Monday, November 3, 2014

Best Practices

{Not an Ebola post, and nothing many of you don't already know. If that applies, take the opportunity to make the current crisis a teachable moment. And give the new kids a chance to catch up. Or, skip this one.}

From Comments:
I guess I have to add to that the fact that no one has any idea what they should or can do when a local case or two show up. Dallas, you'll notice, is still there with people in it. What were they supposed to do as a practical matter? What is anyone to do who doesn't have a remote farm, a big bank account, and a place to put all the needed stuff (much less the right weapon and ammo to defend things and people should it come to that)?

Glad you're putting it out there for those who missed it first time around. But some practical best practices guide for normal people along in here would be useful.
I note for the record I have no remote farm (yet), nor a big bank account. I do have the place for the stuff here, and the means to keep it in my possession.

Now about the details...

I can't tell anyone else when they should decide the time has come to drop out, and either load the car and go, or drop the drawbar across the front door. There are way too many variables (job, family, dependents, location, size of the outbreak, your own resources, etc.) for me to offer anything concrete in a one-size-fits-all manner.

What I can say is that each person should look long and hard at their life, and decide on a threshold for how close you're willing to let it get before you'd act. Realize that your friends and neighbors will do that too, even if it's ad hoc/on the fly, so factor that in as well. Don't be the last one standing when the music stops.

Whatever event or circumstances is your bubble, it has to be enough that you shouldn't and won't rationalize it away when it happens. Every year they find the bones of pilots who skipped a step, or had get-thereitis, and drivers and backpackers who kept going long past the point where they should have said "I'm lost" and stopped, or turned around, but instead kept going thinking things would sort themselves out. They generally find what's left of them the next spring (or five) later, much the worse for wear.

Don't be that guy.

If you're not going to take drastic action until your neighbor gets Ebola, or until people are dropping in the halls at work, because you're out of vacation and sick days, that's fine, it's a free country, but it's your hide. At that point, your bosses' prudence may be the deciding factor, because if they close up the shop, you're done either way.

But if they're idiots, you'll die in obedience to their lack of common sense. Choose wisely.

As far as other best practices, it's much easier.


You need water pretty much daily. One day without it will make you very thirsty. Two days will make you thirsty and debilitated. Three days without it will probably kill you. This all shortens in hot environments, or when doing a lot of heavy work, coupled with high stress (which makes your heart beat faster and increases respiration) - like say the stress of a deadly virus running rampant.

If you have a well, and a bombproof back-up power supply (or three) to run the pump, nifty; you're golden.
Most of us don't.
Blue barrels work great. A trash dolly to move them, a place to store them, and a means to get the water out (which could be as simple as 6' of plastic food-grade tubing for a simple siphon) and you're looking good.
Figure a minimum need of 1 gal/person/day for cooking and drinking.
Better than blue barrels is a cistern - an underground or above-ground storage tank. Big, and buried below the frost line is ideal. For someone in a condo, not so much.
Got garage? If you can put the car somewhere else, you can get an above ground pool that would hold enough water for a family for quite a while. Fill it, tarp it, and purify what you take from it, but for lots of quick storage, it's better than wishing.
If you have a second bathroom, treat it as the luxury it is (tough though that may be in a house with teenagers, but still, tough it out), and get a Water-bob for 60-100 gallons of drinking water stored in the tub.
Catching and purifying rainfall or snowmelt may also be a regional possibility.

Whatever you elect to do, without water, you're not going to make it.


As I've said several times, canned, canned, canned.
Greatest variety, 2+ year shelf life on avg. (ignore "Best by" freshness dates per se, we're worried about only two things - is it safe, and is it nutritious), and best cost to quantity value.
Downsides are bulk/weight. There are whole books on storing food. Get one, and bone up.
Personal advice, figure out, for whatever family-unit you're contemplating, a menu for one week's meals. If necessary, start with one day's meals.
For instance:
Breakfast -
raisins/applesauce/brown sugar (to put IN the oatmeal)
coffee/sugar/creamer if you've got the habit
dried fruit
non-fat powdered milk

PB and J
raisins, banana chips, dried apples, etc.
canned tuna
mayo and mustard (packets)
dried croutons, olives, etc.
drink mixes (Koolaid, Gatorade, lemonade, etc. make water all the time one helluva lot more palatable)

canned meat (beef, chicken, ham, salmon, etc.)
canned or dried fruit
condiments, spices, etc.

Those are just a couple of examples. Whatever personal menu you work out, try to get cans where you'll use the entire can at one meal. Then nothing gets spoiled, and you don't need to store leftovers.

Don't forget a can opener or three. Not everything has an easy-open top.
Once you've planned a week's meals, buy them. Then try them out for a week, no cheating, and field test your menu. Tweak it as necessary.
Then go buy another week's worth of the improved menu.
Do that every other week in a year's shopping, and you've got a 6-month food cushion for a pandemic, or any other disaster, including illness for a parent, or loss of a job. Not all disasters affect the whole community.

Once you've got 6 month's food, one week out of every month, eat 1 weeks' supplies, starting with the oldest stuff. (Write dates on the can lids with a Sharpie/Magic Marker). Replace what you eat, and always eat the oldest, and over two years, you'll be using your food without losing any of it to time and spoilage, getting the family used to the fare, and dining one week per month at prices from two years ago.

MREs are a heat and shelf-life limited, expensive, and generally nasty alternative, but they'll do in a pinch for the short term.
Dehydrated packed canned foods last longer, but cost a lot, and have less variety.
Do anything you like, just understand the pros and cons.
But do something.

Other things

Winter is cold, summer is hot, and you need to be able to cook that food, maybe boil the water, and keep the place hot/cool.
So energy/power generation are a good idea. In severe winters, lifesaving.
That can be solar panels and battery storage.
It can be a big propane tank.
It can be a few cords of firewood.
Or a generator and stored fuel.
Ideally, many or all of the above. If you have only one way of doing anything, that's your failure point.
So have two, or five.

Most of the year in most of the country, you could cook dinner every day with nothing more complicated that a solar oven. You can buy one or make it, and most of what you need is sheet metal, black high-temperature BBQ/stove/engine paint, a big glass cover, and a dark cook pot, all pointed at the sun for a couple-three hours.

I've seen Gilligan's Island-style indoor fans rigged out of a bicycle wheel windmill wheel, thirty feet of bicycle chain, and an axle to an indoor fan blade. Thirty MPH desert winds outside, through the magic of Schwinn and Shimano, turned into an indoor variable-speed fan that also pulled out the hot attic air. A little grease and 3-in-1 was the annual maintenance.

One patio balcony solar panel, a deep cycle battery, and an inverter will charge laptops and cell phones indefinitely. And run a microwave long enough to nuke a bowl or cup of something. A bigger set up gets you LED lighting everywhere.

I've done laundry with a five gallon bucket, a GammaSeal lid, some soap, and some vigorous shaking. It works. So do clothes lines in the sun or over a heat source. Welcome to the 19th century.

You should have basic first aid supplies.
Not Ebola supplies - unless you have a death wish - but at bare minimum the basic everyday stuff to take care of small emergencies. A box of bandaids isn't enough.
Don't forget dental emergencies.
Right now, you should be able to handle minor burns, cuts and wounds, sprains, strains, etc.
If you're serious about things, some facility with other problems, when 911 and the ER aren't 10 minutes away, would be prudent as well.

Cash, not just plastic; junk silver when you can get some too.
If you haven't built up a minimum six month's cash financial cushion, readily accessible, even if you have to do it with a mayonnaise jar and your daily spare pocket change, you're not doing it right.

The ability to put out a small house fire, and perhaps even a larger one.

And the ability to take care of localized income redistribution specialists (thieves, robbers, burglars) et al. Whether that's something from the local dog pound, or from Colt or Glock, or both: your call.

At that point, you've now taken responsibility for replacing the water utility, the supermarket, the power company, the ER, the bank, the fire department, and the police.

There are entire bookshelves of books on each and all of these topics. I know, because I have most of them, including all of the good ones. Add those, along with some good reading books*, a few games, and some DVDs, and you've also replaced the library, television stations, and the movie theatre.

Add some local and SW radio receiving abilities (sending would be good too at some point), plus the internet while it lasts, and you've got the same news abilities of the major networks.

Look that over. They're listed from most important to least important, generally.
Correct your deficiencies. And don't get one perfect, and neglect the others. A million gallon cistern won't feed you, and a full pantry won't heal an infected cut, or stave off an armed robber. Get a basic level of capability in each area, then flesh it out, make it deeper and more resilient, and add redundancies, because things wear out, break, get lost or just walk away, or they go to the Island Of Missing Socks.

And remember: having only 72 hours of emergency supplies guarantees that you'll be in a FEMA refugee camp on Day Four. Go deep.

That's best practices, until you can put all of that together on a remote farm, and amass a big bank account.

Having those basics now improves your chances of getting there eventually.
Failing to do so puts you at the mercy of other people, and your best interests are seldom in theirs.

*(A favorite thought-game: At the end of The Time Machine, the out-of-time protagonist grabs three books to take back and help the Eloi rebuild society. Think about which three books you'd take.)


  1. A medical analogy I picked up from pioneering survivalist (nowadays called prepper) Mel Tappan: A handgun is like a first aid kit, it's something you can have with you all the time. It is not, however, likely to be your first choice if you know you're going to be in combat.

    I.e. if the situation is severe enough, a handgun is a tool to get yourself to a rifle of military utility.

    That doesn't have to be very expensive, surplus bolt action rifles aren't too expensive even if about the last stocks of the last set (Russian) are running out. And I've heard it's getting to be a great time to buy a "modern sporting rifle", AKA eeeeevil semi-auto assault rifle, the huge surges in demand from Obola's 2008 election and Sandy Hook have played out (.223/5.56 NATO ammo is definitely getting quite a bit lower in price and I gather higher in availability).

    (Skip shotguns unless your locality makes handguns impractical, they're bad for when a handgun is best (when weapons retention is an issue) and have a very short maximum range (~100 yards with slugs).)

    Other notes: make sure you can disinfect stored water as you use it, that's more important than trying very hard to keep it potable. Buy a bunch of coffee filters now for initial cleaning of scavenged water before you add bleach or whatever. There's lots written about this as well as food as our host has noted.

    MRE type food should probably be limited to bugout kits, but even better would be constructing your own version of First Strike Rations.

    And add things like Millennium Energy Bars (I include a specific link because I just got some from Amazon seller Freccia Rossa and they were manufactured within the last 2 months), and lifeboat food, my favorite is Datrex, and I don't recommend Mainstay or any other type that's one big scored block, inconvenient if you're on the go vs. lounging in a lifeboat.

    If you're on maintenance medications as I am, stock up as many months as you can manage. Especially if/when Ebola hits India, our host or someone else who can see noted that ~ 40% of our generic drugs come from there (or so they say, experience shows you can never tell what you're really getting from Indian manufacturers).

    For that shortwave, buy a current copy of the World Radio TV Handbook so you'll know what to tune into when.

    That pretty much covers it, our host knows his stuff (but I've probably been playing this game a bit longer, since 2nd grade in 1968 when my mother became a Civil Defense Block Mother, back when the government actually cared about our survival, strange that).

  2. Claims that the infection rate is down in Liberia?

    Is Ebola running out of victims or are people simply staying away from treatment centers and dying at home?

  3. However, spreading twelve times as fast as September in Sierra Leone?

    1. Let's hope that the numbers Liberia reports accurately reflect reality, which flies in the face of all evidence since last April to date, not least of which their recent info-dump of 1600+ new cases less than 1 week ago.
      They didn't suddenly figure out a way to make Ebola's mortality rate in their country drop from 72% to 37%, unless you also believe in the Easter Bunny and the Great Pumpkin.
      Somewhere, they've been lying. It may be that they simply buried and cremated people so fast they didn't have time to tally them.

      I hope the lull there is more than temporary, but based on their past behavior, I think Liberia has reached the point where nothing other than a complete absence of Ebola there is any grounds for optimism, and their numbers in the meantime are sheer fantasy.

      So I'd be happy to find that WaPo isn't just playing the part of Baghdad Bob.

  4. Three books.
    1. Merck manual.
    2. chemistry.
    3. wild food in your native state.

  5. Don't forget trade items.
    1. condoms.
    2. Alcohol to drink.
    3. Tobacco.
    4. needles and thread.