Monday, January 22, 2007

One Week Without Power - Observations

The below post was written by RNKaren over at Frugal's ( It is an excellent after action review which provides cogent insights into what it was like to experience a region-wide ice storm and the resultant loss of electrical power. More than anything, it is a good first-hand look at how people react during times of emergency. There are lessons here that would apply in many different disaster situations. I liked it so much I requested (and received) permission from RNKaren to post it here.

Well, the big ice storm hit southern Missouri/Kansas/Oklahoma and some other areas last Friday. Lots and lots of people, urban and rural, are still without power, some are looking at weeks more. I have been very lucky, we were only without power for 3 days (thank God we got the trees trimmed), and there are a lot of open fields around us, which helped. However, much of the Ozarks is tree covered and some areas will just have to be bulldozed out and completely new poles and electric wires placed. Total do-over. I have been very interested in what is going on around me and with other people. I live in the country, but work in the city, so I get to see both sides.

1. People (sheeple) soon begin to hate and be very jealous of the prepared. Especially when they've been standing in line for a generator for 2 days, and the guy across the street is humming away.

2. Some people emotionally break down, totally panic, or both. These are the people who hit the shelters and leave their houses for pipes to freeze, etc. These are the "government will protect me people"

3. Other people try, but do dumb things, like run generators inside, fire up charcoal grills inside, etc. End up in the hospital or worse.

4. The sense of "entitlement" increases - the "where is FEMA" attitude is what I call it. These are the people who are running out of meds 1 day after it hit. No food, no water. Cry and give up.

5. The con artists and thieves abound. Many generators have been stolen in the Springfield, MO area. Have heard reports of tree trimmers charging super inflated amounts, stating that "FEMA will reimburse you" - which is totally false. FEMA is only clearing roads of debris, that is all.

6. A few non-prepared people are tough, and they do what they have to do. They will stay on their turf and make do with what little they have for a long time. They are proud.

7. In this particular case, it was about 3 days that the city was totally out of supplies - no gennies, gas stations running out, not a drop of kero or a tea candle out there. Then the trucks started rolling in. Wal-mart was open and cases and cases of stuff were sitting out in the aisles. The bread and milk trucks were rolling again. It still seems like people are panicking, buying more and more stuff. Kind of retroactive preps.

8. This situation really brings out the best or worst in people. Some are volunteering at shelters, and feeding the utility workers. Others are stealing and trying to loot. People also either get very generous and nicer than normal, or they get very cranky. After a few days, everyone is pretty much cranky.

9. Stuff happens that I didn't anticipate. My bank is still without power - my paycheck is electronically deposited. I can't go get cash out. Also, "telecheck" declined one of my checks because the previous one had been declined - because my bank's electronic system is down. Luckily I bank at 2 different banks in different towns, and the other one is fine. However, I realize the importance of having a fair amount of cash on hand. I'll just have to straighten out the "declined" electronic check mess later.

10. I realized my preps won't last as long as I thought. Gas, kero, propane - all go faster without electricity. More so as time goes on and you HAVE to do laundry, etc. Realized the need to get a better wood stove. And store lots more fuel.

11. Things break down, and you can't get parts - because everyone else is after the same things. Propane heater parts, thermostats, kero heater wicks, adapters for generators for different applications, chains for chainsaws, etc. Stuff like "I've got a flat, and all the tire shops are closed". It becomes very important to be able to do things yourself, and the tools to do it.

12. Murphy takes over, and you are stressed - even the best of preppers can do dumb things. Safety is important. Carbon monoxide detectors, ladder safety, chainsaw safety, etc. These are the things that get people the fastest.

13. Organization is very important. Testing your equipment. That gummed-up old generator is pretty much worthless. Camp stove you haven't used in 5 years. Air mattress with a hole in it and no repair kit. It is important to be able to FIND and USE what you need when you need it. Test runs are necessary. You will always think of things you wish you had, or find better ways to do things. Example: sometime when you have power and it's 12 degrees outside - just see how well you can heat with that kero heater. Does it keep the pipes from freezing? We learned a lot.

14. In this initial few days, when your trying to keep going and getting everything in place, it is not the time to begin grinding your own wheat and cooking beans for hours. Some ready-to-eat food is a must, just for morale. Canned ravioli can taste pretty good, as well as good comfort foods like soup and stews.

15. This is not the time to quit smoking or caffeine because you don't have any or can't get any - do it now. It will only add to the stress.

16. Have some instant coffee on hand, or a good way to make it with alternative means.

17. You soon find out that our culture of showering twice a day is not exactly necessary.

18. Bickering at your family because your all stressed does not help anyone.

19. The first few days of "camping" soon wear off - and it's not fun anymore.

20. I am glad I don't live in the city.

I know an ice storm is not TEOTWAWKI, but it was devastating to a lot of people. I think this will open a few eyes, but I already hear people saying "well this is the worst one we've ever had, it's not likely we'll have another one this bad for years and years" - so they won't prep again. They don't think that maybe next time it won't be ice. It might be flood, fire, NBC, anything. Preps are preps. Some are specific to certain events, others are standard for all. We were okay, but there were a lot of things I hadn't prepared sufficiently for. If it had been worse, or lasted longer for us, we would be hurting. Lesson learned, luckily we will get another chance.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I mentioned in an early post that “two is one and one is none” and that generated some questions. The phrase as far as I know originated with the Navy SEALs but I could be wrong there. It basically means that you need back ups and that if you have only one of something, you cannot count on it since it could break, be lost, etc.

Another related concept is PACE. This stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency and is a method of planning.

One example would be communications with your spouse in time of emergency. Your primary method could be land-line telephone – just hit the speed dial. An alternate method might be cellular phone. A contingency method could be a 2-meter hand held radio you both carry and an emergency method could be human to human – get in your car and drive to a link up point.

Another example could be purifying water. Maybe your primary method is a Big Berkey filter, your alternate is a Katadyn water filter, contingency would be water purification tablets and your emergency would be boiling it for five minutes.

You will note that each communications or water purification means is distinctly different. If one fails, another could very well work. Another vitally important part of PACE planning is that all interested parties need to know the plan and be equipped to execute it.

You should apply PACE planning to all of your vital preparedness areas. These could include evacuation routes and means, food supply, cooking, defense, fire starting, link up points and so on. The list is endless.

You will also notice as you start applying this concept that things may get cumbersome. That can be true. Sometimes you may have to assume risk – maybe you can only realistically come up with a Primary and an Alternate plan. Maybe. If that’s the case, okay – you’ll have to deal with it.

What does PACE planning ultimately provide?


See, Murphy has friends. He rarely shows up alone. Just when you think things couldn’t possibly get any worse – you realize what a silly optimist you were. Plan A will many times fly right out the window followed closely by Plan B.

Give yourself options.
Plan a variety of response options.
Remain flexible.

Discover PACE.

If you have any comments I’d love to hear them. I may even post them if I like them. You can contact me at

Prepared Americans for a Strong America

Sunday, January 14, 2007

BOB Campout

You should have a “72 Hour Kit” – everyone should. Your government says so. Check out or . Basically this is a kit (typically stored in a kid’s book bag, day pack, or some such) which contains everything you need to survive if you have to grab it and evacuate your home into the cold dark night. Authorities recommend you have things like a flashlight, some food and water, medical supplies, and so on. Those of us who are really “into preparedness” have BOBs – bug out bags.

A BOB is a 72 hour kit on steroids. Most are capable of sustaining life for good bit longer than 72 hours. BOBs are very personal things and we never tire of “tweaking” them. There is even BOB theory. Another subject for another time perhaps. This post is the result of how a few friends and I spent our weekend.

We attended the annual National Winter BOB campout. Actually, we invented it a few years ago. You see, anyone can go camping in the summer or fall. But one does not assemble a BOB merely to camp – oh no! A BOB is one vital component for surviving a possible TEOTWAWKI event. It will allow us to flee approaching danger at a moment’s notice and start again somewhere else. Did I mention our wives and children have BOBs also? No? Well they do. They much prefer autumn BOB campouts…

Jesus Christ, speaking with his disciples in Mark 13 (it’s a book and chapter in the Bible – check it out) describes the ultimate TEOTWAWKI event and tells his men, “pray your flight come not in winter”. You will note He did not say, “You will not have to flee in the winter time”. He left it open as a distinct possibility.

Bad things happen in multiples and we feel compelled to be prepared for bad times. So, a group of us from multiple states all got together at a place in the mountains to test ourselves and our gear – in winter conditons. The weather was the worst one can have in my opinion – it pretty much constantly rained – at times poured – for three days. The temperature remained in the mid to high thirties with occasional dips to 30. Yeah. We were praying it would drop 10 degrees and snow – at least snow is dry. Sort of.

We hiked in to the spot in the photo and immediately set up shelters. Next order of business was fire. BIG FIRE. In our little private scenario, we were doing what the military calls “passive survival” – which means there are no bad guys out there to worry about. It also means we could build fires, didn’t have to pull security, and could generally have a good time. As much as one can in 37 degree downpours…

One of our tribe gave us a great class on trapping and we all got the opportunity to help set a trap line along a creek – a creek which rose a lot over night. We did not end up with any coon to roast over our large fire…

We spent a good bit of time gathering wood, stoking the fire and solving the world’s problems. We were all survivalists and we were all Christians but we as a group held divergent views on number of subjects – which made for fascinating conversation.

Over the course of three days and two nights several tips or lessons arose:
o Waterproof garments are your friend – it can be Gore-Tex, or PVC rain suits, or ponchos.
o Waterproof boots are your very good friend.
o Bigger is better where tarps are concerned.
o My BOB is too heavy – I need to get stronger or go lighter.
o You can start a fire in pouring rain – with soaked wood.
o Trioxene heat tabs are your friends.
o A large rock (think “school bus”) makes a great fire/heat reflector
o Backpacker stoves are your friend.
o One is none and two is one – glasses, lighters, tarps, knives, socks.
o Dry socks in the sleeping bag are your feet’s friends.
o Drinking water is not a problem when it runs off your tarp into your canteen cup.
o A small stool/chair in/on the BOB is a wonderful thing.
o If you carry a weapon – you should carry a maintenance kit in your BOB
o Nothing beats time with friends – even freezing rain.

There were several things in my BOB I did not use:
Sweater, first aid kit, .22 pistol, most of my food, space blanket, poncho liner, water filter, water storage bag, binoculars.

We all had extra gear in our vehicles that was availible (after a good hike) if it was needed. This was, after all, a test and an exercise - a method of learning. If someone had had a catastrophic gear failure (they didn't) we would have been able to deal with it. Use your noggin - stay stafe.

The bottom line (at the bottom where it belongs) is this - get out and test your gear and test yourself. Do it now while there is time to react, adapt, and improve.

The final exam will be a no-notice affair.

Have a question or comment? I'd love to hear it - I may even publish it.

Prepared Americans for a Strong America

Friday, January 05, 2007

Rule of Threes

In wilderness survival circles there exists “The Rule of Threes” which states that one can (only) live:
Three minutes without air
Three hours without shelter
Three days without water
Three weeks without food.

Some people add “Three seconds without hope” and “three months without love” but that is just silly, cutesy nonsense. Let’s look at the serious ones.

First off, this rule allows survivors to prioritize effort to satisfy needs in an emergency situation. Secondly, they aren’t exact times but they are close enough to be easily remembered. If you cannot breath, it really doesn’t matter that you are thirsty. Third, these don't just apply to wilderness survival - you can apply them to everyday home preparedness.

All of these “threes” can be placed in the first level of “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” which places physiological needs at the bottom followed in order by safety/security, belonging, esteem and finally self-actualization at the top. His theory is really psychological and states that before people attempt to satisfy the higher needs, the lower needs must first be met. But the concept of hierarchy or prioritization also works with the Rule of Threes.

If your brain is deprived of oxygen (“air”) for three minutes you are in serious trouble. This could be a result of drowning, poison gas or excessive smoke, someone choking you, or serious bleeding. What can “one who is in to preparedness” (dare I say “Survivalist”?) do about preparing to deal with this highest priority? The best thing is to take steps to prevent being placed in that situation in the first place! Learn to swim, go with a buddy, prevent house fires, avoid bad people and be careful. Get in the best shape you can. Learn self-defense and first aid.

If you think you might require a gas mask, smoke filter, or SCBA my first advice would be to stop doing what you are doing or move away from where you are living. My second bit would be to get what you need and train with it. Some military specialties require learning “ditch drills” whereby folks are strapped into an apparatus that looks a lot like a helicopter which then rolls down a roller coaster deal into a deep pool. It flips over while it’s doing that creating disorientation and shock. Students must then unstrap, get out, and swim – hopefully up. It gets really sporting when they turn out the lights. Soldiers train with gas masks; firefighters train with SCBAs. When they need them – they need them. Has your family practice a fire drill? Have you done it at night? What about in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep?

You could die in about three hours without shelter if you were in extreme conditions. “Extreme” could include a day in the desert but also a nice 40 degree day – if you are soaked and the wind is blowing. Basically we are talking hypo- or hyperthermia. See, “shelter” in this instance is not really shelter as in an igloo or sun shade or whatever. Shelter really means maintaining your core body temperature. Cody Lundin covers this topic well in his irreverent survival manual, “98.6 – The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive”. He is not talking about donkeys. You can get it for about twelve bucks on – it’s worth the price if you are not easily offended.

If you are currently shivering you won’t care about being thirsty and therefore you won’t really need to consciously think about the Rule of Threes. But if it was a relatively nice 35 degrees and sunny you might think it was pretty important to find water if you were stranded and thirsty. But what you would really need to consider is “what is going to happen when the sun goes down” or “…when those dark clouds get here?” Here is where understanding the concept could end up saving your life. “Shelter” also include a warming fire - learn to build them, carry several different means to do so. Learn to dress appropriately – this is your primary “survival shelter”; carry makeshift shelters in your day pack and in your vehicle such as tents or tarps or sleeping bags. Make sure you own proper clothing and bedding in case your utilities are cut off during some terrible blizzard.

If you don’t have any fluid intake for three days you will probably die. Let me tell ya something though – you will become “inop” - incapable of performing even basic functions, a good bit before that. Water is important. When you are out and about carry it. Carry it in your vehicle, keep some at work, stash some at church. Carry a means for collecting and purifying more. If you have no means for purifying more and you don’t think you are going to escape your current predicament pretty soon then drink what you find water-wise. Let the doctors deal with any parasites or whatever you pick up after you are rescued.

What about at home? How much water do you have there? What if your municipal water supply is cut? Or your well goes dry? - At the same time as some other emergency that prevents you from leaving home. You have water in your hot water tank and in the backs of your toilets. But really, you should store water at home. The “current wisdom” is one gallon per person per day. Try to exist on just that much for just a weekend. Good luck. You want more. Buy bottled water or buy containers to store your own or reuse two-liter soda bottles and fill them with tap water. Store in a dark place (like under the bed).

In a wilderness survival situation some say (based on the Rule) that food is not very important. Yes, you can live “three weeks” (actually a bit longer) without any caloric input – but you won’t be doing a whole lot of anything else. Like tending that fire (three hours…) or walking down to the creek for more water, or building signals – or whatever. You are going to start getting weaker after about three days of no food. Trust me on this.

I will tell you this however – you can go a LONG time with just minimal calorie input every day. So, what to do? Carry some chow with you. I like PowerBars. Learn to identify and prepare wild edibles. You can practice trapping and what not –but you probably won’t use it in a “typical” wilderness survival situation. You will feel hungry pretty soon after things go south in your personal disaster situation – but you (as the average American) are really not “hungry” – you just think you are. Most Americans never experience real hunger. Most. So focus on your other priorities first.

For the home preparer - I wrote an earlier piece about storing wheat. That’s long term food storage. You should have a couple weeks’ worth of “normal” food in your home – your government says so. Check out . Carry food in your car, keep some in your desk at work.

So, think about the Rule of Threes. Take steps when you are out and about to cover all of the rules – but remember to also consider the Rule for day to day living at home and the office too.

If you have any comments I’d love to hear them. If they really interest me I may even publish them here. You can reach me at

Prepared Americans for a Strong America