Planning An Evacuation

There have been many natural disasters in recent history that have required people to leave their homes in order to preserve life and safety. Most recently, the East Coast was forced to deal with Super Storm Sandy.

In this case, about two days’ notice was all that residents had to evacuate the areas that would be affected by the storm. Those that chose to adhere to the evacuation order were certainly inconvenienced but survived to talk about it. In past times of disaster, those who ignored orders to evacuate from disaster areas have lost their lives or at best have been stranded for long periods of time.

So What Makes An Evacuation Successful?

It is safe to say that in most cases, an early evacuation is a successful evacuation. Those who wait until the last minute to leave will likely end up on the gridlocked Interstates and some may become one of the unfortunate evacuees who run out of fuel and have to abandon their vehicles in the middle of the highway system.

The key to a successful evacuation is not only leaving early but having a plan to evacuate. Here are some considerations for planning a successful evacuation:

Know Where To Go

Evacuating will remove people from immediate danger but it does not give evacuees a place to stay. In most cases there will be shelters that are set up by relief organizations, and there are always hotels and motels that are available. But shelters are not ideal, and other lodging options fill quickly and are also being expensive.With that being said, the best option is to coordinate with family members or close friends to stay with them at least until longer term arrangements can be made. Staying with friends and family also typically removes limits on whether you can take family pets with you. Shelters and other lodging facilities don’t always give that option.

How Will You Get There?

Method of Evacuation: Most individuals or families will elect to take the most reliable vehicle available to them, others will take more than one vehicle, and some do not have a vehicle to evacuate in and will be forced to rely on others or the government in order to leave the area. Key points to consider when selecting the vehicle that you will use to evacuate is the weather you will be driving in, terrain you will be driving on, capacity of the vehicle, and the availability of fuel and parts for the vehicle as you are evacuating. If you do not have a vehicle and do not want to be left hitchhiking, consider talking to close friends or family in your local area now who have cars about what might happen if there ever was an evacuation order. Find out if one of them will plan to pick you up on the way out.

Routes of Evacuation: Plan more than one evacuation route to your destination. Ideally, there will be a route that will lead out-of-town or away from home and work in each direction: north, east, south and west. This will allow for evacuation regardless of whether one direction is blocked or not. When planning routes, avoiding large cities and metropolitan areas can be a sound decision to avoid danger, areas of congestion and unnecessary delays. One of the best technologies that is available that can be utilized to assist in planning evacuation routes are the online map websites that allow users to get directions from one place to another. An added bonus to planning your routes this way is that once they are planned, they can be printed and placed in a binder with other pertinent information, kept in vehicle glove boxes, or even shared with other family or survival group members through online file sharing. Global positioning systems are great for navigating as you travel, but it can be valuable to have paper maps or an atlas that covers all of the states and major population centers that you may travel through as a backup.

Stops Along the Way: It is likely that if you find yourself in a position where you are evacuating your home that you are probably not going to a destination right down the street. Furthermore, if your idea of a good time is not staying in a high school gym with a bunch of strangers, the destination you will evacuate to is likely to be a close friend or family member, so it may become necessary to make a few stops along the way. These stops may include arranging overnight accommodations. Plan stops for fuel, food, lodging, etc. as needed along your planned routes. To ensure that your planned stops are likely to be open and operating, look at truck stops and places other than one light towns.

What to Take

Cash: In the event of an emergency or disaster situation there may be electrical outages or technology failures that will result in businesses not accepting credit and debit cards. If this becomes the case, cash will be king. Planning to have cash on hand when evacuating will provide for purchasing necessities. It is also possible that banks will be closed and ATMs could be inoperable or out of cash.

B.O.B.: For those not familiar with the acronym, B.O.B. stands for Bug-Out Bag, which can be pretty much any bag that contains the life support items and necessities to survive for a certain period of time (usually 72 hours). The idea behind a B.O.B. is to have a bag on standby either in the house or in the car that can be grabbed at a moment’s notice and taken along. This is a perfect item to take in an evacuation to ensure that you are not without the bare necessities for survival. While there are no laws governing the B.O.B., typically each individual will have his own bag. A backpack is the most effective bag to use for carrying a B.O.B. for any period of time.

A B.O.B. should include:

  • A light source (at least a flashlight with an extra set of batteries).
  • Water for drinking (and a method to purify more water is recommended).
  • Food (jerky, granola bars, tuna, or other long-life foods that do not require refrigeration and ideally would not require any preparation).
  • Shelter (poncho, tarp, plastic sheeting, or survival blanket).
  • Fire/Warmth (fire starters, hand warmers and/or waterproof matches)
  • Clothing (Whatever suits you, no pun intended. For example, if you keep your bag in your car and wear dress shoes daily you would want to keep some hiking boots or athletic shoes in your B.O.B.).
  • Self defense/security (pepper spray or whatever is legal in your local area).
  • ·First aid kit.
  • Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, feminine products, etc.).
  • Tools (At a minimum a good knife, but a multi-tool can be valuable because of the additional features it offers. Other tools that some include in their bags include a hatchet, small pry bar, Woodsman’s Pal or machete.)
  • Communications (extra cell phone, CB radio, or family band radios to communicate between vehicles during an evacuation.)

Treated Fuel: If you have to leave, don’t get stuck on the side of the road in a vehicle that has run out of gas. A reasonable guideline is to carry enough stabilized fuel with you during an evacuation to travel an additional 100 miles.

Spare Vehicle Parts and Tools: Extra parts seem to always be needed at the worst of times. It is not going to be possible to carry an entire automotive shop everywhere you go, but a few key items can make a significant difference. Some important spare parts that should be kept in a vehicle include an extra set of belts and hoses, spare fuses, a can of fix-a-flat, various hose clamps, electrical tape, spare light bulbs and extra fluids. A basic mechanics tool set can be obtained inexpensively and will contain most of the tools needed to make side of the road repairs in an emergency. Must have items are jumper cables, lug wrench, tire jack, and either road flares or a warning triangle.

What Will Be Needed at Evacuation Location: Some of the important items that may be needed once you arrive at the location that you have evacuated to include:

  • Medical Records/Shot Records
  • Driver’s license
  • Social Security card
  • School records
  • Prescription medications (copies of prescriptions)
  • Glasses (copy of prescription)
  • Medical equipment
  • Comfort Items (especially important for children)
  • Insurance documents
  • Bank account information

Dealing With Extended Evacuation

The victims of Hurricane Katrina were displaced for extended periods of time and some never returned to New Orleans. Part of evacuating will require staring down the barrel of the cold hard truth and knowing that a new life may have to be established somewhere else, at least for a temporary, yet extended, period of time. This will mean obtaining long term housing, securing employment, finding schools for the kids, etc. Long term disruption is not a guarantee with every evacuation, but being prepared for this possibility can make a significant difference for a person that ends up in that situation.

For instance, an evacuee that has filed a resume in Google Docs so that it can be accessed from anywhere is better prepared to apply for a new job in a different part of the country than a person that is displaced and has to create a new resume from scratch.

In an ideal world there would never be a need to involuntarily leave home. The fact of the matter is that as long as natural disasters, catastrophic failures in technological systems, societal collapse, pandemics, economic disaster, terrorism or acts of war threaten society, so it may be necessary to evacuate your home and relocate to another location. If this happens, having a plan in place results in a proactive approach instead of a reactive evacuation where key items may be missed. Trying to gather all the necessities at the last minute may put you, your loved ones and/or friends in a difficult situation.

-Thomas Miller

Getting Started In Shooting

A major component of modern survivalism and most preppers’ survival philosophy includes owning firearms. The practice of having firearms can aid in personal defense and the defense of loved ones and property, and offers the ability to hunt for food. What can be difficult, though, is getting a start in shooting when you were not raised in an environment where firearms and the shooting sports were a part of life. Guns can be intimidating and, therefore, often cause apprehension and sometimes outright discomfort when considering the option of taking the first step toward getting started in shooting. Consider these questions when getting started in shooting.

Which Gun Is Right?

Choosing the right gun should be based on the intended use, whether it be personal defense, hunting, home defense or target shooting. Handguns are well suited for personal defense; shotguns can be used for personal defense, home defense or hunting; rifles are ideal for hunting; and any of them can be a whole lot of fun for target shooting.

Handguns (semi-automatics and revolvers): Both revolvers and semi-automatic handguns are manufactured in a wide variety of sizes and calibers. While smaller guns are easier to conceal, larger-framed guns tend to be more accurate. Some prefer semi-automatics because of their increased capacity in the number of rounds that they can hold where others prefer revolvers for their simpler design. There are many calibers of handgun cartridges, but perhaps the cheapest and best round to train with is the 9mm Luger. This round will work only if your handgun of choice is a semi-automatic. If choosing a revolver, the .38 Special is a good round to choose for its affordability compared to others.

Rifle: A rifle is a great weapon to use as an introduction to the shooting sports. Large percentages of people have learned to shoot with a .22 caliber rifle. It is a small caliber that makes it easy for anyone to learn to shoot; the rounds can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of any other round; and a .22 rifle can be purchased relatively inexpensively.

Shotgun: In the realm of beginner weapons, a shotgun is typically not to be found, but that does not withdraw it from possibility. There are some great benefits to the shotgun as a weapon choice though as well. A single shot shotgun can be purchased at a big box store for less than $150, and a box of 25 target rounds can be obtained for about $5.

Who Can Help?

Family or friends: The ideal situation would be if you have a family member or trusted friend who is gun owner and who is available to show you their firearms and let you shoot some of them. Typically in this case, it will not cost a whole lot other than maybe the cost of ammunition (and perhaps some snacks) to get the opportunity to get a feel for how a few different weapons fire. This will give you a good idea of what might be the best fit for you before you make a large investment in a gun of your own.

Gun Range: A local, privately operated gun range will often have rental guns that can be rented for a portion of a day and fired on the range. In most cases, you don’t even have to worry about cleaning the guns after dirtying them. This is usually the one opportunity outside of shooting a friend’s or family member’s gun where you can try it before you buy it. The range staff should also be able to offer assistance with which firearms might be best suited for you in the circumstances that you will be shooting.

Gun Shop: If there is not a local range that offers rental guns or family or friends who can help you with finding a gun that is a good fit for you and your needs, the staff at a gun shop can be a huge help. There is typically no other place where one person can compare so many different models of firearms, which is a great advantage — especially for someone who is new to firearms or even just someone who wants to see what is new and exciting in the world of guns.

Where To Get Training?

Local shooting range: Find a local shooting range that offers firearm instruction at wheretoshoot.org. While you are there, make sure to check out the resources tab where there is some great information about news and events, printable targets, information about firearm safety and information about the shooting sports.

First Shots: The First Shots program is also offered in several States through local ranges and is designed to give interested people who have never fired a handgun the chance to learn how to, free of charge. The First Shots program covers the safe use of firearms, the local requirements for purchasing and owning a firearm, and an overview of opportunities in the shooting sports at all levels. More information can be found as well as local seminars at firstshots.org.

Project Appleseed: One of the great programs available today is Project Appleseed from the Revolutionary War Veterans Association, which provides marksmanship clinics for all ages from mature youths all the way up to seniors. In addition to marksmanship training, the Appleseed Project includes lessons in American history and heritage with emphasis on how marksmanship skills set the course for the establishment of America. More information about Project Appleseed can be located at appleseedinfo.org.

Concealed Weapons Class: If the State you live in allows the lawful carry of concealed weapons, pursuing such training not only offers the opportunity to carry a concealed weapon if licensed, but it also gives great insight into the applicable firearm laws of the State. The curriculum of most States’ concealed weapons classes also involves a firearms qualification portion which can be useful in establishing firearms proficiency.

National Rifle Association: The National Rifle Association offers multiple training opportunities for everyone from beginners to competitive firearm shooters. What is unique about NRA programs is that there are specialized programs for hunters, women and youths. To look into NRA training programs, click here.

State Department of Natural Resources/Fish & Game: Every State offers hunter safety classes, usually through the Department of Natural Resources or Department of Fish & Game. While a hunter safety class will not teach expert marksmanship, attendees will gain a firm grasp on the safe handling and operation of firearms as well as how to properly and safely hunt in your State of residence.

Where To Buy?

Once you have decided what kind of gun is right for you (hopefully you received some help along the way) and completed some training, find a good place to buy your new firearm. There are a number of possible locations to purchase a gun. It is recommended that only legal options should be pursued. Some of those options include sporting goods stores, guns shops, pawn shops, auctions and gun shows.

Now that all the pieces are in place, make sure to always practice firearms safety and remember that guns are useful tools that can be very enjoyable as a lifelong hobby. All it takes is getting a start.

–Thomas Miller

10 Places Anyone Can Store Food

One of the cornerstones of preparedness is storing food. No one argues the point of whether food is important. Maybe an argument can be found in where food is placed in the hierarchy of prepping needs, but no one will say that it does not have a place. What I have found, though, is that not too many discussions occur about where these rations will be stored.

It seems as though it is always assumed that every prepper has an extra room in the house to fill with shelves that can be neatly stacked with cans and boxes and labeled by category or a basement to do the same. I know that I, for one, have not always had these options available to me. Whether you live in a large house, a small house, an apartment or a dorm room, the need for stored food doesn’t change, resulting in the need for places to store foods wherever you may live.

Some of the places that storage food may be stored regardless of the type of dwelling you live in include:

Under the bed: There is a fair amount of space under a bed which can be used for storing food instead of lost TV remotes or slippers. What makes the space under the bed even easier to use for storage is some of the specially manufactured containers that specifically fit the dimensions of the underside of the bed. These containers slide in and out easily from under the bed and make it easy to organize your food storage. The flexibility of these containers would also allow for storage foods to easily be loaded up and taken with you in the event that an evacuation were necessary. A good substitute for these containers would be shallow cardboard boxes.

Under the coffee table: The shelf under a coffee table provides additional space for storing food. This can be a great option for someone who lives in a smaller living space like a loft. Obviously, this could be an eyesore in a main living area but can easily be disguised by covering the table with a tablecloth.

Under an end table: Storing food under an end table is essentially the same as a coffee table but on a smaller scale. This can be a useful tactic in the most size-restrictive spaces like dorm rooms or military barracks.

Make your own table: This is perhaps the perfect option for those who buy storage foods in bulk. It also happens to be the one non-standard food-storage option that I have heard of the most. Foods that are in boxes are especially well-suited for this storage idea. Make a table out of food storage by stacking two boxes of food on top of each other, centering a 2-by-2 piece of plywood on top of the boxes and cover with a tablecloth.

On the closet floor: You know that space on the floor of your closet? Yep. That space below your clothes that doesn’t really seem to be good for anything except for losing an occasional shoe. It can also be an ideal storage area. This area may be particularly ideal for storing long-term foods in No. 10 cans that you may get from companies like Mountain House.

On a closet shelf: The shelf in the top part of a bedroom closet is not always used. If there is open space or junk sitting on your closet shelf, it is space that most likely is being wasted. If shelf space is chosen to store food, always make sure that the shelf can support the weight of the items that are being stored on it. This is especially important to keep in mind when storing canned goods on shelving. Because of weight concerns, the top shelf of your closet might best serve as a storage area for foods such as pasta, instant potatoes, ramen noodles and other lightweight boxed foods.

In the linen closet: A linen closet can be another great storage area in the home, whether it is for linens or something else. When I lived in an apartment, there was a linen closet; but I did not have enough linen to make complete use of this area. In a situation such as this, excess space in a linen closet could be used to store food. Remember to always evaluate the amount of weight that you are thinking about placing on a shelf before you put it there to ensure that it will not cause the shelf to break or pose a safety risk.

Behind the couch: If the couch is up against the wall in your house, it is likely that you have at least 4 to 6 inches of space that most people would consider “dead” space. What can be done with this space depends on the individual piece of furniture; but it could allow for at least one row of soup cans, boxes of macaroni and cheese, jars of pasta sauce, etc. Essentially, the limit is the creativity of the person placing the food storage items behind the couch. If someone is really inclined toward engineering and is concerned about gaining quick access to these items, it could be possible to tie or tape these items together, which would allow them to be pulled out together without having to move the furniture.

Inside your luggage: Do you have luggage that sits empty in the closet for the greater part of the year? Most people do. This makes your empty luggage an ideal place to store items such as canned and/or dry goods while you are waiting for your next chance to relive the Spring Break trip you took with your friends in 1992.

Out in the open: OK, so I don’t mean literally just sitting out in the open. But if there is an open space in a room, there is an opportunity to use a set of cabinets or piece of furniture as a second pantry. This can look like just an ordinary piece of furniture in the home while disguising your emergency food stores.

While places to store food for a difficult time are limited only to your imagination and the space that you live in, there are without question places in every home where foods can be stored. Once a decision has been made as to where you plan on storing your food, make sure that it is in appropriate containers. Plastic totes are a great way to keep critters out and protect food from the elements that cause it to go bad at an accelerated pace. Don’t forget to annotate expiration dates and rotate storage foods so that you don’t end up with a cache of useless foods. Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget where you stored your food.

–Thomas Miller

The Political Economy Of Government Employee Unions

The main reason so many State and local governments are bankrupt, or on the verge of bankruptcy, is the combination of government-run monopolies and government-employee unions. Government-employee unions have vastly more power than do private-sector unions because the entities they work for are typically monopolies.

When the employees of a grocery store, for example, go on strike and shut down the store, consumers can simply shop elsewhere, and the grocery-store management is perfectly free to hire replacement workers. In contrast, when a city teachers’ or garbage-truck drivers’ union goes on strike, there is no school and no garbage collection as long as the strike goes on. In addition, teachers’ tenure (typically after two or three years in government schools) and civil-service regulations make it extremely costly if not virtually impossible to hire replacement workers.

Thus, when government bureaucrats go on strike they have the ability to completely shut down the entire "industry" they "work" in indefinitely. The taxpayers will complain bitterly about the absence of schools and garbage collection, forcing the mayor, governor, or city councilors to quickly cave in to the union’s demands to avoid risking the loss of their own jobs due to voter dissatisfaction. This process is the primary reason why, in general, the expenses of State and local governments have skyrocketed year in and year out, while the "production" of government employees declines.

For decades, researchers have noted that the more money that is spent per pupil in the government schools, the worse is the performance of the students. Similar outcomes are prevalent in all other areas of government "service." As Milton Friedman once wrote, government bureaucracies—especially unionized ones—are like economic black holes where increased "inputs" lead to declining "outputs." The more that is spent on government schools, the less educated are the students. The more that is spent on welfare, the more poverty there is and so on. This of course is the exact opposite of normal economic life in the private sector, where increased inputs lead to more products and services, not fewer.

Thirty years ago, the economist Sharon Smith was publishing research showing that government employees were paid as much as 40 percent more than comparable private-sector employees. If anything, that wage premium has likely increased.

The enormous power of government-employee unions effectively transfers the power to tax from voters to the unions. Because government-employee unions can so easily force elected officials to raise taxes to meet their "demands," it is they, not the voters, who control the rate of taxation within a political jurisdiction. They are the beneficiaries of a particular form of taxation without representation (not that taxation with representation is much better). This is why some States have laws prohibiting strikes by government-employee unions. (The unions often strike anyway.)

Politicians are caught in a political bind by government-employee unions: If they cave in to their wage demands and raise taxes to finance them, then they increase the chances of being kicked out of office themselves in the next election. The "solution" to this dilemma has been to offer government-employee unions moderate wage increases but spectacular pension promises. This allows politicians to pander to the unions but defer the costs to the future, long after the panderers are retired from politics.

As taxpayers in California, Wisconsin, Indiana and many other States are realizing, the future has arrived. The Wall Street Journal reports that State and local governments in the United States currently have $3.5 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities. They must either raise taxes dramatically to fund these liabilities, as some have already done, or drastically cut back or eliminate government-employee pensions.

Government-employee unions are primarily interested in maximizing the profits of the union. Consequently, they use civil-service regulations as a tool to protect the job of every last government bureaucrat, no matter how incompetent or irresponsible he or she is. Fewer employed bureaucrats mean fewer union dues are being paid. Thus, it is almost guaranteed that government-employee unions will challenge in court the attempted dismissal of all bureaucrats save the occasional ones who are accused of actual criminal behavior. This means that firing an incompetent government school teacher, for example, can take months, or years, of legal wrangling.

Politicians discovered long ago that the most convenient response to this dilemma is to actually reward the incompetent bureaucrat with an administrative job that he or she will gladly accept, along with its higher pay and perks. That solves the problem of parents who complain that their children’s math teacher cannot do math, while eliminating the possibility of a lawsuit by the union. This is why government-school administrative offices are bloated bureaucratic monstrosities filled with teachers who can’t teach and are given the responsibilities of "administering" the entire school system instead. No private-sector school could survive with such a perverse policy.

Government-employee unions are also champions of "featherbedding"—the union practice of forcing employers to hire more than the number of people necessary to do the job. If this occurs in the private sector, the higher wage costs will make the firm less competitive and less profitable. It may even go bankrupt, as the heavily unionized American steel, automobile and textile industries learned decades ago.

No such thing happens in government, where there are no profit-and-loss statements, in an accounting sense, and most agencies are monopolies anyway. Featherbedding in the government sector is viewed as a benefit to both politicians and unions—but certainly not to taxpayers. The unions collect more union dues with more government employees, while the politicians get to hand out more patronage jobs. Each patronage job is usually worth two or more votes, since the government employee can always be counted on to get at least one family member or close friend to vote for the politician who gave him the job. This is why, in the vast literature showing the superior efficiency of private versus government enterprises, government almost always has higher labor costs for the same functions.

Every government-employee union is a political machine that lobbies relentlessly for higher taxes, increased government spending, more featherbedding and more pension promises—while demonizing hesitant taxpayers as uncaring enemies of children, the elderly and the poor (who are purportedly "served" by the government bureaucrats the unions represent).

It is the old socialist trick that Frédéric Bastiat wrote about in his famous essay, The Law: The unions view advocates of school privatization, not as legitimate critics of a failed system, but as haters of children. And the unions treat critics of the welfare state, not as persons concerned with the destruction of the work ethic and of the family that has been caused by the welfare state, but as enemies of the poor.

This charade is over. American taxpayers finally seem to be aware that they are the servants, not the masters, of government at all levels. Government-employee unions have played a key role in causing bankruptcy in most American States, and their pleas for more bailouts financed by endless tax increases are finally ringing hollow.