This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com Welcome to another Monday Musings, where we share interesting links about all things preparedness, as well as updates on the blog.
First the blog updates…
I’ve been posting less frequently lately, as I have been working non-stop to finish my latest book, The Penny-Pinching Prepper. The book is now with the proofreaders, and is scheduled to be released mid-October. Many new preppers become discouraged by the expense involved in buying gear and supplies – sure, there is an initial expense, but there are ways to keep costs down and make the most out of your preps, even if nothing happens.
Be one of the first to own the book! Ulysses Press, my publisher, is giving away 10 copies, via Goodreads – you can enter now. Just click on the link above.
Reader traffic is as good as ever – lots of people searching for apartment prepper topics. Many thanks to The Prepper Website and Survival Pulse for linking to my articles!
The homes of many rich, famous people have a secret hidden within them. Somewhere, in the depths of the home, is a secure room to which the residents can retreat in the event of a home invasion or violent intruder. A safe room was carved into the original house plan, and many of these are state of the art. Features might include a bank of monitors for viewing what’s going on outside the room, a small kitchenette, comfortable furnishings, fresh air venting, and a hardened communications system. These expertly designed rooms can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you don’t have to be a movie star or a multi-millionaire to build your own version of a safe room. Even the most humble home or apartment can have on a place to which vulnerable family members can retreat if they are under threat.
Why should you have a safe room?
Some folks may read this and think to themselves, “I don’t need a safe room when I have my 12 gauge shotgun and my 9 mm. That’s just running away.”
I completely understand your point. Most of the people who read prepping and survival sites are not of a “retreat” mentality. But, if a gang of 12 thugs (possibly wearing badges) kicks down your door, how likely are you to shoot every single one of them before someone gets off a lucky shot and hits you? Hint: If you aren’t tactically trained, the likelihood of this is pretty slim.
Here’s another reason: do you have vulnerable family members in the house? Children? A spouse or elderly relative? Someone who just isn’t a fighter? Even if you intend to engage, you may have people in the home who are not willing or able to do so, and it will be better for you if they are safely out of the way.
A safe room is honestly just another prep. It doesn’t mean you are cowardly. It means you are ready for a variety of scenarios and that the safety of your family is paramount. It is a layer of protection that allows vulnerable people to retreat until help arrives.
Here’s a perk: another great use for your safe room is that you can stash your valuables there. Most break-ins occur when you aren’t home. If your valuables are locked away, a random tweaker searching for things to sell to support his habit is not going to be able to access your important papers, your fine jewelry, your firearms, or your most prized possessions.
Retreating to your safe room
When you retreat to your safe room, you have one goal: to end any possibility of interaction with an unwelcome person. Please don’t call it a panic room. That indicates that you are a scared victim. You are retreating to a safer location because you don’t intend to be a victim. In a military gun battle, do soldiers move behind sandbags or into trenches? Of course. They want to limit the likelihood of being shot or otherwise injured. You may or may not be a trained soldier, but your goal is the same. It is to avoid being injured by a person who may be intent on injuring you.
A safe room is not a bunker. You probably aren’t going to be holed up in there for days during a stand-off. It is a point of retreat until help arrives.
The #1 rule of the safe room: DO NOT LEAVE IT UNTIL YOU ARE SAFE AND YOUR HOME HAS BEEN CLEARED. NOT FOR ANY REASON. A criminal will threaten, cajole, manipulate, and bully to try to make you come out. DON’T DO IT.
We’ve often talked about the importance of having a plan (as well as a few back-up plans) and running practice drills. A safe room is no different. All family members that are physically able should be able to quickly access the room. If you have several people in your household, you might want to put a keypad access on the door to the safe room so that whoever has retreated first is safely locked in without worrying about admitting the other family members.
Map out as many different ways as possible to get to the safe room from various locations in the house. This is a great time to get the kids involved, because children are explorers by nature. They may know routes that you had never even considered. Practice, practice, practice. Run timed drills and make a game out of how quickly all family members can get to the safe room and get the door secured.
Of course, the success of moving quickly to your safe room rests upon being alerted that someone is in your home. You should have security measures in place that let you know that the home has been breached:
Outdoor sensors that will alert you when someone comes through your gate or approaches your home. (Note: If you’re like us and you live somewhere with a lot of wildlife, this option may not work well for you.)
The more of these early warnings you have, the better off you’ll be. Someone might get through one of the alarms, but how likely are they to get through 3 or 4 without you being alerted?
Where should your safe room be?
If you are building a new home from the ground up, you have the unique opportunity to have this special room added to the plans. In this case, your far less limited by the existing design and layout of the house. In fact, there are companies whose sole purpose is designing safe rooms for homes and businesses. One of the most reputable, Gaffco, offers consultations, plans, and even construction of these rooms. Additionally, they offer “pods” that were originally designed for the US military, which can be incorporated into the design of your home or connected to the home via a breezeway. These options are top of the line, and may be out of the affordable price range for the average family.
Most of us aren’t in that building process though, so we need to adapt part of our living space to make a safe room. Some people adapt a large walk-in closet or pantry, while others refurbish a room in their home. DuPont offers a “Stormroom” that is reinforced with Kevlar and is epoxied to your garage floor. It’s designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, so it’s a good be that it will also withstand your average home invasion. These start at $6000 for the smallest size.
Here are some important qualities:
No windows to the outside
Water and a bathroom
Enough space for the number of people likely to shelter there
Ease of accessibility for the family from multiple locations in the house
Of course, finding all of these things, sitting there in one room, waiting for you to reinforce the door may not be likely so you have to work with what you’ve got.
Some good options are:
Master bedroom with attached bath
Basement family room
Wine cellar (Not as outrageous as it sounds – surprisingly the humble little 2 bedroom Victorian cottage we used to live in had one)
Interior den with no windows
Inside an attached garage
If you intend to go full out and reinforce the walls, it will be less expensive to convert the smallest area that will house the required number of family members.
It is of vital importance to locate the safe room in a place that can be quicky and easily accessed by family members. If you have to run past the entry through which intruders just burst, you probably aren’t going to make it to the safe room. Remember, the most ideal safe room situation is one in which the criminal has no idea that you were home or, if he knows you’re home, has no idea where you may have gone.
One important thing to remember is that your safe room doesn’t have to only be a safe room. The best use of space would have the room used regularly for other purposes. Most of the modifications you’ll make don’t have to be obvious. For example, if you’re reinforcing the walls, you can drywall over your reinforcements, paint the wall a happy color, and carry on with your life. An attractive exterior type door can be painted to match the other interior doors in your home. Even if you live in an apartment or condo, you can make some subtle changes to create a safe place to retreat.
The key here is to do the best you can with your resources and the space you have available. Let’s talk about the most important modifications.
The very first line of defense is the door you will slam behind you. For many of us, this is where the majority of the money will be spent.
Forget about flimsy interior doors. Most of them are hollow core and your average everyday axe wielding murderer or gangbanger intent on mayhem can get through them by kicking or punching through. Go to Home Depot and get yourself the very best exterior steel slab door that you can afford. If your safe room is an ordinary room in the house, look for a door that can be painted to blend in with the other doors in the house. There’s no sense making it obvious that this room is special.
There’s no point in having a great door in a cruddy door frame. Your door is only as solid as the frame that holds it, so replace your standard interior door frame with reinforced steel. Get the absolute best quality you can afford, then paint it to match the rest of the door frames in your home. Hang your door so it swings inward. Then you can add extra layers of security to the door.
You want to add more locks than just the doorknob type. For your primary lock, choose a heavy duty reinforced deadbolt system. You can also add a jimmy-proof security lock like this one for an added deterrent, but this should NOT be your primary lock. You can add a door bar, the hardware for which would be fairly unobtrusive when the bar is not across it. If you make all of these changes, NO ONE is getting through that door by kicking it in.
Windows are a definite weak point in a safe room. If you are using a room that is also used for other purposes (like a master bedroom) you probably have them. Don’t despair – they too can be reinforced.
The biggest threat with a window, of course, is that the glass will easily break, allowing someone to either get in the room or shoot people who are in the room.
You can go all out and replace the window in that room with a bulletproof security window. Although they are very expensive, you may decide it’s worthwhile since it’s just for one room. If this is out of your price range, you can purchase ballistic film and apply it to your existing window. This video shows you how much a high quality ballistic film will withstand. If you’re doing this, do NOT skimp on quality.
If you have windows, no matter how resistant they are to impact, it’s a good idea to have curtains too. You don’t want the aggressor standing out there watching you or casing your retreat. Not only would that be mentally rattling, they just might figure out a way to breach your safe room or counteract your safety plan, like secondary communications. They do not need to know how many people are in the safe room, what equipment and supplies you have, or what you’re doing in there. Get heavy curtains and make sure they’re completely closed with no gaps whatsoever.
This is where the serious expense comes in. A round from a 9mm handgun can easily penetrate the walls of the average home. Dry wall does NOT stop bullets, not even from a weaker caliber gun. That’s why one of the most important rules of gun safety is to not only know your target, but what is beyond your target. If your walls aren’t sturdy enough to withstand bullets, then you’ve basically just put your family into a box to be shot more easily.
One way to lessen the expense of this is to choose a room in the basement. If you build your retreat into a corner, then you have two exterior walls that are concrete surrounded by dirt – virtually unbreachable. Then you only have two walls to worry about. If you are in an apartment, the laws in most states insist that walls separating two apartments must be fire resistant. Therefore, the wall between your apartment and the next could be made of cement, providing one wall of safety.
There are a few different ways to reinforce the walls of your safe room. Some of the following options may be out of your price range or skill level, and some may not be practical for your living situation.
Armored steel panels: One of the best ways to convert an existing room into a ballistic haven is by adding armored steel panels to the walls. You can add drywall over the panels and no one will even realize they are there. These are heavy and use on upper floors could damage the integrity of your structure. They’re expensive, with a bottom end price of about $400 for a 4×8 panel, but depending on the layout of the room, they may not be needed on every wall.
Kevlar: These resistant walls are made out of a fiberglass type material. This is a much lighter weight alternative and can be used in places that can’t hold up to the addition of heavy steel or concrete. You can learn more about Kevlar construction from Total Security Solutions.
Poured concrete: This MUST be used on a ground floor or in a basement because of the extreme weight. This is a far less expensive option and can withstand most threats.
Sand: This is another heavy weight option, but it can be far less expensive than other options, particularly if you live in an area with abundant sand. A 12 inch thick barricade of sand can protect against many different ballistic threats. In a basement room, a sand-packed wall in between the exterior of the room and interior drywall can provide substantial protection at a lower price. The Prepper Journal has an interesting article on using sandbags to stop bullets. The ideas could potentially be adapted to the interior of your home. For example, you could stack sandbags halfway up a wall and then build a lightweight wall over the sandbags – the inhabitants of the room would need to shelter behind the sandbags to remain safe.
Temporary options: For the average family, many of these solutions can be out of reach. If you rent, you probably won’t want to do major construction, either. It’s best to choose a room that is already as sturdy as possible and then reinforce the weak points. Although these options aren’t anywhere near as resistant as the ones above, they are better than nothing.
Have a heavy duty item you can shelter behind, like a steel desk or deep freezer.
Line your walls with heavy furniture, like loaded bookcases with real wood backs, not flimsy particle board.
Line your walls with metal filing cabinets, fill the drawers with anything, and stay low.
The Camouflaged Safe Room
Even though safe rooms aren’t really a “fun” topic, a secret hidden safe room is the kind of thing that stirs the imagination. After all, how many awesome movies from your youth began with the magical discovery of a stairway or room hidden behind a bookcase or a mysterious doorway at the back of the closet?
The success of a camouflaged safe room rests on the residents of the home quickly moving into hiding without the intruders even knowing that they are home. This is the best case scenario for an event during which you need to retreat to a safe room.
Don’t rely strictly on the secret entry for your security. It should be followed up by the reinforcements described above, in the event that the intruders discover you’ve gotten away.
As was discussed in the introduction, a safe room is simply a retreat. If you don’t have help coming, you could remain trapped in there indefinitely, particularly if the intruders decide to wait you out.
Remember the #1 rule of the safe room? DO NOT LEAVE IT UNTIL YOU ARE SAFE AND YOUR HOME HAS BEEN CLEARED. NOT FOR ANY REASON. A criminal will threaten, cajole, manipulate, and bully to try to make you come out. DON’T DO IT.
You may not have had time to call 911 or your well-armed neighbor before sheltering in your safe room. If that is the case, then you need to be able to summon assistance from within the safe room. Here are a few suggestions:
Landline phone: Put an old fashioned phone in your safe room. Don’t get one that relies on electricity to work. Even better, install a secondary buried line in the event that your primary line is disabled. If a criminal cuts one phone line, he generally won’t look for a secondary line.
Computer: Just like the secondary landline, above, consider a secondary internet access as well. If you have Skype, you can also have an internet telephone system from which you can call for assistance, but be warned that you many not immediately reach your local 911 from a Skype phone.
Once you have 911 on the line, be sure to let them know that you are armed. (Cops hate surprises.) If at all possible, stay on the line with the 911 operator so that you can confirm that help has arrived without opening the door of your safe room.
Cameras: While cameras won’t help you summon help, they can let you know what’s going on outside your safe room. Especially important, a camera outside the door of the room will give you some advance warning if your retreat is about to be breached. It can let you know if help has actually arrived or if the intruders are just trying to trick you into thinking so. This system feeds into your cell phone or your computer.
You want to have enough supplies to stay in your safe room for 24-48 hours. Since this is a safe room and not a bunker, you don’t need year’s supply of beans and rice in there.
Water: Even if you have an attached bathroom with running water, store at least one gallon per person that is likely to be in the room,. Just in case. Because stuff happens, especially when bad guys are around.
Cold weather gear: In the event that your heat stops working during cold weather, stash a selection of winter coats, gloves, hats, sleeping bags, and a warm change of clothing.
Entertainment: Really. If you end up in the room for more than a couple of hours, you’ll go insane just staring at the monitors. As well, if there are children in there with you, they’ll handle the ordeal much better with some distractions. Keep some books, games, puzzles, DVDs, etc., in the safe room.
Sanitation: Ideally, you’ll have an actual bathroom as part of your safe room. If not, you’ll need a place to relieve yourself. The best portable option is a camping toilet, which will eventually have to be emptied, but holds over 5 gallons and should last throughout any amount of time you’d be in your safe room. Also stock hand sanitizer, baby wipes, feminine hygiene supplies, and diapers, if applicable to your family.
Special needs items: Remember that movie “Panic Room”, with Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart? They were forced to leave the safe room because it wasn’t stocked with the necessary supplies for the diabetic child. Don’t let this happen to you. Not only will you stock your safe room with food, but keep extra medication for any family members with special needs.
First aid supplies: Keep a full first aid kit, as well as a manual, in your safe room. If a family member was injured on the way to the room, you want to be able to provide some care for them. Particularly focus on supplies necessary for traumatic injuries. Also stock things like antacids, pain relievers, and anti-diarrheal medications. You can find a great first aid supply list in this article.
Emergency supplies: Always keep a fire extinguisher, goggles, and some particulate masks in your safe room. A very determined criminal might try to force you to leave the room by starting a fire. Depending on the materials used in the construction of your room, this could be successful. The goggles and masks aren’t perfect, but they give you a chance to launch an offensive if you do have to leave the safe room.
Here’s the bottom line: If an intruder somehow manages to breach your safe room, the time for retreat is completely over. There’s no option left – you have to be prepared to fight like your life depends on it. If an intruder has gone to the trouble to break through all of your defenses to get to you, your life most likely does depend on your ability to mount an aggressive defense.
Aside from your primary defense weapon (which you’re probably carrying with you), all of your other weapons should be stored in your safe room. Your extra ammunition should be stored there too.
Is every person of reasonable age in your family able to handle a weapon? If not, it’s time to sign up for classes or go to the range.
You need to have a plan in the event your defenses are breached. You don’t want any “friendly fire” injuries to occur. This plan will be different for every family based on individual skills, on available weapons, and on the set-up of your safe room.
The safe room is your final point of retreat. If someone brings the battle to you, you must be prepared, both mentally and physically. Otherwise, you and your family are like fish in a barrel, neatly corralled targets for the intruders.
What would you add to this list?
Whether you actually have a safe room in your home, or you’ve considered building one, do you have some things to add to the lists above? Please share them on the original article so that the suggestions may be added to benefit other readers.
The book covers the various aspects of preparedness, such as creating a family emergency plan, getting ready for natural disasters, financial readiness, first aid, fire safety and much more. I like that the author also goes a step further by discussing issues that concern many families such as cyber-bullying, keeping kids safe from online predators, dealing with emergencies during vacations etc. In short, the book covers topics that are not normally discussed in a typical survival book, but can help families avoid everyday disasters.
The Survival Savvy Family is an ideal book for a Dad or Mom who wants to become more prepared for disasters, whether large or small. It will get you started in an organized fashion, offering lots of checklists and quick tips. The book is practical, and detail-oriented. It conveys its message about the need to be prepared without being overwhelming, and without spreading any doomsday apocalypse fears. You will like reading The Survival Savvy Family: it is written in a conversational tone, has an attractive cover and is well organized. Families with children would greatly benefit from this book. This book would also make a great gift for Mother’s Day!
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Disclosure: This is a professional review site that sometimes receives free merchandise from the companies whose products we review and recommend. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own. Apartmentprepper.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
Recent disasters worldwide such as the Chile volcano eruption and the Nepal earthquake remind us that disasters can happen at any time. You might think, those are far away places, they can’t possibly happen to me; however, emergencies such as chemical spills, wildfires and flooding have been known to cause localized evacuations. Fires are not uncommon in apartment homes or condominiums, many residents may have only minutes to evacuate. Circumstances may force you to bug out even though you don’t want to.
It’s very hard to think about, but if you had to, can you evacuate your home in 10 minutes? If this is all the time you had what would you grab?
We had this exact discussion in our household, and we think we have a plan. I can’t tell you what your plan should be as everyone is different – you may have more or less people in your household, of varying ages; you may have one or more pets, and have a different stage of readiness.
Here are some things to think about:
Get the family together and discuss what would you do if you had to evacuate in a short amount of time. Give each able member of your household an assigned item or area to cover.
Think about the nitty gritty details such as where would you exit your home? Are your items stored within easy reach? The old saying applies- people, pets before things. But when it comes to that, what are your most valuable possessions? For some people, it may be their computer, for others it could be their firearms, jewelry, or photos.
Do you keep your wallet, keys, cell phone, glasses etc. in the same spot where you can easily grab them? Or will you have to run around the house searching for them?
After you exit your home, where would you go? It depends on the circumstances. If you live in an earthquake prone area, if there are strong aftershocks you’d want to be out in an open area, away from buildings or structures that can topple on you. If you were bugging out due to an impending hurricane you would head out of town away from the hurricane path. Now would be the time to map out routes out of town, and get in touch with relatives whom you can stay with.
You’ll need some clothes with you, otherwise you only have the clothes on your back. At least have a change of clothes, underwear, socks. If you work in an office, you should have one set of work clothes in case you have to go to work in the following days. Not all areas may be affected by the disaster, eventually, you will need to go back to work.
If you have pets, plan ahead for them as well. At the very least, you’ll need a carrier, leash, collar, food and water for them as well. Many shelters do not allow pets – but some might. These are all things to consider well ahead of a disaster.
Don’t forget your important documents. This is an easy project you can do in one weekend: build your grab and go binder so you have all your documents in one place. Even if you don’t have them all in a binder, keep all your documents together so you can easily take them on your way out. Also keep a hard copy of your contact list in your grab and go binder, in case you happen to leave your cell phone behind, or you somehow lose it.
Have a plan for your irreplaceable items such as photos, recipes, etc. Now would be a good time to back them up online or in a thumb drive. Grab your computer if you have time especially if your livelihood depends on it.
You’ll need to take cash with you in case ATMs, credit and debit cards are not working. Keep your hidden cash in your grab and go binder or bug out bag.
Lock up your home as well as you can when you leave. You’ll hopefully be returning after the emergency has passed, and some looting goes on in the aftermath of a disaster.
Review your homeowner’s or renter’s policy and be aware of your coverages. You do have coverage don’t you? Improve them now before a disaster happens. Some survivalists scoff at details like this, but to me, there is a good possibility you will be returning to a damaged home or apartment so you might as well be prepared.
I had mentioned clothing above – ideally, you would have a bug out bag. You may not have everything you’d ever want in it, but at least have the beginnings of one. Each member of the family should have one. Include special needs such as personal prescriptions, infant supplies, a child’s special comfort item such as blanket or stuffed animal. This is a good book that’ll give you all you need to know: Build the Perfect Bugout Bag
Of course, don’t forget to inform your loved ones when you have safely evacuated so they don’t come searching for you. It may be stressful thinking about this now, but think how much you’ll regret not doing anything if a disaster does happen. Make your plans now. As we always say around here, better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and the Christmas season will soon be in full swing. Theft and other crimes seem to increase when people are out and about shopping or partying and not paying much attention to anything else.
The other day the management company left a flyer on our door about a “Resident Meeting” regarding apartment safety. I was concerned enough that I attended the evening meeting after work. A couple of policemen and the building management were in attendance. The reason for the meeting was to discuss recent criminal activity in the area, and to warn residents about personal safety.
My neighborhood is in the middle of the city of Houston. If you ever visit the city, you will notice very quickly that the city does not have strict zoning laws. As a result,most areas include a mix of residential, commercial and industrial. One block could be a nice residential area, and across the street would be high rises or industrial parks, unless you live in a planned community in the suburbs. So you can live in a block with nice residences, but go two blocks and you can quickly find yourself in an unsavory looking area. Being careful and aware of your surroundings is very important. Not being critical or negative, that is just the way it is. While we carefully picked the apartment we live in, checked crime statistics and all that, crime in any area is inevitable.
Back to the meeting. Apparently, the management company decided to have a meeting due to a recent shooting that occurred in the complex. They wanted to reassure the residents that it was not a random event but a shooting between acquaintances, a “drug deal gone bad.” There were no fatalities, the shooter was arrested and the victim was shot in the leg. I was still unsettled by the incident – it is not very reassuring to hear that a resident was doing a drug deal. The resident has since been evicted; at least he is not around anymore. The cops also informed us there have been car break-ins and some theft.
Staying safe during the holiday season
This meeting has just reinforced my feeling that there is no such thing as a “safe area.” We need to be on guard at all times, and always aware of our surroundings. Always find out about what’s going on around you. Surprisingly, for a complex this large, not a lot of tenants attended the meeting, considering it was about something important.
Maintain an alert stance and scan the people around you. Thieves avoid people whom they perceived is too alert and may have already noticed them
If you start to have a bad feeling about your surroundings, stop and pay attention to these feelings, it is your intuition telling you not to proceed.
Thieves try to target people whom they perceive as more vulnerable: the elderly, women alone or women and children.
To avoid being targeted by thieves, think about what attracts these criminals: flashy jewelry, a large purse that looks stuffed with goodies, smart phones, shopping bags, etc.
Carry only what’s necessary and leave the rest at home.
When shopping, always lock your vehicle and do not leave your items in the car, lock them up in the trunk. The cop revealed that they patrol certain malls because thieves are known to “harvest” items that people leave in the cars while shopping.
Consider a protection device such as mace, pepper spray or a concealed gun if you know how to use them and are licensed in your district.
When in public, avoid being engrossed in your phone or tablet. This sounds simple, but I have seen so many people with their heads buried in their cell phones even while crossing the street.
When walking to your car, have your keys ready in your hand, no fishing around the parking lot for missing keys. Brief inattention to your surroundings can cost you your life. If leaving at night, try to walk with someone or have security escort you.
Train the kids to only open the door to family or friends who know the “password” and never open the door to strangers.
Keep your curtains or blinds closed. The more passersby see your appliances and items, the more likely a thief will get interested in you.
Consider an alarm system or a dog if your building allows it.
Make sure you always lock your doors and windows.
Look around the area before you open your door or garage, as thieves have been know to follow people in as they get home.
Be careful about announcing your activities and plans on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, this will give potential thieves a “heads up” that your house is available.
Before walking or driving up to an ATM machine, make a note of who is in the area. Is there a car just parked nearby? Are there a lot of bushes where someone can hide and jump out at you? If you are not sure, just bypass it and go somewhere else. The most you will lose is time and possibly gas, but at least you’ll be safe.
When in crowded shopping centers, be alert for pickpockets especially when someone bumps into yo
If you are working late, walk out with a co-worker or call security and have them walk you to your car.
If you feel you are being followed home, don’t pull into your driveway. Instead, keep driving and go to a crowded area, police or fire station.
Sorry if this article sounds a bit paranoid, but these are the times we live in. A big part of survival mentality or preparedness is paying attention to your own personal and family security.
This week, a cold front, AKA polar vortex is coming to town. Indeed, it was much colder getting out of work this afternoon than it was early this morning.
Our apartment windows are very flimsy. They are single paned aluminum windows that let in the frigid air. You can really feel the cold air seeping in as you get closer to the windows. We had to come up with ideas to keep the apartment warm without doing any major work. These are the options we considered:
Option 1: Install window films.
Because we rent, we cannot do anything that involves major alterations, and we want to make sure we get our security deposit back if we move. Window films are hard to remove, and after pricing them out, we found that window films were also far above the budget.
In a pinch, you can try using clear plastic wrap- just stick it around your windows to keep the draft out.
Option 2: Plastic Trash Bags
On the opposite side of expensive, some people use plastic trash bags to line the cracks and the windows. Sounds like it can work, but that would be too unsightly. It is our windows after all, and I don’t think I want to look at plastic trash bags for several days.
Option 3: Bubble Wrap
We opted for the middle ground: bubble wrap insulation. It is temporary but not so ugly. Please keep in mind this works because there’s trapped air between the bubble wrap and the window. If the window is leaking around the frame, this will not work and the window would need caulking instead.
If you are planning to do a project like this, please research the various options carefully. I am not an expert in insulation or window reinforcements, so your results may vary. You may find something else that works better in your situation. Just sharing what worked for us.
Here is how we did it:
We went to the home improvement store and bought several rolls of bubble wrap. We spent about $28 total for 2 large rolls of bubble wrap and a couple more dollars for painters tape. Upon returning home, we raised the blinds and started lining the windows with bubble wrap. We then taped the bubble wrap to the window sill with the painters tape. We lined each window of the bedrooms with the bubble wrap, making sure the drafty crack between the windows and window sills were covered.
The result was great! You can really tell the difference in the room temperature. The cold air stays out, and you can no longer feel the temperature drop and you approach the windows. From the outside, the bubble wrap does not look obvious so the apartment management won’t notice anything odd. As you can see from the photo above, the downside is, you can’t see the outside too clearly. This is only temporary though. In a few weeks, normal warm temperatures should come back, and the bubble wrap insulation will come off. Then I can recycle the bubble wrap as packing material.
What are other ways to keep your apartment warm?
Space heater. A small space heater may help, if you set it up in the room you are in. If you are worried about heating when there is no power, a good possible choice is a propane heater such as Mr. Heater. However there are precautions that need to be taken when setting it up. I have not tried it personally, so I can’t tell you how well it works, but see this review from TacticalIntelligence.net.
Dress in layers. When it’s this cold, and I have to go outside, I wear a tank top, a T-shirt, a turtleneck and a jacket. Am I bulky? You betcha! But it works and I don’t like to be cold so I put up with it.
Rearrange your sheets. Cotton sheets are meant to keep you cool, but that is not what you need in a cold snap. Place the fleece or micro fiber blanket closest to you. It really works. Flannel sheets work just as well.
Warm up your bed before getting in Use a blowdryer and warm up your bed right before getting in. If you have a dog or a cat have them snuggle in the foot of your bed – they help keep you warm as well!
Hang old comforters or quilted blankets Readers have suggested hanging comforters or quilted blankets as curtains.
Set up a warm room If you have no power, it’s best to congregate in one room and make it the warmest one. Set up tents and sleeping bags in the middle of the room.
Layer on the blankets. We place several blankets in addition to the comforter on all the beds in the house.
Drink warm liquids. Sip some herb tea and warm up. Make a nice pot of soup.
Rice heating pad. Just pour uncooked rice into an old sock, sew it closed. Microwave it until hot and use it as a warmer.
Run electric appliances during the day. Run the dishwasher, cook and bake during the day. They all help warm up the house.
Caution: Always make sure your room is well ventilated. Always have a carbon monoxide detector. Never turn on gas stoves for heat.
Each winter, I receive emails from apartment dwellers asking for ideas on warming up their space during a cold snap. Hopefully the tips above help out. Stay warm!
I recently posted about being off-grid for 48 hours, and using a lot of baby wipes due to the lack of water during our adventure. One thing that would run out quickly in a survival situation if you did not have a huge stockpile would be toilet paper. Not having a lot of space we have about three months worth on hand right now, but that can run out quickly. Also, a large stockpile of toilet paper is not portable in a bug-out situation, and in a shelter in place scenario, the TP supply is bound to run out.
Space saving tip: Remove the cardboard insert and flatten the roll and you can fit more rolls in a small space.
What are some substitutes for toilet paper?
Back in ancient times, the Romans used a sea sponge on a stick. They would clean themselves with it, rinse it in the running water (public bathrooms had them on the floor) and leave it soaking in salt water in between uses.
In colonial times, people used corncobs, and later, old newspapers and catalogs were used in outhouses.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Wet wipes or baby wipes
These would work just like toilet paper, but again, a large stockpile would have to be accumulated.
2. Paper Substitutes
Newspaper may work, but the ink would turn everything black. I read other people prefer The Yellow Pages but these days, a lot of people don’t keep phone books around. Store catalogs may be more common, and flimsy pages instead of high end glossy paper would work best. Just crumple up the sheet until it softens up, then wipe.
Cloth, such as wash cloths, terry cloth or cloth diapers can be used as toilet paper substitutes. You can even cut up old, soft t-shirts into squares. If you want to make reusable cloth wipes, this article from Food Storage Moms has good instructions. The method would be to wet the cloth, wipe, then launder the cloth. Supporters of this idea feel that most people would have nothing against rewashing cloth diapers, therefore personal washcloths should be okay. I would think it would be a good idea to throw the soiled wash clothes into a bucket of water with some bleach before washing.
4. Plant material
Sage leaves are said to be soft and fragrant enough to use, some say banana leaves would work too.. You must have some knowledge about which plants are safe; you would not want to use something like poison ivy, poison oak or sumac by mistake! Remember: Leaves of three – let it be!
Many countries already use a spray water fountain called a “bidet” as part of their bathroom facilities. Since this is being considered in an emergency scenario, we would need an alternative to that too. In many countries, use of the left hand in combination with pouring water in a pan or small bucket with the right hand is the way to clean up.
Possible water carriers:
Small can, like an empty coffee can.
Perineal irrigation bottle – This is usually given to women for use after childbirth, but it can actually be used as a spritzer to clean up as well.
Fill any of these containers with plain water, add a drop of essential oil for fragrance and wash up. (Don’t use mint or and don’t overdo the quantity of drops, or you may irritate those sensitive areas.) After washing, dry the area with a clean towel that can also be reused.
To avoid disease, one would have to wash the hands well with water or antibacterial gel right after.
I’m not ready to give up toilet paper but you gotta do what you gotta do to stay clean. In an emergency, the water route seems like the most likely one to try. I may try making those clothes one of these days. We will keep stockpiling toilet paper for now, and store them efficiently by flattening them for maximum use of space. Another idea would be to decrease the use of toilet paper by combining with the methods above, thereby extending the life of the stockpile.
Toilet paper shortages sounds unlikely, but it has happened: a year or so ago, Venezuela faced a toilet paper shortage and the government had to take over a toilet paper factory. Before I got interested in preparedness, I can recall snagging the last package of toilet paper and waiting in a long line right before a hurricane. Toilet paper is one of the first items to disappear if a disaster disrupts supply deliveries. It’s good to know some alternatives just in case.
It’s Day 28!!!! It’s time to take your game up a notch with 24 hours unplugged! No fair doing this on a day when you will be away from your normal activities anyway – you want to put your preps to the test!
A couple of years ago, my youngest daughter and I spent a year in the North Woods of Ontario. It was a grand adventure, totally different from the city life we’d had previous to this. Our small cabin was on the banks of a beautiful lake and the edge of hundreds of acres of forest wilderness. It was heated only by wood, and although we had electricity, we were warned that it was sporadic, since we were fairly remote and regular maintenance was not always performed on the lines of the area.
As a prepared family we were pretty sure we’d be just fine when the power went out.
The first time it happened was on a mild early autumn morning. The power went out for no apparent reason, and we high-fived each other. Game on!
Since it was afternoon and the weather was nice, it really wasn’t much of a challenge. The power returned before daylight, we had some stuff in the fridge for sandwiches, and we basically just needed to entertain ourselves sans grid. No big deal – we are bookworms, so we spent the day curled up with some good reads. We did make one unexpected discovery – our well was pumped by an electric component, so when the power went out, we also had no running water, including water to flush with. Of course, we had stored drinking water, and we brought a couple of buckets of water up from the lake for flushing, so this was a minor inconvenience.
However, it did get me thinking about how we would flush if the weather was cold enough that the lake was frozen, but there wasn’t snow on the ground. Hmmm…#1 Note to Self – store water for flushing too!
The next power outage occurred a couple of weeks later and it was a much bigger deal. The initial outage hit at about 7 o’clock on a chilly fall evening. It was dark and cold. We stoked up a fire in the woodstove, and began to search for our lighting solutions. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had the forethought to set up off-grid lighting in each room, so after digging for my candles in the dark closet, I had to carry one around to light candles in subsequent rooms.
#2 Note to Self: Keep candles, holders, and lighters in each room in a place which is easy to access in the dark. After this, we placed candles in holders are part of the decor all around the house.
The wind roared around outside the cabin and our power did not return for 3 days. We used the woodstove to heat up meals, but we couldn’t find all of the bits and pieces for a game we wanted to play. #3 Note to Self: Keep off-grid entertainment well-organized, especially if there are children in the house.
On the second day of the outage, we dragged our chest freezer out onto the deck to keep our food from going bad in the cozy cabin. #4 Note to Self: Get something sturdy to store food in outdoorsthat won’t draw wild animals to your porch that also doesn’t require you to drag a 200+ pound appliance outside.
By the time the next power outage rolled around, we had learned many lessons. At the first sign of windy weather, we immediately filled the bathtub. A bucket right beside the tub served as a container to transfer water from the tub to the toilet so that we could flush. A sturdy Rubbermaid storage bench with a lock resided on our deck, waiting to be pressed into duty as an outdoor freezer. Each room boasted of decorative candles. Home canned meals in jars lined my kitchen shelves, and a beautiful cast iron Dutch oven sat at the ready to simmer a delicious stew or pot of beans on the woodstove. A couple of pretty baskets were filled with art supplies and games (with all of their pieces) and a couple of kerosene lamps that were bright enough for reading sat at either end of the sofa. Since the fans that blew the heat into the bedrooms obviously did not work without power, we had a couple of air mattresses to set up in the living room on the coldest nights, so we could stay cozy by the fire.
The next time the power went out, we were excited because it meant a break in our day-to-day routine of work and school. Power outages had become mini-vacations, and were no longer even a blip on the radar for us.
We don’t live in our little cabin in the woods any more, but the lessons we learned allow us to take power outages in stride in a way that most people don’t. Even though we don’t expect a shaky grid where we live now, our home is organized in the way that we learned up North. Lighting, extra water, sanitation, cold food solutions, and off-grid cooking tools are all close at hand should they be needed.
Are you ready to test your preps?
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to go for 24 hours without the grid. This means no electrical power, no central climate control, and no running water! Some people will go hardcore and turn of the main water valve and flip all of the breakers. Others will just opt not to use those items.
During your 24 hours off-grid, you’ll eat three meals, go to the bathroom, keep your family clean and at a comfortable temperature, and entertain yourselves. This a tall order in some locations!
Plan ahead of time how you’ll overcome the challenges – you can learn a lot this way.
But the real learning experience will come from the challenges you didn’t expect and plan for. This is how you will fill the holes that exist in your preps. It is far better to discover those gaps now, when back-up is as close as the breaker box in your basement, than it is to discover it when disaster strikes.
Give every family member a notebook so they can jot down what works and what doesn’t. Once your Grid-Down drill is over, compare notes. You may be surprised at the observations your children have made.
Make a shopping list based on the notes and fill those gaps!
Have you tried an off-grid drill before? What did you learn? If not, what’s stopping you? Share in the comments below.
Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor. Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier this week, Urban Survival had a good discussion about it: When Will Ebola Infect the Markets? Mr. Ure brought up a good point that if people got desperate enough, they would say anything or do anything to get out of their area and fly somewhere. The problem would be if they were already infected and didn’t know it, then get on a plane, potentially exposing hundreds of people.
How people can get exposed in a hospital
Consider for a moment what could happen when a person who appears to have flu-like symptoms but has Ebola were to go the emergency room.
The person signs in and sits down before getting called. If they appear to be in urgent need, they may get seen quicker than others, but either way, they sit in a waiting room with people on either side, in front and behind them. These people could potentially be exposed. I should state that all reports say they virus is not airborne, yet a few healthcare workers who have suits on still seem to catch it somehow. Let’s say just four people are exposed, being on the conservative side. There would be more if the hospital is in a busy urban area.
The patient then gets called to speak to a billing person who interviews him or her regarding insurance and payment. That person could now be exposed.
Finally, the patient is sent inside the emergency department. While waiting for the doctor, a nurse or assistant takes their blood pressure, temperature, questions them about symptoms, etc. None of these personnel were protective clothing. Now we have seen five people exposed, from the minute the patient came in.
Finally, the person is seen by a doctor, who then orders that the patient be admitted. The doctor is now the 6th person who came in contact with the infected patient.
If the patient is not immediately identified as contagious, more workers will be taking x-rays, wheeling the patient around in elevators, etc. By now, there could be at least 10 people exposed.
At a recent doctor’s appointment, I asked the doctor if he was at all concerned about the spread of Ebola in the U.S. This was around the time the first patient was sent to Emory University Hospital. My doctor indicated was not too worried, since he was very familiar with Emory and they have the best infection control policies and equipment. However he said, “unless some grievous error were to happen,” in other words, a medical mistake, which can happen if there were more infected patients. I’ve worked in hospitals in the past, and accidents do happen. Even the most careful, rigorous protocols occasionally fail. I don’t want anyone to panic by any means, but to consider the possibility and make a plan just in case.
A few things to think about:
Are you at risk for infection if the virus spread to your town or city? Densely populated areas tend to have people living closer together, thus increasing the risk of exposure. If you live in an apartment building that has common areas such as coffee rooms, reception areas, swimming pool, management office and elevators, you may need to away from these areas should there be a pandemic.
At what point would you keep everyone at home? When would you skip work, have your partner stay home, and keep kids from school?
Would you stay in your apartment or home, or leave and go to a safer, less populated location? Many city dwellers do not have a bug-out location, but do have family or friends outside of town who may be in a less crowded area. Now is the time to think about this, before anything happens.
Are you prepared for a lockdown? You’ll need enough food and supplies for a couple of weeks without having to shopping. You won’t want to run out of toilet paper, prescriptions and other essentials if you are trying to avoid crowds and exposure.
If someone at home were to get sick, do you have supplies to get you through? You would need sick room supplies such as protective clothing (gloves, protective goggles) lots of disinfectant such as bleach, antibacterial wipes, basic first aid supplies, etc.
I don’t have all the answers, but I hope this exercise gets you thinking and getting a few supplies just in case. If nothing happens, then we can all be relieved and grateful. Just like with any other disaster, if the dreaded event happens, it’s best to be prepared. See What to Do If you are Worried about Ebola
We’re now hearing that more states have been reporting cases of the Enterovirus D68, the virus that has been sending many children to the hospital due to complications. This article discusses symptoms to watch and how you can protect your family.
What is Enterovirus D68?
The symptoms caused by the virus start out similar to cold: sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, coughing. Many cases turn out fine, and the sufferer recovers on his or her own. However, a percentage of cases develop complications, such as trouble breathing. According to the CDC, the virus had not been very common in the past. IN recent weeks, many states such as Missouri, Illinois, Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan, Georgia, Ohio, etc. have been reporting that hospitals’ emergency rooms are full of patients with respiratory problems. The virus especially affects babies, children, and teenagers. Children with asthma are most at risk.
Just like the common cold, there is no specific way to treat patients afflicted by Enterovirus D68; you can only relieve the symptoms by taking over the counter remedies such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), Motrin or Advil (ibuprophen). If symptoms worsen and the person has trouble breathing, see a doctor as soon as possible or go to the nearest emergency room.
Prevention is the best way to protect yourself and your family. (Note: I am not a medical professional – these are steps I personally take to keep from getting sick. If you are unsure and need personalized advice, see a doctor or medical practitioner.)
Avoid crowds Being among lots of people increases your chances of getting contaminated.
Frequent handwashing Get everyone in the family in the habit of washing their hands as they come home from public places and before eating. If you cannot wash your hands right away, use antibacterial wipes.
Stop touching your eyes and face It is very hard to keep kids from touching their faces, but you have to try to teach them this lesson.
Disinfect surfaces around you Keep a box of antibacterial wipes and clean door knobs, light switches and other commonly touched items around you. Keep a canister of Lysol wipes at the office and disinfect your desk, keyboard and phone on a regular basis.
Stay home if you are sick Avoid going to work or sending the kids to school if you notice any symptoms. Staying home and getting plenty of rest will not only help with recovery but also prevent spreading germs.
Bolster your Immune System
Get enough sleep and rest.
Relax and avoid stress.
Exercise at least three to four days a week.
Eat a healthy diet. Avoid eating processed foods too frequently. Include fresh vegetables and fruits in your menus. Take vitamin supplements if you feel you don’t eat well enough.
What to stock up
You hope no one in your household catches anything but keeping a few items in your emergency kit will help you avoid having to go to the store if someone does get sick:
Over the counter pain relievers such as Tylenol, Advil, Nyquil as well children’s versions of these remedies
Canned chicken soup – I know home made is best, but sometimes you just feel too sick to make anything and canned chicken noodle soup will do in a pinch.
Eucalyptus essential oil – Eucalyptus oil relieves congestion in a pleasant way. Just add a few drops to a warm,moist wash cloth and breath in. In an upcoming article, I will discuss some really effective essential oils that can be added to your home’s emergency kit.