Light. It's one of the most important "resources" - lack of light won't necessarily kill you, but it sure is limiting. I consider flashlights to be one of the most valuable tools in a disaster - they enable tasks to be performed in the dark and are powerful security tools. Below are some of the lights that I've selected over the years.

As a general rule, in selecting a light, opt for quality, battery life, and reliability over high lumen counts and large numbers of modes. In fact, I've basically stopped using all lights with more than about three modes (High, Medium, Low). Further, most flashlights will have a radically inaccurate lumen rating. Most Chinese flashlights that claim a specific brightness are off by a factor of 5 to 10.
Now, if you want a security or defense light, you may want to get a light with a strobe mode (but not mixed in with four other modes - it won't do you any good if you can't find it when you need it) and really high brightness.

Task Lights

Amazon sells a cheap, $4 flashlight that uses a single AA battery. It uses an LED bulb and is relatively bright. I almost wish it was less bright so it would have longer run time. These have proven pretty durable and long lasting and are well worth the price and beat out lights quite a bit more expensive.

A more expensive LED light ($17) that has worked great for us is the Gerber Ininity. That light last forever on a single AA, which makes it a great basic task light.

How to build an awesome flashlight for about $25

I've used and carried a lot of lights over the years, but right now my EDC light is one I build myself. Well, perhaps assembled is a more accurate term. My light is build using a Solarforce P60 host (an L2M) and an International Outdoors P60 Lamp (a three mode warm).

This lamp does something around 400-500 lumens (honest lumens, not cheap Chinese lumens that are off by a factor of 5-10). I'd get the lamp in neutral or warm, not cool. Since I've bought they have added an LED with a CRI (color rendering quality) of 92, which sounds awesome. One problem with most LED lights is how "fake" they make everything look - that's basically because they are producing a very limited spectrum of colors. All these lamps are good, but the CRI of 92 is higher than I've ever seen before.

Here's a review of an older version of this same lamp module:

This flashlight will be limited to only 4.5 volts - so use either a single CR123 (possible in the L2m host) or a rechargeable 18650, which is my preferred option. Tenergy brand 18650s are the ones to get - they seem to be the best balance of cost and quality.

Crash Course on Ebola Preparedness

Crash-course emergency preparedness against Ebola outbreak

The CDC has just confirmed the first case of Ebola in the USA. If Ebola breaks out in the USA there are several things we can safely assume:
1. Quarantine/Shelter in Place will either be mandatory or a REALLY GOOD IDEA.
2. Utilities and emergency services may not be reliable or available.
3. The supplies you have in your home will be all you have. Plan to camp for over a month at home.
4. You will need to assume that you are on your own till everything dies down (if anything happens).

This document is a rough draft and contains suggested minimums - please verify critical details and do some research. The current strain of Ebola incubates for about three weeks and then shows symptoms.

Food: 30 - 60 day supply

This list would feed four people for a month at roughly 3000 calories per day.  
50 pounds of dry beans and/or lentils (about $50 from Cloverdale)
50 pounds of rice ($22 from Cloverdale)
12.5 pounds of oats ($6 from Cloverdale if you split a bag)
12.5 pounds of split peas ($10 from Cloverdale if you split a bag)
12.5 pounds of pasta ($15 from Cloverdale)
6 pounds of popcorn
6 pounds of peanut butter
4.6 lbs (a little over half a gallon) of coconut oil and/or olive oil
6 pounds of sweetener of your choice (sugar, sucanat, honey, etc.)
2.5 pounds of salt
2.5 pounds of sprouting seeds
other seasonings/shelf-stable condiments
canned goods (fish, meat, beans, veggies, etc.)
shelf-stable snacks of your choice (nuts, dried fruit, pretzels/crackers, bottled juice, chocolate...)

You can get most of these items for less than $150 if purchased from a bulk food supplier such as Cloverdale Warehouse. (Most items from Cloverdale can only be purchased in large quantities, so you might consider splitting with another family if your budget is tight.) 
If you have substantial supplies of canned or other dried goods, you'll need lower quantities of the bulk items at the beginning of the list. 

Storage: Dry food can be stored long term in 5 gallon buckets if sealed in with oxygen absorbers.


Storage or filtration/treatment solution adequate for 30 - 60 days at 1 gallon / person / day.
Fresh water is plentiful across much of Tennessee - this should mean that few will need to consider storing large quantities of water. However, if water is drawn from surface sources or shallow wells filtration and/or chemical treatment may be required.

Water Storage Solutions:
I'd avoid re-using milk jugs and other used beverage containers - the plastic breaks down quickly and it's hard to get them clean and sterile inside. Used buckets from bakeries can be used.
Also, Nasvhille Barrel and Drum sells food grade 55 gallon drums and IBC totes (~200 gallon). The totes used to cost less than $100 for food grade. Stored water should be treated with chlorine or H2o2.

Water Treatment:
The Sawyer .1 water filter is the best inexpensive filter available and it even beats many of the more expensive units - it can filter out bacteria and has a high flow rate. They run from $20-40 on Amazon for different models and have an almost unlimited lifespan. In addition, I would store bleach for water treatment. A few drops of bleach per quart of water will kill viruses within about 15 minutes - the bleach can then be neutralized with Sodium Ascorbate (a kind of Vitamin C powder). Use only non-scented, plain, bleach.  

Medical Supplies

For a more details and links visit our page on Medical Supplies
In a quarantine type situation you will only go to the hospital for dire, otherwise fatal injuries (and perhaps not even then). You will be your own ER.
Listerine (or other disinfectant), Kerlex (gauze), and medical tape can handle most small injuries, up to and including ones that need stitches. The Kerlex and tape can be used to fashion almost any bandage.

The "Israeli Bandage" is a relatively economical ($7) trauma bandage incorporating gauze and compression wrap into a single unit. Super glue works for wound closure on small wounds (don't get it IN the wound, though, especially if it's deep).

Tourniquet: Small, pass-through ratchet straps can be used (with caution), or get a real tourniquet.
Medications: Asprin, Ibuprofin, Loperamide, BurnGel, etc.
Other Items: Sam Splint, Nitrile Gloves, CPR Mask, Emergency Blanket,  Irrigation Syringe, Trauma Shears
Books: Where There is no Doctor and Wilderness First Responder: How To Recognize, Treat, And Prevent Emergencies In The Backcountry

Biological Protection

I would recommend some form of N95 (or better) mask or respirator, rubber gloves (not disposable, with a large cuff), and eye protection. If you are at higher risk of exposure to people, consider adding some Tyvek coveralls and duck tape to create your own semi-disposable clean suit. Or, military surplus NBC suits are only about $20.  

Bleach is effective in killing Ebola and disinfecting just about anything. A 5% solution is what's used for washing/disinfecting equipment/suits (30 minute contact time required). 0.5% for washing skin.

Here's a video explaining what doctors are wearing when treating Ebola patients overseas.

Other Recommended Supplies (and rough prices):

Flashlight and extra batteries ($20)
Battery Powered FM Radio ($20 - also, many twoway radios can receive FM. Some can also receive SW!)
Matches/fire starting devices ($10)
Axe or hatchet ($40)
At least one weapon-grade firearm and ammo
Radio communications (walkie talkies, $20 ea - BF-888 is my recommendation)
Small solar power system ($200 for 100 watt panel, charge controller, and inverter)
Fire extinguisher ($40) and improvised firefighting stuff (water, sand)
Non-electric cooking/heating solution (Like a wood-fueled Rocket Stove, which you can easily make)
Fuel for cooking and heating (if you don't have a forest behind your house - but backup doesn't hurt)

Flash Mobs

Flash-mobs: remember those fun, carefree gatherings of people, made possible by social media, who pretent to be Best Buy employees, or sing, or dance, or walk around like zombies? Well, the word has picked up another use: to describe sudden gatherings of people,also enabled by social media, who gather for the purpose of perpetrating crimes.This new kind of flash mob is very dangerous. An attack this last week, in Memphis, left several people injured, though it easily could have been much worse. (Remember the story of Reginald Denny? Once a mob has you your life is entirely in their hands.)

Here's a thought:

We've seen large protests, enabled by social media, topple governments. (i.e. the Arab Spring)
We've seen flash-mobs (social media enabled) loot, pillage, and brutalize people. That's what happened in Memphis.
In the USA, we haven't yet seen a social media enabled riot. We saw hints of this up in Ferguson a few weeks ago, but nothing on the scale of the LA race riots. The thin blue line proved thick enough (mostly) to contain it.

Here's an example of what this might look like:

I expect, when this first happens in the USA, it's going to be very bad. Once it's done succesfully once it's probably going to spread.

For the "protesters" this is reasonably safe, probably good at building camaraderie, almost impossible to prevent or prosecute, and creates a huge media splash. Very epic looking. It's also really cheap. A molotov uses about 8 ounces of gas, a used glass bottle, and some rags.

The rioters will completely outmaneuver the cops - they will be so far inside Law Enforcement's OODA loop that all the cops will be able to hope to do is document the crime scenes before they are too badly spoiled.
I expect that one rioter will complain to his group of friends about some slight/injury - the inflicter will then be the target of 20-100 attackers, who gather nearby and then descend in a matter of seconds. Multiply this by 100 events over the course of an evening - it would only take 2,000 - 10,000 people.
Skillful employ of powerful weapons will be all that will save the intended victims.

Two pieces of good news:
1. These kinds of attacks are probably only possible where there's a high population density.
2. In most parts of the US it's possible to legally own the kinds of weapons needed to stop large numbers of attackers - specifically "high cap" magazines and semi autos.

Planning Scenarios

We understand that one day we may be confronted by a life-altering (and potentially ending) event. The goal of preparedness is to mitigate or reduce the dangers inherent with whatever the disaster is. This requires planning, training, equiping, coordinating, and staging/storing needed supplies. However, in order for this preparation to be succesful we need to know what kinds of scenarios we may be facing. For example, a flood is radically different from civil disorder. And there are many threats that are limited to specific areas - if you aren't there you probably don't need to worry about those.

Listing and analyzing potential threats will allow you to be more systematic in your preparedness. Most preppers have one or two areas they really zero in on, though these are not always rationally chosen. I would argue that defense is an area everyone needs to invest time and resources in - but a family in rural Montana probably needs to give a higher percentage of their thinking and resources towards medicine, food storage and production and energy independence.

Sun Tsu, in his Art of War, says:
It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

The same is true of preparedness. If you truly know the threats you will face, and know your capabilities, you will probably be succesful. Below are a list of some of the dangers I consider most likely, ROUGHLY in order of liklihood. Further, any one of these can spark some of the others - Katrina, a hurricane, spawned a lot of civil disorder.

Listing the threats you are likely to face may be daunting and disheartening. You may be tempted to indulge in fear and panic. Don't. For all the potential danger that exists, remember that God is your security. Remember the example of the paratroopers of D-Day - they were jumping our of perfectly good airplanes, in the middle of the night, into Hitler's "Fortress Europe". Their only hope for survival lay in the success of the beach landings - their job was to help make those succesful. In preparing for D-Day they studied the enemies' order of battle, made sand tables, and were taught how to defeat the enemy. Were they afraid when they jumped? Yes. But it was fear that was, in most cases, under control. They knew themselves and their enemy. And, ultimately, they were succesful.

Natural Disasters

Earthquakes, ice storms, floods, forest fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes can all create significant dangers. They also can prove useful, in theory or in practice, as a way to develop your plans and prioritize your time and money. Preparing for a major winter storm will force you to consider your food and energy stores, the readiness of your tools, alternative communications, medical capability and more.

As has been already stated, a natural disaster can cause other disasters. For example, any event that strains emergency services to the breaking point also creates opportunites for criminals.

Civil Disorder

For most people this should be THE threat to prepare for. It's relatively common. It can easily be created by a variety of conditions. EBT cards stop working? The cops shoot or chase the wrong people? Justice isn't done? The local sports team loses? Any of these can trigger rioting or other mass criminality.

This threat also tests all of the main areas of preparedness - a deficiency in any area can be fatal.

One new type of social disorder is the flash mob.


America has relatively little experience with terror attacks on our own soil. But past doesn't neccesarily predict the future. As groups like IS (ISIS/ISIL) gain momentum, and recruit from our islamic communites, we can expect to see more terror-capable muslims returing to our country. For planning purposes we should consider the threat of terrorism to be elevated as a result. It's most likely that attacks will be focused on cities but one of the nastiest terror attacks (Beslan School Hostage Crisis) happened in a city of 30,000.

Common terror attacks are:

  • Bombings (suicide or otherwise)
  • Active shooter
  • Kidnapping / Hostage related

Financial Collapse

Fiat currencies fail. It's what they do best after robbing people blind. That may seem cynical, but consider the facts. Here are two. Look at the major nations of the world; how many different, now defunct, currencies have they had over the last hundred years? Also, when a currency starts to be inflated we say that it's "debased". This is hardly a flatering term - to say a person is debased is a serious charge - but it is nonetheless the term used for decreasing the value of a curreny.

Fiat currencies fail. It's not really a matter of "if" but "when". Now, currency failures are always bad for most people, but they aren't always cataclysmic, violent, events. But even if you don't get trampled by a mob or beaten to death, your family can still experience lots and lots of negative stuff. Your savings in the bank will probably be gone, but your debts may not be. Your job may be gone, but your landlord will probably still want rent. Cost of good will go up but you won't feel like eating less to compensate.

In our opinion, a currency failure is probably the single greatest threat to Americans. It would wreak the most havok and "end the world" for the most people - and would probably lead to civil disorder on an epic scale.


Introduction: Their World Ended

When people talk about major disasters a number of names are used, but a common theme that is referenced is "the end of the world". They don't (usually) mean that everything will literally end. But they do recognize that the way of life they currently enjoy may end.
If you study history you will quickly come to discover that societal collapse is relatively common throughout history. Invasions, plagues, famines, assassinations, coups, ethic cleansings,  bank failures, currency failures, and more, have consistently disrupted the lives of untold millions throughout world history. Want a visual example? Look at this timelapse of European history (the date counter is off by a couple decades):

In modern times we have seen a number of societies undergo radical failures, changes, and re-orderings. For many, perhaps most, people living in those countries, their world ended during that process. They lost money, social position, job, home, friends and perhaps family to violence, or suffered other life changing events.
When people speculate about the events that could face Americans, they often speculate based on what they have seen in Hollywood films. Thus, people talk about "Mad Max", "Red Dawn" or "Contagion" scenarios. This is probably because most people are more conversant in feature films than world history (even recent history). I would argue that a much more helpful way to understand what happens in a collapse is to read first-hand accounts from people who actually experienced societal upheaval. To some degree,  an account from the Plague and Great Fire of London will be of value - after all, the main problems are going to be the way people respond to and handle the crisis. But there are also more modern accounts. Even just the last couple decades offer rich examples.

We have collected several accounts. We hope that you will find them educational and encouraging. Now, a word of warning about first-hand accounts - they may be a rich source or intelligence, but they may also contain embellishments or fabrications. Read with discernment.

Argentina, 2005 - This 30 page documents is a must read.

Iraq, 2003 - From the persective of a soldier in Baghdad - specifically regarding the short-lived gun control and it's effect on crime.

Iraq, 1990 - An Iraqi talks about Iraq before and after GW1

LA Race Riots, 1992- A Screenwriter tells (humorously and well) his story

LA Race Riots, 1992 - Another account of the riots (take this story with a grain of salt)

LA Race Riots, 1992 - A news reporter discusses his observations

Katrina, 2005 - ex-Soldier live-blogs the strorm, followed by the breakdown (click "next day" to progress through the posts) .


Small Solar System how-to

Many of the tools and devices recomended on this website require power. Many use rechargeable batteries, which is great until the power has been out for a few days. Generators are nice to have, but gas isn't unlimited, and the noise of a generator in an otherwise silent neighborhood may attract unwanted attention.

A small solar setup is a very simple, relatively inexpensive solution that can generate plenty of power to recharge batteries for your phones, flashlights, radios, etc. At current prices a 100 watt system can be built for about $200. Here's how.

First, our small solar system contains only four main components:
1. A photovoltaic panel. There's a bunch of different ways the chips are made out of silicone; poly, mono, etc. We don't really need to care about that. All we care is that it outputs a high number of watts, has a decent warranty and is of decent quality, and is the right voltage.
2. A battery. This serves as a way to store unused energy for later and allows you to keep using power when clouds briefly interupt your power production.
3. A charge controller. It's not really a good idea to just wire your panel to your battery - eventually you would over-charge and destroy your battery. The charge controller sits between the panel and the battery and manages everything.
4. A DC-AC inverter. If your electronics can be run off 12 volts DC, then great. But most stuff wants 120V AC.

In my case I bought this kit: Renogy 12v 100w Panel and Charge Controller for $180. They also have one for $20 less that doesn't include mounting hardware. I think I'd skip the hardware, in retrospect. Both these kits come with cabling to attach your panel to the charge controller. So now you have a panel, charge, controller and cabling.

Next part is the battery. Battery capacity is normally measured in Amp Hours at a specific load. I prefer to think in terms of watts; so a 100 Amp Hour 12V car battery should yield 1,200 watts of power (watts = amps x volts). But most lead-acid batteries shouldn't be depleted beyond 50%, so you really only have about 600 watts of potential energy storage. But that's a lot when it comes to charging radios and other small batteries.

Our problem is that lead acid car batteries are expensive. They also shouldn't be left lying around, unused. That will kill a new battery in relatively short order. But your car (or cars) have batteries in them that are regularly discharged and recharged. They also have a nice waterproof enclosure attached, which is a great place to park you charging electronics, and the whole thing can be locked up. Why remove that battery for use in an emergency when you can just use it where it is?

Lastly, we need a power inverter. You may already have one for use in your car's cigarette lighter. If so, you've probably also discovered that your cigarete lighter port can only output about 150 watts of power, even if you have a much larger inverter. That's because the wire used to hook up those cigarete lighter ports is usually a pretty small gauge and there's a appropriately sized fuse inline somewhere. Draw too much power, blow the fuse.

If you want, you can add a larger inverter to your system. It can be quite a bit larger than your panel in terms of it's maximum output. But a couple hundred watts should be all you need. I have one of these that I got several years ago for use in Africa. It's worked well. But I think if I was buying again I'd get this model, which also has some USB ports.

Now you need to wire all these components together. I'll try to post a picture of my setup shortly, as well as a schematic. Be sure to use wire that's heavy enough for the highest draw you anticipate. If you have a 200 watt inverter, and you are going to attach it to your car battery with 10 feet of wire, it needs to be at least 12 gauge wire. You can use wire gauge charts to determine this. Also, be sure to wire in a fuse of the right size wire attached to the positive terminal of the battery. You don't want to burn up your car and electronics in the middle of a disaster.

You can wire everything together and attach your charge controller, AC inverter, and other hardware onto a board. Then you can have a simple, plug and play, system to start collecting energy from the sun and charging your electronics.

Hand Held Radio Options

For most families, during a disaster, hand held radios will be the most indispensable communications devices they own. They will probably be the ONLY communications devices they own, also, since phones and email will probably die or be overloaded.

The good news is that there are a number of hand held radio options. These are best identified by the description given to the part of the frequency spectrum they use, as assigned by the FCC. There are four main designations that we will look at:

FRS (Family Radio Service)

A license-less series of channels that can be used only with specific hardware. If you buy radios in Walmart they will probably be FRS. They commonly advertise that they have a range of 20-40 miles. Yeah, right. In space, maybe, but not among the hills of Tennessee.
FRS uses the UHF band - as such, it's basically limited in range to Line of Sight. So practically speaking, the dependable range is often only a few hundred yards.
The upside to FRS is that no paperwork is needed, the radios are usually cheap and should interoperate with other FRS radios.
We used a half dozen Motorola FRS radios for about a year. None died during that time, but that's not to say we were completely happy, either. They worked pretty well, but felt just a little cheap. We ultimately replaced with with inexpensive ham radios (more on that later) and have been very happy with the change.
CONCLUSION: Not a bad option, certainly the easiest, but radio selection is pretty limited and performance is low.
More Info: FCC - Wikipedia

MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service)

another set of frequencies that doesn't require a license, but it also requires you use specific hardware. It does offer higher performance than FRS.
CONCLUSION: If you want to avoid a license this is proably your best bet, performance wise. As I understand it, any FCC Part 90 radio can be used on MURS frequencies as long as power output is less than 2 watts. The UV-82c is probably your best bet in this regard, at about $50.
More Info: FCC - Wikipedia

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service)

is often kind of confused with FRS. Many FRS radios are listed as FRS/GMRS, but technically the GMRS channels can ONLY be used if you have a GMRS license. GMRS has higher performance than FRS, mainly because of the higher power output that is allowed.
A GMRS license costs $90, is good for an entire family, and lasts five years.
CONCLUSION: Probably the best option of the three so far; you can use commercial UHF radios and transmit at up to 5 watts of power. You also will have legal overlap with most FRS radios. You are limited to the channels laid out by the FCC, but there's 23 of them.
More Info: FCC - Wikipedia

ARS (Amateur Radio Service - also known unofficially as Ham Radio)

This is the most robust, capable, full featured radio service readily available to the common man. Unlike FRS, MURS, and GMRS, which all have specified channels, ARS allows licensed operators to use broad sections of the frequency spectrum in several bands, using a variety of modes. With the right equipment you can send speech, morse code, images, video, and data thousands of miles. The downside is that a license is required, and some abilities are only granted to certain classes of licenses. In recent years the FCC simplified things and reduced the number of licenses to just three: Technician, General, and Extra. Each have their own test, and are progresively harder to obtain - but the Technician test is pretty easy to pass and is all most people will need.

CONCLUSION: If you just want a radio for emergency use, but are willing to spend a few hours studying, then I would encourage you to pursue Amateur Radio. Another reason behind this is the fact that you can now get quite decent ham radios for between $20 and $50. It used to be that ham radios started in the $100-200 range and went up from there. Those still exist, any may be worth it. But the new generation of cheap imported radios offer great performance and are a huge upgrade over FRS, MURS, and GMRS - what's more, many of these cheaper radios are so "open" that they can interoperate with FRS, GMRS, and MURS, and Public Service frequencies. Technically, this isn't legal except in life-or-death circumstance - but it's nice to have that option.
More Info: FCC - ARRL - Wikipedia



One of the great blessings of modern society is our incredible communications abilities. We can video chat with people on other continents, check email from almost anywhere, and are generally spoiled by the ease with which we can communicate. Disasters can quickly disrupt the communications systems that we normally rely on. Without cell towers cell phones become largely useless. Without power there is probably no internet.

If you want to communicate during a disaster you need your own communication gear that is autonomous.

How to Get your Ham License

Getting the first level Amateur Radio License (also known as a Technician License) is very easy - there's a fairly basic 35 question test which costs about $15 to take - that's it. We've seen people study for only four to six hours and pass. There are also two higher levels of licenses, but most people really don't need those. Here's a chart showing what parts of the frequency spectrum are available for Amateur use, and the level of license required:http://www.arrl.org/files/file/Regulatory/Band%20Chart/Hambands_color.pdf
A technician license is all you need for using walkie-talkies on the HAM bands. And you can get a good dual band ham radio for only $30.
I'm going to outline a simple, three step procedure to getting your license:

1. Study for it.
Go download and read through this:

This 50 page guide, if read carefully in it's entirety, should get you all ready for the test. That's been our experience. For extra safety margin, read it slowly over several days and then read it again within 24 hours of the test.
There are other books on Ham radio - but this guide is really all you need for passing the test.

2. Take practice tests.
There are loads of practice tests available - and they use questions and answers from the same pool as the real test. As such, it's a great way to find out what you do and don't know - and some people learn to pass the final test just by taking practice tests. Here's two:
1. http://aa9pw.com/radio/
2. On Andrioid there's an app called "Ham Test Prep" by Iversoft.com. It tracks your performance and lets you know what kinds of questions you need to work on more.

3. Go take the test.
Once you are reliably passing your practice tests it's time to take the real deal. Testing is done by volunteer examiners in person - typically they charge something like $15 for administering the test. You can look up testing locations near you using this site:

The FCC will mail you your license, but even before they do that they will add your name and call sign to their online database. Once your callsign shows up there you can transmit.