Category Archives: Prepping

Ignorance is bliss?

I’m in the process of joining CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). CERT is a local program under the guidance of US Citizens Corp and FEMA. Because I’m joining, I get emails about upcoming training opportunities. One upcoming class is titled Active Shooter in Public and Private Environments. I work at a public college, so I thought my boss might be interested in attending. He wasn’t, no big deal. What I thought was kind of a big deal was his response:

“That’s not our job, that’s what the police are for. So many people in our department are wanna-be cops.”

Huh? Excuse me? I’m not a wanna-be cop, and I have absolutely zero interest in trying to be a hero in an active shooter situation. I do, though, have a huge interest in surviving an active shooter situation if I’m ever in one. I probably never will be, but there was one in Las Vegas last month, and one in my city just 2 days ago.

According to the flyer I got, the class applies to volunteers, students and employees of other private and public workplace domains. Wouldn’t that description include employees of a community college?

The 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’s 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.

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 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.

So, what are YOU prepping for?

Prepper Comms…

Besides talking to someone face to face, you can communicate by 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.

For unlicensed 2 way radio, 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.