Last Wednesday’s 490 point run-up of the Dow was a great day for many people. It gave the temporary sensation that things were actually alright with the economy. For others, it provided an opportunity to get out of risky positions at less of a loss, or even a gain. Still others saw it as an equivalent to nitrogen narcosis that divers experience at depth or the warm feeling that people suffering from the later stages of hypothermia feel that makes them remove their warm clothing: simply a short-term euphoric feeling before a predictable end.
One of the main factors credited with the jump in the Dow is the deal that was announced to prop up the euro by continuing to tie the euro to other currencies through low-interest loan guarantees. In many ways, this is like handcuffing yourself to someone getting ready to jump off of a bridge or hoping that the prospect of mutually assured destruction will prevent an enemy from attacking you.
The concept of mutually assured destruction was widely popularized during the Cold War when the United States and the Soviet Union had so many nuclear weapons pointed at each other that both sides knew that launching a single one would escalate to the point at which both sides would be completely destroyed.
At the same time as we were putting a system of physical mutually assured destruction into place, we were putting a system of economic mutually assured destruction into place with Breton Woods in 1944. Breton Woods was a huge nail in the coffin of a U.S. dollar backed by gold, as well as the start of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In short, Breton Woods put a framework into effect that would intertwine the world’s economies to the point that future economic failures would be global rather than national or regional.
There are several nefarious components to Breton Woods, but the mad one was that countries wouldn’t be able to attack each other without hurting themselves economically.
Fast-forward to late November 2011. The European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the central banks of Canada, Japan and Switzerland all agreed to open up “bilateral liquidity swaps” as needed through February 2013. They agreed to loan each other money at below-market rates. One way to look at this is that the agreement will continually pump money from the healthiest central banks to the sickest ones. There’s a slim chance that this will help make the sickest central banks healthier. More than likely, unless all of the countries involved agree to cut entitlement spending and balance their budgets by spending less than they take in, the measure will just serve to spread the sickness in their economies to the other central banks and ensure mutual destruction.
What will this destruction look like? When will it happen? All we can do is guess. Markets are not rational, as shown by the flight to U.S. dollars last Wednesday and the Dow Jones industrial average going up 490 points. Americans are lucky right now because, regardless of how sick our economy is, other economies are sicker; and their citizens, corporations and even governments are fleeing to U.S. dollars for relative safety.
What can you do? Prepare. The simplest and most powerful thing you can do is to stock up on the items you regularly use. Buy as much as your budget, space and expiration dates allow. Remember, when you buy the things you already use, you can always consume what you’ve stored instead of buying more when you need money. Many people have taken my advice and buy extra food, vitamins, paper products and other consumables from January through November. When December rolls around, they go to their storage instead of going to the store and spend the money they would have spent on supplies on Christmas gifts. It’s a little late to put that strategy into practice this year, but it’s definitely something that you can start doing when January rolls around.
One of the best aspects of taking this fundamental preparedness step is that it will help you regardless of what disaster or survival situation you find yourself in. It won’t matter if your survival situation happens because of economic collapse, pandemic quarantine, terrorist attack, natural disaster, medical emergency, short term breakdowns in the supply chain or the loss of a job. Having a basic stockpile of consumables that you already use is one of the best preparedness steps you can take.
Unique Considerations For Winter Driving Preparedness
Winter is upon us, and along with winter comes cold — or at least cooler weather and greater consequences in the event that you have an emergency while in your car.
Whether it’s hitting an animal, getting a flat, running out of gas, driving in a blizzard, having mechanical issues or experiencing something else, cold weather is a factor that can take any one of these situations from being a minor annoyance to being a life-or-death situation.
I’m not going to go into the details of what you want to have in your car preparedness kits and/or first aid kits in general, but I am going to talk about some items to consider keeping in your car during the winter.
- Hand, body and/or foot warmers: Buy pouches that heat up when exposed to air. You can put the small ones in your gloves or boots or the big ones in your coat or sleeping bag. I never truly appreciated these until I found myself in a situation in which my hands were too cold to start a fire. Jumping up and down and running around may help warm your hands, but the combination of activity and glove warmers do it a lot quicker. The larger pouches, called body warmers, are a much better option than using candles or other fuel-based heaters in a car. They will last 10-15 hours, and you can put them inside of your clothing so that you absorb as much of the heat as possible. While 100-hour candles don’t put out much carbon monoxide, I would feel much more comfortable going to sleep in a car being warmed by a body warmer or a couple of hand warmers than a candle.
- Blanket(s): I prefer wool, synthetic or one that has one side that’s waterproof or water resistant. The waterproof and water resistant ones are normally sold as picnic blankets. They are very handy for giving you a dry place to sit on wet grass, snow or pavement.
- Emergency reflective blankets: You can use the inexpensive, compact, Mylar® ones, but SOL™ has some great alternatives that are quieter, more flexible, less likely to rip and suitable for multiple people.
- Trash bags: Trash bags are almost, but not quite as multifaceted as duct tape. In a winter survival situation, you can use them as a moisture barrier to keep you dry when sitting or lying on snow. You can melt snow in them on a sunny day (although you will get a significant number of nasty chemicals in your water from the plastic that affect the taste and quality of the water.) You can use them to make improvised rain or snow gear. You can stuff them with leaves, crumpled paper or other debris to make an improvised sleeping bag. You can even boil water in plastic bags over indirect heat, although you have the same chemical-leaching problem that you have with melting snow. One other timely benefit: If you find yourself in a 60-100 mph sustained-wind storm, like what Utah had last week, a set of improvised trash bag clothes will protect you from the bone-chilling effects of cold wind.
- Warm clothes, coveralls, socks, gloves, hat and boots or shoes: This is especially important if you wear heels or dress shoes, drive to the gym in workout clothes or ever find yourself leaving the house during a warm time of day and expect to come back at a cold time of day.
- A way to make warm drinks: This means having a fire source, liquid and a container. Here’s why this is so important. Let’s say you have a gas camping stove and you have two options: Run it for one minute close to your body with your hands as close to it as possible to get warmed up or run it for one minute to heat up a cup of water that you’ll hold in your hands and put into your body. Heating, holding and drinking warm water will convert a much higher percentage of the fuel to perceived and actual body warmth than simply warming yourself by the fire for a minute.
- A standard shovel or camping shovel: Carrying a standard shovel has saved me from a long, cold walk more than once when I found myself trying to drive through a fresh snowdrift during or shortly after a blizzard. Speed and aggression are vital in this situation, as you’ve got an incredibly short window between when your vehicle starts compressing the snow, it melts and starts to re-freeze, perfectly forming to the contours of the bottom of your vehicle. In situations like this, a long, sturdy handle not only makes the job quicker, it also allows you to keep your arms out from under your vehicle, thus keeping you safer. Of course, there are less extreme reasons to have a shovel with you: excavating to make changing a tire simpler, digging a hole for a fire, using as a defensive tool, scooping gravel and/or rocks under or in front of your tire if you’re stuck.
- A sturdy snow scraper and brush: This isn’t much of an issue if you’re not in snow-and-ice country; but if you do run into ice and snow, the bigger and stronger your scraper and brush, the easier life will be.
- At least a half tank of gas at all times. There’s nothing like the sinking feeling of running out of gas and realizing that the only reason it happened was because of a series of bad choices to postpone filling up — except for running out of gas when it’s freezing cold outside. The combination of no fuel and cold weather is another case where a simple inconvenience can quickly turn into a survival situation.
You can also carry salt, sand, kitty litter or a number of other items with you to help with ice and snow. Because of the effect that cold weather has on batteries, we make sure our battery jump packs are charged and in our cars when the temperatures get below freezing.
What other winter-specific items do you carry in your vehicles? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.