Why I practice preparedness but am not into “survivalism” #187

Actual article on the front page of Survivalblog.com today: Raising Guinea Pigs as a Survival Food.

I try not to judge. Different people fall at different points on the preparedness spectrum. Some people surely think I’m paranoid because I own guns and my 401K has silver and gold instead of stocks. Others surely think I’m an innocent little lamb because I don’t have a collection of AR-15s and a bomb shelter filled with MREs and gas masks. But brother, if you ever find yourself collecting chili recipes for guinea pig you should take a long, hard look at your life and ponder how you ever came to give up on the world.

Emergency AM/FM/WB Radios and Other Preparedness for Old Man Winter

The little snow this weekend reminds me that it’s time to talk about winter preparedness.

For Christmas we gave a lot of these Eton-Red Cross AM/FM/Weatherband crank-solar radio/flashlight/cell phone chargers $35) paired with Sterno 55 hour emergency candles ($6). They were both big hits and we’ll keep you from you feeling alone when the lights go out.

The radios came from Amazon. You can find the Sterno candles at the grocery store or Wal-Mart. I also like smaller candles for here and there around the house when the lights go out. Sterno makes those, too, or you can use tea candles or the nice-smelling candles from Yankee Candle and such like.

If you need emergency candles you’re probably in dire straits and can’t depend on a quick response from the fire department. Put those candles where they’re safe and make sure you have working smoke/carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. For that reason I also like LED lighting. We also have lots of disposable batteries, LED flashlights, and LED headlamps. I need to pick up some AA LED lanterns that run on rechargeable AA batteries since we keep those now.

Other Preparedness Stuff

WATER – I keep a couple flats of bottled water that I change out ever year or two ($10), but have never had to use for emergencies, along with three 7 gallon potable water containers ($10 each), and PolarPure iodine water purification tablets ($5 a bottle or so from Wal-Mart).

AC/DC – One thing that’s been handy even though I’ve never used it in an emergency per se is this Husky powerbox ($100 when I bought it). I’ve used it lots of times for boosting dead car batteries and inflating tires and kids sports equipment. In an emergency I can use it to power AC and DC electronics. I’ve also got a Xantrax 700 watt inverter ($90, though when I bought it I think it was closer to $30). I’ve never even taken it out if its clamshell packaging, so it would be way down on my preparations list if I was buying again.

HEATING/COOKING – Along the theme of never used for emergencies but used all the time for other stuff, for emergency winter heat and cooking I’ve got propane and propane accessories. Three 20 pound propane gas cylinders from the Quik-E-Mart, a propane BBQ grill, a propane burner AKA turkey fryer, a propane infrared turkey fryer, a Coleman propane camp stove, and an indoor propane heater (a $135 Mr Heater Big Buddy) that will heat a 400 square foot room. All bought over a number of years, used to cook lots of good food, and not a huge investment.

PreviouslyEmergency TV (is that an oxymoron?)

Emergency TV (is that an oxymoron?)

I mentioned getting a Haier 7″ LCD for doing DSLR video work. I forgot to mention that it’s originally designed to be used as a portable TV. It comes with a remote control, is digital ready, and can be plugged into your cable TV or other RF video source or you can use the included screw-in antenna to capture over-the-air channels.

For power it includes an AC adapter, DC adapter, and internal rechargeable battery. Spare batteries are $20. When the batteries poop out I can plug the DC adapter into the Husky power box we use during blackouts.

The next time the power goes out I can keep the kids entertained with a little TV. Too, local TV does a better job than local radio during emergencies.

PreviouslyEnergizer WeatherReady LED Lanterns

Energizer WeatherReady LED Lanterns

Entergizer WeatherReady LED LanternsAfter a little power outage on Labor Day we decided to buy LED lanterns. Our rechargeable fluorescent lanterns always seem a little disappointing.

Today I picked up a couple of these Energizer LED lanterns in the checkout aisle at Home Depot. They have high, low, and night light settings; 4 Nichia LEDs plus another LED for the night light; and run on 4 D batteries. Run time specs are a little contradictory. I’ve seen 135 and 245 hours.

I like the folding handle. I like the folding body design that keeps the body compact but gets the lights up off the surface. These LED lanterns are smaller and weigh less than our fluorescent lanterns and put out more light. The girls love them.

My one minor complaint is a user interface issue. The switch goes High, Low, Off, Nightlight, so there’s a natural tendency to push the switch over to Nightlight instead of Off. The girls did that at first. With the body closed the switch is on the opposite side from the nightlight, so you could easily not notice and leave the nightlight on, draining the batteries.

The Home Depot price was $20 each. I decided to just grab a couple while I was there instead of researching them to death on the Internet. When I got home I Googled and found that the online reviews were good. The big shocker was that Home Depot’s price was $7 lower than Amazon’s, whom I usually expect to have the best price. Go, Home Depot. Their battery prices are also hard to beat.

LATER: I saw these lanterns in the checkout lane at Walgreen’s for the same $20 price. Which is to say these are easy to find.

Hiking Boots, Pajamas, DC Power and Propane

I’m in pajamas and hiking boots today. Comfy, but ready to go outside once I add a Gore-tex parka and a ball cap. I’ve been outside playing with the girls, sledding, shoveling snow off the driveway, and laying down salt for when the temperature drops to 21 tonight and re-freezes the snow.

If the ice breaks power lines we’re ready. Everything that’s rechargeable has been on its recharger since yesterday afternoon. We’ve got all kinds of food that we can put in all kinds of coolers outside. We’ve got cell phones, CB radios, and hand-cranked/rechargeable/solar radios for communications. We’ve got a fully-charged Husky powerbox with AC/DC outputs and we’ve got a 700W inverter that can run off of our two gassed-up vehicles.

For heating and cooking we’ve got three propane cylinders. If we lose power we’ll grill on the BBQ, pan-fry and boil water on the turkey fryer’s propane burner, and heat the house with the Heat Buddy indoor propane heater.

For light we’ve got candles, rechargeable electric Coleman lanterns, flashlights, headlamps, hundreds of batteries, and as a last-ditch effort hurricane lanterns and Tiki torch fuel.


A survival plan everyone needs

Tam on James Wesley Rawles’ new book:

It’s very well organized and focuses on plenty of seemingly mundane and practical things, like food, medicine, communications, dealing with neighbors and forming strong communities, unlike a lot of other “survival manuals” that are five chapters of gun wanking sandwiched between an introduction, two pages about beef jerky and astronaut ice cream, and the index. (Incidentally, my roomie, super radio alpha geekette extraordinaire, found no major nitpicks in the section on communications…)

Remember: Preparedness isn’t just about being prepared for Armageddon, it’s about being prepared for almost anything: blizzard, blackout, hurricane, job layoff… This book is an excellent look at the proper mindset and preparations for being ready for life’s curve balls.

Didja notice that one wild, out-there scenario – “job layoff”?

It’s amazing how many “survival” plans don’t make any arrangements for something as common as not having a job for six months. In this wildly unlikely apocalyptic scenario a mere mortal might be expected to somehow accomplish the heroic feats of not having the power cut off, reigning victorious against the forces of not having his car repossessed – not by shooting the repo man but by not getting behind on his car payment to begin with – and defending the sanctity of the family domicile by not having the mortgage company righteously and legally foreclose on his deadbeat ass.

Some online survivalists find it easy to rationalize mis-allocation of funds. “The UN invasion of the U.S. could happen simultaneously with a bird flu epidemic and an F10 earthquake. I’d better max out the credit card and buy a generator, 50 cases of MREs, another AR-15, and 10,000 rounds of 5.56 mm ammunition.”

Going in debt to buy crap is not really a great plan for securing your family’s future. I’m all for reasonable preparedness, but preparedness involves insuring against events based on their likelihood and the cost of insuring against them. A power outage or a blizzard that lasts a few days aren’t uncommon events and they’re cheap to insure against. The End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) is unlikely and it’s expensive to insure against.

A better bet for a rational person is to live in the economic reality they’re most likely to face. What’s your plan if you lost your job tomorrow?

  • Do you have credit card debt and can you service it without a job?
  • Could you make the payments on your car using your unemployment benefits?
  • Could you pay rent or make the payments on your house with the money in your savings account?
  • Could you keep up with other expenses such as gasoline bills, utilities and phone bills with your emergency fund?

If you answered “no” to any of the above you’ve got more pressing problems than surviving TEOTWAWKI. Act accordingly.

Previously –  Where do you put money if you’re concerned about bank failures?

Swine flu news

First,  your daily snapshot of the Google Map for swine flu infections.

Yesterday’s map and swine flu post here. Quick tip: all of these posts are tagged with “swine flu”. You can access all of them by clicking on the swine flu keyword tag page.

LA Times: Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild:

As the World Health Organization raised its infectious disease alert level Wednesday and health officials confirmed the first death linked to swine flu inside U.S. borders, scientists studying the virus are coming to the consensus that this hybrid strain of influenza — at least in its current form — isn’t shaping up to be as fatal as the strains that caused some previous pandemics.

In fact, the current outbreak of the H1N1 virus, which emerged in San Diego and southern Mexico late last month, may not even do as much damage as the run-of-the-mill flu outbreaks that occur each winter without much fanfare.

Mercatus on Policy by Tyler Cown – Preparing for Pandemic Flu: What We Should Do and Should Not Do.

1. The single most important thing we can do for a pandemic—whether swine flu or not—is to have well-prepared local health-care systems. We should prepare for pandemics in ways that are politically sustainable and remain useful even if this turns out not to be a flu pandemic.

2. Prepare social norms and emergency procedures that would limit or delay the spread of a pandemic. Regular hand washing and other beneficial public customs—like not going to work when feeling sick— may save more lives than a Tamiflu stockpile.

3. Decentralize our supplies of anti-virals and treat timely distribution as more important than simply creating a stockpile.

4. Institute prizes for effective vaccines and relax liability laws for vaccine makers. Our overnment has discouraged what it should have encouraged.

5. Respect intellectual property by buying the relevant drugs and vaccines at fair prices. Confiscating property rights would reduce the incentive for innovation the next time around.

6. For the case of a truly serious pandemic, make economic preparations to ensure the continuity of food and power supplies. The relevant “choke points” may include the check-clearing system and the use of mass transit to deliver food supply workers to their jobs.

7. Realize that the federal government will be largely powerless in the worst stages of a pandemic and make appropriate local plans.

8. Encourage the formation of prediction markets— speculative markets that make forecasts on policy topics—in a flu pandemic.

9. Reform the World Health Organization and give it greater autonomy from its government funders.

Meanwhile, Shurf Joe Biden sez: “I would tell members of my family — and I have — I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now. It’s not that it’s going to Mexico in a confined aircraft where one person sneezes, that goes all the way through the aircraft.” The White House quickly moved to damage control. Not to control the damage of swine flu – to control the damage of Shurf Joe Biden shooting his fool mouth off.

Ace adds: “Another tip from Joe Biden: Always leave yourself one bullet. If you feel an itching in your nose or throat, put the gun in your mouth and blow the virus out of the back of your head. Like they say, feed a cold, head-shot a fever.”

As always, I’m not sure how serious the swine flu really is. I’ve taken the minimal precautions (buying some masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer) along with our general preparedness plan (food and water, cooking and heating supplies, first aid and medicine, flashlights and batteries, etc.). Now I just live my life pretty much like normal and pay attention to the news to see if anything becomes more serious.

And one swine flu victim says “it’s not so bad.”

“I could hardly move. It was a chore to get out of bed. I felt absolutely terrible,” Hairsine said from his parents’ home. “I feel like it still is the flu, but it’s not so terrible that people should be freaking out the way they are.”

And on a lighter note:

More chainsaw advice

In response to my bleg for chainsaw advice Richard Calderwood sent this, which I’m reposting with his permission. – LJ

Hey Les –

I’m a Portland city slicker, but I own a couple hundred acres in NE Arizona and have been through more chains than most folks have socks. Here’s my $0.02, for what it’s worth. (About that, I reckon.)

I’ve owned several Stihls, and loved every one of them. Never had any other; never saw any reason to. Wait, no that’s not true; I had some p.o.s. electric(!) chainsaw when I lived in California. Fits, donnit?

If you’re going to cut more than an hour or two in a day, it’s worth it to have a more powerful saw. If you’re going to cut less, it might be better to have a lighter weight saw. Yeah, that sounds counter-intuitive.

The crystal meth heads recently stole my Stihl 046 (might be the same as the MS 460 – Stihl is GOOFY with their naming conventions). It was a bad mutha and murdered hundreds of trees very successfully and without incident. They also got my Stihl MS 200 T “arborist” saw; that one was a little beauty – very nice for overhead work, where the 046 kicks your butt by the end of the day.

Here at the Portland house, I have a Stihl MS 361 and it will cut all day long. Not as powerful as the 046, but also not quite as heavy.

Make sure your saw has the easy chain tightening deal. That’s a time saver.

Buy a LOT of chains. Wasting time on the job, sharpening a chain, is a TERRIBLE investment if you actually figure out the cost per hour. Keep a bunch of spares in the truck. When one gets dull, throw it in the truck, and pay some teenager to sharpen it after you get home. Or just throw it away.

My brother-in-law’s brother is a lumberjack in Alaska, and he showed me a really nifty trick. Tie a piece of good rope between the handle of a 1gal bar oil jug and a 1gal fuel jug, and you have ‘em both on a handle and in the right quantities. I met him when he was en route to hospital after severing a finger tendon on a not-in-use saw when he stumbled. When transporting your saw, keep the bar cover in place.

Set your bar oiler to use a lot of oil. Oil is cheap. Time lost to worn bars and chains is not. Sure, the saw will spit a bit more goo on your clothes over the course of a weekend, but that’s what overalls are for. Or junky work jeans.

Buy a good set of Kevlar chaps, and wear them religiously. Their purpose is to gum up the chain and slow/stop it when (not if) you brush your leg. I only brushed mine a couple times (with the flat side of the bar), and both times it was at the end of a looooong day of cutting at 6,000 feet (and I live at sea level). Physical fatigue leads to mental fatigue, and a moment’s indiscretion with a chainsaw can have life-altering consequences.

With the 361 I bought the dorky-looking (but super practical) Stihl combination helmet / face shield / ear muffs. Looks stupid. Works great.

The screen kind of face shield is FAR better than the plastic windshield kind. The screen is enough to keep the chips and sawdust from getting in your eyes, and it lets your face breathe so you don’t get as hot.

A good chainsaw motor mechanic can tune the motor by sound. When it sounds juuuust right when he burps the throttle, he knows he has the jets set just right.

Get a spare air filter to leave in the truck. Don’t forget to clean the filter out every few hours. The intake is a sawdust magnet.

If you let the chain get too loose, it’s dangerous and can jump the tracks. But if you keep it too tight, it overheats the chain and the bar. If you can easily pull the middle of the chain up, with thumb and index finger, high enough that the teeth exit the bar, it’s too loose.

New chains stretch a lot at first. Keep in mind when you have a new chain on, and stop more frequently to check and adjust the tension.

Don’t forget to screw the bar oil tank and premix fuel tank caps back on (the saw) after you refill, or you’ll spill both alllll down your pants and boots. DAHIK.

Steel-toed boots are a good idea. Loose sleeves etc are not.

I won’t give you any cutting or felling advice except this: stop and clear yourself an exit path often. Don’t stand in a tangle of cut off branches while cutting bigger branches or the trunk. Plan for a good fell, but assume a rotten one. Trees and wind have (evil) minds of their own.

Oh, and one more thing. Scratch the premix ratio into the fuel filler cap with the point of a sharp knife, so you always have it when you need it.

Bleg: Chainsaw advice

Dear Lazyweb,

I’m ready to buy a gasoline chainsaw. I’ve only used one a couple of times so I plan to take a class.

Any advice to get started? Price isn’t the main consideration. I’m not looking to buy the cheapest or the most expensive, but I’m willing to buy what I need to get through a bad day.

About the only thing I know is that over the years my dad became a fan of Stihl chainsaws. Dad grew up poor during the Great Depression. He wasn’t the kind of guy who bought expensive things to impress people. He tended to take the cheap route first and only take the expensive route if the cheap route didn’t work, so I consider that a pretty strong endorsement of Stihl.

W.C. Varone on gold, guns, and food

“The thing about being a survivalist kook and stockpiling gold, guns, and food is that there’s no downside. Even if you’re wrong, you’ve still got gold, guns, and food.”
W.C. Versone

Heh. I love me some guns and we’ve been buying extra canned goods, staples, batteries, and such, just in case. As far as the yellow metal, I’m glad I bought some gold (in my 401K) when it was at $750 an ounce. Today it’s at $968.

I’m also glad I stayed almost entirely out of the stock market for the last five years*. The Dow Jones and S&P 500 look like this after being beaten down to 10 year lows

I might be interested in buying stocks when the Dow and S&P numbers start with a 6, or preferably a 5, but not when they start with a 7. Mish maintains and I agree that stocks are still too high. Even as low as they are now, they’re still too high. If you’re waiting for them to go back up you need to realize that they’re going to fall even lower than they are now.

I’m very happy right now to have Treasuries, TIPS, the Vanguard U.S. bond index, cash, and gold in my 401K, and I’m not so sure about the bonds anymore. And as always the best investment is to not go into unnecessary debt. You can do that by living below your means instead of above them. Learn to appreciate value and love the bargain.

* That’s not counting my EarthLink shares from that damned IPO a decade ago last month, back when we were in a dot-com bubble instead of a real estate bubble. The shares are only worth about a third of what I paid for them (though about half of that money was from shares I was given as an early employee of Knoxville-based U.S. Internet). Get this, though. EarthLink has been wildly profitable for the last two quarters. Their P/E ratio is 4 to 1!!!1!!one!!! You can buy the company for just four times its annual earnings for Pete’s sake, in contrast to the dot-com era when companies that had never once had a profitable quarter were trading at 50 times EBITDA or sales or some other bullshit metric. There’s no way in hairlipped hell I’m selling now. Someone is going to come to their senses and buy this stupid thing while the buying’s good.


Husky Power Box

I used some of this month’s daddy money* to buy one of these Husky powerboxes the other day. It strikes me as a handy thing for boosting a car battery, inflating a tire, or running home electronics during a blackout. It can be recharged from an AC wall outlet or from a car’s DC adapter. It then outputs DC and inverted AC power. For $89 it seems like a deal.

Mine came with a pretty good charge out of the box – 12.8 volts. According to the manual 12.5 volts is 80% capacity and 13.0 volts is 100%.

It has all of cables and such you need except for an extension cord to charge it off of AC. The tire inflator part even includes the little adapter for inflating basketballs and such. Nice touch.

The maximum output is 400 watts, though it doesn’t last long at maximum output. Anything that makes heat – such as a heater, microwave oven, coffee pot, etc. is also right out. From the manual:

Appliance Watts Time (hours)
Cell phone 1 120
Fluorescent light 4 40
Radio, fan, depth finder 9 24
Camcorder, VCR, spotlight 15 14
Power tools, bilge pump 24 10
Car vacuum 50 4

See also:
Emergency Supplies
Emergency Communications Over Two-Way Radio
Inexpensive Alternatives to Emergency Generators
AC/DC – It’s Not Just for Metalheads Anymore

* Melissa and I deposit our checks into a joint account for paying bills, groceries, gas, and eating out as a family. At the beginning of the month she and I each get an equal amount of mommy and daddy money for eating lunch, buying clothes, and other expenses for which we don’t have to get permission from the other spouse.

Inexpensive Alternatives to Emergency Generators

Phil at Random Nuclear Strikes offers his lessons learned from two winter days without power. It’s a great read all the way through, but I found one part especially interesting:

But the absolute star of the show was this item I call “The Jump Box”.


It is made by Husky and weighs around 15lbs. It has 3ft jumper cables and and an air compressor hose on the back. On the front, it has the air compressor controls, a light and, magically, a three-prong 110v plug with onboard inverter. This thing has, in the past, jump-started both Grimm and my 1998 F150 with nary a gripe. You just need to plug an extension cord into the back of it to charge up its super deep-cell battery. Takes about six to eight hours for a full charge.

I plugged a surge protector into the socket and charged my cell phone, ran two lamps, a portable CD Player, and a small space heater for 20 hours on a 4/5 charge (I had forgotten to fully charge it before the storm) and it still had over half a charge on it when the power came back on.

The user reviews here and here are mostly glowing, except for the person who noted that the air compressor part was wimpy in his experience.

That same user also mentioned that he used the device to power his CPAP. I use a CPAP to treat my sleep apnea and I’ve been meaning to get an interruptible power supply for it. As long as these sort of things are OK for extended indoor use, I could use something like this for both UPS duty and emergency power use. Guess I’ll have to call the company.

Husky isn’t the only game in town for this sort of thing. Lots more jump starters here. Xantrex has this backup power source with DC, AC that goes to 600 watts, car battery cables, and radio and alarm clock.

Or you could go with a bigger portable power system, like the 1500 watt Xantrex. At $250 it’s still much cheaper than a generator, and with no dangers related to carbon monoxide poisoning or handling gasoline, and unlike a generator it’s silent and won’t attract attention. They’re also handy for apartment and condo dwellers who can’t keep gasoline around. Unlike a generator, though, portable power sources are limited to whatever charge it has when the lights go out, rather than to your gasoline supply. (UPDATE: Though come to think of it you can re-charge it off of your car’s cigarette lighter.) That’s probably OK by me. I don’t anticipate more than a couple of days without power where I am even with the worst winter storm, so this is probably a good tradeoff.

All of those systems are basically a car battery and inverter. An inverter by itself is smaller and costs less for the same wattage. Most inverters plug into the car’s cigarette lighter and convert the DC to AC. Used that way, they’re limited to 300 watts or so, but that may be all you need to charge a cell phone or laptop. I have this 400 watt model, which is only $24. A 700 watt model is $52. To use wattages above 300 you connect the inverter directly to the car battery’s terminals. Xantrex includes the necessary cables. The tradeoff is that inverters produce power in your car, rather than in your house, but that may be sufficient. As a bonus, you may find them useful for road trips.

Phil used the 400 watt Husky jumper to power an extremely tiny electric heater. I checked and the little space heater under my desk at work draws 1500 watts. In general, anything that produces heat – space heaters, microwave ovens, coffeemakers – will have a high wattage requirement. When in doubt, check the wattage rating printed on the electrical appliance. Note that many appliances draw more watts when they first start. Buying more inverter than you need never hurts, except in the wallet.

For heat, you’ll probably be happier with a wood fireplace or stove, or chemically-powered heater (kerosene, propane, etc.). For heat I’ve got a Mr. Heater that runs on either the one pound propane cylinders used for camping or 20 pound cylinders like the ones for BBQ grills.

See also
Previous entry on inverters

Power Inverters

One of the things on my emergency supplies list is a power inverter. Here’s a little info I’ve found in a first pass online.

Quick summary:

  • Inverters that plug into a cigarette lighter are good up to about 300 watts.
  • For any device that draws more than about 300 watts you’ll need an inverter that connects directly to the battery.
  • Don Rowe recommends 1750 watts as a good size for powering household appliances. Price is around $200.

Emergency Supplies

In light of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans I’ve been thinking about emergency plans for the Jones family. My main concern is being caught in a blizzard like the one we had in 1994, with the potential loss of power, heat, and telephones. There’s also a remote potential for an earthquake. East Tennessee is on a large, but largely inactive, fault line. This should also encompass even more common occurrences such as medical emergencies, fire, car breakdowns, power outages, etc.

This is me thinking out loud. Any advice appreciated.

What we have now

  • Propane grill, 1 cylinder, propane heating attachment bought two winters ago UPDATE: replaced the radiant heater with a Mr. Heater Buddy from Lowe’s as a Christmas present. 2008 update: we now have three 20 pound propane cylinders.
  • Lots of candles and flashlights (mostly StreamLight TwinTasks) and lots of batteries bought in bulk at Home Depot or Lowe’s.
  • Battery-powered radio for AM/FM/UHF/Weather Band (the UHF TV is actually more useful than the FM/AM – local TV news has great, almost non-stop reporting during bad weather). 2009 update: with the move from analog to digital TV the UHF option no longer works. It’s worth remembering that in many areas a local TV station broadcasts the audio portion of their programming near the bottom of the FM dial.
  • Cell phones. Charge them in advance of a winter storm and have DC/cigarette lighter chargers handy. In a prolonged power outage the batteries in the cell phone towers will give out, meaning you’ll need other means of communications.
  • First aid kits in backpack and house, though both need re-thinking/replenishing UPDATE: added all-new OSHA-approved kits from Beprepared.com.
  • Plenty of guns, ammo, holsters, etc. if the SHTF. Plan is to take a couple of concealable handguns and a long gun for basic self-defense.
  • Pocket knives, sheath knives, and Swiss army knives and multi-tools on person, in car, and in house, compact shovel in car
  • Tarps and ropes UPDATE: added ratcheting tie-down straps (4 for $15 at Home Depot) which make it easier to tie down loads tightly
  • Tools and gardening tools
  • Arkansas credit card (gas siphon hose) UPDATE: it turns out the cheapie model I had didn’t work well at all when one of our cars ran out of gas because the hose was too wimpy to force into a gas tank; I’m going to get a better model with a more substantial hose and handpump)
  • Fire extinguishers in cars, house, bedrooms
  • New FirstAlert OneLink smoke and CO2 detectors with wireless links and voice alerts LATER: these turned out to be overpriced junk. I replaced them with more-conventional smoke/CO2 alarms.
  • Computer backups & important documents offsite in bank safe deposit box (cheap at $38/year) with pictures and MP3s backed up to DVDs stored at work, LATER: We still use those backup options, but now also use Mozy online backup, which is easy, automatic, and cheap at $5/month. If you’re just starting your backup plans skip everything else and go directly to online backup.
  • Car emergency kits (road flares, booster cables, tow cables, blankets, tire inflater, etc.) and a large synthetic blanket in the trunk.
  • Lots of backpacking equipment (tents, sleeping gear, water treatment, packs, lightweight stoves and mess kits, flashlights and LED headlamps)

What I know we need off the top of my head

  • Emergency baby food supply
  • Emergency pet food supply
  • Hurricane lanterns UPDATE: got them in the camping section at Wal-Mart for $4.50 each; they burn lamp oil, kerosene, and tiki torch fuel, which is handy since we always have a few gallons around for the patio torches.
  • Multiband crank radio (and I’m not talking about Art Bell) UPDATE: got the Coleman Outrider model, which works very well with minimal cranking, and also runs for 20 hours on the internal rechargeable battery.
  • Propane-powered stove burner and spare propane cylinders UPDATE: got the spare propane cylinder as a birthday present, and got a propane turkey fryer (which is basically an outdoor burner) at an after-Thanksgiving sale for 50% off. UPDATE 2: we now have a third propane cylinder.
  • Spare butane cylinders for the backpacking stoves UPDATE: got them
  • Power inverter (for running small AC electrical equipment off of car’s DC cigarette lighter – also handy for car camping and other things) UPDATE: we got this Xantrex model from Amazon; it isn’t clear in the Amazon photo, but it can connect to either a cigarette lighter adapter, or directly to the car’s battery posts (which is necessary for higher wattage appliances); both cables are included. Also got this Husky power box which contains a car battery, inverter, a compressor to inflate tires, and cables for jump-starting a car.
  • Information for bank and insurance accounts and other important info.
  • Gasoline containers UPDATE: got three five-gallon cans ($6 each at Wal-Mart) and a spare spout
  • Utility trailer for evacuating (I want one anyway for moving furniture and such) UPDATE: I may ditch the utility trailer idea and get a receiver hitch rack which is less expensive, takes less space when not in use, and is easier to maneuver; we now have a Honda Odyssey, which makes for a better bug-out vehicle; it has a GPS nav system, roof rack, trailer hitch, and much more room and seating capacity; we also keep a state atlas in the van
  • UPDATE: we now have an appliance dolly (“hand truck”); along with ratcheting tie-down straps this is a great way to stay mobile if we run out of gas
  • Pair of hand-held ham radios; will need to get trained and licensed; also useful for hiking, backpacking. UPDATE: Bought a set of inexpensive FRS/GMRS radios for $10 each, and a Cobra Road Trip CB radio. UPDATE 2: Snagged a CB radio with a cigarette lighter adapter and magnetic antenna at a yard sale for $10.
  • Water storage and treatment strategy (have iodine and household bleach, may get one of these MSR units – also useful for backpacking) UPDATE: got extra iodine tablets ($3 a bottle in Wal-Mart camping section), three seven-gallon potable water containers ($7 each at Wal-Mart), and two flats of bottled water ($4 each at Home Depot) that we keep on top of the kitchen cabinets and rotate once a year.
  • Decide on a place to keep emergency supplies for easy access in a hurry UPDATE: using overnight backpacks we use for camping
  • Create a supply check list
  • LATER: Cash. In an emergency without power credit card readers won’t work and you won’t be able to withdraw money from ATMs. We keep rolls of quarters and a pack of 1 dollar bills in the cars for emergencies. If you routinely travel outside your county keep enough cash to pay for enough gas to get home as well a few meals and a night in a hotel.

Inexpensive Alternatives to Emergency Generators
Emergency Communications over Two-way Radio
Government recommendations (Ready.gov)
Doc Russia’s recommended first aid kit part 1, part 2
Countertop’s thoughts
Preacherman’s lessons learned from his New Orleans bug-out
Water supply and storage
Storing gasoline
Head’s experience evacuating from Hurricane Rita