Local Top Shot

History Channel's Top Shot

I mentioned a couple weeks ago how much I like the show, Top Shot, on the History Channel.  I realized last week that one of the competitors is a local guy, Ashley Spurlin.  He bills Richmond as his home town, but is on active duty in the Air Force.

Here's his introductory video:

And here's a link to his bio.

And here's a link to the base newspaper article about his Bronze Star.  It says he hails from California, but the show bills him as being from here.

So, despite three of my fellow Marines still being in the competition, I'm going to root for Ashley to win it all.

Have you been watching this show that really promotes the positive aspects of "exotic" firearms?  If so, who are you rooting for?


GovSec Report

The Trip

I left the house a few minutes later than I planned, about 6:15.  I expected that if I didn't hit too much Northern Va. traffic, I'd be at the Metro station by 8:15 or so, but I was worried about finding a parking spot on the deck.  I knew that the Macy's about 1/2 mile away had free parking on their deck, so I had that to fall back on.  As it turned out, I made great time and got to the station right at 8, and had plenty of parking to choose from.  I got right on the train and away we went.

I managed to put together a mission-specific kit bag last night.  It was a single strap, over the shoulder satchel that I got from another convention.  It was roomy enough for a little gear, and the anticipated brochures, samples, etc...  For gear, I had my normal EDC kit on my belt, 4 bottles of water, my Sport Berkey bottle filled, 4 granola bars, a Gerber tactical folder, a N-95 mask, safety glasses, canvas palm work gloves (the last three in case of a train mishap), and a Goretex lined watch cap.  I wore hiking boots in case I had to hoof it somewhere, my lined leather jacket (nice enough for informal working environment, but also good protection from the elements), and khaki cargo pants that are a bit more durable than my normal working khakis.

Who'd I See?

The morning keynote speaker was retired Admiral Thad Allen, former Commandant of the Coast Guard.  He spoke of the Gulf oil spill response, and the need for increased preparedness from all levels of government, private business, and individuals.  He introduced me to the concept of the "Black Swan."  Essentially that highly improbable and random events can have huge impacts.  The idea comes 17th century Europe, where it was scientific fact that all swans were white.  Then they explored Australia and found black ones, throwing all scientific "facts" into question.  He related it to Japan.  Think of how unlikely it is that three protective systems at a nuclear plant would fail at the same time, and look at the enormous effect caused by that improbable event.

I then ran into a guy I used to work with some back in the mid-90's.  He is retired from Va. Dept. of Emergency Management, and works with a large consulting firm doing all kinds of emergency management training and planning.  I'm going to take in his presentation about suicide bombings in Israel this fall at another conference.

What Did I Learn?

After a grant writing seminar, I hit the trade show floor.  There were a lot of vendors for things that are of little to no interest to me such as IT security, command and control vehicles, and super high tech goodies.  But, there were also a number of items of interest to me both for work, and for sharing with you all.

Here's a brief list:
I got several samples of Quick Clot.  This is a wound dressing that interacts with your blood's own clotting agents and accelerates them to stop severe bleeding quickly.  It's commonly in use on the battlefield, in police cars, and on rescue squads.  A lot of rural shooting ranges are now keeping it on hand.  From what the rep said, it is also useful for folks on Cumadin or other blood thinners who may have trouble controlling bleeding.  Might be a good thing to keep in a tool box or work shop.  I'm squeezing one into my EDC kit.

I got a shirt-pocket size flip book, Emergency Response to Terrorism, from American Military University.  I'll do an in depth review of this later, and see if I can find a source for you to get one.  I've been looking at AMU and think I'll probably end up pursing their "Masters of Disasters" degree in emergency management.

I got a cool "tactical" business card holder from Tactical Tailor, along with a catalog.  They have some extremely high speed load bearing equipment and body armor, and can customize it to your exact needs.

The National Center for Biomedical Research and Training at Louisiana State University was there giving out a shirt pocket size WMD Response Guidebook.  I've done some train-the-trainer classes with this group before.  They can very cost effectively bring some excellent training to local fire/rescue/police/emergency management agencies.

My next stop was North American Rescue.  They have some incredible tactical rescue gear.  If you are like I am, and remember the military first aid kits of the 80s and 90s (iodine tabs, battle dressing, and the OD sling that immediately became a head rag), you'll be impressed by these guys.  The have ChitoGauze, which is similar to, but different from the Quick Clot from earlier.  The Quick Clot enhances the body's own clotting ability.  The ChitoGauze is impregnated with a compound from shrimp shells (made non-allergenic in the manufacturing process) that interacts with blood to form its own clots.  Unfortunately, I could not get a sample of this one.  Their rescue and first aid gear could be a great asset to a survival group that has a paramedic or Navy doc as a member.  For the typical layman, however, most of it is beyond our knowledge.

I got a free copy of Small Arms Defense Journal, a really nice quarterly magazine that covers everything from the latest experimental military weapons to obscure foreign machine guns to historical arms.  This is definitely not Guns & Ammo or American Rifleman.  I'll do a full review after I read it.

I also got Counter Terrorism & Homeland Security International.  Another high quality, quarterly professional journal.  Articles include an interview with Oliver North, Is Your Local Mosque Moderate or Radical, and Australia's World-Class Adaptive Army.  I'll review it for you soon.

Last but not least, I got a free Photon Micro-Light.  That little thing is amazingly bright!  You can also dim the light, or start it out dim and make it brighter.  It would be very nice to have one of these on a key ring.  I'm giving this one to my wonderful wife.

All in all, a good conference, and well worth the trip!



Better Than A Gun Show


Tomorrow I head to DC for the day to attend the nation's largest government security trade show.  There is a huge variety of vendors that range from the latest and greatest weaponry to electronic security devices to emergency management equipment.  I'm hoping to get lots of research materials, a few samples, and maybe even pick up an advertiser or two that wants my fantastic readers as clients.

Traveling to DC for the day adds an element to my daily preps and EDC.  I'm riding the subway into the District from a Northern Va. station where I'll park my truck.  I'll pack a small GHB (Get Home Bag) to tote with me that has a little food, some water, my Sport Berkey bottle, a N-95 mask and safety glasses, and a few other things I still need to think about.  I got the book, Preparedness Now! a couple years ago.  It's not of much use to someone outside of a large city filled with public transportation and skyscrapers, but it's great information for a visitor (or resident) of such a place.  I'll re-read the segment on subways tonight to refresh my memory and help me flesh out my GHB.

I'll post a full report on the GovSec conference tomorrow.

Sensible Prepper Conference

Sootchoo, a prolific preparedness host on YouTube, is hosting the Sensible Prepper Conference next Saturday, April 2nd, in Greenville, SC.  He's got some great speakers from the survivalism community lined up.  If you are in the area, you really should check it out.  If you go, I'd appreciate if you could write up a short piece about it to share with If It Hits The Fan readers.  I wish I could go, but it's just a bit too far to make a day trip out of it, and the vacation budget was already spoken for.

Self Reliance Expo

The Self Reliance Expo is in Denver the following weekend, Apr. 8 & 9.  Several of our advertisers will be there, along with a great list of speakers, demonstrations, and other suppliers.  The first SRE was in Salt Lake City last fall, and by all accounts was an amazing show.  If you are anywhere near Denver, check it out.  If you go, please mention to anyone who will listen that you think they ought to do an Expo in the Mid-Atlantic area...

Welcome To New Readers!

We got a ton of new readers today that came over from SurvivalBlog.com.  I want to thank you for checking us out, and hope you'll be regular readers.  We've got posts on a wide range of topics; I'm sure you'll find some things that peak your interests!


Prepper Ponderings

American Redoubt

On today's posting at Survival Blog, Jim Rawles lays out his advice for Getting Out Of Dodge, now.  He raises some excellent points.  I'd love nothing more than to leave Virginia and move to our land in Wyoming right now.  Unfortunately we are not in the position to do it, but we are getting a little closer every day.  Check out Jim's post.  If nothing else, it will really make you look at your present situation and examine where you think the world is going.

Another Visit

I had lunch today with another of my long-time prepper buddies.  He just put in a woodstove this winter, and with his $1,100 investment in the used Fisher stove, installation, and a couple loads of wood, he saved $2,000 over his expected propane costs.  Plus he is excited about his increased self-sufficiency and reduced tax footprint.  He bought the wood for this winter, but has already started cutting, curing and stacking for next year.

Gear Contest

The folks at Camping Survival are doing a week long contest to give away a really cool pack in digital woodland camouflage.  They are also looking to hit 30,000 fans on their Facebook page, so if you like what you see, please hit their Like button.

Free Shipping!

When I put up that Survival Gear Bags was our sponsor of the week, I forgot to mention their great shipping rates.  If you buy $150 worth of their gear, you get free shipping!  Less than that, and shipping is a flat $10.

A Charity We Support

A week or so ago, I posted about Shelter Box USA, a group that puts together boxes to deliver tents, water storage & purification, cooking implements, and tools to disaster areas.  I've communicated with them and have decided to support them by giving them a free advertisement on If It Hits The Fan, as well as including them in my annual giving plan.  I really encourage you to check them out and consider donating to their efforts.

Here's a link to a video of their efforts in Japan.


Talking With A Friend

Are You Physically Ready?
Today my friend, TC, came over to the house.  He's one of my oldest friends, and a long time prepper.  He's the guy with the $900 question last week.  We hung out in my shop, enjoying a couple of Rocky Patel cigars and Diet Cokes while discussing our current preps and how we need to keep moving forward for whatever might be coming down the pike.  I'm chicken sitting for the neighbors this weekend, so we also wandered over there to look at the birds and check for eggs.

We are both in pretty good shape as far as gear, knowledge, and weapons skills go.  But we both freely admit that all are perishable, and our weapons skills are not where they were a few years ago.  We share a few shortfalls.  For food, TC is in better shape than I am.  He's got a good basic supply of long term storage food.  I think my everyday eating and rotation pantry is deeper, though.  We each have a broad range of practical skills, but have areas where one or both of us really need to expand or improve.  Gardening, for instance.  We both had parents with gardens when we were kids, but didn't hold on to the skills.  We're both in the second years of our gardens, with a little success last year.  We're tackling the projects from different directions, so it will be interesting to see who ends up better off come harvest time.  We both have pretty limited hunting experience, but we have room for crisis hunting.  I just don't know that either one of us would know the best way to butcher a deer to get the most utilization out of the meat.  YouTube can help, but there's no way like doing it yourself to learn.

Probably our biggest weaknesses are in conditioning and fitness.  We've both packed on the pounds since leaving law enforcement.  If there is a future breakdown of society, fitness is going to be crucial.  If things don't go haywire, fitness always makes for a better, longer and healthier life. 

I'm not sitting by waiting for a better time to do it.  I'm tired of being overweight and out of breath from doing something that was easy just a few years ago.  Since Feb. 1, I've lost 15 pounds.  I still have a lot to go, but every bit helps.  My clothes fit a little better, and I can move a little easier.  I'm signed up for a 5K race in about a month.  I have no illusions of ever hitting the 21:10 for 3 miles that I did when I was 17 years old, weighed 163 lbs, and was at the peak of my fitness in USMC boot camp, but for this one, I'm hopeful I can break 48 minutes.  A month later, I'm doing the Rugged Maniac 5K obstacle course/adventure race.  For that one, I'm just hopeful I finish in one piece!  Right now, I'm walking about a mile and a half most days.  I'm on vacation in another week, and plan to walk three miles each day.  I should be able to work some short bursts of jogging in there as well.  I didn't get this out of shape overnight, and it will be a lot harder to get back than it was to lose it, but I'll never get anywhere if I don't start.

If It Hits The Fan, I might need to walk home over 50 miles from work.  I need to be able to do that, and not be completely useless when I finally make it home.  More likely, I need to walk to the pond and tote home 5 gallon water jugs.  I need to wield a chainsaw without getting worn out.  I need to dig a trench without keeling over.  I need to be in better shape than I am now.  How's your fitness, and what are you doing to maintain or improve it?

Sponsor of the Week

Survival Gear Bags  is back up as our Sponsor of the Week.  Check out thier website for some great items ranging from, yes, gear bags and packs, to quality knives, first aid gear, books and DVDs, and all types of camping or survival equipment.  Please tell them that you heard about Survival Gear Bags at If It Hits The Fan!


Power Plant Preparedness

Is Your Community Prepared for a Nuclear Emergency?

I found this article on CNN that summarizes a poll they did about folks who live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant.  Roughly 40% think it is "likely" that an accident or natural disaster at the nuclear plant near them will put their family in immediate danger.  About 15% believe it is "very likely."

I'm actually surprised that the numbers are that high.  I'm sure it's related to the Japan situation and they would have been far lower before the earthquake.

Eighteen percent of those within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant have an emergency kit, and 60% don't know the evacuation routes.  Sixty percent also believe that their local public safety organizations are not prepared for a nuclear emergency.

A couple of days ago, I took part in the first site visit related to an upcoming VOPEX (Va. Operations Plans Exercise) drill where I work.  Virginia Power has two nuclear plants in Virginia, and alternate regional drills between the two each year.  This year it is back to the Surry Power Station in Southeast Virginia.  Localities in the region are evaluated by FEMA, VDEM (Va. Dept. of Emergency Management), and Va. Power for their responses that include: schools inside the 10 mile radius, school outside the 10 mile radius that have students who live in the radius, sheltering operations, vehicle and individual radiation testing and decontamination, KI distribution, radiation measuring, and communications.

All of the localities take the exercises very seriously, and strive to ensure that their responses are effective and appropriate.  If you live within 50 miles of a nuclear power station (and especially within 10 miles), I encourage you to contact your local emergency management office and ask about their involvement in drills.  Offer to volunteer as a role player.  Doing so will get you a unique perspective on your community's readiness.

Our drill will be over several days in June.  After it's over and the evaluations are complete, I'll let you know how it went.


Modern Homesteading

Free Land

We're all a bit young to have been Sooners, jumping the gun for the Oklahoma land rush.  We missed the homesteading opportunities in Alaska.  We'll never get a section (160 acres) just for building a house and tending the land for a few years.  But there are still some homesteading opportunities around.

This slideshow from CNBC lists some of them.

Marne, Iowa is a very tiny town, but within a long commute from Omaha and Des Moines.  They have three residential lots available for a person to settle on and build a home.

New Richland, Minnesota is a small town 75 miles from the Twin Cities that is offering 86'x 133' lots in a subdivision.  You have to pay for utility connections and build within a year.

Kansas has so many counties with free land programs, they have a central website, www.KansasFreeLand.com.

Beatrice, Nebraska has several lots available, first come-first served, where you will have to occupy for five years before it is all yours.

Curtis, Nebraska is a town of 832 that offers several free lots in a subdivision, and others that overlook the town's 9 hole golf course.

Not mentioned in the slideshow was Chugwater, Wyoming.  You may have had some chili made with the delicious Chugwater Chili spice mixtures.  It's a very small town about 1/2 hour north of Cheyenne.  A couple years ago, they also had a homestead program, but a recent visit to their website looks like it has ended.

While such locations may not be an option if you have to be in or near a major city for work or other reasons, small town living can be very attractive to an entrepreneur working from home, the retired, or someone with a mobile job such as doctor, teacher, or minister.  If It Hits The Fan, I'd much rather be in a small town than in a major city.  This might be just the program for some of you to achieve that.


$900 Challenge Part 2

What About the Guy Who Asked?

Tuesday I posted my suggestions for how a complete novice prepper could spend $900 efficiently and effectively.  Naturally, for that there are no right or wrong answers, everyone needs to look at their specific situations.  The question was originally raised by a friend who is an experienced prepper, and wanted to know how I would suggest he spend $900 solely on preps.  At first I wasn't going to answer on the blog, primarily because it would be so narrowly focused, but several people were interested.  So here it goes.


Married couple, he's mid 40's, works about 15 miles from home, was a cop for a while, has prepped off and on for years, but become serious about it in the past couple years.  She's late 30's, works about 5 miles from home.  They have a 6 year old son who goes to school between the wife's work and home.  They live on three acres, mostly wooded, on a dead end road in a rural suburb.  They are on a deep well, have a shallow well also, several outbuildings, well supplied in weaponry and gear, a good sized generator, and have a good start on long term storage food.

Knowing them very well, along with what they have and where they want to go, I think I can give him some good suggestions for his $900.

The List

First, I'd say a woodstove.  Their fireplace is unusable, but the chimney is lined for a woodstove.  I just found a used Fisher in the area for $300.  It's the same unit my folks have, and it is great for keeping the house warm, and you can cook on top in a pinch (we had Christmas potroast on it a few years ago when the power went out, and my folks have used it as their sole heating source for 25 years).

Next, a Big Berkey Water Filter from Jeff, The Berkey Guy.  It's a good size for his family and thier needs, and will clean up the water from the shallow well if the pump on the deep well fails.  They also have a pond and creek on adjoining properties they have access to.  The Royal Berkey comes with 2 filters, and three Sport Berkey bottles with free shipping for $250.  I'd add a second set of two filters either for extended use or increased flow for another $99.  He needs to jump on this ASAP because Jeff has announced that Berkey is raising prices in April and he will have to pass on the increases.

Next up is an Excalibur 3526T 5 tray dehydrator with timer.  I love mine and he'll be able to use it with the garden, jerkey, or even making fruit rollups for the son to take in his lunch.  He already has a vacuum sealer, so he can store what he dehydrates.  Currently on sale for $209.

Finally, this hand cranked grain mill from Emergency Essentials.  At $70, it puts us over budget by $28, but that can be absorbed, or he might be able to get the woodstove for $28 less by paying cash.  He's got a fair amount of long term storage wheat berries put away.  He's planning to eat them soaked and swollen.  I think he really needs a grinder.  His wife is a freat cook and uses a lot of fresh items.  I think she'd enjoy using fresh ground wheat for many of her recipies, whether it's a disaster or not.

So, that's how I'd suggest my friend spend his $900 to add to his preps.  It's not a very "cool" list, but it will really supplement his current preps.


Luxury BOL

Surviving in Style

Earlier today I posted this CNN article on the Facebook page.  Sales of luxury bunkers are up 1,000%.  I'm not sure how they are measuring that, but that's what they say.  The primary focus of the article is the Vivos company and thier underground luxury shelters that will support 200-950 people for up to a year.  They have private rooms, a bakery, medical and dental facilities, rec rooms, and even a jail section for those who can't behave.

The article quoted a Los Angeles retailer who put down $20,000 ($5,000 for each family member) to ensure a space in the 950-person capacity shelter now being constructed in the Nebraska prairie.  Once Vivos has deposits from 475 people, they will take them on a tour of the shelter and then they will need to pay the remaining tab, $20,000 each.  So, this guy will need to drop $100,000 dollars for his family to have a place underground with 946 strangers.  Wow. 

These people are doing nothing to prepare themselves, just expecting they can buy survival.  If I was in his shoes, expecting true TEOTWAWKI and had the $100,000 in L.A., I'd buy a several acre patch either in the California mountains or in Nevada, put a mobile home or used RV on it, and spend the rest on supplies, a well, solar, and a garden.  Maybe some junk silver coins with whatever is left.  The underground luxury shelter in Nebraska probably would be better in the event of a nuclear war, but does anyone think a family will be able to get from L.A. to Nebraska quick enough to get sheltered?  In a gradual descent, the rural retreat will be much more livable than being trapped with strangers.


$900 Challenge

What Preps for $900?

Today a friend asked me what preps I would buy if I had $900 free and clear.  Since I know his exact situation, what he already has, and what he needs, that wouldn't be of much interest to readers I don't think.  But what if a novice asked me the same thing? 

How about these folks?  A couple, he's early 40's, she's mid 30's.  They have a 10 year old son, and live in a subdivision on a small lot in a town of about 7,000 permanent residents, another 1,200 at the private liberal arts college in town.  They have a typical pantry of a few canned goods, some baking ingredients, and stuff in the refrigerator.  They are on municipal water, but there is a small creek about 1/4 mile away.  They own no firearms.  He commutes about 12 miles each way to work; she is a stay-at-home mom, and volunteers in the son's school, which is within walking distance.  The area is subject to ice storms, hurricanes and tornadoes.  Blackouts are common.  Crime is not a major problem now, but there is a fair amount of government subsidised housing in the town that could lead to problems if services ended.  If they asked how to spend $900 to prepare, what would I suggest to them?

For their beginning on the road to preparedness, I'd suggest they look at shelter, water, food and defense. 

Shelter:  First, I'd suggest a small generator.  A 4,000 watt genny will run about $375.  Three 5 gallon gas cans would be another $45, plus a bottle of Star Tron gas treatment is $8.  That's $428 so far, but that will give them lights, and they can run the refrigerator a little bit so as not to lose the food in it.  I'd then suggest a Mr. Heater Little Buddy ($59) and 6 1 lb cans of propane ($18).  $505 so far.

Water:  A Travel Berkey Filter System with three Sport Berkey bottles from The Berkey Guy ($220).  This gives them clean water in the house - they can fill it with creek water if need be - plus each family member gets a bottle to have clean water on the move.  $725 so far.

Food:  A Cansolidator Pantry from Shelf Reliance ($45) and $50 spent at the grocery store using coupons and sales to get enough canned and dry foods for the family for three days.  A propane single burner camp stove, they'll have to shop around yard sales and thrift stores to find one for about $10 or less.  It will use the same propane as the heater.  $830 so far.

Defense:  A $50 used 12 gauge shotgun, a 25 round box of #7.5 bird shot ($6) and a 5 round box of #1 buck shot ($5)  That leaves just enough money to get a book like Rawles' How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It.

That is a pretty slim start, but it's enough to get them through 90% of what they are likely to experience with minimal discomfort or inconvenience.  If they could come up with another $350 ($1,250 total), I'd upgrade the shotgun to a used pump action with an 18-20 inch barrel, more food, a small everyday carry kit for the wife and a decent get home kit for the husband.  I still wouldn't steer them to long term storage food, but could get them up to about 2 weeks of regular grocery store food.  They'd then have to get into rotation.  A budget of $50 a month to add to their preps would get them up to speed pretty quick.

I think this is a reasonable plan for someone starting from zero, and in the particular situation described.  If a friend or relative asks for your advice, everyone is going to have different suggestions for the different situations and concerns.  There can be no blanket answer.


Plan B

Do We Need A Plan B?

A reader (Thanks, Janet!) sent me this article from the MSNBC Red Tape Chronicles and asked for my thoughts on the matter.  The article's writer questions the usefulness of having a "Plan B" in a corporation or infrastructure.  The impetus for his question was the triple failures at the Japanese nuclear power plant.  The earthquake took out the cooling system.  The tsunami took out the back-up generator system that should have powered the cooling system.  The battery back-up to the generator system was only designed to run things for a couple hours, not for a catastrophic breakdown.

The author posits that a Plan B might look good on paper, but won't make the cut when a real disaster happens.  He lists a number of examples when that has been the case, and offers three reasons why "Plan B" will fail:

*Synchronization failure. It's harder than it looks to keep the backup system in the exact same state as the production system. Think about all the software patches that are installed on your computer; is the software on backup computer completely identical?

*Bad fallback plans. Many failures occur when a system is being upgraded. Risk managers stress the need to be ready to fall back to the system when it worked before, but sometimes, that's not possible. The New York City public library once lost thousands of records this way, as did the Dutch criminal system, Neumann said. In the latter case, criminals actually went free.

*Not in working condition. Backup power generators can sit idle for years. They might be full of fuel, but are they full of lubricant? Are gaskets dry and prone to cracking? Can they really handle a long-term full power load? Hospitals struggle to keep backup generators in working order. More than 100 hospital deaths during Hurricane Katrina have been blamed on the failure of backup power generators; many hospitals simply hadn't planned for 15 feet of water. Even when generators worked, they couldn't power air conditioners to fight off triple-digit temperatures.

So how does this apply to us as individual preppers?  A common mantra is, "Two is one, one is none."  Essentially, if you have something (could be anything: power, water, food storage, weapons...) you can't depend on it unless you have a backup or redundancy.  Does that mean you need two generators, double the water and food storage you need, or two of each kind of weapon in your safe?  No, not at all.  But it's probably a good idea to have some spare parts for your generator, and maybe one of those solar rechargers for your cell phone or a Wagen Power Dome EX.  Maybe not double water, but some stored water and a Berkey filter as backup.  Perhaps break up your food storage and keep a week or two worth at a neighbor's house.  Full size Glock?  Maybe also have a subcompact in the same caliber so you have magazine compatibility.

Periodically try out your backups.  The article's writer dismisses drills because you can't make them realistic or as stressful as a real disaster.  So what?  You can and should still test your backups to be sure they work.  Nobody wants to be the person who fires up the back up generator only to find that you got the wrong cord.

Finally, there's maintenance.  Every first of the month, I put out a list of reminders.  They're just as much for me as for anyone else.  Since I started doing it, I haven't failed to start up my generator and run it under load.  And it's worked every time.  That hasn't always been the case.  I've made that trip to the small engine repair guy with a hurricane bearing down on the coast.  I don't want to go back.  A spring has sprung, I found another task I need to add to the monthly list.  Fire up all small engines each month.  I found a dead battery on my riding mower (that's now working thanks to my charger) and my push mower not starting (next weekend's project).  My chainsaw and string trimmer will be on the same schedule.

So, back to the original question...  Yes, we do need a "Plan B."  But we need to make sure our "Plan B" works, and we need to keep it working on a regular basis.  It's probably a good idea to have at least a "Plan c" (lower case, not as extensive as the "B"), and if your particular circumstances dictate, there's room for D and E too.  Just stay on top of what you have.

What are some of your Plan Bs?  Leave us a comment to share your reasons.


Getting Started

Starting Tomatoes

I'm way behind on this, but I finally got my tomato seeds started this morning.  I had a great little helper in my 5 year old nephew, so he was motivation to me and it gets him started seeing that vegetables don't come from the grocery store.  Last year was the first time I started seeds, and I used a UV light in a windowsill with limited success.

This year, I'm trying something new.  I cleared off one of my shelves in the temperature controlled side of my shop.  I've got the seeds on in a planter box on the shelf, with a UV light on either end of the box, and a timer controlling the lights.  That way, I don't have to remember to go out at 5:30 in the morning or or 8:30 at night to turn the lights on or off.  I just need to keep it watered.  I've also set the thermostat in the shop to 70, which is warmer than the house was last year.  I'm hoping that this process will jump start them, and combined with my cold frame on the garden box, I can make up for lost time.  If not, a friend started his on time and has a few extras if I need them.

Starting a Shooter

After we got the tomato seeds planted, we broke out the Rossi Youth Model single shot .22 rifle and took a few shots in the back yard.  He had shot the gun one time before, but this was the first time we made a morning of it.  He has a good understanding of safety and is learning form.  He still needs a couple inches to really start a proper form, but he got a couple good shots in.

Here the little guy is, proud and still excited by his success.  I printed the targets courtesy of the good folks at Lucky Gunner Ammo.

Sponsor of the Week

Up as Sponsor of the Week is The Berkey Guy and his Wise Food Storage.  Wise Food Storage is packaged in handy serving sizes, and nitrogen packed with a 25 year shelf life.  There's a huge variety of delicious meals, and it's available in sizes from a 72 hour emergency stockpile to a year's supply for a family of four.  Please check them out and tell Jeff that you heard about him here at If It Hits The Fan!


ShelterBox Mar. 19, 2011

What's a ShelterBox?

A couple days ago, I saw this article on CNN and posted it to our Facebook page.  I thought I'd look a little deeper at the organization and write about it here.  One thing about prepping is that by having your family prepared for disasters, that leaves government and charitable resources to be more available to those who are not prepared either through choice or by true need.  I advocate being more prepared than you expect to need so that you can become one of those charitable resources as well.  The ShelterBox people have taken that thought to the extreme.  Their existence is based on being that charitable resource and providing appropriate shelter needs to areas stricken by disaster.

I did most of my research at ShelterBox USA, but there is also ShelterBox International for those of you in other countries.  ShelterBox has developed extensive relationships with Boy Scouts and Rotary, and they also have the International Academy for Disaster Relief in Great Britain.  According to the tax forms for ShelterBox USA, their salaries and expenses account for about 7 or 8% of their donations with everything else going to disaster relief.  I think that's a pretty darned good ratio.

So what is a ShelterBox?  It's a sturdy plastic box (think like a Rubbermaid storage bin on steroids) that contains a unique 10 person tent, a stove (either multi-fuel or wood burning), a tool kit, water purification device, water storage containers, utensils, and weather-specific gear which might include cold weather supplies, ground mats, mosquito nets, etc...  Although they have basic commonality, the boxes are custom loaded for each specific disaster location.  There have been some situations where the location was only lacking shelter, so they just packed two tents to every box.  After the Haiti earthquake, they included mosquito nets.  For Japan, they've included blankets.  The tent is a unique product developed by Vango especially for ShelterBox.  It is designed for high winds, cold and rain and for up to 10 people.  It even has privacy screens inside to divide up sleeping areas.

I'm very impressed by what I've seen of ShelterBox.  I'm making a financial donation, and have emailed them offering a free advertising spot as a continuing donation.


Pro Prepper 2 Mar. 18, 2011

Yesterday we looked at a sampling of the college courses.  Today we'll look at a couple of other aspects of preparedness as a profession.

Organizations & Certifications

International Association of Emergency Managers is the biggest one that I know of.  I recently joined.  Among the benefits are a career center with a jobs board and a monthly 16-24 page newsletter.   IAEM is also the regulating body for achieving Certified Emergency Manager, which is the most recognized certification in the industry.  They also offer the lower status Associate Emergency Manager.  I'm currently working toward CEM.

National Emergency Management Association is not one I've joined at this time.  It is more geared to the state-level directors and agency heads.

Virginia Emergency Management Association is my state's association.  They offer training courses, an annual symposium, and four state certifications: Professional Emergency Manager, Associate Emergency Manager, Certified Emergency Management Assistant, and Emergency Management Volunteer.  I'm a member and currently have the CEMA designation.

There are many other EMAs for states, regions, women, military, pretty much any subcategory you can think of.  Look around for one that might be applicable to you if you're interested.

Career Paths

So, how can you work toward a career in emergency management?  If you are young, say 25 and below, I'd do the following:
  • Get a degree in the field
  • While in college, volunteer as a firefighter or in the C.E.R.T. program (more on that later)
  • Get a job with a major fire department and seek out specialized training in HazMat and emergency management.  Try for promotions to positions specifically involved in EM.  Also, don't be afraid to look for employment with other government agencies for EM or achieving one of the many business continuity certifications and going to work for a private corporation.
Another option for the early part of a career path is the military.  All branches have emergency management training and internal certifications.  It often overlaps with military police and anti-terrorism roles.  I currently have USAF certification as a Unit Anti-Terrorism Officer.  Pulling a full career in military EM, retiring as a senior enlisted or officer, then taking the pension and the experience to the civilian world can make for very lucrative golden years.

For those who are older and established in a career already also have options.  First, seek out the numerous free training offerings from FEMA.  If possible, work toward a degree associated with EM.  If you already have a degree in something else, an on-line Associates to add to what you have or a Masters to expand upon it would be great additions.  Next, volunteer with your local fire department, emergency operations center, or C.E.R.T. program.  Through all this, see what you can do with your current employment to add to your experience.  If you are a store manager, maybe you can develop a local emergency plan or schedule drills around an existing plan.  If you are a contractor, try adding hurricane-strength roofs, doors and shutters to what you offer or volunteer to help rebuild in other countries after disasters, bringing back your experiences to share with your local EM people.  Maybe you're an advertising person - you can offer to work with your local EOC to promote preparedness in your city.  This may or may not help you in a career transition, but it could open up other areas of your current career toward involvement in EM.


In addition to being a refreshing mint, C.E.R.T. is also Community Emergency Response Team.  These are community volunteers who are trained and equipped to assist in emergencies.  Kind of like a grown up Civil Air Patrol program.  C.E.R.T. is growing and spreading all over the nation, and can provide some excellent training to those who have never been involved in any kind of emergency services and want to be, but without the time and training commitments of volunteer firefighter, rescue squad paramedic or auxiliary police officer.  There are leadership and instructor development opportunities and large localities may even have a paid position or two for C.E.R.T. coordinators.

Most C.E.R.T. groups issue basic gear, but our sponsor, Essential Packs, has some cool C.E.R.T. equipment and accessories.

A career in EM is not for everyone.  If you are a prepper, and looking for ways to make it more a part of your lifestyle, then it might be something you want to consider.

Are there any EM professionals who are reading If It Hits The Fan?


Pro Prepper Mar. 17, 2011

Prepping for a Living

Prepping is closely related to Emergency Management.  The biggest difference is that prepping as we know it is more for ourselves and our families while emergency management is prepping for the community, city, county, region, state and nation.  I think there are very few people that can make a living solely as "preppers."  Some make it with teaching, others with supplying, but keeping my family ready for a crisis doesn't pay very well.  Emergency management is a whole 'nother story.  It is a growth industry, in the corporate world, and at all levels of government.  In fact, it is one of the fastest growing areas around.  Professional certifications, advanced degrees, organizations, industrial and government regulations... all contribute to the growth.  As does public fear and demand that government be ready for disaster.  I think much of this began with 9/11, but really came to the forefront from Katrina.

My Story

Most of my career has been in law enforcement and security management.  I had some very basic training in what was then known as ICS (Incident Command Structure), but only ended up using the techniques a few times over the years.  It was much more the field of the fire services.  In 2003, President Bush declared Presidential Homeland Security Directive which was to: "enhance the ability of the United States to manage domestic incidents by establishing a single, comprehensive national incident management system. This management system is designed to cover the prevention, preparation, response, and recovery from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies."

As a part of that initiative, I had to take two introductory classes from FEMA that were taught by police officers who really didn't know what they were teaching and had no interest in the topic.  You can guess how awful that training was.  But I still found it somewhat interesting.

I started a new job five years ago and have become much more involved in the emergency management side of things.  I've attended numerous on-line and in person training courses, earned the designation of Emergency Management Assistant, and taken an active role in my city's Emergency Operations Center during weather emergencies and large scale drills.  Although I firmly believe that individuals must take responsibility for themselves, I've seen that some can't, and many just plain won't.  Also, a coordinated plan and response is crucial to a community's infrastructure being protected or restored after a major disaster, and emergency management needs to do that.

What's Out There?

There are numerous colleges that now offer everything from Associate's Degrees to PhDs in Emergency Management, Homeland Security, or a similar course of study.  Here are some with which I'm familiar:

Virginia Commonwealth University offers both a B.A. and a Master's in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.  VCU was the first major university in the country to offer an undergraduate program in Homeland Security.  The Master's degree in nearly all on-line and intended for working professionals around the world.  Being a state school, the tuition is pretty reasonable, especially for Virginia residents.

Central Texas College offers an Associate's Degree in Homeland Security either on-line or at more than 20 locations (most on military bases) across the country.

American Military University has a Master of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management as an on-line offering.  They have the really catchy nickname of "Master of Disaster," complete with hats and polo shirts.

To be continued...

I'm having internet connection troubles tonight, so I'm going to cut this short.  I'll continue tomorrow with some of the organizations and certifications for an emergency management career tomorrow.


Twist & Shake Mar. 16, 2011

Yesterday's Tornado Drill

I mentioned the statewide tornado drill yesterday, and that I had used it as a way to bring up preparedness to the folks in my office.

Here's a part of the email that I sent out.  Feel free to adapt it to your workplace if you would like.

Good morning,

Today at 9:45 the state will commence a tornado drill with an alert over the NOAA weather radio.

I don’t think it is necessary for our office to fully participate, but please take a moment to think about what you would do if we came under a tornado warning here and what you would do at home.

For this building, I think that the best location would be in the hallway outside of the break room. It’s windowless, relatively narrow, accessible from several different directions, and has little in it that could become windborne missiles. At home, establish a windowless location on your bottom level such as a ground floor bathroom or under the basement stairs. You might even preposition a couple flashlights, a battery or hand cranked radio, and a few bottles of water.

In whatever safe location you find yourself, the best position is seated on the floor, facing the wall, face protected by your knees, and hands protecting the back of your neck and head.  Most adults can’t begin to get in this position, but the main object is to protect your face, head and neck.

If you have a NOAA weather radio at home (and you really should), be sure it is set to your specific jurisdiction. Here is a link to all the county codes in Va. www.weather.gov/nwr/CntyCov/nwrVA.htm

For more information about tornado preparedness, please visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s tornado preparedness pages at www.vaemergency.com/threats/tornado/index.cfm

Public events such as this drill are a great way to broach the subject with folks.  If you can be seen as the "go to" person for emergency information, people who don't otherwise think about preparedness might be more inclined to listen to you when you bring up other related topics.

The Great Central U.S. Shakeout 

Speaking of drills, the Great Central U.S. Shakeout is scheduled for April 28th.  It's an organized earthquake drill for 11 states from South Carolina to Oklahoma.  I'm not too familiar with earthquakes, having only been in a couple small ones that caused no damage.  I've always thought that a person should stand in a doorway during a quake, but just learned that they don't promote that anymore.  The current method is to drop, cover, and hold on.  Essentially, get down on your hands and knees to be able to move safer than if you were on your feet; crawl under a desk or table to protect you from falling items (more people are injured or killed by flying or falling objects than by structural collapse); and hold on to whatever you are taking cover under so that you can stay with it as it moves.

The old method of standing in a doorway was based on pictures of old buildings with nothing standing but the doorways after major quakes.  They say that in newer buildings, the doorways are no stronger than surrounding walls, and that during a strong quake, a person could probably not remain within the doorway even if it were a safer location.

So, my suggestion is to be alert for organized emergency drills in your area.  Learn about safety during the drills' disaster types and share that information with your coworkers, neighbors, church members, and family to get them thinking about preparedness and looking to you as the resident expert.


The Interview Mar. 15, 2011

Personal Preparedness on WRVA

WRVA put up a podcast of my interview from yesterday, so I used my iPod to film a title screen while the mp3 played.  I'm sure there are easier ways to do it, but it worked OK.  I'll probably update it when I upgrade my AV equipment at some point.

I'm a Winner!

No, not like Charlie Sheen...  A big THANKS to M.D. Creekmore at The Survivalist Blog and his sponsors, Lucky Gunner!  A couple weeks ago, I made a blog post about Lucky Gunner to enter a contest and just found out that I've won the first prize, a $200 credit.  Gotta love free ammo!

Virginia's Statewide Tornado Drill

Today the Va. Department of Emergency Management ran a tornado drill across the state.  There were over a million registered participants.  It got kicked off at 9:45 with an alert over the NOAA Weather Radios.  In addition to a drill for our schools, I used it as a reason to remind folks in our administrative building about what they can do at work and at home to prepare for a tornado.

I know other states have statewide earthquake drills, do any others do a tornado drill, and have you participated in any statewide drills?


If It Hits The Air Mar. 14, 2011

On The Radio

This morning, I was interviewed about personal preparedness by Jimmy Barrett, the host of Richmond's Morning News on 1140 AM, WRVA.  WRVA is a 50,000 watt clear channel powerhouse, and during morning drive when I was on, it is one of the top stations in Richmond, the 55th largest market in the country.  Great exposure!  I'm working on tracking down an audio file of the interview to post here.

The interview has brought a bunch of new readers, so WELCOME!  Here's a post from a while back where I talk about who I am and what I'm doing here.

In The Garden

I spent yesterday enjoying some wonderful weather and prepping my garden for planting.  In an effort to get a little extra time in my growing season I built a cold frame over my garden box.

I used 3.5 mil opaque plastic sheeting and a frame of 2x2s with a couple odd pieces of scrap to finish.  I hinged the back of it and put a handle and bungee cord on the front.

Here it is closed
It doesn't come all the way to the front edge so that water will run off it and into the soil and not wasted out of the box.

Here it is open so you can see the construction
I gave the soil a good soaking and am letting the sun do it's trick.


I've got a small compost bin.  I try to remember to save produce scraps from the kitchen, but that depends on me remembering to get out an extra bowl to hold them.  Yesterday at Wal-Mart I picked up a two pack of their Mainstays brand 16 cup food storage tubs.  They have snap close lids, so the scraps can stay on the counter and odors won't escape.  I'll still run it out to the bin every night, but I think this will make it more convenient and it will be easier to get in the habit.

Fear Mongering?

Some vendors are being accused of fear mongering for sending emails or posting on Facebook that they have KI pills or Nuk Alerts or other prep gear in stock in the aftermath of the Japanese disasters.  I say those accusations are baseless.  If a person waited until after a disaster, then opened up a fly-by-night business to capitalize on the suffering or fear of others, that would be fear mongering.  An existing business reminding potential customers of some of their products that could help with a current situation is not just good business, it's good customer service.


We're Back! Mar. 13, 2011

No Post Yesterday

I'm sorry I was unable to post yesterday.  We lost Verizon DSL service around lunchtime and it didn't come back up until sometime in the overnight hours.  It was an area outage; my dad lives about 10 miles away and his was out too.

FEMA Wants Us To Spring Ahead To Disaster Preparedness

From the FEMA news release:
Daylight Savings Time in the United States starts on the second Sunday in March of each year and the Federal Emergency Management Agency encourages all Americans to use the change to daylight savings time to update emergency preparedness plans. For years, firefighters and safety professionals have asked the public to change smoke alarm batteries throughout their homes, as they move their clocks ahead. According to FEMA Regional Administrator Ken Murphy, the March ritual of making homes safer from fire is also a great opportunity to review disaster preparedness plans and restock disaster kits.

Well, I didn't make it to restocking our BOBs in the cars.  We'll switch them over from winter to spring gear probably next weekend.  I did, however, give my EDC kit a reboot.

Here's what mine looks like:
First, I always have my Nuk Alert with me.

I have mine because the city where I work has a nuclear power plant on one end, a nuclear accelerator lab in the middle, and a nuclear shipyard at the other end.  Looking at the Japan disasters, it really adds a level of safety and peace of mind.  With some of the reports saying that radiation could reach the Western U.S., I'd imagine their sales are going through the roof right now.

I lost my old EDC kit when the converted cell phone pouch came off my belt without me knowing it.  I've switched to this Sony camera case.  It has a double layer belt loop.  It can either be snapped on and off, or also has a sewn loop.  Guess which one I use now...

Here's what I have in it:
From the top left, going clockwise: three alcohol preps, four Band-Aids, the pouch with a small caribiner to keep the zipper closed, two latex gloves (you might need nitrile if you have a latex sensitivity), about five feet of first aid tape, a 9 LED flashlight, a Bic lighter, Chap Stick with 15 spf, a Wegner Swiss Army Knife (check out our Sponsor of the Week for a great selection of Wegners!), two boot laces (I need to replace this with 550 cord, and a plastic container that gum came in.

The gloves, tape, laces and Chapstick fit in the plastic case, which then goes in the pouch.  The knife, flashlight and lighter also fit in the pouch.  The Band-Aids and prep pads go in the Velcroed front pocket of the pouch.  It's tight, but it all fits. 

This goes on my belt every time I leave the house.  It works fine with jeans or with my suit at work.  I actually have two of these pouches.  The second one carries my iPod Touch, work Blackberry, and personal flip phone.

Sponsor of the Week

Essential Packs is up as our Sponsor of the Week.  These guys have a huge selection of "turn key" emergency kits for you, your home, car, work, school, and even pets.  As mentioned before, they also have a variety of Wegner Swiss Army Knives too.  Check them out, and please let them know you heard about them through If It Hits The Fan!


Terrorism Mar. 11, 2011

Know Your Enemy

That's one of the main tenets of the Chinese warrior philosopher, Sun Tzu.  What goes through the mind of a terrorist?  Why do they target civilian targets?  What motivates them?

Next week, American Military University is presenting a free webcast.  On March 17, from 1 to 2:15 p.m., they will present Inside The Terrorist Mind, an in-depth analysis of the terrorist mind, and how the culture of terrorism fits into the rest of the civilized world.

The panelists will cover topics including:
  • Root causes of terrorism
  • Variations and history of terrorism
  • Views on why individuals join
  • The complexity of motivation
  • Where do we go from here?
There will also be a question and answer session at the end.  It's a whole lot of information for just an hour and 15 minutes, so it should be interesting.  If you want to take part, you can go the AMU website and register for the webcast.  I'll be tuning in and will bring back a full report to you here.

Terrorists of the Future?

This is video of Pashtun children in Pakistan playing jihadi suicide bomber.  The boy in black hugs his friends as he leaves on a pretend suicide attack.  He approaches the boy in white who is playing a security person, then shows his toy bomb before detonating it in the crowd, while the boys in the crowd throw sand in the air to simulate an explosion.  Is it just their version of cowboys & Indians or cops & robbers, or is it something much worse?  I think the difference is that when we played our games as kids, the goal was to kill the bad guy but stay alive to be the hero.  These kids have the goal of dying while killing the infidels.

Watch the video and let us know what you think.  I'll warn you, I think it is pretty disturbing.


My thoughts and prayers are with those in Japan, Hawaii and the West Coast who lost loved ones and property today.  As I type this, Japan is in utter turmoil.  Several nuclear power plants are on the verge of failing.  They've evacuated 45,000 from around one plant.  Thousands are dead or missing, including an entire commuter train full of passengers.

In Hawaii, there was a lot of flooding and some property damage, but from what I have seen, no loss of life.

In California, many boats and piers were destroyed, and several people died when they were swept out to sea.  The daughter and grandchildren of a friend had to evacuate their home near Monterrey, but did not lose anything.  The folks at Backwoods Home Magazine had to shut down and evacuate their offices today, but also escaped unscathed.

We need to keep an eye on the nuclear problems in Japan.  In WWII they released bomb balloons that reached the US mainland.  One would think the air currents could move radiation that far if enough of it escapes the facilities.


Pop The Question Mar. 10, 2011

Not THAT Question

A reader emailed me the other day.  He hadn't been prepping for too terribly long, and was looking for suggestions on how to meet others of like mind.  One suggestion I had was for him to ask some innocuous prep-related questions of co-workers, neighbors, church members, etc..., and that he might be surprised by some of the answers.

I thought I'd suggest a few questions that won't get you looked at strangely, and the different types of answers you might get.  The way a person answers could lead you to digging a little deeper.

I'm putting in a little vegetable garden this year, maybe planting a couple fruit trees; you do any gardening?
a.  What, are you some kind of hippie now?  The grocery store has plenty of vegetables.
b.  My folks had a garden when I was a kid.  Nothing like getting a fresh tomato right off the vine. Sure is a whole lot of trouble, though.
c.  Oh yeah, we've got six raised beds in back and grow edible ornamentals out front.  Let me know when you want to put it in and I'll come help.  I've got some extra compost I'll bring.

Did you see that storm that tore up that town last week?  I'm getting a generator so we can keep things going next time we lose power.
a.  If we get a big storm and lose power, I'll just go to the big box store and buy one that day.  Of course, by the time I get home with it, the power will be back on, so I'll just take it back to the store.
b.  Why bother?  If it's that bad, the county will give us ice, food and water, and FEMA will pay for everything else.
c.  Good idea!  Make sure you get one big enough to run all of your essentials, and that you get someone who knows what they're doing to wire a junction box.  Do you have extra gas cans and some Sta-bil?

FEMA says we should have three days of food and water for emergencies.  I'm thinking of getting maybe a two week supply, just in case.
a.  If the government says three days, I think they probably know better than you.  Hording is immoral.
b.  I'm sure the Mrs. has plenty of food, but if not, we'll just run out to the Kroger if something happens.
c.  Make sure you buy things that your family likes.  Don't just get a bunch of Spam... unless of course you like Spam.

Things are getting bad around here.  I ought to buy a gun.  You know anything about guns?
a.  I know that I don't want to be around some crazed wannabe killer, so keep away from me if you get one.
b.  Be sure to store your bullets locked up separately from your gun, and keep the gun hidden on the top shelf of your closet so the kids don't find it. Are you going to get one of those 38 magnums?
c.  Well, I do a bit of hunting, and I've had a concealed carry permit for years.  If you want, I'll take you to the range and you can try a few different types.  When you buy one, I'll connect you with the place where I went to a 3-day class.

Want to go to the camping store with me after work?  I'm picking up some emergency gear to keep in the car.
a.  Camping store?  For me roughing it is a 3 star hotel without Wi-Fi.
b.  Why do you need an emergency kit?  Just get Triple A.
c.  Why don't we go this weekend?  My husband and I both keep 72 hour kits in our cars, and we can help you learn from where we messed up building ours.  It will save you money in the long run.

Have you seen how silver is climbing?  Do you know where I can buy some to invest?
a.  I can introduce you to my broker.  He'll set you up with a 401k so you can retire to a life of leisure at 65.
b.  Invest?  I can barely keep up with the payments on all my credit cards, the mortgage, the timeshare at the beach, our three cars, the bass boat, my Harley, and the snowmobiles.
c.  You ought to take a look at what they call "junk" silver.  It's pre-1965 silver coins, and I've got a couple of sellers I've found on EBay that are honest and have fair shipping prices.

It's too bad we work in the city.  I'd much rather live in the country.  Maybe we'll buy a piece of property and put a cabin on it to use for hunting, relaxing with the kids, and we could even go there to hunker down if a disaster hits the city.
a.  I could never live in the country.  I need my Starbucks to survive.  Not to mention, they don't have any good Thai places out there.
b.  That's the attitude that is tearing down our city.  We need to move people back in to the cities and all live on the bus line.  We need earners in the city so the tax base doesn't suffer.
c.  There's a 10 acre lot for sale not to far from the deer camp that my brother and I bought a few years ago.  Take the family out this weekend and you can stay in the RV we keep parked there.  I'll draw you a map.

You get the picture.  Ask questions first.  Base extended conversations on the answers you get.  If you went up to a "b" person and started talking about "the coming economic collapse," they'd look at you like you were crazy.  If you start telling an "a" person about your six months of food and BOB in your trunk, they'll report you as an extremist.  That "c" person though...  he might end up being your new best friend. 


Expo Time! Mar. 9, 2011

Self Reliance Expo

I love going to trade shows, vendor expos, training seminars, etc...  If you are lucky enough to live close enough to spend a weekend in Denver, you can go to the Self Reliance Expo on Apr. 8 and 9 at the National Western Complex.

The first Self Reliance Expo was last fall in Salt Lake City, and from what I hear, it was a raging success.  The Expo features nearly 200 vendors of self reliance and survival-related gear, books, foods, pretty much everything you might need.  It also has a wide variety of great seminars throughout the day from some of the experts in the industry.  They even had a bread baking competition and a cooking contest from the different storage food companies

I think this is an important event to go to if you are able.  Not only to support and meet the vendors you know, but also to see what else is out there that you didn't know you needed.  It's also a great way to introduce your family and friends to preparedness in a way that they would see as safe and non-threatening.  Although I can't make it to Denver, I'm supporting the Expo by donating a free ad for the next month.

If you go, visit the website and sign up for the newsletter to get a $2 discount coupon for your admission.  Also, please look for my sponsors (I know The Berkey Guy will be there) and tell them you read about them on If It Hits The Fan.

If you're like me, and are stuck on the East Coast, unable to go, visit the website and tell Ron how much you would appreciate him bringing the Self Reliance Expo to our side of the country.  I know I'd go!


Alternative Energy Mar. 8, 2011

Solar Heat Pump

Our heat pump will need to be replaced in the next year or two.  A couple days ago, I caught the tail end of a TV commercial advertising solar powered heat pumps.  A quick web search today turned me on to a local supplier for Lennox and their Solar Solutions.  These are high efficiency heat pumps that are ready to hook into their solar panel systems.  The solar panels are modular, and can sit flush on a South facing roof.  They run directly into the heat pump, and from there into the main circuit of the house if not needed for the pump.  You can have anywhere from 2 to 15 panels connected.  One concern I have is that there is no ability to store the energy, so it is really use it or lose it.

I called the local supplier to ask about pricing.  He said that 6 panels would run about $9,500 and then be eligible for a 30% tax credit.  I could expand each year and get the full tax credit in subsequent years for subsequent purchases.  Up through 2016 I think he said.  The heat pump itself would be in the $10,000 range and eligible for a $300-500 tax credit.

I definitely need to do more research.  I really want to look at the ROI vs. a regular high efficiency heat pump.  From their charts, in this area, using 4 panels, I could reduce my heating and cooling energy costs by about 50% averaged over a full year.  I'll let you know what I find out and figure out.

Another Type of Solar Heat

This article was in today's local paper.  As I understand it, he has solar collectors that warm antifreeze which is then pumped underground through pipes that then warm a 15 cubic yard patch of underground sand.  The sand then heats water pipes which then warm the house.

They estimate a 70% reduction in heating costs, but it cost over $29,000 to install.  Perhaps further refinement and a larger economy of scale will make this a viable option in some parts of the country.

Free Propane

Well, a $10 rebate at least.   In the grocery store this evening, I found a mail-in rebate offer from Miller Lite.  You do not need to buy any beer, but you do need to of legal drinking age and live in AL, AR, HI, KY, ME, MO, NC, NJ, NY, TX, VA or WV.  Buy a Blue Rhino propane tank, with or without the exchange of an empty tank, send in the rebate form and your receipt, and they send you $10.  I have three propane tanks, and get my own refilled.  The catch is, once they reach a certain age (I think 7 years), most places won't refill them.  So, I'll be taking my oldest tank to a trade-in place and getting the newest and nicest in the cage.  And I'll get $10 back!  What a deal.


I mentioned yesterday that I could not make out one of the items on my Great-Grandfather's inventory.  A reader, Army Wife, suggested that it might be creamer. I thought the first letter, looked like a "P" but her thought made sense because it came right after instant coffee.  A Google search for "non-dairy creamer in the 60s" led me to Pream, the first of it's kind.


100th Post! Mar. 7, 2011

We've Reached a Milestone

Survivalist. Prepper. Homesteader. Paranoid. A little of column “A,” a little of column “B.” Uncle Sam now encourages people to have 72 – hour kits and emergency plans. What does all that mean to me?

With those words I started this blog in May of last year.  I planned to write something once a week or so, and if I could reach 100 people, I'd have been pleased.  That's about how it went until Jan. 1st.  I've been making daily posts since then.  Readership has skyrocketed.  I've got 223 fans of Facebook.  I've got some fantastic sponsors who believe enough in what I'm doing and the wonderful readers to put their money down on advertising.  I'm supremely grateful for all of it.  This is my 100th post, and I'm committed to bringing you daily quality posts for a long time to come.  Thank you very much!

My Great-Grandfather Prepped

As we head into the future with If It Hits The Fan, I thought we'd take a look at the past.  My Great-Grandfather died several years before I was born, but from what I've learned about him, he was an interesting man.  He had two master's degrees, one from Davidson College in North Carolina, and one from Yale.  My Grandmother was born in Texas in 1919 while my Great-Grandfather was a professor at Austin College.  He brought the family back to Richmond and left academia to become an accountant.  Fast forward to 1961.  He was retired and concerned about the Red Menace.  Like much of America at the time, he decided to build a fallout shelter for him, my Great-Grandmother, my Grandparents, my Mom (who was in college) and my Uncle (in high school).

I have a folder with his notes, some articles, and his inventory.  Take a look at it and see what you think of his level of readiness.  Compare the items on his list to yours.  Don't compare the prices, it might make you cry.
Who knew that General Mills made survival food?  I think I'll have to pass on the Multi-Purpose Food, though and stick to the THRIVE or Wise.  How about those Vitamin C wafers?  Anyone have anything like that in their preps?  Do they still make those?

Do you have a personal radiation meter?  Personally, I carry a Nuk Alert with me at all times.  What about building your own out of common household items?

Do you have a shelter?  Do you have a way to provide ventilation?  Great-Grandfather did.

This came from Civil Defense, and seems like a good basic ventilation chimney.  From more recent things I've read, this should be perfectly adequate for keeping fallout particles out of your shelter.  I don't know that Fram and Purolator still make filters for it, though.

Here's his handwritten inventory:
Nearly everything on this list can be found in the pantries of today's survivalists.  I don't think mac & cheese comes in cans anymore, nor the juices.  The Pepsi and 7-Up I believe would have been quart sized back then.  I can't make out the item after the instant coffee, anyone have any ideas?  I hope no one has 1,000 tabs of saccharine anymore.  Fifty gallons of water for 5 adults and a teen boy?  I don't know how long he was planning for; it's hard to figure out from his food and drink choices.  I think the water is one place I'd have to suggest Great-Grandfather up his quantities considerably.

So, how much did all of this cost him?  I can tell you that it was all paid for in cash.  He was not one for credit.  Here are his notes:

Just over $1,134 and every penny accounted for.  Notice that he also did it all, from contracting and building the shelter, to buying the food and supplies, in just over two months.  The supplies are all things we should have in our larders (maybe except the DDT).  He accounts for food, water, hygiene and waste, and even entertainment.  I'd have liked to have known my Great-Grandfather and spoken with him about his preps.  But you know, I think I'm pretty lucky to have these notes.  Francis Gary Powers, Jr., the son of the U2 pilot shot down and captured in the Soviet Union, is in Virginia, and he is the director of the National Cold War museum up in DC.  Perhaps I'll donate these if he is interested in them. 

As a kid, I remember seeing newspaper clippings of an article in the Richmond News Leader about Great-Grandfather's basement shelter.  He followed OpSec and kept his picture and name out of it, but photographs showed the interior of the shelter and told how he did it.  No one in the family knows what happened to the clippings, but I'm still trying to hunt them down.  When I find them, I'll put them up here for you.

I hope you enjoyed seeing this bit of survivalism history.  You can see that I come by it honestly!


My 100th post would not be complete without a big thank you to my sponsors, featured in the left hand column of the blog.  Please visit their pages and consider them for your prepping needs.  If you buy from them, I'd appreciate it if you told them you found them through If It Hits The Fan.  Also, if you are buying from Amazon, please go through my store.  I'll get a small commission and it won't cost you anything extra.


Again, thanks to you for taking the time to visit and read my blog.  I never forget that the reason I am here is because of all of you.  Thank you!

My Wife

I owe a huge thanks to my wife!  Without her support, help and patience as I spend so much time on the computer, none of this would have happened.  She is the reason I prep, and I'm grateful for such a wonderful reason.