Book reviews and disaster preparedness.

In these uncertain times there are a fallout shelter load of books by any number of writers, who’s aim is to help us to survive various disaster scenarios. A survivalist by the name of Creek Stewart has put out several books – aimed at educating us to survive through a variety of disaster scenarios – 3 of which are under the “Build the Perfect” banner, as in Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag (2012), Build the Perfect Bug Out Vehicle (2014), and Build the Perfect Bug Out Survival Skills (2015).

I haven’t seen the Survival Skills book yet, but I have recently read the other two….and I’ll give you my take on them shortly. The idea of “Bugging Out” or “Bugging In” is about making the decision to either stay in place, at home (Bugging In), in the aftermath of a disaster, or before the disaster hits, with prior warning – be it a natural disaster such as a damaging storm, earth quake or volcanic eruption, or a man made disaster such as a terrorist event, warfare, EMP etc – OR the other option is to leave home and move to a pre-planned safe zone (Bugging Out).

Creek Stewart – who not only writes about survival skills, but also teaches and lives the survival lifestyle, is based in Central Indiana in the U S A, where he owns and runs a survival school. In his first book in the Bug Out series he discusses the best options for putting together your Bug Out Bag.

Some preppers and survivalists love their bags and their emergency survival equipment and can’t have enough of both. Others rely more on skills and therefore require less emergency equipment. Bags for carrying your emergency preparedness equipment come in ever increasing sizes. For example, the smallest collection would come under the title of your EDC – meaning Every Day Carry. This is the absolute base line equipment that you have on you daily, where ever you may be – just in case of an emergency / disaster. Your EDC could be carried only in your pockets, or it could be in a pouch on your belt, or a small bag, for example a messenger bag or similar. My own EDC consists of my wallet (with the usual cards and money – plus a credit card size multitool), my small, tactical torch, a Truper folding knife (with built in seatbelt cutter and window breaking tool), and a fire steel. These items make up my minimum EDC – along with my cell phone. I realize that a few tools are going to solve the problem of our possible forthcoming extinction, but they could come in handy in any number of emergency situations.

The next size up from the EDC is the GHB (Get Home Bag) – basically gear that will help you to get home in once piece from where ever you may be. The items for this Bag would depend on how far away from your home base your journey took you. Obviously you’d need more equipment if you were going to take several days to get home (such as a shelter of some sort, water/food, possibly wet weather gear etc), than if you were only an hour or so’s walk from home.

Next comes your BOB (Bug Out Bag) – yes, another thing that Survivalists and Preppers love is acronyms. It’s what goes into your BOB and the design of the bag itself that Creek’s book is all about. The Bug Out Bag (your 72 hour disaster survival kit) needs to be big enough to get you through 72 hours of “bugging out” – getting you from point A to point B safely – from your home to your Bug Out Location or safe point – whether it may be the home of a friend or relative, or a remote wilderness area where you plan to tough things out. BUT it also has to be light enough for you to carry comfortably over long distances. Creek suggests no heavier than 25% of your body weight. This I would suggest is OK if you are young and fit and used to taking long hikes. However, if you’re getting on in age, or are not used to extreme physical activity I would say 15% of body weight would be the maximum you’d want to get up to.

Your bag needs to be rugged enough to take the rigors of your journey, have comfortable straps and preferably a waist belt to help distribute the weight on the hips as well as on your back and shoulders. Inside your bag you need the following – assuming that some or all of your bug out route will be on foot – 1. Some form of shelter (this could be a light weight tent, or a tarpaulin, or a full body emergency bivy bag/bivouac sack) something to keep you out of the weather so you can get a good nights rest. 2. Something to start a fire with – for warmth and/or for boiling water, or cooking on. (This could be matches, a lighter, a fire steel and striker). 3. Water (the average adult needs 3 litres of water per day – possibly more if hiking, in order to stay hydrated). You don’t want to be carting around 9 litres of water to last you the entire 72 hour journey, but take 3 litres if you can for the first 24 hours and you’ll also need the ability to collect and purify any water that you come across on your journey. A metal water bottle would give you the opportunity of placing it on your fire to boil water in to sterilize it, or to make a hot drink. 4. Tools – at a minimum I’d suggest a knife and a torch (with spare batteries) – I also have a quantity of paracord and a Leatherman multitool. 5. A first aid kit – a basic kit with adhesive plasters, a couple of bandages and gauze pads, antiseptic cream, pain killers and Imodium – plus any prescription meds you are currently taking – should see you through the 72 hour trip. 6. Although you can easily get through 3 days of travel without food, something to eat to keep up the spirits, even if only trail food like beef jerky, trail mix, cereal bars or chocolate wouldn’t take up too much room in your bag. Something else that you may want to take into consideration particularly if the event/disaster has lead to civil disorder, rioting, looting, is 7. Something for self defence. Creek, being American, suggests a hand gun. All well and good if you’re in the USA and have a concealed carry permit, but if you’re in the UK or New Zealand for instance, this would be illegal.

Here in New Zealand, I live on a fault line, close to the coast, so also have the threat of Tsunami as well as Earth Quake and Volcanic activity. We are advised by Civil Defence to have a “Go Bag”. On my BOB/Go Bag, I carry a brush cutter/machete – which should help to deter any would be robber…unless of course they have a gun. AND it’s also useful for blazing a trail through the bush and for cutting up firewood. I also have a small wrecking bar attached to the outside of my bag which doubles as both a deterrent for would be robbers and a means of access to locked gates or doors – in extreme conditions – and can also be used as a digging tool. It would also come in handy, to force doors, if you were inside a building at the time of a quake and the movement of the ground shifted the frame of the building so that doors became jammed preventing a safe exit.

And finally sanitation – some people wouldn’t bother about personal hygiene and don’t mind wiping their behind on leaves during a few days discomfort on the road. But for the rest of us – pack soap, a toothbrush and toilet paper. You should also pack some extra pairs of socks – your feet need to be looked after if you are hiking – plus clothing suitable for your journey and strong footwear suitable for the task. Common sense and climate will dictate what clothing is suitable for your part of the world and whether heat or cold is the main consideration.

Bigger than the BOB is the INCH bag (although INCH may be a small measurement) – as in “I‘m Not Coming Home” bag – don’t you love these acronyms? This is going to be the biggest that you can carry and will have whatever is essential for you personally. This is used in situations where the home has to be abandoned for example due to flooding, bush fire, or extreme civil unrest emergencies.

When leaving home and bugging out it would also be wise to take with you copies of essential documents such as driver licence, passport, birth and marriage certificates, insurance certificates etc. and copies of any personal photos that you can’t bear to lose. To save space, copy all these onto a flash drive in digital format. They can always be printed out later.

Creek’s book also details a check list that tells you exactly what to pack based on your survival skill level (logic says that the more knowledge of survival you have, the more improvisational skills, the less equipment you will need). Photos and explanations of every item in your bug out bag, resource lists to help you purchase gear (USA retailers), suggestions for practice exercises to teach you how to use almost everything in your bag, demonstrations for multi-use items that save on pack space and weight…and specific gear recommendations for specific disaster scenarios are all covered in this book.

The readers on Amazon.com rate Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag at 4.5 stars out of 5. Although aimed at the American market, most information is useful and can be applied to most countries.

The second book in the series is Build the Perfect Bug Out Vehicle.

As you’d expect, this book follows the same lay out as the earlier Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag book. Creek looks at what makes the perfect Bug Out or “Get Out Of Dodge” vehicle and gives you the pro’s and cons of several options. Again, the people at Amazon rate it highly at almost 4.5 out of 5. And since I rambled on quite a lot about the Bug Out Bag book I’ll cut straight to Amazon’s round up of the book….which is…

Outfit a Disaster-Escape Vehicle!

If an unexpected disaster forces you to suddenly evacuate from your home, is your vehicle equipped to drive you to safety? It will be if you follow the advice in this book.

Build the Perfect Bug Out Vehicle shows you how to outfit any vehicle with equipment and survival gear that will help you quickly drive from ground zero to a safer location. Survival expert Creek Stewart, author of the best-selling Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag, details from start to finish everything you need to equip an everyday vehicle for a drive through and away from disaster-stricken areas―from survival supplies and storage solutions to off-road travel, communication, navigation, and security considerations.

You’ll find:

  • Practical and affordable Bug Out Vehicle equipment and principles that can be applied to any vehicle, even your everyday family car
  • Photos and explanations of every item you need for your vehicle
  • Resource lists to help you find and purchase gear

You’ll also find special considerations for bugging out using alternative modes of transportation including bicycles, boats, ATVS, motorcycles, horses, carts, aircraft and more.

A disaster could strike your home at any moment. Don’t be trapped in the devastating aftermath. Quickly transport yourself and your family to safety by building a Bug Out Vehicle today!

Of course for many of us, finances and convenience dictates our choice of bug out vehicle. In my case it’s my regular every day Ford Ute (pick up truck), which sadly is only 2 wheel drive rather than the ideal 4 x 4 selected by Creek in his book. Neither do I have all the survival whistles and bells fitted as standard such as a winch, nudge bars, snorkel exhaust, roof rack or exterior brackets for jerry cans.

Personally speaking, I would only bug out as a last resort in extreme circumstances. I would much rather elect to stay home and Bug In, as home is where I have everything I need to survive. Shelter, food supplies (stored food – frozen, dried, canned and growing in the gardens), water (tap water supply, bottled stored drinking water and rainwater collection system/storage), means to cook, wash, clean etc.

Both these books are worth reading to ready yourself in the event of a disaster. Forewarned is forearmed. As writer of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes, once said “Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory”.

Creek Stewart’s website link is – http://www.creekstewart.com/

Are you prepared for anything?Or are you prepared for everything?

Bad things sometimes happen to good people completely unexpectedly….out of the blue. This was clearly referenced recently in Christchurch, New Zealand with the Mosque shootings – resulting in fifty Muslim worshippers being cut down by a lone white supremacist gunman. Although the shooting of people from one religious group by a member of another group is nothing new these days (sadly), it is something new for New Zealand. Many people had a dazed look on their face and uttered the same words “How could this happen here?” However, with terrorism reaching almost every corner of the world, it was only a matter of time before we in New Zealand became part of the equation.

Christchurch has had a fairly bad run of things over the last 10 years, having suffered two large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. The 2010 quake registered 7.1 on the Richter Scale but other than a few minor injuries, no one was killed. It was a different story in 2011, when buildings already weakened by the 2010 quake succumbed to the shaking produced by a smaller 6.2 quake, killing 185 people and injuring many more.

Then in 2016, just 180 kilometres north of Christchurch, the coastal town of Kaikura experienced a huge 7.8 quake which shook down buildings, caused land slips severing road connections with the outside world and left Kaikura residents to their own devices for several days. In spite of the size of the quake, only 2 people died and several others were injured. The main highway north out of Kaikura took 2 years to reconstruct. The quake also caused damage to several buildings in our countries Capital – Wellington – approximately 200 kilometres to the north – across Cooks Strait on the north island of New Zealand.

Last year we had serious floods on the north island, leaving communities cut off for a couple of weeks until floodwaters subsided and this year the south island was hit by flooding, with bridges being washed away by raging rivers, again cutting transport and power and, in some cases, water supplies to several communities.

All of these incidents and others have demonstrated that when it comes to large scale disasters, particularly wide ranging natural disasters like storm damage and/or earthquakes, the government of the day can not protect us. Often the damage caused by the natural event is such that it prevents rescuers or aid from getting through and the victims are left to fend for themselves to a greater or lesser degree. Obviously some folks are better equipped and better prepared to cope through a natural disaster than others. Its all about assessing the facts and taking appropriate action to mitigate the potential for disaster. People who choose to live along a fault line, or in tornado alley or in a high drought area etc and choose to do nothing to prepare to survive an earthquake, a tornado or a drought are fools. They are even bigger fools if they genuinely believe that the government are going to come riding over the horizon and save them.

With Climate Change tipped to bring us more extreme weather in the future, these weather phenomena are more likely to become the norm rather than the extreme. Add to this mix the general political unrest in the world today – continuing unrest in the middle east, Trump in the Whitehouse and “Little Rocket Man” in North Korea, Russia and China flexing their military muscles….not to mention the turmoil in Britain and Europe caused by Brexit…and it’s not unusual to react by dispairingly, throwing ones arms in the air, and saying saying there’s nothing we can do about it. BUT, there are some things that we can prepare for and by being prepared for them, they become a less frightening proposition.

Obviously there is a lot of information on the internet on what to do in emergencies of various kinds, but what if the emergency situation takes out the power grid and you lose the internet as an information resource? That’s why I have several books either on my office bookshelves, or ready for a quick get away in my caravan/trailer, that give advice and guidance no matter what the emergency. There have been a flood of “Prepper Books” come out as a result of the National Geographic TV Series “Doomsday Preppers” which started filming in 2011….followed by 2 shows on the same theme filmed in the UK called Doomsday Preppers UK. Some of these books are absolute garbage and are written by people who have no “Prepper” experience who have jumped on the bandwagon to make a quick buck. There are some that I can recommend though that were written years before the Doomsday Prepper series was even conceived.

One printed in 1987 by Reader’s Digest simply called “What to do in an emergency”, offers useful tips and information on what to do in a multitude of emergency situations, from simple things such as treating bites and stings, to stopping bleeding, dealing with burns and broken bones, through to solving electrical problems, preparing for a coming storm, dealing with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It also gives advice on forest fires, emergencies at sea and even what to do in the event of your plane being hijacked. Being a Reader’s Digest book, it’s written in plain, simple language, has helpful illustrations, and is easy to follow. The important thing though is not to just have books like this sitting on your shelf to be referenced after an emergency happens. Read them well first, make notes or if you don’t mind your books being damaged, use a highlighter to clearly mark the most important parts for quick reference when the time comes.

Another very useful book is Ted Wright’s 1993 book “Complete Disaster Survival Manual”. In this book you receive some of the same information as the previously mentioned Reader’s Digest book, but he delves more into preparing in a group situation, either at work or in the home/community and has come up with several useful lists of “must have” equipment for dealing with said emergency situations. He also points out some myths/facts about various situations. Some are comforting but others are quite disturbing when he points out how ill prepared the authorities actually are for many emergency situations that could arise. For example having little or no food/water stored for emergencies, or siting an emergency control centre in the basement of an earthquake prone building on land that would be submerged in the event of a tsunami…..as is the situation in the town close to where I live.

A good standby that most Preppers either have on their bookshelves or in their “Go-Bags” is John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman’s “SAS Survival Handbook” – subtitled “how to survive in the wild, in any climate, on land or at sea”. It’s a mine of very useful information written by a man with years of military survival know-how under his belt. Everything from setting up camp in the wilds, finding your way by the stars, first aid, natural medicines you can find in the woods and fields (with diagrams to help identify plants), edible plants, poisonous plants, hunting, fishing and trapping, how to cope in extreme conditions such as deserts or mountains – all this and more is in this book…..as I said a mine of information. He also talks about building your own disaster “pocket survival kit” and what to do in a variety of natural disasters.

Although the above mentioned books all have sections about health and first aid, it’s important to have a book (or two) specifically on the subject of first aid and keeping healthy. My “Go-To” book is the St Johns “First Aid handbook”. It gets updated every few years, but my copy is from the 1970’s (not the one pictured) and used to belong to my father.

There are a lot of useful books out there that can help us to be like good boy scouts and “be prepared” for all eventualities and those are just a few of what’s available.

Just going back to the “Doomsday Preppers” series. Much of what’s shown on TV is very much over the top as far as these Preppers are concerned. They seem to think that an underground bunker, a dozen high powered semi-automatic weapons with thousands of bullets plus a years supply of freeze dried food will protect them and their families from all hazards. Not only do you have to be very wealthy to have this sort of emergency preparation, I couldn’t imagine being confined in a smallish space underground with my immediate family and probably my in-laws as well, for an extended period of time – we’re talking months in some cases!

My preference is community based prepping and being able to build your own shelter and live off the land….which is why we already grow most of our fruit and vegetable needs (we save seeds for the following years crops) and preserve any extra produce so we can eat it after its season ends (it also provides us with a useful emergency supply store of food), we have a bee hive, harvest rainwater from the roofs as a means of watering our gardens (or in dire emergency as a drinking water supply). With this in mind I also have books on subjects such as gardening/pruning/organics and permaculture, wild edibles, natural medicines and home remedies, preserving (dehydrating/freezing/salting/bottling or canning), natural building methods (straw bale/earth building), making your own electricity and general self sufficiency.

I have been a home gardener since I was a child, helping my father in his veggie garden. I’ve been interested in prepping and being prepared for disasters for a somewhat shorter time, taking a more serious interest about 7 or 8 years ago. There is a lot of information about “Prepping” and “Preppers” on line – some of it is very helpful and can be taken at face value, where as other information needs to be taken with a pinch of salt….in some cases a very LARGE pinch of salt. I would encourage anyone interested to check out any of the on-line forums about Prepping – common sense will soon tell you which are the useful ones and which are run by purely gun-toting rednecks. For New Zealanders interested in finding out more about Prepping, try prepnz.proboards.com or message me for more info.

We face interesting times ahead here in NZ. As a response to the Christchurch shootings, our Prime Minister is pushing through new gun ownership laws which is hardly surprising. What concerns me though is where this change will lead. This is not America. We have no 2nd amendment. At the moment, because our security status here is high, after the shootings, police are currently carrying weapons, once it drops back to “normal levels” they will once again have access to weapons in lock boxes in patrol cars, but won’t be carrying a Glock on their hips.
There is talk once more of permanently arming our police force regardless of security level….while at the same time disarming the general population. In the UK they have gone a step or two further by now making restrictions on knives – the type and the blade size that it’s citizens can own. Like I said, interesting times ahead.

Your feedback/comments are appreciated on anything mentioned in this post.