Our Path Towards Preparation, by SBC

On our curious and sometimes convoluted path towards being prepared for TEOTWAWKI, I have sometimes impressed, often confounded and occasionally amused myself and family with our brilliance and stupidity. Here follows the outline of the story of our adventure in the hope that it will inspire or amuse or warn you and help your own journey be a bit easier and the load a bit lighter.

We began our journey after Hurricane Katrina when FEMA so effectively demonstrated how inadequate the federal support system was dealing with large scale disasters. So what began as a ah-ha moment of “perhaps we should be prepared to take care of ourselves if the lights go out,” turned into the beginning of this continuing adventure. It started with a search for information on how to be prepared for disasters. The ensuing internet search led to all kinds of official and non-official sites, books, groups and stores. The government sites are so basic it should embarrass them. Thank God I stumbled across SurvivalBlog with all the references and links. Thank you SurvivalBlog and to all you contributing authors.

We are outside of Austin, Texas city limits in a “country” suburban neighborhood. The homes are on a couple to a few lightly wooded acres and mostly open with no fencing. The neighbors are friendly and stubbornly independent. Being close to Austin, the state capital, a tech and education center, we expect if the end comes in the form of a nuclear war we will be some of the first to know and go. Some type of pandemic, economic or power collapse we should survive and is really what we are preparing for.

As we grew older our preparations evolved from wanting to be ready to bug out, to being wise enough to know that hiking the high roads would no longer be a practical solution and likely would hasten our end. We are now deep into the hardening and hunkering down mode.

The Food Stuff

Everybody starts to beans or bullets right? Remember that first burst of excitement when you came home with that first big bag of bean and another one of rice? “Wow that will take care of us for almost forever. ” Oops, better get some Sterno so we can cook this stuff too. Then digging a little deeper we decide to add some canned vegetables, milk, salt, etc. The feeling that we had this under control lasted virtually no time at all. Finding the many archived SurvivalBlog food storage and cooking articles, The Prepper’s Blueprint and LDS Preparedness Manual put all those delusions to rest, permanently, as in forever, as in we know we will never be truly ready. Good bye, sheeple world.

Now we need to go about this a bit more scientifically. We hope to have 13 family members show up in a SHTF scenario. Worse case timing of a disaster would be the fall when it is too late to replant the garden. Simple math of 13 people eating a minimum of 2,000 calories a day, multiplied by 270 days (nine months) before the next decent harvest means a whole lot of food! And space. And organization. And expensive. And way too much food for us to be able to “eat what you store.” No possible way! So our first road took us to store what is high calorie, low cost per calorie, long shelf life (or donate it to the local food bank just prior to the “use by” date.)

We ended up counting calories in containers and dividing that by the cost in dollars to arrive at an 1,000 calories / dollar number. Try that with freeze dried food for 13 and it will freeze your wallet. We bought the cheapest first (rice, sugar, oils) then moved on to what you really want to eat and can afford. The local Costco promotions on peanut butter always gets my business. We would not want to live on rice and beans or even peanut butter but at least we would be living and able to swap a cup of carbs for something we want.

Once we reached our goal of enough calories for 13 people, we kept going but a slower and with more luxury food items. Adding canned vegetables, fruits, spices, canning our own meats and honey. Lots of honey! Now we have food to share with the neighbors and people who ask for help. Christian charity.

Hardening Up

We can’t do much about the conventional brick our house is made with but the next home improvement is to replace the windows. They are due for replacement and for a bit extra cost I can get windows designed for hurricane country. They won’t stop bullets but it will take a few big hammer blows to get through. Hopefully that will sound the dog alarm and slow intruders down enough for the cavalry to arrive with some welcoming buckshot. Longer term, we have a good supply of sandbags we could fill and deploy if the worse really happens.

We have a small collection of arms. Growing up in Texas I hunted, so am neither afraid nor infatuated by firearms. They are tools for a job. We have some old hunting rifles for deer and shotguns, some modern .22 LR for squirrels with AR 15s and Glocks to do the security job. Lots of ammunition and spare parts seems as important to me. Pat Cascio gets me fired up (pun intended) to buy something new on occasion but then I cool off and buy more food or ammo with that money.

Light and Water

A major concern of mine is a grid down nightmare. Whether it is a solar flare, EMP, hackers or terrorists, it seems the most likely possibility to me. Read the book, Lights Out by Ted Koppel, if you really want scare yourself. No electricity will be no fun but with solar panels and batteries for minimal lighting and radio, a wood stove for heat and cooking, it can be done. But water? We must have water. We are on well water and a good mile from the closest natural water source. It would soon be overrun, polluted and a danger to reach.

An obvious solution would be to buy a water tank. Thirteen people, 3 gallons per person per day, 270 days, it would be a big tank. And it would be vulnerable to vandalism and we would never have enough for the garden. I could install a hand pump but our water is shy. It likes to hang out 800′ down. So we must have a well pump, which brings us to the conclusion that we needed a solar or wind power system to run a well pump. That takes some serious electrons, 240V at 15 amps.

We contacted Sol-Ark (aka Portable Solar LLC). Sol-Ark is a company near Dallas which is run by Christian veterans. They offer an EMP-hardened, second generation 8,000 Watt inverter, solar panel and battery system for homes and businesses. After futzing around trying to decide on how many panels, batteries and how and where to install the system, we got motivated when it sounded possible that the Federal tax credit would be eliminated in 2018. (We later learned it was not.)

It turned out that the south facing roof of our 2,400 ft sq home was just large enough for 32 280W USA made solar panels ( permanently installed not portable ). This was also the limit of the Sol-Ark USA made inverter. This system now provides us with enough power to run all the house lights, plugs, microwave, refrigerator and fans. Even more critical, we can run the well water pump and if needed the outdoor security lighting. We have enough batteries for about three days if we conserve. We do not have enough juice for the central AC, electric stove or oven. Our electric water heater will also go cold but I hope to replace that with a heat pump type soon which has a byproduct of cool air. A big advantage in Texas. I have to admit, this solar system is as much of a want as a need. But then drinking water is a definite need. With some shade and enough water getting through Texas summers are possible. And I reasoned it allowed my wife to use her medical devices and me to feel less tied to the grid. Mental happy dance!

An Almost Gotcha Moment

Nuclear EMPs seems less likely than a grid failure but just in case we have taken some preventative measures to save some of our electronics. The radios, communications, guns and ammunition all stayed ( past tense ) in a steel gun safe. Then one day while punching in the code to our safe it dawned on me, ( I actually said “Huh” out loud ) this thing is vulnerable to being EMP fried. The keypad, battery, circuit and wires of the safe are all attached to the outside of the door. Maybe it would work after an EMP, maybe not, but who wants to be the guinea pig to test that out at the beginning of a SHTF event? Just when we would really begin to need the communications, guns and ammo, they would all be safely entombed in our very sturdy hack saw proof safe. Now they are locked up behind a door with a mechanical lock and the safe is looking for a new home to be replaced by an old-style mechanical locking gun safe.

The Circle of Life

I lived in Brazil for a few years and enjoyed the way the farmers used pig manure to feed the worms, who made the fertilizer for the garden, which grew the plants to feed the pigs. We have our version of this with bees that pollinate the garden and provide us with a surplus of honey. The garden provides for the bees and vegetables for ourselves and the rabbits. Rabbits will provide meat for us, fertilizer for the garden and will flourish in the Texas summer heat when tilapia will go belly up. The honey should have great barter value, never spoils and can be fermented for barter or special occasions. We use the wax for candles and fire starting. Nice big overlapping circles.

Teaming Up

We have a fair neighborhood watch group who could easily become a force. In addition, I have cultivated some friends with like minds, values and needed skills; a couple gun geeks, some combat vets, nurses and a Physician’s Assistant (PA). We will have the skills if everyone shows up.

The Medicine Cabinet

Here is where we spent more dimes than nickels. The first dimes were spent on First Aid, then over the counter and band aids. Then pandemic preps. After reading numerous articles on the Doom and Bloom web site on medications to stock, we had to get seriously scientific. We sized our pharmaceuticals for the most common and the serious health problems the kids might contract and a bit extra for our adults. We started out with US animal lab meds then gradually added Indian pharmacy goods which is much less expensive. Now we have quite a large stock of medical goods, half of which are ready to grab and go.

The End Game

My wife is not on board with much of this. She thinks it is too negative and chooses not want to think about it. Her plan is to be one of the first to go. That may happen anyway since we are both into the last third of a normal life expectancy. But she is my sheeple so I do her planning for her. I do think about and want to help the families in our neighborhood and our own family who may make it here. That Christian charity thing again. We have some of the knowledge to survive and some of the resources saved up. And I bet my wife comes around when the grandkids show up. She will have all the motivation she needs to start packing and survive.

This story ends here but our adventure continues. Good luck on your path to preparation.


  1. The progress you’ve made since Katrina is impressive, n reflects your desire to learn, plan, n persist in your adventure. I didn’t realize that conventional bricks fail to stop bullets. So I will plan an experiment next time I go to the outdoor shooting range. Thanks for your inspiring story.

    1. I once knew someone (long ago) who was determined to have bullet-proof windows on his new house. The contractor built a dummy wall of the owner’s specified brick and shot through it next to a window. The bullet-proof window idea was scrapped right then. Defending your home from inside it is pure fantasy.

  2. Good read, thanks! Pretty much mirrors our own path as well. One thing you mentioned which I believe is so important is not going it alone. If you have read any of them, Mr. Rawles’ book are about a GROUP of preppers, not a single timid soul hiding out. There is strength in numbers. Try getting with like minded people from your church/ Lodge , or even joining the Tea Party Patriots movement. Thanks again, have a blessed Lord’s day.

  3. Good stuff, really like the idea of a neighborhood watch. If we can’t do that either a church group or the Tea Party Patriots might contain fellow preppers.

  4. Excellent article. You have done the math on calories and mouths to feed as well the other key areas. And the potential team that you have networked with could very well become priceless. I dare say you are way ahead of most of us. Stay the course.

  5. Your question of whether your city (Austin) is a nuclear target is one of my pet peeves. Most Americans consider a military base or defense industry to be a high priority nuclear target, but don’t consider or aren’t aware of the constraints placed on an attacker by the simple fact they don’t have unlimited warheads.

    For example, the SALT II Treaty limits both the US and Russia to roughly 1,500 immediately available warheads each. The immediately available part is constrained by the fact that most delivery systems are one time use (missiles fired from silos or subs cannot be reused, but bombers might survive for a second mission).

    Nor would either side be expected to expend all their weapons on a first strike or initial response. Weapons would be allocated to targets based on a strategy, with some percentage reserved for second or third strikes, and some for other enemies.

    Then there are two widely divergent targeting strategies, counter-force and counter-value. Counterforce means attacking strategic nuclear forces of your enemy to limit damage done to yourself. Note the “strategic nuclear forces” part. That means attacking Command and Control centers, ICBM missile silos, SLBM submarine ports, nuclear warhead storage facilities, etc. It doesn’t mean attacking the Infantry Division in Kansas or the tank plant in Ohio.

    If the Russians chose to execute a counterforce attack against the US, they would need to retain sufficient warheads to deal with other enemies, NATO and China. Plus some for second and third strikes. Lets say they keep one third of their 1500 as a Reserve for those second and third strikes, then use half of the remainder for the US and half for NATO & China. That means some 500 incoming warheads for the US.

    There are 400+ Minuteman III missile silos, and about fifteen C&C targets associated with them. Plus two SLBM bases and another ten or so C&C targets associated with them. If the Russians attack the silos and SLBMs they have already committed most of their available arsenal and wont have much left over for cities.

    I’ll talk about countervalue target strategy a bit later.

    1. Attacking a country’s political system is a priority, so a state capital is a viable target. With 51 weapons, an enemy can take out the 1st and 2nd tier political systems along with all the bureaucrats that go along with them. Especially if it is done from 11 AM ET until 3 PM ET, Tuesday through Thursday, when the bureaucrats and politicians are all in the target area. These state capitals also contain emergency operations centers, that would function as command and control after Federal facilities were destroyed.

      In FL, at the state capitol, I have noticed that construction work is being done on underground facilities, renovation and maybe expansion…

      If you add the Federal Reserve Banks, with some targeting overlap, an enemy could also take out the economic and currency systems.

      1st strike or 2nd strike? If you wait, the bureaucrats and politicians will flee the kill zone, leaving you to destroy empty buildings. State Capitols are just too tempting of a target…

      1. Two points.

        First, State Governors do not control nuclear weapons nor do they have much in the way of conventional military force, even California only has one Division in the National Guard. So State politicians are pretty far down the importance list.

        Second, The history of surprise attacks made during the 20th Century shows weekends as the preferred attack time, with the German invasion of Poland on a Friday, the Chinese invasion of Vietnam and the Yom Kippur War starting on a Saturday, and the German invasions of Russia & Belgium, the Korean War, and the Sino-Russian War all starting on Sunday. Monday shows up with two, the Russo Japanese War and the Six Day War.

    2. Nuclear strategy Part II. Countervalue Strategy

      Counter-value strategy in a nutshell is targeting what your enemy values most. In the US that is generally assumed to be the population. So a Russian or Chinese countervalue target list would include as many US cities and iconic features as possible (similar to the 9/11 attacks against the Twin Towers, Pentagon, Congress and/or White House).

      One possible Russian countervalue strategy would include firing the 500 immediately available warheads against the largest cities to maximize the death toll. From a planner’s perspective, you might want to use more than one warhead against a target city if the population was sufficient to justify it. LA or Dallas could easily absorb multiple warheads. Same for the individual boroughs of NYC, Imagine a warhead on Manhattan, another on Queens, a third on Staten Island, etc. Assume you used five warheads per each of the ten largest cities, for a total of 50, then have 450 left for progressively smaller cities. If your city isn’t in the top 460, you probably aren’t a target.

      Hybrid Strategies. Some potential hybrid strategies exist that contain features of both the counter-value and the counter-force strategy.

      For example, targeting the National Command and Control bunkers, the boomer ports, bomber bases, Army Divisions, Navy Fleets, but not the Minuteman III silos (since they would likely be empty by the time your ICBMs arrived), and then onto the population with your leftover weapons.

      You can create a near-infinite set of versions of this where you pick different targets in different orders. Say for example one plan calls for a warhead on each of the fifty State capitals. Another might ignore them when they are relatively small (Annapolis MD, Jefferson City MO, Olympia WA) and there are larger cities in the State.
      So, is Austin a nuclear target? The correct answer is maybe. There are no strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems in Austin, no major military bases, so no reason it would be targeted in a counter-force strategy. OTOH, it is the eleventh largest US city, with a population just under one million, and would clearly draw warheads under a counter-value strategy. Under a hybrid strategy? Who knows?

      1. I believe your counter-value strategy is seriously outdated and an unrealistic threat by todays standards.. Lets assume war breaks out.. How many Chinese students are roaming the campuses of American Universities. These arent the poor immigrant chinese who’s parents came here to build the railroad and do your laundry, these are kids from affluent Chinese families. Russians who live and work and have businesses in the US, who have Family in both countries. The reality is, we are all connected now I can jump on a plane and be in China, or Russia tomorrow..and they can do the same. This isnt the cold war where they are on their side, and we are on our side. China dropping nukes on US soil might as well be bombing their own cities…same goes for the Russians.

      1. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) mission is to ensure that treaties are followed by our partners, and to facilitate our partners in doing the same.

        DTRA inspects Russian facilities including silos regularly. They might cheat a bit, but cant get away with much.

  6. Finally someone who agrees with me about electronic gun safe locks! I had to order mine special with the mechanical lock 15 years ago. I asked the salesperson if the electronic locks were emp proof and he said “I think so”……not good enough for me. I can’t believe all of the “prepper friends” of mine still buy them.

    1. Cannon safes makes a lock that combines both the electronic quick-open lock and the fail safe mechanical lock. They actually cal it their EMP lock. We use one at work because we can give out the electronic combination and change it occasionally or when someone leaves the company. Only the owner has the mechanical combination.

      I also know an old locksmith who told me that on most safes they can switch out the newer electronic locks for an old-style combination lock. Costs around $150 plus the service call. Probably better off to order them from the factory that way.

  7. One would think that hydroelectric dams, bridges, coal fired power plants, nuclear facilities, server farms, larger ports, and military airbases would be targets. Take out food delivery, communications infrastructure and weaken the enemies ability to communicate and fight and travel. Once the ability to pump gas is gone and roads are impassable, food would quickly run out. A couple weeks without food would render most folks amenable to negotiation. Don’t think we would be invaded by sea. I think mainly what is going to happen is a slow financial degradation with food and healthcare becoming almost unaffordable and sporadic shortages and riots. Will be fun watching folks go cold turkey with no phone/internet service not knowing what’s happening in the world. Of course it will all be Trumps fault but that will no longer matter.

  8. If you can afford it, leave the electronic gun safe-locked-but in the garage and easily accessible. If someone comes to midnight requisition your guns and valuables, they could spend a lot of time and effort breaking into it. For your real safe, make it look like large freezer or something similar. Misdirect everything you can.

  9. Depending on the safe model an electronic lock can be retrofitted with a manual type. Besides the EMP concern there is the normal life expectancy of electronics to consider. I have seen decent to high quality electronic safe locks fail after a couple of years and a majority will fail after 5. On the other hand a well maintained manual safe lock can last for decades without an issue.

  10. If your safe is big enough to warrant the cost any good lock smith should be able to replace the electronic lock with a good mechanical dial lock. We had ours replaced several years ago and the cost was about $300 at that time. The lock has worked flawlessly since.

  11. Considering nuke targeting strategies, I think Austin would be considered a lower priority target. The Houston area (I live near there) has a very high concentration of the nation’s petrochemical industry, and the NASA Johnson Space Flight Center, including a lot of other high tech “stuff”. Anyone really wanting to put the hurt on this country will focus their efforts on those types of targets instead of a bunch of state govt employees and college students. I know Austin has an established computer mfg presence, but they need the petrochem industry in order to survive. If it hits the fan, I have no delusions about who gets hit first.

  12. I read you are planning on rabbit meat to sustain. Be aware that rabbit is not a “complete protein” meat. Using only rabbit meat can result in “rabbit starvation”.

    1. Christopher Gregoire, please research this topic some more. What “rabbit starvation” (it’s also called “protein poisoning”) refers to is the fact that the meat of wild rabbits has very little fat in it. If you eat only the meat of those rabbits and nothing else, you will consume too much protein and not enough fat. As with anything, moderation is the key. No matter what the situation, try your best to eat a varied diet, with some protein, some fat, and some carbs.

      That’s probably why the Bible tells us that when the nomadic ranchers of Israel were preparing a feast, the main dish was a “fattened calf.” It’s probably also why, during the 19th Century, after large herds of cattle were driven from the plains to the city for slaughter, they spent a few days in feed lots to regain some of the fat they had lost on their journey. Fat is not a bad thing when it comes to your diet.

  13. This is a question, not a comment. I always figured photovoltaic systems were tremendously vulnerable to EMP, even if you stored away an extra controller in a Faraday cage. If this is not so, why not? Asking for info, not throwing shade.

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