Signs of Financial Collapse and How To Avoid Last Minute Mayhem

Greece is now being compared to a country that has had its economy devastated by war. As on Sunday, Greek politicians voted NO to accept further financial help and implement austerity measures at the request of European bankers.  What is the result of this vote?  The Greek people have been forced to reduce their lives to the bare necessities.


Greece bare shelves

Aris Messinis/AFP

While the people have been forced to deal with decreasing incomes and supply problems for some time now, recently the situation has picked up speed. The Greek crisis began in 2009, so they have had years of cutbacks to prepare them for their current situation. We thought it would be an interesting opportunity to peek in on some of the signs of economic trouble that we should all watch out for, and some things we can do ahead of time.

These trouble signs are not just for far away countries, but our own nation and even our cities. When you see the following signs, you should wrap up your main supplies list and ready your LAST MINUTE WANTS AND NEEDS LIST. The goal is to have your important items well before the supply shortages and price gouging takes effect. The Last Minute List (LML) is designed so that any shopping you do is in places opposite of other people.

Increasing signs to look for in a faltering economy:

  • Increasing unemployment

  • Increasing budget deficits

  • Downgrading of national or municipal credit ratings

  • Salary freezes at government level

  • Increased taxes on fuel, tobacco, alcohol and luxury goods

  • Cuts in public sector pay

  • Bailouts

  • Civil unrest, Union strikes

  • The use of the word austerity

  • Bank closings

  • Limits on bank withdrawals

  • Stores run low on supplies

  • Medical supplies and services reduced

  • Law enforcement, civil servants reduced

  • Bartering becomes more common

Currently in Greece there are countless reports of the communities coming to a standstill. Shops are closing and stores are out of stock in many items. Right now there is a run on the basic necessities. Foods, medicine, and toilet paper are being stripped bare and stored in preparation of national unrest and total financial collapse.

The current most popular items being hoarded:

  • Cash

  • Sugar

  • Flour

  • Pasta

  • Canned Milk

  • Chocolate

  • Rice

  • Any foods that are non-perishable

  • Medicines

  • Toilet Paper

Items such as meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables are becoming scarce. ATM machines have been running out of cash and there is very little cash left to resupply the machines, even with the severe limits on withdrawals by individuals. People on pensions are having trouble just getting through the long lines to get their money. Many shop owners have stopped accepting credit cards from national banks. The deposit insurance fund is drying up and the banks are reportedly forming a plan to seize money in many accounts over a certain threshold. The Country of Cyprus recently did this to boost their own economy, which led to people withdrawing their money and placing it elsewhere. This has also happened in Greece, that practice is called capital flight.

There have also been stories of families who are surviving because they have gardens and small livestock such as chickens and goats. It has taken a number of years to make the news about the current situation but the Greeks and citizens of many other countries have watched their way of life deteriorate. Those that took the time to prepare just in case of such problems seem to fare more well than those unable or unwilling to do so.

If you found yourself in such a spiraling and uncertain situation would you be panic shopping? Hopefully not, but if you do there is a strategy to reduce your exposure to the crowds. Most people will wait until the last minute and then seek out basic survival supplies. We don’t want to be in that category, we prefer to have that out of the way as much as possible.

Below we have created a Last Minute List (LML). The items on this list are going to help you create/repair shelter and other possible tasks of survival as well as the benefit of having barter supplies. While other people are out stripping the grocery store shelves, you may want to visit the hardware store, auto supply, farm store and such. You shouldn’t have as much competition for resources as long as you are where others are not.

This list may be customized for your situation.

The Last Minute List (LML)

This list is to be regularly reviewed and fulfilled as possible. In case of pending or imminent threat, procurement tasking of desired items should be assigned to members based on skills and transportation abilities. Attempt to locate items where others may not look. Attempt to conceal the spoils from others. Mind your safety and security at all times.


Big Items:

  • Tow Trailer: Covered if possible like a Horse Trailer.
  • Pack animals
  • Off road transport
  • Livestock
  • Farming equipment

Construction supplies (hardware)

  • Wood – 2×4, 4×6, plywood,
  • 2×10″ Pressure Treated Lumber for Raised Beds:
  • Nails – 1″, 2″, 3″, 4″ Galvanized,
  • Screws – 1″, 2″ 3″, 4″ wood and metal
  • Brackets: “L” – “T” – Straight
  • Metal Piping and PVC piping, fittings ½ “ and 1”- 90 degree elbows, couplings and various fittings
  • Bricks:
  • Glue: Similar to all purpose Gorilla Glue
  • Epoxy
  • Duct Tape: Gorilla Duct tape
  • PVC Glue and Cleaner:
  • Screening Material:
  • Electrical wire and connectors
  • Hand tools Hammers, wrenches, Screwdrivers, Crowbars, Machete, shovels, axes, files
  • Saws
  • Gloves
  • 12v car/ motorcycle Batteries,
  • 12v led lights
  • Jumper Cables
  • Carts, wagons
  • Bicycles
  • Mason String
  • Tape Measure
  • Hose, tubing
  • Barbed wire
  • Solar panel materials
  • Plastic bins
  • Metal trash cans
  • Tarps
  • Rope
  • Buckets
  • Rain barrels
  • Chicken wire
  • Animal feeds, Chicken Rabbit, Dog, Goat, Horse
  • Zip ties
  • Bailing wire
  • Bug spray
  • Pesticides
  • Fertilizers
  • Fly traps
  • Rat/mouse traps
  • Spare shoes / boots
  • Trash bags
  • Charcoal
  • Grill lighters
  • Deodorant
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dish detergent
  • Baby wipes
  • Spices
  • Aluminum foil
  • Saran wrap
  • Oven roasting bags
  • Black/ Gray/Green/Brown spray paint
  • Cotton sheets
  • Bungee cords
  • Surgical tubing
  • Funnels
  • Cooking oils
  • Motor oils
  • Spare filters for any engines
  • Automotive belts
  • Radiator hose repair kit
  • Flat tire repair plugs
  • Bulk Fabric
  • Fishing Supplies
  • Personal Hygiene supplies
  • Extra Medical supplies; Bandages to Tylenol

Extra Fuel:

  • Kerosene:
  • Gas:
  • Propane:

Other/ Bartering Items:

  • Disposable Lighters
  • Batteries
  • Vegetable seeds
  • Sterno fuel cells
  • Alcohol: Whisky, Scotch, and Bourbon, Rum, Moonshine
  • Anything items that could be traded for other supplies, keep in mind comfort and off grid survival items.
The situation in Greece didn’t begin yesterday and will not end tomorrow. It has been said that we are all poor at different levels and those who make the effort to create surplus will the ones that have the upper hand in a crisis economy.

What do want to add to the Last Minute List?

Is Your Survival Group On Its Last Breath?

How often do you hear this from your group members?


Man, our survival group stinks.

We’re just a drinking group with a survival problem.

We never do anything cool, all we do is meet every once in a while but nothing ever seems to happen. 


Lucky for you I have some simple ideas how to get our group back on track. You need to start making things happen or your group will fizzle out, they always do.

Fun Fact:

Do you know what the most common problems are in groups?





Why? Well there are a number of reasons but often it’s because it usually isn’t as fun as expected, it truly is that easy. People stop showing up and the people that do show up either do all the work or spend their time socializing or disagreeing.

<<<Caution: Problems being solved ahead>>>

If you want people to spend their valuable time with you building a group, you need to give them something to work with. You must give it an identity and offer people a mission that they believe in. Even if you have a group that has been meeting for a long time you may need to take a step back and make sure you are moving in the right direction. We see groups that have fallen into autopilot mode and that’s not always good.

Championship sports teams don’t just keep winning because they keep winning, they need to re-calibrate and retool their plans, plays and teams to stay fresh and ahead of the game.”

Once we know what we are not doing we can come up with some ideas to get some things done. Those would be called goals. A goal is something that can be accomplished within a reasonable period of time that keeps the ball moving.

I’ll give you an example: have you ever been to meetings where nothing gets accomplished, or you never seem to complete a project, or the team gives up? I know for a fact that some of you right now are nodding your heads because I see it all the time.

“I don’t want excuses, I want results”

This is where the action plan comes in. Once you decide what you want to accomplish you need to take steps to get it done. Did you know that most people who are given responsibility would try harder to complete that responsibility if they believe in the task and know people are counting on them? Especially if they have to stand up at the next meeting and give a status report. You did choose the best people for your group didn’t you? Well you are about to find out.

Let’s get into how we should identify our goals and how to make that action plan so your group is working like a Swiss Watch. We are going to keep it simple and not bite off more than we can chew, for now. Remember, you want people to show up, participate, and go home feeling like they had a good time so they will keep coming back. They probably didn’t sign up for a second job so keep that in mind.

Have you ever heard the saying: “Train as you would fight and fight as you trained?” In order to train for the battle you are expecting, you need to know what you are expecting. Keep it close to the basics because every scenario you can imagine has similar requirements for survival. If you are prepared for an extreme natural disaster you are still pretty well covered in case of a zombie apocalypse. The main difference is the length of time you would need to be self-reliant.

“At the end of the day all you are trying to do is stay fed, watered, healthy and safely sheltered for as long as possible, so just do that stuff.”

How do I get this thing started?

Begin by asking your group a couple of basic questions and see if the answers are at least somewhat similar. If so, you are in good shape. If not then you’ll need to focus your group content at a lower common denominator so everyone is getting what they want from the group.

(Hint, there are no wrong answers, this is just feedback for planning)

  1. What is everyone preparing for?
  2. What are you as group currently doing to get prepared?
  3. Are the families supportive of what you are doing? Why not? What are you doing that turns them off? Maybe you need to refocus at the lower common denominator and re frame the discussion to a vision that is less extreme and more attractive to the layperson to get them involved.
  4. What kinds of things would you like to work on to get better prepared?

Your group is for all intents and purposes an extended family and it may seem like everyone has a different idea on what you should be doing. By clearing up the confusion of the basic stuff you pave the way to doing the cool stuff.

Let’s be SMART about this

Use the SMART method for determining what you want to get done. That’s another way of saying “setting goals.” When you have some ideas of things you want to do, take a moment and see if your idea meets the challenge of being SMART.

Ask yourself, is my idea:






Sample NOT SMART idea:

Let’s go turn Rusty’s house into a fortress! That’s a pretty tall order and could take a very long time not to mention we would all do it differently. Look at the Doomsday Castle as an example of different… and still not done.

Ok, let’s try again:

“How about we go on a camping trip where different people in the group teach skills they are good at to the rest of the group?” Is this a SMART idea? Not yet. It’s the beginning of an idea but not a goal that people can get behind yet. It’s actually more of a thought that will become another lost fantasy unless we nail it down.

How about we try it this way?

Get the leaders to meet sometime before the general group meeting to come up with ideas to get people involved. Then at the group meeting announce that we want to plan a camping trip to Rock Lake Wildlife Area in September where we will have members teach each other skills, try out our gear, cook-out, let the kids play and have some fun.

This meets the SMART guidelines and shows the group is doing fun productive activities.

Now that you have a goal you can put it into action.

The best way to do this is to form a team to make it happen. You can either volunteer or voluntold some people to form the planning team.

They will in turn take the larger problem of organizing the campout and break it into smaller pieces

  • Get available dates for the site in September
  • Get pricing for the site and a list of amenities
  • Create a list of class ideas and instructors
  • Create a time schedule for the event and classes
  • Come up with some social time ideas for the families
  • Plan group meals
  • Make a flyer with all the details for the group

And that’s how it’s done.

By creating good ideas that fit in with what the group is all about and including everyone you will:

  • Increase participation
  • Members will become more committed
  • Families will be involved
  • People will learn new things
  • The teams will work better
  • You will really get to know each other
  • The group will become stronger and more flexible
  • The dead weight of the group will disappear or at least you will know who they are

If you have ideas to share with us of things your group likes to do, post in the comments. People are always looking for good ideas.


Stolen Valor, Lies and Exaggerations: How They Harm You and Your Group

In light of Brian Williams of NBC News embellishing his involvement with the US Army in Iraq we are going to offer some tips and conversational strategies for identifying those who claim to be something they are not.

When Brian Williams claimed to be in a helicopter that was shot down in Iraq he was originally questioned, but the controversy gave way to more pressing matters such as the actual war that was happening. Eventually the crew that was actually shot down got enough attention that people began to listen. Brian Williams was apparently never in the Chinook helicopter that went down, nor was he in the next one in the flight. His crew popped in for a photo op and moved on to a new location at a firebase. He claimed that he was looking down the tube of the RPG that struck his bird. None of this was true. He was never in danger, his flight landed after the area was secure with tanks and Bradley Fighting vehicles according to the last story I read. The problem here was not just this lapse of memory but also a series of lies and exaggerations that spans years of reporting the news. Why is this of any concern to us? When someone who is in a position of trust fabricates a new reality, those of us who follow along are misled and may make decisions based on these falsifications. In a survival group such lies can have dangerous consequences to our loved ones and ourselves. Follow along as we layout some clues and strategies for revealing lies and exaggerations by those people who claim to “have been there.”

Most people who embellish or make up a history of service in the military have a tendency to choose a Hollywood job such as Airborne Ranger, Special Forces, Navy Seal or Delta. Rarely do you see someone claim to be a cook, mechanic or in some sort of support role.

A more crafty liar may attempt to lessen any real scrutiny by flying under the radar claiming to have been something more difficult to verify, such as a translator or interrogator, or a more secretive job such as military contractor or agency ghost. I have personally experienced this with someone. No true vet wants to insult a brother’s story but sometimes, there are enough inconsistencies that bring the whole story into question.

When someone who is interested in joining the group claims to have military service it would be wise to have a true veteran feel them out through conversation. This will be helpful in two ways. First, it will help to expose a faker or at least find out if the person was embellishing his or her record. Second, this method will also serve to relax a true veteran by showing that there are others like him in the group that understand what he may be going through.

Veterans are a different breed of people who may have difficulty relating to civilians, this is especially true if the veteran has seen combat or been in service for a long time. They may come off as rough around the edges or impatient with civilians, only someone who has been there can truly relate at their level and establish a good dialogue.

It is also preferential to identify if a veteran was truly trained in a combat arms role or a support role. The reason for this is two-fold. First, the other group members may look at anyone with military service as the answer to all tactical problems, as most civilians only know about military operations from movies and TV shows. However, this is simply not the case.  There are a multitude of support and administrative jobs in the military, and these service members, though they have put the time in and have some tactical training, are simply not prepared the same way that the tactical combat units are prepared.  This is not to diminish their time in the service, but simply to point out that just wearing the uniform doesn’t make you the next Mykel Hawke. This is a problem and it may lead to a false sense of security in the group, which may only be revealed when an emergency tactical situation arises. Such a case could lead to disastrous results.  Imagine if your family had befriended an alleged military veteran who claimed to have experience in tactical and life or death situations and such a scenario actually presents itself. You might make decisions based on this misinformation. The truth is that no matter how much a person wants to believe that he or she would hold up in combat, there is no way to know until it happens. Some people want to belong so badly that they will embellish their own history just to be accepted.

Second, you will also want to know if this person has actually seen combat and how long has it been since he has seen any action or training. Many of the skills we are trained in as combat troops are known as perishable skills. If we don’t practice reading map and compass or tactical shooting we grow rusty.

Another angle that is regrettably all to common these days due to our country being on a war footing for so long is the problem of PTSD. Some people have experienced horrors so terrible that they don’t cope well back on the block at home. If a member of your group is experiencing PTSD how will he operate in a tactical environment? Will he swing into action appropriately or avoid loud noises altogether? Chances are these guys are avoiding the idea of joining a survival group that plans a more tactical footing but it is good information to know when interviewing new members.

The main reason to know if a support soldier embellishes his or her record and claims to be something they are not is the trust factor. If a person feels the need to role-play for attention and or respect, his character should come into question.

Unfortunately not everyone who dons a uniform is a hero and only the true veteran can spot the lie. A certain amount of discretion must be applied as these days many people who were actually deployed down range regardless of duty or MOS (Military occupation Specialty) have seen combat or been exposed to action. If possible use a combat vet as your interviewer as opposed to a support vet.

Suggested Strategies and Talking Points

There are a few simple strategies one can use to ferret out the truth. The quickest way is to lull the person into a position of comfort and feed into his story to get him talking. Save the direct challenges at first to loosen him up. Here are some conversational tips:

  • Use some jargon and see if they understand and respond in kind. If they claim to be in the Air Force and had an MOS, they weren’t there. The Air Force uses an AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code)
  • Ask them where they were stationed, specifically, which base or post. If a Ranger doesn’t know where Ft. Lewis is, or an Infantryman is unaware of Ft. Benning, or if an Airman doesn’t know where Nellis AFB is located, those are clues. If a Marine thinks Camp Lejeune is in SOUTH Carolina, also an indicator that they were never in the service.
  • Often the phony will claim to be so special that he never had to clean while in service. That is a huge clue! Everyone becomes very intimate with cleaning supplies and barracks inspection regardless of service.
  • Often the phony doesn’t take the time to learn his charade in depth. Once you start asking specific technical questions or misleading questions that they can’t discuss that is a clue.
  • If you ask someone what they did in the service and they keep saying that they were so secret that they can’t discuss it, the country or unit, it may be a ruse.
  • If a person is out in public in uniform such as at a parade, protest or at a mall for example and there is not a military post anywhere in the area, this should raise questions. The same should be noted if a person shows up to interview with the group while in uniform. Usually these people have no understanding of proper medal, rank or patch placement. They also are not familiar with the rank structure within their chosen service.

UPDATE: New regulations have began to prohibit the wearing of uniform outside of base or post due to terrorism threats.

  • Equipment is also a trip up for the phony. Everyone who served knows what an FM or a TM is as well as hand receipts and other physical equipment or paperwork.
  • Every soldier also has a load of humorous or service specific stories related to buddies or places served. As you chat you may stumble onto something they say that you are familiar with. That is your opportunity to drop a phony question to see if they blindly agree.
  • If the person claims to no longer be in service ask him for the form number of his discharge. It is either a DD-214 or NGB-22 If he is still in service he will hold an approved ID card
  • It usually takes only moments to out a phony and there are plenty of resources to report such an imposter. Keep in mind that some people don’t want to talk about their service but if they bring it up and claim to be a veteran, they will also likely desire to back up their story. If an imposter is revealed, he should never be trusted or allowed to join your group.


Operations Planning for Your Family

Due to the nature of survival it is wise to prepare for what to do in case someone becomes incapacitated, missing or leaves for some reason, even if the event or absence is only temporary.  A disruption event can happen at any time; it doesn’t matter where everyone is or what they are doing.

To ensure that the family can come together and continue to operate you will want to do some key tasks ahead of time.

First we want to understand the different types of event that could happen and how they relate to your situation at the time. A tornado, for instance, is a very possible event that will drastically affect a relatively small number of people at one time and usually occurs with predictable severe weather. Often the tornado strikes during the day when everyone is separated, but not always. As for an event from the complete other end of the spectrum, a massive grid down power outage that keeps a city without electricity for many days, weeks or months will affect large numbers of people and cause all sorts of societal problems and could happen at anytime.

In either of these scenarios there is one thing in common, you and your family.  You have already stocked and planned for what to do in case of disaster, but have you planned on what exactly to do if someone is lost or incapacitated? What if that person, or even you, are the only one who knows how to survive, operate a well pump, flip a breaker, shoot a weapon safely, access a bank account, contact relatives, etc. In short, are you or the kids prepared to take over the leadership position in case the worst happens?

In the case of a large scale event you may have to bug out or you may even have people coming to you. In a survival group there are usually several people with key skills, but for a small family, this may not always be the case. In a complex survival situation it will be very difficult to know and do everything by yourself so why not plan ahead so you can keep operating if such a time comes.

Top 5 reasons you will need to consider a continuity or succession plan:

    • A key person is delayed by  disaster conditions or travel restrictions
    • Someone is injured, ill, lost or killed along the way
    • Someone cannot participate because of their own lack of planning
    • Not able to communicate for some reason leaving everyone else in the dark
    • Perhaps a key person just chose to not participate for some reason

How do we get started?

The first steps are to identify who is key to the plan and identify an alternate person who is not in the primary member’s traveling party or immediate family. This is to give the best chance of the alternate showing up and staying with the survival group, family or community. The alternate should be able to perform the duties of the primary and be trained properly. Importantly, the alternate must be made aware of his/her title as alternate, and must voluntarily accept the assignment. At this point the alternate will provide all possible contact info to include an out of area relay contact so that there is the best chance of communication.

*Important tip: Anytime an out of area contact is to be used as a relay point for information, the information relay person must be made aware of the arrangement and be ready to answer calls from unusual numbers.

Next is to identify key operations. These are tasks or processes that must be done to provide for the safety and welfare of the family or survival group in an emergency.

Key operations may include:

  • Activating the emergency plan

  • Collecting everyone from work, school, shopping or other travels

  • Security: protecting everyone and everything from loss or destruction at all times

  • Food and water provisions to keep everyone going strong for the predetermined period of time. i.e. 3 days, 3 months, 1 year, etc.

  • Sheltering: keeping everyone out of the elements

  • Energy for warmth, power or communications

  • Transportation to re-position resources or evacuation

  • Medical response to injuries and safety oversight during emergency activities

  • Site safety such as immediate response to fire, flood, wind events, dangerous people

  • Communication with each other and outside world. Use your Commo Plan to stay in contact and set up a relay contact that is far away from the event location

  • Evacuation/convoy in case of rapid displacement

But what about the smaller disasters?

Not every event is the coming apocalypse, what happens if a family member is in a car accident? Your wallet gets lost, you must hurry to a family emergency out of town for several days. Who will hold down the fort, feed the kids and pay the bills?

This is when your Family Contingency Binder (FCB) will prove to be a lifesaver, This is a notebook that contains all of your operational information from critical documents such as birth certificates to credit cards to insurance policies and vehicle titles.

The FCB also has your emergency plans, maps to important places, passwords to everything, medical information, wills and trusts, Powers of Attorney for someone to handle your affairs and those of your children and actual written phone numbers to everyone important in your life (just in case you lost your cell phone too).

Just as with planning for alternate key personnel, alternate methods to achieve key operations should be defined, documented and communicated to all personnel within the group or family, not just those involved in those operations. Resilience depends on a group wide effort and everyone should know what is supposed to happen and how it should get done, this way people can adapt as needed and remain close to any defined objectives or wishes. Be sure to keep all of this information secure and under lock and key but don’t forget to make sure that several people know how to access it in an emergency.

If a sudden emergency strikes and you must evacuate quickly, try to take your binder, it will have everything you need to recover from a burned out home, prove who you are and get your life back on track.

When you take some time to prepare the people in your life as well as the stuff on the shelf you will begin to see that you may need less stuff. Share your plans and expectations with the people around you so they can be there when you need them the most and have them do the same. Give everyone the tools they would need to stand in for you if something happens, because something always happens.

For more information on group and family contingency planning, check out The Survival Group Handbook at 

Why Survival is Mental At Any Age

Survival is not always a gear-centric proposition.

In fact, gear is only a small (albeit important!) factor in many scenarios. It has been said that survival is 90% mental and 10% everything else. A recent tragedy in the news demonstrates just how true this is and offers some great opportunities to learn from a brave young girl’s actions.

Many people familiar with the story of Sailor Gutzler will insist that it is only by divine intervention that a seven year old was able to survive in freezing conditions lost and wandering in thick woodlands at night for help. While a miracle is possible, along with an amazing amount of luck, the will to survive likely kept her going long enough to find help for her family.

At the innocent age of seven this girl was not tainted by the demon of hopelessness, she was apparently taught by her parents when to go for help in an emergency and a plane crash where her family wouldn’t wake up certainly met the threshold of an emergency for her. She had a mission and was determined to go for help.

As we read a summary of her story I want you to consider your possible actions from two angles, the victim and the person who answered her knocks at the door.

Important thoughts and take-a-ways from her experience:

  • What is the importance of individual basic survival skills?

  • Would you know what to do if you were presented with the responsibility of caring for victims until help arrives?

  • Would you know what to do, both as a victim and as a citizen first responder?

  • Do you know how to call or signal for help?

  • What skills should kids learn and how early should we start them?

A summary of Sailor Gutzler’s story:

A 7-year-old girl survives a plane crash that kills her whole family on a trip back from the Florida Keys to Illinois. The small twin-engine plane crashes in stormy weather at night and ends up upside down in thick woods in western Kentucky.  There were 4 other people in the plane with her, her two parents, a 9-year-old sister and 14-year-old cousin. After the crash everyone in the plane was unconscious, she tried to wake them up but was not successful.

Sailor climbs out of the upturned aircraft past her dead family dressed only for the warm Florida weather in a t-shirt and shorts, no shoes and no jacket. She has a broken wrist, cuts and bruises. She finds herself in wet 38-degree weather with no idea where she is and no indication of civilization in sight.

The wing of the plane is on fire. She attempts to lite a stick to make a torch to see with but the wet weather doused the fire. There is no trail for her to use and she is not at all outfitted for the journey.

Knowing she must go for help she chooses a direction and walks nearly a mile in dark, dense, wet, freezing underbrush of thickets, blackberries, fallen trees and a 12-foot deep creek embankment.

With great fortune she eventually stumbles upon the only occupied house in the area for miles. Had she gone in any other direction she would have certainly been lost to the environment and succumbed to hypothermia.

Upon getting someone to answer the door she has the composure to explain her ordeal and ask for help. She gives enough accurate information about her situation to guide rescuers on foot to the crash site within 2 hours. She also gave enough information to increase the response from lost child to downed aircraft; this can make a difference in the type of assets called in and the speed of response.

It has been reported that the second grader had been taught some basic survival by her father and it seems that she attempted to apply some of that knowledge in her situation.

Let’s think about how this situation played out and then how we can learn from it. Ask yourself or even better; ask your family the following questions. Keep in mind that this was a seven year old who acted with amazing resolve. Think of how you would do things different at different age, health and skill levels.

    • What was working against Sailor? (Climate, fear, terrain, etc.)
    • What did she do right?
    • What poor decisions did she make?
    • What could she have done to better her chances? (Put on shoes and warm clothes, left a message at the crash, etc.)
    • Think of some similar situations that we might find ourselves in? (As a rescuer and possibly a victim)
    • What are our immediate basic needs in a survival situation?


In order to survive we must address our basic needs of physiology then safety and while they are very closely related, they must be in this order. When you find yourself in a survival situation, your decisions and priorities of work must address keeping you alive and safe before you do anything else. Only then can you work on improving your position, signaling for help or setting off to find help.

This leads us to the well-known Rule of 3’s

In any extreme situation you may not survive for more than:

    • 3 minutes without air (underwater, confined, hazardous atmosphere)
    • 3 hours without shelter, clothing (freezing, hot, exposed)
    • 3 days without water
    • 3 weeks without food.

The Rule of Threes is just a guide or rule of thumb and is not scientifically accurate in all situations. The thing to remember is that if you make it to 3 in any of these categories, you are already in serious trouble and going downhill quick, hence the need to protect your physiological situation first and foremost.

Take-a-ways for the victim of disaster or tragedy

  • Provide for your physiological needs such as air, food, water and shelter/ create a microclimate
  • Assist others in your situation
  • Secure the scene and make your location safe
  • Plan to be rescued or decide to thoughtfully self-rescue
  • Use your surroundings and all resources to your advantage
  • Continually update your plan and predict for important needs
  • Draw on your will to survive and have a reason to survive no matter how odd it may be, this is critical and gives you a mission to accomplish (think of the movie Castaway and the FedEx box)
  • Focus on the job at hand and just keep going

What if someone else needs help?

As a citizen you may be called upon at any time to help in an emergency and possibly even provide life saving medical assistance.  Most of the time we have something called reach back capability. This means that there is almost always someone else to call for the next level of care and support no matter how bad or how big the emergency or disaster becomes.

Since we do not very often call for help we may be a little rusty at actually providing the proper and timely information. Additionally the stress and or surprise of an emergency may very likely cause us to forget the most basic information such as where we are, our address, phone number or even our own name.  It may sound easy to describe what is happening around you but when the adrenaline begins pumping your words might just jumble up on the way out of your mouth.

So how do we react to something dangerous and unusual where people may be injured, maybe our family or even ourselves?

    • Take a deep breath to purge your adrenaline and unlock your muscles
    • Size up the situation for safety
    • Take charge or follow the lead of someone who seems to be knowledgeable
    • Don’t argue or make things worse
    • If appropriate, send a specific person or team to call for help (you may need to provide information to guide responders to scene)
    • Secure the area
    • Provide care up to the level you are officially trained in but don’t be afraid to perform lifesaving measures
    • Gather information and update responders when they arrive
    • Assist them if they need and want help
    • A responder may also have a heavy emotional load and may need to dig deep to endure tragic situations, respect that and give them space to work
    • In long duration events you must also care for yourself. Water, food, rest
    • After all is done it will be important to properly debrief and address your mental trauma as well as others involved. It may take weeks or months for trauma to manifest

If someone flags you down or knocks on the door you will do most of the same things we just talked about but maybe in a different order.

    • Calm the person down
    • Ask what happened
    • Is anyone injured?
    • What help do they need?
    • Where is help needed?
    • Gather information needed to direct response to scene
    • Call for help
    • Go to scene or wait for help to arrive
    • Size up the scene for safety
    • Update responders with any new information if necessary
    • Render assistance as needed

In the case of the young crash survivor, she went for help and the neighbor who was at home watching TV became the initial response.  He asked the important questions and got enough information to relay to 911 to get the proper level of help alerted and on the way. He then provided care until responders arrived.  The girl knew just enough to point the responders in the right direction of the crash.

What should we teach our children that can help them survive and possibly get help in an emergency?

General Safety:

    • Their name address and phone number
    • How to call 911
    • When to call for help (mommy or daddy won’t wake up, smoke in the house, sibling is playing near the pool, etc.)
    • How to recognize dangerous situations (true signs of drowning, fire, electricity, poisons, animals, strangers, etc.)
    • Home hazards awareness
    • Basic first aid
    • Fire safety

Basic age appropriate survival:

    • What to do if they get separated urban/wilderness
    • How to stay warm/cool
    • The importance of drinking water and where to find it
    • How to make a fire
    • How to make an emergency kit for home and away
    • How to signal for help
    • How and where to build a quick shelter
    • Lightning safety/ severe weather awareness
    • How to swim, water safety
    • Recognize the real signs of drowning, how to safely rescue or help others
    • Animal dangers from pets to wild animals
    • Cyber safety
    • Stranger safety, self defense and escape from capture
    • Firearm safety

Most kids will resist outright attempts to teach them anything, especially from parents. You may need to create a culture of fun or covert learning and almost fool them into it.  It is easier if you sneak the training into events like camping, even if it’s in a tent in the living room or backyard. Anything that helps with problem solving and understanding danger is helpful and success will make them more confident.  Start young and build on their training because some skills are perishable.

Here are some ways to remember important information in case of emergency:

    • Write important things down and post on refrigerator or cabinet
    • Create a family contingency binder of critical information
    • Create a wallet card for each family member that lists everyone’s phone number including an out of area contact to use as a relay for messages. (Don’t trust memory of common numbers)
    • When you leave for the day actually look at the clothing everyone is wearing and try to remember it or take a quick picture with your cell phone you use in case of becoming separated
    • Take a headcount so you know how many are with you and if you have everyone throughout the day
    • Pay attention to where you are while driving or riding. Look at mile markers, exits, notable places
    • Know what direction you are heading
    • Be able to describe your stuff, family members, and vehicle, tag number, etc.
    • Keep a notepad and pencil handy at all times
    • Use your smartphone to take notes and pictures
    • I.C.E. the important contacts in your phone
    • Add your emergency contacts to your driver’s license online at the DMV website. Also do this for family members. In case of accident you will be notified

Let us know what you do to teach kids about survival and safety in the comments section.

Best of luck and be safe

Survival Leadership: Taking Your Group From Peacetime to Disaster Activation

All of a sudden a major event happens that directly affects your group to the point you are forced to activate. You aren’t ready; the group has only recently started working together.  How are you going to get this Motley crew all moving as a team?Some members are highly motivated and some still appear hesitant to open up yet. Attendance has been up and down. Before the event the group was more of a volunteer organization, after the event they need to be a family. Such a situation would be a challenge for any leader who is tasked with a team but when the team is not used to operating together the job becomes that much more difficult.

In order to effectively lead other people the leader must understand how they think and what their individual motivations are. Why is this important in a survival group? I’m going to ask you to role play a little in order to see outside of today and into a post disaster scenario.

The Group Member


Begin by imagining yourself as a normal everyday citizen; maybe you have a couple of children in school. You go to work everyday and make the ends meet. Your schedule keeps you always on the go but you realize that the world has dramatically changed and you aren’t sure if your family is ready to go it alone when the lights go out. You’ve met a few people and formed a survival group. The group gets together once a month or so and it’s never convenient. You aren’t in a panic about the apocalypse or anything so if you miss a meeting so what, right?

The leader of the group is all into it and wants to prepare with a sense of urgency, you would like to have the luxury of time and money and be involved but it is what it is right now. You are feeling pressured to do more with the group by several members. A couple others are feeling the same way and the problem is self-perpetuating. Morale is low and you wonder if you are in the right group or if a group is even a good idea.

The Group Leader

Now place yourself in the mind of the leader. You know that time is short and the group is faltering. The usual story of 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work is holding true. What can you do to get this thing turned around? In reality, sometimes all you can do is be very organized, delegate where possible and manage people by what motivates them individually. You may even need to ask someone to leave the group if they are causing trouble. You should also look at yourself and verify if you are in fact the best choice to lead the survival group. Is there someone else better suited to the politics of leadership?

Let’s go back to the disaster event trigger. Your young group was a bit of a mess before the event but will they all snap in line now that it’s for real? Possibly but it won’t be pretty right away. There is a reason for building the group ahead of time.

Imagine if we didn’t have a standing army until war was upon us. Aside from our Constitutional intentions it wouldn’t be practical to wait for war to build an army. We would have our lunch money taken away as a nation by those who prepared and trained ahead of time.

The same goes for the survival group.

The survival group leader should make an effort to operate the group, as close to post disaster as possible so there will smaller adjustments when something does happen. There will be challenges in order to walk this line between charismatic leader and tyrant. The more the group finds ways to integrate into each other’s lives the easier it will be to transition into survival mode. So what are some group planning ideas that will integrate people better?

  • Attempt to choose members all in the same geographic area so they can get together more often
  • Consider having meetings and training centrally located
  • Plan events as far in the future as possible for scheduling
  • Training events should be fun and informative
  • Be organized in all areas so as to not waste people’s time
  • Delegate tasks to others based on their skills and schedules
  • If someone never wants to help decide if they are needed in the group
  • Don’t overwork the cheerleaders, spread the load
  • Choose the leaders who best fit the role
  • Vet your members based on your group goals and needs
  • Have some sort of food or snacks at all meetings.

If an event occurs that your group has to come together it will be important to operate as a team. This goes without saying but many times group members are not used to operating at a stressful level for long periods of time. The leader should realize this and try to strike the balance of how hard to push different personalities.

So what should the survival group leaders be doing now?

  • Learning everyone’s name and personality including their family as much as possible
  • Offer training ideas and schedule learning events based directly on group skill levels and needs
  • Delegate initiatives and research to group members to get them involved and spread the workload
  • When assigning tasks agree to a follow up date with the member or committee to keep things moving
  • Follow up on assigned tasks when you said you would
  • Monitor current events and communicate concerns as needed
  • Create an event calendar as far in advance as possible.
  • Promote the 4-Cs of highly successful relationships at all times
    • Communication
    • Cooperation
    • Coordination
    • Collaboration

The survival group is kind of like a volunteer fire department, the members don’t have to be there in the first place but when they are at a fire they have to be there in mind and body. There can be no compromise. The closer you train to the event you expect, the more effective you will be when the event happens. Members should take their affiliation seriously or bow out and leaders should have the vision, fortitude, and ability to guide the group through dark times.

Martial Law and Your Survival Group: What To Do If It Hits Your Town

Recent events have again reminded us just how divided we can be as a population. Throughout American history we have been challenged to find common ground within a melting pot of ethnicity, socioeconomic stratification and political maneuvering. What will you do when it lands violently in your front yard?

Sometimes the big picture blurs out who are truly being affected. Hint: it’s us the individual citizens and the family next door. If you are reading this it is a safe assumption that you have begun to take your family’s safety and preparedness more seriously.  There has been a smoldering divide in our communities that seems to be flaring up more often lately, most recently, there has been a storm brewing over the militarization of the police at the local level. With the situation in Ferguson Missouri demonstrating a total distrust of police after the shooting of an unarmed black teen and the overwhelming military style projection of force by the state, has the match been lit for emotional contagion?

Emotional contagion is a condition that spreads when an event happens that gets a community upset enough to protest in the streets in a way that attracts people from other areas to join the cause. After a while there is seemingly little connection to the facts of the original case and now the street becomes the venue to air all sort of grievances.

So what does this all have to do with the survival group? Everything. This is all part of your situational awareness. In Ferguson you have seen the media coverage. What did you notice this time as opposed to other unrest events? I saw that almost every newscast was conducted in a normal middle class looking neighborhood. The cameras were literally broadcasting from the front yards of houses, not parking lots of some big city urban center or some far away avenue where corporate elite businesses were being destroyed. Sure there has been plenty of looting but the battles have moved onto the side streets right outside the bedroom windows of innocent families. Did those people expect a running street war with international media coverage? That’s not all that changed this time around, when have you ever heard of news crews being attacked with tear gas, threatened with violence from police and even arrested just for covering the news?

The biggest difference and the one thing that got my attention was the sniper sitting on top of a SWAT vehicle actively aiming his weapon at the crowd as if scanning for targets, one finger pull away from starting the next revolution. Somewhere along the way the lessons of Kent State have been lost. In today’s militarized society it seems as if we have turned the page on airing our differences. There are a lot of societal reasons that we won’t go into here that are fueling this divide. For now we are just setting the stage to discuss how we will survive and navigate the changing social terrain. Conflict is here and sides are being chosen. For those families caught in the perimeter of such conflicts it would be wise to be ready.

First we need to talk a little about martial law. As we have seen there has been an evolving cast of characters in Ferguson. Initially it was the local police department, then the SWAT team, then more SWAT teams with verified pentagon issued military surplus. The escalation only incited anger as more heavily armed troops arrived with such things as sound cannons (LRAD), flash-bang grenade volleys, clouds of tear gas and various non-lethal weapons backed up by very lethal supporting elements. This arms race has only caused a run on body armor, gas masks and gun sales. Upon seeing the failure to quell the protests the State Police were called in to replace the other forces and shortly it was obvious that wasn’t working either so the National Guard has been deployed.

Does this indicate martial law? Possibly and likely in this case, there is no precise definition of martial law. You won’t find martial law in the Constitution and there is no working definition of how to organize or implement martial law in any State Constitution. It can be inferred that when the military assumes authority to enforce the law we are experiencing a form of martial law. We can also make the assumption based on the progression of events in Ferguson that if the situation persists or emotional contagion spreads to other areas, so will the level of enforcement.

There have been a number of martial law deployments in our history and they have increased in the last fifty years. Often the deployments were in response to impending danger to a community for everything from union unrest to natural disaster to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hawaii was under martial law for two years after the attack. Recently and notably Watertown Massachusetts could be seen as the latest recipient of martial law. In the aftermath and subsequent search for the Boston bombers the entire city was under siege by thousands of agents brought in from all over the country. Citizens were told to stay home and door-to-door searches were essentially mandatory without warrant or probable cause. To my knowledge, such a siege has not been done since the Revolutionary War.

Were there survival group members in the conflict perimeter? For this discussion we will say yes. What should you as a survival group do if this kind of scenario were to burst into your yard? I’m reminded of an old saying, “If you look out the window and 60 minutes is on your lawn, it’s going to be a bad day.”

There are a number of steps to take when this or worse comes to your house. First and foremost immediate actions must be taken to provide for the immediate safety of the family inside and possibly the timely evacuation if the situation degrades quickly.

What do I do first?

  • Secure all the doors and windows
  • Keep the noise levels low in house so you can hear anything that might happen
  • IMPORTANT: take a headcount of all personnel and family members.
    • Never, never assume everyone is accounted for
    • To do a headcount line everyone up and count off. Each person MUST say his or her number out loud.
  • Get everyone prepared to evacuate immediately, just in case
  • Get kids dressed and shoes on
    • Dress accordingly for climate and threat
  • Leash the dog
  • Arm yourselves accordingly
  • Flashlights issued
  • Grab your identification
  • Grab a paper map of your area so you can plot a safe direction later on if your routes are blocked
  • Put all cell phones in pockets
  • Grab a phone charger for later and put in your pocket
  • Issue any gas masks you may have.
    • If you don’t have any masks, wet some t-shirts and wear them as respiratory protection.
    • Also use eye protection for everyone. Swim goggles will help to keep tear gas from eyes so you can see, otherwise use safety goggles that have a face seal
  • If it is hot outside consider wetting your shirt to reduce heat injuries from running
  • If evacuating take some water to drink and rinse your eyes out.
    • Also consider carrying some milk to rinse pepper spray and tear gas from eyes, the cream in milk neutralizes pepper spray
  • Of course grab your bug-out bag but you won’t need all that primitive survival stuff this time, You will only be evacuating the protest area and going somewhere safe
  • Turn down lights to get your eyes adjusted to the dark outside
  • Keep everyone away from windows and stay near floor in case of stray bullets
  • If possible, stage a guard near all entries
  • Position fire extinguishers accordingly and designate knowledgeable users
  • Fill bathtubs and keep buckets nearby
  • Clear paths through yard for escape, move chairs and bicycles out of the way
  • Consider loading some Evac supplies in car and turn the car facing the road, keep keys in pocket
  • Wet large towels to possibly use as fire blankets and cover bodies during a hot evacuation
  • If you have bars on windows do not use that room as a retreat unless you can get out
  • If you have a deadbolt lock that uses a key to get out, place the key in the lock ahead of time
  • Make sure everyone knows where to meet outside in case of fire
    • Make them say it out loud
  • Do the same for a neighborhood meeting location. This is important if someone is not home during an emergency or you get separated
  • Activate your Commo Plan even if you don’t think it is necessary. Be sure to reach your out of area contact as well. This is important for concerned family in other areas who cannot reach you
  • If there is a lockdown on your neighborhood no one will be allowed in so your survival group may not be able to reach you
  • Do not evacuate into unknown or dangerous conditions unless your location or home becomes no longer safe to occupy
  • If you are evacuating be sure to approach the line of law enforcement carefully. You do not want to appear as a threat, consider how you might be armed and how they may respond
  • If you are caught in a crowd of rioters or looters try to blend in and not be a target to either side
  • If the crowd is moving, fall to the back or move to the edge to avoid being hit by projectiles from either side of the conflict
  • Law enforcement always leaves an exit for protesters to disburse, find it and use it
  • If you evacuate in a vehicle, be ready at any moment to ditch it and move on foot. This means any packs must be zipped up, kid’s shoes on their feet and tied, no sandals or flip-flops. Someone should be riding shotgun and there is a reason they call it that.
  • Travel light and don’t attract attention
  • Keep in mind that if there is civil unrest in the area, there will be three kinds of people outside:
    • the police,
    • armed citizens protecting their possessions and businesses and
    • protesters/looters.
      • There may also be trigger-happy people armed inside their homes. You do not want to surprise any of these people. Be careful when moving around on other people’s property.
  • When moving as a group or family, assume a patrol style configuration. This means to place all children, vulnerable people and assets in the center of the column and place adults who are able to observe, recognize and react to any threats in the front, back and sides as you move.
  • Remember your headcount and check it regularly to verify you have everyone. Always check the count after running or moving through an obstacle.
  • In a tactical or silent environment the count should be initiated from the front, passed back to the rear and back up to the front. This is done by placing a hand on the person in front of you and whispering the number back up to the front of the line or patrol. Once everyone is accounted for you can continue to move.
  • If there is a separation in the group it is the fault of the person ahead of the lost member. Make it a point to only move as fast as the slowest person and look behind you every few moments.

For a printable version of this post, click HERE

Feel free to print and post this information on your refrigerator or in your Family Contingency Binder as a reference. Hopefully you will never need it but in an emergency, panic and tunnel vision can overcome the best-prepared person. There is nothing wrong with using a cheat sheet because in true survival, all is fair.

Stay alert preppers!

For more information on survival groups and preparedness, make sure you check out The Survival Group Handbook: How To Plan, Organize and Lead People for Short or Long Term Survival, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle here:

Also stay in touch with Charley Hogwood and P.R.E.P. at our website,

Critical Documents Binder: FREE Downloads

With the start of the school year, now is a good time to update your critical documents binder to make sure you have the most current information.

Don’t have a critical doc binder? Here’s some free downloads to get you started:

Critical Document Checklist

Emergency ID Cards for each family member

The Survival Guide To The N.A.Z. (No Acronym Zone)

Perhaps it is due to the military-esque nature of modern survival but everywhere we turn we see acronyms. So we are going to take this opportunity to clear up some of the confusion about what these abbreviations really mean. We may even throw in a few nicknames and definitions too. For the new kids in class, an acronym is just a short way of saying something by using some combination of letters from the phrase we are describing. Acronyms can be very handy but are often way over used. So here are the most common acronyms you’ll see.

  • AAR – After Action Review. Used to evaluate a previous activity.
  • AR – Automatic Rifle as in AR-15
  • ARES – Amateur Radio Emergency Service. HAM Radio group
  • ARRL – American Radio Relay League. HAM Radio group
  • AO – Area of Operations. The area you are working in
  • AoA – Avenue of Approach. Roads, trails, waterways, etc. that lead to your position
  • AoE – Avenue of Escape. Escape routes from your location. You should have 2 at all times
  • Bug-Out – To leave quickly. From the Korean War era
  • BIB – Bug In Bag.  Supplies to shelter in place
  • BOB – Bug-Out Bag.  A pre-packed survival bag. Different skills and scenarios require different supplies in the bag.
  • BOGO – Buy one, get one free.
  • BOL – Bug-Out Location.  A predetermined evacuation location
  • BOV – Bug-Out Vehicle. The vehicle or conveyance you will use to evacuate
  • Car Kit – Survival supplies stored in your vehicle at all times.
  • CB – Citizen’s Band Radio. A limited range 2-way radio usually in vehicles. No license needed. Not secure for sensitive information
  • CBRNE – Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive.
  • CCW – Concealed Carry Weapon. (Or permit or license)
  • CERT – Community Emergency Response team. A federally funded emergency training initiative for citizens
  • CME – Coronal Mass Ejection. Plasma ejected by the Sun. If directed toward Earth it could damage the electric grid severely
  • Commo – Communications.
  • Commo Plan – Communications Plan. A plan to remain in contact with each other during emergency. Includes back up plan and out of area contact to use as a relay for information
  • Contingency Binder – A binder with all critical documents located in a safe, fireproof place
  • CONEX – Cargo shipping container used for storage
  • COOP – Continuity Of Operations Plan. Designates alternate personnel, processes and equipment to replace primary in case of catastrophic loss
  • CTX – Classroom Training Exercise
  • Decon – Decontamination. Removing chemical or biological contaminates
  • EBV – Ebola Virus
  • EHV – Ebola Hemorrhagic Virus
  • EMP – Electromagnetic Pulse . Caused by CME or atomic detonation. A horizon to horizon event depending on altitude of detonation
  • EOC – Emergency Operations Center
  • EVAC – Evacuation
  • FIFO – First In, First Out. An inventory term to use the oldest supplies first
  • Freq – Frequency
  • FRS Family Radio Service. Usually a set of Walkie-talkies that do not require any license. Available at most sporting goods or hardware stores. Not secure
  • FTX – Field Training Exercise
  • GCP – Group Continuity Plan – (See COOP)
  • GHB – Get Home Bag. A bag kept at work or in the vehicle designed to help you get home in case of emergency. Includes 3 days of supplies
  • Go-Bag – Similar to a Bug-Out Bag. May be mission specific with respect to content such as specialty gear
  • Golden Horde – Predicted horde of looters and refugees pouring out of major cities into the countryside after a major evacuation
  • GOOD Bag – Get Out Of Dodge Bag. A bag filled with supplies to help one leave an area immediately. See (GHB, BOB)
  • Gray Man – An approach employed to make oneself unnoticeable and not memorable. Usually used when moving through a community to be less of a target by dressing blandly and never making eye contact or speaking to anyone. Not suspicious, showing nothing of value, no logos, no bright colors, nothing tactical, not moving with any urgency but not loitering
  • Grid down – The electric grid and key infrastructure has failed, usually referred to as a permanent or long term chaotic situation
  • HAM – An amateur radio user. Communications of various frequencies able to reach extreme distances around the world. Often the last line of communication when all else fails
  • Hazmat – Hazardous Materials
  • Hills – An expression often used to describe a generalized distant location where one hopes to bug out to. A poor plan if you have no specific place to go. The hills don’t care for strangers
  • Hooch – A crude shelter in the form of a tarp or natural materials. Also moonshine
  • IFAK – Individual First Aid Kit – Usually in a pouch attached to battle gear or pack. Includes basic trauma supplies
  • INCH – I’m Never Coming Home – A concept of a bag loaded in such a way to permanently leave home.
  • Independence Conflict – The individual struggle to overcome when joining a survival group. Most survival minded people don’t like to depend on others
  • IR – Infra red – Invisible light detected by night vision devices
  • Ferrocerrium Rod – A fire starting rod that is used by scraping carbon steel to produce showers of sparks
  • LIFO – Last In, First Out – Using newest supplies first
  • Lima Charlie – Loud and Clear – Radio term
  • Lines of Drift – The natural path a person or animal will travel out of ease. Usually in the woods. Always a bad idea in hostile territory due to potential ambush or traps
  • LogPak – Logistics Package – Military term for supplies being delivered. The reason that most military personnel do not understand grid down survival. There is no reach-back capability in true survival
  • MAG – Mutual Assistance Group – A group of people who pledge to work together in emergency, disaster or survival
  • Mall Ninja – A person who buys all the tacticool stuff yet has few if any skills. Also – Armchair survivalist, keyboard commando, E-Thug
  • Mess – Military term for food. Mess plan, Mess tent, etc.
  • MRE – Meal Ready to Eat – Military rations in plastic pouches. Not a good long term food storage option
  • OPORD – Operations Order – 5 paragraph plan to conduct a mission consisting of Situation, Mission, Execution, Service/Support, Command/Signal and annexes listing any Standard Operating Procedures
  • OPSEC – Operational Security – Military term used to safeguard critical information or operations. Used in survival as a prod to not share personal or survival information including what you have and where it is and what you are going to do
  • OP/LP – Observation Post/Listening Post – A hidden battle position placed beyond the outer perimeter of a defensive location usually manned by no less than 2 people with Commo back to the command post with the mission to report any activity in the area. They are never to engage, only report. There should be a clear path of escape back to camp.
  • Out – A radio term used to say that the radio conversation is complete
  • Paracord – Nylon parachute cordage that may or not be of military quality
  • PPE – Personal Protective Equipment – Gloves, eye protection, outer clothing, respirator, mask. Usually used around chemicals, health care settings or contagion
  • QRF – Quick Reaction Force – A reserve force that is ready at all times to deploy in case of threat or attack. A secondary QRF may be secretly positioned in the center of the defensive location and only deployed if truly needed. Note: some attacks are only to probe defenses and draw out reserve forces on purpose while main attack comes from another position on the perimeter. Don’t fall for it.
  • RACES – Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (HAM radio)
  • Rally Point – A Rally Point is a location where everyone will meet up in case of separation. There can be several Rally Points along a patrol or hiking trail and must be unique and recognizable from both front and back while traveling in a hurry. Evac Rally Points can be predetermined on a map for vehicle convoys as well
  • Retreat – A location prepared for survival in case you need to leave home
  • ROE – Rules Of Engagement – Rules that specify when you can return fire or attack depending on varying circumstances.
  • Roger – A radio term used to acknowledge that you understand the last transmission. Also used as “Roger Out” when you understand and are ending the conversation
  • Ruck – Military term for back pack as in Rucksack
  • SHIP – Shelter In Place
  • SHTF – Sh*t hit the fan. Term used to describe when everything goes wrong
  • SITREP – Situational Report – What is happening right now where you are? Used to assist others in understanding your situation and be able to plan accordingly
  • SODIS – Solar Disinfection – A water purification method that uses UV rays from the Sun to kill pathogens in water. Does not work on chemical contamination
  • SOP – Standard Operating Procedures – A set way of performing specific drills and tasks that everyone knows and will usually perform without further instruction. Should be practiced in order to reduce reaction times
  • Stray Cat Syndrome – Happens when you give food to someone and they keep returning for more and may bring more mouths to feed. Never hand out supplies to others at your supply location. Anonymous charity left on the porch of a needy neighbor is safer and can be discontinued if necessary
  • Strip Map – A simple hand drawn map used to locate a place or address where signs are missing or terrain is damaged. Often used by group members as a reference to retrieve stranded members. Map consists of avenues of approach from 4 different directions and indicates all sturdy landmarks with the target location placed in the center of the map
  • SWOT – Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats – A table used to identify these qualities in a way to prepare planning and training
  • TEOTWAWKI – The End Of The World As We Know It
  • Wilco – Will Concur – A radio term used to acknowledge that you understand and will do as requested
  • WROL – Without Rule Of Law – A term used to set the stage for discussing a scenario where the is no effective governing body or law enforcement
  • 2A – Second Amendment of the US Constitution regarding the citizen’s right to bear arms
  • 4A – Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution regarding citizen’s rights against illegal search and seizure
  • 2WD – Two wheel drive vehicle
  • 4WD – Four wheel drive vehicle
  • 3-monther – A survival group member who begins as the nearly perfect candidate but becomes intolerable or inactive. Usually seems to happen at about 3 months for some reason
  • 550 Cord – Official military specification parachute cord. Has a working strength of 550 lbs. and consists of seven interior strands of nylon cord contained in a single sheath. Has a myriad of uses
  • 100 mph tape – Military grade OD green duct tape. Cloth backed and very adhesive. Gorilla brand tape is the closest civilian version

There is your list. You may see other terms along the way but these are the most common and should help you understand what someone is talking about. If you have anything to add let us know and we’ll update the list. Send an email to


Happy prepping!

For more info on survival groups, check out The Survival Group Handbook available on Amazon in both paperback AND Kindle:

Reverse OPSEC: Intel Gathering For Survival

OPSEC is just an acronym for Operational Security, a fancy way of saying keep your secrets. We all know that there are things to keep to yourself for your own protection. We have all heard it before; don’t share your most personal information. But one man’s privacy is another man’s Intel. How does one walk the line between keeping your own secrets while simultaneously trying to learn about other people? Have you ever wondered how to be the person who gathers the intel? Let’s start with an example situation where you have two choices, either you can be the investigator or the investigated:

Why we practice OPSEC

A word of caution, there are people out there who try to gain information from you for less than honorable purposes. Some people are natural con artists. Unfortunately I’ve seen this in action when some self purported free meeting in the park “survival expert” would lure unwitting families to hear various discussions on preparing for doomsday. Aside from plenty of questionable knowledge there was a more nefarious angle. This person was able to convince others that in an “eat or be eaten” world, they should already know who in their area had resources such as food storage, equipment, fruit trees or even who may be elderly. Why all this “intel gathering”? Because the so called expert framed it as a preparedness plan, if you know where the resources are, there’s no need to store your own because you can rely on other people’s hard work (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it).  But there’s more to this story than meets the eye, as the “expert” was not only encouraging people to steal, he was actually mapping out how to get the resources for himself! The moral of this story is that OPSEC remains a priority when planning for your post-SHTF life.

Which Side Of The Conversation Are You On?

Let’s say you’ve found yourself talking survival with someone and all of a sudden, as conversations often do, you are far from where you started. In that moment youhave this sudden panic. “Did I share something I shouldn’t have? How well do you know this person with all the slick questions? Is this an innocent chat or is this person possibly a threat at some point in the future?”

Situational awareness is not just for dark parking lots, it is for everything all the time. History is riddled with examples of people being lulled into a false sense of security only to have that confidence betrayed later. Now that you’ve put the tin foil on and you’re hiding in your home vowing never to speak to anyone ever again, let me reassure you that not everyone is out to steal your secrets. At some point in the future your survival may depend on information trusted to someone else.

Information as Currency

Imagine yourself trying to navigate a hostile-ridden existence, trying to navigate a long bug-out with the family through unfamiliar territory. You’ve heard rumors of criminal activity in the area and hints that there may be a route of safe passage that is safely guarded. Think of something like an underground railroad. In this instance, it’s going to be very important to try and gain as much information about the area as possible. While food and gear are the “usual” barter items, If you have knowledge of value this is where you will want to start playing some cards.

If you as the new, unknown people just start asking all kinds of questions you may not be trusted with any information or worse, you may attract some very unwanted attention. To fly low under the radar but seem trustworthy in such a skeptical environment you’ll want to seem nonthreatening. The gray man approach is a good start but you want to come off as easy to talk to. In this case your currency may be information. While you may not be able to talk your way into something tangible such as food or gear, you may be able to loosen the lips of someone else just enough to learn the lay of the land.

The Moral Of The Story

While you are going about your everyday survival it pays to keep your ears and eyes very open to information and opportunity because at some point you may have nothing else, but you might know something that will keep you alive. This is also the time to start practicing situational awareness with  your family, making sure that they understand that  learning  about their environment could be the deciding factor for future survival.

Stay alert preppers!

For more info on survival groups, check out The Survival Group Handbook available on Amazon in both paperback AND Kindle:

Does Your Group Have A C.O.O.P.? [No, we aren’t talking chickens]

What if a member who holds an important position becomes incapacitated or missing? What will your group or family do if an event happens that causes a serious disruption in your normal situation?


Since pandemic is all the rage right now we’ll use illness as our trigger event.

Today began as any other day with kids going back to school after a long hot summer break. The parents are off to work. The mother is a nurse in an emergency room the father a police officer. The news over the last few weeks has spent so much time talking about sickness in some distant land that we began to ignore it. Every case that pops up over here has been tested negative so far so it’s probably hype anyway. Even still you have taken all the appropriate cautions. You’ve increased the hand washing, stocked your sick room supplies and even prepared your survival group as much as they would listen. But life gets in the way of the best plans.

This morning one of the kids complained of a headache… isn’t that how the story always begins? It’s probably nothing, a new school year with kids coughing all over each other it’ll pass. Next thing you know you or a family member is down for the count. Then another case of symptoms shows up in the city, and another. Regardless of announced test results and cautions people are getting shaky as more become ill.  A protest forms downtown because people are upset that the drugs are being sent to other countries and supplies are low. The protest brings the sick out with the healthy making things worse. Many don’t even realize they are sick because of the possible three-week incubation time. Looting begins and people are arriving from other towns to join in on the spoils of rioting only to take the illness back to their communities.

Civil unrest spreads, food is running low at the stores because trucking is spotty due to rising fuel prices and people are staying home from work. Law enforcement begins to restrict travel, health department workers in bio suits are televised removing sick people from homes and the 24 hour news cycle creates panic by reassuring everyone to not panic. People are avoiding hospitals and staff is hit hard by infection.

You finally convince everyone that it’s time. You begin the group activation only to find out that several members aren’t feeling well and one of your families was injured in a riot while trying to escape their burning apartment building. On top of all this the travel restrictions are preventing your only survival group medic from getting to your retreat location.

What are you going to do now? With the group in such disarray how will you ever pull it together? If the situation persists the group might collapse.


The Continuity Of Operations Plan (COOP) is a contingency that automatically jumps into action when such an event happens.

The COOP is a term borrowed from emergency management. When 9/11 happened the businesses in the WTC and surrounding areas were immediately and catastrophically affected. Because those businesses were a part of the financial fabric of our society, their loss had ripple effects globally. The companies who had the foresight to create and maintain contingency plans were the ones who were able to get back to work the quickest.

So why should a survival group consider such an approach? There are several areas within a group that if disrupted, might cause confusion, chaos or even unsafe conditions. You have already gone to all the trouble of planning for your food, water shelter and other necessities of survival, shouldn’t you plan to preserve all of these efforts if when something doesn’t go as expected? *For the purposes of our discussion we are going to be a little clinical with respect to loss of life and hard earned preparedness so don’t be offended as we proceed. 

We talked about the COOP, now let’s adapt that framework to the survival group. We probably don’t need to worry about some of the aspects of a business COOP such as customers, IT, compliance and such but we do need to keep ourselves in the business of survival.

A Group Continuity Plan (GCP) is like an overall backup plan that pulls everything together and clearly lays out what to do and how to do it. The best part is that once you give it some thought, there is not much to do except work the plan.

The GCP will benefit your family or survival group in the following ways:

  • Loss of life or injury to personnel-
    • You will identify ahead of time who steps in to fill a role immediately after a loss
  • Damage to critical resources-
    • This includes supplies, equipment, shelter location, transportation, etc.
  • Damage to reputation-
    • In a world where projection of power or even imagined strength is a weapon, any perceived weakness could make you a target. Being able to roll with the punches and not miss a beat shows that you are organized, ready and able to fight back.

You may have some plans already such as activation, contingency, or even emergency response plans. That is great and you should have these plans in place. But there is something to remember about plans and General Dwight Eisenhower may have said it best, “Plans are worthless; however the planning process is priceless.”

One of the weaknesses of specific plans is that they are limited in focus and tend to address only certain aspects of the group only to ignore other important areas. Survival requires a holistic approach. This means that everything is somehow connected and tasks should work in concert with each other.  The Group Continuity Plan is more of an integrated approach that ties everything together.

As you begin to think about how to create a GCP follow these concepts:

  • Consider risks to your group. A hazard analysis will identify what could go wrong and how it would affect you. Think of ways to reduce these risks or recover quickly from them. This is important.
    • What could happen?
    • How likely is it to happen?
    • Identify by priority
  • Consider the impacts to the group
    • Who would be affected?
    • What would be affected?
    • Do we have a backup person, piece or place?
    • Prioritize by importance
  • Group continuity strategy
    • Identify options to work around the impacts
    • Assign alternate roles
    • Identify back up equipment
    • Combine with existing contingency plans to make solutions flow more easily
  • Develop Group Continuity Plan (GCP)
    • Make sure everyone knows and understands their primary and alternate role
    • Make sure everyone knows where things are and where back up locations are
    • Try to pre-position alternates of critical resources in another location if possible
    • If there are any legal concerns you may need to consider such as child custody, financial account access, etc. you may need to draw up delegations of authority or Powers of Attorney.
    • Make sure everyone knows when to perform their alternate roles so there is no down time while waiting for someone to make a decision
    • Communicate everything to everyone as much as possible while keeping OPSEC in mind
  • Test your plans
    • Conduct training and exercises to make sure everyone understands what they are supposed to do
    • Testing the plan helps to identify problems and solutions
    • Surprise testing or drills is very effective at reinforcing correct actions
  • Maintain your plan
    • Any time a person is changed or a technology is upgraded you must update the plan
    • Plans must include contact information as well as procedures and must be kept up to date
    • Anytime a new version is created, the old version must be destroyed to avoid outdated information
    • Plans must be shared between everyone involved. A plan is no good if kept on a shelf and hidden from the people who are expected to participate

While it may seem like too much trouble or too high a level for a small survival group, coming up with some ideas to keep you moving is well worth the effort. Don’t let all these acronyms and concepts worry you, at the end of the day all we need to do is create a well-considered backup plan to keep the survival group safe and healthy.

What should the survival group/family leadership be doing at this time?

  • Identify threats and hazards to your group and location
  • Prioritize those hazards beginning with the most immediate danger to your safety
  • Figure out the critical who and what might be affected if a hazard happens
  • Figure out who would automatically replace that person (and tell them both)
  • Figure out where to fall back to if your location is damaged or compromised (retreat)
  • Account for any special concerns such as contagion
  • Teach and train everyone in the family/survival group the skills to operate in both primary and alternate roles
  • Gather the stuff you need based on the average skill level your group has (Don’t overestimate skill levels)
  • Keep on the lookout for changes and problems at all times. Keep information current
  • Write down technical instructions, Information and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Share latest version of all information with everyone. Don’t assume everyone understands everything. Ask review questions and make them say it out loud

What should everyone else in the survival group be doing?

  • Stay current on events
  • Continue to focus on your preps
  • Avoid complacency, crisis usually comes as a surprise and no one operates effectively when caught off guard
  • If a new hazard threatens, such as a pandemic, adjust your efforts by collecting the proper skills and equipment to address the changing conditions
  • Ramp up you preparedness in accordance with the situation. It is far easier to methodically work up to a higher level of ready than to go from zero to OMG
  • Listen to the group leaders. You chose them to do a job and they must have your support to get it done
  • Take the initiative when you see something that needs to be done. You are part of a team; the 80/20 rule cannot be in effect in a survival situation. The survival group will require a 100% effort to be successful

If your survival group or family is not interested in planning for a possible continuity disruption, it will be like herding cats for a bath when crisis strikes. Bring up the subject at your next meeting and be prepared to make a sensible case. Many groups already struggle with leadership but when it’s not there in times of emergency everyone misses it.

If you find your group activated in such a scenario it will be important to communicate to them that just because it seems the world is collapsing on the outside, you cannot afford to sit back. The group will require more commitment, more discipline and more teamwork than before in order to make up for all the lost comforts of pre-disaster life.

Want more info on survival groups? Check out my book: The Survival Group Handbook: How to Plan, Organize and Lead People for Short or Long Term Survival, available in paperback AND Kindle here:

Pandemic Planning For Your Survival Group. Part 2

In part one of our pandemic series we addressed some basic planning issues and talked about personal protective gear (PPE) for the group. Here in part two, we’re going to address some basic social protocols and focus on group leadership. Remember, for all of these plans, it’s important to make sure that everyone in your group is on the same page and working towards a common goal.

Social Distancing For The Group

The goal is to reduce exposure to illness and changing some of our accepted social norms can do this. Handshakes, hugs and cheek kisses upon greeting each other should be replaced with non-contact greetings. One community in Africa has had success in replacing these norms by placing the right hand over the heart and offering a slight head bow. This is just an example, you should feel free to use whatever works. The important thing is that everyone follow suit or it will not be as effective

As time passes the survival group will inevitably run into nutrition and exercise deficiencies. It is important to keep the immune system as strong as possible for many reasons other than mass health emergency. If the survival group allows itself to become lazy in their health all the other tasks of daily survival will also suffer further perpetuating the condition and morale of the group.

What Should Group Leadership Be Doing?

Leadership should be involved at every level of group operations whether in daily family life or full on survival group activation. In the case of a pandemic activation the leadership must establish a culture of awareness and respect for the contagion and general health of the group. This will be done by setting rules for members to strictly follow with respect to hygiene and contact

When you face an indiscriminant enemy such as contagion you cannot afford to be at all complacent. Leaders must lead by example and be able to achieve buy-in by all group members by demonstrating a solid vision that directly relates to the group’s goals.

In the case of potential pandemic, leaders would be wise to establish a team dedicated to coming up with solutions for dealing with possible infection such as health awareness and monitoring, isolation and quarantine settings, establishing inventory of supporting supplies and education of the group, this must include all family members. It would also be a good idea to select a member or two to monitor the news cycle from multiple, reputable sources for situational information. The group should already have an ongoing education effort but there should be enough flexibility in the training schedule to address emerging threats such as this. Included in the training should be a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the security plan in how to deal with outside contact and how to react to possible contamination. The SOP should include action drills to expose any problems

As a backstop against rash decisions in fearful territory such as contagion it would be wise to establish one member as the Devil’s Advocate for all major issues and decisions. The reason for this is to prevent groupthink. This is a condition where a seemingly good idea or train of thought gets fast tracked because it feels like the thing to do. The Devil’s Advocate is tasked with finding reasons to object. If the D/A can’t find solid reasons to object and convince the team to slow down, then the idea moves forward. This should help to prevent paranoia or false information from derailing the group’s efforts, which is a likely problem in a pandemic scenario.

Finally, leadership should also convey an open door style policy in which members are not afraid to bring concerns. By creating this openness, team members will be more likely to communicate issues that might become serious if concealed.

The list of hazards seems to be growing everyday. Something stuck in my mind that changed my way of thinking with respect to planning. I was reading a global security report on predicted threats from a geopolitical perspective. This was back in 2012. There were all the expected concerns such as trouble in the Middle East, Africa becoming more terror related, global food problems, Euro crisis, China expansion, etc. The thing that stood out was the summary from an American military planning officer. He was quoted as saying that no matter what we predict and plan for there is always something that seemingly comes out of nowhere and changes everything.

The moral of the story here is to plan for all the most likely problems but be aware that something can come out of left field at any moment. Your family’s survival may hinge on your ability to quickly adapt to changing conditions.

Pandemic Planning for Your Survival Group

How Does A Pandemic Affect A Survival Group?

Your survival group was created to be a cushion between you and society at large should something serious come along. As we attempt to prepare at the family level we only have so many resources to work with. So what do we do when of all things, something like Ebola pops up? Most of us already consider things like the Avian Flu but Ebola can pop up like gophers in the garden. Influenza is tracked with some predictability and we usually have a pretty good idea when it’s most active and what we should do to be ready. Ebola seems to be more along the lines of a bioterror event in that we may get very little if any warning that it’s in our community until symptoms are recognized and tests are verified. This is due to its potential long incubation period of upwards of 21 days. By then it is possible that the number of infected is cascading.

So what does this mean to the survival group?

Timing is everything if your plan is to wait and see what’s going to happen. The gamble is that if you act too soon you may have committed your resources and now what do you do if nothing happens? On the other hand if you wait until cases begin popping up randomly across the country you may get swept up in the panic or possibly something the government likes to call “containment.” An additional concern is that if your group is like most everyone else going to work and school everyday, how do you deal with the potential of introducing illness into the group once activated. Is it practical to isolate every member for 21 days? Another level of awareness to have is to understand the time the virus can survive on a surface. In the case of Ebola, the virus is said to be viable on surfaces for several days. In Africa they are trying to sanitize everything, even spraying disinfectant on the sidewalks. So in the event of a major outbreak should we be concerned with our just in time commerce system moving the virus around on boxes and vehicles? See how easy paranoia can slip in?

Let’s take a look at the potential for disruption in a pandemic event. We won’t go too far into this but just to give you a refresher. The following list will help you in planning. Some of these things may not be as high priority depending on your level of preparedness and proximity to urban areas. With that being said, there aren’t many things that will empty a city but lack of essential services and raging contagion might be pretty high on the list so take transient populations into account as you plan.

The short list of hazards to think about for contagion:

  • Panic buying
  • Civil unrest
  • Containment/quarantine/travel restrictions
  • General paranoia
  • Medical centers overwhelmed or avoided all together
  • Unwillingness to seek medical care for other health conditions out of fear
  • Workers staying home
  • Services spotty or non-existent
  • Commerce interrupted/truckers stay home
  • Food and water shortages
  • First responders affected/over worked

In the National Pandemic Strategy the US government estimates that as many as 40% of workers may stay home leading to severe strain on essential services.

So what is the plan?

First there are plenty of things you can do. Take a look at your supplies and ask yourself; can we survive for at least three months with no outside contact? Three months is the projected time a pandemic wave is expected to last in a community. Next think about your possible exposure. The best thing to do here is to promote a healthy culture of hygiene. Make hand washing a requirement for everyone you come into contact with. Now is the time to beef up your personal protective equipment (PPE). You should already have supplies or get home bags in your vehicles and work spaces be sure you have a good quality respirator mask such as a 3M brand N95 mask rated for medical procedures. Cheap dust masks usually don’t hold up to moisture and will not seal adequately. For those of us with facial hair you should know that even a 5 o’clock shadow would prevent a seal and allow sneeze droplets or splash to enter the mask. Technically, even an N95 mask should be fit tested and taught how to put on and take off correctly and safely.

Part of your supplies in each location should include disinfectant or bleach. But remember that liquid bleach begins to lose effectiveness in 6 months so don’t buy large quantities unless you think you will need it.

In a group survival location you will have many people in a small area, which could act as an incubator for germs so you may want to create a plan for regular decontamination of all living spaces and common equipment. For example, there will be a lot of traffic in the kitchen area as well as places like HAM radio rooms, guard posts, vehicles and common lounging areas. The group should have a medic who constantly monitors each member for signs of illness. The medic should work with group leaders to establish an area where isolation can be set up. As part of your planning you should have hard copies of information on how to set up a hot area for isolation and a decon area for those who care for patients. The isolation room should be away from other common areas as much as possible.

Once the group activates due to mass contagion it is essential to make every effort to prevent the illness into the survival group’s retreat location. To better secure your members, establish a security buffer around the home or buildings that you use. This buffer will need to be monitored for intrusion at all times. If an infected burglar were to infiltrate the home, disease could be introduced.  All personnel who may find themselves in contact with outsiders should carry at least the basic PPE of mask, sealed eye protection and nitrile long cuff exam gloves.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our Pandemic and Your Survival Group series, where we will talk about survival group leadership and other contingency plans for your group.

You can always check out a copy of our book, The Survival Group Handbook on Amazon at

Survival Groups By The Numbers: How Many People Do You Need?

Once you’ve made the decision to start or join a survival group/community, you will have to make a couple of fundamental decisions.  Usually, the first question that comes to mind is “How many people do I need in this group?” Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer.  You can’t just run down to the people store and get a price quote on the difference between 4 people and 40 people.  Instead of focusing on the numbers, I suggest focusing on the goals you are trying to achieve and the situation that you are planning for.

Things to Consider

First, you must consider your own goals and situation then you will try to get an idea of how many people are going to be in the group? Second, how will we decide on membership? Survival groups can range in number from single families to thousands, so where will your group land on the scale? One of the benefits of a survival group is the division of labor.  This gives the group the ability to complete tasks that would be impossible for a single person. My suggestion is to build a group based on member skills to make sure that you have the best available candidates. You’ll want a group that is able to perform a variety of tasks, including, but not limited to:

    • Medical trained personnel
    • Mechanically inclined personnel
    • Food Production / Farming / Livestock
    • Child / Elderly care
    • Education / Teacher
    • Blue Collar Skills
    • Cooks
    • Hunters and Trappers
    • Scavengers
    • Seamstress
    • Military/Security/Self Defense
    • Ham Radio/Commo
    • Primitive Survivalist or Homesteaders
    • Toolmaker/Engineer/Blacksmith
    • Gunsmith/Reloader
    • Mechanics

You as the group will need to decide how to fill those slots as time goes on. Until then you’ll need to make due with what you have. It’s much easier to plan for these positions pre-SHTF, and you can use the search for these skills as part of the new membership vetting process. Try not to be too ambitious when you start out or you may create more problems than you solve. It is important to identify your priorities and only advance into new projects when the manpower, time, resources and conditions permit.

Begin by taking account of what you already have. Start with your existing operations and personnel. Think about the people that you would like to join the group, what skills do they have, if any. Make a list of skills that you feel would benefit the group, and that would help the group reach it’s goals.  For example, some groups wish to live completely off grid, so a ham radio operator may not be in high demand, while a blacksmith may be a very important person.  For other groups, communication with the outside world and community building is a priority, so ham radio operators are very sought after.  It all depends on you, your group goals, and your group’s plan.

Along the way you will begin to see some opportunities for interdependency. This is to say that some jobs will naturally dovetail with others. For example, most tactical, security and hunting work utilize similar personnel and equipment. Farming can combine animal husbandry and gardening.

You can always follow the Rule of 3’s as a quick rule of thumb reminder of what’s most important in survival. If you get off track just ask yourself if what you are currently doing contributes in a necessary way at this time. If not, you may want to focus on something that gives you more bang for the effort for now then revisit the other project later.

Security Operations

You’ll have plenty of ongoing daily chores and activities but you must also provide for the task of security. Remember: SECURITY IS PRIORITY NUMBER ONE! Without the appropriate level of security for your situation you do not actually own anything you have, you are only holding your stuff until someone else comes along who wants it more. We know that security never takes a day off. 24 hours a day 7 days a week, the security plan must be performed with discipline and proficiency. Too often, people overestimate their abilities and underestimate their situation.  We are wise to choose our battles whenever possible. Since all is fair in the truest sense of survival, seek out every opportunity and take every advantage available to you.

There are a number of ways to develop a security plan to meet your needs. Keep in mind that your security will need to adjust as your situation changes. This is to say that as your personnel go about their daily tasks and movement they will need to keep a theme of self protection running in the back of their minds at all times. The key to remember in developing your plan is that you must completely and accurately understand your situation, location, threats and assets. At the end of the day you want to achieve these three goals to the best of your abilities, deter, delay, and defend. As you can see by these three concepts, you will want to improve your abilities through selecting the right personnel, the right defensive measures and have an ongoing situational awareness so you know as early as possible if trouble is heading your way.

Surviving in a difficult environment can be an exhaustive ordeal both mentally and physically. Over time you will wear down until you can find a way to spread the load with others. It is important that you do not underestimate the situation or overestimate your skills. By taking action now to understand your hazards, prepare your family and plan for life’s disruptions, you will gain peace of mind for yourself and spread confidence among those who will be with you should danger approach.

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Dealing With Diversity In Your Survival Group

Bringing People Together

Every group of survivors/preppers is unique. There will always be a variety of experience, personality, skill and ability within the survival group, but, the members do have one thing in common, their survival situation. This can be a nightmare when it comes to planning and logistics, and can very quickly go from calm to chaotic. It is sometimes a wonder that anything gets accomplished when we put people together. In a survival situation, it is even more important for the group leader to have an understanding of group dynamics, and how to deal with multiple personalities and survival goals. Remember that while you are all ultimately working towards “survival”, as we’ve all seen, there are many ways to reach the same destination.

A Bit of Real World Example

Recently I was in a classroom situation with a group of people from many professional backgrounds in a state sponsored emergency management training session. The class objective was to learn how to conduct a rapid assessment of community needs immediately following a major disaster. The class consisted of members of law enforcement, fire services, health workers, emergency managers and many other first responder organizations. This is a situation that you think would be easy to organize because surely everyone would want to work together to move towards the goal. However, the differences between individuals and organizations became very apparent, as the various backgrounds and missions of these different agency personnel was a serious obstacle to our ability to complete a common yet unfamiliar mission. For example, law enforcement personnel had a very specific mission, they were only concerned with perimeters and containment and making sure that post disaster, each community remained in place and movement between regions came to a halt. On the other hand, fire rescue and EMT personnel made getting into and moving between regions a priority in order to get to those who needed medical services. Clearly, two very different objectives, though both made claims that they were there to help, first and foremost. So how do you create and maintain a relationship between these two agencies post disaster?

It’s not enough to merely understand the overall goal, communication will be key to making any group run smoothly. In our class, it became clear that the team members who both understood the fluid conditions and multiple objectives and were able to communicate their plans and objectives, gained the confidence of the other members and rose as leaders. Almost everyone in the class knew how to accomplish the same tasks but knowing and leading are two separate concepts.

But what does it all mean for me?

Now, let’s get back to our survival group situation. Notice the similarities? A survival situation is likely to be a series of challenges that are constantly changing. The people you are with will have different backgrounds and differing perspectives of the situation but will have a singular mission. What does this mean? This is where strong leadership is essential. The leader, or leaders must know the people involved and their motivation. Then, they must convert that motivation and expertise into a workable plan to get the group working together toward common goals. Keep in mind that there’s an added level of difficulty with survival groups in that almost every member of a survival group will experience something we call The Independence Conflict. As we are all interested in self preservation in hard times, we have all stepped up to lead our families to safety. The Independence Conflict is the personal struggle to trust someone else with you and your family’s survival decisions. It can be hard to let go and have someone else take charge.

Traits of a Good Leader For Your Survival Group

A good leader will work gain the necessary trust of group members by always balancing the group goals while still tending to the morale and individual safety and needs of the members and their families. A good leader will also be able to communicate their survival plan in a cohesive and understandable way. Sometimes this means explaining the goal one way to one part of the group, and then using a different tactic to explain the goal to another part of the group. This is a process similar to the way that siblings can have vastly different pesonalities, so the way that one child is taught and disciplined can be quite different from the way that a parent deals with the other child. It’s important to understand these differences between group members, and to use this knowledge to your advantage as the group leader.

Want more information on survival groups? Pick up THE SURVIVAL GROUP HANDBOOK on Amazon at

Why Florida Isn’t Such a Bad Retreat Location



One of the most popular questions we receive is “Where is the best place to bug-out?”  This is usually followed by “We live in Florida and will be over-run by refugees headed north, shouldn’t we leave too?” These are hotly contested questions. The truth is that there is no one perfect location to retreat to in this country as each location will have it’s own pros and cons. However, by taking a moment and thinking it through, you’ll see that you may be better off by not following the usual path.

For those of you that know me and have attended any of my classes, you know that I never suggest heading to the “hills” unless you have a solid footprint in the area. If you have read “One Second After” (and everyone should) you may recall that the small towns used those ever-present concrete barriers prepositioned at bridges to create a defensible choke point/road block. This was to keep transient traffic out or throttled down to manageable numbers for monitored passage. Remember, if the situation is so dire that you find yourself in survival mode, you won’t be the only one. People in small towns will be quick to block passage through their areas just to preserve what they have, especially from outsiders that they don’t know or recognize.

The argument I choose to challenge today is the notion that Florida is a terrible place to be in a long-term grid down situation. Before we jump into the challenge we need to clarify some basic concepts. If you truly want to understand the urban vs. rural safety argument you should do some research on modern historical examples of collapse. For example, look to Argentina (2001), Sarajevo Valley in Bosnia (1992-1995) or even Syria today, places where people are forced from their homes with little informational or societal infrastructure in place. The goal is to survive long enough to see some semblance of civilization return.

With that said, I propose that Florida should be considered a strong contender as a state to retreat to in case of a serious grid down situation.

I have prepared a list of benefits that Florida has to offer as a bug out location. For those of you in other states, compare my list against yours. How does your state compare? There will always be some areas that are better than others in any state. As for our great state I would definitely avoid the major cities and focus my efforts to the middle of the state, preferring to stay north of  Okeechobee, and south of the I-10 corridor due to cold temperatures and any wind carried contaminants.

Here is my list or reasons that Florida is a good retreat location:

  1. Florida has relatively stable temperatures year round. It rarely freezes, and almost never snows except up along the panhandle and northern border. However, even that is a rare occurrence.
  2. Because of the temperature, we have an almost year-round growing season for a variety of fruits, vegetables, etc. Florida’s growing season is also popular for using alternative farming methods, such as aquaponics, aeroponics, aquaculture and permaculture.

    Not even a tropical storm can stop our aeroponics setup!

    Not even a tropical storm can stop our aeroponics setup!

  3. Florida is one of the largest cattle producing states, proving it’s ability to sustain livestock.
  4. The water table is very shallow in most areas and can be accessed easily. This means that there is fresh water almost everywhere. A small investment in a quality water filtration system is all you need, as opposed to barrels or other large space consuming storage options.IMAG1255
  5. If you do decide to store water, for instance in large barrels or tanks, there is plenty of rain. For example, one day of summer rain from a roof top can yield 4,000-7,000 gallons of water.
  6. The land is mostly flat/level for building, gardening, and/or walking.IMAG1289 IMAG1353
  7. There are no state taxes.
  8. Arguably, Florida has pretty decent firearm laws. IMAG1304
  9. There are few high value terror targets by way of industry.
  10. There are only 3 nuclear plants, limiting the risk of nuclear fallout as compared to other states.
  11. We do not suffer from earthquakes, nor do we have any volcanoes.  Also, tornadoes are rare here.
  12. No deep rivers to flood over banks and levees.
  13. Any tsunami potential would mostly be restricted to the east coast of the state from the southern center continuing north. The continental shelf and the Bahamas Island chain would reduce the height of a major tsunami for the southern end of the state and water would not go very far inland.
  14. We endure occasional hurricanes but they are easily survivable if somewhat inland away from storm surge and wind fetch.  Moreover, basic preparedness will get you through the season, so if you’re reading this list, you’re well on your way to getting through a hurricane.
  15. Strong building codes in high velocity wind zone areas for stronger homes mean better resistance to severe weather.
  16. Florida has one of the best emergency systems in the nation with a well trained/funded emergency management system to respond to emergencies.  
  17. We have plenty of sun for solar power and solar water heating.IMAG1277
  18. Florida is mostly below the westerly weather patterns that would blow radiation/volcanic ash/etc. across the country onto the east coast states and everywhere in between.
  19. There are still plenty of properties available for great prices that are safely off the main roads.
  20. To listen to everyone else tell it, everyone is headed North to “the hills” so we will apparently be all alone down here. If you don’t have a well-stocked retreat location in the hills, why would you want to strike off in that direction with everyone else?

So there was my general list of reasons to consider Florida as a retreat location, just bring the bug spray for the summer mosquitoes.

What benefits does your state have to offer?

[Combo Special] The Survival Group Handbook and DVD with special BONUS DVD

Now you can own both the complete course and the paperback copy of “The Survival Group Handbook”, PLUS a special bonus DVD entitled “Convincing Others to Prep” for a special combination price!

The DVD runs for 1hr and 50 mins, a full Powerpoint class presentation of the information found within MAGS, narrated by Charley Hogwood.

The bonus disk runs for approximately 20 minutes, and gives you all the tips and tricks we’ve picked up over the years on how to talk to others about prepping and joining a community group.

Who will be there to help you when the lights go out? “The Survival Group Handbook” is a guide designed to walk you through all the steps required to safely and securely find other people just like you who realize that going it alone in a dark world is not an option. This guide is an instruction manual for the solo survivor and a reference textbook for the established group, regardless of size. By employing the hard learned lessons carefully researched from active groups, and applying sociology, history, law and threat analysis, the survivor will understand what to look for in a group, how to build one from scratch, how to fix one that has become dysfunctional and where to put it in a hurry. If you want to put a razor’s edge on your team, understand group dynamics, conflict analysis and be able to successfully operate under a multitude of conditions, this book holds the keys to your success.

Get special pricing while it lasts!


Mutual Assistance Groups – The People Part of Prepping

Charley is doing a series of blog posts on mutual assistance groups for Living Ready magazine.  Here are links to each post!

What is a mutual assistance group? 

How do meet mutual assistance group members

Organizing your mutual assistance group

Building the foundation of your mutual assistance group

Are You A Prepping Addict?

If you are one who chooses to prepare it’s probably because there is a little voice somewhere in your mind that nags at you to be ready for this or that. We meet a lot of people in our journeys to expos and in our classes. There is a common theme that runs in the prepperverse. It can only be described as an urgency to be ready for when “it” happens.


So what is the point of all this? It’s simple really. You can’t do much about macro politics and high impact events other than to prepare for them. But if you allow the paranoia to seep in, you won’t make good decisions. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. Unplug for a few minutes and evaluate your micro economy.

If you are able, take a moment and step away from the digital umbilical cord. This will be hard to do for some of us. If you don’t believe me give it a try. Here are a couple of exercises to see how bad you have it. We are going to start small; if we don’t start hyperventilating then we’ll move to the next level.

Try these exercises to measure your addiction:

  • Turn off the computer completely, shut off the TV; remove the battery from all the phones in the house. Now just stand there and look at your dead electronics. Did you start twitching?
  • Leave your phones at home and take two or more vehicles to a number of the same locations while running errands like we used to do before cell phones. Leave at staggered times and try to meet up at each without communicating once you leave home. Did you feel the helplessness of being unable to communicate and feel the creeping panic that something bad happened?
  • Now turn everything back on and spend an hour reading up on world events. Did feel the relief of knowing what’s happening? Were you so concerned about a distant event that you want to impulsively prepare for it rather than check your property for wildfire or flooding risk? (The pandemic is coming you know, it may already be here.) Sorry, couldn’t resist.

 Plan mentally then physically

Every construction guy worth his salt knows that you never ever schedule without planning first. It is no different in preparedness.

Plan with enough detail to achieve a goal but not so restrictive that you stall or miss a real opportunity that may present itself in your journey. Over-planning can lead to frustration when things don’t go well, and they won’t go well.


“The best laid plans go to Hell when the first round is fired”

– Grunt wisdom

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”

-General George S. Patton

Be resourceful and ready to adapt to your situation, when things go wrong act with a purpose and commit.

On the other hand, the shotgun approach is not always effective either. By working impulsively you will end up with a plan something akin to Swiss cheese. If you know you are going to Swiss cheese it, make sure you have the skills and resourcefulness to connect the dots. For example, you thought to procure a steel container to boil pond water and a flashlight but you didn’t think to get a dependable fire starter. Do you know how to use a flashlight to make fire to boil your water?

 Awareness vs. Preparedness

There is a stark difference between being aware of something and actually planning for it. I find it similar to wandering aimlessly through the forest, you may eventually get you to your destination but most likely you’ll just continue to wander, chasing ghosts, depleting your resources and never really getting anywhere.

 Where to go from here

There is a simple process you can use to get on track. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or have been preparing for years.  Use the following list of priorities to guide your thinking and most importantly, be honest with yourself. As you ponder the questions attempt to spatially visualize how they connect for a more complete understanding.

  •  Take stock of your current situation:
    • Your current location
    • Family
    • Finances
  • Understand your nearest and most immediate threats:
    • Natural hazards
    • Man-made hazards,
    • People you may know
    • Transient populations
    • Criminal activity
  • Understand distant threats and how they may become immediate threats:
    • Oil prices
    • Wars
    • Resource interruptions
    • Economies
  •  Inventory your stocks for basic survival (short, medium then long term):
    • Food
    • Water
    • Shelter
    • Health/safety
    • Security
    • Communication
    • Energy
  1. Realistically inventory your (and the family’s) skills in the above areas of survival
  2. Do you have any plans in place? Primary? Contingency?
  3. Have you actually practiced for any of your contingencies?
  4. Have you updated your information across the board lately?

 Just start somewhere

Don’t try to do it all at once. Define simple achievable goals and build upon them thoughtfully.

As you can see this could be overwhelming and who has time for that. If you start out with some awareness, some knowledge and a goal you will be amazed at how fast you are advancing just by making a few simple life changes. And if that doomsday apocalypse you were worried about ever happens you’ll be ready. If the world doesn’t end you will definitely be ready for that more likely natural disaster that happens hundreds of times in the US every year.

While wondering where to look for quality knowledge and lessons learned, Look to those who have done it. Another appropriate quote from General Patton comes to mind:

“Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.”

This sage advice should be foundational thought for all those who seek to prepare for what may confront us in the future, for the future really is the past.


REVIEW – Southern Grind BAD MONKEY Folding Modified Tanto Serrated-Cerakote Knife

We love sharp things here at PREP and any outdoorsman worth his salt will appreciate a good blade. So when we get a chance to play with something new it’s like Christmas. The opinion jury is always out on knives and their use in daily operations and it’s even more divided out in the woods. We found something new and decided to put it through some paces here in the deeper South.

BAD MONKEY Folding Modified Tanto Serrated-Cerakote in Armor Black

BAD MONKEY Folding Modified Tanto Serrated-Cerakote in Armor Black

As with many things, there will be those of you that are steadfast in your beliefs and expectations of certain products but let’s keep an open mind. Folding knives. There are as many designs as there are hands to hold them it seems. We have our preferences here at the school but are always eager to try new ideas for in and out of the wood line. Allow me to state that folders are great tools but will not replace a quality full tang bushcraft knife when your life is on the line in the bush. If you are planning to snuggle up with Mother Nature for the night be sure to put all of your gear to the test before you go. She has a nasty habit of turning her back on you real quick.

We grabbed this new blade from Zac Brown’s Southern Grind after we saw it at the 2013 Living Ready/Blade Show in Atlanta. This is the BAD MONKEY Folding Modified Tanto Serrated-Cerakote in Armor Black.

The knife features:

  • Carbon fiber handle, twill weave, textured with a matte finish

  • 3 screw pocket clip

  • Titanium lock and liner

  • 14C-28N Steel blade with a conventional V-grind and half serrated edge

  • Tanto design with a hardness of RC 59-61

  • Blade is finished with Cerakote in armor black

  • Overall length is 9.125”

  • Blade length is 3.875”

  • Weighs in at 4.97 oz.

The knife also sports the Emerson Wave feature, which allows it to open as it is drawn for smooth and quick deployment when desired.  The knife also shipped with a nice insulated leather can koozie, leather key ring and black paracord bracelet.

We have processes here at the school to test certain equipment and the Bad Monkey had to run the bases to be qualified for duty.

 So what was tested?

  • Design, grip, blade security, locking mechanism:
    • Fits a big hand well, is on the larger size but thin enough to wear comfortably
    • Textured carbon fiber scales grip the hands in wet conditions well
    • Ambidextrous thumb studs are nicely placed and shouldn’t wear through pants pocket
    • Gorilla gripping the handle doesn’t dislodge the liner lock accidentally like some liner lock knives
    • Blade is solidly in place, no play whatsoever
    • Locking mechanism is firm and tapered for extended life
    • Pocket clip is shorter than usual but works well while allowing Wave feature to work unencumbered
    • Blade floats comfortably in liner with no chafing on finish
    • Smooth, almost imperceptible opening of blade
    • Unlocks and folds with ease
    • We abused it with a Spine Hammer test repeatedly, the blade and lock stood firm.

(All sequence photos were taken with a burst mode camera demonstrating live action)

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  • The Wave feature and ease of opening:
    • Very smooth opening by thumb stud
    • Lightning fast wrist snap opening capability (see our VIDEO0002)
    • Blade locks open firm and with confidence
    • Wave feature takes some getting used to because knife just wants to deploy for action every time you take it out of the pocket.


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  • Testing the edge:
    • We whittled some hardwood into several fire feathers then went to the 1800# tensile strength mule tape. Both serrated and non-serrated edges performed factory fresh and fast on the very fibrous webbing after grinding through the hard dry wood.
    • The blade still cuts tomatoes like a ninja
    • The Tanto version we have also has another edge of about .25” in length on the spine at the tip, which has almost another tip ground in and it is like a scalpel.

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  • Finally we tested the blade for quickness of use under a test called draw, deploy, use and return.
    • This test was done in a utility mode and a defensive mode.
    • The Bad Monkey deployed like lightning in a good grip position, performed its task and pocketed easily.

We found that this blade demands serious respect. When I say it’s sharp I mean really sharp. It only takes a light brush on the blade to donate some blood.

The Emerson Wave feature was new to us and as such the little scalpel tooth on the Tanto version has to date bit me 5 times upon deployment. I don’t feel this would be a problem on the other Southern Grind blade styles, it’s only because the Tanto has the spine grind that when deployed will nick any fingers in line with the unfolding blade.  This happens so fast you don’t even realize it happened until you are leaking which is a testament to the effectiveness of the grind on this bad boy.

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In our defensive deployment test we found that the spine grind made penetration of our test dummy all that much quicker than other blades as it cuts in reverse and is easy on the wrist upon skin entry. The Wave does act differently between loose tactical pants and tighter jeans pockets so some care is to be used when taking it out of your pocket if you don’t want to open the knife.

In summary we love the knife. It is sleek and serious.  A well done! goes out to Southern Grind for creating a precision folder that is also made in America. We look forward to more from them soon.  Until then, we’ll use the Bad Monkey for all kinds of testing, like fresh rum drinks. Hey it’s for survival!


Check out the rest of the knives available at



In our pursuit of fire we have found plenty of quality options but here is an interesting stand out. The Exotac nanoSTRIKER combines high quality engineering and compact size to make a ferrocerrium rod that’s almost too easy to carry and just as easy to use. We took the Nano Striker XL for a test drive out in the back 40 to see if it had what it takes to ignite some debris in a 95% humidity environment.

So what is the Nano Striker?

It’s an extremely compact ferrocerrium rod that stores within itself. When closed it measures in at a short 3.5” in length and about .38” diameter. When opened, it’s just a hair over 4”. The rod is thicker in diameter than most fire steels and is advertised to handle more than 3000 strikes at 5500°. The rod is removable for replacement, which is nice because I don’t see the body ever wearing out. The scraper is usually the weak point in fire starters but this one is a small piece of tungsten carbide embedded in the lanyard attachment and it’s very sharp. Too often you’ll get a hacksaw blade on a string and they always break. The small scraper has an unusual feel when you are used to something bigger like a survival knife against a fire rod. The size may take some getting used to, but once you master the proper angle of attack I think you’ll come to enjoy the compact design.

Look what showed up!

Look what showed up!


Fresh out of the package.

Fresh out of the package.

A noticeable difference were the sparks this thing gives off as compared to the average fire steel. When striking, you’ll see a dense shower of molten globules rain down on the tinder. I think the smaller scraper helps to focus the sparks but that’s just an observation. Another feature I kind of like is that the rod stores easily in a waterproof chamber that is sealed by O-rings. The reason for this is probably corrosion prevention. Have you ever taken your fire steel out and seen it covered in white rust? That’s because it got wet or damp from humidity and put away unprotected. You don’t see that when they are new because all rods come with a protective coating from the factory that you must scrape off before the first use. Ours came in black but I strongly recommend a brighter color like orange so you can un-lose it easier. Save the black and Camo colors for the big stuff, survival gear should be brightly colored so you can see it laying on the ground or hanging on a tree. Not everything needs to be tactical especially this small stuff, it won’t do you any good when you can’t find it on the ground, or in the dark.

What did we use for tinder?

As a base tinder we pulled some mesh fiber from a cabbage palm tree and mixed in some palmetto frond bits, damp leaves and a little amber pine straw for good measure. Most areas in the U.S. this summer are experiencing drought and extreme heat conditions. Here in South Florida we are semi-tropical and always damp this time of year, which makes fire starting a challenge. This summer we have experienced an unusual rain pattern that has kept us with choking humidity and soggy conditions for several months and rain almost every day at odd times.

Nano 03Nano 04

How do you use the Nano Striker?

Unscrew and reattach the rod to the base, unscrew the scraper, I recommend that you put several of your fingers through the scraper lanyard for additional stability. Hold the scraper at 45 degrees to the rod and scrape as if you are trying to skin the rod. After a few strokes you’ll see the proper angle for the best sparks. It took us some trial and error to get the angle right with such a small scraper. There is a sweet spot angle on all fire rods. For an extra boost in tough conditions, slowly scrape some of the rod onto the tinder to receive the sparks if needed. Scrape with a purpose and you’ll notice the molten globs will continue to burn for a moment, which is different than some of the lesser quality fire starters. This will give hard to light tinder a little help.

Nano 05

Nano 06

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One thing we always find in our fire starting classes is that many people don’t understand how to get the sparks on the tinder. It may seem simple in conversation but it’s a little harder in practice.

Here are some tips to conquer fire in the great outdoors with your Exotac nanoSTRIKER:
1. Select the driest tinder possible
2. Tinder should be very small, think hairy toothpicks. It should crackle or snap when you break it.
3. Gather increasing sizes of wood and have plenty of wood ready to go so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute. When looking for firewood, think the following sizes, tooth pick, pencil, finger, arm, leg then torso. Store your woodpile so it doesn’t get rained on.
4. Form a teepee with your smaller sticks and leave an opening to slide your lit tinder bundle in.
5. Using the striker, scrape (don’t strike) some sparks into the bundle. Attempt to aim the shower of sparks into the bundle. If you find you are all over the place or bumping the bundle, try to firmly pull the rod back from the striker while holding the striker in place. This may improve your aim.
6. Once you have a smoldering ember, gently breath some air into the ember while folding the bundle around the ember. In a few moments you should have a flame. If you’ve seen too many survival shows, you’ll probably hear the dramatic crescendo of music as the flame leaps to life in your hands.
7. Place the bundle under the teepee so the flames hit the sticks and tend to it until you have success.
8. Sit by fire and stare longingly at flames for hours.

What did we think?

In closing, we really like the nanoSTRIKER. This is one of those tools that you can easily carry around your neck in case your pack gets eaten by bears or lost in the crash. This is also a great EDC kit option and a thoughtful gift for the survivalist who appreciates quality gear. Another important plus for us here at the school is that EXOTAC products are made in America. We are beginning to see this more often from the quality equipment companies and that is a great thing. After this, we are looking forward to dragging some of their other products out to the swamp.

Check out the rest of the Exotac line of products here:

Building a Personal Preparedness Binder

Here are some helpful printouts that will allow you to gather your important personal and family information into one safe place in case of an emergency!

Critical Documents Checklist 

Emergency ID Cards

Understanding and Surviving Civil Unrest: What To Do In Case Of Rioting

Mob mentality is what happens when you get too many people fired up about something. The more people that are involved, the easier it becomes for individuals to make poor decisions. It’s always easier to go with the flow. We see mob behavior after championship sporting events and amid social tensions. The Zimmerman trial is lining up to upset people on all sides of the issue if it falls the wrong way. But it’s not only a trial at stake here; people are just fed up these days and well armed.

So who might have an interest in the upcoming verdict?

  • Gun rights groups
  • Racial extremists
  • Law enforcement critics
  • People fueled by media hype, questionable legal decisions and the mystery of what really happened
  • People just looking for an opportunity to run amuck.

There are plenty of reasons for people to practice civil disobedience but we are going to focus on the trial and the mentality of the people involved in rioting. First of all, there are leaders and there are followers just like there are in any other social gathering. The leaders in a riot have an agenda. That agenda may be political, racial or just protagonist but they are there for a reason. These are the people that law enforcement seeks to capture. The protagonist understands mob mentality; they embrace it and even direct it.

The other actors in the crowd are usually clueless as to exactly why they are rioting. The allure of being able to loot pillage and plunder with a certain degree of anonymity attracts people of all stripes to areas of disturbance. These are the people that usually wouldn’t act out this openly on their own. Law enforcement has a goal of protecting life and property and can usually achieve these goals by dispersing crowds and detaining the leaders. This is akin to removing the head and the body dies. It is never in the best interest of the police to be too heavy handed. If they are too hard on people exercising their freedom of expression, public sentiment will turn against them. This is why the police usually attempt to contain demonstrations and allow a protest to die out. When they are forced to act they will almost always leave a doorway out of the area for people to disperse safely. The reason for this is so the protesters don’t feel trapped in such a way that would cause additional confrontation. This is your opportunity to escape should you get caught up in the disturbance.

The riot will have a life of its own. They often seem to appear out of nowhere. One minute you are shopping or dining out and the next minute an angry crowd is smashing windows, expensive cars and attacking innocent people. A video of people caught by surprise can be found by doing a web search for the Black Bloc riot. Check out this link for a small video:

So what can an innocent bystander do should they get caught in the ruckus?

  •  If you are safely inside a commercial building, stay there, lock the doors and find the emergency exits in case of fire or attack
  • If you are in a shop that offers anything of value to looters, leave as soon as possible
  • Don’t seek refuge in places likely to be looted
  • If you are at home or in an apartment, secure the entries and prepare to bug out in case of fire or attack. Be ready to defend yourself if necessary
  • If you have advance warning of local trouble, decide whether to evacuate or shelter in place
  • Have quality fire extinguishers on hand
  • If you decide to stay, be ready to leave at a moments notice
  • Reach out to your neighbors and form a plan for mutual assistance and care of the vulnerable neighbors
  • If possible, establish constant communication with neighbors
  • Activate your Commo plan with your local and out of area plan
  • Have enough supplies for at least one week, especially in an urban environment
  • If the crisis exceeds your supplies and you are forced to leave the safety of your location, leave a 5-point contingency plan for what to do in case you don’t return 
  • Avoid public areas and stay home if neighborhood tension is high
  • Malls, public buildings, high end shopping and dining areas are usual targets as well as ghetto neighborhoods
  • Stay informed as to all disturbance areas from the news, new areas can pop up in minutes
  • Have a battery-powered radio as in some cases the electricity will be turned off due to fires or vandalism
  • Prepare your bug out bags and home for evacuation
  • Know your Evac route to be sure you don’t drive into a mob unexpectedly, many victims have stumbled or driven into a crowd to tragic endings
  • If caught outside in a flash mob either blend in or escape to safety as soon as possible.
  • Avoid looking like you have anything someone may want
  • Wear baggy clothes for protection from sharp objects (urban body armor)
  • Seek shelter and be sure there is an alternate exit so rioters or a burning building does not trap you.

Your safety lays in your ability to escape the mob scene, including splinter groups that are looking for targets of opportunity. Things that can make you a target include:

  • Your race
  • Your attire
  • What you may be carrying
  • The type of vehicle you are driving
  • Being alone
  • Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time

To a lesser extent but still a possibility, rural areas are not exempt. Depending on the nature of the unrest, some rural areas or businesses may be considered an easy target. Driving factors are political, racial, economical and environmental in nature. Don’t let your guard down just because you may find yourself in a suburb or country setting. You should be aware of your proximity to power stations, public assets, high value targets and anything that could cause you harm if attacked such as chemical storage or public infrastructure.

Social media at amazing speeds now drives civil unrest and information is your friend. Make yourself aware of everything that is happening and remember that often events trigger other events. Vandalism can trigger disaster by way of arson, delay of services or disruption of resources. There are many organized criminal elements that actually plan for this and anxiously take advantage of crisis conditions. They know that police and responders will be tied up with the riots or disaster conditions and they have pre-planned strategies to make things worse so they can conduct their operations unfettered.

The best defense is a good offense, so stay informed, review your hazard analysis, and be prepared.

Convenience and Simplicity – Pt 2: How to Make a Better Bug Out Bag

Last week, we posted about some of the common problems with pre-made emergency kits.  This week is part 2, how to make a BETTER kit.

Also, now that we’ve exposed the possible deficiencies with pre-made kits, what about the user? We know that just buying stuff doesn’t help much if you don’t know what you have or how to use it. Let’s talk about suitable options to make a better kit and the recommended skills to have at a minimum.

  •  Pick up a quality water filter that has specs showing it can filter the most common biologicals if not better. I recommend Berkey bottles for their convenience and durability. Learn some basic water purification skills and how to select the best water in your area. Add some water purification tablets or Tincture of Iodine 2% for extra protection.
  • Pick up a quality survival blanket in a larger size, and add some Gorilla duct tape to seal yourself in. Better yet, grab a SOL Emergency Bivvy. Learn about heat and cold injuries and how to prevent them. (For a 2 person bivvy, check this out: SOL emergency Bivvy – 2 person)
  • A 55-gallon heavy-duty trash bag has a hundred uses including rain poncho and takes up no room when rolled up. Take 2 of them with you. Learn some ways to use the bag resourcefully.
  • Making fire is a very important skill to know. There is no need to default to rubbing sticks together if you take a fire source with you. A quality disposable lighter with some duct tape and jute twine will serve dozens of purposes. You can also add some tinder (duct tape is also a good tinder) and add a ferrocerrium rod as a back up. Learn how to make a fire teepee from debris.
  • Food rations are as simple as adding some sports bars but you can also purchase the better quality survival bars such a SOS or Mainstay. If you want a longer-term kit, add some pre-made cable snares or a slingshot. Learn about wild edibles to take advantage of your surroundings.
  • Add a good quality whistle such as JetScream or at least a good referee whistle. Learn some basic self-rescue and signal techniques for air and ground rescue observation. If you go on a hike or trip, you should have told someone where you were going and when to expect you to return.
  • Add a couple of good quality N95 masks in a Ziploc bag to your kit. These are helpful in many environments. Learn basic flu prevention methods and how germs are transmitted. If in an urban area, become familiar with regular wind patterns in case smoke or building collapse dusts becomes a concern. Add a heavy quality cotton bandanna to wet into a simple smoke mask. Swim goggles can help see in contaminated air. Know your evacuation routes for everywhere you go, inside and outside.
  • Add a few pair of Nitrile medical gloves in a plastic bag and rotate them at least every year. A decent set of work gloves will protect your medical gloves when handling debris such as in a car accident or urban disaster. Learn about blood-borne pathogens and take a CERT  (Community Emergency Response Team) class. The classes are free and you will receive free gear and meet others interested in preparedness. Look here for a class
  • Add some custom first aid supplies based on your abilities and likely situation. Learn some basic first aid and CPR.
  • Add a good quality flashlight preferably a bright LED headlamp and extra batteries for hands free operation. It is a good idea to add several Cyalume Brand green and yellow 12-hour chemical light sticks. These are military grade and cost about $1 each. Take care not to bend them in your bag until you need them. These will be effective for the full 12 hours unlike the cheap version form overseas.
  • Place all your gear in a decent quality backpack that is durable but not necessarily to expensive or too tactical looking. You don’t want someone trying to take it from you.  Use a bag large enough to add some personal items but not so big you can’t easily carry it for long distances. If it has a padded waist belt, that’s even better.


This is not the end of the discussion and you must personalize the bag for your skill level and particular situation. As we always say in our Bug-Out Bag classes, never listen to anyone who gives you a generic shopping list. If they do, I guarantee they don’t know what they are talking about.

In closing I want to add a couple of the many possible additions to your kit to make it yours.

Some additions to consider:

  • Seasonal clothing you can walk long distances in
  • Outdoor boots or walking shoes
  • Hiking socks
  • First-Aid references
  • Health information
  • Important documents
  • ID to prove where you live
  • Special meds
  • Tissues
  • Ear plugs
  • Map
  • Commo plan/phone numbers
  • Self defense item
  • Steel water bottle and cup
  • Quality knife
  • Cordage, 550 or bank line. At least 50 feet
  • Gorilla Brand duct tape
  • Waterproof bag

 In closing, this is a very large subject broken down to demonstrate the benefits of building your own kits and learning some basic skills. This article is in no way meant to be all-inclusive. It is too easy to grab something off of a shelf and feel safe but it is another thing entirely to actually be ready for life’s emergencies. Take a little time to do it right. It doesn’t have to be expensive but these are things you are effectively betting your safety on, and possibly the safety of your loved ones. They deserve a well though out plan and quality equipment.

What would you add to the list that can be carried to improve your general survival?

Feel free to list skills or gear.

Convenience and Simplicity Over True Preparedness – Pt. 1

There is a trend in the Prepperverse of taking the easy way out. Everywhere we turn there is another snake oil answer to our survival problems.

Case in point, pre-made bugout bags. From $36 and up you can toss one of these in your cart and you are ready for that systemic collapse we’ve been worried about. Thank goodness there was a company that solved that problem, now we can get the t-shirt and get on with our lives.

Not so fast, if only it was this easy. Anyone who jumps in bed with a wholesaler from China and thinks they are doing you a great service may be actually doing you a disservice.  It turns out there is a catch when it comes to any piece of equipment, you need to try it out at the very least and preferably be proficient with said equipment before your safety depends on it. Since your gear can’t speak, you’ll need to play with it to become familiar with its operation, quirks, dependability and safety. These kits usually claim to have survival supplies including but not limited to:

  • Water packets or filter
  • Survival blanket
  • Rain poncho
  • A way to make fire
  • Some type of food ration
  • A signal device
  • Dust mask
  • Vinyl gloves
  • First-Aid kit
  • Light source of some kind
  • A handy backpack or fanny bag

So what could possibly go wrong?

  1. The water packets are a good option as long as they are Coast Guard Certified for survival kits in extreme climate conditions (your vehicle trunk) The juice box type have tendency to leak, grow interior mold and are bulky.
  2. The water filters usually included can be of questionable specification and quality. We find that they may not filter some common contaminants and often break after or during the first use. A filter is only as good as the way you use it. Does it come with safe use instructions? Do you know anything about water purification?
  3. The survival blanket must be used as a cocoon to work properly. Tossing it over your shoulders as a cloak will do nothing for you. Is it big enough to cover you completely? Can you seal it shut without the material tearing? Most cheap blankets tear very easily. Have you tried to use one in advance? A note on this, don’t expect to be able to re-pack the blanket back in its compact form. Buy a spare and use it to practice, they cost about a dollar for the type used in most kits.
  4. The rain poncho is usually the .50-cent version from a dollar store. It has its survival uses but don’t count on it being very durable.
  5. The usual included fire starter is a package of waterproof matches. We did a review on the UCO brand of matches and found that there is nothing waterproof about them. They might work if they became slightly damp but don’t count on them if they are exposed to water for more than a few seconds.
  6. The food rations that are usually included vary by brand but are usually some sort of ration cookie or bar. Some brands are ok but do your research on the nutrition they contain. Remember that if you need to eat these bars, you will probably be in a tough spot and calories count. Make sure they offer some nutrients and are not too much protein. In a scenario where you are stranded, water may be scarce and protein depletes your body stores. Some brands indicate they do not promote thirst for this reason. Don’t forget to look for the Coast Guard Certification as with the water packets. A good goal would be a 3-day supply of rations and at the very least, 1200 calories per day for a total of 3600 calories. Remember, you may be walking a long way and you’ll need energy.
  7. The signal device will usually be a whistle or a mirror. We’ve tested different whistles in the wilderness and some just don’t work well enough to hear for any distance. Make sure you try it out with a friend from a good distance before you need it to signal for real help. Signal mirrors are very effective… If someone is looking for you. Otherwise they are usually ignored as an accidental reflection of some sort. What would you do if you saw a glint of light in the distance?
  8. Your kit may come with a “respirator”. This means dust mask. These are not protective from aerosols or any kind of chemical. They will not be effective against smoke either. At best they may help with dust from a building collapse. They are marginally effective with airborne pathogens.
  9. Vinyl gloves. A good idea but keep in mind why you would need them. Will these knock off gloves protect you from blood borne pathogens? Will they deteriorate in the kit and tear when you use them?
  10. The first-aid kit is usually a few cheap Band-Aids and some sporin cream. These kits are severely lacking for much more than a paper cut.
  11. The light source. This is usually a chemical light or flashlight. Chem lights are great as long as you have a quality brand that will be bright and last for the full 12 hours claimed on the label. The Chinese versions will do neither. We’ve all purchased a bargain flashlight at some point so I don’t need to reveal why that’s a bad idea. If the kit offers a wind-up light try it out to make sure it works and the handle doesn’t break off when you crank it.
  12. The handy backpack they offer is usually of a quality on par with your child’s first kindergarten bag. Remember you will definitely need to add some personal items and possibly wear the bag for many miles. If you have ever worn a backpack that chafed your skin and possibly tore at an inconvenient time you already know how bad that can be. If you have never walked with your bug-out bag, you absolutely must take it for a walk of at least several miles if not more. It takes that long to truly reveal all the discomforts and defects you may have to contend with.

So, before you run out to Costco or that new fancy online store, take a good hard look at the products they are offering and whether they truly suit your needs and will take you OUT of harm’s way, instead of putting you right INTO it.

EcoZoom Versa – Review by PREP

The folks at EcoZoom asked us if we were interested in trying out their Versa stove and writing an unflinching review of our findings. That takes nerve and you better be ready to take a punch if your product is lacking in any way. Of course we said yes, always happy to discover a worthy survival solution or to thin the herd of junk products where needed.

We first saw their stoves at a survival expo out in Colorado a couple years ago and were intrigued. Rocket stoves come in various designs and many people have tried to create their own version. Some even make them from debris lying around. There are usually a couple of problems with rocket stoves, namely, they are either made in pieces from debris and not easy to transport, or they are made of some kind of structural steel/concrete and could double as a ship anchor. Some designs are even dangerously hot to the exterior touch due to lack of insulation, which is a fire hazard in itself. One thing is for sure though; they work great if you can get your muddy hands on a good one.

We found that there actually is a solid solution to this problem. In the Versa model we found that EcoZoom has created a good combination of strength, weight, portability and safety. Here’s what we found as we put the stove through some paces.

Initial Impression:

  • Very sturdy construction
  • Nice finish coating on the metal surfaces
  • Packaging is solid
  • Looked and felt durable like a real piece of equipment
  • Not too big, not too small for simple cooking
  • Would store easily in tight spaces along with other gear
  • Weighs in at about 22 pounds
  • No sharp edges, good workmanship

First test: Finding firewood and lighting

One of the challenges here in Southern Florida is that we don’t have much in the way of hardwood trees. Our swampy conditions and sandy soils offer more soft and sappy wood. We located some Brazilian pepper, slash pine and cabbage palm frond for our cooking effort. The learning curve was not very steep. I found that the easiest way to start the fire was to take a handful of good tinder and one ½” x 6” stick and place it down the center of the chimney and light it from the bottom. Once the tinder flames began, the larger sticks were able to ignite easily.

Very quickly you will find the flames roaring to life. Before you place the food or cooking pot on the surface you may want to feed the sticks in or out to adjust the heat level required, it takes about a meal to get comfortable with it. Before your first sticks die down you’ll want to start the next batch of sticks one at a time to maintain your cooking temps.

A sampling of the wood that we used: Brazilian pepper, slash pine and cabbage palm

A sampling of the wood that we used: Brazilian pepper, slash pine and cabbage palm

The flame was howling in moments

The flame was howling in moments

Notice the strong drafting as air is drawn into the firebox. Hence the name "Rocket stove".

Notice the strong drafting as air is drawn into the firebox. Hence the name “Rocket stove”.

We found that the fire burned so fast that he small twigs were gone quickly.

We found that the fire burned so fast that he small twigs were gone quickly.

The stick rest is a nice tough.

The stick rest is a nice touch.

We decided to try some larger diameter sticks, and the flames flew.

We decided to try some larger diameter sticks, and the flames flew.

Second test: Dutch oven lid-only cooking

We had an old Dutch oven laying around that needed to be re-seasoned and it’s always time for bacon, so we used this as our learning experience. Adjusting the flame didn’t take too much getting used to. We easily cooked and learned how to use the stove simultaneously. We used the cast iron lid as a skillet and cooked some bacon. We chose cast iron, thinking that it would be more difficult to keep heated due to its thickness. This was no problem for the EcoZoom Versa. In just a few moments we were thawing frozen bacon and in about five minutes we were done cooking. (Insert bacon smell here)


Third Test: Use of the wind skirt

The wind skirt made cooking even faster.

The wind skirt made cooking even faster.

The Versa comes with a nice addition, a wind skirt. The claims are that it increases the heating efficiency and focuses more heat to the cooking vessel. We found that this was true, it seemed to increase temperature quickly and our bacon sizzled even faster. We had a very breezy day and we didn’t lose any heat while using the skirt. A nice addition to an outdoor stove that many companies don’t seem to understand.




Fourth Test: Dutch oven 10-inch pot

Tongs made cooking easier, including moving embers as needed.

Tongs made cooking easier, including moving embers as needed.

The Wind Skirt fit nicely around the cast iron oven pot and was easily adjusted. One of the concerns we had originally revolved around center of gravity on an unstable surface. We tested the stove on our old SHTF

wagon, and even moved the wagon up and down a slope with the Dutch oven on the stove, and experienced no balance issues. We feel this is important when you have children around who may dangerously bump into a hot pot of boiling water or the last of your emergency foodstuffs. The whole setup was very stable.


Fifth Test: Foil Packet Meal

A popular camp dinner, we put together a large 2-person foil packet meal containing a mahi filet, green beans, onions and potatoes. We were able to gently place the packet right on top of the stove, and maintain an even flame. While you may be able to use only a couple of sticks to start a fire, you’ll definitely need a small pile in order to get through an entire meal. This was no problem as we have twigs laying everywhere. I am confident that unless we are lost at sea with our EcoZoom we will find something to burn.


We were cooking almost too fast.

Pass the Cajun seasoning! This large packet meal normally takes 30 minutes, we did it in 25 and it was delicious.

Rufus the Ready Dog knows what’s cookin’

When you’re done cooking there is no big fire to extinguish

When you’re done cooking there is no big fire to extinguish

Easy instructions on the box

Just close the doors and you’re done (Watch for any hot embers that may have fallen out).

Just close the doors and you’re done
(Watch for any hot embers that may have fallen out).


So what did we discover while testing the EcoZoom Versa stove?


  • Much easier than making a full campfire
  • Much easier to contain/extinguish than a campfire
  • Can be moved while hot, unlike a typical fire
  • Has convenient handles for transport
  • Stable footprint, just find and clear a small level spot anywhere
  • Works well in windy conditions
  • Potentially works well in rainy conditions due to the fire being shielded
  • Multi-fuel (biomass, charcoal or anything that burns)
  • As opposed to a typical charcoal fire, you can adjust the temperature and not have to carry charcoal with you unless you want to. The stove does come standard with a nice heavy-duty cast iron charcoal grate that allows you to get every last bit of heat from briquettes before they fall through to the lower ash chamber.
  • Great instructions using pictures that are easy to understand
  • Their charity program will send a stove to a needful family for every unit they sell through their Z+ Program


  • The well insulated structure and refractory brick makes it a heavy piece of equipment, so it’s not a convenient trail stove. This stout little rocket is best suited as an off-grid cooking option in case of disaster, or a base camp stove, but you won’t be throwing this in a backpack anytime soon. For hiking, I’ll rely on either a bush craft stove or a portable cooking system.


We used some Kevlar oven gloves and tongs for convenience but other than that all we needed was an appetite.

The Benefits of using the EcoZoom Stove

The Benefits of using the EcoZoom Stove

In the end, we love this thing and consider it to be one of those things you will only need to buy once and keep using for many years to come. Its amazing ability to be useful in almost any environment, using almost any combustible solid material is a big plus for us as we are hard on equipment and go to some rough places.

For more information check out their website at:

TEOTWAYKI… The End of the World as YOU Know It

The apocalyptic scenario drifts into your mind and you start to feel this undercurrent of self-doubt.  Do I have the right skills? Did I store enough stuff? Am I in the wrong place? The latest news is bad, another story of an attack, a liberty stolen, a clash of religions that is sure to spread like the next novel virus. You have become switched on to the gruesome workings of the world. No longer lulled to sleep in the apathy of abundant or adolescent days gone by.  You are a prepper.

There is a price to extreme preparedness; it’s your sanity.  The more you pay attention, the more threats you see. Is there really a growing list of hazards threatening our very existence or are we just falling victim to some form of jungle psychosis, the mental place where we can see what we believe to be there. It’s scary really, when you are so sure you hear something that you actually see it with your own eyes. Are you creating your own TEOTWAYKI? We prepare for our own peace of mind but if we become obsessive we may be unraveling our own sanity and that could mean the end of the world, as you know it.

Maybe we should blame Ted Turner. He was pretty much the father of the 24-hour news cycle. When CNN started broadcasting, critics said there wasn’t enough to talk about for 24 hours a day. We all know how that turned out. Nowadays we have hundreds of news options available to assault our minds every day. Sometimes there really isn’t much to talk about so the news needs some help.

This isn’t really supposed to be a commentary on the onslaught of information and marketing being targeted at you. This is more about deciding how much to worry about. There is a very real condition called paralysis by analysis. There is also such a thing as being blinded by the light. In this case the light being the news cycle. If we tried to prepare for everything we’d probably end up preparing for the wrong thing when it happens. There just isn’t enough time, money or closet space for such a thing.

So, what does the preparedness minded person do in this veritable buffet of hazards and global momentum? It’s actually pretty simple. Learn what is most likely to affect you today, right here, right now. That’s it. Now, prepare yourself and family in all 7 main areas of survival for an achievable period of time. 3 days is a good goal if you are just starting out. If you are a veteran prepper, take the time to perform what we call, a blind spot analysis. This means, think and practice what you would do if something happened in any of the 7 areas. If you find that two dots don’t connect to facilitate your plan, you may want to correct that. Once you are ready to bet your life on it, advance to longer periods of self-reliance.

What are the 7 areas of survival?


Notice that there are no specific categories for doomsday on the list? That is because we need to be focused on our survival from a myriad of emergencies not just the latest news event. My guess is that your nearest threats aren’t news, yet.

So what are the likely hazards you face? WARNING! The items on the list are not all that newsworthy until one of them happens, then it becomes “breaking news!” (Note: This is how the news fills their time).

A few hazards and emergencies worthy of consideration:

  • Severe weather
  • Flooding
  • Wildfire / home fire
  • Power outage
  • Land movement – landslide/earthquake
  • Chemical spill – large or household
  • Auto crash
  • Missing children/elderly/pet
  • Job loss – income loss
  • Criminal activity – burglary, vandalism, trespass, home invasion, assault

Medical emergencies should be considered but there are so many we will just list a few of the most common. These can happen anywhere at anytime to anyone:

  • Choking
  • Drowning
  • Burns
  • Fractures
  • Lacerations
  • Illness
  • Poisoning
  • Concussions
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Falls
  • Animal bites
  • Electrocutions
  • Car accidents
  • Work accidents

Once you have sincerely evaluated what could go wrong, you’ll want to identify your priorities. Now this is where people get wrapped around the axle. It’s unquestionably more fun to plan and practice our firearms plan than it is to do food storage or write a Commo plan but you must be disciplined if you are to survive on more than dumb luck.

There is plenty of evidence to show that we are far more likely to be affected by weather than martial law, yet many people spend inordinate amounts of time and money preparing for a societal collapse. Not to say that it won’t happen, but until then we would be better served to worry about what could happen this afternoon.  Ask the good folks and survivors of tornado ravaged Moore Oklahoma what they will be preparing for next time. I’m guessing something weather related.

Moving on. Now that you have the basics covered you can more efficiently prepare for the big time event. Cases in point, pandemic, currently there are 2 separate viruses that have the potential to be global threats. They are H7N9 from Asia and Mers-CoV, which seems to have emerged in the Middle East. Public Health threats are a favorite with big news. Stories on these topics cause the reader to imagine an invisible enemy on every doorknob or toilet handle or maybe a biological terrorist at every public event. What difference really is there between the bird flu and common influenza? How about norovirus or rhinovirus?

Actually other than the potential mortality rate, there isn’t really that much difference. No one wants to be sick with any of these. The overriding point here is if you practice general safe hygiene, you can prevent most of the complications of a dreaded contagion. When a novel virus pops up on the global stage you may want to increase your vigilance and maybe practice some social distancing. It may also be time to reduce those outdated office high fives and give hand sanitizer as gifts. But other than that, there’s not much else to do. If one of these bugs gets out of control we could see some serious effects like 40% of all workforce staying home which would wreak havoc on the system and economy. But that is why we were prepared in the first place.

If a scenario like this worries you, increase your readiness with supplemental skills and supplies. So what additional items might you need for a pandemic (minus the usual long term survival accouterments you may already have)?

Pandemic Supplemental Kit:

  • Additional medical style masks such as N95 type
  • Additional medical grade gloves
  • Eye protection from fluids
  • Tyvek style coveralls to protect your clothing from contaminates
  • Plastic sheeting and good tape and to make a hot room for isolation and warm room for suiting up
  • Medical grade cleanser such as Hibiclens
  • Lysol spray for surfaces
  • Liquid bleach (Note: Liquid bleach has a 6 month shelf life)
  • Additional garbage bags for contaminated refuse

Ultimately you can see that if you were prepared for flu season, you were mostly prepared for global pandemic. The major difference would be in knowledge and skills to survive longer periods of isolation. Most likely you could be on your own for 2-8 weeks as the virus made its rounds. But be ready for the virus to come through your area in waves if it is hardy enough. Keep in mind that it is not all that rare for some of these viruses move into a post-pandemic phase and become seasonal.

As for pandemics, no one wants to be ill prepared but don’t make yourself sick over it.

(I couldn’t resist a little pun fun)

What are some other examples of duplicate preparedness that you have found?

What lessons have you learned the hard way by not planning ahead wisely before you started preparing for something?

2013 Living Ready Expo – Charley Explains Solar Distillation

Why solar distillation is another option for water purification, and how to do it properly.

2013 Living Ready Expo – Charley Explains Bleach for Water Purification

Do you include bleach as part of your preparedness plan for water purification? Here’s some helpful tips.

Rolling To A Stop and Living In The Dark

Recently I saw some controversy about the book “One Second After” by William R. Forstchen. The opinion was that too many people were treating the book as gospel with respect to their prepping for a long-term power outage.

The book details an Electro-magnetic Pulse attack on the United States by an unknown entity. Actually none of the characters knows exactly why the power went out, but everything operated by electricity to include all vehicles and generators just stopped working. In the blink of an eye, everything rolled to a stop, including life, as we knew it.

This is not a book review

Although I regularly recommend the book as a primer to anyone curious or on the fence about prepping. The story does a great job of revealing how people may react when the lights go out, transportation stops, food disappears, medical supplies run out and help isn’t coming.  Is it an extreme example? Maybe, maybe not, depends who you ask. But it is an emotional page-turner that might just draw you in and have you cursing, crying and cheering throughout. Either way, you may find yourself asking some questions about your level of preparedness. And that is a good thing.

So where is the controversy? It’s in our freedom to prepare anyway we wish.  Prepping already gets a bad rap in general by the population at large.  It’s been open season by TV and media for a while now. So why do we in the prepperverse feel the need to down on each other. Without pointing fingers, a couple of the biggest names in survival have criticized those who prefer to be self-reliant in a world without power.

There is every reason to be prepared for a long power outage. First, let’s define what long term may mean to you. An EMP is considered a high impact low frequency event. NASA had a page on its website that warned about the US East coast possibly being without power for 4-7 years after an EMP or severe solar weather event. That page has since been pulled but interestingly; they still have the urban survival page placeholder in the employee area of the site. But aside from an apocalyptic event, let’s consider events that have actually happened? Hurricanes Andrew or Katrina, Sendai Provence Japan after the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear meltdown. There was no power for months in affected areas. These are just a couple of actual examples of a time when 72 hours of supplies wasn’t even close to enough.

If the event is large enough, there may be nowhere to actually go. How about a possible earthquake on the New Madrid fault line that severs critical cross-country infrastructure? Is someone going to flip a breaker and shazaam, we have lights? No, it doesn’t work that way.

As our colleagues stated, there will always be someone to turn the power back on. But how long would a repair take after the grid is catastrophically damaged by Mother nature, physical attack or cyber terrorism?

Electricity is arguably the easiest area of survival to adjust to a life without. We have survived without power as a species until only recently. With that being said, it would be a major adjustment in our way of life until the lights come back on. Take a moment to reflect on how electricity has changed our world and how things would be when all the machines stop working.


In this world where everyone has an opinion and a website, you need to do what you must to extend your survival and comfort in times of crisis. Don’t be swayed by those who speak the loudest but haven’t actually lived what they preach. There may come a day when you are sitting in the dark, cursing, and can’t even tweet @ them that they were wrong and you regret listening to them.


So what can you do to mitigate the effects of a life without power?


We at P.R.E.P have taken the less than glamorous approach of actually attempting to identify threats to our safety and survival by performing a hazard analysis in all the areas we feel are important to our everyday life.  One of those areas is electricity.


Take out some paper and ask yourself some questions. Once you have considered the potential problems of living without power, devise some solutions to lessen the impact of such an existence.


Think about short and long-term periods at home, and then consider the impacts of distant places without power to really get a feel for what conditions you may be forced to endure.”


There are seven main areas of survival. How could a power outage affect you in a survival situation? What other problems can you identify?


  • Transportation from farmer through the food processing/delivery chain.
  • Refrigeration and preservation
  • Cooking and preparation
  • Will you be able to produce, preserve and prepare foods for safe consumption?


  • Municipal water systems inoperable
  • Sewers inoperable
  • Fire hydrants/extinguishing may not be available
  • Water quality, not safe to drink without treatment
  • Will you have water for the many needs of survival? Drinking, hygiene, medical, laundry, sanitation of surfaces, flushing, irrigation, animals?


  • Lighting, (candles are a major cause of house fires after a hurricane or power outage)
  • Appliances
  • Warmth
  • Cooling
  • Electric tools
  • Farm housing and animal care
  • Will your physical location be affected? Maintenance?

Safety / Health:

  • Medical machines
  • Drinking/hygiene/medical water quality concerns
  • Sanitation, cleaning/sewage
  • Medical supplies, pharmaceuticals
  • Access to care
  • Night visibility
  • What medical capabilities will be affected? Short/Long term?
  • Will you need medications?


  • Security systems may be down
  • Outdoor lighting inoperable
  • Automated systems offline
  • Will the outage affect your physical security plan?


  • Computer systems down
  • Communication systems down. Ham, CB, data, voice, video
  • How will you communicate locally/distantly?


  • Fuel may be unavailable for power generation and transportation at all levels
  • Nuclear power offline without cooling systems, even offline, the rods need to be cooled or they will meltdown
  • Grid may be down for extended period without replacement transformers. Power is needed to manufacture transformers. Some types take months to make and transport
  • Did the event damage your alternate energy equipment or plans?

In this case we will add transportation because it affects all the other areas of survival in some way. If there were an outage that disabled our mechanical way to move great distances, it would effectively shut down the economy on a grand scale, especially in this globalized and interconnected world.

The Moral of the story:  Feel free to prepare as you see fit. Don’t let others make you feel foolish for thinking outside the box and having a contingency plan. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask for help, this is all uncharted territory for a modern society.

Alternative Energy: How to Safely Use a Generator During Crisis

As we approach hurricane season, generators are in high demand.  However, when’s the last time you actually used a generator?

So …your power is out, seems like a good time to try out that generator that has been cluttering up your garage all this time. Hopefully it starts because you had it stored properly by draining the fuel and running some fuel stabilizer through it.
If you have gotten this far and the machine starts, you will need to make note of some safety concerns:


The vapors from the gasoline are explosively combustible. When the gas splashes onto the hot engine it may ignite.  Of course by the time you realized that you blew yourself up, your house will probably be on fire.


The exhaust will produce carbon monoxide that will find its way into the living area of the home and kill you in your sleep. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas.

  • Chain your generator to a tree.

We had a neighbor that purchased a beautiful new 10,000 watt portable generator and left it running outside his window while he slept. During the night he noticed his fan wasn’t working but still heard his machine dutifully chugging away. When he went out to check the extension cord, he found an old push lawn mower idling in the spot where he left his sparkling new generator.

  • Have a plan for fuel savings.

Use a generator only as large as you actually need. Too many people feel the need to replace the electric company completely during an outage. Fuel is expensive. A smaller machine that will power the essential circuits is the best option. Air conditioning is great but do you want to use $800 a day in propane to power an industrial generator just to stay cool? A 10kw or 15kw unit is a nice size for a home and a portable 5kw (5,000 watt) machine is a good temporary option. You only need to run the generator at night to cool down the freezer and run a fan to sleep with. Another option is to store a small “window shaker” air conditioner for emergencies. By running your generator for about 10 hours at night you can get about 60% relative fuel savings and the added benefits of oil life extension.


  • Change the oil.

The smaller the engine the more often you must change the oil. The average 5,000 watt machine needs a change every 24 hours of engine run time. The process is simple and takes about 10 minutes.
TIP: Store extra oil as part of your emergency supplies.
Smaller units such as a 1000 watt generator may need to be serviced as often as every 5 hours.

  • When the grid comes back up, disconnect your set up.

Turn off the generator. If you open the main breaker while the generator is on you will feed power into the outside lines and possibly electrocute a neighbor or serviceman on a pole down the street. Turn everything off in the house including the central air conditioner and heat. Shut off all breakers and then starting with the main, turn on every breaker individually and listen for anything unusual. If you hear any pops, or a breaker won’t stay on, check that area for damage. You may have a short or damaged / waterlogged outlet or appliance.

  • Store your generator properly. 

We want to make sure that it’s ready for the next crisis. Don’t forget to restock oil, fuel and fuel stabilizer. Fuel without ethanol will store longer if you can find it.

  • Know your load.

Look at the labels on your appliances for the wattage requirements. Add the wattages up to make sure you don’t overload your generator. The more power you are trying to use, the more fuel your engine will require to generate power. This means, when your neighbor wants to plug in to your cord, your engine will work harder to meet the increased demand for his refrigeration needs. Plan ahead by asking him to provide additional fuel for the duration.
Note: If you plan to back-feed your temporary power through the house wiring by plugging into a *receptacle, be very sure to shut off the main circuit breaker and all other breakers except the one you are feeding into and the circuits that feed the outlets you are trying to power. *(not recommended unless done by an electrician due to the damage it will cause to appliances and electronics if done incorrectly due to incorrect phasing on 220v wiring). As with every piece of equipment, familiarize yourself with the instruction manual. Most manufacturers will have a copy online for reference, before the power goes out.

Most injuries happen after the storm. Don’t short-circuit your safety.

 Just a few things to keep in mind as we get ready for hurricane season 2013.  National Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 26 – June 1, so let’s be ready preppers!

Water Purification Basics

It doesn’t take long to start feeling the effects of dehydration. Confusion, thirst, weakness, dark smelly urine. Most notable is the lack of ability to concentrate and perform simple tasks. One thing I learned during the Advanced Everglades Survival Course taught by The Pathfinder School is the very strange sensation of being ankle deep in water for days and yet be dehydrated. You need to have the discipline to force yourself to make drinkable water. Especially in a wet, rainy environment with little dry fire wood. It is too easy to say you’ll drink later. Don’t succumb to this complacency and make sure your team stays hydrated too. This is mission critical whether you are doing storm clean up or lost in the mountains.

Below I have offered some choices for your water purification plan whether at home or at large.
Liquid Bleach
  • Yes, it is a good option. BUT, liquid bleach only has an effective shelf life of about 6 months before it becomes ineffective.
  • Not good to carry in a pack.
  • Not a problem for short term home use but date it and rotate it into your laundry.
  • Use only unscented bleach for drinking water purification.
  • You can use it for small quantities as well as large.
  • For clear water = 8 drops bleach to 1 gallon of water
  • For cloudy water = 16 drops of bleach to 1 gallon of water
  • For quart sizes, uses 2 drops and 4 drops respectively

A better long term solution is sodium hypochlorite powder (pool shock). It’s about $3 for a small pouch that cleans about 10,000 gallons of water. This is the same material that cities use to clean municipal water. Best in larger containers like rain barrels and such. Use your math to calculate dosages from the instructions. It has a very, very long shelf life as it is a powder. Liquids of any type have a short life (meds, sauces, bleach) Pool specialty stores carry it. Be careful of other types of pool shock because they have other ingredients that I believe would not be good to drink I’m not sure. I only looked up the MSDS sheets for sodium hypochlorite. I have not seen the right stuff at the home stores.

This is a great inexpensive barter item to keep in your preps. Plus it makes the Doom Room smell fresh :D

Other great solutions are;

  1. Tincture of Iodine 2% – From drug store. 5 -10 drops per 32oz of water (IMPORTANT: make sure you are not sensitive to iodine, pregnant or have a thyroid condition)
  2. Boiling = Have a steel container and set in/on the fire until water boils a couple minutes. A good kit would have stainless steel container, scarf for filtering sediments and a way to make fire.
  3. Commercial Water filter = Properly sized for number of people served and mission. Used mostly as a temporary measure. Go for the higher quality and do your own comparisons. We recommend the Berkey Water products, and carry them in all of our personal bags.  You can also purchase them directly from us.
  4. Rain Water = Use plastic, tarps or solar stills to catch as much as possible. Use your cotton scarf or shemaugh as a filter to remove the debris that falls from the trees.
If you have pesticides or virus in your water source these methods may not be effective. Familiarize yourself with these techniques beforehand and learn about your nearby water quality due to farms, city runoff, landfills, etc.
It’s bad enough that you find yourself in a survival situation, you really don’t need Montezuma’s revenge or worse incapacitating yourself or your family when there is no immediate medical help. Waterborne diseases are not to be toyed with. Unless you like to eat raw hamburger for thrills. Yech!Do your own research and consider all safety protocols!For more information on Water Purification, take a look at our calendar for the next class/seminar!

A Time of Re-Consolidation

We are back after a hiatus from blogging. We are keenly aware that we all get too much spam, too many newsletters and have to choose discriminately when it comes to our internet reading for the sake of time and sanity. For these reasons we have set our sights on other endeavors over the past months.

So what have we been doing?

We have completely reinvented our company, Personal Readiness Education Programs, LLC ( We have been blessed with such great trust and acceptance from our clients and friends that we have found a solid path to expansion. It hasn’t come easy, and working to define any endeavor, especially a small business, presents some major challenges. Anyone who says, “You didn’t build that” has clearly never tried to run a business. It takes more than the requisite tenacity and determination you always read about on those small business websites.

Today we are rolling out our new website and for the first time ever, publishing our classes for all to see. Previously, we worked close to the vest consulting with private clients and offering some of our classes throughout the state of Florida. In our travels we found some very disconcerting themes.  Because of this, we’ve evolved and grown, and made decisions on how best to approach the idea of “prepping”, and what we feel the future requires if the prepping movement hopes to survive. We have been in the lab like mad scientists tearing the old image of the “Prepper” apart to find out what is really important, and building this new image from the ground up. No longer are you limited to finding some group of strangers that meet out in a park hoping that they know what they are talking about.

We learned from so many people that found us that they had been happy, even thrilled, to find like-minded friends that cheerfully accepted them into a group. They felt like their prayers had been answered. Tired and discouraged from endless attempts to convince friends and neighbors to join in prepping only to face the looks of crazy and ridicule. Often the only reward they would receive was the spine chilling words of, “If it gets bad, I’m just coming to your house. You’ve got everything!” We’ve all heard it.

So these people stumble onto a group and in similar joy to the broken toy finding Misfit Island, they feel as if they have found their new home… Only to feel unsatisfied later and even very uncomfortable that they had so cheerfully shared their secrets to these strangers. Feeling exposed and unsafe they often asked our opinions on the information they “learned” from these groups. So often we were distressed to hear the outlandish answers to simple tasks such as water purification, food storage, Bug-Out bags and other prepper “essentials”.   Often times, they were given expensive lists of equipment and just blindly told to buy all the items on the list and they’d be prepared for anything.  It didn’t matter that they had no idea how to use the items, just buy them and you’ll be fine.  We were completely flabbergasted and horrified that these individuals were sent on this dangerous path.

There is a theme that runs rampant in the prepping community. It’s called hype and commercialism. We began to ask some questions and found that there was little to no depth in most people’s plan.

I can’t tell you how many times during a public roundtable event I’ve had seasoned preppers say their bug out plan was to “head to the hills”.  They had no destination, little planning for family, few skills and just expected to “live on the land.” (These are not usually the Grizzly Adams types, if you know what I mean). So the question is why would they consider joining the Golden Horde? Why hadn’t they considered the family and their limitations?

The answer is almost always, “Well, isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? Doesn’t everyone say that you have to bug out? I’m just doing what I’ve been told!”. Seriously. Little planning, few rarely practiced skills, yet off they go. This wasn’t just limited to the bug out scenario, these unsafe ideas spread like a virus to every area of people’s survival planning, or lack of planning.

Something had to change, as we could no longer stand on the sidelines and listen to another sweet grandmother or soccer mom who just wanted safe solid information for their family. So over the last year we have worked tirelessly and sacrificed much to come up with some answers that revealed the information that these individuals needed. Solid research and extensive validation of survival information resulted in each of the 7 main survival categories. Here at PREP, we don’t just give you the first introductory level, we get into issues of redundancy, best planning practices, connecting the dots and actual exercises to demonstrate where you fit in the big picture. We help our clients create plans and solid solutions by taking an all hazard approach to preparedness.

You wouldn’t paint a rusty bicycle without prepping the metal, why would you think you could survive in a time where instant accurate decisions and situational awareness may be critical to your own personal survival? How can consider yourself “prepared” without at least a general plan?

For these reasons, we are introducing our Micro-Series and Comprehensive Class Series. Many of these classes are brand new. You won’t find them anywhere else at the level of information we present. Spoiler alert! They are not all glamorous. We understand that. When you put things in perspective and it all becomes clear as to how you are affected in the big picture, you will feel empowered, we guarantee it.

We aren’t new at this, we’ve been living and teaching survival for years. We don’t teach rubbing sticks together for fire, we teach you how to not find yourself in a place where you are rubbing sticks together for a fire. We don’t promote buying your sense of security, we give you the knowledge to be secure.

Through a combination of several genres: Urban/Wilderness Survival, Homesteading, Pioneering,  Tactical and others, we help you root out your personal needs and give you the skills, confidence and sometimes the equipment that will best serve you. Never will we approach you as a clone of your neighbor. There are no generic shopping lists, no one size fits all approaches in what we do. This is all about you. We cater to every scenario (trust me, we’ve heard them all) nothing bothers us except making sure you are better prepared starting now. We offer personal and group training at our facilities or yours, wherever you are.

Check us out. Contact us to see if we are a fit for you. Most of all, watch from now on how the future of prepping is about to change industry wide. It has to.

For more information on this and training, send us a contact form.

Charley Hogwood

Chief Instructor and Executive Director

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