Tuesday, October 13, 2020

20 Things to Do By the End of the Year

 In no particular order...

  1. Vote.  Needless to say in this contentious election season, everyone should vote in November.
  2. Complete the census.  As soon as possible as it looks like it may be terminated early.
  3. Complete these financial tasks prior to the end of the year.
  4. Continue to stockpile (and rotate) food and supplies.  We may or may not have another lockdown due to the pandemic so everyone should be prepared for this possibility.
  5. Continue your health and fitness routine into the winter.  Being in excellent physical health is a great hedge against chronic disease as well as the many viruses that circulate during the winter.
  6. Complete all of your medical tasks (physical, vaccinations, visions exam, dental work, prescription refills, etc) before the end of the year (use up your HSA and/or take advantage of already meeting your health insurance deductible to do this).
  7. Redouble your efforts to get out of debt as soon as possible.  More info here.
  8. Review your bug out bag and make sure you have winter-appropriate items in it.
  9. Make sure you vehicle emergency kit has appropriate items for winter in it (snow chains, de-icer, an ice scraper, etc.).
  10. If you are still in a precarious financial situation due to the pandemic, filling out and submitting this form may keep a roof over your head through the end of the year; use it if needed.
  11. Make a note of any problems your home has during the winter (leaky gutters, drafty areas of your home, missing door or window insulation, etc) so that you will have a to-repair list come spring.
  12. Try your hand at winter gardening.  This may require a cold frame or a green house but any food you can grow yourself makes you a little less reliant on the grocery store supply chain.
  13. Consider donating to those in need this holiday season if you can.  Food, gifts, money...there will be a lot of people needing help this year so consider helping others if you can.
  14. Consider taking advantage of holiday sales to pick up items you need for your emergency stockpile/gear.  Today is Prime Day so people are sharing info on social media about prepper items on sale (LifeStraw and battery packs were a couple items noted), ammo is always a sought after item (again, social media groups usually post info about ammo sales they find), and bicycles, outdoor gear, etc. are all useful for preparedness and may be put on sale this holiday season.
  15. Use YouTube to brush up on your survival skills while you are home-bound for the winter (HAM radio, shooting skills, outdoor survival skills, etc. are all covered ad nauseum on YouTube).
  16. Try winter camping.  Camping in the snow is a completely unique experience and, even if you have to set up shop in the back yard, consider trying an overnight in the freezing outdoors (doing so as safely as possible, of course).
  17. Polish up your resume and, if possible, learn skills that will make you even more marketable in the coming year (there are plenty of training resources available online for free to do this).
  18. If you need to bulk up your emergency fund or pay off a debt, consider picking up a seasonal job.  Amazon, USPS, UPS, retail stores, etc. all tend to hire for temporary jobs ahead of the busy holiday season.
  19. Practice your cooking and baking skills.  Most people got a crash course in cooking at home during the early days of the pandemic; being able to learn these skills at your leisure instead of during a crisis is always a better option.  Again, YouTube is a great resource for this.
  20. Consider investing in bigger self sufficiency items as funds are available.  A Berkey water filter, a solar panel/portable power station set up, a wood stove if you have access to wood, a complete set up for canning, a complete set up for reloading...whatever your needs are, figure out how to be more self sufficient in these areas.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

50 Evacuation Tips

With a lot of the west coast on fire and folks on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts always on alert to evacuate, especially during hurricane season, I'll toss out these tips in case you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing to evacuate your home at a moment's notice:

  1. Put news and other info sources on your cell phone so you can stay informed of developing disaster situations (examples here and here).
  2. Put emergency alert apps on your phone as well (examples here and EAS alerts for your area).
  3. Put a go bag together now to use in an emergency.  Make one bag for each family member and one for your pets.
  4. Put all of your medications in one spot (like in one plastic storage box with a lid) so you can grab your meds on the way out the door.
  5. Speaking of meds, take a picture of every prescription medication you have so that if they need to be replaced you will have the info on your phone.
  6. Pre-plan multiple evacuation routes from your home.  Have both paper maps of your area as well as off-line Google maps on your phone in case you need to reroute while evacuating.
  7. You can usually Google the name of the incident and evacuation shelters if you have no where to evacuate to.  Most counties set these up once the incident command system has been set up for the disaster.
  8. If you don't have a vehicle or are otherwise unable to evacuate yourself, make this the most pressing part of your emergency planning.  Do you have a dirt bike you could use, can you pre-plan with neighbors to go with them when they evacuate, can your home-health nurse direct you to assistance to help you in an emergency?
  9. Evacuate as early as possible (you don't want to be caught in the hoards all trying to leave the same place, on the same packed roads, because you waited so long to go).  People with severe health problems (ie: require medical equipment to live, have serious chronic health conditions, women due to give birth within a month or so, people needing dialysis, etc) should evacuate even earlier.  Even if it is a "false alarm", better safe than sorry.
  10. Prioritize evacuating due to what can kill you fastest.  I know people who have barely left their homes since March due to covid but in the case of a wildfire or hurricane heading your way and being afraid to leave and catch covid, leave.  Wildfires and hurricanes can easily kill you, covid probably won't (plus you will be able to get to medical care eventually anyway).  Wildfires and hurricanes aren't so forgiving.  Here's some covid tips during a disaster.
  11. Plan now to have multiple places you could evacuate to, in your local area, across the state, and even across the country if necessary.  Coordinate ahead with family or friends if you intend to stay with them, and realize that local hotels near the disaster area may be fully booked so if this is your plan you may need to go even further away than you planned.
  12. When you are evacuating, look for and avoid hazards like downed trees, downed power lines, flooded roads, etc.
  13. Make a checklist of what you will need to grab and throw in your vehicle when evacuating...kids, dog, go bags, box of irreplaceable items, meds, laptops, cell phones, etc.  You want the irreplaceable items to be pre-staged together because you won't have time to go through the house and decide what to take with you during an emergency evacuation.  You also want your checklist to be as thorough as possible because in a high-stress situation you may not remember all of the normal things you wouldn't otherwise forget...so write it down.  Everything.
  14. Conduct regular evacuation drills with the entire family and try to improve your time with each event.  
  15. Have a family communication plan as well as a family evacuation/reunification plan.  Family members may not all be together when a disaster strikes so everyone needs to have several places they could meet up at and a way to contact each other.
  16. Be sure your vehicle is always ready to go.  Make sure it is in good working order, insured, the gas tank is more than half full, be able to completely fill the tank with reserve gas before you leave, etc.
  17. Always have a good amount of emergency cash on hand as well as a couple of zero-balance credit cards to use in an emergency evacuation.
  18. Regularly update your home inventory video and keep a back up copy of this video with you in case you need to file an insurance claim after a disaster.
  19. When you have spare time, try to digitize (scan and save to your computer) as many documents and pictures as you can.  In the event of an emergency leaving with all of your important pictures and documents on a small USB drive is much easier than lugging crates and crates of hard copy documents with you.
  20. Regularly back up all of your computer files.  This way even if you lose your computer you will still have all of your files.
  21. Make sure you have appropriate insurance for your situation including home insurance/renter's insurance as well as additional insurance for expensive jewelry or collectibles, flood insurance, etc.
  22. If you have time, make a sign and tape it to your front door that tells emergency personnel that you have evacuated.  We have evacuated to ______ on date/time via route __________.  And your cell number.
  23. Also, throw a coin on top of anything that is liquid but frozen in the freezer like the ice cube tray or sauce, etc.  If you come back and the coin is on the bottom of the item it will probably mean you should throw all of your food out as the power had been out long enough to allow the frozen item to defrost.
  24. If you have livestock, pre-plan how they will be evacuated during an emergency.  If it is impossible to evacuate them, leave gates and pens open so they won't be trapped and they may be able to save themselves.  Also, chip your pets and livestock for easier identification if you get separated.
  25. Use social media to seek assistance if needed.  During the Oregon wildfires this week people have been using social media for everything from seeking rides out of the area for themselves to asking for help/trailers to evacuate their livestock.  
  26. Listen to local radio stations on your vehicle's radio for the most up-to-date evacuation information when you are leaving.  Ditto, if you know a hurricane or wildfire may be heading your way, keep the local news on TV to ensure you have the most current info on the situation in your area in the time leading up to your evacuation.
  27. If you choose to ignore evacuation warnings, understand that calling 911 for help when TSHTF most likely won't result in a quick rescue; they won't send people out to rescue you until after the disaster has passed as they don't want to unnecessarily risk the lives of rescuers.  Also use a Sharpie to write your social security number on your arm to make your body easier to identify after the disaster.
  28. Be aware of local conditions before you go camping/go on vacation/head out hunting/etc.  Your area may be fine but the situation at your destination may be on the edge of an apocalypse due to a natural disaster like a wildfire of hurricane.
  29. Have a NOAA weather alert radio if you live in tornado/hurricane-prone area.  If the disaster happens at night, you want to be alerted immediately.
  30. When packing your vehicle to evacuate, bring the very least amount of stuff possible (people, pets, go bags, some food, some water, camping supplies).  Most stuff is easily replaceable, lives aren't so leave unnecessary stuff behind and get out as quickly as possible.
  31. If you can, without endangering yourself and your family, assist others if possible.  If you see people trying to walk out of an evacuation area, tell them to hop into the back of the truck and help them escape the area.  Check on elderly neighbors as soon as you know you may need to evacuate to ensure they are ready to evacuate too.  
  32. Prepare your home ahead of time, if you have time and will be evacuating.  How to prepare your home to evacuate a wildfire and how to prepare your home to evacuate a hurricane.
  33. Be sure to throw disaster-specific items into your vehicle before you leave (pre-staged, of course).  Masks and goggles to protect your nose and eyes in a wildfire area, a chainsaw and fuel in tornado/hurricane areas, work gloves and work boots if you will be doing clean up, etc.
  34. Be sure you bring enough bottled water and easy to eat food with you.  Local stores may be shuttered and outlying stores may be low on stock so the more food and water you can bring with you the better.
  35. Know where you can get assistance once you evacuate the area if needed.  Places like the Red Cross, your local or state DEM, FEMA, etc. all usually have disaster assistance programs to help displaced people.
  36. Bring a HAM radio with you.  In large-scale disasters, cell towers may be down and a HAM radio may be your only means of communication until you get to an area that hasn't been impacted by the disaster.
  37. Also bring plenty of entertainment items with you.  After the heart-stopping chaos of evacuating, there will be a lot of waiting.  Waiting for the disaster to clear, waiting to see if you can return home, waiting for FEMA and insurance companies to do their thing, etc.
  38. Determine the GPS coordinates of your home and record this in your emergency plan.  People go back to their neighborhood after a major hurricane or wildfire and can't even locate where their home should be because all of the normal markers are gone; knowing the GPS coordinates will help with this.
  39. Document everything.  Record and save receipts for all expenses (gas, food, hotel, etc), write down what you did daily after the evacuation, who you spoke to at the insurance company, the FEMA rep you talked to, etc.  All of this will help with your insurance claim afterwards.
  40. When you return to your home, photograph everything.  This too will help with your insurance claim.  Be sure to get the OK from FEMA/your insurance company before doing any cleaning/demo work/repairs/etc.
  41. Other than the judicious use of social media to alert friends that you are OK or to ask for specific help, try to avoid social media in general for a while (conspiracy theories, inaccurate reports of mass looting, and generally bad/incorrect information is being widely shared on social media now and people don't need to deal with this added stress in addition to the disaster at hand). 
  42. Be prepared to shelter yourself, feed yourself, provide your own power (like a battery pack), keep yourself warm/cool, provide basic medical care for yourself, etc.  Sometimes during large-scale disasters it may take many hours or even days for any sort of help to come, even if you have evacuated yourself from the initial disaster area.
  43. Be careful after a disaster that the appliances you use (generator, gas grill, etc) when the power is still out won't kill you with carbon monoxide; this is an unfortunately common event when people return home after an evacuation and utilities aren't yet on.
  44. If you have lost track of a loved one during a disaster, use Safe and Well and Facebook to try to locate them.  Your local disaster agency may also have a system for connecting people after a disaster.
  45. Before a disaster strikes, use you free time to learn about preparing for the most common disasters.  There is unending material to study on this topic on the internet and YouTube.
  46. Join your local Community Emergency Response Team.  These organizations provide free training, free gear, and free practice opportunities.  There are other ways to learn free disaster/survival skills in your community as well including volunteering for the Red Cross or Search and Rescue team, volunteering as an EMT or volunteer firefighter, etc.
  47. Try to buy your bug out bag gear/emergency gear as soon as possible, even if there is no disaster looming.  You want to avoid the hoards who will strip store shelves bare in the days before/day of a disaster. 
  48. Should you carry a firearm when you evacuate?  For many people this is a bug out bag staple but be sure you are properly licensed to carry the firearm and that if you are leaving your state, know the laws of the other states you will be going into.
  49. After your evacuation experience, jot down your "lessons learned" and if possible, share them with others as a way to help others be prepared for a disaster in the future (also update your evacuation checklist with anything that was missed/incorrect).
  50. If you will be doing your own clean up after a disaster, learn how to do it safely.

Monday, August 31, 2020

September is National Preparedness Month

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month?  It's a good reminder that no matter where you live, whether in a disaster-prone area or in a place that rarely sees any major disasters, September is the perfect time to get your preparedness plans/gear/skills together.  It isn't too hot in hot places, isn't too cold in cold places, and allows you to get ready before the winter (northern hemisphere) or summer (southern hemisphere) season begins.

Here's some ideas for this month:

Friday, August 21, 2020

100 Tips for the Soon to Be Homeless

With many eviction moratoriums ending next week, it's anyone's guess how things will shake out.  Without significant government intervention, however, I foresee a lot of people becoming homeless in the near future.  Hopefully things don't end up that dire but as preppers, it is always a 'plan for the worst, hope for the best' thing.  If you could find yourself in this situation, here are 100 tips for the soon-to-be homeless...

  1. Know what the eviction process is for your county (Google the name of your county and eviction process for info on your specific area).  Even with the moratorium ending, in the vast majority of cases your landlord can't just tell you to get out, there is a process for evicting someone; make them follow this process.
  2. Get legal help if possible.  Again, Google your county and eviction prevention assistance.  Many tenant organizations are gearing up for the possible mass eviction crisis and are putting together programs for people who are in the process of eviction.
  3. Consider alternatives to eviction.  An eviction on your record can make it difficult if not impossible to rent another place so things like "cash for keys" might be an option.
  4. If you have exhausted all options for staying in your home, try securing temporary housing with friends or family.  And for the love of all that's holy be an exceptionally good guest.  Many people open their homes to homeless relatives only to find them messy, they won't help around the house, they come and go at all hours, they eat all of their host's food, and they make no effort to move on to their own housing.  Don't do those things.
  5. Consider alternative housing options to keep a roof over your head.  Being a caretaker, a WWOOFer, or these ideas are all ways to exchange work for housing.
  6. Try to find programs in your community that can help you secure temporary housing.  Simply call 211 or Google homeless resources for your community and reach out for assistance.
  7. Sign up for any assistance you qualify for which may include but is not limited to Medicaid, TANF, SNAP, WIC, unemployment, PUA, etc.  Again, calling 211 or going online can give you contact information for these programs.
  8. Sign your kids up for any services or programs that they qualify for.  Register them for school (even with online school, districts are providing lots of social service help for families), homeless kid's daycare programs, HeadStart, etc.
  9. See if there are assistance programs that fit your demographic: homeless veteran, homeless college student, homeless child, homeless parent with children, battered woman, etc.  There are many programs that specifically work with vulnerable populations to find them housing.
  10. Get a mailing address before you move out of your home.  Private mailbox services will give you a steady, secure address to receive correspondence at and many of these places will receive packages and even forward your mail if you move out of the area.
  11. Get cell/internet service before you move out.  If Mint works in your area, pre-paying for an annual plan will give you a steady number and internet access for an entire year.
  12. For free or cheap cell phones and service, check out the various government programs that provide this.
  13. To go even cheaper for a cell phone/messaging plan, consider setting up a Skype account.
  14. Even if you don't have cell service, carrying a cell phone that doesn't have service will still allow you to call 911 in an emergency.  You can also use this phone with free wifi service to access email, social media, and entertainment services.
  15. Ensure that you have all of your important documents in your possession or in a secure location.  These include a valid driver's license or state ID card, passport, Social Security card, etc (see list here).  Be sure to scan and back up these document to the cloud or a thumb drive so you always have access to them.
  16. If any of your important documents will be expiring, try to get them renewed before you move out.  This includes your driver's license, passport, credit cards, etc.
  17. Also set up banking service if you don't have an account.  You can use any of these services, a local credit union, PayPal, Venmo, etc.  This is a good way to receive Social Security/welfare/unemployment benefits as well as a way for friends or family to send you money if needed.
  18. Set up any bills you have so that you can pay them online (car payment, storage locker payment, cell service payment, etc).
  19. If you aren't in arrears, be sure to get back any deposits you are entitled to (housing security deposit, utilities deposit, etc).
  20. Consider what to do with all of your stuff as far in advance of moving out as possible.  Selling it (garage sale, FB Marketplace, etc), giving it away, etc.  Some people will put their stuff in a storage unit but this can be a big monthly expense and if you can't make the payment you may lose your stuff.  For the most freedom and least expense, consider keeping only your most important stuff.
  21. If you will be living in your car, watch every one of this guy's YouTube videos and commit the information to memory.  His channel is by far the most informative I've seen for living in a car/van/camper/etc.
  22. Hoard as much cash as you can before you leave.  Cash is king and you will need money to make the transition from home to homeless.
  23. Get needed gear together whether you will be living in your vehicle or in a tent.  Cold weather gear, camping gear, a bag or backpack for your stuff, etc.  Many of these items can be found for cheap or free at thrift stores or by asking friends or relatives for the things you need.
  24. If you have a vehicle, do what you can to make it ready for living in.  Set up a sleeping area, get an oil change, get tires if needed, get the windows tinted, etc.
  25. Also if you will be living in your vehicle, stay on the right side of the law by having a valid license, required insurance, no illegal after-market parts, etc.
  26. Know where you can legally camp for free.  This includes public land and many other places.  Be aware that camping in urban and suburban areas may be illegal so know the local laws.
  27. Prep for sleeping.  Do you need a tent?  Sleeping bag?  Sleeping pad?  An area set up in your van?
  28. Prep for eating.  Do you have basic dishes, pans, and utensils?  A way to cook like a backpacker or camp stove and fuel?  A way to store food and/or keep food cool?
  29. Prepare to stay hydrated.  Always carry a water bottle with you and fill it up in public places.  Keep larger bottles of water in your vehicle.
  30. Prepare to always have food.  Know where the local food pantries and meal programs are and always carry food/snacks with you even if you buy this stuff at the dollar store.
  31. Prepare for hygiene.  Do you have personal hygiene supplies?  A place to take showers?  Supplies for a sponge bath like Wet Wipes and a towel?
  32. Prepare to stay connected.  Do you have a cell phone with internet?  A tablet or laptop?  Do you know where you can access free internet?
  33. Prepare for your power needs.  A battery bank is a good idea and can be charged just about anywhere.  If you have a vehicle you might consider a basic solar power system to provide needed electricity.
  34. Prepare for your bathroom needs.  This includes using public bathrooms (there's even apps for that) as well having a bucket system in your car to use in the event of an emergency.
  35. Get a library card and make use of your library system.  Libraries often serve the homeless with everything from entertainment (free books and movies), computer and internet access, a place to stay warm or cool, etc.
  36. Do what you can to get any sort of income coming in.  This can be working a regular job, making money online, or one-time gigs.
  37. If you will be living in one community and don't have a vehicle, consider getting a monthly local bus pass.  This is good for transit as well as a place to go to get warm or cool off.  Many transit services have free or discounted passes for those in need.
  38. Find a "tribe" to live with.  This could be other people/families living in their vehicles, joining vehicle caravans, or banding together with other homeless living on the streets.  There's safety in numbers.
  39. Avoid the legal system if at all possible.  Whether it's a ticket for loitering or using a deadly weapon to protect yourself, plan ahead to avoid situations that could have a bad outcome and land you in legal trouble.
  40. Don't commit crimes.  Buying/selling drugs, shop lifting, B & E, theft or robbery...in these cases it isn't if but when you will be housed...in the local jail.
  41. Prepare to blend in to your environment.  You don't want to be a flashy homeless person in a sea of homeless people, you also don't want to look (and smell) like a homeless person if you are going to a job interview.  Aim for being as nondescript as possible and make sure your vehicle/backpack/gear is the same.
  42. Consider volunteering.  If you have all the time in the world, volunteering may snag you a free meal, free services, or maybe even a free place to stay when people see that you are responsible, helpful, and a hard worker.
  43. Avoid some types of homeless people (the mentally ill, the violent, drug addicts, users) and make friends with other types of homeless people (travelers, vagabonds, the homeless by choice, etc).  All homeless can teach you good survival skills but there is something to say for avoiding people who will cause you problems.
  44. Consider where you want to be homeless.  There's something to be said for moving with the weather, living near friends or relatives even if you can not live with them may or may not be a good idea, and personally I would avoid cities that are overwhelmed with the homeless already (I'm looking at you LA, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle).
  45. Be ultra safety conscious in where you choose to sleep.  Obviously living in a vehicle is safer than sleeping on the streets, living alone in the woods is safer than being in an urban "skid row" area, and staying in a homeless shelter may (or may not?) be safer than sleeping in an alley.
  46. Consider weapons.  This will vary greatly depending on where you are.  In some places it is perfectly legal to carry a firearm concealed without a permit in other places this is a quick trip to jail, mace is generally acceptable in most places, and carrying a knife can be legal or illegal depending on where you are and what kind of knife you carry.
  47. Avoiding violence is your best bet.  Needless to say, there is a lot of violence on the streets, even more so for the homeless demographic.  Avoiding violence is always the best option and hand-to-hand combat should be your last option.
  48. Consider security,  Maybe a money belt to protect your cash and important documents, a locker to store your gear in, and tying your bag to yourself when you sleep.  
  49. Avoid anything that makes you vulnerable on the streets.  Alcohol, drugs, even legal marijuana will lower your guard and make you a vulnerable target for robbery, theft, and violence.
  50. Consider getting a dog.  This is a personal choice, of course, but dogs can be both a companion as well as a source of protection (or at least an early warning signal) when sleeping on the streets.
  51. Be ready to leave your camp spot at a moment's notice.  Whether you are sleeping in a tent or in your vehicle, always have your stuff ready to pick up and go in the event of an emergency.
  52. Pay attention to your health.  Staying healthy is of the utmost importance on the streets.  As is avoiding heat stroke and hypothermia.  Be sure to address medical/dental problems early rather than later, carry your own basic first aid supplies, and hit up a free clinic if necessary.
  53. Most communities have homeless services, ranging from shelters to meal programs to transitional housing/work programs.  YMMV  Some people absolutely refuse to sleep in shelters (often with good reason) while other people don't want anything to do with the government so refuse to apply for any type of service.
  54. Have a good pair of shoes and a few changes of socks.  You may end up walking a lot and there is a world of difference between cheap, ill-fitting shoes and a good pair of walking shoes.  You can buy these on sale and sometimes even find a good pair at a thrift store.  Dry socks are also important for keeping your feet in good condition.
  55. Dress in layers.  This is the best way to stay cool/keep warm.
  56. Prepare for rain.  In a car, this means having good windshield wipers and a full tank of windshield wiper fluid.  On foot, this mean having all of your gear in plastic bags to keep your gear dry and using rain gear/an umbrella/a poncho to keep yourself dry.
  57. Study up on backpacking and camping skills (example here) as these skills are often transferable to living homeless.
  58. Study up on being homeless.  With the internet, there is an endless amount of material on this topic (example here).
  59. Do something while you are homeless.  This guy was homeless and decided to write a book about the topic, this guy is homeless and has a very successful YouTube channel on the topic, and this formerly homeless lady used her experience to become a homeless advocate.
  60. Homelessness may be all in the attitude, case in point, people who are homeless by choice include this guy, this guy, and this guy.
  61. Speaking of attitude, having a positive, upbeat attitude, as well as good social skills, will make you a person other people want to be around and want to help.
  62. Always be on the lookout for things you can use: food you can forage, change on the ground, possible sleeping places, a good fishing spot, plastic bags, etc.
  63. Also carry useful items with you: a silcock key, fishing line and hooks, basic tools in your car, etc.
  64. Up your situational awareness skills.  Learn how to read your environment, how to read people, and learn how to think on your feet.
  65. Look at options that may help you avoid homelessness like joining the military, joining job corps, getting student loans and going to college, etc.
  66. Use social media to your advantage.  You can use social media for everything from keeping in contact with people, to sharing your story (sometimes with surprising outcomes), to building community, etc.
  67. Be on the lookout (via social media, online local newspapers, etc) for pop up programs that can help you: free vaccination clinics, the annual homeless count where they hand out clothing and supplies to the homeless, free community events, cooling/warming shelter locations, etc.
  68. Use your free time (and free wifi) to learn new job skills (examples here and here).
  69. Consider starting your own business while you are homeless.  This can range from busking if you have a talent and a good location to any of these ideas.
  70. Get answers to your questions about being homeless from people you meet who have been living homeless for a while as well as from forums on the topic (examples here and here).
  71. Hit up the dollar store for all kinds of cheap but useful homeless supplies: tarp, paracord, food, flashlight, batteries, matches, sewing kit, first aid supplies, etc.
  72. Carry some cardboard and a big marker for sign making (hungry need money, need a job, need a ride to X, etc).
  73. Be sure to tell people what you need.  Ask for gift cards, ask for socks, if your backpack is almost trashed, ask those who want to help for a new backpack.  Many people want to help the homeless but don't really know what they can use. Be specific and reap the rewards.
  74. Be careful about loaning money or things to other people (you will probably never see it returned) and also try not to owe people favors.
  75. Don't do drama.  Don't talk about others, gossip about others, snitch on others (depending on the situation of course), tell other people what to do, etc.  Keep to yourself as much as possible.
  76. Consider getting a gym membership.  If you can afford it, this is a popular option, especially for traveling homeless as they can exercise, maybe go for a swim, and take a shower at gyms around the country (like 24 Hour Fitness, etc).  YMMV during a pandemic of course.
  77. YMMV with churches as well.  Some churches are really helpful, some host food pantries or meal programs, and some have full-fledged homeless outreach programs.  OTOH, beware of cults and cult-like activities at some churches, you may need to check your religious opinions at the door, and not all church program workers are as saintly as they appear.
  78. Always have plenty of plastic bags on hand.  From ziplocs to huge trash bags, these are useful for keeping your stuff dry, organizing your stuff, and to use as trash bags or for collecting foraged produce.
  79. Basic self-care activities should include taking a daily multi vitamin and brushing and flossing your teeth.  You want to ensure your basic health and these are simple activities to do so.
  80. If you eat at a fast food place, be sure to save packets of condiments for future meals.  Salt, pepper, mayo, ketchup, Tabasco...all will help make your rough-cooked meals more palatable.
  81. Speaking of food, once again backpacking food tips work equally well for the homeless who don't have the luxury of a refrigerator or food storage options.
  82. Seek out assistance for problems that are keeping you homeless like mental health problems or addiction issues.
  83. Make a plan to get out of homelessness.  This could include learning job skills, getting a job, getting into alternative housing, etc.  Lots of people have done this, there is always hope.
  84. Consider moving to a state that offers more homeless resources.  Some states offer better homeless resources than others.
  85. Live as minimally as possible.  Unfortunately it isn't if your stuff (backpack, even your vehicle!) will get stolen, but when.  Not everyone has their stuff stolen but it is a pretty common occurrence in the homeless community so the less you have, the less you have to lose.
  86. Use clever ways to hide your valuables while you are homeless (examples here and here).
  87. Join local homeless advocacy groups.  These groups work to remove obstacles to getting people into housing, abolish laws that punish the homeless, and work to increase homeless services.  If you are front and center in these organizations, you are more likely to benefit from their programs.
  88. Beware dangerous activities when you are homeless.  Train hopping is risky, as is hitchhiking.  Squating can be dangerous as is going off alone with strangers.
  89. And while I pointed out the danger of squatting and train hopping, know that there are a lot of people (AKA 'misfit travelers' AKA homeless folks) who do just that either by choice or circumstance.
  90. Logically look at your homeless options.  Some people rave about being homeless in Hawaii, the reality if often much different.  Would living in a "lawless" city of homeless be ideal?  Is living in the tunnels under Las Vegas really a good idea?
  91. Be aware that violence is very common in the homeless community.  Being attacked by a mentally ill person, stabbed by someone out of their mind on drugs, being tricked into prostitution, and random violence just because a homeless person looks like an easy target are all too common.  Be aware of this and take precautions to avoid these situations.
  92. Did you know that if you have been homeless and traveling, there are programs that can provide you a free bus ticket home?  Examples here and here.
  93. For people who have a little money (on Social Security, have a tiny pension) but can not afford a home in the US, living overseas in a very cheap country might be an option. 
  94. You've heard of leave no trace camping?  Homeless people who leave no trace (set up camp after dark, be packed up and leaving at daybreak, not leaving trash behind, etc) will be more welcome in a community than those who throw up a tent on the sidewalk and use people's front lawns as their bathroom.
  95. The same is true for people living in their car.  Switching locations each night, blacking out your windows so it doesn't look like people are living in a car, not leaving a mess around your car, and even disguising your car as a work vehicle will make your unorthodox living arrangements more stealth and less likely to draw the ire of the locals.
  96. A couple more car tips: avoid parking tickets and moving violations.  Also don't leave stuff like drugs or stolen goods in your vehicle which could make your vehicle subject to civil forfeiture.
  97. Check your local state parks for cheap camping options.  In New Mexico, for example, a local senior can camp for an entire year in their state parks for a grand total of $100!
  98. Some other options for homeless travelers, getting a free place to stay through CouchSurfing, Servas, or Warm Showers.
  99. Another option for traveling and settling in the cheapest places possible is becoming a digital nomad.  There are a bajillion YouTube videos on this topic as well.
  100. More info on homelessness here.
Finally a disclaimer:  First, with the covid situation, these tips may or may not work.  Libraries are a great option for the homeless, on the other hand libraries across the country were shut down for months on end due to the pandemic.  Also, while I have been homeless for a couple years by choice, I've never been homeless due to circumstance (meaning I had plenty of money and options while traveling around the world and was never desperately broke and living on the streets...there is a world of difference between those two types of homelessness). 

Friday, August 14, 2020

5 Things to Prepare for Now

2020 isn't over yet and if there is anything we have learned from this year so far, it is to be prepared--even more prepared than usual.  It's also been a pretty crappy year and the crappiness seems like it is set to continue.  Here are five things to be prepared for in the coming months:

  1. Winter storms.  It isn't if but when winter storms will pummel most of the country.  The east coast got a preview of what can happen recently when a powerful storm hit and took out power for millions for days on end.
  2. Civil unrest.  Again, we got a preview of what could happen with all of the BLM protests and take-overs of sections of cities during the past couple months.  With the elections coming up, plan on fairly dramatic civil unrest events no matter who wins the election.
  3. Illness.  Covid is already here and doesn't look like it will be going away for a while; add the upcoming flu season on top of the coronavirus and things could go to hell in a handbasket fairly quickly.
  4. Poverty + mass evictions + food shortages + mass job losses.  With eviction moratoriums ending soon, state and federal government which isn't providing adequate financial support to its citizens, many many people with no jobs to go back to, and rumbles of food shortages...this fall may culminate in misery for many.  Prepare accordingly.
  5. A noticeable lack of services usually provided by your state's government.  School--and its funding--is already up in the air due to covid, many state unemployment systems are running out of funds, defunding police either due to lack of money or lack of political will to, you know, fund a very necessary service...and the term "fend for yourself" may develop a whole new meaning over the next several months.  Again, prepare accordingly.

Monday, August 3, 2020

100 Super Cheap Preps for the Next Disaster (76-100)

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3

76.  Create/enhance your social safety net.  Build friendships and improve relationships.  Polish your social skills and be useful to other people.  Offer help when you can, seek help from others in your social circle when needed.  
77.  Be proactive.  If you could possibly end up homeless, don't wait to prepare when the sheriff shows up on your doorstep, use the internet (example here and here) to help you plan and prepare for such a possibility.
78.  Try going 24 hours with being untrackable.  This means no cell phone, no fitness watch, not driving your car, avoiding street cameras, not using the internet, paying cash for any purchases, not using loyalty cards, etc.
79.  Learn hand-to-hand combat.  Hopefully you never find yourself in such a situation, but knowing karate/MMA/krav maga/etc. is both good exercise and a last-chance survival skill.
80.  Question everything.  The regular media, social media, and all other public forms of communication are a dumpster fire these days.  Don't believe everything you see/hear/read and learn how to do your own research to find out the truth of whatever matter you are interested in.
82.  Reconsider your bug out plan.  My bug out plan included places in Europe and Asia as well as across the country.  With the pandemic, both Europe and Asia were shut down to Americans and the couple of places across the country were even more draconian than my current home state so some reconsideration is in order.  Other people figured they would flee NYC to "the country" not realizing the locals in Connecticut to Maine were less than enthusiastic about their plans.
83.  Strive to be as self-sufficient as possible.  Know ahead of time that the government isn't going to save you (as exemplified by the mass evictions that are about to happen, the lawsuits against states that are dragging their feet/refusing to pay unemployment, and the difficulty of receiving any sort of food/housing/medical coverage/etc if you are poor) and plan accordingly.
84.  Rethink your housing options.  The pandemic created some significant changes to the social structure in our country.  Extended families decided to quarantine together, adult kids moved back in with parents, grandparents moved in to help with the grandkids, etc.  If the current social structure isn't working for you, consider other options re: school/work/housing/etc.
85.  Keep an eye out for sales on items that are most likely to sell out during a disaster.  Collect up these items as funds allow, either for your own use or to share/sell/barter to others.
86.  While I wouldn't suggest panic moving, now may be a good time to move if you are so inclined.  House values are still strong in many areas so getting your equity out is possible, and if you have been planning for a while to make the move, you may have many options in the near future (depending on how the eviction moratorium shakes out, how the economy goes, etc).
87.  Stockpile necessary medications if this is possible (and if your doctor will help you).  Also consider putting in the effort to reverse certain chronic conditions so you won't even need medications.
88.  Create secret hiding places in your home for your emergency cash and other valuables.  These secure places are even more important in a SHTF situation when people become even less law-abiding than they are now.
89.  Develop multiple streams of income.  The more ways you can earn income, the better, as we saw during the pandemic shutdown.
90.  Set up your tech so you can do everything from home--banking, bill paying, working, attending school, meetings, etc.  Many of these services are free via apps, Zoom, etc.  Also, consider upgrading your tech as funds become available (better computer, better microphone, better webcam, etc).
92.  Learn from backpackers, campers, and vandwellers when it comes to things like finding and purifying water, sleeping in the rough, generating your own energy, staying clean on the trail, etc.  When the infrastructure goes down, you can use these same skills at home. Again, YouTube is a goldmine for info on how to do this.
93.  Cut your utility bills (water, electricity, gas, garbage, sewer, phone, cable, etc) as much as possible; this will immediately put more money in your pocket and teach you how to live less extravagantly. 
94.  Avoid trouble.  Whether it is "bad" neighborhoods, roving gangs, or violent protests, use the media (TV news, police scanner app, Twitter and other social media) to figure out places you should stay away from in order to avoid trouble.
95.  Know what your local gun laws are and what constitutes a "good shoot".  Shooting someone in self defense is highly subjective and the outcome will vary greatly depending on the details of the case as well as the jurisdiction the shooting happened in.  If at all possible, try to never find yourself in such a situation (avoiding law enforcement and the legal system as much as possible is always recommended!), but if you do, you want to be 100% in the right (avoiding things like this or this will save you a lot of drama and legal fees).
96.  Get rid of your addictions.  Easier said than done of course, but quitting things like drinking, smoking, drugs, etc. will not only save you money but will probably save your health as well.
97.  Work on skills such as flexibility, "going with the flow", improvising, adapting, and overcoming...basic life skills that will allow you to deal with and fix problems with a minimum of aggravation and drama.
98.  Keep all of your preps quiet.  Don't tell anyone (except for your spouse, probably less so your kids) how much money you have stashed away, how many guns you have, about your giant stockpile of food and supplies, etc.  Letting everyone know how well prepared you are will make you a target if people get desperate and even close friends and family members may try to guilt you into providing for them because they chose not to prepare and were then faced with a disaster.  Helping people should be your choice, not an expectation by others.
99.  Get your important documents in order and update them as necessary.  You don't want to be sorting out the legalities of things during a disaster that could have been taken care of with a simple document.
100.  Approach disaster prepping, and actual disasters, with a good attitude and a sense of adventure. You can't change the disaster situation but you can learn, grow, and maybe even enjoy the experience a bit (the sudden stopping of most social obligations during the pandemic was actually a welcome thing IMHO).

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

100 Super Cheap Preps for the Next Disaster (51-75)

Part 1.  Part 2.

51.  Take your cell phone and video tape all of your possessions.  Be sure to video everything in the house, garage, and outbuildings as well as any possessions in the yard.  Back up these videos with your regular files to use in the event of an insurance claim.
52.  Develop some hobbies.  As we saw during the pandemic lockdown, people had a lot of time that they didn't know what to do with.  Other than bingeing Netflix or YouTube, it is a good idea to develop non-internet-related hobbies to entertain yourself and your family when you have free time.
53.  Pre-prepare and pre-stage your disaster gear.  If you live in a flood-prone area, put your survival gear in the attic along with the tools to extricate yourself from said attic if this becomes necessary.  If you live in tornado alley, stage your emergency gear in the basement.  If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, put your gear where you can access it even if the house falls down.
54.  Make a list of every bill you pay (monthly, biannually, annually, etc) and look for ways to reduce these bills.  This can be as simple as changing cell plans to checking with you local assessors office to see if they offer any type of property tax exemptions that you qualify for.
55.  Slowly build up your food stockpile.  Buy a few extra things (bag of beans, canned food, etc) each time you go to the grocery store in order to build up your stockpile.  Be sure to keep this food organized and rotate it in with your regular food so it doesn't go bad.
56.  Consider buying an Instapot when you find one on sale.  These do-everything crockpots/pressure cookers are a great way to cook everything from beans to meats quickly and easily.
57.  Spend a week or two this summer camping or backpacking with the family.  This is a great way to practicing wilderness survival skills when the weather is good.
58.  Take a walk around your neighborhood and find resources that could be useful in a disaster: water sources, dumpsters, fruit/nuts growing wild, etc.
59.  Take a walk around your home and neighborhood at night at see what you can find.  This will be a good reminder to close the blinds at night otherwise you can see everything in people's homes and they won't be able to see you standing outside.  You will also get a feel for who is home and who is gone at night, as well as what other activities are happening in your neighborhood at night.
60.  Practice using alternate forms of transportation besides your vehicle.  Walk or ride a bike to do errands, ride the city bus, take a train or Flix bus to a more distant place for the day or weekend.
61.  Improve the security of your home by doing free or cheap tasks that will make your home safer.
62.  Review, update, and improve all of your medical kits.  Check your EDC first aid kit, vehicle first and kit, and home first aid kit and make sure the supplies aren't expired, and that you aren't missing any critical items (many of which can be bought cheaply at the Dollar Store or local pharmacy).
63.  If you live in an area prone to tornadoes or hurricanes, buy a NOAA weather alert radio.  Your safety is well worth the $30 cost of one of these valuable radios.
64.  Spend the weekend doing a "Swedish Death Cleaning" of your home.  Getting rid of stuff you no longer need can both open up more space in your home and make you some extra cash if you decide to sell the stuff you don't need at a garage sale or online.
65.  Put all of your emergency supplies in one place where they are organized and easily accessible.  You don't want to have to run all through your house to find candles and matches when the power goes out, hunt down a flashlight in one place and batteries in another place, or gather stuff from all over the house when you only have minutes to evacuate your home.
66.  Do some research and find out what the most likely disasters are in your area.  This is especially important to do when you move to a new area.  Do you live in an earthquake or flood-prone area?  Do you live where a dam could break or where winter storms are common.  After you find out what disasters are most likely to happen, use this knowledge to prioritize where you spend your disaster preparedness time and money.
67.  Invest in items that you can use everyday that will help save you money.  If you have lots of trees on your property, a wood stove may be a good investment to provide heat as well as a place to cook.  Lehman's Store will give you lots of ideas for useful, old fashioned items you might find useful (don't forget to look for these items at your local thrift stores and garage sales to find them even cheaper!).
68.  Pick up a hobby that will both save you money as well as give you options for earning money.  Computer repair, building computers, solar tech, building furniture, etc. are all fun hobbies, can save you money, and are usually in demand for paying gigs as well.
69.  Look into gig-type jobs if you need to build up your savings quickly.  Driving for Uber or Lyft, delivering pizza, short-term contract work, etc. are all quick ways to make some extra cash.
70.  Do a bit of searching to see if there is unclaimed money waiting for you (add this money to your savings or buy more emergency preparedness supplies with it!).
71.  Speaking of free, did you know that there are still places that will give you free land?  If you are looking to get away from the crowds, this may be an interesting opportunity to look into.
72.  Spend quality time with your kids (sans electronics and internet).  Play chess, play Monopoly, play tag, play hide and seek, set up an archery range if you have room on your property, play paintball...play games together, have fun, and the kids won't even know they are learning useful survival skills.
73.  Work on big projects.  You can start with a cheap, broken down bicycle you find at the thrift store and fix it up to usable condition.  Maybe move on to motorcycles and cars.  This way you learn valuable skills and end up with items you can either use or sell.
74.  When you do decide to splurge on higher priced items, check discount sites first like Steep and Cheap, several online discount ammo stores, Tech Bargains, etc.
75.  See if paying an annual fee will net you a bigger discount than paying the regular individual price.  You can save big on car insurance by paying six months at a time, a cell phone plan by paying a year at a time, buying a lifetime National Parks Pass or an annual state park pass will save a lot over paying the daily entry fee, etc.

Part 4....