Chance favors the prepared!

3 types of Preppers you don’t want to be

Over the course of this site’s existence, I have received a lot of emails. Many have been very complimentary. Many more have had questions in them, and I try to answer every question that I can. But a few emails I received have been pretty insulting, questioning everything from my sanity to my intelligence to my manhood. I usually just chuckle, and then hit delete.

But in the past few weeks, I have received some e-mails that I didn’t chuckle at. Some of the email I received I felt was way off base when it comes to prepping. Some of them were borderline delusional.

Yes, there will always be people out there with mental illness that have access to the internet and e-mail. But I want to believe that some of these preppers simply suffer from ignorance. I am really wanting to believe that maybe some folks are just approaching prepping wrong.

This isn’t because they are stupid, but because they are just uninformed. There is a big difference between ignorant and just plain stupid. As the saying goes, stupidity is not the lack of knowledge, but the illusion of having it.

Ignorance can be fixed with those who wish to learn. And so I thought that maybe if I threw a little reasoning and logic out there, maybe I could help spread a little knowledge about prepping. My hope is that maybe a few preppers will “see the light” and have a better understand what prepping is and is not.

Some Misconceptions about Prepping


Just recently, I wrote an article on priorities in prepping on a tight budget. I listed an emergency cell phone as your #1 priority. I felt like the article was pretty well received. But I was sent an e-mail from an individual who proceeded to tell me how much of an idiot I was. He wrote, and I quote:

…idiot…When an EMP wipes out the power grid, good luck with your cell phone then! Water is the first priority plain and simple.

Now I’m not going to use real names here. I’ll protect the guilty. (Let’s just call him Larry.) But there are MULTIPLE problems with his response. I’ll give you part of my reply to him.

You are correct in that if an EMP were to hit the US, depending upon several different factors, the grid would go down, and our cell phones could be rendered useless. However, let me throw some information and logic at you, and show you why I said a cell phone should be your #1 piece of equipment.

The National Safety Council estimates that 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million people injured on U.S. roads in 2015 via traffic accidents. The number of people killed or even adversely affected by an EMP in the past 100 years?  Zero.

Hence I think we can conclude logically that the chances of you being involved in a car accident are ASTRONOMICALLY greater than you being affected by an EMP.

In this case, would you rather have a cell phone to call 911? Or a 3 day supply of water?

The CDC estimates that there were over 43 million emergency room visits in 2015.  That is well over 117,000 people a day across the US going to the ER!

The number of people affected by…say a zombie apocalypse? Zero.

Again…using the laws of probability, I’m guessing a cell phone to call for an ambulance is probably a much more likely possibility than needing  a Sawyer mini water filter.

Larry’s email sums up several problems, mistakes, and misconceptions that I see so many preppers make. I have broken down these prepper mistakes into 3 categories. Let’s cover these shall we?

Prepping for Worse Case Scenario Only

When you hear the term “prepper”, what do you think? I’m willing to bet that many of you think of EMPs, nuclear wars, global pandemics, etc. You might think it terms of Mad Max and The Walking Dead. And while we are prepared for possible scenarios like that, there is SO MUCH MORE to prepping than just TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) events.

Let me give you an analogy about why you DON’T prep for just the worst case scenario.

Assuming that you live somewhere that actually has seasonal weather (not Hawaii or southern California) you most likely have warm summer months and cold winter months. Where I live, it can get down into the low teens during the winter. So for those freezing cold days and nights, I have a big 5-11 three in one parka. (See pic on right.) Probably the warmest coat I have ever owned. Since that will be what I wear in the worst winter weather I’ll experience here in my area, that is all I need…right?

Well no. I actually have several different types of jackets. I also have some rain gear. In my closet I have some sweat shirts, hoodies, and pull overs as well.

Why?

Because I won’t always need my big heavy coat. Most of the time I may need something else instead. I’m not wearing my heavy winter coat in the spring when it is in around 50 degrees but rainy. I have a rain jacket for that.

What about a cool fall evening? It’s not freezing cold, but a light jacket would be nice.

I don’t have just a large, heavy winter coat and nothing else because the weather won’t always be at its coldest. Emergencies and disasters in your life won’t always be TEOTWAWKI!

I have been in numerous disaster situations. I lost my apartment to a tornado a few years back. The next year I worked in Moore, Oklahoma where a tornado killed 24 people and did over $2 billion dollars’ worth of damage. I experienced an ice storm several years ago where I lost power for about two days and was snowed in. My brother lost his job a few years back, and lived on his food storage for about 8 weeks until he found a new job.

In each of these situations, being prepared helped me and/or my family out in a difficult situations. Having the plans, gear, and supplies made each of these events easier to get through. And none of these emergencies was on the disaster scale of a EMP or global pandemic.

Stop and consider that the larger/more severe the scale of a disaster, the lower the probability of it happening. I’m not saying that it can’t or won’t happen. But as I have shown in the above illustrations, the chances of small, localized, or even personal emergencies are FAR MORE likely to happen than a WROL (Without Rule of Law) event.

I mean if you really want to think about the absolute worst case scenario, that would be something like a large asteroid or comet hitting the Earth. Maybe a direct hit from a Gamma Ray Burst from a supernova star just a few light years away.

If one of these events occurred, all life on this planet would basically end. No amount of dooms day bunkers or food storage would save you. So in that case, why even prep at all?

Well…because there are so many other possibilities that could happen! “Larry” was only looking at a large, catastrophic event. He wasn’t stopping to think about smaller emergencies.

Should you prep for the worst case scenarios? Absolutely. But not at the expense of prepping for more likely and smaller events.

Thinking you know what SHTF will happen

Larry’s email said WHEN an EMP wipes out…like he had some sort of magic crystal ball and he knew that THAT would be the doomsday event. Well, if he is truly psychic, maybe he can tell me the winning numbers to next week’s Powerball drawing…or why Kerri dumped me out of the blue and broke my heart in the 8th grade. I’m still not sure why.

No one has the Dooms Day script. We do NOT know what will happen. Hence we prepare for a WIDE range of unknown events. And even if we have a massive SHTF situation like an EMP, I promise you it is NOT going to go the way you picture it in your mind!

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that a terrorist organization launches a crude nuclear missile and detonates it a couple hundred miles in the Earth’s atmosphere, triggering an EMP. The day so many preppers have been preparing for has finally arrived! Investing in all of your Doom’s Day preps are about to pay off!!!

But the EMP doesn’t hit the US. Instead, it hits a large section of Western Europe. England, France, Spain, large parts of Germany, etc goes dark.  The folks here in the US and Canada still have their cars and cell phones. But if you think that would not have MASSIVE complications on things like the global economy, international relations, etc you are in for a rude awakening.

What if a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) from the Sun hit the planet, but instead hits countries like China or Russian? Their power grid is gone! Now what?

Again….the US power-grid is ok. We still have our cars and our electric appliances. However, I promise you countries like China and Russia are not going to go to 3rd world country status quietly. This would mostly likely alter relationships across the planet pretty DRASTICALLY!

These are just two slightly different scenarios. The different variables to those or other possible grid down situations are almost endless. And that is just EMP scenarios. There are hundreds and thousands of global situations that could happen! So stop thinking you know what will happen. You don’t! None of us do! All we can do is speculate.

For more information on EMPs, click here!

Prepping for One Only or Two Scenarios

Last year I got into an email discussion with a guy named “Moe” about BOV (Bug Out Vehicles). Moe was telling me all sorts of things about BOVs. He talked about BOVs needed to be made before 1978 (or some such year), before vehicles began putting micro chips into vehicles. (For the record, I don’t recall which year it was he said…but I do recall him saying that he had a 1977 Ford Bronco.)

Moe also wrote, and I’m paraphrasing here:

Any and all vehicles made after such and such a year would be rendered useless. So don’t bother getting a newer model. And the vehicles need to be 4 x 4 and have a powerful engine etc. so you can go off road. Since the millions of cars on the road made after 1978 will come to a complete stop on the roadways. Yadda yadda yadda….

Anyway, you can see where this went. I asked Moe about the gas mileage for a 1977 Ford Bronco. I think it was somewhere between 9 to 11 miles per gallon. Not exactly fuel friendly. I continued with my observations…

So what happens if (during a SHTF situation) you are in a part of the country where you have trouble finding non-ethanol gas? Ethanol gas is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water more easily than normal gasoline. That water can cause rust in fuel systems by creating condensation in the unfilled portion of gas tanks. It will also dissolve things like varnish in steel fuel components. Those dissolved particles will sit in the bottom of gas tanks until they are removed. If not removed, they will enter the fuel system when the fuel level in the tank gets too low.

Think that might cause you problems in your 1977 Bronco?

Ethanol fuel also creates less energy than non-ethanol gas. This can seriously hurt your fuel economy in vehicles not designed for ethanol gas. So your 9 miles to the gallon? Yep..it could get MUCH worse if all you have is ethanol gas.

And finally, we don’t have enough data to know one way or the other what the effect of an EMP on vehicles would be. This includes older vehicles! For more information on EMPs, I encourage you to read this.

Yep…there is A LOT we DON’T know about EMP’s effects on vehicles. And what is known has not fully been released to the public because it is highly classified. Also, there are so many different variables that come into play regarding an EMP. Things like the altitude of detonation, the angle of detonation, the position of your vehicle in relationship to the angle of detonation, etc. Those are just a few. The possibilities here are enormous.

To say that an EMP would wipe out all vehicles on the road newer than a certain year is an uneducated guess at best.

I then asked Moe what would happen if we didn’t have an EMP, but instead we had a global financial collapse. The price of fuel skyrockets to well past $15 a gallon or even more. Now that 1977 Ford Bronco is not quite as practical as other, more fuel efficient vehicles.

My point in all this is that being a prepper means being prepared for a multitude of different emergencies and disasters big and small. Focusing only on one or two scenarios at the expense of others means you really aren’t prepared for any other probabilities. That makes you a crappy prepper.

General Douchebaggery

A while back, I wrote an article on mistakes I see preppers make. Part of what I said was:

To those who think that skill and ability with (and possession of) firearms top all other skills in an emergency (even more important than the ability to find and purify water or more important than finding/making shelter from the elements for example)…

A guy we will call “Curly” fired off an angry email. Curly told me that when the government and society collapses, only those who can defend themselves and hunt will survive. I would most likely be killed because I was trying to make a shelter and was not defending myself.

At first I tried to be reasonable. I pointed out the disasters I had experienced before…like the tornado that hit Moore, Ok. Or losing my apartment to a tornado. I didn’t need firearms for those.

He wrote, and I quote: “Those are not SHTF events!”

WHAT!!@#!$!

That set me off. (And is most likely the cause of this rant.)

So a tornado that kills 24 people and does over $2,000,000,000 (that’s BILLION) worth of damage is not a SHTF event? Try telling that to the thousands of people who were suddenly displaced from their homes and businesses or worse, had family members and friends killed or injured!

Losing my home through catastrophic means is not a SHTF event? It sure as hell was to me!!

 

How incredibly narcissistic do you have to be to think that just because the event did not affect you personally, that somehow it is not a SHTF event??

I did not reply to Curly’s last email. What good would it do? It was Euripides who is credited with saying

Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.

Rant Over…Getting off Soapbox

I know this article is calling out certain types of preppers. This is not meant to be insulting or demeaning. Instead, I’m hoping that preppers will stop and self-evaluate. If they find that they might be slipping into one of the above categories, then hopefully they will use this as a learning experience.

I’m not the end all/be all of prepping. I am trying to use what I have learned as an outdoor survival instructor, police officer, and prepper to help teach others about becoming more prepared and self-reliant. But I am learning as well.

I have probably learned as much about being prepared by running this website and teaching others as I did before I started this site. I have gained so much knowledge because of it. For example, I wrote an article on 5 items not to stockpile for a long-term grid down scenario. One item I mentioned was gold and silver. (I go into more detail on why I wouldn’t stock gold or silver in this article here.)

A guy in the comments section of that article spoke about a family he knew who escaped from Vietnam by bribing officials with gold and jewelry the family had. Hence they had a use for gold and other precious items. That was something I had never thought about before. I’m willing to bet most folks here probably haven’t thought about having to escape FROM the US. But who knows what will happen in the future. It’s not something I would think could happen, but you never know.

Anyway, I learned something from his comment. It made me stop and think about some things I’d never thought about before. So certainly I want to hear from other preppers out there. Are there hints and tips I’m missing? Creative feedback and ideas are not just welcomed, but encouraged!

If you have nothing but insults? Well….

voteStay safe out there!

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24 Responses to 3 types of Preppers you don’t want to be

  • Hey man, you wrote $2 trillion, not two billion. Billion has 9 zeroes.

  • Excellent points, keep up the great work!

  • I guess I’m the same kind of “prepper” as you are, one that just tries to cover as many basics as possible. I’ve always been this way, I was raised by grandparents who lived thru the Great Depression and one great grandma who came out west in a covered wagon! We’ve always been very rural dwellers, in an agricultural based county with low population. Power outages are common, and weather is always at one extreme or another! We’ve always had gardens, always had lanterns and backup heat, always canned and preserved food. Grew up hunting and eating our kills, even stuff most folks would think of as strange, like rattlesnake. Adding in a few things for the more advanced kind of emergency doesn’t take a whole lot, and if I never need them, they will still find a use one way or other. No matter what kind of SHTF comes my way, I at least have the basics covered and should withstand it much better than most. It will take more work than modern living does, but so what? I’ll still be fed, warm, and have clean water and clothing. I have skills I can barter in trade for things I may want or need, and a stash of cash, including COINS, to purchase things if I must. My SHTF happened when I could no longer work as a nurse due to MS, and I lived on less than a few hundred dollars a month while fighting to get SSDI. It only took four years! But I built things from junk, scavenged stuff, gleaned the leftovers from the gardens of friends who were done with their harvest, and found many ways to get food and supplies for free or nearly free. Not working? I had all the time I needed to garden, when I had enough energy to do so. And I didn’t need as much money because I wasn’t driving much, didn’t need to buy as much food, didn’t eat out for lunch most days, etc. what I do buy, I buy in larger quantities only when in season or on sale, and set it by for when it’s not. Now that I have some income again, I’ve focused on hand tools, both for gardening and yard work, as well as for general repair and carpentry type things. Why buy an expensive rechargeable drill, when a bit and brace works fine and I won’t have to worry about it going dead and not being able to charge it? Hammers, axes, hand saws, even a two man felling saw is tucked away. Chicken coop is on the plan for this spring, and then possibly some rabbits for meat as well. I trapped some wild quail and pheasants and turned them loose in my yard, with a little feed everyday they stuck around and I can catch or shoot one now and then if I need to. Wild turkeys are moving back into the area, I plan to try for one this year for thanksgiving! Neighbor got one that was a record 50lbs! We plan to build a smoke house as well, and I fish every chance I get. What we don’t eat right away gets frozen or canned. I help some of my family and friends when hunting season comes, and they give me the carcass when they are done with it. Boiling the bones yields a lot of meat to can, as well as great broth for soups! Stuff that would otherwise be wasted by them. People need to take stock of what they can gather or glean for cheap or free, there’s much more out there than you might think! And this is what many people did to get by during the Great Depression. If we get used to doing it now, it will just be business as usual when things go south, whether it be a true global SHTF, or just a personal one.

  • Good luck SuzyQ. We used to live up in Aroostook and I have fond memories of some of the good ol’ fashioned snowstorms up there. It sounds like a strong storm in New England. But there’s lots of warning and it sounds like you are ready for whatever shows. Ron

  • Waiting for a blizzard that’s bearing down on the Great State of Maine. Power is still on, thank goodness. We lost power for 3 days over Christmas a few years ago. Had Chinese takeout for Christmas dinner – the place was mobbed – grateful they still had power! I agree that, while we can get our tails in a twist about nuclear holocaust, EMP, or the Yellowstone caldera blowing up, a local, probably weather related situation is more likely. We were without power for 8 days during the Maine ice storm of 1998. Not fun, but we made it. I wouldn’t say we were “prepared,” though. It was a great lesson, and now we take our preps much more seriously. We had some support around us – convenience stores with generators where we could buy sandwiches, local school had power so we could take showers – what if those weren’t available, though? As you note, a job loss of 8 weeks or longer is a SHTF situation, albeit localized and personalized, but you’ll be thankful for those food stores and that stockpile of toilet paper.

  • I have really been injoying your blog.. And I agree with you that it a good idea to be prepared as much as possible for you just never know. For example… Growing up my dad was a share crooper so we always lived out it the boonies. We always grew huge gardens and raised pigs and chickens and heated our house with a wood heater…. Mom went to town once a month to get dry goods like flour, corn meal and such. Our summers were spent cutting wood, canning from the garden and filling the freezer. Well one winter we had a huge ice storm which is almost unheard of on the coast of South carolina, any way we lost power for about eight days and for three day the roads were shear ice…. Now let me tell you people on the south coast can not drive on ice and snow so every one was stuck… People got cold and after a few days they were getting down to the nitty gritty on their viddles…. Not us… We had the old wood heater to cook on and plenty to eat. Also the people that did venture our got stuck and of course didn’t have heavy coats or shoes to walk, just totally unprepared. That made a huge impression on me.. So here I am years later with kids and grandkids and I fill my jars and freezer every summer and we have back up heat. And in the winter when I venture out in the winter I have coats and even a couple blankets in my car,,, cause you just never know.

    • Hi Gracie. Your experience is EXACTLY the types of events that I prep for, and what I “preach” to others. Events do NOT have to be “End of the World” events. There is so much more to be prepared. Thanks for your input!

  • Please don’t let a few negative comments get you down! I really appreciate that you take the time to present all this great info in a fun, understandable way.

    I’ve noticed that a few preppers go down this path where they plan out a very specific scenario. There’s even a logical fallacy about that…it’s called the “appeal to probability”. For their plan to work out (a plan they’ve invested a lot of money and time in, probably), a very specific sequence of events has to occur. But, like you said, no one can really predict these kinds of things. For me, being prepared means being flexible, having a good all-round strategy, and a range of skills suitable for a variety of situations big and small.

    • No worries Angelica. I’m hoping this becomes a learning experience. And you are completely accurate with your statement about “Appeal to probability”. I think everyone has been guilty of that at some point in their prepping experience. 😉

  • In regards to fuel storage. I can only talk from personal experience as one who has to fly in and store fuel in quantity. I have had no problem with gas stored 2 and 3 years. Key is storing gas in full air tight containers out of sunlight and in a dry area like a shed. For those that store gas and diesel, very important to stick with red cans for gas and yellow for diesel. Filter fuel when used regardless of whether gas or diesel. And very important: at the end of the season, I run the piece of equipment until it runs out of fuel, then drain carbs and then I pull plugs and fog the engine with fogging oil. We have never had a problem with chainsaw, ice auger, rototiller, snowmobile, Honda water pump and 4 stroke boat motor running on older gas in 17 years. I’ve tried the gas treatment and found it to be a waste. Just my experience.

  • I agree. Ron pretty much nailed it. I have a bunch of Amish around where I live, and I often wonder, if the SHTF, will they even know?

  • Thanks for this article James, I appreciate your view on this. A wise man (or woman) can make wise decisions with broad based knowledge and consideration. Keep up the good work!

  • For a long time I agreed with the idea of getting a pre-computer vehicle, but I’ve come to realize that it would just make me a big target. Unless it was bullet-proof, it would be a matter of when, not if, somebody took it from me. A vehicle moving down the road, trail, woods, is too easy to ambush. Fighting back from inside a vehicle, with rounds passing through it, is not a scenario I want to put myself in. Ignoring the fact that even treated and properly stored gas will only last about 3 years, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have the vehicle for 3 years, or perhaps my life, before it was taken. Diesel lasts longer, but a diesel vehicle still has the security issues. People with ill-will can also track you back to your homestead, which means your head would have to be on a swivel 24/7. I’ve determined if the SHTF event knocks out most vehicles, I will be on foot or on a bike like everyone else.

    • Some excellent observations George. Having one of the only driveable cars would make you a big target.

      I did want to add that the shelf life of gas is not quite that long unfortunately. Ethanol gas will only last about 3 months. Non-ethanol gas is 6 months to a year under optimum conditions and with the right treatment in place. Gas that’s been sitting around will begin to undergo several chemical processes that degrade the fuel. This includes evaporation and oxidation. Oxidation occurs when hydrocarbons react with oxygen, producing new compounds that eventually change the fuel’s chemical composition to “muck” and will gum up your engine.

  • Spot on James! Don’t stop trying to assist and teach others sensible preparation practices. Nice rant. I wish more people would clue in to your sense of logic. Keep writing.

  • Seriously, do you think that after an emp, if we have one, the cell phones would work? Would the emergency rooms be open for business? The list goes on forever. But there is a fourth kind of prepper we don’t won’t to be…you.

  • I think I have prepared for any general SHTF situation. I have put up food and water. I have a large annual garden and I can a lot of food; a lot of food. I have some precious metals. I have hand tools for working the ground. I have weapons and ammo for those weapons that need it. I have small livestock (food on the hoof), and I have developed skills that will help me through the no-power times. To the extent possible (without giving up all my position), I’ve tried to get my neighbors to prepare. If we get to a SHTF situation, we’ll see how much they figured it out.

    Anyone who tells me that they’ve got it figured out and they know the scenario that we all need to prepare for, I just smile and change the subject.

    Ron said it better than I would have. Don’t worry about EMP, nuclear war, pandemic, tornado, earthquake or flood; just be ready to support yourself and your family. And I do mean ‘support’.

  • If a person could get over the terminology and tunnel vision, I respectfully suggest that the overall goal and encompassing prize for all of us is to simply become as self-reliant and self-sufficient as possible. In my mind, we then automatically cover all the possible scenarios without having a separate plan for every conceivable situation. A large part of being self-reliant and self-sufficient is having the confidence, knowledge and skills to assess and adapt to situations as they develop.
    There will always be differing opinions with some of them being extreme. As an example, my wife and I are alone 100 miles in the wilderness. We built our off-grid homestead from virgin wilderness. Float plane is the only way to reach us. We are so remote, this computer/satellite is our only connection to civilization. We are well beyond power lines and cell phone towers. And yet, there have been some who have questioned whether we are really living off grid because we have an Internet connection and satellite TV. I can only shake my head at some of the notions people come up with.
    I think the key words are self-reliant and self-sufficient. Everything else at that point takes care of itself. Ron (Shemp?)

    • Absolutely Ron. Self-sufficiency equals preparedness.

      As for you having internet and satellite TV, living off-grid does NOT mean you cannot live in the 21st century. Those items make your life more interesting. And if we were to lose them tomorrow, I know your life would go on no problem. For the rest of us, that would not be the case.

  • Well done James! I throughly enjoyed the article and your sense of humor. The comment box would not allow my full post so I broke it into two. As you might know, I was part of the back to the land movement of the 1970’s. I’ve been off-grid for 37 years. Back then, the term used for people like me was “homesteader.”

    The word “prepper,” as far as I’m aware, is a relatively new term. For me, the difference between the words homesteader or prepper is semantics if we take either word to be synonymous with someone who is striving to be self-reliant and self-sufficient.

    In those early years as a homesteader, I was a prepper, yet I didn’t realize it. I was learning and preparing myself to simply provide and rely on myself as much as possible, regardless of what circumstance the world threw at me. To be able to grow, raise and preserve my own food, provide my own source of power, heat and cook with wood were all skills I put in my self-reliant tool kit. Continued…

  • Love your blog especially because you are one of the sensible people in prepping and not always talking about zombies and so on. And my recent use of preps had eating my stored food because I was so ill I couldn’t leave the apartment. Sure not SHTF. But great luck that I had preps. My EDC multitool saved the day for my godchild because I could repair her lantern in the St. Martin parade. Not SHTF exactly. But I could do something I otherwise couldn’t have (her Mom didn’t even have money with her to buy something to eat for the kid). And if things like that are all I’ll ever need my preps for in my life I will be so happy.
    As for gold, I read a blog from some guy about the economical collapse in Argentina and he said gold at least held its value while the peso was dropping. So that’s why I’m thinking about getting gold now. Because the reasoning seemed quite sensible to me.
    Keep up your great writing!
    Khendra

    • Exactly Khendra. You start by preparing for the most likely, then work your way out. And as Ron pointed out, the more self-sufficient you are, the more prepared you are.

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