Monthly Archives: April 2012

And Then, What Are You Prepared To Do?

By: Tom Chatham – Author of The American Dream Lost

In the movie The Untouchables, Elliot Ness tells Malone that he wants to take down Capone. Malone asks Ness what he is prepared to do. Everything within the limits of the law replies Ness. Malone replies, and then what are you prepared to do? Working within the law to solve a problem only works when everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. What do you do when some consider themselves above the law and the law treats them differently?
When law enforcement personnel arrest someone for filming them or exercising their first amendment rights and these people are detained, humiliated and released without any charges or someone is killed when the police serve a warrant on the wrong house, and the officers are not even reprimanded, what is your recourse? You could try to sue but this is expensive and the system is usually biased in the favor of the officers. You could report this abuse in the media , and alert others to this abuse putting some pressure on law enforcement. But does this really change their behavior? It is a fact of human nature that people are resistant to change unless they suffer some type of pain be it physical, financial or emotional. Actions have consequences and unless someone suffers from their bad actions they will continue these abuses as always.
Where does this leave the average American that faithfully tries to follow the law to insure peace in the community. I’m not talking about skimping on your taxes or not coming to a complete stop at the sign. I’m talking about actions that take something away from everyone when they are perpetrated. When someone looses a bit of their freedom or security, we all lose some. These things are a limited resource just like everything else and unless they are safeguarded they will run out. If you should one day have to tell your children that there is no more fresh water to drink or no more food to eat this would be a life threatening situation, but what if instead you had to tell them they had no more freedom or security. Would this too be a life threatening situation? It may very well be. It is the difference between being a sheep dog and a sheep. This is the difference between defending yourself in your home or calling the police for help after the fact if you are still alive. This is what a control grid wants. Do nothing unless you are given permission first.
When a select group decides what they will allow you to do should you submit or resist? Most people will do what they are told just to avoid the hassle. This goes back to human nature. Most people will obey until it begins to cause them pain in some way. The abuse of freedom in this country is at an all time high but it has not caused enough pain yet to enough people to elicit a response. I think the response is coming very soon. Just like stretching a rubber band and then releasing it, I think the reaction to oppression in this country is going to be swift and violent at some point. This response could be in the form of protests, civil disobedience or something worse. I would not be surprised to turn on the TV one day and hear of a large number of law enforcement personnel or federal agents ending up on the bad end in a number of shootouts. And just like a weather announcement that starts a mad rush to the grocery store, violent acts against law enforcement could spike within 72 hours nationwide. It could be the proverbial shot heard round the world. This would be a very bad turn of events . If the pain of oppression becomes too much for too many people, anything could happen at any time. What would you do if someone came to take your livestock that provides your income, confiscate those dangerous guns that you have or break in and serve a warrant on your house by mistake and then decide to have a look around since they are already there? Everyone has their own line drawn in the sand somewhere that would elicit a response of some kind. If current trends continue, at some point your line could be crossed, and then, what are you prepared to do?


Prepping For the Financially Challenged : Homes and Open Spaces part 2

By: Tom Chatham – Author of The American Dream Lost

Heating and cooking are concerns during a grid down situation. The best longterm solution would be to have a wood stove and a good supply of wood. If you live in a home that cannot have a stove for some reason but it has a fireplace then you might want to have a fireplace insert. This would not work very well for cooking but it would keep you warm. With a fireplace , it is almost impossible to heat a room because most of the heat is siphoned out of the chimney. While the fans in your insert may not work , it will provide thermal mass to radiate heat without losing it all to the outside. Depending on the type of insert you have , you might be able to connect it to a power inveter which is connected to your car or have a small battery powered fan that sits in front and blows through the air chamber to circulate warm air. If you cannot have a woodstove in your house maybe you can put one in your garage or detached building to act as a backup shelter. The ultimate backup shelter would be a well stocked RV , camper trailer or boat.
Woodstoves and fireplace inserts are expensive , so you may chose to go with propane appliances to get you through the situation. The cheapest way to start is with a one or two burner camping stove and lantern. A supply of 1 lb propane cylinders will be easier to handle inside the home than larger ones. These can be refilled from a larger 20 lb cylinder with a Mac Coupler. The lantern should only be used when very bright light is needed otherwise a candle should be used for general lighting. Small portable propane heaters are now available for a reasonable price and can heat a small room during cold weather. If you plan to use propane for extended heating you might want to get a large tank placed outside your home connected to a wall unit inside. If you plan to use the smaller portable units , you are going to need 2 or 3 20 lb cylinders a month even for limited heating. If you have a propane BBQ that you can also use for cooking then having several extra tanks may seem logical. How large your propane system is will depend on your needs and financial capability. In some areas of the country , a solar cooker might work well most of the year.
If the grid is down but you still have use of your electronic equipment , a generator would be very useful for limited use but you will need to keep a good supply of fuel to last the duration because supplies may be limited after an event. Generators can be expensive and only provide you with power when they are running . A good alternative that will be cheaper to set up would be a battery system. You can mount one or two deep cycle batteries in the trunk of your car and connect them to the vehicle charging system with a battery isolator to keep them charged while you drive but they will be isolated from the vehicle battery. You will then be able to connect a power inverter to the batteries and provide continuous but limited power to your home. Depending on the size of your inverter , you would be able to use a small hot plate or microwave oven for cooking and to run your refrigerator or freezer for limited periods to keep the contents cold. You would then have the ability to provide some lighting with CF or LED bulbs and provide power for computers , radios , or TV’s to get information. It could even provide power to run a small AC unit for short periods but would not be very efficient for heating. A good feature of this system is that it will not produce the generator noise to alert your neighbors that you have power. For long durations you will need to run your car for a few hours a day to keep the batteries charged. This will require you to keep some extra fuel on hand. A vehicle engine uses much more fuel than a small generator but the difference is you will only need to run it for a few hours a day to have uninterrupted power all day and night. Since this system is mounted in your car it will go with you in a bug out situation providing you with many more options. This system would also lend itself to adaption to solar and wind charging as well. You can also build a generator to charge your battery pack by combining a 3 hp motor with a car alternator to give you a very cheap generator. This type of system is what I use when the power goes out so I know it will work. Some good plans can be found at www

For long term sustainability you need to have a plan to produce your own food at some point. Even if you can afford a 20 year supply of freeze dried foods , at some point that supply will run out. If the situation normalizes within that time so that you can buy food as before , you won’t have anything to worry about. But what if things do not normalize or food is hard to aquire and expensive in the future? If the dollar collapses , what will you buy it with? Even with a supply of storage food you need a plan to produce your own. Depending on your situation there are many ways to go about this. You can plant a regular garden in your yard, do container planting , used raised beds , grow vegetables vertically , hydroponics , aquaponics , raise sprouts , grow fruit trees , raise livestock or a combination of all of these. Once you produce your food you will need to preserve it until the next harvest. This is accomplished by canning , freezing , dehydrating , pickling ,salting , smoking or deep storage ( root cellar). Since the variables in producing and storing your own food are so numerous , each person needs to evaluate their resources and determine what will work best for them. By listing the different foods you can produce , the different ways you can preserve them and listing the equipment you will need to accomplish this , you will be able to see the cost of the different methods and determine what makes the most economic sense to you. When planning your crops you need to keep in mind perennial crops and seasonal planting such as having a summer garden and a winter garden and planting things such as long keeper tomatoes to provide fresh produce for most of the year. For someone just starting out , making several lists will aid you in making the most productive use of your time and money. Also keep in mind when you make your list , the things you will need to continue your production and storage every year. Things like open pollinated seeds , fertilizer , spices and reusable canning lids can keep your production going when those things might not be available at the store or your financial situation prevents you from buying them. The initial expense to get set up can be a major hurdle to many but once you have the infrastructure , producing your own food can be a very rewarding experience.

Prepping For the Financially Challenged : Homes and Open Spaces part 1

By: Tom Chatham – Author of The American Dream Lost

If you live in an urban or suburban home you will have more space to prepare systems for grid down situations. One of the first things you need to think about is whether your home is paid for or not and is there a situation that would force you to leave and seek shelter elsewhere for the duration. If your home is not paid for and you could lose it if your finances were cut off or you determine that it would be too dangerous to stay there in certain situations then you need to decide if you will install anything that you won’t be able to take with you when you leave. This could be solar panels , fruit trees , a garden or security measures installed on your home. You need to plan ahead when thinking about these matters. Any money spent on these systems would be lost and might have been better spent on other equipment that you will need if you relocate.
Water is always a primary concern in any emergency. If you have your own well you are much better off than most people. If it is a dug well, with no power you can simply drop a bucket in and pull out what you need. If you planned ahead you may have a backup electric pump or a manual hand pump you can hook up. If you have a deep well you can still get a hand pump that will work but they are not cheap. You can also get a specially made bucket that can be dropped down the well casing to hoist water out by hand. It looks like a long piece of pipe with one sealed end and attachments for rope or cable on the other. If you don’t have a well you are going to need a water source as close to home as possible. The closest thing to a well is a rain catchment system where rain water from your gutters is channeled into rain barrels for storage. The more storage you have the better. Besides barrels you could use a small kiddy pool that are reasonably cheap and store easily until you need it. If you have a large pool and keep it full you could use it for a water supply , but if you do you should not swim in it or use it for bathing. That should be done somewhere else for health reasons.
If none of these options are available you will need to forage for water. You need to identify a pond , lake or stream that can supply fresh water and haul it back to your shelter. It is best to filter the water when you get it however if you carry it back to filter in a stationary unit you should keep that bucket separate from the ones that contain filtered water to avoid contamination. In an emergency you should assume that all water is contaminated and filter any that you plan to consume or cook with even if it is from a well. This may be considered overkill by some but any illness in this situation could be lethal. With a rain catchment system you have the opportunity to provide yourself with running water. One of your rain barrels can be situated on an elevated platform and a hose connected to the bottom which runs into the house. During cold weather this type of system would have to be well insulated to prevent freezing . Before electricity made them obsolete, farms used to have windmills to pump water into a container located near the top of the tower to provide running water to the homestead. These windmills can still be found near old farmhouses. You can still buy new ones at . If you have the means to purify or filter the water that goes into the elevated barrel , you could connect it to your home water system providing water throughout your home. This would necessitate a shutoff valve between your home and the line coming from the original source.

Your sanitation needs will be delt with based on your situation. If you have a private septic system you can continue flushing your toilet as normal using your water supplies if they are plentiful. If you are connected to a community sewer system and the power is out, the pumps that carry the sewage away will not be working. Continued use of your toilet,tub or sinks will result in the lines backing up into your home causing serious health risks, as well as other problems. Even if it dosen’t back up into your home it may in someone elses home who is lower in elevation. In this situation you can use a portable toilet with removable linings or if you have the yard space you can set up a privy. For a privy , something permanent you can build is a 4’x4’ “garden shed” for your back yard. This structure can be complete minus the actual hole that you can dig when you actually need it. A bag of lime to take care of the smell and plenty of toilet paper and you will be set. One word of caution though, if you have a well or water source on site that you use , this structure must be placed at a sufficient distance so you do not contaminate your water supply.
As far as security for homes, you don’t need to recreate Fort Knox, you just need to make forced entry so difficult that they will move on to easier pickings. Granted , the more reinforcement you have the better. For the average person with a limited budget your doors and windows are the main focus. Some well mounted steel shutters or a heavy set of bars will go a long way to keep intruders out. A cheaper solution would be to cut pieces of 3/4” plywood or thicker wood that will set in the window frame on the outside. Cut a small hole in it that you can see out of then cover the whole outside of the wood , including the hole , with a very dark window tint. This can be screwed or nailed in place over the windows to make entry more difficult while giving the appearance of being just a large tinted window.
A normal wooden door could be replaced with a heavy steel door and frame to make forced entry much more difficult. A heavy steel gate on the outside to protect the door would also be helpful. A garage door that is lightly made can be reinforced with plywood, but anything less than ½ “ thick is not going to help much. The thicker it is the better. Barbed wire or concertina wire layered around the outside of the house or the planting of large thorny bushes next to the house will also make approaching the house difficult. In a suburban environment , the bushes may be your best option without drawing too much attention to your home. Basically you want to give the impression , you can’t get in , go away , nobody is home. If a determined person or group decides they are going to get in no matter how hard it is your only recourse may be the use of deadly force. This is truly your last line of defense. How you would carry this out is a personal decision that you need to make now so you are properly prepared when the time comes. Many say that hearing someone rack a shotgun is a good deterrent and I might add that hearing a chain saw start up would also be a bit disconcerting for would be thieves.

The Inflation Monster Cometh, Prepare Yourself

By: Tom Chatham – Author of The American Dream Lost

Let’s just take a quick review of the situation as we know it. The real inflation rate is over 10% and the real u6 unemployment rate is over 22% according to General Mills recently reported that their input costs rose from 10% to 11% year over year. This is no shock to anyone that goes to the grocery store every week. The Baltic dry index, the measure of shipping rates worldwide , dropped over 65% between Nov 2011 and Mar 2012. This means a lot of cargo ships are sitting around with nothing to do. The housing sector is still in shambles and will take at least a decade to work off the Millions of foreclosures on the books and the millions about to be added in the next few years. This means the price of houses will continue to fall for the foreseeable future so if you decide to buy please do some research and go into it with both eyes open.
Recently the BRICS countries held a meeting and agreed to conduct more commerce in their own currencies instead of U.S. dollars. Iran is selling oil for anything but dollars. Saudi Arabia is building a huge new refinery in cooperation with China on the Red Sea. It is estimated that there are about $700 Trillion in derivatives In the world banking system. This is over 10 times the World GDP. This is insane.
So why is it a bad thing if no one wants to use our currency to do business? The Dollar is the world reserve currency. This means that all major commodities in the world are priced in Dollars. If someone wants to buy oil or grain they first have to exchange their currency for dollars to make the purchase. Because of this many foreign banks keep a large supply of dollars to do business. The only one that can print Dollars is the U.S. so we don’t need to convert anything to do business. That means we don’t need to have a lot of exports to make money to pay for stuff, we can just print all the money we need. This is exactly what we have been doing for decades. It has worked so far because foreign banks needed the money for their own use , but we have come to a point that there is too much money. The more money that is printed , the less each dollar is worth. Other countries are tired of losing buying power because of this so they are deciding to use something else. This means all of that U.S. money that is sitting in foreign banks is about to start moving back to the U.S.
Most of the things we now buy are made overseas. If all of this money comes home it will flood the economy with money making the dollars you hold worth less. If we lose our reserve currency status we will then have to exchange our dollars for other currencies for whatever we buy just like everyone else. The more we print , the less it will be worth in other currencies. This means we won’t be able to just print what we need , we will have to make money by exporting goods. This will be difficult to do with the destruction of our manufacturing sector. In short , losing reserve currency status will make everything we import much more expensive and the continued printing of money will make things even worse. Every time you hear about someone moving away from the U.S. dollar you need to keep this in mind. And what are those pesky derivatives about? They are merely bets between banks , just like the bets you place in Vegas except when these bets have to pay off everyone will lose.
Everything we buy will continue to rise in price at a faster and faster rate. It will be impossible for people to keep up in purchasing power. So what can you do to protect yourself? Concider this. If you buy $100 worth of food and put it in your pantry until you need it next year , and the price of this food goes up 10% , that is the same as making 10% interest on this $100 , just the same as if you had it in a savings account. The best thing is you will have no risk of losing this money as you would in the stock market or some other investment. If you do this with items you know you will need over the next few months , you can save a great deal of money and protect your buying power. If you keep a year supply of food and keep it rotated , you will effectively be eating at last years prices and this will shield you from any supply disruptions should they happen. This can also be done with things like clothing. You may want to put some of your extra money into something like silver to preserve your buying power. The best way for the average person is to buy pre 1965 junk silver coins or 1 oz bullion coins , but be aware that China is flooding the U.S. with fake gold and silver coins so buy them from a reputable dealer that can verify their authenticity.
A good book to read on this subject is The Alpha Strategy , which can be downloaded free on the internet. It is well worth reading if you want a better understanding of economics. Most people like to be optimistic and think things will get better , but what if they get worse? Anyone living outside of D.C. knows that things are difficult these days so it only makes sense to be responsible and be prepared to take care of your family if the situation should continue to deteriorate. Some estimate the real inflation rate will hit 14% this year and possibly 25% next year. If QE3 is launched the estimates are as high as 50% within a year. If these estimates are even half right , it will destroy the average working class American. A can of ham will always be worth a can of ham but a dollar is only worth what someone is willing to trade you for it. Prepare yourself accordingly.

The Future Will Be Three Dimensional So Plan That Way

By: Tom Chatham – Author of The American Dream Lost

It seems that most people that have devised a survival plan to weather the coming storm seem to think that they have the only plan that will work for everyone. No one plan will work equally well for everyone regardless what some may think. Every person and every situation is different. The best that you can do is to listen to all of the suggestions and choose the ones that will work for you. It is also evident that most people have what I call a one dimensional plan which means they base all of their plans on one situation that they have envisioned and expect the world to end in some way and stay that way forever. Even with societal collapse and civil disorder at some point in the future we will exit the crisis and the situation will stabilize at some point. This stabilization may be very different from the pre crisis events or the midterm living conditions and this is where the three dimensional view comes into play. Some already have plans to stock barter items for trade when it becomes possible. These are the ones that have moved beyond the one dimensional view. They realize the world will go on in some way and are preparing themselves for it but this only brings you to the second dimension.
When the situation stabilizes it will be because a group of people have brought about this stabilization. This stabilization may take a number of different forms. You may have a large number of small stabil areas brought under control by a local citizen militia while the areas in between remain dangerous until a proper government is formed to deal with it. Stabilization could be the result of warlords or organized gangs taking control of large areas and subjugating everyone within with force. Stabilization could result because of the present government remaining all powerful and subjugating everyone under permanent martial law.
Regardless of how stabilization takes place , those that live through it will need a plan to deal with this new reality. Not knowing exactly how the future will play out prevents you from making any specific long range plans so you will need to remain as flexible as possible. Many of the plans that people have are good for a certain type of crisis but they may not be flexible enough to maintain them on the other side. What if things stabilize and you find that you no longer have the right to own any land? What happens to that well stocked homestead if the new government decides to move you? Don’t think that could happen? You might want to consider the land redistribution that has happened in Africa the last few decades where prosperous farmers were run off of their land and it was divided up among the locals. If something like this should happen , then you need a plan to preserve your critical infrastructure , such as tools , machines and animals , so you will be able to care for yourself and your family and continue to produce a product to sell. You need to determine now where you would go and how you would live.
Yes, you could fight to the death but once this type of government has taken control it’s too late to win without a long protracted war of attrition. The time to stop it is before it gets too powerful. Or what if they try the old soviet tactic of taking all of the food you produce and leaving you to starve? The prevention of these kinds of scenarios is the reason you need to think in three dimensional terms. Your plans may carry you through the worst of the crisis but will you be able to adjust to life on the other side? If things do stabilize for the better then you will need a product or skill to barter. Have you planned for that? If the government totally collapses will you wait around for someone to reestablish it their way or will your community pull together and rebuild it the way you want? How do you plan to live if you find yourself under the rule of a dictatorship? When I try to solve a complex problem , I try to tear it down to the smallest component, then look at it from all angles. Once you do this with all of the components , then reassemble the problem , you have a basic plan to work from. Thinking is free, at least for now , and it can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. You need to give these things some thought because after a crisis things will stabilize, and that is something that I don’t think anyone is preparing for.

If Technology Fails, Just How Long Are Your Long Range Plans?

By: Tom Chatham – Author of The American Dream Lost

When the Roman Empire died , the technology and living standard that had spread around Europe slowly died with them. Things such as paved roads, sanitation and aqua ducts to carry fresh water to cities were forgotten over the generations and men reverted to simpler forms of technology. This reversion led to the dark ages. After many generations the people relearned some of the forgotten technologies and advanced once again. There was no global cataclysm that brought about this reversion , it just happened because the men who knew how the technology worked decayed along with the Romans and the average man did not understand the significance of these technologies. Eventually , future generations were ignorant of these technologies that once existed.
Today we are blessed with truly unbelievable technology that holds many benefits for man. Almost everyone has a cell phone or computer , but do any of those people actually know how these things work? A lot of people can build a wood stove from scratch but how many can build a microwave oven or know exactly how a gas oven works? Our technology is dependent on simple machines that create parts for other more complex machines that create parts for machines that can make a computer chip. With each layer of technology , fewer and fewer people actually know how to recreate it from scratch. In our society it may not be necessary to know how to fix your own car or how a phone works because there is always someone else that knows the secrets of these devices. But , what if these people that hold the keys to our knowledge suddenly ceased to exist or if the technology somehow broke and they could not fix it?
It is not unthinkable that a natural or manmade event could create a situation where our technology is damaged or destroyed beyond our ability to repair or recreate it from scratch. If all of our computer chips were destroyed along with the complex machines that make them, how long would it take us to recreate that technology and under what conditions would we be working? How many people in the world have the knowledge to do that? Any event that would destroy our technology would create chaos around the world. It’s not unreasonable to think that this chaos would prevent those with the knowledge from reconstituting our technology base in a timely manner. The longer it remains off line , the harder it will be to recreate it. This time lag could be months , years or generations. As time passes it is less likely that information will be passed on to the next generation to be reconstructed. This is how a society can devolve into a dark age. If information is not passed on it will eventually be lost to the ages.
On a local level , if all of your conveniences were lost , how long would it take you to recreate them from scratch? Could you even do it? Even if you can make fuel for your vehicle , can you make the lubricants to keep it going or the bearings for the wheels to keep them turning? If an event took away most of our machines many would be able to rig up new machines from the parts to use for a while but what happens when these parts wear out? Even if you had a block of copper , and knew how to melt it , do you know how to turn it into a long piece of wire? A simple piece of wire seems pretty simple until you think about it that way.
When we are thrown back on our own resources , we are dependent on the knowledge we have to solve problems. If you needed to reestablish communications with another town with technology that you had to build , what would you do? The simplest form of communication over a distance is light or hand signals but what if you could not see the next town on a direct line of sight? The simplest device you could build in electrical terms is a telegraph set. Could you build the keys , wire and batteries from scratch? Could you build a wagon from scratch to transport goods? The loss of technology would cause a regression to what we are capable of building ourselves.
It is a feeling in the prepper community that you are never finished preparing for disaster. The possible collapse of our technology is the reason for this. With the vast amount of knowledge available to us it is almost impossible for any one person to know it all. This is why it is important to have a good reference library that you can refer to in times of need. I have a set of reference books that tell me how to build a charcoal foundry and from there to produce every part of several basic machining tools minus the electric motor. If I had to , I have the ability to build a small machine shop , powered by alternate means , to produce parts to build other machines. Even if I never build these things , the knowledge is there to pass down to the next generation so it is not forgotten. This could be the difference between living in a new dark age or just having a reduced standard of living for a few generations. I study obsolete technology because it is the basis of all of the technology we have today. It provides me with the basics to start the rebuilding process should it ever be necessary. Many have a plan to survive food disruptions and civil breakdown but how far out do those plans go? At some point , things will stabilize and the rebuilding will begin. Anyone that feels the need to prepare must also feel that they have a duty to the future to insure the continuation of our society. Any skills you have that can be passed on should be and for those you don’t have you should at least have books to pass on that knowledge. Our society cannot go on without a long range plan to at least provide the basics of human needs. Future generations depend on the information that we hand down to them, and lately we haven’t been doing a very good job of it.