Importance of Standards in a Group

Group standards, Part 1

I was talking to a friend in the local Prepper community who’s working on a set of Bylaws or Operating Agreement (OA) for a prepper group he’s thinking of starting. Anyone interested in the group would be required to sign the OA before being allowed to join. He’s having trouble deciding how much the OA should require potential members to reveal about themselves in certain areas for security reasons. His idea is that if members disclose certain information about themselves and sign a document promising they’ll abide by group rules, they are less likely to be a security risk to the group. I agree that an OA is important, but relying on it is a mistake for a few reasons. First, there is a 100% probability that something will come up within the group that isn’t covered by the OA – so now what? I know, revise or update the OA… and pretty soon it will start to resemble the Nevada Revised Statutes. The second problem with relying on an OA is that signing doesn’t show anything about the person who signed it other than their ability to pick up a pen and sign their name. It demonstrates nothing about their commitment to the group, nothing about their willingness to abide by group rules or standards, and nothing about their willingness or ability to learn. Finally, a person’s signature is only as good as the integrity of the person signing, and unfortunately in today’s world that means a lot of signatures aren’t worth shit.

A better way to vet potential members of a group is by having a set of standards that one must meet before being allowed to join the group. The OA is still important, but only as a backup to the Group Standards. If the Group Standards are set up correctly, compliance not only helps make sure a member won’t be a drag on the group (by having inferior supplies and equipment), but also shows a potential member’s willingness to devote time, money, and effort to the group, their willingness to subordinate their opinion to group goals, and maybe even their ability to learn. There can be problems with trying to enforce standards (that’s another post) but I still think they’re a lot better for vetting potential group members than a signature on an OA.

Of course, for this to work, the standards need to be reasonable and benefit the individual member as well as serve group goals. For example, one standard might be that in order to join the group, a person must have an amateur radio license of General class or above. Does requiring an Amateur Radio license benefit the individual member? Yes. Getting a Ham license gives a person useful knowledge, the ability to legally operate a 2 way radio on frequencies not open to the general public, and opens up networking opportunities that would otherwise not be available. Does it benefit the group? Hell yes, if your group uses amateur radio for group communications (if not, then just don’t use this as one of your group standards). Does it demonstrate some level of commitment? Yes. It costs $30 in test fees if you’re starting from scratch – $15 for the Technician test and $15 for the General. Depending on one’s background and memorization skills, passing each test will require 10 – 20 hours of study. Study guides with all the answers are readily available and inexpensive. For my group, I have study guides that I loan for free. Anyone can take free online practice tests which just happen to use the same exact questions as the real licensing exams. Is it a reasonable Group Standard? Yes, because it meets all 3 requirements of “reasonableness”: It benefits the member, it serves group goals, and it demonstrates a person’s willingness to devote a little time and money towards the group’s needs. In short, there is no excuse to not get a Ham license, at least if you want to be in my group.

This is just an example, but it should give you something to think about for your own group, whether you’re starting one or joining an existing group. Areas where you might want to impose group standards could be food, water, shelter, communications, firearms, and anything else that might apply to your group.

Happy Prepping…

Last night’s prepper net

Last night the local Prepper Net’s topic was vegetarian/vegan diets and how they might benefit the prepper during times when meat might not be available. When the topic was announced I just kind of rolled my eyes – I’m not a vegan or vegetarian and my gut reaction was this is just another area of my life where Political Correctness (PC) was showing its ugly face. I was wrong (should have known better knowing this group) and it was actually a pretty good discussion.

First up was a guy who I also know in person from the monthly prepper meetup I go to. He’d just completed a 12 week Healthy Heart course put on by a local hospital and had lots of tips on how to reduce your intake of meat and lots of other unhealthy crap that some of us eat. He pointed out that trying to go “cold turkey” into a heart healthy diet is probably doomed to fail. The key is to make a small adjustment, adapt to the adjustment, then make further adjustment. For example, instead of eating meat 3 meals every day, start by cutting it to 2 meals a day. Then instead of having it 7 days a week, cut it to 6 days a week.

Does this have anything to do with prepping? In my opinion, it has a LOT to do with prepping because a healthy diet helps you get in shape, and being in shape will be really important after SHTF.

Blood is thicker than water…

Yes it is but it means the opposite of what most people think it means – that family ties are stronger than other ties. The complete meaning though is blood of the oath is thicker than water of the womb – in other words, an oath tie (at least a blood oath) is stronger than “blood” relations. I can verify this through personal experience. My sister’s (or as I fondly refer to her as ex-sister) has no loyalty to the family. She opposes us on everything, especially religion and politics, and is always anxious to point out how “wrong” we are about, well, just about everything. Then at the slightest little push-back starts ranting about how we’re all “personally attacking” her, “don’t respect” her, and how she feels alienated from the rest of the family. Guess what bitch? You are. When you walk away from kin, openly mock the values you were raised with and attack family members for defending those values, you ARE alienated from your family. As far as I’m concerned you are no longer kin. We didn’t alienate you, you removed yourself by your thoughts, words, and deeds. Hence EX-sister.

That explains it…

Yep, white people really ARE inferior…

“Whiteness is not humxness, in fact, white skin is sub-humxn,” she wrote. “All phenotypes exist within the black family and white ppl are a genetic defect of blackness.”

Now we know why white people are stuck in dead ends like getting an education, holding a job, and not knocking up every skank who will spread her legs…

Just think how much better we’d all be if only we had known. The “black way” is better. We could all just sit at home, bitch about “crackers,” and be “baby-daddies” to as many crack hoes as we want, all the while collecting government checks and plotting the death of whitey.

Prepper vs Survivalist

Prepper vs Survivalist… what’s the difference? It depends on who you ask, and everyone has an opinion. Most over complicate it. It’s easy to see why…

“Preppers” after all are just basically responsible adults. They can see what is coming and prepare for it, just like a responsible adult SHOULD do. “Survivalists” are either gun-crazy, SOF wanna-be’s or weird guys that think they can escape the coming doom by hiding in the forest…

Well, not really. In my experience, preppers tend to focus on things. Might need a knife? Better have 3 or 4. Use electronics? Better keep them in a Faraday cage (emp you know…). Guns? Maybe but if yes than not just guns, but thousands of rounds of ammo, reloading gear, and the means to make your own black powder – just in case. A year’s supply of food is of course a given. And of course, endless debate about whether it’s better to be a lone wolf or join a group. If joining a group, what is the “best kind” to join, etc… Not that preppers don’t place value on skills and knowledge, it’s just that the ones I’ve met place a lot of value on having the right stuff…

Survivalists otoh (at least the ones I’ve met) seem to place more value on skills and know-how. Not that tools (“the right stuff”) aren’t important, just that they’re not as important as your brains and muscle.

Which is better – prepper or survivalist? At this point in my journey, I think they’re both wrong and both right.

Baofeng UV-5R – Quick Look

Baofeng UV-5RWhen I decided to get my amateur license, I did a lot of reading before deciding on what radio to buy. Based on a lot of negative things I found written about Baofeng radios, I decided to get a Yaesu VX-60R. It’s a nice radio, but finally the low price of the UV-5R (less than $30 on Amazon) was to much to resist, so I got one just to check it out. For $26, I am pretty impressed.

First, I’ll get the “bad” out of the way. According to some sources, Baofeng radios are prone to spurious rf emissions and/or transmitting out of band. I’m not a radio tech and I don’t have a spectrum analyzer, so I’m unable to test mine to see if it suffers from this problem. I know that I get good signal reports, both in simplex mode and when hitting the local repeaters. Another alleged problem is receiver selectivity/sensitivity. This also hasn’t been a problem for me, but radio traffic where I live is pretty sparse. The final issue is warranty coverage. The only company offering US-based warranty support for Baofeng radios appears to be BaofengTech, and they don’t carry all models. If your radio isn’t one they do, it will have to go back to China if warranty work is needed.

OK, so now for the good. First of all, it’s less than $30. For that price you also get a charger with drop-in charging tray (something that is a $40 extra for the much more expensive VX-6R). It’s a dual band transceiver (2m and 70cm) and can also receive FM broadcast band. There are 200 memory channels and it has a built in flash light. Battery life with the included lithium ion (1500 maH) battery seems better than my VX-6R as well. The only thing you’ll need to make the UV-5R useful is a programming cable and Chirp programming software. You’ll have to buy the cable, but Chirp is free.

Programming and using the UV-5R is easy. First, just plug in the programming cable, fire up Chirp (you can ignore the warning message about Baufeng’s firmware), set up your channels/frequencies, and you’re ready to rock. If you don’t know what frequencies to put in, contact your local amateur radio group for a list of local repeaters which will give you a good start. Power is controlled by a power/volume knob on top of the radio, which is also something I like better than the power button on the VX-6R. The orange VFO button controls frequency/channel mode, and the up and down arrows step you through your stored frequencies or channels. The numeric keypad lets you manually enter a frequency in VFO mode or a channel if in Channel mode. There can be a lot more to it, but that’s all I’ve had time to play with so far and anyway I like to keep things as simple as possible.

Bottom line? I really like this radio. It’s easy to program, easy to use, and the built in flashlight is nice to have. It’s not as solidly built as the VX-6R, but it also didn’t cost $265. Considering the price and what you get, the UV-5R is an incredibly good value.

What did you do to prep this week – April 10 thru 16?

Last week I ordered a book, The Reluctant Partisan Volume One which got here Monday so I started studying it. This is a fascinating book. I don’t agree with some of the author’s views on the desirability of tribalism, but he’s 100% spot on on what is going wrong in our Republic. It’s heavy on fighting tactics and the need to be fit and strong. I liked it so much I ordered Volume Two and his third book, Forging the Hero – Who Does More Is Worth More. If I have time, I’ll review these…

I attended the local prepper group’s monthly meeting. The topic was “Communications for Preppers.” There was lots of information but too much navel gazing. I get the need to prep for an EMP event and how to prep for it, but discussing the “why” – shifts in the earth’s magnetic core, etc – seems like a total waste of time. Kind of wish the group would shift back to more practical application stuff instead of all the “what if,” “why is this happening,” and assorted “dark swan” BS.

Finally, I took and passed my Technician Class amateur radio license exam. Woohoo!!! As soon as I got home from the test I started studying for my General Class license. The test is in 2 months and I’m going to pass it the first time too…

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of standards in a prepper group lately, and while the page I’m linking focuses on “what,” the takeaway for me isn’t what gear is best, but as a determination of effort and commitment to the group. Buying shit doesn’t necessarily demonstrate effort or commitment, but requiring people to do something that takes time and effort – let’s say, oh… getting licensed in something… demonstrates at least a minimal level of effort and commitment. If I have something to say about the standards of any “formal” prepper group I join (and I will, or I won’t join) at a minimum I’d insist that members of the group have (a) a technician class or higher amateur radio license, (b) a concealed carry permit, and (c) some level of formal first aid training.

What did you to to prep this week – April 3 thru 9?

For me, not as much as I’d hoped. I’m taking my Technician Class license test next Saturday, so I was planning on studying at least 2 hours a day. Due to work and some health issues, I didn’t get that done. It might have been a blessing in disguise though since I started monitoring my BP after not doing that for too long and found I’m having a problem with it again. So most of my preps for the past week were health related:

Started daily monitoring of my blood pressure
Switched doctors and made an appointment with the new one. Last time I saw a doctor was over 2 years ago, which is kind of stupid considering I have issues with high BP and cholesterol. My old doctor sucked, hopefully the new one will be better.
Got a book on working out without weights, Convict Conditioning. I love this book – starts you out slow on six basic exercises (with many variations of each) without the hype of most workout books. Worth a try…
Cleaned out my garage enough to access my work bench
Got the back yard about half ready for planting vegetables in a few weeks

I also checked out a few prepper blogs (more to follow on those) and decided to sell my AR15. Where I live, a .22 would be a lot more useful and the funds from the AR will easily pay for a Ruger 10/22 with enough left over for ammo and targets. Hopefully NEXT week I’ll be able to spend a lot more time studying for the license exam since it’s next Saturday and I don’t want to wait 3 months for the next exam.

What did YOU do to prep this week?

What are you prepping for?

If you want to get strange looks, suspicious glances, maybe even see people physically recoil, just casually mention to friends or family that you’re a prepper or at least interested in prepping. I get funny looks from both my wife and my mom whenever the subject comes up. I know sometimes prepping gets a bad rap, but of all people you’d think my mom and my wife would know I’m not a “crazy”…

The first time happened when I told my wife I wanted to get five cases of distilled water. She couldn’t imagine why we needed it, after all we have tap water. I asked her what happened if something went wrong with the tap.

“Well, if that happens we’ll just go to the store and get some then. Besides, you don’t have room to store it.”

So I explained that if everyone went to the store at the same time to get water as us, the store might be out of water and we wouldn’t have any.

“Oh come on. That’s not going to happen.”

So I asked her if she didn’t think it was a good idea to have some water on hand just in case, to, you know, be prepared?

“Prepared for what?”

The next time happened when we visited my mom. I’d just gotten a copy of Preppers Blueprint and I took it along to read. My mom noticed the book and asked what it was. I told her it’s a book on prepping.

“What is prepping?”

So I told her a little about it and why I am interested in it.

“Oh, what are you prepping for?

Well, what am I prepping for?
First of all, I’m not a doomsday prepper. I don’t believe there is a coming zombie apocalypse, and if there is large scale nuclear war I think I’d be better off at Ground Zero than living through it and dealing with the aftermath. That’s just me, YMMV. I’m more into prepping for things that are likely to actually happen to me or my family. Boring things like what if there’s a major snow storm and I have to get home from work, pick up my kid from school, and make sure my wife can get home safely from her job. Or the power going out for a few hours or a few days. Silly things like getting a fixing a stuck toilet valve (do you have any idea how much it costs to get a plumber just to take a look?). I’m prepped for a house fire. Major illness. Financially, I’m taking steps to make sure we could survive either or both of us losing our jobs. Putting a plan in place to communicate with family and friends even if the internet is down and the cell phones aren’t working.
When I think about it, most of what I’m doing to prep wouldn’t have been called “prepping” 30 years ago, it was just what people did back then so it didn’t even have a name. I guess if you’d asked somebody to call it something back then, they might have just called it “common sense.” So maybe I’m not really prepping at all, I’m just practicing “common sense” – which doesn’t seem to be very common these days. Maybe that’s why id needs a special name. It’s not an action, it’s just a mindset that leads me to do certain things. And even though I’m not prepping for TEOTWAWKI, I think my mindset and the things I do because of that mindset will help me and my family survive most big events that could happen. Well, except maybe a zombie apocalypse or large scale nuclear war.
What are YOU prepping for?

Prepper Comms…

How do you communicate? Probably lots of ways 🙂 Face to face is the most reliable, explained here (first paragraph) better than I could explain it myself.

Besides talking to someone face to face, your choices are phone, radio, snail mail, or over the internet. Snail mail is slow and sometimes gets lost on the way. Phones (esp. cell phones) and the internet rely on infrastructure that you can’t control and can be shut off whenever on someone’s whim. Radio OTOH can only be jammed. Because of this, I think radio is the best choice next to direct communication.

Assuming radio is the second best choice, what radio should you get? There are lots of choices, which one is the best for a prepper? That depends on a few things. Radios fall into several types. Some radios require a license to operate legally. Range depends on frequency, output power, antenna type and size, and quality of the radio. I really believe the “best” radio for a prepper is one that operates on the amateur bands, i.e. Ham Radio. The only downside is a license is required to legally operate on the Ham Radio bands.

Since some preppers don’t have and won’t get an amateur radio license, I want to talk about unlicensed radio use. Radios that can be legally operated without a license include Citizens Band (CB), Family Radio Service (FRS), and Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) radios.

CB radio is legally limited to 4 watts of transmitter output power, which is plenty for local communication if you have a good antenna. In my area, almost no one is using CB, so the band is pretty much wide open (other locations might not have it so good). Some CB radios can also operate in Single Sideband (SSB) mode, which increases the legal transmitting power to 12 watts and has other characteristics that increase the range of a CB in SSB mode over one operating in standard (AM) mode. In my oppinion, the only currently available CB radios worth considering are the Uniden Bearcat 980SSB and the and the Midland 75-822. The 980SSB is a mobile unit that can be set up as a base station if you have a 12V DC power supply. It can operat in both AM and SSB modes, and can also receive NOAA Weather Alert frequencies, which is a nice feature. It doesn’t suffer from frequency drift like the SSB CB from Galaxy. The 75-822 is a hand-held unit (walkie talkie) that can also receive the NOAA weather channels. Range with the “rubber duckie” antenna sucks, but still better than the Uniden PRO401 (which I also have). It only operates in AM mode (no SSB), but there is an available car power adapter and tuned roof mount antenna, so it can also be used as a mobile CB. Assuming a good antenna and maximum legal power output (4W), the range of a CB radio operating in AM mode can be up to 10 miles and possibly more. CB radio has 40 channels allocated. By regulation, Channel 9 is reserved for emergency communications, and by convention SSB is generally used only on Channels 16 and 36 – 40.

FRS radios are legally limited to 500mw output. They also operate on UHF between 462 and 467 MHz, so they’re basically line of site. That means if there is anything (a hill, lots of trees, buildings, etc) between you and the person you’re trying to talk to, you might not probably won’t be able to communicate. Some makers advertise a range of “up to 36 miles,” but that is under ideal conditions – like mountain top to mountain top with nothing in between. Real life performance is more like 1/2 to 1 mile. FRS has 14 channels allocated, 7 of which are shared with the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) band.

MURS radios operate on VHF between 151 – 154 MHz and are legally limited to 2 watts of transmitting power. Only a few companies make MURS transceivers, so they tend to be more expensive than CB or FRS radios. The frequencies they operate on work better in rural terrain than FRS radios but not quite as good as CB. On the other hand, MURS radios operate using frequency modulation (FM) which is more immune to radio noise than CB radio, so the range can be as good as CB in spite of the lower transmitting power. MURS has 5 channels allocated.

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My choice is CB. The band is pretty much unused in my area, so there is almost no interference. I also like the potentially longer range and that there are 40 available channels instead of just 5 or 14.