Category Archives: Uncategorized

Is Your Garage Door Vulnerable?

Great video on the safety of garage doors.

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Get Rid Of That Flashlight App

Here is a recent interview with security expert Gary Miliefskynet about the reason that you should ditch that Flashlight App on your phone!

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Climate Change and Urban Disaster

Climate change and urban disasterClimate Change and Urban Disaster are tightly linked together and something that anyone concerned with urban disaster survival should consider in their preparations.

Is Climate Change Real

Whether the predictions that warn man’s effect on our climate is ultimately going to cause an apocalypse are not is still a subject for debate.

How bad these changes could be may still not be known but with California going into it’s fifth year of drought, massive storms in the east, and high temperatures baking parts of the country it has to be accepted that things are changing.

How fast we will experience these changes and whether or not it’s because man is affecting the climate are subjects for another article.

This one looks at the potential for the climate changes that we are seeing to cause urban disasters.

Climate Change and Urban Disaster

Many people might ask why climate change and urban disaster were  connected.  And even if they are why we should really be worried about it since we are talking on the scale of centuries.

But the fact is that at least some of the changes won’t wait until the next century and then suddenly occur and be someone else’s problem.

A recent huge study by the UN concludes that many of the changes are going to happen a lot faster than we think.

In fact, they are happening right now and the savvy prepper needs to take these changes into consideration in their preps.

California’s Drought

One example is the drought that California is experiencing.  While some parts of the country are getting unusually large amounts of rain, places like California and Washington are experiencing drought conditions.

climate change and urban disasterOne climate change forecaster has stated that one major change  we are going to see that is going to happen right now is with the rain patterns.  When it rains we are going to get more than normal and when it doesn’t it could go longer between rains.

So California has been getting little or no rain for 5 years now.  The result is that the aquifers that are being used for water are being drained faster than they are being refilled by rain.

Why This Is A Problem

You might wonder why this is a problem if you don’t live in California. The answer is that California produces much of the produce that the rest of the Country eats.

More than 80% of the water used in California is for food production.  If the drought conditions continue it’s extremely likely that further restrictions will be placed on water usage that could dramatically raise the cost of produce.

Temperature Changes

Another forecast is weather extremes that we have experienced in the last few years will not only continue but get worse.

It will get colder with more winter storms and hotter in the summer with more heatwaves.

These storms and heat waves have a direct economic effect on our economy.

Winter Storms

Like the rain the snow fall is going to become more erratic.  There could be areas where snow is lower than normal and long lasting storms like we saw this last winter that drop unprecedented amounts of snow.

Since many parts of the country rely on snowfall in the mountains to fill their water reservoirs for summer less than normal snowpack can lead to summer droughts.

Climate change and urban disaster
(AP Photo/Peter M. Fredin)

During heavy winter storms stores and other businesses lose money because they can’t be accessed or they can’t get supplies.  People lose income because they can’t get to their jobs.

Roads become impassable and that stops or slows deliveries not only to the affected areas but also across the nation as manufactured goods stand in store rooms rather than being delivered across the Nation.

This may not seem to be a problem for you until the store shelves start to empty because food can’t be delivered or your power in your home suddenly goes off because power lines go down.

Summer Heat

This summer we are already seeing extreme high temperatures in parts of the country.

Not only can this lead to heat related deaths but further taxes our aging electrical infrastructure as people use more power for cooling their homes.

Food Production

Many of the crops that we rely on for food or that feed livestock depend upon certain weather conditions to grow.

climate change and urban disasterToo much heat or lack of water can cause crop failures that threatens our food supply.

Higher temperatures in the ocean are already affecting the supply of seafood and the jobs that are being lost as those changes affect the seafood industry.

Even a change of a degree or two in temperature can cause major changes in where or even if fish flourish and that affects not only what is available to eat but the jobs created by this industry.

Conclusion to Climate Change and Urban Disaster

The bottom line is that there are changes that are already happening.  And those changes aren’t going to be spread evenly.

The poor are going to be effected more than the rich and those areas of the world that already are having problems are going to get worse.

For the prepper that means that we should strive to be more self sufficient and not rely on others to solve this problem for us.

Solar panels are continuing to lower in price while becoming increasingly efficient.  This allows us to power our own home and not depend upon distant plants and fluctuating prices.

Many areas of the country are relaxing laws against or even encouraging rainwater collection for both drinking and watering gardens.  This gives us the chance to grow our own food.

It’s important to become more self reliant on food production.  Even a small garden can make a big difference in your food supplies.

What steps that you take depend upon what area of the country you live in and what problems you might face.

But climate change and urban disaster are a lot more closely linked than many of us would think.

 

 

 

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Emergency Power Survival Equipment

power survival equipmentThere are a lot of different things that you need to deal with in case of an urban disaster situation.  Most times we start by thinking about the basics – food, shelter and security.

But one of the things that we also should be thinking about is power survival equipment.

Why Do You Need Power During A Disaster

All that you have to do is think about all the things that we use every day that rely on a reliable power source and you know why you need some way to get power during a disaster.   Not just for cooking or food storage, but also for communication that lets us know what is going on in the world around us and keep in contact with our friends and family.

Some of this can be replaced by having enough batteries but power stored that way can be rapidly used up unless there is a way to recharge them.

Emergency Power Generation

There are many times during disaster situations where we lose the power that we take for granted.  This can be caused by severe weather conditions or some type of terrorist attack.

So having power during any period of disaster would make your life a whole lot easier and safer.

How To Generate Emergency Power

There are a lot of different ways that we can generate power when the power grid fails.

Gas Generators

These generators are relatively inexpensive and come in different sizes to power everything from a refrigerator to a whole house.

One of the benefits of gas generators is that you can buy portable units that you can take with you in case you need to evacuate your home base.

But the downside, as far as a source of emergency power, is the fact that they are noisy enough that they would likely be noticed and run only as long as you have gasoline to put in them.

Solar Panels

Solar panels are a great way to power an off the grid home or to lessen your reliance on the electrical grid in case of an emergency.

The solar panel industry is going through tremendous growth right now as the efficiency of solar panels keeps improving and their cost keeps dropping.

The other great thing that is happening in solar is that batteries are developing that can store power for times when there is no sunlight available.

Just recently Elon Musk mentioned that his company, Tesla, is already producing a 10-kilowatt-hour battery pack that with a full charge  can power an average home for about two days in the event of an outage.

These batteries are currently being tested in about 500 homes in California but will soon be available through Solar City,  a sister company of Tesla and one of the largest manufacturers of solar panel systems in the country with more than 39% of the residential solar market.

Currently Solar City installs solar panels on peoples roofs, then leases the panels to the home owners.  This gives the average home-owner a low cost way to take advantage of solar power and cut their utility costs.

The batteries are designed to store any excess power over the home owners needs that is produced during the day by its residential solar panel systems, making it available at times when the solar panels aren’t producing power.

Pros and Cons Of Emergency Power Survival Equipment

Even though gas generators are a great and inexpensive tool for emergency power I think that if I was looking at creating a stand alone emergency power system I’d be more prone to go with Solar Power.

Solar panels come in all sizes that can power everything from your cell phone to an entire house.  In fact, I would advise having one of these smaller charger units in your grab and go bag to keep your phone, tablet, and laptop powered should you need to evacuate your home.

In fact, I would recommend that every member of your family makes sure that they take a phone sized solar charger with them every time that they leave home.

Today’s smart phones are energy hogs and can run out of battery power quickly unless they have a way to be recharged.

Having a small emergency power solar charger will help keep your families phones charged no matter what the situation, insuring that you will be able to keep in touch with them.

Most cell phone towers are being updated to include emergency power battery back-ups and EMP proof housings to insure that they will work even when land lines and power is out.

 

Conclusion to Emergency Power Survival Equipment

The bottom line is that you should make sure that you include some way to generate emergency power in your emergency survival plan.

No matter what you use it gives you the ability to save frozen foods from spoilage, keep warm if you’re in the middle of a winter storm, and keep in touch with the outside world.

This gives you the advantage of knowing what is happening outside your home , what steps are being taken and how soon the emrgency situation that you are in will be over.

More importantly it gives you the ability to have emergency power keep in touch with family and friends and make sure that they are safe.
solpro-helios-solar-smartphone-charger-4-500-mah-battery-15

 

The above device is a combined solar panel.battery that can keep you cell phone charged.  With its batteries fully charge it can reacharge your smart phone up to 3 times using a USB cord.  Plus it takes just 3 hours to charge it’s batteries.

I have one of these and it’s a great way to keep my phone charged when I am out hiking or away from a power plug.

Even though you would think that most restaurants would have a plug to power up your phone or laptop at every table few do.

Having a solar emergency power generator takes care of this problem and helps me stay in touch with family and friends.  It also lets me know what is happening in the world around me.

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Measles – Should You Be Worried

MeaslesIf you’ve been watching or reading the News lately you’ve probably seen the coverage about the growing numbers of Measles cases.

It started with a few cases at Disney in California and has grown from there to New York and recently cases in a day care in Illinois.

While this is a disease that usually affects just children it can still infect anyone who isn’t properly immunized or that has a natural immunity because they already had an infestation.

Even though the total numbers of cases are still small the fact that this disease, declared just a little over a decade ago as defeated in the U.S. , is suddenly making any comeback at all should be a real concern to anyone who reads about it.

Measles is Highly Contagious

Something like this is one of my big worries for a potential disaster.

This disease is easily one of the most contagious known to man.  And even though most people who get sick from this virus recover, there are still a lot of people of all ages for whom this disease will have serious side effects or even cause death.

The worst part is that it can be contagious even before the person who is getting sick knows they are ill.

Depending upon who you want to listen to it can be anywhere from four days to as many as 18 days before any symptoms shows up during which time the person can still be contagious to others.

Then, even when someone does start to get sick, it will seem like the flu for a another few days before the tell-tale itchy splotches start to show up, first on the face, then spreading to the rest of the body.

How Is Measles Spread

Anyone who is near to a person who is sick with Measles can easily get sick.

The virus that causes this disease lives in the nose and throat.  So when an infected person sneezes, or even talks the virus is being spread around.

Once sneezed the virus can linger in the air for several minutes before settling on any surfaces in the area.

Anyone who touches these fluids can also transfer them to other surfaces as well.

There it can survive for up to two hours, making it possible to catch the disease by just touching a surface with virus.

How Measles Gets In Your Body

If you touch any surfaces like door handles or counters while the virus is still alive left by someone who is infected you can not only become infected but you can even pass it to others.

The virus can enter your body by you breathing it in if someone who is infected sneezes, coughs, or is talking to you, expelling the virus in your direction.

You can also pick it up by touching a surface with live virus then touching your mouth or rubbing your eyes.

Complications From Measles

Although the vast majority of people who get sick will heal with no problems there is the possibility that there could be complications.

This is especially true with anyone who is immuno compromised or has other problems.

Measles can be a serious in all age groups.   However, children that are younger than 5 and adults that are older than 20 years of age are the ones that are most likely to suffer from measles complications.

Common Complications

Common measles complications can often include things like ear infections and diarrhea.  Although diarrhea is rare an ear infection can happen in as many as 1 out of 10 and could result in permanent hearing loss.

Severe Complications

More severe complications that can happen are pneumonia (infection of the lungs) or encephalitis (a swelling of the brain).

They complications can require hospitalization and could even result in death.

  • As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
  • About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or mentally retarded.
  • For every 1,000 children who get measles, its possible that one or two will die from it.

How To Avoid Getting Measles

I suppose that you could avoid this disease, or any other that could be passed from human to human by avoiding people and never getting close to anyone.

But for those of us that choose or need to live in urban areas that is just not possible or practical.

So here are some steps that might help you avoid this virus:

Make Sure and Get Vaccinated

Yeah sure there are always going to be concerns about vaccines being a bigger problem than the disease that they are trying to treat.

But the fact is that the world is a lot better and healthier than it was because of vaccines.

That being said, even if you have been vaccinated it is only about 95% effective.  And Doctors are finding that if you are an adult that had a vaccination as a child, it could have weakened over time.

So know what vaccines that you and you family need to get, then get them and make sure they are up to date!

Avoid Anyone Who Is Sick

Bottom line is that people who are sick can make you sick.  Still – this can be hard if not impossible to accomplish.

You might have a member of your family that has contracted Measles and needs to be taken care of and like I said earlier in this article, you might not even know that a person is contagious.

They might not even know it.  But if they are sick be cautious.

Practical Steps

If someone coughs or sneezes near you try holding your breath as long as you can to avoid breathing in any viruses.

If you don’t mind looking contagious yourself get and wear medical grade face masks when you go outside or are in areas with a lot of people.

You should wash your hands often and try to avoid touching your mouth or eyes with them between washes.  When you wash your hands lather them thoroughly including under the nails.  One way to make sure that you wash them enough is to sing (under your breath of course!) two verses of the song – Happy Birthday.

Avoid using public restrooms if you can.  Or if you must make sure that you have a sanitizer spray for the stool,  wash your hands thoroughly, and use paper towels to shut off the water faucet and to open the door when you exit the bathroom.

Make sure to avoid any body fluids of another like saliva, sweat, nasal mucus, blood, semen, vaginal secretions.

Conclusion

While most of us can avoid Measles with a few simple common sense steps and a vaccination there are some for whom this won’t work.

Or even worse, there is always the chance that this highly contagious disease could morph into something more deadly.

This means that it is important to make sure to know what we need to do in case of an outbreak like Measles or something worse.

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Are You Being Followed

are you being followedAre You Being Followed

In this modern world that we live in it is becoming easier than ever to follow and trace someone.  Any more it’s not just the government or police that can follow us but individual companies as well.

The different Governmental agencies that carry out these types of programs often justify them by saying that they are just for the use of monitoring and capturing criminals or terrorists.

The problem is that even though this type of monitoring might be well intentioned programs can easily be misused or the way they are used can be changed.

Agencies that use this type of program always justify them with the argument that if we give up a little of our privacy and freedom we’ll be safer.

The implication is also that if we aren’t doing anything wrong we shouldn’t be concerned because there won’t be any problems for us.

I’m not sure about you but the thought of giving up my privacy in increments as technology makes tracking us easier bothers me.

Some day we may wake up and find that our freedoms that we take for granted have been shrunk by more than we think.

Are They Tracking Your Car

Recently the Wall Street Journal broke a story about how the Justice Department through the DEA has created a massive data base that tracks the car movements of pretty much anyone.

Although a spokesman said that the database was originally set up to track people that were running drugs they admitted that they have since expanded the program to trace pretty much anyone in any larger metro area.

Established in 2008, the original program was a way to track down and seize cars, money, and other assets that were involved in drug trafficking in Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico, and Nevada.

These states all have known areas where drugs are funneled across the U.S. border.

The secret license plate scanning program has since been expanded to create a real time national vehicle tracking database that monitors the movements of hundreds of millions of motorists, whether they are involved in illegal activity or not.

The WSJ pulled no punches when it described the program as nothing less than “a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program.”

Long Term Goal Of The Program

But according to documents received through a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU it seems that the goal of the program has always been a nationwide database, something that was never publicly disclosed.

One of the documents received from the DEA refers to the steps that are needed to make sure that the program meets its goals – “of which assest forfeiture is primary.”

Asset forfeiture has been widely criticized since its start as a tactic that doesn’t do anything for public safety but only helps police and federal agencies obtain money outside the normal budgeting process that can be overseen by the public.

The program also uses the data to mine the license reader data to identify travel patterns.   The extent of this data mining is currently unknown but it does bring up a lot of questions that don’t seem to have answers right now.

  • For instance, what type of program is the DEA using to analyze the data?
  • Does it try to use traffic patterns to predict our likelihood of committing a crime?
  • Could we become suspects for more enhanced surveillance if we drive down a certain road or stop at a certain house?
  • What else does the DEA think that they know about us just through reading our license plates?

Even more concerning is the fact that the DEA has also invited other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies from around the country to contribute location information to the database.

Once vetted these agencies are then authorized to conduct queries of the data base.  This means that we the public are unable to know who has our location and travel information or how it is being used.

One major partner with this program is the Customs and Border Patrol.  The Patrol claims to collect nearly 100% of the traffic coming across our borders.

All of this collected information can be shared with federal, state, and local agencies and prosecutors.  The documents collected by the ACLU also state that the Border Patrol and the DEA will share their information with  “intelligence, operations, and fusion centers.”

The Customs and Border Patrol says that it collected  over 793.5 million license plates between May 2009 and May 2013.

Our Opinion Of This Program

I have to say that this program seems to have started with a good goal, that of tracking people who were involved in the sale or distribution of drugs.

Obviously that didn’t work any better than all the other war on drugs type programs because it doesn’t seem to have left a dent in the amount of drugs sold in this country.

What it did do is allow for a massive program whose sole goal is to track everyone – just in case they do something illegal.

This is just too big brother for my taste.  It’s one thing to do surveillance on known criminals but something entirely different to do it on everyone just watching to see if there is wrongdoing.

All this is being done with no oversight or supervision – no warrants are being used to pry into our lives and anyone who wants to can join the snooping club.

The worst part in my mind though is that there is almost no way that we can avoid this snooping unless we take buses or walk instead of driving.

 

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Passwords Not to Use

 

passwordsPasswords

This Tuesday the password management company SplashData released its annual list of the worst passwords that people have used in the last year.

They looked at 3.3 million passwords that were leaked last year and came up with a list of passwords that were most commonly hacked passwords.

The Most Hacked Passwords

So here is the list of the top 25 most hacked passwords of last year:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345
  4. 12345678
  5. qwerty
  6. 1234567890
  7. 1234
  8. baseball
  9. dragon
  10. football
  11. 1234567
  12. monkey
  13. letmein
  14. abc123
  15. 111111
  16. mustang
  17. access
  18. shadow
  19. master
  20. michael
  21. superman
  22. 696969
  23. 123123
  24. batman
  25. trustno1

Although they may seem logical many of these would be pretty easy to guess.  Many web sites also take the extra precaution where you are only allowed so many guesses before it locks you out for a while.

My bank for instance will lock you out for three hours after 3 mistaken tries but doesn’t tell you this unless you talk to them on the phone.

More Tips On Passwords

Here are some tips for creating – and just as importantly remembering the password that you create.

Has 12 Characters, Minimum: Security experts are now recommending that you choose a password that’s at least this long or even longer.

Include Numbers, Symbols, Capital Letters, and Lower-Case Letters:  Use a mix of different types of characters to make the password harder to crack.

Use Different Username and Password Combinations for Different Websites:  One thing that I have found useful is to use varying degrees of difficulty depending upon the account I am trying to protect.

For instance, the password to my frequent shopper card at the local grocery is pretty simple.  That account has no information that I am concerned about anyone seeing.

But the password that I use for my bank is long and complicated.  I don’t want anyone to get into that account.

Use a Password Manager:  to both protect your passwords and generate new ones that are random which makes them harder to guess.

I’m not sure that I agree with this suggestion though.  A password manager needs to be stored somewhere on some device.  If you loose that device it can be a problem.

You are also going to need a rock solid password that you are going to need to remember to use the manager.

Not Exclusively a Dictionary Word or Combination of Dictionary Words:  You should avoid obvious dictionary words or combinations of dictionary words.   Using a combination of a few words, especially if they’re obvious, is also bad.

Any word on its own is especially bad.  You’ll notice that almost half of the passwords in the list above are single words.

Doesn’t Rely on Obvious Substitutions:  Don’t use common substitutions, either.  One example, “H0use” isn’t strong just because you’ve replaced an o with a zero. That’s just obvious.

How To Create A Strong Password

One way to create a strong password is by creating a phrase.  The spaces between each word is also a symbol which will make it harder to crack.

The important thing is to avoid using phrases that are common or grammatically correct.  Also try to avoid phrases like street names that someone might guess especially if they are somehow connected to you.

So a phrase like ” big red apples” wouldn’t be a good one.  But a phrase like “garlic sugar cars” would be stronger.  You could also capitalize the a’s and add a number that would mean something to you but nothing to someone who was trying to break your password.

You might end up with something like “gaRlic 15 sugAr Cars”  While complicated your can see that it should be pretty easy to remember.

Especially if you look at the password and see that the capital letters is “CAR” spelled backwards  and the number 15 might be a number that means something to you.

The above password is not grammatically correct, nor does it make any sense other than in your mind.  It also uses capital and lower case letters, spaces, and numbers.

Conclusion

Remember though that it’s not all about password strength.  Using the same password across multiple sites would make all the sites vulnerable in case one of them was hacked into and passwords stolen.

 

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Solar Power Advances

Solar Power Advances

One thing that every Urban Disaster Survivalist should be thinking about is how to generate power in case there is some issue with the power grid that causes it to go off line for a time.

How would you keep perishables safe and heat or cool your home if there were no power?

A couple of articles in the news recently caught my eye and show some of the advances that we may be seeing in the future. Whether you are trying to go “off the grid” or looking for ways to create a back up for the pwer that you get off the grid this news should be interesting to you.

Improved Solar Panels

I seems that every time that I look at the news there are articles about how quickly solar panels are improving in their efficiency at turning sunlight into power. Meanwhile the cost keep dropping.

In an article today I was reading about a breakthrough in ‘nematic liquid crystals’ that makes them easier to make and more efficient. These crystals can be printed into solar panels that are dramatically more effective at creating power than todays’ panels.

They are also much cheaper to make because they can be printed faster and easier than the silicon-based models that are used today.

http://phys.org/news/2015-01-solar-panels-electronics-horizon-discovery.html

Lawn Power

In another article the ability to get electrical energy from growing plants was discussed. This solar power advance is not yet on the scale of solar or wind power yet, there is a company that has products that can harness power from the photosynthesis process where plants convert sunlight into energy.

One of the problems is that it doesn’t work when it is cold and plants normally don’t grow but think about the amazing potential that this discovery has for off grid homes or places in third world areas.

http://ecowatch.com/2015/01/15/lawn-power-house/

Both of these emerging solar power advances are great news for those of us that are concerned about off-grid living or just want a back-up for the vulnerable grids that we get power from today.

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Surviving Flying

airplaneSometimes I think it would be better if mankind had never discovered how to fly.

Surviving Flying is becoming harder than ever.

As if it isn’t bad enough that you are hurtling through the air going hundreds of miles an hour in a metal tube controlled by someone who may or may not be in proper shape to control it, here comes a new study.

Recently a team from Auburn University studied how long microbes can survive on various surfaces in a plane.  They discovered that the germs could last for up to two weeks!

While it’s not too surprising how long they lived in the bathroom on the toilet handle, more surprising is the fact that they can last as long on other surfaces like arm rests, tray tables, window shades, leather seats and even the seat back pocket.

Then there was even an interview with flight attendants that revealed that tray tables are never cleaned and that an amazing number of people use them to change diapers on.

So next time that you fly you might want to take some cleaning wipes with you.  Let me know what experiences you have had or what you think about these facts in the links below.

Conclusion to Surviving Flying

I don’t know about you but I think that I am going to start using sani-wipes on my seat area whenever I fly any more.  It seems that the airlines are more concerned about stuffing more people into the plane than making sure the plane is clean.




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Survival Preparedness Gear

imagesCAJQGGEHSurvival preparedness gear is anything that helps you survive disasters that might come your way.

Although I always argue that the best survival tool you have is knowledge there are always tools that can help you as well.

Most people in this day and age live in urban areas and having the right survival preparedness gear can easily make the difference between surviving or not.

Just in case you need to evacuate your home you will always need a Bug Out Bag.  Even if you stay in your home, you might be without power and any way to heat food.

I have a friend who couldn’t even open a can without power because she only has an electric can opener.

Water

But what if your water supply was contaminated.  Would you be able to find water to drink or would you have some stored in case of an emergency?

Water is also the most important supply to keep stored because most people could only last about three days without water.

Food

What if the grocery stores were unable to get food delivered.  Most have no more than a 3 day supply.  And if you’ve ever gone into a store just before a big store you know how fast things can fly off the shelves.

Survival Preparedness Gear

Survival Preparedness Gear is anything that you would bring with you if you leave your home or that you would keep in your home in case of an urban disaster.

Make sure that you consider your needs and location when preparing your gear.

You need to think about things like:

  • any meds that you might need
  • glasses/contacts
  • emergency medicines in case of an accident
  • shelter in case you need to leave your home
  •  what defense tactics or weapons  you are going to use
  • and don’t forget to have food and water for your pets as well

Thinking ahead and storing basics can make a huge difference in whether you are going to comfortably last out a disaster or have to rely on others.

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