This past September, Wise Company’s products proved lifesaving in a very urgent sense: Strapped for rations following the double whammy of Harvey in Texas and Irma in South Florida, FEMA placed an order for 2 million servings of food to relieve Maria’s victims in Puerto Rico. On a typical day, though, its selection of 72-hour, one-week, and one-month survival kits, packaged in boxes that can easily fit under a bed, seems more geared toward everyday Americans looking to prepare for the unknown.
The conundrum of owning stock is that it serves as a hedge against inflation only in an otherwise viable economy. At the first sight of serious economic trouble, the premiums paid on corporate stocks take a nosedive and not recover for months or years; in a genuine downturn, the intrinsic value of many companies will also shrink. Since a downturn is probably the time when you will need your rainy-day money the most, it's important to play it safe. Putting somewhere around 30-40% of your emergency stash into the stock market may be a good call. Going all in is a very risky bet, since in an economic crisis, it's not rare to see stock indices plunge 50%.
Your emergency medicine book will go into more details about setting bones, applying splints, or even doing field amputations with a knife and a saw. But even just to deal with a sprained ankle, a folding cane ($14) may be good to have somewhere in your stash. Beyond that, bandages are useful for improvising splints; in areas where improvisation may be difficult - say, in the desert or up in the mountains - portable folding splints ($10) can be handy, too.
A rubber mallet is a great tool to have to seal food grade buckets. Place the lid in its place on the filled bucket, and whack the lid into place around the perimeter of the lid. Once you have secured the lid, you can test for a good seal by picking the bucket up by the lid. The weight of the food stored is a pretty good test for whether the lid is securely attached.
That spirit of self-sufficiency runs through the history of American food culture. Lydia Maria Child’s 1829 manual The Frugal Housewife, one of the first American cookbooks ever published, instructed women to contribute to their family’s finances by making sure no scrap of food was wasted: “Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints* encourages members to keep a three-month food supply on hand at all times, and even sells dehydrated food products on its official website. This Mormon connection may be why Utah is such a freeze-dried food hub: Of 21 freeze-dried food companies I counted online, 16 were from the state, and Bedford told me she first learned about long-term food storage by reading blogs by Mormon women.
It’s clear that we’ve come to another dark place in the history of our United State. What isn’t so clear is whether we are just at the beginning of this era or if we might be nearing its end. The prepper philosophy always assumes the worst case scenario might be right around the corner. If we give in continually to those thoughts, however, we need to ask ourselves how much it is costing us to ignore the opposite side of that coin — hope? Hope is what got us through the worst of times in our past. If we lose all hope, we’re left only with despair.
Of course, some extreme preppers will settle for nothing less than a military-grade gas mask rated for chemical, biological, and nuclear warfare. While it is true that such masks offer much better protection against nerve agents and similar extremely harmful substances, it's not a likely concern in most parts of the world - and either way, it's doubtful that you would have enough time to suit up once the symptoms kick in.
Add any extras for your situation: For example, here’s our guide on prepping with food allergies and how to store EpiPens without power. Also consider special needs for pregnant women, small children, pets, people with disabilities or significant medical issues, etc. If you have poor eyesight, always have a pair of backup glasses and contacts in your emergency supplies.
Once you get going, it will be easy to lose track of what you already have. The best way to overcome the state of confusion you will experience six months down the road is to start keeping track of your stored items now – from the beginning. Use a spiral notebook, a computer spreadsheet, or a clipboard and a pad of paper. Update your inventory with the item and date of purchase as it goes into storage and of course, mark it off as it rotates out.
As for the remainder of your money, I suggest splitting it across two largely unrelated financial institutions with different risk profiles - say, a big national bank and a local credit union. As long as the deposits are insured by the government (as they normally are in the US and in Europe, up to a per-account limit), this approach greatly increases the availability of your money, and probably doesn't expose you to any substantially new dangers. Keeping all your savings outside the banking system is an option, too, but it's not necessarily a smart choice. With fiat currencies, this move does not truly insulate you from that many longer-term risks, but adds the very real possibility of losing all your funds to fire or theft.
Tim Chang, a forty-four-year-old managing director at Mayfield Fund, a venture-capital firm, told me, “There’s a bunch of us in the Valley. We meet up and have these financial-hacking dinners and talk about backup plans people are doing. It runs the gamut from a lot of people stocking up on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, to figuring out how to get second passports if they need it, to having vacation homes in other countries that could be escape havens.” He said, “I’ll be candid: I’m stockpiling now on real estate to generate passive income but also to have havens to go to.” He and his wife, who is in technology, keep a set of bags packed for themselves and their four-year-old daughter. He told me, “I kind of have this terror scenario: ‘Oh, my God, if there is a civil war or a giant earthquake that cleaves off part of California, we want to be ready.’ ”
In an end of the world situation, we won’t have to worry about too much salt or too much sugar. Our main concerns will be keeping warm, getting potable water and enough to eat. A steady diet of tuna fish, canned meats, pasta, bean and rice will quickly get old. You will be happy to have the sugary canned fruit which will add very necessary calories to your diet and provide energy. The high salt which is dangerous now will provide necessary salts when you have otherwise run out of salt for cooking. In addition, most of the prepared foods are prepared to appeal to our taste buds. Food companies spend big money on making “convenience”
Alarm systems aside, cameras are another popular security tool. They do relatively little to deter theft, but can document all sorts of problematic encounters - and in the event of a burglary, perhaps improve the odds of recovering stolen goods. Decent wi-fi cameras start at $100 a piece; many models can record to a local SD card, although having a centralized DVR unit ($200+), ideally stowed away in an inconspicuous place, will make the system more robust.
Hall led me through the garage, down a ramp, and into a lounge, with a stone fireplace, a dining area, and a kitchen to one side. It had the feel of a ski condo without windows: pool table, stainless-steel appliances, leather couches. To maximize space, Hall took ideas from cruise-ship design. We were accompanied by Mark Menosky, an engineer who manages day-to-day operations. While they fixed dinner—steak, baked potatoes, and salad—Hall said that the hardest part of the project was sustaining life underground. He studied how to avoid depression (add more lights), prevent cliques (rotate chores), and simulate life aboveground. The condo walls are fitted with L.E.D. “windows” that show a live video of the prairie above the silo. Owners can opt instead for pine forests or other vistas. One prospective resident from New York City wanted video of Central Park. “All four seasons, day and night,” Menosky said. “She wanted the sounds, the taxis and the honking horns.”
Though its light weight and long shelf life are ideal for navigating harsh conditions, freeze-dried food is probably most famous as a cultural curiosity: Like many Americans, I discovered it in a museum gift shop, gawking at the styrofoam-like ice cream that astronauts used to have for dessert. More recently, I encountered it at a disaster preparedness convention in Raleigh, North Carolina, where smiling, gray-haired preppers manned tables piled with plastic bags full of vegetables, meats, and stews.
In trying times, people always come together and find strength in local communities. Even if you don't expect it, you will almost certainly be able to count on the kindness of strangers. But your odds can be greatly improved by getting to know your neighbors ahead of the time, by cultivating trust and mutual respect, and by getting a sense of each others' toolkits and skills. In a grim situation, being on good terms with a doctor or a veterinarian can quite literally save your life. And heck, some rural communities in the US even maintain communal stashes of emergency supplies!
The survivalist hard-on (yep, and I'll do it again, too) for prophylactics untouched by chemical pleasure-enhancers is the result of drilling deep (told you) into the magical properties of our latex friends. According to our research, these flexible, durable, waterproof wonders will be as much of a deciding factor in your dystopian longevity as fire and can openers.
Since then, the direction has been inauspicious. In January, 2016, after increasing military tensions between Russia and NATO, and the Earth’s warmest year on record, the Bulletin set the clock at three minutes to midnight, the same level it held at the height of the Cold War. In November, after Trump’s election, the panel convened once more to conduct its annual confidential discussion. If it chooses to move the clock forward by one minute, that will signal a level of alarm not witnessed since 1953, after America’s first test of the hydrogen bomb. (The result will be released January 26th.)
In tropical areas, a survival kit may have mosquito head netting, additional insect repellent, anti-fungal cream, a machete, water purification tablets, foot powder, matches, a flint strike, a compass, a wire saw, a space blanket, medical equipment (gauze pads, elastic gauze bandage, antiseptic creams, anti-malaria tablets, anti-infection tablets, bandages, etc.), salt tablets, a fishing kit, snare wire, extra socks, a candle, a signal mirror, flares, a sewing kit, safety pins, tinder, tape, a whistle, and rations.