Can You Finish Prepping?

by “Jen”

Several days ago Bob emailed me to ask if I’d be willing to post articles on this site. He’d offered before and I turned him down each time because I’m concerned about OPSEC and didn’t want to leave any kind of electronic bread crumbs back to me. He again assured me that there wasn’t much risk but I didn’t want my IP on record. I finally agreed that he could post my emails as long as he made sure to strip out any possible identifying information and that it was okay to post them as articles from me if he cleans up any misspellings or typos. I’ll keep using the fake names Bob gave us.

So onto the question that has been on my mind. Can someone ever finish prepping? Everyone says you can’t but I’m not so sure. People say that prepping is a lifestyle and a state of mind and for us that’s true. We really started prepping in late 2014 or early 2015. Before that we were only about as well prepared as most people living in rural areas. Every time David and I got together with my brother and his family we’d talk about the breakdown of law and order, black rioting, cop shootings, and all the other bad stuff that was happening more and more. There wasn’t any one moment when we all decided to start prepping, it was just something that we gradually started to do. I don’t remember how I came across Bob’s blog, but once I did I read several of his posts and then went back and read straight through the last couple of year’s worth. He seemed to have a no-nonsense approach and wasn’t trying to sell anything to preppers so I emailed him and things took off from there.

At first we just took Bob’s advice about what and how much to buy. We treated prepping as urgent at first and probably bought a lot of stuff that we might not have if we’d taken things slower. But that’s OK because by panic buying we got a good solid start very quickly. Before long we were up to a years supply of food and other essential supplies and the sense of urgency gradually disappeared. Then we started filling in the weaker areas and before long we were at a level that we were all comfortable with. We ran several weekend exercises to test our preps and get all the kinks worked out. Now we’re OK on supplies and are mostly just replacing what we use.

That’s not completely true because we’re still gradually adding stuff by the case or two so our supplies inventory continues to grow. We also talked about Bob’s idea of continuing to add cheap bulk staples to extend the time our supplies will hold us and to have extra for friends and neighbors. When Bob mentioned that Walmart had 5 pound bags of macaroni on sale for less than $2.50 each we went ahead and ordered 200 bags. Our UPS guy probably hates us more than Bob’s hates him but that order by itself increased our supply of grains by about three person years. Same thing on other cheap staples like flour, rice, sugar, and beans. We’ll keep doing that until we run out of space to stack stuff because it’s comforting to know that we can feed our group for years if there’s a really long emergency and still have extra to give away to friends and neighbors.

Once we got to a good level of food and other consumables we started focusing on other aspects. We now have a good solar power system installed, a big propane tank, and a cooktop and water heater that run on propane. We’ve made improvements to our perimeter security and hardening the house. Our communications have gone from non-existent to pretty good as has our lighting and surveillance gear. Our medical preps are in good shape. As of now we’ve pretty much finished the major purchases so from that angle we are finished prepping.

I keep a notebook and pen on my nightstand because I still wake up some nights when I think about something we still need to do or learn or buy but overall we’re in great shape. We’re all aware that prepping at any level can’t guarantee anything. All it can do is give us a better chance and we’re all comfortable that we’ve done as much as we can and that’s all anyone can do. Many people would probably think we’re doomsday preppers but that’s not how we see it. We’ve simply made minor changes to our lifestyle to help prepare us for bad times. If that makes us crazy preppers in some people’s view that’s OK with us.

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47 Responses to Can You Finish Prepping?

  1. DadCooks says:

    I can’t define a “doomsday prepper” but I know one when I see one.

    Can you finish prepping? Probably, technically yes, but…

    To me prepping is not just “stuff”. It is skills, practice, and planning. You can never stop learning new skills and skills must be continually practiced so that you maintain a usable proficiency. Planning is not a one time “thing”, “things” change and you can never foresee all contingencies. In real life it is not just one “thing” that breaks.

    I like how @Jen, her husband, and friends have run exercises. By doing so they are developing new skills and refining old ones. They are making the “abnormal” “normal” and therefore will be better prepared to deal with the certain monkey wrench that will bollix their best laid plans.

  2. lynn says:

    Welcome and nice article ! I prep for a three month outage with a Cat 5 hurricane here on the Gulf Coast. Something like Hurricane Carla with 175 mph winds in 1961 with a 40 ??? ft storm surge. I figure that the electrical grid and natural gas grid will be down for three months with a horrendous loss of life, maybe one million people in the absolute worst possible scenario. My home and business are 80 ft above sea level so I do not worry about the storm surge but the sustained 175 mph winds (140 mph here) will do incredible damage to the infrastructure.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Carla

  3. nick flandrey says:

    Welcome Jen, nothing wrong with your actions, writing or ideas!

    I think you can get to a comfortable place, where you have met your material goals, covered your realistic skillsets, have backups for your backups, and the style of your new lifestyle has become habit, and “normal.”

    I think this is about where I am. I’m comfortably prepped for the type of incidents that are MOST likely in my area. The one big one, that I can’t predict the timing or the long term results, is a global economic collapse. That will have hardships and results that are beyond what I can specifically prep for, and must fall into the category of ‘build resilience.’

    I’ve done the stuff I can. At this point, most of what I can realistically do is incremental. I can look for opportunities to relocate, but I currently can’t actually move. I can learn more in specific areas, but the investment in time and effort and even money can be significant (the EMT training I want to get, that’s six months, 3-4 days a week, with every spare minute taken up with studying… for example.)

    For me it’s time to go thru the pile, refresh some of the early panic buys, reorganize, consolidate, and fill in gaps.

    n

    (since ebola and RBT changed my outlook on LTS foods and bulk, I’ve been adding to the pile. I did a quick survey at my offsite location, and discovered I’d piled a lot more than I thought. I have to organize that, and get a better idea of where that’s at too.)

    ADDED – one other indicator of personal readiness, if most of what you read is written by someone with less skill, or prep than you, you’re doing ok.

  4. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    @Jen is the most prepared person I correspond with, as far as I know, but I don’t think of her as a “doomsday prepper”. On a scale of preparedness from totally unprepared to totally prepared I’d put Jen and her family among the top 0.01% and us among the top 0.1%.

  5. nick flandrey says:

    Yep, actually running the exercises gets a 10x multiplier 🙂

    n

    (we run our tests, but we call it Hurricane XXXX, or less snidely, we get disasters often enough to stay in practice. Mostly.)

  6. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Oh, yeah. I should also say that although Jen and her family may not be Doomsday Preppers, they certainly qualify as Super-Preppers in my book. Jen’s family is top 0.01% after starting from scratch about two years ago, and most of that they got done within the first couple or three months. I’ve been prepping since 1962 (literally), and I’ve managed to get only to the top 0.1%.

    Jen is the equivalent of my old superbike: zero to 60 in 2.8 seconds.

  7. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    “Yep, actually running the exercises gets a 10x multiplier”

    I’d really like to see an article or articles from Jen on planning and running a readiness exercise and talking about the issues they encountered and how they dealt with them. Jen did send me relatively short emails to report after each of their exercises, but I’d like to see a lot more detail.

  8. Dave Hardy says:

    Yeah, that’s a nicely written piece on their two years of prepping; major kudos for the several exercises done already. I don’t think we here will ever get up to their level or Bob’s; we’re in an older compact house in a lakeside village on less than an acre, very little of it suitable for growing food.

    And my main prepping focus is getting to the point where we can comfortably survive through six months of a cold and snowy winter with no power here, and the increasing threat from roaming goblins and gremlins looking to take advantage or simply desperate. This will become slightly easier now that I have another small source of income that takes some of the pressure off Mrs. OFD every month. Currently we have about 6-8 weeks of food on hand, the well (but still no alternative pump solution), a topped-off oil tank and down to two cords of firewood (enough for the remaining winter and spring), first aid supplies and my CPR/First Responder certification, various radios and batteries, lamps and lanterns and flashlights and batteries and candles, and a small arsenal plus my previous mil-spec and cop experience.

    Another set of tritium night sights (for the Glock G40 10mm) and the door jamb security hardware are enroute. So after my cleanup ops this week my next priority is properly securing the back door and ordering a lockable screen door for it. Once that goes OK, the front door likewise.

    Another priority is getting Mrs. OFD to the local range for at least the pistol training and me for taking more advanced NRA classes. I also need to step up my amateur radio license study.

    On the meatspace front, I took what is a big boy step for me and went to the town’s Planning Commission meeting earlier this week, and I stuck it out for the whole 2.5 hours as the only member of the public attending and learned a LOT. They were also friendly to me and appreciated me being there. I will continue with this and go to the Selectboard meeting on Tuesday and the Development Committee meeting on Thursday after I get back from the vets group, the only meatspace thing I’ve been doing for the past few years, with a sort of captive audience of fellow vets.

    I’ll also hit the monthly gun club meetings from now on and volunteer for at least one of their committees.

    This may be nothing to other Normals but it’s yuuuuuuuuuge for ol’ OFD.

  9. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yeah, I should probably start attending county commissioner meeting and possibly city council, although we live a couple miles south of the Sparta town limits.

    I did meet several useful people, including the chairman of the county commissioners and the Sparta town manager, at that library Quiz Bowl, where I sat with them and exchanged snide remarks back and forth. They’re both just regular guys, as you’d expect up here. I also need to get in with the Sheriff’s department and the Sparta PD, and I’d like to meet whoever’s in charge of emergency services for the county and/or town. And I still want to hook up with the LDS church locally. It has only 100+ members, but they’d still be useful to know.

  10. Dave Hardy says:

    One step at a time, Bob. That’s all I can do so far.

  11. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Incidentally, one of the main reasons I hesitate to post details about people like Jen and us is that I’m afraid I’ll discourage people who are just getting started on prepping. I periodically get emails from people who read about what we’re doing and have done and are just overwhelmed to the extent of wondering if it’s even worth trying.

    It is, obviously, but I understand how newbies can be overwhelmed. I always tell them that anything is better than nothing and that if they pursue it assiduously they’ll soon be at a level that other preppers will envy.

    And, as all serious preppers know, the reasons (or excuses) for not prepping are legion. The most common ones I hear are probably cost and non-prepping spouse tied for first, lack of room next, and finally lack of time.

    I’ll buy the first two. In this economy, there are a ton of people who are living from paycheck to paycheck, and that’s if they’re lucky enough to have a paycheck at all. As many of us know full well, having a spouse who is uninterested/unwilling is pretty common, and there are a surprising number of spouses who are actively hostile. But the ones that really get me are those who say they have plenty of money and really should be doing something, but they don’t have space to store anything or they just don’t have time to prep. I call bullshit on both of those.

    I know preppers who live in one-bedroom apartments and still manage. They have stuff stacked under beds, at the back of closets, behind books on shelves, behind sofas, etc. and some have even stacked cases of stuff in place of coffee and end tables and nightstands. As to not having time, well that’s just pathetic. I’ve talked with people who spend only an hour or two a month and are reasonably well prepared. Geez.

  12. DadCooks says:

    “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lau Tzu

    And if you don’t start, you’ll never finish.

    IMHO, challenges of money and time might actually be beneficial. It will help you focus.

    And finally, doing something is better than nothing.

  13. lynn says:

    We now have a good solar power system installed

    On-grid solar or off-grid ?

    I would like to see a solar system that can generate power if connected to the grid and not connected to the grid. One does need to be careful for off-grid situations so that you do not energize the neighborhood and fry the linemen.

  14. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Jen’s PV solar is off-grid, as is ours (or will be, once it’s connected). We both have 800W of solar panels, which assuming an average of three hours of sunlight per day would produce 2.4 kW-hr/day. That’s assuming the panels are fixed at an optimum angle for maximum output. If they’re on tracking mounts, we might average more like 4 kW-hr/day. Even with transmission and conversion inefficiencies, the 2.4 kW-hr/day level is enough for us to run our well pump intermittently to keep our 32-gallon pressure tank full, as well as to run LED house lighting, power radios, recharge batteries for portable gear, etc.

    There are three types of PV solar:

    1. Grid-tied – only works when the grid is up. By law, when the grid goes down, your solar installation stops supplying power, which is enforced by the electronics.

    2. Grid-connected – works when the grid is up by backfeeding excess power to the utility; when the grid is down, it continues to supply electricity to connected devices in your home.

    3. Off-grid – not connected to the grid at all.

  15. Miles_Teg says:

    “1. Grid-tied – only works when the grid is up. By law, when the grid goes down, your solar installation stops supplying power, which is enforced by the electronics.”

    Why does it stop supplying power? Most of the PV setups in South Oz I know about are like this.

    I have stores but I’m not really organised. All my water is store bought in 600 ml plastic bottles. I need to start storing tapwater in empty juice bottles for the loo and washing. I fear that I’ll discover in an emergency that I’ve forgotten something crucial.

  16. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    It has to be disconnected by law because otherwise it’ll be energizing the “dead” side of the grid and might electrocute linemen.

  17. lynn says:

    I have stores but I’m not really organised. All my water is store bought in 600 ml plastic bottles. I need to start storing tapwater in empty juice bottles for the loo and washing. I fear that I’ll discover in an emergency that I’ve forgotten something crucial.

    I would not depend on the loo being able to flush in a grid down situation. Most neighborhoods use an electric lift pump to send the black water to the central sewage processing facility. I have a handicap potty chair and a thousand tall kitchen trash bags for the emergency duration. Just pray that your neighbors black water does not back up into your house.
    https://www.amazon.com/Drive-Medical-Folding-Bedside-Commode/dp/B001HP7AQE/

    Kinda similar to the dog poop bags that we use now for Lady when we go on walkabout.
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0195Q3YUW/

  18. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I think code requires a backflow valve in your main sewage line. It may be in the basement where the sewer line exits the house or it may be out in the yard. It’s worth asking the next time you have a plumber out.

  19. Dave Hardy says:

    I tend to think that progs and SJWs would be very good at bagging up solids or bottling up black water.

  20. lynn says:

    I think code requires a backflow valve in your main sewage line. It may be in the basement where the sewer line exits the house or it may be out in the yard. It’s worth asking the next time you have a plumber out.

    We cut into the main sewer line when we added the plumbing in the new addition. There was no check valve. We did not expose the sewer line from five foot in the front of the house to the street though. And, one of the neighborhood sewer lift stations is behind my house, across the street.

    BTW, the code now specifies double check valves for anywhere that you might want a single check valve. Check valves are just not used that often and are highly subject to failure.

    That said, a double check valve in the sewer line to my house would be nice.

  21. Miles_Teg says:

    Thanks for the suggestions Lynn, but I still need to start storing more wottah for washing and such. I once stored some tap water in the fridge in an emptied fruit juice bottle and let it go for a while. When I looked at it some mould had grown on the inside.

  22. DadCooks says:

    We have a check valve AND a gate valve in our sewer line. There is also a flush connection upstream that I regularly connect to flush any “stuff” that may be caught in either of the valves.

    This was added shortly after we bought our house, added as one of our first home improvements. Check valves are not required in our sewer lines. The reason I put in the system I did was due to a hard lesson learned as a child. Our home was in a new subdivision and the storm and septic sewers were one which was actually a code violation. So along comes the first heavy rain and everyone had 3+ feet of sewage in their basement and/or crawlspace. We also installed a sump pump with battery backup. Whenever it started to rain it was my job to go into the crawlspace and close the gate valve. BTW, the clay pipe from the house to the sewer line connection was replaced with cast iron pipe so we would not have a sewer backup explosion in our yard.

    I have on my agenda to figure out how to create a black and gray water tank system, well at least a gray water system as the “human waste” is going to be bagged/composted.

  23. lynn says:

    I have on my agenda to figure out how to create a black and gray water tank system, well at least a gray water system as the “human waste” is going to be bagged/composted.

    Many RVs have both a grey water system and a black water system. The sinks and shower(s) go into the grey water system. The toilet(s) go into the black water system.

  24. lynn says:

    Our home was in a new subdivision and the storm and septic sewers were one which was actually a code violation.

    No freaking way ! What a mess ! That subdivision was built by an idiot.

    There is also a flush connection upstream that I regularly connect to flush any “stuff” that may be caught in either of the valves.

    I put three cleanouts in the new sewer line which is around a 100 feet long. Hopefully we will never have to use them.

  25. DadCooks says:

    “No freaking way ! What a mess ! That subdivision was built by an idiot.”

    That’s putting it mildly, but par for the course in the Chicago suburbs. He was sued by the city and the homeowners, promptly declared bankruptcy, and then “disappeared”.

    A relative of a Chicago Mob Boss had a home in the area. Shortly after the “disappearance” the city got a multi-million dollar check from an “unknown source” to pay for the separation of the storm and septic sewers and provide some compensation for the homeowners. This was back in the day when the Chicago Mob still had some sense of “justice”, their “justice”. You could run, but you could not hide and you dare not cross them.

  26. nick flandrey says:

    My parents’ subdivision had rain and sanitary piped together. my dad installed screw down brass caps on the floor drains in the basement after the first backup.

    Everyone was supposed to make sure the gutters were no longer connected to the sewer, but how can you be sure EVERYONE did?

    n

  27. MrAtoz says:

    Just when I thought it was safe to poop. At least at the condo, it should take weeks before the poop hits the 4th floor.

  28. DadCooks says:

    “At least at the condo, it should take weeks before the poop hits the 4th floor.”

    Don’t count on it, too many people are full of …
    😉

  29. lynn says:

    This was back in the day when the Chicago Mob still had some sense of “justice”, their “justice”. You could run, but you could not hide and you dare not cross them.

    Hey, that is the story line for the John Wick movies !

  30. nick flandrey says:

    @dadcooks, my folks house is in a south chicago suburb….

    n

  31. nick flandrey says:

    @miles,

    “When I looked at it some mould had grown on the inside.”

    You need to get them scrupulously clean, then rinse with bleach solution. I just add bleach to water until I can just smell it. That’s usually enough, but you can add more. Leave the bleach water in the bottle for a bit, at least 30mins, then drain. You don’t have to get every drop out, esp if your tap water isn’t clorinated. You want a tiny bit of bleach to remain.

    Don’t use milk jugs, and I find orange juice is REALLY hard to get clean.

    n

  32. DadCooks says:

    “@dadcooks, my folks house is in a south chicago suburb….”

    We lived in Park Forest (a planned community experiment on the South side) until I was 10. My Dad worked on the far North side of Chicago, meaning a looonnnggg daily commute. I remember spending every weekend from age 7 to 10 going on a house hunting trip to the Northern Suburbs. My folks settled on building a house in Morton Grove. A year after we moved there my Dad was transferred to downtown Chicago. The only saving grace was he could ride the Milwaukee Road commuter train to work instead of enduring a more than 1 hour drive a Chicago’s great (not) expressways.

    For those interested:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_Forest,_Illinois
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton_Grove,_Illinois
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maine_East_High_School

  33. nick flandrey says:

    Yep, I know Park Forest. Had at least one friend there in high school, go spartans.

    Chicago Heights, H-F, and some of the seedier areas were my bailiwick. Used to party in the woods in Crete, drive all over the freaking place, Wolf Lake park, Chicago, over into Hammond, Dyer, Cal City, etc.

    My folks still live in the area, but spend part of the year in FL.

    My sisters live downtown which is nuts.

    n

  34. OFD says:

    “… go spartans.”

    Our high skool teams name, also; prior to living in that town, we’d lived in a town where the skool sports team name was “trojans.” So you can imagine the fun and frivolity and hijinks when young OFD showed up near the tail end of the skool year in 7th-grade with the previous skool uniform on for gym class.

  35. DadCooks says:

    Bringing the discussion back to prepping.

    I came across this article regarding batteries for the off-gridder, but also has information that applies to anyone who uses batteries for backup.
    http://countrysidenetwork.com/daily/homesteading/renewable-energy/off-grid-battery-banks-heart-of-the-system/

    I will not pass judgement on the article, I am sure that there are as many opinions on here as there are participants. The take-away is that you need to do some, a lot, of research before you spend a lot of money. I am also of the school that believes in battery diversity as I plan for short, medium, and long term use.

  36. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    That looks pretty accurate to me.

  37. lynn says:

    I am also of the school that believes in battery diversity as I plan for short, medium, and long term use.

    I’ve got the short term covered with about a thousand AA and D batteries. I have many AA flashlights and D cell LED lanterns. I figure that will get us through the three months of grid down hell after a Cat 5 hurricane. The long term, not so much.

    The real problem is the neighbors. We had a 8 hour power outage from 3pm to midnight in our last house. Right after hurricane Ike. Our neighbor came over when he saw the LED lanterns on in the house about 8 or 9pm. I ended up loaning him a lantern. You would think that people would learn.
    https://www.amazon.com/Coleman-CPX-Rugged-Lantern-X-Large/dp/B00VTJJ5DE/

    Multiply this by 30 days, 60 days, 90 days. At some point, people are going to want to “share” the lanterns and batteries.

  38. OFD says:

    Diversity is our vibrancy

  39. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    “At some point, people are going to want to “share” the lanterns and batteries.”

    Along with your food, water, medical supplies, etc. etc. OTOH, they *are* your neighbors, and you have to live with them once the storm passes.

    That’s why it’s so important to be as well-informed as possible concerning the likely severity and duration of the emergency. For routine emergencies like hurricanes, you can afford to share, if only to build stronger relations with your neighbors. Sure, there’s a chance there’ll be a catastrophic widespread emergency that just happens to occur in the midst of a routine emergency, but it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll be able to replace what you used or gave away as soon as the routine emergency is over. And obviously you can use it as a teaching moment to encourage neighbors to prepare for the next such emergency. The better prepared the more people are, the better.

  40. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Incidentally, why do you have a *thousand* AA and D cells? LSD NiMH cells cost from three to six times as much as alkalines and maintain high charge percentages for literally years in storage. I decided some time ago to stop buying alkalines and buy only LSD NiMH (Eneloops or similar). We’ll use the alkalines we have in stock, but as those run short we’ll start replacing them with LSD NiMH’s in everything, including stuff like TV remotes.

  41. nick flandrey says:

    I don’t know why Lynn has so many, but I have both.

    I use the alkaline batts when I will not want to retain the worn out batts for recharging. For example, when traveling. Much easier to carry a spare set, and toss the worn outs, than carry a charger and keep them sorted.

    I also like the regulars for some higher voltage required devices.

    nick

  42. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Sure, but it sounds like Lynn is using them mainly in FLASHLIGHTS and (dare I say it?) LANTERNS. Those are both ideal applications for LSD NiMH, as are things like FRS/GMRS radios, portable AM/FM/SW radios, etc.

  43. MrAtoz says:

    My cheap ass Harbor Freight solar system is still working. I’ve charged all my rechargeable batteries (including 18650’s) and iPads and SP3. I use mainly rechargeables for the house, but have a pile of AAA, AA, C and 9V for biz devices.

  44. lynn says:

    Incidentally, why do you have a *thousand* AA and D cells?

    Because I can. I don’t have to worry about recharging them (I have a bad experience there). I buy the 48 AA battery packs and 12 ? D cell battery packs at Sams Club. They have a shelf life of ten years and I use ten to twenty of the AA batteries per month in my walkabout flashlight.

  45. Miles_Teg says:

    My FLASHLIGHT batteries last for years. What are you doing wrong?

  46. lynn says:

    My FLASHLIGHT batteries last for years. What are you doing wrong?

    I use them.

    I go on a two mile walkabout each night starting at 9pm to 11pm. I use my two AA flashlight Maglite for about half of the walk. I get 2 to 3 walks out of each set of two AA batteries.
    https://www.amazon.com/Maglite-2-Cell-Flashlight-Holster-Black/dp/B005UUSAAM/

  47. OFD says:

    All I know now is that I can sure remember the LSD batteries that RBT mentioned and will look for them up here in Retroville accordingly.

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