Five Preparedness Lessons Learned, by Allen C.

I was speaking with a friend recently who mentioned he still has a generator in the box taking up space in his garage.  It has been there for ten years.  He did not know what to do during the Y2K panic so he spent money to make himself feel better.  I am not knocking the value of a good generator.  I have used mine for almost twenty years.  However, purchasing a generator he did not know how to use without at least buying some gasoline to go with it was a waste of money.  It has been said the humans are the only creature that move faster once they realize they are lost.  I am sharing my experiences for the benefit of those who do not have a lot of training or experience in preparedness that they may go just slow enough to make good decisions while moving fast enough to be effective.

I was first referred to as “a survivalist” twenty-five years ago by local authorities during a routine traffic stop.  Still a teenager, I had saved my Christmas money to purchase my first rifle, an AR-7 survival rifle.  I had to explain to the nice officers why it was broken down in the back seat of my father’s car.  I dressed like the cover of a survival magazine during my high school and early college years and my appearance had brought me the attention I thought I wanted.  This teenage self-expression included camouflage pants and a black T-shirt accented by a defused hand grenade hanging from a chain around my neck.  I quickly learned the attention this drew was not in my best interest.  Today I look like every other clueless rat in the race.

It is not just the blatant activity described above that draws unwanted attention.  Someone asked recently how to keep their nosey neighbors from watching them bring in supplies.  I advised her to buy several identical plastic tubs.  Each time she goes out, an empty tub will go with her and return full.  The world sees just one tub going back and forth and incorrectly assumes it is the same one each time.  Absent evidence to the contrary, people tend to see what they expect.

Lesson One: Lay low and don’t make the big mistake.  Appear to be someone not worth noticing.

Throughout the years I grew in my training and expertise.  I became a firefighter and HazMat technician, shooting sports and wilderness survival instructor.  The same skills for which I was previously viewed as a threat now brought me acceptance and admiration.  After 911 they honored me at events and put me in parades.  My key to success was preparation in both skills and provision.  The most expensive piece of equipment in the hands of someone who does not know how to use it is worthless.   The converse is also true.  The more skilled one becomes, the less likely they are to think they need the latest gadget.  Over the years the tools in my fire gear and my survival kit became more refined allowing me to do more with less.

For example, knowing several ways to purify water without spending several hundred dollars on a filter system allowed me to allocate first funds to food storage and firearms.  If tribulation should come before I am fully prepared (if that is possible), I can provide food, water, and protection for my family.  I would love to have a bigger filter system, but because of my knowledge level, I am able to better prioritize.

Lesson Two: Knowledge makes a little provision go a long way. 

The other day I went to visit a friend from high school that I had not seen in years.  He proudly showed me not only his gun collection but those of a mutual acquaintance who keeps his at his home.  Some were sitting in a wooden gun cabinet with a glass front.  Most were lying in gun racks mounted to walls in the spare bedroom.

In my home you will not see one gun or a large cabinet that would be a bullseye for any thief who might kick in the door.  Those are kept safely in a secure and innocent-looking location that would not get a second look.  An inexpensive assemble-it-yourself bookcase with a few inches cut off the back of most shelves makes an excellent cache.  Trim the back panel to fit within the frame of the bookcase and use a hook and eye lock to secure the top of the bookcase to the wall.  This hidden cache holds several guns locked to the unit and the wall with a cable lock through the trigger guards. 

Lesson Three: The best defense is to not become a target in the first place.

Many of my friends are buying and storing a year’s supply of freeze dried food as they did for Y2K.  I am not doing so now nor did I in the Fall of 1999.  I personally do not enjoy eating freeze dried food.  Perhaps it is because I was raised in Amish country, but I have always stored and rotated my food.  This is not to say that I never buy food for long-term storage, but that I am selective in buying those things which I can get locally, inexpensively, and actually want to eat.  The rest I rotate through my pantry. 

The other day a friend of mine sent me a link to a web site where I could purchase fifty pound bags of grain for three times what it sells for locally.  It has not been specially prepared for long-term storage nor is it significantly different in quality.  In the Bible, Joseph stored grain for seven years without packing it in nitrogen.  This grain is marketed as a preparedness product at a price that covers shipping and a higher profit margin.  To most efficiently allocate my funds, I segment provisions into three categories:

  1. Bulk items I can buy locally and inexpensively that can be stored for the long term
  2. Items I usually eat that can be stored in a pantry and rotated through over several months
  3. Things that must be purchased from preparedness providers because they are the only source

Using this method, I can provide variety and nutrition for my family for less than the average family spends going on one vacation. 

Lesson Four: We don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on food we don’t really want to eat.

Rule number one of wilderness survival is Don’t Panic! This warning is equally relevant in any survival situation.  While time is of the essence, I would not recommend anyone without experience  quit their job in the city and move directly to a secluded retreat.  I have talked to several people who just this year planted their first garden.  The quantity of errors and problems they experienced are too many to include here.  Although I am from the country, I married a city girl and currently live on a postage stamp in a small city.  This permits us to continue to earn money and improve our country retreat until the last possible minute while visiting on the weekend.   

I have found the best way to buy and own retreat property is through a housing cooperative or land trust.  Although seldom used for rural land, cooperatives have successfully owned and occupied housing in New York City since the 1800s.  Instead of an individual purchasing a few acres at a premium price because each parcel must be surveyed, title examined, deeded, etc, a cooperative is a group of people who together purchase a large tract of land by forming a nonprofit corporation.  The property is deeded to the corporation with the rights to occupy individual parcels guaranteed through an occupancy agreement.  Advantages of a housing coop include lower price per acre, anonymity of ownership, and protection for creditors. 

Lesson Five: Don’t Panic – One small preparation every day will produce the best long-term results.  

Whether surviving a wilderness emergency or social unrest, our attitude and ability have a lot more to do with our success than the products we purchase.  We do not have to drastically change our way of life until circumstances change it for us.  These small things done over time will produce great results.  While there are necessities to secure, the most valuable asset we have is ourselves.  An investment in us pays the highest return.