Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide Part Two

Here's the second half of my review of Sean Brodrick's The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide. (If you're just joining us see Part one below.)

Sean correctly points out that once power is knocked out (earthquake, hurricane, tornado or downed power grid) pumped water (drinking, washing, watering & waste) goes with it.

As noted above, three days without water and you'll be out of the struggle. There are three ways to assure yourself and yours of a water supply (I say you'll need one gallon per person per day for drinking and cooking only with a minimum three day supply.):
• Store water in advance of a crisis (Easy & cheep peace of mind.)
• Store water immediately upon learning of a crisis (You'll probably need containers. Act quickly; you won't be the only one scrambling for it.)
• Garner water during and after the crisis (Oh, so you like to gamble do you?)

According to Sean you can store bottled water in a cool dry place for up to two years in advance of a short term crisis in washed out milk & juice plastic jugs or buy distilled or purified water. Sean recommends two gallons per day per person for drinking, cooking and washing.

If you can't be bothered to check and rotate your stored water supply every once in a while, you can keep empty washed out food grade containers around and hope you hear about the impending water shortage soon enough to fill them before the communal water supply runs out. Military surplus five gallon plastic water cans and those big clear five gallon bottles like Culligan delivers which you can often buy at grocery stores will work well for this.

Once word gets out that they're running out of water you'll have a short time to fill up everything in the house that'll hold water while the guy on the civil defense radio station tells you to remain calm and not horde water. After that you can hope for rain (you do have rain barrels right?) or depend on your friendly local government.

Here's a helpful hint from me: When a water shortage is announced people will rush to the stores to buy bottled water. Of course the stores will run out right away. But there are ways to avoid having to rub elbows with the hoi polloi as you rush to assure your family's future hydration. Bottled teas are virtually all water and will fill your body's need for water. You can even cook with it in a pinch. Fruit juices, vitamin water & "health drinks" will all also help keep your body hydrated.

In a disaster situation, potable water may be unavailable. Therefore, always purify water for drinking, cooking, and medical use with one of the following methods.
Heat method
• Heat water to a rolling boil for 1 minute.
Water purification tablets
• Use iodine or chlorine tablets to kill waterborne pathogens. When using these tablets, follow the product directions provided.
• Use unperfumed liquid bleach. Add 8 drops of bleach for each gallon of water. Mix well and let the bleach/water solution stand for 30 minutes.
• If the solution doesn't smell or taste of bleach, add another 8 drops of bleach and let the solution stand for 15 minutes before using.
• If the water is cloudy, double the recommended dosage of bleach.


Sean devotes six pages to water storage methods and water filters. It'll be worth your time to read it.

[Here's my two cents worth: Paper plates & cups plus plastic utensils and cups will significantly extend your water supply by saving dishwashing water. They'll also help with sanitation since washing dishes and utensils in a bucket isn't nearly as efficient as washing them in a sink with running water.

I hate washing dishes so try to eat all my meals off of paper plates with plastic spoons. I find that I use about 100 plastic spoons for every plastic fork or plastic knife used. You may want to use that ratio when stocking up on plastic utensils. When a crisis hits you can't have too many paper plates, bowls & cups. Some plastic bowls & cups might come in handy too.

They come pre-wrapped in plastic bags, buy a bunch now and store them on a high shelf somewhere. As an added bonus paper plates can be burned aiding sanitation and providing heat.]

Having your own source of food during a crisis can help you Bug In (or "shelter in place" as the government calls it) thus avoiding evacuation camps, government shelters and dependence upon others to feed you and yours.

Sean does a good job of covering bulk storage, dry goods, canned goods, dehydrated foods and ready-to-eat meals.

Sean's favors bulk storage and buying foods in large lots. He also recommends storing foods you normally eat as much as possible. ("If you try to suddenly go from grazing on fast foods and frozen pizza to living on MREs, it's pretty much guaranteed that your digestive system is going to revolt, and the results will not be pretty.") With text and tables he helps you decide what to store and how to store it.

In table 7.2 he shows the potential storage life of commercially available foods which gives Honey, Salt and Sugar a shelf life greater than 20 years if stored below 70 degrees F. In my never so humble opinion if Honey, Salt and Sugar are stored in a cool dry place in airtight containers they're almost guaranteed to outlive you and your kids.

Another long term (but expensive) food storage solution commonly considered by survivalists is the military MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) which Sean covers stating "These pouches can be stored for seven years."

Er… well kind'a sort'a maybe. From personal experience I can tell you that although it's possible for a sealed MRE pouch to provide editable food after seven years it'll do so ONLY if it's been stored properly. The military base where I was stored MREs in humidity and temperature controlled warehouses to extend the ration's shelf life.

So if you've got a humidity and temperature controlled environment you can store them in, and the money to buy'em, here's a guide to buying real military MREs.

As I read this chapter it became apparent that you have choices between frugal do it yourself processing and packaging of food which will have to be rotated every year or two and expensive professionally packaged freeze dried nitrogen-packaged foods which will last up to 30 years. But Sean points out one inexpensive long lasting exception – the commercially canned food you buy at the grocery store.

Sean states: "Most canned goods sold in U.S. supermarkets are guaranteed for 10 years. However, Del Monte and other corporations have done research that shows canned goods sealed forty years or longer are just fine to eat." He goes on to state "In reality canned goods can be fit to eat unless the can bulges or rusts all the way through." Again I agree.

In fact canned foods stored in a cool dry place may last a hundred years or more. Just remember acidic foods like tomatoes may eat through the can's lining over time and, as Sean points out, don't store cans long term on concrete or in cardboard which can cause the cans to rust.

Sean also points out that sealed cans can be washed off, opened and the contents eaten even after exposure to radioactive fallout, chemical agents or biological contaminants.

Moving on to cooking without gas or electricity Sean talks about Solar Ovens. Of the many commercially manufactured ones I have used the Sun Oven and can testify to the skeptical that sun cookers work. However if you want to save money you can build your own. The site that Sean cites in the book seems to be dead or dying so try this one to get an idea of what you can make from a corrugated cardboard box and some aluminum foil or even a windshield sun shade.

Sean also mentions fire pits but remember fire safety and when cooking over a campfire you're going to need pot holders or leather gloves.

Chapter eight is about smart shopping, planning meals and clipping coupons. There are lots of ideas on saving money and whole page listing coupon web sites, good if you're into that sort of thing.

We buy the large bottles of both vitamins (A, B, C, D, E & fish oil) and "one a day" type vitamins at Costco and I try to keep a reserve bottle on the shelf as we use the oldest one up. There's no problem with expiration dates since they are all good for a year or two on the day we buy them.

A Special Forces medic once told me that, although efficacy continues to decrease over time, most over the counter medications are still good long after their expirations dates. I believe that holds true for vitamins too.

I've found that a membership at Costco (you might also look into joining Sam's Club, BJ's Wholesale Club or FedMart) gives me good prices on food and gasoline. I buy canned goods by the shrink wrapped flats (usually 12, 24 or 36 cans) and mark the product's official expiration date on the outside so I know which box to use next as I rotate my stock. Yes, I know properly stored canned goods have a shelf life of over 30 years, but I want to keep adding new as I eat the "old" stock.

Chapter Nine Gardening begins by stating the obvious: unless you've got a really big back yard you won't be able to supply all of your fruit & vegetable needs, but adds a garden can supplement whatever food you're able to buy during the crisis and your stored food.

The whole chapter if chock full of useful gardening tips. Sean also recommends you use heirloom seeds so as to be able to grow next year's crop from the seeds of this year's crop. Again, I agree.

Since Sean doesn't have a chapter on hunting I'll insert some information here. "What? But this book is about SUBURBAN survival ! You can't hunt in the city ! Can you?"

Well yes and no. If you go wandering up and down city streets with a 30-30 rifle you're likely to attract some unwanted attention from your neighbors and the authorities. On the other hand spreading parts of your garbage that birds like to eat in the backyard will draw them in close enough for a nearly silent shot with a BB gun out the back window. A pellet rifle will give you a little more noise and a little more range.

Shooting firearms in the city is a no-no because of the danger it poses to others and the noise; which would give you away.

Even the smallest bird has two large breast muscles that are easily removed for cooking. The rest of the bird (plucked) can be used for soups, stews or cat bait.

Cats, rats and squirrels (rats with fluffy tails) like rabbits can be trapped in anything from a simple box balanced on a stick which is pulled by a string trap (like you used when you were a kid) or set and forget homemade traps that you check every day.

You can snare squirrels on your backyard fence (being sure that the squirrels fall inside the fence so the neighbors won't learn of (and compete for) your protein supply.

If you live in an area with enough squirrels you can eat the meat, sell the pelts and maybe even support yourself.

Chapter Ten Health, Medicine and Disease covers the medical profession's preparations for a WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) event [Hint: y'all better stock up on the medicines you need 'cause they aren't.], why you should have a "Traveling Medicine Bag (and what to put in it) & a Survival Medicine Kit (and what to put in it), protecting yourself from Pandemics & epidemics and household & garden spices and plants you can use to treat some ailments.

I would add two items to the above mentioned kits:
Moleskin to stop blisters when they are still forming and alleviate already formed blisters. (If your motorized evacuation turns into a hike you'll need it.)
New-Skin an antiseptic liquid bandage that seals small wounds like glue. (In fact you can use Super Glue for the same purpose because it's practically the same thing.)
Both are available over the counter in the drug section of your local grocery store.

In the home remedy department Sean outlines the use of garlic and aloe vera (among dozens of others) for help if the store bought medicines run out.

"Pandemics are illnesses spread across vast geographic areas. Epidemics are when a large part of any particular population gets sick." Sean not only has the definitions down pat he's got some advice for you too.

Sean advocates a mix of common sense and hard science to combat diseases:
Keep your distance (three feet, six feet if you can)
Sanitize (wash your hands often)
Stock up on food and medicines (you don't want to have to go to the store when a plague is raging)
Stock up (with hand sanitizer and latex gloves)
(I keep Rubbing Alcohol and/or isopropyl alcohol and/or hydrogen peroxide and/or vinegar around for their cleaning and sanitizing qualities.)

Sean also has advice for when friends or relatives show up at your door during a plague: quarantine them (in the garage or whatever) until the incubation period is over. [Or you could hang a Quarantine sign on your door and decrease the chances of anyone who isn't already noticeably ill bothering you.]

Chapter eleven has an interesting story about thieves and the Pharaoh of Egypt as well as lots of tips on securing your home from burglars and home invaders. Let me break it down for you
• Iron bars on ALL windows (The window you fail to bar is the one they'll use.)
• Iron gates in front of ALL doors (So you can open the door to see who's there without them being able to force their way in.)
• Double key deadbolt locks on all doors.

You'll want the strong bars and gates here's why

Yes, you CAN miss with a shotgun !
Like most people Sean doesn't realize that at in home distances shotgun pellets don't spread out all that much so he thinks shotguns are excellent home defense weapons.

Try this real world experiment:
Unload your shotgun and order your dog to lay down in a room with a phone. To be a creditable threat you must keep your shotgun aimed at Fido while you pick up and dial the phone. If you love your dog double check that the shotgun is unloaded before trying this. Yes, it's damnably near impossible to dial a phone with one hand and cover a crook with a shotgun without pulling the trigger.

Speaking of home invaders, what are you going to take with you when you answer the knock at the door at 3 am? It's hard to hide a 12 gauge. Also, once past the muzzle your assailant is in no danger from your gun. You can pack an 870 when you take out the trash before going to bed, but I prefer a .38 stub nosed double action revolver.

And .38 stub nosed double action revolver is what I recommend for anyone who doesn't practice at least monthly. The pistol should be a stub nosed double action revolver because in a panic situation you don't need to turn off the safety before pulling the trigger on that guy leaping at you with an ax.

Then there's advice from gun pundits. Since you'll be reading his or her advice in a gun magazine, they assume you're armed with the latest armaments available to mankind. With their usual penchant for variety, they offer informed opinion on the utility of a dozen or so short and long guns in this situation. While not completely discounting the evacuation option, as a group they tend to hold a bunker mentality.

Many would have father (armed with laser mounted pistol) gather the kids into the master bedroom while the wife calls the cops while keeping the bedroom door covered with a flashlight mounted 12gauge shotgun. Their advice sometimes runs into trouble upon implementation i.e.

while his wife hides behind the bed with a shotgun in one hand and a phone in the other, our pistolero hero, goes down the hall to collect the kids. Returning with a bundle of joy and/or toddlers tagging along, he then has the unenviable task of convincing a frightened female with a 12 gauge shotgun that it is he, her beloved, not a rapist coming through the bedroom door.

Discounting the option of sending the kid in first, (and assuming the trailing toddlers aren't asking "Why did you wake me up, daddy? Why are the lights off daddy? Why …) we are faced with the question of how loud can you whisper through a closed bedroom door before the burglar hears you?

Assuming the kids are old enough to come quietly in the still of the night, and that both you and the Missus remember the code word/knock there's still the problem of calling the cops. And yes, the gun magazine writers also, wisely, advise calling the gendarmes.

Oh, and chapter eleven has lots of good tips on getting your home expenses down so the weeks without work in a crisis won't hurt your budget/saving so much. Lists of tools and lots of other good stuff here too.

Chapter twelve: Education and Entertainment encourages you and the family to learn new skills that'll come in handy for home repair, building a neighborhood sense of community and brewing beer.

He also has a very good list of books you should have whether WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) turns into TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) or not. The list alone is worth the price of the book.

Chapter thirteen, Transportation mostly covers how to get around if and when gasoline becomes unavailable or hyper expensive. Hint: learn how to repair a bike and stock up on bike parts.

Chapter fourteen covers evacuation in the event of a WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) event. Topics include:
• What to pack in your BUG (Bug Out Bag) [Minimum genuine Swiss Army knife, Leatherman Multi-tool. matches & a role of Duct tape.]
• How many BUGs should you have (Car, home, work) [You should have EDC (Every Day Carry) items too. I carry a Swiss Army knife you might opt for a Leatherman multi-tool)
• Nine signs you should "get out of Dodge" (Government curfew, Epidemic, etc.)
• Things to figure out before you leave (Where ya' goin'?
• How to use Google maps to plan your escape [See below]
• What to do if you're the one taking in refugees (Got extra ?)
• What to tell your kids [We're not in Kansas anymore or Super Secret Spy mission?]

If power and computer systems are up Costco, Sam's & other membership only stores that sell gasoline may be able to sell you gas along an evacuation route after other gas stations have run out of gas.

Walmart is a non-membership store that sells debt cards which can be used to buy gasoline at the Murphy gas stations in their parking lots, but everybody and his brother can (and probably will when gas gets short) buy the Walmart cards to get the gas so those stations would probably run out of gas right after the regular gas stations do.

Before you evacuate print out a list of Costco (or Sam's or whatever) stores with maps along your planed route so you will know where to turn off to get gas in strange cities. Sean tells you how to do that with Google Maps on pages 307 – 308 of his book.

Where ya' goin' from most to least desirable: family, friends, hotel, motel, campground, RV park, church or community shelter, storage facility, government shelter or refugee camp.

As you read the book it becomes obvious that living in a paid off house with a garden and some savings will aid your passage through tough times. Also having water & food stored at home will enable you to evade most evacuations. The lists and links in Sean's book are invaluable for accomplishing those goals.

In the Notes section at the back of the book Sean lists many of the web sites from which he got his information. That list alone is worth the price of the book.

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