Saturday, December 24, 2011

First Aid Kit For The Car

     I think everyone is familiar with the concepts of a first aid kit. Band Aids and Bactine type kits, designed to treat scrapes and minor cuts. Usually costing $9.99 at Walmart, etc. Those are fine for what they are, they provide minor first aid and patient comfort. Nothing makes a small child feel better than a Mickey Mouse bandaid and a kissed boo-boo. While providing comfort to someone who is hurt is a large part of First Aid, and not to be over looked, that's not the point of this post.

     I'd like to discuss several important components that should be in every first aid kit, ESPECIALLY first aid kits in vehicles. This is not an all encompassing list. I'm not a Doctor, Nurse, EMT, or First Responder. I'm not giving you medical advice anymore than the guy at Home Depot who recommends a hammer to drive a nail is giving you construction advice. I'm simply telling you what *I* have done.

     If you've read some of my other posts, or threads, you'll recognize a common theme when it comes to "high impact" skill sets. Skill sets like firearms, first aid treatment, emergency driving, etc. TRAINING...get some. Do not rely on You Tube, forums, Google, etc to provide you with training. Those are all great sources of training supplements, but they are not substitutes for training itself. Related to this subject, take a Basic First Aid class through the Red Cross. Then maybe an Basic Life Saving (BLS) class, then possibly Advanced Life Saving (ALS). you could join a volunteer fire department, they'll train you for free. You'll get the skills you want AND be able to give back to the community. Win-Win.

     You should receive training to recognize the signs of, and be able to provide First Aid for the following:
  • Choking.- Very common in vehicles where small children are eating while you drive.
  • Heart Attack. 
  • Shock - Very common after a severe vehicle accident.
  • Stroke.
  • Extremity Bleeding - Also very common after a severe vehicle accident.
As always, in any of these events call 9-1-1.
     Since this is going into your vehicle, you'll need one kit for each vehicle. Trust me this won't be very expensive. Pick up a basic first aid kit to keep in your car. The $9.99 one is fine. I recommend adding a couple of things to it because it's going in the car:
  • Israeli Battle Dressing (IBD). Look it up here Battle Dressing  I can't stress the importance of this one enough.  It's VERY easy to apply, in fact, you can apply it to yourself if you have to. this dressing help keep you and/or your family alive until Paramedics can arrive. Get one for each passenger in your car.
  • Primatine Mist - Contains the exact same medicine as an Epi-Pen. Over the counter. Cheap. Really important if you transport kids or attend outdoor sporting events. Lots of people don't know they're allergic to bee stings or peanuts until they have a reaction.
  • Celox  or Quick Clot. Something to stop bleeding from wounds where you can't apply an IBD like neck, face, fingers, etc.
     See, that wasn't too many things or very expensive. I'm not telling you what to do or giving advice, I'm simply stating what *I* have done. It's up to you to learn how and when to apply first aid. I usually travel with my wife and kids. Often times we're on the interstates or major highways where speeds are higher than in town. Most accidents on these types of roads aren't "fender benders", they're serious. Help can be up to 45 minutes away, even longer if barricades in the medians are present.

     Please learn CPR, and learn to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Check it out here AED . They're everywhere from office building to the food court in your local mall. You may not choose to help a random stranger, but you should definitely be able to help an immediate family member or close friend.  Do your research, look these things up, get some training. improve yours and your families chances of surviving a medical emergency.

   I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. I'm just a regular guy, with a family, working the day to day grind and trying to keep my head above water. The point is, survive to fight another day.

    As always comments and suggestions are always welcome.  Check us out on Facebook SurvivalInTheSuburbs.  Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

EDC (Every Day Carry) In The Suburbs

     Every Day Carry (EDC) is an important part of your survival plan. EDC gear is what you carry on your person day in and day out. It's the gear that will get you from wherever you are when something bad happens, to the next stage of your survival plan. That next stage may be getting to your vehicle so you can leave, or gear up from your Get Home Bag (GHB) and move out on foot. The next stage could also be getting you home where you decide if your next step is to Bug In...or to Bug Out.  In any circumstance, your EDC will be what you go to FIRST. Lets look at EDC in the workplace.

      If you're fortunate enough to work for yourself or work in an environment that doesn't require "business casual" attire, then EDC is a good bit easier. If you work in a corporate environment, like I do, you have to be respectful of your workplace environment and it's policies. It's not socially acceptable in most corporate environments to walk around with a Batman Belt on loaded down with a Leatherman multitool, folding knife, cell phone, flashlight, first aid kit, mini survival Altoid Tin, pepper spray, 50 feet of paracord , extra batteries, GPS, carabiners, keys, etc all dangling and jingling as you walk down the rows of Cube City. Face look like an idiot.

     Before we go any further lets go on record as saying, I'm not telling you how to live or what to carry....I'm telling you what *I* would do in these circumstances. Rest assured there will be comments either on this blog or on other boards to the affect of  "I work for myself so i can carry a ninja sword, 2 sticks of dynamite, and a rocket launcher at work."  Well...that's wonderful...most of us can't, or have enough common sense not to even if we could. There will also be the "must be right at all costs" guy who will say something along the lines of " I carry anyway, even if it's not allowed, becaue I have the right to."  Yeah...ok. Good luck explaining to the little lady why she and the kids have to move back in with your parents while you find another job in this economy. Me and the Common Sense Crowd will be considering whether to buy your forclosed house as an investment.

       I'm off the soapbox. It's apparent that common sense ain't so common. Anyways, enough about all of that. On to the good stuff.

     Some of those things you might need, some of those things you might feel better having, some of those things are just silly. It's an exagerration, sort of, but the point is to learn some "business camouflage".  Simple techniques that will allow you some latitude on what you can carry in public or at work.

     Look around you, observe the people in your environment. Are backpacks commonplace? If so, great, most of your problems are solved. You can carry your work stuff AND some extras in your backpack. Make sure you seperate the two. Have your EDC stuff an a seperate compartment, or better yet, in a smaller bag inside your packpack. That way if you need your EDC stuff...and only your EDC stuff, you can grab it easily. Please don't consider a fanny pack....please. You laugh, but I still see them in use. I still see the "European Carry All" AKA the Man Purse as well. Talk about drawing attention to yourself...a man purse will do it.

     The winter time is awesome for EDC. Coats mean lots of pockets to hold stuff. Shoes are an important part of your EDC. Choose wisely. Several brands of "outdoor" or "rugged" shoe companies make office appropriate shoes that are still VERY competant in the out doors. Look into some Keens or Merrils for exmple, they look good and perform well. These will save you from having to walk home in a pair of wingtips. There are many brands, but those two come to mind. Do some research.

     Lots of people EDC a folding knife. Some carry it completely in their pocket. Some use the attached clip to clip it to their pocket opening levaing thr clip and some of the knife exposed, it's easier to access that way. If I carry one, I carry it clipped to my pocket opening. Some places of employment allow knives, some don't. One thing I have done in the past is to spray paint the clip on the knife tan. This way it doesn't stick out so much against my khaki colored work pants. can see it if you stare, but it passes casual observers without notice.

     Have a good belt. I wear a slightly thicker than normal leather belt to work. I'd like to wear a nylon trainers belt or riggers belt, but it's not business casual appropriate. Have you seen the buckles on those things? So why a thicker leather belt you ask? Because it will support my body weight without breaking. Not that I would ever NEED that, but it made sense at the time I was belt shopping. It looks like a normal belt, it's just thicker...and a little bit wider. Belts are an important part of your EDC, choose wisely.

     My work EDC, in addition to seasonally appropriate clothing,  basically consists of my phone, wallet, keys, iPod, laptop backpack, light snack, water bottle, and a small flashlight. I have a GHB in my truck and I park less than 30 yards from my office building. So I can get to that if I need to. I posted previously about a GHB, please read it if you haven't.

     As always, comments and topic suggestions always welcome. Check us out on Facebook:Survival In The Suburbs

    I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the internet. Survive to fight another day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Concealed Carry In The Suburbs

     I'm licensed to carry concealed in my home state of North Carolina. I was licensed to carry concealed in South Carolina for 15 years before moving to North Carolina with my job. I would say I carried on average of once or twice week for all of those years. I didn't carry everyday because the places I worked did not allow firearms on their premises. I usually carried on the weekends, or if I went out after I got home from work, or if I had a day off.

     A Non-Permissive Environment (NPE) is a fairly common obstacle that concealed weapons holders encounter in the suburbs. There are three types of Non-Permissive Environments (NPE's) that I have encountered:
  • Carry prohibited by statute - places where the concealed law specifically prohibits concealed carry. Banks, Schools, Bars, etc. Violation results in arrest and prosecution.
  • Carry prohibited by premise - places that post signs specifically prohibiting concealed carry inside their premise. Violation results in arrest and prosecution.
  • Carry prohibited by policy - Companies make it a violation of their policy for employees to posses firearms on their premise. Violation often results in termination. Often combined with prohibition by premise.
     This can be a real issue for concealed firearms carriers (CC'ers). For example some stores in a mall might prohibit firearms, while others will allow it. What if you stop to get a hamburger in one of the mall restaurants and that restaurant also serves alcohol? A CC'er could end up in a NPE entirely by accident and end up in jail. Anti-gunners get extremely nervous around people who have a gun on them, especially if their children are present. It's an irrational fear, I get that....I really do. But understand that if they call the cops, and you're in the wrong....even accidentally, you will most likely go to jail.

     We can spend hours constructing scenarios. You can't plan for everything, you simply can't. If you know ahead of time you're going to end up in an NPE, don't carry. It's as simple as that. But how many times have your plans changed mid-stream? Lots if you have a wife/husband and kids. Things NEVER go as planned. So, lets look at some best practices that can help resolve these issues, or possibly even prevent them from occurring in the first place.

      You may remember my "rules" for a gunfight. Here they are again, for a quick review:
              1- Don't be there when it happens.
              2- If you break rule #1, have a gun
              3- Be the one who fires the first accurate shot.

     Lets focus on the "have a gun" part. Since we're not expecting a gunfight, and we're just hanging out with our family. Conceal your gun well. Dress in layers, it's easier in the winter for obvious reasons. In the summer carry a smaller weapon inside the pants or in the small of your back. Don't be one of those tacti-cool, mall-ninja idiot types who thinks it's "cool" to print so others can know you're carrying without actually seeing your weapon. Don't invite trouble. The view is NOT worth the climb on that issue.
     Use a good carry holster. Nothing amuses me more than a guy who spends $1,000 on a custom .45 ACP. Then carries it in a $20 nylon "one size fits most" holster. If the weapon isn't secure, or the holster is uncomfortable to wear, you won't carry very often....or at all. Don't break rule #2. A holster is one of the two critical pieces of your carry gear that makes the whole thing work. What is the second piece you ask?  A belt. Like the holster...get a good one. My preference for holsters is AHolster. You can check one out here: AHolster     My preference for a belt is the 5.11 Trainers belt. Check one out here: Trainer Belt.

     If you encounter an NPE, return your weapon to your vehicle, enter the NPE, conduct your business there and leave. Return to your vehicle and re-arm. I have had to do this many times. I wasn't comfortable leaving my weapon in the glove box of my car. What if my car got broken into, or one of my kids got a hold of my weapon, or anything like that? I ended up buying a Nano Vault 200. It's a small lock box that fits under my truck seat. It's secured to the metal seat frame, and has a key lock. It's large enough to hold my G23 and an extra magazine. You can check one out here: NanoVault 200.

     Get some training, and practice as often as you can. I can't tell you how important it is for you to get some quality firearms training. It is your Constitutional Right to have a firearm, it is also your responsibility to own it responsibly. Take a high quality class in your carry gear with your main carry gun. Learn how to clear stoppages, and perform emergency reloads. Learn how to shoot with a flashlight in your weak hand, and how to shoot your weapon with your weak hand. These are the things that will save your life.

One last thing. Know the laws in your area. It's up to you to know WHEN to pull the trigger as well as HOW to pull the trigger. You can be assured that every bullet fired in a public place will have a lawyer attached to it. I'm not talking about defense of yourself and your family inside your home. I'm talking about defense of yourself and your family in public. There is a huge difference. In your home, an intruder has no legal right to be there. In public both parties had a legal right to be there.  The laws are probably different in your area, it's up to you to know them.

     Again, I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. Survive to fight another day.

     Comments and suggestions for topics are always welcome. You can leave them anonymously if you wish. Thanks again for checking in and reading my blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Surviving The Holidays In The Suburbs

     The holiday season is approaching. Black Friday is right around the corner. The Christmas rush is in full effect. People will be travelling to unfamiliar destinations to visit friend and family. People will be crushing into retail spaces for shopping, bargain hunting, last minute items, etc. Bad guys will be out in full effect. The economy sucks and scum bags will be working overtime. Be prepared, be alert, be safe.

     You're not going to be able to avoid traffic unless you stay home for the next 5 weeks.  Be extra vigilant when driving. There will be people visiting the area will not know where they are going, people who will make last second lane changes to get into parking lots, many more people texting and talking on cells while driving, etc. EXPECT this, and drive accordingly. Use your keyless entry to un lock your car, which will turn on the interior light. Look inside before you enter the car. Look around you before you exit your car. Please review the post on Vehicle Safety In The Suburbs.

     If you're shopping, you'll be in crowds. You will not be able to maintain your "bubble" of personal space. Be aware of your surrounding and the people in them. Remember that bad guys rarely work alone. If you're buying gifts, your hands will most likely be full. Try to have your car keys ready when you enter the parking lot from the store. Don't stand alone in the parking lot digging in your pockets or purse. Please review the post on Situational Awareness On Foot.

     I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy this time with your family and friends. Survive the fight another day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mountain House vs Wise Foods....A Comparison


 The battle for freeze dried food supremacy in the post zombie apocalypse world has taken on a new chapter. I decided to taste test Mountain House and Wise Foods freeze dried backpackers meals. I initially chose Chili Mac as the flavor to be tested. However I soon realized that Mountain House Chili Mac is the creme de la creme of freeze dried meals. This was an unfair advantage for Mountain House in that Chili Mac is THE meal of choice on my back packing excursions.

    I soon added the Lasagna and Beef Stroganoff. I wanted to test a different tomato based product and also a cream based product as well. These are all entrees, I didn't test deserts, breakfasts, or side dishes. Both Mountain House and Wise share some characteristics: They're both packaged in zip lock style thick foil bags, they cook in the bag using only water, they have a 7 year storage life, they're high in sodium, and they both cost less about the same.

     If you're a vegetarian, the comparison stops here for you. The Wise Foods products I tested were 100% vegetarian, and say so right on the bag. Mountain House has real meat in their products that I tested.

     All tests were done by preparing the food using the same amount of water (16 oz.), from the same source, and at the same temperature (190 degrees F). Mountain House took 10 minutes to rehydrate, Wise Foods took 15. The water was not boiling as recommended on the packages of both products.

The Sights:
     When I opened the two packages it appeared that the Mountain House package contained more food that the Wise Foods package. Both packages contain 4.6 ounces of freeze dried food, so maybe it's the texture of the MH foods that made it appear to have more food in it. Once the food was prepared and poured into bowls the Mountain House food looked more appealing to me. The tomato sauce in the Chili Mac and Lasagna was reddish-orange in color vs brownish in the Wise Foods.  The MH noodles looked fuller and still appeared to have more volume than the Wise Foods product. The Wise Foods sauces were runny, more like soup than sauce.

The Smells:
    The Mountain House food smelled like you'd expect chili, lasagna, and stroganoff to smell. The Wise Foods didn't smell bad, it just didn't smell like I expected it to smell. The smell of camping food might not be a big deal to you and it's not a huge deal to me, unless it smells bad. It's kind of like sprinkles on the cup cake. An added bonus at the end of the day.

The Tastes:
     This is where Mountain House really distinguished itself from Wise Foods in my opinion. The Mountain House food was good, I mean really good. I'll eat it for lunch because I like it, not because I don't have anything else. The Wise Foods products didn't taste very good to me. I didn't even finish the lasagna, I threw 1/2 a bag away. The sauce in the Wise chili mac and lasagna had "textured vegetable protein" instead of meat.If you're a vegetarian and you want Chili Mac, Lasagna or Stroganoff, Wise Foods is your only option between the two. The taste of the Wise Foods tomato based products made me glad I eat meat. I liked both companies Stroganoff. Like the tomato based products the stroganoff from Wise Foods was more soupy.

The Conclusion:
    If I could have only one, I'd have to pick Mountain House. It smelled better, tasted better, and prepared faster. The Wise Foods products weren't bad, don't get me wrong. Well...the lasagna was pretty bad, to me anyways. Both are viable long term storage options. Wise Foods actually pack a little flatter ans takes up a little less room than Mountain House does. Maybe it's because it's a 1/2 cup smaller in size when re- hydrated, even though they both weighed in at 4.8 oz packaged.  Wise Foods was about 50 cents cheaper where I purchased it than was Mountain House. The noodles in all three products were more hearty, more filling,  with Mountain House than with Wise Foods.

     I didn't dive into all of the nutritional values, fat contents, etc. This comparison was about USING the product, not chemically analyzing it. How it tasted, smelled, and how it cooked.  If you want all of the nutritional information, please look it up. Google is your friend. I did notice the protein count was a little lower with Wise Foods, maybe because it was 100% vegetarian....who knows.

     I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. I do know that if you don't like certain foods during calm times, trying to make kids eat food they don't like will only add tons of stress to you during times of disaster. Fortunately my kids like Mountain House, they eat it when camping....and I know they'll eat it if times are bad.

     Topics, suggestions, criticisms (well not really). Always welcome  or leave them in the comments for the blog, you can do so anonymously.

    Above all else, survive to fight another day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Suburban Get Home Bag (GHB)

     It seems everyone has a post/blog/thread,/YouTube video about Bug Out Bags (BOB), or Get Home Bags (GHB) or some witty acronym that means the same thing. Everyone, including me, so here's mine. This isn't a product endorsement or gear review. It's simply the bag *I* have and it's contents. This bag is set up for a range of up to 60 miles (2-3 days by foot). Hopefully you might get some ideas for your bag, or even better....leave me some suggestions for MY bag.  Please. :)

    With that being said, this bag is to get me home from anywhere in the metro area I live in. It's not a bug out bag, it's a get me home to my family bag. From there we'll evaluate our circumstances and decide, bug in or bug out. I have to tell you though, short of a fire, flood, or chemical spill....I'm bugging in.

The Bag: Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger
     Seemed like a nifty choice at the time. I can wear it like a backpack, and "sling" it around in front of my body like a 80's hairband guitar player should I need any of it's contents in a hurry. It works pretty good in that capacity. It's easy to get off and on, which is a plus in a suburban environment.....because I take it off and put it on a lot. It holds a ton of stuff (1100 cu. in. for you gear nerds), and has a lot of internal pockets which keep things organized (it'll even hold a laptop). IF you can remember what is in which pockets AND you don't get reorganize-itis and change everythings' location every two months.  If you want to know more about the bag please go HERE.

The Outside Pockets:
     I keep various things I would need more frequently or more urgently in the outside pockets. Here is what I have on the outside of the bag, in no particular order:
  • Compass (Engineering) and GPS(eTrex Vista w/ spare batteries)
  • Sunscreen, chap stick, Quick Clot
  • Carabiners (NiteIze S-biners and Figure 9's) - I really can't say enough about the innovative products made by NiteIze. Check them out at
  • Emergency Water Filter (Drinking straw style by Aquamira)
  • Flashlight - Surefire G3 w/ spare batteries
  • 1 Liter stainless steel water bottle. Don't try to boil water in a Nalgene bottle  :)
  • 1 bar of Trioxane stove fuel
  • 1 plastic magnifying glass - credit card sized.
  • Leatherman Wave, Spyderco Endura folder
  • Shemagh
  • 1 pair of 'operators' gloves - Camelback Vent
  • 1 IBD (Israeli Battle Dressing, or Emergency Dressing, depending on where you find it) I buy them from Botach Tactical HERE
  • Small first aid kit
  • Bic lighter
  • 150 feet of para cord
  • Large contractor grade trash bag
  • Wire Saw  - would suck to use, but beats dulling my knife. It's easier to use if you cut two handles and put them through the key rings on each end.
The Inside Pockets:
     Things I'll need to set up for the night, to gather food, build shelter, or will be deployed on my body as I start to move towards home.
  • Fixed blade camp knife.
  • Katydyn hiking water filter
  • Binoculars
  • Write in the Rain pad and pen. Check them out HERE
  • Altoid Tin containing 2 steel broad head arrow heads
  • Socks and foot powder
  • 4 Mountain house freeze dried meals
  • 4 Clif Bars
  • Local map (marked with alternate routes home from work, bivouac locations, and water sources)
  • Firesteel and tinders
  • Wool stocking cap
  • G23 and holster,  w/one extra mag and holder
  • 5.11 Trainers belt Check it out HERE
  • 1 Liter aluminum water bottle
     That's about it for the contents of my bag. It changes seasonally and some contents vary if I know I'm travelling beyond a 60 mile range. Now that I've paid homage to the survival writers before me with a GHB/BOB post, I can promise you I'll NEVER do a AR-15 vs AK-47 post. 

I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. Survive to fight another day.

Tips, comments, and suggestions please e-mail to

Join the site by using the gadget on the right :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vehicle Safety And Security In The Suburbs

     People spend a lot more time in their vehicles than they realize. The chances of something bad happening while you're in your car are pretty high actually. You need to be prepared while in your car, and your car needs to be prepared as well. There are several things you need to do every time you get into your car, and several things that need to be in every car when you enter it.

     When you approach your vehicle, whether at home or out in public, look at it. Really look at it, observe it, don't look through it. Is anything unusual?  Broken glass, low tire pressure, leaking fluids, etc.  When you start the car LISTEN to it. Does it make a weird noise. Do you smell anything funny? Something burning perhaps. Identify and correct noticeable problems right away before they can leave you stranded somewhere. Stranded equals vulnerable.....reduce your vulnerability.

     Every time you get into your car, you and all occupants should be secured. Seat belts everyone. I know this is obvious. I also know how many times I "forget" to put on my seat belt and am already in traffic before I realize it. I wonder how many people have run off the road while putting on a seat belt? What good is a well prepared and secured home if you get T-Boned by a soccer mom trying to answer a phone while putting on makeup? Newer cars are built to protect the occupants, if you stay relatively stationary inside the cockpit. Seat belts ensure that.

    Remove all distractions from the drivers area. No gadgets, no phones, no FOOD (eating and driving injures as many people as drinking and driving), no water bottles to roll under the brake pedal, etc.  Distractions are the root of all evil, nothing good will ever come from a distracted driver. I know how difficult it is with kids to not be distracted in a car. It only takes a second for everything to change. Your entire life can change in the blink of an eye. Being "right" or it being "the other drivers fault" won't matter to the injured or dead. Be the aware driver who avoids the accident with a distracted driver. Be the good Shepard whose flock gets home safely.

     Every car should have a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit. Don't have one kit you plan on moving between vehicles. I guarantee you it will be in the other car when you need it. I don't care if you buy a first aid kit, make one, or some combination of both. Have one. Have one that has some means to control bleeding. A pressure bandage will help in most of the scene treatable injuries you can receive in a car accident. You're buying yourself and your loved ones time by being able to control heavy bleeding. I'll do a post on my first aid kits and their contents soon. But for now....have one of some type.

     Awareness is your primary safety skill.  As the holidays approach most of us will be driving even more. Travelling to visit family and friends, maybe in areas we don't travel to frequently. Lots of people around us will be doing the same thing. Lots of them won't know where they're going. Being able to anticipate and avoid problems will keep you and yours safe.

     Most vehicle accidents happen when a slower moving car tries to merge with faster moving traffic. They pull out into oncoming traffic, or merge from an on ramp driving 35 when traffic is moving at 75, etc. A driver swerves to avoid them, or brakes to avoid them, and a collision happens. Avoid this by driving 5-10 seconds ahead of where you actually are. See this and begin to avoid it before it happens. Again, don't be "right" be safe.

     Allow yourself 5-6 car lengths following distance in city traffic. I know how aggravating this is, believe me I do. As soon as you get 6 lengths behind the car in front of you, some ass hat changes lanes into the space you just created. You repeat, ass hats repeat. You feel as if you're not getting anywhere, then you get caught at a light, get frustrated, and go back to 2 lengths.  Please stay at 5-6 lengths. When stopped allow for 2-3 lengths, this gives you reaction and maneuver room should you need it. You don't want to be boxed in with trouble erupting around you.

     Tips and tricks:
  •  Avoid road rage incidents at all costs. Don't get into a bird-flipping contest with the idiot who just merged into your safety space in traffic. Again, don't be "right" safe.
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked at all times.
  • If your windows are rolled down, constantly look around (keep your head on a swivel) when stopped in traffic.
  • Do not allow yourself to get distracted at stoplights. Pay attention to your surroundings. No one ever got car jacked while driving at 35 miles an hour. It always happens when the car is stopped.
  • Keep your car in decent mechanical shape. Don't get stranded by a blown hose.
  • Keep your gas tank at LEAST 1/2 full. This allows you to stop for gas when it's convenient, not when you're running on empty.
  • Trust your instincts. If your "gut" tells you to get out of where you are....get out fast.
  • Avoid problem areas if at all possible. If you can't avoid them, avoid stopping in them.
  • Press your key less entry button once to unlock your door, but not all the doors. (Reader suggested: thanks medictg)
  • Keep the dome light inside of the vehicle's cabin set to "off." You should know your vehicle and its contents well enough to operate everything in the dark. Having the light go on each time you open up the door compromises your night vision, and gives the bad guys a free peek inside of your vehicle. (Reader suggested: thanks Antithesis)
Tips and suggestions can be e-mailed to me at:

Please join the blog using the gadget on the left.

I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. Always, survive to fight another day.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Situational Awareness On Foot in the Suburbs

     Situational awareness is a critical component of security and defense. Whether you're securing and/or defending your home, your family in your car, yourself in a mall, or whatever the situation may be; you have to be aware of your surroundings. Always thinking two to three moves ahead. Like defensive driving to avoid accidents, you have to practice defensive living to avoid dangerous situations.

     An important part of situational awareness is recognizing when a situation could become dangerous, not waiting until it is already dangerous and then trying to figure a way out. Your mindset is your greatest asset in these situations. Many of the followers of this blog will recognize the next statement, as I use it often: Trust in your instincts. Instincts have kept the human species alive for millions of years. If your "gut" tells you something is wrong....something is very wrong.
     I will write a post before the Holiday Season is in full swing about security and another post about defense in public areas. But for now Lets focus on situational awareness. Situational awareness is a critical component in both personal security and in self defense. Situational awareness is a skill, and you can learn it if you haven't already. You can improve it if you already have some fundamentals. I use the crawl-walk-run methodology when addressing these issues.  You have to learn to crawl first, then walk, then run. By the time you have reached the run phase, you'll be able to read post incident reports and pick up things that you can add to your skill set.

     I apologize if I'm writing under the level of some of my readers understanding, my intent is not to bore you. People with varying levels of  security skill set read this blog, and I'd like to reach them all. For those of you who are more highly trained than most, please feel free to comment or e-mail me with suggestions. This is a learning process for us ALL, and the more we pass ideas back and forth the stronger we all become.

     For those of you who are familiar with Coopers Colors Code, please be patient. For the rest, please familiarize yourself with this color scheme. This is a fundamental of personal security and defense. It will be reference many times in coming posts, and is the first step (excuse the pun) in your learning to crawl.  If you'd like to learn more about The Cooper Color Code or about Jeff Cooper himself (considered by many to be the father of the combat mindset), please go to the Wiki Page about him, you can find that HERE

    In summary of that page, the colors are:
  • White - Unaware and unprepared.
  • Yellow - Relaxed alert.
  • Orange - Specific alert.
  • Red - Condition Red is fight.
    It is very difficult to keep a medium to high level of situational awareness in a suburban or urban environment. People are densely packed into relatively small areas. Just look at the parking lot in a large shopping mall. For every car there, there is at least one person inside the mall. You can't maintain a reactive buffer around yourself in a crowd. It's just not possible. Avoiding crowds just isn't possible. As we approach the Holiday Season the crowds will only get worse. As the economy worsens, the number of people lurking in those crowds who intend to do bad things will only get larger. 

     Most often you're going to be shoulder to shoulder with people you don't know, in a relatively unfamiliar environment. Most people will have two things on their minds: Shop and Leave. There are a few with other motives, find and avoid them. They're looking for easy prey, don't be easy prey. Be aware of them, act aware of them. They'll look for another target. They want easy targets, they don't want to work for it....or they wouldn't be doing what they're out there doing. The sad fact is they're going to get someone. Your job is to make sure it's NOT YOU.

     Travel in Condition Yellow. Look around you, look at people around you. Don't look through them, look AT them. One analogy I see used a lot is a shepherd over the flock. Be a shepherd, don't be the flock. If you look at twenty people, and one person catches your attention. Analyze why that person caught your attention. Remember that childhood game "one of these is not like the others"? Where several things looked similar, but one of them was different? One thing is different enough to catch your attention....what is it? Look at that person, really look them over. If they notice you looking at them and get nervous....that's a HUGE red flag. Move away from them. If you see them again near you, another huge read flag. Condition Orange time. Begin moving out of the area and mobilizing your family with some urgency. Act quickly and decisively.

     By being aware of your surroundings, you're buying yourself reaction time. You have to react to what the bad guys do. They ALREADY know what's about to happen. You have to figure it out and react. Bad guys rarely act alone. There's several reasons why: Courage in numbers, more guys can carry more loot, and advantage through numerical superiority are just a few. My point is continue your scan. Don't get so caught up in the one person 40 feet away that you don't notice the other person 10 feet away with a knife.

     Be especially alert when entering and exiting your vehicle. Be aware of the vehicles next to you, and if they're occupied. If you're inside the vehicle, make these observations before you turn the car off and get out. If your gut tells you something is wrong, find another parking space. If approaching your vehicle on foot, make the necessary observations before you get to the car and open the doors. If your gut tells you something is wrong, turn around and walk back in the direction you came. Scan your surroundings for additional bad guys, and check behind you frequently. Keep your family into a small cluster and move quickly.

      Be extra vigilant in "safe areas" like schools, churches, banks, etc. This may be a little known observation, but most bank robberies occur in banks. Bad guys know these are "safe areas" and also know that rules about safe areas only apply to law abiding citizens. If you're obeying the rules about safe zones, the only option you have is avoidance. Get out of the situation as fast as you can. If you're wrong about how things appear, you can always come back later. You're better off trusting your instincts even on the off chance they are wrong, than teaching yourself to ignore them altogether.

     Having a spouse actively engaged in situational awareness is a big plus. My wife notices unusual things that could be potential problems. Sometimes we'll play a game to keep our observation skills honed when we're out. I'll ask about 10 minutes after we arrived at our destination "what color was the car parked on your side". She usually remembers. Or she'll ask me "what color hair did the man who just walked past us have".

     Here are some tips to help you improve or maintain your awareness level:
  • Keep your heed on a swivel. Look around constantly.
  • Keep a mental tally of where all members in your party are at all times.
  • Make a mental note of exits as you pass them.
  • Make a mental note of people who arouse your suspicion.
  • Communicate your plans before you enact them.
  • Don't follow the crowd if something doesn't seem right.
  • At  night, park under street lights/parking lot lights if possible.
     I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. Always, survive to fight another day. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Home Defense in the Suburbs

     This is another topic that I feel very strongly about. One of my primary responsibilities as a father and a husband is to protect my family. One of the most common threats to my family are other people. People who wish to do them harm, or are willing to do them harm if my family gets in their way. We'll discuss self defense and defense of others while in public at a later time.

     The topic of this post is home defense. Home defense is different than home security in that home defense is reactive while home security is proactive. With home defense you're reacting to someones breaching of your homes' security precautions. With home security you're making your home the least attractive target in the area, being alerted if someone is on your property, and making it difficult for someone to gain entry without your knowledge.

     I'm going to make references to The Cooper Color Code several times in this post. Basically the color code refers to your state of awareness of your surroundings, and to your sense of alertness to the presence of danger. If you'd like to learn more about The Cooper Color Code or about Jeff Cooper himself (considered by many to be the father of the combat mindset), please go to the Wiki Page about him, you can find that HERE

    In summary of that page, the colors are:
  • White - Unaware and unprepared.
  • Yellow - Relaxed alert.
  • Orange - Specific alert.
  • Red - Condition Red is fight.
     One of the problems you have to overcome in defense of your home is that you're in condition white while you're at home. You should be in condition white while you're at home. It is your domicile, your castle, your refuge from the world. Most people are in condition white when in their home and when in their car. This is why you look over at a red light and the person in the car next to you is knuckle deep in their nose picking boogers. They're completely unaware you're even there, much less looking at them in horror from 4 feet away.

     Being in condition white is perfectly natural while in your home. However, it increases your reaction time significantly. It's very difficult to go from condition white straight to condition red and react to a threat correctly. Seasoned combat veterans have trouble doing it, the average civilian home owner is justifiably behind the 8-ball so to speak. You have to understand the dynamics of violent crime. First of all, bad guys rarely come by themselves to do bad things. The bad guys already know what's about to happen, and they're prepared. You, the homeowner, have no idea what's about to happen. You have to figure it out on the fly once it's already in progress, and react to it accordingly.

**** I'd like to preface the following discussion with a caveat: The following is what I would do.  I know the laws of my state, it's legal to use deadly force (under certain circumstances) in the defense of your home in the state of NC, and I can legally own a firearm. It is your right to keep and bear arms, it is also your responsibility to own them responsibly and to exercise good judgement when they are in your possession. I don't want this post to turn into a gun debate. It's simply my opinion of how I would act if the following  hypothetical scenario occurred in my home. **** 

     Now that the disclaimer stuff is out of the way, lets get down to brass tacks. We'll cover what tools I would use, and why, later in the post. But for now let's look at what I would do.

     So....there's been a violent breach of your home. Either a door has been kicked in, or a window has been smashed in and bad guys are coming into your home with bad intentions. What do you do? How do you react? I know how I would react.  I would arm myself, position myself between my family and the threat, take cover, and engage the threat with a reasonable level of force. Would that be legal? I don't know, I hope so. I'll worry about the legality later. If it's not legal....I can get out of jail, I can't get out of dead. So let's break the reaction down into manageable pieces, because in our scenario...a lot has happened in the last 90 seconds.

         First, I'd arm myself. Why would I arm myself first? Because I believe that to evaluate a dangerous situation then go arm myself is backwards, and takes a lot more time. It allows the bad guys to gain momentum, allows them to possibly gain scene dominance, and allows time for the reactions of my wife and children to breakdown into chaos. This will create more danger for my family, and put them in harms way longer and more frequently in the long run. There are three rules to being the winner of a gun fight: 1- Don't be there when it happens. 2- If you're there when it happens, have a gun.  3- Be the one who fires the first accurate shot.

      Secondly, I'd position myself between my family and the bad guys. Or between my family and the closest threat to them if there are more than one threats. This would most likely be on the upstairs landing opposite the children's rooms and looking down onto the front staircase. Our family plan for this kind of thing involves getting to the children's rooms, which share a bathroom between them. Closing and locking both bedroom doors, and moving into the specified "safe room" bedroom through the bathroom doors, closing and locking them as they go. Once into the "safe room", they are to slide a heavy piece of furniture in front of the door, blocking entrance into the room and providing cover should stuff go really wrong. The furniture is already sitting on those hard plastic discs used to move furniture over carpet, so it's easy enough for two children, or my wife, to push it 5 feet to block the door. Once the furniture is moved, they are to call 9-1-1 from the hard line phone inside the room, and not open the door no matter what they hear happening outside.
     Next I would take cover. I'm already at the top of the stairs, so I'm in an elevated position to start with. That's a good thing, ask a combat veteran why. My cover would most likely be concealment behind a corner of a wall sticking out, but some concealment is better than no concealment. What's the difference you ask? Cover will stop a bullet, concealment will not stop a bullet but makes it hard for your adversary to see you. Thereby making it hard to apply gun fight rule #3 to your butt. Firing from cover is a skill, and you should definitely learn it. It's one of those responsibilities of owning a firearm. Being able to use it effectively, and minimizing the danger to others around you.

     Last, I would engage the threat with whatever force I thought was necessary to neutralize the threat. Hopefully they'll turn out to be unarmed idiots who kicked in the wrong door, realized the home was occupied and run like hell.....hopefully. Otherwise, I'm going to actively engage the threat. That means I would shoot them until they were either on the ground and not moving, or had fled my home. That's it in a nutshell. At the end of the day, your goal is to not bury members of your family.

     In our scenario we went from condition white directly to condition red. Hopefully you'll hear the dog going nuts, and go to condition yellow. Then see people you don't know looking into your windows or jimmying your door and go to condition red. This will give you time to react, put your plans into effect, arm yourself, and get your family into a safer place, and call 9-1-1 before the trouble finds it's way into your home. Hopefully that's how it will happen, if it happens at all. Hopefully it'll never happen in the first place.

     Lets discuss what I would arm myself with and why. I would have a Glock 23, and a flash light. Why a G23 you ask? Because it's what i have, it's what i carry everyday, and most's what i have trained with. A lot. Why it is the gun I have is a discussion for another day. The bottom line is it's what I have in my hand, or near my hand, or accessible to my hand within 30 steps, when the trouble starts. It has night sights on it, and I keep a flashlight beside it all the time. The point is, have something handy you can defend your family with. A stick, a can of pepper spray, a slingshot, a pot of boiling grits, anything besides harsh language and a cell phone.

     If you can't have a firearm in your home, or you simply don't want a firearm in your home....I understand that. Honestly I do. Have SOMETHING. Review gunfight rule #2. While we are in the mindset of understanding, understand the bad guys to aren't going to throw down their guns, and one of them isn't going to leave so it's a fair fight. Understand that bad guys going into a home invasion expect there to be violence, expect to be the ones dishing it out, and are equipped to do so. Understand that a burglar who gets trapped in your home by you unexpectedly coming home or waking up and going to "check out the noise", if he is a 2 strike offender....or even if he's not, will most likely kill or seriously injure you to get away. Understand that if you comply to a home invasion, or unsuccessfully resist it, you and your family will most likely be killed or seriously injured. Understand that once someone in your family gets seriously hurt or killed, the rest of you are witnesses against the bad guys, and will be dealt with accordingly. Understand that it's all or nothing in most cases.

     Here are some of my recommendations:
  • Get a firearm to defend your home with. Learn to use it. Practice with it regularly. Shooting is a perishable skill. Practice in all weather conditions in all light condition, practice clearing jams, practice reloading.
  • Have a plan for your family to follow. Practice it with them three times in a row every 6 months. Play the bad guy and have your family react. You'll learn things to improve your defense, and your family will learn to react better.
  • Have good home security systems and practices in place.
  • You can buy yourself time with good practices in place, make the most of it. Act swiftly, act decisively.
  • Have your house number painted on the curb in contrasting colors next to your mailbox. Make sure the mailbox also has your house number prominently displayed on it, as does your front door. If you call for help, make sure first responders can find your house. 
  • Have a flashlight handy in every bedroom. While a flashlight can give away your position to the bad guys so can tripping over an end table, sprawling out on the floor, and losing your gun.
Again, I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. Always survive to fight another day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Home Security in the Suburbs

     This is a topic I believe very strongly in. One of my primary responsibilities as a parent, and husband, is to protect my family. If you think it through, that's a very broad statement which includes everything from putting on seat belts to carrying a concealed weapon. I won't pretend to be some super qualified, special forces trained, junior g-man, security expert. I'm just an average guy, living in an average subdivision, in an average metropolitan area.....who just happens to have an above average interest in the safety and security of his family.

    Some of you are familiar with the Cooper Color Code. For those who are not, it defines levels of awareness in dangerous situations. It's referenced many many times in discussions around self defense and security. You can learn about it on the Wiki page about it's founder Jeff Cooper, which can be found  HERE.

   The purpose of this particular post is to bring up some ideas for security of your home, not DEFENSE of your home.....those are two totally different topics. Home security covers what you can do proactively to prevent intrusion into your home. Home defense covers how you react to unwanted intruders in your home, or to repel them before they get in. I'll write about my ideas on defense of your home in the next post. Be advised, as you read these posts on security and defense, that I may not live in the same state as you. Your state and local laws are almost certainly different than mine. It's your responsibility to adhere to those laws, as I adhere to the laws in my arera.

Lets look into WHO you're wanting to keep off your property.
    The Professional: You should understand that you're probably not going to be able to repel a professional theif. They're professionals, who have already staked out your property, know what they want is inside, have a good idea about where it is probably located, are taking a calculated risk based on reward,  and will be in and out in under 5 mins. The cops might (MIGHT) catch them, but in all likelyhood they're going to get in.

     The Common Criminal: Your typical opportunist. Looking for the easiest target, crimes of opportunity. Might pass your home many times and do nothing until you leave your garage door open, windows open, or laptop on the car seat while you're not home. This guy you can defeat 100% of the time if you take moderate precautions.

     The Idiot:  The vandal, the drunk, high school student skipping school looking for somewhere to steal beer or smoke pot, the casual passerby, the rogue contractors helper doing work 4 houses up the street, etc. Again, this guy you can absolutely defeat 100% of the time by taking moderate precautions.

     The Home Invader:   This guy is going to try to either trick you into breaching your defenses for him, a,bush you before you enter your home and force you to breach your own defenses, or brute force his way into your home. Eventually your doors or windows will fail, but you can buy yourself some precious reaction time to arm yourself, flee to a safe room and prepare your defenses there, trigger your panic alarm, or flee the house.

     They ALL have a few things in common. They ALL hate things that make them visible like lights and cameras. They ALL hate things that make their presence known like alarms and dogs. They ALL hate being exposed to public view and having nowhere to hide.

     So, with all that being said, lets start with perimeter security. In the suburbs perimeter security is pretty tough to accomplish without a fence. There's lots of legitimate activities going on like people walking by all the time, kids playing, a fair amount of  drive by traffic, solicitors canvassing the neighborhood trying to earn a buck, workers doing everything from cutting grass to remodels, etc, etc. I have developed more of a sense of perimeter awareness than perimeter security. By working out in the yard, and being outside as much as possible, I learned who's kids play where, who walks when, who's having work done and by what companies, who drives what cars and parks where, etc etc.  In short: Know your people, know what they do, and know when they do it.

     I have created a buffer zone inside the perimeter of my property. It's about 10 feet deep from the boundary and begins with an invisible dog fence which keeps my dog (known to the world as The Dalmatian Alert System) 15 feet or so inside my property. Anyone crossing her boundary gets scrutinized and barked at. Motion activated lights are an absolute necessity for home security. Spend the money and get some good ones. If you have to go outside to either investigate something or engage a bad'll appreciate the light. Anyone looking out of their windows to see what the disturbance is at your house, will appreciate the lights also.

   I also keep ALL of the shrubs around my house cut well below the bottoms of my windows. This serves two purposes, it lets my family SEE our property from inside the house, and it reduces places for people to hide from me or the Dalmatian Alert System.  I have a wireless video camera covering all of my doors and the garage doors. You can view them from any computer, ipod, ipad, monitor, or wireless capable TV in the house. They are powered by AA batteries, and are motion triggered. So to me that addresses my needs of making the bad guys visible. Knowing who is outside your door before you open it is very important, them not knowing you see them can be an advantage as well. Once you're near the door, you're more vulnerable to attack.

     Fortify your door frames and window frames as much as you can within reason. I'm not putting iron bars over my doors and windows, being able to get out of a bad situation is as important as keeping a bad situation out of your home. I put 3 1/2 inch steel screws into my door frame at the strike plates and door hinges to reinforce my entry points. This costs about $6 and took all of 20 minutes. All of my exterior doors are metal and two have storm doors on the doorways outside. ALL outside doors should have dead bolts with as long a bolt as will fit in your door frame.  They can still be breached, but it's not as easy as a hollow core door with 1 inch screws holding everything together. Again, you're buying yourself time to react. How you react is for another post altogether.

     Get a good alarm, and get it professionally installed. Alarms vary greatly in quality, features, monitoring options, and price. Again, consult a professional....know what your money buys you.  My alarm also beeps once anytime a door is opened, whether it's armed or not. This lets me know someone has opened a door. Usually it's a kid going in or out, but how many times have you thought to yourself "did I hear someone open a door?" Now you'll know.  It also has an outside siren, which will wake the dead and draw the attention of all of my nosey neighbors. Hopefully they'll get pissed off enough to come outside and see what the ruckus is.

Here are some tips for increasing your security:
  • Have a plan. Have a plan for fire, robbery, natural disaster, etc.  Practice them twice a year.
  • Have your house number painted on the curb in contrasting colors next to your mailbox. Make sure the mailbox also has your house number prominently displayed on it, as does your front door. If you HAVE to call for help, make sure first responders can find your house. 
  • When you pull into your driveway, look around for a few seconds before you do anything. Then gather your belongings, unlock the door and get out of your car. Don't get ambushed in the driveway and forced into your house.
  • If you have a garage, take a moment to look into your garage before you pull your car inside. Take another 5-10 seconds to look around before you close the door. You don't want to get locked into the garage with someone who is hiding in there.
  • When you first enter your home, again, take a few seconds to gather your wits and observe your surroundings.  
  • Trust your instincts. Instincts have kept the human species alive for millions of years. Your instincts work at a subconscious, basic, and visceral level. If your "gut" tells you something is wrong, something is most likely very wrong.
Again, I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. I hope this will motivate you to at least consider your security, and explore some options. Above all else, stay safe and live to fight another day.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Growing Food in the Suburbs

     Growing a garden in the suburbs as part of a self sufficiency lifestyle is a great option for generating food for your table. If you plan to harvest your own food and preserve it for later use gardening is a great option for increasing your food storage preparations. Lots of people use pressure canning, water bath canning, or dehydration to preserve fruits and vegetables they grow in their own gardens. I'm new to the gardening concept, and I'm learning lots of new things every week it seems like.

     I wish I could have a traditional garden, but I can't. I live in a neighborhood that has a strict Home Owners Association (HOA).  I cannot have any part of a garden visible from the street, and I live on a corner lot, so my entire backyard is visible from one street or the other. As a result, I have to be very careful about what I can plant and where I can plant it. I have to be very conscious of using "blocking" plants and shrubs, so the things I do plant can't be seen.

     The soil in my yard is another problem I have to contend with. It is almost entirely red clay. If any of you are familiar with southern red clay, or even SEEN southern red clay, you know exactly what I'm talking about. One solution I came up with is digging a trench in the clay 1 foot wide, by 1 foot deep, by 3-4 feet long. Next I line the trench with old newspapers.  Finally I fill it with a mixture of 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost. Basically I have created my own clay flower pot that will hold 3 or 4 plants and I can plant directly in that.  I top it off with some mulch to hold moisture, and water with a 2 gallon pitcher 3 times a week. It's low to the ground, away from the house, and is easily camouflaged behind a couple of Knockout rose bushes.

    The things I grow are Garlic, Jalapeno Peppers, Banana Peppers, Bell Peppers, and herbs like Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Rosemary and Fennil. I even have a peach tree, a fig tree, an olive tree, and a black berry bush. I think I'll try some container tomatoes, and blue berry bushes next spring. For obvious reasons I can't grow corn, pumpkins, watermelons etc. Even traditional tomato plants are too tall with the stakes or cages required to help them grow straight.

     The herbs and several pepper plants are grown only in containers. The picture above is an olive tree on the left and Spicy Basil on the right. I like to be able to move them to follow the sun, or expose them to rain. I would not recommend growing anything within 15 feet of your house because most residential pest control treatments spray up to 15 feet out from the foundation. I would take precautions against food plants being sprayed with lawn treatments designed to kill weeds or promote green grass. If you have anything in the planted in the ground, cover it with trash bags prior to spraying. You don't want to eat anything that has been sprayed with poisons. I don't yet have any solutions for avoiding chemicals that can seep into your plants through water that has run off of chemically treated areas such as a neighbors yard.
     I'm sure we will cover this topic several more times in coming posts as it is a broad and interesting subject. My adaptation of  container gardening and variations on square foot gardening are still in the trial and error phase. I hope some of these tips might work for you. If any of you have suggestions please share them with me so I can see if they work for myself and others.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Food Storage in the Suburbs

     Like water, food (or the lack of it), will be a very big deal in a disaster or situation that results in an interruption of services that lasts longer than 4 days. Unlike water, which is somewhat available (in most areas of the country) and easily treatable, food is not easy to come by. For the most part food must already be on hand, and stored correctly, to be of any value under bad circumstances.

     The Golden Rule of food storage: "Store Extra of What You Already Use".  We eat a good bit of rice, potatoes, and pastas. So buying a 50lb bag of rice for $19, 10lbs of dehydrated potatoes for $10, and 18lbs of pasta for $15 wasn't a huge deal. Those are the foundations for many recipes, they're hearty, inexpensive, easy to make, and everyone in my family will eat them. Having things on hand that your family already likes will make a unusual circumstances much less stressful for everyone involved. If you think your family are finicky eaters now....... imagine trying to get them to eat in the dark, while they're wet, cold, scared, and tired.

    The Golden Rule can be implemented simply enough by buying one or two extra packages of what you're ALREADY buying. Buy it on sale, use coupons and discount cards, and store it away from your normal food storage. You will be surprised how fast it will accumulate. Once you have enough on hand to feed your family for a month, begin to rotate your extra food (called "preps") into your normal food storage as you use it.  When you go grocery shopping simply restock your preps with what you pulled out plus one extra package, per item, of what you had on your shopping list.

     We store a lot of canned goods, because we have a wide variety of tastes. With canned goods you can get a wide variety of foods including fruits, in stackable, easily storable containers, with fairly long shelf lives, that aren't very expensive. They're easy to rotate, easy to prepare, and it's easy to identify what's in them. I buy mine at Sam's Club or Costco, so they come prepackaged by the dozen. The boxes open on the end so it's easy to carry the boxes into the house, open them and stack the cans.

     Store lots of dry goods ready to prepare. For example Easy Mac, Ramen Noodles, granola bars, nuts, etc. These are comfort foods, and they will comfort you in times of stress. They'll give you an energy boost when you need it most, and won't require alot of effort to prepare. I buy these things in bulk at Sam's Club so they're cheaper, and store easily. Some of the self lives can be shorter than you might think, so keep an eye on the rotation andf you'll be fine.

      I store some canned meats as well, but not a large variety of them. I store salmon, tuna, chicken, and DAK Hams. At one point I stored Vienna Susages (lots of them), my kids and dog liked them at first but quickly got tired of the taste. I never liked them because they smell funny and have a weird texture. Another mistake I made was buying little tins of fish like sardines, and herring steaks. It looked like the perfect food prep, they stacked really easily and contained decent amounts of protein. They were cheap enough at less than a dollar each, and had a really long shelf life. What could go wrong....right? 

     Lots. They were packed in oil, which extended the shelf life by about 2 years, but made them almost intolerable. They smelled worse than they tasted. My cat wouldn't even eat them. That was my lesson on following the Golden Rule. If you don't eat it now, don't buy it for later. Of course I'd eat it if I were starving.....really starving, and had lost all sense of taste and smell. Good luck getting three kids to eat them.

     We also store quite a few beans. They're high in protein, and add substance to just about any meal. Beans and rice are fundamental staples in most 2nd and 3rd world countries. We store red kidney beans, black beans, pintos, and especially lentils. Soaking them over night greatly reduces their cooking time, but doesn't take much more water than just cooking alone.

     When you begin the rotation stage, that's when you begin to pick up extra items like salt, pepper, spices, oils (i store olive, coconut, and peanut oil), honey, bouillon cubes, condiments, etc.  The spices and cubes you'll want because they can make bland, repetitive meals more tasty and tolerable. Oils you need for fat content, and they have a very long storage life. Honey you want because it is sweet and will store indefinitely.....literally indefinitely.

     A few other odd and ends I store with food:
     Toilet Paper....what goes in must come out. I'm not wiping with full sardine cans.
     Dental Floss, tooth brushes, tooth paste.  Dental hygeine is critical.
     Liquid Soap. For obvious reasons, can also be used to wash dishes and clothes.
     Those are some things I store. We don't have a lot of storage room to spare, so I have to get the most  out of the space I use. Aside from the boxes containing a full 12 items of canned goods, I remove everything from the bulk boxes. Once I open the bulk canned goods, I remove them all, stack them on the shelves, and discard the box. The boxes usually contain insect eggs, which will hatch inside your house and cause you lots of problems.  I either stack smaller items individually or seal them in gallon sized zip lock bags. I like the bag option because you can still see what's inside.

     These are some things that have worked for me over the years. It's a trial and error process for me as it is for most. If you have any tips or tricks please share.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Storing Water in the Suburbs

   We all know how important clean water is in our daily lives. It is even  more important when there is a disaster or when you are in a survival situation. Most stomach bugs, minor wound infections, and hygeine issues are a result of not having clean water. There is already an entry in this blog about sources of drinking water in a suburban environment. This entry is about how much water to have on hand and some ideas on how to store it.

   At a minimum you need one gallon of drinking water per person per day for 3 days. By that rule, a family of 4 will need 12 gallons of drinking water stored and ready to use at a moments notice.  Keep in mind that is drinking water, it does not include cooking, hand washing, teeth brushing, utensil wahsing, bathing, etc. Those sanitary functions are almost as important as drinking water. Washing your hands will prevent the spread of most common illnesses, which can become serious illnesses when in a disaster situation.

    I have a famly of 4 so I store emergency water in two 7 gallon containers. The containers have a built in tap with an on/off valve, and an air valve. The containers weigh about 50 lbs each when full, can be purchased at WalMart, and are stackable as you can see below.


    The purpose purpose of storing emergency water isn't to provide all of the water you will need for the duration of a disaster or survival situation. It's to provide you enough water in the short term, so you can work on long term solutions without the pressure of emergancy water needs. This will buy you time when you need it most. Things will be stressfull enough without adding the stress of thirsty children.

   Rain barrels are another popular option for water storage. We replaced one of our gutter downspouts with a rain chain that runs into a 40 gallen rain barrel. A bug screen is required or you'll end up with mosquitto's breeding in the captured water. We attached a soaker hose to the rain barrel spigot and use the water in our herb garden. It's never held more than 30 gallons or so, but in a disaster situation, the water can be moved to storage containers then treated easily enough and used for drinking water.

     In an emergency, a plastic kiddie pool can be placed under a downspout and used to collect water as well.  All water collected should be considered as unsafe and treated before drinking. As described in an other post on this blog, adding 10 drops of chlorine bleach per gallon, shaking the water to mix it,  and  waiting 30 before drinking minutes will effectively treat contaminated water and make it fit for human consumption. If the water is cloudy or has an odor, use 20-30 drops per gallon, shake it up, and wait 90 minutes before drinking.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sources of Water in the Suburbs

     Water is life. It's that simple really, without water we die.  Three days is the golden standard for how long we can live without putting water into our bodies. Maybe a little longer, maybe not, depending on the circumstances. Where can we get it? How do we make it safe to drink? How much should we store?These are all common questions, and good ones.

     How do you know if water is safe to drink? You don't. Assume all water is not safe to drink, no matter how thirsty you are. The LAST thing you want is diarrhea, especially when you're already dehydrated. Dysentary will kill you in a day or two. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you treat ALL drinking water.  I highly recommend having a copy of the book Where There Is No Doctor. It is used in disaster situations all over the world where trained medical professionals are not available, or cannot reach people needing treatment. In was invaluable in Haiti after the earthquake. Where There Is No Doctor details many proven methods for preventative treatment, such as treating water.  It's free and can be downloaded HERE.  

     The easiest ways to treat water in a household setting is to boil it, or sterilize it with common bleach. To use bleach mix it at a ratio of 10 drops per gallon, shake or stir it, then let it sit for 30 minutes.  If you get water from outside your home, strain out any pieces of debris by running it through a coffee filter, dish cloth, sock, or something like that. Then add 10 drops of bleach per gallon, shake or stir it up, and then let it sit for 30 minutes. If you don't have any bleach in your home, get some now. It's very cheap, stores indeffinately if you keep the lid closed, and has dozens of uses in an emergency or survival situation. It should be a staple in your preparedness supplies. Once an emergency situation arises, or is expected to arise, bleach will be very hard to find.

     Boiling water is pretty self explanitory, but there are a few things to keep in mind. It takes fuel to boil water. If there's no power available, and you do not have a gas fueled stove, things can get complicated. You can boil it over an open flame, and that is going to take firewood. Bring the water to a rolling boil, and let it cool off.  Some people think you need to boil water for 10 minutes, I'm not one of them. Bacteria, virii, and protozoa will die at a temperature of around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Water boils at 210 degrees Fahrenheit, if it reaches a rolling boil, everything living in the water is long dead. Save your fuel for cooking.

     Lets start with water sources inside the home. Depending on the size of your hot water heater, there is between 30 and 100 gallons of potable (drinkable) water inside your hot water heater. Simply drain the tank into a storage container. Do this by first making sure the electrical power (or gas) is turned fof to the heater. Then attach a garden hose to the spigot valve on the bottom of the tank and open the valve, gravity will do the rest.

     There is also between 2 and 4 gallons of water in each tank on the toilet. DO NOT drink from the toilet bowl. Remove the lid from the back of the toilet and scoop out water from the tank. This water is drinkable if you have not put some kind of toilet sanitizing cake (the blue hockey puck looking things) in it. If the water is not clear and colorless, do not drink it.

       Now lets look into water sources outside the home. Swimming pools have thousands of gallons of water in them. Can you drink it? Sure, if you treat it properly. A pool is basically a pond. How can we treat it? Well....that depends on the situation. Pool water that was being pumped and filtered a day ago is in pretty good shape. Pool water that's been standing for three weeks without electricity to pump and filter it is going to be very nasty. If the water is clear, scoop it out into a bucket then take it home and treat it as described above.

     If the water is not clear, move as much algea and debris away from where you plan to scoop water out as possible. Then scoop it out in small amounts from the surface. Place it in a bucket, take it home and reevaluate it's condition. If it's cloudy, strain it as described above using whatever is available. You can "shock" the water by adding 20-30 drops of bleach, shaking or stirring it up, and letting it sit for 90 minutes. You can also boil it as described above after it has been filtered.

     Treat river, creek, lake, and any sources of standing water as you would treat a stagnant swimming pool. If you can't use bleach or the boiling methods, you can use UV rays from the sun. Strain the water as described above and place it in a clear plastic or glass bottle. The thinner the material of the bottle, the more UV rays can pass through into the water, and the more effective it will be. Place the bottle in full sun for at least 4 hours, longer is better. Placing it on a reflective surface when possible will make it more effective as well. I have one of those reflective windshield screens used to keep the sun from damaging your cars dashboard, I can get 16 1-liter water bottles on the screen.

     It is a very good idea to have at least 3 methods of water purification at your disposal if possible. I have the ability to use chemical (bleach), boiling, UV (solar), and a backpacking water filtration system that will treat 1,000 gallons.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The What If

     What are we preparing for? What could go wrong? Why do I need to worry about these things? Well in a nutshell, you've all heard of Cause and Effect.  We have seen the cause....get ready for the effect.  That effect could be as localized as the primary bread winner losing their job, or as large as a global economic collapse. It could be as minor as a local power outage, or as significant as a large scale disaster. Each of these types and scales of disasters will be discussed at length in future posts.

     The basic requirements of preparedness and survival are the same regardless of the situation. You will need shelter, water, food, fire, and tools. We'll also get into great detail each of  those requirements in the coming posts. For people who will be "bugging out" in the event of a disaster, those needs take on a whole different meaning. We live in the one will be "bugging out" to the suburbs.

     There aren't a lot of reasons I can think of to abandon my home, storage foods, tools, firearms, water supply, extra clothing, etc. There is no way I can carry all of the stuff I would need for myself and my family should I just up and leave.I have planned to "bug in".   I could carry some things in my truck, traffic allowing of course. Anyone who has tried to leave a suburban area on the friday before a long weekend can understand why that's not a great idea. Can you IMAGINE what it would be like is things were really bad on a large scale.

     Unless my house is on fire, under water, under seige, in the pathway of fallout, or near the source of a contagion breakout.....I'll be bugging IN. Most suburbanites will most likely "bug in", or dig in, or hunker down, or whatever you want to call it. Why? There are LOTS of reasons. If you've ever tried to take a 4 year old to the grocery store, you can imagine what would happen if you put a bag on their back and tried to walk farther than 20 feet through adverse conditions.

     Should you have a Bug Out Bag, and/or a Get Home Bag? Absolutely. My philosophy is that I need to get home first, then go somewhere else IF I need to.  I plan to regroup with my family at home and assess the situation. The decidse whether to Alamo Up or Bug Out .

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Why

     I live in the suburbs. The 'Burbs if you will. I don't have a 20 acre retreat to do with as I please. No chicken coop, bug out vehicle, 2000 square foot garden, shooting range, fishing pond, etc. What I DO have is a 1/2 acre plot, a mini-van, a contentious HOA, a honey-do list, three kids (one in college, one in 5th grade, and one in diapers), and a crazy schedule with hardly a minute to spare. Under those circumstances, survival takes on a whole new meaning.

     I've been into the preparedness lifestyle, or survival, or whatever you want to call it, for as long as I can remember. My mother was a depression era baby and being prepared to "do without", should we need to, was just a way of life. Sometimes it seemed a little much. Now that I have a family of my own and see the fragile circumstances in which most of us live, it reinforces the way i was raised.

     My preparations, or preps, have evolved as much as I have evolved over the years. What started out as a cheap back pack for a Bug Out Bag, filled with Ramen noodles, and topped off with a compass handled Rambo knife, has been quite a journey. As in many things, life events dictate your ability (or lack there of) to react to circumstances beyond your control. However, careful preparation and planning can ease your mind and provide you with some options should said events beyond your control actually occur. Options are your best friend. Having choices is often times better than having cash in hand.

     In the coming posts I'll talk about what choices I have created for myself. Hopefully, you'll see some parallels between my life and yours and you can make some of my options work for you as well. If you have ideas that you feel would benefit others, please let me know. I'm also doing a podcast, not yet  released, but I would love to hear your ideas and maybe have you on for an episode.