I like the idea of bugging out as much as the next guy, testing my mettle against zombies and a world without a power grid.
The reality is that most of us, by far, will be better off in an SHTF scenario staying right where we are — at home. The reasons to bug in far outweigh most other options. Over the years I’ve given this a lot of thought because like a lot of you, I, too, was swept up in all the glamour of planning to bug out. It’s the stuff prepper novels are made of but it’s what I call over-rated prepper advice!
The bug out bag — What should it contain? Let’s talk about that for a couple of years. I have nothing against a well-planned 72-hour kit, but once put together, move on already!
The bug out vehicle –Which make? Which model? How can I customize it and convince my wife to let me spend serious money on a side project when I already have too much on my plate?
The bug out location — Where will we go and, more importantly, how will we be able to afford what is a second home by any other name?
The bug out PLAN — Put all the pieces together and revel in the tactics, the strategies, the finest details and then go over everything in forum discussions that last for years.
All that aside, the cold, hard truth is that home will almost always be the safest place to be and guys like me who work some 15-20 miles from home base would be better off having a couple of simple plans for getting there. Reasons to bug in are smart and worth considering in spite of all the bug-out information on the web.
Off the top of my head, there are 10 reasons why your home is the best place to hunker down if you’re wondering, should I bug out. Spend your time figuring out non-crazy ways to fortify it and getting to know as many of your neighbors and fellow citizens as possible. In a crunch, they’ll end up being your actual survival group, like it or not.
So, in no particular order, here are the top 10 reasons to bug in and why it will almost always be the best course of action.
1.Far less risk to you and your loved ones when you plan on bugging in
Now that my kids are teens, I’m not quite as worried about being on the road with them as I was when they were younger. When you think about it, hitting the road in a bug out situation is fraught with extreme dangers to your family members. You and I might be able to hoist a 50-pound pack, strap on a firearm or two, and then hoof it to a remote, safer location. I guarantee you, a wife, kids, grandparents won’t be able to do that and what, then, is your choice? Will you leave them behind?
It’s much easier to have a comprehensive plan to gather everyone together in a single, safe location which is probably going to be your home. This article about low-tech ways to protect your home may be helpful to secure your home and property.
2. You know the terrain
When Hurricane Harvey hit our town, all of a sudden everyone was interested in the sea level of their home, their distance from the nearest lake and river, and whether or not the bridges around us were covered with water.
It doesn’t take long for a curious person with some time on their hands to learn all that and more, and that’s what needs to be done way before a real crisis hits.
Put me in a locale that I’ve only visited on weekends and then challenge me to get there with my family, in a crisis, with adrenaline is pumping, and I might be able to do it. There’s also a good chance that in all the confusion we might make a wrong turn or run into an unforeseen challenge, such as roadblocks, washed-out side roads, and the like.
3. You know the people
If you’ve read my article about the most dangerous threat, you understand how vital it is to know as many people as possible in your neighborhood and the surrounding areas. Now, most of my neighbors are a lot like me — hard working people who just want to do their own thing and be left alone. I respect that.
Alex, a few streets away, may have a hobby of collecting old pinball machines and his kids are a lot younger than mine, but he’s also one of the most industrious guys I know. He has a way of coming up with creative solutions to problems that makes me think he’d be ideal as a survival-group buddy. Joseph, on the other hand, is my next door neighbor and as far as I can tell, his only interests are going to and from work every day and watching TV. That’s good information to file away in my head, along with Caddie, the elderly widow 3 doors down who is a hoarder and emotionally and mentally scarred by decades of abuse. My daughter checks in on her from time to time.
I also know who doesn’t belong in this neighborhood and that is just as important as knowing who does. It makes it easier to identify potential threats, an excellent reason to bug in. Away from my home base, I’m not so sure who belongs and who doesn’t.
In a survival situation, you’ll have hundreds and hundreds of new and very difficult decisions to make and most of them will, in one way or another, involve the people around you. At your home base, you’re in the perfect situation to get nosy and learn all you can about them now. If you have a bug out location in mind, how well do you know those people and just as important, how well do they know you?
4. You’re more likely to have common ground with neighbors
When it comes to your kids, are you just a little paranoid about who you can trust? I am. My wife labeled me The Paranoid Dad a decade ago, and nothing has happened to make me behave otherwise. In my neighborhood, I’ve noticed that most parents, by far, are protective of their kids — we have that in common.
And it’s not just our parenting style that is similar but our general view of the world, our high regard for our constitutional rights (this is east Texas, after all), and how we value family. Sure, there are plenty of differences when it comes to political and social issues, but there’s a foundation, a common ground, that I’m not sure I would share with random, unknown people if we bugged out.
5. You already know multiple routes for bugging in
I know my neighborhood. I’ve driven the roads hundreds of times and have made a game of using as many different routes as possible to get from Point A to Point B. I know this area. In a pinch, I could figure out some back ways to retrieve one of the kids if they were at a friend’s house or my wife from one of her hair appointments.
Make a game out of finding different routes home. Use my strategies in this article about utilizing Google Maps to plan an evacuation. My wife even makes a point sometimes to get lost on purpose and then figuring out how to get home. It’s a good idea and so far, she’s managed to make her way home every time. I’m proud of her.
6. You know how to get in and out
This advantage is similar to the previous one but has more to do with knowing multiple ways to get back in your town and neighborhood and then out, if necessary, and not using just paved roads.
In a pinch, we could load up our bikes and take bike trails we’ve been traveling for the past 4 years. I’ve thought of packing my bike in my work truck so I’d have an alternate method of transportation but I haven’t done that, yet. Since we live near water, I’ve also been checking out streams, rivers, and lakes as yet another way to get out in an absolute worst case scenario.
You probably have similar information stored in your own brain and if not, start checking out all the different ways you could get back in and then out if need be. Also, with knowledge of terrain, entrances, exits, and infrastructure, you’ll have knowledge for defending your ground if it becomes necessary.
7. It’s easier and cheaper to maintain one home site
My main beef with all the know-it-all survival gurus who claim that a second home, aka a bug out location, is an absolute necessity is the cost involved. For someone like me, a guy with a well-paying job but also with the expenses that come with raising a family and owning a home, finding the money to buy property in an outlying area and then equipping it with not only another house but preps as well isn’t very likely.
And, it’s not helpful at all to tell me I’m dooming myself and my family to horrible deaths if we don’t have that rural home. Years ago my in-laws owned a beautiful cabin a couple of hours north of Phoenix. Nestled in the pines, it was a darn good bug out location, but when the economy went belly-up, they had no choice but to sell. Along with the mortgage, they had to maintain some county fees for roads, property taxes, and utilities. It all adds up.
Simply put, it’s just a whole lot cheaper to assess your home right now wherever it is and figure out how to best make it defensible and get it fully prepped rather than dividing your time, attention and money between 2 different properties.
8. My family knows where to come
As our kids have gotten older, there’s no telling on any given day where everybody is. My daughter now has a part-time job at a grocery store and meets up with friends a couple of times a week. My son has sports practice about 40 minutes from home, goes fishing with his buddies at nearby rivers, and gets to the gym on his bike a few times a week. My wife — well, there’s no telling where she’ll be during the week.
In a crisis, I want every one of them to know how to get home. Home is our #1 meet-up place, no matter what happens. I don’t want them wondering, should I go home or to our hidey-hole cabin 95 miles away? Is Dad coming home or heading there? I’ve already told my wife that if all hell breaks loose, I WILL find a way to get home. It may take a few days, but I’ll get there. With only one single survival location, our home, there’s no wondering where to go or where everyone is.
9. You know business owners, churches, and community leaders
I have a network of people in our lives that we know we can rely on for good service, good products, advice, and support. After the major flooding from Hurricane Harvey, these were the people who immediately volunteered their services, their property, their time, their money, and their connections to help out.
In many cases, they were helping strangers but in others, they knew the names and faces of their clients, customers, and church members. A support system like this is invaluable in a crisis.
10. It’s where all your stuff is
Speaking of Harvey, right before that storm hit, my wife and I quickly pulled out necessary supplies and gear we thought we might need to get us through everything from a boil notice to a long-term power outage. It was all there — the Mini Sawyer water filters, the solar lanterns and flashlights, our water storage barrels and filled WaterBricks, the Sun Oven, and a lot more.
We’ve been prepping for over 9 years now and have accumulated a lot of stuff including a solid 72-hour kit. Our preps are pretty well organized in closets, a spare room, and an attic. We know what we have, where it is, and how to use it. We are also right here on the property to protect what is ours if it ever came to that.
That isn’t the case for a bug out location. Even with a security system and watchful neighbors, if you have them, it’s all too easy to raid and loot a property that appears to be vacant. Some will argue, “You’re supposed to LIVE at your bug out location!” and that works for some people but not most of us. One of the major concerns of people who own these secondary locations is how to protect the property and all their belongings. There’s no easy answer to that.
What other reasons can you think of for planning to bug in rather than spending most of your time planning to bug out? I just don’t think that is the wisest course of action unless your home has become extremely unsafe.
It has been raining hard on and off for the last several days. This resulted in a discussion about sleeping dry while camping in the rain. It’s surprising how little even experienced campers know about the subject, especially if they have generally camped during great weather or in drier locations. For them, the extent of their knowledge and preparedness comes down to depending on their tent alone to keep them dry.
Unless you want to end up with your gear soaked with water, soggy food, and wearing wet clothes, socks, and boots, here’s what you should know about sleeping dry.
There’s more to selecting a campsite than just a pretty view. You need to know how to How to Select a Campsite and have an understanding of how to build a drainage ditch around a tent if you suspect rain is in the forecast. Here are a few ideas to help you if you have to build a shelter in the rain and be sleeping dry even during a heavy downpour.
First, choose a high spot for your tent, and don’t pitch your tent in an indentation which will become a puddle if it rains. Make sure you have good drainage around your tent. Most newer tents are made tub-style, meaning the floor fabric comes up the wall several inches, even forming a lip at the door, with as few seams as possible. They claim that this will prevent water from coming into your tent even if you are sitting in a shallow puddle.
When we had tents without floors, the old-school style of directing rain away from your tent was to dig a ditch all around it. They tell me that this is no longer an acceptable practice for environmental reasons, and due to the style and materials of modern tents, no longer necessary.
I seriously question this, and in any type of a real survival situation, if rain is a problem, I will dig a shallow ditch around my tent and drain the water off to the downhill side. In the past, this method was taught by both the military and the boy scouts and is time-proven.
Personally, I’ve experienced a soaking wet tent, and it’s no fun. We have a Base Camp tent from REI, and although the overall quality is excellent, in no way is it waterproof, even with the rainfly if there’s enough rain.
So, if sleeping dry is a priority and rain is on the way, here’s how you can dig a drainage ditch around your tent.
Dig the trench by cutting straight down just outside tent footprint. Do not dig in a V-shape. Slope the side away from the tent. Dig trench all around the tent
Throw dirt from trench away from the tent; never throw it against the tent, for it will quickly rot the material.
In most cases, do not dig trench more than 4 or 5 inches deep and in the shallowest place not over 3 inches. There should be enough slope in the trench so that the water will flow freely toward the outlet and not back up.
To carry the water off, dig an outlet at the lowest point of the area and connect it to the trench which has been dug around the lent.
When there is a possibility that the water may flow in from higher ground, dig a ditch to divert the water before it can reach the tent
Here you can see a cross-section of the ditch
Whether you are using a tent, tarp or another improvised shelter, if possible always point the opening downhill. If you live in an area that is subject to heavy rains and plan to camp out, have good tents and extra tarps.
If you look at the homeless camps during wet weather, most tents will have a tarp over them and often under them. If you put a tarp under your tent, be sure you fold the ends underneath so nothing is sticking out. If any part of the tarp is sticking out, it will funnel the water underneath your tent.
If you don’t have a sleeping pad or something to raise your sleeping bag off the ground, cut some brush or dry grass if it is available and put some padding between you and the ground.
If you live in an area that is subject to rainy weather, go camping in the rain. Try different types of shelters and see what works for you. Not too many years ago I went camping and used my old tent and a friend with me used his brand new 400 dollar tent. Guess which one leaked? The new one. Sleeping dry requires practice. Be sure and test your gear.
Delicious Powdered Milk Recipe
When making 1 gallon add ½ cups sugar (or more, to taste) and up to 1 teaspoon vanilla to taste. Mix well, chill, and then serve.
Powdered Milk in different ways…
Make your own Sweetened Condensed Milk (14 oz. can)
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup dry powdered milk
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
Blend VERY WELL in blender.
Make your own Evaporated Milk (12 oz. Can)
1-1/2 cup water
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon dry powdered milk
Blend VERY WELL in blender.
Make your own Buttermilk Add a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup of milk and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Buttermilk can make a good recipe even better. Here’s an article that explains how to use more buttermilk in your recipes.
Two types of powdered milk to consider are powdered whole milk (doesn’t have the same lengthy shelf life as non-fat, but if you have babies or toddlers in the household, you may want this) and hormone free powdered milk. This isn’t easy to find but for certain special diets, it’s something to stock up on.
By the way, another related product you may not know about is powdered heavy cream. This can really come in handy for making homemade coffee creamers or adding to recipes when you don’t have fresh cream.
A small solar system designed to power lights and possibly your refrigerator for an emergency is easy to build. It is something that you can do yourself without a lot of training.
If you have read this post, you know how to figure out how many panels and batteries you need. You can use either new or used solar panels.
To build your small solar system you will need
Solar panels — make sure they are matching panels, same size same manufacturer. You can mix some panels but it takes a bit of expertise to get this right.
Controller — make sure the controller you get will handle the voltage put out by your panels and it needs to protect your batteries by keeping them from being overcharged. Not all controllers do this.
Inverter — your inverter needs to be big enough to handle the draw you intend to place on it.
Storage batteries — get good quality deep cycle batteries.
Miscellaneous wiring — make sure the wiring will handle the current draw.
Get good quality components; go to a good reputable supplier like sierrasolar.com. They are a good source of reliable information.
Now that you have all the parts, it is fairly simple to put it together, assuming you have some minimal electrical skills.
Here you can see the wiring on a solar wagon. This shows the batteries and the inverter.
Once you have your panels, determine where you want to place them. They need good sun exposure for as many hours as possible. One option that I have seen is to build a solar wagon, . You can build a unit that is portable and you can move to make the best use of the sun. A wagon can carry enough panels to supply lights and run a refrigerator.
With a small solar system, it is best to connect the panels in series. This means you attach the positive leads to the negative leads. Two 12-volt panels will produce 24 volts. So for each panel, you add your voltage increases. This is different from a large system where you may have strings of panels in series and the strings then connected in parallel.
Next, attach the leads from the solar panels to the controller. Then run your wires from the solar panels to the batteries. The batteries should be wired in parallel. Your jumpers between the batteries and to the inverter should be out of 2 AWG cable for up to 100 amps. For 200 amps you should use 3/0 copper.
This shows the panels connected in series, the controller and the batteries
This is how you wire your batteries in parallel
The inverter should be connected to the batteries. In mine, I would put a box with at least two 15-amp breakers between the inverter and the appliances. This is not mandatory but is a good safety feature.
There are several ways to build these small solar systems, some are more complicated than others. This one is about as simple as you can make. Have fun.
The older I get the more I see problems that older preppers face. Since prepping hit the mainstream back in 2008-09, we all have a good 8-9 years under our belts. My own kids were just 8 and 6 when my wife and I started prepping, and now our oldest is making college plans. Time flies.
I know you all plan to be that rare exception that is still able to walk long distances in your 90’s and not taking any medication. If that happens, then good for you! You were blessed with some amazing genes. Unfortunately, that will likely not be the case for most people, even the most devout prepper. Most of us end up facing some type of serious limiting medical problems. Many are dependent on medications, have mobility problems or cognitive problems, even after living a healthy lifestyle for decades. You may be the rare exception but you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
So what are some of the problems older preppers face?
Mobility — While I have not had any mobility problems yet, it seems like many of the people around me are. Last year we discovered that my fairly young wife had degenerative arthritis in her hip joint and required a total hip replacement. Suddenly, she was having to use a walker to get around the house, and I realized the importance of having access to things like walkers, crutches, canes, and wheelchairs. They are often in garage sales, very cheap, and can be stored in the attic or an outbuilding as they don’t necessarily need to be protected from the elements.
Cognitive Challenges — Aging results in normal changes in cognition. Three specific changes occur: reduced processing speed, greater tendency to be distracted and reduced capacity to process and remember new information (working memory). Many of us have seen this happen with grandparents and older parents. You may have to write notes to remind them of things and just, in general, be more patient.
Visual Challenges — Many older adults have problems with vision. About 2/3 of adults with vision problems are older than 65. Make sure you keep your eyeglasses up to date and have extra pairs. You have cataracts, get them fixed at your first opportunity as the surgery will be covered by insurance and Medicare. My wife depends on reading glasses and she has stocked up on at least a dozen extra pairs.
Hearing Challenges – Hearing loss is common in older adults, affecting 1 in 3 people older than 60 and half of those older than 85. This is a hard one to prepare for, long-term, as hearing aids will be useless without batteries. By all means, stock up on as many batteries as you can and store them in their original packaging at room temperature. When you communicate with hard of hearing people, face them directly when talking to them. Speak loudly and clearly. I have hearing problems, and if someone is not facing me, it is much harder to understand them.
Bed supplies – You may need oversize diapers, rubber sheets, bedpans, and porta potties to assist someone who is unable to make bathroom trips on their own. This would be a good time to stock up on hospital quality cleaning supplies, like these handy wipes and nitrile gloves.
Our partner site, The Survival Mom, has an excellent article with more suggestions for preparing for old age as preppers or for caring for aging loved ones. You can read that article at this link.
The problems that older preppers face can be quite serious. For instance, what do you do with your parents who are in a nursing home and require 24-hour care? Homecare nursing is something to learn and prepare for. These are decisions that are best made ahead of time. You may even consider asking them what they would want you to do.
Remember you can’t stock everything for every contingency, just do the best you can, but plan ahead, if not for yourself then for aging parents and other loved ones.
I’m not sure when I picked up the odd habit of looking over my shoulder and, in general, being paranoid about my surroundings, but I did. My wife tells me I “look scary”, even when I’m totally relaxed and on vacation in Disney World. So be it. That’s my lot in life and she married me anyway. When I think of scenarios in which my home and family could be in jeopardy, you can bet I’ve researched plenty of home security plans, gear, and, yes, weaponry. My paranoia will pay off someday.
If you haven’t yet read the post titled, Protecting Your Home or Camp with Early Warning Systems, Part 1, stop and read it now. It’s a short list of cheap, low-tech, and simple methods to create as much noise as possible when your home or property is accessed by an intruder. In this article, you will see some of those systems illustrated with photos and a couple of additional tactics.
For the purposes of this post, no efforts have been made to camouflage anything in the pictures. In fact, the opposite has been done to make everything more visible. Now, these are all early warning systems that can be used around your campsite or home to warn you of the approach of animals or prowlers.
First, let me give you a couple of additional ideas for early warning systems and then we will review the strategies mentioned in Part 1.
Almost free early warning systems
Plastic bottles are everywhere. When was the last time you stepped on one? They make a lot of noise, especially if they are grouped together with duct tape. A group of plastic bottles spread in a path and covered with a dark cloth makes a good early warning system in the dark.
Rock ins the landscaping around your home make noise when someone approaches.
Lay a number of plastic water bottles on the ground and cover with a dark cloth. This works well at night.
When you landscape your yard, put small rocks around the outside, this makes it hard for someone to quietly approach your home both during the day and at night, and if you have an alert watchdog, you now have two layers of early warning devices.
More about low-tech tripwires
A tin can of rocks works for an improvised bell
Cow bells or fishing bells work well
Tripwires will work both day and night if you use line or light wire that blends into your surroundings. If you use monofilament, remember that it will reflect light. The whole idea with tripwires is to set them in areas that you know someone will have to cross to approach their objective. Use Google Earth as explained in this article to locate paths an intruder would likely take to access your home and property and then lay your tripwires accordingly. Depending on the terrain around your home, you may want to set them in depth.
The tripwires can be rigged to various types of early warning systems, such as tin cans containing rocks and various types of bells. Remember, if you use cans, run them through the dishwasher or wash them thoroughly with hot, soapy water to remove all food residue. You don’t want animals messing with them at night. Flares and electronic devices can be attached to tripwires as well.
The YoYo fishing reels can be rigged to drag something across the ground when they are tripped. This works best on asphalt or concrete.
A bell on a tripwire will make a surprising amount of noise at night
With a higher tripwire you can hang a can over something so that it is jerked upward, making noise
A can of rocks and a line stretched Across the backside of a gate will make noise when someone opens it. I darken the lines to make them easier to see
I feel that if you intend to use early warning systems, you should understand the simplest systems first, such as the ones in this article. You need to go out and try these for yourselves. They are not always as easy to set up as you might think. At some point, your life could depend on them. Practice setting them up, practice tripping them to see the results, and then practice some more.
A good dog can be both an early warning system and a deterrent.
In a real emergency, it doesn’t matter whether you are bugging in or out, you may need to be warned of intruders. Today many of us sit at home with the doors locked, window closed and air conditioning keeping the temperature under control. After a disaster, we may have to keep all our window open, to try to stay cool. This eliminates some of the security we normally have. If you have people, who are trying to take advantage of the situation by looting you may need to rig up some early warning systems.
Fortunately there are many simple ways to give you early warning of intruders. Dogs are great, one of the best early warning systems. Often smaller dogs are more alert and will be quicker to bark. Get your dog ahead of time and get to understand your dog’s reactions. With a bit of training your dog can be a very effective early warning system. In addition, depending on the type of dog they can discourage prowlers.
One of the simplest early warning systems is to set up tripwires. Tripwire systems are very simple to put up and use. You just have to be sure that the tripwires blend in well with the surrounding. Some types of fishing lines works well, you can get fishing line in different colors.
Fishing line should blend in.
These can be used at your home, bugout location or in a campsite. They can be as simple as a tin can hanging on a line with rocks in it and trip wires. Because my hearing is not very good, I recommend cowbells. You can often find them in thrift stores or garage sales and they make lots of noise. I recently saw cowbells on sale at a local feed store for $2 each. Depending on the size of the cowbells, they can be quite loud and may scare someone off. Just remember if you have one tripped you need to make changes to your layout, they may come back.
Using YoYo fishing traps for early warning systems.
They are a spring-loaded wheel with approximately 12 ft of 60 lb test line with a swivel on the end. For most uses, you tie the reel to a tree or other solid anchor point. You then stretch out the line, which turns the wheel compressing the spring. When you get as much line as you want out, there is a small latch that you place in one of the notches in the wheel. When the line is disturbed, it trips the latch and the spring-loaded wheel reels in the fish. You would normally add more line to the trap.
YoYo fishing reels or traps
However, they have an alternate use. They will work well as early warning systems. Simply take a can full of rocks and stretch the string across the area you wish to protect. Set the string at ankle height so that any disturbance will trigger the YoYo fishing reel. You can add fishing line to lengthen the string. When the YoYo fishing reel retracts, it will cause the can to fall or shake, warning you that someone is in the area. There are many other ways that you can use this to trigger a warning, even using it to trigger electronic devices.
A jar hanging from a door knob
Another simple alarm that can be used in your home or even a motel room is to put an empty glass jar upside down on your doorknob. This will fall (and make a loud noise, except on carpet) should someone turn the doorknob. (Warning- the bottle can break leaving glass fragments on the floor). A soda can filled with loose change balanced on the doorknob will make a lot of noise if someone attempts to enter. Windows also easy to trap with cans of change or jars.
You will notice that these are all noise making devices; I am not recommending any devices that can cause bodily harm. These are just a few of the many possible ways you can rig early warning systems to help protect you from intruders. Today we have just discussed low tech methods, in the future we will post an article on higher tech methods.
Here are some free downloads of various books on knots and military manuals that you may find useful. You may want to consider downloading them to an older laptop and sticking it in a Faraday Bag. This will let you keep them handy, even in a worst-case scenario, without the expense of printing them.
I’m a skeptic of just about everything. My wife will tell you I was born disgruntled and contrary, so when I hear certain pieces of prepper advice, again and again, I can’t help but question it. In no particular order, here are 5 pieces of overrated prepper advice that drive me crazy.
Stock up on lots and lots of wheat. Okay, we did that and then realized that our family eats very little bread and we feel a lot healthier on lower-carb diets. My wife buys one loaf of Ezekiel bread (tastes like sandpaper to me, but she likes it), keeps it in the freezer, and it lasts for 3-4 weeks. Here I am, sitting with 10 5-gallon buckets of wheat, almost ready to open a commercial bakery, because that was “the prepper thing to do” when we first started out. Yes, if there is ever a total economic collapse or EMP attack, we will eventually make it through that wheat, but in the meantime, it takes up a lot of space in my food storage pantry. Preppers who have since discovered they or someone in the family is gluten intolerant or has celiac disease could have spent that money on something else. Stocking up on a lot of wheat? Totally overrated advice.
Focus on preparing for worst-case scenarios. Some time ago I received an email from a woman asking, “How do I prepare for when we don’t have electricity anymore?” Huh? I think someone has been reading too much prepper fiction. Yes, an EMP attack could take out the power grid for quite some time, but focusing on that as a prepper is short-sighted. I mean, people with this point of view aren’t interested when I recommend something like rechargeable batteries (this set can be charged using any USB charger) because they’re convinced we will shortly be living in the stone age, so why bother. “The end is near” — yeah, probably not. You’re a whole lot more likely to get stranded by the side of the road, flooded by a massive rainstorm or hurricane, or have to shelter in place for one reason or another. Get fully prepped for those, first, before you follow this particular piece of prepper advice.
Stock up on “survival food”. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s scammers, and there are plenty to be found in the prepper/survival niche. They prey on people’s fears. My wife’s aunt is one example. Somehow, she got on the mailing list of a well-known “survival food” site and began receiving emails that terrified her. Naturally, she began forwarding them to us asking, “What should I do??” The text and videos in the emails were designed to scare her into spending thousands of dollars on so-called survival food — freeze-dried meals in pouches. Now, I’m not against this type of food and we have a bit in our pantry, but the truth is, freeze-dried meals are usually not the very best type of food to store. These meals have their place, but you are limited to those specific recipes — spaghetti with meat sauce, turkey tetrazzini, mashed potatoes. You’d better love those foods more than life itself because you’ll be eating the same things meal after meal after meal.
Better get a bug out location or you’ll die. This one really kills me because in reality, a “bug out location” is a second home. If you’ve ever owned a lake house, a cabin, or another second home, you know it can be a real financial burden. You first have to buy the house/property, make payments, get insurance, furnish the house, pay certain utilities even when you aren’t there, worry about vandalism and other property crimes, and, as a prepper, equip the house and property with everything from stored food and water to medical supplies, fuel, self- and home defense, and so much more. It’s just not practical and for many people, not even desirable. Now, the pro bug-out-location people are going to say, “You’re not supposed to just visit your BOL, you’re supposed to live there.” Well, again, if it’s that easy, most preppers would do it. The truth is, most of these armchair survivalist warrior types work regular 9 to 5 jobs like you and me, and very few of those jobs are possible from some remote BOL. Better advice? Have a number of “safe houses” in mind, varying from 5 or 10 miles away to 100 miles or so. These could be homes of relatives/friends or familiar campsites. Just anywhere you could head to if you really do need to evacuate your home for a few days. After Hurricane Harvey hit, people living in flooded 2-story homes simply moved everything upstairs during the mucking-out and rebuilding so their kids could continue with school and they could continue with their jobs. Their BOL was right under their noses, so to speak.
Read prepper fiction to get some really good prepper advice. Here’s yet another overrated piece of advice because what tends to happen is that people read these books and then take them as gospel truth. Try to convince a die-hard fan of One Second After that most vehicles will continue to run just fine after an EMP and that airplanes won’t fall out of the sky. William Forstchen wrote a compelling book that tugged on their emotions so everything he wrote must be true. There are millions of variables at work in the scenario portrayed in One Second After, and many experts agree that, perhaps, just 30% or so of vehicles would be fully disabled with the others experiencing no effects at all or just needing a quick turn of the key to restart. All prepper fiction comes from the imagination of authors who are only human. They do their research, some more than others, but their main purpose isn’t to provide training but entertainment. Entertainment equals sales, which is very smart on their part. Enjoy prepper fiction but before you stake your life on any particular piece of advice, weigh it against information from experts and your own common sense and experience.
Is there any prepper advice that has rubbed you the wrong way? You know everyone believes it, authors and bloggers pass it on like it’s truth with a capital T, but you aren’t so sure it’s 100% reliable and something everyone should follow without question. What’s on your list of overrated prepper advice?
The capabilities of Google Earth should terrify you. Input an address, any address, in this website and the location pops up in all its 3-D glory. Your vehicles may show up, your backyard with its playset, even, possibly, you in the pool or sunbathing. Without a doubt, Google’s intrusion on our privacy is just beginning. This article provides more in-depth information as to what Google Maps and Google Earth are capable of.
On a whim, I decided to turn the tables on Google Earth, just a bit, and use it for my own purposes. I pulled up our address on Google Earth, and took several screenshots — one of our entire town, a few of my general neighborhood, then a couple of my street, and 2 very close shots of my home, with the idea of using these screenshots to help with my prepping and planning.
Once I created these screenshots, I went to work to figure out how I could best secure and prep my home and our property. This turned out to be an eye-opening experience, and I highly recommend you do the same, as I explain in this article.
For the purpose of this article, I selected a general area in Glendale, Arizona, to illustrate this process as I put Google Earth to work to help with my home security and prepping plans.
SCREENSHOTS #1 and 2: Overview of town
First, grab some screenshots that provide a broad overview of your town, showing highways and other large features.
I can easily see at a glance all major highways and thoroughfares, as well as locations that tend to bring in a lot of traffic, such as churches, a college, sports arenas, a large city park, etc. Glendale, Arizona, is in a desert, so there are no lakes, rivers, dams, bridges, or other features that might have security implications.
This screenshot is valuable in the insights it provides for planning evacuations. In this next screenshot, you get an idea of how difficult, and futile, it would be to try and evacuate should a worst case scenario occur. Unless you live on the far outskirts of this massive city, you can kiss your rear end goodbye — you ain’t goin’ nowhere. If traffic on the very few highways doesn’t kill you, then the miles of surrounding desert will.
In the photo above, imagine that just 30% of the population realizes the need to evacuate. In the screenshot of your own town, take one street at a time, and mark every third house. After just 3 or 4 streets, you’ll soon realize the difficulties with any evacuation. The sheer number of people on the road, even less than 30%, will be staggering in a city the size of the greater Phoenix area.
In the second screenshot, how many routes out of town do you see? There’s I-10, heading east/west, I-17, heading north and south, the 101 loop, that kind of goes nowhere you’d want to go in a major crisis, and then the 51 that meanders through the northern part of Phoenix, again, offering no real escape route.
Take a couple of similar screenshots of your own town. What obvious routes in and out do you see? If you were a terrorist or some other really bad guy, how quickly could you block traffic both in and out of your town or neighborhood? If you aren’t surrounded by impassable deserts, what other natural features might offer challenges? Answers to these questions become more obvious when viewed from many thousands of feet above earth. Thank you, Google Earth!
SCREENSHOT #3 and 4: Zooming in to your neighborhood
This view is where Google Earth really pays off, because now I can identify more specific potential threats as well as sources of help. This neighborhood is similar to one my family lived in (same area), and I’m highlighting the house in the large red box for training purposes, as they say. Let’s review this map using the letter markings I’ve placed in a few key locations.
A: This marks the closest major highway, Loop 101. This is usually the fastest way to get out of town from this point but in a catastrophic event, the highway will shut down in less than 10 minutes. Sheer numbers of people, vehicle accidents, vehicle breakdowns — it’s just not a viable route out of town, unless I’m in front of the very first wave. A while back, I wrote this article about the importance of being in the first wave, and it would be good to review that information now.
B: In the case of this particular neighborhood, there’s a large park to the northeast. That park could become home to vagrants, but it could also become a neighborhood garden or meeting place. Unfortunately, there is no natural water source here as there would be in other parts of the country. In your own Google Earth screenshots, look for natural water features.
C: From the central point of this home, there are 2 possible directions for leaving the driveway. Pulling back a bit, you can see that leaving the neighborhood isn’t all that easy.
If this were my house, I could go to the right and quickly get on a street that would get me out of the neighboorhood. Perhaps not to safety, but at least out of the immediate area. If I turn left from this driveway, I have to take the long way around, and if the emergency is happening in real time, how many others will be pulling out of their driveaways with the same thought in mind.
Again, think about that 30% of people knowing, or being able, to evacuate. Just in this very small segment of a town, that is a LOT of people! Here is where having a few alternate forms of transportation comes in handy. Bicycles could be passed over a fence or wall, allowing for a quick exit. Motorcyles, street bikes, and even hoofing it out on foot — take all those options into consideration when looking for best evacuation routes.
D: I marked a cul-de-sac because these are very common features in neighborhoods. They are desirable for many reasons, but in an evacuation, you could become trapped. It’s also important to know where those cul-de-sacs are, so you don’t inadvertently make a turn into one, ending up in a dead end.
E: This house has an apartment complex immediately behind it. I used to live in an apartment and bear no ill will toward anyone who does, but the fact that apartments are points of high density population increases the potential that criminal types of one form or another could be on the other side of this backyard fence. As well, in a food or water shortage, the obvious source of anything necessary to survival are the homes immediately surrounding the apartment complex.
One other notation I made on Screenshot #3 are red stars highlighting the homes and neighbors that I knew well and/or figured I could possibly count on in an emergency. Using another past neighborhood I lived in, the house to the left is home to a very preparedness-minded Mormon family my kids were friends with, and to the right, was a couple in their 50’s, very active in the shooting sports and also prepper-minded. Due to my keen observation skills, I happen to know that the house on the far left corner is home to a retired member of the U.S. Army — the dead giveaway being the ARMY t-shirt he wears when he mows the lawn. Across the street are 2 former policemen.
Now, there’s no way to know FOR SURE how anyone will react in a severe crisis, including myself, but by getting to know neighbors and just watching for signs of homes/individuals that have military or law-enforcement careers (past or present) as well as various tradespeople (such as the electric company lineman who lives on the next street), it’s all very helpful information to have.
Your next screenshot should be one that encompasses your own street as well as a handful of streets on all sides. Make a note of “friendlies” and, in some cases, “hostiles” — people you already know will cause problems in the aftermath of a major natural disaster or, God forbid, a longterm power outage. It’s better to be aware of this possibility than to let your guard down and become too trusting. With this screenshot, also look for entrances to your neighborhood. How many ways could someone in a vehicle or on foot, get access to your neighborhood or your street? What could you do to prevent entry to your property or, at least, slow them down?
SCREENSHOT #4: Zoom in on your own home from different points of view
In this screenshot, I’ve isolated the target home and noted windows, doors, and a couple of problem areas. To the left are massive trees and bushes that provide handy cover for intruders. In the hot Arizona sun, they also provide some shade to that side of the house, so if I lived here, I’d have to decide whether or not to trim the trees, cut them down, or enjoy the shade.
Another issue is the obvious lack of space between houses. A group of criminals could easily move from one house to the next, stealing, vandalizing, etc. Would it be possible to raise the height of these 2 block fences or take some other measure to discourage any invaders from entering the property, such as planting rose bushes or cacti?
This view is helpful when planning a home fire evacuation with the kids. Pull up this view on Google Earth and show them exactly where they should exit and where the family meeting point will be.
SCREENSHOT #5: Close shot of the house/property front
It’s easy to maneuver the Google Earth screen to focus on the front of a house or property, the back, even the sides, and I encourage you to do that in order to look for other security issues, in particular.
If this house was on a bigger piece of land, I could also look for best locations for outbuildings, a garden, fruit trees, etc.
One of the reasons I wanted to move my family from the Phoenix area is depicted in Screenshot #2 — the massive deserts surrounding the city, the high density population, obvious lack of natural water sources, and the very few roads leading out of the city.
However, none of us live in an ideal location. Our current town was devasted by floods following Hurricane Harvey in August, 2017. Although we have plenty of natural water sources now, they present their own challenges.
Your living situation is probably different — perhaps mountains with only a few roads passing through, miles of flat terrain, high-density population centers, swamps, you name it. Using Google Earth maps will show features and challenges you might not know exist.
I highly recommend using Google Earth to analyze your own prepping and security challenges. Are there any strategies I overlooked?
UPDATE: After posting this, I realized that I need to go through these same steps with my workplace location — identifying safe areas for evacuation, routes home, etc. I suggest you do the same for yourself and any loved ones who work away from home or go to school.