# Survival and Emergency Preparedness

montalk.net » 21 March 19

History has shown that nothing lasts forever. Calm periods have always without exception been punctuated by natural upheavals and man-made disruptions that turn things upside down. Our medical, police, and utility services can only handle things as they are during normal times. When stretched by circumstances, they fall short.

Therefore, we must prep. We can’t help others from a position of weakness, so we must be strong and well-equipped. Prepping reduces suffering and prolongs our ability to do good in this world.

Preparedness spans the scale from quick and easy to hardcore and all-consuming. You take a gamble in what level to go with. Too little and you might painfully regret it one day. Too much and you will have spent time, money, and sacrificed spiritual harmony out of proportion to the risk. But something is better than nothing, which is why I advocate that everyone at least have the basics.

Everyone must be ready to survive bare minimum one week without power, internet, cell service, food, water, gasoline, medical, fire, or police service. One month is a more reasonable goal and would cover the most probable natural disasters. One year would take some serious investment. One decade would require a luxe bunker or well-defended homestead. The sweet spot is around 2-3 months. It all depends on the dangers unique to your region, so plan accordingly.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take much time or effort to get the bare basics, and no skill or training is required for that level of preparedness. The simplest and cheapest anyone can do for short term disruptions (wildfire, hurricane, storms, power outage):

• several cases of bottled water
• canned and ready-to-eat foods with decent shelf life
• cash in small bills, enough for food, gas, and motel covering 2-3 days of travel
• extra toiletries and hygiene supplies, meds, and everyday household items
• N95 or better dust mask and eye protection

That’s good enough for up to a week and light enough to quickly load into your vehicle if necessary. You can get all these things in one day, put it away in your closet, and go on with your life.

For longer situations (weeks to months) these and more would be necessary, not only in terms of supplies but also skill and fitness.

Regarding supplies, basic needs in order of urgency: water, food, medical, shelter, energy/lighting, defense, and tools. Some suggestions with links to Amazon:

#### Water

Portable water filter like the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System, cases of bottled water in clear containers, water purification tablets, collapsible water bags, 100 gallon water bag for bathtub or line your bathtub with a plastic drop cloth and fill if you know a disaster is about to happen.

If there is only one item to get, it is a high quality portable water filter (followed by a respirator mask, see below). While bottled water gets you through the initial phase, you simply can’t store or carry enough water to last you longer than that. Serious water storage, if one has the space, would involve 55 gallon drums or IBC totes.

Therefore, a water filter is essential regardless. I cannot stress this enough because water is the first and most essential thing to go after any disaster, and portable filters are so compact yet good for hundreds to thousands of gallons. That Sawyer water filter uses new technology that makes it 5x more affordable than previous filters, and you can even let gravity do the work by using two collapsible water bags (top for dirty water, bottom for clean) with an adapter. To collect rain water, you can use an angled tarp suspended by paracord to channel water into a large container, or get a rain barrel connected to a gutter spout.

#### Food

Considering what people spend on car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, etc. it would be foolish to not have some emergency food stored.

Foods vary in shelf life. Short-life foods like energy bars, dried fruits and nuts, crackers and cereal require no preparation to eat and are quick and convenient, but only last 1-2 years. Medium shelf-life foods like canned and jarred products are better but heavy and still require rotating through them every 2-4 years. Long term foods like rice, pasta, beans, and freeze-dried or canned dry foods are either bland or expensive but can last 10-30 years. Ideally, you would have a mix of all three. Here are some options:

Mountain House freeze dried meal pouches or cans for long term food storage. The most costly option, but best in terms of shelf life (up to 30 years), weight, and taste. Compared to throwing out canned foods every few years that you didn’t manage to rotate through, it may save money in the long term. In terms of preparedness, it’s a better investment than gold and silver.

Alternatively or additionally, buy cases of canned dry foods from the Mormons. The most cost-effective long-term option. Mormons are required by their religion to be preppers and offer good value for these.

Rice is overall the cheapest bulk calorie source and can augment other stored foods. Grab 10lb, 20lb, or 50lb bags at the grocery store and seal them airtight. Dry beans, peas, pasta, and lentils are other bulk staple foods to consider adding. Asian grocery stores sell large bags of rice way cheaper than other places especially organic / health food stores. Just note that rice may contain weevil eggs that hatch in storage unless the rice is first frozen for 24 hours; put in zip lock bags and freeze for a day then let return to room temperature, make sure it’s dry, and store in sealed buckets or storage containers. Only instant and parboiled/converted rice doesn’t have this problem (since it’s pre-cooked before being dehydrated).

Bulk protein: cheapest/easiest is 5lb containers of whey protein. 2 year shelf life, so rotate through it as needed. Without enough protein your strength, immune system, and emotional well-being take a hit. Mountain House freeze-dried chicken and beef in #10 cans are also good if you can afford it. Powdered eggs likewise. Otherwise: canned meats like chicken, tuna, salmon, sardines, or peanut butter.

Rice and peanut butter are two bulk foods that can be supplemented by canned and jarred foods. Peanut butter from bulk discount outlet stores is one of the most affordable sources of calories, fat, and protein. Not the healthiest form of fat, and shelf life is about 3-5 years max, but for those on a budget prepping for emergencies coming within 3-5 years, it will keep you alive and has more to offer nutritionally than rice. You can also be in keto and survive off peanut butter for a while. (Vitamin C powder or a multivitamin would still be needed).

For short term (use within 1-2 years) : granola bars, protein bars, instant rice, instant mashed potatoes, oatmeal, Flora brand Italian toasts, saltine crackers, canned beans, canned or jarred fruits and vegetables, canned/pouched meat, powdered eggs, powdered milk, salt and honey, pasta and jarred pasta sauces, olive oil, canned butter, vitamins (especially Vitamin B and C, keep them fresh in the freezer if desired).

Military meal packs (MREs) are fine but only have a 2-3 year shelf life and are not always sold fresh. They’re more of a novel convenience.

Fats are really important. Fat deficiency leads to autoimmune and nervous system disorders. Freeze dried and dry canned goods tend to lack fat. But storing fats and oils is challenging due to spoilage, which is accelerated by light, heat, and oxygen. Unopened olive oil lasts 2 years at room temperature, maybe 5 years refrigerated. Coconut oil is good for 5 years and has antiviral properties, but lacks certain important fatty acids (linoleic and oleic). Canned butter lasts 10 years. A mix of these is recommended.

For cooking, most convenient for short term use: Esbit folding stove and fuel or Coleman propane stove. To use wood as fuel, which is great for long term if you’re on foot, a biofuel stove works but takes longer to light and smoke disallows indoor use.

For month+ emergency preparations, I generally recommend an alcohol stove and quart-sized canisters of denatured alcohol (found in the paint thinner section of hardware stores, and is also known as marine stove fuel) because you can stockpile gallons of fuel for months of smoke-free cooking; an ounce of alcohol boils 2 cups of water. The alcohol stove is an easy and cost-effective setup for home or in between travel-by-car. Propane canisters and stoves are fine too if you have the room for them.

Gardening, aquaponics, and homesteading offer a renewable food supply but take quite a bit of land, time, money, effort, and skills to get right. Disease, predators, or unfavorable weather can wipe out a harvest in short time. Preserving harvested food is another challenge. Security complicates things too, especially during the most dangerous phase of a grid-down situation when it’s wiser to stay inside. That’s why stored food and water are necessary regardless.

#### Medical

Extra prescription items stored in a cool place, toiletries and personal hygiene essentials, and First Aid kit ( M2 Basics, Comprehensive Kit, or similar).

Or make your own kit: anti-bacterial ointment (most important), anti-fungal ointment, cortisone cream, anti-diarrheal, laxative, SAM splints for sprains and breaks, assorted band-aids, buffered aspirin, vaseline, rubbing alcohol, iodine liquid, medical tape, gauze rolls, elastic bandage wrap, wound dressing pads, butterfly sutures, superglue for cuts, burn gel or burn pad, moleskin for blisters, bandage scissors, tweezers, latex-free gloves, plastic syringe for wound washing, Bic lighter, sturdy drinking straws, Gold Bond medicated powder, scissors, digital thermometer. Additional anti-microbials: oregano oil and colloidal silver.

For dealing with deep gashes, stabbing wounds, or gunshot wounds, you would need a trauma kit. SOFTT Wide tourniquet, OLAES compression bandage, trauma scissors, nasophyringial airways, chest decompression needle, HALO chest seals. Some of these require medical training to use and are mostly meant to stabilize someone long enough to get to a hospital. Without a hospital, these will prolong life but not guarantee survival.

First aid and trauma kits cover two extremes. One is for minor issues, the other for catastrophic issues. If you want to be properly prepared, you’d also need to cover the realm between these two extremes, the realm of general medicine that’s familiar to doctors and nurses but not so much those outside the medical field. They understand the necessity and use of prescription-strength painkillers, antibiotics, IV fluids, and other specialized drugs and equipment. To get a basic grounding on that, including a list of what drugs to get (which can be bought online without a prescription if you look around), please read The Prepper’s Medical Handbook as it gives a more realistic picture of what’s required for general coverage than simple First Aid.

#### Energy / Lighting

Storms can knock out power for 2-3 days. Severe storms, 1-2 weeks especially in rural areas. Major hurricanes and tornadoes with widespread devastation, 1-3 months. The problem now is that due to the pandemic, supply chain shortages of transformers, breakers, and cables are hitting power companies hard. They can’t fix things as quickly as before, if at all. Other threats include cyber attack, oil crisis, credit crunch, or war with China that blocks shipping lanes from Asia. The future of centralized electric power is on thin ice. Brown-outs, black outs, and rolling black-outs will be more common.

For emergencies up to a week long, simply get a USB portable battery bank. The battery bank is charged via USB (hence solar panel, 12V car charger, computer, or home wall adapter) and can then provide power anywhere and anytime to recharge phones, tablets, radios, headlamps, batteries, etc. anything that can be charged via USB. The higher the capacity, the better. There are also much heavier duty portable battery banks like this portable power station and 100W solar panel, for running small AC powered devices like laptops, radios, lamps, etc.

USB devices can be charged by solar power. If you have two battery banks, you can charge one while using the other. The results of solar USB chargers may be disappointing, however, if you trust the advertised power rating (in watts) of the panel. Manufacturers test them at the most intense direct sunlight, if not lying outright. So the rule of thumb is to go overkill with the advertised watts. An iPad charges at 5V 2A which is 10 watts, but a solar panel rated at 10 watts will not be enough; 30-50 watts is more in line with what people imagine solar power should be for that application.

In terms of solar technology, there are different kinds of panels:

• Polycrystaline: Old tech, heavy, inefficient, but cheap. Terrible in cloudy conditions, needs direct full sunlight. Appearance: large flakes of varying shades of blue amid a grid of thin parallel lines. Sunlight to electricity conversion efficiency: 15%. Best for rooftop solar power on a budget.
• Monocrystaline: Similar to polycrystaline but efficiency is better at 20%. Still needs direct sunlight to function, and therefore not good for cloudy days. Appearance: uniformly dark blue-brown color, horizontal lines, in squares with rounded corners. What you’ll find in most consumer portable solar chargers.
• Amorphous/thin-film: Best option but most expensive and larger surface area. Lightweight, very thin and flexible, and absorbs more of the light spectrum for more power including cloudy conditions and partial shade. What the military uses. The best thin-film manufacturer is PowerFilm. Appearance: grid of small u-shaped dark rectangles.

Your best choice is a monocrystaline or amorphous/thin-film panel at 2×-3x the watts you think you need. Make sure to get something durable and reliable, as the cheaper ones tend to stop working after a couple months. To charge USB devices, on a budget look into portable mono panels like the Topsolar 60w. Otherwise, PowerFilm 30 Watt plus an Anker 12V-to-USB charger. That one can charge car batteries too, albeit slowly.

For lighting, headlamps keep your hands free and are superior to flashlights. Premium LED headlamp with 18650 batteries. And/or low cost LED headlamp and packs of alkaline or lithium AA/AAA batteries (lithium batteries don’t leak and keep longer in storage).

Whole-house solar panel systems, batteries and charge controllers are quite an investment and require professional consultation and installation.

Alternatively, you can get a generator that runs on gasoline, diesel, or propane. These are good for short term high power applications like running kitchen appliances or whole homes for a short wihle. But they are noisy, emit exhaust, and run out of fuel within days or weeks. Stored gasoline must have stabilizers added to last longer than six months (or a little longer if premium gasoline, which has lower water-absorbing ethanol in it). Diesel lasts longer and can be stored in 55 gallon drums. Propane fed from the gas line infrastructure will lose its pressure when the remote pump fails in a power outage, so must instead be stored in a large propane tank on site.

#### Other

Besides a water filter, a respirator is the next most important hardware item. Unlike a simple N95 mask, these are silicone and make a complete seal around mouth and nose. There are many situations when you would need one: smoke from wildfire and structure fires, chemical spills, mold after a flood, volcanic eruptions, viral and bacterial outbreaks, nuclear fallout, chemical and biological weapons, tear gas, dust storms, and rotting bodies/garbage.

3M Respirator mask with 6001 Filter for smoke, dust, biological and chemical fumes or the 7093 Filter for smoke, dust, and biological particles (easier to breathe through, but doesn’t protect against chemicals or vapors).

For more protection, especially against viruses and bacteria, you must also wear safety goggles or swim goggles that form a seal. Or a full face mask, whether a 3M full mask or a military surplus gas mask that takes 40mm threaded filters, like the Scott M95 or similar.

Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman Multi-Tool. Convenient to always have with you.

Glock Field Knife. Strongest cheapest multi-use knife for sawing, prying, shaving, splitting wood, use as a spear head, and defense.

Pocket chain saw or folding saw. To remove downed branches, cut logs for fires. If you’re going to be chainsawing quite often, an electric chainsaw and solar power system is a good option.

Mechanix gloves. Safety from cuts and scrapes, and good for tactical use too.

Lock pick set, fence wire cutters, and pry bar. For getting into / out / through things. Picking locks isn’t as easy as in the movies, but you’ll get further with a quality set.

Bic Lighters. Easier to use than ferro rods. Good barter item too.

Repair gear like duck tape, hot glue sticks, epoxy putty, JB weld, plastic tarps or contractor trash bags, paracord/accessory cord, hand sewing needles and bonded nylon thread, sewing awl, zip ties small and large, ranger bands (bicycle inner tubes cut to rubber band size), tire repair kit, solder and electrical tape and hookup wire, hammer and nails long enough to board up a window.

Common sense items like clothing, backpacks, sunglasses, hats, socks, shoes etc.

#### Communications

A cheap AM/FM radio will help you stay informed when there’s no internet or cell service. If the government drops off supplies just two blocks away, without a radio you might never know it (that happened after Hurricane Andrew and people suffered just a block or two away from pallets of food and water).

Even better is an AM/FM/Shortwave radio with Single Sideband. With a shortwave radio you can listen to shortwave news stations from very far away. And with single-sideband (SSB) ability, you can hear HAM radio operators from hundreds and sometime thousands of miles away in the 20m, 40m and 80m bands. SSB drives up the price of the radio but it’s important to have if you can afford it, as HAM operators can report local conditions around the country, which you might not hear about any other way. Here’s a larger better radio with shortwave and SSB.

If cell phone networks go down, local communications can be done with simple GMRS Walkie Talkies (couple miles range, down to half a mile if buildings or hills are in the way). CB radios are also good for local comms but require 12V batteries and large antennas and are therefore better suited to home and vehicle use.

Another option for local comms are the low-cost UHF and VHF (ultra and very high frequency) HAM radios like the Baofengs. They are like walkie talkies but can send/receive on additional frequencies including the 2m and 70cm HAM bands, and receive FM radio as well. Baofengs require a HAM license to transmit on legally. If you stay on the FRS/GMRS, and MURS frequencies and use low power no one will know or care. These are meant for short range communication, or else for interacting with a local repeater tower that forwards your signal to another one far away but such towers can’t be relied on when the grid is down.

If you want encrypted radios for a local comms network, get a couple DMR radios. Just be warned that these take some effort to program correctly, their range isn’t as good (get a better antenna), and know that encryption is illegal. But the option exists if you need it. Without encryption, everyone in the area can eavesdrop on your conversation.

For long range regional or international communications (hundreds or thousands of miles), you would need an HF (high frequency) HAM transceiver with a suitable antenna for the given frequency band. That means Yaesu, ICOM, and Kenwood units capable of receiving and transmitting on the 20m, 40m, and 80m (a.k.a. 75m) bands. Example is the Yaesu FT-891. There’s a lot to that, especially with choosing and setting up the right antenna, the protocols to follow when speaking to other HAM operators, and again you need a license to transmit legally. But HAM radio is the only option for true grid-down long range communication.

#### Shelter / Hiking

Bugging out on foot into the woods is a bit of a fantasy. You’re more likely to be sleeping in cars, buildings, or your own home than in the wilderness. Wilderness is a last resort. Preparing for on-foot or woods survival requires a different approach focusing on minimalism and lightweight. Realistically, someone bugging out into their own property will cache goods there ahead of time. Otherwise you can only take what you can carry, and that severely limits how prepared you can be. Further, cold weather and questionable availability of food, not to mention running into hostile people, further reduce chances of survival in the wild.

Regardless, even if you don’t plan on bugging out on foot, it can’t hurt to have a sleeping bag appropriate to your climate since even at home or in cars, heat will not be available during utility or gas outages unless you have a well-maintained fireplace and plenty of firewood. Note that when sleeping bags say 15F they’re exaggerating and it’s really only good down to 35F. That’s truer for budget sleeping bags. Even so, two bags can be nested for colder conditions.

For warmer weather, a jungle blanket or jungle bag may be sufficient. For intermediate or colder weather, the Carinthia Defence 1 or Defence 4 are excellent. These are also good for winter power outages when it gets into the 30s inside the home. Of course you can use heavy blankets, but sleeping bags are easier to transport and use outside the home should the need arise.

Another essential item for everyone is an inflatable sleeping pad, which will conserve body heat and let you sleep comfortably in more places including the floors of buildings, hard soil and gravel, and cots that lack padding. They have different R ratings (thermal insulation) which matters if you’re using them in cold environments since the ground will suck body heat away if you don’t use a pad or if you use one with a low R rating. So in colder weather you’ll need an insulated pad with an R rating above 4.

If on a tight budget, look into buying military surplus goods like sleeping bags on eBay as you can get products equivalent to high dollar commercial items at 1/3rd the cost. Get back some of your tax dollars that way.

For outdoor shelter, a lightweight tent or tarp and a military thermal casualty blanket as a ground sheet suffices. And carrying all this requires a good backpack, like a hiking backpack in the 45-100 liter range. Remember to keep the total weight under 30% of your healthy bodyweight or you won’t be walking far.

Research hiking, mountaineering, bushcraft, and orienteering to get accustomed with the types of variables involved in traversing the land. If your main aim is to travel while avoiding people and ambushes, and you have the cash, then investing in a portable infrared thermal scope can be of value since in open air (i.e. not through glass) it lets you detect body heat signatures from hundreds of yards away even at night.

It helps to know the area: where you are, where you’re going, how to get there, and where strategic points are located like bridges, stores and hospitals, back roads, supply caches, nuclear plants and other danger areas.

In order of priority: map, compass, GPS.

GPS is convenient and precise but will be the first to fail. Dead batteries, extreme solar activity, attack on GPS satellites, or nuclear EMP (electromagnetic pulse) will make GPS useless. Then you’ll have to rely on map and compass. But while it’s still working, GPS is amazing.

Install the free maps.me smartphone app to have a road map that displays your location. In the app, download the databases for your state and surrounding states, for offline use. Then, even if internet and GPS go down, you still have a digital road map in your pocket. An old smartphone (even without a SIM card) can be repurposed for this. The free Commander Compass app is useful if you need a digital compass. There are also topographic map apps for the phone, or PDFs you can put on there, but in the wilderness you really should have paper maps.

For standalone GPS devices, the Foretrex 601 is as simple as it gets, to the point of being primitive, but it runs on two AAA batteries and can be strapped to your wrist. It doesn’t store detailed maps, so those are still needed on the side, but you can get GPS coordinates, mark locations, record your tracks, retrace your tracks, plan routes with waypoints, and follow those routes with distance, heading, and estimated time of arrival displayed on the screen. There are other handheld GPS devices that display color maps, but you might as well use a smartphone at that point, though unlike phones these GPS devices can’t be tracked so they’re more secure if you’re hiding from authorities.

For paper maps, start with a road atlas to keep in your vehicle, like the Rand McNally 2022 Atlas. Consider also getting a more detailed atlas just for your state, which shows topography, camping sites, and the more obscure back roads. Just driving, you don’t really need a compass but a simple one like the Brunton TruArc 3 can orient you when lost.

Many think a compass is just for finding north. But with a proper map and compass you can do so much more: measure distances, triangulate your position, read and plot GPS coordinates on the map, get the precise bearing between two points, design routes to your destinations, and navigate these routes by going from waypoint to waypoint by heading in a specific bearing for a specified distance.

To learn land navigation like this, first print or buy a detailed map of your area, one designed to work with a good compass. This is especially needed for navigating in the wilderness in the absence of buildings and streets.

One option is Caltopo, where you can make your own custom maps. The help docs will familiarize you with the workflow. You can blend different maps together.

#### Resources

Books like the SAS Survival Handbook that focus on bushcraft and short term survival in the woods are useful but not adequate for emergency preparedness since we’re more likely to be in our homes, offices, or vehicles than lost in the forest or stranded on a desert island. For the more immediate and likely disruptions, you’re better off with the natural disaster preparation advice from sites like ready.gov.

Economic collapse without complete societal collapse is the more realistic scenario that warrants serious foresight and preparation, for which you can cautiously read FerFal’s book The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse.

And if you’re concerned about the more tactical aspects of survival in the face of widespread violence and desperation, then study Max Velocity’s book Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival. The book covers subjects far beyond the scope of bushcraft or disaster preparation books, but things would have to get pretty dire to ever reach that point. If nothing else, the purpose of reading this book is to demystify Hollywood-programmed expectations of how force and violence is conducted in the real world.

Studying and applying this stuff can take its mental and spiritual toll, so be careful and weigh the risk of that versus the risk of not being prepared.

#### Guidelines

Here are some things to keep in mind:

1) You can only prepare for a limited set of scenarios. A point comes in your attempt to prepare for everything, where you’ve just thrown away your life, your destiny, your mission if you have one, all for the sake of surviving. Then you would be surviving for the sake of existing, not for the sake of living. Life would be meaningless and you just defeated your very purpose for coming here. Therefore, no amount of preparation warrants throwing your life away and heading into the hills, shutting yourself off from the world until doomsday comes. All preparations should be done in parallel with your regular life and not infringe upon it. If your main life is Plan A (nothing happens) then keep that open while you simultaneously have Plan B (S.H.T.F. = shit hits the fan, meaning a condition of survival amidst social chaos and civil breakdown).

2) Do not become obsessed, preoccupied, or emotionally lost in this. If you get some survival item, know how to use it and put it away until time for maintenance, training, and use. Don’t dress up in ninja gear like you have some kind of survivalism fetish, don’t be turning over heroic post-apocalyptic fantasies in your mind hours upon hours a day, and don’t keep gloating over your advantage over the other poor suckers who are asleep and unprepared. Reason being that holding onto an extreme survivalism mentality, beyond what’s needed to actually do it and be proficient at it, is highly detrimental to your spiritual balance. Have the knowledge and supplies, but be very cautious of aligning your heart and thought-train completely and exclusively with the mere idea of physical survivalism. Making it your life goal will kill your soul, and you need your soul and a spiritual connection to gain the synchronistic and intuitive protection needed to keep you safe in all scenarios, not just the ones you can physically prepare for.

3) To an extent, spiritual balance, good intuition (honed through past trial and error), and sharp awareness (observe and think several steps ahead) will get you farther than any physical survival dwelling or supplies. Why? Because then you can respond flexibly to whatever comes, as it comes. By spiritual balance I mean keeping a leash on your ego, your jealousies, contempt and hatred, desperate materialism, greed, and other base impulses… and instead, striving for equanimity, gratitude to the Creator, devotion to truth and beauty and fairness, and consideration for others. Then you acquire divine blessing that increases the luck factor in your life. In the midst of calamity you can get an intuitive or synchronistic helping hand.

Of course, spiritual versus physical preparation are not mutually exclusive; just avoid physical obsession that infringes on spiritual balance; that’s the most important thing I can say. Same goes for looking toward the future and getting apprehensive. Don’t lose hope or optimism, as you need these to carve out a pathway to heaven through times of hell.