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Doomsday planning for less crazy folk (coredump.cx)
575 points by mcone 143 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 330 comments



The major thing overlooked here is mindset. After 14 years in the military and experience with several armed conflicts and humanitarian disasters, I have seen that pretty much all your plans and preparation will go out the window, so you need to learn to move adapt and improvise.

If you're going to survive any contingency scenario you need to be resilient, excruciatingly innovative and mentally tough. Think more like MacGyver and less like Dr Strangelove.

Be minimal, learn how to forage and scavenge, learn how to blend in and get along and take nothing for granted.

The most successful trait I've seen in survivors it's to know when to stay put and when to move. Whether it's hiding from a mob or a bear, or finding a different county or state to go to.

Take risk when necessary but not unnecessarily.

Again, having the right mindset, through intentional training is the key. There are all kinds of survival schools and the best ones will teach you this. I suggest adventure traveling as a start. That means you go someplace with no plans and the most minimal of supplies.

Edit to add: The key problem with most prepper folks and this article is that they take an approach of "alone and unafraid." Things like stocking up for months and having all kinds of weapons. In practice this is just a great way to get your cache raided by a group of scavengers. In reality you need to find or create a small community of survival minded people that can work together successfully over a long period with a variety of skills. As humans we need groups for survival, so the best bet in a crisis is to build a resilient flexible community until things settle down.


[Author here]

The mindset is actually a large component of this guide, and it intentionally delays any discussion of "prepper gear" until it gets through a long laundry list of lifestyle tips and discussing the need to plan ahead, figure out what is likely, what can go wrong, what the decisions points may be, etc. In contrast to most other prepping docs, weapons are literally the last thing discussed, and only in a perfunctory way.

That said, I think that your view of emergency preparedness is far more narrow than what I aimed for in the guide. A significant focus of the doc is dealing with small-scale but common adversities, such as recessions / unemployment, house fires, backed-up sewage, and other "boring" but life-altering contingencies. Basically, the stuff that almost everybody will need to face at some point in their lives.

I'd wager that for 90%+ of the events that a typical person in the US is likely to experience, heading into the woods to forage on berries and hunt wildebeest is not the way to go.


I dunno, I re-read the beginning and I didn't see anything about the points I raised. I think your point that overzealous people who as you put it:

begin by shopping for ballistic vests and night vision goggles; they would be better served by grabbing a fire extinguisher, some bottled water, and then putting the rest of their money in a rainy-day fund.

is right on point, but IMO that just says - hey don't be insane.

Literally right now, my good friends are being rescued from a rooftop in Houston. No number of bottles of water in their basement or generators are going to help them. They are lucky in that they have some discretionary funds and Flood insurance, but more likely than not (if history repeats itself) they wont get fully paid out for what they lost.

What they should have done is learned when to move or when to stay by: 1. Not buying a house in Houston and then 2. Gotten out well before it was imminent.

Small scale common adversities like you are talking about can get critical really quickly. All those preparations, other than just having savings, is just making you slightly more comfortable and buy you a little bit of time so that you can make a bigger plan. Good, but insufficient and gives you a false sense of security. Again, these are things I've seen over and over.

Planning for the range of disasters from a month of unemployment and TEOTWAWKI is the same basic mental change, not just a full basement and bank account.


Is there a middle ground? My kids went as part of a team to help people rebuild after Katrina and one of the folks they met was rebuilding their house but building it as a boat. They had re-done the foundation so that the house rested on it, and its sewer connection was just the house pipe inset into the city pipe (so it could easily lift out). That, 15' of chain to allow the house to float above the foundation and central concrete and iron pillar which was essentially the keel.

I thought of them reading about Harvey and I am wondering if they will show up on the news at some point.

I compared it a bit to my efforts to insure my house remains intact and upright in the event of an earthquake (the 'likely' disaster where I live).


There certainly is a middle ground - however why stay in the same place and expect a different future? New Orleans isn't that much more prepared for another flood. Houston re-did the entire bayou system about 5 years ago and yet here we are.

People's aversion to moving, especially after a major disaster, boggles my mind.


To take it a step further, the area in which I come from has been hit hard with economic and social disasters. Even though factories are closing down and heroin deaths are rising each day, people choose to stay here. Family and other social networks are a big part of it I think, as someone said downthread.

I bolted as soon as I could to gain employment and the resources of a bigger city. It still boggles my mind that more people my age don't, as things seem to be getting worse rather than better. But it's home, it's familiar, it's comforting, no matter what issues may loom. I had cousins refuse to leave post-Katrina New Orleans for similar reasons.

Sorry, just a comparison to your line of thinking from a different angle, slightly related.


> People's aversion to moving, especially after a major disaster, boggles my mind.

Social connections, networks that enable employment, and a lack of serious financial reserves (which will always be true for ~50% of people) are the main reasons.

And no area is immune to disaster and lacks challenges.

The "low natural disaster" areas have a total lack of warning before disaster strikes, heavy snowfall that can cripple normal services, deserts with poisonous creatures, or some combination of those three.

For the most part, to be perfectly honest, as long as you are capable of picking up and moving on short notice...hurricane country is actually safer due to the amount of warning you get.


Central/eastern Europe is pretty good as far as disasters go. The most likely thing to happen is flooding from the local river and majority of them have designated flood areas. After that it's just heat waves and occasional freezing days. (Mostly affects elderly) No wildlife to worry about. Snow is common enough that a lot of people know to switch to winter tyres and roads are salted and cleared.


Central/eastern Europe is pretty good as far as disasters go.

Natural disasters, perhaps.

That region doesn't have a great record in terms of political stability, and often has the bad luck of being in the middle of a warzone though.


This a humongous generalization.

There's about 1/10th of the region that was in a war zone in the last 70 years (Yugoslavia, Eastern Ukraine), and those wars didn't really concern neighboring countries.

Regarding political stability, I'd argue that a huge part of the region was very stable for 40 years, under the Communist yoke :p


There's about 1/10th of the region that was in a war zone in the last 70 years (Yugoslavia, Eastern Ukraine), and those wars didn't really concern neighboring countries.

That 70 years (which is debatable!) maybe the longest period of peace in the area in recorded history. Possibly the peace of 1871 to 1914 is the only other alternative.

Here's a list of conflicts in Europe since 1945[1]. Even before the fall of the Soviet Union there were some conflicts. For example, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was in 1968 and was a reasonable major conflict.

(Note that I'm not claiming that Eastern/Central Europe is unique in this! Mostly densely populated areas are similar, and Western Europe scores only slightly better if you don't count revolutionary movements within the counties).

Regarding political stability, I'd argue that a huge part of the region was very stable for 40 years, under the Communist yoke

Yes, indeed this is true. As I note above the 1945-1990 period was very stable except for Czechoslovakia invasion of course. They were pretty lucky in Poland in the 1980s too.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pax_Europaea


After '90, if you discount all the Russia-provoked conflicts, there's basically only ex-Yugoslavia as far as conflicts are concerned. Every other event on that list would basically count as a normal day in Baltimore :)

You can never predict the future but I'm willing to bet that the following countries will be peaceful for at least the next 20 years:

- Czech Republic

- Slovakia

- Poland

- Hungary

- Slovenia

- Croatia

- Romania

- Albania

Places like the Czech Republic will probably be among the safest places on Earth, both regarding economic, political stability and possible outside aggression, for the next half a century, in my opinion.

On the other hand, people were saying similar things before WW1 :D


if you discount all the Russia-provoked conflicts

Hmm. I'm not sure that is a great way of looking at it while Russia is still there.

Poland

I'm not sure about that. The Kaliningrad Oblast is a real problem - historically oblasts haven't been very stable politically.

Generally speaking though, I think most of those countries are NATO members (not sure about Albania?). That means that if any NATO member country is attacked they will all be dragged in.

If the US got dragged into a war on the Korean peninsular then I'm not sure Putin could resist the temptation of Estonia or Latvia. And I'm not sure what would happen then.

Or who knows what will happen in (NATO Member) Turkey. Three years ago they nearly got in a shooting war with Russia. Now they are good friends.. at the moment.

I've spent some great times in Central Europe, and I'm cautiously optimistic about the area. But that doesn't mean there aren't real, significant risks.


The invasion of Czechoslovakia was relatively bloodless - compare with 1956 in Hungary.


Yes, good point. I can't believe I forgot that!


Some storms too that break trees and take down shingles. I think the most common death by nature might be getting hit by a tree during or after a storm.


Romanian villages and small cities have problems with flooding almost yearly. And there's also the risk of earthquakes.


If you're in Transylvania in a non-flood zone you should be in one of the safest regions on Earth, as far as natural disasters are concerned.


While, that is, the pretty regular small earthquakes in the Vrancea county that borders Transylvania, release the pressure! At least, I assume that's better than a long period of ominous silence - I'm not a geologist!


To be honest, the legal environment in Central/Eastern Europe in regards to speech would be a greater threat to me than the environment.


Well, they really didn't "redo the entire bayou system". They considered alternatives and chose the most politically correct one for the parties involved. They knew it wasn't enough for something like Harvey but they didn't think there would be a Harvey( a supposed "500-year event") anytime soon. Black Swan anyone?

AndrewKemendo says: "People's aversion to moving, especially after a major disaster, boggles my mind."

But where do you go to be safe from disasters?

California - earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, torrential rains, rip currents, and even volcanoes

Gulf Coast - hurricanes

Midwest - tornadoes

etc.

Slate Magazine set out to find where you could live free of potential disasters. See:

"Where To Hide From Mother Nature"

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_gist/200...

Their conclusion:

"Slate's "America's Best Place to Avoid Death Due to Natural Disaster": the area in and around Storrs, Conn., home to the University of Connecticut..."

Read the article to see if you're ready to make the move.


Dayton tops the list for least natural disaster prone. Similar with Southern Maryland. Denver is pretty high on the list and Seattle seems pretty safe too.

There are plenty of places to go.

For some reason we seem to love to build massive cities on disaster areas. I'm looking at you SF, LA and NYC.

But hey fuck it, lets just continue being bad at statistics and assume that because a natural disaster happened recently it won't happen again for a long time (the idea of a "500 year" storm is insane).

[1]https://www.cbsnews.com/media/top-10-safest-us-cities-from-n...


Seattle is safe? Aren't they under impending doom from the Cascade fault[1]?

[1]http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/11/us/cascadia-subduction-zone-ea...


Along with the giant volcano to the East. :)


If the Yellowstone super volcano erupts, it doesn't really matter where in the northern hemisphere you live - in fact life on _most_ of the earth's surface is going to suck for a few decades after that.


I meant Mt Rainier.


Seattle has valve nearby. If anyone ever buys some expensive gem and jams it into exotic machinery.. my bet is on these guys. So very dangerous place to live in..


> etc.

You can't just name three places in a very large country and then say 'etc'.

There are plenty of places with much lower risks of natural disasters. That's a big part of the reason my family lives in central New York.


Upstate New York has some pretty terrible flooding. I don't know where you consider "central New York" (it is -- after all -- a large state). The corridor along I-86 (Elmira, Corning, Hornell, etc), where I lived for a few years, has built up extensive flood controls to prevent future damage. A lesson hard learned from multiple severe floods. Then there was bad flooding just a few years ago in the Mohawk River valley centered around Herkimer.

Probably just the tip of the iceberg in a state that sees a lot of annual rainfall.


That's an easily solved problem though... don't buy a house in a floodplain...

I live in the hills southeast of Syracuse.


Big snowstorms every year. Tornadoes many years.


Tiny tornadoes... nowhere even close to the scale and frequency of midwestern twisters.

Snow? A minor inconvenience, at worst. It's a frequent enough occurrence that municipalities are we set up to deal with it. If you don't have snow tires, there will be maybe 24-48 hours per year that you won't want to go driving (with snow tires, that timeframe is an order of magnitude less).


The difference between a tiny tornado and a big tornado is immaterial when your house is in the path.

There were at least four times in the twenty years that I lived in upstate NY that snowstorms caused power outages and impassable roads at the same time.

You can't just name one place as safe from natural disasters and then explain that the two natural disasters that they get there don't count.


Tornado threat may be sufficiently mitigated just by digging a [dry] hole in the ground, and getting into it whenever the sirens go off. If you have enough money, you can bolt a steel box to your foundation and hide in that instead.

We can actually build structures that can withstand [the most common] tornadoes, without adding too much to the cost of construction. Basically, monolithic concrete shell structures over inflatable forms are effectively "tornado proof", without additional engineering.

The nasty natural disasters in the Midwest are not just blizzards, but freezing rain storms. A coating of ice an inch thick on everything is guaranteed to take down trees and power lines, and make all roads completely impassable. You get up to a week without civilization. For example, if your furnace catches fire, you can call 911, and later find out that the first fire truck they sent out slid off the road into a ditch on the way to your house, and the guys that finally showed up two hours later were the second truck, sent over from the next township (true story). On the Great Plains, it's drought and brushfires. You get to spend a season watching everything turn brown, and then your town burns because some jackoff threw a cigarette butt out of his window on the highway, or because lightning struck the wrong spot.

Thanks to modern meteorology, tornadoes are just much less a threat than they used to be. They might pick off a person here or there every season, but when they do, there will always be neighbors around ready to help. They just don't wipe out an entire city, leaving everyone essentially on their own, because they are all (sometimes literally) in exactly the same boat.

And that's exactly why I am comfortable living in an area where the major natural disaster threats are tornadoes and flash floods.


> People's aversion to moving, especially after a major disaster, boggles my mind.

There was a period where the banking regulator for New Zealand was going to force all the major banks to move their IT shops from Wellington to Christchurch because Wellington was at too high a risk of a natural disaster.

A couple of years later, an earthquake on a hitherto-unknown fault flattened Christchurch.


That's why I walk on the middle of the road - people have been killed on the sidewalks!


You uh... don't know too many people from New Orleans do you? Ask them to move and they will look at you as if you'd grown another head. Maybe moving elsewhere is easy for you, upper-middle-class person with marketable skills and no loyalties. But to them it's like saying "Hey, why don't you just walk away from everyone and everything, the people and sights and smells and sounds, you cherish? You won't? What are you, insane?"


You won't find argument from me that people are irrational friend.


It's more than just irrationality. I've never been there, but from what I've seen New Orleans has a unique culture that you can't find anywhere else. It's not irrational to want to be part of that culture, even if there's the occasional risk of flooding.


Makes sense not to move if you own a home. Property will be hardest to sell right after disaster.

Let alone moving means you need to convince your Family and their other family and their other family's family to move etc. Or go it alone but ties like that are strong.

Is everyone on HN moving to their optimal place regardless of friends or family considerations?


Your current house is a sunk cost. I have sold a house at a loss and moved to a different city. I didn't like it, but moving was the right thing so I did.


That is true it's a sunk cost. But still gains made on the capital can be high after the disaster. It's like holding stocks after the GFC.


The vast majority of emergency situations that a person is going to face isn't going to require something so drastic as moving.

Most people are not going to have to worry about a hurricane or a flood. Most people have more mundane problems, that are still potentially life altering.


There is a really interesting episode of the UK show Grand Designs that follows someone in a flood prone area who built a house that essentially rests within its own drydock structure. Worth a watch if you find this sort of thing interesting and the show is fascinating in general. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16scx81p2w4


We spent nearly 9 months house hunting in Scotland - I was genuinely shocked to find out that new houses were often in fairly high risk areas for flooding. Trying to find somewhere rural in the right area with low flooding risk and low risk from mining related problems and with decent internet access was non-trivial.


Depending on where this is, you can think of it as generations of people have already picked out and settled in the naturally safe spots. What's left then are the less desirable, potentially riskier locations.


IMO the middle ground is to move!

I live in a place where other than a 3-4 days of average annual disruption due to snow, the only real natural disaster risks are associated by poorly engineered and maintained sewers backing up.

I find it bizarre that I've spent millions over the years providing disaster recovery and resiliency for relatively unimportant things, but the combo of a devastating hurricane in Texas and major earthquake in Northern California could essentially trigger a economic calamity.


Amsterdam has entire neighborhoods of floating houses. Not houseboats, but house-shaped houses that float. See:

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2015/06/the-floating-houses-of-...


    its sewer connection was just the house pipe inset
    into the city pipe
That connection isn't too bad, but I'm curious how they dealt with water supply and (if they have it) natural gas? Those are much harder to make flexible.


They make flexible lines for both.


> Literally right now, my good friends are being rescued from a rooftop in Houston. No number of bottles of water in their basement or generators are going to help them.

Some of this outcome is a direct result of conforming to commercially-fabricated social pressure. In this particular case, floodplain maps are publicly and freely available, so anyone can build structures that rise well above the highest-projected floods.

Except that developers don't want to have to build on top of stilts or as tethered floating structures. It decreases the available pool of customers looking for a pre-packaged vision of what they "should" buy, and it's more expensive than "conventional" building designs.

This illustrates that for some, a preparedness mindset can include thinking for oneself and outside social norms, with the aim of avoiding placing themselves in a situation that calls for preparedness to begin with. Teaching youngsters how to deconstruct the marketing that militates against this kind of mindset to externalize a future cost upon them in order to lift an immediate profit into the commercial entities standing behind those forces, can passively preempt many preparedness scenarios.


Developers are just responding to market signals. The underlying problem in the U.S. is that the federal government backstops 98% of flood insurance policies and does not charge the actuarial risk price. This government subsidy gives people incentives to overbuild and underprotect property in flood-prone areas.


I like the idea that un-socializing flood risk pools might align incentives better... but my guess is that's not what would happen. Instead, by and large, people would estimate risk the way most humans do, which is to say "badly," and would value the premium money more than protection from events whose cycle is long enough that they seem like freak occurrences to some. If that's the case -- if that's been the case in the past -- then putting the government as the cause is putting the cart before the horse. It isn't that the market bent to the shape it's in because of the government, it's that the government adapted to the shape of the market and provided the socialized form of insurance that people were most amenable to.


Exactly. To this day I don't understand how building on a slab is even considered insurable unless you're basically on a hilltop.


Sounds like a good case for better building regulations and less reliance on hand-wavy free-market woo


The classic Queenslander house is built up high so it can stay cool and probably also good for a flooding scenario.


It all depends upon how they are built. I remember a number of Queenslanders ended up floating away because the waters went above floor level. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-02/floodwaters-sweep-away....

They tend to not do very well in cyclones unless the builder has been very careful about tying the stumps to the floor to the walls to the roof.


That's fascinating, thanks for the info; the Texas coast has some houses with a similar design [1]. While some use wood stilts, some are going into full fortified designs [2]. Even further afield, using principles established with invisibility cloaking research might offer even more protection in the future [3]. If plasma gasification-produced slag-based pozzolanic concrete can be proven safe and efficacious, then the pillars could literally be partially built out of garbage, co-generating energy and rock wool at the same time.

[1] http://pictures.escapia.com/PTARES/1866960517.jpg

[2] http://www.texasgulfcoastonline.com/News/tabid/86/ctl/Articl...

[3] https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14829-invisibility-cl...


Those are common along the Carolina coast (which gets hit with Atlantic hurricanes). They're supposed to be built with strapping that connects the roof to the walls, the walls to the floor joists, and then to the posts. Building up like this gets you above the storm surge and gives you a place to park the car (you'll lose the car and the lawnmower, but that's minor compared to losing the house).

They're also supposed to have hurricane-rated glazing. One thing that destroys homes is when an opening gets made, allowing the wind inside. So having strong glass (or boarding-up) is a big deal.


Fun fact I met the author of #3. Nice guy.


> What they should have done is learned when to move or when to stay by: 1. Not buying a house in Houston and then 2. Gotten out well before it was imminent

I'm not sure what degree of freedom you're supposing they have, but not everyone is able to uproot their life on some survivalist kick. Plenty of people have their roots and networks where they are, so "just don't live there" isn't a universally applicable "fix".

I've been fortunate enough to be able to move to a place ideally suited to my needs (and as I don't need much I suppose I could move on relatively short notice if needed) but even I recognize that not everyone can afford to follow suit.


You're missing his point. He's not saying he expects everyone to do this. He's just saying when to move or not move is often more important than any other considerations.

Note that he included as an option leaving well before the storm hit. And there was plenty of warning on this storm.


Exactly, there is no reason anyone should be on the roof of their homes in Houston other than inability to heed warnings and read a weather report.


When a mass evacuation of Houston occurred due to Hurricane Rita, 107 people died from the conditions caused by the mass evacuation. The conditions on the roads were very very poor for those following your suggested advice of "heeding the warnings". The storm in the end was not as big of an event as it was made out to be.

It's not as simple a decision as you're making it out to be.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Rita#Evacuation_deat...


The governor told people to leave. The mayor told people to stay. One of them isn't going to be reelected next term...

Probably what should have happened (I'm using my perfect hindsight here..) is they should have told people living in low-lying areas to either go live with relatives or friends who were on high ground, or leave town altogether. And everyone else to stay. This would have prevented the mass exodus that clogged roads during previous storms, but gotten more people to safety.


I agree that the best option was people who had options leaving early enough that it didn't cause traffic snarls. That leaves emergency services with fewer people to handle in the worst case.

Despite what I said before, I agree it's a really tricky call, especially for authorities considering a mass evacuation, which is often not the best thing. Houston has a lot of people, that changes everything.


> What they should have done is learned when to move or when to stay by: 1. Not buying a house in Houston and then 2. Gotten out well before it was imminent.

The reports I've seen are describing the Houston situation as a 1 in a 1000 year flood. Does it really make sense to avoid a place based on the possibility of such rare events?


Katrina was a "once a hundred year" storm. Likewise Sandy. Now Harvey is a "once in 500".

All within 12 years. I think we should stop measuring against data from a different global climate.


A "hundred year storm" doesn't mean we expect one per hundred years globally, but one per hundred years locally.


Even that is a little misleading (given how bad our intuition about statistics is). A '100 year flood' is flood that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year (it's independent of what happened 1, 5, or 50 years ago).

Calling it a '100 year flood' makes people think 'oh, good, now we shouldn't have one of those for another ~100 years'. In reality, the odds of a flood of the same magnitude occurring next year are exactly the same as they were this year.

Grady (of the Practical Engineering YouTube channel) has a great video on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EACkiMRT0pc

(Grady is in the Austin area, so hopefully he hasn't too much 'practical' experience from this storm...)


The other thing to remember is a 5 year flood and a 100 year flood are often not very different in size.


I mean the same areas that flooded now flooded in Ike, Rita and Allison, so yea it does make sense. My family lived through each and I'm not sure why they stick where they are.


from what I can tell, it's healthier to live near the water, especially the ocean. so would you see also having an inland retreat as an appropriate set up?


When you buy a house in a town there's some chance you may spend the rest of your life there. Even if the risk really is 1/1000 per year, it's still N/1000 per house.

And the risk may be higher than 1/1000 per year given how much motivation is out there to understate the risk and say that nobody could have seen this coming.


It makes sense to rationalize a disaster as somebodys own fault, to get out of the guilt anyone should feel who is so anti-social he can abandon his community on a whime.


> No number of bottles of water in their basement

Some bottles of water on the rooftop could allow them to stay a little more comfortable until help arrives.


water on the roof will not last as long though.


Depending on how long the rescue, takes having food and clean water could be important.


Even here in this thread we've quickly devolved to discussing gear. :)

I remember reading a few prepper forums and most members there were more focused on homesteading and preparing for social collapse than a more probable (and manageable) natural disaster or unemployment. The former is more exciting and allows them to escape the everyday drudgeries of life, which is probably why people easily lean in that direction.

btw I skimmed your guide and it seems very thorough, but is also super lengthy. I noticed you clearly broke information into distinct sections--perhaps including and outline with those links at the top may help readability? Thanks for writing this.


I wish people like you took a look at human history before you advices people on how to survive the "doomsday". We've actually been through a lot of "doomsdays" in the past and yet your advice falls awful short of what successful survivors actually did.

Because a lot of the times going to your farmland cottage is the best option you have. Especially if you know basic farming, a range of macgyverisk skills and how to genuinely become friendly with anyone. (Pandemics, climate change disasters, local riots, social break downs).

Then you have a thing like war or civil war, where you're best option is fleeing to another country as early as possible. Both to get a head start on the other refugees but more importantly, fast enough to beat the eventual border wall.

Which is really the problem with your "guide". You need three things, knowing when to get out and when to hide. Knowing how to live without being dependent on scavaging/stored food/modern society. Knowing how to get along with other people.

If you're an oddball with a lot of guns, food and what not, people are going to murder you to take your shit or they are going to burn you on a pyre for being weird/unliked/different.


> I'd wager that for 90%+ of the events that a typical person in the US is likely to experience, heading into the woods to forage on berries and hunt wildebeest is not the way to go.

I think a better question is to what extent having the skills to forage, hunt, and survive in the woods will improve your life quality/expectancy. Of course that's not going to be your #1 plan most of the time, but that seems orthogonal to the value of having those skills.


> After 14 years in the military and experience with several armed conflicts and humanitarian disasters, I have seen that pretty much all your plans and preparation will go out the window, so you need to learn to move adapt and improvise.

Eisenhower said it best: Plans are worthless, but planning is priceless.


This is great advice. My entire military career has instilled one important value: don't panic, everything can always get worse.


For more on the mindset of survival, I highly, highly recommend the book "Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why" [1]

The author explores a bunch of real-life disaster/survival stories and gets into the mindset qualities displayed by the individuals who survive vs. those that don't.

Towards the end he lists the 10 major mental attitudes that will greatly contribute to a successful outcome.

It is one of my all-time favorite books, I have read it 10+ times.

[1] http://amzn.to/2vjgGen


"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." - Eisenhower

The idea being that the process of planning makes you more easily able to react when everything goes to shit. Eg don't treat a plan like a recipe for success.


Another fine military planning quote: "A plan only lasts until the first shot."


And Mike's Tyson's derivative: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." Make sure your plan is flexible!


Relentlessly resourceful.

It's a false dichotomy though to say mindset is the only thing that's important, it's the most important but not a panacea.

Also, it's going to suck if there's a massive/gradual increase in prices of food over 10-50 years plus for people whom haven't stockpiled calories, lipids and protein when it was cheap. That's something that can't be fixed without a little preparation: not going crazy with a bunker and a bunch of crap, just getting the major things right.

Finally, when the food runs out, if you don't have an AR and a defensible homestead, you're gonna be preyed upon by strangers and/or neighbors because that's just human nature.


I live in Toronto and I've always said if shit hits the fan, my first stop is probably Robarts Library at U of T.

edit: photo -- http://www.blogto.com/upload/2015/04/20150415-Robarts-Side.j...

The place is a massive, brutalist compound. And the knowledge it contains would be invaluable! Especially for people like me with limited biological or medical knowledge. The practical resources they knowledge would open up would make a massive difference.

That said, I'd probably still carry a proverbial stick.

Anyway, top rate insights.


Just get a copy of something like https://www.amazon.com/Mayo-Clinic-Family-Health-Book/dp/160...

1400 pages of small print, plenty enough information relative to the time you would have to reference it in an urgent situation.


Also get a copy of https://www.amazon.com/Where-There-No-Doctor-Handbook/dp/094...

Slightly more focused on pediatrics, but super useful resource when other literature says "At this point, head to the emergency room or call 911".


Awesome. Come to think of it, I think my parents may have had a copy.

Beyond that, there would be a ton of information on mechanics and ecology that I couldn't possibly keep in my head. Books on mycology, and other resources that would help in foraging would allow long walks through the countryside to be feasible. As long as one had some way to transport a small library of such materials!


> In reality you need to find or create a small community of survival minded people that can work together successfully over a long period with a variety of skills.

Neil Strauss (the Rolling Stone writer) wrote Emergency where he documents his tour through prepper-dom. Slight spoiler here, but he ends up coming to the same conclusion you do in your last sentence. He took CERT (community emergency response team) training and that is what he ultimately found to be most satisfying.


Yes CERT is great, my immediate family are all CERT members and I'd suggest it for anyone.


I can't imagine that a large metro area after a natural disaster like a flood will have much there to scavenge? It would be hard enough to find things that aren't soaked in toxic sludge-water, but the number of other people also trying to scavenge are bound to outstrip whatever meager resources are available.


A large metro after the flood will have emergency help coming from all over. You just have to live a couple weeks. As all the scavengers outstrip the local supplies aid will come in.


> The most successful trait I've seen in survivors it's to know when to stay put and when to move.

@andrewkemendo, can you say more about this? Is there a framework for making that decision based on situation on the ground, etc?


There are frameworks for common situations. Too many to list here, but a very common one is being lost while hiking / in the wilderness. People, especially men, will die not because they got lost, but because they moved afterwards when they should've sheltered in place and created signals for rescue.

Then on the other hand, if you're in a civil unrest situation outside of your home, moving is better than not.


I haven't studied it beyond recognizing that people who I have seen in a bad situation, and then subsequently saw them as one of a few remaining survivors, were either the first out of some place before a shit storm, or found a way to bunker down and wait for help while everyone else got lost/killed/starved.


Isn't that just survivor bias? Those people who survived when most people died were the ones who didn't do what most people did. But most of the time in life, most of the people survive and it is the few who don't.


Ha I think this is one of the few cases where survivorship bias might not be a bias.


Here is one place to obtain some mental toughness and survival skills at the same time: https://www.boss-inc.com/


Do you have any more info on 'adventure traveling'? It's hard to find anything online with the thousands of travel agencies and trip booking sites.


StutterSpeaker, your comment is dead. I don't think it ought to be, might want to check with the mods.


If you click on the timestamp and go to the comment page you can "vouch" for such comments, undeading them.


Oh, thank you! I will try that next time.


What'd it say? (just a synopsis?)


I vouched for it and it undead:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15111919


It's said that the US military is so good at war because even at times of peace it runs on chaos.


but "foraging" for water in an urban environment probably means stealing it


Possibly, but if that's what you need to do to survive you will. Finding and maintaining access to (aka defending) a water source is one of the most challenging parts of survival. Primarily because it locks you into a location if you let it and a quality source is a huge draw for populations - obviously.

In scenarios where you're out of municipal water a few days like is happening right now in Houston (Myself and my family have been through Allison, Rita, Ike and now Harvey) then having a water cache for a week is reasonable, though really hard to do, but that's really not what we're talking about.


I've got 40 gallons of potable water in the garage that I can tap into in an emergency. In fact, most of us do...


I have an artesian well, solar, wind, and hunt/fush/grow most of my food. The neighbor has a small farm. I'm also very remotely located.

It really isn't a prepper mentality. It's just how I prefer to live. Quite a bit could happen and my life would remain fairly unchanged.

I don't have these things so much for what people picture as emergencies. I have them because they are pretty necessary to live here. We have fairly high winds and blizzards that mean mains power is not very reliable. We have ice storms that shut things down for a while.

It's a bit of work, but it is enjoyable labor.


Can you share your location +-300km ?


Outside of Rangeley, Maine. Not far from Mt. Washington, which holds the land wind speed record. I usually get about 12' (somewhere around 3.5 meters) of snow), maybe a bit more.


Are you talking about hot water heaters?

I wonder if there are more in garages or more in basements. Hmm.


Where I live, basements aren't really a thing, but I can see how it could be problematic if the water heater was in a flooded basement. I wonder if you could rig up a manual air pump to force water out of it without using the drain tap at the bottom, though.


Most worldwide don't actually. Suburban single family homes, sure. Apartments and the like, much less so. Even less so, in non-western countries with electric under sink heaters.


portable water purifiers/desalinators are pretty useful, if you have access to any sort of water


Roof-fed tanks are becoming common where I live. The water is probably safe to drink without treatment (I spent my teenage years in a rural environment with entirely roof-fed water tanks), but boiling or chlorine will ensure that.


As a child I had a dead bird come through our Saudi compound apartment's roof-fed tank system.

Definitely an outlier but I would suggest purifying all water you consumer if possible.


Urban legend has it that dead bodies have occasionally been found in rooftop water tanks in Hong Kong.


My aunt and uncle who farm here in Scotland once thought that their water tasted a bit funny so went to inspect the water tank up on the hill that supplied their water. Inside the tank they found a well decomposed sheep.



Depends on where you live. I live in the NW where it rains for 9 months of the year and the other three months there are tons of rivers and lakes. All I really need to forage for water is a bucket and a purification system.

But I feel bad for people in places like Las Vegas and much of Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, etc. where foraging for water means death.


Why forage when you can easily store thousands of dense nonperishable calories at home? Heading out to the woods to pick a bucket of low calorie leafy greens seems like the last thing you want to be doing in a disaster.


The last thing you want to forage for in a survival scenario are greens - no competent authority would suggest that. Cattails, tubers and the like are basically worst case scenario.


Find a low elevation place and bring your shovel, water is there for the taking. While you're at it, bring your iodine tablets or water filter with you...because while water is everywhere, so is disease.


Surely being economically prepared as well would be useful. Having the gear both for bug out scenarios and bug in scenarios.

I know it's fun to rag on preppers, but in what way is keeping a year of food stocked and rotated through a bad idea? How is having solar panels a bad idea?


Food for a week? Good sense, although plenty of people in supposedly rich first-world nations struggle to have enough food for now, never mind a week spare.

Food for a month? Maybe if you live in a region that could easily be cut off in the event of disasters.

Food for a year? Listen, if things turn so badly to shit you need a year of food, food is going to be the least of your worries.


>if things turn so badly to shit you need a year of food, food is going to be the least of your worries.

I don't see why this is the case -- saying "doing X is going to be the least of your worries" seems to imply that there are going to be other priorities and "X" will be ignored -- i.e. "charging your phone is going to be the least of your worries." But food... you _need_ food, even if there are other crazy things happening all around you. If that's the case, I can't help thinking it would be better to do the things you CAN do to prepare. One less thing, etc.


It's a reflection of the idea that if civilisation collapses to the point you can't obtain food except by pulling it out of your emergency store a year later, you're probably going to have died of disease, injury, thirst, violence or a number of more pressing concerns.

Seriously, if the ability to get food to people has been down for a full year, you won't have medicine. You almost certainly won't have fuel, electricity, public order, sanitation, or clean water.


One thing that I think is frequently overlooked is that a person with a year's worth of food stored up also has enough to feed the whole neighborhood for a week if necessary, which might make a really big difference for a lot of people. Having the goods gives you a lot of flexibility and might take some of the pressure off of emergency relief services. I try to keep far more of the basic things on hand (first aid, food, and water purification stuff) than I think I'll need just because I know most people don't, and I live in a place with a moderate risk of catastrophic earthquakes and tornadoes.


If food supplies haven't been restored for a year, it means there's probably been some extreme collapse of society and loss of life. Never seeing your friends/family/loved ones again, just surviving day by day for no purpose. I'd rather die quickly in the early stages than survive in such a bleak world.


Practically everybody has food for a year. Few have food for a week and less for a month. When you need food for a year you can safely assume that nobody will ever care if you break into all your neighbor's houses. Their canned soup is part of your food for a year. When you need food for a week all your neighbors are looking at the pantry at the same time and trying to figure out if they can last two weeks.

Food for a month doesn't really exist as a need. Either emergency supplies from around the world arrive in less than two weeks, and you are safe, or they don't and you need food for a year.


Probably because the most prudent thing for someone with means to do in circumstances which would drive them to live under their house for a year would not be to live under their house for a year.

It's "not a bad idea, just a pointless one" when times are good, and a distraction from better options if something does happen.

But w/e


It's not a bad idea per se, it's just probably overkill. I mean I keep a bug out bag and a tub of supplies, so I don't disagree wholly, but it gets out of hand quickly if you aren't thinking critically about it.


What's in your bug out bag?


I've been in a number of major natural disasters at this point. Fukushima, Ike, Colorado's 2013 floods. I've also been in two shooting incidents (where fortunately only the shooter was hurt). My point is, I've been lucky so far because none of these posed a major problem for me. I made it out with manageable inconvenience.

However, I can only get lucky like that so many times.

So now I keep the following at home:

* 5 gallons drinking water

* Canned food for a week

* First aid kit

* Matches, lighter, Sterno cans

* Solar USB charger

* Many flashlights with spare batteries, plus a battery-powered lantern

* Hand-crank radio

* Solid liquor collection ;)

* Equipment to make a fresh cup of coffee with no electricity (Sterno, hand-crank coffee grinder, French press)

* A big bucket for, well, sanitation

I've also got my camping supplies, which includes a Coleman stove and a few small propane canisters. Having been in a few floods I will also never live in a ground-floor apartment. I also keep all this stuff boxed up in plastic crates, so if I needed to evacuate I could load up my car with all this gear in about 20 minutes and be on my way. My goal is to be able to survive a week trapped in my apartment with no utilities, or living out of my car for the same amount of time.

I bike to work and in my pannier I keep a Leatherman multitool, pocket knife, latex gloves (mostly for fixing my bike chain, but also useful in other emergencies), 3M N99 mask, flashlight, poncho, a garbage bag and a small thing of duct tape. In most of the kinds of disasters that hit Colorado, I would be able to get home, either walking or by bike. I only live about three miles from work.


Sounds like a great list. In my earthquake pack that is always in my car are a set of supplies that would let me hike from pretty much anywhere in the bay area back to my house.

One of the things I added was a 'suture kit'. This is a sealed set of supplies (the mechanics) that would let anyone trained in emergency medical care to address a fairly major laceration. I don't have those skills but as we have observed in disasters people with those skills tend to be fairly evenly distributed through the affected population but supplies for them to anything about it are impossible to get. As a result I've encouraged people to carry one "part" of a complete medical load out so that when they converge post disaster they will be able to assemble the necessary supplies for any doctors, nurses, or PAs in the group to work with. It also keeps peoples earthquake supplies from being a 'target' by looters who would look for drugs. No single individual has anything really 'loot worthy' for those people.


> As a result I've encouraged people to carry one "part" of a complete medical load out so that when they converge post disaster they will be able to assemble the necessary supplies

Twitch Plays Medical Monopoly


It might be crossing into the prepper territory too much but I'm really happy to have a 2 meter radio in my car/handheld tranceiver in my bag.

The cell network went down south of us during the eclipse but repeaters were still running just fine. Even if you don't have a license you're allowed to transmit in emergency situations.


It might be crossing into the prepper territory too much

Bah, a 2m radio is useful for more than EOW scenarios. I used mine just this past week during the eclipse thingy. No cell connection where we were at, but I could hear the local repeater and could make simplex contacts. Found out that Madras, OR was just as much of a goat rodeo as predicted, and just general chat. Had we had an emergency, I would have used the DeLorme (now Garmin) InReach satellite communicator, but probably would have tried to raise someone on the radio as well. And the InReach still relies on some infrastructure being in place (so I assume). Even if it all goes to hell, one radio will always be able to talk to another that's in range (which won't be but a few miles with a handheld, prolly 20 max).

For other camping scenarios, I've found the radio handy for getting the local lay of the land from time to time.

If one wants to purchase a radio, take the minimal time and effort to get a license. Sure, you can transmit in emergency situations, but that won't do you a damned bit of good if you don't know how to get the repeater to retransmit your signal, or what the calling frequencies are, or what all those buttons on the radio do. Take a class or read a book, get the license, know what the hell you're doing. There's a reason amateur radio operation is licensed, and it's not just to get $50 out of you every ten years.


Solid advice. As a recently licensed ham, I could tell you without a doubt that if I pulled my radio out of the box and tried to figure out what the hell to do with it in the midst of an emergency, the only thing I would accomplish is wasting LOTS of valuable time.

It took me weeks to get my radio set up exactly how I like it, but now I can tune into emergency services, GMRS/FRS, Marine VHF, and hundreds of ham repeaters throughout the NYC metro area.

My two key takeaways so far are A: you will not be able to look up what frequencies are used by which services if you don't plan ahead of time. RadioReference and RepeaterBook are useless if you can't get online. Your radio will be useless if you don't take the time to program it for your needs ahead of time. B: If you expect to lean on your radio for communication, there is simply no way to assess it's capabilities unless you put it to use, and for this you really ought to get a license. The technician class license only requires a passing score on a 35 question test. It should be well within reach for many of the technically minded folks who read this forum.

As far as general emergency preparedness goes for myself, what I like to do is take on hobbies with an emergency/survival aspect to them. I go hiking and camping and have the bare necessities to survive in the wilderness for a while. I do ham radio so I can figure out what the hell is going on if the cell network or internet becomes inaccessible, and I play Airsoft with my buddies every once in a while, which affords me some gear and a skill I'll hopefully never need to use off the field. I do all these things because they are interesting to me. The survival/preparedness aspect is just an additional benefit / excuse.


All of the test questions are available online, too [0]. They are literally the questions on the test, and you can rote-memory them if you don't care to understand them. But the questions cover important topics in ham radio: They serve a purpose. If you learn the theory behind the questions, you'll be a lot better off anyway. Also, don't trust airsoft to give you tactical skills you can apply in actual combat. Those are two games that progress completely differently.

[0] https://www.qrz.com/hamtest/


Yeah, I suppose for combat training, there's nothing better than joining the actual military or reserves. Many of the habits acquired playing airsoft will probably get you killed in reality (like taking cover behind a 1/4" boards of plywood, staying within the designated field, or being compelled to complete an objective within a half hour), and in reality, an opposing military force is going to put up a much more serious fight than a bunch of uncoordinated kids and middle aged men. Where I live, the odds of a domestic armed conflict are so insanely low, that taking things any farther would be insane. In fact, it would probably be more likely for someone to burglarize a rifle from my apartment than for me to ever end up needing one, so I just fool around with toys for fun.


> Also, don't trust airsoft to give you tactical skills you can apply in actual combat. Those are two games that progress completely differently.

That depends on how you do it. I have a friend in the AirSoft industry. He has described to me events that simulate urban combat. They are held on military bases using military training equipment -- realistic smells (gunpowder, sewage, gangrene), sounds, and scenery. I believe the term for such things is MilSim. They attract both retired and active military personnel. The tactics they use at such events are the tactics that work in the real world.


Okay, take it from a long-time infantry combat veteran: "MilSim" / airsoft / whatever-you-want-to-call-it isn't the same thing as actual warfare anymore than playing Call of Duty is the same thing as actual warfare. These two things are completely different creatures, and no amount of "but if you do it right" is going to simulate actual combat, sorry.


you can rote-memory them if you don't care to understand them.

That's how I passed my General test, using a flashcard app. I studied the theory and practice as well, but for passing the test I just flat out memorized the answers.

The reason I don't do that with the Extra test is because there's a lot of that stuff I truly need to study up on, and I don't want to "pass" a test for material I have little clue about.


> Even if you don't have a license you're allowed to transmit in emergency situations.

True, but I'd say get a license anyway so that you can at least practice live with the radio before an emergency.

All that is needed for 2 meters in the US is a Technician class ham license, which requires getting 26 questions right on a 35 question multiple choice exam.

I'm confident that most people on HN could learn enough to pass in a weekend of casual preparation, assuming they have had high school physics or equivalent.

The test is divided into several subsections, with only a handful of questions from each subsection, so even if you are weak on some particular area the impact is limited.

The question pool is available to the public and there are excellent apps and websites that will drill you with the actual questions. After a weekend of that many people find that they have accidentally memorized the answers.

There are no FCC fees for the test or license. Third parties actually conduct the test, and they are allowed to charge. The largest organization giving tests, the ARRL, charges $15 I believe. There are smaller groups that don't cover the whole US that are cheaper, or even free.

The license is good for 10 years, renewal is free, and does not require any additional testing. (The only time you need additional testing is to upgrade to a higher class of license, which gives you access to more frequency bands and/or more power and/or more operating modes).

You can get a handheld 2 meter transceiver for $30ish.

So...under $50 to get licensed AND get a radio!

(Of course you CAN spend a lot more on a radio if you wish. I have a Kenwood handheld that transmits on 2 meters, 1.5 meters, and 70 cm, and can receive everything from 10 KHz to 1.3 GHz minus cell phone frequencies, and can receive on two frequencies at once. It was around $300).

Two recommendations for those who decide to do this:

1. Before you apply for a license create an account at the FCC site. That will assign you an FCC ID number, which you can give to the testing organization when you take the test.

If you don't have an FCC ID number you have to give the testing organization your Social Security number.

2. Once you have your license, people can look you up by call sign at the FCC site. The information available includes your name and address. If you don't want your home address published that way, you can register with a PO box.


Is there a 2m radio model that you would recommend?


It somewhat depends on what you're looking for.

For the cheapest, almost "disposable" radio it's hard to beat the Baofeng UV-5R[1] at $30. However they aren't the most reliable and they tend to be pretty spotty in terms of how clean they are(broadcasting on frequencies other than you're transmitting). They're also a total PITA to program, but for emergencies you can put them on 146.520(national calling frequency) and leave it there.

A little step up from that is Yaesu's FT-60R[2]. It's a lot more robust, easier to program and generally much more solid. It also costs a fair bit more($180).

I usually carry a Yaesu VX-8DR[3] however it's overkill for most people. I mostly have it because you can drop it into a few feet of water without issue and it does APRS so I can send "text" messages and see status of other APRS beacons near me. It's also pretty darn expensive at $370.

All of these will also receive FM radio, NOAA radio and any of the un-encrypted Fire/EMS/Police bands so that's handy as well.

With a handheld tranciever the best you can look for is 2-5mi depend on terrain between who's receiving you. If you've got a repeater nearby, those tend to be ~100W(as opposed to 5W HTs usually do) and positioned well. Usually they cover anywhere from 30-100mi(we've got one in Centralia that I can pick up from Portland to Seattle).

Regular radios start in the 25-100W range and get out 10-30mi depending on terrain but those are usually a lot more involved to setup. One nifty thing is most dual band radios these days will do cross-band receiving so you can put your HT on 70cm and have it retransmit via the larger radio on 2m. If you have it setup in your car that's a nice setup for a quick an dirty repeater.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HX03AMA

[2] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Q1UYR1G

[3] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004MAKK7W


Baofengs are not actually cheap. They inexpensive af, but they are not "cheap" in that sense of the word. They're actually $200 radios being subsidized by the Chinese government to compete directly with the Japanese electronics industry. I've got like seven of those things. Those, and Morakniv knives.


Love to see a source on the subsidization.

They certainly aren't a match for Yaesu/Icom/Kenwood, it's pretty well known that most transmit well above the FCC rules for interference [1] [2].

[1] https://kd8twg.net/2015/10/17/a-quick-and-unscientific-spect...

[2] https://sm6vfz.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/baofeng-uv-5r-spectr...


Also the Yaesu FT-60 (2m/70cm) or FT-270 (2m) are absolutely, positively indestructible units made for professional use year in, year out. More than $60, but not obscenely so - somewhere around the $150 mark, methinks.

It would often make sense to have two units, by the way. (Oh, and by all means get a licence - it is not difficult, and it gives you opportunity to learn how to use the device before you need it...


Second on the FT-60. These things have a remarkable amount of functionality built into them, are built like tanks, and can access their full range of features without a programming cable and PC. They can also receive a very wide range of frequencies outside of the ham bands.

The FT-60 can also be modified to transmit on other radio service bands (like FRS/GMRS/Marine VHF), though it is only legal to transmit on those bands with non-type-approved hardware in honest-to-god emergencies.

I always cringe at the prepper types who boast about how much they spend on their arsenal, but cheap out on radio gear. Realistically, cooperation ensures the best chance of survival. A good radio and an aftermarket whip antenna will be more useful in all situations besides the end of the world.


I'm happy with my Yaesu VX-6R, bought it 11 years ago, same day I got my license. Incredibly sturdy and amazing build quality, submersible to 1 meter, die-cast aluminium and O-ring sealed ear-plug/antenna connections. There are some new models now with more digital features. https://www.yaesu.com


We like the Beofeng 8 watt https://goo.gl/q8nSvA It's only about $60 and there are some nice accessories like better antennas and batteries.


I could be wrong, but I thought that you needed a license only to broadcast, and you could own a ham radio and listen without a license. You can certainly buy all sorts or radio gear without a license.


This is correct. You do not need a license to possess any ham equipment - including equipment that is capable of transmitting. All ham communications are explicitly public, and there is nothing wrong with listening in.

You only need a license to transmit.


I think you need a license to operate that, though


You need a license to operator all 2m/70cm radios on non GMRS/FRS frequencies. However FCC suspends those rules in the case of emergencies[1].

[1] https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=4cae37ae392f692b37...


You need a license to operate anything on 2m (or 70cm), which is what the original question referenced.


I use this radio for my primary talker.


That will get you thru a week. But a week will get you thru everything but society collapsing, and if it does collapse I am not sure I want to continue.


Actually, having toured various places where society has collapsed, it's actually not as bad as people imagine. Some people live their entire lives in collapsed societies. There is sometimes still electricity, food, water, security, and sometimes even phone service, depending. And after many years of study, I'd even say that those "collapsed societies" are actually more like most human communities of the past. It seems to be a kind of natural state of human civilization. We're just living in some damned lucky times.


If you have family depending on you, unfortunately you don't have a choice. Can't throw in the towel for other people(well I guess you can...but that's not gonna happen).

Getting ourselves through a week might not be bad, but throw in family and [young?] children to the mix, and things get dicey and really complex.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Sarajevo is a good example of an unexpected situation that lasted much longer than a week, the society halfway collapsed, but it was clearly worth to continue.


You should add an sillcock key set for water access... they're handy.

http://www.homedepot.com/p/HDX-4-Way-Sillcock-Key-UWP0002D/2...


As someone else posed, "access" meaning looting?


Sillcocks are just a fancy name for hose faucets of the outside of buildings. If those still have water municipal water is likely still working so it's the most minor bit of stealing I can think of.


If the total population of a former large city is in the 1000 range is it looting?


I haven't lived in an area prone to weather-related disasters. But, I feel like, most of these are avoidable (I mean, not the disaster itself but the "riding-it-out" part). Usually, there is plenty of time and warning so you can get out.

Earthquakes though, are unpredicatable and they arrive with zero notice. And should the worst happen in an earthquake, you would not need many of the supplies in the list above.

Water, canned food, first aid kit, radio, a megaphone and a flashlight in a backpack. Packed, ready, and placed in your potential escape route.


Tornados are about as unpredictable as earthquakes.


I disagree - tornadoes generally come with many warnings by metrologists and often tornado sirens. Earthquakes come with a split second rumble if you're lucky.

I've experienced earthquakes, cyclones/hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfire, flooding, blizzards, and all kinds of severe weather - they're all awful in their own way but being caught in a tornado outbreak (30 in 90mins, some over a mile wide) was by far the worst I've experienced - sheltering for hours while sirens scream, drains howl as tornadoes go past, and the roof peels off is up there with the helplessness of being stuck in a violently shaking building for a few minutes (I've experienced a few 7+ shakes and also lost friends and family to earthquakes that destroyed my home town so know how intense that can be).


Aren't tornadoes far more localized, and thus less-likely to be one of those "help can't sauce for a week" scenarios?


Yep. Been through those too when I lived in Wyoming. Fortunately never anything larger than an F2.


Better now with the amber alert type system. Horror stories of being in a theater and getting hit by a twister with no notice.


Living in KS for 25 years, I have yet to see a tornado.


> I've also got my camping supplies, which includes a Coleman stove and a few small propane canisters.

I have a Primus Omnifuel, which can burn propane, white gas, gasoline, kerosene or diesel fuel. It needs preheat using alcohol or to burn the latter two though.


"I've been lucky so far"

I'd say you were UNlucky so far to have been involved in all of those incidents in the first place. Or was it not by accident?


Yeah, reminds me of Orwell's comment upon having been shot in the Spanish Civil War :)

No one I met at this time — doctors, nurses, practicantes, or fellow-patients — failed to assure me that a man who is hit through the neck and survives it is the luckiest creature alive. I could not help thinking that it would be even luckier not to be hit at all.


Looks like a good list. The only item I'd add to that is a LifeStraw (or something similar), but I don't know how close you live to a water source:

http://lifestraw.com/products/lifestraw-mission/


[flagged]


Well, for one I live in Colorado, not the Bay Area.

Two, you're assuming that I also don't have a firearm. I actually don't, but you're still making a big assumption that whoever you try to steal from can't fight back. How much overlap do you think there is between emergency preparedness and firearm possession? Certainly in Colorado, even Boulder, that's not a bet I would be willing to take.

This is a situation where you get one shot, since emergency services likely won't be able to save you if you get shot. If you've got a handgun but I've got a pump-action shotgun packing buckshot, I would have a decent shot since I only need to aim in your general direction but you have to aim pretty well, in a stressful situation that you've probably never been in. Ever shot someone?

Three, consider what you're honestly suggesting here. I'm not anti-firearm, but I am against the the disgusting sentiment you espouse in that post.


You make a damn good point. I was talking to some of my more conservative friends the other day about the potential for civil unrest at some point in the future, and they said something along the lines of "rednecks have guns, they'd win the war". Problem is, while I'm not really a "gun person", I'm not anti-gun either. I don't go around bragging about my gun collection or how much ammo I have, and I also don't go around in public showing off or even talking about the four rifles, two shotguns, and the handgun I own. Even my closest friends, while knowing I own guns, have never seen them unless we've hunted together.

It never really gets talked about much, but if the people who like to brag about their guns somehow think they're the only ones who own guns, they're going to be very surprised in an actual emergency situation. Plenty of people quietly own a gun and would be willing to use it to defend their property again criminals.

I mean if you think about it, how many people own a bicycle? Now how many people are dressed in spandex in public bragging about their VO2 max? There are a lot more quiet, casual bikers than there are braggadocios bikers. You just only hear/see the ones out bragging about it.


Obviously the people who tout their gun ownership are just asking for trouble...most notably they are just begging to have their guns stolen.

(edit: people keep responding to me as if I have left myself vulnerable...uh sure, you know the LTE tower I connected to HN from)

Still, you cannot separate emergency preparedness and self-protection. Anyone who questions this should look back at Hurricane Katrina or the LA riots.

You should expect some of those people living under onramps in SF will attempt to upgrade to Pac Heights in the event of an absence of civil order...


> Obviously the people who tout their gun ownership are just asking for trouble

> And I have a Glock 17 and a years' worth of ammo, so I don't need to stockpile the other stuff, you are doing it for me.

Uh-huh.


> I only need to aim in your general direction

Maybe I'm just bad at trap/skeet but in my experience you still have to aim with a shotgun! ;)


Trap targets are ~4.25" and moving very fast. People are 6' and not moving very fast. General direction would work just fine.


Haha, dude, this isn't the movies. In the absence of medical care, it's more important not to get shot than to shoot someone.

Because if one of them hits you, you're a goner. It's not a rational option to try to steal shit because someone out there will shoot you, and then you'll die. It won't matter that you shot fifteen people before you got shot because life doesn't have a K-D ratio.


you presume I have some desire to use my gun or create a situation to use my gun. No. It is an insurance policy. Like all policies, it can also fail, but I would rather have it than not.

my original reply was more a play on words as to what one can expect from others...you should assume desperation and access to weapons...this is America not Lichtenstein


Why would you travel to Colorado and take his supplies during a California disaster?

Do you think it would be worthwhile to go so far?

I'm being really sarcastic, but it's kind of hilarious to post such an abrasive comment while not even noticing that they aren't in California.


>>Glock 17 and a years' worth of ammo, so I don't need to stockpile the other stuff, you are doing it for me

Great, you have a sidearm that presumably fires 9mm ammunition that you are qualified to shoot downrange. I stock pile not only food, water, and medical supplies, but carry a 9mm of my own and have far more useful home defense weaponry in the form of a Mossberg 500 Flex (as well as various rifles that I don't expect to be all that handy if things really do go down). I also own ballistic vests.

If you wanted to be edgy about looting people, you could have picked something besides a sidearm.


In a real survival situation I believe you will use your stockpiles to help others.


To the extent that I was able to do so without jeopardizing my own family's survival, absolutely.

What's more, I'm more than happy to use my skills and equipment to equip and train neighbors in the event it were necessary. I have lots of guns and ammo because I enjoy them, not because I see them as magical talismans or because I intend to use them against the innocent during civil unrest.

The stereotype of a slightly-unhinged and heavily-armed prepper is just that - a stereotype. In truth most people who the general public would call "preppers" are like me; I have enough "stuff" to get my family through reasonable hard times and the rest of my capital is spent trying to build a foundation for retirement.

One family like mine in a small community with a few other families all pitching in, given basic training and loaned arms would be handily deter the opportunistic during a Katrina-scale "event".


Absolutely I would. The other guy is talking about looting and all this other nonsense.


I have been thru a number of minor crises and I have found people to be amazing. I think the majority of people are still good and would cooperate. Of course it depends on how fast the crisis happens.


Katrina


I have a TEC-9, thanks for stockpiling the ammo for me!


You only need a couple of rounds for a TEC-9 - I've never seen one fire more than that without jamming anyhow :)


A 10 AM Bay Area earthquake is the highest plausibility * severity event you're likely to experience around here on a day to day basis - leaving some people with a 25 mile commute back to a structure that might or might not be standing, intermittent at best communications, and potentially impassible roads.

IMO if you don't have a case of water, a road map, and a change of walking-around clothes in your car around here, you're asking for smiting. Fortunately that's about $10 in total, and you can drink the water even if there's not an earthquake.

Additionally, near everything that would be handy in case of an earthquake (gloves, pry bar, basic trauma supplies, etc) is useful in case of a car crash, which actually is far more likely.


The great part about preparedness planning is there is a kind of vaccination herd immunity effect at play. The more people who take minimal measures like you list, the less intensive efforts preparedness-minded have to invest into. To your example, if 90%+ drivers keep a flat of bottled water, then it makes sense to only keep a water filter at one's home instead of one in the car for long trips and one at home.

However, Just In Time doesn't just permeate our supply chains, but many people's personal lives. So the lists of what it takes to ride out life's inevitable curve balls grow ever longer.


That's one of the ideas of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT / NERT).

During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, citizens banded together and helped each other other because emergency services were overwhelmed. Afterwards, they reached out to the fire department to ask for formal training and thus NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team) was born.

When the next big earthquake hits California, we still won't be ready. However if neighbors pitch in and can put out small fires and shut off gas leaks before they turn into anything more serious, then that's one less neighborhood the fire department has on their to-do list.

I highly recommend anyone in earthquake country to take a NERT/CERT class to help out their neighborhood.

NERT: http://sf-fire.org/neighborhood-emergency-response-team-nert

CERT: https://www.ready.gov/community-emergency-response-team


(CERT is also short for Chaos Emergency Response Team which covers CCC congresses.)


The wrecking bar also works great at deterring free riders.


Your comment got me thinking about some form of volunteer force of medics. Imagine if every 20th car that drove by had a government issued medical bag in the trunk and a driver guaranteed to have recent first aid and emergency training. And in return the driver gets some sort of tax break, or an HOV lane free pass, or whatever the appropriate incentive is. Surely some country has tried this out.


In Israel about one tenth of the population has undergone combat training, and I suppose about one twentyith of those are combat medics (including myself). We get no tax breaks or other incentives, but when the once-in-ten-years emergency pops up, we are quite appreciated.

From talking to other medics, I see that most of us carry simple useful tools, such as a cloth triangle, everywhere we go. And we're well-versed in improvising.


In many European countries, you won't get a driver's licence unless you pass a first aid test. And I think in some places it may also be required to have certain emergency equipment in your car.


A standardized first aid kit is definitely required in Germany (and many other European countries).


The laws protecting the helper definitely help as well. As long as I'm not tremendously reckless or meanspirited I cannot be blamed (sued) for any damage I do in the course of providing first response aid. In fact I can be sued for not trying (calling for help is sufficient).


The US has so-called "Good Samaritan" laws as well. Some of them go so far as to protect untrained individuals who injure or kill someone while attempting to render aid.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Samaritan_law#United_Stat...

Virginia's Good Samaritan law: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title8.01/chapter3/secti...


Aren't first aid kits mandatory in cars in the US and don't you have to get first aid training as part of your driver's licence?


No and no.

Do note that the licensing is done at the state level, so there are 50+ similar standards, not just one.


No. Even a driving test isn't necessarily required to get a driver's license. I never took one.


That depends on your state. I took one for my first license but haven't had a driving test since when I've moved between states. I have had paper and oral exams since then, though. But that only shows I know the laws and rules of traffic, not the ability to drive.


> Surely some country has tried this out.

Most first-world countries are not obsessed with self-elevation and interest resulting from their own infrastructure breaking down

Third-world countries might be more the incubator you're hoping for but they generally don't care what happens to the non wealthy (and the wealthy's FO plans there as with everywhere don't involve looting cars on interstates)

So if I were to guess, I'd go with no, no "other countries have tried this out".


It certainly has been tried, and it's ongoing.

E.g. in much of Europe you're not getting a driving licence without passing a first aid+CPR course, and every car must have a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher.

Also, I recall that USSR had mandatory civil defence courses in universities - so everyone with a college degree, no matter if it's medicine or math, will have had a full semester of disaster followup & related issues; didn't USA have something similar during the cold war?


There are search and rescue volunteers, and most counties have a team (that's usually roughly proportional in size to the population of the county), and while they don't get tax breaks, a few places are nice enough to offer them discounts here and there.

Medical training varies from team to team, but a minimum of wilderness first aid is pretty typical. EMT is pretty popular too.


It's not really the same, but there is this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Hatzalah


Sounds like CERT (Community Emergency Response Team).

https://www.ready.gov/community-emergency-response-team


> you can drink the water even if there's not an earthquake

you should rotate stock like that anyway to prevent it from unknowingly going bad


Sorry, but water goes bad? Or would it be that chemicals in the container dissolve into the water? Water itself going bad is news to me...


The water in most municipal systems is chlorinated in some way, and kept under pressure while in the system. Once the water is no longer under pressure, the chlorination compound can be degraded by UV light (sunlight), heat, gaseous diffusion, and time, to the point where it is no longer in the correct form and concentration to be effective against biological contaminants.

So it isn't as though it "goes bad" like food does, but the safety factor against unsafe handling goes away.

The other problem is that materials from an unsuitable storage container could slowly leach into the water, like plasticizers or metals. If you store water in mason jars and seal them as though it were food to be preserved, that water will not "go bad" until the lid rusts through, and depending on the possible contaminants, you can probably still drink it after bringing it back up to a boil.

As for myself, I keep much of my water stockpile frozen in plastic 2L bottles, because it keeps the freezer temperature more stable under normal circumstances, and keeps the rest of the stuff in the freezer frozen longer in case of power outages. You can always pull one out and drop it into a cooler for short outings, to keep the drinks and egg salad cold. And then, after it melts, you can still drink it. The only tradeoff is that it takes up space in there.


Harmful bacteria tends to grow in stored water.


It's a little harder to carry this stuff around on a backpack on public transit...


IMO tsunami in the bay area would be equally plausible with a much higher potential severity. When a tsunami hits a bay, the waves will rise. Further, with Alameda and Oakland at just a few feet above sea level... well...


Slip falts have much lower risks of tsunami. It most definitely could happen, but a large earthquake is far more likely.


I want to leave water in my car, but it gets so hot in there I'm afraid of what is leached into the water from the plastic. I've read a lot of conflicting information about this.


As others have said, you're not gonna be drinking it every day...

Stuff like BPA is not acutely toxic. There are some concerns about long-term ("subchronic") exposures spanning a decade or more, and even there, there is basically no clear evidence of adverse effects on humans.

Besides, BPA and its ilk are a concern chiefly with a variety of fancier, transparent plastics. Food-grade HDPE and polypropylene jugs are of relatively little concern. They are just not particularly pretty, so they don't sell.

Steel and glass are two other options, although many steel bottles are lined with epoxy or other coatings. Plus, in a car accident, I'd rather have a soft HDPE jug flying around...


Klean Kanteen do metal water bottles, we have several. https://www.kleankanteen.com


I wouldn't worry about this for an "emergency" supply - especially for a small supply like you'd be able to keep in your car. If you break down on a hot day away from town somewhere, I'm sure you'll be glad to have a gallon of water with you, BPAs be damned.


Having left some water in a car in hot climate for some time (probably more than one but less than three weeks), I don't need studies to tell me that I don't want to drink it. My tastebuds do a sufficiently good job.

Probably still OK in an emergency though.


If plastics is the only concern, why not use glass? Make sure to store it in a place where no sunlight can shine on it.


It's both heavy and fragile. I don't trust plastic to drink out of habitually, but there's virtually no risk to expected from short term use of food-grade plastic and it's much more practical in difficult situations.

Plastic also has the advantage that you can use it to sterilize water. Glass blocks too much UV, but a couple of days in the sun will disinfect water in a clear plastic container. You can have safe water indefinitely just by rotating containers (at least here in the Pacific Northwet, where availability of some kind of fresh water is more or less assured).


Well, you do not have to drink it regularly, only during the emergency.


The 'prepping' phenomenon is an expression of the extreme individualism (or less graciously, ego-centrism) of our time and society. Rather than assuming that society will come together in a crisis and help each other out, we need to become an army-of-one, stocked up for every scenario and armed to the teeth against dangerous others who are undoubtedly coming to take our shit. It's sad.

I honestly think this another example of the huge class divide in America causing such a negative outlook on other people, similar to how slave owners lived in comfort, but also constant paranoia. Perhaps we should work on improving conditions for the bottom of society, so we can have an expectation of helping each other when the shit goes down.


You're basing that on some outdated stereotypes.

Lots of preppers do it because they want to be able to help their community in a crisis. They also actively work to prevent the disasters from happening in the first place. Being prepared in case they do is just a smart hedge.

Here are two quotes from one of our posts about why people prep:

Debbie W. from Liberal Preppers says, “I want to develop — and share — skills that are useful to the community at large, that increase the likelihood of the community as a whole prospering in adversity.”

Kevin R. told us that he believes “the movement is expanding from the traditional stereotypical prepper to non-white, non-cisgendered people taking more responsibility for their self sufficiency, taking control of their lives, learning skills and obtaining tools to take care of neighbors as well as their immediate family.”


I find this to be a very interesting comment - illustrative of the large and growing political divide in the developed world and the US in particular.

> Rather than assuming that society will come together in a crisis and help each other out

I grew up in an area where during good weather and normal times, police and EMS response could be an hour or more. If you're cutting a field on a tractor and manage to crush your hand in the PTO, having a tourniquet and medical supplies is the difference between life and death. Likewise, if there is a half inch of ice on the ground and you slide off the road on your way home, having warm clothing, blankets, food, and water can keep you from dying of exposure before someone happens by.

For my daily life "back home", there is no "society" to pull together. For immediate emergencies, it's often just you. For the short-term events described in the article it's you, your family, and perhaps a neighboring family or two.

> armed to the teeth against dangerous others who are undoubtedly coming to take our shit.

Again, police response is an hour away - crime happens even in rural areas. If you don't take measures to protect yourself, you're simply unprotected.

That's not even considering that there are uses for firearms other than defense against human beings. I've dispatched many injured animals on the side of the road; I can't imagine having to leave them in agony to die of exposure, or waiting that aforementioned hour for someone else with a gun to arrive and do what I could have done in seconds for pennies. It's cruel.

> It's sad.

No, it's _different_. Incomprehensibly different, if living in close proximity to others is all you know.

> I honestly think this another example of the huge class divide in America

This is a cultural thing, not a class thing. It may appear to be based on economic factors because rural areas are typically much poorer than urban ones, and because the urban poor are far more at risk of being a victim of violent crime, but in my experience it's clearly a rural/urban difference.


What you call "extreme individualism" or "ego-centrism", we used to call "self-reliance".


Self-reliance is a myth made by conservatives to justify cutbacks to the poor. Nobody in history has been entirely "self-reliant". Even the pioneers of the Americas had an entire support network in the east and for those that lived around them.

If they didn't, they died.


A conspiracy, if you will... :'D

But seriously, you seem to imply it's bad that people plan ahead, for when shit hits the fan, and somehow those people are the bad guys? Maybe that's not what you intended, but it's what you seem to imply.


"Self-reliance is a myth made by conservatives to justify cutbacks to the poor" is a myth made by liberals to justify government overreach.

No one's arguing that anyone has been entirely self-reliant, let alone that preppers today are. That's just a straw man you're bringing into the conversation. The prepper mindset is simply to be as self-reliant as they can be, even if they can't be entirely self reliant.


Unfortunately many of us in the United States live in huge urban sprawls that are completely reliant on external resources being brought in to sustain ourselves. If the shit really hits the fan, there are not enough resources to go around. No amount of "coming together" can fix that. Stashing away a bit of water and food is not a hard thing. But we all know that most people will not. It is not a question of economic status, but of ignorance, laziness, and whatnot. The decision of ensuring the survival of my children versus helping unprepared strangers in a dire situation is not a hard one to make. I don't think that it will ever come to that but I make no assumptions and so I must prepare anyway.


I'm an exited valley founder who just launched an emergency preparedness site for the rational crowd: https://theprepared.com

Have been prepping in the SF / startup community for almost 10 years and teaching other techies how to prep for a long time, but historically was face to face because of stigma, etc.

We started The Prepared because prepping is very rational and it's gone mainstream enough to have threads like this on HN.

Beginners checklist here: https://theprepared.com/guides/emergency-preparedness-checkl...

Post on reasons why liberals should be preppers: https://theprepared.com/blog/five-reasons-why-liberals-shoul...

Happy to help anyone in their journey.

(long time personal HN members but this is a new account)


That site seems great but it's still a tough sell when the "welcome to rational prepping" guide includes AI and CRISPR as causes.


Thanks for the feedback, but why do those seem contradictory? Honest question.

As someone else said, very sane people like Musk, Hawkings, and Gates are warning of AI CRISPR.

It's not the cliche SkyNet or Ghost in the Shell stuff per se. For example, automation and how it's effecting the economy really does matter, regardless of how much we in the valley would like to avoid that narrative.


> very sane people like Musk, Hawkings, and Gates

Ehhhh... those folks are smart but none of them would make a top 10 list of the sanest people according to me.

> It's not the cliche SkyNet or Ghost in the Shell stuff per se. For example, automation and how it's effecting the economy really does matter

Sure, but this sounds like a cop-out in context.


Yeah sane wasn't the best word for those hypomaniacs, but you got what I meant - they are not irrational tin foil hatters.

Why does that sound like a cop out? Economic decline, the U.S. erosion of the fundamentals of a quality life, overpopulation / too many dependents and not enough young workers, etc... those are all valid reasons to prepare.

As is preparing for car accidents, sudden layoffs, floods, and so on.


Yeah I get your meaning.

And maybe this is silly and unfair, but to me "AI" in the context of prepping suggests very particular things. What you're describing should probably be called "social unrest" or "revolution" caused by displacement of labor.


who does make the 'top 10 list' of sanity for you?


What a fun question! You go first, though :D


Why? Elon just said AI is a bigger threat than North Korea.


Artificial intelligence is a total misnomer. The current machine learning techniques that are becoming successful are better described as pattern recognition. A network that is designed to recognize kittens (or other stuff) is neither intelligent nor dangerous.


Elon says a lot of things!


Maybe he's just talking about his AIs when they're near bright white trucks on sunny days.


I don't think you can count that in the "many things he says" category, with how consistent and insistent he is with those statements over quite some time now.

That being said, I'm personally not sure if one should put too much weight on his opinions regarding that matter.


Can confirm. The founder of this site is actually a close personal friend that started teaching me about this stuff years ago, first in a more casual way when catching up and then recently much more in-depth as he started documenting his experience.

I'm still more of a prepper lurker that's reading up on this stuff while friends are starting to take it more seriously. I personally don't know if prepping is a fad like cold war-era nuclear bunkers, a potential lifesaver like a beefed up version of the red cross emergency kits, or somewhere in between as a useful hobby like hiking and camping, but my inner research nerd is having a great time learning more.

It helps that my YC team was a product review website and there's a lot of gear junkies in the survivalist crowd, so that's been my entry point into it, not so much the angle on being freaked out about the news.


You should own your Amazon referrer link existence and not hide them behind your own tracker/reflector.


We're not hiding anything - it's plainly written around the site we make affiliate fees on some of our links, and it never affects what we write or recommend. We make nothing on most of the top links people click on.

Our URL redirects are for our analytics.


Here are some preparedness-related ideas from 1999 as part of a hope by me to eventually use to design self-replicating space habitats (though not enough time to move them much further along): http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/ "The OSCOMAK project will foster a community in which many interested individuals will contribute to the creation of a distributed global repository of manufacturing knowledge about past, present and future processes, materials, and products. ... The OSCOMAK project is an attempt to create a core of communities more in control of their technological destiny and its social implications. No single design for a community or technology will please everyone, or even many people. Nor would a single design be likely to survive. So this project endeavors to gather information and to develop tools and processes that all fit together conceptually like Tinkertoys or Legos. The result will be a library of possibilities that individuals in a community can use to achieve any degree of self-sufficiency and self-replication within any size community, from one person to a billion people. Within every community people will interact with these possibilities by using them and extending them to design a community economy and physical layout that suits their needs and ideas. ..."

Here is my own list of concerns from 1999 (I'd add supervolcanoes and Cascadia subduction zone to that list now -- and of course replace Y2K with the Year 2038 problem): http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/fears.htm

Here is a picture of what happened to my mother's home city in the Netherlands when she was a teenager -- her family's house burned during the initial invasion -- and then she saw people including an elderly relative starve to death a couple years later -- so disasters do happen and sometimes seemingly out of the blue: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_bombing_of_Rotterdam#/m...

Most US Americans may ignore this fact, but our lives in the USA are completely dependent on the continual error-free functioning of decades-old Soviet missile-launch computers built with computer chips we tried to sabotage: http://www.businessinsider.com/russias-dead-hand-system-may-... "To deter the possibility of a U.S. nuclear first-strike, the Soviets created a system called Perimeter, also known as "Dead Hand." The Dead Hand was a computer system that could autonomously launch all of the USSR's nuclear weapons once it was activated, across the entirety of the Soviet Union."

Let's hope those 1970s-era Soviet computer engineers knew how to build reliable systems from unreliable components! But, it still may be prudent to prepare for the situation where those Soviet computers eventually fail in some unexpected way.

Example: "99 red ballons - Nena" (but failing from a large earthquake misinterpreted as a nuclear strike may be more likely): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14IRDDnEPR4

Humans have become a geological force with all our technologies of abundance -- including control of nuclear energy as well as massive use of fossil fuels. But then we ignore the implications of all that technology because dealing with the implications requires thinking differently -- and thinking differently can be hard, expensive, and sometimes painful. Related humor on the difficulty of thinking differently: "Star Wars: The Death Star Cantina | WDR" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yl_reBjVqU

As Albert Einstein said, "The release of atomic power has changed everything except our way of thinking ... the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker. (1945)".

Of course, any Apple watch these days has more power than the computers used to design the first atomic weapons. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/mar/07/turings-cathed... "[N]o other book has engaged so intelligently and disconcertingly with the digital age's relationship to nuclear weapons research, not just as a moral quandary to do with funding, but as an indispensable developmental influence, producing the conceptual tools that would unlock the intellectual power of the computer."

I generalized Einstein's theme for our new century to: "The biggest challenge of the 21st century is the irony of technologies of abundance in the hands of those still thinking in terms of scarcity." http://www.pdfernhout.net/recognizing-irony-is-a-key-to-tran...


I love this sentence from the piece: "In the 90s, it seemed that you couldn't go wrong by getting into professional journalism, opening a video rental store or an arcade, or selling calculators, encyclopedias, disposable cameras, answering machines, and audio CDs."


I mean it's not like all of those people died


I agree! I found the list of potentially marketable hobbies great too.

It's amazing how much technological change we take for granted when choosing careers.


To me, the #1 marker of "crazy" in disaster preparation is a focus on violence against your fellow civilians, and I'm glad that this guide pushes that out into the far end of unlikely and extreme end of scenarios.

For what this scenario actually looks like, a post on Metafilter about Sarajevo: http://www.metafilter.com/78669/What-if-things-just-keep-get...


From reading forums the other marker seems to be those 'who know' what they are prepping for e.g a solar flair or nuclear bomb is going to happen. This vs. the attitude disasters can happen and to have general coverage.

And if you look at the history of the world it's reasonable to have some level of prep going. Disasters are low chance but consequences are severe. It's reasonable odds at one point in your life there will be a major disaster. Historically it's unlikely to get through 2 lifetimes without something significant happening. Most people have house/car insurance for these low risk events but feel prepping is unusual. I'd prefer to have some coverage from a low chance but high consequences disaster than have the cost of replacing a car covered.


The context sections of this article are super helpful. I've recently become acquainted with this subject matter. Doing a quick audit of my lifestyle I realize how unprepared I actually am. I think this speaks to the safety I've felt growing up.

I've been following this guide: https://theprepared.com/guides/emergency-preparedness-checkl...

I really need to take the time to go through and thoroughly cross-reference these two resources.


interesting book that takes a similar angle: ‘The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch’ http://the-knowledge.org/en-gb/the-book/


Came in here to post the same thing! Read it a few years back and thought it was superb. Found out there were tons of gaps in my knowledge.


Is there a plugin that makes websites like this easier to read on modern devices? The lines of text here are too long for my poor brain to parse but I don't want to have to resize my browser for each badly designed website.


I just use a simple bookmarklet that I label 'Make Narrow':

javascript:(function(){var%20b=document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0];b.style.maxWidth='50em';b.style.marginLeft='auto';b.style.marginRight='auto';})()

Just manually create a new bookmark and put that as the URL, then when you click it, it runs that snippet and make the body have a max-width of 50em.


Ooh handy, thanks. I'll put this alongside the incredibly useful 'Kill Sticky' bookmarklet that kills overlays.


Firefox has a "Reader View" mode build in. It makes ugly websites look good and easy to read.

https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/firefox-reader-view-clu...


Reader view defaults to low contrast text, but it's possible to set your own text colors with custom userContent.css:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15080363


THANK YOU!!!! You have solved a problem for me today and I am very grateful. :-D

Seriously: I am so happy. This is one of those little things that is going to keep me grinning all day. Thank you so much for figuring this out and posting it.


In Firefox (Chrome probably too) you can enable Reader Mode by clicking on the icon that looks like an opened book on the right end of the location bar.


The Brave browser has a great reader mode.


I'm using it on Android, but cannot find that option.


I just installed this one on Chromium. Works well.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/easyreader/boamfhe...


Safari has built in Reader View in on Mac or iOS


> It's not that life-altering disasters are rare: every year we hear about millions of people displaced by wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods.

Pretty much always in the sames typical places though...

See: 'tornado alley', island nations with tsunami seasons, california wildfires, etc, etc (over a long enough timespan)...

> Heck, not a decade goes by without at least one first-class democracy lapsing into armed conflict or fiscal disarray.

Ditto

See: countries with a perpetual history of dictators and authoritarianism (although westerners and capitalism/socialism typically receive the blame in popular depictions)


[Author here]

> [...natural disasters...] Pretty much always in the sames typical places though...

Most people live in "typical places" without realizing it, though. I mean, you know when you're in the tornado valley, but tornado / hurricane risk is relatively high for basically the entire eastern half of the US. And wildfire risk is very significant for the entire western half. Add to this earthquakes, etc, and it turns out that most people live in a place that is likely to experience a major regional disaster every couple decades or so.

Still, the guide is not really about that; or rather, it covers natural disasters to some extent, but it puts a lot more emphasis on personal preparedness - being able to cope with another run-of-the-mill recession, a house fire, and other likely occurrences of this sort. More general preparedness is almost a side effect of that.

> [...economic crises and armed conflicts...] Ditto. See: countries with a perpetual history of dictators and authoritarianism (although westerners and capitalism/socialism typically receive the blame in popular depictions)

Well... Greece, Iceland, etc?


Greece certainly has a history of political instability ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_military_junta_of_1967%E... ) but Iceland was a straightforward economic crisis - Kaupthing discovered how profitable leverage was and just kept going because there was nobody to tell them to stop, until the whole thing blew up. I don't remember hearing this translate into political instability, I think Iceland is too small a country for that.


>countries with a perpetual history of dictators and authoritarianism

So Europe?


> first-class democracy lapsing into armed conflict

I can come up with none

> Throughout much of the recorded history, the monetary systems of the western world employed so-called commodity money, generally settling on coins minted out of silver or gold.

This is false. Silver and gold coinage was largely restricted to international trade, transactions were mostly done by keeping tabs. Gold and Silver coins developed most likely as you can easily produce them to share the spoils of war with soldiers. The important property of Gold and Silver is that you can easily steal it. See Debt the first 5000 years (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt:_The_First_5000_Years)

> Biking on public roads? Wear a helmet

Head injuries are way more common in cars than on bicycles. Wearing a helmet while driving a car has a bigger benefit.


One that that needs to be emphasized is you only perfect preparation for about 2 weeks of the worst case, after that you need must less.

Lose your job for 6 months, cut your budget and use your emergency savings, but most of your supplies are not used (tap water is still safe to drink).

Complete collapse of civilization? 2 weeks to enough to understand how bad it is - when the power isn't coming back that implies such a reduced population that you don't worry about looting: in fact you should be with the few remaining people looting what there is. Break into WalMart for clothing. If you live in an area where you cannot support yourself farming break into a dealer's safe, get the keys to a new truck, and break into gas stations tanks along the way to fill it up until you get someplace you can survive long term. (the truck will be abandoned once you are there: fuel goes bad quickly).

On those lines, you don't need to move to a rural area and practice survival skills now. All those massive corporate farms: at best they have enough fuel to get in half the harvest so they need your manual labor now. Get out of the city and you will find rural areas with plenty of food in desperate need of labor. Almost nobody knows how to harvest corn by hand. Few people know how to use a horse. they need your help to figure it out. Make yourself more valuable by bringing seeds for vegetables that are not in the fields.


I always feel that part of the reason why disasters hit us so hard is the fact that despite having some built in resilience in the current system we have it's not resilient on the small scale (i.e. the individual). If SHTF as an individual you're boned, but if you're a corporation or some other kind of organization you can weather it. It just seems to me that a whole new way of handling shocks to society needs to account for this fact more so than ever. The attempt by some to abolish the social safety net is just one of many things that our species is doing wrong. We need less efficiency and more redundancy. We need less profitability and more sustainability. Basically, we need to add resilience to the system down to the individual level where it's practical.


Less crazy folk? I can't tell you many "less crazy folk" believe the most nutso easily-disprovable bunk on the internet because it reinforces their feelings and beliefs on something... Completely functional people making great money or running successful businesses or raising great kids, just totally believing whatever bunk makes them feel good. It's not about "crazy", it's about people just not being willing to investigate something further than what they believe, and trying to convince them of the "less crazy" way just won't budge them if they don't want to budge.


What's the point of living through the zombie apocalypse?

I honestly don't understand any of this stuff vs the normal 3 days of water/food/etc thing. If shit's that bad, we might as well be dead. Why live for The Walking Dead?


Like most philosophical questions, there's no one easy answer. Furthermore, there are plenty of sub-zombie-apocalypse situations for which you might again get back to something resembling normal life. Consider for example any of the genocides of the past century.


Or you could just be stuck in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.


I think placing thermonuclear war in the "Zombie Apocalypse" category is probably wrong; it should go into category #2. JFK estimated after the cuban missile crisis that the chances that could have developed into a full-blown nuclear exchange were about 1 in 3. Not terribly long odds. Given the current political situation the probability is much lower- but political situations change, and the weapons are still here. The real risk is impossible to know, but unlike zombies, nuclear weapons are real, and they have been used on civilians once already.


It's fair to note it as the most probable of the "Zombie Apocalypse" category, but "impossible" isn't the common theme of that category, it's "civilization ending".

Under all of the scenarios in Problem Space #3, the world is irrevocably changed and there is not necessarily any reason to think it will go back to the way thing are now in the survivors' lifetimes. In the other two problem spaces, you are looking at perhaps-widespread but finite disruptions. Maybe an entire country or region of a large country is hosed for years or decades, but you can either expect things to go back to normal eventually, or you can migrate to somewhere where things are normal. With either a zombie apocalypse or a nuclear one, you don't have that expectation, and whatever you do to prepare for that situation will be largely the same.


This reads like a practical guide to being an adult. Incredibly valuable.


An all out thermonuclear war would be the end of the human race. Thankfully, it won't happen simply because thermonuclear warfare is now obsolete. An all-out electromagnetic nuclear war is its successor, which would only spell the end of our civilization. But chances are we just devolve into civil wars breaking out and a few viruses. Our base case is a 25-33% fall in population in one generation. Bottled water won't help. Large rain water collection systems are a lot more likely to give a survival chance.


Is it just perception or is 'prepping' becoming mainstreamed?


Of course it's becoming mainstream. Quality of life for most people has been declining in America for a while. Trust in our government is at an all-time low. Most people don't have _any_ friends, let alone a sense of community. Much of the country is _still_ recovering from the economic crisis, even though the stock market has fully recovered. An unexpected illness can bankrupt most families in the country. Social mobility is going down every year, and it's basically a requirement to be in the top 20% of performers to be able to live comfortably. Political partisanship is higher than ever. Old forms of media have been recently exposed as rigged and controlled by the rich, and the new forms of media online provide so much input, most people can't emotionally adjust.

With an increasing anxiety on the state of the nation and a decrease in security for most people and their families, it's only natural that prepping would become mainstream.


It seems to be in the USA. However, I attribute that to the fear based culture prevalent here, the "winner or your a loser" mentality, that government is untrustworthy viewpoint, and the high degree of tribalism and differentiation throughout society.

Edit: language


100% going more mainstream.

I know it'll seem like I have an ulterior motive, but it's the opposite - we recently started our site after teaching people one-to-one for a decade because we've seen it go mainstream just in the last 1-2 years, and particularly since the election.

Almost everyone starts off thinking it's a fringe thing until they find out their friends and neighbors are into it too.


The honest answer is it's not. There was an uptick from the North Korea situation, but the comments here just remind me of that New Yorker article.

As in, it is Valley-streamed right now.


I love this article, because in its essence, it does not prepare you for prepping as much as leading a solid life.

It is also one of the first articles about prepping with a positive tone. I personally do some mild prepping (as my mother always did herself). But I don't like to be associated with the "typical" preppers and stay clear of them, because prepping is no lifestyle that leads anywhere. I think prepping should be a side topic - to keep your good life good in case an anomaly happens.


Get obese and buy a bunch of electrolytes and water. You'll be good for a whole year without food, provided you keep those electrolytes in check, no problem. #FACT



What is the safer place in a 'doomsday' scenario - the city or the country-side?


The countryside. It's where the food is. Imagine if all transportation/energy/etc were destroyed. Imagine NYC or LA completely dark and with no food coming in. Millions of people without food, without light, etc within city limits. It would get very dangerous, very quick. Nevermind the garbage piling up, nonexistent sanitation, etc.


If you have to ask you will probably be better off in whichever environment where you know more people.


Been looking into getting a pocket knife/ multitool, any good options?


For multitool you can not go wrong with a leatherman wave. Great warranty too, they'll fix anything you break.

Not big but not really for pocket carry though.

For fixed multiuse blade (think bushcraft, not defense) I don't buy any other than Mora. Really cheap, like 20-30$. I give them as a present to friends when I go for a walk and notice they don't have any. They are made of great steel and keep the edge well. They are great knives with the price of dispossable ones so you are not afraid of actually using them.

I'm kind of afraid of really punishing a $150 knive, so they end as box queens at home..


If you not that price sensitive consider Leatherman Charge. Slightly better than the Wave. Its not cheap but they should last a long time. It my go to tool for little fix it jobs around the house. Amazing quality and coverage what you get done with it.


If you're carrying it physically on your person daily, I have yet to see anything better than Leatherman's Skeletool. It's light (5.0 oz), has the core tools (a rather sharp knife with quick-access mechanism, pliers / wirecutter, and a bitdriver with a philips/flat bit built in) which covers the most common situations one is likely to encounter, both on a daily basis and in an emergency. There's also a bit set and and extension available as accessories.

The lighter tools generally are missing one or more of the above and the larger tools are A) significantly heavier and B) contain tools that aren't that useful on a daily basis (e.g. file, saw) and aren't really all that good IMO when you do need them.


For pocketknives, some standard quality makers are Spyderco, Benchmade, CRKT, Kershaw/Zero Tolerance, and Buck. Prices really run the gamit, a low end Buck or CRKT will be $20 but will have lower quality steel that will dull rapidly. A high end Zero Tolerance will be from a known knife designer, will run an exotic super hard steel and cost $300. If you want a decent knife that you can rely on in an emergency, expect to spend $50 to $100. Spyderco knives are very well regarded, although some people find them ugly (I do, but I carry one anyway).

"Traditional" knife makers - for pocket knives like your grandpa used to carry - are Queen, Great Eastern Cutlery, some Buck knives, and A.G. Russell. Prices tend to be lower than for modern knives.

For multitools, it's really hard to do better than Leatherman. A Wave or a Skeletool will be about as good a multitool as you can buy.

For fixed-blade knives, which are better for hunting/fishing, camping, and general "survival" tasks, Bark River makes a very complete line and does a great job at it. They tend to run in the $150-$250 range. The Bravo 1 is considered to be their "do everything" knife. You can also buy fixed blades made by Browning, Helle (Norwegian outdoors knives), Buck, Benchmade, and Spyderco.

If you want to investigate this topic a lot further, there are several good websites. I read EverydayCommentary by Tony Sculimbrene, who reviews knives, and KnivesShipFree, which sells them.


A good European option for a foldable knife is Opinel. They are really sharp and come at a price where they are almost disposable. I carry one most of the time. (Another plus is that they do not fall under weapon regulation. Make sure you know your regional rules concerning knives.)


The most useful multitool I've owned is my Victorinox Cybertool M, mostly due to the incredibly convenient miniature socket set and functional toothpick and tweezers. I have a couple dedicated folding knives that I keep in my car or carry with me while camping that I'd use to actually cut things. For most other tool uses I find myself getting fed up with multitools. I tried carrying a leatherman for awhile but found I barely used it for how bulky it was.


Are you thinking more self defense or utility? Makes a big difference. For example, we love folding Karambits for self defense everyday carry.


What've you got for everyday self defense


In terms of pocket knives, I personally use the Fox Emerson Wave folding karambit https://theprepared.com/pick/fox-479-emerson-wave-folding-ka...


I carry a Victorinox Fieldmaster in my bag all the time.

I chose it because it's innocuous (everyone knows what a Swiss Army knife is), is compact, and has 90% of the tools I would need. I actually don't even use the larger blade as much as I've used the awl, scissors, or tweezers.

If you find yourself needing pliers, then a Leatherman Wave would be a better option.


Sure...

High quality pocket knives: Just 2 examples out of many. Spyderco Para Military 2, Benchmade 940 Osborne.

Full-size multitool: Victorinox SwissTool Spirit

Small multitool: Get a few Victorinox Swiss Army Knives. One for every pocket ;)

Camping, backpacking, hunting, light-duty survival knife: Get a Mora knife. If you are a real "operator" get yourself a Bark River Bravo.


I cannot stand having big things in my pockets, so I have a Gerber Shard on my keychain (as a bonus, airport security seems to be okay with it) and I also carry a Opinel No. 6 Carbon (because it's easy to get really sharp, unlike stainless steel.) Both are really cheap too.


Pocketed that link under the "Apocalypse" tag. Thanks !


reminds me of the back-to-the-land movement and the foxfire books. their impetus in the 60s and 70s was a retreat from the complicated, (inter)dependent, technological ecosystem of a modern metropolis; towards a simpler redundancy structured around puritan hard work, self-sufficiency and independence of the farm and barter village. james burke had an excellent tv show in 1978 called "connections" covering science and technology (episode 1 linked). the follow up series in later decades were not as good:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xnwpsp

it began by unwinding civilisation should a critical failure in a complex system lead to catastrophic and cascading collapse; then later trying to understand the connective steps taken from ancient pre-history to then present day.

most well-educated people lack the physical endurance, manual dexterity, strength and mental fortitude to revert back to pre-20th century agrarian survival. as we belong to a society of atomized individual consumers who receive instant gratification from novelty products which require little skill, patience or forethought to use. we depend mostly on mental faculties and the mechanical advantage of machines, with atrophied social and physical abilities. how many jokes, poems, stories or songs do you know? how many hours can you do hard physical labour for? professional sports and fitness industries artificially fill this void.

nobody can sell the things you actually need. the simplest short-term way to survive a disaster is to introduce yourself to your neighbours. depend on each other and share resources, car pool, grow food, recycle rainwater, repair broken things. you now have a backup network to the unavailable local, state, federal and international resources otherwise marshalled to aid you in time of need.

i will conclude my boring cliched opinions with this: i don't believe a disaster you need to prepare for is coming, nor am i convinced any preparation even on a whole city scale would be sufficient. should transportation and grid networks collapse indefinitely, you will likely die. if you live in a place prone to flooding, own a boat. if you live in a place with bush or forest fires, leave you homes when instructed. if you live along earthquake fault lines, avoid old buildings. if you live in a place with high crime, legally carry a weapon to defend yourself.sense became uncommon in a world without commons. if you care for my advice, i suggest you learn play an instrument and develop your singing voice, as the oldest ongoing human activity you are guaranteed job security even during ragnarok.


anyone have good book recommendations? specifically looking for wilderness survival, first aid, and edible plants (pacific northwest)


There are ton of great foraging books for the PNW, a lot of them published recently and easy for beginners. All the local bookstores have them. I like the one by Douglass Duer. Langdon Cook's books are also great. Survivalism is totally dumb but free food is fun.


I carry the SAS pocket guide: https://goo.gl/hnDJm7


thanks, the 3rd edition is still cheap :)


It's great to see HTTPS being adopted everywhere: even a Polish guy's personal blog on a Christmas Island (.cx) domain is encrypted. That's what I thought until I realized that I was looking at the favicon. He's not using HTTPS. He's using a lock symbol as his favicon and that alone was enough to throw me off.

The browser vendors keep gratuitously changing the shape, color, and position of the lock icon, so a lock symbol anywhere in the browser edges is enough to fool most of us.


How about we plan on not having a doomsday in the first place?

Why are nuclear weapons not banned? Chemical/biological weapons are. Let's end nuclear weapons too, and take this world back from the possibility of doomsday.


it worked for the dinosaurs!

sadly, planning for unknown unknowns is kind of hard. doomsday is possible with or without nuclear weapons.


Nuclear power is the root cause of nuclear weapons.


Unrecognized irony is the root cause of nuclear weapons -- since what is the point of fighting over oil fields or farmland or other resources with nuclear weapons when you have advanced materials and advanced computing and advanced energy sources that could produce abundance for everyone?


You forgot your /s




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