Monday, January 31, 2011

Looting vs. Scavenging

(This article originally appeared on and is reposted here with permission.)

Looting versus Scavenging
By Jim Cobb

It is a recurring theme in post-apocalyptic stories. The hero, in a moment of need, happens to stumble across a ravaged but still intact department store. Through diligent searching, he’s able to find food, clothing, and supplies. Thus re-equipped, he ventures forth to do battle with the ne’er do wells.

But, does this mean our hero has fallen from the path of the straight and true? Isn’t this looting?

How about a real world scenario? Remember all the photos and video shot in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina? Story after story about people stealing plasma TVs and other electronics from abandoned storefronts. Looters who should have been shot on sight?

First of all, the whole idea behind being prepared is to have what you need, when you need it. In an ideal situation, regardless of disaster you’d have all the food, water, and supplies to endure until such time order was restored, if such a time is ever going to come. However, there are any number of “what if” scenarios that could play out, preventing you access to your emergency supplies. An accidental fire burns your retreat to the ground. A group of the ever popular “mutant zombie bikers” manages to force you from your retreat. A traffic accident wipes out your vehicle en route to your retreat, leaving you no real option but to hoof it on foot.

Regardless of how it happens, you suddenly find yourself standing in front of a wreck of a building. Once upon a time, it was a convenience store. Near as you can tell, it isn’t occupied by anyone. Odds are pretty good you could find at least a few canned goods, possibly a bottle or two of water. What do you do?

There are some who will say they would NEVER take anything that doesn’t belong to them. Those few canned goods are owned by someone else and thus are off limits. The Eighth Commandment – Thou Shalt Not Steal. I counter that argument by saying, how do you know God didn’t lead you to those supplies so you might live another day? Remember the old joke about the preacher stranded on top of his church during a flood? As he’s clinging to the roof, several times people come by and ask him to get into their boats to save him. On the last attempt, it is a helicopter. Each time, he tells them, “If I need any help, the Lord will take care of me.” Well, he drowns. As he’s standing at the Pearly Gates, he inquires of God why didn’t He save him? God replies, “I sent you three rowboats and a helicopter, what more did you want?”

To my way of thinking, there is a vast, yet simple, difference between looting and scavenging. Let me illustrate by example.

Taking plasma TVs = looting
Taking diapers for your kids = scavenging

If items of value have no clear ownership (our burned out and/or wrecked store example) and those items will serve to keep you and yours alive, it is scavenging. If the items are clearly owned by someone else and/or they serve little purpose aside from being inherently valuable, it is looting.

Now, please bear in mind for the purposes of this article, we are supposing a complete breakdown in society and order. This isn’t just a blizzard lasting a couple days. Rather, this is a pandemic/nuclear war/zombie uprising type of situation. Admittedly, the looting versus scavenging debate is rife with gray areas. But, in a true end of the world scenario, this is something that is likely to come up for many if not most people. As such, it is something that should be discussed beforehand.

A final note–please do not take the above as in any way encouraging theft or pillaging the countryside. That is not what you should take away from this article (no pun intended). Instead, this is an effort to illustrate my own personal point of view on the looting versus scavenging debate. I cannot and will not suggest breaking the law. But, in the absence of law, each person must make their own decisions on how to best comport themselves.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sheltering In Place

(The following article was originally published on Survival Weekly's website and is reposted here with permission.)

Sheltering in Place
By Jim Cobb

There are essentially three kinds of family emergency plans and “kits” you need to devise; a plan for sheltering in place, a plan for bugging out, and a plan for what to do if you are away from home when disaster strikes. Sheltering in place involves preparing for an event that will not allow you to leave your home, or an event during which it would not be advisable to vacate the immediate area. Bugging out refers to events occurring where you want or need to evacuate the area quickly. Finally, you should assemble supplies to keep in your vehicle in the event you are at work or otherwise away from home if something happens. While the plans do overlap in some areas, the supplies are treated and stored differently and duplication of the listed items is necessary. When considering what to pack away in your various survival kits, there are basically seven categories of supplies; water, food, shelter, medical, hygiene, tools and equipment, and comfort. Today, we will be discussing sheltering in place.

Water: The human body cannot survive without water. Dehydration is a very real danger in most survival situations and potable (drinkable) water can quickly become a very limited commodity. What would you do if you turned on your tap at the sink and nothing came out? Fortunately, water is one of the easiest of supplies to acquire and store. Simply fill containers, seal them up, and put them in the basement or some other cool, dark place. Do NOT use empty milk jugs for this purpose. They are not designed for long term storage and will deteriorate, possibly tainting the water and definitely making a mess when they leak. A much better solution is to use empty pop or juice bottles. Clean them thoroughly with soap and hot water. Fill them with tap water and store them. You should rotate your bottled water regularly, at least every six months or so. Consider storing some of it in your freezer (allowing a couple inches of space in the containers for expansion). How much should you store? Experts recommend at least one full gallon of water per person per day will be
needed, for both consumption and sanitation. I think the best answer is that you could never store too much water. In an emergency, never ration water. Drink as much as you need and worry about finding more water later. Your body needs it NOW, not later.

There are a few sources of “hidden” water in your home as well if you
begin to run short. You can drain your hot water heater, making sure you turn it off first. You can also drain any water that is remaining in your pipes. Simply open the taps at the highest and lowest points in your home, leaving a bucket at the lower of the two to catch the water. In the event you find yourself in need of purifying water before consumption or use, there are a few different methods you can use.

First, if there is anything visibly floating in the water, you should strain it before purifying. You can use paper towels, cloth, even coffee filters for this purpose. If none of those are available, let the water sit long enough for the particles to settle, then gently either pour the water into another container or scoop it out using a bowl or cup.

Boiling is one of the best ways but it might not be feasible unless you have a good way to heat the water long enough. You need to have a rolling boil for at least five minutes to ensure you kill bacteria. If you use this method, you may find the water tastes kind of flat. This can be helped by pouring the water back and forth a few times between a couple of containers. Also, when boiling the water, do what you can to let the steam condense and drop into a container as that water will also be pure. Purifying water by collecting the steam is called distillation and is the only way to remove salt and some of the heavy metals from water.

The next method involves adding household bleach to the water. You need to add 16 drops of bleach for every gallon of water. Stir it around and then let it sit for about a half hour. If the water does not retain a slight bleach odor, add another 16 drops of bleach per gallon and let it sit another 15 minutes. Be sure you are using non-scented, regular, plain old household bleach. That said, you will probably want to stash a bottle or two of bleach with your other supplies.

If you have some advance notice of an impending disaster, fill up your
sinks and bathtub with water before it gets shut off. This will provide
you with several additional gallons.

Food: The first rule in stockpiling food supplies is to “Store what you eat, eat what you store.” It makes little sense to pack away unfamiliar foods that may cause you any number of digestive problems since you are not accustomed to them. Surviving a disaster will be hard enough on your body without adding stomach upset to the mix. Be wary of storing items that will require water for preparation, unless for some reason you believe you’ll have an unlimited supply of water to use for that purpose. Also avoid exclusively storing foods that will require cooking. It is all fine and good if you end up still having safe use of a stove, gas grill or even a campfire. But, do not depend on that happening. Canned soups (not condensed), meats, and pasta are good alternatives, although obviously their taste is improved by heating. Granola bars, crackers, peanut butter, canned vegetables and fruits, nuts, and dried fruit are all good ideas. I would also include in this category any supplies needed to prepare and consume the food, such as disposable plates, bowls and cups, utensils, and napkins. I would advise against storing “real” plates and
such as you don’t want to have to use your water supply to clean them.

Don’t forget a manual can opener, preferably a couple of them in case one breaks.

One of the easiest ways to stockpile food is to just buy a little extra
at the store every time you go shopping. If canned vegetables are on
sale, buy a couple more cans than you normally would. Be sure to date your supplies and rotate them regularly. Store them in such a fashion that it is not a hindrance to get to them and use them on a regular basis. Replenish what you use. In an emergency where you have the ability to cook, use what is in your refrigerator first, followed by your stockpile. Save the food in the freezer for last as it will keep for a while even if the power is out. Open the freezer as infrequently as possible. The items inside will keep each other cool for some time. Also, be sure to include necessary supplies for those with special needs, such as formula and bottles for infants and any special dietary needs for older adults.

Shelter: I know what you’re thinking, “If I’m sheltering in place, then my home would be my shelter, right?” Well, yes, but there are some things to consider. First of all, winters get awfully cold around here. How can you keep warm if there is no power and thus, no heat? If you have a wood burning stove or a fireplace, how much wood do you have stored? How long would it last if that were your ONLY source of heat? When was the last time you had the chimney cleaned? During a disaster, when all emergency crews and fire fighters are otherwise occupied would be an immensely poor time to have a house fire. And, what if you don’t have a fireplace or wood stove, then what? Consider closing off most of your house and actually living in your living room. This will cut down on how much space you’ll actually need to heat. If space allows, you could move out most of the furniture and erect one or two tents for sleeping. Be sure to store enough blankets for everyone. Whatever you do, do NOT use a camp stove or other open flame for warmth. Carbon monoxide is a killer. Wearing a hat will go a long way toward keeping you warm as well, a large amount of body heat is lost through the head. In the event of a tornado or a similar situation, you will want a “safe area” of your home where everyone can be sheltered until the immediate danger has passed. Basements are ideal but in homes lacking them, an interior room or hallway without windows would be best.

Medical: First of all, you can have all the supplies of a well-stocked hospital but without proper training, they would be practically worthless. Enroll in a first aid course or, even better, obtain EMT training if possible. Just buying a couple of books on first aid isn’t enough. They do no good just sitting on your shelf and, in an emergency, you don’t want to be leafing through an index trying to find the chapter on arterial bleeding.

A standard first aid kit picked up at your local discount store won’t cover any but the most basic of injuries. Anything more than a child’s bump or scrape and you’ll be lacking in needed supplies. A much better idea is to put together your own custom first aid kit. Along with it likely being cheaper that way, you’ll also know that kit’s contents inside and out. Be sure to include sanitary napkins as they make good makeshift pressure bandages, sterile gloves (several pair), aspirin or other pain relievers (including children’s meds if you have kids), antacids and anti-diarrhea meds. You’ll also want disinfectant, rubbing alcohol, a thermometer, antibiotic ointment, and burn cream. If you have the proper training, consider a blood pressure cuff and perhaps even a portable defibrillator. Don’t forget prescription medications such as for heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetic supplies.

Go through the contents regularly to ensure they have not expired or
otherwise become unusable.

Hygiene: Maintaining a proper hygiene regimen is not only healthy, but it is a morale booster. Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, deodorant, even shaving supplies should be stored and rotated regularly. Don’t forget feminine hygiene items. Be sure to include towels and wash cloths. In this same category are personal sanitation items. Don’t forget the toilet paper! I recommend putting rolls in separate plastic bags that you can zip shut to ensure they don’t get wet. Some thought must also be given to what you will use for toilet facilities if the water is shut off. There are a myriad of different portable toilets designed for use when camping and many of them would be perfectly suited for a survival situation. Another method would be to simply obtain a five gallon pail of the type often used by restaurant suppliers and affix a toilet seat to the top of it. There are a variety of different chemical additives that can cut down on the smell of such an arrangement. Otherwise, store some
garbage bags to use as liners and change them as needed.

Tools and equipment: Be sure you have several fire extinguishers and that they are adequately charged and updated regularly. A gas-powered chain saw might be worth having if you find you need to clear away fallen trees (be sure to store fuel). A variety of hand tools, such as hammers, saws, wrenches, and the like are a good idea for immediate repairs that might become necessary. Duct tape is always a good item to have around. Personally, I think the person who invented the nylon zip tie deserves every penny he gets for that patent. A pry bar, a few pair of work gloves, and bolt cutters are also good ideas. At least one, preferably two, flashlights per person and make sure you have plenty of batteries on hand. Candles will help reduce the use of flashlights, and hence batteries, but be sure there is no danger of a gas leak before you light them. Cordless telephones won’t work without electricity but corded phones might so make sure you have one on hand. Be aware the cell phones often won’t work either due to damage to the towers. An AM/FM radio will be needed to hear any emergency broadcasts and announcements and having one that also receives National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports would be all the better. Again, make sure you stock batteries. An alternative might be one of the crank powered combination flashlights/radios. If you decide to put one with your supplies, be sure to test it out first and determine its quality.

Comfort: Imagine how stressed and worried you’d be in a survival situation. Then, imagine you’re a child going through it. If you have kids, be sure to include some items specifically for them, such as stuffed animals, small toys, maybe some age appropriate board games. Treats are a good idea too, and not just for the kids. Candy, chocolate mix (be sure you can use water instead of milk), and other comfort foods are a good idea. While not the most nutritious, you won’t be using them as your primary food source either. Also include notepads, pens/pencils, a deck of cards or two, perhaps a couple of those books you never seem to have time to read. Generally, just a few things that will help you unwind and relax.

Odds and ends: It is a good idea to have copies of all of your important financial records set aside somewhere away from home in the event of fire or other calamity. I do not recommend however that you store them in a bank safe deposit box. A lesson learned from Katrina is that when a bank runs out of available cash, they will close their doors. You want those papers to be somewhere you could reasonably have access to them at any time. Consider an out of town relative or close friend. After Hurricane Katrina, insurance adjusters repeatedly mentioned the importance of having your insurance policy numbers and personal identification. An insurance
claim cannot be started without those vital pieces of information. Personal safety experts also have long advocated taking the entire contents of your wallet and photocopying everything, front and back, in the event of theft or loss.

Consider going through your photo albums and pulling out some of the most treasured photos, placing them, copies of them, or even just the negatives in one small album. Place it in a large plastic bag for protection and put it with your financial records discussed above. This way, if something does happen to your home, you will still have those photos.

Keep a couple hundred dollars cash ($10s and $20s) stashed with your
supplies. Banks may run out of cash in an emergency situation and, if the power is out and stores still manage to be open, they likely won’t be taking credit cards or checks. However, if you end up having to evacuate, having a credit card to use for hotels, gas, or other supplies isn’t a bad idea.

In an emergency situation, the best place to stay is home if possible.
You are comfortable there, your supplies are there, and you know your
neighbors. By stockpiling necessary supplies to augment what you would normally have anyway, you can help to ensure you and your family’s survival if something were to happen. It may be that nothing will ever happen to warrant the use of some of these supplies. But, I think it is better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Weapons in the Apocalypse

So what will weapons look like into the apocalypse? How much will be built by hand from things laying around and how much will be preserved from a time when industry had much higher standards than a guy taping a rock to a bat? In my journey across the wasteland of spam, porn, and small oasis of useful information. I have found some places that you should definitely check out and maybe begin to work on yourself.

One such place I found on the Post Apocalyptic Forums posted by dannyb0y999. It is a site showing many different Mad Max style weapons which frankly, you will need a tetanus shot to use let alone make!! But Mad Max isn't the only one to go into it's own fanciful idea's of weapons. If you have played Fallout 3 and ESPECIALLY Metro 2033 then you have seen that the idea for weapons when SHTF happens tends to be to keep weapons fairly simple. (following was gotten of of imfdb)

A few examples from Metro 2033. If you look the weapons are like I said are fairly simple and cobbled together from other weapons and stuff just lying around. As well as air powered weapons that frankly, would be a good idea. Already you may have one in .177 or .22 calibers. If you want one similar to the first pneumatic gun then take a look at the AirForce Talon Air Rifle. This is considered the most accurate and powerful air rifle around now imagine modifying it it to shoot larger ball bearings, darts, arrows, or bullets. A weapon that you just have to worry about getting rounds for and not about how your going to get it to you intended target. But of course some will want to shoot something with a lot bit more umpf. Which is why some people may try to start making their own rifles out of parts laying around. People already do it, if you have ever watched a prison documentary then you may have seen some of the weapons that convicts have made from materials at hand. Often they are ingenues and you have to ask yourself what these guys could do if they weren't criminals. Here are some guns that are homemade and often dangerous, but when they work are just a deadly as manufactured versions. 

As you can see there are some pretty amazing guns that people have made at home, and there are even more complicated ones out there. The Sten a WW2 weapon used by the British  forces as other insurgency forces in Europe. It is easily manufactured and there are at the moment many places on the internet where to get instructions on how to make them.

Obviously if/when the end of the world people will have many options on how best to hunt, kill, and defend themselves. It will take a while for post apocalypse weapons to start to become common. But there would be a day when people start making their own weapons, and there will be no shortage of possible weapons.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Vegas DLC hint

If you have a 360 then bought New Vegas for it then you are among those that then bought the Dead Money dlc then you may have heard about another courier. If you also got one of the CE New Vegas games then you also have a card deck, and in the deck is a few people that you may not remember in the game. Ulysses is one of those cards(look at pic). During the DLC while you are talking to Christine you can ask stuff about her, about how she got her scars. She will tell you about the Big Empty and about a courier that saved her. This courier is searching for another courier, you. There can be no doubt that Ulysses is the courier in question because she talks about the courier that saved her having a flag of the old republic on his back. A flag on the back of a man that appears in the card deck with the name Ulysses, and after talking to Christine you also get 1 out 5 for a challenge about your past. So this leads me to the conclusion that in fact there will be more dlc(possibly even 4 more dlc who knows?) that will take you around either looking for Ulysses or being found by him. I personally hope that these future dlc are better than Dead Money and add more cobbled together stuff like the holorifle, but that comes from a man that loved Metro 2033.