This article centers on logistics. This is not a list of what you need, but rather an inspiration to get us to think about a category of supplies that isn’t discussed a lot. Beans, bullets and band-aids are definitely key in survival but when you consider many of the items we will discuss in this article, they support our ability to raise, process or prepare food, ensure we can use our bullets if needed by having maintained and operational firearms and providing an ounce of prevention by supporting our health, safety and hygiene so we don’t have to use our band-aids (medical supplies). Having a deep stock of diverse sundries will enhance our ability to be prepared and to save time in a post-TEOTWAWKI  world.
There is an old rhythmic poem about a nail that reads:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost,
for want of a horse the knight was lost,
for want of a knight the battle was lost,
for want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
All for want of a horse shoe nail.”
I use this old poem, when I teach disaster logistics. It is such a clear and concise example of how the need for something so simple can have such huge impacts. Applying this quote to a TEOTWAWKI events, we can see that, for the want of a sundry item such as a chainsaw spark plug; a CR2030 Button cell battery; a spare wick for a kerosene heater; or numerous other seemingly minuscule and obscure items, our battle to survive can be lost. For many preppers being ready for a disaster revolves around a bug-out-bag. Having a bug-out-bag should not be construed as being prepared, since it just simply will not have the depth and ability to provide you with the wide range of resources that will be needed to survive post-TEOTWAWKI. Additionally, many of us have the traditional “Beans, Bullets and, Band-aids.” Having food, ammunition and medical supplies definitely increases our chances for survival in a disaster or post-TEOTWAWKI world but the reality is that our survival will also hinge on a plethora of seemingly trivial items. These items only seem trivial until you need one and Lowes has long been looted clean.
General Eisenhower once stated that “You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.” Unlike the military, preppers will not have any logistical lines of support besides what they store before TEOTWAWKI or what they produced post-TEOTWAWKI with the knowledge, skills, equipment and supplies they had before the event. By applying a military logistics lesson to the realm of survival we can prove that disaster survival has also been successful or a failure based on logistics.
And Then Came Katrina
Let’s look at Hurricane Katrina in two ways, from an individual standpoint and from a government standpoint. From an individual standpoint if a person, who was advised to evacuate failed to evacuate, it is safe to say they probably did not have a plan, and a disaster supplies kit and that person became a victim and unsuccessful at being able to adequately supply for his everyday survival needs. I define being a “victim” as having to rely on FEMA, the Red Cross, or Salvation Army are for day to day needs. From a government standpoint, was the government quick and efficient at providing the right stuff at the right time in the right quantities needed, in the right locations? We all know that this was a dismal failure especially when we look at the Super Dome. That isn’t to say that FEMA logistics is a total failure in all aspects. Over the years, FEMA has developed “push packages” of food, water, medical and special needs items based on lessons learned in other disaster responses. The point here is that like many Preppers, FEMA is looking at the basics of food, water, medical supplies. FEMA relies upon the private sector and/or the military for the obscure needs that pop up during a disaster. From a cost perspective this makes senses but from a TEOTWAWKI planning perspective this assumes that lines of communication for ordering, information management systems to find the needed inventory and track it, and lines of transportation to deliver it are still operating. If you fail to prepare adequately as an individual, don’t assume that government will much better prepared.
Your Horseshoe Nails
So how do we go about identifying those “horseshoe nails” that could be our downfall during TEOTWAWKI? Planning. Start with a basic class of preps such as food. Pick a particular food, for example hard winter wheat. Ask yourselves some questions. One, to use the wheat that I have stored what do I need? Answers are perhaps a can opener and a grain grinder . As for the can opener, let’s say you have an electric can opener. Your “nails” are obviously electricity, and the electric motor and parts inside. In this case it doesn’t seem prudent to mold our preps around ensuring that we can use that electric can opener post-event. A logistically smarter course of action would be a less “logistical needy” alternative such as a manual can opener and perhaps some P-51 can openers as back-ups.
For our grinder to work what parts will or may need replaced? What routine maintenance do we need to perform to keep it operational? You may need to replace the burrs and you might lose a nut or, wing-nut. So, burrs, wing-nuts and, nuts become your “nails” for that example. Another example might be a Katadyn Vario water filter . What “nails” does it have? Most of us would quickly identify that it needs replacement filters. But looking at the user maintenance manual we see that there are other items that periodically need replacement to keep the water filter performing. There are also ceramic pre-filter discs, several “O” rings, carbon replacement packs and intake pre-filter strainers that will need replacing at some point. Looking at the user manual or maintenance manual of a piece of equipment is an excellent place to identify the requisite “nails”.
The more complex the device or system is, the more points of failures (nails) you may have. Think of a solar power system and the number of parts/pieces that go into ensuring that the system operates. The more complex a system is, then the more vulnerable it will be to disruption. It is our complex society that creates many added vulnerabilities to disasters. If you want to learn more about complex societies and disasters read Dr. Joseph Tainter’s book The Collapse of Complex Societies , and watch a lecture with the same title, available on YouTube . Preppers should practice another age old saying of “Keep it Simple”.
One is None
Regular SurvivalBlog readers are no stranger to the mantra of “Two is one and one is none.” Having two grain grinders is basically a way of making sure you have the logistics needs in place to continue to survive if one is broken, a part is lost, et cetera. But there are certain devices that are going to require on-going replacement parts or will require maintenance to remain operational. Going back to our grain grinder example, having two is a good idea but both sets of burrs will go bad at some point. Now some people are probably saying yes, but I’ve used my grain grinder for years and I haven’t needed to change the burrs once. Post TEOTWAWKI may change a few variables. One, your grain that you use now may be cleaner than the grain you grind post TEOTWAWKI that doesn’t have the luxury of modern agricultural machinery to keep it as clean as we have today. A small rock or other foreign material can damage the burrs. We can also assume that we will be using said grain mill a lot more perhaps grinding grain for a community as part of a post-TEOTWAWKI cottage industry.
How a piece of equipment is going to be used post-TEOTWAWKI, not pre-TEOTWAWKI, must be considered when planning and putting away repair/replacement parts. I don’t shoot steel cased 5.56mm ammunition in my ARs today. However, I have put away a few cases of steel cased ammunition because it is inexpensive, but it will be the last 5.56mm ammunition that I use. Steel cased ammunition is harder on firing pins and extractors. Knowing this I have these extra parts stored.
Repair Spares and Loss Spares
Having a duplicate is great for a catastrophic failure of the first device but it should not be your only means of providing spare parts. Breakage of parts or parts wearing out isn’t the only concern but losing parts should also be anticipated and planned for. I keep several spares of certain parts now based on past experience of losing a piece during cleaning or maintenance. Think about cleaning an AR-15 and taking apart the bolt. There are several tiny pieces that can quickly disappear when you are in the woods siting on a log cleaning it. The firing pin retaining pin, a cam pin, an ejector roll pin and extractor spring just to name a few. A few other examples are mounting bar nuts for my chain saw and the ball nuts for Coleman lanterns.
Another benefit of laying in a good stock of repair/replacement parts is ensuring that you have them if/when the manufacturer stops making that particular model. Having deep stocks of repair/replacement parts can also be another source of barter goods.We can only imagine what a person post-TEOTWAWKI might trade for a firing pin for an AR-15 that only cost $15 today.
Besides repair/replacement parts and the equipment and supplies for maintenance of your equipment you will also need other types of sundries. I keep a very well stocked workshop. I have 5-gallon buckets full of various types of nails and spikes. This ensures that I have nails for any spontaneous projects and for TEOTWAWKI. This goes for all kinds of hardware. Recently I was adding some insulation to my pole barn workshop and was using a staple gun. I used a whole box of staples on just half the project. This helped me realize that I needed to increase my store of staples. For consumable items, like nails, I don’t think you can have too many in storage. My general rule of thumb is when I do a project and use nails or other consumables out of my stores, I replace them with double.
Other Logistics Sources
I also look for great deals at estate sales, auctions and clearance sections to pick up hardware for my storage. I was at an estate sale where they had two 2-foot-long by 1-½ foot high by 1-foot deep metal boxes. Each box was packed full of boxes nails and packages of other hardware. I picked up each box for $5. As I was going through the boxes, I found one package of stainless-steel screws that had a $5.99 price tag on it that was not even opened.If you look, you can develop a very extensive inventory of hardware very inexpensively. Buying second hand at garage sales, estate sales, auctions and flea markets is a way obtaining affordable spare parts for some of your equipment.
It is amazing how many Coleman lanterns I see at flea markets and auctions that simply have a missing glass globe and sell for $5 to $10. Stripping these lanterns of parts for spares yields easy three times the money in parts. You can do the same for gas stoves as well. There is also another great advantage of buying at auctions and estate sales. Many of the items from these sales are older and manufactured in the United States before the age of engineering everything for failure to keep the need for re-buying those products artificially higher. Something else to keep in mind about purchasing older made in the US equipment is that it may also have value as an antique that may go up in value over time. If you don’t read the SurvivalBlog “Tangibles Investing” posts found in the regular “Economics & Investing For Preppers” column, then you might want to start doing so.
(To be continued in Part 2)