The stories of alcoholic beverages historically being safer to drink than unfermented ones are apocryphal at best; however, as any 17th-century sailor would tell you, the addition of some spirits to potable water that's been sitting around for too long will make it much more palatable. Liquor distillation was originally invented in part for medical purposes, and alcohol can be used as a solvent to dissolve medicinal herbs -- and also to knock out patients during good old-fashioned fallout-shelter surgery. High-proof alcohol can be used as an antiseptic, and it does a great job of cleaning wounds and preventing infection.
Of course, there is no use in worrying about the hypotheticals if we're not going to actually tackle the risks. But it pays to be smart about it, too: when it comes to emergency preparedness, the right mindset can matter a lot more than a small fortune spent on ninja gear and canned cheese. So, before going on a shopping spree, let's talk about several simple, everyday principles that can shield you from harm.
A handful of OTC dietary supplements may be useful for treating some chronic conditions in situations where prescription drugs are not available - but if you want to learn more, be prepared to wade through a sea of low-quality research and outright quackery. Preliminary but somewhat plausible findings include the apparent antidepressant properties of saffron and fish oil, the beneficial effects of curcumin on some types of chronic pain, or the utility of berberine and salacia reticulata in managing type 2 diabetes. Again, tread carefully; examine.com is a good starting point for getting the data behind some of the claims.
Scott owns a nice bit of property in the county, over thirty acres, mostly wooded, on which he does some of his own hunting. He had an underground shelter installed somewhere on his land about 8 years ago, a choice that was precipitated by the economic downturn that coincided with Obama’s first term in office. It’s a rather large eight-person, three month shelter, that only his and Josh’s family know about. Even though it was a large investment for him, Scott believes a nuclear or biological threat is less likely that something more along the lines of an EMP strike or total economic collapse. Because of that, much of the shelter acts as secure storage space for a cache of items that would prove valuable in such a scenario: medicine, ammunition, shelf-stable food and common toiletries that will rapidly become luxury items in a post-apocalyptic world. Scott doesn’t think precious metals or cash will be much use if there is no economy to use them in.
Some Geiger counters can keep track of the cumulative dose for you, but most will simply display the rate at which you are getting exposed - typically in microsieverts per hour (µSv/h) or microroentgens per hour (µR/h; for gamma radiation, 1 R/h ≈ 1/100 Sv/h). To figure out what the reading means, you need to do the math: for example, at 600 µSv/h, you will hit 100 mSv within a week, and 1 Sv within about two months. (The usual background rate from natural sources hovers around 0.1-0.2 µSv/h.)
Of course, there is no use in worrying about the hypotheticals if we're not going to actually tackle the risks. But it pays to be smart about it, too: when it comes to emergency preparedness, the right mindset can matter a lot more than a small fortune spent on ninja gear and canned cheese. So, before going on a shopping spree, let's talk about several simple, everyday principles that can shield you from harm.

Coffee and Tea. I am a dedicated coffee drinker and hate the thought of a coffeeless existence! One pound vacuum sealed bricks are the most convenient way to store coffee, they stack well or can be kept in plastic totes efficiently. Tea is another good source of caffeine, and I love a cold glass of iced tea on a hot day. Remember that in a true crisis, you may have to maintain 24 hour watch, and caffeine is a big help in this.
Scott says, “My dad was big into having a backup plan. He had a fallout shelter put in when I was a kid, back in the eighties. He was a prepper back before that was the word for it. He worried more about Russia and some kind of invasion. That’s not the kind of thing that would happen now, though. Our enemies outside, they have ways to get in and use our vulnerabilities, like hacking the power grid. That’s more the worry. And the rest of it’s what we’ll do to ourselves.”
That doesn’t mean that some companies aren’t marketing freeze-dried food as an innovation. After eating the Wise Company meals for three days, I switched to Thrive Life’s Simple Plate program, a Blue Apron–esque service that teaches you how to cook from the company’s store of freeze-dried ingredients, which customers can also get mailed to them in recurring shipments. Unlike Wise Company, Thrive Life’s website makes no mention of emergency preparedness, instead emphasizing the sorts of qualities, like saving money and avoiding waste, that might have appealed to Lydia Maria Child in her time: “These foods won’t spoil in a few days... You won’t be thawing, degreasing, or cutting raw meat. You won’t be chopping veggies or washing and peeling fruit.” I reached out to Thrive Life’s founders to hear more about their rationale for marketing freeze-dried food for everyday use, but didn’t hear back.
Over the phone from the company’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Shields attributed the spike to the onslaught of natural disasters that left thousands of Americans without food in 2017, and rattled many more. “You got the hurricane that hit Florida, you got the hurricane that hit the Houston area, you got the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico,” he said. “Geologists are coming out and saying that California is severely overdue for a big earthquake. You got these major events that are taking place that affect mainstream America. So how do you protect your family?”
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