On Preparation

Thirdpower notes that folks say it’s the “preppers” that are crazy, with a picture that says 1000 words. I tend to think of prepping as a lifestyle choice not unlike carrying a gun, in the sense that both are preparation for a low probability event, and both guns and prepping can probably also be properly considered a hobby or interest. While I enjoy shooting, I am not much of a prepper, as I’ve never been one to want to spend a lot of time and energy being ready for low-probability events. While I do carry, I carry because I shoot. I don’t shoot because I carry. I think being prepared for common, and even some uncommon disasters is a good idea. We do have a “bugout bag,” and generally keep several gallons of bottled water on hand at all times, as well as a healthy supply of batteries. But I do think prepping, like anything, it can be taken to extremes.

For instance, someone advised I needed a minimum of 20 gallons of gas on hand at all times, and when a storm was coming, that needed to be 40. I agree for some individual circumstances, that’s probably wise. But I live 6 miles from a major city, and have a postage stamp sized lot with a very small shed. I’m not sure where I’d put four 5 gallon gas cans, let alone eight of them. I’ve also gone through several major storms without losing power. About 14 hours was the most I’ve been without power during a major blizzard a few years back, and I got through that by wiring an inverter to my heating system so it could light and circulate the hot water. For me, 24 hours of gas for the generator is enough insurance. I don’t prep for the Zombie apocalypse, or even 500 year events like these, and I’m fully aware of the consequences if I lose the bet.

I don’t have any issue with prepping, and think it’s a fine thing to do, but much like the guys that suggest you need to carry two pistols and at least 2 reloads for each, you can take it to extremes, and become unyielding when it comes to assessing individual circumstances and tolerance for risk.

18 thoughts on “On Preparation”

  1. I think Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast said it best when he was enumerating the tenets of his Modern Survival Philosophy:

    6. Plan for disaster in the following order of priority – Personal-Localized-Regional-State-National-Global. Despite the real possibility of a true economic melt down or catastrophic terrorist attack or some other major global disaster the most probable “disaster” for any individual is personal. Loss of a job, loss of a family member, a fire or localized weather event are the most probable threats to impact any individual. So plan and prepare for those first, then continue to build going forward.


    1. On the other hand, if you’re prepared for one level on that scale, anything lower isn’t going to be a real problem. In other words, if you’re prepared for a national or global collapse, losing your job for even a few months isn’t really going to hurt you much – you’ll just have to restock afterwards. It may not be pleasant, but you won’t be worrying about where your next meal is coming from, either.

      1. The idea is that these are steps in preparedness progression. For most people, trying to prepare for global catastrophe is too big a step to take. There are too many factors to plan for, too much to buy and too many skills to learn.

        It’s more manageable to start out preparing for the much more likely personal disasters. From there, one can move on to preparing for local events, regional events and so forth, building on the previous step.

        Likewise, strategies for different levels don’t always translate. Your plan for a global economic meltdown or pandemic might be to retreat to your fully stocked bunker in the middle of nowhere. That strategy doesn’t translate well if your disaster is a lost job or serious illness.

        Start preparing for the small, likely events and work your way from there.

  2. I had 10 gals for Irene and it was gone in 2 days. Gas stations were then only beginning to open up. For Sandy I had 20 and if it was going to hit us, I was prepared to get 10 more. It’s the restocking that gets you.

  3. re gasoline, ensuring your vehicle tanks are topped off as often as possible counts towards that suggested quota.

    A car + 120v inverter *is* a generator in a pinch.

    Additionally you might consolidate fuel into a single vehicle via siphoning.

    Effective prepping requires a great deal of creativity and resourcefulness.

    1. One thing to keep in mind is that most car alternators are rated from 90 to 120 amps, or thereabouts. So you’re going to top out at about 1000W that you can safely draw from your car’s alternator. Most cigarette lighter plugs can only handle about 300W.

      1. They don’t really handle 100W very well, actually. They tend to get really, really hot at that point.

  4. We had one of those “500 year” floods in 1993. And again in 2005 and 2008 – lots of western Iowa crop land is still pretty much useless. But we’re safe until 3510!

  5. The authorities say that in a disaster you are on your own for 3 days. So you should at least prep for that. Experience has told us that the authorities are too optimistic.

    1. Is having food enough and water enough for 5 days really prepping? I’m kind of amazed there are people that don’t have a week’s worth of eat in canned goods and dried foods, just as a matter of course. To me that’s not prepping… that’s having a Sam’s club membership, and not wanting to have to go to the store every other day to get food.

      But that’s generally the kind of thing I think people need a plan for. I’m skeptical of prepping for a national or global calamity if you are urban or suburban. If you’re in that situation, unless you’re exceptionally violent and ruthless, you’re fucked. There’s no easy way I could defend my postage stamp from multiple armed attackers without the help of neighbors. Neighbors, I might add, who likely will need food. So I tend to think if you’re prepping in an urban or suburban, you need to prep for your neighbors too, because you’ll end up taking care of them in exchange for an extra person on the trigger. If things get bad enough, it’s going to be the person who is capable of inflicting extreme violence who is going to keep what’s theirs. Even in a rural area, I think a single family withstanding an armed attack from people determined to get their supplies is a tall order. You’d need to put a lot of effort into fortification, and have a plan for it. Which is a tall order to me for a low probability event.

      1. One idea I like is having a second property, away from the city, where you could run to in an event like that. Of courses, I also like the idea of having enough income to buy a first property!

        (Hat tip to Boston T. Party for that idea…)

        1. I like that idea too… if you have the money. But I’d do that because I like to get away from it all as much as for prepping reasons.

  6. Sometimes, no matter how much you prep, everything is destroyed in whatever disaster happens. Fires, floods, earthquakes, landslides, tornadoes…

  7. The wife and I talked this over yesterday as the storm was building. Our perspective on force majeure events in Maryland is much different than what we had while living in LA.

    – Living on the est-end of Los Angeles, prepping meant getting lots of cash and knowing who to call to get on the nearest boat to somewhere else (assuming major earthquake). It meant having a shotgun and enough rounds to scare away the rioters. It meant getting with the neighbors to fend off the King-style riots long enough for them to move on to somewhere else.

    – In rural Southern Maryland it means having enough on our property to survive a long outage on our own. Irene dropped us five days without power last year, and Isabelle previously took me out of power for 14. We got kids, so some additional comfort factor had to be built in. We keep the propane topped off during the year, and make sure we can always power the well and heating and hot water (each propane).

    In other words, it is location dependent. Urban areas are not prepper territory. You cannot put a 4 kW genset on you patio on the 20th floor in LA or Manhattan. But here I can put a 100 kW unit and up to 10,000 gallons of propane with nothing but the electrical permit (really – I checked)*. That powers a small village in a disaster. I got enough woods to heat 1000 homes and our moderate pantry can stretch longer than it takes to get the stores re-stocked.

    In LA our job was to stay safe long enough to run somewhere else. In rural Maryland, we stick it out unless conditions warrant us running. And it would take an awful lot to make us run from the Maryland house.

    The moral: preparation is locality dependent. There is no “One Truth”. The Zombie Apocalypse is popular because it institutes a single set of rules everywhere because the force to overcome is consistent everywhere – the over-riding theme of the zombie story is that there are “rules” and everyone knows them. This is also why it is useless. Handling heavy snow in upstate NY is not the same as handling heavy snow in Northern Virginia – they are different zombies. NYC power outages are not rural Maryland power outages. Etc.

    The wife and I agree: given the choice, we’d rather the SHTF while we’re home in MD than anywhere else we have been. We can go here for weeks in the winter, and maybe even months in the summer. But only if we had to. Our line is about 2 weeks and then we’re outta here.

    Assuming the zombies don’t get us first. ;)

    1. * For the record, I do not have a 100 kW genset and 10,000 gallons of propane. I am nowhere near that capacity. My propane “yard bomb” is buried with a 400 gallon usable limit. I would like to upgrade, but it’s going to cost me a lot. We’ll just survive on wood we cut in the inter if we cannot get the gas filled.

      Also installing an outdoor wood gassification unit that’ll heat the house and water. My brother installs them for a living. Payoff in five years.

      Again, Hillbilly Living ™ that cannot be done in LA, NYC or the Philly burbs.

  8. The moral: preparation is locality dependent.

    It’s also situation dependent. Because I’m on one of the local rescue squads, my main SHTF plan is to bug out to our station. We have a generator, stored food and potable water, and a significant support infrastructure to fall back on.

    Yeah, it’s taking advantage of the preparation of others, but on the other hand, I’ll be working for it – probably long, hard work, too – and taking care of the people who paid for it all (taxpayers).

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