Musings of a Newbie Prepper, by Tyson D.

After being raised on my grandfather’s farm, spending time in the military and being a first responder for the last 15 years, it is strange to find myself being a Newbie in the daunting task of creating an emergency preparedness cache for my family.  I now find myself living in a suburban/rural area of a major metropolitan city and a long way from where I grew up and started learning about some of the skills needed to survive.  I’ve always considered myself to be a prepared, self-sufficient individual.  I’ve hunted small and large game, I’ve backpacked in the backcountry for weeks at a time and I’m trained in emergency medical skills.  But when I started to delve into the world prepping, it became immediately clear how unprepared I am.

For the last five years I have been consumed by the post-apocalyptic genre.  I’ve read The Road, the Dies the Fire series, One Second After, and Patriots.  Recently I’ve read The Jakarta Pandemic and Lights Out and Survivors.   I’ve watched movies like The Road Warrior series, I Am Legend, The Book of Eli and Contagion.  All of these allow you to insert yourself into survival situations both in the science fiction sense and in the all too real possibilities.  I’ve also attended briefings and taught classes on surge capacity events and pandemic flu scenarios.  But for some reason, I awoke one day to realize that I do not have the resources to provide for my family during a natural disaster or when the grid goes down much less the three days that the federal government recommends.

So where to start?  That is the million dollar question.  Actually for my family of four it is probably the $10,000 dollar question.  But for someone who is going through the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University program, that expense really isn’t in the budget.  So again I ask the question, where do I start to prepare my family to be self-sufficient on a budget yet obtain all the necessary items?

Well, I have turned to books like, How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, “Patriots and The Jakarta Pandemic.  Although some of these books are works of fiction they are filled with great examples of what a prepared family looks like.  I have scoured the Internet and quickly become sucked into great web sites, messaging boards and YouTube channels like; sootch00, SurvivalBlog, and The Survivalist Blog.  The information shared by these experts and those contributing with their first hand experiences provide invaluable experience.  I also get sidetracked by clicking on the advertisements on the sides of the pages and quickly get sticker shock on some the items that I decide I “must have.”

The first area that I have been making slow progress at over the last year is my selection of firearms.  I had some of the basics from growing up hunting like, a 12 gauge shotgun and a .30-30 Winchester.  I also acquired some more from my father’s estate which added a nice little .22 LR Marlin.  There were some others that I have used to trade and start to finalize my collection.  I have added a bolt action .308 and a 1911 .45ACP.  The final rifle I will add to my collection will be a semi-automatic rifle.  I will be able to buy this rifle by selling two remaining pistols and then using the money to purchase the parts to build a reliable AR-15.  This weapon system has come a long way with all of its customization and accessories from when I used to hump around with a M16A2 in the early 1990s.  By purchasing the different parts and assembling it on my own, I keep the costs down and take pride and ownership in my rifle.

The food preparation has been my biggest hurdle so far.  I have become bottlenecked at this point.  There are a lot of great companies and products out there that allow you to customize for each individual member of your family right down to their age and caloric intake.  Do you want regular canned goods, dehydrated or freeze dried products?  If you buy bulk do you want to bag it yourself in mylar bags, with oxygen absorbers and five gallon buckets with Gamma Seal lids?  Do you buy new food grade buckets or do you stop at all the grocery store bakeries and ask for theirs. Or do you just buy a whole package from one of the discount membership stores and have it all delivered to you in neat boxes and #10 cans?  Did I mention cost?  This is where I have friends say that since the end of the world is coming anyway, just put it on a credit card and forget it.  These are also the same people who would tell me that tithing at church is ridiculous when we are living on a tight budget to pay off the expenses we already have.  Is there a balance?  I believe I have found one for our family.  It involves using the “extra” money that comes in occasionally with overtime and starting a food cache with regular canned foods and other staples with a long shelf life that we typically use throughout the week.  This method will allow us take advantage of the 10 for $10 sales and other specials at the local grocery store.  I believe this will allow us to get into the habit of rotating foods and at the same time begin to get a sense of security in knowing my family would not have to go to the local food distribution center during a time of shortage.

There are many other areas that I feel that I have a decent start on.  I’ve had a water storage supply for the last few years.  I have both the 6 gallon containers and the smaller 2 liter bottles.  I also know where the closest supply of fresh water is, outside of the water main supplying my house.  These containers get rotated out at day light savings time, along with my smoke detector batteries.  Since my family enjoys camping we have those supplies such as tents, sleeping bags, large and small stoves and warm rugged clothing and shoes.  One of my weaknesses is flashlights, meaning I can’t pass the latest and greatest version at the checkout counter at the hardware store.  We also have candles with matches and lighters.  We have recently begun to grow a garden in a raised box.  Granted, this does not provide enough food for long term storage like canning but it has given me the confidence that I can recall those skills shown to me by my grandfather and the 4-H club.  I have multiple first aid kits around the house and in the vehicles.  They are smaller versions of what I use at work.  Although I am not trained in advanced life support, my basic life support skills will help stabilize most injuries.  The other training that I have received in the hazardous materials spectrum gives me the ability to isolate and deny entry into my home from others on the outside to protect my family from whatever bug maybe going around.

I also need to create a plan for long term sustainability.  As mentioned, we are gardening on a small scale.  There needs to be forethought to where a large, diverse and sustainable garden would be planted.  We are fortunate enough to have large lots in our suburban neighborhood that would provide ample growing space.  This leads me into my next thought of neighborhood cooperation.  Since those open spaces don’t belong to me, and my family alone cannot begin to plant, grow and harvest it all by ourselves, especially if it needs to be done by hand, we need to gather support from our neighbors.  This support would not only be for growing but for equipment, supplies, transportation and security.  Now this is a big list of ideas to suddenly spring on your neighbors but it can be done overtime.  If you don’t even know them, the best place to start is to invite them over for dinner.  You can get a good impression on most people by sitting down and breaking bread with them.  You may be surprised to find out that they have their own emergency cache set up!  If not, then there is no time like the present to start.  It could really create a sense of community within your neighborhood by getting to know them and call them friends, instead of someone who you sometimes wave at from cross the street.

So is this a complete plan?  Far from it!  It feels like I’ve just opened the box of a 1,000 piece puzzle.  I can see what the finished product should look like on the front of the box and I’ve found most of the border pieces and I’ve even put a few of the easy parts of the picture together but it’s far from done.  I’m still finding the best web sites to gather information from, the best products to provide food, water and security for my family and I’ve just begun to find others in my circle of friends, neighborhood and community who share the desire to be prepared.