Help me take care of my family if it hits the fan.
September 25, 2008 10:48 PM   Subscribe

I've tried to be a boyscout in preparations for everything. Oil and water in the car. First Aid and fire retardant in every room. Etc, etc. I've also tried to be prepared for what many call EOTWAWKI, the End of the World as We Know It. Not in a survivalist way by more in line with common sense. Now, I'm trying to figure out how much further to dive in.

We live in Tornado Alley, so we have all the usual. Flashlights, 30 days worth of MRE's per person. Extra clothes and needed docs, gear, etc in a go-bag for each person. I could go on forever. However, lately I've been hearing so many dire warnings from people both qualified and un-qualified that I wonder if common sense shouldn't give way to a little healthy paranoia. I'm not a neophyte financially, but I am certainly not an accountant or a broker. Should I stock up on precious metals, and liquify my assets? Should I maintain a diverse portfolio or consolidate in an overseas market?

On the home front ... should I stock up on the home front as well? Extra water, ammo, more food, etc. (Lots of etc, here.)

I know that sounds kooky and I'm not prone to that but I don't like to get caught flatfooted. I've been through enough tornados and enough junk while living overseas in disaster areas that I'm always trying to keep a "Keep-Life-Going-Kit." Should I expand that as well? To what degree should I be worried? Some of the people who are giving "warnings" seem to know what they're talking about while others are certainly the type who border on the edge of normalcy, so I'm having a hard time separating baseless rumors from solid advice.

In short, do basically just need to make sure we're divested of anything risky (we're not heavily invested, mostly 401k and some odd stocks) and keep cash around more often ... OR ... do I need to start stocking up on more food, start an ammo crate and start learning to tan my own leather? (Ok, poetic license but you get my drift.)
posted by damiano99 to Work & Money (18 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
How's your water...those MREs are going to go down pretty hard after a couple of days without H20.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:10 PM on September 25, 2008

Response by poster: Water is good. We've had water go before from ice-storms or high-wind issues that caused line failures (trees down, etc.) We currently keep 10x5gallon bottles at home. It's not much but it's a start.
posted by damiano99 at 11:17 PM on September 25, 2008

Wow ... you think America is going to fall apart (hence the ammo I guess)? If bullets start flying, 401Ks aren't going to be much use!!

Learn a trade that you can barter with - like blacksmithing.
And get more water - rain water might be radioactive for years.

ps: gold is only valuable in stable societies; as a raw material it isn't intrinsically valuable (unlike iron say)

Oh and get a ....
posted by Xhris at 11:45 PM on September 25, 2008

Get a lot more water. Also stockpile peanut butter because it is a dense source of calories.
posted by demon666 at 11:49 PM on September 25, 2008

Get to know your neighbours and make friends with them. That way, you don't have to stockpile ammunition, and if the world doesn't end, you have more friends living near you.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:54 PM on September 25, 2008 [10 favorites]

I don't believe we had Road Warrior conditions in the US during the Great Depression, nor in, say, San Francisco after the Great Quake, so I think that what you've done covers the 99% of most likely outcomes.

I think that, in an end of the world scenario that you may be concerned about, the most valuable things to have are:

- ability to grow food
- skills that are useful to others (basic medical knowledge, home construction and repair, possibly general repair/fixit skills)
- a network of friends in your neighborhood

In fact, I think the last one is the most important. A group has more resources and knowledge than any one person. If you know that your friends have certain areas covered (like, say, Alice down the street knows how to build a water filtration system from scratch), then you can specialize in the areas you are good at.
posted by zippy at 11:56 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Even in the worst moments in American history -- the Civil War, the Great Depression -- society did not collapse and the US did not dissolve into anarchy. (I suppose people caught in the path of Sherman's March or living in a Hooverville might disagree, but basically the government kept going, life kept going, etc.) However dire the situation in the financial markets may be, it seems likely that the country will basically continue to function, even if some people are out of work or lose their homes because of this mess.

So sound investments, good credit/debt decisions, cash reserves in an FDIC insured account (or accounts), and good career decisions are probably the smartest moves right now. MREs might prove useful in the aftermath of a devastating tornado, but I'd very much doubt that they (or the shotgun ammo) will be needed in case of more problems with the credit market.

Many people who have a vested interest in seeing the government pump billions of taxpayer dollars into the markets have been hyping current events as a sign of the apocalypse. And I'm not saying the situation isn't serious, but it's probably worth it to maintain some perspective about how dire things are and what it means if market troubles continue or a bailout plan fails.

On Preview: I agree with zippy.
posted by dseaton at 12:12 AM on September 26, 2008

Echoing what others have said. If history is anything to go by (and it generally is), worry less about things going all 'A Boy and His Dog', but don't rule out a bit of 'Modern Times'.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:15 AM on September 26, 2008

More than giant sealed barrels of water, I'd invest in a really really good Katadyn or PUR water purifier. Not the faucet type---the pump type and 3 or 5 spare filters (they're good for like 1000L each). Honestly I'd probably keep 10ish gallons of water in jugs + the filter. Realistically you're looking at riding out a storm, not surviving the apocalypse.

Matches + candles + those god awful woolen military blankets are good too.

I also think that it's interesting that you say you're not a survivalist. Good for you for being prepared...but I'm not sure there really is any "preparing" for the collapse of society as we know it.
posted by TomMelee at 4:28 AM on September 26, 2008

I think the network of friends is the best advice you will get. That said . . .

I think it's important to have some supplies on hand for shorter-term events. However, hoarding supplies quickly reaches a point of diminishing returns in an every-family-for-themselves situation, because the more you have, the harder it becomes to conceal and the greater attraction it poses to those who might want to take it from you. You might be able to protect yourself from a single intruder, but not a roving gang or pillaging mob.

Over the long term, you are better-off stockpiling skills than supplies. It's an obvious corollary of the 'teach a man to fish,' proverb. You will never hoard enough goods to last more than a few weeks or months, but there are basic skills (hunting, first aid, agriculture, mechanics, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, masonry, animal husbandry, knitting, sewing, etc.) that can help sustain you for years through their direct benefit and your ability to barter with them.

For a good list of ideas for both skills and supplies, see this Popular Mechanics web page about personal preparedness.
posted by OilPull at 5:41 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's my plan for the end of the world. I'm gonna let you in on it, but you seem to live far enough away from me that it will probably work for both of us: Invest in cigarettes. Hundreds of cartons of cigarettes. And matches. And liquor.

Once the world collapses, I will be the Queen of the New World, dispensing my vices for crafts and services.
posted by banannafish at 6:38 AM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

Wow ... you think America is going to fall apart (hence the ammo I guess)?

Ammo has useful purposes other than defense, such as hunting. No need for knee-jerking, when you don't know what the asker intended.
posted by knave at 6:45 AM on September 26, 2008

Response by poster: This advice is great. We're already relatively skill-centric. I think. Though a city-boy now, I grew up on a farm and am pretty familiar with substinence farming. I'm no mechanic but I can do basic carpentry and plumbing (basic.) On that end I'm as covered as I can be right now. We're always learning more.

I guess, the caveat that seems to be running thru these answers is "Be prepared to support yourself." I can go with that. Thought, I'd appreciate any other feedback or ideas as well. I guess for the first time in my life, I'm truly spooked about the current status quo here in the U.S. and just want to be ready for whatever comes down the pipe. I've felt unsure in the state of our country and society in general and I find myself uneasy now. It doesn't help that have the media says we'll have no financial infrastructure in 2 months and have the people around my part of the country all still think 9/11 was a govt conspiracy and that the Pentagon attack was a cruise missle personally launched by Dick Cheney. A little dramatic but you get my drift. Hearing all the doom and gloom from the media and all the wacknut stuff from the other side has just gotten me on edge and worried. Too much spurious info and unsupported opinions.

Anyway, again ... any further ideas or advice is very welcome but I appreciate the answers already very, very much.
posted by damiano99 at 7:50 AM on September 26, 2008

Do you know what I think is the best thing to stockpile in case of some huge emergency? Knowledge.

If you think there's going to be a catastrophic financial collapse, find out what has happened in past catastrophic financial collapses and look at some of the ways people survived and flourished (folks in the collapse of the Weimar Republic bartering useful skills for food and water, shelter, and clothing, for instance).

If you think there's going to be a geological or meteorological cataclysm, research past disaster events and find out how people survived and flourished (take a look at 1816, "The Year Without a Summer," for instance).

If you think there's going to be an unprecedented pandemic, there are some interesting accounts from the Black Plague years.

If you think there's going to be constant ethnic/sectarian/whatever guerrilla warfare, there are some first-hand accounts by people who survived the Hutu/Tutsi conflict in Rwanda.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:52 AM on September 26, 2008

Sell your car to some sucker before the oil runs out, pay off debts, enjoy life, but llive simply and whatever happens will likely pass right by you.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:44 AM on September 26, 2008

Duct tape.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:20 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have some cash on hand. I donĀ“t mean holding your investments in cash in your account, but have actual folding money. In a short term emergency, you may not be able to use ATMs or credit cards, but if people expect cash to still be useful you will find it much more convenient for many things than trading other items.
posted by yohko at 1:23 PM on September 26, 2008

I worry that you are a survivalist in the pejorative sense, but take comfort in this, which has elevated this kind of speculative game to a kind of conceptual art. I love my multi-tool and so I warmly recognize our kinship.
More seriously, I love how the emphasis in this thread has developed from protect-my-stuff fantasies to a sense of community-building being the "best bet." I'm traveling extensively this year and thinking a lot about how some community bonds strengthen "survival" while others lead to destruction...
posted by Mngo at 12:59 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

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