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Doomsday planning for less crazy folk (coredump.cx)
213 points by f- on Jan 15, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 162 comments



I've done three things for emergency preparedness that are actually quite fun and I'd recommend to anyone:

1) Become a certified emergency medical responder. It's a one semester course you can take at your local community college. It's the first step to becoming an EMT if you want to keep going. You learn things including CPR, wound management, dealing with broken bones, heart attacks, car accidents, transporting patients, even emergency childbirth. I enjoyed the class immensely. Now I'm a lot less afraid of medical disasters because I have a plan and an impressive first aid kit, and I know how to use it.

2. Become an amature radio operator. As a technologist, it's fun to get in touch with my roots using older technology. I've been working on being able to operate using battery and solar panels, which has been a blast to learn about and experiment with. I can also operate portably while camping, bouncing waves off the atmosphere and back either towards the horizon to talk thousands of miles away, or straight up towards space and reflecting off the atmosphere back down to talk within a 300 mile range (this is called NVIS). Learning and practicing these skills is awesome fun.

3. Camping, and having the food water and equipment in hand to camp for several days. We have a few 7 gallon water tanks we use for camping which we keep full, in addition to our always evolving camping supplies. We take frequent camping trips.

Doing these things is educational, challenging, enriching and fun! I encourage everyone to do it.

It's also worth noting that you can get a ham radio for $40 that's higher power and will work at longer range than the FRS/GMRS radios. The FCC limits FRS radios to half a watt, and ham radios don't have that limit.


Do you have any specific suggestions for a radio like you describe?


BaoFeng UV-5R and its newer variants.


> Since the amount needed is directly proportional to how much you currently make, it makes relatively little difference if your household brings in $70k or $140k a year.

I have to take issue with this. If your salary doubles, your needs do not double along with it. $100K is right around the 80th percentile of US household income. That means 80% of households (~250 million people) in the US are living on less than that. Maybe you can too, despite your paycheck being higher. And if your household's take-home pay suddenly increases from $70k to $140k, see if you can fight the urge to follow that increase with your spending habits. Keep the old car, pay off your debts, and save for a rainy day (layoff, medical emergency, etc).

It absolutely baffles me that prevailing financial habits in the US seem to include spending as much money as possible.


The term is "Lifestyle Inflation". It's seductive.

Now you don't have to slum it in an economy class seat. You're now able to afford a real laptop. You can treat yourself to...

Near enough everyone does it. If you've ever thought "I'm going to buy the brand-name [pasta|batteries|phone|insurance]" you're susceptible too.

The thing is, it's not much fun living as though you were poor - cutting coupons, spending time working out which vegetable gives you the most nutrition per Kg, scrimping and saving. So for every extra $£€ you make, you can give yourself a short-term dopamine hit at the expense of long-term planning.

It's one of the reasons why, in the UK, we're moving to mandatory pension provision. Unless you take action, a fixed percentage of your wage will be placed into a pension scheme. As your wage rises, so will your long term savings.


> If you've ever thought "I'm going to buy the brand-name [pasta|batteries|phone|insurance]" you're susceptible too.

I'm not so sure. Recently our dishwasher crapped out. I've already repaired it once, but this time something else broke and we decided we were done with it. So, time to buy a new one. I reckon myself to be a pretty good value shopper, but shopping for a dishwasher got to me. Knowing that there are many fewer manufacturers than brand names, I set out to find what I though was the best value. I wanted to find a good quality one that will last a long time and I wanted to pay less for it than an average consumer would. It was overwhelming, I'm sure I could have done a better job, but I had other things to do as well; I couldn't/wouldn't make this task my primary job. In the end we just punted and bought a Miele, a fairly expensive brand with a good reputation. I'm sure that given enough time we could have saved 30% to 50% of the money we spent, but it would have taken a lot more of my time and we risked paying too much for a substandard appliance.


> If you've ever thought "I'm going to buy the brand-name [pasta|batteries|phone|insurance]"

I think that's the key. You stop needing to think about lots of things. There's a real cognitive cost of being poor.


One could argue that is the point of currencies, to exchange labour for comfort. You exchange your work to spend cognitive power as you'd prefer instead as what you'd concretely need


> If you've ever thought "I'm going to buy the brand-name [pasta|batteries|phone|insurance]" you're susceptible too.

Of course I did. The thing is, in many cases it's totally right. Smartphones are a good example - you really don't want to buy the cheap ones. Not if you value your mental health. One has to approach this pragmatically though. Branded pasta is usually little different than unbranded one, for instance. And branded clothes - that's literally making money on people's vanity.

> It's one of the reasons why, in the UK, we're moving to mandatory pension provision. Unless you take action, a fixed percentage of your wage will be placed into a pension scheme. As your wage rises, so will your long term savings.

Great to hear that! It's one of the few things that are better for everyone if they're opt-out.


> And branded clothes - that's literally making money on people's vanity.

For people without aesthetical education, may be. Fashion viewed as "stupid people getting skewed out of money for no reason" is as informed as non-programmers asking "why is hot tech from 10 years ago suddenly obsolete now".

Once you spend enough time dealing with bugs introduced by mutable state, you understand what's so good about languages where immutability is default, and why it's worth it to invest to learn and switch. Once you spend enough time on activities which sharpen your visual aesthetic sense, you see a clear difference between mainstream bland models from H&M and Topshop on hand and small designer shops on another and understand why it's worth to spend more on them.


>Once you spend enough time on activities which sharpen your visual aesthetic sense, you see a clear difference between mainstream bland models from H&M and Topshop on hand and small designer shops on another and understand why it's worth to spend more on them.

Fair enough, but it makes little sense for someone who hasn't 'spent enough time on activities which sharpen your visual aesthetic sense' to shop for expensive clothes; the result is usually going to be terrible.


Of course. Im not saying that everyone should do it; I'm just saying that when you see people doing it, it's not necessarily vanity or stupidity.


I guess my point is that those people often also haven't 'spent enough time on activities which sharpen your visual aesthetic sense' - fashion is mostly a group signalling phenomenon. I.e. people do it, because everyone else in the group they want to identify with does that.


you can say this about any single aspect of existence. more expensive food is generally healthier (BIO, non-GMO, free-run chickens, wild salmon etc.), driving more expensive cars tends to transform driving experience from necessary-evil -> OMG-so-awesome-joyful-beautiful-thing-I-want-to-do-for-rest-of-my-life. And so on.

It's all about priorities. Some people, for whatever reason, need to impress others by all costs, appearance including. Hence they dress as they dress. Some consider quality of personality much more important, if appearance is not outright disgusting. Some look at cars in similar way. and so on..


It's not about impressing anyone: it's about aesthetics for it's own sake. And carefully chosen wardrobe says a lot about it's owner's personality, of course.


carefully chosen wardrobe tells you only that given person cares a lot about the impression he/she is trying to make on others. like with makeup it isn't hard to "fake" the impression in any direction you want, although the underlying person is still the same person.

personally I like to know people as they are, not the masks they put on. sometimes much less nice, but closer to true themselves


> Once you spend enough time on activities which sharpen your visual aesthetic sense, you see a clear difference between mainstream bland models from H&M and Topshop on hand and small designer shops on another and understand why it's worth to spend more on them.

Maybe expensive clothes are prettier, but there is a hidden assumption in your conclusion, namely, that one wishes to wear clothes that are aesthetically more pleasing. This is not an obligation: you can also not care about it.


No, I only assumed that some people want to. There's a lot of folks who are quite happy working on Cobol systems too, and don't see what all language fuss is all about.

It's the notion that you only buy expensive clothes because you're stupid victim of fashion industry that I disagree with.


Only if you value those differences. I'm not even the type to shop at H&M, so it's really hard for me to see value in boutique fashion.


> The thing is, it's not much fun living as though you were poor - cutting coupons, spending time working out which vegetable gives you the most nutrition per Kg, scrimping and saving. So for every extra $£€ you make, you can give yourself a short-term dopamine hit at the expense of long-term planning.

This is true to some extent, but if I don't minimally optimize my spending it makes me guilty, not happy. I feel I would be giving the wrong signal if my money went to goods/services optimized for my cognitive biases rather than for actual utility (or estimated utility). The duty of voting responsibly with your money does not go away when you get richer, in fact it even tends to increase.

I also disagree with the notion that spending less means resisting the temptation to buy more things, or to settle for things that are worse than the best. It depends a lot on what you want. If you don't even think that you could be spending more, if you have a minimalist lifestyle and no expensive tastes, I find it can be quite natural and not at all frustrating to spend less than what you earn, even if you're not deliberately trying to save money.


The subsequent paragraphs address that, I think. It does not have to be this way, but the reality is that most people spend as much as they earn. You know, anecdotally, I talked to people in the Bay Area who claim that they couldn't really save any money even if they wanted to, because they were only making $120k a year. But I don't think it's a US-only phenomenon; it certainly happens in Europe, too.

I suspect it comes down to a belief that a raise entitles you to a better life, right now: so you go out and buy more expensive groceries, get a nicer car, etc. I was actually raised in a fairly poor family and it's a habit I picked up very early on; took me a fair amount of work to overcome this.


> It does not have to be this way, but the reality is that most people spend as much as they earn.

The trick here is to make savings part of the spending (or in other words.. "budgeting").


> It absolutely baffles me that prevailing financial habits in the US seem to include spending as much money as possible.

If you're an average American who works 50h a week, 50 weeks out of the year, wouldn't you want to feel compensated for that? And not in green paper IOUs but in goods and services?

Beyond having a rainy day fund and moderate retirement fund I don't really see the point in saving. You can't take it with you...


> And not in green paper IOUs but in goods and services?

Beyond covering my basic needs and having some toys, I don't really see the point in spending all my income. Goods and services? I already have those - more won't bring me happiness.

Financial security means one less stressor in my life. A sunny day / early retirement fund means I can take more time off between jobs, on vacations, and be more aggressive about getting job terms I like. I can go out and have more experiences. I don't need to save up to buy the things I want, because I haven't wasted my money buying things that don't bring me happiness.


> Financial security means one less stressor in my life. A sunny day / early retirement fund means I can take more time off between jobs, on vacations, and be more aggressive about getting job terms I like. I can go out and have more experiences. I don't need to save up to buy the things I want, because I haven't wasted my money buying things that don't bring me happiness.

Early retirement isn't great for happiness AIUI. Rather than saving up any extra money you're better off spending it soonish, whether that "spending" is on holidays, things, or just taking a sabbatical.


I used to hoard money as the feeling of security and preparedness it gave me out-weighed the pleasure I got from consumerism.

Now I spend freely and without concern. That's the only tenable game plan in our Keynesian economy: spend your fiat before it's inflated away or redistributed during the next financial crisis.


>If you're an average American who works 50h a week,50 weeks out of the year

Not to be pedantic (but im going to anyway), the average full time worker only works 1700 hours a year. Not 2500.


http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t18.htm - " Average weekly hours and overtime of all employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted" says it's about 34.5 hours per week.

Assuming 2 weeks vacation, 34.5 * 50 = 1725 hours, which is about what you said.

However, that's all workers, including part-time. You said 'average full time worker'. From the 2014 Gallup poll at http://www.gallup.com/poll/175286/hour-workweek-actually-lon... :

> Adults employed full time in the U.S. report working an average of 47 hours per week, almost a full workday longer than what a standard five-day, 9-to-5 schedule entails. In fact, half of all full-time workers indicate they typically work more than 40 hours, and nearly four in 10 say they work at least 50 hours.


Including PT workers is going to skew the numbers quite a bit. Most PT workers will not have paid time off, so if you're part-time you're likely to work 51 or 52 weeks unless you are employed seasonally.

And 34.5 hours may be the mean, but most workers are either going to be full-time 40+ hr/week or substantially less than that. Most PT job ads I've seen are for 10, 15, or 20 hours of work a week. 30 is very high, so the vast majority of workers are not going to work any close approximation of 34.5 hours a week.

Most of the sources I can find online are either using the "any type of worker" number of 1750-1800 hrs/yr, or 2k+ for FT only (which is approximately 50 wks/yr).


The BLS gives a further breakdown of part-time (defined as 1-34 hours) at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t08.htm .

What is your goal here? I think you agree with me that "Not to be pedantic .. the average full time worker only works 1700 hours a year" is actually incorrect, yes?

Are you trying to judge the accuracy of "an average American who works 50h a week,50 weeks out of the year"? If so, the second link I gave, to the Gallup poll, addresses that somewhat (see http://www.gallup.com/poll/175286/hour-workweek-actually-lon... ).

The question is "in a typical week, how may hours do you work?" Employed full-time said 46.7 hours, and employed part-time said 25.9 hours. Further, "Forty-three percent of U.S. adults in the August 2014 survey tell Gallup they are employed full time, down from about 50% in the Work and Education polls conducted each August before the 2007-2009 recession. Meanwhile, the percentage who work part time has consistently hovered near 9%." I figure that as:

    >>> (46.7*0.43 + 25.9*0.09) / (0.43 + 0.09)
    43.099999999999994
so the average working American works 43+ hours per week. Certainly not as extreme as 50 hours per week, but then again, as you point out, there's a skew to the numbers; and "average" could mean mean, or median, or even mode.

How do PT ads for "10, 15, or 20 hours of work a week" add up to that much time? I suspect that many part-time employees have multiple part-time jobs.

It's also true that people may lie to Gallup pollsters.


Where did you see that? At 8 hours a weekday, that's ~47.5 days off a year. Doesn't sound like the average American full-time worker to me.

edit: s/workday/weekday/



>Beyond having a rainy day fund and moderate retirement fund I don't really see the point in saving.

Earlier retirement. If you lower your lifestyle, not only can you put more into savings, the amount you need in savings to maintain your cheaper lifestyle in reduced. Financial independence is a great goal to work for.


It's very easy to do.

I am earning roughly triple what I earned 16 years ago and I'm living more comfortably but I'm just comfortable. I'm not living extravagantly by American middle-class standards. I drive an 11 year old, paid off vehicle. I live in a middle-class neighborhood, 15 miles outside of the city.

I'm living comfortably on money that I would have killed to make back then.

I went from an apartment to a house. Higher utilities. A couple of credit cards with modest balances. I had children. I started paying for health and life insurance. Contributions to a retirement account.

It happens gradually and it's easy to not notice, until you reflect on long term changes.

If my income tripled again, instantly, it would be a game changer. With my current standard of living, I could retire by 50. If it triples again but over the next 16 years, it would likely be a different story.


Why didn't any of the planning include participation in emergency preparedness organizations, or funding watchdog organizations to make sure that services are mismanaging their resources (e.g, Pro Publica and NPR's exposes on the American Red Cross, at http://www.propublica.org/article/the-red-cross-secret-disas... and https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-red-cross-raised-... ).

The closest it gets is "Make friends with neighbors", but plenty more is possible. I did see the comment that many will "pray for the government to bail us out", but that leaves out the people who will volunteer to be part of the NGOs to help others, and suggests that we, the people, have nothing to do with the actions of the government.

It's very detailed on what you can buy, but doesn't give any advice on figuring out which are real worries, and which are movie scenarios. Consider "Respiratory and environmental protection", where "If you worry about releases from chemical plants or overturned ammonia tankers, 3M multi gas cartridges ($17) and half facepieces ($12) offer robust protection when sized and fitted properly. In such an event, it would be also important to develop a plan for sealing your home".

Why not recommend visiting the Local Emergency Planning Committee to learn about any dangerous chemicals in your area? That would give an idea of which chemical plants are nearby, and a better idea of how to respond. It may be more likely that there's a fertilizer plant nearby (as residents in Waco discovered in 2013) or gas pipeline (as residents in Adair County, KY discovered in 2105, and residents near Carlsbad, N.M. discovered in 2000) and you need to worry about explosion more than gas problems.

In any case, I've now looked through a few dozen news reports of chemical plant problems, and found no example where gas masks, etc. would be useful.

On the other hand, and using the recent news report about Flint as an example, it seems that occasional water and air testing for long-term, low-grade poisons would more useful and cost effective than worrying about short-term, acute events.

Personally, I would prefer to see things structured around known problems - what does one need should there be a heavy metals spill upstream of you, like what happened at the Animas River? How much money would you need in order to be able to move, and no one wants to buy your property because the well water on the land is now toxic? How should you prepare for an oil pipeline spill in your backyard, as the residents of Mayflower, AR (and many others) have had?

When would it be better to put the money into applying more pressure on the EPA and FEMA, for more oversight and more funding for oversight, than to assume that individual preparedness is the right solution?

BTW, as it stands, its discussion about what to do in case of hurricanes is nearly non-existent, mostly saying "If you own a house, especially in a region prone to earthquakes or tropical storms, you should probably have a sledgehammer, a chainsaw (with a charged battery or some fuel at hand), bolt cutters, and a pry bar." Chainsaws after Hurricane Andrew were worth their weight in gold - as part of the cleanup process. But if we're talking planning, then window storm shutters are also important, as is tree trimming before the season starts.

What it should really do is point to more complete resources, like http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes or http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/ready.php . Viewing the latter, I see it includes things like "Make sure schools and daycares have School Emergency Plans" and "Pet owners should have plans to care for their animals" which should also be part of any plan.


Hm, I sort of suspect that you skipped much of the first part of the guide, which talks about identifying the relevant risks, including - say - studying flood maps, identifying nearby industries, walking around the home to spot fire hazards, etc? And talks a lot about not obsessing about unlikely issues, when your greatest worries may be your own financial security or a house fire. It specifically instructs people to map out plausible risks and write response plans before they buy a single thing listed in part II.

The whole purpose of part II is to go over some cost-effective purchases iff you have a robust basis to prioritize a particular threat and a rough idea of how you want to solve it. So yeah, for example, the mention of respirators has to be interpreted in that context; very few people can meaningfully benefit from a respirator.

There are also mentions of being able to board up windows in locations prone to severe weather, etc. I would really like to address your concerns and improve the doc, but as it is, I'm sort of struggling to pinpoint the nature of the complaint :-(


I double-checked, and I still see nothing about the process of how to identify the risk level.

For example, it says 'For example, do you live in a 100-year flood zone?' but does not describe how to find that out. It doesn't mention the term 'flood map', or where one finds a flood map. Do you go to the library? Is it easy to find online?

I tried now for Santa Fe, NM. http://www.newfloodmap.com/mountain/ doesn't list Santa Fe county, and in any case I can't tell if it's a legit site or a value added site trying to scam money out of me by looking official and packing together resources that are freely available. I gave up trying to find it online - I think I can get it from City Hall.

Regarding chemical risks, as I pointed out, it doesn't mention the Local Emergency Planning Committee. Quoting Wikipedia:

> Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) must develop an emergency response plan, review the plan at least annually, and provide information about chemicals in the community to citizens.

Someone who is looking for a guide to help with preparation, and doesn't know to keep extra water around, is likely also someone who needs help to map out plausible risks, and could use a pointer to legally mandated resources that are supposed to be available to help with those risks.

Then again, if I don't believe the government is going to bail me out of problems, why should I believe that those government maps and government information is worthwhile for my planning? Are they reliable? What is the experience of others with that information?

As a case in point, regarding 'relevant risks', the text says "Although we are entering the realm of very unlikely events, if you worry about encountering an overturned chemical tanker.."

This would be an excellent example of how to do a cost-benefit analysis. A first approximation is easy - how many people have been killed or injured by a chemical tanker where a mask would have helped? What's the probability of that happening to the reader? What does a mask cost, including the need to recharge or replace it? If it's a 1:1 billion chance per year, and it costs $10/year, then that's saying that your life is worth about $200 million to you.

But if that's so, then perhaps other things, like storing important documents, or copies of important documents, in a safety deposit box is much more worthwhile. Or driving at a more sedate speed (the first paragraph of safety tip #2 is very true!) Or remembering to not drive into flowing water, which kills many more people every year than gas from an overturned chemical tanker.

> board up windows in locations prone to severe weather ... I'm sort of struggling to pinpoint the nature of the complaint :-(

My complaint is that the document tries to take on a lot, and yet does too little.

There are a lot of resources for many of these disasters. There's no way your document can cover all of the things to worry about with a hurricane. You have to point to more complete resources elsewhere. It's not a simple matter of "boarding up windows", since that's only one of several options. I mentioned hurricane shutters; my parents had corrugated metal shutters for the window, stored under the house because when a storm is coming, everyone is trying to get boards for their windows. While on the other hand, a hurricane is more predictable. It's okay to wait until the last 24 hours to fill up the tub with water to use for flushing the toilet, which is not an option in earthquake country.

Accept that your document will be incomplete, and point people to where to go for more information.

The most common major threats (tornado, blizzard, hurricane, flooding, wildfire, sinkhole (yes, I'm from Florida), earthquake, avalanche, volcano/lahar flow, tsunami, etc.) all have official guidelines for how to prepare for them. Use them, and add to them. Don't try to be an all-in-one solution.


The guide doesn't go into specific instructions on how to find flood maps and doesn't do a risk analysis on everything (although it provides numbers for many of the more common risks) chiefly because (a) it's difficult to provide answers that are universally applicable no matter where you are; and (b) I sort of trust the reader to be able to search / ask around; (c) it's already 60 pages of text.

The other thing I sort of learned is that when you spam people with links to hundreds of external resources, you actually lower the odds that they will stay focused and read any of them.

But yeah, maybe a catalog of links to ready.gov and the like may be useful at some point. I actually had several, but I think I lost them in subsequent edits.

For the chemical tanker bit, see section 3.7, which talks about doing a risk analysis before wasting time on such stuff; and in general, most of part I, which tries over and over again to drive across the point that there are some things you really need to worry about, and that they don't involve gas masks and night vision goggles.


Who is your target audience?

These are people who you remind - quite well, I'll add - that commonplace things are more deadly than apocalypse planning.

And you remind them that they need water.

And you humorously recommend they download an XML dump of Wikipedia.

You recommend a Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS, but while you recommend 'both a country road atlas and a more detailed map of your county or state' it's in a context where you likely mean road map, and not something where a hiking GPS would be that useful.

And you bring up gas masks in the context of local factories as well, with recommendations of masks to buy; why do you have the text unless you think it's useful?

Sure, the reader can search / ask around ... but then why have this essay in the first place?

Another thing that's missing is to train for emergency situations. The only times I found "train" or "practice" was in the context of weapons and fighting. But you also need to practice using the GPS in hiking situations, if only to learn what basic terms like "datum" mean and what the modes do, and practice making a fire (else why have the matches?), and replacing the tubes on your bike. It mentions 'dig out a latrine' using a shovel and a pickax .. now where do they go for learning how deep to dig, or even that there is such a thing as good latrine practices? (Me? I learned it from the Boy Scout manual.) It's better to practice setting up a tent instead of doing so the first time in a dark.

Sure, you can assume the reader just knows to do this .. but why don't those same people know they should 'sign up for a basic course or have someone truly competent take you to the range' to practice with a gun?

Go to back to an earlier theme of mine, one of the points is "Biking on public roads? Wear a helmet and bright-colored clothing, stay well clear of the doors of parked vehicles, move in a straight line instead of weaning in and out of the traffic, and watch for cars trying to make right turns."

Like most of the rest of the document, this is a very individualistic response. A community response would be to join cycle advocacy groups and fight for usable dedicated bike paths. These are even safer. Yes, helmets, etc. can be a short-term solution, but the long term solution should be to minimize the need for these expensive, personal solutions and reduce overall risk.

"Prepper culture", on the other hand, seems to avoid these sorts of community solutions to the same problem. This document also ignores them.


>Rational prepping is meant to give you confidence to go about your business, knowing that you are well-equipped to weather out adversities. But it should not be about convincing yourself that the collapse is just around the bend, and letting that thought consume and disrupt your life.

I don't think funding watchdog organizations really fits the goal of the article.

The article also went over realistic and unrealistic risks and urged the reader to focus on realistic risks and not zombie apocalypse scenarios.


While I think it does. Focusing only on myself is near-sighted planning.

If I trusted FEMA or the Red Cross - which I don't, for reasons I mentioned - then I would likely face simpler adversities.

If those relief organizations were able to get tents, food, and water to New Orleans within 2 days after Katrina hit - which they could do if they were well-run and funded - then I wouldn't have to plan for possibly two weeks of self-sufficiency should a major hurricane hit.

Is it better for me to spend a lot of money on myself for something that isn't likely? Or pay less for something that is of overall more use for myself, my community, city, state, and nation?


There are a number of 'official' resources on this as well, including a variety of publications of FEMA and ARC, e.g.:

http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4...

It's useful to peruse publications of these agencies in depth in order to understand what the government and NGOs plan to do in the case of major disasters - when you're planning for scenarios that don't involve the government turning on you, you should understand what these organizations will and will not be able to do for you. Hint: while they will try very hard, do not count on government or NGOs coming in with plenty of supplies particularly quickly. ARC emphasizes being prepared for 72 hours without aid, and I think this is a lowest-common-denominator strategy. It will take longer when there is serious infrastructure damage, even assuming that everything goes to plan.

One of my major concerns with the prepper community though is that they frequently overemphasize your own property. The most common type of disaster to affect people, by a huge margin, is home fire. The most likely disaster to happen to you is your house burning down. So while stocking supplies in your house is a great idea, do not take it too far: be sure that you absolutely minimize irreplaceable items in your home. If your house burns down, have a plan for where you will go for temporary housing, make sure that you will be able to access money for food (don't keep it all under your mattress!), etc. Have a longer-term plan for smooth economic recovery. Important documents like deeds and titles are almost certainly safer in a bank vault than in your own home because of the careful fireproofing of these vaults. Anything of that sort that you keep in your home should be kept in some sort of fire safe (which should be watertight as well), but be aware that a cheap First Alert fire box will only be rated for less than one hour of exposure and probably won't last that long. You need to spend a lot of money for something with good fire durability.


Yup. In fact, the guide talks about home fires as one of the most significant dangers (right after going insolvent or getting hurt); and cites the 72 hour figure. It also highlights that some of the prepper ideas, such as stockpiling gasoline, actually make you less safe.


I run a site that deals with alot of these people. I look at it like a risk vs reward. I think for the vast amount of calamity's that could happen, you only need to 'survive' for about 6 months before things would stabilize. If after 6 months you are still in trouble, chances are you are not going to particularly enjoy life moving forward anyways.

So with those thoughts, it almost seems prudent to just buy 1k in freeze dried food ( http://www.ebay.com/itm/1-YEAR-MOUNTAIN-HOUSE-FOOD-ENTREES-R...? ) which can last you a year if needed. The only other things you really need is water (tons of purification options out there).

The next steps are protection and information. You can get a firearm for about 500$ with ample ammo and a world radio with a solar charger for 100$.


The page talks about it a bit, but in an attempt to differentiate itself from the usual, mildly paranoid "prepper" content, it does its best not to get hung up on more outlandish scenarios, such as fighting off zombies and surviving for months without water and food.

I basically tried to approach it from the perspective of threat modeling / risk management for real life; and by that metric, incidents such as losing a job are far more likely than a zombie apocalypse. I have seen far too many people in the Silicon Valley discover that the hard way :-(


Zombies are used in the survivalist/prepper community as a euphemism for people looking to take your stuff.

Because describing how to defend your home against humans can be legally risky, and off-putting.

With the exception of the actually crazy, people aren't actually talking about zombies.

It also injects a degree of humour.


Sure, and I'm using "space zombies" humorously, to broadly refer to all sorts of apocalyptic / TEOTWAWKI scenarios that many hardcore preppers are preoccupied with.

Most prepper guides devote a lot of time to societal collapse, complete self-sufficiency, urban combat, and wilderness survival topics, while dedicating much less attention to more pragmatic risks that one can prepare for without making profound lifestyle changes or buying a farm.


buying a farm is a huge huge risk tho, isn't it? in a scenario where society truly collapse, at least, it makes you a prime target.

I'd like the other approach more: secret stash, going dark for a year, wait for tribes to stabilize the territory they control, emerge with some useful skill and bargain access/protection of a well armed/established tribe.


> buying a farm is a huge huge risk tho, isn't it? in a scenario where society truly collapse, at least, it makes you a prime target.

Not really - you can always walk away, so at worst you're no worse off than you were without it.


but you would basically have wasted all the resources spent to purchase the farm pre-apocalypse


Sure, but if you instead spend them on something "normal" like videogames you've probably also wasted them in an apocalypse scenario.


Sure, but the apocalypse scenario - and there have been uncountable apocalypse scenarios even in my lifetime, starting with 'The Jupiter Effect' - is also very unlikely to happen. Buying farmland you never use or enjoy, and which brings in no rent profit, is a waste if there is no apocalypse. While playing videogames brings a lot of enjoyment.

The premise of this piece is to be "rational". To do that you need some idea of the odds. If you think another Tunguska event is something to prepare for, then having a farm is probably no better than playing video games - I can't even guess which would be safer from a random 10+MT event, and playing games is more fun and safer than doing the extra drive back and forth to the farm or operating the farm.


<...> emerge with some useful skill <...> : Learn to make moonshine or any other type of distilled beverage. I really believe that it would be a great trading coin in a apocalypse scenario.


You could barter out access to land in exchange for mutual defense.

Any sort of real collapse is going to be accompanied by a lack of diesel and there aren't a whole lot of draft animals around, so farming is probably going to involve quite a lot of human labor.


If I were to prepare for an apocalypse scenario, I would hoard bottled water, canned food, ammunition, and fuel. Roughly prioritised in that order. Possibly also batteries.

I feel like these are the things that will become scarce and valuable. Or at least help survival (food/water + ammunition). This makes them useful to me and also useful for bartering.

Of course, my stash needs to be safe both from the apocalypse scenario itself (will it still be in usable condition after a nuclear explosion, for example?) and from other survivors. It also needs to be somewhere I can actually get to it (safely). This, coupled with the fact that I would need large enough quantities of these items makes it rather difficult.

But, regardless, that is my I haven't done anything about it and likely never will plan to survive the apocalypse.


Also basic medicine/medical supplies. It's a staple plotline in apocalyptic fiction but it seems legit for any natural disaster or major civil unrest as well. Whether you're stuck out in a remote location for safety or in the middle of the aftermath of a natural disaster, having a good first aid kit and a supply of medication could save the life of you or someone else in need.

The only bit that seems difficult (but again, this is from apocalyptic fiction so grain of salt) is that so many important medications like insulin, antibiotics, and strong painkillers can't just be purchased at generic wholesale and kept for use or trade in major emergencies or times of real hardship. In the stories it's always the pharmacies that get looted first and there's always some chapter or episode where a family member or friend is sick/injured and the characters desperately need to find antibiotics or insulin or the like.

I understand that this is a bit silly going from fiction but those stories are appealing because they get you to think about how you would deal with life-threatening challenges. In a way it's odd that we have all of these important and effective medicines but whether the emergency services and doctors are blown to smithereens, bitten by zombies, or just overwhelmed with patients after an epic earthquake/flood/eruption there's really no way to access them without looting or black market.

I just know that in the event that "shit hit the fan" to use the prepper terminology, I'd prefer to be the guy with a case of antibiotics and painkillers stashed in the basement than the guy hoping I can get treatment at a hospital or local medic.


I'm not sure what the current status is, but it used to be that you could just go to a pet store and buy antibiotics intended for animal use (but hey, same drug). This is practically a prepper trope though.


> an apocalypse scenario

Which scenario?

If it's a cat 5 hurricane, you can fill up your tub, cooler, washing machine, rain barrel, etc. with plenty of notice. Maybe keep a few collapsed containers around for that purpose.

If you're planning for an earthquake, then bottled water makes some sense.

If you're planning for the social upheaval when the Ogallala Aquifer dries up and America's breadbasket turns to dust, then bottled water is the least of your worries - move now and settle in somewhere wet before the Okies ride again.

If you think global climate change will bring 30' snowfalls and ice storms to your area, then you'll have access to plenty of fresh water - if you have the fuel to melt it, and keep yourself warm.

Without probability estimates, apocalypse scenario planning is irrational.


Once you start talking about weeks, drinking water is easy. A relatively clean source, a big pot and a fire are all you need.

It's also easier to move around an empty several gallon pot (or just break into a house and grab one) than it is to move around hundreds of gallons of water (a short supply for several people).

(re fire, if you build a stash, you really want there to be trees around, and pretty good annual precipitation)


To me, there's something else that seems to be the case.

The emphasis on headshots in zombie preparedness. As an extension of "zombies as human surrogates" concept, there's one group of humans for whom a headshot is the surest way of ending hostilities. Law enforcement/military.

It's not politically correct to openly admit that you're preparing to resist against a military occupation.


Prepping is a hobby and its supposed to be fun. Fantasizing about fighting zombies, or dropping everything(mundane life/boring job), grabbing your SHTF bag and adventuring into the mountains is fun. It is a modern version of D&D/Larp.


I feel a lot of people want to prep, but there's a social stigma around preppers as they're usually associated with conspiracy followers (the crazy type) and therefore use zombies as a way to lighten the tone and make it more socially acceptable. You're now prepping for a cool zombie fighting apocalypse instead of some scenario such as martial law or natural disaster, which people tend to think you mean some Day After Tomorrow event rather than realistic event like flodoing/earthquake that could lead to mass power outages and spread of resource thievery/violence/gangs.


I think most people are totally fine with prepping if it's explained in terms of risk management and basic disaster preparedness.

In my eyes it's a fine line based on risk management. It makes total sense to protect against probable disasters, accidents, and threats (power outages, burglaries, weather events, medical emergencies etc). Everyone can easily be convinced of this.

It makes some sense to put some resources toward protecting against outlier events (100 year storms, riots / widespread violence, great depression level financial instability etc). People can be convinced of this when it's explained in terms of opportunity cost.

It makes no sense to use resources towards protecting against incredibly improbable events. People that have fallback compounds, bunkers in their backyards, multiple years worth of food, and thousands of rounds of ammunition are literally throwing away money.


I agree on your risk management, but even when I mention something such as power outages, flooding, or riots/violence(due to the previous), and that it's better to be prepared and not need it than need it and be prepared, I'm still taken as crazy even though I mention a valid scenario(flooding has been increasing here and power outages more common). Then again, all my friends are a little more on the blind eye/ignorant side.


It doesn't even have to be zombies. If you live in an area of the country with foreseeable natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes even), it makes sense to have at least some shelf-stable food and bottled water in the house. Enough to get you through a couple of weeks.

Extra credit for installing off-grid solar, and a water reclamation system that can be used for showers and toilet flushing. Both of which also have benefits during everyday life.

Story time: After Hurricane Fran came through Raleigh, I was driving on I-440 and was passing a long line of cars driving really slowly. When I get to the head of it, it turns out they were all following a Triangle Ice truck to it's next stop, so they could load up their coolers and preserve the contents of their refrigerators (the power still being out in parts of the city).


A lot of people have a more ignorant outlook. In the winter I always keep some water, body warmers, salt, blanket, and some other basic supplies(utility knife, lighter, whistle, flashlight, etc) in the trunk of my car because a group of friend and I tend to go hiking in the back country a lot with little to no cell service and sometimes it can snow out of nowhere. This is some basic covering your own ass stuff, but I'm look at like I'm crazy. If the car gets breaks down or it starts snowing when we're a few hours out and come back to a snowed in car or icy steep roads, I'd rather have everything I need to either hang in the car and wait it out until the next day or make a few mile hike to a house we saw down the mountain or access road.


In reference to the zombies...

I'll come back and post the link if I can find the reference, but apparently real life zombies are somewhat possible. A few years back (2008ish?), I read an article about a German scientist that was able to alter rabies so that humans don't die when they get it. The resulting claim was that they would become super aggressive and attack others, similar to rabid animals, and would create a zombie-like virus. Granted you won't see humans walking around with half their limbs off after dying, but I thought it was interesting how the claim was that it could essentially create a World War Z type of scenario.

Now idk how much of this is true, but I'm almost certain I read it on phys.org, which if I did, would lead me to believe that it's a valid article. I'll see if I can find the link tomorrow.


Getting a lot of hate for this comment...

Couldn't find the article I read, could very well be that it wasn't on phys.org and was just a bullshit article. However, here is an article where scientists mention that it could be possible to one day exist:

www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112964783/zombie-virus-could-be-reality-exclusive-100213/


A long term World War Z or The Walking Dead scenario just can't happen without the sci-fi "undead" component. A "rage virus" producing effects like in World War Z would probably devastate society, but within a week or so most of the infected would be so weak from hunger that they were not a significant threat, and a few weeks after that they'd all be dead from some combination of starvation/dehydration/exposure.


Yeah, that's the bit where I always have to remind myself that it's meant to be "hand waved" away in those stories. I watch The Walking Dead and start rambling about how they started off talking about some virus/agent that kills the brain and "restarts" just the drive to eat and kill. Even so, without the fantasy aspects, there's just no way that a living body (regardless of how crazed or hijacked by a pathogen) would still be able to move around after the organs are damaged or deprived of blood.

The closest thing to a zombie outbreak would be some sort of plague like rabies or encephalitis that makes you lose your mind and then kills you. If it was virulent enough and hard enough to treat you'd end up with huge disruptions but more like any other massive pandemic. The whole bit about victims somehow sticking around for months or years, waiting to infect more people is just impossible as far as I can tell.


This still falls foul of the simple numbers problem: there's going to be more people without then with, that's why its a disaster in the first place.

Now, humans are social animals - we naturally form groups. And the group which will have the most necessity is anyone without sufficient immediate resources. And who has the most resources? Why, the guy with 6 months of food rations. 6 months of food rations will feed him for 6 months, or my group of 30 for 6 days - which gives us say, 10 days to find more.

The real question in that scenario then, is how stupid is the guy with 6 months of supplies planning to be about distribution?

A much better risk-mitigation plan is this: either die preventing the catastrophe, or prevent it.


How do I prevent the Cascadia earthquake?


Vote for earthquake preparedness programs, neighborhood initiatives, plan for an actual realistic disaster like that and not some absurd "everyone for themselves" survival scenario?

You achieve a lot more campaigning for community preparedness then stockpiling beans. Make more friends too.


Absolutely the most insightful comment this side of Texas.

And applicable to disaster preparedness and terrorist actions and banking failures


If you are looking for freeze dried food then http://shop.honeyville.com/ is a good place to buy.

They also sell bulk quantities of food ingredients that are otherwise pretty expensive to buy.


I've been following the prepping scene for a while, and in a professional capacity since I started AllOutdoor.com as a side project for some friends. We figured out really quickly that preppers were a massive audience for outdoors content, so the site skews that way.

(FWIW I keep a few weeks' supply of food for my family on-hand, but I'm not interested in prepping for anything bigger. More here: http://www.alloutdoor.com/2015/03/11/doomsday-prepper/)

What is interesting to me is the degree to which collapse has gone mainstream. At this point I've seen prepping go from something that you didn't want anyone (including your spouse) to know you were into, to something that is the topic of serious, non-snarky discussion (with 165 points!) here at Hacker News.

I predict that at some point in the next 18 months or so, we'll see an article in The New Yorker about prepping that takes it seriously. Once the New York media scene is able to talk about it openly, it will have moved out of the realm of "crazypants stuff that we don't talk about here, except to snark at it" and then it will be time to go all-in on the stock market because we will have reached Peak Doom.

Anyway, I just skimmed the linked article but it seems like a very good intro. About the only thing I quibble with (so far) is the faint whiff of goldbuggery in the financial section.


I'll just leave this here..

http://www.freightfarms.com/

it's an example of how the startup ecosystem is attempting to disrupt some of the areas of concern that fuel the 'survival culture'.

here's another example: http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/10/built-in-brooklyn-gotham-gr...

I personally can't wait to see this urban agriculture technology arrive in every city coast to coast, so that collectively we aren't so dependent on "just in time shipping" grocery store infrastructure.

I do think that this day is on the horizon, but until then I personally try not to think of people as 'crazy' when they feel the need to get their beans, bullets, and band-aids squared away.


I personally think the "crazy" label kicks in when the person has severely diminished their actual, real life in order to prepare for an unlikely future scenario. Especially when that scenario is strangely specific and seems more like fantasy where the preparer will become a vigilante hero in the new world.

Simply being prepared for emergencies is certainly not crazy. Saving money for an employment emergency seems like the most real threat to most of us. But I guess that's not as much fun as stock-piling guns and ammo for a zombie apocalypse.


There's a lot of things you can do that are even sometimes better for your well-being. Buying gold, for example, can be a relatively safe hedge against unemployment (and even science-fiction-level economic collapse).


Honest question: how does one buy currency with gold even under current circumstances? Let’s even forget the doomsday for a moment.

OP mentions gold as safe non-crazy way to protect savings against long-term inflation and depressions. However, from what I understand, any outsider would be extremely lucky to sell it at a rate anything close to the market, and common sense suggests that if dollar plunges it’d become proportionately trickier.

If selling it isn’t as tricky as it seems, then the reverse question comes up: how to buy it now without being ripped off?


I think your confused about gold. Any coin shop or pawn shop in America will give you close to spot price in USD for the yellow metal. You don't even need to show ID.

The hard part has been.. how do you buy or sell or pay with gold electronically while having a convenient audit trail so that it's not a time consuming process to file your taxes, but that's also solved thanks to a startup founded in part by a senior paypal exec: https://www.bitgold.com/


Gold is used as carrying currency in places like zimbabwe where the official currency is too unreliable. People directly measure out quantities and weigh them, like in mining days but with more accuracy (digital scales). Presumably other forms of exchange are used for smaller denominations (goods for barter etc)


> But I guess that's not as much fun as stock-piling guns and ammo for a zombie apocalypse.

Don't forget limitless quantities of beer and jerky.


Oh, I don't think that trying to prepare for historically plausible contingencies is crazy - quite the opposite - but it's definitely easy to approach it in a haphazard, disorganized, or wasteful way.

The Bay Area culture definitely has a distinct aura of invincibility to it, though; we have many young folks, including immigrants with no familial safety nets and a messy legal status, living paycheck to paycheck while working in a very volatile industry on exorbitant salaries. And all that next door to an active seismic fault =)

Elsewhere, especially in rural America, the prepper culture seems a lot stronger, perhaps owing to the echoes of the Cold War. It always shocked me that the movement is virtually non-existent in Europe (where I grew up); if you look at their history, they certainly have more to worry about.


I wonder though, do we really have a "prepper culture", or is that phrase merely a rebranding, of traditional (pre WWII) American farm/household values ?

For example when I talk to my 80 year old grandmother about what it was like growing up 20 miles outside of a major American metro, she speaks about canning, maintaining a very large pantry, community agriculture, raising animals, making their own clothing, hunting deer and preserving the meat long term, making their own bullets, etc.

My suspicion is that what you're observing in rural america is merely a continuation of the ordinary way of life that has always existed here. What I suspect is that over decades PR firms and major brands have executed a rebranding of the old ways, attempting to recast it as 'paranoia culture' or some form of political radicalism. Their campaign likely involves emphasizing the small paranoid faction of this much larger culture on their TV shows and pop media.

I hope that doesn't sound like a conspiracy theory, because that's not at all what I mean, it's just an effective marketing technique. After all families who are oriented towards saving for a rainy day don't come into the grocery stores to buy the expensive pre-packaged foodstuffs which drive all the margins. Therefor in order to increase shareholder value you have to find ways to break down the traditional values (and way of life) so that it can be replaced with predictable consumer behaviors and 'brand loyalty'.

My point is that the reason why you don't see this in europe isn't because the behaviors are different but merely because the advertising techniques are different in America so the lexicon is different.

All of this is starting to change though. A new culture is forming thanks the Internet, and people are starting to care again, about issues like community agriculture. You can start to see it being recognized (in satire) even on the major TV networks. Their airwaves are starting to be jammed by our Internet meme culture, and as a consequence people are beginning to care, again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIWQE4ZpMWI

YES IT'S LOCAL GODDAMNIT


Did your grandmother's family have a tractor? If so, where did it, and the fuel, come from? Were they using artificial fertilizers? 80 years ago was 1936 and for her to remember things it was more likely during WWII, so they most certainly weren't using guano.

Did she go to school by school bus? Did the family buy things through the Sears catalog, or did her parents or friends drive into the city for shopping? The clothing they made - did they weave the fabric themselves, or buy it? Who made the canning jars, and the seals? Did they produce their own salt? Did they do everything by firewood, or did they use gas or electricity to cook the vegetables for canning?

But those are side-details, mostly to get you to thinking about the things she might not have told you about.

Consider the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which (quoting Wikipedia):

> destroyed many homes and devastated the agricultural economy of the Mississippi Basin. Many people were forced to flee to the cities of the Midwest in search of work, contributing to the "Great Migration" of African Americans in the first half of the 20th century. During the flood and the years after it subsided, it became the subject of numerous Delta blues songs, including "When the Levee Breaks",

I believe a goal of "prepper culture" is to be able to survive something like that significantly better than the pre-WWII American farmer household did, so I don't think these are the same cultures. There's overlap, certainly, but there's also overlap with modern urban life - my urban relatives in Florida have hurricane plans, which includes stocking reserve food, water, gas, etc., having storm shutters, trimming the trees before the season starts, and more.

Thus, if the overlap is enough for you to think that "prepper culture" is the same as pre-WWII American farm values, then I'll argue that it's also the same as modern urban Florida values, and thus rather meaninless - there aren't many TV shows on preparing for hurricane season.

> My point is that the reason why you don't see this in europe isn't because the behaviors are different but merely because the advertising techniques are different in America so the lexicon is different.

Another possibility is that humans, when they are insecure and threatened, often react by withdrawing and becoming defensive. The US does not have a good social safety net, so many people are worried all the time, about their job, health care, family, and retirement and possible lack thereof. Scared humans are more easily led, and many a firebrand have been able to take advantage of that fear for political and economic gain.

While if there is a strong social safety net (as in many places in Europe), and you believe the government will be effective at responding to a natural disasters, then there's less need of a belief to take on the heavier burden of individual planning.


> there aren't many TV shows on preparing for hurricane season.

You're making my point for me. Statistically speaking hurricane prepping is much bigger deal in America than survivalism but yet the TV media campaign leaves outsiders with an exaggerated impression of the situation. Some think this occurred just because it makes for good TV, but I think it's also part of a larger campaign to sell more hamburgers and wal-mart stock.

> While if there is a strong social safety net (as in many places in Europe), and you believe the government will be effective at responding to a natural disasters, then there's less need of a belief to take on the heavier burden of individual planning.

I don't think that the social safety net is as strong in Europe for the exact reason that you think it is. In other words in Europe nobody has a choice but to rely solely on the government to stabilize the situation after a major emergency because they don't have the firearms they would need to restore peace on their own.

In America however it's a different story because hundreds of thousands if not millions of veterans currently own rifles strikingly similar to those they carried in the armed forces, lacking only the full-automatic selector switch. Their brothers, sisters, parents, friends, and neighbors who did not serve in the military are often just as familiar with the weapons, if not the tactics.

Many of these Soldiers and Marines have special operations training. They are former warriors with experience at conducting irregular warfare and counter-terrorism operations in dangerous urban environments. In the Middle East these troops were frequently tasked with restoring order to urban areas exploding in internecine strife. Today these former military men and women understand better than anyone the life-or-death difference between being armed and organized versus unarmed and disorganized. One could even say it's part of our culture.

That's a real social safety net in my view, and since we have this safety net we like to enhance it, by taking simple steps to be more prepared, while in Europe I get the feeling that some people feel like 'why even bother' ?


I am European. I think that you are right about the fact we expect to rely on government support more (there are civilian groups for emergency, but when they "mobilize" they report and take orders from government representatives, at least in my country).

What I find a bit odd is the fact that you seem to imply that "having access to firearms" is really the main priority. Ok, there is a flood and we are forced to take refuge on the roof of our houses.

When (if) someone comes to rescue us do we go with them because they have rifles, or because they have a boat, food, first aid, and a plan about how and where to take us until the flood subsides?


It's more like.. a disaster happens, so police response times have lapsed, dropped to days. Not everyone is stranded on their roof, tons of people have food but the real problem is that now heavily armed and well organized drug gangs are able to operate with impunity, and brutality, seizing whatever they wish (including the food)... It's a power-grab situation for a few days, or for however long the power stays off, or it would be, if combat veterans and ordinary Americans weren't so well armed.


Your scenario is not very common, at least in the West. (Even more so in Europe because we have higher population density, so a whole region getting "lost" to the national government would be really extraordinary). Let's talk instead of real cases, ok? Marauders and Warlords were really a big problem during Katrina Hurricane? Was New York able to survive Sandy only because Frank Castle was patrolling the streets?

In comments below you cite Kosovo. I think that in cases like that there was already plenty of social unrest so if a city was cut off from the powergrid or the main roads I can imagine that someone would have tried to get the upper hand. Something similar could also happen in some areas of Mexico, where the government presence is already pretty weak.

I can see how a veteran or ex-serviceman could always be very handy in a natural disaster, but that would be because they are able to lead, to follow orders, have plenty of practical skills and are trained to be self-sufficient. But the actual combat training or experience - nevermind the weapons - is not necessarily the most important thing to have when you are hit by a flood or a earthquake or a tsunami.


In the last 50 years of European history, has something like this happened?

For example, in 2014, southeast Europe received record levels of rain, which lead to wide-spread flooding and landslides. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Southeast_Europe_floods which points out that it was the most rain in 120 years of recorded history. Some areas were isolated for a few days, 300,000 households were left without electric power, etc.

How close were they to having drug gangs or other groups take over local power? Do you have any evidence to back up your thesis?

How would additional weapons have helped the situation that actually did occur? What mix of weapons should they have had?

Are there any lessons from other European floods (the recent British floods, the North Sea flood of 1962, the 1953 storm and floods, etc.) to show how perilously close things were to total discord, which would have been solved by more weapons backed by combat veterans?

(Of course, in the 1950s and 1960s, most of Europe lived through WWII and many were combat veterans. But they didn't have the weapons you think are essential. Yet somehow they survived.)


There's ample evidence in particular if you study the Kosovo War outbreak there were situations where regions were cut off from supplies, power was lost, but yet there was no invasion or shelling. Ireland comes to mind, there are some examples..


Could you be a bit more definite about those? What were they, how would more arms have helped, and which side should have had the arms?

Would you characterize them as being part of the respective civil conflicts? Or were they more like the aforementioned "now heavily armed and well organized drug gangs"?


You can do your own homework, there are well documented historical accounts. There are situations where a large city was cut off, for weeks no supplies in or out, the lights were off.. and the "shit hit the fan" for those people well before the shelling began. You can read for yourself how important the requirement to have at least a single firearm was for households.


I think it's the other way around. You gave an incomplete answer and now imply that I should be doing your homework for you.

You wrote:

> if you study the Kosovo War outbreak there were situations where regions were cut off from supplies, power was lost, but yet there was no invasion or shelling. Ireland comes to mind, there are some examples..

In case I was wrong, and missing something well-known, I reviewed the Kosovo War summary at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosovo_War and The Troubles at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Troubles . I cannot find a relevant example.

For Kosovo, the closest I could find was the Izbica massacre, where FRY and Republic of Serbia forces stole from several thousand villagers then killed 130 Kosovo Albanian men, and the Battle of Junik, where Junik was under siege for 20 days. However, both actions were carried out by partisans, and don't show sign of a third party filling a power gap.

There were 10 or so shell fired in Newry, and unpredictable power during the Ulster Workers' Council strike of 15 to 28 May 1974. Otherwise I found nothing like a city or village being cut off for weeks with no supplies or power in Ireland, and being shelled.

Certainly there are historic instances of cities being cut off, like the Siege of Leningrad or the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII, and the Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war. The German tally after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising suggests that there were fewer than 100 firearms in the ghetto, and nowhere near one per family, so that's not more a counter-example to your point. In any case, third party "drug gangs" or the equivalent power grab do no appear to play any significant role.

So I ask again, can you point to any post-war European examples?


I just went and dug up the material I was referencing, and the memoirs are from the third Balkan war of the 1990s.

Here brother: http://shtfschool.com/community/selco-one-year-in-hell/

This guy's material is genuine and it goes into great depth, but its only one example. The are other stories of course from this conflict that you can dig up which back up his account.

this video goes into some of his information about gang warfare. It backs up everything I was saying:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-pBbG3Q8uo


Thank you for the followup. The siege was one of the alternatives I considered earlier, but it didn't fit your description. You wrote "cut off from supplies, power was lost, but yet there was no invasion or shelling".

The total blockade of Sarajevo started on 2 May 1992, and included sending in armored columns to try to take the city (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Sarajevo ) and shelling (see http://www.bosnia.org.uk/news/news_body.cfm?newsid=2687 ).

There appear to have been several types of gangs. The Selco link you gave talks about gangs in the size of 15-50. These appear to be different than the organized "drug gang" style of gangs you mentioned before. Selco writes that being alone, even armed, wasn't enough. He was part of a large family of 15, and that being in a group was the key to survival, not so much arms alone.

Do note that he also wrote that there was a lot of grey, not white on black. I don't think there's a good lesson from this. Having more arms might change the balance of which group gets which resources, but there's no good or bad side in those winners, only "me" instead of "you."

A better example of what you want is perhaps http://www.nytimes.com/1993/10/22/world/gangs-in-sarajevo-sp... , which says that "armed gangs have profited from the disorder of war to turn whole neighborhoods into personal fiefs."

"The gangs control the thriving black market, which accounts for virtually all the trade in food, alcohol and vehicle fuel in the besieged city. Working with similar gangs operating on the Serbian side of the siege lines, the gangs run a nighttime smuggling operation that brings truckloads of contraband over the bridges across the Miljacka that separate the Serbian-held suburb of Grbavica from the center of Sarajevo. ..."

"The gangs' power is so great that the leaders of the Bosnian Government and army said recently that they dared not challenge them directly for fear of setting off an internal war in Sarajevo that would weaken the city's defenses. Bosnian Army commanders have acknowledged that key sections of the front lines around the city are under the control of militias loyal to the gang leaders and that challenging the gangs could cause the militias to abandon their positions."

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ismet_Bajramovi%C4%87 , "When the war began, criminal groups were among the first to offer resistance the Yugoslav National Army besieging Sarajevo." Other criminal/military defenders include Ismet Bajramović include Ramiz Delalić, Jusuf Prazina, and Mušan Topalović.

That said, I'm still not clear how more pistols and rifles would have changed what happened in the city, in regards to how people lived. (Weapons were useful in defending the city, and the tunnel was able to supply more of those. That, however, is a quite different topic than what you suggested.)

I can see how this is good example of "shit hits the fan". I don't see how it's at all a good example of your original scenario, which was:

> a disaster happens, so police response times have lapsed, dropped to days. Not everyone is stranded on their roof, tons of people have food but the real problem is that now heavily armed and well organized drug gangs are able to operate with impunity, and brutality, seizing whatever they wish (including the food)... It's a power-grab situation for a few days, or for however long the power stays off, or it would be, if combat veterans and ordinary Americans weren't so well armed.


Yes, this is more or less my point:

Case A (Sarajevo): there is a massive unrest, basically what amounts to a Civil War, then yeah - having access to firearms and military training is probably a key factor in your survival (you also have to decide what side you are on, though, which in the long run will also become a key factor in your survival, no matter how well trained you are).

Case B (Kathrina): there may be individuals or small groups that take a chance at looting deserted buildings. But they will have basically the same problems as everyone else (surviving the storm peak, being able to move around after the worst has passed). Situations where large, well-armed gangs siege you in your home which has remained intact and holds some kind of resource which is valuable outside of the disaster area (i.e. large amounts of cash, valuables) and you have to fend them off for days until the cavalry finally arrives seem to be extremely unlikely outside of a movie script.

You seem to imply that all "disasters" will end up like Sarajevo, my idea is that your reasoning applies only in cases of a natural disaster hitting a region where a civil war is already going on.


I am confused about your response. This document, which is titled 'Doomsday planning for less crazy folk' and starts 'The prepper culture begs to be taken with a grain of salt..' appears to include hurricane preparations as part of 'the prepper culture', making hurricane preparations a proper subset of the prepper culture.

Yet with "Statistically speaking hurricane prepping is much bigger deal in America than survivalism" you imply that 'survivalism' does not include hurricane prepping, so is not the same as the 'prepper culture' from the paper.

Since you identified pre-WWII farm culture as being close to prepper culture, could you explain how survivalism fits in, and how it's different from hurricane prepping? Because I think you are talking looking at the similarities in self-sufficiency. In that case, isn't the back-to-the-soil movement of the 1960s more similar to pre-WWII farming culture than the prepper culture, despite the lack of interest in weapons in that movement?

> I think it's also part of a larger campaign to sell more hamburgers and wal-mart stock

That seems like rather weak evidence. Statistically speaking, presidents on TV get killed a lot more in real life, and space aliens visit Earth a lot. Once upon a time I thought the popularity of all of the SF shows was part of a larger campaign to get us used to the idea of extraterrestrial life, before making the announcement that aliens existed.

I appear to have been wrong, as I had no idea at the time that space aliens had been part of TV culture for decades, and it's been decades more without announcement.

How will you know if you are wrong?

> because they don't have the firearms they would need to restore peace on their own.

Do you have any idea of how may firearms (per capita) are needed for that? Because Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and France are still in the top list of countries in per capita gun ownership. How many more will they need?

> after a major emergency

That is a very broad topic. Sweden, for example, had many preparations for a nuclear exchange, including tax rebates for people who built bomb/fallout shelters in their homes. Switzerland still requires households to maintain a year supply of food, and a bomb shelter.

How is it that in all these preparations, they've forgotten to ensure a large enough supply of weapons for post-nuclear internal peace keeping?

> hundreds of thousands if not millions of veterans currently own rifles strikingly similar to those they carried in the armed forces

Yes, and Switzerland "The vast majority of men between the ages of 20 and 34 are conscripted into the militia and undergo military training, including weapons training", though they don't keep ammunition at home.

In the 1990s, my European co-workers in the US, who were all of draft age during the Cold War, had been conscripted, including from Germany, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria - from both sides of the Iron Curtain. My Army wife and an Iranian ex-co-worker swapped stories about serving in the same part of the Middle East, just on opposite sides of the border.

So plenty of Europeans have some experience in the military, at least for some countries.

> In the Middle East these troops were frequently tasked with restoring order to urban areas exploding in internecine strife

Now you're going on a tangent that seems little to do with pre-WWII farming culture.

What sort of military training, and more importantly special forces operation experience, did your grandmother's family have, and how was it useful for their farm life?


> Yet with "Statistically speaking hurricane prepping is much bigger deal in America than survivalism" you imply that 'survivalism' does not include hurricane prepping, so is not the same as the 'prepper culture' from the paper.

There is a distinction in America between prepping for medium to long term service disruptions, and preparing for a hurricane. The later merely involves nailing boards onto your house's windows then driving north for a few hours whereas the formed is commonly dubbed 'survivalism'. I should have been more clear about what I meant by the terminology.

> In that case, isn't the back-to-the-soil movement of the 1960s more similar to pre-WWII farming culture than the prepper culture, despite the lack of interest in weapons in that movement?

I think the back-to-the-soil movement of the 1960s is very similar to pre-WWII farming culture. I think that even in the 1960s statistically speaking wherever there's been farms and middle class in the United States there's been guns. I think that today tons of people who back in the 1960s would have been characterized as "back-to-the-soil" are being roped into the "prepper" category by a media blitz that wishes to discourage the transmission of those pre-WWII values to a new generation of Americans.

I think that all we're seeing here is a back-to-the-land movement by a generation that is growing up in a time where the spectre of 'terrorism' looms large. Also you can see it in the artwork and music, these younger generations were more likely influenced by Kurt Cobain, Henry Rollins, or Biggie Smalls than Carlos Santana or Jimi Hendrix, so naturally they're going to exhibit a little more 'hard core' tendencies when they do go back to the land.

> I appear to have been wrong, as I had no idea at the time that space aliens had been part of TV culture for decades, and it's been decades more without announcement.

Maybe for your generation it was space aliens and this generation has zombies and vampires, go figure. There do seem to be some ominous continuities between the two pop culture phenomenon, but that could just be my imagination.

> Do you have any idea of how may firearms (per capita) are needed for that? Because Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and France are still in the top list of countries in per capita gun ownership. How many more will they need?

Thats the problem with trying to talk about Europe as a whole, there are several important exceptions, most notably the Swiss. You forgot the Czech Republic add them to your list.

> Yes, and Switzerland "The vast majority of men between the ages of 20 and 34 are conscripted into the militia and undergo military training, including weapons training", though they don't keep ammunition at home.

The Swiss have their shit together what more can I say.

> So plenty of Europeans have some experience in the military, at least for some countries.

I certainly didn't meant to imply that they didn't, I hope I didn't offend.

> In the Middle East these troops were frequently tasked with restoring order to urban areas exploding in internecine strife

>Now you're going on a tangent that seems little to do with pre-WWII farming culture.

> What sort of military training, and more importantly special forces operation experience, did your grandmother's family have, and how was it useful for their farm life?

my bad! Let me reiterate the point: In my view there is both a back-to-the-land phenomena and a prepper phenomena going on in the modern United States which are distinct although there is some overlap. The back-to-the-land movement is much much larger than the prepper movement statistically, but you don't get that picture from watching the TV.

The media doesn't want to acknowledge the back-to-the-land movement because it's not seen as good for business, so they try to paint everyone with a pickup truck as a prepper. In computer programming there is a movement towards "remote work". In the 1960s the status symbol for having made it in your career was having your own office secretary and a reserved parking spot, but in the modern era perhaps the new way to know you have arrived is when you are free to work from home... or even from the farm.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2AOhWGLAJY


Thank you for your answer. However, I am still curious as to how many guns (per capita) you think are needed to maintain peace should police and other civilian authority break down.

The Czech Republic is much lower on list at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_c... . I only listed the top European countries. Finland should also be up on that list.


well everyone should be armed of course, and have gone through firearms safety training, but it's not just about the sheer number of guns it's also about their capacities but most importantly it's training that matters.

I definitely don't think that in order to provide security everyone needs an AR-15 or an AK-47 which is how some people over here think. Today in America the AR-pattern rifle (the semi-automatic civilian version of the familiar full-auto-capable M-16 or M-4) is the most popular model of rifle, with millions sold in the past decade. Virtually all of them produced in the past decade have abandoned the old M-16’s signature “carrying handle” rear iron sight for a standardized sight mounting rail, meaning that virtually every AR sold today can be easily equipped with an efficient optical sight. Firing the high-velocity 5.56×45 mm cartridge and mounted with a four-power tactical sight, a typical AR rifle can shoot two-inch groups at one hundred yards when fired from a steady bench rest. That translates to shooting eight- to ten-inch groups at four hundred yards.

Four hundred yards is a long walk. Pace it off on a straight road, and observe how tiny somebody appears at that distance. Yet a typical AR rifle, like those currently owned by millions of American citizens, can hit a man-sized target at that range very easily, given a stable firing platform and a moderate level of shooting ability.

But what a lot of people don't realize is there are a far greater number of scoped bolt-action hunting rifles in private hands in the United States. Keep this number in mind: based on deer stamps sold, approximately twenty million Americans venture into the woods every fall armed with such rifles, fully intending to shoot and kill a two-hundred-pound mammal. Millions of these scoped bolt-action deer rifles are quite capable of hitting a man-sized target at ranges out to and even beyond a thousand yards, or nearly three-fifths of a mile. In that context, the 500-yard effective range of the average semi-auto AR-pattern rifle is not at all remarkable.

I suppose what I'm getting at is that you don't have to break the bank to arm your society in an effective way. Your country will be doing just fine if most people simply have a bolt action scoped hunting rifle but what they really need is firearms training.


The US doesn't fit your recommendation, as most of the population hasn't had firearms safety training. Why do you think it will be able to handle types of civilian disturbances you mentioned earlier, when not everyone is so trained?

Earlier you said "in Europe nobody has a choice but to rely solely on the government to stabilize the situation after a major emergency because they don't have the firearms they would need to restore peace on their own."

Therefore, which scenarios do you think the US, with its armed citizenry, will be able to handle more successfully than the equivalent in most European areas? If more Finns per capita have had more training than Americans, wouldn't that be a safer country still? How is a policy maker supposed to figure out what level of gun ownership and training is optimal?


I honestly don't know; it's interesting that in Europe, the same culture - certainly present in the nineteenth century - has atrophied very quickly after WWII.

I'm not sure how to explain that; urbanization? The expansion of the welfare state? Faith in the EU as the promise of enduring peace and prosperity? It happened in most of the Soviet Bloc countries, too, so perhaps the welfare state aspect is key.

In the US, my first guess is that it might have been kept alive, even in suburban and urban communities, because of the exposure to the Cold War paranoia, school drills, and so on. "The Russkies" and the specter of the nuclear apocalypse left an ominous mark on the American psyche.

But you are right, the desire to capitalize on the phenomenon might have played a role, too. On the flip side, Europe is not a very different market; the buyers are a bit more smug and you can't sell guns, but that's about it - so why aren't we seeing more of the "new" prepper culture cropping up on the other side of the pond?


> so why aren't we seeing more of the "new" prepper culture cropping up on the other side of the pond?

Maybe it's because there's not as much individual land ownership in Europe because there isn't as much land. In America we have a vast frontier so to speak, plus we've had the act of homesteading as a the cornerstone of our traditional values for a long time.

There's room for everyone to have their own little homestead, at least thats been the feeling culturally for a couple of hundred years, and so people today are also prone to think along the lines that traditional homesteaders thought.. well water, garden, dogs, fishing, shotgun, shovel, plow, etc.. maybe even horses if you can afford it. One difference is today people also care about an Internet connection. In my view these people aren't paranoid at all they're just passing on the traditional values.


> On the flip side, Europe is not a very different market; the buyers are a bit more smug and you can't sell guns, but that's about it - so why aren't we seeing more of the "new" prepper culture cropping up on the other side of the pond?

It is, slowly. We have a lot of gun enthusiasts, even though they're not gun owners. They visit the shooting range regularly instead. ASG is a popular sport too, and that's pretty much as much firearms combat training as you can get without actual firearms. In my country (Poland), there was a visible uptick of survivalist narratives when the war in Ukraine started (after all, we're next-door neighbors). And while HAM radio is not very popular (though my friends are doing some serious work in changing that), a lot of drivers have CB radios (installed primarily to facilitate breaking traffic laws).


> What I suspect is that over decades PR firms and major brands have executed a rebranding of the old ways, attempting to recast it as 'paranoia culture' or some form of political radicalism. Their campaign likely involves emphasizing the small paranoid faction of this much larger culture on their TV shows and pop media.

I think that the paranoid culture has evolved relatively organically.

As an avid sailor, I've been looking into breaking one of the long standing records of doing multiple circumnavigations back-to-back and food preservation is one area I've been looking into.

It's been extremely difficult to find content that isn't interspersed with articles on weapons (and other paranoid subjects) found in a lot of content online, when all I am looking for is food storage ideas.


In America firearms aren't considered 'paranoid subjects' because hunting (and fishing) has always been a part of this traditional "wholesome" American culture of which I spoke.. right along with smoking meat, canning vegetables, taking care of animals, etc. After all how else can you keep your chickens and sheep free from natural predators ? To me that's not paranoia


> To me that's not paranoia

And I don't consider firearms as a broad subject paranoid. It's when talking about the use of firearms to injure other human beings alongside the best way to store flour is where I draw the line.

I'm just looking at food storage. I'm not interested in surviving apocalyptic-level events via good old wild-west justice.


You're thinking of circumnavigating but yet you're not psychologically prepared to push back against a boarding party ? Doesn't that mean even a small skiff could overtake you ?

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CYeVTzPWYAAQuTl.jpg


> You're thinking of circumnavigating but yet you're not psychologically prepared to push back against a boarding party ? Doesn't that mean even a small skiff could overtake you ?

> https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CYeVTzPWYAAQuTl.jpg

I suspect you're blatantly trolling, but I'm going to answer you for the sake of completeness

Pirate activity is most often limited to certain parts of the world. I have no desire (or real need) to visit the Gulf of Aden anytime soon to respond to that image you posted as that is one of the hotspots. Another hotspot is the Straight of Malacca, where it occurs against shipping and less against smaller pleasure craft.

Circumnavigations adhering to WSSRC rules typically dictate that each circumnavigation needs to be 21,600 nautical miles and crossing antipodal points. To stay within these guidelines, I can quite easily plot courses that avoid most pirate hotspots, since most of the time will be spent in the Southern Ocean.

I'm more concerned about colliding with whales, squalls and suffocation from leaky gas hoses than I am with pirates.


To be honest I didn't mean to troll I just know very little about modern sailing, but I'm truly in awe of individuals who have what it takes to attempt that kind of an extreme adventure.

Never the less, and perhaps it's my American bias coming through here, but I am astonished to discover that some adventure sailors travel great distances without even a single AK-47 on board. In my imagination a revolver wouldn't suffice as a deterrent since it can't be recognized as clearly at a distance, and since many pirates are ex-military they may not be particularly afraid of a pistol.

I personally wouldn't consider navigating the Mississippi delta in a boat at dusk without a shotgun, because there's more than just pirates to worry about, you've got paranoid drug runners looking for their drop zone, hell what about alligators.. it's illegal to harm one, but if a big one's somehow gotten on deck you better believe I'm reaching for my protection.


Carrying firearms on board would significantly limit the places a world-hopping yacht could stop at; at best inconvenient, at worst deadly when you choose not to put in somewhere because you don't want to have to drop your AK-47 over the side. A lot of countries really do not want sailors turning up with AK-47s.


Did you know bear spray is better then a handgun for bear protection? The rate of injuries, from bears, is a lot lower with bear spray, because it turns out no reasonable caliber will actually stop a bear before it gets you whereas the spray only needs to be well, sprayed in the general direction.

The point being, you might want to re-analyze "high seas gun battle" for its actual downsides.


> The point being, you might want to re-analyze "high seas gun battle" for its actual downsides.

I agree that there could be tremendous downsides, but at the same time I wouldn't want to reach for any type of safety gear and not have it.

What if it's not even "real pirates" but rather a haphazard raid by what are obviously hostile teenage boys from a nearby village operating a raft with a single outboard motor armed with only machetes ? These kids couldn't afford a gun and this could happen anywhere where there's poverty not just in areas known for piracy

Another scenario, what about the stranded boat that looks like it's stuck on a sand bar relatively close to port and is begging for a tow. There could be a pretty girl on board. It could be an opportunist type situation where they really did just need a tow, but when they sense you're unarmed they might try to commandeer your craft since maybe they have warrants, or a shaky visa situation inland or whatever.


The professionals, namely the crew of cargo ships, avoid having guns on board, even when their route takes then to pirate-infested waters. (They also avoid having girls on board.)


I think that was the case until a few years ago. Nowadays, Reuters reports, cargo ships have "massively" increased the number of guns on board along with people who know how to use them:

"Like many merchant vessels, the QM2 now carries armed private contractors when passing through areas of pirate risk... M-16-type assault rifles and sometimes belt-fed machine guns...

For many in the shipping industry, the fall in attacks is a vindication of the decision to massively ramp up the use of armed guards. So far, not a single ship with armed guards has been taken by pirates..." http://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-piracy-idUSBRE91B1...


> Elsewhere, especially in rural America, the prepper culture seems a lot stronger, perhaps owing to the echoes of the Cold War. It always shocked me that the movement is virtually non-existent in Europe (where I grew up); if you look at their history, they certainly have more to worry about.

I always felt the US prepper culture is primarily driven by the gun culture, as it mixes with American individualism / self-made man mythos. There you are, alone with maybe only family to protect, as the society around you burns down to the ground. You have your farm and your shotgun, now you're the boss. You know you'll overcome any challenge fate throws in your way, and if some pesky other humans want to dance, well, that's what the shotgun is for.

Europe is less individualistic. And without guns. People trust in institutions more. Which means, if the societal collapse hits us, we're fucked. But maybe it makes the society ever so slightly more resilient. And it also means that, sadly, you can't make zombie/alien invasion movies in Europe - the protagonist won't be stumbling upon assault rifles in every other abandoned house. Though I really wish someone tried to make a movie like that - I'd like to see how it could play out in a place with less cars and much less guns.


I see where you're coming from, but you emphasize a widely held stereotype about the 'american prepper' which I think A. isn't true, and B. makes it seem almost fatalistic, which is the idea of "every family for himself".

I think in reality what you have in the rural US are communities that are ready to band together in hard times.

Perhaps a more clear way to think about the situation is in terms of distributed computing and graph theory. As many of you know, in theoretical computer science, the CAP theorem states that it is impossible for a distributed computer system to simultaneously provide all three of the following guarantees:

Consistency (all nodes see the same data at the same time)

Availability (a guarantee that every request receives a response about whether it succeeded or failed)

Partition tolerance (the system continues to operate despite arbitrary partitioning due to network failures)

I think that some individuals in the United States (the ones who live in large metros) prefer to optimize for Consistency and Availability by living in populous areas. There are more firefighters, paramedics, and power company linemen ready to step up quickly to restore services in the event of an emergency.

People who live in rural areas in the United States are optimizing for Partition tolerance, but that doesn't mean they expect to one day become completely independent nodes (that's merely a stereotype), instead they anticipate that eventually a few vertexes up the graph there may be some unexpected latency, or even a network partition.

The prepping culture can be thought of a distributed systems protocol which enables "self healing" characteristics so that a temporarily cut off part of the cluster can avoid downtime just by shedding a little consistency. (Guns help them reject corrupted messages from outside of their sub-graph during a partition, it's a form of security isolation)

One could argue that large metros also have this capability just that their RAFT leader election process takes longer (gangs shooting it out) whereas rural communities have an easier time with it because there's less chatter on the network. Prepper communities have more caching, and they store more shards on every node. ;)

In Europe they have more of a monolithic architecture from what I gather although they've enjoyed pretty decent uptime.


A nice deconstruction, thanks! I really like the analogy.

My perspective on US preppers is mostly based on the materials they publish - websites and a book I read - which often tend to paint very fatalistic scenarios (understandably so; most people don't apply to their lives everything from a book or article). And then, honestly, a lot of works of popular culture paint it this way.

I try to cut through my biases, but I think I failed. I don't want to say America is fatalistic per se, but - as far as I know from all the reading and watching I did over the years - the American mythos still revolves around self-made men and women, pioneers and colonists. It's different in Europe; there've been mostly stable settlements here for over a thousand years. Most of our history curriculum focuses on that. We're used to rules and borders changing, but not to having to bootstrap civilization.

That said, I think the increased focus on "partition tolerance" part in the US compared to Europe may be in big part a result of US having lots of areas that are very sparse. In Europe, especially the western part, there isn't enough space. The whole continent has twice the population of the US but the same land area. Most rural communities are still pretty close to towns and major cities.


Between Christmas and New Year a massive surprise blizzard hit the area I live in. We were on vacation and got home a few days later. We couldn't get back into town for 2 days because the roads were closed (snow in infrequent enough here the city and county don't have snow plow equipment).

The neighbors called (they are in their late 70s). Half a mile down a dirt road they hadn't been able to get out for 3 days and were getting a little scared. We picked up a few groceries (the store shelves were pretty empty as trucks hadn't been able to get into town) and parked on the highway and hiked them in. Then it was hike half a mile through deep snow to the car parked on the highway for the next two days until the county managed to get the dirt road to our houses cleared.

Very revealing experience. It's not a good idea to imagine technology or society is going to solve all problems in a timely manner. When things go bad on a massive scale, especially when it's unexpected, you are on very often on your own for a bit even in this day and age. It's a good idea to be at least mildly prepared.


What's funny for a foreigner like me is that the "preparedness scene" seems to exhibit a lot of American cliches :

- it's never reasonable : you prepare for the end of the world or a "multi generational collapse" not "just" a "little" earthquake or a flood

- you need a Hollywood budget : a well stocked retreat that will allow you to "survive" without changing any of your habits

- guns, lots of guns : I remember someone recommending having 10'000 (yes, ten thousand) ammo for each semi-auto carbine you had (no less than 2 per member of your family of course, not including handguns, knives, handgrenades etc)

- fatality is never an option : end of the world, multi generational collapse ? So what ? You just need to store more food, dig deeper for your bunker, and buy more guns (of course ;-)

In fact I believe it's the first time I read something reasonable about preparedness in English !


The author touches on a lot of important points, without going overboard, and the article is worth reviewing as a list of things to consider if the SHTF, for whatever reason...

Tailoring a "plan" to fit your individual circumstances is probably the key take-away...

Putting yourself in a position to provide the big four--water, food, shelter, and security--for a month for yourself and those dear to you is not incredibly expensive or time consuming....


> Insolvency. If a person over the age of 40 tells you that they have never lost a job, they are pretty lucky (or lying).

I know a lot of lucky people then. It's absolutely smart to be prepared in the case you lose your job, but is it really that rare to make it 40+ without getting fired or laid off?


For this audience? Yes. Startups have finite lifespans, and even when they succeed they are likely to go through a period of upheaval which could involve job instability. I've been laid off several times in the last 20 years, always due to either the company running out of runway, or being pivoted out of a job.


For the audience of Hacker News? Maybe. "Less crazy folk" encompasses a much wider group, though, I'd wager.


And I'd add that not everyone reading Hacker News is working at a startup either. There's a bunch of folks from large, stable companies checking HN as well.


> Pepper spray. An excellent, temporarily incapacitating weapon - very difficult to resist and capable of buying you just enough time to escape. Works quickly and reliably at distances up to perhaps 10 feet; can also stop some animal attacks. Usually not heavily regulated, making it easy to obtain and carry even in places that frown upon other forms of armed self-defense.

This is not good advice everywhere. Here in the UK pepper spray is regulated by the same law as firearms.


Is there any right to self-defense in the UK?


IANAL, but my brief understanding is: you may only use force to defend yourself against force, and you may only use lethal force to defend yourself against lethal force. Self-defense is a valid defense against certain crimes (which I understand is not quite the same thing as being a right, though I can't say I really see the difference); there is no "castle doctrine". When the famous Tony Martin case happened (a farmer shot and killed some burglars (few people have guns in the UK, but farmers are an exception, and relatively commonly own (licensed) shotguns on the grounds of needing to shoot vermin)), I remember a local police officer's comment being "if they were shot in the front he'll get off, but if they were shot in the back he's going to jail".


I think this is pretty similar to the rest of the western world, and certainly to the legal frameworks in much of the US. The interpretation is probably very different, though. So is the legality of carrying weapons in anticipation of an assault...


You're allowed to defend yourself. You're not allowed to wander around carrying weapons.


Interesting. Lethal weapons are banned in much of the world, but based on my reading of it, the UK seems to be pretty radical when it comes to non-lethal tools, compared to most of Europe. Looks like pepper spray, stun guns, or really anything else is not legal to carry.

Legal self-defense tools apparently include bright flashlights / strobes (I kid you not) and personal alarms.

It's actually a pretty extreme doctrine, no? The UK does not enjoy a particularly low rate of assault or rape, compared to most other western countries. If unarmed self-defense is the only thing you can try, this would seem to put smaller-framed women, the elderly, and less physically fit people at a distinct disadvantage. Weird.


Assault with a hand is much less likely to end in serious injury than assault with a weapon.

Additionally, anyone carrying a weapon is up to no good and can be arrested now. Do you know how often I carry a weapon? Never. I've never touched a loaded firearm (and I've been in the UK reserve forces for 15 years). I've never seen a firearm in the hands of anyone who isn't a trained professional (although if I lived in a rural area I'd probably see a farmer use one for vermin). I've never seen anyone with a knife bigger than a penknife (which mustn't lock) outside a kitchen or workshop, and if I did I'd call the police because they're up to no good. I believe that I am much safer than I would be if people around me were carrying weaponry.

You say it's weird. I think it's weird for people to wander around carrying weaponry. I know someone in the US whose brother considered taking a gun to the shops in case there was anyone there with a gun. Carrying weapons causes them to be used. When I go to the pub, do you know how often I wonder if the loud-mouthed slightly drunk guy is carrying a weapon? Never.

Casual UK knife crime (by which I mean the recent influx of stabbings etc amongst, typically, poor teenagers; not hardened criminals, but idiot, insecure children) is rooted in the unfortunate belief that they need to carry weapons to be safe.


> Assault with a hand is much less likely to end in serious injury than assault with a weapon.

Really? I'd take pepper spray over fists. I'm talking specifically about non-lethal choices, especially for people who do not stand a chance in a fist fight.

Most of Europe does allow pepper spray, stun guns, and similar tools, and they really don't see more violence than the UK. In fact, violent crime in the UK is fairly high in comparison with many EU states.


As an aside, do they measure violent crime in the same way? I understand that over half of UK recorded violent crime results in no physical injury to the victim, and there are some recorded violent crimes in which the victim is not required to be present.

There is a common false comparison of violent crime between the US and the UK that appears to indicate the UK suffers more violent crime, because what counts as "violent crime" in the UK is much wider than in the US.


All you did was bring up personal memories and talk about how you think weapons equates to danger.


Weapons do equate to danger. Danger is a measure of risk.

No weapons present - chance of being seriously injured by a weapon is zero.

Weapons present - chance of being seriously injured by a weapon above zero.


I really don't have time to make this, but I am going to make a wish and hope either someone else runs with it, or points me to it. I'd love to have a subscription service where I put in $X/month, lets me select from a few priorities and maybe check off things I already have, and start shipping sensible supplies to me on a schedule.

(I googled around and saw http://www.myapocabox.com/ , but to my mind that's more parlor trick or even just something you sorta do for fun if you're in that culture. I'm talking something more like where you put in $X/month, and unless you say you already have one, it starts you off with basic first aid, moves to other basics, maybe throws some long-term food supplies in after a few months, etc. Something meant just to make you robust against reasonable disasters moreso than something to help you recarve civilization out of the nearest copse of trees.)

It's important and useful to be robust against real issues like power loss for a week (it's happened) or other such basics, but it's hard to keep a list yourself and expensive enough if you try to prep for it all at once that it inhibits doing it.


So you're not in the camp of 'the government will help me' but you're in the camp 'a private company will help me' ?

Only you can know what supplies and know-how you will need for the specific disaster scenarios that you might encounter.

I'm sure you don't need more than 2 hours to make a plan and one hour a month after that to buy the things you would need. If you care enough you should be able to find the time.


Don't recall saying anything about government or private companies. A bit strange to claim how only an individual can know what they need on an article about what people need. And I explicitly meant more prep than I can indeed do in 2 hours or with a month's discretionary income, not to mention the possibility of helping others do it.

I can see you're really chomping at the bit to attack, attack, attack somebody, but why don't you go find a better target? Or, failing that, stop jamming words in my mouth and then attacking those?


Sorry if it came as an attack it was not my intention. I apologize. English is not my native language and I'm afraid I did a poor job at explaining myself.

What I meant was : don't loose your time with a private company that will send you probably useless prep stuff since they don't know you, your needs and the scenarios you're preparing for.

I believe you will always do better than them even if you don't dedicate a whole lot of time to it.

I was comparing the government and private companies since I believe they will do both a poor job helping you get prepared.


> But the universe is a harsh mistress, and there is only so much faith we should be putting in good fortune, in benevolent governments, or in the wonders of modern technology. So, always have a backup plan.

Has Nature been unfaithful to us?(!!) A mother must discipline her children. As far as I've seen, she does it out of love, even when it hurts. She simply wants her children to grow up, far beyond what limits and mistakes they currently make, preferably before getting burned.

---

Thanks for this great post.. For more reliable lifestyle info, you can find a treasure trove at http://survivalistboards.com , and if you just want to kick back and listen to some great dialogues before stepping up: http://thesurvivalpodcast.com , James Wesley Rawles, Cody Lundin, Marjory Wildcraft, peakmoment, wildernessoutfitters, wranglerstar, ferfal, INETeconomics, ...


I wonder if anyone's written a guide for surviving a not-too-long term emergency for residents of a large city. Everyone basically agrees that the best thing to do in case of a large-scale emergency is to leave the city - but my wife and I aren't prepared for camping, and we're definitely not prepared to walk out of Manhattan with five million other people into Jersey.

Where's the guide for what to do in case of a solar storm that knocks out the power grid for a month when you're a resident of Chicago, or New York, or Los Angeles?


This is general advice for earthquakes and other disasters:

- As soon possible, gather fresh water. Drain the pipes in sinks and showerheads; if you don't have enough containers, fill up the bathtub.

- Have non-perishable food on hand (cans mostly). Mind the expiration date.

- Have a deadbolt (if you are worried about your neighbors).

- Invest in a good first aid kit and learn how to use it. They sell larger ones designed to live in your car or home (not the portable, throw-in-backpack kind).


I'd question the presumption that any calamity requires city dwellers to "bug out". Doing so means you'll be part of a massive hoard of scared and desperate people, and you can only carry so many supplies.

Worth consideration is staying put, fortifying your apartment or house and working with neighbors as the situation calms down.


Sounds like you're at the mercy of government emergency planning at that point. (Not saying that it's a bad thing, but as you and the other reply say, it's not practical for millions to "bug out" to Jersey.)


It's interesting that the author doesn't talk about insurance in the money sections much. I find I sleep a lot better at night knowing that if we do have a fire, or crash a car, or have a major health situation, or someone slips on our sidewalk and sues us, we have adequate downside protection.


> or someone slips on our sidewalk and sues us

first world problems :)


Hey, can anyone point to any resources related to hyper inflation/economic crisis? Think zimbabwe or greece


We come with pretty good default settings.

Keep in shape, learn basic survival skills suitable to your climate, and keep a small kit of portable tools. If anything catastrophic happens, enable hunter-gatherer mode and start migrating. Our species did this for 95% of its existence, you’ll be fine.


For 95% percent of our existence, population density was waay lower than now. If shit hits the fan in a populated area, and no outside help can get in, people starve.


I grew up in the rocky mountians, and even though the snows have been less so, it was the sort of place my grandpa tells stories of blizzards 8ft deep that would get people trapped in for weeks.

The number one thing you want is water or a way to get water.

Number two is food or ways to get food.

Number three is heating/shelter.

You get those three things and learn how to get them (hunting, fishing, foraging, etc) and youll be just fine.

As for food, to give us a comfortable buffer, we had an entire wall dedicated to 5 gallon buckets of freeze dried stuffs like egg, milk, beans, rice, basics such as that.

Water is best to have you own independent well, and a filtration device for us while foraging and a bigger one for local high volume water if there is no well.

These basics are what anyone preparing for almost any disaster or emergency should do.


The best thing about the apocalypse that I have read is Justin Cronin's "The Passage" - book one of a trilogy, I'm a little way into book 2 "The Twelve".

Although, if The Passage were to happen all your preparations would be for naught!


I noticed some strange behaviour on that website: When I mouse-select text sometimes a word later in the same line would begin to wiggle around.

For example in the paragraph 'Gadget Upgrades'.

A short google search brought up nothing. Any clues?


> Global thermonuclear war (Alas Babylon, Mad Max, Fallout),

Pretty poor choice of references here. In terms of movies, "The Day After" is the most viewed movie of all time, and certainly one of the best references for the impact of Global Thermonuclear war and what happens next on an individual level if you even make it. Mad Max is a fiction as best that has about nothing to do with thermonuclear war (it just serves as a background to start the story, but you can't see any of its consequences).

A little shocked the author did not mention it at all.


Threads was much better, and far more depressing, than The Day After.


For reasons I still don't fully understand our science teacher showed us that film when I was about fifteen, and some of the scenes in it still haunt me. I slightly blame it for my fascination with post-apocalyptica (and if that's not a word, it should be).

This was in the late nineties, so long after the world was expecting nuclear war at any moment, so I have no idea why she showed it - parts of it she refused to watch, so I assume it wasn't just that she wasn't aware quite his brutal it is.


The calm official-sounding voiceover in Threads is the worst part of it all I reckon. It just gives it the feel of a documentary which makes it even scarier.



back in the early 90s, they used to teach this stuff in schools here in california (earthquake prep). it wasn't crazy at all, it was widely accepted that you should have supplies for up to a week at home. i remember homework assignments in elementary school related to this.

SF and LA were hit hard in 80s/90s by big earthquakes - that actually happened. i grew up less than 20 miles from northridge - i remember eating granola bars and boiling water after the northridge quake. this shit actually happened to me; i ate actual fucking granola bars that we kept in actual ziploc bags because our electricity actually didn't work and the stores were actually closed. we surely wouldn't have starved, but they sure did come in handy when you're hungry right after a huge earthquake. do you want to beg your neighbors for a snack?

since that era we've had 2 genuine city-level SHTF situations (LA riots and Katrina, more if you count 9/11 and lesser storm systems) and for some reason preparedness has become less of a concern. 20 years pass and people just forget. memories are short. not mine.

i know multiple people who had to defend their lives and livelihoods with guns. real, normal people who now work in tech like you and me, who had to stand on roof tops with guns, in the middle of LA. right next to downtown. imagine this happening in midtown manhattan, or market street in sf. it's sheer madness, and it actually happened. and i'm sure anyone in the other LA (louisiana) can tell the same kinds of stories. and where were the cops? that's right - nowhere to be found when the shit hits the fan.

it can, and will, happen again. i think as you get older you start to realize just how tenuous civilized society really is and how quickly it can revert to an animalistic shitstorm. i keep several jerry cans of water and canned/dried food in my place, and am capable of defending myself. people think i'm crazy when i tell them i have this stuff. i think you're crazy if you don't. i know exactly what it's like to be woken up violently in the middle of the night and find that everything around you has gone straight to hell.

http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Timeline-The-Northri...

6:50 a.m.: Hundreds of gas main and water main breaks reported. Parts of LA and Ventura counties are without running water or gas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgCiC6qTtjs


No mention of Bitcoin?

Oh right, the experiment failed.

Too bad, too bad.




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