Emergency Preparedness for the Frugal Beginner, by Paratrooper John

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The incredibly large volume of information available regarding emergency preparedness and survival is both wonderful and terrible at the same time.  There’s enough information to keep an enthusiast occupied for years and enough information to keep beginners away for the rest of their lives.

It can be a very daunting task for a new or inexperienced person to try and decide where and how to begin.  Should a beginner attend survival training, have a year’s supply of food, have their home hooked up with backup generators, move to the country, live off the grid and have stockpiles of firearms with thousands of rounds of ammunition? 

Depending on where you are researching, some people will claim that if you don’t have these levels of preparedness then you are doomed.  Is the saying, “If you can’t do it right then don’t do it at all” really the way to think when it comes to survival? 

Don’t get me wrong.  I would love to live off the grid, have a year’s supply of food stored away, have a stockpile of firearms and attend weeks of survival training.  But, the fact is I can’t afford that.  Not many people can.  These can be great long term goals but it’s not a realistic start.

My goal in this brief writing is to “ease the mind” of the people that want to start preparing themselves for emergencies but are on a limited budget and may be intimidated by the overwhelming amount of information available.  I want people to know that many times “something or anything” is better than nothing.

So to answer by question from above, is the saying, “If you can’t do it right then don’t do it at all” really the way to think when it comes to survival?  I say no. 
My experience in the area of survival began early in my life. I spent a lot of time exploring the woods and thorny brush of South Texas.  I quickly became handy with a machete, confident with firearms and learned the importance of hydration and taking care of wounds. (And I learned real fast what a diamondback rattlesnake looks and sounds like.)

I spent nine years in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper.  My first four years were in the infantry and I finished my time in as a combat medic.  I believe my experiences and training in the military have greatly contributed to my skills and confidence in being able to take care of myself, my family and others in an emergency. I do not consider myself an expert at survival and I would not describe my level of preparedness as even close to 100%.   But, I’m always working to improve my situation and I believe I know just enough to help guide a beginner in the right direction.   

In my opinion…
The best start is what you are doing now; seeking information.  “Knowledge is Power.”  What an amazing and true quote. I believe the Internet is wonderful! I have found that browsing multiple blogs and YouTube channels on survival, self-sufficiency and homesteading to be a useful resource.    You do have to remember though that just because something is published on the Internet doesn’t mean that information is the best or even true.  But, if you compare enough similar opinions and observations made by others you can begin to catch on to what ideas and concepts are legitimate and reasonable. That’s what makes the Internet so great because you can quickly compare multiple sources.  Remember also that you don’t have to study individual sources exhaustively or go back to the creation of the blog and read everything that’s ever been posted on it.  Begin by searching for information that currently interests you. 

Some folks will tell you not to rely on the Internet because if someday the “stuff hits the fan” you will not have access to it.  That’s certainly possible but remember I’m trying to help get the ball rolling with someone that’s new to this.  The Internet is the easiest, quickest and most cost effective way to initiate someone to the world of survival. You can work on purchasing books and other literature as the opportunity arises and you decide where you need to concentrate.  You will find many references to great books as you explore and learn about survival on the Internet.

Three of the most important “needs” when it comes to survival are shelter, food and water.  If I had to start with nothing and begin building a new preparedness kit from scratch my first tool would be a knife.  A knife can aid you in procuring all the above needs more than any other tool can.
Does it have to be a certain type or brand of knife?  No.  Some knife enthusiast may tell you that if you don’t have brand X then you are wasting your time.  I disagree. 
There are some high quality, durable and expensive knives available.  But you don’t have to start with those.  If you don’t have a knife then get one, any knife.  Try to get the best knife you can reasonably afford.  If this happens to be a $5 knife from the flea market then that is better than nothing.  A more versatile knife will have a combination plain edge and serrated edge.  If you choose a folding knife try to get one with a lockable blade.

One unfortunate caution regarding knives is your local ordinances.  Some jurisdictions have particular rules about blade length, lockable blades and various other irritating rules.  You might want to speak with one of your local law enforcement officers and inquire what the policy is and what is generally enforced.

Next you need to think a little bit about what you are building your emergency kit for.  The beginner should build a general purpose “survival kit.”  As you learn more you can create specialized kits/bags. You can have a kit to help you escape the city (bug out bag), survive in your home (bug in bag), get home from work (get home bag), hiking/camping survival kits and many others.  I will describe a few things the beginner may want to put in their kit next.

Without the knowledge of how to use the tools you have most of them would be worthless.  I recommend the next “tool” to be some type of compact book on survival. As you read through it you’ll quickly see how versatile that knife is. There are many good books that discuss various methods of building shelter, finding and making water safe to drink, getting food via hunting, trapping and fishing, making fire and performing first aid.  Collins Gem used to make a small durable survival book that would fit great into a small general purpose survival kit.  Try to find something like that.

After that I would get something to make fire with.  Actually, I would get multiple things to make fire with.  The survival books discuss in great detail how to make fire with friction devices. (Rubbing sticks together.) You can learn how to do that stuff when you have time.  For now, get a couple lighters, matches, flint/steel/magnesium fire starters or all three.  Upgrade as you learn more or your financial situation improves.  Most lighters are inexpensive and reliable.  Get these first.  Matches are great backup but need to be protected from moisture.  Magnesium fire starters are reliable as well but I recommend you practice and become proficient with them before making them part of your kit. 

The next two things to get before the precedence of items gets too subjective are a water container and a shelter device. 

A couple factory sealed 16 oz plastic bottles of water (the typical container so many people drink out of these days) are good because they can be kept safe to drink for long periods and don’t take up too much space. A drawback to these is they are not very durable. Some type of metal container is important as well so that new sources of water can be boiled to make safe.  A military style canteen with matching metal cup is a good inexpensive option.  As you develop your understanding of water procurement and how to make it safe you can purchase water purification tablets, filter straws and learn many of the other methods of gathering and making water safe to drink.

Depending on the situation, shelter can be one of the first priorities in an emergency.  For example, if you were caught in a snow storm it wouldn’t matter how much food and water you had.  If you couldn’t get to shelter you would quickly be in a deadly position.

One option is to get an emergency blanket.  Those are those compact aluminum foil looking blankets.  (Space Blankets) They do a surprisingly good job of retaining heat, are inexpensive and are very compact.  You can wrap yourself up in them, use them as overhead protection, lay on them as a barrier between you and the ground or a multitude of other uses. 
The military style ponchos are nice also.  They are made with durable material and they have grommets on them so that you can tie rope or other binding material to facilitate making shelter.  And of course they have a hood on them so that you can wear them over your head and body to protect you from adverse weather.  One drawback to this style of poncho is they don’t roll up particular small.  They are fine for medium to large kits but do not fit well in a typical compact survival kit.

The importance of other items in a survival kit are very subjective to an individual’s personal philosophy on survival.  Many lists and recommendations can be found on the Internet.  First aid accessories, rope, flashlights, mirrors, fishing line and hooks are some of the other items to consider.

Would a person ever be worse off for having an inexpensive item?  Yes, it’s certainly possible and this must be considered when making a purchase.  An example would be a fire starting device that doesn’t actually work.   So you would be worse off because you thought you had something to protect you but find out when it’s too late that you don’t.  (This underscores the need to test your equipment.)
Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from making that first step towards self-reliance and being prepared for emergencies.
Don’t be intimated by others who might make you feel that starting small is a waste of time or that the top of the line most expensive product is the only viable option.
Gain control of your destiny. Go get that knife, now.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Rawles published on December 18, 2011 8:36 PM.

Letter Re: Some Comments on Safe Room Design was the previous entry in this blog.

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