Published on the Doomstead Diner on November 29, 2015
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
Back in 2008-9 with the collapse of Bear Stearn & Lehman Brothers, I became both a Doomer and a Prepper. These are not perfectly interchangeable appelations, some Doomers are not Preppers and some Preppers are not Doomers, although there is a lot of crossover between the two.
You can be a Doomer but not a Prepper, if for instance you think Near Term Human Extinction is coming soon to a theater near you, and there is nothing you can do to prep for that, you're going to die no matter what. You can be a Prepper but not a Doomer if you just buy supplies for temporary dislocations, like maybe an Ice Storm or Tornado hits your neighborhood. You don't think Industrial Civilization is ending, but you do want to be prepared for Emegencies.
However, I will speculate that most Doomers are Preppers to one extent or another, and definitely most of the active Diners are both Preppers and Doomers.
The reasons for Prepping up should be obvious, whatever Preps you have should help you survive a period of dislocation until a more permanent solution to problems are implemented, either by yourself and friends or perhaps by your local community or goobermint. Generally speaking, Preps are not a permanent solution and at max can probably carry you for maybe 2 years, and that is only if you can protect them from other people who are prepless and covet your preps, perhaps with the assistance of a firearm. Regardless of that possibility, it's still better to have some preps than not have any. Even if Industial Civilization does not crash tomorrow, it never hurts to have some extra food in the larder when there is a big storm or a flashlight when the lights go out.
The goings on in 2008-9 convinced me I needed to get Prepped UP, and I went into this full tilt for a couple of years, and still am always adding more cool items to my arsenal of Preps. At the beginning it was long lasting foods, flashlights, warm clothing etc, but over time I bought many other things like alternative cooking equipment, a generator, solar PV panels etc. Today, I have one of the most complete sets of good Preps that can keep me going through even a long disruption of BAU. Every item was carefully chosen, and most are what I would call "Best in Class", be it generator, cooking stoves, tools, whatever. It took a long time to collect up all this stuff, many things I had to order over the net and wait for them to get shipped up to Alaska. Some things like my Ewz Electric Scooter were difficult to get up here and took some creative shipping methods to do it. Anything with Batteries either Li-I or SLA is considered a Hazmat for Air Freight and you can't get it shipped by typical Amazon or Walmart retailers. In the case of the Ewz also, this particular model which I considered Best in Class is no longer available to buy at all, it's not being manufactured anymore far as I can tell. I actually got one of the last few available and had to go through a half dozen retailers to find one.
Besides the time involved here is the $MONEY$ of course, this hobby of Prepping for Collapse did not come cheap. I have no idea precisely how much I have spent this way over the years, but it is certainly well into the $1000s if not $10s of thousands. Trying to replace it all if I somehow lost all of it would be close to impossible at this point. Which brings us to the point of this article.
A few weeks ago we had a SCARE in the complex I live in, one of the folks had a fire start in the hot water heater in her digs. Everybody had to evacuate their digs while we waited for the Fire Department to arrive. Fortunately, the fire did not spread out of control, the Fire Department arrived in about 10 minutes and the fire was extinguished in about another 10. No damage to anything but her water heater and closet.
However, upon getting the knock on my door and told I needed to EVACUATE, at first I just went outside with my sweatshirt on. However I quickly realized I was sunk if the place burned down, I didn't even have my car keys or wallet with me! So I risked going back into the digs to collect those, also my cell phone and another jacket since it was starting to get cold in even the few minutes I was outside at that point. There were no flames anywhere and I did not smell smoke, so I didn't feel this risk was too bad to take.
This year also we had a bad wildfire season up here in Alaska through the summer, although fortunately we didn't have one near me. There was a pretty big one in Willow though which is not that far away. So whether it is from home appliances going south, grease in your bacon frying pan lighting up or a wildfire, no matter where you live FIRE is always a significant danger which can totally wipe you out as a prepper. There are other significant dangers here as well, it's a major Earthquake Zone and we also have a few Volcanoes in the neighborhood which could blow. All of these things require a nearly instantaneous response, and whatever preps you are going to take with you all have to be READY TO GO! You probably won't have time to get them organized in a fire situation. So this week I worked on putting together a RTG Bugout Bag with a few main preps in it.
In it is some warm clothing, spare keys for my vehicles, a spare cell phone and so forth. I also wrote earlier about my Internet Admin Bugout Bag, which I am now keeping mostly packed and ready to go out the door should an emergency situation arise.
Clearly, I cannot take all my preps with me, in a big fire situation as it is now I would probably lose 90% of them. I do have some things stored in a separate location, but it's first of all impractical to have duplicates of EVERYTHING, and mostly you want to keep your preps nearby where you actually ARE. So you have to come to grips with the fact that no matter how well prepped you are, in real emergency situations you probably can only escape with a couple of bags worth of stuff. For the Refugees leaving Syria, they have to do plenty of walking, they often have to sleep on the street or in hallways, you just can't carry too much with you in this situation.
I am supplementing the bags with some other stuff I am going to leave in the car all the time, a Tent, Sleeping Bag and Pad, a cooking stove and some propane cannisters, but you can't put too much in your vehicle either, because of course there is always the chance this will be broken into or stolen.
Deciding what to put in the bags is also a challenge. What do you really need and not want to lose? What can be easily replaced and what cannot be? Do you want to go with a Backpack or Wheely Bag? How big a bag do you think you can move around effectively if you lose the use of your car? All this will vary from Prepper to Prepper. Some real minimalists can go out and survive with just a Hunting Knife. I am not one of those people. LOL. At the same time, I have to triage and determine what I can do without and leave behind if I have to.
Then there are the battery issues.
There is one MAJOR problem with having a whole bunch of phones, lights, cameras etc that all work on rechargeable batteries.
That is the fact you have to keep them all charged up and ready for that emergency bugout when the knock comes to your door to evacuate.
Now, I could keep all my devices plugged in all the time to various outlets while the juice is still flowing. However, do that, and then they are not bagged and ready to go out the door with you! If they are bagged and ready, then usually in the course of a week or two depending how good the battery is, they discharge on their own even with the device turned off. So now you hve to rinse and repeat, unbag them, plug them in and charge them up, then rebag them.
After a while, keeping all your batteries topped off becomes a full time job. Car batteries have been an issue for me since I don't drive much these days. Once again, the batteries on my Big Bugout Machine are dead and it won't start. Tried jumping it again, and still no go. The batteries there have discharged so many times from disuse that I need to buy new ones for it.
My Ewz I keep on a charger all the time, and after returning from a prep run to 3 Bears always gets plugged back in. Similarly, my laptop is always plugged in. My Smartphone I Plug in each morning when I wake up and go sit at the computer for my Diner Admin tasks. I could leave it plugged in all night too, but haven't found that necessary, it only discharges maybe 20% overnight even while turned on to receive early morning calls from the lawyer or a doctor's office.
As long as I keep the big Deep Cycle Marine battery charged, that can charge up all the small devices, but then that is also another thing I need to get out the door in an emergency bugout.
My compromise solution here is just making sure the phone is charged, my laptop is charged, the USB spare battery is charged, the Ewz is charged and the Car Battery of my main car is charged. Everything else I just charge when I get round to it periodically.
In terms of getting it all out the door fast, the 2 bags go first, then the Ewz, then whatever else I can get out before fire consumes the digs and I can squeeze in the SUV or on the roof rack. That's the Plan for now anyhow.
One of my big problems in this regard is my Camera Equipment. This is pretty nice and expensive stuff, leaving it behind would be quite difficult for me. However, I have a smaller camera which takes pretty good pics, and in a pinch can always use the cell phone for this purpose as well, so the super duper cameras aren't truly necessary items. In most circumstances though, I can probably get them out of the digs as long as they also are packed up and ready to go in their own bag. So they have their own bag likely to be 3rd out the door in an Emergency Bugout. Long as I still have the carz, carrying them is not a problem, and in fact given enough time, I could pack the carz with a good deal more than that, but by no means everything and I would lose a lot. Emotionally, this would be devastating for me.
Many times over the years I have watched Newz Reports on disasters from Floods which washed away entire homes to Tornadoes that flattened entire communities, and there is almost always one interview with some trying-to-be-brave individual who says he "Lost Everything but I am Glad to Be Alive". I wonder sometimes how glad those individuals are 3 or 6 months down the line when they are Homeless and have nothing but the clothes on their backs? I doubt I would be very glad to be alive in that situation.
One of the unfortunate outcomes of our Civilization is that you become attached to and also come to depend on the Possesions you accumulate over time. For many people this also includes their Memories, in the form of Scrapbooks, Photo Albums, Doll or Stamp Collections, etc. In one of the many recent Climate Change disasters, I remember reading about one elderly woman recently dropped into a Nursing Home who won something like Miss Kentucky of 1946. She had well kept scrapbooks from her Glory Days in her home, which was destroyed in a Flood. She fortunately was not there to see her life memories washed away, but in the interview her daughter told the reporter that she could not bring herself to tell her mother about this, because the knowledge of it would kill her.
My good friend Eddie was very saddened when a favorite and special place for him, Harbin Hot Springs was recently destroyed by Wildfires. It was as though a piece of his life had been ripped out, and no matter what, nothing could replace the Harbin he once knew. You may try to say that all these things are just Temporal Materialism, but they are not. Places and things form an integral part of who you are, and you come to depend on them as a source of security, that things will always be as you remember them, as once they were in your youth, in your Glory Days.
What you learn though as the years pass is this is never true, what is true is Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Dust in the Wind. You can't hold onto anything forever, not even your life. When enough gets taken away from you that you lose your identity as a person, the effects are devastating. It is no surprise you rarely if ever get follow up interviews with the trying-to-be-brave people who survived a big flood or wildfire. In all likelihood, a few months later they are not quite so happy to be alive as they were in the direct aftermath of the disaster.
For myself, wirting this article was a form of catharsis, an attempt to divorce myself from my material possessions and grasp onto the inescapable fact of life that all you have is a temporary thing, and within your lifetime you may (probably) have to let go of some or all of it, for one reason or the other. However, it is just an intellectual catharsis, not an emotional one. All these Preps I have around me today as I write this article are a part of me, they are a part of my sense of security. How much good they will actually do me when TSHTF I have no idea, but the thought that I can lose all of them in an instant as a Wildfire encroaches on my digs is quite sobering. I Do not think I would be very "brave" for the cameras of the local TV station and say I was just greatful to be alive. Without my Preps, my life would be dogshit and nothing to be greatful for.