Surviving Modern Life

Things Look Bad Out There? Here’s Where to Start!

There comes a time when people look around and start to see through the complacency that most of the population is guilty of.  With that first realization that things might not always go as planned comes a little bit of panic.  All of a sudden you feel inadequately equipped to take care of yourself and your family.  If you let the unease or panic influence your decisions, you’ll start spinning your wheels or even worse, you’ll spend a bunch of time and money in ways that don’t offer much benefit.  I’m sure there are a lot of people out there with a case of MREs in a closet somewhere that don’t feel any better about their situation.  Then there are folks that do what modern people do when they don’t know something, hit Google and start reading.  The are tons of great resources on being prepared, but there is a lot of chaff to sort through.  I visited hundreds of website, blogs, and online stores before I started getting relevant information.  I haven’t found many sources for a new “prepper” to get information on where to start, so that prompted me to put one together.  I’m sure there are things I’ll miss, and some folks will think my priorities might be a little off.  I’ll take that risk to do my best to help someone new get started without feeling overwhelmed.  We’d all like to have a zombie proof compound in the Rockies and provide for all of our own needs, but that’s not a realistic short term goal for most of us.  Starting small and working up is the only way to approach being prepared.  If you start big and plan for massive global disaster, you’ll always feel inadequate and burnout will set in pretty quickly.  Starting small in your own home will give you a feeling of security and give you a base to build on. By starting small, you won’t prepare for any one specific disaster.  There are a lot of ways that things can go wrong in life.  It’s best to have basic levels of preparedness that will cover a lot of bases.  I’ll approach this as a step-by-step plan.  This might evolve into an easy to follow checklist with some input from others in the survival community.

Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty of gaining that warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing you are better prepared than most to weather the storms life might throw at us.  We all have basic needs to meet to maintain our basic survival like air, water, food, and shelter from the elements.  Air is pretty easy; if we don’t have it we are toast within a couple of minutes.  For simplicity, we’ll assume air will be available.  Water is the next important need to meet.  We can only go a couple of days without water before we expire so it needs to be taken seriously.  Food rates really high on the list as well.  We can go a few weeks without it, but those will be a few miserable weeks.  Hunger leading into starvation is probably one of the worst ways to die.  We’ll address these needs in our first step.

Step 1. Getting Our Homes in Order.

Being ready at home is as easy as having the things we need available to us every day.  Water and food storage is the best place to start.  Having a year of food and water put away is nice, but a giant step for any household.  Start smaller and look at having a week or two of reserves.  We live in a society that allows easy access to grocery stores and a seemingly endless supply of clean water from the tap.  Everyone takes this for granted.  If we need something, it’s a short trip to the store.  Maybe we do this several times a week.  At some point, there might be a situation where we can’t get to the store or delivery trucks can’t get to the store to restock.  It doesn’t take a massive disaster to cause this.  Maybe it’s something as common as a winter storm that makes driving unsafe for a few days.  A lot of times, most people never have food to go more than a couple of days.  If you have 2 weeks of reserves, you won’t even notice in your daily life.  The easiest way to approach building this reserves to look in your pantry and determine what foods that you eat have a long shelf life.  Once you have an idea, start buying one or two extra items when you grocery shop.  It starts to add up quickly.  It is easy to start looking at all sorts of stuff at the store to find the longest shelf life, but limit it to foods you like to eat. A case of SPAM doesn’t matter much if you hate the stuff.  “Store what you eat and eat what you store” is a common saying in the survival community.  If you like beans, then that makes a great item to have extra on hand.  Pasta is another favorite that store well and a lot of people eat regularly.  Keep in mind that you aren’t looking for large amounts that will last for years.  This is stuff you like to eat, so you’ll be using it and replacing it when you go to the store.  This way you have food reserves, but they are constantly being rotated as you prepare meals. Use the oldest first and put the new to the back of the pantry. Now you are not only storing a little extra food, you also have a rotation system in place to make sure you always have fresh food if you need to rely on your storage for any reason.
Storing water often gets overlooked because we have complete faith in our water supply systems.  Every time we turn on the faucet, clean water comes out.  Water is bulky and heavy, so why would we want to store it?  Simply put, our water system can and has failed in the past.  It might be a major catastrophe or something as simple as a water main break that interrupts service to a part of your town.  If you’ve ever had this happen, you know how quickly grocery stores run out of bottled water.  You can store bottled water in individual bottles or in larger containers if you would like. I do this myself, but I also have some regular tap water stored.  Water from the tap is usually clean and very cheap.  It can be stored in 2 liter soda bottles or in specific water storage containers.  I use 7 gallon water containers with a spigot on the lid so it is easy to pour.  I got mine in the camping section of a big box store for less than $10 a piece.  How much you store is up to you and how much room you can spare, but a good rule of thumb is a gallon per person per day.  It never hurts to have more stored for washing dishes and ourselves and flushing toilets.  Now for a word of advice I learned the hard way… Don’t store water in milk jugs.  The plastic they are made from is designed to be biodegradable and they will start to break down after a short period of time.  Also, protect your water containers from freezing.  Some are not durable enough to handle the expansion of freezing water and they can crack or rupture.

Step 2. Prepared on the Go.

There might be a time where we have to leave our home to escape a disaster.  I’ve seen personally the effects of someone having to leave their house in a rush.  In a panic mode, most people will not be thinking clearly and will forget crucial items or they will try to get too much and won’t end up getting much at all in the rush.  This is where the often mentioned Bug Out Bag (BOB) comes into play.  If you have to “bug out” in a hurry, you need a bag that is already put together that you can grab on the way out the door. like to keep mine in my vehicle, but it’s up to you so long as you can get to it quickly.
The basic concept of a BOB is a bag that can sustain you for 3 days.  The contents should be able to meet your basic survival needs. Food and water is a must.  Enough water for three days is heavy and hard to carry, so I have some water and a few means to source water wherever I might end up.  Water filtration and purification means are important.  Hiking water filters and purification tabs serve well.  I also keep a 1oz bottle of bleach with me.  One ounce of bleach will purify more what than you can imagine, like hundreds of gallons.  I also have a means to prepare and eat the food I have in my bag.  You will probably want a way to start a fire and shelter yourself  case you have to spend the night outside. Having a change of clothes and extra socks and underwear will go a long way toward making a survival situation easier to bear.  It would be easy for me to go into great detail on what the perfect BOB should contain, but a lot is personal choice and there are so many resources on the web that cover it better than I can.  I’ll post links at the end of the article to help you get started.  I’ve also covered overlooked items in a different article, which you can read about here.

 

Step 3.  Your Vehicle.

I’ve already written an article covering vehicle preparedness that you can read here.  A lot of people feel better about having their house and BOB ready, but overlook the vehicle.  Most of us will take our vehicle if we need to get out quickly, so having what we need there is important.  During the widespread evacuations of the Houston area preceding Hurricane Rita, countless motorists got stranded in the gridlock that resulted on every major road out.  Most people weren’t prepared to evacuate, so they were at the mercy of others for help to get out of harm’s way and off the road.  If you’ve read this far into the article, I’m assuming you don’t want to be one of these people any more.

 

Step 4. Defense.

In a perfect world, defense would just be limited to keeping the snakes and bears when away in the woods, but we don’t live in a perfect world.  In fact, we live in a world where people will literally try to kill others over a sale item at a store the day after Thanksgiving.  I’m a firm believer that in most cases the majority of people are good. They will help others and work together to make the world a better place. There are those that are out to hurt, kill, and steal, but I think they are the smallest percent of our population.  BUT, when there is a disaster, people panic.  When people panic, they do things they would normally never do.  The mild mannered accountant might just shoot you in the face to take food if his children are starving.  I’m not saying this to scare anyone, and I don’t believe it is the norm, but the threats are there.  There are those that would do you harm, either out of malice or out of fear.  All of your best preparations are useless if you cannot defend yourself when a wolf is at the door.  I know some of my readers live in areas where gun ownership might be difficult or impossible.   For most of us it is a right, and one that should be exercised. However, ownership is not enough.  Training on the safe and proper use is a mandatory responsibility of all gun owners.  Additional training on defensive uses are highly recommended.  Most of us might never have to defend ourselves, but it is our responsibility to do so if the time comes.  It is also our duty to do so in a means that is appropriate to the level of threat we are faced with.  There are personal, societal, and legal ramifications with this subject that I am not qualified to comment on, so I’ll leave it up to each individual.

 

Step 5.  Feel Better and Start Learning.

Once you have the basics of being prepared underway, you should start to feel a little better about where you are.  Knowing that you are better prepared to face what life might throw at you is a liberating feeling.  I know how I felt when I knew that something as simple as an ice storm wouldn’t make my life miserable.  I’m not saying that having to face a disaster would be fun, but it’s a little less scary when you can rely on the steps you’ve taken so far.  Most of us at this point begin to feel empowered.  We know we can’t control the world around us, but we know we can take steps to handle a lot more than we could before.  For me this was the catalyst to start exploring other ways to take back control.  This was my first step in self reliance.  Now I focus on learning skill and gaining knowledge that will help me as I strive for more freedom from dependency.  Which steps you take next are up to you.  For me it was learning ways to remove dependency.  Growing a garden to provide my family with real, healthy food was a great step in that direction.  I was lucky to grow up in a family that placed a lot of emphasis on providing for ourselves.  We always had a garden.  Now I’m looking at ways to do it better.  Every skill you learn should have a benefit.  In my life, learning simple things like how to preserve food or fix a vehicle has not only saved me a ton of money, it gives me a feeling that I am in better control of my life.  It’s these little skills that tell me I can handle problems as they arise.  There is a feeling of freedom there that I hope each and every reader at Surviving Modern Life will grab and make their own.

 

Links for the Bug Out Bag

Here is a good list, but leans toward being prepared for all out collapse.

This is a very thorough list.

One of the better articles I’ve seen on BOBs

FEMA has some thoughts on how to prepare.

Another great article on getting started can be found here.

 

Save Money by Rolling Your Own… Ammo That Is!

A major part of being self reliant is the willingness to take our personal protection into our own hands.  As survivalists and preppers, most of us own firearms and are at least somewhat proficient in their use.  That takes practice and ammo costs money.  I believe that training and practice are worth every penny, especially if you ever need the skills in a defensive situation.  If you shoot much at all, you’ve noticed that the price of ammo is constantly going up.  Honing the shooting skills can quickly get expensive.  The best way to reduce this cost is reloading your own ammunition.  I want to give you the basic information that will let you decide if reloading is an endeavor that would benefit you personally.  I won’t be going into great detail on the processes because I’m a firm believer that the most important information should come from published, trusted sources.  I can recommend where to get technical information about reloading processes and load data.  You should never trust load data that isn’t published in a book from a component manufacturer.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to learning to reload is the misconception that the initial startup costs are too high.  I’ve proven personally that you can get the equipment and components you need for a reasonable price, less than $100 in some cases.  Another major stumbling block is the idea that reloading is complicated and dangerous.  It’s a very simple process and will only be dangerous if you don’t follow simple directions and pay attention to simple safety guidelines.  I’ve been reloading for years and years without any sort of accident or mishap.  Reloading is no more dangerous that filling a car up with gas or using household cleaning chemicals.  With all of that said, we can get into the fun stuff!

The best place to start is to cover how ammunition is constructed.  Then I’ll move into the actual reloading process.  I’m going to be breaking this into two Articles, Centerfire cartridges and Shotshells.  Each has its own basic construction and process, and use different equipment.  Today we’ll be covering centerfire cartridges.

 

Centerfire Cartridges

Centerfire cartridges can be anything from the little .25 ACP up to the 50BMG.  As different as they may seem, these two cartridges are constructed the same way and of the same materials.  All of the components in a cartridge are a case, a primer, a bullet, and a propellant.  Cases are generally made of brass, but some are steel or aluminum.  Brass is the only suitable material for reloading.  Bullets can be made from all sorts of materials, but the most common are lead alloys and lead alloy jacketed with copper.  A primer is the small round button on the bottom of the cartridge.  They are a small metal case with a chemical mixture inside that ignites with explosive force when struck by the firing pin of a gun.  This small explosion is the “spark” to ignite the propellant charge.  Propellants, commonly referred to as powder or gunpowder,  come in various textures and burn rates but all of them serve the same purpose.  They burn rapidly and create a high volume of hot gas.  This hot gas expands rapidly and provides the force to move the bullet down the barrel and out to the target.  Different propellants have different burn rates that are suited for specific purposes.  Generally speaking, pistol and shotgun powders burn very fast compared to most rifle powders.

The process to reloading these cartridges can be boiled down to inserting a primer into a case, adding a powder charge through the neck of the case, then seating a bullet into the neck.  Of course this is stating it very simply and there are a lot of other factors that go into reloading.  There are a couple of steps added if you use cases that have been used before.  Depriming is the first.  The old primer needs to be removed. Resizing is a big step in using fired cases.  This forces the brass back into specified size and shape.  Cases that have been fired multiple times can “grow” in length, so they must be trimmed back to proper length.  Once these steps are taken, the case should be back to factory specs and can be reloaded.  For the step by step, we’ll assume the use of new brass that won’t require additional steps.  The basic steps are as follows:

1. Priming the case

This step is pretty self explanatory.  You use a priming tool to insert a new primer into the primer pocket on the bottom of the case.  Because the case now contains a live primer, it should be handled accordingly.  Treat it as you would a live round.

2. Adding the powder charge

Using published load data for the cartridge and powder you pick, you add a very specific amount of powder to the case.  Different equipment setups do this by different means, but it can be as simple as pouring a measured amount through a small funnel.

3. Seating the bullet

Once powder is added, a bullet is seated into the neck of the cartridge.  The bullets usually are of a slightly larger diameter than the case neck, so it is a tight fit to protect against the bullet falling into the case or coming out of its own accord.  Some processes call for using a special tool to crimp the bullet into place.  This usually isn’t required, but it does have some benefit.

At this point you have a live round of whatever cartridge you are loading.  Now I’m going to get considerably more technical about components.  You can’t just pick powder and bullet combinations at random.  The first step in selecting a combination is finding published load data for the combination you want to use.  The reason you should only use published load data is because the cartridge, bullet and powder combination have been thoroughly tested to ensure they will work together in a safe and efficient manner.  Developing your own load data requires substantial knowledge and specialized equipment.  You might run into some reloaders that claim to develop their own loads by estimating chamber pressures and velocities.  This is an unsafe practice since there are countless variables that can influence pressures and velocity.  Sticking to published load data from bullet or powder manufacturers is the only way to ensure the load you use is safe.  A lot of people decide what bullet they want to use, then look at load data to determine what powder will meet their needs.  For any given bullet and cartridge, there might be a dozen or more suitable powders.  I base my powder choices on several things; recommendations of other shooters, availability, and price are determining factors for me.

Bullet selection should be based on your desired purpose.  Are you going to be using this ammo for practice?  An inexpensive full metal jacket (FMJ) should work well.  Are you going to be big game hunting?  There are hundreds of bullets designed specifically for hunting.  Are you shooting long range at varmints?  “Varmint” bullets are available that basically come apart on impact to prevent ricochet.  Other experienced shooters and reloaders can help you select the right bullet for the job.

Some words of advice and caution…  I’ve been pretty adamant so far about following published load data in this article.  That means follow the load data to the letter.  Do not substitute powders or bullets.  Any deviation from the data can take a safe load into the world of ruined gun and injured or dead shooters. I’ve intentionally been vague on details of each step of the process and the equipment to use because no one should read an article on a blog and think they know enough to jump right into reloading.  At this point, if you are interested you have some reading to do.  A good manual on reloading is invaluable to a new reloader.  A mentor with years of experience is even better, but that’s not always an option for some of us.  I never had a mentor and I’ve been successful as a reloader.  For those that plan to be “self taught”, I cannot recommend a specific book highly enough.  It is Modern Reloading by Richard Lee.  Richard Lee is the founder of Lee Reloading, a reloading equipment manufacturer.  With this one book, you will gain enough information to become a competent and safe reloader.  I’ve read several books on the subject, but this one is by far the best.  The book is very inexpensive, so if you are interested but still unsure if you want to reload, you can buy it without much investment.

Since I mention in the title about saving money, I thought it was only fair to show you how much money you can save by reloading.  I’ll use one of my favorite cartridges as an example.  The .270 Winchester cartridge is a pretty common cartridge so it usually isn’t expensive to buy factory ammunition.  Premium hunting ammunition ranges from $35 to $45 per box of 20 cartridges.  If I reload using comparable components, I can load a box of 20 for $13.50.  If I save by brass cases and don’t need to buy new brass, that cost drops to $9.20.
If I reload the 40S&W pistol cartridge using brass I already have, I can put a box of 50 rounds together for around $11.
With prices like this, practice starts to get a lot more manageable.  I can shoot quality ammunition made with good components for the same price or even cheaper than buying cheap imported ammunition with steel cases and crappy bullets.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me with the first link in the blogroll on the right side of the webpage.  Hopefully this article will give you enough information to figure out if reloading is something you might be interested in.  Stay tuned for a companion article on reloading shotshells.

I’m including this link as a resource.  It is very thorough and contains more information that I can give in one article.  While it is very thorough, I still recommend buying a copy of Modern Reloading to have as a reference.

A Look at FRS/GMRS Radios.

I wanted to follow up on the post about communications with my thoughts on some of the gear I use personally.  Before I get into the main subject, I want to take a minute to fill everyone in on the goings on at Surviving Modern Life.  I haven’t been as productive as I would like to be on getting articles up and published.  I was on a pretty good roll when I managed to herniate a disk at work.  I highly recommend that you do everything you can to avoid injuring your back!  I’m the type to avoid going to the doctor or take medication unless necessary, but it became very necessary.  I think I’ve been to the doctor more in the past two months than the rest of my life combined.  On top of that, prescription pain medication makes me a zombie.  I’ve been the walking dead for several weeks, so my writing ability and motivation have taken a serious hit.  I’m on the mend, so I hope to get back to publishing articles a lot more frequently.

I’d also like to point out that I’ve added links to the Blogroll on the right side of the page.  A new addition is a link to the website of Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy.  I’ve been a fan of theirs for a few months now.  Their specialties are medicine and gardening (and a combining of the two).  Dr. Bones is an MD and Nurse Amy is a Nurse Practitioner and a master gardener.  They offer an incredible amount of GREAT medical advice geared toward the prepper community.  Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.  I also added a link to a new blog from a member of the prepper community.  Prepper Gal is just getting started in the world of blogging.  Stop by her site and say hi!

I’ve added a Gear Sources” page at the top of the main page.  In there are links and descriptions of places to buy any gear or supplies you might need.  Those are personal endorsements from places I’ve done business with, not paid advertisers.  The list will grow as I give my endorsement to other companies that offer good value and great customer service.

Now on to the Communications!!

A few months ago I decided to add FRS and GMRS radios to the comms I have available.  Sarah and I were walking through Academy Outdoors and I found a set of radios on clearance.  I read over the features and they looked pretty impressive.  They were on par with radios from other brands that cost a hundred dollars or more, all for the low price of $55.  So I bought a set of Cobra CXR920 radios.  The two features that made my mind up were rechargeable battery packs and multiple security options.  The rechargeable batteries are a big deal since higher power radio transceivers can really go through AA or AAA alkaline batteries.  That ends up being a pretty significant operating cost over the long run.  THe Cobra radios use Lithium Ion batteries, much like modern cell phones.  They hold a charge for a long time and won’t develop as much memory as NiCD or NiMH batteries.  I’m still not sure how long the batteries will last because I’ve never had them die on me yet.  Granted, we haven’t used the radios in an all day situation yet, but so far it looks very promising.  The security settings are nice in that they can help in areas with crowded frequency use.  Any major event will find a lot of people using FRS and GMRS radios.  Because of this, finding an available channel can be iffy.  By using one of the 38 CTCSS or 83 DCS codes, you have a lot of options on getting your own slice of the frequency pie.  Just to be fully honest, I wouldn’t really call this security as anyone with a comparable radio can listen in on your conversations.  They might have to scan through a lot of channels and codes, but it can be done.  Any time you use radio communications, you should have no expectation of complete privacy.  Now on to the nitty gritty with these radios…

The packaging promised a 30 mile range, but as I covered in my last article, I knew better than to expect that.  These radios operate via UHF frequencies, which means line of sight.  If two people are standing on perfectly level ground with no obstructions, the best you can hope for is 6 miles.  Physics won’t allow an more range.  You can always increase range by increasing the height of the antenna of the radio, but to get 30 miles, you would need one radio to be 360 feet in the air and still have no obstructions.  This is theoretically possible, but not likely in most situations.  In a real world situation with terrain and obstructions doing their best to block communications, I’ve gotten about 3 miles out of these radios.  Anyone that claims to do much better is dealing with better conditions or is exaggerating.

One of the best features these radios offer is probably worth their purchase price by itself.  They receive all 10 NOAA Weather Radio channels.  This lets me kill two birds with one stone.  I’m a firm believer that everyone should have a battery powered weather radio available to them, and if possible, one in the bug out bag.  Now I have one with me any time I have one of these radios with me, which is pretty much all the time.  Being able to keep up with what the weather is doing can make the difference between a normal outing and a true survival situation.  Reception of the weather radio is nothing spectacular, but it is clear enough to understand.

Transmit power isn’t much of a problem with these little radios.  They have 3 power settings that are user selectable.  FRS channels are locked in at low power since FRS radios are very restricted on power by law.  GMRS allows for higher power, so those channels can be selected.  Of course, you always want to use the lowest possible power to get your transmission out.  Not only is this good radio etiquette, it will also greatly extend your battery life.  As a disclaimer…  Using the GMRS channels requires a license from the FCC.  I believe the cost is $80 annually for the license.  There is nothing to prevent unlicensed use other than threat of penalty.  This always stand true unless there is an emergency situation.  In a real emergency, you can use any means available to place a call for help.

Some other features the radios have that I haven’t used yet include VOX (voice activation) and handfree use, memory for storing channels and security settings, A LOCK feature to keep keys from being pressed my accident, and “Maximum Range” which turns off the auto squelch.  This will increase the range of the radios, but at the expense of a lot of interfering noise.

Overall I like the function and operation of these radios.  The quality of the construction is top notch.  I’ve owned Cobra CB radios and have always been pleased.  It looks like Cobra has scored again.  I would recommend these radios to anyone needing short distance communications.  At the bottom of the article, I’m posting a link to the user manual for the radios.  It’s a PDF file of some size, so be warned if you have a slow internet connection.

 

 

Cobra MicroTalk CXR920 Manual

Got Comms?? Be sure you have the right ones!

Today I wanted to cover an often overlooked topic in modern survival.  In these modern times, most of us rely on cell phones as our primary form of communication.  Some of us rely on them as our only source.  It’s easy to see why when you look at plans that offer unlimited calls to other cell phones across a very secure and reliable communication network.  I’m not going to bash on cell phones as a communication means at all, I have one myself and feel crippled when I’m in an area with bad network reception or when I make a call and get that dreaded “network busy” flashing across the screen.  It doesn’t happen often, but it should have us thinking about having a backup plan in case we need to get that important call out.  During a large scale emergency or disaster, we can expect to see this magical service stressed to its limit.  The limitations aren’t reached often, but if you look back to the terrorist attack on New York on that awful September morning, a lot of people couldn’t get calls in or out of the area for a while.  Even major sporting events push infrastructure to the limit.  I used to live within a mile of the Texas Motor Speedway.  During a NASCAR race, there would be upwards of 250,000 additional people in my quiet little area of north Texas.  Major cell service providers would set up trailer mounted towers to accommodate the additional service needs. A bit of advice when you can’t get a call to go through… Try sending a text message.  Texts messages require a lot less network resources to get out and will often work when a voice call won’t.   With these limitations in mind, we need to look to other means of communicating with others.  This article will not be a in depth technical manual on radio theory, but hopefully it will give you enough information to get you started on setting up a personal communication plan if life doesn’t go exactly as we plan. I won’t be able to cover every form of communication available to us, since that could turn into a year long series on communication where I would have to bring in true experts in the field.  I also hope to dispel some of the myths with radio communications that seem to have a stronghold in the minds of a lot of people.

 

HAM Radio

HAM, or amateur radio, is probably the first thing a lot of people think of when we talk about radio communications.  During a disaster, HAM operators are instrumental in getting information in and out of an affected area.  A lot of radio clubs are partnered with local and state government emergency management agencies.  These partnerships allow small agencies access to people with radio equipment and expertise they could never dream of having a budget for.  This actually drives a lot of people to get their license to operate within these bands.  I personally got my HAM license just so I could participate in a group called ARES, which handled the local SKYWARN storm spotters for the National Weather Service.  Even if this isn’t an interest for you, HAM makes for a great communication method.  It does require a license to operate within these frequency bands, but the basic license, called a Technician class, is easy to obtain.  All you need to do is pass a written test administered by local HAM radio clubs.  This would get you started in HAM radio at a basic level.  There are two higher level licenses called the General and Extra class.  Each of these requires an additional written test that covers more in depth information about radio theory and FCC regulation.  In turn, you are granted privileges to more frequencies.  At the end of this article, I will post links to a lot of HAM radio resources so you can doo your own research and see if HAM would work for you and your situation.  I would like to bring up some of the limitations of HAM radio (and all radio comms for that matter).  Despite what we see in movies and have heard from people all our lives, HAM radio will not allow you to talk to anyone in the world in any reliable way.  Sure, a lot of operators carry on conversations with folks from Japan or Antarctica or Great Britain, but this is all subject to a concept known as propagation.  Propagation is basically the way radio waves travel.  That guy you talk to in Japan today might not be heard again.  It is dependent on weather conditions, solar activity, antenna design and countless other variables.  Also, if you can reach as far as Japan, then you most likely wouldn’t be able to talk to someone  in the next town on the same frequency and antenna setup.  Sometimes, solar activity can block out entire frequency bands.  When I discovered that I couldn’t just get my license and a transceiver and start talking to people all over the world, I was a little disappointed.  Even with these limitations, HAM has a lot to offer for backup communication.  I personally use the 2 Meter band (144-148MHz) quite a bit.  In the north Texas area, there are a ton of repeaters that let me talk to people 30 or 40 miles away with a $100 radio.  Not too shabby for a frequency that works line of sight.  Of course, these repeaters could be brought down by widespread power outages, but barring that communication is pretty easy across a wide area.

 

FRS/GMRS Radios

These radios are what most people turn to when they want something to communicate with friends or family over short distances.  They serve well for a group of hunters that need to talk across a deer lease or a family at the amusement park that needs to be able to coordinate with each other.  One of the biggest thing these radios have going for them is cost and ease of use.  You can pick up a pair at any big box store for $20 and get started.  Of course, you get what you pay for in that case and the radios will have very basic features.  I spent around $70 on a pair that are feature loaded and offer pretty good range.  I won’t go into great detail on those radios as I plan to cover them in a review article soon.  A couple of things to be aware of when purchasing these little radios are range and legal issues.  A lot of them will say on the package that they offer a range of 18 miles or 23 miles or 36 miles.  This is complete crap and you can never expect that kind of range in daily use.  They operate line of site and no further.  If you have someone standing at the top of a mountain talking to someone in town 20 miles away, they MIGHT get that far.  There have been reports of these radios going as far as 70 miles, but that required perfect conditions that included line of site, no obstructions, and perfect weather.  In all honesty a reasonable expectation is a couple of miles.  The other thing to be aware of is that they operate on two separate frequencies.  FRS is free for anyone to use, but offers lower transmit power.  GMRS will let you operate at higher power, but it does require a license from the FCC.  There is no test required, but there is an $80 fee to get it.  Using the GMRS frequencies is as easy as changing the channel on the radio, but it is up to each individual user to ensure their compliance with FCC regulation and licensing requirements.  I’ve never heard of the FCC cracking down on unlicensed use of GMRS frequencies, but I don’t want one of my readers to be the first.

 

 

CB Radio

CB, which is short for Citizen Band, is a high frequency radio that works similar to some HAM frequencies with much lower power limitations.  These are the radios found in just about every tractor trailer in the country.  They offer good range, in the area of 2 to 5 miles.  There is usually a lot of activity on CB frequencies, especially channel 19, which is known as the Trucker Channel.  Channel 9 is reserved for emergency use only, so makes sure not to transmit on this channel unless there is a legitimate emergency.  Because of their popularity, you should have zero expectations of privacy.  This form of communication is excellent for communication between vehicles if you are traveling with a group with multiple vehicles.
A lot of times, you will hear of people getting incredible ranges out of the radios.  Some of this is from perfect propagation, and some of it is from people operating at power levels way beyond what is legal.  I’ve heard conversations between people that were 80 miles apart.  These guys were probably operating at 10 times the legal power levels.  Surviving Modern Life never condones illegal activities, so if you were to ever engage in this activity, you are on your own.

 

There are a lot of other options available for backup communication, but I’ll stop here today.  A bit later we can cover some of the other methods.  A quick word about legal issues with communications.  The FCC has complete control of all radio frequencies.  Their power is pretty much unlimited in allocating, assigning, and banning use of radio devices and frequencies.  It’s generally uncommon for the FCC to nail someone for abusing regulations unless you are illegally broadcasting to the public or you are causing harmful interference to lawful use of a frequency.  That is not to say that you are immune from prosecution is you do break the law.  There is one regulation I agree with completely, and it is in regards to true emergency situations.  If there is an immediate threat to person or property, you can use any means to call for help or sound a warning.  In these situations, you could broadcast with more power than the biggest AM radio stations to call for help if you have the means.  I believe the wording of the law is “any available means”.

 

Links:

ARRL – American Radio Relay League.  This private organization works closely with the FCC to administer the HAM bands and protects    frequencies from being reassigned by the FCC.

Practice Tests and Study Guides – This website has everything you need to prepare for taking HAM radio exams.

FCC – The FCC website contains all the info you need to remain compliant with laws and regulations.

GMRS License Page – Here’s everything you need to know to apply for a GMRS license.

CB Radio – Some basic information about CB Radios

Lights are out?? No Problem!!

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another.  You’re sitting on the couch watching the weather reports about storms moving into your area, and poof!, the lights are out.  If your luck is like mine it will already be pitch black outside.  Now what?  For anyone of the preparedness mindset, it isn’t a big deal at all.  For those that are really REALLY prepared, they notice a flash, a few seconds of darkness, then the lights are right back on because the backup generator has fired up and a transfer switch is routing power from the generator to the main electrical feed for the house.  Most of us aren’t nearly that prepared.  Maybe some of us haven’t invested that kind of money, but we still have a portable generator we can drag out, crank up, and run an extension cord or two into the house (Please tell me you know NOT to run a generator in the house!).  This will work to get some lights and the TV back on, plug in the laptop, and keep the freezer running.  What about the rest of us that either can’t afford or can’t practically keep a generator?  For us, there is the Blackout Kit.  It works well with a Blackout Plan.  We’ll be covering both in this article.

A Blackout Kit is simply that, a kit with stuff in it to break out when the lights go out.  Some folks find it handy to keep all of this stuff together in a box or bag somewhere in the house and some of us have items strategically placed around the house.  Either system will work well if you know where everything is.  I lean more to the strategic placement philosophy myself.  A Blackout Plan is just as self explanatory.  This is just a plan on what to do if the power goes out.  It can be as simple or complex as you want to make it, but having it put together can save a little stress.

The basics of a Blackout Kit are means of providing light.  There are countless ways to get this done, but each has unique properties that make it suitable for some needs and horrible for others.  I’ll break the common light sources down and show the pros and cons of each.  I’ll also point out safety concerns as they arise.

1. Flashlights.
This one should be the obvious first item to go into a kit.  Flashlights are designed to provide light for moving around and seeing in the dark.  I like to have them placed throughout the house so one is handy no matter where I am when the power goes out.  Flashlights are usually small and easy to use, and are perfect for seeing well enough to get the rest of your kit from wherever you might keep it.  Modern technology has made awesome advances in these little guys.  For cheap, you can now have LED lights that are far brighter and run longer than their incandescent predecessors.  The major drawbacks to flashlights are they fact that no matter how efficient, they still require batteries to work.  If your batteries run out and you don’t have replacements, your light just became useless.  There are some lights that are hand crank which eliminates the need for batteries, but they rarely produce much light.  Another drawback is that the light produced is very focused in nature.  Using a flashlight to light a room or large area will really show off this drawback.   You know exactly what I mean if you’ve ever tried to use a flashlight for room lighting.  For best results, you can point the light directly at the ceiling, but even then the light is hardly sufficient compared to other light sources.

2. Lanterns.
Lanterns really fill the role of lighting a large area.  When you want to light up a room to allow life to go on as normal as possible, this is the way to go.   There are two common types of lanterns available, fuel burning and battery powered.  Fuel lanterns and lamps usually put out more light, but at the expense of a lot of generated heat and the emission of gases from combustion.  With a small kerosene lanterns and lamps the heat and gases aren’t much.  White gas or “Coleman Fuel” lanterns are probably the brightest large area light sources out there, but they produce a LOT of heat.  Also, burning any sort of fuel indoors can lead to carbon monoxide which can be fatal in high enough concentrations.  Be sure to use in a ventilated area if you need to use one indoors.  There is also a substantial risk of fire when using fuel lanterns.  Make sure they are on a flat stable surface that isn’t flammable.
Battery powered lanterns can avoid these pitfalls.  They produce a lot of light with little to no heat and no carbon monoxide or fire risk.  Their main drawback is the battery power.  They usually use fluorescent bulbs that are pretty efficient, but even so, the larger ones can drain large C or D cell batteries in a few hours.  If you plan on needing to use one for very long, have some batteries on hand.

3. Candles.
Candles really don’t need much in the way of description.  It seems that it is mandatory that if a female resides there, candles will too.  Candles come in every shape, size, scent, and material imaginable. The biggest benefit of candles are the price.  I’ve bought tea lights for as little as 6 cents a piece when I bought 100.  With enough of them, you can make a room bright enough to read.  Like lanterns, candles pose the risk of fire.  Lit candles should always be placed in an area away from anything flammable and should never be left unattended.  It’s also a good idea to use caution with candles as hot wax can cause some pretty uncomfortable burns.

4. Emergency Lights.
Emergency lights are more common in larger buildings, but can work well in the home.  There are some residential versions that simply plug into a wall outlet that constantly keep charged, but switch on if power is lost.  They can be unplugged and moved around if needed.  Larger commercial types mount to a wall and need to be wired directly to the house wiring.  It’s a bit of work to install these type, but they provide a lot of light and for a long time.  I can’t find any downside to the smaller outlet type lights.  The commercial versions have a couple of drawbacks.  First is the price, and second is the fact they are a little unsightly hanging up on the wall.

Most of us will have a mix of these types of lighting available during power outages, as each serves a different purpose.  You will need to make sure that each is up to the task and ready to go at all times.  Regularly check batteries in flashlights and have plenty of spares on hand.  The same goes for battery powered lanterns.  If you use fuel lamps or lanterns, have them fueled up if safe to do so and know where more fuel is.  Candles are pretty easy to have ready.  The only candle related thoughts I have is that you have to have a source of fire to light them, so know where you keep a lighter or matches.  Also, a candle wick that has been lit before will be easier to light.

Blackout plans.
Planning for a blackout can save a lot of hassle when the lights go out unexpectedly.  At the least plan can just involve knowing where your kit is.  A few other things that are worth considering are items that require electricity to be maintained.  First and foremost is the freezer and/or fridge.  If the power outage only lasts a little bit, this isn’t much of a concern.  If power goes out because of storm damage or ice, then it might be off for a while.  If you are in this situation, you might need to guess at how long the power might be out.  If you think it might be several hours, there is not need to worry.  Freezers will keep foods frozen for a long time if they aren’t opened.  If you are concerned about the freezer you can wrap it up in a couple of comforters or blankets to add additional insulation.  Keeping bottles of water in empty space in the freezer will reduce its electricity usage all the time and keep things frozen a lot longer if the power goes out.  If ice is the culprit for the loss of power, that means it is freezing outside.  If that’s the case, you can transport the frozen items outside and put them somewhere out of sunlight and out of reach of any critters and not have to worry about thawing.
Cooking is another area that can be affected by power loss.  A lot of homes use electricity for stoves and ovens.  If this is the case in your house, you’ll have to have other means.  If you need to cook while the lights are out, look outside to your grill.  Propane or charcoal grill don’t require electrical power and most of us are well versed in cooking on the grill.  Camp stoves are another means of cooking.  If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace you are set.  People have been using fireplaces for light, heat, and cooking for centuries.

Another important thing to have as part of the kit and plan is a contact number for your electric company.  When the power goes out, always call to report it to the electric company.  Chances are they already know, but if everyone assumes that someone else has already called in then they may not know about the outage.  You might also want to keep the number for hotels in a neighboring town in case power will be out for more than a few hours in extreme temperatures.

You will have to assess how self reliant you can be without electricity to determine how long you can go without.  A few hours is enough to have some people looking for refuge with family or friends.  Some of us can go indefinitely without.  Some determining factors are who all will be affected.  If you have a baby in the house and inside temperatures will drop into the 40s, then you might need to go somewhere else until power is restored.  If you have someone elderly living with you and inside temperature can get over 90, it will be necessary to get them to somewhere there is air conditioning.

Being prepared can be as simple as a few candles and a good flashlight, but can go a long way in making a power outage a lot more enjoyable.  I’ve found that if the lights go out for a few hours, I see it as nothing more than a chance to test my preps to see what is lacking.  With knowledge gained from these short duration issues, I’m much more confident in my ability to handle prolonged outages.

Greetings From The Remote Bug Out Location

It finally happened.  I’ve been telling everyone for years that they should be preparing for the zombie apocalypse, but they wouldn’t listen.  Now who’s laughing at who.  Most of them have had their brains pulled out and eaten, or they’ve become part of the undead hoards themselves.  Sarah, the girls and I are safe and sound in an undisclosed location away from major population centers.  We are 12 days into the zombie occupation. We’ve been without power for 7 days.  The laptop has a pretty low power draw, so I’m able to use my meager solar capabilities to run it.  Somehow, the internet connection is still working.  I guess they build in a lot of automation and redundancy into the telecommunication systems.  Luckily the weather has been nice.  I wanted to share with the readers on how the preps have worked out and what we’ve learned since this ordeal started.

 

Wise brand long term food storage is good stuff.  The cheesy lasagna tastes pretty good and even the kids like it. Bacon SPAM is amazing, even under high stress situations.  It’s a little taste of home in a world of chaos.

My .270 Winchester is a superb long range zombie gun.  If I crank the scope up to 9 power, I can pick them off at 300 yards or a little more.  There haven’t been many zombies out here, but we see a few.  Being able to take them out long before they know where we are seems to keep more from showing up.  We did have one get up close, but the HiPoint carbine worked as advertised.

Getting information has been difficult to say the least.  We saw zombies conducting the national news, but we don’t know whether they were infected or not.  It’s hard to tell with the hosts of the major news networks.  Local radio stations have started going off air, but they didn’t know any more than we did.  We think it all started in New York with the Occupy Wall Street movement and spread quickly.  Apparently dirty hippies were more dangerous than we thought.  I always thought the self proclaimed “99%” were out to destroy our world, but I didn’t think they would do it in such a literal way.

I’ve never been an avid football fan,but I realize how much I miss college football.  Since the Texas A&M Aggies literally devoured the boys from the University of Texas, all football games seem to have been canceled.  I would imagine a virus that causes zombie-ism would transmit pretty quickly through a locker room.

The bug out location has a shallow well that we can dip with a bucket, so we don’t have to worry about getting water without power.  This has been a lifesaver.  We are also surrounded by a lot of ranch land.  Cows are unaffected by the virus, and are pretty much going about their daily lives.  Zombies seem to have no interest in the cows, so I think we have a sustainable, long term food source in case things don’t get back to normal soon.

I’m very glad to say we haven’t had to resort to my article about treatment for zombie bites.  Everyone is in good health and good spirits.

 

It looks like a cold front is moving in, so I’m hoping for freezing temperatures.  The zombies can’t move if they are frozen and it would give us a good chance to get out and see what’s going on with the world outside of the bug out location.
I’ll update further if anything new develops and the internet connection holds out.

Happy Halloween from Surviving Modern Life!!

 

 

Be careful, it’s sharp!

Right out of the gate I would like to apologize for the delay in getting a post made.  Life got hectic as it can do sometimes.  I’ve decided to go ahead and share another product review.  I’m always on the lookout for great deals with gear or supplies.  I might not always buy the brand name gear, but quality and value are my first priority.  There is a lot of great gear available for a lot less money than the big name providers.  You have to be wary though, as there is a lot of junk out there as well.  I know this because I’ve bought some and wished I would have spent a little more.  This time is not one of those situations.

I’ve always had an infatuation with knives.  I’m not like some folks that collect the biggest, weirdest knives I can find.  I like the nondescript functional knives.  I’ve never seen the need for an 18 inch bowie or a miniature samurai sword.   Solid design and good materials are more to my liking.  I have countless knives ranging from a few bucks to well over 100.  All of them have served me well, but I seem to favor the ones that don’t cost as much.  Years ago you had to pay good money to get good steel, but this has changed for the better.  With new alloys and cheaper machining methods, even the inexpensive knives can be made durable and to keep an edge.  For years I’ve heard about the legendary knives from Sweden that were incredibly well made, incredibly sharp, and incredibly under 20 bucks.  After talking with Jeff from P3Gear, I noticed he had some in his store.  I place the order and receive 2 Mora knives a few days later.  I bought two because I plan on one going in my BOB, and one to go in Sarah’s.

 

As I opened the box to get them out, the first thing I noticed was the unique design of the molded plastic sheath.  It reminds me of a Glock factory pistol holster.  It has a belt hook that looks like it would be impossible to pull it off by accident.  The knife slides in and clicks into place, much like a passive retention holster.  The bottom of the sheath has a small drain hole in case you need to submerge yourself or the knife.
The knife itself has a polymer handle with a black rubber grip.  It feels natural in the hand, and the grip is a perfect texture and material for a solid, slip free grip.  The blade a shiny stainless steel and measures just a touch under 4 inches.  It features a Scandinavian grind, which refers to the way the blade is ground.  Most knives have an angle that tapers down to the edge, while the actual cutting edge is a sharper angle.  The Scandinavian is a consistent tapered angle all the way to the cutting edge.  This is supposed to offer a stronger blade and should keep an edge better.  I haven’t abused it enough yet to test the theory, but it sounds reasonable.  A word of caution… from the factory, this knife is the sharpest I’ve ever seen.  I’m used to having to tweak the edge on a new knife, but this one is impressive.  We all have knives that are sharp enough to shave with, but this thing shaves as close as a Mach 3 razor.  You could shave your face with it, but I won’t be.  One slip and you’ll need to refer back to my article about stopping a severe hemorrhage.

Like I said earlier, I haven’t had a chance to really abuse the Mora knife, but I have run it through some of my non scientific tests.  I like to test a blade’s ability to hold an edge by cutting some common items that are notorious for dulling a blade.  Leather and cardboard are my favorite test media.  It glides right through both with almost no effort.  It’s rare for me to find a knife that can handle thick cowhide without binding up or requiring a lot of force.  This particular knife cut without a raged edge to be found.  I’ll probably end up using it to cut out patterns when I’m doing my leatherwork.
On the cardboard, it has the same effect.  It’s like slicing butter.  I reduced a box to a few dozen pieces and rechecked the sharpness.  There is no hair on the back of my hand, even after hacking up the box.  For practical purposes, we’re safe in saying this little knife will hold an edge.  It would be a pleasure to use it for normal tasks ranging from camp duties to kitchen use to field dressing a critter for dinner.

In closing, I’ll have to say that this knife is one of the best values in cutlery I’ve seen in a long time.  It might just be the best value period.  I’m happy to have it with me on this trek to survive modern life.  Here is a link to where I bought mine.

 

You’re ready for a disaster! Even in your car??

We put a lot of thought in our preparations for emergency and disaster.  A lot of us keep food on hand, have a flashlight handy, and know where our first aid kit is.  Hopefully we feel ready to tackle any problems that life throws at us. Do we have that same feeling in our vehicle when we’re driving around or commuting to work?  A basic car kit can go a long way toward gaining that same feeling of security.

I find myself in a position that’s different from what I’m used to.  For years I’ve driven a big diesel pickup everywhere I go.  If you know anything about diesel pickups, you know they can carry a lot of stuff.  When I’m in my truck I feel comfortable to face situations ranging from having to overnight on the side of the road to heading into the woods and starting society over from scratch.  You might think I’m joking, but I really do carry a LOT of stuff in my truck.  I literally have the equipment and tools to do major motor work, hunt large game, build a log cabin, and communicate with the outside world by a host of different means.  I even have solar battery charging capabilities.  My truck truly is a rolling bugout location.  The only downside…  it’s not my daily driver any more.  When I took a job 45 miles away, the price of fuel was draining my budget.  I opted to buy a little used car that gets excellent mileage.  I now spend 10 times less on fuel, but at the cost of that peace of mind I have in my truck.  I’ve really started to put a lot of thought into what the perfect car kit for emergencies would be and I’m starting to put this kit together.

 

One of the most important aspects to consider is what you might need this kit to do and what situations you might face.  Some of these will be unique to your circumstances, but some items will be universal to all vehicles.  The first, and most likely scenario I prepare for is being stranded.  There can be a few reasons why I might get stranded, but the result is the same.  I might be there for a while, and want to make the best of the situation.

We know that we have basic needs in any survival situation.  I could go as basic as possible and say that the most important is air, but unless you drive your car into a lake, that shouldn’t be a problem.  Water, as basic as it sounds, is very important.  The old standby advice is one gallon per person per day.  Generally, we won’t need to store a lot of water since we aren’t planning on multiple days in the car.  One gallon per person should be more than enough.  I personally keep a few 20 ounce bottles of water in my little car.  Having water in the car saved me from a major inconvenience just recently.  I didn’t need the water to survive, but when my car decided to spring a leak in a hose I was able to repair the leak on the side of the road and top the radiator off with some of my storage water.

Another consideration is protection from the elements.  It rarely gets really cold here in Texas, but we do see some cold winter weather.  Cold isn’t really an issue when we can keep the car running and the heater on full blast, but if we can’t for some reason, that cold can become a serious problem.  Every year when we get ice on the roads, there are people that skid off in the ditch and can’t get back on the road. And it seems to happen at night more often that not.  Some will probably be waiting hours for help to come get them.  In a situation like this, running out of gas can make for a very uncomfortable night.  It might even be fatal.  A simple solution would be a blanket of some sort.  Wool blankets are pretty inexpensive and will help you stay warm in some pretty low temperatures.  Emergency blankets work too, but they aren’t very comfortable and you have to cocoon into them for them to work well.  If this breakdown is in the Summer here in Texas, there’s not much that can be done.  It’s going to be hot.  Be glad for that water!

After the initial stress of ending up in this predicament fades, you might start to get a little hungry.  Some snack foods might come in handy to make the time go by a little easier.  I know I certainly function better when I’m not focusing on an empty stomach.  Any non perishable food will work for the vehicle, but you have to apply common sense.  What works in the house for food storage might not work well in the vehicle.  Temperature is one of the biggest concerns.  Where I live and drive the most, temperatures can range from 5 degrees in my vehicle all the way up to close to 200 degrees in the truck or passenger cabin.  Freezing or extreme heat can break glass containers, and the heat can certainly turn an aluminum or tin can into a food grenade (ask me how I know!)  Plenty of options are available that will handle these temperatures.  Cookies and crackers come to mind first.  Beef jerky is another.  I know these aren’t the healthiest choices, but we’re in a survival situation that hopefully won’t be lasting too long.  Besides, you can go weeks without food before you die.  These are here as a comfort item more than anything.

Now that we can make sure we aren’t going to be miserable or die from lacking basic needs, we can look at other items.  Sanitation needs might want to be covered.  If you are stranded on the side of the road away from everything when nature calls, a roll of toilet paper in a ziplock bag is about to become your best friend.  Keeping it in a ziplock bag will keep it clean and dry while it rides shotgun with you waiting for that moment of need.  Some basic hygiene items tossed in might round out the package and come in handy even if you aren’t forced to stay in your car.  There has been more than one occasion where I’ve stayed the night somewhere unexpectedly and having a few items in my car saved a trip to the store so I could brush my teeth and apply deodorant.

Once these needs are all met, lets figure out how to get ourselves out of the situation.  Communication is key.  Most all of us have cell phones these days, and they make life more convenient than ever when they work.  Its a good idea to make sure you have a way to keep it charged in the car.  A dead battery makes the smartest of phone as useful as a rock in no time.  For most situations, a working phone will get word out and get help on the way.  But in true prepper fashion, I like to have redundancy.  CB radios and other two way radios can get word out in emergencies, and they don’t rely on the wireless network that cell phones depend on.  Handheld CB radios can be had for almost nothing and make an excellent source for secondary communication.  Remember, channel 9 on the CB band is for emergency use only.  Channel 19 is known as the “trucker channel” and generally has a lot of traffic, especially near major highways.  I go a step further and add HAM radio to my arsenal, but this isn’t practical for everyone.  For one, its a licensed band, meaning you have to take a test and get your license to transmit.  This rule doesn’t apply in an emergency.  In a true emergency, you can use any band or frequency available to call for help.  Make sure it is a real emergency (defined as threat to life or property).

Now on to the stuff every car should have before it ever gets on the road.  A lot of these will seem obvious, but I’m shocked at the people that don’t have any of them.  Make sure your vehicle has a spare tire.  Make sure it’s aired up!  Even if you aren’t much of a mechanic, you should keep a basic tool kit in your car.  It will come in handy for minor repairs. If you can’t perform the repairs, that good Samaritan that stops to help might be able to if only he hadn’t forgotten his toolbox.  You can fix that at least!  We all forget to turn off the lights or we leave something plugged into the cigarette lighter.  Then we have a dead battery.  Its much easier to get someone to give you a jump start if you have your own jumper cables.  Most people are willing to help their fellow man, but no one seems prepared to these days.  If you want to go all out in being prepared, there are power packs available that allow you to jump start your own vehicle.  Here are some examples. 12 volt air compressors can be had on the cheap and will save your bacon in case of a flat.  I bought one in new condition at a flea market for $7 and its paid for itself a dozen times over.   All of us understand the need for a good first aid kit.  Have a better one in your car at all times.  You never know when you might be the first to respond to an accident or need to use it for yourself.  Having a good flashlight really comes into play if you are stranded after dark.  Not being able to see might have you believe you are stuck when you really aren’t.  It will also help with those minor repairs and avoiding that rattlesnake if you need to use that toilet paper.

I could continue this article for pages about other survival items you might need; like matches and lighters, signal mirrors, emergency whistles, etc.  Those are items you will have to decide if they are worth keeping in you car.  Look at your bug out bag and see if there are items that would serve you well if duplicated in your vehicle.  I didn’t really cover much about vehicle safety in this article because I’m planning in covering that in a separate article in the near future.  In the meantime, use your head and practice common sense around traffic and vehicles.  Also, stay tuned for articles about vehicle self defense, and bugging out in your vehicle.

 

 

Concerned about bug bites?? Maybe you should be!

Because of the popularity of the First Aid articles I’ve put up here, I decided to write another before getting into other survival subjects.  This one probably won’t be as eye opening as the article on being shot, but it covers a subject that you are a lot more likely to encounter.  A lot of this information might seem be a refresher for a lot of people, but it never hurts to refresh on the basics in case we need to use the knowledge we have.  As always, I’ll start out by saying that I’m not a medical professional so consult a doctor when the need for medical care arises.  We’re going to be covering insect and spider bites.  I’m going to break it into two parts because treatment is very different for a simple mosquito bite and a person going into shock from multiple bee stings.  At its most basic, an insect or spider bite is simply an allergic reaction.  Some will result in mild reaction and some can result in a serious reaction that can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Mild Reaction Treatment:

A mild reaction to a bite or sting can range from a small red bump on the skin to an extremely painful bee sting.  Most of us have experienced these types of reactions more than we would like.  Mosquitoes moving in at dark on that perfect day at the lake or fire ants inviting themselves to that picnic in the field are a nuisance, but isn’t really a serious medical concern.  A bite or sting of this type usually just results in some discomfort, itching, and a little redness.  An ice pack or a topical creme like Cortisone or a paste made of water and baking soda can take care of it in a jiffy and get you back to having a good time.  Even a single bee sting, though painful, isn’t something to be concerned about for most of us.  There are some folks that can have a severe reaction, but its not common and we’ll cover it in the second part of this article.  Bee stings might require a little bit more attention because bees leave their stinger imbedded in the skin.  You can take solace in the fact that bees can only sting once and after that they fly off to die.  They’re the Kamikaze bombers of the insect world.  Additional treatment for a bee sting includes using something with a sharp edge to scrape across the skin to remove the stinger.  Resist the urge to squeeze the stung area since this will push more of the venom out of the stinger and into the skin.  An old home remedy to help with the stinging sensation and swelling is to apply freshly chewed tobacco to the area.  I had this done as a kid and it does work, but I will understand if others aren’t keen on the idea.  Something a little more medical (and sanitary!) would be a Benadryl creme.  Of course it is a good idea to monitor anyone that gets a bite for signs of a more serious reaction, but for the most part nothing else should be required.  If the discomfort isn’t bad, you can just wash with soap and water and go on your way.  Soap won’t do much for the venom, but it will help prevent infection from the inevitable scratching the area might receive.

 

Serious Reaction Treatment and Poisonous Spiders:

Serious reactions to insect stings or bites are just that, SERIOUS.  This type of reaction generally occurs when a person is extremely allergic to the venom or when a person is stung multiple times.  In these cases, the body produces a very strong histamine reaction that can be fatal.  The proper name is anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include:

1. Nausea

2. Difficulty breathing

3. Swelling

4. Reduced blood pressure (shock)

5. Dizziness

6.  Rapid heart rate

If you are treating someone with these symptoms after an insect sting or bite you should seek medical attention immediately.  Some immediate first aid includes administering an anti-histamine drug such as Benadryl if they are able to swallow.  You should also have the person lay down and elevate the feet.  If the person is wearing anything that could become restrictive because of swelling, it should be removed.  If the person has a history of allergic reactions, they might be carrying a kit with an EpiPen.  Now would be the time to administer the Epinephrine.  Some of you might be thinking that it would be a good idea to have one of these EpiPens on hand just in case.  On the outside its a good idea, but these things are available by prescription only and are very expensive, one time use devices.  It is best left for a doctor to determine if someone should carry one and have it administered to them if needed.  These injections can have side effects that can adversely affect the patient, and you could be in serious trouble if you administer someone a prescription medication without being qualified.  Benadryl is a much safer way to treat someone for an allergic reaction.  I carry Benadryl capsules and children’s liquid in my first aid kit for this very reason.  The goal, as it always is with FIRST aid, is to stabilize someone until they can receive medical care from the professionals.

Spider bites are like other stings and bites in that they can go one of two ways.  The normal spider bite can be treated like a mild reaction insect bite.  I don’t have any idea on the number of different spiders that bite, but only two will fall into the serious category.  We’re all familiar with them as they are all over the place.  The Brown Recluse and Black Widow are the ones to look out for.

Brown Recluse bites are rarely noticed when they happen and it can take several hours to a day for the onset of symptoms.  These include fever, chills, nausea, weakness, and lesions and necrosis (dying tissue) at the bite location.  Black Widows bites are a little more likely to be felt when they happen, but they aren’t always noticed. These bites share most of the same symptoms as a Brown Recluse bite, but the victim might also have difficulty breathing and lose consciousness.  In case of bite by either of these spiders, you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible.  First aid doesn’t really come into play since there isn’t much that can be done outside of a professional medical environment.  Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling until medical help can be reached.

Brown Recluse Spider:

 

Black Widow:

 

Bugging out to the woods? Hope you don’t starve!

Anyone that has given much thought to what would happen during a societal collapse has surely had the fantasy of bugging out to the wilderness and carving a living out.  Its a noble thought, and exciting to contemplate.  I know I’ve spent more than enough time thinking about it and playing out scenarios.  It really isn’t our fault that we dream about it. Countless books have been written about it, and a lot of them geared toward children.  One of my favorite books as a kid was My Side of the Mountain.  In this book, a boy runs off to the Catskill Mountains and manages to live off the land.  He even survives the harsh winters of upstate New York.  If it was so easy for this kid, why can’t we?   The realm of fiction rarely has to deal with the harsh realities of life.

Over the past two years, I’ve had plans to preserve some of nature’s bounty here in north Texas.  We are blessed with an abundance of wild fruits, berries, and nuts.  It should have been easy to do with all of the means I have at my disposal.  I have access to abundant energy to run a pressure canner and a dehydrator.  I have a truck to get me to the growing location, and plenty of room to haul these food home.  I’ve had visions of huge sacks of dried plums and pears, dozens of jars of preserves and jams, and big bottles of Mustang grape wine.  In reality, I don’t have any of this.  It wasn’t from lack of trying.  I was primed and ready to go gather everything up and get to work preserving.  Mother Nature decided otherwise both years.  Last year, we had a very late freeze, late enough that most of the fruit trees and vines had already bloomed.  The results were heart wrenching.  Blooms dropped from everything. To say that fruit was scarce is a massive understatement!   This year the entire state of Texas has been in the grips of a drought.  It’s been hotter and drier than anyone can remember.  There was a little bit of fruit that made it, but a very little bit.  Grapevines that would normally be heavy with beautiful purple grapes only put on a fraction of what they did in years past.  Those few grapes quickly cooked into raisins in the 105 plus heat.  The plums didn’t do much better.  I can’t even remember what a wild blackberry tastes like.  Overall it was a dismal year for wild fruit production.  Had I needed to rely on fruit production to make up any real percentage of my diet, I would be on the brink of starvation.

I know what a lot of people are thinking at this point. Fishing and hunting!!  On its surface, its a really good idea to supplement the diet.  Supplement would the key word in that last sentence.  We’ve all been out for a fun day of fishing only to come back with an empty stringer.  Its been even more depressing this year.  All of the lakes are low and stagnant.  There have been some algae blooms, but we’ve been lucky that we haven’t had massive fish kills.  Even Lake Texoma, a very large lake fed by a very large river has been deemed unsafe for swimming because of water quality issues.

So no fruits and pretty poor fishing.  Hopefully we haven’t starved to death already!  Hunting season is getting ready to kick off, and I certainly hope it does better than our other means of living off the land.  I’ve had some friends already partake in dove season, and they are reporting a mediocre season so far.  They are bagging some birds, but they are smaller than normal and there aren’t as many.  As cooler temps move in, there should be birds coming in from Kansas and Nebraska.  We can hope they have been well fed and watered up there.  Deer season will be opening up in a couple of weeks, and hunters all over Texas are hoping for a great season.  I fear the drought will have taken its toll on the deer populations as well.  I’ve even noticed a decrease in cottontail rabbits and squirrels.  But I suppose if we were living off the land, hunting season won’t matter.  We probably starved back in July when the land turned brown and dried up.

 

Luckily, we weren’t required to live off the land these past couple of years.  Resources and been meager, and that was with no competition.  In a massive collapse (and I don’t see one coming soon), competition for any resource will be intense.  When someone is starving, they’ll do anything to feed themselves and their family.  Distances will be traveled, on foot if necessary.  Fights will be fought for anything available.  All in all, it would be an ugly time even in bountiful years.  As fun as it is to dream about, hacking a living out of the wilderness isn’t very likely.  Hopefully you are prepared so that it wouldn’t be necessary.  In upcoming articles here at Surviving Modern Life, I’ll be covering food storage and preservation, as well as producing our own food.  If things go bad, our goal should be to still maintain a decent lifestyle, no matter how the rest of the world is doing.