories a day for men and roughly half that for toddlers (900-1000 calories.) A teen needs about 1800 calories. Lay in two weeks of food for everyone in your family. I recommend you lay in some of each of the following starting out.
Rice: one 8 kg (17.6 lb) bag for every member of your family. I suggest white rice for this because the oils in brown rice will go rancid after about six months. White rice has a shelf life of 5 years in an airtight container. If you remove the oxygen from that container with either oxygen absorbents or using the dry ice oxygen displacement method it has a shelf life of over 25 years.
Beans: Dried beans cooked with rice give you all the protein and amino acids you need to survive. Pulses are great and can be bought somewhat cheaply in bulk. Like rice, your best bet is to store them in airtight containers. Use 5 gallon food grade plastic containers with gasket-ed airtight lids. You can get them at many places. Brew shops, grocery stores, online etc. Gamma seal lids are pricey, but if you have trouble opening the five gallon lids these will make your life much easier.
Canned Goods. My local superstore has a sale every so often on Campbell’s soup. It’s not the best solution but at $0.50 per can you can buy a lot of shelf stable food for $10.00. Sales are key to doing this on a budget. Never buy food for preps unless it’s on sale. I also grab the Primo soups when they’re on sale as well, especially the Beef and Barley soups. Yummy. Canned vegetables and fruit will carry you through the winter hopefully until you can obtain a source of fresh vegetables and fruit. Also get some canned tomatoes and pasta sauce. These work better in bottles as the acidity in tomatoes tends to give them off flavors after about 1 1/2 years. Canned meat stays good for at least five years. I stock canned ham, chicken and smoked herring. Yummy. This will give you some of the fat you need to live, especially the smoked herring (Omega fats guys.)
Pasta and Grain. In a perfect world you would lay in unprocessed grain. When you need it, you open a bucket (remove the oxygen from it, this will kill any pests that lurk within) grab what you need and either soak it to make Wheat Berries or mill it to make flour. In lieu of that have some flour, but it will only be good for a year or so. Turn it over often. Pasta keeps for a very very long time on it’s own. It’s listed as good for two years, but industry insiders say it can be eaten for up to a year past that. Probably longer but I wouldn’t plan it that way just in case.
Snack foods and Comfort. Whatever it is you like. Check the shelf life of it (you can just type “Shelf life of Potato Chips”) into google and it will tell you what you need to know to plan. Dried fruits and berries, nuts etc all have pretty good shelf lives. This is easy to look after when your goal is just two weeks worth of food. Its a little harder when you plan to increase that to one years worth of food for your hunker down/bug out location. Personally I think your best plan is to store some sugar and honey as well as cocoa and a few other ingredients to make your personal favorites. Beef jerky is also a good snack that will keep for a long time, plus it’s an excellent source of protein. Not so good if your a Vegan however. Popcorn is a great solution as whole kernels will keep for years. Just don’t buy the microwave kind. There might not be any microwaves WTSHTF.
Vitamins: Just a general multi vitamin and some vitamin C. Scurvy really sucks. It would be terrible if you died from Scurvy with a belly full of your survival rations because all the Vitamin C in your canned goods went away.
Baby Food: Breast feed. That’s the best solution in any case. Baby formula has a very short shelf life. use it by the use by date, then it has to be discarded for safety’s sake. A use by date is a hard safety like an expiry date. Powdered cows milk is an inadequate back up. Having a goat or two would be a much better solution (hard to do that in an apartment.)
Bugging Out Food: I have a backpack (it’s a small one, black and looks like something a student might carry, I’ll explain why in a later post.) full of nothing but dehydrated soup packages (mostly all in one knorr or lipton packages) it’s actually got about two weeks worth of food in it. Also in it are tins of Smoked herring for Protien and fat. You need fat to live. This is compact but requires you to have some kind of portable cooking equipment. I don’t recommend a Coleman stove or anything like that. Instead invest in a portable wood gas stove (you can get them for $15.00 on Ebay) or a portable rocket stove of some kind. The fuel for these can be found anywhere there are trees. I personally have several back up systems for heating food depending on the situation. I have a portable wood gas stove, a butane stove (single burner compact) with two weeks worth of fuel, an alcohol powered hiking stove (cheap one) and I just invested in a Biolite stove (pricey but it can provide you with cooking heat and charge your batteries or provide you with light at the same time.) and I can build a rocket stove out of bricks and a piece of heat resistant mesh anytime I want.
Basically you need two weeks worth of food to cover the majority of modern emergencies. Then two months worth. Then six months, then a year. Step by step, one rung at a time up the ladder of survivability. You can last about 3 weeks without food. Less so if you are already exceptionally healthy and skinny. Being prepared means not being scared.
Shelter: There are two pieces of shelter you will need. The place you live in, and the place you plan to bug out to. It’s best if you live in your bug out location but if you can’t it’s good to have a place to escape to if the situation warrants it. Regardless, some of us have to make do with a small apartment in the city due to financial and work considerations. If thats your case, these same things apply to you because both your Bug Out and Hunker Down location need the exact same things. You need your food and water for one. It would be really difficult to transfer all of your food supplies between your house and your bug out location if it came down to that so you need to stock both locations. You might only need a months worth in your Hunker down however as after a month it would likely be easier for you to get from the city to your bug out location. But sometimes you just have to pick up and leave anyway. Even if you can’t afford to buy a cabin in the woods you still need someplace to bug out to.If you were to learn that an imminent attack was due on your city what would you do? Hunker down and ride it out or hop in you car and get the hell outta dodge. If you live in the city your car might very well become your coffin as hundreds of thousands of people all hit the road in a panic trying to get out. Weather permitting you would be actually better off if you took a bicycle out of town. I’m not advocating theft, but knowing how to hotwire a car might be a handy skill for you at this point.
Regardless, your shelter will need heat, light and security. You will need a heat source that isn’t dependent on electricity. A wood stove is ideal but if you live in an apartment or rent a house or own a condo that might not be possible. Some neighborhoods have outlawed them due to health concerns. Wood stoves and Asthma are a bad combination. In a short term emergency my secondary source is a K1 Kerosene heater. It will keep the house warm enough that I won’t have to worry about PrepperWife complaining too much. It’s not a great long term grid down TEOTWAWKI solution however because it requires me to keep the house ventilated. Open flames are a bad idea unless you have a fireplace. Carbon monoxide poisoning will kill you before you even realize it’s on you. For the long term I’m planning a solar furnace. Of course we will eventually need to have a better long term solution. Solar furnaces can only do so much in the dead of winter when it’s -15C. When the time is right we will have a long term bug out location somewhere in the country. But for now I need to deal with our reality. Prepperwife was a Nurse in her native China for 17 years before she came to Canada. She’s currently re-educating herself in order to get her nursing license here in Canada. So no one can question her credentials she got a english Canadian academic grade twelve and is now working on her Nursing Diploma. once thats done and she obtains a job we may have to move, so there isn’t any sense in planning our bug out in this area right now. When we buy, the house will have wood heat and a southern exposure.
You need heat. If you can’t manage a secondary heat source here in Canada, then you need to plan to be cold. That means good quality winter outer wear and lots of sweaters and layers of pants. Also plan on extra calories because your body will need to burn them to ward off hypothermia. Invest in a couple of Mylar Emergency blankets for each person in the house. Don’t use them like blankets however as they really suck at that. Instead create a pup tent to sleep in. On the coldest nights hunkering down in that with a good sleeping bag and a candle will keep you alive. Be extremely careful with the candle however. Make double sure it can’t come into contact with anything flammable (including the mylar) or you. I recommend tea lights in a glass so that the flame is a couple of inches below the top of the glass. Tea lights are cheap and give you a lot of bang for your buck. I just bought another 100 of them for $3.77. They are my main everyday source of light in an emergency with my various flashlights and other sources being saved for when they are really needed. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 hanging around here right now. Mostly in our storage room but others are in Bug out bags, Every Day carry bags and stored in our SUV as well.
I can’t express this enough, you need access to water from your shelter. Preferably safe clean water, but if not you also need the means to clean it. You need to be able to boil water for a lot of different reasons, but it’s the very least you should do to clean it. It will remove pathogens but will not remove metals ash or salts. Salt water cannot be your safe secure water source unless you have the ability to distill it or a desalinization set up. Set up a rain catchment system of some kind, scout around your area and find streams or lakes. You can’t store a years worth of water… unless you have a swimming pool. If you do make sure as soon as things start to go wrong, you get it covered. Keep the water from evaporating. As a last resort, when things go wrong… Fill your bathtub with water as far as you can. Plug up the overflow if you can. But remember, that will only last so long.
Light is important for your shelter too. Both for mental well being and for practical reasons. Keep a good store of candles or solar powered lights in store in case the power grid goes down for a long time. I have flashlight with NiCD batteries and a solar powered charger for them. Flashlight, batteries and charger all bought for under $50.00 off ebay. Even a few of the cheap garden solar lights will help out.
Security is your next concern. If you’re hunkering down by yourself or with just your family you need to make sure your location is safe and secure. If power is down for any amount of time and the government isn’t there to keep people under control things could go bad fast. There are a few common sense ideas to keep yourself safe. #1… Black out your windows at night. Cover them with heavy thick cloth so that light cannot escape at night. If you’re the only glowing window in a blacked out city that will make you a target. #2 Try to make your place look like it’s already been ransacked. Your fridge might now be useless… Push it out the front door. If you have a porch, break a few windows and toss some junk out the door. boot the door and make it look like someone kicked it down. Make sure you seal the door between the porch and the house however. 3/4 inch plywood screwed directly into the frame from your side in case someone still gets curious. Biohazard signs will keep people guessing as well. Especially if there is a pandemic in progress.
As far as weapons go, unless you have some pretty heavy duty training in how to use a weapon in stressful circumstances then the best gun for you is a big dog. A gun in the hand of an untrained unskilled person is more dangerous to the person holding it than the person it’s being pointed at. Especially the person it’s being pointed at is trained and experienced. If I have a gun and someone is pointing a gun at me, I’m going to try and take them out. I was in the military for a while so I know a bit about using a weapon in anger (or more aptly, in a calm reasoning and trained manner.) If a gun is the only thing going to make you feel safer then I suggest you not only go through the basic Non Restricted training, that you go ahead and get the restricted training as well, then ask your local police or RCMP if they know of any training you can take for self defense in your home with a firearm. There’s a pretty good chance there isn’t any, but you need to be educated and body trained in order to operate well under stress. The motions you make have to be second nature and programmed into your body and brain for you to be effective at defense. Once again, a big dog is more effective than an untrained person with a firearm, but he needs to be properly trained too. If he barks at every little noise, he’ll end up attracting attention. You also need to lay food away for him too which is a problem as a lot of dry dog food has a high oil content which will go rancid after a while.
Then you need to think about Hygiene. Remember… if the water stops flowing… the toilet won’t flush. You can flush it manually by filling the tank by hand, but if the sewers aren’t working anymore it will just clog them eventually. Easy solution… Five gallon bucket with a toilet seat. Or even a few pieces of wood strategically placed to allow you to squat on it. When it gets full, carry it outside somewhere and bury it. If you can bury it, line the bucket with a good plastic garbage bag and tie it off. It will keep the stuff contained for the winter, but some summer you’re going to have to bury them or deal with exploding bags. Try to bury it as far away from your shelter as possible so you don’t pollute any water sources near you. Keeping some lime on hand will cut down on the smell coming from your Honey Bucket as well. If you live in an apartment building maybe you can stash it in an empty apartment (gross) if thats all you have available. Make sure it isn’t the one next door though. get it as far away as possible.
Women, you will need to store products to look after your menstrual needs. Pads run out eventually no matter what you do. Diva Cups will last pretty much forever however. Get a couple just in case. Redundancy is very useful in prepping. They’re also much better for the environment.
The rest, well just think of your needs. you need soap and a good supply of your medication (this is hard to stock up on in Canada. I’m a Type 2 Diabetic and I’m trying to keep a three month supply of my meds on hand at any given time. Insulin, if you’re insulin dependent, needs to be kept properly stored in a refrigerator or it will go bad in no short order. Once it starts to turn cloudy, it’s no good anymore. It can remain at room temperature for anywhere from 28-42 days depending on what kind of insulin it is. The issue for diabetics is Survival foods tend to be very carb rich. So your going to have to take steps to keep your blood sugar down WTSHTF. Calorie restrict your diet. Try to keep a fat in your diet. Exercise more. Above all, cut out vegetable oils right now. Studies are showing that they exacerbate the problem of insulin resistance and cause heart disease. Being able to keep yourself clean and comfortable not only helps your physical health, but allows you to maintain a sense of normalcy in a world that may be crumbling. hunkering down will kill your blood sugar, but once you need to actively work to survive, type two diabetics should be in the clear. Type one diabetics however will need some kind of help.
The last part is entertainment. Even if you’re all alone, books and a deck of cards will help you while away the hours until normalcy returns. If you have a friend that will also be alone WTSHTF then you might want to prep with them so you won’t be alone. Community is very important for a lot of reasons. Keep some games around to help everyone stay sharp and happy. A good family game night will help you maintain the bonds you are going to need to survive.
Character: Develop the character of a survivor. Be determined and resolute. Be open to new ideas and develop an interest in your fellow man. The golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” is going to be very important to you if the world falls apart. Start practicing it now. Get to know your neighbors. Make friends with them, find out what they know how to do, what they enjoy. Do them favors and help them whenever you need to.
Be a student. Learn, read, investigate and study anything that might be useful if TEOTWAWKI happens tomorrow. Education removes ignorance. Removing ignorance removes fear.
Practice making fires without matches. Practice any skill that might be useful someday. Buy books that will teach you how to survive. In a later post I’ll list some very good books for you to start on. Become a leader. Be ready to step in when the danger is over and you need to rally whats left of your community to rebuild something safe and secure.
Be generous and charitable as much as you can. Let people be friends with you. Allow people to help you when you need a hand. Develop a sense of community before things go bad. Learn who in your community might be a danger if things go wrong.
Community: As things progress you will first need to protect yourself. This is the hunker down period. Stay safe until the danger or emergency has passed. If gangs of armed looters are running amok, take the steps you need to protect yourself up to and including getting out of there. But if possible rally your neighbors to oppose the looters, especially if they’re looting food and weapons from houses. Above all be safe.
When the emergency has passed, things might not go back to normal for a while. They may never go back to normal depending on the event. That’s when you will need a community. No one person can be a community. You can’t do everything and be everyone you might need in life. You may need carpenters, electricians, doctors, machinists, lumberjacks, farmer and a thousand other things.
Whether your community is the people on your street, in your town or the three or four families in your prepper group that you’ll bug out with you need the interaction and skills they will bring to the table. Prepper groups should be like minded and very compatible if they are going to be spending extended periods living together as a community. You’ll know if it’s right or if it’s time to move on to something else.
Don’t let fear get the better of you.