Monday, February 16, 2015

Today's Suggestion: Have a Plan!!!

Greetings, friends.  It's been well over a year since I last updated this blog, and I have a few posts upcoming that I will put up in an effort to get back to some semblance of participation with it. 
Despite not having written in this blog in awhile, I am still very much interested in Prepping, Survival, and being ready for emergencies.  I still participate on multiple forums, follow multiple Youtube folks, and am constantly refining my own systems for supply, storage, protection, and so on.  Like most folks who are going to read this, I enjoy seeing others' setups, finding out what works for them, and gleaning whatever useful information I can from them.  That said, I think there's a real issue with the media on this subject, and that's something I'd like to talk a little about today.  I'd like to ask the reader to consider a few scenarios.
1.  You and your wife live a comfortable middle class existence.  You're carrying some credit debt, sure.  Who doesn't?  Your wife just bought a new car, using her Christmas bonus as a down-payment.  You had purchased a new truck last year, and figured there was no harm in your wife also being able to enjoy a new car.  Then, today at work, your supervisor calls you into the office.  Unfortunately, the home office has decided you and the team you manage are no longer needed.  The job market in your town isn't the best, so you won't be able to step right into another position.  So, what is your plan of action for this situation?  Your household just lost a large chunk of its income, because you were the primary earner, making more than your wife.  Right now, the minute you walked out your supervisor's office...what is your plan?
2.  You are sitting at the office, hard at work on this proposal that your boss needs on his desk before the end of the day.  Although the pay is good, your office is an hour commute, situated roughly 50 miles away from home.  You're hard at work, so you haven't bothered to check any local news-sites, nor do you have a radio on.  So, you don't hear about a bad storm that, as is typical for your area, comes up out of nowhere and knocks power out.  You only become aware once bad thunder and lightning sounds outside loudly enough to be heard in your closed office.  Right after you hear the storm, the power goes out in your building.  You rush to look out a window in the hall and see how bad the weather is.  As things can always be worse, your car is nearly on empty, because you figured you'd just stop at the gas station near the highway on-ramp down the street.  Unfortunately, power is out on your whole block.  To add to the urgency, you can't seem to get ahold of your wife on the phone, and the weather station says the storm is headed towards the town your home is in.  What's your first move?  What is your plan?
3.  Your home is situated in a valley.  You are home one day, when the emergency broadcast signal comes on, taking over the episode of that show you were watching, telling you that your area is about to be engulfed in a forest fire that's raging out of control.  You've got about five minutes to get your family into your car, and headed out of there before the fire traps you in your neighborhood.  What's your plan of action?  What do you grab?  Where is it?  Where will you drive to?  Do you know the best route out of town headed the right way to get out of danger?  Where are you going?  What is your plan?
A lot of preppers enjoy showing their preparations on their Youtube channels, but a lot of guys don't seem to talk about the catastrophes that can hit regular people out of the blue on any given day.  I understand that talking about zombies and arming up so you can shoot looters is much more exciting to talk about than what do in the event you or your significant other loses their job, but the fact is, the chance is astronomically greater that you might lose your job, or be stranded by a storm, or that your home might come under threat from natural disaster than it might be that you'll need to gather up your AR-15 and that bag full of loaded 30 round mags and head out to fight zombies.  That's just the fact of the matter.  I have talked before about the folks who are more interested in the idea of survival and into buying all of the cool camping/tactical/survival gear on Amazon or at their local gun-shop, than they are actually being ready to handle a more likely situation. 
So, the point of all of this is simple: before you start buying items to start shoving into Bugout Bags, or start looking at how much a steel brush-guard and roof mounted machine guns would cost for your old diesel pickup, work out actual plans for this situations that might come along.  I recognize that talking about creating a plan can be difficult because everyone's circumstances are unique. 
Planning can be difficult because folks generally try not to think of unpleasant situations.  However, if you are truly interested in being prepared, being proactive, then it's time for me to pick up my "Captain Obvious" hat and make a suggestion.  My advice for these types of situations would be: take some time to sit down and think about them.  I mean actually think about these situations (or others that might apply to you.  Visualize your employer giving you the bad news.  Imagine watching that terrible storm swirl by outside.  What would it feel like to hear the emergency broadcast signal cutting into that episode of American Horror Story?  Imagine yourself really experiencing these situations.  

Now then.  Firmly in mind?  Good.  Let's get started.  Take out a sheet of paper.  Write down, "I lost my job."  Again, try to visualize it happening tomorrow.  You're called into that office tomorrow afternoon.  Tomorrow, you're let go.  Now, (knock on wood), that won't happen.  So, keeping in mind that the purpose of this plan is to prepare you for such a possibility, write down some key items that you should probably get started with today, while everything is still going well.   Some suggestions might be:
  • Pay down any significant debt.  This might be accomplished in many ways.  Take a second job for a year.  Sell items you own that you don't have a real use for, such as collectibles or perhaps something hobby related.
  • Get your resume into shape.  You would be surprised at how many people don't keep their resume up to date.  In fact, a good Life tip in general might be: every time you have a significant achievement at work, add it to your resume.  This way, you aren't trying to rack your memory for professional accomplishments when you're super stressed because you just lost that job.
  • Store food, toilet paper, light bulbs, and other consumables.  Sure, this absolutely goes hand in hand with what Preppers are doing anyway, but the fact is, plenty of folks have survived on their preps while trying to find a new job.  Make sure you could too.
  • Make a list of new skills that might make you a more desirable employee and then make the effort to seek those credentials or skills.  The goal here is making yourself more attractive to prospective new employers.
  • Make sure to have a stash of cash on hand.  Sure, it may be difficult to pay down debt AND build up a cash supply.  Worst case scenerio, when you pay off a credit card, don't cut it up.  Store it away just in case you need to use it to buy groceries during a period of unemployment.  Credit should only be for emergencies anyway.

There might be many others.  Create a plan that works for you, and that gives you a roadmap of things to do now while you're still gainfully employed. 
Let's continue.  So, you find yourself stranded at work due to a bad storm.  Let's see, what might be some things you could beforehand to have that situation under control?
  • First thing's first, commit to never letting your car get below half empty again.
  • Print out or purchase a local map.  Does your way home from work involve a highway?  Map out multiple alternate routes which might take you through areas that aren't affected by a power outage.
  • On that map, make sure to annotate key locations such as gas stations, drug stores (if you require medication you forgot at home that day, for example), medical facilities, grocery stores, or even a hotel where you could bunk for the night until the roads are cleared.  Hint: this is why a GHB (Get Home Bag) is useful.
  • Keep some supplies in your car, such as toiletries, a change of clothes (most important: good walking shoes/hiking boots), perhaps some food and water.  Keep some items for your car such as a gas can, jumper cables, flashlight, work gloves, and so on. 
  • Keep a credit card with you at all times so in a worst case scenario, you could rent a car or hotel room.  It has been said on Survival boards many times that the most important preps you could ever have is a charged cell-phone and a credit card.  Keep that in mind.

Of the three situations I used as examples above, the last one is most in line with what many Preppers gear themselves towards, a classic Bugging Out situation.

  • First and foremost, where are you going? Do you know?  Is there a hotel in the next town over you have the information for saved on your phone, or written down on a piece of paper that's kept in your wallet?  Do you have a cabin out in the woods?  Do your parents live a state away?  Where are you going?  It never ceases to amaze me how many people respond with "Out to the woods!" when asked this question.  Have multiple locations you could choose, in case one of those locations is blocked off due to say, a natural disaster.  A cabin out in the woods isn't much use if those woods are on fire thanks to a careless camper's fire they forgot to make sure was completely cold. 
  • Borrowing from above, have a map with your planned routes, and alternate routes.  Are you planning on using your phone's map app for guidance?  Make sure you have multiple batteries.  Disasters won't wait until you have a full battery to strike. 
  • Do you keep supplies in your car?  Do you keep a bag full of necessities for every household member somewhere near the door of your home?  Have you ever done a drill to see how long it will actually take to grab everything you need to grab, get it into the car, get everyone situated, and rolling out?  I suggest multiple practice runs.  A friend had a plan that was situated around several large storage tubs being put into the back of their SUV before they headed out.  I suggested a dry run, and that's when he discovered that his bins didn't actually fit into the back of their Expedition.  Too wide.  Oops!  Glad we found that out then, instead of when he actually needed to be able to get outta Dodge with those items!
  • Have copies of all of your important papers and identification.  Driver's Licenses, marriage certs, and so on.  Soft copies and hard copies. 
  • Remember, food, water, dry clothes, are more important than a 60lb duffle bag full of extra loaded AR magazines.  Smart planning means the odds of you needing to have a shoot-out with an armed band of marauders are slim. 
  • - Have a bag with you that you can pack with essentials in case your routes of escape are all blocked by stopped traffic.  Going back to my friend, when he showed me his setup, that was one thing I noticed missing.  He, his wife, and little girl weren't going to try to carry multiple large, heavy tubs full of supplies if they found themselves stranded.

These are just the first suggestions that came to mind from my own planning and research.  Take these lists and run with them.  Remember, buying neat things like guns, ammo, knives, and Maxpedition bags to build a sweet Bug Out Bag with are awesome.  It's always the more pedestrian needs and situations that tend to trip people up.  Don't let that be you.  Keep your plans realistic.  Consider doing dry runs, so you know what works and what doesn't.  Have multiple plans, and backups to those plans.  A major element of Prepping and planning for Prepping involves managing risk.  If you already have an AR-15, a quality handgun for each adult member of your household (or for children trained in their use), but don't have several months of non-perishable food, and a few months of canned/packaged foods or a good first aid kit, consider stocking up on those things before you pull the trigger on another AR, just because a Youtuber you follow painted an exciting scenario in which you and your buddy have to fend off marauders because of a possible WROL situation.

Remember, a quality bug out (or in!) plan in action will mean that the chances you'll be in an armed conflict are slim.  Be ready for the possibility, but don't put the majority of your Prepping efforts, time, and budget into that. 
Alright, that's all for now.  Stay safe out there.
- Unnamed Prepper

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