Sober Minded Preparedness

Though an obsession with “survivalism” is a sinful demeanor (ought we not desire to leave this world? For we should say, with St. Paul, “Life to me means Christ, and death is gain.”), nonetheless, measures should be taken to preserve earthly life. We should just remember that these measures do not give us safety — only the Will of God gives us safety — rather, they are simply responses to our call to the moral virtue of Prudence, and we must as well be very careful not to permit ourselves to become fixated upon them.

For years I have been putting my engineering mind to work to squeeze out of all the hysteria a few basic, relatively inexpensive, simple measures that can be taken to be prepared — perhaps even not primarily for one’s own sake, but for one’s family and one’s neighbors (never adopt a selfish attitude toward preparedness. Always assume that all these measures are being taken for the sake of others).  I’d like to share the fruit of this effort with you all:

  • Food

    • Several 50 lb bags of white rice: $16 a bag at BJs/Sam’s Club/Costco, can last for over 30 years, and provides ample sustenance for the survival of a family for a good deal of time (one bag contains 34,500 calories).  If it gets bugs, don’t worry, that’s expected: they do not harm the rice, just scoop them off the top of the water when cooking or soaking. If disaster strikes, you will have better things to worry about than having the tastiest and healthiest food; just have something to live on. Best of all, you can just use this as your ordinary rice; no need to simply stockpile it as a “just in case” measure, as it does not require specially sealed storage for long term freshness. A good deal of soy sauce or chicken bullion cubes would be a good idea as a cheap, easy, non-perishable way to make the rice a bit more enjoyable. (I emphasized that the rice should be white, because brown rice goes rancid quickly, takes more energy to cook, and is more difficult to digest — all of which are major negatives in a survival situation, and make it not worth stocking up on.)
    • Canned chicken/tuna
    • A few gallons of vegetable oil. Extremely cheap, extremely versatile (can be used as a candle — though olive oil is better for that — can be used as biodiesel, can run directly in a diesel engine, can be added to basic starches for extra calories and taste, has medical/utility uses) and lasts for years.
    • A couple large containers of Olive Oil. This is more healthy, lasts longer, and can be very easily used as lamp oil with a standard cotton wick (more conveniently than vegetable oil can be; though both will work).
    • I don’t believe God designed us to need supplements if we’re eating a reasonable diet, but a survival situation is of course very different, so a large bottle of multivitamins is probably a good idea.
    • A 21 Quart Stock Pot. The more water you can boil at once outside over a campfire, the better use you’ll be able to make of the wood (fuel). A pot any larger would be difficult to carry when full. This also has countless other uses, for example, as a wash-basin.
    • Have plenty of extra peanut butter on hand. If you use it anyway, why not stock up? It is among the best all-around survival foods. It won’t last as long as white rice, but it can still last years.
    • Remember that brown rice, flour, whole wheat flour, and potatoes are among the foods that are not worth stocking up on, as they tend to spoil for one reason or another much more quickly than white rice, sugar, peanut butter, honey, olive oil.

Note: Almost everything lasts far, far beyond its printed expiration date; especially if it is factory sealed and unopened. Personally, I have eaten peanut butter 6 years after it “expired,” and it tasted just as good as ever, and gave me no problems. If some food doesn’t stink, doesn’t have visible mold, and tastes fine, looks fine, then it is fine.

  • Water

    • The cheapest and easiest way to stock up on water is to buy the cheap one gallon jugs of drinking water at Walmart. Buy whatever you can reasonably easily store.
    • Remember that you likely have about 50 gallons of water sitting in your hot water tank. Bacteria, however, can be a problem if you want to drink this water, if you keep your tank below 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Either keep it above that level, or just be sure to crank it up to sterilize it if you believe a disaster might be coming (along with filling up your bathtub), or just sterilize the water with some bleach before drinking it. Also, depending upon the age of your hot water tank, the spigot on the bottom might yield rusted water due to lack of use. Be sure to check on this before relying upon it. In a major disaster, you won’t have water pressure available to be able to force water out of the tank through your home’s plumbing, so you’ll need to make sure your spigot at the bottom of the tank is functional.
    • A few 5 gallon containers full of water are good to have on hand (change the water in them every 6 months or so); you can take them with you in your car, or use their convenient spigot for many applications (e.g. handwashing).
    • You don’t need an expensive water purification system; one teaspoon of bleach (completely normal unscented bleach) will perfectly safely purify 5 gallons of water in 30 minutes (do not use more than that, though), so long as the water is free of visible impurities, which can be filtered out simply by using a cotton towel or article of clothing.
      • (As a side note, 9 parts water to 1 part bleach works as a disinfectant for wounds; 5 ¼ teaspons per cup of water)
    • Although bleach will do the trick if you’re at home, I’d also recommend having one of these lifestraws (only $13) for their convenience, ease of use, and portability.
  • Information

    • The often overlooked essential thing. Internet is our most flimsy crutch today – it may go out before even power does. Make sure to have a physical map of your area, and a physical phone book with addresses.
    • Have a survival book or two (e.g. the Boy Scout Handbook, a thorough First Aid guide)
    • You’ll want quick, hard copy access to essential medical information. I’d recommend a thorough guide like the Merck Home Health Handbook (or something similar)– you can get it for several bucks used on Amazon or Ebay.
    • An AM/FM radio with enough batteries to power it for a while, or a crank radio. This $18 one is extremely handy and versatile. Also, here is a very handy survival multitool.
    • If you have someone else living at a relatively close distance whom you know you’ll want to communicate with; e.g. close family; then you and they having two way radios would be a good idea.
    • You will be able to run your laptop for a time on its battery or on your car’s battery, but you will not have access to the internet. Therefore have on your hard drive a few large PDFs that you can simply Control+F (search) for the relevant information in. Here are a few I found (one, two, and three) with some important survival information, but be sure to think for yourself as well about what information you’ll need access to in the event of a disaster, and ensure it is on your hard drive (or better yet a thumb drive).
    • This website is a wonderful database of survival-related PDFs. I’d recommend downloading any of them that you might find useful.
      • It’s very easy to underestimate the helpfulness of information, and there’s no reason not to have as much of it as possible on your hard drive, so that you can access it no matter what is going on with “the grid.” So why not download the entire Wikipedia database? It’s free. Don’t let the size scare you: storage is extremely cheap these days. You can fit the entire thing on an $7 USB drive. Here’s where you can download Wikipedia:
      • If you use Google, then download the data on your Account at this link (above all, be sure to download your Gmail inbox and your Google Contacts): 
  • Transportation

    • Have a few full 5 gallon gas can in your garage for each car you own, and rotate the gasoline in them into use every 6 months. Be aware that just about any inexpensive gas can you will find at the store today is utterly impossible to actually use, thanks to ridiculous California regulations on the pouring mechanism. You’ll want an easy pour spout that you can screw on to your gas cans
    • Sta-Bil added to fresh gasoline will keep it goo for a couple years.
    • A mountain bike is a very handy asset; the simpler and sturdier (e.g. fewer gears, fewer features, heavier) the better. Remember that replacement parts are not an option during a disaster, therefore (and this applies in general) durability and reliability, not optimal performance, are the important things. People are often getting rid of these for free on Craigslist.
    • Sufficient simple clothing/accessories with which you can easily walk for many miles outside no matter the weather – this is actually rarely the case today as we depend upon cars and convenient parking for everything we go to. You will probably need better boots, several pairs of wool socks (and shoes/bots large enough to fit a few pairs underneath), raincoats, hats, etc. Thrift stores are your best bet — remember to look for “100% wool” on the tag, as this remains warm even if wet. Avoid synthetic fiber; especially polyester. Synthetic fibers have the additional downside of smelling terrible after even brief use due to the fact that they foster bacterial growth. This, of course, is a serious disadvantage when your washing machine isn’t working.
  • Heat/Light/Cooking

    • Depend more upon clothing than upon having loads of fuel handy; favor wool clothing, and have on hand several mylar emergency blankets.
    • Have plenty of matches, lighters and store some in a ziplock bag
    • A 5 gallon canister of kerosene is a very good thing to have, will far outlast a propane tank, candles, or batteries, and will provide much more heat and light for the same cost. You will of course need a kerosene lamp and a kerosene cookstove (which can double as a heater) to use it. Both are inexpensive; especially the lamps. You will also want a hand pump to more safely and efficiently handle kerosene and gasoline. A pressure cook stove, though a bit more expensive, will probably be somewhat more reliable (ideally the Coleman Dual Fuel stove, which can run on gasoline or kerosene so long as, in the latter case, you pre-heat the metal portion of the generator until it is red hot.)
    • Have a large true thermos (true meaning vacuum insulated). Boiling water can be poured into this, along with rice (or other food) to be cooked, so that only enough fuel to get the water to a boil need be consumed.  This saves an enormous amount of fuel.
    • Have a bin where you keep old newspapers, church bulletins, and other neatly stackable paper items as firestarters
    • Have a spool of cotton candle wick on hand so that you can turn Crisco cans, olive oil, leftover cooking grease, etc., into candles
    • Despite the superiority of kerosene in most respects, a good amount of ordinary wax candles should always be on hand for their convenience and their safety.
    • Needless to say, some LED battery powered flashlights (not the old battery-hog incandescents).
  • Health

    • Pregnant or might become pregnant? Be sure to have basic home-birth supplies. Don’t stress; God designed birth very well, 99% of women do not need hospitals to give birth safely! Having been at multiple home births now, I can attest to this personally.
    • If your life depends upon a certain prescription medication, be sure to research natural alternatives/home remedies for it, and have a few months supply on hand. It might not work, or might not work as well, but it is certainly better than nothing.
    • Have a good supply of aspirin, triple antibiotic, diphenhydramine (e.g. Benadryl — to suppress severe allergic reactions), and alcohol (a few cheap bottles of Vodka or Whiskey is a good idea — serves as an anesthetic, antiseptic, and disinfectant… and a delicious beverage).
    • A big bottle of hand sanitizer so that you can disinfect your hands without wasting water.
    • Know basic first aid. Watch YouTube videos to learn the skills.
  • Safety

    • In some scenarios, you’ll be better off heading for the hills instead of buckling down. If you don’t know anyone to stay with in a rural area, be sure to have a tent you can fit your whole family in — aim for a tent with a capacity listed as double the amount of people you actually want to sleep in there (and load up your car with as much of the materials noted in this post as you can fit). You’ll also want a few tarps and rope to better secure your tent.
    • Don’t waste your time turning your house into a fortress; but do consider having window break alarms on any glass that is near a lock (which provides an incredibly easy point of access for any criminal; simply breaking a window next to a deadbolt and reaching in to unlock it -you could also affix a lock on an impossible to reach [from the window] part of the door.), as well as ensure that deadbolts exist on all exterior doors.
    • First aid kit
    • A fire extinguisher
    • Remember your toilet won’t flush if the grid collapses. You might find yourself incredibly thankful for this, as well as some 5 gallon buckets. 
    • Make sure you know how to quickly shut off gas, electric, and water to your house in case it becomes necessary
    • Make sure your house is fully covered by working battery powered Carbon Monoxide detectors; this becomes essential in survival situations when non-standard heating/cooking/lighting is used and CO poisoning is common.
  • Chemicals/Substances

    • In our modern consumeristic over-marketed society, we have a targeted product for every particular need. This unfortunately overlooks the great usefulness of those basic chemicals that can be used for a multitude of purposes. These chemicals will not go bad, and if you use them anyway, why not stock up on them a bit?:
      • Ammonia, Bleach, Baking Soda, White Vinegar, Dish Detergent, Salt, Hydrogen Peroxide, Rubbing Alcohol, Petroleum Jelly
    • I purchased a Reader’s Digest “Home Remedy” book in order to look through the index and compile a list of the home remedies that seem to have the largest range of applications. Here is the result of that. (Focus especially on stocking up on those items that are the most inexpensive and non-perishable)
      • Witch hazel
        Distilled White Vinegar
        Salt (/salt water)
        Olive Oil
        Petroleum Jelly
        Hydrogen Peroxide
        Epsom Salt
        Cayenne Pepper
        Baking Soda
        Aloe Vera
  • Utility

    • Hand Tools. Handy homeowners will already have the essentials, but in case not, be sure to have:
    • A few big rolls of duct tape
    • A large “whole house” generator is expensive, noisy, unreliable, unsafe, and consumes much gasoline (people often pour thousands of dollars into these without pausing to recognize how wasteful this investment would be without a ridiculously large supply of fuel!). You are much better off simply being able to do without electricity, and having on hand an inverter that you can plug into your car’s cigarette lighter/power outlet to get the necessary power you need for small things on occasion, like some juice for a cell phone or computer. Your car is both a generator and a battery storage center.)
      • If you want to be able to power a freezer, furnace, boiler pump, or some other device that requires more than a couple hundred watts, then you’ll be better off with an actual generator. I recommend an inverter-generator because, although they are more expensive, they consume less gasoline (are more efficient), which is the truly important thing.
    • At least several hundred dollars of cash in a safe. Don’t expect the ATMs to always work, and don’t believe the lie that cash on hand is unsafe. It’s easy to fire-proof a safe using cheap insulation on the inside — duct taped down – and put the money inside it into a ziplock bag. Your money is much more likely disappear by theft or fraud or lockdown in a bank account (in other words, when it is just 0s and 1s on a hard drive somewhere) than it is as paper in your home.
  • Defense

    • I do not care how many pious statements about peace you can conjure up; nothing can ever change the fact that you have both a right and a duty to defend your family against an unjust aggressor if you have a reasonable chance at success in such an endeavor (e.g. a random criminal enters your house intending to harm your family, not a SWAT team comes to arrest you. The latter necessitates surrender.) Therefore consider having some defensive tool for each member of the household. Options include:
      • Obviously, a gun. A 20 gauge shotgun is your best bet; manageable by anyone (the standard 12 gauge can be difficult to handle for some), and less likely than a rifle to have a stray bullet harm someone else. For an entry level inexpensive gun, I recommend a 20 gauge Mossberg Maverick 88 from Dick’s Sporting Goods.
      • Wasp spray can be used just like pepper spray (aim for the eyes and call an ambulance after he’s incapacitated or flees), but is cheaper, more useful for other things (killing wasps!), and easier to purchase. It also generally shoots further.
      • Metal baseball bats are the easiest weapon to wield.
  • Last minute preparations before a known coming disaster (e.g. a storm)
    • Make sure all cell phones, laptops, and other such devices are fully charged
    • Crank up your freezer to its maximum setting, and make sure it is full — put tupperware containers full of water in it if it is not (the deeper a freeze your food is in and the more mass is in there, the more likely it is to last in the event of a long power outage)
    • Download onto a laptop hard drive any relevant information you now currently rely upon the internet for (your address book, local emergency contacts, survival information, etc.)
    • Crank up hot water tank to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill bacteria and ensure water contained in it is drinkable.
    • Do the laundry/dishes/take a shower
    • Fill up your bathtub with cold water (if you have time, clean it out a bit first.)
    • Obviously, take whatever measures listed on this page you have time for.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • If you’re like me, and most adults in America, you’re addicted to caffeine. Caffeine withdrawal headaches will be something better dealt with under nicer circumstances, and yet brewing coffee will probably not be an option. A bottle of caffeine pills is very cheap.
  • You may be better off keeping in mind the home of a friend/relative in a more safe location to go to if disaster strikes. If so, simply have enough gasoline on hand in your garage to get you there (but of course, roads might not be passable).
  • A “bug out” or “grab and go” bag, with just  a couple days’ worth of the bare essentials, is also a good idea so if you have to leave on a moments’ notice, you can simply take that one already prepared bag. Scan the preparedness items in your possession and put the smallest/most essential ones into this bag as well.

 Note I do not say whole house generators, loads of gasoline, tons of freeze dried food, gas masks, an arsenal, an underground shelter, etc. etc. etc. I find all of that ridiculous. The purpose here is not to pretend we can physically conquer anything that comes our way, nor is it to ensure that our life will go on in its usual comfortable form once disaster strikes. It is simply to do the duty that prudence demands so that when we stand before God we will not be guilty of the sins of recklessness or flippancy.

Likewise, if you have a love of gardening, farming, and raising farm animals, then by all means go in that direction: but please do not go changing your life radically by engaging in these pursuits just because they are good preparedness measures. You’re much better off using that time, energy, and money building up treasures in Heaven.

So take whatever of these measures you can reasonably manage, perhaps setting aside a small corner of your basement for preparedness items, and then FORGET ABOUT IT, and do what is….

Infinitely more important than all of the above:

Be Converted

Trust in the Divine Mercy

Remain in a State of Grace

Live in the Divine Will

Proclaim the Divine Mercy